Owen Stephens

Owen Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens is a game designer who has worked on a number of products for Pathfinder, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and more. He is our Pathfinder Line Developer when he's not working full-time Developing Pathfinder at Paizo, or running his own company, Rogue Genius Games.
Owen Stephens

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Using the Freeport Bestiary

With the pre-order of the Freeport Bestiary opening up, I thought it would be worth taking a moment to discuss how to get the most value out of the book. Of course if you are running a Freeport game this is easy – grab monsters as appropriate. We build the book to make that easy! But if you want to use the Freeport Bestiary to add some spice to other classic fantasy campaigns that’s easy too! In essence this is a companion piece to my discussion last year about adding typical Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to a Freeport game, but in this case we’ll talk about how to select the Freeport-themed monsters for your other campaign ideas. Since a fantasy campaign can focus on just about anything, I’ve broken this conversation into specific information the Freeport Bestiary gives you that can help you decide if a specific creature is a good match for your game’s overarching plot.

The Basics

It’s true of nearly every bestiary, but it’s worth noting that we break down the monsters by CR, and every monster entry gives you information about its type, size, environment, and so on. Sometimes when building an adventure a GM just needs more choices for a CR 14 aquatic encounter, and having more choices to go through expands the odds that you can pick exactly the monster you need. We also talk a bit about what we mean by the various terrain entries, since for some reason monster terrain types don’t use the same terms as ranger favored terrains.

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Joseph D. Carriker

Joseph D. Carriker

Joseph Carriker is developer for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and the Chronicle System. He has worked in the gaming industry since 2000, and intends to keep doing that for the foreseeable future. He's an avid proponent of diversity in gaming spaces, and regularly runs LGBT-oriented panels at gaming conventions, including GenCon's "Queer as a Three-Sided Die." He recently sold a novel, Sacred Band, available this winter from Lethe Press.
Joseph D. Carriker

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New Character Options in Valkana (pt 1)

The forthcoming Titansgrave: World of Valkana setting book has lots and lots of the sort of setting detail one expects from an expansive world book. Details on settlements, geography, culture, and history all about, sprinkled liberally with inspiration for years worth of gaming in this world.

 

But one of the challenges of any good setting book is to provide new and interesting traits and resources to player characters. The goal is always to provide new material that isn’t just fun but also highlights the setting quite distinctly. They should be materials that feel like a part of the setting come alive, because they are directly relevant to the player characters.

 

In this week’s RRT discussing these new options, we’re going to look at some of the detail on the races in this setting book. Here is some of the new material available in Titansgrave: World of Valkana.

Races

Though Valkana’s setting uses the core races presented in the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook, this sourcebook casts a closer eye on them, examining them by their cultures and history as well. Those races capable of crossbreeding with others in the world of Valkana are included in this description. Some of the races even include strange offshoots with distinct differences from their main kin. These subraces – called the nhazera – are detailed as well, including entirely new Benefits charts to reflect their differing lifestyles, cultures, and temperaments.

 

Below, we include a sample sidebar detailing those characters who are born of the mixing of dwarven blood with other races.

 

 

Mixed Race Dwarves

Dwarves rarely breed with those outside their own race, though this is mainly due to societal pressures of the past. These days, dwarves and humans produce handsome, hearty offspring named rockborn. Dwarf and gnome artificers treasure the fey gnome-dwarf children known as daylins. Rumors hold of dwarves mating with elves, orcs, and halflings, but their offspring always resembles one parent’s race, or the other.

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson has been an RPG author and designer since 1995 and has worked on numerous book and games, including Mutants & Masterminds, Freedom City, and Blue Rose for Green Ronin Publishing. He has written nine RPG tie-in novels and also runs his own imprint, Ad Infinitum Adventures, which publishes material for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying. Steve maintains a website and blog at www.stevekenson.com.
Steve Kenson

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Out of Context

If you’re familiar with Green Ronin’s Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying at all (and, if you’re not, you should visit its page on our site) you know the game features strong themes of inclusion, both from a design perspective and in terms of the culture and history of Aldis, the primary civilization of the setting, often in contrast to Aldis’s neighbors. This includes diversity in terms of race, gender, romantic interest, and more.

However, Aldea (the world of Blue Rose) is not Earth, and does not have the same history as our own world, so the diversity in Aldis and elsewhere in the setting exists out of context with certain realities of marginalized peoples here in our world and in our own cultures, particularly (North) American culture. How does this affect our portrayals of different people in Blue Rose? In a number of often broad and subtle ways.

 

Race

Much of Blue Rose’s racial diversity owes to two things, one history, and one mythic. In the history of the region, there was once a Great Kingdom with connections to far-flung places of the world (perhaps even other worlds) via fantastic airships and arcane gateways, creating a cosmopolitan society that was a melting pot of cultures and peoples. It was succeeded by an Empire which forcibly relocated and intermingled vast populations, such that modern Aldis is quite racially diverse. The mythic element is that the gods of Aldea appear themselves in a wide range of human (and even non-human) races, and it may well be that the gods—who fashioned mortal, material bodies for people at the dawn of time—made humanity as diverse and different as them. So Aldin religious belief tends towards racial diversity and plurality rather than any sense of “racial purity”.

Where racial conflict does come into Aldin culture is in terms of the non-human night people, created by the Sorcerer Kings using arcane means. Once, they were a soldier and slave race of the Empire. Now many of them are free and able to choose their own path, but there are some who consider them inherently corrupt due to their origins. Night people and their allies struggle against these preconceptions to win and maintain fair treatment.

Gender

Aldin myth says that the bodiless spirits that descended into the material world were without and beyond gender, but that the bodies fashioned for them by the gods possessed sexual characteristics, leading to the creation of male, female, and those who were some measure of both, neither, or transitioning between the two—the laevvel. Aldean religion also believes in reincarnation of those bodiless spirits, so everyone has been (or will be) every sex, gender, and race at some point. Male and female are not “normal” in Aldin culture, merely common.

Some societies have gendered roles, such as the Matriarchy of Lar’tya, an Aldin trading-partner and ally, whereas in Aldis the notion of differentiating people’s social roles based on gender seems a strange and foreign practice. Although it only merits a brief mention in Blue Rose, it’s made clear there are widespread, easy, and effective natural means of controlling conception for all responsible adults, a significant factor in gender equality in Aldin society. Similarly, it’s made clear there are effective natural, alchemical, and arcane means of gender transition on Aldea, significant to laevvel characters.

Orientation

Sexual and romantic orientation is likewise influenced by Aldean myth and spirituality: There are deities with same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, as well as polyamorous relationships among the gods, all reflected in the cultures of mortals as well. In particular, Aldin sexuality is less stigmatized, and far more openly mapped on a kind of bell curve, with the majority of people attracted to persons of either or any gender, and minorities as either end of the spectrum who are only attracted to either their own or another gender. Again, bisexuality (or even pansexuality) isn’t “normal” in Aldis in that there is a value judgment attached it it, it’s merely so common that there isn’t a particular name for it, whereas those with primarily same sex attractions are caria daunen (lovers of the dawn) and those with different sex attractions are cepia luath (keepers of the flame).

Similarly, various forms of polyamory are quite common in Aldis, although there are also “twilights” (literally “two lights”) who prefer monogamous coupling. Some cultures favor polyamorous relationships, star marriages and heath marriages, while others favor monogamy, or at least some form of pair-bonding. There are cultures which attach moral or practical judgements to certain family arrangements, and others that do not.

Ability

Aldin culture recognizes differently-abled people as having their own unique strengths and roles, particularly in a fantastic world where there are threats based on the things one might see or hear, for example, and heroes lacking in normal sight or hearing can overcome these threats more easily.

There are also means for compensating for differences in ability in a setting where arcane powers of the mind and spirit can move or perceive things with the talents of the mind alone; indeed, with the existence of the rhydan (intelligent awakened animals) there are entire species of differently abled people on Aldea, living in bodies quite different from humanoids, with their own unique abilities and challenges, and the need to recognize these people as precisely that: people, and not “beasts” or “creatures”.

Blue Rose is an example of a fantasy setting that takes many of the “what if?” questions we use to create fantastic worlds and applies them to diversity, presenting different and accepted ways of being in world that is both unlike and similar to our own. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit and tell your own stories there.

Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds Roleplaying Game, as well as a comic book fan, RPG geek, and corgi aficionado. She has played a variety of roles within the tabletop and video game industries, and has lent her talents to companies including Green Ronin, Paizo Publishing, Palladium Books, Onyx Path Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, and Kobold Press.
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Begin at the Beginning

Every hero needs an exciting origin story. They also need an antagonist that holds a dark mirror up to their defining qualities, to better highlight the heroic nature of their choices and sacrifices, but one step at a time. Origin stories define a hero’s abilities, challenges, and boundaries, and just like a superhero, every gamer needs an origin story that introduces them to the hobby. And introducing your friends to Mutants and Masterminds is about to get a lot easier, because later this year we’ll be releasing the Basic Hero’s Handbook!

 

Targeted for release later in 2017, the Basic Hero’s Handbook is especially designed to be an easy introduction to Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition, giving players everything they need to pick up the rules, make their own characters, and run games.

 

 

Is this a revised rules system?

 

Nope, this is the same 3rd edition rule set you know and love, cleaned up and organized. Some of the more complicated rules are set aside for the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook. The Basic Hero’s Handbook focuses on getting to the action as a soon as possible, with streamlined character creation that only calls for a handful of player choices before you have a complete superhero ready to play! At its core, the BHH uses the same rules you’re used to, and your table can include players using the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook and the Basic Hero’s Handbook without any conversions or adjustments.

 

Is there anything in this for deluxe players?

 

If you’re a veteran to Mutants & Masterminds who already has a copy of the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, there’s still plenty for you in the Basic Hero’s Handbook. We’re working on organizing all the rules a player needs at the table, making the book an inexpensive player’s reference for maneuvers, conditions, and other rules for easy perusal at the table. The Basic Hero’s Handbook is also a handy gamemaster training tool, with several pregenerated villains and four ready-to- play adventures. If you want to get your mom into M&M, or just want an inexpensive extra rulebook, the Basic Hero’s Handbook should have you covered!

Donna Prior

Donna Prior

Events Manager at Green Ronin Publishing
Donna “Danicia” Prior is the Events Manager for Green Ronin Publishing. She is also the Executive Director of OrcaCon, the Inclusive Tabletop Games Convention in Everett, WA.

Donna is also a speaker at numerous conventions and conferences. She has spoken about building communities, diversity, harassment, and accessibility. She was a Gen Con Industry Insider for 2016.Donna is a gamer and a beer geek, often combining both hobbies while teaching new people to game and appreciate beer. She’s also insists she is NOT a Hobbit. You can follow Donna on Twitter: @_Danicia_. Find her also on http://about.me/Danicia.
Donna Prior

GM for Green Ronin at Gen Con!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Gen Con!

Team Ronin is super excited about Gen Con this year, especially with the success of our updated Freebooter GM Program. We decided to focus on our one big event, as we’re kinda small to support events all over the country and beyond. Make with the clicking to read about the program here.

Many folks think Green Ronin is a huge company, but we’re actually very small. The upside to this is that we can work closely with our GMs to grow this program; it wouldn’t be as successful without their spectacular feedback. And since it was our first big push, with setting up GM Badges and hotel reimbursement, it helped us make the 2017 Gen Con program even better.

Last year, we fielded 24 GMs running over 90 games. Some folks ran one or two games, and some ran more. Some folks ran 2-hour games, and some ran 6-hour games. Really, it was great to have so many folks concentrating on Green Ronin games. We were even in our own room in the Convention Center itself, which was WONDERFUL.

For the folks who signed up early, who communicated well with us about their needs and desires, it was super easy to accommodate folks, like subbing out GMs when we had scheduling issues. For folks to get hotel reimbursements, it was super easy! You just had to email me your receipt and we sent you the reimbursement! Almost everyone followed directions well so we were able to take care of just about everyone by the time Gen Con was all finished!

We had a lot of folks GMing for us who had never been to Gen Con before, or GM’d at a convention ever, which meant so much to us. And our experienced Veteran GMs were on hand to help out the new folks. The Freebooters are a small team, but a wonderful team! Heck, a bunch of new folks to our program even got together and split a room together! They held each other together while I was off doing Geek & Sundry and Gen Con Industry Insider stuff!

Many GMs kept things simple, and many of them printed out great color sheets, special hand outs, and whatnot. Some GMs used our published Quick Start adventures, some used their own home brew. Some used adventures which we haven’t yet published, to be the first to run said adventures.

Why am I tell you all this? Because we want you to run our games! Everyone is welcome, no matter your experience, or lack thereof. If you have GM’d a home game, you can GM for us! You can run what you want, when you want. 

And if you want to, we’ll arrange a GM badge for you, so you can get reimbursed by the Gen Con system, and we’ll reimburse you for part of your hotel.

  • For 12-hours of games submitted, we’ll arrange the GM badge.
  • For 16+ hours of games scheduled, we will reimburse your hotel based on ¼ of a regular rate.  As an example, if a room is $200 per night we’ll pick up your part, so $50 per night!
  • Green Ronin must submit your games to count towards the GM Badge reimbursement and hotel room reimbursement.
  • You are still welcome to submit games via your favorite game group or other game companies, but we will only pick up badges/hotel reimburse for our submitted games.

AND! Based on feedback from the 2016 GM Team, we’ll have ribbons and dice for you to give your players, plus a variety of other hand outs. And maybe something cool for YOU, too! We’re still hammering out those details.

If you’re interested in signing up, click here to fill out this quick contact form. Early submissions have started this week, and will run until Feb 19th. Regular Event submissions are due by March 26th, so we want to get your games in the system as soon as possible. I can help!

If you have general questions, you can email me directly! donna@greenronin.com

Chris Pramas
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Chris Pramas

Chris Pramas is an award-winning game designer and writer, and the founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing. He is best known as the designer of the Fantasy AGE RPG, the Dragon Age RPG, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition. He has been a creative director at Wizards of the Coast and Flying Lab Software and a lead writer at Vigil Games. Most recently he worked with Wil Wheaton on the Titansgrave web series from Geek& Sundry. Green Ronin continues to thrive under his leadership, publishing roleplaying games like Blue Rose, Mutants & Masterminds, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.
Chris Pramas
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Ronin Roundtable: New Year’s Message 2017

New Year’s Message 2017

Welcome to the new year, my friends and fellow gamers! Here at Green Ronin we have been rousing ourselves from our holiday torpor and getting ramped up for 2017. As long time fans know, I traditionally write a message in January to discuss what we have coming up in the new year. And that is true but I’m going to do it a little differently this year. Today I will talk about what we have coming your way through the Spring, then in June I will do a second one of these that covers the rest of the year. So let’s get to it!

New Faces

In December Crystal Frasier came onboard as our new Mutants & Masterminds developer. She introduced herself in a previous Ronin Round Table, which you can read here if you’d like to learn more about her. We are confident that Mutants & Masterminds is in great hands with Crystal.

Today I’d like to welcome another new Ronin to the ranks: Malcolm Sheppard. He is a 17 year veteran of the game industry who has done a boatload of work for White Wolf and Onyx Path, amongst others. Malcolm will be doing design and development work for us on a variety of lines. You can think of him as a sort of developer-at-large. He’ll be working on Adventure Game Engine (AGE) games for sure, as well as some other projects you’ll hear more about later. Please help me welcome Malcolm to Team Ronin!

Atlas of Earth-Prime: Now Pre-OrderingMutants & Masterminds

We are kicking off the year with a major release for Mutants & Masterminds: the Atlas of Earth-Prime. You’ve seen parts of this setting before in Emerald City, the Cosmic Handbook, Hero High, and many other Mutants & Masterminds books, but now Earth-Prime is getting full campaign setting treatment. The Atlas of Earth-Prime releases in just two weeks. You can still get in on the pre-order now if you are quick about it.

In the Spring we’ll be following that up with Freedom City. This was the original campaign setting for the Mutants & Masterminds RPG going back to 2003. The new book brings Freedom City fully into Third Edition, and creates a triumvirate of super power with Emerald City and the Atlas of Earth-Prime!

AGE Games

Blue Rose the AGE RPG of Romantic FantasyThe big Adventure Game Engine excitement for the first half of the year is the release of Blue Rose, our RPG of Romantic Fantasy, in February. Blue Rose was our most successful Kickstarter to date, and we’re delighted to get this book out to backers and then released to the general public. The BackerKit went live over the weekend. While we typically do pre-orders through our online store, with Blue Rose we’re trying out BackerKit for that. If you didn’t back the Kickstarter, you can pre-order now at this link . You’ll note some follow up releases on the BackerKit page. We’re making Blue Rose dice with Q Workshop, Blue Rose conviction Tokens with Campaign Coins, and then an adventure anthology called Six of Swords. Those should all come out in the Spring.

For Fantasy AGE itself we’ve got Titansgrave: The World of Valkana coming in the Spring. This is a full campaign setting book that greatly expands the information in Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana. A lot of stuff that was only hinted at in the show will be revealed in Titansgrave: The World of Valkana!

In other Fantasy AGE news, we’ll be creating a community content program for the game in conjunction with OneBookShelf (the parent company of RPGNow and DriveThruRPG). People have been asking us if they can publish Fantasy AGE content since the game came out and soon that will be possible. OneBookShelf already runs several of these programs, for games like D&D and the Cypher System. Ours will be similar to these but not identical. For starters the products you can do will be limited to settings and adventures because that is the support Fantasy AGE needs most right now. There will be more info about the program and how it all works when we launch it. That should happen in a couple of months.

Freeport Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPGFreeport and Pathfinder

Our big Pathfinder release this Spring is the Freeport Bestiary. The City of Adventure hasn’t had a monster book since Creatures of Freeport in 2004. The Freeport Bestiary brings together the setting’s many monsters and a bunch of new ones in a beautiful full color hardback. Meanwhile, the Return to Freeport adventure series continues. We’ve released three of these PDFs so far. The remaining three will follow over the next few months and then we’ll collect them all together for a printed book in June.

D&D 5E

You may recall that we worked with Wizards of the Coast to create two D&D books: Out of the Abyss and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Now we’re following those up with D&D books of our own. The first is Book of the Righteous, which presents a fully detailed mythology and pantheon you can use in your campaigns. The original edition of Book of the Righteous was our most critically-acclaimed book in the d20 era. We did a Kickstarter for a new 5E version last year and it should be out in May. As with Blue Rose, Book of the Righteous will have a general release after books ship to Kickstarter backers.

I’m going to make an exception and discuss one Summer release because I know I’d get pilloried if I didn’t mention it. Of course I’m talking about Critical Role! We had originally intended to release this in the Spring but we’ve scheduled it for Gen Con instead. This is Gen Con’s 50th anniversary (and my 28th Gen Con!). We wanted a big marquee release for the show and the Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book is a perfect fit. We want to make this a real event and hope to have the cast out to Gen Con again.

Love 2 Hate

Towards the end of last year we released Love 2 Hate: Politics, the first expansion for the game. We are following that up in April with Love 2 Hate: Comics. Both expansions have 108 cards. You can mix them in with the core game, or play with them on their own for a more themed experience.

Dragon Age and SIFRP

We have Dragon Age and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying books in development but licensed game lines require approvals and how long those take can vary quite a bit. It could be one week or three months depending. So don’t worry, books are coming. We’ve just decided to wait until everything is approved before we make formal announcements about their release.

PDF Support

We have a variety of PDF releases planned to support our various lines. We have more Fantasy AGE Encounters and short Titansgrave adventures coming for Fantasy AGE, as well as the Short Cuts series for Pathfinder. We’ll also be continuing our series of Chronicle System PDFs, which provide non-canon rules support for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. In the past year we’ve released rules for magic (Chronicle of Sorcery) and gunpowder/firearms (Spark to Powder), for example.

Chronicle System: Spark to Powder (PDF)

Chronicle of Sorcery (PDF)

Conventions

As a company Gen Con is, of course, our biggest show. Last year we had a room dedicated to Green Ronin games for the whole convention and that was great. We’re doing it again this year, so if you’d like to run games for us please contact Donna. If you run enough games, we’ll cover your badge and even subsidize your hotel room.

Donna and Barry also run OrcaCon in Everett, WA (just north of Seattle). OrcaCon is happening this coming weekend, so come on out if you’re in the area. It’s the unofficial Green Ronin convention and most of our staff will be there. We’ve got folks running games and giving seminars, though personally I just want to play some games this year!

Green Ronin is once again a sponsor of the JoCo Cruise and Nicole and I will be on onboard. Haven’t heard of the JoCo Cruise? Well, imagine a convention on a ship and you’ve got a pretty good idea, except it also includes music, comedy, and more. If it’s nerdy, it’s probably happening on the ship! There are still cabins available (the cruise is in March) and this year we have the entire ship to ourselves. Should be a great time.

We’ll also be attending various trade shows, like GTS, the Alliance Open House, and the ACD Gamesday. If you are a game retailer, come see us!

More to Come!

So that’s what we have coming the first half of the year. We also have some exciting news to share in the coming months. We’ll be announcing soon a new card game we’re bringing to Kickstarter in April and a new campaign setting for D&D 5E. We’ve licensed a comic book for RPG treatment. We’ve also got another AGE game in development, as well as Ork, Second Edition. Following us on Twitter (we’re @GreenRoninPub) is probably the best way to keep up with our announcements or just bookmark our website.

This is Green Ronin’s 17th year in business. Thank you for your continued support over the years. I started the company as a side project and it’s become so much more than that thanks to you. Come back in June when I reveal our Summer and Winter plans. Until then, game on!

Chris Pramas

Chris Pramas
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Chris Pramas

Chris Pramas is an award-winning game designer and writer, and the founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing. He is best known as the designer of the Fantasy AGE RPG, the Dragon Age RPG, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd Edition. He has been a creative director at Wizards of the Coast and Flying Lab Software and a lead writer at Vigil Games. Most recently he worked with Wil Wheaton on the Titansgrave web series from Geek& Sundry. Green Ronin continues to thrive under his leadership, publishing roleplaying games like Blue Rose, Mutants & Masterminds, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.
Chris Pramas
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Ronin Round Table: Breaking into the Game Industry

In 1982 I was given a subscription to Dragon Magazine as a gift. I had started playing Dungeons & Dragons a few years earlier when I was 10 years old and it was my favorite game. Getting a new issue of Dragon every month was a huge treat for me because I didn’t have much money to buy game stuff, as I wasn’t old enough to work yet. I would read each issue cover to cover, often more than once. Seeing all those different articles by all those different writers made an impression on me. When I was 13, my big aspiration was to one day have an article in Dragon Magazine. It was the first time I considered writing and game design as something I could do.

When I was in college, I started pursuing this seriously. I tried to become a line reviewer for White Wolf Magazine. A friend and I submitted some material to White Dwarf. I got some articles published in an Ars Magica fanzine called Redcap. I wanted to break into the industry but other than blind submissions I didn’t really know how to do it. When I did get my first professional work in 1993, on Mayfair’s Underground RPG, I was lucky in two ways. First, another freelancer had flaked out and they needed people who could take on a job right away. Second, my friend Aaron knew the developer and talked him into giving us the job. That was the foot in the door I needed.

People often ask me how they can get started in in the game industry and I used to have a standard patter about it. In the 90s I would tell writers to start with magazine articles. Dragon and Dungeon were always on the lookout, and there used to be options like Shadis, Valkyrie, and Arcane. So sell a few articles, I’d say, and then go to GenCon. The whole industry is at GenCon, so it can be a cost effective trip to meet publishers and developers and try to get freelance work. You could also meet other freelancers and get to know your peers. Many stories, tips, and leads were shared in Milwaukee bars at GenCon I can assure you.

Times have changed though. Gaming magazines, always a tough business, have largely gone by the wayside. It’s more than that though. The internet, electronic publishing, print on demand technology, the rise of crowdfunding—all these things and more have changed the landscape. Answering the question is a more complicated endeavor now and that’s what I’m going to discuss in this Ronin Round Table.

One caveat before I go on. I’ve written this from the point of view of a game designer and publisher because that is my experience. Some of this will apply to other things like art and editing, but those are not my areas of expertise. Artists and art directors have plenty of opinions on such topics, so do seek those out if you want something from that point of view.

Tell Me the Options

So what are your options for breaking into the game industry? Let’s take a look.

1) Blogger

One easy way to get started is to create a blog and write about games. This costs virtually nothing and even if you don’t have a lot of readers at first, writing regularly is good practice. If you want to parlay this into something more, I suggest writing actual game content. I mean sure, it can be fun to rail about company X and their money grubbing ways but that’s not going to make anyone look at your blog and think you can do game design. So pick a game or two that you like and start writing material for it. These don’t need to be lengthy articles either. Design some monsters or magic items. Write a short adventure. Make some NPCs with adventure hooks. If you start creating useful content, you can develop a good reputation in the game’s community. This may eventually lead to freelance work. At the very least you are developing a body of work that is easy to show off. If a developer asks you for a writing sample, you’ll have ready material for that. Writing reviews can also be useful. It can show that you can think critically about games. Checking out a wide variety of game material is never wasted time either.

2) Demo Person

Game companies, and particularly roleplaying game companies, are always in need of good demo people. There is a constant demand for demos at stores and conventions all over the world and the staff of most companies is small. Demos are important but finding volunteers for this sort of work is difficult at best. For these reasons reliable demo people who show up on time and do a good job are really valuable to publishers. If you can do those things, it’s a great way to make yourself known. There are usually perks to joining a demo team, like free badges at cons and free or discounted game material, but there’s more to gain if you are diligent. You may be asked to write demo adventures, for example. If you do a good job at that, it can lead to freelance work. In some cases, you may be able to turn your volunteer work into an actual job.

3) Freelancer

The path of the freelancer is the one I followed. I’ve mentioned a couple of ways to break into freelancing already but there are others. Some companies do open calls from time to time. You will end up in a big slush pile but it’s a chance at least. You’ll also find game design competitions out there. You may not win—you probably won’t, in fact—but good work can get you noticed and may result in freelance opportunities. Once you get a gig, the most important thing to do is hit your deadline. If your developer asks for revisions, do them in a timeline fashion. It is better to do solid work on time than produce something of sheer genius months late. Understand that the game industry is small and developers talk to each other. The more good work you do, the easier it will be to get more work. The converse is also true.

An important thing to realize about freelance work is that much of it is what’s called work for hire. That means the publisher pays you a fee and buys all the rights to the work. This is common because companies want to own all the pieces of their intellectual properties.

If owning the rights to your work is important to you, you need to either find the right publisher or become one yourself. And speaking of that…

4) Publisher

If none of this sounds appealing, you can always just start your own damn publishing company. As an old punk rocker, the DIY ethic is near and dear to my heart. There was an Austin band in the 80s called the Big Boys, and they’d end their shows by exhorting the audience to go out and start their own bands. If you are a stubborn SOB like me who tires quickly of other people’s idiocy, being a publisher may be for you! This will almost certainly start as a part time venture but can turn into a full time job in the long run.

The good news is that it’s never been easier to publish roleplaying games. When I got into the industry, you had to do print runs of at least a thousand copies of a book. That meant having the money up front to pay for the printing, and somewhere to warehouse those books. Electronic publishing barely existed at that point. You had Hero Games selling books on 3.5 disks but that was pretty much it. Now things have changed entirely. E-publishing is a standard practice and there are plenty of places to sell your PDFs. Even better, electronic books require no warehousing. If you do want to make hard copies available, print on demand technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. Customers can order your books and the printer will ship directly to them. Again, no warehousing required. And you can do small print runs before you attend conventions if you want to sell there. All of this means it’s possible to start a company with little money and run it with just a few people or even just you.

The main downside of this method is that there are hundreds of small press companies out there now, so competition is fierce. It’s also harder to get your stuff into distribution and thus game stores if you are primarily a PDF/POD shop. Not impossible, however. There are a few companies that work with small publishers to get them into distribution. The biggest game changer though is crowdfunding. Now I can and indeed have talked at length about that topic but I’ll just note here that sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for game companies to overcome the biggest hurdle most of them face: funding. One successful campaign can take your company to the next level. Just do your homework before trying your first crowdfunding campaign. There is much to absorb about the process and the best practices of crowdfunding, and you can learn a lot from the successes and failures of other companies.

5) Staffer

Finally, you may be able to get a staff job at an existing company. I put this one last for two reasons. First, there are not all that many staff jobs available in the game industry. Second, you are unlikely to get your start in the business with one of those jobs. It’s most likely that you’ll start as a demo person or freelancer and then get hired on once you’ve proven yourself. At the larger companies it is possible to work your way up the ladder though. When I worked at Wizards of the Coast, for example, it was common to see aspiring game designers take jobs as customer service people.

The logic is that once you are inside a company, it’s easier to hear about opportunities and get yourself noticed. And that is true. A bunch of people who went on to write for D&D got their start in customer service. Breaking into the business with a staff job is a rare occurrence though.

So those are the primary suggestions I have for breaking into the game industry. However you approach it, you’ll find it useful to maintain an active social media presence. If you can avoid the pitfalls, it’s a powerful tool. I also still recommend going to GenCon if you can because it’s a great place to meet industry folks and to see the sheer breadth of hobby gaming. It has gotten a lot more expensive to attend though, so it’s not practical for everyone. One freelancer I know slept in his car this last GenCon, which is either dedication or craziness depending on how you look at it. There are conventions all over though and there’s value to attending any good con.

No matter what route you take, realize you have to be your own advocate. There are no game design gods who will come down from Olympus and bless you with a career. That’s something you have to make yourself.

Now go out there and design your own games!

Note: This was original written as a speech I delivered at the Great Falls Gaming Rendezvous in Montana earlier this year. Thanks to GFGR for having me up!

Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier

Crystal Frasier is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds Roleplaying Game, as well as a comic book fan, RPG geek, and corgi aficionado. She has played a variety of roles within the tabletop and video game industries, and has lent her talents to companies including Green Ronin, Paizo Publishing, Palladium Books, Onyx Path Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, and Kobold Press.
Crystal Frasier

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Ronin Round Table: Not Another RetCon

Last week’s Ronin Round Table brought tears to a lot of eyes, and not without good reason. Jon Leitheusser has been the developer for Mutants & Masterminds even longer than Steve Kenson. He was the motivating force behind the DC Adventure Roleplaying Game (now available at a great savings as part of our holiday sale!) and the creator of Emerald City, not to mention some of my personal favorites like the Cosmic Handbook and the upcoming Atlas of Earth Prime. And just to finish out his legacy, he brought the iconic Freedom City into 3rd edition. No one would want to follow that tenure, so where could Green Ronin find someone asinine enough to follow that performance?

Hello, I’m Crystal Frasier. Read more

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson

Steve Kenson has been an RPG author and designer since 1995 and has worked on numerous book and games, including Mutants & Masterminds, Freedom City, and Blue Rose for Green Ronin Publishing. He has written nine RPG tie-in novels and also runs his own imprint, Ad Infinitum Adventures, which publishes material for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying. Steve maintains a website and blog at www.stevekenson.com.
Steve Kenson

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Ronin Round Table: Blue Rose Draws the Six of Swords

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-20-41-am

Artist Sketches for Cover

The much-anticipated new edition of Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying is wrapping up in production, soon to go off to print, with the final PDF edition released to Kickstarter backers, and then available with pre-orders of the book. On the design and development side, we’ve moved well past the core book for the game and into some supporting products, including a Narrator’s Kit with sturdy reference screen and pre-generated heroes to get you playing quickly and easily and something every tabletop roleplaying game can use, namely adventures!

Six of Swords is a forthcoming anthology of adventures for Blue Rose. As the name suggests, the book will contain six different adventures set in the world of Aldea, suitable for different levels of characters, and intended for Narrators to use as inspiration and resources for creating their own Blue Rose adventures as well. Authors Jaym Gates, Steven Jones, Kira Magrann, Alejandro Melchor, Malcolm Shepherd, and Rebecca Wise each present a tale where your heroes can make a difference.

The anthology includes ruined mansions, masquerade balls, vampiric curses, mysterious masks, sorcerous secrets, ghostly hauntings, lost loves, looming threats to the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, and tragic quests where heroes are called upon to make the right choices. As the initial cover concept sketches by artist Nen Chang show, the adventurers are expected to delve into some dangerous and inhospitable places, like the depths of the Veran Marsh, in pursuit of their goals.

Six of Swords is finishing up in development and editing and moving on to production and layout right after the main Blue Rose book and the Narrator’s Kit are complete. We’re looking forward to bringing you stories of adventure in the world of Aldea for you and your players to tell and enjoy.

Owen Stephens

Owen Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens is a game designer who has worked on a number of products for Pathfinder, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and more. He is our Pathfinder Line Developer when he's not working full-time Developing Pathfinder at Paizo, or running his own company, Rogue Genius Games.
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Ronin Round Table: Monsters in Freeport, pt II

In the second part of this article, we look at the remaining monster types within the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and where they fit into the dynamic Freeport setting. Find the first part of this article here: Monsters in Freeport, pt I.

monsters-of-freeport-pt-2-illoOne of the things players and GMs alike love about Freeport is its blend of fantasy genres and flavors. It’s a pirate city, but it’s also the site of an ancient serpent people empire, a location for cultists of mad gods, an escape from a continent that waged a war with a series of necromantic warlords, and the center of a trade route that can include sea-travel to alternate realities. Its tone ranges somewhere near “pulp swashbuckling Lovecraftian horror,” which is a neat idea but can be hard to maintain. There’s an introductory adventure in the Freeport City of Adventure hardback to help get GMs started, and the Return to Freeport adventure series currently being released in pdf, but a GM wishing to expand beyond those may find it difficult to maintain the “Freeport tone” of other encounters.

In short, some GMs could use some guidance on what Pathfinder Roleplaying Game monsters fit well in Freeport… and which don’t. Luckily, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has a number of useful tags and categories that can be used to help determine if a creature is going to feel out-of-place in a Freeport campaign.

While it hopefully goes without saying, I’m still going to note that all of these are suggestions only. There’s no “wrong” way to run or play in a Freeport campaign as long as everyone is having a good time. If you and your players love telling the story of the open war between androids and devils fought publicly in the city’s streets, have at it! To a much lesser extreme, a Freeport campaign may well have less “typical” encounters from time to time as examples of unusual occurrences, and there’s nothing wrong with that. These ideas are just guidelines for how to try to stay within the existing feel of Freeport products, so if you vary from that feel you do so intentionally, rather than by accident. Read more