What house rules do you like to clarify?

When you're setting up a saga, what house rules do you like to set down before people start making magi? I looked at http://www.redcap.org/page/House_rule and there's a lot of things people can disagree on or house rule.

Which ones do you find keep coming up, and which ones are most likely to cause argument?
I'm asking because I wonder if it would make life easier to state a load of house rules before advertising for players for a PbP game, or if you're better off waiting until people say what sort of magi they want to play.

The two big ones-- Pink Dot and Ward Resistance.

Everything else is pretty negotiable for me.

I was making a list of our House Rules but most of them were gotten from somewhere else, and while trying to credit their sources I found that almost all we use comes from HBO.

We use pretty much everything from there: Inventing Spells from Lab Texts allowing different TeFo combinations, Minor Seasonal Activities, Die Roll Conventions (on stress rolls 1 is botch chance and 0 is roll again and add 10), Botching and High Skill (except we lower botchs by -1 for ability scores from 6 to 8, by -2 from 9 to 11, by -3 from 12 to 14 and so on), The Truth About Faeries, Demons "Without Virtue", The Price of Lab Texts, The Roots of the Arts (though we usually change the roots in Muto and Imaginem for Intellego and Herbam), Cantations and Correspondence XP, Exposure XP, Fast-Casting, Specialties changing and fractional Vis. The only thing of there we usually leave out is Creatures with Might being able to get Exposure XPs without their Might getting in the way: if anyone wants to train his familiar, he needs to feed it a lot of vis (except now that I just read that rule of letting 3 x Silver Cord easing the learning penalty I think I'm going to suggest using it).

We also use some other things from other people. We got from ironboundtome the possibility of trading magnitudes for +3 bonus in finesse rolls in spells, and pregnancy, birth, children & gift inheritance rules from here.

Next, penetration issues: on my current saga we have agreed that enchantments cast to an item do not have penetration issues if they just affect the item, getting rid of pink dots. So a sword with an Edge of the Razord do penetrate Parma. Everyone agreed after one player argued that it was silly that he the forceless casting of that spell over rival weapons would put every grog and companion in the party in more danger but would make him immune to these weapons. It also helps designing enchanted items, that now can have active effects without bothering to add penetration modifiers as long as these effects affect only the item when they are active. We now have cool swords that can glow in the dark because people actually desing these effects not fearing to ruin the weapon's penetration just because it's glowing. Our main trouble there was that then invisible weapons should bypass Parma as well. We agreed to that adding at least 2 extra botch dice (it's dangerous to wave around something sharp that you cannot see), but it have definetively caused an increase in the frequency of magic creatures with second sight we found and the danger of enchantments, which is cool.

Next, XPs an seasons stuff. As we usually start sagas with spring covenants, we allow the setting of basic labs with a 0 penalty in just one season, instead of requiring 2. I've have also have more than enough new players impatient to play their magi and wanting to do stuff with them being suggested to spent half a year of their young lives setting a lab. We also houseruled that some lab improvements like installing minor virtues can be done as the same time as the lab is being used considering it a distraction: opening a window, drawing a circle or a installing a mirror doesn't seem to us like the kind of work that requires 3 months, even if you have to do a lot of mystical work around them. We also extended correspondence rules from Covenants to any character who can write correspondence (and does so). And then we extended them even more. Two characters argued that they could write to each other and we also allowed that to happen more easily: we call it dinner-table-talk-xps and they must come from the 4 XPs pool of correspondence: it's a nice way to put magi together at the dinner table and it can give some funny results (we had two magi discussing penetration for a whole year and getting some xps each in the ability for the insights of their debate, while two other magi got their xps in guile because they were making jokes on them and yet another magus getting these xps in carouse because bored of all that stuff he used to get drunk listening to his fellows).

And then there is combat. We allow two weapons combat, even when I use it more for flashing rival NPCs than player characters. As shields are listed in the Weapons table and combat modifiers of using a Long Sword and a Shield are exactly the sum of the bonus of the two, our party proposed that the usage of 2 weapons should be allowed just by adding their modifiers. But the Init +4, Atk +8, Dfn +2, Dam +12 that would result by using 2 long swords would make a Round Shield an useless prop and a Great Sword a weaker weapon (if true medieval people carried around a shield they must have had a good reason to do so), so we changed the Shield Defense bonus to 1 + 2 x [Previous Value] and ruled that any two single weapons could be used together by selecting a primary weapon and a secondary weapon (and each round he may decide which is which) and halving the stats of the second weapon, rounding down, requiring only that the Str required to handle both weapons is the sum of the two weapons' values plus 2, one per weapon and 2 extra botch dice. So in our current saga a swordsman can use a long sword and a round shield (and needs a Str of 1+ to do so, 0 from the sword, -1 for the shield, +2 for two weapons) in two ways: focusing on attak, and then he would have the usual modifiers of Init +2, Atk +4, Dfn +3 (being +1 for the sword, and +2 = (1 + 2 * 2) / 2 rounded down for the round shield), Dam +6, or focusing on parrying, having Init +1, Atk +2, Dfn +5 (being +5 because of the shield and +1/2 = 0 because of the sword being now the secondary weapon) and Dam +3. And our fancy swordmaster companion can swing 2 Long Swords with a combined Init +3, Atk +6, Def +1 and Dam +9, without making our Point Grog feel stupid of his Great Sword stats of Init +2, Atk +5, Def +2 and Dam +9 wich just trades a point in initiative and another in Atk for a point in Def and the safety of two less botch dice than the fancy companion. And anyone with only a single weapon can now swing a Dagger to add +1 to their manage, but they don't usually do so because, well, two extra botch dice can be quite scary after you have seen a couple of combat botches.

And some character creation rules: we added Code of Hermes 1, Order of Hermes Lore 1 and Profession: Scribe 1 to the magi required starting abilities. We force every character to pick at least one Area Lore of the place were they grew up unless concepts forgives it, for example by having been raised by diabolist and spending all your childhood inside an empty barrel, though I'd vote to make that character still purchase Area Lore (Barrel)... Grogs are encouraged to be designed not as meat grinders, but trying to add some color to them making them pick one odd, useful for stories virtue, varied abilities (like Music, or Proffession: Cards player, or Area Lore: Barrel...), and not getting -3 in Com and Pre by default to boost their combat characteristics.

Finally we have our take on House Diedne, that I guess it's more an expansion that a house rule at this point: their V&F's go in a Ex-Misc way, what allows them to get Diedne Magic (and Dark Secret) for free and leave empty the Major Hermetic Virtue to get also Life-Linked Spontaneous Magic, and to be hidding into some other house, mainly Merita and thus get Faerie Magic as their free minor house virtue, and we have some of their inner mysteries and paths designed, the jewel of the crown being the path that initiates them into Chthonic Magic. A Diedne magus with Diedne Magic + Life-Linked Spontaneous Magic + Chthonic Magic is a fearsome beast either to play, avoiding being suspicous, or as an NPC, being hunted down or marched.

  • Take 6. On any unstressed roll, you can just take 6 and go on with the scene.

  • All hand to hand weapons except lances have Init/Att/Dfn of 0 and a DMg of +3. I don't care about the differences. Really I don't. You want to rock out with a pair of daggers (single attack) or a whistling staff or an urumi? I want you to do that. You know how back in Champions all superhero powers were just mechanical with scenery on top? A fireball, an ice blast and a lightning bolt are all just ranged killing attacks? I want that for combat in Ars. For a system we use so little, meele combat weapons get a ton of time and effort in the books.

I have fairly extensive list here, including making some fairly large changes to the social abilities and the role of personality traits and reputations. I've only run two sessions so far, but these rules should get more of a workout at the upcoming Tribunal.

Also, gaining confidence points is simplified; you get 1 point at the start of the session (2 if you're self-confident). You lose all unspent confidence points at the end of the session.

Most of the other house rules are lifted directly from or inspired by lists for other games. I'm tempted to pick up Ouroboros's rules about items and penetration, as it would be nice for magical weapons to be useful against magical targets.

Generally, it's more important to me that everyone agree on what the rules are than the specific rules themselves. However, I do have a few I prefer.

Wards/Aegis Resistance/Penetration: I don't require Wards or the Aegis to penetrate. To me this is a sortof compromise ruling based on the indirect targeting rules - traditional Wards are Circle area, which means the 'Ward' is the defender in attempts by the trapped creature to break through them. On the other hand, if someone tried to make a "Ward-like" effect that directly targeted a creature - for example, to bind it - that would absolutely need to deal with that creature's Might Score. However, I remind players that Beings with Might do get innate Penetration based on their Might Score, and, depending on their power selection, may be able to use this to break a ward at exactly their (or close to their) Might Score.

That said, I generally like the idea that it's easier to stop a bad Fairie or Magical creature than it is to murder it, and multi-casting lower-force Perdo-Vim spells or similar are already a highly effective way to take out nasties, so I don't really have a problem with making wards comparatively better.

Pink Dot Problem: I start and end with 'don't be that guy', and basically run things RAW. Enchanting the dagger of an assassin you think might be coerced into betraying you to be especially sharp for the next month could be clever, and I'll applaud that; IMO the Parma can and should protect you from the dagger, or enchanted weapons generally. If a character wants appropriate countermeasures to nasty animals/people/metal/wood, they can (fairly easily) invest in the associated forms, and we can avoid the Pink Dot problem handily.


I personally like to give apprentices an extra 90xp for skills - for Code of Hermes 1, Latin 4, Order of Hermes Lore 1, and Magic Theory 3.

For the skills, the general rationale is the vast majority of baseline-competent masters are going to attempt to get their apprentices some dedicated basic training early in their careers, perhaps even before their apprenticeship 'officially' starts, so that they're functionally literate and have the skills to contribute meaningfully to the parens' lab total. This mainly covers Latin and Magic Theory, but it seems to me that all but the most irregular apprenticeships are going to result in minimal knowledge of the Code of Hermes - to avoid accidentally breaking it - and Order of Hermes Lore to at least reflect base knowledge of past wizarding history - even a highly biased version explained in grumbly tones by a master. These are all strongly recommended skills in core ARM5, and by giving them for free I tend to see more 'fleshed out' apprentices. To me not having these skills is probably indicative of a Weak Parens or an otherwise extremely irregular apprenticeship.

I've noticed that many campaigns increase the apprenticeship XP total in one manner or another, though exact amounts do vary, this to me is a happy medium. I also enforce the 'maximum 55xp in a single Art' recommendation suggested in core for immediate post-gauntlet skill levels.

I have been preparing for a campaign for several months and are currently working on house rules with my players. I have changed a lot and based it on my experiences with the 3:rd edition as well as what I view as a problem, both rule-wise and meta-wise.

I have changed the Characteristics, virtues, flaws, Rego & Muto relations, spontaneous magic, books, warping, combat, houses, all kinds of magic related rules, the meta of the world, new ways to study, slaughtered the Parma Magica and more. Then again, I am kind of planning an In Nomine Ars Magica campaign. Uriel is coming, and the players know it.

My advise is that you think through what kind of experience you want and then picture characters 80 years in the future and see what problems might arise from the rules as they are. What house rules others have done shouldn't be in focus because they may very well be playing in a world you don't want to play in.

For example, IMO 5:th edition Parma Magica makes the game unplayable (really). We will use Parma Magica as an accelerated ability and it protects 1 for 1. Also, if a spell penetrates your Parma then the spell penetrate, what level it is doesn't matter. This is compensated by proactive and reactive defense that characters can use, like Perdo Vim spells, and we have introduced a system for natural resistance against certain kinds of spells.

Our Parma doesn't protect against everything like it does in the 5:th edition. It basically defends against concentrated aethyr (what we call Vim/magical energy) that is artificially structured/weaved. It doesn't protect against a created sword or a cliff created above your head.

Even with some alternative ways to protect against magic, our Parma combined with that is a lot weaker then 5:th edition rules. We like it that way, it is a dangerous world and if a god descend to bring you pain, then the high level curses coming your way should not only make characters worry, but the players.

If you want to check house rules that differs quite a bit from 5:th edition, and if you can read swedish, I can send you what I got this far (16K words). But I still recommend that you focus on your vision and what you want to play, as well as talking it through with your players so you all are on the same page.