Supplement for Ars Magica
[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
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