So, could we design an Ars Magica game which starts at, for example, around 1875 (the greater Regency era, if you will) and runs until the end of the reign of Victoria?  What would it look like?

My suggestion is either that Issac Newton, in his Principia Magica, or Roger Bacon in his New Atlantis takes the role of Bonisagus. He changes how people think of magic. It becomes systematic and non-theistic. How does this differ from Natural Philosophy in the standard game? Well, it doesn;t in a way: what it does it tries to graft the magical machanics into the setting better by suggesting that magical knowledge and scientific knowledge are the same thing.

So, if you have a score in a Form, that acts as an Ability in Lore and Craft rolls as if your Ability score were (Art / 5). So, if you are a Terram magus, you are a great geologist, and if you are an Ignem magus you are great at designing locomotives (which are basically heat transfer engines). The converse is also true: if you are a Gifted person, and you discover a great deal about the creatures of Africa, then you become a better Animal magus. There are a lot of hobbyist magicians, particularly among the clergy.

The negative social effects of the Gift mount with experience.  While you are just a bit of a dabbler you are fine: once you become a really skilled magus (20 in anything) people start to shun you.

Mages club together in Learned Societies. Some, like the Royal Society, have tremndous backing, while others are basically gentlemen’s clubs, or even just people meeting every so often in a particular coffee house.

Enemies: well, the French are the obvious candidates.  They;ve had a learned society for longer than the English, and they have the whole Napoleon thing going on.

Are there Houses?  I doubt it. I mean, someone may say they are a follower of Halley and be really interested in optics, but I don’t see Houses so much as self-taught men who read magic at university, like doctors.



12 replies on “A gathering of thoughts

  1. You could see the effective dissolution of houses as magi over the course of centuries as they moved into the University environments, attempting to hide in plain sight.

    But this might require more use of something like the Tytalus persona, if they keep the longevity rituals. Or does the transition make Longevity Rituals less effective?


  2. No, I see this as a separate setting. The deep history of the Order really wrecks scientific enquiry – there’s always so other guy who has already done the cool thing you want to do.


  3. Have you read the Baroque Cycle? I always thought that it would make for a good background for this time period. It already has longevity and a bit of (very subtle) magic thrown in. I’d agree about getting rid of the Ars background, but something based around Alchemy might work.


    1. I’ve read Cryptonomicon, but not the rest of the thing. I’ll need to think about alchemy: mostly I’ve been thinking about how magic steam engines might work.


    1. Yes, I have. I like it, but I think that the characters who are weaker magicians are more playable as game characters. Norrell is never forced out of his study, really, is he? Still, he’s a classic Ars magus.


      1. I believe Mr. Norrell, most venerable, is indeed the typical Ars Magica archmagus, recluse but powerful with its sympathetic magic. It seems also very pre-Victorian, this scholar studying the world from its books, the archetypal conservative Victorian.

        Mr. Strange on the other side deals with faeries, a kind of magic (using old deals with puissant magical beings) that is not quite as much used as it should in Ars Magica. He is the prototype of the Victorian occultist or spiritist, ready to travel but still going back to his good old house.


  4. Do you think the standard ten Forms are a good thematic fit with the Regency period? I don’t know enough about Newton or Bacon to know how grounded they were in the conceptual categories of earlier eras.


    1. Oh, that’s a really good point. Thanks for making me think about it. There some problems with the Forms, yes. The basic one is that steam, which is really important as a source of almost magical motive force, is probably CrAq(Ig) or something in standard Ars and it needs to be simpler in this. Perhaps it can just be “an unnatural gas”, which makes it Auram? Similarly, electricity is either Auram or Ignem. I’m tempted to do Ignem just to be controversial (I know you can make it as lightning, but you can make fire by smashing bits of flint together with CrTe(Re) too, sort of deal.)

      I mean the four elements still work (solid, liquid, gas, radiant energy) and the living forms work (animals, plants, humans, minds) which just leaves magic and illusions. Illusions (Imagem) is always trouble. The way David Chart worked around it in ArM5 was clever: illusions are caused through the manipulation of a particle of sensation called a “species” found in medieval thought. Now, species are dead in the C18th, I believe, so illusions are perhaps best done as low level version of other things. Want to create an illusion of a wall? Then it’s just like making a wall, but 15 levels easier. This does, however, eman that -everyone- is a great illusionist. Still, that might be fun: do you deflect your enemy’s attack or assume its an illusion and try to shoot him?


      1. Yes, the four elements still work fine, though I’d rename them: Solidum, Liquoris, Gasi, Lux.

        I like “everyone is a great illusionist”. Perhaps a Terram specialist can see the flaws in the illusion of a wall more easily than other mages can, so bluffing is not an option with an opponent who has similar specialisations to you.

        Illusion can also function as an ideal mode of practice for apprentices. it’s easy to imagine duels between mages being governed by a gentleman’s agreement to only “conjure semblances”, replacing certamen.


      2. Hum…

        Say, illusions are forms without substance, and Arts “fill” them.
        Invoking forms is a requisite for more substantial conjurations. A flame is an illusion of a flame, made real.

        How I’d do this is that illusions require no energy, whereas spells do.

        That is, keep the guidelines as they are, but these are for illusions of a thing.
        If creating something “real” (casting a spell that has an actual effect), you must spend 1 fatigue and/or 1 pawn of vis per 2 magnitudes, minus 1 per 10 points by which you beat the spell’s level. Wizard’s communion doesn’t cost fatigue, but allows it to be shared among the magi.
        Also, allow magi to “store” fatigue in their talisman by spending long term fatigue, 1 point per 20 levels of capacity.

        Or something like this, I’m just pulling this out of my arse 😉

        This should give you a system where magi are first and foremost illusionists, “real” magic is rare and not used lightly, and talismans are hugely important. This gives a very different flavor, but may be fine for a victorian game.


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