Ars Magica Books by David Chart

I originally, back in the late 1980s, got into Ars Magica because the magic system was, and is, absolutely fantastic. If you want to play a classic scholarly wizard, I don't think there's a better game system out there. As the game is set in medieval Europe, I wanted to study a bit of medieval history to fill it out, and I discovered that the medieval period was really interesting. As a result, I ended up running a reading group on Medieval Philosophy at the University of Cambridge for over five years. The game is now in its Fifth Edition, and since I largely wrote the latest edition, I can't say a lot more in praise of it without sounding rather arrogant.

Ars Magica Fifth Edition

Atlas Games, 2004. ISBN 1-589780-70-1

Origins Award Winner
Enny Award Gold Winner Best Rules
Enny Award Silver Winner Best Production Values
Enny Award Nominee Best Game

Ars Magica Fifth Edition is, obviously, a revision of Ars Magica Fourth Edition (on which I did a lot of work; see below), which in turn was a revision of First through Third Editions (on which I did no work at all). That's why Amazon thinks it was written by Jonathan Tweet; he was one of the original authors, and since I wanted to keep most of his concepts, he, and Mark Rein-Hagen, are still credited as authors.

Nevertheless, almost all the words in the new edition are by me; this was a very thorough revision.

The whole revision process took about two years, and the book went through something like five drafts, each of which was read and playtested by dozens of people. And some problems still made it through to the final, published, version. On the whole, however, I'm very pleased with the results.

Revising a popular game is, in some ways, harder than writing a game from scratch, because you are not free to do whatever you want. You have to retain the things that the game's fans like about it, while fixing the problems and making the new edition new enough so that they will want to buy it again. At the same time, you do not want to appeal purely to the established fans; you want to draw new players in. That's one of the reasons that so much playtesting was necessary. I had to make changes, and then show them to a group of fans to see whether they were too much or not enough. The final round involved showing the manuscript to people who hadn't played the game before, to make sure that they could understand it. That was helpful; they noticed that the new edition completely failed to define a central concept. All the established players knew what it was, and thus hadn't noticed that the draft didn't actually tell you.

In the end, the revision was very well received. It was nominated for several major industry awards, and won two of them. What's more, almost all the fans seem to have moved to the new edition, obviously with some house rules or bits retained from earlier editions, but the general consensus seems to be that the new edition is the best edition of the game yet.

That's as good a reception as I could have hoped for.

Ars Magica Fifth Edition won the Origins Award for Best RPG of 2004.

In the Ennies Awards of 2005, Ars Magica was nominated for Best Game, won Silver for Best Production Values, and won Gold for Best Rules.

Heirs to Merlin: The Stonehenge Tribunal

Atlas Games, 1999. ISBN 1-887801-79-0

This was my first full book. It is the source book for England and Wales, and contains no game statistics at all. Instead, I focused on ways to bring medieval history into a game, without turning it into a history lesson. I think that a large part of the fun of historical roleplaying, as opposed to pure fantasy roleplaying, is the feeling that you are actually taking part in history. On the other hand, the game should not feel like a history lecture, occasionally punctuated by a (roleplayed) fight. Thus, I concentrated on providing historical information in a form that could easily be incorporated into a game.

I still think that this is basically the way to go, and it is the approach taken in current Ars Magica books as well. If historical information can be made the basis of a player character, or central to a story, then you get the historical feel without sacrificing the fun. Getting people to be extremely careful about not mentioning anachronistic things tends to muffle the spontaneity.

However, there are some things I would do differently now. For a start, I would include game statistics, particularly things relating to character creation. More fundamentally, I don't think there was enough medieval myth in the book; the balance was too far over to the historical side. You could use it as a sourcebook for an entirely non-magical medieval England game, and feel you had got your money's worth. While that's not entirely a bad thing, a book for Ars Magica should be a bit more mythic.

The Black Monks of Glastonbury

Atlas Games, 2003. ISBN 1-58978-035-3

ENny Award Nominated

Black Monks is an adventure setting. It describes Glastonbury Abbey, in the west of England, with lots of mythic Ars Magica detail. The adventure premise is that most of the monks of the Abbey have become devil worshippers; as the Abbey itself still contains one of the holiest places in England, the player characters should try to save it, rather than destroy it. Indeed, since Glastonbury was one of the most important Abbeys in England, in Ars Magica the player characters would get in a lot of trouble if they tried to destroy the place.

Part of the reasoning behind this book was that it's a setting in which the classic "devil worshippers in hooded black robes" make perfect historical sense. Benedictine monks wore hooded black robes, and would continue to do so if they became secret devil worshippers. I also think this book strikes a much better balance between history and myth than Heirs to Merlin did.

Researching this book was fun; I actually went to Glastonbury, with one of my friends, to walk around the Abbey ruins, climb Glastonbury Tor, and take reference photographs for the artists. One of the downsides of living in Japan is that it will be rather difficult to do that for any future books on medieval Europe. I'll just have to start writing about historical Japan.

This book is a dual-system supplement, for both Ars Magica and d20.

The Black Monks of Glastonbury was nominated for an ENny Award for for Best Non-d20 Adventure in 2004.

The Fallen Fane

Atlas Games, 2004. ISBN 1-58978-064-7

This is a live-action Ars Magica scenario, written to be played by a couple of dozen people in an afternoon at a game convention. For a few years, at the end of the twentieth century, I was writing about one of those per year. Fallen Fane was the last one I did, and after I'd run it twice, a couple of my friends also ran it.

Around that time, Atlas were looking for a completed manuscript that they could have ready to publish if there were hold-ups in the publishing schedule for Ars Magica. I think they'd just had a delay, and wanted to avoid having another one. I showed them the draft, they took it and paid me for it, and then production went fairly smoothly for a while; and when it did go wrong, they didn't have a chance to publish it.

As a result, the draft was still sitting around when I became Line Editor, and we finally used it just before Fifth Edition came out, about five years after I wrote it. As it contains no rules, that was actually a very good time to put it out. It does currently hold the record for 'longest delay between payment and publication', however.


These are books that contain some material by me, but which are not solely, or even primarily, by me.

Ars Magica Fourth Edition

Atlas Games, 1996. ISBN 1-887801-55-3 (softcover), 1-887801-56-1 (hardcover).

I contributed quite a lot to the fourth edition rule book, and it is very useful in understanding the other Ars Magica books listed here.

Parma Fabula

Atlas Games, 1997. ISBN 1-887801-57-X

The Ars Magica Storyguide's Screen also includes a booklet containing a complete Hermetic library and a number of enchanted devices. I contributed quite a few of the devices, and I designed the library.

A Medieval Tapestry

Atlas Games, 1997. ISBN 1-887801-60-X

This book is a collection of NPCs for Ars Magica, and I wrote several of them.

The Wizard's Grimoire: Revised Edition

Atlas Games, 1998. ISBN 1-887801-68-5

A book of rules expansions for Ars Magica. John Kasab was the main author, but I contributed quite a lot, and have co-author credit. This was the first book published with my name on the cover.

Living Lore

Atlas Games, 2004. ISBN 1-58978-048-5

A collection of genuine medieval legends, adapted for use with Ars Magica. As Line Editor, I conceived, managed, and edited this project, but the only text actually by me is the introduction, which is very short indeed.


Atlas Games, 2006. ISBN 1-58978-083-3

Much like Living Lore, I was responsible for this whole project, but I actually wrote a single vis source, when I realised we were one short quite late in the process.