School for Magi

Ars Magica is a game built upon incremental improvements, be they to learning totals, lab totals, or anything else. If you add +1 XP per season for correspondence, make every book +1 Quality for basic resonant materials, and make teaching facilities +3 better using lab rules, then over time Magi improve significantly faster, perhaps by 20% or so. That may or may not be "ok" but it's a significant increase over the improvement implied by the rules in the corebook alone.

The improvement to laboratories from Covenants is more dramatic. Consider the journeyman mage with MT5. He can achieve a lab Refinement of 2, which allows a Size of 2 and therefore 4 lab virtues with no safety penalty. With a little clever choice of these virtues, he can further increase the safe size and virtue limit.

For example consider a Refinement 2 lab with the following: Extensive Stores (1 pt. virtue, giving 2 Safety and a low cost of mundane resource), Spacious (also a 1 pt. virtue giving 2 Safety at low mundane cost), Superior Construction (free virtue, +1 safety at reasonable mundane cost). Hiring a lab assistant gives a further +1 safety, or more if an exceptionally intelligent grog can be found. Overall these features give +6 safety at a cost of two virtue slots, allowing 4 more useful virtues. With the original 4, this allows a +8 bonus to the chosen specialization, even without using flaws like Focus that further specialize at the cost of general quality.

In the course of refinement, the Magus has likely picked up the Highly Organized virtue, giving a further +1 Quality at no cost. Essentially two magnitudes have been gained. A magus specializing in spells, for example, can now learn from much more powerful lab texts and can develop new spells quickly that were entirely out of reach using a lab from the core book. For a journeyman with perhaps Form 10, Technique 10, and Magic Theory 5, granting a corebook lab total of 25, this is more than incremental, it's a step change in power.

More experienced Magi can continue to double up on their Magic Theory gains and can adopt a whole range of virtues such as Superior Equipment or Precious Ingredients once they solve their issues of mundane resources. This isn't even to speak of magical devices that can be incorporated into the laboratory, or to the bonues allowed by the rules in Covenants for using extra time in the lab.

The point here is that players and troupes using Covenants rules achieve significantly higher power levels than those using only the core. It's the same problem that munchkining brings to games; once one player does it everyone has to or else fall behind and have less fun.

Well, yeah, under certain conditions it does, but the difference between covenant rules or not covenant rules is small compared to other saga choices: power-level of the covenant, general vis availability, availability of good and excellent vis, time required to tend to the running of the covenant, time required to deal with politics, etc. Even in a resourceful covenant, every lab improvement is a season postponing other advancements. You will miss some of those advancements in the early stories, probably having less fun in the meantime. If the saga progresses quickly, this is a negligible sacrifice, if it progresses slowly then it is quite unattractive.

I like the covenant rules because it adds some details and game effects to all the small choices of life that should be important to the character, such as do you build your lab in the basement or the attic. Do you have a grand entrance and a balcony, or nondescript hide-away. If you let this advancement happen quickly, it becomes a tactical game and is not very fun. Most of the debaters have assumed a power-level which allow for such quick advancement. My base assumption was always that the covenant is poor, and the magi have relatively little time to focus on their own lab. The sodales will protest on an +2 Upkeep improvement, and the craftsmen are not masters who make superior constructions and books.

At the bottom line, it depends on the saga. Covenant rules used wisely is effective seasoning, but you still want more meat than seasoning ...


It's always relevant. I choose Parma Magica. I do this every day. Any season in which I'm not trapped in Twilight or something, I get 1xp.

I choose MT. I'm a magus. Etc.

All that takes is not having some horrible flaw. "I chat about three things with other magi, and have managed not to piss them off." Sheesh, I have a Charisma of 7, and people still talk with me online! :slight_smile:/2

This idea is exactly the opposite of what I expect from good rules.

The more a set of game rules rely on handwaving, the more they represent the unnecessary slaughter of innocent trees. There are good handwavy systems out there... and they are good because the rules part is very short, leaving room for different kinds of content.

But that's just me!

My idea of great game rules is that if you apply them without having to think about it, you almost always get appropriate and expected outcomes, even in the face of optimization. I am not saying that they can or should cover every situation. That's a matter of coverage, a different topic. But if the obvious use of a game rule flies in the face of those outcomes, as it does here, the rule is problematic.

This isn't about being abusively tactical, but about doing the obvious thing: Get a correspondence or two.

Sort of like saying that a magus who gets himself a lab or a knight who - oh, no! - gets the best armor he can is "playing the tactical game."

This season I start a correspondence with the other PCs in my covenant. PCs all agree. Wham. Automatic.

Correspondence is so good and so easy, why wouldn't the magi we meet at Tribunal by default say "Of course?"

So not going here!

Ok, maybe a little: The rules don't say that I cannot send an army of demons to disrupt a magus developing a spell that I think doesn't serve the story, so that's the best thing to do.

And a little more: I always recommend avoiding systems that advocate putting the story first.

Again, just me.

A bit. But it drops into place very nicely as is. I'd revise Poor to be 8xp though. Then, when creating a covenant, just decide what kind you are. No balance needed here, just being willing to decide how connected your covenant is.

(And this is not handwaving, but a precise set of rules:

  • Your covenant is Poor, Typical, Good or Legendary in this regard: Pick one.
  • Decide what factors make it so.
  • Decide the extent to which you want this feature of your covenant to be challenged during play. Do you want this feature threatened or interrupted often? Do you want to take it for granted, in order to focus play on other matters?
  • Move on to the next covenant choice.

Only the best book mattered in AM3. But that was simpler and just as workable as AM4&5.

But I don't agree: I think Covenants is more harmful than helpful on this point, except to the extent that correspondence is mentioned.

Capped by MT isn't much obstacle. Size is often not an obstacle. Unless you decide to make it so "for the good of the story"...

I am happy to call your strategy denial. Not just attention, no: utmost attention.

It isn't a wrong way to play. Very old school. But exactly the opposite of what I would recommend.

And the magus need not do it. See other threads.

Cheap. Easily beats raising MT or Arts to get the same effect.

Which you might want to do anyway. Unless you have money to throw at the problem, which magi can often get easily if they want.

Lots. Just the stuff already in Covenants, no items at all, can make a lab crazy good. And then watch players brainstorm, which they should do. They're magi, after all.

Hmm. I don't think you're quite agreeing with what I'm trying to say.

Great rules for magi are about defying constraints and common sense, while still keeping the game workable as expected. That's what magi do: Defy constraints and upset expected norms.

The rules for lab customization fail for me in part, precisely because they are all about the way physical constraints and common sense limit what magi can do. Disorganized means X. Faerie Components means Y. Your lab is N square feet, which lets you have R upgrades, unless they are free and these are the ones we think make sense to be free.

What about the Criamon on the Path of Herbal Awareness whose lab (If I weren't long past hate, I'd hate that you call it a lab; I call it The Station of Purple Haze; relax and breathe in the 'air' and you'll see what I mean, or see something) doesn't have any glassware at all (even the purest, most transparent glass cracks quickly as we move inexorably toward Strife; we must let the glass crack and fall away, leaving only clarity)? Etc.

The original rules worked just fine. If we wanted more verbiage, we could say "Describe your lab the way you want." Now, if we wanted alternate lab rules, so that magi really customized their labs instead of just adding MT, that would work too.

Indeed, since I'd love to see MT just vanish, that would work just fine: Every season you spend in your sanctum, it gains 1 point. As you accumulate points, you can 'buy' benefits to tailor your sanctum to your magic, making it more uniquely your own....

Which once again sums up the exact opposite of what I think.

It's not the players' fault.

The players don't need to be taught a lesson.



It is wonderful, the net. You can fire off so much correspondence, that even if only one in a thousand potential readers actually reply, you get more than you have time to read. Have you tried this, writing by hand? Sorry, Balder of Bonisagus is still your friend, but just this season he was to busy corresponding with William of Verditius, and did not get time to write back to you in time, so you got the letter a season late. And BTW, your letter to Festus of Flambeau was delayed two months because Richard the Redcap got drunk and missed the ship from Calais, so you did not get any use of that either this season. In this case Festus is as annoyed as you are. Martin ex Merinita on the other hand, has just had enough of your letters on Parma Magica. He'd much rather write about Faerie Lore.

If you get your automatic xp from correspondences every season, you are playing a vanilla version of Mythic Europe. That's fine by me. Vanilla is good, it just isn't my favourite.

Sorry for the ambiguity. I did not talk about playing tactically, but playing a game of abstracted tactics (typical boardgames) as opposed to roleplaying and storytelling.

Yes, get a correspondence. How do you go about it? Whom do you know? Play the story. The rules are clear, /if/ you and the correspondent are aligned and write about the same thing you study that season, you get a bonus xp. There is nothing in the rules to say that your correspondents is going to oblige. Sometimes he will, sometimes he won't. The rules leave that open.

The armour example is similar. If you want to play a high-power story, every kind of armour is available and affordable. Let the knight choose. If you want to play low-power, the armour is expensive and the knight poor. He can of course spend all his time finding a way to earn the armour he wants. In the a high-power saga, let the players define their correspondents (and you can just as well just increase all study qualities by 1 and ignore correspondences. In a low-power saga, nobody is interested in anyone at your covenant; and you have to earn the trust to get anyone to talk to.

That's a dilemma. I have thought of that, and chose to ignore the possibility because it does not make good stories.

Maybe they want to use the little spare time they have to play dice, play the flute, play romantic intrigues. Ore most likely, they are already engaged in more correspondences than they can manage.

If all players were equal, I would agree with you ...
This is not about teaching the players a lesson. It is about given some players, something which works great for them, without insisting that it has to suit everybody.


Do you see why I might consider this style of GMing punitive? (It's not bad! It's very old school. But also firmly of the GM vs Player variety. I've been around long enough to sometimes fall into it, even when firmly trying not to. But it's never the way I really want to go, or the way I recommend going. And the kind of rules that support, no, demand this kind of play and especially style of argument to support it are, to me, Not a Good Kind of Rules.)

All players are never equal. But it's still not about the players.

Great rules serve the players and GM. When a player tries to take advantage of great rules, the game gets better, not worse, because great rules communicate or model a kind of intent.

So many games have sections about dealing with problem players, but usually when there seems to be a problem player, there is really a mediocre GM. And I include when I'm the GM having a problem. Not always, but usually. (And I exclude when I'm the problem player. :slight_smile: )



There will be once House Mercere gets behind it! :smiley:

If you run your school well, all students will have that sort of means of travel. It's a small investment on a long-term scale to make a few carpets as lesser enchanted devices. You shuttle in students over the first few days of the season, and you return them afterward.

"A magi can participate in many coorespondences, but can only gain benefit from one per season, which must be on a theme that is associated with the magus's research or reading." p90, Covenants

Putting up your Parma Magica every day is not the same as being associated with research or reading.


In your saga, sure.

But if you don't like PM, then Magic Theory is always associated for lab work. And 'theme' can be pretty broad too. Unless, of course, you want to police strongly. And then, a group of PCs can still easily get around this, developing appropriate correspondences among themselves, as many as they like, and reach out. Unless, of course, you decide that no one wants to talk about the things the PCs want to have correspondences in, or decide to rule that they don't want to talk with the PCs, or decide that the PCs need to work harder for it, making up reasonable (by which I mean Old-School-style punitive) reasons why.

Much easier to simply say, "Your exposure xps are in what you think is reasonable. Of course you exchange email with other magi; that sort of thing is included. Of course you do PM every morning. It's fine." And really, it is.

Good rules are those that a group can lean on without thinking about it, and get good results. Bad rules require CONSTANT VIGILANCE and Mother-May-I metagaming. Oh, please, is this sufficiently "on a theme"?

Really bad rules for downtime require GM adjudication every season. And if there's correspondence the way you suggest (my "on a theme" is whatever the player says it is; yours is not), that kind of adjudication is required.

But... that's me.



This topic seems to have drifted from 'School for Magi' to 'Covenants is a twisted book' and 'correspondence is both reasonable and dumb'.

On that note, I've noticed most of the opinions that xp-bloating is a consequence of exposure xp, or one-point-dump from adventures. The one I noticed in my home game that I've never seen anyone comment on is xp-splitting for exposure; with Affinity in Creo and Corpus, if I invent a new healing spell, I can put one point into each and get 2xp + 2xp, before even adding correspondence, which means if I was trying to abuse the xp system, I could easily get 5xp in an exposure season.

Which is puzzling; a school involves teaching and training. But no matter - trying to herd cats is pointless.


Obviously, you also have an affinity in Magic Theory, and put the correspondence point there.

Not technically, and this is somewhere the misapplication of Affinity in MetaCreator also causes problems. Affinity doesn't generally multiply all points. It multiplies points at character creation, but you're not doing correspondence there. What it really does and what that original multiplication is to handle is it multiplies Source Quality. There are Source Qualities and bonus experience. It doesn't apply to bonus experience. Bonus experience shows up in a few places: Elemental Magic, Secondary Insight, Hermetic Sorcery, Tainted Spells/Abilities/Arts, Twilight, Correspondence, and probably some I'm forgetting.

More simply, Affinity stacks with things that increase Source Quality but not things that give bonus experience.

I expect part of the reason for this distinction is that otherwise (bonus experience from all experience including bonus experience) Affinity would multiple by 2. That's because it would give you +50%, and then half of that bonus for +25%, and then half of that... 1+0.5+0.25+...=2.

It's been commented on a lot in the past. It is not abnormal at all to do it, and it really doesn't get that abusive. It's just an extra 0.5 experience in the Art each season it's done. It would take you quite a few seasons for this to really add up. It gets really abusive when people mistakenly try doing this sort of thing overly so with bonus experience. For example, people have suggested putting 1 point in each of two elemental Forms along with Elemental Magic gives you 2 in every one of the Forms.

One of the Magi of my campaign does this. He has affinity on Ignem and Elemental magic. In each adventure he tries to use each element in at least one spell and then puts 2 xp in ignem (we round down, this is to get an extra xp) and one xp in each of the other elemental forms. This way, he claims that he gets 3 extra xp in each of the forms. He cannot do this in any other form of study that is not xp from adventures, because is the only one that allow him to split like this.

Reading the book I have not direct text that contradicts this interpretation. And I don’t feel it to be that strong, if we compare this virtue with Flawless Magic, flexible formulaic magic, mayor magical focus or the like. In the long term there aren’t as many adventures and xp are split.

I'm not going to reply further about Elemental Magic so as not to derail the thread further, but here is what you want to read about applying it:

Other methods allow splitting, too. The most common one is Exposure. Practice does, too, but you can't practice Hermetic Arts.

It's true that this is left vague in the core rule book. Note that you can read the core rule book's "Whenever you successfully study one of these Arts (that is, gain at least one experience point from study), you gain an additional experience point in each of the other three." this way, too:

SG: Adventure experience.
Player: I put 1 point in each of Aquam, Auram, Ignem, and Terram.
SG: There is one event, so one "whenever." Putting the point in Aquam give you an extra point in Auram, Ignem, and Terram. Putting the point in Auram is the same event, so you get an extra point in Aquam. You also get an extra point in both Ignem and Terram, which we have already determined you get. Etc. For one bonus point in each elemental Art.

There even are other ways to read it, too. For example, maybe it's supposed to be exactly "one of these Arts," so studying more than one makes the Virtue not apply.

How do we determine how it was intended? In a void, we probably cannot. But we're lucky here.

Now we see the ArM5 one is a version of this one. This one is written for Abilities, not Arts. But outside that, let's compare them:

They're not written identically, but they use the same relevant numbers in the same way: if you study "one" of these Forms in "a season" you "assign/gain one/an additional experience point to/in each of the other three." They're using the same logical structure. That leave us stuck on both of them in a void. But this time we're told how to interpret the statement:

So we know for sure how Elemental Magic works in this case according to HMRE, that Elemental Magic in ArM5 using the same logical structure, and that the ArM5 Elemental Magic is a version of the HMRE Elemental Magic. That should make it pretty clear what is supposed to happen with this player's approach:

2 points in Ignem (w/ Affinity) and 1 point in each of the other three results in:
2+1+1=4 points in Ignem
1+1=2 points in each other Form

The player is gaining 4 bonus experience as a result, more than Minor Virtues generally give. The player also benefits from ignoring low scores in requisite elemental Arts for certain spells. That's fair. Gaining 12 bonus experience, roughly the equivalent to 4 Minor Virtues plus ignoring the requisites makes this worth nearly two Major Virtues, which is part of why it seems so abusive.

I will send you a private message. This discussion is not on topic.

Create an initiation scripts for a mystery cult which grants Apt Student and Good Teacher.

Use Craft Magic to create podiums and quills which grant the speaker or writer Good Teacher.

Sell books, exclusively to students at an insane rate, created with Craft Magic which grant Book Learner to the reader.

I am working on a one-shot, where are the players are newly guantleted magi who are competing to stay at the big covenant with the big library and high aura and where there is plenty of gold and they get to fall in on already built labs but they can only stay for four years.

Well, if you get 3XP without an affinity, you would get 5XP with an affinity, so it is not like the magi would have to split the XP to get 5XP.