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

Latest posts by Joseph D. Carriker (see all)

Ronin Round Table: Unexpected Heroes

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to run a few games at GenCon. Since I have a novel, Sacred Band, releasing soon, I decided to create a Mutants & Masterminds scenario where the players played the characters who star in that novel. Gimmicky and self-serving, yes, but since creating my protagonists in the Mutants & Masterminds rules set was part of the character design I did as part of writing the novel, it seemed only fitting.

Now, part of my setting postulates occasional natural disaster-level phenomena referred to as “Echo Events.” These are always different, but almost always disastrous in some way. They are also where one of the three kinds of supers in my setting get their powers (these folks are called “Echoes,” for obvious reasons).

The scenario for the convention—titled “Sacred Band: The Indy Event”—has some of the heroes attending a certain gaming convention in the middle of an Indianapolis summer when one of these Echo Events hits. Crazy, unexpected phenomena arise: large metal structures being “floating” skyward, certain people find themselves the center of hive minds of dedicated drone-like followers, animals in the zoo nearby become super-strong and savage, and bodies of water all across the area begin to inexplicably rise. 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

Latest posts by Steve Kenson (see all)

Ronin Round Table: The Price of Success

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” — Cersei Lannister

praying-to-old-godsSpoiler Warning: This article references material from Season 6 of Game of Thrones and contains spoilers for viewers who have not watched through at least the fifth episode of the sixth season of the show.

Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire—and players of the roleplaying game—know full well that success often comes at a cost, and it can be a very high cost indeed. Part of the way the Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying game manages this cost is through the use of Destiny Points, which players can spend or “burn” (permanently expend) in order to influence the narrative of the game, helping move things towards a particular outcome at a cost. This is detailed on pages 71–72 of the Game of Thrones edition. Similarly, the rules for injuries and wounds in battle, frustration in intrigues, and yielding in both (see Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 of SIFRP) reflect the notion that success is often achieved through sacrifice and setbacks of various sorts.

What about combining these two elements? If you want to emphasize the notion that success comes at a cost in your Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying chronicles, consider the following options: Read more

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds game. He started gaming at the age of 12, has worked in the industry at a game and comic store, two distribution companies, as a publisher (where he originally published the Dork Tower comic book), as a game designer for HeroClix, as a freelancer, and finally for Green Ronin. He's originally from Burlington, Wisconsin and now lives in Renton, Washington with his wife and a really unfriendly cat.
Jon Leitheusser

Ronin Round Table: How to Get the Most Out of Hero High by Catalyst

p36Hi, I’m Reena Sarin, but in my superheroic identity I go by the name Catalyst! I’m probably the coolest member of the Next-Gen with my tech skills, innate mutie powers, and home-made control rod. I’m like the poster child for girls in STEM! (That’s science, technology, engineering, and math, in case you weren’t aware.)

Anyway, with the new Hero High book on the way, the folks at Green Ronin recruited me to talk to you about making the most out of your time at Claremont Academy. The book is packed with pretty much everything you’d want to know about the school and offers a lot of options for setting the school in different places, like in the middle of a huge city (fun!), in a rural area (yawn!), in a specific neighborhood in a larger city (cozy!), in a mobile game where everyone is on the run from something or someone (exciting!), in a satellite so you can travel the world (cool!), in a spaceship traveling through space (spaaaaace!), or as part of a dimension-hopping team that gets to see new worlds all the time (awesome!)! I don’t know what sort of game you’re into, but you can pretty much do anything you want with the advice offered in the book and a little imagination.

Geez, there’s so much in this book about customizing the school to fit how you want to use it that it’s hard to pick something else to talk about. I mean, seriously, there’s bits on the sorts of classes the school offers, suggestions to help you come up with personalities for teachers, the sorts of adventures that can arise from kids in a school. There’s information on changing the school from being run as a private school to being part of a government program or making it a totally secret facility—probably to keep the kids safe from the outside world … but also to keep the kids from, like, blowing up the neighborhood, too. There’s even ideas to help players figure out how their heroes ended up coming to the school. I thought that part was pretty cool and gave me some interesting ideas.

I feel like I’m going on and on about all this stuff. Rather than listening to me babble, here’s the section on running a Hero High series (I totally lifted this right from the book):

 

SERIES OPTIONS

There’s a few givens about a series set at Claremont Academy. The first is the series likely involves elements like coming of age, interactions with their peers, and the excruciating climb to maturity through love, friendship, and heartache. Drama is a major cog in school-centric games, and while it’s not necessary to run that style of game, those elements are often crucial.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t additional options to a Claremont Academy series, however. And, it doesn’t mean these options have to last longer than a school year, taking the heroes on an extended story arc that starts in fall and ends by the spring. The next year, a new story-arc or series begins.

EXPLORERS OF THE UNKNOWN

Duncan Summers, with help from heroes capable of ex­ploring other dimensions, is still probing nearby dimen­sions, looking for powered teens in need of sanctuary. Whenever he (or his allies) locates one, he requires help in rescuing them and finding a new place for them to live (it may not always be Earth-Prime). For this, he might require the heroes because of their particular talents or because no one else is available and the mission should be an in­teresting field trip. In addition to the schoolwork, their ex­tra-curricular activities, their friends, and the adventures they find themselves in, Summers’ dimension-hopping allies may “borrow” the heroes to rescue someone in need.

POLLUTED HISTORY

Duncan Summers has always managed to keep Clare­mont Academy’s history a secret, but the fact is, there was a reason why the property got turned from a failing estate into a private school, and why the private school eventually failed (as mentioned in History). Now, Claremont Academy’s secrets are once again rising up to bring misery to a new generation of inhabitants, unless the heroes can somehow break the cycle once and for all.

SHADOW FALL

The school has been home to beings capable of traveling to other worlds for years. Their repeated travel to and from Earth-Prime from the school’s grounds has breached the dimensional membrane over the years, leaving behind micro-cracks between this reality and other worlds. Now, creatures that live in the interstitial buffer between di­mensions are seeping into the Academy and wreaking havoc. Sometimes they manifest as deadly, horrible crea­tures, and sometimes they inhabit and mutate the living (plants, animals, people). This results in a monster-of-the-week scenario where, in addition to managing their lives, the heroes encounter emanations of these creatures. Meanwhile, they have to discover where these creatures are coming from and how to seal the breach (possibly at the point of a major incursion).

SHADOW OVER CLAREMONT

One of the new students at the academy is not who she appears to be. She is a recruiter for a villainous organi­zation, sowing dissent among the students, coercing teens into joining her organization (such as SHADOW or the Elysian Academy in Emerald City or one of the other Shadow Academies), and eliminating anyone who sus­pects her. She may be running her operation as an under­current in conjunction with another story arc, meaning she’s in position to feed her masters information and warn them of potential raids and attacks.

X-ISLE MARKS THE SPOT

The living city X-Isle (see Freedom City) has managed to snake its tendrils into the school, creating tunnels beneath Claremont Academy. Now, students are finding these tunnels and disappearing. They’re ending up in another version of their school that X-Isle created and are won­dering where everyone went. Can the heroes find these tunnels and the mirror school? And if they do, can they help rescue everyone and make their way back home?

Cool ideas, huh? Like I said, you can totally make your game however you want it. I mean, the default setting has the Claremont Academy being like a nice, private school near Freedom City. It’s got a bunch of super-powered kids, some of whom (like me!) who are training to be superheroes someday and some of whom are just learning to use their powers so they can get on with their lives … and a few who might not have the best of intentions. High school is full of drama. You know how it is.

I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll show off some of the art from the book. Check it out and I hope you come visit the school!

 

p102 p70 p89 p30

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

Latest posts by Joseph D. Carriker (see all)

Ronin Roundtable: Dragonpowder in SIFRP

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.33.23 PMDisclaimer: This article discusses the concept of gunpowder in the setting of A Song of Ice and Fire, for the sole application of the roleplaying game A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. To be clear, the existence of gunpowder is wholly non-canon for the book series, and this article is written from a great big “What If?” perspective.

Recently, we at Green Ronin Publishing released a new PDF sourcebook for the Chronicle System, Spark to Powder. This PDF takes a look at pre-modern types of gunpowder technologies, and how to use them in a Chronicle System campaign.

But since the Chronicle System is the “engine” that powers our A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, even I couldn’t help but imagine what gunpowder introduced to Westeros might look like and how it might change the setting in some capacity. We’re calling it dragonpowder, not just for the flame it births so easily, but also for the devastating effect is has the potential to bring to warfare in Westeros.

So, without further ado, we look at the first hurdle to jump in such a scenario: Where does gunpowder come from? We offer three different answers for the Narrator to use in their campaign, perhaps even mixing and matching from elements as they like. Enjoy! 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

Latest posts by Steve Kenson (see all)

Ronin Round Table: Blue Rose Development

BRAGE_Core_cov_72dpi

Welcome! No, we haven’t accidentally reposted a previous Ronin Roundtable. This week we return to the development of the new edition of Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying for the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) System rules, following our successful Kickstarter for the game.

Blue Rose is through editing and now in production and layout, with Production Manager Hal Mangold hard at work both on laying out the book and assigning art to various artists to bring new visions of the world of Aldea to life. You can see a small sample of Hal’s design magic in the updated logo to grace the game’s cover above the fantastic new painting by artist Stephanie Pui-Min Law.

In addition to art, we’re working with cartographer Phillip Lienau, who provided the maps for the first edition of Blue Rose (as well as the comprehensive map of Freedom City for Mutants & Masterminds) to update his work for the new edition, particularly for the two-sided poster map for inclusion in the book. We’re eager to be able to present Phillip’s work in full color this time.

In terms of production, the new edition of Blue Rose is going to be sizeable: easily 300 pages (at Green Ronin, we like big books and we cannot lie), not quite as massive as the complete Dragon Age Core Rulebook, but easily the size of the Game of Thrones edition of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying as a beautiful full-color hardcover book.

Meanwhile, in addition to working with Hal on copyfitting and layout matters, I am working on the collection of pre-generated Blue Rose heroes for the Narrator’s Screen booklet, offering a representative cross-section of novice characters, complete with backgrounds and customization options, usable for quick-start play and great for demo adventures and convention games to introduce new players to Blue Rose and the AGE System

Speaking of adventures, I’m also developing the first drafts of a number of short Blue Rose adventures by an exciting collection of authors, including Jaym Gates, Elsa S. Henry, Steven Jones, Kira Magrann, Alejandro Melchor, and Rebecca Wise. We intend to release these adventures as short, stand-alone PDF products and to collect them into a print edition to provide Blue Rose Narrators and players with a wealth of opportunities to tell stories in the world of Aldea.

As you can see, that’s a lot of Blue Rose in the works! We’ll keep you updated as things progress, perhaps with some additional previews and looks “behind the curtain” as the book finishes production and gets ready for pre-order and PDF release. Naturally, our Kickstarter backers will have the first look at anything new that comes along, but we’re looking forward to making the new edition of Blue Rose available to everyone!

Nicole Lindroos

Nicole Lindroos

Nicole Lindroos entered the game industry in 1989. In that time, she co-founded Adventures Unlimited magazine, served on the board of the Game Manufacturers Association and as the chair of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Art and Design, volunteered both on the advisory committee and as the head of the Origins Awards, and has been an active freelancer for large and small companies alike. Since the year 2000 she has been co-owner and General Manager of Green Ronin Publishing. Her recent projects include contributions to the Dragon Age Tabletop Roleplaying Game and Titansgrave: Ashes of Valakana.

She's also the sweetest person you never want to piss off.
Nicole Lindroos

Ronin Round Table: Share Your Enthusiasm

One of the best things about working in a creative field is getting to see how others interact with the thing you’ve put out there. When I first started working in the game industry we often didn’t know how things were being received in the wider world unless a letter came by postal mail from a fan or someone came up at a convention to tell you about their character. Simply having access to email and message boards expanded that contact beyond what we could have thought possible in those early years and today, well, today we have all of the above plus Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube, not to mention the explosion of convention culture and the ability to get together with people who share your interests however specialized or obscure they may be.

Gaming in particular ties into so many other creative pursuits! I was thinking about this earlier in the year while on the light rail to Emerald City Comic Con when I spotted someone carrying a prop that I instantly recognized: Bianca, the named weapon of Varric Tethras from Dragon Age. The prop-crafter stopped and talked with me about how it had been put together while I gushed my admiration for the end result. Bianca was later reunited with the Varric cosplayer they were meeting at the con and they were kind enough to send me some photos of the result afterward.

bianca-viv

Vivienne and Varric Cosplay Emerald City Comic Con 2016

 

Cosplay is a beautiful (and very visible) way fans express their enthusiasm for creative works that inspire them. Sometimes that enthusiasm confines itself much more directly to the game table. We were recently contacted by Freeport fan Russell Liley who wanted to share something he’d put together for his game group. Throughout the history of Green Ronin’s Freeport releases, the city’s paper The Shipping News has served as a way to dish out plot hooks, character tidbits, and flavor text to entertain and inspire readers. Russell went a step further and put together a PDF that could be printed up and actually handed out to his group. We were absolutely tickled to see it! He has kindly given us permission to share it at this link on the Green Ronin website.

 

Art is perhaps one of the oldest forms of fan expression. In fact, many tabletop RPGs have encouraged (or even “required”) players to not just describe their characters but to draw their characters (or, for those like me who have no artistic skills, choose some sort of representation for their character from existing art). The space for character illustration did not start popping up on character sheets by accident. Going back to Green Ronin’s earliest forums we were asked to provide a place for fans to share their art and that especially took off with Mutants & Masterminds fans eager to share their four-color (and not so four-color) heroes. Even with sites like DeviantArt playing host to amateurs and professionals alike, many people still come to the forums to share their latest character concepts. Some people have even gone on to take part in the Mutants & Masterminds open license to publish their work.

 

Twitter has been particularly good at connecting us with fans of Titansgrave thanks to hashtags. In addition to getting to see people excited about watching episodes of the web show, we’ve also gotten to see YouTubers discussing the show (such as the entertaining Titansgrave Diggers who had me on the show last August) and people doing all sorts of incredible art inspired by the world and characters, like this incredible sculpt of Laura Bailey’s character Lemley!

headless2

Lemley, work in progress

When I asked Gordon about his sculpt, this is what he had to say: “I have many projects on the go, but the world of Titansgrave and the character of Lemley inspired me to take on one more. In my optimism I thought that it would take me a couple of months to make it, and I could then go on to make the other characters. This has proven to be well below the amount of effort it actually required, but I am so pleased with the way it was going I have carried on regardless. I am making this sculpture out of Milliput, taking a leaf out of the hugely talented Jason Freeny’s book. Were I to do it again from the beginning however, I’d probably opt for something easier to work with, such as polymer clay.” If you want to see what Lemley eventually looks like with her head on, you can find more pics at Gordon’s Tumblr.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that we love to see your enthusiasm, how you’re going out there and making these things your own. Doesn’t matter how that ends up being expressed, your love for the things that make you happy makes the creators of those things happy, too. Sometimes the internet can function as an amplification device for unhappy feelings and unpleasant interactions but there’s a lot of good stuff out there to share and embrace. Those of us on this side of the creation equation couldn’t be more pleased and honored to see the ripples spreading out through the pond of our game-loving community and coming back around to us. Have fun out there everyone!

via GIPHY

Sky Captain Hana Cosplay as Dorian Pavus

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

Latest posts by Joseph D. Carriker (see all)

Ronin Round Table: GenCon 2016 Roleplaying Games!

 

GClogo-header-2016-91a751cab7b3dc33dd0ac3b3b95595ac9c4e1b4bc5f42b6388531396cb8729beAs I’m sure most folks know, the events registration for GenCon 2016 went live on Sunday. As an aid to everyone who is interested in playing some of their favorite Green Ronin Publishing roleplaying games at GenCon—or trying out one they’ve never played before—we thought we’d compile a handy list of links to those games, by game.

What follows is not a complete list of Green Ronin Publishing games ato be had at GenCon. It’s just a collection of the games we’ve helped put together and coordinate for this year’s convention. See you there!

Reminder: While some of these games are already sold out (a big thanks to all of that enthusiasm!), remember that lots of folks over-buy, and then drop events as they figure out their schedule. Moreover, things happen and sometimes people aren’t able to show for a game, so make sure to pick up some generic tickets and if there’s a game you’re really interested in, show up to it and see if there are any slots unfilled when game time rolls around. Our GMs are only too happy to help.

Read more

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser

Jon Leitheusser is the developer for the Mutants & Masterminds game. He started gaming at the age of 12, has worked in the industry at a game and comic store, two distribution companies, as a publisher (where he originally published the Dork Tower comic book), as a game designer for HeroClix, as a freelancer, and finally for Green Ronin. He's originally from Burlington, Wisconsin and now lives in Renton, Washington with his wife and a really unfriendly cat.
Jon Leitheusser

Ronin Round Table: Share Your Enthusiasm

People often talk about how important “word of mouth” is. About how important it is to get people who like something to talk about that product or service, because it can have such a huge impact on others who are interested, but haven’t made up their minds yet. That’s where you come in!

In the age of ordering online and downloadable PDFs, word-of-mouth is more important than ever, because curious shoppers can’t page through a book before buying it like they can in your favorite local game store. Sure, people can read the description of a book or game on a company website, but that stuff is written specifically to make it sound as interesting as possible and to get you to buy the book. What curious gamers really need when they’re visiting a site like DriveThruRPG or Amazon are reviews from people who’ve already downloaded, read, or played that game.

You’ve probably been in that situation before; “This looks interesting, but how good is it really? How’s the art? What sort of rules crunch is inside? I can’t tell.” And what I’m hoping—what I’m asking—is that you take some time to leave a review for our games and sourcebooks after you have a chance to read through or play them.

Green Ronin’s been around for well over a decade now, so the quality of our games is well known to our fans and in the gaming industry, but for new players or people who are curious about what we make, reviews are very important.

So, if you enjoy a Green Ronin game, book, supplement, or PDF, please share your enthusiasm! We’re not looking for you to stroke our egos since that doesn’t really help anyone—and we’re not looking for feedback about why you hate a thing because it’s the sort of thing you hate. What I’m asking is that once you’ve had time to think about what you’ve purchased, that you go back to the site you bought it at and give us a star rating—or even better—write a short review about what you liked and what you thought was lacking. That helps curious shoppers make more informed decisions, but also gives us designers, writers, and developers tips on how to improve.

If you picked up the Cosmic Handbook, Fantasy AGE, Titansgrave, the Song of Ice and Fire RPG, or any of our recent PDF releases, like Freeport’s Curse of the Brine Witch, Rogues Gallery: Chakram, or any of our other games, please take a few minutes and write a review. We’d all really appreciate it and so would all those people who look at those supplements after you!

Thanks!

Jon Leitheusser

M&M Game Developer

 

 

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

Latest posts by Owen Stephens (see all)

Ronin Round Table: Heroes of Freeport: Janica Flamefist

Heroes of Freeport present the backstory of some of the characters depicted in art (and sometimes text) in Freeport: City of Adventure, and the Return to Freeport adventure path. They serve as examples of the kinds of characters that may be found in the City of Freeport, and be used as inspiration for PCs or as NPC backgrounds for the GM to draw from.


“We thought it was just a bad year. Illness spread through the streets, and we blamed rotten food. Neighbors disappeared, and we blamed the cutthroats. But the truth was far worse. A cult of maniacs had begun to loose ghouls in the sewers nearby. No one believed us, and no one helped us. So we learned how to fight the undead ourselves. And I learned how to do it better than anyone else.”

—Janica Flamefist, Monster Slayer (Freeport: City of Adventure, 371)

P345_Malika__vpcorbella_2.0Janica is a third-generation citizen of Kizmir, and the granddaughter of Captain Janyr Flameblade who commanded the sailing ship Sultan’s Fist 102 years ago when the azhar Sultan Mustafa VI invaded the southern coast of the Continent. Her grandfather was at the front of the forces that marched northward and helped claim the land that is now the nation of Kizmir, and in return he was rewarded with lands and privileges. Along with several other ex-soldiers, Janyr founded Tzeset, a large town in northern Kizmir lying between the Ozkurt Forest and the Broken Land. The people of Tzeset turned their eyes to the woods of the Ozkurt Forest, and began to conquer them.

The trees on the northern edge of the Ozkurt are ancient, tall, and strong, making them perfect for long keels and high masts. Felling these trees and shipping them south to the nation’s capital of Milsar has brought wealth to Tzeset for more than fifty years. Such work is not without risks – kobold warrens often raid the logging operations, and larger, more dangerous creatures sometimes attack out of the Broken Lands, but within the stout walls of the town the families of Tzeset grew wealthy and content. As long as the lumber continues to be shipped to Kizmir’s great shipyards, to ensure the sea fleets of Sultan Mourtos II (Master of the Azhar and Keeper of the Eternal Flame) are always expanding, the Sultanate does not much care about local affairs.

Normally, this suited Janica and her family quite well. Fiercely independent, the azhar townsfolk enjoyed being largely left to their own devices. When the logging went well, the town would hold great festivals. When it went poorly, if the effort to cut the wood was too costly or some threat proved bloody to overcome, the townsfolk banded together and pushed on. Janica’s family were well respected and rich, and used their considerable resources to help the less fortunate in bad years.

Then came a very bad year.

The Ruin of Tzeset

Illness spread rapidly through Tzeset, and dozens died. Entire logging parties failed to return from the woods, and supporting farms were razed to the ground. The azhar were saddened, but not overly concerned. Raiders from the Ivory Ports sometimes attacked outlying groups and monsters from the Broken Lands had caused damage in the past, but the town itself was always safe. Many of its bravest and boldest went out to find the cause of their ills, and set them right. Janica, more interested in business than warfare, paid such efforts no heed.

Until none of the brave heroes returned.

The situation within the town itself grew worse. Dismembered bodies were found in the street. Strange symbols were etched in alleyways. The town’s sewer system, a marvel of underground engineering built by gnomish experts from Iovan, began to echo with growls, moans, and cries for mercy. New disappearances occurred every week, and those who wished to flee the town soon discovered that small parties outside the town walls at night were beset by pale humanoids each night, and suffered even greater losses than those in Tzeset. Janica’s family organized patrols in the neighborhoods near their manor, and Janica did not hesitate to join them. From above the mantle, she removed her grandfather’s massive falchion, supposedly forged in the City of Brass itself, and carried it over her shoulder.

Both lone couriers and large, armed parties were sent to outlying towns and even Milsar, begging for help. None came.

As the deaths and disappearances mounted, panic began to set in. The attackers grew more bold, bursting out of the sewers, covered in the stench of the place, to slash with long claws and bite with sharp teeth. Their victims often made no effort to defend themselves, and whispers began that the attackers were so horrific that to see them up close was to be paralyzed with fear. There appeared to be no safe refuge, no way to flee, and no hope of aid arriving.

The Nightmare Lair

Janica’s family did not panic. They gathered together those friends and allies who still trusted them, and made a simple statement. This evil comes from the sewers. So into the sewers we must go, to seek out the source, and destroy it. Janica and each of her parents swore to lead whoever would follow in three parties, to assault the major entrances of the sewer all in one night. They asked for aid from hundreds of the people of Tzeset. When they gathered that night, they were joined by fewer than two dozen.

Janica’s memories of that night are confused, and drenched with blood. Within the sewers were the horrific monsters of fang and claw, and the scent of them was worse than the smells of the sewers themselves. But there were also elves, humans, and even a few azhar, dressed in tattered robes marked with yellow sigils, and if anything they were worse than the pale creatures of fang and claw. Many of Janica’s allies died that night, but so did many of their enemies. And Janica discovered she could, if pressed, unleash her inner fire, her ancient hereditary connection to the efreet, and release a light so pure, the horrid pale attackers fled before it.

Janica’s family hauled several mangled, clawed bodies to the surface, and showed the town the face of their horror. The creatures where white, with long elven ears, but hairless and hunched. They smelled of putrescence, they left wounds that festered, and their touch could paralyze. The Flameblade family searched the records of their family and found a name to put to this evil – “ghouls.” The next night, armed with scores of emboldened townsfolk, the Flameblades struck into the sewers again. And the night after, and the night after that.

For three months, Janica and her parents lead the assaults into the tunnels and chambers beneath their hometown. Janica studied every ghoul corpse her group killed, and read every manual found on the increasingly rare yellow-sigil-marked cultists. Many of the people of Tzeset became adequate ghoul hunters, but Janica excelled. The town blacksmiths forged armor for her to wear, and her growing militia called her “Flamefist,” to honor her accomplishments.

For a season Janica led the people of Tzeset in reclaiming their town. The ghouls became less and less common, and then suddenly one night there were none. The town’s sewers were fully mapped, with every new chamber and crude tunnel explored. The cultists had fled, leaving behind only a few notes on rituals used to create ghouls, and a vague mention of returning to “our brethren across the sea.” For the town of Tzeset, the long horror was over.

But not for Janica Flamefist.

She and her militiamen carried word of the attack to Milsar, and personally put it in the hands of the Sultan’s head Vizier. She then bid her militia return to their families, and stepped on a ship headed east. In her hand she clutched a scrap of a cultist’s journal, on which had been scrawled a single word.

“Freeport.”

Art by Victor Corbella.

Jack Norris

A writer and game designer since the mid 1990s, Jack Norris has worked on numerous award winning and critically acclaimed publications over the last two decades, including products for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, DC Adventures, Scion, Mutants and Masterminds, and Feng Shui.He is currently working at Green Ronin developing Dragon Age, as well as co-developing other projects such as Blue Rose. Outside of his work for Green Ronin and others, Jack also designs and writes Tianxia, his own line of wu xia/kung fu action rpg products published through Vigilance Press. When not writing and designing, Jack is an attorney and consultant at the Vidar Law Group, a small Chicago-based litigation firm.

Jack also hates writing bios...

Ronin Round Table: This is What It Sounds Like

I hated writing this week’s Ronin Round Table.

However, I kind of felt I had to.

See, awhile back I paid tribute to the late great David Bowie by suggesting ways to draw inspiration from the musician’s songs for rpg plots, campaigns, adventures, and stories.

My reasoning for doing this was, I believe, sound. The idea was that while Bowie wasn’t a gamer, his music entertained many of us who were and he was definitely a player of roles who enjoyed adopting different identities and reinventing himself.

Then Prince died. Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he passed away on April 21st, 2016, leaving behind a staggering body of work and a great history as both a songwriter and performer.

And after the initial shock of losing yet another talented musicians with such a wide and varied body of work set in I realized…

All those things I said about Bowie applied to Prince.

And with that, despite really wishing there was no reason to do so, I set about doing the same thing with Prince’s music as I did with David Bowie. Because while his songs have different themes and imagery, they can inspire other stories and tales just as easily.

Now, like Bowie and many other artists, not every song is going to work for this sort of inspiration. In fact, a lot of Prince’s later work while obviously deeply personal to him also has a lot of fairly targeted message or meaning and unlike David Bowie, he didn’t know his life was nearing an end and plan and develop his music accordingly. Many of Prince’s recent albums also had limited releases, making them not nearly so widely known.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to work with, especially from his earlier work. And so, here we go.

Thieves in the Temple

This one is pretty direct. The song itself would make a great soundtrack for an adventure. In a fantasy setting, the temple of the goddess of love is beset by thieves. The criminals seek to steal an important relic from the temple. With the relic gone, the goddess will withdraw her patronage from the temple and the city, turning love itself away from the populace. Without love, parents reject their children, couples split or turn on each other, and things get very bad very quickly. By the way the relic is a golden icon that looks like this:

symbolCan the PCs stop the thieves and return the relic? How long can the city survive without love? What do the thieves want? Why would they do such a thing? Who could they possibly be working for? Well…

7

Seven ancient and powerful sorcerers devoted transforming the world into a place of corruption and oppression have risen. They were thought dead and defeated long ago, but they have returned. The relic stolen by their agents is part of the secret to defeating them and allowing the world to advance to a golden age rather than falling into despair and ruin. Of course, it’s going to take a lot of intellect and savoir-faire to defeat the seven and their armies of followers. Still, they stand in the way of love so hopefully the PCs can smoke them all and someday all seven will die.

I Would Die 4 You

Sometime ago, an angel fell in love with a mortal they were assigned to protect. It’s not woman, man, or something that you can really comprehend. However, when the divine protection was withdrawn and the angel was ordered to let the mortal perish as part of some cosmic or divine plan, they refused. Rejecting their divine powers, the now-mortal angel seeks assistance from the PCs in protecting the love, who isn’t even aware of the angel or their feelings. Can the PCs protect the angel’s would-be lover? Can they bring the two together? Or is the mortal already in love with someone else?

Furthermore, what is the threat to the mortal and why did the angel’s superiors suddenly pull their protection. Is the mortal a threat to cosmic order? Do they hold some terrible or amazing secret? If the PCs help the angel and their love, are they risking some greater doom?

This adventure can work in nearly any setting, from supers to fantasy, though how much the PCs can do and what sorts of threats they might deal with would vary with the exact campaign setting and genre.

1999

Let’s take a step back to the end of the last millennia. There were definitely some people suggesting that the world would end or forever change around that time. Now of course it didn’t.

But what if it had?

What if it was New Year’s Eve, 1999 and some major world-shattering event happened? What if its 1999, the PCs are all at a kickin’ party and the sky starts falling? What do they do? What can they do? Can they save the world, or will they just have to survive what’s coming?

The genre and type of game affect this idea greatly. In a supers game you can probably stop the threat and save the world. In a horror game you might be lucky to even have some of the PCs survive the night. In any event remember that your PC’s life is just a party and parties aren’t meant 2 last.

Delirious

It can be fun to take something written dripping with innuendo and just totally ignore it, interpreting everything just as it seems on the surface.

Because if you do? The lyrics of this song just screams “Supervillain!” Shaking, losing control, and possibly exploding whenever this person is near? Maybe the poor soul can’t control their effect on people but that’s still really extreme. PC heroes have to avoid losing control of themselves when they get to close to this villain and find a way to shut down their powers of there will be widespread chaos and calamity.

Darling Nikki

Okay it’s a favorite of mine but…yeah, not going to do that sort of role-playing inspiration here. Honestly there are a couple of really great Prince songs that probably fit into this category. Or a couple dozen. Moving on…

Sign O’ the Times

Not a happy song. A really darned bleak one, in fact. But it paints a picture for a compelling modern urban noir with a bit of glam around the edges (because its Prince, everything is going to have that). By itself the song doesn’t suggest a theme or story, instead it sets a mood where heroes try to fight the darkness growing from daily cynicism, corruption, and despair. You could slap this in front of a game styled as an “HBO style” cop or detective game and you’re all set. Maybe throw in the opening for Let’s Go Crazy at some point too.

Well, there we have it. And it’s just some of the songs from not only Prince but many other talented folks that we can use to inspire our own creations.

Now hopefully I won’t be back in a few months to do this for Tom Waits or something. I honestly might start a riot.

Peace, love, and happy gaming.