From Project: Redcap
A covenant is a group of allied magi. The word "covenant" refers to the oath of cooperation and/or brotherhood they take together, but also (more commonly) to the group itself. In most covenants, the magi live together and share a magical library. Most covenants also have guards (called grogs) and servants (covenfolk).
The covenant plays an important role in most sagas, providing not only a setting for story events but also a common interest for all the magi. It can become a kind of central character in itself: one that outlives any individual player character. The covenant thus provides the "home base" of the characters, and adventures can revolve around its interests. As all characters live there, its interests are the interests of all characters and the interests of the characters form the covenant's interest.
The conditions and facilities of the covenant provide the basic resources for character development - from the contents of the library that the wizards use, to the lavish (or miserable...) living conditions that the covenfolk enjoy. The covenant's abundance or shortage of books, vis, and wealth help define the rate at which character can advance in their Arts and Abilities.
Like characters, covenants can progress (or deteriorate) over the course of a Saga. Ars Magica uses the metaphor of seasons to describe a covenant's life cycle, from the instability and rapid growth of Spring through the prosperity of Summer to the decrepitude of Winter.
A Typical Covenant
The covenant typically houses a handful of magi (one for each player), an equal number of grogs, and about double that number of covenfolk (servants, craftsmen, and so on). (In earlier editions of Ars Magica, covenants were portrayed as having larger staffs of warriors and servants, and many troupes still prefer a grog-to-magi ratio of two or three grogs per magus.) Additionally, a covenant will also have multiple "Consortes" (singular"consors") aka "companions," (also one per player), who may or may not reside at the covenant but are associated or affiliated with it in some way. Almost every covenant has a shared library, and private laboratory facilities for all members of "full member" status.
Some atypical covenants have no shared library, with each magus claiming private ownership of books. Some covenants do not have enough laboratory facilities for everyone. Atypical covenants may be larger or smaller, or the magi might not live together, or it may vary in innumerable other ways from "typical" at the discretion and preference of the troupe playing it. These and other options and variations are discussed in the sourcebook, Covenants.
Indeed the very baseline of "what is typical" can be set per-troupe, per-saga: a Troupe may decide that theirs is the ONLY covenant in Mythic Europe that actually looks by-the-book "typical" and all the others seem like oddball variants.
Kinds of Covenants
- House Covenants
- A minority of covenants consist of magi all from the same House, with some exceptions allowing for specialists from other houses to join or occasionally for social reasons. House Tremere, in particular, has a number of House covenants. House Mercere calls theirs "Mercer Houses," and House Jerbiton is known to have covenants serving magi who wish to withdraw from Hermetic politics and pursue their visions of living a graceful life.
- Mixed Covenants
- Most covenants have mixed membership; that is, magi from more than one House. Most players' sagas are based in mixed covenants so the players can create magi from whatever Houses they want.
- Domus magna
- A domus magna is the headquarters of one of the Houses of Hermes. All domus magnae are House covenants.
- Research Covenant
- A research covenant is devoted to expanding Hermetic magic, often by breaking one of the Hermetic Limits. For example, a research covenant may be dedicated to breaking the Limit of Time and thus seeing into the past and future. Or, the covenant may be trying to break the Limit of the Lunar Sphere, and extend Hermetic magic to the surface of the moon. Lesser projects, like making increasingly better Longevity Rituals for magi or developing a Hermetic school to train large numbers of apprentices all at once, are also possible. Research covenants are an example of cooperation among Houses for the benefit of the entire Order. As such, they tend to be well funded and financed mixed covenants, but they have strong political ties and may be sabotaged by Houses which feel threatened by the research.
- Chartered Covenant
- Similar to a Research Covenant, a chartered covenant has a specific purpose, and tends to funded and supported by multiple other covenants, or sometimes Houses or even a whole Tribunal. For example, if a particular threat to the Order were seen to occur on some border, a Tribunal might establish a new Covenant on (or beyond) the border in question, to research the threat, to eliminate it, and/or to be a lightning-rod to draw the (expected) initial attacks.
- Chapter House
- A chapter house is a covenant which has been founded by, and may even technically still be part of, a larger and older covenant of the same Tribunal. Chapter Houses were first introduced in the Greater Alps Tribunal. Chapter houses are a way for covenants to get around onerous requirements for founding a new covenant. Technically, the chapter house is not a new covenant, it's an extension of the old one. So it does not need to meet whatever requirements are expected of new covenants. On the other hand, it is deeply indebted, and often obliged to obey, its parent covenant. As an example of a tribunal's Peripheral Code, chapter houses are not recognized in all Tribunals. So, for example, the Rhine has them, but Provençal and Hibernia do not. Normandy's concept of liege and vassal covenants is similar to the relationship between a parent and chapter house, but more explicitly feudal.
List of Covenants
Timothy O'Brien has compiled a spreadsheet of all the official covenants in Fifth Edition Tribunal books.
Semita Errabunda is the official example covenant from Atlas Games. A PDF file is available on the Atlas Games Ars Magica 5th edition site describing Semita Errabunda. Also near the bottom of that page are multiple PDFs containing 5th Edition statistics for Semita Errabunda's magi, grogs, and covenfolk.
Sabrina's Rest is a free, unofficial sample covenant for Fifth Edition designed by Timothy Ferguson. It is nominally located in the Stonehenge Tribunal. It is also available as a pdf, free online from this location.
Four very brief summaries of example covenants can be found in the ArM5 rule book: the spring covenant Vernus (p. 68), the summer covenant Aetas (p. 69), the autumn covenant Autumnus (p. 70), and the Winter covenant Hiems (p. 70).
Triamore: the Covenant at Lucien's Folly is a full-length, 144-page supplement for ArM4 that describes a single covenant in great detail. Mistridge (book) does the same for Second Edition rules. In both cases, the mechanics are somewhat out of date and would need conversion (especially for Mistridge), but the ideas remain quite usable.
You can also find numerous fan-created example covenants in the Regional Tribunal pages:
|Greater Alps||Hibernia||Iberia||Levant||Loch Leglean||Normandy|
Designing a Covenant
Designing a covenant is a complex and time-consuming task that may be too challenging for new players. If this is your first Saga, you may be better served to start by finding an existing sample covenant and modifying it as you see fit. This is much less work and lets your troupe get more quickly started telling stories. If, later on, you have new ideas and want to create a covenant of your own, you can simply have the characters' starting covenant fail, break up, or get destroyed, and move the magi to a new covenant of your original design.
Rules for creating a covenant can be found in Chapter 6 of ArM5. The Fifth Edition Covenants supplement adds many more options, Boons and Hooks, ideas, sample characters and items, and so on, and is generally well-regarded, but is not strictly necessary to create a playable covenant.
- Ars Magica Fifth Edition, p. 13, "Covenants"
- Ars Magica Fifth Edition, p. 68, "Covenant Seasons"
- Ars Magica Fifth Edition, p. 71, "Baseline"
- Ars Magica Fourth Edition, p. 206, "Buildings"
- Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, p. 115, "Coeris" (inset)
The edit history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:covenant.