Adventure XP and other seasonal activities?

Hi all,

Been GM'ing AM for a while but I think I just realized I've been playing a particular rule fundamentally wrong.
I know you can only get XP from one activity--if you invent a spell for exposure XP, you can't also read a book. If you slay a dragon and gain 8 adventure XP, you can't also study from vis.

I've been telling my players, "you got adventure XP for summer 1224; you can't do anything else but collect the XP from it.' I think I may have been quite wrong.

However, can you do meaningful activities in a season with adventure XP as long as you forego the exposure XP?
For example, say the characters take adventure XP for a quest that only lasts 2-3 days. Can they still meaningfully do the following in the same season?
-Earn a living by shoeing horses
-Extract vis from an aura
-Write a tractatus
-Invent a new spell
The above assumes they take 8 adventure XP and skip the 2 Exposure XP.

If so, I think I owe my players an apology and a bunch of extra seasons to accomplish some things.

...I probably in theory owe my previous Ars gaming group an apology, but haven't had contact with them since 2010 or so. Their loss :smiley:

By the rules as written, you have been absolutely correct - you only get one source of xp. Not allowing them to do anything else is an abstraction of them having to ponder their experiences and recover from the adventure in order to get the full benefit of adventuring.

Letting people do other things if the adventure was only a few days is entirely sensible and won't break the game, even if not strictly RAW.

Many people houserule that you can add adventure xp to another source, and the adventure only counts as a distraction.

I've always played as you did, and never found a problem with it - most people took the adventure xp, but the lab rats would always prefer to spend a season in research than take adventure xp.

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From page 163

I've chosen to ignore this rule, I don't think it's the least bit fun.

In my game a character may only get xp from one source in a season, but their activities are not constrained. In fact if a character spends the season doing something else, and that character chooses to take adventure xp I've allowed them to spend a reasonable amount of that adventure xp on stuff related to their other activities. For instance if a magus and a grog go on an adventure for a few days and spend the rest of the season respectively reading a quality eight tractatus on rego and practicing the local language, I would allow each of them to spend up to eight of their adventure xp (the quality of the book and practicing a language in a community where it is the native tongue on their rego or their language.


I thank you for your answers. I think for my saga, I will use the following interpretation, which is roughly the middle ground. I think it’s reasonably close to RAW.

You may only gain XP from one source at most. The only exception is if you go on multiple adventures, in which case I would probably give 10 Adventure XP total.
You may engage in other activities, including one ‘season-long’ activity. My justification is that if it’s a short adventure, you don’t spend the rest of the season alone in a room, thinking “Well, what did I learn?”

For example, assume someone goes on a quest to recover a lost scroll in a catacombs. The adventure takes only a weekend in the Spring. You take adventure XP. You may not gain any other XP.
Additionally, you may not do the following activities:
-Study a book to gain XP.
-Study from vis to raise your Arts.
-Gain XP from being taught, such as by attending university
-Gain XP from being trained, such as by working as a carpenter’s apprentice.

I feel like the last two are thematically appropriate—the carpenter’s apprentice might get thumped on the head for not having his head in the game. Likewise, the university student pondering his adventures will fall behind on his Artes Liberales studies and may fail the exam (represented by his having a lower Artes Liberales score than his peers at the end of the season).

You may do the following activities, assuming you forego all exposure XP for them.
-Write a tractatus.
-Copy some books
-Engage in Laboratory activities such as inventing a spell, fixing an Arcane Connection, or extracting vis.
-Teach a class at university.
-Earn a living as a carpenter, including making good quality items and selling them as part of your normal income.
-Earn a living as a carpenter, including training your apprentice.
-Participate in drills at the covenant, if you are a grog. You will not gain any XP, but you will still 'keep current' in terms of fighting as part of a trained group.
-Administer your estates and participate in court intrigue, if you are a noble. Your fortunes will not decline, since you’ve spent most of the season attending to your affairs.

For anything involving being a source of advancement (teaching, writing, training), the source quality is unaffected.

Does this sound fairly reasonable?

While you were originally correct, let me point out something else. A season is an abstraction, and ArM5 is explicit about this. So, let's say you have a grog who is a smith. He could spend nearly the whole year working in the smithy, though not full-time. That might be two seasons of exposure. He could also spend some time adventuring and rehearsing (didn't want to use the term "practicing") what he learned on the adventure. He also might spend two hours a night most nights reading a tractatus. Even though all these are spread through the year, they're each one season worth of stuff, so the rules say:

2 seasons of exposure
1 season of adventure
1 season of studying a book

Laboratory work must be tied directly to the actual seasons, though. But as long as you're not doing such laboratory work, you can keep it more abstract like the example above. Magi just tend to go by actual seasons due to the inclusion of lab work.

I've never understood this aspect of Ars Magica. It feels fundamentally wrong for a game to discourage players from having their characters perform fun and adventurous activities, in favor of accumulating XP in background activities. So I ignore the rule on single sources of experience per season.

At the same time, I don't want to speed advancement dramatically. As a compromise, if players take short breaks to do adventurous stuff, say a week's visit to the magic forest to do something or other, it's only worth a couple of XP, along with whatever the main activity of the season earns.

How about this perspective: As a troupe-style game, everyone should have a character to play to have fun on adventures even if their main characters aren't on these particular adventures. Do you want to penalize they player who runs a grog or two and as fun with it while their magus stays at home? The rules are designed to avoid penalizing such a player, one who is using the troupe-style approach well. This is because if it's always an extra bonus to go on adventures, then any magus who doesn't go falls behind. You already get other stuff from adventures anyway: bonus Confidence Points, stuff you find, connections you make, etc. You can still get all those while forgoing the experience if you want, which can still be a noticeable boost on a season in the lab. Can anyone argue why those boosts are insufficient enough that we should also boost experience and create a disincentive for everyone not to try to bring their primary characters on every single adventure?

Pretty categorical statement there.

It's boring to have to play characters other than the ones you'd choose to play, be that a magus or a grog. It's a game and I want to play my favorite character, not be forced to control the extras. Why are game rules better if they disincentivize us from doing what makes the game fun?

Furthermore, I want my character to have adventures, not just accumulate XP on a spreadsheet while ticking off years of his life in a library. I can do the latter in real life. You can argue that experience gains are peripheral to the fun of the game, but the old trope of character advancement still works for me.

When I look at online games I don't see much grog action going on compared to magus talk and play, so I don't think I'm the only one who prefers to play a magus. I wonder how much troupe play is still used at all.

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How do the game rules create a disincentive to adventure? Look at some options (with estimates):

Read: Gain 12ish experience
Practice: Gain 5ish experience
Adventure: Gain 8ish experience, a little Confidence, maybe some Vis, and whatever else comes from it
Lab: Gain 2 experience and develop or start developing a spell or an item

And then remember that you can choose your own Virtues to adjust those. Choose Independent Study to make adventuring even more worthwhile if that is what you prefer. If you want to adventure and do something like choose Book Learner, that's not the game creating a disincentive, but you making a choice somewhat contrary to what you want, a choice that should really be reconsidered.

Somehow you're saying there is a disincentive to adventure. I disagree. I haven't seen anyone actually show there is any disincentive to adventure, just complaints about not getting to double-dip sufficiently to overly favor adventure. The rules seems to balance it fairly well so that you can choose to adventure or not based on what you want your character to do and what character you want to play. If we throw away this balance, adding a lot more value to adventure, then we are creating a disincentive to do anything but adventure, penalizing those whose main characters don't keep going on a adventures.

And a lot of these games don't house rule adventure experience, which shows you empirically that there is minimal if any disincentive to adventure with the game rules as written.

Also, there are plenty of times people play their magi even when they're not out on an adventure.

With all the borderline silly ways to boost XP gains in AM5 - ritually boosting Communication, getting +3 teaching for using a lab, making your texts on water magic better by putting seashells in the binding, so many others - I really didn't expect to hear anyone get upset by the idea of giving a little more experience for going out and doing the stuff that RPGs are traditionally about.

i'm not going to say you're wrong - because you're not. I don't entirely think your comparison is completely fair, however. There are a lot of ways to sneak in extra bits of xp here and there: Communication boosting rituals, teaching labs, resonant materials on the books you're writing, correspondence; There are a lot, a whole hell of a lot. However, most of it is an issue of rules expansion, rather than the core rules systems. Resonant materials are in expanded libraries for covenants (and often require adventures), correspondence is in covenants, teaching labs is part of covenants lab expansions (early on in sagas theres often Upkeep issues, but most covenants solve that pretty fast). The boost to Communication via CrMe ritual is a notable main book example. It also takes 1 season to design (minimum with lab text, can take more), it costs a bucket of vis to cast, and it requires someone who is NOT the xp beneficiary to spend seasons giving that knowledge to someone else. if you happen to have a magus teaching another magus, you also get into the risk of developing reputations.

I think the house rule allowing you to add some adventure xp into a normal seasonal xp activity (or the reverse) is a reasonable house rule; it helps shape the game you want to play, it shows that you want a big adventure drive in your stories. I don't think it's a necessary rule for game balance, I think it tips the game balance but does not topple it. I don't really want it in the games I'm in, because it means that visiting the local faerie forest to quickly slay a Pants Goblin for his herbam vis is going to involve every single mage in the covenant, every companion with a reasonable excuse to go, and probably any grogs not on guard duty, because if you're just handing out +3 xp for free, it should go to everyone. I don't want to 'punish' the players by having them miss out on free xp, just like you don't want to punish the player who did go on the adventure by reducing their xp.
Another aspect of the balancing for time vs xp is the real-life-time. Adding too many incentives to adventure means that there becomes more and more reasons to adventure, and adventures take up a lot more time in play than discussing how to tweak a particular lesser enchanted device for better use and moving on to the end of the year.

As far as the original question, I have been playing (and was taught to play) that taking xp for adventures does stop you from doing any notable lab work such as vis extraction and enchanting, et cetera. I can easily see the interpretation that it only prevents xp gain from other sources and allows you to still affix an arcane connection while pondering the refractive properties of crystal dragon scales you learned last month. Going back over the book, it seems to strongly imply that you cannot do lab work during adventure seasons, but it never really explicitly states it one way or the other. avenger314, your rules interpretation seems very reasonable to fix things if you feel adventuring is too punishing.

I generally play that you can perform other activities but not gain experience from them- I do however like the idea of allowing more than 5 adventure experience into an ability of your background activity would justify it- so if you are reading a SQ:12 tractatus and have a 15xp adventure you can put 12 of those 15 xp into whatever the tractatus was about. Similarly with training or activities which allow more than 4 study experience.

Just so the converaation doesn't stray too far off course, looking back up the thread, none of us have suggested that as a house rule.

Hmm... did I misinterpret this previous statement?

It's a fairness issue. I'm well aware of those boosts. I know how to build a magus to have the potential to write a Q26 or so tractatus on an Art while remaining human. However, at least with those nearly everyone could benefit if they choose. However, I've been in plenty of situations where the adventure experience method has been altered and the results have been unfair in some way. I just want that warning to be understood. I'll give a couple examples assuming you can replace your season's experience with adventure experience:

  • An adventure starts partway through a season. One magus is reading a book, while another is working on a spell in the lab, and a third is studying from vis. They all go on the same adventure for a week. They all return, having earned the same adventure quality. Why does the magus in the lab get the full benefit of the adventure with nearly the full benefit of the lab work (loses only 2 exposure), while the other magi must forfeit everything from reading/studying vis to get the same benefit of the adventure, and the one studying vis will also likely lose at least some of the vis?
  • One magus chooses to work for the covenant in the lab, while another goes through an some lab work elsewhere for a mystery cult. The one away gets wrapped up in an adventure. So the magus at home gets the full lab season, while the one away gets to forgo the 2 exposure points and gets lots more points from the adventure. One gets much, much more out of the season because of an initial choice unaware of what would happen later.
  • An adventure necessitates a magus leaving the covenant while there is need for a magus to remain at home to protect the covenant just in case. Two magi are involved, both working in the lab. Whoever decides to stay behind gets the full lab season, while the other gets to forgo 2 exposure of a full lab season to also get a full adventure season. How fair is that to the one who ends up agreeing to stay behind?

I've seen a whole bunch of scenarios along these lines. Nearly invariably the best thing to do is to spend all your time in the lab while taking Independent Study so you can essentially double up many of your seasons.

I highly recommend everyone thinking of changing the adventure experience method try to consider a whole bunch of scenarios like this ahead of time to make sure players are not treated significantly differently, generally by accident.

Why those differences ? Because choices have consequences. It's not unfairness, it's just the practical consequences of different choices.
To avoid bad consequences of your choices, apply good judgement, wisdom and perhaps get good information to begin with.

So that's not a question of fairness, but of choices and skill.

Notice that, at other times, the magus who lost some experience points due to adventuring, will stack them with study in a book (unless he's very unlucky with the disturbances in his work).

I feel like you either didn't understand what I wrote or you think players are psychic. How do wisdom and good judgement let you know that the SG will become inspired with a story based around working in a lab for a mystery cult versus working in a lab for the covenant? The inspiration could have been opposite, and that alone would make the wisdom/judgement opposite. If two magi must split, one each taking a different route and everyone knows one route is better, how does drawing straws or similar as required become bad judgement or lack of wisdom? How do you know to choose to work in the lab instead of study from vis or read a book during any given season because that's the season the SG will end up inspired to use for an adventure?

Yes, much of this could be mitigated the following way. The SG tells players a bunch of seasons in advance which season there will be an adventure so they can plan to be in the lab in an appropriate spot that season, and if the SG is ever inspired to add an adventure at another season the players are allowed to retroactively change what their magi are doing that season and some prior seasons.

Maybe I should approach explaining this differently. Consider that in order to develop a fair set or rules for players in troupe-style play, which means your main characters won't always go adventuring, the experience and seasons system was developed and play tested to become what it is. This is as compared to many other games where you are definitely penalized for not bringing a character on an adventure. So we're talking about taking what was developed and play tested to be a fair system for those not going on adventures and providing an extra bonus for those who do go on adventures.

Are you saying the magus whose reading was interrupted will read the book another season? If not, I don't know what you're saying here at all because I have never witnessed this behavior in about two decades of playing ArM5 pretty consistently.

No, I was stating that, of course sometimes a player-character loses more than another because adventuring disrupts lab work (and the conséquences are not the same). But in the long run the players could generally attain a statistical balance between them. That is, sometimes player A loses more, and another time it will be player B, and so on. So it's not unfair in the long run.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the effort to understand what good judgment consists of. Some experts define it as an acquired instinct or “gut feeling” that somehow combines deep experience with analytic skills at an unconscious level to produce an insight or recognize a pattern that others overlook. At a high level this definition makes intuitive sense; but it is hard to move from understanding what judgment is to knowing how to acquire or even to recognize it.

My memory is that 4E allowed Adventure XP seperate in addition to seasonal acitivities. At the end of 4E Atlas did an experiment and asked people to submit spreadsheets of magi advancing through time. In their results they realized the game needed less XP award for game balance. (So I believe, anyway.)

Personally, I've never followed that rule. I've allowed one additional adventure source of XP per season, but must be in abilities rolled in that adventure. I would stress that 6 to 10xp is plenty over a long period of time, however.

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