Ars Magica: Romandy
We will be creating characters in an alternate order: companions first, magi second, and no grogs to start.
Keep in mind that the role of a companion in an Ars Magica campaign is often to provide you with a PC to play when your magus PC is otherwise unavailable. Your companion may or may not be an intimate of your magus; it’ll be up to you. I do recommend that your magus and companion have different focuses in skills. For instance, if you’re thinking of playing a hoplite maga—a magician well prepared and willing to tackle problems with flamberge and fireball alike—then you should probably design a companion that is at most a warrior secondarily. All sorts of skill sets will come in handy during this campaign. I will let you know upon inspecting characters if I see a skill set you’re heavily invested in that I don’t foresee much use for.
Regarding combat, there will be times in this campaign where fights will find you. However, unless all of you figure out lots of ways to solve all your problems through violence while avoiding building an insurmountable coalition of enemies, I do not recommend building your companion or (especially) your magus as a pure beatstick: you’ll get very bored very quickly.
Each of your companions are related half-siblings, sons and daughters of magus Emil Ott. All of you will begin with the merit Strong Faerie Blood for free, and each of your mothers are fae of a different type (available: Dwarf, Goblin, Satyr, Sidhe, Undine, Redcap, others with permission).
Your maximum starting age is 29 and your minimum is 18.
Each companion had their own wet nurse and governess. Emil (the companions’ father) became very disinterested in each child’s upbringing the moment he determined the child in question did not have the Gift and therefore left most upbringing decisions to each governess. (Your companion’s governess may, at your decision, still be alive.)
Emil did decide that each child would not be allowed to leave Rosmertina (the covenant) until they reached their twentieth birthday. This measure was to protect the covenant’s secrecy and minimize the risk that a child’s mother could kidnap the child if it were her desire.
As a consequence, you automatically have the Minor Personality Flaw: Covenant Upbringing (not for free; it counts as one of your flaws taken).
Your native language is Alemannic, which you gain at skill level 5.
You may have up to 10 points in Flaws and an equal tally in Virtues (not including Strong Faerie Blood, which you take for free).
You must take one Social Status Virtue or Flaw.
You may have one Story Flaw.
You may have one Minor Personality Flaw. Take note of Changes to Personality Flaws.
You may not have more than five Minor Flaws.
Disallowed Virtues: The Gift, Hermetic Virtues, Landed Noble, Giant Blood, Faerie Blood, Hermetic Magus.
Disallowed Flaws: Hermetic Flaws, Major Personality Flaws, Black Sheep, Diabolic Past, Tormenting Master, Oath of Fealty, Outsider, Age Quickly, Lycanthrope, Poor, Faerie Upbringing, Heir, Feral Upbringing.
Personality Traits: You must have at least three. One may be from your Personality Flaws. One must be valued at +3 and based on one of the “deadly sins”: gula (gluttony), luxuria (lust), avaritia (greed), superbia (hubris), tristitia (despair), ira (wrath), vanagloria (vainglory/boasting), acedia (sloth), invida (envy), malitia (maliciousness), rigiditatis (intransigence), ignorantia (ignorance). A Trait from your Personality Flaw may coincide with one of the deadly sins.
Skills, XP, and Characteristics: Consult ArM5 pp. 29-31. Also, your companion may start play with a skill of 6 or above if her history justifies it. For instance, if all she wanted to do since age 10 was devote herself to the craft of stained glass, she could achieve 6+ in her craft skill by game start.
Recommendations: It’s advisable to take Latin and Romand as second languages. The former is easily justified from Covenant Upbringing. The latter is easily justified after character creation; depending on the details of your companion’s background, he or she may not have the opportunity to learn Romand until then.
Due to Strong Faerie Blood, all of your companions have Second Sight, but that doesn’t stop any of them from taking other supernatural skills (with the right Virtues taken, of course). Given their siring and upbringing, any one of them could have multiple supernatural skills. Discuss your options with each other.
Any of the Otts have the support (despite some of the rigid aspects of their upbringings) to achieve accomplished and wildly divergent histories and skill sets, especially after they’re allowed to leave the covenant at age 20. Therefore, don’t worry if you decide that your companion will be a rich and famous magister in artibus at Heidelberg while a sister will work at a trade counter in Crete and a brother will be a layabout musician back at the covenant and another sister will be a traditional wife in Lucerne and another brother will be a Redcap busybody. Consider all that possible and plausible.
Final notes on your companions’ backgrounds:
They all know each other and are loyal to each other when the stakes are dire, but they don’t necessarily have to like each other. Work out their relations among yourselves.
As with each other, they are ultimately loyal to Emil. Given that it was socially acceptable or even expected that privileged men in the medieval era would be quite detached from parenting, your companion might not resent Emil. She may even like him.
Each companion continues to serve Rosmertina in some capacity, and the majority of the covenant’s magi views the Ott scions favorably and as loyal whether each individual deserves those appraisals or not. For these reasons, Rosmertina’s council of magi assigns all of them to a task that will begin our campaign.
Finally, read up on Sigi Ott.
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 – In considering the likely arc of the campaign, you may get some serendipitous boons from having a Seshat (Ex Misc.), a Guernicus, or a Bonisagus (political). However, none of them are required to “unlock” anything.
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: 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.)
Consult with the GM on general goals and the ultimate goal your maga hopes to achieve. Unlike, say, D&D, which has built-in goals of amassing power and money through adventuring, Ars Magica operates in a sand box.