Crystal’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks!

It’s hard to pick just 5 items from the Green Ronin catalog as favorites, because the company’s library covers an enormous variety of genres and system, but here’s the best I could do. Presenting “Crystal’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks

Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards!

5. Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards

Mutants & Masterminds is mostly a fast, intuitive system that’s easy to adjudicate on the fly with little or no prep. Everything is a d20 + modifier resolution, with the modifier usually being related to your campaign power level. The only place I tend to stumble is in remembering the rules for the two-dozen or so conditions that powers and failed checks might apply to a character. That’s when game stops and I have to flip back to page 18 of the Hero’s Handbook and remember what rules to apply. That’s why I made a homemade condition card deck back when 3rd edition first released. Now that we have an official condition card set made from shiny cardstock and featuring iconic art so I can deal out conditions in style and I love them!

4. Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook

Superteam Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds!

Alright, spoiler alert: I’m making my list assuming you already have a Hero’s Handbook for M&M, so that’s not even going on my list. But once you have the Hero’s Handbook (Deluxe or Basic), then what? There are the obvious choices—the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide if you’re the Gamemaster or Power Profiles if you’re a player—but for my money the handiest book for the whole group is the SuperTeam Handbook. It’s got expanded rules and character options for players and talks about building your superhero team as a collective, deciding roles and strengths and weaknesses that you rely on your teammates to shore up. But beyond that, the SuperTeam Handbook is a stealth campaign guide, showing you 8 distinct models for how you can run your Mutants & Masterminds game. You’ve got your standard “big heroes on the block” campaign, but also “fugitive heroes,” “urban vigilantes,” “super sentai,” and “quirky agents,” all with examples of the kinds of adventures and opponents those heroes might face. For Gamemasters, it also has a giant catalogue of characters that you can pass out to new players, or file the serial numbers off and use as villains if you don’t have time to make your own.

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook3. Modern AGE Core Rulebook

I have a soft spot for modern games, as illustrated by the large catalogue of d20 Modern manuals that observant readers may have seen in the background of M&M Monday streams. To mean, there’s a lot more excitement in bringing fantastic elements to a familiar world than in showing off fantastic elements in an already fantastic world. Modern AGE is a fun, fast, and flexible system that works great for any game set between the golden age of piracy and the near-future cyberpunk dystopia. The basic rules make it easy to put together a player character or NPC in no time, while the stunt system adds depth to combat and investigations. I’ve been running a monster-hunting campaign set in 1890’s San Francisco using just the core book and a copy of Modern AGE Enemies and Allies (a little side plug there) and having a great time.

2. Mutants & Masterminds Hero HighHero High Revised Edition for Mutants & Masterminds

I’m a sucker for X-men and Legion of Superheroes. It’s hard not to be when you spend puberty feeling like an outcast, so roleplaying in a world setting where you’re empowered for being the weird kid is just the chef’s kiss of roleplay options. This setting book for M&M is from before my tenure on the line but remains my evergreen favorite as a setting to run, play in, or fantasize about expanding. The 3rd edition version takes one of the strongest supplements for 2nd edition and revises and expands it to fill out the flavor and options of playing teen superheroes (or villains) while still worrying about getting your homework in on time.

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy Core Rulebook 1. Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy

I know, I know. I’m the Mutants & Masterminds developer. Shouldn’t my number one product be an M&M book? Well, it isn’t. As much as I love comic books and superheroes, I love things that are unapologetically queer more. And I love romance and fairy tales and drama and people trying their hardest to be better than they were before, and Blue Rose offers all of that. While I usually sell it to my friends as “you can play a sassy psychic cat,” the selling point for me is that encounters are meant to be talked down or puzzled out at least as often as they’re meant to be fought, and all against a backdrop of gorgeous art.

 

Blue Rose Cover (work in progress)

Blue Rose Cover (work in progress) by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

 

 

Steve Kenson’s Top Five Green Ronin Picks!

When Troy Hewitt (the disembodied host of Mutants & Masterminds Mondays, amongst other schemes) asked me to compiled a list of “Steve Kenson’s Top 5 Green Ronin products“, that constituted a challenge, because I’m terrible at self-promotion and felt like it would be disingenuous to pick products I’d written the majority of, or had a substantial hand in designing or developing. So I’ve tried to steer clear of those things on this list, since I contribute to a lot of Green Ronin’s products.

I’m also focusing on products currently available in the Green Ronin Online Store, rather than the company’s entire twenty year history—maybe another “Top 5 of All-Time” or “Top 20 of the last 20 years” list is something to revisit at a later date. Lastly, I’ll note that my list is in alphabetical order by title, rather than being ranked from 1–5 in order of preference, because I’m lazy and had a hard enough time narrowing things down to just five products.

So, without further digression, here’s my list.

Aldis: City of the Blue RoseAldis: City of the Blue Rose

I love city books—as anyone who is familiar with Freedom City knows—so the Aldis: City of the Blue Rose sourcebook could have been written just for me. It describes the center of Aldis, the default setting of Blue Rose, in loving detail, jam-packed with characters, local flavor, and adventure hooks, such that you could run a whole Blue Rose game where the characters hardly ever left the city. I’m also quite happy with my own contribution to the book, the introductory adventure “The Case of the Rhydan Swine.”

Envoys to the MountEnvoys to the Mount

Envoys is the first full-fledged campaign book for Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying and offers a series of adventures leading up to an epic conclusion, with some breathing room to add in other “side” adventures, either of your own creation or various stand-alone published adventures. One of my favorite elements of Envoys is the establishment of various character “roles” for the series—like the Envoy, the Historian, and the Rhy-Bound—which you can “cast” with your own characters. The adventures then provide prompts for subplots and other story elements involving those character roles.

Modern AGE Basic RulebookModern AGE Basic Rulebook

I sometimes feel like the Modern AGE rulebook is an under-appreciated implementation of the AGE System rules, because it packs a lot into a fairly slim rulebook: enough character design and game-play material to run countless campaigns ranging from the early-modern (Industrial Revolution) era up through the near-future or even far-future science fiction (although the latter may benefit from some stuff in The Expanse RPG, which was developed concurrently with Modern AGE). With the inclusion of arcane and psychic powers in the book as well, Modern AGE is also a system for urban fantasy or “secret powers” settings in any of its various eras. It’s hard to beat in terms of bang-for-your-buck game-play value.

Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s HandbookMutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook cover

Mutants & Masterminds developer Crystal Fraiser has done some great stuff with the game: launching the Astonishing Adventures series (which has already produced more adventure content for M&M than we managed in all the years prior combined) and developing the terrific Time Traveler’s Codex, but my favorite is a project that could have only been developed with Crystal’s vision and guidance: The Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook. Because sometimes, as a designer, you really need someone else to come along and lay out how the whole thing works. This book does that. If you have ever been intimidated by the rules or character design of Mutants & Masterminds, well, this is the book for you. It’s easy, accessible, and gets you right into creating a new hero in minutes and ready-to-play. Plus it is 100% compatible with the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook rules, so everything you learn is of value. I especially love the comic book examples of game-play that really bring the rules to life while providing clear and concrete examples.

Threefold: A Campaign Setting for Modern AGEThreefold

Because I’m a fairly jaded tabletop gamer, it’s not often that I get excited about a new game world or setting, but the Threefold setting for Modern AGE drew me in from the get-go with its concept and depth. It’s a meta-setting of sorts, in that it encompasses a “metacosm” of parallel worlds, a manifestation of the breadth and depth of the Modern AGE rules themselves. But Threefold goes further in setting up a unique and detailed cosmology that puts particular spins on the manifestations of magic and psychic (occult) powers, along with creating unique character backgrounds. Developer Malcolm Sheppard pitched it to me as “John Wick and Harry Potter team up to fight Satan’s robots” and I was in from that moment on. Personally, I’d change “team up” to “join Starfleet and Stargate Command” because, yeah … it’s like that. Check it out.

Austium (Envoys to the Mount)

A Map of Austium

Map by Cartographer Liz Courts.

Envoys to the Mount is a full-length Blue Rose chronicle that takes players from origins as newly-graduated envoys of the Sovereign’s Finest to heroes of the kingdom of Aldis. The threats they face as part of that rise are dire and deadly, but perhaps none are more so than the wickedness of the lost city of Austium.

Once the capital of Faenaria, Austium was ground-zero for the Doom that destroyed the homeland of the folk who came to be called the Roamers.

Today, Austium is a Shadow-corrupted place, with four cabals of monstrous evil crouching in the ruins of the city. Above them sits arguably the most powerful darkfiend to ever slither out of Shadow into the world of mortals, the entity known only as the Lord of Austium.

Author Steven Jones did a spectacular job of detailing Austium, giving us a place that is not just a seemingly unending source of threats for Blue Rose heroes, but creating a place that seems to live, breathe, and positively bristle with potential threats. Because I do love me some hags and witches, I’m sharing the Coven of the Iron Cauldron here!

The Coven of the Iron Cauldron

The Queen’s Ward

The Coven of the Iron Cauldron is composed of sorcerers, hags, and other beings gifted in the arcane arts. It is immensely powerful and concentrates on uncovering the city’s lost lore with the intent of twisting it to the Shadow’s ends. While both the Guild of the Tarnished Coins and the Order of the Bloody Blades are larger, no other faction holds as much sway in the city with the Lord of Austium as the Coven of the Iron Cauldron.

Envoys to the Mount and Tales from the Mount bundle offer!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Tales from the Mount fiction anthology as well!

Since this faction’s focus is on lost lore and the secrets of sorcery, they give little thought to the activities of the other factions and do what they can to remain neutral in their political games. When the Coven does get pulled into these powerplays, it’s usually due to some Guild of the Tarnished Coins’ scheme; these political maneuvers have created some animosity from the Coven towards the Guild.

 

The Coven was formed and is led by the Inside-Out Lady (one of the Talons), and since its early days, the Coven’s power has grown greatly. It was instrumental in raising Austium from the wastes of the Shadow Barrens. Since the Inside-Out Lady is kept occupied in service to the Lord of Austium, most of the daily duties of running the Coven fall on the Inner Circle, which consists of the Coven’s other founding members who are still alive and in Austium. Three members of the Inner Circle—Cendis, Doromin, and Lady Viddia—can be found in Appendix 3; Narrators should feel free to add additional members as they see fit.

The remaining faction members are structured into lesser circles consisting of three or seven members, and it is common for these lesser circles to have a low ranking darkfiend in their service. Most of the lesser circles choose one of the exarchs as their patron. Among the lesser circles, there are rumors of former Inner Circle members who clashed with the Inside-Out Lady and were forced to flee Austium or be destroyed.

The Coven holds dominion over the eastern section of Austium (the Queen’s Ward), with the coven’s main rites taking place in a ring of standing stones on Cauldron Hill, located close to the Tempest Gate. The lesser circles all have their own ritual spaces throughout the twisted mockery of the city.

Be sure to check out our previous articles previewing what you’ll find in Envoys to the Mount! And while you’re at it, don’t forget about our Year End Sale! going on right now. There are quite a few books and adventures in the Blue Rose line available, just in case you have any gaps in your collection!

End of Year Sale and GR Gift Guide

Happy holidays from all of us at Green Ronin! I don’t think 2020 was the year any of us hoped for but on the upside, it’s almost over! Right now, we’ve got our Year End Sale going on, which offers 20% off most of our titles through January 3. Get gifts for your friends and family, or just treat yourself. If you survived 2020, you deserve it! Two important notes. First, we do offer gift certificates in our online store, so if you don’t know what to get for the gamers in your life, that’s always an option. Second, shipping is particularly slow this year, so if you want things in time for Xmas, get your orders in early. If you aren’t sure what to get, I’ve put together a gift guide that may help. Let’s get to it!

Death In Freeport for Fantasy AGEAs you may heard, 2020 was Green Ronin’s 20th anniversary. One way we celebrated that was with new editions of one of our earliest releases. I wrote Death in Freeport 20 years ago, and now it’s available in two formats: Fantasy AGE and 5th Edition. Pick your system and then set sale for Freeport, the City of Adventure! Fantasy AGE fans will also enjoy Lairs, another new book for this year that features a host of ready to use encounters. 5E fans should check out The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, where players are survivors of an undead apocalypse in the last city standing.

 

Enemies and Allies for Modern AGE

If you want a flexible RPG that can handle just about every sub-genre of action adventure, check out Modern AGE. It got its character/adversary book this year with Enemies & Allies. If you want a kickass setting, also check out Threefold. It got some adventure support with Five and Infinity, which we serialized over the course of the year. We also launched Modern AGE Missions for even more PDF adventure support. We’re certain you need 30-50 feral hogs in your Modern AGE campaign, so make sure to check that out!

 

Envoys to the Mount for Blue RoseBlue Rose, our Romantic Fantasy RPG, is also getting (and giving) a lot of love right now. If you’ve never checked it out before, there’s a new Quickstart that gives you a complete adventure with rules and pre-generated characters. For more experienced players, we’ve just put Envoys to the Mount up for pre-order. This is a complete campaign for Blue Rose that takes characters through all four tiers of play. There’s also a tie-in fiction anthology called Tales from the Mount that’s available now. You can get a bundle with both Envoys and Tales too!

 

Sacred Band 2nd editionSpeaking of fiction, our imprint Nisaba Press has some great titles for holiday reading. Blue Rose fans will definitely want to check out Sovereigns of the Blue Rose, an anthology of stories about the fourteen rulers of Aldis. We’ve also just released Sacred Band, Joe Carriker’s critically-acclaimed LGBTQ+ superhero novel. Supers will also enjoy Roadtrip to Ruin, the latest Mutants & Masterminds novel. If short stories are your jam, we’ve released three anthologies this year: For Hart and Queen for Blue Rose, Powered Up for Mutants & Masterminds, and Under a Black Flag for Freeport.

 

 

Time Traveler's Codex for Mutants & MastermindsSuperhero fans should look no further than Mutants & Masterminds. If you haven’t tried it before, jump right in with the Basic Hero’s Handbook. We’ve just release the Time Traveler’s Codex (now available in print!), which is a whole book about timeline hopping shenanigans. If you’ve been wanting adventure support, we’ve really leaned into that this year with the Astonishing Adventures PDF series. These include stand-alone adventures and the five-part series NetherWar. Danger Zones is another new series. Each entry details a new location for superheroic action. And, by popular demand, we’ve also just released a deck of Condition Cards!

 

Ships of the ExpanseBut what if you want to go to outer spaaaaccceeee? That’s where The Expanse RPG—based on the terrific novels by James S.A. Corey­—comes in. There’s a free Quickstart if you haven’t dived in yet. This year we released Abzu’s Bounty, a series of six linked adventures for the game. Salvage Op offers a one shot for an evening or two of play. We’ve also just put Ships of the Expanse up for pre-order. This is the long-awaited book full of deck plans and details about the spaceships of the setting.

 

Sword Chronicle RoleplayingLast but by no means least, we launched the Sword Chronicle RPG this year. This takes the system we designed for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and spins it off into as an independent fantasy system. This has been available as a PDF for several months but just this week we’ve made it available as a Print on Demand title on DriveThruRPG.

 

Happy holidays, everyone! See you in 2021!


Character Hooks in Envoys to the Mount

Envoys to the Mount for Blue RoseIn a previous Ronin Roundtable, we mentioned a little bit about the Character Hooks mechanic we developed for Envoys to the Mount. In this Ronin Roundtable, we’re going to introduce you to not only the Hooks themselves, but how players select and use them, along with a sample of one of them.

The Summary

At the beginning of game play, the Narrator will pass around a sheet that summarizes the Hooks used in the campaign. Players choose these Hooks based on the summaries, allowing them to focus on the role they want to play within the chronicle. This is an example of the Vata Hook summary:

The Vata

The arcane runs through your veins as surely as blood does. You might be one of the pale vata’an, graceful and ethereal. Or you might be one of the umbral vata’sha, whispered about by the ignorant and superstitious. Regardless, you are an inheritor of the ancient legacy of the lost vatazin people. You might have been born to entirely human parents, or perhaps one (or both) of your parents are vata themselves. No matter your origins, you have found a place among the Sovereign’s Finest.

Choose This Hook: If you want to play a vata character in this campaign, a character with a mystical heritage who will begin to uncover ancient secrets about their people.

 

A Vata character for Blue Rose

The HandoutsCharacter Hook Handout for the Vata

Once all of the players have chosen their Hooks, the Narrator then gives each a handout which contains the following information. We have included the Handout for the Vata Hook here as well, so you can see what it all looks like.

  • Flavor Text: A quick paragraph that summarizes the character’s relationship with the Sovereign’s Finest, and very loosely defines their motivations. Ultimately, it simply contains a few evocative suggestions, which players should use as many or as few of as they like to help round out their characters.
  • Bonus Traits: Each Hook includes one or more additional benefits the character receives for taking on this role. Many of them are mechanical in nature, a core conceit for the Hook. Because the hero basically has to have them to function in that Hook role, we’re giving it to them for free, so as not to unduly limit character creation choices elsewhere.
  • Character Creation: This section makes some suggestions for character creation, suggesting focuses, talents, and specializations that expand the theme of the Hook in interesting directions. None of these are requirements, although the suggestions are made with the Hook’s role in the campaign in mind.
  • Drawbacks: Of course, nothing comes for free, so each Hook also includes a Drawback. In many instances, this is a unique mechanic or even story limitation that isn’t so much to balance the additional benefits as it is to drive home the themes of the Hook and further enwrap the hero in the role the player has chosen.
  • Backstory: Finally, each Hook includes three bullet points that are events or details that should be folded into the player’s concept of the character’s past. In many cases, these are not only tied into the assumed history of the character in that role, but they will also impact events that occur within the campaign. They include questions meant to help the player customize these details for their hero. They don’t have to share these details with the other players but should discuss them with you, the Narrator.

Envoys to the Mount is available for pre-order now in our online store, and on DrivethruRPG!

Don’t forget, you can also pick up the Nisaba Press anthology Tales from the Mount along with your PDF (also available on Drivethru), or select the add-on offer with the print version of Envoys to the Mount, for just $5!

And did we mention there were free pre-generated characters for Envoys? Just in case you wanted to get playing right away! Shocking no one, they are on DrivethruRPG as well!

The Sovereign’s Finest

 

Sovereign's Finest in action!

The existence of the Sovereign’s Finest in the nation of Aldis has, from the beginning, been almost entirely for the benefit of player characters. It exists to give player characters not just a reason to go out and do “adventurer” things, but to do so with royal approval and as national heroes.

Since this chronicle focuses on the players all as envoys of the Finest, we decided that we needed to spend some space talking about the Sovereign’s Finest. Not just how they fit into the setting (as the Blue Rose core rulebook does a fantastic job of doing). But what it is like to be an envoy. We take a look at ranking systems and roles within the Finest, introduce you to some of the movers and shakers among the envoys, and examine play at every level of the organization (as the organizational chart in this article suggests).

Sovereign's Finest

Moreover, we explore the mechanics of the Finest as well. New Specialties and Talents, unique items, new Titles, and even a system that puts player character envoys in charge of defensive structures, outposts, and other strongholds – all in the name of the Sovereign, of course.

This single appendix is chock full of information for players and Narrators alike for playing envoys of the Finest, and is sure to see lots of play at the table even after you have enjoyed the chronicle in the main part of the book.

Envoys to the Mount is available to Pre-Order right now! If you’d like to own both the print and PDF versions of the book, you’ll see an offer for the digital files at checkout for just $5! We’ll even throw in a copy of Tales from the Mount for just $5 as well! And don’t forget that we have a free PDF of 8 pre-gen characters for you to use if you’d like to get playing right away.

Be sure to check out our previous articles on the Ronin Rountable blog!
Designing a Envoys to the Mount
Mounting Anticipation

 

Mounting Anticipation

Envoys to the Mount for Blue RoseIn the world of Blue Rose, the Kingdom of Aldis is normally where it’s at, but our newest releases, Envoys to the Mount and Tales from the Mount, are instead taking us on a journey to a very different destination, indeed: the Shadow Barrens, sorcery-defiled remnants of the once-thriving realm of Faenaria, where stands the quasi-mythical Mount Oritaun.

Envoys to the Mount is a campaign sourcebook for Blue Rose, spanning levels 2 to 17, which challenges a band of the Sovereign’s Finest to embrace their Destiny and defy Fate on an errand of mercy with repercussions to be felt throughout all of Aldea, now and for ages to come. While the quest begins innocuously enough—rendering aid to people in need across the kingdom—the adventure will lead these envoys to uncover ancient arcane secrets, pursue (and be pursued by!) deadly enemies, walk the streets of a metropolis long ago lost to Shadow, and ultimately stand against the earthly champion of the Exarchs in a battle both for the future of a lost people and for the soul of the world.

However, Envoys to the Mount is so much more than just a campaign. It also serves as a guide to the Sovereign’s Finest, outlining organization, operations, ranks and responsibilities, and all the other information needed to understand the inner workings of this revered Aldin fellowship. Within, you’ll learn what’s expected of an envoy, as well as the privileges and obligations of those who ascend the rank, and both a brief history of the Finest and a “who’s who” of its current leadership. Further, Envoys to the Mount explores the terrifying Shadow Barrens in detail—its vistas and many hazards, along with various points of interest for the bold… or the foolhardy—and provides new mechanics for use in this or any other Blue Rose campaign, such as the corrupt Shadow Dancer Talent and the exciting new system for challenge tests (a kind of advanced test with the potential for consequences every step of the way).Tales from the Mount from Nisaba Press

Of course, what’s a Blue Rose campaign without compelling player characters? Thus, we’re also releasing a free set of eight pregenerated 2nd level characters uniquely suited to the events of Envoys to the Mount, with built-in plot hooks intended to draw them directly into the action. While not necessary to enjoy Envoys to the Mount, these characters can jumpstart your adventure and get you right into the thick of things!

Last, but certainly not least, is Tales from the Mount, a nine-story anthology of nearly 300 pages of Blue Rose fiction centered upon the events, themes, moods, and settings of Envoys to the Mount. These stories shed a light on the dreaded Shadow Barrens and the terrible things that lurk within, through the exploits of those who defy Shadow with love and courage. Within its pages, you will accompany not just those braving the Barrens from without, but also travel alongside those from within that nightmarish land, to see that hope can bloom in even the most unlikely earth. Tales of bravery and sacrifice, of darkest sorcery and bittersweet triumph, await you!

What stories will you tell of Mount Oritaun?

A Blue Rose Chronicle, Designing Envoys to the Mount

Envoys to the Mount, a Blue Rose epic ChronicleHere at Green Ronin Publishing, we love us some epic campaigns. Long-term games that involve lots of play time, the opportunity to dig into the backgrounds, motivations, and growth of the characters, and a chance to change the setting? Purest catnip around here.

So when we set out to design our first full-length chronicle for Blue Rose, we set some pretty specific goals for the project.

It Has To Be Big. Though not all of our full-length adventure series will necessarily be as huge in scope as this chronicle, we wanted to start off big. So, we did that: the story in Envoys to the Mount involves the origins of the vata and the mystery of Mount Oritaun in the Shadow Barrens. A story like this demands no less a foe than the darkfiends and shadowspawn of the fallen capital of Faenaria, lost Austium, and the players are heroic Sovereign’s Finest trying to preserve what they can of the ancient legacy of lost Faenaria and Mount Oritaun.

And though Envoys to the Mount will not necessarily change the way “core” Blue Rose’s setting operates, it certainly has the potential to transform a group’s individual version of that setting – including some advice on how to handle what happens in the event of terrible tragedy in its conclusion.

It Has To Be Character-Focused. In a game like Blue Rose, the best parts of play are the parts that are about the player characters. In a published campaign, however, that’s hard to do without pre-generating the characters involved…and half the fun of an RPG is creating and playing your own character!

To address the conundrum, we are introducing Character Hooks: small “archetypes” that players can choose to “hook” their characters into the overall story. These Hooks will provide small benefits and drawbacks, as well as suggest some background elements for players to use when creating those characters.

But the real fun is that the various chapters all have sidebars that talk about the ways what is going on in the story affects or is affected by the presence of one of the Hooks. Will you play the Rhy-Bonded pair, or the mysterious Vata? Are you a Roamer with a familial interest in what is going on, or an aloof Historian there to record portentous events?

(We’ll talk a bit more about Character Hooks in an upcoming Ronin Roundtable, so keep an eye out for that!)

It Has To Span Time. Big things can happen all at once, but for the story we’re telling, we wanted some elbow room. One of the most fun parts of romantic fantasy fiction is seeing characters age and develop – not just as adventurers, but as people living their lives.

To that end, Envoys to the Mount takes place over a five year span. The player characters will begin as 2nd level characters in Chapter One, and by the time they reach Chapter Four, their careers in the Sovereign’s Finest will make them leaders in the nation of Aldis, and heroes in their own right.

This new epic chronicle for Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy, will go on pre-order later this week.

Blue Rose Quickstart available NOW!

Blue Rose QuickstartThis week sees the release of a Quickstart for our Blue Rose AGE roleplaying game. Green Ronin’s Quickstarts have always served to whet the appetite for a game, a compact and easy-to-use set of rules and an adventure scenario that needs nothing more than the Quickstart itself and some dice to get right down to playing.

The Blue Rose Quickstart is no different from other Quickstarts in that regard. But it also serves as an appetizer for another aspect of Blue Rose: its unique romantic fantasy setting. Blue Rose is one of several AGE games in our line of excellent offerings, but it is also an original setting, paying homage to the worlds of romantic fantasy fiction as it does.

To that end (without giving away any spoilers), we knew that we needed to highlight an important aspect of that genre: specifically, that while in much of traditional fantasy, the wilderness is a place of danger, in Blue Rose, the wilderness is much more than that. Certainly, there are risks for venturing out into it, but it is also a place of great beauty and serenity, a place aligned with the heartbeat of the setting’s spirit.

For this reason, the Blue Rose Quickstart’s adventure The Rhy-Wolf’s Woe takes place in the vast wildernesses of the Pavin Weald, a primordial old growth forest that is home to monsters and spirits and rhydan (the sapient psychic animals of the Blue Rose setting, who are among the player character types available for play!). This adventure was written by Stephen Michael DiPesa, and it captures so much of the spirit of Blue Rose perfectly.

Also important to the Blue Rose setting are its cast of diverse characters. To highlight those, we had April Douglas craft for us a set of nine pregenerated characters. Rather than a motley band of barely-connected adventurers, however, April gave us something distinctly Blue Rose-like: the Family Nightsong, an extended family of remarkable people. Though built around a constellation family (as a marriage between three or more folk is called), the Family Nightsong is more than that. The types of connections between its members range from spousal to parental to filial and more. The Nightsong folk may not all be related to one another, but there is no doubt: they are family, at day’s end.

So join us! If you’ve never played Blue Rose AGE before, download the Quickstart, get some friends together over Discord or Zoom, and give it a spin! And if you like what you read and play, you’ll find that the first adventure included in the Blue Rose AGE core rulebook is also in the Pavin Weald – so your next adventure is right next door!

 

Download the Blue Rose AGE Quickstart here!

 

See what else we have for Blue Rose here!

Shake Things Up – Adding Complications to Encounter Designs

Whether you are a veteran GM who crafts every campaign world and adventure from scratch, a newcomer to running games who is just trying to get through a published adventure, or someone preferring any of the hundreds of possible in-between styles of gamemastering, sometimes you realize your encounters are in a rut. It may not be your fault—many GMs run published adventures for lack of time to create all their own content, and even for GMs who make a lot of custom adventures, players can often get really good at determining how a specific game works, and cutting to the solution of any challenge much faster than expected. Even if neither of those issues is a problem, sometimes you realize a player has built a character to be good at something that never comes up in play… and they feel cheated for not getting to do the kind of adventure they are prepared for.

Regardless of why you think your existing adventure toolkit isn’t doing everything you need it to, and no matter the game system you are using, it may be time to shake things up with a complication. Or a dozen complications.

Complications

Art by Biagio D’allessandro

Simple Complications

There are a number of very simple complications you can use to change the feel and flow of the RPG sessions you run. Here’s three that don’t take much advance work or thought.

Add Restrictions: If the players have gotten good at killing foes, require them to drive off threats without seriously hurting anyone. If they are masters of out-talking competitors during negotiations, make them argue their case next to a waterfall so loud no one can hear anything. If a single character is the best hacker the world has ever seen, set up the need to get information during a complete blackout when no computers are running. If the players’ favorite tactic is setting everything on fire, make them fight underwater.

The advantages of adding a restriction is that it doesn’t change the core rules of the game, it just makes players tackle a problem with some of their options off the table. You shouldn’t do this often—then it’s just shutting down character abilities—but there’s nothing wrong with forcing players to be flexible now and again.

Add Hindrances: While a restriction is specifically something that takes away some of the players’ normal options, a hindrance is something that makes the challenge of the encounter more difficult by adding new elements that can cause problems. If the PCs can sneak into any secure site anywhere, make them do so with an angry songbird in a cage they can’t muffle. If they normally bully citizens into giving them what they want, make them carry out their investigations with a bigger bully the citizens already hate. If they are experts at ranged combat, have a fight in a corn maze, with strong winds and torrential rain reducing visibility.

Add A Twist: Don’t go all M. Night Shyamalan about it, but sometimes the situation not being exactly what is expected is a great complication to throw at players. Perhaps the “attacking” wolves are just running from even bigger monsters right behind them. The crime family not only capitulate to the PCs’ demands they lay off a neighborhood, they ask the PCs to help them go fully legit. The final lock on the dragon’s vault is a sleeping cat you have to move without waking.

Secondary Challenges

Rather than just adding complications to an encounter’s normal challenge, you can add an entire secondary challenge of another type. If the encounter is a fight with a band of highwaymen, perhaps a group of mercenaries wander by and the bandits try to recruit them as reinforcement while the fight is already underway. Now in addition to the initial challenge of the combat, the PCs must deal with the secondary challenge of a negotiating while the fighting is ongoing. If the PCs were trying to break into a vault before the next guard shift comes by, perhaps they discover previous thieves have already rigged the vault with a barrel of gunpowder on a lit fuse, and now both problems have to be handled at the same time.

A secondary challenge can be a great way to allow characters who aren’t good at the type of encounter as the main challenge (or players who just don’t care about that kind of encounter) to get some time in the spotlight of attention anyway. If you have a complex puzzle lock with riddles, and that kind of challenge bores one of your players who has a combat-focused character, adding a mini-secondary challenge can give them something to engage with while the other players tackle the puzzle lock. Perhaps the lock is also haunted, so ghosts of past (unsuccessful) lockpickers materialize and attack every few rounds

When adding secondary challenges and complications there is often a temptation to make sure the difficulty of overcoming them is tied to how crucial it is they be overcome. That’s pretty standard design for the main challenge of an encounter, but it can be needlessly difficult and complex for something you are adding as a complication. When an encounter already has a key challenge, it can be overwhelming for an additional challenge to require the same degree of focus, effort, and resources. If you’re going for a climactic, epic encounter, that may be exactly what you want. But if you are just adding a complication to increase variety and interest in the encounter, there’s no reason it has to be as challenging as the primary problem—in many ways it’s more interesting if it isn’t. If most of the characters are trying to evacuate children from the burning orphanage, and you only expect one or two to be dealing with the still-present arsonist, making him relatively easy to deal with keeps the encounter’s focus on the lifesaving, rather than a fight. The characters who are poorly equipped to help get kids out, or who can’t resist a chance for a brawl, can focus on just a few of them easily defeating the firebug, while the rest of the characters get the more important plot point of saving children.

But that doesn’t mean the secondary challenge can’t be just as important, even if it’s not just as hard. Obviously, the children in the burning building need to be saved, but stopping the arsonist is important as well. Not only does it keep him from starting more fires (possibly in the building just across the street), so resource efforts don’t have to expand, it’s also a potential opportunity to find out why he started the fire to begin with. Is it fire-for-hire, as a crimelord wants to make a point, or a developer needs the land to finish a new project? Or did one of the children see something the arsonist wants to make sure never gets reported?

Keep it Fun

No matter what elements of complications you add to spice up encounters, try to make sure you are creating things your players will see as challenges to be overcome, rather than efforts to punish them for having powerful or single-minded characters. Problems with how characters are built or players should be handled with a conversation out-of-character on what is bothering you, and how the players can help you have fun while still making sure they have a good time.

Complications and additional challenges are to make the game surprising and fun for everyone and, like seasoning in good cooking, a few sprinkles now and then often go a long way!