I've been pouring over my new copy of Ars Magica 5, and really interested in running an adventure.
However, while the book often references not having too many magi in one play session, I cant seem to find where it actually states how many is too many, for what sort of adventure, and whatnot...
So if I have say, 5 players, have: 1 magi, 2 comps, 2 grogs? 2 magi? How many is too many?
So, any experienced players/SGs out there who can give me some insight?
Well it seems to me in my short few months of playing that it is fairly free form in how many of which types are in a session. It all revolves around what the actual story requires.
It could very well have, out of 5 players, one or more of magi or companions (although the grogs, no matter how much you fall in love with these simpleton chowder heads that seem to attract arrow shafts and fire balls and poisonous toads, never seem to have an entire session full of just them. I suppose that's because no one cares about the brewmaster and hay baler and privy mucker.)
It could have possibly no magi, although most would say that the central story is about the magic users and so you should have at least one, but I say nay, NAY! My favorite characters made so far have all been companions, but I am askew in my thinking.
BTW most of this is tongue in cheek. In the end it is a matter of what the story calls for. If the story needs 5 mages sitting in a shadowy tower trying to reason with a insanely powerful living ghost, then so be it. But perhaps there is a part where a magic user would be absolute trouble and so you send in the morts and their ability to die with grins on their faces.
I am certain far better experienced players would have a more Ars flavored rational, but being a newbie as such I can relate to the confusion and say...
...have fun with it.
I wouldn't get too hung up on numbers and/or ratios. Just go with what your troupe likes best and fit the stories in around that.
Our troupe tends to use magi most of the time and companions hardly get a look in. Every time I say "hm... my magus stays at home and I'll use my companion character" there's usually some in-game reason that persaudes me to use the magus after all.
My preference is to focus stories such that a couple of magi take the spotlight, but I get those if someone can't make a session or two. And your troupe will be pretty accommodating if you tell them up front that you've written the story for "a magus and a couple of companions". Even more so if you already know who you want on the story.
It really depends on the type of story. Stories set a tribunal session may well be all Magi, while expeditions to the wilds investigating the personal obsessions of a particular magus may have just that one wizard. In our troupe, it tends to be that early on, most of the magi get played a lot. As the saga goes on and the magi have more and more things to do and fewer and fewer common interests, it becomes increasingly difficult to get more than one magus to 'waste' time doing stuff. Council sessions often involved a lot of horsetrading between the Magi, where one magus would try to convince another magus to help on an adventure they weren't otherwise interested in.
The main reason they recommend against all magi groups is because wizards are, generally speaking, unsuited for a lot of traditional adventuring activities. They just aren't likely to have the range of skills needed. But you need to look at your actual characters and what your players enjoy doing before worrying about any hard and fast rule on the subject.
Sometimes a single magi is too many, other times 10 magi are not enough...
Let players have their own magi and from zero to 2 companions and/or zero to several grogs, then have several "anyone can run them" grogs and maybe a few companions like that as well.
Players not running their magi can then run with their companion or grog, or if none of their "own" characters are suitable or likely to be included instead picks one or several of the "anyones".
Players you know can handle it can be allowed to run more than one character of any kind(rather than just grogs) at the same time.
There are no real limits on how many there should be. But you or the players might think about, if they do THIS, which magi will be interested in doing it and will they go alone or bring someone with them(like a grog or a personal servant or a trusted companion...), will the covenant as a whole add companions or grogs to the activity or will some even add themselves anyway?
And unless you know the players likes it AND wants it, avoid playing matters out in the "fireball-alley" style, ie. where anything can be solved by raw damage or force application.
Absolutely let the story determine the make-up of the characters for a session. Try to arrange stories so that mages in turn get to be the primary character. If a mage is rarely played then invent a story to involve them (though consult with the player that their concept is not someone in the background). It helps if mages have different strengths and interests - encourage this. Make sure companions have roles too. Grogs do not need to be worried about - the only time I have players who are solely playing grogs is when they are visiting (and even then I have a few NPC companions that they can take). Otherwise, grogs are just there, in meta terms, to provide something else for the players to do.
Almost all of my stories come out of previous play, story flaws and the natural evolution of events.
Last time I ran we had all 6 mages, plus 3 Companions (2 player and an NPC) and 3 grogs. This is exceptional as it's usually been 1-3 mages and 2-3 companions and a few grogs. Mages are very vulnerable when out on their own - usually poor awareness and problems with the gift - so companions and grogs do have a function.
The absolute key is for the storyguide(s) to vary the stories.
In my game, we have an ST (me) and 3 players.
One player has a Magi and a DM-run faerie companion, but no regular 'Companions.'
One player has a Magi and a Companion, but rarely plays the Companion.
One player has a Magi and a Companion, and plays both frequently (maybe 70-30 Magi). He'll often play both in one session.
I used to have one Magi as 'my' character and one Magic as an NPC. I'm currently writing one of those two Magi out and retaining one as my character. ( Ironically, my character is being written out and the NPC is the one I'm assuming control over). The Magi being written out did have a Companion (UnGifted Redcap), but he's only shown up a few times.
So at final count:
1 NPC companion
If it's relevant, we play 4th ed instead of 5th.
I would suggest you try with just one magus for your first few stories. If you have two or more magi, they have so much more authority and so much more power, they too easily overshadow the non-magus characters. This becomes less of a problem once the players become accustomed to the unusual dynamics of an Ars Magica adventuring party.