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

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!

You Am Get Ork Too!!!

Me am understand you am following hype and word of mouth. Mouths am stupid, except for eating! And insults! Me am hear of game called “The Expanse.” It am based on “book:” little marks on sliced up trees! Trees am stupid. If trees am sliced up, it means they am also weak! Could not fight back! Besides, warlock am saying reading make head explode! Reading and broccoli do this? Me am hear about games using “AGE system.” AGE? What am AGE? Like time? Time am illusion, or at least waste of…something…to keep track of!

You probably am saying to self (in stupid sour man words): “What is this strapping green tusked person getting at behind their unusual diction? Are they suggesting Green Ronin makes other games besides Mutants and Masterminds, and AGE games like Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, Blue Rose, and The Expanse?” If me am physically present, you am also saying, “OH GOD WHY IS HE HITTING ME WITH A MOOSE JAWBONE?”

The answer to both questions am Ork! The Roleplaying Game, now am in second edition! Me am now answer FOQs (Frequent Ork Questions) in stupid sour man (or “human”) way of speaking:

What is Ork! The Roleplaying Game?

Ork! Is a beer and pretzels RPG of orcish mayhem! Players portray orks without the pretense of a rich culture or anything like that. Orks in the game are violent, short-sighted and hungry, but still interesting. Playing an ork is a battle from the moment your character steps out of the gunk pit (that’s where the lowly nameless young orks live) to a confrontation with the village warlock, who’s simultaneously your character’s leader and biggest enemy.

What are the rules like?

Light! Fun! It takes about 15 minutes to make a character. The rules for combat (and other, lesser systems) follow one rule: All dice rolls are opposed! This is because in Ork! You’re always fighting someone. If it isn’t an enemy in battle, it’s Krom, god of the orks! Krom’s the one you’re dicing against to climb a cliff, cast a spell or stop putting your finger in there.

Magic? Krom?

That’s right. Orks can try to cast spells via a freeform magic system—but Krom hates it! Orks face a never-ending struggle against their god, who vomited them up at the beginning of time. Krom controls the world, but sometimes you can cheat him, making a challenge easier, but eventually, Krom catches up with you, and then it gets bad. With this system, the game supports an orky way of thinking: Get glory now and worry about the consequences later! Sometime Krom is grudgingly impressed too and rewards you with ork points which you can use to pull off truly epic feats. Combined, this means the best strategy is to please mighty Krom, then screw him!

What’s in the book?

Everything you need! Making characters. Rules for fighting, including big hits with special effects. Rules for being on fire, and getting attacked by bees, and getting attacked by bees while on fire. An enormous roster of foes, from sour men (humans) to dinosaurs—and the dinosaurs always breathe fire. Finally, Ork! Includes a series of adventures fit to take characters from pathetic halfling-muggers (orks call halflings “squishy men,” by the way) to mighty tusked warlords. Plus, there’s full color art from Dan Houser (artist for Icons, too!) and jokes about Leon Trotsky and Werner Herzog flicks.

AAAARGH!

That am enough sour man style talk! You am buying Ork! (Or PDF! Or on DriveThru!) It am on sale! This am what marking call, a call to action! You am fall down sales funnel for glory of Krom!

Orktoberfest: November, Shmovember—Orks Am Ignore Sour Man Sense of Time!

So, this is the capstone on the Orktoberfest series, where I went over some of the notable elements of Ork!: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition. Subtlety is not especially orky, so I’ll lay it out: This was to make you interested in it, so you would buy it. Krom, god of the orks, is a cruel cosmic overlord, but he’s honest! Therefore, I’m going to end things by making a “stone staircase pitch” (elevators are rare in the World of Orkness; anyone capable of building or maintaining one would probably be eaten by a troll).

Enter the World of Orkness!

Enter the World of Orkness!

Why You Am Buy Ork?

  • A simple, intuitive system for casual “beer and pretzels” roleplaying, that even gets around to supporting a theme—you against your god!
  • You play an ork: a short-tempered, uncannily tough, green-skinned-boar-faced bruiser, hoping to earn glory and dethrone your village’s sinister warlock overlord!
  • Full color, blood-spattered-yet-humorous illustrations by Dan Houser (see Icons: Superpowered Roleplaying too!) throughout.
  • New to this edition: Revised and expanded rules for magic—a potent art tainted by the curse of Krom, the ork god!
  • Finally, a game whose jokes refer to both Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Buck Rogers in the XXV Century.
  • Limb-ripping, bone-crunching combat, revised for the new edition!
  • A full-sized catalog of things to kill, from annoying flying monkeys to giant robots. Plus: All giant lizards breathe fire!
  • Seriously, a truly complete game, that includes enough adventures to run an entire campaign. Start by raiding the village of the pie-making, hair-footed squishy men, move on to crashing airships piloted by mutant stinkbugs, and meet your fate in the legendary dungeon called Horserat Mountain!

Why You Am Have “You Am” Sentence Constructions?

Okay, I keep forgetting to put this down in various blog articles. Part of Ork!’s fun is talking like an ork! Orks live in an eternal present, like stereotypical enlightened masters or excitable mastiffs chasing cars, so always use the present tense, with emphasis, because the word “am” usually precedes verbs and adjectives. “Am” also replaces “do,” “be,” “is,” and a bunch of other weak, worthless words. Orks use “me” instead of “I,” and frequently reject stupid dithering definitive articles, and generally employ Hemingway-eqsue economy of speech. Me am tell you good? You am get ork points for good ork talk!

Where Am World?

I never bothered to get into the setting before, either! Orks live in a place called the World of Orkness, because we don’t pass up cheap jokes around these parts. In development, we got rid of a bunch of stuff detailing specific areas because orks have terrible memories and if they mostly have a geography divided into their village and a fluid, enemy-filled not-village, this frees Orkmasters from the burden of consistency. However, the World of Orkness has a basic set of stuff in it, including:

  • Various weak and worthless creatures you may recognize from equally weak and worthless sources, including sour men (who we might call “humans”), squishy men (small, annoyingly cute, hairy-footed, and weirdly free from copyright claims until the point they throw rings into lava), bagpipe-playing goblins with Scots accents (so you can’t use them for dwarves—well “stunty men” to orks—in this setting!) and so on.
  • Anti-science trolls eat anyone trying to move things past a fantasy world technological steady state, and as an ever-comforting allegory for the anti-science stuff your weird uncle shares on Facebook.
  • A magic-ravaged world. Long ago, the World of Orkness’ (WoO? I should have thought of that during development!) mighty civilization Am Go Too Far, and suffered a magical catastrophe that ripped open the skin of the world like an old-timey hockey goalie’s face. Strange people, creatures, and things rained through rips in reality, and mountains got tossed around like the teeth of, once again, an old-timey hockey goalie’s face. Things have calmed down a bit, but you can still find virtually anything, anywhere. This includes items from the 21st century, since, well, we have a lot of stuff to dump due to the productive forces of late industrial capitalism. Magic may warp such things, from their shape to how they work. This is a whole bunch of words to tell you, “You can have your orks fight an animated Mazda Miata if you want.”
  • The aforementioned giant fire-breathing lizards.

What Am Next?

That’s it for Orktoberfest (at least for this year! Heh.). All that’s left is for you to buy Ork! However, that’s not all! Coming up next year, the Orkmaster Mayhem Kit will give you a screen and new adventures.

Furthermore, after experimenting with Ork!’s system a bit, I decided to see how it would work for a more serious rules-light game. I can’t say much about it now, but the wheels are turning. Watch this space!

Orktoberfest: Magic of the Orks!

One of the new things about Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is the role of magic. Ork!’s mastermind, Todd Miller, requested that this edition include better rules for magic. Previously, magic was mostly left to the Orkmaster, who used it as an excuse to have village warlocks (then called shamans—we changed the terminology to something less problematic for the new edition) relentlessly bully players’ orks. In those rules, warlocks could do anything, and orks just had to suck it up! Plus, there were some magic trinkets available.

Not everyone benefits from “material components”

 

Go Ahead and Try! Heh, Heh.

The new edition has really taken it to the next level. Does this mean a new limit on the warlock’s ork-oppressing mystic might? Nope! Warlocks can still do whatever the Orkmaster thinks they can. This is because Krom, the fearsome god of the orks, trusts warlocks enough to let them reshape the cosmic energy he left around. What’s new is that now, any ork can try to cast spells by following a few simple steps and making a Magic roll.

As you might guess, orks aren’t the most studious creatures around, even if a place with the words “hog” and “wort” in it sounds like somewhere orks should go, to admire architecture, eat centaurs, and possibly vape something called a “huff-a-puff,” which for litigation related reasons I may be misremembering the name for. So, all ork magic is improvised. The prospective spell-ork needs ingredients, such as something he must do, a place he must cast at, or an item he needs to have. The number of ingredients is one per rank of the spell, going from Minor to Moderate and Major. Describe what the spell does, let the Orkmaster assign its rank get the right ingredients for it, and roll some dice!

Krom’s Curse!

There’s just one problem: Krom does not trust orks with magic. While Krom vomited up the whole universe, not all of it is under his complete control. (Even whispering this is blasphemy, and a warlock will turn you into a pine cone for mentioning it!) Magic’s the errant lint, dust, goo, and forgotten crowdfunding rewards which clutter up the cosmos. Krom’s too busy tormenting orks and looking impressive to clean it all up, but he doesn’t want orks rummaging through it either. Thus, when an ork tries to use magic, he suffers Krom’s Curse! Manifestations of the curse rage from growing an unwanted beard to being crushed by an enormous foot green foot tattooed with the cryptic rune, ™. The more powerful the spell, the bigger the curse, and failed spellcasting rolls get the worst curses of all! Fortunately, ork points can be used to partially reduce the effects of Krom’s Curse.

As noted, warlocks can still do whatever they want. Warlocks aren’t subject to Krom’s Curse because they’re loyal and have been taught Things Most Orks Are Am Not Meant to Know. The Orkmaster decided what they can and can’t do, though some things, like making magic items, is a special warlock ability, not available to spell-slinging common orks. Plus, other beings—disgusting non-orks!—seem to be able to make items, and even use magic without drawing Krom’s Curse. Orks don’t know what this is. Could it be the human god, Cromus, who of course has nothing to do with Krom, so shut up, making a different deal with his people? Who knows?

Prizes

On the topic of magic items, Ork! has plenty of them, from the magic tattoo of the Iron Bird to autogyros and dread magic spears. Activating some of these items also requires a Magic roll, and sometimes draws Krom’s Curse, but this is milder and less frequent, in exchange for potent but limited benefits—and the constant risk another ork will hit the owner over the head and take it. Items are daily (meaning they can be used a listed number of times per day), munchies (they get used up, like cookies and your good friend’s beers), futzy (these work every 2d4 hours) and always (lo and behold, these work all the time!).

Sample Magic Item: Grovel Stick

Daily (3×) • Krom Dice: 3d6

This short staff is carved with strange warlocky symbols and has mojo written all over it. It can be used as a club with a damage rating of 1, but that’s not its main function. No, the grovel stick is not an ordinary weapon of war. It reminds upstart orks who the boss is. The fact that its ability also works on squishy and sour men is a big plus. If the wielder of the grovel stick hits an opponent in hand-to-hand combat, he can choose to activate the magic rather than inflict damage. If the magic works, the victim falls to the ground and grovels uncontrollably for 1d4 rounds. Even if attacked, the victim continues to grovel. Never mind that orks can’t understand squishy men; groveling transcends language.

 

Next Time!

Ork!: The Roleplaying Game is shipping now! Next week we’ll be in November, and I’ll put a capstone on this series, giving you a full rundown of the contents. Happy Halloween—it’s an ork-worthy affair!

 

Orktoberfest: Pleasing Krom—and Cheating Him!

This past couple of Orktoberfest weeks we’ve talked about the basics of Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition (Pre-Order Link!), starting with Frequent Ork Questions (the FOrkQ) and moving to the core system, where you battle a god, and combat, glorious combat! Now in this and previous Ork! articles we’ve tried to get across a certain vibe, where the game is supposed to be goofy, fun, and open-ended, but some of you will still want to ask dumb questions like, “How does the system address the narrative premise?” Smart things like this sound like science, which in Ork! is traditionally punished by murderous, anti-science trolls. (In the rough and tumble World of Orkness, only trolls, with their entirely fictional ability to regenerate, can get away with anti-science beliefs that keep them from vaccinating their troll-cubs. The rest of you, vaccinate your kids!)

HE KNOWS

Nevertheless, this question has a two-pronged (two-tusked?) answer! We have ork points, the carrots, and Cheats, the sticks that look like carrots. Let’s talk about how these rules work.

Ork Points

Krom is almost always watching! Remember, the god of the Orks treats his creations with amused animosity. He wants orks to get into trouble, but also roots for them if they solve problems in the most orky ways possible, with brute force, ignorance and a bit of barbaric panache. The criteria are simple in description yet vast in creative depth, for the Orkmaster (the Game Master of Ork!) represents Krom at the table, and if they’re amused, Krom is amused! Thus, to represent Krom’s fleeting favor, the Orkmaster hands out ork points.

Ork points have several applications. They can make actions more effective, heal damage, and be spent to avoid Krom’s Curse when orks dabble in magic. The Orkmaster should grant ork points frequently, and players should spend them almost as frequently—and we say almost, because there may be a catch. You can also use ork points to add permanent improvements to your ork, but in the meanest, most classically orkish Ork! games you must choose between spending them on the spot and saving them to advance. This simulates the instant gratification temptations felt by all orks, and how it leads to bad decisions. However, we know this is just too much for some groups, so this hardcore option is presented alongside another, where you can still use ork points you spent in advancement. The Orkmaster picks which option they want for their campaign.

Cheats

One of the new things in this edition is character Cheats. In Ork! a Cheat can be seen in part as a counterpart to the specializations characters in other RPGs develop, but let’s face it: No ork ever learned the Quivering Palm after dedicated training. Orks are not studious but boy, are they ever stubborn—so stubborn, in fact, that in one subject dear to their hearts, they will themselves to overcome Krom’s opposition. In fact, they steal power from Krom!

To make a Cheat, you take a skill and define one subcategory of what it can do, such as swinging one type of weapon or using the Jock skill to climb. When it’s time to use that subcategory, your Cheat lets you steal dice from Krom to make things easier. When the opponent is Krom himself, via environmental hazards, you take dice from the number you’re rolling against and add them to your own. Against enemies, you grab Krom dice from thin air to add to the number you roll. Defiance and might! YEARGH!

Is there a catch. Oh yeah. You see, if you Cheat, Krom eventually notices the discrepancy and takes those dice back, to add to roll opposing yours later. The Orkmaster is encouraged to build a little pile of these dice in front of each player. When it amuses Krom, the Orkmaster grabs those dice and rolls them alongside them normal difficulty dice, so rolling against 4d6 can turn into rolling against 9d6, if a foolish player accumulated five Cheat dice. Cheating creates natural comeuppances, which is also very much in keeping with Ork!

You Am Do Anything

Next week: Magic!

Orktoberfest: Combat!

Let’s talk about the most important system in all roleplaying games: Combat! Okay, maybe not all roleplaying games. Maybe you play games where it’s all Angsty Debate Team or you roll for self-actualization. Ork! The Roleplaying Game (Like goes to pre-order: KROM DEMANDS PRE-ORDER) brings you back to your senses, filling them with a red haze and the ripping meat sounds of glorious battle.

Combat in Ork! is simple but atmospheric. Because it’s easy and game designers are lazy, fighting is an extension of the core rules, which I covered last week. Ork! uses opposed rolls for everything. Your ork’s basic attribute (like Meat, measuring general physical ability) gets a die type—the bigger the die the better—and your skill rating determines how many dice you roll. If the challenge is environmental, you roll against Krom, the merciless ork god who vomited up the world. If the challenge is another creature, you roll against it.

Thus, combat is a series of opposed rolls against whoever you want to wallop. You do as much damage as the points by which your roll exceeded your target’s. Add bonus damage for a weapon. The enemy’s armor reduces damage. One roll and it’s all done!

GLORIOUS!

Things You Am Do in Combat

Ork! isn’t particularly tactical, because orks aren’t tactical. They’re creatures of high aggression, low cunning, and constant hunger. This means many of the tactically oriented stuff found in other games works differently.

Movement: Ork! uses rough distances, ranging from Right Here (you can hit someone because they’re Right Here) to Over There (you have to hustle over, then hit them) to Far Away (it takes a round to get to them), Too Far (it would take more time) and Way Too Far (throw something instead!). These have real feet-based measurements, but the point is that the Orkmaster can use natural language instead of getting out a ruler.

Ranged Combat: Roll Aim (used for missile weapons and winning bets about who can hit a roosting pterosaur with a thrown pine cone) against the opponent’s Duck (the skill of being sneaky and getting out of the way). If the opponent is past the weapon’s short range, has a shield, or is hard to see, they get bonus die to their Duck roll. Easy!

Other Stuff: Combat includes rules for Attacks of Orkitunity (hitting cowards who try to get away!), sneak attacking and riding dinosaurs into battle. It has rules for Crunchies—pathetic enemies with just 1 Wound to make you feel mighty—and mobs, which is what happens when Crunchies gang up.

Big Hits!

“Critical hits” sounds too technical for a game where your character dreams of killing the stupid sun. Ork! has big hits instead. You score a big hit when you don’t need all your dice to succeed. If you rolled a 7, 8, and 3 on 3d10 against your opponent total of 14, the 7+8 you rolled, making 15, is enough. You didn’t need the 3—and you can use that to pick a big hit. The Orkmaster can make big hits up, but the game as a decent list.

Example Big Hit—Dis’Arm: Orks have heard the term “disarm” and assume it refers to their favored tactic of depriving an enemy of the use of a limb: twisting until it snaps, crackles, and pops; hitting it with a blade, bludgeon, or thrown rock; or biting it really hard. Your enemy can’t use of the limb until they succeed at an Endure roll versus 3d6 Krom dice. Roll this once per round immediately after the victim’s turn until they succeed. It doesn’t use up the victim’s action.

If the Dis’Arm happens as part of an attack that drops the enemy to 0 Wounds, the Orkmaster may allow you to chop or rip the target limb clean off! Now you have a gross club.

(Yes, there are rules for reattaching severed limbs. Got a nail gun?)

Defeat!

Characters in Ork! have a Wounds score, which works like the classic get-hit-lose-points-yeah-basically-hit-points system you know from other games. Unlike other games though, Wounds represent a general resistance to being physically defeated. This is a cheap trick that gets us out of designing stupid rules for “grappling,” “overbearing,” and so forth. How you beat up the enemy is entirely descriptive, and these descriptions are frequently vague, and full of yelling. What matters is how you intend to crush your enemy!

Therefore, dropping to 0 Wounds brings about the option of death, but it can also be used to indicate capture, maiming or just getting knocked out. As a side effect, the Orkmaster can refrain from killing orks outright until it would be really, really funny. This often happens sooner than you think, so beware anyway!

Me Am Not Die. Me Am Cheat!

Cheating Krom is a special system orks have to stave off doom in exchange for bigger doom. It and ork points are the high-falutin’ tone-reinforcin’ meta-systems of the game, and we’ll talk about them next week. Aaaargh!

Orktoberfest: Ork’s System!

Naturally, one of the biggest chapters in Ork! The Roleplaying Game is combat. We’re not going to pretend otherwise. Ork! is a game that unflinchingly tells you the truth: Combat is the most important system in roleplaying games! ARRRRRGH!

Accurate representation of Ork!’s game system in action.

Accurate representation of Ork!’s game system in action.

Ahem. Yet we understand you might want to identify stupid plants or sneak up on people (hopefully, to beat them up, leading to combat) or even—and this is not a good idea if you’re an ork—use magic. So, this week we’ll look at Ork!’s core rules.

The Core Rules: You Am Fight Krom!

For the lowly ork, each day is a struggle against other orks, squishy men, and, in a larger sense, Krom—wrathful, easily bored god of the orks—himself. This constant state of conflict is reflected in the following golden rule:

All dice checks in Ork! are opposed!

Many roleplaying games use what’s called a “target number” system where the benevolent game master decides the objective difficulty of a given task, and the player only needs to meet or exceed this target number to complete the task. Such sys­tems are for the weak. In Ork!, the Orkmaster represents Krom himself, and even the simplest task requires the player to dice off with Krom to get his way!

Orks roll a number of dice equal to their skill rating, which is usually between 1 (ork sucks) and 5 (ork rocks!). The better the attribute linked to the skill (attributes are Meat, Bones, Twitch, and Mojo) the bigger the dice (d4 to d12). So, a strong but callow young ork might roll 1d10 (skill 1, Meat d10) to whack somebody, while his smaller but more experienced counterpart rolls 3d8 (skill 3, Meat d8).

If the ork is going against a live opponent—somebody to beat up or outrun—that roll is opposed by the enemy’s roll. Against environmental and other stuff, the enemy is the world—and the god who made it, Krom! The number of dice you roll for Krom depends on how much he approves of what the ork is about to do, or how much failure would amuse him, and therefore the Orkmaster. This difficulty rating is Krom’s Favor, rated in the accompanying table.

Krom’s Favor

Krom’s AttitudeType of ActionKrom Dice
Krom Am Resting His EyeVery Easy1d6
Krom ApprovesEasy2d6
Krom Am Not CareAverage3d6
Krom Am AnnoyedDifficult4d6
Krom Dislikes YouVery Difficult5d6
Krom Am Want You Dead!Extremely Difficult6d6 and up!

We recommend d6 for Krom dice, though you can change the die type if Krom is feeling particularly nasty or uninterested. A mean Orkmaster might use d10s, while a complete weakling who smells like flowers after a spring rain would use d4s.

In the event of a tie, the aggressor wins! You always want to be the one acting in Ork!, not the wimpy defender! If you’re not sure who that is, the Orkmaster decides.

Beyond Stupid Basics!

Beyond the framing (ork versus Krom!), Ork!’s core system favors intuitive ease over showing off our game design chops. Yet, we do have an assortment of the stupid game system tricks you, the discerning consumer, have come to expect from modern roleplaying games. These include:

Cheats: When Krom isn’t paying attention, you can steal dice from him and add them to your own! Unfortunately, Krom is a god, and eventually figures it out, punishing you accordingly.

Ork Points: You get these when you act in an especially orky way, such as eating a face or engaging in axe-based art criticism. These give you ork points, which you can use for a bunch of benefits, from healing to cool tricks in combat.

Combat: Ork’s Combat chapter is the most important thing in the book! It has extra rules for everything from severing limbs to impromptu combat-oriented dinosaur taming. Lots to talk about, so we’ll get to it next week.

You Am Buy Ork When?

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is currently doing the warehouse to warehouse dance and gets into stores this month. You can still pre-order here and get the PDF right away as a $5 add on (or just get the PDF—see the link in the link above). See you next week!