Sunday, September 10, 2017

Twenty Years

So, hard to believe it's been twenty years ago as of the start of September that I moved from Wisconsin to the Seattle area to start my new job at Wizards of the Coast. I'd been hired on to edit the new DOMINARIA roleplaying game, the D&D campaign setting for the world of MAGIC: THE GATHERING, becoming part of a team that consisted of Lisa Stevens, later co-founder of Paizo;  Jonathan Tweet, who went on to gain fame as the chief architect of Third Edition; Jesper Myrfors, the original art designer of MAGIC THE GATHERING; and later Chris Pramas, brought in as a second writer, who eventually left WotC to found Green Ronin.

And yet the project never saw the light of day, having been doomed from the start. I'd known WotC had worked on one MtG rpg before (designed by Mike Selinker and Wolfgang Baur) that something had gone wrong with. What I hadn't known was that the game I was hired to edit was WotC's FOURTH (and final) attempt to put together a MtG rpg, nor that it was just as doomed as all the rest.  Someone over in Card R&D, where the real Powers That Be in R&D were, didn't want an rpg version of Magic to happen, and accordingly it got shot down every time the rest of the department proposed it -- not when it was mooted, mind you, but well-on into the project.*

All water under the bridge (and living in Renton and Kent teaches you a lot about water and bridges). But what stays in my mind, after all these year, is just how much talent was in the room. That, and how it was great fun to be the keeper of the Dominaria globe for a few months. I wonder who has it now.

--John R.
current reading: AN ASTOUNDING ATLAS OF ALTERED STATES by Michael J. Trinklein (just started)

*a similar silent veto applied to our doing any kind of Tolkien game.


Kev Wirsing said...

Interesting stuff! How does one send you a missive?

grodog said...

Interesting, John!---I'd always wondered why Wizards never published an RPG for Magic, or at least a D&D setting for it. Always seemed like a natural cross-over property to me.

How far along did the various doomed incarnations get?


John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Kev.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Grog.

I don't really know much about the other attempts. I gather that the first must have been when WotC had its own home-grown rpg department populated by people like Wade Racine, Tim Beach, Rhias Hall, Mike Selinker, and Wolf Baur (to give a slightly uncertain list, not having been there myself in those days). I think it must have been the second that Mike and Wolf presented at a GenCon panel (this must have been in '94 or '95) in which they described it as a board game with role-playing game -like elements. I found what must have been a prototype or playtest copy of this when I was cleaning out the Games Library when WotC moved across the street to their current location. The third attempt I know nothing about, other than that it preceded the arrival of TSR on the scene in August-September 1996. And the fourth was the one I was hired to work on.

--John R.
current reading: nothing, shockingly enough (e.g., between books)