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  • Mage: Constantinople

    So I recently read through Constantinople by Night for vampire the masquerade, it’s a great book, and I loved it so much I decided to propose a mage game set in the city for my players. I’m thinking of what to do with it and how to run it.

    My idea is to have city united by a powerful triumvirate of mages, just as in Constantinople by a Night (where three vampires rule he city and watch over its many intrigues).

    I feel that the city would largely be controlled by Hermetics, Ahli Batin and Celestial choristers, who would be depicted as outcasts to Western Christianity’s Messianic Voices (thus making the divide between the Western/Latin Christians and the eastern/Greek Christians a part of the game).

    The game could take place in the years before the 4th crusade when the Latin church finally topple Constantinople and brings their vision of intolerance and religious purity to the city.

    I envision the city as one of tolerance and cooperation, yet one of Byzantine intrigues as well. A city where mages form fellowships like the Sahajiya, Chakravanti and Pagan Old Faith could all find a place.

    Please share with me your ideas on a Mage Constantinople game or any suggestion you have about my concept.

  • #2
    I remember there's a book of Ars Magica: The Sundered Eagle, with the vision of the original Order of Hermes about Constantinople. Maybe you can get inspiration in that book.

    I think there's antecesor groups of the Order of Reason in the city, perhaps the Ksirafai or the Artificers. And the books of the Traditions have presented faccions of greek origin (Eutanathos: the Order of Pomegranate, Cult of Extasis: The Cult of Dionysos, etc.).

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    • #3
      If I recall correctly, the split between the Messianic Voices and the Cabal of Pure Thought is already a thing in the Dark Ages, with the Cabal (known at the time as the Inner Doctrine) — not the Messianic Voices — representing the vision of intolerance and religious purity. Indeed, as described in the DAMage core book, the Messianic Voices are notable for their heterodox beliefs and for not aligning all that well with the Church, despite using similar trappings and organizational structure.


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      • #4
        Originally posted by Magus View Post
        I think there's antecesor groups of the Order of Reason in the city, perhaps the Ksirafai or the Artificers. And the books of the Traditions have presented factions of greek origin (Eutanathos: the Order of Pomegranate, Cult of Extasis: The Cult of Dionysos, etc.).
        The Artificers would probably be prominent in Constantinople, given the architectural feats of the Byzantines - at the time of 1204 however, the Ksirafai would still be known as the Ixoi.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Zennis View Post
          The game could take place in the years before the 4th crusade when the Latin church finally topple Constantinople and brings their vision of intolerance and religious purity to the city.
          As far as I know, that's not really accurate. It's the Venetians and the Empire's own internal feuding that brought the crusade to Constantinople. The Pope wanted Jerusalem and was somewhat irritated at what actually happened. Bringing down the Empire opens up Christendom to the Muslims and I gather Christians at the time were well aware of the ramifications.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael View Post

            As far as I know, that's not really accurate. It's the Venetians and the Empire's own internal feuding that brought the crusade to Constantinople. The Pope wanted Jerusalem and was somewhat irritated at what actually happened. Bringing down the Empire opens up Christendom to the Muslims and I gather Christians at the time were well aware of the ramifications.
            I agree with you, his interpretation is correct.

            I was actually referring to the behind the scenes mage action with the local choristers being antagonized by the western mesianic voices or cabal of our thought who have gained control of the Western church and are trying to influence the eastern church as well.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Zennis View Post

              I agree with you, his interpretation is correct.

              I was actually referring to the behind the scenes mage action with the local choristers being antagonized by the western mesianic voices or cabal of our thought who have gained control of the Western church and are trying to influence the eastern church as well.
              The High Guild may also have been involved - back during the Dark Ages and Sorcerer's Crusade eras Venice was one of their largest seats of power.

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              • #8
                Something to keep in mind is that Constantinople always viewed itself as the one true inheritor of Rome, so what are the Artificers in Mage: The Sorcerers' Crusade are probably still the Collegium Praecepti/Brotherhood of the Rule organization from Ancient Rome up until the final fall of the city in the 15th century. As for the Cabal of Pure Thought, while the majority are probably hitching their One World One Faith idea to the Roman Catholic Church, since the sect dates back to the Empire, there is probably a small offshoot/heretical sect who believe that One World One Empire One Faith is still best achieved via the "Roman" Empire of the East. These two groups undoubtably bump heads a lot, but not nearly as much as they conflict with the Muslim breakaway group or the Voices.

                There's a couple of good documentaries on Constantinople and the Byzantines on YouTube, including John Romer's Byzantium: The Lost Empire and a video from TED-ED. The channel Extra History also has a lengthy set about Justinian and Theodora that's pretty good, if not part of the 12th century. You can also find a number of videos giving the basics of the Greek Orthodox Church.

                In Ars Magica, the Empire, at least it's northeastern Mediterranean part, is the Order of Hermes's Tribunal of Thebes (between the Transylvanian and Levant Tribunals). I'm not 100% certain, but I think there is a primarily House Jerbiton chantry/covenant within the capital city itself.

                Also, the Varangian guards offer the potential for Valdaermen in the city/empire.

                Added: I am reminded that the Ahl I Batin do predate the development of Islam, so prior to that, they were probably a mix of Christian, Gnostic, and Zoroastrian beliefs/heresies, a number of whom are likely still existing with their trademark "subtleness" in parts of Europe, including the Byzantine Empire as monks, merchants, politicians, priests and whatnot. Some may even still hold with the idea that the "Roman" Empire is the best way to go in fulfilling the doctrine of unity.

                Also a cool thing about Venice (and the various porto-syndicate and other factions you might find there) is that for a chunk of the city's first couple of centuries, they usually viewed themselves as being part of the Byzantine circle of influence rather than that of the "barbarian" west. (This is a huge over simplification, I know; it tended to depend on who was in charge at the moment in a city where politics would sometimes involved people stabbing each other.) Venetians who came to Constantinople for trade and other official business tended to get special treatment from the Empire. Thomas Madden's Venice: A New History is a really good overview of the city's development and politics.
                Last edited by No One of Consequence; 12-05-2018, 10:15 PM.


                What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Zennis View Post
                  Please share with me your ideas on a Mage Constantinople game or any suggestion you have about my concept.
                  Good luck, Zennis!

                  I've been running a DA game in Constantinople (post Fourth Crusade, though) for about four years now. Not purely Mage, though. In terms of Mage stuff I've used and suggestions I'd have:
                  =========================================

                  Well, my number one suggestion is actually "Pray you don't have a historian in your party."

                  My fiance is a Byzantist and so I don't get to just make stuff up as often.

                  As a more serious warning, if your players know more about a region or historical period, they'll tend to come up with ideas you'd never considered. The whole party went to Jerusalem (and nearly went to Antioch too) because our historian player was certain that a clue that I had dropped was pointing there - not because it was a bad read of the clue, but because we've studied different time periods and so what seemed obvious to her was out of left field for me.

                  The Primus of House Verditius is in Constantinople.

                  I placed him on the Sykai. I've mostly kept him out of game affairs to keep down the power level of active characters in the story, but he's a friend of one of our PC's families and has been useful to put them in contact with lower-ranked Hermetic NPCs.

                  He likes new magic and artifacts. An unused plot thread is him trading a favor to the party for a copy of Laurence Golo's translation of the Kitab Al-Alacir. The text is probably condemned in church scholarship in the post-Amalric era, and the Ixoi in the city are trying to control access to it (It mentions them, indirectly, and they prefer to go unnoticed.)

                  I had a disciple meet the party through this guy. She was looking for her friend and colleague, who lived in the city (but had been murdered by a vampire.) This let me get the party in touch with a Hermetic that would speak to them from a less lofty position, and to give them a contact with some experience in dealing with blood sorcery. You can also have cabals of Hermetics on various missions pass through Qasim's chantry to stir things up in the city - a group of mages in town, even if only for a while, can be very disruptive.

                  I play Qasim as being a decent enough fellow, but very proud, and far removed from Sleeper issues. He doesn't really consider that the PC's grandfather that he knew must be dead, because he's a centuries-old Master and he mostly talks to other mages. He's not bad, but he's not helpful; he thinks the party's problems aren't important enough to merit his intervention. He "knows" this because, as an Important Person, surely he would already be involved if something Important was happening.

                  Qasim has good relations with the Ahl-i-Batin. If I ever need to introduce the party to the Batini master in the area, it'd be through Qasim; the two probably play chess and debate philosophy.

                  The Batini
                  Haven't shown up (though their agents have chipped in occasionally without breaking cover.) They're based out of the mosque Saladin commissioned. They've Occulted the thing so that folks that don't live in the Saracen quarter tend to forget it's there.

                  The Ixoi
                  Are only starting to get involved. A member is in contact with them (the party doesn't know the sect exists) and they teamed up to assassinate a mortal Giovanni necromancer (the party's got beef with him and his Cappadocian master.)

                  I have them travel anonymously and refer to themselves as "humble laborers", using a dog-skin cap as a token/tell so that those In The Know can spot one another.

                  The Messianics/Cabal Split
                  It's an ongoing issue for the time period the OP is considering - the Chorister tradbook says that the Cabal is ousted somewhere after the Albigensian Crusade (1209 to 1229). That's just before the 1230 start date of Dark Ages: Mage (to the extent that they still seem to be part of the Messianics in the DA:M splat page) but a few decades into the future for Zennis' game.

                  Now, the Messianics are noted as being out of step with the Church, and that's true - but the things that they differ on (much of it Platonic or Origen stuff that has been condemned) are things that have persisted unofficially in the East while being more strongly proscribed in the West. A Christian Chorister in Constantinople is going to find their Sleeper peers more amenable to and familiar with these little theological deviations than they would elsewhere. Even in the West, the proposed game time is a little bit before things come to a head (I'd point to the Cathars and the Amalricians in 1210 as being the point at which things become much more strict.)

                  Given that, I think the major issue between "orthodox" Latin Messianics and their Eastern Roman brethren would hang less on doctrinal differences (The Messianic creed is pretty Eastern) and would have more to do with the Roman Messianics seeing themselves as an equally-important center of authority representing (or patronizingly claiming to represent) a coalition of the other faiths within the Congregation.
                  =========================================

                  That's probably enough or too much for now, but I'll think about it and ask my players if there's anything they would suggest. I know that a couple of players aren't history nerds, and they definitely appreciated having a primer document so that they'd know more about the "setting".


                  I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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                  • #10
                    The thing about the Cabal of Pure Thought vs the Messianic Voices/Celestial Chorus is that while Claudius Dediticius was probably a member of the Messianic Voices, as soon as he got his Revelation of the Pure Thought of God back in the 4th century, he and his followers most likely considered themselves a completely separate entity from the "heretics" of the Voices. That the Messianic Voices continued to view the Cabal as their fellows in Christ/The One up until the launch of the Inquisitions* and the formation of the Order of Reason made it clear this was no longer the case speaks volumes about the Voices' commitment to the tenets of mercy, forgiveness and coexistence.


                    *For clarity's sake, I divide the WoD Inquisitions into the real world Papal Inquisitions of the mundane powers, the Shadow Inquisition of the Society of Leopold and their allies, and the Illuminated Inquisition of the Cabal of Pure Thought and their later allies.


                    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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