On 2009-04-27, Vincent wrote:
Perry: Good question. Very good question!
For my particular group, we wanted and used the conceptual constraints and spurs, not the mechanical ones. Like, my main character was a young mage of House Verditius, raised by a "kept" enchanter at Durenmar, Domus Magnus of House Bonisagus, who used to blow off his studies to brawl with the covenant guard in the yard. At the end of character creation, THAT's what I knew about him that had any value. To my group, each of those points of fact - his youth, his house, his former master's status, his former home, his relationship with the grogs - was rich with implication.
The game's mechanical benchmarks, like what level spells have to be in order to do certain things, those did more harm to us than good. I think if we'd simply written off Ars Magica's magic rules, letting ourselves develop a more intuitive approach, the game would have had better magic in it than it did. In play, a character's casting a spell would highlight the tension for us between how we were playing and what the book said, which was more trouble than it was worth, so mostly our characters cast spells only when it wouldn't really matter.
So, yes, Ars Magica's structure let us play that game, but its game-world structure, not its mechanical structure.
Now I need to make clear: it was a fun and long-lived game, but it absolutely was not a success of game design. Don't aspire to design a game where its players ignore its rules (or feel free, you don't answer to me, I'm just saying). This wasn't successful Ars Magica play, and I don't admire Ars Magica's rules for it.