Mutants & Masterminds: BIGGER. STRONGER. BETTER. THE DELUXE GAMEMASTER’S GUIDE

Longtime fans and frustrated newcomers alike have probably noticed that the Mutants & Masterminds Gamemaster’s Guide has been out of print for most of this year. Why retire such a critical rulebook for one of our most popular lines? Well, we didn’t. The original Gamemaster’s Guide was involved in a terrible test-pilot crash, and so we retrieved it and took it back to base, where we rebuilt it better than ever!

The Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide has all the material you love from the original but expanded with even more content and bound in a sturdy hardback to better stand up to table wear. So what’s new? Let’s take a look at the updated table of contents:

Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide Table of Contents!

That’s 70 new pages of content! Let’s take a look at part of that today!

New Faces

The Archetypes chapter has been expanded to add new villains and new minions! One of the best parts of running a superhero RPG is getting to put your favorite tropes and sacred cows into the game, and I always thought the villain archetype needed a little more weird. The new villains include the Composite—a villain made from small particles or creatures, making them flexible and tough to hurt. But my personal favorite addition is the PL 8 Jobber, the second-string loser whose powers have a theme but don’t quite match the PCs’. These are your Shockers, your Condiment Kings, your Captains Boomerang. They’re great support; backed by a ton of minions or assisting a bigger villain, they’ll make you sweat. But on their own, they don’t stand much of a chance against PL 10 heroes.

I love the Jobber so much, I want everyone to have her! So here she is for everyone to enjoy!

Free PDF Prewiew of Jobber!

The archetypes chapter also includes lots of new minions to help round out your adventure lineup. The big goal was to add some more unusual minion opponents and round out that PL7-8 “Lieutenant” range, so here’s the list of new additions: Devouring Swarm, Trickster Faerie, Jinx Faerie, Arcane Cultist, Mystic Ninja, Drone, Robot Jockey, Tulpa, and my personal favorite and noteworthy missing pet: the Hyena. The Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide also includes a new section just for templates, with seven sample templates to let you adapt the preceding minions for your own stranger capers.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

Part of being a superhero means being responsible in both deed and language. Words can have power, carry unexpected baggage, or be hurtful, and even when you don’t mean to cause harm, they can still have consequence. The original printing of the Gamemaster’s Guide included some word choices that are common comic book tropes, but also carry some real-world baggage. So we’ve changed a few names in the archetype chapter. These revisions use the same statblocks, but the shift can be confusing if you’re using adventures or villain write-ups that refer to these minions by name, so here’s the rundown on what got changed:

The Savage villain archetype is now the Hybrid.

The Thug is now the Crook.

The Hit-Man is now the Hired Killer.

And the minion-level Crime Lord is now the Boss. This wasn’t a sensitivity issue; we’re just trying to avoid confusion with the villain archetype of the same name.

Through All Doors: Threefold’s Sodality, Part 2

Last time in this series I introduced you to the Sodality: Threefold’s faction of planar explorers, diplomats and defenders of the right (at least by the standards of the Vitane transplanar alliance). The Sodality are one of two factions Threefold emphasizes as suitable for Player Characters, though it’s perfectly possible to run a game with protagonists from other groups. This time, I’ll talk a bit more about their recruitment and operations.

When the Emissary’s words fail and the Protector’s swords break, it’s up to the Explorer to find her Mission a way out.

Joining the Sodality

Most applicants for membership are citizens of the Vitane, of course, since one needs to both know of the Sodality and have access to apply in the first place. Still, recruits from other civilizations are not barred. In these cases, the potential recruit may be unaware of the greater nature of the planes or even the existence of the Vitane or the Sodality If they handle the truth well, a formal offer is made for them to join. On occasion, the Sodality has even found it effective to recruit people who learn about the organization by accident. Before a recruit is formally accepted, they must undergo a series of tests referred to as “the exams.” Some are fairly mundane written or oral tests, or physical trials meant to measure the subject’s physical skills, such as sparring matches or athletic contests. Other parts can be quite esoteric, involving arcane illusions and psychic scans, including psychodramas where applicants encounter their worst fears.

Passing the exams qualified recruits to enter the Academy, an island school in the Staghorn Sea on Vigrith. Training time varies, and training is tailored to the recruit while covering the essentials: the nature of the planes, how to unlock nascent soul talents, diplomacy, tactics, and the ethos of the Vows, which bind Sodalts to defend the defenseless, attempt peaceful contact with civilizations, respect the value of life, and avoid infringing the freedoms of others. Mastering the skills of the various branches may lead to extreme abilities, such as an expanded understanding of Shabda, strengthened intuition, and an understanding of Vidyavira, the “universal language” of violence that supersedes all martial arts. Yet on many occasions, the Sodality values perspective as much as skill, and do not require these specializations in order to take the field.

Once properly trained, a Sodalt joins a Mission under the direction of a magister, who coordinates that group’s efforts with others.

Sodality Missions and Operations

Rendered with a capital M, a Mission is the standard Sodality operation unit: a handful of Sodalts with complimentary background working under a magister on various assignments. Well-integrated Missions eventually give themselves a name and a visual symbol; until then they’re often known by the name of the supervising manager (“Brionne’s Fifth,” for example).

Sodality Missions take on a wide range of operations. First, each Mission has one or more wide-ranging standing orders which the Mission, with the occasional help of their magister, interprets to create their own operations and goals. Examples of such orders include:

  • Counter Praetorian activities on frontier planes.
  • Discover new civilizations.
  • Explore the planes of the Pazunian Chain.
  • Learn the nature of the Thresholders.
  • Protect endangered species.

Specific assignments, as granted by magisters, supplement these general orders. Some Missions are in frequent contact with their magisters, while others must range far from the known planes, and only check in infrequently.

Sodality Ranks

The following ranks exist in the Sodality.

Associate: Associate isn’t technically a Sodality rank at all, but an informal status assigned to non-Sodalts who assist the organization on occasion. Associates are sometimes called upon as “mission specialists” for particular situations where their skills or abilities are useful. Associate status is also commonly used at a magister’s discretion to try out potential recruits to see if they would be a good fit for the Sodality.

Pleb: Pleb is the common nickname for a student of the Academy, in between their status as a civilian or associate and a full member of the Sodality. Plebs are occasionally assigned to work with Missions as part of their education, although the Academy does not often put plebs into the field until they have proven themselves.

Neophyte: Neophyte refers to a new Sodalt, particularly one on probationary duty following graduation or induction.

Viator: Viator is the operational rank of anyone operating as part of a Mission, though most active duty members are addressed simply as “Sodalt,” saving the formal rank for special occasions. Viators within the same Mission do not “outrank” one another, and Mission leadership is decided by consensus or the assignment of the magister for the duration of a particular operation.

Warden: Warden is a particularly trusted Sodality rank, where a Sodalt is permitted to move between worlds freely at their own discretion. Some refer to warden rank as “wanderer” or “unattached” status, able to function more independently, although wardens are still assigned and report to a magister.

Beyond wardens, the Sodality is managed by magisters, monitors and at the very top, the Council of Intendants, headquartered in Cardinal House on Vigrith. These lofty ranks typically belong to supervisors, not front-line heroes, though individuals who hold them tend to be extremely competent.

And Aethon

The Sodality often conducts joint operations with Aethon, the security agency of Earth’s secret government, the Peridexion. We’ll talk about what these transhuman operatives do next time around.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide: Art, Process, and Inspiration

Hey folks, Jack back again to talk about the our new Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. This time I want to talk a bit about the art in the book, how it comes to be, and its utility beyond just looking great.

So, with a book like the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, where the focus is inspiring and guiding GMs with their own campaigns, art isn’t just cool, its potentially inspirational. Maybe that cool picture is just the spark someone needs to figure out the tone, style, or some element of a campaign that’s been eluding them. Inclusivity is also a concern; we want books that show a range of characters that will appeal to a diverse player base—not every dwarf looks like a short-bearded Scotsman and not every shining knight is a handsome European looking dude.

So how does the art get selected? Well, basically after the text is written and edited, it gets passed along to layout and art direction, which then tells the developer (me) what sort of art we need and where. This is generally both vague from a creative standpoint and precise from a technical one. So stuff like “We need a half page illo for this section” or “We need something for the start of each chapter in these dimensions” and so on.

Once I get those, I look at the text around where the art is to be placed and write up art descriptions like:

A trio of heroes are standing before a gigantic egg that sits in a nest of bones, vines, bits of smashed buildings, and other materials that present a feeling of menace. The egg is obviously thick shelled, mottled, and dark. It is cracking and something is beginning to emerge. Only parts of the creature inside can be seen, a glaring yellow eye, a scaly claw with some wet feathers along its length, and some tendrils or tentacles coming through certain cracks. The image here is very much that of a the birth of an alien and terrible thing. The heroes are very small compared to the vast egg and as such are mostly for scale, though one can be seen to be an armed warrior, one an archer, and another a spellcaster of some sort with a glowing rod. The scene is some vast underground chamber of which only some of it can be seen in the light of a mage’s rod and some glowing fungus around the cavern.

Often these descriptions have themes or tones I want captured. For example, a piece for a chapter about building monsters might have a scholar teaching monster anatomy. Or perhaps I want to capture the feeling of some comic cover, book illustration, or other inspiration from my own youth. You can see this in stuff like the M&M Cosmic Sourcebook, which I helped write some art descriptions for—several of the pieces in one chapter are homages to classic comic covers using Earth Prime heroes instead of Marvel and DC ones. I do this because I think this sort of influence, depth…call it what you will, shines through in the presentation of the art with the text of the book. And while I can’t make the art or lay it out? This is the part I can contribute—the initial set up for the artist to work their magic, so to speak.

Sometimes these descriptions reference other characters, books, etc… from Green Ronin itself, often mixed with some other piece of media I was enjoying or thinking about at the time:

A hero fights against a swam of vampire thralls. The area around is blasted and twisted, a place that resembles a post-apocalyptic version of a late medieval or early Renaissance Eastern European village, with some faces seen from those hiding inside crumbling buildings. The hero is the red headed swordswoman from page 17 of the FAGE Companion. She still has her massive sword, which she is swinging to catch a thrall or two as they try to leap on her. She has been scratched up a bit from the thrall’s claws, but seems to be holding her own. In the sky a faint red sun can be seen through layers of a cloudy gray sky–the idea is that something here or perhaps across the whole world obscures the sun enough to mute its effects on the creatures, meaning there is no true safe time in this world from such horrors.

I’ve become fond of that red-headed swordswoman in the Fantasy AGE Companion, something about the piece she appears in made me want to revisit her.  And then I watched Netflix’s Castlevania series and I decided she needed to fight vampires in this Campaign Builder’s Guide. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

So then these descriptions are sent off to a freelancer artist who gives us a number of rough sketches to review. The art director and I (and often other folks) discuss which versions we prefer, often saying stuff like “Totally C instead of A or B but we need to work that charging velociraptor riding cavalryman from A in.” Sometimes this process is very quick, sometimes we go back and forth more, but in either case that’s just the process. Some of the best pieces in Fantasy AGE—in my opinion—were fast and easy from a feedback perspective. Others were long and hard, and just as amazing. In any event, the artists also add their own ideas, style, and embellishments. Sometimes an artist will present a piece that’s “wrong” from what we asked for in terms of an angle or action and yet its completely perfect and we love it. Other times great pieces get tweaked because they need to invoke something important from the book.

Anyway, once the sketches are approved and artist knows just what we want? They make the piece. Sometimes they share steps along the way, other times not. In any event, they eventually turn in a piece for approval and any final tweaks and adjustments are made. 

So after all is said and done, the monster egg piece becomes:

Art by Bryan Syme

While our red-haired swordswoman fighting vamps is presented as:

Art by Pedro Sena

And that’s essentially how it works. Just for dozens of pieces of various sizes and dimensions. It’s at times a complex process, but I truly enjoy it.  Hopefully those of you checking out the Campaign Builder’s Guide will find pieces to inspire and delight you as well.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide Pre-Order and PDF

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder's Guide: Pre-Order and PDFThe Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide is now available for pre-ordering and in PDF format. As usual, when you pre-order the physical book, you can add the PDF version to your order for just $5, to download right away. If you prefer to shop from your local store, make sure they know about Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus, so you can get the same $5 PDF deal by pre-ordering through them.

Build Worlds of High Adventure!

Welcome to the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, a book of advice, examples, and in-depth discussion of various elements of tabletop fantasy roleplaying campaigns aimed specifically at Fantasy AGE. Included within you’ll find:

  • In-depth analysis of campaign structure, set-up, and play frameworks
  • Step-by-step advice on designing challenging encounters and interesting adventures
  • Monster and character design assistance to help GMs make convincing, compelling, and challenging adversaries and foils for their campaigns
  • Information on designing religions and divinities
  • Notes on taking your campaigns beyond ordinary power levels and into the realms of truly epic adventure
  • Modifying and adjusting your campaigns to embrace various fantasy subgenres such as fantasy horror, historical fantasy, or post-apocalyptic horror
  • An assortment of helpful tables throughout the book to help generate everything from businesses and criminal organizations, to cults and religions

Each chapter includes detailed examples of the advice and guidelines within, showing how to directly implement the tools and advice of the Campaign Builder’s Guide. The Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide requires the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, and users will find the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary exceptionally useful when using this book.

Step up your game with the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide!

Trust in the Scarab: Threefold’s Sodality, Part 1

“What do characters do, exactly?” To be honest, I have always had mixed feelings about the core story concept in roleplaying games. Many new games are a tad narrow in focus, with excessively defined goals, at least for my tastes, especially when one of the things I love about RPGs are their looser objectives. Threefold fits this ethos in that the setting is enormous, but it presents a bunch of different story levers to pull. It has a few key themes, but you’re supposed to develop your own reactions to them. The book is a conversation we’re having with you, not a set of dictums.

(What is Threefold? Do try to keep up—it’s the new setting for Modern AGE, coming this Gen Con!)

Scarabs can be willed to change size. This one (a Searcher branch scarab) is small for easy or clandestine handling.

However, you have to start somewhere, so Threefold focuses on characters who belong to two factions: The Sodality and Aethon. The Sodality is the bigger partner, so I’ll start with it, and how it focuses characters on certain types of stories.

The Sodality’s Agenda

Ex infinito, intelligentia (“From infinity, intelligence”) is the Latin translation of the Sodality’s motto, rendered in formal Shabda and often perceived as Latin by those who know both it and the all-language. An agency of the Vitane’s interplanar democracy, it engages in exploration, understanding, diplomacy, and—when necessary—intervention, hoping to improve the fortunes of all soul-bearing beings. Its goals are described as “security, sovereignty, and sapience.”

  • Security: The Sodality exists to protect the Vitane and to further its growth and development as a civilization.
  • Sovereignty: Following the Vitane Code of Wisdom, the Sodality respects the rights of civilizations to govern themselves and control their own development.
  • Sapience: Lastly, the Sodality exists to explore, learn, and establish understanding and goodwill among all thinking beings.

Sodality Organization

Missions make up the core of the Sodality. These are small, dedicated teams of three to six Sodalts (as they’re called, individually) and allies who are given a general mandate to interpret as they see fit within the bounds of the Vows, and specific orders when required. The Sodality prefers to staff Missions with at least one Sodalt from each branch, though this is not always possible. The three branches parallel the organization’s goals.

  • The Emissary Branch deals with people, which is a particularly broad group where the Vitane is concerned. Emissaries are trained as negotiators and diplomats, but also understand espionage and how to guard against it.
  • The Protector Branch looks after the safety and security of the Mission, and the Sodality and the Vitane in general. Protectors are trained in security, strategy, and tactics.
  • The Searcher Branch is a group of scholars, scientists, technicians, and explorers who study the nature of the planes, map out their relationships and the routes between them, and delve into the arcane and the occult.

Tools of the Sodality

A Sodalt’s signature accoutrement is their scarab. This gem and metal badge identifies the wearer as a member of the organization, with colors indicating division: amethyst and gold for Emissaries, garnet and silver for Protectors, and emerald and bronze for Searchers. Beyond acting as identification, a scarab has several magical functions. It acts as a communications device, stores magical energy (important on Earth, where kanna, the power of magic, is hard to recharge), sheds light, and provides some protection from the elements.

A complimentary standard issue item, the Shabda Plaque, is a white sheet of stone that says “THE BEARER IS AUTHORIZED” or something similar in Shabda, the universal language. This carries an enchantment where weak and average wills see the proper credentials to enter crime scenes, back rooms, or do anything required, though it doesn’t work on better-trained individuals.

Missions use these and other assigned tools on a variety of operations. They explore the planes, negotiate treaties, keep the peace, and above all, adhere to the Vows, an internal code of honor that, despite disparagement from their enemies, mostly functions to keep the Sodality focused on keeping the peace. Next time around, I’ll talk about the Sodality’s organization some more, from supervising Magisters to itinerant Wardens. Until then, trust in the scarab. The person wearing one is thinking of your best interests.

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Asked and Answered

Hey folks, Jack here. As we are getting ready to release the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide literally any day now, I thought I’d take a moment to answer three of the more common questions I’ve gotten leading up to the release. Hopefully this sheds a bit of light on the book’s content.

Epic Play! Art by Mirco Paganessi.

Q: You said the book has a chapter on epic play, you mean high level play?

A: Well yes and no. I mean epic play. Big sweeping threats, plots, and other elements. Deadly artifacts and beings with godlike powers. Dogs and cats, living together. You know, mass hysteria.

That often is high level stuff. When heroes hit the upper levels of the game, they start to run into more dragons, demon lords, and similar nasty threats. These threats tend towards big ambitions and can often affect things on a national if not global scale. But on the other hand? One of the most famous stories in fantasy is about a short little gentleman farmer and his gardener taking a magic artifact to the most dangerous place in the world so they can destroy it and in doing so basically kill an evil god. Epic as all hell, but the heroes weren’t necessarily Level 20 badasses.  So the book will talk about both high level and just generally epic play, including how to make campaigns where heroes are godlings and divinely powered superhumans from Level 1 if desired—mechanically its simpler than many think.

Q: What kind of Alternate Rules Does the Book Have?

A: There are several optional and alternate rules for GMs wishing to give their campaign a certain flavor or feel. These generally combine very well with similar rules in the Fantasy AGE Companion. For example, in a dark fantasy game a GM might take the new Grave Wounds optional rule and combine it with rules from the Fantasy Age Companion for increased lethality for a very dangerous and gritty campaign. On the other hand, another GM might use action points and other similar rules from the Companion and add in the Cinematic Acrobatics rules for a Wu Xia-style fantasy campaign. And so on.

Some of these rules are brand new. Some others are adapted from other AGE system games, though usually with noteworthy changes. Which brings us to…

Q: Wait, Haven’t I seen this Stuff Before?

Maybe. While the majority of the book is new content, in a few cases rules from Dragon Age, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE were adapted for a particular element of campaign building. This was done so that customers didn’t need to buy books outside the Fantasy AGE line to get an appropriate rule. In most cases these rules were altered or adapted, such as with the Investigation Stunts included in the book—these are similar but not identical to those found in Modern AGE.

Also, in a couple rare instances an older rule or concept from Fantasy AGE itself was revisited to preserve the step by step flow of the book’s chapters on campaign building. The prime example of this is the inclusion of a summary of the Companion/Follower rules, as well as briefly revisiting Honorifics, Memberships, and Titles in the chapter on building campaign rewards.

These concepts are revisited because the discussion in the Campaign Builders Guide is about how the GM can design, use, and incorporate these elements as rewards as part of a larger campaign building strategy. As an important part of campaign development? We came back to them for a brief section to avoid the distraction their absence would cause—especially in readers who haven’t yet picked up the Fantasy AGE Companion.

I hope that clears up a few common inquiries and shows how the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide combines campaign building advice, new content, and the occasional revisiting of established AGE elements to help GMs form and shape their own settings and campaigns.

Threefold: 10 Weird Things in the Metacosm

Hey, I knew I was going to have to toss a listicle in this series of articles about Threefold, our new, original Modern AGE setting, but better to get it out of the way now instead of leaving it for the dregs, right? If you’ve been following along, you know Threefold takes place in the Metacosm, which includes myriad planes of existence, from fantasy lands to alternate Earths, connected by gates. There’s a lot of room for weirdness. Here are ten examples.

Self Pork. Not just good, but good for you. Headless clones only, guaranteed!

Cantor

A life support cannister containing the cloned brain tissue of a mystic who has recited poetry and prose praising science and technology. A properly deployed Cantor mitigates the effects of Incessance, a phenomenon that makes high technology less reliable on certain planes.

Deletion

Erasing an alternate timeline by destroying all intelligent life and sealing it off. One of the duties of Aethon, prime Earth’s transhuman intelligence agency, though they’re not always sure why they have to do it.

Engrammatry

A new discipline in science and engineering in the Haqida Technocratic Republic, a pan-Mediterranean state in an alternate Earth where the Abbasid Caliphate persisted and spawned even more influential successor states. Engrammatry creates physical phenomena through pure computation—reality out of math.

Immortal Crowns: Lands of Wartorn

A fully immersive MMO that allows players to inhabit synthetic “heroes” called Wayknights in the Otherworld of Wartorn. Astrally projected instructions from the player’s rig control their Wayknights, which are themselves relics of a lost civilization. Many normal people also live on Wartorn and fear the bloodthirsty Wayknights.

Krypt

A digital-psychic cryptocurrency rendered unhackable due to a causal interaction with the Titan Core, a future transcendental AI. A Krypt must sync with a physical component, such as a coin or tattoo (the latter has made the skins of certain individuals extremely valuable). The primary currency of the Krypteia, a multiplanar crime syndicate.

Self Pork

A gray market medical foodstuff made of the purchaser’s cloned tissue, prepared as jerky and given a little engineering along the way. Eating self pork made of…well, yourself…instigates rapid healing. The most trusted brand, Choppy, is named for its mascot, who’s got no head and two thumbs up.

Shabda

The universal language, known to wandersouls, those individuals capable of easily perceiving transplanar gates. When one knows Shabda, most languages are translated into and perceived as one’s first language, with occasional unusual nuances, such as posh aliens acquiring comparably posh British accents.

Sky Naga

Creatures who live in floating cloud lairs on the Otherworld of Brylancie. Their aerial battles are responsible for all weather and atmospheric phenomena, so local humans try to appease them by leaving fresh meat out for them at night. Brylancie’s moons are sky naga eggs; their numbers change every few decades. Fallen moon shell fragments are worth their weight in gold.

Shattersouls

Agents of Aethon capable of attuning themselves to their alters, or alternate timeline selves. Shattersouls are valued as deep cover operatives, as they are able to intuit the ways in which a given Earth deviates from the primeline. However, shattersouls are “spread thin,” psychically speaking, and this lowers their resistance to possession and sometimes transfers traumatic memories from alters.

Soulgun

An enchanted firearm capable of sustaining a Relationship (as per Modern AGE) with the user, though this makes said users seem somewhat remote when it comes to dealing with people. Soulguns are particularly favored by arcannoneers, who master channelling magical energy through these and other firearms.

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Necessary Tools and Hard Sells

Hey folks, Jack here. Today we’re talking about our soon to be released Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. So what is it? Well, its not a traditional rulebook or adventure…

And right there is where I’ve lost some of you. That’s okay. Let’s see if I can bring you back.

There’s both a definite need and strange reaction to how-to guides, toolkits, and other books in various game lines. While they are appreciated by many, there is a rather vocal minority that not only is sure they don’t need these books but tells others they don’t and even sometimes goes so far as to declare such releases a waste of…something. Time, resources, money, you name it. I see this sometimes when I’m haunting various corners of the internet looking for an idea about what products to propose or what to include in them.

However, if you haunt the messages boards and gaming discussions of the internet, you also see one of the biggest roadblocks to people playing a particular game is “that’s cool, but what do I do with it?” Without a clear guide for how campaigns start, run, and continue, sometimes its hard to get started. This has increased with the influx of newer gamers recently, mostly brought in by streaming and other media treatments of RPGs. We also see a lot of “Man I want to run this, but I am just not sure how. Especially a campaign, how do you even do that?”

It doesn’t stop there, either. Large discussions about “how do I hack this game for this genre?” or “How do I design monsters for this?” are very common. These are also questions sometimes we writers and designers get directly. And these questions aren’t just from new gamers, but anyone who finds that despite their considerable gaming abilities, some parts of conceiving, creating, and running a campaign either elude them or are just kind of a slog.

That’s where, at least for Fantasy AGE, the Campaign Builder’s Guide comes in. It’s a filled with examples, advice, random tables, and various other tools to build campaigns—in whole or in part. And while its undeniably true that veteran GMs will get less out of this book than the rookies, it was written and designed with everyone in mind.

Because if you’re like me? You have your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to preparation, design, campaign building, etc… Maybe you make killer monsters and adventures, but how to really capture epic play eludes you. Maybe you’re a wonderful encounter builder and everyone loves your NPCs, but when you tried to design a religion for that religious order, you don’t feel you managed it well. The Campaign Builder’s Guide covers enough topics and concepts it has a little something for everyone, and a lot of something for many people.

So what’s covered? Well there are advice and examples for:

  • Campaign concepts and frameworks.
  • Encounter building
  • Adventure building
  • Building rewards
  • Character building 
  • Location creation
  • Designing divinities and religions.
  • Sub-genres and genre specific campaign changes
  • Running epic campaigns
  • Monster building

Plus, random tables to help GMs generate ideas on the fly. 

So there’s a lot in there. I daresay something for everyone. I’m going to wrap up with a little preview—a look at an example of Campaign Framework design, the Mean Streets of Kavask.

Charitable Giving Initiative: Freedom Sale For RAICES

Select Mutants & Masterminds product 20% off; 20% of proceeds go to RAICESShop the Freedom Sale and make a difference.

From now until July 15th select titles from Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds line will be 20% off cover price, with 20% of the proceeds going to RAICES for the work they are doing to address the humanitarian crisis affecting asylum-seekers and detained children on the US-Mexico border.

At a time when it can feel like only a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist has a hope of success, it’s ok to remember that there are folks out there with none of that, who do what they can with what they have. What we have is a superhero game that we hope supports and inspires you in your fights to stay heroic and support justice on this fragile little planet of ours however you can. You don’t have to be a superhero to make a difference in the world but if you want to play one for a little while, we can help you with that, too.

Shop the Freedom Sale

Threefold: What’s in a Name?

Some of you were lucky enough to get the Free RPG Day Threefold Quickstart, and may have learned a bit about this, our first original Modern AGE setting. If not, you can learn a bit more by reading my last article about Threefold, written before the new Quickstart (which we’ll be able to make available to a wider audience in July) dropped.

But what’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in the name Threefold. This got attached to the project early, as a way of acknowledging the three elements I wanted to bind together: modern fantasy, contemporary horror, and near future, Singularity-sensitive SF. As we put it together, nothing else fit better, and in fact, it became even more suitable as we invented more of the Metacosm.

Three members of the Sodality, a branch of the Vitane, survey a new plane.

The Threefold Metacosm

Gates connect most of Threefold’s innumerable planes, allowing passage for those initiated into the Metacosm’s nature. Each plan is unique, but an informed traveler knows they belong to three primary categories.

Earths: Earths consist of the primeline (which connects via gates to Otherworlds) and Alts, branched-off histories (also called worldlines) which rarely have gates, so that they must be reached through Earth via extraordinary technologies. Magic functions poorly on Earth, but natural laws work with such reliable potency that it is the birthplace of the most sophisticated feats of science and engineering. Beings of order and information called Machinors mind the many Earths.

Otherworlds: Otherworlds shimmer with kanna, the creative energy that makes magic possible. Things which are legends on Earth are very real in the Otherworlds, though every myth is inaccurate, incomplete, or out of date. Most of the “gods,” or Hierarchs, have been driven away or gone into hiding, and new societies have sprung from ancient kingdoms. High technology functions less reliably, but magic often replaces it.

Netherworlds: Where Earth’s humans might regard Otherworlds as realms of Golden Age legend, they’d see their Glooms, Infernos, and demonic incarnations in the Netherworlds. Alastor demon-monarchs rule each Netherworld; their personalities influence their domains, and vice versa. Rivers of green fire and bleeding trees are not unusual. Natural laws bend as if influenced by a sadistic intelligence.

A few planes called Heterarchies defy the three categories, as their histories confer unique properties.

The Three Great Powers

Threefold takes place in the present, which is also the waning of the Third Age, which began at the end of the Fellwar: a prehistoric conflict for control of the Metacosm’s souls. Humans of all kinds, from the rough dreygur to the elemental huldra, defied gods and demon lords to bring peace. In that peace, three great powers arose, and now stand at the threshold of a new war, or perhaps some other, unexpected transformation. The powers are:

The Vitane: Risen from refugees of the Fellwar, the Vitane follow a doctrine called the Code of Wisdom which orients its society toward learning, democracy, and respect for the rights of numerous peoples, including the right to be left alone. The Vitane hides itself on worlds where planar travel isn’t common knowledge, including Earth. The Vitane has no true military, but its exploratory arm, the Sodality, includes fighting Protectors alongside its Emissaries and Searchers.

The Divine Empire: The end of the Fellwar threw most of the Hierarchs, the old god-rulers of the Otherworlds, into exile, but their children, the Optimate demigods, still felt they were due certain entitlements. Attempts to acquire these through Vitane democracy failed and eventually, many planes followed a splinter faction under Dyraza, self-proclaimed First (and only) Empress of the Divine Empire. Dyraza was slain by the Alastor, Avakim, and no successor has replaced her, but the Empire’s theocracy, where Optimates rule mortals across dozens of planes, abides.

The Nighthost: During the Fellwar, one host of soldiers commanded by the Netherworlds rebelled, inspiring others to do the same, until they became a mighty warrior society, the Nighthost. Nighthost warbands are raiders and warlords, who respect strength and relish a fair fight—or a properly framed unfair one. They’re a scourge of the planes, but greeted as liberators when they attack Netherworlds, and free their tortured inhabitants.

Okay, there is one more faction, but it’s not transplanar in the usual sense. The Peridexion is Earth’s secret government, under the rule of a collective of transcendental intelligences who monitor multiple spacetime continua. Allied with the Vitane, the Peridexion sends certain agents on missions with Vitane counterparts. We’ll talk more about these organizations next time. As for Threefold, we expect to have it at Gencon—watch for it!