Reorganizing the Library

I spent part of Saturday moving books around on the shelves in my study. Now that I’m focusing on Glorantha and HeroQuest material, I’ve shifted those books to the center shelf. I moved all the Ars Magica books down to the bottom and near bottom. I don’t play the game anymore, I don’t write for the game anymore, and although I love the 5th Edition books I don’t reference them anymore either. I did take a moment to look at all of them, including the dozen or so I’d contributed to.

A week ago I sent in my last piece of freelance work for Ars Magica 5th Edition, which also made me wax nostalgic on the 10+ years I spent working on Ars material. And that made me think of the postcard I recently received from David Chart, the line editor. It was very nice working with him and very nice to receive the card, which reads, “Thank you for all your work on Ars Magica, over the full life of the edition. It’s been great working with you. David.”

Thank you David, and Eric and Mark and Mark and Niall and Neil and Sheila and David and CJ and Timothy and Ben and Andrew and Richard and John and Cam and the many, many fans who hold the game dear. Take a look at the card; it’s quite a collection of awesome role-playing game material.chart new year 2016

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4 Responses to Reorganizing the Library

  1. David Castle says:

    Hello, I am enjoying your blog – not least because I also do quite a lot of gaming with the family.

    The ArM5 line does present a hugely impressive – if rather daunting – collection, and one that I am currently slowly working my way through (give me another year and I might be over halfway finished). I have played Ars Magica before, and cannibalised it for ideas, but now for the first time I am running a saga.

    I am curious as to why you have stopped playing, and why you are now concentrating on Glorantha. I like Glorantha a lot as well, and am playing in a long-running campaign (which, coincidentally, uses a homebrew system which draws heavily on the Ars Magica rules).


    • Matt Ryan says:

      David, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. I’ve been playing Ars Magica since ’95 or so, right the time White Wolf released 3rd edition. For many, many years it was the only RPG I played. We’d play a little D&D 3.5 here, a little Gamma World or Star Wars there, but time and time again the group wanted to play Ars. I’ve played and played and played and have participated in some awesome sagas. I’ve done lots with Ars.

      And maybe I’ve done as much as I want to. I found out that I like Mythic Europe a whole lot more than I like the Ars Magica rules.They are clunky and needlessly complicated. Also, my sweetheart isn’t a gamer. Have you tried teaching Ars Magica to someone who doesn’t regularly play role-playing games? It’s difficult. And after playing with the HeroQuest system, which is narrative, flexible, and extremely easy to grasp and use, I found out that I didn’t need all those crunchy rules to have a good game. Now my prep time is spent plotting stories and drawing maps (we use a lot of maps) and not stating up monsters and NPCs.

      If I had a hungering for Mythic Europe, I think I’d use the HeroQuest rules and play in the setting. But I’ve satiated that desire for the moment. If I did anything along these lines, I’d return to Mythic Ireland, and again I’d probably use the HeroQuest system. I wouldn’t use the Hermetic Arts and I wouldn’t use the Order of Hermes, the two elements which are essential to Ars Magica.

      • David Castle says:

        Matt – thanks for your response. It was very interesting to read. I completely share your reservations about the needless complexity in Ars Magica. As you have been part of the development process you will know far better than me, but it seems to me that Ars has slowly become more complex through each edition, with a tendency to add new rules with each supplement as well (especially with fifth), driven by an understandable desire for more precision and detail from people very close to the game – but there doesn’t seem to have been anyone who stepped back and tried to look at the game as it would appear to someone approaching it for the first time. Second edition was rough around the edges, a bit cartoony at times, but completely accessible – fifth edition while far more subtle is utterly impenetrable for a newcomer.

        That said, I think it is possible to play a stripped down Ars Magica – certainly you can play with the corebook only. And while for many people this may be missing the point, if you don’t play with magi (so no Order of Hermes and no Hermetic Arts) then the game is very manageable. I do really love Mythic Europe, or rather I really love Ars’ attention to real world medieval history, beliefs and folklore and rendering that into a compelling environment for games. I don’t think that has been matched by anything else so I think I will be sticking with Ars for a while yet.

  2. Matt Ryan says:

    David – one of the most fun sagas we ran was our Redcap Saga. The thing that made it brilliant was that no one played a magus. Everyone made a mythic companion who was a member of House Mercere. We used the regular Ars rules, but without magi involved play ran rather smoothly. I agree with your assessment.

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