How much vis? How much experience?

I'm trying to set design guidelines for a campaign. I'll be lucky to get four players; there might be as few as two.

Clearly vis comes attuned to different arts. It doesn't reward the players much to let them capture "perdo" vis when they need "creo" vis. This could be randomly rolled or fudged.

Vis apparently would mostly come from adventuring. E.g. find a unicorn, fight it, cut off its horn, get vis from horn.

There might be some rewards of vis (deliver package for demigod, collect vis) or windfalls (leprechaun decides he doesn't want his clover patch, gives vis to player characters).

How much vis should be collectable per season?

Likewise, short adventures would only take a few days of game time (but several sessions of real time). That should be worth five to ten experience points, but should allow time for study. (If you go adventuring for three days and spend 87 days reading a summa, it's much like spending 90 days reading a summa.)

This means that the characters might be getting 15 to 20 experience points per season, possibly more. What is the typical allotment?


You are probably going to get a number of different answers to this. There are no hard and fast rules and it basically comes down to a matter of taste.

That said it is easier to give too little XP and vis initially and revise your rewards upward if necessary than to start out overly generous and then cut back. So I'd advise you to be conservative for your first couple of years of in-character time.

A lot of players like the idea of buying vis sources for their covenant and dividing up the income among the player-magi. That has never really worked for me for a couple of reasons. Most importantly I want the freedom to change the amount and Art of the vis players collect. So what I do is I let player-magi collect a certain amount of vis "automatically" by roaming around the area near their covenant. I explain this is vis they find from temporary, non-renewable sources. This has the added advantage that it gets the characters out of the house so they can stumble across interesting characters and events -- story hooks, which otherwise they might have an annoying tendency to ignore while walled up in their labs.

As to the quantity of vis, I would recommend five pawns per magus per year for starters, maybe with some extra pawns here or there on adventures. Once you see how they are using that you can adjust the quantity upward or (slightly) downward.

When it comes to XP, the rules-as-written state that you can only get experience points from one source in a season, be that books or adventuring or exposure. So gaining adventure XP would technically rule out gaining study XP for the same season. A lot of people change that for their own sagas, which is fine, but you should just be aware that doing so is a house rule and may make your magi advance faster than normal. What I usually do is make adventures either very short (three days or less) or very long (so they kill the whole season for anything else). For the long adventures I give out lots of experience, 10-12 for the whole thing, so the overall XP is comparable to what magi could get studying books in the library.

But, I'm sure other people will have good advice too. You might want to talk it over with your players. How many seasons you have between stories also greatly affects the perception of progress. Generally less-frequent stories let the magi advance more from one story to the next, but tends to hurt companions who lack access to the same high Study Totals in the covenant library.

In my Saga we play one story every other season, so that's the balance I like.

Usually players like to find and secure a steady source, typically a story will involve discovering the source and how to harvest it. There are also one time finds of vis, say characters stumble across a hippogriff nest and manage to get five flight feathers, each worth 1 pawn of auram vis. Other sources, especially for long running sagas tend to have some recurring or renewal element to them. The hunt for vis moves to a less central role for stories the longer you go on.

Vis, is currency/gold in other RPGs. The more they have, the more players can do. If you're coming from another game system, you might want to consider a lot of vis as an in game inducement to keep them playing. As players develop familiarty and start enjoying Ars Magica maybe, you can pull back. If you use adventures to dole out vis in the beginning vis becomes very easy to manage. You can introduce a site that is renewing, but have the per yer amount be less than what you'd given before, and the players can learn to manage it.

Typically characters only get XPs from one source in a season, adventure or seasonal reading/labwork. Some SGs give both. It's variable. Typically, you can spend up to 10 days away from the lab and still complete a full season of labwork, reading, what have you without penalty. Long adventures that wash out a season might be a reason to give 10 or more xp from adventue.
In many Ars Magica sags it can be almost trivial to get 15 xp from reading a book. A book of quality 12 with book learner gets 15 xp. If the character has 0 in that art, then they get to 5 in one season.

In my saga's most vis comes from the covenants vis income, which is bought with build points at the beginning of the saga and can be expanded during play by finding new renewing sources (usually through adventuring). Getting vis by killing monsters is really something I've never done so I can't advise you on that. A sidebar on page 218 suggests the following: a low vis saga is 5 pawns per magus per year, a moderate vis saga is 10 pawns per magus per year and a high vis saga is 20 pawns per magus per year. In my saga's we have usually run low to moderate vis and always ended up with a huge stockpile of vis after a few years time.

You get experience from one study source per season, period. If you get 10 experience from 3 days adventuring, you don't get anything from spending the next 87 days reading a summa. In my experience savvy players will either pick the source quality or spend the balance of adventuring seasons doing lab work. I try to arrange things so adventures take up a big chunk of the season anyway... rather then everything happening at once, the adventure might start with a hook in June, some investigating throughout July and a rousing climax in August. Strangely, the early Harry Potter books are a good example of this kind of storytelling... each book would be one adventure that actually covers a couple of seasons.

A quality 12 summa? What kind of { --- striken --- } is that?

Edit: I apologize for my inflamatory language in this post. However, I stand by my position that the current assumption of summa quality levels for Hermetic libraries is inflated by a game-mechanic centered assumption that Hermetic authors are always build with a maximized ability to produce such texts. I this feel is deterimental to the spirit of the setting and further inflates the already considerable power of magi, weaking the suspension of disbelief that allows the Order to mesh with the high mediavel setting it exists in.

Get off your high horses, the Roots of the Arts are Quality 15 Level 5 or better by definition. And there's prolly 2 of those that are 21/6 if you read the description that way.

Sound tractatus are Quality 11 and can be produced by the typical teacher template: Good Teacher + Communication+2. Hardly power gaming again.

The Lion and the Lily has a Branch of the Art that is Quality 17 Level 18. A lofty goal for a Spring covenant, but still doable.

Now that there's some breathing room in that statement, I also believe book quality should be limited for summae above Level 10. If the players want an adventure to find a better book, that's great. But a no-effort "buy a Level 15 for 15 pawns of vis" should have the same return as spending those pawns on Vis study {Quality 9ish?}. No chance of botch, reusable by other mages, a summae is better.

There's no set answer. If you want your characters to use lots of vis, you need to give them lots. If you want them to only use a little bit then only give them a little bit.

It is probably best to start out being conservative. Only give out a small quantity and see whether you and your players feel unduly constrained by the amount of vis the characters have. It is a resource for the characters, so you probably want to have the characters having slightly less vis than they would really want (so, that they need to make decisions about how to use it). But not so little that the players are frustrated by seemingly able to achieve nothing.

Remember that a character can extract vim vis from the aura equal to his Creo Vim Lab Total divided by 10. So, this can be used as a kind of standard. Say, a character can extract 3 pawns of vim vis from the aura. Then a story in which he gains 1 pawn of vis is a bit of a waste of time, for the character from a vis perspective. But of course, he may have other reasons for being interested in the story (gaining a book, or allies, or not dying, or achieving other goals, or whatever). On the other hand, a story in which he gains 12 pawns of vis is a real vis bonanza; it's a whole year worth of vis extraction.

As others have said a character can only take advantage of one experience source in a season. So, if he earns 10 XP in a two-day adventure, and also reads a book for 10 XP in that season, then the player has to choose which source the character collects the XP from, either the 10 adventure XP or the 10 book XP. He can't benefit from both.

It's better, I think, to give out the vis that seems appropriate to whatever the characters are doing. If they are busy slaying sea-monsters, for example, then they are probably going to acquire Aquam vis from the monster corpses. If this isn't what the characters need, then the player characters can try to trade with magi at other covenants. Alternatively, if, say the characters really want some Perdo vis, then you can allow the characters to make (say) Magic Lore rolls to figure out what types of beasts or what types of locations might contain Perdo vis. So, then the player characters can go out to try to hunt the creatures or visit the locations appropriate to the sorts of vis they need.

Also, don't forget about Confidence Points. Characters get Confidence Points from adventures too --- usually for successfully overcoming challenges and so forth.

For what it is worth, in our saga we run at an average rate of one story per magus per year of in-game time. But it does change a bit from year to year, depending on what is happening. Sometimes a character has a big project and spends the whole year sitting in his lab. Other times a magus interferes in a story "intended" for another magus (or is called upon to help), and so ends up involved in several stories in a year.

That's a good teacher and Com +3.

Considering how often I see Good Teacher & Com +5 PCs, it's something I have to expect.
And that's before adding the resonance system from Covenant, which can get you another +3, and as far as I can tell, can allow you to copy a book and then add resonances (probably durng copying/binding) to another author's book, making Q12 very easy to get!

btw: please tell me I'm wrong about ading resonances to the works of other authors! with a page reference for preference.

You are right about adding resonance, but keep in mind that it's not easy to get that +3!

Getting +1 is relatively easy, if your covenant is moderately wealthy and the players make some small effort about it. You "just" have to add appropriate resonant materials. I see this as an in game bonus you get for making sure your books are truly memorable (a book on Aquam with a cover made of mother of pearl, pages made of fine seal vellum etc.). It's a little like saying that if you design grogs rather than buy specialists, you do not have to spend the points. A litte in-game-bonus for out-of-game "colour effort".

Getting +2 requires acquiring materials through a story (say, that sea dragon blood for the ink, or its tongue as a page marker). I think it's a really good incentive for a story, in fact. The idea, I think, is the same as Hooks, or Story Flaws (or even Quests in Initiation): you get a prize for getting your character involved in a story.

Getting +3 requires an investment of time and vis, makes the book "fragile", and is officially only a relatively new magical discovery by a Bonisagus. Honestly, it's not worth the effort unless the characters are trying to make the book good for its own sake rather than for studying it themselves.

+1 for this comment in particular :exclamation:

Well, YMMV, as I've yet to see one of those, which probably explains Lucius reaction

Right, so that's Com +5 and +1 from resonance.
That's 1 politically minded character and a little effort.
Entirely within reach for some.

Yeah, I have to prepare for those, on a regular basis.

The entire Hermetic book cycle, as introduced in Covenants is - IMO - {edit - inflamatory language stricken} determental to the game because it {stricken} inflates the expectations of book level and quality. Either that, or the canonical historical texts are seriously under-rated.

Borrowed from the pdf ArsM5Booksby AbilityIndex:

Quality Ranking of Canonical Authors
Examples (from Art & Academe)
Cicero, Leonardo Fibonacci: Com +5, Good Teacher
Hildegard of Bingen, Peter Abelard: Com +4, Good Teacher
Aristotle, Donatus: Com +3, Good Teacher
Averroes, Avicebron, Gratian: Com +2, Good Teacher
St Augustine, Robert Grosseteste: Com +1, Good Teacher
Adelard of Bath, Alcuin of York, Avicenna, Boethius, Euclid, Maimonides, Plato, Priscian: Com +3 or Good Teacher
St Anselm, Bernard Silvestris, John Scottus Eriugena, Isidore of Seville, Plotinus, Ptolemy: Com +2
Macrobius, Rhazes (al-Razi), William of Conches: Com +1
Pliny the Elder, Porphyry: Com +0

I submit that a PC magus with Com +2 and Good Teacher is an exceptionally good teacher... one who stands out in the crowd and his texts are exceptional, rather then the norm. Yes, it's easy to build such a character but that doesn't mean that the entire world of Hermetic authors is made of characters who have optimized their builds for writing high level, high quality summa.

edited to remove inflamatory language

I do not disagree - merely state that I see a lot of PCs that are very skilled writers/teachers.

But that's very different from the assertion that a Quality 12-15 summa is the standard, or even common place, for Hermetic libraries.

Edit: I apologize for my original inflamatory language.

However, I stand by my position that the current assumption of summa quality levels for Hermetic libraries is inflated by a game-mechanic centered assumption that Hermetic authors are always build with a maximized ability to produce such texts. I this feel is deterimental to the spirit of the setting and further inflates the already considerable power of magi, weaking the suspension of disbelief that allows the Order to mesh with the high mediavel setting it exists in.

This discussion has been had many times before. Some old arguments:

Yep, one of the best of his generation, not the best but one of the best. Let's say we have 2-3 such or better each generation. A generation is around 25 years, we have had the order around in around 400 years. That means we have had around 30 such exceptional talents in the the order. The chances that each of them have realized that they are exceptionally good at this is rather big, and how better to be famous/rich/accepted/admired than using your exceptional talents? And remember that magi have the possibility to boost that communication to +5 if they are just ambitious enough...

So I would say most of these would specialize heavily (maybe even more than is seemingly the norm among magi) on a narrow field to write the Ultimate Book on the subject. Which should give us a rather good probability for having one written for each art and for Magic Theory. As a minimum. And if you find yourself with the Good Teacher talent and a specialization you might find it very cost efficient to invest in a +5 communication ritual.

Now, which books will be copied? As long as the author lives he will probably wish to spread his book for glory (and fame and riches). After he is gone the book will be famous and others will want to copy it. And they will pay much more for a good book than a slightly worse one.

And that is only the exceptional books. The "Rather Good" books can be written by several more authors. And copied a bit more freely.

Look, I said in many, perhaps I should've said in some. The point is it can be almost trivial. Yes, you can get into discussions on how it doesn't work in your saga, that's completely different. Not all books are like this, or even should be like this, and the Root and Branch do reflect this, since they don't cover all Arts.

When you start building covenant libraries filled with books like level 5 quality 12, those costs start to get very painful. If you have many books of that quality and level, you tend to have very little else. You could also view it as a generational change within the order. At first, it was built by men of staggering intellect and power, unable to convey the Arts as well as they knew them. Succeeding generations saw a change in the type of magus, one more interested in sharing their Arts with others, or sought the glory of writing the greatest book on an Art ever written.
In any event, I don't disagree with you, my point was to illustrate that there can be certain books that can elevate arts to decent level in a short amount of time.

Also, yfr, take this into consideration. Some people run high powered saga, some people run low powered sagas, and some people mix it up depending on the stories they want to tell.

These things are focused on your players, you've played with them in other systems, bring that experience into building your Ars saga, and you'll have a good time.

Then explain to me why the heck anyone bothers to copy Plato? He's only Quality 9. Why would anyone have even heard of Pliny the Elder? He's a pathetic Quality 6.

I submit that the in-character error in your entire arguement is that you assume that characters with high Communication scores and Good Teacher are also the ones writing the summa people want to read. I find it much more believable that a lab rat with a negative Communication is the one with the (Art) 30, and so the one writing the (Art) 15 summa and even if the Quality is only 5, people want that more then the socialites Level 3, Quality 12 summa.

Ignoring all of that, however, it is a problem of power. Hermetic magi don't need to be any stronger then they already are. A starting magus, fresh out of apprenticeship is already a force to be reconned with. The assumption of widely available, high quality summa only makes magi greatly more powerful by giving them an fast and easy track to greater power. This leads, as has also been discussed many times before, to an Order of staggeringly power magi whose relations with the rest of Mythic Europe can only be justified by turning a blind eye to the fact that they completely break the world in which they are supposed to live. On the other hand, if we were to reign in the speed of advancement and thus lower the overall power level of magi they can remain quite respectably powerful but no longer quite so world-shattering (and suspension-of-disbelief-shattering).

Sorry, yfr. I shouldn't hijack your thread with my personal rant. I'm done now.