New to the World

Hello! I'm a new addition to the Ars Magica world, and this looks like a great place to find and share ideas. I have a couple of questions, and was hoping for a few opinions.
There's a group of us who are trying out Ars Magica for the first time, coming from an AD&D/Cyberpunk style background. We're working off a copy of the new 5th edition manual, although we don't really have any supplements as of yet.
In all honestly, we spent about all day figuring out how to make some characters and designing background stories to be as realistic as we could.... this takes quite a while the first time!!
I guess my first question is about game material... perhaps there is an additional module that is best to not be without? There are far too many to reasonably expect to read through right off the bat, so I guess I'm just looking for anything "key."
Secondly... I notice many of the threads and discussions here deal with the use of magic to enhance the damage dealt in melee or light ranged combat. After reading the rules, it appears as though armed combat was meant to be a small part of the game (COMBAT is a subheading under OBSTACLES somewhere in the page 100's, and is a very short section). Does combat end up being a major piece for everyone? If so, perhaps some more well developed combat guidelines are in order? If this already exists, then please excuse my ignorance... but just as an example, during character generation you can assign points in the martial skill of SINGLE WEAPON.... in my experience role-playing, this typically works out to be maybe a shortsword and dagger, perhaps a sabre and single handed clubs or maces. Under these rules, it governs everything up to and including lance combat from horseback.... Not that this is really a problem, but it gives the image of an underdeveloped melee combat system. I enjoy the ars magica system because of the magic, but since many people seem to be centering their discussions around melee combat (spells to imbue hammers with lightning power, spells to enhance the archery skill, etc), it brings to mind the question of whether people just like the melee combat, or if there is something we don't have or didn't see.
Lastly, the first character that I am developing is working out to be a Diedne descendant refugee in house Bjornaer. From what I read, this type centers around the use of spontaneous magic. How have you all found this to work? They seem to have great bonuses when using it, but I haven't gotten a chance to test it out in play... perhaps someone has some insight?

Hello and welcome.

Well, not being a big 'module' guy, I really haven't gotten into any, so I'll let the other answer that, but I could guess... :wink:

Sometimes its unavoidable...but most of the time you will be busy with other things (dealing with yon noble or churchman).

Well that's when most of the really sticky problems arise (with the system). With the season length system of ARS, you have to plan ahead, so people are posting their ideas to get a gauge on if they have calculated the magic correctly. The combat system has been changed since 4th ed to streamline it, but still has a few....tweaks. Yeah, the "Single weapon" skill seems a little broad at times, but it does make it easier to figure things. There is a bit of calculation (as I'm sure you have seen), and with only (Serf' Parma) three weapon skills (single, great, bow) and Brawl, you can cover everything...now getting good at them is tough and takes time.

Well... :smiley:

I've seen Diedne to be really versitile and quite powerful. Some have advocated "Life linked Spontaneous Magic" as more powerful, but I have found that after a few years developement, it loses out to Diedne Magic. The reason for this is that your practical limit to Life linked is about a bonus of 20 to your casting total...A Diedne (say) with scores of 20 and 15 in his Tech/Form will have a bonus of 15..but he can do that roughly four times..not once.
Remember a couple of things though...
Depending on how your group interprets the Diedne, you can get two story thoughts...
A) The Diedne were the Diabolist everyone says they were.
B) They were the victims of greed, politics and possible a Demon plot...
In either case, you generally face a situation where if you are found out, you are dead, out of the game (as you run and hide), or you wind up politicing your way out of everyone believing you are a Diedne. The last is the fun one...
As a general rule though, the Formulaic magic is more powerful, and should never be forgotten...Spontaneous is much more flexible. Our resident fugitive can regularly Spont level 20-25 spells...thats a huge advantage...

welcome

Yes, characer generation for Ars takes a bit when you're new to it. The rest of the game tends to run smoother than character generation in my experience.

If we were talking about any previous eddition I'd be able to suggest a few titles that were significantly more important than the rest. The "sad" thing is that all of the fifth edition books are jam packed with stuff that you want to know.

The Houses of Hermes books are the ones that I'd want most. True lineages gives you information about being a hermetic magus: tribnuals, Hermetic law, and the redcap network. If anyone is playing a character from a Mystery house they'll really want the Mystery cults book after about ten years of game time has passsed.

I tend to have fights about once every two or three sessions. I do think that the combat system is quite sparse and could use extensive retooling to accomodate more player choices and general game-ish ness.

My experience is that about 60% of the spells that are cast by characers in my game are spontaneous spells. I think that Diedne magic is underpriced at only a major virtue. It is the most powerful virtue in the game bar none (well, bar cthonic magic but cthonic magic is from the infernal book and if you're going to get a magus to risk his soul you can't do it by offering him a minor magical potency with rabbits). In fact, diedne magic is so powerful I would be careful using it in a game for fear that it will cause bad feelings among the players whose non-Diedne magi aren't as powerful.

OK, off topic, but what the heck does Serf's Parma mean? it seems to used as an expression like "knock on wood" or "to the best of my knowledge". I have searched for it, but no luck.
I thought it was the name of a spell, but from context, it seems to be something other. Now back to the discussion at hand. Thanks :slight_smile:

It's in the Ars Magica Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ): redcap.org/FAQ/FAQ4a2.html

-Your friendly FAQ Maintainer

Welcome! It's always great to see new players.

In my opinion, using just the 5th Edition book you will be in good shape for a while. Your first need is probably an intro adventure: if you want you can try The Broken Covenant of Calebais (atlas-games.com/product_tables/AG0275.php) which is a classic adventure I would not want anyone to miss. :slight_smile: However you should be aware that there are important errata for that book (see the ArM5 home page; errata are in the "links" section in the lower right).

There is also Promises, Promises, a good intro adventure made for 4th Edition. atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/promises.pdf For your first few games you can probably just ignore the differences between 4th and 5th and then move on to Calebais or your own stories.

I end up having a lot less combat than D&D, but there is a fight of some kind (if only "grab that guy before he runs away!") about every two sessions. Yes, I would like to see expanded combat rules. There may be a book that includes them in the future (though exactly which book and when is a mystery).

I'll agree with Erik that I think Diedne Magic is a bit more powerful, and has a bigger downside, than I would want for my first character. Your mileage may vary; spontaneous magic is very useful once you get the hang of it.

Yes, welcome, I think you'll find the Ars experience to be unique to most gamers.

The magic system is the best I've ever found, and the unique Troupe playing system keeps interest high, as everybody is alternating characters often. I especially like the "focus" on one or two Mages, letting different characters be the spotlight every adventure. Add in to that the Council Meeting, and the occasional Companion or Grog adventure and I think it's the best thing around for adventure seeds.

It takes a long time the 100th time, too! I think the idea is the more time you spend picking exactly the right amount of background stuff, the more it will pay off in the long run.

If you intend to have a lot of NPCs (I highly suggest you concentrate on the PC Wizards the first several adventures, put the covenant in the boondocks of the Order), you might want to check out the Metacreator Software at www.alteregosoftware.com, it has a great deal of useful applications for the Ars Storyguide.

Sadly there is only one module for 5th Edition available. The Broken Covenant of Calabis is, as other's above have said, a wonderful Ars adventure. However, I like the Return of the Stormrider Jump Start Kit, even though it's for 4th edition, it is very well set up to introduce to the world of Ars. Actually most 4th edition and before Modules (Mythic Places, Festival of the Damned, The Pact of Pasaquine) are all good, and convertable with very little work, if that sort of thing appeals to you. Also check out the Atlas Ars page for several adventures in PDF form and a Common Beasts PDF, which can provide fresly Gauntleted magi great opponents.

Oh, and check out our 100 Story Seeds Thread:

https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/the-100-ars-magica-plot-seeds-thread/1242/1

I think you have just hit the forums at a time when several combat spells have hit it. There has been a call for several "utility" spells around level 10 to 15, so those have been taking a lot of focus as opposed to more grand "wizardly" things.

I agree the combat system is simple, and brutal, however this is designed to take the empahsis off of combat. I'm not sure how successful I find it, and my saga, which probally averages one fight a session, is toying with making healing a little more simple, more along the lines of 4th edition, that is one spell to heal for the short term, and the same spell allowed to heal long term if Vis is spent. We're also testing a system where a character can exert themselves (spend a fatigue level) and throw themselves out of the way of a blow, reducing the severity of a wound by 1 level (medium becomes light).

Obviously, since almost every reply here doesn't speak glowingly of the combat system it could be improved. However, it doesn't come close to making me not love the system.

Actually Single Weapon just handles normal sized one-handed weapons. the Great Weapon skill handles 2-handed weapons. Ride adds to mounted combat.

Also note that there are a lot of different weapons with different stats, making a person with the same skill but armed with a different weapon actually quite different. And if this bothers you too much, I suggest a House Rule that requires a person to "train" with a new weapon for a season to use it at their full weapon skill.

I think another reason you see such on the Forums is that a lot of the other stuff is well covered in the Official Books, and covered well, you'll find lots of stuff on Astronomy, and spells to transform elements into Faeries, and rituals to live forever, so people who enjoy a more combat-centric Ars game fill in what the see as a need.

Great character! However I agree that that the Diedne magic is an overpowered Virtue, unless you balance it with the fear of being discovered. And not just the "Dark Secret" type of fear, but the sort of secret is much more likely to limit a player's choices all the time. Such as "Do I dare use my Diedne magic in front of my Covenant-mates, because it is obviously strange, and they might turn on me." sort of Secret.

On a related note, I vote for "Mythic Blood" being the second most powerful Virtue.

Please feel free to ask any specific or general questions you'd like, we love to help![/img]

Along with all the others , welcome! :slight_smile:
Feel free to ask things more than once.
People are happy to help out

The Living Covenant: Semita Errabunda
There are a number of NPCs written up here which may be useful for you to download.

If you get any book , get Covenants.
Don't try to implement it immediately , you can design your Covenant with the core rules after all.
When you are a bit more familiar with the rules ,
plan a full-on session , just for fleshing out your Covenant.
It is the main background for your characters and where you will be spending a lot of time after all.

Despite all the claims that this Virtue is possibly overpowered ,
judge for yourself in play.
While it has a Dark Secret penalty that could lead to the characters demise ,
for story purposes this should not be instant execution.
(that would be no fun after all)

Welcome. :slight_smile:

Others have already given good advice, I don't have much to add.

I would like to say that the books on the Houses (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages and Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults) really can make a huge difference in how you play characters from that house, both in terms of background and mechanics. So if there is any non-core book I'd recommend it would actually be these ones, if only just the sections relevant for your character's house. Otherwise you may be disappointed later upon reading the relevant chapters and realizing you would have wanted to tie the character to a certain part of the house, have him start along a certain path, optimize him for a certain endeavour, or whatever.
(Buying them of course is not vital, just the core book will do fine. It's just that I think these two books are the ones most "dangerous" in that they may lead to a desire to retcon the character if read later on.)

The most important part of HoH : Mystery Cults being this FAQ

redcap.org/FAQ/FAQ2.html#shapeshifter
atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ArM5Beasts.pdf

I'll note that I have not seen this virtue in play in my games yet. my judgement of it comes from looking at the virtue rather than experience in game.

In our sagas, Diedne Magic has always been outshined by Life Linked Spontaneous Magic. Always.

Unless we've misread something, the fatigue bonus from Diedne Magic is halved, while the bonus from Life Linked Spontaneous Magic is not. So if a Life Linked caster needs to go all out, (s)he can boost the casting total by 20 or so. A Diedne would need a 40 in his LOWER Art to get the same benefit.

In our sagas, we have never seen Arts get close to this, the maximum ever (for a PC) being around 25.

All spont spells are either divided by 2 or 5 depending on if you spend fatigue

For diedne you double the lower art then divide the total by 2 so if you have 10's in everything, 0 stamina, no aura, ect... you have a casting total of 15. (10+(10*2))/2=15While this is great for doing needed spells on the fly it's also a MAJOR benefit when trying to counter spell.

same stats with Life link would be a casting total of 10 then you add the life linked bonuses which are not halved (10+10)/2 =10+bonuses

This does work out to be a powerful virtue, but you need to be careful about who sees you castings fatiguing spont spells or you'll find your self marched

If I remember correctly I've only had to kill 2 other magi so far. One accused me of being who I really was, so I declared wizards war for tainting my good name. The other was someone who believed the slander about me and ambushed me...his body got sent to a church for a "proper" burial where no one will be disturbing his spirit with unnecessary questions :smiling_imp:

(previous post scrapped because I'm an idiot who can't read)

The way I see it, having Diedne Magic isn't ground for a Wizard's March. After all, you are a member of some other house, not a member of House Diedne. It may lead to Wizard Wars from some Diedne-hating magi though. It's not as if you have Arcane Lore and learned Parma, which makes you an enemy of the Order: even in that case, they have to find out that you do know Parma. The hunt isn't automatic from the day of character creation.

And I don't really see how simply casting powerful spontaneous spell would lead to people pinning you down as a Diedne magus: they don't get to see your Art scores, nor measure your exact penetration total, nor check whether you lost a Fatigue level or not.

The Dark Secret would come to haunt you from, e.g. investigation of your parens, strange practices you may have (which may or may not appear in your spell casting), etc. It's a Story Flaw, so it has to be woven in a story, not just dropped on you "You cast powerful spontaneous spells! You're a Diedne! Creo Ignem!". :unamused:

That was my original though...but now I figure there must be some difference in the hand waving and other things that you do while casting. This may be very minor and many magi may not understand the difference, but if you stumble across a walking barbeque (aka: Flambeau) who has had the stories past down from his masters master who fought in the war you may be in trouble. Or if you play at an earlier time then cannon it's likely more will notice the difference.

There should be no obvious way to tell from watching Spontaneous Casting ,
if someone is exceptionally good at it.
They might have gotten very lucky with the Stress Die.
Unless you studied the character to get a good idea of the power of their Arts ,
and were able to observe them for a number of Spontaneous castings ,
then InVi spells would be needed.
IMO , YMMV and all that.

I agree to some extent that Diedne magic shouldn't be instant death, someone suspected of having a Diednic lineage should be no worse amongst the Order as someone having a Infernalist lineage. If they find out about that lineage then constant suspicion, periodic investigation by the quaesitors, and if any proof you worship the old gods/suspected demons which were the Tremere's excuse for attacking the Diedne then you would be renounced. If the hermetic descendants of the Tytilus demon worshippers can be allowed to live and remain in the order, because they themselves aren't guilty, then so to can be hermetic descendants of the Diedne.

That said I would prefer some variations on this virtue to show the different versions of why exactly the magi's hermetic predecessor survived the Schism War.

  1. The basic Dark Secret implies that no one knows that you are descended from Diedne. Which implies that your predecessors deceived people by claiming membership in a House other than Diedne. In the chaos of the Schism war that would have been possible.
  2. A reputation flaw instead of dark secret. Your predecessors were openly part of House Diedne, but were accepted into a different House either before the war or during it. Whether they were a member who submitted to intrusive mind reaming to prove innocence and were accepted by another house. Or a more realistic alternative, a Diedne apprentice claimed by house Bonisagus, whose heritage was protected by the status of Bonisagus.
  3. Your ancestor wasn't actually part of House Diedne, but learnt their secrets by invention or rediscovering pre-hermetic secrets. Take a hermetic flaw to balance, on SG discretion.

I agree. Someone would have to have an idea of the suspicious ratio between the power of your formulaic spells and your spontaneous spells to get suspicious, unless there is something obvious about the manner in which you cast spontaneaous spells <weird gestures, strange glow, etc>.
"Hmm, I know Eowan pretty well, and I have seen him cast spontaneous 3rd magnitude InMe spells several times, but for some reason he has difficulty with 6th magnitude formulaic speels, hmmm". Besides, since Dark Secret is a story flaw, it automatically makes that Dark secret a plot hook. Somone's gonna be suspicious...

Poor Formulaic Magic and Unstructured Caster will pretty much kill your formulaic magic dead.

Very true.

And you ain't getting "Dark Secret" for nothing. People may not easily be able to distinguish your brand of Spont Magic, but there is no doubt if somone could, it would be bad for you. That is, you can't just say, "Yah, I have that Virtue."