In Ars Magica, magicians have final tests for their apprentices. The fire magi drop them in a dangerous place with no gear, and wait for them to come back. The mystics have vision quests. The House most interested in mundanes has a written test, which I imagine was based on the Confucian tests in the real world. The problem with that is, as a game device, it doesn’t work. The player can’t share the story with others. In that House book I reworked it with the Itinerarium, which is based on the British tradition of the Grand Tour. This predated the pilgrimage rules, which might be an even better way to model the experience.

The Grand Tour was a basically a seventeenth-century English thing. Rich young men, and occasionally women, were led around certain improving sites in Europe by a tour guide.  These guides were called “bear leaders” sometimes because of a supposed similarity to carnival performers with dancing bears. There is a sort of meta-pun there: a Bjornaer magus with bear heartshape, or a werebear, could run the thing, or keep an inn in a prominent place, but it seems to be pushing the characters hard for a single joke. Some later writers call the leaders of groups “Cicerones”. This presumably relates to Marcus Tulius Cicero, but I’m not clear on the link. Although it is a later term, I like it, and would use it in setting.

I’m not sure where the Itinerarium should go in 1220.  I had ideas back when I wrote this, but in hindsight, perhaps it would look like this. I’m guessing it starts in Paris. Formally, I mean. In the English version, your parents would drop you at a port town on the Channel. I’m guessing young magi are taken, by their parentes, through some significant local towns, but they meet their Cicerone somewhere near Paris.

From there, I suggest it needs to go to Valnastium (Domus Magnus of Jerbiton), Rome, Palermo (court of the Holy Roman Emperor, a safe place to meet Arabic scholars), and somewhere Greek. Constantinple still seems the obvious choice, despite the sack of the Fourth Crusade. Presumably they stop at Athens on the way, because it’s under Latin control and is full of interesting art. Later, once the city-states become more prominent, the route might change, or at least slow on the Valnastium to Rome leg.  I also wonder if the Paris leg should head on east to Durenmar before heading south.

I’d assume not.  There were some people on the English Grand Tour who went back the way they came.  The Alps, having few passes, acted as a sort of choke point for travel. A few more daring souls, though, found their way back through Germany. We might suggest the same thing. There’s a Tremere-controlled spa in Pannonia that your character might visit.  Young magi might be allowed to various Tremere sites, to influence their opinions. The Tremere habit of holding a Tribunal meeting every year, with accompanying fair, makes the detour through Hungary obvious, and easy. That puts Durenmar on the return leg, a sort of final point on the Great Tour.

Story hooks

What souvenirs do people bring home from the Itinerarium? On the Grand Tour, Parmesan cheese was an especially prized souvenir, apparently. Samuel Pepys, during the Great Fire of London, buried his cheese in his garden to protect it.  Could a magus effectively lose a valued souvenir?

I read of one author’s home in England where the custodian added a tonne of gravel to the driveway each month because people kept taking it by the pocketsful. Could spreading tonnes of stone from a single region to places all over Europe create a mystical effect?

Confidence men flocked to the route: it’s full of young, rich, inexperienced people.  What cons could a Tytalus pull on tourists?

A covenant near the route might try and use it as an income source. What sort of facilities do they need to set up, and how can they influence the bear leaders to make them come by?

Just before the last election in the United States, women travelled to the grave of Susan B Anthony and each added an “I voted” sticker. I suspect magi might do similar things. The place where Flambeau died may have a huge pile of burned candles. The garden of the Jerbiton may have a visitor’s book filled with the sigils of the great magi of history. What would your characters want to do? Who would they like to honour? Is there a memorial now? Can they start a new tradition?

A city is besieged, but the spaces within it are vital for the experience: how can the player characters get into the city, stay safe, and get out, despite the obstacle?

A magus leads an Itinerarium, but at his death it is discovered that one of the sites visited was a faerie regio. His heirs would like to continue his tours, but they need to find a way back into the regio, and a way to overcome the portal guardian.

Mystery rules and the Grand Tour

The Mystery rules allow players to exchange the completion of stories for Virtues or the removal of Flaws. Travel to places of spiritual significance is included in these mechanics. This makes the Grand Tour a series of pilgrimages, which allows a character to gain virtues.

The obvious choice is Free Expression, because it is based on art and culture, but if the Tour is placed earlier in the education of each apprentice, it could provide various virtues, explaining why the Jerbitons do not have a single House Virtue. Alternatively, if only some Jerbiton complete the Itinerarium, it may be the source of the proponderance of Gentle Giftedness in the House.

Something similar may occur in the training of Mercere characters. They gain virtues like Well-travelled, or a fluency with languages, by being forced to experience many cultures.

The kernel of the rules is this:
A minor virtue requires an Initiation total of 15
A major virtue requires an initiation total of 21
The total equals the Mystogogue’s Presence +The Mystogogue’s Cult Lore + a script bonus.

House Jerbiton is renowned for magi with high Presence. Assuming that leading the Itinerarium is a profession, this gives a total of perhaps 8 + script. (Prs 2 + House Lore 5 + 1 specialisation), so the script needs to reach 7 or 13. This could be reached with some of:
* Travel (special time and place) +3
* Sacrifice of time +3
* Mystogogue sacrifices time +3
* Sympathetic bonus up to +3
* Repeatable quest +3
* Ordeal : gain Major flaw +9
* Ordeal : gain Minor flaw +3

A bear leader may invent a new variation using the rule on page 18 of Mysteries : Revised edition. I think those rules place too much choice in the hands of humans, but they’re in place, so you might as well use them.



One thought on “Thoughts on the Itinerarium

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