So, I've played AM since 2nd edition (still love that purple cover), but it has been several years since I have run the game. In about two months I am going to be introducing five (5!) new players to the game; they like me as a GM in general and are now asking that I "run that game you are always talking about..." While I introduced players in the distant past, any subsequent games were only dealing with a matter of "What edition are we using?"
Due to the players (3 women, 2 men, and a very interesting mixes of types and backgrounds), I am going to be setting the game on either Corsica or the Balearic Islands (thus allowing for a fair amount of possibilities in ethnic diversity). All well and good that way.
But, back to the core notion, how have you introduced neophytes to AM? Of my gamers, three are familiar with a number of systems and the other two are, shall we say, more limited in their scope (FATE only). None of them have dealt with Ars Magica at all.
Me personally, trying to be over newbies, explaining all I can, asking them to spend some time reading their magi's HoH chapters and some rules, and letting them adjust their magi during the first sessions. One good idea is to meet with each one of them alone for a session to work on their magi, doing examples of spells, rolls and so, and maybe having them play a short story (something simple like gathering vis or, when they are in a new spring covenant, doing some work for it), so they can start to get used to the rules and the setting.
I agree here, make them play frogs first. Once they have that down, upgrade them to grogs. Then introduce them to the covenant. In my case, my players totally didn't care about grogs at all, and players didn't want to bring grogs on adventures because then someone would have to RP the grog. get the players to make the grogs, so they become attached.
That totally looks like an automatic spell check error
(1) Have them all meet one evening for dinner, where I explained for an hour or so the saga I proposed: place, surroundings, resources, problems and where to go from there. I always took the responsibility for the basic offer here.
(2) Still at the dinner a lot of questions will be asked and some answered: Couldn't we also ...? Why do you propose ...?
(3) Over the next weeks, and with some general discussions still ongoing and some ideas for characters floating around, I will meet one-on-one every candidate for the saga at another lunch, dinner or such, with rule books at hand, to design that player's main character with him. From the player's concept to the character sheet. We can leave things open still and even do changes later, but the basic character sheet needs to be ready after that session: role in the saga, stats, personal problems, and a rough sketch of his goals and ideas for current and later development. Technicalities we could not resolve that evening will be taken care of by phone in the following days. I take the responsibility, that their goals are roughly compatible with those of other players and with the saga, and that each player knows the current and future limits of his character. This approach tends to limit player character magi to just before or after gauntlet: you can only address that many topics in two or three hours.
(4) I stick to the rules and the game world in character development and play: for fairness and consistency, to provide criteria for curbing discussions of the "but this is more fun (for me)" type, and to keep saga and world together. IME this is very important for a complex game world and rules system like ArM5. But I try to be inventive to keep characters alive.
ArM5 sagas develop, and aspects of them become very specific: original research, discovered Mystery Cults, Faerie courts and their gifts, exotic weapons will come up - society, philosophy and even religion develop - all this needs house rules and the work involved with it. There is no opposition between 'RAW' and such house rules in ArM5. Every saga will need some individualization: this is not D&D, after all. Some ArM5 rules are already written with troupes adjudicating them in mind: see this.
But I never had a candidate player waltzing in with his set of house rules written up for his favourite character, because "it is so much more fun". I reckon such a guy would not appear twice, though.
This straw man guy doesn't exist except in you're mind. You're the guy that can't allow Mythic Blood or Faerie Blood to vary outside the printed examples. You're also the guy that causes games to collapse because you're too pedantic and unable to roll with things. Again, how many Origins tables you think Atlas will have for this game that's dragged down by the endless nerdgasm? I'd put a hundred dollars on 1, maximum game for 1 hr that goes shit because some guy like you won't stfu and let people tell a story.