Reviews From R’lyeh: In the Modern AGE

Pookie of the site Reviews From R’lyeh posted a review of our Modern AGE RPG Basic Rulebook. In it, Pookie examines the contents of the book, creates a sample character, and goes over some of the history of the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system. We’ll let you read the article for yourself.

Coming May 13: Fantasy AGE Trojan War

Read the title! On May 13, we’ll be releasing a Fantasy AGE supplement for Homeric Age adventures. Inspired by the classic 3rd Era Trojan War book by Aaron Rosenberg, this 65-page supplement, coming in PDF and print-on-demand, adds numerous new character options, magic items, and special rules for Fantasy AGE.Fantasy AGE: Trojan War!

Note that this isn’t a straight D20 to Fantasy AGE conversion, for the following reasons:

  • Timing and Size: We wanted to make sure we could get this done on time, to get in a Fantasy AGE supplement for mid-2021 before the release of the new Fantasy AGE core rulebook, currently in development. We also wanted to make this a smaller book so people would feel they can spend their money on it without feeling like they have to have a full-on Homeric campaign ready. This means we’ve omitted game statistics for Trojan heroes. This also fits Fantasy AGE, whose smaller number of classes combined with talents and specializations mean there are many ways to interpret these heroes.
  • The Internet: The internet, and the resources it can bring to your table, have expanded since 2005. This means, for example, it would be redundant to describe history and mythology in ways better served by resources such as Wikipedia and other Web resources.
  • 16 Years of Context: We’ve added new context and guidance about how to adapt an era rife with discrimination for contemporary play. For centuries, people have made these legends their own, and by doing the same you don’t violate any kind of “canon,” but follow in the steps of storytellers who changed things to fit their times. We’ve also given much of the original a tune-up to bring forth some of the distinctive elements of the time. For instance, did you know the Trojan War predates the invention of coins? We talk about it.
  • Fantasy AGE First: Fantasy AGE is its own distinct system and handles everything from character creation to armor differently than 3e and its successors do. We wanted to make sure this fit Fantasy AGE’s rules as closely as possible.

Okay, But What’s in It?

Here’s a chapter breakdown:

Introduction: A 101 on the material ahead and an overview of the Trojan War.

Chapter 1: Homeric Character Creation: This section includes rules for characters of human (Trojan, Achaean, and others, including Amazons) and divine heritage, before going into a full set of backgrounds and professions for the Homeric period, and new and modified focuses for such characters. Then we talk about using existing Fantasy AGE talents and specializations before introducing five new talents (Arete, Athletics, Primal Weapon Style, Shield Formation Style, and Swift-Footed Style) and six new specializations of (Amazon, Charioteer, Dedicated Warrior, Demigod, Pharmakeus, and Priest). We finish things off with Divine Bonds, a new system inspired by the Relationships rules in other AGE games, which measure whether the gods love or hate you—and how they might meddle in your life.

Chapter 2: Homeric Magic: After talking about the place of magic in Homeric tales, we introduce the new Charm, Cursing, and Poison Arcana. After that? Magic items—32 of them, to be precise, from the useful herb moly to the head of Medusa—yes, it doesn’t appear in Homer, but the book wouldn’t be complete without it!

Chapter 3: Homeric Equipment: This chapter covers Bronze Age equipment for a Homeric campaign, including how precious metals were counted and spent before the invention of coins. Bare-legged Homeric warriors need special consideration, so this chapter includes new rules for partial armor and hit locations. We also provide a streamlined version of the vehicle rules in the Fantasy AGE Companion tailored for the ships and chariots presented here.

Chapter 4: Religion & The Gods: After providing an overview of divine actions during the Trojan War, this chapter provides complete rules for divine intervention, from the gods spiriting away favored heroes to reckoning with them when they take to the field. New rules let you face down belligerent gods without compromising on their immortality. Finally, for Game Masters looking for a detailed system to track divine favor, we include rules for Piety adapted from the D20 original.

Chapter 5: The Homeric Campaign: This updated Game Mastering chapter not only talks about how to use the Iliad as the basis for a campaign but presents it in the context of a larger body of mythology you can convert to adventures. In the myths, just getting to Troy was an epic in of itself! We also discuss how to change the myths for inclusivity and other play-friendly purposes before talking about which Fantasy AGE monsters fit the period, and how to modify them if they have immortal parentage.

Compatibility Across the AGEs

Fantasy AGE Trojan War was designed alongside the new Fantasy AGE core rulebook, due to come out later this year. Trojan War introduces some concepts from the new rules but is designed with the published Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook in mind. In practice, Fantasy AGE Trojan War should be mostly compatible with the new rules. This is a bridge supplement for both old and new Fantasy AGE players alike.

Watch this space—we’ll announce when it’s out and tell you where to find it at the Green Ronin Online Store and at DriveThruRPG!

Mayday! May Day!

Astonishing Adventures: Green Thumb, Black Heart

Available now!

Happy May-ing season to all you fans and friends of Green Ronin Publishing out there. It’s certainly fitting timing for the release of our new agrarian-themed Astonishing Adventure, Green Thumb, Black Heart”  featuring one of our classic Freedom City villains, the Green Man, along with an update of his loyal hench-women, the Brides of the Green.

This adventure was another in the classic pulp writing tradition of “So, we have this cover design, who wants to write an adventure to go with it?” I find that sort of a thing a great springboard for the imagination, far more focused than “Create a superhero adventure” out of all of the endless possibilities that entails. If you are inclined to write your own adventures for Mutants & Masterminds, you might try a similar technique: Find yourself an evocative piece of art and write an adventure based around it. Not only will you have added focus for your creativity, but you’ll have a ready-made visual aid to show your players when you run the adventure!

“Green Thumb, Black Heart” is a pretty classic superhero mix of different types of conflicts (some easy, others far more challenging) coupled with a mystery and an investigation. It’s designed for the default power level of 10, although it can be modified, and it is set in Freedom City, but can just as easily be moved to any urban setting of your choice, or even a more suburban or rural setting, so long as there’s a college, a football team, and some kind of nightlife to work with. I could even see it working in a place like Midvale (from The Atlas of Earth-Prime) substituting the high school football team for college and the Future Farmers of America or 4H Club for the college’s agronomy program. Speaking of the Atlas, the Lost World section of that book provides some handy expansion for the background of the adventure, but isn’t at all needed to run it.

If you want to add a touch of the mystical to the adventure, consider setting it around this time of the year and connecting lore about Beltane and May Day to it. Perhaps there is a sacrifice or an offering to the mythic Green Man intended to enhance the criminal Green Man’s powers even more. That makes it an adventure opportunity for magically experienced heroes who have completed (or are playing through) the NetherWar series, for example.

Whether you are running the adventure as part of your ongoing series or just as a one-shot to give your players a taste of M&M superheroic adventure, we hope you have a great time with “Green Thumb, Black Heart” and check out the whole Astonishing Adventures line of M&M stories! And we hope you enjoy the upcoming month of May!

 

Astonishing Adventures: Green Thumb, Black Heart is available now in the Green Ronin Online Store, and on DrivethruRPG!

Rhydan Roundtable: Hunter and Prey

This Ronin Rhydan Roundtable is inspired by a question from a Blue Rose fan regarding the events of the adventure “The Case of the Rhydan Swine” from the Aldis sourcebook. “If any animal in the world could potentially awaken as rhydan, how can people in Aldis eat animals?”

Awakened Rhydan predator animals.

Not to be flip about it, but the answer is “carefully.” The existence of rhydan on Aldea (the world of Blue Rose) does mean quite a number of people are vegetarians, preferring not to eat animal flesh at all, and some are even vegans who do not consume any animal products. However, a great many people, even in Aldis, are still omnivores and do consume both domestic and game animals.

It is notable that, while it is theoretically possible for almost any animal to awaken as rhydan, that rhydan are quite rare to begin with. What’s more, the most widely known types of rhydan (bears, cats, dolphins, and wolves) are carnivores or omnivores, apart from rhy-horses, which are the most widely known type of herbivore rhydan. Other rhydan are even rarer, although they do show up in Blue Rose adventures and stories, simply because stories often focus on rarities or unusual characters.

In particular, domesticated animals almost never awaken as rhydan. They are the rarest of all. It is arguable whether or not the horse herds of Rezean count as “domesticated” since one could argue they domesticated the two-legged members of their herds rather than the other way around! Still, farm animals and pets awakening is largely the stuff of tall tales on Aldea. It isn’t impossible, but it is very unusual. That’s why it comes as a bit of shock in the Aldis adventure.

Since rhydan all have an innate ability to communicate psychically, those who raise animals do stay aware in case any of them should start “talking” to them! In fact, chances are Aldean farmers probably talk to their livestock even more than farmers in our world, just to see if any of them should talk back. Otherwise, it’s much like the situation of Wolf and Mandu on Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: If you don’t want to get eaten, you had better speak up!

Likewise, many rhydan are carnivores—they have to eat other animals. Fortunately, as the upcoming Touching the Wild sourcebook details, rhydan have an innate ability to recognize on sight if another creature is rhydan, so predatory rhydan never accidentally prey on other rhydan, and rhydan prey animals have nothing to fear from their predatory “cousins,” just from ordinary predatory animals. Because of this, rhydan awakening from traditional prey species often seek out the company of two-legged folk, because it is safer than life in the wild.

Predatory rhydan have an easier time surviving on their own. People in rural and wilderness communities often rely on the aid of friendly rhydan as hunting companions. One advantage the Forest Folk of the Pavin Weald gain from their wolf-friends are fellow hunters who know exactly which prey are completely safe to cull from the forest. A rhydan predator corrupted by Shadow may eventually prey on fellow rhydan, or humanoids, which is a terrible combination of murder and “cannibalism” (of a sort) that horrifies all decent folk.

We look forward to detailing more about rhydan awakenings, life-experiences, and culture in the upcoming Touching the Wild sourcebook for Blue Rose.

Living in Dev-Time

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel!

“When is that book going to be done? When?”

It can be strange living in what I call “dev-time” (or “development time”) because eagerly-awaited projects are often not just yesterday’s news for me as a writer but most likely last year’s news at times. The development cycle of a book, much less an entire game, is a fairly long one, and getting all of the words written is among the very first steps. Typically, I may get to see a project at the concept stage, getting in on discussion of whether or not to do it at all, along with what it might look like, contain, and so forth. More often, I get involved at or after the outline stage, when the overall concept of the book is pretty well established, and the developer is looking for someone to write stuff. That’s me.

Now, these days, I don’t write too many entire books for RPG publishers, including Green Ronin. While product development time for a book is long, actual writing time is relatively short. So unless I’m publishing a book myself (as I do with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying) and can take 4 to 6 months to write it all, or I’m working with an extended publisher timeline that allows me to write sixty to eighty thousand words or more, chances are I’m only writing a part of a book, a chapter or two (maybe three). Solo projects tend to be short: adventures, Patreon write-ups, articles, and the like, and many of those also get incorporated into larger books or collections.

I get my assignment, write it, and (ideally) hand it off at the appointed deadline. There’s feedback, development, revisions, new drafts, and then I hand over a final version of the text. Typically, that’s where my involvement ends. Sure, an editor might have the occasional “what were you thinking here?” question (tinged with varying degrees of frustration) or an art director might need notes or “does it look like this?” confirmation but, for the most part, my text sails off to those other shores to continue the rest of its journey towards becoming a finished book without me. That can sometimes be a long journey, even under the best of conditions. When conditions look like they have over the past year or so … even longer.

Thus the eagerly-awaited book someone is looking forward to is already in my rear-view mirror, often several exits back behind other recent projects I have handed off, some of which the public hasn’t even heard about yet. There’s a running joke in the freelance business that sometimes the only answer to a polite inquiry of “So what are you working on these days?” is “Upholding my non-disclosure agreement.” Dev-time is such that many projects aren’t even announced publicly at the time when people are writing them, although there may be rumors (the tabletop game industry being quite small and tight-knit).

While I have moved-on to other projects, the words I’ve already written are sailing through development, editing, layout, illustration, and proofreading. If they’re destined to see print, there will also be preflight checks, print buying and quotes, print proofs, and more before the book is finally handed-off to the printer. Even then, there’s printing, binding, shipping, warehousing, and distribution before it finds its way to a game store or gets shipped off to the buyer. In every one of those steps there is both margin for error and the potential for things to go wrong. I mentioned before about “ideally” handing off my text by the agreed-upon deadline. I pride myself on getting my work in on time, but life happens. This past summer, I took a fall off my bicycle and fractured my hip. While my recuperation didn’t overly impact my ability to work, allowances still needed to be made. Multiply that times all of the people who touch a project before it sees print and you magnify those allowances accordingly. People get injured, sick, divorced, married, pregnant, quit or take on new jobs, lose loved ones, run into financial problems, and all of life’s other challenges, to say nothing of encountering global pandemics, political upheavals, and more—all in the same year!

So if anyone involved in the publishing process of a book or product ever looks vaguely bewildered concerning its eagerly-anticipated release, it is quite possible that they exist in “dev-time.” From their perspective, that project has been “done” for some time, and it’s not that they’re not eager to see the finished products (believe me, there are several of my projects I’m looking forward to actually holding in my hands), it’s just that they’ve had to move on to other things in the meanwhile. Patience and understanding that there is more going on behind the scenes than you know will always get you a kinder response.

The Beacon – Danger Zones: Lighthouse is available now!

Danger Zones: Lighthouse!Lighthouses conjure up all kinds of images of moody, Gothic stories of mystery, hauntings, and murder along isolated, lonely coastlines, and those are just some of the things explored in this week’s Danger Zones: Lighthouse  release. Our weekly Mutants & Masterminds Monday live-stream talks about some of those themes involving lighthouses and the occult adventures in the Supernatural Handbook, but that is by no means the sole opportunity to have a lighthouse appear as a locale in your Mutants & Masterminds game.

Lighthouses often play a role as the interface between land and sea, making them important to aquatic superheroes, for example, or their supporting characters. It would not be at all unusual for an aquatic hero to live at a lighthouse or work as a lighthouse-keeper in their civilian identity. Such a hero might also have a lighthouse-keeper as a friend, family-member, or love interest. Similarly, an aquatic super-villain might also make use of a lighthouse as a touchstone on land and a potential hideout. Perhaps someone like Devil Ray from Freedom City or Steelhead (or any of the Trident from Threat Report) use connections to a lighthouse keeper to blackmail them into helping provide a safe-haven or base of operations.

As lighthouses are already watch-posts (the Freedom League’s orbiting satellite is even named for one), they can also be potential headquarters for a superhero team based in a coastal area. The lighthouse described in Danger Zones is only three stories tall, but duplicate the second floor map a few times, and it could easily be a five- to six-story lighthouse with room for an entire team. Even more so if there are hidden sea-caves or the like beneath the actual lighthouse structure, with room for a submersible or the ability to launch an aircraft up out of the water.

It’s also difficult to think of lighthouses in the Earth-Prime setting without thinking of the Beacon, one of Freedom City’s lesser-known legacy heroes (described on page 58 of Freedom City, with the Light-Bearer template on page 69). Perhaps a new Beacon, or even a team of heroes who inherit the potential of the Living Light, might set up shop in a lighthouse along the coast or on an island near Freedom City, shining the light of hope in the darkness for all in need.

However you might use it, check out Danzer Zones: Lighthouse and all of the entries in the Danger Zones series for your Mutants & Masterminds and modern RPG adventures!

Danger Zones: Lighthouse is available now in the Green Ronin Online Store, as well as on DrivethruRPG!