Your "shtick", and when you want to be able to do it

When you're creating a Magus and you want the character to have a particular thematic specialty, do you care when the character becomes able to do it? Do you strive, perhaps skimping experience in other areas or using your starting Virtues and Flaws to gain early entrance into Initiations, and generally do whatever it takes to be able to fulfill your character's shtick right out of generation, or are you perfectly fine with having to play them a few years or decades before the concept you're building them around becomes possible? Personally, I'm not a fan of things that actually require being a number of years past generation; if I'm building a character straight out of, say, apprenticeship, I'd like them to be able to do their defining thing (say, for example, if I'm building a lightning-based Magus, they should come out of apprenticeship with some form of lightning magic; or, if I want to focus the character on, say, using Philosophiae to draw power from a deeper understanding of the magics themselves and the energies of the item being crafted, I might start the character with Verditius Elder Runes instead of just starting Verditius and trying to Initiate later). Obviously, if it's a highly advanced sort of ability this is impractical, but my own personal preferences mean that those advanced powers I might be interested in usually wouldn't be of any use to younger Magi anyway (for example, I might want my character to eventually engage in the practice of raising bodies with The Shadow of Life Returned and then switching minds with them, but that isn't going to be relevant until the Magus' own body is becoming too old and weak for the character's goals).

What are you guys' feelings on it? Do you mind if your character is able to fulfill their concept right out of character generation? Why or why not?

And no.

A lot of this will depend upon the pace of the saga, IMO. If I'm in a slow moving saga I might design a character that can realize a great deal of their potential right away. I always like to keep something to strive for, as it can keep my advancement focused along a certain line.
In fast moving sagas with plenty of opportunities for advancement, and I can envision a long term development path, I don't need to be as close to my "target."

I tend to focus on character, and determine "shtick" based upon what that character would want to be able to do. The "shtick" is whatever the character is doing at that moment, not what they are headed towards. That is their "future shtick", and what that character would want to do at that point in time may radically change, and you might adopt a radically different "shtick".

Depends. Depends on what the schtick is, and what the saga is.

If the schtick is "a character that develops and grows in power", then sure, I'm prepared to wait for him to gradually become able to do what I want. As that is the schtick for that character concept.

If the schtick is "a character that can do X", then pretty much I want him to be able to do (at least a version of) "X" right out of the box. Of course, as a player I have a responsibility to pick an "X" that aligns with the power-level and direction of the saga.

I'm mostly in agreement with Richard on this one. Of course, the definition of "a version of" something can be quite broad. If, say, I'm wanting to eventually have my character become a Transformed (Being) with some cool ability the SG and I designed together, I might first play the character with related but different abilities. The thing about Ars Magica is that long-term goals are made weird when you factor the incredible power and number of concepts available to characters right out of apprenticeship; with a small number of exceptions, broadly-defined concepts like "lightning mage" and "necromantic item crafter" are available right out of apprenticeship (and really, too specific a concept often stops being a whole concept). Of course, this comes with it a couple of difficulties; it's rather not particularly easy for characters to develop in different directions than where they were already going based on new developments unless they have a good Magic Theory and some luck, due to the inability to learn new Supernatural Abilities without either exorbitantly high Source Qualities or Hermetic Integration. (Makes me wonder why Hermetic Diabolists are considered much of a thing...) But the thing is, those usually develop as a result of the ongoing saga and aren't pre-planned. So if I have a shtick that I'm sure I want to work in, I'll try my best to make it work at character generation, and if it doesn't I'll probably switch concepts entirely so that I'm not, so to speak, playing an incomplete character.

Not much here anyone could disagree with, surely?

Given how my "Schtick" would often be an activity (enchanting devices, spontaneous magic), then the issue of being able to do so right away is ofcourse trivial.
Or my schtick would be somethign fundamentally impossible, meaning I don't want to be able to do it right away (True Hermetic Resurrection is traditional).

Yeah, too many variables re the schtick in question.

If it's a fire mage, then they can be a fire mage out of the box, even if their powers have a loooong way to go before reaching any "ultimate goal". But if an "ultimate healer" mage with a big focus, it could take some to get all the Base 25 & 30 effects they want , and they might not have anything much more than a couple vanilla spells at Gauntlet.

I had an ice mage that was great as is, but I've also had an InVi mage that didn't bother with anything before they hit the lab b/c the only InVi effects worth learning were massive.

But in answer to your question, like any Virtue or Flaw, I'd hope the schtick is incorporated into the storyline asap. (Altho' if it's too obscure, like "underwater activity" or "faeries of the Air", the Player might want to talk to the SG before trusting that it will all work out quickly and consistently. For instance, my Ice Mage was in the Alpine tribunal, so that was a good bet, but I'd be more hesitant to toss him in just anywhere. He'd kinda suck in southern Italy. :wink: )

The character should be capable right out of the box, but also have room for growth.

There's always a bigger fire. :slight_smile:

I think a magus should be designed to be able to do something you as player want to do right off the bat - call that your Shtick. it seems odd to me to design a magus able to do one thing, and then actually want to do something else right after Gauntlet. Sure, I could find explanations, but have a hard time seeing why it would be a concept one would want to play. Why not try to design the magus as at least somewhat capable?
Sure, I could see a young magus with speciality X, same as his parens, suddenly switch to have an interest in Vim because the pater unexpectedly fell victim to a long lasting Twilight, or gut stuck in a Regio. It need not be the parens, it could a close friend or something. Or the parens could have fallen victim to demons and the otherwise peaceful magus works to become a hard core demon hunter. Or a wide range of other variations on this. I can see the Underdog concept explained - if you really want it, and it may even work.

In one of my sagas a play a Tytalus schooled almost exclusively in Imaginem. His pater deliberately trained him to be unprepared for a Gauntlet of pitting him against a giant. Why? Because they are Tytali!
Also the Shtick i intended for him he is just barely able to pull off, in some circumstances. With the very rigid and specific nature of Imaginem he needs a boatload of different spells with just a slight difference in order to achieve the tool kit he wants. Luckily these spells are fairly easy, don't normally need to Penetrate the way he does things, and thusn only require a year or two with labwork.

I still think people are looking at this backwards. What you do does not determine who you are. Who you are determines what you do. So instead of a "healer mage", I think of a guy who wants to aid those who suffer, found a teacher with a like mind (or his teacher influenced those feelings in the first place). He studies medicine, studies Corpus magic, and healing abilities. That top end healing spell may be out of reach at gauntlet. But you will still have skills and spells to aid the sick and injured and a clear cut life goal.
Then "fire-mage". Who is he? Is he just an arsonist or is he a warrior wizard? What is it he really wants? What tools and tricks would he want to use? To choose fire or ice or lightning, these are just aesthetic choices. A combat wizard has a reason he is into combat. Maybe he wants to defend others, maybe he was taught to be a bully, maybe it is machismo, maybe a sense of duty.
To focus on "shtick" creates one-dimensional characters. A 1D character can grow and develop more depth, true enough. But it is easier to grow shtick than to grow character.

I tend to start wioth a concept like said "healer mage", an "oak magus" or "wolf master" and develop him from there. Somewhere along the line the character tends to start to develop a personality of his own. But the basic choices will be determied to create a strong foundation for said character concept both present (be capable in his area at the start) and develop from there both in his area o expertise and branching in other directions. I found some of the characters had a personality of their own that I did not even like as a real person (guys with those personalities would not be friends of mine IRL) but were great to play. This was developed when polishing the character, chosing secondary V&F, abiolities, his background on how he got all that et al. But the basic concept was the first thing I said, healer mage, not "a guy who wants to help people".

Yes and no.

I like to build around a concept as a starting point and go from there, but I want to be able to point to my character sheet and say "This is what I can do to prove that my character is following my concept" but I do not need to have any/all high level spells or abilities just because they fit my concept. Some stuff I want to learn during play.

For example: in a campaign I play a Ex Misc Witch of Thessalay who is a necromancer (spritual necromancy, no corpses). She is loyal to her mater (Dentasia from The Sundered Eagle) and as a little odd thing for a necromancer i choose that she is very caring and kind as well as protective of the mundane covenfolk. Though her gift sometimes makes it hard for her. But with Presence 3 and a Charm, etiquette and carouse of 3+ she is fond of doing what she (and I) call "attack-socializing", where she is so good att befriending people, and they often listens and agree with her even if she is quite odd.

I choose to have minor magical focus on Mentem (with necromancy) and a few other virtues, and choose the majority of my spells with necromancy. But as the campaign went, the troupe thought that it would be best with someone doing longevity rituals for all of us and as I play a secretive character (being a Thessalay Witch), I decided that I coould do it so that just in case - no one should learn my secrets. So now I have dedicated 10 seasons non-stop studying Creo and Corpus and not even once during these 8 seasons have I had time to further my necromantic interests. But oce I am done, I have decided that I should take a few seasons to train to be a better necromancer.

So I have a schtick with necromancy, and I started with In, Mu,Pe, Re 5 and Me10, but nowdays I have better in Cr (13) and Co (14), so sometimes the schtick changes and now I have become more of a healer and gained a greater understanding with life, than I did whith ghosts.

Several people said the same thing on this thread, but none as concisely or effectively.
I wholeheartedly agree.

Optimally, perhaps, but not every schtick is accessible at lower levels.

For instance, fighting ghosts and spirits - oy, that's a HUGE list of medium-high level spells to do it safely. Analyze magic items? Again, you're talking InVi 45+ - NOT something many can do "out of the box". Yet that is a schtick, and a good one.

So, while it's good advice that characters should not be useless muppetts out of gauntlet, some may have a long way to go before they can fulfill the concept of the design.

While I agree 100% with the sentiment, it's off topic, or a tangent at best.

By definition (and cartoons and stereotypes aside), a schtick is not who you are - a schtick is something you do, and are known for. But that doesn't make that "who you are".

Looking at this very much forward.

Game mechanics, being what they are, describe what a character can do. Who the character is emerges in play, often in unexpected ways.

So it's all well and good to start with who the character is, as in my post back in the 90s regarding character motivation and creation, but the pointy part of the stick is what the character can do, at least to start with.

I know who you are from what you do.

I agree with what you guys are saying, and you also see my point. I admit that I come up with an aspect of personality that coordinates with some shtick first, then developing more personality and shtick from there. I suppose, really, I am advising against too heavy a focus on shtick. As time goes on, your motivations and desires may change, and thus so do the tools you favor.

Yeah, the word "character" means diff things to diff people, and also in diff contexts. A character in some contexts is only what's being put down on the character sheet ("Is your character finished?"), but it can also be every nuance that comes only once the game and RP start.

A schtick is a only one piece of a character, but it may be the one everyone remembers when they first think of them, a "signature" if you will. If their personality doesn't outshine that.

Perhaps, but not necessarily growth in capability.

I don't think that you did exclusively mean "growth in capability", but just to make the point clear. If you think of Star Wars characters:
Luke Skywalker is a type of character that changes in capability --- as he trains and becomes a Jedi Knight.
Most of the other characters (Han Solo, Darth Vader, etc), don't really change in capability. They do change in motivation/goals, but not really in their "schtick". The Han Solo of "Return of the Jedi" is not a better pilot than the Han Solo of "Star Wars". The Darth Vader of "Return of the Jedi" doesn't seem to have different Force powers to the Darth Vader of "Star Wars" (well, up until he dies, of course).

Both characters that change in capability and ones that change in motivation/goals are both perfectly fine (and a single character can do both, of course).

Characters that change in capability tend to arise naturally in ArM (and most RPGs); because that is what the game mechanics around XP (and Aging) are designed to do. Personally, I find characters that change in motivation/goals more interesting (and perhaps more "realistic").

You I guess you like mechanics like those of Aspects in FATE :slight_smile: There are quite a few games that offer change instead of increased capabilities (even if they do not discard it) as their XP mechanic.

I'm willing to wait to be able to do my shtick if I get to save Virtues and Flaws that way. I know that makes me a bit of a miser, but really, especially with association with Realms other than Magic and Hedge Magic integrations, I just don't want to spend Virtue points getting abilities that grow my capabilities out. If I want an elemental summoner, I'll find a few Elementalists in-game and make some integrations into Hermetic theory. If I want a diabolist Magus, I'll do something similar (I don't usually want to have a potential future problem with my obviously-diabolist parens, either) rather than spend Major Virtues on the Goetic Arts. More freedom of character options at generation so I'm not forcing myself into that as a singular niche, and hey, the SG is usually happy too because I have to go through stories to find these people and, in some cases, keep my discoveries secret or stave off people who don't approve of my more overt actions.

That could just be me, though.