Losing Mythic Europe

Does Ars Magica NEED Mythic Europe as the setting?

  • 1. No, we could have a complete new fantasy setting with new Houses and that would be great
  • 2. We could have a fictionalised high fantasy version of Europe, like the Reik in WFRPG, and maybe new Houses
  • 3. We could have 2, but keep the Order and Houses as is.
  • 4. Mythic Europe should retain the default setting.
  • 5. I would strongly oppose any non-Mythic Europe settings

0 voters

OK, first up, I'm talking about a hypothetical Ars Magica 10th edition here. I reckon that by that time I will have followed plan "Kind Hearts & Coronets" through to its logical conclusion, and become Line Editor. This does rely on my knowing whoever Atlas appoint, as it "is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms". Also one has to bear in mind that the intervening editions will all vary tremendously -- I am sure the Ryan edition would have "all the exuberance of Chaucer without, happily, any of the concomitant crudities of his period." And ... but enough! One day! One day!

Secondly, I'm a huge fan of Ars Magica 4th and 5th editions, and Mythic Europe. I am also a big fan of 13th century history, and have an academic background in Religion/History/Folklore and I used to believe that was why Atlas hired me. Checking my emails from David that was not so -- actually it was because apparently I could type very quickly and no one else was available, at all, anywhere. Or something. Anyway I guess the reason I have stayed with the line writing so long is because I think David and a lot of the fans like what I term High History/High Myth - having a lot of fantastic elements but basing them on authentic medieval folklore and beliefs of the time and place, and making Mythic Europe weird by drawing upon the actual cultural gap between the 13th century and us.

However, in another post, I said that I thought a future edition should perhaps sacrifice Mythic Europe as the DEFAULT setting. In fact I would favour the publication of various settings, and move away from the historical model. The case has been made over the years by many people, but perhaps most recently by Matt Ryan in his blog here - metropollywog.wordpress.com/2014 ... beginning/

He points to a very real issue. There is another one. David Chart once wrote, in Sub Rosa I think which you should all buy on download - subrosamagazine.org/ - that great games can be summed up in two words, but Ars Magica takes more "Medieval Europe with Magic". I paraphrase, cos I'm hungry and need to go get food, so have not got time to quote directly, but I agree. However Ars is widely known among gamers as "the kewlest magic system ever", and oddly no one has ever emulated it. I don't think the Latin names of the Arts is an issue at all, and would probably retain them - 15 terms is not a lot for the atmosphere - but Ars makes for a great game about Wizards.

Now no game balance. You don't need that though. Make it a game about wizards, retain the Companions and Grogs and it can work. You can attract players who love magic, magic items, great monster design rules and amazing mechanical crunch. I don't think we go all indie twenty page rules only, I like the crunch in Ars, which makes it work.

You don't need Mythic Europe though, and it is offputting. Some people love the familiarity of the setting. Others who are in to worldbuilding want to make their own. Other just love fantasy settings, with orcs and goblins and more overt magic than any version of Mythic Europe.

More people don't like pretentious historians like me, who might claim their figures on the protein yield of the medieval turnip are wrong* (when I joined the Berklist the first major discussion I read was many pages on this very issues - yes really), or who hated history at school and have no idea who Phillip of Swabia was, or why they should care (I'm not sure either actually).

Ars does those things beautifully you know. We have 5th edition. Now clearly when I have murdered my way to Line Editor for 10th Edition (OK, maybe 11th), purged the fan base and re-educated the authors, I intend to send the Paradigm Police from the Berklist to burn ever copy of Ars ever printed before my ONE TRUE EDITION. Mythic Europe will be as forgotten as House Diedne! (FX: Hysterical cackling, bats fly out of monitor, thunder lighting and Hell yawns open).

Oh, yes... Sorry, just plotting aloud. We have 5th edition. We have a lovingly described Mythic Europe. We can choose to jump on the new rules if we like them, and play them, or not. I don't know how many people stopped playing after 4th ed, and never moved to 5th, but we have a few 4th and 3rd ed players at GT UK each year, though less each time, and most at least now own a lot of 5th ed books i think.

I actually would probably not feature much in the Mythic Europe free Ars Magica. There are lot of Fantasy RPG authors out there, and my writing for the line probably is based on my knowing history and real folklore. Better people will write and edit the edition I think may come, but I don't think that is a bad thing. It saves me a lot of intriguing and plotting after all! Still, I think it might actually help bring more people in to Ars, because the magic system is something unique.

Finally my actual design ideas - I'm going to explain these more in a blog post, but I'm in favour of some indie inspired elements, including Story Flaws and Boons and Hooks used to create an overall Story Arc before the campaign starts, which paints broadly what the game is about by player consensus and ties what follows directly to the characters and covenant designed by the players, so the whole saga is focussed on them. Atlas hardly produce adventures, and I have an idea on how to make this work, so that the true strength of early editions is brought back in to very sharp relief. However that can wait for another time...


I voted for Mythic Europe as the default setting, and it should always be so.

What are the challenges that I'm missing that makes the mechanics of Ars Magica so hard to implement in another fantasy world? The lack of creatures or a monster compendium? That's the only and biggest one I can think of, because making creatures in Ars Magica is, honestly, a bit of a pain.

Mythic Europe is fictional. I think we need an alternate history version of 'if magic were real and followed these guidelines, what would really happen' rather than having the order bend over backwards to avoid involving itself in mundane affairs until the PC's show up and do exactly what the order has not been doing for 600 years.

I think Mythic Europe should keep the core setting of the game even if it is kind of unrealistic that mages wouldn't use magic to give the world their stamp.
But in a ArM6 the rules should adjusted toward making different settings that are connected to Mythic Europe easier.
Maybe even alternate Dimensions are the reason why the more powerful mages simply not have the time to do much in Mythic Europe.

You'll never get David Chart up in that balloon, let alone into the dress...

Mythic Europe is actually one of the draws for me as well. I've gotten somewhat tired of the generic Vance-Tolkien-Howard hybrids, especially when they so often lack the originality of their sources. The mindset of "I'm an elf! I'm a dwarf! I'm a generic fighter!" with all of the attending cliches and troupes really isn't that intriguing to me, and it was a description of the ArM setting that first perked my ears up. To be precise, I was talking with somebody I did some editing for years ago and he mentioned Ars Magica and its world as an inspiration for the work he and his partner do. The way he described it as something so different from the norm is why I started digging around for more information and eventually starting playing ArM myself.

It is certainly quite possible that a hypothetical new setting could be as intriguing and emersive as the current one, but I personally have no issue with what's already there. I do enjoy both history and mythology, so I may be biased in that regard, perhaps heavily so, but it does also strike me that any individual saga needs to be only as involved with and accurate to the more scholarly aspects of the settings as the players wish to be. If nobody cares when such-and-such an institution was founded, so be it. The problem only comes when part of the group cares and part doesn't, and that sort of division can occur over any issue.

While there are some players who might be drawn to a more generic or transparently accessible setting, I think there are also others like me who came more for that setting than the magic system. If anything, I'd suggest keeping ME as the default setting and putting out an occasional book on translating other worlds to ArM mechanics, assuming the other publishers out there wouldn't make that too much of an uphill battle.

I love Mythic Europe as a default setting. It is the one single reason that I remained interested in the game throughout the years, as it tied up nicely to another hobby of mine. Were it not for Mythic Europe, my 3rd Edition book would be alone on a shelf, gathering dust, instead of being accompanied by a large number of 4th and 5th edition books.

That does not mean the game couldn't benefit from alternative settings, or from being less intricately coupled with historical Europe as seen through our modern eyes. Giving troupes the option of using another setting of their choice would be great.

That said, I think the greatest weakness of Ars is not Mythic Europe, but rather the Order of Hermes itself. Its power, demographics and history simply cannot stand the test of not changing history because of the flimsy reasons provided. You cannot plunk down a thousand of hugely powerful wizard into history without consequences. In my opinion, power level should be reduced, the Order should be smaller by an order of magnitude, and its history should be revised to conform to real-world historical records. But that is a whole different story... :laughing:

5. I would strongly oppose any non-Mythic Europe settings

I would be really sad if there would be a new world-setting and especially a fantasy world-setting for this game. There are a multitude of fantasy games in all shapes and sizes both in the present and those lines that went extinct the last 20-30 years of the history of RPGs. This game would lose its charm and beauty if it was moved away from Ars Magica,

And, as i said in the other thread. I would stop play, buy atlas games products and stop promote Ars Magica to people I meet, if it was changed.

I'd want to keep Mythic Europe as the default setting, but explicitly make it optional, and have guidelines for troupes who want to adapt it or deviate from it.

Some troupes would consider any default setting to be restrictive, and would always want to create their own. For those people, Mythic Europe is as good a default setting as any to deviate from. What would be good for them is not a fleshed-out alternative setting, but guidelines for running Ars Magica in a variety of different kinds of settings.

Some troupes want a pre-written setting that lays everything out for them, and Mythic Europe is great for this because real history books can be used as a source of research. I like the fact that I've learned about real history as a side-effect of inventing Ars Magica adventures!

There are already aspects of the setting that are left for troupes to decide for themselves, e.g. whether magic is inherently sinful. A future edition could make certain aspects of the Hermetic Oath into similar 'decide for yourself' rules. You can play a Mythic Europe in which wizards swear to keep out of mundane society, or you can alter that clause and run a Mythic Europe in which magi rule kingdoms, with some guidelines for what each option would mean.

There are, in fact, many game systems which have borrowed the "verb + noun = spell" idea from Ars Magica. The first I ever saw was GURPS's version of Rune Magic, which must be twenty years old now, at least. (I believe it appeared in the "GURPS Magic" sourcebook.) The most recent magic system I have seen which was obviously inspired by Ars's magic system was for Fate Core, the "Words of Power" rules.

I think trying to stick to a more or less "Christianity is right" mindset is a large part of the problem- if you went with a David Drake Lord of the Isles cosmology with multiple alternate worlds attached to the main world where mages are simply too busy to be going around trying to change the world beyond saving it from things that the world is in denial about their existence, that could work much better...

With the most of the people.

I like Mythic Europe. If I want to explore something different, why not just put it in a regio?

Smaller by an Order of magnitude, meaning 120 less magi, or meaning 120 total magi? 120 magi is probably too few... And taking away 120 magi still leaves the total population of the order at about a thousand, so...?

Why not play Forgotten Realms (D20) or Palladium Books Megaverse Universe instead?

The reason why "Christianity is right" is because in 13th Century Europe, it was like that. That is one of the charms of Ars Magica.

QFT!!! :slight_smile:

I don't think Ars Magica leveraging the Dominion as strongly as it does is quite the problem. Very often, players have difficulty separating their own real-world opinions concerning religion from its use in fiction. Personally, I'm an atheist. Reason kind of precludes any other conclusion as far as I'm concerned, but I don't have a problem accepting the power of the Dominion in the guise of the principle religions featured in the game any more than I have a problem accepting magic, dragons, faeries, and the like.

The Dominion is the manifestation of salvation as a counterpoint to the manifestation of damnation in the Infernal. If you weaken one then you weaken the other; why would Hell be real if Heaven itself suddenly wasn't? The game and setting benefits from those extremes.

People have always played Ars in non-Mythic Europe settings though, and I have occasionally thought about it, and I have played hardly any Fantasy RPGs (well those I have played have all been based in recognisable versions of our world). When I started this thread, and before being distracted by making Kind Hearts and Coronets jokes -- glad Psitticine got them, and they were intended to indicate that I was not being overly serious - at the current rate of editions Ars 10th will come out somewhere in the 2050's I think - :0 - I was going to make the case by asking on rpg.net what put people off playing Ars - an "unsell me" thread. I suspect the history and Mythic Europe will appear if anyone does do that. I didn't do it because I did not want to a) engender bad publicity or b) get in the way of David doing something like that in the future.

My own position is way more dispassionate than most people here, which is odd, given I love Ars Magica and medieval history. I want to see new people come to the game, something most people seem to think unlikely - holding your own in the current state of the RPG market is considered a major achievement right now. Indie games that David mentioned in the other thread are cool, but without checking how many you need for Bronze/Silver/Gold sales on various pdf sites I'm going to guess the market is a couple hundred copies. I'm hoping Ars currently shifts a lot more than that. :smiley: In fact I'm pretty sure it does, judging how many people I know are rabid Ars fans.

Now that might be a self selecting sample - but so are the people on the forum. Of course we like Mythic Europe - that is why we are here. However, what I should have asked in the poll so will ask here instead is - would you consider another setting? Andrew's alternate settings thread seems to list a number of chronological variants, and then some theological variants, and I was I think the only person who actually expressed the heresy.

The problem with any major revision is that you may as well play another rpg. DoctorComics pointed to two other verb + noun magic systems, ironically in books I own. I guess the history of Mythic Europe is what makes Ars what it is, and while I would like to see a book of alternative settings -- Timothy's Royal Society one in particular, I guess i could play Northern Crown instead. :frowning: Ah well, it was worth exploring the idea, and I did think it was being ignored in the other thread. David has clearly stayed committed to ME, and after 4 editions I doubt Atlas will change it. :smiley: I do like to ponder though!

cj x

When it comes to "Noun + Verb" magic systems, check out Rivers of London (a novel series, modern day London copper discovers he's a wizard... My SG and I theorise that his 'master' is a really not too bright flambeau)

The thing is that ars magica is much more than noun+verb, it is stacking skills, attributes, and virtues and bonuses all together to try and reach high totals to peak out in near miraculous combinations, in an arcane system that actually feels like something magical. Gurps, as much as I love it, can't replicate that simply because it is a 'roll under' mechanic where open ended stress die and adding skills together simply doesn't make sense.

That's surprisingly accurate.