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Line Questions

What is the release schedule for Ars Magica supplements?

The tentative release schedule for Ars Magica supplements through 2006 has been posted in the Atlas Games discussion forums. Releases will be approximately quarterly and will likely come in the following order:

  1. Guardians of the Forests: the Rhine Tribunal (Released April 2005)
  2. Houses of Hermes: True Lineages (Released April 2005)
  3. Realms of Power: The Divine (Released July 2005)
  4. The Mysteries (Revised) (November-December 2005)
  5. Covenants (tentatively, January 2006)
  6. Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults (tentatively, April 2006)
  7. Realms of Power: The Infernal (tentatively, July 2006)

John Nephew (president of Atlas Games) posted an informative message to the official Ars Magica discussion forum explaining how and why Atlas sets the release schedule the way it does. He notes that it is impractical for Atlas to give specific release dates in advance:

Some large publishers have street dates (the official day that a book or game is to be on sale to the public), which they announce many months ahead of time. In order to meet these dates, these publishers sometimes have the products printed months in advance. For example, a friend of ours who is on the staff of [a large game company] was visiting last month, and showed us a mock-up of a game he designed, which [the company] is publishing. He said that the games were already printed, but he wouldn't be getting his own copies for a couple of days. But here's the kicker: The game's street date is in *November*, and this was September. So in order to budget for production delays, distribution times, etc., the game is actually completed and ready for sale more than two months ahead of the street date. That's two months during which the publisher has to pay for all the bills (printing cost and warehousing, for example), without having the revenue from selling it to customers. If you're big and well capitalized, and you have marketing plans and distribution networks that depend on specific dates and having product out in the system a month or more ahead of time to meet those dates, that may make sense. For Atlas, at the present time, it doesn't.

-John Nephew, Atlas Games discussion forum, October 7 2005

When available, the release date for each book will be annouced on the Atlas Web site.

Note that until a product is officially announced, any number of factors (including things completely unrelated to the writing and editorial process) could delay a book or change the order in which books are released.

Are the older Tribunal books still useful?

It depends on what you want to use them for. As background material, sourcebooks on characters and covenants, and sources of maps and story hooks, they're definitely still useful. However, the actual stats of the characters and creatures in those books are rather obsolete. ArM5 rebuilt the study/advancement rules and the combat rules from the ground up, so stats that were sensible for Third or Fourth Edition are totally out of whack for Fifth.

A few of the rule changes in Fifth Edition have possible repurcussions for the setting. For instance, it is now officially pretty easy to make money using magic, and the Rome Tribunal book (written for Third Edition) puts a great deal of emphasis on the commercial enterprises and money-making schemes of the various covenants. This no longer makes a lot of sense - magi could just cast Touch of Midas and get 80 pounds of gold. Another change is that the boundary between the Magic and Faerie Realms has been re-drawn in Fifth Edition, with the result that a lot of creatures in the old Tribunal books are now mis-classified as Faerie when they should be Magic.

John Nephew has said that there are no plans to reprint or rewrite any of the old Tribunal books, so those supplements will not be directly superseded any time soon. The bottom line is that the sourcebooks are still very useful sources of settings and ideas, but are no longer much good as sources of ready-made NPC stats unless you choose to play an older edition of Ars Magica (you can do that, you know).

Where can I find older (Fourth Edition and earlier) supplements that are now out of print?

First, check your local game store. Supplements for a niche game like Ars Magica can sit on the shelf for an amazingly long time. It is always a good thing to support your local retailer. You can take it a step farther and shop not-so-local retailers as well: whenever I am on a trip, I try to find a game store or two and check for out-of-print books.

Second, there are online sellers who specialize in out-of-print games. I am not a big online shopper myself, but if anyone wants to submit links to reputable dealers, I'll be glad to put them right here.

Atlas Games is experimenting with selling downloadable versions of some of the out-of-print supplements. The key word here is "selling:" you will have to pay a few dollars to download them. Please don't upload to the Net any files you purchase - the money people pay for these downloads helps keep Atlas Games in business. The downloads are sold at RPGNow.

Finally, there's Ebay if you really want a hard copy and can't find it from a game dealer (who will generally charge you less). Be warned, there are a fair number of collectors in the Ars Magica fan base so you can face some significant competition for the rare items.

Will Atlas make available free downloads with conversion stats for older supplements to Fifth Edition?

That would be nice, but think of it this way. Atlas games would have to pay someone would to do all that work, and that would draw both money and author talent away from developing new Ars Magica material. It's not necessarily good business sense for Atlas Games to pay authors to update out-of-print supplements and the give away the updates for free.

Revised editions of several of the most popular ArM4 supplements are already on the Atlas Games product schedule. As to the others, John Nephew has said there are no plans for official conversion stats for any Fourth Edition (or earlier) supplement. You can always do an unofficial conversion yourself.

Why do some of the newer supplements have hard covers?

The line developer posted the following on June 6, 2002 to the mailing list:

In September we'll be releasing Niall Christie's Blood and Sand: The Tribunal of the Levant. As a $30 128 page hardback.

Why the price and format change? Basically, Ars Magica was only barely viable at the old rates. The hope is that the price rise won't affect sales too much, and that we will therefore make significantly more money on each publication. This should allow us to pay writers and artists a halfway decent amount, and should mean that ArM can justify its warehouse space. We're raising the price to make more money. We're going to hardback because it's not much more expensive than softback would have been, and you get a sturdier book. (Not all ArM books will be hardback -- Black Monks will probably be 64 pages, which would look silly hardbound.)

The ideal would be to attract lots of new gamers, but that's a job for ArM5, and the line has to be viable in the meantime.

Is there a d20 conversion of Ars Magica?

The Black Monks of Glastonbury, by David Chart, is part of Atlas's Coriolis line, and is designed to be cross-compatible with both Ars Magica and the d20 System. The adventure is not an attempt to convert Ars Magica to d20, but simply an Ars Magica supplement with notes on using it with standard d20. In the words of the author, "Black Monks is a dual-use supplement, not a conversion." Atlas apparently has no plans to do a d20 translation of Ars Magica.

Can I write for Ars Magica?

No and yes. Currently, unsolicited manuscripts or ideas are not being accepted. One must be invited by the Line Editor to write a supplement. But there are ways to get invited.

From time to time, there will be an "open call" for short contributions to an upcoming supplement. These are announced on the Atlas Web site. For Fifth Edition, the first open call was for write-ups of vis sources to be printed in the Covenants book. People who have especially creative ideas and express them well may not only see their work in print, but may be invited by the Line Editor to write longer pieces for future books.

Another way to get started writing for Ars Magica is to write articles for Hermes' Portal. The fanzine accepts articles from anyone (and pays authors a modest amount). Especially good work may earn an invitation to write for the line.

Which books should I buy?

The FAQ uses a system of simple reviews submitted by members of the community, described under each of the books in the history section. Based on these ratings, assigned one to four splats (*) with four being highest, it is possible to estimate which books are highly regarded by Ars Magica players on the whole, and which have a more narrow market. Since the extent of the reviews is a simple numeric rating and a few brief comments, you should read the summary for any book you might be interested in, as many of the list members have submitted opinions and they can easily run the range from complete adoration to utter hatred. This may be because the reviewers like or don't like that kind of book, or the presentation or editing, the artwork, or simply because of its application in their sagas.

Looking at books that are still available for purchase, the following supplements currently have four-splat ratings (as of September 2002), which would suggest that they are considered essential by most of the Ars Magica community:

These books have three-splat ratings (as of August 2003), which suggests that they are very good for particular applications, and are certainly worth special consideration:

Books with less than three splats may not have impressed all of the list members who submitted comments, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be useful or worthwhile acquisitions for your saga. As opinions vary tremendously, books that some reviewers dislike often have others rave about them. Please, take a look at the comments. These are primarily designed to give you an idea of what books may cause disagreement or discussion on the list, but perhaps they can also give an idea of which books should be investigated further.

If you'd like to submit your own review, take a look at the simple form, or email the site's maintainer.

Who is the current line developer?

David Chart took over the line in January of 2002. He was appointed for one year, but his contract was renewed in 2003, so he is likely to serve until 2004 at least. Here is the official announcement from when he accepted the position, which includes some information about him and Ars Magica:

November 27, 2001

Atlas Games Announces New Ars Magica(tm) Line Editor

ROSEVILLE, MN - Atlas Games is pleased to announce the appointment of David Chart, Ph.D., of Cambridge, England, to be the editor of the award-winning Ars Magica fantasy roleplaying game line.

Dr. Chart's contract commences on the first of January, 2002. Working from Cambridge as a freelancer, he will be charged with managing the product line and overseeing the development of four supplements over the course of his one-year commitment. The books he develops should see publication beginning in the late autumn of 2002. (Two other Ars Magica titles are planned for release prior to those under Dr. Chart's direction.)

As a playtester and writer, Dr. Chart has been an active participant in the development of Ars Magica since before it was acquired by Atlas Games. He contributed to the 4th Edition of the core rulebook; wrote the Jump-Start Kits, "Promises, Promises" and "Nigrasaxa" (available for free download from the Atlas Games website, in several languages); co-authored the Wizard's Grimoire Revised Edition; and wrote the sourcebook, Heirs to Merlin. His work for other publishers includes Akrasia: Thief of Time, published by Eden Studios. In addition, he is currently writing an Ars Magica/D20 supplement for Atlas' Coriolis line, entitled The Black Monks of Glastonbury, which is expected to be released in the summer of 2002; and a Penumbra sourcebook, Splintered Peace, due for release in autumn 2002. Dr. Chart read Natural Sciences as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge; he was recently awarded a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the same institution.

Ars Magica is the fantasy roleplaying game of wizards in the Middle Ages. In Mythic Europe(tm) - a historical Europe where magic and the fantastic are true - players take on the role of powerful Magi, stalwart Grogs, and diverse Companions, facing the dangers and mysteries of the land while exploring the Art of Magic. Since buying the game in 1995 from Wizards of the Coast, Atlas Games has published the 4th Edition rulebook (now in its fourth printing) and 16 supplements. Authorized translations of the game are currently available in German, Portuguese and Spanish, and are coming soon in Russian and Italian.

[Ars Magica and Mythic Europe are trademarks of Trident, Inc. d/b/a Atlas Games]

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