A model for the design of supplements and magazine articles

I'm a player who prefers:

  • Adrenaline
  • Intellect
  • Emotion
  • Landscape
  • None of the above, because this framework is not a good one

0 voters

In my real life as a librarian, I was off doing reader advisory training today and struck and interesting idea when dealing with appeal factors. Appeal factors are the things which make a book appeal to readers, and I thought "This new model of appeal factors works so much better for Ars than the older models of genre and pacing". I'm just throwing in this poll to see if I'm right.

The theory is that books have four appeal factors, and that genres are just methods of offering this appeal. The appeal factors are:

  • Adrenaline: this is appealing because it is a thriller, actiony thing that immerses you in physical action and violence.
  • Intellect: this is appealing because it challenges you on a contive level, as you puzzle it out.
  • Emotional: this is appealing because it touches your heartstrings, and makes you feel happy or sad or angry or what have you.
  • Landscape: this is appealing because the setting appeals to you.

I was thingking about City and Guild and how some people like it, and many don't. Is it because it is Landscape based, rather than Adrenaline? Is this a useless model? Is it something worth thinking about in terms of line balance?

Hmm, I mostly read books on a landscape basis though I'm not immune to the others.

As for City and Guild, I think its just sufficiently divorced from normal play that its hard for many folks to find much use for it. In a way, its the 5e version of Ordo Nobilis which got a lot of criticism as being almost an entire subgame.

I think City and Guild further suffers because it does not deliver what many folks hoped for in the book, which is a lot of cool detail on city life and how to run adventures there. The first section of the book touches on that stuff, but in a rather academic way that not everyone easily converts to the tabletop.

I don't hate the book by any means. It has useful information in it. But it is far and away the least utilized book I have for ArM5.

I think the model fits RPG stories very well and that a SG should consider all four aspects when designing adventures, but I don't really see how one would apply it directly to Ars Magica products with the possible exception of the Tribunal books.

Perhaps you could explain in more detail?

I voted for Intellect, but Landscape is an easy second ahead of everything else being quite distant in the race.

Voted for intellect but landscape is also to me a easy second. I like the rules and the setting as it gives you something to think about. There is lot of rules tinkering if you wish and the background of Mythic Europe is fantastic. Ars Magica is the only RPG I play these days though I enjoy games that revolve around little plastic miniatures. The rest of the categories are somewhat more distant though I can see the fun in a few adrenaline moments. See the Ad Fons campaign for my kind of game. :smiley:

I don't think this is a good model. Genre is important. There are all kinds of ways of appealing for the intellect, for example - ArM appeals to those that are interested in myth, history, theology, ancient philosophy, and so on. I like all of that (with the possible exception of too much history at times), which is defnitely part of why I like ArM - but I don't like plenty of other games and books that appeal to the intellect. I don't like detective stories, or puzzles, or free-form games focusing on conveying ideas, or social analogies in games, or so on. And as much as I like science and science-fiction, I'd be appalled at an ArM book that introduces it (e.g. the Realm of Reason), because it's out of genre. Genre matters.

I also like mythic adventures, legends, fantasy. Yet not many, many other types of action. I very much like the ArM setting, but I don't like setting in general - I like the ArM setting because it apeals to the other parts I like in ArM, not for love of setting itself.

I think the conventional wisdom is correct. ArM is directed at an audience that likes fantasy and likes learning about history, real myths and legends, and so on. Along the way it appeals to those liking complex political games, highly sophisticated magic system, and so on. It does not just appeal to gamers seeking action, or intellectual stimulation of some kind, or a detailed description of setting of some kind. These are too broad storkes, people like particular kinds of action, intellectual stimulation, settings, are moved by certain things, and so on.

For me C&G didn't work simply because it covers matters that have very little impact upon my sagas -- large-scale economics. Some of the small-scale stuff worked pretty well, although the Innovations would have a problem in my games that continue over generations, but the large-scale, long-term investments just left me and my players cold.

We game because we love our magi and our studying, not interest rates and trade routes; that could be good, too, but for a different base game, perhaps as a supplement to something like HarnMaster.

I picked Adrenaline. I mean, after all, I am known as that Flambeau guy :laughing:. But I do also appreciate setting, I like good intellectual concepts in a story, and it is always all about emotion and drama. I actually think that all four of these elements, in proper balance and harmony, are important. I picked Adrenaline mainly because this is the method I usually use to tap into these other elements. Why are we fighting? What are we fighting for? How does the landscape affect the tactical situation (both in a real-physical sense and in the philosophic/political sense)? And finally, what emotions can be drawn from the conflict or struggle?

I went for "Adrenaline". But not for the obvious "balls to the wall" rush of non-stop action.

As far as intellect, emotion, and landscape goes, so long as an Ars book has a healthy dose of those I can build on that through a bit of research. What I want is a bunch of cool stuff and I want to be enthused about using it. I want to read something in a book and think, "Hey! I want to do THAT!"

Take City & Guild. I'm a closet fan of some of the stuff in that book. But like I was saying to Matt Ryan at last year's Grand Tribunal, I love the craft mechanics, but I'm not rushing out to use them. Okay, if we have a grog we like and he's a baker we now know how to manage his bread baking and even grow his brioche empire. But what's missing is any suggestion as to why I'd want to get involved with his croquembouche in the the first place. What is it about the life and adventures of a pâtissier that I just have to play.

Now, not all the content can spark and dance in the imagination. Sometimes you just need the bare nuts and bolts (or bagels and baguettes... okay, I'll stop now).

The Ars books do have a great tradition of adding a bunch of story seeds, which actually kind of does a lot of what I'd be looking for. But the bottom line is that I want to be excited by what I'm reading. I want to be sucked in by the ideas and try them out. I don't want to spend time book-keeping when the benefits might be low. I don't want to spend months of real-life time trying to achieve something in-game and then for it to be priced outside of its utility (Verditius Automata, I'm looking at you boy).

But it must still be done with heart. It must still be done with conviction. Characters must have motivation and, ultimate goods and evils aside, must be understandable in those motives.

So I guess rather than picking just one, I'd look at is as a set of ingredients. Four parts Adrenaline, three parts emotion, two parts landscape, and one part intellect. Mix well and then knead on a cold... Oh sorry, no more bakery.

For me, I think that the "appeal" factors for Ars Supplements are:

Does this provide some interesting historic facts (whether this is "true" history about medieval Guilds, or "Order" history about Houses, or whatever)?
Does this provide a believable explanation of how the Order of Hermes behaves?
Does this provide me with interesting mechanics that can be used by player or non-player characters in the saga, without disrupting the saga by being too powerful or too different?

To be good a supplement needs to provide for all of these factors. Although maybe some supplements concentrate more on one or the other.

And there is an interaction between these factors too. An interesting historic fact also needs to led to interesting, believable behaviour within the Order of Hermes. Otherwise it's not "interesting".

If anything the last (mechanics) is the least important. I'd rather a supplement had no new mechanics in it --- and just showed us how to apply existing mechanics to some particular situation --- than invented disruptive new mechanics.

To look at City and Guild in particular. It seems to provide some interesting facts (and some necessary but boring ones), but there is little interaction between the facts and the Order of Hermes. The other problem is that a lot of the mechanics cannot be used without disrupting the saga. Not because they are particularly overpowered or anything, but because they change your saga into something about craftsmen and merchants rather than magi...which could certainly be a fun game, but its not Ars Magica.

In some ways, City and Guild is a victim of being too complete. It provides so much detail about craftsmen and merchants that it creates an impression of being totally irrelevant to a normal saga. It would have been easier, I think, for troupes to use City and Guild if it was clearer about how towns, craftsmen, and merchants can be involved in a saga, without getting caught up in the detail.

All that most sagas really need to know is:

where are towns and how big are they,
what is in a town (of which the important questions are what can I buy, where can I buy it, who do I buy it from, how much does it cost),
what are the supernatural features of a town,
who runs towns,
how does the Order of Hermes interact with towns, and
what happens when the covenant messes with any of the above (via magic or other means).

Now City and Guild does actually provide a lot of this to varying degrees. But it just somehow seems lost when you read it.

I get much different value out of playing than I do for reading but I use my ars books for both.

For reading, I fall into that landscape category but not just the presented setting but the presented rules as setting. I like the idea that these rules represent a sort of intermittently applicable laws of physics for the setting. The rules are the most important part of the presented setting because they not as easy to fudge as the rest.

But when I sit down at the table to play I deal with puzzles and action because I find that keeping players wrapped up in setting and emotion is beyond my meager abilities as a storyguide. At best I can present an awesome spectacle but typically if I have a interesting setting there better be a clue to the plot or a boulder throwing giant or my players will start playing jenga with the dice in boredom.

I see that: more "Pushing Daisies", eh?

Aha! That's it! Sold to the man in the tall white hat.