From Project: Redcap
Mythic Europe is the official setting where Ars Magica sagas take place. It is a world very similar to Medieval Europe: the same kings rule, and the same cities dot the landscape. The difference is that the legends are true: there are dragons in the Pyrenees, and faeries in the deepest forests, while demons seek to corrupt the innocent. The power of the divine protects its own, but magi are generally outside its influence.
Playing in Mythic Europe
However, Mythic Europe is awash with magic and the supernatural. The power of God is manifest, faeries bargain with mortals, demons hunger for souls, and wizards live in great towers. Ars Magica focuses on the tales of wizards, which by the nature of things tends to accentuate the Mythic elements of the setting.
Different troupes place the emphasis on different aspects of the setting. For some, Ars Magica is a game of high fantasy totally removed from any historical veracity. For others, it is a chance to learn more and immerse themselves in the rich world of medieval Europe. Most groups try to strike some sort of balance, enjoying the fantasy while also taking the opportunity to learn something about what the past was like.
Above all, Mythic Europe is not fixed. While canon presents a certain vision of Mythic Europe, with a certain level of historical veracity and a certain level of myth, storyguides and troupes are encouraged to vary from canon and historical precedents when running their own sagas.
Mythic Europe is based on real history but with a strong dose of fantasy added. In official Ars Magica supplements (at least in ArM4 and ArM5), the history of ordinary people -- "mundanes" -- sticks closely to actual medieval history. Mythic Europe occupies the same geographical region, its inhabitants cling to the same medieval beliefs and values, it has the same social institutions such as the Catholic Church and even specific persons such as the Holy Roman Emperor Frederic II and Pope Gregory IX.
There are a couple of reasons for the official setting to mirror real history. First, it's easier for the numerous authors to follow accepted historical fact than to create an alternate history and try to stay consistent on the differences. Actual medieval history is more than interesting enough as a game setting: in some cases, it is stranger than most fantasy fiction. Another reason Mythic Europe tracks history is that quite a few Ars Magica players, especially those with a few years' experience, grow enthusiastic about medieval history and enjoy weaving historical events into the background (or foreground!) of their sagas.
The Order of Hermes
The Order of Hermes is an organization encompassing nearly every wizard of power in Mythic Europe. Its members, the magi, take an Oath that binds them to the Order and its laws. The Order is divided into thirteen regional Tribunals, roughly along geopolitical lines. Within each Tribunal the magi live in covenants, and participate in a diverse Hermetic Society.
Magi are not allowed to bow in fealty to the nobles of Mythic Europe, which makes integration with the feudal medieval society difficult. Shunning both fealty and the Dominion, many covenants periodically find themselves pressed by mundane encroachment, making shady deals with mundanes, or dodging the Church's efforts at proseletyzing.
Yet magi are not removed from mundane society. They rely on mundane artisanship and toil to provide them with food and products, they often take an interest in mundane scholarship and art, and many are religious or hold other ties to the mundanes. Ars Magica allows you to put great emphasis on mundane society, with supplements such as City & Guild and Art and Academe intertwining the two worlds.
Realms of Power
There are four Realms of Power influencing Mythic Europe: the Divine Realm, the Magic Realm, the Infernal Realm, and the Faerie Realm. Affiliated with the Magic Realm, magi usually live in magical places and spend much of their time improving their magical Arts and power. They treasure and collect Raw Vis, items of power such as dew collected from the mountaintop of a magical mountain or the tooth of a magical wolf.
There are many faeries in Mythic Europe, and their machinations often entail wizards as well as mundanes. Some magi seek out these engimatic beings, while others abhor their or try to render them into raw vis. Regardless, it is a rare magus who does not find himself at a faerie forest sooner or later.
Most magi do their best to avoid the Infernal. Demons in Ars Magica are dangerous, deceptive, and corrupting. The Order was shaken by the Corruption of an entire House, and the Code of Hermes forbids any dealings with demons. Yet the Order is not at war with the Infernal and does not wish to be; magi are often advised to take a wide breadth away from Infernal machinations, rather than bring the attention of the demons on them and their peers.
Perhaps the most powerful of the Realms is the Divine. Much of Mythic Europe is under the Dominion, under the influence of this supernatural power. In Mythic Europe God does not limit his grace to a single faith, and Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all enjoy the blessings of the Dominion - as do many heresies and other religions. Angels constantly battle demons for the souls of humanity, and holy men wield great powers in the name of God. The Dominion makes the practice of Hermetic Magic difficult and dangerous, and magi often avoid the Dominion and the Catholic Church, or at least strive to keep it at bay. Although most magi worship God, they seperate Divine worship from the places of Magic that God has chosen to place on this Earth. Some even oppose the rise of the Dominion, or cling to pagan deities.
- Mythic Europe, the Third Edition sourcebook
- Real History
- Map of Mythic Europe (176 KB PDF, from the Atlas Games Web site)
- Mythic Judaism
- Mythic Christianity
- Mythic Islam
These resources may be helpful to Ars Magica players.
- Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs edited by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow (2002)
- The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (2009)
- [add films here]
- RPG Games:
- Dark Albion: The Rose War
- GURPS Middle Ages I
- King Arthur Pendragon
- Prince Valiant
The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:mythic_europe