Greetings, fellow countrymen of Mythic Europe!
What do you love best about Ars? Is it the ever increasing numbers on the Arts? The tinkering with magic items and spells, a well fought Certamen duel? Is it the image of a young and idealistic apprentice growing to be a old, cranky and best described as morally dubious archmage? Is it the history, the playing with fairy stories? Is it the adventure of crawling through caves and dungeons looking to save the lost brother of the Emperor?
I'm curious to know!
As a gamemaster, I love it to present difficult situations without the need to plan the approach of the group. The magic system is open to such an extent that there is always some character with a possible resolution. This is a good thing.
What I like the most is the consistency of the setting, and the feeling that it's something real. With the other RPGs, it's difficult for me to form a detailed and believable mental image of the world I'm playing in. It (almost) always feels like something made up. With Mythic Europe, I play in a place that I know and that I can believe it exists.
I also like the way ArM lends itself to long campaigns, with established and returning characters and situations. It's like reading a long fantasy saga. I'm tired of one-shots and mini-campaigns, I want something for the ages!
As a GM I like a lot to research history books and websites to find details and inspiration for my adventures. Research is really my thing
I also like the way ArM mixes an enphasis on storytelling with elegant and flexible mechanics.
And a lot more: character personalization is infinite, the magic system is genius, the troupe style is convenient, the lore is fascinating... And having come back to it after a long iatus, it also feels like nostalgia.
There are many things about Ars which I love, but if I had to pick one, it would be the way I learn so much while running an Ars game. For example, making a character for a covenant based on ships at sea, I wanted to homage MOBY DICK and make a whaler. You would think there was no whaling in 13th century Europe. You would be wrong. The Basque of Spain and France had royal permission to hunt whales, which they did from shore with lighthouse-spotters and crews of boats. Killing a few right whales a year was enough to be big business for the town.
I love learning stuff like that. And it happens all the time in Ars Magica.
I like that the magic-wielders are central figures in the game. I've always liked tales of magic, so getting to play the (not always so) wise and powerful is a rush. Having it happen inside the setting of medieval history is what kept me playing (and reasearching) for the game, though, so it is a very important feature.
As Doctorcomics mentioned, being able to learn more through the game provides an additional awesomeness to the game.
1.) The opportunity for a historical and more "realistic" in some sense of a game. It's a great excuse to read history books as well.
2.) I like the distinct magic system, many other games break things down into either an atomised list of spells or powers.
I like that it's set against medieval Europe rather than standard pesudo-Europe fantasy; it makes things more meaningful, it provides great opportunity to do research to deepen the setting, and it brings in lots of things I like in mythology without it being forced.
I like that it's based on wizards, and the Mythic parts of the setting. The different Auras work well, letting the world be touched by the supernatural while keeping much of it mundane.
I like the flexible magic system, raw vis, and the seasonal advancement, that makes wizards pouring over books or hunting down the magical wolf actually make sense.
And I like that traits are bonuses; that simplifies the system and makes far more sense than having "Intelligence 18" to me.
To me the Mythic Europe setting and the malleable magic system are what really drives Ars. By using a historical setting derived from that history's perspective, you get a really flushed out and alien world with tons of rooms to explore for the GM. The magic system provides the players with a ton of opportunity to create and develop their characters and the troupe and seasonal aspects allow you to crossover between the two easily.
I'm only familiar with 5th edition, but the focus throughout those books on choice and consequence has been incredibly wonderful and refreshing as well.
Personally, I would love to see something with the same approach but with a different historical setting. A 'Mythic Andes' or 'Mythic China' maybe. If anybody knows of such a thing, please let me know!
I think the thing I like most about Ars Magica is that the most commonly used unit of time is the 'season'. Time passes, stories grow and become great. Heroes grow old and die. The life of the covenant evolves. This is a truly unique concept that no other game does well, outside of grand strategy games on the computer.
I love the magic system. I think the Technique/Form Verb/Noun combo makes a lot of sense. I like that players have a shot at casting a spell they don't currently know via spontaneous magic. I like that players can, with time, customize their characters' magical pursuits as they see fit. Need a new Plant Control spell? Spend 2 seasons and invent one! Not a good enough plant mage? Spend 3 seasons studying first and now you are!
I also really like the authors' attitudes towards the product. I've played some RPG's where the authors' mentality seems to be "what can we crank out to make more money?" These guys--Tim, David, Mark, and all the others, seem to be saying "What would add to the system? What would people enjoy reading? What's fun?"
I like the modularity as well. Want to customize your lab? Look through the covenants book! Got mostly new players? It doesn't have to exist. Got a mixture? Let some spend a few seasons altering their labs while assuring the other players it does balance out--and that they're welcome to learn it, at their own pace, if they like.
Oh--and house Merinita, and all things faerie. For whatever reason, I find that the majority of the best stories I run, in some way involve the fae.
I've been wanting to answer this post since it first appeared, but couldn't really decide where to start or see how I could avoid a wall of text.
When I first laid my eyes on Ars Magica 2nd ed was brand new. Coming from D&D and MERP mostly it was wonderfully different. I distinctly remember seeing "Magic Theory" as a pre-printed ability on the magus' character sheet and was fascinated. The way ArM give magi the opportunities to perform labwork and develop spells and magic things was phenomenal. Of course, this only works with the way time passes in Arm, which is also cool. Plus non-magi train and do other things in the meantime. This makes the characters feel more real, as they evolve and age.
The other thing from the get-go was the flexible magic system plus the use of flavourful spell names.
In time I've also been fascinated with how well Mythic Europe works in actual play, in the historic yet (often) supernatural framework. Plus how the Order of Hermes and the Houses interact.
Finally, from the publishing of 5th ed. I've grown fond of the Covenant as an entity. With the formalization of Boons and Hooks the saga can more easily develop a course and theme, and with the cooperation of the Troupe the covenant develops over time.
PS the Ars Magica community is also way awesome btw.
The magi farm sim aspect.
My group ended a campaign last year which ran from 1221 to (roughly) 1406, with a few additional notes out to 1412. We were planning a third generation of magi stories starting in 1412, but we decided to take a break for a while. My favorite aspect of the whole thing was seeing the magi grow, develop, and then turn around to grow and develop apprentices.
I sometimes wish some things were less complicated and fiddly, but if they were less complicated and fiddly, I'm not sure it would be the same game.