[OOC] Designing the Covenant

As I have said in the e-mail discussion, I’ve settled on Voluntas as our home covenant. This is described as being in Yorkshire, near a large forest and fifteen minutes walk from the village of Wilton. I’ve decided to make this the Wilton that’s near Pickering and on the road between Pickering and Scarborough which isn’t quite where the map in the books shows it. (There are two other Wilton’s in Yorkshire but they don’t match either.)

I’ll be designing the covenant using the system in the book of that name though I’m not sure how much of the detail and the accounting I’ll be using.

One thing I’d like a decision on from the players though.

In the e-mail correspondence Mike R said to me:

I’m cool with whatever gets us to the story you want to run. The only suggestion I would have, just as a thought, is if we were secretly sponsored by Voluntas to join Ungulus, to get them a strong ally against Blackthorn. Maybe Voluntas would want Ungulus to become their chapterhouse, and we could have some fun tension between the two big old covenants and us. I confess the traps and craziness is actually an upside; though tbh as a Pralician I might be able to detect/deal with most of them quickly enough to make them less interesting.

Though I won’t deny having our covenant have the best library in the tribunal is nice too :grinning: . I only question that with 4-5 vibrant NPC magi, the movers and shakers in the covenant won’t be the PCs.

As to the first point I’m certainly happy to include What To Do About Ungulus in the list of things that the covenant has to decide. It’s right up there with What To Keep Doing About Blackthorn.

As to the second: I could wipe out the majority of the existing Magi at Voluntas. It would be an extraordinary event that this happens and would itself need to be investigated. I was planning that the player characters would be provisional members for the first year or so anyway. Do the Players want to be the Movers And Shakers from early on? There would have to be at least one survivor from the previous regime (probably Julia of Jerbiton) to provide legal continuity and to show the players the way things are done.

And one of the ways things are done at Voluntas is to have no official Top Dog in the Covenant. Which means I don’t have to worry about what they called (rector, president, dean, master) which is a relief.

Let’s take a look at the terrain.

I believe it’s in the Domesday Book. The ground’s fairly flat (for Yorkshire), dropping off a bit to the north (more or less where that E-W tongue of forest is, just south of the grey area that’s a modern coal mine). The village church is St George’s.

No good sense of the local economy but as of ~1200 there’s a mill on Thornton Beck.

I’m going to be assuming that to the north is the southern edge of a forest that spreads to the east to very near the coast and contains few human settlements (perhaps some outlaws) and a fair number of fairie. It may stretch as far north as Middlesborough but I’m not yet sure about that.

Whitby is on the coast on the far side of the forest. It’s dominated by Whitby Abbey which is a good focus for interacting with the Church.

What does Domesday say about other neighbouring settlements?

If we want to get fun and/or gnarly, we can make a custom google map and stick building markers on the actual terrain.

Here’s an example from another campaign of how it can work:

Welcome, Plot Device!

(Good manners you see!)

I am working on marking places near the covenant and below I’ve posted some thoughts I’ve had about the country around the covenant.

I have started to write up the covenant in game system terms. So far I have assigned three Boons and three Hooks and spent 30 of the (good grief) 1250 points the system seems to assume fits a covenant of this age.

The Boons are:

Loyal Covenfolk: the servants and staff as well as the inhabitants of the village are used to the effect of the Magi’s Gifts and have a higher loyalty than starting covenfolk would. This is helped in part by the Birthing Chair that’s been given to the village: it eases the burdens of childbirth and ensures a greater rate of survival.

Veteran Soldiers: the troops the covenant employs though only infantry are experienced and well equipped.

Secondary Income: As well as the agricultural product of the village the covenant also has control of a factor in the Staple, the wool trade of England. This involves buying up wool from all over the north and selling it on to the Continent.

That’s three points and is balanced by three Hooks:

Rival (Minor): Blackthorn and sometimes Horsingas. These two covens have historic reasons to clash with Voluntas. Blackthorn because Voluntas was founded to end their dominance of Stonehenge. Horsingas because their covenant was founded by Saxon magi fleeing the Norman invasion and Voluntas was founded by Norman incomers. Horsingas being pretty much an outlaw covenant would be the greater threat if they weren’t away up in Scotland.

Rights and Customs: The magi of Volutas must swear an oath on joining the covenant “not to allow the tribunal to suffer under tyrannical rule.” This was in the past applied to Blackthorn (and it’s certain Blackthorn would like to be back in the saddle/on the throne) but who it might apply to now… Remains to be seen.

Centralised Kiingdom: England is entirely covered with the King’s law and every bit of land is in theory owned by somebody. It may not always be clear in law who that is but there are very few places where you can get away with holding land without anyone noticing or asking questions. I’m going to assume that the magi got a grant of Wilton and the surrounding area from the Lord (or possibly the King’s Reeve) of Pickering. (See below.) This names the father of the current seneschal/autocrat as the lord of the manor. I’m sure that whoever is in charge at Pickering knows… I’m also sure he’s been paid well not to blow the gaff.

Another question for you: ARE THERE ANY HOOKS YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO HAVE MADE SPECIFIC? ARE THERE ANY MORE BOONS YOU’D LIKE? (An increase in the Aura is always useful.)

Now to the topic of the area around Wilton.

Firstly of note is the road through the village.The modern A170 (Thirsk to Scarbourough) has been in existence since prehistoric times. Since the covenant itself is up a long path, fifteen minutes walk, from the village we don’t need to give the covenant the Road Hook. The road isn’t paved outside the towns but is kept clear by traffic. It has bridges or fords when it crosses the rivers and streams.

TO THE NORTH OF WILTON and coming right up to the covenant is THE FOREST. (I’m not clear what its name would be then.) It’s a lot more extensive and a lot thicker than it is in modern times. There may be paths into it but the paths through it probably do not reach to the far side. There are almost certainly fairie of various kinds in it. To the North of it lies Whitby (site of a port and a famous abbey) and what is not yet called ‘Robin Hood’s Bay’ site of a fishing village.

TO THE EAST OF WILTON the road takes us through Allerston. It’s not clear when this was established as a village. It’s a good place for a mill and I think that an an inn may be all the place has.

Beyond Allerston, lies Ebberton which has a legend related to Alfrid King of Northumberland being laid on a (magical?) stone there as he lay dying. A vis source?

Beyond that the road continues to Scarborough where the magi have trading interests…

TO THE WEST OF WILTON lies the most developed and interesting area. On the road to the west is Thornton-le-Dale the nearest settlement that could be called a town. Dates back to Domesday and by 1281 was in the hands of one John de Easton.

Beyond Thornton-Le-Dale is Pickering. According to Wikipedia: “After the Harrying of the North by the Normans, the value of the village fell from £88 to £1. In 1267 the manor, castle and forest of Pickering were given by Henry III to his youngest son, Edmund, First Earl of Lancaster.” So I think Pickering is currently down at heel. The Lord (if there is one) or the reeve (or his grandfather more like) was the one to sell the manor of Wilton to the Founders of the covenant.

Beyond Pickering are several smaller towns and villages (the Vale of Pickering I think) before Helmsley (with Helmsley Castle) and beyond that Riveleaux and Byland Abbeys.

Helmsley was given a charter as a borough by Robert de Ros in 1190 and is a market town. Helmsley castle is still in the hands of Robert de Roos (who is improving it in stone) and will go to his successors.

Robert de Ros is one of the local big baronial cheeses and in 1220 was fighting the sherriff of North Yorkshire over something despite having offered his submission to the new boy King. He was one of the barons who forced Magna Carta on the King. In standard history he dies in 1227 after getting the second issue of Magna Carta in 1225. I think I can see Robert de Ros having a part in the early seasons of the saga.

Riveleaux and Byland Abbeys are Cistercian foundations. They use the profits from the wool trade (and the cheap labour of their monks and lay brothers) to make the rockier parts of Yorkshire bloom. (So does Fountains Abbey but is a little out of the immediate area.)

Riveleaux has altered the course of the river several times which may be offensive to some local spirits.

Byland Abbey is currently noted for quarrelling with all the other abbeys in the area.

The land (mostly fields and pastures) slopes down towards the River Derwent. There’s a crossing at
Yedingham where there’s also a priory of Benedictine Nuns.

On the far side of the Derwent are plenty of small towns but I think that’s outside our immediate area. To the south of there lies York.

To repeat two questions I’d like a response to:


DO YOU WANT ANY MORE HOOKS OR BOONS? I’m looking at the Jerbiton and possible Merenita here. You can get the whole covenant involved in your stories about external relations or use the chance to raise the stakes on the stories you want to take part in.

(Hope all this helps!)


My inclination is to start relatively simple and add complications later.

I agree we should start simple, if forced I would add some mundane books and contacts in the local church and nobility - which can either be negative or positive

Yes, yes. I cannot spell. I’ll review the Hooks and Boons list and see what might be added usefully at this stage.

More aura is always nice, but if we don’t have spare hook points probably not worth adding any. Nothing else occurs to me.

1250 BP goes very quickly when you start building library, if you’re going to build it the normal way.

My plans for the library are to lay down a few basic Summae (is that right?) and Lab Texts and leave the rest to be defined by the players asking what the librarian can find.

I’ve added a couple of social hooks to the covenant but haven’t yet decided what to do with the extra points in Boons.

I’m going to be spending points on Vis sources and stores next I think.

The covenant charter should be based on what’s been established about Voluntas. Which isn’t much.

  1. There is an oath of membership required and it includes a vow not to allow the Tribunal to suffer
    under tyrannical rule .
  2. There is no formal head of the covenant.
  3. The covenfolk are notably loyal: as part of this I plan to allow them a tribune to sit at the Council table and vote on all but purely magical issues.
  4. The wizards have a duty of one season in (number of mages) service to the covenant.

I’ll get a draft to you soon as I can.

Here is a draft of the Covenant Oath.

I’d be grateful of suggestions to amend it. Be aware that your characters would be new and therefore Provisional Members who would need to undertake tasks to move up to full voting member. I have such tasks in mind, believe me.

And a suggestion for the Seal or heraldic device of the covenant would be nice. Voluntas means ‘will’. Apart from bad and obscene Shakespearean puns how would will be depicted visually?

The Oath of Covenant of


Being the charter of the Covenant of Rosalba founded in the One Thousand and Eighty Third Year of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I JULIA, filia Chrysostomos of House Jerbiton, declare that I am a Maga of good standing and a member of the Order of Hermes. I pledge my lifelong support and loyalty to the Covenant of Rosalba , and declare that the trials and fortunes of this covenant are now my own. I shall keep its secrets and tend to its fortunes as if they were my own that it may grow in learning, power and virtue to be an ornament to the Art of Magic and the Order of Hermes. I will succor it against its enemies and never betray it. I will aid the covenant and hold my fellow members as members of my own family and blood, giving them aid, respect and fairness in all my dealings with them. I will abide by the decisions of the Council of the covenant and give my best counsel and wisdom to the forming of those decisions. Further I swear I shall never allow the tribunal of Stonehenge to suffer under tyrannical rule This I swear on my honour as a Maga and a member of the Order of Hermes.

Given under our hands,

FLAVIA filia Chrysostomos House Jerbition.

CORVUS filius Aquila, House Bjornaer

PHESSALLIA filia CCCC of House Merinita

DESIDERIUS filius DDDD of House Verditius Spring 1083

KIRIST filius QQQQ of House Flambeau Summer 1214 Resigned Autumn 1219


The purpose of this covenant is to provide a home and place of study and research for members of the Order of Hermes, operating under the laws of that Order.

Governance of this Covenant

The members of this covenant are governed by the Council of Members, which shall consist of all Full Members of the covenant and in addition to them the Tribune who shall be elected by the covenfolk. It shall have the authority to issue orders to the magi only within the laws of the Order of Hermes and the strictures laid down by this charter. It may order the use of communal resources and the actions of non-magi owing allegiance to the covenant within the strictures of this charter.

Any magi resident in the covenant, whether Full or Provisional Member, and also the Tribune shall have the right and duty to convene the Council of Members for consideration of matters justly grave, and all members shall be charged with attendance and diligence in the proceedings. Should it not be possible to convene the full Council of Members, any quorum consisting of more than half of its current members is considered valid; else the discharge of the council’s duty must be delayed until such time as the full council may be convened. The Council of Members shall convene four times each year, one day prior to each equinox and solstice, regardless of call from any member, and all resident magi of the covenant should endeavor to make themselves present.

Motions to be decided upon by the Council of Members must be introduced by a member; debated fully and justly, allowing those who wish to speak to do so; and then proposed for the vote. Proposals must be seconded by another member of the council, else no vote can take place. All issues shall be passed by a majority vote of the members there present; excepting that the unanimous opinion of the Council of Members is required for issues involving changes to the charter; expulsion of a member; and acceptance of a new probationary member.

No Full Member of the Council shall have authority other than as a member of the Council but each Full Member shall have the duty of acting as chairman of the Council of Members for one season in rotation. The initial rotation shall be chosen by lot and new Full members shall be added to the rotation at the furthest point from the current chairman. The chairman shall have no power other than to set the Agenda at Council Meetings (and the Council may override such a schedule by vote) and to cast a settling vote if the Council be evenly divided on a matter.

The Tribune shall be a non-Magus elected by a free vote of the covenfolk. All persons who are not mages and are resident in the covenant shall have the right to one vote in this election, regardless of their gender or other status. The Tribune shall hold office for one year and be elected each year in the week prior to the renewal of the covenant’s Aegis of the Hearth. He shall have one vote on the Council as if he were a Full Member except that he may not vote on purely magical issues. The Tribune is not required to serve as chairman.


The covenant allows for two types of membership of its council.

The status of Probationary Member of the Council may be extended to any magus in good standing of the Order of Hermes, who owes no allegiance nor fealty to any other covenant, and is admitted upon the unanimous approval of the current Council of Members. Provisional members assume the basic and provisional rights detailed by this charter and the duties therein attached. The status of provisional member shall last a period of seven seasons, unless abridged through censure or canceled through expulsion. A provisional member has the right to attend Council and to speak in debate but no vote.

The status of Full Member of the Council is extended upon the completion of the duties and obligations of a probationary member, following a majority vote of the Council to admit the probationer as a Full Member. If a Provisional Member shall not be confirmed as a Full Member they must wait for another seven seasons before a resolution to elevate them to Full Member be put again. If the vote shall fail for a second time the Provisional Member must wait for another seven seasons before the vote be put for a third and final time after which they shall be released from all oaths and obligations to the covenant and considered expelled. Should elevation to the role of full member take place, then all rights and duties of probationary membership are shed, to be replaced with the assumption of the basic and full rights detailed by this charter, and the duties therein attached. Full membership persists, unless abridged through censure or canceled through expulsion. The Founding Members of the Covenant shall begin as Full Members.

Should a magus ever come to desire release from this covenant, he must renounce his Oath of Covenant in the presence of at least two members of the council, and shall thereby be relieved of all duties and rights, and may not call upon such rights furthermore.

Resources Owned by this Covenant

Resources of this covenant are held in common by the Council of Members, and it is the responsibility of this council to maintain and defend them.

This covenant lays claim to all the vis originating from undisputed and unclaimed sources discovered by magi of the covenant, whether Provisional or Full Members; save for the first harvest of a new vis source, which belongs to the finder or finders. This covenant also lays claim to any vis gifted to the Council of Members as a whole.

This covenant lays claim to all books obtained by members of the council while acting at the behest of the council, and all books scribed by members of the council where payment was received for this scribing from the covenant’s resources. This covenant also lays claim to any texts gifted to the Council of Members as a whole.

This council lays claim to all magical items obtained by members of the council while acting at the behest of the council; and all magical items made by members of the council where payment was received for this manufacture from the covenant’s resources. This covenant also lays claim to any magical items gifted to the Council of Members as a whole.

This council lays claim to all monies generated using the resources of the covenant. This council also lays claim to all monies obtained by members of the council while acting at the behest of the council. This covenant also lays claim to any monies gifted to the Council of Members as a whole.

This council lays claim to the buildings, defenses, and chattels of the covenant. This council also lays claim to any such buildings, defenses, and chattels gifted to the Council of Members as a whole.

Surplus resources of the covenant will be determined at the Winter meeting of the Council of Members. Resources necessary for the continued existence of the covenant and the protection of its members’ rights are accounted for first; this includes payment for seasons of work performed on behalf of the covenant, and a stipend of vis for the casting of the Aegis of the Hearth. Contributions to all debts owed to the covenant are decided by the Rector, and set aside. The remaining resources are deemed surplus, and shall be allocated to the settlement of requests from each member of the covenant.

Rights of the Members of this Covenant

Each and every magus and maga of this covenant shall be entitled to the basic rights of the covenant; to whit, full and unrestricted access to the protection and support of the covenant within the boundaries of the covenant by all the rights and benefits accorded by the Code of Hermes, the benefit of a sanctum which shall remain inviolate and the supply of materials thereof, access to the library of the covenant, and victuals appropriate to the status of a magus. These basic rights shall not be abridged

except by expulsion from the covenant.

In furtherance and additional to the basic rights, a full member of the covenant shall be entitled to the full rights of the covenant; to whit, the right to presence and a vote in the Council of Members, which he shall exercise dutifully with due prudence. Further, full and unrestricted access to the services and skills of the servants and covenfolk. Further, an equal right to all surplus provision and store necessary to conduct his studies, or the travel demanded by those studies; such rights to include (but be not limited to) vis, monies, and diverse magical and mundane resources claimed by the covenant.

Where a conflict is evident between members of the council over the allotment of surplus resource, distribution is drawn by ballot; excepting that priority claims that have been advanced and agreed by the Council are taken into consideration prior to the ballot. These rights shall not be abridged except by decision of the council under conditions of grave concern.

In furtherance and additional to the basic rights of a member of this covenant, a probationary member of the covenant is entitled the probationary rights of the covenant; to whit, a half share of those rights offered to a full member of the covenant. The services and skills of the servants and covenfolk may not be halved, but the needs of a full member of the covenant take precedence over the needs of a probationary member.

Responsibilities of the Members of this Covenant

Members of this covenant are obligated to obey the Oath of Hermes and the Peripheral Code; failure to do so will not be tolerated by the Council of Members, and the covenant reserves the right to censure those members who are convicted in just Tribunal of an offense against the Order of Hermes.

The Magi of the Council, whether Full or Provisional Members, have a duty to support the covenant and to give of their skill and labour to maintain it. Tasks that the Council has determined are necessary may be assigned to Members by the Council provided that they take no more than a week per season and involve no great foreseeable risk of personal danger to the member. Such assigned duties attract no recompense or advantage to the member who discharges them, but cannot be refused without reasonable extenuation.

For longer and more dangerous tasks, the Council shall have the right to offer rewards from the covenant’s resources to magi who volunteer for the duty. The members may not be forced to accept any particular task unless such refusal shall endanger the covenant or be in breach of this charter in which case the threat of censure may be used. All payments will be made at the Spring meeting of the Council. If more than one Member wishes to undertake a duty for the reward set by the Council, the duty shall be assigned by ballot.

Each probationary member of the covenant is obligated to perform no fewer than one of the tasks under remuneration currently outlined by the Council of Members during his period of probation. For this mandatory service, no payment need be offered by the Council of Members.

Censure of the Members of this Covenant

If a member should contravene the decisions of the council, by vote or by charter, then the member may be censured or expelled by a vote of the Council of Members. Censure requires the passing of a motion at a meeting of the Council of Members. The censure of a full member revokes the rights of that status, returning him to probationary status; whereupon he assumes all the duties and rights of that status. Censure must not prejudice the application of a probationary member to the position of full member of the covenant.

The censure of a probationary member shall abridge the rights of the member to remain a probationary member of the covenant, and shall expel him from the covenant. A Full Member reduced to the status of a probationary member may not be censured again over the same matter as caused his initial censure: a second motion on another matter is required.

Expulsion without first being censured and reduced to the rank of Probationary Member is enacted only by a unanimous vote of the remaining Council of Members. Expulsion is the only means through which a member of the covenant shall lose his basic rights; and requires that the former member ceases to draw upon those basic rights subsequent to the first full moon after expulsion was enacted. Should a magus be cast out from the Order, it is the duty and obligation of this covenant that he shall also and without delay be expelled from this covenant.

The Seal of Voluntas (

This charter was approved by Iudicium, filius Fencil, Follower of Guernicus, of the covenant of Burnham, Quaesitor in good standing, in the Year of Our Lord, Jesus Christ One Thousand and Eighty Three.

Erk. Hmm. Not a fan of playing Nomic…

Heraldically, willpower would tend to be dark red and/or an upraised fist.

Rosalba → Voluntas throughout.
Are mages expected never to move Covenant, then?

“Should it not be possible to convene the full Council of Members, any quorum consisting of more than half of its current members is considered valid; else the discharge of the council’s duty must be delayed until such time as the full council may be convened.” ­— that’s a bit broken. So if we can only gather 3 of the 7-member council, we can’t go and try to find a 4th one, we have to wait till the next quarter-day? Why not “until such time as a quorum may be convened”?

Resolutions: is “by a member” the same thing as “by a full member”? Or “By any member of the covenant”? (And every time you say “a member” this comes up again.)

If the Tribune is not also a Full Member this complicates things unreasonably in multiple places. And he isn’t. OK, you’ve got three classes of vote to work with here.

So the Council of Members can all vote for an expulsion, but be out-voted by the non-full members? What are the votes of non-full members worth? This multiple classes of vote thing is a huge flaw in the structure.

Rotation: so if one chairman brings in multiple new full members they get a succession of seasons chaired by their picked people? Why not just re-lot it when a full member is added or removed?

Ah, finally you say that non-Full Members don’t get to vote. But you must clarify “members” above as “Full Members” or “All Members” each time it’s used.

(more later)

Yeah, the ‘full council’ line is dumb. I’ll fix that.

Only full members and the Tribune get to vote: I’ll move that.

The chairman can’t bring in new members of his own bat. He only gets to chair not to rule.


The area around our covenant was part of the Manor of Pickering which was in turn owned at the time of the Conquest by Earl Morcar.

Now, Earl Morcar was one of the rebels against William the Conqueror in 1071, a rebellion that led to the Harrowing of the North in which the town of Pickering and its surrounding holdings were greatly devastated and much reduced in value.

By 1086 the Manor of Pickering was in the hands of the Crown. But in 1083 the village of Wilton was in the hands of the grandfather of the current seneschal and the covenant of Voluntas was formally chartered by the Order.

How was this managed? Was the Earl persuaded to give over the title? In return for what?

More likely I think (given the reputation of Voluntas in certain circles for being ‘Norman intruders’) is that Julia gave some assistance to King William in the suppression of the rebellion and he or his agents in the north gave her catspaw the title to the village.

Naturally this is an anomaly in the feudal setup and it probably grinds in the guts of the Reeve of Pickering and possibly the burgesses of the town as well.

Pickering has a motte-and-bailey castle where King John is known to have stayed when hunting in the forest.

I wonder if I can work a reference to the Fair Rosamund into the saga.