Alternate settings

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.

It does. For one thing it doesn't make me want to hurt people after reading in the core book for 20+ minutes.

More generally, yes, I think there are a lot of advantages. Better balance between characteristics and skills vs the value of the die.
No reference (even implied) to "levels".
Stress dice.

Levels are about the worst basis to build a system around, that I have seen in my 25+ years of playing RPGs.
They are simple and easy, but poison to everything else.

My husband threatened to do a Warhammer game using Ars magica mechanics, but unfortunately it never got off the ground.. :frowning:


AM6 will use Pig Latin.

The whole magic system, and the vast majority of the ability system, could very easily be in another setting.

Moving out of fantasy would be silly, but moving from one fantasy setting to another can keep the majority of the mechanics in place.


Sure, if you like abuses of physics far beyond anything you can do in AM5 at current.

Did you want a perpetual motion engine for your ... well, anything? How about an infinite energy battery. The ability to violate the speed of light using a mixture of muto imaginem and perdo terram? This is stuff that can be done under the EXISTING system. Now imagine if you made it work by modern physics instead.

I've been trying to write up a method of using Ars Magica 5th Edition for a modern day setting/campaign. So far, I've had to keep "Magic uses arestotlian physics, even though we now know they are wrong. Why? God knows." because otherwise you end up breaking the system even further. A lot of these things tend towards the "You do realise, you can create antimatter" or "A non newtonian liquid? How much of one would you like?"

The one thing I'd most want for ArM6 is to lower the power level. It won't happen - most ArM players enjoy playing high-powered magi, apparently. I find it ruins the historical and mundane elements of the setting, makes non-magi characters much less fun, and diminishes the Mythic elements of the setting.

I'd make lots of changes to the spell guidelines and limits of magic, too.

I'd add a Limit of the Soul: Hermetic magic is incapable of affecting the intellect. This includes not being able to read minds, bringing back murder mysteries and secrets to the setting, as well as not being able to command people and spirits around (hello bargaining with the summoned spirit!). And means also creating intelligence is impossible (that's for God), but so is destroying it (why hello there bound demon! I truly did miss you). You can still affect the "body" of incorporeal spirits (summoning them, binding them, etc), and you can use Me(Co) to affect "bodily" feelings (lust, hunger...) but not intellectual ones (love, curiosity...). Oh - and good riddance to mind-controlling the king/pope, or mind-controlling obedience and cooperation instead of working to gain it through, you know, roleplaying.

I would consider making Might reduce all damage. And giving wizards Might-equivalent through Parma. This way indirect magic can't be used to circumvent Parma, and magic can return to "controlling the elements" rather than to "it's a magical medium; yeah, I know it LOOKS like fire, but it's actually MAGIC".

I would extend the spell guidelines with guidelines about how to extend the guidelines. Things like "reducing size further requires +1 magnitude per extra /2 size reduction". There are a lot of places where extensions to the guidelines are needed IMO. I would also clarify points such as "What does it take to cast a Touch spell in combat?" or "What's the damage if I throw 1000 spears?".

At the risk of heresy - I'd explicitly base the entire spell system on a "Universal Spell Guideline" that applies across all Arts. Things like "A base 5 does +5 damage", or "Base 20 is a Major Effect". Specific spell guidelines for Art combinations would then provide minor tunings ("Ignem is particularly good at causing damage; spells do +5 more damage than the universal Base allows") and elaborations ("A Major Effect for Muto Herbam is to change a plant to an animal, with an Animal requisite").

I would eliminate the Stress Die, replacing it with something that is more consistent in what numbers you want to roll ("wait, is rolling a "1" good or bad?). that doesn't give you hope and then drops you down ("Yeah, a '1' ! Now... oh, a '2'..."), and that doesn't reach truly absurd levels ("Yeah, ehm, so.... that's 2,500 points of damage from your knife stab... I guess the dragon keels over and dies...."). Something like "When you roll a die, if the result is '10' and the result of the Fate Die is '10' then add the two together; this is called scoring a Critical".

My favorite breakdown is:
[] Magic is True Nature, it is how things are in their truest form.
] Divine is Perfection, it is the Transcendence that everything that exists cannot ever reach. Moving towards Perfection is deviating from you True Nature, it is becoming more than you are. God is a power that pulls what is into what it cannot be, but should be.
[] Faerie is Imagination. It is things being not what they truly are, things willed into being different from their True Nature. It is Will binding Matter. Faerie gods binding taught men to bind the earth with agriculture and roads, separated the heavens from the earth by great pillars, separated the living from the dead by interring the dead in graves... They undid the chaos of pure Magic that prevailed before the titanomachia and the dawn of civilization.
] Infernal is still Privation, yes, or Nothing. It is the corruption of True Nature to something less than itself, less perfect - ultimately into nothingness. Demons deprive the world of essences.

But it makes for poor gameplay. IMO. Gameplay trumps theological consistency - I say off with this idea.

Regarding ArM5 Faerie - I like the way it plays out, but I don't like the cosmology involved and it isn't needed. There is another Realm that is nothing if of itself, that works by siphoning the vital life humans generate. The Infernal Realm. The faerie mechanics should be applied to Demons. The vampire that lives off people's blood; the banshee that feeds off their fears; the false god that lives off their devotion - these are demons, these are Infernal creatures. And you could have "good" demons, demons that feed off positive emotions, too; I think that would add some moral ambiguity to going over to the Infernal side, which is nice. Ultimately, since the demons all steal vitality from the world and can only manifest by stealing Magical raw vis, the Infernal Realm would still be on the side of "evil", a deprivation force in the world and opposed to true Magic.

ArM6 should have vitality-stealing evanescent spirits, that aren't even there when you're not looking, that lack existence without human souls to diminish - be Infernal.

Levels are the key difference between Ars Magica and d20. Levels mean characters are well rounded, having a "power level" that is reflected in their attacks, damage output, defenses, damage resilience, and skills. Levels mean "game balance". Ars Magica, in contrast, has a loose structure that means that characters are paper tigers - even "powerful" characters will fall to low-level threats that they are not prepared against (or that they can't prepare against).

I think levels are a great thing. I'm not sure they work well for an Ars Magica game, but generally thinking I think they're a great idea.

Not to be a nay-sayer, but I like Ars Magica as it is in the 5th edition and I know that I would without a doubt look for a new system to play if a new edition came out with a new setting.

The reasons I like Ars Magica 5

[x] Almost everyone knows the basic outlaying of the setting. All you need to know the basic gameworld is an Atlas and a common sense where to search for basic info: Libraries, Wikipedia etc.

[x] Although there are dwarves, elves, pixies etc in the game, it is not the standard D&D, Tolkienesque world. There are enough of those worlds out on the shelves in various shops.

[x] Yes, players can be all-powerful über-wizards, but there is also a well-rounded balance in the game that allows you to play a campaign that is all about being apprentices, companions or grogs. Still, any über-wizard can be brought down by a simple farmer with a little bad luck.

[x] I like the history of the Order and the houses and why they exist.

[x] The rules are simple and it takes 1-2 game sessions to know all the important ones by heart.

[x] The world is a sandbox, where you ca use the world history as canon, or you can do as your want.

[x] The latin is ot to hard and too much. It makes the game special and adds a flavour to the setting. Its not like you have to e a latin major to play the game and the writers have explained the various latin terms.

[x] Unlike various forms of d20, AM5 feels realistic and interesting. It is a game dedicated to mysticism, research, long-term planning and not as much dungeoncrawling and hack n'slash.

[x] The character creation is simple, but can easily make really complex characters and it does not take hours to make a starting character, unless you want it to.

[x] The AM5 books has really made the setting be diverse and full of mystical and exciting things.

Thank you for making AM5, i started playing in AM4 and i did not like it, the powerlevel curve was too easy to climb. in AM5 you have made a tradeoff when it comes to adventure experience vs study experience. Where ealrier you could get 1-3 exp per session with a bonus of 1-3 xp per end of adventure and ass to that any ammount of xp that you could possibly study (and what crazy study xp you could get. Books with quality 20-25+ (if you had some concentration ranks). This new system is really balanced.

So, again I will say. I would without a thought dedicate myself and my money to a new game and setting if you changed Ars Magica. I try to buy an AM5 book each every month until i get them all, and I would get the whole collection, but i would not support this company any longer if you stopped this game.

This game is the best on the Market, just look at the forums as an example: At many other gamesites there are almost always 3 types of boardmembers: The fanatic supporters, the people that always complain and those casual posters. For example, on Rifts game (Palladium Books) page, there is an almost all out war between the posters who support and those who wants the publishers to change stuff. Here at Atlas Games, I have seen people criticizing the game, but when they do, they do it with politeness and more like a honest wish or request.

Maybe you do not corner the world RPG market with Ars, but your fans are loyal and we love what you do and write for us.

Mind you, I wouldn't go the 5th edition route and make starting characters weaker (compared to earlier editions), I'd slow advancement down a bit.
But then, I was very pleased with the system back before Arts were based on XPs, meaning that they were effectively capped by progress simply becomming too slow and unpredictable.

I don't know. I'd consider the opposite. Parma only cancels magical effects. Stops the whole pink dot problem. Edge of the razor on a sword won't get through parma without penitration, but the mundane "You just got hit with a sword" still hurts like hell.

This I would agree with, with the "Ignem guidelines for damage are 1 magnitude lower" being a feature of ignem, etc.

Simply invert the stress die. Rolling a 10 is a roll again and multiply. Means you get slightly lessened results (as you can now get to double a 1, rather than a minimum of 2, and can no longer end up with a situation of 3 '1' in a row, followed by a 10 making a total of 80.) but also makes life simpler because higher is always better then.

I'd suggest "roll then add". So a 10 then a 2 is a 12, not a 4. The current roll and double system drops your score down from the original 10 too often. I have seen a person roll 4 ones in a row, and sure, there's a lot of fun waiting to see what they roll next, but frankly there's not a lot of difference in game effect between 1/1/1/1/4 equalling 44 or 64. Also, I've seen 1/1/2, which is a terrible letdown in the current system.

That's not bad. Think I've seen a system that does that already.

Well to be fair, the game is Ars Magica, not Mythic Europe. I play Ars Magica to play a powerful mage. I don't play Ars Magica to play a powerful fighter. Characters who are not magi should have different goals than being the most powerful person in the scenes they are in. Edit: sometimes the companions can drive the stories in ways that the magi can't, and sometimes they can do even more than a magus could do.

Arguably, the only spell that should allow someone to rifle through the mind of a person and pull out whether or not they committed a crime is Peering Into the Mortal Mind. Yes, you could compel them to submit to Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie, but even then that's not assured or guaranteed. In a city or other place with a room full of mundanes, an Mentem specialist, unless he can cast silently and without gestures is at a bit of a disadvantage and if in a city he has a divine aura to contend with. There are still numerous opportunities to do it through roleplaying, and as is mentioned in Covenants, repeated use of Mentem spells to control and affect behavior should run up against a limit or create other problems.

Not generally a fan, but you and I have had disagreements about indirect magic before. Not going to get into those here.

Well of +1 size increases it by a factor, can we extrapolate to +1 size also decreases it by a factor? When and where does this come into play? Ars Magica does not have a good area of effect system, the damage from 1000 spears should be calculated according to such a system. It would be a worthy addition (or is it in Lord of Men, I haven't read that book thoroughly). Most Ars combat is based on small groups and skirmishes, throwing 1000 spears in those situations is... unnecessary.

I have no real issue with this, it's not quite explicit in the current crop of guidelines. Ignem [strike]might[/strike] should probably be a bit more efficient at damage. I'd like to see a bit more exploration of secondary effects though. Opponents damaged with fire stay on fire for another round and must soak a smaller damage amount. Opponents hit with water get damage and knockdown effects (already the case for the canonical Mighty Torrent of Water). Opponents hit with terram get what kind of secondary effect? Opponents hit with lightning (auram) should probably have to deal with Jupiter's Resounding Blow, too. Just thinking out loud.

I like the stress die. So, you're trying to eliminate it for situations where a player rolls 8 1's and a 10 and kills your difficult creature? I'm not sure that's really reasonable. Why isn't it a good story that the guy with a knife found the weak spot and killed the dragon? I can't tell you how many times I've rolled a one and followed it up with a two. I play to the averages, sometimes I get lucky, and I like that both for PCs and SGs. I will acknowledge that botching in combat is something that probably needs to be fixed, it seems to happen all too often.

I'm with Tellus, levels are horrible for fun. Ars isn't about power level, and it really isn't about balance. Some magi definitely can be paper tigers, but not always. It's made explicit in the core book that magi prepare for their tasks ahead of time, with the Penetration example. Story flaws and covenant hooks are designed to pull magi out of their places of comfort to deal with the threats they are not prepared to deal with. But these threats do not have to be combat related, either, to undo a magus.

Everything Dunia said in her wonderful post is QFT.


Levels as a design concept should have died with the 80's

skills and abilities, stats, can have levels. Characters shouldn't, unless it is a shorthand to some kind of rank...

Why would a new edition be necessary for a new setting? Time will come when the 1220 state of the Order and Europe is exhaustively covered, and we are all heavily invested in 5th. I don't see you need a new edition of the core rules to explore the possibility of supplements set in the history, future, or variants of the Order, or even outside Mythic Europe. I don't think we have to assume the two are linked - while I joked in my thread about 10th, there is surely a case for a new setting in the next few years looking at the Tribunals a century on or something?

cj x

The reason why I mentioned a new edition was that someone previously on this thread mentioned a 6th edition and I replied to that.

However, I am happy with the setting as it is and though I would like books about history of the order, I am not interested in a new setting as described in the previous pages in this thread. If I want to play a fantasy game I play D&D, dangerous Journeys, Paladium Fantasy, Warhammer fantasy or another of those hundreds of fantasy games there are on the market or used games on E-Bay. I play Ars Magica for the fantastic setting of mythic europe anno 1220-ish

Just advancing time from the 1220 Mythic Europe in official ArM5 books will cause a lot of problems, as more and more issues the Hermetic magi contend with in 1220 will have been resolved or sidelined by history.
Already around 1250 most arable land in central and western Europe is cultivated, the letters of Robert Grosseteste are available, books of Albertus Magnus, Bonaventura and soon also Thomas Aquinas start to appear, the great universities and their courses have evolved, and scholastics are dominating intellectual life. "Ad exstirpanda" is written 1252.
Writing up the position of the 1250 OoH within and to all of this in a supplement is a tough proposition, that will jostle many campaigns and might do more harm than good.

Going outside of Mythic Europe - e. g. to some more places of the Middle East, Aethiopia (Queen Judith, King Lalibela), India, (Faerie?) China, or the Great Lakes - might be more appealing, as it would open up new possibilities for entire campaigns.

Finally the Magic Realm can be detailed a lot further, also providing vast spaces for developing and new campaigns.