So this happened last week: Atlas Games finally made a PDF of the much loved Revised/Second Edition of Ars Magica available for sale at Warehouse 23 (cost $15). Apparently a much loved copy of the physical rulebook was destroyed to make the scan: you can find some handwritten house-rules in the margins of pp. 40-41. There's also a small scanning artifact at the bottom of p. 35 (some text is distorted), but overall it's a perfectly usable scan. Would I love to get a POD version of this book? Yes, I would.
Why am I excited by this release? Because Ars Magica was my first introduction to serious campaign play. Back in 1994, my friend Mike Simpson launched the Deadfire Saga, the story of a bunch of misfit magi in a post-Order fourteenth century who come across anachronistic firearms. Hijinks ensued. We used the Third Edition version of the rules, the one from White Wolf that everyone likes to decry because of the True Reason mechanic (something that takes all of five seconds to excise, easily allowing folks to void any connection to the World of Darkness).
We were always hearing grumbling grognards complain about the liberties Third Edition took with the Revised Edition, lovingly referred to on the Berkeley Ars Magica mailing list as the OTE (or One True Edition). So I had long wanted to see just what the fuss was.
When I finally got a used copy of the rulebook, what I discovered was not the Holy Grail of Artes Magicae, but a perfectly wonderful version of the game that sat right in the sweet spot of mechanics and whimsy. The Fourth and Fifth Editions of Ars Magica are perfectly fine, but simulation of medieval reality to the point of generating mechanics for textual commentaries versus lab notes versus summae versus tractatus is not my thing. In Revised Edition, none of that has happened yet, and now Atlas has made sure that I can get an inexpensive copy of the Revised rules.
Maybe I'll run Revised Edition. At the very least I need to take the character creation rules for a test-drive here ...