Ars Magica (abbreviated ArM or AM) is a fantasy roleplaying game that was originally developed by Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein•Hagen. Ars Magica was the first game developed and published by Lion Rampant, the company that would eventually become White Wolf Publishing; in fact, Ars was the reason Lion Rampant was formed.
Players take on the role of magi — members of one of the Houses of Hermes — and their Custos, travelling throughout Mythic Europe in 1197 (in the first two editions of the game) or 1220 (beginning with the third edition of the game).
The game introduced a revolutionary magic system. Unlike previous roleplaying systems, magic was not simply a list of spells. It was a fluid, dynamic system that allowed players to come up with their own effects and implement them.
Much of the World of Darkness owes its existence to Ars Magica. House Tremere was the first such connection, reappearing in the World of Darkness as the vampiric Tremere clan in Vampire: The Masquerade. The Order of Hermes itself was an integral part of Mage: The Ascension, and Mage's flexible magic system owed much to Ars Magica.
In the early years of the World of Darkness, the history of Ars Magica was treated as broadly canonical for the World of Darkness; for example, the timeline of the Order of Hermes in the original Order of Hermes Tradition Book was largely derived from the timeline of Mythic Europe presented in The Order of Hermes sourcebook for Ars Magica. Later products for both game lines broke this connection as the history of the World of Darkness began intersecting with and contradicting the timeframe and setting of Ars Magica, and as Ars Magica published future-facing books like Mistridge that contradicted the established World of Darkness fates of the characters and covenants of Mythic Europe. Nevertheless, the setting and character of Ars Magica continued to inform the history of the World of Darkness; for example, Vampire: The Dark Ages took place in 1197 — the same year as the default setting for the first two editions of Ars Magica.
Two years after the World of Darkness was released, White Wolf stopped producing Ars Magica, selling the game's license to Wizards of the Coast, where a number of former Ars Magica developers and editors (including ArM co-creator Jonathan Tweet) were at the time employed. Wizards of the Coast only published three books for the third edition of the game, and while they developed the fourth edition of the game, they never released it, as they had since abandoned roleplaying games in favor of collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering. The license to Ars Magica was subsequently transferred to Atlas Games, who finalized and published the fourth edition and who continue to publish new Ars Magica books to this day.
- This wiki only covers Ars Magica up until the final product published by White Wolf, and thus tends to assume that, unless otherwise indicated, Ars Magica events occur in the history of the World of Darkness, rather than in a separate timeline. The 4th and 5th editions of the game, published after the game was sold by White Wolf, have entirely distanced themselves from the World of Darkness.