Ars Magica: Years of Conquest Kickstarter Launched, Interview

25 Oct 2012

In case you're a fan of the Pen and Paper RPG Ars Magica, or of PnP-based RPGs in general, you will be pleased to know that Black Chicken Studios has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Ars Magica: Years of Conquest, a 2D PC role-playing game based on the tabletop game.

Here's what they're hoping people will be willing to pledge at least $290,000 in total for:
Imagine a world where myth is real. Faeries dance in forest glades, angels protect the Church, demons corrupt the weak, and wizards wield magic beyond the ken of other mortals.

You play one of these mages, and belong to one of 13 Houses banded together to form the ancient Order of Hermes. You’re dedicated to protecting and perfecting your command over magic. Served by knights, warriors, and peasants, you contend with the perils of plagues, beasts, battles, and other wizards to defend your covenant, your power, and your prestige. Your wizard will need to master the perils of life and death itself, if you are to prosper over 100 years of gameplay.

You’ll create your own character, and then try to survive from the first spring of your covenant to a final, epic winter a century later … and possibly renewal, if that is your destiny. Combat and other forms of conflict are resolved using a unique turn-based system, in which your environment plays a dynamic and critical role. Where you are, and how you interact with your surroundings, is as important as your choice of weapon, or the tactics you emply. Stories, opportunities, armies, and crafty agents of your foes will appear on the world map, and you must decide which challenges to face, and which to allow to go by.

Over the years and decades, the least decision you make may have long-term unforeseen consequences. The bonds of family and friendship will be tested, too, as the years age everyone, new generations arise, and old sins are visited upon sons and daughters.

This is a game of many powers, and the pieces have a mind of their own.

And in case you're looking for more info, RPG Codex teamed with Obsidian's J.E. Sawyer for an interview:
For those unfamiliar with the Ars Magica PnP system, can you briefly present it and point out its main strengths? How faithfully do you intend to reproduce these strengths and the PnP system in general, including the fatigue-based magic system, in your game?

This is a tough question. How to distill the magic, history, role-playing, alchemy, mystery, faith and personality of the table-top game? It defies classification.

In short, Ars Magica is a role-playing game set in Medieval history, in which you chart the rise and fall (and perhaps rise again) of a Covenant of mages and their underlings. The forces of the supernatural surround you: faeries, demons, magical beasts, and the encroaching world of the mundanes and the Dominion. Every character in the Covenant has a life of their own, with likes and dislikes of their own, and you can play any of them when you need them. Their personalities grow as the years pass, and by the end of every Ars Magica Saga you usually have a story or two to tell about everyone, even the least peasant. The heart of the Covenant is the mages, and each of them are vying for greater knowledge, power and prestige. The magic system is pseudo-scientific, and applies an interesting rigor to spells which you see virtually nowhere else. Your mages can research, study, and distill the forces of magic, creating ever more powerful, useful, or fun spells. Furthermore, via Spontaneous Magic, you can create a Spell to do most anything within the limit of your ability. We could go on and on, but that hits all the key topics. : )

We strongly feel that magic is an omnipresent part of the Ars Magica system, so it's omnipresent in our game, too. Whether you are looking at the Covenant map, in an Adventure, or a Combat, the spells which are contextual to the situation are available for use. And if you don't know the Spell, you can always try it Spontaneously. The Fatigue mechanic (and Twilight, too) are present, per the 5E rules.

To build on the previous question, no matter how faithful the translation, there are always limits to bringing a PnP RPG over to the computer. This is particularly the case with Ars Magica - where putting points in verbs (e.g., "control" or "destroy") and nouns (e.g., "fire", "energy" or "images") allows you to both learn established spells and create your own, and eventually do crazy things like moving mountains or making the sky rain fire - which sounds very difficult to reproduce in a computer game. What are some of the things you know just cannot be implemented in an Ars Magica CRPG?

We actually dodge this problem by allowing only the 5E core rulebook Spells (and the attendant ability to Spontaneously cast them.) As you note in the question, there is always a limit, and we are forced to draw it a touch earlier than 'the Player's unlimited imagination.' ; )

Ars Magica has a distinctive "wizards as scientists" feel, much more so than something like D&D, by virtue of emphasizing the way a wizard researches his spells and conducts his arcane experiments. How important is that going to be in Years of Conquest?

It will be as important as the player chooses to make it. Certainly, if they do not engage in these kinds of activities, their mages will not be as powerful as they have the potential to be. Of course, an enterprising player can get around this through trade with other Covenants, but even if you want to do nothing but focus on your grogs and companions, you can reach the end of the game by doing just that. Don't expect to do very well in the Magic or Faerie realms, though...