Working on a new FAQ Section - Newbie's Guide to ArM5

In another thread, a newbie (Michael Cule) has expressed some frustration that the ArM5 rules are hard to learn:

Actually, I totally see Michael's point of view. That's one of the reasons I launched the Fifth Edition section of the Ars Magica FAQ. I do not think I could have learned the rules properly from the Fifth Edition text alone; without the foundation of the much less-detailed (therefore simpler) Second Edition I would probably have been at sea.

I do see newcomers on these boards remarking from time to time that it's hard to get started because of the learning curve. My solution, rather than trying to apologize for the ArM5 rules (I really do think they're quite disorganized), is to start a thread of advice helping newbies get started. My ultimate plan is to collate and edit this into a new section (not just an entry) for the FAQ.

One of the benefits of joining the ArM community with Fifth Edition is that the community seems to me much friendlier and more supportive than was the Berk List back in the days of Third Edition. Let's see what we can do to help out.

Cool project. Kudos to the initiative :slight_smile:

Dunno if you found them useful, but you can use a version of the "path of learning" I used IMS. It worked for us, so it might be OK for other people.



One of the toughest, and most fun, jobs in starting a new Saga is designing your covenant. One of the toughest, and least fun, jobs in starting a new covenant is designing the library.

There is no sample covenant library in the ArM5 rule book. There is no sample covenant library in the Covenants supplement.

There is a sample library on the Web, in the online covenant of Semita Errabunda. (Incidentally, the name of the covenant translates to something like "Winding Path").

My advice, rather than struggle with trying to design a library from scratch, is to just use the Semita Errabunda library for your first covenant. It will save you a lot of work.

I am not only wise in myself, I am the cause of wisdom in others....

Things I think might be useful for a Newbies guide.

  1. A flow chart of how combat works and how Magic ties in with it.

  2. A unified list of all the things that can cause extra botch dice on magic. (Alien auras, using vis.. etc in addition to the things that could cause any task to be more difficult)

  3. A list of 'common errors' in character generation. Like creating a Bonisagus without enough skills to write all those Lab Texts...

More as I think of it....

Oh, that remind me of the main error I've made in my firsts games.

Focus the games ONLY on the mages.

When all the magus of the players are together, it's hard to actually challenge them enough and it's hard to give them quests that affect each of them. It's fun to have a party of only mages but only sometimes not always.

Compagnons and grogs are a vital and essential part of the story.
The best group for a game is one magus, one or two compagnons and the rest grogs (depending of the number of players). If two or more players play their magus, the remaining people would feel left over playing a non-magus. If there is only one magus, he have to rely on his compagnons and grogs more, thus, they are more implicated.

The ideal is a game a session from end to finish. That gives the chance to altern the roles for the players.

And seriously, it could be so fun playing a grog.

Playing this way, gives to the magus more personnal goals, and that gives more interesting stories.

OH and another advice for starters.

Compagnons aren't more powerfull Grogs. They have a story, they have a personnality, they have a life and they MUST be interesting characters. Give them motivations to hang out with mages but get them personnal objectives as well. Thoses extra virtues are to simulate an interesting character not only a more powerfull one.

It's a very important point I think.

I don't know if it was an error only my group and I made, but I'd bet it's a common error for starting players.

Seconded, heartily. Since it may not be obvious to newbies, I'd like to point out that the meta-game reason the Gift disturbs people is so magi are not good at interacting with non-magi. This forces them to rely on grogs and companions and makes sure those characters have a prominent role in the story.

One mistake that I made early on is tracking the quantites of vis and not the histories of vis. If you covenant has the mane of a magical lion. They don't just have six pawns of rego vis, they have the [size=150]mane of a magical lion!![/size]. Don't let them forget this.

From a storyguide perspective, Erik, I agree. That imagery is key. But as a player, I know I end up going for function over form. My characters often move vis into a more convenient form, like chess pieces or runed wafers. Carrying 35 tentacles is awkward, but a satchel of chimes or silver polyhedrons is not. There are only so many troll tusks, banshee breath, vampire ashes and jars of blood that can be carried conveniently. Unfortnately, this act does drain the imagery, as your point suggests.

You know, ability scores of 7 take quite a lot of work.. .. you could have another art at 15 or 16ish with that .. .. suddenly making the penalty -9 so no matter what they do they fail, would be on the lines of telling the ignem master that they now have to take -20 off of all ignem casting totals.. cause they've been burning things a lot ^^

But yes, any magus that bothers to get social skills up to 7 shouldn't be penalised.. he should be rewarded.... it's something very few magi actually do, when they could be learning mysteries or more arts

True, but you can still play up the history. "This simple chess piece contains:
A. 3 pawns of corpus vis
B. The concentrated essense of the blood of a faerie vampire"

you gain much by tagging the vis with its history.

You know, while style is important, I think the Newbie FAQ should be about mechanical stuff mainly. (This is because I think I have plenty of style but am not so hot on mechanical stuff...)

Cj wrote a good sized welcome to ars document just after fifth ed. was released. Does anyone have a copy?

If someone does, I would love to read it. And this is all very helpful information. Thank you.

Getting back to the topic of newbie questions,

First, take note of the recommended minimum Abilities for magi at the top of page 32.

As Michael points out, Latin 5 is required in order to write books. This is very important for a Spring covenant where much of the library is to be written by the player magi.

The amount of vis a magus can use in the lab is Magic Theory x2 (page 94), so the recommended starting score of 3 enough for most magi. If you want a Verditius who will be making enchanted staffs right away, then Magic Theory should be higher.

Magi are entitled to learn Martial Abilities (p. 18 ) and if there is any chance of the magus getting attacked in melee, it is a good idea to take a score of 1 (or higher) in Great Weapon, and carry a staff. That would give a Defense of 4+Qik

I believe most magi should have a score of at least 1 in Code of Hermes and Order of Hermes Lore (one of the versions of (Organization) Lore). Obviously, a member of House Guernicus should have a Code of Hermes score somewhat higher, perhaps 3 to start.

To start with Latin 5, Magic Theory 3, Artes Liberales 1, Parma Magica 1, Code of Hermes 1, Order of Hermes Lore 1 would cost 125 experience points.

Really, the Latin thing is the main pitfall I can think of. Though I will add more if any come to mind...

one of the specializations for Latin is hermetic usage. I've allowed characters to count their specialization when writing appropriate books.

CJ's tips for new storyguides ... +23+%2Bars

I suggest add these obscure terms to the FAQ and RAW and other commonly used abbreviations like TMRE.

They are in the FAQ already.


Could you give me a link?