Ronin Round Table: The Art of Art Direction


By Hal Mangold

Today’s Ronin Round Table draws back the curtain on some of the behind-the-scenes parts of creating our products. Art is an essential part of the look and feel of most games, and it’s the role of the art director (that’s me) to make sure all that art gets created. To give you all a little insight into the job, we’re going to answer a few common questions about what being an art director is all about.  

What does the art director do?

As the art director, my responsibility is to make sure that all of the art that goes into Green Ronin’s games and publications is up to the standard we’ve tried to set over the years. I select the artists, assign and approve the art, and herd cats to make sure it all comes into our hands by the deadline necessary for publication.  

How does the art direction process work?

It all starts for me with scouting out the artists who have the right style to fit the project. Games like Mutants & Masterminds have a radically different art style than Dragon Age or A Song of Ice & Fire. I contact the artists I want on the project, see if they are available during the timeframe I need them, and get them contracted if they’re interested in working on the project. Ideally, this is done about 4-5 months ahead of time, but circumstances often compress this a bit.  

The art order or brief comes next. This is a description or set of descriptions for the piece of art needed for the product. These can be written either by me or, more often, by the developer of the product, with my role being more to tweak or jazz up those basic descriptions. Sometimes the descriptions are general, sometimes really specific, and different artists work well with each type. In general, I try to art direct with a light touch when I can. I’m hiring the artist for their talents and inspiration, after all. I try to give them as much room to improvise as I can.   

The next step is to take that art order transfer it to the artist or artists. For a cover piece, this part is simple. For interior work with multiple artists, it’s a bit more involved of a process. The art assignments get broken up between the artists, taking into consideration both spreading the artists throughout the book for a unified look, and assigning the right pieces to the right artists based on their relative strengths.

Next the artists submit their sketches for the assignments. I review them to make sure the composition is as strong as it should be, that the basic look is right, that any characters depicted have the correct look, and so on. If revised sketches are needed, the artist submits them, and once everyone is happy with where the piece are going, the artist takes the piece to its final state.

If the project is for a licensed property, there’s one extra step: approval by the licensor. Most licensors require us to submit all of the original art we commission to them so they can make sure it depicts their world and characters properly. Some licensors want to see sketches, and some just care about the final result.

There was a time when there was another step: the artists physically shipping their work to us for scanning. Fortunately almost all artists today (even those working in non-digital mediums) submit digital files. Considering the international nature of the artists we work with, that’s especially fortunate today, with international shipping costs being what they are.  

Once all the art is approved, the art director gives it a look to ensure it’s in the proper color and file format, and that it will reproduce properly when actually printed. After that, the image file is handed off to layout for insertion into the product. The art director’s work is done.

Where do you find artists?

Anywhere and everywhere! The Internet is a fantastic source, of course. Sites like DeviantArt, Artstation and DrawCrowd give artists a place to put their portfolios, and I browse around on them quite often. Sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are also fantastic art resources, both for finding new artists, and building “mood boards” for how I want a particular project to look. It sometimes takes a little internet detective work to find out who created an image found that way, however. Not everyone is great about tagging sources for what they post.

Conventions are another great source for artists. Whether it’s a comic, gaming, anime or just overall sci-fi show, I always keep an eye out for creators whose style might work with one of our games. If we’re actually displaying at a show (like GenCon, for instance), portfolio reviews are another great source for me.

And finally, email submissions come in all the time, and have provided me with some great people I might not have noticed before.

Can I submit my art to Green Ronin?

Absolutely! Anyone is welcome to submit their work (or a link to an online portfolio, preferably), to

Green Ronin in 2016

By Chris Pramas

Happy New Year, gaming comrades! I hope you all had a good holiday, and got some quality gaming in with friends and family. As has become a tradition here at GR, I’m here to spill the beans on our plans for the coming year. Last year was a bit awkward because in January I could not yet announce Titansgrave or the fact that we were designing D&D books for Wizards of the Coast. This year will be much less cryptic! So what’s have we got in store for you? Rather a lot, actually!

Read more

RRT: Moving Day – Adding Freeport to Other Campaigns


I was chatting online the other day with a GM who is running a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, when she noted that as much as she liked the look of Freeport: The City of Adventure, she was running a game set in another publisher’s campaign world. She felt that meant that as much as she liked Freeport, she didn’t have any use for it.

I noted that I was a huge fan of the other publisher’s campaign world, and thought Freeport would make an excellent addition to a chain of pirate islands her campaign had. She liked the idea of adding Freeport, but was concerned it might be too much work. I talked to her about that idea for a bit, but really the fact that anyone thinks adding Freeport to their fantasy campaign might be too difficult means I have failed in my job as a Freeport developer.

The City of Adventure is DESIGNED to be added to other campaign settings. We even open Chapter 14: Beyond Freeport with the line “Freeport is written so the city can be easily dropped into just about any fantasy world. The book keeps the number of assumptions to a minimum, so Game Masters will have an easy time adapting Freeport o their chosen campaign setting.”

Even the World of Freeport-themed pdfs we’re releasing (starting soon!) are intended to be 100% compatible with whatever Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventures and settings you’re already using. As long as you like the ideas of pirates, ancient inhuman civilizations, eldritch evils, and a big, highly-detailed urban game setting, Freeport: The City of Adventure is for you!

So, let’s talk a little about ways to move Freeport to wherever you need it.

Just Add Water

Freeport is an island-based city-state, so it’s easy to drop it into any ocean in any fantasy campaign. If you don’t want to make any changes to Freeport’s background, you can also drop its primary rival (the slaver-port of Mazin) and its primary trade partners (the nations of The Continent) into even more far-off oceans. With this set up, Freeport becomes the midway point between whatever lands your campaign already has, and the nations mentioned in Freeport: The City of Adventure. This allows any references Freeport itself has to foreign lands to be used unchanged, but those lands are so far from your main campaign setting they have no interaction with the existing kingdoms of your world.

There are lots of advantages to this set-up. First, it’s easy. While there are some political plots and npc histories mentioned in Freeport that tie back to Mazin and The Continent, none of them are crucial to using the city itself. By making Freeport a major trade stop between your main campaign setting and Freeport’s own background locations you both get to use anything from Freeport without having to change campaigns. You also get the benefit of a new set of distant foreign lands people only hear about in vague stories and old captain’s logs. Very few campaign worlds are so well defined that there isn’t room for another small continent, far from the action, that a GM can use in the same way the New World or the Far East were used as placed people knew about but rarely went in many legends and fables.

Take What You Want, Leave the Rest

We called Freeport: The City of Adventure “The Ultimate Urban Campaign Setting” for a reason. In this 544 page book there are just 10 pages of campaign history, 15 pages of notes on the world beyond Freeport, and a whopping 303 pages detailing the city itself, its districts, shops, gangs, taverns, and newspaper (including numerous headlines that can be used as plot seeds, rumors, or just background color). There are discussions of favored drinks, narcotics, communication, markets, schools, legends, notable NPCs, and of course businesses – all the things that make a fantasy city feel like more than 12 encounter locations outlined for a single adventure. Even if you don’t want to incorporate all of Freeport into another setting, it has hundreds of pages of material that can easily be plucked and placed into any fantasy city your players are exploring. If a chase scene breaks into a building you haven’t detailed, rather than shrug and tell PCs it’s another tavern you can use entries in Freeport: The City of Adventure for Death’s Spoon, Kellamog’s Bell Shop, the Society of Lobstermen, Santori’s Hat and Haberdashery, or scores of other shops and guilds. If players want to contact the local thieves’ guild and your adventure doesn’t mention one, Mister Wednesday and his Canting Crew will be more than happy to step in. If they suddenly decide to take an ocean trip, the Freeport Docks has details on ships from the infamous pirate vessel Dirty Swan to the humble trading ship Rotten Apple.

Very few fantasy cities have ever been described in the level of detail we provide in Freeport: The City of Adventure. While we think that makes it awesome enough you’ll want to use the whole city, even if you don’t want to add it to an ongoing campaign it can be used as an excellent resource to fill out elements of almost any fantasy settlement you are using.

By the same token, the new Pathfinder base classes (freebooter, monster slayer, noble) npc class (cultist), races (azhar, island trolls), archetypes (corsair, crime boss, grenadier, inquisitor-mage, musketeer, sea dog, survivor, witch hunter), feats, traits, weapons, spells, and magic items in Freeport: The City of Adventure can be added to any Pathfinder-compatible game without having to add all of the associated Freeport background.

Some Adjustment Necessary

Another option is to grab Freeport itself, and just swap anything from Freeport mythology and history to match an appropriate option within your existing campaign world. Mazin can be traded out for any city well-known for slaver ships. The Continent is replaced with the main landmass you are already using.

Firearms can become crossbows with ease, or can be restricted to just Freeport and one other nation where they were invented. The serpent folk empire of Valossa is swapped for any ancient fallen inhuman empire, and the ancient god Yig becomes a stand in for any ancient sleeping elder horror of a god.

The details of Freeport itself are new and lovingly crafted, but the bedrock it’s build on are classic ideas with near-equivalents in many fantasy campaigns. If you don’t want to add Mazin and The Continent to your campaign world, just don’t! We focused on the fun stuff within the city of Freeport proper, so it’s easy to drop the city into any setting without worrying about the exact politics, trade rules, and religions of all the other nations around it.

Use Everything

Or you can take all of the Freeport mythology, and use it to combine as many campaign worlds as you want! One of the underlying assumptions of the World of Freeport is that rather than being a section of a round Earth-sized planet with all the normal rules and physics of the Earth, it is instead part of the body of Yig, an elder god. When the universe was created, Yig formed an island to command from the cosmic soup of possibility. Later, he sent coils of power out to draw in other realities to his own, which were in turn conquered by the serpent folk who worshiped him. Though Yig now sleeps, the World of Freeport is still built from his coils, the medium through which different lands are connected.

One advantage of adopting this cosmology is that it allows a GM great flexibility with what finds its way into a campaign. It’s perfectly possibly to set up anything from any books as independent worlds unrelated from one another, but connected by the strange effects of the coils and the power of mystic navigators to allow ships to sail from one campaign world to the next. This may be something easily accomplished by anyone who knows the trick (“second star from the right, and straight on ’til morning!”), or it may require the same sorts of foci and power needed for plane shift and similar magics.

Or, of course, perhaps all sea routes lead to Freeport. Anyone can sail from their home campaign world to Freeport without difficulty, but it’s harder to get from Freeport to anywhere but back to your native reality. This makes Freeport the ultimate melting pot, with its own backstory and related islands, but also filled with travelers from dozens of different realities, all arguing about who has “correct” sea charts and which set of islands and homelands are real and which mythological. As the Port at the Center of Reality, Freeport can become a nexus for adding anything the GM and players find interesting, or even an option for low-level characters to engage in a bit of planar adventuring from the deck of a ship.

In Conclusion

There are lots of ways to use Freeport: City of Adventure in any fantasy campaign, and we’re not going to try to tell you which one is right for you. Even this list is just a short selection of the easiest ideas, and we hope it sparks your imagination on ways to use the book to add more fun to your gaming.

Or at least throw your players a curveball.

Ronin Round Table: Within the Coils – The World of Freeport Expands

Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG

Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG

Freeport: City of Adventure is the biggest book Green Ronin has ever produced, and is a huge part of the Freeport Kickstarter we ran. While that Kickstarter still has a few straggling items to be fulfilled (we’re working on the Hero Lab files, the serpentman figure, Return to Freeport, and all the other rewards people still have coming), we also need to look at how we’re going to support the Freeport line going forward.

So far Freeport: City of Adventure is one of two big Pathfinder-compatible hardbacks we’ve released in the past few years, the other being the amazingly popular Advanced Bestiary. While those big books have been a lot of fun to produce and extremely satisfying to complete, they also take a lot of time and effort. Especially with a number of things taking longer than we’d hoped, it doesn’t seem like a good time to plan many more 300+ page books in the near future. But we DO want to continue to explore and expand the world of Freeport, and support the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

So, starting this winter we’ll begin releasing some short World of Freeport pdfs. These will be general Pathfinder-compatible products that present a wide range of game material (ranging from advice on campaign themes to new weapon enhancements and even new character classes) and detailing how that material can be used to expand the world beyond the City of Freeport. This will allow us to both offer new products to our Pathfinder fans, and see which of the places that we’ve only mentioned in passing in previous Freeport books our customers want to learn more about.

We DO have plans for more big, beautiful books ranging from a bestiary to possibly an expanded campaign setting, but rather than make everyone wait months in between every big release, we hope to establish some smaller, easier, more manageable options fans of both Freeport and Pathfinder can enjoy in regular doses. I’ll be watching fan feedback on these releases more intently than usual, so I can see if some concept or region becomes an early frontrunner for more products and greater expansion.

The World of Freeport is an amazing and dangerous place. We’d like to start to share more of it with you.

Owen K.C. Stephens

Pathfinder RPG Developer

Shark Week! Freeport’s Tranquil Shark Protection Agency

#sharkweek Bill Sangapulatele

Bill Sangapulatele of Freeport’s Tranquil Shark Protection Agency

Shark Week’s Wednesday freebie is the Tranquil Shark Protection Agency from the pages of Freeport: City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG. Positioned on the edge of Drac’s End, the oddly named organization exists to meet the security needs of Freeport’s less affluent citizens. Headed by the smiling Bill Sangapulatele, the Tranquil Sharks use martial arts, community connections, and plain old common sense to defend their clients from assassins, debt collectors, and other enemies. The PDF includes general material on Drac’s End, too.

Apply for Protection Today!

Tomorrow, it’s back to superheroes with a shark-themed villain for Mutants & Masterminds.

Shark Week! Crystal Sahuagin for Pathfinder

#sharkweek Crystal SahuaginHere at Green Ronin, we got word that this was Shark Week. We decided to get in on the fun with some shark-related freebies.

We’re kicking things off with a creature from the Advanced Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPG. Sahuagin are aquatic humanoids who can communicate telepathically with sharks. Infected by brilliant pestilence, a crystal sahuagin can be mistaken for light reflecting brightly off the waves. Groups of crystal sahuagin often make hit-and-run attacks against sailing vessels, hoping to infect the ships’ crews. In this way, they can create plague ships that in turn infect the populace of a port city with brilliant pestilence. For extra fun, add the crystal template to the sharks, too!

Download the shark-controlling Crystal Sahuagin today!

Tuesday’s freebies will be a two-fer from our DC Adventures game, so check back tomorrow for more Shark Week goodness.

Now Available: Player’s Guide to Freeport (PDF)


Player’s Guide to Freeport (PDF)

Are you a Freeport Gamemaster and want to be able to share spoiler-free setting information with your players? Or are you taking part in a Freeport-based Pathfinder campaign and want to learn more about the city without ruining anything your GM has in store for you? You need the Player’s Guide to Freeport! You can get this full-color, 132-page PDF for just $9.99!

Get your Player’s Guide to Freeport today!

Green Ronin in 2015

Hello gamers!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were waiting to find out if the Y2K bug was going to destroy civilization, but somehow it is 2015 already. This is a milestone year for Green Ronin Publishing. We are now officially 15 years old! It was in February, 2000 that I decided to take the plunge and start a new company. By July we had our first game out (Ork! The Roleplaying Game) and then a month later we launched Death in Freeport, the book that really put us on the RPG map. Certainly I had no idea at the time that Green Ronin would be still be publishing 15 years later. So a million thanks to all of the gamers who have kept us going, as well as the legion of writers, artists, editors, and other professionals we’ve worked with over the years. We could not have done it without you!

So what do we have planned for 2015? Glad you asked!

Dragon Age

Dragon Age Core Rulebook

Dragon Age Core Rulebook

We are starting our Dragon Age line off with a bang this year. We are releasing a Core Rulebook, which replaces the game’s previous boxed sets (all of which are out of print). The Dragon Age Core Rulebook consolidates all the material from Sets 1-3 into one big 400 page book. It replaces the Set 1 adventure with a new one, since we figure The Dalish Curse is the most played Dragon Age adventure out there. There is a small amount of other new material (monsters, specializations), but the bigger change is that the game no longer assumes you are fighting through the Fifth Blight. That is one option of many campaign frameworks. The setting has matured quite a bit since the release of Dragon Age: Origins, so we thought it made sense not to tie the game to one particular time or event. The Dragon Age Core Rulebook is in layout now and will be going up to BioWare soon for approvals.

After that we’ll be releasing a new version of the Game Master’s Kit, since the old one is outdated and out of print. The new one updates the screen to represent the full game rules, and includes a new adventure as well. Then we have a sourcebook tentatively titled Inquisition that incorporates material from the recently released Dragon Age: Inquisition video game. As many of you no doubt know already, that game introduces a huge amount of new content and we want to bring as much of that as we can to the tabletop game.

Lastly, we turn to Faces of Thedas. This was originally a PDF series that focused on characters from the Dragon Age setting. Jack Norris, our line developer, is revisiting Faces of Thedas, this time as a full-on book. After three video games and several novels and comics, the setting has a lot of memorable characters and we want to bring more of those to the game. GMs can uses these characters in a variety of ways, and you can even play them if you want to.

Fantasy AGE

Since we first released Dragon Age, people have been asking us if we were going to release the game system—known as the Adventure Game Engine—separately from the setting. The answer is yes! Our plan for this year is to release Fantasy AGE, a core rulebook for the system that I am working on right now. This will be strictly a rule book with no attached setting. The core of the game will be well-familiar to Dragon Age fans but there are some differences, the biggest of which is the magic system. That of Dragon Age was meant to emulate how magic works in Thedas, so I am modifying it heavily for Fantasy AGE.

Our goal is to release Fantasy AGE in May. Then at the end of July we will release the game’s first setting book. This is our big GenCon release and part of something super exciting … that I can’t talk about yet. This will be the focus of our GenCon presence this year and perhaps the biggest RPG story of the year. Watch for an announcement in a few months.

Mutants & Masterminds

It is a great time to be a superhero fan, that’s for sure. We’ve got movies, TV shows, and Mutants & Masterminds! We’re starting out the year with The Cosmic Handbook, which developer Jon Leitheusser recently turned over to production. If you liked Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re going to love this book! Our other big project is Freedom City, the signature setting of Mutants & Masterminds since 1st edition. Now Freedom City will come to 3rd edition at last, in a book similar in format to Emerald City.

We’ll also be continuing the Atlas of Earth-Prime. This is a PDF series we started last year that describes the world of Freedom City and Emerald City in greater detail. When we’re done, we’ll collect the PDFs up into a print book, as we did with titles like Power Profiles and Threat Report. The Atlas of Earth-Prime should resume in a few weeks.


Advanced Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPG

Advanced Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPG

Our Pathfinder plans have begun to bear fruit under the auspices of developer Owen K.C. Stephens. At the end of last year we released the Advanced Bestiary to terrific reviews. If you are a Pathfinder GM, you should seriously check out the Advanced Bestiary. It’s a tremendously useful resource that makes every other monster book you own more valuable.

We’ve also sent Freeport: The City of Adventure to print. This monstrous tome is the biggest book we’ve ever published. 544 glorious, full color pages detailing a setting that goes back to Death in Freeport 15 years ago. It’s classic fantasy + pirates + Lovecraftian horror. Lots of great Pathfinder content too: new classes, feats, spells, and more. The pre-order for Freeport is still going on, so you can get the PDF for only $5 if you pre-order the book now.

The follow-up is already in the works. Return to Freeport will be a six-part adventure series perfect for kicking off a new campaign. We will release this as a PDF series over the course of the year and then collect it up into a print book when it’s finished.

A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying

We have two releases planned for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying this year. The first is Dragon’s Hoard, a 160-page adventure. This is written and edited and has been submitted for approval. Meanwhile, developer Joe Carriker is working on a Player’s Guide for the game. This is a rules companion with expanded options for, well, just about everything. As always with this game line, I must caution patience. We can’t really predict how long approvals will take, but will do our best to get these books out as soon as we can.

Joe has also been working on a series of PDFs in support of the Chronicle System, the game engine that powers A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. We’ve released three of these already: Woodland Creatures, Out of Strife Prosperity, and Chronicle of Sorcery. The latter introduces a magic system for the game for the first time, so is well worth a look if you missed it. Expect more bestiary PDFs this year, as well as some other surprises.

Love 2 Hate Rules (PDF)

Love 2 Hate Rules (PDF)

Love 2 Hate

Last but by no means least is our first party card game, Love 2 Hate! We ran a successful Kickstarter for the game last year and it is scheduled to release in April. The rules are now online and you can learn to play in like two minutes. This game is obviously quite different from our usual RPG fare, but it’s a hoot and we hope you check it out.

And More!

At the start of this article, I mentioned our very first release: Ork! The Roleplaying Game. Well, it hardly seemed fair for Freeport to be the only 2000 release to get some love on its fifteenth anniversary, so watch out for a new edition of Ork! The Roleplaying Game this summer. Original mastermind “Crazy” Todd Miller has revisited this beer and pretzels RPG, so you can expect even more psychotic mayhem.

That is quite a lineup, but believe or not, there’s more! Nothing we can talk about right now unfortunately, but stay tuned for some exciting announcements over the coming months. What has Steve Kenson been working on the last five months? Find out in April!

Thanks for a great 15 years. Join us in 2015 for a host of gaming goodness!

Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing

Now Pre-Ordering! Freeport: The City of Adventure

Pre-Order Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPGFreeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG is on its way to print, and that means it’s now available for pre-order! When you pre-order this massive Freeport tome, you can get the PDF version of the book for just $5! In our online store you’ll be offered the PDF at checkout when you have the pre-order in your basket; participating retailers will be able to get you a coupon code for our online store that will provide the same deal on the PDF when you pre-order the hardback through them.

NOTE: Our online store software won’t stop you from placing a pre-order and also ordering in-stock print products. We highly recommend you place two orders, though, one with the pre-order and one with other physical products. It’s okay to order PDFs with a pre-order. If you order printed products with a pre-order, please be prepared to wait for everything to ship when the pre-ordered book is done getting printed. We can’t afford to split-ship.

Pre-Order Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG today! (Or you can buy the PDF.)

Ronin Round Table: We Have a Bestiary. And it’s Advanced!

Over the next few weeks, print copies of the Advanced Bestiary are finally going to be getting into the hands of first, the Kickstarter backers, and then a wider audience. This is the first major d20 release for Green Ronin in a long time, and has been one of two things that have taken up most of my time since being brought on as the developer for Pathfinder-compatible Green Ronin projects almost a year ago. So having the book finished and in distribution represents a major milestone both for me, and for Green Ronin’s plans for Pathfinder-compatible content.

There are still some elements of this project being developed (the Hero Lab files, for example), but with the print book arriving in warehouses, a major stage of work is complete. The original Advanced Bestiary became one of the most popular third-party products for the previous versions of the game, and I have every reason to think the same will be true for our updated version. Now that people are beginning to get a look at the book, I wanted to take a moment to talk about it.

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