Edit: I was reading Ars Magica 3rd edition last night at two in the morning. Sometime around three, I decided to blog some initial reactions, but I did not post them... so here you go.
Not playing, but reading the book. Here are some thoughts...
-The fact that WotC published this is causing me levels of cognitive dissonance that might actually result in permanent brain damage.
-In this book, one can see precursors to many Vampire: the Masquerade mechanics and concepts. (Though I think VtM was out by the time Ars hit the 3rd edition.) Many of the terms also show up in Mage: the Ascension. The book offers a little oWoD "prehistory," if you will.
-Perhaps it is because it is 2 AM, but I am finding Ars Magica to be quite dense and I am having difficulty making it stay in my brain.
-Simple roll vs. Stress roll seems to be a particularly tortured game mechanic.
-Damn, that cover is bad ass.
-Published by WotC.... yet questions and orders can be addressed to White Wolf, per the back cover....
-Back inside cover says this is the third and last edition. (Ars Magica 5th is sitting on the shelves at my LGS.) I guess it's kind of like how Changeling: the Dreaming was supposed to be the last Storyteller game... and then came Hunter, and Mummy, and Demon...
-Any game with a mechanic called Decrepitude Points is okay in my book.
-Advanced Character creation strikes me as the way to go.... the basic system isn't so much creation as it is "here's a ready made character...feel free to dinker around with it."
I'm not sure if my appetite for story-based games is big enough for something like this anymore. At the same time, this is a heavily story-based game (so it seems) without all the Joy Division and excerpts from Black Elk Speaks that would become trade dress of ReinDOTHagen and his crew. This seems like something that I want to give a shot.
I recall one of my old gaming acquaintances saying that if you took the combat system from The Riddle of Steel and found a way to hook it up to the magic system from this game, you would have the Rolls-Royce of fantasy role-playing games. This is not something I ever intend to do, it's just food for thought. (Besides, most of you in this corner of the internet already award the Rolls-Royce title to B/X or whatever your pet edition is. Ha!)