August 27, 2008

Ars Magica Players & Info about Troupe Style Playing

Yesterday I posted about an alternate style of running your Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition role playing game (ok.. take THAT search engines!). Or any RPG for that matter. Unfortunately... nobody bit. Maybe it was the International Take a Break From Your RSS Feed Reader Day - I dunno. Nonetheless, being the stubborn type, I blog on.

I mentioned that I had nearly zero success looking with Google for more information about "entourage gaming". Now, the interneTz are huge. Massive in fact. And there BILLIONS of board people in the world - someone had to of come up with this idea before; I just knew it. I mean - maybe Sham came up with this idea. It was possible, but given the millions of people who have played RPGs in the last 40 years, it was also very improbable.

Fortunately, ChattyDM mentioned in a recent post of his about ars ludi's West March campaign which uses a troupe/entourage style of game play (only with 1 DM). I've added these links to my growing Google Notebook on the subject.

Also, an eagle-eyed patron of the Gleemax forums pointed out that Ars Magica introduced something very similar to this back in 1987. The reason I missed it was because they referred to it as "Troupe System" or a troupe system for RPG gaming. Ars Magica is still around (5th edition), but its a game I've never played. I'm curious about how Ars Magica's troupe system would be adaptable to a similar game like D&D. In any case, I now have half-a dozen web articles to read about the troupe/entourage system for role-playing games. While I'm not convinced that the Ars Magica troupe system, as written in the rules of the game, are the same as what I'm looking for - at least it is a solid start. And now that I've got the materials in hand to explore this idea further - I'm definitely going to be writing about my findings here on The Core Mechanic.

When you are trying to break in something new, explore a new idea, or try a new style for game table - its better to stand on the shoulder's of giants, than build your own step-ladder, IMHO. Why reinvent the d20 when you don't have to?

So, are there any readers of this blog out there that have played Ars Magica? If so, I would love to hear you comments about troupe-style gaming. Good? Bad? Hard to manage? What are the pros and cons?


  1. Check this article...

    That just might be what you are looking for.

    Great series of article, I'm sorry I didn't see it before... I saw 'Entourage' and I thought about assistants with Blackberrys and I skipped it!

  2. @ChattyDM : welcome back! "assistants with Blackberrys" -- HAHA! Office Space RPG...

    No, I was just picking up the term that Sham used in his post; but I'm thinking "troupe" style gaming is more in line with what I'm thinking about. Thank you for the link... i'll add it to my growing collection of webclips I have to read.

  3. I've been running and playing Ars Magica at the time of 3rd(?) edition. The thing is that there are 3 levels of play. The Magus who deals with the arcane and the politics, the Grog who deals with protecting and fighting and the 'Commoner' (don't remember the name) who deals with the mundane world (like merchants, clergy, etc.)

    The idea is that depending on the current situation, the Magus (who still is the main character) may have nothing to do. You can switch on your commoner and try to get trade deals for your covenant. Or if you are attacking by some militia that want to burn the heretics, you may want to switch on the Grog (because using magic would prove their point :p).

    If you try to run a 4E game as Basic DnD was intended (with a domain to build and countries to conquer), you may want to use the Entourage trick. And you may also want to look at the ADD2 line of product Birthright.


  4. @ Hybban : Welcome to The Core Mechanic! I like your idea of 4E Birthright - but I don't know if my current group would make that jump. I have some Drizzt fans at my table... yeah; nuff said. About Ars Magica: how does the actual role playing work out? If is fundamentally different than, say.. the way a D&D game proceeds? With multiple characters I wonder if the game plays more like a strategy game than a RPG. What was the _best_ thing you liked about that game style?

  5. Thank you for the welcome!

    In a way, some parts of the game turns to be diplomatic/strategic. Ars Magica is meant to be played on a long time character-wise. Researching for spells is long, and during that time, the Commoners may have other duties to attend. So yes, you have some parts (resource managements of the covenants mainly) that can look very similar to a boardgame/strategic game.

    This is what Birthright was about. You had rules to manage your realm as much as rules to adventure sometimes.

    As for the role-play, it's like any other game, except that you can roleplay different characters at each session. Or even during the sessions. And it brings different roleplay experiences.

    Grogs are good at fighting and probably bring less fun for pure RP. Commoners have a lot of skills and can be interesting in urbane area (as they are weak in martial and arcane arts).. And Magus are good when knowledge and SFX are needed.

  6. There was also something in the Dark Sun-campaign setting (at least the first version), where you had three characters and you switched between them between adventures. The two passive characters would earn aa amount of XP equal to some percentage of the active character's earned XP.

    I've also played Ars Magica. The troupe style was quite fun.

    There was also the d6 Star Wars campaign set "Dark Stryder" in which you had a whole collection of pregenerated characters, so you'd play several different throughout the campaign.

  7. @ Hybban : OK, so at least you and a few others enjoyed the troupe style play. I might need to buy (or leech) a copy of the Ars Magica system to see how it works in practice. Coming from very deep D&D roots - this whole thing is still kinda cool/alien/awesome/scary to me - if you know what I mean.

    @Gries : Welcome to The Core Mechanic - always good to see some new people around here. You added comments are very helpful... this is now moving into a 'treatese' direction where my write up of troupe style play is going to be a bigger project than I anticipated...

    Ars Magica, Birthright, Dark Sun.. and now Star Wars? schweet! I'll have to go dig around for that now... tyvm!

  8. Thanks! (Though my name is Greis, not Gries)

    If you're going to read Ars Magica, then in you're luck :D

    The company that sells the game, offers the previous edition for free at their homepage:

    And fourth ed. is a fine version too.

    / Morten Greis

  9. Funny thing about ars magica and dnd 4e. The creator of ars magica was one of the leads for 3rd edition but all his ideas got shet on constantly by the 4e dev team.

    Still it created the basis for 4e, and ars magica has a very strong influence on the ideas of shadowfell and the feywild.

    d/l the ars magica fourth edition and check out the background material. I guarantee you will be hyped up on using some of that for your next dnd 4e game.

  10. @ Kaeosdad : Thanks for the insight? I take it you have some sort of 'inside schuup' ? Heh... well I recently did download the Ars Magica 4E book... but among all the work related papers I'm reading lately, I unfortunately have to put it down pretty low on my priority list. Looking forward to digging into it to mine it for ideas, for sure.

  11. OOps.. i meant "Thanks for the insight!" .. with a "!" not a "?" haha... what is that called? a mis-meme? instead a mispelling?


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