Comments about Canon

This arose from some comments on another thread, but it is entirely separate to the discussion there, and so warrants a new post.

That's an incorrect view of canon. You seem to be of the opinion that canon is a subjective thing, and that people can decide what they accept as canon and what they don't. This is not true.

It might seem like I'm being pedantic here (because I am...), but I do think it is an important point. Canon is not decided by the fan base, it is decided by the line editor ("decrees of the pope") and effected by the books published ("statutes of council"). David takes the very sensible attitude of not permitting the authors to make tangential references to pre-5th edition material, nor to introduce into canon material which is not pertinent to the matter at hand. For example, when writing Lion and the Lily, the authors did not mention by name any Provençal covenants. Naming covenants from previous editions would have been as wrong as making up new covenants; anyone with a saga in Provençal would be justifiably upset, and the authors of the Provençal tribunal book would have been constrained. However, it is perfectly acceptable to name covenants from the Rhine tribunal, or the domus magna of House Ex Miscellanea (both canonical thanks to pertinent books).

That's fine – even encouraged – but it is not canonical. "4th edition canon" is only canon for the 4th edition game. You might be relying on previous source material, but that material is no longer canon, and you can make no claims about it being so. It is virtually impossible to run a canonical saga – I certainly don't (we are based in the Loch Leglean tribunal). But the purpose of canon is to form a common reference material for a) authors to draw upon to create a coherent world view, and b) storyguides & players to use as a rules base and source of stories. It is not meant as a constraint for storyguides/players, who can, of course, use older material or non-ArM material as they see fit.

Again, it is not a case of a select few adhering to an "ArM5 only" canon. The opinions of the players and authors are irrelevant, since canon is objective, not subjective. There is only one canon, and that is the one that is published for Ars Magica Fifth Edition by Atlas Games. How much adherence to that canon there is varies greatly, and that's where the "select few" come in.
Whether previous editions of the game reset canon, I'm not sure; certainly there was material used in 4th edition that was first mentioned in earlier editions, but this could have been reintroduction into 4th edition canon or reinforcement of existing canon.
Furthermore, "old canon" can be made current canon. This has been done with most of the domus magnae of the Houses, for example.

Personally, I find the "clean slate" attitude of 5th edition canon refreshing and useful. It's not that I want to invalidate former material – I rely on it greatly in my own games – but it is useful as an author to not feel constrained by material from previous editions that no longer works or is not to my tastes.


You are taking my comments and posting them out of context. If you are going to quote me, quote me in the thread which I was posting so others can get a sense of context. In that thread, my old pal Andrew was specifically asking for information about changes between editions, and many multiple people were making reference to old cannon. He had forgotten that he was asking for old cannon references when he made his comment that you quoted. Several people reminded him. I also reminded him, and wanted to let him and others know how I feel about cannon.
Without the surrounding context, you completly distort my meaning. I know you didn't mean it as an attack, but it felt that way when I first read this.

Actually, I was asking for "new" canon references and I found out that a lot of people don't draw any distinction.

Mea culpa. I was merely making a comment on the use of "canon" (not just by you); no offence was intended. I should check more carefully for tone in future. So, profuse apologies.


And thats a completely irrelevant statement up until the time that all previous material has been superceeded by current material.

As long as not every single rules uncertainty is ruled on by TPTB, yes it IS subjective to some degree.

Who said anything else? Noone did. The argument was over interpretation of current and past RAW.
And as long as such an argument doesnt get an official ruling its subjective.
Not that i want official rulings all over, its handled quite nicely as it is thank you very much.

You asked what had changed between versions regarding a very specific part, and everyone simply stated that in existing knowledge nothing had changed nor that anyones interpretation of that part had changed.

That's a misconception. The way it works is that all Fourth Edition material is apocryphal (that's the opposite of "canonical"). Anything from past editions that's re-introduced in Fifth Edition becomes canon at the time it is re-introduced. But anything from Fourth Edition or earlier is irrelevant until it's reproduced in print in a Fifth Edition book.

Again, as Mark said, you can play with old material if you want, but it is subject to revision or contradiction at any time.

I've contributed to the confusion by using the phrase "old canon," which is a contradiction in terms. Canon is 5th Edition. Everything else may have once been canon, but it's apocrypha now.

This was not my idea, nor Mark's for that matter. It's Atlas Games policy.

I like to refer to the supplements as the "deuterocanonical texts". Yes, they're part of the canon, but they're part of the "second canon", a lesser role.

Officially, I suppose the OP is right and canon only consists of what Atlas Games decides is in it, which is all ArM5 materials (and nothing else).

Didnt say anything else. I said his dismissal was irrelevant until the material could be dismissed without killing the gameworld.

And by that definition, the majority of the game background doesnt exist. DO try going by this rule yourself. Without double standards, its utterly and totally unrealistic. Not to mention booooring to throw away previous canon without a replacement.

Actually, I did that for a year while I was playtesting Fifth Edition. Worked fine. The 5th Edition Ars Magica rule book is a perfectly adequate, self-contained game in my opinion.

No, the manjority is noncanonical which is very different. I have no difficulty with this state of affairs, and make free use with my older materials. Nevertheless, the canon is not what occurs in my game, though I tend to stick quite closely to it, the Criamon aside. In my saga, the Enigma is a process, not a defined goal; the nature of canon simply means that no fifth edition books will ever refer to this, not that it is wrong or incorrect.

Interesting. How did you handle designing animals for familiars? What sort of mechanic did you use for Heartbeasts and other shapeshifters? How did you handle Mystery Houses (or were players told to just hold off on that for the time being)?

I made that stuff up as I went along. The heartbeasts was probably the only real thing that was missing; as to mysteries, I have never been interested in anything past Outer Mysteries, and those are in the core book.


I DIDNT SAY IT WASNT! But if you scratch PREVIOUSLY canon material because its noncanonical then you do leave the majority of the game background out.

Which means you specifically did NOT find 5th canon enough. Thank you kindly for making my point so very neatly(and Marko for posing the relevant question).

These are three specific things that came up when I first converted from ArM4 to ArM5. I had to rely on the bestiary and shapeshifter rules from the core ArM4 book. Mysteries didn't really matter, because the one Mystery House Member (Newyn of Merinita), well, he didn't have any Inner Mysteries. It wasn't a mystery house when he first created the character, and he had no interest in mysteries. However, I took away his Faerie Magic score and had him redistribute the xp's, because in core ArM5 RAW Faerie Magic no longer exists. Them HoH-MC came out, which reintroduced Faerie Magic as an ability, and I had to pony up and give him his old score back for free.

Mark is right about the definition of canon. However, most people here don't need to care about it. There are three points where it might matter.

  1. You start writing for the line. You can draw on existing canon, or define new canon for the bit you are writing. (That might be the same as ArM4 and earlier, if you like that material. Quite a lot of authors do.) You can't refer to older material in passing, however.

  2. You find a contradiction between ArM5 and ArM<5. It's up to you how you deal with it, but I decided that such contradictions would be permitted, so it's not something I see as a problem.

  3. You want to interpret something obscure in ArM5 in the light of earlier editions, with the aim of getting to the authors' intent. This is very risky, because there's no guarantee that there's any connection.

In your games, you should certainly use any and all material from all editions of the game, Pendragon, D&D4e and the Star Wars Expanded Universe (not an exhaustive list) that you find appealing. Canon exists to keep the published material consistent, not to constrain the way you play the game.

ArM5 is written to my tastes more than any other individual, but I'd still use certain ArM4 supplements (Heirs to Merlin) if they became relevant. Not even I would play pure canon.


I often misplace this idea, whilst I enthusiastically analyze, dissect and comment about rules, that both the stuff I like and the stuff I don't has not only been written according to some other perspective, but also to some other's perspective, and these other people might well be reading my posts....

...unless I've already been set to Ignore. :slight_smile:/2



You - sorry - We are some sort of geeks :smiley:

What do you call the parts which are canonical, but non-binding, like the Marco stories in Covenants?