Ronin Round Table: Using the Fantasy AGE Bestiary in Blue Rose

PART II

One of the tremendous benefits of the Adventure Game Engine (or AGE) system is how quickly we’ve developed a diversity of applications for it. Not only does this give us a bunch of great games to play, but allows us to mix-and-match them to get ourselves a breadth of options beyond that of any single game.

Today, we’re going to start a series that shows this off a little. The Fantasy AGE Bestiary is an excellent book full of great monsters, horrors, and adversaries for your Fantasy AGE heroes. But its utility isn’t limited to Fantasy AGE campaigns – we’re going to talk a little about how these monsters might fit into the romantic fantasy setting of Blue Rose.

This is the second of three articles taking these critters, one at a time, and discussing where they might fit into Blue Rose’s setting, and what (if any) mechanical adjustments need to be made to make room for them. See the first part here.

 

Fomoiri: Among the terrors dwelling in the rainy, wet moors of Drunac are the fomoiri, having inherited their worship of darkfiends from the ancient warlock lords who once ruled that blasted landscape. Rezean guardians watch the boundary between the horselands and those high moors, watchful for raiding parties of these terrors.

 

Gargoyle: During the attack on Kern and its Lich King, the valiant warriors of Aldis learned to their sorrow that the masters of Kern had long ago subverted the natural tendencies of the strange, stony gargoyles, impelling them through subterfuge and magic to defend the fortresses and bulwarks of Kern. Though they are not overtly evil, they have been made to serve evil over the years, and it is said that the Shadowed Seven continue this practice. In contrast, however, Queen Jaellin and her consort Kalyran refused to slay the gargoyle defenders of the Lich King’s own demesnes, showing them compassion. In return, the small clutch of gargoyles swore to defend the Lady of the Hart, and even now have taken up residence in the highest places of the Palace in the city of Aldis.

Art by Brian Hagan

Gatorkin: Bloodthirsty and violent, the gatorkin of the Veran Marsh are a terrible danger to all who come across them. Despite this, some of the smugglers of Basketh Bay have struck deals with the voracious predator-folk, recruiting them in their criminal activities in exchange for certain delicacies the gatorkin find intoxicating and otherwise unavailable. The smugglers are also fond of delivering those they want to disappear to the gatorkin clans as “gift meals.”

 

Slumbering Eaters, or Sleeping Ghouls (Ghoul): Though sometimes called ghouls, these horrors are not the undead things typically named such. An ancient creation of sorcerers, the szalychta (or “locust-eaters”) have a cycle of existence in Aldea. For decades, they hibernate in torporous stasis, unaware and seemingly dead. Then, something triggers and they awaken, ravenous. They swarm up out of their subterranean expanses, sometimes even digging up from beneath graveyards, causing strange sinkholes where graves used to be. There, they feast on the dead, but these are inevitably insufficient to sate the creatures, who then come boiling up out of the sinkholes to feast on the living. Different “clusters” of ghouls have different cycles, ranging in ten to fifty year increments.

 

Groi: Found naturally throughout the Golgan Badlands, and domesticated as guardians and consumers of offal throughout Kern, some merchants have tried to sell them outside of those areas. Given that domestication of grois is less a matter of actually taming them and more about keeping them so well-fed that they are largely quiescent, these attempts almost always end in tragedy.

 

Grootslang: Largely thought to be a bit of folklore, the Royal College in Aldis has a stuffed specimen (which many cynics claim can’t be real). Unfortunately, the beast is altogether too genuine, although found almost exclusively throughout the expanses of Wyss. Some Finest patrols, however, report seeing something that greatly resembles a grootslang around one of the ancient Shadow-haunted ruins of the Veran Marsh.

 

Iron Maiden: If there is anything that is proof of the horrors the ancient Sorcerer Kings were capable of, it is surely the iron maiden. Occasional excavations still unearth these horrors today in places around Aldis and neighboring lands, and the Shadowed Seven of Kern are known to have several that they trade amongst themselves like favors. It is also said that Jarzon’s masters have used these in the past, though the modern Church forbids them as the work of Shadow…although no one is exactly sure what happened to those horrors.

 

Knifehound: Though largely wiped out in Aldis, Jarzon, and Kern, wild packs of knifehounds still roam many other places in Aldea. They are rarer in the horselands of Rezea, though still a problem sometimes. They are far denser in places like Drunac, the Golgan Badlands, and the Shadow Barrens.

 

Living Doll: Though named for children’s playthings, the possession of inanimate bodies by the anguished dead is neither jest nor firelight tale. Though there are scholars with their own ideas why it happens, in truth no one really understands exactly why it is some undead spirits take the bodies of dolls, mannequins, and even statuary.

 

Man-o-War: One of the bits of lore recovered from Jarek’s lore hoards was the creation of these monstrosities, and the Shadowed Seven – lacking the old Lich King’s arcane might – have seen the benefit of creating them. In recent years, Kernish resistance speak of the “armory wagons,” tarpaulin-covered wagons that seem to merely contain piles of armaments. Attempting to raid them to arm their insurgencies, the resistance fighters tell tales of those very armaments rising of their own accord into these horrid, shambling shapes, and reaping the lives of the rebels.

 

Merfolk: Denizens of the deepest watery abysses where even the sea folk cannot live, merfolk are strange. Sea folk scholars claim that like night people, they were the creations of sorcerers in ages past. While many of them are indeed vicious, bloodthirsty predators fond of the flesh of other folk who are capable of battling the largest of sharks, others are more peaceable and curious about settlements. They are clearly a nomadic folk, with bands traveling in wide circuits that usually hug the sea floors.

 

Minotaur: The few known clans of minotaurs make their homes in the Golgan Badlands, but even these claim that they hail from a land of mountain peaks far to the east of the Badlands. Indeed, the profusion of confusing labyrinths and mazes hewn out of the stone canyons of the Badlands speak to the long occupation of these bull-folk tribes, who frequently send out raiding parties into Jarzon, Aldis, and (with the death of the Lich King Jarek) into Kern as well.

 

Morlock: The actual origins of the morlocks is unknown. Though they were among the strange terrors employed by the Sorcerer Kings, it is clear they predate even that corrupt magocracy. With the fall of the Sorcerer Kings, morlocks fled once more into the under-kingdom warrens they’d always occupied, and are still discovered occasionally, in the wake of earthquakes and mining cave-ins, and one thing is clear: their hunger and viciousness has not abated in the least.

 

Mothman: Found throughout the Veran Marsh, southeast Aldis, and the forests of eastern Jarzon, these strange nocturnal predators are crafty, accustomed to hiding the traces of their hunting. Many strange and inexplicable disappearances are the results of a successful mothman on the hunt, and even the best investigators of the Finest have trouble ascertaining their work.

 

Nymph: Unlike many of the other fey that adept summoners are familiar with, nymphs lie in close communion with the natural world. Many of them remain within wild spaces entirely, eschewing the otherworldly gathering spots of their fey kin. Their revelries lure mortals in and change lives…or sometimes end them in wild bacchanals.

 

Night Terror: Mainlanders often doubt the existence of such things, even when warned outright by sailors and the folk of the islands and archipelagos in the Western Ocean. But there are other legends attached to these horrors, such as the claims that certain sorceresses in Lar’tya know how to curse someone so that they attract night terrors within dozens of miles of them, enraging them as surely as blood in the water enrages their mundane kin.

Ronin Roundtable: Ronin Ramblings!

With summer beginning to fade, I thAldis: City of the Blue Roseought this would be a good time to give you all a general update about goings on at Green Ronin. These last couple of months

have been a whirlwind. We had a great GenCon and released Aldis: City of the Blue Rose, Modern 

AGE and its GM’s Kit, as well as the Basic Hero’s Handbook and Rogues Gallery for Mutants & Masterminds. We also ran a hugely successful Kickstarter for The Expanse Roleplaying Game. We were literally on the edge of our seats in the final hour, wondering if we’d hit $400,000 and thus secure a new James S.A. Corey

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook

short story to go in the game. With 10 minutes left to go, we crossed the threshold. It was exciting! Huge thanks to all the backers of the Kickstarter, and of course to Daniel Abraham and Try Franck (together, James S.A. Corey) for not only creating a fantastic scifi universe but also doing so much to help us promote the RPG. If you missed the Kickstarter, never fear. You’ll have more chances to hop onboard.

After a brief pause to catch our breath, it was back into the breach. I was PAX West last weekend doing some panels, one of which (Designing Worlds: Experiences Creating Tabletop RPGs) you can see here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/304840481?t=

Hal meanwhile has been working on laying out our next several books. Ork: The Roleplaying Game (the new edition of Green Ronin’s very first RPG!) is at print

Pre-Order and PDF: Basic Hero's Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds

now and is available as a PDF and for pre-order. Hal is currently working on World of Lazarus, the first setting for Modern AGE (based on Greg Rucka’s awesome comic) and the long-awaited Faces of Thedas for Dragon Age. You should see PDFs and pre-orders for both of those books in the near future. Meanwhile, Hal is also working with James Dawsey on the artwork for Sentinels of Earth-Prime, a Mutants & Masterminds card game using the Sentinels of the Multiverse rules we’ll be releasing next year. Jaym Gates has also been working hard to get our fiction imprint, Nisaba Press, up to cruising speed. Our first novel, a Blue Rose tale called Shadowtide by our own Joe Carriker, has just gone to print. More Nisaba news coming soon.

Next weekend is our annual Green Ronin Summit. While we have a cluster of people in Seattle, much of our staff is scattered across the country working

remotely. We thus find it valuable to fly everyone here once a year, so we can get together in a non-convention environment and talk over our plans for the next 18 odd months. We’ll be considering various proposals, deciding on the schedules for our game lines, and doing some long-term strategizing. Oh, and eating an

ungodly amount of cheese. Can’t have a summit without cheese! Or webmaster Evan’s famous ice cream.

Later this fall we’re back on the convention circuit. Nicole and I are hugely excited to go to Australia for the first time for PAX Aus in Melbourne. We’ll have a booth there (and a cool unique pin through the Pinny Arcade program) and we look forward to

meeting Aussie gamers face to face. A week later I am a guest at Week End Geek in New Caledonia. If you had told young me that gaming would one day get me to the other side of the world, I would not have believed you! Certainly, South Pacific sun in November sounds better than Seattle rain. Once we’re back home, we’ll close out the year at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more news and updates. Fun stuff always comes out of the Summit!

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition

 

 

Ronin Round Table: Minions!

Hey folks, Jack here. Long time no Round Table, but we’ve been busy on wrapping the Campaign Builder’s Guide and preparing for the push to finish Lairs, our next book after that for Fantasy AGE.

Now originally I had intended to do the third Iconic character from our “core three” heroes featured on our covers and such. And I will do that. However, a discussion with Vigilance Press head James Dawsey about his FAGE campaign got me thinking about a particularly utilitarian entry utilizing the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary. In particular I wanted to discuss Minion rules and how they work with various creatures, but the decisions and analysis here are similar to the thought processes for other parts of the Play Options chapter of the Companion, such as the mob rules.

The Companion has Minion rules for disposing of some creatures as a minor threat. This is represented by a Minion Rating, which is the amount of stunt points (SPs) you can use to automatically defeat an adversary. You can even use this to dispose of multiple minions if you have the points, making it possible for skilled heroes to slaughter lesser foes.  The rules are discussed in more detail in the Companion, but that’s how they basically work.

Now the idea behind those rules is that GMs would assign a Minion Rating based on their needs. For example, goblins might be rated 1 or 2, based on how little a threat they are in a campaign. A high-powered game might give Minion Ratings to giants or other powerful foes, while they are never given those in lower-powered games. However, its also true there are certainly general niches and impressions many Minion type adversaries fall into in most campaigns while other adversaries might use these rules in very particular and unusual—but still valid—ways.

With that said, let’s look at some Fantasy AGE Bestiary creatures and look at how they interact with Minion rules.  I hope this is helpful to those seeking to use these rules in their campaigns.

Beastkin Art by Mirco Paganessi

Bakwanee, Beastkin, and Bouda

These adversaries all fill the “dangerous in large groups, makes great minions for boss monsters” category.  That makes them good candidates for Minion Rating 2. They can be disposed of with some strong attacks, but with some luck you can take down some extras along the way. In high powered campaigns? Drop these down to 1 and watch them fall. Or perhaps make them Mobs and then give the Mobs a Minion Rating—you heard it here first—for games of heroes who can cut down armies like a Fantasy AGE version of the Dynasty Warriors video game franchise.

Chimera

So Chimera don’t usually have Minion Ratings. They’re singular threats and tough. However, you could give their various heads a Minion Rating and then link some of their special qualities to these heads. Hit a “Minion” on the Chimera and they lose their dragon head and its breath or some other part. Other multi-limbed or headed adversaries could be similarly handled. These heads would likely be hard to hit, akin to a Lethal Blow stunt (5 SPs). Thus it would make sense to have these heads be Minion Rating 5.

Gatorkin and Fomoiri

A bit tougher than the above Bouda and company, they usually have Minion Rating 3, meaning a truly epic Stunt can take out two, but they’re still a threat.

Gargoyles

Gargoyle Minion Ratings should be set at around 4. This would be the equivalent of using a Mighty Blow and Pierce Armor to bash through their stone-hard skin with a disabling blow.  Sometimes the adversary suggests a stunt or combination of them which would “finish them”. This makes a good model for a Minion Rating.  In these cases, GMs will to do a bit more bookkeeping might offer a discount to a character who has one of the stunts that go into such calculations, making it easier for them to cut down certain Minions. However, this is another thing to keep track of, so its not for everyone.

Sea Devils and Merfolk

Its worth noting these adversaries are more dangerous in water. Mostly this is because they are at home in this environment where most characters suffer penalties. However, if you’re making aquatic minions? Consider making them with two Minion Ratings, one for out of water and one for in. In this case of these foes? 2 out of the water and 3 in the water makes sense, though you could remove the rating entirely underwater if you want to reinforce how important it is to face these foes on your own terms to ensure success.

Reaper

Reapers generally shouldn’t have Minion Ratings. But what if their ability to mark others for death allowed them to give someone else a Minion Rating? Thus a character marked by a Reaper could be cut down by the creature more easily.  This would also be a way to simulate a “death curse”.  However, be extremely careful using this concept on PCs and if you do make sure they are taken to 0 health and in danger of death by this, allowing them some way to survive.

Vampire Thralls

Vampire Thralls might be Minions, representing how they are sometimes disposed of easily in fiction even as the Vampire Lord is a major threat. This is somewhat represented already with its Hard to Kill special quality, requiring a Lethal Blow stunt to stake or behead them once they have reached 0 Health. However, making these creatures Minions makes them more fragile, doing away with the requirement to reduce their health. In this case, a Minion Rating of 5 is appropriate, the same SPs you’d need to use a Lethal Blow to finish them in their non-Minion state.

That’s just a few examples, but it shows the variety of ways the Play Options rules from the Fantasy AGE Companion can intersect with other books in the line.

Modern Monday: What’s Up? And Your Cool Idea From Gen Con

Modern Monday isn’t as frequent as it used to be, because Modern AGE is out! Buy it, play it, talk about it online. Today I’m going to talk about what’s happening with the game before finishing off with a cool idea put forth by multiple gamers at Gen Con.

(Want to dip your toes in first? Try the free Quickstart out.)

It’s out. Spread the word with your phone, not, uh, the other tool.

What’s Coming Out?

The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook is winging its way through distribution chains (and if you click on the link, you can get it straight from us, too). Preorders were on the march before distribution. We had this at Gen Con and it sold well enough that we had to order more halfway through the convention. I’m not sure how many we got altogether, but we went home with one box of ten. As developer, this lightened my heart.

We had advance copies of the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit at Gen Con, and it should be following shortly. That’s the GM’s screen and reference cards. Being a middle-aged man, I found it weird when people bought this without getting the core, but of course someone explained to me that many of you had the game on PDF and wanted a hardcopy table reference. My beard visibly grayed in response.

The World of Lazarus is the first Modern AGE setting, based on the acclaimed comic series by Greg Rucka. It’s currently finishing layout. This is Crystal Frasier’s project, though I covered a modest chunk of writing. I love the comic and am looking forward to this. We expect this one to drop in a matter of weeks.

The Modern AGE Companion has fully edited text and art notes. It’s due to come out in early 2019. This is a counterpart to the Fantasy AGE Companion, in that it includes many new optional rules, including advanced talents, duels, horror, fantasy and SF backgrounds (like elves . . . and aliens), powers, technology, fighting styles—lots and lots of stuff. As it gets close to release I’ll preview some of its content.

On the Horizon

We have a tentative plan for Modern AGE that covers future releases. As I’ve explained here and there, I usually only announce books when they’re text-complete, so this part’s going to be vague even though some of these are already in production. Note that anything on this list is subject to change, but it includes the following:

  • Adventure support.
  • Adversaries and other NPCs across a range of genres.
  • One original setting with a very broad scope. If it performs well, it will become Modern AGE’s flagship setting.
  • At least one other setting. Setting pitches have been very popular for this game.
  • A dedicated Game Master sourcebook.

Like I said, things in this list are subject to change. I don’t lock things in until they’re close to completion.

Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That: Shifting Mode

As mentioned, the Modern AGE Companion’s text is finalized. This is almost a pity, because I get new ideas all the time. However, there’s one thing I can’t take credit for, which three different people proposed at Gen Con: mode shifting.

Modern AGE has Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic Modes to match your campaign’s style. These geniuses of Gen Con suggested being able to switch modes mid-campaign. This is a fantastic idea, meant to reflect things like the transition from a Gritty investigation to a Cinematic shootout. Of course, it can also be used to create games where, outside of set piece combat, characters can be effectively knocked out and captured. Here’s how I suggest you do it:

  • Calculate each character’s Health in all three modes. When the mode changes use the new Health score. Calculate the amount of damage accumulated separately from a character’s Health score. When your character’s base Health goes up due to a change in mode, recalculate their remaining Health by subtracting damage from the base. When your character’s base Health goes down due to a change in mode, use the lower of base Health or their remaining Health after injury, if any.
  • Use the Defense and Toughness scores of the most lenient mode the campaign will be shifting to. If you’re using all three modes, that’s Cinematic. Recalculating these really isn’t worth the effort.
  • Apply all other mode rules based on whichever one is in play, except the one for Resources. Pick one mode for that and stick to it. The main ones are how Toughness works, and which stunts you can access.

A Little Bit of Gratitude

Modern AGE seems to be a success. Before I go, I want to thank you for making it that way. Enjoy it, Play it. Talk about your campaigns. Have fun.

Ronin Roundtable: Expanse Kickstarter Flip ‘n’ Burn!

So, here’s hoping the Expanse RPG Kickstarter burns just as hard at the end as it did in the beginning, because we have lot of momentum to shed before it all comes to an end at 9:00 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 22nd.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time for you to back the Kickstarter, if you’ve been on the fence thus far. So I wanted to highlight some of the great things you can get, along with some of the discussion and previews of the game to-date, so you have all of the information you need to make your own decision (I think James Holden would want it that way). First, what you can get:

At the $30 Drop Ship reward level, you’re getting PDFs of the Expanse RPG core rulebook, the Game Master’s Kit Screen, GM’s Kit Adventure, Reference Cards, Pregenerated Characters, and the six-part Abzu’s Bounty adventure series. With the starter adventure now included in the core book, that’s eight adventures for your Expanse game (nine, if you count the free adventure included in the Quickstart).

At the $70 Destroyer level, you’re getting the Expanse RPG core book and Expanse Game Master’s Kit in print: A 224-page, full color hardcover book, lavishly illustrated with a fold-out map of the Solar System, plus the hardcover stock GM screen, reference cards, and adventure and pregenerated character booklet. Plus you get all of the PDFs, including the six-part Abzu’s Bounty adventure series.

At the $100 Battleship level, you get the special edition of The Expanse RPG core book, with beautiful black leatherette cover with silver solar system graphics and dust jacket, in addition to the printed GM’s Kit and all of the PDF content.

We’ve also unlocked an exciting new pledge level: At $1000, James S.A. Corey will write flash fiction about your Expanse character! Based on the info you send, Daniel and Ty will write a one page (200-300 word) “flash-fiction” piece about your character. These will be shared as a PDF with all backers who pledge $30 or more. In addition to the story, you get copies of the Special Edition and the Standard Edition of The Expanse RPG corebook, a bookplate signed by James S.A. Corey, the Expanse GM’s Kit, and all of the PDF rewards as well!

That’s what you can get (and there are other backer levels to mix-and-match, including levels for retailers), but you wonder “Tell me more about the game…?” Glad you asked!

First and foremost, you can check out the Expanse RPG Quickstart for free: a 40-page PDF that includes essential rules, pregenerated characters, and an adventure you can play right away to give you a taste of the new game. You can also get the Expanse Quickstart in print while supplies last.

You can also take a look at all of the Expanse Extra previews we’ve posted on the Kickstarter. These add to the basic rules in the Quickstart, giving you even more to play around with in your first game in terms of trying things out. They include:

  • Fortune: More about how Fortune works in The Expanse in terms of modifying die rolls and how characters recover it over time.
  • The Churn: How The Expanse RPG keeps players guessing with a system to ramp up the stakes and provide for some exciting twists,
  • Interludes: The Expanse system for handling events that happen in-between the moment-by-moment encounters, providing a framework for long travel times, downtime, and other narrative elements.
  • Qualities & Flaws: Ways to modify technology and equipment in The Expanse to give it individual character and flavor with a minimum of complexity.
  • Space Combat! A look at how combat occurs between ships in space in The Expanse RPG, using a familiar encounter from the novels themselves.

Lastly, you can take a look at some of the media coverage The Expanse RPG has received. We’re incredibly appreciative of all of the excitement shown by fans of the series towards the forthcoming game!

The Expanse Roleplaying Game Kickstarter: Here Comes the Juice! (Initial Launch Announcement)

Starships and Steel blog (news and analysis of the Expanse RPG)

Talking the Expanse RPG With Steve Kenson (BAMF podcast)

Victory Condition Gaming podcast chats with Steve Kenson, Green Ronin Publishing – The Expanse RPG

Polyhedron podcast: Ep. 65 “The asteroid can dodge…?”

The Expanse Is Getting a New RPG, Thanks to a Wildly Successful Kickstarter (io9)

The Expanse Is Being Turned Into an RPG (The Verge)

“The Expanse, Once a Homebrew Tabletop RPG, Is Going Legit” (Polygon)

The Expanse Panel with James S.A. Corey and Green Ronin Publishing (GenCon – YouTube)

#randomworlds online Q&A: The Expanse RPG

Ronin Roundtable: The Expanse vs. Modern AGE by Malcolm Sheppard

It has certainly been a wild ride and we’re looking forward to passing the finish line and opening up the universe of The Expanse for countless new stories and adventures that you help to create!

The Expanse RPG Kickstarter News

1000% Funded! New Reward Tier! New Stretch Goals!

Today we crested $300,000 in The Expanse RPG Kickstarter, so we are now 1000% funded. Thank you, backers! We are beyond psyched at the response and we’ve still got 8 days to go. At $300,000 we unlocked the James S.A. Corey Flash Fiction stretch goal. As part of that, I’ve just added a new reward tier that you all get first crack at.

$1000: Tell James S.A. Corey About Your Character

James S.A. Corey will write flash fiction about YOUR Expanse character. Based on the info you send, Daniel and Ty will write a one page (200-300 word) short story about your character. These stories will be shared as a PDF with all backers who pledge $30 or more to the Kickstarter and will be copyright James S.A. Corey. In addition to the story, you get copies of the Special Edition AND the Standard Edition of the Expanse RPG, a bookplate signed by James S.A. Corey, the GM’s Kit, and all of the PDFs.

Up to 20 lucky people can have James S.A. Corey write a story based on their character and everyone who pledges $30 will get to enjoy the result.

New James S. A. Corey Short Story

Our $400,000 stretch goal is a new James S.A. Corey short story that will go into the game itself. That’s pretty exciting stuff but we’ve also added some intermediate stretch goals as well.

Spaceship Deck Plans!

In between 300K and 400K we’ve got bunch of new goals to unlock PDF deck plans for various ships of The Expanse. For starters we are concentrating on ships that players and GMs will find most useful in their campaigns. A light freighter may not be as sexy as a frigate but it will feature in a lot more RPG adventures. Naturally, as part of these stretch goals, we have the MCRN Corvette-class, the most famous of which is the Rocinante!

Thanks for making The Expanse RPG Kickstarter such a success already. Keep spreading the word and let’s see how far this ship will take us!

Ronin Roundtable: The Expanse Versus Modern AGE

I’ve been back from Gen Con for nearly a week, having carried back some great memories—and annoying microorganisms. I got “con crud” in whatever form managed to hit my throat, chest and sinuses, while mixing in a fever. I’m running hot right now. And yet, through the haze of my illness, I remember many, many questions related to our recently-released Modern AGE, and its still-in-Kickstarter cousin, The Expanse Roleplaying Game. The Expanse features some elements originally devised for Modern AGE but is its own game. To sort out the details—and remind you that Modern AGE is out, and we’d love you to crowdfund The Expanse! —read on.

Both Games Are Core Books

First off, many people wondered if you needed Modern AGE to run The Expanse. You do not. The Expanse Roleplaying Game is a complete game based on the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system. However, both games are compatible to various degrees. Modern AGE has a different selection of stunts which can easily be ported over, and has extraordinary powers such as psychic disciplines, which you might want to use in some personal variant of The Expanse. If your primary interest is Modern AGE, new rules for equipment and space travel are among some of the elements you can convert, along with Fortune, interludes, injury conditions and the Churn.

Both Games Are Classless

Not “classless” as in “something Amos might say or do,” but as in bereft of the character classes used in previous AGE games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. In both Modern AGE and The Expanse, characters pick a background, profession and drive: Where they’re from, what they did, and why they get involved with the story. Where the games differ is that while Modern AGE presents a spread of options suited to a wide variety of contemporary settings, The Expanse’s counterparts come straight from the setting of the books, and incorporate the unusual environments of Earth, Mars and the Belt, leading to characters deeply embedded in its future history.

Each Game Has Its Own Take on AGE

While Modern AGE’s core systems were the basis for The Expanse’s design, we see the Adventure Game Engine as something which should be deeply customized for each setting. In Modern AGE, which has no core setting, this is accomplished through game modes (Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic—see here for more on genres and modes) and other options. The Expanse novels present a defined reality for characters to operate in, however, so its rules have been tuned accordingly. Therefore, injuries are tracked using conditions in The Expanse, instead of Health, as they are in Modern AGE, with Fortune acting to moderate them according to a character’s dramatic arc.

Similarly, the narrative tone of The Expanse includes the optional Churn system, where luck is always answered by new challenges, because this is how the books play out. Modern AGE doesn’t have that system, though the upcoming Modern AGE Companion will include Dramatic Rhythm, which Game Masters can apply for similar effects.

Parallel Lines

I’m the developer of Modern AGE. Steve Kenson is The Expanse’s developer. We’re treating these as two independent lines for the sake of support and supplements, so that expansions such as the Abzu’s Bounty campaign don’t use a release “slot” (assuming there even is such a thing) earmarked for Modern AGE.

Plans for supplements for The Expanse beyond Abzu’s Bounty and The Expanse Game Master’s Kit have yet to be announced. Modern AGE’s core book is shipping now, with the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit to follow (we had an early shipment come in for Gen Con, so those of you who bought a copy then got the jump on everyone else!). Next up for Modern AGE is The World of Lazarus (based on Greg Rucka’s comic of near future, posthuman feudalism, unrelated to The Expanse) and in early 2019, the Modern AGE Companion.

The Expanse is in mid-Kickstarter, but You Can Get Modern AGE Now

Since the Modern AGE developer is writing this column, he/I get to use the last bit to blatantly hawk that game. It’s for sale! It’s shipping! Get it from us or favorite supplier.

However, in fever-wracked visions (seriously, Gen Con made me unwell) I can see Steve frowning, so I will also mention The Expanse Roleplaying Game is in mid-Kickstarter. Back it so we can kick over final stretch goals, including new fiction by James S. A. Corey!

Ronin Roundtable: Nisaba Press update!

So, by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the announcement about Nisaba Press’s first novel, Shadowtide, by Blue Rose’s own, beloved Joe Carriker. Joe turned the final manuscript over to me a couple of months ago, and I worked on the edits while I was in New Orleans for a convention. Readers, this book is lovely. It’s full of intrigue, adventure, and chosen family, led by a smart-talking rhy-crow and a grieving Night Woman.

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.

The book is now in production’s hands, along with the interior art order. It’s going to be pretty amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the first entry in Nisaba’s novel line.

But now that Joe’s novel is into production, let’s talk about what we can look forward to next. Nisaba’s fiction is currently focused on our three internal settings, Blue Rose, Freeport, and Mutants & Masterminds. With a Blue Rose novel out, what could possibly be next?

How about a Mutants & Masterminds novel, penned by Aaron Rosenberg? Aaron is an experienced novelist who is familiar with tie-in and game fiction, having written for properties including Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Star Wars, Warhammer, and Eureka. He’s written for a number of game properties, too, including several supplements for Green Ronin. His combination of game and novel experience made him a great fit for our next Nisaba novel.

Coming in fourth quarter 2018 from Nisaba Press, Height of the Storm is a novel about a teenager who gets caught in a storm, and wakes up with a big choice to make. We’ve been through the first round of edits, and the manuscript is back with Aaron for a final writing pass before the copyedit phase starts. Hal has the cover art notes, and we’re looking forward to initial sketches.

In the meantime, check out our short fiction, and keep an eye out for an announcement of the upcoming Nisaba Journal, our first collection of short fiction. The Journal will be produced bi-monthly, containing 4-6 short stories in the featured settings, and available in our web store. The August issue includes stories from Richard Lee Byers, Tiffany Trent, Michael Matheson, Dylan Birtolo, Rhiannon Louve, and a prequel to Height of the Storm from Aaron Rosenberg!

Thanks for reading, folks. I’m super excited to bring you the next round of fiction set in Green Ronin’s worlds.

Ronin Round Table: Maps of Aldis Preview

The past few months have been some pretty hard work finishing up the upcoming Blue Rose sourcebook Aldis: City of the Blue Rose. As a developer and a cartography nerd, I love a good city-focused setting book, so being able to help detail the wondrous and near-idyllic capital city at the heart of the Blue Rose setting was a dream come true.

 

It’s been a great deal of fun guiding writers through creating places, and then seeing those places turned into beautiful, full color maps that inspire as much as they inform. The amazing Liz Courts has lent her talent and vision to this effort, and the results are – as I hope you’ll agree – simply stunning.

To demonstrate the scope and variety of maps, I’m taking this opportunity to show off the Palace Complex, heart of the Aldin government and home to the Sovereign, Queen Jaellin; the House of the Thousand Ways, a very upscale pillow house where Aldinfolk can find healing and companionship in the arms of the specialists of the House; and the village of Dorwine, a small settlement in the countryside that surrounds the city of Aldis.

 

Aldis: City of the Blue Rose will be available for pre-order later this month!

[Charitable Giving] Origins Pride Sale

Origins Pride SaleWe are pleased to have three books nominated for Origins Awards. Atlas of Earth-Prime, Blue Rose Narrator’s Kit, and Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy are all in the running this year. To celebrate, we’ve put all three books, along with the Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, on sale at 20% off, in both print and PDF formats, in our Green Ronin Online Store. These prices will also be in effect at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio later this week. If you’re there, stop by and see us in booth #649.

This weekend is also Columbus Pride, and June is Pride Month, so we’ve decided to donate 20% of the proceeds from this sale to the Pride Foundation.

Shop our Origins Pride Sale today.