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ArM 5 core book indicates that a teacher may be purchased by paying points according to her com + teaching + highest ability taught. It explicitly notes that multiple abilities can be taught by a teacher but gives no parameters for pricing them.

When this teacher is statted by a player as a sentient, functionally immortal forest with a teaching of 8 and 12 different abilities above 5 I became quite worried.

Given that this same formula was reprinted in Covenants without elaboration, are there useful guidelines for how many abilities a purchased teacher has at covenant creation and or alternative pricing methodologies for immortal teachers?

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Said immortal forest will likely require Vis in payment and/or to maintain it's immortality....? –  Rob Mar 7 '13 at 12:11
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The balancing factor of this would normally be the age of the NPC teacher.

The older the NPC, the higher their skills, but the sooner they will have to start making those winter aging rolls and the sooner they will die (unless you invest in making them a longevity potion).

Ars is built around the concept of long running (in terms of game time) campaigns where the age of your NPCs do become a concern. As a covenant transitions from Spring to Summer and Mages spend years in their labs perfecting their longevity potions, their covenfolk steadily grow old and die. We have recently had a series of adventures based on finding appropriate apprentices for our irreplaceable grogs, so that when they die, their skills don't die with them.

A player asking for an Immortal Forest as their teacher is trying to find a way to get around one of the implicit laws of the setting, so Rule 7* should apply.

* Rule 7, generally defined as "Don't take the piss.", see the definitions at the Urban Dictionary.

To price up the cost of an Immortal forest teacher, try stating up an equivalent library, and then give a discount for the only one person in the library at once flaw. You will almost certainly find that route makes it far more expensive than your player is prepared to pay. Then you can work with them to provide a useful normal teacher that is within their points budget.

You could even encourage that by suggesting that they can reduce the cost by giving the NPC a low teaching score. You can then make this poor teacher a story element. As they get more experience teaching they will steadily get better. Also, any seasons when they are not teaching, they can be learning - making them even more valuable as a teacher. The immortal forest would essentially be static, it would learn slowly, if at all.

Either way, there are many ways to make a character element like this an interesting element of your covenent. I created my companion in my current Ars campaign to be useful as a teacher. He started out as just the covenant librarian, but has gone on to create a religion and is starting to spread it around our homeland.

Another option is to allow your player to take this immortal forest as is, but only on the condition that it has a flaw he doesn't know about. Maybe the immortal forest learnt everything it knows by murdering and absorbing people with those knowledges. Maybe it is a demon trying you corrupt the innocent magus with easy knowledge. There are many options for you to play with, and the player has given you Carte Blanche to mess with their PC in many and varied ways, especially if they know how much cheaper their Immortal Forest is than the one-person library. *8')

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excellent answer. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 6 '12 at 17:30
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When thinking about these things, it seems important to note that Ars Magica is generational, story-driven game featuring multiple characters per player and does not feature much in the way of game balance. I took a quick look and couldn't find anything that seemed to expand on that formula. What I would recommend for dealing with this sort of issue, is the following.

Once the player has decided they want to spend points on a teacher, talk to them about what form they want the teacher to take and what skills they want to be able to learn from the teacher. Then build the teacher's stats yourself, taking that into account. Run it by the player to make sure it fits with what they're looking for, let them make any minor tweaks they want (like swapping skill values).

Basically, the Golden Rule of GMing, in my opinion... work with the player to make what they want happen - within reason - before you say "No". But be willing to say "No", even if the rules don't technically forbid it.

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An immortal teacher with Teaching 8 and 12x abilities at 5 or higher is somewhat broken. If the player created this you would be well within rights to veto it down to a level which is moderate for the balance. Or: as I assume this forest is an NPC, then the characters might not find that they get free teaching without participating in stories which better the forest's interests. ie. make the players earn the uber-powerful npc teacher's favor, rather than just granting access.

Also consider adding automatic specializations which are matched to the forest, or even consider exactly how the forest actually teaches. Does it create illusions, penetrate the mind, shape-shift the student? All these methods have wonderful scope for the odd botch - it is a faerie forest after all.

Even if the forest was a PC (which would be very odd), then the skill levels are still well beyond what I'd consider appropriate.

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Funny you should mention about the forest being a PC. I had an Ars character once who ended up as a tree, planted in the central courtyard of the covenant. Alas, the campaign ended before he could complete his research project to turn himself back. I've never had a character to have to spend quite so many seasons to work off the consequences of a botch. *8') –  Mark Booth Jan 23 '12 at 18:00
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You could also rule that the forest would only teach characters that met a minimum Forest Lore (Guardians of the Forests - The Rhine Tribunal book) score, and that it would only teach during specific seasons and only 1 or 2 characters at a time.

Or as already suggested that each character does one or more services per season of teaching, the forest might be immortal, but the magi are not.

The forest is now also a great story hook as it can be attacked, or converted or infected/infested etc by other realms/powers since it is a valuable resource and shouldn't be close enough to the covenant to fall under their Aegis of the Hearth.

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