A Future ArM 6 -- what is ESSENTIAL?

Considering that there is a whole book called "Transforming Mythic Europe", it is clear to me that the intent was never to freeze Ars Magica campaign in following real history.
It just happened that for X reasons, history did not diverge earlier, to let PCs the possibility to shine and make history.

The background proposes strong forces to oppose the magi, not necessarly overwhelming. Players have to learn to handle them instead of doing head first against them.

Indeed. And there is Dies Irae coming for ultimate transformations of Mythic Europe and the Order, too.

In spring 2014 I tried to summarize the canonical forces at work in Mythic Europe until such times (see https://forum.atlas-games.com/t/the-break-room/102/1 - where losing Mythic Europe in the canon setting was put to a vote):

And now let's recall, that the title of this thread is A Future ArM6 -- what is ESSENTIAL?, and that David Chart requested above, to move discussions of alternate settings to the appropriate thread Ars Magica Derived Games?: Ars Magica Derived Games?.


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These can only be seen as distinct things if we assume AM6 will go forward with a rigid single-history background world. I believe it would be a mistake to do so.

So, silveroak, please move your proposals to Ars Magica Derived Games?.


I have to say that I do like it, I think it works pretty well, and it's still used in many games-- Pathfinder's feats (although these are mostly combat-centric), Savage Worlds has something similar. It's a common mechanic.

I think a lot of this comes down to play style of a particular saga and troupe. I like making the covenant, as I find it the core of the troupe, even as magi come and go, companions arrive and die, grogs serve their brief tenure. I enjoy having to hunt for books through interactions with neighboring covenants, I like looking for specific titles because they contain not only some magical information I want for my character, but some plot-associated information.

I think simply the tenor of the Order is a matter of some difference between saga-- if your Order is genial and friendly between covenants, or if it's still somewhat suspicious of each other, or somewhere in between.

No matter what rules revisions come, there need to be more adventures, but I said that already. I have to admit, I've been intrigued about some of Andrew's offline conversations about customizing the gift, but aside from clarifying wards, pink dots, and unifying monster creation a bit, I'm pretty solid with ArM5.


I didn't make any proposals, I simply pointed out that the distinction is only relevant given certain assumptions about the setting. One could have a core world which is more or less historical with alternative histories that can be reached...

I would suggest that the problem is not "powerful wizards" in itself but "lots and lots of powerful wizards, joined together into an organized society". If we discard the Order of Hermes and reduce the prevalence of magi then we get a setting that I find much more believable. In a way, it's even a return to the roots of AM first edition, before the Order was invented.

The Houses/splats were a great concept when they were introduced and I still treasure my copy of 2nd edition Order of Hermes but the idea has run its course by now, especially considering the vastly improved level of historical authenticity in recent AM5 publications.

Yes! I played Ars Magica before Houses were a thing, so to me you could get rid of Houses and still have Ars Magica.

Think about how ditching Houses would change your saga.

In my current saga, which is just concluding, the answer is "not very much, really."

Covenants are essential to Ars Magica. Some kind of Order of Hermes, to provide both political conflict (for those who like that sort of thing) and in-character accountability for magi, is probably essential. Houses -- IMHO, they're not essential.

I like the Houses. I know they are kind of "of their time" in gaming terms, but I think they offer a nice distinction.

I'd actually like that distinction to be sharper, but then I'd angle for a set of books that took Mythic Europe from the dark ages, through the founding of the Order, and then beyond... So plenty of work at the front end on the smaller traditions before we even get into the Order of Hermes. It's still Ars Magica - just not dominated by Tech/Form/Order of Hermes.

Once you have solid lineages and traditions up front I suspect that might influence how the Houses develop in any my wishlist future edition.

I must say that Ars Magica 2nd edition, where the development of the game was still in it's infancy to a degree, the Mythic Europe setting was much more loosely set out and there was more scope to play Wizards in any fantasy setting in effect.

I'm currently playing in a Parhfinder mythos with Ars Magic rules. It has been fun.

I am kind of attached to the Houses. I started with 4th and materials from 3rd. Actually I started with Mage, and the concepts of House Flambeau as described in Book of Chantries drew me to seek out Ars Magica.

What if we dispensed with Covenants? Granted, there needs to be a McGuffin to draw the party together, and a Covenant is the easiest example we have thus far. But what if instead each magus had their own little private sanctum apart from other people, and a private allotment of resources?

I think the conclusion to be drawn from this thread is that, in one sense, nothing is essential, and in another sense, everything is. Any individual element can be dropped, and most people will still think it is Ars Magica. On the other hand, if you drop anything, then some people will think you are destroying the heart of the game.

This is why I think discussing derived games is likely to be more useful. Don't forget that Atlas is considering lots of possibilities for extending the line, so things that are clearly not Ars Magica (like Mythic Britain, or games with accessible parallel worlds/alternate histories) are things that might be of great interest. Arguments over the definition of what counts as Ars Magica are of substantially less interest.

I'm not even sure that discussing what has to be in a new core rule book is that helpful, because of the lack of consensus over what a new edition should look like. Maybe it would be better to have that discussion on the assumption that it is still ArM5, but you are producing a new core rule book to make the game more accessible. So, no rule or setting changes, but you can add and remove material.

Covenants (as a concept, not necessarily in their actual form) is the one thing I have taken from Ars Magica and tried very hard to spread to every other game I GM.
Do not mess with the covenants, they are a stroke of genius in motivating characters to stay together.

Covenant is the central character of an Ars Magica saga.

Covenants and Covenant Charters are essential narrative Ars Magica concepts. I doubt, though, whether the ArM5 rules to create covenants are similarly essential. Narrativist approaches - like from FATE - to define a covenant might be more appropriate, combined with guidance for the anyway necessary research of the covenant's place and history.
(EDIT: This change may be of interest for a revised ArM5 core rule book.)

20 powerful wizards can be just as bad as 400 or 2000.
The issue is always,
(1) to have them credibly block each other's schemes to rule and change Mythic Europe,
(2) while the player magi plan to break that stall.
For this, both the Oath of Hermes and the Order of Hermes are essential, and extremely hard to replace by a credible alternative.
(EDIT: So, this needs to be kept in a revised ArM5 core rule book.)

The Houses serve a double purpose: they help players to define their characters, and storyguides to embed these characters into the society of the Order of Hermes. They are simplistic, and most defy even superficial sociological analysis. But they would have to be replaced, not just done away with.
(EDIT: Leaving most of the Houses to the HoH: books, and adding in a revised ArM5 core book other means to define player characters and their relation to the Order, needs to be discussed more in detail yet.)


EDIT: I just see that David Chart (in Familiars from the start) has suggested to redefine the scope of this thread.

That might take some marketing research to say why players think it is not accessible. Is it too complex rules? Too many books?

Just as a guess, I would remove Houses from the main book. If people want to play with them they can buy the 3 House books. I would do this because the Mystery Houses are not playable from the base rule book. So just remove all Houses and let new players play any wizard they want.

Then the rulebook needs a single source for the Level Guidelines so different books are not needed to find them all.

Another alternative is to break the rulebook into 2 smaller books. Have a players guide with the Houses ( including the Mystery Cult paths) spells, virtues and flaws, grogs and companions. A second book for the Setting with all of the realms, regios, beasties and background for Mythical Europe. Basically things needed for the Story Guide.

Cults often do. And most houses can be seen as cults of personality in their formation, though it doesn't explain how some of them have held together.

I read most of the thread
I think that's easier to reduce choice by "house rule" when there are lots of choice than to make a lot with to few choice...
so I am very happy with virtues and flaws proposed by the game. I made a file where they are so that i can easily choose amongst different categories.
As far as experimentation is concerned, I love the experimentation table which is absolutely needed to make a mage richer... I love all the possibilities of research that make that game so riche in possibilities... so I wouldn't like those possibilities be reduced...
Experimentation is one the things very interresting when the mage stay in his laboratory between adventures.
I hope that one day we could have the tribunals that were made in 3d and 4th edition remade as in the 5th in a further edition.
I would also love be able to play at the time of the creation of the Order.

A lot of the talk on this thread is about either rules presentation or fairly minor tweaks to the existing ruleset.

Honestly, perhaps the most essential aspect of a future AM6, for me and in relation to my purchasing decision, is that it not be the same as AM5. This isn't because I dislike AM5, it's because I like AM5 very much, own most of the product line, and am generally satisfied with it. I have trouble picturing starting all over with a very similar game when I can continue to use what's already printed.

I have very little experience with RPGs as a business but I think going this route would be a mistake.