A Future ArM 6 -- what is ESSENTIAL?

It is indeed an issue of educated reading.
(1) Measuring spell durations by solstices and equinoxes has nothing to do with medieval or modern calendars, with their beginnings, ends and even lengths of days depending on place, culture and education of the speaker.
(2) So solstices and equinoxes are astronomical events.
(3) So a sunrise on such an event is the sunrise following it.


And you bring home the heart of the problem I have. Characters can easily go from calm/relaxed to stressed out and 15 botch dice in a moment of SG pique...

Ahh, the condescension... Can you smell what your shoveling?

  1. Never said it did.
  2. Solstices also refer to the day of the event, and have, for quite some time.
  3. Can you demonstrate that? I've never read that in any academic historical text. Can you provide such a reference?

I think the discussion of the details regarding rituals is quite tangential to the current topic. Can we stop discussing it in this topic? I think the point has been made that some feel it is an area that would benefit from some more thought or changes. I don't think re-hashing a previous discussion brings anything, so I would ask nicely to those involved in it to simply stop, or move it in a different topic.

Back to the main topic, what is essential to Ars Magica?

  • A focus on wizards, meaning a great magical system and a lack of worry about "game balance" between them and non-wizards
  • Mythic Europe, as a great and rich setting for those wizards within which the myths and legends come to life, alongside the more historically accurate society of peasants, Church and nobility
  • A balance between the thrill of telling stories (based on the individual characters) and the crunchier activities of long-term development (centered around the covenant)

Personally, I feel that all of the details in the rest of the game, be they the Houses, the way the Realms are represented, the specifics of the magical system, the mechanics of the game, are not essential. Sure, I would mourn some of those items if a new version of the game eliminated or changed them in a major way. But it would still be Ars Magica to me.

Well, the particulars of Ritual Magic aren't specifically important, I think it's important to say that Ritual Magic as conceived in the text doesn't really fit anywhere. It doesn't feel particularly Mythic or grand. Ok, you create a tower, ok you cast an Aegis. Now some of that can be described in fantastic terms, sure, but it is the culmination of a die roll. They pay off isn't really there.


That day, however, is defined by a calendar. In history days have begun at midnight, at sunrise, or at sunset. A reference "to the day of the event" is culture specific even within Mythic Europe - and not useful for Hermetic magi measuring spell duration time.

I thought you knew (see Heroes' Birthright: duration and warping):




Huh? That's not an academic reference.


We get the point. I think Rituals work just fine. Some people agree, others don't. The point has been made. Debating said point hijacks the thread.

Let us discuss something most people do agree upon. I like the combat system, but I feel it could be improved. And it isn't just about combat and violence. It includes action sequences which, even if their is no martial conflict, require pacing and can be exciting. An idea I had, which is kinda out there, is an Action Point system replacing Initiative. The guy with the highest total goes first. His action, swing a weapon/cast a spell/sing a song, takes up a certain number of points. Then the guy with the next highest total takes a turn, and if he is fast it may be the same guy again. This allows for multiple actions in a round, and a sequencing not dependent on the action about to be taken.

Shadowrun 3rd edition initiative, then (mostly). It worked. You got 1 initiative pass every 10 points of your initiative roll, and acted in order highest to lowest rolls, subtracting 10 each time you took your pass.

I'm actually not a fan of these kinds of initiative systems, because they increase the number of variables involved in a combat.

For my money, I prefer a combat system to minimise moving numbers as much as possible. I'm also really not a fan of rounds where people get multiple actions. A 1:1:1 ratio of actors to actions to turns is really easy for people to wrap their heads around.

The big problem I have with initiative systems like this (Shadowrun, Deadlands w/cards, etc) is that combats can end up chewing up absolutely huge amounts of your play session. Ars Magica combats (and dramatic action) should be exiting and suspenseful, but they shouldn't take up a major chunk of the game.

What I'd instead like to look at is a more generic resolution system that takes the elements of a good combat system and applies it to everything. A good combat system provides a bonus for the more skilled participant, but it allows for teamwork, cleverness, terrain, luck, etc. to overcome a skill difference. What I'd love to see is a more generic system that brings the same kind of dramatic tension and opportunities into a wider range of fields. Combat should be tense and exciting, but so should a courtroom drama or a stealthy burglary.

They really do, and even more time is wasted as people try to figure out the 'best' use of their action points for maximum effect. Adding that to a system with flexible on the fly magic would be difficult.

The degree of complexity in the magic system should match the combat system; in fact they should be designed together. I'm for keeping the "crunch" in magic and fixing combat to match.

I disagree. Ars Magica is a game primarily about wizards and it makes sense that magic and labwork is more detailed than combat.
I don't mind the combat system it works ok for us. Sure it takes time, and so does Spontaneous Magic - which we've heard a number of people complain about. But I'm ok with this as well. And a number of other things also chew up time, but it's up to the Troupe to try and find a way of playing that fits what they want to spend time on.

Combat however is often boring and uninspirational, unless you find ways to make it fun and exciting. I've had the best combat scenes where we involved the terrain and external circumstances, where people switched back and forth between fighting, other physical things, and magic. When we remembered to stress the magi so they'd need to remember to use shield grogs, and where concentration rolls were needed due to chaos on the battlefield and magi weren't sure to cast every round.
I don't think the initiative system needs changing, a system with action points needs to be very careful to not create inflation for some character builds so some characters act several times while other only have one action. IMHO that's too cinematic for ArM but it makes sense in Feng Shui. That being said I think actions points in some ways could work, if it just meant mixing movement in with actions which could be quick and risky or slow and sure but eat up more APs. Where the low-cost actions would be more imprecise attacks, weaker cast spells - but leave room for other, small actions. And the high-cost actions be better attacks, more powerfully cast spells etc.
Another idea could be to keep the initiative system but have characters declare how they perform their next round's worth of actions: Aggressive (powerful but risky), Defensive/Careful (forego attack but get better defense/slow but lower risk of failure), Deceptive (fool opposition into making mistake, reap benefits next round) etc. Not only combat but also magic and other exploits - uses of physcial or social abilities etc.

I like the shadowrun initiative system in shadowrun which is a game about futuristic cybernetics and related magic where microseconds matter.
I do not think it fits anything vaguely medieval. I'm not saying multiple attacks per round is something that shouldn't exist, simply that I don't think it should be based on initiative.

Multiple attacks are a primary source of power-combat-builds in any system, so personally I'm not a huge fan. I'm even not fully comfortable with multi-casting, but I give it a pass at the moment because at least it keeps the focus on magi.

One thing I would probably change is the notion that moving is an action. 'I want to move over there and cast a spell' is a classic example of the kind of action someone would take, so the system really should allow for that.

A truly vast number of games allow for 'move and attack' within a round. It feels weird having to break it up.

Unsurprisingly, I completely agree with Timothy here. Less so about the Seasons but I think he has a point about that as well.

I agree with Kid Gloves on both counts: allow a character to move and attack/cast, and avoid a system which allows some players to act more often than others. In such a system, the number of actions you can take is quite literally the amount of time you get to play the game. Players with fewer actions don't get to play the game as much as the people with more actions. That's not fun, and creates a dynamic in which players make characters with lots of actions not because their character concept fits, but because they just want a fair share of the GM's time.

I certainly wouldn't allow it to be common- perhaps someone with a combat ability of 10 or higher gets an extra attack at -5 to ability per attack. Other than that it should be limited to supernatural creatures, but still there should be something for it in the rules, because honestly when you look at extreme differences in ability it does happen, and in terms of tales of the supernatural it is definitely a thing... there should also be (IMO) an option to allow some degree of trading between attack and defense scores depending on how aggressive or defensive the character is being.

regarding seasons- this is something that I personally like- it was one of many elements back in 3rd edition when I started Ars Magica that made it clear that the game was somewhat based in 1980's paganism, that still needs to go. Gamers want a game that delivers adventure, and a season is too long, from a general playability perspective, to be spending reading books or in the lab. I think switching to months might create a more playable paradigm.