Ars Magica Video Game
The Ars Magica RPG comes to the PC, as a 2D simulation and generational role-playing video game... "Ars Magica: Years of Conquest"
“Learn magic, for it is the only truth of this reality. Become magic, and you will become the essence of truth. Fear not what others call the Twilight, for that realm of dim illumination is not dusk, but is, in fact, dawn.”
-- Criamon the Founder
Black Chicken Studios, working under license from Atlas Games, is delighted to present a new simulation role-playing game for the PC. After 25 years and 5 editions, Ars Magica will at long last be paid tribute in a single-player, turn-based video game. Authentic to the original, this is a faithful, beautiful, and accurate depiction of covenant gameplay and the RPG’s legendary magic system during a dangerous century in the Stonehenge Tribunal. With your help, we’ll bring Ars Magica: Years of Conquest and its tapestry of wars, intrigue, invasion and, above all, magic to life!
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.
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.
If you are not familiar with the tabletop game, you are in for a real treat. Ars Magica is, quite literally, like no other game you have ever experienced. It has six dimensions: Covenant gameplay, quests, battle, magic, personalities and time.
- Covenant gameplay is turn and map-based and allows you to do things such as collect Resources, train, research new Spells, create magical items, engage in diplomacy, go on quests and explore. In this section of the game, you have full command over all your Covenfolk, and can direct them to take whatever actions you feel are important. You can also let them choose their own tasks, if you prefer to see them get into their own types of trouble.
- Quest gameplay is turn and dialogue-based, and allows you to assemble a party to accomplish a purpose. That purpose could be a variety of things: trade, combat, diplomacy, duels, investigations...and they can all lead to battle. Like the tabletop game, you choose the characters you want to come along. Some quests also have a map portion, for those quests with dungeon explorations.
- Battle are won through a turn-based party system. It’s very old school: your foes are presented on one end, and your party on the other, and you act according to 5E Ars Magica initiative. What sets it apart, however, is the Environment. This is a pool of factors, constantly changing and refreshing, which benefit and penalize all combatants. Where you go in the Environment, and what you do there, can provide you the means of survival – only the most hardy or well protected warrior can ignore the Environment, and even then, probably not for very long. It also turns on and off Spell/Spontaneous Magic options- if an opponent is sniping from a bush, you can set it on fire. If an opponent has taken shelter in a building, you can use the furniture to attack them. Is it raining? Change it to acid. And so on.
- Magic is omnipresent in Ars Magica, and that’s true of Years of Conquest, too. Whether you are on the Covenant screen, on a quest, or in battle, you’ll find the contextually appropriate Spells available for your mages to use. If you don’t know the Spell, you can cast it Spontaneously. Which Spells you use also makes a big difference: they can provide information which can change the course of a negotiation, reveal an alternate path, or just make your tasks easier. If you have the skills to pull it off, Magic makes everything better.
- Magic also makes for eccentric, half-mad mages, and it doesn’t help that magically touched people are cursed with social stigmas, too. Covenants are full of personality, and when those personalities conflict, it can have explosive results. Making sure that your people aren’t burning your home down is part of the charm of any Ars Magica game. Depending on what you do, your Covenfolk can form lasting friendships, bitter rivalries, cooperate on magical breakthroughs, or, just as easily, tear it all apart.
- Finally, the true progression of the game is the toll of the years: at the beginning, you have nothing but a single mage, a ruined Roman villa, and the key to a deeper mystery. By the end, you will have seen four generations go by, and your Covenant will be a dominant magical power, hoarding rich treasures, and maintained by strong and loyal Covenfolk. Then again, it might still be a ruin on a blasted heath, pillaged by your enemies and brought to its end by treachery.
The Magic System of Ars Magica is justifiably renowned for being powerful, flexible and scientific. Like the tabletop game, the Hermetic Magic of Years of Conquest is divided into 5 Techniques and 10 Forms, and the combination of these is how spells are cast. At its simplest, you choose a Technique (for instance, ‘Perdo’, or ‘I destroy’) and apply it to a Form (‘Corpus’, or ‘Body’) and get a result- in this case, something that destroys humans or human-like bodies. The actual effect depends on the spell you’re casting, and could range (in this case) from tearing a large wound open in a foe, to starting a deadly plague in an entire city.
Don’t cross Ars Magica wizards. Seriously. Don’t.
And also like the tabletop, you’ll be able to cast any Spell any time in the game Spontaneously. That is, even if you don’t know the Spell, you can cast it anyway...it just gets a lot harder. With every Spell from the 5E rules available in Years of Conquest, you’ll have magic on demand for every occasion.
In Years of Conquest, your covenant is bound by the almost imperceptible thread of destiny. Every character you recruit changes the destinies possible, and every decision you make brings you one step closer to your ultimate fate. You must deliver your judgments carefully: matters of life and death, magic and power, faith and treachery will all change your course in subtle and direct ways.
Personalities matter too: friends like to work with friends, rivals like to compete, and enemies work for a final resolution. You will need to balance the needs of the covenant with the needs of individual characters, or else you’ll wind up with lengthy pilgrimages, drunken brawls, spurned lovers, and perhaps a laboratory or two on fire.
In Years of Conquest, just as in Ars Magica, the story is truly how you play it.
The Covenant is a loose association of mages and their followers, banded together for mutual protection, research and company. Medieval Europe is a dangerous place, full of beasts, fey-lords and demons, and there are some powers against which even the greatest archmage needs a refuge. Your Covenant is your home, laboratory and sanctuary, all in one.
Your mages use the Covenant as a base from which to gain Resources, conduct research, and ultimately carry out their plots and ambitions. Your knights use the Covenant to train, prepare, and gather information for their next quest or journey. And your peasants are in service to the Covenant, working the fields, tending the animals and disappearing mysteriously in the woods...er, we mean, scouting for adventure.
Your Covenfolk, all recruited from the exiles, wanderers and outcasts of Europe, are an eclectic group. They each have their own personalities, many of them conflicting, which makes for very interesting living. Like the tabletop game, expect adventures to come from these people- and, if you’re not careful, they can leave, too. This may be problematic when a mage decides she’d like to burn the Covenant down as she goes.
Seasons matter a great deal in Ars Magica, as people come and go, are born and die, and lead their lives under your protection. How you deal with generations will lead to your success or the ultimate ruin of your Covenant. Your follower’s personalities, virtues, flaws and other traits may lead to prestigious magics, noble crusades, glorious deeds and well-tended fields...or Byzantine intrigues, banditry and slaughter, and the desolation of the earth.
Your Covenant, too, will grow and change, as you build new laboratories, fortification and homes. Building better and wealthier structures can be rewarding for health, research and prestige...but be wary of attracting too much attention from the outside world, or you may discover that there are some forces against which Magic is no remedy.
Unlike most rpgs, Years of Conquest is generational. Man is mortal: even the greatest champion of your Covenant will eventually die. Like the tabletop game, you’ll have to balance the everyday needs of your Covenfolk with an eye to the future. Building upgrades to your home, filling it with books and collecting Resources will provide a fine bounty to future generations...but you also have to survive to get there.
Your mages are the exception. Via the Longevity Ritual, they’ll live for the course of the game, and have to deal with the, ah, inconvenience of their most useful followers’ short lives. There is plenty you can do to extend the Medieval lifespan, though: providing better homes, magical sources of healing and avoiding the call of fate can all help.
In the end, as the years march by, the destiny of the Covenant will unfold. Will you develop a strong and bustling castle, or a collection of empty plague-ridden cottages? The ultimate fate is entirely up to you.
Since the first edition of Ars Magica, the enigmatic House Diedne has presented a riddle to every covenant. The descendants of Druids, possessed of strange magic and an unwholesome reputation, they were destroyed by the Order of Hermes under circumstances made unclear by the passage of time. Were they practitioners of dark sorceries, or the blameless victims of a political struggle? Could any have survived? What were their weapons and magics?
Years of Conquest begins in 1000AD, on the eve of the Schism War that destroyed House Diedne. Not only will you witness this tumultuous era, but you will be able to, for the first time, play as a member of House Diedne in their final hours. Should you choose that House, you will be confronted by a world-shaking chain of events, and must make the difficult decisions presented to you at the hands of zealous foes.
In this time of crisis, what is true and false may be difficult to determine ...
Black Chicken Studios is an independent developer of video games, including Academagia: The Making of Mages, and 1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum. They specialize in deep, immersive, and unique simulation role-playing video games. With their next-generation proprietary adventure engine, Black Chicken Studios has secured a license to the Ars Magica RPG for development as a PC video game.
Atlas Games is the world-renowned publisher of award-winning cards games, board games, and RPGs, including Ars Magica, Once Upon a Time, Lunch Money, and Gloom. Its president, John Nephew, has been involved with Ars Magica publishing since 1989, and has supported its development through all five editions.
We at Black Chicken Studios have loved Ars Magica since it was first published, but creating a PC version of the core ruleset would normally be beyond the means of an indie … never mind the difficulty in attracting the attention of AAA developers even to a game as unique, historically grounded, and magically flexible this one.
Crowdfunding allows us to bring the project directly to the people who understand it, who want to play it, and who are willing to help create it. There is no more respectful way to create a game than with the aid of its fans.
So, to bring to life Harold, Harald, and William; to bring to life the thanes, the vikings, and the knights of old; the bishops, the merchants, and the villeins; the Tytalus, the Tremere and, yes, even the Diedne, we turn to you!
Risks and challenges
Making a game as rich and complex as the Years of Conquest certainly presents a challenge. Fortunately for us, Ars Magica strongly lends itself already to turn-based play: the Covenant, Research and Long-Term Events all have systematic approaches, with years of well-defined systems.
Integrating the role-playing game’s core rules will be important, and we are working closely with David Chart, the line editor, to make sure that is successful. Additionally, we’ll be working with established Ars Magica authors so that, as much as possible, the game itself can be considered canon.
The impact of the Magic System, which is so wonderfully flexible in combat and out of combat, we have already solved in our newest development engine. This engine allows the Player to use Spells on virtually any screen, impacting the context of what’s going on at that moment--this even allows for the use of Spontaneous Magic!
Finally, there are the Characters and Stories: with a cast of hundreds, each of which progresses from youth, maturity, old age and to death, the challenge will be making all of them appear in the Stories logically, taking into account the Player’s actions on the living and the dead. On the one hand, this is a deep, complex set of writing. On the other hand...we live and breathe this kind of thing: it is, after all, a designer’s dream.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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