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Dungeoneering wizard gang RPG Ars Magica returns with a definitive fifth edition

We will deal with you, me and my wizard crew.

Ars Magica artwork from Atlas Games' website
Image credit: Atlas Games

Classic dungeon-delving tabletop RPG Ars Magica plans to upgrade its rules in presentation with a comprehensive fifth edition later this year. Ars Magica 5th Edition Definitive will hit crowdfunding in fall 2024, updating its rules encasing everything in a full-colour, hardcover book.

A recent blog post on publisher’s Atlas Games’ website explains that the upcoming Ars Magica reprint constitutes more than three years of playtesting, editing and redesign in order to line up the crowdfunding campaign with the 20th anniversary of the original 5th Edition rulebook release. Alongside updating the text, line developer David Chart folded revisions into Ars Magica’s manuscript that playtesters and designers gathered across “decades of play,” according to Atlas Games.

The new book will also include plenty of material, supplements and adventures printed after 5th Edition’s initial release, though the publisher did not provide a list of what players can expect. 5th Edition Definitive will be a larger book compared to its first printing in 2004 and will boast new art, fresh layout, full-colour illustrations, and “heirloom production quality” on the pages and binding.

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Originally released in 1987 through Lion Rampant, Ars Magica was created by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen - Tweet would earn wider tabletop acclaim by designing Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. It changed hands to White Wolf and then Wizards of the Coast before landing in Atlas Games’ hands in 1996 and quickly becoming the publisher’s foremost portfolio title.

Its setting is an alternate version of mythic Europe - the UK and Western Europe but also northern Africa, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. Players shared a pool of characters and alternated piloting members of the troupe (Ars Magica popularised the term withing RPGs) from session to session. Primary Magus characters constituted the Covenant, which also contained helpers known as Companions and hired mercenaries. Often, other magi would spend session researching, performing rituals or running experiments and necessarily couldn't lead the group - thus, other troupe characters step up.

Players would send select members of the troupe and their hirelings deep into dungeons, castles and other places in search of storied artefacts, powerful magic and other potent treasures. The magic system was built around a combination of Latin verbs and nouns to produce various effects according to a fairly crunchy set of logical limitations and arcane strictures.

Atlas Games mentioned that it had recently converted the original printer files for the entirety of Ars Magica 5th Edition’s product line, opening up the ability to print on-demand softcover and digital PDF copies of old sourcebooks and supplements to complement the upcoming Definitive edition. Additionally, the publisher plans to publish the new core rules under an open licence - while they are still deliberating on how that looks, it seems that CC BY-SA 4.0 is the legal frontrunner.

Update: the description of Ars Magica's troupe playstyle has been corrected and clarified.

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