Apprentices. How does your group handle them?

I've been looking into the rules for an apprentice for my magus. My Magus just found out that his son has the gift, and he wants to do the right thing and train him himself.

Now, in your group, how do you play out your characters apprentice? Are they just lab assistants and never come into play? Do they go out and adventure once in awhile? And when they do, do you play them yourself or are the run by the storyguide? What about the master taking the apprentice out on an adventure with him - do you play both at the same time, with the master as the magi, and the apprentice as more of a grog?

Also, the book states clearly that an apprentice is advanced like any other character in play, but this could lead to an exceptionally powerful apprentice if the master is old and "no fun" anymore, and is basically "twinking" the apprentice for future play. When this apprentice reaches 25, they would be way more powerful than a normal starting character due to the attention to each season, as opposed to the "start at age 25 with 480 points". How would you handle this in your group?

you could always say you can't train your next character, either the master is an NPC and you play the apprentice or vicevesa.

Apprentices are never played by a player that runs characters tyhat the apprentice will interact with heavily. So, a PC will not play the apprentice of his own magus. Same for familiars. In the early stages they have the same status. As they evolve, it is better to get an other player that plans to run a new PC magus start shapping it. Tends to make for much more interesting characters than magi that have not played through apprenticeship IMS.



Well, I'd look at a half-way house.

Advance them according to the rules for generating established characters... or whatever is the appropriate thing for apprentices. Don't do them season by season but I would allow them to stack adventure experience.

So, he doesn't get all the huge bonuses for being trained season by season, but he does, if he gets taken out on adventures, benefit from experience and he does become a little better than his peers he left in the library.

As a rule, no subordinate character is ever run by the player running the lead character. Familiars, Shield Grogs, Custos, Apprentices- if they are significant, they should be individuals, and never just a convenient extension of the player's "main" character. (Some players can do this, even to creating conflict between the two- but even then, it's "better" to allow another player the opportunity to play, if at all possible.)

I'd say that the Player of the Parens planning to eventually play the apprentice and retire their current mage is a bad call, but that's just my opinion. It could certainly work, but for me it's a munchy way around the rules, ignoring any current story and focusing on the future numbers.

As far as a Parens grooming an apprentice to be an uber-mage?... well, you have to ask yourself, your Story Guide, your Troupe- is Game Balance important? The same could be done with any character started at a young age, to become a shield-grog from hell, or at least something far more than the RAW allow.

Far more than many RPG's, Ars Magica isn't a game as much as the story that game gives us. Players who are looking for a system to abuse should be disappointed, and easily can be by a wise and judicious SG. If the parens seems to be spending 3+ seasons/year training his apprentice, ignoring all else, then it's up to the SG to provide that mage character with something else to think about- he owes it to the player. :wink:

However, if you wanted "rules" (bleh), I'd say that as far as adventure XP, the apprentice would get half, at most- the rationale being that children don't make their own decisions as much as follow orders. Also the fact that the apprentice will be protected much of the time, and just not be "in the mix" as much.

As far as training, sketch out the finished apprentice at Gauntlet, and then work backwards, and balance any RP'd advantages just as if you were to build the character, with Virtues/Flaws. Maybe not a full +10/-10 with mathematical precision, but "close enough" should be the goal. The final Mage character should be "more or less" as balanced as he can be.

If he has extensive training, then the Virtues of "Skilled Parens" and perhaps "Priveleged Upbringing" would be required in the final product, since those are, in fact, exactly the benefits that the apprentice is enjoying. If given a formal, focused education in Latin, then that is close enough to a grammar school education to justify "Educated". If given an unusual or rare schooling, then "Student of (Realm)", "Well-Traveled", or even "Warrior" are justified to be required Virtues - they would be for any other character, right?

(If your apprentice already has +10 Virtues, and these are known to the Parens, then the SG has already made a blunder, imo, both for tying him down and showing his hand. I'd suggest he go back and change some as necessary, as children often don't evidence all the advantages that an adult does. Otoh, he could add extra Flaws via storylines, or even have existing Virtues "destroyed" by exceptional events - that can work too.)

Just as a 20 year old mage, who is then RP'd thru 20 years, will be larger than that same mage "CharGen'd" to age 40 initially, your apprentice will be larger. How much? "Some". "A reasonable amount". Whatever is acceptable to your SG and your Troupe.

But if, after buying all these educational bonuses and then using a fudge factor, you find you have nothing left for Hermetic Virtues and other desired aspects... gee, that's too bad. Good thing he had a great learning environment, huh?

In my games the first thing I've done is asked if any of the players wanted to run the apprentice. Usually someone has said yes. If no one was interested I would control him or her as an NPC.

We never played an apprentice all the way through gauntlet. In one saga we lost one to the Norse goddess Hel (he was going to make a lousy mage, anyway, unfortunately his master got taken down with him). Otherwise the games ended before the apprentice was gautleted.

In our 5th ed. game my apprentice is a few years out from gauntlet. She is likely to be terribly over powered but that's because her parens had to spend a lot of time studying himself so she had plenty of access to the library. When she finally gauntlets I'm planning on posting her here for discussion. (We don't expect her to continue her as a character; after gauntlet we're shipping her out to a different covenant so we don't have to deal with the fact that she doesn't really have a player.)

I wouldn't worry too much about a master grooming an uber-mage. I mean, if you want to take 15 years off of your other interests to do so, go for it. I would imagine both aspects of that, the training and the playing of such an uber-mage would not be much fun.

There are two main types of apprentices, and two ways I've seen/used to deal with them.

  1. Apprentices that will become PC mages
  • played by a specific player not the same player as the Master. These will often adventure with their master or under their Master's direction and usually become members of the same covenant upon graduation.
  1. Apprentices that will not become PC mages
  • basically treated as possessions of the magus. Stats etc are only kept up for the purpose of having an idea of their capabilities when they are needed for something. They rarely adventure, being NPCed or played by another character much like a grog when they do, and become relatively featureless NPCs (though often a political or social 'link' to another covenant) after they graduate.

  • occasionaly I've seen a more active but still npc apprentice run entirely by an SG, usually for story purposes involving Flaws or long term story arcs

I have made a schematic idea of how I would give an apprentice lessons, primarely to see wether or not this would be interesting to be played as a companion, and during which timeframe, I found that if you train an apprentice first, and learn them spells later (so only spont spells before that), you have a timeframe of about 10 years during which it is a playable companion, weak at the start but when a few years of arts become available, you could do some things other companions can not, and for my trianoma, have a more than passing interest in artes and intrigue would help a little too. I calculated 1 season each year of arts in the first 7 years, then mostly abilities, artes, intrigue, philosohea, hermetic lore, topping it off with two seasons of spells and letting the apprentice invent 3 seasons as well (the last year would be gild training, I am all for politics). I calculated 4 points exposure per year, so 30 additional points could get available with 3 seasons lab help. I think adventure xp should be calculated seperately and on top of these, they are the player's actions.

I factored in giving a skilled parens and gild training virtue, Skilled parens would be my own choice, because I would rather die then lose face with a poorly trained apprentice (proud major), and gild training signifies my loyalty to the convention.

I did however, start with magic theory, Creo and Vim, so I would be getting a few pawns worth of Vis when I am not around and the apprentice could harvest, so the exposure points will favour these arts as well.

These are calculated with a com +2, teaching 3 and a lab with a feature granting +1 teaching. (for a total of 15 points one on one, arts to 5 costs one season, skills to 2 costs one season)

I have always allowed the player PC to train their apprentices as they see fit. If they want to give up seasons to train the apprentice, that is fine because they get no immediate benefit from that except maybe 2 exposure xp per season if appropriate. The abuse potential seems to come more into play if the apprentice is allowed to read books from the library at will.

If you wish to allow apprentices access to the library, we always had the mages pick books first and then the apprentices. If this seems to still allow the apprentice to gain too much xp, then let the apprentice go on adventures to get them away from the books, get the mage to spend time on the lab so the apprentice will be more valuable as an assistant.

Finally, it takes 15 years to train an apprentice. Unless your saga moves at warp speed, any apprective coming out of training, even well-trained ones, are not going to be nearly as powerful as a newly gauntletted mage who has 15 years to train also.

He's your character's son so you can allow him more than an ordinary apprentice.
I would say 15 seasons teaching, 15 library use and 30 work is right as a rule of thumb.

I agree with Birbins rule of thumb.

IMS the magi have build a 'teaching lab.' This might be a bit anachronistic, but the covenant invested resources to get some decent training for them selves and future apprentices (it was build for our own efficiency, we didn't have apprentices back then).

This lecture room gives a +3 to teaching totals. My own magus is a good teacher, with +3 com and 4 teaching. This generates a 24 teaching total. (which my fellow magi like a lot, so I can often get nice deals for teaching them)

Better books have a quality of 10-12. (if you're not picky on the subject)

For my apprentice this totals up to:
24 + 11 + 2 + 2 = 39 xp per year. (this probably decreases a bit later in her apprenticeship)

Apprentices with skilled parens get about 30 xp per year. So this played out apprentice is more skilled than her RAW counterpart, but not so extreme that game balance is in danger IMO.

The real problem arises when I would not force that apprentice into the lab for 2 seasons each year. (1 teaching, 3 reading would total out to 57xp!!!)

Our troupe seems to enjoy building up the covenant. We started out poor, our magi had little chance to learn efficiently. We collect wealth (and books etc). So our apprentices will be better than us in the end. This makes the covenant stronger after years of playing: praise to us! :smiley:

In our saga, we each run our own familiars and apprentices and assign them virtues and flaws relating to their backstories and events in play which then get Storyguide approval. (My character has Major Magical Focus:Spirits. His apprentice is going to develop a Minor Magical Focus:Elementals, thereby blending his training and his goblin blood) He also gets input into what they do to spice things up a bit. In all honesty, our familiars tend not to get much screen time as our saga tends to focus very heavily on the plots and schemes of the Magi.

In my previous (and very long running sagas) we had a few apprentices.

My Criamon maga had one - her son - he managed no more than half his apprenticeship before the saga faded out.
Another player left the saga by moving out of town, he sent his magus to a remote place as a hermit. He was since a bit active PBP. Upon his return, he spun off a story about his magus having taken an apprentice, but when her master disappeared, she came knocking on the door of the saga's covenant, where her master's only known sodales were. She was played by the very same player as a companion or "maga-light", taken in by another magus to finish teaching. She didn't make it to gauntlet either, before the end of the saga. Some fun sessions were playes with these two apprentices as the"magi" and just some grogs for the other players.

The next saga went on for about 30 game years. One Verditius took in an apprentice, he was just an NPC. A Gifted Mercere, wasting his gift as a regular Redcap, took in two ungifted lads, to train as Redcaps. Since the saga was seeing a shortage of Redcaps, he got away with it. Although he was not popular in his House! They too were just NPCs and plot devices. My Flambeau Maga took in two twins, with some serious potential. But the saga ended just as the teaching was started.

The new 4th ed saga is started with magi 30 years out of gauntlet, since it is essentially a spin-off of the previous one. My Flambeau maga was converted to the new edition, and continues with her two apprentices. Unfortunately, they're not very well defined, and the saga has just started. Another players had a Flambeau magus, and defined that he had finished teaching an apprentice within these 30 years, just to say that he did. He wanted to special deals with him, and thus trained an adequate but unremarkable magus, and he is not planned to play any role in the saga.

The basic principles we use with Apprentices, is that some player announces that his magus seeks a potential. Another player will then be responsible for this, and perhaps spins a small story. Naturally, if the potential seems a very good choice, there is always a drawback of trade-off. Along the way, the master will be given enough information - as he discovers it - to try and train the apprentice best. If he just wants a lab slave, the kid is propably rebellious, clumsy, unlucky or something (to avoid system abuse, with free lab boosts). If you take the time to get into the mindset of thhe apprentice, you can teach more dedicated and concentrated. Or try and shape him as you want.
So in essence, the more you get involved, the more time you spend with him, the more likely you are to suss out the strengths and weaknesses, that'll develop fully during the 15 years, as the magic in the child develops.
Unfortunately, the player responsible for defining my maga's apprentices, hasn't gotten off his arse. So while I've been SGing at the start of the saga, I have a back log, since I don't know what I have been teaching the apprentices, because I don't know what'll work best. My maga has ambitions, anmd wants to shape thj best flambeau/hoplite, with whatever tools at hand. So it's importent to know whether the kid has/could develop any affinities, foci, deft arts, puissant art/Abilities, and thus will do best with CrIg, CrAu, PeCo, ReTe, melee etc.

bringing Familiars into the deal, these are taken somewhat more likely. My own maga's snow fox familiar was the result of a horribly botched ice magic experiment (story event!). But the new saga had to advance the newly created magi 30 years, and two of them have some unremarkable familars - but they have them!

As I play a Trianoma magus, I wish to have an apprentice quite soon. For myself I thought that I will see to it that I will start my apprentice before my longevety potion (and that will take some time, I have no score in elements and imaginem, herbam and animal, the rest is at 5 though) and I would never dream of committing the crime of a deficient apprentice.

This will take some heavy work, but when you train your apprentices right and with respect, you are essentially creating a vote shaped during the period in which their own maturity is made, thus similar to your own on many occasions. Apprentices are politics.

I our saga all magi characters have started out as apprentices. The orignal five players played apprentices for 2½ year real-time (13-15 years in-game) before being gauntletted. It's become a tradition of ours - not for my sake or any thought of 'earning ones wings' but simply that they players have huge fun playing apprentices. The first 'generation' had me playing their masters as NPC and many of their stories where with the apprentices only. The three current apprentices are either linked to another PC magus or a NPC master - but they would never play their own apprentice - just as if any of the PC wanted an apprentice they would only get one by having another player play it.

It's not balanced in terms of power as it is at the moment, with half the players having a full-fledged magus/maga and the other half having an apprentice instead of a magus. But really isn't a problem as we focus more on the narration than the gamist parts of playing. However, as a SG I do make an effort to keep the lacking balance in mind - thus I let the apprentices have scenes with their masters that are important in their relations, but at the same time it's important to send the apprentices on errands/adventures without their more powerfull master, so as to challenge them and to cast them in the role of making their own way in the world.

In terms of mechanics, we started out during the 4th edition and to simulate how to run the development of apprentices we used the apprentice training rules done by Andrew Smith (can be found at, but now we are using the regular rules on seasonal downtime in 5th Edition. I admit to giving the current apprentices more teaching/studying compared to lab assitance/exposure than the former ones to somewhat in the end lessen the gap between the magi characters of various age once they new batch are past their gauntlets.

As an alternative take - I have a mage with the daughter as an apprentice.

I make a clear point of teaching one season a year, but as my apprentice is my daughter, I am also allowing her a season a year to socialise with the natives. She just does not work as hard as other apprentices.

My GM is currently handling the apprentice for the most part, and I have no intent to play her myself in the future. If another player takes her on as a role in time then that is all very well and good.

I do have a related question though. How are you finding that you have time to let your apprentice study. There are all sorts of projects they can be working on while you are otherwise occupied:
improving your lab
extracting vis - low rate, but vis is vis
fixing arcane connections to people or places
opening items for enchantment
copying texts
creating spare lab spaces - for visiting magi
assisting sodales on a quid pro quo basis

Just my tuppence worth, but I have so many projects on the go that I can't find time for them all. Even with my daughter as my apprentice, it would be unusual for me to be able to find more than one season per year for teaching.

I understand perfectly, the system is so beautifully engeneered to have you do things that make your sg groan, it is way too good to pass up

IMS the magi are currently pondering partially opening the gifted child they have encountered, and then repeat it again next season and son on until the child has opened all its arts.

The idea is that none of the magi in the covenant is strong enough to open the child's arts yet...

Thoughts on this?

As I read the apprentice training/poenening the Arts section, all Arts are opened in a single season. Each Art which the Magus has a lower than 5 score (the effective score, meaning that a Deficiency effectively lowers a score of 10 to a mere 5! IMHO), will result in a Deficiency for the apprentice. This is listed as a low crime.

IIRC i once read about some alternate tranining system, where all Arts had to be opened seperately, but not in dedicated seasons, rather by exposure of other teachings. I believe "opening an Art" required some expenditure of xp from an otherwise Magic Theory source (be it teaching, exposure, reading etc.). So you had to decide whether your 5 points Magic Theory Exp from your study were used to open Arts, or as actual Magic Theory advancement. Once an Art was opened, you could freely study it, read about it, use it in Lab or casting, learn spells etc.
This idea was from a saga, where the players were to play apprentices about 5 years into training, when their masters disappeared. It was some PBEM project that sadly never got started.

I think the deficience would not halve the level, it states score instead of total, and totals are different from scores.

I would rule you wouldn't have to go to 10 just to train an apprentice in a form in which you are deficient, otherwise noone would do so (being deficient in an art makes you look down on it, and you won't exert yourself beyond a reasonable limit) and we'd all be deficient in some way by this time.