Newcomer here: Couple questions.

4: My troupe favours specialization. In part because you kinda want spells of level 20-25 (or even higher) as a starting character, which can be tricky on a generalist. And in part because there's an unspoken agreement to net step on each other's toes. By which I mean "You're the Corpus expert? Great! Then I don't have to cover that too! I'll probably pick up some Corpus at some point, but it can wait."

I do have a magus who appears to be a generalist (and who was actually imagined to be a generalist) - but who's actually very specialized in his own way. He's a Verditius mage-smith, who (IIRC) has more XPs in Magic Theory than in all of his Arts put together.

5: I'm just including this point to draw attention to @darkwing's excellent post above.

In a one shot generalists are great, however, long term, they fall behind. Due to how Summae are made, magi can in a season get a score of 6 in a magic skill starting at 0. A generalist removes their ability to get that big boost, as most of their scores are around 4 or 5. In the long run, this gives the generalist an XP disadvantage to the specialist, and XP measures power for wizards.

Ars Majica has amazingly powerful starting wizards compared to most systems , however, the cool stuff starts at 20+ which generally needs some degree of specialisation. A specialist can have "you're dead", "I own your mind", "invisibility", "fireball" etc, spells right from the start. A generalist is limited.

Most the best generalists are specialists anyway, typically in ReVi. I've noticed my specialists in other areas are commonly better generalists than most characters written to be generalists are, for essentially the same reason. Most people trying to build generalists just end up making a mage who is weak at everything rather than someone who is a good generalist; essentially, they make a specialist and skip the specialist part so they're barely any better in general while lacking a specialty.

Not only are good generalists very hard to build, but beginners will usually find dealing with other things for a specialist easier as well. So I highly recommend specialists to all beginners.

Meanwhile, the advice in the core book about not exceeding 55 experience in an Art is bad advice. First, it somewhat assumes you don't have any Virtues, because if you have any Virtues that grand experience it changes the relative distribution of what it means to be over specialized. Second, the game favors specialization, so recommending spreading things out goes against what the game actually favors. The core book already demonstrates repeatedly targeting starting scores of 12+3 in an Art, which can be done with more breadth with Skilled Parens + Puissant Art while breaking that 55-point advice than it can be with Affinity + Puissant Art while sticking to that 55-point advice, so the book subtly demonstrates that its own advice is not to be followed.

Thanks to shenanigans. :smiley:

Though you can do an OK out of the box generalist by specializing in Terram because a lot of things suffer from a weakness to big rocks being dropped on them.

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I did experiment with an idea of spending 28 XPs per Technique, costing 140 XPs total.
He didn't work out terribly well, but does illustrate the problem with the "classic generalist".
Because that's a lot of XPs for casting and lab totals around 10-15.

I'm not convinced that I agree with @callen that one should ignore the suggested 'limit' of 55 XPs per Art.
But I can certainly see where he's coming from.

That was one of my thoughts in designing my current Tremere magus with an Affinity to Terram. Throw a car/dumpster/landscaping boulder at the problem. (Yes, modern setting, thus cars and dumpsters to throw).

@DragginSPADE, I like to base my initial Arts scores on the "widely adept" model shown in the core book for 4th edition, then customize (XP off here, add them there...). That PDF is among the free downloads on Atlas's website, so you might consider grabbing it if only for the magus Arts templates in the Abilities section.

Unless there is something similar in 5th ed. core?

There are templates for all of the Houses in the core book. A few more sample magi are available for downlowd on the Atlas Games page for Ars Magica. Not all of them are right after Gauntlet, though.

That reminded me of that post on how a MuVi specialist was the ultimate generalist.

Anyway a generalist can be flat and dull as any specialist out of their speciality unless you find a mix of virtues which actually helps them. For example there is an easy correlation between generalist magi and spontaneous experts, because of course it is more general to make your spells on the fly that having to anticipate them and invent a lot of spells from a lot of Te/Fo combinations. So stuff like this can be quite handy to boost your specialist:

Yes, MuVi specialists can make for really good generalists. You develop a assortment of formulaic spells and spont high-level MuVi to turn those into whatever you actually need. And since you're good at Vim, you can pair that with a good ReVi to take advantage of both. I did this once with MuVi and included Deft Vim while making most my formulaic spells to be altered Vim spells.

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I figure the main problem with generalist as a concept is that it isn't.

Generalist doesn't actually like, mean anything, just like "specialist" doesn't - "creo+rego/terram specialist" means something, and in a similar manner a generalist would need to have a concept which incorporates being alright at many arts - "social manipulation magus" I could see working as a generalist concept, for instance, or "travel wizard".

Basically, once you have access to several arts, you need a plan for what to do with them


I have found that even if you want to play a "generalist", it is actually best to start out fairly narrowly focused during character creation. Pick the Arts that most strongly support your general concept and put most of your points into them. Or put most of your points into the Arts that your Covenant library has little to no books in. Then over the next 10~20 years of game time study all the other Arts to raise your scores in them.

The issue comes down to how studying during play works compared to character creation. The first 5 levels can be gained in single season especially if you take study supporting Virtues. That means if you put all your starting points into three Arts, you could have the other twelve at 4 or 5 in three years of study if you had Book Learner and a decent starter library.

Another thing is that even if you are a "generalist" overall, you can still do things like focusing on the Techniques related to the type of magic you wish to use. Even if all of your Forms are roughly equal, having a Technique or two that is higher gives your more options.

The best "generalist" are Magi who come into it later in their life. My current character was envisioned as a generalist when created even though he started with all of his points in Creo, Rego, and Mentem. After the initial burst of study to get all of his Arts up to a decent level he primarily studied those three and Vim with only the odd season out to raise his other Arts for the next 50 years. At the point he had burned through all the useful books we had, he once again started spreading out his studying in general using the best book available each season. After 100 years of play all of his forms are within 5 points of each other and all of his techniques are within 5 points of each other.

To pull this off, you need to pick Virtues which help you study across the board. Book Learner is one of the best for someone who wants to be a generalist. Another good one is Good Teacher. While at first glance it might not appear so, being able to produce good quality text across wide range of Arts means that you help the other members of your Covenant and have something that can be traded for text from other Covenants. Trading books can easily exceed the speed of increasing an Art from studying Vis, even with the time lost from writing books to trade. Though if following this path you should seriously consider getting some specialist Scribes (with a couple points of Magic Theory) to do the actual copying.


Thank you for all the replies, you've give me lots to think about. I've been continuing to read the book the past couple days and have a couple more questions:

6: Although I don't have time in the near future, at some point I may try to run a one shot/intro scenario at the local FLGS to try and drum up interest for a group. Of all the published adventures/scenarios, which would you most recommend for such a thing? (I read the thread linked above reviewing all the books, it was very helpful. Curious if anyone else had opinions on the various published adventures though.)

7: A quick technical question about the Secondary Insight and Elemental Magic qualities. Do these do anything at character creation (like Affinity does) and if so how does that work?

8: A much more broad questions: How do you guys like to start sagas? Assume all the PC magi were fresh out of apprenticeship and the GM doesn't want to run (or stat) a GMPC elder magus at their covenant. Does the Order of Hermes frequently send out groups of brand new magi to found covenants on their own, or would you just start them at a Summer or older covenant and just make the older magi mostly unavailable?

I would ask my players :slight_smile:
For a one-shot adventure i would suggest: they are out of apprentice and living in a etablished covenant. First quest is to do something for the covenant without the help of oder mages.
After the players like ars magica (and who doesn't? :wink: they can still decide to found a new covenant alone, as an later adventure.
Young mages alone in their own covenant and struggling to build it up would be my preferred setting.

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Not really. :frowning:

I've been in ... a number of Spring sagas, and consider this the most common saga form.
My first saga involved a Winter covenant though, with 3 elder magi, all of who did not solve the PCs' problems for a variety of reasons.

  • One was somewhat senile and couldn't believe that "more then a couple of years" had passed since events in the past had taken place. Any events really. He was very friendly, but the players never tried to get him to help with anything but information.
  • One was a Verditius magus, so obsessed with his (impossible) project that anything else was irrelevant next to it - to him at least. He would complain bitterly about having to take off even an afternoon for the Covenant meetings "now that he was so close to his discovery!"
  • The last one was an ancient crone - trained by Pralix, had personally known Tremere - who was convinced that her Longevity/Immortality was tied to the covenant site, and who would've absolutely refused to leave the location, no matter what. Not that it ever became relevant, as she was a somewhat domineering, occasionally mean old woman and the players seemed to fear her.

It was fun.

Secondary Insight: No.

Elemental Magic: There used to be a listed option for this in Hedge Magic, Revised Addition (box on p.19). But Elemental Magic has recently received an entry in the errata to try to rebalance it to make it closer to other Major Hermetic Virtues, and that changed how it works with study noticeably. I would take a look at the new wording on Elemental Magic here:

I definitely prefer young magi joining an existing covenant to a bunch of newly gauntleted magi setting out to found a brand new one. Setting up a covenant doesn’t seem like the sort of thing one generally would do without some learning under your belt. A winter covenant trying to avoid inevitable demise is my preferred option here. I don’t think you really need to stat everything up from the get go, just give the older magi their high arts that they are specialized in and a personality that removes them from most action. Unless old Crintus/Crinta is your antagonist there should be little need for full stats until the game is already rolling. In your D&D games do you stat out the wizard who first approaches the party in the bar for their first level 1 adventure?

I have a dream saga where we play through apprenticeship and then into multiple generations of magi but that is just a dream to me so far.


While an awesome idea, I do not think anyone has time to play this unless you are in an extremely fast saga (decade+ per session). I have been in a fast saga for the better part of three years and while we did "fast" play through apprenticeship, we are only now closing in on 110 years post gauntlet with the better part of another century most of our Magi will survive. There has been rumblings for a while to retire or put on hold our saga and play something else for a time.

We ... had an experiment along those lines some years ago.

We started out as apprentices, then went north to found our own Covenant.
We found apprentices and started teaching them - IIRC this push started before we got our hands on the play test for Apprentices, and possibly ended before then as well.
I decided to retire my character to the lab and take over the apprentice of one of the other players - but because we hadn't really tried to limit our apprentices, I think my new character was nearly as powerful as the one I'd retired, if not more. Which was ... not the point.

Just about everyone followed, but the saga petered out soon after.

  1. The ones in the books....I'm not sure which are good as one-shots. Maybe the ones in "Hooks" because they are shorter?
    The ones in "Tales of Mythic Europe" aren't bad, but I don't think they're massively newbie-friendly. The ones in "Tales of Power" and "Dies Irae" are right out for beginners, and "Legends of Hermes" require long investigation over several seasons. "Thrice-Told Tales" each have an introductory scenario that might work, but they are meant to set up further plot lines down the road.

Does Promises, promises still let you download the PDF to the starter adventure Atlas published? It's a lot easier to run than most of the ones in the books.

  1. No, not at character creation (although as the posters above mentioned, Elemental Magic just got an errata)

  2. This is an eternal question, and there's no perfect answer. Yes, newly-gauntleted magi do meet up and join together to go form new covenants, or join existing ones. If there's a place that could serve a strategic purpose, then older magi will happily lend resources to help people build a new covenant.

In game terms, the five obvious choices are:
Spring - new magi start from scratch. Pros - blank slate, opportunity for developing everything, doesn't require you to create a lot of details up-front. Cons - can be very difficult for new magi to do everything, there can easily be moments of crashing poverty, has no safety net for new players to the game.

Summer - a moderately powerful covenant, new characters are either the first generation of apprentices trained there or invited to join. Pros - the covenant is established, the older magi aren't so powerful that they boss new mages around too much or can solve problems without needing the new magi to lift a finger. Cons - some creation work needed by the SG.

Autumn - a covenant in prime power, with serious influence. Pros - you can have powerful magi giving the player characters missions, you can have powerful mentors, you can introduce lots of stories involving wizard politics, you can lend the players magic items. Cons - probably the most setup work, the players may feel that the older wizards will overshadow them for a long time until the older magi start dieing off or suffering twilight.

Winter - A covenant past its prime with a long history - Pros - you can set up any weird high fantasy setting you like, claiming that magi started it a long time ago and it has become tradition. You can hide secrets around the covenant, waiting to be rediscovered by new magi. The remaining old magi may not be enough in power or number to do much, so there is a lot of room for new magi. Cons - moderate amount of set up work, needs players who want to re-invigorate something old.

The final option is the hybrid of Spring & Winter, second spring - an ancient covenant deliberately recruits a lot of fresh blood to try and restart the cycle. Retain some of the flavour of a winter covenant, while aiming to have as many characters be new magi wanting to do their own thing as possible. The longest saga I ever played started out this way, and it worked well for us.

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