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Setting Questions

What will Mythic Europe look like in the future?

"If someone wants to write it, I'll put it in. The problem, of course, is that the future of Mythic Europe can be virtually anything you want..."
--David Chart

The list has never really solved the question of how Mythic Europe will develop over time. Most players believe that although chance has led to a world superficially similar to how ours was in 1220, it is unlikely that history and technology will continue to develop in parallel with our own. Certain basic principles, such as the existence of the Spheres, seem to stand in the way of the development of modern science. Storyguides can get around this in two ways. The first is to alter the assumption that in Mythic Europe what was believed to be true in our world is actually true. In this style of play Bonisagus was wrong, and as science develops magic alters. Each GM needs to decide for themselves what Bonisagus was wrong about. The lunar sphere not existing isn't much of a problem, but do illness demons, for example, exist? The second possible way around these problems is a moment of paradigm shift. That is, at some point the Universe suddenly changes basic principles. How or why this occurs can lead to problems of versimilitude in the campaign.

There have been attempts to write modern Ars Magica stories. The earliest ruleset which was widely published was Ars Modernica. This was a fan piece published on the Web. White Wolf Games Studio's game "Mage: The Ascension" is also an attempt at a modernised Order of Hermes, working on the idea of paradigm shift. Several campaigns have been discussed online in which the world develops from Mythic Europe into a Fantastic Present, although none of the underlying rulesets have been made available.

-- Timothy Ferguson

Maintainer's Note: The list is generally interested in hearing about new ideas for how the future of Mythic Europe will look: just don't expect anyone to agree with you.

Are the Jews/Moslems/Pagans Damned?

Maintainer's note: ArM5 actually has a position on this issue, at least with respect to Moslems and Jews. All the People of the Book live within their own kind of Dominion aura (p. 188) so evidently they all worship the same God in different ways. Characters within Mythic Europe might be as intolerant as real medieval people were, or they might not be - after all, the Dominion is a demonstrable force. It could be proved by a character in Mythic Europe that the Dominion resides in mosque, synagogue, and church alike. This question is really related to how you want to play the Church in your Saga (pp. 216-217). Pagans are still a wild card. -- Andrew Gronosky

The general consensus is that it doesn't matter: unless you play through your characters' deaths and beyond, no one knows what happens to them after they die. If you really want to decide for your saga, it's up to you. Common resolutions are:

  1. Christians are "right," and Pagans/Jews/Moslems are "wrong." God hates the infidels and they're damned. Canon, apart from a lot of /Kaballah/ and /Shamans: Hidden Paths/, can support this interpretation, but it's not very politcally correct. By this reckoning, only Christian places and followers have Dominion auras or Divine Might. Other religions are either mundane, Magical, Faerie or Infernal.
  2. Pagans/Jews/Moslems are "right," and Christians are "wrong." Christians are misguided fools following the teachings of a false prophet. The Dominion is a powerful Christian variety of Faerie or Magical powers and has no bearing on the afterlife. The "heretics" worship the true God, who is either Magical or Faerie. Most players who choose this route have to work out the details for themselves, since canon doesn't really support it.
  3. No one is "right." The Christian, Jewish and Moselm Gods are all aspects of the same thing, and the Dominion is just another kind of natural power, like Magic or Faerie. There's no inconsistency if Moslems or Jews have Dominion auras, since it's just another variety of Divine magic, kind of like Seelie or Unseelie faeries. Many pagan gods can be Divine, too. Holy wars are just mundane politics between supernatural factions.
  4. God Works in Mysterious Ways. This seems to be the most popular route, meaning that basically no one in Mythic Europe at large knows for sure what's going on with God. Christians, Jews and Moslems can have Dominion auras and Divine powers. Jews maintain that their persecution by the misguided Christians is God's will for their breaking of the covenant. Moslems and Christians believe it is God's will that they kill each other and persecute the Jews. God seems to help everyone and no one equally; the only real proof of anyone being right or wrong is based on faith. One might think of the different faces of God as "differing analogies." The Christians believe that God is "like" Christ; they perceive the Divine and seek to understand it with stories from the Bible, local tales of saints and priests, or through the politics and teachings of the Church. The others do the same thing with their own religions and cultures. None of them are "right" or "wrong" because each of them can only understand part of the whole; it is only a lack of complete understanding or a flaw in their analogy which creates apparent inconsistencies.

Kabbalah contains an excellent and more detailed breakdown of these options.

-- Erik Dahl

Why don't magi use magic to make money?

Maintainer's Note: ArM5 kind of settles this question with the new ritual spell, Touch of Midas, which creates a large quantity of gold. Heirs to Merlin included a ruling from the Peripheral Code whereby members of the Stonehenge Tribunal are prohibited from creating money with magic, on the grounds that it screws up the economy and thus interferes with the mundanes. It seems that the line is leaning toward social/legal restrictions on this activity rather than mechanics-based restrictions.

Any reasonably clever magus with enough time will come up with a way to become wealthy with the use of magic. Any reasonably clever SG can come up with ways to make sure said magus a) does not have enough time and/or resources to accomplish this or b) has to deal with undesirable consequences. Therefore, troupes are encouraged to discuss how they want to deal with this possibility amongst themselves.

-- Peter Hentges and Max Rible

Who is Tougher, Magi or Mundanes?

This question is asked in several different forms, including:

"Why do Magi have to hide from mundanes?"
"Why don't Magi just take over Mythic Europe?"
"What noble in his right mind would mess with a covenant?"

There are two sides to the issue. One (the one most likely to ask the above questions), feels that any reasonably established covenant of wizards can repel an attack by mundanes, unless those mundanes have mystical help (such as crusaders with Faith points). The other side believes that wizards, while powerful, are not invulnerable. Fatigue is the great enemy, and a determined mundane seige has a chance of overwhelming all but the most powerful covenants. As with most debates, there is no right answer. The side you favour will depend a great deal on your preconceptions about magic and Mythic Europe. If you want wizards in your game to be threatened by mundane sieges, you will find ways to make sure that they are. If you want wizards to dominate mundanes, you will ensure that they can.

Pro Wizards: How could mundanes even attempt to capture a covenant? Just flip through the rulebook and imagine what some of those spells would do to an advancing army. Wizards can send fireballs into their ranks, walk among them invisibly and cast spells on their leaders, or whip up a ritual to send them screaming back to their nice warm beds! Mundane armies are not about to stay and fight after watching the earth open up and swallow their siege engines. Wizards can deflect catapult missiles, magically rebuild walls, spy on their enemy in complete safety, and cause all kinds of damage without being detected. Of course they would win.

Pro Mundanes: Take a look at an average PC covenant. How many wizards have learned spells of mass destruction? Spells of Voice Range aren't enough. When do the wizards have time to rest? Once fatigue starts creeping up on them, they will suffer more and more penalties to their spells...and one botched spell could do more damage than the entire beseiging army. Don't forget Concentration penalties... the general sound of battle, the pounding of catapult stones or oncoming arrows are all enough to require Concentration rolls, and how well will your Magus focus if he was running around all night stopping sappers from digging beneath the walls? It's all in the details. Mundanes won't have any easy time of it, but wizards are not so powerful that their victory is inevitable.

When fourth edition generally increased the power of wizards, the Pro Mundane argument became less effective than it was. Quicker advancement meant that wizards will have access to higher level spells. Long-Term Fatigue was removed, thus wizards need only rest for minutes to recover from Ritual spells, rather than the full night's sleep it used to require. Invisibility was reduced to a level that every wizard can Spont, instead of being reserved for Imaginem specialists. The creation of a Group and Boundary target for spells meant that entire armies can be hit by a single spell, which was very difficult under third edition rules.

-- Eric Pommer

Now the fifth edition has come along and set the wizards back a whole lot. Vis boosting of spells' Range and Duration is gone, so you have to be really close to use Voice-range spells. Instantaneous healing now requires a ritual, and who has time to cast rituals during a battle? Long-term fatigue is back. The Dominion penalties have been beefed up so wizards have trouble casting spells on mundane territory. Faith points now give real protection. Casting from a text is gone, so no more stockpiling spells of mass destruction - you have to actually learn them if you want to use them. The pendulum has definitely swung back toward the mundane side of the debate.

-- Andrew Gronosky

True Reason

Maintainer's Note - it's been two editions since anything called True Reason has been mentioned in the game, so this section will only be of interest to old-timers.

True Reason, as defined in the third edition, meant that exceptionally rational characters from 'unnatural' events. This presumably was based on the power of reason to cut through superstition to get to the truth. In Mythic Europe, however, magic, faeries and miracles ARE the truth. Magical events, major or minor, happen every day. Spirits DO cause disease. Faeries DO drink milk and sweep the corners at night. A rational, reasonable person will know this, and will be able to verify it by direct, 'scientific' observation.

Everyone in Mythic Europe knows that magic is real. Most people have plenty of evidence, and the truly thoughtful can find absolute proof. A rational character can visit a covenant and watch wizards perform numerous magical feats, over and over again. They can go to a faerie mound at night and watch the fauns dance in the moonlight. They can watch a priest cast out demons from a possessed farmer. If after all this they still refuse to believe in magic, then they are as 'reasonable' as a modern character refusing to believe in electricity. They are delusional, and should take the appropriate Flaw. Certainly their delusion should not give them any kind of mechanical protection from the supernatural.

In meta-game terms, White Wolf probably included True Reason in the 3rd edition (it was not in the 2nd or 4th) so that they could more seamlessly tie Ars Magica into the World of Darkness products. The rise of Reason in the Renaissance would send magic into the shadows. There is nothing wrong with this vision, and it is an interesting dilemma for a magical order to face. It is not appropriate for Mythic Europe, however, where magic is real and verifiable and studied by the most rational of scholars.

-- Eric Pommer