Essential Supplements to the 5th Edition

Hello there :smiley:

I am new to Ars Magica--a dearest friend suggested that it is a game I might enjoy. I purchased the 5th edition and have just begun to put together my first characters. I am curious, however, if the community has any consensus on what would be the best essential supplemental books to purchase for someone new to the game. In the beginning, as I do not have a LARP group assembled just yet, my characters would likely be played-by-post here in the forum.

Thanks so much for any insight, advice, or opinions on the matter.


If I were to pick only just one, it would be True Lineages

The answer to your question depends a great deal on what sort of games you plan on running.

You can't go wrong with HoH: TL though.
Covenants is pretty good too, but once your covenant is designed you probably won't get much use out of it.

Eek, Double-Post!!!

:blush: :unamused: :imp:

Thank you both. It is probably a rather novice, premature question... as I really am not sure why type of saga I will be playing as of yet. :open_mouth: I have a million other little questions, but I am trying to hold my tongue till I read the entire 5th edition.

However, I figure if there was one truly outstanding supplement that is more often referenced than others, I thought I might go ahead and order it. :smiley:


The three Houses of Hermes books are excellent tools for adding depth to the magi of the game. True Lineages also has a lot on how the Order functions, making it the most valuable of the three, all other things being equal. Mystery Cults probably makes the most difference in the game for the players, though.

IMHO, those three should be your first purchases.

Arts and Academe is really cool...if you care about philosophy and 'how things work'. It has a ton of information on three skills many magi have... Artes Liberales, Philosophiae, and Medicine.

The Mysteries is good for giving advanced options for character development or if you have a guy who REALLY REALLY wants to be a alchemist or astrologer.

The three Realms of Power books (Infernal, Divine, Magic) are all useful for expanding on that aspect of the game, so if you are expecting to tell a lot of stories featuring that stuff or just want more ideas....

Covenants is nice, though I'm not sure how easily a new player could take advantage of all the design options. Might be better to play for a while with the basic rules on that... The key part of covenants for long term play purposes is the expansion to the library and laboratory rules. Once they know what they are doing, they'll want those. :smiley:

Lion and Lily and Guardians of the Forest are useful if you wish to set your game in those areas and want some guidance. But they are easily the most optional books, especially if you are perfectly content with building your own stuff.

Ancient Magic is pretty much a book full of long term multi part adventure stories. Cool stuff, but probably not where you want to start since its mostly about the players adventuring and researching to change the rules of magic. Might be best to learn the basic rules first...

City and Guild is useful if you aren't familiar with medieval cities, but probably has the least amount of game effecting stuff of all the supplements.

Sure, the whole thing depends on what you want from the saga.

The Houses of Hermes books are good, most depends on which houses your players will be playing.

Covenants, if you want further detail in your Library and Labs.

I recently flip flopped on City & Guild. At first I had merely skimmed it, but found it less interesting than several other books (Mysteries, Ancient Magic...). Even though the sags being prepped, was set in a mid sized city.
But, in the early satges of a new saga, I found I wanted to make a companion who could craft item of high quality, even magical. And C&G has some good rules for this exact thing. After reading most of it, I really like it. The rules for Workshops and improving them are analogous to the Lab rules, although much simpler, and less mystical (as they should be).

Ancient Magic is a fine book, but only if you want this to be a saga about the discovery and integration of ancient, forgotten magic. If not, it's a good inspiration. Who says the villian can't have done this? This could make him more challenging.

I have Realms of Power: Divine and Infernal. Both offer a lot of good points, regarding the dominion, diabolists and the like. Nothing you can't play Ars without, but all things which could make it better. Some good rules for Divine traditions, and I especially like the demon-fighting crunch you get fom The Infernal. I can't wait to get RoP: Magic and Faeries!

If you have any interest in Beasts, as familiars, pets, prey or opponents, then you should certainly download the free Book of Mundane Beasts, or consider buying House of Hermes: Mystery Cults.

This may seem a rather cryptic location for such useful stuff, but apparently it would have made for too much text in the core book (already fat), and it could not have done justice to them - but the Bjornaer chapter of HoH:MC has an extensive on designing beasts, modelling existing real-life beasts, powers for magical beasts, and a bestiary of stats.

If you want stories about beasts, the 4e Medieval Bestiary is useful (though the stats for beasts are way out as the Size rules have changed very greatly.), or T.H.White's Bestiary "A Book of Beasts" (no game stats but quite similar stories), or other versions of Mediaeval bestiaries.

You may also find the other downloads on the ArM5 page to be useful, as there's a Covenant design + a Covenant's worth of designed characters, design notes, charts & tables... (oh, and buried near the bottom - the errata page!)

I'd say the three Houses books are pretty much necessary.

My group doesn't use the Covenants supplement -- we looked at it and decided it wasn't to our tastes. The Mysteries is less used than I had assumed at first.

If you are in the German states or northern France, the two Tribunal books can be quite helpful.

I would say, start with a Tribunal book for the area you're interested in setting your Saga, and once you have that I would recommend Houses of Hermes:True Lineages for its information on how Tribunals work, including both procedural and legal aspects.

The Tribunal books most suitable for Fifth Edition are:

Guardians of the Forest
Lion and the Lily
Heirs to Merlin, which was a 4E supplement but has no game statistics (all text), so there are no compatibility problems with 5E.

Finally, it's not a supplement, but I would highly recommend the Metacreator character-creation software.

You cannot go wrong with the HoH books, as everyone has already said.

After that, though, it depends on where you're planning on going with your saga.

Lots of "high fantasy"? I'd say Covenants (for all the in-covenant magical stuff rules, enhanced book and research rules, and more detailed Rego working guidelines), The Mysteries, and possibly RoP:Magic (which I haven't read yet).

If you want to fight stuff, RoP:Infernal and whatever other RoP's with the monsters you want.

For mundane political society, RoP:Divine, City and Guild, and possibly (once again, haven't yet gotten the budget for it) Art and Academe will probably fill out where you're going. I've found, however, that City and Guild is (possibly due to the constraints of keeping the book less than 200 pages and mostly being rules) a little Anglo/Northern European-centric; while they mention Italian city-states, there's so much different and distinct going on in them you'd need to do your own research. Ditto Transylvania, Greece, North Africa.

Ancient Magic is, in my mind, really interesting but of the least general utility. I really don't like letting players near half of the magic in it, either because the adventure to get it forces the saga to be about the ancient magic, which is usually something only one person is interested in, or because Hyperborean Magic is so grotesquely unbalanced once integrated into Hermetic Theory. However, it makes for great NPCs with magical powers that the players can't immediately wrap their minds around.

For example, I've been toying with the concept of creating a saga around the concept that Thomas Aquinas is a renegade Holy Mage and has mastered Adamic and some version of Hermetic Theurgy, and is harassing the Order.

I would have to second Andrew's recommendation of Metacreator. It will save you lots of time and makes running your character that much easier. You can also whip up NPCs that you can print and store in a binder ready for use should the need arise. I also like the "group" spreadsheets, which allow you to have all your NPCs on one sheet, important if you have a combat situation.

After that, the refrain is the Houses of Hermes Books (focus on the ones your players really want to play) then get all three.

Tribunal books help if you are just starting out, providing a detailed setting. You can let players see those areas, lands, covenants where they come from, so that everyone has a piece of puzzle. Even the old (Pre 5e) Tribunal Books can give you plenty of details and story ideas. They can provide covenant names for your NPCs and political friends and rivals, without too much prep on your part.

Finally, get a good travel guide for where you plan to play. Although the roads have changed, Europe’s geography has stayed the same as did the location of the cities and towns. Such books can provide the names of cathedrals and churches, pinpoint monasteries, identify historic figures and events, and you can assume most roads exists even if they are merely donkey paths through the mountains. I prefer Eye-Witness Books because they usually have very good detailed maps of the older parts of the cities and towns. Pictures can really help get in the mood and imagine the landscape.

Good suggestion, but the problem with that is that most of the Tribunal books are from earlier editions.
Ah, I see you mention this

Heirs to Merlin is a double edges sword. The lack of stats, which some people raged against, is the reason it is one of my favorite books. It doesn't tell me how to play my game. It gives me more background material than you can shake a stick at, but it is like a framework, and you can get creative and fill in what you need.

Other Tribunal books include...
Iberia Though people tend to dismiss it, I think that it is one of the bbest bbooks ever. Action, excitement, and great artwork. However, like all other Tribunal books (except the ones mentioned above by AG), you need to ignore the stats and remake things yourself. I myself, an old hand at Ars, actually enjoy that. But that's not for everyone
Rome Also another fabulous bbook. Like its sister Iberia, Rome was plagued by an overdose of infernalism. Filter that out, and you have a magnificent setting.
Lion of the North (Covers Scotland) Though pretty broken rules wise, and disconnected from 5th edition, it is still an excellent book and full of ijnteresting details and stories.
Dragon and the Bear (covers Eastern Europe) I actually didn't like this one. To irrelevant, to overpowered.
Blood and Sand This book is so phenominal I cant even describe it. However, it is a bit rules heavy (bbecause of magic), and thus has incompatability issues. But still, it has a lot of meaty material you can still source from it.
Sanctuary of Ice I think they are all fantastic, LOL, but this one has a special place because it is so rich with details and ideas and concepts. However, I reccomend it for more advanced characters/players.

I say thee nay! Stay away from metacreator. Each additional source book you add will require you to need a software upgrade. I think it is pretty useless. Use Microsoft Word for your character sheets.

I use notepad, so we must think alike. There is no substitute for getting in there and crunching numbers yourself and getting a feel for everything.

I agree. It helps you get really inside the nuts & bolts of the character. To me, that more intimate connection breaths more life into the character. Even a throw away NPC takes on a little more life. Plus, Metecreator cannot accomodate House Rules or new suplaments when they first come out. Now, some people find Metacreator easy to use, and if it functions well for their game, then by all means. I, on the otherhand, think a more "hands on" approach makes for better roleplaying.


Thank you everyone for all the detailed suggestions. I am of the mind that as I begin fleshing out my first characters, the books I need will become more clear.

But, it does appear that HOH line has more than a few votes, those first beginning with True Lineages. I am interesting in the creation of creatures, animals, and familiars -- well and realms of power, mystery cults, and ancient magic

Frankly, they all seem exciting! But, I shouldn't drain the savings account too quickly.