Ronin Round Table: GenCon 2016 Roleplaying Games!

 

GClogo-header-2016-91a751cab7b3dc33dd0ac3b3b95595ac9c4e1b4bc5f42b6388531396cb8729beAs I’m sure most folks know, the events registration for GenCon 2016 went live on Sunday. As an aid to everyone who is interested in playing some of their favorite Green Ronin Publishing roleplaying games at GenCon—or trying out one they’ve never played before—we thought we’d compile a handy list of links to those games, by game.

What follows is not a complete list of Green Ronin Publishing games ato be had at GenCon. It’s just a collection of the games we’ve helped put together and coordinate for this year’s convention. See you there!

Reminder: While some of these games are already sold out (a big thanks to all of that enthusiasm!), remember that lots of folks over-buy, and then drop events as they figure out their schedule. Moreover, things happen and sometimes people aren’t able to show for a game, so make sure to pick up some generic tickets and if there’s a game you’re really interested in, show up to it and see if there are any slots unfilled when game time rolls around. Our GMs are only too happy to help.

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Now Pre-Ordering: Dragon Age GM’s Kit

Dragon Age GM's Kit, Revised (Pre-Order)

Dragon Age GM’s Kit, Revised (Pre-Order)

The Dragon Age GM’s Kit, Revised is now available for pre-order. Also, when you pre-order through our Green Ronin Online Store, or from participating retailers, you’ll get to buy the PDF version of this product for just $5!

Dragon Age Game Master’s Kit, Revised
Authors: Chris Pramas and Dave Brookshaw
Format: 3-panel hardback GM Screen, 5 reference cards, and a 36 page booklet
ISBN: 978-1-934547-69-4

The Game Master’s Kit is a key accessory for your Dragon Age RPG campaign. It features a three-panel hardback screen that puts all the essential game info right in front you, and features a brand new 36-page adventure that takes your PCs into the Deep Roads. It also includes 4 quick reference cards that put the stunts and actions at your fingertips, and a combat tracker that you can write on with wet or dry erase markers. The Game Master’s Kit is the perfect complement to the Dragon Age Core Rulebook and will help you run your game with style.

Back in Stock: Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook

Dragon Age RPG Core Rules

Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook

The Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook, hardback version, is back in print and available through game and book stores everywhere, and in our Green Ronin Online Store.

Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook

Ronin Round Table: The Art of Art Direction

beastfolk

By Hal Mangold

Today’s Ronin Round Table draws back the curtain on some of the behind-the-scenes parts of creating our products. Art is an essential part of the look and feel of most games, and it’s the role of the art director (that’s me) to make sure all that art gets created. To give you all a little insight into the job, we’re going to answer a few common questions about what being an art director is all about.  

What does the art director do?

As the art director, my responsibility is to make sure that all of the art that goes into Green Ronin’s games and publications is up to the standard we’ve tried to set over the years. I select the artists, assign and approve the art, and herd cats to make sure it all comes into our hands by the deadline necessary for publication.  

How does the art direction process work?

It all starts for me with scouting out the artists who have the right style to fit the project. Games like Mutants & Masterminds have a radically different art style than Dragon Age or A Song of Ice & Fire. I contact the artists I want on the project, see if they are available during the timeframe I need them, and get them contracted if they’re interested in working on the project. Ideally, this is done about 4-5 months ahead of time, but circumstances often compress this a bit.  

The art order or brief comes next. This is a description or set of descriptions for the piece of art needed for the product. These can be written either by me or, more often, by the developer of the product, with my role being more to tweak or jazz up those basic descriptions. Sometimes the descriptions are general, sometimes really specific, and different artists work well with each type. In general, I try to art direct with a light touch when I can. I’m hiring the artist for their talents and inspiration, after all. I try to give them as much room to improvise as I can.   

The next step is to take that art order transfer it to the artist or artists. For a cover piece, this part is simple. For interior work with multiple artists, it’s a bit more involved of a process. The art assignments get broken up between the artists, taking into consideration both spreading the artists throughout the book for a unified look, and assigning the right pieces to the right artists based on their relative strengths.

Next the artists submit their sketches for the assignments. I review them to make sure the composition is as strong as it should be, that the basic look is right, that any characters depicted have the correct look, and so on. If revised sketches are needed, the artist submits them, and once everyone is happy with where the piece are going, the artist takes the piece to its final state.

If the project is for a licensed property, there’s one extra step: approval by the licensor. Most licensors require us to submit all of the original art we commission to them so they can make sure it depicts their world and characters properly. Some licensors want to see sketches, and some just care about the final result.

There was a time when there was another step: the artists physically shipping their work to us for scanning. Fortunately almost all artists today (even those working in non-digital mediums) submit digital files. Considering the international nature of the artists we work with, that’s especially fortunate today, with international shipping costs being what they are.  

Once all the art is approved, the art director gives it a look to ensure it’s in the proper color and file format, and that it will reproduce properly when actually printed. After that, the image file is handed off to layout for insertion into the product. The art director’s work is done.

Where do you find artists?

Anywhere and everywhere! The Internet is a fantastic source, of course. Sites like DeviantArt, Artstation and DrawCrowd give artists a place to put their portfolios, and I browse around on them quite often. Sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are also fantastic art resources, both for finding new artists, and building “mood boards” for how I want a particular project to look. It sometimes takes a little internet detective work to find out who created an image found that way, however. Not everyone is great about tagging sources for what they post.

Conventions are another great source for artists. Whether it’s a comic, gaming, anime or just overall sci-fi show, I always keep an eye out for creators whose style might work with one of our games. If we’re actually displaying at a show (like GenCon, for instance), portfolio reviews are another great source for me.

And finally, email submissions come in all the time, and have provided me with some great people I might not have noticed before.

Can I submit my art to Green Ronin?

Absolutely! Anyone is welcome to submit their work (or a link to an online portfolio, preferably), to art@greenronin.com.

Ronin Round Table: We Could Be Heroes…

If just for one game.

2523On January 10th, 2016 David Robert Jones, known to the world as David Bowie, passed away after a private and protracted battle with cancer. He was a singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and many many more things and his influence was felt far and wide.

He was not, to my knowledge, a gamer.

But he was totally a role player.

From his personas of Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and various acting roles and constant innovation and re-invention, Bowie was great at making and playing characters. He communicated concepts and ideas not just with evocative music and lyrics, but with performance. Even his battle with cancer is depicted metaphorically through his last album, putting him it a category of unique works that range from Warren Zevon’s The Wind to John Wayne’s The Shootist.

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Green Ronin in 2016

By Chris Pramas

Happy New Year, gaming comrades! I hope you all had a good holiday, and got some quality gaming in with friends and family. As has become a tradition here at GR, I’m here to spill the beans on our plans for the coming year. Last year was a bit awkward because in January I could not yet announce Titansgrave or the fact that we were designing D&D books for Wizards of the Coast. This year will be much less cryptic! So what’s have we got in store for you? Rather a lot, actually!

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Ronin Round Table: Game Master’s Kits Are Coming!

One of the most common questions we got after the release of Fantasy AGE was, “Are you going to do a GM screen?” At the same time our screens for other games had been going out of the print over the past couple of years. We have not had GM’s Kits for Dragon Age, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and Mutants & Masterminds in stock for some time. We’ve been waiting for the right time to get these going again, and happily that time is now!

In the first quarter of next year, we’ll be releasing Game Master’s Kits for Fantasy AGE, Mutants & Masterminds, Dragon Age, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. They have some common features. Namely, all have a sturdy, hardback GM screen, four double-sided rules reference cards, and a combat tracker. The latter is a card for keeping track of initiative and other combat considerations, and you can write on it with dry or wet erase markers. The Fantasy AGE one (which has only the above contents) is brand new, of course, but the other three are revisions of our previous GM’s Kits.

The original Mutants & Masterminds GM’s Kit included a 48-page booklet featuring the Quickstart Character Generator. This proved so popular and useful that we put it in the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook. It didn’t make sense to include the booklet when that info is in the game’s core rulebook, so the reference cards and combat tracker replace it.

The Dragon Age GM’s Kit also needed a revision. The original was done when only Set 1 had been released, so the screen was out of date. We’ve revised it to reflect Dragon Age Core Rulebook, and we’re also replacing “A Bann Too Many” with a brand new adventure.

A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying’s GM’s Kit will have the same basic content (short adventure, map of Westeros) plus the reference cards and combat tracker. We may replace the screen art (that isn’t nailed down yet). The adventure is the same, but we are going to duotone the art and print the booklet in color this time, just to snazz it up.

The GM’s Kits for Fantasy AGE and Mutants & Masterminds are at print now and should release in January. Those for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and Dragon Age are scheduled for March. Since both of those are licensed games, I’ll just issue my usual caveat that an approvals process is involved and this sometimes affects release dates. This is less an issue with the SIFRP screen, as it’s a largely a reprint, but the Dragon Age screen has a brand new adventure and associated art, which need a sign off from BioWare.

It is thanks to Dragon Age that all the new GM’s Kits are getting handy reference cards. That game was originally released as a series of boxed sets, which allowed us to easily include such things. Now that the Dragon Age Core Rulebook is out, we needed a new way to get reference cards for stunts and other things into people’s hands. The GM’s Kits proved the perfect place for the reference cards and the new combat trackers. Look for them all in the new year!

Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition: Limited Number Available

Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition

Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition

The Dragon Age RPG Ultimate Edition is once more available in our Green Ronin Online Store, while supplies last.

This limited edition of the Dragon Age RPG Core Rulebook, available exclusively through the Green Ronin and BioWare online stores, features a slipcase with a red leatherette bound book, silver foil stamped, with silver-gilded edges and a ribbon bookmark.

Order yours today!

Ronin Round Table: The Care and Feeding of Monster Design

MedusaHeya folks, Jack here. I wanted to take a break from working on AGE and Dragon AGE content to talk to you a bit about making your own content for the Adventure Game Engine. Specifically, let’s talk about making monsters.

Since the recent launch of Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana, I get asked a lot of questions, from “When will they be in stores,” to “What the hell is Interlligence?!” People have a lot of questions about these books.

However, by far one of the most common questions I get asked is “so, any advice on making our own monsters?” Which makes sense. While both Titansgrave and Fantasy AGE contain some cool beasties, there’s plenty of room for more monsters, demons, and beasties. So for today’s Ronin Round Table, I’d like to talk a bit about some things to consider when building your own monsters.

Generally, it’s easy to make your own monsters in Fantasy AGE. Come up with a concept or borrow one from your favorite stories, myths, legends, books, etc… Assign statistics that match up to the rough idea of what your monster can do and then tailor it so that you’re not making it too tough or too easy on your PCs when they face such threats. Speaking of…

You might find that despite having a solid idea and being sure everything will work out, you accidentally made a monster that’s far too strong or weak for the PCs. There are several ways to do this, but some common mistakes to avoid are:

Making monsters who hit all the time or not at all. A really high Accuracy or Fighting is going to mean even very agile and defensive PCs will get nailed a lot. Remember the average dice roll with 3d6 is 11 and starting PCs usually have between 10 and 15 defense. Also, these numbers are slow to increase, so even more experienced PCs won’t become so much harder to hit without serious Ability increases, special items, and other advancements. So you don’t need to give most monsters Fighting or Accuracy of 5 or higher to hit often, and those with scores of 7 or above will hit very often, especially with appropriate focuses. Even a Fighting or Accuracy 1 monster with a focus for their main attack will hit a Defense 14 PC about half the time. Conversely, making monsters with very low Fighting and Accuracy can also be a problem, though it’s admittedly harder to do.

However, if you’re giving a monster -2 Accuracy or some similarly low Ability, consider if that will make them miss often enough they seem more like a joke than a threat.

Making monsters who do ridiculous damage or almost nothing. Sometimes you want a big scary creature who does tons of damage. A giant, dragon, and other big scary monsters should be scary and hit very hard. On the other hand, a swarm of rats might do only a bit of damage and serve to weaken PCs without seriously endangering their lives. Also, remember that damage is a combination of both the dice rolled and the Ability added in and how often you hit affects the damage monsters will do over time.

So a high Accuracy “minor” monster with a 1d6+3 damage attack and 4 Strength will being doing at least 8 damage every hit (1 on the die, plus 3 and then 4 more for Strength). That might be just want you want. Or you might find you accidentally made a minor creature than can kill a player’s unarmored low-defense mage far too quickly for what you had in mind. Likewise, a big scary beast with 3d6 damage and Strength 9 is likely really nasty (doing around 20 damage a hit). Just make sure that’s the effect you want for your monsters.

Ignoring or Overdoing Armor. Armor is both damage mitigating and a pacing mechanism. It often won’t stop a PC or monster from ever taking damage, but it increases the time it takes to damage and defeat a target in combat. So if you give a monster no or very low armor, you’re opening it up to every hit, no matter how small. This might be fine, but it means that anyone who can survive the creature’s attacks and damage can take it down reliably. This might not be what you want for certain monsters. On the other hand, very high armor can get frustrating. It might be tempting to give a heavily armored creature 10 armor rating (or even higher) but realize that without the right stunts or very high damage you’re setting up combats to be many rounds of “I hit and…nothing.”

Not Balancing Health with Other Factors. High defense or armor can make a monster a challenging foe. If combined with really high health, it can make them annoying. On the other hand, too little Health creates “paper tigers.” Again, if intended? That’s cool, but realize that many players expect to only encounter easily dispatched or incredibly tough monsters rarely and at specific times appropriate to the campaign. If your Lizardman lieutenant in a moderately difficult encounter has 150 health and Armor Rating 8 and Defense 17? Your PCs will get bored, frustrated, or discouraged long before they defeat this “mid boss” encounter.

Forgetting Powers and Special Abilities or Overdoing Them. A few cool special abilities, powers, and unique stunts goes a long way. Too many and you risk bogging down encounters. But having none of them makes monsters just collections of basic attacks and statistics. Also, don’t be shy about converting or borrowing powers from existing creatures. If you want a horde of dog-sized flesh-eating beetles to assault your PCs? Adapting Swarm Tactics from the Walking Dead entry in the Fantasy AGE Bestiary will work well and save you design time.

Ignoring the Utility of Reskinning. Sometimes a monster is just an existing one with minor changes and a new look. This isn’t “cheating”; it’s expediency. A terrifying battle-beast created by an evil sorcerer might just be a Demon Soldier with Wings, Blending, or other special abilities already detailed in the Bestiary chapter of Fantasy AGE. A flesh-eating giant “deep one” style humanoid might just be an Ogre with Aquatic and perhaps Bite and Claw attacks adapted from the Manticore entry. These extra abilities will make monsters tougher and you’ll want to consider than when balancing encounters, but it makes it fairly easy to come up with terrifying new threats for PCs to face in a relatively short time.

Also in general, it’s usually better to make weaker monsters than overpowering ones. If a monster is too weak in an encounter? Simply increase it the next time a similar creature is encountered and if anyone wonders, it was a young, inexperienced, or immature monster they faced before—this is the real deal. That’s not even a lie, as the first attempt was not as refined or evolved in many cases. It’s okay if the first demon bear-thing your PCs fight turns out to be a juvenile version of a much scarier threat. In fact, this can allow monsters to grow and evolve alongside your PCs as the campaign progresses.

So those are some of the basics. We’ll be presenting new monsters in the future, but we realize many GMs want to start hacking away at their basic Bestiary entries in the meantime. Hopefully this discussion will help them do exactly that.

“When Can I Get Fantasy AGE, Titansgrave, and Dragon Age Books?”

We’ve been getting variants of this question a lot, so we thought we’d put a comprehensive answer in a single place. For Dragon Age, the answer is easy: it’s in stores now and you can also order it from our webstore.

For Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave, the answer is a bit more complicated. Basically, the demand for these books outstripped their availability. We had a LOT Of pre-orders (which are in the process of shipping) and sold a LOT at GenCon. We have sold what remains of the first print run to game distributors so retail stores can get some in. They will arrive at distributors on September 8 and start showing up in stores on September 10. This is not a huge number of books, so if you want one I suggest talking to your local store.

Meanwhile, we have a (larger!) reprint of Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave underway. If all goes smoothly with the printer, we should have both books back in stock and available for stores in early October. You can’t order them in our online store at the moment, but we will turn them back on in mid-September if you want to pre-order the reprints.

Usually our first print runs are big enough to last for at least three months, but Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave went gangbusters. It’s a good problem for us to have in the long run (people want our games, hooray!) but having them unavailable for a month is obviously not ideal. More books are coming soon though. Thanks for your patience!