Some questions from a new SG.

Hello all, I am Dunia.

I recently bought the 5th edition of this lovely game and although I am a bit confused at the moment, I think most things will clear up after I read through the book a second time. Though I have a few questions that I wish help with from you girls and guys who have played for quite some time:

  1. Apart from the Core book, which books are recomended for a new SG and a newbie group (for this game)
  2. I have seen that I can get a few 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition books at the local RPG store, are they still usable or is he world/system changed so drastically that I can't use them.
  3. Which is the best tribunal book for a new SG/player group
  4. Are there people here who would be willing to share their adventures and RPG sessions with me so that I can see how you guys do your adventures?
  5. I am hinking of building a spring covenant with the ideas set in the Covenant chapter of the Core book, but what is a good number of vis sources for a starting covenant?
  6. Where can I find a price list of what things cost in this setting; food, weapons, clothings, trade goods etc

Welcome to the forum! I shall try to address your problems as best I can:

  1. Most of the 5E books are pretty good though some are starting to show their age. Obviously the supplements you'll want to invest in will be dependent upon what your personal saga will entail, but my own suggestions for any newbie would be: Houses of Hermes: Societates, Ancient Magic, Magi of Hermes, and Hermetic Projects.

  2. The mechanical bits probably won't be usable to a newbie as a lot of very basic stuff has changed between 4E & 5E. That said, many of the books contain nice fluff and may be worth picking up anyway.

  3. Previous editions assumed Provence as the default tribunal and it's still a good choice as are Stonehenge, Loch Leglean, and Hibernia since North American players are likely to know more about those regions' history and culture than the more exotic tribunals. CJR gives a good rundown of the tribunals in the 6th episode of 'Arcane Connexion' too! ( ... 0_35-07_00)

  4. I'm currently between sagas, but there are some lovely sample sagas in the PbP section. CJR (again) also recorded some of the logs for a sagas he's running at: (

  5. Many SGs will strongly advise you not to try running a Spring covenant with newbies since there are so many ways they can botch covenant design. In any case, the answer to your question is contingent upon the desired power level of your saga and the number of magi who'll be living at the covenant. In any case, the guidelines on page 218 of the corebook are generally quite satisfactory though I'd advise you to start on the lower end of the scale since Vis sources are easier to give than to take away.

  6. Ars doesn't really lend itself to that sort of provisioning since the characters aren't murderhobos on a limited income. Instead, a character has a given cost of living that they must work to maintain. Thus different items are ascribed a resource level of Inexpensive, Standard, or Expensive indicating who can afford it (Poor, average, and Wealthy) respectively.

I think the most important section to read and re-read until it gets in is chapter 16 - Sagas. If you get the long-term events (ch10) and the Troupe concept, all the rest becomes fluff and pitfalls to avoid. Just have fun and explain away the inconsistencies by considering the saga as badly remembered stories from a 100 years ago.

You will need HoH:MC if someone play a Mystery Cult House magus, but you could wing the rest with a good group.

Game system has changed, but some 4th books are pure fluff and can be used as is. Maybe you can find which on

Rhine, Provence or whichever part of England you know.

Play by Post, as told above. Or the Flying Chicken session logs.

Having an elder magus as a "quest giver" and cavalry can help. Remember this should be a Troupe decision. Just try something and collectively adjust as you go. And find Covenant Hooks / Story Flaws that you will enjoy playing.

City & Guild has some, if you want the mundane perspective. Magi are rich enough that they don't bother.

Congratulations! And welcome. :slight_smile:

That really depends on your interests and those of your troupe.

  • A Tribunal book is a nice place to start, as it allows you to set up a saga with a lot less work.
  • I've found a lot of inspiration in the Covenants book, which unfortunatly also has a few things I'd really rather forget about
  • All of the Houses of Hermes books are nice, but you can do without them.
  • Hermetic Projects and Magi of Hermes are awesome collections of ideas and inspiration, but can be a tad hard to digest, and I believe MoH has a few too many bugs included.
  • I for one really liked the Grogs book, but don't bother until you've played a bit and understand the idea of troupe style play :slight_smile:

Depends on taste. We've used Guardians of the Forest a lot, but I think CJ's podcast (linked above) is a good place to start.

Probably yes :wink:
One of the strengths of Ars Magica has always been the metacharacter that is the covenant, and the tendency of players to be willing to write about them.
You can try the PbP forums as mentioned above or CJ's Black Chicken logs for actual gaming sessions.
Or for a slightly larger view of stories I can strongly recommend the saga links at Project Redcap. Plenty of excellent reading there.

Depends on taste again, but the core books has some recommendations as I recall.

Covenants and City and Guild both have partial lists, but in general those are not terribly important.
If need be and Vis is available, magi can create large amounts of wealth in fairly short amounts of time. Wealth isn't terribly important, it's what you do with it (or how you deal with poverty) that makes for interesting stories. :slight_smile:

Hi Dunia!

As you've seen already, everyone has their own opinions. Here are a few of my own.

This really depends on your group and preferences. I actually am starting a new saga right now with only the core rulebook (at least for now), to make it easier on the players. Some suggestions:

  1. The Houses of Hermes series is really excellent to get a good idea on the Houses, so you might want to purchase them. Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults is especially useful, as noted above, but that too is really only needed for advanced-play as it starts to make sense to let the character advance in his House's mystery cult. I personally also found Houses of Hermes: Societates very interesting for its rules on social interactions, which are useful regardless of which House your characters belong to.

  2. Covenants has some great new Hooks to look through and help you solidify your covenant and what kind of saga you want to play. As said above, it also has some questionable parts; in particular, I'd ignore the economy and the extended book rules.

  3. The Realms of Power series is good to help the storyguide out with monsters (and plot ideas). Decide which Realm you want to focus on, and learn more about it! Faeries and Magic contain rather-flexible rules for making monsters (I think Metacreator now has Magic for purchase, so you can use that software to create Magical monsters if your wish).

  4. Tribunal book. More on that below.

  5. Adventure books. Which one really depends on your tastes; Tales of Mythic Europe has several little stories, I'd suggest that.

The mechanics have changed somewhat, and some of the ideas have. The Tribunal books are largely still useful. Adventures, especially ones featuring Faeries, may need more conversion.

You do know you can purchase most of the catalog as PDF files at, right? Just in case you want access to the electronic format, rather than the dead-tree one.

The one they like best :smiley:

My preference is Guardians of the Forest: The Rhine Tribunal. It presents a fairly "ordinary" tribunal, with some strange local customs but nothing that'd really upset a "standard" game.

I'd also humbly suggest reading what I wrote over at Project Redcap under "Which Tribunal To Choose" to, well, help you choose a tribunal.

I's recommend against a strict price list. You can just wing it as "Expensive" or so on, and do things roughly. Ars Magica isn't a game where equipment gold value matters so much, like D&D.

In the opinion the 5th edition core book is a masterpiece, well above anything else published for Ars Magica, including the 5th edition line. You can play a whole saga using that book alone. The only thing where it is lacking is a description of the hermetic society, really, with a tribunal map and a few paragraphs that describe what a tribunal looks like and how the diverse tribunals diverge gfrom the norm. And the bestiary, that is somewhat short.

For other stuff, I would also go for a tribunal book. As suggested, it removes a lot of work from the alpha storyguide and helps to settle the atmosphere of the surrounding region. Since you can basically ignore the numbers of any of them, you could get hold of any of the tribunal books in existence and it will do fine. Heirs to Merlin (England) or Guardians of the Forests (Rhine; germany, poland + holland) would be my preferences since they are quite the standard settings. Heirs to Merlin is 100% compatible with any edition, since it contains no number crunch at all (it is pure background info) and quite good at it. I have a weak spot for Lion of the North (Loch Leglean tribunal) but it is old (3rd edition) and I hesitant to suggest it.

You do not really need mystery cults to play a MC magus. The rules in the core book are enough to play around their concepts and virtues and flaws.

Download the book of mundane beasts and the free material from the atlas website.

Search for Hermes Portal. That is the 4th edition ezine of Ars Magica. There are hundreds of things you can take advantage from it. The whole collection is online for free. Its follo up ezine (subrosa) is a payment one, but you could cinsider getting a subscription given the quality of the product.

If you need adventures, the Cliffheart saga has quite a few of them:

For sagas, try Project Redcap (
I am specially fond of these 3: got lots of ideas myself from them:

    You would need the 4th edition book "Triamore" to fully understand this one, but it is a very detailed covenant and saga.

  2. SAGA PALATINI ... f_Palatini
    And the rest of Andrew Gronosky's material in that wiki. Great stuff.

    OLd saga, amazing reading. Weeks worth of material

For starting a covenant, I would say "don't". Been there, done that, several times. Failed generally.
New playersto Ars do not control the setting, the capabilities of their magi, the nuances of the Code of Hermes and generally are an elephant in a glass store when it comes to itneracting with the setting. Given that, making them junior magi in an older, stablished covenant can be a good idea. The older magi can mop up total disasters and act as (unreliable; never trust them) cavalry to come to the rescue from time to time. If you want to give them plenty of freedom, starting in a WINTER covenant can be a good idea. THere are some AWESOMELY powerful magi around, but they take care of their own stuff. They might even kill you if you annoy them too frequently. There is one of the remaining magi that is less mad than the rest, and is the one that recruited the magi. When he is not in twilight he can give some advice and order them around (read: act as a counselor and adventure giver). Ungulus, in Stonehenge, can be such a covenant. PLenty of resources, plenty of disappeared resources and a really weird place to be at, even if the power gained is great. Stick and carrot :slight_smile:


Quoted for the truth!

I enjoyed my first Ars game, where the new players (and one experienced player) were accidentally teleported to a random location without any resources and no means of contacting or returning to anywhere. It allowed us to learn the basic rules of the game and figure out what our magi were capable of. Finding food and shelter were hard enough, without any actual enemies...although we met several of those soon enough.

Once we finally made contact with the Order again, we could then learn how the setting worked without also trying to learn the basic rules at the same time. And it was an appropriate time for new players to join, or to swap characters if desired.

This starting point would also benefit a new storyguide because then you wouldn't need to be really familiar with the setting to start with.

I would say that there are several stages of learning how to play:

  1. Basic rules - see core book.
  2. How the setting works; the Order, mundanes, faeries, Divine & Infernal, Magical stuff - almost all the books have info, but the Houses of Hermes books help a lot for everyone, plus the Realms of Power books for the storyguide(s). And, most essential (unless you do the 'abandoned completely in the wilderness' thing) is a Tribunal book.
  3. Advanced rules for magi - almost all starting players attempts at designing magi will be a lot weaker than experienced players can do. Don't worry about that. As the players read more of the books, they will get ideas and want to change aspects of their characters. Sometimes, you can allow them to swap virtues/flaws; sometimes you have to say 'no'. Books to help here are the Houses of Hermes books, followed by all the wierd ones like Ancient Magic, The Mysteries Revised, etc.

Whatever you do, have fun.

I have a file from someone else on how to get yourself acquainted with the game, some of the advice is just considered "normal" here.

If I had to suggest 3 books, I would suggest:

1.) The Rhine Tribunal Book -This will give you a context for the game
2.) Covenants
3.) A second Core Rule book. In my game we have 4 core rule books at the table every session and it's very, very helpful.

One thing people are not mentioning is that character creation, especially with NEW people, can take a very, very long time. I'm not sure how other SG's here have shortened that time, other than screaming at the players to quit diddling around and pick something.

I highly recommend just making Magi to start out with, and use some of the grog templates from the core rule book. In fact, having people base a Magus on the base presented characters is not a bad one.

-Companions are always for another player's Magus.

As for other "interesting" books:

-Houses of Hermes Series - useful for both you and the players. If I had to pick one, I'd recommend True Lineages, because the chapter on House Guernicus gives a very good overview of Hermetic Law.
-Realm of Power Series - story ideas and fleshing out of other
-Ancient Magic

Many of the other books are perfectly I fine, in fact, I own them all. I'm just trying to keep your initial $ outlay down.

Another link, on this same question at another forum is: ... Ars-Magica

  1. Covenants, mainly for the lab customization rules, but this really isn't an issue for something right away, but soon. What are your players thinking of playing?
  2. Anything that isn't rules laden in that area is good. Of course, you can always redo something in 5th Edition, if you need it.
  3. I do like Normandy, because it presents a very familiar liege vassal system imposed on the covenants of the Tribunal. The Hermetic Tourney is a lot of work to pull off, though. The book is The Lion and the Lilly.
    4)There's the Bibracte Saga, which is approaching 20,000 posts, so reading it is a bit of a mess, but you're more than welcome to read it, and ask me any questions you'd like.
    5)I'll side with those who suggest going against this. Have a well established Spring covenant, perhaps, recruiting new magi in a push to move into summer?
    6)I wouldn't worry about money. If you want some stories about money, do some stories about money. A lot of this will be a function of the PCs you have, too.

Hello Dunia. Welcome aboard!

I'm perhaps a bit late as I can see that you've already had a lot of advice and suggestions - of which I'm most in line with YR7's (especially on the choice of books) - and with so much already covered I'll add a few other things.

Concerning books, there are so many great titles for Ars Magica 5th edition and there a great asset to Storyguides. However, and this is particularly relevant if just starting out with new players in a new saga, don't let them overwhelm you. Use them as inspiration and not as a load on your shoulders of having to recall this or that exact detail once a story is rolling. The same goes for historical sources and material on the setting and time you settle on using.

Pick up play aides; they are at least as useful as the publications. Some have already been mentioned. You can find some extremely useful ones on the Atlas Games' own site and it might also be worthwhile to invest in Metacreator to have an excellent tool on your computer with which to toy around with concepts as well as be able to cross-reference characters, covenants and so on. Depending on how attached you are to making characters like our forefathers did, on paper, this can really ease up the administrative side of running an Ars Magica Saga.

And now my usual darling: My advice to consider starting your Saga with apprentices as the main characters.

I did this with my first genuine Ars Saga, now running on its 10th year, and never regretted it. It can be a benefit to both you, the players, and the story. It allows both you and the players to 'unwrap' the setting and the rules one leaf at a time, letting each story introduce you to new aspects experiencing them with fresh eyes, rather than having to pretend to know it all in advance, both in character as well as Storyguide or players. And at the same time it makes for backgrounds so rich that you will never run short of internal relations or story hooks. The potential epic aspect of becoming a magi in control of all the elements is only accentuated by the memory of those first many attempts at lighting a candle as an apprentice, and so on.

Now, this depends a lot on you and your troupe. If you think they might be put off by playing children or youngsters or whether you are under some sort of pressure of introducing them to the core of the game - powerful magi and the potential for epic action - to keep them interested in exploring the setting and the system further, then it is probably not an approach for you.

Mind you it need not be something you do for long, a handful of sessions only if that's what you are aiming at. Be careful, though, because it can create quite compelling stories that are hard to let go. In my troupe we ended up playing at least 20 session before the starting five magi were through their Gauntlets and full-fledged magi and by then had it become such an important vein in our storytelling that most players joining the saga over the years have been introduced through playing apprentices as well.

We didn't have the luxury of the Apprentice supplement then - actually 5th Edition wasn't even out yet - so you have a small, cheap, and useful book right there from which to start if you feel like tackling a new campaign this way. The book is packed with great material on how to play apprentices and for stories tailored to their situation. There is no better position from which to move out into the setting one step at a time.

Welcome! I am going to give you some indirect answers in the hope they'll be helpful.

This is a Frequently-Asked Question answered at the fan site, Project Redcap. That said, my straight and simple answer would be Houses of Hermes: True Lineages because it explains all that Hermetic Law stuff we forum users so enjoy debating at length. :slight_smile:

The world has not changed all that much but the rules have. If the topic of a book really appeals to you, it might be worthwhile, but I would suggest you favor Fifth Edition books because they're better.

One of the Fifth Edition ones. In my opinion, Rhine. Normandy is very political and, in my opinion, is aimed at experienced players. Thebes and Transylvania are good books but the further east you go in Mythic Europe, the less familiar the medieval setting looks. When The Contested Isle comes out, that could be a good choice.

Yes, dozens of fans already share their Sagas online through Project: Redcap. :slight_smile: My current saga is listed there. You do not have to go overboard and create a wiki with dozens of pages like I did. :slight_smile:

I recommend 2-5 pawns per magus per year, plus whatever it costs to maintain your Aegis of the Hearth. It is easier to add more vis later than to take it away. Remember that magi can find vis on their adventures in addition to the covenant's regular sources.

Covenants has some but as other have said, you don't really have to worry about money in Ars Magica unless you want to. Vis affects characters' power a lot more than money does.

It is a matter of taste, but I'd use less than that. Let them get their aegis up and one or two pawns per magus/maga per year. You can be generous with adventure rewards and adjust them to the needs of the game but it is far less fun for the players to get a source that they thought was theirs taken away than it is to get less loot from adventures. I see people post of games where vis is no longer valuable because it is so common. I did a game like that once and disliked that aspect of it greatly. It is easier to give too much vis than too little and it is harder to correct as well.

5 pawns per magus/year is quite high. I would also use less. Vis is like hermetic gold, so you'd better not give them too many of it unless you want them to be Arab sheiks sitting on an oil field. We just did that in our last saga (we were sitting on around 15-25 pawns per magus/year) and the saga was extremely different from other sagas we had played before. Our power level skyrocketed. This is what we were aiming at, so it was great, but far from what I would recommend to a new ars group.

Depends on what one is doing with all that vis, for 5 pawns per magus per year to be "quite high".

I know it's been said that Covenants isn't descriptive of the hermetic economy, but it's the closest thing that people have. What does a pawn of vim buy? Or maybe the question should be, what do you want it to buy? Do you want magi to take risks, crazy risks that might be fun? One of my PCs recently burned 20 pawns of Herbam vis in boosting a spontaneous spell, 10 pawns at a time. It was kind of fun. The only thing you should know about how much vis to have in your saga is a function of the kinds of stories you want to tell, and the kinds of games the players want.

I've found vis poor sagas to be not as much fun for me, personally. So whatever the suggestions you take from this, you need to factor in the kinds of stories you want to tell and your troupe wants to play. Some sagas don't need to be about the hunt for vis, and they have lots of vis per magus, and collecting the vis is handwaved as automatic. Some do every single vis collection source, every year. And some do in between.

The amount of vis needed is also a function of how experienced the magi are. For magi just out of Gauntlet, not much vis is needed unless one of them is a Verditius. When they start to need longevity rituals, that's more vis needed. It's only when they start to want a familiar, a talisman, or more serious magic items that vis becomes a much-needed resource.

So I agree with those who advise to keep quantities small at first, then ramp it up gradually if you see that the magi are barely scraping by. And when you do, encourage them to go on stories to find and secure additional sources. Vis hunts can be a lot of fun to beginning players.

Thank you all!