First thing, for my Thebes apprentice game, all of my players were brand new to Ars Magicka. So the apprentice game was a method for me to teach them the system. I went with an alternative character creation method, in that I didn't open the book and start looking things up. What I really wanted was to ground the characters in the setting rather than have the players create archetypes of magi that would best fit under the game system, and potentially spend time building a character with errors I knew they would want to fix 2 games later. So my players had about the same knowledge as the apprentice characters.
Character creation was done step by step with choices:
- I had the players pick their sex;
- I had the players pick origin stories. This would give them their childhood years, base language, and sometimes flaws. The origin stories I had were:
- Greek, working class background
- Greek, from the border (Epiros-Serbia, Macedonia-Bulgaria or Lydia-Lycia)
- Greek, covenant upbringing
- Greek jew - outside flaw
- Greek military family
- Greek homeless
- Greek with sheltered upbringing
- Greek wealthy family w/ social or athletic background
- Greek leper - character would default to tytalus later
- Born in greece from a crusader
- Born in greece from a venetian merchant
- Born outside of greece, gypsy lifestyle
- Born outside of greece, merchant background
- Born outside of greece, nomad background - vlach
- Troupe upbringing
- Feral upbringing
- Faerie upbringing
- I had players pick whether they came from a specific lineage. This included the following options besides None:
- Dynatoi: Privileged Upbringing / Heir
- Giant-blooded (greek) - mythic blood / see insert in TSE;
- Non-Greek giant-blooded;
- descended from a legendary mage: Mythic Blood;
5: From a Sybil - premonitions;
- From the first race of men created by Kronos - Magical Blood
- From classical heroes (Achilles, Dedalus, Helen of Troy, Orpheus, Heracles, etc) - see TSE
- From a faerie: Nymph, Satyr, Sidhe, Undine, Samovily (bulgarian border background);
- From a women cursed by Hera - monstrous blood
- Then we discussed how they were discovered, turbulences, how their gift manifested.
- I asked if the players had an idea of whether they wanted to explore a specific side of magic. Based on the two above points, I might suggest virtues;
- We did attributes
- I explained the Gift, and had them decide whether it was important to their character concept at this point to have Gentle or Blatant Gift;
- I discussed virtues and flaws affecting learning, and suggested the players let me know if they wanted something at this point, explaining how much they can impact gameplay;
- Child virtues were handed out to balance the flaws or virtues my quiz gave them. They would have a few games to come up with additional virtues and flaws as they learned to play and read the books.
- Characters were ironed out: confidence, apprentice status, personality traits, etc.
Then we started playing from the point they were discovered, and how they were put into contact with the redcaps and Polyaigos, the pre-apprentice school. I asked the players how many years they were at the school before they became an apprentice, then I described their tuition, introduced ars magica skills like artes liberales, etc. and handed out experience. This portion was rather fast-forwarded, but I did spend some time describing the school and having the players make choices. Typically, their first years were spent learning Classical Greek, Artes Liberales 1. Extra years could be spent learning as a scholars - Latin, Philosophae, more Artes Liberales - or from the military school learning Ride, Athletics and martial abilities. I was more generous with the experience than "Later Life" typically considers, assuming they were with qualified teachers in a group of other apprentices, probably 7 or 8 xp per season. Roughly so far, this corresponds to game 1.
Then we did the pre-Tribunal (game 2) where redcaps would explain what was ahead of them, I described their arrival on Delos, and we played out the Interviews with Apprentice and each player had a few roleplay scenes with 2-3 magi that I thought would be interested in them as apprentice due to the combination of background, virtues, flaws, personality traits, etc. Assuming the interview didn't go badly, the player received a bid for tokens and eventually chose who would be their mentor.
As a deus ex machina, of course, all players ended up at the same covenant, and the NPCs they met weren't canon NPCs, but made up NPCs, so I could assemble the covenant that would host the apprentice games from the masters they picked.
In the Theban Tribunal, each covenant has a covenant Patron, and a stated role or purpose. As such, my made-up covenant had the purpose of facilitating the creation of new covenants. How they did this in practice was by taking apprentices at the same time, so they would have a group ready to go out in the world. Another way this was done in practice was by using player seasons during their apprentice period to prepare the future covenant. One season per year was dedicated to being taught, 1 seasons per year was dedicated to helping their master in the lab, 1 season per year was dedicated to "community work" (copying summaes and lab texts, fixing arcane connections, and whatever else your apprentices can be told to do), and the last season depended on their master - I used that fourth season to compensate for the mentor's strength - those who had a young parens who typically get given a book, have a practice, travel or free season every now and then, and those who had an elder magi ended up with another lab season since their teaching season was that much better. This means I haven't used virtues that represent learning at all (weak/strong parens, etc.).
The stories I ran varied a lot by age. They had some stories at the covenant, a few running errands for their masters in town, a lot of advancement and teaching roleplay (incidentally learning the game), and in the pre-gauntlet years when they were starting to be decent characters even if without parma magica, I had a travel story that was more dangerous, with protagonist faeries and a young post-gauntlet magi stirring trouble.
The community work seasons gave them their starting covenant's resources, after they all went through the gauntlet: Books and lab texts they copied were theirs to keep, and seasons spent helping the old covenants with chores like fixing an arcane connection would give them a budget of mythic pounds or vis. How they spent those seasons determined what they had. They had no vis sources from this, however, and were expected to find their own after setting up their covenant. After gauntlet, we played out their research for ancient destroyed covenants, potential magical auras, etc. They had several sites to investigate, and settled down after exploring one or two, and finding one they liked. Their masters did help them figure out how to draft a charter, and what they should think of doing in their first year or two of building a covenant, but mostly they were on their own by that point.