New players, mew Characters

Hello world,

During our Ars Magica campaign, some friends and/or brothers/cousins/sisters of my players wanted to test the game : I assume it's a common event.

The main difficulty is that they often haven't the time or the will to learn all the game mechanics (particularly the Spell-casting and Spell-building mechanics) nor the current campaign history.
The magi have now 2 years of adventures back in the memories and the full order of Hermes himself take a long time to be explained.
How do you manage the occuring new players, who can participate with the players only one or two sessions ?

In my case, I don't want to let them play only a servant (peasant ? warrior ? worker ?) of the covenant : the other players see those characters as vile and slave-like creatures. The new and occasionnal players want to be part of the fun too !

Well, I offered some of them to play a powerful companion (a great thief, a great craftman) when it was accurate.
On the other hand, I talk to them about a world of magic, faeries and mysteries. They don't want to play the regular guy, the mundane and obviously not-that-impressive companion.

That's why I had the idea to let them play supernatural creatures. I can see many bonuses in that way :
-Both the new player and the old players can have a new touch with the mythical Europe
-I'ts great to introduce minor new supernatural characters, not too powerful but not too pathetic (Between 5 and 20 Power size) : aka some korrigans, house-pixies, foxgirls and/or nature spirits
-The simple mechanic of the faerie/diabolic/magic power creatures in the core book are easy enough to be understood by a full beginner
-Faerie/magic powers : they are easy to learn, easy to cast, and fun to share ! The only difficulty is to find appropriate and balanced spells (well they can be unbalanced too). One of my players loved to play Ridagot, a housegnome, who had the power to change rocks into cheese !
-The Power Points are easy to count (use small coins or plastic gems)
-I'ts easier to explain why a feary just pop in the game and will come back only when they decide to (maybe never)
-In my campain, the group of Magi face the return of the long-asleep Black Faery Morgane Le Fey, so the Faeries are easy to introduce in the story

The next time I will have to manage new curious players in my group, I think I will try to introduce gifted human witches, priests with exalted faith, etc... Those possibilities are great too.

What do you think about that ? Is it a good idea to let new players try faerie creatures ?
How do you manage new players ? Ho do you manage players who will try the game only for one evening ?

(Sorry for approximative language, I'm only English(Scripture)2.)

In my experience characters for new players are mainly an issue of campaign style.

If your regular players are used to sometimes also play grogs, starting out new ones with interesting grogs alongside those of experienced players is fun.
Establishing a more powerful character in the covenant, who is regularly played by newcomers, also makes sense. A young magus with the Gentle Gift, one strong Technique and Form, trouble casting spontaneous magic, carefully chosen spells only from the core book, and limited exposure to the Order at large makes a fine character for the first sessions of a new player.
But there is nothing wrong with starting newcomers as Faeries, witches or Divine practitioners, if those are not as a matter of routine shoved aside or dealt with harshly by the other players' magi.


Here's a magus character for newcomers, that I once made but never used.

The idea of Cornix is, that - because built with rules froms several books - she needs to be explained to a new player, but afterwards is easy to play, commands respect from the other characters and provides straightforward roleplaying challenges.

Covenant: Triamore
Characteristics: Int +2 (Shrewd), Per -2 (Focused), Pre +1 (Fatal Beauty), Com 0, Str +3 (Stalwart), Sta +1 (Tough), Dex +1 (Deft), Qik +1 (Nimble)
Size: 0
Age: 21 (21), Height: 168 cm, Weight: 58 kg, Gender: Female
Decrepitude: 0
Warping Score: 0 (0)
Confidence: 1 (3)
Virtues and Flaws: Hermetic Magus, Gentle Gift, Affinity with Single Weapon, Improved Characteristics, Tough (Soak: +3), Warrior (50/50)*, Puissant Single Weapon, Deft Form (Form: Corpus), Affinity with Muto, Minor Magical Focus (self transformation), Knight, School of Ramius, The Gift, Rigid Magic, Envied Beauty, Bound Magic, Unimaginative Learner (Studying from Raw Vis: 3), Higher Purpose (Code of Garus), Miles
Personality Traits: Brave +2, Chivalrous +2, Confident +2
Reputations: Flambeau House Acclaim (Magi Flambeaux) 1
Dodge: Init: +1, Attack -, Defense +4, Damage -
Fist: Init: +1, Attack +4, Defense +4, Damage +3
Kick: Init: +0, Attack +4, Defense +3, Damage +6
Dagger: Init: +1, Attack +7, Defense +5, Damage +6
Sword, Long & Shield, Heater (AoUW: +1): Init: +3, Attack +13, Defense +14, Damage +9
Sword, Long: Init: +3, Attack +13, Defense +10, Damage +9
Lance (mounted): Init: +3, Attack +15, Defense +11, Damage +8
Hammer & Shield, Heater (AoUW: +1): Init: +1, Attack +11, Defense +12, Damage +11
Soak: +17
Fatigue levels: OK, 0, -1, -3, -5, Unconscious
Wound Penalties: -1 (1-5), -3 (6-10), -5 (11-15), Incapacitated (16-20), Dead (21+)
Abilities: Latin 4 (Hermetic Usage), Artes Liberales 1 (Grammar), Code of Hermes 1 (Wizard's Marches), Magic Theory 3 (Invent Spells), Parma Magica 1 (Mentem), Concentration 1 (Casting Spells), Etiquette 0 (Magi) (1), Charm 1 (First Impressions), Awareness 1 (Keeping Watch), Survival 0 (Woods) (1), Athletics 1 (Jump), Brawl 3 (Dagger), Animal Handling 1 (Horses), Low German 5 (Saxon), Order of Hermes Lore 1 (Flambeau), Ride 3 (battle), Scribe 0 (Copying) (1), Single Weapon 5+2 (Sword, Long)
Arts: Cr 0, In 5, Mu 12, Pe 0, Re 0, An 5, Aq 0, Au 0, Co 5, He 5, Ig 0, Im 0, Me 0, Te 5, Vi 0
Equipment: Shield, Heater (AoUW: +1) (Init: 0; Atk: 0; Dfn: +4; Str: 0; Cost: Standard); Full Plate and Mail Armor (HoA: +2) with Open Helmet (Soak: 17) (Soak: 17; Protection: 13); Horse: Warhorse (Mounted Combat)
Encumbrance: 0 (3)
Spells Known:
Shriek of the Impending Shafts (InHe 15) +11
Cloak of Black Feathers (MuCo(An) 30) +23
Disguise of Own New Body (MuCo 5) +23
Eyes of the Cat (MuCo(An) 5) +18
Gift of the Bear's Fortitude (MuCo 25) +23
Aegis of Unbreakable Wood (MuHe 15) +18
Hardness of Adamantine (MuTe 25) +18

EDIT: Copying .rtf files into the forum drops hyphens. I put them back in now.

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If the other players have apprentices, they make very good characters for starters. Limited magic/spells ( but they have it) and no one is really expecting much from them.

Well I forgot the apprentices. It's a good idea.

But for people who haven't played roleplay games before, an Ars Magica character sheet is a bunch of information to digest (characteristics + virtues & flaws + skills + ars... it's big enough to scary a beginner).
I have to think about it.

I would suggest having a number of pre-made characters ready for such visitors. Much like the characters you would create for a demonstration of the game, you could simplify some of the stats and detail some of the capabilities. Such as the formulaic spells and some of the easily performed spontaneous spells that character can achieve.

Sure, it is a bit more work for the storyguide. But you could always use some of the pre-designed characters from published materials (such as Guardians of the Forest and Magi of Hermes) as a starting point.

One thing that will make a huge difference is how grogs are treated by your troupe. Personally I feel a game and covenant are served well by having capable and interesting grogs. A lot of people seem to feel that grogs are basically window dressing and shouldn't really be bothered with. We have had clashes from time to time, when I have grog academics improving the library on magic theory (learn magic theory and write tractatus. Since other literate grogs can do the same this can build quickly once the population of writers is not constrained to magi), if it is allowed experimental philosophy can be something Grogs can do to support a covenant- scribes to copy books, and of course units of soldiers who don't have to worry about penetrating magic resistance.

I've picked up a habit that can be handy for beginners playing magi, quite similar to Arthur's suggestion. I now tend to record all of my favorite spontaneous spells on my character sheet as well. Sure, it's a lot more to write. But then I can basically have the ease of nearly everything I cast being formulaic, just with reduced casting scores since they aren't. It saves me from having to look in a book so much as I'm playing. A focused mage with a list of a variety of useful spontaneous effects they can pull off is probably a lot easier for a beginner than having them deal with spontaneous magic of enormous variety early on. I would think the same would apply to a number of similar things, like someone with True Faith or a Gifted hedgie.