6th Edition: FATE?

Ars still has the best magic system around, but the base d10 mechanics are beginning to show their age. Some of the current story in personality flaws resemble FATE's aspects. Since FATE is an OGL system, I wonder if there's any chance we'd see a 6th edition using the FATE rules? Figure two years for play testing and layout and the new edition would hit around 2012, hopefully with the economy out of its current mess.

I like the D10 mechanics of Simple Die, Stress Die, & Quality Die (or "No Botch Stress Die" in ArM5 terms). I see no reason to change it, and I have no idea what this Fate system you speak of is.

I have a lot of things that I'd change in a sixth edition, but using a d10 isn't one of them. What do you see as a problem and how does FATE fix it?

I like the aspect mechanics with FATE(Dresden). They both define the character better than the current rated personalty traits and encourage interaction with a scene (scene traits). Area traits seem particularly useful in describing a covenant. Also I think more could be done to expand the confidence point mechanics. Finally, I would really like to see the game get a combat system that does not ge rewritten mid edition. I should also add that d10 seems a large modifier now that most stats plus skills are unlikely to go past plus eight. The roll carries more weight then the stats! Fudge dice would cut this to a max of +/-4.

+/-4 is a variation of 9, that's not much of a change in the range of results even if the statistical weight of the extremes is skewed somewhat...

Stat plus skill going to +12 is a fairly normal occurrence in most sagas. +8 is just for a fairly average character (+2 stat, +5 ability, +1 specialty). 12 is perfectly normal for your good stats and abilities (ability 9 with specialty + 3 for stat)

No idea about this FATE system, but the D10 mechanic is perfectly fine for us :slight_smile:


It sounds like you'd like to get rid of the stress dice...

Personally I like this mechanic, it allows for extreme (if somewhat rare) results.

Turning over to FATE mechanics would fit well with the move-to-Narrativist approach to ArM6 - but I don't see it as likely.

I don't think the FATE mechanics fit ArM too well. Magi are defined a lot by mechanical V&F, for example, there are lots of minor bonuses and penalties to rolls, and so on. I think a narrativist ArM6 would be better off developing its own rules, perhaps borrowing some ideas from FATE.

An adaptation of ArM to FATE could be made, however, and it would be an interesting game for sure. I'll have to think about it.

The d10 system is fine. I do prefer the FUDGE system, however.

The d10 system is problematic in that the variance is large. You get about 3 magnitudes of difficulty (with EF jumps of 3), which is fine, but you get them at equal probability. [In FUDGE, you can achieve this by rolling a single FUDGE dice, incidentally.] So it's weird - your skills aren't reliable, your competency fluctuates wildly. I think that it's best to allow to "Take 6" on non-stressful situations, instead of rolling a d10. Both quicker to game and more reliable.

It's also a bit counter-intuitive in that your "real" level of skill isn't your Craft score, e.g. 3, but rather this plus the average dice, which is about 9. In FATE/FUDGE the average roll is 0, so your skill is actually your skill.

Finally, in ArM the difficulty jumps are of size 3, whereas in FATE/FUDGE they are at size 1. This also simplifies manners - it's much more intuitive to think of the Good (+3) Basketweaver as opposed to the master (Ability 8, that with specialty is 9, which is three difficulty magnitudes...) Craft:Basketweaving-er.

The Stress die is awful. Why oh why is "0", which is 10 on the simple die, suddenly a bad result? And "1", which was a low result, is now good? It's a very confused roll. And it can get too high too fast. I would suggest replacing it with "exploding" die: when you roll a "10" in stress, just roll another die (and perhaps another, and another....) for an unbound roll the grows linearly and is much more intuitive. And you'll roll botch dice on a roll of "1", and hope to avoid rolling 1s.

Adding a possibility for botches under FATE would be an easy modification. Declare a "-4" result as a botch, for example, and have the character roll some FUDGE dice to see how many result.

Here Yair, Xavi gives YR7 a bigger axe. I think there is still some living twig of the Ars Magica tree over there that needs to be smashed :mrgreen:

Quite a rant there! I have some issues with the suystem, but certainly are nort as visceral as the ones being discussed here. In any case I still play ars for the AMAZING setting more than any rules (we handwave a lot) so those issues do not leave me sleepless at all :slight_smile:

You did make me curious about these FUDGE and FATE systems, though, so I might be looking into them tonight (reviews et al) to see if they rock my boat


I like your "Take 6" option. People should usually automatically succeed at skills which they have a reasonable ability in. There's way too much randomness in everyday situations even if you use a simple die instead of a stress die. The Craft rules are just awful in this regard.

I'm fine with Stress Dice in actual stressful situations like combat. I also like their use in magic to keep it just a little bit wild and unpredictable. I hate Finesse rolls though for introducing a second level of randomness to spells, instead of following the obvious alternative of adding magnitudes for difficult actions.

Have you ever played Cyberpunk 2020?
It used a stat+skill+d10 system very similar to that of ArM, except that stats and skills both were on a 1-10 scale.
I stopped trying to run in because the die became irrelevant - characters would generally either fail regardless or succed regardless. The system wouldn't let me stack on enough modifiers. And ofcourse, everthing got silly around the time when the solo (fighter) realised he could pretty much never miss with an SMG.

Yes, I generally prefer games to use multiple dice (GURPS will even tell you about the math of the bell curve distribution), but I feel the d10 works very well for Ars Magica.

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed by Xavi.


Hey, as I said - the d10 system is fine. It has its drawbacks - but so does FUDGE. Specifically, the range of possibilities in ArM (3 difficulty categories) is ideal; the range in FUDGE is 9, which is far too large.

If you play mainly for the setting, a port to FUDGE might allow you to, well, fudge (handwave) more easily and keep a brisker game-flow. A port to FATE (which is a variant of FUDGE) would allow you to incorporate enhanced narrativist game mechanics, too, if you dig that.

I never played it, but it always looked great.

FUDGE is the basic "system", but it's more a toolkit to build game systems than a system. FATE adds narrativist mechanics. You can download everything for free online. I'm most impressed with Spirit of the Century, as a demonstration of FATE applied to capture a particular setting & mood.

Never even read Cyberpunk 2020, and that does sound awful. We're not far off in our opinions - the d10 works "fine" instead of "very well" :slight_smile:

To be fair, I believe the Craft rules in City & Guild circumvent this by not requiring a roll - but I'm not sure.

Finesse rolls are supposedly required for spells that do not need to penetrate MR. One could handwave and say the magical impetus imbues all the spell's effects with "magic", so that all spells are resisted by MR - and forgo Finesse rolls for that. I'm not sure that the Finesse rolls are such great balance anyways.

The greater difficulty is with how magic imitates craftmanship. It makes sense for magi to not be able to replace mundanes with magic easily, so that mundanes would still be required. It makes setting-sense. Hence the very high Finesse EFs for Rego/Creo Craft Magic. This I think is actually the right approach to ArM. Replacing this with extra magnitudes does damage to the setting - unless you don't care about the mundanes of Mythic Europe and the Order's reliance on them, and I suspect a sizable portion of ArM fans do.

I see you're right about City and Guild. I always just referred to the ease factors in Societates. Which raises the question of why the game needs two sepearate systems for crafting things, but does negate my point for mundane craftsmen.

I agree with everything you say about Finesse vs. Parma. I don't understand why replacing Finesse EFs for craft magic with magnitudes damages the setting though. I'm assuming that we'd add enough magnitudes to simulate the difficulty currently modeled by Finesse, while making the results more predictable and also doing away with Finesse as an extraneous complication. Isn't this pretty much what "Conjuring the Mystic Tower" has always done, with its +3 magnitudes for "elaborate design"?

Not interested in FATE and even less so in a 6th edition.

I do like the FATE system (The Dresden Files RPG is excellent), but I'm not sure it would be the ideal fit for Ars Magica. This being said, if you like the FATE system, doing some groundwork to bring Ars Magica into it wouldn't be outrageous to accomplish.

I don't think you can take Ars Magica out of its system without loosing some of what makes the game. A 1 point increase in a Form or Technique can actually mean something. A slightly better book can spell the difference between an efficient Season and a wasted one. Part of what makes Ars Magica so compelling is the size of the numbers and the complexity of the magic.

Some easy thoughts on how to make Ars Magica flow more narratively;

  1. Turn the Stress Die into 1=botch, 0=explode. White Wolf did.
  2. Change Confidence points into something more resembling the Fate Points in FATE, and only make them "spendable" in conjunction with a Virtue, Flaw or Personality Trait.
  3. This is the easiest. Don't roll except when there's disagreement. Any game can turn largely narrative when the GM wants it to be and the players are comfortable with it. If it's a tough challenge, assign Fatigue and Wounds...

I must have lost contact with ArM(5). Ability 8 sounds mythic to me, while 5 is that of a master.

it is - until you start messing with teachers and/or tractatii.

Also, I think Xavi's saga runs slightly more high powered than most of mine.

Also please nore that none of my reservations hold for magic theory - I've seen too many "MT 5, affinity + puissant" to believe that.

Salvete, Sodales!

By RAW Ability 5 is a master, if just barely so. But what does master mean? For a craft or profession it basically is somebody who has achieved a status of independece and is able (and entitled) to run his own shop. It is the minimum skill you can expect from any guild master smith in town. His apprentices and journeymen may be worse (ability 3/5).
In academics, a score of 5 in Latin, Artes Liberales and your subject is the minimum requirement to get a doctor degree.
So, ability 5 certainly means that you are good at something (at least, if your associated characteristic(s) is/are good as well, but this is hardly out of the normal sphere.
For the upper end (in normal, not long-lived society that is) I just found one example in the RAW, A&A, p. 51: Giles de Corbeil, the personal physician of the King of France, who has a medicine ability of 13+2(puissant). Of course, the man is 80 years old, won't have time left to improve his art much further and is a legend in his days.
Of course, with strong faerie blood or access to longevity potions might get further.

Alexios ex Miscellanea