The current plan once we finish our Alien RPG is to begin an Ars Magica campaign, possibly set in the Loch Leglean tribunal, though this has yet to be confirmed. So I’ve dug out my Ars Magica 5th edition books and have started thinking about a character. I’m sure exact details will change once the rest of the group begin discussing ideas. The core concept should remain intact though, and since there’s some complexity involved, I thought I’d get a head start.
One of my favourite houses is House Criamon, but I haven’t had a chance to play a Criamon magus since 3rd edition. A lot has changed since then, especially in terms of the mystery cults which adds a whole new layer of detail and focus for the character. I’m not hugely fond of the idea that the very core beliefs of the House have been made into something which are canonically false though. Since my character will be unaware of that, I can hopefully ignore it.
I decided that I wanted a Greek magus – or at least someone from the Kingdom of Candia (i.e., Crete) in the Theban Tribunal. Officially, there aren’t many Criamon there. The one detailed Criamon magus is stated to have no apprentices, so that ruled him out. There’s enough room in the Aegaea Covenant though to insert a Criamon master, and that seemed like an interesting background. It’s an undersea covenant in a strong faerie aura, which gives her an excuse to know a bit about faeries. Given Loch Leglean is crawling with the fey, that could be beneficial.
Her? I wasn’t certain on the gender of my magus, and I was trying to keep the option open, but I kept on imagining them as female, so I’ll probably go with that.
Criamon have a number of mystery paths they can choose to unlock during play – and two caught my eye. The first was the Path of the Body. Through a number of ordeals and tasks, a Criamon is able to reach a full understanding of their body, giving up the need to eat, drink and breathe. They also learn how their body maps to the world, so have an arcane connection to anywhere that they’ve been. That’s quite powerful – being able to scry on, or teleport anywhere you remember. Such a path tends to focus on Corpus.
The second path of interest is the Path of Seeming, which allows them to see the world as it really is. They can see the history of all items they touch, send their spirit out into the world unfettered to its physical body and eventually get to treat the world as an illusion – ignoring physical objects completely. This path is more tied to Mentem and Imagonem.
Both of these paths are quite powerful, so I’m clarifying with the GM whether he will allow them. Given how long it will take for my character to initiate herself in all stages of either path, the chances of me actually unlocking the later aspects of them during the campaign is probably low.
Assuming that I am going for the Path of Body, it seemed to make sense to have a physically fit character, so I’ve currently gone with the following characteristics:
A low Pre and Com reflects that she is not socially capable, and also because she will have facial tattoos which aren’t highly thought of in medieval society. The latter will also mean taking a Disfigured flaw. As a Criamon who believes that the world is an internal cycle of entropy, and that everyone is a reincarnation of somebody (or something) once great, she is also a pacifist and does not wish to harm anyone. Dex and Qik are normally of use in combat, but she won’t be doing much combat, so they’re mostly positive for purposes of flavour.
I did think of cranking Intelligence up with a virtue, but in the end decided I didn’t want to be trying to play a really intelligent character.
The core Virtues (other than The Enigma, which Criamon get for free) I went for are Flexible Formulaic Magic and Deft Form (Corpus). Ars Magica has a flexible magic system, with two type of spells. Formulaic spells are learned before hand, and fixed in the level of the effects. Spontaneous magic allows you to try anything, but at greatly reduced ability. Flexible Formulaic Magic gives you a little bit of flexibility with formulaic spells – allowing you to extend (or reduce) their range, duration or target by a step at casting time. So you can affect a group of people rather than a single person, or change a touch spell to voice range. All without having to invent a new spell.
Deft Form allows you to cast spells without penalty when casting without verbals or gestures. This could allow me to cast defensive magic without having to make my presence known. Voice range spells don’t work well in this regard (since it affects things out to the range of my voice, and if I don’t speak, that range is zero), but I could combine with Flexible Formulaic Magic to raise Voice to Sight. I’m currently thinking of taking this with Corpus spells, but it might be useful with Mentem as well.
The other big Virtue I currently have listed is Greater Immunity (Cold). This is again little more than a stylistic choice rather than necessarily being useful. Being from an underwater covenant, she may like the sea and being around water (she has the swim skill!), and that can be cold up in Scotland. So she’ll be able to wade through water, or stand out in the rain or snow, without having to cover up her tattoos (she doesn’t plan on going full Pict with blue body paint and nothing else though – Mediterranean style clothing and a cloak are probably going to be her standard fashion choice).
Other than that, I’ll probably round things out with some Puissant virtues, for Enigmatic Wisdom and a couple of arts. Puissant gives a flat bonus, which is easier to work out than the percentage bonus that Affinity gives.
On the flaws side, I’ve gone for Compassionate, Noncombatant and Vow (never kill) as the basis of her personality. As a Criamon, Incomprehensible and Twilight Prone seemed suitable – though the latter could be Magic Addiction instead (keep on casting spells until you fall over or get a grip on yourself). Disfigured for her tattoos, which won’t be hidden away on parts of the body normally covered.
Finally, I’m thinking of Supernatural Nuisance, which could be a ghost from her past. I’ll need to talk to the GM over what might be suitable, since there’s always the option of picking something up at the start of the game.
In terms of Arts, she’s currently a bit of a generalist, with a mix of Intellego, Rego, Corpus and Mentem to start with. She’s also taken Aquam – one of the arts nobody ever seems to take, but since she’s come from Aegaea Covenant it seemed important to give her some of that. She’ll need to take Vim as well, to help her control Twilight. This means splitting her points across quite a few arts, rather than trying to be really good at one thing. Her highest are currently Corpus at 8, and Intellego at 6 (though she also gets a +3 from Puissant (Intellego), taking it to 9).
She has a wide range of mundane skills, none hugely high, and I need to finalise balancing them all. There’s bound to be a few skills I’ve forgotten, so I need to go through the full list and make final decisions after finalising the character concept.
In terms of spells, 150 levels goes quite quickly. A few basic healing spells, some non-harmful body control spells (Lift the Dangling Puppet, Spasms of the Uncontrolled Hand, Curse of the Unruly Tongue), and some Mentem spells (Sight of the Transparent Motive, Panic of the Trembling Heart and Call to Slumber) for a mix of investigation and ensuring we don’t have to kill people. I’ve also taken Whispers Through the Black Gate, in case we need to question those who are already dead.
I’d forgotten how much I liked the Ars Magica spell names.
My list of spells is longer than what I have points for – I’ll wait and see to see if we can get years of experience out of apprenticeship, currently I’m assuming not to give myself a baseline character.
So that is where I am currently. I don’t know how much of the concept will survive contact with session zero, but I needed to remind myself how the system worked. Ars Magica isn’t a simple system, and it can be as complicated as something like Pathfinder (though the core rules are more consistent). 5th edition definitely added a lot more flavour and mechanical depth to the various Houses, and it’s not something that we’ve really used in previous games.
The big risk is how well my concept will fit in with the rest of the group. A pacifist character is all well and good, until the party gets into a fight and everyone else wants to murder hobo their way through things. “I’ll pretend I didn’t see that” only works so many times, and it could lead to unwanted party conflict. Maybe I could remove her vow anyway, so at least it’s just a case of her not liking hurting people, rather than having a reason to get annoyed at others when they do it.
We also don’t know yet whether we’re playing online or in person. We possibly have one remote player (Scotland, as opposed to the south of England for the rest of us), which worked well during lock down. We could try having them ‘dial in’, but I don’t know how well that would work. There are options though.
In terms of VTTs, Roll20 has an Ars Magica option, but Foundry doesn’t. I haven’t looked at what other options there are, but ultimately it’s down to the GM to decide.
Next up though, I need to try and find a picture for my character which doesn’t look like Seoni. Images of tattooed, Greek, female wizards seem to be short on the ground.