Rolling Characteristics in 5th Ed.

I've been scrutinising the material in the 5th Ed. book, and I'm unclear on whether one is still allowed to roll for Characteristics as one could in all previous editions, or if one is required to use only point-building for stats.

According to the limited "Conversion" notes at the end of the main book, Characteristics are "unchanged" from 4th Edition. This isn't entirely true, as it is now possible to buy up Characteristics from +3 more cheaply, and Improved Characteristics provide extra points. Mythic Characteristics are completely absent from the main book (are they in any of the sourcebooks?).

I'd like to know if one still has the long-standing, established option of rolling for Characteristics. Presumably, this would follow the 4th Ed. rules of rolling two dice, one "positive", one "negative", adding the two together as long as neither turned up a "zero", in which case the total would be zero. This gave a range of -8 to +8, with no score to be beyond +/- 3 unless the die roll was a 7 or an 8.

If this option was revoked for 5th Ed., does anyone know why? Characteristic generation was already "tweaked" for 4th Ed. from the previous editions (where scores ranged from -9 to +9).

I've been gaming for many years, and while I can appreciate point-generation in some systems that are even more point-intensive than "Ars Magica", I enjoy rolling attributes/characteristics to give a wider flavour to the characters. Obviously, "house rules" could still apply, but I'm interested in the OFFICIAL rules, as I'm just now learning 5th Ed.

You can certainly have your saga deal with the assignment of characteristics in any manner you wish. That being said, let me throw some ideas out.

The point buying system makes for more rounded characters, albiet not as powerful as one could roll for in 4th edition. You can still aquire high stat scores, but not as high as in the past.

If you look at the stats for mobs for 5th edition, you will see that the stats for charatcers is in line with these, more so, IMO, than in 4th edition.

If you want your characters to be "better statted" just increase the amount of purchase points.

ArM5, page 30, states that Characteristics are purchased from the chart. There is no more rolling.

Normal humans have a range of +3/-3 for Characteristics. If you want a number higher or lower, you need a Virtue or Flaw.

Mythic Characteristics is minor heroic virtue from "Houses of Hermes: True Lineages", but it works differently in 5th Edition, sort of like a specialty. Access is restricted to those who have taken either Legacy or Blood of Heroes.

IIRC my second ed Ars book lists only rolling for stats, not buying from purchase points. But it required the -9 to +9 value to be divided evenly. Perhaps I'm just remembering incorrectly.

Having played the bulk of my Ars in 4th ed, we never rolled for stats. Random stats can make or break your character. If you've envisiones a cat-like stealthyness and roll very low for Dex/Qik - that sucks. Also, some people might resent if another player had rolled better. Some munchkins migth tweak every which way, in order to get best possible stats (or even cheat!9. IMHO this is in the past of rpg, D&D and such. Mind you, I did play and enjoy this...once, but not any more.

So people can do it how they'd like to, but I'll never roll stats.

But Mythic stats should still be possible withthe right Virtues/Flaws. Perhaps they should be Heroic V/Fs?

I much prefer the system as it stands now. In previous editions I liked in principle the idea of purchasing rather than rolling characteristics, but the range of options was a bit limited by the lack of Virtues for tweaking things. Then Improved Characteristics came along in 5th Edition... my single favourite Virtue. After that, well... dice rolls? Who needs them?

Heh, I still remember my WTF reaction when i realised what the Good Characteristic virtue did in 3rd edition. If you can't remember, after dice rolling, you had -9 to +9 to distribute in a characteristic pair. The virtue could replace a characteristic with a new one (random 0-2). So I always put one at +5, and took the virtue to replace anything left too low. 3 characteristics of +5 was normal, lol. Maybe that was a bit broken >.>

In 4th ed I used a different variation. I had players roll a positive and negative six-sider, generate 12 scores, drop the lowest four and arrange as desired.

I know, D&Dish. Look, it was the 90's, all my D&D players abandoned the old ironside in favor of Werewolf and Vampire. I lured them into Ars Magica by offering familiarity. Upgrading this characters to 5th edition, I am more particular than the RAW, but these rolled-stat characters mostly fall in line with choosing Improved Characteristics once or twice.

Regarding the 3rd Ed. Virtue Good Characteristic, reread the entry. It can only be purchased if one divides the roll evenly. E.g. a +5 could only have a Good Characteristic applied if one divided it +3 and +2, which would remove any point. It existed more as a way to offset very bad rolls, like a -6.

The problem with point allocation is that it doesn't reflect the dramatic variation one found even in RL history. Genetics, nutrition, and other environmental factors resulted in substantial variation. In a Mythic environment, the modifying factors would be more pronounced.

One of the tests I apply is attempting to recreate RL figures. The system rarely if ever suffices. For example, someone who was only moderately remarkable in a number of areas (say +2 on all Characteristics) would require an application of 6 Minor Virtue points, leaving very little room for anything else.

Of course, there's a separate problem with the restrictions on what types of Flaws can be taken. According to the rules, unless one has a very permissive StoryGuide/Troupe, one cannot have an Heir with Close Family Ties whose kin is engaged in a Feud. Regardless of the fact that people have certainly belonged to that category throughout history, and many literary characters could have that mix.

On a literally related point, Mythic Blood seems to be a very poor choice for Magi. Anyone who claims it would probably be less effective than their esteed predecessor. For example, under the rules in the main book there's no such thing as a descendent of Jerbiton who inherited his Gentle Gift.

The two above points drift from the subject of Characteristics, however, they are further examples of ways in which 5th Ed.'s rules are less comprehensive in terms of character creation than previous editions.

Just reread it. Doesn't say that at all i'm afraid.

Since 0 is the average value for any trait (for humans), how is +2 on all characteristics "only moderately remarkable in a number of areas"? Having +2 on all characteristics strikes me as a truly amazing person. I don't think that I've ever met anyone "in real life" that would meet that criteria...

The 5th ed. rules state that you should not take more than one story flaw, not that you may not take more than one. "A character should not have more than one Story Flaw. This is a guideline, and may be violated with the whole troupe's agreement." (Ars Magica 5th ed., pg.37) This doesn't require a "very permissive StoryGuide/Troupe", just one that likes the stories that your flaws will produce...

In our saga, our take has always been that if the flaws are interrelated and will make for good stories, go for it...

Jerbiton is the only group for which this is true. For any other house, this can be a very good choice. Not losing fatigue when spell casting is always a good thing. When combined with an innate magical ability and a built in minor magical focus, I don't see the problem with this virtue.

I have to disagree here. The characters built in 5th ed. are just as comprehensive and interesting as in previous editions (3rd and 4th at least, I can't speak for earlier). What 5th ed. does do is force a player to get permission from the rest of the troupe/storyguide before playing a character that can ruin the fun for the rest of the group by being an attention hog.

Sit vis vobiscum,


Since I was one of the main offenders here, I should hate the restriction on story flaws. (I love story flaws and tend to, given the chance, write up characters that demand way too much story time) But, I don't hate the restriction. Instead, I recognize it as a very good thing for the enjoyment of the whole group. I may grumble a bit when creating characters, but I think it is very good for the game.

Sit vis vobiscum,


IIRC, such restrictions are done to limit munchkinism.
A flaw is not a flaw if you don't suffer from it or if it doesn't come into play.

If each character has 3 story flaws, how often will these be actually played?

Moreso, some players would do exactly as you did, linking their flaws together so as to suffer the effects of what is mostly 1 single flaw, while others, engaged in a feud, plagued by a supernatural entity, and having a faerie friend, would "suffer" an awfull lot more from their flaws

Finally, taking a story flaw only means that you wanna play a given kind of stories, it doesn't restrict you from describing your background as you want.

Most of the time I agree with the restrictions on Story Flaws, just as I agree with the Personality Flaws limit. However, I strongly think that more than one Story Flaw is fine if they are all appropriate to the character's background, and I've always felt that some of those Personality Flaws are really a bit more general, e.g. Judged Unfairly, Poor Memory or Sheltered Upbringing, which actually limits the Abilities you can take during character creation.

But a word on the topic of rolling characteristics. It is indeed true that the purchase system might not be so great for accurately re-creating historical characters, but neither is rolling the dice if you're going to be as strict about it as you would be for players creating characters. I mean, you might set out to re-create Frederick II, but what if you roll and get -1, 7, -1 and 1? You have to keep re-rolling until you get something that actually does him justice.

And I have to disagree with you. What ArM5 does is forces you to get permission from a bunch of different people in order to make a character you find interesting. I understand the difference between should nots and cannots. and I don't consider the "should nots" binding at all. I also don't like the 5 minor flaws limit. As for how multiple story flaws can come into play, some of them are just omnipresent. Take Close Family Ties for example. If you always have a tag-along little brother or two, or a niece or granddaughter and etceteras, well that is omnipresent. Combined with Black Sheep; then the family hates you bbut you still have a couple of cousins that keep close to you and feed you information. They can combine.

Still, if you are able to work around its limitations and adjust to your comfort, 5th edition is actually superior rules wise. I am stull upset about casual treatment of cannon, but mechanically it is a much better game. I understand you Arwan, because I too dearly loved my 4th edition game. But go with 5th, it is overall a better game.

Actually, it does both.

Ars Magica is almost unique among RPG's in that it assumes that all of the players will have some direct say in the stories being played out. Since Story Flaws are basically dictating the type of stories being played and who will be the main character involved, I think that it is reasonable to ask permission to take more than one.

If you can't easily get permission to "make a character you find interesting," it may be a problem of group dynamics rather than the rules. A RPG always involves a good measure of cooperation to make it work. If one player wants a game to be hack & slash, another wants all political intrigue, and another wants slapstick comedy, it is very likely that none of them will have a good time when playing in the same game. A group refusing to give you permission may be trying to tell you that they want to play a different sort of game than you do...

If your group agrees, more power to you. If, however, your group disagrees with this, then I'd say you have a problem...

Just remember, a Story Flaw is a hook that will draw you into stories. An omnipresent character trait is (by definition) not a Story Flaw. Now if the above mentioned tag-a-long little brother is going to be consistently kidnapped/lost/turned into a giant purple moth/etc. and you have to go rescue him, then it's a Story Flaw. If you have more than one such flaw, you're probably hogging the limelight a bit...

Having said that, I also believe that interrelated Story Flaws can work well. If they can get you into substantially more trouble than either one alone and they can be used in the same story, I think they are great.

Sit vis vobiscum,



Just as you can be estranged from your family without any flaw, it just means you won't nescessarily have stories about it.
We all did this in old times: We had amnesic characters hunted by powerfull ennemies wanting to kill the rightfull heir to the throne... And we gained nothing from it, save enjoyment and a rich character depiction (Well, not in this particular case)

I saw a similar thing recently, when one player thought he needed the pagan flaw in order to be a pagan. That's nonsense. The flaw just means you can't be quiet about it, which may bring you problems

I understand and respect your point of view. However, do realize that I think the categories are all artificial anyway. When I learned how to play the game, they were not divided into categories at all. Someone else, and not the original author (though a brilliant game designer nonetheless) decided to categorize them they way they are now.

I also understand that my gaming history is unusual. I never had any problems with munchkins or killer DMs or nay-sayer storyguides. I'm the one who had to teach everyone, so I am almost always ASG. And I have little difficulty getting group agreement, because my ideas usually run along the lines of "take whatever flaws you want, and wards don't have to penetrate". I get lots of agreement from players when I say stuff like that.

But believe it or not, I actually run really close to RAW. In fact, that's they way I challenge myself nowadays. I want to just play and not debate or lawyer rules. But when I am SG, I like to ease the restrictions and allow for greater variation.

Oh, completely artificial! I do find the categories useful though. The new categories help clarify for players (who, in my gaming group, don't normally think about such things) how the various flaws will impact the game instead of just their characters.

It's OK, people from different worlds often have trouble communicating with each other.:laughing:

I have not been so lucky in my own gaming life (though luckier than many).

Also, running a game store has exposed me to so many gaming groups that I'd rather gnaw off my own leg than be trapped playing with, that I have a rather skewed view of what gamers are likely to do... Hopefully people will take this into account when reading my posts...:wink:

My general approach has been "I'm sure we can make this work..." With a little discussion we come up with a way to allow the cool character concept without messing up the game.

As ASG you can do this "invisibly" by simply deciding which stories to tell and how to implement any flaws. This really does make it easier. I don't think it would work so well in games with multiple Story Guides. With a single Story Guide your method is probably the best and easiest.

Oh, and "circle wards don't have to penetrate," went over very well.:wink:

Sit vis vobiscum,


You run a game store? Glod bless you sir! Game store and Comic shop owners catch the worst of fanboy munchkins.

But anyway, I think you allude to the core issue. Having good players makes all the difference in the world. Some players need guidance and some serve to guide me. It took me a long time to break my old pals out of the traditional mode (1 DM, 1 character per player) and into more of a troupe mode. Still, they have their main character and side characters, and I run most of the stories; but we evolved to the point where we can come up with plot ideas together, trade off the sg role, and wave ourselves through the sticky bits whenever they arise.

Trying to talk them into accepting Virtues as Flaws was difficult though (i.e. Animal Companion, Close Family Ties, etceteras).