New Errata (The Divine) and Assorted Issues

Was this really entirely necessary?
Holy effects were already pretty powerful. This is kind of approaching the point where I'm wondering why it is ever within a magus' interest not to pursue the Divine and expunge themselves of Sinful (read: non-Divine-related behavior.)

Sometimes it seems that the material is putting a lot of pressure on players to have their characters adhere more firmly to the Divine or else. Particularly glaring when the material is wholly contradictory (the all-loving God who urges genocide and sends forth Divine plagues) or plain weird (the Divine is not solely religious, yet the religious beliefs of the three Abrahamic religions figure prominently into the workings of the Divine and bear its sanction, INCLUDING when operating against each other. AND Zoroastrians and an obscure group of Canary islands practitioners are also Divine?)
I will concede that it does indicate that 'no one religion has a monopoly on the truth' but it also puts a weird sort of 'Gods hands are tied' spin on the whole thing. This in itself is not a bad thing, indeed, I find it an interesting thing to put into a game, an excellent sort of thing to let player characters ponder over... if it were not backed up by explicit official support in the very same book: The Divine as the Ultimate Truth and the One Ultimate Thing. And through it all, I wonder: Why did it need to be explicitly stated? Was there really no possibility that this couldn't have, on the official level, been left up more to player and GM imagination?

My primary issues here, from a gaming perspective, are twofold:

  1. The Divine is so powerful as to make it little more than a storyguide's tool and curtail stories in which figures contest the Divine. Including in areas where it would be morally praiseworthy to do so (preventing Crusaders from massacring innocents, stopping the advance of a divine plague, preventing an Angel from exploding a town.) Some angels are so spectacularly powerful as to make opposing them entirely pointless ('Yeah, the angel channels a handful of might points, making a ritual effect that bypasses your MR completely. Or he'll just erect walls and mock your attempts or something, I dunno, I can do whatever I like with him.) It also puts pressure on the storyguide to come to grips themselves with the issues of the motives of an omnipotent being that nevertheless acts through agents - except when it wants to.
    This A) forces the GM to bend over backwards to basically handfeed victories to the players or simply slap them into submission and B) belies one of the things that makes Ars Magica great: Studied approach to problems and putting power in the player's hands to come up with stories and unique solutions to problems. Any Divine storyline must be entirely artificial in one way or another.
    And of course, when I say 'morally praiseworthy,' I realize I am running directly counter to the notion that what God does is immediately moral. I've been told to my face that the slaughter of First Borns in Egypt and genocide in the name of God are morally praiseworthy acts, so I'm keenly aware of the dichotomy.

  2. By explicitly placing the One Creator as the architect of Creation, the controller, and the only source of salvation, it puts Out of Character pressure on players. They have to deal with the uncomfortable reality of the setting that God is the only true god and the polytheists they might want to play are probably going to hell, especially if their god has (in all likelihood) been replaced with infernal trickery. Speaking of, some of the things in the Infernal book are downright absurd, unless one happens to be running a horror-themed game (in which case they are entirely appropriate.) Examples: Botching in infernal auras leading to irrevocable taint, and you have no recourse but to completely renounce the tainted power! Spirit summoning hedge magic always being tainted (and so bloody powerful that there's really no reason for the GM to turn that off.) Infernal vis being completely undetectable unless you happen to be looking for it and know that you can look for it - which is really just a GM's way of going 'hah hah! Got you there.' Again, this is official sanction for what is essentially a GM going 'I can do whatever I want when I want it,' which is ultimately bad GMing.

I suppose it might fairly be said that I'm just blowing hot air, since it's not likely that changes are going to be made, but I love this line.
Ars Magica is, quite simply, my favorite RPG system and not even all the complaints I've leveled here change that (and I know I've complained about Faeries, too - it still doesn't change that the system is wonderfully written and tons of fun to play in.)

It really is something that, as a GM and player, bothers me a great deal. Looking at my neat little stack of lovingly cared for Ars titles, I'm always aware when I crack one open that these are issues I need to deal with in play, because it's such a major part of the setting, and one that makes me feel dramatically uncomfortable. Not least because there's simply no wiggle room in the official literature.
I feel like my Divine and Infernal copies are made up of huge sections which are, for me, completely unusable as a GM as a consequence, I feel like I've wasted effort studying them. (With some notable exceptions. The portions on Mythic Islam and Mythic Judaism are pure gold. I feel these sections in particular have enriched my understanding of the setting and led to many great story elements.) I don't hate Christianity, Islam, and the like - I would dearly love to use elements from them in stories about Mythic Europe, but using elements from the books feels like I'm giving a sermon or teaching Sunday School. I also feel it places a cooling effect on other GMs and players: If you want an alternative explanation, you receive no official help!

I should note that I am an ardent believer in the Europa Universalis modding message: If you don't like it, fix it yourself. I happily and handily lend myself to DIY fixes. (One modification I'm proud of is attaching a Pride statistic to every infernal being or thing (usually 1/5 might or number of infernal vis in a pile or something like that), where essentially it has to check against that in order not to reveal itself in some way in a burst of Hubris. Another modification is not allowing traits to be Tainted unwillingly.)
But I feel like I'm charging into it blind and more, stabbing the very people whose hand I feed out of, if you catch my meaning: Diverting from the official explanation, including personally created injunctions against an official ruling, feels like I'm taking shots at such a great setting and the writers whose work - even when I disagree about that work, yes, even much of the material in RoPs The Divine and The Infernal - I feel to be excellent and an enduring example of exemplary game design and lore.

Even if it doesn't lead to any real changes, I feel that it's important to say, at the least. (Forgive me if feathers were ruffled, the passion in here was not guided for offensive purposes!)

(I ought to apologize for ranting in general, really. It's just that this issue has been my biggest beef since the very beginning in a system I want to support fully.)

What do you, personally, feel about things like this in Ars Magica, and in games in general? I understand that my viewpoint may even be uncommon.

While I do not feel so passionate about it, my troupe and I have also encountered similar issues with the Divine.

Our main gripe lies with practitioners of divine magic. In a nutshell, they are at the same time too powerful and too limited. When a Holy character acts in accordance to the Divine's will, he is such an unstoppable force that other characters become almost irrelevant to the story. When he is flagging in his faith, or is undergoing a Test of Faith, or in a situation where the Divine would not intervene in his favour, he's the one who becomes so powerless as to be irrelevant to the story. An ugly corollary is that there's very, very little incentive for Holy PCs to be tempted into sin, because for the player the consequences would be so negative in terms of "spotlight screentime"; and this in turn tends to create divine PCs that are very boringly one-dimensional.

The answer to some of your complaints is that Mythic Europe is based on medieval theology, and the actual theology is more nuanced than you are giving it credit for. A discussion about any particular aspect is likely to get into what some people here actually believe, so it becomes something to be careful about.

I think it is clear that Ars Magica doesn’t say that the Divine is the Ultimate Truth It says that the Divine is the most powerful realm and that God can do whatever he wants. But since the Divine Realm can support contradictory ideas, the idea that the Divine is ultimate truth is not supported.

I have had some similar issues with the Divine (although the 'GM fiat' problem is there with everything - eg "the dragon eats you all - it has magic might 50000 and simply wins", and can be avoided).

What I have done is change the way the Divine is now vs how it used to be: If you read the previous editions' tribunal books, you find that the Celtic church didn't have a Dominion aura that blocked magic; it also had many more miracles. Since Carolingian times, the 'didactic' version has gradually supplanted the more open-minded version. (This also seems to have true in real life - less and less miracles happen as the bureaucracy and centralisation of the Popes develop.) This, in my game, has been a 'real' change - priests now get powers that block magic, but they don't get active divine intervention - effectively, they can have 'unbeatable' magic resistance (depending on a true faith roll), but can't do anything else 'magically'. Alternatively, holdout celtic-type priests can have miracles, angelic assistance, etc, but don't get the Dominion aura stopping magic or the amazing magic resistance and they don't get any support from the Church, effectively being heretics.

The result of this, game-wise, is that Priests are excellent at stopping both magicians and demons (and faeries), but otherwise don't dominate the game. There is also less incentive for players to want to be part of the Dominion, since it actively suppresses all magic.

The only PC I currently have with true faith, has it in 'Apollo' and he has no idea if his true faith is equal, greater than or inferior to a Divine priest's true faith. He also doesn't know if he worships a true God or a faerie or a magical being. No-one apart from myself knows if I have multiple gods in my campaign, or a single Divine as given in the rule-books - I could tell you all, but some of my players read these pages!

Most of my players avoid the Divine entirely - they worry about the Infernal much more!


Neat one.

My mod on that is the "simple" one that essentially any god(s) are real and the divine is simply the expression of the "jealous" ones, basically good but doesnt let its power be used by anyone anytime. With majority of deities belonging to the magic realm, with some truly powerful faeries(which are totally independent, not just actors in humanfocused stories) acting as deities and essentially indistinguishable from "the real thing" most of the time...
And with the infernal wanting the attention of worship as well, and acting as "less pleasant" deities when they get the chance.

No it isnt. Its based on selected parts of it. Otherwise christianity AND judaism AND islam would all have to be non-divine or infernal while at the same time all being divine.

Divine Lore can be used to find the Name of an angelic being , (or anything with a Divine Might Score).
You can learn it for a whole 5xp. The Name is a permanent arcane connection.
Research and prepare to boost penetration for spells as you would normally do.
Instead of DEO , you use AEO.

...except that RoP: D specificelly says that spell is not hermetically possible :frowning:

I believe that the most recent errata concerning the RoP: D guidelines was indeed necessary, but admit to being somewhat puzzled by OPs objections since the relevant changes, as I understand them, if anything, reduces the efficacy of Divine M&P....

Using 2nd Blessing guideline as an example - under the old blanket errata a 20th level spell would grant a +3 bonus as illustrated below:
Base 5, +1 Touch, +2 Sabbath = 20 (Note that the actual bonus = Base Magnitude +3 (+4), but is capped at +3). Under the new errata, however we get a much more equitable distribution - (35 = +1, 40 = +2, and 45 = +3).

This is a feature, not a bug. The introduction to ROP: TD specifically says that God wants what is best for your story. As a story guide, the ROP: TD is a tool kit for you to create the stories that your troupe wants to tell. The Divine won't really feature largely in your stories unless one of the characters has a Divine story flaw or the Covenant has a divine-related hook.

The Divine doesn't arbitrarily intervene into the affairs of wizards. If most of your stories are dealing with faeries and dragons, then you won't see many saints or angels running around. Quite frankly, most angels have more important things to do than meddle in the affairs of wizards - like making the wind blow, the sun shine, the flowers grow or the rivers flow.

To see the Divine as an element that must be included in stories to the detriment of the enjoyment of your troupe is a misunderstanding of the intention of ROP: TD.

In "character" terms, if your PCs are in conflict with an angel, they should be re-evaluating their conduct. Angels are extremely moral beings, so if an angel were to directly and openly confront a magus, then it would be a fairly rare, spectacular event. However, angels more often act modestly and secretly - disguised as a beggar or symbolic animal. In terms of your story - why is the angel confronting the wizard? Is this beneficial for the story? If not, then as SG, don't have the angel do something.

If your PCs are hunting down angels, then perhaps their (the characters) actions are not particularly moral. They clearly want stories where they confront the Divine, and so you have a tool kit to create suitably powered foils.

The Divine acts in the best interests of your story. As Supreme Being, it doesn't need to justify itself or act in a consistent manner. It just does whatever is best for your story.

There are plenty of other divine beings than just angels. Also, angels aren't omnipotent. Match your angels to the power levels of your PCs. Not everything angels do is miraculous.

Again, the characters in direct and consistent conflict with the Divine should probably take it as an opportunity to reevaluate their actions. "Why are we always fighting with angels?"

If you don't like it, change it. However, Ars Magica explicitly and openly states that it's "medieval fantasy where what they believed in the 13th century is true." Most people in Europe believed in God as Creator. I can't see this putting any more Out of Character pressure on players than a game like Shadow Run does, with its fantasy polytheism, or Dungeons and Dragons, or Call of Cthulhu, or Exalted.

I know there is a propensity amongst ArM players to have pagan characters (something exacerbated by some sourcebooks). However, the reality was in the 13th century that there were no pagans outside of parts of Eastern Europe. It would be highly unusual for a wizard in the Order of Hermes not to be a Christian.

In any case, and irrespective of that, being a wizard is not a "going to hell" offence. A Hermetic wizard worshipping a pagan god should probably start getting concerned that their god has been replaced by a demon when they start asking for immoral acts or blood sacrifices, or desecration of divine symbols.

There are also lots of alternatives for wizards - like Final Twilight.

The Infernal is bad. Period.

There's plenty of playing styles that don't receive official help. That's just the reality. There is one line that gets written for. If you want alternative settings you're on your own (or use sourcebooks from other settings using Ars Magica rules).

There's also these forums to seek feedback from many experienced players (and authors).


Several good points, but...
I comprehend that this is essentially medieval theology... but an earlier poster is right. It only goes up to a point. And that's one of my complaints. If you're not going to go all the way and present alternatives to standard theology, why have this weird halfway point that presents all the Abrahamic religions (and thensome, and Plato, and the Relic Kitchen Sink) as suitable Divine agencies? It's this muddled state that leaves me even more confused. "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet," is pretty unambiguous, for starters. Did Mythic Islam take a position on whether the Qur'an was eternal or created at the moment of Jibril's speech? I'm pretty sure the former was standard theology at the time.
And I think there's a lot of interesting stuff that can come out of theological stuff in Ars, too, the sorts of things mystics and holy men can get up to... A problem, however, is that it's expecting us to buy wholesale long dead arguments about ineffability and infallibility.

And a slight overexaggeration: It was a purely hypothetical suggestion, that at some point, moral wizards would come into opposition with the actions of the Divine.

Pointing to one in particular... when the Angel of Death attacked and butchered the First Born of Egypt. Even the Christian magi (and the vast majority of the characters in the games we run are Christian, incidentally) would look at that and go 'hmm. Something is wrong here.'
Indeed, the entire Egyptian/Hebrew conflict could have been resolved much more peacefully if God had not 'hardened the heart' of the Pharoah to begin with, no doubt, and Magi could have spared all that bloodshed.

Not to mention, Angels can fall, and still maintain Divine, rather than Infernal, powers throughout (Source: Ancient Magic, the Grigori.)

Finally, Holy Magic characters are able to wantonly curse people with startlingly few limits.
I point you to the prophet who was insulted by the youth of a town ("You bald head.") and summoned fourth a pair of she-bears to mercilessly slaughter a couple dozen of them. Magi CAN oppose them a bit more readily, admittedly.

But either way, Magi are scholars - they're going to put two and two together over their lifetimes and realize that the acts of the Divine are capricious and don't really fit with the doctrine of any given religion - which, while they 'do not have a monopoly on the truth,' they 'have enough that they can call upon the Divine's power.' To paraphrase.
Though really, that in itself is a fun idea - I've always been very enamored with the personal stories of Enlightenment figures, and figures like Socrates who decried the order of Gods long before it was fashionable.

I am willing to go it my own way, but criticism is an important part of any artistic endeavor. I don't think I have a monopoly on the truth, either, of course, so I freely admit that this is opinion. :smiley:

I've occasionally taken the opinion that the Divine is somewhat more recent than Creation. A semitic faerie god, Yahweh, taking over his pantheon and developing a powerful, flexible hierarchy in the form of angels and the trinity... but that's always background. It's never actually come up in even the extended campaigns, except in vague hints (while pursuing the trail of Hephaestus, a rather fun Verditius plot that sadly we never finished.)

I had a look back in case I was mistaken - I am not.
An example: Adjuration General, the original text is 'Dispel magic, infernal, or faerie effects of level less than (this effect - 10).'
That means that instead of subtracting ten levels, they add 10 levels. So a level 15 effect would have dispelled level 5 or lower magic... now it dispels level 25 or lower.

It only brings the mechanics to the flexibility it needs.

A base effect 10 with voice, is level 20.
Older rules: dissipate 0
New rule: dissipate 20

It's exactly the same as Hermetic Perdo Vim.

My point is that this is not a problem if your players have chosen Divine related story flaws - clearly indicating they want the Divine in the saga. If the players aren't comfortable with the Divine in the story, then Ars Magica works fine with having Hermetic magi here and the Divine over there.

Also, Ars Magica is neither a theology textbook, and nor is ROP: TD. It goes to absolutes because a lot (although not all) beliefs in the 13th century (that we have records for) were pretty absolute. You don't need to buy into "long dead arguments" to play the game.

In any case, Ars Magica is what it is. There's a long standing decision that there are 4 Realms, one of which is the Divine - the source of creation, life and so on. That's the game that Ars Magica is. Sourcebooks are written for that (canon) setting, not alternative settings.

And northern... And then there was all those that mixed things up, in practise being both pagan and christian.
An then there are the nonchristian remnants that are still around, although far far less so than just a couple of centuries before still not completely gone.

You can still find pagans in Europe in 15th century, even if by then VERY few and far between.

Of course, if we all had that monopoly we would have the same problem that the canon has, 3+ more or less contradictory religions that are all true. :mrgreen:

:blush: Ahhh my mistake. Based upon the title of the post, I thought your objection referred to the most recent piece of errata which (quite sensibly IMO) absolved certain guidelines from the blanket errata that flipped the integers for most of the General guidelines.

Using your own Adjuration example, however, I would note that the difference is less pronounced that your example suggests:
Before errata: a holy magician would require: Base 30, +1 Touch = 35 to dispel a level 20 spell.
With blanket errata: the same magican only needs: Base 10, +1 Touch = 15 to accomplish the same feat.

While both of these are comparable to what a vanilla hermetic magus performing the same feat needs (Base 20, +1 Touch = 25), I rather think that dispelling hostile supernatural effects is an area where I feel Divine M&P can rightfully be seen to surpass hermetic magic in efficacy and therefore support the decision in that particular instance. With regard to the Cursing applications, however, I admit to being a bit more ambivalent... shrugs

An analogy: In Catholic theology, there is a difference between a) a belief being incorrect and b) something being anathema (and that belief excluding one from the Catholic Church) and c) a belief being irreconcilable with being a Christian. For instance, I am a Presbyterian. The Catholic Church believes I am wrong about lots and lots of things. Some of those things are still listed as anathema. The official Catholic position is that those beliefs don’t automatically keep me from being a Christian.

In Ars Magica, the list of errors which preclude Divine support is smaller than what many Divine religions would think. That doesn’t mean that one religion isn’t right about those facts and the others wrong, it just means that knowledge about those facts are less important than other things.

I try to make the Divine in my saga's more generally good. The various theologies while holy and good aren't wholly good. Genocidal knights might think their acting in God's name but are actually acting on there own sinful pride and wrath. (and there true faith should suffer accordingly) An angel about to go medieval on a village is somehow being led astray(angels are better than man but still aren't perfect like God) or is testing the magi or is privy to information the Magi don't have and must discover. A holey plague might also be a test or have some ineffable purpose.

Still much like stories of demons should always have clues about their evil nature for the players to discover. Stories about the divine should always eventually highlight the divines wisdom and benevolence.

Of course that's if you want a God that is ultimately wise and good. If you want to portray God as a dink you can do that to.

I'm not entirely certain where you've all got your strange notions about Medieval Christianity. Well, actually, I'm fair certain you've got them from 21st century Christianity, but the point is, some of the qualms I've seen here are.... strange.

1.) "Hey! God and his agents are often killing lots of people in a really wrathful way! That's not very nice!"

Nope. Its not. Then again, the God of the Middle Ages, and indeed the God of Christianity to this day, is not necessarily all that nice, either. Think of Aslan in Narnia: "Not a very tame Lion," says Lucy. Nope. He's not. He's vengful, jealous and inscrutible in his ultimate goals for history. His actions may often seem arbitrary to mortals. He tests some with riches and power, others with destitution. He punishes some with mighty vengeance on earth, others guilty of the same crime he allows to flourish in life to suffer in death.

Here's the key thing about Medieval Theology: You don't get to judge. Something is good or evil NOT because of how well it promotes human happiness or mitigates suffering, but how well it accords with God's Commandments.

2.) "Being a Christian of True Faith is hard! When you're with God, you're invincible, and when you stray, you're not."

Uuuummmmm..... yep. That's actually the Atlas Games people hitting the nail right on the head as far as fidelity to Medieval thought is concerned.

True Faith characters are generally better as interlocuters or semi-adversaries in a saga, as they are supposed to be rather one-dimensional.

3.) "Lots of followers of the Dominion disagree, and fight each other! They can't all be right!"

In Dante's Paradiso, the fourth circle of Paradise is that of the Sun, where the great thinkers of Christianity reside. Dante points out that many of these great "lights" of theology had virulent fights with one another in life, and indeed have absolutely contradictory accounts of the divine.

However, in Paradise, their disagreements are reconcilled. They realise that they were all both entirely right and entirely wrong in life, and that is perfection of faith, not reason that marks one of God's chosen.

Ars Magica streaches this to accomodate other followers of the One True God, but the principle is much the same.

Ultimately, in Ars Magica, Christianity is "right" because of the truth of the Resurrection. However, this does not diminish the faith of the other two contenders.

It may be tough, but to play this game we really have to cast off presentist views of Christianity. In Mythic Europe, Killing, even genocide, isn't wrong, if its in the name of and directed by God. Slavery ditto. God is not always kind, either to his faithful or to heathens. God is sometimes vengful.

If anything, I'd say this gives the Dominion more flavour.

Oh obviously the people at the time thought it was the case... for the most part.

It is wrong, however. And to think that everyone at the time agreed with that (merely a plurality!) is a falsehood. Tyranny of the majority is no way to determine morality - it simply means that presenting these views exposes you to the violence endemic to the era.

I will concede that the errata may well have been necessary in many cases (particularly dispelling.) Though I think the one granting blanket MR is pretty nasty, and possibly a few others.

No in Ars Magica no religion is ultimately right or to quote RoP Divine

This is a bit of a departure from earlier editions of the game. Which I think did have Christianity and the Church first among equals. Or if you go back far enouph just first. But I think the current designers opened up the divine to a more general interpretation.

That is certainly an option but I don't think all players would react well to that use of God (or any use of god for that matter). What I try to remember is that Mythic Europe is a fictional setting and that the God of Divine realm is a fictional character. That makes God an NPC and the story guide responsible for choosing how he appears to the players. You can play God as vengeful and jealous but then that is how the players will see him and you may have forever closed the door on portraying God as majestic and wise. If your players see genocide and slavery and automatically think evil fascist dictator then maybe those elements shouldn't be supported by the divine in your campaign unless that's how you want them to see the Divine. You can say that they just aren't roleplaying correctly but they could also say you don't know how to tell a story right.

Ultimately it's your choice as to what path to follow and what themes you wish to highlight in your game. But think of it this way as a story guide you can choose the truths and falsehoods of your game world. You can control what characters know and think directly. But you have no such control over your players and the game is for them as much as it is for you. You have a responsibility to help your players tell the stories they want to tell. So if they insist that the vengeful jealous character that condemns wrath and envy is in fact a hypocritical prick and they want to show him the error of his ways the responsible SG helps them tell that story.

The same could be said for the way I see the dominion.