Do Story flaws yeild too many plot threads?

Cuchulainshound said something interesting in the [LoM] Agents for starting characters? thread and I wanted to see how other folks felt about this...

One of the concepts I personally love about 5th edition is the idea of Story Flaws, Personality Flaws and Covenant Hooks as a way of defining the kind of saga a group wants to play and the kind of adventures individual players want their characters involved in. However, I have yet to run a 5th ed game with more then three active players... so I havn't had much trouble weaving them together into a managable number of storylines.

I wondered if other folks felt like Cuchulainshound... do you find Story flaws or Hooks getting marginalized, ignored or overwhelming the "main plot"? Do you even have a "main plot" that isn't woven from the threads of various story flaws and covenant hooks?

Me too. I particularly like that (if you follow the Story Flaws etc) it means that the story is actually about the player characters rather than being a story about NPCs which the player characters just stumble upon --- which is otherwise how many stories seem to turn out.

The way that our troupe plays is that we tend to have several "main plots" which are basically "what various NPCs are doing". The "main plots" sometimes impinge on the player characters, and the player characters either interfere in what the NPCs are doing or cheerfully ignore it, depending on the circumstances. Mostly, the player characters are occupied by their own "plots"; which arise from their story flaws etc.

It is also important to recognise that Story Flaws, Personality Flaws and Covenant Hooks, etc, represent opportunities for stories. It's not compulsory to actually tell stories about each and every one, nor is it compulsory to give equal time/significance to each and every one.

I don't see a problem with it: Ars Magica is one of the few games that can actually feel more like "The Lifetimes of X" instead of "The Amazing Journey to the Fiery Mountains of Doom" which is the more common story style. Having the kind of timeline and indeed play style that Ars offers, means that even if a SG brings up the flaw in question only once a Tribunal, it'll still see significant amount of play in any longstanding game, at least significant when you consider it an issue for a minor character to which you are connected.

A game which I am participating in, has been running for a good many years now (I'm one of the more recent additions), and the story is as much about the minutiae of the Magi's lives, as it is going on grand adventures and slaying dragons. Overall, it's a matter of your games story style.

First, the context for my quote was responding to the suggestion that the best way to build "Agents", which are (at best) tertiary NPC's, was to give them additional Story and Personality Flaws. A single Character can have many, many agents - inviting far more Story/Personality additions to the storyline than the core Player Characters invite.

I'm all up for 2-3/Character - but not that plus a few dozen more for NPC's (much less a few dozen more per PC!)

Yes and no - but more "no". True at face value, but it's also true that the Core Rules state "if a Story or Personality Flaw will not enhance stories, the character should not be allowed to take it" (p 36, col i, par 4). So, long before the issue of "compulsory" arises, the issue of "desirablity" should be considered, and if that Flaw will not be used, if it's not attractive to the SG, then it should not be allowed in the first place.

Or, to put it in the same terms stated for General flaws - if a Flaw is not going to hinder the Character, it's not a Flaw.

(The same is true for Covenant Hooks - I've seen some that are immediately ignored and forgotten in favor of some other tangent. Goes against the spirit of the rules, if not the letter.)

And, to address the OP, yes - I've both run and been in both table-top and on-line games with a half-dozen active Players, which is a dozen Characters, or a max of 12 Story Flaws plus 12-24 Personality Flaws - and that's far too many to work into the saga on any regular basis. Feeling the hindrance (or "enhancing the story") only once/game is hardly adequate (in my opinion) to validate some (Major) Flaws, and I will simply ban some types in favor of a direction I see already taking shape for the storyline.

Agreed with CHound here. Totally.

If you have just 3 players, each with 1 magus and one companion, and each character with 2 such flaws (one story, one personnality), assuming that, on average, a flaw triggers a story once per session (some will intertwine, some will take longer to play out), it means that a given flaw will come into play once every 12 sessions. Probably less, since there'll be Hooks, Main Plots, non-flaw related stories... That's once per year, if you play each month.

I'd add that thing that, despite multiple explanations, doesn't seem to be understood by everyone, at least on these boards, which I find quite puzzling since you so often see people talk about "story first": You don't need to take an appropriate personnality flaw to have a given personnality trait.
Taking the flaw means that you want it to be an important part of your character, something that'll cause him trouble and bring him into stories. You don't need, for exemple, to take the Pagan flaw to be a pagan (and take the pagan personnality trait). Taking it, OTOH, means that you want to be vocal and get into trouble because of it. Similarly, you don't need True Love for your character to be happily married, or Dedicated for him to have a goal.

(copy-paste from the other thread)

Well, I am honored to have a personal apothecary. :laughing: I will call him Lucius the apothecary, then :wink:

I suppose that we can consider Lucius as having a dependent that is basically a chicken: she gets kidnapped and will have her throat cut and his entrails gutted by supper time unless the PC do something to prevent it. Dependents from the PC are both more important and do have spotlight time. I would not invest storytelling time in fleshing her out much.

The criticism that it can detract from the spotlight time is really good though. It happens a lot IMS. For the new saga I plan to suggest that these are incorporated into the COVENANT description as COVENANT hooks and boons. This way we will forget less about them, and there should be less of them than one per character. Otherwise we end up passing over a lot of the story flaws, and a few of those drive the story in directions that we sometimes do not enjoy as much as other plot lines. (Plotline-rich characters are interesting, but a (story) rich covenant is better for the collective generation of stories.

In our recent saga we had a loooooooooooooong series of side adventures because a companion was trying to regain his inheritance, when halfway through the saga not even the player that originally designed the character cared much about it. It detracted from the main plot in the saga so much that I ended up skipping the war against davnalleus because we did not have time for it. The war was supposed to be the central story arc of the saga, even if the red herring of surviving in the Isle of Mann in the middle of a really messy situation became the main story arc. This is good and bad at the same time. The story evolved with a life of her own but well, it was not my original plan for the saga. Even if I introduced some elements of the war into other stories they never blossomed (my fault here, I guess) and ended up being just random people doing weird things, not agents of davnalleus undercover preparing his return.


This raising a couple of interesting points.

First, as I understand it, only Major Personality flaws act as story hooks. Minors just impact roleplaying.

Second, the inset Personality and Story Flaws on page 23 suggests that it is expected that each character's Personality and Story flaws will only come into effect in 1 story in 20... or in the case of your example, 1 story in 24. That same inset supports you 100%, saying that if the campaign is short, or contains multi-session stories (or by logical extension is only played infrequently) the storyguide should limit these flaws accordingly to make sure they they all have a chance to come into play. Still, that inset was quite an eye opener for me when I first read it. It means that I don't need to incorporate a Story and/or Personality flaw from each character into every adventure. Instead, I could build an entire adventure around a single Story or Personlity flaw for a single character... though personally, I do tend to try to weave them together as much as possible to give all the involved major characters a reason to be involved.

Of course, with only three players, this is easy for me and I see and agree entirely with your point.

The only 5th edition game I've run is the Bibracte game I'm currently running here on Atlas's site. That being said, take all with a grain of salt.

I think it is incumbent upon SG's to take a character's Story Flaws and weave them into the overarching story, if there is one. This is not an easy task, by any means. It is probably even harder to do in face-to-face games than play by post, or at least my style of play by post[1]. I'm pretty lenient about story flaws, to me they are the player's way of telling me this is how they prefer to interact in this saga. It's up to me to make it work and integrate their flaw into the saga. There might be some flaws that I can't, but they'd have to be pretty out there. Sagas are a cooperative work, or at least that's how I approach it. If a player has a concept, I'm going to generally try and make it work, it makes for a better experience for everyone. There are times that integration will be less successful or a Story flaw isn't fully utilized, but all-in-all I don't consider it a huge big deal.

[1] Year is broken up into seasons, each magus character (so far only magi) gets a story, either running the day-to-day business of the covenant, or I'll pick up the dangling thread of a story flaw. Things all run concurrently in real time. So, in some ways, it is like multiple mini-sagas. I picked this method to minimize the impact of a slow-paced player on a fast-paced player.

I agree with most everyone's points above. In fact, it doesn't seem like anyone really disagrees :stuck_out_tongue: The below quote is one of my main attractions to Ars Magica:

The knowledge that it will pop up in 1/24 sessions or stories is also significant. But it's also something the player is telling you is interesting to them and provides Hooks for the SG. As mentioned in the other thread, I love games that reward and encourage personal stories. My goal is the story where players affect and are affected by events but not compulsory "here is map to treasure" stories. I love campaigns where the timeline is in place for general events and the players can choose to get involved or not, and the timeline may affect them regardless.

This sounds exactly what I hope to accomplish. Will it happen? Who knows... the great plans of GMs and all that. :slight_smile: But I think Story Flaws contribute to that feel and type of story. It also helps the player envision and RP their character since they have an inkling of a background and the origins for it.

No. The simple truth is, Story Flaws will never take more or less time or "room" than the SG(s) wants it to.
The basic rule is always dont be too strict! If flaws take up too much attention, then move their solutions to offstage or backstage or better, dont overexpose them in the first place.
And if flaws end up too far in the background but you still dont want them taking over too much (or be part of other storylines), you can let them into the main story in a shape that allows them to be handled by quick decisions, expenses or short confrontations instead of actual stories.

For some flaws there´s also the option of using them as quirks or letting the player roleplay the flaw even if it never really affects the story itself.

Personally i tend most towards making a bunch of personal story flaws parts of the whole, a central issue, a sideshow or something minor just touching the edge(just make sure not to do this with ALL(or too many or too evenly) characters story flaws, that just looks VERY strange)...

The important part isn´t that all story flaws has to get their own little story this or that long, the important part is that they affect the character they´re part of. A character with "Enemy" might be on the paranoid side and "shoot first asking questions of anything that survivess" which might cause lots of issues or simply never anything more than "ooops", but it´s still there affecting the character.
As long as a player isn´t using story flaws to go munchkin, the SG can be extremely loose without causing any problems or changing focus too much either direction.

Once you go beyond 5-6 players, weaving them together like that tends to get hard unless you´re really talented so i would suggest you mix weaving together some, let some pop up as "random events" that doesn´t need any real gametime to resolve and let some stay more passive, indirectly affecting from the background...
We´ve had a lot more players at most, and haven´t used the story flaw limits, and basically as long as you dont try to be strict about it, for example not trying to make the value of the flaws determine how much time/attention each characters "personal stories" should need(a major flaw might be more problematic or more dangerous or more "something", but it might still be solved with a single word or spell), and mixup how they´re applied, it tends to run fine.

Oh yeah, that is indeed one of the things that really sets it apart from many other games.

That is a perfect example of being too strict about it. You can´t run the character flaws as if they were a timeshare resort apartment. That hurts the game badly.

I´ve always favored the idea of using more extreme numbers on the Traits when it´s based on a flaw. So with a normal +-3, with a minor flaw you make it a +-4, with a major you make it a +-5 or 6.

A perfect example of when something should be handled offstage and only get a mention of "character did this or that because of such and such", or even simply have the character drop it completely, or possibly replace it by another flaw, like maybe get depressed over giving up on the inheritance.

Or, how they want the background of their characters to be. Sometimes flaws can be more character history than character story, and this can also work very well if the player handles it well.