Putting Your Fantasy AGE Adventures in the Trojan War

Fantasy AGE Trojan War, out now (and at DriveThruRPG) is a condensed guide to running Fantasy AGE adventures in the Homeric Age, a mythic-historical period where ancient events inspired grand myths. The events around Troy can be thought of as one of the first popular fantasy series and shared universes, though to ancient Greeks and people who feel deeply connected to it today, they also represent the founding stories of a people. But let’s step back from profound musings to ask: How do I run adventures in it? The Trojan War has different participants, rewards, and challenges than mainstream fantasy RPG adventures, but that doesn’t mean you can’t convert various adventures to fit the period. Let’s get into tips on how to do just that.

Use other Adventures for Fantasy AGE Trojan War!

“The “tainted fey” Mallorsa should be framed as a renegade Nymph, corrupted by the valley.”

Use Greek Mythology

It’s common sense but needs to be said: Frame everything within Greek mythology! That means looking to the gods, titans, heroes, and their struggles for the origins of everything you use. Since Greek mythology is so influential, this often requires less effort than you might think. Monsters are the children or creations of immortals, or spring from their shed blood. Dungeons are the ruins of fallen heroes, secret temples, or built to house accursed creatures.

The Trojan War Isn’t All About Troy

As we note in Fantasy AGE Trojan War, it takes years for the Achaeans just to get to Troy, and they face plenty of challenges on the way. The Achaeans attack multiple islands, and raid Troy’s allies in Asia Minor, so there’s much more to do than simply make another run at the walls of Troy. Any island or rival kingdom can send an enemy force, rouse a divinely created enemy, or own a fortress that must be taken to reach a greater military objective. On the Trojan side, adventurers can ride out to aid allies against the Achaeans, or seek their help—and of course, these friends will want help in return, to retake land and fortifications seized by the Achaeans.

Heroes Are Monsters…Sometimes

The Trojan War is ultimately about heroes, and how the gods love or hate them, and meddle with their destinies. In Greek myths, heroes are not necessarily good or bad, but possess forms of excellence tied to their ultimate fates that attract the notice of the gods. Sometimes heroes act monstrously and can easily replace actual monsters. For example, when the Telamonian Ajax ravages Thrace, he even kills their animals, in a foreshadowing of the madness that would eventually seal his fate. With a small detachment of spear carriers, Ajax, a ruthless, spoils-hoarding killer, can fill the same role in an adventure as a dragon.

Monsters Sometimes, As a Divine Treat

Of course, in addition to using heroes as monsters, you can use, uh monster as monsters. In a Trojan War campaign, monsters are usually related to immortals such as gods and titans. In most cases, only the intelligent offspring of immortals are truly immortal, and even lesser immortals can be defeated, as they lack true divinity and access to the nectar and ambrosia the gods use to maintain their endless health. Animal and bestial creatures usually have an even more limited form of immortality, which is why killing the cattle of Helios is possible, but still a terrible idea. Other monsters are the result of divine curses. The Greeks created monsters as part of their stories, and when you create new stories, you can use them to justify monsters from other fantasy worlds, giving them an origin fitting the Homeric Age.

Example: Valley of the Whispering Titans…er Giants

As an example of converting a mainstream fantasy scenario, let’s look at Valley of the Whispering Titans from Fantasy AGE Lairs. First step: Rename the valley! That’s because while titans come from Greek mythology, the ones in this scenario left behind their skulls, which the immortal titans wouldn’t do. Instead, make the lair a remnant of the war between the Olympian gods and the giants. In fact, we can say that this is a place where Uranus’ blood fell, giving birth to giants and numerous other twisted creations.

The valley is the lair of a corrupt druid—except there are no druids in the Homeric Age (at least, none near Troy) so instead we should make main antagonist Callem Ressmil a pharmakeus: a sorcerer who manipulates divine power without the leave of the gods, as detailed in Fantasy AGE Trojan War. He’s probably a hero with an immortal ancestor who committed an act of hubris by claiming the valley and harvesting its power.

The “tainted fey” Mallorsa should be framed as a renegade Nymph, corrupted by the valley. The Valley Huntsman requires the most changes, turning from a corpse possessing ghost (Hades usually prevents that sort of thing) to a phenomenon specific to the valley, where the blood of Uranus animates dead creatures to face the characters once again—perhaps under the control of the resident witch. The Hanging Vine is another creature made or changed by Uranus’ blood. The “titans’ skulls” should belong to giants but can be used as-is; Greek myths include stories of the Aegis, made from a fallen monster, and it is fitting that other semi-immortal remains should retain special powers.

Plus of course, you need to change the names!

You can set the valley in an obscure peninsula or large island if this challenge is for Achaean heroes, or within the territory of Troy but outside the city for heroes from all sides. Apollo may demand the Trojans do something about the cursed valley before helping them. Artemis may be offended by the phenomena in the valley, and demand the Achaeans deal with it, since they already offended her on the way to Troy.

Fantasy AGE Trojan War: Now Available!

Fantasy AGE Trojan War

Available Now! In the Green Ronin Online Store, and DrivethruRPG!

Cross the Wine-Dark Sea and Storm the Walls of Troy Again!

Fantasy AGE Trojan War, which is available now, revives the classic 3rd Era historical fantasy supplement in streamlined form for Fantasy AGE. This book explores the Homeric Age: a period that’s half history, half myth, and all about dramatic action, where gods and heroes battle each other…and the inescapable judgment of destiny. Enter the Iliad and other ancient tales in Fantasy AGE, using a host of new options:

  • Play Achaean Greeks, Trojans, and other ancient peoples, from Amazons to the divine offspring, with new backgrounds appropriate to the era.
  • Five new talents and six new specializations, from the Swift-Footed fighting style to Amazon ferocity and the strange magic of the Pharmakeus.
  • Three new magical Arcana, over 30 new magic items, and discussions of the role of magic in Homeric mythology.
  • Weapons, armor, and other gear appropriate to the Homeric Age, including rules for hit locations and partial armor in combat.
  • Chariots and ships of the Homeric Age, and how to use them.
  • Rules for divine intervention which let gods and heroes meaningfully interact without compromising divine immortality. Fall under the eye of a deity through a Divine Bond, or feel the wrath of their manifestations.
  • Advice for Game Mastering the Homeric Age, from changing mythology to suit you to interpreting Fantasy AGE monsters through the lens of Greek Mythology.

Inspired by the original d20 release, Fantasy AGE Trojan War takes a “Fantasy AGE native” design approach, where instead of a formulaic subject by subject conversion, we substantially designed for Fantasy AGE from the ground up, from specializations to divine intervention. This includes updating research to support a wider range of interpretations, from stricter Mycenaean technology to the ahistorical blend that made up the Iliad itself, and discussions of how to bring increased diversity to the legends.

Return to the Battlefields of Troy

Available in PDF and Print On Demand at DrivethruRPG, Fantasy AGE Trojan War requires the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook to play, and while it refers to the Fantasy AGE Companion, that book is not required. With minimal adaptation, it can be converted for use with other Adventure Game Engine roleplaying games.

Fantasy AGE Trojan War: Sing, O Muse, of the Rage of Achilles

Fantasy AGE Trojan War is a compact adaptation of its D20 System predecessor. Instead of just doing item for item conversions, we worked on this as a shorter Fantasy AGE work, with most design happening from the ground up. Over the course of doing this we omitted a few things—most notably, game statistics for Troy’s heroes. We figured GMs might prefer their own interpretations, and in any event, the focus is on Player Characters, who in most games will be the true heroes.

Nevertheless, I’m sure some of you are curious about how we would do it! So here are Fantasy AGE statistics for Aristos Achaion, greatest of the Greeks: Achilles, son of Peleus and the goddess Thetis. Achilles represents the apex of power possible for Fantasy AGE Trojan War Heroes—and the raw might of this hero at the apex of his power. These game statistics represent Achilles after the death of Patroclus, but before he slays Hector.


Achilles, 20th Level Divine Offspring Warrior

Achilles, son of Peleus and the goddess ThetisAbilities (Focuses)

Accuracy 8 (Brawling, Bows, Light Blades, Throwing +3), Communication 5 (Leadership), Constitution 6 (Running), Dexterity 6 (Initiative +3), Fighting 8 (Bludgeons, Heavy Blades +3, Spears +3), Intelligence 2 (Military Lore), Perception 5, Strength 6 (Driving +3, Intimidation +3), Will 5 (Courage +3, Morale +3)

Speed: 20, Health: 230, Defense: 18, Armor Rating: 10

Talents: Arete (Master), Athletics (Expert), Berserker (Specialization; Master), Charioteer (Specialization; Master), Swift-Footed Style (Master), Thrown Weapon Style (Expert), Weapon and Shield Style (Master)

Attacks

Spear of Peleus: +13 to attack rolls, 1d6 + 9 damage

Special Qualities

Special qualities are in addition to class abilities, talents, and specializations, though they may note the specifics of these traits.

Advanced Focuses: Achilles has several focuses with +3 listed, indicating they provide a +3 focus bonus instead of the usual +2.

Arms of Peleus: Achilles carries a bronze-headed spear and ornate shield, each from his father, Peleus. The spear adds +2 to attack and damage rolls and the shield adds +2 to Defense.

Arete: Due to the Arete talent, Achilles can use his choice of the Defensive Stance, Lightning Attack, or Seize the Initiative Stunts for 0 SP on any successful attack, even if it doesn’t score doubles.

Athletics: Due to the Athletics talent in Fantasy AGE Trojan War, Achilles can re-roll a failed Constitution (Running) and Strength (Jumping) test, but he must keep the results of the second roll.

Balius and Xanthus: These are Achilles’ divine horses, which he employs (sometimes along with a third, mortal horse) to pull his chariot. These are horses (Fantasy AGE Bestiary, p. 129) with the Epic template for beefing up adversaries found in the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook and Bestiary. Each also has an Intelligence of 1 and the Bestial Immortality quality: If reduced to 0 Health, they appear dead, but spring to full Health if left undisturbed until the next sunrise. If burned, dismembered, or eaten, however, they remain dead.

Epic Warrior: As per Fantasy AGE’s Level 20 Warrior benefit, Achilles gains +1 SP to spend on combat stunts when scoring doubles.

Golden Chariot: A gift from Peleus to Achilles, this gilded kingly chariot has a Hull Rating of 3 and grants a +3 to Strength (Driving) tests.

Second Armor of Achilles: This version of Achilles wears the armor he was given after his previous panoply was taken from the body of his lover, Patroclus. It provides an Armor Rating of 10 with no Armor Penalty, and when fighting under the sun, its shine imposes a -2 penalty to enemies’ ranged attack rolls.

Swift-Footed: Achilles’ mastery of the Swift-Footed Style (detailed in Fantasy AGE Trojan War) gives him +2 to Speed in combat, included in his statistics along with a further bonus for his divine offspring ancestry.

Stygian Armor (Optional): The Iliad doesn’t include the later legend that Thetis dipped Achilles into the River Styx as a baby to make him nearly invulnerable. If the legend is true in your campaign Achilles suffers a permanent -2 to all Communication tests, but adds +4 to his Armor Rating, even when unarmored (increasing it to 14 in the statistics above). However, attacks to Achilles’ left ankle inflict penetrating damage. To hit it, an attacker must roll a 5 when determining hit location using the rules in Fantasy AGE Trojan War, or deliberately aim for it by attacking with a -3 penalty. In either case, the attacker only strikes true if they roll 6 on the Stunt Die. All other attacks that reduce the effectiveness of armor do not reduce the Armor Rating given by this quality. The Stygian salve item in Fantasy AGE Trojan War represents a lessened form of this ability; the GM may decide Achilles simply has access to it instead of this quality.

Divine Bonds

Zeus 5 (Ambiguous): As Achilles sets out to kill Hector, his doom may be predestined but he has not yet demonstrated the combination of arrogance, cruelty, and impiety that will seal his fate—that happens after he kills Hector. This Bond is assigned to Zeus as the king of the gods and arbiter of Fate, but he represents the attitudes of the Olympians in general.

Thetis 3 (Favorable): Achilles’ mother Thetis supports her son through such acts as providing him with new armor, made by Hephaestus, after his previous armor is taken from Patroclus’ corpse by Hector.


Fantasy AGE: Trojan War will be available for purchase in PDF and Print On Demand, next Thursday May 13th!

Coming May 13: Fantasy AGE Trojan War

Read the title! On May 13, we’ll be releasing a Fantasy AGE supplement for Homeric Age adventures. Inspired by the classic 3rd Era Trojan War book by Aaron Rosenberg, this 65-page supplement, coming in PDF and print-on-demand, adds numerous new character options, magic items, and special rules for Fantasy AGE.Fantasy AGE: Trojan War!

Note that this isn’t a straight D20 to Fantasy AGE conversion, for the following reasons:

  • Timing and Size: We wanted to make sure we could get this done on time, to get in a Fantasy AGE supplement for mid-2021 before the release of the new Fantasy AGE core rulebook, currently in development. We also wanted to make this a smaller book so people would feel they can spend their money on it without feeling like they have to have a full-on Homeric campaign ready. This means we’ve omitted game statistics for Trojan heroes. This also fits Fantasy AGE, whose smaller number of classes combined with talents and specializations mean there are many ways to interpret these heroes.
  • The Internet: The internet, and the resources it can bring to your table, have expanded since 2005. This means, for example, it would be redundant to describe history and mythology in ways better served by resources such as Wikipedia and other Web resources.
  • 16 Years of Context: We’ve added new context and guidance about how to adapt an era rife with discrimination for contemporary play. For centuries, people have made these legends their own, and by doing the same you don’t violate any kind of “canon,” but follow in the steps of storytellers who changed things to fit their times. We’ve also given much of the original a tune-up to bring forth some of the distinctive elements of the time. For instance, did you know the Trojan War predates the invention of coins? We talk about it.
  • Fantasy AGE First: Fantasy AGE is its own distinct system and handles everything from character creation to armor differently than 3e and its successors do. We wanted to make sure this fit Fantasy AGE’s rules as closely as possible.

Okay, But What’s in It?

Here’s a chapter breakdown:

Introduction: A 101 on the material ahead and an overview of the Trojan War.

Chapter 1: Homeric Character Creation: This section includes rules for characters of human (Trojan, Achaean, and others, including Amazons) and divine heritage, before going into a full set of backgrounds and professions for the Homeric period, and new and modified focuses for such characters. Then we talk about using existing Fantasy AGE talents and specializations before introducing five new talents (Arete, Athletics, Primal Weapon Style, Shield Formation Style, and Swift-Footed Style) and six new specializations of (Amazon, Charioteer, Dedicated Warrior, Demigod, Pharmakeus, and Priest). We finish things off with Divine Bonds, a new system inspired by the Relationships rules in other AGE games, which measure whether the gods love or hate you—and how they might meddle in your life.

Chapter 2: Homeric Magic: After talking about the place of magic in Homeric tales, we introduce the new Charm, Cursing, and Poison Arcana. After that? Magic items—32 of them, to be precise, from the useful herb moly to the head of Medusa—yes, it doesn’t appear in Homer, but the book wouldn’t be complete without it!

Chapter 3: Homeric Equipment: This chapter covers Bronze Age equipment for a Homeric campaign, including how precious metals were counted and spent before the invention of coins. Bare-legged Homeric warriors need special consideration, so this chapter includes new rules for partial armor and hit locations. We also provide a streamlined version of the vehicle rules in the Fantasy AGE Companion tailored for the ships and chariots presented here.

Chapter 4: Religion & The Gods: After providing an overview of divine actions during the Trojan War, this chapter provides complete rules for divine intervention, from the gods spiriting away favored heroes to reckoning with them when they take to the field. New rules let you face down belligerent gods without compromising on their immortality. Finally, for Game Masters looking for a detailed system to track divine favor, we include rules for Piety adapted from the D20 original.

Chapter 5: The Homeric Campaign: This updated Game Mastering chapter not only talks about how to use the Iliad as the basis for a campaign but presents it in the context of a larger body of mythology you can convert to adventures. In the myths, just getting to Troy was an epic in of itself! We also discuss how to change the myths for inclusivity and other play-friendly purposes before talking about which Fantasy AGE monsters fit the period, and how to modify them if they have immortal parentage.

Compatibility Across the AGEs

Fantasy AGE Trojan War was designed alongside the new Fantasy AGE core rulebook, due to come out later this year. Trojan War introduces some concepts from the new rules but is designed with the published Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook in mind. In practice, Fantasy AGE Trojan War should be mostly compatible with the new rules. This is a bridge supplement for both old and new Fantasy AGE players alike.

Watch this space—we’ll announce when it’s out and tell you where to find it at the Green Ronin Online Store and at DriveThruRPG!

Living in Dev-Time

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel!

“When is that book going to be done? When?”

It can be strange living in what I call “dev-time” (or “development time”) because eagerly-awaited projects are often not just yesterday’s news for me as a writer but most likely last year’s news at times. The development cycle of a book, much less an entire game, is a fairly long one, and getting all of the words written is among the very first steps. Typically, I may get to see a project at the concept stage, getting in on discussion of whether or not to do it at all, along with what it might look like, contain, and so forth. More often, I get involved at or after the outline stage, when the overall concept of the book is pretty well established, and the developer is looking for someone to write stuff. That’s me.

Now, these days, I don’t write too many entire books for RPG publishers, including Green Ronin. While product development time for a book is long, actual writing time is relatively short. So unless I’m publishing a book myself (as I do with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying) and can take 4 to 6 months to write it all, or I’m working with an extended publisher timeline that allows me to write sixty to eighty thousand words or more, chances are I’m only writing a part of a book, a chapter or two (maybe three). Solo projects tend to be short: adventures, Patreon write-ups, articles, and the like, and many of those also get incorporated into larger books or collections.

I get my assignment, write it, and (ideally) hand it off at the appointed deadline. There’s feedback, development, revisions, new drafts, and then I hand over a final version of the text. Typically, that’s where my involvement ends. Sure, an editor might have the occasional “what were you thinking here?” question (tinged with varying degrees of frustration) or an art director might need notes or “does it look like this?” confirmation but, for the most part, my text sails off to those other shores to continue the rest of its journey towards becoming a finished book without me. That can sometimes be a long journey, even under the best of conditions. When conditions look like they have over the past year or so … even longer.

Thus the eagerly-awaited book someone is looking forward to is already in my rear-view mirror, often several exits back behind other recent projects I have handed off, some of which the public hasn’t even heard about yet. There’s a running joke in the freelance business that sometimes the only answer to a polite inquiry of “So what are you working on these days?” is “Upholding my non-disclosure agreement.” Dev-time is such that many projects aren’t even announced publicly at the time when people are writing them, although there may be rumors (the tabletop game industry being quite small and tight-knit).

While I have moved-on to other projects, the words I’ve already written are sailing through development, editing, layout, illustration, and proofreading. If they’re destined to see print, there will also be preflight checks, print buying and quotes, print proofs, and more before the book is finally handed-off to the printer. Even then, there’s printing, binding, shipping, warehousing, and distribution before it finds its way to a game store or gets shipped off to the buyer. In every one of those steps there is both margin for error and the potential for things to go wrong. I mentioned before about “ideally” handing off my text by the agreed-upon deadline. I pride myself on getting my work in on time, but life happens. This past summer, I took a fall off my bicycle and fractured my hip. While my recuperation didn’t overly impact my ability to work, allowances still needed to be made. Multiply that times all of the people who touch a project before it sees print and you magnify those allowances accordingly. People get injured, sick, divorced, married, pregnant, quit or take on new jobs, lose loved ones, run into financial problems, and all of life’s other challenges, to say nothing of encountering global pandemics, political upheavals, and more—all in the same year!

So if anyone involved in the publishing process of a book or product ever looks vaguely bewildered concerning its eagerly-anticipated release, it is quite possible that they exist in “dev-time.” From their perspective, that project has been “done” for some time, and it’s not that they’re not eager to see the finished products (believe me, there are several of my projects I’m looking forward to actually holding in my hands), it’s just that they’ve had to move on to other things in the meanwhile. Patience and understanding that there is more going on behind the scenes than you know will always get you a kinder response.

Our Live streams are back in the new year!

Hello friends!

Troy Hewitt here, community nerd for Green Ronin Publishing and the disembodied voice for our two live streams, Mutants & Masterminds Monday with Crystal Frasier and Steve Kenson, and the Fantasy AGE live stream ThursdAGE! With Owen KC Stephens.

Mutants & Masterminds Monday! ThusdAGE!

We’re entering the new year with our tech dialed in (sort of?), our content planned (definitely), and an excitement for our 2021 streaming plans that is off the charts (Absolutely)! With some crucial dev milestones around the corner for some of your favorite Green Ronin Titles, it becomes increasingly important for us to connect with the people playing our games directly. Truth be told, our streaming efforts are really a chance for us to reserve time each week dedicated to direct conversations, to hear your feedback, share our progress, and most of all, have some fun.

With Mutants & Masterminds Monday, Crystal Frasier, (lead developer of M&M) and Steve Kenson (creator of M&M) get together to suffer my ridiculousness every Monday at 2:00 PM Pacific. It’s as fun as you would imagine it to be- hanging out with Crystal and Steve is a pretty phenomenal way to spend your Monday, no lie, and with the addition of today’s announcement of our Mutants & Masterminds Patreon things are heating up like wow.

For those of you that have been keeping track of our weekly program, now 30 episodes strong, you’ll no doubt remember Crystal Frasier’s note-taking as a regular theme and why is that important? Well, she listens. She listens, and she cares deeply about the M&M developing story, and even more so about the people who are playing. While the Patreon will be a welcome boost to Green Ronin’s bottom line, it also comes at the request of so many Mutants & Masterminds enthusiasts, that considering the months of content Crystal has already planned, well, let’s just say you are going to want to watch today’s stream for all the details.

And you can do exactly that- you can get a front-row seat to our live streams, always free, always on Monday, always at 2p Pacific, on FacebookYouTube, and if that weren’t enough? Today we’re giving Twitch a shot!

What’s next? 60 second adventures on TikTok?! Not likely. Or is it?

Who can say! Now listen, I’ve got to get things ready for the inevitable tech hardship I’ll bring to today’s livestream. Come and check it out for yourself, but only if you like fun, useful M&M tutorials and advice, and listening to Crystal and Steve, two world-class fantasy world-building, hero slinging, funny joke-making, super storytellers in this universe and SEVERAL others.

And me! Your disembodied boy, Troy. We look forward to the next 30 episodes, one hour, one Monday at a time, but only if we can spend it with you. See you there?

Will we see you there?

As always, questions, comments, and compliments about our streaming efforts can be emailed directly to us: Letsplay@greenronin.com

Malcolm Sheppard’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks!

What’s good? Taste is subjective, though I think everybody feels there are certain exceptions, such as the terribleness of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which transcends cultures and times as an object of derision, albeit sometimes affectionately so. So, this list of “Malcolm Sheppard’s Top Five” is just my opinion, though there may be hidden objective excellence rattling around in there, somewhere. This list isn’t in any particular order.

Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook coverMutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook

Supers, and generally, point-build systems, aren’t my strong suit as a designer, but I love the genre. The Basic Hero’s Handbook is a masterful introduction to Mutants & Masterminds that communicates everything you need with remarkable brevity and straightforwardness. I especially like the streamlined character creation system, and how after using it, and not having to sweat points too much, you still end up with a character fully compatible with the rest of the M&M line, including characters made using the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook. Plus, it has all the rules you need to run it!

Fantasy AGE LairsFantasy AGE Lairs

This supplement for Fantasy AGE does a great job of mixing function and atmosphere. Each lair presents a creature, location, and situation. None of these are hard-coded adventures, but contain plenty of hooks and suggestions, and can be run sandbox style. My favorite lair in the book is the Lair of the Ghoul Prince, which I’ve talked about before, in a pervious article. Go read it!

 

 

Trojaqn War for the D20 system!Trojan War (d20)

Maybe I’m doing this wrong and I’m supposed to stick to current releases, but I love Homeric mythology, and really enjoy Trojan War’s particular adaptation. It covers all the major elements of this mythic-historic event, from gods and heroes to how it all works for original characters using the d20 System. I think it’s still valuable now because of the way it’s structured for games and the fact that d20’s design has been influential enough to seed itself in many other games, making conversion pretty easy. I miss these kinds of treatments of real-world mythology in games, and while there are new ones around, I want more! Maybe I have to do it myself….

 

The Lost Citadel Roleplaying (5th Edition)The Lost Citadel Roleplaying for 5th edition

Here comes the bias! I worked on the Tales of the Lost Citadel anthology, The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, and The Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion Codex—but there’s plenty I didn’t work on, in fiction, rules, and concepts, that’s just fantastic. The Lost Citadel is set in the last, desperate, walled city of the living, who struggle with each other while battling for survival against the risen Dead. One thing I love about the setting is it takes the basic conflict in the zombie apocalypse genre—that your living companions are as much a problem as the undead—and renders them on a social scale, in conflicts between the city’s factions.

Threefold A Campaign Setting for Modern AGEThreefold (Modern AGE)

Where The Lost Citadel is a choice tinged by my bias as a designer, well, uh, I’m the principal designer of Threefold. I made up the broad strokes and developed other writers’ work to get what I wanted: a setting for Modern AGE that would use the conceit of planar travel to permit virtually any kind of character, but wouldn’t seem generic, unfocused, or lacking strong story structures. Whether you explore the planes as a member of the Sodality or defend the Earth (sometimes from other Earths) with Aethon, there are always things to do, rivals to deal with, and secrets to uncover. One reviewer said the game felt like its setting had already been established for years. That’s the feel I wanted, and I hope you like it.

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!


The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, Now Available in Print

The Lost Citadel RPG for 5th edition!

Buy It at the Green Ronin Online Store

In The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, seven decades ago, there were cities upon cities, kingdoms and nations. Cultures met each other in war, travel, and at trade. Humans, dwarves, elves, and peoples made their fortunes across vast lands. For millennia, through two vibrant ages called ascensions, they explored their world.

Until the world ended. Nations crumbled. Magic sputtered. Nature sickened. Civilizations died.

The dead woke.

They say the doors to the Underworld flew from their hinges, or the god of the dead went mad. Whatever the cause, across the lands of Zileska, the dead have become the Dead. Whether human, elf, dwarf, or monstrous ghûl, all must survive a world overrun by death, where all that’s left of civilization has gathered behind the walls of: Redoubt. The last city. The Lost Citadel.

Born of roots in a dark fantasy anthology and a successful Kickstarter, The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, previously available in PDF, is now available in print for everyone, as is The Lost Citadel GM Screen. The Lost Citadel Roleplaying is a detailed resource for 5th Edition play in the city of Redoubt, a desperate city-state standing against the tide of the returned Dead.

Inside this book, you’ll find:

  • A deeply realized setting of many cultures, peoples, and factions, all on the brink of destruction—unless you intervene.
  • The peoples and cultures of Zileska, now confined to Redoubt, the last city, from the oppressed dwarves and sorcery-mad elves, to vividly realized human cultures and the ghûl, canine eaters of the dead.
  • A new and modified array of character classes fitting a world claimed by the Dead. Discover new variations of the Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Warlock classes, or adopt the ways of the Beguiler, Penitent, Sage, and Warrior Monk.
  • New feats, backgrounds, and other character options, including the martial arts of Redoubt, which run the gamut from vicious street fighting to the noble art of armored combat.
  • New equipment and magic items, fitting the desperate streets of Redoubt.
  • A host of new undead with which to test your characters’ wits and will. Will they face down the horror of a grim aggregate, the terror of a forlorn child, or even the power of a mighty malevolent?
  • A full-color, 15” x 22” double-sided poster map of Redoubt.
  • Original fiction by award-winning dark fantasist Elizabeth Hand.

If you also like playing Fantasy AGE, supplement The Lost Citadel’s 5e-focused text with The Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion Codex, a PDF which provides a complete treatment of the setting’s game rules for Fantasy AGE.

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!