I've been playing Ars Magica for a long time, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say that you've done a fantastic job with 5th edition. It's easily the best-ever looking version of the game (although some of the red titles seem a bit blurred in my copy) and there are other things I particularly like that I want to comment on.
To begin with, I was very pleased that rolled Characteristics were phased out and that the purchase system was revised to allow Virtues and Flaws to be spend on raising/lowering Characteristics as desired. I think it's also very good that Characteristics can now be altered with magic, albeit at the risk of racking up on Warping Points (another very nice idea).
Combat is no longer a nightmare of number crunching as it tended to be when I was running 4th ed games, and I much prefer telling a player that he's sustained a "light wound" to saying, "Right, lose 3 body levels." Getting rid of all that movement-missiles-melee-magic nonsense was also very smart.
In terms of the background, the true lineages/societies/mystery cults distinction is a very interesting development, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to see House Tremere lose its "power-mad villains with vampiric tendencies" label. That White Wolf stuff got old and boring a long time ago.
On the other hand, a couple of minor quibbles. There are some Flaws I'm not too sure that I'd count as Personality Flaws (such as Short Attention Span, Simple Minded, Weak-Willed, Judged Unfairly and Prohibition), and I don't think the rules for casting spells from a text should have been omitted.
Casting texts will be coming back soon. Basically, with spell texts converted to lab notes, the old system made no sense; how can you cast a spell from notes on inventing it? When this was pointed out, there wasn't time to playtest a replacement, so it was delayed to a future book. The replacement rules have now been written; they'll be in Covenants.
Heya, nice to see a board for the game. I've been playing since 1st Edition (still have all the books, even though most of the really old ones require careful handling nowadays, since the covers are ripped off (through massive amounts of use, not malicious handling), and have enough pizza and mountain dew stains to qualify as hazardous waste. )
So far, pleased with 5th Edition. My copy didn't arrive in this country until 2 weeks ago, and our team is just now going through the character creation process. I'll be posting, as I receive them, which requires everyone to 'borrow' my book long enough to do so, the new characters (there are 6 players) as well as the 'same' character made via 4th Edition.
My first 2 players have completed their characters after a 7 hour hang-over at my place over the weekend. Our Telekinetic Psionicist, and our Fireball lobbing Knight of the Holy Order of the White Cloth.
Our shapeshifting Borg has the book currently, not having wanted to join the share-and-work together get-all we had on the weekend, but he assures me that he spent the whole night working on the character, so maybe I'll get to see it and thus post it, by tomorrow.
The remaining 3 (an Illusionist, a Healer, and a Astral Projecting Super Senses) will be forthcoming as they each get a chance to brainstorm on my book. I'll try to get the first 2 posted today, assuming we can get their 4th Edition sheets for comparable reasons.