Freedom City Pre-Order

Freedom City, the iconic original setting for Mutants & Masterminds, is now available for pre-order in our Green Ronin Online Store! What’s more, if you pre-order the hardback through our store or from a participating Pre-Order Plus brick-and-mortar retailer, you can get the PDF for just $5, and download it right away!

With the Mutants & Masterminds RPG you have the power to become a hero. Freedom City gives you the world’s most renowned city of heroes to rescue from the forces of evil! Called “the greatest superhero setting ever,” the award-winning Freedom City is a fully realized and detailed metropolis that can serve as a home base for your heroes or just one of the many places they visit while saving the world of Earth-Prime from disaster. Your heroes can fight the forces of SHADOW, puzzle out the schemes of the Labyrinth, and defeat the alien invaders Syzygy and the Meta-Grue. With dozens of foes and hundreds of locations, Freedom City gives you everything you need to run an exciting Mutants & Masterminds campaign. Use it on its own or in conjunction with Emerald City and the Atlas of Earth-Prime for world-spanning action!

Ronin Roundtable: To Boldly Go…

Hard to resist the appeal of the world’s most famous split infinitive, given the topic of this column and the recent relaunch of a certain science-fiction television series, although this Ronin Roundtable has to do with far more earthly matters.

One question I get a lot on diversity panels and interviews about inclusion and such is: “As a queer creator, do you face a lot of censorship?” To which I’d say, as a cis-gendered white male American creator, not nearly as much as some, but from talking to a lot of my queer colleagues in the game industry, much of the censorship we have faced has been self-censorship, a tendency to second-guess ourselves, to flinch a bit away from including the kinds of things we’d like to read in a product, in the interest of appealing to a broader audience, or “not pushing” or, frankly, whatever bullshit excuse we could come up with to justify not putting ourselves “out there” too much.

In my own experience, RPG publishers have actually been quite supportive of my going out on a limb and it has been much more of a question of just how far out there I was willing to go. I’m sure that’s not necessarily everyone’s experience, but when I wanted to make the protagonist of my Shadowrun novels gay, and talk about his trauma involving the death of his mentor and lover when he was a teenager, or when I wanted to include an openly gay superhero in Freedom City, or to incorporate queer people into the mythology and society of a fantasy setting in Blue Rose, publishers supported me unconditionally. Any places where I didn’t push boundaries or challenge expectations I attribute to my own lack of imagination, courage, or willingness to take a risk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not beating myself up over who and where I was back then. I did what I was able to do (rather than what I was “allowed” to do) and I had a lot to learn. I’m a strong believer in Maya Angelou’s ideal of “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” At least, I certainly try to do better. All creative work involves risk: You’re putting a part of yourself into your creation and then putting it out there for people to love or hate or criticize or simply ignore with a “meh” and shrug, for fellow professionals to edit, critique, and evaluate. When you’re also going against the current of the mainstream culture, you’re taking an even greater risk but, in my experience, the rewards of a creative work are commensurate with the risks that you take.

That’s what led us to talking at Green Ronin’s recent planning summit (and afterwards) about encouraging bold creation: opening opportunities for new voices, diversifying both our creators and our ideas, exploring paths not taken, and finding ways to support and encourage each other when we feel the urge to back away from a leap of faith that seems too far, too risky. To find ways instead to help each other and the creators who work with us by saying: “Be bold. Jump, and we’ll be there to help catch you.” Bold creativity and inclusivity—telling the stories that truly speak to you—is still a risk, it will always be a risk, but it’s not a risk you necessarily have to take alone. If this idea speaks to you, talk to us.

 

Hurricane Maria Relief: Fantasy AGE RPG Sale

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook (Pre-Order & PDF)As you probably know, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This month’s Charitable Giving Initiative sale is in support of Hurricane Maria relief efforts. For a limited time, Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook and Fantasy AGE Bestiary are 10% off, in both print and PDF formats in our online store, and when you partake we’ll donate 20% of the sale proceeds to Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund.

Ronin Roundtable: Summit Time

Once the summer convention season is largely completed but before we lose the momentum that meeting our fans and fellow gamers brings, Green Ronin holds its annual summit in the Seattle area to plan out what we hope to bring to market for the next year. Summit time is important to our company because everyone at Green Ronin works remotely, bringing their individual skills and unique talents to bear from their own home offices around the country.

2017 means it’s been 17 years of our little endeavor that began as a way for GR President Chris Pramas to keep his hand in roleplaying while he worked a day job in the fledgling miniatures division at Wizards of the Coast circa 2000. Considering how we work, with so many of us working in what might seem like isolation, I’m amazed and gratified at how stable the core of our team has been and how we’ve managed to grow ourselves to include so many ridiculously talented and patently wonderful people.

When we first started it was just me and Chris, though our pal Hal Mangold was involved from project #1 and our dedicated webmaster Evan Sass followed up not long after. Hal went on to become our business partner in the reconstituted Green Ronin Publishing LLC and if you’ve listened to my bit on the recent installment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff you know the high regard in which we hold him. The fact that they were, 16 years ago, the Best Man and Dude of Honor (respectively) at our wedding in 2001 should only be further evidence of our fond ties to these men.

I mention this because I consider “our people” to be not just coworkers and colleagues but also friends, near family. Summit time, in addition to being very much a working retreat where we meet for serious discussion and strategy for 8 or 9 hours each day, is also akin to a family reunion or some other sort of social gathering. We cook together, eat together, play games and watch movies and relax together. It’s bonding time… not “enforced bonding” or corporate ice-breaker game playing, but letting our introverts introvert, letting people who love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles nerd out together, letting the night owls night owl and the early birds fix breakfast. It’s bonding time, time that reminds us all that our coworkers are humans and not just words in an email or posts to a Slack channel.

This year was kind of a big year for us because we reached a threshold where the number of “newbies” who had been to one (or none) of our summits in the past were nearly equal to the “old timers” who have now been to several (or every) previous summit. This year we welcomed Mutants & Masterminds line developer Crystal Frasier, who had the poor luck to be hired just after last year’s summit and so who had to go a full 11 months working for us without the experience of summitting to bolster her. Similarly, our magnificent Modern AGE line developer, Malcolm Sheppard, also had to wait through many months of work before meeting most of the rest of the team this year. After a full decade of waiting for Green Ronin to be in a place to launch a fiction line, 2017 was the year we were able to put our plans in motion and that meant that our Managing Editor Jaym Gates joined us for the first time this year as well. We also welcomed Veronica Templar, who graduated from volunteer to Event Coordinator when Donna Prior moved on. Veronica had, at least, met most everyone through her volunteer work for us as booth staff for GenCon but it was still her first summit in an official capacity (and she was dealing with an icky virus of some sort to boot). Finally, our Lost Citadel developer, CA Suleiman, joined us for summit business as well, though he did have the advantage of having worked as a Green Ronin freelancer before and knew at least a few of us before we dragged him out into the wilds of Eastern Washington to extract summit work out of him.

If there’s any indication that big things are afoot, looking around and seeing that a full 1/3 of your company summit is made up of new blood is certainly that.

Every year I leave the summit feeling energized and excited to tackle the upcoming year and this year was no different. If anything, I’m more excited than usual because I’ve gotten to see what Malcolm has been cooking up for our Modern AGE release and that in addition to our upcoming Mutants & Masterminds releases we have the wonderful work Crystal has put into the Lazarus setting. The line-up for Nisaba fiction is exciting me beyond words because as I’ve said, I’ve wanted to do this fiction line for a decade and Jaym is the PERFECT person to handle it for us. The Lost Citadel project was my “special project” last year and seeing it come into its own inside the company through CA’s capable guidance makes me nearly as happy as seeing Blue Rose make it out into the world did this year. Veronica blows me away with the things she’s taking on to up our convention presence and reboot the Freebooter volunteer program.

2018 holds much promise for Green Ronin and we have a really dazzling array of things planned. In addition to the new initiatives from our new faces, there are many things planned from our tried and true stalwarts as well. Chris will be along in the future to talk more about the specifics but I’ll just say that at the summit everyone was given a chance to pitch a “special project”…something done out of love or passion or inspiration. These are longer-term plans and ideas that Jack Norris, Joe Carriker, Steve Kenson, and Chris himself will elaborate on in future Ronin Roundtables. The most important part for me was that every idea had an advocate, that there was at least one person truly excited and inspired about every single “special project” to hit the table… and if circumstances keep us from doing them all right now, I definitely don’t want that to hold us back from making time to do them in the future. Nothing sells me quite as much as genuine passion for a project and the summit offered that in spades.

I am utterly convinced I work with the best people in all of gaming. That’s what Summit Time means to me and it’s one of the reasons I’m still in this business after 28 years. I hope you all come to love what we’ve got cooking as much as I do!

Ronin Round Table: Integrating Wizards 5e Adventures with the Tal’dorei Campaign Setting

Bidet, Critters!

Now that you have the Tal’dorei Campaign Setting in your hands, what can you do with it? Play games, of course. But what adventures? Wizards has released a number of adventure books since 5th edition launched, and some of them are easy to integrate into Exandria.

Caution: Spoilers for Out of the Abyss are contained beyond this point. If you wish to play as a player, stop reading here. You have been warned!

One of the Adventure books that Wizards has released for 5th Edition D&D is called Out of the Abyss. It was primarily written by Green Ronin, on behalf of Wizards. The adventure, as written, is set in the Forgotten Realms, but it takes place mostly in the Underdark, and so requires very little massaging to use it in Tal’dorei.

You may wish to change the names of some of the cities of the underdark. I don’t think it will really matter much for most of them, although many of them have been in use in the Forgotten Realms for many years. There is a rough map on page 19 of the adventure that shows approximate locations of the underdark cites in relation to the overland Forgotten Realms map. You probably don’t need to change this, as the facing page has approximate travel times between the various locations. It’s probably best to use that as a rough guide for travel.

The largest change needed in the book is Chapter 8. The first thing to do is replace Bruenor Battlehammer and Gauntlgrym with Gradim Greyspine and Kraghammer. Then, replace the various Forgotten Realms specific factions (The Harpers, The Lords’ Alliance, The Zhentarim, The Emerald Enclave, and The Order of the Gauntlet) with Tal’dorei specific ones. (I’d suggest The Arcana Pansophical, The Ashari, The Council of Tal’dorei, The Chamber of Whitestone, and The Clasp.) Special note: In the adventure, the Zhentarim have a trading outpost in an underdark city. Have one of the factions that you replace the Zhents with (perhaps the Clasp?) have a similar outpost.

Please feel free to make any other changes you might need or want to. Playing with a toolbox is fun, and can help you level up as a DM. Bonus conversion: here is the sword Dawnbringer (found early in the adventure) turned into a vestige:

Dawnbringer

Weapon ( longsword ), legendary ( requires attunement by a non-evil creature )

Dawnbringer appears as a golden longsword hilt. When it’s attuned and held in your hand, you can use a bonus action to activate it, causing a glowing blade to appear. Dawnbringer functions as a longsword with the finesse property. You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this weapon. It deals radiant damage instead of slashing damage. When you hit an undead or demonic target with it, it deals an extra 1d6 radiant damage.

Sentience/Personality: See the adventure, page 222.

Awakened:

Increase the bonus to attack and damage rolls to +2.

Increase the extra damage to undead or demonic targets to 2d6

Once per day, you can use your action to cast lesser restoration on a target you are touching. ( Recharges each day at dawn. )

Exalted:

Increase the bonus to attack and damage rolls to +3.

On a critical hit against an undead or demonic target, maximize all damage dice. ( Treat them as if you rolled the maximum number on the die. )

The first time each day that one of your allies within ten feet of you drops to zero hit points, Dawnbringer heals them for 2d8+2 damage. ( Recharges each day at dawn. )

Tune in next time for a more in-depth conversion, Princes of the Apocalypse!

Ronin Roundtable: The Freedom to Change

One of the core features of Earth Prime is that it’s a dynamic setting. Just like your favorite comic books, the world constantly changes as new crises challenge heroes and villains alike, and the steady march of time means new heroes enter the picture as older heroes retire. In the Emerald City Knights adventure arc, we introduced a status quo on the west coast then tore it apart in the space of six months. In Hero High, we introduced the newest iteration of Next Gen (the first team having long since graduated to bigger and better things). In the Cosmic Handbook, we destroyed entire planets, destroyed an empire, and cranked up the danger as the Star-Khan conquers much of the Lor Republic and Blackstar forms his Blackguard to oppose the Star Knights.

The upcoming Freedom City introduces many changes of its own that have gripped the city since its last depiction over a decade ago. Popular Mayor Michael O’Conner has long since moved on, now representing the entire state as Senator O’Connel, with a dedicated familiar face taking his place. Crimelord August Roman is out of the picture, replaced entirely by his endlessly opportunistic daughter. Perhaps some of the most exciting changes are in the Freedom League’s roster. Several long-term members—including Captain Thunder and the Raven—have retired to make way for a new generation. Let’s take a sneak-peak at two of the newest members:

 

 

Thunderbolt is Ray Gardener, Jr, formerly of the teenage superteam Next-Gen. Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, he used the electrical powers he inherited to fight crime as the young hero Bolt. A little too eager to prove himself worthy of his father’s legacy and earn a place in the Freedom League, he fell right into the clutches of the fiendish Dr. Stratos, who used the young man as bait to lure Captain Thunder to his doom. The adventure that followed left Captain Thunder drained of his power and Ray Jr. infused with more elemental energy than his young body could handle. Now trapped inside a containment suit to stop his form from dissipating, Ray Jr tries to fill his father’s role on the Freedom League, but instead of youthful zeal he now finds his purpose in service, accepting the burden he struggled so hard to gain in his younger years.

 

 

Lady Liberty, by contrast, is one of the city’s newest heroes, and is still enthusiastically learning the lifestyle and the scope of her powers. Medical student Sonja Gutierrez sacrificed herself to save a stranger and found herself empowered by the Spirit of Liberty. Now inducted as a provisional member of the Freedom league thanks to her legacy status and tutelage under the previous Lady Liberty, Beth Walton-Wright, Sonja still struggles to balance her superheroics with her education and work. Unlike previous Lady Liberty’s, Sonja’s love for her native country is nuanced—she admires the spirit and potential of the United States against the terrible ways it treats immigrants like her parents and trans women like herself. Her frustrations are only amplified by a small by vocal group of conspiracy theorists who insist she somehow stole the mantle of Lady Liberty—including her nemesis, the murderous Madame Guillotine.

 

 

Ronin Roundtable: On the Edge of Ork!

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, is into production, which in orkish means Hal am use machines and science to make book soon! (Me am creative focused; me am have lesser knowledge of Adobe products.)

Ork! Is dear to our throbbing, fat-armored hearts. We didn’t want to phone it in by just cleaning up and re-releasing the old game. Ork! am all new! Ork! am been through playtests!

Ahem.

One of those playtests was at this year’s Gen Con, where the game’s creative Orkmaster, Todd Miller, ran a game with the new rules. Todd designs fantastic, absurd adventures. My friend Wood characterized the vibe of Ork! as “stupid things by clever people.” There are many ways to play orks out there in RPGland, but if you want a game about rampaging orks that references Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, alcoholic poets, Zardoz, and maybe Thundarr the Barbarian by way of The Road Warrior, we’re there for you, in a low-key sort of way. I think Todd’s adventure was based on John Fowles’ The Magus, but man, not the movie. Well it’s Ork!, so maybe the movie. But with more dismemberment—and ad hoc cures for dismemberment.

My main concern (beyond having my character staple back on some errant limbs) was making sure the system worked, and that Cheats did what they were supposed to do. As I mentioned last time I talked about the game, Cheats provide some room for character differentiation, and contribute to the classic rhythm of Ork!, where you’re encouraged to dig yourself a big, violent hole. Cheats let you steal opposed-roll dice from the Orkmaster, but those dice get used against you later. In play, that meant watching dice stack up in front of players until Todd saw fit to drop them on their orks.

Cheats sort of act as the flipside of ork points—the magic bean system we use to reward violent, impulsive, orky behavior—but where ork points are rewards for playing like an ork, Cheats represent a way to think like an ork, sealing your doom with short term gain. Indeed, one of the traditional elements of an Ork! game is dying, appearing before the ork god Krom, and seeing whether he’ll let you feast with heroes, or get reincarnated as a pine cone, or a strangely smelly rock.

But if you live, there’s room to keep playing. This edition of Ork! includes an enormous adventure section that can take orks through an entire campaign, from new gunks (junior, nameless orks) raiding the sickeningly cute squishy men for pies and ordnance (see the adventure! It makes sense!) to hardened bands raiding flying fortresses, and even an honest-to-goodness dungeon.

You Am Design Adventure!

So beyond some orkbragging, let’s get to some advice. If you want to design an Ork! adventure the way Todd does, I don’t know—he’s just too weird, man. But if you want to fake it, here’s what I suggest:

You Am Use Smart Idea: Ork! works as parody in part because you can introduce orks into scenarios that, on the surface, seem too smart for them. While you can run through traditional fantasy dungeons and forests and things, reach beyond this low-hanging fruit and ask yourself how orks would mess up Sense and Sensibility or The Seventh Seal (if the latter was good enough for Bill and Ted, it’s good enough for Ork!). Part of the game’s fun is having the players notice themes and references their less, uh, informed characters would miss.

You Am Beat Idea Until Goal Fall Out: Once you have a scenario that’s too smart for your orks, wring basic conflicts out of it that work on an orkish level: get a thing, kill a thing, wreck a thing, flee a thing, and so on. Sometimes orks wreck the “normal” story; sometimes protagonists recruit them to deal with a problem in the story, making them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern types (or more likely, Macbeth’s hired killers). Sometimes you need to add an extra fantastical element.

Consider My Dinner with Andre as an Ork! scenario. (Really!) As Shawn argues with Gregory about whether his theatre experiences constitute authentic living, this kind of intense discourse may cause ork heads to explode—and indeed, create a reality-breaking aura. Now orks have to break up that conversation to save the world (or their brains) and of course, the taxi and driver, restaurant staff, and strangely animate dishes become foes to be crushed!

You Am Keep It Loose: Orks wander off, kill each other and occasionally explode after an unwise meal, so while you can design adventures around scenes, these should feature plenty of room to go off-script. Every scene or location should be an amusement park filled with things to experience and often, destroy. In other games, designing locations and scenes might benefit from sticking to the overall story arc, Ork! benefits from lots of weird, wonderful and “irrelevant” detail. Include plenty of things for orks to steal, eat or kill that fit the premise of a scene or place, but may have nothing to do with the plot.

You Am Add Warlock: When it doubt, get the warlock to make orks do stuff! The warlock is the GM’s mouthpiece, and since orks are expected to be directionless and unfocused, it’s okay to use the warlock to kick them in the right direction.

That’s the story-brutalizing violence which makes Ork! work, and it’s what we’ve got coming. And green pig faces. Because that’s what orks look like. You know it.

Update: Critical Role Pre-Order Shipping

Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign SettingWe wanted to give you an update on the shipping of pre-orders for the Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting. This is the biggest pre-order we’ve ever had by far. It’s a large and complicated job, so we are using an outside fulfillment company for shipping. This has led to some minor issues that had to be ironed out with our store software and their fulfillment software not being 100% in sync. That got sorted out and shipping began.

If you pre-ordered, there’s no need to worry. Shipping is ongoing and you will get your books. We had said on Twitter that you’d get a confirmation email when your order shipped. Due to the software issue I mentioned above, however, that is actually not the case. We will get tracking info from the shipping company when they have finished the job, but by that point most of you will have your books anyway. The best thing to do is just hang on while the job is processed. You will be seeing your books soon.

Thanks for your patience!

Return to Freeport, Part Four: The Freebooter’s City

Today we introduce Part Four of our Return to Freeport Pathfinder-compatible PDF adventure series.

Return to Freeport
Freeport is known for its adventures, from Death in Freeport (the one that started it all!) to the mega-adventure Black Sails Over Freeport. Now the City of Adventure goes back to its roots with Return to Freeport! This six-part adventure series for the Pathfinder RPG is a new way to begin your Freeport adventures.

Part Four: The Freebooter’s City
In Return to Freeport, Part Four, the adventurers sail back to Freeport and find themselves embroiled in a different kind of battle, even more dangerous than they are used to: pirate politics.

You can buy The Freebooter’s City in our Green Ronin Online Store.

Ronin Roundtable: Cool Dads

Hey folks, Jack here. Warning, this is going to be kind of a down Ronin Round Table, but I think it’s an important one.

A couple weeks ago, my father, James Norris, died. He was too young to die, despite being 70. It wasn’t a heroic death or a quick easy demise. In fact, it basically just sucked.

Because, in the words of Star Lord? I had a pretty cool dad.

But relevant to gaming and the gaming industry? I also had a supportive dad. My dad was my first player. I didn’t know what I was doing with my old D&D Basic set but he thought this rpg thing was a cool idea too and helped me figure it out. We never played again after those early days, but it was in no small part thanks to him that I got into gaming.

But it wasn’t just that one time that mattered. While much of 80s America was buying into that idiotic “Satanic Panic” of the time and burning kids’ gaming books and shaming them for playing games with their friends? My dad stood up for me. He likened my loved of games with the “baseball statistics” games and toy soldiers he loved as a kid. That’s right folks, despite never carrying the label or playing beyond those first few games? My dad was a real OG…original gamer.

When he explained the analogies between his childhood interests and mine to my grandparents? They supported me too. When a relative or neighbor tried to give me shit about gaming? He told them to back off and told me to not be bothered by them being ignorant. He bought me gaming books and even D&D toys (remember those?) when he could afford to and along with my mom they supported me first as a gamer, then as a game writer. He took me to all sorts of fantasy, pulp, and sci-fi films when he could and when he couldn’t my grandparents obliged. We saw Star Wars, Highlander, Krull, Dark Crystal, and many others in the theaters and later on video. We saw Raiders of the Lost Ark seventeen times in the theater. So much of the pop culture pedigree many of us gamers possess I experienced alongside my dad and other supportive family members.

I doubt dad ever read a single game book I wrote, but he would proudly tell others that his son was a writer, did game design, and would often talk with me about the cultural and historical elements I was including in my work.

Even when it was all short car trip “yearly vacations” to a relative’s barbeque and hand-me downs and so on? You can’t buy that sort of support. I knew families who had far more with whom every gaming diversion was a fight. To these folks gaming was “the devil’s work” or just “weird and stupid.”

I was never told to play sports instead, though I did. I was never told to go outside and stop gaming, though I did that too. The only thing that concerned dad and the other family and friends who supported me as a gamer and creator were that I didn’t JUST game. That I learned and grew in other ways. Which is a good thing to do.

By not stigmatizing my gaming and yet quietly encouraging me to have a life outside of it? My dad helped me become a far more well-adjusted person than I might have otherwise. He taught me it’s okay to be myself and more importantly it was vital to let others be themselves. This resulted not only in me gaming but gaming better—it was always about me having fun with friends and not about winning or looking cool or showing up others with how “legit” I was. To this day when I roll my eyes at the various edition wars and pointless conflicts of game design theory I can hear my dad saying “What’s the point of that? If it’s not affecting what you’re doing, why not just let people play what they want and have fun?”

A pretty cool dad, indeed.

I buried my dad a little over a week ago. That’s not a euphemism. With the help of my lovely and supportive wife, herself a gamer whose always supported my work, I dug a grave for my father’s urn in the small cemetery where he now rests and filled in the hole. Then I gave a distracted and inadequate eulogy and cried by his graveside after everyone had left.  And that kinda sucks, I’ll admit. However, what doesn’t suck at all is all the support my father gave me as a gamer and game creator. That’s the lesson I hope people reading this take:

Support gaming and the people who do it. Support your kids, relatives, and friends. Don’t sneer at them and tell them its weird. Don’t buy into whatever society is telling you about it. Don’t push others out of it either or waste time trying to keep them out of it. Be confident in your fun and let others have theirs. Really? Just game, make games of you’re so inclined, and let other people do the same.

All the people—well, okay not Nazis. Dad wouldn’t have expected that of me or anyone else. He hated Nazis (Raiders of the Lost Ark 17 times! folks).

He was cool like that too.