Boom with a Capital B – Rapid-Fire villains!

The Astonishing Adventures line blasts off into space this week with our very first cosmic adventure, Prodigal Sun by Larry Wilhelm. The heroes travel to a star system colonized by the Lor Republic shortly before its collapse to investigate why the sun has suddenly turned an ominous red hue. While there, they’ll need to navigate local politics, survive an angry space minotaur, and come head-to-head with a few fan favorite starfarers if they hope to survive and save the four worlds of the Flegere System!

One of the fun tropes in cosmic comics is the notion of lone heroes armed with nothing but their trusty power ring and cosmic skateboard tackling entire massive ships and fleets of fighters, and Prodigal Sun delivers. To capture the feel of facing a massive ship bristling with guns, the adventure gives these powerful vessels multiple attacks in a single round. While there aren’t any formal rules for this in Mutants & Masterminds—heroes and villains alike are limited to a single attack each round—you can borrow the same balancing system I used for your own villains.

Rapid-Fire Villains

Astonishing Adventures Prodigal Sun!

Available now!

The action economy—the ability for a character or monster to attack more than once in a round—is a key factor in balancing the power between villains and heroes. Heroes can break this balance by spending Hero Points, but Hero points are a limited resource and one that usually only comes from setbacks. Giving your villains the ability to attack more than once makes them more dangerous, but isn’t game-breaking because Staggering or Incapacitating them removes all the attacks they might inflict in a round.

Consider the following to make a rapid-fire villain:

  • A rapid-fire villain gets one primary attack each round, which must be their highest-power and/or most expensive attack ability.
  • A rapid-fire villain also gets one secondary attack each round, which must be the same PL or less than the primary attack and be built from fewer power points. The secondary attack cannot be an alternate effect of the primary attack. If the rapid-fire villain’s secondary attack is lower than their PL, they can use it twice each round instead of once.
  • On any round they use both their primary and secondary attacks, a rapid-fire villain can’t benefit from circumstance bonuses to their attack checks, and can’t modify their attacks with abilities like Power Attack, Accurate Attack, or Defensive Attack.
  • A rapid-fire villain still only receives one Move action each round, but they may move in between making their primary and secondary attack.
  • A rapid-fire villain can’t mix their multiple attacks with other Standard actions, such as using the Leadership advantage or contributing to a Team Attack. They may either attack with their primary and secondary attack or perform a different Standard action.
  • A rapid-fire villain counts as 2 PLs higher when deciding how to balance your encounter.

These rules are fairly simple and you can use them on the fly to make a single villain more challenging for a group, but be careful not to overuse them. These are best applied to weaker foes you want to keep the heroes busy, as a deluge of high-level attacks can easily overwhelm your team.

Rapid-Fire Talona

To set an example, you can turn the airborn villain Talona into a fast-moving and deadly (well, deadlier) opponent by giving her the ability to attack more than once a round.

Looking at her character sheet, Talona’s Flock of Raptors Affliction is her most powerful attack, and so becomes her primary attack. Her claw attacks are only the equivalent of PL 10—two lower than the power of her Affliction—so she can use them twice a round as her secondary attack. With the benefit of her Move-By attack, Talona can spread out the hurt among the heroes while keeping some of them off-balance with a hostile flock of angry hawks.

This rapid-fire Talona is the equivalent of a PL 14 threat—a beefy adversary and a fair fight for an average team of four PL 10 heroes.

Give the rapid-fire rules a try at your own game table and let us know what you think!

The Sovereign’s Finest

 

Sovereign's Finest in action!

The existence of the Sovereign’s Finest in the nation of Aldis has, from the beginning, been almost entirely for the benefit of player characters. It exists to give player characters not just a reason to go out and do “adventurer” things, but to do so with royal approval and as national heroes.

Since this chronicle focuses on the players all as envoys of the Finest, we decided that we needed to spend some space talking about the Sovereign’s Finest. Not just how they fit into the setting (as the Blue Rose core rulebook does a fantastic job of doing). But what it is like to be an envoy. We take a look at ranking systems and roles within the Finest, introduce you to some of the movers and shakers among the envoys, and examine play at every level of the organization (as the organizational chart in this article suggests).

Sovereign's Finest

Moreover, we explore the mechanics of the Finest as well. New Specialties and Talents, unique items, new Titles, and even a system that puts player character envoys in charge of defensive structures, outposts, and other strongholds – all in the name of the Sovereign, of course.

This single appendix is chock full of information for players and Narrators alike for playing envoys of the Finest, and is sure to see lots of play at the table even after you have enjoyed the chronicle in the main part of the book.

Envoys to the Mount is available to Pre-Order right now! If you’d like to own both the print and PDF versions of the book, you’ll see an offer for the digital files at checkout for just $5! We’ll even throw in a copy of Tales from the Mount for just $5 as well! And don’t forget that we have a free PDF of 8 pre-gen characters for you to use if you’d like to get playing right away.

Be sure to check out our previous articles on the Ronin Rountable blog!
Designing a Envoys to the Mount
Mounting Anticipation

 

Mounting Anticipation

Envoys to the Mount for Blue RoseIn the world of Blue Rose, the Kingdom of Aldis is normally where it’s at, but our newest releases, Envoys to the Mount and Tales from the Mount, are instead taking us on a journey to a very different destination, indeed: the Shadow Barrens, sorcery-defiled remnants of the once-thriving realm of Faenaria, where stands the quasi-mythical Mount Oritaun.

Envoys to the Mount is a campaign sourcebook for Blue Rose, spanning levels 2 to 17, which challenges a band of the Sovereign’s Finest to embrace their Destiny and defy Fate on an errand of mercy with repercussions to be felt throughout all of Aldea, now and for ages to come. While the quest begins innocuously enough—rendering aid to people in need across the kingdom—the adventure will lead these envoys to uncover ancient arcane secrets, pursue (and be pursued by!) deadly enemies, walk the streets of a metropolis long ago lost to Shadow, and ultimately stand against the earthly champion of the Exarchs in a battle both for the future of a lost people and for the soul of the world.

However, Envoys to the Mount is so much more than just a campaign. It also serves as a guide to the Sovereign’s Finest, outlining organization, operations, ranks and responsibilities, and all the other information needed to understand the inner workings of this revered Aldin fellowship. Within, you’ll learn what’s expected of an envoy, as well as the privileges and obligations of those who ascend the rank, and both a brief history of the Finest and a “who’s who” of its current leadership. Further, Envoys to the Mount explores the terrifying Shadow Barrens in detail—its vistas and many hazards, along with various points of interest for the bold… or the foolhardy—and provides new mechanics for use in this or any other Blue Rose campaign, such as the corrupt Shadow Dancer Talent and the exciting new system for challenge tests (a kind of advanced test with the potential for consequences every step of the way).Tales from the Mount from Nisaba Press

Of course, what’s a Blue Rose campaign without compelling player characters? Thus, we’re also releasing a free set of eight pregenerated 2nd level characters uniquely suited to the events of Envoys to the Mount, with built-in plot hooks intended to draw them directly into the action. While not necessary to enjoy Envoys to the Mount, these characters can jumpstart your adventure and get you right into the thick of things!

Last, but certainly not least, is Tales from the Mount, a nine-story anthology of nearly 300 pages of Blue Rose fiction centered upon the events, themes, moods, and settings of Envoys to the Mount. These stories shed a light on the dreaded Shadow Barrens and the terrible things that lurk within, through the exploits of those who defy Shadow with love and courage. Within its pages, you will accompany not just those braving the Barrens from without, but also travel alongside those from within that nightmarish land, to see that hope can bloom in even the most unlikely earth. Tales of bravery and sacrifice, of darkest sorcery and bittersweet triumph, await you!

What stories will you tell of Mount Oritaun?

A Blue Rose Chronicle, Designing Envoys to the Mount

Envoys to the Mount, a Blue Rose epic ChronicleHere at Green Ronin Publishing, we love us some epic campaigns. Long-term games that involve lots of play time, the opportunity to dig into the backgrounds, motivations, and growth of the characters, and a chance to change the setting? Purest catnip around here.

So when we set out to design our first full-length chronicle for Blue Rose, we set some pretty specific goals for the project.

It Has To Be Big. Though not all of our full-length adventure series will necessarily be as huge in scope as this chronicle, we wanted to start off big. So, we did that: the story in Envoys to the Mount involves the origins of the vata and the mystery of Mount Oritaun in the Shadow Barrens. A story like this demands no less a foe than the darkfiends and shadowspawn of the fallen capital of Faenaria, lost Austium, and the players are heroic Sovereign’s Finest trying to preserve what they can of the ancient legacy of lost Faenaria and Mount Oritaun.

And though Envoys to the Mount will not necessarily change the way “core” Blue Rose’s setting operates, it certainly has the potential to transform a group’s individual version of that setting – including some advice on how to handle what happens in the event of terrible tragedy in its conclusion.

It Has To Be Character-Focused. In a game like Blue Rose, the best parts of play are the parts that are about the player characters. In a published campaign, however, that’s hard to do without pre-generating the characters involved…and half the fun of an RPG is creating and playing your own character!

To address the conundrum, we are introducing Character Hooks: small “archetypes” that players can choose to “hook” their characters into the overall story. These Hooks will provide small benefits and drawbacks, as well as suggest some background elements for players to use when creating those characters.

But the real fun is that the various chapters all have sidebars that talk about the ways what is going on in the story affects or is affected by the presence of one of the Hooks. Will you play the Rhy-Bonded pair, or the mysterious Vata? Are you a Roamer with a familial interest in what is going on, or an aloof Historian there to record portentous events?

(We’ll talk a bit more about Character Hooks in an upcoming Ronin Roundtable, so keep an eye out for that!)

It Has To Span Time. Big things can happen all at once, but for the story we’re telling, we wanted some elbow room. One of the most fun parts of romantic fantasy fiction is seeing characters age and develop – not just as adventurers, but as people living their lives.

To that end, Envoys to the Mount takes place over a five year span. The player characters will begin as 2nd level characters in Chapter One, and by the time they reach Chapter Four, their careers in the Sovereign’s Finest will make them leaders in the nation of Aldis, and heroes in their own right.

This new epic chronicle for Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy, will go on pre-order later this week.

Blue Rose Quickstart available NOW!

Blue Rose QuickstartThis week sees the release of a Quickstart for our Blue Rose AGE roleplaying game. Green Ronin’s Quickstarts have always served to whet the appetite for a game, a compact and easy-to-use set of rules and an adventure scenario that needs nothing more than the Quickstart itself and some dice to get right down to playing.

The Blue Rose Quickstart is no different from other Quickstarts in that regard. But it also serves as an appetizer for another aspect of Blue Rose: its unique romantic fantasy setting. Blue Rose is one of several AGE games in our line of excellent offerings, but it is also an original setting, paying homage to the worlds of romantic fantasy fiction as it does.

To that end (without giving away any spoilers), we knew that we needed to highlight an important aspect of that genre: specifically, that while in much of traditional fantasy, the wilderness is a place of danger, in Blue Rose, the wilderness is much more than that. Certainly, there are risks for venturing out into it, but it is also a place of great beauty and serenity, a place aligned with the heartbeat of the setting’s spirit.

For this reason, the Blue Rose Quickstart’s adventure The Rhy-Wolf’s Woe takes place in the vast wildernesses of the Pavin Weald, a primordial old growth forest that is home to monsters and spirits and rhydan (the sapient psychic animals of the Blue Rose setting, who are among the player character types available for play!). This adventure was written by Stephen Michael DiPesa, and it captures so much of the spirit of Blue Rose perfectly.

Also important to the Blue Rose setting are its cast of diverse characters. To highlight those, we had April Douglas craft for us a set of nine pregenerated characters. Rather than a motley band of barely-connected adventurers, however, April gave us something distinctly Blue Rose-like: the Family Nightsong, an extended family of remarkable people. Though built around a constellation family (as a marriage between three or more folk is called), the Family Nightsong is more than that. The types of connections between its members range from spousal to parental to filial and more. The Nightsong folk may not all be related to one another, but there is no doubt: they are family, at day’s end.

So join us! If you’ve never played Blue Rose AGE before, download the Quickstart, get some friends together over Discord or Zoom, and give it a spin! And if you like what you read and play, you’ll find that the first adventure included in the Blue Rose AGE core rulebook is also in the Pavin Weald – so your next adventure is right next door!

 

Download the Blue Rose AGE Quickstart here!

 

See what else we have for Blue Rose here!

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!

SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Llorona

Sacred Band 2nd editionAs we announced earlier this week, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day. Today’s instalment is the elementalist Llorona !

Here’s the introduction to this series from Monday, just in case this is the first blog post you’ve found:

“My writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.”

Echoing during the Houston Event in the mid-80s, Llorona has seen much of superhero history first-hand. Named for a tragic figure from Mexican folklore, Llorona’s power is sonic in origin, a terrifying wail that she can use to make herself ghostly and intangible for as long as she can maintain the shriek. She works for the Golden Cross, a superpowered organization that helps with natural and man-made disasters the world over, which puts her in a position to sometimes see the worst humanity has to offer…but to then also do something about it!

You can download the character sheet for Llorona right here!

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

Monday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Gauss

Tuesday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Deosil

Wednesday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Sentinel

Thursday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Optic

We hope you’ve enjoyed these character sheets for the cast of Sacred Band. Be sure to let us know if your group uses them in your games of Mutants & Masterminds!

SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Optic

Sacred Band 2nd editionAs we announced earlier this week, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day. Today’s instalment is the elementalist Optic!

Here’s the introduction to this series from Monday, just in case this is the first blog post you’ve found:

“My writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.”

Today’s member of Sacred Band is Optic, the photoassumptive former military man capable of turning his body into a coherent field of light! Though he served with the superpowered Air Force unit known as the Seraphim with honor and dignity, he was the first super ever drummed out of the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and was influential in the repeal of that law. Since then, he’s done well for himself as a Hollywood action star, but he’s secretly itching to be back in uniform doing good work!

You can download the character sheet for Optic right here! 

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

Monday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Gauss

Tuesday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Deosil

Wednesday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Sentinel

SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Sentinel

Sacred Band 2nd editionAs we announced earlier this week, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day. Today’s instalment is the elementalist Sentinel!

Here’s the introduction to this series from Monday, just in case this is the first blog post you’ve found:

“My writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.”

Sentinel is in today’s spotlight, and rightly so! One of the Original superheroes of the setting, Sentinel is an iconic figure in the world’s mind. When anyone thinks of superheroes, they think of this high-flying, super-strong powerhouse, though he’s known just as much for his good nature and sense of right and wrong. A terrible scandal forced him out of the public eye, but just the right situation might bring him out of that retirement.

You can download the Character Sheet for Sentinel right here! 

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

Monday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Gauss

Tuesday’s Sacred Band character sheet of Deosil

SACRED BAND CHARACTER SHEETS: Deosil

Sacred Band 2nd edtionAs we announced yesterday, to celebrate the release of Sacred Band’s Nisaba edition, we are giving you the Mutants & Masterminds stats for the five members of the team, one per day. Today’s instalment is the elementalist Deosil!

Here’s the introduction to this series from yesterday, just in case this is the first blog post you’ve found:

“My writing compatriots often joke with me that I write novels like a game designer: eighty thousand words into world building before I realize that I need a plot and some characters. In the case of Sacred Band, the joke is literal truth, though.

As part of my character design, I decided to turn to a familiar “language” for my development of Gauss, Deosil, Sentinel, Optic, and Llorona – the language of game mechanics. Specifically, the Mutants & Masterminds rule set. Building my protagonists in that system allowed me to make decisions on things like abilities and limitations as a structured undertaking.

Of course, when the story needed something that the rules didn’t or couldn’t account for, the story won out, but having that starting line to apply my creativity to in the first place made the process much easier than just writing into a blank space entirely.”

Today, we’re looking at Deosil, the team’s elementalist witch. Best friends with Gauss, Deosil (or “Jesh,” to her friends) is a neopagan social media maven and often the voice of reason. That said, she knows she has some fears to conquer – but look out once she does!

You can download the Character Sheet for Deosil right here! 

Sacred Band is now on sale in the Green Ronin Online Store (in print or in ebook) and on Amazon (in print or for Kindle). It’s even available in ebook on DrivethruRPG. Look for it at your local retailer as well!

Yesterday’s Sacred Band character sheet for Gauss is still available for download as well!