Green Ronin Publishing Announces Cthulhu Awakens RPG Kickstarter
Seattle, WA: Green Ronin Publishing is proud to announce that its latest AGE System roleplaying game, Cthulhu Awakens, will begin crowdfunding on Kickstarter on February 15, 2022. Cthulhu Awakens is a complete roleplaying game where a diverse set of protagonists confront the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. It will be a 270+ page full color hardback book, with additional material unlockable through Kickstarter stretch goals.
Cthulhu Awakens deviates from Lovecraftian “canon” in the interests of creating an inclusive setting fit for the roleplaying campaign medium. In the game the original Mythos stories hinted at the truth, but it was obscured by their authors’ biases and fallibilities. Cthulhu Awakens creates a distinct vision of the Mythos that provides a new springboard for Cosmic Horror roleplaying. It allows you to play at any point between the 1920s and the present day, through a period it calls “the Weird Century.”
Cthulhu Awakens is a stand-alone RPG powered by Green Ronin’s popular Adventure Game Engine (AGE), a dynamic and easy to learn system whose games include Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, Blue Rose: The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy, and the licensed RPGs Dragon Age and The Expanse. Cthulhu Awakens evolves the Modern AGE rules, customizing them for the Cosmic Horror genre, but the game is also substantially compatible with other AGE RPGs.
“The Cthulhu Mythos is one of the pillars of modern roleplaying,” said Green Ronin Publishing president Chris Pramas, “so with the success of Modern AGE it was only natural we explore it, but we wanted to make sure we had the right team and a distinct, inclusive direction for the game.” The writing and design team for Cthulhu Awakens includes Sharang Biswas, David Castro, Elizabeth Chaipraditkul, Hiromi Cota, H.D. Ingham, Khaldoun Khelil, Danielle Lauzon, Ian Lemke, Monte Lin, Jack Norris, and Malcolm Sheppard.
The February 15, 2022, Kickstarter will not only fund a physical release of the book estimated by the end of 2022, but it will also include stretch goals for things like adventures and VTT token packs, plus options to explore other AGE System games at a discount. The campaign also features a special offering for backers in its first 48 hours.
About Green Ronin Publishing Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle based company dedicated to the art of great games. Since the year 2000, Green Ronin has been a force in tabletop roleplaying games, publishing such RPGs as Blue Rose, The Expanse, Dragon Age, and Mutants & Masterminds, and winning over 40 awards for excellence. Green Ronin has also worked as a design house for hobby giants Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast on such titles as Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (Second Edition) and the Dungeons & Dragons (Fifth Edition) supplements Out of the Abyss and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
Great news, right? But what is it? Is it a GM’s guide or player’s guide?
I have always hated the idea of separating advice for players and Game Masters, as if one side needs a bag of tricks to use against the other. That’s not how you should play Modern AGE, so that’s not how we do it in this book. Beyond being able to peek into the advice given to separate roles, we’re able to integrate it so the guidance is consistent. This format also makes it natural to provide the high-level advice GMs are used to getting, to players as well.
But it’s not all essays—it works out to less than half the content. The Modern AGE Mastery Guide also contained countless new recommended and optional systems, making it a counterpart to the Modern AGE Companion. Do you want simplified characters? Classes? Diceless play? Numerically rated personality traits? Do you want us to admit Stunt Attack is a little weak? Well, we have you covered.
Character conflict done right, from the Modern AGE Mastery Guide
Done? Here’s a high-level summary:
Chapter 1: Playing Well
A guide to finding your preferences and improving your performance playing a Modern AGE character. This includes devising a backstory, searching for a role in the party, and how to play with consideration for others’ feelings.
Chapter 2: Variant Character Creation
A rules-focused chapter that presents multiple alternatives to standard character creation. This includes non-heroic characters, simplified characters, and character classes. Rules for quirks and personality traits round out the chapter.
Chapter 3: Playing With the Rules
Chapter 3 presents a host of new rules options that are especially relevant for players. This chapter starts with recommended new and revised rules before presenting options for everything from detailed injuries to streamlined encounters.
Chapter 4: Welcome to The Party
An advice-focused chapter covering the ins and outs of playing in a character party. This includes a further exploration of character roles, collective growth, and how to manage intra-party conflict.
Chapter 5: A Player’s Miscellany
Chapter 5 introduces additional rules and advice relevant to players, beginning with rules for customizing equipment, using explosives and other major threats in a low-rules, high drama context, and how to make extraordinary powers come alive in the campaign.
Chapter 6: Mastering Modern AGE’s Rules
A dive into using and customizing the rules. Aimed primarily (but not exclusively) at GMs, this chapter starts by exploring Modern AGE’s dice mechanics before discussing alternate criteria for target numbers, mixing success and failure, and rules for diceless play.
Chapter 7: Modern Adventures
A comprehensive guide to designing adventures based on scenes, sites, character relationships, and more.
Chapter 8: The Art of Game Mastering
Chapter 8 continues the high-level Game Mastering advice in the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook, delving into GMing styles, practical techniques, and the primary directive for all Game Masters: Be kind.
That’s the Modern AGE Mastery Guide. Get it and add another core book to your arsenal—but there’s still more to come. The Modern AGE desk has another softcover, hardcover, and several PDFs awaiting release—and that’s before a significant Modern AGE-adjacent announcement (which is probably not what you think!) next year. Overall, it’s a good time to get into what I will, with some arrogance but also some accuracy, call the premiere any-setting modern RPG. We got books!
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/MAGEMasteryConflict.jpg612975Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-10-19 14:03:032021-10-19 14:03:03Player or GM, the Modern AGE Mastery Guide is Here for You
As Fantasy AGE fans know, we’ve been working on a Core Rulebook for the game for a while now. We decided it was time to bring together Fantasy AGE and Freeport, our signature fantasy city since 2000. More than that, we’ll be exploring many new lands in the world of Freeport through a setting concept called Stranger Shores. Once we had decided to put Freeport in the mix, there could be no other choice for the cover artist: Wayne Reynolds!
Wayne has been the signature cover artist for Freeport since 2003, when he painted the covers for both Tales of Freeport and Denizens of Freeport. Wayne just gets the look of Freeport and his previous covers helped to define it. We wanted the Core Rulebook cover to illustrate that Fantasy AGE and Freeport were coming together. My idea: take characters from both and have them fighting side by side in the city. Art director Hal Mangold worked with Wayne to make it a reality.
All the Fantasy AGE covers have featured a trio of iconic characters in perilous encounters. I suggested we take our iconic warrior and team her up with the pirate captain Wayne painted for the cover of Freeport: The City of Adventure. The foes had to be serpent people, a major element of the Freeport setting. You can see the results for yourself. As always, Wayne knocked it out the park. This is a cover worthy of our new Core Rulebook!
The Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook is scheduled to release in May of 2022. If you’d like to learn more about how it has been developed, check out episodes of ThursdAGE (also available on Youtube and Twitch). Each week the disembodied voice of Troy Hewitt chats with Fantasy AGE developer Owen K.C. Stephens, who gives advice about the game, the Adventure Game Engine that powers it, and answers your questions. Leading up to May, we’ll also have a series of articles exploring the Core Rulebook, so stay tuned.
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/NEWFAGECore.jpg1092844Chris Pramashttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngChris Pramas2021-10-13 08:52:142021-10-13 17:37:13Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook Cover Reveal
So, backstage, we developers have been talking about the different properties of AGE as a system, and how they might be tweaked, expanded, streamlined, and generally fooled around with. This is a conversation that builds up when it interests us, or when various projects demand it, and it’s responsible for a lot of the work we do with the Adventure Game Engine in its various forms: Fantasy AGE,Modern AGE,The Expanse, and Blue Rose—and of course these evolved from concepts devised by Chris Pramas for the Dragon Age roleplaying game.
If at first you don’t get the gameplay you want, mod, mod again. From the upcoming Modern AGE Mastery Guide
The wonderful thing about this process is that everybody has their own interpretations of how and why the rules work, and this sometimes helps with creative logjams. I may have talked about how it happens before, but hey, I forgot if I did, so why not talk about it anyway in the perishable blogging medium?
Take the example of the Churn, devised for The Expanse—sort of. When I was working on the Modern AGE Companion, I got a look at the initial draft of the Churn. I liked it a whole lot, but I was also aware that as a game without a setting intended to serve a broad set of players, my “Churn” needed to generate more specific challenges from a rules perspective, because the GM couldn’t necessarily pull something from a well-defined setting. I renamed it Complications and added a bit of specificity in terms of the adversity it generates, and associated game systems like target numbers.
Another example of this is the invention of what we call breaching tests in Modern AGE and challenge tests in The Expanse: advanced tests that may have specific requirements and can impose special consequences for failure. As breaching tests, these were originally invented by Crystal Frasier for the World of Lazarus supplement, not the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (both were written and developed at the same time). But the rules were so great I asked for them to be ported into core game systems. Steve Kenson picked it up for The Expanse, renamed it, and integrated it with the chase rules sourced from Modern AGE to streamline the latter.
However, not everything we produce makes it all the way to print or public pixels, for assorted reasons. The first is that the idea doesn’t really have a home in a new or upcoming game or supplement. They’re just free-floating notions. For example, at the time of writing we’ve just bandied about ideas for utilizing breaching/challenge tests where characters accumulate degrees of success with the ordinary combat system. Is there a place for it? Not yet, but much of the time we’ll keep these ideas in our back pockets, so to speak, until the right occasion comes up.
Then you have ideas which are great on paper but would just be too weird or dismal looking for people to get into. Here’s one I came up with. Hard Mode Stunts.
Hard Mode Stunts: Instead of setting the Stunt Die apart with a distinctive design or color than the other two of your 3d6, the Stunt Die is always the lowest die you roll. If you tie where two dice have the same number as a die with a higher result, it doesn’t matter which die you pick as your Stunt Die, since they’ll have the same value.
(Don’t know AGE? In our system we roll 3d6 + bonuses against a target number. One die is distinctive, and if any two dice have the same number on the face, that special die—called the Stunt Die or Drama Die—generates the number on its face in stunt points, which can be used to buy special effects like knocking an enemy down or getting your way with a particularly clever quip in social interactions.)
Now this seems like a logical rule. Stunt point totals tend to be high because matches happen in the set of rolls that are successes, and successful rolls will naturally be higher. With Hard Mode Stunts, you’re more likely to get fewer stunt points unless your entire roll is high—in fact, since you can’t get 6 stunt points unless 6 is the lowest die, you can only get that when you roll a natural 18 on 3d6. So logically, scales consistently, and…is no fun. In Modern AGE you might use it for the grittiest of Gritty Mode games. But AGE thrives on stunts! So, no—with one exception.
If there was a version of the AGE system that provided powerful tools to alter dice rolls or generate stunt points without relying on doubles, Hard Mode Stunts might work, with the understanding that you’ll usually be buying the big stunts, perhaps with something like The Expanse’s Fortune system. There’s a thought—but is there a place for it? Hmmm….
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/SimulationDefeat.jpg604975Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-10-05 08:44:302021-10-05 08:44:30The AGE of Wonderful (and Misfit) Toys
Another Gen Con is in the books, and what an unusual Gen Con it was, in many regards.
As folks may know, this year Gen Con held a “hybrid” event, consisting of online and “pop-up” Gen Con events hosted by local game stores, in addition to the traditional in-person event at the convention center in downtown Indianapolis, where Gen Con has been hosted for over twenty years now. In-person Gen Con observed a number of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a cap on attendance, a mask requirement for all indoor and crowded outdoor areas of the con, and closing the convention center overnight for a complete cleaning. Along with reduced attendance came a reduced number of exhibitors: Many Gen Con stalwarts did not attend, and many others cancelled their plans to do so.
Green Ronin, like many exhibitors, reduced our presence at the convention: smaller booth space and minimal staff, just four of us, the smallest Gen Con staff we’ve had since I started working for Green Ronin back in 2003! We still managed to include our full lines of product on the tables that we had, and were pleased to be able to offer a limited number of copies of the new Ships of the Expanse, along with other new offerings like the Envoys to the Mount campaign for Blue Rose. We cleared out our remaining copies of The Expanse Quick-Startby giving a free copy with any purchase of $25 or more. They were all gone by Friday!
Mask discipline in the exhibit hall and within the convention was generally excellent. While I occasionally saw a few noses hanging out, I didn’t see anyone unmasked anywhere they weren’t supposed to be. We generally took a cautious approach, avoiding a lot of the crowded events and areas, and combining taking our meals in our hotel rooms and visiting less crowded restaurants, especially those offering outdoor seating. Hand sanitizer was our constant companion and Nicole implemented a barcode scanner for sales checkout to help minimize the handling and passing back-and-forth of products. Because of our minimal staffing, and ownership’s preference not to ask anything of volunteers this year, we didn’t run any in-person events or games ourselves. As it was, we barely got away from the booth to walk the show floor (although we did all manage it).
In spite of all of the differences, the heart of Gen Con remained very much the same: People were excited to be there and happy to see us, and enthused about their favorite games, while curious about what was new and coming next. We even met more than a few attendees who told us it was their first Gen Con ever! Certainly, we’re looking forward to welcoming them back to the show under better conditions in the years to come. We certainly appreciate everyone who visited the booth and who shopped or took the time to offer their kind comments.
We’ll have an even smaller presence at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, in just two weeks: Two staff members are scheduled to be there, but will be there nonetheless. We’ll have a similar-sized booth and all of the same product and are looking forward to greeting our friends, old and new.
Chris Pramas also recorded a quick interview with 1-2-3 D&D History at Gen Con. Check it out!
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Gencon2021_1.jpeg10241024Steve Kensonhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngSteve Kenson2021-09-22 11:30:462021-09-22 11:30:46Gen Con Report 2021
Andrzej was getting tired. He swept his greatsword in a figure 8, pausing to lean slightly to let a crossbow bolt pass him by and bury itself in the shooter’s friend, coming up the other side. He hated killing but the briefing said these people, filthy doublets, poor dentistry, and all, might destroy several universes. He hated killing, but something had hollowed their souls out, and it seemed merciful to dispatch what remained.
He wasn’t fighting alone. A vicious, pointy-eared, green-skinned little man covered his blind side with some quick knife-work. He didn’t know the fellow, who’d apparently been burgling the lair, shrine, or whatever Andrzej chased the cultists back to, barreling through the ramshackle streets of Freeport (crisis point of the plane designated NG-05522).
Andrzej parried an incoming cutlass, but an adjacent burly cultist sent him staggering with a belaying pin to the face, of all things. The little green man hid behind Andrzej as the cultist with the fanciest hat stepped forward and snapped a finger, wreathing her hand in green flame.
Comforted by training, Andrzej was ready for death.
“Let me show you glories to boil your eyes,” said the woman with the fiery hand.
“Hey!” Was that Mei’s voice? “Come get me first!”
Mei was an Aethon agent seconded to their group. She could keep Earth technology working on the weirdest planes. Mei appeared to be unarmed, on the other side of the doorway, with nothing but a tiny box on legs between her and the cultists.
Andrzej looked, gasped, grabbed the little green man, and hurled them both behind a sturdy pillar. The fire-handed woman took the bait and led the charge toward Mei, paying no mind to the box and its to-her exotic lettering, which said FRONT TOWARD ENEMY.
Yes, It’s time for another book and setting mashup, coming on the heels of Lost Ilium and Vaporwave Rose (Part 1 here, Part 2 here). This time around we’re doing an epic one, combining Modern AGE’s Threefold setting and the Freeport setting (through a Fantasy AGE lens) for world-shattering adventure! And because it’s a big tapestry, it’s a big article—no split this time. Drink it all in.
(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG.)
Genre: Portal fantasy and cosmic horror.
Freeport. There are many cities by that name, but the Sodality, who explore the infinite planes, tracks legends about one of them with special care. The Divine Empire’s demigod-tyrants keep secret files on it too because It’s no mere legend to them. Where the Sodality suspects, highly placed imperial Optimates know: Freeport is where the fate of the Metacosm will be decided.
The plane Freeport stands in appears to be an Otherworld, where sorcery and wonders abound, but it’s really a “hell,” or Netherworld, and had an Alastor: what the less educated call a “demon prince.” This being, the Great Serpent Yig, might have been unique among its kind: amoral, but lacking the instinct to torture the inhabitants of its realm.
This made its plane vulnerable to attacks from enemy Alastors, and even the primal energies of the Netherworlds, where reality unravels unless bulwarked by sacrificed souls. Yig sought sanctuary by pushing even deeper into the outer dark, further than even rival demons typically went. To prevent reality erosion, Yig reshaped its plane, giving it the power to seize parts of planes which possessed stronger natural laws. Freeport now exists on a patchwork plane at the furthest edge of the Metacosm.
A being imprisoned in this final darkness saw the lonely light of the plane. All this Unspeakable One needed to do was to whisper certain ceremonies in the dreams of Yig’s mortal children, the serpent people. They had become mighty sorcerers, and rulers of the Valossan Empire, claimed from a continent said to be Yig’s body. But the whispers taught the powers of the Yellow Sign, and its students founded a cult whose grand ritual destroyed Valossa, the empire, and perhaps Yig along with it (though death is always different for gods). Even so, the ritual was incomplete, because it failed to bring the Unspeakable One to the plane. But with Yig fallen, the intruder gained partial, weakened control of the plane’s ability to tear pieces from other realms.
This was enough to slowly tear away part of the Otherworld called Kalakuth, but in the process, the Unspeakable One abducted the Ghul, a Prefect of the Divine Empire and demigod of death, and the Herald, his shapeshifting consort. After determining no nearby gates survived the transition, and that he couldn’t return home, the Ghul set about conquering the plane’s largest landmass, simply called “the Continent.” The Herald could transport themselves to other planes, but no one else, and the Ghul bade them to stay, and keep the conquest a secret. Thus, the Ghul founded the Empire of Ashes as a personal dominion.
By ravaging the Continent, the Ghul unwittingly fed souls to the Unspeakable One, and improved the state of sorcery, which had fallen since the destruction of Valossa. This revived the Cult of the Yellow Sign, which set about undermining the necromancer’s empire. Eventually, the Empire of Ashes was as dead as the shambling legions that served it.
The new pirate city of Freeport profited from raids in the vulnerable, lawless Continent. It grew on A’Val, an island remnant of old Valossa. The Cult of the Yellow Sign followed wealth and the possibility of serpent people lore there—but the long-lived Herald, who survived the fall of the Empire of Ashes, followed. The Herald learned the truth: The Cult’s ultimate goal was to summon the Unspeakable One, who would then gain full control of the plane’s world-eating powers. Freeport’s plane would become a cosmic predator.
The Herald used their powers to flee to Alatum, capital of the Divine Empire, but its rulers were too consumed with politics and rivalries to listen. So, the Herald traveled to many other planes, leaving rumors and clues—nothing firm enough to mark them as a traitor to the Empire—about Freeport, the Unspeakable One, and the world that eats worlds.
And sometimes, people listened.
As rollicking life in the City of Adventure continues, factions on other worlds plan infiltrations and invasions. Ambitious Nighthost captains see another Netherworld to conquer, and a weapon that could further their mission to liberate them all. A few fringe war-furies in the Divine Empire see the key to conquering the Otherworlds, even arrogant Earth, and claiming the throne. A circle of Sodality wardens wants to preserve Freeport’s unique plane, standing up for its people, an eliminate the threat. On Earth, a highly placed member of Aethon reads secret reports, and inspects locked cryochambers containing apocalyptic living weapons.
So far, these groups have only been able to plan. Freeport’s plane has no known gates, and if there are any, it is extremely likely they pass through multiple Netherworld hells. The Herald cannot transport others, and the Ferrymen, a faction who can, doubt the tale. But it is only a matter of time until the status quo changes. These groups will either find a way, or the cult of the Yellow Sign will make further progress, and the Unspeakable one will reach out to feed.
There are two was to run this one. The first is as a Fantasy AGE campaign set in Freeport that undergoes a sudden turn when people from other worlds appear, eager to stop the Cult of the Yellow Sign. You can use this to shift your game from traditional fantasy adventure into plane-traveling portal fantasy, and you can even introduce elements like modern technology. The key to defeating the Unspeakable One may lie in a distant realm, whether it’s an artifact, spell, or the consciousness of Yig, flung to some distant world. Note that the Freeport setting here isn’t “canon” Freeport, since it redefines and tweaks several things, such as by saying the Ghul was a renegade Optimate from the Divine Empire.
On the flipside, you can use Modern AGE and Threefold to send a Mission or other group of plane-travelers to Freeport, to soak up its rough charms and mind-searing dangers. It’s hard to get in or out of Freeport’s plane, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the rum-soaked ambiance while hunting followers of the Unspeakable One.
Modern AGE and Fantasy AGE are largely compatible, though if you use Toughness and Modes, they should apply to characters from both games. Focuses, talents, and specializations are largely cross-compatible, though the GM should consider carefully before allowing Fantasy AGE characters to take Modern AGE talents that mimic class abilities, such as pinpoint attack. Weapon proficiency doesn’t exist in Modern AGE either, so assume characters made with that game are proficient in weapons that inflict up to 1d6 (plus inherent weapon bonuses) per point in the abilities they are used with, so a Fighting of 2 permits proficient use of Fighting-based weapons that roll 2d6 (such as a long sword) for damage before other bonuses. A few other minor tweaks may be required, but nothing too onerous.
The Herald is intentionally designed to be an easy NPC to insert into the game, because they can go or be anyone—even a longtime NPC contact, if the GM wants. But even though they can travel the planes without a gate, they can’t take anyone with them, to preserve the plane travel rules that bind other characters, as mentioned here and in Threefold.
Finally, Freeport’s plane has the following profile in the Apocalypse Freeport campaign.
NG-05522— “Freeport’s Plane” (Provisional Name)
Incessance: +5 versus technology, +1 versus the occult. Technology developed within the plane by natives is unaffected, as seen in the emerging use of firearms.
Library Summary: Analysts estimate an 86% chance “Freeport’s Plane” exists due to the reliability and consistency of accounts. According to these accounts, the plane can absorb regions from other planes and is contested by multiple divine entities. A gate chain has yet to be defined. Technology generally does not exceed Earth’s 17th century, and local variants of known human types, with examples such as “dwarves” (and confusingly “humans,” used solely for the local jana subtype) are commonplace. Governments tend to be unstable, and magic use is common. Extreme caution is urged.
Last time around I started this mashup between Modern AGE and Blue Rose without knowing how much I’d get into it. 90s cartoon romantic fantasy! The setup was so alluring I threw about a thousand words at it, so I had to break it up. Here’s the second part, but let’s go over the essentials again.
(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG.)
Genre: 90s animated romantic urban fantasy!
The Setup, Part 2
Remember what I was telling you?The Blue Rose? Obscure 90s cartoon? Magnet for the young and, ah, alternative lifestyle’d? Magical genderfluidity? Telepathic ferret heroes? Was “alternative lifestyle’d” a period reference too far?
Okay, here comes the weird part.
The music videos started showing up on what looked like machine-generated streaming video accounts, their names just nonsense alphanumeric strings. It used to be the ability to catch The Blue Rose onscreen was mysterious, but I guess it’s all algorithms now. But these weren’t episodes. They were long music videos of extremely chill electronic music and iconic sounds from a smorgasbord of 90s pop culture, backing distorted scenes from TBR episodes—including clips no fan had seen before (and, allegedly, a game adaptation for the SEGA Dreamcast, because of course)—hammered into a color palette informed by VHS distortion and Windows 95 esthetics.
Yeah, I know what “vaporwave” is! I loved it. I blanked out. The missing time didn’t bug me at first—this was perfect stuff to zonk out to. I started falling asleep to it every night. I dreamed of Aldea.
But you don’t get bruises from dreams.
Accept the truth, even if you think you’re losing your mind. The Blue Rose, both person and series, were true. They remembered us. Aldea is real.
(Oh, look out for your pets. Sometimes they come with you. That means they’re rhydan, and sometimes they remember Aldea better than we do.)
I’ve been on dozens of journeys now, at night or just by concentrating on a video. Centuries have passed since The Blue Rose’s time. Ala is the stuff of legends, and we know more about that ancient hero from TBR fan lore than most Aldeans do from texts and oral traditions. As I grow more comfortable living another life there, I’ve come to believe Aldea returned to help us, but also needs our help. The final battle between the Blue Rose and Jarek seems to have ended in a stalemate, but the lich king discovered our world. He has agents—people possessed by “darkfiends,” straight from the show—who bring back ideas and artifacts. Kern turned its own capital into the first Shadow City raised half by magic, half by Earth industry. Others sprouted across Aldea: tenement blocks and imposing glass towers, smothered in a smog that burns orange by day, and reflects neon-purple flares of magic at night.
I didn’t know why I’d been summoned until I met other fans, some of whom I already knew from conventions and other scenes. Some of us looked different, maybe more like who we truly are than Earth gave us. Five of us had gathered on the other side for three episodes (hold on, getting to that) when we saw The Blue Rose and Golden Hart. They made us Shadowburners: Envoys who know Earth and can save Aldea from its darkness. Apparently, there’s a lot to love about our world, even from the Aldean perspective, but Jarek and his darkfiends have only brought the parts that give them power.
Be careful. I know it’s real not just because of the aches I get after some of the rougher episodes, or even because I’ve met fellow Shadowburners on Earth, but because I’ve seen the Fiendbound, Jarek’s possessed agents, here. Some probably would have been bastards anyway, but I’ve never met one who wasn’t a victim in some sense. On the other side, we can confront demons with swords but here, we need to kill their power over their hosts.
Epsiodes? Oh yeah. One convenient aspect of it all is that no matter how much time we spend in Aldea, with our bodies entranced in the real world as we wear new ones on the other side, once we come back, no more than 24 minutes passes—I’m guessing that’s half an hour, minus commercial breaks. Since I originally crossed to Aldea in my sleep, it took me ages to figure out. Sometimes we even see retro-style animated “fan films” based on what happened, on those same weird streaming accounts.
There’s physical evidence on my body. Testimonials from other Shadowburners. But best of all, I can show you. I know you indulged me when I geeked out about The Blue Rose, and that you’re a lurker on the Sovereign’s Finest group. You’ve seen the show. You’ve got potential.
Now just watch this video with me, and you’ll see even more.
You’re a Shadowburner: Someone who saw The Blue Rose cartoon and was chosen by the Blue Rose and Golden Hart to travel between Earth and Aldea. The Fiendbound steal innovations from our world, and Jarek’s industrial sorcerers fill in the infrastructure blanks with dark, life-draining magic. The nation of Aldis can’t keep up with this evil progress. It relies on Shadowburners to oppose Jarek’s forces and share the gentler things our world has to offer. You’re a good person who (even if you need to get past some psychological barriers) loves diversity. Most Shadowburners aren’t heterosexual, or they have a gender other that what they were assigned at birth. All despise racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. The Golden Hart and Blue Rose are adamant about this requirement, so it’s a firm rule.
As a Shadowburner you lead two lives. The first is your life on Earth, represented by a Gritty (or for gentler Earthside adventures, Pulpy) Modern AGE character. However, you’re capable of learning the arcana of Blue Rose via the Arcane Potential and Wild Arcane talents. You can also learn other talents from Blue Rose, even if they have class requirements, if you meet the following prerequisites:
Adept Talents: Intelligence or Willpower 2, knowledge of at least one arcana.
Expert Talents: Communication or Dexterity 2, and at least one degree in one of the Expert’s starting talents (Blue Rose AGE RPG, p. 46), either from Blue Rose or Modern AGE.
Warrior Talents: Fighting or Strength 2, and at least one degree in a fighting style talent.
Rhydan Shadowburners exist as well, but in the real world they’re normal animals that feel bound to their comrades and who generally seem clever due to uncanny instincts. This makes them better suited for players who come occasionally or who want to play a different role in or skip Earth adventures.
Watching a music video connected to The Blue Rose and Shadowburner phenomenon puts you in a trance, and you awaken in a body representing your true self, created from the elemental substance of Aldea. In this form, your character is in Modern AGE’s Cinematic Mode, but with one difference: You don’t use Toughness. In Aldea, characters rely on armor or skill to survive (and as Blue Rose doesn’t use Toughness, this means you can use most material from that game as-is). No matter how much time you spend in Aldea, it only takes a 24-minute trance in the real world. Your fellow Shadowburners can enter trances at different times, but you’ll synch up in Aldea, as is necessary.
In a trance, you’re usually safe from being interfered with—this campaign isn’t about a knife in the back while you’re somewhere else—and while you don’t choose when you leave Aldea, it often happens after an episode-like series of events happen, often with an implicit lesson about tolerance and being yourself. Such is the binding power of a 90s cartoon. Your Aldean body and its immediate possessions turn into a luminous mist, and reform when you’re needed again, in a location set by the Narrator/Game Master. Any damage short of death you suffer in Aldea becomes half that amount, and stun damage, on Earth, so a rough adventure can make you sick or even knock you out. And if you die in one world, you’re gone in both.
The Fiendbound have some way of transporting physical artifacts between realms and have their hooks in government agencies and corporations, but you can’t do it—and finding out why is a major plot hook. Beyond stealing technology and cultural ideas to solidify Jarek’s rule (and giving GM/Narrators unlimited ability to create an industrialized, fascist, and particularly weird Kern), they want to make Earth a more hate-driven place, to create more fuel for the conquest of Aldea and, perhaps, claim another world as their own.
That’s the setup. I suggest you start looking for those music videos now.
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/VaporwareRose2.jpg589869Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-09-07 08:23:022021-09-07 08:35:32Book Mashup: Vaporwave Rose, Part 2
I really enjoyed writing Lost Ilium the other week. I didn’t know if the mashups were going to be a series, but I left room for it. Past Me was pretty smart it seems because I quickly came up with another idea. This time, we’re going to combine Blue Rose, Modern AGE, and cartoons from the 90s. Unfortunately, I liked this one so much that I went overboard with the setup. It’s going to be a two-parter!
(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG.)
Genre: 90s animated romantic urban fantasy!
The Blue Rose was a weird show, all right. Nobody agrees how many episodes there were, whether it was 2 or 3 seasons, or even who made it. The voice actors don’t appear on IMDB, and nobody’s heard of Magic Deer, its supposed animation studio. TBR ran on dozens of local stations in syndication. Each station has spotty, even contradictory records of what they broadcast, back when people clearly remember them showing episodes: reliably from 1991 to 1993, then in occasional bursts before finally vanishing by 2000. Everybody reports different times, though many swear it came on right after Cybersix, though not on the same station.
Some people got TBR shirts and tchotchkes in the mail after writing Magic Deer’s PO Box. Some swear they bought action figures in one of those big box stores. You can find some stuff cheap in antique stores—a bargain since it’s impossible to tell if the stuff is authentic, and most dealers don’t know the show anyway.
The 90s, with its triumphant conservatism, resurgent fascism, and an LGBTQ+ community reeling from the Right weaponizing a deadly disease against them, was demoralizing, even dangerous for some of us—and its problems sound familiar again. It was almost a lifeline. We needed it then, and it appeared for us. Funny thing about TBR Fandom: You didn’t have to be queer for the episodes to appear on your screen but given who shows up at Envoycons (“The only conventions featuring none of the cast and crew!” is our slogan), that seems to have worked better for reception than either cable or the ol’ rabbit ears.
Maybe that’s why it’s back.
Before I continue, let me talk about the show.
TBR is named after the secret identity of its main character, Ala Rose. Ala was one of us: a teen trying to live in this world. The origin is in the opening credits. Bullies chase Ala down an alley. They jump through an ornate blue door with Ferrus, their Ferret (I know, but it’s a cartoon, remember?). On the other side, Ferrus wakes Ala up by speaking into their mind! And they look around to see luminous woods on another world! Ferrus is an intelligent creature called a rhydan, from the new world, Aldea. He was an Envoy, agent of the good realm of Aldis. When he crossed over to Earth, he could barely remember his own name, and had to rely on instinct—and that’s how he found Ala, the prophesied Blue Rose.
In the first episode, they set it up fast. In the capital of Aldis, the Queen explains that the Blue Rose brings the Great Symmetry when it’s truly needed. The Queen gives Ala the sapphire-studded mask and sword of the Blue Rose persona, which allow Ala to take on a masculine or feminine secret identity. (The show never tells you what Ala’s gender or chromosomes are, and fans argue about it a lot, but I think the show did that on purpose and don’t care either way, myself.)
The secret of symmetry is that while the Exarchs, evil beings, say that love and hate are a balance, hate is the real imbalance. True symmetry balances the varied ways of love by allowing them to flower. Every just, passionate, and kind emotion is part of the Great Symmetry. The Blue Rose’s job is to uphold them all. Maybe that’s why the show wasn’t much of a hit. It had the adventure people think only boys go for, and the emotional focus only girls’ shows used to have.
Anyway, Ferrus uses his mind magic to fight beside the Blue Rose, and Ala meets a bunch of recurring Envoys, who become allies, rivals, romantic partners—or all three. The Blue Rose swings between a “town of the week,” dealing with classic community squabbles (that invariably have some evil sorcery exaggerating them, but I think this explanation was for the kids) and an ongoing battle against the evil nation of Kern, whose lich-king wants to…well, do the classic dark lord thing, serving the Exarchs. Sometimes, Kern agents are responsible for town-of-the-week troubles. It’s not the most nuanced setup but hey: kids’ cartoon. They do showcase other countries and peoples from time to time, either as a lesson in tolerance (see “The Roamers,” where the Blue Rose deals with people mistreating a group of nomads) or as a not-too subtle commentary on current affairs (all the episodes taking place in just-like-Fundamentalist Jarzon).
Between fragments, possible unreleased leaks, and definite episodes gathered by the fandom, we got at least 32 and possibly as many as 48 TBR episodes, including the annoying season finale—a two-parter ending in a cliffhanger! Ala leads a revolution against Kern and is about to do battle with Jarek, the Lich King, Herald of the Exarchs….
…and that was it, until now.
Now comes the hard part. Have you had the dreams too? Have you seen the fanvids? You have to.
You have to.
More about later.
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/TheBlueRoseAnimated.jpg824616Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-08-31 08:30:422021-08-31 08:30:42Book Mashup: Vaporwave Rose, Part 1
Last time I talked about playing Modern AGE using the Threefold setting—and I mean, playing a character, not running a game, which you don’t see developers write about much—I started getting into a grab bag of insights. This time around though, we’ll be talking about how we’ve worked with Modern AGE and its supplemental rules and talents in our Threefold game.
One house rule we use which will eventually be included in the finished but to be published Modern AGE Mastery Guide is the Boost stunt. Boost is a generic version of many other stunts which exists to help with leftover stunt points. Boosting costs 1-3 SP, which can be used for two functions:
If your next test would be logically helped by the test or circumstance that provided the stunt points you’re spending, you gain a bonus equal to the SP you spent (therefore, up to +3).
You can Boost someone else’s next test if, once again, it makes sense the action linked to the SP you’re spending would help. The bonus is equal to SP spent (+3 max) here as well.
Our GM, Steve (not Steve Kenson, but a local friend of mine) used an informal suggestion of mine that I’ve shared, here and there, and gave every character a free talent degree at Level 1, in addition to the talents Modern AGE characters normally get. This was so we could, if we were so inclined, lean further into our concepts, especially when it comes to Threefold-specific talents like Wandersoul or to gain posthuman augmentations by swapping out talent degrees. If you have campaign-specific talents, providing a bonus talent degree so they’re easier to take—even mandating the degree comes from one of these talents—is a decent idea.
Splitting Psychic Abilities
Threefold assumes that psychic disciplines, as opposed to magical arcana, use the Power Fatigue option on p. 92 of the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook. This means that instead of drawing on a supernatural energy source measured in Power Points, characters make a Willpower test to avoid getting progressively exhausted from using their gifts. GM Steve noted that psychic powers already use Willpower for activation tests and decided that our psychic PCs should make Constitution tests instead, to maintain balance between attributes. Now personally, I don’t mind the Willpower-alone approach, as Willpower’s uses are sometimes limited, and it streamlines testing—you could roll both tests at the same time without much trouble. But this might be a good idea for a game with a heavy emphasis on psychic power that also uses power fatigue tests.
Shabda Without Wandersoul
Multiple characters in our game took the Wandersoul talent. In Threefold, Wandersoul is intentionally highly effective at helping characters travel between planes, so it acts as an easy pick. It allows characters to sense gates between worlds and gives them knowledge of Shabda: Threefold’s universal language. Knowing Shabda is like having a conceptual “universal translator” in your brain so that you understand virtually any language so it’s extremely handy. But can you learn it without Wandersoul?
Tricky question. My original answer as Threefold’s creator was “no.” You needed to be a Wandersoul or Primal Being (a mystical creature bound to the Metacosm) to know it. But for playability’s sake I’ve backtracked on that. Currently characters in our game can learn it for one talent degree, but I think I’d like to eventually design an “official” answer that spreads out Shabda’s benefits as a dedicated talent and requires special (though attainable) circumstances to learn.
This series has caught up with the game to date, but I haven’t talked about everything I might say about it. Curious about playing Modern AGE with Threefold? Naturally, the best thing you can do is grab the books, but I’m also always willing to answer your questions. Cheers!
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/threefold-portals.jpg648998Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-08-17 08:06:192021-08-25 10:51:00When the Developer Plays: More Miscellany, Rules and Talents!
So, I was going to talk a little more about my Threefold setting Modern AGE campaign, but, uh, I didn’t feel like it. Instead, I got a sudden notion to take a few different things I worked on and combine them. I’m going to call this Book Mashup, because these are books, and you can mash them up. Will this be a series? Don’t know. This one is going to merge historical fantasy with our 5e setting, The Lost Citadel. I have to admit, this isn’t wholly original, as Steve Kenson was cool enough to explore using the world in the Mists of a certain well-known 5e setting.
(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG. You can also get The Lost Citadel Roleplaying 5e setting book and the Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion Codex in a discounted bundle in our store or at DriveThru.)
Genre: Greek mythology survival horror-fantasy!
Offended by Helen and Paris’ flight to Troy, the greatest force of vessels in the world launch for that great walled city. Bronze-clad heroes—nascent demigods and mortals doomed to gloomy afterlives—come for blood and treasure, but fruitlessly smash against the walls, or must turn from Trojan arrows and blades, over and over, until…
…what Fate commanded did not come to pass.
Achilles was the key to Troy’s gates. His wrath at the death of his lover, Patroclus, was supposed to turn the greatest Greek’s sword and spear against Hector; his death was supposed to be a link in the chain of fate leading to the Trojan Horse, Greek victory, a legend.
But Achilles’ arrogance exceeds even his sorrow. He doesn’t come for Hector. Hector didn’t take Patroclus away. Death did.
Achilles hunts Death.
He’s the son of a goddess, tutored by Chiron. He knows the blood ritual, the secret ways. He descends, god-forged panoply blazing, and assaults Hades, the realm and the god. Hades is immortal. He can’t be destroyed but he can be distracted, even frustrated. Hades is one of three brothers who rule the layers of the world. The ichor of a thousand mutilated Titan-born demons floods his palace hall, as Achilles cuts his way forward…and Hades lets go of his responsibilities. Thanatos sits idle, forgotten.
Death fails. Corpses reject stillness.
A thousand years later. Fate is a ragged, tangled string. Woe, the morose anger of Hades—the message I reject you as you rejected me—haunts all the world, except Troy, whose people Hades find blameless. Now the Greeks attack Troy for this special status. They do it for centuries—long enough for iron and steel to supplant bronze. Long enough for the half-immortals hidden in the world, such as the elven and dwarven descendants of petty deities, also shielded from Woe, to seek refuge. Even strange jackal-people from Egypt come. Troy expands in all directions, becoming a true sanctuary city for the living. Outside, on the plain of battle, the Dead eventually conquer the living. Greek corpses howl and assail the walls. Forays for resources grow ever more dangerous. Finally, the half-immortals agree to seek out the gods, and send an expedition of their kind to sacred places.
The elves return with broken spirits. The dwarves attempt to take over Troy but fail. They do not speak of what they found when they looked for the gods, but say They are angry. They wear different faces now. They are coming back.
The first manifestations of Woe blight Troy, and over decades, it adapts to this final threat. They dispose of corpses, build stronger, higher, and deeper, and await the terrible coming of the gods. They must. Troy is the last city.
The undead aren’t really part of Greek mythology, but what if they were? This setting takes the basic scenario of The Lost Citadel—an undead apocalypse against the last city in the world—and changes the final bastion of the living from dwarven Redoubt to a Troy that has stood long enough to adopt medieval technology. Elves and dwarves are descendants of demigods, nymphs, and other lesser or partial immortals, and have stumbled into the social positions they have in The Lost Citadel. The rising threat behind the Dead isn’t a mystery, and isn’t directly related, however. It’s the Greek gods, capable of manifestations as per Fantasy AGE Trojan War, unhinged by the breaking of Fate, and desperate to fix it.
Hades may be an exception. In this campaign, Woe is his anger, cursing mortals to restless (and as far as anyone can tell, mindless) death outside the proper land of shades. Is it possible to seek out and plead with the maker of Woe, and succeed where they other gods have failed?
The other point of Greek mythology to consider is strong immortality. Some heroes and monsters are not truly subject to death. Was Achilles reborn immortal? Does he walk the world he destroyed? What ageless monsters remain? Do they have mortal communities still? Without new inmates, does the kingdom of Hades still contain its shades and monsters, or have they wandered up?
Use Fantasy AGE Lost Citadel rules as a base, and add Trojan War elements, especially those related to the gods, to taste.
I think this is a great Fantasy AGE option for running darker adventures using well-known mythology. Let me know if you want more of these, and maybe I’ll get to it?
https://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/LostCitadel_UndeadHorse.jpg9401500Malcolm Sheppardhttps://greenronin.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/RoninBanner_2022_72.pngMalcolm Sheppard2021-08-10 09:26:372021-08-10 09:26:37Book Mashup: Lost Ilium