Welcome everyone. The Saga has has wrapped Season Two, with the Alpine Apprentices arriving in Hibernia, setting up their covenant on the Hill of Uisneach, gaining some new sodales and losing others, and reconciling with Irish covenants and English rule. The year is 1227.

Who we are:

This Ars game began with a "trial season," as if it were a television show in search of ratings. This first season was 15 episodes long and time passed quickly: roughly 1 year every session of play.

Each episode will take about 5 hours of game play and the stories will be mostly self-contained. You are not required to attend every session; we are recruiting enough people so that absences will not derail the session. Our game has a "show runner" who is your primary GM, as well as "assistant show runners" who will each GM occasional sessions.

In Season Two, time will slow down to approximately 1 season every session of play. There will be a "mid-season break" during which the game will pass 7 seasons, then the standard pace of one season per session will resume. The concerns of a new covenant are significant and we should all expect a slow pace.

House Rules

Inventing Spells from Lab Texts (new)

When you invent spells using a Laboratory Text, the spells do not need to be from the same combination of Arts. However, if they are not, your lab total is based on the lowest applicable combination.

Example: Diana of Tremere wants to learn Veil of Invisibility (PeIm 20), Wizard's Sidestep (ReIm 10), and Pilum of Fire (CrIg 20). Her lowest of these three combinations is Perdo Imaginem, so she uses that and has a total of 52. That's enough to learn all three spells from a lab text.

Minor Seasonal Activities (new)

A magus can be distracted from lab work or other seasonal activities for up to ten days per season without consequence. This house rule attempts to standardize those ten days by allowing every magus one "Minor Activity" every season. Minor activities take up ten days or fewer. They never involve gaining XP; they are for other tasks like exploration, travel, adventure, holy days, setting up the young covenant, or other things important to the character but not necessarily mechanical in nature.

The most common way for Minor Activities to get used is during play. A player will want his magus to do something, and will ask, "Do I have time to do that without disturbing my lab work?" The GM will usually answer, "Yes, but that is your minor activity for the season." If the magus is adventuring, that will probably account for his minor activity.

Correspondence XP (clarification)

According to Covenants, magi can gain 1 XP every season through correspondence. I see this as both an incentive for player characters to write letters to NPCs, engaging the setting, and also as a way for players to streamline inefficient XP accumulation. In other words, correspondence XP can be used to turn that Terram 8 (8) into Terram 9, that Charm 5 (9) into Charm 2, and so on. Player magi (only) will be asked to describe their correspondence every season, noting what form that 1 XP takes. You do not have to actually write a letter, but if you do, make it related to whatever you took the XP in. While correspondence XP is yours to use as you wish, I encourage you to use it to finish off training in Arts and Abilities which are almost complete, rather than simply adding 1 XP to an Art or Ability that won't notice it.

Die Roll Conventions (new)

The differences between stressed and unstressed die rolls are confusing and create problems at the table. The most common problem occurs when a player rolls a die and gets a 0 or 1; he then has to ask the GM if the roll is stressed or unstressed. The GM's response can create a feeling in the player that he has been "ripped off" or "screwed", his potential high number turning into a botch, or vice versa. In this revision of the die rolling conventions, a 1 is always bad and a 0 is always good.

Do not use this rule when rolling on a table, specifically including (but not limited to) the Aging Table. On tables, use the standard Ars Magica die rolling conventions.
  • Unstressed: A 1 is a 1 and a 0 is 10. In other words, it works as it always has.
  • Stressed: A 1 is a potential botch. A 0 is 10 and you roll again, adding your second roll to 10. If you keep rolling a 0, you keep adding 10 and re-rolling.
Consequences: Because doubling has been removed from die rolling, very high totals will not be quite so high. On the other hand, they will still be high enough. As a side benefit, we will no longer have the disappointment found when a player rolls a 1, thinks he's gotten something great, and then rolls a 2 or 3 or 4 on his next die roll. If you roll a 10, your minimum die total is 11. It's always better than you would have gotten.

Botching and High Skill (new)

In Ars Magica, the frequency of a botch has nothing to do with your level of skill. An expert swordsman botches just as often as a rookie (unless that swordsman has Cautious with Single Weapon, of course). This rule takes into account character skill, so that very skilled characters are less likely to botch.

When you are rolling an Ability of 6+, or an Art of 20+, you have reduced botch dice. Reduce botch dice by 1 for every ability over 5 (-1 for 6, -2 for 7, etc) to a minimum of 0. For Arts, reduce botch dice by 1 for every 5 full points in an Art above 15 (-1 for 20, -2 for 25), to a minimum of 1; Spell Mastery can still reduce this number to 0.

The Truth About Faeries

I have great respect for the work done on Atlas's AM5 book Faeries; however, the entire concept of the true nature of faeries is a bit too "meta" for me. The idea that faeries don't exist unless there's a person around to engage with them is, I find, very counter intuitive to players, who make up backgrounds for their characters based on a more traditional view of what faeries are and what they do. I also find that the true nature of faeries as revealed in that book makes House Merinita into an object of mockery and contempt. Quite frankly, the House becomes much less cool.

Most of the mechanics of the Faeries book is retained. However, the true nature of faeries -- what they are and how they interact with human beings -- is unknown and potentially unknowable. Presumably the wisest of Merinitae know more, but whatever they know, it doesn't look like the meta-text of Faeries and they're not telling anyone in any case.

Demons "Without Virtue"

The AM book Realms of Power: the Infernal discusses that, because demons lack the virtues of Fortitude, Patience and Prudence, they cannot (barring the use of Confidence points, which most demons do not have) plan ahead, continue to fight in the face of defeat, or work together. 

Well, that's all very sensible for Mythic Christianity, but it makes adventures using demons much harder to design. See Tim Ferguson's notes on Tales of Power for an example; because demons never work together, he had to rely on a large group of demons just coincidentally in the same place who just happen to be pursuing short-term goals which just happen to compound on each other to make an even worse situation. Blech.

I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that demons do not have patience, fortitude or prudence. However, other forces can conspire to make a demon act in such a way that he appears to have those virtues, or at least might. For example, a demon who is afraid of punishment if he returns to Hell might be willing to fight on in the face of overwhelming odds. Likewise, demons might work together in the hope that they can each betray each other later. 

In short, you can throw out the "Checklist for Roleplaying Demons" on p. 46 of Realms of Power: the Infernal.

The Price of Lab Texts

When designing a covenant, lab texts cost 1 build point for every 5 levels of the effect. 1 build point also purchases 5 vis; by extension, therefore, a lab text is worth 1 vis for every level of the effect! This is fantastically expensive.

In comparison to other books, a "vain" tractatus costs 1 pawn, a "sound" one two. A "sound" summa costs vis equal to its level, with a season of delay. "Vain" summa cost about half this amount. A skilled scribe (with Ability 6) can produce one tractatus in a season, or any summa in two. 

The same scribe could copy 300 levels of lab texts in a single season, establishing a "floor" or minimum value of 2 pawns for 300 levels of spells (or 1 pawn = 150 levels), and a "ceiling" of 10 pawns (or 1 pawn = 30 levels), since the same scribe could copy a Level 20 summa and get 20 pawns for it over two seasons.

However, scribes of Ability 6 are not necessary for lab texts in the same way that they are for tractati and summae; Ability 6 is required for those latter books to gain the highest quality, but lab texts do not have Quality scores. A scribe with Profession: Scribe of 6 is kept busy copying tractatus and summa, while lower level scribes practice their skill copying lab texts. Scribes working on lab texts will almost always have Ability 1-5, and also need minimal training in Magic Theory in order to avoid corrupting the text.

Working on the assumption that scribes will have lower skill, and will therefore be able to produce fewer lab texts in one season on average, the floor and ceiling price is halved, for a range of 1 vis = 15-75 levels. Presumably, the lower price would be for especially common spells (Pilum of Fire), while the higher price is reserved for spells which are uncommon -- but not so uncommon that the scriptorium fails to have a copy in its collection.

In fact, lab texts of popular or common can be copied in quantity and then kept in storage for order. When a magus wants to purchase spells, he could construct a grimoire by listing the spells that are to be in it, and the scriptorium or book seller could then construct the book to order, pulling from copies of lab texts already made in previous seasons. 

For game purposes, spells are broadly divided into three categories: Common, Uncommon, and Rare.

  • Common spells include all spells in the Ars Magica core book. They cost 1 pawn for every 75 levels of effect.
  • Spells located in other official products, and which are not considered exclusive to their creators or House, are considered uncommon. These spells cost 1 pawn for every 15 levels of effect.
  • And spells which do not appear in official sources, or which are exclusive to their creators or their House, are considered rare. The purchaser is probably negotiating with the creator of the spell. The cost of these spells is determined on a case by case basis with low level spells being cheapest (about 1 pawn for every 5 levels) and high level ones being most expensive (1 pawn for every level of the effect).
General spells are an exception to the usual rules, because purchasers are unlikely to find a version of the spell at precisely the level desired. General spells are never common; treat them as uncommon if they are in any official source. 

The Roots of the Arts

The Roots were introduced in Covenants; it is stated there that, for nine of the Arts, books have been written which are considered the standard text for a young magus seeking to raise an Art high enough to take an apprentice. These books are copied in large quantity, and are available for "a very small consideration" from any Redcap. The specific Arts, Quality, and Level of the Roots is not described. 

In HBO Ars Magica, the Roots are summa which began as Quality 28 and Level 7. These books are poorly copied in great haste (-1 Quality, according to AM 166). The scribes, illuminators, and binders who work on them all have Profession 5 or less, potentially as low as Profession 1. They are not crafted with any magically-resonant materials, nor are they magically clarified. All these inferior traits lower the Quality of the book by an additional 6, for a final Quality of 21. Books of this sort can be copied in bulk, the pages assembled when a client wishes to buy one. The usual price is 2 pawns of vis. 

Most readers of such a book will accumulate 21 XP in one season and end up with a score of 6 in the proper Art. However, characters with Book Learner will have 21 (3), because the Root is technically Level 7. 

Four of the Roots are Techniques and five are Forms. 

The Roots detailing Techniques are:
  • De Novo by Balthasar scholae Bonisagi (Creo)
  • Mutatis Mutandis by Xavier of Westchester scholae Bonisagi (Muto)
  • The School of Apromor, by Ysabeau filia Apromor (Perdo)
  • The Power of Command by Marcus Niger scholae Tremendi (Rego)
The Roots detailing Forms are:
  • Mobilis in Mobili by Nomad ex Miscellanea (Aquam)
  • This Too Too Mortal Flesh (Corpus)
  • Species and Speculation (Imaginem)
  • Magic and the Sensitive Faculty (Mentem)
  • The Stuff of Magic (Vim)

Cantations and Correspondence XP

Every season of apprenticeship, apprentices accumulate 1 XP that can only be spent to learn Cantations, defined as "any spell of level 5 or lower, as well as Ager Belli, the spell used to play Bellum." See our Cantations page for many examples. Cantation points can be spent at any time, even in the middle of a play session, to spontaneously demonstrate a spell that, presumably, your character has spent time practicing between sessions.

Once a magus passes his Gauntlet, Cantation XP is no longer accumulated. However, it should be noted that magi who engage in regular correspondence over the course of a season gain 1 XP in the topic of that correspondence, as noted in Covenants. Players should use their seasonal correspondence to create and nurture NPC contacts.

Creatures with Might

Creatures with Might, such as certain familiars, can gain Exposure XP in defiance of the official rules. This is best demonstrated by the Intelligent familiars of experienced magi, which often develop some level of Magic Theory after years of exposure. 

Exposure XP

When a character gets Exposure XP -- which is 2 XP for a season -- he or she can spend that XP on anything that he is exposed to over the season, unless the rules specifically state what Exposure XP must be spent on. For example, when teaching another character, the teacher can only spend Exposure XP on Teaching or the subject taught. If the rules do not require Exposure to be spent on a particular Art or Ability, it can be spent on anything which the player can reasonable explain.

Fast-Casting

The topic of Fast-Casting is infamously controversial in AM5, thanks to the following passage:

It takes approximately one combat round to cast a spell, unless it is fast-cast. Thus, a magus cannot cast more than one normal spell, or a fast-cast and a normal spell, in the same round. A very fast magus may be able to cast more than one fast-cast spell, but this is beyond most magi.

After the Line Editor finally got involved, this passage was resolved to mean the following:

Because casting a spell normally takes the entirety of a combat round, a magus cannot use:
  • More than one normal spell
  • Or a fast-cast and a normal spell
On the same round.

This leads to a number of clarifications which I outline here.

Fast Casting Clarifications

  • Fast-Casting can only be attempted in response to "an attack or a surprising event." You cannot try to Fast-Cast just because you want to go first. Something unexpected needs to happen, or someone needs to attack, in order for a magus to Fast-Cast.
  • Fast-Casting takes very little time, but it takes enough time that a magus cannot use it and also cast an ordinary spell on his turn. As soon as a magus Fast-Casts a spell, he has forfeited the opportunity to cast a normal spell that round.
  • However, because Fast-Casting is so quick, it is possible to Fast-Cast multiple times in the same round, if the magus can succeed on the required rolls. 
  • Note that a magus can attempt to Fast-Cast, fail the Finesse roll, and still Fast-Cast the spell, it just won't go off at the intended Initiative order. This still counts as Fast-Casting, and still prevents casting an ordinary spell. 
  • Also, failure on the Finesse roll means no further Fast-Casting attempts may be made that round.

Fast Casting Example

Athena Alpina is traveling to a remote chapter house when she comes under attack by Shadow Magi. Everyone rolls initiative; Hermia has an 11, Grigori a 9, Caterina has a 7, Gideon a 5, Athena gets only a 3, and Magni has only a 1.
  • Init 11: Hermia goes first. She has already used Shape of the Woodland Prowler on herself and is in wolf form, so she attacks Athena. The attack hits, but because Hermia is under a shapeshifting spell, her attacks are resisted by Parma, and she fails to penetrate. 
  • Init 9: Grigori goes next. He uses a Multi-Cast Pilum of Fire on Athena. Athena announces she is going to Fast-Cast, but rather than trying to defend herself against the Pilum, she is going to trust her Parma and, instead use her own Pilum of Fire on the Shadow Magi. Ordinarily, Fast-Casting can only be done with Spontaneous Magic, but Athena has Pilum of Fire Mastered, including the Fast-Cast, Multiple Casting, and Magic Resistance abilities.
  • Fast-Cast in response: Athena rolls Qik + Finesse against Grigori's Initiative total of 9. She succeeds. She can now roll all 3 of her Multiple Castings of Pilum of Fire, though all at -10 and with extra botch dice. Presuming Grigori is going to have an Ignem too high to penetrate, she targets Gideon, Caterina and Hermia with her spells, rolling at an additional -3 for each casting because she has three targets.
  • Fast-Casting in response to another Fast-Cast: Hermia has already acted and so has no time to cast another spell, even Fast-Casted. Gideon attempts to Fast-Cast a defense using Spontaneous Magic. He must roll Qik + Finesse against Athena's Initiative total of 3. He succeeds, and his defense (PeIg) is sufficient to quench the fire in a sudden freeze. Caterina also attempts to Fast-Cast, but she rolls poorly on her Qik + Finesse roll and fails. Athena's attacks against Hermia and Caterina are resolved, and she inflicts Heavy Wounds on both women. After Athena is done Fast-Casting, Grigori's three Pilums go off, but Athena's Parma holds, thanks to the increased Magic Resistance she has against this spell from her Mastery.
  • Init 7: It is now Caterina's turn. She failed her attempt to Fast-Cast and did not follow through with the Spontaneous spell, as there was no point in doing so after the Pilum hit. Therefore, because she has not yet cast a spell, she can still cast now, albeit at -5 for her Heavy Wound. She uses a Mastered Invocation of the Lightning on Athena, casting it twice.
  • Fast-Casting in response: It is time for Athena to retreat gracefully. She declares she will attempt to Fast-Cast her Mastered Leap of the Homecoming, vanishing instantly and appearing in her sanctum at Icy North. She has to roll Qik + Finesse against Caterina's Initiative of 7, but she has a -6 penalty because this is her second attempt to Fast-Cast. She fails. Caterina's two lightning spells are resolved and Athena takes two Heavy Wounds. Things look grim.
  • Init 5: It is now Gideon's turn, but he previously Fast-Cast. He cannot cast another spell this round. He could continue Fast-Casting, in response to attacks or other surprising events, but without Mastered Fast-Casting, he cannot use his Formulaic spells and his Spontaneous Magic is unlikely to penetrate Athena's Parma.
  • Init 3: Athena is next. She, also, has previously Fast-Cast, so she cannot cast a normal spell. She has also failed a Fast-Casting Finesse roll, so she cannot Fast Cast any more this round.
  • Init 1: Finally, Magni is last. He exerts himself to charge Athena and attack her with his mundane longaxe. He hits. Defending at -10 for her two Heavy Wounds, Athena takes enormous damage and dies. Poor Athena. Good thing this was only an example, right?

Specialties

When you raise an Ability, you can change its Specialty. For example, if you have Leadership 1 (Grogs) and you raise Leadership to 2, you could also change your Specialty to (Magi) or (Lab Work).

Vis

In Ars Magica, there is a rule that vis cannot be divided into pieces smaller than a single "pawn." In our game, that is not true. You might collect a dozen flowers from a hilltop, and each flower has 1/12th of a pawn of vis. This is not a major rule change, but is worth noting.