Any Tips for Creature Design?

I have a small predicament.

My friends and I are all utter noobs; not a single one of us has ever physically played Ars Magica, though I've done my fair share of online reading to try to get good with it.

However, as a newbie who works off allowance money, the rate at which I can acquire sourcebooks is limited. At the moment, the Realms of Power books are beyond my grasp, so I'm sorely lacking for the example creatures contained within.

This calls for building things from scratch, using the Core guidelines, but... I'm not at all sure what to do! I thought this game was extremely open-ended when I was just practicing building characters, but this is even more unrestricted. My gaming experience has been limited to building from established formulae, so the lack of structure here, while not a bad thing by any means, is very foreign to me. So... Much... Freedom... I even followed somebody's link to a little mundane animal bestiary online because I was literally made uncomfortable by the idea of trying to build the animals themselves from scratch.

Needless to say, I'm a bit uncomfortable with my own creative drive. So with that in mind, until I understand this all better and feel more equipped to make my own judgment calls, do you guys have any tips you recommend that I follow while starting out?

[strike]Also, ten bucks says the first response is going to tell me to relax.[/strike]

This might help:

but you might have already discovered it.

I have only been in one campaign, and we haven't encountered a single beast in 23 sessions so far, it has mainly been politicking.

A suggestion that might work (just talking out of my Ars here) is staging a Certamen contest, and instead of rolling the scores as normal, have the contest be represented by various beats that you and the troupe make up.

That way you can experiment with what the system is, discovere what is useful and not, have fun and make it relevant to the ongioing campaign rather than just a fight club.

If you do get any insight that way please let us know, as I have absolutely no idea on the appropriate make-up of beasts (and I might have bought all the books.....)


That is the bestiary of mundane animals I referred to in the opening post, yeah. Thank you, though!

Creature design is as much an art as a science in Ars. If you are the SG, be ready to fudge it in order to foster whatever story you are running.

The various sourcebooks have stats for a number of creatures, but even those may need to be tweaked for your saga, or the role you want it to play in the story. Building the stats is not the most important thing.

Say for example that for a short story you need a minor combat creature -- some kind of faerie goblin that acts as common guards in a faerie court. It doesn't have to be very strong or powerful, is rather clumsy and dumb, but can pose a challenge if met in groups. They are creatures of the faerie Realm, associated with Terram. They are fairly small (Size -1).

So you assign them characteristics, say Str +2, Sta +4, Dex 0, Qik -1, Int -2, Per 0, Com -1, Pre -2.

Combat stats should be proportionate to what the players have (a
as grogs, if nothing else). A good Soak to represent their Terram origins. Average damage and attack scones, so as to hold their own.

As for powers, they might have 2 notable ones, related to their role as guards: affecting iron weapons to protect their master (imposing a penalty of 3 to attack for those who wield them) while they concentrate, and the ability to merge together to form a larger version of themselves (with higher strength and combat scores).

Magically they would not be strong, with a Might score of 5. Their body contain I pawn of Terram vis.

What would make them fun would be their personality traits. Stubborn, they argue and squabble among themselves, and fawn over their master. Easily confused too, so that a crafty player could talk his way owt of fighting them.

As you see, no need for detailed stats most of the time. Just be ready to adjust things on the fly. If they prove too strong, have them capture the players and start squabbling. If they are too weak, have more of them join in and merge.

Creatures are there as a tool to tell the story. Have fun... and relax. :wink:


My first Ars Game (3rd ed), I was SG, and designed "the Black Ram" that haunted the hills above the covenant - diabolic tainted, breathed a little fire, soaked a bit of damage, good fun. TPW before we even knew what was happening, inc. 2 rookie magi, the Companion-quality Turb Captain, and a half-dozen grogs (who were all that was left standing after I "toned it down" after the first few rounds - but even then, were not nearly enough). :blush: :unamused:


Assuming you came over from D&D - one core difference is that Ars Magica isn't really "balanced". There is no standard CR or character level, no standard set of stats that will pose a predictable level of challenge for character with amount X of experience. Instead, it's all done by tailoring the challenges to the party.

You should build up the monsters based on how you want them to function in the game. Some tips (all just my personal opinion):

  1. Magic Might is most important for setting Magic Resistance (=Might Score), especially against young magi. Look at the magi that you plan will go on this adventure and set the Magic Resistance to a level you want it to be at. A major threat might have enough MR to make the main-combatant's attack spells fail without luck/exertion, for example, or a grunt might have enough MR to occasionally be felt by the second-tier combatants. Remember the effect of the Supernatural Aura on both MR and the magi's penetration. You may want to give some monsters tricks or capabilities to increase their resistance to some spells; for example, battling fire elementals with immunity to fire might force your Flambeau to use his secondary attack spells, allowing perhaps to set a Might that will be relevant to all combatants. Or the use of illusions can keep low-Might foes challenging.

Might Pool (=Might) is only rarely relevant, in my opinion.

  1. Raw vis = Might/5 is standard, which means that fighting lots of monsters will give your players lots and lots of raw vis! This can get out of hand if you're running a saga where vis is a significant factor. Consider how you want to handle that as an SG. Such sessions might simply be rare enough to not matter that much, or you could arrange for the vis to not be collectible for some reason (the bodies fall to the lava pit below...), or you can institute a house rule to lower vis collection (e.g. 1 pawn per 10 Might, or no raw vis from monster-slaying at all, or harvesting requiring a seasonal activity, or so on). Or you can just accept this as a source of vis in the saga, and plan the saga accordingly. Whatever you decide, be sure to realize in advance that in Ars Magica killing monsters and taking their vis can be a major element in the game, kinda like killing monsters and taking their treasure in D&D.

  2. Set the creature's attack and damage against your PC's defense and soak. Keep in mind the shield grogs, if you guys are using any. Also keep in mind that combat in Ars Magica is quite deadly - wounds can take forever to heal, and a few bad rolls and you're dead. So keep bad rolls in mind when you set the attack and damage. Assuming some bad luck for the PCs, what will the monster accomplish?

Set the creature's defense and soak against your martial PC's stats. Remember Soak applies against some of your PC's attack spells (e.g. fireball, erg, Ball of Abysmal Flame). Again, consider the creature's role - do you want to set up enough Defense for him to shrug off the grog's attacks? Do you want a Defense + Soak small enough so that the companion Turb Captain can punch through with a bit of luck and some exertion and/or Confidence? Remember the death spiral - once someone does wound the monsters, getting more wounds on top of that becomes easier.

If you have Trained Groups in your game, take that into account. This can really change your PC's stats.

  1. Now that you know the basic stats you want to reach, think about how to do that. You can play around with Size, Characteristics, Combat Ability, and Weapon Bonuses, but you can also tweak with Virtues and Flaws such as Affinity with (Ability) or Tough.

Weapon Bonuses for monster weapons are in supplements. But you can just assign number as you wish, based on the core book's weapon table.

Increasing Size affects combat stats as described in the Beast of Outlandish Size spell.

Modify by Combat Ability (usually Brawl) and Characteristics to get the Attack, Damage, and Defense (and Init, if it matters) to where you want them to be.

Add things like "Tough Fur", or "Scales", to arbitrarily increase Defense; these are called Qualities. Official ones are in the supplements, but you can just make them up as you need them. You can add Qualities to modify everything: "Herd Beast" can increase Awareness and add to Quickness, "Dragon-soul Body" might add +10 to Soak, whatever. Just add Qualities (or Virtues or Flaws) as you wish to modify the stats as you wish. There is no need to balance anything, this is an NPC not a PC.

All of this is very complicated. But if you have the time to invest, it's the best way. If you don't have the time - I recommend just looking quickly at the PC's stats and picking up some numbers for comparison ("Hmm, let's see, the Flambeau's Penetration 15, and the shield grog's Defense is 18, right..."), picking up the animal from that Book of Mundane Beasts that matches most closely, changing the Size to fit, and then quickly, roughly and arbitrarily changing the combat stats to fit those key numbers you picked up ("OK, so I'm gonna set Might 10 so the Flambeau can always penetrate, and increase the Attack to 20 to let them hit the grogs; right, that's done"). You can justify that by adding Qualities, changing Characteristics, or whatever if you want to; but you can just leave it as arbitrary changes too.

  1. Another major tip is that magi can get very powerful in combat, if they are designed and advanced to do that. So much so that Ars Magica is often a bit like Epic Levels in D&D - the question isn't whether the PCs can kill X (of course they can), the question is should they and what the repercussions would be. So get used to the idea that if you saga develops, and assuming you stick to the core rules and the game is combat-oriented, you're likely to soon find that you can't really challenge your PCs in combat. Not without pulling out a lot of non-core material (yours or the splatbooks), other Hermetic magi, or house rules.

That's what I have. Have fun now!

Reskin stuff.

Just take monsters you have, from the web or one of the supplements, and change the name and appearance, but not the stats.

Also, if there's a specific thing you need, ask here. Some of us probably have already got one sitting around on a blog somewhere.

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We do that all the time. It works great. We also do this for grogs, mundanes and magi. It also works great for them.

One additional complication is that not all your magi, or all your companions, or all your grogs, may be involved against a certain creature. Maybe the combat mage decides he needs to spend time in the lab, maybe the shining knight is off chasing a fair damsel. Creatures built to challenge the tougher characters will absolutely massacre the others.

Multiple weaker creatures can often be a better solution than one big one. You can dial the number of them up or down to deal with the kind of characters that share the adventure, and you only need one set of stats for them. The 'big-bad' monsters, you use heavy fore-shadowing to draw the heavy hitter characters out to play. If your local ravenous dragon tears down a nearby castle first, well if Magus Changes-the-Color-of-Flowers decides to take it head on, at least he had warning.



With smaller creatures, you can always add more as the battle goes on if needed - "and 5 more come out of the black swamp water..." - and the group (by then) should(!) know they can either handle 5 more, or they need to run and come back with more firepower.

Likewise, a "larger" version could be foreshadowed if the smaller ones got rolled. "You look at the claws of the carcass - the tracks you saw earlier were MUCH bigger than anything these feet could have made..."

But the bottom line - as a Story Guide, don't feel like the stats are written in stone. IF the creature is getting waxed, bump it up a little - if it just one-shotted the #1 warrior, tone it down, or find an excuse for the players or creature to escape. Remember - "Story Guide" refers to you, and your duties to provide a good story, not those fickle and irresponsible 10- and 20-sided plastic things you roll. :wink:

You can use the Andorra Bestiary from my saga. Just rip and fudge stats as needed.
An easy way to do it from scratch is starting with the aforementioned Book of Mundane Beasts. Compare the imagined creature to a mundane beast. A manticore is like a lion, fudge stats from that base and add something reasonable for the spiky tail thing. A giant snake is a viper with a big boost to strength and size. And a lot of classic "monsters" are humanoid variants (goblins and such)
Magical powers can be complex, and to help you I thought up a super simple easy system.
Come up with a Might Score you think is fair. I propose a scale of 10 weak, 20 moderate, 30 strong, 40 powerful, and 50 boss player.
Might equals a number of extra Virtue points. Ignore complexities from books you don't have. Stick with Virtues. Retcon latter.
You can also use points to directly buy Powers instead of Virtues. Each point can buy ten levels worth of powers. Levels may be combined or divided as needed. If the power is equal to or less than the creatures might it has no activation cost. Otherwise, divide level by might score (round down) to determine activation cost. This cost is paid in points from the Might Pool (equal to score, spent as needed and replenished over the course of a day). You may decide that an individual can spend a point of Confidence or a Fatigue level instead, no matter the activation cost. Powers are designed like Hermetic spells, but they can break some of the rules or have different restrictions as you decided fits. Call this + or - a magnitude. For Experience Points, Might x 15 as an average, x10 if stupid, x20 if smart, and x30 if wise.
The rules from RoP: Magic do not work this at all. But that is a whole book, and I wrote a single paragraph that can give you a framework out of chaos you can work with until you can get that book (which is, in mu opinion, the very best sourcebook fifth edition has yet produced, though it is not perfect). It also serves as a good example of how to make up your own rules, something that you may wind up doing a lot in Ars Magica :smiley:

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This is a beautiful post!

Thank you very much sir :smiley: ... o-con.html Just on the south, this Daimon can be usefull i think.

Just curious, @Marko_Markoko, how many of the creatures from your Andorra Bestiary were ever actually tested in play?

Please pardon the necromancy, folks. This was the best relatively recent thread on creature design I was able to find today.

Our current plan is to spend this month's scheduled game session play testing various creatures designed by myself and my co-GMs. I'm the only one with real experience in that department, but my designs have thus far produced mixed results.

If anyone has any fresh tips to share, or creature designs that have been used in play, I'd love to read them. Any ideas on converting creatures from AD&D (both editions) to ArM would also be great, as our group is familiar with many of them

I didn't realise this had such thread necromancy until I saw the last post with "8 years later".

Orcs, grab the beserker template from the core book, take strength and stam to +4 or +5, change the soak and damage accordingly. Logically one would drop some communication and presence, change some skills, however, if they are just there to be beaten up, I wouldn't overthink it. Give them a magic might of say 3 - 5. Job done. For some flavour add tough skin +1 soak; blood rage, for each wound they get +1 to attack, to a maximum of 3, etc.

Goblins, similar but I'd start with the standard soldier. Throw in small, drop the strength and stamina to say -1 or -2, add 1 or 2 to dex and quickness. leather armour or no armour instead of the armour in the book. Adjust soak, damage, hit bonus. Magic might of say 1 - 3, all done. A flavour power. Strength in numbers. If Goblins outnumber the enemy add 1 to attack and defence rolls. If Goblins are outnumbered, they must make a courage roll equal to 3 or flee. (I am aiming at more an AD&D goblin, than the goblins of ME folklore)

The sort of AD&D monsters one sees from about 3rd lvel and beyond, it's getting tricky. A combat heavy Ars Majica sees either anticlimactic one turn battles or people die.

It's not just the magi either. An optimised archer can 1 shot incapacitate most enemies. If you make a target the archer can't one shot, it's going to be a drawn out battle, depending on the party rolling 1s or the -1 light wound penalties stacking up to defeat the enemy. Any long battle with a strong enemy, people die.

Think of iconic movies, with a monster covered with arrows and cuts, swinging a {fist/club/claw} in anger causing an unnamed extra being flung against a wall, never to get up.

If you want to get around the big monster problem with a swarm of weakish monsters, it again depends on the party. The magi casts a group sleep. No saving throw, no chance to wake up each turn, its over.

A magi with flexible formulaic magic and mastered pilum of fire does a triple cast group pilum of fire, frying them all.

Or there's no magi with crowd control effects, and the party is swarmed and TPK.

I would repeat what has been said in many earlier comments in the thread. Look at the party and plan the encounter accordingly.

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All of them. I created (and modified) each of them as needed for that game.

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Amazing job, by the way. I'd spent countless hours crawling Andorra's site.

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You should also check out the thread were Itzhack his 'Animals of Mythic Europe' PDF.

The first link in the Popular Links section is to the most recent version, 1.5.

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