Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide: Art, Process, and Inspiration

Hey folks, Jack back again to talk about the our new Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. This time I want to talk a bit about the art in the book, how it comes to be, and its utility beyond just looking great.

So, with a book like the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, where the focus is inspiring and guiding GMs with their own campaigns, art isn’t just cool, its potentially inspirational. Maybe that cool picture is just the spark someone needs to figure out the tone, style, or some element of a campaign that’s been eluding them. Inclusivity is also a concern; we want books that show a range of characters that will appeal to a diverse player base—not every dwarf looks like a short-bearded Scotsman and not every shining knight is a handsome European looking dude.

So how does the art get selected? Well, basically after the text is written and edited, it gets passed along to layout and art direction, which then tells the developer (me) what sort of art we need and where. This is generally both vague from a creative standpoint and precise from a technical one. So stuff like “We need a half page illo for this section” or “We need something for the start of each chapter in these dimensions” and so on.

Once I get those, I look at the text around where the art is to be placed and write up art descriptions like:

A trio of heroes are standing before a gigantic egg that sits in a nest of bones, vines, bits of smashed buildings, and other materials that present a feeling of menace. The egg is obviously thick shelled, mottled, and dark. It is cracking and something is beginning to emerge. Only parts of the creature inside can be seen, a glaring yellow eye, a scaly claw with some wet feathers along its length, and some tendrils or tentacles coming through certain cracks. The image here is very much that of a the birth of an alien and terrible thing. The heroes are very small compared to the vast egg and as such are mostly for scale, though one can be seen to be an armed warrior, one an archer, and another a spellcaster of some sort with a glowing rod. The scene is some vast underground chamber of which only some of it can be seen in the light of a mage’s rod and some glowing fungus around the cavern.

Often these descriptions have themes or tones I want captured. For example, a piece for a chapter about building monsters might have a scholar teaching monster anatomy. Or perhaps I want to capture the feeling of some comic cover, book illustration, or other inspiration from my own youth. You can see this in stuff like the M&M Cosmic Sourcebook, which I helped write some art descriptions for—several of the pieces in one chapter are homages to classic comic covers using Earth Prime heroes instead of Marvel and DC ones. I do this because I think this sort of influence, depth…call it what you will, shines through in the presentation of the art with the text of the book. And while I can’t make the art or lay it out? This is the part I can contribute—the initial set up for the artist to work their magic, so to speak.

Sometimes these descriptions reference other characters, books, etc… from Green Ronin itself, often mixed with some other piece of media I was enjoying or thinking about at the time:

A hero fights against a swam of vampire thralls. The area around is blasted and twisted, a place that resembles a post-apocalyptic version of a late medieval or early Renaissance Eastern European village, with some faces seen from those hiding inside crumbling buildings. The hero is the red headed swordswoman from page 17 of the FAGE Companion. She still has her massive sword, which she is swinging to catch a thrall or two as they try to leap on her. She has been scratched up a bit from the thrall’s claws, but seems to be holding her own. In the sky a faint red sun can be seen through layers of a cloudy gray sky–the idea is that something here or perhaps across the whole world obscures the sun enough to mute its effects on the creatures, meaning there is no true safe time in this world from such horrors.

I’ve become fond of that red-headed swordswoman in the Fantasy AGE Companion, something about the piece she appears in made me want to revisit her.  And then I watched Netflix’s Castlevania series and I decided she needed to fight vampires in this Campaign Builder’s Guide. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

So then these descriptions are sent off to a freelancer artist who gives us a number of rough sketches to review. The art director and I (and often other folks) discuss which versions we prefer, often saying stuff like “Totally C instead of A or B but we need to work that charging velociraptor riding cavalryman from A in.” Sometimes this process is very quick, sometimes we go back and forth more, but in either case that’s just the process. Some of the best pieces in Fantasy AGE—in my opinion—were fast and easy from a feedback perspective. Others were long and hard, and just as amazing. In any event, the artists also add their own ideas, style, and embellishments. Sometimes an artist will present a piece that’s “wrong” from what we asked for in terms of an angle or action and yet its completely perfect and we love it. Other times great pieces get tweaked because they need to invoke something important from the book.

Anyway, once the sketches are approved and artist knows just what we want? They make the piece. Sometimes they share steps along the way, other times not. In any event, they eventually turn in a piece for approval and any final tweaks and adjustments are made. 

So after all is said and done, the monster egg piece becomes:

Art by Bryan Syme

While our red-haired swordswoman fighting vamps is presented as:

Art by Pedro Sena

And that’s essentially how it works. Just for dozens of pieces of various sizes and dimensions. It’s at times a complex process, but I truly enjoy it.  Hopefully those of you checking out the Campaign Builder’s Guide will find pieces to inspire and delight you as well.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide Pre-Order and PDF

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder's Guide: Pre-Order and PDFThe Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide is now available for pre-ordering and in PDF format. As usual, when you pre-order the physical book, you can add the PDF version to your order for just $5, to download right away. If you prefer to shop from your local store, make sure they know about Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus, so you can get the same $5 PDF deal by pre-ordering through them.

Build Worlds of High Adventure!

Welcome to the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, a book of advice, examples, and in-depth discussion of various elements of tabletop fantasy roleplaying campaigns aimed specifically at Fantasy AGE. Included within you’ll find:

  • In-depth analysis of campaign structure, set-up, and play frameworks
  • Step-by-step advice on designing challenging encounters and interesting adventures
  • Monster and character design assistance to help GMs make convincing, compelling, and challenging adversaries and foils for their campaigns
  • Information on designing religions and divinities
  • Notes on taking your campaigns beyond ordinary power levels and into the realms of truly epic adventure
  • Modifying and adjusting your campaigns to embrace various fantasy subgenres such as fantasy horror, historical fantasy, or post-apocalyptic horror
  • An assortment of helpful tables throughout the book to help generate everything from businesses and criminal organizations, to cults and religions

Each chapter includes detailed examples of the advice and guidelines within, showing how to directly implement the tools and advice of the Campaign Builder’s Guide. The Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide requires the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, and users will find the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary exceptionally useful when using this book.

Step up your game with the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide!

Trust in the Scarab: Threefold’s Sodality, Part 1

“What do characters do, exactly?” To be honest, I have always had mixed feelings about the core story concept in roleplaying games. Many new games are a tad narrow in focus, with excessively defined goals, at least for my tastes, especially when one of the things I love about RPGs are their looser objectives. Threefold fits this ethos in that the setting is enormous, but it presents a bunch of different story levers to pull. It has a few key themes, but you’re supposed to develop your own reactions to them. The book is a conversation we’re having with you, not a set of dictums.

(What is Threefold? Do try to keep up—it’s the new setting for Modern AGE, coming this Gen Con!)

Scarabs can be willed to change size. This one (a Searcher branch scarab) is small for easy or clandestine handling.

However, you have to start somewhere, so Threefold focuses on characters who belong to two factions: The Sodality and Aethon. The Sodality is the bigger partner, so I’ll start with it, and how it focuses characters on certain types of stories.

The Sodality’s Agenda

Ex infinito, intelligentia (“From infinity, intelligence”) is the Latin translation of the Sodality’s motto, rendered in formal Shabda and often perceived as Latin by those who know both it and the all-language. An agency of the Vitane’s interplanar democracy, it engages in exploration, understanding, diplomacy, and—when necessary—intervention, hoping to improve the fortunes of all soul-bearing beings. Its goals are described as “security, sovereignty, and sapience.”

  • Security: The Sodality exists to protect the Vitane and to further its growth and development as a civilization.
  • Sovereignty: Following the Vitane Code of Wisdom, the Sodality respects the rights of civilizations to govern themselves and control their own development.
  • Sapience: Lastly, the Sodality exists to explore, learn, and establish understanding and goodwill among all thinking beings.

Sodality Organization

Missions make up the core of the Sodality. These are small, dedicated teams of three to six Sodalts (as they’re called, individually) and allies who are given a general mandate to interpret as they see fit within the bounds of the Vows, and specific orders when required. The Sodality prefers to staff Missions with at least one Sodalt from each branch, though this is not always possible. The three branches parallel the organization’s goals.

  • The Emissary Branch deals with people, which is a particularly broad group where the Vitane is concerned. Emissaries are trained as negotiators and diplomats, but also understand espionage and how to guard against it.
  • The Protector Branch looks after the safety and security of the Mission, and the Sodality and the Vitane in general. Protectors are trained in security, strategy, and tactics.
  • The Searcher Branch is a group of scholars, scientists, technicians, and explorers who study the nature of the planes, map out their relationships and the routes between them, and delve into the arcane and the occult.

Tools of the Sodality

A Sodalt’s signature accoutrement is their scarab. This gem and metal badge identifies the wearer as a member of the organization, with colors indicating division: amethyst and gold for Emissaries, garnet and silver for Protectors, and emerald and bronze for Searchers. Beyond acting as identification, a scarab has several magical functions. It acts as a communications device, stores magical energy (important on Earth, where kanna, the power of magic, is hard to recharge), sheds light, and provides some protection from the elements.

A complimentary standard issue item, the Shabda Plaque, is a white sheet of stone that says “THE BEARER IS AUTHORIZED” or something similar in Shabda, the universal language. This carries an enchantment where weak and average wills see the proper credentials to enter crime scenes, back rooms, or do anything required, though it doesn’t work on better-trained individuals.

Missions use these and other assigned tools on a variety of operations. They explore the planes, negotiate treaties, keep the peace, and above all, adhere to the Vows, an internal code of honor that, despite disparagement from their enemies, mostly functions to keep the Sodality focused on keeping the peace. Next time around, I’ll talk about the Sodality’s organization some more, from supervising Magisters to itinerant Wardens. Until then, trust in the scarab. The person wearing one is thinking of your best interests.

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Asked and Answered

Hey folks, Jack here. As we are getting ready to release the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide literally any day now, I thought I’d take a moment to answer three of the more common questions I’ve gotten leading up to the release. Hopefully this sheds a bit of light on the book’s content.

Epic Play! Art by Mirco Paganessi.

Q: You said the book has a chapter on epic play, you mean high level play?

A: Well yes and no. I mean epic play. Big sweeping threats, plots, and other elements. Deadly artifacts and beings with godlike powers. Dogs and cats, living together. You know, mass hysteria.

That often is high level stuff. When heroes hit the upper levels of the game, they start to run into more dragons, demon lords, and similar nasty threats. These threats tend towards big ambitions and can often affect things on a national if not global scale. But on the other hand? One of the most famous stories in fantasy is about a short little gentleman farmer and his gardener taking a magic artifact to the most dangerous place in the world so they can destroy it and in doing so basically kill an evil god. Epic as all hell, but the heroes weren’t necessarily Level 20 badasses.  So the book will talk about both high level and just generally epic play, including how to make campaigns where heroes are godlings and divinely powered superhumans from Level 1 if desired—mechanically its simpler than many think.

Q: What kind of Alternate Rules Does the Book Have?

A: There are several optional and alternate rules for GMs wishing to give their campaign a certain flavor or feel. These generally combine very well with similar rules in the Fantasy AGE Companion. For example, in a dark fantasy game a GM might take the new Grave Wounds optional rule and combine it with rules from the Fantasy Age Companion for increased lethality for a very dangerous and gritty campaign. On the other hand, another GM might use action points and other similar rules from the Companion and add in the Cinematic Acrobatics rules for a Wu Xia-style fantasy campaign. And so on.

Some of these rules are brand new. Some others are adapted from other AGE system games, though usually with noteworthy changes. Which brings us to…

Q: Wait, Haven’t I seen this Stuff Before?

Maybe. While the majority of the book is new content, in a few cases rules from Dragon Age, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE were adapted for a particular element of campaign building. This was done so that customers didn’t need to buy books outside the Fantasy AGE line to get an appropriate rule. In most cases these rules were altered or adapted, such as with the Investigation Stunts included in the book—these are similar but not identical to those found in Modern AGE.

Also, in a couple rare instances an older rule or concept from Fantasy AGE itself was revisited to preserve the step by step flow of the book’s chapters on campaign building. The prime example of this is the inclusion of a summary of the Companion/Follower rules, as well as briefly revisiting Honorifics, Memberships, and Titles in the chapter on building campaign rewards.

These concepts are revisited because the discussion in the Campaign Builders Guide is about how the GM can design, use, and incorporate these elements as rewards as part of a larger campaign building strategy. As an important part of campaign development? We came back to them for a brief section to avoid the distraction their absence would cause—especially in readers who haven’t yet picked up the Fantasy AGE Companion.

I hope that clears up a few common inquiries and shows how the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide combines campaign building advice, new content, and the occasional revisiting of established AGE elements to help GMs form and shape their own settings and campaigns.

Threefold: 10 Weird Things in the Metacosm

Hey, I knew I was going to have to toss a listicle in this series of articles about Threefold, our new, original Modern AGE setting, but better to get it out of the way now instead of leaving it for the dregs, right? If you’ve been following along, you know Threefold takes place in the Metacosm, which includes myriad planes of existence, from fantasy lands to alternate Earths, connected by gates. There’s a lot of room for weirdness. Here are ten examples.

Self Pork. Not just good, but good for you. Headless clones only, guaranteed!

Cantor

A life support cannister containing the cloned brain tissue of a mystic who has recited poetry and prose praising science and technology. A properly deployed Cantor mitigates the effects of Incessance, a phenomenon that makes high technology less reliable on certain planes.

Deletion

Erasing an alternate timeline by destroying all intelligent life and sealing it off. One of the duties of Aethon, prime Earth’s transhuman intelligence agency, though they’re not always sure why they have to do it.

Engrammatry

A new discipline in science and engineering in the Haqida Technocratic Republic, a pan-Mediterranean state in an alternate Earth where the Abbasid Caliphate persisted and spawned even more influential successor states. Engrammatry creates physical phenomena through pure computation—reality out of math.

Immortal Crowns: Lands of Wartorn

A fully immersive MMO that allows players to inhabit synthetic “heroes” called Wayknights in the Otherworld of Wartorn. Astrally projected instructions from the player’s rig control their Wayknights, which are themselves relics of a lost civilization. Many normal people also live on Wartorn and fear the bloodthirsty Wayknights.

Krypt

A digital-psychic cryptocurrency rendered unhackable due to a causal interaction with the Titan Core, a future transcendental AI. A Krypt must sync with a physical component, such as a coin or tattoo (the latter has made the skins of certain individuals extremely valuable). The primary currency of the Krypteia, a multiplanar crime syndicate.

Self Pork

A gray market medical foodstuff made of the purchaser’s cloned tissue, prepared as jerky and given a little engineering along the way. Eating self pork made of…well, yourself…instigates rapid healing. The most trusted brand, Choppy, is named for its mascot, who’s got no head and two thumbs up.

Shabda

The universal language, known to wandersouls, those individuals capable of easily perceiving transplanar gates. When one knows Shabda, most languages are translated into and perceived as one’s first language, with occasional unusual nuances, such as posh aliens acquiring comparably posh British accents.

Sky Naga

Creatures who live in floating cloud lairs on the Otherworld of Brylancie. Their aerial battles are responsible for all weather and atmospheric phenomena, so local humans try to appease them by leaving fresh meat out for them at night. Brylancie’s moons are sky naga eggs; their numbers change every few decades. Fallen moon shell fragments are worth their weight in gold.

Shattersouls

Agents of Aethon capable of attuning themselves to their alters, or alternate timeline selves. Shattersouls are valued as deep cover operatives, as they are able to intuit the ways in which a given Earth deviates from the primeline. However, shattersouls are “spread thin,” psychically speaking, and this lowers their resistance to possession and sometimes transfers traumatic memories from alters.

Soulgun

An enchanted firearm capable of sustaining a Relationship (as per Modern AGE) with the user, though this makes said users seem somewhat remote when it comes to dealing with people. Soulguns are particularly favored by arcannoneers, who master channelling magical energy through these and other firearms.

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Necessary Tools and Hard Sells

Hey folks, Jack here. Today we’re talking about our soon to be released Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. So what is it? Well, its not a traditional rulebook or adventure…

And right there is where I’ve lost some of you. That’s okay. Let’s see if I can bring you back.

There’s both a definite need and strange reaction to how-to guides, toolkits, and other books in various game lines. While they are appreciated by many, there is a rather vocal minority that not only is sure they don’t need these books but tells others they don’t and even sometimes goes so far as to declare such releases a waste of…something. Time, resources, money, you name it. I see this sometimes when I’m haunting various corners of the internet looking for an idea about what products to propose or what to include in them.

However, if you haunt the messages boards and gaming discussions of the internet, you also see one of the biggest roadblocks to people playing a particular game is “that’s cool, but what do I do with it?” Without a clear guide for how campaigns start, run, and continue, sometimes its hard to get started. This has increased with the influx of newer gamers recently, mostly brought in by streaming and other media treatments of RPGs. We also see a lot of “Man I want to run this, but I am just not sure how. Especially a campaign, how do you even do that?”

It doesn’t stop there, either. Large discussions about “how do I hack this game for this genre?” or “How do I design monsters for this?” are very common. These are also questions sometimes we writers and designers get directly. And these questions aren’t just from new gamers, but anyone who finds that despite their considerable gaming abilities, some parts of conceiving, creating, and running a campaign either elude them or are just kind of a slog.

That’s where, at least for Fantasy AGE, the Campaign Builder’s Guide comes in. It’s a filled with examples, advice, random tables, and various other tools to build campaigns—in whole or in part. And while its undeniably true that veteran GMs will get less out of this book than the rookies, it was written and designed with everyone in mind.

Because if you’re like me? You have your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to preparation, design, campaign building, etc… Maybe you make killer monsters and adventures, but how to really capture epic play eludes you. Maybe you’re a wonderful encounter builder and everyone loves your NPCs, but when you tried to design a religion for that religious order, you don’t feel you managed it well. The Campaign Builder’s Guide covers enough topics and concepts it has a little something for everyone, and a lot of something for many people.

So what’s covered? Well there are advice and examples for:

  • Campaign concepts and frameworks.
  • Encounter building
  • Adventure building
  • Building rewards
  • Character building 
  • Location creation
  • Designing divinities and religions.
  • Sub-genres and genre specific campaign changes
  • Running epic campaigns
  • Monster building

Plus, random tables to help GMs generate ideas on the fly. 

So there’s a lot in there. I daresay something for everyone. I’m going to wrap up with a little preview—a look at an example of Campaign Framework design, the Mean Streets of Kavask.

Threefold: What’s in a Name?

Some of you were lucky enough to get the Free RPG Day Threefold Quickstart, and may have learned a bit about this, our first original Modern AGE setting. If not, you can learn a bit more by reading my last article about Threefold, written before the new Quickstart (which we’ll be able to make available to a wider audience in July) dropped.

But what’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in the name Threefold. This got attached to the project early, as a way of acknowledging the three elements I wanted to bind together: modern fantasy, contemporary horror, and near future, Singularity-sensitive SF. As we put it together, nothing else fit better, and in fact, it became even more suitable as we invented more of the Metacosm.

Three members of the Sodality, a branch of the Vitane, survey a new plane.

The Threefold Metacosm

Gates connect most of Threefold’s innumerable planes, allowing passage for those initiated into the Metacosm’s nature. Each plan is unique, but an informed traveler knows they belong to three primary categories.

Earths: Earths consist of the primeline (which connects via gates to Otherworlds) and Alts, branched-off histories (also called worldlines) which rarely have gates, so that they must be reached through Earth via extraordinary technologies. Magic functions poorly on Earth, but natural laws work with such reliable potency that it is the birthplace of the most sophisticated feats of science and engineering. Beings of order and information called Machinors mind the many Earths.

Otherworlds: Otherworlds shimmer with kanna, the creative energy that makes magic possible. Things which are legends on Earth are very real in the Otherworlds, though every myth is inaccurate, incomplete, or out of date. Most of the “gods,” or Hierarchs, have been driven away or gone into hiding, and new societies have sprung from ancient kingdoms. High technology functions less reliably, but magic often replaces it.

Netherworlds: Where Earth’s humans might regard Otherworlds as realms of Golden Age legend, they’d see their Glooms, Infernos, and demonic incarnations in the Netherworlds. Alastor demon-monarchs rule each Netherworld; their personalities influence their domains, and vice versa. Rivers of green fire and bleeding trees are not unusual. Natural laws bend as if influenced by a sadistic intelligence.

A few planes called Heterarchies defy the three categories, as their histories confer unique properties.

The Three Great Powers

Threefold takes place in the present, which is also the waning of the Third Age, which began at the end of the Fellwar: a prehistoric conflict for control of the Metacosm’s souls. Humans of all kinds, from the rough dreygur to the elemental huldra, defied gods and demon lords to bring peace. In that peace, three great powers arose, and now stand at the threshold of a new war, or perhaps some other, unexpected transformation. The powers are:

The Vitane: Risen from refugees of the Fellwar, the Vitane follow a doctrine called the Code of Wisdom which orients its society toward learning, democracy, and respect for the rights of numerous peoples, including the right to be left alone. The Vitane hides itself on worlds where planar travel isn’t common knowledge, including Earth. The Vitane has no true military, but its exploratory arm, the Sodality, includes fighting Protectors alongside its Emissaries and Searchers.

The Divine Empire: The end of the Fellwar threw most of the Hierarchs, the old god-rulers of the Otherworlds, into exile, but their children, the Optimate demigods, still felt they were due certain entitlements. Attempts to acquire these through Vitane democracy failed and eventually, many planes followed a splinter faction under Dyraza, self-proclaimed First (and only) Empress of the Divine Empire. Dyraza was slain by the Alastor, Avakim, and no successor has replaced her, but the Empire’s theocracy, where Optimates rule mortals across dozens of planes, abides.

The Nighthost: During the Fellwar, one host of soldiers commanded by the Netherworlds rebelled, inspiring others to do the same, until they became a mighty warrior society, the Nighthost. Nighthost warbands are raiders and warlords, who respect strength and relish a fair fight—or a properly framed unfair one. They’re a scourge of the planes, but greeted as liberators when they attack Netherworlds, and free their tortured inhabitants.

Okay, there is one more faction, but it’s not transplanar in the usual sense. The Peridexion is Earth’s secret government, under the rule of a collective of transcendental intelligences who monitor multiple spacetime continua. Allied with the Vitane, the Peridexion sends certain agents on missions with Vitane counterparts. We’ll talk more about these organizations next time. As for Threefold, we expect to have it at Gencon—watch for it!

Modern AGE: From the Companion to Threefold

I’m leaving for Origins tomorrow and over there, Green Ronin may well have copies of the Modern AGE Companion available (though at this time of writing, pre-order is still a possibility). Yet it also happens that Origins will fall across Free RPG Day. Due to the rules of Free RPG Day, which put the spotlight on retailers, we won’t have our offering, the Threefold Quickstart, at the booth (862), but I’d love to see in in the wild if you find it nearby!

The new Quickstart is all about the upcoming Threefold setting. Let me tease it a bit here, with the very first worlds you’ll read from the full Threefold hardcover, which is on target for Q3 of this year.

 

 

Introduction

What if you could go anywhere?

Let’s unpack that. By “go,” we mean through gates between worlds: magical portals arrayed in routes called chains. We mean using the quantum ark, which threads our waveforms through the needle’s eye of marginal possibilities to other configurations of time.

By “anywhere,” we mean blinding heavens, fiery hells, machine worlds a century ahead of our own, impossibly sharp mountain tops whose residents are sorcerer-hermits. They don’t want you to visit, but they might be the only ones able to answer some esoteric question, which might even lead you to another world: perhaps via Vigrith, plane of a thousand gates, or Alatum, where the children of lost gods rule an empire, or one of the countless planes where the Nighthost, warriors who defeated their demon generals before recorded history, pillage and conquer.

And by “anywhere,” we also mean parts of our world you thought of as legends, old and new. We mean the rotting mansions of psychic secret societies, the secret labs that make soldiers and spies, the Gray Hand where the secret world government they always warned you about meets.

We mean places that never were, or could have been, or places we fear might exist through superstition or some future dystopian twist, and places we hope exist and are sending their extraordinary agents to help us find the better path.

There are too many possibilities to count, but we’ve settled on some rough classifications. Three of them—and three secret forces behind them. But in the end, you’re the one who might determine the ultimate form of everything that was, is, and shall be. That’s Threefold.

Andrzej, a Sodalt of the Protector branch, as is obvious from his scarab badge. What does that all mean? Oh, we’ll get to that.

Welcome to the Metacosm

Threefold is the first original setting for Modern AGE and, as such, requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook for use with the new game systems herein. Threefold is cross-genre, embracing fantasy, horror, and science fiction, and it’s designed to make maximum use of Modern AGE’s possibilities. This means players can potentially use any option in Modern AGE to make their characters, including those that give them extraordinary powers. It means characters can come from a staggering array of backgrounds, from worlds where magic and travel between the planes of existence is commonplace, to the most ordinary lives here on Earth—though in the latter case, those lives are unlikely to stay normal. Using the rules in this book, you can play a demon-haunted occultist, a wizard from a magical college, or a tactical cyborg—and all three of these characters could play in the same campaign.

The backbone of Threefold that allows this is the Metacosm: the universe of universes. There are countless realities, or planes of existence, belonging to three basic categories: Earth and its alternate timelines; the Otherworlds, where magic is a powerful force; and the harsh Netherworlds, where malefic forces reign. In most cases, these planes are connected by gates. Gates are hard to create, destroy, or block, so their presence creates routes through many planes, spawning trade, empires, and warfare. Our Earth is one of thousands of these planes, though our unique physical laws and no small amount of conspiratorial effort hide the greater Metacosm from us.

And?

Here and there I’ll be talking about the Threefold setting, releasing further information before it drops later this year. See you then!

Remembering Alejandro Melchor

This week was supposed to be set aside for me to talk about the Modern AGE Companion a little more, but I want to talk about Alejandro (aka Alex, or Al-X) Melchor instead. Alex passed away last week, due to the extended complications of a stroke he suffered in March.

Alex worked on every Modern AGE book currently at any stage of completion. In the core, he wrote rules, focuses, talents and part of the extensive Game Master advice in that book. He brought his talents to the World of Lazarus, the Modern AGE Companion, and the upcoming Threefold and Enemies & Allies, too. I’m currently looking for writers for a new book. It has an Alex-shaped hole in it now.

I first got to know him through a semiprivate community we shared, in 2001. I’d just been invited, as responses to my early professional work for White Wolf had been good. Alex did some work for them as well before taking an intensive gig with Mongoose Publishing in the early 2000s. I drifted away and he was busy, though I knew him through the Open Game License credits I bumped into while designing my own stuff. In the interim he developed an enormous list of credits, tending toward mechanically intensive work. I’d say one great thing about him is he could work on rules that reinforce stories and atmosphere, because getting game systems down was quick work for him.

Steve Kenson got to know Alex well, and took the lead in doing what we could to help when he fell ill. He reintroduced me to Alex, and Alex became a bedrock contributor for Modern AGE. He did so much more, in his own communities, on other games, and with other creative people, but I don’t want to presume to talk about any of that. We worked hard. We made some good ideas playable together. And he was unfailingly nice to everyone, a born collaborator, but didn’t hesitate to point out what he thought would be bad ideas.

According to family and friends, Alex liked proactive, resourceful, tough woman protagonists. Modern AGE uses a loose set of iconic characters created by the writers. Alex created Indra Winchester, the technically-inclined punk, who you can see on the cover of the Modern AGE Companion and inside the books of the line. In examples, he’s her player. I plan to keep it that way.

It seems so inane to go through his qualities as a creative guy, when of course there was more, but he was my comrade in making games. That’s what I’ve got to work with, even though it’s not enough to give the man his due. He was a visual artist, and beloved by various communities. And more, always more. In and out of this industry, I won’t be missing him alone, and won’t be the only one feeling new gaps in what might be possible, in work and life. I’m going to miss him.

 

Ronin Roundtable: Expansive Future

The Expanse Roleplaying Game, along with The Expanse Quickstart and GM’s Kit, are just the beginning of the game products for the popular sci-fi series. Green Ronin has more in the works, including two follow-up products that will round out and complete the stretch goals of the successful Kickstarter, and then some. Let’s peer into the future of The Expanse RPG with a look at those.

Abzu’s Bounty

One stretch goal of The Expanse RPG Kickstarter was a campaign series of adventures to supplement adventure material in the core book, GM’s Kit, and Quickstart. That series is Abzu’s Bounty, a complete Expanse campaign with a linked series of six adventures. It is designed as a “starter” game, although it contains advice on moving from one or more of the already published adventures into the series, and has links to the background of the “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” adventure from the core book. The player characters in Abzu’s Bounty go from relative nobodies to potentially deciding the future of the System by the end of the campaign.

No spoilers as to the plot, but Abzu’s Bounty ventures across the System, from the Outer to the Inner Planets and back, and includes a means of supplying the crew with a ship of their own. There is also plenty of Expanse-style skullduggery and intrigue along the way. By the end of the series, characters should be in the mid-level range, starting at 2nd and ending up 7th or 8th level, leaving plenty of room to grow as The Expanse RPG does.

Abzu’s Bounty is written and developed, and in the editing and art phase of production.

Ships of the Expanse

The other major stretch goal of the Kickstarter was deck plans for a number of ship classes from The Expanse setting. Those will feature as part of the forthcoming Ships of the Expanse sourcebook; backers will get downloads of all of the stretch goal deck plans, but the sourcebook will include those and much more. In particular, Ships will take the basic chapter on ship-building and in-game use of ships from the core rules and build upon it, offering expanded details, options, and ways of creating and using ships in your own game.

Plus there will be those deck plans and details, closer looks at even more types of ships found in The Expanse, what they look like and how they’re laid out. This will make Ships of the Expanse a popular book with fans of the series and gamers alike.

Ships of the Expanse is in the design phase, with authors just completing their first drafts, as it moves into development.

Further Out

As players of The Expanse RPG know, the core book focuses on the period between the first two novels (Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War) with a lot of Expanse history waiting to unfold in the future. We’ve identified several distinct eras to Expanse game play, and the next one takes the setting and the series “further out” than ever before—far further than most of humanity ever imagined—once the protomolecule’s mysterious work on Venus is complete.