Ars Magica: Romandy
Unlike your companions, your magi aren’t related unless you arrange them to be.
The same Houses are available in 1400 as in 1200. White Wolf added House Ziracah to the Order come the 1300s, but Ziracah will not exist in this campaign. However, House Seshat will have joined as a component of House ex Miscellanea, and the only thing preventing Seshat from being an independent house in the Order is the preponderant Hermetic prejudice against non-Christians. See House Seshat for rules on creating a Seshat maga.
The following is a very broad brushing of each House and their members. While every House has its renegades, it’s much easier to break the mold of some Houses as opposed to others. Nevertheless, your choice of House usually determines very little about your magus in mechanical terms:
House Bjornaer – Nature-focused shapeshifters.
House Bonisagus – Arcane innovators and the lodestars of the Order.
House Criamon – Devotees of obscure philosophies and determined to unravel the Enigma of Twilight.
House ex Miscellanea – An increasingly large house of myriad magical traditions only partly integrated into the Order. If you have a concept for a maga that does not fit within any house, you can use ex Miscellanea’s rules to capture the flavor of almost any kind of magical tradition.
House Flambeau – Magi of action and the Order’s enforcers.
House Guernicus – Magi of deliberation and the Order’s judges.
House Jerbiton – Magi with one foot in the arcane realm and one in the mundane. Most have some skill in a mundane art or trade or hail from noble roots.
House Mercere – Given the importance of Emil Ott in this campaign’s background, I recommend you click through to read more about Mercere. The short story is that Mercere Magi, like Emil and Sigi Ott, are quite rare. Redcaps (mundane messengers for the whole Order) greatly outnumber them and technically are political equals of magi.
House Merinita – Experts on the Faerie Realm and its magics.
House Tremere – NOTE: Unlike White Wolf’s Tremeres, those in Ars Magica never dabbled in vampirism, Tremere himself is likely lost in Twilight or dead, and Goratrix does not exist.
Tremeres concern themselves with hierarchy, organization, order, stability, and politics. Though Certamen (magical dueling) continues to wane in power as a political tool, Tremeres still maintain their renowned prowess in this art.
House Tytalus – Magi with a philosophy of growth through conflict of all kinds and renowned for their mettle. Those that never toe the line of acceptable behavior aren’t trying hard enough to realize their potential.
House Verditius – Transcendent arcane craftsmen.
Recommended Houses – I don’t truly recommend any particular house. However, in considering the likely arc of the campaign, you may get some serendipitous boons from having a Seshat (Ex Misc.), a Guernicus, a Criamon, or a Bonisagus (political).
Cautioned Houses – Verditius: their mystery begs for your devotion to designing and crafting magical items, so unless you’re determined to play against stereotype or you’re really enthusiastic about the rules and time needed for magic crafting often, I recommend looking at another house. Criamon (yes, “recommended” AND cautioned): Twilight results hardly come up during game play (speaking from experience), even when you factor in the Enigma mystery. If you’re interested in Criamon because you want to experience Twilight now and then during play and profit from it, be warned that you’re going to have to deliberately provoke Twilight events, and there’s no guarantee that something bad won’t happen during any one of them before the roll of the dice.
You must have graduated to a full magus, and your minimum starting age is 20. Your maximum starting age is 40. You may not start with a talisman, familiar, or (less an appropriate Virtue) magic item.
You may start with a longevity ritual if you are at least 35 and have appropriate Virtues and/or Arts explaining how you would have acquired one or made one. You must make normal aging rolls starting at age 35 absent a longevity ritual or appropriate Virtue, but you automatically survive any Crisis result during character generation. Be aware that if you want your magus to ever have kids, he must achieve this goal before performing his first longevity ritual since the ritual will render him sterile.
(If you are novice to ArM5, I do not recommend playing a magus that is more than one year beyond his graduation, otherwise it’s very likely you will select a large bunch of spells and abilities that end up being at odds with your goals. If you can’t abide someone having a maga at game start with significantly more experience points than yours, then consider playing a magus that had a late start in his magical education and is finally graduating around ages 35-40. Just keep in mind that graduating that late poses some challenges to obtaining a longevity ritual in a timely manner.)
Your Magus’ Goal
ArM Magi usually have grand designs of some sort, but they tend to vary more than those of wizards in other systems. It can also be frustrating to run an ArM Maga if you have no idea what she wants out of her career in hermeticism or how to get her there—this is a common problem for newcomers to ArM.
Therefore, before play begins, everyone will need to talk with the GM and settle on an ultimate goal for your Maga. The below list has some ideas but is by no means exhaustive, nor do they cover the inherent challenges a Maga must overcome to achieve each goal. Other players may also have some nice ideas to adopt, so feel free to discuss your Maga’s possible ambitions with them.
I also recommend that your magi share some common goal for their covenant beyond the usual functions (pooling of resources, protection, etc.).
(Goals marked with an asterisk are goals I’ve seen in prior campaigns.)
1. Become a landed noble.
2. Build a king’s ransom in riches.
3. Found an entirely new Tribunal or House.
4. *Breed a new species of magical beast.
5. Create a yuuuuuuge spell.
6. *Set up a magical brewery.
7. Reach the Magic Realm’s version of Heaven.
8. Harrow Hell.
9. Reach the moon.
10. Eradicate now and forever The Curse that afflicts most Magi.
11. *Set up a genuine school of magic.
12. Time travel.
13. Uncover the Order of Odin.
14. Uncover and incorporate exotic magical traditions into hermeticism.
15. Invent aura-affecting magic.
16. Obtain a papal bull recognizing hermeticism as a trade and not inherently evil.
17. *Synthesize your personal magic with your personal faith.
18. Invent and operate a hermetic printing press.