How "fantastical" do we want the saga to be?
Do we want a "low fantasy", more realistic saga (like the Song of Ice and Fire or that atrocious Merlin movie that came out a few years ago)?
Or do we want a more "high fantasy", along the lines of old-school D&D, with griffins and dragons and merfolk and all sorts of weirdness around every bend of the road?
Or, more likely, something in the middle, a la Harry Potter? And, if so, where on the scale do we want?
And, in a different vein, how "hard-core" do we want the saga? GoT, where people get killed and very bad things can happen, or more Potter-esque, where things look bad but everything turns out in the end?
I'm pretty flexible on the level of fantasy. Considering the number of magi and what Hermetic magi can do, I doubt we're really in the ASOIAF level. Probably something in the middle is better, but I can go high fantasy, too.
I do like things being a little more dangerous. I feel like knowing everything will work out in the end is somewhat like knowing you're going to win a game and then just playing to prove it. I do understand people not wanting to go through the effort of developing new characters, though. I don't mind making new characters, so that doesn't hold me back, leaving me with my preference for the more hard-core.
If people don't want a character to die why not get the death prophecy "You will die of old age in your bed. Natural aging not the magically induced kind. Unless you do something really stupid like jump into a volcano. Don't Derp."? Still I think a little less deadly than ASoIaF would be nice. No ambushes by invisible demons for +21 damage.
I'd prefer: mid to high fantasy range, and I'm ok with a few character deaths in the magi and companions as long as it is relevant to the story and deserved according to the characters actions. Perhaps not magi riding dragons style, but certainly mid as a base.
We have a Loch Ness monster (great btw) and wizards, so we can't really go too low fantasy.
As a rule, I don't kill major characters (i.e. magi and Companons) without a good reason, and without running it past the player first to make sure he or she is okay with it. I understand that sometimes the dice just hate the living daylights out of you, but that would be one of the times you just have to overrule the dice. Grogs, I'm more likely to let the dice dictate, if it's good for the story.
True Story time. I was in a table-top Ars game once(4th ed), and one of the covenant's archers Botched his Bows role in combat. The GM randomly determined that it would be "friendly fire" and had the player roll to see who his arrow hit. Wound up being one of the magi. Roll for damage wound up being something like four or five ones, followed by a ten. We wound up binding the magus's ghost to one of our towers as a guardian spirit.
I also had a GM (2nd ed D&D) that I lived with, so we played a lot. Every new game, he would have me make two characters: the character I was playing, and the replacement character for when the first character died.
I prefer mid fantasy, I like when you find magic or faery if you know what and where to look but not when the whole world is decided by magical/faery/infernal/divine.. events, otherwise there's no middle age feel left.
I prefer when there's risk involved, and when being brave and taking risks actually means something so I prefer It rather hardcore, but not to the point where you struggle if you choose to behave safe : It's not a rogue like game.
Low to mid fantasy is my preference. Ok, yes, we're a coven of witches and we truck with the supernatural on a daily basis. We know where to find strange things - where to look. But I'd like it if it felt like we had to go looking for it, or our actions caused it to come to us, or such and the like. With there being a reason for the supernatural to show up if it does appear randomly.
As for danger, I sit toward the more hardcore side. Dangerous things should be dangerous! So you have to respect them, and take precautions. Rogue-like situations is probably counter productive though. Lets not be pointlessly lethal.
I prefer high fantasy, lethality about star trek level- maybe loose a grog every few adventures but main characters should need to be stupid to actually die. Grievous injuries of course can be rather common.
My votes are for (i) mid-level fantasy (I tend to like the inclusion of as much real history as possible, but the driving forces behind historical events needn't be mundane), and (ii) that the survival of characters (including magi) isn't guaranteed.
Mid-fantasy, pc lethality not by dice, but by stupidity is ok.
Mid-level on Fantasy. I liked Timothy Ferguson's method of not allowing random dice to kill a character but to give a warning when an action by the character can be lethal.
I prefer mid- to high-fantasy myself with character deaths due more to excessive risks or noble sacrifices rather than rotten die rolls.
Sounds to me like everyone would do pretty well with mid-level fantasy and mid-level hard-core. I expect the middle ground being appealing to a larger group isn't so unusual.
That was about what I was going to say too -- mid (or slightly higher) fantasy, with deaths only as a result of player intentions, not simply at the whim of the dice.