Ars Magica the Computer Game: Interview with the Black Chicken Kickstarter Team

First up, do me a favour. If you don’t know or care about Ars Magica, but you enjoy strategy games, or fantasy games, or history games, go to this Kickstarter and think about pledging $20. If it funds, you get a download of the game when it is completed. If the funds aren’t raised, your money never leaves your account. $20. Do it for CJ 🙂  I’m not involved with the project, but this is a computer game based on the rpg I spend my life writing books for, so I’m keen to promote it as hard as I can 🙂  If you help fund, and later play and enjoy the computer game,perhaps one day you will understand what this whole Ars Magica thing is about 🙂   So $20 – and you either don’t have to pay if it fails, or you do and get a cool game.

I’m pretty sure all fans of Ars Magica were delighted to hear about the kickstarter to raise funds to allow the funding of an Ars Magica based computer game set in the Schism War, and a lot of people would like to know more. Funding is going well, but after 4 days the project is still only 10% funded, so I think it’s vital now to push it as hard as possible, and let as many people hear about the project as I can.  I think it probably will fund, but I am an optimist: yet very few roleplaying games have the beauty of setting and design that Ars Magica provides, and a lot of people who might never want to play the tabletop rpg might be excited by a game of wizards in England in the century of the Norman Conquest. Atlas Games have licensed it: if funding allows it will go ahead!

Now I won’t explain in detail what a Kickstarter is, or what Ars Magica is – basically a Kickstarter is a way to raise funds for a creative project, and you buy in at a certain level, pledging money if the project funds. If it funds in 30 days your money is debited and you receive certain rewards, based upon the level of your pledge – if the project is even a dollar short of the total, no one pays anything at all, and the project never goes ahead.

The guys at Black Chicken have a history of delivering high quality computer games, and are also genuine fans of the Ars Magica system – so here is my (slightly redacted) light hearted interview with them!

* I’m very excited to see the game on Kickstarter, and want it to succeed. After 4 days we are approaching the 10% level; Kickstarter wisdom is most products that make 20% fund; how optimistic are you we will see the game fund? The problem with Kickstarter is it is all or nothing: can it still happen?
Unfortunately, we are too small a company to make Ars Magica properly if it does not fund. That said, we believe that Ars Magica fans will help see an authentic version of the game brought to the PC. That, after all, is the point of KickStarter: it allows products which would not be made otherwise, to actually fund by fan support. We’ve certainly never known a casual Ars Magica fan, so we’re hoping that passion and enthusiasm will make itself known across the world.
* How can we help support the Kickstarter initiative? Is there anything practical we can do to support the plans, given the Ars community must be quite aware of it by now after four days?
Absolutely! Please continue to post about on social media and your favorite forums in order to raise awareness. It’s the only way to get the news out to as many people as possible: CrowdFunding definitely requires a crowd. 🙂
* If the kickstarter does not fund for some reason, will you try again? I’m hoping it does not come to this!
You can never say never, but…
* Why Ars Magica? Don’t get me wrong, I love the setting, and have written on a lot of the 5th edition books, as well as organising the Grand Tribunal convention.I’m just wondering what particularly appealed to you about Ars, given the obvious complexities of the setting?
It is exactly the complexity of the setting that drew us to it. At BCS, we are committed to making the unique and unusual- there’s more than enough of the normal to go around already. And, in all seriousness, we believe that Ars Magica has the potential to uplift, challenge and perhaps even transform modern gaming, by showing players what *might* be possible, if only they demand it.
* OK, question for Larry, and the rest of the design team – if you were Hermetic Magi, which House would each of you be and why?
Easy question! My favorite character was a non-Gifted Mercere. Other popular choices amongst the Team: Bjornaer, Merinita and Criamon.
* What is your Project’s Major Boon, and what Minor Boons does the House of the Black Chicken possess? And what are your Hooks? 😀
Major: Regio (Crossroads of the World)
Minor: Hidden Resource (Inexhaustible Mischief)
Hook: Contested Resource (C’mon fans, fund us!)
Hook: Monster (the dreadful and cursed Black Chicken)
Hook: Beholden (our wives)
* The game is set during the Schism War. Why did you choose that over the war against  Damhan-Allaidh?
For reasons of story. Sorry, that’s [redacted]. 🙂
* Up till now it has clearly been policy to not define the Diedne. They may have been villains or victims, but that is not clear. I have been working many years on a boardgame that covers the whole history of the Order of Hermes (for my own amusement), and I must say this lack of clarity in the Diedne’s precise role was awkward, but as a Storyguide I appreciate the flexibility. How will you define the Diedne? Will we finally have black and white answers as to culpability in the events leading to the Schism War ?
We all search for clarity in the past. But on the ground, in those times, experiencing those events…who is right, and who is wrong will be a question *you* will have to wrestle with. 😉
* I see you are doing a World Guide and the Diedne book. My group last night cursed they can not afford the $150 pledge for even the Diedne book, let alone the World Guide. Will these books be canonical Ars Magica 5th books, and will there be any later availability if the product funds outside of those of us with money in October 2012?
The Diedne book, I believe, will eventually see a press in soft cover, a year or so after the release of the game. I don’t believe the worldguide will be printed outside of the KickStarter.
* Obviously as an Ars Magica author, I have to ask who will be writing these books? Will it be any of the established authors with David Chart editing, or will they be in-house productions?
David Chart is indeed editing, and I believe he’ll be working with his team to create Diedne. The worldguide will be created by us, and reviewed by David. It will be actually adapted from the Writer’s Guide we’re using internally.
*  OK, will the Stonehenge Tribunal as depicted look like the historical version of David Chart’s vision of it in the 4th ed Heirs to Merlin supplement, or will it be a completely different take? Given it has never been defined for 5th ed, I think the only references that are canonical is that Cad Gadu exists, and is hard to access as in a regio.
We will be using (well, setting up) the 4E book material, so what you read there is canon in 5E, as far as we are aware.
* August 2013 will see the 7th Grand Tribunal UK, and I think the 5th Grand Tribunal USA, dedicated Ars Magica conventions. Will the team be attending either?
Well, potentially! It would be great to meet everyone.
* I enjoy development games like Agricola, strategy games like GMT’s Virgin Queen/Here I Stand and Twilight Struggle, and computer games like King of Dragon Pass. Is this going to be my kind of game?
Um. Yes. 🙂  Very much so. 🙂
* Will the game support the mystery initiations of say HOH: Mystery Cults and The Mysteries Revised Edition? I was an author on the latter, and developed the cults, and would happily create a new one for the game 🙂 Shame that could have been a bonus at a pledge level!
No- we are only using material from the 5E core rulebook. If we get to stretch goals, though, it’s a possibility.
* My computer is positively antiquated, and is unlikely to be updated any time soon, unless a Game Studio needs an itinerant game author/historian/parapsychologist for hire 😉 What will be the likely minimum specs to run the game?
It’s much too early to give out specifications, but if you can play our other games…you should be fine for what we intend.
* As well as Ars Magica, I have written quite a bit over the years for Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Live. Are you interested in any other game licenses? Pendragon and Cthulhu may well have potential, the former especially for the style of game proposed?
Both of those would be *awesome*. Let’s take them one at a time, though. 🙂
* These days I find it hard to play Ars Magica more than two-three evenings a week, and get my work (and other gaming commitments) done. Do you chaps still play Ars Magica? What was your most memorable saga? Which Tribunal do you prefer?
Not presently, but we have a Novgorod Tribunal campaign on pause. Right now we are playing Cthulhu.
 * Which is your favourite edition? Any particular books or adventures?
I really like 5E, but I have very fond memories of 3E. My favorite book is probably a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
* Do you subscribe to the excellent Ars Magica fanzine Sub Rosa?
I personally do not, although I am aware of it.
 * Finally, given my blog is read by a lot of really  **hard core** Ars Magica players, of the type who fly here in the middle of summer to attend a weekend convention, why does the game offer them? And for my gaming friends who are put off by the frothing insanity of said hardcore (who spend their lives arguing about the protein yield of a medieval “mythic turnip”, or studying the probate records for the mid-13th century Bury so they can describe the furnishings in 77 Guildhall Street correctly) what does the game offer them? 😉 Is it true you don’t even require people to learn ecclesiastical Latin to play your game???! 😉 Jokes aside, Ars has a reputation for complexity and at times perhaps being a bit heavy historically, so will people who prefer high fantasy (and who aren’t sure of the difference between Harald Hardrada and Harold Godwinson at thirty paces) be engaged?
Personally, I think that’s the beauty of Ars Magica. Magic, by definition, already breaks reality, so you can use the game as a sort of time-travel device to go back and explore without necessarily needing the knowledge for your own character. In the tabletop game, historical accuracy depends on your GM. For this game, we plan to make history be front and center, but avoid historical commentary. We very much want to give the immediacy of living at that time…so that you don’t even really notice that you are learning about why it was William thought he had a claim to the crown, why Viking rule in England came to an end, and so on. I think the game offers everyone, hardcore or casual, a true Medieval role-playing experience.
With a lot of awesome magic. 🙂
Thank you!
I have since noticed that Sub Rosa beat me to the punch with their interview with Black Chicken, while mine was mislaid 🙂 Go read it here!
cj x

About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
This entry was posted in Fun forthcoming events, Games, History, Reviews and Past Events, Uninteresting to others whitterings about my life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ars Magica the Computer Game: Interview with the Black Chicken Kickstarter Team

  1. Cunt says:

    I know this is inappropriate, but am in a rush and don’t know where else to show it to you…

  2. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    Thanks Darren. Very welcome, studies like this have gone on for years: Radin lists lot of them. Guess i’d better go read the paper. 🙂 It seems to hold up under metaanalysis, and be a robust effect, but who knows? I suspect Persinger involved. I’ll go read. Oh my email is btw!

  3. babaganusz says:

    i experienced a double-letdown on this one: first, i had nothing to contribute. i mean zero. i mean dead-broke. and i haven’t seen a fractionally-as-worthy kickstarter before or since.
    second, of course, they didn’t make it. 😦

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