I've put a lot of work into a fan made 6th edition of our beloved Ars Magica. I've been sitting on it for a year in the hope that we might have a 6th ed announcement, but alas I've not heard anything, so I'm putting it up for anyone who might like a look as it's currently an unused file on my computer. Not looking to make any money out of this (unless Atlas want to talk to me ;D) but just add some more resources for the greatness that is Ars.
Happy to take down the post if this is a problem for Atlas or anything.
p.s. the covenant sheets and character sheets are done in Character Sheet Designer (NBOS), which is a free download.
I like the chapter organisation - when I first picked up 5th, I was a little overwhelmed by the spells section. My gaming group were put off by feeling they had to read all the lab section and spell descriptions before they could play a magus. Having all the abilities, obstacles, combat etc. before the magic makes it easier for people who want to try playing a grog or companion first, then magic for people for your magus character, and leaving labwork until a lot later for people who want to play a lab rat.
Not being able to open the csd files, I've no idea if your character sheet or covenant records are any good.
Chapter 1: The "weal and woe" bits and avoiding the stress die mechanic avoid super-big numbers, I'd have to play to see how this actually works out.
Chapter 2: The streamlined character creation should make grogs and companions a lot quicker. Magi - spell selection will still take a while. Splitting the time between starting learning magic and being gauntleted into a seven-year apprenticeship and a seven-year journeyman period is interesting. The limit of two benefits and one flaw speeds up character design massively and limits opportunities for min-maxing, but does remove some possibilities for intricate character builds as beloved of previous editions.
All characters having a second language at level 4 from childhood makes for a different feel to most standard 5th edition characters.
Chapter 3: The new Benefits and Flaws streamline the game massively. The mix of what were major or minor effects in 5th, and varying wildly in points value in 4th, gives a different feel. Battlemage and Illusionist allow you to do things which are tough in 5th edition. The Gentle Gift doesn't completely stop social penalties eventually developing, which is a major change.
Looking at the magical flaws - wait, does everyone have Life Boost as standard? And Parma's efficiency grows with warping?
Chapter 4: I see the ease factors are scaled down a bit as now you can't get more than 10 on a die roll and skills are a bit lower, and you can't get non-professional skills past level 2. The ease factor examples with each skill is handy. It doesn't cover what Profession:Mage does, even though Hermetic Magi need to have this skill.
Does Realm Knowledge cover all four realms, or do you need to specify like you did in 4th or 5th?
Chapter 5: Limiting covenants to one boon and one hook makes for super-fast saga creation, but utterly removes the deep complexity of covenant construction that I love. The new library rules cut out a vast amount of book-keeping and setup, and offer a bonus to labwork.
The new vis source rules mean that optimisers are bound to try and have as many arts covered by small sources as possible, and then trade with every wizard or hedge witch they meet.
Chapter 6: the contest rules seem straightforward enough. The combat rules are a little more D&D than traditional Ars, but no doubt this helps players coming from other games. The change to exertion makes combat lethal to the tired, and the bruising damage rules mean that even the heavily armoured can be worn down quite quickly. The rescaling of damage means I'd need to play a fight to see how it works.
The addition of money and price lists to the chapter makes it more like other fantasy RPGs than Ars' traditional fast and loose approach to money.
Chapter 7: Ah, everyone can life boost a little bit.
Rituals are utterly changed - you need someone to create a ritual focus in a lab, and you need that to cast a ritual. Rituals now require one concentration roll per magnitude of ritual, so you need a lot of concentration. Everyone can wizard's communion, but if you fail a concentration roll you're out so big rituals require a bunch of people specialised in concentration.
Parma now increased with warping rather than skill, so young magi can be toasted easily. Parma Magica doesn't have much theory behind it, it just describes how it resists (and mentions the pink dot).
All characters have a chance to dodge or resist direct magic with a resistance roll, so nimble grogs can dodge that fireball!
Twilight reminds me a lot of Mage:The Ascension in its handling of increased mystical understanding. Criamon get extra shiny stuff for warping.
The new heartbeast doesn't require subtle or quiet magic to cast in animal form, and you can learn more forms....so it feels very weird to me.
Verditius are even better enchanters than ever.
Chapter 8: Instantaneous Creo now has many more magnitudes, and permanent duration exists.
Magically nourishing food works (see "A ham to last a journey" in CrAn).
There's a base guideline to raise the dead - is this as limited as "the shadow of life renewed" in 5th ed or is it resurrection dependent on duration?
The rescaling of damage means I don't know how well combat spells work anymore.
Chapter 9: shape & material bonuses no longer exist. Rules for research and integration are similar to 5th.
Chapter 10: studying works much as in 5th.
Chapter 11: Oh, rules for praying to entities or God is vaguely included.
Chapter 12: I like the new Sundering story. I'm not sure about the new Schism and accompanying Cataclysm - it looks like a colossal change to The Order and makes you wonder how The Code survived.
The character sheets are in Character Sheet Designer (a free program). NBOS Software is the program I believe. I tried to turn them into PDF's with a snipping tool but the snipping didn't seem to work properly, sorry.
Darkwing: Thanks for the rundown! I'm glad you like (some at least) of the changes.
Hi! You mention playing things out - I'd absolutely love if people gave the system a whirl and see how it goes!
I had the same feeling as you. Coming from other games 5th edition was both a breath of fresh air and... well, confusingly laid out for me at that time, and my groups have been the same.
When I set out the chapters (and everything really) I wanted to aim the book not at people who already play the game but at those who are drifting over from other games or picking up roleplaying for the first time.
In response to Obstacles being so early compared to 5th - the reason wasn't to highlight combat but to explain how the rules of the system worked before getting into the really complex stuff.
A big consideration for me in writing this was to reduce the numbers as you have spotted. The problem isn't so much with how 5th edition worked as with the d10 and the range of possibilities that creates. My experience with 5th is that the die roll can become meaningless the more various modifiers drift toward (or outside) what the dice can effect. My system here slows that (but doesn't fix it entirely).
Weal and Woe is stolen from 5th as a quick and easy method of the storyguide without needing to get into minutiae of how much a modifier is worth.
My group, as much as they love Ars Magica, come in two types - those who love the system (and the story) and those who just love the story. I've err'd on the side of broader strokes in character creation so people can jump in a little faster.
Journeyman - apprentice: The only reason I've put this in is to mirror real world apprenticeships a little more closely.
Second Language: To be honest the main reason for this was because I'm not fussed on the whole 'You can't talk to the merchant because you don't share a language, learn InMe or spend a few years learning a language' bit that's been put on me in other games. I don't believe medieval people speaking more than one language would have been too unusual.
Life Boost: Yep, everyone has that. Yep, Parma grows with warping. More on that later.
Major change: Yeah, there are a lot of major changes here. I remember having a lot of conversations around this when I was writing this and playing 5th at that time, and a gaming friend of mine wanted to be a necromancer type character. I and another player spent serious time thinking about different flaws and virtues out of all the books and it usually came back to Major Magic Focus just giving the maximum bang for buck to draw clear lines for new characters (Especially new to the game players). It lets players have a solid 'magical' identity that differentiates them from other players. So when I was drawing up these virtues I had more of a thought about being able to draw out a solid identity for the character when created rather than thinking about details of flipping numbers around.
Profession: Mage: Whoops! Error spotted, thank you .
Faster creation: Definately faster creation than 5th at least. My main purpose here was to remove the bookwork whilst focusing narratively on being in a certain time and place.
Library: I really like my library rules, quite proud of them. The bonus to labwork and the limitations mean that there's a good reason for visiting magi, and a very clear cut way of improving the library that benefits the covenant as a whole.
Boons/Hooks: I understand the love of matching boons to hooks (much like virtues and flaws ) but when writing this I wanted players to make a strong, clear narrative choice at the beginning so players can get into the game where the effects of those choices come to light - all the various shadings of what those choices mean can come up in play rather than before play is my thought.
Contests: I'm surprised, I've been thinking they are just a bit too complicated!
Combat: You immediately picked up the reason why I changed combat to what I did - an easier entry for new players. It's also a little more cinematic, which I feel suits a game about magic more than the simulationist style of 5th. My players love a bit of combat and they didn't like Ars 5th combat at all.
Damage and time: From playtesting a little campaign with these rules combats tend to take 2 - 3 rounds for unarmoured (major) characters, and lets characters who aren't suited for combat participate without getting completely owned in the first round.
Exertion, damage, healing: Players will tend to tire and bruise before they take serious wounds - again with the more cinematic play. If they continue to do dangerous combat when tired is when serious injuries happen.
Speed of combat: Maybe because I wrote the rules, but I tend to have faster resolutions of turns than in previous editions. The numbers are smaller and easier to calculate is the main reason, and there's no options to exert other than in defence.
Stuff: Two reasons I put this up. One was to help those who love buying stuff out of rolepleying books (A surprising amount of players I've found...) but my main reason was to give players a feel for how much things cost in a medieval setting. Personally I play pretty fast and loose; in the campaign I ran players had 5s worth of sheep rather than coins .
Rituals: Big changes here. Main reason was to have 'cinematic' rituals. 5th ed most rituals take place off screen and tend to take hours. In this rituals must take place on big celestial events, so players can race to the stone circle before lunar eclipse is finished or what not, and second is that everyone can participate and participate well. Concentration helps but most magi will be adding a +3 - 6ish bonus at the minimum to any ritual effect, which helps a lot. The other thing is that rituals don't require a ritual specialist to get really big effects; you need bigger groups.
My main thought behind these rituals was my love for the Muspelli ritual gathering the power feel rather than a ritualist spending a lot of time being the person who does the ritual. Wizards Communion in 5th was good, but chances are pretty high if you are a ritualist that created the spell, you can cast the spell without problems. So my goal is 1. Rituals are more cinematic and 2. All the players can help and 3. All the players can make quite good rituals.
Parma and Warping: Yes. I've tied a base resistance to how inherently powerful a mage (their Warping score). That being said, there's a lot more space for everyone to counter spells now, so there should be a little more spell v spell in play. My experience is that within a warping range of 3 targets are still able to be affected.
Resistance: Yep! A few things working here. My experience with 5th is that the first spell that penetrates the Parma tends to end the situation. The resistance rules mean that (usually magi and companions, or really, really lucky grogs) can avoid the spell. My main reason for this is so that players aren't taken out of a situation (combat or otherwise) with a single effect; they'll have some more play.
See the Permanent duration, but you may have spotted a bit of work for me to do .
Generally magic is the same but I've changed a bit of stuff around some of the arts to make things clearer.
Shape and Material: They do, just differently
XP: Similar, but XP amounts are much smaller.
Vague: I quite like them . It gives devout people and every day people access to a few more abilities without necessarily needing magical training.
Sundering and Cataclysm: Thanks! The Cataclysm i've put in for two major reasons -1. it gives new players who might be used to raiding ancient dungeons a 'space' for them in the game 2. as the starting date is 1065 it means the Cataclysm isn't that far in the past, so there's a lot of stuff there for people who might want to investigate Diedne plot hooks, and it also means that there's a clear opportunity for those who want to change the status quo to do so without dozens of archmages jumping on them saying 'Stop interfering!' (I've come across heaps of players who are Diedne mad...)
Anyways, your breakdown is very much appreciated. Hope people have a game some time!
I've only read the covenant creation and advancement rules and what your done is very similar to my own take on Libraries - having their own scores and providing benefits to lab work - I yet to playtest the concepts in a regular game, but I've used the solo play rules (here & peripheral code) to test them out and I find the system far easier to handle and far less annoying to track, so nicely done.
One point I don't see the point of tho (both in your rules and ArM5) is why bother using an abstract concept of Build Points for covenant creation. Simply use a lump sum of vis and have all assets purchased via that - it immediately establishes a baseline cost for hermetic assets that provides guidance for players and new storytellers alike???
And well done one actually writing a complete document and sharing it - many many gamers discuss/write up bits of potential new rules, but collecting all those thoughts into a single document that, and this is the important bit, other people can read and understand is a big achievement
Thanks for your kind words, Kal! I hope you enjoy reading the rest of it also.
Build Points: While I can't comment on the reasons why in 5e, in fan6e I used it as a common value to let players build what they want within a framework. As an example, a storyguide wants a low power game so he gives them 50 points to play with, but within that the players can make what they want.
I also like it as an easy to use reward for quests. Storyguides could say 'put 10 points toward the library' but players could choose when and where and how it is applied for example.
So effectively, it's designed to be used as a framework.