Stay Home and Play Fantasy AGE … For Free!

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

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

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

Stay safe out there, everyone.

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

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

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

The Elevator Pitch

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

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

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

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

Whose Lair?

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

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

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

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

Why Would You Go There?

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

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

The Final Verdict

I like it!

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

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

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

The Pre-History of Green Ronin Publishing

I’m flying down to Reno this week for the GAMA Expo (formerly known as the GAMA Trade Show), which is the major trade show of the tabletop gaming industry. Thinking about my impending trip brought my mind back to my very first GAMA Trade Show in 1996. This era was the pre-history of Green Ronin. We’ll be doing a series of articles and interviews to commemorate our 20th anniversary this year but let me set the stage by talking about the years before the company’s founding in 2000.

Green Ronin 20th Anniversary Logo

 

Underground Companion, by Mayfair Games

Underground Companion, by Mayfair Games

I got my start in the game industry as a freelance writer in 1993. My first work was for Ray Winninger’s Underground RPG from Mayfair Games. Over the following couple of years, I did work on other games like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (foreshadowing!), Over the Edge, and Feng Shui. After a couple of years of freelancing, I thought it was time to start my own company. This I did in 1996 with two partners (my brother Jason and Neal Darcy) and we bought a previously published RPG called the Whispering Vault that I had done some work on. We called ourselves Ronin Publishing and had the idea to each take a different color-coded screenname for company business. I was the Green Ronin (if you ever wondered what was behind the company name, that’s it).

While we were laying the groundwork for the company, I attended my first GAMA Trade Show to get the lay of the land. GTS used to move around in that era, and in 1996 it was in Atlantic City, an easy trip from my NYC apartment. Future Green Ronin co-owner Nicole Lindroos was in Vancouver, BC at the time, publishing a magazine called Adventures Unlimited with a group of writers that included the late, great Nigel Findley. Since they could not be at GTS that year, I agreed to take samples of the magazine around to various RPG companies and help promote it. I also helped out at the booth of the Small Game Publishers Association. The SGPA (later just the GPA) was an organization of independent publishers who pooled resources to get booths at various conventions and promote their games.

Blood of the Valiant: The Guiding Hand Sourcebook for Feng Shui

Blood of the Valiant: The Guiding Hand Sourcebook for Feng Shui

I had been going to GenCon since 1989 and freelancing since 1993 so the industry wasn’t new to me, but this was my first GTS. Trade shows are different than consumer shows. They are a place to talk to retailers, distributors, and fellow publishers about the new hotness, plans for the year, and industry scuttlebutt. My previous experience was hustling for freelance work and dealing with line developers but this was a whole different thing. This was the business side and it was new to me. I had just come out of grad school in 1995, where I was a history major. Business stuff I’d need to learn by doing it.

The next couple of years were indeed a learning experience. When we started the company, we agreed that we should try to get the rights to the Whispering Vault and if that proved impossible, I’d instead design a new game of my own. In retrospect, I wish we had done the latter. I had an idea for a game where members of various magical traditions banded together under Allied auspices to fight occult Nazis in WW2. Imagine an Aleister Crowley type and a Siberian shaman punching Nazis together with magic and you get the idea. My plan was to use tarot cards in the game’s core mechanics. Other games would tread this ground later but mine would have gotten there first if we hadn’t bought the Whispering Vault. Ah well. It seemed like a good way to jumpstart a company, and the idea was to do my game later. That never happened though. In two years, we only managed to publish one supplement for Whispering Vault called the Book of Hunts, and then a Feng Shui supplement called Blood of the Valiant. I had originally written this freelance for Daedalus Entertainment, the game’s original publisher, but I secured the rights to publish it myself as they were sinking under the waves.

I can’t beat myself up too much over Ronin Publishing though because the biggest problem was that we were ridiculously undercapitalized from the start (this is true of almost every RPG in history). I was working as a barista in NYC when we started, and then doing temp office work in Boston when I moved there to join my partners in the summer of 1996. None of us made real money so everything was done on a shoestring. Coming out of the punk scene as I did, my DIY roots certainly helped but it was a slog. After a year in Boston, I decided to move to Seattle. This was for love, though the possibilities of living in a center of gaming did not escape me. I continued to both do freelance work and try to run Ronin Publishing once I got to the West Coast. Indeed, for six months I tried to support myself only with freelance writing (pro-tip, don’t do this!).

Guide to Hell, for 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Guide to Hell, for 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

In March of 1998 I got a job as an RPG designer at Wizards of the Coast. I tried to keep Ronin Publishing going but the writing was on the wall. I was hired at WotC to work on an attempt to marry D&D and Magic: The Gathering. Due to internal bickering at the company, this project was not long for this world, so after a few months I switched over to writing for AD&D, 2nd Edition. This was the later 2E era, when 3E was in development for a 2000 release (more foreshadowing!). I wrote books like the Guide to Hell, Vortex of Madness, Slavers (with Sean Reynolds), and the Apocalypse Stone (with Jason Carl). If you’d like to hear me talk about this era and the early history of Green Ronin, I’ll be a guest on Fireside with Peter Adkison on Gen Con TV on March 18. 

I worked at WotC from 1998 to 2002, founding Green Ronin smack dab in the middle. I’ll tell you how that happened next time!

Blue Rose Bundle at Bundle of Holding

Blue Rose Bundle of Holding

Blue Rose Bundle: on BundleOfHolding.com: Now through March 30, 2020, you can get tons of great gaming and fiction PDFs at an amazing price, while doing good!

Blue Rose Bundle Starter Collection

For just $7.95 you can get the Starter Collection of four complete .PDFs, including the complete, full-color Blue Rose core rulebook, Joseph Carriker’s novel Shadowtide (and its novella-length sequel Pit of Vipers), and the new 14-story anthology Sovereigns of the Blue Rose.

Bonus Collection

Pay more than the threshold price of $20.05 and you’ll be able to download all five titles in the Bonus Collection, including the rest of the Blue Rose gaming line (the Aldis city sourcebook, the Six of Swords adventure collection, and the Narrator’s Kit), plus two more short stories.

What’s more, ten percent of your payment (after payment gateway fees) will be donated to the Pride Foundation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Ronin 20 For 20 Sale

Green Ronin 20 For 20 Sale

20 For 20 Sale

2020 is Green Ronin’s 20th anniversary, and to celebrate we’re having a site wide sale of all our games and accessories. Everything in the Green Ronin Online Store is for sale for 20% off through April 20, 2020, except for active pre-orders like Lairs for Fantasy AGE and Enemies & Allies for Modern AGE. We really appreciate all the support you’ve given us over the years, so please enjoy some great games at a great price!

Fantasy AGE Lairs Pre-Order and PDF

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

Fantasy AGE Lairs: Into the belly of the beast!

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

Just some of the menacing monsters and their lairs include:

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

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

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

Warflower (Modern AGE Missions PDF) Now Available

Warflower (Modern AGE Missions PDF) Available NowThe Warflower inspires medieval sword masters and drug dealing alchemists alike, to discover its secrets—and kill for them. When this obscure 15th Century book gets stolen, strange, violent factions battle over its destiny, influenced by hidden forces who want the book’s secrets for themselves. Your team must uncover the secret contained in the Warflower’s pages—and your Game Master decides what that mystery is.

Warflower is an adventure for Modern AGE characters levels 1 to 4, with rules to play in any Mode and multiple options for its central mystery, so Game Masters can adapt it to supernatural, high-tech, or down to earth campaigns. 

Originally the official Green Ronin Freebooter adventure introducing Modern AGE at Gencon 2018, Warflower has been revised and laid out with art as a PDF everyone can enjoy. Set in our early 21st Century, the adventure is otherwise suitable for multiple campaign settings, from your own to Green Ronin’s Threefold.

Warflower is the first offering in the Modern AGE Missions series. Modern AGE Missions are single serving PDF adventures designed as one shots or to be integrated into ongoing campaigns. Look for future Modern AGE Missions alongside other Modern AGE electronic offerings.

Check out Modern AGE’s published settings: Lazarus (or Lazarus PDF here) and Threefold (or Threefold PDF here)

From Freelance to Dev (Ronin Roundtable)

I’m not normally a big fan of surprises, but I’ll make an exception for this one. When Joseph Carriker asked me if I’d like to write a Ronin Roundtable about making the jump from freelancer to developer, I was pretty psyched.

Coming Soon! Six of Cups is an Adventure Anthology for Blue Rose: The AGE RPG, just in time for Green Ronin Publishing’s 20th Anniversary!

I first inquired about writing for Green Ronin back in 2011, but my timing was bad and there were no projects in need of authors, just then. Even at that point, I’d been at this a long time, and that sort of thing happens: if you don’t have the good luck to ask right when a developer has an open slot on a project, the best you can usually hope for is for your name to go into the (often pretty big) pile of interested prospective writers for some other job, down the line. Fast forward a few more years and several more inquiries, however, and I got my break, doing some work for the Chronicle System. Only a couple of years on from there, in 2016, Joseph offered me the chance to take a crack at doing some fill-in development work on Desert Threats (again, for the Chronicle System), and I jumped at the opportunity to once again try my hand at an aspect of roleplaying game design with which I’d previously had only minimal experience.

Fast forward yet another several years and a bunch of development jobs, getting a little more hands-on with the process, each time, and I’ve come to understand that really is a whole different sort of beast. When you’re writing as a freelancer, you’re trying to realize, in a way that’s entertaining and informative, a vision that’s been outlined for you. You have input into what you’re creating, of course, but you’re almost always playing in a sandbox with firm borders. Development, on the other hand, entails bouncing ideas back and forth with other folks on the high-concept end of things, working to craft the vision that others will then put more extensively into words. In essence, you’re the one building the sandbox, and you have to create it with an eye toward making it a fun and rewarding place in which others get to play, while also stocking it with all the stuff they’ll need to get the job done right.

With writing, you have to be mindful of cooperating well with your fellow authors, but, beyond that, you’ve generally got quite a lot of autonomy—as long as you follow the developer’s instructions, you’re pretty much always good to go. Development demands an almost entirely distinct (and much more rigorously collaborative) skillset. You’re effectively a project manager, keeping everyone on track and maintaining the work as a cohesive whole, every step of the way, but there’s rather a lot more to it than that. You’re also the first-pass editor and art director, laying the groundwork for the actual editor and art director to do their jobs, and you’re absolutely going to need to do at least a little bit of writing, too; not just the book’s introduction (which is usually part of development duties), but also anything, at all, that ends up needing to be filled in. Similarly, pretty much anything that falls under “miscellaneous,” whether foreseen or unforeseen, ends up as part of your job. You’re the interface between the front-end and back-end of the creative aspects of the project, fielding questions from both sides, and trying to make everything run as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. Ultimately, though, there’s no feeling quite like seeing a book take shape, starting as a mere skeleton of an outline, and ending as a fully fleshed out addition to a setting you love.

So, yeah: adjusting to development has definitely involved a learning curve, but it helps to be working with great folks, all of whom bring their different strengths and perspectives to the table, even as I hone the skills that help me to bring my best work to each new book (and, in the process, to your gaming table!)