I am going to be walking three players new to Ars Magica through the character creation process tomorrow night.
So, with that in mind, what is your number one piece of advice either for creating a magus character or when helping others to create their characters?
Well, I like to make a short list of appropriate V&Fs appropriate to my concept before I start anything else. Probably not for everyone though...
Choose a few spells prior to choosing arts, then buy the arts necessary to have those spells. This makes assigning the arts much easier as the player knows what they need.
I had a few spreadsheets to print out to help do character creation in a Grogs sort of way (this was years before grogs) but they had a house rule I used at the time allowing for some Latin tutoring prior to apprenticeship. I could search for the files if you'd like
Was there a Grogs style choose your history system for magi generation in sub rosa ?
Have a clear idea before you start looking at the rules.
Accept that the idea may change, but if you have no idea, crafting a character can be a messy experience.
Go over the spell list, and pick one level 35-45 signature spell. Build the character around it - picking Arts, Virtues, and so on, firming up the character concept as you make more choices.
Bonus round: pick one of the Project: Redcap templates and work from that. Most aren't completed yet, so it's more of a "here are some character concepts to choose from" than "here are templates to use".
You'll probably gimp yourself on your first attempt at character creation; that's OK (and not particularly unique to Ars Magica.) After you play for a few sessions and understand the rules better (and how XP works), it's OK to ask your GM if you can go back and re-design your character. At the least, you'll realize that it's cheaper to use the Immersion rules to pick up Latin, rather than the implied Exposure rules.
I definitely recommend picking the signature spell. Along that vein, it's important that the character thing of other spells in that Form that would be useful, too, for a bit of breadth.
I liked the Ager Belli to my magi. But my group didn't take the point to have this spell (I like the idea of on Streeth Fighter on Order of Hermes).
My one tip would be ask what the covenant will have (will there be plenty of vis, good books or not, plenty of grogs or not, etc) as it will affect choices like Book Learner, Free Study, Apt Student (and their flaw equivalents) and how vicious Difficult Underlings or Blatant Gift will be.
My other tip would be if in doubt, Skilled Parens for the extra 60xp and 30 levels of spells is never a bad move.
I would suggest all of the above (except the signature spell, that is optional).
Add to that the suggestion of taking a magical focus for your magus. Adds a lot of caracter to a magus.
Before that, as a bonus: everybody makes a grog. Run an adventure with these grogs alone. A murder mystery, or tracking something in a wood after going to the local tavern. Something with minor supernatural stuff but mostly to see how the social interaction or wilderness mechanics wirk as well as experiencing combat on the rough.
Make sure that as a player you have a clear idea of how your magus character can use at least 60 levels worth of his formulaic spells in whatever you imagine will happen in a "typical" adventure session, and make sure that the storyguide more-or-less agrees with you.
Oh yeah, also:
Get at least 1 combat spell. Not because it's actually necessary so much as because far too many stories involve combat, and you need a way to do something useful.
It's nice when it can penetrate...
Usually a good idea. It being necessary does depend on the saga though.
I particularly like this one as it's something I've fallen foul of before. Good tip.
Thanks for the ideas. Been a while since I've done character gen with novices so those are some really good pointers/reminders.
Only one? That makes it more difficult.
My most important advice would be: Make sure you know what the character wants to do, and that this fits with the Troupe and SGs ideas.
In my experience the worst situations arise from either creating a magus character that does not what to do with his time and the resources available. It also sucks to create a concept that does not mesh with with the saga's themes. Or if two players create too similar characters.
But a lot of other important advice has been posted as well, which I often dish out too. Like the one about having at least one "save your own bacon" spell. It can be a combat spell, a spell to allow you a monent to escape. And don't worry too much about Penetration, if you are not a danger seeking magus let the big guns deals with demons and magical beasts. But if you find yourself surrounded by mundane bandits, what then? it's a sad day for a mighty magus to be killed off trivially by random ruffians, because his great spells are of no use here. Most physical Forms offer some good spell options to scare off, damage or otherwise force your way to safety. The Mentem magus can get great use out of Panic of the Trembling Hearth or Call to Slumber. The Imaginem magus can do useful things with illusions. Vim...that's perhaps the hardest to pull off.
The thing about deciding on a signature spell or two and choosing Arts and Virtues based on this works well. I did this back when I started out with 2nd ed Ars Magica, but don't think I do this consciously anymore.
@All: Would you approve of me posting your pearls of wisdom to Project Redcap's Character Generation page? In slightly-edited form, to ease reading them in the wiki format. I think some character generation advice is a good think to put on the wiki.
Never build generalists. If you aren't quite sure how the spontaneous system works, then get a character with strong Technique or Form or combination.
If allowed two, my second would be: every combat wizard needs a spell that lets him attack, a spell that lets him defend himself, and a spell that lets him get the heck out of bad situations. These don't need to be powerful, but you need to have something that lets you hurt people, shield yourself, and confuse people so that you can leg it for the hills.
Ok by me, for what I wrote anyway