The Cradle and the Crescent

This was my first official supplement for Ars Magica 5th edition. It is now available in PDF format from e23!

I directly contributed to four chapters but had to keep closely abreast of a fifth chapter (I was originally only assigned to write two sections). I also crafted the Languages section of Appendix A and sourced many of the  “Myths & Legends” texts in the Bibliography. I was asked to contribute to this based on my article “Jinn as Characters” in Sub Rosa #2, which just goes to show where writing for the fanzine can get you, eh?

This “Not-A-Tribunal-Book” was a challenge for a number of reasons, not least because of its intended scope, which was wildly ambitious and innovative compared to the rest of the line at the time it was conceived. Half-way through the lead author unfortunately had to step back due to real life concerns and Mark and I had to revise his sections – although this was a great opportunity which I jumped at without hesitation, this doubled my workload in terms of word count. I felt under a lot of pressure to “do the right thing” by Niall and see his vision realized properly both on a personal level as a friend but also because of all the inspiration and help he’d given me with my own early writing attempts. He seems to think I’ve done him proud, which is reassuring, although with all I’ve learnt now over four years of writing I can see sections I could do better a second time around.

Oh boy, was this ever a reality check to all my dreams of writing for the line!

Writing this as a first time line author involved a very, very steep learning curve not only from a technique point of view but also from a workload one as I was directly responsible for ~50,000 words of the draft at one point. Fortunately this was mainly at the revision stage as I can’t actually touch type. I was very grateful for the support of Mark, Erik and of course David, who was very patient with me learning the ropes and guided me through the correction of my initial, somewhat atrocious first playtest draft. I have now been initiated into the arcane secrets of the Oxford comma and the correct usage of “smart quotes” amongst other esoteric grammarian mysteries. Luckily this did not involve permanent damage to my sanity once I’d learnt how to correctly calibrate my word processor and set my spellchecker to that variant creole known quaintly as “US English”.

You’ll notice this book is a fair chunk longer than other supplements – topping out at 191 pages, it’s a full 47 pages longer (almost a third as long again as a standard 148 page book). This exception was granted by beseeching John Nephew, who after much wailing and gnashing of teeth blessed us with the requisite additional word count.  I think this made a great difference in the end and the book would have been deeply flawed without his beneficence.

Below are links to the pages on design notes and reflections on my contributions:

Introduction & Sagas

This was originally one of Niall’s chapters that I reworked and seem to have made my own. I hope it sets the right tone and scene for the supplement as a whole and makes people want to play in the Mythic Middle East. If so, then I’ve done my job OK.

The Jinn

This was my main contribution and involved the largest amount of research. It was a lot of fun to write and I could have written a whole supplement on the Jinn probably but that was not the brief…

Mythic Arabia

I was tasked with reworking this, which unfortunately involved cutting a whole section of Niall’s work (which has reappeared in Sub Rosa #9 fortunately). I really enjoyed learning about this region from Niall and I think my material complements his well – the area has simply amazing story potential.

The Silk Road & Beyond

This is one of my favorite contributions – I was allowed to cross out of Mythic Europe into my own imagination and run amok with concepts that stretched the metagame as it was then past its ill-defined limits.  It’s where I’d love to play in a purely non-Hermetic Saga if I ever get the chance…

Order of Suleiman

I did not directly write material for this “double-size” chapter, although it greatly influenced my work on the other chapters. Sure, I originally intended to pitch for this chapter as I’d long worked on ideas based on Niall’s original ArM4 Blood & Sand material.Alas for me (but overall great for the final product), Erik Dahl presented a great vision for making sahir unique as a Rival Magic style tradition, appropriately powered to challenge Hermetic magi when encountered on their own turf and with time to prepare. I was not going to argue with the man with the best hedge magic mechanic credentials the line has known, so I fell into line and wrote the Jinn chapter to complement his work as much as possible. I think Erik has done an amazing job.

Had I had the talent and skills I have now, perhaps I would have done things differently and have collected some of my notes on Levantine Sahir here for those interested.


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