Roleplaying in Ars

Well, this Subject title is a bit strange, but I couldn't find a better name for it. Anyway, one thing has been bothering me a bit in the campaign I'm running, and I wanted to ask how it is with other groups.

Right, it goes like this. My group consists of players who are very different in how they roleplay their characters. Most of them had never played Ars Magica before when we started out. They were used to d20 (My other campaign is Iron Kingdoms, something completely different than Ars). And I found that, after the covenant was set up, they didn't want to do anything else than improve their characters in the lab. I think the d20 mindset came in here ("Wow, we get xp for free without fighting monsters!! Great!") I did insist that they should roleplay a council meeting in the beginning of each season, and that works somehow.
Anyway, what I wanted to ask was if any other groups really roleplay lab activities. Do you detail them or roleplay them in any way, or do you just run the numbers and add the experience, use the vis and so on? I would love to see more roleplaying in my campaign...


Within the game I play and games I have run there is little roleplaying of the lab activities. The main RP Activity is the out of lab activities and we consider it a minor miracle when we manage to get a whole season without either an external problem or a player wanting to go and poke something and then dealing with the problem.
I think most mages would be thrilled to be able to spend many seasons in a lab without being distracted

On one level my reply is utterly vacuous, since my saga isn't quite running yet...

On another level, I don't think Ars is a special case.

Some people seem to enjoy writing down numbers, erasing them, and then writing down bigger numbers.

Some people seem to enjoy describing static scenes -- static in the sense of lacking dynamism and conflict, not in the "immobile" sense. (Yeah, I do think describing lab-work more-or-less falls into this category. In the end it is a dressed up variant of describing travel-time, IMO.)

I find the first one dead boring. The second one is OK to a degree, serving characterization and color, but it can easily degenerate into verbal masturbation: "Amids the mysterious lights glinting in crevices of his workshop the magus Boring raises his voice in mystic incantation while the rest of the troupe falls asleep".

If you would like to introduce more roleplaying in your campaign, you can introduce conflict and constraints on that conflict: here's one of my tentative plans:

  • Covenant gets a visitor, there is trouble and bad blood. Before the visitor leaves he sends a message or two from the covenant with a visiting Redcap.

  • Visitor leaves. Later a Quesitor turns up on the gate, and it turns out the first guest has disappeared, and the characters are suspected! However this plays out, the first visitor is never found: there will be always a smidgen of doubt as to what has actually happened. There is very little evidence either: it is highly unlikely that the characters will be charged with anything, but if they remain suspects, then friends of the disappaered mage are liable to call a Wizards War against them!

Ding! There is almost nothing but roleplaying in the works, it introduces lots of social structures to the players, cannot be solved magically, yet if the players get too frustrated it is easy to turn off the heat (the Quesitor may find evidence that backs up the characters innocence).

Just a thought,


I think it's a very common challenge - that a role playing group might consist of very different kinds of role player. Before this saga I've run a very long Storyteller campaing and as a player I've played a lot of Rolemaster, Spacemaster, Earthdawn and Storyteller as well. The types of genres/plays (which I think have a big impact on style of play) havent always been my favorites, but I kind of reserved this for my own campaigns (which have undergone many changes as well..).

Starting my current Ars saga I've had the privilige, due to a very vibrant local RPG community, of putting together a like-minded group of people. My "dream team" - not because we think more of ourselves, but because we supplement each other great and because we have similar takes on role playing.

But.... I think it is important, because everybody is set in his/her own ways, that you keep challenging each other, inbetween players and SGs and vice versa. My upcoming challenge is to get my troupe more interested in the covenant "book-keeping" - not because that in itself is important, but because it should spark new stories directed by the interests of the PCs/covenat.

And now to something completely diffenrent...!
Role playing in the lab - we've had many scenes in the lab. One clue have been to use "storytelling scenes" where I've made a starting reference and then handed the story over to the player in question (some times I've written some issues to be adressed or we've shortly run it over together beforehand) for them to storytell to the rest of us for a while.
Secondly we've had a lot of magus/apprentice relations - for the first year and half the players played apprentices, thus having several great and funny lab/teaching scenes. So great that newcoming players have actually been introduced as apprentices themselves, mostly to the established characters. Powerlevel aside, which we haven't had any issues with at all, it's a great way to introduce new people to the covenant, magic and Ars Magica in general.

... and it gives us even more of those wonderful scenes of the daily life of the magi.

I would really feel a lot better if you guys didn't go off and gave my Alpha ideas that potentially could result in me burning... :open_mouth:


MUUUUUUHA (my best shot at an evil grin)! :imp:

Beside - loking at your avatar picture you already seem burning to me.... :laughing:

  • but maybe you would be better of pleading your sorry case on the original thread:

A Matter of Hermetic Law

(Lykke til - og lad nu være med at brænde flere af vore sodales!)

Muhahaha! My dear Beta Storyteller, I gave you the Black Forest, but the rest of the world is mine! MINE I tell you! Muhahahaha! :smiling_imp:

Uhm.. anyway...

I think it's hard to find decent roleplayers these days. They all want to play Dungeons and Dragons, and if it's not d20, they don't want to try it.


In both the saga I play in and the saga I run, lab work, for the most part is not role-played.

Role playing comes into play in most other circumstances, but the actual lab work is most often just crunching numbers. This, by the way, is one of the reasons that I love this game so much. The science side of me gets to "geek-out" with the book-keeping for 30 minutes or so each game, and the creative side of me gets to fantasize the rest of the time.

One thing we've done in order to lessen the dead time while players are figuring out their lab stuff is to try to look and ahead, and end sessions just before a season or two of lab work is to occur. That way players can figure out their lab stuff during the week on their own.

That is not to say that deciding what to do with individual lab time does not sometimes require role-playing. Players will often discuss -- at length -- what is the best course of study for certain mages, especially when it is a season of service for the covenant. I encourage my players to do all of this in character. This can often be a good time because a character may try to influence a mage to go in one direction (while the player is wiser than that, and knows it isn't the best choice). Fun!


Nice! This makes me want to tweak the Peripheral Code a bit: keep the sanctum involate, but make the magus responsible for the safety of invited guests. In guestright style, insulting the host, etc, would automatically forfeit the protection, of course.

Why? Allows multi-character scenes set in sancti, even in mages without apprentices, and makes sanctum a natural place to hold a private conversation. ,-)

"As I was saying... No! don't touch that!"

Unfortunately it makes other mages' sancti into boring and easy(ish) refuges in Wizards War: as-is, it seems to me that while you can take refuge in the sanctum of a friendly mage, you are essentially at their mercy while there. If invitation makes you safe from your host, it becomes a considerably easier option. (While there is definitely some stigma in hiding under your parens lab-table, if the War is very uneven the stigma is not going to be to bad.)



I say don't worry if they are doing a lot more lab work than you are finding fun, as they become more powerful, then they need to gather more resources to perform lab work with. Studying with the books they have is no longer effective, their art scores are high enough that they need a lot of vis per study session. As they come to the point where the players are fighting over who gets to use what proportion of their resources, then they have to go out looking again.

So let them run the lab life for a while, but also send in a couple of visitors every season. Redcaps with messages, make a game mechanic where wizards researching the same subject who exchange correspondance give each other a bonus to lab totals for that season, then get the player to write the correspondance. If they are really out to maxamize their xp, then they should go for anything that will give a boost to their lab totals.

Then again you could take a leaf out of the loch legean sourcebook and make it legal for wizards to raid each others covenant and if all the mages are in their lab busy some stealth rival sneaks into their library and absconds with their best summa. So the players have to either let it slide, or investigate the crime, track down the culprit and the go about the legal processes of trial at tribunal to get it back. Involve politicking, as without the allies they won't be cultivating stuck in labs, they will lose the vote, make them realize that part of the power of magi depends on having enough allies to block political attacks.