Ronin Army forums update: All Good Things…

Hello Green Ronin fans,

Today we have guest post from our stalwart forum moderator Fildrigar, on the status of the Ronin Army forums that have been down for the last week.


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Greetings!

I’m Barry Wilson. You might remember me from such internet places as That One Wargaming With Miniatures Forum and Esoteric Prog Rock Fans Online.

I have a long history with, and a deep and abiding love of internet forums. Since I first discovered them in the Nineties, I have whiled away many an hour reading and posting on them. I never had the patience for IRC, far preferring the slower, more thoughtful discourse (and formatting options) forums usually provided. I’ve been moderating Green Ronin’s forums for around eight years now. 

Unfortunately, the time has come to shut down the forums. While it wasn’t an easy decision, it was necessary once we discovered a rather serious security vulnerability that made continuing to support the forum software an untenable position. We have reached the tipping point where the security risks involved with maintaining the forums outweigh the benefits. We tried to find a solution that would allow us to maintain the existing forums in read-only mode, but just running the forum software on our servers would pose too great a security risk. 

Forums have in the past provided a place for people to discuss our games. Increasingly, those discussions have moved to places like Facebook, Reddit, and Discord (and many, many others.) Places like these are allowing us to reach more fans than our small forums did. Searching Facebook for the names of our games will direct you to groups available there. There is also a very robust and friendly Discord community called the Green Ronin AGE Appropriate Discord. You’ll find some of your favorite Green Ronin staff regularly hanging out there to talk about the latest Green Ronin happenings.  

In closing, remember that we love you, keep on gaming, and we’ll see you on the internet.

Now Available: Threefold’s Five and Infinity, Chapter 0: The Adventure Generator

Discover Adventures to Come

The Adventure GeneratorFive and Infinity is an adventure series for Threefold, the Modern AGE setting of planar travel and genre-bending adventure. With some loose connections built in, these adventures can be added to your campaign occasionally, bringing you from level 1 to 16 as you bring peace to a corner of the Earth or some far-flung dimension, or prevent the end of worlds. Chapter 0: The Adventure Generator, available now, isn’t an adventure though: It’s a set of tools to help Game Masters devise scenarios on the fly. Think of it as a “taster” for what’s to come, and as an amuse bouche, it comes for a tasty price—just one dollar!

Here’s what’s on the menu:

  • Launch from a selected or random story Kickoff to send characters up against 36 different Problems—and two or three variations per Problem.
  • Evolve your outline with six different Crises—or make it weird, with six Gonzo Crises with variations for each.
  • Roll or select Stakes, Environments, and Dramatis Personae

Once you’ve finished Chapter 0: The Adventure Generator, stay tuned for other adventures in the series. Read about them here.

Get it Now

Threefold’s Five and Infinity Goes Serial

So, if you’ve been following Modern AGE, and specifically the Threefold setting, you might be wondering if there’s more to come, given that we called it our “flagship setting.” The answer: Yes! We’re putting together Five and Infinity, a series of adventures and adventure generators for Threefold.

Fine and Infinity, an adventure anthology for the Threefold setting for Modern AGE(What! What’s Threefold? It’s the Modern AGE setting of innumerable planes of existence, each aligned to some combination of high magic, dark forces, and high technology. Heroes typically represent the Sodality, who explore the planes and protect the people they meet, or Aethon, a cabal of posthuman spies working to shape Earth and its alternate timelines. They must contend with strange worlds, interdimensional crime lords, mad scientists, warlocks, and alastors, demon-lords of the Netherworlds. Read more here.)

Five and Infinity was originally slated to be a print release, but this being the era of COVID-19, we’ve had to change that, for reasons discussed here. Instead, we’ll be presenting it as a PDF series with the following parts:

Chapter 0—Adventure Generator: Written by Jesse Heinig, this series of tables outlines adventures for you! This is a taster for the rest of the series, so it’ll cost around a buck, to grab you.

Chapter 1—Hunting Night: Ron Rummell’s adventure takes you after a fallen spider goddess and her brood as they unwittingly invade earth. For Characters of levels 1 to 4.

Chapter 2—The Dreaming Crown: Psychic renegades threaten to wreck diplomatic contact with a new plane. What’s their real agenda? It’s by Steve Kenson, so you know it’s good. For Characters of levels 1 to 4.

Chapter 3—The Soul Trade: Neall Raemonn Price spins an adventure about souls as drugs, multiple dystopias, and pilots who can’t tell which reality they belong to. For characters of levels 5 to 8.

Chapter 4—The Midnight Gold: Visit a demonic casino in a hell of industrial despair, where your debts are literal chains, to free the soul of a foolish gambler and interfere in the politics of Inimicals, the rules of the Netherworlds. Crystal Frasier’s imagination pops in this one. For characters of levels 9 to 12.

Chapter 5—Threshold of Apocalypse: Meghan Fitzgerald is one of the best writer-developers in her cohort so I’m grateful she wrote this adventure, where a time loop beings characters to the literally end of everything, where they must decide if what comes after the end is worth saving. For characters of levels 13 to 16.

These adventures aren’t a campaign per se, but have built-in connections to let you run them that way. In some ways it’s Threefold’s answer to Blue Rose’s Six of Swords (on this page as a collection or individual adventures), which happens to have been my first work for Green Ronin.

There’s some beautiful potential storytelling in Five and Infinity, and Chapter 0 will be available next week. Watch this space!

Blue Rose’s Map to Adventure (Ronin Roundtable)

As some of you may already be aware, this is Blue Rose Adventure Week here at Green Ronin. We’ve decided to make some of our lines’ adventures available individually, starting with the six adventures that make up Six of Swords, the first Blue Rose adventure anthology, as well as Nightmare Rider, an adventure from Blue Rose’s first edition updated for the current Blue Rose AGE ruleset.

To help you find your way around these adventures, we’ve put together what we like to call our Map to Adventure! A map of Aldea with markers pinpointing the locations where our various adventures take place, with links to the pages for those adventures for easy ordering.

This way, you can check and see if there are any adventures that take place near where your own campaign occurs, in case you want to fold one of them into your narrative.

As we go on, we’ll be adding the locations of more adventures as well. In particular, the already-announced Six of Cups adventure anthology will likely be included on the map once we begin releasing those adventures.

The Mistress of Gloamhale Manor: In the newly-settled Husqan Valley, children are disappearing. The heroes are called upon to investigate these disappearances, and all paths lead to the ancient Gloamhale Manor. What dark secrets await within? An adventure for 4 to 6 heroes of levels 1–4. (Editor’s note: A great introductory adventure for just .99!)

The Sixth Beast: The Trebutane fled the tyranny of Kern for the northerly reaches of the Pavin Weald. But now, they are prey to others: The bandits known as the Five Beast Army prey on the reclusive Trebutane. Can the heroes sent by the Crown uncover and resolve the deep conflicts at play here? An adventure for 4 to 6 heroes of levels 1–4. 

The Night Market: The criminal Silence, so subtle within the Kingdom of the Blue Rose, occasionally hosts the Night Market, an auction of goods forbidden and illegal. Assigned to infiltrate a Night Market being held in the Veran Marsh, can the heroes successfully recover a shard of the sorcerous Shadow Heptagram? An adventure for 4 to 6 heroes of levels 3–5.

A Harvest of Masks: Though the Pavin Weald lies within Aldin borders, the deep forest is a world of its own. When folk in the villages along its border begin to disappear without trace or explanation, will the heroes brave its verdant mysteries to discover what is going on before it is too late? An adventure for 4 to 6 heroes of levels 5–8.

Storms Over Kamala: A Rezean witch seeks help to free the old wintering grounds of her lost clan from dark and sinister influences. When she approaches the heroes, will they journey to the horse-plains of Rezea to discover what wickedness lies in wait? An adventure for 4 to 6 heroes of levels 9–12.  

A Wanton Curse: An autumnal gathering hosted by a borderland noble takes a turn for the tragic when an evil seeks to slake its thirst for blood and vengeance. Though the heroes were simply guests to the seasonal fete, can they rise to the occasion and help overcome the predator on the prowl? An adventure for 4 to 6 characters of levels 12–15.

Nightmare Rider: The marriage between the child of an influential Aldin family and the prince of a Rezean clan is an occasion worth celebrating! When the heroes are called upon to accompany the Aldin lady to her marriage bower in Rezea, can they protect her from the myriad threats that endanger the happiness of the new couple? An adventure for 4 to 6 1st level characters.

A Wanton Curse and Nightmare Rider will be available to purchase tomorrow, Friday the 24th of April.

AGE Specializations in Blue Rose (Ronin Roundtable)

Today marks the launch of the Adventures in Aldea series, starting with the Mistress of Gloomhale Manor for just .99! (Previously published in the Six of Swords adventure anthology.) If you enjoy that one, be sure to check out The Sixth Beast, also on sale today, and come back each day this week for another Blue Rose PDF adventure!

Since this is Blue Rose week at Green Ronin Publishing, let’s take a look at some ways to adapt other AGE products into your games in Aldea.

 

From the Noble to the Spirit Dancer, the Assassin to the Inamorata, Blue Rose gives players an awful lot of options when it comes to choosing specializations. There’s pretty much something in there for everyone and every play style.

Though that doesn’t mean we can’t look to other sources for even more choices!

Consider, for instance, the Sword Mage (from the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook); how might such a specialization fit into a campaign set in Aldea? Well, firstly, the mage class doesn’t exist in Blue Rose, but the Sword Mage easily converts over to a class requirement of adept, with no other mechanical alterations necessary. Of course, the term, “mage” also isn’t used in Aldea, so a name change is in order. Maybe “Arcane Knight?” The word “knight” necessarily implies some kind of organization—a knightly order, as it were—so the title could certainly work if that’s the route you’d prefer to take. What if you’d rather not have to consider the implications of a new group of this sort in Aldis (or whatever other nation), however? Perhaps, then, you might consider calling the specialization “Arcane Blade,” which has the same essential meaning as “Sword Mage,” but with an altogether Aldean spin.

Pretty simple, right? But what about a specialization that doesn’t translate quite so neatly?

Let’s try the Marked (from the Fantasy AGE Companion), as an example. The basics of converting the Marked to Blue Rose are the same: change out the requirement of the rogue class to that of the expert, since those are essentially equivalent for our purposes (and keep warrior, as normal). The Banemark looks to be a little too potent, as written; why not choose “shadowspawn” and receive +2 to attack and damage the majority of creatures most PCs will be fighting in the average campaign? Instead, it might make more sense to divide shadowspawn into “beastfolk” (such as troglodytes, ettins, and harpies) and “shadow monstrosities” (mock hounds, wyverns, chaos beasts, and the like), to prevent a single Mark from providing too much of a benefit. Then, there’s the matter of the Mark of Magic, as there is no Arcane Blast equivalent for the adept class, making that Mark a bad fit for the setting. In its place, this might make for a more authentically Aldean body modification:


Soulbond Mark: Whenever using a relationship to generate stunt points (see Chapter Two: Character Creation, in the Blue Rose Core Rulebook), consider that relationship’s Intensity to be one point higher.


How about something even further afield from the normal Blue Rose experience: the Gunfighter (again, from the Fantasy AGE Companion)? There are no black powder weapons in Aldis or any of its neighboring nations, but crystons fit pretty well into that mechanical and narrative niche. Again, swap out rogue for expert as a class requirement. Also, rather than training in the Black Powder Weapons Group, it makes sense to switch to a requirement of one or more arcane talents (as this is necessary to wield a cryston, anyway). Beyond that, all that’s needed is to change every reference to ‘firearm’ to ‘cryston’ (and the name of the specialization to something like ‘Crack Shot’ or ‘Cryston Marksman’), and you’re good to go!

You might decide that these specializations have always been around, whether overtly or in secret, in your version of Aldea, or you might want them to be new developments—perhaps recently arrived on Aldis’ shores from far-away lands, or even from other worlds (like Yarrion, found in Chapter Nine: The Blue Rose Series, in the Blue Rose Core Rulebook), accessed through previously long-lost and forgotten shadowgates.

With a few tweaks, here and there, and a little bit of consideration as to how best to fit into the world of Aldea, you’ll find that most of the specializations from the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook and the Fantasy AGE Companion can work just fine for any Blue Rose campaign!

Modern AGE in Rough Times (Ronin Roundtable)

Hello Modern AGE fans. I hope you are your families are doing well. COVID-19 has obviously made gaming tricky for some of you. As for me, I run my game using the Threefold setting most Tuesdays. I use Zoom with a little Discord on the side so I can see and hear my friends, who I miss dearly. I’m glad to have a way for us to share time together.

Five and Infinity

Second, I’m running through the adventures in Five and Infinity, the adventure book for the Threefold setting for Modern AGE. As our flagship setting, Threefold was always intended to get ongoing support. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had made printing and distribution all but impossible, even though the book was very close to print.

Thus, what we’ll be doing is releasing Five and Infinity online, in serialized form. Part 0 introduces a Threefold story generator, which we’ll share with you for the princely sum of… $1. The story generator allows you to roll up a basic outline for Threefold adventures, and the parameters are broad enough that much of it can be used for your own Modern AGE settings as well.

After that, each adventure will be released in turn. These adventures include two covering level 1-4, and one each for levels 5-8, 9-12, and 13-16. Loose connections between them allow you to turn Five and Infinity into a true campaign, but this is entirely optional; each adventure is also fully self-contained. And these adventures pack a wallop, since they include alien spiders, psychic terrorists, soul smuggling, infiltrating Hell and, to top it all off, the destruction of the Earth. Ron Rummell, Steve Kenson, Neall Raemonn Price, Crystal Frasier, Meghan Fitzgerald, and Jesse Heinig will guide you through it all. Watch for it.

Modern AGE Missions

Beyond the Threefold setting (though certainly compatible with it) we launched the Modern AGE Missions adventure series shortly before COVID-19 started to affect our operations. Warflower¸ the first mission by yours truly, is a scenario for starting characters that mixes alchemy, designer drugs, corporate espionage, and medieval swordplay You can pick it up in our store or on DrivethruRPG.

The next mission is due next quarter, and is an official adaptation of the infamous Feral Hogs scenario, originally run by the Dice Priori streaming gang. Members Chase Schneider and Matthew Foreman were kind enough to refine this post-apocalyptic, ham-plentiful scenario about guns, trucks, energy drinks, online retail distribution centers turned fortress towns, and 30-50…well, you know what. Look for it when it arrives in our store and DrivethruRPG.

Big Books

Let’s just say this isn’t an ideal time for hardcover releases. Yet last month we released Enemies & Allies, a full-fledged core sourcebook on creatures and NPCs for Modern AGE covering appropriate friends and foes for both down to earth and fantastic genres. Whether you need a cyborg to hunt the party or a mob doctor, this book has you covered with not only dozens of individual entries, but rules for the genres they exist in, and a section telling you how to build your own NPCs from the ground up. This book was in fact printed and distributed, but nowadays, it might be easier to get electronically from our store or DrivethruRPG.

Waiting in the wings, we have the Modern AGE Mastery Guide, a new book of options and advice for both players and Game Masters. This book is text-complete and edited, but is waiting for a better moment to enter the production cycle.

Modern AGE on Sale as Part of Green Ronin’s 20th Anniversary

One more thing! Be aware that until April 20, Green Ronin’s online store is running a 20% sale on numerous releases to celebrate our 20th anniversary. That includes the following Modern AGE titles (all electronic, because, well COVID-19 has not played well with shipping and distribution):

This is where we’re at, and this is what we’ve got. Be safe, and play well.

The Expanse: The Science of Story (Ronin Roundtable)

It is often remarked that The Expanse novels are “hard” science fiction. While this may or may not be the case, it is undoubtedly true that the science is an important aspect. However, what really makes these novels shine are the characters and the story. If you want to delve into whether The Expanse is “hard” sci-fi or not, you can find endless discussions on the internet, but I’m not here to debate that. Today, I’m here to talk about how we try to capture the balance of science and story in The Expanse RPG.

Enjoy this sneak-preview of the upcoming Ships of the Expanse book! Cover Art by Ben Zweifel!

Some sci-fi and modern setting RPGs spend a lot of time focusing on the science and the inner workings of every gun, gizmo, and gadget. Finding how much detail is “fun” in a roleplaying game is a difficult tight rope to walk. Too much detail and the GM and players can end up focusing too much on the gadgets and not enough on the characters; too little, and the setting may feel to generic. With The Expanse RPG, we chose to focus on characters and the story. We’ve tried to give enough details to provide a rich setting without getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts. We are content to say that a ship has an Epstein drive without worrying about exact type of Epstein drive or that a ship has full PDC coverage without worrying about the exact number of point defense cannons a ship has. Rather than define particular types of pistols, rifles, or torpedo bays and require players to check off boxes to track ammunition, we use rules such as the Stunt System for special maneuvers and The Churn as a means to inject the drama of running out of ammo or weapon malfunctions.

Ultimately, a roleplaying game is about character interaction – either with their environment or other characters and NPCs. Epstein drives, PDCs, plasma torpedoes, spin gravity, and all the bells and whistles are cool and add to the story, but in The Expanse RPG, they take a back seat to the story and drama. Personally, I think if you look closely at the novels, the authors of The Expanse do much the same. The ships, weapons, and gadgets give the story context and a platform on which to stand. But it is the characters and their actions and interactions that form the core of the story. The Expanse RPG is designed very much with that thought in mind.

Players and GMs who want to add more detail to their campaigns are certainly free to do so. It is easy enough to come up with particular types of weapons by basing them on 21st-century weapons and using the Item Qualities listed in the core rulebook to spec them out. You can even come up with ammo quantities if you want. The same applies to spaceships. Different engine types could grant small modifiers, and you can decide how many torpedoes and PDC bursts a given ship can fire. Later expansions, such as the upcoming Ships of the Expanse will also delve deeper into the details of the mechanics of space travel.


Recently Steve Kenson’s adventure “Salvage Op”, which some lucky fans may have had the opportunity to play during conventions over the last year, has been made available for purchase! Check it out in our online store, or on DrivethruRPG.

“Salvage Op is a short adventure for The Expanse Roleplaying Game intended for a crew of four to six 1st to 3rd level characters. The characters encounter a small ship floating dead in space. Salvaging the ship’s cargo could be an opportunity for riches, but what danger awaits onboard? What happened to the crew, and why is it here? This adventure works well as a one-shot or can be easily inserted into an existing campaign.”

Fantasy AGE Lairs: The Night Market (Ronin Roundtable)

This week I get to branch out from The Expanse RPG and explore one of the Green Ronin lines I’m less familiar with, Fantasy AGE.  Specifically, I’m looking at Fantasy AGE Lairs (Pre-order and PDF on sale now!).  I’m most familiar with the AGE system from The Expanse and Modern AGE but having read the core book cover to cover I’ve been dying to give Fantasy AGE a try. Since my writing time is precious, I was looking for something that I could pick up and use right away. Skimming through Lairs I saw right away that there was a lot of opportunity here for one shot adventures or side stories that easily be inserted into an existing campaign. Some have enough depth that they could even form the basis for a new campaign. Being a fan of the dark and macabre and both the book and movie Something Wicked This Way Comes I was immediately drawn to The Night Market by Mark Carrol so that’s where my journey into Fantasy AGE Lairs began. I try to avoid major spoilers but if you’re a player in a Fantasy AGE campaign and think your GM might use this book, I suggest stopping here.

The Night Market offers a rich and dark setting that can easily fit into almost any fantasy campaign. The Night Market moves about so it could set up near any village or hamlet. For that matter, with only a little modification, I could see using this lair in a Modern AGE campaign with a supernatural bent. The player characters come across a wandering market filled with curiosities: acrobats, fortune tellers, merchants with strange trinkets, and sideshows abound. Even without an adventure hook this is exactly the type of diversion that most players will immediately be drawn too. I’ve never known a group of PCs who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to explore a mysterious carnival!

The thing I liked most about the Night Market is that the setting alone could provide hours of entertainment without ever introducing the adventure that is included. In fact, I could envision the market appearing multiple times in a campaign before the characters uncover its secrets and face off against the villain. The adventure is geared toward higher level characters although the lair itself could be used for characters of any level. Both enemies and possible allies are described in the setting with some of their motivations being left in the hands of the GM.

The adventure is fairly straightforward: people in the vicinity of the market have gone missing and while investigating the PCs meet a ghost (a victim of the main villain) who offers to help them. The powers behind the Night Market are not trivial and could prove to be a powerful and dangerous enemy. As I discussed earlier, this setting is well suited as a reoccurring villain and the Adventure Seeds at the end set this up well. The heroes may rescue the missing villagers and even overcome the villain but he may appear again in a different guise.

The Night Market is definitely one of my favorites and pretty much exactly the kind of entry I look for in a book like Fantasy AGE Lairs and I highly recommend this book for GMs who are looking for individual settings and adventures or just to fuel your imagination. I expect this setting or something close to it will show up in one of my games in the near future!


Check out our previous previews for Fantasy AGE Lairs:
The Battle of the Beleaguered GM
School’s. In. For. EVER!
Getting More than Gothic with the Ghoul Prince

And don’t forget that the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is currently FREE to download!

Mongrelfolk in Blue Rose (Ronin Roundtable)

I’m a dog person.

Thus, when I first started working on Blue Rose, it made me just a little bit sad to learn that Aldea had literal dog-people, but they’re shadowspawn monsters whose only avenue for participating in civilization involves hiring out as mercenaries to the most unscrupulous and undiscerning of employers. One of the themes of the game, however, is that no one is truly beyond redemption if they make the decision to champion Light, rather than Shadow.

 

So—presuming the choice to embrace goodness over evil—what, exactly, keeps a mongrel from being a player character? A lack of stats, that’s what.

Well, I’m here to fix that problem:

Mongrel

Neither human not rhydan, but instead something almost halfway between, mongrels have long plagued Aldea as the accursed creations of sorcery. Within them—in accordance with the wicked designs of the Sorcerer Kings who shaped their race amidst agony and misery—the reason and emotions of a sapient people war endlessly with the brutish instincts of beasts irreparably wounded in spirit, and most of them cannot reconcile these two conflicting natures, save through savage violence. Most, but not all.

One mongrel might’ve been taken in as a pup when their pack was destroyed or driven off, to be raised with the sort of love and kindness most of their kind will never know or understand. Another was perhaps found by compassionate Aldinfolk, grievously injured and frozen half to death, and nursed back to health, only to feel the inexplicable stirrings of a pack-bond with these gentle strangers and a desire to do right by them. Yet another might’ve simply always sensed that there must be something more to life than to hunt, pillage, and kill; some elusive yearning for nobler things that they found they could not satisfy in the company of their own kin.

Standing well taller than the average human and sporting the head of a dog or hyena, with mottled fur and canine lower legs, mongrels are utterly unmistakable as anything other than what they are. While they stand upright and have dexterous, human-like hands, they possess an inborn feral aspect that never entirely goes away, no matter how long they spend in the company of civilized people, and their voices have a growling, barking quality. To even the most personable mongrel, the world is as much a tapestry of potential threats as it is one of prospective friends.

Play a mongrel if you want a rough, primal character deeply in touch with their animal senses and instincts. Mongrels tend to be skilled hunters and fighters, typically favoring the expert or warrior classes.

Playing a Mongrel

If you choose to play a mongrel, modify your character as follows:

  • Add +1 to your Dexterity ability.
  • Add the Perception (Smelling) focus.
  • You have Dark Sight, meaning you are able to see up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source.
  • Your Speed is equal to 10 + Dexterity (minus armor penalty, if applicable).
  • Roll twice on the Mongrel Benefits table for two additional benefits. Roll 2d6 and add the dice together. If you get the same result twice, reroll until you get something different.

 

Mongrel Benefits

 

2d6 RollBenefit
2+1 Perception
3-4Focus: Dexterity (Stealth)
5Focus: Accuracy (Brawling)
6Weapons Group: Heavy Blades*
7-8+1 Fighting
9Focus: Constitution (Running)
10-11Focus: Perception (Hearing)
12+1 Constitution

 

* If the class you choose provides this already, you can take the focus Fighting (Heavy Blades) instead.

This week is also your last chance to pick up the Blue Rose Bundle of Holding! Pick up the complete line of Blue Rose 2nd edition AGE products, as well as several of our fiction offerings from Nisaba Press, all while supporting the Pride Foundation. Don’t miss out on this amazing deal!

 

Fantasy AGE Lairs: Getting More Than Gothic with the Ghoul Prince (Ronin Roundtable)

Fantasy AGE Lairs presents a set of places, situations, and possible scenarios revolving around a small set of signature antagonists. I may be Modern AGE developer, but I’m also a Fantasy AGE writer and player, and I was looking forward to this book for a while. Jack Norris did a fantastic job here and I want to get into it.

The great thing about The Ghoul Prince, one of the entries in the book that really grabbed me. I’m a big fan of Gothic horror. I read it, I used to study it academically, and, well, I have a *lot* of author credits with some well-known RPG intellectual properties that called themselves “gothic punk.” Gothic horror is more than a set of visual motifs or a black clad rogue’s gallery, however. The genre has specific themes. The Ghoul Prince does a great job of highlighting these while moving beyond stereotype with one simple, brilliant move: choosing ghouls as intelligent, organized antagonists, instead of going with either the MVP of Gothic undead, the vampire, or the most popular high level lairing undead in fantasy, the lich.

In playing against type here, Jack set himself up to explain why, and does an excellent job, tying things into genuine Gothic themes. The eponymous Ghoul Prince, Tropo, has a story that touches on one of the primary ideas of the genre: the recurrence of sin, especially in the way it corrupts family. Tropo becomes a ghoul after committing unspeakable acts (well, we’ll call them that to avoid spoilers, at least!). After attaining a new state of being, where his evil acts have distorted his physical and spiritual self, he creates companions, furthering these themes. While this lair features the expected horde of flesh-eating monsters, Tropo’s most powerful lieutenants produce a parody of a family, or at least a feudal household. One fills the role of child and protector; the other is a priestly confessor.

Reading this, you quickly understand that this isn’t just swapping in undead. It’s got to be ghouls. For one thing, this removes the pretense of romance from the scenario. Tropo and his creatures are predators held in check by his exceptional will, but made all the more dangerous by his intelligence. This is a monster who looks past the pretense of mutual obligations in feudal relationships and emphasizes the power imbalance at their cores, because the lord’s desire for the power of flesh, normally abstracted through labor, is made terrifyingly literal. Tropo and his creatures must feast—and not simply sip at blood in some mockery of romance.

Beyond these thematic touches, Tropo’s ghoul forces also make this lair suitable for long term, multi-level play. Tropo and his “family” are at the top of a pyramid supported by a hierarchy of lesser children, from ones who’d suit a tough encounter for low level characters, to bigger challenges which can be quickly grown into with advancement, up to Tropo himself, who in Fantasy AGE terms, stands at the top of the Major Threat Level. An adventure outline provides a progressive introduction to the lair, and it’s supported by further hooks—all enough to make the forces and eventually, the castle of the Ghoul Prince suitable for a major campaign arc which may prompt the PCs to take over once they defeat Tropo. Once the flesh-eating lord falls, who will take his place? It’s all great stuff, and why this is my favorite chunk of Fantasy AGE Lairs.

(Editor’s Note: Just a quick reminder that the Fantasy AGE basic rule book in PDF, is currently FREE to download from our webstore!)