As a response to the confusion* I had when my players were creating characters, here is a summary how XP is calculated for characters in Ars Magica; using a slightly different method from the default in the style of explanation. The outcome is the same, and I find the points breakdown far easier to spend during creation, especially when done by hand.
As there are two broad character types in Ars Magica, the character generation is also designed in two ways: there are rules for Magi, and rules for everyone else. The Companion and Grog (mundanes) rules are very simple, and the Magi rules are far more complicated.
XP in 5th edition has been heavily base-lined, so that the points spent in Abilities (skills) are the same as the points spent on Arts and Spells (magical powers). The characters spend them in different ways, but essentially as the points are the same, I sum up the totals, and set checkpoints for the minimum spend in the different areas.
The examples below for Magi demonstrate how powerful having post-apprenticeship years are before play begins, so it is worth noting that it is not typical to do this for young Magi, or that it might create an imbalance between characters. Be wary allowing too many years post-apprenticeship, and always enforce the Warp point penalties (2 per year post-apprenticeship).
XP Formula: Early Childhood + Later Life (+ Apprenticeship + Post-Apprenticeship)
Early Childhood (everyone): Character’s 0-5 years old, where they get 45 XP to spend on a very restricted set of Abilities.
Later Life (everyone): The years after the early childhood, where you gain 15 XP per year. For Companions and Grogs this is the remainder of their years.
Apprenticeship (Magi only): The fifteen years of intense training the character received from their Parens, which includes 240 XP for Arts and Abilities, and 120 XP for spell levels. The character must purchase 120 levels of spells, but can split the 240 XP between Arts and abilities as they choose. A simple way to view these points is to assign them to Spells 120, Abilities 120, and Arts 120.
Post-Apprenticeship (Magi only): The time after a Magus is created, but still not in play. This is typically an optional rule that allows Magi to be created older. The character gains 30 XP per year. These XP can be spent anywhere (abilities, arts, spells, mastery, etc).
Warp Points (Magi only): A rough simulation of botches and effects that the character is exposed to during post-apprenticeship. The character gains 2 Warp points per year of post-apprenticeship.
Companion Breakdown: The companions have their Early Childhood years and then the base reward per year for Later Life.
- Early Childhood: Native Language score 5 for free (no xp cost), then add +45 XP for the first five years of life on a restricted set of skills.
- Later Life: Then add +15 XP per year after that.
- eg. A 25 year old soldier has their native language at 5, with 345 XP to spend (45 + (20 * 15)) across all the Abilities they have access to.
- Early Childhood: Native Language score 5, then +45 XP for the first five years of life on a restricted set of skills (identical to the Companions).
- Later Life: Then add +15 XP per year before the character starts Apprenticeship. For a typical Magus they will be 7-10 years old when they start apprenticeship, so a Magus will only get a small amount of points from this step; perhaps 2-7 years worth of XP. They are spend using the Abilities the character would have access to before their apprenticeship too, so these should also be restricted.
- Apprenticeship: 360 XP to spend, gained over the 15 years of apprenticeship. Characters must spend 120 XP on spell levels, and it is recommended that they spend the remaining 240 split roughly equally across Arts and Abilities (ie. 120 xp on Arts, and 120 on Abilities).
- Post-apprenticeship: Then add +30 XP per year after that, spent anywhere the character wishes (Arts, Spells, Abilities). Remember though a character must also gain 2 warp points per year of post-apprenticeship too.
- eg. a new Magus, at 25 year old has their native language at 5, with 480 XP to spend (45 + (5 * 15) + (240 + 120) + 0) across the character, but 120 must be spent in spells. This assumes the character has no post-Apprenticeship years, and had 5 years of Late Life time between their Early Childhood and the Apprenticeship.
- eg. a experienced Magus, at 29 years old completed their apprenticeship earlier, and has also had a handful of years after apprenticeship. That Magus has native language at 5, with 630 XP to spend (45 + (3 * 15) + (240 + 120) + 180) across the character, but 120 must be spent in spells. This assumes the character has 6 years post apprenticeship, and only 3 years in Later life, between Early Childhood and Apprenticeship. They also have 12 warping points, so will start with a slightly higher chance for Twilight effects.
- eg. As a min/max example a Magus could be created (subject to GM’s approval of course) to be 35 year old, and also have no time in their Later Years between childhood and apprenticeship. This Magus would have had 15 years since completion of their apprenticeship, and be much more powerful than a starting wizard. 855 XP (45 + 0 + 240 + 120 + 450). They would also start play with 30 Warp points (score 3), and must make an 1x aging roll straight away. This mage has almost twice the power of a starting wizard, and is far more formidable.
Hope that all makes sense now.
* Grumble: The rulebook has several descriptions and samples of how to do this, but to my mind its not broken down in a succinct way. My players were confused, and once I took a look at the pages, I agreed with them – the information is there, but the language is not clear, especially when you’re trying to do many things at once.