Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ars Magica 4th edition

Ars Magica is set in what it terms Mythic Europe. Players take the roles of Magi of the Order of Hermes, their companions and servants. One of the interesting features of Ars Magica is that it promotes the concept of Troupe style play. That is, each player will have several characters, typically a Magi and a few Companions and servants, and would rotate those characters as required by the story. It also suggests that a campaign doesn’t have to have the same GM all the time.

There are a few links between Ars Magica and the old World of Darkness, namely the Order of Hermes itself and one of the houses within in, House Tremere who at the time of Ars Magica 4th have recently been found to have been harbouring vampires.

Now, onto character creation.

As Magi as the main characters of the game, that’s what I’m going to make.

The Order of Hermes is an umbrella organisation of mages, containing several different houses from the animalistic Bjornaer, the social Jerbiton to Verditius, skilled in enchanting items.

I decide to make my character a member of House Flambeau. As their name suggests, they’re rather fond of Fire magic.

I decide to make my character female and name her Islode.

There are eight characteristics, with scores normally going from +3 to –3. I’m going to use the point buy method of character generation rather than rolling, so I have seven points to spend. I then have to decide on a speciality for any non-zero characteristic, though these don’t have any mechanical effect.

Intelligence +2 (memory)
Perception +1 (sounds)
Strength –1 (thin)
Stamina +1 (bloody-minded)
Presence 0
Communication +2 (explanations)
Dexterity 0
Quickness 0

I now pick Virtues and Flaws for my character. Magi are allowed up to 10 points of each, with the restriction that the total must be zero.

I decide that Strong Writer fits with Islode’s communication speciality, I also decide to give her the Life Linked Spontaneous magic Virtue which enables her to cast spontaneous magic at a specified level at the cost of health levels. (Normally the effectiveness of spontaneous magic is determined solely by how well you roll, this allows the roll to be boosted by burning health. The catch is that the level has to be declared before the dice are rolled – it is possible to kill a character with this virtue.)
That’s four points of Virtues so far, and I’ve only looked at the Magi specific ones. Before I look at the common Virtues and flaws, I’m going to have a look at the Magi specific flaws.

I pick Infamous master – Islode’s teacher had a foul temper and was not above setting fire to things and people that displeased him. I also pick Short-lived magic Islode’s spells don’t last as long as they should unless she uses Vis when casting, and finally I pick Stingy master - Islode starts with fewer points to spend on her spells and Arts. This is probably due to gaps in her education when her master was in too foul a mood to be safely approachable.

I now look at the General virtues and flaws, and currently have one point free. I decide to spend that on the +1 virtue, Second sight

Whilst there are a few nice Virtues that I’d like, there aren’t that many flaws that appeal, so I leave it at that.

Strong Writer
Life-linked Spontaneous magic
Second sight

Infamous master
Stingy master
Short-lived magic

It’s now time to buy abilities. Isolode starts with a few skills and 13+her age in experience points to spend on more. Since apprenticeship takes around 15 years, I decide to make Islode 27, giving her 40 experience to spend on abilites.

Including her starting abilities, after spending her 40 xp, Islode has the following skills - specialities are in brackets. Each skill should have a speciality, though I've only listed a couple here.

Magic theory 4
Organisation lore (OoH) 1
Parma Magica (Ignem) 4
Scribe Latin 4 (original composition)
Speak Latin 5
Speak French 4
Finesse (Ignem) 3
Penetration (Ignem) 3
Concentration (spells) 2
Scribe French 3
Certamen 2
Occult Lore 1
Etiquette 1
Second Sight 1 - Islode gets this from the virtue, I haven’t spent any points on it

Finesse and Penetration are related to spell casting; the former helps with things like targeting and the latter with overcoming your target’s magic resistance. Parma Magica is the ability to shield yourself from magic, and Certamen is the art of magical duelling.

I now need to spend points on Islode’s magical skills. Due to the Stingy Master flaw I only get 130 points to spend rather than the usual 150.

Magic in Ars Magica is semi-freeform. There are five magical techniques (Creation, Perception, Transformation, Destruction and Control) that can be applied to any of the ten Forms (animal, water, air, body, plant, fire, image, mind, earth and power). Any given spell falls into a combination of Technique and Form, but it is also possible to cast spells spontaneously, though they’re often much weaker than a learnt spell.

You cannot pick spells with a level higher level than your character’s Technique+Form+10.

As Islode is a Flambeau Magi, I decide that Creo and Ignem are the two Arts most of her training would have concentrated on, so buy both of them at 10, for a cost of 110 points, leaving me with 20.

The best I can do with my remaining 20 points is to buy two more Arts at level 4; I decide to buy the Muto and Perdo techniques.

Having spent those points, Islode has the following Art scores:

Ignem: 10 (fire)
Creo: 10 (creation)
Perdo: 4 (destruction)
Muto: 4 (transformation)

I now have another 130 points to spend on spells. The first ones I’m going to look at are Creo Ignem spells as Islode can have those up to level 30.

Heat of the searing forge (10)
Lamp without flame (10)
Flash of the scarlet flames (15)
Pilum of fire (20)
Arc of Fiery ribbons (25)

That’s 80 points spent, leaving me with 50. As I understand the rules, I can pick spells from arts that I have no score in, as the training of an OoH Hermes magus includes all Arts, they’ll just be limited to level 10, and my chances of casting anything above 5 without fatigue aren’t too good.

Anyway, the remaining points get spent as follows:

Show of flames and smoke (Muto Ignem, 10)
Sooth the raging flames (Perdo Ignem, 15)
Bind wound (Creo Corpus, 10)
Rising Ire (Creo Mentem, 15)

The main thing left to decide is Islode’s wizard’s sigil – a magical signature of sorts that occurs on all her magic. I decide that the spell’s arcane formulae appear around her in faint glowing lines when she casts.

Other details like personality traits have no real mechanical use and are something I usually decide in the first few sessions rather than at creation.

Next up are Kult, Jovian Chronicles, Core Command and Fading suns 1st edition.

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