Green Ronin is at PAX Unplugged this weekend, exhibiting in booth 3649 in the Expo Hall and running games all weekend (with the able assistance of our Freebooters) in the Tabletop Freeplay hall. We will have copies of Abzu’s Bounty (the soon-to-be-released adventure path for The Expanse RPG), Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, Threefold, Superteam Handbook, the novels Height of the Storm and Shadowtide, and more!
Green Ronin is very excited to be attending PAX Unplugged again this year. PAX Unplugged is Penny Arcade’s completely analog convention. It’s become known as the convention where people actually play games – a lot of them! Crazy, right? So, if you are in Philadelphia the weekend of December 6 – 8, please come join us and play some games.
You will be able to find us at Exhibitor’s Hall Booth 3649. Even better is that this year we will also have a table within the free play hall in an area designated for exhibitor demos. We will have our own dedicated table throughout the entire weekend!
Speaking of the demo table – we could really use a few more people to help us run games. Does this sound like fun to you? In addition to the fun of running games, Green Ronin will reimburse your badge and give you a t-shirt. Win-win for all of us!
If you’re already a Freebooter and interested, please contact me to discuss details.
Not a Freebooter but still want to run games for us? No problem! Becoming a Freebooter is fun, easy, and packed with perks. The first step is to fill out this form. If you want to help with PAX Unplugged, please also send me an email at email@example.com to make sure I expedite your application.
Finally, if you’re attending PAX Unplugged, please feel free to drop by our booth and say hello. Happy gaming!
This week was supposed to be set aside for me to talk about the Modern AGE Companion a little more, but I want to talk about Alejandro (aka Alex, or Al-X) Melchor instead. Alex passed away last week, due to the extended complications of a stroke he suffered in March.
Alex worked on every Modern AGE book currently at any stage of completion. In the core, he wrote rules, focuses, talents and part of the extensive Game Master advice in that book. He brought his talents to the World of Lazarus, the Modern AGE Companion, and the upcoming Threefold and Enemies & Allies, too. I’m currently looking for writers for a new book. It has an Alex-shaped hole in it now.
I first got to know him through a semiprivate community we shared, in 2001. I’d just been invited, as responses to my early professional work for White Wolf had been good. Alex did some work for them as well before taking an intensive gig with Mongoose Publishing in the early 2000s. I drifted away and he was busy, though I knew him through the Open Game License credits I bumped into while designing my own stuff. In the interim he developed an enormous list of credits, tending toward mechanically intensive work. I’d say one great thing about him is he could work on rules that reinforce stories and atmosphere, because getting game systems down was quick work for him.
Steve Kenson got to know Alex well, and took the lead in doing what we could to help when he fell ill. He reintroduced me to Alex, and Alex became a bedrock contributor for Modern AGE. He did so much more, in his own communities, on other games, and with other creative people, but I don’t want to presume to talk about any of that. We worked hard. We made some good ideas playable together. And he was unfailingly nice to everyone, a born collaborator, but didn’t hesitate to point out what he thought would be bad ideas.
According to family and friends, Alex liked proactive, resourceful, tough woman protagonists. Modern AGE uses a loose set of iconic characters created by the writers. Alex created Indra Winchester, the technically-inclined punk, who you can see on the cover of the Modern AGE Companion and inside the books of the line. In examples, he’s her player. I plan to keep it that way.
It seems so inane to go through his qualities as a creative guy, when of course there was more, but he was my comrade in making games. That’s what I’ve got to work with, even though it’s not enough to give the man his due. He was a visual artist, and beloved by various communities. And more, always more. In and out of this industry, I won’t be missing him alone, and won’t be the only one feeling new gaps in what might be possible, in work and life. I’m going to miss him.
(This round table contains mild spoilers for Fenris in Dragon Age 2. Yeah, it’s been 8 years but I still meet folks who just started playing it, Inquisition, and even Origins so erring on the side of spoiler alerts)
Hey folks, this is Jack here to talk a bit about Faces of Thedas.
Now no big book of characters can include every character in a large universe. You can look at our various offerings in DC Adventures, Wild Cards, A Song of Ice and Fire, and now Dragon Age to see this. The books include a lot of characters and groups, but not everything makes it into a particular book.
So who makes the cut? Well, it depends.
In Faces it was an intentional mix. The prime focus was on “quest givers”, people who enabled adventures and roleplaying opportunities for players, not who necessarily had their own adventurers. This is where characters like the Divine, Josephine Montilyet, and others came in. But not all the characters fit exactly into that category. In many cases, characters were selected with a fair amount of wiggle room in how they could be used, often because they had targeted, and important but limited involvement in the canonical tales of Thedas.
In addition, some characters were included because they’d make good antagonists. Potential antagonist characters weren’t necessarily villains, but definitely characters who could easily end up on the other side of a conflict from player heroes. This is your Lambert or Knight-Commander Meredith. Depending on the timeline and group? This might even be your Iron Bulls and Alistairs. This is also why we briefly revisited some of the important Darkspawn “bosses.”
Other characters were included because they would make potential romantic interests, allies, and patrons. These included some companions from the games, like Leliana. This also included characters with ties to important groups or events that still had that aforementioned wiggle room that makes them easier to throw into a campaign or adventure.
Some characters were also included because not including them was never an option. Be it Bioware or one of the several Dragon Age fans on our staff, there were characters people inside the production of this book wanted to see. This is also your Alistair, but also your Dorians and Cullens and so on.
With a few characters—very few admittedly—it was even the case someone in on the production side didn’t want to use a character in the book. Sometimes that person was me, but not always. I’m not going to detail who those characters were, but it was never a matter of “ugh, I don’t like them!” but some other reason that seemed compelling enough to use a different character.
So what about some of the folks who didn’t make it? It’s not that they couldn’t fit into one of these roles. Its not that they weren’t cool or no one liked them. It was just they didn’t make it for various reasons. For example, I actually like Fenris a fair amount. However, Fenris’ tale is pretty self-contained, socially isolated, and during Dragon Age 2 its quite possible he ends up dead at Hawke’s hands. So instead we had characters like Iron Bull or Michel—skilled passionate warriors with a story whose net cast a bit wider plot and campaign wise.
Note a lot of this was clearly “in our opinion.” That’s the thing about design, there’s always an element of personal, even arbitrary decision making. I’m not trying to thumb my nose and say, “well when you’re developer you can fix it!” but…there is a much less confrontational and more good-natured truth to that. Not everyone will agree about what to include in a product.
And in case anyone is really wondering? I like Yvette. Yes, she’s a minor character who arguably “doesn’t matter”. I also think she makes a good romantic foil and political connection for campaigns who could grow and develop in response to interactions with a player group. So now you know.
So the long awaited Faces of Thedas supplement for Dragon Age has just released and is available for print+pdf pre-orders. When I say “long awaited”, we ain’t kidding. From the fans to the writers to myself and the other folks at Green Ronin? We’ve been waiting for this book to come out for some time.
I’m not going to do dissection of the various delays and problems that led to the long development cycle. From tragedies to simple delays to approvals…it was a long road. But now that road is reaching its destination so let’s look at what that means.
Faces of Thedas is essentially a character archive/NPC cast book for Dragon Age. It doesn’t include every character in the games and novels, that was never really its purpose. Instead it takes various characters and organizations and provides additional information about them, including advice on how to play them, game statistics, and suggestions on how to use them in a game. These characters range from relatively minor but politically interesting characters like Yvette Montilyet to major players like Leliana and Cullen. Some characters are more likely to be plot movers and allies, others PC heroes will likely meet over a five course meal of swords, arrows, daggers, spells, and blood.
The book covers characters across all three games and various other media, which also means not ever character from a particular game, comic, book, etc… made the cut. This wasn’t due to some disregard for some fine characters who didn’t make it, there was just so much space and some other character for whatever reason was included instead.
What reasons? Honestly? I can’t tell you. Because there wasn’t just one. Some characters were deemed interesting, but their stories seemed more confined to a particular game, making them less likely to feature into tabletop campaigns. Others seemed to be statistically easy to replicate compared to another option, thus it was decided a character like Cole who didn’t follow normal character creation patterns would be more useful to model than someone like Lord Harrowmont, who for all his skill at intrigue and wonderful dwarf-y lordliness is mechanically a dwarf warrior who knows how to play politics. That’s nothing against all the Harrowmont fans out there, I like him too. However, I’m also confident most Dragon Age GMs wishing to use old Pyral can make a serviceable version of him for their games.
Speaking of Cole, here’s a preview of what he looks like in Faces. Note the background for playing incarnated spirits and the special Talent—these are the sorts of “extras” which sometimes pushed a character’s inclusion.
Also, we wanted to leave room for rules for relationships and organizations. The organizations in particular were important since they provide new honorifics and ranks, which are useful for GMs but also potentially for PCs as well. For example, want to know just how terrifying your Antivan Crow PC is to his potential targets in Thedas? We have that covered, as shown in this preview of assassin-based honorifics:
See? Now you its even easier to play your reformed killer drawn back into a John Wick* style rampage of righteous revenge in Thedas! These are the sorts of things Faces was meant to enable, not just a catalog of characters, but a guide to using those characters easily and effectively. Information on the Carta, Friends of Red Jenny, and other organizations was similarly aimed at helping players and GMs alike.
All told, there are dozens of characters and groups collectively in the group. This includes four new backgrounds and numerous titles and honorifics and rules for relationships. It’s a fine resource for Dragon Age tabletop players and fans of Thedas alike. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
*The Keanu Reeves films, not the game designer.
Pre-ordering is now activated for Dragon Age: Faces of Thedas in our Green Ronin Online Store. In addition, when you pre-order the physical book, you’ll be offered the PDF version for just $5! If you prefer to shop at a local store, make sure they’ve joined our GR Pre-Order Plus program, and you can get the PDF deal through them.
Faces of Thedas lets you bring a host of compelling characters from the Dragon Age video games and beyond to your game table. From fan-favorite companions like Alistair and Dorian to deadly antagonists like Loghain and Knight-Commander Meredith, this book gives Game Masters a memorable cast to work with, providing game statistics, backgrounds, and advice on how best to use these characters in your own Dragon Age campaigns. It also includes new rules for managing and using relationships in play, giving additional depth to rivalries, friendships, and romance. Major organizations like the Antivan Crows and the Carta are also detailed. Faces of Thedas is a must for any Dragon Age GM.
Welcome back to our look at Green Ronin’s 2019 plans. If you missed the first two entries, you can check them out here and here. In this final installment, I’ll be talking about Modern AGE, Fantasy AGE, and Dragon Age.
All three of these games are powered by the Adventure Game Engine (AGE), which has become something of a house system for us over the past five years. Blue Rose and our upcoming Expanse RPG also use AGE, so if you play any of these games, you’re learning the core rules of a growing group of RPGs that cover a variety of genres. I originally designed the Adventure Game Engine for the Dragon Age RPG, and it took off from there. I’m thus happy to report that Faces of Thedas, the long-awaited sourcebook for Dragon Age, is nearly here. Once we get the final green light, we’ll put the PDF up for sale and launch the pre-order. The hour is nigh!
Last year we released the Fantasy AGE Companion, the first real rules expansion for the game. We are following that up this year with two books to make running Fantasy AGE even easier. First up is the Campaign Builders Guide, which is designed to help Game Masters create, build, maintain, and run campaigns. It is filled with advice on crafting encounters and adventures, creating interesting monsters and locations, running epic-style campaigns, and more. It also includes tables to help generate campaign elements when a bit of spontaneity and randomness is desired.
After that we have a book called Lairs, which provides a series of detailed challenges you can adapt to your Fantasy AGE campaign. Each chapter presents a terrifying or formidable adversary, their servants and followers, and their headquarters, base, or lair. Also included are rules for lair and scene specific stunts to step up location-based action in your game. Between Lairs and the Campaign Builders Guide, Game Masters will have many new tools to work with.
Later in the year we should have a setting book for Fantasy AGE. Jack Norris and Jaym Gates have been working on a new setting and you’ll hear more about that as the year progresses. We do also still hope to release the Titansgrave world book, but that depends on some things beyond our control getting sorted out. Can’t say any more than that but fingers crossed.
Last year we launched the Modern AGE RPG, releasing its Basic Rulebook and GM’s Kit. As its name indicates, this takes the AGE rules into a contemporary context. You can use it to run anything from the Industrial Revolution to the near future. Optional rules for extraordinary powers mean Modern AGE easily handles things like urban fantasy or fighting occult Nazis as well. Just last week we released The World of Lazarus, the first campaign setting for the game. It’s a dystopian near future setting based on the Lazarus comics by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and it’s a great way to get your Modern AGE campaign going. If you’d like to know more about The World of Lazarus, developer Crystal Frasier did a series of Ronin Round Tables about it that you can find here.
Next up after The World of Lazarus is the Modern AGE Companion. This sourcebook expands the Basic Rulebook in a bunch of fun ways. There are new backgrounds, professions, and talents, plus new rules for extraordinary powers, technologies, and organizations. It’s also got a very useful chapter on adapting the rules to various genres, such as gothic horror, alien invasion, and Cold War spies. Summertime will then see the Enemies & Allies sourcebook. If you’re looking for adversaries and NPCs for your campaign, look no further! Since Modern AGE covers many different genres, Enemies & Allies ranges far afield, from elite operatives and scientists to horrors and arcane beings.
Later in the year we are going big with our first original setting for Modern AGE, Malcolm Sheppard’s Threefold. It’s an epic modern fantasy setting where characters explore countless planes of existence. In it, our Earth is only one of many alternate worlds. Beyond them, the Otherworlds contain dimension-spanning empires of godlings and sorcerers, and Netherworlds ruled by demon-gods raise armies of the damned. Characters might travel between planes as agents of the Sodality, an organization devoted to peacekeeping and exploration, defend Earth as cyborg agents of Aethon the conspiracy which patrols multiple timelines, or serve other groups. Threefold is big by design, and broad enough to contain all of Modern AGE’s genre possibilities. Stay tuned for more info and teasers about Threefold throughout the year.
A Banner Year
All in all, 2019 is shaping up to be a great year and there’s more to come. Look for an announcement about our community content program for Fantasy AGE and Modern AGE soon. As always you can keep us with us on this website, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ve got more fun stuff to reveal as the months go by. Here’s hoping 2019 is better for everyone!
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!
Through Tuesday, March 13th, you can get a terrific deal on Dragon Age RPG and Fantasy AGE RPG PDFs at Bundle of Holding. For just $9.95 you can get the Starter Collection, but you might as well meet or exceed the threshold (level up) price of (currently) just $24.72, and unlock $75 more worth of AGE System PDFs. Even better, 10% of your payment (after payment gateway fees) goes to the Maria Fund, a charity “with a mission to support frontline efforts to fulfill immediate relief needs and to organize for an equitable Puerto Rico over the long term.”