Strange Saga idea

Howdy. New to the boards here.

So I grabbed the bundle and have been reading around, and wanted to ask a few questions about some possibilities for using this game for our local game group.

1: there are 10 of us, and usually 4-8 will show up at any particular session each week. That means we've had lots of trouble in the past of "falling behind xp" and things like that, also, the system needs to be fluid enough at the table that we can run with a real table-full of players. Many systems get very cumbersome with more than 3 pcs playing at once.

2: while politics or derring do are fun, being able to explore a world and play around with repercussions is a big big part of what we do. On a quick skin read this does seem to be a stong point :slight_smile:

3: slow learning the system - we've done this in a few other games, but instead of deep end into all the politics and facts and numbers, we start at real basic stuff and add on components as part of the story. So would it be possible to start a game with no mages, and have a handful slowly teach themselves magic? (Looking at the lab experiments and "breakthroughs") until they build up their community and teach discoveries to apprentices etc?

  1. Ars is, in my experience, one of the games that tends to work best for large groups. The seasonal nature of XP means that players who fail to show up for a few sessions aren't going to be shorted XP and troupe-style play means that most people will be playing grogs at any given time and due to their simplicity, it's not really much of a hindrance to have a single player control multiple grogs if needed.

  2. Agreed. Mythic Europe is a really fun setting to explore.

  3. I'm not quite sure what you're suggesting here. Something like a group of Apprentices whose masters have mysteriously disappeared after opening their Arts or something in the vain having your PCs invent Magic Theory from the ground up?

  1. My first experience of Ars was in a vast group. This works best with only 1 or 2 playing a mage at one time, and the rest playing companions/grogs.

In terms of "falling behind on xp" - Ars does not suffer from this. Xp is gained seasonally, so if you skip the adventure you can do something else (learning if you have free time, exposure xp in your job-related skills if your character is busy working for a living). Sometimes magi or well-educated characters would prefer to NOT adventure so they can finish lab projects or read the latest book on a topic because they get more xp that way, and are reluctantly dragged from their ivory tower into the real world.

2 You can run around doing derring-do, or play politics at tribunal, or go around exploring the world (mundane or fantastical), but there are consequences whatever you do.

  1. You can easily start with non-magi and then add magi in as players feel ready to grapple with the magic rules.
    Possible jumping-off points -
    *you start as hirelings of a group of wizards who want to start a new covenant. Look at the boons and hooks (maybe the main book, maybe the big list from covenants as you got the bundle) to get ideas for a weird. magical place. Send in the scouts to explore it and find a good place to build, liaise with any supernatural inhabitants (fairies, magical creatures) and then send in builders and farmers. When people are ready to try the magic rules, send in the first magi characters to start their labs and do some adventuring and some lab work to get a feel for the system.

*start as crusaders (maybe in the Holy Land, maybe in the spanish Reconquista, maybe in the Baltic as Teutonic Knights) and start out trying to carve out territory or build churches. Explore the foreign lands and deal with non-Christian types. When you are ready, have some "scholars" come and offer covert assistance - try and use the magic rules to subtly help the crusade without getting caught by their fellow mages for "interfering with mundanes"

Ooh, that's sounds great (seasonal xp and grogs)
How simple is it to make a grog from scratch? I saw the list of templates, and it'd be easy enough to just pick a template I guess. You say the rules for grogs are easy as well? (As in basic actions, run, hide, steal, fight etc)

And yes, something in the vein of "group of settlers find strange books in old ruins" and are teaching themselves the basics. Leads to all sorts of ideas of scouring old ruins, trying to break into private collections of books etc.

Valid idea?

Large Groups: I routinely GM for 6 Ars players at once. I suggest keeping the group divided so that a few are playing magi, a few are playing companions, and a few are playing Grogs. Rotate this around from session to session, depending on the story and who shows up that week. Every player makes all three sorts of characters, so that they always have something to play. And yes, because XP in this game can be gained even when you don't go on an adventure, no one ever "Falls behind." The magi spend their seasons in the library or lab, the companions are in the library or practicing, and the grogs are in training or getting XP from their jobs.

It is very common for new players to suggest a campaign in which the PCs are slowly introduced to magic. This isn't surprising, the magic rules are complex. Rather than trying to rediscover magic through the use of experimentation and breakthroughs (which is a real hassle), instead, have a couple of people make magi and show everyone else how it is done in play. Or let everyone make grogs first and just play an all-grog adventure to show everyone the mechanics. You can make them apprentices, but apprenticeship lasts 15 years in a traditional Ars game and that's a long time. Many campaigns don't last that long.

I will also note that there is a "Newbie Covenant" project which the people here made last year. It has four covenants in England (as I recall), all with libraries and NPCs and everything made up for you. Look it up; it's a wonderful way to kickstart your saga with minimal up-front work.

Yipes! Especially because your putative young magi would not have the Arts opened, which is kind of a barrier to this sort of thing, so essentially you've got a bunch of young men and women with no magic powers and a massive social penalty trying to survive and invent the Hermetic Arts by themselves (the latter task is flat out impossible by the rules and by any sense of sanity).

If you want to do it this way (which really isn't something I'd recommend for your first saga), I'd get the Apprentices book and play a gang of half-taught abandoned apprentices with some knowledge of Magic Theory and the Arts but no spells to start. They'd have to beg, trade and slave away for actual magi at nearby covenants in exchange for teaching, and after about ten years rogue, .

Or you could run a vanilla apprentices game, where everyone starts as an unskilled, Gifted child and toils for years under a cruel and brutal master (and that's not even talking about the Tytalus apprentice). That might be more workable.

This is an excellent way to slowly introduce the game. Yes, making grogs is very easy and and simple, and running them is pretty easy and simple too.

For an opposite approach, however - since playing wizards is the focus of the game, I usually do an initial all-wizards adventure, with just the template grogs or something like that. This means the players have a steeper learning curve to climb, but they can begin with the "real game" instead of playing what would later be minor characters (note that they may actually enjoy playing these "minor" characters more!). There are some ready-made adventures for that online (Nigrasaxa and Promises, Promises), although I'd tone them down a bit. (You can find the adventures in Atlas Games' website; and you can read what's problematic with them at Project Redcap.) Alternatively you can start with the Calebais adventure that you got, which has a more D&D-like feel to it than most Ars Magica adventures and is also suitable for a starting group of wizards.

Have fun now!


I recommend starting with only magi. AM normal combat rules have never been very good, and that's ok because the game is focused on wizards! So players should be able to dip their toes into the waters of AM magic ASAP.

I also recommend starting with only the core rulebook. There is enough here to run many games.

A useful covenant setup would have an elderly magus (character sheet unnecessary since he is a plot device) who starts off running the covenant and gradually devolves responsibility to the young PC magi. Early adventures become easy: Elder says, "Take care of something." The elder can also provice IC advice about hermetic law, etc. He is also a useful deus ex machina, to rescue new players from oopses. Naturally, he dies at an appropriately dramatic moment. It is also useful to have the covenant a little bit away from everything, so each saga element can be introduced in its own time. There's a village or town nearby in one direction, a faerie forest (or lake?) in another, but not too near. More than a day's ride. A monastery a little further.

You will eventually want to design and play grogs, but at first, why not treat them as red shirts? Each early grog has two attributes: One useful noncombat skill and one personality trait. A grog also acts as plot armor: If a magus would get maimed or killed, let it happen to a grog, TOS style! Two per magus per adventure.

Start with magic!



If you want to start with simple characters with a hint of magical power, why not make a group of hedge wizards. Although to keep it simple don't use the Hedge Magic or Rival Magic book, just make sure that each characters has one or two supernatural abilities from the core book. Build them like companions, eventually sprinkle with a bit more XP so they feel more powerful than the average NPC before playing real hermetic magician.

Then, when you feel ready, either create Magus mimicking their first PCs or even consider that they were offered the "join or die" option. Assume that their master manage to preserve one of their supernatural ability (if they want) and then have a 15 years leap or if you feel generous, an accelerate training in 8-10 years considering their prior experience (it is not straight canon but not strictly impossible or forbidden).

Of course, you can use that as a base of a whole campaign: why so many hedgies were recruited at the same time in the same regio ? Does the Order need insiders ? Is their a prophecy about a young gifted who would change the whole Order (but they could not pinpoint which one so they did mass recruitment) and so on.

Ezechiel - that's a pretty cool idea actually :slight_smile:

I'm getting all sorts of ideas now :slight_smile: