It seems that a recurring theme in the analysis of any game mechanic is the 'what does this do once applied to 1500 magi'. It seems to me that the presumption of this line of reasoning is that the core rules represents the typical magus of the Order. I wonder if this is really the case.

The rules are, naturally, specifically designed for player characters, the protagonists of the story. One of the core assumptions about PCs in general in games is that they have unlimited potential. This is not necessarily true of NPCs.

If Ars were a game of modern scientists, would you make a game world assuming that every scientist is a potential Nobel prize winner? Or better yet, in sports be Hall of Famers? It seems to me that the bulk of the Order are "merely" a professional athlete. They might play in Wimbledon or the The Masters or be a starter on a pro team, but they aren't talented enough to be Hall of Fame types like Federer, Woods, Griffey, Jordan, etc.

What's my point? Well, I think there are a lot of wizards who either aren't that good (by the standards of Hall of Fame Hermetic magi) or aren't motivated enough to be amazing. I don't think that as many wizards pass the century mark in years lived as is theoretically possible. There would be more wizards like Gwhyr from Lion of the North.

The RAW are for the top end potential folks that might be archmages or the next a big explosion. Do many people think abotu this kind of thing at all?


That is pretty much my view, and why I don't tend to get involved in debates surrounding 'why this rule, if applied as written to the whole world, is broken!' ...

That 'may' be true. Yet, IMO, not only is that a matter of opinion, yet it also can only be so if we take a rather mechanical view of characters and their progression.

i.e. PCs by their nature engage in a much greater degree of 'min/max' type activity than NPCs should ever do. And PCs shouldn't do 'so' very much of it besides. I'm also of the school that thinks PCs should be 'exceptional people'... and the only other exceptional people in the world are 'major' NPCs. Minor NPCs are just that... minor characters in the story who are unlikely to be on par with the major characters.

Anyway... I'm rambling. the short answer is 'yes, I think along the same lines'.

I have always had a serious problem accepting the widespread assumption that the typical magus spends 4 seasons a year feverishly devoted to raising his Arts as high and as fast as possible.

If a magus has a major project for which to prepare - a cool spell or investing a new power into his familiar or something - then sure, a few years of hard work makes sense. But for the rest of their careers, I would think NPC magi would have a much more leisurely attitude toward study and lab work than does the typical PC. ("I'll get around to reading that summa eventually. This summer, I'm going to Sicily to enjoy my seaside villa with my girlfriend.")

Analysis usually includes mediocrity into account.
Of course, it makes assumptions - but usually ones that appear reasonable. For example, in asessing lab totals Intelligence is usually +1 to +3, not higher (but also not lower, as this seems to be the Int of all published magi, NPCs included).

I agree the PCs are uniquely min/maxing and adorned with all the desirable V&F and bucketfulls of luck and good circumstances, but it isn't reasonable not to expect some min/maxing from NPCs in general as well. No magus is going in to enchant his familiar in the weakest way he can, or brew the poorest longevity potion he can.

Of course, some rules are directed to min/maxed characters, and min/maxed situations. If conducting Original Research, it is reasonable to have the magus relatively driven and focused. When considering the highest level books in the Order, it is reasonable to consider magi that are pretty obsessive about a particular Art and have a natural aptitude for it.

Actually that's the way I play quite often. I prefer to get my xp's from Adventure anyway. But I recal my character Constantius of Jerbiton (from 4th edition) would take a season off every year to spend time with his family. Voluntarilly. No Flaw (Close Family Ties was a Virtue back then). It was an essential part of his character.

I'm not sure that's actually true. Probably the only thing I've read in a 5e book that made me want to hurl was a section of HoH: S called "Less Intelligent Magi". It has a semi apology for the idea that some Jerbiton don't have +3 Int, countering with words to the effect that at least they'll be tougher or more charismatic as a result. I don't believe that +3 Int is average for the Order even though its average for PCs. And I definitely don't think that NPCs' stats balance out like that.

You also almost never see reference to any magus like Gwhyr: Gifted, but simply not that talented (relative to other magi, he's wicked compared to hedgies).

My feeling about the Order, is that I assume that the folks who don't want to be superstar lab rats wash out or become things like Seekers, Quaesitores, or Hoplites. There's a minimum amount of diligence required to stay through the 15 years of apprenticeship; if a mage makes it that long, he's going to be in the lab at least one season per year, and gaining at least exposure experience in spellcasting the rest of the time (the lazier the mage, the more spontaneous magic used, I wager).

I see also this line of reasonning and often I don't agree with it.

I may be wrong, but I didn't see any indication of response to this question in the rule books. And I think that was intentionnal. I agree with that decision from the line editor.

In regard of what "type" of game you are playing, it doesn't matter if you min/max your characters or not. You can always assume your adversaries have the same power/ressources as the characters. What it does change, is what importance min/maxing will have in your campaign.

By "type" of game, I only want to say that you have to decide if your campaign will be more realistic or more epic. Play against the "local evil baron" or "Save the world" ! Anyway, there can always be people less, people equally, and people more, powerfull than your characters are :wink:

I personnally prefer a realistic games, and in our campaign I try to play the most average mage ever played: that is, he is not dull, but very human in his objectives and efforts. This is very difficult, I don't succeed often, but I like challenges. This is a game, what's important is to enjoy yourself ! :slight_smile:

One could say that, but I don't think many would agree. I would prefer to say: style of play is not derived from rules only. The importance of the rules for style of play depends on what the troops wants. Rationnalisation of the rules that doesn't fit into that choosen type then occur, hopefully.

For exemple, I think basics rules are all that is necessary for play, I don't want to say that all magi should be "vanilla mage". I just say it is possilbe to play a Weather Witch with a focus in auram. There is no need for an ability called "Whistle Up the Wind" (HoH:S p.105). It only needs that the player choose and research spells and such in accordance with his character's concept, which does not really need to be enforced by any rules.

Mythic Europe is really not defined at all. Compare to other games, Seven Sea, Call of Chtulhu, Feng Shui . Even D&D, which is a system pointing toward more epic gaming.

Agrees with Iudicium

As long as the narrative is OK, I am happy. For my own personal tastes, the line has gone maths/rules heavy in this edition, but that is personalñ taste. The bottom line about playing style is still there. Even if MR rules are broken et al, in general the core mechanics are soliud and both the mechanics and game description make for diverse approaches to the game.

I like that.


Glad you liked it.

No, that's a typo: +2 Int is the average in the Order - this was errated years ago. It still says that it's OK to have a magus with an Int of +1, something which had not appeared in thel ine up to that point.

At a point that is comparable to character creation, sure they do. PCs are statistically average at that point.

Ah, actually you do: it's in the section that made you want to hurl: House Jerbiton are the house that deliberately does not crunch optimise.

We have come to the conclusion that to make it "Realistic", you would need to screw down the EXP totals for study...
This would mean less time in the lab (Come on SG...get them stories together and keep 'em busy ) :smiley: .
You can also turn down the Quality of books, and give the Covenant a low Aura for Vis study. You would also want to give VERY low amounts of Vis...You can buy more books when you have Vis, and create more wealth...

As for the Apprentice thing...You can really tighten that down by having them Refine your lab, or perform other tasks...just mandate ONE season of learning for them a year...Don't let them study more...


I'd like to point out that, in covenants, the "typical use" for laboratory points is 2 seasons and "heavy use" is 4 seasons.

So your average Johnny McMagus may very well only be spending 2 seasons of his year in the laboratory compared to the PC.

Ah, but reading books is not lab work. :stuck_out_tongue:

Point. I stand corrected.


maybe not, but if he is spending two seasons in the lab, he can't be spending more than two seasons reading...

I think you misunderstood what I objected to. It was not the House Jerbiton write up in general, which is fine. It was that specific sidebar on less intelligent magi. And it was not because I don't think magi should have less than a +2 Int. I'm fine with them having even negative Int scores (though that would be pretty rare). I found the idea that NPCs had some kind of balanced stats from the purchase system objectionable. PCs need that kind of thing. NPCs don't. So NPCs should not automatically have better physical or social stats by virtue of having less mental ones.

No, sadly for you I didn't, which must mean you want to hurl again right now, huh? :laughing:

I agree with you, but the game doesn't. Every NPC that has been presented in any previous supplement, AFAICT, has been built in a way that mean that if they are of comparable age to PCs at character creation, then they have the sorts of stats that PCs can have. This was, I presume, initially to prevent NPCs which were impossible aspirations for player characters: no NPCs are "just better than you, deal with it." As a perhaps unintended side effect, no NPCs are "just worse than you in comparable circumstances, just deal with it.".

Although I tend to agree, I'd like to see how far you go with this. Are PCs a special caste of maximum stat magi? THat is, are NPCs able to be worse but not better than PCs at build, or do you take it the other way, and agree that they are merely "average" so that there are both far worse and intrinsicly and unattainably better NPCs?

Sorry about the slow replies... internet at my home is out so I can only reply when I hijack another computer....

To answer your question..

No, PCs aren't a special caste. IMHO, PCs in any game have two requirements: they need to be balanced against each other in some fashion and they need to have unlimited potential for excellence (or, at least the option to be the 2nd best in the world if you are running a Conan or Elric game...).

NPCs don't need either of these things. Some NPCs have unlimited potential, some don't. None of them need to be carefully balanced relative to each other. So I suppose that means that some could be "Just better" in terms of stats or virtues if that's what is called for. Others will be worse.

Since Ars Magica isn't a game built around an iconic character, there is nothing an NPC can do that isn't theoretically possible for a PC (and there is nothing a PC can do that isn't theoretically possible for some NPCs). PCs will often not have the highly lopsided builds that allow for unmatched excellence in some peculiar specialty, so in that sense its unlikely that any of the PCs could match "super focuses specialist man", but that's a different issue. Even lab rat PCs expect to go on adventures and do RP stuff... so that is something of a design constraint on them.

Btw, I don't think just having a lower than average Int really matches what I think of as "mediocrity" in this context. An Int +1 magus will take longer to get to the pinnacle of power than an Int +3 magus, but he's still just as capable according to the rules. My example of Gwhyr is not of a Jerbiton magus who has better things to do than max out his magic; he simply didn't have the talent to get good, no matter what resources he was given. In the real world, that's how it works. No matter how hard they work, not every professional athlete is going to be a Hall of Famer.

Its clear that the game design has always treated everyone with the Gift as being equally talented (virtues and flaws aside). I don't know if that's always been a conscious decision by the designers or not. It is a pet peeve of mine, particularly in other games where people act like the whole world is made up of PCs who just happen not to be adventuring... D&D is especially bad with this, but it tends to occur in most games. Probably because character creation for PCs actually exists or perhaps from some sense of 'fairness'.

In Ars Magica, this conceit doesn't cause the same level of problems it does in D&D, for example. I just think its "unrealistic" (snerk) to have the only determinants on magus power capacity being access to resources (time and "stuff" to study) rather than any talent other than The Gift.

Arts are less sensitive to raw talent due to their fast scale, but to reach an equivalent casting/lab total, or Stat + Ability score, which are in the end all that matter, a character with a higher stat has a much easier time, since he's got fewer XP to accumulate. Talent counts.

Take a Dex +3, Int -3, Wood Crafting 3 character. He'll do just fine making chairs, but ask him a question about his craft and he'll be hard-pressed to answer.

As to gross learning ability discrepancies, that's what Virtues and Flaws are for: affinities, deficiencies, poor students, book learners ... I'll grant you they haven't been tabulated into the simplified advancement method, but if you take the time to manually advance a character, they sure will have an effect.

Those things just affect the speed at which you learn. None of them affect the end result. I might have to study the Rego 30 summa a few more seasons than the other guy, but I'd still get there.

Besides which... EVERY magus apparently has some sort of hermetic flaw, so you can't read too much into deficiencies and the like in this context.

Perhaps more importantly, how often do you actually see any of those learning virtues/flaws on NPC magi? The number of published wizards who are noticably inferior to their age peers is pretty minimal, IIRC, especially if you rule out the "Well, I just don't feel like studying magic much" types since they could be equal to their age peers and just haven't bothered.