Ars Magica is the roleplaying game of medieval magic.
Ars Magica Fifth Edition is, obviously, a revision of Ars Magica Fourth Edition (on which I did a lot of work; see below), which in turn was a revision of First through Third Editions (on which I did no work at all). That’s why Amazon thinks it was written by Jonathan Tweet; he was one of the original authors, and since I wanted to keep most of his concepts, he, and Mark Rein-Hagen, are still credited as authors.
Nevertheless, almost all the words in the new edition are by me; this was a very thorough revision.
The whole revision process took about two years, and the book went through something like five drafts, each of which was read and playtested by dozens of people. And some problems still made it through to the final, published, version. On the whole, however, I’m very pleased with the results.
Revising a popular game is, in some ways, harder than writing a game from scratch, because you are not free to do whatever you want. You have to retain the things that the game’s fans like about it, while fixing the problems and making the new edition new enough so that they will want to buy it again. At the same time, you do not want to appeal purely to the established fans; you want to draw new players in. That’s one of the reasons that so much playtesting was necessary. I had to make changes, and then show them to a group of fans to see whether they were too much or not enough. The final round involved showing the manuscript to people who hadn’t played the game before, to make sure that they could understand it. That was helpful; they noticed that the new edition completely failed to define a central concept. All the established players knew what it was, and thus hadn’t noticed that the draft didn’t actually tell you.
In the end, the revision was very well received. It was nominated for several major industry awards, and won two of them. What’s more, almost all the fans seem to have moved to the new edition, obviously with some house rules or bits retained from earlier editions, but the general consensus seems to be that the new edition is the best edition of the game yet.
That’s as good a reception as I could have hoped for.
Ars Magica Fifth Edition won the Origins Award for Best RPG of 2004.
In the Ennies Awards of 2005, Ars Magica was nominated for Best Game, won Silver for Best Production Values, and won Gold for Best Rules.