Religion in Ars Magica

the real question, as is for Ars Magica, is how much of that market is interested in another Eurocentric game with a foundational premise of the validity of the teachings of Christianity? Also considering that market may well flock to games like In Nomine first.


As a not-so-wild guess, most of the potential market won't care one way or the other about the monotheistic religions being "right" in Ars Magica.


They may not care as a moral issue or in terms of political standing but in terms of what they want to spend money on and what they find new and interesting in a game I expect they have a lower acceptance rate.
Very few people want a game that reminds them of bible school.


I'm not sure the effect of the Divine conceit on the game is quite so grim. In fact, I think it's helped avoid Eurocentrism in some important ways. It's no secret that Islam or Islam-inspired content in tabletop games has been...slower to revise some Orientalist ideas academia has long since left behind, but even as a dude who works in the field I've consistently been impressed by the work Ars Magica does. While the major part of it is certainly because of the quality of contributers, I'm convinced that the fact game writers have to start from the position of Islam being objectively accurate in lore forces them to reconsider typical portrayals of the Islamicate just to make things viable in play has also helped. Not to say that there aren't drawbacks but I don't necessarily see Eurocentrism as one of them.


You are very out of touch with the young generation of gamers then.

Possibly. Or it is a matter of geographical differences.

That is kind of frightening...

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I have to say myself that I find how Ars Magicka portrays Christianity, Judaism, Islam and something as obscure as Zoroastrianism as equally right in terms of the angels never contradicting the beliefs of the believer to be one of its strong points, rather than a weakness. Being able to find some truth behind the worship of Hekate and Hades in the magic and faerie realms is an interesting approach for a setting where monotheism dominates. And funnily, the Dominion auras squeezing out the magic of the world can be seen as a criticism of established religion which is central to a setting in which God is all-powerful. Even the core book alludes to the problem of the limit of the infernal leading some magi to question whether there is a distinction between God and the Devil.


Again, it's also produced what I can easily say is the best Islamicate centered gaming content I have come across and this is from an academic - it has actual experts whose texts are standards writing books like Blood and Sand, but more than that ideas around the Divine shapes the way the game interacts with Islam. People ignore the effects that making Judaism, Islam, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, etc just as true as Christianity had on the development and imo quality of the supplements devoted to them like TC&TC.


We owe a lot of that to the influence of Doctor Jarkman.

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I sometimes forget how daunting others can find that level of complexity, but I do concede that is probably a larger obstacle.
However I do want to add that the equality of Islam Judaism, et al in Ars Magica is somewhat like the deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes- by the definition of the literature it is there but it is lacking from the substance of the material (for those not aware, Sherlock Holes always claims to use deduction but most of his reasoning is actually inductive)
With Ars Magica the rules state that there is equivelency, but the ideas of Christianity are really baked into the system from the descriptions of saints and relics in the divine to the categorization of demons in the infernal to the definition of the 7 deadly sins. The inclusion of material relating to Islam, Judaism, etc. is little more than a reskinning, and even there when conflicts arise that are overly significant (such as the view of the Muldhidun), they are simply slapped with the label of corrupt, infernal, or basically wrong and get left behind by the game. To call that equal treatment would be laughable if it were not so nausea inducing.


Not just Islam either. I'm Irish so all the "Eurocentric" games and settings I guess technically include me, and there are certainly a lot of games that have """Celtic""" elements. But you don't ever really get much rpg content representing anything specifically Irish and even less portraying elements of our culture, history, or mythology accurately. I can tell you for certain that the mish-mash of "celtic inspired" elements in many rpgs isn't recognisable or relatable to Irish people. Portrayals of actual Ireland in rpgs can be downright offensive sometimes.

Ars 5e, on the other hand (including the Hibernian tribunal book), did a great job on this front. My group would normally avoid anything that's meant to be Irish or even "celtic" in a more vague sense for the reasons mentioned above, but we're all big fans of the Hibernian tribunal! The contributors did the research and it shows. Even the parts about the places I grew up around are recognisable which is pretty impressive considering I don't think any of the contributors were Irish.

Worth saying, religious stuff aside, that book felt inclusive to us in a way that most "Eurocentric" games don't.


Not even Christianity get equal treatment in the game.
Just compare how much of the material about Christianity in the game is more-or-less specific to the Roman Catholic Church, and how much of it is specific to the other branches of Christianity.

This is a little bit bizarre to me. Certainly the general supplements like The Infernal or The Church are intended for use by the broadest amount of players, who by and large set their games within the Western Christian majority areas of the Order - which ofc is most of them - and will reflect that but the books focused wholly or partly on the Islamicate (TC&TC, Between Sand and Sea, Lands of the Nile) are not at all imo forcing a Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc peg into a Christian hole. @Argentius just above explained a similar process for Insular Celtic culture getting more (high quality) development in specific books and I wouldn't say Greek Orthodoxy is being seen through the lens of the Western Church in The Sundered Eagle.


I'm definitely sympathetic to this line of argument, and I can't speak to the Greek portrayal, but I would be really hard pressed to consider current ed. books like TC&TC fetishism or tokenized rep of Islam for example. There are problems with them, for sure - elsewhere I've talked about how The Sundered Eagle, as much as I adore that book, unwittingly creates a harder separation between Byzantine and Seljuk culture than there ever was in the period historically thanks to a serious lacuna in Seljuk studies at the time it was written. It also suffers from its reliance on older sources with a somewhat outdated view of the Crusader polities in Greece and even TC&TC itself has issues with that unnecessarily strong line between what is and isn't the Islamicate...but they don't fall in the category of fetishism. I suppose I just don't see it as an inherent problem that the books intended for the most general use tend to focus on the Latinate bulk of the Order, as long as the (many) books which work outside that frame do as accurate and fair a job as they can - which they typically succeed in doing!


Do not confuse my observations with accusations. All the authors of those books are serious minded writers and are sincere in their intent and authentic in their research.
And they were written in a "before" time.
Culture here in the US has gone through the looking glass and back in the past year or so. And a lot of this is just me, but I am a connector and a seed spreader. Things I thought were cool just a few years ago now bother me. Conventions unnoticed a few years ago, seemingly innocuous, I now recognize as the ugly ideas rooted in our cultural past that led to the perverse sate of the world today. Things like the cannite myth and the origins of languages. Case in point: Euskara (the Basque language) is not related to any other language on the planet. As far as we can tell, it is literally a stone age language that has survived and evolved to the modern day. But, y'know, I couldn't say that when I was writing about the Basques. I either had to omit that part or tell a lie. Though knowing me, I may have slipped it in somehow anyway. I like Easter eggs :slight_smile:


This is or was controversial? It was presented to me as a simple fact back when I first heard it while working on my linguistics degree in '87.


TBF, this is at least a somewhat common position held in the Islamicate at this time as well - not the only one, people like Abu Hashim ibn al-Jubbai would tell you that all language is the product of "cooperative naming" and doesn't have any particular origin in mythohistory to be traced and al-Isfara'ini promoted a middle ground where the fundamentals of language derive from the period Christians would associate with Genesis while the main "groups" of languages are human invention, but one of the major ones. Big names like al-Razi, al-Zamakhshari, al-Ash'ari and others would probably nod in broad agreement if they read the discussion of Adamic in Ancient Magic. Granted this was a contentious issue among scholars but the flip side of there being more similarities between the worldviews of the Latinate and Islamicate spheres than some of the books imply is that occasionally lore intended to be accurate to the Medieval Western European position can wind up useful elsewhere.

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Okay, but how does Euskara fit in, with it's unique writing and number system? See where I am getting at?

The legendary explanation for many languages that is retold in Ancient Magic is that of the Tower of Babel.
As punishment for their hubris God made the people in Babel all speak different languages so they couldn't communicate. They left Babel in different groups, and from those groups arose language families.
Only four such groups are mentioned in Ancient Magic, corresponding to the directions people went in, and with each language familiy named after one of Noah's sons, but it does not require much imagination to say that there might have been a fifth or a sixth group of people as well that had just been forgotten by history.