Ronin Round Table: Jack Norris

Hey folks, this is Jack Norris, newly minted Ronin and the new Dragon Age and AGE System developer. Figured it was time I properly introduced myself to all our customers and fans. So who the heck am I and why should you care? Excellent questions, glad you asked.

I’ve been working on and off in the gaming industry since the mid 90s. My first game was a small press film noir rpg appropriately titled Noir (not to be confused with the M&M supplement of the same name). After that I did some work for various companies including White Wolf and Deep7. For much of the early 2000s I was busy with non-gaming stuff like law school, so I just did a few projects here and there. That changed in recent years. Boy, did it change.

Starting with the Ragnarok book for White Wolf’s Scion game, I got back into game writing and design heavily for a time. From there it was some work for White Wolf’s Exalted and the aborted Eve Online tabletop rpg. Course I’ll be totally honest, while I enjoyed game writing generally I was seriously considering moving on to something else. It seemed the time and it was looking like I wasn’t going to get the opportunities to work on the stuff on my "rpg design bucket list." I wandered around one Gen Con a few years back, talked to some folks about possible work and when not much developed right after I was about ready to call it a fun time and begin the process of getting into something else.

‘Course that all changed. And it’s all Jon Leitheussuer, Chris McGlothlin, and Steve Kenson’s fault.

See I’d talked to Chris and Steve at Gen Con and asked if there was anything coming up they’d need a wandering designer and writer like me for. They were super nice, polite, and encouraging, but somewhat noncommittal as Jon, the current M&M developer wasn’t at that con. As I later found out, Chris and Steve passed mention of me along to Jon. Then I sent out an inquiry and got a nice "well, not right now but maybe soon" response that was appreciated but not unlike many such responses I was getting at that time, and few of them ended up resulting in anything.

Then I got an email that changed everything. Jon asked me to join a team of folks for a secret comic related project. When I said yes I wasn’t even sure what it was. Of course most of you reading this can guess that was DC Adventures. Remember that bucket list I mentioned? Well, working with Green Ronin, on superhero stuff, and on a big licensed game were all on it. So clearly I was back in.

DC Adventures came and went and was a lot of fun. I cannot say enough nice things about that whole team and I was honored to be a part of it. More M&M work followed, both with Green Ronin and Vigilance Press, a third party producer of supers-themed products. Somewhere along the line I also hooked up with Cam Banks and the fine folks at Margaret Weis Productions. Doing a book for their Smallville line and then being recruited as an assistant designer and writer for their Marvel Heroic Roleplaying line. That’s right, I was working on supers rpgs based on not just Marvel but DC. And Freedom City. And a chance to help develop my own supers stuff on the side. I wasn’t just "back in," I was all in.

So then let’s fast forward to the end of 2012. I had a line of projects, a wonderful collection of folks to work with from many companies, and I was asked by Green Ronin head Chris Pramas what I knew about Dragon Age.

Now having spent a lot of time freelancing that was where my brainspace was. I figured he needed some words for upcoming Dragon Age books and had heard nice things about me from his fellow Ronin. Sounded like a good deal to me and I had the time. So I replied I knew the system fairly well and was willing to really dive back into it as much as needed and that I loved the video games and world.

When I got back a response that they were looking for a developer and not just a freelancer? Well, to say I was excited was an understatement. I always loved working with the folks at Green Ronin and I gleefully threw my hat in. Heck, know that old song and dance "it was an honor just to be nominated"? Well, it’s totally true when the ones considering you are a company like this.

So I had an interview and then told myself it was totally okay if I didn’t get it. This was, of course, a dirty lie. I really wanted the job and was thrilled when I got it. I was thrilled when Chris announced it. I was thrilled when I found out my new job was for a game line that guys like Wil Wheaton and Sam Witwer were going to be playing on Tabletop. I’m still thrilled whenever I sit down to work on upcoming projects for Dragon Age, looking at how the tabletop and video game rpgs will be moving forward, or talk about plans for the AGE System. So yeah, safe to say I’m pretty happy about how this all worked out.

Beyond that I’ll add I’m an avid video gamer, lifelong comics fan, film buff (from silent to modern), and lover of mythology, folklore, and literature of all types. I also have a fondness for a lot of TV, from cartoons to gritty crime dramas. So basically I’m a pop culture junkie lucky enough to have outlets to channel all the stuff I love into things for others to enjoy. As for game design, I love adapting existing systems to provide new options and really try to strike a middle ground between the tried and true and the new and different. Hence my excitement of working with AGE, it’s a great mix of classic solid mechanics and exciting innovation, especially the stunt system which I’ve grown to adore and look forward to doing exciting things with in the future.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Between working with my fellow Ronins on moving Dragon Age and AGE forward and many other projects that range from Marvel superheroes to a FATE-based project to upcoming Mutants & Masterminds books? It’s a really exciting time and probably a good place to wrap this introduction. I’ll be back later to talk about upcoming Dragon Age and AGE content, but I’m happy I got properly introduce myself and thanks for taking the time to read my little tale. I’ll see you all online and at conventions such as Gen Con. Until then, have a good one!