Secretum secretorum - De Mirabilibus Mundi - Paradigm
Background for Ars Magica sagas

Darrel Moring on Paradigm

I would like to offer the following for consideration. I attempted to be fair and unbiased and so should say that while I was a history/religion major I tend to create sagas that lean towards the mythic and do not mind historical events being altered. It might also be suitable for someone Like Berenger or Jeremiah Genest to look over my Merriam-Webster definition of the Kuhnian usage of paradigm for suitability. I attempted to find an accurate and succinct definition - rather than say, my ramblings - but accuracy tends to decline the shorter the definition.

Heaven forbid this start a new paradigm war.

Darrell P. (for Paradigm) Moring



What is a paradigm?

There are two concepts of paradigm which are applied by readers to Ars Magica's usage of the term. The first is a socio-philosophical usage derived from the writings of the Twentieth-Century Science Historian Thomas Samuel Kuhn. The Kuhn derived definition essentially states that a paradigm is "a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated." (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition). However, the designers of Ars Magica appear to be using "paradigm" in its nonacademic usage as "an example that serves as a pattern or model." (The American Heritage Dictionary Third Edition).

Why is paradigm important to Ars Magica?

A concept central to the design of Ars Magica is that it uses the actual history of Medieval Europe in conjunction with the beliefs of its inhabitants as the paradigms from which to design the game world. Thus in an Ars Magica saga, the actual history of Medieval Europe would define the landscape but upon this the legends, folklore, beliefs and myths of medieval man would actually exist. It is this dichotomy created by attempting to fuse historical fact with Medieval belief which causes tremendous variation in one saga from another.

Will Mythic Europe develop into the modern world?

This is a saga dependent question. The troupes that say "yes" tend towards the creation of a more historically accurate saga with subtle fantasy elements that could be neither proved nor disproved from a historical perspective - the existence of magic or magical creatures. This type of troupe usually will not allow gross modifications of important historical events in order to preserve the purity of the historical record. The more mythically minded troupes say "no" and will often design sagas where the Sun circles the Earth, the Americas do not exist or some other blatant violation of physics or gross geography. These troupes usually do not care if history continues as it did in our past or not as they have no specific future to preserve. Of course there are hundreds of variations between strictly historical and heavily mythic sagas and sometimes the troupes will surprise you by going against type. In essence there really is no correct answer though it is often interesting to discover how mythic or historical another's saga is.

Secretum secretorum index - De Mirabilibus Mundi index

Atlas Games - publishers of Ars Magica          Redcap - Ars Magica portal

Last modified: Sun Dec 27, 1998 / Jeremiah Genest