March 2012 Archives

 

This page contains all Green Ronin News articles from March 2012.

February 2012 is the previous archive.

April 2012 is the next archive.

You can find all the articles via the archives.

 

March 30, 2012

Ronin Round Table: Joe Carriker on Game of Thrones

What's In Store: A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Game of Thrones Edition

We've gotten a lot of great feedback from the rare folks who've had the opportunity to take a look at the Game of Thrones Edition of our Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying system, and had even more enthusiasm from folks who are looking forward to seeing what's in the new edition. So, in the interest of both answering questions and whetting appetites, we thought we'd talk a little about what you can expect in this upcoming book.

Presentation: First and foremost, the Game of Thrones Edition is a big, fat hardcover book, weighing in at 320 pages. We've updated some of the layout to better accommodate the material, and even changed out little things like the title font.

Errata: One of the great things about producing this edition of our core rule-set is the opportunity to make some corrections and additions to the system. A couple years worth of heavy play by a fantastic fanbase has provided us with plenty of things that needed correcting, clarifying or just plain revision. What the various ratings in Status mean exactly, for instance, and clarification on the use of certain Abilities and Benefits. Additionally, we'll be offering a free PDF with a full listing of the errata we've updated so that those who are using older rulebooks can still have access to these changes.

Updating: We've also taken this opportunity to update some of the rules, based either on later designs that we feel work better, or new revelations to the way things work from further books in the series. For instance, the jousting rules from Peril in King's Landing not only make for a more in-depth reflection of the excitement and variety of techniques in jousting, but helped us better reflect some of the setting's assumptions about jousting, as seen in both A Song of Ice and Fire series as well as the Dunk and Egg stories.

Likewise, with the release of A Dance of Dragons, we got a better perspective on how "warging" or "skin-changing" works, and so we've updated our own Benefits that cover those techniques. As part of this, we've gone back and redone some of the Benefits to more accurately reflect those sorts of changes. As an example, we've changed Ward from a Benefit to a Drawback. For those who are curious, here's the new Ward Drawback:

Ward

You were given over to your foster House by your birth House, as surety against future aggression.

You were sent to your foster House by your birth House as part of either a pact against aggression between the Houses (in which case there is likely a member of the foster House who is a Ward of your birth House), or as part of the defeat of your birth House. Your Status is based on your position in your birth House, not on the foster House.

You take a –1D on all Persuasion tests with both your birth and foster Houses; each assumes that you speak from a position of favoring the other, and is therefore less likely to heed what you have to say. Additionally, should your birth House take any kind of overt action against your foster House, you may be slain in retribution.

SIF_RPG_GoT.jpgNew Art: We've got some great new art for this edition, starting with the fantastic new cover piece by the amazing Michael Komarck. There are also some great surprises inside, as well, including a fantastic piece of Balerion the Black Dread, one of the last of the great Targaryen dragons. If you're interested in that, check out the cover image over at the Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Facebook page.

Ready-to-Run Adventures: Finally, we've also gone ahead and incorporated not one, but two adventures that Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying fans love: Journey to King's Landing and Peril at King's Landing. We've taken the steps to make sure they're just as solidly updated and corrected as every other piece of this book. The inclusion of these two pieces means some neat additions to the core book, even for those who don't necessarily want to run the adventures themselves (or have already done so), because we've added all the additional stock Narrator characters that were originally in Peril at King's Landing to the selection of Narrator characters in Chapter 11, for instance. It also means that the corebook now includes a map of King's Landing, as well as a description and map of the infamous Inn at the Crossroads.

Of course, don't take my word for it. You can see all these changes and more for yourself when the PDF goes live next week, right alongside the print version pre-orders. We look forward to seeing what you folks think!

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Luck Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Luck PowersFighting crime, stopping disasters, and saving the Earth: it just takes a little luck. Okay, it takes a lot of luck. Fortunately (see what we did there?) Luck Powers gives you the tools to create characters with incredible good luck, who can also be a jinx on their foes. From Probability Control to Narrow Escapes and Lucky Shots, and more. So ask yourself ... are you feeling lucky? The powers of the Earth are yours! For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Luck Powers

March 23, 2012

Ronin Round Table: Chris Pramas on GAMA Trade Show

Last week Hal Mangold and I were in Las Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show (AKA GTS). GAMA is the Game Manufacturers Association and it runs the only real trade show in tabletop gaming. It's a chance for us to talk to our partners in retail and distribution and promote the company and our upcoming releases. It's also a show that has changed some over the years.

I went to my first GTS in 1996. It was in Atlantic City that year, and as I was living in NYC at the time it was a short ride to attend. I was getting my first company going and it was a learning expedition. This was a time when the internet was becoming more important, but most retailers were not getting their publishing news from it. There was thus a lot of key information being transmitted at the show. It was also a great place to make big announcements. New games and new licenses were commonly revealed and promoted at GTS. You often saw new games announced at GTS in March and then released at GenCon in August.

GAMA Trade Show also used to move around the country from year to year (as did Origins, the summer convention that GAMA also runs). The idea was to give various regions of the country a chance to host the show, so local retailers would have an easier time attending. This went wrong at the notorious 1998 show in Miami, which was a ghost town. The show might well have died after that, but in 1999 it moved to Las Vegas and has stayed there ever since. This gave the show some much needed stability, and the allure of Vegas as a destination has certainly not hurt.

In the early 2000s GTS regained its luster, and the d20 boom saw a lot of new companies attending. By 2003 nearly every other booth was selling d20 books of some sort. Things continue to change though, and the show we attended last week was different than those of a decade ago. For one thing the number of RPG publishers in attendance was much smaller, since so much RPG publishing is focused on electronic distribution, POD books, and direct sales now. The number of big announcements has also decreased. With news sites, social media, and blogs, info now travels so fast that there just isn't a lot of oomph in timing an announcement for a show with a few hundred attendees.

At this point you may be wondering why we still attend GTS. Some of my colleagues have asked me the same question. The answer is that we still find it valuable to have face time with retailers and distributors. I do see them at shows like GenCon but such conventions are hectic and not conducive to sorts of discussions we have at GTS. I get sales numbers from our distributors but that doesn't tell me how things are going in individual stores. I want to get sense of how things are on the ground in gaming communities all over. I want to know what's working for them and what's not working for them, from Green Ronin and other companies as well. And of course we want to promote our game lines and our upcoming releases, and doing this can give us some valuable feedback as well. I discovered at GTS, for example, that A Game of Thrones Edition of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying was the book retailers seemed most excited about. I answered more questions about that than anything else, and showed off the printer's proofs continuously throughout the show. (We had hoped to have advanced copies of the finished book to display, but naturally they showed up two days too late.) I had figured that with the release of A Dance with Dragons and the second season of the HBO show coming soon that our new core book would do well, but it was nice to see that reinforced.

GTS is also a good place for deal making, networking, and brain storming. Whether it be in formal meetings, casual drinks, or dinners out, a lot of business and collaboration happens at the show. There's something about being face to face that cuts out a lot of the bull. I came back from the show with several fresh prospects that should lead to good things for us. I don't know that they would have happened via e-mail when I'm in my head down, day-to-day mode at GR HQ. I should also add on a personal note that it's just nice to see my friends in the game industry and have a chance to hang out after hours and catch up.

At the end of the show, I signed up for a booth for next year's show. It is different than it used to be, but it's still a valuable event for Green Ronin. The enormous caipirinhas I make sure to enjoy on every trip are just a bonus!

March 22, 2012

Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition PDF Preview

Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition PDF PreviewThis May we are releasing A Game of Thrones Edition of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. This is the new core rulebook for the game and it clocks in at a hefty 320 pages. Want to know more about what's inside? Then check out this PDF preview, which has the full table of contents and introduction. You'll be able to get the PDF and pre-order the physical book the first week of April, when the HBO show comes back for its second season. Winter is coming!

SIFRP: A Game of Thrones Edition PDF Preview

March 21, 2012

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Earth Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Earth PowersPowers as solid and strong as bedrock. In the third part of our elemental powers set, we look at Earth Powers, control over soil and stone, and taking on those properties to become as strong and tough as the Earth itself. Hurl rocks and form stone armor, shape earthen and stone barriers, ride waves of dirt, and move through the ground as if it were water. The powers of the Earth are yours! For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Earth Powers

March 14, 2012

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Speed Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Speed Powers

Faster than the eye can see, perhaps able to outrace light itself: Speed Powers are all about moving and reacting fast. Zoom from one side of the world to another in the blink of an eye. Defy gravity, running up walls or across the surface of water. Even vibrate your body to pass through walls or travel across time and other dimensions! Accomplish a week's work in an instant, and have the villains in jail before they even realize you've moved.

For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Speed Powers

March 9, 2012

Ronin Round Table: Joseph on Licensing

Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Games of Thrones EditionOver the past couple of weeks here at the Ronin Round Table, we've been giving a look at some of the hard work and creativity it takes to successfully make and market an RPG based off someone else's IP.

(For those who are just now getting caught up, Chris Pramas talked about licensing in general, Jon Leitheusser discussed making games in the DC Universe and Will Hindmarch touched on Bioware's Dragon Age setting for table-top games.)

For those who may not know me, I'm the developer for the Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying line, another of our games set in a licensed setting: in this case, the world of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

A Song of Ice and Fire is, in many ways, perfect for a game universe. It is sprawling, both in terms of actual geography, but also in its politics, its cultures, its history and its opportunities for bravery. Individual heroes can and do make a difference here, on every scale you care to look at the setting, and that's a recipe for great gaming.

Probably the trickiest part of this whole creation process is what I like to call "dancing with canon." Every setting has a canon of some kind, that body of lore that reflects what has decisively happened in the setting. As time goes on, these settings develop fan-bases who know this material as well as they know real-world history (better, for some of us).

This is a good thing, generally: capturing the imagination of those who partake in the setting's media to such an extent that they seek out and remember elements of history, small traditions and cultural nuances, interrelationships between characters and all the other aspects of a setting so clearly make that setting feel real, to some degree. This provides immersion for that fan, who becomes even more invested in the setting.

Working with A Song of Ice and Fire requires, on some level, being one hell of a dancer. There is plenty of wonderful canon to be absorbed and interacted with. In fact, when it seems like there's possibly "too much" for any one person to keep track of, we are fortunate to have wonderful resources like the Wiki of Ice and Fire, for instance, a place where a dedicated core of fans have taken it upon themselves to make a record of the setting: an incredible boon not just for those of us who create the RPG, but for those who run and play it.

Of course, one of the difficult places in interacting with such a complicated and nuanced canon lies not in what has been said, but what explicitly hasn't. Certainly, there are always aspects we haven't seen, just because they haven't shown up in the narrative: the "words" of some of the Houses of Westeros, for example, or full geographical details of the continent of Essos.

The other sort, though, are the setting's mysteries, things left unsaid because there will be a time and a place, important to the narrative, to speak of them. They are often the keys to major plot-lines and characters. A Song of Ice and Fire has plenty of these sorts, covering historical events, character backgrounds, unrevealed motivations and allegiances and even the metaphysics of the setting itself, such as how various forms of magic work, how magic influences the land itself and the creatures that can be found in it.

Though I've been a developer for other game lines before, those elements were often left to my discretion as the developer. I'm sharpening a whole new set of skills here: walking the gauntlet of settings with active mysteries in them whose solving is not up to me. In an effort to provide the maximum utility for our players, our preference is to skirt those sorts of issues when we can. To do so often means focusing on the elements that come directly into game play while avoiding the origins or implications thereof.

As an example, with the publishing of A Dance with Dragons, we learned more about the "warging" ability some characters in the series have, to greater or lesser degrees. We have since updated aspects of our rules set to better reflect those narrative revelations (in the forthcoming Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, Game of Thrones Edition). While sharpening how they mechanically impact the game, we have tried to remain as hands-off as possible when it comes to the implications of some of those revelations, particularly with regard to the background involving the Children of the Forest, how those powers interact with other seemingly supernatural abilities in the setting, and the like.

For a lot of our setting work, we try and focus on "filling in the blank spaces." There are many areas of the world that are still described in broad strokes, without much detail. Such areas provide some creative playground for our design work. As we did for the Chronicle Starter, if we decide to create a few new minor Houses, we have a good idea of how such Houses work, in the various realms of Westeros. As such, we can fill in some blanks, making assumptions that provide us just enough of a frame-work to construct something that is useful to our game's narratives without necessarily strong-arming an already-existing House into that role.

Of course, part of the allure of playing in this setting is the fact that the Narrator is under no such restrictions. We as game designers and publishers may carefully skirt areas of uncertainty, the individual stories told at the gaming table by the group playing this game can go in any sort of directions its players are interested in taking it, which is one of the major appeals of playing in this or any licensed world.

In the end, though, this process is more fun than it is work. As a fan of Mr. Martin's setting and writing since I picked up A Game of Thrones a double-handful of years ago, the opportunity to help bring that world to other gamers is a delightful challenge, one which those who created our Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying system rose to capably. I look forward to plenty of chances to do the same.

March 7, 2012

DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2 PDF and Pre-Order

DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2Now available for pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store, it's DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2! This long-anticipated book completes our look at the Heroes & Villains of the DC Universe, covering Lady Shiva through Victor Zsasz. Pre-Order through our online store and we'll offer you the PDF version for just $5. Pre-Order through a participating Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus brick-and-mortar retailer, and they will give you a coupon code good for the PDF version for just $5. Or, if you just prefer pixels, you can get just the PDF version for $20.

Pre-Order DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2 today!

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Water Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Water PowersSome might think so, but Water Powers are no laughing matter: water covers three-quarters of the Earth's surface, makes up the majority of living organisms, and is something we depend upon to survive. Control over this element ranges from the destructive power of tsunamis and water erosion to suffocating spheres and high-pressure blasts. Survive in the ocean depths, form hydrokinetic objects, and summon aquatic and elemental creatures that obey your commands with the powers of water! For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Water Powers

March 6, 2012

DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. 2 PDF Preview

To go along with our continuing series of Designer Journals for DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Volume 2, here's a PDF preview that includes the Table of Contents (Lady Shiva through Victor Zsasz) and the Introduction.

DC Adventures H&V Vol. 2 Design Journal: The Top

With the pending release of Heroes & Villains, Volume 2, it's time for another design journal! Head over to the DC Adventures site for a design journal by frequent M&M freelancer Professor Christopher McGlothlin, M.Ed. about one of his favorite Silver Age villains, the Top!

Future entries will feature other characters, so come back soon!

March 5, 2012

DC Adventures Design Journal: Terra

With the pending release of Heroes & Villains, Volume 2, it's time to start beating the drum and getting people excited! Head over to the DC Adventures site for a design journal by M&M freelancer Alejandro Melchor about Terra!

DC Adventures Design Journal: Terra

Future entries will feature other characters, so come back soon!

March 2, 2012

Ronin Round Table: A License For A Newer World

Green Ronin's shogun, Chris Pramas, recently wrote a Ronin Roundtable about licensing in the hobby-gaming business. Developer Jon Leitheusser, of Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures fame, followed that up with a post about his licensing experiences. I'm here to talk about the unique circumstances of working on the Dragon Age RPG, which is, of course, also a licensed game. I'm Will Hindmarch, the ronin who develops the Dragon Age tabletop RPG products.

Dragon Age is a unique property to work on in a lot of ways. It spans many media—from video games to novels to comics to a web series to a forthcoming animated movie and beyond—yet it's still fairly young, having debuted just a few years ago. Dragon Age isn't the decades-old sprawling universe of the DC Adventures game but neither is it the focused vision of a single writer, like the novels that A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying are based on.

Thedas, the world of Dragon Age, is a big, dynamic place designed to accommodate stories, games, and other adventures of many different styles without surrendering its particular atmosphere and themes. Like a lot of the worlds that appeal to us gamers, it's built to have room for many stories.

This kind of fictional universe is sort of like a compilation album, with lots of different voices singing songs in the same key, with some shared instrumentation. Individual songs can strike out in new directions, and no one song is necessary to understand all the others, but every song should sound like they belong on the same album, more or less. So it's our job to harmonize with what makes Dragon Age distinct and compelling without just imitating what's come before.

We don't make books of lore, reflecting what's happened in other media, we make a game for players who want to capture or recreate their own Dragon Age-style adventures. My job, as developer of the tabletop RPG, is not just to capture and contribute to the Dragon Age vision, it's also to deliver an experience that builds on Chris Pramas' vision of gameplay and supports the kind of adventures our players want to create in their home campaigns.

That's three different visions at work together: BioWare's, Green Ronin's, and yours. This would be an impossible job if it wasn't for the cooperation and creativity of all the parties involved. BioWare's vision for Thedas is clear but also diverse—they know that a tabletop RPG needs a lot of room to wonder "What if?" and to explore its own adventures. Many of the people at BioWare are familiar with tabletop RPGs, too, so they know what they like in a paper RPG and easily understand our need to serve not only BioWare's vision but the needs of home campaigns. We can't just mimic BioWare's work all the time, we need to adapt the material to our game. BioWare gets that.

The Dragon Age RPG isn't just a port of the Dragon Age video-game rules to the tabletop. Neither BioWare nor Chris Pramas wanted that. Tabletop RPGs have their own customs, demands, and ambitions—they do different things well—and we want to focus on what makes our game work. One example of this is the brilliant stunt mechanic that Pramas designed for the Adventure Game Engine, giving a bit of a tactical element to every combat and making each character suitably adventurous and dynamic without bogging things down. (I love the stunt mechanics a whole lot.) Likewise, consider things like specializations. The tabletop game is less granular than the video games, so all those branches in the various talent trees get translated into three distinct degrees—Novice, Journeyman, and Master—for easier reference and more direct game balance. That kind of balance plays a different role in the multiplayer environment of the tabletop RPG than it does in the single-player video games, after all, where a player can reload a saved game to try out a different character spec.

The Dragon Age universe is a source of inspiration we share in common with the video games and the novels and everything else. Rather than try to match the video games percentage point by percentage point, we take the lore and the mechanics as inspiration for our own game rules and develop mechanics that exist in parallel to the video games, rather than descending directly from them. It's more art than science. When designing the Shapeshifter specialization for our game, for example, should we model the legendary lore of these beings or the game mechanics put forth in Dragon Age: Origins? Should a PC Shapeshifter be able to adopt more forms than Morrigan? How does that change the role of the specialization (and our notions of Morrigan's power) within the game world? It's a complex question. We seek solutions that satisfy you and us and BioWare, all at once.

Thankfully, BioWare has been wonderfully open with regard to the lore and philosophy behind Thedas' creation. Talent at BioWare, like Mike Laidlaw and Mary Kirby, have happily answered my questions about the writing and design behind certain characters and monsters, helping me understand and adapt their vision for tabletop play. You saw this in action in our Tallis RPG DLC, which looked not just at the lore of that character but at Felicia Day's vision for her as a fictional character. This is a luxury not all licensed games in our hobby have and it's been a great boon.

The approvals process for the Dragon Age RPG, while sometimes complicated when our busy schedule collides with BioWare's, goes beyond fact-checking. The designers at BioWare look over our material at the early stages of design (when the project's about 10% done) and at the late stages (when the project's got about 10% left to go), giving us creative and constructive notes that help us sharpen our projects and align with the voice of Dragon Age.

With the Dragon Age universe expanding, it feels to me like there are many more ways we can tie our RPG into the larger game world, making it easier for you to weave established threads into your campaigns. We're exploring some of these options in the coming weeks, with new tabletop DLC in the works (featuring the faces of familiar friends and foes) not just for Dragon Age but for the Adventure Game Engine, too. In the meantime, I'm also wrangling a few new adventures for Set 3 and beyond, to bring various regions of (and underneath) Thedas to life in your campaigns.

Coordinating the many visions and voices of a licensed world can be tricky and time consuming. This was, in fact, my greatest fear when I took on this gig. Surrounded by people, both in Green Ronin and BioWare, with a passion for this game makes it all feel much easier—and hearing stories of your adventures makes it all worth it.