Alternate settings

I agree with you on this and RoP:F would had the potential to integrate such different setting easy but alas it did not. At last for me this book made the game much more complicated where it should have made it easier to get a different setting in, but that might be just me because I really struggle in reading trough the ideas and rules presented there.

Looking at some threads lately :unamused: , I can empathize with you.

But no, AFAICS that would indeed kill off Ars Magica for good. There are enough fantasy settings, and enough RPG companies trying to pay their licenses for one of them or to keep a home-brew one afloat.
ArsMagica's specific assets are those players used and able to research a campaign background and build a campaign around it themselves. For these Mythic Europe, leveraging history and concentrating on providing an inspired, elaborate fantasy element within it, is quite peerless.


Yes the medieval European setting have to be keep as the core setting because it makes Ars Magica to something special.
But why not make it easier to have different settings in alternative Realms, with or without connection to the normal setting?
A fantasy realm could then even published as a separate source book with elf, dwarf, faun etc. that really live there and are not just there to drain humans, that some how got there, of their vitality.

Let me try to be even clearer:

Although I agree that there are arguably pagan holdover elements in the Brigid case, I doubt it will ever reach Ars canon, because Ars canon tries not to offend people and your axiom here, that there are pagan elements in Catholic practice, is not accepted by many Catholics. One of the 4th Edition authors used to go ballistic on this, for example (although I don't think MdV was even Catholic.) and I'm having the fun now of arguing on the opposite side to the one I took last time I had this discussion, because I've become convinced of the merits of the counter-case.

The reason for the Catholic defensiveness on this score is that some of the Protestant Churches used to use it to club them around the head, a lot, even to the extent of killing them sometimes.

Therefore, although I agree that the pagan elements are there in some cases, I'd like to suggest that, on a broader level, I'm not sure Ars will ever do "Saint Denis is actually Dionisys" because the level of pure visceral outrage you'd get from some players is going to be on the level of the blood libel, and I say this as someone who has already been on the catching end of the argument.

If you'd like to make real world claims, which is what I thought you were doing originally, you'd be better served going for quality rather than quantity in your citations: the one you gave before is just really weak.

CJ: would you kill the Latin? Although I agree with One Shot mostly, I dod think there's a segment of potential players put off by the "must have a history degree and speak Latin" thing.

Removing the Latin from the rules and from the basic descriptions of the Order might really improve the appeal of the game. Not only with those who don't know Latin, but also with those who do.
Just recall that for character names in correct Latin players needed downloads from Durenmar (and even recent discussions here: ).


It won't be canon as long as I'm in charge. Mind you, the point of the thread is precisely to discuss what happens when I'm not.

Ah yes. He once (without realising) accused St Thomas Aquinas of being a bigoted anti-Catholic polemicist (he accused me of taking a particular position from bigoted anti-Catholic polemic, when it was a direct quote from Aquinas). When you are interested in not offending people, it is not sufficient to be right. Sometimes, in fact, it is necessary not to be right.

Were I redoing some of the basic setting assumptions, I'd probably redefine the Divine and Infernal in terms of Thomistic theology, so that the Divine is existence, and the Infernal is privation. I'd keep "demons can't do long-term plans", because the lack of virtue fits really well in that theology, and I'd keep Timothy's faeries because I think they may be the best single idea in ArM5. You can still do all the classic demon stories, but they are faeries, not demons, and the fact that the stories only follow story logic suddenly makes sense. That leaves the question of what Magic might be, and I'd probably, conceptually, make it into dreams and possibilities. The Divine wins in the real world, because the Divine is what is, but the power of what may be is, potentially, both greater and more beautiful. And could change the Divine.

I probably wouldn't change a great deal else, but then I've had twelve years to shape the game in the way I would like, so that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

I'd make each realm's powers different mechanically and thematically.
Save maybe for the Divine and the infernal: Since it is a mockery and a copy, the infernal could use mechanics similar to the divine, but twisted to a different theme.

Magic: I like the idea of Magic being god's clockwork, and that the inner workings of the world are dangerous to unshielded humans. You're playing with Elemental forces here, the basic workings of the world. Magic shouldn't be intelligent, it should be primal, raw and powerful. I would scrap most creatures that doesn't fit this, make them Faerie. Probably including Dragons, although these could be like the Old Ones of previous editions: Ancient users or magic that survive to this day.

I mostly like the current take on Faeries. It is a great tool, if often, IMO, misunderstood in that it mostly presents how and why faerie works behind the scenes, not how they are perceived and understood by the characters.
I'd make Faerie strange and weird, and the merinita, too. Maybe have them use Faerie powers instead of Magical ones, to make them even more different. And have them become more faerie-like as they age, not unlike the gruagach.
Most creatures would be Faeries. Maybe Faerie is the world seen through the prism of magic, or deformed by it? This would explain the relationship between the two, but also the differences? Like, magic is the power of the atom, and faerie are the x-men?

So, for exemple, we could have:

  • Divine and Infernal use a pool of points they spend from to boost their casting dices (say, "Faith Points". Creatures may be able to just "use guideline X". Divine/Infernal ain't about knowledge and learning, it's about faith and how often you call for help, depleting your favor.
  • Magic uses Arts. An elemental may be able to just "cast PoF with Creo 0 Ignem = Might", or just have and Ignem score equal to Might. This might allow you to be "taught" Ignem by a fire spirit.
  • Faerie use creature powers as in RoP: M. Faerie magicians, in short, accumulate superpowers by making themselves more fay.

Something I liked in previous editions, and, IMO, the best take I've seen on divination, is this: You've seen the paths to the future, and manipulated events. So (depending on mechanics), you may reroll, or make someone reroll, a dice, and choose the result. Or give it a bonus/malus, whatever. That is, the GM doesn't give a player knowledge of the future (How could he?), but the mechanics simulate the fact that the character has some, and acted based on his knowledge.

This is not the same thing, not really, but I remember a story seed (maybe in RoP: Magic) about a man claiming to be a pagan god, transformed into a human by communion, having magic powers and True Faith.

So while the line doesn't endorse the idea than Christian Saints are renamed pagan gods, there's certainly room for the idea that former Pagan Gods may have become christians.

Context: I'm a storyguide about one year in to running my first campaign, having not played Ars Magica before that, and with a group of players who also hadn't played ArM before.

I think if I were starting again now, I'd invent a fantasy setting rather than using Mythic Europe as written. I loved the details of the setting while I was reading the sourcebooks (especially how the history of the Order slots in to real-world history), but when it came to running the campaign I found the historical basis more limiting than useful. I kind of felt obliged to do research and to keep things historically accurate--I know the core book says I can do as much or as little research as I like, but for me there's an emotional difference between "using medieval Europe but not bothering to get the details right" and "inventing a new setting loosely based on medieval Europe". I also found that trying to stick to real-world history meant sidelining a lot of the fantastic elements that my players were most interested in--magic only happens out in the wilderness or in magical regios etc. where history doesn't notice it.

I wouldn't want a new edition of the game to come with a pre-made fantasy setting that replaces Mythic Europe, though. I think what I'd want would be for Mythic Europe to be the "default" setting, but for the system to be detached from the setting and for there to be guidelines for storyguides/groups who want to create their own settings instead. The appeal of the game for me and my group is that you get to play an awesome powerful wizard with a really flexible magic system, not that you're doing so in a version of real-world history.

In one of my own games, the player characters helped a Water Horse (who could take human shape) to develop a soul, and eventually he went to Heaven, and was even able to perform an intercessionary miracle for the player characters later, which is one of the steps to sainthood, so yes, I can see there some potential there. That was a really fun saga, because the player characters thought they were there to suck out the vis from the monster of the week and instead it became this weird thing about how you could grow souls from the spirits trapped in the soul cages of merfolk.

Actually I would tend to see faerie as being about dreams and possibility, Magic about meaning and metaphor if you are heading that direction- the platonic ideals are more fundamental representations of an ideal, but not the only ones. The divine would be about faith, the infernal about doubt and despair. Perhaps another realm to be the realm of stories...

So long as we do not bring back a Realm of Reason.

On this if nothing else we are agreed.

I rather like the idea of using an Ars Magica like system in other places and times, but feel that any such settings would probably have to be developed as parallel game-lines in their own right which would be a risky proposition for Atlas, I think...

I think you could probably keep the rules system basically as is, and have it as a single setting splatbook, much like the ones D&D has.

Nowhere near as risky as trying to make a whole new line.

The Latin and Latin-like names for NPCs are something that crept into the supplements over time. IIRC ArM2 did not generally care about such things. For example, in the classic Broken Covenant of Calebais the wizards had made-up, fantasy names like Pitsdim and Mormool.

More judicious use of Latin might, indeed, help the game's appeal. To use non-Latin names for characters would also set a more medieval tone than a classical one.

I guess, but it seems to me that an awful lot of the content in Ars Magica 5E's corebook is too specific to the Mythic Europe setting to be useful as a true generic system. Furthermore, I can't help wondering whether Ars Magica's core mechanic (Characteristic+Ability+d10) offers enough distinct advantages versus its little brother, d20, to make it an appealing alternative to that same system which has already been shoehorned onto just about every conceivable setting at this point anyway.

At last for me the 3th edition D&D D20 system is a system I avoid at nearly all cost (and the 4th is even worse) because I can't stand the system Wizard of the Coast created there.
For the 3th edition my problem started with the Prestige Classes that actual reduced the flexibility one can go a lot instead of added more flexibility and the 4th edition is a game that need to be played with figures what make it a complete no go for me.
So yes there is still a place beside the D20 system for nearly all other RPG Systems if one can accept that the sale numbers are not that great.

Oh dear, I fear I may have derailed the thread.. :frowning:

Anyway, I don't actually think d20 is a bad system per se (though I do agree with your assessment of prestige classes in D&D 3.X). The point I was trying to make is that due to the similarities of the systems any setting developed using the, for want of a better term, 'Ars Magica system' would likely be better served being written up in d20 since the two share a lot of mechanical traits, but D20 is far more familiar to the majority of gamers. And as a corollary, there are already a multitude of d20 games to cover virtually any setting and genre.

If the rule for "the medieval philosophers were right about how the world works" were removed, I think it would open up new time periods to use for the system. I think the magic system is very good and could be used in a more contemporary game.