I have seen a few posts on here recently complaining that Ars Magica might be on the path of producing too many books. Frankly, I don't really understand this sentiment at all. First, they are supplements, not required. Second, the previous editions of Ars Magica had plenty of source books, though they were mostly Tribunal books and adventures.
My two cents. With four books a year the supplements might have been semi-required for all I care. Which the books we've gotten so far allmost feel like anyway.
In 4th I didn't buy everything published, just the stuff that seemed relevant toour current sage, or that seemed particurlarly good. But since 5th every suplement that has come out is much more esential. This is almost inevetable with a new edition, and partly I atribute this to a better policy on what's get published.
You can easily play Ars Magica with just the core book, which we practicly do now. So evidently one doesn't need anything else. But I am eagerly looking forward to future suplements, especially the new Mysteries.
There are also a few elements of the rules which David Chart himself has anouneced will be amended at a later date, fx: labtexts and casting from them, Crossbows and more beast stats. And I hope virtues like Herbalism and Alchemy. I am happy with theese becoming awailable with future suplements, but those rules might also be made awailable on the Atlas web pages when they are made???? We can hope. Ah, I don't care, I'm gonna buy those books anyway.
I am very pleased with the amount of ArM supplements. At the current rate I can at least consider purchasing them all, and a slower churn out would drive me insane.
I am sometimes frustrated with not having the book I want on hand - The Mysteries, information on House Jerbiton, ready-made adventures - but I can always turn to ArM4 material. I prefer to wait for quality material than to have a flood of poor quality supplements.
For all its glories ArM5 is a more "partial" system than ArM4. The rules for reading from text, crossbows, and a mundane bestiary are the most painful thorns. Obviously the Mystery houses need mysteries, and the poor SG is left to fend for himself - or purchase The Mysteries. Fans of the old editions also expect information on mystery cults, tribunals, and so on that is suddenly "missing" in the transit to the new edition.
The result is that ArM5 supplements are more obligatory. Yes, you can play with just the core book, but you'll have to come up with crossbow rules, download the mundane bestiary, come up with some mysteries, and try to adapt a 4e or prior tribunal to ArM5 - no one will feel the need to do all of these things, and some will find the issues trivial, but these issues didn't exist with ArM4.
And they are, so far, better. That too makes them more "essential" in feel.
Another complaint I've seen is that the Houses of Hermes book was broken up into three, so us poor players need to shill out more cash to get the goodies on our Houses.
Personally, I like the new format much better. The Houses deserve more space than was allotted to them in Houses of Hermes. I think Tremere actually deserves a bit more space in True Lineages (for expanding on the Houses's tactics, with spells and perhaps an exemplar or two). I don't mind paying more for what's appropriate, it isn't filler.
That was rambling.
I don't think there are too many books. I do think the supplements feel more essential to the game than in prior editions.
As people have pointed out, yourself included, the supplements for ArsM5 are more "required" than those of the prior editions.
In earlier versions of ArsM, you needed what?: the core rules, Houses of Hermes and maybe Wizard's Grimiore. Mythic Beastiary and Mysteries were nice to have but not essential. Most everything else were, as you rightly point out, Tribunal books and adventures. So far a fairly minimal investment, a person could have everything he needed to play ArsM and one picked up the other stuff if you were interested and/or it was good enough to be worth getting.
ArsM5, as others have pointed out, is missing a lot of rules that were in the core book, many of which were essential elements of the game. We have been told these rules will be in other supplements.
It has also introduced new concepts, like the four Mystery Houses, and then not given rules for them. We have been told these rules will be in other supplements. ArsM5 has then split Houses of Hermes, one of the "essential" supplements, into 3 books.
Other posters on this thread have also recognized this trend, so it's not just me. They say they don't mind. I do and I'm not alone in minding. My new local hobby store won't carry Ars Magica because people in the area won't play it. I'm trying to get a saga going, but to play Ars Magica you need to have the rules, moreso than most games. It's a lot easier to convince people to play a game when they only need to pick up one or two books rather than four or five, several of which don't exist yet.
So, yes, I say there are too many supplements. This is my opinion and the opinion of the people I game with. For me this is a problem because too many supplements mean that I will likely not buy more ArsM5 material and neither will my players. I'm not happy about that, because, on the whole, I like ArsM5. If I didn't, I'd just keep playing ArsM4 and wouldn't be posting here.
My $.02 because you asked... worth as much or as little as you choose.
I think that Lucius is the only one I've seen post this opinion thus far.
I think that it is just as easy to play out of the core fifth book (+ the free beastiary download from the atlas site) as it was out of the core fouth book or core third book and easier than it was with first or second editions. what was included in the core book of previous editions that isn't in fifth?
Crossbow rules. anything else?
Aside from the changes in rules, what is idifferent in fifth editon?
A setting chapter and a storyguiding chapter that can actually get someone playing a saga. Anything else?
I believe the feeling that the other supliments are more required is a direct result of a planned release schedule and David or John sittign down and asking "What is it that the fans actually want?". Fourth edition never had a house book. Fifth edition wouldn't feel like it needed a house book any more than fourth did if you didn't know that there were going to be three of them published for you.
I never heard anyone bemoaning the difficulty of running their fourth edition games without mystery cults before the Mysteries came out for fourth edition. If we had no hints that The Mysteries revised was on its way we wouldn't be missing it.
All of the Mystery mechanics that you'll ever need are on the top of page 96.
People feel greater incomleteness becase they know that there is more out there to be had, not because the core book is less complete in itself.
Did 4th ed. have a little more information on the organization of the Order and the 13 Tribunals? Aside from casting from text and a beastiary already mentioned I don't think there's much difference in amount of content. (Sorry, I don't give a damn about crossbows.)
The lack of [color=darkblue]Mundane Bestiary in the Core Rules surprised me.
There would have been Knight Companions and various Nobles.
So not including stats for a Horse of any kind seems a bit of an oversight.
What about the Bjornaer and anyone with the Shapeshifter Virtue? Movement was even left out.
[color=darkblue]Herbalism and [color=darkblue]Alchemy
were mentioned on 12/10/04 (12th October to Americans) at the Berk-list.
I realize it was a new edition and
not all the things that appeal to different people
could be included.
Hmmm... I don't think so. There was a chapter on the Order and the tribunals, but ther's a chapter on that in 5th. too, isn't there?
Besides, that info from 4th should still be relevant, so just download the pdf for free, and use that info along with 5th.
In 4th edition (or 3.5th - the book came out 1994 and before ArM4), there was Houses of Hermes (HoH) - which mainly recapped the very good 2nd edition Order of Hermes (OoH) from 1990, the original source of most of the material about the Order and its history. Of course there are changes to it in ArM5 - but if you need more material, look out for these two books.
ACtually, I was looking to the question of are there too many source books-- trying to compare the contents of the two core books.
Personally, with the single exception of a bestiary, I think a group new to Ars Magica has plenty to work with from just the 5th ed. core. The problem only arises when there are people who bring extraneous information from previous editions that is now "lacking" because the source books don't exist.