Ronin Round Table: Blue Rose Returns!

Blue Rose RPG

Blue Rose

Ten years ago we published Blue Rose, the roleplaying game of Romantic Fantasy. The idea was pretty simple. While Dungeons & Dragons and many subsequent fantasy RPGs drew inspiration from authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and Fritz Leiber, a different sort of fantasy fiction began to develop in the 80s—what we call Romantic Fantasy—and there wasn’t a game built off its common themes and tropes. We thought there were a lot of fans who’d want an RPG inspired by writers like Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, and Jacqueline Carey. And we were right. The game was conceived and published as a three book series, with a core rulebook, a world book, and a rules companion. Blue Rose was quite successful and for many years people have asked us if we were ever going to revisit it.

The short answer is yes! We are preparing a Blue Rose Kickstarter right now. Our plan is to do a new edition of Blue Rose powered by the Adventure Game Engine, the rules I designed for our Dragon Age RPG. Our goal is to launch the Kickstarter in April.

This is something we’ve been talking about for several years. The topic has come up at our yearly summit for the past two or three years. We all agreed we’d like to do it, but when and how were the questions that needed to be answered. So why now?

The biggest reason is that a lot of the issues we tried to tackle in Blue Rose have come to the fore in the public debate, in society generally and in nerdom. Diversity and inclusivity are now common topics of conversation, which was not at all the case in 2005. The idea that gay marriage would be legal in so many states in ten years certainly would have been a surprise to me back then. With the progress that we’ve seen in our politics and our art, a roleplaying game that lets you defend an egalitarian society without fixed gender roles seems like just the thing for the current day.

Of course, progress never comes easy. The simple idea that women should get equal pay for equal work—not to mention the opportunity to work in the fields of their choice—is crazed radicalism in the eyes of some. And while the Supreme Court may have declared that racism is over in the USA, anyone with an ounce of awareness can see that is manifestly not the case. That many of these issues are contentious is no surprise to us. Blue Rose itself was subject to a reactionary backlash from certain quarters. This sort of thing has just gotten worse, particularly in the video game arena, and politics in America has also taken an ugly turn. So while, yes, we have seen a lot of social progress, there is still a lot of work to do.

Now playing games is not going to change the world. That is down to grassroots organizing, voting, and political action. There is a saying though, that all politics is local and our neighborhood is tabletop gaming. We want this to be a better place and we think we can have some effect on it by publishing the right roleplaying game. We want there to be a welcoming place for women, LBGTQ folks, and people of color to enter the hobby. We want to promote the idea that roleplaying games are for everyone, that our hobby—our fun, creative hobby—is something that can bring us together rather than tear us apart.

So why now and why Blue Rose? That’s why.

This has turned into more a political statement than I had intended when I sat down to write. Rest assured that our goal here is to make a fun and playable game and we’ll tell you more about that in the coming weeks. For starters, I just wanted to let you all know about our plans and give you some insight into why we think this is the right time for the return of Blue Rose.

Chris Pramas
President, Green Ronin Publishing
Seattle, WA

Ronin Round Table: Movies, Plots, and the Art of the Steal

Heya folks, Jack here. So with the winter movie season is winding down, with trailers for next summer’s big films burning up the interwebs, and the various summer movies from this year coming out on Blu-ray, DVD, and on various streaming services, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how movies make great inspiration for game plots.

Now of course movies and games aren’t the same thing. They have different structure, goals, and so on. However, what they both have is a need for at least some sort of plot. This can be tightly woven and intricate, or fast and loose. In RPGs the plot can, and often is, seriously informed by the actions of the players. But even in the sandboxiest of sandbox player-driven play, plots still pop up for PCs to deal with. Of course, coming up with plots for a game session can at times be daunting. Whether you’re pressed for time or just drawing a blank, sometimes you think, “So what could the PCs get involved with this week?” and come up empty. At times like this, try this: Go to the movies!

Okay, you don’t necessarily need to physically go to a movie theater. You don’t even necessarily need to watch a movie. However, try thinking about the films that stuck with you over the years and how to adapt them to your own games. Sometimes this is easy—it doesn’t take much to port Star Wars over to other types of sci-fi or even most fantasy. Other time this is harder or less direct, but it can still work wonders when you’re stuck for a plot for your next session.

So let’s look at some of my favorite films and show how they can be liberally ripped off, adapted, and tweaked to provide the basis for an RPG plot. Here goes:

Seven Samurai

I might be biased because I’m a Kurosawa fan but this film and its Western remake the Magnificent Seven, is one of the easiest and best films to borrow from for an “I need it by tonight” game session. There’s a village. There are farmers or other peasant types who can’t do much to defend themselves. Then there are marauders, bandits, or some other threatening horde. The only way the little guy is going to survive is if some stalwart heroes (or desperate mercenaries) step up to defend them. Throw in a few twists like a romance with a villager or a hidden cache of weapons and valuables the village seeks to keep from both the bandits and their PC saviors and you’re all set! Moving on…


The PCs are hired to take out an encampment or outpost of raiders, terrorists, rebels, cultists, or whatever passes for disposable mook villains in your campaign. In the wilderness around the encampment, they discover they aren’t alone. A terrifying and cunning monster is stalking the PCs, hoping to add them to their collection of defeated heroes and adventurers. The monster is stronger than they are and very hard to locate and defeat. Unless you want to risk killing several PCs in a single session, this plot probably works best with some NPC guides, henchmen, or other allies to whack along the way to keep things interesting. However, the basic plot will work for everything from horror to science fiction to fantasy.

Big Trouble in Little China

While in town to visit an old friend, the heroes are informed that their buddy is going to pick up their longtime sweetheart from the next plane, boat, spaceship, flying dragon, etc… However, an evil wizard or other superpowered tyrant shows up and snags the bride or groom to be (along with a few others) as part of some terrible wedding ritual that will increase the bad guy’s already impressive power. Together with an old wizard and some idealistic young warriors, the PCs need to save the innocents and defeat the villain and his army of powerful and strange henchmen. This works best if you can play up some sort of “fish out of water” element with the PCs. As this film was at one point being developed as a Western, it’s a safe bet you could adapt this basic idea to many settings and genres. Speaking of fish…


A gigantic sea creature or other fierce man-eating beastie is attacking an idyllic town. The town at first denies the danger but once things get bad they need experienced warriors to hunt down and defeat the beast. Of course this involves seeking out the creature on its home turf and making sure the threat is ended for good. Move some of the action inland and this is also roughly the plot of Beowulf, though there was only one killer shark…until all those sequels. Not weird enough? Well how about…

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

I know, wait…what? Sure, this romantic comedy about a black doctor seeking to marry a young white woman in a period of racial intolerance, thus requiring the approval of her well-meaning but not quite as enlightened as they’d like to think parents, seems like it might not make the best RPG session. However, make it a brilliant but unlanded wizard who wants to marry a princess, or an elf warrior who wants to marry the half-orc chieftain’s daughter, throw in the PCs as friends of the suitor or the family, and maybe add a few relatives willing to stoop to murder or kidnapping to keep the would-be couple apart, and you’re ready to play.


You really want to flip things from a standard heroic “let’s go kill the monsters!” story? What if the monsters were the good guys? They just want to be left alone and live their lives, but a crazed psychopath masquerading as a doctor or some other respected figure has manipulated the local authorities into wiping out the “freaks.” For their part, the monsters are wrestling with whether to go to war or run and hide, hoping their prophecy of a chosen one from the outside that will deliver them to a new homeland comes to pass—which is a great role for a concerned PC to play if one fits the bill.  If you’re planning on using this film for inspiration check out the recently released Director’s Cut that develops the monster characters and mythology in more depth.

Those are just a few of literally thousands of films you can adapt for rpg sessions in a pinch. And you don’t need to just use good movies either. In some cases, you can likely improve on the movie’s plot and execution. For example, I wouldn’t recommend watching Your Highness unless you’re feeling particularly masochistic, but the basic idea would work fine for a campaign arc.

Ronin Round Table: Discussing Dragon Age

Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition

Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition

Hello, folks, Jack here. With the Dragon Age new collected core books coming soon I wanted to discuss a bit about what the books are, what they aren’t, and what changes you can expect.

First, let’s get this out of the way: This isn’t a new edition. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest being that we’d just released Set 3 and that would have been pretty jarring to jump to a new edition. So the vast majority of the rules and content remain the same.

So what’s different? Well, we’re looking at some minor tweaks and adjustments to things like experience. New monsters, specializations, and other additional content such as new campaign frameworks are being included. The biggest of these is a new starter adventure, Invisible Chains. We didn’t want to invalidate the game folks are already playing or make Sets 1-3 obsolete, but we also realize there are some places we can add some new stuff for even experienced players to enjoy.

However, if someone forced me to pick the biggest change, it’s in format and organization. With one book, everything is in one place and organized with that in mind. Don’t get me wrong; the sets were cool and fun and gave the game a very neat old-school and approachable feel. However, when the sets went out of print, it made more sense to put all the rules already in existence together in one product. So now all the levels, monsters, items, class information from the three sets will be combined into one place. Hal Mangold is currently hard at work laying out the new core and making sure all the collected material is presented in the most attractive and useful way possible.

Also, there have been some questions and confusion: There are two versions of the DA Core coming out. The first is the Ultimate Edition. The Ultimate Edition features a slipcase with a red leatherette bound book, silver foil stamped, with silver-gilded edges and a ribbon bookmark. So it’s very pretty. It’s also limited edition.

There will also be a regular edition hardcover that has all the same internal content, but is missing the external upgrades and isn’t limited edition. Again, these books have the same internal content, so you can buy either one that strikes you. Or hey, both if you like.

After the new core, we’ll be seeing among other things Faces of Thedas. I just got the first drafts from my writers and things are developing very well. In addition to stats and write-ups on some favorite and important characters in the Dragon Age world, we’ll see very useful discussions of how to use these NPCs to drive games, plots, and campaigns. We’ll also see discussion of important factions and groups in the world, such as various assassins’ guilds, spy organizations, crime syndicates, and the like. Rounding this out will be rules on relationships that can be used to provide mechanical augmentation, but not replacement, for roleplaying interactions between rivals, romantic interests, and trusted companions.

But wait… There’s more! Chris Pramas is also hard at work on the draft for Fantasy AGE, which will provide non-Dragon Age focused fantasy play for Age. This version will have some changes from the current system, especially when it comes to magic, which won’t necessarily be presented in other fantasy settings the way it is in Dragon Age. And this doesn’t even touch on some other projects we’ll be announcing soon.

GM’s Day Sale

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Ronin Round Table: A Thousand Words

“It’s a beautiful game.”

“Take a look at this!”

“Have you seen this?”

Like it or not, we often do judge books (and games, and other things) by their covers, and their interiors, and by their looks in general. Even the “retro” style game products that deliberately try to look like they were assembled on somebody’s typewriter or paste-up board and mimeographed are going for a specific look, recreating a particular style. Art and design have come a long way in the gaming hobby, and have tremendous, if sometimes unsung, influence on our products.

I wanted to be an artist once. I could draw reasonably well when I was a kid, but I didn’t really have the passion for art that it takes to be a professional artist, whereas I was able to turn my passion for writing things for the games I loved into a living. Still, having some small experience with the artistic process, I have a great appreciation for the work of artists, whose names are not as often associated with the games and worlds they help to create. After all, I’m willing to bet some of your fondest memories about your favorite games involve iconic pieces of art from those games—I know mine do.

We Ronin Round Table authors are pretty much all writers, however. Makes sense, given this is a column, and there are a lot more of us than there are artists in the company. In fact, only one guy on-staff is responsible for the artwork and the look of our books. That’s Hal Mangold, Green Ronin’s Production Manager, which means he’s layout designer, art director, and print buyer all in one. We have four developers to manage our game lines (Mutants & Masterminds/DC Adventures, Dragon Age, Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying, and Freeport/Pathfinder) and one guy who takes all of the materials from those lines and turns them into finished products, with the able assistance of Marc Schmalz, our e-publishing manager. Small wonder he’s not writing too many online columns!

I’ll let you in on a little secret, too. For me, the art creation process for a book or game is a lot like exercise: I often hate going through the process (even starting the process), but really appreciate the results that make it all worth it. When they say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” they’re not kidding, because sometimes it feels like it takes a thousand words of description, detail, and references to convey those pictures we writer-types have in our heads that artists so remarkably turn into reality. We go through the process of writing and providing notes and guidelines and specifications for artwork, hoping we’ve explained things clearly enough. Sometimes, we don’t, and that’s usually on us when a sketch comes back and we’re, “That’s not quite what I had in mind…” or “If we could just change a few things…” and the patient, professional artists go literally back to the drawing board (or tablet) and make it happen.

More often than not, their efforts exceed expectations. When I worked with Dan Houser and Daniel Solis on the Assembled Edition of Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, for example, I described the concept for the cover: an homage to Giant-Sized X-Men #1, combining original iconic heroes with some of the new ones we created for the cover of Great Power. Continuity with the previous edition of the core book, but also a new, fresher look. What Dan and Daniel came back with turned out far better than the picture in my head (and the crude sketches and compositions I provided) and really fired my enthusiasm for getting the book finished. Indeed, the phase of production when sketches and concept art begins rolling in can really help to fuel the final push to pull the rest of the product together, in my experience.

More importantly, art so often has a powerful role in defining the feel of a game. The Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy RPG from Green Ronin would be a totally different game without Stephanie Pui-Min Law’s gorgeous covers and inspirational artwork, which drove elements of the design. Likewise, Hal made a deliberate effort for that game to engage as many female artists as possible to give the book a particular look and style beyond just our literary source material. The Michael Kormak and Slawomir Maniak covers for A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying and its Night’s Watch sourcebook, on the other hand, capture a whole different type of fantasy gaming, bringing the savage realities of Westeros to life.

I’ve lost count of the diverse, talented artists I’ve had the privilege to work with on Mutants & Masterminds, a game based on a genre itself drive by artwork: that of the comic books. Seeing character concepts for Threat Report spring to life from the drawing boards of the likes of Sean Izaakse, Anthony Castrillo, and Alberto Foche made those characters real for me in ways that just writing about them did not. Freedom City would not be the setting it is now without the defining work of Ramon Perez in bringing its diverse cast of heroes and villains to brilliant full-color existence.

I could go on and on, but I’m running out of space if I want this Round Table to be the equivalent of just one of the beautiful illustrations gracing the pages of our books. It truly does take a lot of words to paint a picture as detailed as some of those you’ll find in the best-looking games and books in our hobby. If you don’t already, the next time you pick up a new product (or look through one of your old favorites) glance over the credits for the artists as well as the designers and authors and consider the impact they’ve had producing something that brings our imagination to life in such a visual way. They may not be writing about it, but they’ve still got thousands and thousands of their own “words” in there.