West Marches-esque/Sandbox Campaign

So I'm looking towards starting an Ars Magica campaign as a new-comer to the game and happen to be in a club that encourages a certain style of campaign, that being something akin to weekly play-by-post with a focus on long-term projects, political intrigue and a dash of pvp conflict. Normally this takes place using a more rules-light style of game but from what I've been encountering reading Ars Magica the game seems suitable for using that format with a more involved campaign and ruleset.

What I've been envisioning thus far takes some inspiration from the West Marches style of play, wherein groups (who are often quite large and may have incompatible schedules for a regular weekly game) instead "sign up" to participate in more self-directed sessions each week, coordinating with other players who are also interested in doing the session and who are available at a similar time during the week (along with the storyguide of course)

How this would work with Ars of course is that each week would involve a season, wherein each would determine what their Magus and Companion were doing. Much of this could just be lab work, but there is also plenty of activities that may necessitate an adventure and thus a formal session that would be coordinated as above between the players and storyguide. (Some being events that the players react to (such as tribunal meetings or some visitor to the covenant) while others would involve more proactive measures (I'd envision that the Covenant is likely located in an area full of untapped vis sources and other areas of interest that may require some expeditions to fully utilize).) So there's liable to be at least one adventure each week, but not everyone is required to be available and given the lab work of mages and the social obligations of companions they may not always have able hands available for every task each season.

The main questions I have on this are
A: Would it work? (I'm a little worried about keeping a set pace that's only a season a week as it seems like a lot of mage activities might keep them indisposed for rw months at a time, but I'm also wary about trying to do multiple seasons in a single week given that some lab work is a contingent on how well previous seasons of work has gone. Is this something I should be worried about?)

B: What would be a good Tribunal to set this all in? (I'm thinking of adapting the Rhine Gorge campaign right now as it seems to be a pretty detailed area with a lot of interesting features, including the curse, to draw player attention, but I'm wary because I've heard the Rhine Tribunal as being a little too complicated for newbies like myself and my players. Provence seems like a less complex alternative but I worry about having to make the local environs more from scratch as a result.)


A. Yes it can work. The game I am running on Discord has a seasonal activities list and unless I run an adventure that will span more one session 10 in-game days the seasonal activities come into effect.

B. It depends on what you want to be the overall direction of your Saga. The Provencal is the Romantic Chivalry area. Thebes is about contributing to the Tribunal. Normandy is very mundane oriented. Hibernia is a magical pressure cooker. And so on. You may also want to consider lands outside the current tribunals like the Nile River Valley and the establishing of a new Tribunal.

For tribunals the easiest one you can work from now Heirs to Merlin, the British tribunal. It is 4th edition, but it is a book without stats, donut can be used for any edition. It is easy and has a lot of mundane stuff covered, so you will find a treasure trove of all that is not supernatural. And frankly, all of us can make the supernatural stuff easily enough :slight_smile:

Welcome to the game and enjoy the ride.

A) In line with the West Marches idea, how are you deciding what adventures are going ahead and who is going on them? I understand that in classic West Marches the players are supposed to co-ordinate with each other and tell their GM where they're going for a particular session and who's in the party.

Now, this could be a brilliant idea if combined with Ars Magica troupe play - encourage people to decide in advance what's fun for their magi to play, which grogs they would like to play, if companions should be involved, and so on - this could really allow the variety of characters to come to the front and encourage variety in group composition, and as such it's potentially a genius idea to bring out the best of Ars Magica.

You will also need to think about how you're presenting the information that leads to adventures to the party - will it be folklore, letters sent by Redcap, locals telling of strange things they've seen? The Ars setting allows for a variety of methods, rather than the "here's the map, tell me where you're going" that fits with D&D.

B) If you want a published one - choose whichever looks fun, and go with it. If you don't like the suggested politics of one, just ignore the published book, take any source of history and any source of folklore for an area of medieval Europe you like, and run with it.

My current idea is to begin each week with something of a "bulletin board" of updates. Each player is told the relevant details for their magus and companion for this season (what the result of their labwork/activities were, if there's some house business or other invitations/correspondence that have been sent to them, etc.) as well as providing some general updates for the covenant that the players are encouraged to engage with (preferably in-character with a meeting of the covenant leadership) most of this would indeed be a mixture of things you mentioned, redcaps and other visitors to the covenant bringing news, rumors sprouting around the covenfolk, news from the tribunal/further abroad, that sort of thing, in most cases the players can then work out in character who among them would be most able to deal with that situation and send them out (or ignore it and hope it doesn't curdle from neglect)

However I think that having some more proactive opportunities would be a good idea as well, so there are some adventures that the players "want" to do rather than "have" to do them. Having an area full of untapped vis sources, auras, regios and creatures to deal with, possibly with the Spring Covenant founded on the ruins of a Winter one setup, to give them some motivation to occasionally get out of the lab (or at least have some very capable grogs/companions that can help deal with that sort of thing for them)

In other words, don't drop the entire notion of the West Marches "Here's a map, have at it" method, but include some more reactive elements as Hermetic Mages have far less reasons than D&D Adventurers do to go scrounging around old tombs and the like and sometimes need to be forced out of their comfort zone.