What attracts you to Ars Magica

So, I'm in the process of trying to make a youtube series to help explain Ars to newcomers (and also get people who have only heard about it interested in it). And my introduction is going to outline what is unique and interesting about Ars. I've already got a few things in mind, but what interests you about the game?

Two things, mainly.

First and foremost is the magic system. It is infinitely more flexible than any other system that I've come across over the years. Even GURPS (which, as best I can recall, is similar in concept) pales in comparison. And, when you get right down to it, the only limitations to what you can do are arbitrary Hermetic Limits.

The other is the setting. Being something of a novice history buff, I like the fact that I can do as much or little research on the area(s) where the saga takes place and not have to plunk down twenty or thirty bucks for another worldbook if I don't want to or can't afford it.

I really like the Covenant as a central character of the saga. That my characters are contributing to building something more than just themselves.

The covenant as central character. I don't want to talk it up too much, but there are some very popular TV shows of recent years that thrive on carrying multiple character arcs. Look at Battlestar Galactica, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc. There's a richness to the world that we get to explore based on the events that happen to those characters bound together by something more than just a desire to clean out dungeons.

The progression across the years is another aspect that I enjoy. Sure, as a magus I get to create cool stuff, but I also get to see grogs born, serve, die, and leave a legacy behind them. I get to see companions cross paths with the covenant and its magi and see them changed by the experience. And of course, magi create wondrous talismans, bind familiars, and teach a new generation of apprentices.

The game world is recognisable. We don't just look at the bog-standard fantasy map and go, "okay, they've knocked Italy on its side, and here's Spain, and look, there's a guy in a turban - must be Jerusalem". These places are rich, important, and vital in their own right in a way that we can only glimpse when filtered through a stock fantasy setting. There's an emotional connection (as a British player) to being able to plant a covenant just outside my house, as it were. That Norman church at the top of the road? In my game, they might only just have finished building it. The magi might even have been instrumental in driving away the faeries that were disrupting the building work.

The magic system. Of course, these days it's just one of many magic systems in the wider game, but we all know what we mean. The flexibility is stunning. The freedom is a reward in itself. It's the gaming equivalent of moving from living on social security cheques to suddenly winning the lottery; you don't need to worry about a thing. Whatever you want is now within reach. The genius of the game is not only that you can create spells on the fly, but that you can spend time to simply become a better magus. You can study. You can learn new spells. You can master the spells you have. You can enchant devices. You can bind a familiar and benefit from its power. You can extend your natural lifespan and become something more than mortal. As if that isn't all genius enough, you can collaborate. You can actively work together, either by teaching your knowledge to another, by writing books to pass your own learning onwards, or practically within the laboratory to achieve things together that may have been impossible apart.

There's a lot to like in Ars Magica of all editions, but the Fifth itself is so well put together, so well thought out, and so well written that each book is a joy to thumb through let alone read cover to cover. Look at the diversity on offer across the Realms books. Look at the story potential across Legends of Hermes, Ancient Magic, Tales of Mythic Europe, (soon to arrive) Tales of Power, Antagonists, etc. Then we have Rival Magic and Hedge Magic: Revised Edition that broaden the magical landscape further and provide credible challenges to Hermetic power and, in many cases, suggest diplomacy over raw power - even the hedge traditions provide knowledge the Order might benefit from. City & Guild, The Church, Lords of Men, and Art & Academe all delve into the more mundane side of life in Mythic Europe but with huge confidence and authority. Complain all you like about numerous rules being added into the game, but we have a fully playtested set of guidelines on how pilgrimage can make a real, beneficial, and lasting change a character.

So that's what both attracted me to Ars Magica and has kept me enthralled for the last twenty years.

Cool! Tom and i are going to make Ars Magica YouTube videos too, but our idea is very different (we are planning to film around places of interest to Ars players: Gloucester Cathedral, The Devil's Chimney, Belas Knap Long Barrow, Uley Tump, etc, etc and talk about the folklore). It's next up after the podcast.

I think actually I was really attracted to Ars Magica because it's pretty familiar to me as a failed academic. Ars Magica magi work a lot like university academics or research scientists?

Oh yes, just recalled, our first podcast was on this subject! arcaneconnection.podomatic.com/e ... 2_05-07_00
cj x

There are few things that attract me to Ars

  • first of all, the background, its everyring that happend you only need a history book, some legend and a bit of imagination. Just wow! The world is huge and tiny somehow.

  • magus, companion, and some grogs... Just designing a group instead of a individual.. Is a kind of mindblowing for standard rpgs! Which is your favourite? Morgana ex tytalus, Wilhem Von Khol or Elaine the daughter of kennel keeper?
    All, actually you end loving them all, and prepare future plans for everyone.

-the magic sistem; more than the hermetic limits what is dificult to asume is the medieval paradigm...

Setting: Mythic Europe is an idea location for a variety of game style ranging from historical to high-fantasy and is home to a wide variety of different cultures, strange creatures, and since it's based on RL history, there's never a lack of things to do!

System: The simplicity of the core mechanic (Characteristic+Ability+Stress Die) always appealed to me. Magic is more complex, of course, but even that is mostly front-loaded in the designing of spells with the actual casting being relatively simple.

For me it is (in order):

  • The Hermetic magic system. This is the bit that really makes the game Ars Magica, for me.

  • Community as character. This is what really enables stories to be about characters who actually have something to do, and interact with each other, and gives a long-term perspective to the game. And related to that, the troupe system for organising the players.

  • The Mythic Europe setting which is strongly tied to a real historical time and place. This is great because there is an endless amount of detail about the game-world that can be accessed and I can even phyiscally visit game locations!

For me, primarilly the setting. Mythic Europe, the Order of Hermes, and the whole nine yards. The magic rules are pretty cool too. With 5th edition, I think the rules are much improved, but I am not too keen on the changes to the setting.

  • Mythic Europe - you know how things are without having to invent an incoherent world.

  • Long term events - you can plan where you'll be in 5 years... roughly

  • Magic system - you can spont something as you need it or spend a season preparing

For me, it's very similar to what others are posting - Hermetic Magic and the Medieval Europe setting.

Note though that I say Medieval Europe and not Mythic Europe. I prefer a setting based more on real history and legend and less on the increasingly self-referential "Mythic Europe". For me, less is more in this case at least.

  • The extrem flexible Magic system
  • Long therm development gives the game a Strategic touch
  • Its a mixture of Fantasy and Medival elements

But I'm kind of oposed to the strong effect the Divine have in a RPG whats main focus are mages.

I assume I'm driving then? Dont think there's a bus service to Belas Knap et al.

I'm digging in my memory, as I first laid eyes on this game in 1990 in the 2nd edition. Back then it had different character sheets for Magi, Companions, and Grogs respectively, custom made for each type with certain pre-printed elements and values. The grogs had room for more weapons, and had pre-printed Personality Traits of Brave, Loyal, and Reliable. Companions had more room for Abilities I think. And magi had apart from the extra sheets for Grimoire and Arts/Magical Activities pre-printed all the must have Abilities of a Magus - Certamen, Magic Theory, Parma Magica etc.

I remember instantly liking it what I saw 'Magic Theory' on the sheet, because I like the fact that magi went into labs to develop new spells.

The concept of troupe style play, with multiple characters, and the way the covenant was a common project.

Also I liked Mythic Europe, familiar yet mysterious. Historical knowledge and research from the real world coupled with the to a certain degree well-known fairy tales and myths. Plus the flavour of using Latin.

And last but not least the Verb-Noun magic system with the huge flexibility. Oh and the more dramatic names for spells than utilitarian 'Fireball' and that like.

I never played it for real until 4th edition. I liked many of the more streamlined and detailed rules. Even more so when the streamlining of 5th ed came round. Except thesed days I have nostalgic memories about (and unrealistic ideas for) the 'single digit libraries' - however much I liked the details about book types and fancy titles in my 4th and 5th ed sagas.

The magic system. I played magic users in D&D almost exclusively. When I moved on to other systems, I played characters that always had some element of magic in the character, if it wasn't the primary focus.
The use of Mythic Europe, as has been suggested numerous times already. It is a rich history that I couldn't even hope to complete on my own. So many things in other worlds that have been created seem so arbitrary and, for lack of a better word, inorganic. I'm not saying it's bad, those places are fun, but history is always so much stranger than people realize when they dig into it a bit, and of course, historians disagree with each other, so there's always room for wiggle room between what really happened and what historians believed happen that you can write some interesting stories.
There is the blend of simulation and narrative elements into a cohesive overarching story that is very appealing. My experience with past gaming systems is that you have adventures and then down time and explained what you did during your down time, but it never had a tangible effect on your character's progression. As time wore on, players would tend to ignore the downtime back story opportunities and focus on the adventures which actually progressed their characters. Ars brings the two closer to balance.
And probably the thing I like most of all, is the implicit game contract written into the setting. Story Flaws for characters and Hooks for covenants are a means for getting magi out of the lab and doing stuff, instead of just grinding away in their lab until they are "ready" and have developed the spell of ultimate power (whatever that is). I activate a story flaw, and players don't have a lot to argue on. I activate a covenant's hook and players don't have a reason to argue (with me, as the SG) and instead setup a council session to decide just who is going to handle whatever problem they're currently faced with. The point is those opportunities are consistent to the players' vision of their characters individually and the covenant collectively. Sometimes I need players to give me the benefit of the doubt that it is their story flaw, but by the time the story is done, they should be able to clearly tie it back to being their flaw. The reason it is a "flaw" to the character is that it impedes their uninterrupted progress without their ability to decline, but in reality it's a great thing for the SG and player (and troupe).

I first started playing Ars in 1992, just after 3rd edition came out.

I remember that what hooked me immediately was that I could play a real wizard, quite powerful right off the bat. Simply because he was a wizard, and as such the focus of the game. It wasn't about power for its own sake, but rather that it fit with myths and legends and what we imagine a wizard should be like.

What kept me attracted to the game was that it was in historical Europe. As others have mentioned, you could research your specific setting just how much or how little you wanted to, and the world could simply make sense -- as a society and as a place people lived. Since I linked up with the SCA shortly thereafter (in 1993), it just made so much sense and both of my hobbies have had synergies with each other ever since -- even though it's been over a decade since I've been able to play Ars as a tabletop game.

The system at several levels:

  • Possibility to make dozen, even hundreds of mages, which won't look alike thanks to the flaws/virtues system - I reckoned, Ars Magica is not the only system using it, but it is tailored for magi;
  • The combinaition system of Techniques & Forms or Verbs & Nouns, followed by an extensive list of spells
  • The Lab activities details, between inventing spells, brewing potions, crafting items and I don't know what, there is so many possibilities
  • Having poweful magi, not having a system trying to balance them versus the rest of the world; they are more powerful than most of human beings, that's a fact.

What I did not like is the barrier entry: you need to have players who are willing to invest a minimum of time in the rules to not only enjoy it, but make the game flows and avoid the DM having to do all the math for them and explain every game the system.

His Unlimited posibilities on Character and adventures.

Game world.
Mythic Europe is the best setting ever IMO. I really like it. The basic premise of "Europe, but with fae in the woods and giants in the hills, God exists and demons try to corrupt you".

Long range games. The covenant as a Character.
Games that last decades, and a community that evolves. The covenant as as character and the thriving community that conforms it really appeal to me.

Incidentally the thing that I like the least about the game is the Order of Hermes as a construction. It does not fit well there. I know it is the base of the game, but in the end is the bit that causes tension in the suspension of disbelief. The fact that more and more the supplements struggle to find explanations of how this overpowered (consequence of the rules creep in 5th edition) organization fits in ME is quite telling. The hedge traditions (not all of them, but quite a few) that have appeared lately fit better in ME than the OoH and do not force you to play with Might 50 creatures to hbe a challenge to the characters. The problem is that a might 20 creature is EXTREMELY powerful against everybody EXCEPT the OoH, anbd this gap in power levels causes tensions in the suspension of disbelief when the OoH can piss on a fae prince's mouth that makes everybody else but them cower in fear.


What everyone else has said. I particularly enjoy finding real world places/events and reinterpreting them through the lens of Mythic Europe.

I wouldn't put it in my YouTube primer, but I suspect (given the high correlation between Ars Magica players and post-graduate degrees) that the covenant framework is immediately recognizable (and comfortable) to a lot of us as a shadowy reflection of our academic experiences. Slaving away for years to pass your "Gauntlet," trying to find an appropriate covenant/faculty department to continue your studies, contentious battles with your fellow colleagues for resources and respect, and fear and jealousy from the outside world that doesn't understand anything about what you do, etc. etc. :smiley: