Modern Ars Magica....

Hi all,

I know the idea of a modern setting ars magica gets thrown around every know and then, but I've got a couple of specific questions for it I could use some input in :slight_smile:

Firstly, just for reference, myself and my gaming group are kinda hooked on The Dresden Files, if people know it, so the game will incorporate aspect from those books.

First question - why are spells beyond level 50 automatically rituals? It is game balance? As I going to have Hermetic magic develop other the intervening centuries, I'm assuming Art scores are gonna be higher, so more magi will be able to hit beyond 50, so Im thinking of removing this limit? Good idea, bad idea?

Secondly - Im changing the aging, so that once magi finish their apprenceships, they only age 1 year for every 5 - it makes life easier (my group prefer rules light games) - so magi can live up to several centuries and final twilight takes a lot longer to hit. Plus it means creating advanced characters is easier as I generally run advancement in blocks of 5 years anyway. As a knock on from that, no need for longegivity rituals means magi can have families, passing on the gift within family bloodlines. What do folks think of that?

Thirdly - Im planning on the Order having become secretive. One of the main tools is a more potent version of the Aegis of the Hearth which includes a Mentem requisite which acts like Aura of Inconsequence/The Shrouded Glenn so that people "ignore" the covenant. Again, for simpliciy, the requsiste does not change the level effects, merely adds a requisite to the casting. It will make it more difficult to cast powerful versions of the ritual is the only problem. Any thoughts on that aspect?

Almost there - The gift no longer hinder social interactions. Instead, it hinder technological interaction. And there are usual Gentle and Balant gifts within it when it comes to dealing with Technology.

Finally - as my group also dont use clans for vampire, we are also not going to use houses for Ars Magica. Instead a Hermetic Council (or just the Council) will provide a central governing body for the magi. 15 seats, one for each Art.

There the biggest changes I have for the game - I do have a Hermetic History doc bullet pointed that I'm working to describe how these changes come about - breakthoughts, political problems etc. Currently working on why there arent any Mercere Portals anymore.

What do people think?


PS Before peopel say, I've looked at WOD Mage and really, really dont like it - Ars magica is a far superior game for magic :slight_smile:

First of all, I would like to say that I too support the idea for modern-day Ars Magica, though I would have done it differently - I would take a few fresh magi, age them in-game, have them take apprentices, and so on, until you reach the modern days. This way you can really experience the changes in the world, and have the players act in them - it cuould lead to some very interesting results.

Anyway, I'll still address your suggestions:

  1. I think you should leave the "rituals above 50" as it is. As far as I can tell, it's a thing with hermetic theory: since the spell is very powerful, it is more complex to cast, and therefore must be cast ritually.

  2. I must say that I'm a big fan of the aging rules, and if I were you I'd just change the age to start rolling aging from 35 to, maybe, 50.

  3. I like the idea of the order becoming secretive.

  4. Interesting idea with The Gift. The only problem I can see with it is that maybe magi won't have all that much technological interactions, so maybe hindering them in that way will only make them stronger. I think the best way to work with it is to play-test it, and then change it if it doesn't work.

  5. I really like the Hermetic Houses. However, if you are against the idea of houses, then make the council have only ten seats - one for each Form.

Why? Not like there isnt people today that just gets disliked on first sight...
And it feels like a change that is very hard to justify?

Combining it with Aegis, mmm... Iยดd rather have it as a separate spell, perhaps as a common enchanted item that covers a certain area. And if combined i think it should also raise the casting level(but not the aegis effect level of course). Of course this is something can probably be fairly easy to justify as an "evolved" aegis spell so certainly not outrageous or anything.

One for each ART? :confused:
The most powerful in each art in each seat or??? That could give some really bad results regarding WHO gets to sit on those seats.
Might want to make it a "simple" orderwide(or a representative from each Tribunal) vote instead as that also gives more room for politicking.

Make it from the START of their apprenticeships instead, as if the "anti-aging" effect takes hold once they have their Arts opened. That makes it logical enough in context.
Should work fine.

We buried that rule long LONG ago and never looked back. Instead we increased the bonuses you get for Ritual casting so its still useful.

+Art.Lib. +Philosophiae +Ritual Magic Mastery(separate Ability for all ritual spells, not a spell mastery) +Magic Lore +Meditation +Concentration +Die roll

That means being able to get much better casting totals for rituals. And with similar bonuses for Ceremonial casting.

Worked great in 3rd ed. 8)

Reasonable. But I'd replace the politics with "something" - gilds make perfect sense, esp re the modern mindset. A group of magi coming together (in some loose sense, at least) for common purpose - if only to counter others they disagree with - will keep the Tribunal an important and dangerous event.

Blame it on Tremere. That could also tie in to why there aren't any Houses anymore.

  1. Ask yourself why level 55+ spells would not be rituals. Vis an issue? Your secretive, Hidden order finds that three hours is too much time to waste destroying a city? What level 80 spell do you want to see your players cast every round?

  2. Modern life is much faster paced then the "core setting". Don't change the aging rules, change the base turn (seasons) to month. Does about the same thing, but you don't have to write so much "future history".

  3. Why, in this modern age, would a young man with "super powers" want to hide? Money, Power, Fame are all to be turned aside? Must be a powerful enemy the Order is hiding from. Or perhaps an Angel from the Lord has laid down the Law. They are hiding for a reason.....

  4. Why? in this age of phones and the Internet, the Gift has never been less of a problem. And the tech thing will not come up often (will you make your characters "roll" to use the Internet?). Why not say that the problem with the Gift "transmits" by technology? Even on a BBS, you come off as a Troll!

  5. Doesn't seem right. Too many of the Mystery houses would not give up their secrets. Maybe go that route, fifteen Mystery houses to make up the Order.....

I think this is about drama and scope of the game. Look at spells of beyond level 50-they're really big deals. In most games it is more appropriate to have a big ritual when you want to change your wizard's tower into a flock of sparrows and send it across Europe to reform in a new location, not to do it in a single action. How would sitting down at the table with your players be better if the characters could throw out spells of higher than level 50 without time and vis investment (could be better, could be worse, it'd probably be different and I'd wager it would be completely incompatible with a more secretive order). In any case look at he text in the core book and I think that you'll see something like "In general a spell of higher than level 50 is a ritual spell" (serf's parma on this) and you'll also see on the list of criteria for what makes a spell a ritual something similar to "anything that the Storyguide deems should be a ritual". So this limit is pretty squishy to being with, you might be better served by keeping it in it's present form and then freeing what spells you want from it than you would be by giving your players yet one more house rule to deal with.

Once again for the sake of not burdening your players with more rules material to digest and remember I like direwolf's idea of an enchanted device.

I can imagine the gift giving off waves "not rightness" that people and animals can feel. I have a harder time imagining how technology feels this emanation. what level of technology does it hit, I'm assuming that it leaves simple levers and pulleys alone, will it break a steam engine? how about a 1960's GTO? How are you going to draw the line? Perhaps the gift messes with electron flow?

You're getting rid of houses and then adding a more unified governing body. If you don't like clans wouldn't you prefer to have no governing body at all, perhaps just some generally held to principles that a sufficiently large enough proportion of magi society will stand up to make violating these principles typically unwise.

Yeah why not? How do they detract from the fun?

I think that one question that you'll want to handle is why hasn't hermetic theory been expanded to handle electricity? (or how do the rules need to change in order to do it?) furthermore there is a great deal material in the game that stems from it's setting where atoms aren't as we know them and characters can literally go to the garden of eden or travel to the lunar sphere. These sorts of things you'll need to keep a sharp eye out for.

Ok, I'l try and answer some things put foward....

Technology bit first
The main driving force of this is from The Dresden Files. In it, wizards suffer the inability to use modern technology. The main character can just about get by with a Volkswagen Bettle and an old .44 revolver - anything more adanvced tends to break round him. He doesnt have much of a kitchen, no microwave, no fridge or freezer, just a gas hob and an old school cold box filled with ice...I like it as it means he still keeps lots of books in his lab, cant use computers to store all of his information, needs to rely on a magical spirit to store info instead and has to use candles to light his home and lab - gives an old school mage feel but in the wider setting of the modern world, a nice contrast.

And as to the lack of social problems - that is because we like our main characters to be able to talk to normal people - when I introduced my player group to Ars last summer, that was one the things they really didnt like about the system...

Secretive Order
Partly this is to fit with our usual modern setting of WoD - the supernatural is secretive. I'm not running with the "alternative modern setting because magic is there" - its just like our world and we just dont notice the magic going on around us.

Why did the Order choose to become secretive - mundanes, cant live with em, cant live without em. Magi are drawn from mundanes, and mundanes take care of the day to day chores of covenants and generate silver, craft lab equipment etc. However mundaes dont like magi - the idea that one person can destory your entire village is one moment is going to terrify most normal people. So mundanes dont like magi for that reason, not for any effect of the Gift...combine that fear and hatred with blackpowder and fire and even mundanes can be a threat to magi - so instead of killing off their herd/workers with army destorying spells, the magi were sensible and hid from them instead....

As to the Aegis, I consider the addition of those Mentem effects to be a Major Breakthough with the Aegis ritual. I plan to play that aspect of it as purely narrative - as long as the ritual is cast each year, mundaes will simply ignore the covenant.

Time and Aging
Though I like the idea of running monthly downtimes instead of seasonal and leaving the aging as is, I also like the idea of magi living quite a bit longer than normal people - the aging rules are very nice, but arent really absolutely neccessary - I doubt most games really make full use of them, as covering 3 or 4 decades in game is a lot of work and time unless you have massive (decade long) downtimes. I plan to focus the game on magi and their politics, so I doubt I will even have the players gen up companions. So the simple 1 year for every 5 makes life easy.

I do like the suggestion that the aging modifier kicks in at the start of the apprenticeship when the Arts are opened, so I'll use that :slight_smile:

No Houses and the Council
Having no Houses was something I asked our player group about and they said they didnt really want them, so they went - it was that simple, as I didnt mind either way. I have the houses in my narrative for covering the intervening centuries, but at one point, I will have to put in why they were disbanded...

And to the council - I enjoy the political infighting of the Order - but from many disccussions on these forums, it seems I view the (cannon) order as much more cohesive than most. The council is an extension of that I guess. Having 15 members was merely to tie it into the Arts. Each seat is linked to an Art, and the Certamen for that seat has to involve that particular Art. Also, having a unified leadership gives the opporuntity to have a formalised military type group within the Order that fight for the Order as a whole.

This was to lessen the ability of magi to travel - with the problems with technology, magi wont be able to use aircraft, trains with be ok, and boats will be pretty much fine. But that limits how much they can travel, which makes the game a little easier to manage. But introduce Mercere portals, and all that is ignored. So I want to remove them.

I already have a vague narrative as to why - a breakthought allows 1 portal to link to any other (aka stargate style) - but later its found that the reserch was corrupted and every so often magi and companions that had gone missing actually went missing via the portals, taken to some unknown local (hell probably). So all portals & texts are destoryed to protect everyone.

A final note about aspects of modern sceince and magic theory - they get along fine - magic theory has expanded as people better understand the world. To keep simple, most things will fall within the "elemental" forms; Auram (Gases), Aquam (Liquids), Terram (Solids), Ignem (Energy) - anything else can be dealt with as my players throw problems in my face :smiley:


Not the slightest "squishiness". "Formulaic and spont. may not have a level greater than 50".

You can do BIG stuff with level 50 and less spells as well, thats why the limit feels ridiculous, because its so extremely arbitrary.

Generally you can blame ANYthing on the Tremere. :mrgreen:

What level 50 spell can players already cast every round? Most.
And you really need a 55+ spell to destroy a city?
Take Crest of the Earth Wave and add 30 levels worth of size to the effect. BOOOOOOOOOOOM, city gone, no ritual needed.
Or raise Incantation of Lightning to Sight Range and Group Target and start multicasting it on the city, might take a while as each bolt wont automatically do severe damage, but the city will go down in ashes and rubble eventually.
And thats just two of the spells from the base rules book.

Dont forget that the reason might not be "grand". It might simply be "we want to be left ALONE!!!".

Hehe, thats actually a good idea. Far better than changing the effect from affecting one thing over to another just chop-chop.

Ah. Well just ignore that part of it if you want. What it accomplishes is simply to remove the need for companion characters. Nothing bad with that as long you dont mind such characters not having an automatic place.

Another little war perhaps? Or maybe suddenly finding proof that the schism war was intentionally created by leadership of one or several houses for greed or something. Or both and letting the political backlash from that be the trigger for joining the order into a single entity instead(ie to prevent further house vs house warfare).
One plausible idea at least.

You could also let it spread a plague or two if you want more reasons.
Fourth Empire style(Ashes of Empire - David Weber), or maybe just a LITTLE less apocalyptic than that. :smiling_imp:

Sounds good enough to work. Ignem gets a BIG increase in influence though, be ready for it.

Dresden often makes amulets or potions, in a day or a few. Consider making charged device creation take that long. On the other hand, he virtually never seems to use raw vis; consider making it ridiculously rare. In that case, Ritual spells will basically not be cast - not a big loss, IMHO. I don't see the need for an Aegis, for example, as being that important in a modern game. But if you want it, either another Breakthrough or have Year & Boundary not require Rituals.

Dresden also seems to have an ablating shield. That doesn't work well for ArM mechanics, but consider having an ablative Parma. (There are rules for that floating around.)

All supernatural powers seem to be hampered in people's homes; consider having a "Domestic" aura develop, perhaps equivalent to the Divine one in effect, at people's homes.

People seem to have a True Name in Dresden Files; consider allowing that mechanic for people, and leaving spare xp to allow learning them in-game upon hearing them.

One last issue - I think Hermetic magi are way too powerful in gneenral, and htat holds true for a modern setting as well. I mean, Dresden can throw fire and wind around - but not easily, and usually only with the aid of his talisman. An Hermetic magus some decades past his gauntlet could easily call forth a tornado or engulf and entire building in hellfire. No, way too powerful. I'd strongly suggest applying my constant advice - making the Hermetic Arts into Difficult Arts. Even then, I'd take a good look at the guidelines and try to see if they need changing. (or, if you really like rules-light systems, just set up some "example" spell's levels and work freely from there, without strict guidelines - just like 3rd edition did).


Neither. It depends on what you want. I suggest you design a few really good level 60 spells and then ask, "Am I ok with magi casting these whenever they want?" If yes, remove the limit. If not, retain it.

Once you're doing this, why not just get rid of aging entirely? That makes life even easier. Then, magi either die gloriously or fade into Twilight. I recommend this.

If that's what you want. You can even have Parma act in a similar way.

I'm not at all a fan of that genre, but I know that some people like it. Clearly. :slight_smile: To make this work, you will have to define what is technology. You might also want to come up with an academic explanation why this is so, something that magi, who are studious types, can understand.

Is a titanium sword 'technology'? A Rubik's Cube made from ivory? Etc.

Regardless, I recommend the following rule: Hermetic Magic, because it draws on the perfection of Platonic Forms or for whatever other reason that sounds good to you, cannot create unstable isotopes of any element, nor can it cause such an isotope to come into existence either through Muto or other similar means. Furthermore, Hermetic Magic cannot manipulate matter below the atomic level.

This rule makes sure that no magus creates a baseball of antimatter or transforms the Statue of Liberty into pure U-235, either of which will result in an immediate and very large explosion, with no technological (or any other) manipulation required. Note that both U-235 and antimatter did exist 1000 years ago.

Better physicists than I might come up with other applications, and similar rules.

Sure. Though you might still want to have some of lineages, unless you're also ditching the idea of apprenticeships.



Hi folks,

Long-time occasional lurker, first time poster, love the show (um, hang on, that wasn't quite right... :smiley: )

I'm just graduating up to getting into Ars Magica properly (after years of flirting round the edges), so my knowledge of the game is less than most - so please be understanding to my (and I hate this term) 'noobness'.

Anyhow, I'm gonna weigh in on this thread as the idea of a modern Ars Magica has skirted in my mind for a while. Like some other posters I would approach it differently, but I also like the Dresden Files, so I'll try and develop some of those ideas in subsequent posts.



Great set of books, and the TV show had charm too. Great choice. FWIW, the new Dresden RPG from Evil Hat is excellent, if you haven't seen it.

Secretive why? I don't ask that to be awkward - its just that you need to figure why the Order had to go underground. Once you do that, the reason can spawn a lot of other things.

As for the more powerful Aegis with the Mentem bit; I like that idea. If it is a more powerful version it could be a kind of watershed for a Covenant to be taken as "big league" - Covenants without the ability to cast the more powerful Aegis are not really given much weight. Maybe getting someone from an outside Covenant to cast it is possible, but then that person can see through and get through your Aegis - plus it could be seen as a sign of trying to punch above your weight.

If you are happy with the Mages being able to deal with the wider world, then cool, but I'd suggest that you simpyl assume everyone has the Gentle Gift and allow people to take the normal Gift penalties to as a Flaw; after all the suspicious cranky old hermit works in modern occult (not to mention a mage with the Gift penalites, who just gets disliked at every turn, makes a potentially-redeemable great bad guy who is ends up mean because nobody is nice to him). I'd suggest, though, to link the tech affect with the Forms - the higher your magical aptitude, the worse effect you have on tech.

Had you considered keeping them but using them in the sense of an old boy's network. Kinda like the different Oxford colleges, US fraternities, or Hogwarts Houses? They don't matter to the modern generation unless they are very politically minded, but the old guard really care how you were trained. Obviously the Mystery Cults would be much more cohesive then the others, and secretive, and the True Lineages would be the most obsessed with old school ties, etc. How would that work?



This would probably fit well with modern lifespans, too.



If it works for the group then it's the right answer...

This would be reinforced by the Gift's effects, but as above you aren't using the Gift in the same way - so in that case remember that also the mage next door, just through his experiments or if he has a bad mood day, can fry your iPod, your PC, or your AC (and you know if magi were known about there would be an exclusion clause for that in your insurance), God help you if the mage next door visits his friend in hospital he can also fry your Sister's life support machine. And don't get the mundanes started on that ass of a mage who got on that 747 from JFK to Heathrow that time... Those kind of things would drive mubndanes to restrict, maybe imprison, or even hunt down (depending upon the country) magi - another good reason for secrecy.

I suspect the travel thing may not be as much of a problem as you think. In the modern era I suspect vis sources and other places of power will be rarer, and magi will be reluctant to put them at risk by leaving them for any length of time. In addition, if most of the portals are controlled by powerful magi or covenants then access is also an issue.

For some reason this triggered an idea in my head. It won't work in your game as it isn't compatible with the assumptions you've put in place, but I'll drop it here before I forget it. Sorry for the semi-tangent. A fairly radical idea - there is no inherent problem with magic and tech per-say, but what if the more you know about science, the less you can free your mind to use magic? Basically, getting into the mindset of the Scientific paradigm means your mind gets too far from the Medieval Paradigm? That way children with the Gift that are educated in ages-old scientific method and kept away from modern schooling to keep their minds open to magic are more powerful than those who have to try and forget what they learned in school. Very different, but an interesting idea I think.



A limitation that kind of goes along the same route, in terms of Creo and Muto type magics, could rest in understanding what you are Creo- or Muto-ing. A magus changing iron into a sword, for example, understand the idea that heated iron can be shaped and sharpened, even if he can't do it. Likewise creating simple materials or items - a cart has wheels and axle, etc, that the magus understand even if he couldn't make. Things that an average guy on the street with basic education would know how they are constructed, even if they couldn't do it.

Now move onto an iPoD - the magus knows it has circuits inside, but doesn't understand those circuits well enough (without the underlying scientific skills) to create them or muto them. Likewise atomic level structures are the kind of thing you need to study in depth to understand - the kind of study time that makes a real hit into your magic study time.



I think more accurately re the game, is the concept of Platonic Forms. A mage has an understanding of the perfect Form of a sword, and so can achieve that. No (few?) magi have an understanding of the perfect Form an IPod (or anything at that Tech level), as it's just too complex and specific. Maybe not, of course, but that'd be one explanation.

Hey, that works! I like that.


That has the weird side-effect of making magi study engineering, so they could grasp the Form better...

I'd divide it along Dresden's lines - use a time-break. Anything invented post 1930 (say) doesn't work. Alternatively, base it on electronics - anything based on electricity is liable, with the more delicate electricity the more liable the thing is to fail. A magus is kinda like a living, walking, small EMP device.

Time-break tends to be a bad idea most of the time. Too ambiguous when many things were "invented".
With magic being energy of one kind or another, it affecting electronics or in rare cases anything electrical, yeah certainly not much of a stretch.

And for an example of a "kinda like a living, walking, small EMP device" i recommend the sometimes very amusing "Code-E". :mrgreen: