C is for Companion.
Companions are the boon and bane of Ars Magica games; mainly boon. They provided a needed and valuable anchor into the mundane world for the Magi, and can have stories as interesting and developed as Magi stories. Unfortunately they can be mild by comparison to the lethality of a mage, which places them within a difficult space when Magi and Companions are encountering a challenge. What challenges the wizard will often outright slay the companion, and likewise any grogs.
Superficially this is ok, as is it both by design, and also marks the strong division between the two story characters. A story where many combative magi blast their way across Mythic Europe will end badly for a magus eventually. There is a similar but smaller gulf between a Companion character and a Grog character, where again the threats need to be smaller, expected skills lower, and the overall challenge subdued.
All three character types are no less challenging in scenarios where mechanical resolution is sidetracked by role playing. So what is a GM to do? Well starting stories which cannot be brute forced closed with magic or a skill roll is the way to go. Let the character resolve the story within their own skill set, regardless of their core type: Magus, Companion, Grog.
Well then, what remains for Companions?
Well themselves as hooks via flaws and virtues for stories is a fair call. Make the companions the story, and let the players choice of virtues and flaws tell the story that the GM never intended.
In that spirit, here are some Companions to consider, sans mechanics.
Craic the Woodsman.
Craic is the third born child of a gentle and prosperous family. He started life just like all his siblings, but soon demonstrated an propensity for getting into trouble, and unfortunately no real skill in getting out again. Time and time again Craic was rescued from trouble by either his father or his eldest brother, and soon began to rely on the extended family to resolve his dilemmas.
Craic makes a modest living as a woodsman and guide for the lean forests that surround his district, and despite his well know reputation, he consistently finds his skills needed by travellers and the wider townsfolk. To his credit Craic is not afraid of a challenge and has found infrequent praise for rising above where other men would have given up or failed.
As the true black sheep, his knack for trouble follows him. His stories maybe previous bargains found to be hollow promises which impact his new employer. Or perhaps it is covenant land that Craic journeys into, finding and sharing secrets and rumours of the Magi with the common folk. In any case Craic will prove he has some worth, but still require assistance or generosity to escape unscathed from the story; which up till now he has been able to do.
Ashai the Regulator
Ashai was never bothered by her lack of the gift when compared with other Magi. As a member of House Mercere she understood her role intimately – to provide the networks and connections which facilitate the commerce of the order. From this and a keen interest in mathematics and commerce, she excelled as a Redcap. Brokering trades, advising Magi, conducting research, and many other activities over her tenure with the tribunal.
Over time the role became more specalised, to the present day where her daily activities concentrate on regulating and monitoring the transactions which occur through Harco. It is Ashai’s calculation which help form the baselines for fees and penalties as used by the Quaesitory, her protocols which protected each side of a transaction, and her hand which guides the ongoing commerce of the order.
Personally she is reserved, polite, and uncomfortable with direct confrontation. Preferring instead to communicate by letter and messenger. She is highly organised and structured in her life and her thinking.
Some seeds might be:
- Ashai finds that a previous transaction was greatly weighed against the covenant, and while she cannot undo the transaction; she introduces herself to barter on their behalf.
- Ashai seeks a companion to track down lost materials, where traditional redcaps cannot travel.
Part of the Blogging A to Z initiative, is to create an A-Z list of some sort, and I’m posting what ever random thoughts pop into my head for each letter of the alphabet.
Still so far behind.