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Ars Magica (5th Edition)

Ars Magica is a RPG in which players play as powerful wizards in fantasy version of medieval Europe, early XIII century.


Setting

The default setting of Ars Magica is basically a medieval Europe from early XIII century with few changes to adapt it to a fantasy setting. The general principle is that the fantasy element changes the feeling of the world but not in any major ways. The society is the same, the countries are the same, the poverty is the same, the Church is the same. Mostly.

The changes made in a setting are as follows:

1. The magical creatures of all kind do exist - from faeries to undead to vampires to dragons to demons to angels. They are not commonly met, though, especially the more powerful ones. So no chance to meet an angel in a tavern or even a church. Probably the most commonly met creatures are various kind of fearies which by their very nature seek contact with mortals, although not everyone all the time and they don't necessarily would like to show up. All the stuff of folklore.

2. Some mortals are able to wield magic having so called gift. What's more - mages (they call themselves Magi from Latin but I will use standard English noun for the scope of this text) formed a pan European magical organisation called Order of Hermes. The Order of Hermes is present in all medieval Europe and in the Holy Land. On the one hand in does enforces strict monopoly on magic on it's territory - forcing gifted magicians to join or die (at least in theory). On the other hand, the Order is not that powerful. First - due to the nature of the gift mages have problem with interaction with mundane people. Second - there are not that many mages in the Order. Around 1200-1500 with various power level. Third - due to the laws of the Order, the mages separate themselves quite strongly from the mundane world. So - by the law - mages can't be court wizards, king's law enforcers, mercenaries for hire or anything like that.

The system

As you would expect from the system the is all about mages and magic there are really two parts of the system: the non-magic part and magic part.

The non-magic part

Characters are described by eight attributes: Intelligence, Perception Presence, Communication, Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Quickness and they basically run from -3 to +3 (0 being human average) but with virtues/flaws can be pushed to -5/+5 or in very special cases: even further (I think more than +7 is totally impossible and even this is only valid in special situations and not for all attributes).

The second part are abilities. Abilities start from 0 to - well - infinity (in theory). They represent various types of skills and anyone familiar with any RPG with standard(ish) skills system will not be surprised here in any way.

The third part are virtues and flaws. There are grouped into various categories like Social Status or Supernatural and I really love them. They really build characters and when I think about creating one I in fact start thinking about it's virtues and flaws, not about it's attributes and abilities. This is very different from – for example – World of Darkness where the idea of characters is reflected mostly in abilities, attributes and special powers, while choosing Merits and Flaws is usually a secondary task, if not optional at all.


To test anything you have to add Attribute + Ability (really, nihil novi sub sole) + roll a die against ease factor. Ease factor of 9 is task of average hardness and 24+ is "almost impossible: the greatest masters of a skill succeed when they get lucky".

The roll of a dice is a bit more complicated than may be anticipated. There are two types of die roll: simple die and stress die. Simple die is just that: you roll a d10 (1-10) and that's it. Stress die is a bit more risky but potentially more rewarding. You role a d10. On 2-9 it's just that. On 0 this is a botch and you have to roll a number of d10s (usually 1 but may be even 10) to check for a catastrophic failure. On 1 the dice is exploding: you re-roll and double the result with possible subsequent doubling of the result (the subsequent rolls can't both and their 0s count as 10). For example: a stress die roll of d10 = 1 means you have to re-roll and double. If the next roll is 1 again you have to re-roll again and the result will be quadrupled. If the next roll would be 10 then the final result is: 2 x 2 x 10 = 40.

As of combat: there are rules for small skirmishes - fights between small groups, as they are the most commonly met combat situations in Ars Magica. I admit I didn't get occasion to test them, as Ars Magica is not really about martial combat. They look quite reasonable, though, and I know that the fifth edition addressed many issues present in previous versions.

Other than that there is nothing really special. Characters have personality traits which are three words describing a character and they get arbitrary scores from -3 to +3. They are more role playing guides than play affecting parameters. There is also a reputations score - which measures how well is character known - confidence points that act as a “boost to roll” for use "on demand" by a player. And that's pretty much it.

The magic part

All mages members of the Order of Hermes have 15 arts the measures proficiency in various aspects of magic. The arts are divided into 10 forms:
* element of fire (ignem)
* element of air (auram)
* element of earth (terram)
* element of water (aquam)
* human mind (mentem)
* human body (corpus)
* plants (herbam)
* animals (animal)
* form of what senses react to (imaginem)
* form purely related to magic itself (vim)
and 5 techniques:
* "to create" (creo)
* "to perceive" (intellego)
* "to transform" (muto)
* "to destroy" (perdo)
* "to control" (rego).
Every magical effect is a combination of at least one technique and at least one form. I will give some easy examples from D&D spell list:
* Fireball is in essence a creation of fire: creo ignem
* Invisibility is destruction of our image: perdo imaginem
* Dominate person is a control of a mind: rego mentem; alternatively you can control the body alone leaving the person aware of it's actions but unable to react so rego corpus
* Disintegrate is pure destruction of a body: perdo corpus
* Healing animals is recreation of it's form so: creo animal; in the world of Ars Magica it has to be costly ritual, though.
* Polymorph self is a transformation of a body so: muto corpus. To transform into an animal it additionally requires animal form, to i.e. tree - herbam form. To a rock - terram etc.
* Detect poison is intellego aquam effect. Similarly intellego vim is something similar to detect magic.
* Scrying is an intellego imaginem effect.
But the power level of each effect is quite different from D&D.

What's more: the magical effects can be invoked in three different ways: rituals, formulaic spells and spontaneous spells. Rituals are the most powerful magical effects that take a lot of time to cast and additionally have cost in vis (vis is materialized magical energy that is very precious to mages). Formulaic spells are just simple spells - a closest stuff to what is know from games like D&D: a specific magical formula that a mage has learned. Spontaneous spells are the weakest but most flexible kind of magic: if a mage needs an effect and does not know any spell, he can just create effect on the fly. The power of the effect is a lot lower, though.

That said - that's only a core of the magic system. There are special rules for longevity rituals, binding familiars, there are rules for creating magical items and personal talismans, researching spells, twilight (sort of bad stuff that happens to a mage from time to time due to the usage of magic) and for duelling (certamen). This may seem as very complicated but it is not that much, especially as many of them are not relevant during actual play, as creation of magical items (for example) is not something that players will play out on a session.

The actual play

There are some differences between normal RPG play and Ars Magica and I'd like to point them out:

1. There are three basic types of characters: mages, companions (non-mage major story characters) and grogs (background characters). Creation of each type of character is handled a bit differently.

2. Ars Magica strongly suggests so called troupe style of play. In essence: players not only create characters for them: they create multiple characters and additionally a covenant! Each player creates one mage and one companion + all the players create a number of grogs. On each adventure each players takes one of possible characters for him: his mage, companion or one of the grogs. Why? Well, it's easy to understand that when one of the mages created by a player is on an edge of major magical discovery he will not leave his laboratory to travel for four weeks to visit an old friend of one of his friends. He will stay in laboratory, of course. So the player will probably not use his mage for the session. And if even his companion is somehow busy, the player can impersonate a grog of his choice to have some fun. The covenant in itself is a shared home and a place where i.e. laboratories are located. Characters are tied to a covenant and covenant in itself has it's own creation rules.

3. The experience points are handled differently in Ars Magica than in most other games. First you don't get character points for character creation but rather experience points for first years of you life. It means it's impossible to munchkin your way in a campaign by comparing prices of various things in character creation points and experience points (which is more than possible in i.e. World of Darkness). Second - experience points are not awarded for a session/adventure but rather for a season of life of a character. That's correct - character will advance for two years of (their) life with no sessions but will not advance for three adventures lasting in total one week.

4. No one really cares about game balance. This is very non-D&D. Mages are by very definition superior to all other characters and companions have more depth than grogs so they are – at least potentially – more powerful than they.

Publication History

Ars Magica is quite old RPG. There current edition is a fifth one. The first two were published by Lion Rampant. I have never had occasion to take a look at this first two editions so I can't really say anything about them. If I am correct this company later merged with White Wolf magazine and formed famous White Wolf. They published 3rd edition which was quite popular if I am correct. Also, due to various elements present in this edition, it may be considered as a backbone of later World of Darkness. House of Hermes is also present in Mage: the Ascension and House Tremere and Clan Tremere of Vampire: the Masquerade are not called the same by accident. The game was later sold to Wizards of the Coast – hence even core books were later sold with Wizards of the Coast stickers. Before publishing fourth edition the game was – again – sold to Atlas Games which revised the game completely and so the fifth edition was born.

What I like

I like nearly everything about this game. Character creation process: brilliant. Mechanics: depth and relative simplicity combined. Magic system: the best there is. Setting: good if not very good.

What I don't like

There are very few things I don't like about this game and they are rather minor issues than anything more serious:

First there is no obvious conflict in the setting which can drive scenarios easily. This is no necessarily a flaw but it could easily help drive campaigns. The Mage: the Ascension sagas were easily driven around conflict with Technocracy and in Ars Magica there is no clear enemy, but they can be easily made up from the stuff described in sourcebooks.

Second – there are some problems with nuances of game mechanics. This is not that much of a flaw as the system is really flexible and there are is overwhelming number of strict rules so there have to be some small issues here and there. They can be usually addressed reasonably with a little bit of common sense.

Third – I have a feeling that if someone will take a closer look at the Hermetic Theory of Order of Hermes and one of the systems of Hedge Magic described in a sourcebook and then at how raw magic – vis – works, he may be a bit puzzled about it.

And fourth – while I like core book a lot there are two imperfections about it. First is that some illustrations are at best not too good and in fact all the really good are taken from older editions. Second is that the Order of Hermes is not to well described in it and anyone serious about running a saga in Ars Magica should seriously consider buying three Houses of Hermes sourcebooks ASAP.

Note: English is not my first language so I will be happy to correct any error.
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Brian Leet
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I have this, and I'm intrigued by it, but I haven't seen it in play. It seems like a lot of the character development takes place between adventures, not during adventures. How much would you say the system relies on all the participants being diligent to track time, level up their magi, and set new objectives for their characters between sessions?
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Hmm. I'm not sure what do you refer to. Generally you don't get XP during session so character advancement is done between adventures anyway. The difference is that here you may get 0 XP so there is even less to do. On the other hand it may be 10 years and that will require quite a bit of work but it's only reasonable that 10 years of life is worth of some development of a character, don't you think? Basically XP points in Ars Magica is less of an award to a player and more of in-game character experience.

Also there are no levels or classes or anything like that. Just attributes, abilities and arts (triple A).
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I guess what I'm wondering is if you have players who don't do "work" on the game or their characters from the end of one session to the start of the next, does it still work? Or does it really expect the players to be thinking about the game between sessions?
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The players won't need to work on their characters between every set of sessions, particularly if several "adventures" happen in rapid succession, but there will be times when they need to figure out what their characters are doing for the next few seasons (of the next few years, for that matter). It can certainly be done during a session if folks find that that works better, and it's not that much more complicated than "leveling up" in a D&D or similar game. But if you have players who want to leave the table and pick up again next time without having thought about the game in the interim, Ars Magica may not be for them.
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Dan Owsen
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Good work explaining the game (especially since English isn't your first language). I've played a couple times and I really like this game and world setting, but it definitely isn't for everyone.

Peter, do you know much about what updates were made between 4th and 5th edition?
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PghArch wrote:
I guess what I'm wondering is if you have players who don't do "work" on the game or their characters from the end of one session to the start of the next, does it still work? Or does it really expect the players to be thinking about the game between sessions?

I have no idea - no experience with this kind of a players.

I guess it's quite easy to simplify things and "advance" character using rules from the character creation process for more advanced characters. That way before session you will simply give a player a number of experience points and give him some time to buy stuff.

But again. Between some of them there will be no need to do at all.
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Well. I never really bothered to look deep into 4th edition and bought it mostly for sentimental values as Ars Magica is one of my favourite RPGs if not the most favourite. That said I know there is a number of changes in design:

* The skirmish/combat rules were updated. I heard that i.e. in 4th edition it was not good to wear an armor.
* The penetration rules were changes because apparently penetration was a waste of time in 4th edition
* The virtues/flaws system was simplified. Now there are only minor and major flaws/virtues.

EDIT:

http://www.atlas-games.com/arm5/

Also there is 2 page chapter in the rulebook about conversion from fourth edition. In spirit the game changed little. Some minor parts have been rewritten but the most major thing is the combat rules which are not that important in my opinion. In the magic system, the Rego and Muto were clarified and in effect some spells were exchanged between this to arts. I can probably point all parts of the system changes here but thats close to copying this chapter.
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A couple notes in Re your dislike #1

The overarching conflict was removed in 4th ed, but was present in 3rd... The encroaching Aura of Reason in the cities. Since Reason suppressed faeries, clerics, magi, and demons alike, it was the one thing all fought against.

Likewise, the conflicts of Church vs Wizard and Demon vs Wizard are quite present in 3rd and 4th... not to a metaplot level directly, but are obvious choices for directions for conflict.

The Fey vs Wizard is less obvious... but far more fun. For Fey and Wizard are not disadvantaged in each others' aura-posessing areas, especially regio.

And a technical note.

3rd ed was released by White Wolf and later by rereleased by Atlas. (Atlas' was the same content, merely a different printing with a new logo on the back cover...)

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aramis wrote:
The overarching conflict was removed in 4th ed, but was present in 3rd... The encroaching Aura of Reason in the cities. Since Reason suppressed faeries, clerics, magi, and demons alike, it was the one thing all fought against.

I know about it. It was a bit silly to call it reason as in XIII century magic was rather reasonable thing (worked etc.). Also the whole Reason part was a major - well - reason why I have written that it may be considered backbone of World of Darkness. Sort of Dark Ages: Mage, edition 0.

Quote:
Likewise, the conflicts of Church vs Wizard and Demon vs Wizard are quite present in 3rd and 4th... not to a metaplot level directly, but are obvious choices for directions for conflict.

Not exactly. It's clearly said that Order is trying to avoid any conflict with Church as Order of Hermes is no match for Church, especially as the faith and partially - church rituals - provde resistance to magic. Demons are similar. After all this problems in house Tytalus because of their meddling with demons + it is forbidden by Hermetic law... Of course these are possible choices but you can expect investigation from Quasitori followed up by a number of all to eager Hoplites soon

Quote:
The Fey vs Wizard is less obvious... but far more fun. For Fey and Wizard are not disadvantaged in each others' aura-posessing areas, especially regio.

Yep. Possible, although Hermetic Law...
I think more obvious line of conflicts are: internal: covenant vs covenenat, house vs house, tribunal vs tribunal, mage vs mage some internal group vs some internal group (many described in the sourcebook).
And second: Order of Hermes (or part of it) against some group of Hedge Mages (I guess the second batch of rival wizards can be found in Rival Magic!). So a covenant with no close neighbour against some group of i.e. elementalists who are not interested in joining.

And a technical note.

Quote:
3rd ed was released by White Wolf and later by rereleased by Atlas. (Atlas' was the same content, merely a different printing with a new logo on the back cover...)

Really? o_O Was not aware of that. I thought it was rereleased later by Wizards of the Coast (with WotC logo on it). In fact I have this version: White Wolf content, WotC logo on the back.

EDIT: William, do you think it's worth to write more about the Order itself as I just briefly touched the topic? I didn't want to make the text too long...
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While the Order of Hermes has quite a role to play, the rules of the Order are there to make players have conflict with the Order as well...

It demands that magi not influence kings unduly...
It demands that magi not annoy the church.
It demands that magi not become beholden to demons.

Staying out of the Church's way means staying out of towns and cities.
Staying away from demons is easier said than done.
Staying out of Faerie affairs is next to impossible, since the covenants are about the only bastions of SW European civilization not under the ringing of churchbells... which pain faeries.

It's a "Poke me here!" kind of prohibition - each way leads to power... and each is forbidden to magi. And thus the conflict with each is temptation.
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One of the interesting things about this game is touched on in this thread; just what do you do all day as a mage?

If you are one of a very tiny minority of people with the gift of magic, likely to live far longer than anyone else around you and alienated from society at large by nature and law, just what is it that you can do? The default action for magi is assumed to be "magical researcher" - you'll spend all your time working on powerful rituals and experimenting with magic and the natural and supernatural world. In the domain of role playing games, which usually thrive on action and drama, this is a strange situation - you sit in your lab all day?

So, the background tries to introduce some conflict. First, most forms of magic and magical research require vis - a material manifestation of magic. And this stuff does not come cheap or easy; you usually have to be killing dragons or milking griffins or something. And those things don't live on every nearby hilltop. You'll be journeying into the deep wilderness, running afoul of troubles mundane and magical to get what you need. This is considered the main source of adventure - you need vis for your research and have to go get it. Even just travelling to talk to a fellow scholar in another area or hosting a foreign visitor in your home can be a challenge.

Of course, another way to get vis is to bargain with powerful entities for it. Like, say, demons. Of course, this is strictly forbidden by the Church and the Order, but it beats the hell out of walking from Sicily to outer Mongolia and fighting a dragon to get it... or does it? Demons are not easily contained or dealt with and ... they're soul stealing personifications of evil. Tempting. Dangerous. And although the dangerous nature of faeries is different, it is more subtle than safer. You could spend a hundred years playing a lute for a faerie queen instead of getting what you wanted.

And you aren't the only mage living in your isolated enclave. Everyone else wants vis. And your help with their research. And some of them might be plotting your downfall if you aren't sufficiently compliant and useful. Or they might be summoning demons or faeries. Or running afoul of the Church, the Order, or temporal powers in other ways that drag you into trouble too. And if not the mages, then perhaps the companions or grogs are making trouble... or the Order itself, with audits and investigations and drafts and conventions. Or the neighboring enclave of mages. Who might all be corrupted demon worshippers - or think you are, even if you aren't. And the local king and/or bishop might want to use you for their agenda - which you are forbidden to do; but perhaps you are so inclined?

And don't forget this is the 1200s. There's no end of trouble of which you can run afoul in the 1200s in Europe. Kings and popes are warring. Plagues sweep the continent. There are severe winters that last all year. Foreign invaders crush eastern Europe; perhaps you've heard of Genghis Khan and the Mongols? This is also a pivotal time in history, too, as the foundations of the post-Middle Ages era are laid with the rise of wealth and international trade and conflict. There are crusades. Moors in Spain. The Inquisition began. You definitely can make trouble with a few hours in front of Wikipedia.

So, just some quiet hours in the lab is all the game offers. Right?
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PghArch wrote:
How much would you say the system relies on all the participants being diligent to track time, level up their magi, and set new objectives for their characters between sessions?


Very. Well, actually, this is what you do during the sessions - things in other role playing games that you do between sessions are often the kind of things you do during sessions here. Spend long spans of time in research, for example. That's game time, not real time. You and the other players and the GM agree the Haeford will spend 10 years making a magical harp that charms faeries with the sound and then you roll some dice and it's done. Well, that's a simplification, but more or less right.

One of the major ways Ars Magica differs from regular games is that you aren't really playing a character. You're playing the entire history of a small town - the enclave of magi, their personal friends, and all the people of the town over long spans of time. The players and the GM do this together, plan out the entire lives of these people, sometimes glossing over large sections ... or callously killing off people or creating other problems just to make it more interesting. All the characters of the small town are shared among the players. If you want to run someone's mage when they aren't at the session, so be it. This is something players usually negotiate up front, but the system in general expects this.

It is in this way that Ars Magica has most in common with narrative games developed later. You aren't going to be crawling through dungeons, killing things and taking their loot. You're going to be playing out the history of a town and its major players - story is to matter more than mechanics in working that out. In a way, rules for combat and impromptu magic are more like exceptions for special events in that story, rather than something you use constantly, encounter to encounter. A lot of Ars Magica is talking to people - other players, NPCs, the GM.

This is one of the ways in which this game doesn't always appeal to many people. It's pretty cerebral, not very visceral. You've got to have a taste as a player for politics and conspiracies and personalities. This is a game where you won't roll lots of dice all the time.
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For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?

Also, what are the best and most useful supplements beyond the basic rules? And are there must-play adventures published for this game?
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cosine wrote:
For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?

Also, what are the best and most useful supplements beyond the basic rules? And are there must-play adventures published for this game?

As mentioned I think three Houses of Hermes would be REALLY nice to have. All other stuff is not so essential.

As for the best the Art & Academe and City and Guild are really great if you are not familiar with the medieval Europe that much. And I really enjoyed all the Realms sourcebooks.

There is nothing about different regions and time. There are stories about Cult of Mercury which was active in times of ancient Rome and in a way Order is an heir of the Cult. Plus in books detailing rival magic groups there are some descriptions of groups of wizards living outside the Order of Hermes but rather close to it - neighbors.

As for the different times. If we are talking about adapting the game within it's storyline to play as members of the Cult of Mercury than there is no obvious way to do that. The same goes for anything happening in more mordern times.

Adventures Well, I'm not really big fan of published adventures. There are three "adventures" I know of. There is The Broken Covenant of Calebais which is legacy adventure as it's first version was published for 2nd edition, I think. I don't have it. There is scenario for LARP The Fallen Fane: An Ars Magica Live-Action Scenario and I never really tested it. And there is Tales of Mythic Europe and there are 9 adventures there. Never played any of them. Not much help here, I'm afraid.
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nimdil wrote:
cosine wrote:
For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?


As for the different times. If we are talking about adapting the game within it's storyline to play as members of the Cult of Mercury than there is no obvious way to do that. The same goes for anything happening in more mordern times.


This doesn't quite address what you're asking about, Eric, but I want to point out that the World of Darkness (cWoD Modern) setting contains numerous callbacks to Ars Magica. For example, House Tremere shows up as a Vampire clan in Vampire: The Masquerade and the remnants of The Order of Hermes are thrown together as strange bedfellows with the other Traditions of Mage: The Ascension.

These are both interesting interpretations of what could happen to such groups as they exist through the centuries.
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Vaklam wrote:
nimdil wrote:
cosine wrote:
For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?


As for the different times. If we are talking about adapting the game within it's storyline to play as members of the Cult of Mercury than there is no obvious way to do that. The same goes for anything happening in more mordern times.


This doesn't quite address what you're asking about, Eric, but I want to point out that the World of Darkness (cWoD Modern) setting contains numerous callbacks to Ars Magica. For example, House Tremere shows up as a Vampire clan in Vampire: The Masquerade and the remnants of The Order of Hermes are thrown together as strange bedfellows with the other Traditions of Mage: The Ascension.

These are both interesting interpretations of what could happen to such groups as they exist through the centuries.

For third edition they are also quite official.
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nimdil wrote:
Vaklam wrote:
nimdil wrote:
cosine wrote:
For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?


As for the different times. If we are talking about adapting the game within it's storyline to play as members of the Cult of Mercury than there is no obvious way to do that. The same goes for anything happening in more mordern times.


This doesn't quite address what you're asking about, Eric, but I want to point out that the World of Darkness (cWoD Modern) setting contains numerous callbacks to Ars Magica. For example, House Tremere shows up as a Vampire clan in Vampire: The Masquerade and the remnants of The Order of Hermes are thrown together as strange bedfellows with the other Traditions of Mage: The Ascension.

These are both interesting interpretations of what could happen to such groups as they exist through the centuries.

For third edition they are also quite official.


Indeed. I noticed your mention of it in the excellent main writeup. I just figured I'd highlight it. 3rd Edition is where I started with Ars Magica and, since I got there sort of backwards via the WoD games, those resonances are strong for me.
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Vaklam wrote:
nimdil wrote:
Vaklam wrote:
nimdil wrote:
cosine wrote:
For a game so steeped in the real world and its history, what's been done to expand this game to cover other regions of the world or other time periods? Could you port it to the modern world or dial it back to Roman times?


As for the different times. If we are talking about adapting the game within it's storyline to play as members of the Cult of Mercury than there is no obvious way to do that. The same goes for anything happening in more mordern times.


This doesn't quite address what you're asking about, Eric, but I want to point out that the World of Darkness (cWoD Modern) setting contains numerous callbacks to Ars Magica. For example, House Tremere shows up as a Vampire clan in Vampire: The Masquerade and the remnants of The Order of Hermes are thrown together as strange bedfellows with the other Traditions of Mage: The Ascension.

These are both interesting interpretations of what could happen to such groups as they exist through the centuries.

For third edition they are also quite official.


Indeed. I noticed your mention of it in the excellent main writeup. I just figured I'd highlight it. 3rd Edition is where I started with Ars Magica and, since I got there sort of backwards via the WoD games, those resonances are strong for me.

There are some quite nice things worth of porting from 3rd edition to 5th, details really.

One thing is map of Europe. The one from 3rd edition is quite superior to the later one from Atlas Games (sorry, AG).

The second - there is a picture in the rulebook with gestures corresponding to the arts. So if the players want to play their mages, they can create gestures for i.e. Rego Auram when they are summoning the storm. I feel that it's just a minor adjustment but can really add some flavour to the gameplay.
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nimdil wrote:

Quote:
3rd ed was released by White Wolf and later by rereleased by Atlas. (Atlas' was the same content, merely a different printing with a new logo on the back cover...)

Really? o_O Was not aware of that. I thought it was rereleased later by Wizards of the Coast (with WotC logo on it). In fact I have this version: White Wolf content, WotC logo on the back.


I believe the WotC was in between the WWG and Atlas releases. Same content in all three, right down to the typos. I've a 3rd ed with an Atlas sticker over the WWG logo...
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I sold all of my AM stuff from earlier editions. I currently have the free 4th edition PDF. I haven't bought 5th edition because I wasn't sure it was really worth it.
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Thanks for the write up. Ars is a game I have considered picking up for years and years. I had a friend I played with left my game and started up an Ars group. Sadly we lived in different cities and I never got to try it out. Conversations that I had with him at the time showed that he considered Ars Magica to be the be all end all RPG.

I've kept my eye out for a cheap copy for a while but then started to get confused by the various editions. This makes a bit more sense now reading this thread as it seems like some editions were put out by no less then three different publishers.

So is 5th edition the current edition? Is this the one that I should start with if I ever decided to take the Ars plunge?
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GilvanBlight wrote:
So is 5th edition the current edition? Is this the one that I should start with if I ever decided to take the Ars plunge?


4th edition is a free download from Atlas' website, so start there.

If you want to pay cash money, I really like the aesthetic of 5th.
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GilvanBlight wrote:
Thanks for the write up. Ars is a game I have considered picking up for years and years. I had a friend I played with left my game and started up an Ars group. Sadly we lived in different cities and I never got to try it out. Conversations that I had with him at the time showed that he considered Ars Magica to be the be all end all RPG.

I've kept my eye out for a cheap copy for a while but then started to get confused by the various editions. This makes a bit more sense now reading this thread as it seems like some editions were put out by no less then three different publishers.

So is 5th edition the current edition? Is this the one that I should start with if I ever decided to take the Ars plunge?

Yes. And the sourcebooks for the fifth edition are coming out regularly, if not frequently
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My reign as sharer of the week is (nearly) over. It was fun although I expected much more questions.

Thanks to all who participated in this topic and Vaklam and Matthew for generous tips!

Also this is not over - I will be happy to answer any questions in the future in this topic.
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