Beyond the Ring

<Incoming transmission.>

Beyond the Ring for the Expanse RPG! COMING SOON!

(Cover is not final)

It’s been a long haul, but we’re getting close to sending Beyond the Ring to print. This sourcebook advances The Expanse timeline, taking us to Ring space and the 1000 worlds beyond the rings. This book joins Abzu’s Bounty and Ships of the Expanse as the third major release for The Expanse RPG. While this book focuses primarily on material for GMs it contains a wealth of background material that could be useful to players and of interest to fans of The Expanse novels.

 

Beyond the Ring contains exactly what its name implies―a detailed guide to everything beyond the Sol Ring and much, much more. Besides pages of descriptions and data for new worlds, Ring space, and Medina Station, you’ll find rules for creating your own planets and systems. You’ll also find rules for an entirely new way of playing The Expanse by creating and managing your own colonies.

Before I ramble on too much, I’ll let the book speak for itself with a high-end overview:

Chapter 1: After Venus

This chapter pushes the timeline forward into the months and years after Eros crashes into Venus and launches what becomes the Ring gate at the solar system’s edge. You’ll find details on the Ring, the Ring Space, the Control Station, as well as how each of the factions (Earth, Mars, and the Belt) respond to this new reality.

Chapter 2: Medina Station

Everything you ever wanted to know about Medina Station! You’ll find plenty of details on the history, politics, and layout of the station and a lot of story seeds for running campaigns set on Medina. As a side note, the (upcoming) PDF adventure, Secrets of Lemuria is primarily set on Medina.

Chapter 3: Worlds Beyond

This chapter is split into two sections: Featured Worlds and New Worlds. The Featured Worlds section gives a brief overview of systems described in the novels. New Worlds opens up over twenty brand new worlds, which includes system data, information on the biosphere, alien artifacts, and story hooks for each.

Chapter 4: Colonies

Here, you’ll find new rules everything you need to know about creating and managing your own colonies.

Chapter 5: System and World Creation

Finally, create your own systems and worlds for characters to discover. Either roll randomly or choose from a wide variety of possibilities.

That’s Beyond the Ring in a nutshell. Look for future transmissions where I dig deeper into the colony creation and system creation rules systems and explore some of the new worlds in greater detail.

Over and out!

<Transmission ends.>

 

Rules Tinkering

Folks who know me know that I am a tinkerer when it comes to rules and game design: I love to play around with different ideas for how something can get done in the context of a game, and I have notebooks and digital files full of ideas and random thoughts jotted down about particular rules and system concepts to try out or experiment with at some point. There are two particular Green Ronin areas of interest with my rules tinkering manifested recently.

Modern AGE Powers! Coming Soon!

Modern AGE Powers! Coming Soon!

The first is in getting to work on sub-systems for extraordinary powers for the AGE System, particularly Modern AGE. Anyone who knows my work gets that super-powers of various sorts are a particular interest, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to work on power systems for AGE, starting right from the design of the Fantasy AGE and Modern AGE Basic Rulebooks. I wrote the Powers chapter of Modern AGE game, adapting the magic system of Fantasy AGE to present systems of spellcasting and psionic in the core game. Then I got to expand on those systems for the Modern AGE Companion and particularly the Threefold setting, which offered setting-specific examples of magic and psychic powers, along with expanding upon extraordinary powers.

From there, I got to build-out both psychic and extraordinary powers even further for the forthcoming Modern AGE Powers sourcebook, and adapt extraordinary powers and the augmentations sub-system from Threefold for a more general cyberpunk style. That material, it turned out, was useful for The Expanse as well, since we know there are some cybernetics and body augmentations in the setting, so we were able to adapt the core of that material for another AGE System game as well! Most of this development and tinkering went on with manuscripts that haven’t yet seen print, so there were also opportunities to go back and apply later developments to some of the earlier stuff. If you’re going to be working under pandemic conditions where product releases are delayed, at least take advantage of the longer development times!

Similarly, our conversations on Mutants & Masterminds Mondays sometimes inspire the desire to tinker with particular aspects of the game rules. That’s where an article on what I called “Challenge Points” came from for the M&M Patreon: We discussed the concept of first edition’s “Villain Points” and some similar mechanics introduced in more recent M&M adventures to provide Gamemasters with different balancing tools to make encounters sufficiently challenging and interesting. I summed-up a lot of what we discussed in writing, added a few extra details, and presented it to our patrons for their feedback and use. Seems to have gone over well, so chances are we’ll look to share some other rules-tinkering ideas on the Patreon in the future. Who knows? Maybe some of those ideas will find their way into official game releases at some point. I know that both M&M Developer Crystal Frasier and I have already written additional articles along those lines and have some ideas for others.

Do you like to tinker with the rules of your favorite RPGs? Do you enjoy designer speculation and ideas for variant rules or optional systems? Drop us a line at letsplay@greenronin.com and let us know about it or about the sorts of things you’d like to see. You might well inspire us to go in and tinker with something new!

Order in the Court! Danger Zones: Courthouse Now Available!

Danger Zones: CourthouseWhile superheroes are often involved in stopping crimes and capturing criminals, how many times have the heroes in your Mutants & Masterminds had to show up in front of a court? The latest release in our Danger Zones series, the Courthouse, raises just that question and provides plenty of resources for the answers.

 

As the Danger Zone notes, heroes may end up in court for a number of different reasons:

  • Heroes who are lawyers in their secret identities may try cases all the time. A hero could end up prosecuting—or even defending!—a villain they captured in their heroic identity.
  • Any hero’s secret identity could be called for jury duty. If the hero has a connection with the case, do they look to recuse themselves and how do they do so without entrusting the court with their secret identity?
  • Heroes or hero teams might get sued, depending on what the legal protections in the setting are for costumed vigilantes. A lawsuit could be genuine or a set-up of some sort.
  • Heroes may be called to testify in criminal or civil cases, with opposing attorneys interested in discrediting them or arranging an incident that does so.
  • Some heroes may be involved in precedent-setting legal cases concerning things like the civil rights of aliens or artificial life-forms like androids or robots, the legal ramifications of certain powers, or even the rights of costumed vigilantes in general.

Courthouse has its own mini-system for handling courtroom dramas and legal cases, letting you run trials for the heroes captured foes to see if they are convicted and to determine the severity of their sentence. There’s also information on courthouse security measures and building structure, for those instances when a super-powered slugfest breaks out at the courthouse, often in conjunction with an actual break-out!

Of course, like all Danger Zones, Courthouse offers a detailed map of a typical example of the setting, stock characters found there, sample non-player characters, and a selection of ideas for Capers involving the location.

Danger Zones: Courthouse is also available on DrivethruRPG!

Weapons and Tech in the Expanse RPG

Amos Burton has some thoughts on Weapons in the ExpanseThe Expanse RPG is designed to tell stories in the universe of The Expanse novels, not to be a tactical simulator.” I can’t count how many times I’ve written or uttered this phrase since becoming the line developer.  It’s the best answer I can give when people ask why The Expanse RPG doesn’t have a more detailed space combat system, long lists of the different guns, or pages filled with wonderous technological devices. The AGE system and The Expanse novels are focused on the narrative and characters, not the tech. The tech is there to support the story, not the focus of the story. I discussed this in a previous RRT Here. So today, rather than going on further about that, I’m going to offer a few ideas on ways you can bring the tech to the foreground if that’s what you want for your campaign.

First, lets talk guns. This is an easy one. If you want to track ammo, you can certainly do that. All you need to do is look up some basic gun types and list the ammo capacity for each. The rulebook already states that reloading a gun is a minor action, so that’s already covered. If you decide to track ammo, you may want to ignore the Weapon Capacity rules, although you could still use this to indicate that the weapon jams. Then you need to decide how many rounds are expended for different stunts. Probably four for a short burst or suppressive fire and maybe double that for a long burst or spray and pray. Ultimately this is up to you and what works best for your campaign, but if you’re going to track ammo, you’ll want to set something definitive so that players know what to expect.

There are plenty of resources online for how many rounds different types of weapons carry. Also, some other sci-fi and futuristic RPGs have extensive lists of gun types. They often even have cool names that you could easily co-opt for your Expanse game. The core rulebook provides all of the tools necessary to create unique weapons and ammo.  The Item Qualities and Flaws and Weapons Qualities and Flaws sections in Chapter 4: Technology and Equipment can be used to flesh out individual weapons to make one pistol different from another.

Weapons aboard Ships of the Expanse

These guidelines work well for Ships and their weapons as well. Even the Qualities could be applied to different ship weapons or ammo to create a wider diversity for the players to choose from and something for characters to spend their Income on. For ammo, it is up to you to decide how many PDC bursts a ship can fire and how many railgun rounds and torpedoes they carry. Some details are mentioned in the novels, and real-life naval ships can also be used as a guide. Modern submarines generally carry from 12-38 torpedoes, so that can give you a starting point. Keeping PDCs and railguns somewhere in line with that makes a certain amount of sense. (Although PDCs fire thousands of rounds per minute so ites probably best to just determine how many “bursts” they can fire rather than worry about the exact number of rounds.) The important thing to remember if you decide to track rounds instead of using the narrative system is to make sure that it adds to the fun and doesn’t diminish it. Limiting rounds should be used to enhance the tension but never to punish players. It also adds another step of bookkeeping that many players might not find enjoyable. Read your table and make sure everyone is having fun.

Ultimately it is up to you and your players to decide what works for you. We’ve designed a game that we believe is fun to play. And while we occasionally add some more detailed optional rules, our focus will always be on the story. Speaking of story, look for the PDF adventure Secrets of Lemuria, coming soon!

IT CAME FROM THE INTERNET! VTT material on Roll20!

Today we have a special guest post by none other than Ahpook from the Green Ronin VTT Team!

Lightning flashes and thunder crashes!

Inside the VTT Lab at Green Ronin HQ, something moves…

“It’s alive! Alive I tell you! ALIVE!”

Happy October everyone!

I have a Halloween miracle to share with you all. There once was a lonely, disembodied entity known as Troy who had a dream. A dream of a brilliantly creative team of fun, dedicated, passionate gamers who wanted to help people play Green Ronin’s games online. He went on a quest to find these people, and I was lucky enough to trick him into letting me come along! Being part of the VTT team has been an amazing experience, and after nearly a year of hard work from everyone, we are finally here!

It’s no trick! We have a treat for you all! Several treats actually!

We are excited to announce the debut launch of our first VTT material for Mutants & Masterminds on the Roll20 platform! The mad scientists over here in the lab have been hard at work piecing things together, and now it is time for our creations to RISE! This first release will be spookily-themed bundles to match the season and include the following adventures and supplements:

Today’s Release:
Astonishing Adventures Bite Club!Danger Zones LighthouseM&M Condition Cards

Fall Launch Bundle: $9.99 

  • Astonishing Adventures: Bite Club (Normally $5.99)
  • Danger Zones: Lighthouse (Normally $4.99)
  • Bonus: Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards (Normally $6.99!)

Astonishing Adventures Nothing to Fear Danger Zones Museam

Only Treats Bundle: $9.99 

  • Astonishing Adventures: Nothing To Fear (Normally $5.99)
  • Danger Zones: Museum (Normally $4.99)
  • Bonus: Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards (Normally $6.99!)

Products include full adventure and supplement text, tokens for all NPCs and Villains, to-scale maps with dynamic lighting, GM and Player handouts, integrated card decks, and fully statted sheets for all characters using the new Official M&M Sheet for Roll20!

How can you get these terrifyingly fine products you ask? Just shamble on over to the Roll20 Marketplace and check out the brand-new Green Ronin store! A lot more material will be coming out soon for Mutants and Masterminds, along with all our other lines, including Return to Freeport, The Expanse, Blue Rose, Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE, and more!


Ahpook

Ahpook is a member of the Green Ronin VTT team and a Mutants & Masterminds super-fan. He is also the founder of the bustling Freedom City Discord server devoted to all things M&M and the home of the Freedomverse, a shared world where community members can develop their heroes and create their own heroic stories.

Living in Dev-Time

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel!

“When is that book going to be done? When?”

It can be strange living in what I call “dev-time” (or “development time”) because eagerly-awaited projects are often not just yesterday’s news for me as a writer but most likely last year’s news at times. The development cycle of a book, much less an entire game, is a fairly long one, and getting all of the words written is among the very first steps. Typically, I may get to see a project at the concept stage, getting in on discussion of whether or not to do it at all, along with what it might look like, contain, and so forth. More often, I get involved at or after the outline stage, when the overall concept of the book is pretty well established, and the developer is looking for someone to write stuff. That’s me.

Now, these days, I don’t write too many entire books for RPG publishers, including Green Ronin. While product development time for a book is long, actual writing time is relatively short. So unless I’m publishing a book myself (as I do with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying) and can take 4 to 6 months to write it all, or I’m working with an extended publisher timeline that allows me to write sixty to eighty thousand words or more, chances are I’m only writing a part of a book, a chapter or two (maybe three). Solo projects tend to be short: adventures, Patreon write-ups, articles, and the like, and many of those also get incorporated into larger books or collections.

I get my assignment, write it, and (ideally) hand it off at the appointed deadline. There’s feedback, development, revisions, new drafts, and then I hand over a final version of the text. Typically, that’s where my involvement ends. Sure, an editor might have the occasional “what were you thinking here?” question (tinged with varying degrees of frustration) or an art director might need notes or “does it look like this?” confirmation but, for the most part, my text sails off to those other shores to continue the rest of its journey towards becoming a finished book without me. That can sometimes be a long journey, even under the best of conditions. When conditions look like they have over the past year or so … even longer.

Thus the eagerly-awaited book someone is looking forward to is already in my rear-view mirror, often several exits back behind other recent projects I have handed off, some of which the public hasn’t even heard about yet. There’s a running joke in the freelance business that sometimes the only answer to a polite inquiry of “So what are you working on these days?” is “Upholding my non-disclosure agreement.” Dev-time is such that many projects aren’t even announced publicly at the time when people are writing them, although there may be rumors (the tabletop game industry being quite small and tight-knit).

While I have moved-on to other projects, the words I’ve already written are sailing through development, editing, layout, illustration, and proofreading. If they’re destined to see print, there will also be preflight checks, print buying and quotes, print proofs, and more before the book is finally handed-off to the printer. Even then, there’s printing, binding, shipping, warehousing, and distribution before it finds its way to a game store or gets shipped off to the buyer. In every one of those steps there is both margin for error and the potential for things to go wrong. I mentioned before about “ideally” handing off my text by the agreed-upon deadline. I pride myself on getting my work in on time, but life happens. This past summer, I took a fall off my bicycle and fractured my hip. While my recuperation didn’t overly impact my ability to work, allowances still needed to be made. Multiply that times all of the people who touch a project before it sees print and you magnify those allowances accordingly. People get injured, sick, divorced, married, pregnant, quit or take on new jobs, lose loved ones, run into financial problems, and all of life’s other challenges, to say nothing of encountering global pandemics, political upheavals, and more—all in the same year!

So if anyone involved in the publishing process of a book or product ever looks vaguely bewildered concerning its eagerly-anticipated release, it is quite possible that they exist in “dev-time.” From their perspective, that project has been “done” for some time, and it’s not that they’re not eager to see the finished products (believe me, there are several of my projects I’m looking forward to actually holding in my hands), it’s just that they’ve had to move on to other things in the meanwhile. Patience and understanding that there is more going on behind the scenes than you know will always get you a kinder response.

Don’t Touch That Dial! Into the Idiot Box is available now!

Astonishing Adventures: Into the Idiot Box!This week sees the release of Into the Idiot Box for Mutants & Masterminds, and Jason Keeley’s entry into the growing Astonishing Adventures line is a unique one, as we discussed with him on last week’s episode of Mutants & Masterminds Monday. In particular, it features the troublesome cosmic kid Quirk from Freedom City putting heroes through a series of … well, let’s say “episodes.”

Among other things, the adventure points to a big difference between superhero RPGs and many others: What Mutants & Masterminds refers to as the “Power Level X” character. Now, I’m on-record as a fan of the comic book trope I refer to as the “lateral win.” Many comic book plots feature challenges, foes, and situations where the heroes simply can’t beat the problem into submission. Instead, they have to use their wits and figure out another way to save the day. Such is definitely the case when going up against characters like Quirk, who are so omnipotent it isn’t even worth trying to define them in game terms (because, as the game-design wisdom goes: “If you give it stats, the players will fight it.”)

Into the Idiot Box is also incredibly topical, and a great M&M game for superhero fans suffering from deprivation when it comes to a weekly dose of comic book characters inserted into imaginary television show scenarios. While the adventure was written well before a certain popular streaming series premiered (great minds, right?) it plays very effectively with similar ideas, and gives you the tools to do the same in your own M&M series.

What if, in classic comic book fashion, the heroes form emotional attachments to some of the “people” they encounter in those television episodes? Will they ever see them again once Quirk has been dealt with and returned to wherever it is he comes from? Who knows? Maybe those “fictional” characters are based on real people in the heroes’ world. What happens when they meet the “real” version of the television character, but they’re a completely different person?

So if you’re looking for a fun, change-of-pace adventure that challenges the players’ roleplaying skills rather than just testing their characters’ power ranks, try sending your M&M heroes … Into the Idiot Box!

Astonishing Adventures: Into the Idiot Box is available NOW in the Green Ronin Online Store, as well as DrivethruRPG!

When the Developer Plays: Dueling Time!

Last time I told you about the Modern AGE Threefold game I don’t Game Master, but play in as Andrzej, who happens to be one of Threefold’s signature characters. Tonight, as I write this, I’m coming off another session where, as Andrzej, I fought a duel. I want to share some insights about combat using Modern AGE’s system I gleaned from that clash of imaginary swords.

First, the set-up. Why was I in a duel? As I noted last time, our Sodality Mission was on an independent Otherworld (a magic-dominated plane) to support diplomatic efforts toward an alliance with the Vitane, the peaceful democratic government of planes the Sodality supports. This plane had contact with the feudal warriors of the Nighthost in the past; their remnant needed to consent to the alliance. There were intrigue-soaked negotiations which…succeeded! They were ready to ally with us.

Threefold Nighthost

These folks need aggressive diplomacy!

Then the real Nighthost showed up: the army that had long waited on the other side of an unreliable gate between their realm and where our new friends lived. They made it through the normally closed gate…somehow (trouble with playing is I don’t know yet). The Nighthost aren’t just soldiers from Hell–they’re soldiers who rebelled against the Netherworlds, slaying demon lords and freeing the damned. They’re badasses out of a Black Metal album with a classic dueling culture, and they were about to lay siege to our allies’ outpost. So what else could I do except challenge their leader, the thane, to a duel?

I won’t leave you in suspense–I lost. I’m a 5th level character, but as our GM Steve told me, the thane was a Dire threat opponent. I think him being 7 feet tall with a crown of horns was a hint. I yielded with 3 Health left in me. Rather than go blow by blow, I’m going to list what I learned, after the thane and I put on mail, he got his sword and shield, and I brought my two-handed sword to the party.

Being a Protector Rocks: +2 to attack rolls and an extra SP on Stunt Attacks with the Sodality Protector talent rocks, especially if you also double on your roll–and especially if you master Two-Handed Style.* I was lucky to get big stacks of SP a bunch of times, which I spent on Lightning Attack to get a chance to inflict damage in, along with a constellation of other stunts, including Armor Crush, which reminds me…

Armor Crush is Better Than You Think: My second, a fellow Sodality Protector named Chester, couldn’t negotiate the thane out of his armor, so we were both wearing mail (I know this is all pretty fantasy for Modern AGE but that’s life life on a magical Otherworld) and it so happens mastering Two-Handed Style and using a big sword lets you gain 2 SP toward Armor Crush. I hit the thane a few times, dropping his Speed considerably. This combines beautifully with Knock Prone. Soon enough the thane was so slow he had to waste his actions getting up (part of a minor action) and fixing his armor (a major action). The thane eventually used it on me, however, and it was way worse for me because I didn’t have Armored Combat Style, like he did. At one point, the thane hit me with multiple Armor Crush stunts and the Hamstring stunts, and  knocked me prone. I ended up with a Speed of 3, half of which I needed to use to even get up. Oh yeah:

Annoy People with Knock Prone: For 2 SP and high reliability (no opposed roll required), Knock Prone is a very useful stunt when mobility counts. If you do this after attacking their Speed with the previous tactics, there’s not much they can do except stand up and sigh…which I did.

Ready for a Duel?

Being a Protector rocks!

Pick Your Disarms Carefully: The duel featured a number of Disarm stunt attempts. One of mine and two of the thanes were successful. Choosing the direction and distance of a disarmed weapon ends up being rather a big deal, however. I knocked the thane’s sword over my shoulder so he’d have to fight me disarmed to get it. Of course, that’s when he Stunt Attacked me with the Knock Prone/Hamstring combo after I’d been Armor Crushed, so, uh, maybe that decision sucked.

Remember Your Stats: Oh, I screwed up a couple of times here. I forgot to reduce damage by Toughness, which I was allowed to do in our Pulpy Mode game. Fortunately we realized and fixed that midway through, or else I’d be toast. But the other thing I forgot is the free grapple off a missed attack for Self-Defense style, which might have been used to mess up the thane a little more before he beat me.

Boost Your Defense When You Can: Defense-boosting tactics and powers are rare in Modern AGE, so make use of them whenever the opportunity arises. The Parry stunt is useful for chopping down high Defense opponents. The thane had a frickin’ shield, and that advantage wore me down–I had my share of misses. Since Protectors get a +2 to Stunt Attack rolls, I tried stacking that with a +2 Defense Guard up a few times, since my bonus nullified the penalty. This works pretty well–unless your opponent rolls high, which the thane did with annoying regularity. Generally speaking, seeing your bonus as an opportunity to cancel out a penalty linked to some other benefit is a smart move.

Fights Should Be Meaningful: This duel was a political maneuver. I wanted to show the Nighthost thane that the people on this plane were every bit as honorable as he and his army was–they weren’t fit to be brutally conquered, but had to be approached as equals. Game designers often talk about stakes in terms of game systems.. I prefer to think in terms of the fiction–talking about the reason for the duel (to secure negotiations), the emotional components, and negotiating the terms–not to map the outcome, per se, but to write the rationale in the fiction boldly, while maintaining the possibility that anything could happen.

One of us could have cheated, or attempted some other risky move outside the confines of the duel. The rest of the Mission group were in the crowd, after all, ready to help. In the end, though, we all followed the etiquette of the situation, and the great thing is that, since we were never locked into these terms, following the gradually built trust between us and our enemies, and it felt real because of course we could have cheated at any time. So when I yielded and didn’t die, but was allowed to limp back and heal, it felt earned.

* NOTE: In the upcoming Modern AGE Mastery Guide Stunt Attack now provides a base of 2 stunt points, increasing the Sodality Protector benefit to 3 SP in a stunt attack. We use this rule in our game.

 

Danger Zones: When the Mundane Goes Weird

Danger Zones: Convention Center is available now!

A lot of our Danger Zones offerings have been the kinds of locations you expect for superhero slugfests: the tottering Bridge , open Streets , the iconic Bank  for robberies, and Amusement Parks—both operating and abandoned—but there are a few offerings that don’t immediately spring to mind when you decide to plot of thrilling, comic-book action. A Fast Food Restaurant doesn’t seem like the best place to start hurling fireballs, and this week’s offering—the Convention Center—seems like a better place to buy comic books than reproduce their fight scenes.

But superhero adventures aren’t all about the expected. They’re about characters and where they get caught with their pants down. And superheroes spend as much time shoving burgers in their face or waiting to meet their favorite Star Battles actors as they do banking—especially in the 21st century. Danger Zones is about giving you interesting locations, not just expected ones. The convention center and the restaurant are both great locations for characters to be caught in their secret identities when things go south. But how do things go south in such mundane locations? Here are 20 random seeds for trouble breaking out when things seem calm:

  • A young superbeing’s powers manifest out of control.
  • A supervillain is there in their civilian guise and can’t stand a mild insult.
  • An AEGIS courier stops by and their magical artifact or alien tech goes haywire.
  • A criminal running from the authorities barricades themselves inside and takes hostages.
  • A wannabe superhero arrives to show off.
  • A fire or other disaster breaks out.
  • One of the heroes starts hearing a cry for help no one else can hear.
  • An accident disturbs a forgotten spirit, who starts causing trouble.
  • A mundane crime takes place and one or more heroes is blamed.
  • The heroes get caught in a time loop.
  • A truck careens out of control, spilling strange fluids into the scene.
  • The heroes run into a family member and discover they’re dating one of their supervillains.
  • An unexpected event shrinks the heroes to a half-inch in size.
  • A hero’s powers start activating at random.
  • An internet prankster sets someone up for laughs and things spin out of control.
  • A time traveler arrives and tries to make contact with a hero in their civilian identity.
  • A magical being starts granting the wishes of random bystanders.
  • A completely different superhero’s fight crashes into the scene as their villain starts gaining the upper hand.
  • A villain believes they have deduced the hero’s identity and threatens them in their secret identity to prove their theory.
  • Everyone else in the scene is actually a robot doppelganger.

Danger Zones: The Convention Center is available today in the Green Ronin Online Store, and on DrivethruRPG!

When the Developer Plays: Threefold

Threefold for Modern AGEThere’s a stereotype among game designers and developers that you eventually get so swamped with work you don’t play. I must admit there’s a challenge, but in many cases it’s more that, if you work in games, you love games. You want to have some time in popular games, pick them apart, and see what you can use or devise in reaction to them. It sometimes makes it hard to concentrate. Plus, my working schedule tends to be chaotic. Between all that and some persistent minor but annoying health stuff, I haven’t been as diligent at getting to my weekly game as I would like. Fortunately, I’ve pushed past the fog of it all a bit and am back to my Modern AGE game in the Threefold setting—one which I play in, instead of GMing. This of course speaks to another stereotype: Designers run their games instead of playing characters. This was my situation too, but over the past year I have stuck to playing.

Modern AGE Andrzej

Andrzej, a Sodality protector and nerdy swordsman

Where Have I Seen That Sword Dad Before?

What’s it like to play the game you developed, with the setting you developed? I recommend it to anyone who makes games if you approach it with the right attitude. My group plays on Discord most Sundays, with people I played with in person back in pre-COVID times. I’ve known most of them for over 20 years, and it makes for a comfortable environment, as well as a testament to games’ ability to create and maintain friendships.

On my side, the biggest challenge is learning to relax into my role. By weird coincidence, I randomly created a character who happens to fit the abilities one of Threefold’s iconic characters, Andrzej, perfectly. Andrzej was, incidentally, created as a heroic parody of yours truly by writer H.D. Ingham. After some laughter at the coincidence, I just went with it. Thus, I’m playing Andrzej, a Sodality protector and nerdy swordsman.

Seeing What Works

I know Threefold extremely well, since I invented it, though the writers who worked on it gave it a life beyond anything I could have imagined. That’s the same creative expansion I enjoy coming from my GM, Steve (not Steve Kenson, a different cool Steve) and there’s been nothing so pleasurable and useful from a design perspective as playing Andrzej and exploring worlds Steve expanded and invented based on cues from the Threefold setting. I can see which parts of the setting are the most accessible, and which are a little more challenging to use, and these tend to be a lot different from what you might get out of just reading the book.

As Andrzej, I belong to a Sodality mission with some Aethon adjuncts that specialize in rough and tumble approaches to problems. One of the challenges here is that the Sodality and Aethon are designed to support traditional party play, but that tends to bring a lot of the baggage related to wandering “adventurers” with it. But being a Sodalt means having ideals—they represent mostly legitimate good guys, since they’re part of a multi-planar magical utopian federation of states—and as a group it’s taken time to get there, but we’re starting to lean into it. When it’s time to expand the Sodality, I’ll have to keep this indoctrination aspect in mind.

Right now, we’re engaged in diplomatic negotiations and some quiet investigations on an independent plane that has some relationship with the Nighthost, and who broke off contact with the Vitane (the aforementioned magical federation) because of the Crimson Trident incident, when a branch of the Sodality (the Vitane’s exploratory arm) went rogue. I find it interesting Steve grabbed inspiration from that part of the setting’s history, which Jaym Gates created to give the good guys a spicier backstory. Well, Jaym, it worked—we’re playing with the results. We haven’t met anyone from the Nighthost yet, but we’re dealing with rival diplomats from the alternate earth of Al-Hadiqa. In Threefold, our world, the “primeline,” claims to be the true Earth, and prevents other Earths from accessing other plans as much as it can, but Al-Hadiqa (a plane invented by the late and sorely missed Alejandro Melchor) won’t be limited by the primeline and its enforcers, Aethon. They want a political arrangement with this new plane that shuts us out. Normally, this wouldn’t be particularly alarming for us, but we’ve just come off some operations tracking down a family of soul smugglers who we strongly suspect are allied with this Al-Hadiqa faction. The role of souls in the game, and their role as illicit trade goods, was developed by Neall Raemonn Price, and coincidentally, his adventure for Five and Infinity, The Soul Trade, had some strong similarities to what Steve independently devised. That tells me this is one of the more accessible concepts in the setting and might merit further exploration.

Threefold through the dimensions

Learning What You Don’t Know

Now, I am pretty much the boss of Threefold. I invented the setting and plot its course. What does that mean when I’m playing a character in the setting? Well, I try to keep my mouth shut, and I’m mostly successful. My participation is about having fun through my character, and I also get to enjoy insights about how people use the setting, but Steve is going to have different ideas about what’s happening behind the scenes and how to interpret things—and he’s right. So far where I’ve mostly stumbled is in maintaining a separation between player and character knowledge. Last week Steve said, “Roll to see if you really know that” and he was right to do so. This is a common enough problem for anyone, especially in lore-heavy settings (Threefold is dense with information—you want to give it a few reads because I designed it as if it was already, say, 20 years old, on purpose), but it also tells me it might be a good idea to explicitly describe the knowledge base possessed by members of various factions.

Next Session

Are we on for this Sunday? I hope so. The plane we’re exploring is fascinating. It’s a low-gravity world with mile-high buildings and a floating continent that whips around the primary supercontinent at high speeds. The floating land has a gate that intermittently opens, letting visitors from the Nighthost through. We’ve only heard rumors, and I’m eager to figure out the truth.

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