This is a basic intro I've been putting together on an ArM5/Harn game I'm planning on running on Rpol. It does not provide a lot of information but lays down some basics. I'm looking for anything that someone feels is important, holes, obvious questions that I may have missed in doing it. I realize that's asking a lot given the limited information here but if anything comes to mind please drop some knowledge on me. Please note that this introduction is unfinished and directed towards Ars Magica players and not necessarily Harn-ophiles.
WARNING: If you are canon-nut for Ars Magica or Harn, you are likely to be disappointed. This game is premised on smashing Mythic Europe and the Order to fit into the world of Harn. I have taken numerous liberties and divergences, jamming square pegs into round holes etc. It’s all there in recognizable form but I have made it fit the world.
Ars Magica Fantasy
The entire premise of the Order in Mythic Europe is toned down to fit into the medieval world as we remember it. Magic and the supernatural exist but on the margins in many situations. I wanted to run a game of wizards in a fantasy world. Ars Magica has extraordinary potential, were the shackles removed, to provide an amazing campaign where the players are wizards with the ability to affect the world. This runs me directly into a barrier where I don’t want to ‘break’ too many things that exist either in history or in Ars canon.
I suffer from that incurable disease of not wanting to mess with the existing world timeline. And I enjoy canon since it gives everyone a solid base from which to play the game. But this hampers really going out there and doing stuff.
Anyone who has played Ars Magica realizes that the Code is extremely strict. It penalizes the majority of things that players want to do in an Ars game. While it is logically sound to emulate a structured society of magi, I want the magi to be able to make moves without tip-toeing, without feeling under surveillance by shadowy informers or the like. That’s not to say that the Order’s Code is ignored but I have altered it. I loosened up the rules on selling items to mundanes, the rules on loyalty to mundane rulers and the dreaded ‘intereference’ clause.
This is not a license to create havoc. The Order and Code exist, the Church exists, the might of an army still stands but the magi in Harn will be able to push things a bit further before running afoul of a Wizard’s March.
I wanted a fantasy world. One where we are not tied to history, setting dogma or its perils. In addition, it needed to be a world where Mythic Europe conventions (Church, Order, Infernal, Faerie etc) and the trappings of it could be inserted without breaking the whole thing. And I didn’t want to build it from ground up.
Harn and its surrounding lands are already incredibly detailed. Through published books, fanon supplements and all sorts of support, we gain access to a treasure trove of ideas, maps and flavor. The world of Harn is also easily melded with the concepts of Mythic Europe. The entire setting was designed with a feudal mindset and an attention to the mundane institutions that make Mythic Europe (and Harn) so interesting to romp around in. I am a stickler for maps and detailed information, in Harn I’ve been able to get my steady dose while still retaining the freedom that is inherent to this premise.
How Different Are We Talking?
Not much. The skin of it is different in that there are no Italians or French, no Africa and no England. But the familiar institutions are all there… the Christian Church, the Infernal, the Order (albeit smaller). Everything will be recognizable and fit (mostly) into this world.
The world of Ars Harnica is a fantasy version of Mythic Europe. Almost all of the conventions, traditions, and expectations of Mythic Europe are to be encountered in this setting. They have been altered, inserted or removed to fit in with the setting parameters required for Ars Magica. The goal is to play Ars Magica in a Mythic Europe-like setting that is not bound by our own history. Period. I have no wish to rebuild the game or the parameters to fit any great changes.
On the Island of Harn
Harn is an isolated island off the main continent of Lythia. The island is populated by several different kingdoms, some of them Christian and some of them pagan, and peoples. It is a place renowned for magic and dangerous creatures. The island is reputed to be the home of the pagan god, Ilvir, who is believed to create magical creatures and send them out to the world at large. The Jarin peoples still worship Ilvir.
The people of Ars Harnica are as varied as the people of Mythic Europe. The more prominent cultures mirror many aspects of Mythic Europe with an emphasis on the British Isles.
Latin maintains the position that it held in Mythic Europe. The Church uses it, high-faluting nobles use it and the Order uses it. Many other languages exist but Latin still has its place. On Harn, Latin is a bit more obscure and immediately indicates that an individual is educated beyond the means of most individuals.
On the Church
The Church exists as normal, as does the Divine. The Pontiff, or Pope, rules from Trierzi in the Harnic incarnation of Rome. The Azeriyan Empire takes the place of the former Roman empire except that it remains in power further to the east and constitutes the Eastern Orthodox Church. The island of Harn is reminiscent of medieval Ireland in the 12th century, the conversion of the island is incomplete and the Church hierarchy is relatively independent with many different factions and goals.
On the Crusades
The Crusades exist and are taking place. The Crusades of the Holy Land are taking place south-east of Karejia in … There are other Crusades throughout the reach of the Church. The mechanism is used more commonly due to the prevalence of pagan beliefs. There is currently a Crusade on the island of Harn against the Solori barbarians.
On Religious Orders
You will hear much about different religious orders which play a large part in this setting. These orders are no different than the orders which comprise Mythic Europe’s Church. The Dominicans, Franciscans and Templars for example. The primary orders on Harn operate under the Rule established for the Order and are named for their patron. Saint Lariani was a female knight that supports feudalism and chivalry. Saint Peoni is a saint of the common people and watches over peasants, serfs and families. The followers of Agrikanism are a more militant variety of Templars. The order was cast out of Palithane, much like the real-world Templars, due to their growing power and unflinching dedication to conversion of infidels. They espouse a more might-is-right doctrine. The order’s remnants fled to Harn and have secured a strong position in the western kingdom of Rethem. They answer only to the Pontiff, who pretends they don’t exist for political reasons, and their own Grandmaster. They are strong instigators of inquisitions, witch-hunts and so on. Many in the Church fear and despise them due to the allegations levied in the trials of the Order. Baseline rule: if you hear about an Order, assume they are either like the monastic orders or the military orders of Mythic Europe.
On Pagan Deities
Pagan deities are more common in Ars Harnica. These individuals may be from the Realm of Faerie or Magic depending on their origin. In some cases, they may be Infernal. However, the Church is still building its strength in many places so entire peoples may hold to their pagan beliefs. The Church deals with it in various means depending on the type of pagan deity, the region and the Church official in charge. Exterminations and inquisitions are common, as is turning a blind eye to some traditions. It should be noted that some pagan deities are horrific, evil and extremely powerful. The Church has dealt with these beliefs in the past and banned them. Incidences of their worship is often the cause of inquisitions and witch-hunts. Notable evil deities are Morgath on Harn.
The Faerie, or Fey, in Ars Harnica adhere to the older editions of Ars Magica. The principal change is that they are beings with their own political systems (courts) and agendas. The mechanics remain the same including the use of RoP:Faerie.
On the Infernal
The Infernal is just like in Mythic Europe. It may be a bit more active due to the more energetic nature of conflict in Harn. The mechanics remain the same from RoP: Infernal. Note that there is a bit more activity from Infernal cults due to the looseness of the Church’s hold.
On Magical Creatures
Magical creatures are more common and not the stuff of legend. While this remains true in Mythic Europe, it goes double for Ars Harnica. Magical beings and creatures can rule over kingdoms, counsel mortal kings and so on.
On Magic Itself
Magic functions in Ars Harnica just as it functions in Ars Magica.
On Wizards and Magi
The primary difference is that the Hermetic tradition is more common amongst non-Order wizards. These are the students and descendants of individuals who trained with Bonisagus prior to the Order’s foundation. The principal difference with them is that their training is usually not as broad and they have no access to the Parma Magica. The concept of “join or die” is more fluid in this setting. The movement has proponents and opponents within the Order. There are no protections for non-Order magic users but groups can work with them and Tribunals can negotiate with them depending on their strength. The only caveat is that a non-Order magi possessing Parma Magica must be slain immediately. This is the Order’s prerogative and source of strength. A non-Order hermetic practitioner is often referred to as a more general term (derogatory amongst Order brethren) of “wizard” or “sorceress.” The Order still frowns on the use of “witch” but accepts its general accuracy in many occasions. The Order has declared certain traditions and societies to be “Enemies of the Order” on occasion resulting in a call to arms against the organization.
On the Order of Hermes
Much of the traditional history remains with different dates. The primary change is that the Order is less dominant in many parts of the world. The Diedne Schism lasted nearly thirty years and the destruction amongst covenants and magi was immense. Even now, almost two hundred years later, the Order is still regaining its position. In addition, Bonisagus taught many students, learning from each of them, before being approached by Trianoma and founding the Order. Therefore, as noted above, there are more hermetic wizards out there than in Mythic Europe. But the Order remains the same, albeit smaller in number, and more conflicted from Tribunal to Tribunal. In Arm5, it describes an Order that is less influential and more fractured, that would be this Order. The Diedne Schism happened, the Tytalan Crisis happened and so on. The Houses remain the same although Ex Miscellanea is larger in this setting due to the acceptance of already trained wizards. The domus magni of each House remain the same but in different locations. There is also less of a dominance by certain Houses in particular areas. In other words, the Tremere may be centered in the Prolixia Tribunal but it does not dominate it as it would the Transylvanian Tribunal in Mythic Europe.
On the Code of Hermes
The Code is different only in a few key regards. There is no clause regulating interference with mundanes and the prohibition against scrying is more limited. Breaches of the Code are handled internally on a more frequent basis but true criminals, rogues, are hunted down with far less attention to subtlety and obfuscation.
On Interference with Mundanes
The primary rule of the Order, to do no action that will bring harm or danger to other members of the Order, or the Order at large, is the most enforced in conjunction with a non-interference viewpoint. Since this action varies depending on the member, the locality and the action, there is a bit more laxity in its interpretation. However, when breaches are discovered and ratified, the punishment is often swift and taxing. Tribunal rulings will be posted to narrow this down but there is no bright-line rule that is easy to follow by the magi. The oath still does not allow oaths of fealty to any individual or entity beyond the Order. However, there have many recorded instances of magi working alongside kingdoms, armies and other entities for various purposes. The danger accepted by anyone playing loose with their powers on behalf of another entity is that the opponent will institute sanctions against the Order at large. The magi responsible for this would be held to account. There are political factions in the Order that support or oppose these rulings.