I used to play Ars Magica (2e) years ago as a player not a GM.
I just joined a local games group and introduced them to the idea of playing Ars Magica.
So I now have the 5th edition source book and was just wondering if there are any simple starter stories for the group I intend playing with.
Would Promises Promises for the 4th edition be able to be adapted to 5th edition or is there a 5th edition Starter story to test on my group ?
I believe Promises, Promises can be adapted fairly easily. However, it is based on a rather strong interpretation of Hermetic Law, that you might not want to adopt and is not what the official Fifth Edition books say about the law (as I understand things, at least). So it's doable, but I would strongly recommend dialing-down the legal ramifications to a fine rather than expulsion from the Order, and not bringing on the Hoplite. You can read more about thus suggestion in Project Redcap.
The official starting adventure is, I suppose, The Broken Covenant of Calebais (for Fifth Edition). It's a bit D&D-like, to bring players into the game gradually from (supposedly) D&D. and it's also not free.
You may also want to consider adapting the (free) adventure Nigrasaxa, which is also an introductory adventure for 4e. While it involves faeries and faeries work somewhat differently in 5e, this really shouldn't concern you unless you want it to (how faeries are treated in 5e is described in the Realms of Power: Faerie book, but you can totally just get inspiration from the core book and basically just use the Nigrasaxa adventure with that in mind). You can also use only some parts of the adventure - just the first part, or just the second, or so on.
I started my GM career for ArM5 with making my players apprentices at the same covenant and having them doing stuff like:
- Protecting the sheep - only to discover that one of the covenant sheep baah's 3 times and randomly teleports outside the hopscotch. It took them 3 teleportations to realize the fact
- Gather Vis from local vis sources
- I had them save Mathilda from the faries (from Promises promises (it ended up that the groups Ex Mish married her just as they were out from apprenticeship and she is now living with them
- The met magical and mystical animals
I played about 1-2 adventure(s) per year and it took them almost 6 months in RL time to finish those 15 years as an apprentice so it was a blast
I let them pick virtues and flaws, Characteristics and 5-9 years of xp, then i ggave them 16 xp per year (20-ish for the person with Great parens). Telling my players that they needed latin 4, MT 3, Artes 1 and Parma 1, the rest of the xp they could place as they wanted. It is now more than 2 years since we started and the players (all first timer for ArM) are still hooked and they still tell tales about "that time when they were apprentices and when..."
Having them as apprentices is a great start for a campaign for new players, it will form the characters and teach them gradually the world of Ars magica and Mythic Europe.
The Stories in the Hooks book are intended as starters.
I'm going with Promises as a taster for my group jusing it "as is"
They're mostly into MTG, D&D and we're playing Solomon Kane at the moment.
I've ordered the Broken Covenant. How many people would need to play ?
I would suggest that you try to find "Tales of Mythic Europe", there are some really fun adventures in that book, I prefer that over "Hooks" for starting a new campaign, but to each their own. The Broken Covenant is a bit tough to GM in my eyes.
Also "Thice-told Tales" is a great book for starting up a campaign. It consists of 5 starting adventures which then can e returned to for a second and third part each as the years progess in the campaign. So in TTT you will have 5 adventures all in all that will span over the year of 15-20 years for the characters. A truely remarkable book in my eyes and the authors have made really interesting plots and intrigues.
When you and your players feel cofident enough to play a magus that has been active for 50+ years and is really powerfull, Atlas Games released "Tales of Power" with really hard-core, difficult tales that you can use. I think there are 4-5 or so adventures in that books as well.
I also recommend Thrice Told Tales. Because each distinct episode is intended for a single session, it is giving you 5 sessions of play right out of the box, then 5 more later on, and 5 more much later on. By the time you get done GMing the first five, your players will hopefully have stuff they want to do.
Broken Covenant has a lot of errata, so be sure to check that out.
I have also had a lot of success with apprentice games. Mine was 16 sessions long, moving 1 year every session with a two-parter in the middle and the end. The early sessions were the hardest because the PCs were so incompetent at everything, but as others have noted it's all about kid stories at that stage. 16 episodes as apprentices seemed about right to me; I did not want it to go on too long, as much of the fun in Ars is about being a world-shaking mage.
I have also used Hooks to good effect in my campaign.
Personally I wouldn't recommend Broken Covenant as a starting point, because it's actually a quite sizeable and very dangerous dungeon. It has more in common with Tomb of Horrors than with Keep on the Borderlands; there are a lot of situations where it is very easy to get very dead very quickly.
Broken Covenant is on of those dungeons best tackled over a decade or two of in-game time, with the magi researching spells and the like to tackle the challenges within.
Tales of Mythic Europe and Hooks both contain great content for new magi and new players. I can't speak for Thrice-Told Tales, because I don't own it (yet).
Thanks everyone .
Damn ! I got the wrong book.
There's going to be about 4 of us to start with.
So i should get everyone to roll apprentices and go with Hooks or Tales of Mythic Europe.
Would they need to roll companions and grogs too ?
I know my players had fun starting as apprentices and doing tasks for their masters:
- Gather Vis in the most peculiar ways, try to convince a magpie to actually give them the shiny egg (animal vis) if he gets many shiny stones, dance around the tree, scaring the pigs of a local farmer - because the tears of the pigs is intelligo vis and try to avoid said farmer from catching you and give you a great big can of whoop-ass.
- Go to the local village and sell the goats of the covenant and while you are there be robbed by local vad boys (in the age of the apprentices)
- discovering that the king of the moose have vis in his poo and try o stalk him without angering him
When I started, I let my players just play the apprentices and when they were done with their gauntlet, have them make companions and grogs as needed. Some of my players do not have a grog or companion, others prefer playing with their companion over their magi
While playing an apprenticeship can be interesting, it is a bit of extra work for the SG because you need to work out the details of the various masters. It can be fun, but it might not be the most ideal starting scenario.
If it is your very first game ever (for all, including the SG), I'd suggest creating magi who are just out of Gauntlet, as per the standard rules. Put them in a covenant that has two or three much older magi who can act as story prompters; senior magi can have junior magi scurrying off on various errands much like what apprentices do, and the magi themselves won't be literal children.
That said, if the group is super keen on the idea of playing a bunch of 8-10 year olds who grow into their magical power it can be a lot of fun. Just don't take it as the 'default' - the various adventures in Hooks will challenge young magi, they will absolutely murder apprentices.
I would recommend everyone create (or copy a template for) a military grog, who is their designated shield grog. Some magi don't need them, but for the most part a shield grog is pretty crucial to avoid going squish.
Beyond that I wouldn't create companions to begin with. Companion characters can suggest themselves as the saga progresses, but to begin with you ideally want the magi to be front and centre to the adventure - let the players play their magi, and get a handle on casting spells. After all, casting spells is one of the primary elements of Ars Magica.
The main thing to remember with Ars Magica is the game better suits lots of short stories rather than big, epic, sprawly ones. Being able to get through 1-2 stories in a play session works really well. For this to work you want to keep the stories themselves tight and relatively uncomplicated (at least to begin with). Stories that have subsequent knock-on effects that need to be dealt with later work really well, which is what 'Thrice-Told Tales' is all about.
For example, if the story involves going to get a basilisk egg then I'd set up a story where the characters in question journey to the lair (one or two encounters), deal with the basilisk and then hand-wave the journey home. The whole thing should be resolvable in a couple of hours, plus an extra hour for people getting a handle on the rules.
It is worth noting that Ars Magica does tend to be quite a deadly game. If a melee combat goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong. Wound recovery is done over weeks or months, so a single unlucky fight can knock a character out of action for a significant amount of time. This is why shield grogs are essential; they take wounds so magi don't have to.
Kid Gloves has really great advice.
You can use shield Grogs from the AM rules, and if you are running a published adventure, newly-Gauntleted magi are the way to start. Apprentices are a good way to introduce things, but you'd have to make your own stories because apprentices begin almost completely incompetent and, over 15 years, become magi. Companions can wait, unless you have a player who just really doesn't want to play a wizard. I have a player with a mythic companion in my campaign and the challenge has been getting that player involved in all-magi scenes, like the council meeting, Tribunal, and so on. But with care, it can be done.
I would add that while it isn't an adventure as-such, the Rhine Tribunal book (Guardians of the Forest) has a nearly-complete starting adventure, about setting up a new covenant.
There is a "standard" starting-method of Ars Magica where the players play a bunch of magi straight out of gauntlet, that scout a locale and set up their covenant there. Guardians of the Forests has a set of locales to scout and choose from, and a set of guidelines of what the covenant needs to do to convince the tribunal to grant it membership and how that whole procedure goes, and a gazetteer of the local environment in which the new covenant is set, complete with story hooks and seeds. The adventure of setting up the covenant isn't fully written, but it practically almost is. So you can go that route, too, if you want. GotF also is an excellent tribunal book in my opinion, so you won't go wrong buying it. In my opinion.
I had totally forgotten about the Rhine Gorge Saga. That's a great idea.
"Through the Aegis" includes five ready-to-go covenants, including one at Spring and one at New Spring after a Winter. This is the right power level for newly-Gauntleted magi, and there are in fact potential PCs written up in this book, but there are also tips on what how those already-made PCs might be replaced by new PCs made by new players.
Thanks everyone .
Just one quick question .
Where does the aura modifier come from in the casting score ?
The aura where the character stands.
So if the magus does a spell in a magical aura, he will have a bonus. If he does so in the middle of the Cathedral of a close city, he will have a (heavy) malus from divine source.
ExarKun beat me to the punch by seconds, but I'll add this:
from p.183 of the core rulebook.
It is also worth noting that aura modifiers also apply to magic resistance. This can create some really problematic scenarios for magi in non-magical auras.
OK so to cast a spell its technique + form + stamina + aura
Let's say 5(Re) + 9(Me) + 2(Stamina) + 0(Aura) (standing in a field)
That's a total of 16 for casting score
And cast an known formulaic spell is casting score (16) + Die Roll (4) total 20
So 20 means I can cast spells of level 20 and below and they will work.
Actually, this means you can cast a level 20 spell without incurring Fatigue, or a level 30 spell with Fatigue.
If you need to cast those spells on a target that has magic resistance, however, you won't be able to affect them because your Penetration total would be 0 or -10, respectively.
Arthur is right. When casting a Formulaic spell, you don't need to reach the target spell level on your roll. If you do, you succeed and spend no Fatigue. If you fail by 10 or less, the spell is still cast but you lose a level of Fatigue.
This allows newly-Gauntleted magi to cast relatively powerful spells, but they will have very little (if any) Penetration. So, if you are learning a combat spell like Pilum of Fire, make sure you can beat the spell level with your roll. But if you are casting something that doesn't usually need to Penetrate (like, say, Leap of the Homecoming or Seven League Stride), you only need to roll within 10 of the spell level.