Unify the spell guidelines into a single master-list, e.g. "Level 20 - Major effect: change something to something somewhat unnatural but of the same kind, Medium Wound". Have all spells based on that table only, instead of explicitly listing the guidelines, plus the Form's Individual and so on. You get a massive reduction in page-count needed and a much faster Spontaneous spellcasting. You can list specific spell guidelines in supplements, later, expanding on and exemplifying the master list.
I am not liking any of these ideas.
Virtues and Flaws work just fine for me. If anything, I would roll back to the old +1/+2/+3 etc system. But I have adapted to the Major Minor scale and the alternatives proposed are not to my liking.
The power level is just fine. If anything I would say it is artificially low. I jack it up 10% in my saga to make it easier for me to run. I tend to view magi as part and parcel of history. Things worked out they way they have because of the involvement of magi. The history of magi is likewise influenced by mundane action. It is as one, a human history.
Seasons work fine. Covenant creation works much better in ArM5 than ArM4. It is that one that was too complex. The Experimentation table has been a hugepart of my game. It should stay as is unaltered.
Ritual magic works fine the way it is.
Everything else works fine the way it is.
People don't want to hear it, but the single biggest problem with the core ArM5 book is that it is so very-very ugly. Change the art, change the trade tress, change the color to just greyscale (not red scale), and change the cover.
That would double sale
As for actual rules, if I were to change anything, it would amount to less than 5% of what is already there. Rename Combat to Action. Ars is not a combat game, but it can very much be an action driven game.
Add Season back as a duration. Four mags no ritual.
Up the amount of vis you can use in a season.
Change the rate from 30xp/year to 40xp/year when creating advanced magi.
Fix the pink dot (I know how and I ain't telling yet )
That's about all I got.
There's a lot that could be done to nudge the existing rules around a bit but I don't think I'd want to invest in that, frankly. If there's going to be a sixth edition (and I may say, we're not done with fifth yet...) then I want a new approach. I want a new approach to the product I pick up in store, I want a new approach to the rules, and I want a new approach to the ongoing support for the game.
I do want to buy a premium hard-back product with high production values. I do want a game that takes the core activities and brings new ways of resolving them. And I do want long term support for my saga. Whether that means setting a meta-plot that troupes can play within for each tranche of releases, I don't know. I'd be up for that. For players with little time to build sagas that would provide a really useful framework for a quick start. And those who want to step outside get to do that because, well, it's all still RPG. And I'd buy stuff to go with it, by the way; I'm not completely digital. I would love to buy a set of maps and play through the fall of Mistridge or some-such. I'd love to buy a set of tokens to use as vis. And cards with spells and devices on them. Why not?
I'm probably atypical in terms of the investment that I'd make in the game, so I accept that while I might find a deck of cards describing all the spells in the core book useful and desirable (for instance), others might see it as a non-essential purchase.
But the core thing for me is that fifth edition stands tall in its own right. It's a phenomenal piece of work. I'm hugely proud and grateful to have been a part of the author pool. I don't think I want to see a 5.5 with a couple of bits changed here and there - I wouldn't use it. Genuinely. I wouldn't use it. Why would I? I have fifth edition proper. And all the books that implies. Everything I need is there. Start changing the way this works or that works and I end up with a bunch of books that are almost right.
And then how would you support a ruleset that was simply 5.5? A set of rules that was, once again, the same D10, attribute, ability, ease factor scales? The same XP progression on the same pyramid scale? Sure, you could do new versions of Loch Leaglean, Stonehenge, Iberia, and Rome, but then you're starting to head back into material that has been so well conceived and executed across fifth edition.
No, for me, it needs to be something new.
I want troupe play, I want to play a magus-style character across generations, building power, facing enemies, solving problems, making friends and allies, inventing cool stuff... I don't necessarily need to do that in 1220 and I certainly don't need to be a member of the Order of Hermes.
The best mechanic in the Ars system is hands-down the ability to design magical effects on the fly using a set of base guidelines and modifying them for range, duration, target, etc. It does not matter how you hit the casting total. It only matters that you can, whatever magical tradition(s) are supported.
Attributes, Abilities, some kind of V/F modelling all have their place in the mechanics somewhere, but I do want to see new mechanics if I'm going to invest in a new vision of the game.
Take the old FASERIP Marvel Superheroes. Man, we played the stuffing out of that game across damned near twenty years. Would I have played an updated version of those rules? Probably not. But I tell you, I have a real itch to play the Margaret Weis version. Entirely different mechanics to model the same kinds of stories, but providing far better support to the GM (Watcher) in terms of structuring the stories, and far better support for the player in terms of playing the character. And the production quality is great too.
So my call is this; do something new. Do something unexpected. Fifth Edition continues to be there and is a superb body of work, but I own it now. I don't want to own it a second time.
Make the pdf version available when the book is please. I have players who will spend money on pdfs, who don't want physical books. I want some books, but others in pdf. That great GM with her new saga in going to struggle if her players cannot get hold of the ruleset. If 6e is intending to compete for new players attention a lack of pdf will be crippling.
Seasons in ArM have nothing to do with this.
It feels entirely natural and organic to use the metaphor of seasons, in (and out of) character, to refer to the fortunes of covenants. If you are magi using terms like Diameter and Sun and Moon, to describe durations, it seems entirely in keeping to use other natural metaphors too.
I think you mean Huizinga, who seems to be a 20th century author? But referring to progress via the metaphor of seasons and therefore in cycles is ridiculously old --- and pretty obvious. Shakespeare's Richard III (16th century), for example, uses the metaphor of seasons to refer to the changing fortunes of himself and his monarchy. Horace (Roman Poet 1st century BC) refers to the life of a person in seasons. Homer's Achilles (at least 8th century BC) complains about being doomed to only live a short season, etc, etc.
I don't think so. As far as I can see, "Ritual magic" primarily exists for the story reason that there should be a kind of complicated-powerful-magic that takes time and perhaps sacrifice of something (i.e. vis) to cast. Simply because that's the sort of thing that happens "mythically".
Seasons in Ancient Egypt - Flooding, Growing, Harvesting. Destroy/Renew, Work, Reap the rewards
It's a metaphor that makes sense and is obvious to any agrarian culture (and probably any non-tropical hunter-gather society).
For my part, emphatically, vehemently "no."
Back when I first fell in love with Ars Magica (1st Edition, 1989), Virtues and Flaws were these awesome things that made characters deep, compelling, and special. The idea of Merits and Flaws was quite new and Ars Magica was the first game in which I'd seen them. They were exciting and really set the game apart.
Now, Virtues are mostly crass ways to milk XP out of a character creation system that is too stingy with magi's starting XP; or a tax you have to pay to express your character concept (such as the need for a Virtue so grogs can take Martial Abilities, or the need for a Virtue in order to buy the privilege of sinking heavy amounts of XP into mystery powers); or a complex set of exceptions to an already over-complex rule set.
Somehow, we got to the point where it's no longer expected that players will just embrace and use the best magic system ever written. They have to add to their character a bunch of exceptions to how the magic system is supposed to work. This, in my opinion, undermines the consistency of the rules, and what are rules for if not to provide consistency?
The longer I play, the more I become convinced that Virtues are really a series of work-arounds to core rule set that defaults to denying characters permission to do cool things. The fact that there is a list of 1346 of them says to me their whole design premise promotes excessive complexity. This is something I have disagreed with David about for a long time; I think a couple of dozen general-purpose Virtues (such as Magical Focus) that can be adapted to fit a variety of character concepts and backgrounds would serve the game much better.
There are tons of things in Ars Magica that take lots of time (inventing and learning spells, items) and sacrifices (enchanted items) to make. The problem here is that you get a lot of non-epic stuff that still requires the ritual effort. Want to create a single seed or an insect? That'll be an hour long ritual. Heal a light wound? Hour long ritual. Maybe if the time required for rituals scaled with the duration (so year-long spells require 15min/magnitude, while instant spells require 1 round per magnitude).
99% of the time the time constraint is a literal non-issue and gets handwaved. When have you had a ritual interrupted? It's possible, but it's seldom likely to happen. The risks are too great for magi to engage in these things unless they're in a secure situation. If that was the intent, then it's working, but it seems the intent was to inspire a sense of 'gee whiz, powerful stuff we're doing that it takes hours to cast' - and that doesn't work.
The Muspelli Utiseta from Rival Magic is a FAR better example of interesting spellcasting. They have to build up power and risk going too long and having bad stuff happen. What if magi had to do the same? Accumulate excess casting total, make fatigue rolls, it would change things. A magus with an average casting total of 60 casting a level 50 ritual will accumulate 10 excess each 'pass' and may well run out of fatigue before he's finished. You could choose to continue a ritual and build up Penetration if you need/want it.
Because if we want ritual spells to be a 'big deal', right now they are not. Insert vis, handwave the time, make the roll. There's no strategy, you probably know how fatigued you're going to be (barring a botch), you know how long it will take. It's the exact opposite of dramatic. There's never 'this ritual isn't going well' feeling, there's just 'everything is fine' or 'botch' - and 'botch' goes away once you've mastered it.
Much as I harp on Ars Magica combat, at least it feels like a struggle. A few sessions ago I had our Bjornaer maga (PC, Polar Bear) fight a giant (Farcas clone from RoP:Magic) and it was a slugfest; both of them took multiple wounds, each botched several times, it was tense and exciting. Ritual magic should FEEL like you're doing something difficult.
And low end creation/healing magic shouldn't even be a ritual, just spend vis and have done with it. Let magi have their level 5 'create a shrub' spell for a pawn of vis; it's not epic stuff. Save it for growing back a limb or taking someone from death's door.
Not love, but they're ok. I see them as a way to maintain relative power level when designing characters. I take the various limits (like one story flaw) as suggestions and concentrate on concepts. Other systems have done the same style, Ars strength should be on the concept of the V or F.
I like the fact the selection asks a bonus to be offset by a penalty, but don't like some of the particular balances or implementations. I'd like to see significant house benefits in particular adjusted. Once play starts I don't care about the points balancing anymore.
Actually... having ritual magic be like Utiseta would be very, very cool.
I like "big" or complicated magic that takes time and has risks. It's very thematic IMO.
I do think what ritual magic is should be nailed down (Or at least given some better guidelines.)
I think this is a different argument. I agree that some things that end up requiring rituals don't seem particularly impressive --- but are instead apparently rituals because it would be bothersome for the storyguide to manage the game if the PCs can do these things very easily. It's also difficult to explain why Mythic Europe is the way it is if magi can do certain things very easily. Making things rituals for those reasons might be considered a bit misguided in some circumstances, but it's not an argument about the idea of rituals. It's an argument about which effects should be rituals.
That isn't my experience. Sometimes PCs do cast rituals in circumstances where they could be (and are) interrupted --- or (more often) NPCs are interrupted by the PCs. However, even if what you say is the general experience, then this means that the time constraint is always the main issue. It seems that you are saying "if the ritual can be interrupted the PCs don't use it --- so do something else": therefore the time constraint is the main issue that decides whether a ritual is used.
edit: fixing dumb spelling mistakes (probably).
I kinda think it was the intent. That and the vis cost makes it so these spells can't be cast "off the cuff". The "gee whiz" factor is just a bit of fluff. And it works for me.
I'm not a fan of them in character creation at all. I am more of a fan of their in-play use - especially story flaws, or flaws and virtues gained in play.
This puts certain virtues and flaws in my 'no thanks' list - namely, any virtue or flaw that is typically excluded from the above list. Social status virtues and flaws in particular I don't like.
I don't like social status as a virtue or flaw because social status is a fairly fundamental part of role in Mythic Europe. It 'costs' to be a knight under the current system - but sometimes the game wants a knight who is a grog-level character. It feels weird to be building a pseudo-knight using minor virtues like Warrior and Gentleman when there's a social status that literally states 'knight' on the tin which is too expensive.
The 'make virtues/flaws balance' game is a huge turn-off for most new players. What typically happens is a new player goes 'I want to be good at this' and then an old-hand player who knows the system will help them pick the optimal virtues/flaws/whatever to be good at whatever it is.
It's very 90s, and acts as a significant barrier to entry. The whole system could do with a lot of streamlining.
I could see the Characteristics and Virtues and Flaws being rolled into one set of traits, possibly. Or even using descriptive traits like Over The Edge may be a way to go.
I think it is fair to say that Character Generation became increasingly complex after 2nd Edition in any case, and some simplification in the process would not necessarily be a bad thing. The calculations of skills can be a bit time consuming, while the problem with Virtues and Flaws is that it can get a bit like a shopping list of traits rather than delving deeply into the motivations and personalities of characters, etc. Some players can spend ages picking them, but still not be any closer towards having a real handle on how to play their character.
Honestly, I’m torn on what to do with Ars Magica though. My basic instinct is that it’s a great game which has largely done everything it can do as it stands and is - with all the supplements - pretty ‘complete’. Advancing the timeline would be interesting insofar that a) the advancing historical settings are interesting (especially the Renaissance) and b) Wizards do tend to live a long time anyway….
But rules-wise, yes a bit of simplifying, but otherwise I don’t really feel the need for radical reform for the sake of it.
Time is an issue. If the die roll happens at completion of the ritual, how does it resolve when the ritual is interrupted? What happens in that case? IMO, something bad should happen, or the stakes go up a lot. Which leads to the next problem, the total disparity between risk-free ritual casting (Spell Mastery 1, relaxed conditions negates all botch risk) to the risk jumping to Situation dice+pawns of vis, which is going to be at least magnitude +1 - Spell Mastery, Golden Cord. But, PCs don't always have familiars, and if Spell Mastery 1 mitigates botch risk in normal circumstances, PCs may not invest more in ritual master, especially since there are so few virtues that really apply to ritual spell casting. It may not be your experience that Ritual magic isn't a problem, but some of us do find it to be a problem. As an SG, I don't really enjoy bumping character's elbows while handling dynamite. As a player, I've seen so many rituals just handwaved (Aegis!) and treated as a bookkeeping exercise, primarily because of the Spell Mastery 1 issue, and also because where is the fun in that? Rituals need to cost something other than vis, IMO, to feel like characters are sacrificing, otherwise it seems more like the characters are going to the weapons dealer to buy a +1 vorpal sword with their loot...
I think they could easily get rid of all the attributes and just use virtues or flaws to increase or decrease the rolls associated with them.
I'm more in line with JL's thinking on Ritual spells. Although it might not be bad for troupe play if players could substitute more wizards casting for the vis requirements. Allow a group of wizards casting a ritual more power ( without wizard communion) and decrease vis usage of the spell. You could still have a lone mage casting a ritual but they would need the vis for the power. It would work better in vis poor games.
I can certainly see situations where players can face interruptions while casting a ritual spell, but I think those are largely dictated by character builds. For example, a necromancer who does ghost summoning is going to be casting rituals in odd places, because that's where the ghost's grave is. A lot of rituals can be cast in the safety of a sanctum, or at least on covenant grounds.
This is one of those interesting things of how the rules of Hermetic Magic and custom combine in such a way to create things that really jump up and surprise you. The Year duration lasts until sunrise of the 4th equinox/solstice following its casting. An Aegis is typically cast on the winter solstice, as described in Aegis, but it could be on any solstice or equinox, the following effect would be the same. If, as described under the spell the Aegis is cast on an equinox/solstice, it is done to take maximum advantage of the Year duration, and that means that while a new Aegis is being cast the old Aegis has already fallen, and enemies of the covenant have a clear time during which to strike. That possibility alone should suggest that casting an Aegis as a normal event is an extremely stressful operation, because of the uncertainty (your covenant has enemies, right?). One way to mitigate that uncertainty and maintain that relaxed state is to cast the Aegis the day before the solstice, and for a short time two Aegides exist, one falls the next sunrise, and the the Aegis cast before the solstice decrements it's counter for solstices and equinoxes by one, so that the Aegis cast before the solstice will only last 9 months, effectively. Do covenants do that? Perhaps. Is that interesting? No.
Again, as an SG, I don't like bumping characters' elbows whose hands are holding dynamite (unless I've really warned them, and they walk into it with clear understanding). But, Ars has a lot of these little pieces where the rules often run counter to a general understanding of the players at the table. The Duration says Year, so that means a year, even though everyone has read the definition of the Spell Duration called Year, it has a different meaning in the context, but those meanings overlap, because the Aegis is cast on the same day every year, but I'm sure I'd have players who howl if I sneak in an attack on the morning of the Aegis. The setting and the rules certainly allow it, but to me, it's a killer GM move, and I hate it. So, what do we do? It's treated, invariably as a bookkeeping exercise, and so to are other rituals.
As I said in Rethinking Ritual Magic, if it's a bookkeeping exercise, it should probably be treated as a seasonal activity. If it's an exercise that entails real risk, and real effort, it needs to be treated differently, because the rules for Ritual Magic are a bit underwhelming, to be honest. Roll a die, if relaxed, don't check for a botch on 0, deduct the spell's magnitude in pawns of appropriate vis from character/covenant stores, take 15 x magnitude minutes to cast, and take at least one long term fatigue level that will restore after a good night's sleep. "So, next morning after the ritual is cast everyone moves along..." Why after the ritual is cast? Because magi are in charge, and they don't move unless they want to move, or otherwise prompted by events of the story...