A Future ArM 6 -- what is ESSENTIAL?

No, I honestly don't see why Intelligence is an Attribute (+X on all skill rolls involving intelligence) and not a Virtue (+X on all rolls involving Intelligence). The Attributes could go completely and no-one should care.

Also, the virtues are listed by their in-world effect, not their game effect, so we have dozens and dozens of "+3 on Ability roll" Virtues, which are actually all the same virtue, mechanically.

Flaws are a mix of "I nerf my character in ways I don't care about to get a benefit in do care about" which are rubbish and "I tell you all, this is what is cool for me to do." which is great.

The limit is 1 story flaw...which seems a bit limiting.

The House Flaws don't work except to enforce character class. Also, they wreck the Tremere to such an extent that they have reacted to it in-world.

I can see that as an online tool, actually.

I hate Seasons.

I have hated them since I first saw them.

They come from Huzinga, in the 16th Century, and they are anachronisms.

This idea that history is a cycle of creation and destruction is imperialist bunkum, and was used to justify ceaseless European nation-state wars. You need to fight to prove you are not the sick man of Europe.

I hate them as markers of tone. Power and happiness are the same, in the season system.

I hate them as upper caps on what the characters can achieve. I kind of destroyed that in Covenants, by making the season just what the PCs could access...

Seasons are bad history, encourage bad design, and import a metaplot of hopelessness.

I do not like them Sam-I-am.

I hate them as a mechanical limitation. I like them as a general description.

+1. It's a Special Circumstance, a FATE Aspect.

Dixit https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/character-generation-and-virtue-list/9705/1:

I'd be surprised if more than 100 of them are useful or cannot be merged into a few generic ones. And I'd rather pair up a Member-of-Tradition Virtue to a generic Virtue for any one Method + 2 Powers as a reduction on the full-fledged Tradition.

Apparently you refer to Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) [see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Autum ... iddle_Ages ]. I read it decades ago and can still tell you, that you do him wrong in the remainder of your post https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/intellego-and-warping/142/1 . But this is not the purpose of this thread.

Neither is this 'Huzinga-digression'' related to my post https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/catnip-garlic/129/1 . Actually I would not mind to classify campaign power levels in another way than by seasons - which would do away with yet another entrenched ArM concept of covenants.


A more streamlined virtue system would be nice, as would assistance (but not requirement) from a background system.

I like how D+D Next does its backgrounds - gives a bunch of examples, allows you to roll on a table and then work with stimulus or just completely make it up with some guidelines for stringing it together. I think that would be a great idea for magical houses, and could well be done for other parts of life.

Essential? I think retaining the capacity for long term saga play is essential. It really is what makes Ars differ from the rest. I could play Mythic Europe in almost any system.

I think the most important, essential thing with 6th is to bring it to newbies. How to do that? I suppose there's plenty of suggestions here. But if people make 6th for the fans of 5th edition... why not just remake 5th as 5.5? That'd make the current fans a lot happier I believe. It wouldn't bring anyone new in, because most of the issues that stop new players will still be there.

The whole Virtue/Flaw mechanic could be simplified and streamlined, limit the choices and weed out the ones that are the same. Characters pick one Virtue underlining what and who they are and what they do. Limit Flaws to Story Flaws and Hermetic/Supernatural ones.

*Grogs pick one Virtue for background: Either an innate knack (Puissance), special training (extra exp in limited group of abilities, access to specific ability classes), natural feat (from an example list e.g. luck, lightning reflexes), or a supernatural ability.
*Companions pick one Virtue for background, as above. Plus another one paid for by a Story Flaw.
*Magi get a Virtue for background, one House Virtue (general or Hermetic) from Apprenticeship and can take another paid for by Story Flaw.

So all in all fewer Virtues and a lot fewer Flaws. Save that for the really important ones. Emphasis on taking Personality Traits rather than take Flaws to demand certain traits at certain levels. These still shape the character.
Of course V&Fs need balancing if one wants to do away with Minor/Major alternatively substitute "one Virtue/Flaw" for "one Major or two Minor".
Characteristics could be dropped and instead created as Virtues. Sub-average values could be simulated with a Flaw, but then again you'd get more Flaws into the mix than I had otherwise imagined. Bu instead of giving the background Virtue for free it could require a Flaw to balance it out.

Another approach could be to meld Virtues and Flaws together - call them Descriptors, Traits or any other such name - and have them contain both a positive and a negative side. More positive effects affecting things most of the time and lesser negative sides only relevant at some occasions. So that an advantageous feat has a drawback, likely related to something opposite to the positive side. Like the 'frost giant blooded' magus who has a focus for ice and cold and/or immunity probably has a weakness concerning fire or heat, not a broad weakness but something more limited in order to still make the overall trait positive. Or a 'nimble rogue' companion has bonus to rolls to jump about and do things quick and with finesse, but lack power and strength. So his fighting style is throwing daggers which rarely penetrate an armour, but when he hits good it's a killing blow to a weak spot in the armour. And most traits would have an opposite number. Like a 'massive bull' grog who is big and tough and can overpower his enemies wearing them down and beating them senseless. But he lacks finesse and has little chance of disarming a foe or hitting a chink in the armour.
This way something positive is always balanced by a drawback, and further a certain type of way to play the character, certain ways of dealing with things. In essence these feats also contain a little bit of personality.

I'm told there's a very popular RPG out there, were character creation is mainly writing down some adjectives that apply to your character.

This is really just the Virtue/Flaw system, except we're so priviledged we also get a dictionary explaining the exact meaning of those adjectives, which I consider a bonus.

Cam, if you read it, it is but it also isn't. Story flaws are a fairly great departure from the "fairly traditional Merits and Flaws /Ads & Disads system popular in the 90s".
I like it.
I think the loss of granularity with just Major/Minor Virtue/Flaws was a mistake, and some (mostly virtues) need a fix, as some are strictly better while costing the same (Flawless Magic vs Secondary Insight), but I have yet to see a better system.

I've never thought of it like that. :-/

Variety is not only the spice of life, but also the spice (and life) of gaming groups, neh?

Been reading the thread with much interest. Lots of interesting ideas. I'll try to add a few to the mix.

Templates and sample characters are very useful for newcomers to the game, but completely useless to experienced players. Having them as a free download pdf (much like the current bestiary of mundane animals) might give the editor more room in the book for crunchier content. The same is true for creatures. You need the character/creature design rules in the book, but only with a few examples. Currently there is a total of 16 pages in the core book being used for that purpose. That seems largely a loss of space in the core book. If it is felt that they should be available in print, perhaps a simple stapled black-and-white booklet that is included in a starter boxed set?

A rework of the characteristics, abilities and virtues/flaws would be essential. Characteristics could indeed be removed completely, perhaps to be replaced by generic minor/major virtues/flaws. By all means, merge virtues that have the same mechanical impact, listing the specific in-game effect as a kind of specialty/scope for said virtue. So instead of having Educated, Warrior and Well-Travelled (to name only those from the core books) you could have a minor virtue like Experienced (warrior). Same with the host of virtues that give out a +3 to some specific activity. Also the same with personality flaws. Leave the door open for specific sagas to add more of those to the mix as they feel is relevant.

It would be essential to simplify the mechanics of spellcasting rolls so that the totals are easier to calculate. One possibility might be to adapt the formula so that the amount of time you invest in the spell (either to learn it or to cast it) means you get to add more abilities (or Arts) into the formula. So a fast-cast spontaneous spell (with Fatigue) and a Fatigue-less spontaneous spell might only use a single Art (plus a single relevant virtue). A fatiguing spontaneous spell could allow the addition of a second Art. A formulaic spell cast normally might allow the use of two Arts, an ability and up to two relevant virtues. And so on. That way, quick reactions spells would use simple formulas, while spells being used in less stressful environments (or that can be precalculated) can use a more complex formula. And you remove divisions from the formulas at the same time, making them easier to calculate. I think Arts and abilities should be brought back to the same scale of experience. Get rid of the level/magnitude dichotomy and the 5-level increments.

I like the way that we have both long-term activities (covenants, learning spells, crafting devices) and short-term activities (stories). I find it rewarding, I find it fun. I think it is one of those things that distinguish Ars Magica from other games. It is one of those essential things that must be kept.

We should streamline and simplify the learning rules. Too many sources of xp with different rules and restrictions. Books have become the way to improve one's character quickly. There shouldn't be that much disparity between the various ways one learns. Each way should have its advantages and drawbacks. For example, books could be safe but slow; raw vis could be risky but grant insights. Teaching is fast but requires a competent teacher who is much better that the student. Learning by oneself is slower but can be done in parallel with other work.

But, like the character creation rules, the rules for covenant design are probably too complex and need streamlining. Having build points and boons/hooks, a financial system, a loyalty system, having to build and manage a library, design vis sources, and so on... Well, that quickly becomes a big barrier to entry. There should be a sample covenant provided in the core book, with simple rules to adapt it to suit a specific saga's purpose. That way, new comers can start playing quickly.

Spell guidelines and description are essential, but could be made more compact. On the one hand, having a huge list of spells in the core book is cool. On the other hand, that chapter is about a quarter of the core book. You probably don't need that much variety to start a saga. Many of the guidelines could be generalized even across different Arts. Damage is a good example of this. Having a general damage guideline, with a few variations (e.g. Creo Ignem is 1 magnitude easier, indirect damage is 1 or 2 magnitudes more difficult) would make it easier to grasp. If some guidelines and spells are excluded from the core book for brevity's sake, they should be made available in a single book (à la Wizard's Grimoire).

Combat is essential but could be further simplified. You want combat to be quick and deadly, not have multiple totals to be calculated, multiple rolls be compared, result applied by increments to determine the type of wounds received, which further modify those combat totals (meaning you have to recalculate again).

The Realms, Mythic Europe, Stories and Sagas chapter are useful. But do they belong in the core book? Most players don't need them (except for the basics of the Realms). If the game was marketed as a core book vs starter boxed set, then those chapters could be included in a storyguide's sourcebook.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. :wink:

I love it and hate it.
I hate it because the covenant is one of the aspects of Ars Magica that I am truly enamored of- it seems to me like its own character which survives and grows through multiple generations of magi working at it;
I love it because I see how much every other player in my table top game disagrees with me on the above statement, and I think it would make the game much more marketable.

I think another replace the game falls down is the idea that everyone has to have a magus character- and to some degree the idea of everyone having multiple characters. The traditional party for fantasy has one mage, a thief a fighter, etc. Mixing up the balance a bit is good, but a lot of people simply don't want to play a mage, or may want to start with something else that can become a mage later. The seasonal training system might work out better if non-magi were able to make similar leaps of advancement by investing time instead of adventuring.

As to virtues and flaws, I am more partial to a points based system.

Teaching and Training definitely need to be merged. Training is just a hands-on method of teaching. You train physical Abilities and teach mental Abilities, but they'll both use the Teaching Ability. Studying from vis is crap at the moment - the typical result is going to be similar to reading a book on the subject, which given the risk and expenditure of vis it's a poor reward.

Instead of providing something to add I'll suggest cutting something to remove, or at least modify. Ritual Magic within the setting doesn't fit. It doesn't mesh with the time scale of most stories nor does it mesh with the seasonal activity model. If you subscribe to the model suggested by the line editor, that spell mastery scores of 1 mitigates all risk of botch in a "relaxed situation" then ritual spells are almost assuredly something that is either fait accompli or a contrived event by the SG to create a situation to botch spectacularly. Neither option is attractive to a story guide. See also my thread on rethinking ritual magic.

I'm not convinced we need Ritual Magic at all. Fourth edition allowed for vis boosting of Formulaic spells to fulfill the conditions of most of the stuff that became ritual spells in Fifth edition (instant creation spells, healing); the big constraint on those effects was vis, not time. I really liked the 4th edition vis boosting because it added versatility to magi without additional effort; someone who learned a spell also learned a 'bigger' spell they could only employ through the use of vis. All ritual magic does in 5th edition is suck away additional time, as magi spend an extra season mastering it so they can cast it without botch dice (this makes Flawless Magic even more powerful as a virtue, and basically a requirement for anyone who wants a character who does a lot of ritual magic).

I'm fine with the notion of 'this spell is so powerful it requires vis to cast'; I'm less convinced by the notion that a spell must be cast really slowly. Note that magical and faerie creatures with ritual effect powers don't have that limitation. If vis-boosted spells were the same casting time as normal formulaic spells, then you could change Mercurian Magic to something better, like using 1/2 vis if they take time to ceremonially cast with vis boost (normal spontaneous magic).

I'm not even sure that requiring a stress die when vis is involved is necessary either. It discourages the use of vis, or encourages magi to spend seasons mastering spells they won't use much (rituals). Just require stress rolls under stressful circumstances, simple rolls under calm circumstances, regardless of vis use.

What if it were a vis or time requirement?
To me one of the big benefits of ritual magic is the ability to add in more abilities to get the total...

That's part of my point with respect to rituals. Their time requirement is incongruous with the contexts of most stories, and the seasonal advancement model. Adding more time doesn't really add anything, especially since it gets handwaved. At least the vis requirement satisfies the idea of consuming some scarce resource.

If the time requirement is large enough and doesn't get handwaved- requiring an hour per magnitude for example, would it be a viable tradeoff?

How does one not handwave the time requirement? IMO, the only way to make it not get handwaved is to call it a seasonal activity. Otherwise, if the ritual is important and central to the story, doesn't it either delay action for other characters involved in the story, or at least ramp up the stress level (i.e. botch risk) up to 11?

I also think examining the die variance and risks of botching, benefits of exploding as someone mentioned earlier is worthwhile. The longer the play, the longer I SG, I recognize that the variance of a D10 really inhibits stories, and while Confidence can mitigate this to some extent, it's not enough...

The only reason for the existence of ritual magic seems to be to inflict long-term fatigue, the only resource magi cannot stockpile (vis) or recover quickly (short-term fatigue).

I'm not for making ritual magic into a seasonal activity. We have a seasonal activity for spells - learning and inventing them. Extending Ceremonial Magic to Formulaic spells as an option would be nice (rather than just an obscure Mastery ability). I could possibly see extending ritual spellcasting to 1 day per magnitude - thus a real laboratory distraction, but seldom crippling. Even then, I'd prefer that as a period of preparation, not the actual casting of the spell (so if your preparations are interrupted, you've spent no vis and no casting roll has been made).