School’s. In. For. EVER! (Ronin Roundtable)

Green Ronin is a small family, so usually we all pitch in and help each other with mutual projects, doing some outlining or writing or editing or proofing on each other’s lines when things get tight, so it’s always exciting and special when a new product comes out that you haven’t seen until it’s newly born and ready to go home to a loving family. For me, Fantasy AGE Lairs is one of those rare babies I never met until it was ready for the baby shower.

I thought it would be a cool experience to pick one of the book’s eight titular lairs at random and read through it blind and give my first impression. The d8 came up 4, so I read the Yunivircity of Taabak!

The Elevator Pitch

The Yunivircity of Taabak is an innovative cosmic horror landscape you can drop into your Fantasy AGE world if you like Lovecraftian high-concept horror. A Being wants to exist, but can’t yet, and so it has inspired an obsession with how to make itself exist in a single woman… or that woman’s obsession with the potential for the Being to exist made it want to exist. Causality is tricky with things that don’t exist yet. Either way, this student’s work linked her to the being’s own not-quite-existing nature, and she became less of an individual and more of a vague concept. And soon she spread that intellectual infection to her entire school, transforming the entire university into the concept of a university and putting everyone trapped inside to work figuring out how they can eventually make their cosmic god real.

The entire landscape is just concepts of things—gray blocks for buildings, green sheets for laws, stacked geometric solids for students—devoid of any personal details. It’s an adventure inside the Dire Straights Money for Nothing music video. And if you attend classes too long, you stop being you and just become another concept of a student trying to bring this god into existence.

The Yunivircity is filled with other unique beings—students, instructors, and others—who are victims and threats all at the same time, who will leave you alone if you play along, attend your classes, and help with the research… but conforming to the group eats away at your individuality, which is the only things keeping you from fading away and becoming just like them. So you’re on a timer here, trying to fit in while still clinging to your unique identity just to survive. There’s a multi-stage template that grows slowly worse, like a disease, to help measure, ironically making you more powerful the more of your self you surrender to the Yunivircity.

It’s all the worst elements of public school, distilled down to the nightmarish extreme!

Whose Lair?

So, it’s a lair, right? Who or what lairs there? The being itself is left pretty vague, like any good cosmic horror, and you can’t fight it because it doesn’t exist yet. It’s an idea trying to force itself to exist, and you can’t punch an idea in the face.

Instead you’ll have to punch the Headmaster, the original student who contacted the being, or who created the being. Let’s not go down that road again. She’s lost her identity and exists as a stereotype of a school headmaster, pushing the entire campus toward the magical, scientific, and theological breakthroughs that will create her Being. She’s got magic for days and can control the Yunivircity itself, but she also has a face you can punch. As a cool twist, there are still bits of her individuality hidden around campus, too, trying to sabotage her own efforts.

There’s also the Dean of Discipline, who’s there to make sure everyone exists as a tidy concept and doesn’t let silly things like individuality or free will stop the students and instructors from working hard toward their shared goal. Like the Headmaster, the Dean is a unique monster and a serious beatstick that you won’t beat without a plan, but unlike the Headmaster, she’s a tower of muscle and sinew and eyes who will tear you apart with her bare hands.

But the Yuniviristy is built as a sort of looming horror of conformity. So long as you fit in and surrender to fate, no one—not the instructors or the Headmaster or the Dean—even notice you, let alone attack. The real monster here is dread and the fear of losing your individuality.

Why Would You Go There?

The Yunivircity is creepy and corrupts you and is inhabited by a weird abstract demi-god faculty, so why would you ever visit it? You may not have a choice. This is a lair that can come to you. The school is constantly recruiting talented minds, dragging them into its unreal existence to convert into its vague conceptual students. A friendly scholar, or even your party wizard, might be brought into the Yunivircity as a “new student,” prompting the rest of the group to undertake a rescue mission. Or the Yunivircity might impose itself over a local school campus for a few hours or days to collect a freshman class.

Even if you don’t end up with the college of improbable engineering landing in your lap, you might visit it for the same reason heroes visit any site of cosmic power: Because you don’t want an unfathomable god wrecking up your planet! Or you might aim a little slower and just want to plunder the Yunivircity’s library for rare books or magic, or to save the only person in the world who knows a vital clue for your wider campaign. I can easily see the Yunivircity being a terrible place you need to revisit repeatedly in your campaign to learn new clue or find forbidden knowledge, learning a little more about how it works each time until you’re powerful enough to end its threat.

The Final Verdict

I like it!

I know, I know! “You’re a Ronin! They pay you to say you like it!” Well, for what it’s worth, I’m reading and writing this while on vacation, visiting my parents’ humble swamp shack in rural Florida. I’m spending part of my vacation to check out a book I’m excited about as a GM. Is the Yunivircity a little niche? Yeah. Is it going to fit every campaign? Probably not, but looking back at the table of contents, Lairs includes cool fantasy tropes like a ghoul castle and a dragon’s lair (sadly, no Space Ace), and I’m glad there was room for weird alongside the standard tropes!

Would *I*, Crystal the Gamemaster, ever use the Yunivircity? Absolutely! It’s cool and weird and gives you game mechanics for a lot of cool horror concepts! Even if I didn’t use this lair as written, I can strip-mine this entry to build my own version.

And I get the distinct impression the Yunivircity of Taabak would work incredibly well in Blue Rose or Modern AGE as well, maybe even better than for a general Fantasy AGE campaign! I guess my players will find out.

Fantasy AGE Lairs: The Battle of the Beleaguered GM (Ronin Roundtable)

I was originally going to title this “The Lair of the Lazy GM” to get the reference to the new Fantasy AGE Lairs book in there, but decided that wasn’t fair, because it’s not a matter of laziness, but one of time.

It should come as little surprise that I loved creating things for my various campaigns as a Game Master. It’s one of the reasons I eventually got into doing it professionally as a writer and designer. Thing is, when I was at the peak of my own output in terms of creating things for my games, I was in my 20s, living with most of my game-group as roommates, and without many of the more—shall we say “mature adult”?—responsibilities that I have now. In short, I had more time and energy to devote to that kind of thing, to say nothing of the fact that I didn’t do it for work.

Which is all a long way of leading up to talking about Fantasy AGE Lairs, which (like several upcoming Green Ronin products) addresses the issue that a lot of us modern-day Game Masters face: “I want to run a game, but I don’t have time to prep everything.” I know that my own games these days tend to focus on either: 1) Things that I’m playtesting for work, or: 2) Published adventures and campaigns I can use as-is with a little customization.

Lairs helps with preparation on a couple of different fronts. The first is simply that it offers eight complete and ready-to-play adventures, each of which could occupy multiple game sessions. But it’s more than just an adventure collection since, as the title implies, Lairs offers location-based adventures, detailing a particular place that is the lair or home of the main threat of the adventure. From the Valley of the Whispering Titans to the Peak of the Mithral Dragon, Fantasy AGE Game Masters will find a variety of places they can drop into their own campaigns, and possibly expand upon, reuse, or build on to create further adventures. Indeed, each location in Lairs also features a set of four to six ideas for additional adventures in that setting.

Lairs also expands upon the Fantasy AGE stunt system with Location and Lair Stunts, based on the qualities of a place and time rather than a character or creature, tying the acquisition and use of Stunt Points into where the characters are in the adventure as well as what they are doing. Even without this exciting new spin, it would be a useful book for a Fantasy AGE Game Master who wants adventures by and for Fantasy AGE that are ready for hours of gaming fun.

This book is your ally in winning the battle of the beleaguered Game Master and can make the difference when it comes to being able to run your own Fantasy AGE game.

Fantasy AGE Lairs Pre-Order and PDF

Fantasy AGE LairsFantasy AGE Lairs is now available for pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store. When you place the pre-order in your cart, you’ll be offered the PDF version of Lairs for just $5! To take advantage of the deal, make sure to press “Add To Cart” on the pop-up. If you’d rather support your local store, make sure they know about our GR Pre-Order Plus program, through which you can get a coupon code for the PDF when you pre-order the print book through the store.

Fantasy AGE Lairs: Into the belly of the beast!

In this collection from some of the finest writers in gaming, each chapter introduces a new powerful adversary, including their lair, minions, and recommendations for using these threats in your Fantasy AGE campaigns. Also included are the all-new location stunts, allowing enemies and heroes alike to better use their environment in play.

Just some of the menacing monsters and their lairs include:

  • The ravenous Ghoul Prince, who rules his army of flesh eaters from his crumbling keep.
  • The legendary Clockwork Dragon, terrorizing the skies from its mountain stronghold along with its army of mechanical monsters.
  • The corrupted Dark Druid, whose twisted magic threatens all who enter his cursed valley.
  • The blood crazed Sea Queen, bringing madness and slaughter with her berserker minions, blood magics, and deadly living island reef.

Each lair also includes an adventure framework for introducing the menace into Fantasy AGE campaigns, as well as numerous adventure seeds and ideas for further encounters.

Fantasy AGE Lairs requires a copy of the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, and works hand in glove with the Fantasy AGE Bestiary.

Warflower (Modern AGE Missions PDF) Now Available

Warflower (Modern AGE Missions PDF) Available NowThe Warflower inspires medieval sword masters and drug dealing alchemists alike, to discover its secrets—and kill for them. When this obscure 15th Century book gets stolen, strange, violent factions battle over its destiny, influenced by hidden forces who want the book’s secrets for themselves. Your team must uncover the secret contained in the Warflower’s pages—and your Game Master decides what that mystery is.

Warflower is an adventure for Modern AGE characters levels 1 to 4, with rules to play in any Mode and multiple options for its central mystery, so Game Masters can adapt it to supernatural, high-tech, or down to earth campaigns. 

Originally the official Green Ronin Freebooter adventure introducing Modern AGE at Gencon 2018, Warflower has been revised and laid out with art as a PDF everyone can enjoy. Set in our early 21st Century, the adventure is otherwise suitable for multiple campaign settings, from your own to Green Ronin’s Threefold.

Warflower is the first offering in the Modern AGE Missions series. Modern AGE Missions are single serving PDF adventures designed as one shots or to be integrated into ongoing campaigns. Look for future Modern AGE Missions alongside other Modern AGE electronic offerings.

Check out Modern AGE’s published settings: Lazarus (or Lazarus PDF here) and Threefold (or Threefold PDF here)

From Freelance to Dev (Ronin Roundtable)

I’m not normally a big fan of surprises, but I’ll make an exception for this one. When Joseph Carriker asked me if I’d like to write a Ronin Roundtable about making the jump from freelancer to developer, I was pretty psyched.

Coming Soon! Six of Cups is an Adventure Anthology for Blue Rose: The AGE RPG, just in time for Green Ronin Publishing’s 20th Anniversary!

I first inquired about writing for Green Ronin back in 2011, but my timing was bad and there were no projects in need of authors, just then. Even at that point, I’d been at this a long time, and that sort of thing happens: if you don’t have the good luck to ask right when a developer has an open slot on a project, the best you can usually hope for is for your name to go into the (often pretty big) pile of interested prospective writers for some other job, down the line. Fast forward a few more years and several more inquiries, however, and I got my break, doing some work for the Chronicle System. Only a couple of years on from there, in 2016, Joseph offered me the chance to take a crack at doing some fill-in development work on Desert Threats (again, for the Chronicle System), and I jumped at the opportunity to once again try my hand at an aspect of roleplaying game design with which I’d previously had only minimal experience.

Fast forward yet another several years and a bunch of development jobs, getting a little more hands-on with the process, each time, and I’ve come to understand that really is a whole different sort of beast. When you’re writing as a freelancer, you’re trying to realize, in a way that’s entertaining and informative, a vision that’s been outlined for you. You have input into what you’re creating, of course, but you’re almost always playing in a sandbox with firm borders. Development, on the other hand, entails bouncing ideas back and forth with other folks on the high-concept end of things, working to craft the vision that others will then put more extensively into words. In essence, you’re the one building the sandbox, and you have to create it with an eye toward making it a fun and rewarding place in which others get to play, while also stocking it with all the stuff they’ll need to get the job done right.

With writing, you have to be mindful of cooperating well with your fellow authors, but, beyond that, you’ve generally got quite a lot of autonomy—as long as you follow the developer’s instructions, you’re pretty much always good to go. Development demands an almost entirely distinct (and much more rigorously collaborative) skillset. You’re effectively a project manager, keeping everyone on track and maintaining the work as a cohesive whole, every step of the way, but there’s rather a lot more to it than that. You’re also the first-pass editor and art director, laying the groundwork for the actual editor and art director to do their jobs, and you’re absolutely going to need to do at least a little bit of writing, too; not just the book’s introduction (which is usually part of development duties), but also anything, at all, that ends up needing to be filled in. Similarly, pretty much anything that falls under “miscellaneous,” whether foreseen or unforeseen, ends up as part of your job. You’re the interface between the front-end and back-end of the creative aspects of the project, fielding questions from both sides, and trying to make everything run as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. Ultimately, though, there’s no feeling quite like seeing a book take shape, starting as a mere skeleton of an outline, and ending as a fully fleshed out addition to a setting you love.

So, yeah: adjusting to development has definitely involved a learning curve, but it helps to be working with great folks, all of whom bring their different strengths and perspectives to the table, even as I hone the skills that help me to bring my best work to each new book (and, in the process, to your gaming table!)

Modern AGE’s Enemies & Allies: Getting Normal (Ronin Roundtable)

Last time I posted about Enemies & Allies I talked about some of the ideas that went into design and development, but I used the chapters on fantasy, horror, and science fiction to illustrate my points. See this post for a rundown on this book of characters and creatures and you’ll notice something: two more chapters covering more down to earth subjects. Chapter 2: Elite Operatives covers some of the highly skilled figures of espionage, technothriller fiction, and some procedurals. Chapter 4: Crime and Punishment, gets into crooks and cops. Let’s talk about the ideas informing these chapters.

Who’s after you? Your character may not know but with Enemies & Allies, your GM does.

Elite Operatives: Aid and Opposition

Dylan Birtolo’s chapter covers a slate of highly skilled Non-Player Characters. In this case, the important thing was to populate the chapter with interesting, useful NPCs. This chapter’s primary focus is action and espionage, so we have the Armored Soldier, Double Agent, Field Agent, and Field Commander. In addition, we present the unique NPC Clara Lynch, a martial arts expert with military connections who can act as a gateway to the other elite characters in the book. In addition, we present the Negotiator and Publicist not only because not all highly skilled NPCs are combatants, but because they can provide valuable aid in areas typical characters aren’t good at.

This is not to say that we locked every character in this chapter to a straightforward function! Dylan included two entries that were generally useful, and deserved inclusion. First, the Robot Dog represents an automated threat or potential guardian based on cutting edge realistic technology. Many of us have seen the new generation of agile robots. The Robot Dog combines them with other innovations in artificial intelligence and, for the armed model, automatic targeting.

The Law and the Lawless: Populating the Underbelly

Ron Rummell’s chapter covers criminal and law enforcement. Both these elements are essential to modern games in virtually every genre, so we were especially careful to make it broadly useful. One of the most important aspects of this chapter is that it doesn’t limit itself to potential combatants, but NPCs covering the range of underworld and law enforcement figures who might appear in the campaign. Characters probably won’t get in shootouts with the Pickpocket, but that NPC may have stumbled across important information, or taken off with an object critical to the campaign. The Police Chief may not be on the front line, but they can call a citywide manhunt where Player Characters might join in or be its targets.

The other important element in this chapter was to carefully examine where any cultural biases may have pushed us, because these tend to manifest strongly in stories involving crime and the law. That manifested in how we developed the text, but also in how the art turned out. This means, for instance, that the image associated with the Mob Boss is that of an Asian woman who isn’t surrounded by the motifs associated with any stereotypical elements of any nationality’s organized crime group. Beyond ethical considerations, this gives the GM a sense of breathing room to devise their own groups.

After Enemies & Allies

This concludes my series about the book, but Modern AGE has more to come. Next time you read anything from me, it’ll probably be about Five and Infinity, the adventure series for Threefold—a setting that happens to accept Enemies & Allies as completely canonical. Talk to you then.

Developer’s Notes for Enemies & Allies (Ronin Roundtable)

With Enemies & Allies for Modern AGE coming up for release in March (although the pre-order and PDF are available now!), I thought I’d briefly share the thinking that guided my development. On the surface, a book of NPCs and creatures seems pretty straightforward: Cram the game statistics in, do the art notes, and get it out the door (well, to Production, who turns it into a book instead of text files). This is exactly why I wanted to do Enemies & Allies differently. So here, in no particular order, are some ideas that shaped the book. Some were mine; others belong to fellow authors.

All he wants is you. The Chameleon borrows lives with the new extraordinary power of Psychic Shapeshifting, found in Enemies & Allies.

Genre and Context

The most important thing about the book is that I wanted to provide ways to situate these characters and creatures in their respective genres. That’s why the book is divided into genre-based (covering fantasy, horror, elite modern operatives, cops and crooks, and science fiction), and each chapter begins with optional rules to make the genre work with the chapter’s entries and in Modern AGE generally.

Separation of Powers

Urban fantasy and horror are very closely related—so close that the point of difference can be a tricky judgment call. This is why I used the difference between magic and psychic powers in Modern AGE as a guiding principle. Fantasy creatures are generally categorized as magical, while entries related to the horror genre are linked to psychic phenomena. But since this is in some ways a division of convenience, Enemies & Allies gives you advice on switching things around.

Broader Horror

Written by Matthew Dawkins, the Horrors and Witnesses chapter of the book is all about scary monsters and malevolent NPCs, but the content may be a bit different than other horror RPG offerings. Weirdly enough, this is because horror in roleplaying games tends to hang around the Gothic horror and Lovecraftian weird tale genres. We don’t disparage or entirely exclude those things—indeed, we include specific rules to enforce Gothic themes, if you want them, and the Anomaly is certainly a being out of a weird tale—but this book also harkens to pop-horror roads less traveled, from enemies that pull you into dark dreams to the dangerous results of covert paranormal research. Plus of course, ghosts.

Cyberpunk and Secret Science

Tanya DePass’ Science’s Edge chapter was designed to work with both contemporary and near-future games. We’re well aware that cyberpunk is a popular genre for RPGs, and for Modern AGE campaigns specifically, but we didn’t want to leave out games inspired by science fiction set in the modern day. Thus, the characters in this chapter aren’t stuck to any specific period. You might encounter the book’s Bioroid Assassin in a setting where part-organic androids are common, or in one where they’re built by a secret cabal—or sent back in time on a lethal mission.

Folklore and Modern Fantasy

Will Sobel’s Arcane Beings chapter, covering modern fantasy, doesn’t update classic fantasy creatures, but draws from recent folklore too. Legends not only persist, but are transformed and supplanted over time, and the chapter reflects that. It’s why the book has Quantum and Atomic Elementals, a mind-altering cryptid, and even the Headless Horseman, instead of just giving some elves guns and tattoos and calling it a day.

Other AGE Creatures Exist

One of the book’s appendixes talks about converting creatures back and forth between Modern AGE, Fantasy AGE, and Blue Rose, and I outlined the book well aware of the fact that Adventure Game Engine Game Masters routinely convert things from one book to another. That’s why I asked the book’s authors to avoid repeating creatures covered in other books unless they were highly appropriate, or, like ghosts, the most essential legendary beings. This seems to have inspired some amazing creative decisions on the part of the team, including the authors of the chapters mentioned above, and it means that fans of multiple AGE games can enjoy some added value.

Modern AGE in 2020 (Ronin Roundtable)

Modern AGE had a pretty good 2019! Last year saw the release of the Modern AGE Companion, a big book of optional rules and supplementary advice; and Threefold, the second Modern AGE setting (after World of Lazarus) and the all-original flagship setting for the game. The licensed World of Lazarus setting got some additional coverage with Crystal Frasier’s rules expansions in the Lazarus: Risen comic. Threefold was introduced to Free RPG Day patrons in 2019 through our revised and expanded Quickstart—get it online here.

World of Lazarus and Threefold also both made it onto Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 100 Games sales list for 2019. That was nice too.

But it’s a new year, and time for new books and more! Here’s a bit of a rundown on what’s coming for Modern AGE this year.

There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this in Warflower, the first Modern AGE Mission.

Modern AGE Missions

The most requested thing for Modern AGE has been adventure support. We listened, and Modern AGE Missions is the result. Modern AGE Missions is an all-electronic line of adventures for Modern AGE. For the most part, these adventures won’t be tied to specific settings, with a few exceptions when the adventure concept warrants it. In some cases, adventures will present multiple story and premise options to help you tailor it to an ongoing campaign.

We plan to release these adventures quarterly starting with Warflower, an adventure we first used as a demo for Green Ronin’s Freebooters, which has since been revised and expanded.

Look for it and future Modern AGE Missions at DrivethruRPG or the Green Ronin Online Store, starting in March.

Enemies & Allies

The next hardcover core release for Modern AGE is Enemies & Allies. If you’ve read my prior articles hyping this book that’s no surprise. Enemies & Allies is a book of friends, foes, and stranger beings for Modern AGE. Its five chapters cover entries from five different genres, from the prosaic (such as special agents, spies, and gangsters) to the fantastical (such as banshees and the Headless Horseman) to the bizarre (the memory-erasing Glawackus and the rage-inducing Experiment #12).

In addition to the entries themselves, the book includes optional rules to bind them to specific genres. Add Heat rules to determine how badly the law or the Mob wants to find characters or use psychic impressions to foreshadow horrors. We top things off with appendices about animals, NPC creation, and adapting creatures back and forth between Modern AGE, Fantasy AGE, and Blue Rose.

Enemies & Allies releases in March.

Five and Infinity

Five and Infinity is the first supplement for the multi-world Threefold setting. It’s a collection of five adventures, starting with two for low-level characters, followed by three higher level adventures with stakes ranging from the intimate to the epic. Hunt giant spiders on city streets. Foil psychic assassins. Hunt soul-thieves through dystopian alternate Earths. Gamble in in an industrial hell’s demon-run casino. And if you make it that far, stop the apocalypse.

In addition to the book’s adventures, Five and Infinity introduces the Infinity engine, a tool to generate adventures and planes of existence. The most challenging thing about running Threefold is coming up with new planes and adventures on the fly, and we hope the Infinity Engine helps GMs get it done.

Five and Infinity is scheduled for release in the second quarter of this year.

The Modern AGE Mastery Guide

Game Master guides are a staple of RPG product lines, but the Modern AGE Mastery Guide is intended for players and GMs. This book presents a smorgasbord of new options interlaced with advice on how to play your character effectively, be part of a party of heroes, design your own adventures, and take advantage of Modern AGE’s specific characteristics.

In addition to giving you an advanced rundown on how the game works, this book introduces options for simplified characters, diceless play, new and custom equipment, freeform extraordinary powers, and quite a bit more. Combined with the Modern AGE Companion, this book should provide comprehensive options for customizing your game at the roots or on the fly. The book will also include developer-recommended rules changes devised after years of post-release play and testing.

The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook, Modern AGE Companion, Enemies & Allies, and the Modern AGE Mastery Guide comprise the game’s “core books” (though you only need the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook to run or play the game). You should be able to complete the quartet in the second half of this year.

And More

Truth is, we have other Modern AGE projects on the go for this year and next, including new setting material and rules expansions. Watch this space!

Modern AGE Enemies & Allies: What’s In It? (Ronin Roundtable)

Last time I got so interested in Enemies & Allies’ cover I neglected to really get into the book’s contents. Let me correct that now.

In short, Enemies & Allies is a book of Non-Player Characters and creatures for Modern AGE, but it’s a bit more than a manual of, er, “monsters.” The book contains five chapters and three appendices of NPCs, strange creatures, and guidelines for using them. Each chapter covers a selection of people and creatures that suit a particular genre. Some of these beings are unique, while others describe a type. Game statistics cover Gritty, Pulpy, and Cinematic modes for each entry.

The Extractor’s coming for you.

Chapter 1: Arcane Beings

Will Sobel’s chapter starts by discussing the role of magic and monsters in modern games before providing rules for the arcane places of power that tend to attract them. Will did a fantastic job of drawing from American folklore as well as classic fantasy, and produced the following entries:

  • The Banshee, a classic wailing ghost
  • The Draugr, a shapeshifting undead creature obsessed with greed
  • Modern Elementals of the atomic, genetic, quantum, and magnetic varieties
  • Fair Folk, trickster refugees from another plane
  • Gargoyles, guardians of sacred and symbolically powerful structures
  • The Glawackus, a mind-altering predator cryptid
  • The unique Headless Horseman, who arrives from hellish dimensions to claim its prize
  • Warlocks, practitioners of dark magic who give ethical practitioners of the arcane arts a bad name

Chapter 2: Elite Operatives

Author Dylan Birtolo’s chapter presents a selection of people (and one robot) suited to military and espionage-focused games. After providing guidelines for modeling the abilities of the apex operators in this shadow world, he presents the following entries:

  • The Armored Soldier, who specializes in operating tough vehicles for even tougher jobs
  • Clara Lynch, an elite MMA fighter and veteran with ties to the military and intelligence communities
  • The Double Agent, who specializes in betrayal
  • The classic Field Agent, who depending on the genre might have gadgets to get out of tight spots
  • The Field Commander, who may stay in the van but who can only be ignored at your peril
  • The Mediator, an elite negotiator
  • The Publicist, master of spin
  • The Robot Dog, a next-generation agile robot who can be a lifesaver or killer, depending on its settings

Chapter 3: Horrors and Witnesses

Matthew Dawkins knows horror, so he was a natural choice to pen this chapter about creatures drawn from the genre. This chapter is a bit different from counterparts in other games as we tried to go outside the classic standards in a few cases, and we linked them to psychic phenomena to differentiate them from fantasy creatures (with options for changing this described clearly in the book). This chapter starts with an overview of the genre, and new rules for sensing psychic impressions—and optional rules for evil deeds making characters more vulnerable to evil creatures. Its entries are:

  • The Anomaly, a living fracture in the laws of nature
  • The Autarch, fragment of a fallen demon lord bound to a fascist mortal
  • The Cacodemon, a spirit of psychopathy
  • The Caries, a flesh-grinding psychic construct, born of decay
  • The Chameleon, a psychic impersonator. Includes the new power of Psychic Shapeshifting
  • The Dream Shard, a living nightmare that puts victims into fearful slumber
  • Experiment 12, an individual capable of rousing crows into murderous rage
  • The classic Ghost, spirit of the dead, whose exact powers depend on the reason it manifests
  • The Psychic Vampire, a genial monster who drains energy from people it gets close to
  • The Puppeteer, members of a conspiracy of sadistic psychics who use humans as playing pieces

Chapter 4: The Law and the Lawless

Ron Rummell created this selection of NPCs who have criminal and law enforcement backgrounds. These are suitable for most modern games, but this chapter opens with advice on how to focus on cops and crooks, introducing guidelines for undercover NPCs and rules for Heat, which measures how strongly interested parties might be looking for indiscreet characters. Then we move on to the following entries:

  • The Enforcer, who collects debts—painfully
  • The Gang Soldier, who violently protects the interests of their organization
  • The Medical Examiner, who steps in to explain suspicious deaths
  • The Mob Boss, at the apex of a murderous criminal enterprise
  • The Pickpocket, a thief who specializes in sleight of hand
  • The Police Chief, who can command the vast powers of their office
  • The Special Agent, at the front lines of a federal police service
  • The Smuggler, capable of eluding border security
  • The Trial Lawyer, capable of confirming guilt or innocence with incisive questioning
  • Vanya Patel, a genial but prepared underworld doctor

Chapter 5: Science’s Edge

Tanya DePass created a selection of NPCs especially suited for cyberpunk and other near-future games, or games in which futuristic technology is available to a connected few. This chapter starts with guidelines for futuristic technology and how to incorporate this chapter into your campaign, before moving to the following entries:

  • Asher Kovindrenara, an elite envoy from the secretive high-tech nation of Invindara. Note that while Invindara is part of the Threefold setting (and everything in Enemies & Allies is Threefold canon) you don’t need to know anything about Threefold to use him and can assign him to a faction of your own devising.
  • The Bioroid Assassin, a relentless android made of artificial flesh
  • Cerise Anyeris, an enhanced human who’s become low-tech rebel against a high-tech conspiracy
  • The Cyberspy, an agent with implants designed to help steal information
  • The Extractor, a cyborg mercenary who snatches valuable human targets
  • The Maker, an underground genius who creates bespoke tech
  • The Reactionary, a drone-wielding, potentially deadly harasser
  • The Tech Broker, whose connections allow them to buy and sell advanced technology

Appendices

Three appendices round out the book:

Appendix I: Quick NPCs introduces a new system to create Non-Player characters based on their intended roles, abilities and threat ratings. This includes a selection of new Special Qualities and new options for administering stunts.

Appendix II: Animal Threats profiles a number of ordinary animals and includes advice for running them in the game.

Appendix III: Adapting Creatures from Fantasy AGE & Blue Rose gives you what it says: Rules for using the creatures from those AGE games with Modern AGE and vice versa.

Appendix I and II were written by Alejandro Melchor and were his final work for the Modern AGE line before his passing. We continue to miss him.

Your Adversary and NPC Toolbox

In essence, Enemies & Allies is a set of tools. We design them for you and show you how to use them, but we trust you to apply your own creativity. That’s the Modern AGE ethos—and I hope they prove useful.

20 Years of Green Ronin! (Ronin Roundtable 2020 preview)

This time every January I write a message about our plans for the coming year. This is a special occasion though because 2020 is Green Ronin’s 20th year in business! We’ll be talking a lot more about that all year, looking back at our history and how we got here. I can say that when I started the company, it was a side project to my day job as a Creative Director at Wizards of the Coast. I couldn’t have imagined Green Ronin would still be around in 2020! So what do we have cooking for our big year? Let’s take a look!

20 Years of Green Ronin! 2020 is Green Ronin's 20th year in business.


Green Ronin’s very first release was a beer and pretzels RPG called Ork! in July, 2000. That game got a new edition worthy of Krom last year if you want to check it out. A month later, at GenCon 2000, we released Death in Freeport, the book that really put us on the map. It was an adventure for the just released third edition of Dungeons & Dragons and it introduced the world to Freeport: The City of Adventure, a setting that mixed classic fantasy elements with pirates and Lovecraftian horror. Since this year is also Freeport’s 20th anniversary, you know we had to do something to celebrate. And what brings people together like a marriage? This year we will finally wed Freeport and Fantasy AGE! Freeport is a setting I created, and Fantasy AGE is a game I designed, so it’s long past due that these two get hitched. This will begin at GenCon with the release of the Fantasy AGE Starter Set, a boxed introduction to both the game and Freeport. After that we’ll publish the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook, a bigger, better rulebook for the game that features Freeport as its example setting. Further books exploring the city and the larger world of Freeport will follow. In the shorter term, the Lairs sourcebook for Fantasy AGE is almost ready to go to print, just waiting on a few pieces of art, so look for a PDF release and the beginning of the pre-order soon.

 

Nisaba Press, our fiction imprint, will also be supporting Freeport with both short story anthologies and novels. The first novel, I Am Gitch by Lucien Soulban, feature’s Freeport’s most famous goblin! Speaking of Nisaba, we are really ramping up our fiction in 2020, exploring the settings of our Mutants & Masterminds, Blue Rose, and Threefold properties in addition to Freeport. Last year we released two novels and one anthology (Aaron Rosenberg’s Mutants & Masterminds novel Height of the Storm, Joseph Carriker’s Blue Rose novel Shadowtide, and the brand new Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology). Our next Mutants & Masterminds novel, Roadtrip to Ruin by Skyler Graye, is at print now so look for that release soon. Later in the year you will see new anthologies for all our properties, the first novel for our Threefold setting, and the release of Joseph Carriker’s Sacred Band, which we announced last year. It’s going to be an exciting year for Nisaba Press!

 

Abzu's Bounty: An adventure path for The Expanse RPGOn the topic of awesome fiction, let’s talk about The Expanse! We launched the game, based on James S.A. Corey’s modern scifi classics, last year, releasing both the core rulebook and Game Master’s Kit. We also brought on Ian Lemke as the developer and he’s already putting his stamp on the line. We are kicking off the year with Abzu’s Bounty, the game’s first big adventure. It’s brand new this month so you can grab it right now. We’re following that up later in the year with two more books: Ships of the Expanse and Beyond the Ring. Ships of the Expanse is exactly what it sounds like: a big book about spaceships, with stats, deck plans, and more. Beyond the Ring is the first sourcebook to advance the timeline. The core rulebook was set between the events of the first and second novel. Beyond the Ring takes things through the third and fourth (Abaddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn). With the ring gates open, there are huge numbers of new star systems to explore, many littered with the ancient relics of dead civilizations. Beyond the Ring opens up a whole new style of adventure for The Expanse RPG and gives GMs all the info and tools they need to support it. Something else you will see this year: Expanse dice! We are working with Q Workshop (who did our dice for Dragon Age and Blue Rose) to make three different sets of the dice. Earthers, Martians, and Belters can all represent!

 

Modern AGE, under the stalwart leadership of developer Malcolm Sheppard, is going from strength to strength. Last year we launched Threefold, the first original setting for the game, and it is a stunner. We are starting this year off with Enemies and Allies (at print now), the adversary book for Modern AGE. It details NPCs and creatures, covering genres such as modern fantasy, horror, near future SF, technothrillers, and crime dramas, and provides new mechanics to support them. We’re following that up with Five and Infinity, a collection of adventures for Threefold that cover all levels of play. It also introduces the Infinity Engine, a tool for using random chance and choice to generate both original adventures and new planes of existence to stage them in. Then we have the Mastery Guide, the last of what one might consider the “core books” of Modern AGE (the others being the Basic Rulebook, Companion, and Enemies and Allies). While you might think of the Mastery Guide as a GM’s guide, that’s only half the story. It also provides advice and support for players, so everyone can up their game.

 

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of the Blue Rose continues to thrive under the benevolent rulership of developer Joseph Carriker. The next book in the line is Envoys to the Mount, an epic adventure that spans five years of game time and all four tiers of Blue Rose play. This is a full campaign that will keep your group busy for some time. If you want a smaller commitment, Six of Cups is there for you. It’s an anthology of six shorter adventures, along the lines of Six of Swords from a couple of years back. After that comes Touching the Wild, which is a dual-purpose sourcebook. Half of it is a bestiary about the shadowspawn. The other half is a player’s guide to the rhydan, the psychic animals of the Blue Rose setting. This does include the option of an all rhydan party!

We are keeping Joe very busy this year because he’s also working with co-developer Tanya DePass on Fifth Season Roleplaying, licensed from N.K. Jemisin’s fantastic Broken Earth trilogy. We announced the game at GenCon and it will release towards the end of the year. The game will use a revised and updated version of our Chronicle System, the engine that powered our Song of Ice and Fire RPG. We’ll have a lot more to say about Fifth Season Roleplaying as we get closer to release so stay tuned!

Image shows the three novel covers from N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy. The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky.

 

All that is great, but don’t you want to get super sometimes? Well, Mutants & Masterminds has got you covered! Superdev Crystal Frasier (who is by the way, doing the graphic design of the whole line in addition to game development) has a lot of comic book goodness coming your way. First up is the Time Traveler’s Codex, a sourcebook that covers the myriad of ways you can use time travel in your campaign and explores some popular eras for such shenanigans. After that is the Vigilante’s Handbook, which is all about running street level campaigns. If you want a break from four-color heroics, this book provides a grittier option for lower level characters. Then there is Danger Zones, a sourcebook that provides 30 different urban backdrops for superheroic action, each of which includes a map, special features, and adventure ideas. This book will be super handy for time-pressed GMs. Pick a danger zone and some villains and you’re ready to rock. Something else we know Mutants & Masterminds GMs have been wanting is more adventures. Last week we started a new PDF series called Astonishing Adventures. This will provide a regular stream of new adventures, which should make things a whole lot easier for M&M GMs.

That ends our whirlwind tour of 2020! There’s even more to come, like The Lost Citadel and the Book of Fiends for 5E, and our Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game, but we will talk about those a little later. Thanks for all your support these past 20 years. It means the world to us that so many of you love and play our games. See you on the convention circuit!

Chris Pramas

Green Ronin Publishing