Sword Chronicle: Introducing the Shattered Era

A funny thing happened on the way to making Sword Chronicle.

Sword Chronicle was based on the simplest of ideas: Taking the popular Chronicle System, which powered the now-concluded A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game, and using it to make a fantasy game that wasn’t connected to any licensed intellectual property. Green Ronin had already explored this space a little by creating PDF supplements for the Chronicle System that weren’t tied to any particular setting. That gave us the advantage of producing an all-new game using the system that already had support. Good stuff!

Shattered Era!

However, as a full-fledged roleplaying game, Sword Chronicle needed to provide a place to run campaigns: a setting of its own. Furthermore, this needed to get done quickly, since we wanted to release the game quickly.

Any sizable, longer-lived game company works on ideas that, for one reason or another, don’t turn into published material. That includes game settings. So, I looked around in the Green Ronin Vault (note: I just made this name up) and found a setting that, with a little adaptation, could work for Sword Chronicle. This had been called Shattered AGE, and had originally been designed for Fantasy AGE. For various reasons we didn’t stick with it, but the setting, designed by Jaym Gates and Jack Norris, had some solid bones. Its factions were suited to Sword Chronicle’s house systems. Best of all, it represented a departure from many of the assumptions of medieval fantasy without moving away from the most accessible elements or a play style suited to the Chronicle System.

Jaym wrote a draft collecting critical elements of the setting, and I got to work developing. First up, a name change. It became the Shattered Era, since we typically reserve the word “age” for, well, AGE. Next, I expanded and particularized one of the main ideas of the setting into a particular flashpoint: a time and place where multiple houses, including those controlled by players, could vie for power. A few stylistic flourishes later, and we had a setting for Sword Chronicle.

Welcome to the Breachlands

The last chapter of Sword Chronicle introduces the Shattered Era setting through the Breachlands. Once, the world of Annarum was the jewel in a crown of worlds, linked through high magic that harnessed the power of the stars. But some stars are evil, and one, the Unbidden Light, fell to Annarum, severing the ways to other realms—except for certain breached through which it drew strange creatures and fearsome armies. Using some of the last of the high magic, the dwarves made the Wall, which divided the “fallen” realms from the survivors.

Not long ago, the Wall fell.

Not long ago, the descendants of the Eastern “survivors” discovered that the peoples of the other side, disparaged as the “Monster Kingdoms,” had flourishing civilizations of their own.

Between them stands the Breachlands, a region inhabited by the survivors of its fallen cities, which were abandoned when the Wall went up. Now they’re nomads, whose territorial claims are all but ignored by nations on both sides of the former Wall, who see opportunities to benefit from the peculiar form of invasion called “colonization.” The rotting Aglam Empire would conquer the Breachlands to reverse its decline. The elves of Fal-Lossthar border the Breachlands, and fear encirclement, while the dwarves of Glassmere have just discovered their cousins on the other side of the Wall have thrived, and with them the Kamtain, or ogres, who were plucked from many worlds for unknown reasons, but now assert themselves as a rising power.

Joining them are mercenaries, religious military orders, and fiefdoms ruled by a combination of intrigue, military force, and sorcery. The high magic may be gone, but sorcery—the subtler arts of power—remain in the hands of a learned few. And on the Western side of the wall, in the Monster Kingdoms, dwell unknown peoples. The four-legged Kurgulan are swift, resolute warriors, strange for Easterners to behold, but their motives are somewhat comprehensible. The same can’t be said for the four-winged Nethuns Sar, master of the Black Prism. Nor do rumors of an invisible kingdom of air elementals, of the snake-beings further west, or of the Mixutul, said to be born dead, reveal any greater pattern to the Monster Kingdoms.

Tailored for Sword Chronicle, the Shattered Era setting includes descriptions of 18 houses with interests in the Breachlands. The game doesn’t assume you’ll use the setting, but it’s there, waiting for wide-eyed explorers and hard-hearted conquerors alike.

What’s Different About Sword Chronicle?

Our recently announced Sword Chronicle roleplaying game varies from classic fantasy RPGs in several respects. In many games, you play a rag-tag group of wandering adventurers, looking for justice, glory, and gold as you wander from place to place. You can do that in Sword Chronicle, but even classic adventures take place in a quite different framework.

Sword Chronicle houses

You Belong to a Noble House

By default, Sword Chronicle player characters all belong to one noble house, battling for survival and even supremacy. In fact, you and your fellow players will create your house together, settling on its strengths, weaknesses, customs, and even its favored symbols.

While you play members of a house, and control it in common, you are not necessarily the house’s leaders—in fact, you may not even be in line for the throne.

You Are Not All Equal

In many fantasy games, player characters who adventure together have roughly equal social status, but this is not necessarily the case in Sword Chronicle. Status is a game statistic, and it varies between individuals just like physical strength or skill at arms, though increasing status can be a tad trickier. Some characters may be the children of the house’s rulers, while others may be knights, bound by oath—and still others may be household servants.

This means that in the wider society to which the characters belong, some characters expect to be able to order others around. In private, the situation might be quite different, as young lords may strike an imperious attitude at court, but do what their advisors tell them in private. While your character belongs to a house, they may be servants, not rulers. This not only presents the challenge of working as a more hierarchical, cohesive group than many games allow, but it presents opportunities to subvert the hierarchy, because there’s more to power than status.

Because feudal societies pass power from parent to child, your characters will often be related. Not only that, but as this makes the passing of generations important, your character must have a definite age, instead of belonging to the rough late teens to twenty- or thirty-something standard of many games. You may choose an elderly character or a child.

You Can Be Manipulated

Unlike many games where you always have the final word over what your character says or does, Sword Chronicle includes rules for intrigue, where clever words and other inducements can manipulate your character into doing things that aren’t necessarily in their best interest. This isn’t to say your character might be made to do something against their will. Intrigue isn’t magic. It’s simply the art of convincing someone that what you want happens to be either what they also want, or at least must accept in order to further their interests. Many games have similar systems, aimed at characters controlled by the Narrator. In Sword Chronicle, player characters can also be influenced this way.

Like combat, intrigue has a set of rules and a choice of tactics, and your character can, if they wish, get better at it over time. However, there are some limits in place to keep these rules from being misused to ruin players’ fun and sense of comfort with the game.

Play Takes Place on Multiple Scales

Since you represent your house, your actions can take place on various scales. Your character might be absorbed in an individual action such as climbing a cliff; engaged in a group effort like a battle or an attempt to sail for a safe harbor; or involved in maneuvers intended to improve the political position of your house.

Different rules handle different scales. This is why, for example, Chapter 9 discusses individual combat—what happens in back alley brawls and duels of honor—while Chapter 10 provides the rules for mass battles. Similarly, your rewards aren’t just for your individual benefit, but can be channeled into improving your house’s capabilities.

Claim a Throne in the Shattered Era

For those of you who know the Chronicle System from the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game, this structure is old hat—or crown, maybe. But Sword Chronicle offers a new setting, the Shattered Era. Next time, we’ll talk about that!

Sword Chronicle: Introducing Ancestries

As it was based on the eponymous novel series, the first Chronicle System game, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, didn’t provide rules for the not-quite human characters that are staples of classic fantasy roleplaying games. We’re talking about elves, dwarves, and the like. As we were creating Sword Chronicle, a fantasy game that uses the Chronicle System but the setting of your choice (though we include one to start with), we knew this was an area we had to address, but not in the usual way.

First, the term “race,” traditionally used for these fantasy peoples back in the dawn of the hobby, had to go. I had personally abandoned the term in other work back in 2010, in a White Wolf project where I insisted on the use of “peoples.” In my role as Modern AGE developer I used “peoples,” as well, before settling into ancestries as the preferred term in the Threefold setting. Ancestries seems to be what Paizo’s Pathfinder opted for as well.

Second, many prior treatments of fantasy ancestries didn’t provide integrated support for characters with multiple ancestries, and characters whose culture wasn’t the one you’d expect them to inherit. What about a character with elf and dwarf parents, who grew up around humans?

In Sword Chronicle, the answer lies in character qualities, specifically benefits. At character creation, you gain two Ancestry benefits. The Sword Chronicle core rulebook supports dwarf, elf, human, and ogre characters. To indicate ancestry from one of these origins, take one of its corresponding benefits. If you’d like a character to have had all-elf ancestors, you’d choose two elven benefits, but for the example above, you’d choose one elf and one dwarf benefit. You may spend Destiny Points on further benefits, some of which may be easier to get for characters of the appropriate ancestry. As an example, let’s look at dwarves in Sword Chronicle.

Dwarf

Sword Chronicle includes several new Ancestries, such as Dwarves!Dwarves are a hardy people who prefer to dwell in mountains and rocky hills, where they either dig their homes out of the rock, or mine the area for stone to build citadels. Mountain and citadel dwarves have different cultures, and sometimes, distinctive family talents. Most people of dwarven ancestry are hirsute, with many growing long beards. They’re shorter than most humans by a foot or two, but considerably broader.

Dwarven culture values artisanship and concrete achievements over social niceties. In settlements dominated by dwarven social mores, smiths, stoneworkers, and other artisans may be part of the nobility, and lords may even be asked to produce a masterwork in their trade to qualify for leadership. Dwarves may possess more sophisticated technologies than other peoples, but are notably less interested in the study of nature. Dwarven communities practice some agriculture, but usually prefer to trade for things that grow.

Sample Dwarf Benefits


Blood of the Citadel

Ancestry (Dwarf)

The legacy of the citadel dwarves flows through your veins.

Each time you make a Cunning roll to practice a trade involving working metal, stone or other solid minerals, or to identify the value and properties of anything made largely of metal or jewels, you may re-roll a number of 1s equal to your Awareness rank. Whenever you are attacked by fire or heat, increase your passive Endurance by 2. Finally, add +1B to Warfare rolls when attacking, defending, or fighting in fortifications.

Axe Fighter I

Ancestry (Dwarf), Martial

Requires Fighting 4 (Axes 2B) or Dwarf Ancestry and Fighting 2 (Axes 1B)

You can swing axes with dreadful results.

Whenever you make a Fighting test to attack using an axe, you can sacrifice bonus dice before the test to deal additional damage. On a hit with the attack, your target takes extra damage equal to the number of bonus dice you sacrificed at the start of its next turn. This extra damage ignores AR.


What this Means

The first benefit is exclusive to people of dwarven ancestry. Characters without it can’t acquire Blood of the Citadel. The second is a non-exclusive benefit. Other characters can gain Axe Fighter I, but can’t use their ancestry benefit choice (which doesn’t cost Destiny Points) and have to meet a higher prerequisite.

That’s how the system works, and how elves, dwarves, and ogres join humans as character options in Sword Chronicle.

A Series of Tubes (Green Ronin on YouTube)

“Or we can just dive-in, do it, and see what happens.”

That was Green Ronin Community Director Troy Hewitt, one of our resident extroverts, encouraging us to pivot in the time of covid-19 toward our community, using the means at-hand, including video streaming. Troy has a great way of getting those of us who would want to study the situation for, well, ever out of our heads and into action. That next week, the first “Mutants & Masterminds Monday” live-streamed with me and M&M Developer Crystal Frasier, with Troy acting as host, moderator, and on-the-fly tech guru.

It’s now almost three months later and we have eleven (soon to be twelve) M&M Mondays under our belts. It’s still very much a “see what happens” learning process, but we’ve had guests on the stream, fielded questions from our audience, and Troy has come up with a few fun activities for us to do. We’ve even developed in-jokes (as gamers interacting are wont to do) from Crystal’s “journal of dreams” to our tendency to come up with new projects for ourselves while on the stream.

Green Ronin on Youtube!

All of which is a long introduction to announcing that, as things are progressing, some of our “M&M Mondays” episodes are available on Green Ronin Publishing’s YouTube channel. We’re putting more up as we go and the eventual plan is for us to start streaming live on YouTube and Twitch as well as on Facebook, so there will be even more places where you can see and hear from us and we can tell you everything that’s going on with Mutants & Masterminds and Green Ronin Publishing.

 

Not going to lie, for an introvert like myself, being on-camera isn’t easy, and I have been on-camera more in these past three months than I think I have been in the past three years, and then some. But at the same time, it has been wonderful getting to talk on a weekly basis with Crystal and Troy and our guests and to hear the questions and feedback from our community, many of you from week to week. It hasn’t been easy for Green Ronin (or many small businesses) with the initial loss of distribution and with many game stores still closed or doing only limited business. So every purchase of Green Ronin’s games helps, whether it is from the GR Online Store or supporting your favorite local game retailer.

We’re about two weeks from experiencing Gen Con Online for the first time (another “dive-in and see what happens” experience) and Green Ronin Publishing will be there with our games, our staff of wonderful and creative people, and with you, our community, and I’ll be there, in front of my camera, just as I plan to be next Monday. I don’t know for how many Mondays, to be honest, because things are changing fast and often these days but, I can tell you this: We’ll see what happens.

Hope you can join us sometime.

Ronin Report, July 10th, 2020

It’s been a couple of months since our last Ronin Ronin Report: new serialized adventures!Report so I thought I’d update you all on how the company is faring during the ongoing COVID crisis. In March and April things were dicey. When our warehouse shut down and we could not ship physical books anymore, that put us a bad situation and severely impacted our ability to bring in revenue. Team Ronin really pulled together though, and we were able to roll with the punches and make some contingency plans that helped us weather the roughest patch.

Thankfully, Alliance—the game distributor who warehouses our books—re-opened with new safety procedures in place in May. This meant we could begin shipping books again, both to customers of our online store and the distributors who serve game retailers. This was a big help. A couple of print jobs that had been put on pause were also able to get going again. Lairs for Fantasy AGE and the reprint of the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide for Mutants & Masterminds both arrived and are available now. We also ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for the Book of Fiends on Game On Tabletop.

All of this means that things are more stable now than they were a couple of months ago. Does it mean everything is back to normal? Well, no, unfortunately not. Pretty much every convention in 2020 has been cancelled at this point, game stores are still struggling, and orders did not magically go back to their pre-COVID levels. We had to make some big adjustments to our schedule and have to be much more strategic about what gets printed and in what quantities. And yes, M&M fans, we will print the Time Traveler’s Codex! We just need to find the right time for it.

The hardest decisions we had to make regarding our schedule were pushing the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook and Fifth Season RPG into next year. 2020 just Ronin Report: new serialized adventures!isn’t the right time for big launches like that, so we reluctantly made that call. On the upside, it does give us more development time on both projects and we are putting that to good use.

Overall, we are getting by but it’s not an easy time. If you’d like to support us, pick up some Green Ronin books from your local store or our online store. We also have some exciting stuff being serialized in electronic format: Five and Infinity for Modern AGE, the NetherWar adventure series for Mutants & Masterminds, and new Blue Rose Adventures. Nisaba Press, our fiction imprint, has released two new short story collections (For Hart and Queen for Blue Rose and Powered Up for M&M), and the superhero novel Sacred Band is also up for pre-order.

And there’s more fun stuff coming up. In August we’ll be launching Sword Chronicle, a full fantasy RPG built on the rules from our Song of Ice and Fire RPG. Ships of The Expanse will bring all the sexy spaceships to your Expanse games. Danger Zones will provide lots of interesting adventure locales for Mutants & Masterminds. And we’ve got a 20th anniversary surprise to boot!

We hope you are all staying safe out there. Remember to wear a mask when you go out and maintain social distancing. We know it’s hard for gamers used to sitting around the table together, but we want to see all your faces when this is all over.

Ronin Report: new releases from Nisaba Press!

 

 

Sagas of Sword … and Sorcery!

For the release of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System as the Sword Chronicle fantasy RPG and setting, a lot from its earlier incarnation as Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying (SIFRP for short) was preserved, but a few things have also changed. One of those most notable things is the inclusion of sorcery.

Sorcery in the Chronicle System

Magic in SIFRP was a rare and mysterious thing, the province of a few unusual qualities and not much more than that. For Sword Chronicle we needed a more robust system of magic, suitable for everything from hedge-witches to scholarly thaumaturgists and the adepts of spiritual mystery cults. At the same time, the system needed to be more rooted in the kind of fantasy chronicles the system was designed to tell, rather than the notion of spell-caster as “mobile artillery.”

As the beginning of the Sorcery chapter of the book notes:

Sword Chronicle sorcery is not the overt, flashy spells of many roleplaying systems. It is a “lower” sort of magic, without the pyrotechnics, earth-shaking manifestations, or epic reality-altering of “high-magic” fantasy systems. In fact, many sorcerous Arts provide effects that could, to the skeptical eye, be regarded as coincidence, chicanery, or some combination of the two. Indeed, the price of many of these Arts is so high that even true sorcerers often resort to sleight of hand, tricks of chemistry, and taking credit for things that are genuinely coincidental, in order to avoid paying it.

Fortunately, we had a working basis to start from in the form of Joseph Carriker’s Chronicle of Sorcery release for the Chronicle System, which outlines the essentials for a system of sorcery. Sword Chronicle takes that concept and runs with it, expanding it out into an essential system for magic-workers of all kinds. The “price” mentioned in the introduction previously is Destiny, the Chronicle System “currency” of character potential. Sorcerers harness the power of Destiny to influence and change the world through their Arts, in both subtle and profound ways.

What are those Arts? Sword Chronicle outlines four, each with its own magical Works:

  • The Art of Benediction, which invests people, places, and things with magical blessings and power. Its Works include attunement, blessing, anointing, consecration, and investiture.
  • The Art of Divination, which draws aside the veils of space and time to grant sorcerers knowledge. Its Works include casting, dowsing, reading, and vision for the greatest of prophecies.
  • The Art of Malediction, which brings misfortune and harm to one’s enemies or to bind their wills. Its Works include Castigate, Curse, Ensorcell, Ruination
  • The Art of Warding, which turns away unwanted magic and guards against sorcery. Its Works include various types of wards and sorcerous protections.

Each Art has its Works, which range from quick-and-immediate spells to more complex and powerful rituals, from an immediate Castigate spell to wrack a target with pain to a more involved Rite of Cursing to destroy them from afar, from an immediate Blessing, to the Consecration of a great temple or Investiture of an enchanted blade, intended to last a lifetime or more.

Of course, in addition to Destiny, true mastery of sorcery requires a significant investment of a character’s qualities, and sorcerous qualities determine what Arts a character has learned, or mastered, much like fighting styles and other qualities that define characters in the Chronicle System. Indeed, there are also some qualities suitable for characters who have just a touch of magic, like the Beast-friend, the seer with Prophetic Dreams, or the chosen of Destiny with Prophetic Alignment.

So whether your concept for a Sword Chronicle character is a wise elder wizard, a cunning woods-witch, a zealous warrior of the faith, a rune-crafter, or the former member of a secretive cult, you can create them and their arcane Arts in the Chronicle System.

Sword Chronicle: Feudal Fantasy Roleplaying Returns

The fury of battle. Court intrigue. Games of blood and status. That’s Sword Chronicle, a complete roleplaying game for the Chronicle System. We’ve been working on it quietly, with no official announcements before now.

Sword Chronicle: Feudal Fantasy Roleplaying

(not final cover)

Where’s the Hype?

Well, this is the hype. Sword Chronicle was designed under the radar as a response to the COVID-19 situation, which we’ve discussed here. We took a hard look at what we could do in this emergency, and this not only fit the bill, it sent a message that we’re not going to just survive, but survive aggressively, by producing a core rulebook.

The Chronicle System Returns

Originally designed for the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying game, the Chronicle System was devised to work on multiple scales and fields of conflict, from duels to battles to courtly intrigue. Green Ronin’s license to make the game has concluded, and we remain grateful for the opportunity to explore Westeros through the game. But we’ve always wanted to support other settings for the Chronicle System. We started that with setting-agnostic Chronicle System material available through our website and DriveThruRPG. Sword Chronicle is the next step: a core rulebook designed to bring the Chronicle System’s unique characteristics to classic fantasy gaming.

What’s The Same, What’s Changed 

Sword Chronicle uses the Chronicle System you’ve seen before, but adds new elements to support fantasy games, including the following: 

  • Rules for fantasy ancestries, including elves, dwarves, and ogres 
  • A revised version of the magic rules first presented in the Chronicle of Sorcery supplement, integrated into the core rules 
  • Revised and reorganized rules for intrigue: the art of victory in the social arena 
  • The Shattered Era, an optional fantasy setting featuring 19 houses, the nonhumanoid kurgulan people, and the Breachlands, a region fit for empire builders and uprisings

Furthermore, while you don’t need to purchase Chronicle of Sorcery for magic rules if you get Sword Chronicle, all other published generic Chronicle System supplements remain compatible, including creature supplements such as Desert Threats and rules expansions such as Out of Strife, Prosperity. Thus, Sword Chronicle comes with immediate support. You can play it with one book, but the options are there.

Beyond the Sword Chronicle

Sword Chronicle is an expression of the “classic” Chronicle System, but there’s more to come. Don’t forget that The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game, which will use a version of the system tailored to the world of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, is on the horizon. It’s a good time to be a Chronicle System fan. Stay in touch—we’ll tell you when.

Ronin Army forums update: All Good Things…

Hello Green Ronin fans,

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


Ronin Army Gamer Badge

Green Ronin Gamer Badge

Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

Green Ronin 20 For 20 Sale

Green Ronin 20 For 20 Sale

20 For 20 Sale

2020 is Green Ronin’s 20th anniversary, and to celebrate we’re having a site wide sale of all our games and accessories. Everything in the Green Ronin Online Store is for sale for 20% off through April 20, 2020, except for active pre-orders like Lairs for Fantasy AGE and Enemies & Allies for Modern AGE. We really appreciate all the support you’ve given us over the years, so please enjoy some great games at a great price!

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!)