We are pleased to have three books nominated for Origins Awards. Atlas of Earth-Prime, Blue Rose Narrator’s Kit, and Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy are all in the running this year. To celebrate, we’ve put all three books, along with the Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, on sale at 20% off, in both print and PDF formats, in our Green Ronin Online Store. These prices will also be in effect at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio later this week. If you’re there, stop by and see us in booth #649.
One of the tremendous benefits of the Adventure Game Engine (or AGE) system is how quickly we’ve developed a diversity of applications for it. Not only does this give us a bunch of great games to play, but allows us to mix-and-match them to get ourselves a breadth of options beyond that of any single game.
Today, we’re going to start a series that shows this off a little. The Fantasy AGE Bestiary is an excellent book full of great monsters, horrors, and adversaries for your Fantasy AGE heroes. But its utility isn’t limited to Fantasy AGE campaigns – we’re going to talk a little about how these monsters might fit into the romantic fantasy setting of Blue Rose.
This is the first of three articles taking these critters, one at a time, and discussing where they might fit into Blue Rose’s setting, and what (if any) mechanical adjustments need to be made to make room for them.
Afanc: Large, hungry beasts that haunt the icy bodies of water in the Ice-Binder, Bitterfang, and Golgan mountain ranges, they are the reason many mountaineers in the high mountains of Aldea prefer to take their water from run-offs and shallow bodies of water. Blackwater Lake in Kern was home to a small cluster of these things, the results of breeding projects by the old Lich King. No one has seen them in a while.
Ahool: Legends of merchants who’ve traveled to Wyss sometimes speak of the diminutive bat-folk of those deep, dark forests. Of course, many people say many things about those lands, and Wyssan citizens are rarely willing to admit whether or not they actually exist.
Amarok: According to some old legends, in the days when the Light was dim in Aldea, the Exarch Yungo snatched into his power a mighty wolf of the Pavin Weald in the early moments of his Awakening, and corrupted it somehow. Instead of Awakening to psychic awareness and sapience, Yungo invested only his greedy hunger and ravenous nature into the place where that spark of Light normally resides, and that wolf, whose name was Amarok, became bloated and gluttonous, the first of its kind.
Bakwanee: Sometimes, the essence of Shadow-tainted locations settles into the simplest of life forms that live there, and warps them. This has happened to both the bloodsucking fireflies of the Veran Marsh, as well as the storm beetles of the Shadow Barrens, which hide beneath the ground, save in storms, when they emerge to harvest the ambient static in the air, sparking on their metallic carapaces. From these two frightening but largely harmless insects bakwanee have risen in great swarms, occasionally growing in number until they rush out of the Barrens or Marsh, ravening across the countryside until they are put down.
Basilisk: One of the many creations of the Sorcerer Kings, the basilisk can now be found in marshlands and rivers, as well as deep subterranean places.
Bouda: Wicked shapeshifters hidden among the often sedate packs of hyenas that can be sometimes found in the souther Rezean Plains, the Rezean witches say that the bouda were taught to envy two-legged folk their forms by a darkfiend in service to Ulasta the Green Flame, sharpening until they rose to walk as men did, so long as the bouda feast on their flesh frequently.
Burrower: These massive worms are all but extinct in lands that are even nominally settled. But some of them still haunt wild lands. In particular, the stinger-tail burrowers can sometimes be found in the wilds of Rezea, quickly bursting forth when they detect the ground-thunder of Rezean herds. The bellowing burrowers can be found in the Golgan Badlands, particularly in the foothills where the mountains above echo with their ferocious roars.
Carnivorous Plants: Any place where Shadow comes to rest among natural plant life can give rise to carnivorous plants, particularly if that contagion remains there for more than a single cycle of the seasons. Shadow-tainted wastes aren’t the only locations where this is true: a sorcerer’s glade where she performs her corrupt workings, a garden at the foot of a tower that houses an ancient artifact of the Sorcerer Kings, and even the lands surrounding the lair of a powerful darkfiend or semi-dormant Shadowgate.
Charnel Knight: It is said that when certain Knights of the Skull served the Lich King well, not even death ended their service to Kern. The exact rites responsible for this transformation are not publicly known, even among the Shadowed Seven. No new charnel knights have risen among the Knights of the Skull since the Lich King’s defeat, so it may be that the undead tyrant too that lore – like so much other – with him to his destruction.
Djinn: Elementals are natural intelligences given bodies of the elements. The djinn are a whole thing else. Though almost never seen today, djinn are elemental intelligences of elsewhere, alien entities whose awareness is snatched from those far off places that birthed them, and given elemental bodies and bound by potent magics beyond the scope of the simple Spirit Summoning arcanum. Give Djinn the Shaping arcanum appropriate to their elemental nature, and remove the Spellpower and Magic Points from their entry.
Eldritch Crown: It is said that the Vizier of Eyes, a notorious shadow adept of the Sorcerer Kings realm created these, through a hideous pact with a darkfiend that fancied itself a jeweler, save that it used mortals’ eyes in place of gems. The Vizier of Eyes sought to control some of the vainest of the Sorcerer Kings and it worked to some extent. Unfortunately, the adept could not control these creatures, and they escaped him, and the darkfiend made a perfectly fetching necklace of the Vizier’s own eyes.
Fire Ogre: Potent fire elementals of terrible power and fury, fire ogres are rarely summoned. Unlike elementals, when fire ogres return to the fiery recesses of the deepest depths, they do not forget what they experienced in the bright world above. Their destruction and their subjugation to the will of adepts both infuriate them, and they wait eagerly to turn that rage into destruction upon their return to the world again.
Hi folks! It’s Memorial Day, so Modern Monday is coming in a little late. In response to some online questions last week, I want to clarify what the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) roleplaying games are, how they’re connected, and who’s managing them. When I talked about plans for Modern AGE, a few of you were wondering why I didn’t talk about Fantasy AGE or The Expanse. So, here’s the explainer.
What is the Adventure Game Engine?
The AGE system powers several Green Ronin roleplaying games. Along with the Chronicle System and Mutants and Masterminds, it’s one of the three systems Green Ronin has designed which the company is actively developing through various lines. (Okay, there’s Ork! too, so let’s say, “the three systems not based on the whims of a sadistic ork god,” instead.) We also work on projects for open game systems like 5th Edition, but AGE, Chronicle and M&M are specifically ours.
AGE is not a “generic” system. Rather, it’s a set of common game mechanics and principles which we use as the basis for a number of separate games, each with additional rules designed to emphasize a certain type of play. Some cross-pollination occurs between the lines, of course, but each AGE game has its own emphasis, and is developed separately.
AGE’s foundations include rolling 3d6 plus bonuses versus a target number, selecting stunts by generating Stunt Points through matching dice, and trusting the GM to improvise and make the system their own. That’s not all it’s about, but those are the most notable elements.
The AGE Family of Roleplaying Games
So, now you know that each game is its own thing with its own development, proceeding from some common elements, let’s break that down into specific games.
Based on Bioware’s computer RPG series and its world of Thedas, Dragon Age presented the first version of the AGE system. Dragon Age was originally released in three box sets which brought adventurers from 1st level to the apex of their powers but is now available in one omnibus edition.
Developer: Jack Norris
Worth Noting: In Dragon Age, Strength improves ability in close combat, and Dexterity is used for ranged combat. Dragon Age also has many elements inspired by the world of Thedas, including detailed rules for traps, unique specializations, and character backgrounds unique to that world, such as the Dalish Elves and Ferelden people. Classes are Mage, Rogue and Warrior.
Fantasy AGE is an implementation of AGE designed to support classic fantasy genre gaming. It’s designed to be easy to learn. The core rules aren’t tied to any specific setting, but Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a post-apocalyptic science fantasy adventure series designed for its use. Fantasy AGE is customization friendly, with the Fantasy AGE Companion providing a host of expanded and optional rules GMs can apply as they see fit.
Developer: Jack Norris
Worth Noting: Fantasy AGE introduces Fighting and Accuracy to govern heavy weapons and light or ranged weapons, respectively. Magic provides spells according to theme-based arcana. The Mage, Rogue and Warrior classes are present here, with mechanics designed to support heir respective niches.
Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying game of Romantic Fantasy
The current edition of Blue Rose is the successor to its first edition, which used the OGL-based True 20 system. Blue Rose emulates progressive and romantic fantasy, especially as it evolved from the 1980s onward. In its world of Aldea, truly just societies (and not just despotic regimes we accept as “good” because it’s part of a genre convention to be cool with kings) thrive, but not without challenges. The adventure compilation Six of Swords can get you started.
Developer: Joseph Carriker
Worth Noting: Blue Rose introduces Relationships and Conviction as core mechanics, giving characters extra resources to draw on in defense of the people and motivations which define them. Character backgrounds are tailored to Aldea, and include the mystical vata and the rhydan, sapient, psychic animals. Magic as an intuitive psychic gift is a strong part of the romantic fantasy genre, so Blue Rose’s arcana differ from those of Fantasy AGE to support that.
Upcoming: Modern AGE
Modern AGE’s preorders and advance PDFs will be available Very, Very Soon. I won’t go into detail because I’ve been doing that for weeks. Modern AGE has no default setting, but the World of Lazarus, following the core book shortly, will provide a possible setting based on Greg Rucka’s comics series.
Developer: Malcolm Sheppard
Upcoming: The Expanse Roleplaying Game
Coming to crowdfunding this year, The Expanse is based on the novel series by James S. A. Corey (which as many of you know, is Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), which explores a future wracked with interplanetary rivalry. Earth and Mars compete for control of the Solar System while the peoples of the Belt struggle with their demands—at least, that’s how it starts. The Expanse tailors the AGE system for gritty hard SF stories, including new rules for technology and spacecraft.
Developer: Steve Kenson
Next time, I’ll go on and on about the genres I like, and how Modern AGE supports them. Until then, I’m working on the next couple of books for the game. Take care!
A whole year of Nisaba? It’s hard to believe, but it has indeed been a year since we announced Nisaba Press, Green Ronin Publishing’s fiction imprint. We’ve published some great fiction in that time, although we’re just now getting started.
If you’ve missed our previous offerings, don’t worry! They’re still available on our site: Brandon O’Brien’s witty, sweet Blue Rose tale of two thieves in an endless cycle of vendettas; Kid Robot’s first day of school, by Eytan Bernstein; and Clio Yun-Su Davis’s Blue Rose caper. You can even read Crystal Frasier’s Mutants & Masterminds story about Centuria, Lady Liberty, and robot dinosaurs…for free!
And while we’ve gotten off to a good start, Nisaba has a big year ahead, too.
Dylan Birtolo returns with a new Freeport adventure featuring Red Alice and a sinister amulet. Featuring fights through the Freeport sewers, chases over the high seas, and plenty of cult conspiracy, this series of three stories will release over the summer.
Rhiannon Louve continues her beautiful Blue Rose story of a grieving Rose Knight who finds a new lease on life and a new purpose in her courageous partner, a new Rose Knight with unusual talents.
Michael Matheson joins the Nisaba roster with a pair of tales, one for Blue Rose, and one for Mutants and Masterminds.
Richard Lee Byers tells another Mutants & Masterminds story about a woman fighting a terrible internal battle and the clairvoyant hero hunting her.
We’ll be debuting some new settings for our stories, too. Some will be stand-alone adventures to offer campaign ideas for our settings, while others will tease new settings we’re working on.
And if novels are more your thing, we have two novels coming this year! Joe Carriker’s Shadowtide is a sleek and sinister adventure through the political and cultural battlegrounds of the world of Blue Rose. Aaron Rosenberg brings in the first Mutants & Masterminds novel, featuring a disabled woman taking over her grandfather’s superhero cape while a bitter villain seeks vengeance.
Stay tuned for big news from the Nisaba world as we wrap up our first year and head into what we hope is a long and bright future, because we’ve just started on our plans.
One of the pieces of advice many real-world Tarot readers give is to use the cards to tell a story. This is what makes the Royal Road such a fun tool to use in Narrating and playing Blue Rose: it’s a source to mine for inspiration when both planning and in play.
In playing a Blue Rose chronicle, each player character has a built-in subplot generator, in the form of their Calling. The Blue Rose core rulebook defines a character’s Calling as “their place in the world, their role in the grand story of life.”
To that end, while planning your story arcs, the Narrator should keep those Callings in mind to give player characters a place to “hook into” the narrative. That’s not just a stylistic thing, either: player characters recover Conviction by taking actions that are in accordance to their Calling, so part of the Narrator’s responsibility should include providing those opportunities.
We’re going to look at a way of using the Royal Road to define those opportunities. As with many of the previous “Walking the Royal Road” articles, you’ll want to make sure you have a Tarot deck (which can simply be any one of several online card randomizers), and a means of interpreting those cards to give you the maximum possibilities. The cards we use in these articles are the Shadowscapes Tarot, with art by the amazing Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, whose art has graced the covers of Blue Rose books throughout the game’s history. They also include booklets with summaries of card meanings, so we’ll be using those for our inspiration.
Method: The method for doing this involves drawing three cards, although you can use fewer or more cards if you want shorter or longer character-specific plot arcs. Essentially, each card is an “episode” in the subplot, and the character’s Calling defines the nature of the subplot.
Here’s an example.
Dame Emelynn Aros, Knight of the Blue Rose
Calling: The Sun (Championing the Everyday)
This calling is perfect for the earnest if somewhat naive Dame Emelynn, a newly-anointed Knight of the Blue Rose. She herself comes from a family of poor Jarzoni immigrants, who were nearly done in by the dangers of the Veran Marsh, but were saved by an itinerant Blue Rose Knight who was her inspiration. She is now a knight herself and wants to help the common folk whose problems are often overlooked by those with the power to do something about it.
First Card: Five of Swords
Interpretation: Discord and conflict of interests; feeling as though the world is against you, temptation to let everyone else be and just look to your own goals.
Plot: A somewhat dire card, the Five of Swords suggests a situation wherein it seems as if the good that the Calling wishes to accomplish has soured. The Narrator decides this means that some of Emelynn’s good deeds are soured by deed or circumstance. So she sets up an encounter with a bandit who is troubling local farmers, and Emelynn of course rides to help them. When she brings the bandit in to the local noble for justice, however, she discovers that the bandit is one of the Sovereign’s Finest, attempting to get his way into a nearby bandit gang. Not only is the envoy-bandit released, but Emelynn is expected to claim that he got away from her. While she is willing to do her duty, the farmers she was working to protect are bitter and upset with her for losing the bandit, and she has no way of defending herself.
Second Card: Knight of Wands
Interpretation: Change and progression toward a goal; daring and passion.
Plot: After a couple of game sessions where the locals treat her as a resented failure, the envoy contacts her psychically. He knows she took a blow to her reputation, and he’s grateful for her sacrifice, and wishes to know if he can count on her continued help. He asks if she and the other adventurers she spends time with would be willing to help him win the favor of the bandits. He’s met them, but they want him to prove himself first – the noble is going to provide a wagon of “tax money” and he wants Emelynn and her friends to act as the defenders for that wagon, fighting just enough to be believable, but then fleeing. A case full of coin is the sort of thing they’ll have to return to their lair with, so he’ll know the best place for the noble to send troops to take them all at once. They accomplish this, and the noble asks Emelynn and her friends to join in the attack on the bandit lair, which they agree to gladly.
Third Card: The Hanged Man
Interpretation: Letting go and surrendering to new perspectives.
Plot: This last card is the end of the subplot, where Emelynn and her friends ride with a troop of the Aldin Guard and the noble to attack the bandit camp. Upon their arrival, they find the envoy, stabbed and near death! Her adept friend heals the envoy while Emelynn herself leads the charge, fighting the leader of the bandits (with the blood of the envoy still on his blade). In the end, her heroism saves the day, and protects the valley’s residents from the depredations by the bandits. In an effort to preserve the envoy’s cover, the noble makes known the story of how Dame Emelynn’s bandit quarry escaped, and she took a noble vow to bring not only him but all of the bandits to justice, and the locals uplift her as their hero.
Hey folks, Jack here. So with the release of the Fantasy AGE Companion I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the next book in the line.
Now I know some of you are probably thinking “Oh, man, the Companion took so long to come out so how long is this new book gonna take?”
Well, not nearly so long because its mostly written. Its not entirely written, there’s still some more to do on it, but the early drafts are in and looking good.
See, a few months ago I had an idea for a new book to round out the “core books” for Fantasy AGE and had some interested writers who either were not working on the Companion or had finished their work for it. So…I set them to work on this new book, the Campaign Builder’s Guide.
So what is it? Simply put, it’s a book about all the aspects of building your campaign. Each chapter covers a different topic, from encounter design to creating religions and pantheons to designing rewards and more. Each chapter is gives advice and a deep discussion of the process of designing and creating these aspects of a campaign. Then it finishes off each chapter with a detailed example of the campaign element using those guidelines and advice. So each section includes both ready to use campaign elements and guidance on how to make your own.
For example, one of our Fantasy AGE Bestiary contributors will be doing a chapter on adversary design. He’ll go through the process of creating a threat for your campaigns, the problems, pitfalls, and a few tricks you can use to really make your villains and monsters work well. Then at the end of the chapter he will present some all new monsters designed with that advice in mind. Likewise, I’ll be writing on how to customize your game for various fantasy subgenres and then picking a genre and providing optional rules and adjustments to Fantasy AGE to make it better fit. Each chapter will follow a similar format for different parts of a campaign. Also included will be a chapter of various random tables to help GMs generate locations, groups, and concepts on the fly.
This book is designed to be a GM’s guide in the sense it will guide GMs on how to do things for themselves more effectively and also present examples for their use. The book will be released later this year and should round out our current lineup of core book, rules companion, and bestiary.
This week Nisaba Press presents a new Blue Rose short story, “Quartet of Thieves” by Clio Yun-su Davis.
A young woman travels far from home to deliver an important letter but must band together with a boy thief, his rhy-fox companion, and a caravan guard to steal it back when it gets taken by a criminal organization.
This Tale of Blue Rose can be yours to read in your choice of PDF, epub, or mobi formats, for just $1.99.
We are pleased to let you know that you can now pre-order the Fantasy AGE Companion in our Green Ronin Online Store, and when you add the pre-order to your cart, you’ll be offered the PDF version for just $5, for immediate download. (Please make sure to click “Add To Cart” on the popup/overlay once you add the pre-order to your cart.)
The Fantasy AGE Companion provides a plethora of new rules and play options for your Fantasy AGE roleplaying game campaign. This book expands upon the core Fantasy AGE rules and provides alternative game systems so that you can build rules and characters which fit any setting and genre you desire.
In “The Cutpurse With His Trousers Down,” a master thief sees the perfect opportunity to frame his rival, and learns that best laid plans are often the first to go awry.
Author Brandon O’Brien is a poet and writer from Trinidad and Tobago whose work has been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing and the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions, and appears in Strange Horizons, Uncanny, Reckoning, Arsenika, New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, and other outlets. He is also a performer with The 2 Cents Movement, and the poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.
One of the new elements in Modern AGE is Drive, a trait which sets your character’s emotional motivation. You pick Drive at character creation, where it provides a small capstone benefit. If you use the Conviction rules (you’ll recognize these from Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy, though they’re optional in Modern AGE) Drive also influences how it works.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: The best thing about Drive isn’t mechanical. It’s the principle of the thing.
I think virtually everyone has played a game where getting the characters involved in the story is a challenge. Roleplaying games have taken several stabs at pushing characters to act. The first tactic is no tactic at all. The game sort of assumes the GM’s job to convince the characters unfolding events are worth their time. When I was playing games as a teenager, this was virtually the only method. Combined with teenage defiance, this led to a lot of glaring and nonsense until everyone settled down. Another tactic is to weave characters into the setting, with responsibilities and problems which force them to get things done. More recent games have suggested ways to signal the GM about a thing your character might go for due to an obsession, goal or personality trait. This is a more focused version of the first, GM-as-salesperson method. Then we have background-driven motivations, ranging in length from one-liners to long backstories which are supposed to kick characters into action.
Drive is similar to all of these but isn’t quite the same. It’s a lot like “alignment” in some ways, and it absolutely is a personality trait, but its function is more than a description of the character’s psyche. Now when you get the book, this will probably read as overselling it, since Drive is not a mechanic designed to dazzle with innovation, and in nuts-and-bolts fashion, is fairly conventional. Here’s a Drive from the upcoming Modern AGE Basic Rulebook. It’ll look totally familiar to folks who’ve played a lot of RPGs.
There are a lot of threats out in the world, and you guard against them. Exactly what you consider a threat, and who or what you are protecting from it might vary, but the most important thing is you are not going to stand idly by when you could act.
Your quality is devotion to those under your protection and to your ideals, no matter what challenges lie in your path. Your downfall is recklessness when it comes to putting yourself (and others) in harm’s way to protect your charges.
Talent: Misdirection or Protect
Improvement: Health, Membership, or Reputation
So why am I going on like this? I want to make its purpose clear. Drive is a personality trait that always answers the question: “Why are you getting involved?” Always. Because in Modern AGE, character creation assumes the question, “Are you getting involved?” is always answered in the affirmative. This is a subtle but important difference from games where the GM is supposed to sell you something, and games where the facts of the world (“I’m in the Secret Service,” or “They killed my master and I want revenge?”) dictate involvement. Drive is a personality trait which explains why your character is emotionally invested in the story.
Is this rhetorical sleight of hand? Absolutely. But it has a fine pedigree. Drive has a precedent in improv, where performers are urged not to block ideas that come out of the on-stage, brainstorming-while-acting process. So, when you crack the book open and pick a Drive, keep in mind that this isn’t a general blueprint of your attitude as much as the part of you that compels your commitment.
Drives are emotional, not factual, for a simple reason: Campaigns feature ever-changing conditions. Modern AGE also tells you to write down character Goals. Goals transform over time, but your Drive usually doesn’t. (Here’s an optional rule: If you want to change your Drive later, that’s fine, but you don’t get the benefits that come at character creation, except for how your new Drive affects Conviction, if you use it.)
Drive is primarily a way for you to develop your character’s emotional connection to the story. We can map it as a Mad Lib, as follows:
My inclination to be a [DRIVE] makes me want to get involved with [SITUATION] because [MOTIVATION], so I’ll [ACTION].
[DRIVE] is the Drive trait on your sheet.
[SITUATION] is what’s happening in the story.
[MOTIVATION] is an account of how your feelings about the situation inform your actions.
[ACTION] is what you will do.
To demonstrate how this works, I’m going to take the sample Drive, Protector, and hit the “Situation” random generator button at http://writingexercises.co.uk/plotgenerator.php. I get
A political demonstration turns into chaos.
My inclination to be a Protector makes me want to get involved with a political demonstration which has turned into chaos because I’m afraid of my friends getting hurt, so I’ll find them and lead them to safety.
In this model, a character goal is a situation that’s always happening—at least until you completely accomplish it.
Breaking this down makes it seem more complicated than it really is. The process is intuitive. As long as you exclude blocking the situation (by refusing to deal with it in an interesting fashion) it comes down to: “This is how my emotions push me to deal with what’s ahead.”
Drive is really a principle with an incidental game mechanic, adaptable to pretty much any game. It’s an attitude shift where getting into the story is your character’s premise, not their problem. In a fantasy game, instead of saying, “As a True Neutral character, I don’t care about this battle between good and evil,” say “As a True Neutral character, I need to accompany my friends to this struggle between the Moral Powers to test the strength of my convictions. Can I maintain detachment amidst all this struggle and suffering?”
Awkward Segue to Factual Update!
So, what’s going on with Modern AGE? The Basic Rulebook text is going through the production cycle right now. Its first setting, Lazarus (based on Greg Rucka’s comic of the same name, developed for Modern AGE by Crystal Frasier) has also entered production. The text for two small pieces of support for the game (to be announced) are also finished, and first drafts of an upcoming book are coming in.
I can’t wait to share it all with you. I’m driven—and I’ll say more about it all another time.