PAX Unplugged and Freebooting

Green Ronin is very excited to be attending PAX Unplugged again this year. PAX Unplugged is Penny Arcade’s completely analog convention. It’s become known as the convention where people actually play games – a lot of them! Crazy, right? So, if you are in Philadelphia the weekend of December 6 – 8, please come join us and play some games.

You will be able to find us at Exhibitor’s Hall Booth 3649. Even better is that this year we will also have a table within the free play hall in an area designated for exhibitor demos. We will have our own dedicated table throughout the entire weekend!

Speaking of the demo table – we could really use a few more people to help us run games. Does this sound like fun to you? In addition to the fun of running games, Green Ronin will reimburse your badge and give you a t-shirt. Win-win for all of us!

If you’re already a Freebooter and interested, please contact me to discuss details.

Not a Freebooter but still want to run games for us? No problem! Becoming a Freebooter is fun, easy, and packed with perks. The first step is to fill out this form. If you want to help with PAX Unplugged, please also send me an email at freebooters@greenronin.com to make sure I expedite your application.

The Expanse RPG – Gen Con 2019

Finally, if you’re attending PAX Unplugged, please feel free to drop by our booth and say hello. Happy gaming!

Abzu’s Bounty is Coming Soon!

Abzu’s Bounty, the first campaign for The Expanse RPG, is almost ready to go. The layout is complete, and we’re waiting for a few final pieces from the artists. And speaking of art, I want to take a moment to say that the artwork in this book is gorgeous! It has everything you’d expect to see in an Expanse campaign: space battles, incredible planetary vistas, pirates, OPA terrorists, abandoned asteroid bases, and more. This book has it all!

As you’ve probably read, Abzu’s Bounty is a six-part, system-spanning campaign filled with action and adventure. We’ve given you the broad strokes, but today I want to delve further into the details without spoiling the plot. The story opens on board the ice hauler, Abzu’s Bounty, gathering ice in the rings of Saturn. The default setting has the characters as members of the Bounty’s crew. However, established characters can just as easily be on board for their own reasons. The crew of the Bounty discovers something unusual in the collected ice. The characters quickly find themselves swept up in conspiracies involving multiple factions from around the solar system. Not long into the campaign, the crew has the opportunity to claim a ship for themselves–an old pirate vessel called the Anne Bonny. With a ship of their own, they’re set to take on all of the challenges that await them: OPA terrorists, private security companies, space pirates, Martian secret agents, corporate masterminds, and more.

Abzu’s Bounty has a direct tie-in to the adventure To Sleep, Perchance to Dream in the core rulebook, but it is not necessary to have played that adventure. But for those who have played it, they finally get to meet Alexander Pope, the villain and mysterious entrepreneur who remains behind the scenes.  Players and GMs who have read the novels will also recognize several characters lifted right from those pages, and there are a quite few fun Easter eggs scattered throughout.

One of the aspects that I think is really cool about this book is that besides being a book full of adventures, it also provides a wealth of useful setting information. You’ll learn more about Luna, the pleasure domes of Titan, the tunnels of Mars, hidden and abandoned space stations, and even a pirate radio station–not to mention new organizations and factions and a shipload of NPCs. Lots of cool stuff that you can use in your own campaign or beyond the events in Abzu’s Bounty.

The campaign is designed so that you don’t necessarily have to run every adventure. You can easily skip those that don’t feel appropriate for your group. If you decide to tell this story, beginning to end, there is plenty of room for GMs to insert their own side stories or expand on the existing adventure. The campaign is designed for characters beginning at 2nd level and advance through 7th or possibly higher. A lot of flexibility is built into the story. The finale even provides an alternate ending for GMs who want to raise the stakes or offer the players a more challenging climax to the story. Be wary though, the odds of all the characters surviving this option are grim.

So, there you have it! I’ve endeavored to give you a more in-depth look into Abzu’s Bounty without giving away any of the secrets. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded. I look forward to hearing stories of how different groups tackle the challenges in Abzu’s Bounty–how they succeed and rise to the challenge.  Until next time!

Abzu’s Bounty, a campaign for The Expanse Roleplaying Game

It all started a little over two years ago when Steve Kenson asked me if I’d be interested in writing for the forthcoming roleplaying game based on The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey. I jumped at the opportunity not only because was I looking for freelance work, but I was a huge fan of both the novels and the TV series. I ended up writing The Expanse Series chapter for the core rulebook which covered the many types of stories and campaigns you can tell in the setting. I also wrote the adventure included in the core rulebook, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. A year later, at Gen Con, Steve and I met to discuss the possibility of me writing for and developing the first major sourcebook for The Expanse RPG, a solar system spanning campaign called Abzu’s Bounty, which of course, I eagerly accepted.

 

art by Conceptopolis

Now, here we are a little over a year later and I’m honored to announce that I’ve been offered a position with Green Ronin Publishing as the developer for The Expanse RPG line. This is super exciting for me because not only do I love many Green Ronin games, but I respect them as a company. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the lore of The Expanse and bringing you new and exciting source material to fuel imaginations and to help Game Masters tell stories of planets of the Sol system and beyond.

Today I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of Abzu’s Bounty. This massive, six-part campaign mirrors the events in the early Expanse novels and takes the player characters from the rings of Saturn to the surface of Luna and many places in-between. Over the course of the story they visit the asteroid base of Prometheus, the cities of Mars, the glamorous domes of Titan, and long-abandoned refineries on Luna. The campaign is designed so that Game Masters can run it exactly as written or use the parts they like and insert their own stories. Each chapter also provides a wealth of setting information and NPCs that could also be used in designing your own campaign.

Abzu’s Bounty will be available for pre-order soon, with an early release at PAXU this year! This campaign requires The Expanse Roleplaying Game.

What’s the “Deal” With Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards?

art by Stephanie Pui Mun Law

“The door of the Great Tower of Uln finally shatters inward, sending splinters flying. It turns out it’s been smashed by a Blade Troll, like the one you fought in the Polemarsh, but bigger, and better-armored. Okay Amanda, it’s your turn. Your mage Soidhe is still on top of the tower, though she can see down the central stairwell all the way to the bottom floor. What’s your mage going to do?”

 

“That troll is going to be a problem! Is Joe’s warrior Ironeye still guarding the bottom of the stairs?”

“Yeah, Joe never said he moved, so that’s where he still is.”

“Great! I’ll cast agent of fate. If Ironeye needs help dealing with that monster, I want to be ready to give him some stunt points.”

“Okay, but you are 20 yards up at the top of the tower. How far away can you use agent of fate?”

“Oh, it’s never come up! We’re always right next to each other. Lemme look. Hey, Joe, can I borrow the Basic Rulebook?”

“Er… sure Amanda. Just don’t lose my spot—I’m reading up on some alchemical stuff. But, hey, isn’t that spell in the Companion anyway?”

Okay, okay, it’s a contrived example. There aren’t that many things to look up during a Fantasy AGE game, and you can write down all the information you need about every Arcana you cast on your character sheet, to avoid having to look things up. And that’s by design, to be honest. If you have the Basic Rulebook and some dice, you have everything your group needs to play Fantasy AGE.

But, especially if you are the GM and have to have new arcana in play every time the players face an enemy mage or arcana-wielding monster.

So, we thought we’d make things easier! The Fantasy Age Arcana Cards have all the information you need for all the spells in the game (from both the Basic Rulebook and Companion) in easy-to reference individual cards. Instead of having to write down all the details for your spells, and update that as you gain higher degrees of mastery, you can just grab the arcana cards you need and have all the information available, without flipping through multiple books. For arcana with spells spread out over multiple books it’s especially useful for having all the spells in one place—no need to flip to the Basic Rulebook for Air Arcana’s protective winds, and then to the Companion for air bubble.

But of course this wouldn’t be a gaming article without suggesting some ways you can use arcana cards for even more than just fast access to fun facts! One of the fascinating things about cards is that they can be used to quickly and easily determine random results? So what can you do with randomly-selected arcana? Well, here are three ideas:

Build-A-Mage: While a player could decide to make a deal-an-arcana character, this is primarily useful for a GM who wants to be able to quickly create very-different feeling mages. Got a witch who knows three arcana? Deal three cards at random and see what you get. For extra style points, build a theme based on those random results. Deal yourself Air, Shadow, and Water arcana? You have created a servant of the Midnight Typhoon.

Chaos Magic: Okay, do NOT dip into this well too often. But in areas of chaos magic, no matter what spell a mage THINKS they are casting, a failed casting roll results in a spell of the same level of expertise from a randomly-selected arcana card.

Random Weakness Generator: Want to make a monster a little weirder? Give it a weakness by randomly assigning it an arcana it is vulnerable to. For example, if you randomly dealt the Fate Arcana card, you could decide the Blade Trolls of Arak-Uln are legendary monsters—each with its own legend that speaks of how they have destroyed the fate of great heroes. But those legends also suggest they have a weakness against Fate itself, and each troll takes 1d6 more damage when struck by an attack modified by a Fate Arcana spell.

Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards will be available as print-on-demand products via DrivethruRPG on October 30th!

Ronin Round Table: Sovereigns of the Blue Rose Introduction

From the very founding of the kingdom of Aldis, its Sovereigns have been beacons of hope, catalysts for change, and exemplars of Aldin ideals to the best of their ability.

Anyone who has played a game of Blue Rose can’t miss the importance and impact of the setting’s Sovereigns, even if they never make an appearance in the game. These people have shaped the setting of Blue Rose over the years. They are directly responsible for making Aldis the egalitarian meritocracy that has made it so unique and interesting, both within the Blue Rose setting, and as a piece of fantasy fiction.

As such, it shouldn’t have been surprising when a fan of Blue Rose contacted me over social media, asking for resources on the previous Sovereigns. They were doing a fan art project, wanting to depict all of the Sovereigns, and had hit a brick wall with some of them.

So, I dove into the project myself, collecting and collating lore about the various Sovereigns. As I did so, it became increasingly obvious to me just how fascinating these characters were. My research included not just what they looked like, but also their deeds (for completion sake, of course). Reading through that list made me want to read more about them. It made me want to get to know them better, and that sparked an idea.

I approached Nisaba editor Jaym Gates with the idea, and she backed me immediately, facilitating the anthology, helping me to round up authors who would be perfect for the project, and generally championing me the entire way.

I also asked Jess Hartley to come in and help me with the editing proper – I’ve edited game books for nearly two decades, and written fiction, but I am still a baby editor when it comes to fiction, so I was very grateful for the experienced help.

Together, fourteen authors and three editors have made Sovereigns of the Blue Rose an anthology that is filled with deep Blue Rose lore, and an absolute love letter to the diverse, egalitarian, romantic fantasy roots of the world as a whole.

I’ve included the Table of Contents for the upcoming Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology, in addition to the cover. Welcome, and enjoy!

 

Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.,

Editor

Threefold and the Future of Modern AGE

Threefold is in stores now, though you can of course get it from us, too. I’ve used a lot of words to, frankly, sell you on this setting, for my selfish advantage and because I think you’ll really like it. I like to think it has a thematic core that comparable wide-open settings lack. Threefold is about the power of souls—sapient thought—to steer history, in spite of various catastrophes and other mighty forces that stand in the way. We are more powerful than we think.

Where you go next is entirely up to you. We’ve just given you a map.

As you can tell, I’m invested in this setting. What does that mean for Modern AGE? Is it all Threefold, all the time now? No—and yes! It’s a complicated answer based on how I plan to structure Modern AGE releases.

Threefold is our “flagship” setting, where we’ll provide multi-book support. That starts with Five and Infinity, an adventure book coming in 2020 that is currently awaiting final drafts. Further support will follow, including books providing deeper detail into the setting’s main factions.

Our very next Modern AGE book, Enemies & Allies, isn’t strongly tied to any particular setting. It’s a book of Non-Player Characters and creatures divided into modern fantasy, horror, modern thriller, crime, and near future science fiction categories. However, it is designed to be completely compatible with Threefold, and one of that setting’s elements, the hidden nation of Invindara, was originally devised for Enemies & Allies by author (and now, Fifth Season Roleplaying Game developer) Tanya DePass, and appears in both books. You can enjoy Enemies & Allies without needing Threefold at all. It’s currently in layout.

Future Modern AGE books that aren’t tied to any setting may or may not have a special connection to Threefold. The Modern AGE Mastery Guide, due next year (and currently going through first drafts) won’t. In any event, we remain committed to offering you tools to build and customize your own settings. This is what books like the Mastery Guide and the already-released Modern AGE Companion are all about.

Furthermore, we’ll be doing more settings ourselves. Ideally, I’d like to have three additional original settings besides Threefold. These will not get Threefold’s “flagship” support (well, unless one really takes off!), but will provide comprehensive treatment in a single book. And we are definitely not averse to doing more licensed projects like The World of Lazarus. Modern AGE will never be tied down to a specific setting, and while Threefold provides a focus to the game, it will never be the only universe we explore.

As you can see, Modern AGE’s support plans are expansive, and follow a more aggressive schedule than you may have anticipated. But like all statements about the future, sales, the state of the industry, and what I’m doing can all change how it’s going to go. But this is the way it looks right now, and I feel pretty good about it. There’s more coming for Threefold but there’s more coming beyond it, too. And next time I step up to talk about a book, it’s probably going to be Enemies & Allies. Until then, play well, and talk about what you’re doing with Modern AGE on all the platforms you like. In our setting or yours, I love to see you play. Cheers!

GMing Threefold with Speculative Fantasy

Not too long ago I said I’d talk about Threefold’s speculative fantasy concept. What is it? While you can play any genre in this vast Modern AGE setting, we wanted to create a distinct default way to run the game.

More planes, more problems—if interesting ones.

 

Speculative fantasy describes Threefold’s ability to ask, “What if?”—what if Earth were just one of many worlds? What if the multiverse theory was demonstrably true? Threefold explores experiences radically different from our own and encourages players to dig into a vast playground of discovery. It brings real world mythology and folklore to life, blending legends together and giving them unique twists to keep them fresh and alive with possibility.

What If?

The heart of a speculative fantasy scenario involves taking that “What if?” and making it the central problem of a scenario. Threefold creates speculative fantasy set pieces through its various planes and factions. For instance, in my current game, characters passed through a plane filled with ruins, where each scattered band of survivors thought the others, and any visitors, were the enemies who’d destroyed its former civilization. While my players were just passing through, they had to deal with this problem by making it clear they were newcomers. If they’d dug deeper, they’d have to figure out how to build trust between these communities and investigate where their perceptions of each other came from. Was it a psychic weapon? An ancient betrayal? Answering these questions and putting the information to use would resolve the conflict.

Threefold comes with an introductory adventure: “Identity,” by Jamie Wood. It’s meant to demonstrate this approach in action, as heroes untangle questions of rights and personhood. It’s the sort of scenario we often find in classic episodic science fiction. In some cases, this means you can use allegory to explore real world issues. Whether you do so, however, is entirely up to you.

Classic but Strange

One of the great things about speculative fantasy is that strange problems are often variations of normal ones, by allegory, as above, or through other extensions on more common stories. For example, Romeo and Juliet is a classic story, but it turns bigger and weirder when the lovers from rival houses are Optimates: aristocratic demigods who rule the Divine Empire. Not only must characters deal with superpowered relatives but ask themselves what it means in the context of the Empire, a tyranny reigning over multiple planes. Does healing the breach between two houses risk making the Empire harder to oppose? Can they persuade the lovers to rebel against the source of their own privilege?

Such dilemmas are part and parcel of speculative fantasy play. Should Aethon agents comply with requests to delete an alternate Earth developing apocalyptic weapons, if most of the population has no idea what’s going on? Who is most entitled to a geomantic place of power on Earth? If a god returns to rule their people, should characters stand by while the population rejects the fairer institutions they’ve built for themselves?

Of course, characters need ideological and moral stances to work from. This is why Threefold provides two factions with different belief systems for characters to work with, in agreement or defiance. The explorers of the Sodality represent idealism and have set policies about what their organization considers right and wrong. Aethon’s spies and paramilitary forces represent a more pragmatic point of view. In the end, of course Modern AGE character drives and personal beliefs decide the course of action.

Get Speculating Now

Threefold is out now, for order in our store, at your local gaming establishment, or at DriveThruRPG. Chapter 9 digs into the speculative fantasy concept further, and of course this is just one facet of a very big setting. Later this year, we’ll provide further Modern AGE support with Enemies & Allies, a book of creatures, Non-Player Characters and guidance for making your own friends and foes. Enemies & Allies is suitable for all Modern AGE games, but was designed to not contradict Threefold, making it fully compatible with this flagship setting.

Until next time? Play well in any world you choose.

Ronin Round Table: Pit of Vipers

Sometimes, stories don’t tie up as neatly as we might like.

In February, we released Shadowtide, the first novel from Nisaba Press set in Green Ronin’s Blue Rose game setting. Shadowtide’s story focuses on a trio of the Sovereign’s Finest who are far from home in the hive of scum and smugglers known as Serpent’s Haven. The story follows this trio as well as the various friends, lovers, and family they meet along the way. Though Shadowtide’s narrative is complete within the novel, there are threads aplenty to be picked up by future novels, as well.

While working on my edits, Jaym Gates pointed out a certain element of the story that felt unfinished. Without going into spoilers, our heroes promised to help some new friends to get out of the dangerous Serpent’s Haven. Unfortunately, with the way things worked out, it was impossible for them to do that. Our heroes returned home to Aldis to lick their wounds and grieve their losses, forced to leave those friends behind—but in the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, our heroes keep their promises and don’t leave their friends behind, at least not without doing something about it.

And that is how Pit of Vipers came to be. Releasing this week, Pit of Vipers is an e-book only novella featuring the night woman envoy Ydah and her return (with her new apprentice envoy) to Serpent’s Haven in order to set things right…though they learn that not all has been quiescent in their time away.

 

Pit of Vipers will be available later this week, but you can order your own copy of Shadowtide: A Blue Rose novel, right here! (also available in digital formats.)

Also be sure to check out A Guide to Shadowtide, a free PDF supplement for the Blue Rose AGE RPG, and Shadowtide: Recipes from Aldea by Jess Hartley!

Threefold, a setting for Modern AGE: Available Now!

If you pre-ordered Threefold, the brand new setting for Modern AGE, your order is on it’s way! You can also find Threefold in the finest of friendly local gaming stores everywhere this week!

Curious about what this new setting entails? Check out our series of articles by Modern AGE developer, Malcolm Sheppard.

Threefold

Beyond the modern world, with its magical and technological secrets, other planes of existence beckon. Gates connect alternate Earths to mystic Otherworlds and demon-ruled Netherworlds. Will their threefold secrets bring hope or horror? That’s for your heroes to decide. Threefold is a new original setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game, designed to support adventures using virtually any genre or character type all within the same grand Metacosm. Explore and protect countless worlds as a member of the interplanar Sodality, or manipulate bizarre alternate histories as a cyborg agent of Aethon. Heroes contend with everything from soul-stealing criminals, to transplanar empires. Threefold requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook.

 

 

 

Fantasy AGE: Shaking the Pillars of Heaven

Well, it’s been an interesting run, but it’s time to move on.

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook

Starting in October I’m going to be leaving my position as Fantasy AGE developer and thus my regular position at Green Ronin. This has been awhile in coming—I’ve known for several months I needed to make a change.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. But mostly? I’m tired. After several years of personal tragedy, heavy workloads, financial and health issues, the occasional resurfacing of past harassment, and so on? I feel a bit like Egg Shen at the end of Big Trouble in Little China:

My work is done. Lo-Pan is dead, the evil spell has been lifted, years ago I promised myself a long vacation…and it’s time to collect.

That’s not entirely accurate of course, but metaphorically? It’s appropriate. For the past several years I’ve been keeping everything going as best I can. Maybe not always as well as I could in a perfect world, but keeping things moving forward as best I could.  I’m proud of the work done; I’m especially proud of the talented folks I worked with making the various books in the Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age lines, as well as the Blue Rose core book.

However, the Fantasy AGE line needs someone who really wants to work on it. Which, despite my aforementioned pride in the work done? That just isn’t me anymore. I’ve walked this road about as long as I can or want to. Again, that’s not a slam on the work, the people involved, fantasy, gaming, or anything else the line intersects with. It’s just where I am now.

I’ll always be happy I took this gig. It was the right thing to do at the time. I’ll always be proud of the work done. And it’s possible you’ll see me again on various Green Ronin projects, either as a freelance writer or maybe even a developer if the right specific project comes along.

Never can tell with me.

And I’m not going to be a hermit or anything. I have four more books for my wu xia/kung fu game, Tianxia, to finish, there are three more John Carter of Mars books in the pipeline and even

Fantasy AGE Bestiary

some other work past that.

But damn, I am worn out. And since I still have a lot of things I want to design, write, create, and so on in the future? I needed to let something go so I can recharge, rest, repair, and then do those things. After a lot of consideration, this was the thing to let go.

Sometimes it’s that simple.

So, I wanted to end by saying thanks to the fans and customers for their support and enthusiasm. To Green Ronin, I want to say thanks for the opportunities to put my stamp on not one but three of the company’s lines (and that’s not even counting the various Mutants and Masterminds projects I was able to contribute to). To Fantasy AGE’s new developer, Owen K.C. Stephens, I want to express my heartfelt enthusiasm and well wishes. I know you’re going to do great. To my various collaborators I want to give my love and appreciation; literally couldn’t do it without you. In particular, I want to give a shout out to Jamie Wood and Matt Miller, two fine freelancers who started on Dragon Age with me and kept working to the current Fantasy AGE projects. While there were so many great folks on various books, you two were always there when I needed you, and that’s appreciated.

And to my fellow Ronins, while it wasn’t always easy or smooth…we really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we?

Later,

Jack.


Fantasy AGE Companion

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Michael Corleone. The Godfather, Part III

Okay, that quote makes it sound like I’m unhappy to be back at Green Ronin, and nothing could be further from the truth! But let’s be honest, how often do I get to use an Al Pacino quote? I may not even be the Gamefather, much less the Godfather, but I know a good quote when I steal one!

Fans of Green Ronin as a company may recognize my name from my time as the Freeport/Pathfinder Developer, or my various freelance contributions to d20 game books Green Ronin has been so kind to include me in over the past two decades, but folks who are primarily fans of Fantasy AGE are likely to have no idea who I am, and I’d like to take a chance to introduce myself.

I have just a couple of small AGE credits, dating back to some GM advice of mine that got used in Dragon Age. But to be entirely up-front, my professional expertise has primarily been in things adjacent to D&D and Pathfinder, so taking the role of Fantasy AGE developer takes me into new territory professionally and I’m extremely excited about that.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide

I think Fantasy AGE is one of the most dynamic and exciting RPGs to come along in the past decade, and I couldn’t be happier to be involved with its evolution going forward. Jack’s done a tremendous job shepherding from his first involvement with it to this point, and I want to take a moment to thank him for his hard work on the line, which is in great shape as he and I arrange for the hand-off of projects currently underway.

I don’t officially take the reins until October, but Jack and I (and the rest of the awesome Ronins) are already working at making sure things transition smoothly. We’ll have exciting new things to announce eventually, but for now I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, and give people time to get used to the news.

Owen K.C. Stephens

September 2019