Early Childhood & experience points per year

Just picked up Ars5 a couple weeks ago and I'm preparing to introduce it to my players. Looks like a fantastic game, but I want to be careful not to spook my players with the complexity and sheer scope of the rules. One thing that has struck me as both suspect simulation-wise and awkward mechanically is the Early Childhood and Later Life experience point allocations.

First off, setting up a separate experience package for the first five years of life seems wonky. I understand children in the middle ages probably matured quicker than those today, but to have distinct and notable skills for brawling, guile, etc. at the age of five seems a bit much. I think age 10 would be more appropriate.

Furthermore, age 10 works well for creating magi characters, as that's the age when they typically become apprentices. Defining early childhood as the first 10 years of life instead of five would mean players making magi could simply pick a sample childhood, and then move on to spending the 240 apprenticeship experience points. Using the rules as written and choosing a sample childhood, then spending 75 points for the next five years of life to age 10, then spending the 240 experience points for apprenticeship strikes me as overly fiddly.

I realize my proposed change to character generation would shortchange player characters of 75 experience points for that lost five years. I could compensate by having non-mage characters gain 20 experience points per year after age 10 instead of 15, and by adding 75 experience points to magi characters' 240 apprenticeship points. Still kind of awkward though. Alternatively, I could just upgrade the sample childhood values by 75 points each.

I normally don't dig into numbers this much in a game, but this step of Ars character generation struck me as a likely rough spot for my crunch-averse players. Any thoughts?

I think this is ment to round a PC out, showing some of what they did before they were wisked off to the pains and pleasure of Apprenticehood.

I know it has served my group well (not that they all liked it).

PC: I want to find a likely place to stay for the night.

SG: Ok, roll your London Knowledge.

PC: Oh, there's no way I have....hey wait! I have a 2 in it....oh right! I was born here!

Other PC: Hey, that's right, so was I! (to 3rd PC) Where were you born?

3rd PC: Um.....+2 to Creo?

If you're worried about advancing by year being too number heavy, just set the experience points for the characters at a fixed amount and let them spend them however they want. That's the old school way to do it.

Of course, if you're serious about Ars Magica, you should get the AlterEgo software for character generation. It's very handy and will pay for itself many times over in NPC generation alone.

Welcome aboard.

What the other two guys said.

And a warm welcome too.

It's not too complicated. We also just set everyone at a childhood, 75 exp to use before apprenticeship and then their apprenticeship. It is not too much calculation, but in the end it comes down to what your troupe will like the most.

You could also just lump all the experience together but add something along the line of Hermetic Magi Recommended Minimum Abilities on page 32.

Native Language 5
(Native Area) Lore 2
Charm, Folk Ken or Guile 2
One other Skill learned in Childhood 2

Or simply don't add the points and just give them those scores.

Or just let them bypass their childhood as a worthless forgotten time of their life, what ever works best for your troupe.

I've decided on the following:

Magi: Default character age 25. Choose Sample Childhood. Spend 200 xp on Abilities and 120 on Arts.

Companions: Default character age 25. Choose Sample Childhood. Spend 300 xp on Abilities.

Thanks for the input.

As i understand this , choosing a sample childhood covers the first 05 years.
You get 15xp per year for each year after childhood. (page 31)
For Companions this may be modified by the Wealthy Virtue or the Poor Flaw.
Magi get 240xp & 120 levels of spells for their 15 years of Apprenticeship. (page 32)

This shorts Companions by 75xp and Magi by 115xp.
(only by the suggested character generation guidelines)
As you are not playing DnD , and no Levels are involved this is not really crucial.

You may find those extra xp points are helpful for players to round out their characters with an extra skill (Score of 05 is 75xp)

According to the suggested character generation guidelines, Magi can take a Sample Childhood ability package, earn 15/year for 5 years before apprenticeship for 75 xp, then receive a total of 240 xp for apprenticeship, with a recommended 120/120 split between abilities and arts. By my math, that's Childhood package + 75 + 120 = 195. I'm actually giving Magi characters an extra 5 xp for abilities just to make it a nice round number.

For Companions, ages 6 to 25 is 20 years inclusive. So that's 15x20 = 300.

Ars Magic is by far the most complex game I've ever tried to introduce my players to. If it seems overwhelming, they'll either just sit back and let me do all the mechanical work in the game, or balk altogether and simply not play.

I'm trying to find the best way to introduce Ars to players who are generally averse to both crunch and to reading rules books. It may end up being a quixotic task, but the game looks so cool that I have to give a try.

What I did with three brand new players at the start of my last game (as a contrast to the spoon feeding approach I had taken in the past) was to push the brand new players through severl years of character advancement (in my case 20) for their magi to teach them the game. It was tough and they weren't completely happy with the process. But now they love the characters that they worked so hard on and they understand the rules.

If I were to do it again I would do six or seven years rather than 20. It has been my expereience that the more the players know the rules the more they like the game. (Of course this may be the result of people who don't like the game not learning the rules.)

I think that people are able to handle more rule sthan they think they can. I played lots of very rules-y wargames when I was in my early teens (squad leader, third reich, flat top, star fleet battles, etcetera) and so did the other kids I played against. We couldn't have all been geniouses. If (big if) you can get your players to expend the effort they'll pick it up fine.

I did something quite the opposite - with a mixed success. When we started the present saga the players all made characters as more or less fresh apprentices (varying from all new to a few years in). As apprenticed I ran their seasons - or rather their respective masters did. They are all five seasoned roleplayers, as well as strategic games, but they haven't all rally embraced taking over the seasons after they passed their gauntlets a few years ago. I fear it might be a bit or laziness or lack in interest as they have gotten accostumed to me doing it for them. In this light I'd envy Erik's success with kick starting the 'sesaonal crunch' - on the other hand I have to say that the approach we have used gave many other advantages in terms of being eased into the saga, setting and rules.

I agree - also on the second if-part. :smiley:

I really hate this rule, for the same reasons you've identified above. You're not the first newcomer I've heard who was rather put off by it, either.

I hope you and your group can look past that, ah, little quirk and have fun exploring the game.