Simple Magus Characters

The people who participate on these boards tend to be those who like trying to figure out how the Ars Magica System works and how to get it to do things and how to stress the system. However, not all players are going to be like that.

It looks like there are enough people in my local area interested in Ars Magica for me to run a game. From what I know of one player, he is the type to read the system and find some way to exploit things, I have lent him a copy of the main rule book so he can build a character. Another player went ahead and started working on a character concept from the 4th edition pdf, I lent her a core rulebook as well. I might have to make suggestions, but I am confident that they can make characters they will be happy with or that they will contact me if they have questions.

Now, of the other three possible players, I am meeting with one of them tomorrow and working with him in designing his character. He has played in my Traveler game and a couple of one shots so I know something of his gaming style. My reading is that he is someone who prefers playing the character to designing or advancing the character. Myself, I enjoy reading the rules and trying to figure out how to make them do strange and wonderful things, but if that is not his cup of tea, where should I guide him?

My first thought is House Flambeau, and I am pretty sure that is a good choice. Still, if I think a player is going to be avoiding spell design and spend his time adventuring, improving his arts, learning spells from lab texts, and mastering spells, what other houses would you point them towards?

Depends on what he wants to play with his character. A flambeau is a warrior, generally, a guy that gets in the thick of the action and blasts away. He feels like home in martial conflict. If he prefers other types of approaches it might not be his type.

If what you mean is a character that does not rely in spont magic and only relies in his formulaic spells, that is another thing. I have seen players do exactly that for years. Mystery houses do not look very promising either, so a true lineage or a societas.

In any case a lab rat does not seem to fit your concept, but there are dozens of character concepts that fdo not need to stay in the lab. A redcap (non magus) might even fit this approach better. An outdoors magus, a social interaction dude, ... anyone that would not get to shine in a lab does work. :slight_smile: So I would say flambeau, tytalus (if you want), exmiscellanea, jerbiton, tremere (you always need field explorers), .... even guernicus even if I hate that house.


Tremere is an excellent choice.

He can avoid spell design OOC, and you can have his superiors tell him which spells to learn (and provide the texts) for the adventures they foist on him IC.

(This is my Pilum of Fire. There are others like it... Running a modern-style military missions series with anachronisms fits perfectly too.)

I think I described my problem badly. It is not just a question of probably not wanting to design new spells and effects. I also don't want to have him in a situation where his character would logically know information but the player does not. If I have to halt the game todo a big info dump explaining the nuances of the Hermetic code when he is playing a Guernicus, the game is less fun for everyone.

That being said, here is my current reasoning.


Probably a good choice. So long as he gets through character creation, I can't see any problems. He might or might not advance in the Mysteries as he so decides.


The whole point is either inventing things or politics within the Order, one which requires paying attention between games and the other studying the world before we get started. Pass.


That whole philosophy of the house that he would have to pick up

Ex Miscellanea

Maybe. I have always found the choices of Major Virtues limited, once you have looked at Strong Faerie Blood, Shapeshifter and Giant Blood, there is little strong choices left. On the other hand, he only needs one character, so while I am afraid of having every Ex Micellanea have Shapeshifter or Giant Blood, that may be my problem not his.


I think this is a good choice


Ack. All that Code of Hermes stuff he would have to know!


Maybe, though another player is building one already.


The more I consider it, the better this one seems


To really take advantage of this house you need to design your own spells. Pass


The suggestion is that a Tremere could be directed more seems reasonable but is not what I am looking for here. I want everyone to make choices for their character and develop them the way they want. I have already built covenants with different magi and advanced them all myself and designed all the spells and watched what happened. I found it entertaining but it is not what I am looking for here. I am trying to prepare for him showing up and not having advanced his character between sessions and having to spend 45 minutes waiting while that happens. If he is a Trememe, that would happen before he had a chance to chose for himself, not afterwards.

Still, not a bad choice, just not better as one might think.


I think it is really hard to play that philosophy right rather than just being a jerk. Now, this is the house I dislike the most so I am probably biased, but with the player being such a easy going guy anyway, I am going to steer him away. Plus, I am willing to bet that the third definite player is going to play a Tytalus.


Too much lab work.

So, I am going to try to get him to focus on Bjornær, Ex Miscellanea, Flambeau, Mercere or Tremere.

I would suggest going for a non-Hermetic ex Miscellanea. No Hermetic arts, just supernatural abilities.
You can design one either as a Gifted member of some hedge tradition, ideally one with relatively "simple" magics (folk witches are great in this regard) -- or, simplest choice of all, as a Mythic companion with 21 pts.of Virtues, 10 of flaws and no Gift.

The two great advantages of this choice is that 1)magics of hedge traditions are in many (though certainly not all!) cases much "simpler" than hermetic magics to "manage" and 2) a hedge wizard can reasonably be expected to know very little about the Order and its laws and customs.

Fwiw, I'm breaking in an all new group myself. With one player a little like yours.

I felt that having a less 'crunchy' player not doing magic might make them feel somewhat excluded. I felt the important bit wasn't so much the house as the theme of their magic, as it has such an influence on their stories, goals and development. It wants to be something fun but simple... We settled on 'Druidic style', as this is straightforward, fun and familiar. Animal, herbam and techniques worked for us. Hedge type in ex miscellanea... He's ended up fixating on trees - which has been pretty cool.

Feel some other stong ones are fire blasting, illusion, destruction and earth magic... All simple ish rules and easily visualisable.

For my money, I would say that the House doesn't really matter. I would advise the player to choose a House that sounds interesting.

Then think of a character concept. A character from film/TV/Literature is something that I find usually works well, especially a character from a series, and usually a character from a non-fantasy/non-superhero/non-medieval genre. If I pick a concept from a fantasy/superhero/medieval genre I find that I get too distracted trying to re-create the source character's background/powers/etc. However, what I think is really needed is just a strong idea of what the character looks like, and how he/she interacts with people/problems. It's easier to do this with an out-of-genre character concept.

Pick Virtues/Flaws and Characteristics that sound fun and align with the character concept.

Then I would advise him to look at the spells in the core rulebook and pick one 4th/5th magnitude spell (i.e. level 20/25) that is useful. That is, something that he can imagine the character would cast in most adventures (as the storyguide, make sure that the player is right about this --- not much point taking DEO if the saga is mostly about Hermetic politics, for example). Take those spells and the TeFo Scores necessary to cast them. Then pick four or five 3rd magnitude spells (level 15) that have either common Te or Fo (or both) to the already selected effects. Make these either spells that are interesting and fun (but maybe not of great utility in many circumstances) or spells that are useful in many situations. Take a few 1st and 2nd magnitude effects that seem useful. Make sure that you have the Te Fo scores to cast everything.

Then spend XP to get the minimum required for a typical Magus (i.e. Magic Theory 3, etc). Spend the remaining XP on stuff that seems useful. Remember that XP in Penetration and Parma (if allowed) are almost always a good idea. Sticking XP in Single Weapon is also a good idea (if the character concept extends to waving a sword at problems).

Now, in play, the player should have a good concept of who the character is, and can just use the few formulaic spells that the character is good at, most of the time. And most of the time, his formulaic spells will be handy (because that is how they were chosen). Then as the player gets more comfortable/experienced he can experiment using Spont. spells in the relatively limited number of TeFo combinations that the character is good at. Then, as he spends XP in other areas the character's options will develop further as the player's experience at the game also develops.

I am in the 'House after concept' camp.

I recently put together the beginnings of a 'so you're making your first magus' guide, since our group is gaining a few new players who are new to Ars Magica.

Step one for me is to come up with a high-level concept. I tend to sell Ars Magica as 'imagine you're a wizard in medieval Harry Potter' - that's usually enough for most people to wrap their head around.

So step one is to identify what kind of magus they want to play. Do they want to be an elementalist? An illusionist? A necromancer? A crafter? A seer? A DnD cleric?

Once they've identified a theme, I suggest looking at and thinking of story flaws that would be appropriate, as well as starting to think of a House. I recommend strongly away from certain virtues (Elementalist is not appropriate for an entry-level player, even if their character is a master of the four elements!).

I ask them to first pick a house category (true lineage, society, mystery cult) before drilling down to specific houses. I also recommend new players away from mystery cults, since they tend to want magi created with a bit more understanding of the setting and tend to break various rules with their mystery virtue(s). They are also cults, with all the cult story RP that comes with. Hence recommend away from rather than flat-out deny.

True Lineage: if you want the magus to belong to something bigger than they are, you want stories involving serving your House and like the idea that you have a bigger House to back you up.

  • Bonisagus: lab rat, inventor, politician, diplomat
  • Tremere: combat magus, spy, strategist, politician
  • Guernicus: detective, policeman, lawyer, investator
  • Mercere: investor, banker, businessman, postman

Mystery Cult: if you want weirdo wibble magic, involvement in strange and secret rites, and can cope with the rules being different for you in weird ways. I recommend picking a Mystery Cult only if the character concept fits with the cult, and not just for the cool-sounding virtue!

  • Bjornaer: magical focus on a specific type of animal or animalistic 'style' (e.g. songs for a songbird). If you want to play a woodsy DnD druid pick Ex Misc!
  • Criamon: eastern-style or aescetic mysticism. being weird, enigmatic and pacifistic.
  • Merinita: someone who deals with and uses fae - either a fae lover or someone who uses/abuses fae as a resource
  • Verditius: arrogant crafter of the best magical items ever

Society: if neither of the above two options grab you.

  • Flambeau: magic as a means. Classical wizard heroes or villains.
  • Jerbiton: magic and mundane by equal measure. Scholars, politicians, nobles, knights.
  • Tytalus: magi who love challenge - either challenging themselves or others
  • Ex. Misc: anything that doesn't fit the above classifications, and don't be afraid to pick this one!

Which House specifically comes from the decisions the player makes about their magus and the kinds of virtues they want. An illusionist with a range of faerie virtues? I'd suggest Jerbiton or Ex Misc., with Merinita only if they really want to go the mystery route.

Obviously all of the above can quickly go out the window for a more advanced player, and playing 'against type' makes for great PCs. However, for someone who is starting out I'd suggest sticking to the stereotypes rather than trying to go off-reservation with a kooky concept.

On Ex Misc. and supernatural virtues: if you have access to the HoH:Societies book, there's a whole bunch of extra supernatural virtues in there. If not, practically any other expansion book probably contains something you can use. From the core book you have Entrancement, Shapeshifting, Ways of the Land, etc.

We've got two misc-ies in the saga I play in: one Summoner (RoP: Infernal), one Learned Magician (Hedge Magic, Revised).

For extra Major virtues, just take a regular minor virtue and go overboard with it. Double the bonus and then add something to it. A lot of the major virtues in the core book are exactly this, so this is not a stretch. Major puissant might be a +6 pr a +5 and the option to make a feat using that ability during a gaming session, for example. Major Animal ken might imply that you are seen as the ruler of the land by all animals you encounter, ythat will follow your commands if they can. Etc etc. :slight_smile:

The OP was about creating a character concept that would not rely on the player knowing too much about the Order of Hermes and other game-specific material including mechanics. For me, this means all this focus on the House is a mistake. I would still advise that the player just picks a House that sounds interesting, and then make up the character that they want without much reference to the House "stereotype", or anything around House roles, etc. You just want the player to get up and running with a magus character who has something fun to do (usually casting spells) in the stories that your troupe is going to tell.

Then as storyguide you can worry about whether or not the character is acting like a mainstream member of his House and whether or not you want to make this a story issue as the saga progresses. If the saga is largely about a bunch of wizards in a tower interacting with the local mundane and supernatural inhabitants, then it doesn't matter much what House anyone is.

As far as House, the only things that I would recommend a new player against is a Redcap (because they don't cast spells and so are more difficult to make interesting if everyone else is casting spells) and (to a lesser extent) a Verditius (because the player really needs to know the enchanted item rules).

I'd go with a Flambeau. Not calling them simple, but perhaps straight forward and direct. That's not to be mistaken for someone who is a dullard or incapable of social interaction. But many are willing to act and act quickly. They have a confidence in themselves and possibly a lack of patience. They make for a good 'hero' concept, which can be easy to get into (a lot of RPGers have a hero itch to scratch).

Plus, this gives the grogs and companions plenty of oppurtunities when with the Flambeau; the magus might need them more as he gets into more trouble and situations. Just my two cents.