Ars Magica 5th Edition: Where should I start?

Hello all!

I've been away from Ars Magica for some time. Love the game though. I have the core 5th edition book (and a lot of the prior edition books), which 5th edition book(s) should I pick up next? From the perspective of a potential storyteller.

Thanks all for any input.


In general, I would suggest Covenants as a good first sourcebook since the covenant is the heart of any saga.

After that, it depends on the kind of stories you want to run.

If you want to run stories related to the mundane world then Lords of Men, The Church, City and Guide and Arts and Academy are all valuable and worthwhile. The order depends on which would be most helpful to your saga.

The Realms of Power books are good resources for dealing with creatures and powers from each of the four realms. For example, if you plan on fighting demons and devil worshipers RoP: The Infernal is a worthy purchase.

Dealing with the Order of Hermes and Hermetic politics would lean toward the three Houses of Hermes books, which are also useful because the Order and the Houses in 5th ed are a bit different then before. Mysteries, Revised is also an excellent sourcebook... both for the possibilities of intrigue and the powers of the mystery cults.

Well, I like the Houses of Hermes Books, as they give a lot extra opportunity to customize your magus and go beyond the vanilla rules. This is especially true for the four Mystery Cult Houses, where thre core rules are very vague. But OTOH it can also be daunting with all the extra material. Good for history and political stuff too.

I'd only go for Covenants if you really like going into detail with resources, sevantsm library and most of all LABS! I want detail withthis, so I like it.

Art & Academe if you want detail about academics. City & Guild is really good for crafts, trade and playing in cities.

One thing I've never done is use a Tribunal Book from the get go. Never. Not in my decade of 4th ed gaming. That can be recommended, they are really good. Guaardians of the Forest has a ready-to-use saga setup. Sure, it has options and needs customization, but it's easier than starting from scratch. You have maps, lists of covenants and magi, and descriptions of cities and places of mytical interest. Lion & Lily or Sundered Eagle are also good.

For my money, I would go for the three Houses of Hermes (True Lineages, Mystery Cults, Societates) books and probably The Mysteries Revised. That will give your magi a lot to work with.

Art & Academe is quite interesting for expanding the roles of intellectual non-magi, which can lead to great interactions in the game. Covenants has great bits on labs and other fun bits, but the groups I have been in pretty much ignored the accounting and loyalty sections. City & Guilds has seen no real use in our sagas; maybe if we get a serious craftsman-Companion who wants to really delve into the technical side of things matters will change.

Our group liked the Realms books on the Infernal and Faerie quite a bit; Magic has seen more limited use, and (sadly) the Divine has seen almost no use.

Anyway, some random thoughts on the topic. :slight_smile:

Same case as AngusGM around here. However, we have found great uses for the Tales of Middle Earth (TOME) adventure book (built a whole saga with 2 adventures in this book and the manx parts of hermes portal ezine) and the Hedge Magic Revised Edition book. We use the later (and the realms of power infernal book for all our non hermetic magicians and supernatural dudes, and they more than cover the spectrum. We use those 4 books much more than the houses of hermes books.

We never used the mysteries book nor the divine one. Lords of men has been read and found it good, but is basically "medieval feudal europe" so nothing really new there. Same with the church and city & guild. The best realm book so far for us has been the infernal. Faeries are interesting, and the ones that depart more from 4th edition in concept (introduces the concept of faeries feeding on vitality, and that is good if you like the magic and fae realms being separate ones. We don't and consider that to be a purely academic distinction introduced by the merinitas that were nailing chamber pots).

I have found legends of hermes and magi of hermes to be inspiring. Much more than the mysteries book. Mix of saga seeds, adventures and characters to flesh out your sagas, so they discharge A LOT of work from a storyguide.

In case you ar einterested, the current online exzine (4.5 USD per number) is Sub Rosa. Quite worthwile IMO, specially the latest issues but there are some cool characters and adventures in the precious ones that we have used as well.


I think the three HoH books are really useful to begin, especially True Lineages, for a better knowledge of the Order's history. (Societates is nice, and Mysteries too... even though I'm still unable to decipher the Criamon...).

Also, I find very useful (am I the only one?) City & Guild, probably because I have a craftsman and a merchant in my saga. Both of them are NPCs, and both of them are incredible sources of story seeds (the "Many Marriageable Daughters" Flaw caused a hilarously funny mundane story).

I also use Hedge Magic Revised Edition a lot. Many minor traditions there which are really interesting...

Covenants - it'll help you generate an interesting one and also make interesting ones neighbouring it. The sections on books and laboratories will make your players think about how they're going to improve. There's ready-to-use covenfolk characters and vis sources. It's a very good book.

Mysteries revised edition - I love the mysteries, and find they give inspiration for a wide range of magical activities. In the short or middle term they're a diversion that slow your magi down but do allow you to do some very cool things and generate a lot of stories.

My favourite Realm of Power book is magic - it gives good, internally consistent rules for generating Magic characters (both PC and NPC) which are reasonably balanced. It also has a huge number of interesting ideas (things about auras, the Magic Realm, objects of virtue, familiars, spell-like vis) that will enliven your campaign.Includes a pretty good bestiary. I don't own Faerie but hear it's pretty good as well. Divine has some good ideas, but I find The Church slightly more useful. Infernal is useful for opponents and includes some good sample adversaries.

Houses of Hermes - depends on what people play.
Mystery Cults makes a huge difference if someone wants to play Bjornaer or Criamon, as in the main book it's "you get a special ability" with the briefest of descriptions on how it works. The expanded mysteries for Merinita and Verditius make them a lot more interesting too.
True Lineages has sections relevant to tribunals and setting as written - Bonisagus have the Original Research rules, Guernicus a section on Hermetic Law, Mercere a section on redcaps, and Tremere a section on Certamen.
Societates has a selection of rules such as using agents, fighting invisible opponents, illusions, and a huge number of new magical abilities for Ex Miscellanea.

Once you get past these:
Hedge magic & Rival Magic - great if you want non-hermetic magical opponents. Take a bit of getting used to and may require you to work on new spells for them.

City & Guild - clue is in the name, it's brilliant if you play in an urban covenant or have craftsmen or merchants as characters. Using this and the main rulebook, you could create a brilliant game of playing medieval merchant adventurers which barely touches on magic. For a rural covenant where you hand-wave over the covenant's source of wealth and how supplies of exotic materials are bought in, this book is mainly useful for the travel tables, price lists, and new area lore & intrigue rules.

Lords of Men - great if you have dealings with nobles or have characters with virtues like Landed Nobility. Also has battle rules for the part of your saga where your magi can't throw hillsides or 10,000 javelins at the opposing forces.

Art & Academe -lots of interesting ideas about the world the magi inherit, and has a good section on non-Gifted things you can do such as astrology, alchemy and medicinal theriacs. However, as the title implies it's only crucial if you want to play a Maestro/Mythic Artist or an Academic. (My current saga earns its wealth from a school so we have a schoolmaster companion character, so we've ended up using this a bit).

Ancient Magic: I love it as a source of story ideas, but we've still not integrated a single effect from it into our game.

Tribunal books - all very interesting, all full of story ideas, all describe a political set-up very different from the standard (which makes you wonder - if they're all so different, are there any "standard" tribunals as described in the main rules?) I rarely use these books though as I prefer to use Covenants to generate weird & wonderful covenants of my own and set them in a country of my choosing.

I'd start with Covenants. It greatly expands on the covenant as a 'character' and provides several ready-made story hooks. I found it especially useful for first-time ArM players, as it lets them help design the setting and begin to immerse themselves in it.

After that I'd go with RoP:M. I discovered early on that I wanted to use creatures like elementals and spirits, but the core book didn't give me the information I was looking for. RoP:M covers both very well, plus the magical creature rules can be used to create fully developed familiars and the magic realm can be useful if you're going for a more high-magic campaign.

Next would be the HoH books (choose based on your PCs), then probably Mysteries Revised. I wouldn't worry about buying a tribunal book. There are several sites online with player-generated tribunals. Check Project Redcap for some good ones.


This topic has been covered before, and several times - a quick Search turns up this thread: , which is as good as any.

In short, rough consensus (in no particular order?) seems to be...

HoH:___ that covers whatever House your mage belongs to. (As a SG, choose the one that applies to most of your NPC's - often HoH:True Lineages seems to win out, covering Bonisagus, Guernicus, Mercere, and Tremere - those 1st three are just so central to many sagas, and the additional insight into The Code, original research and the RedCap mindset is invaluable.) If you're lucky, one might cover the majority of your Players. A SG should own all 3, but if the Troupe can cover them all, that's good enough.

RoP:___ that covers whatever Realm is a "theme" for your Saga, or of special interest to your mage. (Note - make sure your SG is as excited about it as you are - if you buy RoP:Divine, that doesn't mean your SG will get excited about inserting heavenly plot elements. Same with Infernal and Fae. RoP:Magic is the best bet of the 4 if you have to bet blind.)

Covenants is not critical, but rich color for any saga. Labs, texts, expanded hooks and boons, covenfolk, Rego craft magic - you won't regret it.

___ Tribunal that covers your Saga. Harder to make use of the Levant if you're all in Scotland.

Beyond that, it's personal interest and Saga focus. No snoozers in the bunch if the title sounds of interest to you.

These days I'm finding Realms of Power: The Infernal more and more interesting. The rules for diabolical magic, traditions and even magic that isn't really diabolistic but just dark and therefoore a "gateway-tradition" are really interesting. Good for finding new challenges for player magi and establishing new cults and traditions to ineract with.

I Like Realms of Power Magic for the material on auras and changing them, and espcially the material onAiry Spirits and Daimons etc.

But all things aside, my favourite thing in ArM overall are Story Seeds, so any book with plenty of these. Tribunal books are good for that. I'm an old-timer from back when 2nd ed was new, I've played a lot of 4th ed. But I never read a Tribunal book until a few years ago, many years after I got to 5th ed. And I quite like them.

Right now (well not right now! At the moment I'm slacking off at work and trolling this forum) I'm reading my newest purchase Lords of Men. And I like that. Combine it with City and Guild and there is very good stuff (general too, not just for ArM) to establish various important NPCs and organizations for the player magi to interact with, if you like social sagas. And I'm betting The Church provides the clerical NPC element to make things complete.