What Mechanics Need Adjustment for 1700s Play?

Ignoring the supernatural elements completely for a second, I wanted to use the core of the Ars Magica system - Virtues and Flaws, how it treats skills, seasonal advancement, aging, all of that - but in a game taking place in the 1700s rather than the 1200s. What primary adjustments would I need to make to the mundane rules functionality to undo any of the elements of Aristotelian physics that might get in the way of the setting conceit? Some stuff is easy to adjust for, like, I know firearms wouldn’t work by Aristotelian physics, but that doesn’t really require adjusting the rules themselves to cover. But would the crafting rules need to change? Or the three-tiered wealth system? Skills or Virtues/Flaws that need to be added, removed, or adjusted? Anything you can think of, really, that would need to be altered mechanically on the mundane side of the rules system to cover shifting things forward into the 1700s.

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I think the core rules are fine. But you will need to adjust some Abiliies. Here are a few examples :
-Philosophy and Artes Liberales disappears. Science exploded around 1500. Now Mathematics, Astronomy, Morals, Biology, Physics, Metaphysics, etc... Basically each of their old specialties are Abilities on their own.
-You can melt Profession:Writer, Grammar (from Artes liberales) and Literacy into a new Letters Ability.
-Bank is no longer reserved for Jews
-Foedal society disappear in Western Europe.
-Most of the languages mixed, you need to know fewer to travel around the world.

You will need a bunch of new Virtues and Flaws too, like the following ones :

Major Virtues

Conquistador (Social status, Story) : you are allowed by your king to conquer newfound lands.

Son of the sun (Supernatural) : you descend from a mythic god of the sun. You weep gold, have goldish skin or yellow eyes. You add -2 to any Aging roll and cannot suffer from thirst or hotness. Light cannot blind you.

Swashbuckler (General) : you may use (Brawl/2) instead of any other combat Ability.

Minor virtues

Enlightened (General) : you gain 60 experience points in academic Abilities. You cannot learn Theology, Church Ken or Divine Ken higher than Morals.

Huron woman (Social status, Story) : Native woman only. You gain a +3 bonus to any Leadership roll against Huron men. Add -1 to any Etiquette roll against other men.

Protestant preacher (Social status) : you gain a local reputation of 3 and you are revered by your community, making it easy to convince them (you gain +3 to social relationships with your followers). You are hated by Catholics.

Shaman (Social status, Supernatural) : Native character only. You may learn Supernatural Virtues without a supernatural teacher, all by yourself.

Exorcist (Hermetic) : any spell you cast with a possessed target or an evil target suffers a loss of one Fatigue level in addition to any other effect.

Minor Flaws

Huguenot (Social status, Story) : French character only. You are prosecuted by royal power. You have to hide your faith. You gain a -1 modifier to dissimulate your religious ways and a +1 bonus to harm Catholics.

Fond of duels (Personnality) : you defy any enemy you encounter.

Major Flaws:

Slave (Social status) : you are not a freeman. You must obey the orders of your master if you wish to live another day. You cannot have seasonal activities but you do gain experience from exposure or adventures. That Virtue is not compatible with either Poor or Wealth. You gain a thematic Virtue for free : Reserve of Strength, Learn (Profession) from mistakes or Wise one.

Panache (Personnality) : you cannot refuse to fight against an honourable foe. If you are forced to flee, you loose all your Confidence points.

Deviant Mystic (Story) : character with Faith points only. Your religious behaviour and your doctrine are heterodoxous, even for your brothers in faith. You may quake whenever you think of god, promote bigamy or live in nakedness. If you don't, you lose your Faith points.

PS : there is a recent Sub Rosa issue with a setting in 1600s if it can help.

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If you change to Newtonian physics, you can add firearms and cannons. If you keep going you can figure on what the New World would be like. One of the hardest things is what would the Order look like. How powerful could they become. Or, as in the Ars 1470 ( Sub Rosa #16), you lessen their power and put them into deeper hiding. I've been working on an Ars 1520 campaign and I am going with Newtonian Physics. The power level and what happens in the Order are up in the air as we try variations.

@Cathelineau Love the virtues and flaws. I may steal some of them.

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I think it very much depends on what kind of 18c campaign you want.

The virtues and flaws presented above are fine for certain takes on the 18c but not at all suitable for others. To me, they seem closer to a certain kind of 16c or 17c saga.

Also, 1710 France will look very different from 1795 Britain, or even 1795 France. Never mind Russia or the Ottoman Empire.

There are other differences too. AM's "Mythic Europe" is pretty much "Mythic Christendom", but the boundaries are rather different in 18c.

Is your 1700s closest to Pirates of the Caribbean, Horatio Hornblower, Tom Jones or School for Scandal? Catherine the Great or Captain Cook or Clive of India (and these are close)?

Nothing prevents you from leaving Hermetic Magic exactly as is. Sure, it's vaguely Aristotelian, and perhaps magi remain mired in a medieval mindset... but they would be far from alone in this time period! As for the magic contradicting cutting edge science, perhaps the Order awaits the next Bonisagus to sort things out. Non-supernatural game mechanics don't really need to change, beyond the obvious need to account for some new equipment.

Aging rules can stay as-is. Medicine sucks.

Much of A&A and C&G is pretty irrelevant. But that's not quite rules. Except for Crafting, of course. Industrialization is starting to matter, at least in some places and for some kinds of production, but many things are produced by hand. And espeically Art: Aesthetics are utterly different. Artists matter more, though not as idealized as they will be next century. (With some exceptions, like Haydn.) Most characters won't care about that.

But most mundane rules don't matter: Social skills work fine as they are. Liberal Arts are still a thing; you are far less likely to get a technical education at a university then to get a law degree or get ordained. You'll need a very different set of social statuses, but these depend greatly on when and where your game is. You'll need firearms rules if you have firearms, but you already know that. (ReTe Ward against Lead and Iron is probably quite useful on the battlefield!) Otherwise, AM combat will be no less broken, though armor is less of a thing, and the combat rules should discourage characters from wearing mail. Medicine utterly sucks, so aging doesn't need to be kinder.

If you care about the effects of industrialization on equipment costs, there is a lot more material available to let you create appropriate prices.

Of course, you could run GURPS... :slight_smile:/923439479



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A quick question Ovarwa - though I feel rather dumb for asking: what's the secret meaning of " :slight_smile: / "?
I've seen you use it more than once!

I think that a big issue is that in "current" Ars Magica, although the world is a sphere, what you really have beyond Mythic Europe and-a-little-beyond is faerieland (or perhaps the magic realm). This is true whether you head south beyond the Sahara; East beyond the roof of the world; West beyond the Canary islands; and probably North, too. But a big thing of the 16th century is that folks actually do go all around the world, and in the 17th and 18th century, while a few "regios" might remain (e.g. the poles, the source of the Nile etc.), the world at large is ultimately mundane and not that large.

Combat becomes very different. Armour is no longer what it used to be, and is ultimately mostly useless except for some spot protection.
Firearms and explosives are a big thing. Ships are a very, very big thing, not just in terms of combat.

The "natural world" becomes much closer to how we understand it today. This includes calculus, probability theory, and Newtonian physics; chemistry far beyond the four elements (though it will still be a century or more before the periodic table is formulated), including a much better understanding of electrical phenomena; and in the second half of the century the first inklings of biological evolution (which break the immutable Platonic Forms). This means that either Hermetic magic must change, or it is no longer "in line" with the mundane understanding of the world.


A :slight_smile: is a full smiley, with the usual implications.

:slight_smile:/X is a fractional smiley.

So :slight_smile:/2 is half a smiley, sort of half in jest. As X gets bigger, the smiley is less of a smiley. So :slight_smile:/238503485023809876081234010739082401349023987590239082390472 is hardly a smiley at all!

In this case, I'm saying that although one might reflexively assume that I'm completely kidding because GURPS is utterly the wrong system for doing AM, there is a lot less smiley there than you might think: I think GURPS is a great system for doing AM, especially if you want to alter the genre, time or place.

AM and GURPS are extremely similar in some important surprising ways. (And not so surprising ways: GURPS and AM5 have some of the most meticulously researched supplements in the business. Like, if you want to commit computer crime for real, GURPS Cyberpunk is a must-read! :slight_smile: (That's a full smiley! But GURPS is famous for its supplements.)

Certainly there would be some porting involved, to make sure that Hermetic Magic is appropriately awesome, and to get things to feel both like AM and like GURPS. I think I know how to do that, and would give it full write-up except that a) I'm keystroke-limited and b) the likely target audience is tiny.

If I'm wrong about b, I'd do a partial write-up, so people can take it from there.

Especially if someone is willing to deal with some inconsistencies between GURPS3 and 4, there have got to be some appropriate supplements for this project (even if a different system is used, which is also a GURPS cliche), most obviously:

GURPS Age of Napoleon
GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel
GURPS Swashbucklers
GURPS Low-Tech (4e)
GURPS High-Tech (some of this is not so high, iirc)



Since well over 15 years I am running a historical fantasy saga around 1700. We decided against using Ars Magica for it, though we knew it very well when we started the Baroque Campaign: well enough to easily agree on ruling it out.

I recommended reading the essay collection L'Uomo Barocco edited by Rosario Villari (worldcat.org/title/uomo-bar ... ue&lang=en) to all players: it is an excellent introduction to the lives and perpectives of the many different people living around 1700: statesmen, soldiers, financiers, rebels, missionaries, nuns, witches, scientists, citizens and worldly women.

These people are as far away from the middle ages as we are from them: grafting an Order of Hermes or even only Hermetic Magic into their world would require a lot of consideration.

  • Even humble baroque Europeans could see the world with their own eyes. Many sailors, colonists, soldiers, missionaries and Ursuline nuns returned alive with their stories from the Americas, Asia and Africa.
  • In 1620 Francis Bacon's Novum Organum Scientiarum tackles Aristotelian philosophy directly. In the Europe of 1700 universities have lost their monopoly on explaining the world, which in mid-13th century they were out to gain. Scientific societies were taking over from them, and so were the many practitioners of science: from Kepler down to craftsmen like clockmakers.

This leads to the questions:

  • Which characters and adventures in 1700 players are interested in?
  • Could Hermetic magic fit with a dynamic group of adventurers around 1700 who travel, research and discover on their own?

For the Baroque Campaign we answered the last question as:
We need magic in the world to be explored more than in the powers of the characters exploring it. By exploring the world they should advance also in occult knowledge and capabilities, though.
This left little use for the Order of Hermes. A scientific society - in our case Vincenzo Coronelli's Argonauti - provides some organizational backdrop. While occult capabilities are far less powerful and on earth practiced by isolated little groups.

@Hammer 'n' Godsmite, you might answer our questions very differently. But I still recommend to answer them before putting work into adapting Ars Magica for the world in the 1700s.


EDIT: Getting a few Hermetic magi from 1220 catweazled into the 1700s might be another kind of 1700s adventure with Ars Magica. I can imagine them well in a Barry Lindon-type fake heroic story. For this it would make sense to sort out the 1700s world in ArM5 terms, get ArM5 to Baconian/Newtonian/Keplerian science, and explain which magic doesn't work any more or - more catweazlian - weirdly different. I don't know whether the effort needed for this is worth the game you get out of it, though.

You can just discard all the books focused on the world of Mythic Europe (A&A, TC, LoM, C&G, all Tribunal source books), LoH, MoH, and likely all RoP-books. Trying to salvage the occasional subchapter or paragraph from them isn't worth the hassle: better start from scratch.
AM and RM will also be of very little use, but HMRE, TMRE (and added to taste HP, TME) might help in defining your new 1700s world of magic.


Though it's out of print, I'd honestly just look up Mage: the Sorceror's Crusade. You don't need to use the full oWoD setting as is, but the ruleset is much lighter and faster, and already modified for a more similar time period (the 1450s). The PDFs are easy to find, ebay still sells the hard copies. There are piles of merits and flaws. Alternatively, just look at it as a guide on how to make modifications. M:tSC has a lot of Ars Magica DNA in it.

whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Mage:_T ... rs_Crusade


I would avoid oWoD like the plague:

Its "Storyteller" game system was among the worst of its era, and is worth avoiding because game systems have generally improved since then.

As a reference it is utterly wretched, except for recreating the pretentious 1990s gothic rp experience, in which case it is absolutely perfect.

Yeah, I recognize that I'm ranting. But this is among my least favorite game systems, and I cannot recommend it for simulating 1700s play, or any other play other than roleplaying as 1990s gamers.



Nice of you to crap all over my post. The OP asked for ideas so I shared. Let them figure out what to steal/borrow or not.