How do we prepare our community for newbies coming in because of Anno Magica?
One idea: Prepare a new saga intended solely for beginners?
Or more than one? I feel like we did one of these a while ago.
I mean individual GMs might choose to get ready to run games introducing new players to the game.
But what else…
Live play videos maybe?
I have run a campaign set in Cambridge, and am about to redo it with a new set of players. I have been toying with writing it up for other troupes to use, but I am not good at all with graphic design. Is there any way we can start to get a framework that we can slot fan made campaigns into, so that the newbies can readily see how the different campaigns compare?
So I have a lot of thoughts about this.
My first saga of ArM5 was a flop: I spend like 6 hours making a mage and learning the rules, only for it to end after the first session because the GM just didn't know what to do with the game ( we explored a bit, killed a demon and secured the location for the Covenant). It was a big investment, and while in this case the game was not so much to blame as the GM, it was a bit frustrating.
I was then in a three-ish year saga as a player, which was great and made me want to run. Which I did, for a year or so. But I felt absolutely unprepared at the beginning. The books have story seeds but not something that a fresh Storguide can just pick up and go "this is one of the basic Ars Magica adventures". That's what led me to post up my session notes in a way that I hope would be more accessible to a new Storyguide. I did 2 dungeon crawls because that is a stable of the TTRPGs and everyone involved has a good idea of what a dungeon crawl is. I also tried to write up different kinds of adventures: low stakes ones, talky ones... The Narva scenario aims to expose fresh players to all 4 realms and vis, without the need for a fight.
So actionable items:
- A guided accelerated chargen, especially for first time Magi-Players.
The project Redcap has a good one that I adapted for my players, but just going through the full virtue and flaw lists ion the main book is a big hurdle. I'd recommend something even simpler: pick one major hermetic virtue from a short list of the most easily applicable ones, a minor magic focus, puissant/affinity for the two main arts and a seventh point spend on something for flavour (like Warrior or a supernatural skill) balance that one major hermetic flaw and a major and minor personality/story flaw. One doesn't need to max out to 10, 6-7 are fine to get started.
Pre-stat up the base mage and leave less xp to spend on the non-essential skills (ie not: art libs 1, MT 3, Latin 4) and arts from apprenticeship onwards. Maybe even have 2-3 basic childhoods to chose from as in the apprentice book: a bookish (Bonisagus) covenant born one, a violent (Flambeau/Tytallus combat mage) one and a sociable (Jerbiton) one. While the game has a strong simulationist vibe which stays fresh by giving experienced players lots of options to try something new, I think that for new players cutting down the choices into more narrowed down with help flatten the learning curve. Similarly, some houses I would not recommend for new players: Criamon are quite weird and the Bjornaer animal form is more rules, an extra sheet for the animal form, the Tremere needs to do Certamen to get "their money's worth" with the minor focus which is a lot of crunch while at the same time not very interesting for the rest of the people just watching a slow dice-off... Essentially semi-pre-gen mages, not as finished as the ones in the core book, but maybe 75% of the way there.
In the same vein, the easy grog generation is "hidden away" in expansion books, which first time players and story tellers might not have despite needing this aid more than the experience players. I know that my grog-generation time has dropped massively in the process of doing my grog-a-day.
- A few written up adventures for the storyteller.
This helps by giving something to run and also have a few (3-5) gives an idea of what kind of stories can be told an how to approach things. Sub Rosa and the Hermetic portals do have some fully written up adventures that can be slotted into existing sagas. I was sent Sub Rosa nr 5, and The Bishop's Bird is a ready to run adventure. There is all the info needed: the NPCs, chronology, locations, events, stakes etc. I tried to do the same in my write ups. I really like the Curse of the Rhine Gorge as a Saga, but I simply didn't know what to do in the beginning besides have the characters meet in Durenmar and go scout places let's see where that goes.
Running a Tribunal or similar event was intimidating to me as a story teller, because there are a lot of NPCs, who are socially more important than the PCs and the point of the game is not for my friends to listen to me talking to myself in funny voices for ages. Advice on running one, avoiding that pitfall and making the players involved without breaking verisimilitude by having everything revolve around them. Having some kind of example Tribunal would be nice too, though I don't know if it needs to be in the 3-5 basic scenarios...
This makes sense to me, and would be a way to string together the starting scenarios.
A winter covenant trying to go back into Spring, with an old Maga given the young Magi missions and as the PCs do stuff for the covenant unlock old lost/locked away ressources, with the training wheels coming off as the old Maga goes into final twilight and the PC-Magi take charge. This is more "rail roaded" as the old Maga will be the mouth of the Storyteller pushed the players into a certain direction.
Your own fresh spring Covenant, more Rhine Gorge like: here are 3 possible locations (urban, remote,
or in between) for a Covenant, scout them out, meet local people, make friends and enemies based on the choices (faerie queen vs local Count?) and set up the Covenant, then go around the Tribunal doing either quests and/or paying bribes to other Covenants to set up shop, get your gifts and now you are standing on your own and have an idea of the world and what you can do.
Having spoken with my former ArM gaming group, another thing comes to mind: more stated up opponents in the core book. The 4 wolves are cool and any stated up grog could also be working for an antagonist, but a few (more) stated up combat faeries and demons would be nice. Might 50 NPCs make for big enemies, but probably less often used than say a FM 15 faerie fighter. Maybe a box on how to switch things easily from one realm to another, like some kind of template?
I am wary of focusing on a Tribunal for the first few games.
I've struggled with tribunal games, both as a player and as a GM. Somehow all of the relevant NPC information (their relevant goals and resources) and all of the information about what goes on and why and how both need to be communicated to the players before they can really engage. There was a set of articles way back in Mythic Perspectives (I think issues 1-5 or so) that helped, But i still think that it's hard.
But on a productive side, the thing that I believe hooks people on the game is designing their own spells and devices that fit their character and are attainable. The key development (or one of them) that makes someone a fan, is seeing the magic and lab rules as amazing tools that encourage and facilitate cool wizard stuff rather than a bunch of meaningless formulas that they're intimidated by. I'd want to prep some cool graphics showing how your brand new character can do amazing stuff.
I agree, it should not be a top priority, but considering the difficulty in getting it right, I think that no matter when it comes up, it would be nice to have some kind of template. And considering that by the normal game timeline the Tribunal of 1221 happens within a few seasons of the start of the game, I think that it would be a "nice-to-have".
The answer is, do as much as we can in the next 8 months! (I believe the countdown was 240 days when I signed up on backerkit yesterday)
Good scenarios that are straightforward for the SG to run are an obvious win, and will benefit everybody in the Ars community as something to run if your saga runs into a spot where you're short of things to run or someone in your troupe wants to try being a storyguide for once.
Perhaps the long desired "Jump start kit" of sample characters, scenarios and covenant would be perfect? I will post some thoughts later today.
Adventures for newbies is an obvious one I had not thought of. For me, the quintessential Ars adventure is a vis hunt—rumors of a potential vis source take the characters out of the covenant to a magical site, which they explore.
Imma write one of those!
So now I wonder, what are the other archetypal adventures for an ArM party.
I agree that a Vis hunt, with a Mage, a grog with a supernatural sense, a shield grog and a face grog is one of the basics. But what else?
A monster hunt? Rumours of a terrible beast have reached the Covenant, so they need to hunt it down, kill it, harvest the vis and get earn the gratitude of the local powers that be.
A more social adventure: there is a quarrel between the local town, noble and or church, each can offer something to the Covenant but aligning with one will make an enemy of the other(s). The gentle gifted mage needs to help come up with a diplomatic solution possibly using their Mentem tricks to minimise the fallout/get to the point. Various charters of the different power blocks lead to competing claim over a ressource, maybe one of them is forged?
The “explore the ruins of a former covenant” is also a classic Ars adventure, but it is usually longer than one session, depending on the size of the covenant and the player approach. But imagine, for example, a single Wizard’s Tower that was home to a small covenant of 1-3 magi. Maybe a few outbuildings. You’ve got a couple labs to explore, maybe a familiar that’s survived, hiding in the tower, local faeries or magic creatures that have moved in, or the demon someone unfortunately summoned.
Sounds like a great, contained, adventure to me!
I agree, thinking about it, I did write one of those...
Classic Ars adventures - and their classic archetype using Polti's Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations
Vis hunt - which is "Obtaining"
A monster threatens somewhere nearby - depending on power levels, Conflict of Inferior vs Superior or Conflict with a God
Something mysterious happens and the magi investigate using their magics - The Enigma.
This also covers the classic "A mysterious location is uncovered, and the magi investigate"
Something threatens the covenants vis/money/covenfolk - Falling prey to misfortune or Deliverance.
I like the "recon, back to the lab, solve" approach as it pushes your mindset toward cultivation rather than extermination. It's when you're juggling 5 issues that you have to make hard choices.
Ars adventures are distinguished by their “investigate the situation, return to the lab, and enchant something or invent a spell to solve the problem” structure, I totally agree. And this poses challenges, because that structure can drain away all the tension. When the magi return to the dragon’s lair with their sword of dragon slaying, how do we keep the story interesting?
But to your point I absolutely agree and Ars noobie adventures should absolutely include this structure. It’s how the game is played.
What about dealing with an aggressive Witch Hunter as an antagonist, whipping up hostility from the local mundane population and possibly, covertly, trying to plant a crime on the Covenant that the characters need to investigate and solve in order to clear their names?
Sounds like a great story, you should write that!
I can help with some graphic design, but am not sure how to do it in a way that others can just slot their text in, other than me doing it manually.
Somebody recently posted somewhere to say that they had converted the Nigrasaxa minisaga to 5ed. Having that polished and typeset in colour, as @Red-Shadow-Claws has done with the Grimoire and the Bestiary sounds like a low-hanging and nourishing fruit.
Supplementing it with a well-drawn map would certainly not hurt.
I keep pointing to Nigrasaxa because gives a workable and concrete example of how a saga can be paced with significant downtime. Other story supplements only give uptime, and inexperienced artists magica can easily be tempted into uptime only.