Ronin Round Table: Feedback and Reviews, Please

In the middle of last week, James Dawsey of the Vigilance Press Podcast invited Mutants & Masterminds designer Steve Kenson and I to talk to him about the release of Emerald City and the just-announced ICONS: The Assembled Edition, which Steve also designed.

We had a good talk, which you can listen to on the Vigilance Press site, and we covered a lot of ground. Steve explained how ICONS started and why he decided to have Green Ronin publish the latest version. I talked about Emerald City, its history, and how happy we were to finally see it in print.

As we were wrapping up our conversation, James asked if there was anything else we wanted to mention. As it happened, one of the things I’d been thinking about in the last few weeks is the feedback we receive from our fans.

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Ronin Round Table: Icons Assemble!

Icons AssembledThe "cottage" nature of the tabletop gaming industry leads to a lot of funny things: supposedly fierce "competitors" often know and see each other socially, companies trade employees and creative staff, and creators…well, sometimes we get a particular idea that takes on a life of its own.

One such idea was Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, a concept that began when I was mucking about with the attribute ladder of the Fudge RPG and mixing-and-matching its concepts with the old Marvel Super-Heroes game (a long-time favorite of mine, as anyone who has read my essay in Hobby Games: The 100 Best knows). I referred to the initial set of notes as "The Superlative System" and it gathered electronic dust on my website for some time.

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Ronin Round Table: The Benefit of Random Encounters

By Chris Pramas

Publishing games is a funny thing. Sometimes games come from personal passion, sometimes from meticulous planning, and sometimes from random encounters. Love 2 Hate, a card game we are publishing this summer, is one of the latter.

It began back in 2002. Nicole and I went to London for a one day convention called Dragonmeet. As is usual for such overseas trips, we stayed for more days than we needed to so we could make the most of it. We stayed with James Wallis, a longtime industry friend and the designer of such games as Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. James had a conveniently located apartment in London. During Dragonmeet he also had another houseguest: Colm Lundberg.

Colm was over from Ireland for the con and we hadn’t met him before. He was a convention organizer himself and it was from him I first learned of the legendary Irish charity auctions. We all got along well and had some fun times in London that weekend. After a couple of days, he returned to Ireland and we to America. When Facebook became a thing, we became FB friends and stayed in touch that way. While I returned to England many times subsequently (even for Dragonmeet again in 2010), our paths never did cross again.

Love 2 HateA couple of years back Colm let me know he was tinkering with some game designs. He wanted some advice on what to do with them and how to find a publisher. This I gave him, also noting that I’d be happy to take a look at them. This led to him sending some prototypes to me here in Seattle. One of them was a party game in vein similar to Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. It was called Love 2 Hate.

Now Green Ronin’s focus has traditionally been RPGs. That said, we have done card games before (Torches & Pitchforks and Walk the Plank) and it was always my intention to do more types of games than RPGs. So one Thursday at Jon Leitheusser’s place when roleplaying was off the table, we playtested Love 2 Hate and I gave Colm some notes. He continued to hone the cards and then sent me another prototype. This we playtested at the Green Ronin Summit in October and after an hour the team agreed: Love 2 Hate was fun and we should publish it!


In January Nicole, Intern Kate, and I went to Cork for WarpCon. The convention had invited me over as a guest and I was delighted to accept. It was our first trip to Ireland and Colm was there, of course. So we finally got to see other again! Even better, we got to show people Love 2 Hate.

People playing a demo version of Love 2 Hate at WarpCon

You meet someone at random at one convention and 12 years later you meet at another one to demo the game you are going to do together. This is the sort of thing I love about the game industry. Amusingly enough, we flew to London after WarpCon and stayed with James Wallis and his family for a few days, so the whole thing really did come full circle!

Ronin Round Table: Those At Our Game Tables

By Joseph Carriker

Last week, the gaming community was faced with the loss of one of our own once again: Aaron Allston, well-known designer for Champions and Dungeons & Dragons, and author of numerous novels, particularly in the Star Wars universe. And though I didn’t know Mr. Allston myself, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of some loss—a loss that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, to be honest. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, of course. There’ve been others who have passed, our luminaries and founding fathers, in recent memory, and I found myself experiencing the same kind of loss. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons, died in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve certainly known who they were, in every case. It’s hard not to, if you pay any sort of attention to the names on that credits page. I’ve played their games, and read their material over the years. In nearly every instance, these were folks who I’d had the chance to meet (or at least correspond with, in some fashion), but I couldn’t claim to know them. Many of my friends and co-workers certainly have, and I think that’s been part of it. I’m a little embarrassed by that sense of loss. Do I as someone who has only experienced their work have a right to that?

I think that at the end of the day, though, there’s a good reason for it. These aren’t just some people who’ve passed"they are the people who’ve been at our gaming tables with us over the years. We’ve built friendships and great memories through the vehicle of this work, and in a real way, it’s hard not to feel impacted in some fashion when those who created those things pass on. We’ve invested emotion in these memories, and those memories include not just the people at the tables with us, the games we were playing, the worlds we were exploring.

In a way, these folks are just as much a part of those great memories as the people who were physically there, even if the context is different. The context of our grief is different, as well. They leave loved ones, friends and family behind, and part of the embarrassment I’ve felt is rooted there. It’s hard not to think, "Who the hell am I? I’m just a dude who enjoyed their work," like there were some kind of minimum connection necessary to justify a sense of grief and loss.

But that’s also it. As someone who also creates game material, I do feel connected to those who play the games I work on. Though folks in this industry often groan at the thought of facing down a convention of people telling us about their characters, we’re still there, because even with dread is the joy of hearing people enjoy the things we loved creating. In some way, I and my co-creators are at those gaming tables as surely as Gary, Dave, Aaron, and other creators have all been at ours.

This sense isn’t unique to us, of course—people grieve over musicians, actors, writers and artists all the time. But our game designers, writers, artists, and creators are our people, and their work stands out in our memories, in a way that’s uniquely ours.

So here’s to those who’ve shared our gaming tables over the years, through the often-lonely work they’ve put into creating these games we all love so well. You’re friends, and sometimes even family, whether you know it or not. And even those who are no longer with us will continue to share a place at our tables for a long time to come.