Ars Magica: Base Camp, A Saga of Exploration (3-6 players)

Title: Base Camp: A Saga of Exploration
Feel free to suggest an appropriate Latin name. I still have issues with my middle-school Latin teacher that prevent me from making a rational choice.

System: ArM5

of Players: We'll say 3-6, but I'm flexible on this.

OK, first of all, I need to have my head examined--for a variety of reasons, not just for making this post. Nonetheless, let me say that I've been involved with online Ars Magica games for 12 years, most of it (the first 9 years) as an Alpha SG of one saga. I'm not going to say I was great as an Alpha SG (coming up with stories for players is one weak point, which is one reason I favor character-driven games, but I've gotten better at this), but I did learn something. Let me, therefore, begin by listing the two universal axioms of PbP games:

  1. Players disappear temporarily, generally without any warning.

  2. Players disappear permanently, generally without any warning (and when you do get warning, it's usually because they leave in a huff, which is almost as bad, and certainly more traumatic).

I'd like to try creating a saga that's designed from the ground up to deal with this problem, organically as it were. That is, I want to run a saga in a setting where disappearing characters (the inevitable consequence of disappearing players) is entirely normal. No, I'm not having them bumped off by death squads (I have been tempted, though). Rather, what I want to do is create a covenant where it's natural for characters to come and go.

To be slightly less insane, I'd really prefer to do this troupe-style. I'm happy to be Alpha SG, but I'd like some help setting up the covenant and running stories, and I'm prepared to use bribery to get this help (see below). That also means that every detail below is up for negotiation and, if necessary, a vote.

What I'd like to do is set up a covenant somewhere on the fringes of the Order that acts as a base camp for Hermetic explorers: hunters of magical beasts, Seekers, and the like. Levant or Thebes Tribunal would be an obvious location for Seekers, though Novgorod or even the northern fringes or Europe might work. Given that the covenant in question serves a public service for the Order as a whole, I envision that the Tribunal will have set it up as a dedicated covenant, providing beginning supplies (including a library and lab equipment), and putting a small permanent staff, including a senior magus or two and perhaps a skilled autocrat, in charge, with the stipulation that the facilities must be made available to any Hermetic magus who wishes to use them. PC magi could be either members of the permanent staff or explorers come for an extended visit, though my inclination, after the start of the saga, is to require a character to be around for a period, say three game years, before being accepted as a member of the covenant (that is, as "staff").

If players disappear frequently in PbP, it follows logically that the longer a story is, and the more characters it involves, the more likely it is never to get finished. To combat this, I propose to keep stories short, and involving only a couple of players in most cases--the longer the story, the fewer players it should involve. Yes, that means more stories, but less work and frustration per story.

In addition, I'd like to go with loose synchronicity: some stories are going to go quicker than others, and if they get out of sync, we can always catch up later by giving the characters in the slow story more downtime for lab work (I'm not going to blow up the covenant in the meantime, or anything like that). Having few characters per story, and more stories, naturally lends itself to this approach.

I will also encourage all players to create a "B-team": that is, a character we can run a (typically very short) story with if a story featuring the "A-team" gets stalled. This could be a companion, but it could be a second magus if you want, as well (it's not like your two characters are going to appear in the same story, so there's no real need to restrict power, since they won't have much way of helping one another; the main limitation is all the fiddly record-keeping required to advance a magus from one season to the next).

The impact of all this, I hope, will be to make sudden temporary disappearances less disruptive; given the setting, even sudden permanent disappearances can be explained by urgent calls requiring explorers to return to their permanent homes. And if they want to come back at some point, we'll just advance their characters in the background, and have them emerge from "hibernation".

I'll add a few other suggested details. I'm drawn to ruins, and I think it might be fun to establish the covenant on the site of a former covenant destroyed by some disaster (probably Aura 5). You won't have all the goodies you'd find in the junior-magi-revive-a-winter-covenant saga, but there should be some interesting lab locations, perhaps a regio or two, and maybe a few buried treasures. And of course, you'll live in constant fear of whatever destroyed the old covenant. What did destroy it, anyway?

I would love to see some Beta SG's. As I said above, I'm prepared to use bribery to accomplish this goal: perhaps some influence over what directions stories take? Or maybe some other perqs? I'm open to ideas here.

Deadline: If you can finish everything by the end of November, I'll let you design part of the covenant, including your own lab (it has to start without outfittings, but you can pick the raw material, like shape, weird features, and so on).

Starting Level: One consequence of having few characters per story is that there's no real need for all the characters to be of the same power level. Moreover, if we're going to have new characters arriving all the time, power levels will get mixed eventually anyway. Therefore, create however advanced a magus you want, though a very senior magus had better have a darned good backstory that explains what he's doing out here in the middle of nowhere, especially if he plans to leave his cozy home lab with the +10 General Quality bonus. We can make sure that there are appropriate rivals and challenges for magi of all power levels.

Magi past gauntlet can be created with any of the character creation systems in ArM5--if you want to do the work of Detailed Character Creation for a maga 16 year out of apprenticeship, be my guest. Lord knows I've done it, but that's why people suspect me of having OCD. (I should hope, though, that the troupe would veto excessively generous learning conditions.) I won't personally be bothered even by a character imported from another saga, as long as the character that enters this saga is street-legal and not far off what you'd get using by-the-book character generation, though this is troupe-style, and I can't vouch for the other players (I would, though, like to set up permanent guidelines at the start, so that things are consistent going forwards).

If you're new and shaky on the character generation rules, I'm willing to help.

Advancement Rules: I personally really enjoy the long-term planning aspect of Ars Magica, and so I'd like to see ample downtime between stories. That being said, a player who posts quickly can get through more stories than other players, thereby requiring less downtime.

As for power level (and thus vis income), I'm thinking mid-range, though that suggestion comes with the proviso that covenants on the fringes tend to be vis-rich, and face all kind of hideous monsters and nasty, wait, no, I meant interesting beings to be investigated. Maybe the covenant is required to send vis back to the Tribunal to repay the initial investment?

Combat Rules: Having stories with few players will allow detailed combat in some cases, but where a player would prefer it, the SG can do it all quickly and post the results.

Dice-Rolling Rules: Most players seem to prefer a public die-rolling service, which is fine by me.

Special Rules: I would suggest sticking as closely as possible to the RAW; I think this is especially important in a game with players coming and going, because it makes it easier to get up to speed. That being said, I was brutally attacked by a pink dot in my childhood, and since then I've had an entirely rational hatred of them. Moreover, I'm prepared to be more flexible on adding new Virtues and Flaws than on rules mechanics. I've got most of the books, and I do plan to make extensive use of Covenants in designing the covenant.

Posting Rate and Absences: I'd prefer a post at least every couple of days. If someone goes more than a few days without posting, I'll start sending gently encouraging PM's, and if I don't hear from them for another week or so, we'll try to fast-forward to a stopping point where we can put the story and character on ice.

Writing Expectations: My taste for colorful expository text tends to vary with how many papers I have to grade, with more papers tending to push me toward more text, since I'm a procrastinator. I'm not a fan of grandiloquent prose, but I am a professional writer (not of fiction, however). I'd like to see enough writing to convey character, though sometimes that can be done with a minimum of exposition, leaving the details to the reader's imagination. Why am I telling you how to write, though? I've got papers to grade if I want to do that.

Text Formatting: Let's handle the meatier details before we worry about this.

Plot- or Character-Driven: Character-driven. That's almost a necessity since character will be coming to the covenant with specific goals in mind.

Focus: Exploration

Character Types: I'm not going to rule out anything just yet. Even one-dimensional characters have their place, as long as their players realize they're funny rather than the quintessence of High Role Playing.


I think you are starting an exciting experiment.
I'd be interested in participating.


  • I've had two longer absences (real-life driven) from past rpgs, both caused by major RL developments.
  • In the past, I have quit games (though only once in anger - more to do with workload).
  • I am not a native speaker of English


  • I am familiar wit the rules and an experienced player who runs a pbp on the forum.
  • I am not attracted to creating an Uber-character, but someone who sees this as a chance for roleplaying. I feel able to set myself real boundaries when creating a character (not just going for the most convenient virtues and flaws), but have learned to accept that other players want that.
  • I am old enough not to throw tantrums anymore (I have a child that can do that).

I'd be interested in joining this game. I should note that I have no previous experience of playing either Ars Magica or an online game, although I've read the rules and played around with character generation a bit.

I sincerely admire your honesty. I most definitely would like to sign up and would be more than happy to Beta as well as play.

Are you still open for new players?

It's been a long while since I've played Ars. I have the core ArM5 rulebook but not much else from 5th. I've been hitching for some time to join a game again, but can't find one locally. The 5th edition mechanics are still new to me. I used to storyguide a PBeM saga (the Balearic Saga), which was fun, but it kind of simply died off after a while.

Current idea that I have for a magus is basically a magus/smith -- his magic is not necessarily linked to smithing. Depending on the spin I put on it, he could be a Verditius, Jerbiton or Ex Miscellanea. After his gauntlet, he spend some years travelling around Europe doing small jobs, so he would have above-average social skills and knowledge for a magus. The house would depend on how you feel about having multiple magi from the same house in the covenant (from what I see you already have a Verditius).


I like the sound of this, and would like to be involved. I'm in favour of everybody contributing to a saga, and have made contirbutions in the past. I was involved in the saga "Mystikae Eikona," which, sadly, never got off the ground, for which I wrote many characters and vis sources - I'd be willing to do considerable background work to get things moving, and to be a beta-SG. I have most of the books (not Sundered Eagle - yet), and some understanding of the game. I prefer character driven stories as, to my mind, they provide good opportunities for story telling.

I have been toying with the idea of setting a covenant to the east of the Theban Tribunal (in eastern Persia), which might be an interesting place to hunt mythical creatures (if that is of interest to anyone else?)

Let me know if I can be involved.

Ivan Hartley

I'm interested in joining, if there is room. I love troupe style, and would happily play side characters, bit parts, or grogs. For me, the fun of ArM is playing the covenant together, not playing a particular character.

If there is room for another player, I would love to play.

Also a big fan of troupe style ... usually I end up alpha SG so it would be a rare treat for me to play. Having said that I would like to play more than SG, I have no problem doing support work (maintaining lists, doing accounting, editing documents like charters, etc.).

Just drop me a PM and I can start on my A-team and B-team chars.

I, too, would be interested in playing. Since so many people have already signed up, this will perhaps only be relevant once somebody drops off.

I'd be willing to give you my slot if MTKnife agrees, since I have other sagas I play in and this seems to be your only one. Alternatively you could sign up for Phoenix.

I think we have enough "staff" magi already, but you can play a visiting magus once the covenant is set up, and a companion or grog until then.

Make sure to go to your Control Panel and add the Usergroup "PBEM Players" so that you can post to the saga forum.


I hope there will be no need for you to drop off, JeanMichelle. It would be a shame seeing as how you have already planned things quite far. I will happily play a grog until the covenant is established.

We could use some new players. We've got the immediate covenant grounds near the mouth of the Don pretty much explored, and we're ready to start setting things up, though that in itself should be a trial. Right now we're down to two permanent ("staff") magi, but we always have room for passers-through, and there's plenty of space for those visitors to stay on as permanent members of the covenant.

We could especially use someone who'd like to SG some faerie threads (we had one story dropped mid-way through when the SG departed).

Have a look at the first post in this thread for saga details. I'll make the one addition that I'd really like to encourage collaborative play, not so much in the sense that everyone decides what events will occur (sometimes that happens, but you do need surprises!), but more in the sense of making sure everyone is on the same page, and happy with the contents of that page. The other side of that coin is that someone who's prone to have singular visions that are not amenable to modification might not fit in as well.


I'm still interested in playing, if you have room! I'm not sure that I can commit to a bSG role, though, especially since I don't know the regional folklore very well. How often would Faerie stories be happening?

Hey, none of us know it very well, either....Frankly, it's just not very well documented (we couldn't turn up much in researching it, at least not much online). In any case, the faeries we're most worried about at the moment, though, seem to be a product of ancient Greek culture (Tanais, the ruins of which form the site of the covenant, was one of the furthest outposts of Greek settlement, and it was also a holy site for the Amazons in Greek myth). My character is the Merinita, and honestly she'd rather stay in her lab essentially forever, but the job of a BSG would be to drag her out occasionally.


I would be interested in playing too, if it's still possible. But I'm not familiar with the 5th edition. Would it be a problem?

Well, the character advancement is quite different, for one thing. I think you could pick that up relatively easily, and that would let you play a grog or a basically mundane companion, but for a magus you'd want to have access to a copy of the rules (then you could learn gradually, and create a magus later). Would you be able to consult the rulebook on a regular basis?


I don't have the core book of the 5th edition but I could acquire it if you think it's necessary. I have a few books from the 5th edition though, including some about the houses of Hermes.

Playing a grog or a companion would be fine. I'd be delighted. Would you prefer that I think of a character or do you have a specific idea of the kind of character that you be the most appropriate?

English isn't my mother tongue. I don't think it will be a big problem, but I might make a few mistakes sometimes. Regarding the context of the game, I played with the third edition during approximately ten years. So I don't think I'll be too lost.

I think it would be easier on you to have the core book, yes, so that you understand how advancement and combat work. As for type of grog or companion, I'm open to pretty much anything, as long as it wouldn't disrupt the saga.


Alright. I just purchased the core book. However, it will take about a week to receive it. Can I start creating a character in the meantime, I mean, at least the concept? Please tell me if/when I may join the forum of the saga.