Who is Ars Magica 6E's Audience?

So Cam Banks asked in this thread "Who is Arm 6's Audience?" - and no one took him up on it.


For a 6th edition, I think, honestly, a huge portion of the 5th edition audience as is. What I think many of us don't want is our 5th ed books completely useless. Yet at the same time, it's obvious from discussions here there are some of us (myself included) who would be excited to see the game turn a new direction. Whether this is a re-imagined Order of Hermes/Mercury with new house names & structure - to a more machiavellian/intrigue based OoH, it could be anything. I doubt any one group of fans would be able to agree on what direction to take the game. However, I think some kind of new direction and boldly committing to it is a good idea. However, What I think no one wants to see is Ars heavily split between 5th ed and 6th ed. Edition wars were not bad between 4e/5e, but I recall a lot more 3e/4e friction. Certainly no one wants to see something on the magnitude of the D&D 3.5 vs 4 vs Pathfinder split.

Also, from threads at other places like tgdmb.com. rpg.net, and other story game forums, there are a fair amount of niche/indie RPG collectors out there, who buy a core book, and maybe a supplement or two and move on. Never play, just buy, look over, and then later refer to it in other RPG conversations.

That said, I think making the game more accessible to new players is very important. I did have a guy in my group who thought he had to have his 4 players make 4 magi, 4 companions, 12 grogs and a covenant with the whole group before he could play. That is NOT how I have played it recently, but it was how I thought I had to start the game for about 10-12 years.

Style of RPG wise - what it seems Ars Magica players enjoy is a codified magic system, seasonal play, medieval/mythic Europe and being in a community of wizards. In current iterations, it seems also the target audience are players who enjoy at the very least a "medium" to "high" level of rules complexity and GMs who enjoy system mastery. I've heard this game being called "Logistics and Dragons" and there is something to that title.

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This is a tricky question.

I think the lack of edition wars between 4 and 5 was because [strike]I'm a genius[/strike]ArM5 was based on the same concepts as ArM4, and just fixed a lot of problems. There was very little that you lost going from 4 to 5, and you gained better rules and a more coherent set of supplements. This is why, when Ars Magica editions are discussed on other fora, no-one recommends ArM4, but people do recommend ArM3 or ArM2.

I don't think the same option is available going from 5 to 6. ArM5 is not perfect, but the clear problems that need fixing are not that big. They would render ArM6 incompatible with the statistics in just about every ArM5 supplement, but they wouldn't really give players that much of a benefit. I would expect a lot of grumbling about new editions produced just to get money out of people.

On the other hand, going off in a bold new direction would definitely make the new edition worthwhile. It would also dump a lot of material from ArM5, and thus provoke edition wars. The changes people are talking about are even bigger than the changes between 3rd and 4th, so could be expected to provoke even bigger edition wars.

Enter Magic Shoe. Magic Shoe is not a new edition of Ars Magica. It is, however, a game set in Mythic Europe that takes the setting in a completely new direction, with a much more modern ruleset. I think this is a really good idea, because I can't think of a good direct solution to the ArM6 problem.

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Well, to be fair, I have heard a few people recommend 4e. Granted, the main selling point seems to be 'Free on E23', but it's something.

Very good points - again to use D&D, 4E was a bold new direction and look where THAT took them!

I think there is a very clear path A, and Path B forward with Mythic Europe and Ars Magica.

Down path A, you make a new 6E and have all the aforementioned problems. However, presentation and communication with fan groups makes a big difference. Whether or not an open play test is in the cards, asking for a lot of fan feedback i.e. notices in the front and back of a couple supplements, posts across the interwebs (paizo, en world, rpg.net), asking store owners that move alot of ars magica books to put a notice up - something that gets players & especially SGs, who I think buy most of the books, that they've been listened to. Similar to the multiple rounds of play testing for 5E, a lot of goodwill can be earned and then get the wider community ready, and warmed up to the fact that a very different edition is coming out.

Down path B, you run the risk of a lot of Ars Magica players going "eh - doesn't say Ars Magica, I like 5E well enough, I have all the books, so I'm not buying it" and all the inherent difficulties therein of promoting a new RPG & intellectual property, and trying to differentiate the game not only from Ars Magica, now Atlas Games self created competition, but also older game lines, Mage: the Sorceror's Crusade, Mage: the Dark Ages, now revitalized a bit by M20, and a few other indie RPGs for historical/mythic Europe.

Alternatively there is path C: Continue 5E and go the Rifts route like Kevin Sembdia - openly state no 6E, ever. Maybe throw a little WotC in and call it 5.5. Revise the game slightly through something like an "Ultimate Ars Magica 5.5E Corebook" that subtly rewrites some fluff, adds a little errata, re-organizes the core rule book a titch, adds in a lot of the rule expansions from other supplements, new spell guidelines, some new virtues and flaws, perhaps a bit more advice/setup for new players & SGs and then start doing some other new forms of supplements.

i.e. Non-historical Mythic Europe circa 747, The Founding, where the PCs play a potential founder of the Order.

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I love Ars5, but I do believe that a 6th Ed. could be a good thing.

Audience: Basically, the current fan base will probably buy unless its an absolute steaming pile of rubbish. (cough Trav 5 Cough). Oh, there'll be grumbling from every Grog(nard) on the forums about how they've 'wasted' their money and how they won't change now and Ars is the One True Game or what not, but much as the change from 4th to 5th there'll only be a bare handful of of people who actually follow through with that idea. Most of the fans will buy out of curiosity, and if the game receives even somewhat favorable reviews indicating its superiority over 5th, then it'll be bought. 5th Ed won an Ennie if I recall, which was why I bought it (Though couldn't make heads nor tails of it till someone who'd played it before showed it to me!)

The question for the writers is whether they are happy selling to their established fans with clarifying and improving the ruleset, keeping most things (Ala Earthdawn) and allowing the gaming groups of those fans to gradually incorporate more people, or are looking to Boldly Try Something New, which might be a major flop or a major success.

If the developers did nothing else than a 5.5, reorganized the core book to make sense to newbies, added some nice art and clarified some of the spell stuff, then that'd be a fairly safe option. I'd imagine all of the fans would buy it, just like most people bought D+D 3.5 when it came out. I'd happily spend money on that. A bit of re-organisation on how to play the game and it'd be good.

Taking the game in a Bold New Direction would likely be a bit more furious among the fans, though I suspect it might bring on a few more people to make up for the angry fist wavers that leave, so long as the base game isn't a steaming pile. So whichever direction the game creators take it, they'll be taking it to a somewhat new audience. It just depends on whether they want to do that or just maintain the fans they have now.


I was always in favor of an ArM5 Revised Edition. Fix the bugs, expand some detail, include a proper bestiary, and pretty good to go. It would be 90% compatible with the side books (and face it, these are only 90% or less compatible with each other), so it wouldn't alienate the line. And it could be a good set up for a new line of side books organized much differently.


ArM6's core audience is the author pool, in the extended sense of the people who write for the line in the books, social media venues, and desktop games.

No author pool, no game.

ArM5 is a collaborative art project that pretends to be a conventional line of sequels. It's not. It's basically a really elaborate game of nomic.

The game as designed needs to simplify down so that when I go up to authors I know at cons and say "Dude, get in on this sweet metagame!" they don't go "No, man, writing DW/kickstarter/playing extreme Frisbee/whatever."

Even in he current author pool...I -could- be finishing an Ars novel right now, or I -could- be recording a free audiobook. The question for Ars 6 is why at at the end of a hard day I'd prefer to record an audiobook chapter than stat up a monster.


If the core audience is only the authors who write for it, the game will fail. It's true that there need to be authors willing to write content and rules for the game, but for the game to succeed, you need players who put down money for the books. I know you have mentioned before that canon is for authors, but this takes it a step further and makes the game for authors, so it begs the question: what do the players play? I have a great deal of respect for your opinions, and like what you have contributed to the line (making Tremere my favorite House), but I think your statement here is a bit myopic.

No players, no market, no market, it's a failed product and the largest author pool in the world couldn't salvage it.

As can be evidenced by this forum participation of the Ars Magica community. It has always been something like this, though. Berklist's flame wars started from somewhere, some disagreement about the rules, and the list was around forever...

As long as the simplification doesn't lead to a generic feeling, that sounds great.

Because creating monsters are a huge pain in the a$$. It's one of the things I like least about Ars, and leads to me often winging monsters.

The core audience needs to be the current 5th edition and new players, obviously... :smiley: How one creates that audience, though, I haven't a clue.

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I've just finished Amanda Palmer's book, and she has some interesting thoughts on audience development. I'm also a member of the John Green fanbase, which does similar things. The point in either case is that you create a community and then find ways of allowing it to give you money. There's no "trick" or gimmick, like I see people thinking about in some online discussions of kickstarted games. Your audience grows your audience. What you provide is venues for that community to do interesting things in, and a framework for that collaborative effort.

I note you cut out the bit where I said people "authors" includes people writing in the game's social media spaces and in desktop games. In doing that you've cut out something vital about my point. I absolutely didn't say the audience was for the current published-book author pool.


I didn't understand what your intent was by including those in the author pool. But even that is a very small subset of possible players. You and I may like to spend a lot of time thinking about our wizards and what they do during their downtime, but for each of us there are probably 5 players who don't, and just want to roll dice. They may be interested in the rules and owning the book, but if you don't include them in the audience, your'e not going to encourage a wide adoption.

Heck, I have a friend who loves to write for his own personal pleasure and I can't get him into the game. It's just too much for him. Authors, in your definition, still have to come to the game as a player, and be able to appreciate it as a player. As you said, there needs to be a bit of simplification to attract authors, but doing so will attract players who might then become authors, too.

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I think Timothy's point is that we all could become the authors, that we all need to be able to become the authors... but that was how I interpreted his comment (please correct me if I'm mistaken, Timothy)

I can tell you from working on patronage projects at Kobold Press (or "Open Design" as it was called then, when it was crowdfunded before Kickstarter, et al) that you can definitely make the players the author pool and engage them in the design process, getting people to even write portions. I've worked on (or been a part of the process for) at least 15 books where we engaged the audience to help brainstorm and generate material. You start with small bits, unless people are experienced or demonstrate something more. It's created some great books and an active community.

Kobold Press' last two projects broke 100K on Kickstarter-- Deep Magic and Southlands, and in part, they were because of the audience built up through those projects for the last 7 years, an audience involved in the process, contributing to the material, watching the soup get made, and helping make sure the Kobold's reputation for quality was rock solid. These fifteen books were not crowd-sourced, though (although Deep Magic and Southlands both had options for backer contributions). There was always a benevolent designer at the helm, who guided the project. I've run four of these myself, and I can say, they're fun, they're great for building community, but they're intensive.

Personally, I'd love to see an Ars Magica patronage project, through Atlas, where we drove a project through brainstorm to playtest to completion with the community involved. I think an adventure anthology would be a great piece to test it out on, because they can cover a range of topics, locales, and power options (while experimenting with some mechanics)-- and not that Tales of Mythic Europe or Tales of Power are not great books-- they are, but you can never have enough adventures. Ars Magica has a rock solid reputation. It has an active and capable community. I think the Black Chicken KS proved that, even if it didn't launch.

While most KS show up with the manuscript in hand, part of the difference in a project that involves the audience is that the experience of developing the material, of doing the design, is also part of the product. If you're looking to just get a pile of adventures, then great, pledge at that point and wait, but for those who want to help steer the rudder, it's part of the whole deal, which is different from other Kickstarters out there right now.


OK, let me try again.

In Ars 6, I would like the primary engine of creativity to be the fanbase, not the formal author pool. For "author" in my earlier post, read "creative contributor". Every podcast, piece of art, shared story seed. All of that.

Atlas provides the stem venues and keeps the community healthy and sheltered from the corrosiveness of the internet. It also helps people find the coolness that's happening in the fansphere. They monetize this in many ways, not just books (although, honestly, primarily books).

What I want is a simpler ruleset, so that it's easier for people to create, share and collaborate in these sorts of forums. ArM5 has a level of precision which would work really well in a computer game, but it makes it very difficult to just make stuff. Every monster takes an hour. Every magic item takes half an hour. People have somehow taken the idea that "stand alone" is the way to go in fan work, so they don't use the monsters which are in the various supplements for fan work on the web (which is the obvious shortcut).

A lot of indie game systems actually work like this, because they have a single creator and they can't possibly generate content each week. I think Ars could do well by going this way. Simpler systems which are designed around collaboration, sharing and reuse in digital forms, through an audience which acts as advocate. They can even farm out some of the community creation stuff to volunteers on the various fora, provided they are clear in terms of their community vision.

So, my point is, you need to look beyond the purchasing of the book as the core element of the process. The purchasing of the book is the "Thank you" that comes from the participation in the community.

I said I didn't understand what your intent was, not that I (still) don't understand what your understand what your intent was. I got it earlier. :smiley:

Oh, sorry. 8)

Jonathan may not have needed this, but it's a useful jumping off point for me.

Making creatures and enchanted items is part of the fun of Ars Magica. It takes a long time, yes, but that's a long time spent enjoying yourself. I can enjoy myself building characters, creatures, and items in Ars Magica in a way that I just can't do with Fate, because Fate is over too soon. If you're writing something for publication and you have to fill in all the bits, then you have to do the bits you are not interested in, which is a bit of a drag, but if you are just participating in the creative fan community, then you only have to do the parts you like.

As evidence that the complexity is not a major barrier, I offer Pathfinder, which is certainly not a significantly simpler system than Ars Magica, and which has an enormous and active community.

When these discussions about the audience for the game happen, people tend to bring up the things they don't like about the game as the barriers to widespread adoption. I have come to think that's mistaken. I think it's the things we like about the game.

Take sky-diving as an example. Sky-diving is a minority sport. I'm sure sky-divers talk about how to get more people doing it: the expense of lessons, the inconvenient schedules, the fact that the helmets look daft, I don't know. However, those are not the reasons it is a minority sport. The reason it is a minority sport is that it involves jumping out of a perfectly functional aeroplane. If you want mass participation, that has to go.

So, I suspect that the things that keep Ars Magica minority are the crunchy magic system, detailed downtime activities, and pseudo-historical medieval setting. You can't actually discard any of those and still have Ars Magica.

However, you can get rid of the first two and have Magic Shoe. You could get rid of the last one and have a high fantasy setting. You could get rid of the middle one and have something adventure focused. If you got rid of the first one, you'd probably end up with a realistic medieval game, and I suspect that would have an even smaller market than ArM. Most of these are worth trying, I think, and that's part of the motivation behind Magic Shoe.

I agree that building the community is very important, but Ars Magica actually has a very active community. We have dedicated conventions, a fanzine, quite a lot of personal websites, and an active forum. The community is small, but I suspect that that may be unavoidable if we want it to be an Ars Magica community.

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Honestly what I would love to see (maybe for 6th ed) is something that on the surface looks like medieval Europe for a setting, but where it turns out that the power of the church is more social than supernatural. Maybe allow it to grant some protection based on faith to the faithfull, but where it trumps other religions through social influence rather than because it has the biggest hammer.

I also don't see very much creature creation. What I do see a lot of, however, is regular character and item creation, in their own stickied sections. And Ars Magica is a game where enemies tend to be more interesting if they can't just obliterate you whenever, because they by nevessity have subtler tools than hammers. And Hermetic magi suffer from having a thin line where, in a straight fight, any enemies who cross over it laugh at and obliterate them, while those who don't quite cross it get laughed at and obliterated. That means people tend not to build monsters in full detail, and thus see little reason to share them, even if the designing of the monsters themselves is fun.

I have, and do make creatures regularly for this game, but lately they've ended up in either Sub Rosa or actual manuscripts. I find the process pretty easily actually, but then I'm accustomed to Pathfinder statblocks, which often require a program to ensure something's not been missed. The system out of RoP:M is pretty straightforward and easy, the one in RoP:F is also pretty easy. The Infernal one's just outright feel-your-way-to the evil, and the Divine one's a little too ambiguous for me, but that's ok, because I just fall back to the Magic option.

Seriously. These monsters are not hard. Sometime I can show you the triple-templated barbed demons I did for a friend at the cusp of 3.5, or the double templated oracle (aetherurgist) vrock I just spun up in five different Challenge Ratings for Rite's Faces of the Tarnished Souk collection. Spinning up the Abbot in Antagonists was challenging, but the challenge there was in laying out the extended plotlines, not in creating the stat block. Where is the hurdle, because I don't see it?

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It's not that there's a great hurdle to making them. A lot of people just don't like how much work they are. The strong ones are about as extensive as middle-aged magi, and most people I know aren't keen to build a bunch of magi either. There are more people making them in PF and such only because those games have fanbases that are insanely wider, meaning that there's a scaling larger amount of people comprising the small percentage that enjoys that work enough to do it constantly. Granted, Ars Magica has a system that attracts the sort of people who would derive joy from making lots of critters, but still, the numbers game is a big thing.

EDIT: Apparently there are also games with equally smaller communities drawing more foe-creation stuff, but their systems are probably easier, or the system's entire purpose revolves around those foes, which isn't the case in Ars.

We should do a bestiary edition of Sub Rosa. Maybe for issue 18 or something.