Answering "Which Books Should I Buy"?

Greetings,

One area where I think the FAQ has gotten out of date and is failing to serve the community is in the question, "What Books Should I Buy?"

Basically, the old approach (from before my time as FAQ maintainer) was to host product reviews and customer surveys. Frankly, I think that is too much work when you can get reviews and so forth from bigger sites (such as rpg.net). So I haven't kept up with the CGI programming to maintain the "user reviews" feature of the FAQ.

However, the question keeps coming up, and I finally have a decent idea of how to approach this. Something to the effect of:

A) Does this seem like a reasonable approach to you?
B) Please help me fill in a list of recommendations, such as "buy Infernal if you want lots of demons in your Saga"

Thanks.

A. Yes, this seems reasonable to me.

B. Answers forthcoming. :slight_smile:

-Ben.

As a guy who read the FAQ up and down, yes the approach you suggest is better. I ended up buying pretty much every 5th edition book and a few older ones since I wasn't really sure what I'd need. Later on, I obviously figured out it depends what your saga is about. Then again, hogging all those books didn't really matter much since the euro:dollar was pretty favorable.

I bought City and Guild mainly to figure out the medieval way of life, but other books do a pretty good job on that also. I bought Mythic Europe to get an overall view on the whole thing which has been useful. Just got Infernals on mail and it's definitely good. Very nicely written and gets the gears rolling.

Tribunal books are also nicely written and i've gone through Guardians of the Forest a few times. I also got the Heirs to Merlin and The Lily and the Rose.

I wouldn't mind having a short recap on every 5th edition book that's out there. Even if it is just something like:

The Infernals explore all the aspects of evil and how to place and portray evil and demons in your campaigns. It also gives the guidelines on creating infernal characters and has extended rules for infernal auras etc.
(not that I'm sure if it does that since I haven't fully read it).

A) Sounds good to me
B) Well, I somehow lack the time to do it :blush:

All right then, here's a start:

Realms of Power: Infernal, as has been previously said, covers all aspects of demons and devil-worshipers for ArM5. It would be a good choice if you want to bring thoroughly evil adversaries to your game. Demons can be either direct or subtle threats. There are rules for Infernally-tainted magic, which many groups will be more comfortable using for NPC's than for PC's.

House of Hermes: True Lineages (which describes the Houses Bonisagus, Guernicus, Mercere, and Tremere) is useful as a way to see how the Order can work as an organization. It also establishes many of the assumptions about how the Order works that underpin the rest of the line. If you are interesting in a saga that stays largely to the 5th ed. cannon (canon? I can never remember) this will be a largely useful book. If you are interested in a saga that deals with intra-Hermetic politics or what Tribunal or Grand Tribunal looks like, this is also a useful book.

I disagree. Both from a gaming aspect and a business aspect.
Sure it depends a bunch onwhat type of game you are playing, but the various book EXPAND the core knowledge and rules. If you are playing ARS then you should look at it like this:

I am a player, therefore I need what?

AM5- 'Nuff' said
HOH book: appropriate to the Character that I want to play.
This covers the basics. I have maintained all along that the HOH books are the most important expansion books that were put out...EVERYONE that buys books will start with AM5, then, no matter what they are playing, will buy the Magi book that they are interested in playing... IF they have enough money, then they will buy books as per their interest. By the time, they get to that, they should have a good idea about what they are buying.

I am a Story teller, I need what?

[size=59]Outside of buying everything....[/size]

Am5 ...Duh...
Any book that the players have....You don't want them to have information YOU don't.

Next: Rules and stuff that YOU are going to use....
(not in any real order here)
--If your game is going to include a LOT of Infernal type stories, then You need the Infernal book. If you buy that book, you need its opposite to work the whole thing out (though thats not mandatory). Reverse this in some instances...
--If you are going to run a lot of Character development stories, then you will need the Mysteries book (and to a lesser extent the Ancient Magic book). Both of these books provide a lot of story hooks...
--If you are going to run stories that need exact numbers or development of things (instead of hand waving) then you will need Covenants and City and Guilds...more stories will come from these...
--If you need help developing you game 'world', then the Tribunal books are the thing...

Hi,

I have just bought eleven AM supplements (at a wonderful discount) and have been leafing through them. I offer the following perspective:

  1. Ars Magica--hard to play without rules
  2. True Lineages--crunch about the Order, especially the Quaesitors and the Code, but also the Bonisagi and Mercere. I'm always leery of breakthrough rules, but they're there if you want em. The Tremere are vastly improved; I consider this part of the book the least essential but my favorite.
  3. Mystery Cults--info about four flavorful houses, which are truly incomplete without this book. Also enough information to roll your own.
  4. Societas--get the last four houses. Useful if you don't want to roll your own Ex Misc traditions, or want examples of how to do it. I find the Flambeau and Tytalus writeups to be greatly improved, adding much-needed depth to these Houses.
  5. The Mysteries--rules for creating mysteries and a bunch of mysteries. If your saga concentrates on mysteries, and especially if you like these mysteries, this book moves higher in importance.

The rest... depends. If you want lots of Divine and Infernal in your saga, and want rules for them, these books are useful. This isn't to my taste. I think the Infernal is more useful than the Divine, but that is probably saying more about my own spiritual state than the quality of these books!

If your saga is set in the Rhine or Normandy Tribunals, these books become more useful, perhaps deserving the #2 spot.

Covenants? If you want more detail, it's good. City and Guild? Lots of good research went into this. But although both supplements offer lots of rules, I don't think they feel integrated into the game as well as they might be. Where I can take the spell design rules and come up with spells that feel part of the whole and then use them as a complete system, the rules do not quite let me do the same thing with the economy; they sort of do, at an abstract level, and the abstract rules are good! But I never feel as though they attach themselves well to all the concrete information given. In the end, the SG has to do a lot of hand-waving, er, exercise a lot of good judgment, even with the rules. So... maybe. I definitely think these books are improvements on what came before.... and the great research in CaG really shines.

Ancient Mysteries is not essential. I think it's extremely flavorful and well-written, a book of epic adventure ideas with correspondingly epic rewards.

Anyway,

Ken

Hi,

This edition has grown on me.

One thing I have noticed, as I read the supplements, is the way everything holds together, part of a whole, in a way that none of the previous editions ever managed.

The thing ain't perfect! If it's a whole, it's more like the whole ball of yarn than the whole ball of wax, with loose ends and dangling tangles. I still find myself wanting to change things, reconcile inconsistencies, streamline this or fill out that.

But I'm impressed. In this case, familiarity has not bred contempt. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I'm reminded of the first chapter in Genesis, when God see that the creation of each day is good, but on the last day, he sees that the whole thing is very good.

Anyway,

Ken

I couldnt agree more - and it seems that it cant be said to often either!

So - once more a big heartfelt thanks to the editor and authors for the great effort they put in! :slight_smile:

And a very Merry Season[size=59]*[/size] to all and a Happy New Year!

[size=59]* Whether one kind or another - or quite simply just the Saturnalia [/size]:wink:

What books are suitable for players?
Only the ones their storyguide is comfortable with them having. Sucks having a player who knows all the official plot twists (unless the storyguide can use that against him). Never been in that position myself, but i've put others in it (and I always run, then remember my character has no reason to, oops).

Thanks! That's what I've been shooting for, and it's very nice to know that I've succeeded to some extent. Having an extremely good group of authors, who are willing to write and make changes to fit plans they do not entirely understand, has made this a lot easier than it might have been.

Now I need to think about how to do even better.

...Better...One thing I noticed and approve of...
Examples.

Societies seemed to take that step, and it helped a whole bunch.

OK... I infer you mean you disagree with the advice to play with just the main rule book for a while. Is that what you meant?

I insist that one can play a perfectly good ArM5 Saga with just the main rule book (because I did, during playtesting); however if an eager newbie wants to rush out and buy one or all supplements, who am I to say no?

This seems to me a very sensible way to approach the question.

Based on the words of Urien, Ovarwa, and everyone else, I'm revising the answer. This will eventually become the new FAQ entry. I think I will edit this post to keep it up-to-date as new remarks get folded in.

Q: Which books should I buy?

A: The quick answer is, all of 'em. They're all good.

A more thoughtful answer depends on whether you're a player or storyguide, and on what your saga is like. High adventure, or low intrigue? Lots of politics, or not so much? Young magi just getting started, or Archmagi in the twilight years of their power?

The only book you strictly need is the ArM5 rule book. All the other books are supplements that extend the rules and/or setting in certain ways.

If you are a player:

The House book for whichever House your magus belongs to is probably most important. They give a lot of information that puts each House in context.

If you are a storyguide:

You should seriously consider acquiring whatever books your players have for their own characters' Houses. It's better than constantly borrowing the books to plumb them for ideas. :wink:

If you want to better understand Hermetic law and politics, Houses of Hermes: True Lineages is probably the best choice.

If you want to your stories to delve deeper into the Mystery Houses (Bjornaer, Criamon, Merinita, Veritius) and have PC's acquire knowledge and powers beyond the ken of other magi, HoH: Mystery Cults is the way to go.

If you want to design your own non-Hermetic powers for use with House Ex Miscellanea, then Houses of Hermes: Societates has what you need.

The Mysteries: Revised Edition seems very popular because of the mystical flavor it adds to Mythic Europe, and the esoteric powers that give even very senior magi a goal worth pursuing.

Covenants is a toolbox for making your own covenants, with lots of new Boons and Hooks, ready-made example NPC's, lots of vis sources, and rules for detailed finances and grog morale.

Realms of Power: Infernal is a good choice if you are looking for enemies (either straightforward or subtle) for your PC's to fight.

Realms of Power: Divine adds possibilities for pious magi and companions, including supernatural powers; it also outlines the major religions of Mythic Europe

More to come...

Based on the words of Urien, Ovarwa, and everyone else, I'm revising the answer. This will eventually become the new FAQ entry. I think I will edit this post to keep it up-to-date as new remarks get folded in.

[Edited in response to YR7's comments]

Q: Which books should I buy?

A: The quick answer is, all of 'em. They're all good.

A more thoughtful answer depends on whether you're a player or storyguide, and on what your saga is like. High adventure, or low intrigue? Lots of politics, or not so much? Young magi just getting started, or Archmagi in the twilight years of their power?

The only book you strictly need is the ArM5 rule book. All the other books are supplements that extend the rules and/or setting in certain ways.

If you are a player:

The House book for whichever House your magus belongs to is probably most important. They give a lot of information that puts each House in context.

If you are a storyguide:

You should seriously consider acquiring whatever books your players have for their own characters' Houses. It's better than constantly borrowing the books to plumb them for ideas. :wink: Apart from that, here is a bit more on what each book has to offer.

Covenants is a toolbox for creating your own covenant(s) with lots of new Boons and Hooks, vis sources, and ready-made NPC's; rules for covenant income, finance, and morale; also extended book rules, laboratory customization, and rules for using Rego spells to create crafted items.

Guardians of the Forest: Includes Durenmar and the Great Library, plus the idea of Forest Paths and Forest Spirits, which may be useful in a saga outside the Rhine.

Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults: Rules for designing statistics for mundane beasts; plus, obviously, details on the Inner Mysteries of the four Mystery Houses, which some players consider essential.

Houses of Hermes: Societates: Rules for designing your own non-Hermetic powers for House Ex Miscellanea, plus several examples; expanded rules for illusions and for crafting mundane items with magic; rules for fighting invisibly and for spells of attack that bypass Magic Resistance; rules system for debate and social skills.

Houses of Hermes: True Lineages: Lots of information on Hermetic Law; rules for original research; rules on the use of Intrigue (plu Guile and Folk Ken) -- though note that these are not precisely concordant with later rules published in HoH: Societates

The Mysteries: Revised Edition: Mysteries can provide a worthy goal for senior magi; mystery societies also make useful adversaries. There are some new Virtues and Flaws and laboratory options that are accessible to non-Mystery magi. It also includes rules for memorization and the new Academic Ability, Art of Memory.

Realms of Power: Infernal is a good choice if you are looking for enemies (either straightforward or subtle) for your PC's to fight.

Realms of Power: Divine adds possibilities for pious magi and companions, including supernatural powers; it also outlines the major religions of Mythic Europe

More to come...

I think the real advantage to those reading the FAQ can come from the unexpected content in the books, the content you wouldn't expect by the title. Just about everyone can figure out that Covenants is useful if you want to better detail the covenant, but fewer would realize the book is a great boon to lab-rats. So, here are things I think should be added to the notes:

As a general note: you might want to pick up the HoH book that focuses on Houses that stereotypically handle your style, even if you're not a member. For example, a militant Jerbiton might want to pick up Societetas for the discussion and rules on fighting while invisible, wizard's war, and combat schools in the Flambeau chapter; certamen is expanded on in the Tremere chapter; and so on.

In more detail:
Societates includes sizable contributions to rego and creo craft magic, and illusion and mental-affecting spells. It also gives rule systems for using the social skills (etiquette, disguise, rules for winning debate, and for handling agents) that some troupes will find very useful while others would, doubtless, perceive as roll-playing.

Covenants includes an extended book-rules system, incorporating physical quality, and is a great boon to lab-rats with its system of lab personification. It also includes a price-list, the option of casting spells from text, rules for library research and crossbows, and for rego craft magic - all of which can have a major impact on the game.

True Lineages contains rules on the use of Intrigue (plus Guile and Folk Ken); note that these aren't precisely concordant with the later rule systems presented in Societates.

GotF includes info on Durenmar and the Great Library, plus the idea of Forest Paths and Forest Spirits, which may be useful in a saga outside the Rhine.

Mystery Cults contains rules on determining the statistics of animals in the Bjornaer chapter.

TMRE provides rules on memorization and the new Academic ability Art of Memory.

Of course the various books also provide a lot of smaller snippets I haven't gone into (such as handling pregnancy, new shape & material entries, and so on).

Looks like the ball started rolling nicely, really good stuff. I also have to chime in that the 5th edition books really form a nice whole and tie in together very, very neatly. I've poured over my books during the christmas holidays and have no trouble feeling every bit of information and things connecting to other books. Even though it's a load of text (I think I'm missing two books) I've never felt lost and everything I've thought of for our upcoming Rhine saga has been possible.

So I've updated the comments to include what YR7 so kindly offered. Does anyone have comments on other books, or anything to add to the above?

Actually, No.

(Warning: Opinion)
When Covenants came out, there was a discussion going about what books were most important, and should be/have been published first...
I put forth that from a player/SG perspective, AND publisher perspective, that the HoH books (Societies, True Lineages, Mystery cults) were the most important... Others thought that 'Covenants' was more important...
Reason: If you have a game with a SG and three players (Flambeau, Boni, and Verditius) you will probably have one HoH book per player. Each player will want to know the 'Goods' on his House, so as to get the most out of his character...So, if you include one copy of AM5 for each player (not absolute of course), and one copy of HoH for each player/SG, you have eight books (minimum) or Ten possible books (max). If you throw in Covenants, most likely the Verdi or the Boni will get a copy of that for the Lab rules, and the SG will get a copy...so mayb two copies at the table...(Of course you could say that if they got two of the Covenants book that its the second most popular book...Sure, if they get two....) The probability IMO is that not everyone will ad the Covenants book to the library....almost all will ad the HoH books..
So....if you come out with the Hoh books, you sell to EVERYONE, if you put out Covenants you sell to Someone. the players get what they want, the publisher makes more money...
The discussion died at that point...