thread: 2005-07-28 : The Ars Magica Knock-off Fishbowl

On 2005-07-28, Vincent wrote:

Creating a Sanctuary

A sanctuary's defined by three things, so they're what you have to create. They are: touchstones, pressures, and mirrors. Create them all intermixed and collaboratively. Give the chronicler the notebook!

Go around the table a bunch of times, starting on the chronicler's left. On your turn, a) say a touchstone, a pressure, or a mirror, or else b) name a touchstone, a pressure or a mirror that someone else has said, and say that you'll underwrite it.

The chronicler writes down every touchstone, pressure and image, lists its creator, and then lists its underwriters.

You are absolutely allowed to make suggestions to the person who's talking! They get the final say what the chronicler writes, but they should entertain all opinions.

There are several conditions that have to be met before creating the sanctuary can end. Once they're met, sanctuary creation ends when every player underwrites in a row.


The sanctuary doesn't exist in the whole world. It exists in isolation, really speaking.

It connects to the whole world via its touchstones. A touchstone a) is literally stone, and b) exists in two places: its place in the santuary and its place in the whole world. To leave or enter the sanctuary, you have to pass by one of its touchstones.

A touchstone's place in the sanctuary must be like it's place in the whole world. In the whole world it's in a wall down behind the wharf of a prosperous Hanseatic town; in the sanctuary it's tucked into the bank of the pond. In the whole world it's a standing stone on a lonely crag; in the sanctuary it's a standing stone on a rise away from the buildings and gardens.

Your sanctuary's not complete until it has at least one touchstone connecting it to another sanctuary.

When you create a touchstone, you create both of its places. This is important: for its place in the whole world, you have the whole geographical, historical, and cultural range available to you for inspiration. One of your sanctuary's stones can be in a place in the whole world like Renaissance Spain, another in a place like Mongol-invaded Poland, another in a place like pre-Christian Norway - no problem.

When you underwrite a touchstone, you're declaring that you want a hand in creating and acting for the place across it.


A sanctuary is subject to lots of different pressures, of course, both internal and external. I'll divide 'em into four broad kinds.

- Competition. The sanctuary has to fight for something significant to it or go without. Examples: Both the wizards of the sanctuary and the village healer across one of its touchstones use a particular rare flower. The sanctuary has to buy its bookmaking goods from the same merchant who supplies a university in the whole world.

- Dependency. The sanctuary depends on someone else, some particular arrangement or circumstance, for something essential. Examples: The sanctuary depends on the good will of the lord over one of its touchstones for its staple food supplies. The sanctuary depends on the sponsorship of a more powerful sanctuary for its access to books. The sanctuary depends on seasonal propitiation of the nature spirits for a significant fraction of its magical resources.

- Obligation. The sanctuary is obligated to provide someone else with something significant. Examples: The sanctuary's obligated to copy books for its sponsor sanctuary. The sanctuary's obligated to devote one tenth of its research to shapeshifting.

- Want. The sanctuary lacks something it needs. Examples: The sanctuary's too crowded, it wants work for space for its wizards. The sanctuary's too isolated, it wants for contact with other wizards. The sanctuary's far removed from any high-quality glass production, and so wants for good glass instruments.

Your sanctuary's not complete until it has at least one pressure from another sanctuary, at least one pressure from across one of its touchstones, at least one pressure magical in nature, and at least one pressure strictly material in nature.

When you create a pressure, be sure to say which other sanctuary, which touchstone, which essential supply.

When you underwrite a pressure, you're declaring that you think it's an interesting pressure and you want a hand in increasing it.


A mirror is some concrete thing in the sanctuary, a room or a tool or a path or a tapestry or, yes, a mirror. Two things set it apart from the rooms and tools and etc. that surround it: someone loves it, and it reflects some aspect of the life of the sanctuary.

Your sanctuary's not complete until it has at least as many mirrors as there are players, plus one.

When you create a mirror, just describe it!

When you underwrite a mirror, you're declaring that you want to participate in its appearance and development in the game.


This makes MW go "I don't know AM"
can you point me to your thoughts on the original game?

This makes JN go "Underwriter?"
What's an underwriter, exactly, and how is being one different than being the creator?

This makes JK go "Covenant Traits"
Make up a Covenant like a Dog, with traits, relationships with the outside world, the whole shebang.

This makes Sben go "Fascinating"
I'm esp. interested in formalization of GM/chronicler role, and fleshing out of creator/underwriter roles.

This makes Sben go "Location?"
Also, I don't understand what you mean under "Setup" above. Any reason a "place" couldn't be "Bavaria, 1200AD, if Rome hadn't fallen"?

This makes Chris go "Ooo!"
I like how touchstones define the physical boundaries and provide set locations, while pressures become relationship issues, and mirrors are physical icons for emotions & ideals. I'm excited!

This makes CS go "Shifting GMing = cool"
This is an aspect of both our groups' play style that I will be intrigued to see you formalize, and one that I've been thinking about a lot recently.

This makes SDM go "Real or Practice?"
Does this look like a real game (crowding in as #3)? Or is this a practice game?

This makes XP go "Box <-- --> Vincent"
Makes me realize just how entangled in old-school design paradigms I still am. This is just... so far ahead of that.

This makes ecb go "suhweet"
I am reminded of Go with the need for two sanctuaries to touch. Making the metagame indicators have to have in game objects is fascinating.

This makes JN go "Isolation = Regio?"
Are you envisioning the isolated places where sanctuaries live as regio? Like, smallish places with weird magical barriers? -- Or full other worlds which can be explored, populated, and developed?

This makes...
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