I'm a new Ars Magica storyteller. I got a regular group of four players of various tabletop experiences, none of who have ever seen AM before. I ran a simple one-shot from the Tales of Mythic Europe book, my players used template characters from the core book, and it ended up being a rough time. In hindsight it was only rough because we are all new to AM so none of us knew the rules well enough to not have to flip open the core book at every turn.
I had an idea to solve this. I want my first saga to be a story of a group of apprentices learning to be magi. I figure this will be a decent way of introducing the rules one chapter at a time to my players and to help solidify the rules in my mind.
But I'm having a tough time constructing the saga because frankly I don't know how much emphasis I should be placing on what. So to get to my question does an introductory/tutorial adventure already exist? I don't mind if it's not official and just something more experienced storytellers put together for new players.
I would recommend that one as a straightforward introduction. I also like "The Broken Covenant of Calebais" because it's interesting and mysterious, but I'm not sure how confusing you would find it to run as someone new to Ars.
As a general practice to avoid flipping open the core book every turn, I recommend having he story guide decide on what level any spontaneous spell is without reference to the guidelines. Being off from the book is a smaller issue than having your game drag to a halt to do spell level calculations.
I also strongly encourage any character advancement to take place at some other time so it doesn't compete with the time you have to game.
Those two things have made a difference for me.
I also liked Promises Promises and the Broken Covenant of Calibais however I'm not sure how the second would work with apprentices.
I've definitely been making up the DC for spontaneous spells on the spot, mostly based on how much potential the spell has to derail or advance the story.
As for advancement we started doing it in session so everyone can learn how to do it, but we'll be switching to doing it between sessions once I feel confident they we all understand the systems.
Thanks everyone for the replies. I'll be reading over Promises,promises, seeing what parts I can adapt for my saga.
I don't know how much time are willing your player to spend on reading the rules between game (for my players, it is close to 0, despite my request). So my advice would be that you dedicate one session for lab work & study.
Maybe it is their preparation to the gauntlet and you play the last year when they are studying and inventing spell or building a small magical item. Let them know that they will have four full seasons to do whatever labwork they want (regardless of what the rules says about apprenticeship and free study time and that they will be very slightly stronger than a mage build by rule because they will have a few seasons more under their belt), so they have to at least have an idea/concept for this year of labwork.
Then, during the session, walk them through every season. Sometimes it will be fast: I want to study Vim from Roots - look at the quality, the level and boom +X xp. Then when it comes to inventing spell or building a magical item, walk them through the process of evaluating the right level of effect and inventing/learning it. And if they are short of a few points (let's say up to 5-10 points) to do it in the right number of season, consider that they are doing that in the lab of their master and they can benefit from lab bonus. It is a one-off, good for player experience, it will teach them the value of a good lab and will allow them to have a unique spell/item to start the adventure.
Regarding the Broken Covenant of Calebais, in fact, you could use it as a starting covenant: first, they only have access to the higher level, with no ghost interaction: they have an aura and a good defense from outsider. As they become more powerful and in needs of more resources and spaces, they start to venture deeper in the lower layer.
I ended up sitting the players down and asking them how they wanted to handle it. They decided they wanted to go through their apprenticeships in the form of a flashback montage.
So I broke down the essential rules and lore into 15 bundles and they made a bunch of ~10yo fresh apprentices. I taught them one bundle in a single roleplaying scene with their masters, then we did 4 seasons in a row like you suggested. I kept a list on the table of what options their characters had for spending the season. The list started small since their initial characters couldn't even read and knew nothing of magic, but as they were taught new things more options unlocked (for example they couldn't invent a spell until they were taught how in a scene).
We repeated this for the rest of the session (2.5 hours) and by the end my players had a solid grasp on how casting works, basic lab work, enchantment, and spell creation.
Very cool. I'd also love to see it written up for one of the fanzines.
In my very first session as a player, there were 2 things the GM did that really set the tone of this game, separating it from other fantasy games.
The storyguide ran "Promises, Promises". But the first session started with the characters traveling to the Tribunal gathering to swear the Oath of Hermes. We travelled with Maximianus (head of the covenant), but our respective parens were not present.
On the way there, we stopped at an inn, and Maximianus got a room. The GM established a true medieval inn, with the general travellers rolled up in front of the fire (again, as opposed to frolicking drunken orc wenches and other fantasy tropes). Maximianus could afford a room with a bed, and the apprentices slept on mats on the floor of the private room, to protect them from upsetting the commoners downstairs with their Gift. Then, Maximianus did magic for the first time in the game: ridding the bed of fleas. It was a great moment, where the GM simultaneously got us into the setting of shitty, smelly, medieval europe, and the fact that Magic isn't all fireballs and lightning bolts. It has practical effects that can make one's life a lot better.
At the Tribunal, the GM had the players actually swear the Code out loud. It was a great moment, filled with the weight of the Code. We, the players, actually felt nervous for our characters, and what were setting out to do. It felt epic and profound. And really set the tone for how important the Code is to keeping us all alive.
Promises, Promises is a great scenario for getting everyone up and running in the game mythos, so I encourage it.
Give me a few days to move my paper notes to a Google Doc and I'll post a link here on this thread. I'd love to get community feedback on both the bundles themselves and the order I presented them.
The scenes themselves were almost all improv on my part, but I can do a write up of both how I approached it in the moment as well as a "in hindsight" bit.
dredged_mage with all players being new to Ars then I can recommend that you write up a summary or cheat sheet of all the major rules / rules your troupe use often.
I did this for our group when we started. If nothing more it at least will solidify the rules in you as you are writing it. I did one for general play and a second one for every thing associated with things you do in the lab. Unfortunately we are playing using the 4th edition so mine will be of little use to you. And it is in Swedish, but that part is a easy fix. ^^ You should end up with 2 page document or there about for both of them. Easy to print out and distribute among the players. =)