How do we welcome the newbies for Anno Magical?

Honestly, I can't imagine anyone starting with ArM as their very first TTRPG. It's pretty niche and the overall complexity put it too far in my view from beginner hands. To use an analogy, people start drinking cider/beer then wine and then hard liquor. Jumping straight to a peaty smoky Whisky with no prior experience is a recipe for choking on a mouthful.


I don't necessarily disagree, but how's the n00b to know this?

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Yep, that's what I was going to answer. I see a cool game, I like medieval history, I like wizards! Nice! How do I run it tho? :smiley:

I don't think it's reasonable to put 'please run some D&D campaigns before you start with this game' at the start of your book. Complexity is not an excuse for lack of frameworks and foundations to make new people welcome.


I do think that a thoughtfully designed starter saga would be very helpful. Ideally, it would contain enough material to run a few game sessions before the SG has to start generating their own content. This should span multiple seasons and should gradually introduce more complexity, including lab work (with suggestions for what the included pre-gens might want to do during downtime). I'd like to see a good selection of NPCs (maybe in a few different versions to avoid having to update them before the pre-written material runs out) that can remain useful well beyond the early sessions.
But I agree that there also should be a substantial amount of new SG advice. Including advice on how to continue play with the starting saga or create a new one.


Soooo true. And then you start reading and it is like opening Pandora's box and a box of your favorite chocolates all mixed together, except everything looks the same and you don't know what is going to choke you or delight you.

It took me years of RpG to wrap my head around, and countless hours on this forum to get the essence of what the authors thought of the game and what kind of games (plural intended) I could run. I would love to avoid that to new comers and I will write my own "How to Ars for newbie". It will only be my side and personal view (as based on this forum, it is clear that reaching consensus will be likely impossible), but it will be a start. And if a few others bring their own perspective, that will help.


Nice! I am also writing my own 'So you want to run Ars Magica' document. Best of luck, and if you want to exchange feedback feel free to PM me :slight_smile:


Please do! If nothing else, it's a good place to start. :slight_smile:

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how about «skip the published material and wing it». Seriously, looking at the published material will just overwhelm you and make it harder to wing. It is about 30 years since I first storyguided Ars Magica and I still struggle with the same questions as you do.

That's the simplest question on the list. If you do not read the tribunal supplements, it does not matter. If you do read the tribunal supplements, Provence is designed to be the easiest by minimising the quirks. It is a good point, though, ArM5D should probably include a short review of all the other books in the line, stating their immediate benefits to the new player and SG. What do you think @David_Chart ?

Depends on the players' appetite for mechanics.

I seriously doubt there is a good answer to that. We still struggle. Many troupes ignore the idea, and some limit it to one or a few aspects thereof. The different troupes I have played in do it differently.

Oh that was a real pain in the neck when we started with ArM3. It is a lot easier in ArM5; even the core book has some useful mechanics. A bigger question, however, is if the players want to design it as a character, and advance it mechanically, or if it should be just a setting, and that's for the troupe to decide.

That's probably the question that bothered me the most when we started playing 30 years ago. And it is important because players, and particularly players who are used to other games, tend to get caught up in detail which forces a slow pace, killing one of the main features of ArM which is long-term advancement.

The only good practical advice I have ever seen is the Nigrasaxa freebie for 4ed.

Again it depends on the genre of the story you want to tell.

Depends very much on your storytelling style. Do you want engineering accuracy or narrative accuracy? Only you can answer.

Preparing a tribunal is not for beginners, so this question is moot. I think there are good supplements for beginners, first Provence, and the Rhine and Thebes.

Again, as a beginner, don't try it. Start small, with only one or two factions. Gradually, you can overwhelm yourself, but you should do it carefully.

Again, no general answer. ArM is explicitly designed to cater for different genres and play styles, which means that sessions should be structured very differently.

Each have their RoP books, but demons are exceedingly hard to play, because their ultimate goal is to make the PCs sin out of their own volition. In other words, the mechanics does not matter, you need to roleplay it so that the players choose to do something they will regret. Faeries are also hard, even if they are easier than demons. Their goal is to gain vitality from the human PCs in different and often rather otherwordly ways. All of this is explained, as far as explanations go, in the RoP books. It is getting one's head around their otherwordly mindsets that makes it hard. One may ask if beginners should play faeries or demons at all.

You are really hitting against a very interesting knowledge-theoretic problem. You are asking for concise propositional knowledge (knowledge-that) to solve problems which require tacit knowing and experience (knowledge-how). Explanations can be written down in books and shipped across the Atlantic, but understanding and know-how has to evolve in a community sharing, and questioning existing practice. Most of your questions are answered only by understanding, and not by explanation.

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I will make clear that I have more than a decade experience running games, even if I've only ran AM for two. I generally know the answers to all those questions, but the point is that finding them was harder than anything I've ever ran.

And while I agree with your general point (know-that vs. know-how), there is no way that a ttrpg book cannot show me, in detail, a framework to manage many of the things that will make you go crazy when you start running this game. I am advocating for a part on the book that says 'there are many ways to run this game, but we've worked on a framework we think could benefit new and upcoming storytellers and troupes. Feel free to customize it once you're comfortable with this game's complexity'.

I know it's a lot to ask for a game this overarching and complex. But this thread was about how can we make it more accessible to newbies, and I think this is the main way: tell me, with tools, frameworks and examples how can I run the game that you're selling to me. If I read it and want to run it, I want to feel like I can, not that 'it depends', or that 'this game's too complex to run, go play something else'


And when it comes to examples, we agree. No ArM publication has had more impact on my know-how than Nigrasaxa, even if I never played it. And this is the point, examples do more to develop know-how than frameworks do. Frameworks (know-that) may help structuring a repertoire of examples, and thus help in the long run, but it is the examples than gets one started in building the know-how. So, yes, I would have liked more and more detailed examples of how to structure a saga, both a few at level of Nigrasaxa and some showing multiple interleaved longitudinal plots, and also examples of how to structure different kinds of sessions. It is not core-book material, but it is important supplements.

But if you have found answers to all your questions, I look forward to seeing your write-up. As I said, I still struggle with most of the questions, and every framework I see turns out flawed when I inject real players and storyguides.


I have no answer to this. Putting a sticker "not for newbs" on the box sounds like a terrible idea. Before I buy a new boardgame, I look up online reviews, how crunchy/rule heavy it is, possibly a quick explanation video on how the game goes... I would assume that some people do the dame for RPGs, others probably see cool book art and thing "this has the right vibe for me".

This is the opening chapter in my companion to the Curse of the Rhine Gorge .


Sorry if I miswrote, I didn't mean to imply I know everything :smiley: I am an eternal student of this game, and I would benefit from talking with seasoned GMs as you, for example. I meant that I've had to fight a lot to get to the facsimile of an answer for those questions. My writeup would be my personal view on how this game can be ran in a satisfactory manner. I'll see how it turns out.

I only have my two years of experience to speak of. At the moment, I have six players with six magi and six companions, we play 4-5 hours a week, every week. We advance a medium of 1-2 seasons per session and we still do a lot of roleplay, advance plot, and have time to do adventures. We compromise and prepare a lot, but we've managed to come to a point where everyone is happy and we roughly advance 12 years in game per year IRL. To me, this feels ideal for the kind of saga I want to run: Not slow enough that we get bogged down in the details and magi don't progress (the strengths of the game aren't seen) but not too fast and make it so the story and roleplay become a blurred image. As I said, compromise between me and my troupe.

What I wish the most in a Definitive Edition is a way to ease a new storyguide and to not make them 'suffer' as I did to get to the point I am now.

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That kind of personal views is worth a lot more than canon views. The problem with canon views is that there can only be one, and it almost always falls apart when it meets real play. Personal views can be plentiful, and since they are always going to contradict each other, one cannot put to much faith in any single one, and remain free to develop something that works.

A good (that is useful) personal view emphasises a one aspect, one case, or few key points. Human brains are exceedingly bad at digesting detail, but very good at reconstructing details from hazy understanding.

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If the actual objection is that the introductory part of the core rulebook[^1] isn't blatant enough about being targeted at experienced roleplayers to be obvious to the inexperienced, the obvious correction for 5th Edition Definitive (which, after all, is not a Sixth Edition, and will not be adding oodles of text, particularly this close to publication) would, in fact, to simply add a box to make "This isn't intended for you" more blatantly and bluntly stated to the inexperienced.

[^1] You know, the bit where the average RPG has a heading that says "What is a roleplaying game?" and talks about childhood games of make-believe, while ArM5 instead takes knowing what an RPG is as assumed and instead spends four paragraphs explaining how ArM5 differs from other RPGs?


Back in the last days of D&D 2e, Ray Winninger wrote a column in the pages of Dungeon magazine called Dungeoncraft. In it, he walked through creating and running a campaign from the first decisions to the last. He started with questions like “how many players?” and “where do I start?” and went through the entire world and campaign creation process. And then, when he finished, he did it again.

I learned so much from that series. It sounds like we need Dungeoncraft for Ars Magica. “Magicraft”?

For the curious: Dungeoncraft Archive


I've never structured a Saga a day in my life, and when running published campaigns for other games (such as pre-written D&D games, or The Enemy Within for Warhammer Fantasy or Beyond the Mountains of Madness for Cthulhu) I've frequently had to dump large sections and wing it wildly to deal with the fact my players have ignored the obvious pointers to where they should go and that they should in fact wind around like a river and occasionally interact with the main points. Likewise structuring a session for me consists of getting everyone to put their phones away, get their character sheets handy and get them speaking in character. Hmmm...sounds like I could benefit from any advice people have on these.

Choosing a Tribunal - If you want a "medium research" saga, choose one where you can get a book on medieval history of the area and one on folklore easily in your favourite language. For many English speakers, this makes Stonehenge very easy, and Loch Leglean, Hibernia and Normandy fairly straightforward. If you are a native Spanish or Portuguese speaker, Iberia may well be easier.

If you want a game with less research, then find out what tropes of medieval europe and folklore people like, and find the Tribunal that matches that best - if they love castles, pick a spot that has picturesque castles they might recognise, if they think of well-dressed nobles go for northern france, if they think of the winding streets of cities go for somewhere like the Roman Tribunal, if their first thought is The Name of The Rose just pick anywhere near a monastery. If you want a game in the howling wilderness it doesn't really matter that much.

Alternatively, I think the article on Project Redcap has a good concise summary of each tribunal. In fact, the answer to a good many questions is to check the Redcap article.

I have a story to tell about Tribunal selection - my friend was setting up a 4th edition Saga and decided to give every player a piece of paper and asked us to write down the three tribunals we'd most like to play in, and any places we didn't want to play. He collected them up, and we ended up playing in Stonehenge as our (all-English) group had objected to virtually every Tribunal between us, but no-one objected to Stonehenge, so we ended up in a very familiar setting.

How to pitch troupe-style play? The Redcap article is a superb summary. I have ideas for how to create a starter kit to promote taking turns to storyguide, by breaking down setting into small pieces and having an associated scenario for each piece, but I don't know if I could write enough scenarios to make it work.

How do I create a Covenant? There are three good ways - one, think of where your wizards would like to live and then try and express it in game terms; two, read through the Boons and Hooks and let it fire your imagination (what would a covenant in a really strong aura be like? Would having a dragon sleeping under the covenant be interesting?); three, ask each player what they would like in a covenant and what flaws they could live with, and see what works. I'm sure I've seen a system somewhere for player-centred covenant creation where people each take turns to allocate an element.

How do I prepare a Tribunal where I want to play? The "wing it" answer is to think of all those ideas for covenants you've had but not got to play and write them down. Create a name for a magus and a description for them, and say this is the magus who takes all the voting sigils to the Tribunal and is the most well-known to outsiders for that covenant. Write down a few names for other magi and say they live there. Repeat until you've got as many covenants as you feel are needed to populate (five was enough in the 3rd ed supplements, 5th ed supplements prefer more covenants).

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That is a great resource! What inspired me to create and the best of the best toolbox I found was Kevin Crawford's Worlds Without Number. Kevin is an amazing writer and he puts a lot of stuff out there for free!

A summary of the GM tools he offers for WWN is:

  1. Creating your Campaign
  2. What GM and Players Need to bring and GM issues
  3. Planning and running Adventures
  4. Creating Combat/Exploration/Investigation/Social Challenges
  5. Administering treasure
  6. Land ownership management
  7. Magic Items
  8. Factions and major projects

In bold, what I think Ars Magica needs more. Specially the Faction Turn on these kind of games is an essential tool for a storyteller that wants it.

I'm just saying, this game could learn a lot from it. When the whole debacle of D&D happened last year, that game got a big influx of players that realized they have absolutely everything they could ever want in 350 pages. I am literally looking at a post at Reddit /r/rpg that is praising this system for the GM tools and the ease in which players can enter, play and prepare this game.

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While I appreciate the answers, as I said I've been running a saga weekly for almost two years. Most of the answers you give me I've already found, either on my own or thanks to the kindness of the community.

My point is that I should not have to go on a forum to be able to answer basic questions like 'How do I run and prepare this game I just bought?'

That should be answered clearly in the text of the book. I will understand if Atlas doesn't want to do that. To me, this is what hamstrings the game entirely: it's pretty good to read and the lore, mechanics and potential for stories are absolutely amazing, but I don't only want to read it. I want to run it, and the game doesn't help me do that.

As I said, a section of the game that starts with

'There are many ways to run this game, but we've worked on a framework we think could benefit new and upcoming storytellers and troupes. Feel free to customize it once you're comfortable with this game's complexity'

And follows with work done to address the concerns of newbies, reassure them and not only make them want to play but to prepare for it.


Honestly, I can't imagine anyone starting with ArM as their very first TTRPG.

Whether or not it is likely or not, we have to assume that there will be. Even a veteran RPGer will be turned off by a game that can’t except newcomers.


Why not rebuild something like Nigrasaxa for 5th edition? Prior editions also had way more detailed example Covenants, with 4th having Triamore and 3rd having Mistridge. Yes 5th does have Calebais, but that is an adventure and not as detailed.

I know others have mentioned it but the lack of a current edition mini-saga or prebuilt Covenant in detail hurts new players. More than likely Atlas expected that most players were coming from an older edition so didn't need one but with how long 5th has been out any new players most likely have never experienced AM before.

So all the fully built Covenants and mini-saga that are possible should be offered on the Atlas site. David's one, any fan made ones that meet the standard, updated older ones.