House Rule I should have thought of before

One of the roots (but not the only root) to many arguments about the reasonableness of straight-from-gauntlet magi and their power levels has been in what specialists in an art should reasonably start with. A single starting art of 20 is a not-uncommon quoted value for a specialist.

Something that somehow eluded me until just now is the fact that the RAW puts (somewhat arbitrary) limits on abilities based on character age at play start: max 5 through age 30, 6 through 355, 7 through 40, 8 through 45, and so on.

It's not much of a logical jump to extend this limit on abilities at character start to arts, as well. If we use the abilityx3 rule, we'd get limits of 15/18/21/24 through age 45; if we do a direct experience point conversion, those limits become 11/14/16/18. (If you round in favor of arts in the spots where ability and art exp don't match up, that becomes 12/14/17/19/21.)

I admit that I've always found this cap in RAW somewhat arbitrary, if well-intentioned. Interestingly, players seem to comfortably internalize reasonable limits on abilities... I don't think I've ever had one come to me and ask for their 25-year-old magi to have a MT above 5. However, I've definitely had players want 25-year-old magi with arts at 15, a couple even with two different arts at those levels.

In any case, if one is running a saga where they find starting magi with really high art scores problematic, this seems like a reasonable extension of the RAW to keep those art scores down.

It is arbitrary to decide what a limit should be, but not to suggest that some reasonable limit should exist. This is similar to the recent "Specialist Study Total" discussion - what is possible vs. what is realistic, how hard a game formula can be pushed vs. what makes a good story.

It's not impossible (via game mechanics) for a starting character to have one absurdly high starting Art* at the sacrifice of all else (putting all +10 Virtues toward that one, etc.) - it's just not necessarily something the game wants to encourage, to the extent of taking steps to actively discourage it (without outright prohibiting it).

(* Without running the math, I'd guess in the 30-35 range, maybe more. 2 Arts at 20+ each would be easy.)

So... see page 32, col iii, 1st full paragraph. They're way ahead of you. :wink:

In fact, the same limits are in place for Hermetic Arts.

"A sensible maximum for a magus' Arts is 10 plus one for every four years since apprenticeship. Thus, a magus who is 20 years out of apprenticeship could have a highest Art of 15, while a magus 120 years out of apprenticeship might have a highest Art of 40." - Ars Magica core rules, page 32.

Well that explains it then. I've yet to meet a sensible player. 8)

That´s always been a VERY crazy definition of "sensible". The simple truth is that it´s far too easy to get higher on the low end, and it would utterly preclude starting with highly specialised magi, as such will often have their main art in the 15-25 range or a Te and Fo each in the 10-20 range.

Only because you have chosen to define a "highly specialized" magus as a young magus with a main art in the 15-25 range. If you define a highly specialized magus as one who has just passed his Gauntlet with a highest Art of 10 (virtues notwithstanding), then this is a very reasonable definition. :slight_smile:

I am reminded of a conversation I had once with a new group of players for a d20 game (yes, the horror, a d20 game... get over it). They were very upset that the rules I was using didn't allow them to start with multiple ability scores in the 16-18 range and felt that they're characters were "under powered" because they couldn't. Having players for a long time in games where 15 was the highest reasonable starting ability score, I looked at them like they were crazy. It's really just a matter of adjusting to the expectations of a game.

One campaign styles ordinary is anothers extraordinary.

at gauntlet = 10 = 55 xp
40 years past gauntlet = 20 = 210 xp : (210 - 55)/40 = 5 xp per year
80 years past gauntlet = 30 = 465 xp : (465 - 210)/40 = 6 xp per year

Summae should give you 10-12 xp per season, Vis 8-9ish, not to mention your lab work. I feel that 10 xp per year would be a sensible maximum.

No, i havent chosen to define anything. That is roughly how specialised characters have tended to end up on creation.
A single highest Art of 10 isnt very specialised at all. Even if you start out right from apprenticeship, that´s still a minimum of 240XP to play with for the magic skills, and most tend to add at least a few years beyond that as well on their characters preplay age.
A specialist with 15 in one Art, that´s still just half the XP from apprenticeship, that´s far from going extreme.
And extreme doesnt make for a "good" character either, but some like it because it fits the character concept.
Even if you´re a "balance freak", if someone wants to start with one Art at 25 and just about all others below 5, that just isnt a problem.

If you set an artificial limit, well of course it becomes "a very reasonable definition" because you´re forcing it to be such. And it´s a really really awful circular argument.

Multiple 16-18? That´s not really "expectations", that´s when you´ve walzed merrily into munchkin land... :mrgreen:
And for all its flaws, D20 3E is a fairly nice basic game setup. With some modifications, like getting rid of the horrible HP scaling(instead starting out with a serious amount and just gaining a little per level) and adjusting the levels to simulate something at least slightly realistic, it makes for a very flexible and useful system that can be modified to fit a lot of play styles and game worlds fairly well.

Yeah, and much nicer. With that, your limit for an Art after apprenticeship would be 150XP, enough for score 16 or with an Affinity 20 in an Art.
And really, if a character wants to specialise, spending ONE season per year trying to get a high XP source for the Art of choice, that isnt unrealistic at all i think.

Mmm, 10XP per year in a specialised Art, with an Affinity that means reaching a Score of 50 in 85 years. :mrgreen:

Because your sagas have chosen to allow it. Do you allow them to pump the same 120xp into MT such that they can start with a MT of 6? Or perhaps a little more ambitious a specialist who pumps 140XP to start with a MT of 7, before affinities or Pussiant? These are all choices that go against the limits recommended by the RAW.

IYS. IMS, they've pretty much always played magi straight from Gauntlet, and the magi who dump half their apprentice points into a single art are pretty extreme.

So long as the character concept includes either impressive books in the library in their apprentice covenant, or a parens that was a master in whatever art they're now specialized in, or a covenant that was willing to hand apprentices pawns of vis to study with, etc, etc. Which informs the universe your saga runs in... is that how all covenants work, or just the one this specialized magus comes from? Do most covenants have high book-to-magi ratios?

Um... one Art at 25 is 325xp, or 200-odd with an affinity. 4 in the other 14 arts would be another 56. I'm not sure how you're getting 240 apprentice XP to make that work. Affinity + Pussiant, perhaps, and the Magus learned MT, Parma, Code, OoH Lore, AL, and Latin before they were apprenticed? That would be an interesting, character concept, I suppose, as it would again inform a lot about how this parens, at least, wanted to train an apprentice specifically toward this art, such that he kept the apprentice sequestered in training before officially opening his arts so that almost every season of said apprentice's 15 years could be focused toward this one art.

240XP is an artificial limit, is it not? Seems just as artificial as putting caps on abilities and arts at character creation. Certainly apprentices that are created in-saga by the players tend to end up with more XP than that, right? So why do you have a problem with one artificial limit but not the other? (Don't even get me started on the arbitraryness of apprentices learning exactly 120 levels of spells...)

Why not? Please, why dont you explain exactly how specialising like that would be in ANY way or form, a problem?

But originally, noone had even noticed those limits, and later on we were already running under house rules anyway, and the completely unified vote of ALL players was that a) the limits just felt fake and unrealistic b)even by the book they were recommendations not hard limits c)everyone was already used to making concept characters as far as possible and for that, those limits killed off LOTS of fun characters.

So what? It´s much cheaper in XP to raise many Arts slightly, than raising one a lot so the result of generalising is that all characters look more alike. Booooring.
Some players run with extreme characters, others dont, never in a game have i seen that being a problem. Rather, many times it has been a good way of further separating characters from each other and making them more personal.

Playing straight from gauntlet often feels a bit problematic as then you start out just about instantly after your character have become "their own" and unless you want to play out setting up their own place from beginning to end, that gets a bit tedious after the 2nd time. Also it feels rather "author fiat" that suddenly all these people "graduate" almost all together. My preference is to set up so that characters have a bit of spread both in age and hermetic age, having gauntlet maybe 1-5 years behind them at game start...

Ehm, what kind of silly question is that? Those who wanted to go extreme got exactly the same XP as those who didnt. Getting XP for a low score is easy, it´s when an Art start going above 20 (because up until that you can have decent Summae available) that you have to spend a bit of effort to keep advancing at a good rate.
You dont need "high book-to-magi ratios" to get extremeists, you can actually get away with much WORSE ratios for extremeists because their focus on few subjects means you need fewer books.
Someone who is highly specialised from start either came from somewhere that DID have a good book on the subject that they could study, or DID have a master good in the subject. To create a good generalist, you need at least 15 books, and that´s just to cover the Arts, for a specialist, all it takes is ONE.

And i might add, the few times we´ve actually gamed out apprenticeships, under what is supposedly quite "normal" conditions, the resulting characters were immensely superior, both extreme ones and not.

Add a few years after gauntlet and the exact number of XP becomes rather moot.
Also didnt say "4" in the other arts, i said most others below 5, both 0 and 1 belong in that area. And i think you messed up XP with score there... :mrgreen:
Score 4 in 14 Arts would be more like 140XP, while there isnt any reason to put 4XP in an Art, when 3 gives the same score.

And of course, any real specialist simply must have at least Affinity, preferably both.

Please say you´re joking? The amount of XP you get is a simulation, not a limit! A way to avoid needing to play out everything from start to end.

And actually i´ve long since went over to running with an alternate amount of XP and any XP bonus Virtues always affect starting XP as well. More in line with what you get from playing out apprenticeship, somewhere in the middle between RAW and what you get from a decent gamed out background, to allow for the fact that characters gets good AND bad backgrounds. And added a few flaws that moves the XP back down around RAW(or rather reused those from my 2nd edition of the game).
And i´m (still...) working on a better way to handle starting spell levels.

I think I agree with Direwolf, here. These limits are (IMO) really only here to stop a player from accidentally, creating a character that is specialised in a way that is detrimental to his capability in other areas.

If you have a concept, know what you are doing, and are prepared for the fact that your character will suck outside his specialisation, it's no real problem.

My objection to it, insofar as I have one, is that I find it "unrealistic" in my sagas. For a character, even an extreme specialist, is have skills at those levels, they have to have learned them somehow. They have to have access to books or teachers who have that level of knowledge. In my saga, books of that level are rare if not outright impossible. Teachers of that level are, in my sagas, generally not of a mind to dedicate years to training young magi to be their equals. Essentially, all cases, having characters of that skill level presupposes a saga wherein such characters already exist. The entire "power level" is elevated.

I prefer sagas of a lower power level, one even below the guidelines presented in the core rules. I have no objection to other sagas prefering a higher power level. The core rules, by setting "starting characters" with rough maximums of 5 in Abilities and 10 in Arts, establish a "average" power level for Ars Magica.

Ultimately, I object to folks presenting their preferances for higher (or lower) powered games as "the right way to play," complete with supporting mathematical proofs. Any saga is free to adjust the games relative power level to suit their tastes, however the average is found within the rules.

I have played in both low and high powered sagas. Our current saga skyrocketed the power level (in practical terms we have an unlimited vis supply, like living on an hermetic oil field; we feel like the Emirs of Qatar). It has been great. A saga without mages we played years ago and where we had to deal as Hermetics as our opponents was great as well. My impression is that if ndkid thinks this is a cool limit for his saga, go ahead and implement it. It will be cool for sure :slight_smile:


So your position is that it's just as easy to get 240XP into one ability/art as it is to get 10XP in 24 abilities/arts? Given that, without a book that's higher level than you or a teacher than's higher level than you, you pretty much max out at 4XP/season working solo, I don't see how that makes sense.

You need a high book-to-magi ratio in a covenant for it to be the case that even the apprentices to be allowed to pull out the nifty Q10, L20 and read it for three years over the course of his apprenticeship to get from 0 to 15.

I thought you were usually on the side of low-quality tractatii being about as common as toilet paper, so I would think it'd stand to reason that a covenant could have a pile of books (that no reasonable magi would read) on a variety of topics that would be easy pickings for the apprentices. As opposed to the Massive Book of Power, which I would expect to be more hotly contested by people above them on the totem pole.

Thank you, Cptn. Munchkin.

And caps on abilities and arts are a simulation of the fact that apprentices generally don't get access to the best stuff in a covenant, that their selfish parens may be more interested in increasing their MT than teaching them an art, and that they spend most of their time assisting in a lab picking up odds and ends, rather than perusing the library, etc, etc. If you want to cherry pick one piece of the RAW and not another, that's your prerogative and it's not a bad thing, but that doesn't make it not cherry-picking.

Just to add fuel to the fire :slight_smile: I'd like to point out that:

  1. Limits to starting Arts are "softer" limits than limits to starting Abilities (check out the wording, noble's parma) -- as was correctly pointed out, they're more advice of the "if you do not know what you are doing, this is reasonable" type.

  2. All limits are assuming no specialities and no "puissancies". Those do raise the limits, it's explicit in the corebook (noble's parma again). While it's stated nowhere, I'd also assume that other experience granting Virtues like Strong Parens or Gild Trained (from GotF) would raise the limits by a similar amount.

  3. I do find the starting "limit" of 10 for Arts a bit lowish, too. Considering that spending roughly half your apprenticeship xps in Arts and half in abilities is recommended as a solid, balanced choice, I often see the following choices emerge "naturally" and slightly push beyond 10:
    -- 1 Art at 15 (and every other Art at 0). It's very natural to observe that 120 xp is exactly what buys you such a nice, well rounded number in an Art; and with Int+3 and Magic Theory 3(+1 specialty in your Art -- again, both very "natural" choices), it also gives you access to level 25 spells. Finally, it does make a lot of sense if your parens was a specialist in that Art (and wrote that vain L15Q10 Summa:) ).
    -- 1 Form + 2 Techniques or 1 Technique + 2 Forms at 12/6/6 (and every other Art at 0). This is ideal for many character concepts such as a shapeshifter (Mu/An/Co), a weather mage (Au/Cr/Re) or a necromancer (Re/Co/Me).

  4. I totally agree that the apprenticeship xp totals (just like the +30xp/year after apprenticeship) are somewhat artificial and definitely lowish. That's why we always generate our characters using the "very detailed" character creation method :slight_smile: choosing exactly what's done season by season. Once you have a little experience with the system, it rarely takes more than 1 hour, and it adds a lot of depth to the characters.
    The one disadvantage of this method is, obviously, that not all characters would end up with the same number of starting xps and spell levels. What we've found to work extremely well (let me stress again: EXTREMELY well) in practice is the following:
    a. After every player has created a tentative character, we look at the xps and spell levels, and find the average.
    b. If all characters are close to the average, everyone simply fiddles with the numbers and backstory a bit until they are all the same.
    c. If one or more characters are too far from the average, they must take a Virtue or Flaw like Strong or Weak Parens, Gild trained etc.; everyone then goes back to step a, without taking into consideration the extra or missing xps. E.g. if your character has Weak Parens, you should add back 30xps and 30spell levels "removed" by the Flaw when computing the average.

How do you determine source qualities during this process? Are all mentors and summae assumed to have flat qualities (i.e. all books are quality 10) for simplicity?


True, though that seems quirky, especially when it comes to Magic Theory... do we really think the texts on MT are worse than the texts on Creo?

An interesting statement in the RAW here is that in the Affinity with (Ability) section, it specifically notes it increases the skill limit by two; in the Affinity with (Art) section, it says "... you may exceed the normal recommended limits". For treating those limits as softer, that's a fairly hard phrasing, as it doesn't even include a "if you're using them".

Can you explain why you find this lowish, if you don't find limiting a starting character's MT to 5 lowish? I get the general sense from these conversations that it's mostly a matter of convention... since nobody has ever enforced the Art 10 max on recently gauntleted magi, convention is for a starting specialist to have an art of 15 and nils elsewhere, rather than an art of 10 and a MT one higher and a smattering of other arts. (If they're a form specialist, they actually do better with Fo 10 and Te at 5, XP-wise; if they're a Te specialist, it's slightly better to min-max. Affinity in the specialty makes min-max better in both cases, between 10 & 15, at least.)

We generate starting PCs via the rules, but once they take an apprentice, the way we tend to handle that apprentice as a character is, when s/he gauntlets, we compare their total XP to the baseline and make that character take "Skilled Parens" a number of times to make it equalize.

I don't know for such but I think part of this dicussion might be rooted in 4th edition. The old editions had not specific limits on Abilities or Arts. In fact, when it came to Arts, it offered the following guidelines (from an inset on page 60, Ars Magica core rules, 4th edition):

It's worth noting that 4th edition magi recieved 150 points to spend on Arts.

It seems to me that anyone coming out of those earlier days probably has this concept lurking the back of their minds. Even as a proponent of the 5th edition "Art 10 guideline", I know I'm still feeling the legacy of this chart.

Arguably, yes. Since summa for abilities are written the same way as summa for arts (score/2). Someone with an Ability of score of 20, to write that 10th level summa, has spent 1,050 xps raising his ability to 20. If those XPs had been spent in an Art, he'd have a score of ~45. Many more magi are more than likely to raise their art scores of their specialty Art than their magic theory score.

If summa are capped at 20th level (arbitrary, but common), that suggests a maximum Art of 40. Translate those XPs spent to attain an art to 40th leve (820xps), to xps for an ability and the ability is only 17, meaning that they could write a book at 8th level. The break even point for this is pretty early on, in fact as early as one can write a summa, 15 xps which translates into an Art of 5 and ability of 2. This suggests that Arts summa of higher level are much more common, or at least suggests a cap of 8th level on ability summa. And if I run across a book on Magic Theory of level 10 written by an author, I'm going to do whatever I can to get him to teach me (if he's still alive) as much as he can after I've devoured the book.

Affinities don't apply, because for every magus who has an affinity in Ability Magic Theory there are probably just as many who have it in their specialized Art, and it doesn't change the numbres above, just makes the book come out a bit earlier/faster for either writer.

Back on topic, though. So, all that being said, if one were to limit the Arts to a cap, I would limit it to the xp limits on abilities. So for example, a 30 yo just gauntleted Magus has cap of 6 on an ability, or 105 xp, which translates exactly to a score of 14 for an Art. So, yes, 10 is a bit low.

No, but MT takes 5 times as many XPs to increase..

An Art of 10 is 55 XPs.
MT of 5 is 75 XPs - almost 50% more.
Maybe that's why?

Still, I find that MT has more popularity for Puissant Ability and Affinities than... any other ability :slight_smile: