Newbie Solicitation for Advice (#3?)

Adventure XP
Alright, so, some members of my troupe have had some experience with previous editions of Ars Magica. Pursuant to that experience, they are unhappy with how Adventure XP is handled in 5th edition. Personally, I do find it a little odd myself, but... It has always seemed to me to be a core facet of Ars Magica that magi would much rather spend time researching and studying then adventuring. Every suggestion I've heard from my players so far would seem to throw that balance completely out, to make adventuring the best way to improve your wizard. I believe in older editions you couldn't spend adventure xp on arts, and a simple, yet inelegant compromise might be to fall back to that position, but, despite coming up empty on searches on this forum, I thought I'd seen what set ups folks here had come up with. I'm personally leaning a little towards sticking with the vanilla rules in this regard... But that's me.

The basic idea is that you can only gain exp from one source per season, and Adventuring is one source of exp. Generally, the "compromise" that my sagas have always arrived it is to only have one adventure per season. Also note that adventures grant a number of rewards other then experience points. Characters gain Confidence Points, can get Reputation and gain any number of non-game mechanics awards (such as allies, mundane and magical treasures, texts, etc.)

On the whole the core thing to remember is that Ars Magica is not a typical roleplaying game where characters become demigods overnight by fighting a bunch of monsters in a basement. That can be fun too, but it's not what Ars Magica was designed to be.

I like to give active adventurous Magi a slight bonus over their homebody counterparts. Just enough to encourage a little action and to remove the predictability that you otherwise get (ok, so he's 30 years past gauntlet, so 120 seasons of xp, he MUST be about this good...). I'm very generous on partial study experience if they're out of their labs for a few weeks and then I tack on a few extra points, 2-3 perhaps, on top of that in something related to their adventure.

I think part of the problem is players with new characters typically want to play them - and young magi (who tend to be the new characters) get far more benefit from even a simple library than someone who has exhuasted that library or other easy sources of xp in their fields of interest.

For the elder magi, adventure xp lets them boost an ability or art that they otherwise don't have a reliable source of xp for - so the people who benefit most from the current system are, unfortunately, the ones that the new player is the most removed from.

Our group are awarding adventure xp on top of seasonal activities. So far it has had a miniscule impact when compared to the reward of a decent tractatus or access to a good summa.

cf How to StoryGuide - setting up seasons vs adventures, May 24

Things don't appear at the covenant because you want them, usually you'll want some minor adventure to get that Rego summae. So you took a week off, and you'd rather spend the season reading that new book than get your 5 adventure xp? Fine.

If they think 5 xp isn't enough, maybe they should time it with seasons spent in the lab. It sure beats Exposure.

I can understand that if you create a monster story that takes a month to resolve without advancing a single season, they'd want more than a meager 5 xp. But generally, advance the clock faster and use short adventures as flavor to make those years more than just dry numbers. In a way, the 4 seasons of free time they got was because they played well and had fun, because they resolved all issues that would force them out of their labs.

I'll add that Ars Magica isn't about adventuring, but about spending months and years on a single task. Visiting covenants to count votes is a great example.

Books do seem to be by far the best source of xp; they don't require a trainer or teacher (who would themselves get only exposure xp that season), and they are high quality...

Or are they ? Of course if the world is littered with Q14 tractati and summae no one needs to go adventuring, but shouldn't those be more restricted, harder to come by ? Take a look at the Price of Books section of covenants, and good books are suddenly very hard to come by; adventures can then bring a double bonus: you get the adventure xp AND a good book to study later.

Covenants , page 20:
Exceptional Book (Major Boon): (level + quality) = 35 ,
with a maximum quality of 25 and a maximum Art level of 20.

And thats a silly low limit for a MAJOR boon, considering that even when running strictly RAW, i´ve seen player characters write better stuff several times. A Major boon should at least set the quality limit no lower than what the RAW max is, ie 28(and before you get into extra bonuses that can be found in the addon books). And making Q28, level 7-9 primers is quite appreciated...

Just try to be reasonable when you decide how much XP to give out.
If characters spend a couple of their otherwise free days in a season to take care of something minor, give them whatever other XP from the season as well and then add maybe 1-2XP for the little "barely adventure"...
If they spend a complete season running around doing LOTS of important/dangerous/hard stuff they only get the adventure XP but they might get 10-15XP depending how "huge" you think their adventure really was.
If they do something that cuts into their seasonal activites, remember to reduce the xp they get from that and then add some adventure XP based on, again, importance, danger, difficulty and of course how inventive the players are in dealing with whatever the problem was.

For adventures I usually give players XP depending on the number of nights passed playing it:

  • less than 1 night => 5xp (mini-adventure)
  • 1 night => 7xp
  • 2 nights => 10xp
  • 3 nights => 15 xp

Another thing to consider about adventures is that everyone on the adventure gains xp. The companions, the grogs, familiars, and Magi all get a boost.

Players should eventually be able to write better stuff then what a covenant can buy as a starting asset even with a major boon. Writing the best summa anyone has ever seen is a legitimate in-character accomplishment for elder magi. It's not like it's easy, writing a level 10 quality 25 book using only the bonuses available ArM5 and Covonants requires a minimum art score of around 36.

Why? That makes absolutely no sense what so ever. It would mean that there COULD NOT have EVER been anyone as potentially "good" as a player character before. That´s illogical and its totally lame.

Sure. But it´s not like players are going to be flinging around 15 or 20 Major boons just to top out their covenant from start. And if they try, the SG will just damn well say "NOOOOO freakin way!".
If they start out with 1, MAYBE 2 "ultimate books", that´s not a big bad problem. If the SG wants to keep a limiter, they can say that the book cant be copied or traded in any way, for example.

Easy, of course it isnt. It is however not so amazingly hard either though. Large covenant, cooperative players, time... Well if those 3 conditions are met, Art scores well above 40 isnt a problem at all. Add to that Com increasing Rituals and the only thing potentially missing is if a player didnt pick "Good Teacher" at start. And if you play RAW, just about any player character should have it, it´s just too useful not to have(if nothing else, it allows you to sell your books for a lot more without any need for extra investment, major win for character and covenant overall).

I can, and have made, characters that even playing by RAW(not including Covenants book)could write a Q25 L10 book within a decade or two of play(i dont recall exactly how long it would take to reach that sort of level), and i´ve had characters write stuff on the Q28 L15ish level... Pushing a specialist high just to see how good books they can produce is after all a fun little challenge by itself(even both in character and as a player).

No, it just means that there are feats out there within player reach that are beyond what can be purchased for points at the start of a game. Nobody said there couldn't be better books written in the past and available in stories, just that such books are unique enough that you can't get them by ticking off a "boon" box. This helps keep things mysterious and unique, as well as giving players a sense of accomplishment.

In our games, my husband and I, we decided :
you can get both experience from season and from scenario if the scenario takes less than 10 days, and it is possible to get contact in area lore and language sometimes

I thought the whole purpose behind that particular major boon was to foster trade and interaction with other Magi, not just for the covenant's own personal use. It is listed under the External Relations heading in the book after all.

I think a better way to limit power gaming with a boon like that would be to have the story guide just determine the details of the book (or books) Art Quality Level. Or the troupe could do it randomly. In larger groups that might be the best idea to keep one character from benefiting from the boon far more then all the others.


That wasn't really my point though Jabir put it better then I could in his earlier post.

Still player characters should have a chance to surpass everyone else in the game world. That's the premise of 99% of all the heroic fiction ever made. Tarzan, Batman, He-Man, Sherlock Holmes, The Knights of the Round Table, Lensmen, Superman etc. I could go on for a long long time. Player Characters are the Hiro Protagonists (spelling and caps intended) of there own story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting them eventually become the senior bad asses of their setting.

Yes, and it easily creates lots of potential stories for players :

  • find the good master and convince him
  • avoid or calm the wrath of his other jealous disciples
  • find the best books either made on the subject
  • and win them by magical contests, fights or cunning
  • find realia and significatos that fits your speciality
  • try to show everybody you are the best
  • and force the concurrent specialists to acknowledge it
  • avoid the temptations of demons, pride is a deadly sin
  • and so on...

Funny how those keep coming along. In the canon material they are RARE rituals, not something present in every spring library. And even if they were more common IMO they are a big botch in ArM5 material. Besides, in hermetic terms is the equivalent of giving yourself some money if you agree to get AIDS. Some cancers as well if you want to improve other characteristics (read: warping). Very few people would agree to that in real life, so I have no idea why people would agree to that in the setting if they were not expecting the saga to end before the consequences kick off. That is what players do, not what characters do.


The story should revolve around the player characters, sure. The universe? Not neccessarily. I'd wager that there are plenty of stories told where the PCs never come close to running the Order, for instance. But then again, I'm not sure if I'd classify Ars Magica stories as heroic fiction, really.

My suggestions were just that, possibilities to use or discard as you please. And even under my suggestion, it could still be used as something allowed for visitors to read, at a serious price.

Why? That makes the game world look obviously artificial. And surpassing in the raw NUMBERS? That gets very lame. And aside from that, i can take a 30 year old magi and run off and assasinate the biggest baddest most powerful magi in the world anyway, if i do it the right way... Does that make my character surpass everyone else? Hardly, but she could still thoroghly kick the ass of the most superior of magi, when looking at the numbers.
This game, even more than many others, being the "biggest badass" there is, doesnt matter much, because someone else using their lesser theoretical power better can still wipe the floor with them.

Of course thats totally fine and great. Why should that restrict the existance of other "bad asses" artificially?