Ronin Round Table: Chris Pramas on A Game of Thrones Edition

About this time last year I conceived the idea of A Game of Thrones Edition of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. We were running low on core rulebooks and also on the Peril at King’s Landing adventure. With a new season of the Game of Thrones TV show scheduled to debut in April 2012, I wanted to make sure we had core books ready to sell. I also wanted to get the phrase "Game of Thrones" on the cover, so people not familiar with the novels would make the connection between the show and our game. The solution seemed simple enough. Take the original core book, update it, and append Peril at King’s Landing. That’d put a full length adventure right in the rulebook, which would be useful to new GMs. I explained the plan to George and asked if we could call the new rulebook "A Game of Thrones Edition" and he said sure. Simple enough plan, right?

Well, as it turns out, no, not so much. While slapping two books together sounds easy, there was actually quite a lot of work to it. Here’s a brief rundown of our to-do list:

  • Implement the known errata from the previous edition.
  • Write new rules to reflect info revealed in A Dance with Dragons (notably about skinchangers).
  • Write new intro material for this edition,including an explanation of the Chronicle System.
  • Re-write sections of Peril at King’s Landing to reflect the fact that the adventure is now a chapter in the core rulebook.
  • Take rules material from Peril at King’s Landing(notably tourney rules) and integrate it into the appropriate chapters.
  • Integrate the adventure from the SIFRP Quick-Start, which we thought would make a useful lead-in to Peril at King’s Landing.
  • Change every stat block to conform to the standard that we adopted in later books of the line.
  • Re-index the whole book.
  • Commission a new cover, so the new edition would be easily distinguishable from the old one.
  • Commission a dozen pieces of new interior art toreplace art we had licensed from FFG.
  • Give the graphic look a minor overhaul, with more readable fonts and some different color choices.

Our goal was to get A Game of Thrones Edition out while the second season of the TV show was actively on the air and interest was high. We also wanted to upgrade the paper to a heavier stock and the printer we found who could do that affordably needed a full three months to print and ship the books. To get the game out at the right time, that meant going to print early in 2012. Complicating matters further was the fact that our new developer for the line, Joe Carriker, had just been hired towards the end of 2011 and was still getting up to speed on line’s history and Green Ronin’s practices.

Generally speaking, we were successful in getting the tasks I listed finished. The book went to print a few weeks later than I wanted, so it came out in May instead of April, but that was still in the midst of the show so that was OK. Soon after we started the pre-order and releasedt he PDF to the public, we realized that something had gone wrong with item one ("implement the known errata from the previous edition"). It was something I had been worried about for months and I was not happy at all to discover that the book was not as clean as it should have been. So what happened?

The tale begins a couple of years ago, when we were preparing the Pocket Edition of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. I, of course, wanted to fix the known errata from the original release of the core rulebook. We compiled several different files and passed them over to graphic design. My instructions were to start with the core rulebook file and fix thatf irst. Then, once the changes were made, convert that file into the Pocket Edition (which was a smaller format and black and white). That way, when we needed to reprint the core book, we could be sure we were starting with a corrected file.

Fast forward to the end of 2011. Graphic design had been working for some time stitching together the two books, adding, deleting, and modifying things. Weeks worth of work had already gone into the new edition. I had a print out of errata that I had used to double check the Pocket Edition way back when (hooray for being a pack rat), so I pulled that out and started a spot check. To my dismay, I discovered that almost none of the changes had been made. I quickly realized that my plan had already done off the rails: the original core rulebook file had been used, not the correct one. You should have heard the cursing in my office that day.

Still though, I had at least detected it so we could act. I passed on my notes from the Pocket Edition to Joe and he scoured all the errata threads in our forums. He passed on a big file to graphic design to make the necessary changes, as well as update stat blocks and such. When this had been done, I sent the file around to 30+ people: writers on the line, friends I was playing in a SIFRP campaign with, foreign licensees, and interested industry folks. I wanted a lot of eyes on it, because I wanted it to be clean. We picked up a few more errors but not a lot. Things seemed OK and time was up: the book had to go to print if it was to come out in the window we wanted.

Now as many of you know, our standard operating procedure is to release a PDF of a new book when we put it up for pre-order. In most cases,we wait at least a week to send it to print, so we can get feedback from purchasers. This lets us detect errata we might have missed and correct that before the printing begins. So why didn’t we do that in this case? Well, it goes back to the three month print job. When folks pre-order from us, they usually don’t have to wait more than two months before they get their books.Had we opened the pre-order in February, people wouldn’t have gotten the books until May. I thought they would get antsy if they waited that long. I also thought we’d get better results if we launched the pre-order campaign the week the show went back on the air.

So when the PDF came out and the feedback began to roll in,I wasn’t surprised that there was some errata–we had touched every stat block in the book after all–but the volume of it seemed too high considering all the work we had done to correct things. The meat of the problems seemed to be in Chapter 5: Destiny and Qualities, and in the qualities in particular. On comparing the Pocket Edition to the Game of Thrones Edition directly, I saw that many of the qualities were written differently. In most cases, the actual rules were the same; they were just more clearly written in the Pocket Edition.And yet, none of those changes were reflected in any of our errata documents.So where had all those changes come from and why didn’t we have any documentation about it?

After some detective work, we figured it all out. When we were putting together errata for the original core rulebook a couple of years earlier Rob Schwalb–overachiever that he is–had taken it upon himself to re-write almost all the qualities for clarity. That file had been sitting on our Sharepoint server, but shortly before work began on A Game of Thrones Edition, we ditched that to use Google Apps. We thought we had grabbed everything of importance, but we missed that file. Once we knew what to look for, we turned it up quickly enough, but it was of course far too late to change the printed books.

So first, you have my apologies that the new book isn’t the perfection I was hoping for. To address that, we have done the following:

  • We have put together an errata file you can download. This file includes only things that were actually errors. It’s 3 pages plus a map.
  • The remaining issues were clarifications, re-writes that didn’t change the rules but just presented them more clearly. Since they are clustered in Chapter 5: Destiny and Qualities, we have put up a PDF of the entire chapter you can download for free.
  • We have fully updated the full SIFRP Game of Thrones Edition PDF with both errata and clarifications. If you purchased it previously, you’ll be able to download this new version for free. *

While we will make sure all this stuff is changed in subsequent printings, don’t let it deter you from checking out A Game of Thrones Edition now. It’s a beautiful and totally playable book. We’re preparing A Game of Thrones Edition of the SIFRP Campaign Guide next. Will we be releasing the PDF to the public before we send it to print? You can count on it. A Lannister always pays his debts.

Free Downloads:

* To re-download SIFRP Game of Thrones Edition from the Green Ronin Online Store, just log in with the same account you used to purchase the PDF, and scroll to the bottom of the resulting Account page. Click the link for GRR2707e, and the latest version will start downloading.