Freeport Short Story: Unlikely Tides

Freeport Short Fiction: Unlikely TidesToday we present a new short fiction piece by Dylan Birtolo, set in Freeport: The City of Adventure. In “Unlikely Tides,” a new ship’s crew of unusual composition tacks against the wind to establish their places on the seas and in in the city.

For just $1.99, you can download this rollicking tale in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three! We’re not the captain of your ship.

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

“Unlikely Tides” by Dylan Birtolo

Ronin Roundtable: Fantasy AGE Companion Preview

Hey folks, Jack here. It’s already a busy year here and part of it is putting the final touches on our upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion. The book is written, edited, and currently in its final layout and art stages, so I thought it would be cool to present people with a preview of the book.

Moreover, I find the best previews are generally ones that themselves either show the look and feel of product off or can be used as a sort of stand-alone bonus for people. In this case, we went with both. This preview presents one of our new race options for player characters, Beastfolk.

Beastfolk are animal like humanoids who mix humanoid forms with the natural abilities of various animals. Using this option you can play a cat-person or monkey-person or any number of similarly themed characters.

FA_Comp_preview_01_spreads

 

Beastfolk are only one of many new elements in the upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion, including more fantasy races, new arcana, new specializations and talents, rules for both gritty and cinematic play, mass combat, and more!  Some of these editions are adapted from other AGE games for Fantasy AGE but much of it is brand new.

The Fantasy AGE Companion is coming in  March in print and pdf.

Earth-Prime Fiction: “Everyone: This Is Kevin”

"Everyone: This Is Kevin"The latest entry in our ongoing short fiction series, “Everyone: This Is Kevin” is a short story set on Earth-Prime, the core setting of Mutants & Masterminds and Sentinels of Earth-Prime.

Even robot superhero boys need to go to school, but Kevin soon learns that there is more to an education than pencils and chalk.

For just $1.99, you can download this 16-page short story in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three!

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

Ronin Roundtable: Why Your Big Bad Gets Clowned

I’m excited. Hal’s been showing me art from the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (that’s the core game, with all the rules you need to play) as the book goes through the production process (yes, it’s been written, playtested, edited and is now going through Adobe sorcery. Meanwhile, I have a team of authors working on the Modern AGE Companion, a book of optional systems for the game.
In case you missed previous posts, Modern AGE is the AGE system game designed for contemporary adventures, covering a period from the dawn of the industrial era to the present day, with options for different genres, psychic powers, and magic. Since the art is coming in, I want to use it as an inspiration to talk a bit about adversaries, not just in this game, but most traditional roleplaying games.

Art by Victor Moreno ~ “They’ve waited a long time to meet her, and you don’t want her keeling over in the first round.”

 

Enter the Devil’s Advocate

I’ll be nerd-biographical: Back in the 80s, I was playing in a house ruled AD&D game (who wasn’t, if they were playing back then at all?) where we slashed and burned our way past the “sweet spot” levels, where, at least by the standards of AD&D, the game remains balanced and easy to run. People often identify this range as levels 4 to 8. We’d hit 15th. Our DM Rick was obviously struggling, since he had to choose between foes with raw, big numbers, which turned combat into a grind, and enemies so complex that he needed to do significant planning ahead of time. We came, we saw, we conquered.

Then one day, things were a little different. Rick told Talid, one of the players, to sit right beside him. We got into the game. A wizard teleported behind us—and behind cover—nuked us with a bunch of fireballs courtesy of an item . . . and teleported out again. Talid chuckled. He was playing that damn wizard. Rick had offloaded the job of running a complex adversary to him. We eventually called him the “Devil’s Advocate,” not for the villain he was playing, but for the position. Just like old-school games had “mappers” and “callers,” we had a titled job for the person who played our enemies, distinct from the GM.

The Players’ Cognitive Advantage

Many, many groups have done this, of course, but I don’t mention this for its novelty, but because it taught me a game design principle which I’ve kept in my pocket ever since. Given the same character and familiarity with the system, a player will almost always use that character more effectively (at least in interacting with rules and challenges) than the GM.
I’ve noticed this in virtually every game I’ve witnessed, played in or run, and the reason is easy to tease out of the story, above. A player usually has just one character to deal with. They can become extremely familiar with that character, develop strategies, and devote their full attention to effective play. The GM doesn’t have that luxury; they’ve got other NPCs to run, an adventure to manage, and a campaign to track—and GMing is, for many people, more tiring simply because of the type of social interaction, where you speak to a group and must keep it focused.
And this power imbalance is often frustrating, especially to math-centric GMs, who can see their NPC should be balanced against the PCs, on paper, but ends up being a pushover. It’s not the math. The players are smarter than you—at least in this instance. They have a cognitive advantage.

Diabolical Advocacy and Streamlining

You can solve this in one of two basic ways. First, you can have a player act as Devil’s Advocate, running villains for you. It’s fun, but in many cases the pendulum swings the other way, and the enemy becomes too powerful to handle.

The other approach is to simplify the procedures for running your enemy. The crudest way to do this is to create adversaries who can only perform one task competently, like beat you up and absorb damage. The disadvantage here is that one-trick enemies can get boring. The variation we use in Modern AGE is to give many adversaries distinct abilities that serve as shorthand for what would otherwise be convoluted sets of abilities, or add flavor that a foe’s basic abilities don’t impart. For example, the Criminal Mastermind adversary has several abilities to stay dangerous without needing to shoot anybody, such as:

  • All According to Plan Stunt: For 3 SP, the mastermind can declare that another NPC present in the scene was working for them all along. That NPC betrays the heroes or produces some information or equipment the mastermind needs right then, and counts as their ally from then on.

(The Criminal Mastermind has other abilities, but you’ll have to grab Modern AGE for the full rundown. I’m not trying to tease, but this post is pretty long. Sorry.)

  • Scot-Free: Whenever the characters would capture, kill, or otherwise defeat the mastermind, the GM may offer the player of the character who bested them 5 SP to use at any point in the future on a relevant test, even if the winning test didn’t roll doubles, in exchange for the mastermind escaping to oppose the heroes another day. (If you’re using the optional Conviction rules, the player gains 1 Conviction instead.)

Both the Devil’s Advocate and streamlining are fine tactics for dealing with PC/NPC imbalance, and which one you use will depend on a bunch of other considerations, such as whether anybody wants to play Devil’s Advocate. Remember that this problem won’t come up if you know the rules better, or can marshal other advantages that compensate for your more diluted attention—and remember that sometimes, the PCs should win. Never snatch victory away when it’s truly deserved.

Blue Rose Short Fiction: Heartsong

HeartsongToday author Lindsay Smith brings us “Heartsong,” a short story set in the World of Aldea, the setting from our our Blue Rose RPG. In this 14-page story, an agent of the Silence finds himself at a moral crossroads when he meets a rhy-bonded Jarzoni priest-adept.

For just $1.99, you can download this tale in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three!

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

Ronin Roundtable: Green Ronin in 2018, Part 1

It seems like just yesterday I was wondering if this Y2K bug would indeed wreak global havoc (spoiler alert: it didn’t) while working on plans to start a new game company. Now here we are 18 years later and Green Ronin is still going strong. Although last year was challenging in many ways, we are starting 2018 in a great position. We have a bunch of projects nearing completion, fantastic new games in the works, and great prospects for the future. Today I’m going to talk about our plans for the next six months. I’ll then do another one of these in June to discuss the second half of the year.

The Expanse

Our biggest project this year is The Expanse RPG. We announced that we’d licensed James S.A. Corey’s terrific series of scifi novels last year and since then Steve Kenson has

been leading the team designing the core rulebook. In a few months we will be Kickstarting The Expanse RPG and the rules will actually be done before we even start the crowdfunding campaign. The game uses our popular Adventure Game Engine, as previously seen in our Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, and Blue Rose RPGs. We’re excited to take AGE into the future! The Expanse RPG will release in August, debuting at GenCon.

Modern AGE and Lazarus

Want a new AGE game before the summertime? We’ve got you covered! Modern AGE launches in the Spring thanks to the hard work of Malcolm Sheppard and his team. The game lets you run games anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to the near future, with or without supernatural powers as you prefer. Concurrent with that we’ll be releasing the World of Lazarus, a campaign setting based on the amazing Lazarus comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Its compelling setting provides some timely commentary on current political trends and is a great place to tell stories.

Fantasy AGE, Dragon Age, and Blue Rose

Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age fans will be delighted to hear that two long awaited books are nearing release. Jack Norris and his team have finished the Fantasy AGE Companion and Faces of Thedas and both are now in layout. The Fantasy AGE Companion is the first big rules expansion for FAGE, offering up many ways to expand your game. Faces of Thedas brings a plethora of Dragon Age characters from the video games, novels, and comics to life, and adds some great new rules for relationships and romance. Speaking of romance and fantasy, Joe Carriker and his team have been working on the next book for our Blue Rose RPG. Aldis: City of the Blue Rose is a comprehensive sourcebook about the capital of the Kingdom of Aldis.

Mutants & Masterminds

We are kicking off 2018 with a bang with the release of the new edition of Freedom City, the signature setting of M&M since the game’s first edition. It releases to stores this week so now is the time to check out the city that started it all. Later in the Spring we’ll be releasing Rogues Gallery, a new collection of villains for your campaign. Crystal Frasier skillfully shepherded both of the books to completion, though they were begun by her predecessor. The first book she led from start to finish was actually the World of Lazarus but you’ll be seeing more of her vision of Mutants & Masterminds later in the year with the Basic Hero’s Handbook and Superteam Handbook.

Nisaba Press

Last year we hired Jaym Gates to start a fiction line for us, and this year her diligent work will pay off as Nisaba Press takes off. We will be releasing short fiction from our various settings monthly, and releasing two novels a year. The first will be Shadowtide, a Blue Rose novel by Joe Carriker. We’ll be following that up later in the year with our first Mutants & Masterminds novel.

Freeport and Ork

At the start of this article I mentioned the beginnings of Green Ronin back in 2000. The company’s very first releases were Ork! The Roleplaying Game and Death in Freeport, a modest adventure that launched our longest running property. The new edition of Ork is finished and entering layout. It’s great beer and pretzels fun. Return to Freeport is a six-part Pathfinder adventure coming later in the Spring in which Owen K.C. Stephens and his team really captured the feel of the City of Adventure.

SIFRP and Chronicle System

All good things must come to an end and such is the case with our beloved Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Our license expired in 2017 so there will be no new material forthcoming. We can continue to sell the books we’ve already released, however, so those will remain available to those who want to adventure in Westeros. Our series of compatible Chronicle System PDFs will also continue, first with Desert Threats, a new collection of creatures. Some of the rules material from our last planned SIFRP book, the Westeros Player’s Companion, will be released under the Chronicle System brand with the Westeros specific content removed.

To the Future!

As you can see, we’ve got an action packed six months ahead of us. Later in the year we’ve got excitement like the Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game and the Lost Citadel campaign setting for D&D 5E. Thanks for your continued support! We really do appreciate it. Here’s to some great gaming in 2018!

Ronin Roundtable: Learning to Boss

One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from a freelancer or an employee to a business owner and boss over the last nearly 18 years of Green Ronin’s life has been, for me at least, figuring out what an effective “boss” looks like. In some ways, it’s been similar to figuring out how to be a reasonable parent, which I felt I was getting a handle on just about the time my girl left for college. My initial goals were bare bones: don’t make the mistakes your worst bosses made, don’t take people for granted, uphold your end of the bargain, have your people’s backs and set them up for success even in trying situations. Goals, yes, the basest of goals, but the strategies to achieve those goals were harder to come by, especially having had a distinct lack of such leadership in my own working life. I’d worked for bosses who made employees with pneumonia come to work under threat of losing their job if they didn’t, bosses who were greedy and racist and crass and expected me to shut my mouth and even lie to protect them or lose my minimum wage position, bosses who were verbally abusive, who bent and broke labor laws, who ruled through threats and intimidation, who failed to support their underlings and readily offered them up as scapegoats when things inevitably went wrong. Knowing you don’t want to do those things isn’t the same as knowing how to effectively do things differently.

When Green Ronin was just a fledgling project, we had a small number of people and projects to consider. We worked with people we already knew well on a handful of projects and the whole endeavor was relatively forgiving of our inexperience and our missteps. Even as the company’s reputation grew, we remained a small and tight-knit group of “regulars” and what we lacked in the way of a central office and corporate buzzwords, we made up for in flexibility and a sense of camaraderie, that we were all “in it together.” Our guiding principle became to hire people who were good at what they did and let them do it… which is, fundamentally, still something I believe in but which also failed to provide guidance in some important ways. We’ve worked with a few folks in the past who “didn’t fit” with this freewheeling management style and it took more self-reflection than it should have to realize that was a failure of management as much as any issues of personality conflict or “poor fit” on behalf of the person doing the work.

 

In recent years, Green Ronin has enjoyed some spectacular (and satisfying) successes and we have been able to grow as a company and expand on our offerings in ways we’d never really come close to before. For the first time in company history, I have personally been divesting myself of responsibilities instead of taking on more. We have brought in new blood, people we haven’t known for years in advance of working with them, people with years of experiences unlike our own who have brought wonderful, fresh attitudes and perspectives. We have been made so much better and stronger from their contributions. We have also entered yet another phase of growth and responsibility, now that we’re not just a core of 4 (or 6 or 8…) people who know each other well and have deep and affectionate personal bonds in addition to our professional associations.

 

Many of us who make up the core of Green Ronin are hardcore introverts, shy sometimes, conflict averse sometimes, of a practical “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude towards things…especially because many of us feel passionately that there ARE “broke” things out there that need attention. Like the cobbler’s children going without shoes, I suppose. We never had a policy on how we handle having to take significant time off on a project for family emergencies (such as prolonged illness) because, well, it had never come up…even while we supported the existence of those policies and protections in the wider world. We didn’t have extensive policies around convention volunteers because we’d only attracted close friends and well-known-to-us volunteers for very small efforts until we hired someone to oversee those and purposely grow those programs recently. We didn’t have a “training policy” because, well, we’d only ever hired people who were already experts and aside from asking them to be familiar with a new rules set, there wasn’t much to “train” them on.

 

In retrospect, I know there are many businesses that would have and did have such policies and procedures in place in formal ways before they were ever needed. Perhaps due to my upbringing, my feelings had always been that it was not only unnecessary but possibly wasteful and definitely presumptuous to address things that did not need addressing. That someone like me anticipating having a big enough business to justify “training policies” was putting on airs, getting above my station, or bragging (as a child might claim they were going to be a famous author when they grew up and have someone to serve them tea, just you wait). Human as those feelings may be, they don’t represent the actions of a good boss… at least not the kind of boss I feel a responsibility to be.

 

Learning to be a better boss has not been something that comes easily or naturally to me. It very much goes hand in hand with my observations last year that this industry lacks mentorship, at least in any structured fashion. While I have, I hope, been a reasonably good and supportive employer on a one-to-one level with the people who have come to work with Green Ronin over the years, I’m still learning to be better, more effective, more efficient and to provide both a protective and predictable working environment. I have many things I want to accomplish with this company and with the wonderful and patient people who have joined us on our projects thus far. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” Learning to boss better is my goal for 2018.