Guardians of the Forests
From Project: Redcap
|Rules Edition:||Fifth Edition|
|Product Type:||Tribunal Sourcebook|
|Author(s):||Andrew Smith and Mark Shirley|
|Release date:||April 2005|
|Format:||Hardcover, 144 pages|
|Availability:||Out of print; PDF available|
Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal (often abbreviated to GotF) is a supplement for Ars Magica Fifth Edition released by Atlas Games in 2005. It details the Rhine Tribunal and was the first Tribunal book for Fifth Edition.
The second printing of Guardians of the Forests sold out in late November of 2012. Retailers and distributors will continue to have copies on the shelves for a while, and it will be available as a PDF indefinitely.
GotF introduces the concept of Journeyman on p. 20, to denote a magus not far past his gauntlet, as well as rules for becoming an Archmage on p. 24. In between it introduces the idea of a Master magus (p. 22-23), which is intended to be limited to the Rhine tribunal but seems to me to be applicable to many tribunals (although not all).
GotF also contains information on some of the more unusual decissions from the Peripheral Code of the Rhine tribunal, specifically where this deviates from the norm. Worthy of special mention is the rulings on voting and on forming new covenants, something which the tribunal restricts. Information on the Gilds of the Rhine Tribunal (essentially political parties) is also included.
Information on Forest Path of power, a means to obtain virtues preceding the Mysteries version and involving the Forest Lore arcane ability, is given on p. 35-40. Note that this system was later expanded.
Rules for studying in the Great Library of Durenmar are on p. 55-57. Note that Houses of Hermes: True Lineages expands on the contents, by including folios and the "tabula geographica magica" (a catalogue of magical magical sites and regiones; p. 13).
Specific books include a mention of "Principia Magica", the authority on Magic Theory written by Bonisagus (p. 57).
New Spells include several shortly-described ones on p. 60, and a new Mentem spell on p. 72.
The Order of Odin is briefly discussed on pages 112-113.
The focus of GotF is to support an Ars Magica saga in the Rhine Tribunal. It spends much effort in describing the Hermetic society of mages that resides there, detailing some of the most ancient and powerful covenants ... It offers a division into journeyman, master, and archmagus status, and “gilds” that serve as political parties. It presents a mechanic to detail a “Forest Spirit”, and follows through with numerous examples within its pages. It poses a new mechanic of discovering the mysteries of the Forest Paths, allowing magi or even those without the Gift of magic to acquire unique abilities through communion with these spirits.
It also spends much effort to describe the setting where these magi function. This includes a few history lessons and short descriptions of numerous locales, but the focus is kept on facilitating a saga. Some locations and ideas are described for completeness, but any occasion is spent to instill them with mythic elements (even if not ones amicable to magi, or ones that will rarely come to bear). For example, a long paragraph is devoted to describing Speyer (its foundation, growth, the jewish quarter, and the bishop’s protection of them), but an even longer paragraph describes how its bells toll without any mortal hand setting them to announce an imperial death. Even if the mythic details sometimes seem not usable within a particular saga, I found them to add greatly to the flavor and make for an interesting read. Some “bland” descriptions of facts remain, of course, this is unavoidable if any semblance of real Europe is to remain. Frankly, I mostly skimmed them, but I’m sure I’ll read them thoroughly to come to grips with the locales the PCs visit.
I am very impressed with GotF. It presents the Rhine area well, and does an even better job at embellishing it with mythic details and an interesting Hermetic society. Its focus on supporting gameplay rather than presenting a setting is evident with numerous plot ideas and suggestions. It offers several problems for specific covenants, overarching problems for the whole Hermetic society along with several hints how they may be solved in different manners, the wonderful idea of forest spirits, some truly inspiring mythic places, entities, and situations, and a coherent, believable description of Hermetic society with its many magi and covenants. ... It isn’t quite perfect, though. Some spark, some star quality, is missing, I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’d give it a 4.7/5 if I could, but I’m not too distressed to round that off to Substance 5 and Style 4. It may not be a perfect 5, but it’s pretty close.
The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:guardians_of_the_forest