Episode 93: Being Disgusting From the Beginning

This month, Mike and Roger poke further into Ars Magica , wonder what you should simulate, and try to make school stories enjoyable.

We mentioned:

Warhammer 1e at the Bundle of Holding until 14 September, Harnmaster, the FFG Warhammer 40K games, the Ars Magica campaign area, Hildegard of Bingen, Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain, a thread on simulation, Lyz Kingsley’s film review site, Roger’s Monster Hunters game, Masks, Stargirl, The Skool Rools, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, Andrew Rilstone’s musings on early Spider-Man, and GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School.

Here’s our tip jar.

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.


I say, @MichaelCule! The honour of Pickering seems to have been Royal demesne from at latest 1086 until 1259, when it was granted to Simon de Montfort (earl of Leicester). https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol2/pp461-476#h3-0003

Re: Masks, shouldn’t the game book provide enough background and framework to run the campaign, rather than having to go find other sources for how to run a game in an American high school?

Ah, thank you! That is a most useful reference.

I’m planning that the Reeve of Pickering (or whoever turns out to have held the honour for the Crown) should have ‘done a favour’ for the founders of the covenant and still perhaps (nearly a century later) to have connections with them. This will involve them in the contest still going on between the royal authorities in Yorkshire (and wouldn’t you know Yorkshire just doesn’t work like the rest of feudal England) and the de Ros family who control Helmsley and who one of the magi is related to.

Wonder if having a bunch of pushy burgesses might be more fun?

(NOTE TO SELF: You not only have to disentangle the situation as it is in 1220 but also when the covenant was founded, just after the Conquest.)

MASKS gives some framework but not a lot of background. (There are other, optional books I might draw on.) It’s a Powered By The Apocalypse game and not big on specifics. That said only one of the playbooks is focused on the clash between mundane and superhuman life.

Objection: You can definitely play a warrior with teeth that go ‘ting’, in any edition of WFRP.

Just worship the Ruinous Powers, and your body parts will start doing all sorts of neat and entertaining things of their own volition, including teeth that go ‘ting’, or teeth that sing show tunes, or climb out of your mouth and dance in the pale moonlight.

“We are all lying in the midden, but some of us have heads that increasingly resemble stars.”

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I suspect the authors thought that anyone wanting to run the game would already be familiar with at least the pop culture version of American high school.

Also, the PBTA mindset seems to be pretty strongly against explaining the setting. Most of the PBTA games I’ve read seem to think that explanations of setting elements stunt creativity. E.g., “You have a gang; here are the rules for gangs. Why do you have a gang? What does this say about the relationship of the world to gangs? If we tell you, you’re playing the game wrong!”

And indeed “you tell us why you have a gang”. On the other hand I don’t have a page count for Masks but it appears to be a substantial volume.

My plaint was not that the rules gave me no guidelines. It was that I could (if I used the high school hell tropes) rapidly find myself not only in trigger situations for my players but also for myself.

There’s a strong tendency for power fantasies to break down into something unpleasant and all super hero stories have a strong power fantasy at their core.


‘Hildegard von Bingen with the serial numbers filed off’, huh? So, you took a real historical person and a-nun-ymised her? :wink:

Come to think of it, there was a BBC documentary from '94 about Hildegard von Bingen, where the titular role was played by Patricia Routledge. Did you, by any chance, name your Ars Magica NPC ‘Hildégard von Bingén’? :angel:

I won’t play teenage RPGs as a player. Don’t want to revisit that time. However I think I could run it, but I would want to let the players lead the stories, and have real physical X cards to hand.

I think Roger is right, the school stories are there to counterpoint the power fantasies, but they can go badly wrong. After all the superhero who uses their powers on the bully becomes the bully.

As to random simulation, I disagree that one shouldn’t allow random rolls to take a major role in a campaign. It’s a style I find liberating and exciting as a GM.

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Oh and I hate autumn… humbug

You just wait for winter, matey.

You’ll be looking back at autumn with all the fondness people now feel for John Major after David Cameron, Theresa May and What’s His Name…

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Quite fond of winter.
And spring.
And summer.
Mists and mellow fruitfulness?
Bah bughum.