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!

Orktoberfest Begins with: The FOrkQ

We’re known for many, many different games, from Mutants and Masterminds to Adventure Game Engine system releases like Fantasy AGE, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE, but the oldest game in the lot got submerged beneath it all—until now. I’m talking about Ork! The Roleplaying Game, which ships a new edition into retail channels this month! As last-leg developer of the game I’ve blogged about it from time to time. It’s taken 18 years to get around to releasing a new edition, so this month we’re going to celebrate by talking your Krom-damned ears off (in text, so also, eyes off) about it! This week, we’ll be getting you up to speed by answering some Frequent Ork Questions. Read on as we give a FOrkQ about informing you!

What is Ork! The Roleplaying Game?

It’s a “beer and pretzels” comedy-focused game where you play orks: the pig-biting mad, green-skinned, snaggle-toothed warriors who take the fall in many, many other games. Ork! has a relaxed, easy system that emulates orks’ struggles in a world where everything is against them: humans (or “sour men”), fire-breathing dinosaurs (of which there are many) and, well, God Himself, or precisely: Krom, cruel deity of the orks!

What’s That System?

Dice pools, man. This game was designed at the tail end of the 90s. Seriously though, in Ork! you roll some dice and add them up against an opposed roll, because in this game, the world isn’t a set of objective challenges. It’s not even a “narrativist” setup where we like it when you try to beat people up for love. In Ork! you get opposed rolls because Krom, in the form of the Orkmaster, hates you! He’s rolling dice against orks who are trying to succeed. Your prospects depend on whether you entertain or annoy him! It’s unfair. It’s Ork!

Sometimes you can cheat Krom, though. Your obsessions and obstinacy let you steal dice from Krom and add them to your own, but he always gets wise to this eventually, and you end up trading success for his wrath later! Fortunately, orks are short-sighted, and don’t suffer from a rising dread of cosmic payback.

Oh yeah: The game has a combat system that lets you hack off limbs, because that is obviously essential.

What are Orks in This Game, Exactly?

Orks are big, green, rough, and boar-snouted. Orks like to fight, eat and drink. Orks live in villages with nameless young gunks, warriors who’ve earned a name, and the warlock, a leader who manages to use magic without exploding. (Krom hates magic.) Orks aren’t necessarily stupid, but do tend to, uh, excessively live in the moment. Orks don’t work for dark lords unless they’ve been conned. (Note: orks are easily conned.) Only the wisest of orks know strange, mystical secrets, like the fact that seasons pass and there’s not just arbitrary stupid weather.

What Do They Want?

Food. Revenge! Food. For the sun to go out. To impress Krom, who hates them! To overthrow the warlock, who hates them! The warlock is pretty tough though and serves as the Orkmaster’s (GM’s) mouthpiece and mission-giver.

Where Do They Live?

You want a setting? Orks barely know anything about the world around them, so if there was a mighty prophecy with a ring or soul-stealing sword or something, they wouldn’t notice! But we’ve still got you covered, with the World of Orkness. What’s in it? Magic. Sour men. Lots of types of shameless parodies of fantasy mainstays, like those cute folks who don’t wear shoes. Note, however, one point of originality: Dwarves don’t sound Scottish—goblins do! I swear, if we tossed Cthulhu and some panoramic art in there, the world alone would be an Ennies shoe-in.

What you need to know is there was a magical catastrophe which opened gates to many other worlds. Therefore, orks run into giant robots, airships, dinosaurs (which, as noted, breathe fire, which may be original paleontological research on our part), spray cans of cheese, and road signs from Lake Geneva, WI.

What’s in This Game I Am Increasingly Convinced I Should Purchase?

Great question, hypothetical querent! Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition includes:

  • Complete rules for creating ork characters.
  • Rules for skull-cracking combat and other, lesser systems.
  • Magic! It’s a bad idea, but it’s there! Also, cool magic junk to steal from the cooling bodies of your foes!
  • Everything you need to get into the ork mindset, from their villages and warlocks to the faith of Krom, easily-annoyed god of the orks!
  • Things to Kill, an extensive bestiary of monsters, from shambling bone men to science-hating trolls.
  • A series of adventures that can be used to run a complex campaign, from ignominious gunkhood to a level of badassitude worthy of the tunnels in Horserat Mountain!

What Else?

Next week I’ll talk more about the game. For now, bother yon game merchant!

Ronin Roundtable: Ronin Ramblings!

With summer beginning to fade, I thAldis: City of the Blue Roseought this would be a good time to give you all a general update about goings on at Green Ronin. These last couple of months

have been a whirlwind. We had a great GenCon and released Aldis: City of the Blue Rose, Modern 

AGE and its GM’s Kit, as well as the Basic Hero’s Handbook and Rogues Gallery for Mutants & Masterminds. We also ran a hugely successful Kickstarter for The Expanse Roleplaying Game. We were literally on the edge of our seats in the final hour, wondering if we’d hit $400,000 and thus secure a new James S.A. Corey

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook

short story to go in the game. With 10 minutes left to go, we crossed the threshold. It was exciting! Huge thanks to all the backers of the Kickstarter, and of course to Daniel Abraham and Try Franck (together, James S.A. Corey) for not only creating a fantastic scifi universe but also doing so much to help us promote the RPG. If you missed the Kickstarter, never fear. You’ll have more chances to hop onboard.

After a brief pause to catch our breath, it was back into the breach. I was PAX West last weekend doing some panels, one of which (Designing Worlds: Experiences Creating Tabletop RPGs) you can see here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/304840481?t=

Hal meanwhile has been working on laying out our next several books. Ork: The Roleplaying Game (the new edition of Green Ronin’s very first RPG!) is at print

Pre-Order and PDF: Basic Hero's Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds

now and is available as a PDF and for pre-order. Hal is currently working on World of Lazarus, the first setting for Modern AGE (based on Greg Rucka’s awesome comic) and the long-awaited Faces of Thedas for Dragon Age. You should see PDFs and pre-orders for both of those books in the near future. Meanwhile, Hal is also working with James Dawsey on the artwork for Sentinels of Earth-Prime, a Mutants & Masterminds card game using the Sentinels of the Multiverse rules we’ll be releasing next year. Jaym Gates has also been working hard to get our fiction imprint, Nisaba Press, up to cruising speed. Our first novel, a Blue Rose tale called Shadowtide by our own Joe Carriker, has just gone to print. More Nisaba news coming soon.

Next weekend is our annual Green Ronin Summit. While we have a cluster of people in Seattle, much of our staff is scattered across the country working

remotely. We thus find it valuable to fly everyone here once a year, so we can get together in a non-convention environment and talk over our plans for the next 18 odd months. We’ll be considering various proposals, deciding on the schedules for our game lines, and doing some long-term strategizing. Oh, and eating an

ungodly amount of cheese. Can’t have a summit without cheese! Or webmaster Evan’s famous ice cream.

Later this fall we’re back on the convention circuit. Nicole and I are hugely excited to go to Australia for the first time for PAX Aus in Melbourne. We’ll have a booth there (and a cool unique pin through the Pinny Arcade program) and we look forward to

meeting Aussie gamers face to face. A week later I am a guest at Week End Geek in New Caledonia. If you had told young me that gaming would one day get me to the other side of the world, I would not have believed you! Certainly, South Pacific sun in November sounds better than Seattle rain. Once we’re back home, we’ll close out the year at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more news and updates. Fun stuff always comes out of the Summit!

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition

 

 

Ronin Roundtable: Ork! Lore and More Gore!

Okay, I’ve been busy talking about Modern AGE but there’s another game I’m developing. It’s nastier, brutisher, and shorter—and stylistically, promotes the use of words like “brutisher.” That’s Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition.

Ork! was Green Ronin’s first release, and its dank, beer-stained roots can be found in Chris Pramas’ NYC games with Ork! mastermind Todd Miller. These games ran on punk mayhem, goofy improvisation and the peculiar interests of their group, including The World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, The World’s Most Popular Fantasy Miniatures Game, and The World’s Most Popular Vaguely Depressing Filmmaker Who Fortunately We Can Name, He’s Werner Herzog And He Did That Thing About The Penguin Walking To Its Probable Death (It’s on YouTube). To turn this mash into a semi-coherent game, Chris Pramas devised a system, and out it came in the Year 2000, which back then, was practically the future, man.

So Ork! is special to Chris and Todd, and to Green Ronin as a whole. It’s a funny game, but it’s been designed with the same effort as we put into games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. At times this meant a bit of extra work. I was called in to work on Ork! 2nd after Jon Leitheusser had already done a significant amount of development—more than enough to produce a functional RPG. So, my role was to tune the game into something in tune with the spirit of those early games, and which would fit hand-in-glove with the style of Ork! Game mastering—what we call Orkmastering for the deepest, most story-relevant reasons, I assure you—Todd performs when he runs it at Gen Con and elsewhere. That meant a top-to-bottom review and, where necessary, redesign. This stage got us to Cheats, where orks steal dice from the Orkmaster and each other (and risk the wrath of Krom, the merciless ork god), rules for ork magic (which risks the wrath of Krom) and other elements, all of which risk the wrath of Krom, probably.

For me, one part of the design was key: In Ork!, all dice rolls are opposed! Nowadays we have two basic schools of game design. In one, we figure out how things happen in the game based on some tactical challenge or representation of how the game world works. In the other school, we settle things based on their dramatic importance, how they might contribute to a developing story arc, and so on. Orks never went to school, and live with one boneheaded truth: Krom’s got a lot of wrath to spread around. So, in Ork!, opposed rolls represent how much interest Krom has in making life difficult for characters. Krom made the universe, so for the most part, meets expectations like big mountains being tougher to claim than little ones, but may also make things harder by getting bored, believing an ork is acting in a pathetic, unorkly way, and so on.

And lo, Krom’s wrath was spread around, and Ork! was sent to production, the dominion of a mysterious being called “Hal.” And Hal gave Ork! a perfectly serviceable layout. Truly respectable. Until, exercising the attention to detail that has defined our efforts on this game, decided it needed more rippy, blood-spattery bits. Here’s what it looks like now:

Wotank is not a “starter monster.”

Rippy, spattery—perfect for Ork! I look forward to sharing the product of all this work with you. Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition is scheduled to come out in August 2018. The game includes all the rules you need, things to kill (in a chapter called, “Things to Kill”) and a handful of adventures sufficient to get you through a short campaign. See you then!

Ronin Roundtable: How to Kill Everybody

I was lucky enough to be at Seattle’s Norwescon science fiction convention last week. I sat on a few panels, ran a few games, met some impressive writers and game designers, ate Hawaiian food for the first time (I’m Canadian, in Ontario; it isn’t common where I live) and picked up some terrible “con crud,” the diseases you get when you’re packed indoors with many, many people. And I killed everybody. In Ork! The Roleplaying Game that is. I ran “Hell Comes to Squishy Man Town!” one of the adventures that comes with the game. Orks are impatient about getting things started, and so is the game, so we included enough adventures to run what wargaming-descended sophisticates call a “campaign.” In killing the characters, I think I learned a little something about doing it well which might even translate to other games! Here goes.

Make Sure It’s Their Fault

Traditional adventures are usually inspired by situations or character motivations, but we can use a fine shorthand that brings them together: bad decisions. You want to encourage bad decisions as often as possible by bringing pressure to bear through the situation, and knowing the characters well enough to pluck their heart strings. You want them highly motivated but lacking the time and levelheadedness to make strategy-driven decisions. If they take the bait, you can kill ‘em.

Now in Ork!, character motivations are easy. Orks have individual personalities, but pretty basic drives. One of these is the need for a gunk—that’s an adolescent ork—to eat and win a name. Gunks compete for food, and get ignored until they get names, and with it, better opportunities for food and loot. In my case, we started the adventure with the gunks fighting over food. That drove an in media res scene where the gunks were trying to eat each other in the gunk pit (where they live: A pit. For gunks.) before the warlock, ruler of the orks, sent them on their terrifying mission, offering to give them names. This inspired all manner of bad decisions along the way.

Almost Kill Them, Then Kill Them

So once the players are making hasty, awful decisions, you may be tempted to waste them right away. No! Initially, you should reward their impulsiveness. Throw enemies at them they can defeat through simple decisiveness. Start with appetizers: minor foes that give them a sense of power. But don’t stop there. You want to make sure they believe their distorted thinking is truly battle-tested. That means a serious encounter that brings one of more of them a hair’s width from death. After that they’ll stand proud, covered, in unclearly-sourced gore, and take pride in rushing in.

In the Ork! session, I did just this. The gunks went into the woods, in search of the squishy man village, and when one of them wandered away, I waylaid them with squirrels. Lots and lots of squirrels. And they were victorious! One of them made a hat and some pants! Stylish. That’s when I dropped the fire breathing Pteranodon on them (all dinosaurs in Ork! also breathe fire, incidentally). The gunks decided they’d tame the thing, and after getting a little crispy, they succeeded! Time to fly a lizard to squishy man town!

(Note: The adventure actually has it down as a dimetrodon, but in the excitement I forgot, and used a Pteranodon. As GM, I don’t have to pay for my mistakes!)

Foreshadow Their Doom, Inconsistently

Now you must suggest, ever so lightly, that the characters might get into trouble by rushing headlong into danger. That bad decisions might reap terrible consequences. The trick here is to bring this thread in without undoing all the work you put into convincing the players that rash behavior’s awesome. This means signalling the warning in such a way as to create conflict, usually between the advantages of rushing in headlong and the rewards of patience.

In the Ork! game, a player was kind enough to do this for me by casting a whole bunch of spells. Yes, orks can use magic—but Krom, the ork god, hates that. Every spell attracted Krom’s Curse, which is . . . a lot of bad stuff. In this case, the ork sprouted a pointy hat, beard, and loathsome human appearance. Also, his equipment turned to ham. This made the casting ork a bit nervous, but his companion went, “You am covered in meat. Now we eat!” And they were all happy again, if nervous that there was now some Ian McKellan type fancy-talking at them. They were suspicious, but the wizard had ham.

Death Should Be Earned

Now that you’ve provided a subtle warning but overall, let them huff from the bag of ill-considered tactics, you can kill them. But don’t let it come down to a random knife in the eye, unless it would really amuse you. You must kill characters in ways that represent the sum of their bad decisions. Pull in NPCs from earlier events who’ve come back, eager for revenge. Explore the consequences of every dumb idea—every poorly guarded camp, every decision to save identifying a creepy mystic tome or enticing pie for later—in one character-wrecking conclusion.

In my Ork! game, this happened once the characters got to the squishy man village on their magically tamed, flying, fire breathing lizard. Their goal was to find the squishy men’s secret weapon. So, they got off the lizard and stormed into the barn that housed it, waylaying squishy men.

And of course, the flying lizard started setting everything on fire. The village, the adorable villagers (“squishy men” are called halflings in other games) and the barn—a barn filled with volatile chemicals. Naturally, there was an explosion. They were sent into the air, on fire. The wizard-who-was-once-an-ork tried to magically summon their lizard to catch them! And lo, Krom’s Curse manifested as a giant green foot. “There’s a trademark symbol branded onto its heel,” I said. It came down. DOOM. And it was made of all their bad decisions. Except the squirrels. They got away with that one.

Uh, Applications Beyond Humorous Death

“But what if I’m playing a serious game?” you ask? Ork! is a comedy game that rewards impulsiveness, but the same guidelines apply when it comes to ratcheting up the danger on stuffy games where you’re saving people or looking at Cthulhu and gibbering or whatever. Your job is to provide pressure through the scenario which interacts with the characters’ motivations, to encourage decisions which are emotional, not coldly tactical. Allowing characters to initially succeed with less than optimal choices is important as well. Convincing settings should be forgiving about character choices, most of the time. It not only relaxes and immerses the players but allows for characters’ common sense. Common sense is often tough to do, because the game world is a fiction, and gives us much less information than the real world. We have less to go on, and it may make us over-cautious. But as danger and weirdness increase, it’s time to be less forgiving. And when a reversal of fortune occurs, it should point back to past mistakes, grudges and things left undone. This is true even when the consequence isn’t death, but imprisonment, mission failure, whatever. Failure should feel earned and owned by players, so they feel as involved in it as they would in their successes.

Hey, What’s Up With Ork!, Anyway?

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition is currently in layout and production. Artist Dan Houser is finishing illustrations and the whole thing should be coming out later this Spring. Soon, you too will be able to explore the meaning of violence in a refined, mature fashion, though it’s probably better if you use the game as intended, which is for . . . not that. Soon, you am ork!

Ronin Roundtable: Green Ronin in 2018, Part 1

It seems like just yesterday I was wondering if this Y2K bug would indeed wreak global havoc (spoiler alert: it didn’t) while working on plans to start a new game company. Now here we are 18 years later and Green Ronin is still going strong. Although last year was challenging in many ways, we are starting 2018 in a great position. We have a bunch of projects nearing completion, fantastic new games in the works, and great prospects for the future. Today I’m going to talk about our plans for the next six months. I’ll then do another one of these in June to discuss the second half of the year.

The Expanse

Our biggest project this year is The Expanse RPG. We announced that we’d licensed James S.A. Corey’s terrific series of scifi novels last year and since then Steve Kenson has

been leading the team designing the core rulebook. In a few months we will be Kickstarting The Expanse RPG and the rules will actually be done before we even start the crowdfunding campaign. The game uses our popular Adventure Game Engine, as previously seen in our Dragon Age, Fantasy AGE, and Blue Rose RPGs. We’re excited to take AGE into the future! The Expanse RPG will release in August, debuting at GenCon.

Modern AGE and Lazarus

Want a new AGE game before the summertime? We’ve got you covered! Modern AGE launches in the Spring thanks to the hard work of Malcolm Sheppard and his team. The game lets you run games anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to the near future, with or without supernatural powers as you prefer. Concurrent with that we’ll be releasing the World of Lazarus, a campaign setting based on the amazing Lazarus comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Its compelling setting provides some timely commentary on current political trends and is a great place to tell stories.

Fantasy AGE, Dragon Age, and Blue Rose

Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age fans will be delighted to hear that two long awaited books are nearing release. Jack Norris and his team have finished the Fantasy AGE Companion and Faces of Thedas and both are now in layout. The Fantasy AGE Companion is the first big rules expansion for FAGE, offering up many ways to expand your game. Faces of Thedas brings a plethora of Dragon Age characters from the video games, novels, and comics to life, and adds some great new rules for relationships and romance. Speaking of romance and fantasy, Joe Carriker and his team have been working on the next book for our Blue Rose RPG. Aldis: City of the Blue Rose is a comprehensive sourcebook about the capital of the Kingdom of Aldis.

Mutants & Masterminds

We are kicking off 2018 with a bang with the release of the new edition of Freedom City, the signature setting of M&M since the game’s first edition. It releases to stores this week so now is the time to check out the city that started it all. Later in the Spring we’ll be releasing Rogues Gallery, a new collection of villains for your campaign. Crystal Frasier skillfully shepherded both of the books to completion, though they were begun by her predecessor. The first book she led from start to finish was actually the World of Lazarus but you’ll be seeing more of her vision of Mutants & Masterminds later in the year with the Basic Hero’s Handbook and Superteam Handbook.

Nisaba Press

Last year we hired Jaym Gates to start a fiction line for us, and this year her diligent work will pay off as Nisaba Press takes off. We will be releasing short fiction from our various settings monthly, and releasing two novels a year. The first will be Shadowtide, a Blue Rose novel by Joe Carriker. We’ll be following that up later in the year with our first Mutants & Masterminds novel.

Freeport and Ork

At the start of this article I mentioned the beginnings of Green Ronin back in 2000. The company’s very first releases were Ork! The Roleplaying Game and Death in Freeport, a modest adventure that launched our longest running property. The new edition of Ork is finished and entering layout. It’s great beer and pretzels fun. Return to Freeport is a six-part Pathfinder adventure coming later in the Spring in which Owen K.C. Stephens and his team really captured the feel of the City of Adventure.

SIFRP and Chronicle System

All good things must come to an end and such is the case with our beloved Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Our license expired in 2017 so there will be no new material forthcoming. We can continue to sell the books we’ve already released, however, so those will remain available to those who want to adventure in Westeros. Our series of compatible Chronicle System PDFs will also continue, first with Desert Threats, a new collection of creatures. Some of the rules material from our last planned SIFRP book, the Westeros Player’s Companion, will be released under the Chronicle System brand with the Westeros specific content removed.

To the Future!

As you can see, we’ve got an action packed six months ahead of us. Later in the year we’ve got excitement like the Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game and the Lost Citadel campaign setting for D&D 5E. Thanks for your continued support! We really do appreciate it. Here’s to some great gaming in 2018!

Ronin Roundtable: Modern Ork!

No, that’s not coming out. But wouldn’t it be a hoot?

I’m contracted to act as “Developer at Large,” for Green Ronin, because is suits my role working on whatever needs to be done. Ork! The Roleplaying Game (Second Edition!) and Modern AGE are on my mind, as varied elements of my job, with one thing in common: They’re both in production. Ork! got there in September, and Modern AGE entered that stage earlier this month.

I developed both games, but their respective processes were very different. With Ork!, I followed in the steps of Jon Leitheusser, who did initial development, which in turn was based on the original game by Chris Pramas and Todd Miller. As Todd Miller is basically the ork god Krom, and all iterations of Ork! are intended to follow his mayhem-soaked vision, it was my job to make sure the project was properly . . . soaked. Spattered? Maybe that didn’t come out right.

 

Modern AGE put me in a more traditional role, developing the book from start to finish. Chris Pramas had ideas for how to make a classless, contemporary Adventure Game Engine RPG. I carried those into an outline, selected writers, sent nagging emails to writers (they didn’t need them, I’m just insecure) developed multiple drafts, directed playtesting, and adjusted everything. It’s hard to find landmarks for a game designed for wide open, multi-genre play, so in the end I went with the systems and ideas I wanted to see combined, in a single package.

What does “in production” mean? That the final drafts have been written, edited and put through a pre-layout proof. Using techniques I’ll call “sorcery,” (Note: I do not do layout) the layout person (often Hal) turns these drafts, which are .rtf files with markup Adobe software recognizes, into book-like PDF files. Meanwhile, artists submit sketches based on my art notes, and along with other folks, I approve them or request changes, until they end up as finished pieces.

My art notes could be better, as they’re the aspect of the job I have the least experience with, but they’re coming along, and sketches are coming in. For Ork!, that means reviewing Dan Houser’s humorously brutal illustrations, like one of an prideful ork getting crushed by Krom! (This is basically how the game’s mechanics work, by the way.) For Modern AGE, I’m helping artists get the looks of iconic characters just right. Modern AGE uses a common set of characters, players and an “iconic GM” in illustrations and examples, so it’s important to me that consistent visuals follow.

Once the finished art is added to the prototype layout we go over everything again, and check the files for technical issues too. At that point, as someone who is on the creative side of things, I assume the finished files float into the stars as wisps of fragrant mist (I also imagine the wisps are purple—maybe Blue Rose wisps are blue though) and by divine providence, materialize as books in warehouses. There are Ronin who apparently do work related to this; their tasks are a mystery to me. I must ask them what color the wisps are and also, why are they always annoyed with me for asking stupid questions?

The upshot of this is that both games are on track for an early 2018 release. This is how they got there—at least, as far as my part of it goes. Now, onward. Forward. There are new projects in line. Modern Ork! is, sadly, not one of them, though who knows? The idea is starting to grow on me.

Ronin Roundtable: On the Edge of Ork!

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

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

Ahem.

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

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

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

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

You Am Design Adventure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!