Wishlist: Ars Magica 6

This doesn't necessarily apply to this specific issue, but there is also sometimes a tension between what modern people think about something (a version of which is often easily discoverable via google) and what 13th century people thought about something, and even more specifically what 13th century people living in specific places thought about something.

Generally, ArM5 tries to represent what 13th century people thought about things. Sometimes this is discoverable via rather more substantial research than quick google searches, but it is a bit fraught as people in different regions and slightly different times often had quite different ideas, and even people in the same region had different opinions about contentious issues. And for some issues it simply isn't clear what the received wisdom would be in the 13th century, particularly when there is also the possible influence of fantastic characters and phenomena to consider. So, the authors make stuff up sometimes.

ArM5 is researched, but it isn't research itself. It's a game.

Yes, it is. And I do lean that way. But that doesn't prevent games from becoming botch-driven. I also notice that botchophilic SGs (and fumblophiles in any game) have a tendency to increase the number of botch dice when faced with characters designed not to botch.

So, on the one hand, I don't enjoy botching. And, on the other hand, I find botch-driven stories to be weaker... though much easier, even when I GM.

I also prefer die rolls to be rare. A bit of randomization is useful, to keep things from becoming too cuddly. But especially in a game with as many stats as AM, things can get chaotic even without a randomizer.

The problem is that sometimes the stuff they just make up is so glaringly out of step with how things were (at least from my perspective, though a number of people have pointed out that my definition of glaringly out of step is a bit like my 7'2" friend's definition of short), but also inconsistent with the rest of the material, and by setting the setting reality in one way also reduces options for those who might prefer a little variation in their cosmology.
For example, early Pharoh's went looking for the first language as well (heck there are linguists 'looking' for it today), without having to go back to the tower of babel story. I'd really prefer a version of Ars Magica where early and pre-history are no tied to Biblical accounts, since it makes it really hard to work in background from civilizations whose existence predates the supposed creation of the world by a thousand years or so.

I sympathize with Silveroak. I also agree that his standards are way too high, and this is admitted.
But the thing about ancient history. I like using Biblical History. But I am also the sort of Christian that believes that it was never intended to be used for math. It is an historical record of eyewitness accounts, from thier own PoV, and speculation on what else happened based on the best knowledge at hand.
So there is room for interpretation, speculation, and fantasy.
For example, I know for fact that Basque predates all known languages and is unrelated to any. It is a modern language and it is rude to these people to subjugate their tongue as a decendant of another in the tree of our languages.
I like to mix history and fantasy. Perhapse Basque is an ancient arcane tongue? In F&F, I suggested there are some magi who cast spells in Basque, possessing some VIrtue (I forgot which), and Apromor may have had this ability (I should have added his magic was silent, so no one knows).
I also like to toy with ideas of antedeluvian history. Between the sinking of Atlantis and the dawn of recorded history, an age undreamed of, the Hyborian age, whence stalked the Earth of a Cimmerian known as Conan...
wait, different meteverse...

Might I suggest a trick from Third Edition?
Instead of saying "(X) is like (Y) because of (Z), and this is absolute"; phrase it like "They say (XYZ), but some say (ABC) and one crazy hermit that says (Q)".

That is the other thing, by sticking as strongly as the texts do in 5th edition to biblical history I would guess 2/3 of the magical potential for stories and lore is lost. Not only are their no trogledytes, there is no ancient Sumeria, Egyptian history has to be curtailed. Forget about the Phoenicians, they never existed... civilization is reduced to Egypt, Greece, Rome, Israel and modern civilizations. Pagan philosophers aside from the canon of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates are thrown out wholesale...

And FYI, while I disagree about the age of the Basque language, it's origins, like that of the Rom (Gypsies) is shrouded in mystery, even today. Paving over mystery and magic in favor of something someone made up seems to me antithetical to the premise of the game.


I find this an interesting perspective.

One of the things that I [strike]noticed[/strike] [strike]perceived[/strike] thought about AM5, is that this edition emphasizes non-Biblical texts whenever possible. We get lots of classical stuff, Gorgias, Virgil, Hyperborea, Amazons. We get pagan where possible, Biblical when necessary. Just an opinion. I don't find this emphasis wrong; I think we both gain and lose, and the stuff we gain is harder to research.

That said, I mostly disagree with you.

If we're talking about a Mythic Europe that is based on medieval mythology, folklore and belief, writers have a lot to pick and choose from. Sumeria is not part of that. Nor are dinosaurs. Medieval Europeans spent zero time thinking about either. Our idea of ancient Egypt is not the same as theirs. The Phoenicians did exist, of course: They made purple stuff and helped Solomon build his Temple. For all the cultures we lose (not every culture is a civilization), we gain a lot too. We get Soqotrans, Lake People, an infinite variety of Faerie societies, Ifrit.... In a similar vein, the list of pagan philosophers presented is clearly larger than Aristotle, Plato and Socrates: We have lots of Empedocles, for example. Pythagoras and Gorgias get more than a nod. The A&A list of philosophers lists other pagans. House Tytalus gleefully prefers sophists.

As for the Basque language... its being an isolate does not make it older than any other language. There is also little to no mystery about the origin of Romani, and hasn't been for over 200 years. Mythic Europeans are not likely to spend time thinking about either as being all that special, but Basque at least exists whereas there probably isn't a single Rom in any Hermetic Tribunal, and won't be until next century. Maybe, maybe Thebes. Maybe.

Now, if beneath all this, you are asking for a Mythic Europe that is based on modern history and historiography and archeology and linguistics and ethnography and..., over which medieval mythology is overlaid... well, that's legitimate. (Just get ready for everyone to be greatly offended, because we are dealing with the real history of real people.) It can even be fun. But I don't think anyone is even trying to write those books for AM.



I'm of mixed feeling myself as to whether the mythical history and physics in AM5 books is a good thing or not. I'd like to see the authors be more clear as to when they're using pseudo-history, be it perceived 13th century understanding or otherwise imagined, so that players can more easily replace it if so desired.

Oh, absolutely. I'm still not going to enjoy reading it.

Nearly 20 years ago, wen ArM4 came out, I had a tendency to do the same. These days, I would avoid calling any fan a "fuckwit" on the main forum for the game, because I am middle-aged, and placid.

Another way of looking at the problem with his approach is this. Mr Trollman is always vitriolically negative about everything. This means that the fact he criticises something is not actually evidence that there is a problem. He's like that about everything, he's clearly not very familiar with the game, and he's primarily writing to entertain his readers. If I'm going to wade through the vitriol, I want a reward. There just isn't one on offer.

Now, your criticisms, and the comments of other people on this forum, are different. You like great swathes of the game, so there may well be a problem with the parts you criticise. This doesn't mean that I'm always going to change things as you think would be right.

Sometimes, the result of considering a criticism is a decision that there is not actually a problem. Silveroak's complaints about research boil down finding an inaccuracy in one book from eight years ago, which is regrettable, but, as Timothy says, unavoidable. There's an upcoming book with a much more accurate discussion of Coptic, and Ethiopia. This doesn't indicate that there is a problem with the level of research that goes into the books. (Which is good, because asking authors to do even more would probably empty what's left of the author pool.)

In other cases, the problem is accurately described, but not a problem for enough fans of the game to make it sensible to fix it. To pick on Silveroak again, he (or she) would like a background in which paganism is true, rather than the Abrahamic religions, but that's a minority opinion so I don't plan to make the change. It's a real problem, just not for enough people.

In still other cases, the problem is real, and generally recognised (pink dot...) but it is much less clear how it can be solved, and some of the solutions that are presented on the forum as "obviously better" are ones that we have already tried, and found to be no better than the status quo, if not worse.

Finally, we have problems that are generally recognised, and it looks as though they can be solved, like the thin description of troupe-style play.

The problem that everything is scattered across supplements is in either the third or fourth category. It's definitely a problem, and one that lots of people agree on, but the obvious "do a unified ArM5.5" solution did not look practical when I sat down and tried to work out how, in detail, to do it. The core rules ended up being stupidly enormous, and probably fundamentally incompatible with everything released for ArM5. However, I've not given up hope that there is a viable solution to this one. I've just not found it yet.

Funnily enough, I find that combat flows smoothely in Ars Magica.
Each side perform a single dice roll per attack (thus keeping the defender's player active). Most of the remaining steps are additions or subtractions, mathematical operations that (IMAO) are trivial for any values in the single or double digits.
No multiplications.
No silly feats ("Should I use Power Attack? It's hard to hit, but not that hard to hit, and it's a lot more damage. But If I miss...").
Most other systems seem to have some sort of damage reduction, which needs to be subtracted anyway.
No calling raises (not that people usually do anywya).
It's certainly less complicated that something like Storyteller (often considered a 'light game', atleast in the past), given that there's half the number of dice rolls.

Yeah, but except for the Aura, that total is already noted on your character sheet, right?

As opposed to ... That Other Game, where you cast a spell, note down that it has been cast (or that you've cast a spell of that level), handle spell resistance, handle saving throws, handle metamagical feats if any, roll a double handful of dice and add them all together to calculate damage (many small additions tend to be a more complex problem than fewer, slightly larger additions, especially since not everyone knows to pile dice into groups of 10), subtract whatever resistances you target(s) have for that type of damage, then subtract from HPs, and discovered that you've achieved nothing, because combatants exists in a digital state, being alive or dead, and wounding them leaves them just as capable.
Except ofcourse, people will usually instead summon, and thus get more combatants into the scene, with even more to keep track of.

Thanks, but Ars Magica spells seem nice and simple to me.

If it's a magic aura, I can ignore it 95% of the time, because everyone gets the same modifier to all rolls.
If it's not, I usually have to keep track of 2 static numbers, ie. the Divine Aura (bonus for Divine powers) and Divine Aura times 3 (for magical powers).
Infernal Aurae are even easier, since they have a -1 multiplier for magic - that's 1 (one) number I have to keep track of. And yeah, sure, PC might have tricks associated with Realms other than Magic, but I rarely see those.
And at that, it's usually easier for me to just keep that number in my head during the scene.

We did that in another game recently. With notes on the white board showing the 'soak' of the baddies (2 component thing in that game). I was frankly bored. Though admittedly, there may have been other factors involved in this.

Could you recommend me a simple combat system perhaps, please?

I do not mind the combat in ArM5 because the Magic system is so good and it is a game about Wizards. There are very few games to do a decent job at combat. One that I like(Lace & Steel) did a great job in fencing but everything else was meh. But the Fencing rules are the best I've ever played ( they also work for witty repartee). They came up with rules for mass combat but why bother. That is not the game.

Basically, if they want to tweek the combat rules fine but do not spend much time on it.

Tellus, that conversation is so two days ago. Ben and I already discussed it, and my simple combat systems were suggested there.

And while I agree that simple arithmetic shouldn't be a challenge, it does seem to be one surprisingly often. Each addition and subtraction takes time. For me, it's not an issue, for others it is, and for still others remembering what needs to be added and subtracted is another issue.

While I agree that everything should be on the character sheet, a lot of players aren't using them, they put their stats on a webpage, without bothering to do the computational pieces necessary for combat or casting totals. But even if they were using character sheets, an online version, or otherwise, 4 sheets from the core book seems a lot. Maybe I'm just old school, though.

I'm with you all the way on this.

One of the cool design features of Ars Magica ever since first edition was the decision to concentrate detail on the thematically important aspects of the game and go light on the rest. We get an intensely complicated magic system, since this is a game about playing believable wizards, and just handwave away money and economics because storybook wizards could care less about that. Combat falls somewhere between these two extremes.

Unlike Mr. Trollman, I've always regarded this as more of a feature than a bug.

I have never personally encountered a situation so desperate that I am in a magic aura that I do not know the aura level via an InVi spell before hand. Then again it might be my innate paranoia that I enter an area I think has an aura and do an InVi check to see if it does immediately (followed by a faerie, then a divine (just in case) and then an infernal (because it's it's said no to all the others and there's blatantly an aura, lieing to me is just as good a confirmation)

I agree, for a magic aura with a magus, it doesn't matter. It can be excluded from calculations on both sides, since it adds to the opponent's MR and the magus's casting totals, so, it's a wash.

For all other realms, it might well matter.

the combat is all addition, that makes it all simple math. It's not like you have to use differential equations...

I said this exact thing. It's surprising the people who struggle with this...

...so tempted to go with "it's just simple differential equations, no tensor calculus involved."
But yeah. It's just addition and subtraction, rarely more than 2 digits.
Not really worried about this.

Things I would do with combat:

A little tweaking to make it stand slightly better with spellcasting (How long exactly is a combat round, and how long does it take to cast a spell... thus clarifying fast casting + standard casting a bit)
Rules on 'automatic' fire. Magic can be used to make things 'burst fire' as it were (multiple tubes all trigger at once with invisible sling of vilano. Since they are all aimed rolls, can we just do a single roll with modifiers for multiple projectiles?)
Seperate armour soak and basic soak, damage is reduced by total soak unless stated otherwise. Fire and falling damage, for example, only use basic soak (Stamina + virtues + qualities). Allows for weapons with armour penitration which doesn't carry over as damage also, since they just reduce armour soak, not overall soak. Also allows for wound penalties to apply to soak properly, since they can reduce basic soak but armour soak is always added. (this occurs innately as is if you reduce soak by wound penalties, but could do with being stated as is it a base rule or a house rule in the rules)

Having some area of effect (spell) guidelines would be useful.

I can't find anything that suggests that fire uses only basic soak, under the Injuries topic on page 181 of the Ars Magica 5th Edition text, it suggests that in some cases armor doesn't provide any protection, and uses the example of immersion in boiling water.
Having soak be reduced by wound penalties is just double dipping; you're double counting the injury, because the wound penalty already applies to the defense total... Unless you mean basic soak, and there I'm still not a fan of doing it, because soaking damage of spells like BoAF and IoL is already hard, even more so if you don't allow armor to soak against these spells.

The size of an individual is defined at the start of each section...if you want to affect a larger area for something, you increase the target to group (now it's 10 individuals), and then you increase the size of the group (which increases it again by 10 times).