Green Ronin in 2006

A Message from the President
Here we are at the start of Green Ronin’s sixth year of business. This seems like an apt time to look back at where we’ve been and where we are going.
2005 was a year of highs and lows. Great moments included the launch of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which we designed for Games Workshop. It was an honor to get to design a new edition of one of my favorite games of all time. Sales were terrific and after only a couple of months in stores it moved into the #3 spot for RPGs and has stayed there with a robust schedule of great-selling supplements. The game also won two ENnie Awards last August at GenCon, including Best New RPG. It’s hard to argue with that. Similarly, Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition came out this Fall and instantly became our best-selling title for the year. It debuted at #8 on Comics and Games Retailers RPG Top Sellers list and it continues to power ahead. Unfortunately, 2005 was not all cash and kudos. As some of you may know, our sales and fulfillment house went bankrupt in spectacular style, taking several months’ worth of our sales money with them and literally skipping out of town without so much as an apology. There were several expensive, high profile releases, like the Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra boxed set and the first two books in our Advanced d20 rulebook line, for which we received no money from the hobby and book channels. We were also knocked out of the book trade for a good many months. Add that to a general downturn in the hobby and continued game store closings, and 2005 became the most challenging year in the company’s history.
The good news is that we have survived and we are still in fighting trim. I would not be writing this letter if not for the efforts of the Green Ronin staff, so first let me give them all huge props for staying the course. Steve Kenson, Nicole Lindroos, Hal Mangold, Evan Sass, Marc “Sparky” Schmalz, and Robert J. Schwalb deserve all the kudos in the world for busting their asses to keep Green Ronin afloat. Everyone in the company has been on a reduced salary so we can pay down our debts and they spent all year working harder for less money. Not one of them even thought about quitting. That kind of loyalty and dedication is a precious commodity and I’m thankful for it every day.
Things have at last stabilized at Green Ronin. We took over our own sales, made key strategic partnerships with Alliance Game Distributors and Diamond Book Distribution, got back into the book trade, got our schedule back on track, and brought on industry veteran Heather Barnhorst to help us out with sales. We’ve also been able to pay off many of the freelance writers, editors, and illustrators who have done such fine work for us. This is, however, an ongoing process, and 2006 is going to be a year of rebuilding for us. We still have freelancers to square up with other debts to pay down. We would like to thank all these talented people for their understanding and patience and assure them that we are doing everything we can to get everyone paid.
The key to our full recovery is our upcoming products and the continued support of our dedicated fans. Our 2006 schedule is one of endings and beginnings. In the first quarter of the year, we are going to be putting out the final Thieves’ World book (the Thieves’ World Gazetteer, at print now), the final Blue Rose book (the World of Aldea, out next month), and the final chapter of the current Freeport saga (Crisis in Freeport, out in March).
With each ending though, there is a beginning. As Blue Rose finishes, the True20 Adventure Roleplaying game debuts. This is the system that was designed for Blue Rose and it is now getting its own core rulebook and several support products in 2006. The core book will feature the winners of our True20 Setting Search (look for the announcement in this month’s issue of Dragon Magazine). We also have more plans for Freeport. We’re going to advance the timeline five years in a re-launch of the City of Adventure. We have some details to finalize but look for announcements in the Spring. We’re also finally launching Dragon Fist this year (no, really!). Hong Kong’s “King of Comics” Tony Wong did an amazing cover for us and work continues apace on the core rulebook. There’s never been a better time for flying swordsmen and crazed eunuch sorcerers.
The saying “don’t mess with success” applies in spades to Mutants & Masterminds. When we first started work on this game in 2001, I was only committed to doing two products. Now Mutants & Masterminds is our top game line and seems to grow stronger daily under the aegis of designer and developer Steve Kenson. As I mentioned earlier, the launch of the new edition has been fantastic. In the middle of this month Freedom City Second Edition should hit stores, follow weeks later by Lockdown. Other strong products like the Mastermind’s Manual and the Golden Age follow, making 2006 the best year for M&M to date.
We’ll also be continuing our work with Black Industries, Games Workshop’s RPG group. There are some great Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay books coming up, from the final installment of the Paths of the Damned series to Knights of the Grail to Children of the Horned Rat. We’re also working on some other projects with Black Industries, but we’ll leave it to them to make announcements at the appropriate time.
Last but not least we come to our problem child, the d20 System. As you know, d20 put Green Ronin on the map and we’ve had many years of success with our various d20 product lines. These days though, d20 is not doing so well. The player base is fragmented and unfocused. Gamers told us they wanted core material that slots in seamlessly with their D&D books. We responded with the Advanced rulebooks and were told they were too generic. Other fans said they wanted interesting settings and rules variants. We responded with our Thieves’ World and Mythic Vistas lines and were told they weren’t generic enough. Then we talked to retailers and distributors, only to hear that d20 is a dirty word to them these days. What’s a game company to do?
Our answer this year is to get back to basics. We started with 32-page adventures and we’re going back to the format in a new line called Bleeding Edge. Few companies publish adventures anymore and those that do are mining the nostalgia vein. That’s cool and all, but our friends at Necromancer Games and Goodman Games have that angle covered so Bleeding Edge is going a different way. The basic idea is to design adventures that can be used in any fantasy campaign and utilize the current d20 rules in their fullness. As developer Robert J. Schwalb said, “The big goal for the Bleeding Edge adventures is to step beyond the classic dungeon concepts and really explore the culture of 3E by building on the assumptions of the current rules set as well as the material found in other d20 books.” Rob himself wrote the first one, Mansion of Shadows, and it’s coming out in April.
We also have some plans for d20 Modern. Unlike d20 fantasy, Modern is seriously lacking in campaign settings. There are less than a half dozen and one of them is the Red Star Campaign Setting that we published in 2004. This March will see the release of Damnation Decade, which presents a fictional version of the 1970s inspired by scifi films like Rollerball, the Omega Man, and Soylent Green (eyaaa, Soylent Green Ronin is people!). We’re also including a True20 Appendix in Damnation Decade, so fans of both games can enjoy the dystopia. Speaking of sci-fi, we also have the Future Player’s Companion from the Game Mechanics coming out next month. You can think of this as the sci-fi version of the Modern Player’s Companion, which has remained our most popular d20 Modern title.
Now, 2006 is a long year and we do have other irons in the fire, but I’ve gone on enough for now. We’ll be posting further updates on our plans, including what our publishing partners the Game Mechanics, Human Head, and Ronin Arts are up to.
I’d like to close this message by thanking all the fans who have stayed with us since our first tentative steps back in 2000. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us and we hope we can continue to provide you with the finest RPGs in the industry for many years to come. If you want to see more Green Ronin material, particularly if you are a d20 fan, you need to let your local game store know. Game retailers are being very careful with what they order because running a store is quite the balancing act these days. If you let them know that you want to buy True20 or Damnation Decade or the Mastermind’s Manual, that local demand translates to the distributor orders that are our bread and butter. If you’ve got the GR love, let the world know.
Here’s hoping you all have a great 2006. Happy gaming everyone!
Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing