Ars Magica and Open Licensing

I was very grateful for Atlas’s support while publishing Peripheral Code, and I’d be grateful for an open license that allowed me to publish Ars-related materiel.

It’s Mythic Europe, the setting, that is especially welcome. My current creative project is a novel set in Mythic Europe. I started it assuming it to be completely unpublishable. A license for Mythic Europe would be a bit of a miracle, honestly.


I remember you asking about an ArM novel long ago, and it's something that has been in my mind in thinking about what we want to do and how, in terms of unleashing community creativity.


It might involve designating various parts of a work as being under the different terms. E.g.: An Ars Magica adventure might be have all of its mechanics under ORC, and its expansion of the lore of House Mercere as some kind of BY-SA-NC. Then the adventure as a whole would have to be noncommercial, but someone could use its mechanical elements through the ORC (say, a new spell) in a future commercial product.

Workable in practice? Not sure.


I think the notion of "official" may require revision. It would be more like open source software forks.

But some of this gets into less clear territory.

If John (not Atlas Games) publishes his game setting of Stalenric as compliant with the ArM SRD, with all of its mechanical elements under the ORC. At the same time, the setting is nothing to do with Myhthic Europe, so I either don't release it as open at all, or maybe I release it as BY-SA (commercial or non-commercial) so that other people could share Stalenric setting material (RPG or not! maybe a novel, or a movie!) as long as they complied with sharealike. This same might apply if I used the ArM SRD for a game based on a licensed property whose owner has opinions about whether to release it at all under an SA or SA-NC type license.

On the other hand, if Jason writes an Ars Magica novel that has no game mechanics at all, it might not even touch the ORC; but the SA requirement would mean that other people could write up and share character descriptions with accompanying game stats (commercially or not would be a separate question). So he was allowed to use the world of Mythic Europe, on the condition that what he adds to the lore could be used in turn by others.

We'd want to avoid the Conan Doyle Estate v. Enola Holmes situation, where Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain but the Estate claimed that things like a version of Sherlock capable of empathy was derived from works not yet in the public domain and that made Enola Holmes infringing.


I am very interested in this new project around my favorite game, Ars Magica.
However, I wonder if the switch to a generic system will allow to keep what is part of the soul of this game : its system. Indeed, for me the system of a game determines in part what it is, playing for example D&D with a D100 system is not D&D anymore.
I am still open and curious to see what will become of this beautiful game and I am impatient to make this new version available to the French community.

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To clarify - we are NOT talking about changing the Ars Magica system; rather, we are talking about allowing people to freely use Ars Magica's system for their own creations, whether or not intended to be used with the original Ars Magica game.


Ars Magica is unusual among RPGs in that so much of the system exists in the setting. This might make it hard to license one without also licensing the other?

A wizard can speak about the Arts, for example, or Parma Magica, the magnitude of a spell or spell guidelines, and all of this is perfectly reasonable in-character dialogue. A conversation between two magi creating a spell would sound almost exactly like two players building it with the rulebook open.


Can I say I love the idea of openMagica? I would love to see some commercially produced settings other that Mythic Europe.

I could see Renaissance, Modern. But also with some mods, High Fantasy as well !


I think the magic system is the most amazing thing about it with the 4 realms. It could easily be imported for use in a High Fantasy environment with a few tweaks.

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I think a structured way of sharing is a good thing.

WHat would be toughest is that so much of the Ars Magica material is based in actual historical research, with little embellishments, so the walls protecting the opriginal setting of Mythic Europe would need to be fenced in some to prevent unwanted “pinching” as you put it.

I would happily set a game in the Early colonial/imperial era (say the 17th-18th century)
Or I would set it a fantasy setting with the civil war era of the world spanning Solarian Empire! (Setting I had home brew for RQ3 system in the 1980’s)


I have for some time now thought that there are a number of possibilities with ArM and Mythic Europe:

A. The rules adapted to a more mainstream fantasy setting, an obvious choice.
B. The setting adapted to use a more grounded medieval magic system.
C. Fiction set in Mythic Europe.

and, not quite meshing with the above,

D. I think there's a possibility of producing material game material for the medieval period in an open source format, adaptable to other historically grounded system/settings. (The WoD adaptations, the CoC medieval material, Pendragon/Paladin-like material, etc.)


Personally I dont think that the Ars Magica rules are so intrinsically linked with the Mythic Europe setting that it is not meaningful to create an alternate setting for the game.

I think that it would be relatively easy to find ways to make explanations in an alternate setting.

e.g. the magic system is named in latin. If I were to make a fantasy setting for Ars magica I would just declare that the magic system is named in Elvish/dragon language/whatever. I might keep the latin names for ease of reference or I might not.

I have yet to see an problem with the ruleset that could not be solved in a similar way.

This IMO is one of the greatest strengths of Ars magica, since it makes it possible to have deep discussions about the rules while maintaining the suspension of disbelief at the same time. It is all but unique among TTRPG game systems that you can do this.

Again, if I were to create an alternate setting for Ars magica I would want to maintain this feature, perhaps even above all other features of Ars magica.

Besides I think for Atlas games one of the primary benefits is the ability for people to publish scenarios. At least from my understanding, the idea that third parties might publish such content was one of the commercial drivers behind WOTC publishing the original OGL.


I used to have that same concern. I got three workarounds:

First, you could create one sheet with translations of the latin terms to other fantasy languages and plain english. And not fantasy ones as well. Do you want to play ArM style in ancient Japan? Then Creo could be Tsukuru, Intellego Toiawaseru and so on. That list also would be useful because if a SG wants to get creative and make his own translation to let's say Black Speech, he already have the list of terms we need to translate.

Second, we are already doing that. Think that if you set a saga in Hibernia or Thebes there are many chances that local magi will refer to these terms in gaelic or greek and in game they are still referred as in latin. Think that we play using our native tongues with PCs and NPCs that speak another language. Unless you are in the kind of troupe that devotes years to study medieval tongues just to play a game (which now that I think of this may actually be the chance with some of you :crazy_face:).

And third we might have dragons and demons and the fae, but players that mostly reflect our contemporary attitudes and ways of thinking but we can't have a language that sounds exactly like latin. That's kind of unfair. Also it's not like if hadn't been done before without any problem, Sapkowski used latin, among many other actual languages, for The Witcher, and that wasn't bad at all.


I just want to very quickly post my opinion that Open Magica sounds like an awesome idea!!!


I just hope an openMagica will lead to a variety of products. Atlas' work is great, but ultimately they are tied to the setting and rules as they are, and cannot afford to experiment with out-there ideas.

I personally would very much like to see an adaptation of Ars Magica to a standard high-fantasy setting. I think it would work especially-well with the Fallen Magical Empire motiff,

Another thing I'd like to see is tinkering with the core rules. Improving the combat (it NEVER works, in any edition), lowering the numbers, and so on. I've toyed around with an "Ars Simplex" that's based on Fudge dice and lower numbers, I think it could work but creates a somewhat different feel.


Given there really isn't a product roadmap, I don't see the harm in allowing 3rd parties to publish adventures and sourcebooks for Mythic Europe? I would be very pleased to see a product roadmap, though!


I love "A"
I don't know what you mean by "B"?
I think Fanfic should be encouraged! (that what you meant by C)

For D: I think a historical sourcebook sticking to actual history with any magic thing being system agnostic. Could be done outside of any licensing if it didn't pull in the specifics of the Ars Magica stuff (All mechanics aren't copyrightable, but beyond that it is. Though the actual history isn't, but the text written describing it, is)

I'd rather have a license. And the license might forbid things like Medieval Mythic Europe. And without the magic system included, and to a lesser but still important degree the Infernal/Divine/Faerie/Magic realms and Regio would be nice.

For B: Grounded medieval magic, I mean a setting without the High Fantasy Powerful Magi Using High Fantasy Magic. A setting of philosopher magicians, local witch traditions, and other magic. Mythic Europe without the Order of Hermes.

For C: Not fanfic. Fiction. A line of Ars Magica novels.

As for D, the idea is more a matter of agreement than open licensing.


Oh I see. Well for me the strength of Ars Magica is the magic system. without it, for me at least, I could make do easily with many other systems. YMMV however, I can see the attraction. A lower magic more like the historical accounts/fiction. Fair.

I would love a line of Ars Magica Novels.

Though there really hasn't been an investment from Atlas in expanding the line with new works (sourcebooks, adventures). One could argue that with all the books out there, thereisn't much more to be done. But still, a roadmap and product releases would be cool. I love Ars Magica, and would love to see some life blown into it.

I don't know anything about the legal issues that might occur, but if there is an open licensing for Ars Magica, there are a few things I would be excited to see to make running my games easier:

Pre-generated Magi with advancements for long running games, so I don't have to make it up myself (Similar to Magi of Hermes, and what I did with Josephine)

Writeups of covenants that could be dropped into various games, along with plot points and versions of it, as well as adaptations for putting them in other settings (that's what I felt THrough the Aegis missed, was setting up a version of the Covenants for other tribunals).

We need more adventures.