Category: Magica


Hello, all. Martin here. It’s the 4th of July, and that’s a holiday—at least, it will be, in 578 years or so. And, like, 3000 miles from here. Well, whatever. In any event, no new chapter for you today. Instead, an announcement: I’m on Twitter—you can follow me at @MedievalMartin.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. How can I tweet from 1199? Frankly, it’s not gonna be easy, and I don’t expect a lot of rousing conversation right away. But, hey, if you want to keep up with current events from eight centuries ago and follow the travels of a guy on a really unexpected European vacation, I’m your man!

I’ll look forward to tweeting with you!

Comment below; you know you wanna! And receive an email notification of every update to this site by subscribing (see the link to the right). Converse with me on Twitter at @charlesmryan, or follow my writing diary on Facebook at Charles M Ryan.

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Stephan: The Chevalier

The knight errant, the veteran Templar, the Norman lord, and sometimes even the mercenary band captain—all are chevaliers. The icon of medieval warfare, the mounted knight is the central element of sweeping battles, fierce jousts, and even tales of courtly love. Chevaliers can be idealistic crusaders or petty tyrants, protectors of the weak or cruel marauders who use their power and strength to take what they want when they want it.

If you’ve been following Martin’s tale (and really, you should be), you might be familiar with a fellow named Stephan. Well, Stephan, along with elements of the novel’s plot and a couple of other characters, was inspired by my Magica campaign which I ran for three years in the UK (and hope to wrap up with my players as soon as we can all get together again). The campaign kitbashed OGL rules (this was before 4E) with the top-notch Ars Magica magic system, and all of the character classes were hand-built to reflect a realistic medieval European setting.

So herewith I present a peek behind Stephan’s curtain, at the chevalier, or European knight, character class.

Click through for PDF

This is a pure fighting class optimized for a low-magic setting and designed to set apart nicely from the footsoldier, another class I wrote up for the setting. It also incorporates a few mechanics unique to my campaign, such as my status system. And, finally, it’s not the most inspiring class in the upper levels–my campaign was not intended to go beyond 12th or maybe 15th level, so I didn’t spend a lot of brain juice developing the classes beyond those lofty heights. All that said, though, with a few tweaks the class could easily find a home in nearly any low-to-moderate magic setting.

What do you think?

Illo-a-Week: Something New

A little something related to (but not actually part of) the Secret Project.

To date, everything I’ve put up on Illo-a-Week has been older work (most of it from almost 20 years ago), and that will probably be the case, for the most part, going forward. But I’ve mentioned that I might occasionally put some new work up. I haven’t been doing any conventional illustration–yet–but here’s something relatively new. It’s a small piece of an item I did for my Magica campaign. And by small, I mean big. The full document, when printed out, is something like 100 inches long by 60 wide–bigger by far than my gaming table.

While originally created purely for my campaign, this is, in a way, related to the Secret Project™ I’ve mentioned once or twice. What’s that, you say? It’s just a map? Why yes, yes it is.

So yesterday I’m in the passenger seat while my wife looks for a break in the A3 traffic swinging round the Ham Barn Roundabout. And in the lane to our left is a white commercial van whose graphics include a shiny-looking icon-like image, somewhat like an iPhone app. I stared at it for several minutes as the traffic failed to give us a gap, and my graphic designer hat must have slipped on, because I started analyzing it in my mind.

Rounded edges. Soft emboss. A couple highlights. And a kind of uneven line across the middle, above which it’s brighter and below which it’s darker. All the Photoshop 101 basics to make a small symbol look like a small symbol in a glassy bead. And that thought made me think (as thoughts do): These Photoshop tricks can be applied to anything. Do they really make their subject look inherently shiny, or are we sort of trained to see the subject that way? Put another way, if a caveman saw that image, would he think it looked like a glass bead, or just an image that happens to have a wavy line of darkness across it?

My mind can make anything connect to gaming, and of course that’s where it went next. My Magica campaign is set in Europe in 1199. So you’re there, and you’re one of the 90% of people who live in an agrarian village and toil on the land all day. Your beverages are stored in wooden casks and served in earthenware (or wooden) cups. Your house has no glazed windows—there might be a few in the manor house (might be), but that’s it for the whole village. You don’t own any jewelry, nor does anyone you know. The village church might have a few baubles, as might the lord’s lady. But how often do you get a close look at those? (“Keep your eyes off the lady’s baubles, peasant!”)

So this white commercial van slips though a time portal and ends up in your village. Do you even have a context to recognize the glass-beadiness of that icon?

Well, maybe. You probably visit the local market town a few times a year: It’s no Constantinople, but the odds of a glazed window or bit of jewelry are somewhat higher. Maybe you’ve been on a pilgrimage, to the nearest cathedral if not farther. Glass and jewels abound. Heck, it’s not as if you’ve never seen a drop of dew.

So what’s the moral of this story? Societal context allows for shortcuts in visual media? Medieval people know less than you might assume—or maybe more? Dropping a Transit van into 1199 Aquitaine might make for a cool adventure hook? Or maybe just that the A3 needs a overpass at the B3006?

Am I the only one who derives trivial insights into one’s game campaign from van graphics? What eureka moment have you pulled from a traffic delay?

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