Forum etiquette

Hi all,
is there a list of rules etiquette for the forum? In this realm of online discussions I find myself in need of a decent tractatus on the subject.

I just wondered because I don't normally reply to a thread unless I'm adding something to the discussion - but it can lead people to thinking that I have abandoned a thread I started.

Should I start doing "Thank you" posts, or do they just distract from the topic at hand?

Many thanks.

I think bats fall under the bird as far as.... oh wait wrong thread.


I have no idea if there is a etiquette system in place, but I would like to believe it wouldn't matter. I figure if you want to post on something, feel free to have at it.

On the topic of saying thanks, I supposed I am not a veteran of many forums, Ars being the only one I really check daily, but I typically say thankyou. At the very least I reply and say thanks to those who really put in a effort.

I admit this reply wasn't very helpful, but then again I shoot low.

I think the only generally accepted rule is not to post to a thread that has been inactive for a long time. Start a new thread instead. How long is a "long time" is a matter of varying opinion, but I would say 3 months as a rule of thumb.

As to saying "thanks," politeness never hurts. It's useful to wait till the discussion has quieted down, then post a thank-you to everyone who participated. That kind of reminds people that the thread exists, and gives them a chance to chime in before it goes to sleep.

I'd add:

  • Be nice to newbies. This forum was kind of set up when the new edition came out so that the sort of newbie roasting that happened on the Berklist didn't scare away new people.
  • Be aware that the authors are, in many cases, active participants on the board. Many people find the accessibility of the authors to be valuable. Some of the authors have previously left other forums because they have faced the usual slagging off that seems to happen a lot in roleplaying forums, and decided its not worth their recreational time. This means, to take a personal example, that you shouldn't call me a Nazi sympathiser.
  • Do not sort out your troupe's problems here. If a question you are going to ask about behaviour or play in your troupe could be answered by "Have an adult conversation and come to a compromise." please don't try to use the group as a bludgeon in your home game.

What Timothy said. Oh! And please check the FAQ before asking a question. Newbies who ask something already on the FAQ can expect to be politely pointed to the answer there.

This forum seems much more open to thread-necromancy than most other fora I've used on the net though.
Perhaps because necromancy is not inherently abominable to 13th century wizards?

Excellent advice. Always.
Thank you for mentioning it :slight_smile:

OK. Thanks everyone.

I will try and remember to say thanks when I have started a thread, but my mind often wanders :blush:

I can highly recommend it (even if I all too often forget myself).
It's a way of posting in a thread, showing interest, even when you have nothing to add :slight_smile:

I would add to this: please don't demand that authors answer your questions or need to justify the work they have written. I'm not going to enter debates about the hows and the whys of what I've written, and I don't expect other authors will either. Sometimes we cannot comment anyway (the NDA I believe prevents us from talking about aspects of the design process even after a book is published); but even aside from that issue, it is rude to demand an answer purely because you have access to the author through this forum.

I don't want to sound like a surly curmudgeon, I'm really not! Usually I am happy to contribute to a thread on something I've written. Just don't assume that I have some obligation to contribute, and certainly don't demand that I answer you.


Yes, I learned the hard way not to get involved in that kind of discussion. There is no way the author can come out looking or feeling good, and it's not fun.

I demand to know how you got good enough at writing to write for Ars Magica, period :wink: (kidding. But it would be nice to know, honestly, how your career, and the other writer's careers writing started off :slight_smile: )

Several ways I know about:

  1. You had already authored for a previous edition
  2. You write for Sub Rosa and your work is considered good enough for Atlas to invite you to provide content for a book
  3. Enter a roll call.
  4. Submit work directly to Atlas/David Chart for their consideration. I am unsure about this last one (might be better doing so to Sub Rosa instead) but it might be an option. however, their line of work is decided years in advance, so random stuff might not be welcome. I would go for one of the 3 above.

To the best of my knowledge, the above is not a valid approach. Atlas does not accept proposals from anyone off the street; you have to have done some work for the line.

Playtesting can count as "working for the line." If you write good playtest feedback, that is a strong indicator you have the insight and knowledge to be a productive Ars Magica author.

My path was that I started writing for the fanzine Mythic Perspectives. I also took over Project: Redcap when David had to step down. I got invited to playtest ArM5. I was maintaining the FAQ when Atlas got a lot of negative feedback over the lack of animals' statistics in the core book, and I offered to help offset that by writing the Book of Mundane Beasts. David Chart accepted my offer to help out, and after that I was in the regular author pool.

Early in the 5th edition, David contacted me about going in the author pool because I'd already done "Sanctuary of Ice". Before that I tried to write a bestiary, but it wasn't good enough to make print and so I did a bit of fanzine stuff for Mythic Perspectives and Hermes Portal.

Writing fanzine stuff is easier these days, with Google to help you. I'd strongly advocate it for people wanting to get their skills together. Writing fanzine stuff will get you ready for Open Calls, too. I think I pick up a bit of open call work just because there are not enough new faces to get the book up to commercial mass, and so when I say "Hey, can I do X?" it gets up because books need to get to a certain size. The Open Call books really are for trying out new talent, and the initial pitch for them isn't a heap of work, so there would be no hard feelings from any of us if David said "You know, we have a dozen keen rookies doing great stuff, so we'd like to give them their shot." or "You know, we have a dozen rookies and they need some help. Would you like to help X get her stuff up to standard?". It would be cool for an open call book to be all rookies: the authors would get a heap of new people to do new and cool things with.

Seriously - if you want into the pool, pitch for the open calls. To pitch well, write a lot of Ars stuff. If you are writing a lot of Ars stuff, put it on your blog ( hands them out for free and I help people set them up in my day job) or here, or Project Redcap, or Sub Rosa, or Arcane Connection (if they accept scripts?) or whatever. Thinking about Ars stuff also lets you grab chances that come up (like, say you pitch for a book with four houses in it, and no-one has pitched for one house? It helps to have thought about what you'd do with that House.)

It helps to play a variety of characters. A lot of people when they are writing about a certain subject think of variations, but always think of the same variations. You need to burn through those to get to novel stuff. In the Amber Diceless RPG it took a year for the second supplement to come out and its suggested plot was "The bad guy from the books comes back!", which was boring because we'd all already played it, and the corollary (...and he was right!'). You need to work through the basic tropes in your mind so that your original idea isn't the same as other people's.

Do other interesting stuff in your life: part of the author's job is to find interesting material elsewhere and bring it back to our community. Go forage in the information jungle.

There's a sort of informal community of helpers in the author pool. I know some of the others do writer coaching stuff for each other. I've done a bit of librarianing for some of the others.

Not a lot different from Andrew's and Timothy's response, for me. I was on the Berkeley List writing about Norse magical practice and someone suggested I should pitch it to Atlas -- this was in the days that they were taking submissions like this. As it happens, they were already playtesting a book for ArsM4 (Ultima Thule), but I made a minor contribution to that book and submitted my stuff to Mythic Perspectives. I then did Land of Fire and Ice for ArM4, and was working on a Rhine Tribunal book when it was announced to us that we shouldn't do any stats just yet, as it would be the first book of a new edition. Guardians of the Forests was the result.

That's how my writing 'career' started, but you asked (well, demanded :slight_smile: ) how I got good enough to write. I think just about anyone involved in this hobby has the imagination to be able to write -- I don't think I'm anything special in this regard. Having the time is important, and keeping momentum is another. I'm always writing stuff. Much of it will never see the light of day; it's not intended for publication, rather it is to organise things in my head. I send some of these to Sub Rosa, but the rest will wallow on my hard drive. The important thing (for me) is to keep doing it; it keeps the creative juices flowing.
Another important thing for me is to play the game. I've had a regular ArM game (nearly) every Sunday for the last fifteen or so years. It's the same saga throughout this whole period, and we still have some of the same characters (we've had 55 years of game time). The players are a huge source of inspiration, and I never feel I credit them sufficiently for the contribution they make.
Finally, I would say that I read a lot. I won't quote the somewhat embarrassing footage of my shelves of non-fiction but I am fascinated by all manner of medieval issues, and these are great sources of inspiration.


15 years for 55 years of in game time? Wow, your saga moves fast comparative to mine and Brutus'. We've been in the same saga for a year, we might have finished the first season within the next 4-5 sessions assuming our resident action movie man doesn't decide to attempt an unwanted prison break.

Ah, how I got good enough. I started writing fiction when I was 5 years old: I would dictate to my mother and she would type it. When I was 7 she let me borrow her typewriter, and when I was 10 she gave me one of my own. I won awards for writing when I was in high school, and worked for the school newspaper and went to a couple of journalism workshops.

I studied physics and math at university but I took honors humanities courses as well. Lots of writing there. I also was a newswriter and broadcaster for the college radio station.

After that came graduate school and I discovered the Berk List. :slight_smile: More writing. Are you noticing a theme here?

I am not saying you need to start when you're 5 years old. But if you want to be a good writer, practice. A lot. Post to the forum, write for fanzines, etc. It will come together.


-Andrew Gronosky

I would say that I'm not good enough. When I go back and reread my published contributions I cringe. (I'm sure others on the list do, too.) "How could I write that? That paragraph starts out just like the one before it. Same sentence weight and construction, same friggin' depend clause to start it!" I'm always trying to write better, and paying attention to my writing.

I started with the Living Lore open call, having never written anything of note before. I was an English major for a few years in college, grew up reading and writing - like Andrew I had my first typewriter before I was 10 (in fact, we knew each other when we were kids) - and have always had my nose in a book. All three of my Living Lore submissions were accepted. I then pitched for the Houses of Hermes book, got House Bonisagus, and wrote the world's worst first draft. David pointed out its many flaws and requested a complete rewrite. I bent to the task, asking a lot of questions, and doing a lot of writing and rewriting. Mark said time is important, taking the time to write, and he is absolutely right. I set aside time to write and I wrote every day.

As the years went by, it continued. Pitching for books, getting some, not getting others, being the second pick on a book because someone dropped out, taking what I could get and not crying over what I couldn't. Besides liking to read, I also like European history, and have never baulked from writing about a country I know nothing about. One of my fondest memories writing for Against the Dark was reading about medieval Serbia and Bosnia. Fascinating. I've also got a university library at my fingertips and can find incredible source material. When researching Art & Academe, I found out who the heads of the different universities were in 1220. I am still amazed that I could find that level of depth in the medieval records.

I also took writing courses and history courses through the university. It didn't cost anything, so I took a course a semester. I've had some great teachers, and been lucky enough to have big-deal-published authors read and comment on my writing. And, like Mark, I play regularly. I've been playing with the same few guys for almost 20 years. We've run many different sagas and are currently tucked into a marvelous one that the NDA prevents me from talking about. The writing, the reading, the gaming, all of that adds to the mix.

I echo all the "how to write for Ars" advice given by the other authors. I'd also encourage budding authors to read as much as they can, history, fiction, other role-playing games, newspapers, whatever floats your boat. Just read. Pick a few treasured authors and try to write better than them. Play the game, as often as you can. I really think the thing that unites the current author pool is that we love the game. I hope that shows through in my writing, I readily find in in the other authors' work.

Good luck!
Matt Ryan

I think Matt, Andrew, Timothy and Mark make very good points. I've just turned over the final for the contribution to my fourth supplement, although only 2 have been released to date.

I fell into this, although I'd written a Hermes Portal article on Germanic Shapeshifters, posted some ideas to the forum and started bouncing some ideas off Timothy, who was very helpful and has become a valued friend. Essentially, I wrote an article on ArM5 Jinn for Sub Rosa based on Blood & Sand that Niall Christie really liked. He unexpectedly asked me to contribute to The Cradle and the Crescent and David somehow agreed despite my minimal experience. My first draft was abysmal but I learnt fast and David was very patient, Mark was very supportive and I got the hang of it and ended up taking over Niall's sections when he had to step back from writing, guiding the book to completion with Mark when Alex also got caught up with real life. I'm very proud of the final book and I learnt a great deal, particularly about realistic commitment and time management. I then helped Marko realise his desire to publish the City of Brass and we together pitched for Tales of Power successfully. The other ToP pitch we had wasn't accepted but will now appear in an upcoming supplement that Erik pitched and I was lucky enough to be drafted in because I'd already worked up a lot of material on an area that needed developing and had some complementary ideas to his main theme. CJ was roped in and Ben rounded out the complement - NDA applies but after a difficult gestation it's a fantastic book which you should hopefully see later this year maybe. This led to Timothy asking me to join him on the fourth book which has actually become 2 books with Mark and Ben (who writes great stuff that you're only just beginning to see), although I got way too busy and had to opt out of the second.

It's been a great ride and I've learnt a lot from my co-authors along the way.

I write a lot, if not for the line then for Sub Rosa or more commonly, my blog - there's often so many ideas and too little word count IMO so there's always something left over. Much of the extra I overwrite gets edited out if its not quite right for the supplement but can be recycled and everything I write helps me write better. I closely study what Andrew, Timothy, Mark S, Mark L, Erik, Ben (sorry if I forgot anyone) and the other more established line authors write and I try and learn from that. If I don't write, my head fills up until I write it down, it's a compulsive creation. Ars allows me to write all sorts of challenging and interesting ideas with a structure and limitations that makes it necessary to craft and hone my ideas until they are forged into something stronger than the raw ore of ideas that I began with...

I also read a lot, and I read a lot of slightly off kilter material (Mongols, Genoa not Venice, Islamic history, hedge magic) that means I have ideas slightly off-base and come at things from a different perspective. I've run out of space on my bookshelves, so it now consists of a collection of everything that I can't find for Kindle etc, which means it's nearly all medieval history, specifically 13th century. I have all the available Ars PDFs in DropBox, which means I can research anything quickly wherever I am pretty much and spin off ideas from that. Sure, I'm lucky I have enough disposable income to do this but inter-library loans, Google books and access to a good University library (login for PDF articles or actually access) can make researching ideas easier than you might think.

I have a busy and varied real life as a health professional. I'm not an academic. I never studied history.

Finally, remember that there's a lot of amazing material from non-fiction just waiting to be adapted, for example I've just received an amazing book on London Bridge that I can mine for a whole Saga's worth of ideas probably for my blog / the Starting Covenant project - the pictures and plans alone are amazing!

And just start writing!


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There's a mild chance I've seen the NDA'd stuff anyway, given that I do participate in the play-testing.

Thank you all for sharing how you got into writing for Ars magica. :slight_smile: