Ronin Roundtable: Rogues Gallery

Villains, can any superhero game or setting ever really have enough of them? Villains are one of the driving forces in a superhero series, since it is their schemes and plans the heroes are looking to foil, and therefore their motives and activities to call the good guys to take action.

 

 

The newly released Rogues Gallery for Mutants & Masterminds (still in pre-order) is a collection of numerous supervillains for your series, ranging from powerful world-beaters to petty crooks and everywhere in between: aliens, mystics, mutants, and more. The book features the the Amalgam (with all of the powers of two of the world’s greatest heroes), the Alchemistress, and the sinister Bres the Beautiful—all foes capable of challenging an entire team of heroes. On the other end, foes like the Sportsman and Princess Poison or the House of Usher are well-suited for street-level games challenging themed crooks and criminal syndicates.

 

Those of you who picked up individually published villains from the Rogues Gallery PDF series will already be familiar with some of them, but the print edition offers even more, with new villains not released individually added to the book, including some updates to previously seen M&M foes, such as:

 

Alien-Gator was first mentioned in early notes on the history of Freedom City as a 1950s foe of the Centurion, later detailed in Freedom’s Most Wanted and now updated for the modern era in Rogues Gallery. The new Alien-Gator recognizes that the female of the species is often far deadlier than the male.

 

Bres the Beautiful, the powerful prince of the other-dimensional Fomorians, first appeared back in the Freedom’s Most Wanted sourcebook, and ties in with Great Britain and Europe as described in Atlas of Earth-Prime as well as Earth-Prime’s mystic history.

 

The Maestro, malevolent master of music, is conspicuously absent from the Crime League in the third edition of Freedom City, and Rogues Gallery explains what becomes of a Golden Age villain who makes a literal deal with the Devil.

 

Megastar is another character from earlier editions of Freedom City, originally a young hero and member of the teenaged Next-Gen. His story in Rogues Gallery—following the events of the Silver Storm and the Emerald City Knights series and the creation of the Argents detailed in The Cosmic Handbook—shows that not all heroes manage to stay heroes forever.

 

… and that just scratches the surface of the characters Rogues Gallery has to offer! Like any good villain book, it is more than just a collection of bad guys and stat blocks, but also a source of adventure and story ideas driven by these various villains, enough to fuel your M&M series for quite some time to come. So whether you are a long-time player or Gamemaster interested in the latest dubious double-dealings of the Earth-Prime setting, or someone new to Mutants & Masterminds looking for some ready-made villains for your heroes to fight, Rogues Gallery has something new for you!

Too-Modern Tuesday: All the AGEs

Hi folks! It’s Memorial Day, so Modern Monday is coming in a little late. In response to some online questions last week, I want to clarify what the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) roleplaying games are, how they’re connected, and who’s managing them. When I talked about plans for Modern AGE, a few of you were wondering why I didn’t talk about Fantasy AGE or The Expanse. So, here’s the explainer.

What is the Adventure Game Engine?

The AGE system powers several Green Ronin roleplaying games. Along with the Chronicle System and Mutants and Masterminds, it’s one of the three systems Green Ronin has designed which the company is actively developing through various lines. (Okay, there’s Ork! too, so let’s say, “the three systems not based on the whims of a sadistic ork god,” instead.) We also work on projects for open game systems like 5th Edition, but AGE, Chronicle and M&M are specifically ours.

AGE is not a “generic” system. Rather, it’s a set of common game mechanics and principles which we use as the basis for a number of separate games, each with additional rules designed to emphasize a certain type of play. Some cross-pollination occurs between the lines, of course, but each AGE game has its own emphasis, and is developed separately.

AGE’s foundations include rolling 3d6 plus bonuses versus a target number, selecting stunts by generating Stunt Points through matching dice, and trusting the GM to improvise and make the system their own. That’s not all it’s about, but those are the most notable elements.

The AGE Family of Roleplaying Games

So, now you know that each game is its own thing with its own development, proceeding from some common elements, let’s break that down into specific games.

Dragon Age

Based on Bioware’s computer RPG series and its world of Thedas, Dragon Age presented the first version of the AGE system.  Dragon Age was originally released in three box sets which brought adventurers from 1st level to the apex of their powers but is now available in one omnibus edition.

Developer: Jack Norris

Worth Noting: In Dragon Age, Strength improves ability in close combat, and Dexterity is used for ranged combat. Dragon Age also has many elements inspired by the world of Thedas, including detailed rules for traps, unique specializations, and character backgrounds unique to that world, such as the Dalish Elves and Ferelden people. Classes are Mage, Rogue and Warrior.

Fantasy AGE

Fantasy AGE is an implementation of AGE designed to support classic fantasy genre gaming. It’s designed to be easy to learn. The core rules aren’t tied to any specific setting, but Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a post-apocalyptic science fantasy adventure series designed for its use. Fantasy AGE is customization friendly, with the Fantasy AGE Companion providing a host of expanded and optional rules GMs can apply as they see fit.

Developer: Jack Norris

Worth Noting: Fantasy AGE introduces Fighting and Accuracy to govern heavy weapons and light or ranged weapons, respectively. Magic provides spells according to theme-based arcana. The Mage, Rogue and Warrior classes are present here, with mechanics designed to support heir respective niches.

Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying game of Romantic Fantasy

The current edition of Blue Rose is the successor to its first edition, which used the OGL-based True 20 system. Blue Rose emulates progressive and romantic fantasy, especially as it evolved from the 1980s onward. In its world of Aldea, truly just societies (and not just despotic regimes we accept as “good” because it’s part of a genre convention to be cool with kings) thrive, but not without challenges. The adventure compilation Six of Swords can get you started.

Developer: Joseph Carriker

Worth Noting: Blue Rose introduces Relationships and Conviction as core mechanics, giving characters extra resources to draw on in defense of the people and motivations which define them. Character backgrounds are tailored to Aldea, and include the mystical vata and the rhydan, sapient, psychic animals. Magic as an intuitive psychic gift is a strong part of the romantic fantasy genre, so Blue Rose’s arcana differ from those of Fantasy AGE to support that.

Upcoming: Modern AGE

Modern AGE’s preorders and advance PDFs will be available Very, Very Soon. I won’t go into detail because I’ve been doing that for weeks. Modern AGE has no default setting, but the World of Lazarus, following the core book shortly, will provide a possible setting based on Greg Rucka’s comics series.

Developer: Malcolm Sheppard

Upcoming: The Expanse Roleplaying Game

Coming to crowdfunding this year, The Expanse is based on the novel series by James S. A. Corey (which as many of you know, is Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), which explores a future wracked with interplanetary rivalry. Earth and Mars compete for control of the Solar System while the peoples of the Belt struggle with their demands—at least, that’s how it starts. The Expanse tailors the AGE system for gritty hard SF stories, including new rules for technology and spacecraft.

Developer: Steve Kenson

Next Monday

Next time, I’ll go on and on about the genres I like, and how Modern AGE supports them. Until then, I’m working on the next couple of books for the game. Take care!

Modern Monday: What’s Coming?

So, after answering some questions last week, general chatter compels me to talk about what we have planned for Modern AGE. In most cases, I’m going to talk about the current state of each release. Then I’ll answer a common question about how Modern AGE compares to its sister, Fantasy AGE.

In Production

The following things are in various stages of production—that is, the creation of a book from developed and edited text files.

Modern AGE Quickstart: It’s out! Read about it and download here!

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (This is the core book!): This is currently going through last proof and art finalization. The advance PDF and preorders should be ready for June.

World of Lazarus: World of Lazarus is the first setting book for Modern AGE. It’s based on Lazarus, Greg Rucka’s dystopian-transhuman comic. Check the comic out (external link to Lazarus at Image Comics). This should be finished production shortly after the core. Note that project is a creation of Mutants and Masterminds developer Crystal Frasier, which is fitting, since she knows how comics and games intersect much better than I do.

Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit: This is the GM screen and reference card kit for Modern AGE. This is very close to finishing production and will be released hot on the heels of the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and Lazarus.

Text Complete

The following thing happens to be text-complete, by which I mean writers have written it, and I’ve developed it, but it hasn’t entered production.

(Announcing the) Modern AGE Companion: This is currently in editing. I may add a short set of options we excised from the core book. The Modern AGE Companion includes expanded rules for powers, new talents and specializations, expanded stunts, campaign management, technology—lots of stuff. The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook is absolutely a complete game, but the Companion is anchored in the idea of customizing the rules for your campaigns.

Did I just announce a new book? Yes. I’ll probably give it a proper breakdown once we reach production. When is it coming out? That’s still to be determined.

Outlined and Approved

Okay, so my policy is the further something is from release, the sketchier I’m going to be about it. The following books have had their outlines approved, so I can start working with people to get them designed. They have cute code names for now.

Project Cranky (Real Name TBA): This is a utilitarian supplement for Modern AGE, not tied to any set campaign.

Project Crooked House (Real Name TBA): This is an original in-house setting.

Comparing Modern AGE and Fantasy AGE

How many shows have you seen where there’s always something weird going down in the “warehouse district?” We are not about to challenge that cliché. From the Modern AGE Quickstart, available now!

So, I’ve fielded a few questions about how Modern AGE relates to Fantasy AGE. Modern AGE isn’t just a case of copying and pasting guns over swords. I’ve already talked about how it’s a classless implementation of the AGE rules, but there are several other under the hood changes. These range from Resources, the system we use to manage in-game purchases without you roleplaying getting loans and doing taxes, to Breaching, the advanced test variant designed by Crystal Frasier to support heists and capers. These demand cooperation and dramatic reversals. Crystal originally designed these for World of Lazarus, but we all agreed they were so cool they should be in the core rules. Social systems and investigations are also part of Modern AGE’s core, as is appropriate for games where characters will be deeply embedded in complex societies.

Fantasy AGE features magic as a core assumption instead of an optional extra. Certain rules emphasize the special roles of each of its classes. It has several talents not present in Modern AGE, such as Armored Training and Horsemanship, which could be used for modern games, but represented cases rare enough for me to exclude them in favor of others. Fantasy AGE’s magical Arcana can expand the range of what’s available for Modern AGE characters, and Modern AGE’s new rules might be useful for many Fantasy AGE games, but in the end they’re separate lines, with differences that in some cases, cut right down to core systems. We trust you to perform whatever creative mashups you like. I for one would love to hear about any such “FrankenAGE” games.

Jump into the Action! Modern AGE Quickstart Is Out!

Modern AGE RPG Quickstart Cover Image: Three characters in modern-day garb strike dynamic poses on an urban rooftop, lit from below. Skyscrapers tower in the background.A disease with no Earthly origin strikes. A legendary monster stalks back streets. Refugees from another world hide in our own, afraid of secret authorities. Gates between worlds, a sly demigod and a conspiracy introduce the Modern AGE roleplaying game with its new quickstart!

The Modern AGE Quickstart contains streamlined rules for Modern AGE, a game of contemporary adventure which uses the Adventure Game Engine found in Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose: The Age Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy. Pre-set to Modern AGE’s Cinematic rules mode, it includes everything you need to run your first game except six-sided dice, writing materials and your friends. Along with the rules, the Modern AGE Quickstart comes with ready to play characters and Burning Bright, a modern fantasy adventure in its own mini-setting.

Using the full rules in the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook, you can continue the quickstart adventure, or devise an entirely new campaign. Modern AGE is designed to support any modern era setting from the Age of Sail to near future action. Modern AGE releases this June, followed by the World of Lazarus campaign setting, based on Greg Rucka’s comic series of future feudalism.

Jump into the action and download the Modern AGE Quickstart!

Image from Modern AGE Quickstart: A cigar-chomping, bearded mercenary stands in the foreground, with a wicked knife strapped to his flak jacket. In the distance, a magical-seeming castle looms atop a wooded hill.

Modern Monday: Occasionally Asked Questions

For this Modern Monday I’ve harvested Modern AGE questions from the Ronin Army forums. Instead of just copying and pasting them, I’ve synthesized some repeated questions into stuff I can answer in one go. I also made up a couple of questions I figured you’d want answered.

Persistent detective work pays off. Or just asking.

Is it a standalone game?

Absolutely. You don’t need Fantasy AGE (or any other AGE RPG) for Modern AGE. The World of Lazarus, Modern AGE’s first supplement, does require the Modern AGE core. That said, there are many useful things you might port between various games. Modern AGE’s Breaching rules, which cover capers and other complex cooperative tasks, would be interesting to apply to other AGE games, and in a modern fantasy game Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose both have elements which can be ported to Modern AGE.

Does work on Modern AGE affect other Green Ronin projects, or vice versa?

Modern AGE is one member of the Adventure Game Engine family, so naturally some folks are curious about whether work on Modern AGE affected, or will affect, releases for other games. Nope! Each game has its own line developer and writers who know how to manage their time. I did some writing for the Fantasy AGE Companion and the Titansgrave setting, but this happened during draft cycles, while writers were working, so it didn’t delay anything else. The production schedule gives it its own space. It’s all good.

Will there be cross-genre support?

Yes. This is handled in a few different ways. First, campaign mode (Gritty, Pulpy, Cinematic) can be used to fine-tune how various things work, so you can decide how action-oriented your game is. Second, the Game Mastering section devotes significant space to various genres, on their own and by historical period. This kind of “soft” support can be found throughout the game, including in suggestions on how to adapt various systems for specific genres and periods. Third, the game does have a slate of powers you may or may not choose to add to your campaign. That brings us to the next question:

Are there powers?

Modern AGE provides detailed support for two types of powers: magical arcana and psychic disciplines. These are mechanically similar in their base treatment, but the rules include options for distinguishing them from one another. In addition, the game has a “rough draft” treatment of the sort of minor powers we often see in TV series. If you want full-on superpowers? Well we have this game you might have heard of, called Mutants and Masterminds.

How does classless AGE work?

In Modern AGE, characters are initially defined by a social class and its associated background, a profession, and a drive. These provide initial ability bonuses, talents and other traits. As you level up, you choose further ability and talent advances, along with a few other things such as specializations. You can’t improve the same ability twice in a row and will eventually incur the multiple advancement cost for peak improvements, so this prevents doubling down on Fighting, for instance. Your character’s special abilities are defined by talents and later, specializations.

How does Health work?

Your character’s initial Health is determined by profession, drive and Constitution. When you advance, further increases are based on the game’s mode. In Gritty mode, your Health doesn’t increase at all. In Pulpy mode, the increase is 1 + Constitution (minimum 1). Cinematic mode grants the full 1d6 + Constitution per level increase might know from other AGE games.

Where’s the book at?

Modern AGE has passed through initial layout, proofing and copyfitting stages (copyfitting is when we tweak the text to flow better in the layout). The advance PDF, which we release so you can get an early look (and point out typos) before we absolutely lock down the text for print, will be coming very soon indeed. After that it goes through processes to get things into print.

What About the Quickstart?

Even sooner. Days. The Quickstart gives you streamlined rules pre-set to Cinematic mode, ready to play characters, and a modern fantasy adventure, “Burning Bright.”

Other questions?

I read the forums at www.roninarmy.com regularly. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer all your questions but posting there is the best chance of putting them in front of my eyes.

Next Modern Monday?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll announce a new book or something. See you then!

Rogues Gallery Pre-Order and PDF Now Available

Rogues Gallery (Pre-Order)We have activated our latest Mutants & Masterminds book, Rogues Gallery, for pre-order through our Green Ronin Online Store!

Rogues Gallery collects supervillains from Green Ronin’s popular PDF series of the same name, with the addition of new material and never-before-seen characters. It has dozens of fearsome foes for your Mutants & Masterminds series, enough to keep your heroes busy stopping schemes and saving the world for quite some time! In its pages you will find solo and loner villains, teams and alliances, organizations and outliers, and bad guys of many different power levels, backgrounds, and styles, suited for different M&M series, all with complete game information. Plus each villain comes with ready-made adventure hooks, making the book a collection of more than a hundred possible adventures as well!

Pre-order the print version of Rogues Gallery and you can download the PDF for just $5.

Pre-order here and you’ll be offered the discounted PDF at checkout.

-or-

Pre-order at your favorite store* and get a coupon code to redeem here.

*If your brick-and-mortar store is signed up with our (free) GR Pre-Order Plus program, you can pre-order directly from them and they’ll hook you up with a code.

Modern Mondays: Get Your Fight On

As we ramp up to Modern AGE’s release, let me tell you a little bit about how we handle contemporary-era combat. That means firearms, but I’m also going to talk about the ins and outs of combat in general.

Get Your Gun

A Modern AGE round lasts about 15 seconds, so we knew right away that a ranged attack roll wasn’t always going to represent one shot, even when characters aren’t spraying fully automatic weapons around. The assumption is that unless you’re using a firearm where you must reload after every shot, each attack roll represents several shots aimed at the same target (and other targets, provided you use stunts—but more of that in a bit). In most cases, you’re pulling the trigger as fast as you can. This raises two questions. First: Shouldn’t those extra bullets make a difference? Second: How do you track ammunition?

While Amy wades into the fray, Brian’s about to demonstrate the violent benefits of teamwork.

The answer to both lies in the Stunt Die. We wanted to wring more information out of the rolls you’re already making. When it comes too hails of bullets, the Stunt Die represents this by adding to damage whenever you use a weapon capable of rapid fire, be it semi- or fully automatic. The Stunt Die also determines when you run out of ammunition in a way that needs to be addressed during the encounter. In most cases, characters are assumed to have as much ammunition as they need, and to reload during pauses in the action which aren’t necessarily measured in game terms. However, if you miss, check to see if the Stunt Die is equal to or greater than the firearm’s capacity rating, which varies from 2 to 6 (a Capacity of 1 is a single shot weapon, and simply noted as such instead of being given a number). If it is, you use the action specified by the weapon (a minor action for a typical magazine-loaded handgun) to reload. Gritty games modify this to make running low more likely and require characters to state they’re carrying spare ammo.

When it comes to the various tactical options available based on the firearm you choose, Modern AGE has an array of firearms stunts, some of which are keyed to specific weapon types. For example, Short Burst and Suppressive Fire require automatic weapons.

Get Trained

Except for Stunt Attacks (see last week), most of what you’ll see in Modern AGE’s combat rules will be familiar if you’ve played games like Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, or Blue Rose. One of the main differences are stunts, which are curated into focused lists for various forms of combat. This means Melee Stunts are available if you’re attacking with fists or blades, and Grappling Stunts are on hand for when you want to restrain your opponent. Incidentally, to allow for some basic personalization in unarmed combat, Brawling and Grappling are separate Fighting focuses with distinct stunt groups, though both inflict damage with a basic attack roll. There’s no “grappling subsystem” in Modern AGE beyond that.

Where unarmed combat has been split up slightly, other aspects of combative character development have been streamlined compared to prior AGE iterations. With no classes, there are no niches to protect by penalizing characters for using weapons. Thus, there’s no non-proficiency penalty. You make a standard ability-based attack roll and if you have the focus, benefit from its bonus. Furthermore, since there’s no need to sequester certain light weapons for the use of a particular class, Fighting now applies to all melee attacks, and Accuracy applies to all ranged attacks. To develop a fighting style, pick the focuses you want and talents which support them, such as Pinpoint Attack (which has a name Fantasy AGE players may recognize) and Self-Defense Style. Top it off with specializations like Gunfighter, Martial Artist, or Sniper.

Get Tough

The other new character-centered factor in combat is the Toughness trait, which is equal to your Constitution. Like armor (which is less common in modern games), Toughness absorbs damage, but the type of damage depends on the game’s mode—that is, one of the three genre-based rules options which apply to your campaign. In Cinematic Mode, Toughness works on virtually any form of damage, while in Gritty Mode, it only applies to what we call stun damage: the kind of stuff you take from a punch in the face. Pulpy Mode lies in the middle, absorbing damage from close combat weapons but failing against ballistic damage, which most firearms inflict.

Get Ready

Next Modern Monday I’ll talk about the game’s social and investigation systems. Since most modern settings feature functioning governments and societies, even wandering trouble shooters must deal with more than ruins and woods filled with, let’s say, angry bears. (Or indifferent bears. Don’t go near bears.) How do you run interrogations, make friends and grab clues? I’ll tell you then.