Magi are the greatest weakness of Ars Magica?!

I've read City and Guild, Ars&Academae, I am reading Lords of Man.
I've been wondering:What would Ars Magica be like, if you didn't play a magus, but a monk, a priest, a craftsman, a Lady, a magister, or a knight? Not a peasant (herding swine isn't an adventure).
It would focus so much more on medieval adventures,as opposed to fantasy adventures. There would be no labs, no initiations, no strange Order stuff, but instead courtly intrigue, and feuds.

Instad of a covenant - it would be a castle.
Instad of an Order - it would be family&friends.
No more easy solutions for complex problems, no more need to hide a fairy and a devil on the tip of each needle. No longevity rituals - but multiple generation gaming.

Strange idea. But I thought it might make interesting companion-level gaming.

It would be another kind of game.

If I play Ars Magica, it is to play a Maga and do magic. Hence the name of the game.


1 Like

I confess, I am also interested in this kind of a game. In fact, in my head I have named it Ordo Nobilis (after the 4th ed pre-cursor to Lords of Men). Personally, if/when I run such a game, I would not completely remove the fantasy element... prefering to retain such things as the supernatural abilities like second sight and various magical creatures. However, a game without hermetic magi could, I think, be a very interesting one.

One of my pet-projects that I never really get around to is a companions-only game. It wouldn't be low-fantasy, however, far from it - it would be all about the characters getting involved in faerie plots, caught in the middle of divine and infernal struggles, and so on. But instead of working things out with a spell and raw power, they'll solve things with tickery and gutso - just like the stories. Mythic companions allowed, magi - not. The campaign will center around a manor, much like ArM centers around the covenant.


IIRC this game exists and is called Pendragon.

The case could also be made for it being Chronica Feudalis.

I set up a saga like that once, unfortunatly circumstances conspired to take my players from me before even the first story :frowning:

Cadfael the roleplaying game?

I'm curious what folks consider to be the benefit of Ars Magica, ruleswise, when considering this approach to the setting/cosmology of "what peasants thought was true, is true" or "straight medieval" play.

Sans the magic system, you have a good system for long-term advancement, but on the flip-side, characters will likely feel fairly static overall.
The basic die mechanic is fairly simple and approachable, but does it hold up for strictly mundane play?

Virtues and Flaws certainly allow for characters to be fairly distinct even if they share certain general similarities in role or concept.

Still, is it the best vehicle for a medieval game that is not long-term or generational in approach?

I'm not convinced one way or the other, but I was curious what drew people towards Ars' rules for this saga concept.


They don't draw me.
If i was going to use a set of rules for this , i would use Harn from Columbia Games.
It has wizards , but they can be left out and just use scholars from the Guild of Arcane Lore.
There are fully detailed maps , including cities and castles , something Ars Magica sadly lacks.
Different Gods , not being a historical Christian setting , but that could be altered as well.

A deadly and easy to use combat system , far less handwavey than Ars Core Rules.
Armor system , where you can designate protection per body area.
Decent skill system and two excellent supplements on Herbs & Potions ,
that do not need magic to make.

1 Like

Ruleswise, for the adventures, Ars is FAR from a great game. Too rules heavy, and staggering under the current system (more or less following the DnD evolution here). It is a good as a long term system (as suggested by others). It is GREAT as a game world. it is the best universe I have ever seen in a game. By far.

A purely mundane saga is something we have played. We played a saga centred around a baron's court. The magi were "those mad dudes over the hill", and influenced events, but were only rarely seen on central stage. It works well. We played 3 generations of the family (75 years of game time) and followed the family through their rise and fall in mundane politics. mundane activities and politics took a central stage, even if hunting magical stags and dealing with faeries were important things to do. Supernatural abilities were around for sure: the whole family were skinchangers that could transform into crows.

So Ars can do it. I am sure there are better systems out there to achieve the same results, but we have not worked around them. We are comfortable using the basic ars system and it is good enough for us. Specially if we want to play in Mythic Europe.

However, I still think that the supernatural bit is what calls us to this game, even when we tone down the power of Hermetics. Removing that element of the game is not something we are likely to ever do.


Dont think i´ve played specifically without magi, but certainly have played without magi present.
While Ars Magica isnt the best game for it if you want to stick with it completely, it certainly works well enough.

Ever looked at the Battletech/Mechwarrior universe?

Yup, seen the mechwarrior universe. I don't buy the political structure in it, but it is a nice universe as well. There are no dragons nor fire mages in Mechwarrior, so Ars is still better :wink:


In concept (as I have not yet tried such a saga in practice), there are several things I like about the current edition of Ars Magica for this saga concept. I love the idea of Story and Personality flaws as a way to intergrate character design and saga design. I also like the Social Status virtues that help to fit a character into the medieval setting.

I think the task resolution mechanics are simple and, with the exception of combat, very rules light. Combat is a bit cumbersome, but far less so then in prior editions and with some of the varient rules from Lords of Men could be quite good.

As for advancement, I actually perfer system like Ars Magica where you can create the character you want to play at the outset. I dislike systems like D&D where you start as a useless schmuck and re-write your character every few sesssions (often without regard to the events in those sessions). Someone earlier mentioned "Cadfael the rolepaying game" and I think ArsM sans-magi would be good for that sort of saga... if you read the Cadfael novels, you will note that each book is usually seperated by seasons or years.

While Ars Magica might not be the "perfect system" I honestly have never seen the perfect system. I think ArsM is a pretty good one.

I have a hard time getting some friends to play because the rules for combat and nonmagical characters have too much variance with a d10 and a 'skilled' bonus of +4 to +6. I'm working on a bastardization between the classic Rolemaster system and Ars Magica. Basicly using the combat and manuver tables in rolemaster and the progression, magic system, and world of Ars Magica. Seems to be going well. Not playtested yet.

1 Like

But do you have a Table for it? :slight_smile:
Going to make Monks a lot more dangerous.

LOL. I know, right. Chartmaster we've dubbed it. Watch out for those Tiney crits...

1 Like

Dragons... Well the Branth pretty much looks like dragons. :mrgreen:

The political structure is totally realistic, in context.

Fire mages no, but try invading the Taurian Concordat and you will be seeing all the fire you can handle, or more likely NOT handle. They´re a bit paranoid and tend to fire as many nukes as it takes to get rid of invaders. :smiling_imp:

Probably because its totally impossible to make "the perfect system".

That sounds interesting. I´ve played some simplified versions of Rolemaster and overall, they´re pretty darn good.

1 Like

For me, Magi aren't a weakness of Ars Magica but are rather the best reason to play the game. I like my game to be about Wizards. I do have issues with the power level of Magi and the consequent ability to overpower anything mortal.

I am however starting to come to the conclusion that the greatest weakness of Ars Magica may be the Order of Hermes. I'm tired of a continent-wide secretive order of magicians that insists on remaining apart from mortal affairs. I want my Magi to actually be involved in the fascinating setting that is Medieval Europe. I further want this to happen using the flexible and well thought out system for Hermetic Magic, rather than some separate and inferior system for Hedge Magicians.

1 Like

That I definately agree with. In fact, in my current in-planning saga idea I'm going to make magi more like Learned Magicians and Cunning Folk, in that they are an intergrated part of the medieval world. Magi will have to take another Social Status to reflect their position in mundane society and will have to live and work within the world. If I ever get the wretched game off the ground, expect reports. :slight_smile:

1 Like