Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bye-Bye Princess Ark

Some of you have known that for some time I've queried Wizards of the Coast for options to get some life back into the World of Mystara and the Princess Ark.  Unfortunately, Wizards isn't interested in cooperating.  This became clear when I began talking to their IP manager, who informed me that any arrangement regarding Mystara was out of the question at this time.  There was no interest in anything involving a transfer of rights, a sale, a license agreement, a permission to publish, or any other option--as a matter of policy.  From what I'd heard of WotC, I knew this going in.

What I really was interested in was writing new stories specifically for the Princess Ark, originally published in Dragon Magazine some twenty years ago.  For a time, it sounded like an arrangement might be possible.  Since Mystara wasn't available, it still would have involved stripping all related D&D- and Mystara-specific details.  It would have left the ship and her crew completely bare of any background.  However, WotC's IP manager decided that even this constituted an IP, and therefore wasn't available.  I offered cash, free ads, efforts to coordinate and support the release of D&D Next (etc.), to no avail.  That so many of you would be overjoyed to see any RPG release linked to Mystara or the Princess Ark didn't appear to be relevant in the least.

The Good News

Although this development may appear heart-breaking, there is a silver lining.  As the discussion developed, I became convinced that any involvement with WotC was a waste of my time and a future liability.  Writing Princess Ark stories without her original background seemed bad enough, but in the event of a licensing agreement or a simple permission to publish, I would have been obligated  to regularly submit any development for approval.  This would have made the experience infinitely worse, provided anyone at WotC were available for the approval process--which apparently isn't the case.  I was given to understand that WotC doesn't want to spare staff for this sort of work, even if they had anyone knowledgeable enough to do these old IPs justice.  This seems to be the situation for most of the old TSR game settings--not just Mystara or the Princess Ark.  The end result would have been a creative straightjacket at best, or more likely a nightmare.

Good riddance.

Time has come for me to set sail across stranger skies.  I think there's plenty of room out there for another ship, another crew, and new adventures unbound by darkness.  Although stories would take place in another world, in spirit one might think this is the Princess Ark reborn.  My plan is to move on with brand new fiction stories and release them as E-Books.  Your interest and support will be key in making this dream come true.  Once I get the details worked out, a Kickstarter campaign will become a must.  You can show your support now by sharing this article, posting your comments, or hitting the + button.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship and the manner in which you welcomed my return after a fifteen year hiatus.  It was a heartwarming thing for me, and to no small degree, this fueled my devoting so much effort to this blog.  Please understand I don't mean to stop contributing.  I'm opening another door and looking at what could have been and at new opportunities.  I hope you'll come explore some new frontiers with me.

Until then, I say: "Onward, my courageous companions!   Let us seek a better, bolder, grander future!"


Edit: Click HERE to skip to this article's update

37 comments:

  1. Does this mean that you're thinking about developing a new world, with a framework similar to the one you established in the Princess Ark series? That sounds rather exciting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. As regards the framework, are you talking about the stories framework or the world's?

      Delete
  2. While I will miss Haldemar and the crew, I look forward to seeing what you come up with. To the New World!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I say please don't give up on Mystara. One thing modern D&D systems lack is a viable setting, a really in depth, fleshed out, massively historical setting. No new version of the game will ever draw me in, because none compare to Mystara. That's probably where my group will always campaign.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I sympathize, but this matter remains out of my hands.

      Delete
  4. Well, I guess the essence of the Princess Ark was that you gave us an entertaining story which introduced a new region, then went on to give a little background info on the place. And a map, of course. That's what I meant by framework.

    I completely understand the conclusion that the situation with Mystara has brought you to. It's very sad, but the fact is that you are a great writer with a ton of creative ideas, and there's no reason why you can't apply your tried-and-tested world-building skills to a new world that you can actually claim credit for, and indeed ownership of. Unless something drastic and entirely unexpected (miraculous?) happens with Wizards of the Coast, writing for Mystara is never going to be possible as anything other than a hobby to please the old guard of dedicated fans.

    Of course, starting something new from scratch brings problems of its own, but crucially it is not limited by litigious outside forces, and as such has much more potential to thrive and I would think become more popular in the long run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. [That's what I meant by framework.]

      Yes, in essence the same general format should drive these stories.

      [Of course, starting something new from scratch brings problems of its own, but crucially it is not limited by litigious outside forces, and as such has much more potential to thrive and I would think become more popular in the long run.]

      I agree wholeheartedly with you here. If WotC prefers smothering to death its own IPs for fear of making a decision, investing into new approaches, or somehow creating competition against themselves shows, in my opinion, a lack of imagination and opportunism, and an unbelievable timidity. I'm convinced WotC would benefit from strong grassroots support and a je-ne-sais-quoi of gamer-geekness, especially now that the D&D game has becomes a secondary property on the RPG market. In any case, this development, as bitter as it may taste right now, will be a good thing in the long run as far as I'm concerned. At least I can move on and have some fun!

      Thanks for your unwavering support, Thorf!

      Delete
  5. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to move on and develop new frontiers, Bruce. Go forth and explore in freedom!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Reading this, it's hard to know what to feel.

    As a Mystara fan of some 25 years, I guess I'm nothing short of heartbroken. The past year reading your blog has been like a dream come true, and the thought of your wonderful articles stopping has brought tears to my eyes.

    But as a Bruce Heard fan - which I have also been ever since I bought Dragon solely to read the Princess Ark all those years ago - I'm ecstatic, I just want to know more, and I can't stop grinning.

    So I sit here grinning through the tears, thinking of all the fun to come with a new setting and new stories in the spirit of Mystara - by Bruce Heard.

    Bruce, I can't thank you enough for all you've done for us with Mystara over the years. I know that you have worked tirelessly for the last year to bring us new material, with scant reward. I can only imagine what you must be feeling about the whole situation with Mystara. But I am so, so glad and thankful that you are going to continue to write, and I will be there cheering you on every step of the way, helping in any way I can.

    To Stranger Skies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can wipe some of those tears, Thorf. I don't mean to abandon this blog. There will be more articles coming. However, once I get underway across stranger skies, articles here will be fewer. But dead? No. I do not wish this.

      Delete
  7. The beauty of imagination is the age of exploration never ends. I can not wait to see what you come up with. May the wind always be at your back Mr. Heard!

    I propose the new world is like the ancient Greek proposal of a counter earth, Antichthon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. [The beauty of imagination is the age of exploration never ends.]

      Ever so true!

      [I can not wait to see what you come up with.]

      Me too! :D

      [May the wind always be at your back Mr. Heard!]

      Indeed. I might have to row hard for a stretch, but that's par for the course. Catching a wyrm by the tail and harnessing the fearsome beast at the ship's prow would be nice...

      Got dragon?

      Delete
  8. So They laid you lame in/on Mystara. As far as I read here some articles you intend to continue here about Mystara, and further you start a whole new world (what game system?).
    I shed a tear for this demise of Haldemar and his crew, the Ark and all other works you brought in.
    (BTW what does IP stands for?)

    Wizards is like a greedy farmer, weeding out what they don't want. wishing profits, but not knowing that a monoculture will eventually falter. You were the blue cornflower of Mystara.
    So indeed go forth and cultivate a diverse world somewhere else.

    The Stars Beckon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Robin.

      I don't plan to connect the new adventures to any other RPG. You know what they say: "Out of pan and into the fire." Right? :)

      Nobody ever called me a blue cornflower before. My, my... I always wanted to grow up as a Centaurea Cyanus. It's kind of a weed, isn't it? Just don't smoke me! :)

      Delete
    2. It's a herb. That can be used against Bronchitis like tea. I maybe Dutch but we don't smoke everything here. And I don't smoke at all, especially something bringing so much joy.;)

      This plant together with moonflower and many others were the plants that kept the fields of grain healthy, less disease or vermin damage. and the hay/straw was healtier for the cattle too.

      The metaphore is we are the cattle, the game is the grain, but the authors are the flowers, and you are the most beautiful therein (at least I mean your work ;) )

      I don't know that saying, but understand it.
      As a story in itself it will not be limited by the borders of any gamerules. I'm very curious.

      So far they haven't responded to my request either, so I think it could be a No-Go too. I'll try to phone them as email does not get responses.

      For The Ark maybe this picture fits the bill?
      http://boats.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/1169913/

      Delete
    3. The Princess Ark will always fly in the minds of those who enjoyed her stories. Let's just remember her that way.

      Delete
  9. The stupidity of WotC is saddening but I'm eager to see what you come up with next.

    P.s. Greetings from Nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just came back home from there today. A beautiful place, a lot more mountaineous than I expected but I like mountains.

      Delete
    2. That it is. Did you get any good weather though?

      Delete
    3. Not that much. The locals were very apologetic about that but I was able to burn my shoulders byt the pool anyway.

      Delete
    4. Best time to go is in early June or late September.

      Delete
  10. I cannot say that I'm surprised to hear Wizards' position on this, although I had hoped/thought that- with the advent of the new edition and it's advertised "all-edition encompassing" goals, that maybe they'd lighten up a bit as far as licensing and supporting the older editions.

    Alas, it clearly is not to be. Sorry to see what appears the final nail in the coffin of the crew of the Princess Ark- at least in 'official' products- but I think it is better this way than with them being rewritten in such a way as to be all but unrecognizable to her fans.

    As ever, enjoy your work, your current work, your past work, and what may yet come. Thank you for your efforts, Bruce.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You know....the OSR is in need of "The Campaign Setting"....And I have always loved your writing.

    ERIC!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Good luck Bruce, it sounds like this is for the best anyway. You're better off building your own IP since you have your own audience, IMHO. I wish you much success!

    ReplyDelete
  13. given how WotC handles licensing in the past, it might be better to not depend on licensing continuing to be available. Paizo, Code Monkey, and a few other publishers have run into "we don't want to license this to you any more" difficulties. Paizo managed to pull through, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keith, yes -- I'd heard these horror stories and had not anticipated going for that kind of arrangement. What I requested at first was a simple transfer of rights for the Princess Ark, which was covered under Dragon Magazine's blanket copyright agreement. Considering the age of the material and the relative small scope of the property, it seemed feasible, especially in exchange for something of value to WotC's business. There was little chance I would have gone along with a license or a permission for the reasons you brought up. It was a foregone conclusion WotC would not budge at all on Mystara at all--as I said, I knew this going in, so my focus was almost entirely aimed at the Princess Ark.

      Delete
    2. Ah, if they'd gone for a straight transfer it might have worked. Licensing, on the other hand, I can't imagine entertaining the idea.

      I suppose it's important to remember that Mystara is a small bump on the side of D&D, which is a small bump on the side of WotC, which is a hardly noticeable blemish on the side of Hasbro...

      Which sucks. I'd like to see D&D -- ideally with settings intact -- out of Hasbro and WotC. WotC rescued it from TSR failing, but they seem to be having a hell of a time making anything of it now.

      Delete
  14. what if made a made kickstarter to buy the license from Hasbro instead of WotC, they're too focused on DnD Next, i believe that maybe we should make an effort to buy off of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem is they don't want to sell. Period.

      Delete
  15. Does this mean you are stopping to publish Alphatian Provinces here? That would be the saddest news I ever heared!
    I was dreaming about them, just looking at a new adventuring party of Alphatians characters ... And I was starting to w8 for the next issue, just like I w8ed for a new Gazetteer when I was 15.
    This is a really sad day ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. [Does this mean you are stopping to publish Alphatian Provinces here? That would be the saddest news I ever heard!]

      Not quite, no. I plan on supporting the blog to the best of my ability and time allowing. It will slow down at times, and that's inevitable, but I've not plan to terminate it.

      [This is a really sad day ...]

      From the ashes of one, another may rise. It doesn't have to be a sad day.

      Delete
  16. Good riddance indeed. Let's see some new stuff Bruce. Having said that, it is a bummer. VotPA was one of my favorite features from Dragon. Looking forward to the new stuff. Go Bruce!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's really unfortunate. I would have loved to read new Princess Ark stories.

    OTOH, I would be very happy to read stories in your own setting, where you don't have to take into account the Published Canon!

    ReplyDelete