Modern AGE’s Enemies & Allies: Getting Normal (Ronin Roundtable)

Last time I posted about Enemies & Allies I talked about some of the ideas that went into design and development, but I used the chapters on fantasy, horror, and science fiction to illustrate my points. See this post for a rundown on this book of characters and creatures and you’ll notice something: two more chapters covering more down to earth subjects. Chapter 2: Elite Operatives covers some of the highly skilled figures of espionage, technothriller fiction, and some procedurals. Chapter 4: Crime and Punishment, gets into crooks and cops. Let’s talk about the ideas informing these chapters.

Who’s after you? Your character may not know but with Enemies & Allies, your GM does.

Elite Operatives: Aid and Opposition

Dylan Birtolo’s chapter covers a slate of highly skilled Non-Player Characters. In this case, the important thing was to populate the chapter with interesting, useful NPCs. This chapter’s primary focus is action and espionage, so we have the Armored Soldier, Double Agent, Field Agent, and Field Commander. In addition, we present the unique NPC Clara Lynch, a martial arts expert with military connections who can act as a gateway to the other elite characters in the book. In addition, we present the Negotiator and Publicist not only because not all highly skilled NPCs are combatants, but because they can provide valuable aid in areas typical characters aren’t good at.

This is not to say that we locked every character in this chapter to a straightforward function! Dylan included two entries that were generally useful, and deserved inclusion. First, the Robot Dog represents an automated threat or potential guardian based on cutting edge realistic technology. Many of us have seen the new generation of agile robots. The Robot Dog combines them with other innovations in artificial intelligence and, for the armed model, automatic targeting.

The Law and the Lawless: Populating the Underbelly

Ron Rummell’s chapter covers criminal and law enforcement. Both these elements are essential to modern games in virtually every genre, so we were especially careful to make it broadly useful. One of the most important aspects of this chapter is that it doesn’t limit itself to potential combatants, but NPCs covering the range of underworld and law enforcement figures who might appear in the campaign. Characters probably won’t get in shootouts with the Pickpocket, but that NPC may have stumbled across important information, or taken off with an object critical to the campaign. The Police Chief may not be on the front line, but they can call a citywide manhunt where Player Characters might join in or be its targets.

The other important element in this chapter was to carefully examine where any cultural biases may have pushed us, because these tend to manifest strongly in stories involving crime and the law. That manifested in how we developed the text, but also in how the art turned out. This means, for instance, that the image associated with the Mob Boss is that of an Asian woman who isn’t surrounded by the motifs associated with any stereotypical elements of any nationality’s organized crime group. Beyond ethical considerations, this gives the GM a sense of breathing room to devise their own groups.

After Enemies & Allies

This concludes my series about the book, but Modern AGE has more to come. Next time you read anything from me, it’ll probably be about Five and Infinity, the adventure series for Threefold—a setting that happens to accept Enemies & Allies as completely canonical. Talk to you then.

Malcolm Sheppard

After writing and designing games as a freelancer from 2000 on, Malcolm Sheppard is pleased to join Green Ronin as developer at large: the one who works on any number of games, from the Adventure Gaming Engine to Ork! Malcolm’s experience before Green Ronin includes Exalted, Mage: The Ascension, Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness and Scion lines, as well as Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase. Outside game design, Malcolm’s worked in community development and education, and as a professional historical re-enactor, where he gave large metal swords to children. (They were blunt!) Malcolm lives in semi-rural Ontario, Canada.