Firstish timer advice

I was directed here from a different gaming forum so i hope you guys can help me out.

I'm about to start running my second ArM5 game with a group that i've done other games with several times. My first group failed because they were more of a kick-in-the-door type group and they generally lost interest for several reasons.

So i have a few questions.
-How do folks usually get a party togeather in ArM5?
-What do are PC's usually allowed to start the game with item wise?
-Is there any way to balance starting characters without all of them starting at the same age?
-What kind of storys work well with the system?
-Do people just use the book rules when they are building starting covenants?
-What are common house rules people use?
-What other advice should i be looking for?

I was planning on having my players be part of a late spring covenant in a regio caused my a magical disaster. If that helps/changes any thing

Couple of casks of ale, some good bread... sorry, couldn't resist. In my experience, an Ars Magica group doesn't have one "party" in the D&D sense. Instead, you've got a group of magi, companions and grogs. What I have seen is that when a particular "adventure" comes up the magus and companions most interested in or suited to the adventure, plus however many grogs are needed, go off and deal with it.

In terms of mudane gear, whatever is reasonable for a the characters social status and role. A knight companion might have full mail, a longsword, lance, shield and a horse while a priest might have only his vestments and a knife.

On the one hand, even character's of the same age aren't necessarily "balanced." A Flambeau war-mage can be very different from a Bonisagus lab rat made with the same experience, and either can be devistating in their chosen specialty. Generally, I go with the suggestion that magi have the same amount of time after apprenticeship, but otherwise let character concept rule.

In my experience, short (one or two session) "adventures" divided by one or two seasons of lab work/study has worked well. My sagas have usually involved long term schemes and plots that span years, even generations.

Lots of questions. I'll try. My opinion may be rubbish though.

Q: How do folks usually get a party togeather in ArM5?
A: I assume you mean in game (I can't answer the RL aspect for you). Magi are most often linked by their covenant - the place they live and study together.

Q: What do are PC's usually allowed to start the game with item wise?
A: Normally: Those they created or traded for. Since creating items is fun in downtime between short stories, I wouldn't let them start fully equipped (you can set a level limit of no more than 50 total, or an item limit at lvl 30 - if those numbers help you - I made them up on the spot)
Q: Is there any way to balance starting characters without all of them starting at the same age?
A: You can have magi and non-magi. For magi: Years after apprenticeship are more rewarding than years before apprenticeship. Often, the limit for starting characters is not age, but years after gauntlet - also called "years pg")
Q: What kind of storys work well with the system?
A: For a beginner, start with a fully developed covenant ruled by one or three despotic old magi that send the characters on missions (the reward is being allowed to use the covenant's resources). There have been free starting adventures for fourth edition (downloadable on the Atlas games website, if I remember correctly). Throw something at them that endangers the covenant, it's silver or vis income or its inhabitants (a monster, a rival covenant, a demon, a new mundane Lord, a new church etc). Once your game is going well, you can let your characters found a new covenant or restructure the old one - but that is too complex for beginners. If you want intrigues, start with mundane ones - it is hard for beginning players to understand how exactly things are done in the Order of Hermes.
Q: Do people just use the book rules when they are building starting covenants?
A: No, they aren't. You need the rules to deal with the complex and rewarding magic system, to advance characters etc.
Q What are common house rules people use?
A: The most common deviation is changing the ward rules (do wards have to penetrate? The question has filled pages on this forum), and the pink dot rule: Is a sword with pink dots blocked by Parma Magica. In general, the rules are well thought through and quite playable as they are.
Q: What other advice should i be looking for?
A: Carefully read your players' character sheets. Feel free to ask when a specific probelm arises.

Ok, i was probably going to da a sort of smart parma thing when dealing with the pink dot issue.

when do people usually draw the line for those types of parma exceptions? The group i'm working with would totally try yht pink dot trick so i kinda need to solve the issue.

They dont. But people group up usually by being part of the same covenant. Also remember that its quite possible, perhaps even preferable sometimes to let people run more than one character, a wizard, a companion and a grog or 2 and then a handful of grogs and maybe a companion or two anyone can run means all players can always take part in any story.

Any common item that isnt too expensive for the character status. A poor character wont start with anything rated as "expensive", while a character that is wealthy, or belongs to a wealthy covenant might own or have access to just about anything non-unique.
You CAN run Ars Magica like a regular "dungeon crawl" game, but its not really made for it. Aside from magic items or unique items, just about anything can be ok.

No. The best you can do is to keep an eye on players when making characters, preferably helping out as well.
Always remind players that in AM, any magi tends to be powerful, so powerplaying and going munchkin is easy but also not at all needed.

Complex and far reaching stuff is often the best, stories where things are so interconnected that players cant simply go around "fireballing" everything that dislikes them or they dislike(because most AM magi can do this one way or another even if they´re weak compared to most other magi).


Too many too even begin listing. There´s lots of them mentioned in threads on this forum.
And its very different from one group to the next.
The one thing you probably want to decide on is how to handle Parma Magica and Wards.

Well it sounds like a very nice starting point.

How do i get players out of that dungeon crawly type of mind set from D&D and into a more Ars appropriate one?

By that i mean. Get them detached from playing their magus or companion all the time and get them attached to what? the covenant? My last group i tried Ars with would have been happier playing MtA

Two thoughts:

  1. If they want to play just their characters, why don't you let them (it's a free world - some optimists claim)
  2. If you want to play ArM5 troupe-style...
  • You may want to stress the importance of companions, and play up the negative effects of the Gift on people (or do not ignore them, at least). Reduce the number of monsters and increase the number of dangerous bishops/priests/noblemen, mercenries etc; roll social skills at least occasionally. Allow the magi to do labwork while the companions deal with these threats.
  • To stress the importance of the covenant, increase the number of labwork seasons. The shorter your stories, the more labwork is possible. Use "The villain returns after 5 years - and he's better than ever" kind of stories. At the same time, restrict available choices for gaining xp ("Sorry, you can't increase your parma, there is no book on it in the library"), and be unfair when handing them out ("His book is quality 12, yours is quality 9. But you could read the book on Animal next season"). Give your players only basic labs (-3 to everything, it takes one season to improve them to normal). Use the book covenants so players can personalize their labs. Allow them to create an item each in their labs (maybe even before your story begins), but then tell them that vis sources are running low. Do not hand out free longevity rituals when your characters turn 35: One character will be the best potion maker - he can demand seasons of labwork from the others for compensation.
    When the characters complete a mission for a pwerful archmagus, give them a choice of reward (better grogs, a good Aquam summa, or a better Aegis).
    If you started with a perfect covenant, let the bad guys attack and burn many of the resources.
    To sum it up: It is in the players' interest to have a wealthy and powerful covenant, because it is a place where character advancement is so much easier. Reward service to the covenant, punish negligence ("your grogs only wear leather armor - that's all you can afford").

I find that what ArsM really excels at is lab work and seasonal activities. You might try focusing on that. Encourage the players to have long term research/development goals for their characters... goals that will require years of study and labor to achieve. Things like inventing a powerful magical spell, or becoming an arch-magus of a certain art, or making a certain magic item.

You can also point out to them that, unlike D&D, advancement and rewards don't come from adventuring. Make sure that they can gain more exp from study and more powerful magic items from lab work than they can from fighting ogres and slaying lesser dragons. Not that fighting ogres or slaying dragons should be fruitless activities, but they should help provide rewards that help with seasonal activities (like the vis they need for a certain long term project).

I agree with this. Try to make sure thay all have some clear idea of what their magi wants and how he is going to do it. And present situations and stories where taking action furthers this goal. For one of them, and have the rest play companions ang grogs. And switch next week.