How would you design a starter adventure?

Talk about whether I was wise to start my campaign with THE BROKEN COVENANT OF CALEBAIS has decided me to start a topic on what the ideal starter adventure would be. What are the design criteria?

For me there would be two things:

  1. It should include pregenned characters but not be tied to them. You should be able to make your own characters if you wanted but have pre-designed ones already included.

  2. It should not be a dead end. That is it shouldn't be an adventure that you play and then start your 'real' campaign somewhere else. One offs are useful but primarily as convention/advertising games to give people a chance to play and see what the game is like. If you're playing with your regular group, the first adventure should come with guidelines to carry on from there.

  3. Not everyone should be playing mages in the first game. Gently lead in with the most enthusiastic players taking the most complex characters.

The second and third criteria were what decided me on using CALEBAIS. I want to start a Spring covenant from scratch and if they do well at clearing out the old well shaft they can either take it as their base or use the treasure and favours earned to start somewhere else.

I turned down PROMISES, PROMISES since it seemed to be a dead-ender (you start as newbies with the Final Twilight of the senior magus of your Covenant... Hmm, not ideal). NIGRASAXA looked better but I turned it down because I wanted to run with a Spring covenant.

If you're going to say 'Well, THE ADVENTURE OF THE DUKE'S CHAMBERPOT worked well enough for me....' then do give details of why it did.

Well, first off, I wouldn't.
Let them decide what their first adventure is...
Set them up in a Covenant. If the Covenant is NEW, then they will have plenty to do. They will need to : (depending on the level of support) find Grogs (that should be tough), locate or set up food and income sources, identify local enemies or allies, and perhaps when that is in motion, they might be able to find the time to locate Vis sources. Perhaps they will also find they need to make some items to help the grogs.. Maybe they need to set up something special for the library...
Each of these things is an adventure. Most are small problems. but need attention immediately (more or less).
If the Covenant is more developed, they might have immediate confrontations with the 'competition'. The local priest may have something to say about them, and to them. The local (Faerie) Lord may have something to say as well...A past enemy of the Covenant might figure to TEST the newbies...maybe not with a direct assult....
AM characters don't always NEED to have an adventure to GO on...the adventures will tend to come to them...
Of course, a "Go out and Get 'Em" adventure is always fun too..but usually that can come later...

With all due respect to Urien, I think this is a fine idea for starting a new Saga, but not necessarily for new players. I think if one were to take eager new players and plunk their characters down in the woods and say "now build your covenant" they would be at quite a loss as to how to proceed. Based on my experience introducing newbies to the game, most of the people I've taught would probably not have enjoyed that kind of game for long.

If you want to build a new spring covenant in your first Saga, here is what I would suggest. Start with one PC magus and some grogs and companions. Have the magus belong to an existing covenant - his "home" covenant, which can become an NPC covenant later. Let the intro story be this magus exploring/discovering the site for the future covenant. Then let the next series of stories be that first magus go looking for other magi who want to help join the covenant. A lot of the preparations can (and should) be done before the young magi actually move to their new covenant's site.

So I would recommend instead you start each magus separately at his own covenant (other players running grogs/companions attached to that magus) and, over the course of the Saga, bring the magi's story threads together into founding their own new covenant.

Yes, I do see what you're saying but in my case I have a bit of convincing to do about the system and setting before I get them to commit to running a full campaign. The business of sitting them down and choosing particular hooks, boons and other details of their new home will come next.

However, I think there might be room for a book about setting up a Spring Tribunal... Yes, I know COVENANTS has all the mechanics in there but it might be worth putting together something filled with story hooks and adventures that can be adapted to particular Tribunals at particular times.

Indeed, each tribunal book (not that those are being done any more, from what I understand) should have notes on possible places to insert PC covenants.

If my lot don't go for Calebais (currently located near Lulworth Cove in Dorset) I'm thinking of pointing them towards Cornwall. The Stannarries have just been established to govern tin mining down their and they could maybe get hold of some land without all that tedious swearing of oaths to nobles or churchmen.

For me: you need to let the players do the cool things that this system does best, and that's spontaneous magic, IMO.

Sounds like you need a couple one nighter campaigns like mentioned in the other thread to introduce them to the setting and get them interested. I'm nearly certain if you start off saying "make your characters" and then go from there, your players will want to switch characters shortly down the road once they learn the system/rules better and have a better idea of what they can aspire too.

quickly hides his diednie membership card
I'll second that! Nothing says cool like spontaneously casting leap of home comming :stuck_out_tongue:

I would link 3 adventures if you want to see how it all works.

  1. grogs and companions go to town. There is a mundane tournament at town and something happens there. Solve a minior problem at town. Might include minor combat against common brigands. Introduction to combat, social and investigation skills. 1 session at most.

  2. Grogs and companions returning home from town are waylaid in an adventure like "going home". After that, they fail to show up at the covenant. Why? 1 session

  3. The magi wonder why the hell has happened to their grogs, and go out to find it. Investigatioon in the forest. The magi must investigate thtrough magic since plain mundane search does not show where they are. Grogs kept by some faeries that are using them as playthings. The faeries negotiate with the magi. They end up fixing a contest as the solving method: the winner keeps the grogs. The contest includes magic competitions and some dangerous stuff like "combat the ogre without seeing crap and with a sock in your mouth". The magi overhear some faeries saying that it doesn't matter if the characters win since they are gonna eat them for dinner. Escape. Magical combat. Narrow escape and one of the grogs dies in the process (combat difficulty, medium). 2 sessions

And there you go.

Rough guideline, but I would do it that way if you want to integrate everything in a single adventure.



I'd play through some sort of prequel, like the death of all the magi that lived at the covenant before them, or their parens' demise, or something like that.

I'd have them play specialized wizards with some beefy stats in a few areas and some clear abilities in some secondary areas. I'd look for iconic things: an illusionist, an earth wizard, a hermetic horticulturalist--that sort of thing. I wouldn't, for example, include something vague like a Vim specialist. Like Timothy says, I'd enable players for spontaneous magic that way. I'd be sure they could kill swaths of enemies at some point. I'd be sure to have puzzles. I'd be sure to have guidelines printed out for the new players for their specializations, as well as easy access to formulaic spell descriptions of their specializations.

After this, I'd play through individual gauntlets for the new players, one player per night.

this is very much along the lines of one of my thoughts.

Whilst I do wonder if something could be done to create a 'pre-campaign campaign' about apprentices, I think that one night for each mage PCs gauntlet is a bit much for most gaming groups where the rule must be: keep all the players involved!

The White Wolf idea of doing the Prelude of each major character as a one-to-one out of game time might work but my group meets as a group once a week and at that time I want to ensure that everyone has something to do and something to keep them interested. A whole week to one player's story is too much spolight time.

I fully support the idea of the prequel. Give them some of the core archetypes to play (Verditius with many items, perhaps a Flambeau, a Bjornaer or ex Misc spirit-type-thing, and maybe a Guernicus to help remind them of the Order) and make sure that a) they all have sufficient power to be inspiring and b) there are parts of the story that are keyed to their key abilities.

Okay, you might not be continuing with those characters but it does give each player more of a view as to what kind of wizards you can make out of this crazy system. It gives them something to aspire to and it's easier to make a character for longer-term play when you understand what your options are.

I'd also try to give the story a lot of pace. Lots of jeopardy to the magi, to the target they're trying to achieve, and the people around them. Don't be afraid to throw in something really powerful... not as an enemy perhaps - it could be a valuable (but dangerous) source of information that they need to take onto the next stage.

This is more about how to run it but don't get too bogged down in rules. Have all the regio levels you like but be forgiving. If there's a character with second sight, or you know the Guernicus could spont sufficient magic to see through the regio, just let them through. Explain the wonder and the magic of it, not the mechanics as those can come later.

Be prepared. Know your combat rules. Know your combat and non-combat damage rules. Know your fast-cast rules. Be liberal with bonuses (you can dry up later to bring it more into level) and stress that they might as well use Confidence as they won't be continuing with those characters.

Make the resolution and the reward something really grand. If the impetus for the story is that a village has been swallowed up by the very earth itself, make the resolution equally epic; imagine the race against time, the noble sacrifice, the big bang and the village rising up out of the ground, faeries and demons fleeing from the tolling of the church bell as the peasants nervously leave their shaking homes and gaze at the sunlight once more.

Or something.

I very much agree with keeping everyone in the action. How big is your group? Give other players supporting roles--but that night (or half a night) is centered on that one character. It can be really rewarding, as instead of piles of numbers, you start with characters that have stories and backgrounds that everyone in the troupe has an investment in. If you have folks from the same house, they can do gauntlets together as well. I can only say that in the games where I've done it, it's always paid back in spades (and we did them for companions as well).

No offense taken... :slight_smile:

But who said LONG? This is just to get them going. Founding a Covenant will require a bit of work, but it also can require some spell casting and possible conflict. It gives the players some time to get used to simple stuff...but it makes all the stuff they do important, but not overly critical and unfixable if they screw up.


Can't help but think that a adventure geared at a beginning ArM group would be a great submission to "Sub Rosa". :slight_smile:

Spring covenants for new players tend to collapse. There is too much stuff for the newies to do and learn about the GAME let alone about the area where the covenant is set in the game. The players are quite at a loss of what they should be aiming to achieve. Been there, done that. Restarted the campaign in less than 3 months.

Now I consider autumn covenants to be the best starting positions for new PLAYERS. If they feel constrained after a few adventures, you can get them to start a covenant, but they will already have some heavy grounding on how the system works and what to expect. They will have the resouyrces and powerful magi and custos to tide up if theuy mess an adventure too much. That is important for a new universe.


From memory lane: my first ever Ars story...

In a forrest (somewhere) a group of grogs and a magus has been ambushed by bandits. The magus has gone into twillight and while his body is still in this world, his mind ain't.
Have more grogs available than there are players (so that death doesn't leave a player without something to play).
Small fights between grogs and bandits as they try to find somewhere to hide themselves and the magus.
At some point, the magus starts coming to. While he isn't fully there yet, he can cast a few formulatic spells.
(and then the part I never got around to back then...)
Finally the magus should start to come around to the degree that he can cast spontanious spells - and they should be able to find out a little more about why the bandits ambushed them (a hedge-wizard/witch ordered them to...)
Finally a confrontation between the hedge(with a small group of bandits) and the group.

Perhaps you could introduce the infernal and the divine in an adventure. Imagine this rich merchantman’s wife ask the magi for help, her husband has been kidnapped. In return she will give the starting covenant a generous loan or a sack of money, enough to aid the players starting covenant.

Let’s say that you get a magus a few grogs to look into the matter. First they start with looking into the husband’s office and find a few texts on infernal lore and a diary notes that suggests that the man has been dealing with devils in order to provide financial aid for himself and his wife. Also there are some notes that the man has loosing his favour amongst the other devil worshipers in the city and that he fear for his life. Together with accounting books they suggest that the business is struggling.

After looking into the office the wife points the character in the direction of the merchant guild hall. There they find a witness that gives a description of the man who the husband was last seen with. The also get to know that this man owns a house in the city. Hopefully the players realise that they must save this unfortunate man from a grim death.

The rescue attempt can go two ways either the players kill the man who has kidnapped the merchant and to late relies if the do that at all that the kidnapper is a pious old friend who tried to save the merchant from spending an eternity in hell. If they don’t slay the kidnapper they get to hear a different story that the merchant’s wife is demon.

The characters can deal with the wife in a manner that they seem fit. Either you get a fight with a demon or something like that or the characters live in ignorance and perhaps get drawn further into the daemons web. If they slay the demon they get some infernal adversaries who can cause trouble in the future. Remember that the wife is a demon who impersonates the husband’s wife not a demon who got married.

To summarise the pro’s of this story:

• Players get in touch with the divine in a minor way.
• Experience how a divine aura affects their spell casting.
• The get an introduction to getting in the wrong end of infernal trickery.
• They get to fight a creature with infernal might.
• They get vivid descriptions of a medieval city.
• I give them stories to build on in further gaming.
• It has an easy follow the red line story.

Happy hunting