I was reading a review of The Armitage Files (stargazersworld.com/2010/04/ ... age-files/) by Pelgrane Press and was struck by the idea that this was the kind of book that I really want to see from Ars Magica. A large book filled with tools, handouts, maps and characters to use in a "build-your-own" Ars Magica campaign.
One of the things I really like the sound of with The Armitage Files is that it doesn't nail things down - so each saga can be different - with different versions of characters - all tied together with ideas for how a large Mythic Europe-spanning story could unfold.
The Armitage Files is indeed nothing short of amazing. It's designed to give you the tools to basically improvise a campaign over time. As you note, various versions of characters, various locales, props and handouts to spur people to make decisions on what to do, where to go, etc. As you determine what interests people, you build the campaign in that direction, with loads of help along the way to relink it to other bits and pieces in ways that are fun or make sense to the group as they explore.
A really wonderful supplement, and it prompted me to try (and fail) to get a Google Wave Trail of Cthulhu game running along so I could use those players later for a full Armitage Files game.
Translating that to Ars... Hm, to an extent, I sort of use Tribunal Books in a similar way, but I could definitely see a campaign toolbox/scrapbook approach being taken, though how you weave that into the tapestry of mythic history depending on location would be an interesting thing to address or give advice about.
Actually, a project very much like this was started at GT-Tahoe two weekends ago (see "story tellers workbench"). We will be sending in our stuff to Atlas before anyone else just to respect the copyright and make sure it is up to thier standards, but if it does, it will wing it's way out to the community when we have enough to publish or A-G gives us the go-ahead (whichever happens second).
Glad to know that there are other folks thinking along those lines.
You know, I wanted to do a "storyguide's handbook" kind of thing through Sub Rosa. One of my pet peeves is that the current line of books is fantastic at giving us stuff to do, but not so good at showing us what we can do with it. I was going to take a "deep dive" look at specific areas of the game by way of helping players and storyguides use the content.
I've done two articles so far, but with Alex' commitments the way they are I don't know which issues they might appear in. The articles I've sent in don't go as far as Alex' example Armitage Files, but I was looking to write up an Elementalist character with some potential story hooks. Those are the kind of things that I'd really respond to; content that helps me to use the books I've already invested in. For example, Learned Magicians might look fun on paper, but if I have to work really hard to 1) understand their magic, 2) understand their role, and 3) understand how they could fit into my saga, then I'm less likely to use them. Or take a look at craftsmen touched by one of the Realms (City & Guild). How do you make them playable? How do you make best use of them, from both a player and a covenant perspective?
I'd love some content like that, pointing out the uses of some gems that might get overlooked.
All hail mark! I await eagerly the articles In fact I await the release of subrosa so I can buy the second installment of the 4-ezine packs of the supplement*.
Certainly a Armitage files for ArM would be really cool, but it might end up being rather "vanilla". You will have to settle it in a fairly generic environment, so that most characters can fit in. ArM5 tends to try to make each tribunal and location fairly unique, so it might not be easy to make the armitage files for it. Noty having read the files in question I might be wrong. In any case a "how to build an interesting saga" book would be something I would buy a pair of copies of.
*I consider Subrosa to be ArM5 suplements, due to the quality of their content, in the same way that I saw HP as 4th ed supplements.
I think that Ars needs to showcase more of its vanilla setting, and show how interesting sagas with just plain old Hermetic wizards, companions and grogs can be without mystery cults, hedge magic or other doosywhatsits.
What appeals to me is the modular, tool box nature of Armitage Files. After reading the review, I went and bought it from Pelgrane (hard copy and PDF). Waiting for the hard copy to arrive, but I've flicked through the PDF, and reckon that an Ars supplement like this (albeit shorter, rather than 150 pages) would be fantastic.
I also think the idea of making PDFs available along with the hard copy is a good idea. Pelgrane has also made a "players guide" for Cthulhu or Esoterrorists (can't remember which one) that just has the players sections. This would be a good PDF-only thing that Ars could do, for troupes to distribute to players - rules, spell guidelines, combat rules, lab rules, etc. For future books, this could keep all of the "secret" storyteller info out of players' hands.
I also like the Gumshoe system for resolving mysteries. Mysteries should be a staple of Ars Magica - wizards should use their magic to solve crimes, and deal with consequences. I find it odd that so many games involve hobbling magic somehow (you don't see in cop shows the cops suddenly forbidden to fingerprinting or DNA identification technology).
Unfortunately, I don't know how well these books would sell...
I'd like to see more books that focus on a specific area, than an entire Tribunal. Perhaps covering just one or two covenants. Or something like Mythic Places, that covers a smattering of locations, characters, items, story ideas.
Actually, the vignette books done by Atlas for D20 a few years back (David actually did a really good one) is something I'd love to see for Ars Magica.
Hm, what if you start off with a covenant. Make this book something like an improv-Saga kit, perhaps.
Covenant locations (2-3), each with hooks for use if they are not chosen as a covenant's site.
Vis sources, with varying origins tying into other background story issues for the locale. Sources of potential grogs. Generic population center/trade area with it's own issues and possibly tips for giving it the flavor of a certain tribunal (brief sidebar).
Hm... seems like an interesting prospect.
Perhaps a few events to play out over the decades, with variations thereof connecting to a variety of potential antagonists. Is there an "endgame", or just an end to the span of time the covenant/saga's history.
It would require a lot of work to put it together, but it might be an incredible supplement.
Define an area with 3 covenants that can be allies or rivals 8all of them) and say 3 potential locations for a covenant with differentiating characteristics depending on what saga focus you want to have (mundane, hermetic politics, supernatural focus... for example) 2would certainly be cool. It can be explained quite thoroughly and be a good saga setting. It can even be that the spring covenant is only an option, since the other covenants are perfectly open to be played "as they are", with the PCs taking on the magi of the covenant or being new recruits there.
I would love that kind of approach as well. Tribunal books tend to be all good et al, but you hardly ever play all around your tribunal, with this only being really relevant for heretic tribunals, and 90% of the games being done in a really small area of the tribunals (an area defined in 2-5 pages in the tribunal book, more or less). Not that you have much other options when making tribunal books, but they tend to end up being not THAT useful in practical terms.
So I give my support for this idea, even if I don't know if I could help much besides that....ç
3 covenants, devoid of inhabitants and locations. Summer, Fall, Winter.
A half dozen potential locations for the covenants, and the player covenant.
3-6 magi per covenant, let's say 15 magi total, grouped in clusters, perhaps, that connect them by means of story hooks. This does not mean these groupings live together. Each magi has a beneficient, neutral, and malign version, which might completely change their nature. Potential cabals among them.
Vis locations. Each of these might have more than one nature and connect to different story hooks in different ways depending on that nature. Many of them will tie into the story hooks.
Story hooks are the seeds from which sagas can be improvised. There should be a good deal of interconnection.
I'm thinking prophecies could play a large part of these story hooks. Some prophecies may be genuine, others created to serve an agenda.
Locals of Note: Each with varied versions, and with potential connections to the story hooks/background of the area.
Couple of covenants, cople of magi and locations - Tribunal books have all of it! "Guardians" and "Lion" are the best "location supplements" I've read during my life and really lots of the content can be moved with only minor changes being made. I would be really happy if Atlas could speed up Tribunal line. I do not want to wait 4 years for real AM5 Provence and most of the old edition tribunal books really need to be re-made (that would take 10 years or so...).
We have a different take on tribunal books I guess For me they are too "macroscopic" and present the stuff at "country" level, not a "county" level, that is where most sagas develop. Covenants are only sketched and regional politics are only brushed over.
The idea that is being presented here does not substitute tribunals, but centres around one small part of a tribunal: only 2-3 covenants but fully described including their magi, the regional politics of the area and more detailed descriptions of locations of the region. It is not a Lonely Planet guide of Spain anymore, but a guide of Castille and Galicia. Complementary
Could you ransom it? Print on demand? What's the maximum price that people would pay for an Ars books. In Australia they're over $50, and I'd probably pay up to around $90 for an Ars book if I was very confident in it.
Print on demand wouldn't work; printing is too small a part of the total cost of making a book. We'd have to sell as many copies as we normally print, in which case we'd probably make more money printing normally.
Ransoming is a possibility.
Well, how much would you pay on the basis of nothing but a brief concept? I can't ask authors to put months of work in without some confidence that they will get paid at some point. I think this could work, but it's really not clear. And John Nephew might not go for it.
Well, I bought The Armitage Files in hard copy (and then received it in PDF form from Pelgrane Press, as I wanted to print out the player props). I wonder what the total sales were. Admittedly, it's a strange beast of a book, and likely only sells to people running the game, thus cutting down the sales base.
I wonder if there's anything that could be done to expand that? Still, as it's more or less a storyline with a lot of player and game master defined variables and setting details, I guess it might be less of use to a player.
At it's core the Armitage Files deals with a set of player props - the titular Armitage Files, that have been sent back in time from the future. Or not. And the originator of the files may be going mad. The cool trick is that HOW the players approach the files directs the improvisation of the campaign, and that improvisation is aided by the characters and locations - each with variable natures and reasons for existing. The clues the PCs follow up on direct the GM to improvise in certain directions, and choose particular natures for NPCs that serve the session or feel that seems to interest the players the most. A circus freak, for example, might be a simple circus freak, or an escaped human-abomination hybrid depending on what clues the PCs follow up on and the direction they steer their investigation in.
The more I consider it, the more I think that the mystery skeleton the book hangs itself upon is intrinsic to the success of the improvised campaign. I wonder if such an approach needs to be replicated in an Ars supplement.