Fantasy AGE Lairs: The Night Market (Ronin Roundtable)

This week I get to branch out from The Expanse RPG and explore one of the Green Ronin lines I’m less familiar with, Fantasy AGE.  Specifically, I’m looking at Fantasy AGE Lairs (Pre-order and PDF on sale now!).  I’m most familiar with the AGE system from The Expanse and Modern AGE but having read the core book cover to cover I’ve been dying to give Fantasy AGE a try. Since my writing time is precious, I was looking for something that I could pick up and use right away. Skimming through Lairs I saw right away that there was a lot of opportunity here for one shot adventures or side stories that easily be inserted into an existing campaign. Some have enough depth that they could even form the basis for a new campaign. Being a fan of the dark and macabre and both the book and movie Something Wicked This Way Comes I was immediately drawn to The Night Market by Mark Carrol so that’s where my journey into Fantasy AGE Lairs began. I try to avoid major spoilers but if you’re a player in a Fantasy AGE campaign and think your GM might use this book, I suggest stopping here.

The Night Market offers a rich and dark setting that can easily fit into almost any fantasy campaign. The Night Market moves about so it could set up near any village or hamlet. For that matter, with only a little modification, I could see using this lair in a Modern AGE campaign with a supernatural bent. The player characters come across a wandering market filled with curiosities: acrobats, fortune tellers, merchants with strange trinkets, and sideshows abound. Even without an adventure hook this is exactly the type of diversion that most players will immediately be drawn too. I’ve never known a group of PCs who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to explore a mysterious carnival!

The thing I liked most about the Night Market is that the setting alone could provide hours of entertainment without ever introducing the adventure that is included. In fact, I could envision the market appearing multiple times in a campaign before the characters uncover its secrets and face off against the villain. The adventure is geared toward higher level characters although the lair itself could be used for characters of any level. Both enemies and possible allies are described in the setting with some of their motivations being left in the hands of the GM.

The adventure is fairly straightforward: people in the vicinity of the market have gone missing and while investigating the PCs meet a ghost (a victim of the main villain) who offers to help them. The powers behind the Night Market are not trivial and could prove to be a powerful and dangerous enemy. As I discussed earlier, this setting is well suited as a reoccurring villain and the Adventure Seeds at the end set this up well. The heroes may rescue the missing villagers and even overcome the villain but he may appear again in a different guise.

The Night Market is definitely one of my favorites and pretty much exactly the kind of entry I look for in a book like Fantasy AGE Lairs and I highly recommend this book for GMs who are looking for individual settings and adventures or just to fuel your imagination. I expect this setting or something close to it will show up in one of my games in the near future!


Check out our previous previews for Fantasy AGE Lairs:
The Battle of the Beleaguered GM
School’s. In. For. EVER!
Getting More than Gothic with the Ghoul Prince

And don’t forget that the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is currently FREE to download!

Fantasy AGE Lairs: Getting More Than Gothic with the Ghoul Prince (Ronin Roundtable)

Fantasy AGE Lairs presents a set of places, situations, and possible scenarios revolving around a small set of signature antagonists. I may be Modern AGE developer, but I’m also a Fantasy AGE writer and player, and I was looking forward to this book for a while. Jack Norris did a fantastic job here and I want to get into it.

The great thing about The Ghoul Prince, one of the entries in the book that really grabbed me. I’m a big fan of Gothic horror. I read it, I used to study it academically, and, well, I have a *lot* of author credits with some well-known RPG intellectual properties that called themselves “gothic punk.” Gothic horror is more than a set of visual motifs or a black clad rogue’s gallery, however. The genre has specific themes. The Ghoul Prince does a great job of highlighting these while moving beyond stereotype with one simple, brilliant move: choosing ghouls as intelligent, organized antagonists, instead of going with either the MVP of Gothic undead, the vampire, or the most popular high level lairing undead in fantasy, the lich.

In playing against type here, Jack set himself up to explain why, and does an excellent job, tying things into genuine Gothic themes. The eponymous Ghoul Prince, Tropo, has a story that touches on one of the primary ideas of the genre: the recurrence of sin, especially in the way it corrupts family. Tropo becomes a ghoul after committing unspeakable acts (well, we’ll call them that to avoid spoilers, at least!). After attaining a new state of being, where his evil acts have distorted his physical and spiritual self, he creates companions, furthering these themes. While this lair features the expected horde of flesh-eating monsters, Tropo’s most powerful lieutenants produce a parody of a family, or at least a feudal household. One fills the role of child and protector; the other is a priestly confessor.

Reading this, you quickly understand that this isn’t just swapping in undead. It’s got to be ghouls. For one thing, this removes the pretense of romance from the scenario. Tropo and his creatures are predators held in check by his exceptional will, but made all the more dangerous by his intelligence. This is a monster who looks past the pretense of mutual obligations in feudal relationships and emphasizes the power imbalance at their cores, because the lord’s desire for the power of flesh, normally abstracted through labor, is made terrifyingly literal. Tropo and his creatures must feast—and not simply sip at blood in some mockery of romance.

Beyond these thematic touches, Tropo’s ghoul forces also make this lair suitable for long term, multi-level play. Tropo and his “family” are at the top of a pyramid supported by a hierarchy of lesser children, from ones who’d suit a tough encounter for low level characters, to bigger challenges which can be quickly grown into with advancement, up to Tropo himself, who in Fantasy AGE terms, stands at the top of the Major Threat Level. An adventure outline provides a progressive introduction to the lair, and it’s supported by further hooks—all enough to make the forces and eventually, the castle of the Ghoul Prince suitable for a major campaign arc which may prompt the PCs to take over once they defeat Tropo. Once the flesh-eating lord falls, who will take his place? It’s all great stuff, and why this is my favorite chunk of Fantasy AGE Lairs.

(Editor’s Note: Just a quick reminder that the Fantasy AGE basic rule book in PDF, is currently FREE to download from our webstore!)

Stay Home and Play Fantasy AGE … For Free!

Free Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook PDFFantasy AGE for free: As many of you already know, we are having a 20th anniversary sale right now that puts almost everything in our online store on sale at 20% off until April 20. We are taking that a step further by making the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook PDF free for the duration of the sale.

We know a lot of folks are at home now, anxious and looking for a distraction. Please enjoy Fantasy AGE on us. We hope it helps. If you like what you see, we have a bunch of support material that’s part of the sale. We also have Lairs, the latest Fantasy AGE book, up for pre-order right now. It’s super useful for the GM, providing a collection of themed encounters and villains that can easily be turned into full adventures.

If you’d like to explore some of our other games, we have free quickstarts available for most of our RPGs. If you haven’t gotten your kids into gaming yet, this is a good opportunity, and games that use our Adventure Game Engine (Fantasy AGE, Blue Rose, Modern AGE, The Expanse, Dragon Age) are all good choices for that.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

School’s. In. For. EVER! (Ronin Roundtable)

Green Ronin is a small family, so usually we all pitch in and help each other with mutual projects, doing some outlining or writing or editing or proofing on each other’s lines when things get tight, so it’s always exciting and special when a new product comes out that you haven’t seen until it’s newly born and ready to go home to a loving family. For me, Fantasy AGE Lairs is one of those rare babies I never met until it was ready for the baby shower.

I thought it would be a cool experience to pick one of the book’s eight titular lairs at random and read through it blind and give my first impression. The d8 came up 4, so I read the Yunivircity of Taabak!

The Elevator Pitch

The Yunivircity of Taabak is an innovative cosmic horror landscape you can drop into your Fantasy AGE world if you like Lovecraftian high-concept horror. A Being wants to exist, but can’t yet, and so it has inspired an obsession with how to make itself exist in a single woman… or that woman’s obsession with the potential for the Being to exist made it want to exist. Causality is tricky with things that don’t exist yet. Either way, this student’s work linked her to the being’s own not-quite-existing nature, and she became less of an individual and more of a vague concept. And soon she spread that intellectual infection to her entire school, transforming the entire university into the concept of a university and putting everyone trapped inside to work figuring out how they can eventually make their cosmic god real.

The entire landscape is just concepts of things—gray blocks for buildings, green sheets for laws, stacked geometric solids for students—devoid of any personal details. It’s an adventure inside the Dire Straights Money for Nothing music video. And if you attend classes too long, you stop being you and just become another concept of a student trying to bring this god into existence.

The Yunivircity is filled with other unique beings—students, instructors, and others—who are victims and threats all at the same time, who will leave you alone if you play along, attend your classes, and help with the research… but conforming to the group eats away at your individuality, which is the only things keeping you from fading away and becoming just like them. So you’re on a timer here, trying to fit in while still clinging to your unique identity just to survive. There’s a multi-stage template that grows slowly worse, like a disease, to help measure, ironically making you more powerful the more of your self you surrender to the Yunivircity.

It’s all the worst elements of public school, distilled down to the nightmarish extreme!

Whose Lair?

So, it’s a lair, right? Who or what lairs there? The being itself is left pretty vague, like any good cosmic horror, and you can’t fight it because it doesn’t exist yet. It’s an idea trying to force itself to exist, and you can’t punch an idea in the face.

Instead you’ll have to punch the Headmaster, the original student who contacted the being, or who created the being. Let’s not go down that road again. She’s lost her identity and exists as a stereotype of a school headmaster, pushing the entire campus toward the magical, scientific, and theological breakthroughs that will create her Being. She’s got magic for days and can control the Yunivircity itself, but she also has a face you can punch. As a cool twist, there are still bits of her individuality hidden around campus, too, trying to sabotage her own efforts.

There’s also the Dean of Discipline, who’s there to make sure everyone exists as a tidy concept and doesn’t let silly things like individuality or free will stop the students and instructors from working hard toward their shared goal. Like the Headmaster, the Dean is a unique monster and a serious beatstick that you won’t beat without a plan, but unlike the Headmaster, she’s a tower of muscle and sinew and eyes who will tear you apart with her bare hands.

But the Yuniviristy is built as a sort of looming horror of conformity. So long as you fit in and surrender to fate, no one—not the instructors or the Headmaster or the Dean—even notice you, let alone attack. The real monster here is dread and the fear of losing your individuality.

Why Would You Go There?

The Yunivircity is creepy and corrupts you and is inhabited by a weird abstract demi-god faculty, so why would you ever visit it? You may not have a choice. This is a lair that can come to you. The school is constantly recruiting talented minds, dragging them into its unreal existence to convert into its vague conceptual students. A friendly scholar, or even your party wizard, might be brought into the Yunivircity as a “new student,” prompting the rest of the group to undertake a rescue mission. Or the Yunivircity might impose itself over a local school campus for a few hours or days to collect a freshman class.

Even if you don’t end up with the college of improbable engineering landing in your lap, you might visit it for the same reason heroes visit any site of cosmic power: Because you don’t want an unfathomable god wrecking up your planet! Or you might aim a little slower and just want to plunder the Yunivircity’s library for rare books or magic, or to save the only person in the world who knows a vital clue for your wider campaign. I can easily see the Yunivircity being a terrible place you need to revisit repeatedly in your campaign to learn new clue or find forbidden knowledge, learning a little more about how it works each time until you’re powerful enough to end its threat.

The Final Verdict

I like it!

I know, I know! “You’re a Ronin! They pay you to say you like it!” Well, for what it’s worth, I’m reading and writing this while on vacation, visiting my parents’ humble swamp shack in rural Florida. I’m spending part of my vacation to check out a book I’m excited about as a GM. Is the Yunivircity a little niche? Yeah. Is it going to fit every campaign? Probably not, but looking back at the table of contents, Lairs includes cool fantasy tropes like a ghoul castle and a dragon’s lair (sadly, no Space Ace), and I’m glad there was room for weird alongside the standard tropes!

Would *I*, Crystal the Gamemaster, ever use the Yunivircity? Absolutely! It’s cool and weird and gives you game mechanics for a lot of cool horror concepts! Even if I didn’t use this lair as written, I can strip-mine this entry to build my own version.

And I get the distinct impression the Yunivircity of Taabak would work incredibly well in Blue Rose or Modern AGE as well, maybe even better than for a general Fantasy AGE campaign! I guess my players will find out.

Fantasy AGE Lairs: The Battle of the Beleaguered GM (Ronin Roundtable)

I was originally going to title this “The Lair of the Lazy GM” to get the reference to the new Fantasy AGE Lairs book in there, but decided that wasn’t fair, because it’s not a matter of laziness, but one of time.

It should come as little surprise that I loved creating things for my various campaigns as a Game Master. It’s one of the reasons I eventually got into doing it professionally as a writer and designer. Thing is, when I was at the peak of my own output in terms of creating things for my games, I was in my 20s, living with most of my game-group as roommates, and without many of the more—shall we say “mature adult”?—responsibilities that I have now. In short, I had more time and energy to devote to that kind of thing, to say nothing of the fact that I didn’t do it for work.

Which is all a long way of leading up to talking about Fantasy AGE Lairs, which (like several upcoming Green Ronin products) addresses the issue that a lot of us modern-day Game Masters face: “I want to run a game, but I don’t have time to prep everything.” I know that my own games these days tend to focus on either: 1) Things that I’m playtesting for work, or: 2) Published adventures and campaigns I can use as-is with a little customization.

Lairs helps with preparation on a couple of different fronts. The first is simply that it offers eight complete and ready-to-play adventures, each of which could occupy multiple game sessions. But it’s more than just an adventure collection since, as the title implies, Lairs offers location-based adventures, detailing a particular place that is the lair or home of the main threat of the adventure. From the Valley of the Whispering Titans to the Peak of the Mithral Dragon, Fantasy AGE Game Masters will find a variety of places they can drop into their own campaigns, and possibly expand upon, reuse, or build on to create further adventures. Indeed, each location in Lairs also features a set of four to six ideas for additional adventures in that setting.

Lairs also expands upon the Fantasy AGE stunt system with Location and Lair Stunts, based on the qualities of a place and time rather than a character or creature, tying the acquisition and use of Stunt Points into where the characters are in the adventure as well as what they are doing. Even without this exciting new spin, it would be a useful book for a Fantasy AGE Game Master who wants adventures by and for Fantasy AGE that are ready for hours of gaming fun.

This book is your ally in winning the battle of the beleaguered Game Master and can make the difference when it comes to being able to run your own Fantasy AGE game.

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!

Fantasy AGE Lairs Pre-Order and PDF

Fantasy AGE LairsFantasy AGE Lairs is now available for pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store. When you place the pre-order in your cart, you’ll be offered the PDF version of Lairs for just $5! To take advantage of the deal, make sure to press “Add To Cart” on the pop-up. If you’d rather support your local store, make sure they know about our GR Pre-Order Plus program, through which you can get a coupon code for the PDF when you pre-order the print book through the store.

Fantasy AGE Lairs: Into the belly of the beast!

In this collection from some of the finest writers in gaming, each chapter introduces a new powerful adversary, including their lair, minions, and recommendations for using these threats in your Fantasy AGE campaigns. Also included are the all-new location stunts, allowing enemies and heroes alike to better use their environment in play.

Just some of the menacing monsters and their lairs include:

  • The ravenous Ghoul Prince, who rules his army of flesh eaters from his crumbling keep.
  • The legendary Clockwork Dragon, terrorizing the skies from its mountain stronghold along with its army of mechanical monsters.
  • The corrupted Dark Druid, whose twisted magic threatens all who enter his cursed valley.
  • The blood crazed Sea Queen, bringing madness and slaughter with her berserker minions, blood magics, and deadly living island reef.

Each lair also includes an adventure framework for introducing the menace into Fantasy AGE campaigns, as well as numerous adventure seeds and ideas for further encounters.

Fantasy AGE Lairs requires a copy of the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, and works hand in glove with the Fantasy AGE Bestiary.

20 Years of Green Ronin! (Ronin Roundtable 2020 preview)

This time every January I write a message about our plans for the coming year. This is a special occasion though because 2020 is Green Ronin’s 20th year in business! We’ll be talking a lot more about that all year, looking back at our history and how we got here. I can say that when I started the company, it was a side project to my day job as a Creative Director at Wizards of the Coast. I couldn’t have imagined Green Ronin would still be around in 2020! So what do we have cooking for our big year? Let’s take a look!

20 Years of Green Ronin! 2020 is Green Ronin's 20th year in business.


Green Ronin’s very first release was a beer and pretzels RPG called Ork! in July, 2000. That game got a new edition worthy of Krom last year if you want to check it out. A month later, at GenCon 2000, we released Death in Freeport, the book that really put us on the map. It was an adventure for the just released third edition of Dungeons & Dragons and it introduced the world to Freeport: The City of Adventure, a setting that mixed classic fantasy elements with pirates and Lovecraftian horror. Since this year is also Freeport’s 20th anniversary, you know we had to do something to celebrate. And what brings people together like a marriage? This year we will finally wed Freeport and Fantasy AGE! Freeport is a setting I created, and Fantasy AGE is a game I designed, so it’s long past due that these two get hitched. This will begin at GenCon with the release of the Fantasy AGE Starter Set, a boxed introduction to both the game and Freeport. After that we’ll publish the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook, a bigger, better rulebook for the game that features Freeport as its example setting. Further books exploring the city and the larger world of Freeport will follow. In the shorter term, the Lairs sourcebook for Fantasy AGE is almost ready to go to print, just waiting on a few pieces of art, so look for a PDF release and the beginning of the pre-order soon.

 

Nisaba Press, our fiction imprint, will also be supporting Freeport with both short story anthologies and novels. The first novel, I Am Gitch by Lucien Soulban, feature’s Freeport’s most famous goblin! Speaking of Nisaba, we are really ramping up our fiction in 2020, exploring the settings of our Mutants & Masterminds, Blue Rose, and Threefold properties in addition to Freeport. Last year we released two novels and one anthology (Aaron Rosenberg’s Mutants & Masterminds novel Height of the Storm, Joseph Carriker’s Blue Rose novel Shadowtide, and the brand new Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology). Our next Mutants & Masterminds novel, Roadtrip to Ruin by Skyler Graye, is at print now so look for that release soon. Later in the year you will see new anthologies for all our properties, the first novel for our Threefold setting, and the release of Joseph Carriker’s Sacred Band, which we announced last year. It’s going to be an exciting year for Nisaba Press!

 

Abzu's Bounty: An adventure path for The Expanse RPGOn the topic of awesome fiction, let’s talk about The Expanse! We launched the game, based on James S.A. Corey’s modern scifi classics, last year, releasing both the core rulebook and Game Master’s Kit. We also brought on Ian Lemke as the developer and he’s already putting his stamp on the line. We are kicking off the year with Abzu’s Bounty, the game’s first big adventure. It’s brand new this month so you can grab it right now. We’re following that up later in the year with two more books: Ships of the Expanse and Beyond the Ring. Ships of the Expanse is exactly what it sounds like: a big book about spaceships, with stats, deck plans, and more. Beyond the Ring is the first sourcebook to advance the timeline. The core rulebook was set between the events of the first and second novel. Beyond the Ring takes things through the third and fourth (Abaddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn). With the ring gates open, there are huge numbers of new star systems to explore, many littered with the ancient relics of dead civilizations. Beyond the Ring opens up a whole new style of adventure for The Expanse RPG and gives GMs all the info and tools they need to support it. Something else you will see this year: Expanse dice! We are working with Q Workshop (who did our dice for Dragon Age and Blue Rose) to make three different sets of the dice. Earthers, Martians, and Belters can all represent!

 

Modern AGE, under the stalwart leadership of developer Malcolm Sheppard, is going from strength to strength. Last year we launched Threefold, the first original setting for the game, and it is a stunner. We are starting this year off with Enemies and Allies (at print now), the adversary book for Modern AGE. It details NPCs and creatures, covering genres such as modern fantasy, horror, near future SF, technothrillers, and crime dramas, and provides new mechanics to support them. We’re following that up with Five and Infinity, a collection of adventures for Threefold that cover all levels of play. It also introduces the Infinity Engine, a tool for using random chance and choice to generate both original adventures and new planes of existence to stage them in. Then we have the Mastery Guide, the last of what one might consider the “core books” of Modern AGE (the others being the Basic Rulebook, Companion, and Enemies and Allies). While you might think of the Mastery Guide as a GM’s guide, that’s only half the story. It also provides advice and support for players, so everyone can up their game.

 

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of the Blue Rose continues to thrive under the benevolent rulership of developer Joseph Carriker. The next book in the line is Envoys to the Mount, an epic adventure that spans five years of game time and all four tiers of Blue Rose play. This is a full campaign that will keep your group busy for some time. If you want a smaller commitment, Six of Cups is there for you. It’s an anthology of six shorter adventures, along the lines of Six of Swords from a couple of years back. After that comes Touching the Wild, which is a dual-purpose sourcebook. Half of it is a bestiary about the shadowspawn. The other half is a player’s guide to the rhydan, the psychic animals of the Blue Rose setting. This does include the option of an all rhydan party!

We are keeping Joe very busy this year because he’s also working with co-developer Tanya DePass on Fifth Season Roleplaying, licensed from N.K. Jemisin’s fantastic Broken Earth trilogy. We announced the game at GenCon and it will release towards the end of the year. The game will use a revised and updated version of our Chronicle System, the engine that powered our Song of Ice and Fire RPG. We’ll have a lot more to say about Fifth Season Roleplaying as we get closer to release so stay tuned!

Image shows the three novel covers from N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy. The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky.

 

All that is great, but don’t you want to get super sometimes? Well, Mutants & Masterminds has got you covered! Superdev Crystal Frasier (who is by the way, doing the graphic design of the whole line in addition to game development) has a lot of comic book goodness coming your way. First up is the Time Traveler’s Codex, a sourcebook that covers the myriad of ways you can use time travel in your campaign and explores some popular eras for such shenanigans. After that is the Vigilante’s Handbook, which is all about running street level campaigns. If you want a break from four-color heroics, this book provides a grittier option for lower level characters. Then there is Danger Zones, a sourcebook that provides 30 different urban backdrops for superheroic action, each of which includes a map, special features, and adventure ideas. This book will be super handy for time-pressed GMs. Pick a danger zone and some villains and you’re ready to rock. Something else we know Mutants & Masterminds GMs have been wanting is more adventures. Last week we started a new PDF series called Astonishing Adventures. This will provide a regular stream of new adventures, which should make things a whole lot easier for M&M GMs.

That ends our whirlwind tour of 2020! There’s even more to come, like The Lost Citadel and the Book of Fiends for 5E, and our Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game, but we will talk about those a little later. Thanks for all your support these past 20 years. It means the world to us that so many of you love and play our games. See you on the convention circuit!

Chris Pramas

Green Ronin Publishing

Australian Bushfires Relief Sale

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook 20% off, with 30% of proceeds to Australian Bushfires ReliefGet Fantasy AGE RPG Basic Rulebook for 20% off in our Australian Bushfires Relief Sale, now through the end of January.

As you’ve probably heard, bushfires have been ravaging Australia for weeks. This is another example of natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, and the results have been catastrophic. So far 18 million acres of land have been burned and it is estimated that over a billion animals have been killed.

Nicole and I traveled to Melbourne the past couple of years for PAX Australia, and while there visited the Healesville Sanctuary to see the amazing array of wildlife down under. The numbers of dead and displaced animals are so large it’s hard to grapple with the scope of it. As a response to this tragedy, we are running a sale on the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook to benefit Wildlife Victoria and their Bushfire Appeal. From now through January 31, the game (both print and PDF) is on sale at 20% off and fully 30% of the proceeds will go to Wildlife Victoria. The money will go to “wildlife shelters and carers around the state that have been affected by the Victorian bushfires and extreme heat events.”

Australian Bushfires Relief Sale: Buy a game and do some good!