Character conversion from 3rd ed. to 5th ed. ?


I have not play Ars Magica for a fairly long time and after having bought and taken a look into the 5th edition rules I feel tempted to start again.

Are there any rules about converting 3rd edition characters (mainly magi) to the 5th edition ?

The 5th edition rules have something about the conversion from 4th to 5th and I can imagine that there might be conversion rules from 3rd to 4th in the 4th ed. but this looks like a rather tedious way to do it :wink:



You could look at the experience gained, figuring out a conversion rate for points... I have the feeling it would be more effort than it was worth.

Instead, I would just look at the themes, the arts and skills, and create the characters anew. It's likely to be less headache.


My advice would be to look at the character concept and simply re-implement. So, for instance, if your 3rd edition character is 100 years old, check the character creation rules and see how many xp that equates to. If your 3rd edition character has a number of spells you'd like to carry over just see how they would stack up under the 5th edition spell guidelines.

Virtues and flaws will be a little different but as it's for your own saga I'd just go with a balance between what feels right for the character and what feels right for the game.

I think that approach is going to be a little easier than trying to run a couple of conversions in sequence. Just treat the character as something you read about in a book and you'd like to recreate under the new rules.

. . . does anyone have any core advice to GMs for converting scenarios from 3rd to 5th edition - specifically how to do a quick and dirty conversion of bads guys and challenges to 5th so that PCs can go up against them seamlessly.

Ta gents


Good question.

One technique that I use and that I've seen others use is to simply take the example characters from the core rulebook. For instance, where you need a "Sir Robert", ignore the "stats" from the 3rd edition scenario and use the knight from ArM5, page 23. You can play around with the bits that make the character unique but most of the work should be done for you.

Creatures can be a little more difficult, but bear in mind that Might 10 creatures are generally weaker than starting magi, Might 20 creatures are a decent match, and anything greater than this constitutes a challenge. You can either go through the associated realm books and recreate the supernatural foes or simply wing it. So long as the powers make sense, aren't too powerful for the creature (players will forgive much but they're usually sensitive to this), and you keep a track of the cost of using those powers then you should be okay.

Thank you for your input, I think for one mage I will try to do both - the simple 5th edition generation based on years and the tedious 3rd->4th->5th way (if I am able to locate 3rd->4th rules in the 4th edition - will have to take a look later).

Might be interesting to see how different the results will be - if there is anything significant I will let you know.



I have finally found the time to start the conversion of my old 3rd edition character to the 5th edition.

Albertus of Tremere

Age: 88 (52) – 65 years out of apprenticeship
Twilight: 9 - gained Increased Understanding from temporary twilight

INT: +5
PER: +1
PRE: -1
COM: -1
STR: +1
STA: +2 (-5)
DEX: +1
QUI: +1

Affinity with Rego (+4)
Affinity with Mentem (+3)
Knack Certamen +2 (+1)
Personal Rego Source (+1)
Good Characteristic (+1)

Difficult Longevity Potion (-3)
Incompatible Arts CrIg (-2)
IA InIg (-2)
IA MuIg (-2)
No Sigil (-1)

Affinity Mentem 6, Affinity Rego 7, Alertness 2, Athletics 3, Certamen 9(11), Charisma 3, Church Knowledge 2, Concentration 6, Debate 3, Diplomancy 4, Egypt Lore 3, Faerie Lore 2, Fantastic Beast Lore 1, Finesse 7, Guile 3, Hermes History 3, Hermes Law 2, Hermes Lore 3, Humanities 2, Iberia Lore 2, Intimidation 2, Intrigue 4, Leadership3, Legend Lore 4, Magic Theory 10, Meditation 5, Occult Lore 2, Parma Magica 9, Penetration 7, Provencal Lore 1, Ride 3, Scan 3, Scribe Arab 3, Scribe Greek 3, Scribe Latin 5, Scotland Lore 1, Sicily Lore 3, Speak Arabic 4, Speak Gaelic 2, Speak Greek 3, Speak Italian 4, Speak Latin 5, Speak Provencal 3, Speak Norman 2, Speak Spanish 5, Staff 6, Swim 2, Subterfuge 1

Creo 18, Intellego 20, Muto 19, Perdo 17, Rego 19 (26)
Animal 15, Aquam 10, Auram 14, Corporem 22, Herbam 12, Ignem 12, Imagonem 11, Mentem 16 (22), Terram 17, Vim 19

Conversion to 5th edition:

Age +20% = 103 (62 apparent)

9, new 10 Twilight => 3 Warping – Increased Understanding seems to be no longer in the game

Characteristics stay the same.

Virtues: Affinities are still in the game but are minor virtues now and in addition with Puissant Arts (minor virtues, too) get close to the old affinities. Knack with Certamen becomes Minor Magical Focus Certamen (free virtue for Tremere) and Personal Vis Source stays the same and is a minor virtue. Basically Albertus would have to “buy” 5 minor hermetic virtues under the 5th edition rules in addition to the free Focus with Certamen.

Flaws: Difficult Longevity Ritual is a major flaw and has way more serious consequences than before. Under 3rd edition it was more like a story flaw which forced the player to find an old magus for his longevity ritual and do him favors till he is able (InCo 30+) to do it himself. Due to this I think a Favors major story flaw is more appropriate than the 5th edition Difficult Longevity Ritual flaw. Incompatible Arts are minor flaws and while Tremere still have no sigil it seems to be no longer considered a flaw which is fitting anyway since Albertus won his sigil 3 years ago. Basically Albertus would have 3 minor hermetic flaws and 1 major story flaw.

Abilities: Mainly Affinites are no longer abilites but provide “bonus” XP now and a bunch of other abilities are no longer in the game and/or included in other abilites in addition to some having different names. Converting the lost abilities and the “unused” XP put into them would yield 930 XP.

Since I was looking at XP costs anyway I took a look at how many XP a newly created magus 80 years out of apprenticeship would have - about 2.700 - vs. about 4.900 for Albertus. In addition Albertus has 1 magic item, a working longevity potion (-15 since the ageing system seems way more relaxed than in the 3rd edition even the +20% age would be no problem), a familiar and knows about 15 additional spells, some of them mastered. On the other hand the “newly” created magus should have 320 Rego Vis (even if the rules seem to disagree there;) ) to spend in any way he wants vs. about 30 vis Albertus has at hand and would be able to take additional virtues/flaws at character creation.

If I have some more time at hand I might give the more detailed character creation a shot, which will likely fall somewhere in between the two extremes mentioned above since even the detailed system will most likely be unable to account for things like heavy usage of vis for learning and exposure XP (we had house rules to a fairly similar effect for speak language and lore based on time spend exposed and maxed at 3).

With the left over XP distributed I would come up with the following abilities/arts:

Area Lore (Egypt) 3, Area Lore (Iberia) 2, Area Lore (Provence) 1, Area Lore (Scotland) 1, Area Lore (Sicily) 3, Artes Liberales 4, Athletics 3, Awareness 5, Charm 3, Code of Hermes 4, Concentration 7, Dead Language (Latin) 5, Etiquette 4, Faerie Lore 2, Finesse 7, Great Weapon 6, Guile 5, Infernal Lore 2, Leadership 4, Living Language (Arabic) 4, LL (Gaelic) 2, LL (Greek) 3, LL (Italian) 4, LL (Norman) 2, LL (Provencal) 3, LL (Spanish) 5, Magic Lore 6, Magic Theory 10, Organisation Lore (The Order) 3, Parma Magica 10, Penetration 7, Philosophiae 4, Ride 3, Swim 2, Theology 2

Creo 18, Intellego 20, Muto 24, Perdo 18, Rego 26
Animal 15, Aquam 10, Auram 15, Corporem 25, Herbam 12, Ignem 20, Imagonem 12, Mentem 25, Terram 20, Vim 20 (leading to 1 additional Twilight Point).

Do you think this is a reasonable conversion or should I do something differently.



I have started creating a character with the detailed rules and might be proven very wrong thinking that a new character will be weaker than a converted one (or I am making a mistake).

The most important factor concerning the speed of advancement seems to be the covenant not the mage himself.

Due to this I would like to know if using a covenants library is even considered appropriate when creating a character this way or if he is restricted to pure lab activities like those mentioned in the rules.

In 15 years the "new" mage has earned 900XP by being a pure reader (based on the library of our old starting covenant at the time of creation) in contrast to the 450XP from simple age based XP. And while I think this progress will slow down due to having exhausted the "starting" books on arts this progress is way faster than I would have thought.

So my main question at the moment is if it is even permissible to use more of the covenant than "just" the lab during character creation.


You no longer get twilight from knowing vim.

This sounds like your character has access to an extraordinary library. It also seems that there are no events that pull the character out of the library and his covenant s fine with him just sitting with the books and not contibuting in any way that takes up more than a few days per season.

This is where your character deviates from the assumptions that underlie the system for developing "older" magi. That's not necessarily bad it's just what it is, (and you're right young magi can get their fingers into high quality sumae and advance somewhat faster, older magi need to trade for new books and there are fewer books that they haven't read that are still available so they end up reading books of lower quality)

I think that the 30 xp per year that the book gives for magi beyond apprenticeship seems just about right.

Think of the ways to get 30 xp in a year:

2 quality 10 books, 1 season practicing a spell mastery and one season with a 5 xp adventure.

2 quality 8 books, 1 quality 12 book and a season of exposure while extracting vis.

study vis for 8 xp, study vis for 5 xp, 1 quality 8 book, and 10xp adventure.

exposure for 2 seasons copying books or lab notes for trade, read one quality 11 tractatus and a 15 xp adventure

It might even be a bit generous, but the system ignores exposure xp for lab work so I'm of the opinion that it isn't too generous at all.

The spot where the system can fall down, is in assigning time for creating spells and items. Giving 30 levels per year is only appropriate for relatively young characters. Older characters will crank out effects at a significantly faster pace than this.

The system allows you to run years of lab work alternate to years of xp gain. If you choose not to do this, then your older NPCs will be weaker than they would be if you had created them with the extremely detailed advancement system.

This is 2,700 xp?

80* 30 = 2,400

You've got a character 80 years out of apprenticeship, here's what I'd do

Create the character at apprenticship

then spend fifteen years worth of xp (450) next have the character spend 5 years in the lab creating new spells and items. That's 20 years

Then do those last two steps three more times for years 21-40, 41-60 and 61-80.

I use a 40xp/year house rule, and consider the average source quality to be 10. That makes it easier to apply Virtues & Flaws during advancement. I am admittedly generous, but so far it seems to work (see the "Light of Andorra" pbp game for examples. Now, taking this as an average of 10, sometimes the quality is only 5, and sometimes it can be as high as 15. Or maybe more. Covenant duties can count as adventure xp, which is good for 5 or 10 xp (or as high as 15, as I am generous with adv enture xp). But mainly, it simplifies the advanced generation process. Add up the number of years, multiply by 40, and subtract 10 for each season of lab work. Virtues such as Strong Reader and Apt Student add their value up to twice per year each (+6 or +10 per year as appropriate). There are a few kinks I have run in to, but for the most part it has run smoothly and it has been a successful game so far.

I believe that you went over your limit of xp here.

I see 2185 in abiliites and 2934 in arts. Granted I didn't take into account and xp for the character during apprenticeship and before nor did I take any affinities into account. Yet I susspect that it is still a bit high.

Sorry about any formatting problems, I just copied and pasted from excel.

Code of Hermes 4, 50
Concentration 7, 140
Dead Language (Latin) 5, 75
Etiquette 4, 50
Faerie Lore 2, 15
Finesse 7, 140
Great Weapon 6, 105
Guile 5, 75
Infernal Lore 2, 15
Leadership 4, 50
Living Language (Arabic) 4, 50
LL (Gaelic) 2, 15
LL (Greek) 3, 30
LL (Italian) 4, 50
LL (Norman) 2, 15
LL (Provencal) 3, 30
LL (Spanish) 5, 75
Magic Lore 6, 105
Magic Theory 10, 275
Organisation Lore (The Order) 3, 30
Parma Magica 10, 275
Penetration 7, 140
Philosophiae 4, 50
Ride 3, 30
Swim 2, 15
Theology 2 15
total abilities 2185

Creo 18, 171
Intellego 20, 210
Muto 24, 300
Perdo 18, 171
Rego 26 351
Animal 15, 120
Aquam 10, 55
Auram 15, 120
Corporem 25, 325
Herbam 12, 78
Ignem 20, 210
Imagonem 12, 78
Mentem 25, 325
Terram 20, 210
Vim 20, 210
total arts 2934

Marko's system works well (I am one of his test rats so I know what I'm talking about). But it only works because none of the player characters is more than 20 years our of apprenticeship.
Still for eighty years it might be advisable to take Erik's advice and advance the character in blocks of no more than 20 years. Otherwise to can just bury him in the books for the first 60 years and start inventing spells later - which is probably unrealistic, but more efficient as you can use higher Arts and MT to calculate.
You'll also need to find a Vis-solution: How much vis does your character have at the end of development - and how much did he spend on items or other stuff (e.g. a familiar) that he still uses.
If you've got TMRE - you'll have to ask yourself about initiation costs (and a corresponding Lore skill). Marko handed them out for 10xp, which was rather cheap (we've got a lot of initiated magi now) - interesting but complicated.
If you've got Covenants (the book): What's his lab like?

I think you have to keep in mind the one flaw with the 30 xp per year for advanced. THat 30 xp includes spell levels but in a wizard's best arts they potentially could create 40-80 levels of spells in a year.

I would round it to 8 xp a season spent other than the lab (32 a year) and then multiply it time seasons not in the lab. Then for seasons in the lab: calculate the results for all the spells, longevity, magic items and add the 2 xp per season exposure.

So if your magus invented 20 spells, 8 magic items, bound familiar and longevity potion using 60 seasons, that is 15 years. So you have those effects + 120 exposure XP + 2080 xp (for the other 65 years.)

The biggest difference from 3rd/4th to 5th is in the skills. Your skills tend to be lower in 5th because instead of progression of 1+2+3+4 for advancing the skill, it is 5+10+15+20 or 5x as much xp to advance. Sure you get to start with a lot more comparitively (my current offline saga did first adventure in 4th and then switched to 5th and skills were higher by a few points in 5th) but once started, you advance skills a lot slower. Esp since an adventure giving 10 xp, only 5 could be applied to any one skill.

Thank you for the input,

@Erik, since a character at start gets about 300XP and each affinity adds about 120XP we get pretty much the same numbers :wink: 2400+300 and about 4900+240.

We are still playing a low level pbem under 3rd edition rules here at the moment so I used Excel for my calculations, too since my char is actually stored in Excel :wink: But since there could have been mistakes I am fairly happy that our numbers actually match pretty good.

Great info about the Vim no longer adding twilight, looks like I have to read the 5th edition rules a bit more detailed than I had till now.

The library isn't even that impressive (for 3rd edition rules that is, this might be the problem). We set up a covenant in Sicily with the help of 4 major Italian covenants who wanted us to be their "vis harvesting farm" there. Basically we had to pay 20 vis each year for 21 years. For this they lend us fairly good books from their libraries (+3 lib under the old covenant rules -> 3 die+10 arts, rest die+5 - Cr 9, In 12, Mu 13, Pe 10, Re 6, An 14, Aq 8, Au 7, Co 20, He 8, Ig 11, Im 12, Me 18, Te 12, Vi 13) and provided some grogs and starting equipment for us.

But I agree that the main question is if a mage should be allowed to be a pure labrat even under those "quick" creation rules (even our Bonisagus was with us for about 1/3 of our adventures - so I would agree that pure lab rats are fairly unlikely).

But I am pretty sure that I spend less than 30% of my characters time outside the covenant, so 80% "lab" time would actually seem quite reasonable to me. Actually the lab percentage raised with age.

While I understand the reasoning behind 30XP I still feel that 30XP are a bit low for more specialized characters (e.g. Free Study, Book Learner, Personal Vis Source or any other "progress supporting virtues").

@JeanMichelle, concerning the lab quality, initially it was normal, later raised to +1 in the end to +2, but since I have no real idea when I actually expended the lab I will stay at standard for the creation. Same with the library since I have no idea when we upgraded which book to what level.

No initiations for me I think.

@ladyphoenix, I think that a major point adventure XP being lower than under the 3rd edition. Our average adventure/story gave 4XP under 3rd edition which would equal 20XP under 5th edition - I havent played a 5th edition story yet, but from what I have seen in the rules 10XP would be what I expect.

I think when I have the time I will continue the char generation with some "adventure XP" intervalls spend in between as suggested. I am actually fairly interested how it will turn out.

Thx and any further comments/suggestions are appreciated.


BTW, Erik was completely right about the library being exceptionally powerful - too powerful even - since I used the book scores from the old library for both quality and level which would put the Co book of 20 even outside of the permissible range.

I think I will try to convert our old starting covenant to 5th edition rules, too and see what I get.

Under the old rules we created a "sponsored spring covenant" for 13 negative and 11 positive points (normally a spring covenant would have been -13/+9).

Location: Hilly country for 0 points
Magic Aura: +4 for +3 points
Size: No structures (-7) but since we had people to help and materials to set up the average buildings (0) we put it at the same values as "limited" for -3 points
Defensibility: No defenses for -4 points
Integrity: Not appropriate since no buildings are there at the moment
Magi: Not appropriate since there are no NPC mages
Grogs: Organized, Loyal with average training for 0 points
Covenfolk: Functional = 1 physician for 0 points
Contacts: Normal contacts for 0 points
Hermetic Status: Questionable due to being "set up" by 4 covenants of the "turbulent" Roman Tribunal for -2 points
Mundance Relations: Little interaction for 0 points
Enemies: None of of yet for 0 points
Friends and allies: Except help with the setup there are no friends since essentially each of the other covenants has a slight distrust for the jointely set up covenant => 0 points
Reputation: Neutral for 0 points
Arcane Library: Excellent (3 arts at die+10, rest at die+5) since the founding covenants want their "vis farm" to succeed for +3 points
Magical Labs: Standard for 0 points
Magical Artifacts: None for 0 points
Protected Vis: Plentiful supply (30 vis/year) for +3 points
Contested Vis: Minor supply (20 vis/year) for +1 points
Aegis of the Hearth: None for -2 points
Mundane Library: Modest (3 knowledges with a score of a 1-5) for 0 points
Equipment: Standard for 0 points
Source of Income: Wealthy (a silver node was found close to the covenant, but a mine will have to be set up in order to exploit it) for +1 points
Mounts: No mounts for 0 points
Time Obligation: None for 0 points
Vis Obligation: 20/year (the reason why setting up the covenant was sponsored by others - normally this would be reduced by vis used for protective enchantments, in our case we had to pay those 20 and use our "own" vis for enchantments) for -2 points

Now I will have to take a closer look how to best convert this to 5th edition rules.



just a quick question here concerning magi teaching/learning spells for the extremly detailed character generation I am currently trying to do:

Does the person which is taught the spell count as "help in the lab" for the purpose of determining the teachers lab total ? (possible)

And coming to think about it, does the teacher count as "help in the lab" for the students' lab totals ? (unlikely)


No to both - helping someone in the lab is a full-time activity that precludes others, such as studying or teaching.

How are these pretty much the same? Your totals (if you use the method on page 32, which isn't reflective of all situations) should be around 2400+300 for everything combined (spells, abilities and arts).