20 Years of Green Ronin! (Ronin Roundtable 2020 preview)

This time every January I write a message about our plans for the coming year. This is a special occasion though because 2020 is Green Ronin’s 20th year in business! We’ll be talking a lot more about that all year, looking back at our history and how we got here. I can say that when I started the company, it was a side project to my day job as a Creative Director at Wizards of the Coast. I couldn’t have imagined Green Ronin would still be around in 2020! So what do we have cooking for our big year? Let’s take a look!


Green Ronin’s very first release was a beer and pretzels RPG called Ork! in July, 2000. That game got a new edition worthy of Krom last year if you want to check it out. A month later, at GenCon 2000, we released Death in Freeport, the book that really put us on the map. It was an adventure for the just released third edition of Dungeons & Dragons and it introduced the world to Freeport: The City of Adventure, a setting that mixed classic fantasy elements with pirates and Lovecraftian horror. Since this year is also Freeport’s 20th anniversary, you know we had to do something to celebrate. And what brings people together like a marriage? This year we will finally wed Freeport and Fantasy AGE! Freeport is a setting I created, and Fantasy AGE is a game I designed, so it’s long past due that these two get hitched. This will begin at GenCon with the release of the Fantasy AGE Starter Set, a boxed introduction to both the game and Freeport. After that we’ll publish the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook, a bigger, better rulebook for the game that features Freeport as its example setting. Further books exploring the city and the larger world of Freeport will follow. In the shorter term, the Lairs sourcebook for Fantasy AGE is almost ready to go to print, just waiting on a few pieces of art, so look for a PDF release and the beginning of the pre-order soon.

 

Nisaba Press, our fiction imprint, will also be supporting Freeport with both short story anthologies and novels. The first novel, I Am Gitch by Lucien Soulban, feature’s Freeport’s most famous goblin! Speaking of Nisaba, we are really ramping up our fiction in 2020, exploring the settings of our Mutants & Masterminds, Blue Rose, and Threefold properties in addition to Freeport. Last year we released two novels and one anthology (Aaron Rosenberg’s Mutants & Masterminds novel Height of the Storm, Joseph Carriker’s Blue Rose novel Shadowtide, and the brand new Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology). Our next Mutants & Masterminds novel, Roadtrip to Ruin by Skyler Graye, is at print now so look for that release soon. Later in the year you will see new anthologies for all our properties, the first novel for our Threefold setting, and the release of Joseph Carriker’s Sacred Band, which we announced last year. It’s going to be an exciting year for Nisaba Press!

 

Abzu's Bounty: An adventure path for The Expanse RPGOn the topic of awesome fiction, let’s talk about The Expanse! We launched the game, based on James S.A. Corey’s modern scifi classics, last year, releasing both the core rulebook and Game Master’s Kit. We also brought on Ian Lemke as the developer and he’s already putting his stamp on the line. We are kicking off the year with Abzu’s Bounty, the game’s first big adventure. It’s brand new this month so you can grab it right now. We’re following that up later in the year with two more books: Ships of the Expanse and Beyond the Ring. Ships of the Expanse is exactly what it sounds like: a big book about spaceships, with stats, deck plans, and more. Beyond the Ring is the first sourcebook to advance the timeline. The core rulebook was set between the events of the first and second novel. Beyond the Ring takes things through the third and fourth (Abaddon’s Gate and Cibola Burn). With the ring gates open, there are huge numbers of new star systems to explore, many littered with the ancient relics of dead civilizations. Beyond the Ring opens up a whole new style of adventure for The Expanse RPG and gives GMs all the info and tools they need to support it. Something else you will see this year: Expanse dice! We are working with Q Workshop (who did our dice for Dragon Age and Blue Rose) to make three different sets of the dice. Earthers, Martians, and Belters can all represent!

 

Modern AGE, under the stalwart leadership of developer Malcolm Sheppard, is going from strength to strength. Last year we launched Threefold, the first original setting for the game, and it is a stunner. We are starting this year off with Enemies and Allies (at print now), the adversary book for Modern AGE. It details NPCs and creatures, covering genres such as modern fantasy, horror, near future SF, technothrillers, and crime dramas, and provides new mechanics to support them. We’re following that up with Five and Infinity, a collection of adventures for Threefold that cover all levels of play. It also introduces the Infinity Engine, a tool for using random chance and choice to generate both original adventures and new planes of existence to stage them in. Then we have the Mastery Guide, the last of what one might consider the “core books” of Modern AGE (the others being the Basic Rulebook, Companion, and Enemies and Allies). While you might think of the Mastery Guide as a GM’s guide, that’s only half the story. It also provides advice and support for players, so everyone can up their game.

 

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of the Blue Rose continues to thrive under the benevolent rulership of developer Joseph Carriker. The next book in the line is Envoys to the Mount, an epic adventure that spans five years of game time and all four tiers of Blue Rose play. This is a full campaign that will keep your group busy for some time. If you want a smaller commitment, Six of Cups is there for you. It’s an anthology of six shorter adventures, along the lines of Six of Swords from a couple of years back. After that comes Touching the Wild, which is a dual-purpose sourcebook. Half of it is a bestiary about the shadowspawn. The other half is a player’s guide to the rhydan, the psychic animals of the Blue Rose setting. This does include the option of an all rhydan party!

We are keeping Joe very busy this year because he’s also working with co-developer Tanya DePass on Fifth Season Roleplaying, licensed from N.K. Jemisin’s fantastic Broken Earth trilogy. We announced the game at GenCon and it will release towards the end of the year. The game will use a revised and updated version of our Chronicle System, the engine that powered our Song of Ice and Fire RPG. We’ll have a lot more to say about Fifth Season Roleplaying as we get closer to release so stay tuned!

Image shows the three novel covers from N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy. The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky.

 

All that is great, but don’t you want to get super sometimes? Well, Mutants & Masterminds has got you covered! Superdev Crystal Frasier (who is by the way, doing the graphic design of the whole line in addition to game development) has a lot of comic book goodness coming your way. First up is the Time Traveler’s Codex, a sourcebook that covers the myriad of ways you can use time travel in your campaign and explores some popular eras for such shenanigans. After that is the Vigilante’s Handbook, which is all about running street level campaigns. If you want a break from four-color heroics, this book provides a grittier option for lower level characters. Then there is Danger Zones, a sourcebook that provides 30 different urban backdrops for superheroic action, each of which includes a map, special features, and adventure ideas. This book will be super handy for time-pressed GMs. Pick a danger zone and some villains and you’re ready to rock. Something else we know Mutants & Masterminds GMs have been wanting is more adventures. Last week we started a new PDF series called Astonishing Adventures. This will provide a regular stream of new adventures, which should make things a whole lot easier for M&M GMs.

That ends our whirlwind tour of 2020! There’s even more to come, like The Lost Citadel and the Book of Fiends for 5E, and our Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game, but we will talk about those a little later. Thanks for all your support these past 20 years. It means the world to us that so many of you love and play our games. See you on the convention circuit!

Chris Pramas

Green Ronin Publishing

Explaining the Cover of Enemies & Allies (Ronin Roundtable)

Enemies & Allies is Modern AGE RPG’s next release, due to hit stores this first quarter of 2020. Enemies & Allies is one of three Modern AGE books besides the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook that can be considered “core” releases. The Modern AGE Companion is the big book of rules options, while the Modern AGE Mastery Guide, due to come out later this year, is the sourcebook for player and Game Master advice along with deeper options for customizing the game, including as rules for creating very simple characters or using Fantasy AGE style character classes.

Enemies & Allies sits between them. It’s the big book of Non-Player Characters and unusual creatures that can act as threats or allies. Its five chapters not only present various beings organized by genre but add optional rules to enhance their presence in your campaign, from the disturbing psychic impressions generated by horrific entities to the places of power that tend to attract fantastical creatures. Think of it as a significant expansion of the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook’s Chapter 9 adversaries, and more: rules to generate NPCs quickly, quick listings for a number of animals, and even guidelines for adapting creatures from other AGE system games.

However, one nasty antagonist is missing: the creature on the cover! When I wrote the cover description, I felt it was important to put the multi-genre nature of the book first, and the Cyberdemon represented that well, but I wanted individual authors to come up with their own ideas first instead of just reproducing my concepts. Still, for the completists out there, here are its game statistics. Note that the individual entries in Enemies & Allies itself are more detailed than what follows.

Cyberdemon

In certain secret labs, scientists and occultists join forces to create unusually potent computers and cybernetic enhancements. These synthetic limbs, brain implants, and crystal-processor super-servers are powerful because they don’t rely on Earthly energy. Instead, these ritually manufactured objects draw energy from the so-called Netherworlds, where Inimicals—beings the uneducated call “demons”—dwell. These implants are installed in secret operatives who are sent on the most dangerous missions, and scientists working on disturbing theories about the origins and ends of all things. These individuals don’t know that if they die, their souls are claimed through the devices they used. When enough of these sacrifices provide their souls as sustenance, the Cyberdemon is born, ready to be summoned by a knowledgeable occult technologist.

Cyberdemons are potent servants, whose formidable strength is enhanced by their abilities to influence technology. A Cyberdemon’s appearance is based on the technologies which were used to create it, combined with a form selected from the combined fears of those implants’ former owners.

Cyberdemon

Abilities (Focuses)

3              Accuracy (Inimical Cable)

1              Communication

5              Constitution

2              Dexterity

4              Fighting (Grappling, Inimical Cable, Talons)

3              Intelligence (Computers, Cryptography, Electronics, Medicine, Occultism)

4              Perception (Seeing)

6              Strength (Intimidation, Might)

2              Willpower (Morale)

Speed     Health                    Defense            Armor Rating + Toughness

12            35/85/115               12/12/13                          4I/4B +5/+7/+8

Note: Health, Defense, and Toughness are listed by Mode, in Gritty/Pulpy/Cinematic order.

Weapon Attack   Roll             Damage*

Inimical Cable         +5                    2d6+4

Talons                     +6                    2d6+6

*+2 to damage in Pulpy and Cinematic Modes

Special Qualities

Favored Stunts: Demonic Data (4 SP), Lightning Attack, Shock and Awe

Demonic Data (4 SP): By spending 4 SP in combat or while interacting with an electronic device, the Cyberdemon can transmit a burst of corrupt data to compromise or destroy anything capable of electronically processing data. Roll the demon’s Intelligence (Computers) against TN 15. On a success, the Cyberdemon either disables a number of devices in a 30-foot radius equal to the Stunt Die result or steals data from a single device in a 30-foot range. This data can be retransmitted using the interface special quality.

Inimical Cable: As a minor action, the Cyberdemon can shoot a spike-tipped segmented metal cable from its body at high speeds up to 30 feet from its body. The cable inflicts ballistic wound damage. After hitting its target once with the cable, the Cyberdemon can use it to engage in close combat as a minor or major action even when the demon itself is out of hand to hand range, for as long as the cable stays attached to it. This allows it to use grappling stunts, melee stunts, and other stunts and actions normally limited to close combat. To sever the cable, a combatant must inflict 20 points of Health damage. This damage is suffered by the Cyberdemon. The inimical cable has the same Armor and Toughness as the creature. The Cyberdemon can produce any number of Inimical cables, but its ability to control them are limited by its actions per round. Some Cyberdemons use clouds of destructive nanorobots, segmented armatures, and other visually distinct variations of the inimical cable, but most function the same.

Interface: The Cyberdemon can transmit data to an appropriate storage or computing device or connect to any network within 30 feet by spending a major action. The Cyberdemon can also act as a computer, wirelessly activating output devices whether or not these have wireless capabilities. The Cyberdemon’s processing powers are on par with the highest-end consumer-grade systems, and its storage capacity is prodigious, increasing as the technologies that spawn it become more sophisticated. Currently, a typical Cyberdemon can store a petabyte (1000 terabytes) of data.

Spectral Sight: Cyberdemons can see infrared, ultraviolet, and radio waves, along with electrical activity. A Cyberdemon cannot be blinded by environmental conditions—its eyes must be destroyed. Furthermore, it can see up to 10 feet through walls, but must succeed at a TN 15 Perception (Seeing) test to perceive anything more than the rough outlines of people and objects.

Talents: Hacking (Master), Overwhelm (Master). At the Game Master’s discretion, the Cyberdemon may also have technological augmentations using the rules in Enemies & Allies (Chapter 5: Science’s Edge), the Modern AGE Companion (Chapter 5: Extraordinary Abilities) or other books (such as Threefold or Lazarus) presenting such enhancements.

Equipment: None

Threat: Major

20 Years of Green Ronin, Over 2 Years of Modern AGE

Since this is 2020’s first Modern AGE-related post, I would be remiss if I didn’t note this was Green Ronin Publishing’s 20th Anniversary. I was fortunate enough to work on a new edition of Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Green Ronin’s very first RPG, and now, with Modern AGE, it’s been my privilege to oversee the birth and growth of one of its newest lines. As I said, 2020 should bring forth the remainder what I consider Modern AGE’s core rulebooks, but this year will be busy with even more material for the game: adventures, Threefold setting material, and one really exciting project we can’t wait to announce. Cheers!

Happy Holidays from Green Ronin Publishing!

Everyone at Green Ronin would like to wish you the very best this Holiday Season, and we’ll see you soon in the new year!

Green Ronin Publishing will be closed from today, December 22nd and will return on January 6th.

Green Ronin Is At PAX Unplugged

PAX Unplugged logoGreen Ronin is at PAX Unplugged this weekend, exhibiting in booth 3649 in the Expo Hall and running games all weekend (with the able assistance of our Freebooters) in the Tabletop Freeplay hall. We will have copies of Abzu’s Bounty (the soon-to-be-released adventure path for The Expanse RPG), Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, Threefold, Superteam Handbook, the novels Height of the Storm and Shadowtide, and more!

PAX Unplugged and Freebooting

Green Ronin is very excited to be attending PAX Unplugged again this year. PAX Unplugged is Penny Arcade’s completely analog convention. It’s become known as the convention where people actually play games – a lot of them! Crazy, right? So, if you are in Philadelphia the weekend of December 6 – 8, please come join us and play some games.

You will be able to find us at Exhibitor’s Hall Booth 3649. Even better is that this year we will also have a table within the free play hall in an area designated for exhibitor demos. We will have our own dedicated table throughout the entire weekend!

Speaking of the demo table – we could really use a few more people to help us run games. Does this sound like fun to you? In addition to the fun of running games, Green Ronin will reimburse your badge and give you a t-shirt. Win-win for all of us!

If you’re already a Freebooter and interested, please contact me to discuss details.

Not a Freebooter but still want to run games for us? No problem! Becoming a Freebooter is fun, easy, and packed with perks. The first step is to fill out this form. If you want to help with PAX Unplugged, please also send me an email at freebooters@greenronin.com to make sure I expedite your application.

The Expanse RPG – Gen Con 2019

Finally, if you’re attending PAX Unplugged, please feel free to drop by our booth and say hello. Happy gaming!

Threefold and the Future of Modern AGE

Threefold is in stores now, though you can of course get it from us, too. I’ve used a lot of words to, frankly, sell you on this setting, for my selfish advantage and because I think you’ll really like it. I like to think it has a thematic core that comparable wide-open settings lack. Threefold is about the power of souls—sapient thought—to steer history, in spite of various catastrophes and other mighty forces that stand in the way. We are more powerful than we think.

Where you go next is entirely up to you. We’ve just given you a map.

As you can tell, I’m invested in this setting. What does that mean for Modern AGE? Is it all Threefold, all the time now? No—and yes! It’s a complicated answer based on how I plan to structure Modern AGE releases.

Threefold is our “flagship” setting, where we’ll provide multi-book support. That starts with Five and Infinity, an adventure book coming in 2020 that is currently awaiting final drafts. Further support will follow, including books providing deeper detail into the setting’s main factions.

Our very next Modern AGE book, Enemies & Allies, isn’t strongly tied to any particular setting. It’s a book of Non-Player Characters and creatures divided into modern fantasy, horror, modern thriller, crime, and near future science fiction categories. However, it is designed to be completely compatible with Threefold, and one of that setting’s elements, the hidden nation of Invindara, was originally devised for Enemies & Allies by author (and now, Fifth Season Roleplaying Game developer) Tanya DePass, and appears in both books. You can enjoy Enemies & Allies without needing Threefold at all. It’s currently in layout.

Future Modern AGE books that aren’t tied to any setting may or may not have a special connection to Threefold. The Modern AGE Mastery Guide, due next year (and currently going through first drafts) won’t. In any event, we remain committed to offering you tools to build and customize your own settings. This is what books like the Mastery Guide and the already-released Modern AGE Companion are all about.

Furthermore, we’ll be doing more settings ourselves. Ideally, I’d like to have three additional original settings besides Threefold. These will not get Threefold’s “flagship” support (well, unless one really takes off!), but will provide comprehensive treatment in a single book. And we are definitely not averse to doing more licensed projects like The World of Lazarus. Modern AGE will never be tied down to a specific setting, and while Threefold provides a focus to the game, it will never be the only universe we explore.

As you can see, Modern AGE’s support plans are expansive, and follow a more aggressive schedule than you may have anticipated. But like all statements about the future, sales, the state of the industry, and what I’m doing can all change how it’s going to go. But this is the way it looks right now, and I feel pretty good about it. There’s more coming for Threefold but there’s more coming beyond it, too. And next time I step up to talk about a book, it’s probably going to be Enemies & Allies. Until then, play well, and talk about what you’re doing with Modern AGE on all the platforms you like. In our setting or yours, I love to see you play. Cheers!

GMing Threefold with Speculative Fantasy

Not too long ago I said I’d talk about Threefold’s speculative fantasy concept. What is it? While you can play any genre in this vast Modern AGE setting, we wanted to create a distinct default way to run the game.

More planes, more problems—if interesting ones.

 

Speculative fantasy describes Threefold’s ability to ask, “What if?”—what if Earth were just one of many worlds? What if the multiverse theory was demonstrably true? Threefold explores experiences radically different from our own and encourages players to dig into a vast playground of discovery. It brings real world mythology and folklore to life, blending legends together and giving them unique twists to keep them fresh and alive with possibility.

What If?

The heart of a speculative fantasy scenario involves taking that “What if?” and making it the central problem of a scenario. Threefold creates speculative fantasy set pieces through its various planes and factions. For instance, in my current game, characters passed through a plane filled with ruins, where each scattered band of survivors thought the others, and any visitors, were the enemies who’d destroyed its former civilization. While my players were just passing through, they had to deal with this problem by making it clear they were newcomers. If they’d dug deeper, they’d have to figure out how to build trust between these communities and investigate where their perceptions of each other came from. Was it a psychic weapon? An ancient betrayal? Answering these questions and putting the information to use would resolve the conflict.

Threefold comes with an introductory adventure: “Identity,” by Jamie Wood. It’s meant to demonstrate this approach in action, as heroes untangle questions of rights and personhood. It’s the sort of scenario we often find in classic episodic science fiction. In some cases, this means you can use allegory to explore real world issues. Whether you do so, however, is entirely up to you.

Classic but Strange

One of the great things about speculative fantasy is that strange problems are often variations of normal ones, by allegory, as above, or through other extensions on more common stories. For example, Romeo and Juliet is a classic story, but it turns bigger and weirder when the lovers from rival houses are Optimates: aristocratic demigods who rule the Divine Empire. Not only must characters deal with superpowered relatives but ask themselves what it means in the context of the Empire, a tyranny reigning over multiple planes. Does healing the breach between two houses risk making the Empire harder to oppose? Can they persuade the lovers to rebel against the source of their own privilege?

Such dilemmas are part and parcel of speculative fantasy play. Should Aethon agents comply with requests to delete an alternate Earth developing apocalyptic weapons, if most of the population has no idea what’s going on? Who is most entitled to a geomantic place of power on Earth? If a god returns to rule their people, should characters stand by while the population rejects the fairer institutions they’ve built for themselves?

Of course, characters need ideological and moral stances to work from. This is why Threefold provides two factions with different belief systems for characters to work with, in agreement or defiance. The explorers of the Sodality represent idealism and have set policies about what their organization considers right and wrong. Aethon’s spies and paramilitary forces represent a more pragmatic point of view. In the end, of course Modern AGE character drives and personal beliefs decide the course of action.

Get Speculating Now

Threefold is out now, for order in our store, at your local gaming establishment, or at DriveThruRPG. Chapter 9 digs into the speculative fantasy concept further, and of course this is just one facet of a very big setting. Later this year, we’ll provide further Modern AGE support with Enemies & Allies, a book of creatures, Non-Player Characters and guidance for making your own friends and foes. Enemies & Allies is suitable for all Modern AGE games, but was designed to not contradict Threefold, making it fully compatible with this flagship setting.

Until next time? Play well in any world you choose.

Threefold, a setting for Modern AGE: Available Now!

If you pre-ordered Threefold, the brand new setting for Modern AGE, your order is on it’s way! You can also find Threefold in the finest of friendly local gaming stores everywhere this week!

Curious about what this new setting entails? Check out our series of articles by Modern AGE developer, Malcolm Sheppard.

Threefold

Beyond the modern world, with its magical and technological secrets, other planes of existence beckon. Gates connect alternate Earths to mystic Otherworlds and demon-ruled Netherworlds. Will their threefold secrets bring hope or horror? That’s for your heroes to decide. Threefold is a new original setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game, designed to support adventures using virtually any genre or character type all within the same grand Metacosm. Explore and protect countless worlds as a member of the interplanar Sodality, or manipulate bizarre alternate histories as a cyborg agent of Aethon. Heroes contend with everything from soul-stealing criminals, to transplanar empires. Threefold requires the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook.

 

 

 

Threefold: Rivals in the Metacosm

Over a number of Threefold articles, we looked at the Sodality, who explore this Modern AGE setting’s countless planes, and Aethon, who deal with threats to the progress of Earth’s history. These groups are especially suitable for Player Characters but aren’t the only possibilities. More to the point, they don’t operate without opposition. While potential adversary groups can come in many sizes, today we’ll look at rivals who rule great clusters of planes: the tyrannical Divine Empire, and the warlike Nighthost.

The Nighthost gathers. Composed of many peoples, the Nighthost discriminates only on the basis of martial strength, and unites to liberate Netherworlds, and conquer Otherworlds.

The Divine Empire

At the end of the great Fellwar for the Metacosm’s souls, most of the Hierarchs, gods who’d instigated the war, went into exile, while mortal survivors founded the Vitane, an interplanar government. Many members of the Vitane were Optimates: half mortal children of the Hierarchs, akin to demigods and legendary heroes. Under the old order they were used to privileges and formed the Imperial Party to argue for their renewal. Meeting with little success within the Vitane, Dyraza, a thunder and sky Optimate and leader of the Imperial Party, masterminded coups on over a dozen planes, declaring herself the Empress of the new Divine Empire. Under her direction, the Empire built an Optimate aristocracy of Prefects, a ruling council called the Pantheon, a Curia of worshipful mortals, and other institutions over 199 years of rule. This period of rapid expansion was significantly slowed by her death. In apparent retribution for campaigns ranging into the Netherworlds, Dyraza was assassinated by Avakim, Alastor Lord of Dust, in an incursion into the Empire’s capital plane of Alatum.

Now entrenched by the following centuries, Divine Empire is ruled with an iron hand by Optimate aristocrats. These include the planar Dominii who populate the Pantheon, and regional Prefects and Subprefects. The Empire demands mortal worship of the Optimates and their Emanate ancestors. This is overseen by the Curia, an assembly of priests and anointed arcanists. Where they fail to sway the commoners, a vast network of spies informs the authorities of disloyalty and intimidates everyone they might report for impiety or treason. The mass of mortal commoners is divided among true believers who tolerate their inferior position in the Empire, and small revolutionary cells. The Sodality is often assumed to support an anti-Imperial insurgency, but few are can verify or deny these allegations.

The Nighthost

Born to fight and blooded in the endless battles of the Fellwar, the predecessors of the Nighthost were the terror of the planes. As the Fellwar ended, many Netherworld warriors fled their masters, conquered Otherworlds, and founded an alliance of warlords and mercenaries ruled by thanes who can only be overthrown by sufficiently honorable challengers. As the Nighthost, these rebels founded a new home plane. This is the Fetter, a liberated Netherworld, where they built tribes, cities, and nations under the leadership of the Unchallenged, elders renowned for their deeds. Some say the Nighthost is secretly ruled their old demonic gods, who are marshaling their forces for a final war. But as their forbears were twisted and tormented by these Alastors, the Nighthost bears no love for their ancestral masters. Their ethos is founded in freedom through strength.

The Nighthost has never forgotten how in the aftermath of the Fellwar, the Otherworlds’ inhabitants branded their kind beasts, monsters, and craven slaves of horrific gods. Former soldiers of the Alastors were outcasts on nearly every plane. Only the Nighthost accepted and trusted them. And once given, trust should never be betrayed. To a warrior of the Nighthost, honor is everything, instilled from the moment of birth to their dying breath. Therefore, even as their armies conquer plane after plane and install thanes to rule the defeated natives, they moderate their cruelty with an ethos that grants power to the deserving.

Sodality members most often encounter the Nighthost’s warbands: small groups of soldiers who fill the same strategic niche as the Sodality’s Missions. Warbands have primarily military aims but are neither ignorant nor aimlessly violent. Their members are often as learned and clever as their Sodality counterparts.

Speculative Fantasy?

Oh right! Last time I said I’d talk about that. Well, I changed my mind; it’s coming next time. You can preorder Threefold now with the PDF add-on or get it in PDF to read about the concept in detail yourself or wait for its street date: September 3rd!

Getting Started with Threefold

Threefold, which premiered at Gen Con and hits stores September 3, is a new setting for Modern AGE, allowing characters to explore numerous worlds connected to science, magic, and psychic forces.  It’s very, very big—one universe isn’t enough to contain it! Reviewer Jeremiah McCoy says it feels like a TV show with ten seasons of lore. This is intentional. I didn’t develop this to be a diversion, but a setting even an experienced gaming group could hang the majority of their play on for years. Talking about it, I called it a return to “Big Setting,” like those from 25 years ago and more which offer deep immersion and a variety of stories.

But this begs the question: Where do you begin? Fortunately, Threefold itself provides answers in its text. I want people to play it, after all. Unlike many of the great settings of yesteryear, it isn’t designed to just sit on a shelf.

Earth, Otherworld, Netherworld—each suggests different stories in the wider Metacosm.

Root Factions: The Sodality and Aethon

Chapter 4 of Threefold presents our default focus, split into characters from the Sodality, a transplanar agency devoted to exploring the Metacosm and defending its diverse peoples; and Aethon, who protect Earth’s prime timeline (primeline), meddle in the affairs of alternate worlds, and often accompany Sodality characters.

The Sodality received slightly greater support for play, as it’s integrated into the Vitane’s government of many planes, and characters’ service branches—Emissary, Protector, and Searcher, suggest the social, action, and exploration aspects that define Modern AGE itself. Characters follow the Vows of the organization, and supervisors called Magisters supply them with orders and goals. This makes a Sodality focused game the easiest one when you want to explore the broad setting.

Aethon suits a more conservative approach to the setting. Aethon characters have supervision and objectives to keep them focused, but primarily operate in Earth’s primeline or, using devices called quantum arks, in alternate worlds. They protect Earth from the dangers of alien planes, as well as homegrown sorcerers, psychics, renegade scientists, and miscellaneous strangeness. Aethon is the way to go when you want to gradually reveal the setting. Characters can eventually visit other planes working alongside Sodality members, or on clandestine missions such allies might not approve of.

While these factions are the easiest to start with, nothing in Threefold demands you stick to them. If you want to play Krypteia gangsters or Nighthost warriors, go for it! The Sodality and Aethon are the most approachable options, but not the only ones.

Picking Your Planes

Another way to narrow your focus is to look at different slices of the Metacosm, and decide what sort of worlds you want characters to visit. Threefold is designed to give each of the three major types of planes a default genre. Otherworlds suit classic fantasy adventure, where magic saturates the land. Netherworlds are keyed to dark fantasy and horror. Earth and its parallels lead to stories about the Singularity, transhumanism, and even time travel. Limiting your initial explorations to one of these types of planes can help focus the game. It’s also perfectly possible to run entire adventures, and even campaigns, without stepping through a single gate. This is best supported on Earth, where psychic guilds, rogue scientists, warlocks, and AI-directed criminals provide numerous challenges, but surviving a single Netherworld, or exploring one Otherworld, can occupy players for some time.

Speculative Fantasy

Beyond the core factions and planes, Threefold bases its default play style on “speculative fantasy”—that is, fantasy stories using the story patterns of classic science fiction. Next time around, we’ll talk about that. Until then, remember that while any story is possible, your story, and the focus you give the setting, is paramount, and will define your version of Threefold.