Interview with author Aaron Rosenberg

Earlier this week we shared the interview with Richard Lee Byers who wrote part one of the Arcane Secrets Duology, and now we’re back with Aaron Rosenberg, author of part two, Lost and Never Found!

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza: The Arcane Secrets Duology

Lost and Never Found: From arcane talismans scattered across the country to lost heroes scattered across the multiverse, Thomas Rhymer and his erstwhile allies have their work cut out for them if they are to stop the magical menace threatening Earth-Prime. This unlikely alliance of heroes must travel through magical doors into strange worlds, unlike anything they’ve experienced before, and make it back in time to save their own.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work prior to this novel.

Hm, okay, the short version, then. Born in New Jersey, raised in New Orleans, educated in Kansas, long-time resident of New York City. Worked as a college professor, an animation studio director, a graphic designer, a book layout artist, and a website manager. Began writing as a kid, started professionally during college in RPGs, wrote 70-some-odd books and supplements there, segued into RPG fiction, then tie-in fiction in general, then original fiction. I mostly do novels and short stories these days, and I write everything from SF comedy to epic fantasy to superheroes to action-adventure to mystery to thrillers. Lost & Never Found is on track to be my 50th published novel, which will also be my 260th publication overall.

 

Lost & Never Found is the second book, following on the events of The Doom That Came to San Francisco. Was it a challenge picking up from where that novel ended? How much did you collaborate with Richard Lee Byers on where your book started and where it was going?

Actually, it was surprisingly easy. Richard and I have known each other for years, though this is our first chance to work together, and we had a long conversation beforehand about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go with both books and how to dovetail them together. We read each other’s outlines, so we both knew exactly where his book ended and mine began, and I read his draft before starting mine to make sure I was also consistent on the characterizations.

 

Your novel explores the Dimension of Doors, first introduced in the Mutants & Masterminds sourcebook Book of Magic. How much did you need to develop details about the dimension and how did you decide to use it as a storytelling device?

Since Richard had set things in motion with Gatekeeper, it made sense to continue his involvement, and that gave me the perfect opportunity to really play with the Dimension of Doors. I had the basic description, of course, but it was so open I had a lot of space to maneuver, and of course you can go anywhere with it , which just gives you endless possibilities. That was really at the crux of this book, too, flinging these heroes to strange new worlds—it’s a classic comic book trope, and I had a lot of fun playing that up. Plus it gives that great dichotomy between the group still in our world and the others in these new worlds and then the few in the Dimension itself.

 

While your novel works with characters from the previous book, you also get to introduce new characters, who don’t appear in Doom. Did you choose which ones from the Earth-Prime setting you wanted to use and why those particular characters?

We discussed it beforehand, which characters Richard wanted to use and which I wanted, and the good thing is, there was a lot of overlap! But yeah, his focusing on certain members of the Sentinels meant I got to continue using them but was also able to bring in their remaining teammates. Also, I really wanted to write the Shadow Knights, Richard basically used them in his specifically so I’d get to have them available for mine. They’re just too cool for words! Rhymer is also such an interesting character, and I hope my take on him is new and exciting.

 

The arcane and magical themes in the duology make it somewhat different from the usual four-color superhero fare. Your book, in particular, shows this contrast between the shadowy arcane world and the, let’s say simpler, world that superheroes live in. Which side do you think has a harder time of it in Lost & Never Found?

Oh, the superheroes, easily. Arcane types tend to be “in the know” as far as how the world really works, the forces underlying our own, etc. Superheroes tend to be more surface-oriented, particularly in a four-color setting—they deal with immediate problems but are often clueless about the shadows pulling everyone’s strings, the cosmic-scale objectives and conflicts, things like that. And that’s especially true because folks like Rhymer seem to delight in being vague and confusing in their explanations! There’s a lot of “mere mortals were never meant to know” when you’re dealing with arcane types, so the heroes are at a real disadvantage. An arcane character is far more likely to adjust quickly to a completely new world than a superhero, if only because the arcane know about other worlds and have probably studied them, even if they’ve never been to one themselves.

Of course, on the flip side, it’s a lot more common for arcane types to get paralyzed by indecision, weighing all the possible outcomes and all the ramifications. Superheroes tend to be a lot more immediate, a lot more direct, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Author Aaron RosenbergAaron Rosenberg is the author of the best-selling DuckBob SF comedy series, the Relicant Chronicles epic fantasy series, the Areyat Islands fantasy pirate mystery series, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and, with David Niall Wilson, the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. His tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, World of WarCraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Mutants & Masterminds, and Eureka and short stories for The X-Files, World of Darkness, Crusader Kings II, Deadlands, Master of Orion, and Europa Universalis IV. He has written children’s books (including the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books, and roleplaying games (including the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets). Aaron lives in New York. You can follow him online at gryphonrose.com, at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and on Twitter @gryphonrose.


You can back the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza RIGHT NOW over on Kickstarter!Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza

Interview with author Richard Lee Byers

As you may already know, our current Kickstarter campaign for the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza, also features two brand-new novels set in the world of Earth-Prime. Recently we had a chance to catch up with Richard Lee Byers, author of the first book in the Arcane Secrets Duology, The Doom That Came To San Francisco!

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza: The Arcane Secrets Duology

The Doom That Came to San Francisco, by Richard Lee Byers: In three alternate worlds, three arch-villains are about to meet their final dooms. Before the final strikes fall, they are snatched away and drawn into a conspiracy to conquer Earth-Prime. Quickly overcoming Gatekeeper, the guardian of the nexus between worlds, they begin a full-out offensive in San Francisco. Arcane hero Thomas Rhymer, drawn to the battle by his dark premonitions, must quickly gather allies to defend the city and Earth-Prime!

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work prior to this novel.

I’m a fantasy and horror writer who’s done well over fifty novels, dozens of pieces of short fiction, scripted a graphic novel, and has a screenplay under option and in preproduction. The majority of my novels connect to RPG worlds although I’ve also worked in settings that are all my own. I may be best known for my Forgotten Realms fiction. Most recently, I’ve written a Marvel Legends of Asgard trilogy for Aconyte Books and a novel set in the new fantasy world Archvillain Games is developing.

 

The Earth-Prime setting is richly developed, with hundreds of characters and twenty years of lore and development; was it intimidating stepping into a setting like that? How did you navigate it?

I didn’t find it intimidating because I have so much experience working in other richly developed settings. Also, I had visited this world before/ I wrote some short fiction for it.

I had the further advantage of knowing my book would focus on the supernatural. So I didn’t have to immerse myself in outer-space stuff, for example. I just needed some basic familiarity. I also knew that at the time I was writing it, Green Ronin had a big supernatural multi-part adventure in development, so to avoid continuity glitches, I didn’t use characters who were going to be involved in that. I went with a number of the others. I knew Thomas Rhymer and liked him from using him in one of my short stories, so I chose him to be my primary protagonist.

Finally, there are a number of characters on Earth-Prime who (I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets here) are to some degree inspired by classic characters from DC and Marvel. If you’re a lifelong comics fan like I am, that helps you get a handle on them.

 

How much of the concept for The Doom That Came to San Francisco came before you delved into Earth-Prime setting lore and how much of it developed out of it?

That’s a tricky question to answer because, as I mentioned, I’d written Earth-Prime short fiction before taking on the novel. So the premise came to me pretty quickly, and then I tinkered with it until it was a good fit for the characters I intended to use.

 

Why San Francisco? With the various fictional cities like Freedom City and Emerald City on Earth-Prime, why is Doom set in an analogue of a real-world city?

San Francisco is Gatekeeper’s home base, and he was the perfect character to play an important role in the novel. So that’s where I set it. San Francisco also has the advantage of being quite an interesting city, and I did my best to showcase some of what’s interesting about it. As readers will discover, though, the story does visit one of Earth-Prime’s cool fictional cities as events unfold.

 

Did you find the game-system details about characters’ various abilities inspirational, limiting, or some of both?

To be honest, it was information, often interesting, never limiting as far as I recall. I find that when I write fiction set in an RPG world, I don’t have to absorb every detail of the game mechanics. In the case of superheroes and supervillains, I just need the concept of the ability being represented and who’s mightier than who. If I’ve got that much, I’m good to go.

Author Richard Lee ByersRichard Lee Byers is the author of well over fifty horror and fantasy books including the Marvel Legends of Asgard novels The Head of Mimir, The Rebels of Vanaheim (a Scribe Award finalist), and The Prisoner of Tartarus. He is perhaps best known for his Forgotten Realms books. He’s also written scores of short stories, scripted a graphic novel, and contributed content to tabletop and electronic games. A screenplay he wrote based on his prose work has been optioned and is now in preproduction. Richard is a frequent guest at GenCon in Indianapolis and Necronomicon in Tampa. He invites everyone to Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 


You can back the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza RIGHT NOW over on Kickstarter!
Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza!

The Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza is now funding on Kickstarter!

You can help us get long-demanded M&M 3E books back in print and pick up two brand new Earth-Prime novels while you’re at it!

Mutants & Masterminds fans, it’s time to get many of our Third Edition titles back in print and to do that we need heroes like you. We know you’d love to get print copies of books like Power Profiles and Gadget Guides, and we want to put them in your hands. We’ve also just run out of the fifth printing of the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook and with any RPG, you’ve got to keep your core rulebook in print.

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza

So, here’s the plan. The initial offerings of the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza are the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, Gadget Guides, and Power Profiles, and our basic funding goal is $30,000. As we unlock stretch goals beyond that, we will add more books to the campaign, and you can get them as add-ons to your pledge. The Cosmic Handbook, for example, becomes available as an add-on at $42,000. It’s that simple!

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza

Still not sure? Check out these Ronin Round Table articles by Steve Kenson:

Back the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza today!

New Earth-Prime Fiction!Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza: The Arcane Secrets Duology

Two new Mutants & Masterminds novels are available in several reward tiers and as add-ons:

  • The Doom That Came to San Francisco, by Richard Lee Byers: In three alternate worlds, three arch-villains are about to meet their final dooms. Before the final strikes fall, they are snatched away and drawn into a conspiracy to conquer Earth-Prime. Quickly overcoming Gatekeeper, the guardian of the nexus between worlds, they begin a full-out offensive in San Francisco. Arcane hero Thomas Rhymer, drawn to the battle by his dark premonitions, must quickly gather allies to defend the city and Earth-Prime!
  • Lost and Never Found, by Aaron Rosenberg: From arcane talismans scattered across the country to lost heroes scattered across the multiverse, Thomas Rhymer and his erstwhile allies have their work cut out for them if they are to stop the magical menace threatening Earth-Prime. This unlikely alliance of heroes must travel through magical doors into strange worlds, unlike anything they’ve experienced before, and make it back in time to save their own.

You’ll find even more information on the Reprint Extravaganza Kickstarter page.

Gadget Guides: The Right Tool for the Job

Mutants & Masterminds Gadget GuidesYou can tell that Power Profiles was written and produced serially, because we included “Armor Powers” pretty early on: powered armor is a common type of super-power in the comics, and it starts with “A” so it was right up-front on the list of power themes. However, it quickly became apparent that if we were going to do additional power profiles on all of the various power effects involving devices and equipment that the series (and the final book) was going to be almost twice as long!

So we decided early on to set aside all of the other power themes involving devices and equipment, other than things like “Tech Powers” and things that were innate super-powers interacting with technology or the like. That list was expanded upon with other themes specific to equipment, building an outline for a new series of serially-released PDFs we called Gadget Guides.

Gadget Guides is “Power Profiles, but for equipment” so it’s no surprise that it, too, quickly sold through its print run, with copies of the out-of-print book going for sky-high prices on resale sites. Even more than Power Profiles, Gadget Guides spans styles, genres, and power levels, with chapters ranging from Archaic Weapons and Steamtech (19th century steampunk) to Alien Technology, Cybertech, and Mecha! Robots get into the act as well; we ended up writing stats and a background for the giant robot on the cover, in fact. (It’s a Terminus probot.) It’s not even all technology: Gadget Guides includes chapters on magic items and magical rituals and on psychic technology and devices.

That makes Gadget Guides a kind of “stealth” genre book for Mutants & Masterminds as well. If you want to use M&M to run adventures or campaigns for cyberpunk, far-future science fiction, the steampunk 19th century, modern super-spies, battling giant mecha, super-vehicles, or an archaic setting with magic and psychic powers, the book has all kinds of tools to help you do any or all of that. That’s in addition to its usefulness for a general superheroic setting, which has to account for all of those various sub-genres and more. Gadget Guides pairs well with the newer Time Traveler’s Codex as well as Power Profiles, covering the technology available in different time periods and settings characters might visit (or come from).

Just like Power Profiles, Gadget Guides is a catalog of inspiration when it comes to particular character types. Just flip through its pages and you’ll have all kinds of ideas for heroes and villains using particular types of technology. It’s also a handy resource for inventors (covered in Appendix I of the book, by the way) and gadgeteers: Rather than having to build-out different devices on-the-fly at the game table, you can just reference the catalog of devices already built in Gadget Guides to see if they fit your character’s point “budget”!

In short, Gadget Guides does for equipment what Power Profiles did for innate powers, and then some, giving you a complete “toybox” for arming and equipping your Mutants & Masterminds characters.


You can back the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza RIGHT NOW over on Kickstarter!

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza!

Power Profiles: Giving You the Power

Mutants & Masterminds Power ProfilesUsed copies of Power Profiles have been selling for hundreds of dollars on auction sites. On the one hand, that’s flattering; it’s nice to have a book you wrote be in that kind of demand. On the other hand, it’s frustrating, because Power Profiles was meant to be the kind of useful resource every Mutants & Masterminds group would want to have, and obviously that’s true … if only we had it to sell to them.

Power Profiles developed as a twofold idea. First, a regular series of short-subject PDFs we could develop and release electronically, then collect into a book when we had enough of them, if they proved popular. Second, we discovered that one of the things gamers liked about the DC Adventures Heroes & Villains volumes were the huge number of worked examples of powers in Mutants & Masterminds. Players could say, “I want to play a character like X” from the DC Universe, and just look in the books for that character to see how they were put together. Since we knew the DC Adventures license was limited and the books had a limited lifespan, we decided a fun PDF series would be to look at various archetypal powers (and power-sets) in M&M. Thus, Power Profiles came into being.

It breaks things down into powers by theme: Air Powers, Animal Powers, Armor Powers, and so on, as opposed to the core M&M rules, which focus on the effects of various powers. With more than thirty power categories, each with two dozen or more powers, the book has over seven hundred ready-made powers for use in building M&M characters! So you can come up with a character theme (like “Ice Powers” or “Magic” for examples) and just flip through Power Profiles for ideas. What’s more, even the powers you don’t choose can be useful, serving as a catalog of potential power stunts a character with that theme might be able to do. The book is a treasure trove of character ideas and ways to customize or expand an existing character.

Power Profiles also offers some worked examples of “How do I…?” power creation questions, how to use the existing power effects for different types of powers, perfect for both players who don’t want to do all of that work, and just want to pick from a ready-made set of powers, and for power designers who want examples of some of the things the system can do. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has asked me at a convention event about a particular character or power type in M&M and all I had to do was pick up a copy of Power Profiles and show them how those powers were set up. With the book out of print, I sorely missed that option at recent events!

Demand for Power Profiles was the initial motivator behind the Reprint Extravaganza. Circumstances haven’t aligned for Green Ronin to send the sourcebook back to the printer but now, with the core rulebook also out-of-print, this Kickstarter is your opportunity to claim all of that power for yourself.


You can back the Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza RIGHT NOW over on Kickstarter, and if you back the campaign in the first 48 hours, you’ll get the full PDF of our upcoming book Astonishing Adventures Assembled FOR FREE!

Mutants & Masterminds Reprint Extravaganza!

The Cthulhu Awakens BackerKit…Awakens. Metaphorically.

Cthulhu awakens literally, of course.

In what seems like years ago due to pandemic and post-pandemic time dilation effects, but was actually through this past March, we ran our Kickstarter for Cthulhu Awakens, an AGE system game covering Cthulhu Mythos horror from the early years of the last century to the present: a period we call the Weird Century. Cthulhu Awakens evolves the iteration of AGE first seen in Modern AGE, drawing upon innovations from newer and upcoming AGE system books, as well as special rules unique to it. Cthulhu Awakens was developed to cover an epic span of time according to an inclusive ethic, but that isn’t its point of distinction. I think what makes it special is really the broad range of periods and tones, and an interpretation of the Mythos that puts game-centered storytelling before literary homage. Cthulhu Awakens can be about lurking fear or dramatic action—it’s up to you.

Well, the Kickstarter is done…and the BackerKit is live! That’s where we manage pledges to order the game and its related, uh, game stuff. Go to:

Backerkit Pre-order Store!

If you pledged a token amount to get reminded of this, now’s the time to up your pledge. If you want to tweak your pledge, maybe adding on some last-minute books, do it there.

And if this is new to you? Well, go anyway. This is your second chance, like the kind you don’t get unless you’re a Yithian agent consulting future records of yourself to avoid mistakes…but I’ve said too much. Well, except for one thing: If you’re locking in any kind of pledge, thank you!

Cthulhu Awakens Pre-order store is live

Patreon TTRPG Halloween Collaboration “All Treats, No Tricks” – Free TTRPG Downloads!

Hello fiends!

It’s only the 11th day of Halloween, and we’ve really amplified the creepy for you! As many of you know, we are coordinating two Patreons, the Twilight Accord and Mutants & Masterminds!  This spooky collaboration comes as a result of my role as a Captain of the Patreon TTRPG Creators A. Club (The A stands for Accountability). Originally intended as a short-term gathering  of TTRPG creators on Patreon, the idea was to gather fresh perspectives from fellow creators, our group hit it off so well that we expanded our meeting time to 90 minutes and we’re still at it 6 months later.
Now, it’s a lot like a weekly gathering of friends, each offering their expertise, coaching, counseling, and creative problem-solving! So you can imagine, when I mentioned the high-level concept of a terrifying  TTRPG Creators A. Club collaboration, this crew of RPG enthusiasts were next-level excited!

No Tricks, Only Treats TTRPG Creator’s Ring!

Here’s how it works: Every creator in this group has a free digital treat, and all you need to do is visit, and click! It’s a great way to catch up with some incredible TTRPG talent, some who have been doing this for some time, and some who are just beginning to focus on showcasing their work through Patreon — well, you will see for yourself!
Patreon Collaboration No Tricks, Only Treats!
I really wanted to show off each individual contributor to our collaboration – so as you click through to each Patreon for your free treat, take a moment to say hello, check out their work – and did you know you could follow their Patreon content for free?
You should do it! Oh look, here they all are now!

Conflux Creatures
Terror Unto Madness: The Book of Aberrations
Over 100 pages of improved monsters and new spells for 5e D&D

Everhearth Inn
A spooky fantasy-inspired recipe to cook for your next DnD session!

Worlds of Parodia
The Mischief Festival of Yielding

LeRoiDeCarreau
DnD 5e Spooky Compendium

Oixxo Art
Autumn Queen

ARTventuring Guild
Spooky PC/NPC portrait

Nerdsmith
“Welcome to the Estate” adventure module

The Twilight Accord:
THE NIGHT ROAD PROCESSION

Angela Maps
5 Animated Battle Maps & Foundry VTT mod

Epic Levels
Mad Dungeon 20: Song of the Shriekfrapp w/Erol Otus

Deep Breadth RPG
Miser Hag, the Literal Wolf on Wall Street

Dizzy The Bard
Song: Warlord What if Spinal from Killer Instinct… was a rapper?

BonusActionRainbow
Rotten Roots – a Space Fantasy oneshot

Domille’s Wondrous Works
Changing Maze Phased Battle Map
It is a maze that changes!

Mutants & Masterminds
The Nightmare Rider Stablock!

Beyond the Screen
To Mistheart: a 5E one-shot adventure

More Treats, still no Tricks

Author’s Note: I pilfered this part from my weekly agenda email to the 72 person of the group

 

I volunteered to be an Accountability Club captain because I desperately needed to connect with people who understood what a unique proposition it was to operate a Patreon supporting a TTRPG project. More than just “another meeting”, the TTRPG Creators A. Club has quickly become the highlight of my week. The group consists of people from all experience levels across multiple disciplines – and the conversations always lead to interesting insights, as well as practical, material things people can do to take their respective Patreons to the next level.

So a huge shout-out to my A. Club Comrades. You are incredibly talented, wise beyond your years, joyful collaborators, with top tier spoopy content!

A Few Words on Languages

Tabletop roleplaying games can give us some funny ideas about languages and linguistics. At least, I know they did for me in some regards. Starting with a certain Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game comes the notion that player characters are all multi-lingual, speaking three, four—as many as seven or eight languages fluently! This is often compounded with the notion that entire species share the same language, or that there are special languages for fantastic creatures from dragons to elementals to the denizens of different planes of existence.

Later RPGs have taken a more nuanced, and certainly more detailed approach to languages, including various levels of fluency, and things like complex charts showing the relationships between “language families” of earthly or imaginary languages, which may grant some greater understanding or closely-related tongues.

understanding the Language can be very important

“I’m not sure what you just said, but I don’t care for your tone!” Art by James Ryman

The Modern AGE rules have a somewhat laissez-faire attitude about languages. The sidebar on page 16 of the Basic Rulebook says characters should “be able to speak, read, and write whatever languages” they “would pick up due to their cultural and social class” suggesting a limit of three. The Linguistic talent in the game handles learning additional languages and requires a fairly significant investment, since talent degrees aren’t easy to come by, and each degree in the talent grants only one additional language. It would take a new specialization to create the true polyglot character who speaks a dozen or more languages.

Fantasy AGE likewise offers a Linguistics talent, for characters truly dedicated to speaking other languages. The game’s ancestries follow the fantasy standard of an ancestral language (all elves speak Elvish, for example) along with a “Common tongue” used and understood by everyone, for the most part.

Mutants & Masterminds treats language fluency as an advantage, one rank grants an additional language the character can speak, but each additional rank doubles the number of languages, so it’s fairly cost effective to create someone who speaks a dozen or more of them. Of course, in M&M, the ability to speak and understand all languages is on the table for just 2 ranks of the Comprehend power, so there isn’t a lot of point in having more than a few ranks in the Languages advantage, other than to represent the character’s own skill and knowledge.

Individual Game Masters have to decide the role languages—particularly unknown languages—will play in their campaigns. In some cases, the language barrier can be an important element of adventures or the setting. Others prefer to generally ignore the problem in order to get on with things; the Threefold setting for Modern AGE, for example, includes magical “universal translators” for characters working for the world-spanning Sodality, so GMs don’t need to worry about whether or not the characters speak any of the local languages—at least not until their translators are lost or stolen! Likewise, the Cosmic Handbook for M&M recommends Comprehend as a “default” power for star-spanning campaigns, unless you want to institute some form of “Galactic Common” that all alien species speak and understand.

When building worlds of your own for RPGs, you might want to give some thought as to how people say things, and what languages they are saying them in.

Bite-Sized Siege of Starhaven

The Guide to Starhaven for Mutants & Masterminds

Editor’s Note: This Ronin Roundtable is intended as advice for GM’s of Mutants & Masterminds, and it contains a few spoilers for would-be heroes in the Siege of Starhaven adventure.

 

Hello heroes! It’s great to be chatting with you all again after the spectacular extravaganza that was Gen Con. It was my first time attending and I am happy to confirm that the legends of its grandness were not overstated. I had such a great time being amongst so many gamers and just seeing everyone truly happy to be immersed in this grand hobby of ours. There just isn’t anything quite like a con to help reignite the passion for gaming. Thank you to all of the players who participated in my events and to everyone who stopped by the Green Ronin booth.

It was great getting to run Siege of Starhaven from the new Guide to Starhaven sourcebook for players, but one thing I learned quickly in my con prep was that this adventure is definitely not a four-hour experience. This probably isn’t shocking as it was written by the person who is often accused of running 1.5 shots so often that we’ve started calling my 1 shots  “special limited series” over at the Untold Stories Project. I have a habit of overwriting, which can be useful for GMs at home, but not so much for a convention experience. Not to worry though I embarrassed myself running out of time so you don’t have to.

The trouble with using any published adventure is that they’re usually written with an idea of what the beginning, middle, and end are going to be, and trying to find smaller story arcs within the plot can lead to a hollow story. Finding the right places to trim is a GM skill that doesn’t usually get enough practice, as, if you’re anything like me, the big worry at the table is “do I have enough content for the next four hours?” Siege of Starhaven has a set number of beats in its original outline that give the story pace and momentum. It has an “in media res” intro scene, an investigation that can go basically three directions, a first encounter with the villain that ends in defeat for the heroes, an escape, a rallying of resources, and then a triumphant final combat with the forces of the Stellar Imperium. It’s all very exciting and I intended for it to be the first two or three sessions of a brand new Starhaven campaign.

I used to be pretty good at estimating how much adventure fits into four hours of play, but I’ve been spoiled running an ongoing series for the last few years. I haven’t HAD to shorten things so I’ve let that part of my GM brain atrophy. I ran Siege of Starhaven at Origins this year, and admittedly I didn’t find the right place to make the end of the adventure feel like a satisfying payoff. I wasn’t prepared for how abruptly I was going to run out of time. The players all still had a great time and left with a smile on their face, but it didn’t feel like my best work to myself. I promised I would take the time to better condense the story before Gen Con.

I did not keep that promise.

Between work and my stream games, I didn’t do as much Gen Con prep as I would have liked, so I was worried that once again the adventure wouldn’t be as satisfying as I wanted it to be. As I was flipping through the sourcebook in the thirty minutes before the event was scheduled to run, I had an epiphany about the plot. I wrote down a few notes, which I’m going to share here. This is how I shortened the adventure to fit in one four hour slot:

I started by cutting the adventure down to four scenes. The new story outline was thus: introductory scene to establish stakes/teach people how the rules works, investigation with multiple paths

Prime Consul Tamira-Van of Starhaven

Prime Consul Tamira-Van

to reward player agency, big fight with the villain at the end.

Scene One: Instead of beginning in media res, I added a roleplaying scene to provide more context as to what the heroes were looking for in the warehouse and who they were working for. They met with Prime Consul Tamira-Van who explained that the Children of Chrysalis were stealing artifacts from the Draffsnarl and that she had a tip about where they would strike next. She explained that this was a tryout for Starhaven’s new defenders and if they prove themselves she would be willing to appoint them as the Guardians of Starhaven. From there the fight with Pupil and the Imperium troopers went as scripted in the adventure.

Scene 2: This works pretty much as written. The heroes search the warehouse and find leads that point them towards Tamira-Van and MamaKaiger. The person they choose to follow up with then determines next steps, either towards the missing Daedalus and the Robot Forge or the elusive hacker Bran Cardon. The only slight modification needed is to eliminate any mentions of Cardon’s interest in Daedalus/the Facetwild.

I had time for a ten minute intermission here.

Scene 3: Again pretty much as scripted, either the conflict in the Robot Forge or the skill challenge to break into Cardon’s warehouse. The only modification to Cardon’s warehouse is that the body is actually his body and not a decoy. The building still explodes and leads to…

Scene 4: The various challenges in the Fait Accompli scene. Helping the burning building, rescuing the pilots at the starport, etc. The only difference is that instead of providing the minor bonuses for other scenes in the adventure, any successes in these challenges reduces the amount of enemies in the final fight with Ko-Nan (similar to the resistance assets in the current adventure.) Pull a benefit from that table and assign it to the Fait Accompli challenges: rescuing the pilots removes one of the Hounds for example. The other small modification is that Ko-Nan doesn’t mention that she has control of the Propylaea so the heroes are able to confidently confront her.

Scene 5: Big fight with Ko-Nan and her crew!

There you have it, a beginning, middle, and end that offers a wide variety of scenes and a pretty well-paced story for four hours. And there’s even time for a bathroom break if you want it. I’ll be going over the topic of shortening adventures (and lengthening them if you’re long-winded like me) more generally in some of the material I’m working up for Astonishing Adventures Assembled but this is how I would modify Siege of Starhaven for a nice one and done. Thank you for taking the time to read today and happy gaming!

And if you’d like a print copy of the Guide to Starhaven, a Print On Demand option is now available at DrivethruRPG!

The M&M PDF Mega-Bundle

Mega-Bundle for Mutants & Masterminds!

Where do I begin to tell you about how awesome the new M&M PDF Mega-Bundle offer from Green Ronin is…?

Ah, yes—at the beginning!

That’s certainly fitting, since the Mega-Bundle goes all the way back to the beginning of Mutants & Masterminds: with its first edition in 2002. (Have we mentioned this is the 20th anniversary of Mutants & Masterminds?) This was before Green Ronin was even selling PDFs of most of its products, so many of the first edition products included in the bundle are being released electronically for the first time ever. That includes both the first edition of the Mutants & Masterminds RPG and the Freedom City setting, the books that launched it all.

How many first edition books? Well, all seven of them, including classics like Noir and Gimmick’s Guide to Gadgets. Pretty great, huh?

But then we get to the second edition.

Because the M&M PDF Mega-Bundle also includes 45 second edition M&M products: virtually everything Green Ronin published for the second edition of the game. Not just the core rulebook and sourcebooks like Ultimate Power or the second edition of Freedom City, but also PDF-only products like Archetype Archives, Freedom City Atlas, and much more!

With fifty-two different products (editor’s note: oh there’s more than 52!) and a bundle price of $29.99, each is only a little more than fifty cents! That’s a fraction of the cost of a digital comic book these days, much less a digital game product. Honestly, even if you already have 45 out of the 52 PDFs in this bundle, it would still be a bargain for the remaining seven.

With Mega-Bundle Comes Mega-Opportunity

So, if you’re a third edition Mutants & Masterminds player or GM, how useful is this Mega-Bundle to you? Very!

Take a look at the free Mutants & Masterminds Second Edition to Third Edition Conversion notes. With these simple guidelines, you can make use of any of the second edition source material in your third edition games. Since most of the numerical values (ability modifiers, power ranks, etc.) remain the same, it’s easy to use many stats on-the-fly without converting them over in detail.

In addition, these sourcebooks contain a wealth of setting information, adventure material, and Gamemaster advice independent of game system updates and all useful in any M&M game.

The products in this bundle are the entirety of Mutants & Masterminds history: Want to set your Freedom City campaign in the era before the Silver Storm changed Emerald City, or even before Bowman graduated from high school and joined the Freedom League? You can, with these references at-hand. You can explore classic adventures like Time of Crisis and Time of Vengeance, either running them as-is or updating them to the present day for your game.

Of course, the earlier edition material is also still perfectly usable as-is. Do you want to run a first or second edition Mutants & Masterminds game? This bundle gives you everything you need, and then some! Do you have some gaps in your M&M collection? The Mega-Bundle is the ideal opportunity to fill them in and get some products that haven’t been available in print for several years, or have never been available electronically prior to this.

What About the Third Edition?

While most third edition Mutants & Masterminds products are still in-print and not included in the Mega-Bundle, don’t think we’ve forgotten them! We also have an M&M Reprint Extravaganza to bring some of those rare and hard-to-find third edition books back into print, while offering you the opportunity to get them at the previous cover price before rising costs for printing, shipping, and distribution require us to raise prices. Be sure to sign up to be notified when the Reprint Extravaganza crowd-funder goes live so you don’t miss out on this opportunity.

This incredible Mega-Bundle Collection is also available on DrivethruRPG!