Is Ars Magica too obsolete to recruit new players?

I've been recruiting to start a new online Ars Magica campaign using the forums on this site, Roll20 and the Ars Magica reddit and only had 1 possible response so far. It is possible that my posts were not inspirational enough or that the premise of the campaign (Spring covenant in the Rhine) has been already done by most experienced Ars Magica players to be of any interest but it has me wondering if the Ars Magica 5 system is just too old to attract new players any more?

Have other people been successful in starting new campaigns with new players recently or are campaigns mostly relegated to old die hard fans playing within their cliques?

I theoretically have 5 friends willing to play. We had a four year Ars Magica 3 game together decades ago that was very successful but meeting in person to play is no longer practical and I am having difficulty convincing them of the viability of online play. My idea was that if I could merge experienced online players with my friends then it could get the campaign kick started by showing them how online play works. Any advice on recruiting online players?

It may be a combination of factors, whether it's timezones, whether it's voice or pbp, what communication platform, et al. I had no problems recruiting players and the pbps I have joined have also gotten new players recently.

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For online gaming I look at text only with no timezones. This is why I play online actually. So it might be a thing about formats, at least for me

I just read your call for players. I like the Rhine tribunal. I like Coll. But your request for players contains a long wall of requirements, all of which are relevant, that personally deters me from reading and following up (because I'm already in a campaign, I don't troll that part of the forum, either :smile:). Also it's only been two days; making a decision on a weekly commitment is challenging for me :wink:. Maybe others have similar constraints. Finally, a total of 12 players expecting more newbs when you already have 3 newbs is a tall order, IMHO (but maybe I mistake your "new" player recruitment(?)).

If you've followed ArM 6th discussion, you'll notice that recruitment of newbs is a particular concern with specific barriers. I think when recruiting new players to ArM5, those barriers need to be reduced as much as possible, which in my mind implies fewer options and fewer rules, mechanical or otherwise.

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Personally I have had no trouble convincing either of the two groups I have played with IRL in the past few years to play ars magica. I have no experience with PBP however and cannot say.

Having had a look at your campaign I do think it looks interesting. But honestly your pitch is very boringly phrased and its spread out amidst all of the rules and requirements. You also have a very long list of bullets that is poorly structured. In principle it looks like it will be a very interesting campaign but the way you present it does not do it any favors and the deadline for submitting a character is extremely short. I am sorry for the harsh words, below are some advice for how to improve your pitch.

I suggest you start out with a pragraph of text describing the premise in freeform, ideally with some more context provided. I know what the curse of the rhine gorge is because I have read GotF but if you want to recruit new players you will have to explain that shit to them. Also explain the premise of Ars Magica in that paragraph, and ideally in way that lets a seasoned player know what your take on Ars Magica canon is.
I would have put the part where you describe your wishes for players and describe what characters are already in the game just beneath your premise.
The put rules for how you can create a character, what splatbooks you allow, what parts of them you dont allow etc. Also describe that practicalities of how the game will be run, I am not sure exactly where to put this info but maybe near the wishes you have for new players. And you have to explain troupe style play too, that is not common knowledge outside of the Ars Magica community.

Well. I have run a VoIP games for eight months. It is hard to recruit players and the pool of potentials is small, but I can really find new players too.

We have lost players who

  1. do not like the complex rule mechanics.
  2. do not like the ambiguity of Mythic Europe and seek a world where everybody is either Good or Evil.
  3. are incompatible with the rest of the group for all the reasons you find in every RPG.

Ars Magica is not obsolete. It was hard to recruit players to such a complex system and world when I first played 25 years ago too. Believe it or not, but many roleplayers do not enjoy mental arithmetics.

The main problem, I believe, is that Ars Magica has and always had a small community. Few players have heard of it, and therefore few players are attracted to it. Personally I have been reading D&D rules lately (yes, I never did that before), and the only selling point it has is the size of the community. I am really not tempted to look up any of the games with communities ten times the size of Ars Magica, because however good the system is, it will be too hard to find a sustainable group in a small community.

Edit: Okay, so I noticed you're doing most of the roleplaying through live sessions, which is good, though how much you'll get done with 12 players I'd rather not speculate. I think a big campaign like this is more intimidating to people new to the system, and Ars Magica is complex enough that people probably need help character building, which is hard to get in a forum-based environment.

I agree with many of the issues stated above with the post but, in a general sense, I don't believe Ars is too old to attract new players. Also stated above it has always been a niche game but being active on the Ars Magica discord that used to be something of a replacement for this forum while it was down, it seems to me that many of the folks active there are new players who have recently gotten into Ars so I wonder if perhaps it's the places you went looking rather than the game system that makes fining younger*, new players more difficult.

* totally a guess but my assumption would be that people who prefer discord to forums are, generally, younger.


Some excellent feedback and exactly what I was looking for. Thanks everyone. I will try to incorporate some these ideas into a new pitch and adjust my expectations. I started a Roll20 pathfinder game a few years ago and had a dozen requests to join within a day but Ars Magica is much more niche so I shouldn't be expecting quick responses.

Perhaps I will just make a call for players that stays open for months and not specify the number of players. We can have the covenant create a few extra labs for peregrinatores and new players can come in as such to try the campaign out. If they leave their magi can move on and I have some more fleshed out NPCs to work with.

I know several of my IRL friends will not show up for many of the Roll20 sessions but as long as players are submitting their seasonal activities and interacting with the troupe about covenant decisions then I feel they are contributing to the saga. I do not ever expect to see more than about 6 players during a Roll20 session except for possibly Tribunals, in which it would be cool to have some players play different factions with the more the merrier. If my assumption is wrong and more players do show up on a regular basis then that is a happy problem that can probably be addressed by having 2 sessions.


Many thanks nullsettings, I did not know about the Ars Magica discord server and that looks like an excellent recruitment forum since I intend to use discord for the voice chat.

Using the peregrinatores premise is a great way to let people scratch & sniff your campaign. It's low stakes, minimally disruptive if the player and campaign don't gel, and provides a smooth, continuous path to integration.

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I’m sorry to hear you’ve had difficulty finding players for your game! That sucks.

I live in Seattle. When I wanted to start a new Ars campaign, I went to a local Facebook group and said “I want to run this obscure game from the 80s that is infamously complicated and unfriendly to new players, but everyone plays a wizard and it’s set in our own 13th century Europe but with MAGIC” and I had 4 players in 2 days. None had ever played Ars before and most had very little rpg experience at all and were just RPG-curious. In other words: it’s all about location, in my experience. If you’re in a high population density area with an RPG culture, people will at least TRY your game. And once you get them all in the room, it’s about being a good host and having cool players that get along and make fun stories together. Recruiting new people who have never, or seldom, gamed before is a challenge but it can be very rewarding.


this. Exactly this. I am playing in an online D&D campaign right now to test it. It sucks a a ruleset. Big. But it has a stron community and a system of adventure/advancement geared towards that community. That is the thing that makes it relevant. As a ruleset it is clunky as hell.

Speaking of D&D and obsolete... THAC0 anyone?

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Pathfinder has replaced D&D as the Hard core munchkin game. If you want I roll dice at the problem, then with my +3 item, +1 bless, +2 flank, -1 curse, get the abacus, carry the 1, then add 10 for my rorty 5 feat combo, then use Pathfinder. This is not a criticism. I've played those games, and they are fun with the right crowd, however, I think D&D has gone away from that model.

5th ed D&D is one of the most accessible RPGs for entry level players. I'm excluding games like Amber that have no dice rolling. Depending on the group, games like Amber can be near impossible for new players to grok, or they just work.

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I didn't say difficult. I said clunky. DnD system is a fairly bad engine. Or collection of engines. Its strength is the community, not the rules system.

Pathfinder/D&D3.0/3.5 were at least complete game world simulations - you could cludge an economy and politics and everything else not combat relevant out of the existing rules. D&D4 was just MMO simulator and I haven't touched D&D5 but everything I've heard hasn't impressed me.

Seems like RPGs are bound to fall apart after too many editions. Shadowrun went downhill fast after 4th edition. HERO system seems to be in decline with 6th, etc. It makes me a little worried for Ars Magica 6th edition, given how 5th is basically 'complete' - every Realm and House has been addressed and while not every tribunal has gotten a 5th edition book, most of the tribunal books are 5th edition.

But then again, 6th could very well smooth out some of the issues of 5th and a new presentation format might bring in more players. So who knows?

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My group is around 25-28 years old and we are playing ArM5 as our main game, so I don't think it's a problem with it being obsolete.
You campaign seems interesting, it's actually what I'm currently playing but as Alpha (and only) ST. I'd love to play but right now my life is an absolute chaos of compromises and I don't want to commit to a game and then simply vanish (with the addition that I've never played online).

Don't give up, I'm sure you'll find players.

Going from a really solid mechanics engine, to running an inferior version of Storyteller, with with dice but with d6s didn't help.

No, not bitter at all. Yes, I am in fact currently running a Shadowrun 3 campaign.

Yes my problem has been resolved. Posted on the Ars Magica Discord server and I have recruited 8 active players within 24 hours. My recommendation when looking for live online play is to start recruiting on that server. This forum is probably better for PbP games.