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572264 No. 572264 ID: f12e94

Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur. // Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.
Expand all images
No. 572265 ID: f12e94

Ars Magica is an award winning game with a brilliant setting concept called Mythic Europe. It's (like) the medieval Europe that the Europeans of the early 13th century thought they were living in: Milk goes bad and meat rots because invisible demons cause it. Farmers harvesting their fields leave some wheat unsheared at the corners of their fields for the fairies to live in over the winter. The divine touch of kings cures scrofula. The Catholic Church really does have the power to forgive sins, exorcise demons and do all sorts of crazy stuff. Fairies, angels, demons, dragons and wizards are real here.

For someone trying to play the game it's a bit of a lie to say that you're playing the game in Mythic Europe though. Ars Magica is really played on many character sheets, covenant records and miscellaneous other documents. It's possible to use lots of pencils, erasers and reams of paper to handle that, but that would be stupid. Realistically speaking, Ars Magica 4th Edition requires lots of spreadsheet-fu (and maybe a little mangling of the rules) to play it without tearing your hair out from all the character-sheet accounting. So welcome to Mythic Europe Spreadsheet!
No. 572266 ID: f12e94

The story goes: Ars Magica was made in ancient-days (1987) by a couple of college students in Minnesota who thought the magic system in D&D was terrible. By many accounts they did make something better than the Vancian rules in D&D. This game series has survived transfers between four different publishers (including White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast), and it is still being published, so there may be something to that. I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend playing Ars Magica as a normal tabletop game though: It has other problems, not just the spreadsheet-mania, which we'll get to.

It's worth mentioning that 4th edition was received by the fans as a total improvement on 3rd edition (it is). However, the game balance is often amazingly lopsided wherever it isn't outright broken. This game is (was?) noted partly because of how cool its magic system is, no joke, but there's plenty that's unfinished, iffy or pants-on-head wrong here. So, let's take a look.

Most of the time I'll try to summarize explanations of stuff because the book can give you paragraphs and paragraphs of variable-quality writing instead of a simple answer. If you want to see the naked crazy for yourself I can copy and paste, or if you want it the source book is available online as a 'free' PDF. (Easier to get for free though.) If this lasts long enough to rate one I'll share links and checksums/hashes in the discussion thread.
No. 572270 ID: f12e94
File 139838910854.png - (14.54KB , 374x207 , Grog-Companion-Magus.png )

Let's start with two questions.
-First, do we want to actually try and play in Ars Magica's 'Mythic Europe' or should we just stick with the statbuilder since it'll be the majority of what's going on anyway?
-Second, do we make a Grog, a Companion, or a Wizard for our first character?

Grog: This is --easiest and fastest, --usually a peasant or a footsoldier or something unimportant like that, and --doesn't matter if we screw up.
Companion: This is --still easier and faster than making a wizard, --more opportunity to make something really broken than a Grog, and --maybe you want to make a bishop, a warlord, Robin Hood's more openly gay boyfriend, or something else that isn't a wizard.
Wizard: This is --hardest and longest, has --the most opportunity to do the really broken things, and --this game is about wizards.

Roll 8 d10s in your answer by putting dice 8d10 in the email field. We'll use the best rolls (or point-buy method instead if none are good enough) for the attributes characteristics step of character creation.
No. 572272 ID: 37aa84

rolled 10, 10, 4, 10, 6, 2, 3, 3 = 48

Sure let's try Mythic Europe as a grog.
No. 572285 ID: 49b933

rolled 6, 10, 8, 9, 6, 3, 7, 9 = 58

Grog reporting for duty! Requesting position as non-fodder!
No. 572286 ID: d0864b

rolled 3, 8, 7, 9, 1, 1, 5, 8 = 42

I'd prefer a companion or wizard, actually. Not for the extra power, but because I love character creation.
No. 572290 ID: 53ba34

rolled 7, 8, 1, 9, 9, 10, 1, 3 = 48

No. 572294 ID: 0ee153

rolled 3, 6, 9, 6, 2, 7, 7, 8 = 48

Wizard obviously
No. 572296 ID: a36601

rolled 2, 3, 2, 2, 5, 4, 2, 6 = 26

Companion. Simple enough to let us figure out the rules for our next char(wiz), long enough to let us put some personality in it.
No. 572297 ID: a36601

(my god those rolls, I forgot digital dice and cards hate me as much as the real ones love me. No more rolling for me.)
No. 572299 ID: 9ddf68

rolled 2, 1, 6, 7, 10, 7, 8, 5 = 46

will if the game is about magic it should make since we play a wizard
No. 572305 ID: a36601

Also, Mythic Europe is fine.
No. 572306 ID: 3f0c1b

rolled 8, 9, 6, 7, 6, 4, 5, 7 = 52

It's time to be a Wizard and conquer all of Mythic Europe!
No. 572307 ID: 2fbf20

Wait you're not going to be using the troupe system?
No. 572309 ID: f54b9a

rolled 3, 9, 3, 1, 5, 4, 2, 7 = 34

Mythical European Wizard, here we go!
No. 572311 ID: f12e94

I'm getting to that: Sort of. Heh, heh, heh.
No. 572313 ID: d2995c

Would a wizard's apprentice count as a Wizard or Companion?
No. 572314 ID: f12e94

>Would a wizard's apprentice count as a Wizard or Companion?

Short answer: Special category.

According to the standards of the Order of Hermes an apprentice doesn't count as a wizard until they've passed the gauntlet and sworn the Hermetic Oath. There's more details there, but I was hoping to hold off on that until it actually mattered in the game. If you really wanna know now I'll start the discussion thread early.

In terms of the covenant stats and player allowances they don't even get counted usually, and unless there's good reason to do otherwise I'm missing I planned on handling it like that.

Character creation is supposed to give you a wizard just after they've passed the Gauntlet (generally). A starting wizard shouldn't have an apprentice yet, for reasons that are poorly handled in 4th edition, and much less badly done in 5th.
No. 572316 ID: f12e94

>>572272 "Let's do a grog." 10, 10, 4, 10, 6, 2, 3, 3 --> 0, 0, +4, 0 <---Close to as good as point buy.
>>572285 "Not a grog." 6, 10, 8, 9, 6, 3, 7, 9 --> 0, -1, +3, -2
>>572286 "Not a grog." 3, 8, 7, 9, 1, 1, 5, 8 --> -5, -2, 0, -3
>>572290 "Wizard!" 7, 8, 1, 9, 9, 10, 1, 3 --> -1, -8, 0, -2
>>572294 "Wizard." 3, 6, 9, 6, 2, 7, 7, 8 --> -3, +3, -5, -1
>>572296 "Companion." 2, 3, 2, 2, 5, 4, 2, 6 --> -1, 0, +1, -4
>>572299 "Wizard." 2, 1, 6, 7, 10, 7, 8, 5 --> +1, -1, 0, +3
>>572306 "Wizard." 8, 9, 6, 7, 6, 4, 5, 7 --> -1, -1, +2, -2
>>572309 "Wizard." 3, 9, 3, 1, 5, 4, 2, 7 --> -6, +2, +1, -5

Your rolls all sucked, which is pretty normal because you have to do really well to get something genuinely better than point-buy. I'll let you all have a second chance to roll dice 8d10 because I don't want late arrivals complaining that they didn't get to roll. Unsurprisingly, we're starting with a wizard.
No. 572317 ID: f12e94

From page 17, the first of 'six steps' of character creation. Don't worry, we'll have time to go back and forth through these 'six steps' a bit, and that's normal because character creation in this game is so ****ing complicated (especially for wizards).

Step 1: Concept
In this section, you’ll build the basic framework for your character. You’ll decide what sort of character he {used as gender neutral term} will be and what basic function he will fulfill. You will also be determining such defining characteristics as gender, age, and origin.
• Determine character type: magus, companion, grog
• Choose gender, age, and origin
• Magi: select House, record house-specific Virtues and Flaws
• Companions: select vocation (optional)
• Grogs: select vocation (optional)
• Pick a name

No. 572318 ID: f12e94

The rest of it is stuff we can think about later--name and gender are things we could even leave as placeholders forever if we stay in Mythic Spreadsheet where it's safe. Picking which one of the houses of the Order of Hermes our wizard comes from is important though, because it'll affect the flavour and substance of everything else. I'll start a discussion thread and put some stuff in it I guess, since this is where the information-overload problems of playing this game really start.

Bjornaer --Shapeshifters --Nature focus --No familiar
Bonisagus --Keeners --High status --High expectations --Can't keep your work secret
Criamon --Magic tattoos --Unusually crazy --Specialists in 'Enigmatic Wisdom'
**Special secret option not given in the book --Life can be interesting --Life can be very short --Special magical talent most other wizards don't have --Better keep your head down or else
Ex Miscellanea --Low status --Odd magical traditions
Flambeau --Fire --Aggressive --Burn shit --More fire
Jerbiton --Hang around with normal pPeople --Try to maintain good relations with the church and other mortal authorities --Political
Mercere --Messengers/postal delivery --People usually don't fuck with you unless you fuck with them --Actually leave your lab and library and go places once in a while
Merinita --Hangs out with fairies --Hangs out with fairies too much
Quaesitoris --Da cops --Other Quaesitoris (and a lot of other people) back you up when you're doing your job
Tremere --Transylvanian --Fascist --Assholes --Specialists in magic dueling
Tytalus --Philosophy of conflict --Everybody won't let you forget how a bunch of Tytalus magi tried to control Hell and failed
Verditius --Specialists in enchantment --Often bad at casting spells --Many get paid to do enchantment by other wizards
No. 572319 ID: 196143

rolled 8, 4, 4, 10, 5, 6, 4, 1 = 42

Rolling and I say Tremere so we can become a Vampire!
No. 572320 ID: f12e94


Disc thread started, I'll be answering questions not relevant to the current situation and putting supplementary materials/details there from now on.
No. 572321 ID: a36601

rolled 2, 10, 9, 9, 3, 7, 2, 9 = 51

Huh. That way of rolling is kinda weird. Didn't do nearly as bad by those metrics.

I say we go for Mercere (travel quest),Tytalus (because redeeming people is something we're pretty good at), or Verditius (because I have a soft spot for enchanting).

Rerolling now cause the base is different.
No. 572326 ID: 2f4b71

rolled 1, 2, 1, 2, 6, 3, 5, 10 = 30

Merinita. Fae-friendly fruitloop!
No. 572328 ID: b66dd3

rolled 4, 10, 3, 9, 9, 8, 9, 4 = 56

Um, Mercere, Verditius or possibly Quaesitoris, in that order of preference.
No. 572330 ID: f12e94

I just quoted the part of the book where they describe the twelve houses of the Order of Hermes in the discussion thread. Maybe you want to know a little bit more before picking.

Meanwhile, my work day is over so I'll check back later.
No. 572341 ID: 37aa84

rolled 3, 3, 8, 9, 9, 2, 8, 7 = 49

House Bjornaer, shape shifting is always cool.
No. 572342 ID: 37aa84

So if I'm understanding the discuusion thread that's 0,-1,+7,+1 right? So what does point buy give you?
No. 572349 ID: 55258d

rolled 7, 7, 2, 2, 4, 3, 6, 3 = 34

I'll second the Fae-fruitloop. Nothing ever goes wrong with a Fae loving fruitloop.
No. 572370 ID: f12e94

>>572319 "Tremere" 8, 4, 4, 10, 5, 6, 4, 1 --> +4, 0, -1, +3
First roll that's possibly better than point-buy.

>>572321 "Mercere, Tytalus or Verditius" 2, 10, 9, 9, 3, 7, 2, 9 --> 0, 0, -4, -7
>>572326 "Merinita" 1, 2, 1, 2, 6, 3, 5, 10 --> -1, -1, +3, 0
>>572328 "Mercere, Verditius or Quaesitoris" 4, 10, 3, 9, 9, 8, 9, 4 --> 0, -6, +1, +5
>>572341 "Bjonaer" 3, 3, 8, 9, 9, 2, 8, 7 --> 0, -1, +7, +1
>>572349 "Merinita" 7, 7, 2, 2, 4, 3, 6, 3 --> 0, 0, +1, +3

So far two people have expressed interest in being a postman/postwoman/postplaceholder, let me share the text of the required virtue for this house:

Redcap (+1): You are a messenger of the Order of Hermes. You may be assigned to one covenant or may wander among several, delivering messages. In exchange for your services, you receive a moderate stipend during each visit (typically 4 silver pennies), a few days to rest, and are shown high hospitality. You possess a sigil, and have all the privileges of membership in the Order.
Most common folk do not harass or harm Redcaps for fear of bringing the wrath of the Order down upon them. Even magi think twice before interfering with your mission. This gives you a high degree of protection when you travel, even if you are alone.

Two other people wanna be a fairy-magic magus. Their required house virtue has no support whatsoever in the main book and this is where we get into the second of Ars Magica's giant flaws: The old White Wolf model of invent a game and publish a zillion supplements the players have to buy came from the people who invented this game--Johnathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen. I have the power to make up shit so I can totally deal with it, but I'm not spending money on supplements for a dead, fifteen-year-old game. Here's the text of the virtue, and keep in mind that it's only +1 so it's not awesome secrets of everything power.

Faerie Magic (+1): This allows you to have a unique Arcane Talent, Faerie Magic, which you purchase along with your other Abilities and improve with experience points. Add your score in this Ability to rolls resisting faerie magic and to rolls when casting faerie magic spells that you learn or invent. The higher your score in this Ability, though, the more strange and like the fey you become.
No. 572373 ID: 37aa84

Let's go with Redcap. It is a big mistake to shoot the messenger.
No. 572377 ID: 49b933

rolled 8, 8, 6, 8, 2, 8, 10, 5 = 55

Oh what the hey, why not-
Merinita,for inflicting capricus fey FUNTIMES!!!
Flambeau, because fire is awesome.
No. 572410 ID: 3f0c1b

rolled 4, 1, 9, 3, 9, 6, 5, 8 = 45

Merinita sounds like fun, and I mean like really fun.
No. 572419 ID: f12e94

>>572377 "Merinita or Flambeau" 8, 8, 6, 8, 2, 8, 10, 5 --> 0, -2, -6, 0
>>572410 "Merinita" 4, 1, 9, 3, 9, 6, 5, 8 --> +3. +6, +3, -3
Another one possibly better than point-buy.

So, the majority decision here is that we want to be a Merinita.
Here I go, "Psych!" and tell you that decision is only written in sand, because I'm being nice. This is Ars Magica character generation, and it's so ****ing complicated that there's a very good chance you will want to change this decision when we get to step 3 of character creation: Virtues and Flaws.
For now let's get your nose out of the sourcebook and talk to Novelist, the guy who invited you over to talk about starting a gaming group for Ars Magica.
No. 572420 ID: f12e94

You're sitting in Novelist's living room, looking over his copy of the Ars Magica 4th Edition sourcebook when he suddenly turns from his laptop with the empty editor window and smiles at you.

"I can't write my thesis today, I'm too excited about finally starting this Ars Magica group. One thing, you know the coffee table and the seating here is really only big enough for six people so that's why I didn't put up a notice at the gaming store that I was starting this. I've talked to too many people about wanting to start an Ars Magica game and now that I have the time to do it there's easily a dozen people who would want in I can remember.
"You're good people though so you were first in line. I'm looking to make this a gaming group of at least three players, and if you can cut down on my stress by picking two to four you want to join yourself that makes things easier for me. As long as they're cool you can even invite someone not on the list too.
"The way Ars Magica works is a troupe system, which means that all the players are supposed to take turns running sessions, areas and scenarios. So keep in mind that it's not just whether someone's a cool player and a cool person if you're pretty sure you won't like the kind of stuff they'd run."

Novelist reaches in his laptop bag and pulls out a creased piece of paper. On it are a bunch of names, you recognize some of them.
No. 572421 ID: f12e94

rolled 9, 7, 5, 10, 2, 6, 9, 7, 1, 9, 3, 5, 5, 6, 8, 2, 1, 2, 7, 4, 10, 9, 7, 7, 1, 10, 4, 1, 9, 3, 5, 8, 9, 9, 7, 1, 5, 6, 7, 5, 4, 9, 10, 8, 4, 7, 10, 5, 9, 7, 8, 9, 6, 5, 5, 6, 5, 8, 6, 4, 10, 1, 1, 8, 10, 8, 8, 4, 3, 5, 9, 7, 4, 9, 5, 8, 5, 4, 2, 4, 10, 10, 2, 5, 4, 6, 1, 9, 4, 7, 2, 4, 7, 3, 2, 6, 10, 10, 10, 2, 4, 8, 9, 7, 6, 3, 4, 1, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 10, 10, 2, 10, 8, 6, 6, 9, 9, 3, 2, 10, 8, 1, 10, 8, 3, 3, 6 = 796

Looking at the scratch sheet with the die-roll numbers you were writing out Novelist smirks and says, "Yeah, the rolling option is a bit of a joke. Unless you roll forever or just cheat you generally won't do better than the point buying. But since this is your first character and you'll be the Ars Magica noob of the group I'll cut you some slack here. I'm gonna dump out the box of d10s, pick out the positive and negative ones you're using."

Novelist goes into the other room and comes back with a box that's a foot long shaped like a treasure chest. He then flips it open and dumps out over a hundred dice on the table.
The spread of dice across the wooden coffee table is actually a bit pretty; some of them are shiny, others have matte finishes, and some of them are even transparent. The colours clash though, since this seems to have been either a random assortment or dice collected individually.
No. 572423 ID: f12e94
File 139849206934.png - (24.34KB , 514x268 , mvaf.png )

With the Characteristics step pretty much taken care of it's on to step three, Virtues and Flaws. How it works is mostly straightforward, but what to pick is utterly confusing because there's something like two hundred virtues and flaws here in this list. Looking for help on this you ask Novelist and he cheerfully offers to make up new virtues and flaws if you want something not on the list that isn't too broken.

After clarifying that you're looking for help on what to pick he points you at two parts on pages 32 and 33 of the book that explain the limits of what you can pick.

Magi and companions may spend up to ten points on Virtues and ten points on Flaws. Grogs may spend up to three points on Virtues and three points on Flaws. The only restriction is that the total value of Virtues and Flaws for each character must be the same, in order to balance their effects. At the option of the storyguide, a character can be allowed to purchase more points worth of Flaws than Virtues, but in no case may the limit based on character type be exceeded.

[...]Some may have different values depending on the type of character they will apply to, while others are not available to certain character types. Unless otherwise noted, each Virtue or Flaw is available at the same cost to all characters. Also, unless noted otherwise, each may only be purchased once.
No. 572425 ID: f12e94

Novelist thinks that a restriction on flaw points is silly and allows you the option to take however many flaw points you want, even more than ten if you like. You'll still be restricted to the lower of ten, or your flaws value, in virtue points like normal though.
This is a lot of info to process so you ask to borrow Novelist's copy of the book and think about it. He agrees, and you put it in your bag. He then hands you the creased piece of paper again.

-If you want to ask Novelist some questions before we leave, you can do that but it's pretty obvious he isn't even going to try to help you pick out which virtues and flaws to pick.
-You could ask the people on the list for help when you invite them into the gaming group.

Names on the list that you recognize: Roleplayer, Wargamer, Minmaxer, Horrorfan, Renfairegeek, Fantasyfan, Emogoth, Feministgamer.
No. 572426 ID: f12e94

Note: You can talk to whoever you like that's not on the list, but if they're not on the list they may not 1) want to play, or 2) know Ars Magica any better than you do.

(Mentioning this because feedback mentioned that they'd missed the mention that you could talk to write-in options.)
No. 572427 ID: d2995c

Not on our first character. Minmaxing shenanigans aren't nessecarily bad, but it does tend to cause problems if it is uneven in the group and we are currently not experienced enough for that.
...Lets not.
Aside from that I don't have much particular opinion on group members.
No. 572429 ID: a36601

Roleplayer/Renfairgeek(only one of them, I can't tell if they would get along great or terribly, but both of them together would be too much to handle), Fantasyfan, and Horrorfan seem like pretty cool people. War gamer would probably make really awesome large scale battles, but they will be hard to keep track of. Emogoth and Feminist are just straight out; and I'm kinda eh on Minmaxer.

(also, how meta is the actual game gonna be? Is it gonna be like 'Roleplayer says that his character Reginald unequivocally states "Swords are the greatest weapon befitting a hero," while miming furious gestures'. Cause that would get silly really fast.)
No. 572431 ID: 37aa84

The Roleplayer and Fantasyfan would probably be good starting points.
No. 572442 ID: 66e19f

Role player or FantasyFan sounds good...Part of me is wondering just what to expect from FeministGamerbut then again...
No. 572475 ID: f12e94

So far we have four out of four people that are varyingly-strongly supportive of talking to Fantasyfan first.

I'd just like to note that you don't have to get information on the virtues and flaws system entirely within the quest itself. I've put up links to the source book and a list of the virtues and flaws in the discussion thread.

This step, which I expect to take a fairly long time, is all about picking a set of values from +4 to -4 for characteristics and a set of virtues and flaws that go together. My initial plan here is to try to get us a few options for character builds to modify and pick between. Once we have enough options we generally like to pick from we'll vote I guess if it isn't a generally-unanimous choice.

I'll check back in a few hours. If there aren't too many conflicting suggestions or questions for Novelist or anything I'll start writing about meeting Fantasyfan then.
No. 572604 ID: f12e94

Strangely nothing else occurs to you to ask Novelist about starting an Ars Magica group so you both leave for the sushi and Magic: The Gathering meetup you were planning to go to in his car. A good night was had by all except for the fact that you lost every match even though your deck is a good build for the current format--your luck was poor and all your opponents had competitive decks. The winners chipped in to buy you a consolation-beer, and the bottle of Asahi went well with the sushi.

When you finally get home you call up Fantasyfan.

"How's it going?"
"Not bad. Yourself?"
"Just talking myself out of signing up for World of Warcraft. It's pretty but half the people who play it are morons, the other half are addicts and all MMOs are grindfests. I shouldn't even be thinking about it but I've been bored lately, you know? So what's up?"
"Gotta talk about gaming stuff with you sometime, hopefully sooner than later."
"You've gotta, huh? Well alright, things are always dead on Monday evening shifts at the used bookstore. Normally I do homework or read a book then but if you bring in five bucks and buy a book while you're there the owners would be happy for you to hang around and double the gross sales for the day--they won't even show up except to check in and maybe talk about schedules."
"Cool, the subject is Ars Magica."
"Oh wow, alright, I'll pick out a book you should read then."
No. 572605 ID: f12e94

Monday arrives, and you arrive at Organically Grown Used Books. The name is both a joke and actual truth because they do have a stock at the back of books printed on hemp for hippies to go crazy over. Most of the store is full to the point of cramped with tall bookshelves but up at the front the shelves are lower and have tabletops on top of them for special deals and high-interest items.
You find Fantasyfan behind the cash-register desk at the front and when she sees you she smiles and hands over a stool to sit on so you can face her across the desk.

"So, we're talking about Ars Magica today. You probably remember me telling you that I've been looking for a new gaming group that plays that ever since I moved here for university last year. Which edition?"

You pull Novelist's copy of the book out of your backpack and put it down on the desk between you. Then you get out the paper character sheets he printed for you, some more blank paper, two d10s, and put your backpack down.

"We're making 4th edition characters?"
"Well, I need to make a wizard. Whether you do too depends on what you want."
"You've never played before and you're starting a new Ars Magica group?"
"I've never played before and just got recruited as player one for a new Ars Magica group. I'm lost on where to start with virtues and flaws, which seems like it's most of the work of trying to make a wizard."
"Ah, so you need help and I'm invited as long as I help you get through character creation. You drive a hard bargain but as long as the schedule conflicts aren't too bad I'm in."
"So, where do I even begin?"
No. 572643 ID: f12e94

"If you count how many pages are devoted to what in the rulebook it's obvious what Ars Magica is: In Ars Magica there are wizards, non-wizards that are second-tier stars at best, spear-carrier extras that are even less important, and then there's everybody else. You have the power to make it rain and hail, shatter castles with lightning, grow other castles out of the ground, your apprentices turn invisible to try and avoid chores, and even the other really scary supernatural stuff like fairies and dragons usually at least think twice about pissing you off. The world of wizards is defined by what wizards want and what wizards do.

"The proper titles are important of course. If you want their patience and attention it's important to call the wizards of the Order of Hermes 'magi.' The feminine is maga and masculine is magus. Sorcerers are something completely different, those are mortals who have compacted with demons and use the powers they bargained for in addition to employing demons directly. Wizard is sort of a blanket term amongst normal people that can cover both of these as well as other things. Depending on the preferences of the individual magus, and how diplomatic they are, magi can be varyingly interested in correcting people who call them wizards. None of them will tolerate being called a sorcerer because dealing with demons is a crime that carries a death sentence according to the Code of Hermes.

"They live together in places they call covenants. These are generally fortified settlements in magical areas and a covenant might even have full castle fortification with concentric walls, battlements, turrets, moats and an inner keep. Few magi live in each of these covenants, one digit or low-two-digit numbers of them. Only the most new, or remote, of covenants wouldn't have crowds of servants and a defense force to serve and protect the magi. Usually covenants also have other people living there for various reasons--perhaps farmers, miners and smiths whose work supplies and pays for everything. Not all magi live together with other magi in covenants but that's what magi normally do.

"The commodities of value are vis, which is a physical form of magical energy they need to make permanently enchanted items and do more powerful magic in general, written spells which they can learn and cast, and written knowledge of the arts of magic. They also make and trade magic items, magic potions and other magical services and things but those are less likely to be used as fungible commodities for barter.

"They share the world with all these annoying distractions, which they put up with because they're too hard to eliminate or they need things from them: Normal people are their supply of mundane commodities like parchment, ink, servants and, slightly less mundanely, apprentices. Fairies are dangerous but can be a useful supply of vis, knowledge and other interesting things if you can handle how bored and strange they are. Dragons and other magical creatures are another source of vis that inhabit magical areas which wizards also find useful. Demons are eternal, corrupt mundanes into being their servants, and have the annoying habit of coming back at you with a grudge later if you manage to successfully find and fight them; the vis harvest can be very much worth the hassle if you're good at it and everybody else generally appreciates the effort as long as they understand what you're doing. Angels are annoying at best and priests tend to be really angry when you use holy relics for vis so a wise magus tries not to explode too many churches or anything like that when it isn't necessary; a full-scale miracle or a crusading army can (and did in the past) wipe out an entire covenant at once so be careful."
No. 572644 ID: f12e94

"Now that you've got a better handle on what thinking like a wizard in Ars Magica is like we can figure out what kind of person a new wizard is by answering some key questions and then filling in the details. Who is your master? Where and how did they find you? What did they train you to do and to be? Did it work, and if not why not? How much did you fight it or resist it? What happened that was unexpected? Does anybody know you and have strong opinions about you? What do you want now that you're a dues-paid wizard?
"Would you like me to demostrate first or would you prefer to start by walking how to do each of these steps?"
No. 572647 ID: 49b933

...Who was my character's master? Well...If I were to say, make a Flambeau, my master might be the eldest or highest-ranking Flambeau magus where the character lives...
Let's say this time around the character is a girl, and she basically was found living the streets as an orphan one rainy day. So naturally, she did her best to learn under her master, but...While the master tried to train her to be a Flambeau like himself, it didn't take, didn't have the talent for it? But what DID happen is that a year in, she managed to befriend a fairy that convinced her to run off to a small, remote village surprisingly close to the original covenant...And so we've got an angry Flambeau Magus who thinks we basically got spirited away and wants us back on the one side, and the fey around the remote village on the other hand who'd like to keep their newly found playmate! Sound like a possible start?
No. 572658 ID: d2995c

We have heard a tiny bit about the setting and were considering making a Merinita. Would it be feasible to have a backstory along the following lines: Our character to have run away from home at a very young age and was raised among the faeries for some time. Eventually a Merinita mage doing whatever they do involving the fae happened upon us on one of their trips to the forest, and noticing our magical nature (due to us not having transformed into a fae), convinced us become their apprentice with promises of magical power and knowledge.
If that backstory works, than the tentative answers would be:
- Our master is a Merinita magus from a small covenant, who took us as an apprentice out of seeing an opportunity to have an apprentice rather than particularly planning it in advance.
- I don't really know enough about the setting to know what in particular a mage would train their apprentice to be aside from being their apprentice and eventually another mage.
- Our character mostly took to the training fairly well, though they are perhaps not as focused as some apprentices and are still acclimating to human society.
- I don't think many people would know about our character due to Merinita reclusiveness.
- Now that our character is a wizard, they are interested in acquiring more magical knowledge and power, because having magic is pretty great.

I'd guess we would probably need to be trained by someone of the same house as us due to the houses knowing different things. (Also, you seem to be basing your ideas of my post of proposed virtues/flaws, which as it turns out in a recent /questdis/ post are largely invalid in large part due to setting ignorance. Sorry if that wasted your time.)
No. 572664 ID: f12e94

"We're getting there but we have to work a bit on what the setting is like. An apprenticeship generally lasts fifteen years, and there's no way an elder Flambeau wouldn't be able to retrieve his apprentice from that situation. If you flip to page 124 you'll find a spell called The Inexorable Search which is the obvious divination to use when looking for a lost apprentice that isn't hiding in any of the obvious spots. If he couldn't cast it himself, and he likely could, he surely knows someone he could ask to cast it for him and find his apprentice.
"Also, one of the jokes is, 'How can you tell if a Flambeau is angry?' The answer is, 'They burn down a faerie forest instead of a normal one.' The moment he started moving with purpose and a group of grogs as witnesses any fay nobles in the area would be hitting their panic buttons and trying to return his apprentice before he'd done too much damage. He'd move through the forest clearing a highway-width path as he went to communicate clearly that he wasn't in a good mood, and word would spread fast. That would be a relatively normal adventure scenario for a junior magus chasing after their first apprentice though."

"That would totally work, and we should get to the question of what sort of magical and otherwise specialties there are for wizards. Do you want to keep talking about my simplified characterization trick, or is it time to explain some more of the meat of Ars Magica like who the thirteen houses of the Order of Hermes are, or what the fifteen standardized arts of Hermetic Magic are?"
No. 572671 ID: d2995c

I think information about the specializations and magic types would be the most useful at the moment. We have heard brief descriptions of the houses but have not really heard much about the rest of the system. Probably the focus of our character creation will be about what kind of magic we want to use or specialize in, so going over what is available seems like a sensible approach.
No. 572741 ID: f12e94

"The fifteen arts of magic are named in Latin, because Ars Magica is full of gratuitous use of Latin. Five of them are verbs, and ten of them are subjects. The verbs are Creo, Intellego, Muto, Perdo and Rego. The subjects are Animal, Aquam, Auram, Corpus, Herbam, Ignem, Imaginem, Mentem, Terram and Vim.

"Let's start off by explaining the five main types of magic that magi do: Three are spellcasting, two more are enchanting. There are other things as well, we'll get to those later if we don't run out of time today.

"The most basic form of magic that magi do is casting a formulaic spell. This is a formally defined spell, written down somewhere, that you're either casting by reading that text or casting from memory after memorizing it. Usually this costs no vis unless you want to use some to boost your spellcasting power. Most spells can have their effectiveness boosted in a way by spending additional vis--as many units of it as one fifth of the spell's level, rounded up.

"Slightly more complicated is spontaneous spellcasting, which is what happens when a wizard tries to do magic without using a formally written spell. It's a lot more limited in power than casting a formulaic spell usually but you can use vis to boost your spellcasting total. That is useful for situations like, for instance, a demon shows up and a wizard doesn't know a powerful enough version of the spell Demon's Eternal Oblivion to fight it: They would instead try to make a more powerful, spontaneous version of it by using a lot of vis.

"Ritual spells are formulaic spells that are particularly powerful, and many of them break one of the normal limits of magic. There's a list of those, affecting things the caster can't see without an arcane connection and making permanent enchantments or creations are the two main ones to deal with but there's others you can find in the spellcasting rules chapter of the book, starting on page 64. That list is on pages 67 and 68 I think. Anyway, to cast a Hermetic ritual you absolutely have to spend a pawn of vis per five levels of the spell and it takes a long time too, fifteen minutes per five levels of the spell. A lot of rituals also have extended effects just like more normal formulaic spells, and to use those extended effects that's an additional pawn of vis per five levels of the spell and fifteen more minutes as well, meaning that a level fifteen ritual you were trying to cast with extended range and extended duration would take fifteen minutes times three for the two enhancements, times three again for the level divided by five, which would be two and a quarter hours, as well as nine pawns of vis.

"The other two things are making magic items and making magic potions, which always takes a minimum of a season to do. Making an enchanted item always requires vis; you can make potions that don't need vis but most potions you would want to make--including longevity potions--do cost vis so that they can have permanent effects. Neither magic items nor potions can duplicate the effects of a ritual, you figure out what kind of thing you want your item or your potion to do by designing it like a normal formulaic spell, and then following the rules in the laboratory chapter of the book."
No. 572742 ID: f12e94

"So, that's how Hermetic magic works, but what can it do? That depends on the fifteen arts mostly.

"Creo, or creation, is all about manifesting things from magic, and reversing aging, decay and destruction. Creo corpus spells are what you would cast to do healing normally, but there's a problem: You can't create or heal anything permanently without spending vis. Without spending the vis your creation, or healing or whatever is a temporary effect. With appropriate use of vis it becomes a temporary magical effect which makes a mundane change in the world that lasts after the effect is complete. If the thing you're creating is too unnatural however, the creation instead just becomes an indefinite-duration magical effect, and can be dispelled.

"Intellego, or perception, is what you cast to perform divinations, translations and other stuff you're doing that gathers information or notices things. Magi have lots of cool things like scrying pools but the biggest limits they have here is that it takes a ritual, which costs vis, to see into the past or future using Hermetic Magic, or to perceive something outside of line-of-sight if you don't have an arcane connection to it. This art is also important for enchanting familiars, investigating the effects of magical items and making longevity potions.

"Muto, or change, is for shapechanging and changing the attributes of things. Muto imaginem would let you look like someone else, muto corpus would let you do all sorts of things like get bigger and smaller and such. One of the spells I found more interesting is called Trapping the Fire, which is a muto ignem spell with a terram requirement that lets you turn a fire into a gem. The changes you make with muto spells aren't permanent unless you use vis, just like with creo spells, but you can use those changes to do interesting and permanent things. An example would be a muto terram spell that transforms granite to mud temporarily: You could use that to pour a boulder into a cement form and then when the spell ended you'd have a granite version of whatever you molded it into.

"Perdo, or destruction, may be the most scary art because it can destroy things permanently without vis. It's used to inflict sicknesses, cause rusting and decay, and it's part of making poisons and disenchanting things. It's also used to suppress or destroy a property, so if you wanted to make something cold, or take away the wetness of water that would be a perdo ignem or a perdo aquam spell. The things it can permanently destroy without vis are cases where the result of the perdo spell is itself natural, like dissolving a wooden wall into a pile of sawdust and splinters instead of making a fire burn cold.

"Rego, or control, is used for wards, movement, and anything where you're trying to make a controlled result instead of an uncontrolled one. Rego vim spells are used to protect against magic, rego terram can be used to fling a boulder at someone or affect a sword blow, a rego herbam spell called Freeing the Striding Tree is used to make a tree walk around and do your bidding, and there are all sorts of interesting applications for rego spells.
No. 572743 ID: f12e94

"So, those ten subjects, Animal, Aquam, Auram, Corpus, Herbam, Ignem, Imaginem, Mentem, Terram and Vim, translate into English as animals, water, air, body, plants, fire, image, mind, earth and life I guess, but it's inaccurate to say that's what they all are: Vim is the art that affects magic instead of being about life. In alphabetical order:

Animal covers animals, the remains of animals and animal products; spider silk and leather is covered by animal for instance.
Aquam is about water and other liquids, but it takes more power to affect liquids that are less like water; if you're trying to affect blood it would be aquam with a corpus or animal requirement.
Auram is the art that covers air and air-related effects, which includes lightning, smoke, mist, wind and other properties and effects in air except sound, which may or may not be covered by imaginem depending.
Corpus is for the human body and anything that comes from it or is made of it, which also covers the bodies of other creatures that are human-like such as giants and the more human-like fay.
Herbam fairly obviously covers plants and plant products, inducing fungus.
Ignem is generally the most destructive form and it covers fire and the properties of fire including light and heat.
Imaginem includes invisibility and scrying as well as creating sensations like sounds, sights, smells and such.
Mentem is about thoughts, emotions and minds but also ghosts.
Terram covers earth, rocks, metals and gems at higher power levels; with an ignem requisite also lava, and it gets sometimes used as a general stand-in for matter in more powerful magic.
Finally, vim form covers affecting other magic--warding against, repelling, destroying, suppressing or altering magic. Vim is also what you would use to destroy demons with a perdo vim spell called Demon's Eternal Oblivion I already mentioned. Vim is also used more generally in laboratory work and the maximum amount of vis you can use in a season to enchant something is your magic theory knowledge plus your vim art.

Some things, like poison, can fit into multiple form categories depending on the specifics. There isn't any combination of arts that affects luck or probability because Hermetic magic is for making tangible changes. The closest you could get would be a rego spell of some kind.
No. 572744 ID: f12e94

"There's more. In the skill part of the system there's nine arcane abilities, which breaks down into two talents, two skills and five knowledges, which are specific to magi and varyingly important. Finesse, penetration, certamen, parma magica, magic theory, faerie lore, occult lore, hermetic law and enigmatic wisdom.
Finesse is a talent that helps you use magic quicker and more accurately, as well as allowing you to perform multicasting of formulaic spells with a special roll.
Penetration is a talent which helps in getting your spell to affect something or someone past magic resistance, but it's really not that useful or powerful.
Certamen is a skill that covers the ritual of wizard's non-combat magical dueling; certamen matches are performed in a specific technique and form and the loser is the one that loses concentration on the match first or gets knocked out during the duel.
Parma Magica is your magic resistance skill, which gives you a bonus of five times its level to your magic resistance.
Magic Theory is your understanding of Hermetic Magic specifically and magic more generally, and it's used in most laboratory activities like learning spells, inventing spells, laboratory enchantments and investigations, and in specific other cases like figuring out what spell someone is casting by watching them and listening to them doing it.
Faerie Lore is your knowledge of the types, habits, magic and proper social address of fairies, as well as more general knowledge about them. Even without any points in this knowledge you would know to use iron against them since that's common knowledge.
Occult Lore covers knowledge of demons, ghosts, the undead and perhaps other creepy things.
Hermetic Law is your knowledge of the laws and customs of the Order of Hermes and helps both for interpreting correctly and trying to manipulate how the code should be applied. Depending on the group this knowledge may be included under Organization Lore: Order of Hermes instead.
Enigmatic Wisdom is special knowledge of riddles and the philosophy of magic that Criamon magi notably are interested in but all wizards can learn; it strangely seems to help with out of control magic events called Wizard's Twilight which can send wizards beyond the mortal world and will leave them changed if it doesn't.

House Bonisagus is the only house that can take a knack in magic theory, Tremere for certamen, and Criamon for enigmatic wisdom.

"So that's all the basic stuff before you start involving virtues and flaws to make it more complicated. Questions?"
No. 572758 ID: d2995c

So a wizard has Arts, formulaic spells, arcane abilities, and presumably non-magical skills as well. Which of these come from from the same or different 'skill point' pools?
No. 572761 ID: f12e94

>"So a wizard has Arts, formulaic spells, arcane abilities, and presumably non-magical skills as well. Which of these come from from the same or different 'skill point' pools?"

Fantasyfan takes a deep breath and says, "This is a lot of what makes Ars Magica so complicated right here.

"All of this can be adjusted in the virtues and flaws system, but there are three other major sets of stats to work with in character generation in addition to the Characteristics points and the Virtue and Flaw points.

"First there's the abilities system, a wizard character gets a template of abilities and a number of experience points to spend that depends on their character's house and their age. Look up those templates on pages 21 through 26. That part of the book is where you also find the house-specific mandatory, specially-allowed, and suggested virtues and flaws grouped with their house.

"Then for wizards there's two additional pools at work. First there's the arts system, which starts with 150 points you can spend between your fifteen arts however you want. After that comes the spells system which is another 150 points of spells which you can pick from the spells in the book, or make up using the spell guidelines, up to a limit of spell level of your character's relevant art totals, plus their intelligence, plus their magic theory, plus any relevant affinities or bonuses from virtues, plus ten. So, for instance, a generalist wouldn't be able to start off with the level 35 spell Ball of Abysmal Flame but a specialist Flambeau perhaps could and would.

"There are lots of virtues and flaws that adjust how many experience points a starting character will have, not the least of which being all the virtues for affinities and special skills, talents and knowledges. Those abilities come with a free single point in the ability when you take the virtue which grants them to you. The virtues and flaws which affect your starting numbers of magical art points and spell levels is a shorter list, I think it's just Extra Arts +1, Extra Spells +1, Stingy Master -2, and the -6 version of Poor Memory that magi get. Generally speaking I'd say the virtues are severely overpriced since a starting mage could easily learn ten or more points in an art within one season and learn or invent even more than 10 levels of spells in a season with the right build optimization and resources.

"Expanding on that sort of thing, one idea for possible build specialization is to take the Poor Memory flaw, and Inventive Genius, and plan to develop spells you want to know in the lab instead of learning them from texts. In that case learning them from already-prepared texts could take longer than inventing them yourself as long as you stayed within the limits of what's reasonably-easy to invent. Of course, the poor memory flaw has other significant drawbacks and halves the number of spell levels your character would start with so this would be an interesting choice."

{Ed: I'll quote the parts from the book where it's appropriate, but I'm trying to leave abilities, arts and spells as a future step at the moment (particularly since they should be a lot easier to handle than virtues and flaws). This is the stuff that starts making a spreadsheet useful, and so far I can't upload my spreadsheet into the disc thread so I'll have to punch things in and take screenshots or something.}
No. 572853 ID: f12e94

"Now that you at least know about what there is in the stat system there's a bunch of options for what to do next:
"If you have other questions you'd like to ask before we go further into the system, this is a good time for it.
"We could talk about how character advancement after character generation works, which is what most of the min-maxing for Ars Magica wizards is about.
"I could go over who the houses are in a bit of detail so you understand what you're picking between there a little better, and understand the roleplaying considerations for wizards a little better.
"The best way to explain the system, is probably to try generating a couple throw away characters just to see how it all fits together, and discuss each of the sub-topics of that as they come up.
"Or, we could get coffee and then talk about what playing Ars Magica is like.

"Your call, but I would normally lock up and go on break in about a half hour from now, and get a cup of coffee from the shop down the street the owner's wife runs. The price is right."
No. 572857 ID: a36601

Go over character advancement.
No. 572933 ID: f88655

That sounds good. Also it might help to talk about several general character build types and the features of them, such as the Poor Memory / Inventive build mentioned earlier, the Diplomancer types that probably exist, or specialist builds vs generalists.
No. 572976 ID: f12e94

"So, character advancement. For wizards how powerful they get and how much they can do depends mostly on their virtues, flaws, art scores, and their abilities. Advancement comes from two places generally: A little bit from adventure situations when (and if) that character gets involved in those, and mostly from their seasonal activities.

"Picking the right seasonal activities and doing them well is the heart of the game even though that's at least as much metagaming as it is gaming. How powerful your character becomes depends more on their wealth and particular virtues and flaws than their starting art scores and spells. You can't try to chase everything though, every character has to be good at something other wizards want or else they can't afford to even live. How rich they become depends partly on how good they are at their specialty, partly on how much demand there is for that specialty and the rest on how good they are at making things of general trade value and networking. This is something that makes having a Mercere wizard in the covenant particularly useful since they would be part of the general gossip network that goes back and forth between the redcaps sharing bid/ask information.

"The things a wizard needs the specialties of others for are magic items which give protection and particular effects, written out spells, scrolls and books on the arts and various knowledges, help finding an apprentice when it's time to get one, other social services to manage political issues amongst mundanes, fairies and other wizards, backup for when the demons and other threats in the world are being uppity, and particularly you need other wizards' help to get good longevity potions. If your wizard isn't good at doing one of these things, or at least some other thing that wizards would want and pay for, then they will fall further and further behind their peers and die of old age like a mortal.

"Longevity potions is the biggest thing actually, because that demands the highest lab total for enchanting intellego and corpus you can get, or at least the highest you can afford. All the way up to a lab total of 265 is useful, assuming a net zero to aging from other modifiers, which would protect you from aging all the way up to your 500th year of life. Considering that a magus that took their first longevity potion at 35 would pass into final twilight no later than 495 that is as much as you could reasonably use under anything resembling normal circumstances."
No. 572977 ID: f12e94

"Getting anywhere near to a longevity potion total that high is quite difficult. Extra pawns of vis spent to boost the lab total only improve it by +1 each so you generally will get more help from a better specialist than using more vis in the potion. Longevity potions cost a pawn of vis for every five years, or fraction, of the recipient's age just for the base cost of making it without boosting it too. That can be a serious problem for old magi if no single magus specialized in intellego and corpus even is capable of making them a useful longevity potion due to limits on how much vis you can use in a season.

"The amount of vis you can use per season is equal to your vim art score plus your magic theory knowledge. That means increasing the amount of vis a magus can use in the lab requires increasing one of those two things, but there's issues with doing either. In the system as written increasing your vim art score can kill you from the magical version of old age before you even make it to a century, perhaps significantly earlier than that too if you're really unlucky and/or really focused on studying vim. Magic theory is safe but much harder to raise very quickly. You normally gain an experience point for free during each season spent inventing spells or making enchantments in the lab, but at higher levels that can take many years of sustained lab work to raise it even one further level. Studying magic theory probably isn't the greatest idea because of the way study totals work in the game: You gain a fifth as much experience in knowledges from study as you do arts. To raise magic theory from 5 to 6 in one season would require the same reading total as raising an art from 29 to 30, 13 to 15, or from 8 to 11 in a season.

"Those things tend to both be parts of the rules that individual groups will house-rule about. A lot of groups would house-rule the twilight points from vim mechanic away particularly, because otherwise you'll never get any old metamagic specialists, but we'd have to talk about that as a group. So, the balance questions of how the game works are something that can bounce around a lot depending on how the group wants to play it and also the details of what Mythic Europe and the Order of Hermes have in them.

"Some parts stay pretty constant though: If you're reading to advance your art scores then eventually it becomes more effective to read than to use vis to study. How fast that happens depends on your intelligence, particular bonuses from magic effects or other stuff that are house rule situations, the book learner or poor reader virtue or flaw if you have either, if you have a knack in concentration, and particularly your level in the concentration talent. Other bonuses may apply if using supplements but that just gets insane so I'd say we should stay with the core system. Contrastingly, studying from vis depends strictly on a die roll, the aura of your covenant, how much vis you're using, and which of the virtues and flaw, 'free study,' 'fast learner,' and, 'unimaginative learner,' you have, which makes it more straightforward to get good results earlier. In terms of min-max that is a trap because vis is your wizard-money and your power to pull off emergency crazy stuff in the game so you're better off hoarding it.

"Of course there are limits to how useful books are in the game. Normally you start by reading either 'libri quaestionum' or 'summae' at low levels but eventually the normal books stop working and you have to use things called 'tractatus' to continue. You use those up after reading each once and then you have to get more of them. If our saga has a practice mechanic for the concentration talent that lets it raise while you read things it can easily become better than using vis. Over time it would get much better than vis in that case."
No. 572978 ID: f12e94

"Alright, let's look at an example set of virtues and flaws. This example will perhaps be too simple and too min-max, but let's start with a Flambeau combat maga since that's a mostly-straightforward example.

"Her name is Relámpago of Flambeau and her master is Foudre of Flambeau. She's a darker-skinned woman of apparent Moorish descent he found as a young girl when fighting in the Reconquista of Spain. He rescued her from a coven of demon worshipers who were raising her as a sacrificial bride of Satan, so I guess her eye colour is green and hair is auburn--she's too dark for it to be bright red without modern hair-care magic. He trained her in his auram and combat specialties, and it worked. She was grateful and a diligent apprentice usually but couldn't escape the memories of her upbringing in the cult and their rituals. She is a disappointment for her master but he understands and accepts why she is one of the meeker and less aggressive Flambeau magi. If asked about her lack of martial spirit he would answer, 'You can't cut a straight arrow from a grapevine and only a fool, as I apparently am, would try. She will make a good maga of the Order but perhaps never a good Flambeau: I should have given her to another to be their apprentice. Perhaps in time something will straighten her but for now she is not much of a warrior.' Her current ambition is to find a quiet place to stay and lose herself in the study of magic, and perhaps one day escape the memories of her past."

Thinking about this for a moment you wonder if this story was inspired by the story of Jimmy Page kidnapping Lori Maddox, but decide to keep this observation to yourself.
No. 572979 ID: f12e94

"First we put down Outsider, and leave blank what level of penalty that will give, since she's dark but not black. It's visibly obvious so it might even be minus three or more, but let's move on. Low Self-Esteem is -1, Common Fear: The Touch of Others is -2, Diabolic Upbringing is another -2, Susceptibility to Infernal Power is -4, and that leaves us with only one point room of flaws left to take so her Outsider flaw is -1. I guess a lot of people just think she has a dark tan or something. There we go, maximum ten points of flaws. Now the hard part is figuring out virtues that are appropriate and trying to min-max enough but not too much."

As you write down that list of flaws you note that this seemed too easy. As if reading your mind Fantasyfan says, "I had a fair bit of practice with this, when we ran a tribunal with our old gaming group we had to make all the magi who showed up so that we would know how powerful they were, and that took a while. That taught me more than I wanted to know about how crazy the idea of balancing a tabletop game really is--none of us were trying to cheat or be unfair but it's just hard to make a game as complicated as Ars Magica balanced and maybe it shouldn't be balanced anyway.

"So, we left the combat part vague but I guess Affinity With Auram for +3 is already decided. She's really not a physical personality at all, so Book Learner +1 fits. If we wanted to make this really quick and simple we could give her a +3 Knack with Finesse and a +3 Knack with Concentration.

"Those four virtues fit the concept well because finesse and concentration are both really important for spellcasting in combat situations, finesse to hit your targets more accurately or win casting-speed tests, and concentration to beat checks for maintaining concentration and casting spells while distracted by flashes of light, noise, or a sword in her guts. Concentration can also give a bonus for spellcasting totals so it's definitely important for someone that would be out in the field. Book Learner reflects that she's not an eager combatant and would prefer to remain peaceful.

"I said that this might be too min-max though, and it's because of how big her reading totals would be. If she starts with a three in intelligence she would add eight plus her concentration talent to every reading total, and with a good book to read from that puts her at the point that reading from books is better than studying from vis unusually early. That durable, +5 bonus to reading totals is on top of the intelligence and concentration that other people who hadn't spent those particular four virtue points would get and that leads to a combination of higher art values, more lab products and more time to spend outside of her specialty as compared to her peers.

"So, shall we look at another set of virtues and flaws quickly, leave for my break a little bit early, or something else?"
No. 573598 ID: f12e94
File Relámpago-Init.swf - (53.87KB , 720x931 )

"Actually, I've got a better idea. Since I have it here, let's show you the character sheet I made for Ms. Lightning the reluctant Flambeau. I made her up as a new maga attending the tribunal less than a week after passing her gauntlet. Here you go."

Fantasyfan takes two sheets out of a folder on the desk in front of her and hands them to you. She notes how you seem to be looking things up in the main book as you spot them on the page and says, "If you're too new to Ars Magica to just look at that sheet and read it you need some starting characters to look at, and maybe pick from. We should talk with the rest of the group, figure out our starting house-rule situation and work on some. Who all is in the group besides you and me?"

You mention that it was just you and Novelist so far, and that you hadn't decided on who else to invite yet. Fantasyfan responds that it's important to have the full group together to figure out a schedule and talk about how the game world and the rules would work, so you should invite the rest of the group as soon as possible. She hands you an old rotary phone from the desk, and starts looking through her folder of Ars Magica gaming stuff looking for other starting wizard characters to show you.

Who do you call?

-(other, write in suggestion)
No. 573600 ID: a36601

Let's go with horrorfan. A bit of change of pace might be nice. (though minmaxer might be nice enough to just give us a few enhanced options to pick from if we wanted to get this done with quickly)
No. 573606 ID: bbb906

I wanna bring in War Gamer for this.
The game seems like it's gonna be a pain no matter WHAT we go for, so we might as well go for the epic 'Wizard that calls down lighting to halt armies' dealie.
No. 573607 ID: e3aff6

That sounds like a good potential option.
Horrorfan does sound potentially interesting in this context, or maybe Roleplayer as a backup plan.
No. 573697 ID: f12e94

>That sounds like a good potential option.
Sorry to pick on you, but could you clarify what you meant by this? You're currently serving as tie-breaker on whether to talk to Wargamer or Horrorfan first.
If you want both I already have written up an exchange for inviting Horrorfan.
No. 573698 ID: f12e94
File Arete-Initial.swf - (54.90KB , 720x931 )

Fantasyfan looks up from her folder after rifling through it quickly, takes out two more sheets and hands them to you.

"I found something you might like. This is a creepy Tytalus named Arete that is very lucky, and has Poor Memory. The stat pile can be tweaked easily to make him Verditius though, or if we have player ones a Diedne maybe.

"So, -6 Poor Memory is an iffy idea since it makes it really hard for you to learn spells, and you will start with half as many from it as well. Really, wizards do best with that if they combine it with the power to do some other kind of magic that isn't formulaic, and then stack on the flaws for formulaic magic. A Verditius would be the natural choice for that, Diedne would work too if we have any. But that's still six flaw points even for someone outside those houses and all we've lost mostly is starting spell levels, having a character with a reliable memory, and the ability to learn written-out spells faster than you can invent them. What I put for the other four flaw points was Tainted With Evil, Infamous Master and Discredited Lineage for having a master that was executed for Diabolism. His story is that the Quaesitoris and their Flambeau backup barely got there in time to rescue him from being a demonic sacrifice, and in the investigation afterwards he passed his Apprentice's gauntlet and swore the oath. The story travels though, so wizards look at him funny wherever he goes and the Quaesitoris in particular give him a hard time because that's plenty of reason to be suspicious of someone breaking the law and dealing with demons.

"I figured it was an interesting characterization hook for a Tytalus that wasn't Tormenting Master, and it takes us up to ten virtue points to give him something else that isn't learning spells. Add in +1 Inventive Genius, +2 Luck is just hilarious here, and +3 Charmed Life combining with that is what makes him awesome. I figure it fits because he survived his master trying to use him as a demonic sacrifice. That leaves four virtue points to spend. Obvious choices are things like an affinity in a technique, or an affinity in a form and another +1 left for something else minor, perhaps the +1 Tough virtue since more soak points that can't get misplaced or dispelled in an emergency can make a difference. On this sheet I spent them on an affinity with Vim and the talent Sense Holiness and Unholiness because figured it'd be funny to make him a demon fighter that was originally trained to be a demon follower and nearly became a demon sacrifice.

"That set of virtues and flaws gives you a specialist that is basically designed to experiment every time they're trying to invent spells in the lab, They should get lots of chances to roll on the experimental discovery chart for cool stuff if they do that, and at higher art score levels the 'complete level' possibility can take multiple seasons to gain otherwise. In the long term that can be huge for a well-focused specialist.

"That brings up an advancement topic, how to choose what to do: A decent guideline for researching is to pause and do something else for a while every time the number of seasons it takes to advance a level in an art passes a whole-number threshold, starting with when it would take you more than a single season to advance one level. It's also a good idea to advance in arts outside your specialty any time you can advance three levels in a season, but then you'd normally return to studying your specialty. During pauses in research is when you would try to acquire better research materials and make wealth, make and acquire magic devices, copy and learn or invent spells, learn outside your specialty, make friends and contacts to improve your options, and oddball stuff like adventuring and strange-phenomena research. Those pauses should end with increasing the multiple when you start looking too much like a generalist, or when your ability to advance your specialty goes up and you've retreated from that threshold.

"That all may sound like interesting babble right now, it'll make more sense later. Meanwhile, maybe you should make that call."
No. 573700 ID: e3aff6

Er, I meant to refer to the character build with that. I was voting for HorrorFan for next person to talk to.
No. 573705 ID: f12e94

Fantasyfan goes back to flipping through her folders, occasionally stopping to look at things. You pause for a moment, considering your options, and then make a decision.
When you pick up the phone again and start dialing she blinks a couple times and mutters, "Oh, this will be interesting." The phone at his video store only rings twice before he picks it up himself.

"This you Fantasyfan?"
"Nope, it's me."
"You... calling from this number? What's up, organizing a boardgames night?"
"Oh, nothing much, just a new Ars Magica gaming group. Does that sound interesting to you?"
"Is Uwe Boll known for bad movies? If I had to I'd drop out of my D&D group for Ars Magica. Which edition?"
"4th, since it's what Novelist has on his shelf already, I'm kinda sitting here staring dumbly at his core book here trying to wrap my head around enough of this game to make a character in it and it's not working yet."
"Don't be hard on yourself, it basically takes some kind of programming and statistics geek like Minmaxer to look at the system and figure out how it's supposed to work by just reading it. We should be making you a character at this point if you're starting with a wizard character. So this group so far has you, me, and I'm guessing Fantasyfan and Novelist. Anyone else?"
"Still trying to decide that part. Novelist asked me to pull together a group for him, total number of four to six because he was planning to meet at his place. If you're in that makes four."
"We could use my store maybe, but I wouldn't want more than six people in a group just because of scheduling conflicts and how confusing Ars Magica gets when there are too many people involved."
"Too many people?"
"Well, Ars Magica uses something called the troupe system, where each of the players is responsible for creating and updating part of the game world because it's not just a dungeon crawl that comes out of a box: Some of us will be handling a different covenant's wizards, or local nobles and peasants, and other things. The problem is what happens if someone's away for something and some of their area of responsibility comes up. You would get a pass until you're up to speed on how the game works of course."
"I see. So we're in deep shit now that I've invited you I guess."
"That depends on how stupid you are of course. Mythic Europe isn't the friendliest place to be even if I'm not in your gaming troupe. But you're a wizard, protected by a Parma Magica, an Aegis of the Hearth, stout men at arms and the legendary reputation of wizards as people not to be trifled with even before we get to the force of your own arms and arts."
"Why doesn't that reassure me?"
"It's because you know that conflict is the heart of any story, and you're signing up for story time my friend."
"How on earth do you manage to make 'story time' sound like a threat? I'm really curious at this point, because I have good memories of story time as a little kid."
"You're too easy, I'll have to go easy on you to start with I guess. Let me put a three-way call in to Novelist and let's get the 411 here."
No. 573706 ID: f12e94

After a click and a brief pause you hear Novelist ask, "Hello?"
Horrorfan answers, "Hey Novelist, check it out, our MVP from last magic night just called me up from Fantasyfan's store to invite me into your gaming group. He's on a three-way call with us right now, actually. That's cool right?"
Novelist responds, apparently addressing you, "Fantasyfan and Horrorfan, interesting choices. I already have something started to dump in Horrorfan's lap actually. The game is tentatively set in Scotland, in a covenant on a river in a magic forest, and the forest has wolves. A little bit of a wolf problem you might say."
Horrorfan murmurs, "A little bit of a wolf problem, I can work with this."
Novelist adds, "Well, that's certainly a workable minimum compliment for an Ars Magica group but you might want someone else to counterbalance how interesting Horrorfan will make our little wolf problem. I was planning on running the semi-NPC mad witch of the forest. She's really a Verditius maga that was the sole remaining wizard of the covenant when you all arrive, so as a player I'll mostly be running grogs or the actual witch she recruited into the covenant. If she actually gets to fade into the background like she wants to maybe I'll get to have a PC wizard, but I dare not hope. As far as picking specialties go, she is a specialist in making longevity potions. That means that as long as you can afford her rates or talk her into a discount nobody has to worry about who's good enough to make the potions."

Fantasyfan, who was listening with her ear pressed against the phone you're using noticeably sighs and comments, "But what if I wanted to play a cute, cheerful, intellego maga that's too nosy? I suppose I still could but it'd be better to do something different now since her specialty just became redundant. With this 'little wolf problem' she'd be walking around with victim stamped on her forehead anyway. If she were Criamon and that was a tattoo though...."
Novelist and Horrorfan snicker, apparently this is some kind of Ars Magica in-joke.

Horrorfan asks, "So, who made the short-list anyway?"
Novelist lists, "Well, you and Fantasyfan obviously. Roleplayer, Wargamer, Minmaxer, Renfairegeek, Emogoth and Feministgamer are the people I would've just said yes to without discussion, mostly because they're decent people, pretty good gamers and we've talked Ars Magica before. I decided to leave this all up to the Ars Magica newbie because they're the one that's gonna be the most lost of there's people they can't handle well in the group."
Horrorfan chuckles and jokes, "What, you're not plotting Paranoia-level infighting here? Yeah, I know, that wouldn't work in Ars Magica. Being more serious for a moment though, Emogoth as well would really help with putting together the nightmare fuel, but maybe folks with heart conditions don't want that. It's a good list, and I'm not sure who else I'd recommend that lives local."

It seems that Novelist and Horrorfan are hinting that another person in the group would be a good idea, but leaving the decision up to you.
Who do we want?

-this is enough!
-<write in another option>
No. 573722 ID: bbb906

WarGamer perhaps? He could probably help counter-balance Horror I think...Or he'd change the style of horror from sutble lurking killer to massive corpse piles...
No. 573741 ID: e3aff6

Wargamer sounds like a good idea to balance it out. (I considered trying Minmaxer for that, but that would probably just escalate the difficulty level to account for minmaxing.)
No. 573811 ID: f12e94

You say, "I'm thinking I'll try talking to Wargamer next, so far we don't have anybody in the group who really knows much about medieval war technology, organization, strategy and tactics."

Novelist approvingly responds, "If he's up for it that would balance what we've got in the group so far. Fantasyfan will have fun inflicting dragons, spirits, other wizards, royal politics and that kind of high-fantasy drama on us, Horrorfan is already well set to scare us silly, and Wargamer would be a gem for adding both blood and guts flavour and some actual strategy and tactics to combat in the game. He'll definitely house-rule or total-remake the combat system though, because it's Ars Magica 4th ed."
Fantasyfan cuts in, "I've been digging out character sheets here with my old group's single-fix house rule for Ars Magica's combat already."
Horrorfan is skeptical, "A single fix, really? Okay, how do you fix Ars Magica combat with just one fix?"
Fantasyfan explains, "Well, it doesn't fix every issue but we found that when you properly apply the space rules so that a quarterstaff is no longer the best melee weapon in the game there is one terrible problem left: Armour makes you more likely to die. We fixed that one by introducing a new combat skill, Armor Training. As a skill it covers use and maintenance of armour from the user-skills point of view but it also applies as a talent which adds point for point against load values, as well as applying half its level rounded down as a bonus to soak scores and melee damage."
Horrorfan asks, "What about that freaky movement phase zone of control charging and declaration of engagement stuff?"
Fantasyfan says, "It's only one little fix, but it's one little fix that handles the single most broken part of the game, the rest can be interpreted better by a skilled storyguide because it's more confusing and vague. The encumbrance rules were too simple and too wrong so they needed a simple fix."
Novelist says, "This is a topic we should be discussing with Wargamer even if they don't want to join up. Who's talking to them?"
Horrorfan jokes, "The person who made the decision should make the call. I just want to be there for it so I can hear the complaining about Ars Magica's combat system. I expect nothing less than epic bitching."
Novelist observes, "I think that it's more likely he'll just borrow rules from one or more other systems and ignore how bad Ars Magica combat rules are. You might be disappointed with his lack of bitching."
Horrorfan whines, "You killed my dream, I just wanted to see Wargamer bitch about something. He's such a stoic and all I wanted was to hear him whine and moan about something he really cares about, is that too much to ask?"

Simply, you shut him down, "Yes, it is."

Horrorfan responds, "Oh, okay. I guess I'll just have to have fun some other way then. Wargamer gets off work in roughly one hour and gets home an hour later, so you have plenty of time to dig out more character sheets before you talk to him anyhow. If he says yes that makes five, a nice and comfortable number, although six is also a good number."
Novelist says, "Don't push, five should be plenty and I already left the recruiting decision in the hands of the person who needs to be on board with it more than the rest of us."

Decision time:
-We're good with 5.
-Max out the party! Options: Roleplayer, Minmaxer, Renfairegeek, Emogoth, Feministgamer, *write in another option*
No. 573832 ID: bbb906

We're good with five. FantasyFan, mind showing me some of those old character sheets?
I really hope I'm poking at other old characters instead of asking you to basically come up with a bunch of characters here!
No. 573906 ID: f12e94

Pssst, asking the QM questions about how they update the quest is OOC questdis stuff.

No. 573922 ID: e3aff6

Yep, five seems like it should work.
No. 574798 ID: 31f165

There wasn't much left to talk about after deciding that five was probably enough people in the group already. After ending the phone call Fantasyfan went back to searching through her character sheets and took another one out.

"I'm not sure if I should show you this one, because it's all kinds of seriously house-rule. It's a Bonisagus terram expert, but he's also a hidden Diedne.

"He's an unstructured caster, and we just put his starting 150 levels of spells as an extra 150 points of art scores because there's little point in an unstructured caster knowing formulaic spells unless they're rituals. An unstructured caster would also have to invent their own rituals or cast them from texts because they can't learn any, so that's why we figured he just never learned any formulaic spells during apprenticeship. He has the standard Diedne affinity with casting spontaneous spells and an extra affinity with casting spells really slowly: The rules blurb we wrote out for that second affinity looks more complicated than it really is because we put some theme and setting flavour into it, and interpreted the fatigue mechanics a little liberally for it as well. This is the starter version of the character sheet, and he was invented to be an important NPC for some tribunal drama. It'd be amusing if we used him as a PC, although maybe a bit unbalanced.

"If we did that, we should use his advanced version as his master. Considering his art scores and spells I think we'd have to call his master Labes, as in falling or sliding. Because you know, 'rocks fall, everybody dies.' Also, the word for lava comes from labes as well. That's perfect for a Bonisagus specialist, they are the standard for excellence in the order.

"But that's getting ahead of ourselves of course."
No. 574799 ID: 31f165
File Metallum-Init.swf - (51.16KB , 720x931 )

Fantasyfan takes out another sheet and drops it on top of the character sheet. "Here, you can look at that if you want to read the virtue description text we wrote up. It looks all nice and formal just like the virtues and flaws in the book."

+1 Hidden Diedne
This virtue grants a character the arcane knowledge Diedne Magic at an initial score of 1.
Within the spellcasting system this knowledge adds to all spontaneous spellcasting totals as though it was a +2 affinity with spontaneous magic. In actual practice this virtue is only valued at +1 because of political considerations: Followers of Diedne are hidden within the Order of Hermes amongst other houses and dare not reveal themselves for fear of execution. This virtue carries an embedded -1 Dark Secret flaw because of this.
If your lineage of magi is actively suspected by the Quaesitoris of being followers of Diedne then take this virtue instead as the -1 flaw Suspected Diedne along with a level 4 reputation amongst Quaesitoris as being a possible Diedne.

+2 Runecaster
This virtue grants a character the arcane knowledge Runecasting at an initial score of 1.
Rune casting is a special magical knowledge of enhanced methods for practicing longer-term spellcasting through the use of magical glyphs (runes) as temporary, intermediate foci for channeling greater power controllably. If a runecaster wishes to cast a formulaic or spontaneous spell they may elect to spend an additional five minutes per five levels of the spell or intended spontaneous level of effect. If they do so they gain the benefits of 'Extra Care' (pgs 76 and 77) (except for casting a ritual spell, Concentration only counts once), and additionally may add their level of this knowledge to their spellcasting total. If runecasting a spontaneous spell they divide by two without spending fatigue as well, and it is ordinarily a simple roll. When runecasting the roll is usually a simple roll unless there are details to the circumstances which would make it a stress roll. If it is otherwise possible the caster may also use a similar spells bonus with runecasting to further increase their casting total as normal.
Runecasting was at one point investigated by the Quaesitoris as being a possible use of Diedne lore, and its practitioners suspected of being hidden Diedne. The investigation was quickly ended with all accusations dropped after a noted Bonisagus demonstrated their ability with this lore; practicing it usually wouldn't even get a magus labeled as a hedge wizard.

No. 574800 ID: 31f165

Fantasyfan's cellphone sounds off with the sound of a steam whistle, and she starts gathering up the Ars Magica paper, along with Novelist's copy of the 4th edition book, and shoves it into a bag. "C'mon, aunt J is waiting with free coffee for me, probably has extra to give you some for free too. We shouldn't drink coffee and handle character sheets and Novelist's book because that's the number one way of getting coffee rings and spills on things, so while we walk pick a topic to talk about. If there's something you can think of you'd want to ask go ahead, but if you can't think of anything we should cover the history of the Order of Hermes, and the laws of the Order of Hermes at some point."

What do you talk about?
1) The history sounds like it could be fun, medieval history mostly deals with people murdering each other and questions of legitimate versus illegitimate heirs.
2) It's a bit important to know what the laws say if you can be executed for breaking them.
3) We can get to those things later, I wanna know about <insert suggestion here>.
No. 574827 ID: e3aff6

I think hearing about the laws would be good, with maybe a bit of the history about the larger ones. Especially if we are considering a secret wizard criminal, it would be important to know how to avoid getting investigated for some more minor offense.
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