So, the Atlas "Future of Ars Magica" panel has come and gone. I'd like to discuss what we as a community have learned, and where we go from here.
- There was no tentpole announcement from the panel.
- There is no current, public plan regarding Sixth Edition, and the discussion might well continue until another panel at GenCon next year.
- Ars Magica does not make sufficient money that it is a going commercial concern: it is subsidized by Atlas's other lines.
- The model of splatbooks no longer works, and will be replaced by standalone works.
- Some standalone works will be in print, many will not.
- Kickstarters will be more common.
- The standalone works are not necessarily in a shared world. Some are in Mythic Europe, others clearly will not be. They will similarly not necessarily link to each other.
- Atlas is grappling with online support, following some success with Feng Shui 2, but have little experience or aptitude in this at the moment.
- Atlas wants to know what we'd like, either for a Sixth or for supplements. Mail Cam.
Now, in a sweeping example of confirmation bias, I'd like once again to suggest that of we are going to write a standalone primer set of rules, we need to strip everything out of it and simplify it incredibly. It's not clear to me if the standalone story packs are meant to be used in conjunction with the 5th edition book. I suspect not. So, they will either need to have a rules chapter glued on the back, have a free or close-to-free rules supplement on the web, or use the grey matter of an experienced player as a reference.
When I say "everything" I really mean everything. If you are going to have a ruleset that lets me work in 1220, in the court of Queen Elizabeth, in the Roman Empire, in the Merovingian courts, in Aztec South America and in the modern day, then a lot of the stuff which is specifically about 1220 needs to be peeled out so it can be added back in as an option if desired. Houses go. The specific Attributes go. The specific Abilities go. The specific Virtues go. Latin from the Art names goes. The weapon table goes. Books as the specific method of gaining experience go. I think we really need to boil the ruleset down to a purely mechanical document, so that if you are writing a book set in Jacobean England, you put a different layer over the top than if you are writing a 1920s Urban Noir.
Note: I'm not talking about whatever Sixth will be. I'm talking about whatever goes into the back of the Ars Magica equivalent of "Masks of Nyarlathotep".
We also need to do community better. I'm not sure how, really, but we need to create new points for people to enter the community, connect, create, collaborate and store their material. I'm a Librivoxer: as a group we have created just shy of 10 000 audiobooks. I'm going to work through the LV explanation of why it works the way it works to see if I can find anything to explain how to make this community better without having an Atlas community manager pushing it (because LV is all-volunteer). I hope people will come up with suggestions as to why we have such a fragmented, non-evangelical community now and what we can do about it.