Apprentice-level play?

Has anyone run an apprentice-level game? I'm thinking of running a fairly heavily house-ruled game, and one of the ideas is to start PCs off as apps. Curious to hear what approaches people have taken, both in terms of narrative and mechanics. Any and all ideas welcome.

(I did do a search on apprentice, but, as you might imagine, I got a ridiculous number of links! If anyone happens to know of any relevant threads, I'd love to hear about those, too!)

--S. Buckler

Depends on what level of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship lasts for 15 years, so your dudes can be 6 yea rolds, or 22 year olds. Quite a differnece in power level :slight_smile:

For low level power levels, try to go along adventures that could be solved with no magic, or using only the small magics that the apprentices know. Ingenuity using MUNDANE skills should also be rewarded here :slight_smile: Adventures with few combat encounters work best as well. A trip to the faerie fair, or to the local town to get some glassware (and finding some trouble there) getting lost in the forest (or tricked by a cunning magical fox), the Going Home adventure by kevin hassall (downloadable online) and similar stuff work best here. leave the heavy artillery for the magi.

I would also suggest having a caretaker older grog with the common sense virtue helps. IMS all the mundane characters (people without a major supernatural virtue or more) get Common Sense for free. It is useful, sicne the grogs are supposed to KNOW what happens around and how rto react to it :slight_smile:

IIRC Matt Ryan (or some other poster) worked around apprentices in play heavyly in his saga, so he might be the one you are waiting to answer :slight_smile:


Ha, good point, about the age range.

I'm thinking they'd be in the last third of the apprenticeship, not a Harry-Potter kids style adventure. I want to limit the overall power level at the beginning, however. I want the characters to grow into their power, so I'm going to say that a lot of the actual spell-learning comes at the end, instead of having it be distributed evenly throughout the 15 years.

I'm thinking the first five years are more basic education, the next five are more theory (you maybe don't want to be teaching adolescents how to blow things up) and parma magica, and the last five are where the real burst of spell learning happens--my characters will maybe be in the middle of that, so maybe they get half the spell points?

Don't forget that according to the core book rules, all children have a massive penalty to all of their actions based on their age. This goes away as they grow up, but it means that a six-year-old is unlikely to succeed at even an easy Perception + Awareness roll, let alone spontaneous magic spells or combat. That does seem to support your idea of playing as adolescents and young adults, though.

Prolly not a good idea to teach people Parma Magica that haven't taken the oath. Sorta why mages all start out with a score of one in Parma: last season (or two, if the teacher really sucks) is Parma. Then you take the oath or you get the high ride.

Wow, I'm flattered. Yes, I've run a few sagas that have included apprentices and one that centered entirely on them. I think we started with the apprentices age 12 or so, just on the cusp of puberty. We were a bit loose with character generation, if I remember. Basically, we made regular characters up to age seven, when they became apprentices (the ages might be off, it was several [real] years ago) then gave them a lump sum of experience points based on how long they'd been apprentices. We calculated the total number of experience points a magus going through apprenticeship gets, plus spells, then divided by 15, the number of years of apprenticeship. We spent these points however we wanted; some of us pumped up Arts (as best we could) and others opted for formulaic spells. The intent was to make characters for the moment, ones we would enjoy playing during a specific adventure, without regard to future advancement. We really liked the adventure and the characters and decided to continue with them. I still have the character sheets and drawn maps and character sketches. I think this was also the first saga I set in thirteenth century Mythic Ireland. (Sorry to wax nostalgic.)

The stories were more narrative than mechanical and we didn't make a lot of Characteristic + Ability die rolls. 2 of the 6 of us had young children at the time, so many of the adventures resembled bedtime stories and non-violent fairy tales. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun.

In another saga, I had 2 of the player magi find and train apprentices. Curious as to how badly we could munchkin the system, we gave them all the juicy learning and studying virtues and stuck them in the library three seasons out of each year. Because we'd been playing the magi, we had the library scores figured out and stated up. It was scary; in no time both apprentices were more skilled in the lab than their respective parens. In play, I did use the Characteristic penalty a lot. It was the only thing that slowed the characters down compared to their elders. The apprentices in that saga weren't as fun to play as the first.

Ultimately, we had to tweak a few rules to find a balance that worked for us. If you're keen on playing apprentices, I'd say that the core rules provide enough info to get you started. If you have to make up house rules during play to increase your playing pleasure, well, join the club. That's what we all do in every circumstance.

Matt Ryan

I'm pretty sure I mentioned this in some other thread, but it should stand a recap.

The start of one of my current sagas started out with us creating 5-10 year old pre-apprenticeship children. Using the normal rules for 'early life' and the subsequent exp/year rate and 3-4 of our 10 V&Fs. Characteristics were allotted normally, but knowing that 1) they could change during the 15 years of apprenticeship, depending on how training and life was and 2) they were realtive, so a +3 STR was really strong - for a 7 year old, but still weaker than an adult.

Play started with short situations/scenes where we were found and taken by various magi from the covenant. Mostly for flavour. Then followed introduction to the other PC children, the covenant and the whole magic/order tings. The saga had some fairly new ArM players, so a lot of the basics were taught in-character. But still good fun for us veterans.
The concept was, we as players had little or no say in what house we were going to be accepted into. The covenant had one member of each house, and each of them were shortly introduced, with names, appearances, quirks and so on - but with no mention of their House! One would think this was easy to guess, but no!

After a few small stories, where we bungled around as nosy, know-it-all kids, the selection process started. Much of this was tests by the magi, to see what and how we did. The first one involved a ghost, and ended up with us sneaking out during the night, digging up an infant's corpse, hiding it under a bed for a few days, and re-buring it in the woods, recruiting a priest for the correct rites.
We didn't penalize Characteristic- or Ability rolls, since it was the same for all of us, and we interacted little with adults in ways that needed comparison (like fighting against them).

The Alpha SG selected two of the magi to further test each of the PC children, still only with loose guesses as to who was which house. And based on the results and primarily our responses and solutions, one magus chose us. After this, the ASG let the rest of us players choose two masters to test his own PC child, with a single recommendation as to not making him Gurenicus, for saga purposes. We chose two, made up some test and story for this, and SG'ed this ping-pong the three of us. It was great fun, but highly improvised. Based on his solutions, we decided which master chose him. We even had som sub-tests from the master of one house, since we saw 3 main approaches to this concept, making him choose one, without knowing the facts.

I had created a very nosy, willful and rebellious child - obviosuly gunning for Tytalus. He ended up being chosen by the Tremere master, calling him a weak child, but being able to mold him. Luckily he was also ambitious and determined, to a higher degree than a rebel, and after a hard time fell in line with the discipline.

After this we jumped forwards 5 years, allotting 1/3 the xp and spell levels for apprenticeship, and arund 1/3 our remeining V&Fs. This way we'd end up with learning a lot of low level spells, instead of just the highest ones we could take after all 15 years. Each of us became responsible for one of the masters, running smal situations and stories for the PC apprentice, and in general guiding as to what the master would teach, specifically which V&Fs. Like if the master had a Deficiancy, the apprentice would get that too (that most likely isn't RAW, but...), and which Major Hermetic Virtue would be most likely. Also, to coordinate that we didn't all take 'Gentle Gift' and run one player's concept to the ground. A story was run here.

Following this, we advanced another 5 years, ran a story and so on until Gauntlet. Gauntlet sadly wasn't made much story out of, this is perhaps the only thing I'd change for another saga.

And after this, we started 'for real'.

Next time I start a saga, I'd do something like this - if the players are up to it. The apprentice thing for a saga starting just past Gauntlet. If I'm to start a more advanced saga, I'd start with just post-Gauntlet characters (or pre-Gauntlet, and run some story from this). And then a story, advance 5-10 years, story...and so on.
I started a 30 years past Gauntlet once, and that didn't go well, the noobs were confused. It ended almost before it had started.

Wow, great answers everybody...thanks so much for taking all the time to write that all out. I'm going to be digesting this stuff for a while and will report back here in this thread what approach I end up taking. Lots of food for thought.

S. buckler

My pleasure. I'm always happy to share my experiences, and hope they help. I'm also eager to hear other people's input. I ntent to use this concept again, and evolve it. So please post back with what you decide, how it works for you and so on.

I have only run a pair of apprentice level adventures, and both were for relatively "mature" apprentices (in their teens, half their spells levels).

One thing I forgot to point out is that it is a great opportunity to show how AMAZING the parma magica is. I have used a minor faerie that has beaten the crap out of the apprentice magically. Not lethally, just affecting him with his glamour spells without any problems. The character (and the players) got quite frustrated, since it was OBVIOUS that it was just a minor faerie, but did teach them that they might not be the all-powerful and world-shattering mages of legend. Yet.

That same faerie appeared 2 addventures after they were gauntleted. They did make him flee crying, not because they were more lethal than before (well, they were more powerful as well) but because they now had a parma score of 1 and the +4 penetration of the faerie did not allow him to affect the magi, only the grogs. The sense of accomlishement (and the fact that they could bully the poor fae) left the characters and players quite content with themselves.


Xavi: Good points on Parma, or the lack thereof.

I just remembered something. Maaany years ago, before 5th ed, I had joined a PBEM saga. Sadly it never came further than the starting stages.
The concept was, that we were all playing apprentices with around 5-8 years of training. Our respective masters had all gone out to meet a threat, some monster IIRC, and had not come back!
The apprentices were safely left behind the Aegis, but now a full year had almost passed, with no signs of life. And the Aegis would soon expire...And there be monsters.

That could have been fun.

I think the Alpha Story Guide had created some advancement system, for detailed character creation. Since we were incomplete magi, we would naturally only be shockingly bad. He had defined that each art had to be opened seperately, and until this had happened, we could not use that art at all, nor study it. IIRC some system where exp - from when the master taught Magic Theory, or from exposure when working as lab assistant - was used to "pay" for opening arts.
So the end result would be apprentices, who only knew some of the 15 arts - the more they knew, the less exp they would have for other abilities.