Looking for a bit of help with character generation

Hello, I've been a long time fan of Mage the Ascension, and that led me to Ars Magica quite a bit ago. For years I've been using the glorious ideas and fluff in Ars Magica as inspiration for Dark Ages and Renessiance games of Mage. I've got a lovely pile of books on the Mythic Age of Ars Magica on my shelves. However, I've only ever played in one proper Ars Magica game, and that was during its 2nd edition.

Now a friend is asking me to join in his Ars Magica campaign, and while I have a solid grasp on the fluff, I could use a bit of help with the mechanical part of character generation. My specific goal is to build a Mercere trader with outposts along the Mediterranean, numerous servants and access to mercenaries. The goal is for him to provide the resources and security for his Covenant. His personal quest is to seek artifacts, writings and vis that he could use to further his position and grow his comprehension of magic. He would most likely be from Genoa or Venice, and he would be operating in the Middle East.

I know that I will have to invest into a gentle gift, but I think I could use some help with hunting down all the virtues I'd need to map this out (especially as ArM 5 doesn't seem to support this out of the core with the Magi being funded by the covenant). I feel the concept is valid, and would appreciate any kind help you folks might offer me.

Thank you in advance.

I think, as a GM, my first response is that your Mercere has a lot of non-magical resources already developed. This probably took a lot of time to do, and once we also understand that time cannot be spent twice -- on both studying magic and developing mundane resources -- this suggests that the character is either a decade or so out of Gauntlet, or his magic is weak for his age, or both. I might suggest to the player that he consider focusing on one or the other: either a Mercere magus and Seeker for artifacts, vis, and lost lore, OR a mundane Mercere who is also a master merchant and shipping magnate with mercenaries. That sort of character would be a Companion character, and your "magus slot" would be open for something else.

But my sense is that the player would probably not want to do that, and would like to keep on plan for a magus who is deeply embedded in mundane affairs. One of the challenges is that the character you describe is Wealthy, and magi cannot take Wealth because they already have 4 "free seasons" and their wealth is tied to the prosperity of their covenant. If you are joining a game in which the covenant is already very rich, you may be able to simply handwave the shipping and mercenaries and so on, and say they have always been there but never became relevant to a story until now.

Alternately, your magus is coming from a former covenant, one which was fantastically rich and where he slowly acquired all this support over years. If you have the money to pay for a merchant fleet and mercenaries, and Gentle Gift to ensure they don't resent you, then you may not need additional Virtues to explain that. You can pick a Story Flaw to represent some of these mundane ties, but it would probably be a Minor one because it also gives you some benefit. More important that Virtues might be the Abilities necessary to manage this far-flung network, including languages (the languages spoken in the Middle East are many and varied), Area Lore, Profession: Merchant, Leadership, and Bargain. This is where the XP problem comes in, because Abilities get expensive at the level you need them, and those points can only be acquired by a combination of age and the opportunity cost of weaker Arts and spells.

Your magus might benefit from a factor or other mundane merchant who handles all this stuff for him. This would allow him to focus on magic, and leave the running of the merchant stuff to his consigliere. Then you could take the consigliere as a Minor Story Flaw. He helps you out, and is very useful to you, but like a Magical Animal Companion he also gets caught up in stories and you have to go rescue him or deal with the fallout.

The book you need is CITY & GUILD, and I presume you have TRUE LINEAGES, where House Mercere and its distinctive magic and house structure is detailed. C&G details the various ranks of Merchant, required Abilities, Virtues, and so on. There is a magus ship captain in THROUGH THE AEGIS, but he is Tytalus. It may be worth noting that -- with the exception of the template character in the core rulebook -- nowhere in the 40 books of AM5, among over a hundred magi with fully-developed game statistics, is there a magical Mercere. There are many reasons for this, both in-world and out-of-world, but it means that a magical Mercere is a common place for players to go, because "it's not been done." In fact, this is exactly what Christian Andersen is doing with Janus of Mercere, who will be of interest to you: https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/anulus-connectens-janus-of-mercere/10509/1


The very first thing you should pin down has nothing to do with game mechanics, but with your gaming group: Is there really room for a character who brings along so much plot that is not related to the main story arc? Because even if you have the perfect virtues, flaws, Arts and Abilities for your mercantile Mercere magus, it'll be a big waste if the game is about something different entirely. And it probably will be. If the Covenant Hooks are about a dragon, a peasant uprising in the works, and a portal to the City of Brass by way of a dungeon beneath your covenant, well, your trading network is likely to take a back seat or even be left behind.

That said, if you do go this way....

Your very best friend is Strong Faerie Blood. It provides you with Second Sight, which is nice but not essential. It lets you see in darkness, also cute but unimportant. But it also lets you start aging at 50 rather than 35. Bank the extra 15 years now, before apprenticeship. That gives you 225xp to throw into Abilities and stuff; you need these xp, as has been pointed out. It also lets you take a Faerie Correspondence. If you're descended from Mercury or some other mercantile figure, you can take something like Trade. Dump lots of xp into the FC, and you can add that to ability rolls pertaining to trade instead of a specialty. This makes the roll stress, and can cause Warping, but does not impose Aura penalties (or bonuses) or add botch dice. It's a great virtue even if FC is not permitted in your saga.

There's a virtue that lets you evaluate things, but iirc it isn't that good because it is limited in scope.

Other points that have been mentioned: You'll either need the SG to handwave mundane resources and let you take what you want of this, tack these on to covenant Boons (a good choice, because that gets everyone invested in what you are doing, at the cost of your losing some control), or try to use your own VFs (not so good, because the game (like most) is not designed for this kind of character to be a PC.)

You might also consider True Love or True Friend: If you have an NPC partner in this, you can throw some of the virtue/ability burden that direction. There are virtues and flaws that let you take a magical mount or companion. Clearly, your mount ought to be a magical, intelligent ship. :slight_smile:/20 Outlaw leader provides underlings, at the cost of being an outlaw. There are various social status virtues that imply underlings, but that you cannot take RAW. This returns us to handwaving.

But really, first thing to ascertain is whether the character belongs.



Thank you kindly for the responses. First of all, the concept itself has been cleared with the storyguide. Second of all, the logistical support is actually going to be quite important to the story at hand, as it's about recovering a lost Covenant in the Levant in the lull between the Crusades. We're going to need as much of a support network as possible to first figure out what's been going on there and then continuing to rebuild it and get it to working condition.

Right now, the rest of the cast seems more interested in shapeshifting merrily around and tossing the elements while hanging around in the woods then actually working on the infrastructure, so I'm assuming I'm not really treading on any toes.

I actually had some ideas to be a member of a large Italian family consortium, that could be used by the Order to obtain materials and fund their projects. If I implement it like that, I wouldn't have to go as high up on the ladder for it to work. I'll consider the rest and get back to you when I have a better idea about this. Loving the idea about being descended from Mercury, and will look into City and Guild.

If you have any other ideas or advice, please feel free to toss them my way. I'll let you folks know how he turns out.

Have you considered playing a Mercere Heroic Companion? Given your direction, going with the Cult of Heroes seems right up your alley. Just something to consider.

If your group will be traveling to the Levant, and the other PCs don't want to deal with the logistics at all, then I can definitely see where your PC would be not only useful in game but also make the whole journey much easier and more practical. In this sense, your merchant network, servants and mercenaries are essentially covenant resources which enable the saga. The advice about working these into the covenant as Boons and Hooks is very good, in the saga you describe. I presume you have COVENANTS, the single most useful book for AM5 until THROUGH THE AEGIS, but if you do not, that is where Covenant Boons and Hooks are described and much of what you want can simply be picked from that. For example, your covenant's income source would be your merchant network, your grogs are represented by your mercenaries, and so on. Virtually all the mundane resources you want your magus to have become represented, in-game, by your covenant's boons and hooks.

This frees your magus's character sheet up for Arts and spells. Because your character is so tied to the mundane resources of the covenant, he becomes a likely candidate for the steward role, which is to say "The magus to whom the mundane seneschal of the covenant directly answers," and who has supervision over the mundane treasury and the grogs. This leaves other covenant offices, like the vis treasurer, the librarian, and so on, for other PCs.

Sounds very workable to me.

I get the sense that this is an already established campaign, not one that is just starting. So my commentary starts from that premise.

I think Boons and Hooks is a good way of modeling the resources that your character brings to the covenant upon joining. This makes your character less of logistical challenge to develop. As an SG, I'd be excited about the prospect of the character, but cautious of hanging too much on any individual character. It's probably important to note that these will be Mercere resources, and not your character's resources. The covenant gets access to the resources by bringing you in (boons) but takes on certain obligations (hooks) in the process. This would also free you up from investing in the Gentle Gift, which may or may not be desirable.

I would caution about designing your character to make the campaign work. It's great to design your character to fit into a campaign, but if you base a lot of your character on just structure things for the campaign to work, you're giving up a lot of player agency.

I first want to second doctorcomics in that the most comprehensive way to go about this is to be familiar with the appropriate chapters of House of Hermes: True Lineages and City and Guild.

Once you've looked through those, my question for you, assuming you want to generate a magus/maga (someone else suggested a Redcap Mythic Companion, which would also work well and would be equal in Hermetic social standing), is which of the following best describes your character:

1) A Merchant Who Is Also A Wizard.

My view is this is a merchant child (possibly unaware until apprenticeship that he/she was of the line of Mercere) who had the Gift, and his/her apprenticeship did not fundamentally change the course of the character's life towards mercantilism, just enhanced it.

This character requires Gentle Gift, and in my opinion would be apprenticed quite late - possibly as old as 15-18. Until that point, he would have had secular education and training in merchant skills and professions. I would not take too many Hermetic or Supernatural virtues or flaws; the ones I would take are ones that a young person with magical talent bent towards sea commerce might have or want (faerie blood only of undines or something similarly watery; focuses or restrictions regarding travel or water), and weigh the virtues and flaws more towards those helping in the mundane job.

As for apprenticeship, your character's parens is likely not to be highly specialized in travel and water magic, so before Gauntlet the spells and Arts will be a mixed bag, but once apprenticeship is over, the magus or maga will likely specialize to his/her interest.

2) A Wizard Who Is Also A Merchant.

This character for me would be a result of a bureaucratic decision at Harco; those in charge of House Mercere found they needed another magus or maga to help with the sea trade, so they made sure that one of the current Mercere magi in that field took an apprentice.

Childhood would be covenant-born, but apprenticeship quite early. Might have the Gentle Gift or Inoffensive to (Humans or Animals), but that's a story choice. Virtues and flaws will tend towards the magical; innate virtues and flaws might be more about general magical ability (such as study or lab bonuses, quiet or flexible magic, etc.) than magical foci. Or you could have Mythic Blood and be the child of a Redcap and a sea dragon. Mutantes magic might be interesting; tethering spells to sails, anchors, etc. might be very useful.

Apprenticeship, after basics, will be specialized. While your character will learn the profession and seafaring skills to a decent level, the focus will be on assisting the job magically, so more emphasis on Rego, Auram, Aquam (possibly Creo and Herbam for mending ships) and associated spells.

Post-apprenticeship will be in service to the House. Working on the Mystery of Hermetic Architecture in order to build enchanted sailing ships would be one possible path.

3) A Wizard Who Through Fate Became A Merchant.

This character wasn't really a seafarer, or trained from apprenticeship to take the role. Maybe this Mercere grew up in a covenant that had fishing boats; maybe he/she grew up in a forest and didn't know a boat from a barrel. At some point post-Gauntlet, someone with rank in House Mercere needed to take charge of some of the trading vessels on the Mediterranean and your character got the job (as a reward? As a result of intra-house political ambition? As a punishment? Any work!).

Generate your Mercere however, but don't give him/her too many obvious seafaring skills until after apprenticeship. Hermetic and Supernatural virtues more likely to be incidentally useful to the job (e.g., Elementalist) than something like Minor Magical Focus: Wind.

Because I like giving myself a challenge, I'd make the character a bookworm who expected to be making longevity potions and magical items for Redcaps until, suddenly, at age 28, blammo, out at sea. You don't have to be that radical, though.

Depending on how far out from apprenticeship the character is, the magus/maga could be a remarkably good merchant (at 55, 17+ years of experience refocusing on useful Abilities, Arts, and Spells), but the character would also possibly have more "land useful" spells and abilities from his prior career.

If you have Covenants available to you, have you thought about locating your sanctum and laboratory aboard one of your vessels? You might not be able to get the best lab totals, but your character would be able to avoid interrupting lab projects for time at sea.