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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.

Hedge Magic

Supplement for Ars Magica

Atlas Games

80 pgs

[sterling]10.99 (might want to check this)

This is the first full-blown supplement released by Atlas Games, and it's not half bad. Although a new Tribunal sourcebook might have been more useful, this treatment of non-Hermetic wizards in Mythic Europe is pretty good.

The standard magi of the Ars Magica game are members of the Order of Hermes, but there are other, less formal, magical traditions in Mythic Europe. Hedge magic takes a look at four such traditions: Natural Magicians, Cunning-Folk, Spirit-Masters and Ascetics. These are, respectively: alchemists and scholars, folk/village magicians, summoners of magical beings, and visionary puritans who seek spiritual perfection.

Hedge Magic starts with the various views of the Order of Hermes as regards Hedge Wizards, then moves onto a story of four Hedge Wizards and their connection to the real-life figure of Michael Scot. (Michael Scot was a Scottish-born scholar who became Frederick II's Court Wizard and penned the Liver Introductorius, a book on magic and necromancy). Then come the rules for making up and playing Hedge Wizards, and the final section details "Virtuous" stones, beasts and plants (perfect examples of their type, having magical powers) as well as a brief section of Spirits.

The four types of Hedge Wizard presented vary in quality. The Cunning-Folk and Natural Magicians nicely cover the local village witches and alchemical scholars that players may well come into contact with in Mythic Europe. The Spirit-Masters are something of an unnecessary inclusion as they have been extensively covered in the Shamans supplement, although I disliked both sets of rules, and have ended up using a hybrid of the two. The Ascetics are very interesting, with their ability to transcend the limits of nature via spiritual purification and physical penitence, and they sort of fit into the background. Of these, the rules for Cunning-Folk are the most detailed, with the Natural Magicians really just using variants of the rules for standard wizards, the rules for Spirit-Masters and Ascetics are rather skimpy for my liking.

This is all nicely presented, with good artwork and a similar clarity of style as the 4th ed. rulebook. Whether this will actually be of any use to the referee depends entirely upon their treatment of Hedge Magic within their campaign. If the referee is happy to let players play Hedge Wizards, then this supplement provides a lot of useful information. If the referee is thinking of buying this supplement mainly for the creation of NPCs, I would suggest they read it first - they may find that it doesn't quite justify its cover price. This said, the section of beings of Virtue is excellent and adds colour to any background. The section on Michael Scot and the four Hedge Wizards is rather disposable, particularly as it has Scot making a deal with a demon - I had hoped that the Ars Magica obsession with demons had departed along with White Wolf.

Overall: A good first supplement, perhaps not the most obvious choice, but definitely well-produced and certainly of interest to most referees.

Review by Simon English

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