Ars Magica (First Edition)
From Project: Redcap
(This page is about the First Edition core rule book. For a complete list of pages related to First Edition, see Category:ArM1.
The first edition of Ars Magica (or ArM1, for short) was published in 1987 by the now-defunct company Lion Rampant.
|Product Type:||core rules|
|Author(s):||Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein·Hagen|
|ISBN:||None; ArM1 was printed by a small press and was not assigned an ISBN.|
|Format:||Softcover, 160 pages|
|Availability:||Out of print; rare|
First Edition Ars Magica is long out of print. A copy seems to surface for auction on E-Bay every few years, but commands a collector's price: often $75 or more.
Subject and Contents
At the time, ArM1 was a very innovative game that broke new ground in several ways. Back in 1987, the fantasy role-playing genre was dominated by First Edition AD&D, with Runequest a distant second. Ars Magica was a radical break from AD&D, putting a strong emphasis on story and characterization.
It created an open-ended magic system that allowed players to invent an unlimited variety of new spells by combining Forms and Techniques. It introduced Troupe Style play, where players rotate roles like actors in a repertory troupe. It introduced Personality Traits, which quantify a character's personality as well has his/her physical and mental abilities. It deliberately cast aside the idea that all player-characters should be equal in power, and made magi a great deal more powerful than grogs or companions.
Most of the mechanics of Ars Magica were introduced with First Edition.
- All the Arts were introduced in ArM1 (but some of their Latin names were misspelled)
- Most (but not all) of the spells from later editions were introduced in ArM1
- Personality Traits were there, as well as Characteristics and Abilities
- Magi had laboratories and could enchant familiars or devices
- Characters had "exceptional traits" that are recognizable as Virtues and Flaws
- Magi had Parma Magica and longevity potions
- Magi lived in covenants and used redcaps as messengers
- Certamen was a means of resolving disputes
Comparison with Other Editions
On the other hand, there were several aspects of ArM1 that would seem odd to someone familiar with later editions:
- Houses didn't exist. They were introduced in ArM2
- Magi tracked their study and laboratory work in months, not seasons
- Parma Magica was a Rego Vim General spell, not an Ability
- The Code of Hermes was not written down specifically, only described in general terms
- Grogs could not have Virtues and Flaws
There are no errata for First Edition, but the Revised Edition was published fairly soon after it (in 1989).
The First Edition of Ars Magica won the Origins Gamer's Choice Award for 1988.
Opinion and Commentary
If you have read or played First Edition, feel free to contribute by adding your impressions here.
The history of this page before February 5, 2012 is located at Legacy:arm1.