preparing my first game... newbie questions

hi... i have never played Ars Magica but I've read the rulebook years ago (3rd?), have always been interested in trying it and now got my hands on the 5th ed rulebook... so here are a couple of questions...

1- am I dreaming or did a previous edition contain information on magi cooperating to cast a ritual spell? i do not see anything in the 5th ed rulebook to that effect... is it mentioned somewhere else? is it possible? is it also possible for a magus to cast a formulaic non-ritual spell with the assistance of another magus who knows the spell?

2- what is the best way to handle the covenant for a first game? i think the players might enjoy being in charge and building it from the ground up with basically nothing at first... but i am also intrigued by the idea of having a covenant with some ressources and perhaps 1 or 2 more experienced magi, it would help give a direction to players who might otherwise be unsure as to what to do... perhaps an adventure would be better than hours of covenant talk...

3- what do you suggest for characters for a first game? i love the notion of making an adventure with magi and non-magi characters, but it seems weird that a player would try the system without access to the magic system...

4- my first idea when reading ars magica was to eventually have players go to the new world... has there been anything published on magic there? as a weird side question, are polytheist religion sacred sites considered magic or a variant of dominion or perhaps these gods are variant of faerie spirits?

any ideas welcomed...



Hello, sir. I will try to help you. First, yes mages can cast ritual spells working together. That is done by a Muto Vim spell, Wizard's Communion, in the core rule book.

Two, perhaps combine the two. An older mage, close to final twilight, has had enough of his current covenant, and sets out to form a new one. the PCs are new mages that are working with him for the promise of training and resources that they would not normally have access to. This way the players have a say, but still have a big gun, if needed, and an in game voice to give them a direction, until they figure out what they want to do.

Three, everyone should make a Magnus, and a Companion, and maybe a few grogs. The first couple of adventures should be mostly mages and companions, with the grogs as meatshields, until people figure out how to stay safe. Ars Magica can be bloody if you don't know what you are doing, and given the time most people will spend making their characters, you would like to avoid that, for now.

Four, I don't believe there is anything published on the New World. As a rough rule of thumb, the farther from Europe, the more Magical. Second, Magical as a rule, with some as Divine, (rough rule of thumb again, if they fit the idea of "virtuous pagans", then there is a chance the location will be Divine, in my reading)

Wizards Communion is a MuVi spell. It does what you want. See the MuVi spells in the main rulebook. Basically, one magus needs to know the actual spell. The others need to know Wizard's Communion.

The problem with beginning players designing the covenant is that the players might make some decisions that seem sensible, but have long-term consequences that are crap. Same thing with characters, for that matter --- forgetting about Abilities that don't seem relevant, but later turn out to be really important, for example.

Whatever way you decide to go, it might be best to have a "practice" covenant and magi. Make up characters, and a covenant, run a few sessions, and then once everyone has the hang of the game, make up proper characters.

One thing that works well, in my experience, for long-term play is to have Player A make a magus, Player B makes up a companion character to go with player A's magus, players C, D, E, etc, make up grogs to go with player A's magus.

Then, player B makes a magus, player C makes up a companion character for player B's magus, players, A, D, E... make up corresponding grogs.

Then player C makes up a magus, player D makes up an associated companion character, etc....

This way you sort of have several "families" of characters, and each player has a character in each family.

Also remember that you can swap characters during the session. You could, for example, have a first scene where the players are the covenant magi discussing some new issue that threatens the covenant. Maybe they cast some spells etc, and then decide to send one of the magi and some grogs of into the forest to investigate. The second scene can be that magi and the grogs, travelling in the forest etc.

Not to my knowledge.

They can of course be whatever you want in your saga. In general, the Greek and Roman gods are usually treated as being either magical or faerie. Also, remember that faeries are based on stories. So, even if, say, Zeus was a magical creature then because people tell stories about him there is likely one (or several faeries) acting out the role of Zeus in various faerie realms.

Other questions answered, so I will centre in the covenant one.

This is what my troupe did, back in 3rd edition. And we did again in 4th edition (another group). Spring covenant with starting magi.

The 3rd edition covenant collapsed before it could really take off. We could have forced it to work, but it would have been quite by troupe fiat, since we all knew that wqe had screwed our external relations, or relations with the covenfolk and our supplies. This kind of result is fairly easy when you have no real idea of what you are doing. So we started again, in a covenant that had a pair of elder magi, and this time it worked better. In fact it worked great.

In 4th edition (only 2 out of 5 players remaining from the previous troupe) it happened pretty much the same. Some things were better, since the SG and the experienced player were more up to things., but the other people also wanted to design things (as it should be) and we screwed things up again. And again we started anew, this time in an autumn covenant.

IN general it is better if in the first year of playing or so (real world time) you have people that can take care of your mess if you screw up. That means older magi. That gives the players time to experience what happens when they do X or the relations with covenfolk and the mundanes without having long lasting consequences.

A good idea is to have them belong to the same (rather big) covenant, that is sponsoring the creation of a covenant (the one that your players will run), but not giving them a blank check and sending them off: they have to organize the resources, copy the books for their library, look for a suitable location,... and that without taking into account the amount of side adventures/buy list that the elders might order them to get/resolve/whatever sicne they are still the juniors of the covenant at this time. Then you can slowly retire the direct influence of those guys, keeping them as allies for tribunal or to solve the things when your players really screw up (it happens to the best troupes... we destroyed the brain of Arnauld Amaury, the Papal legate in Languedoc, as an example of a rather minor screw up...)

Starting in a late summer covenat is the best option IMO, but the important thing is to have someone that can sometimes step in in a Deus Ex Machina way and solve some of the created problems, BUT making sure it does not solve ALL the problems either or your players will become careless and thinking that they do not count for much in their actions, which is not cool. A powerful mage hanging around is a Storyguide resource, not something that needs to be always available to solve your mess. We had a pair of old seekers as our older residents, for example, and they were away doing Seeker stuff i quite a few occasions.

Hope that helps!


Joining an already existing covenant is i would say a good idea for the first time.
In a worst case, the "older" magi might be able to bail out the characters if they go in over their head.
In best case, just have the older magi being "formally in charge" and really not care much as long as the characters dont do something stupid or bad for the covenant.
And of course, everything in between.

Depending on how many players you expect, and wether you expect to have more than one person able to act as GM/SG, well not all characters might be interested in doing the same thing all the time, so you can let all players create both a magi and a companion each(and preferably also a grog or three) and then if a magi is spending time in the lab while another goes running around the countryside, the players whose main characters are not doing "adventure" can play with their secondary character or some grog(s). Ie, troupestyle. Its not for all though.
Also, if you have more than one person able to run the game and the characters go off in different direction its not impossible to run things in paralell(just be careful they dont do anything that affects each other "invisibly").

Specifically a big NO.

In general, I concur with the previous replies.

Having an established covenant with one or two older magi cna be good for a beginner's group. But find the balance where they have a lot of say themselves, not just have theb be lead by the old guy. And where they know they have to deal with problems themselves, but use the old magus as a last resort. Perhaps he gets mad, or witholds resources (vis, library?) from them for the next year. Find a reason why this powerful guy doesn't just go out at do everything these young whippersnappers fool around with forever!

If the group get the idea of having a magus as well as a companion, good for you. I find it much better, when they have a choice. Often, a noob player with me can and will only make a magus, and must use this for each and every story. Sometimes a bit of a stretch. Try to guide them to having two characters who complement each other.

And most important for me, have them be ready to deal with time going by. Seasonal activity and progression is IMHO a very good part of a saga. But if you have no idea what you want your magus to do, then it sucks.

Depending on how well the players have learned the rules, start out with a story where the magi get to know typical Ability use, followed by formulaic spells and optimally also learn to grasp spontaneous magic. Use environments to illustrate the mundane society (and how they rent the gift), hermetic society (by simple stoires about friends, rivals, enemies, trade or plots), and throw in a demon or faerie to show how this works. And gradually expand.

Perhaps have the old magus set them a large and long(ish) scale task, to teach them about study and lab. Some project that makes them study and train, go out to gather materials or vis, perhaps trade vith other covenants, and finally have them collaborate on a lab project, or have them do each their part. Try to activate all PC magi's specialities.

Edit: Oh yeah, and if/when you get hard data on the covenant, saga and PC magi - feel free to ask specific questions or ask for more tips and ideas. I'l full of them, and happy to share.

Good advice all around, I'll add this one point...

While the answer is certainly "NO", there are a few directions you might be interested in. In fourth edition, there was a description of iceland (complete with an icelandic saga I thought was interesting). Also, Atlas Games has released a game known as Northern Crown that is, roughly, D&D in colonial America. While the time period is way after Ars Magica, this is the only treatment, that I know of, of America in a Mythic fashion, and I'm sure it includes lots of Indian legends and motiffs you can steal.

As for gods - I'd add that, generally, the Greek/Roman/Ancient popular gods are probably Fey, as they showed an interest in humans, but that at least some gods were Magic - the aloof ones. It has been fairly established (in 5th edition books) that the Titans were Magic, and also Apollo, Mercury/Hermes Psychopompus, and Thoth. It has also been fairly established that there are Magic "gods" related to abstract concepts, like Vengeance, or Justice - so when a Greek says he worships the goddess of justice, he may mean that. As said above, however, Faerie imitators can assume the role of any deity, and at the end the decision is one you have to make for your own saga.

I pretty much concur with the previous replies as well. Some other ideas for a first-timer covenant (admittedly similar to some previous responses):

If you and your players really want to build a covenant from the ground up (and there is a great deal of satisfaction in doing so) I like the "sponsored covenant" idea. We've used this in many campaigns, even after we were all veterans. Basically a group of Magi, or an individual, maybe even an entire Tribunal, sponsors a group of noobs to form a new covenant, typically for some specific purpose. My first campaign we were sponsored to settle a covenant in northern Denmark, which in our saga made us the northernmost covenant in the Order, in order to form a bulwark and listening post against the Order of Odin (the Norse wizards, not friendly). Another campaign we established a way-station for Redcaps in the middle of an Alpine pass.

This gives your Magi a rationale for having a decent amount of resources (a bequest from your elders) as well as a sort of lord protector. As others have mentioned, the elder patron/s can be far enough removed that you have to fix many of your own problems but close enough that if you really screw up they can save your bacon, if need be.

Another suggestion for first-time players: think about locating your covenant far away from major population centers. If you're in the heart of Europe, or in the middle of a cluster of heavily populated areas, the chances of you running afoul of local nobility and (particularly dangerous) the Church are drastically increased. A more rural setting gives the new players more latitude, and can soften the consequences of potentially deadly mistakes, like eager players casting spells all over the town square at noon. You don't have to be on the edge of the map, there are plenty of less-populated areas all over Europe, from the Black Forest to the Alps, the Bohemian Forest, the Balkans, Iberia, wherever.

Another possibility is the Winter covenant, where the magi still there are entirely disconnected from the world, even the Order. I ran a saga with a winter covenant in which the players basically had the run of the place, made major decisions, essentially lived however they wanted with the elder magi totally unconcerned. (Well, one of them flipped out and murdered all but one maga early on, but she stayed in her room the whole time after that...) This device can provide you with a library and resources of your dreams, if you want, (or they can be stingy bastards who dole out library time like misers if you want to be mean) plus lots of freedom, then if things get out of hand one of the elders can wander out of their chambers and ask, "What's all the fuss about?"

Hope you enjoy the game. The beauty of it is you can do practically anything you want, with imagination and a little ingenuity. Mazeltof!

For firsat adventures I ran the following combo successfully

  1. 4th edition fae stories: the one dealing with a trip to the market. 2 magi, and a few grogs. After this adventure, the magi used their potions of leap of homecoming (given to them by their elders) to jum,p back to the covenant, while the grogs trailed back hiome with the mundane supplies they had bought for the covenant in a cart (glassware, brass items, some new weapons and chain mail, parchment....). Along with the supplies and while perusing through mundane stalls, one of the grogs or companions got hold of a cool looking ring.

  2. The GOING HOME adventure. Can be found online.If i recall correctly it is by Kevin Hasall. No magi involved, so you have to solve it with 2-3 grogs and maybe 1 companion. The adventure is goodf to show that not everything needs to be combat-oriented or fuill of magi to be mythic

  3. After that adventure you can run the classical ambush by a group of brigands if you want some action.

Hope that helps!!


As a note: my first long-term game that lasted about 15 months: I had the group start out in the Rhine Tribunal. They played through the end of their apprenticeship, and then the founding of their covenant. I wanted them to feel that they were masters of their destiny, and that they 'earned' their status as a covenant.

However, a complaint I got was that the players at time did not feel like wizards. They spent so much time making sure that their covenant would survive and not enough time doing magical things, doing the work of wizards. I think that Ars was not the best fit for this group that tended to emulate more cinematic stuff, but now I do consider the need to FEEL like wizards and not feel like the small fish in a small pond, even when you're a Spring covenant.

In future, I'd likely have an older mentor mage when I'm dealing with a group new to Ars Magica.

My current group, however, took to it like fish to water, however - they seem to like to generate soap opera, deal willingly with intrigue, and enjoy the longer-term unfolding of stories. We skimmed over the founding of the covenant, and basically ran a meeting of the mages as apprentices, using the Northwych Oak adventure from Sub Rosa. This was the excuse to band together as newly gauntleted wizards and so we jumped ahead to the covenant being founded.

I also tried to use different sessions early on to introduce specific concepts. One session was combat. Another casting, and so on.

So, I think my advice is: get an idea of how easily your group will take to Ars Magica's quite different play style and make sure there is ample opportunity to strut their magical stuff, even if they're only dealing with level 10 or 15 spells. Also, break the great deal of rules and info down into bite-sized chunks.


thanks to everyone for the replies... i love the idea of a sponsored covenant and giving the players some resources to help them build their own covenant while having to do something for the order in return (i am thinking somewhere locally isolated but regionally centered like Malta or Cyprus)... i am still not sure about giving players grogs for an adventure early on so i think i'll start by having a couple of adventures with only 2 players, 1 magi and 1 companion and sometimes having each of time play a grog for a little time to introduce the idea of switching characters...

wizard's communion: do all the magi have to roll to cast wizard's communion to participate? the book seems to imply that you only for the "main" spell and you automatically gain the benefit of wizard's communion if you meet the level requirements... but i am not sure...

in the same line of thought: Muto Vim spells... i am confused... when it says that you have to make a concentration roll when you cast both spells, it seems to imply that you can cast the 2 spells simultaneously... is this true or they mean that you cast one, maintain it and then the MuVi one right after (which would contradict their sentence that MuVi can't be done on a spell once it is cast)? i thought you could only cast one spell, maintain it with concentration and then cast another... is this a special exception for vim spells or can you also simul-cast any 2 spells (i am thinking the only thing possible is multiple casting a mastered spell)?

thanks again

Special MuVi exception. It's their intended use, after all.

All I can add to what's been said already is make sure the players are well aware just how useful vis and Confidence points can be, particularly in 5th edition with its much more effective magic resistance.

Wizard's Communion:
Each participant must roll to cast his contribution of total Communion spell levels. Ignore the concentration bits, this spell is designed for this. The total of all participant's contributions of Communion spells must be twice the level of spell cast. Casting of the spell itself, is done by each magus rolling up a casting total, and they must succeed in casting a [spell level/# of participants].
Exempli Gratia: 4 magi cooperate to cast a level 40 Aegis. They must each succeed in casting a level Rego Vim 10 spell, in order to cast the Aegis. That should be doable, since you 'succeed' even if failing by up to 10, it just costs Fatigue. But! They must also all know Wizard's Communion at an average level of 20 (or alternativelu just a total of 80), and succeed in casting this.

An alternative way to start:
I've tried this, in a new group I entered last year, and it was good for veterans and noobs as well.
Start by designing your magus pre-apprenticeship; Just 'Early Childhood' XP for abilities, 3-4 or your 10 Virtues and Flaws, and assign all 7 Characteristic points. This is the child which you master choose to start training. Run a short story at this stage, this starte to flesh out the characters.
Advance 5 years - one third the apprenticeship - and progress the character. Assign 1/3 the XP for Arts and Abilities, and 1/3 the spell levels. Assign 2-3 Virtue and Flaw points more. Redistribute Characteristics (perhaps only physical) if need be, if this suits the kind of apprenticeship you suffer. Run another story, using your low level powers.
Repeat twice more, untill the magus is trained for 15 years, Gauntleted and has spent all XP, spell levels and V&Fs. This can be great fun, and you end up with a magus who naturally has quite a few low level spells, which you are used to using. I mention this, because I've often seen players who get all their XP and levels in one pile, tend to focus on getting the high power spells, and end up with just a few 5th to 7th magnitude spells. But what did you learn first? What did you use as a young apprentice.
I'll be using this method again, the next time I start up a saga. It even works for starting with magi advanced beyond Gauntlet. FInish the magus, run an 'early years' story (good for making points to the tone or theme of the saga, introduce allies and enemies etc.), advance 5-10 years, repeat as desired.

As for starting covenant, an isolated place seems a good idea, to limit the troubles with nobles, church or rival magi you get into right away. An established covenant is perhaps the best idea, since there is a lot to take in for new players, and the design of a covenant may not be what they want. But then make it known, that they will be taking over soon, and the old magi will move away, die og go into final twilligt. Perhaps let one stay behind in ghost form, as an advisor.
If they're up to it, have the old masters be stingy and miserly. If the players think it is fun, let then work or fight hard to privileges of reading in the library (or perhaps just he good library) and get lab space.
But new players propably don't need this extra pressure.

The spells are not cast simultaneously. You cast the MuVi spell first; a momentary duration lasts long enough to cast the affected spell in the following round. The Concentration roll required is the same one needed for casting a spell whilst maintaining another (ArM5, page 82), just a bit easier. You still need to hold the magic of the MuVi spell in mind to allow it to affect the second spell; unlike, say, casting two Pila of Fire in subsequent rounds.


Actually, the idea of playing grog-only adventures allows you to test the combat system without magic, and to show that you do not need magicians throwing spells like there is no tomorrow to make a cool, mythic adventure :slight_smile: All to his own, though: each troupe is a whole world, and you need to adapt to make the game an enjoyable one for you and your troupe, not the other way around.


Our troupe just started playing last spring. The first few things that happened EVERY magi went running off to get into whatever they could hip deep. We've decided that from now on we just may send grogs...or companions or both first to some scenes to investigate before bringing in the magi. As stated above not only does that keep the wixards in the lab, it also gives the grogs/companions a space to grow as personalities.

Once your players notice that their magi will lose seasons if they run after everything, then they'll stop on their own! :wink:

A VERY important point we have not made so far is to make sure that the players and you want to tell the same stopries. Nothing is more frustrating for a troupe than the players wanting to go out and slay some moors after breakfast and the SG wanting to explore the depths iof the magic realm and courtly intrigue. If the stories and what the players want do not match (and the interests of the magi are too much at odds) it can create quite an unworkable situation. This is why reaching a consensus among all the members of the troupe about what stories you all want to tell is really important here


True, very easily forgotten until half the players are getting bored.
Still though, may be a good idea to include some minor action outside any agreed preference as well, as otherwise it might for example get repetitive and also, the preference might change because players realise another kind of story was much more fun than they expected.