5th Edition Problems

Hi , im new to these forums and not sure if this has been covered once before.
A couple of months ago i bought 5th Edition and having previously played 3rd/4th edition was really looking fwd to running 5th.

However the group i am with (4 of us with years of experience) find this rulebook very badly written and hard to follow/understand. the rules etc.

I dont know if its because everything is so spread out within the rulebook and not expained as well as it could be or were making it out to be harder that it actually is and is straight fwd to understand.

Has anyone else found this ..or can shed some light on the best way to understand the rules/system better.


Well, if you do have specific questions or specific things you need explained, we'll probably be able to help you.

While it is true that the rules are difficult to follow and are sometimes hard to read because of al the searching you have to do, the book is quite well written if you start to read at the beginning and do not skip to the interesting sections first.
I find the ArM 5 rules quite complicated but then again if I wanted something simple I would not have played Ars Magica. While I'm new here, I find that any rules questions and topics are being answered fairly quick. And if something isn't covered in the rules or if you don't like it, just make a house rule with your troupe!

Hi! Welcome aboard!

Well, it won the Origin award for being the best ruleset of its year, so perhaps its you?

I'm perfectly willing to help you, but you should be aware that many of the line's authors post here. David, the guy who wrote the book, in your estimation, very badly, is one of the moderators. You should consider your tone, is all I'm saying. Keep it friendly.

The experience rules work like this:

Time is measured in seasons. There are 4 per year. They are actual, natural seasons. Each season, pick if you are going to do labwork, or not. If you aren't a magus, then "not" is your automatic choice, OK?

If you are doing labwork, go to page 94, which is the first page of the lab chapter. This chapter lists all the things you can do in a lab. Choose one. The section will either crossref you somewhere else or give complete rules in section, OK? After you are done, you go to the next step anyway.

If you are -not- doing labwork, then go to page 163. This is where you spend experience points.

You get XP from the following sources:

Exposure: just living your life gives you a trickle of experience. This is why even if you do magic in this season, you need to nip past here, to pick up you Exposure XP. If you have done both magic and exposure, then that's you done for the season, amigo.
Adventure: You get a straight point bonus for finishing stories.
Deliberately learning in your free time: In Ars you get more XP for -not- adventuring. That is, you get XP for sitting around, and the goal of any sensible adventurer is to go home and enjoy your life. You do this in one, and only one per season, of four ways:

Practice a skill you already know, on your own (page 164)
Train under a master (page 164)
Be taught by a teacher (page 164)
Read a book (page 164-165).

If you can clarify which bit is catching you up, we might be able to help more: this question's a bit nebulous.

Welcome, KindredKnight.

I maintain the Ars Magica FAQ; since you're new you might not know about it. It's part of Project: Redcap, whose address is given in the "Archive and Links" post at the top of this forum.

A lot of people find the ArM rules confusing when they encounter them. I think the game is on the complicated side but it's not impossible to learn. Just let us know what you're having problems with and we'll help as best we can.


For myself, I found the fifth edition book significantly easier to follow than the third and fourth edition books. I think that you'll find this opinion commomn among the posters here but it is almost certain that this forum is somewhat self-selective in this regard.

As Tim said, the line editor and many of the authors do post on this board. Happily this means that specific issues that you post will be heard by them. If you are clear and specific about what bothers you, it might well make for better future products for the line. (It's a bit late to make fifth edition the game that you wanted instead of the game that I wanted though.)

Hi Kindredknight, and welcome to the Forum.

I'll suscribe to Erik's notion of self-selectiveness, but undaunted head right on to praising 5th. I agree that beside liking 5th far more than the earlier editions (which I also liked a lot), 5th edition is indeed significantly easier to follow.

I also started my Ars passion with 3rd and then 4th edition Ars, though I only got to play for real with 4th, and I was thrilled to get 5th - so thrilled in fact that when I got the book it was a somewhat confusing experience. But I soon realised that this was due to my impatient rumpaging through the book hither and thither and getting nowhere. Especially because you can't help reading it with you preconceptions of the game from your experiences from the earlier editions. I settled down as I finally read it from cover to cover and had time to adjust myself.

Therefore my best advice is, as Dragonfly also suggested, that you read it from start to end if you haven't already. Try flushing the earlier editions from you mind before doing it (I know that Grandmaster Tyrrell is working on a splendid brainsucking spell that might prove usefull :smiley: ), and have patience. It is a lot to take in because earlier concepts keep muddying up things.

A couple of other advices; Go to Atlas' website and get the Errata - I've got the first print of the 5th core book and many things didnt make sense till I got the Errata.

Be adviced that some of the core concepts from earlier editions are not in the core book, which on the other hand left room for some new savory stuff in it, but they are not lost - you'll find them in the growing number of 5th ed. splendid sourcebooks, where they are often adressed more thorough and interestingly than before.

If you don't like some particularities you can always ignore them - I think we all have a measure of a few house rulings we would like doing without.

Post any specific questions here on the forum - the answer are often fast and thorough - but make your questions more concrete or no one will know what you need.

For what little it's worth, I read AM4 last week to brush up on my hermetic lore. I'm now reading AM5 which I picked up via Ebay for a bargainously few florins.

My first impressions are that it's far better written, with far more exposition about the order which is superb stuff - well thought out, coherent, realistic yet fascinating and playable. It also tackles AM4's biggest problem, which was hiding the actual rules within reams of text by providing the handy little cut-out boxes that most RPG rulesets have included for 15+ years!

That's not to say I don't have some concerns, but I'm quietly tabulating these for a later explosion of derision :wink:

I haven't got to the combat rules yet, but they can't be any worse than AM4's!

No, the combat rules are not worse than ArM4. In fact I find it difficult to have a combat system that is worse than that. The problem is that it is basically the same system with group combat added to the mix and with minor tweakings. :confused: Most people do not enjoy it very much. The change in the damage done to characters is significant, though.



Hehe! And here I am actually thinking the world of 4th edition combat. :blush: I think it is one of the most visionary and realistic combat systems around. That it dared several things that no other RPGs did. To me the only problem with it is that is cumbersome to use - especially if you don't prepare properly.

In the coming weeks I am setting out to make my troupe some house rules on combat. It is one of the very few things I dislike about 5th, so I intend to make something bridging the two rule sets. When the Ars supplement expanding on combat arrrives I might reconsider.

The problem we found is that even preparing for it it was extremely cumbersome.

The weapon stats in both ArM4 and ArM5 are suspect at best as well. The basic mechanics can be pseudo-realistic, but the weapons are not. Not a lot at least.



I didn't find the prep so cumbersome. I quickly got used to use the excel sheets and then bring and extra form to scribble the results of each round as we moved along.

Weapon stats are tough - even if I've practiced historical weapon fighting I would be pressed to make comparable stats. Which is probably why I don't care so much about weapon stats. My interest is more on the mechanics.

The things I liked about ArM4 mechanics are:
The concept of weapon range,
The concept of initiative,
The concept of being outnumbered (which most RPGs doesn't penalize enough),
The clear advantage of being mounted.
The concept of carry over of Advantage allowing you to test and outmaneuver your opponent,
To let the Totals be a result of a round of skirmish instead of turns of one strike at a time.

I have nothing against the concept. The problem is that cumbersome combat systems do not play well when you sit around a table. They do not generate much tension in my experience. A tensionless combat is like a humourless comedy: it can be entertaining, but it is not good.



Very true. It somehow reminds me of a thread on RPG-meta that wasn't so succesfull. It is a challenging balance - keeping the rules detailed enough for the players to feel they make a difference (so that the choices they make are meaningful) and yet simple enough for them to be easily and quickly executed so that pace and tension can be maintained.

I have an ambiguity in this regard concerning one of the beloved concepts mentioned above - the die rolls. Most RPG rules lets one die roll signify one strike at the opponent. On one hand I find it very unrealistic. Most strikes in a one-on-one is to test your opponent, parry his strikes or to drive him to make an oppening which you time it to use. But on the other hand the pure simplicity of 'one roll = one strike' makes it so much easier for us to invest our feelings and tension into that roll and thus achieve the goal of RPG combat: immersion and translating the tension of the action from the character to the player sitting comfi in a chair or sofa munching chips...

I like the combat system. There, said it.

I mean, most rpg combat systems follow the same basic model of initiative, attack vs. defence/target number and damage (reduced by "armour"). That being the case, you can only make things more difficult.

In ArM, we do have initiative (persisting across rounds to keep it simple), we have attack vs. defence with very few modifiers and we have damage vs. soak with the added complication of adding an attack bonus on.

There aren't many wrinkles to it so it should run pretty smoothly. I'm not a fan of "location tables", critical hits, actions, free actions, half actions and full actions etc.

I do like the defending rules which at first feel totally arbitrary but are very flavoursome.

The only thing I think is missing is a bit of lip service to those of us who prefer to run combat-style enounters on maps with miniatures. I'd like some movement rules, if only an official "you can move x feet/yards/squares per turn".


Personally I find that the fifth editions combat system is pure gold.

We have managed to get away from the whole "Death by papercuts" problem from earlier versions. (And as a house-rule we using the same system for Fatigue as well. Rolls to keep yourself conscious begins after falling below -9 to all rolls)

We also have a system for mass combat that might very well be turned into something VERY useful to resolve the clash of armies. In one word? Nifty.

We've dabbled with Ars 5 and a lot of my experience is theory. About a month ago I sat down for my first Ars5 combat. It was sweet.

It was smooth, exciting, simple and my magus fighter wanna be was a bad!

I'm really happy with the system. I like simple fast, 'uncumbersome' systems. I think it ran much better than previous editions and the GM didn't even seem to be doing a lot of math in his head!

Kudos to Ars 5 combat!

(then ducks)

The lack of Movement Rates for Combat is a pain though.
(yes , i know we can use the ones actually printed in 4th Ed.)

Movement Rates for Humans and Mounted Humans (Horse at least) would have been a big plus.
Yes , i know many of you like going all hand-wavey about these things ,
but what about chase scenes?
Magi are not always involved (ymmv) and able to magic away distance or speed concerns.

Another thing is Jumping.
How high or far can a character jump?
We can use out of game guesstimates from other game systems ,
but how hard would it be to devise a simple Athletics-type roll for this.
(an official one usable by humans anyway)

This is a very fair point.

My current magus thinks he's a roman solider who wants to move into combat using Squares. We have yet to decide how far a square can move and still stay centered on my magus.

This may be in part because Ars never really focused on maps much, but even some abstract guidance might help. I suppose we can look back to previous editions and infer some rules if need be.