From Project: Redcap
The word "canon" literally means "the body of ecclesiastical law" -- note that it is spelled differently from "cannon," a large gunpowder weapon. Taken figuratively, "canon" refers to a body of material that is accepted and sanctioned by some recognized authority. In the case of Ars Magica, the authority is Atlas Games.
Importance of Canon
Canon is only as important as you want it to be. It's common and acceptable, even encouraged, for troupes to change the canonical setting a little to suit their own tastes. Robbie's Mantra takes precedence over canon.
The fan community often talks about canon simply because it forms a common point of reference for everyone's game. Because the canon is by definition the collection of what's published and "official," everyone more or less understands what it is, so it helps players talk about the game.
See also the Opinion and Commentary section.
Canon and Game Editions
The canon of Ars Magica has evolved over time; every new product published adds to it. For example, when First Edition came out, the Houses of Hermes hadn't been written into the game. They became part of the canon in Revised Edition when the supplement, Order of Hermes was published.
The correspondence of canon to game editions works something like this:
- ArM1: There were not a lot of supplements for First Edition, so canon wasn't really well established yet.
- ArM2 through ArM4: These shared a contiguous canon that was mostly self-consistent, though it got very complicated over dozens of supplements. ArM3 in particular (published by White Wolf) made several notable changes, apparently planning to make Ars Magica the official "prequel" game & setting for Mage & their World of Darkness.
- ArM5: Atlas Games started over, though a lot of the canon from past editions was quickly re-adopted, sometimes with changes. The major elements of the Order of Hermes, Hermetic history, and Mythic Europe are unchanged, but noticeable details have been altered. For example, the portrayal of House Tremere and House Flambeau have changed quite a bit, and Fifth Edition contains no reference to the covenant of Doissetep.
Fifth Edition Reboot
When ArM5 was released, Atlas Games started over in defining the canon. David Chart, who was Line Editor for Ars Magica at the time, mentioned that the primary reason for this was to make it easier for authors to write for the line.
Sourcebooks from past editions are no longer canonical in Fifth Edition. They are still perfectly usable in play, but there is a chance that some current or future ArM5 product will contradict them.
Opinion and Commentary
- A non-canonical rule that players devise for their own games is called a House Rule.
- The acronym RAW ("rules as written") is sometimes used to refer specifically to the official game mechanics.
- Games set in non-canonical world are listed under Alternate Settings
- Chart, David. Atlas Games discussion forum, What's the thoughtline on Ars?, 19 Oct. 2012, retrieved 4 Feb. 2014
The history of this page before August 6, 2010 is archived at Legacy:canon