Realm Imbalance in 5th Ed.

I'm moving this over from "Rolling Characteristics in 5th Ed." as it deserves its own thread.

PROVISO: I have only recently attempted to enter 5th Ed. and have thus far read only the main book. Material in subsequent 5th Ed. sourcebooks which may be relevant is outside my present purview and thus has not been factored into my perspective. The following is based on my visceral reaction to 5th Ed. "Ars Magica" itself.

The magnified negative effect of the Dominion on Magic and Faerie must produce a corresponding influence on the evolution of the behaviour and culture of those Realms adversely affected by it. In 5th Ed., urban Covenants are greatly weakened, whereas before it was a "nuisance" that social Magi might be willing to overlook. As the Dominion spreads, it steals more and more of the Power which belong to Magic and Faerie. It thereby becomes an adversarial force which is to be opposed, not one to which the Order surrenders (the statement that anyone causing trouble with the Church gets Marched by the Order is an egregious example).

It is worth noting that my most recent 4th Ed. Covenant, Bridgedwell, worked to reconcile Magic, Faerie, and the Dominion. The Church of St. Brigid was the focus of the Covenant, and its Bell of Bright Faerie Iron was enchanted to destroy any Demons who came near. The idea was that there might be a way for the three Realms to coexist and complement one another. St. Brigid, obviously, is the converted/conflated form of Bridget, the Celtic Goddess and a great Faerie Power. She was also called "the Second Mary".

In 5th Ed., this type of endeavour would never have been attempted. The countermagical deadening caused by the Church would have been so extreme as to prevent any meaningful cultivation of a mutually tolerant coexistence. In 5th Ed., one wonders how Andru could ever become Primus of House Jerbiton when his deference to the Church and Susceptibility to the Divine Flaw would effectively make him magically impotent in the presence of that which he adores. Somehow, I can't see Magi following his example.

This creates a vicious cycle. Magi shun the Dominion because it severely weakens them. Magi should therefore oppose the Church as well as probably Judaism and Islam. Magi drift further and further from the Divine. If the simplistic explanation of Infernal Auras holds (i.e. regular "sin" in a place can eventually produce it), even the casual "sins" of the Magi and Covenfolk will become magnified over the generations until Covenants are sinks of Infernal Auras interlaced with Magic.

Retroactively stripping Magic Resistance from ALL non-Hermetics after 16+ RL years and 4 Editions violates any understanding of the balance of power within Magic. The fiat saying that Charms Against Magic, also a staple of the game from the start, can't work compounds matters. It also "fixed" a problem that never existed. Hermetic Magic ALWAYS had stronger Magic Resistance than others due to their Parmae Magica plus Form scores. They were stronger and more versatile, but "hedge" traditions could sometimes hold their own and weren't pushovers for starting Magi. "Ordo Nobilis" did go to ridiculous lengths in extending Magic Resistance to nobles; that could have been fixed without violating so many other elements of canon. Magic, heretofore shared by many traditions with the Hermetic tradition foremost among them, now belongs overwhelmingly to the heirs of the Hermetic Founders.

Fifth Ed. shatters the balance of Powers among the Realms. The repercussions on the milieu cannot be ignored. This, to me, is its gravest offense as a new Edition. Its mechanical changes may be interesting and even useful, with some quibbling over certain points, but the above are major, world-altering changes which constitute and almost unbridgeable gap with previous editions if allowed to stand as presented in the 5th Ed. main book.

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(This is copied over from the other thread...)

I just don't see it.

There are two main problems with working in a Dominion aura, the first is increased botch dice and the second is reduced casting scores.

There are several ways to reduce the number of botch dice that a mage rolls. An addition of three botch dice (for the average Dominion aura in a city) is not going to overwhelm a mage that has made any kind of preparation for living there.

Reducing casting totals by nine is a serious nuisance, but not the end of the world. Casting spells spontaneously is much more difficult, but magi are far from helpless in a city.

They have made it clear in a few supplements that the Dominion does not uniformly cover a city. A covenant can easily be situated in one of the areas without a Dominion aura.

Not only does "sin" produce an infernal aura if practiced regularly in an area, but magic produces a magical aura if practiced regularly in an area. A covenant set in a neutral (with respect to the realms) area in the city would be far more likely to eventually acquire a magical aura than an infernal one (unless we are talking about very naughty magi).

An adversarial approach to the Dominion is not necessary, though it does make sense that some reactionary magi might think it so. (This could be a good story hook...)

As far as the change in magic resistance being a fix to a non-existent problem, it was my experience in earlier editions that Hermetic magi did not have enough of an edge in resistance to match what was written into the background material. The change in rules seems, to me, to have merely brought the rules into line with the written descriptions of Parma Magica.

Sit vis vobiscum,


There is some very good material in the source books. They don't make any radical changes to what is in the core rulebook, but they do greatly expand and clarify some of the things presented there.

Unfortunately, I don't have my books to hand or I would make suggestions about which are most germane.

Perhaps others can help here? (hint, hint...:wink: )

Sit vis vobiscum,


It takes awhile to get used to 5th Edition, but all things considered, I still think it's the best Ars yet.

In HoH:S Tim Ferguson describes some of the methods Jerbiton Magi use to cast their spells in cities. These include Lacunae (which function as pockets of Magic aura), Extensive use of Ceremonial Magic augmented by Mystical Choreography, and even a special prayer which eliminates the casting penalties for the dominion.
According to RoP - TD magi with Holy Magic suffer no ill effects in the dominion. Those who study the Ars Notoria also have reduced penalties.

As far as Magic Resistance is concerned, sorry secular and religious leaders still have it provided they're faithful and in good standing with the church (RoP: TD, pg 42).
Holy characters can grant themselves temporary broad-spectrum MR with: Guardian Angel, True Faith, Invocation/Blessing, Meditation/Transcendence, Petitioning a Saint for the Dutiful Shepherd power, or requesting a direct Miracle from God.
Unholy characters can grant themselves Infernal Might by using methods such as Incantation/Diablerie, Debauchery/Phantasm, Ablating, Binding or Commanding.
Hyperboreans have Numina of Apollo.
None of these methods is quite as good as Parma Magica and many cause warping, but with due preparation practitioners of any of those traditions can protect themselves from hermetic attacks.

My two Mythic Pounds,

I would agree with this. The only real complaints that I have with 5th ed. is that the main rulebook doesn't present Mythic Europe very well (from the perspective of introducing new players to the game) and that some of the supplementary books fill up a lot of pages with formulae that could have been better filled with more background information. Both of these complaints are very subjective and may not apply to most (or even many) Ars Magica players...

Note that all of the things that you mentioned come from sources other than the core rulebook. I think that this shows that Arawn is not being too unreasonable.

Most of Arawn's complaints are only addressed in supplements, not in the core rulebook. A little more world information, without needing to add details, would have helped the core rulebook quite a bit.

Sit vis vobiscum,


Allow me to ask a related question.

WHY was the negative effect of the Dominion increased dramatically in 5th Ed.? The system, as it was, worked fine. There was a balance of powers among Realm interactions. Now, there is not. The Dominion, which already had the ability to invoke Miracles which could blast through Magic Resistance and other Auras, is now a more mystically oppressive force. Why was this done? What were the developers attempting to accomplish?

Separately, why do you think that this is a good idea?

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Because the The system, as it was, did not work fine at all. There was no significant penalty for working in the dominion. The Dominion provided no real hindrance or protection.

I played previous editions, all of them, and this always bothered me. Now it works as it should.

I agree with E. Tyrrell, though I only played 4th and 5th ed.

You said:

Why "must" ? I don't agree with that "must".
I agree rules need to be interpreted: they participate in defining the in-game world. But they are not alone in doing so. The troupe/SG can decide to interpret the rules in different ways. I don't see the necessity of puting a "must" in that sentence. You can if you find it interesting for your campaign. You could do otherwise if you prefer. The mythic europe setting is not imposed upon Ars Magica players.

I don't think I would say something new speaking about houseruling this if you find the need to. I really think each gaming group should not be afraid to houserule that kind of things. To bring back the effect to -1X insteed of -3X the aura is simple to do and doesn't cause imbalance in the system.

I take it you you are asking what people (andI, if I dare to speak) thinks of it. Here it is for me.

I don't know, of course.
I see that it gives more importance to the Dominion Auras. If a church has an aura of 5, in 4th ed. I could mostly ignore it. In 5th, a -15 means a lot more in terms of raw power.
It has the effect of affirming the precedence of divine power over others.

Frankly, in 4th we sometimes forgot to apply the auras modifiers: it was rare that mages casted in dominion auras, and a "-3" or even "-6" on a few casting totals were not something of importance for us.
That's why I prefer the 5th "-3X" rule, it gives a real meaning to divine auras in terms of mage raw power. We didn't derived any Mythic Europe meaning from it, nor thought it would be necessary to.
Your Mileage Vary on this, and it's predictible and normal to me !


If you don't want the Dominion to interfere much with magic... change the rule for your saga! This is easy enough to do.

Magi, as real people (as opposed to Player Characters), are more likely to see magic as a means rather than an end. They are part of a culture, and culture matters. Sure, the Dominion has a bad effect on magic, and Christian magi--that is to say, most magi--are likely to consider themselves all the more pious and holy, both for feeling the power of God more intimately than most folks and for giving up more to be closer to that power. They will want to be in the Dominion because they too want to go to Church, to partake of the Sacriments, to be part of the community of God.

Consider yourself (yes, you): Instead of playing AM or spending time online, you could be off earning xp in something useful, that will help you kill stuff....



Having played 4th ed most, I certainly also like the 3xAura penalty in 5th ed. The Divine Aura rerely meant anything, with such a small penalty, unless in a Cathedral or something.

Also, the way Penetration works in 5th ed. IMHO this works perfectly. Casting spells in a Divine Aura, at someone with holy MR, you're pressed! Unless you take certain measures, with Mastery etc.

I can't speak for why the developers thought it was a good idea: that's David's department. I can say why I think it is a good idea, though.

The "balance of powers" between the realms was never the design intention of the previous authors. I know you personally liked it, and that's all for the good, but their intent was always that the Dominion be the mightiest power (except 3rd, in which the Infernal was functionally the most powerful in the temporal world), so that you chose, personally, not to meddle with the history and social structure of Europe by attacking towns and the Church.

Miracles "blast through magic resistance" sure, but to have something like the settign we have, magi need to distance themselves from society by choice. The Dominion's function is to keep you out of the cities without Saint Smackdown the Bishop of Battle Abbey coming and breaking out the Jesus-fu on your arse.

It's not about how the Divine can smite you if it likes, because being smitten all the time feels like the SG picking on you for having fun. Its about creating a setting in which magi, if they are sensible people, say "I will choose not to have my firefight here. I will choose to have my firefight out in the wilderness." and the old Dominon rulews didn't manage that.

God made the world, and all things in it belong to Him. The idea that He is stealing the power of Magic and Faerie is a contradiction in terms, IMO.


That, I'd suggest, is because to you this is a game, and to Andru, it isn't. For Andru, and other magi like him, the idea that you need to keep hunting Experience so you can level up is entirely foreign. They are magi, yes, but this is not central to their lives. They have certain goals, based on the world they observe, and these goals are not the same as the goals of most gamers in the "power is good, more power is better" style. Andru has noticed that actually, God owns Mythic Europe from the smallest grain of sand to the mightiest dragon, and he's looking to find a way to deal with that. Wandering around trying to kill God's servants is not, for him, an option, because it is not about four forces vying for supremacy. It is about the fact that Mythic Europe is owned by the Divine.

I'd also note that impotence in the presence of God is not all that unusual a state of being.

This is only true if you define magus as "person who is exclusively interested in personal power, to the detriment of all other considerations." and them proceed with the chicken-littleish assumption that everything is wreck and ruined unless it is done your way.

..and yet it hasn't happened in the 4 centuries the setting has as history. So, your premise is not matched by in-game evidence, and thus you are wrong. This simply doesn't happen. Having concluded this, perhaps you might look at your premises and find where you made your mistake.

4th edition canon was only ever for authors, and I say that as one of the authors. It was never for you. Its primarly function, toward the end, was to prevent new authors writing stuff. This was unintended, and I'm glad its over. You are getting some great stuff from some of the new authors in the supplements: stuff that would have been impossible under the 4th edition canon.

I'm sorry you feel so strongly that the game has been wrecked for you. I'm glad you are happy to keep on with 4th. I hope you have fun with that.

I must say, I think you are entirely wrong. Authors were coming up with lots of great new material in 4th edition. You came up with lots f awesome new material when you wrote Sanctuary of Ice. 5th edition cannon was for the fans. I enjoyed it. I really liked the stories. I kind of felt that the revisionism was a slap in the face. There was no need to delete Roto. No need to keep him, but still, the excuse that you didn't like his name just doesn not cut it. With all due respect, your work on House Tremere was awesome, but the best of it was the effort you took to draw upon past elements of Tremere lore to detail the House.

Still, the Roto/Poena bit is not that important. It wasn't one of the things I was attached to. I just don't like revisionism. The Criamon thing, that was a bit more severe. I happen to really really like what you did. But then again, I was never a Criamon fan. Those that were seemed really upset with the changes in cannon. Why? Because they already liked the game and felt like the changes were disrespectful and dismissive of their feelings and preferencves.

And everyone and their mother knows how I feel about House Flambeau.

Please, Timothy and everyone else reading this. I really mean the utmost respect, and I really do like the 5th edition game. But understand that, out here amongst the fans, it appears that the elite in-crowd has been let inside the gate and are being allowed to mangle and mutate the game according to their preferences without regard for the fellings and preferences for all of us fans out here. I am not accusing you of that. I am merely describing how I feel, and explaining perhaps some of my heated overreactions back on the Berklist a while ago.

Back to the topic of the thread, though it permutated to a 4th versus 5th discussion...

I agree that the Realm interaction is better the new way. However, I feel that people are being too casually dismissive of Arwan. 5th edition is not better "just because". It is not the OTE, and is not all that much better than 4th. In fact, more than half the improvements of 5th edition are rules created during 4th edition.

Explaining that there are thematic and philosophical reasons why the developers though this was an improvement, that is a reasonable argument, one that I would agree with. Saying that 5th edition works because 4th edition was broken, well, that's when I pull out my infamous label of "BS Excuse". It is a circular arguement.

And Ironically, Timothy, whom I started this post by disagreeing with, has given the best arguement as to why the new realm arrangement works est. Many other responses were simply dismissive. So, kudos for Timothy I guess.

Many of us pointed to our experiences in play. We had a problem had a problem with the results that the old realm table gave us. That is now solved.

I think that you should take a step back and re-evaluate your statement that an argument about philosophical underpinnings is more reasonable than an argument about game play.

It seems to me to be absurd, the game is about about playing.

Touche and well said. You totally have me by the short hairs in that. However, allow me to explain myself bby stating that this is a problem I never encountered. The game played just fine for me the old way. Seriously. It wasn't broke in any way I could tell. It simply never came up, and I do have quite a large amount of 4th edition gaming time under my belt. It was never a problem for us.

Having said that, it still seems perfectly fine to me. I do realize that it is changed and how. It never came up bebfore and I doubt it will come up anytime soon. We never made a habbit of casting spells at divine beings. Heck, my character would purposefully lower his parma when he went into church because he didn't want to offend God by claiming he needed protection from anything.

Which is why I think a thematic/philosophical discussion is more apt. This particular change has no effect on my game whatsoever. For you it was positive, for Arwan it is negative. So that issue is entirely subjective. I myself, feeling no impact either way; I like the new rule because it is Aesthetically pleasing. It feels right for thematic and philosophical reasons. It still will have no mechanical impact on my personal game with my old crew.

Does that help clairify my position a little?

Whenever a new edition of a game comes out there will be some amount of revisionism. It isn't new to 5th Edition Ars Magica. Does anyone remember the power of "Reason" in 3rd Edition? I do and I'm glad it's gone...

There will always be people that preferred the old edition's way of doing things. If a game is to be improved, changes have to be made and someone (or several someones) will be offended. That's just the way it is.

I think that the game has been significantly improved.

One of the main problems that I (and the groups that I've played with) have had with earlier editions of Ars Magica is that the rules didn't match the written background.

Two of the biggest offenders in this way were Parma Magica and the Divine (though there were quite a few others). Parma wasn't much better than what everybody else had and any mage could pretty much blow off the divine (unless God personally intervened).

In almost every way that matters to us, the rules now match what the written background material always said. This makes us happy. :smiley:

The rules were not broken. They worked and we had fun, but, there was always an annoying gulf between the setting and the rules. Most of the people on this thread are not claiming that the rules didn't work, but rather that they didn't match the background that so many of us love.

Similarly, the rules are not now broken. We have been playing with them for some time now and they work (for us) better and more intuitively than ever before. (The Divine is a good example. As I said in an earlier post, the Divine is not overwhelming to a mage in normal circumstances, but now you notice it! The characters in our game have respect for the Divine and are concerned over its effects and spread. Respect and concern not fear or hatred. Before this edition, I don't think that we even noticed it...)

Arawn, I tried to explain why I didn't think that the Dominion was as bad as you made it out to be, but you didn't respond. I've now tried to explain why I thought the change was a good idea. Far from "blowing you off" as has been suggested, I really want to hear your response to this. I am very interested in other peoples points of view and experiences with the game. In addition to a personal interest, I sell Ars Magica in my store and would love to here more about how it might not work for some people...

Sit vis vobiscum,


This is true, and reading the rest of your post, I agree with you pretty much entirely. i do think though that some people were blowing Arwan's complaints off because he dared to challenge ArM5's status as the new OTE.

My complaints about revisions have nothing to do with the rules though. It has entirely to do with story (deleted my whiney complaints)

The changes have been severe and intensive, and in that I do share Arwan's sentiments somewhat. I understand what he sees. And even though I myself am in the "5th edition is better" camp, I think it is insonsiderate and dismissive to tell him "ArM5 is better because ArM4 was broken". Different people have had different experiences with the rules, old and new rules, which is why I say it is more valid to discus philosophy and theme, for as you said, the issue is really "do these rules match the setting as imagined?".

Timothy got my reasons for boosting the Dominion penalty about right. It provides a background, in-game reason for magi to keep their magic out of cities and cathedrals, which makes the background of the game slightly less prima facie incoherent. It also provides an arena in which magic probably can't solve everything, which allows for a change of pace.

The evidence of this thread is that a large majority of the fans also think that it was a good idea. Since the fans have contradictory desires for the game, the best we can hope for is pleasing most of them.

I provide lots of opportunities to join the "elite in-crowd"; there was the Open Call a little while back, and I recruit new authors from people who write for the fanzines (Sub Rosa, currently).

I'm really quite keen for the author pool not to become tiny and inbred, out of touch with the general fan base of the game. Of course, by definition, anyone who starts writing for the line is no longer "just a fan", but there are authors with quite a range of opinions about the way the line should go.

There are bits of SoI that are just compromises to canon, though. Notice how you get to the holy of holies for the Criamon and really, they don't do very much? That's canon for you.

I wanted real names, not gibberish names, and I wanted to try to move the Primi closer to gender parity. There was no point in keeping Roto. Everything in that supplement is there at the expense of something else. On that basis, running with things just because they are historical curiosities is a mistake, IMO.

OK, please explain which bits I drew from the past lore of the House, because I don't quite understand what you mean here.

I think that the number of people now ready to play Criamon far outweigh the number put off by what I did. Your view obviously differs and I respect that, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't do it again. If you are paying $10 for my take on the Criamon, then "Just the same as last time." is not the best product I can write for you.

...and I'm not going there, because I don't really feel the need to recycle that one. 8)

We mutate the game according to David and John's preferences, ultimately, but my counterpoint is this:

Yes, I agree that there is an "in crowd" who has far more influence on the course of the game than you do. There was an in-crowd long before you started to play, IMO, because there was an in crowd before -I- started to play and I played from 2nd edition onward (18 years? Good Lord...that's a shock.) We used to jokingly call them the Secret Masters of Ars Magica. (or the SMArM, for short.)

The big difference ot the old days is that you have been asked to join this in crowd.

All you need to do is put in the effort to write material for an open call and have it accepted by David. Then you too can join the little group of writers who know more about the future of the line than you do, and have more influence over it than you do. Put in the work and you too can join our select band, and answer fans like you! 8)

Accuse away, if you want to. 8) You are right, after all, in the sense that yes, I know more about likely future supplements than you do, and I am more likely to write them than you are, so yes, I might have more influence on the setting than you. That all perfectly true. Its perfectly true that I am going to try to make my writing "good", and your value of "good "and my value of "good" will not always agree.

I'd go further and say that there's a big chunk of the Berklist that feel much as you feel.

My question really is why you'd expect something else. David can't poll you all for your views, and even if he could, I think he'd get pluralities, or he'd get the sorts of situations where people go "Faeries are based on stories? Yeccch!" and then actually read what David did with them in ArM5 and go, as I did "Well I wasn't in favour at the start of the paragraph, but I'm sold now."

Fandom can be anarchic, but I don't think it can be a thoroughly democractic thing, because once the Committee for the Improvement of Ars finishes tallying its votes, you won't all agree, and even if you do, someone still needs to want to put in the effort to write the book, and its easier to vote than to do the heavy lifting.

Now, please don't let this put you off: I choose to use a very difficult method of doing the heavy lifting, because I -like- it. I'm not trying to discourage you from joining in the fun of Meta Ars Magica. My point though is that if one of the other authors, for example, is going to do field trips to the site of her covenant, and then put in days of serious graft, I don't see why you should expect what she produces to not, in some way, be based on ideas that she wants to explore. I'm not saying she's making the game bad: I'm saying that the game has a limitless sphere for potentially interesting things that -could- go into each supplement, and the process of writing filters that down into a concrete few ideas, and sure, they are the ideas that David, or the author, picks.

You can't pick them, as an individual or as a theoretical conglomeration of fandom, because if you pick them, there's no interested writer there willing to pound keys.

So there -is- an in crowd. There is a selective element to writing. The democratising part of the process is that DAvid has askjed repeatedly for interested people to join in, and that includes you, if you want.