Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Gravity Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Gravity PowersIt’s one of the fundamental forces of the universe, and a wielder of Gravity Powers can make things light as a feather or heavier than a mountain, soar through the air, and perhaps even harness the power of an almost infinitely-dense singularity! For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Gravity Powers

Ronin Round Table: Play, Test, Play

If you’re curious, it was reading about Chris & Nicole’s ongoing at-home game night that’s got me wanting to talk about my playtest game night. I get to play a few different games on good weeks. I try to play board games like 7 Wonders or party games like Celebrity with my regular potluck group. Some nights I get to play RPGs for straight-up fun, no work attached, and sometimes I play them for a mix of entertainment and study.

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Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Plant Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Plant PowersPlants are everywhere, surviving even in some of the harshest places on Earth. The Plant Powers profile offers powers that turn even the humblest plants into powerful allies, and grant plant-like powers of survival, adaptability, and endurance. For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Plant Powers

Faces of Thedas: Varric (PDF)

Faces of Thedas: VarricWherever he goes, Varric Tethras (wisecracking rogue and stalwart companion in the Dragon Age 2 video game) makes friends, learns the local stories, and gleans the choicest scuttlebutt. Wherever he goes, his prized and distinctive crossbow, called Bianca, is sure to be at hand. Wherever he goes, he encounters trouble and treasures worth telling about.

In Faces of Thedas: Varric, we learn a version of Varric’s tale that might even be close to the truth. This Dragon Age RPG DLC begins with an exclusive interview with Mary Kirby, the BioWare in-house writer whose words brought Varric to life, and who seems to know more about him than she’s telling. ("There was a girl, and I made a promise. Bianca is the only story I can never tell.")

After the interview you’ll find Varric’s background and ways to use him in your Dragon Age RPG campaign, followed by game statistics for the rogue at levels 1 and 5, including guidelines for using the Contacts talent at home and away, and for creating signature items for PCs. Finally, we give you game statistics for The Hanged Man tavern in Kirkwall, Varric’s signature leather duster, and of course the crossbow Bianca herself.

Discover the Faces of Thedas today!

Night’s Watch Cover Revealed

We kind of have a thing for sweet cover art here at Green Ronin. (Hopefully you’ve noticed.) The cover to our upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Night’s Watch sourcebook, painted by Slawomir Maniak, is no exception. You can learn more about Night’s Watch, or just feast your eyes on this (click to expand):

Night's Watch Cover

Ronin Round Table: Chris Pramas on Game Night

In 1999 Nicole and I decided to start hosting a game night at our place to play RPGs. While we’ve moved from that apartment, cycled many friends in and out of the group, and changed the night of the week several times, game night has been going on as close to weekly as we can manage for the last 13 years. It’s a key social activity for us and one that we always try to maintain. Even last year, when I spent 10 months in Austin working on the Warhammer 40K MMO, I Skyped in for at least part of the night to keep that connection. Maintaining a game group is not without its challenges though, and we’ve faced many over the years. I know we’re not alone in this either. How many of these sound familiar to you?

Many Players, One GM
For many years, I ran nearly every RPG on game night. In the early years we played a lot of d20 games, as Green Ronin was one of the leading d20 publishers during that era. I had a long running D&D campaign, ran Freeport adventures, and playtested V for Victory, the World War 2 mini game I designed for Polyhedron Magazine. Later I ran a playtest for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition, and even a short-lived Lord of the Rings game when it seemed like we might get to design a LotR game for Games Workshop (not getting to design that game still makes me sad). Later there was Dragon Age, of course, but game night is not all about playtesting. I also ran stuff like a Savage Worlds Day After Ragnarok game and a weird mash-up of Feng Shui, Underground, Delta Green, and Deadlands. Once in a while, someone else would volunteer to run and I’d enjoy just playing, but those campaigns never lasted. We’d do 3 or 4 sessions and then I’d be back in the GM’s chair. I do like to GM but a certain point I started to get burned out. We got another GM when Ray Winninger joined the group, but ultimately Ray decided he preferred running longer sessions on weekends than working within the constraints of a week night that includes dinner and socializing (and hey, Ray, you can start those up again any time!).

Differing Tastes
Some groups have one glorious campaign that lasts for a decade or more but in my experience those games are the exception. Most campaigns seem to last six months or less. That is certainly true of our group. We’ve had maybe two that have lasted longer than a year. Naturally then, a common question is, “What are we playing next?” This isn’t always easy to answer. Tastes vary widely among our group and what we ended up playing was often a matter of compromise. In all our years of game night, I’ve never run one of my very favorite games, Pendragon, because I knew we had players who just wouldn’t be into it. That game requires a group of players who really buy into the setting and concepts, and I didn’t want to frustrate myself by trying to force it on them.

Life Intruding
I look back fondly on my teenage years, when I had way more free time for gaming. Everyone in our group (with the exception of my step-daughter Kate) is a grown up and of course we have all sorts of responsibilities. Almost everyone who has ever been in our group works in either the tabletop or video game industries, so there have been many times that we lose people for months of crunch time. Convention season is another difficult time, as many of us travel for weeks in the summer to attend this con or that. Marc “Sparky” Schmalz, GR’s Director of E-Publishing, also went back to school a couple of years back, which sometimes limits his time. Mitch Gitelman, an old friend who joined the group while I was in down south, is one of the guys behind the recent Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter and we’re pretty sure that’s going to keep him busy. So while we try to meet every week, it isn’t always possible. Sometimes it has seemed like the whole thing will unravel, but we’ve always pulled it back.

Changing Faces
The game industry can be volatile so we’ve had to watch many friends move away for new jobs, but we’ve also filled empty spots with friends who have moved to Seattle for a new gig. Sometimes the same person has done both those things. The most famous example is Bruce Harlick of the old Hero Games crew, who moved here to work on the Matrix MMO, was part of group for many years, and then moved back to California for several other video game jobs (ending with his current gig at Zynga). We still call him “Bruce the Traitor” for leaving us but he’s far from the only one. Jim Bishop left to go work at BioWare, Patrick Swift for a job at Upper Deck and now Cryptozoic, Tim Carroll for a job at Apple, Jess Lebow for a job at Ubisoft (and the distance record by moving to China!) and hell even me for a while when I lived in Austin last year. Every time we gain or lose people, the dynamic changes a little bit. This isn’t always bad, but it’s another thing that makes long term campaigns hard. GR’s webmaster Evan Sass gets bonus points for being the one person outside the household who has stayed with us through thick and thin.

Campaign Failure
For many of the reasons outlined above, we’ve found it harder and harder to maintain campaigns. While the group was originally conceived as RPG focused, a few years ago board and card games started to overtake that. Since the group often varied week to week, depending on who was traveling or crunching or what have you, it seemed better to play games we could finish in a night. And as I mentioned, I was also burning out on GMing and I wanted a break as well. So we’ve ended up playing games like Ticket to Ride, Dixit, Thurn and Taxis, Small World, Formula Dé, Dominion, and recently Miskatonic School for Girls (a Kickstarter that Nicole backed).

As you can see, we’ve had our ups and downs. Some nights we don’t even game at all. Nicole Lindroos, in addition to being Green Ronin’s General Manager, is a fabulous chef, so she always cooks and we drink, talk, and catch up. Those nights are fun too and even if we only talk about gaming (which is pretty much inevitable for us), I’d rather get together than miss a game night. It’s gaming that keeps us bonded together, keeps us coming back week after week to socialize, and keeps our friendships strong. Of course, it’s better when we actually play something but now my step-daughter Kate (who is 16) is part of the group and she’s helping to keep us honest. Last week she basically told us that game night without games was bulllshit and she wanted to play a superhero RPG please. I think we raised that girl right!

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Meta-Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Meta-PowersThere are powers, and then there are powers about powers: Meta-Powers. This profile looks at the powers used to influence the powers of others, from Power Mimicry and Power Theft to Power Nullification and Nemesis, with a close look at the Variable effect from the core rules, the foundation of many of these powers. For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Meta-Powers

Emerald City Knights Chapter 5: Rise of the Masterminds (PDF)

Emerald City Knights Chapter 5: Rise of the Masterminds (PDF)This chapter picks up right where Chapter 4 left off, but can also be played as a stand-alone adventure. This PDF is available for just $3.99, and uses the Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules.

Emerald City Knights Chapter 5: Rise of the Masterminds (PDF)

Ronin Round Table: Downloadable Content

Advances in technology are always changing the process of publishing, from the advent of desktop publishing to the development of electronic publishing, print-on-demand, tablets, and fundraisers like Kickstarter. We at Green Ronin work to keep up on the latest innovations and how they can help us to bring you new products in new ways.

One of those ways was producing smaller, focused products we could deliver electronically in PDF format to provide support for our games. We started with the launch of Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition, figuring the most useful support for that game out of the gate was villains for the heroes to fight. So we came up with what we initially called "Villain of the Week": a single bad guy, written up with game stats, background, and adventure hooks, with an "app price" of 99 cents, like buying a song on iTunes. We worked on getting at least a month’s worth of releases prepped and ready to go before we launched the series, which we eventually named "Threat Report" making it a weekly update from AEGIS, the super-agency dealing with villains in the setting.

Threat Report was well-received. It didn’t do as well, sales-wise, as a print product, but it also didn’t need to: the overhead costs for the individual issues was lower, so we could sell to a smaller audience. Some villains did better than others, but all of the issues at least broke even, and continued to do well afterwards. It proved to us that a weekly series of smaller products was viable, and a good way to provide continuing support for a game that didn’t involve producing a large book. As a plus, we could compile the smaller products and use them to produce a book eventually, as we’ve done with Threat Report.

Of course, the weekly publishing process was also a learning experience. We had to greatly compress our usual production timeline. Even getting a month or so ahead of the publishing dates, we needed to produce and develop text, art, and layout quickly. Having a standardized layout helped, something we carried over to the Power Profiles series. We needed to make sure our art orders were planned well in advance. Even then, art did not always keep pace with the text, leading to occasional hold-ups or reschedules as art came in late or in a different order. We also learned to standardize our art: in Power Profiles, each issue has the same art specs in terms of size and placement, allowing finished art to fit into the layout quickly and easily (unlike the character pieces in Threat Report, which often involved reflowing and adjusting text and layout).

On the other hand, the weekly schedule made our products more responsive: we got regular feedback from fans on our forums about what they liked and didn’t about the format and content. Threads began devoted to speculation and wish-lists on future releases as well as reviewing the current ones. So later issues in the series benefited from information we would not have gotten if they had all been chapters of the same book.

After we completed a full year’s worth of issues for Threat Report, we decided to wrap it up and launched the Power Profiles series. Fans of Threat Report were initially uncertain but Power Profiles has proven, if anything, to be more popular than Threat Report, allowing us to provide another type of regular support for M&M. The smaller electronic format has done so well that we’ve expanded it to our other games lines, offering similar (although not weekly) products for Dragon Age (and, eventually, A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying). The format has also allowed us to provide more "generic" support for the Adventure Gaming Engine, which has met with great fan approval.

As new innovations continue to change how publishing happens, you can expect to see us continue to experiment with new formats, new kinds of products, and new ways of delivering them to you for your gaming enjoyment. With the popularity of Kickstarter as a funding and marketing mechanism, who knows, there might be an offering there in the future…

Have a type of product or publishing you think we should be exploring? Hit our forums and let us know!

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Morphing Powers

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Morphing PowersMorphing Powers provide literal flexibility, from being able to stretch and change your shape to shifting around all of your physical abilities at will. This profile looks at the Morph effect and the Transformed condition alongside powers from Stretching and Malleable Form to full-fledged Shapeshifting. For M&M Third Edition.

Mutants & Masterminds Power Profile: Morphing Powers