The Creation of Elder Magi

Unlike many roleplaying games, Ars Magica has no single group of antagonists, like the Technocracy in Mage. Aside from demons and faeries, other magi are among the most common antagonists our heroes will have to face. And some magi may even, occasionally, become the players' allies. So it is especially annoying that there are no rules or guidelines in canon for the creation of elder magi. Storyguides have had to either guess, use the example magi in books such as Houses of Hermes (which are woefully inadequate) or create the magus from the ground up, season-by-season.

The following suggested system is based on NPCs from a now defunct saga, who were created from scratch and then taken through season-by-season, for up to 80 years. The figures have been used for NPCs in a subsequent saga and the figures seem to work reasonably well. These characters are available online.

The differences between magi in vis rich or vis poor sagas is one of emphasis: magi in vis poor sagas will likely have less seasons spent on the Arts and items (which take vis!), and more on spells or abilities.

The most important thing to take into account is rather the speed of the saga. A very slow saga will be different from a very fast saga. Although the things done season by season will be the same, in a slow saga, *more* experience points will be given out to player characters in game time, so increase the number of experience points spent on NPC magi to compensate.

Any comments or suggestions would be welcome to

First Steps

  • Create the character as for a young magus as in ArM 4  

    Hermetic Age

    Decide how old the magus is and his Hermetic Age i.e. the number of years since the magus passed the gauntlet. If an age or number of years is given, that should be assumed to be the hermetic age.

    Multiply by 4 to get number of seasons since the gauntlet.


    Base Scores

    All older magi start out with the following base scores:




    150 xp

    150 levels

    (Real Age + 40) xp

    Magic Theory

    Base xp = (hermetic age x 0.6) + 10 xp

    i.e. a magus 70 years out of apprenticeship would have a base xp of 52 xp

    Scribe Latin

    Books Written








    Scribe Latin









    10xp + 2xp/each 10 years hermetic age (max score of 8)

    Other Abilities

    Speak Latin

    Speak Own

    Order of Hermes Lore

    1 Area Lore





    15 xp

    10 xp

    10 xp

    10 xp

    If these abilities are not required at the above levels, the experience points are lost. Other Casual Knowledges that are appropriate - that the NPC could not help but have picked up by exposure - should be assigned a value of 4 (10xp) for free.


    Activities that Take Time

    Work out how much time the magus has spent, out of the total number of seasons calculated above, on the following activities. Note the number of seasons remaining.


    Write or Copy LQ/Tractatus

    Write or Copy Spell book

    Write or Copy Summa

    Train an apprentice

    Master a spell






    Magnitude / Int (round up)


    Per-Season Additions

    Use the remaining seasons to accumulate xp for the Arts and abilities (though see Ability base levels) and levels for spells and items.

    e.g. a magus has 100 seasons remaining after accounting for apprentices and book writing. He has only spent 10 seasons creating items, and 30 seasons each on spells, arts and abilities. It is less than 75 years since he passed his gauntlet, so he can add 600xp to his Arts, 600 levels of Spells, 250 levels in items and 60 xp of Abilities.


    Arts, xp

    Spells, levels

    Items, levels

    Abilities, xp

    < 75 yrs





    > 75 yrs






    Twilight Points

    Twilight points are very difficult to estimate. Some magi get lucky and avoid twilight until they are very old. Others can have a couple of twilight episodes early on, and as is clear from twilight rules, the more twilight episodes experienced, the more chance of having another one. So take the following as an absolute minimum base:

    Base: Vim/5 + 2 for every 20 years over 35.

    And then use common sense. A really careful magus who uses predominantly formulaics and lives in a lowish aura is likely to have less twilight than a Vim specialist doing lots of experiments and using lots of sponts.


    Longevity Potions, Aging and Decreptitude

    As with Twilight Points, longevity potions - and by extension, aging and decreptitude - are specific to the magus. Magi of similar ages will have widely varying abilities in Creo, Corpus and Magic Theory. Verditius magi will have the advantage of magic specific to that house. Some magi may collaborate on potions, and potions may be re-distilled. Some magi who are particularly adept can be completely spared from the ravages of aging even past their century.

    Calculate the magus' lab total for the longevity potion. Assume they have recently brewed a fresh potion.

    Add a bonus if the magus may have had help from either an apprentice or a fellow magus. This could be from +5 (apprentice) to over 20 (magus) but make sure that this bonus fits in with the character and background of the magus.

    Add a bonus equal to the magic theory if the magus is likely to spend the time and vis redistilling the potion. This is more likely the older the magus gets. Magi in vis-low sagas may not have this option.

    Divide the total by 5 to get the magnitude of the potion.

    Calculate: 10 + (1/decade) - magnitude potion + lifestyle modifier

    Compare this total with the aging table in ArM 4. If the total corresponds to no effects, then assume that the magus has had no aging effects. This is most likely for all but the most aged or careless magi. If it indicates afflictions, then decide upon a few suitable afflictions.

    If a magus is a combat magus or is particulary careless, he may have acquired Decreptitude through injuries and other disasters. Add as you see fit.

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