A Future ArM 6 -- what is ESSENTIAL?

I kept these things to my magical middle ages Savage Worlds campaign:

-vis (single type)
-longevity potion (in a rewritten form)
-magical skills like true sight, speak with animals and such. I kept actually only the related virtues and not the skills.
-magical aura (single type)
-learning spells from books (but only spells)

Not much, right? But people still called it an Ars Magica clone on the forums.

Anyway redesigning some rules would be good to the game. There are many incoherent parts where the rules don't fit to other books, for example the tribunal books.
-For example there are a lot of methods to extend the lifespan but the magi in tribunal books are too young. I know only a few of the tribunal books but the eldest German magus is only 160 years old!
-The tractatus rule makes the advancement too easy, makes learning from vis needless and requires a insane bookkeeping for older magi. An older magus may read many dozens of tractatus and you have to keep track perused books! And this rule also makes vis less valuable because you just write new tractatus and exchange them with other covenants.
-Your own pupil will be a double munchkin compared to the standard pupils. (I slowly forget ArM terms.)
-Enchanted devices has a huge, gamebreaking penetration bonus.

I think it would be enough to read the house rules topics of the forum and making an official beta ruleset from them every half year or so. After 2-3 such turns you would get rules which don't break the game and worth to be printed. If you know Blood Bowl game they did the same. After some editions they put their new ideas in 'living rulebook' pdfs and all the players tested them not just a few people. After many editions they finally got the best ruleset they could achieve.

Is anyone else finding this whole process really exhausting?

So, sure, it might be that I have a baby and some tool has just broken into my car, so I'm not in the best position to be chipper about things...but, has anyone else noticed that the author pool has fractured into several authors working on their own versions of what the new ArM6 could be? I know of at least four, counting my own.

I'm not really clear on how a mechanism for co-operation could work here, because whenever any of us needs to make a big call (or even a little call like "No Latin!") there's no client to decide, so the two groups fission off into two separate projects. There's no possibility of agile development, because there's no client, so there's no possibly of development in iterations, just people going off to create big slabs of text, one of which might eventually be picked up.

So, here in Australia at least, we call this the "competition" model. All of the creative weight and cost are bourne by the entrants, and the majority of entrants get nothing for their involvement. As a creative person, I hate the "competition" model. It's ridiculously wasteful in terms of the time and effort of the people who are doing the writing, because all of the versions which aren't going to die are pulled from the pool of resources that creates the fanzine material / web pages / podcasts whatever that fuel 5th.

So: what's essential for Ars 6th? Atlas communicating what it wants.
Now, I know the point of threads like this is that Atlas does not know precisely what it wants, in content terms, but if the plan really is "Let's just keep having discussions, possibly for a year, until someone designs a kickstarterable project." then I'd like to point out that what that does is takes even more of the weight of creating the game and puts it on the shoulders of the lightly-paid volunteers, and I think it's already cut the author pool up into little bits, and has it wasting its time on things which, after the competition is over, will be of no value. It's not like you can usefully recycle your version of Ars 6th, when another one makes it to the top.

So, it's not just essential for 6th: it's also essential for 5th, if "fan supported" is the new model, to get the many authors wasting time on 6th doing anything else.

I'm happy to help out on other people's designs, and even muck around with my own little pirate game, but I was trying to finish an article for one of the fanzines today and I was really struck by how little I felt any desire to finish the piece. Thinking through the reason I'm finding Ars exhausting, it's because I'm putting energy into a lot of stuff, and I know that the stuff I'm helping out with is stuff that's designed to compete with each other, and so most of it is going to be worthless. So, I can either ditch my version of the thing (which, who knows, might actually be the best version) or tell the other authors I'm not going to help them any more (and fracture the author pool, but I -like- working with them. That's how this whole thing worked.) or, I can just step away from Ars and go do my Librivoxing and ukelele practice. That's where the metagame is, for me, right now.

So, Atlas needs to decide if they wanted this to be design by competition.

If they did, well, there's nothing to be said. Presumably in the US, that's not considered as poorly as it is here.
If they didn't then they've lost control of this process of consultation and are burning out the author pool for no reason. To avoid this they need to give more direction on what they want, because the authors are wasting vast amounts of time, effort and energy writing multiple variants of 6th.

I think Atlas should either say, and mean, that they don't welcome submissions, or put up submission guidelines.

If Atlas really has no idea what is wanted, so that writing submission guidelines is not possible, then they should say that they will not accept any submissions for an Ars 6th core rules type of product until (date X), because the current situation is understood as being that informal pitches are welcome. This creates a time pressure to get these things finished before some other author hard-codes his mistakes* into 6th by getting his work into marketable form first.

So, yep, this current process? Atlas needs to give it some more direction.


  • "Mistakes" here being the things that the pool has disagreed on, which has led to splits into multiple different projects, not actual, obvious errors. Things like "No Latin", changes to multiples of 5 instead of 3, that sort of thing.

I don't see a process. Or a project to apply technical discussions on this thread to.

Who needs to make 'big calls' or pitches currently, with no publisher or project yet?

The future of ArM appears to be in a phase of commercial and strategic evaluation - with discussions of rules and background being just peripheral input.


I think it's too early to start work on ArM6 and for many of the reasons that Timothy outlined. But for me, the key barrier is that there's currently no (public) product vision for 6th. Without that product/brand vision there's very little to hang a game off.

We've all got ideas on what we'd do with the line and those range from a little nudge here and there to wholesale rewrite. And each of those ideas sees support and resistance in equal measure. I want to change the dice mechanic, I want to promote Mythic Europe as the game hook rather than the Order of Hermes, I want the game line to support a progression through time and support troupes better by feeding directly into their sagas. But each of those ideas will receive very valid criticism for which I have little answer.

So I'm happy to enjoy fifth edition for a good while yet. I might explore some of my ideas through Sub Rosa (dice mechanics, spontaneous magic, and character creation are good candidates there) but I don't have the energy to try to build my vision of 6th on the off-chance it's considered better than Erik's or Timothy's or Andrew's or Ben's or... The list goes on.

I'm quite sure that when the time is right for Atlas 6th will come about. I suspect that will start with some kind of vision document that clearly sets out how 6th will be different to 5th. No doubt some of the ideas from these here threads will make an appearance in one way or another. So I think this is all a useful sounding board, but this isn't how you develop a new edition of Ars Magica.

Atlas has nothing to do with this thread. It was started by Andrew Gronosky, and my main contributions have been to suggest that a discussion of ArM6 is a bit of a waste of time at this point. This is not part of any process, as far as Atlas is concerned; it's just an interesting thread on the forums.

I mean "this process" in a broader sense...but yes, it's fair to say I've been unclear. 8)

Well, in that case, there is no process yet because we still have to finish getting ArM5 published. Two books to go!

I don't recommend anyone putting significant effort into anything with a view to Atlas publication until Atlas say something about how they are going to do it.

Because I'm one of those guys organizing a project which Timothy is helping out with, I want to say that -- for my part at least -- this is not a contest in which only one game will win. I'm organizing a second fanzine, but I don't see it as a competitor to Mark's wonderful project. I'm not trying to write Ars Magica 6.

Rather, Ars Magica regardless of edition is a very large topic and I just want to help keep it alive. I want to add more toys to the toybox. Some campaigns are going to like one toy, others will like another. As long as people have fun reading about and using one of these toys, it's a win. I think I speak like this because that is how I have used RPG products over the years. When I saw the latest issue of Dragon, I might only use a single article. I might use none of it. But it was fun to read and it gave me ideas. It's no different with Realms of Power: the Infernal.

I'm personally not that interested in Ars Magica 6 in specific; I am, however, very excited about Ars Magica as a whole.

I on the other hand would be very interested in leading a 6th ed based on a point based character creation system with multiple timelines of alternate histories centered on mythic Europe. Options would be to rewrite from scratch and create my own system (presumably to try and sell) and call it something different than Ars Magica, convince Atlas to accept my vision, or purchase (and I have not been able to find any information as to what the price range would even hypothetically be if they were interested in selling) the rights to future Ars Magica editions. Notably the primary differences between option 1 and option 3 is price and name recognition...

As David says, there is no process at the moment.

I am interested in the ideas that previous ArM writers may have, but I want to make it very clear that I do not believe we're in the business of competitive models of "who gets to design Ars Magica?" being put forward to us. We're not, as far as I know, going to sell the rights to anyone, either. There is no contest or panel of judges or anything like that.

What we are interested in is fans carrying the torch for their own favorite editions and continuing to engage in communities of like-minded (and often contentious) folks who love the setting, the game, the characters, and everything else that has made ArM what it is.

I do, of course, absolutely understand the exhaustive nature of this kind of thing as a fan and designer. For years, I was the line developer for Dragonlance as a 3rd edition product line after starting as a fan and moving to a writer and designer. When 4th edition came around, the fan base splintered: some went back to AD&D 1st edition, others steadfastly held on to 3rd edition rules, still others decided to create a fan conversion of DL to 4th edition. We didn't have a unified "official" baseline for the property any more, and I have a sense that many of you might see this as being the case here.

I hope to have more for everyone to chew on in the coming months, but as David also says, we're not done with ArM5 yet.

What is essential for me:

  • Easy to understand rules that is not too limiting, nor too vague.
  • Based around Mages and wizards during the medieval or renaissance periods
  • The power of the Christian Church should be supreme over small insignificant pagan societies
  • Rich backstory
  • Houses of the Order is important, it gives a definition to the characters and also good plots for politics and interests
  • Good rules for creating new spells and magical items.
  • NO equality between the Christian faith (and the Abrahamitic faiths) and other faiths. This is the era and high-day of theChristian faith, so it should be more powerful.
  • A good beastiary book with color pictures of all the monsters like DnD/Pathfinder.

I am almost done with my collection of all the ArM5 books and I will not support a 6th edition. I have paid almost £1000 for these and will use these and these are all the Ars books I will need.

Honestly, the thing I would most likely find essential is not something that can fit in the corebook, because it really needs its own book.

We need something akin to Order of Hermes from Second Edition. I personally cannot be happy with having the rules for Tribunals being stashed away somewhere in True Lineages, for example. I couldn't find the definition of "Praeco" in the books with a find function, or how it differs from Presiding Quaesitor. We need a clear answer when players ask "So what is the Order? What does it do? Why does my magus care?" We need everything from HoH:TL's Guernicus section spelled out with the same loving attention to detail we get in Lords of Men. How does a Tribunal work? How does Grand Tribunal differ from a regular Tribunal? What is a Covenant? What do the Quaesitores do? What is an archmagus, what social privileges does that rank provide, and how does one become an archmagus? How do the Redcaps fit into everything?

What we don't really get from the books as they stand, except piecemeal and in several different places, is how the Order's society works, how to get PCs involved in it, and what happens when they inevitably break the rules. I think this is a major detriment to the line as it stands, because it leaves GMs somewhat adrift when it comes to running stories where the Order takes center stage.

That would make a pretty good book, actually.

Something I see time and again on these forums: people saying 'I am going to run a tribunal, what should I do?'

As you say, there is a lot of published material on this and it is fairly scattered, but that's probably becuase it has been defined over time as the line has grown.

ArM5 has a more defined Order of Hermes (including its current and future role in Mythic Europe) than any other edition has had, but it sure didn't form whole-cloth with the release of the ArM5 core rulebook. :slight_smile:

All 5th ed's Tribunal books describe the different ways Tribunal runs in the specific places. But a 'vanilla' way of running Tribunal would have been nice to have, perhaps in short form in the Core book and in detail in an OoH book. I have the old 2nd ed book as well, and found it very useful for my 4th ed sagas back then, together with the Houses of Hermes book. If a 6th ed keeps the tradition of each Tribunal having different procedures for Tribunal* such an Order of Hermes book should note that local customs may vary.
*)Blast - having severeal meanings for a term in a game is annoying - look up Order of the Stick #12!


I love the Idea of Ars Magica, I think it's great - but with so many things to keep track of it was defiantly troublesome to run at times; We never got very far... I think it's complexity needs to be reduced. Now before I am branded as a heretic hear me out... My group all had degrees (I've got a Maths/Physics degree) and could understand how the game fit together... however I really think if Ars Magica is going to have a new edition it NEEDS to be much simpler... Why? Because if it's not it might as well be 5th edition.

I've often pondered how to make the game simpler... some of my ideas I'll jot down before I'm off to church...

Grogs - Simplified down to a few keywords. I don't think there needs to be great mechanics of progression or skills with grog's - it is always awesome fun playing them, but tiresome to create them...And when I look back at the memorable Grogs we played I could sum them up in keywords (Gunter; Pessimistic old caretaker, Steinwald; Naive Guard captain... etc.)... perhaps some pointers from Dungeon World would be in order. either way it is the character and story which makes the grog's come alive.

Stats - I'd really like it if stats would vanish... again possibly based off of keywords... Really and truly it's fun defining characters extremes - but the fundementals of this stat being +1, and this one being +2 just add greatly to the maths, and little to the story. Amadeaus would become Sharp minded and Feeble, Humphery would become Hulking and Slow... It gets across everything abut them that their stat's contained without being a list of numbers...

Skills - Again I love my keywords, but if you really want these have them for Magi and Companions - not grogs... Also a greatly truncated list would be far better... (can you tell I want to enable story not simulation.... and again if you want simulation AM 5 is the place to have it... it's still great)

Learning & Time- So being a mathematician I have a fondness for formulae, but I really think the game would be Just as Good without them. Have simple baselines that things go off... don't even have them necessarily change from covenant to covenant (ok these number are made up as I assume the xp system might be different...) - so either have location based activities: Learn from the Library gives 5xp, Working the Lab produces 5 item Xp (ok work value)... or just have yearly totals - 10xp per year, can be spent on learning arts, spells, crafting items etc. You can still have quests for reagents, or tomes - The ancient Tome gives +5xp to the character/covenant for a year... or Blood read Mudd from the Nile gives +5 xp for creating this item - makes for story hooks and plans, but without spreadsheets needed for playing. Sure we can go into more detail for all these things - but we don't need to... yes its fun designing a library and making your covenant min/maxed for some types of magic but it doesn't add anything to the game that flavour couldn't. [As for the number, I'm happier with 1 or 2 xp per year and a simpler costs]

Arts - Simply a smaller scale. Profound Decisions Empire Live role-play system uses an Ars-magic like take on ritual Magic - and it seems to work really well.... but a powerful starring ritualist has a Lore score of 3, or two lore scores at 2 - Still triangular number, but smaller. Low magnitude effects are Mag 2 to 10.... Mastering a ritual doubles your effective rank... but for a BIG ritual many players are needed to make it. Having lower number and a simpler metric would make the game more accessible. you would have to a just the magnitude of the spells (stop jumping in 5's) but I'm sure this could all be done - I was even considering a 3 step art...1 = basic, 2 = great, 3 = mastered; and then have effects that you can hit or not; Or (a dramatic shift) Have spells magnitude defined by there story effect 1- minor, 2 - major or something. But this might be to great a departure.

OK Thanks for reading, I hope this inspires something good.

God Bless,

Why do I get the impression that people would rather be playing Savage Worlds and/or Fate?

Seriously, why not develop a new magic sub system for Savage worlds and call it a day? Then you would have the advantage of tapping into the Savage Worlds fan base.

I think part of the problem is that people are using concepts they like from other games and trying to bend ArM so that it fits.

People like what they like...why not add the things you like?

Also, that's kind of been the thing forever. I like military Sci Fi. I like Journey to the West. I like Antilia and it took me a decade to get it into Ars, but I finally did. I like Bath. I don't like Mongol invasions...

We've always said "Hey, I'm enthusiastic about this! See how awesome this is?" The role of the writers has been to bring cool stuff back to the group.

The one thing I feel is absolutely essential for the future of Ars is that the rules be better organized. Currently, rules are incredibly scattered, frequently buried in information about the setting. Don't get me wrong, I love the setting, but the this makes trying to learn the rules difficult, and trying to find the bits you need during the middle of a session even more so.

The Grimoire should ship with or as part of the Player's Handbook. Every book, not just the Core rulebook, should have an index as well, in some cases, as a condensed "New rules and formulae" section, which should also include a list of new virtues and flaws introduced. Simplifying the virtues and flaws (as Mr. Ferguson has suggested) and grouping them by type rather than alphabetically would also help.

The Core Rulebooks combat rules badly need to be simplified, and should include a specific section dedicated to magi in combat.

Finally, I'd recommend including rules for social and mental combat. The Mistborn RPG (crafty-games.com/content/buy ... nture-game) includes rules for launching attacks on an enemy's sanity or social reputation, and I've found that they quite add to the gameplay experience and help to structure what is in most games (including Ars) an almost too freeform experience. Social combat seems to be a natural fit for the internecine politics of the Order, while explicit rules for mental combat might offer new fighting styles and possibilities in Wizard's War, as well as an interesting new angle to Infernal plots.

Wasn't quite what I meant. My point was why reinvent the wheel?

I'm not reinventing the wheel, I'm adding spider gears to the carriage...