The First Article

You’ll note a new item on the sidebar, Game Writing, with something called “Lost House Fragments”. This is the first article of many I plan to post here. From the Introduction:


In the early 90s my favorite RPG was Ars Magica, originally published by Lion Rampant, then White Wolf, then Wizards of the Coast, and finally Atlas Games (the current publisher). Amusingly enough, one of the reasons I got to know Nicole Lindroos was because of the game. She had been on staff at Lion Rampant and later White Wolf and I knew her name from the credits of many books (Lindroos stands out on a credits page!). Nik and I were friends for many years before things got romantic. We talked off and on about doing a book together and in 1997 we decided to pitch an Ars Magica book to Atlas Games.

I had long been dissatisfied with the way elementalism was handled in the game. The rules made it really difficult to play a wizard who could summon and control elementals, a rare failing in an otherwise fine magic system. I had ideas on how to fix the system, but I didn’t want to simply replace the previous rules wholesale. Many people used them as written, and it’s no fun as a gamer to be told that your character is now obsolete. My solution was to do a combination sourcebook and adventure. The adventure was to revolve around the legacy of Beatrix, a powerful elementalist who was a contemporary of the founders of the Order of Hermes, but who was treacherously slain by Tytalus and Tremere before she could take her rightful place alongside them. Beatrix had developed a Unified Elemental Theory, but it had been lost on her death. In the course of the adventure, the player characters were to discover this lost legacy of magic and the secret of who killed Beatrix. The new rules for elementalism could thus be introduced into the game as a development of the setting, rather than by fiat. If characters were plucky, they could also try to found House Beatrix, the “lost house” of the title.

Atlas liked the proposal and contracted us to do “The Lost House.” Over the next six months though, three things happened. First, I moved from Boston to Seattle; second, Nik and I got involved romantically; and third, I got hired as a RPG designer at Wizards of the Coast. I did some work on the book, but it was slow going. Nik and I consulted with Jeff Tidball (then the Ars Magica line developer, now the Lord of the Rings RPG developer) and we all agreed that perhaps the best course of action was to cancel it. While I think that was the right decision for the time, it’s too bad we never finished. I think it would have been a good book.

In this article you’ll find what writing I did on the project. I enjoyed rereading them after five years (as honestly I’d forgotten all about this work!). Searching old disks can turn up the most interesting things.

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