The structure of Covenants is deliberately like a cookbook. My model was Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion. It’s a book that goes through ingredient by ingredient and says “So, with apples you can do this, or this or this…” Similarly, in the Boons and Hooks, the point is to give you a broad range of ingredients which you could combine, and some guidance on how to do that successfully. This is the book where the idea of negotiated play contracts moves from being a good idea to being mandatory,. Your play contract is built into the physical structures of the home of the characters.

In the Boons and Hooks section, I wanted to be able to describe all kinds of odd places, as a way of shifting the line so that it could accept high fantasy as a viable model of play. I wanted a magical realism feel, and so I read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino several times, and then tried to get a similar, whimsical feel.

I think the change in the castle rules here was one of my best pieces of game mechanic design. Before this book, castles cost your characters a tremendous number of covenant creation points. In the new system, castles are a flaw, and so they add to your point pool, provided you are willing to play put stories based on the political ramifications of owning a fortress. I also think tying the number of Hooks a covenant campaign can have to the number of real-life meetings the players will have in a set time frame was a really good idea.

 There was a problem, spotted early, that people were concerned that I was defining covenants all over the place, which would hamstring future authors. To prevent this happening I had both an overt, out of game, statement that these covenants would not be supported in future releases. I also used an unrelaible narrator, so that even if what he says is considered said in the game world, that doesn’t bind the characters hearing him. My unreliable narrator is called Marco for Marco Polo, who is a leading character in Invisible Cities.

The section on librarianship is deliberately very conservative. I did try to do something like the magical equivalent of data storage, hypertext, and what we’d now call RFID, but couldn’t get it into the final work. The data to information, information to knowledge, knowledge to wisdom axis is, of course, taken from T.S. Eliot.


2 replies on “Covenants

  1. The Castle-as-Hook was a definite ah-hah moment for me, and made me very excited to get Ars Magica running. Happily, one of my newly recruited players wanted to play a magical princess in a small castle.

    Three years later, and we are still loving the game. Thank you!


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