Subscription is the way to go?

I have never bought an adventure for any system- the demand for that kind of book is going to be lower (even at a lower cost) than the rules and settings books that have generally been published, and honestly given that they would be competing with some free resources like Sub Rosa I think you would be lucky to have 200 for an audience

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I'm OK with subscriptions. I subscribe to journals. I have a standing order with Audible for one author. I pay Marvel an annual fee for my comics.

Could you pretend it's a journal? Some professional journals are the size of a brick.


Pleased to hear that! So further Ars Magica 5th edition material is a defined business consideration away now, right?
I think that the community's expectations wrt quality, and its willingness to contribute, can be seen from this forum.
There are already proven editors and authors as well, approachable and able to provide that quality.

So an internal kickstarter, where you know how many you can sell.

Considering the price of a copy ($20) is about the same as the hourly wage for those authors we know (well, within a factor of 2 ;). This means selling 100 copies only allows for 100 hours of writing/editing which is quite low.

Extrapolating from what you say, you need between 200-800 hours to produce a good book. And a quantity of 800 expected copies means we will get a matching quality from the usual writers.

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As I would almost certainly buy and Ars Magica product published except perhaps a 6th edition, I would happily back a subsription or pre-order system with no great concern for details as I know I would end up buying it anyway. If I got several products I thought were rubbish that would change my mind but that seems unlikely.
However I know I spend a lot of RPG products so other people with smaller budgets or more critical tastes seem like a better customer model. I subscribe to pathfinder products until the start of the new edition and there are several other RPG lines I buy pretty much automatically


I'm not exactly sure what this means (it sounds very corporate-y)... but I can tell you that Ars Magica remains important to Atlas and to me (the company is literally named for a line of Ars Magica supplements I still haven't gotten around to doing!) and ongoing changes in the market and our business model have me thinking about how we could profitably publish new material for it again.

Please keep in mind I am brainstorming and stabbing wildly in the dark. My gut says that we probably need to hit something more like 400 copies for sustainability, but I haven't done any detailed budgeting, and there are several important factors that are very different from the last time we published something new for ArM. For example...

  • We started doing our own direct mail order again last year, as well as PDF sales directly through our website. This means that we have the ability to receive nearly 100% of the cover price of books (minus bank card processing fees, etc.), instead of 40%-80% for printed books and PDFs sold through other parties.

  • Our logistics capabilities have increased dramatically. (We even own a forklift now!) We handle warehousing and fulfillment for other companies as well as our own, and have cultivated much better options for shipping physical books to overseas customers, which is very important for Ars Magica. Lighter packages and the fact that books are often rated lower or even 0% for VAT means that international shipping of RPG books is more affordable for us than it's been in decades, faster, and far more reliable. I may even be able to ship such a book to a UK customer for cheaper than to a US customer, with one of the services we use.

  • Printing technology has changed. Digital printing means books can be manufactured in the dozens or one at a time if needed; no longer does a budget have to assume a minimum of 1000 or 2000 books (and account for eventually destroying a bunch of them). For traditional printers, specialty printers around the world make amazing quality possible in smaller quantities than used to be the case.



That is what I hoped for: checking concrete business cases!

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IMO what Ars Magic needs far more than a trendy marketing strategy (and especially a recycled marketing strategy like a subscription model) is a clear direction. Rules in existing books have become contradictory and confusing because different authors wrote with differing agendas and visions and very little in the way of a unifying directive. Similar to Marvel movies before the MCU- when they could be unified into a single vision they jumped in popularity, instead of simply trying to be something for everyone.

I get what you're saying -- a massive overhaul of the entire line with a new edition. I'm not ruling that out for some point in the future, but to me the question is whether we want to do anything before that.

(Edit: We certainly don't have to do anything new with the game in the meantime. But I personally would like to, and my guess is that there are some folks who would like it too.)


A major overhaul would be good, but at this point going forward I think even preventing future conflicts with the existing rules are going to be important. As an example pointed out to me here recently as defined in the core book someone with Feral upbringing cannot start the game with a language ability, but there is an ex miscellanea tradition where feral upbringing is a required flaw where the mages with this flaw presumably speak Latin. At that point they should have a different flaw such as outsider or social handicap but it is in the official societies book that they have feral upbringing as somehow otherwise well adjusted and academically accomplished young mages... I'm not saying the supplements need to go back and clean up these conflicts but certainly they need to avoid making them.
The last thing needed is more "spaghetti code" of conflicting rules.


I would definitely jump into the wagon of an Ars Magica subscription. Considering I own all but three books ever published, that means I've basically been doing that for decades. So count me in.

As for the type of supplement, I think that boils down to what is feasible for Atlas, since you obviously need to at the very least break even. Me personally, I would love to see the older Tribunals updated to 5th (though I understand why that is improbable), or an "Ars Magica Compendium" that binds all major rules together in a single book, with maybe a little tweaking to make them work better together. By "all major rules" I mean compiling the basic rules plus stuff like mystery initiation, research and breakthroughs, that sort of thing. Not the smaller ones like the birth rules in A&A or the taming and training rules from HP, though it would be nice to include an index of where they are.


Actually compiling the birth rules in A&A with the fertility magic from Ancient Magic can be very useful for anyone wanting to start churning out magically created people.

Personally I'd like to see any of the following:
More non-hermetic traditions
A book on small scale initiatory societies, potentially including rules for modifying a 'captured' initiation script from one initiatory group to one based on a different philosophy, also including social interactions in what may vary from being cells of like minded individuals to being literal cults where follow the leader is the way to gain mystical power.
Meta realms- the World of Forms, the spirit world of the Nightwalkers where Divine, Magic, Faerie and infernal compete in Fertility battles, other worlds like this which are not simply the physical world not belonging to a Realm
Esoteria- discussions of things that magi might discuss- like different concepts of what a soul is from different cultures and how it might affect the limit of the soul...


These do already exist: see LoH p.49 box Borrowing Cult Lore and Initiation Scripts.

Now there's a book I rarely use.

I would definitely love to see more of that. It's super useful when a player is interested in pushing the limits of Magic Theory. For me, the "cosmology" part of A&A was the best from the book (not that the rest wasn't awesome, it's one of my favorite books).

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Your base figure here, of RPG authors being paid $20 an hour, seems off. Most of us do it as a hobby for an honorarium based on X cents per published word. X varies by company and how famous you are, but there are only two people who have made a steady living writing RPGs - whoever is in charge of D&D at any given time, and Robin Laws. And Robin says he only manages it because he doesn't have children and lives a modest lifestyle. (Stolen from one of his GenCon talks).

This is why you get things like HP/MP/Sub Rosa and Games Frome Folktales. They are art pieces where the cost of production is covered by the community, not commercial products in the usual sense.

The cost isn't so much "writer's hourly rate" it's all of the stuff John would really have to pay hard commercial rates for, like distribution, storage, layout, illustration, printing, editing.... Basically what moves my writing's quality level in GFF up to the quality level you see in Atlas books costs Atlas money. My writing is the same regardless.

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And if he goes to .pdf releases those costs rapidly approach 0. I have self published on Amazon and my 2 years of work netted me a grand total of $5, but the point is that my cash outlay (not counting my labor) was $0. If you reduce costs appropriately or publish literally only when you have an order there is no need of a contract based subscription service. The one cost Ars Magica has tha I did not is that they are paying someone else to write the books (though they could copy SJGames on this and pay a percentage basis) which would mean the only up front costs are editing costs.

Oh I'm pretty sure it was off. I only picked a round value to match the selling price of a pdf. That simplified it to so many hours require so many copies sold.

And it's true that a large fraction is spent on editing, layout/image and extraneous bits. You authors are clearly here because you enjoy working on Ars Magica. You, personnally, wouldn't have done Cornwall otherwise :wink:

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PDFs still need editing, and they still need art, and that still costs money (or else product quality suffers). And there are other overheads: whoever they have as line editor also needs to be paid. And all of those people could be working on other, more profitable games - so I can well understand Atlas wanting to ballpark (or better yet pre-gather via subscription) potential revenue, so they can get some idea of how much effort it is worth them spending on further releases.

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I can understand their desire to do so, and I did say approach 0, not arrive there. On the other hand if living through the book clubs and music subscriptions of the 1980's and 1990's taught me nothing else, it is that once a company has a subscription in hand they tend to ignore quality and work on producing what they can cheaply to fulfill the minimum requirements of the contract. It may not be their intent up front but it is where the business model leads.