In theory your friend could have played a mythic companion redcap- Blood of Heroes does not require a magical component, aside from some fluff in the description about how they are mystically linked to heroes of the past.
I was gonna write about how that would not work, since it kind of still involves a magical dimension to be a mythic companion. However I had a chat with the relevant player and she actually stated that she really likes the idea of playing a mythic companion and also that she is a great fan in general of all the various subsystems that allows you to play a character of a rival or hedge tradition, magical being etc. in a way that makes fits nicely into the magus/companion/grog structure.
Also her companion character is one of the most useful characters, since her character has so much time and xp available from not sinking it into arts and spells. Her character is the resident expert on all mundane academic topics, several diverse normal skills, magic lore, hermetic law and even order of hermes lore. Its kind of hilarious since the character is not even a magus but rather a mundane academic.
Thanks for bringing up the mythic companions. I will have a look at them in order to see how I can potentially introduce them as a character creation option.
Any rule set of Ars Magica that downplays the power or capability of Mages to bolster other groups is no game of Ars Magica I would ever want to participate in. Magic, and the use of it, is the center of what Ars Magica is. To remove, or reduce, that would be to get an entirely different game. Its the same, not that anyone is suggesting this, if we added some sort of paradox or instability or corruption element that made the use of magic a rare or uncommon or hidden thing.
Among my friends what bothered them was some of the more advanced complexity in the Ars Maica system rather than the whole "lets play a mage'.
personally I would prefer a system of greater complexity, one where teh "no preferred frames" idea could hold greater sway, with more auras and a mythical rather than historical religious structure. I also realize that that game would not sell. In fact at this point I believe that in order to make a game marketable there has to be a way to keep the magic system (which is awesome) but not make it to where mages are the only playable characters. Personally my preference would be to make enchantment cheaper and more widespread, mages still rock but now ordinary warriors can have magic swords of fire or ice, and a more fantastic background. Then of course you need better rules for those warriors...
another way to boost mundanes is to add more depth to the leadership ability, so a PC can command large units of mundanes whose combined might could be something similar to that of magi.
I prefer an option of variable complexity. A core set of rules, one or two books (like the old combo of ArM4 and WGRE), most of the rest being modular. Cherry pick the bits you want to be complex, based on enjoyment, with the core baseline having a simple standard option. The Library for example. The core rules would include a simple library rule, such as found in ArM2. Another rule book would have optional rules for using individual books, such as found in ArM4 and 5.
Concerning Mythic Companions, yes, make that a viable equal option. In response to a previous comment, I disagree with the idea that the existence of such a character option "downplays the power or capability of Mages to bolster other groups".
I say thee Nay!
What it does is it allows other players to focus more on the magic aspects of their magi in the comfort that the mythic companion has got those areas covered. But it does not force the players to do so.
I've many thoughts on this, as I've played Ars magica for over 20 years since a teen in the 90s.
- Simplify, Simplify, and Simplify. The game has far too many fiddly bits. It will always be a high crunch game, yet it can still do with more less. This is a huge barrier to entry. For those who complain, frankly, you have 5th edition.
Fundamental principle: Remove multiplication and division as much as possible.
i. Abilities and Arts using two different scales. Pick one.
ii. Advancement times need to be less fiddly.
iii. Spell Invention Time = Spell Level / (Lab Total - Spell Level) - this is awful to explain to people not great at arithmetic.
iv. Magic Resistance and Lab Totals are a vast array of formulas.
What is certaman, and does it do, vs what should it actually do?
Does Certamen work?
What is the purpose of virtues and flaws? Some games have these as optional.
what is the point of having virtues and flaws balance at character creation? What is the purpose of this that is of a long term benefit to the game? Am I the only one with 5 players who finds that maybe one or two of a PC's multiple flaws comes up on a regular basis - and that keeping track of two dozen flaws with is a bit much of a time sink?
Vis. 15 different kinds is a MAJOR accounting headache. Have one. Have the flavors of vis matter "If your troupe decides to" -
This reminds, throw in some more OPTIONAL rules on how to approach things.
Troupe style - this is one of the most difficult things about the game. It's one of the most innovative ways to approach the linear fighters quadratic wizards problem in D&D, and it's just sort of there... But not much is done with it one way or another.
Done wrong, this is a MAJOR barrier to entry. You have new groups thinking that they have to make a Magus, Companion, and 3 grogs BEFORE THEY EVEN PLAY. They do this for two weekends and give up in disgust.
This is something I've not seen touched on much (admittedly, I have not read all 246 replies). The setting needs to vastly handle better how magi are integrated, OR NOT, into Mythic Europe.
0. The magic is too strong, RAW, in 5th ed for the OoH not to have changed history already.
There needs to be some serious historical details ironed out, such as the Catholic and Orthodox church. I've heard sources that the Catholic church charged people with the crime of pretending to be witch, because magic isn't actually real. That shit needs to be handled, and handled well. If some subtle/major changes need to made to the catholic church, then for god's sake lets be upfront about that.
Many people have modeled the growth of the OoH and find it's actually too small by 1220 and the Schism war too minor to have done enough population damage.
Get rid of some of the houses. They're boring and have silly names.
Decide how much interference is allowed. By the RAW 5th ed, history should have been radically changed much earlier from interefering magi.
Roll the clock back and pick a different year to base things in. The 800s is too early, but say, 1050, after the schism war when things have been shattered, and is an era of rebuilding. Whole new supplements can be written because 1050 was quite different than 1220. It's before the Norman invasion of England, it's before Manzikurt shattered Byzantium.
Change the history, why worship what's already been written? Maybe the schism war DID create a true schism, and now there's two rival organizations, separated perhaps by geography (east vs west?) Who have different legal approaches and ways of organizing themselves.
The code of hermes was written in a different time of game design. See:
Does the Code of Hermes inhibit game play?
I mean ultimately, the game needs a much stronger, MUCH bolder new vision of where it's going to go. Some tepid changes around the edges are just a waste of time, it's not like we're talking about a new edition or anything!
Previous threads I've posted that are relevant:
Absolute essential reading:
Previous 6E threads:
To keep in mind:
I haven't seen a scathing name critique yet! I'd be super interested in seeing your name ranking from most to least silly.
I moved 23 posts in order to keep this thread on-topic and have set a timer to let it cool down a little. Please remember that a wide variety of people use these forums, and we expect civil, courteous discussion and debate at all times. Thanks!
23 posts were split to a new topic: House Names & Etymology
So since starting this thread (with amazing legs! thank you everyone! let's keep the great discussion going!), I've ended up storytelling. I'm an experienced RPGer, but am still generally a newb to Ars Magica, so it's been interesting to sort of see what sticks out.
Complexity in the magic system has been a non-issue. Everyone is very invested in their magi, and so a lot of the labor of things is done by players.
The complexity of all the source-books can be overwhelming. There's a rule for everything -- if you can find it.
I end up distilling a lot of complexity down into single, story-driven rolls. This probably reflects my experience (and enjoyment of) PBTA games...I basically find what skill(s) make sense, and do a PBTA style resolution.
Given the above two, despite having read thousands of pages of ars magica text, a lot of it...ends up getting tossed out and distilled into much simpler rolls. Why? Because managing all of that complexity if you don't have a ton of experience and mastery of the rules and the various subsystems is really rough. If I wanted to do it 100% by the books, it would take a ton of time, and lots of spreadsheets. I actually like spreadsheets, but I think that the complexity should really be focused on where it matters: magi and the covenant.
I don't really like 1d10 and the powerful/failure curve on abilities.
Professions are weird.
The skill system is not great.
I get the point and function of story flaws, but don't like them. With a lot of players, all who generally take them, I think it's a big burden on the GM to have to juggle all of these story flaws...and on top of that, players use it to offset things that make them powerful. Starting with a dog gives you a point? And then what...I'm supposed to turn the dog into a story? That might cost the player time? I dunno, I mean, I am all about PC-driven stories, about twisting the knife, etc. I like the burning wheel's approach here a lot. I think story flaws are not a great approach.
I do not like the approach to the infernal.
I do not like the approach to the divine.
I think Faerie is fine if you blur the lines a little and give them a little more agency than the rules imply.
I feel more strongly than ever that a game that maintains the spirit of "sorcerers and spreadsheets" but severely streamlines out literally everything else would be great. I still want highly researched sourcebooks, but I don't want everything to be converted into another skill table, another skill, another profession, another labor point pool. I want the core mechanics to be flexible enough to handle everything people want to do, and more source material is more just about what to do with that, vs endless augmentations that are a nightmare to manage.
Oh and I love the setting, but I feel like the fact that it is so tied to history is really stressful for me. As time passes, I feel like I should be doing all of this research on what's going on in medieval europe so that like..important things happen? But that's just a massive burden to place on someone. I made a thread asking about good timelines for this reason...I feel like this could be its own sourcebook. It just goes decade by decade and calls out really important stuff that happened in various places, and how that could tie into things. I find this aspect of the game absolutely overwhelming and have no idea how to manage it.
This is super interesting. I think I'm similar to the minority opinion that "constraints are interesting." I want to explore what magic might look like if it's not all just "we are super powerful and free and WHOOOO." I mean that is fun too, but it feels...well, I feel if magic were real, there would be a LOT of constraints. In getting it. In using it. In your place in society. Like, it feels impossible to me that at no point in the history of the Order of Hermes would there be multiple concerted efforts to bring magi to heel...and that opportunistic magi wouldn't orchestrate to make that happen. I dunno. I like the idea of house criamon, I just find the core philosophy absurd and uninteresting.
I appreciate and respect your approach to dealing with Chinese magic. I agree that if there's no desire to treat it with respect, it's not worth it. But it would still be so cool! Even if there's no market for it... I mean I have a stack of books I want to read on like, ancient Chinese imperial rituals and stuff (in Mandarin). I've been mulling over a blades in the dark style game about eunichs in court... so I realize I'm a bit of a niche market here.
To be fair, most western magical systems also were highly spiritual or religious, but that didn't stop a hundred different sources from tromping all over those "principles" of magic with little to no sign of respect... though nobody would mistake "I dream of Jeanie" for Thelmic mysteries... whereas the cultural 'distance' between East and west leads some people to think highly fictionalized references are somehow authentic...
I like a lot of these thoughts, but a few I can comment on.
having recently played some PbtA style games, I can understand your opinion. However, I think this is just a difference in styles. A lot of modern games have sliding scale, and there has been a drift towards simplicity in recent years and decades. I think its more a preference than a flaw in the system. You can add some scaling successes and failures by having magnitudes of success or failure.
I've never found a skill system that was really good. The best you can do is settle into one that suits intended gameplay.
There's a LOT to think about here, I agree. The story flaws are interesting, I love their idea, and I think that some of them are... tricky. Animal Companion is my least favorite, admittedly. Remember, you can own a horse and NOT have the flaw. Make the player explain do you why the particular animal is a story flaw. One of my players immediately wanted a mundane dog companion - and I had them explain to me why it was a story flaw. After a bit of thought, they decided it was a small obnoxious yappy dog that the maga loved very much and brought as her pet to every social situation. The dog caused fun social problems, and became a fun story point at times.
Think about a lesser son of a minor noble who was raised properly, has a kennel of foxing hounds and a mighty steed, was granted a magical artifact by his witch grandmother, and is destined to meet and marry a foreign queen in poetic glory. Heir, seventeen animal companions, True Love (NPC)... what's his story flaw? Just figure out which of those is going to be the story-driving point, and the other facts can revolve around it.
And my secret for bad history is to just be okay with being wrong. Just play the game and accept mistakes, correct them when you can - if you care. History will diverge very quickly once player characters decide to create a hurricane covering all of Thessaloniki.
Not gonna touch the last few points but I will say I do agree on removing the need to balance Virtues and Flaws. I also like the idea of letting them be bought post game. I also like the idea of letting the characteristics be increasable in game.
Although I agree that vf balance does not quite work in AM, never really has, and exists here because Champions did it, I mostly disagree with the rest.
Real people are not infinitely malleable or even equally malleable over their lives, but tend to learn more easily and quickly early in life, and lose ability more easily and quickly later.
It's possible to learn a second profession, but most people do not. It's possible to learn a second language at 50, but it is far easier at 8. It's a lot more likely to go from -1 Dwarf to +3 Giant between the ages of 12 and 19 than between the ages of 32 and 39. Going from uneducated to educated is easier early.
One can acquire a Guardian Angel at any time, without even doing anything! But there really isn't something one can do to get a guardian angel, and just giving a character a Guardian Angel just because is kind of similar to telling a player that his character now has a demon who especially hates him - Free Flaw! - just because.
Of course, one can always earn a positive reputation, get knighted, earn a patron, find one's own secret source of vis. But we already have rules for that.
I'd much rather see rules that make it more obvious that early experience is different from late experience. (Variant House Rule: Subtract Age/20 (round down) from any experience point total other than Exposure, minimum 0. LRs do not help with this. But maybe reduce the penalty by one per pawn of vis spent. And maybe tweak the rule to let younger characters learn faster. And maybe apply this rule to immortal beings, but not familiars, who now tend to die with their magus.)
Definitely possible to learn new languages later in life: My father picked up Japanese and Spanish after he turned 70. But it's way easier to learn during more formative years. The tricky part is that some flaws are based on situation, some are based on history, some are based on future. Skilled Parens/Educated is worth as much as Affinity in Craft: Basketweaving, is worth as much as Great Stamina, is worth as much as Knight.
And some of these situational bonuses(Knight, skilled parens) need to exist for balancing new characters, while some can't be taken by a nine-year-old you're designing for your apprentice or your companion's son.
There are probably ways to do it - Apprentices had an alright system of changing V&F. Maybe every 15 years of life the person gets a 'free' Virtue to show his growth, to offset the 'free' flaws he got living there (like now being one-handed). Something like that.
I really like the apprentice book. It is full of great content.
The "child of [social status] makes a good stand in for the virtue/flaw they might have when they grow up.
Definitely possible. My grandparents learned English in mid-life, but my grandfather was never comfortable with it, and my grandmother never lost her accent. I had much less difficulty.
And then there's something like Giant, or Faerie Upbringing (yeah, a Flaw), which is rather hard to come by later in life.
AM's characteristics are inherited from D&D (though of course 'improved'), so I won't talk about whether they are the right ones for the game because of course they aren't. Also inherited is the idea that these cannot be improved naturally, which is true... to some extent. I can do strength training, for example, but no amount of this will raise me from -1 to +5. I can learn to communicate better, but all sorts of issues will keep me from becoming a great communicator.
On the other hand, I could become Wealthy. This kind of thing is a story event, and characters don't necessarily deserve to become wealthy.
As for the value of VFs, sure, which is part of why the notion of balance doesn't quite work. On the other hand (I have many of these), without some sort of economy, players will just take what they want, and the game becomes "Mother, May I" as players seek GM or troupe approval. That happens pretty often anyway, of course.
after a good talk with my wife about spells today I have another thing I would like to see in a 6th edition of Ars Magica.
- Broader more useful spells and
- A way to generate partial penetration of magic resistance.
for issue 1. both my wife and I often feel that there are too many spells and they are not broad enough in their effects. It would be really nice to see spells like the ones that inflict minor, medium and major injuries as well as the one that kills all rolled into one spell and then have the magnitude of the effect be dependent on how well the magus is able to cast the spell in a situation, i.e. have the exact outcome depend on the casting roll. I often find myself thinking "Should I bother to learn this spell since it already is very similar to one that I know." and also in my group we often have trouble remembering what spells each magus can cast. It also feels very gamey and unsatisfying to have spells be all or nothing effects. In my opinion it would be much more natural to have magic be a question of the size of the effect more often.
2. Parma magica has the same problem as spells in that it is very binary, either a spell has the full effect or none of it. I would appreciate if spells could penetrate partially effectively having a lower effect size if they dont penetrate entirely. I would not mind if totally blocking a spell was quite unlikely but reducing a spells effect to the tolerable remained as easy as it currently is.
Isn't that just spontaneous magic? Especially if you have Diedne magic for the extra oomph.
it does resemble spontaneous magic. But what I am suggesting is that spells be grouped or have outcome tables like:
death spell PeCo:
determine casting total and compare to the table below:
15: spell inflicts Light Wound (as The wound that weeps)
20: spell inflicts a Medium Wound.
25: spell inflicts a Heavy Wound.
30: spell inflicts an Incapacitating Wound
40: spell kills the target (as Clenching grasp of the crushed heart)
in the current game this would be five different spells of varying degrees of severity. I am suggesting that in a future edition of the game they be treated as the same spell cast with different degrees of force. By my suggesting it would works as follows: If I manage to cast this spell with a casting total of 45 (for an effect of "death" with +5 levels of penetration) then the targets magic resistance should be subtracted from the entire casting total to determine the effect. So that If this spell is cast on a target with a magic resistance of 15 then the final casting total becomes 30 or enough to still inflict an Incapacitating Wound through the targets parma.