Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel (Print Pre-Order and Three Electronic Formats)

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel cover image, by Magdalena PągowskaWe’re excited to announce that Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel, by Joseph D. Carriker Jr., is now available for pre-ordering and in three electronic formats from our Green Ronin Online Store.

When two envoys from the Sovereign’s Finest disappear on a critical mission, an unlikely band of allies, led by Soot, a rhy-crow with dark and secret power, is brought together to combat a hidden threat. As portents bloom across the smuggler’s den known as Serpent’s Haven, these strange agents quickly find themselves tested by the machinations of a cult dedicated to darkest Shadow. Grieving, afraid, and unsure who to trust or where to turn, they must rely on one another and their erstwhile allies in hopes of rescuing the envoys and foiling a terrible plot. Success will bring no great reward, but failure is unimaginable. Can they overcome their suspicion and fear to fulfill their mission, or will they, too, fall to Shadow?

When you pre-order Shadowtide through our Green Ronin Online Store, you can get the novel in three electronic formats right away, for just $5.

Pre-Order Shadowtide

Also available from Nisaba Press:

Nisaba Journal Issue 1 (PDF, EPUB, MOBI)

Orktoberfest: Magic of the Orks!

One of the new things about Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is the role of magic. Ork!’s mastermind, Todd Miller, requested that this edition include better rules for magic. Previously, magic was mostly left to the Orkmaster, who used it as an excuse to have village warlocks (then called shamans—we changed the terminology to something less problematic for the new edition) relentlessly bully players’ orks. In those rules, warlocks could do anything, and orks just had to suck it up! Plus, there were some magic trinkets available.

Not everyone benefits from “material components”

 

Go Ahead and Try! Heh, Heh.

The new edition has really taken it to the next level. Does this mean a new limit on the warlock’s ork-oppressing mystic might? Nope! Warlocks can still do whatever the Orkmaster thinks they can. This is because Krom, the fearsome god of the orks, trusts warlocks enough to let them reshape the cosmic energy he left around. What’s new is that now, any ork can try to cast spells by following a few simple steps and making a Magic roll.

As you might guess, orks aren’t the most studious creatures around, even if a place with the words “hog” and “wort” in it sounds like somewhere orks should go, to admire architecture, eat centaurs, and possibly vape something called a “huff-a-puff,” which for litigation related reasons I may be misremembering the name for. So, all ork magic is improvised. The prospective spell-ork needs ingredients, such as something he must do, a place he must cast at, or an item he needs to have. The number of ingredients is one per rank of the spell, going from Minor to Moderate and Major. Describe what the spell does, let the Orkmaster assign its rank get the right ingredients for it, and roll some dice!

Krom’s Curse!

There’s just one problem: Krom does not trust orks with magic. While Krom vomited up the whole universe, not all of it is under his complete control. (Even whispering this is blasphemy, and a warlock will turn you into a pine cone for mentioning it!) Magic’s the errant lint, dust, goo, and forgotten crowdfunding rewards which clutter up the cosmos. Krom’s too busy tormenting orks and looking impressive to clean it all up, but he doesn’t want orks rummaging through it either. Thus, when an ork tries to use magic, he suffers Krom’s Curse! Manifestations of the curse rage from growing an unwanted beard to being crushed by an enormous foot green foot tattooed with the cryptic rune, ™. The more powerful the spell, the bigger the curse, and failed spellcasting rolls get the worst curses of all! Fortunately, ork points can be used to partially reduce the effects of Krom’s Curse.

As noted, warlocks can still do whatever they want. Warlocks aren’t subject to Krom’s Curse because they’re loyal and have been taught Things Most Orks Are Am Not Meant to Know. The Orkmaster decided what they can and can’t do, though some things, like making magic items, is a special warlock ability, not available to spell-slinging common orks. Plus, other beings—disgusting non-orks!—seem to be able to make items, and even use magic without drawing Krom’s Curse. Orks don’t know what this is. Could it be the human god, Cromus, who of course has nothing to do with Krom, so shut up, making a different deal with his people? Who knows?

Prizes

On the topic of magic items, Ork! has plenty of them, from the magic tattoo of the Iron Bird to autogyros and dread magic spears. Activating some of these items also requires a Magic roll, and sometimes draws Krom’s Curse, but this is milder and less frequent, in exchange for potent but limited benefits—and the constant risk another ork will hit the owner over the head and take it. Items are daily (meaning they can be used a listed number of times per day), munchies (they get used up, like cookies and your good friend’s beers), futzy (these work every 2d4 hours) and always (lo and behold, these work all the time!).

Sample Magic Item: Grovel Stick

Daily (3×) • Krom Dice: 3d6

This short staff is carved with strange warlocky symbols and has mojo written all over it. It can be used as a club with a damage rating of 1, but that’s not its main function. No, the grovel stick is not an ordinary weapon of war. It reminds upstart orks who the boss is. The fact that its ability also works on squishy and sour men is a big plus. If the wielder of the grovel stick hits an opponent in hand-to-hand combat, he can choose to activate the magic rather than inflict damage. If the magic works, the victim falls to the ground and grovels uncontrollably for 1d4 rounds. Even if attacked, the victim continues to grovel. Never mind that orks can’t understand squishy men; groveling transcends language.

 

Next Time!

Ork!: The Roleplaying Game is shipping now! Next week we’ll be in November, and I’ll put a capstone on this series, giving you a full rundown of the contents. Happy Halloween—it’s an ork-worthy affair!

 

Orktoberfest: Pleasing Krom—and Cheating Him!

This past couple of Orktoberfest weeks we’ve talked about the basics of Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition (Pre-Order Link!), starting with Frequent Ork Questions (the FOrkQ) and moving to the core system, where you battle a god, and combat, glorious combat! Now in this and previous Ork! articles we’ve tried to get across a certain vibe, where the game is supposed to be goofy, fun, and open-ended, but some of you will still want to ask dumb questions like, “How does the system address the narrative premise?” Smart things like this sound like science, which in Ork! is traditionally punished by murderous, anti-science trolls. (In the rough and tumble World of Orkness, only trolls, with their entirely fictional ability to regenerate, can get away with anti-science beliefs that keep them from vaccinating their troll-cubs. The rest of you, vaccinate your kids!)

HE KNOWS

Nevertheless, this question has a two-pronged (two-tusked?) answer! We have ork points, the carrots, and Cheats, the sticks that look like carrots. Let’s talk about how these rules work.

Ork Points

Krom is almost always watching! Remember, the god of the Orks treats his creations with amused animosity. He wants orks to get into trouble, but also roots for them if they solve problems in the most orky ways possible, with brute force, ignorance and a bit of barbaric panache. The criteria are simple in description yet vast in creative depth, for the Orkmaster (the Game Master of Ork!) represents Krom at the table, and if they’re amused, Krom is amused! Thus, to represent Krom’s fleeting favor, the Orkmaster hands out ork points.

Ork points have several applications. They can make actions more effective, heal damage, and be spent to avoid Krom’s Curse when orks dabble in magic. The Orkmaster should grant ork points frequently, and players should spend them almost as frequently—and we say almost, because there may be a catch. You can also use ork points to add permanent improvements to your ork, but in the meanest, most classically orkish Ork! games you must choose between spending them on the spot and saving them to advance. This simulates the instant gratification temptations felt by all orks, and how it leads to bad decisions. However, we know this is just too much for some groups, so this hardcore option is presented alongside another, where you can still use ork points you spent in advancement. The Orkmaster picks which option they want for their campaign.

Cheats

One of the new things in this edition is character Cheats. In Ork! a Cheat can be seen in part as a counterpart to the specializations characters in other RPGs develop, but let’s face it: No ork ever learned the Quivering Palm after dedicated training. Orks are not studious but boy, are they ever stubborn—so stubborn, in fact, that in one subject dear to their hearts, they will themselves to overcome Krom’s opposition. In fact, they steal power from Krom!

To make a Cheat, you take a skill and define one subcategory of what it can do, such as swinging one type of weapon or using the Jock skill to climb. When it’s time to use that subcategory, your Cheat lets you steal dice from Krom to make things easier. When the opponent is Krom himself, via environmental hazards, you take dice from the number you’re rolling against and add them to your own. Against enemies, you grab Krom dice from thin air to add to the number you roll. Defiance and might! YEARGH!

Is there a catch. Oh yeah. You see, if you Cheat, Krom eventually notices the discrepancy and takes those dice back, to add to roll opposing yours later. The Orkmaster is encouraged to build a little pile of these dice in front of each player. When it amuses Krom, the Orkmaster grabs those dice and rolls them alongside them normal difficulty dice, so rolling against 4d6 can turn into rolling against 9d6, if a foolish player accumulated five Cheat dice. Cheating creates natural comeuppances, which is also very much in keeping with Ork!

You Am Do Anything

Next week: Magic!

Orktoberfest: Combat!

Let’s talk about the most important system in all roleplaying games: Combat! Okay, maybe not all roleplaying games. Maybe you play games where it’s all Angsty Debate Team or you roll for self-actualization. Ork! The Roleplaying Game (Like goes to pre-order: KROM DEMANDS PRE-ORDER) brings you back to your senses, filling them with a red haze and the ripping meat sounds of glorious battle.

Combat in Ork! is simple but atmospheric. Because it’s easy and game designers are lazy, fighting is an extension of the core rules, which I covered last week. Ork! uses opposed rolls for everything. Your ork’s basic attribute (like Meat, measuring general physical ability) gets a die type—the bigger the die the better—and your skill rating determines how many dice you roll. If the challenge is environmental, you roll against Krom, the merciless ork god who vomited up the world. If the challenge is another creature, you roll against it.

Thus, combat is a series of opposed rolls against whoever you want to wallop. You do as much damage as the points by which your roll exceeded your target’s. Add bonus damage for a weapon. The enemy’s armor reduces damage. One roll and it’s all done!

GLORIOUS!

Things You Am Do in Combat

Ork! isn’t particularly tactical, because orks aren’t tactical. They’re creatures of high aggression, low cunning, and constant hunger. This means many of the tactically oriented stuff found in other games works differently.

Movement: Ork! uses rough distances, ranging from Right Here (you can hit someone because they’re Right Here) to Over There (you have to hustle over, then hit them) to Far Away (it takes a round to get to them), Too Far (it would take more time) and Way Too Far (throw something instead!). These have real feet-based measurements, but the point is that the Orkmaster can use natural language instead of getting out a ruler.

Ranged Combat: Roll Aim (used for missile weapons and winning bets about who can hit a roosting pterosaur with a thrown pine cone) against the opponent’s Duck (the skill of being sneaky and getting out of the way). If the opponent is past the weapon’s short range, has a shield, or is hard to see, they get bonus die to their Duck roll. Easy!

Other Stuff: Combat includes rules for Attacks of Orkitunity (hitting cowards who try to get away!), sneak attacking and riding dinosaurs into battle. It has rules for Crunchies—pathetic enemies with just 1 Wound to make you feel mighty—and mobs, which is what happens when Crunchies gang up.

Big Hits!

“Critical hits” sounds too technical for a game where your character dreams of killing the stupid sun. Ork! has big hits instead. You score a big hit when you don’t need all your dice to succeed. If you rolled a 7, 8, and 3 on 3d10 against your opponent total of 14, the 7+8 you rolled, making 15, is enough. You didn’t need the 3—and you can use that to pick a big hit. The Orkmaster can make big hits up, but the game as a decent list.

Example Big Hit—Dis’Arm: Orks have heard the term “disarm” and assume it refers to their favored tactic of depriving an enemy of the use of a limb: twisting until it snaps, crackles, and pops; hitting it with a blade, bludgeon, or thrown rock; or biting it really hard. Your enemy can’t use of the limb until they succeed at an Endure roll versus 3d6 Krom dice. Roll this once per round immediately after the victim’s turn until they succeed. It doesn’t use up the victim’s action.

If the Dis’Arm happens as part of an attack that drops the enemy to 0 Wounds, the Orkmaster may allow you to chop or rip the target limb clean off! Now you have a gross club.

(Yes, there are rules for reattaching severed limbs. Got a nail gun?)

Defeat!

Characters in Ork! have a Wounds score, which works like the classic get-hit-lose-points-yeah-basically-hit-points system you know from other games. Unlike other games though, Wounds represent a general resistance to being physically defeated. This is a cheap trick that gets us out of designing stupid rules for “grappling,” “overbearing,” and so forth. How you beat up the enemy is entirely descriptive, and these descriptions are frequently vague, and full of yelling. What matters is how you intend to crush your enemy!

Therefore, dropping to 0 Wounds brings about the option of death, but it can also be used to indicate capture, maiming or just getting knocked out. As a side effect, the Orkmaster can refrain from killing orks outright until it would be really, really funny. This often happens sooner than you think, so beware anyway!

Me Am Not Die. Me Am Cheat!

Cheating Krom is a special system orks have to stave off doom in exchange for bigger doom. It and ork points are the high-falutin’ tone-reinforcin’ meta-systems of the game, and we’ll talk about them next week. Aaaargh!

Orktoberfest: Ork’s System!

Naturally, one of the biggest chapters in Ork! The Roleplaying Game is combat. We’re not going to pretend otherwise. Ork! is a game that unflinchingly tells you the truth: Combat is the most important system in roleplaying games! ARRRRRGH!

Accurate representation of Ork!’s game system in action.

Accurate representation of Ork!’s game system in action.

Ahem. Yet we understand you might want to identify stupid plants or sneak up on people (hopefully, to beat them up, leading to combat) or even—and this is not a good idea if you’re an ork—use magic. So, this week we’ll look at Ork!’s core rules.

The Core Rules: You Am Fight Krom!

For the lowly ork, each day is a struggle against other orks, squishy men, and, in a larger sense, Krom—wrathful, easily bored god of the orks—himself. This constant state of conflict is reflected in the following golden rule:

All dice checks in Ork! are opposed!

Many roleplaying games use what’s called a “target number” system where the benevolent game master decides the objective difficulty of a given task, and the player only needs to meet or exceed this target number to complete the task. Such sys­tems are for the weak. In Ork!, the Orkmaster represents Krom himself, and even the simplest task requires the player to dice off with Krom to get his way!

Orks roll a number of dice equal to their skill rating, which is usually between 1 (ork sucks) and 5 (ork rocks!). The better the attribute linked to the skill (attributes are Meat, Bones, Twitch, and Mojo) the bigger the dice (d4 to d12). So, a strong but callow young ork might roll 1d10 (skill 1, Meat d10) to whack somebody, while his smaller but more experienced counterpart rolls 3d8 (skill 3, Meat d8).

If the ork is going against a live opponent—somebody to beat up or outrun—that roll is opposed by the enemy’s roll. Against environmental and other stuff, the enemy is the world—and the god who made it, Krom! The number of dice you roll for Krom depends on how much he approves of what the ork is about to do, or how much failure would amuse him, and therefore the Orkmaster. This difficulty rating is Krom’s Favor, rated in the accompanying table.

Krom’s Favor

Krom’s AttitudeType of ActionKrom Dice
Krom Am Resting His EyeVery Easy1d6
Krom ApprovesEasy2d6
Krom Am Not CareAverage3d6
Krom Am AnnoyedDifficult4d6
Krom Dislikes YouVery Difficult5d6
Krom Am Want You Dead!Extremely Difficult6d6 and up!

We recommend d6 for Krom dice, though you can change the die type if Krom is feeling particularly nasty or uninterested. A mean Orkmaster might use d10s, while a complete weakling who smells like flowers after a spring rain would use d4s.

In the event of a tie, the aggressor wins! You always want to be the one acting in Ork!, not the wimpy defender! If you’re not sure who that is, the Orkmaster decides.

Beyond Stupid Basics!

Beyond the framing (ork versus Krom!), Ork!’s core system favors intuitive ease over showing off our game design chops. Yet, we do have an assortment of the stupid game system tricks you, the discerning consumer, have come to expect from modern roleplaying games. These include:

Cheats: When Krom isn’t paying attention, you can steal dice from him and add them to your own! Unfortunately, Krom is a god, and eventually figures it out, punishing you accordingly.

Ork Points: You get these when you act in an especially orky way, such as eating a face or engaging in axe-based art criticism. These give you ork points, which you can use for a bunch of benefits, from healing to cool tricks in combat.

Combat: Ork’s Combat chapter is the most important thing in the book! It has extra rules for everything from severing limbs to impromptu combat-oriented dinosaur taming. Lots to talk about, so we’ll get to it next week.

You Am Buy Ork When?

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is currently doing the warehouse to warehouse dance and gets into stores this month. You can still pre-order here and get the PDF right away as a $5 add on (or just get the PDF—see the link in the link above). See you next week!

Orktoberfest Begins with: The FOrkQ

We’re known for many, many different games, from Mutants and Masterminds to Adventure Game Engine system releases like Fantasy AGE, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE, but the oldest game in the lot got submerged beneath it all—until now. I’m talking about Ork! The Roleplaying Game, which ships a new edition into retail channels this month! As last-leg developer of the game I’ve blogged about it from time to time. It’s taken 18 years to get around to releasing a new edition, so this month we’re going to celebrate by talking your Krom-damned ears off (in text, so also, eyes off) about it! This week, we’ll be getting you up to speed by answering some Frequent Ork Questions. Read on as we give a FOrkQ about informing you!

What is Ork! The Roleplaying Game?

It’s a “beer and pretzels” comedy-focused game where you play orks: the pig-biting mad, green-skinned, snaggle-toothed warriors who take the fall in many, many other games. Ork! has a relaxed, easy system that emulates orks’ struggles in a world where everything is against them: humans (or “sour men”), fire-breathing dinosaurs (of which there are many) and, well, God Himself, or precisely: Krom, cruel deity of the orks!

What’s That System?

Dice pools, man. This game was designed at the tail end of the 90s. Seriously though, in Ork! you roll some dice and add them up against an opposed roll, because in this game, the world isn’t a set of objective challenges. It’s not even a “narrativist” setup where we like it when you try to beat people up for love. In Ork! you get opposed rolls because Krom, in the form of the Orkmaster, hates you! He’s rolling dice against orks who are trying to succeed. Your prospects depend on whether you entertain or annoy him! It’s unfair. It’s Ork!

Sometimes you can cheat Krom, though. Your obsessions and obstinacy let you steal dice from Krom and add them to your own, but he always gets wise to this eventually, and you end up trading success for his wrath later! Fortunately, orks are short-sighted, and don’t suffer from a rising dread of cosmic payback.

Oh yeah: The game has a combat system that lets you hack off limbs, because that is obviously essential.

What are Orks in This Game, Exactly?

Orks are big, green, rough, and boar-snouted. Orks like to fight, eat and drink. Orks live in villages with nameless young gunks, warriors who’ve earned a name, and the warlock, a leader who manages to use magic without exploding. (Krom hates magic.) Orks aren’t necessarily stupid, but do tend to, uh, excessively live in the moment. Orks don’t work for dark lords unless they’ve been conned. (Note: orks are easily conned.) Only the wisest of orks know strange, mystical secrets, like the fact that seasons pass and there’s not just arbitrary stupid weather.

What Do They Want?

Food. Revenge! Food. For the sun to go out. To impress Krom, who hates them! To overthrow the warlock, who hates them! The warlock is pretty tough though and serves as the Orkmaster’s (GM’s) mouthpiece and mission-giver.

Where Do They Live?

You want a setting? Orks barely know anything about the world around them, so if there was a mighty prophecy with a ring or soul-stealing sword or something, they wouldn’t notice! But we’ve still got you covered, with the World of Orkness. What’s in it? Magic. Sour men. Lots of types of shameless parodies of fantasy mainstays, like those cute folks who don’t wear shoes. Note, however, one point of originality: Dwarves don’t sound Scottish—goblins do! I swear, if we tossed Cthulhu and some panoramic art in there, the world alone would be an Ennies shoe-in.

What you need to know is there was a magical catastrophe which opened gates to many other worlds. Therefore, orks run into giant robots, airships, dinosaurs (which, as noted, breathe fire, which may be original paleontological research on our part), spray cans of cheese, and road signs from Lake Geneva, WI.

What’s in This Game I Am Increasingly Convinced I Should Purchase?

Great question, hypothetical querent! Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition includes:

  • Complete rules for creating ork characters.
  • Rules for skull-cracking combat and other, lesser systems.
  • Magic! It’s a bad idea, but it’s there! Also, cool magic junk to steal from the cooling bodies of your foes!
  • Everything you need to get into the ork mindset, from their villages and warlocks to the faith of Krom, easily-annoyed god of the orks!
  • Things to Kill, an extensive bestiary of monsters, from shambling bone men to science-hating trolls.
  • A series of adventures that can be used to run a complex campaign, from ignominious gunkhood to a level of badassitude worthy of the tunnels in Horserat Mountain!

What Else?

Next week I’ll talk more about the game. For now, bother yon game merchant!

Charitable Giving Sale: The Innocence Project

Each month, Green Ronin selects a worthy cause to support through raised awareness and financial donation. For a limited time, we’ve placed Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook and Fantasy AGE Companion on sale for 20% off, with 20% of proceeds to be donated to help the amazing work being done by the Innocence Project.

Support the Cause. Shop the Sale.


About The Innocence Project

Founded in 1992, the Innocence Project exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and spurs reform of the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. After more than 25 years of tireless efforts, it now serves as the core of a worldwide network of similar organizations, all dedicated to assisting and seeking justice for the wrongly convicted.

A noticeable majority of the cases successfully challenged by the Innocence Project has involved innocent men of color, accused of rape or murder, who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. By reopening these cases and introducing DNA evidence (that could have acquitted these men at the time of their original trials) the Innocence Project was able to exonerate them.

 

Race, religion, and ethnicity have all been shown to affect arrest and conviction rates. But the one factor that determines a person’s ability to fight a wrongful conviction is wealth. Lack of financial resources denies so many innocent people access to the legal resources necessary to secure an exoneration.

Poverty should not doom an innocent person to years of incarceration and/or execution. That’s why the Innocence Project, and its partner organizations, provide their services and support pro bono—to help bring justice to those wrongly convicted without the means to fight back.

 

If you’re interested in learning or doing more for this noble cause, please visit the Innocence Project’s website, where you’ll find a wealth of information about their efforts, along with a list of other local and regional organizations working to help address the issue of justice for those wrongly incarcerated.

We also recommend picking up the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevens, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative—another organization which does similar work with a focus on mass incarceration, children in prison, and death penalty cases.