Learning to Play
From Project: Redcap
Thanks for your interest in Ars Magica! We, the Ars Magica fan community, welcome you. We hope you will enjoy the game as much as we do.
Why Ars Magica?
If you're unsure about whether to give Ars Magica a try, here are some resources explaining why the game is so great:
- Why Play Ars Magica? (Podcast)
- Episode 1 of the Arcane Connection podcast discusses the unique features of the game (30 minutes).
- Project: Redcap's Ars Magica page
- Our Ars Magica page explains what's different and special about this game.
Obtaining the Rules
If you don't already have a copy of the Ars Magica rule book, the good news is that you don't have to buy one. As explained on the Fourth Edition page, you can download a PDF of the Fourth Edition rule book for free. You can get other free stuff for Fourth Edition, including the introductory scenario Promises, Promises, from Atlas Games's Fourth Edition Web page.
Fifth Edition is generally considered better, so you may want to consider upgrading to the "paid version" sooner rather than later. The publisher's Fifth Edition web page has several free resources for you, including a sample covenant.
You can get started with just the core rules -- which might be a good idea, to keep things simple. Once you've learned the basics, if you want some guidance on what to buy next, please refer to:
What You Need to Play
- Two or more players. One player acts as the Storyguide and the other(s) will have one or more player characters each. Ars Magica plays well with just one player and a storyguide, and is more fun if you can find two to four people to play player characters. With more than five players, you might find that the complex mechanics make the game flow slowly compared to other RPGs. Andrew Gronosky (talk) 09:57, 2 January 2016 (MST)
- Ten-sided dice. Three per player is a good number.
- character sheets, note paper, and pencils.
- Everyone who is playing a magus needs a copy of the rule book. All players must use the same edition of the rules; ArM4 and ArM5 are both playable, but they're not similar enough to be compatible. Players who have grogs or companions might be able to get by sharing a copy of the rules.
Unlike most RPGs, each player will eventually have more than one character: troupe style play is the norm, and one of the things that makes Ars Magica special. For your first story, have everyone play just one character each; they can make additional characters later and introduce them gradually as the saga develops.
- A magus is a powerful wizard, much stronger than a starting wizard character in other fantasy games. Magi have important limitations. A starting magus is good at very little except magic, and needs a companion or grog to help with non-magical problems, including fighting. Magi have a lot of trouble gaining strangers' trust because of The Gift -- the inner power that lets them cast spells also makes mundane people ill at ease. Therefore, a magus usually travels with one or more friends or servants who can do most of the talking. Magi are also demanding to play, because they require learning both the magic rules and the complex society of the Order of Hermes (though you can introduce the Order of Hermes in a later story). It is perfectly acceptable, and can be a good way to learn, for one player (the one who has spent the most time reading the rule book!) to play a magus in the first story, and the other players to start with grogs and companions. Andrew Gronosky (talk) 09:57, 2 January 2016 (MST)
- Companions are excellent choices for beginning players because they are simpler to play than magi, but are (or can be) the social equals of magi and have lots of freedom and opportunity to influence the story. You can start with a straightforward companion concept such as a knight, merchant, noblewoman, or minstrel; or, to have some magic powers without the investment of playing a full magus, choose one of the supernatural Virtues for your companion.
- Grogs are servants of the magi, including soldiers and bodyguards. They are supporting characters who usually don't have as much backstory or independent motivation as the magi and companions. Some newcomers balk at playing a grog because the grog is supposed to obey the magi and seems to have less influence over the story. That impression isn't entirely accurate; see the grog article for some tips on how to play them. Grogs are good starting characters for players who enjoy combat or those who want to explore roleplaying characters with low social status within Mythic Europe.Andrew Gronosky (talk)
Simplifying Character Creation
- Don't be shy about using the pre-generated characters in the rule book for your first game. Creating magus and companion characters is time-consuming. You can play your first story as a one-shot and retire the characters in some way: perhaps that first story is a prologue and the main characters of your saga are the apprentices of those first characters, 20 years in the future.
- You can find more premade characters online.
- The covenant of Semita Errabunda on Atlas Games' Ars Magica Fifth Edition page (scroll down to the bottom) has pregenerated magi, companions, and grogs.
- Many fan sites on our Internet Site Index have premade characters posted -- be sure to check whether they were made using ArM5, ArM4, or even ArM3 rules.