Ronin Roundtable: Nisaba Press!

Hi, I’m Jaym Gates, Line Manager for Green Ronin’s Nisaba Press. We’ll be publishing fiction tied in to the Green Ronin properties, both short fiction and novels. I was given three missions: make a great fiction line, make sure it was a great diverse fiction line, and find some great new voices for both fiction and RPGs. That’s pretty much the most exciting mission plan you could give me, for anything. Why? I got into editing because I discovered how amazing it was to find those incredible new voices that no one else has found yet. There is also something intensely rewarding about taking a good piece of fiction and refining it to its best form.

As we’re releasing our first batch of regular stories, I wanted to talk a little bit about tie-in fiction, and why Nisaba.

First off, one of the best things about tie-in fiction to me is that it gives fans new stories and elaborates on beloved settings. Flavor text in RPG books is great, but sometimes you really want to go on an adventure with characters. See the sights of Emerald City, smell the sweet reek of Freeport, maybe feel the wind on your face as Rezeans gallop across the plains. While we can’t LITERALLY give you all of that, fiction gives windows to the new and existing characters in our settings. Maybe they’ll inspire new adventures, show up in your existing adventures, or just be a brief excursion with a fictional friend, but any way it goes, we love giving fans the chance to interact at more length with our settings.

It’s also a great way to get your RPG fix if you don’t have time to game, are playing another game, or can’t get a good group. It’s like talking to an old friend you don’t get to see often enough.

Secondly, tie-in fiction is a great way for new fans to get involved. There are a lot of settings, a lot of rules, and a lot of history. It can be scary for someone to just jump in at the deep end with no idea what’s going on. A short story or novel takes away that overwhelming feeling of “SO MUCH STUFF” and gives the reader a gentle introduction to a new place.

And last but not least: because the world is made of stories, and stories allow the creators to develop things that might never come up in the RPGs, or that might just not have been thought of. Narrative is a unique thing that forces you to think of so many angles that you might not otherwise see. The scents and sounds of a world, the interplay between character and their religion, questions of morality and honor. A story fleshes out what the RPG has built to a level that flashes and flavor text can’t approach.

So that is “Why tie-in fiction.” I’m really thrilled with the stories I’ve already been working on. We have Anthony Pryor’s My Night in Freeport, Lindsay Adam’s tale of an Aldean agent and a Jarzoni priest-adept, Eytan Bernstein’s story of Kid Robot’s first day of school, and so much more. All of these are original fiction set canonically in the settings you know and love. My hope is that they bring another aspect of engagement and joy in the setting.

And keep an eye out, we’re planning to host an open submission period in a few months, so if you’re wanting to write fiction for Blue Rose, Freeport, or Mutants & Masterminds, get plotting now!

Free Mutants & Masterminds Adventure: Monster Mash-Up

As fall begins, All Hallow’s Eve approaches. Though once a yearly reminder that the dead linger just beyond the living world, Halloween has now become a time of fun and frivolity. Even in Freedom City, where genuine monsters sometimes stalk the streets and sewers, Halloween is a time for candy, parties, fun costumes, and laughter. Protected by their spandex-clad heroes, many Freedonians feel downright invulnerable. Too invulnerable.

When a Halloween prank ends up calling down far more trouble than anyone expected, Freedom City needs heroes to protect it once again.

Monster Mash-Up is a free short adventure for a group of three to five PL 10 heroes. The adventure is set in Freedom City, but can easily be transplanted anywhere in the world that celebrates Halloween and has a large, old theater to gather an audience into.

Free M&M Adventure: Monster Mash-Up

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.

 

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 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: Upcoming Releases!

Well that was a GenCon for the books! Absolute mayhem at our booth, with folks lining up to grab our new releases. The announcement of the Expanse RPG license. New opportunities and incredible partnerships in the offing. It was amazing and we have you to thank for it. 17 years in business and we are stronger than ever before. Seriously, thank you!

We’ll be taking a couple of days to recover but then it’s back to work on our next batch of books. This seems an opportune time to update you on our releases for the next six months. We’ve got a lot going on so let’s get to it!

RPG Releases

Our next book will be the new edition of Freedom City for Mutants & Masterminds. We’ve been working on this for a long time and the hour is finally nigh! This is the original setting for the game, the metropolis that birthed the Earth-Prime setting. And at 320 pages it’s as mighty as Captain Thunder! Look for Freedom City in October.

November is a triple threat. We’ve got another Mutants & Masterminds book, Rogues Gallery. This was a PDF series we did for the last couple of years. The book collects all the villains from that and adds some new ones as well. If you are looking for foes for your PCs to tangle with, Rogue Gallery has you covered. Next up is the Fantasy AGE Companion, the first major rules expansion for the game. It adds new, fun material for almost every aspect of the game. There are new talents, specializations, arcana, and spells, as well as rules for chases, relationships, organizations, mass combat, and more! Finally in November we’ve got the second edition of Ork! The Roleplaying Game. This was Green Ronin’s very first release 17 years ago. Ork is a beer and pretzels RPG, great for one shots or when you want a lighter hearted game. Show those evil Squishymen who’s the boss!

 

We also hope to get Faces of Thedas, the next Dragon Age book, out before Xmas. The final text for that is up with BioWare for approval. Once we get that signed off on, we’ll be able to slot it into a month for release. Watch our social media feed for more on Faces of Thedas in the coming months.

 

As you can see, we’ve got quite a lot planned for the rest of 2017. For this reason we decided to move Modern AGE and the World of Lazarus from their original November release date to January. This gives us more time to develop the books, and lets us start 2018 with a bang. Modern AGE takes the Adventure Game Engine to Earth, letting you run games anytime from the Industrial Revolution to the near future. World of Lazarus, the game’s first support book, lets you play in the setting of Greg Rucka’s awesome comic. If you haven’t read Lazarus before, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s seriously great.

In February we’ve got two more releases: Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook and Return to Freeport. The Basic Hero’s Handbook is both an entry point for those new to Mutants & Masterminds and a useful table reference for anyone playing the game. If you’ve been interested in M&M but looking for an easier way to learn the game, the Basic Hero’s Handbook is for you. Return to Freeport is a six-part adventure for the City of Adventure. It’s the first new adventure content we’ve done for Freeport in some years, and it’s designed for a Pathfinder RPG campaign that’ll take you from levels 1-11. At nearly 200 pages in length, Return to Freeport packs in a lot of adventure!

Nisaba Press

A few months ago we announced that we were adding fiction to our lineup and that we had hired Jaym Gates to lead that effort. Our fiction imprint is called Nisaba Press and the Offerings sampler we released at GenCon and online last week gave you the first taste of what we’ve got cooking. We’ll be publishing short fiction monthly and novels and short story collections in print. In November we’ll be publishing Tales of the Lost Citadel, an anthology of stories set in the world of our upcoming Fifth Edition setting that we Kickstarted this summer. Then in January we’ll have our first Blue Rose novel, Shadowtide, by Joseph Carriker. Joe has also become line developer for the Blue Rose RPG, so he’s all up in Aldea!

More to Come

So that’s the overview of what’s coming in the next six months. We have our yearly planning summit next month and we’ll be making plans for the rest of 2018 and beyond. We’ve already got some awesome stuff in the works, like the Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game and the Expanse RPG. I’ll be back early next year to talk about more of our plans. Game on!

Free Fiction Sampler: Offerings Anthology

Offerings: A Fiction AnthologyWe are pleased to present, for free download, “Offerings, a Fiction Anthology,” a sampler of fiction from three of our upcoming fiction releases. In case you missed it, we recently announced Nisaba Press, Green Ronin Publishing’s new fiction imprint, helmed by Managing Editor Jaym Gates.

Within the pages of “Offerings” you’ll find:

  • The Prologue from Shadowtide, our first romantic fantasy Blue Rose novel by Joseph Carriker.
  • “New Girls,” by Crystal Frasier, set in the super-heroic world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds.
  • “Requiem, In Bells,” by Ari Marmell, set in the fantasy horror-survival world of The Lost Citadel.

We hope you enjoy this offering from our first few fiction titles. We can’t wait to share our worlds with you!

ENnie Awards Voting Open and ENnie Awards Sale

We are pleased and humbled to be nominated for eight ENnie Awards this year. We’ve included a list of our nominations at the bottom of this post.

2017 ENnies voting is now open

In our excitement about the ENnies we placed several products on sale in our Green Ronin Online Store. Please check out our 2017 ENnie Awards Sale.

Our nominations are for:

Best Adventure:
Dragon’s Hoard
Best Art, Cover:
Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy
Best Monster/Adversary:
Atlas of Earth-Prime
Fantasy AGE Bestiary
Best RPG Related Product:
Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film
Best Setting:
Atlas of Earth-Prime
Best Supplement:
Cosmic Handbook
Product of the Year:
Atlas of Earth-Prime

As always, sincere congratulations to our fellow nominees, and thank you to all who worked on these products, all who vote, and everyone else we may have forgotten to list.

Ronin Roundtable: Freedom City as You’ve Never Seen It!

One of my many duties as a developer for Green Ronin is seeing the 3rd edition of the Freedom City campaign setting safely off to print, like a loving mother. And as it turns out, this has been the easiest part of my job, because the book was almost entirely finished when I joined the team. So, like a loving mother who slept through most of her child’s life only to wake up in time to see them leave for college, I feel so proud of this enormous task I had virtually nothing to do with!

Freedom City 3rd Edition is almost entirely Jon Leitheusser’s legacy, following a similar format as the Emerald City campaign setting of several years earlier and building on the setting bones established in books like the Cosmic Handbook and Hero High. Freedom City has grown up and adapted to the turbulent events of the world. Some of your favorite heroes have retired as their years start to catch up with them, while new heroes have appeared to fill important roles. My only real contributions have been some light editing (Jon’s work is, as always, solid, and didn’t need much improving), and arguing with our esteemed production designer (chief art guy) Hal Mangold about the art.

Oh, and such art do we have! FC3E is a treasure trove of new art, bringing the city to life in detail we could only dream of in the past. Hal tracked down some amazing scenery artists to help flesh out the most recognizable city of Earth Prime, and I don’t think anyone will be disappointed to see the city’s superhero museum and the Champions sports bar franchise brought to life!

Just check out a few quick previews:

 

Domenico Neziti

Brian Hagan

Brian Hagan

Domenico Neziti

There’s a lot more to come, giving a reality to the creepily delightful Ocean Heights Amusement Park, the slums of the Fens, and the Hanover Institute of Technology cloaked in its mantle of mid-century modernism. Fans can finally SEE Freedom City as well as imagine it, and Gamemasters now have images to share when the heroes arrive, itching for a fight, so instead of screaming “I punch Dr. Simian,” they can yell “I punch Dr. Simian into the reflecting pool!”

And really, isn’t that what superhero games are all about? Punching apes into landmarks?