Welcome to Aldea: A Blue Rose Primer

Blue Rose Adventurer's GuideWhether it is the announcement of the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, the release of some recent Blue Rose products, or just general curiosity, if you are unfamiliar with the setting for Blue Rose, you may be wondering: What is this “Aldea” place and what is it like for playing games and telling stories?

Walk across its meadows, under the branches of its forests, or along its shores, and you would find the world of Aldea much like our own: with a day and night, a sun and moon, a cycle of seasons over a similar year, with much flora and fauna that would be familiar.

That said, you would also encounter magic and mystery under those forest boughs and in the watery depths. The sun, moon, and stars were placed in the sky by primordial powers worshipped during that cycle of seasons, and some flora and fauna are quite different indeed, from tree-spirits to faeries to beasts with minds as aware as our own. What’s more, you would find places, and creatures, touched by forces of corruption and evil, which have twisted them, making them inimical to life.

The Western Lands

Aldea is a world in many ways like our own several centuries ago, in others very different. The Blue Rose setting focuses on a region of the overall world of Aldea less than a thousand miles across, centered on the nation of Aldis, the Sovereignty of the Blue Rose. They are collectively known as the Western Lands, or the Old Kingdom Lands, although both terms are not in widespread use, since these lands don’t think of themselves collectively, for the most part. They have emerged only a few centuries ago from a vast dark age of corrupt rule, and parts of the world still remain touched by the power known to Aldeans as Shadow.

  • Aldis: Central to the Western Land is the Sovereignty of Aldis, once the heart of the Old Kingdom. Aldis is ruled by nobles who are trained and tested for their roles, including the magical test of the Blue Rose Scepter to verify their good intentions. It is ruled by a Sovereign chosen by the divine Golden Hart from among its people, and the current sovereign is Queen Jaellin. Aldis harnesses arcane power and potential to improve the lives of its people and to promote a culture of tolerance and prosperity for all.
  • Rezea: West of Aldis, across the broad Rezean Gulf, lie the plains of Rezea, hundreds of miles of open grasslands, fed by rivers flowing from the high northern mountains towards the ocean. These lands are claimed by the Clans of Rezea, semi-nomadic horse-riders descended from humans who escaped servitude in Drunac to the north and west and found their way onto the vast plains, led by the great hero Jessa. The Rezean clans are largely independent, and often competitive, united by their culture and their respect for the Khana, the wisest of their witches.
  • Jarzon: To the east of Aldis, across the expanse of the Veran Marsh, is the Theocracy of Jarzon. Jarzon’s history of struggle in throwing off tyranny and surviving in a corrupted world has shaped their culture and views. A deeply religious nation, Jarzon’s salvation was in the Church of Pure Light. The church preaches a strict life of vigilance against corruption. The practice of the occult is punishable by death, and the arcane arts may only be practiced by the church’s priesthood and those specifically under their supervision. Jarzon mistrusts neighboring Aldis for the Sovereignty’s embrace of arcana and the forces which the Theocracy feels corrupted the world—and have the potential to do so again.
  • Kern: To the north of Aldis, beyond the peaks of the Ice-Binder Mountains, lies the foreboding Thaumarchy of Kern, the last of the domains of Shadow. The Lich King Jarek ruled here for centuries until Queen Jaellin and the forces of Aldis brought his rule—and his dark tower—crashing down three years ago. A loose alliance of seven of Jarek’s lieutenants stepped quickly into the power vacuum, taking up the reins of power as a “Regency Council” until the succession could be settled. The so-called “Shadowed Seven” plot and scheme and maneuver for advantage in the inevitable conflict that will settle which of them sits upon Kern’s throne.
  • Lar’tya: A sea voyage to the south and west of Aldis lie the volcanic isles of the Matriarchy of Lar’tya. It is a prosperous, tropical nation with a trading partnership with the Western Lands, particularly Aldis. As its name suggests, Lar’tya consolidates political and social power in the hands of women, considering them more naturally suited to administration, business, and leadership. The nation also has a strict caste system, with limited social mobility and interaction between castes.
  • The Roamers: The traveling folk known as Roamers trace their lineage back to the lost nation of Faenaria, what is now the Shadow Barrens. The Roamers travel from place to place in small caravans of brightly colored wagons, trading goods and offering services, often visionary readings or small arcane works. They’re known for their love of music and dance, but also for a somewhat mischievous nature and a gift for stirring things up in places they visit.

The Western Kingdoms of Aldea

The Peoples of Aldea

On Aldea, their term for “person” generally refers to any embodied soul: a living being born of the world, capable of thought and self-awareness. That said, not all cultures agree as to precisely who

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy

Blue Rose (Fantasy AGE)

is or isn’t a “person.” In particular some nations, like Jarzon, question whether or not rhydan are truly people, or whether the night people are deserving of the name, being creations of the occult, and therefore shadowspawn in their eyes. In Aldis and much of the world, however, the following five peoples are recognized:

  • Humans: The vast majority of people in the world are humans, who would be quite familiar to us. Aldean humans exist in all of the vast variety they do on our world, and then some.
  • Night People: Creations of arcana, the night people were made as brute laborers and soldiers. Many fought for and won their freedom and they are now found in many lands, although fully-accepted only in Aldis, as many others are suspicious of the night people’s origins.
  • Rhydan: The rhydan have the bodies of beasts, but possess souls just like any people, making them intelligent, self-aware, and gifted with arcane (particularly psychic) talents. Most rhydan arise—or “awaken” as they call it—from amongst mundane animals of their kind, and many in Aldis believe rhydan are proof of the Wheel of Rebirth: placing enlightened souls into animal forms close to nature.
  • Sea-folk: Sea-folk are an amphibious people, who can swim with great skill and hold their breath as long as a dolphin. They have green- or blue-tinted skin and hair and eyes of a similar shade. Sea-folk are androgynous and often gender-fluid. Because they depend on water more than land-dwellers, sea-folk live near rivers, streams, lakes, or the sea.
  • Vata: Descendants of the ancient and arcane vatazin, their heritage mixed with human ancestry, the vata are a long-lived people of arcane gifts and insights, but one that has been fading from the world for generations.

Before the souls of Aldea were embodied, they were timeless beings beyond physicality. Now in diverse forms, they retain some sense of their previous oneness. While men and women are the most common genders of Aldea, more exist beyond these two. While people in Aldis have no overriding romantic or sexual preference, placing the importance of the soul over the body, there are those primarily or solely drawn to their own gender, or to a different gender, as well as those not drawn to sex or romance in particular, or even at all. There are many sorts of families, based on many sorts of relationships between people, with love as the most common element.

A New World Awaits

This summary is just the barest taste of the magical world of Aldea. So much more awaits in both Blue Rose, the AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (for the AGE System) and in the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide (for Fifth Edition fantasy roleplaying), as well as fiction set in the world of Aldea from Nisaba Press, such as the novel Shadowtide. Whatever venue appeals to you, welcome to the world of Aldea! Take the time to visit and experience its stories, and then create some of your own.

Fantasy AGE Freeport

Death In Freeport for Fantasy AGELast month, in “Return to Freeport,” we talked a bit about the classic adventure Death in Freeport, which helped to launch Green Ronin Publishing twenty years ago, and the forthcoming anniversary edition of that adventure. Not only is Death in Freeport being offered for the fifth edition of the world’s most widely-played fantasy roleplaying game, we are also offering a Fantasy AGE edition for AGE System players who would like to experience the City of Adventure for themselves!

Just like the 5e version, the Fantasy AGE edition of Death in Freeport will be full-color and available in electronic (PDF) and print-on-demand (POD) formats, with the same exciting adventure, but designed for Fantasy AGE game-play. Since both Freeport and Fantasy AGE were designed by Green Ronin’s own Chris Pramas, their aesthetics fit together like they were made for each other! That includes some fun AGE System style touches, such as:

  • Roleplaying stunts while interacting with the various low-lifes and scoundrels of the city.
  • Exploration stunts while delving into the mysterious dungeons beneath Freeport.
  • Mechanics for the hazards of some classic fantasy traps found in the adventure.
  • The unique stunts of serpent people, skeletons, and other monsters the characters may encounter.

Death in Freeport introduces the player characters to the free city and pirate haven of Freeport, and entangles them in the mystery of a scholar who has gone missing, leading them to a much deeper threat, both figuratively and literally!

The adventure also includes Fantasy AGE versions of the four pre-generated player characters who were a part of the original Death in Freeport: Rollo (gnome warrior), Malevir (half-elf mage), Alaina (human rogue), and Thorgrim (dwarf mage and healer).

From Freeport to Lairs

Fantasy AGE Game Masters looking to expand things beyond the events of Death in Freeport can find inspiration in Lairs for Fantasy AGE, many of which can easily be situated on the islands of the Serpent’s Teeth:

  • Shifted to a jungle locale,The Valley of the Titans could be on one of the islands, possibly connected to Lost Valossa or another ancient, mythic civilization.
  • The Temple of the Stone Oath could be hidden on the slopes of the volcano at the heart of A’Val or in mountainous terrain on another island.
  • Madness Under the Sea suits Freeport quite well, with Coral Scar’s Island hidden amidst the Serpent’s Teeth.
  • The Night Market can appear anywhere, even just outside the walls of Freeport itself.

Other Lairs or published Fantasy AGE adventures can also be placed in and around the city of Freeport or on the islands of the Serpent’s Teeth, mixing-and-matching to create a fantastic setting for your swashbuckling AGE adventures!

Death in Freeport for Fantasy AGE, is now available in the Green Ronin Online Store, or on DrivethruRPG

(Not So) Secret Identities

I don’t know exactly when or how I became an introvert—we don’t have the kind of space in this column necessary to go into that—but, sufficient to say, I am what many might refer to as “a private person.” I often feel like I missed the era of the “reclusive writer” who nobody ever saw and who interacted with the world through their agent. What do they even look like? Do they even really exist? In this interconnected age of social media streaming, where everyone carries a camera, that kind of anonymity is increasingly no longer an option.

That’s especially true for those of us who: 1) Have some sort of marginalized identity and feel it is important that we be visible for the benefit of those who might see us, and; 2) Are creatives who need to promote our work by connecting with our audience as directly as possible (which is the say, most of us who don’t have a corporate marketing department behind us). All of which is a long lead-up to the moment that I kind of knew was coming, but dreaded anyway, that moment when Green Ronin’s Community Manager Troy Hewitt said “We’re all stuck in isolation! We’re going to start streaming on Monday!”Crystal and Steve streaming on Facebook live

Extraordinary times, right? You see, Green Ronin is a great company for many reasons, but one of them (for me) is that there are a lot of reclusive introverts on-staff. Many of us are perfectly happy working in our own corners of the world, communicating via text, and making the experience of seeing each other in person special by only doing it a few times a year. Fortunately, the (roughly two-thirds introverted) ownership recognized that was not the best way for us to work with our wonderful community of players of our games, however. So they made sure to include some ambiverts and extroverts, who have done things like drag the rest of us into the digital streaming world. Here’s what I have learned thus far from the experience:

Perfect is the enemy of ever doing anything. “We’ll figure it out as we go! We start in three days!” Three days! But…but, the research! The preparation! Nope. We had been stalling doing videos and streams for a long time and were getting no closer to starting. What we really needed to do was start. So we did. Waiting around until you’re “ready” can often mean you never will be.

Creativity is spontaneous. I like to plan and outline with the best of ‘em, but some of the best parts of the Mutants & Masterminds Monday streams have been spontaneous, off-the-cuff things from just interacting, which remind me of the best parts of my tabletop game-play experiences; not written into the adventure per se, but appearing out of the interaction.

It’s okay to be seen. By that I mean it’s not necessarily self-indulgent to want to be in front of the camera, and it’s all right to promote, not just your work, but yourself as a creator and as a person. It’s okay to be seen for you and not just as a representative of something else. I’m still working on this one, to be honest, as I’ve never been a particularly good self-promoter, but I think I’m learning.

Striking sparks ignites flames. I often feel social situations are draining, but at the same time, it’s a helpful reminder that certain social interactions, especially with my peers and co-workers, can really help to get us all excited about the things we’re doing and working on. Our interaction creates “good energy.” I find I really enjoy that handful of aforementioned yearly in-person get-togethers, and our online meet-ups—whether streaming or just having a company-wide meeting—can do the same. I feel more recharged and ready to do more work for the rest of the week.

It’s okay to fail. Mind you, it’s not fun, but messing up, having things go wrong, technical difficulties and all of that is a part of life and how we learn. Doing live video streams offers plenty of “learning opportunities.” Good friends and colleagues help us get back up and get back in the game, and we do better the next time. This reminds me a lot of my reckless courage as a young Game Master: I was so excited by the prospect of running each new game I got that I rushed right in. I definitely had some Game Master-disasters (again, we don’t have that kind of space) but I survived, learned from them, and kept on going.M&M Monday streaming every week!So, if you feel you’re too shy, too introverted, not enough (or too much), or just not ready to do something like streaming, online gaming, Game Mastering, or the like, take a risk in the company of friends, and you can start by joining us. We’re learning in real time, and the people who watch are active participants in what we’re creating. Joining in means you get to have some low-risk fun while seeing how we do it, and figuring out how you might when the time comes for you to step into the spotlight.

I hope you’ll join us for an episode of Mutants & Masterminds Monday sometime!

Green Ronin Publishing’s videos can also be found on our YouTube channel.

Sword Chronicle: Post Release Follow Up and Warfare Wednesday

Sword Chronicle has been out for a week, and it’s doing well! Thank you to those who have purchased it through both the Green Ronin Online Store and DriveThruRPG. This is just a quick follow up about our post-release plans.

Check Out the Warfare Wednesday Stream

Last week we tried out a so-called “Warfare Wednesday” live stream to talk about the game, with some side conversations into history, the nomenclature of medieval weapons, and Star Trek. Missed it? Well, you can watch it here (Coming soon to our YouTube Channel as well!).

Warfare Wednesday!

Of POD and Discounts

Several people have asked us whether we’re going to release Sword Chronicle as a print on demand offering from DriveThruRPG, and when. They’ve also asked if we’re going to offer a coupon on the POD version to people who bought the PDF.

Are We Doing POD? Yes. We’re not exactly sure when because we want to polish the file a bit more, and we need to look over proofs (early hard copies) of the POD version before making it available for sale.

Will You Get a Coupon? Yes, if you bought the PDF before the POD came out. After that, a bundle price will be built directly into the entry on DriveThruRPG. Purchasers from both the Green Ronin Online store and DriveThruRPG will get this offer, but only if they have opted to receive email from us. This isn’t a devious marketing funnel ploy, but the simple fact that we need to be able to email you the coupon.  We’re also figuring out exactly what the coupon’s value is going to be, but we want to make it worth your while—we like seeing our stuff in print!

Supplements and Support

We have a number of ideas for future work on Sword Chronicle but as this is something of an experimental release for us, nothing has been set in stone—we want to see how the game does. However, all generic Chronicle supplements, which you can find at the Green Ronin Online Store or at DriveThruRPG, are compatible with Sword Chronicle. Note that while Chronicle of Sorcery remains compatible with Sword Chronicle, the Sword Chronicle core uses a streamlined version of the Chronicle of Sorcery system. You can use one or the other, but the “official” system is in the core.

If you want to look further afield, check out our community content, the Chronicle System Guild.

Otherwise, if you have anything you’d like to see, tell us about it through social media and post in GRAAD, our most excellent fan-run Discord, where we’ve been known to pop in our heads from time to time. Also be sure to check out future installments of Warfare Wednesday!

 

I’LL TAKE YOU RIGHT INTO THE DANGER ZONES

If you’ve been following Mutants & Masterminds news the last few months, you’ve probably heard me talk way too much about Danger Zones. I refuse to apologize for my weird love of maps, but this time around, as the products finally take their first steps into the world, I’m not just going to blather on yet again about how much fun it can be to add set piece elements to your superhero fights based on where they happen and how they can really mix up and add interest to your adventures.

Instead, let’s talk about how you can mine cool maps for adventure ideas.

Danger Zones: Bank Map!

So here’s our Danger Zones: Bank map, a pretty standard savings & loan based loosely on a few real locations. Like any good comic book bank, you’ve got a large lobby full of pillars for a superhero fight, some safety deposit boxes for secret documents, and a comedically oversized vault in the basement, no doubt leftover from a bygone era when banks were required to keep more cash and valuables on-hand. Villains could be after valuables, but we also have elements like a large bookkeeping office, so maybe your villain isn’t attacking the bank itself but some hapless accountant. Like a lot of sturdily built old buildings, it also has a forgotten fallout shelter in the basement, which could serve as a villains lair or the hiding place or some clue lost in 1952. I, like most people, hear “supervillains attacking a bank” and immediately think “oh, they’re after the cash,” but with something physical to work with, you can start thinking about what else goes on at a bank and how to subvert people’s expectations.

Danger Zones: BankEach Danger Zone entry comes with a few suggested Capers set in that location (in this case, provided by the creative Katherine Schuttler), but here are some of my own ideas that come just from checking out the map:

Assault on the Credit Union

The heroes are caught inside the bank just as a major criminal organization begins an all-out assault. One of the bank employees has been feeding the FBI information on a major player’s white collar crime, and now all the syndicates resources—including several villains—are coming down hard hoping to wipe out the witness, the evidence, and maybe the entire building in one bloody night. The heroes can use the map and a list of the personnel and equipment in the building to come up with defense strategies and fallback locations and keep patrolling the building to make sure no one’s coming in through the windows or the loading ramp in the basement (if one of the hired villains is has stretchy powers, shrinking, or can turn into fluid, they might also have to deal with a nightmarish night deposit to kick things off). How do a band of superheroes keep a small army at bay and keep everyone trapped inside alive long enough for help to arrive?

With a map, I can track where the heroes are, where the NPCs are, and where the crooks are and decide how well each entryway is holding up to the siege, and the players can decide where they fall back to as the enemies progress.

Banking and Entry

A legendary mystical archaeologist has passed away after an improbably long life, leaving many of his greatest discoveries concealed in forgotten safe deposit boxes across the United States. The heroes need one to solve a crisis, or need to keep one out of the hands of a diabolical cult, who have already begun infiltrating the bank’s management. The heroes might stage the bank robbery themselves under temporary “villain” identities and have a confrontation with the local police or local heroes, or they might stage a quiet break-in after hours. Either way, with a detailed map, I can play up their B&E more strategically and add some drama, like a regular guard patrol or figure out where the lines of sight for police snipers might be. This could be the start to, or culmination of, a “hunted by the authorities” plotline!

A solo break-in might be better for a one-on-one session with the team’s sneakiest member, but also lets you break out all the rules for security systems in the Danger Zones text itself.

Gilded Cage

The fallout shelter in the basement looks like a great place for a villain’s lair, especially if some trash-tier bad guys move in and retreat here every time the cops or heroes start to get involved, lying low until the authorities get bored. Pack Rat and Junkpile from Threat Report are the obvious candidates, but it would be a lot more fun if there was a second layer of villainy obfuscating them. Maybe Dollface (again, see Threat Report) has an identity working in the bank and is deliberately hiding the villains’ trail and keeping them safe in exchange for retrieving parts she needs, or the Grandmaster (see Emerald City) has been manipulating the duo as unwitting knights in one of his obtuse schemes, placing obsessions into the impressionable villains then hiding them behind a respectable facade. Once the heroes discover WHO is performing these robberies, they must still track them back to their lair and decide how to approach the bank—a business unwilling to simply grant free access to strange people in masks.

There are several Danger Zones releasing this week. You can find them all in our Green Ronin Online Store RIGHT HERE, as well as on DrivethruRPG. Check back later this week and in the coming weeks, for additional Zones!

Sword Chronicle: Questions Answered, Plus the Chronicle System Guild

As Sword Chronicle undergoes the final sprint toward release we’ve fielded questions from social media, the GRAAD fan Discord server (we don’t run GRAAD, but we support it) and our online Gen Con panel. You’d like to know about our immediate and future plans, and to respond to some rumors. So, without further ado, here are some answers.

When is Sword Chronicle Coming Out, Exactly?

Our target is August 17. If it doesn’t come out that day for some reason, we’ll immediately announce the new day.

How is Sword Chronicle Coming Out?

Sword Chronicle was originally devised under the assumption that traditional printers and distributors would be unavailable. We also assumed we’d be able to budget far less than usual for Sword Chronicle compared to typical releases of this sort—and even supplements for our core books. Green Ronin President Chris Pramas has talked about how COVID-19 affected the company. We had to use a leaner, more agile process.

This means Sword Chronicle is an electronic first release, available in PDF first, with the intention of setting up print on demand at DriveThruRPG on or around that time. Furthermore, we’re going back to a classic style in RPG production by using a black-and-white or two-color interior, to cut costs for both people printing it out, and possible POD orders.

What Kind of Chronicle System?

We’ve also fielded questions about what iteration of the Chronicle System Sword Chronicle represents. The answer is straightforward: The game uses what is substantially the same as the system seen in the original A Song of Ice and Fire roleplaying game, minus the setting of Westeros, as our license for that intellectual property has concluded. Beyond our ability to swiftly make the game happen, one of the attractions of this is the fact that virtually every setting-neutral Chronicle System supplement remains compatible with Sword Chronicle, so the game automatically drops with additional support. And if you’re still playing Chronicle games using earlier books, you can use Sword Chronicle as an alternative core with few adjustments required. The major differences are:

  • In response to long time feedback from Chronicle players, armor no longer penalizes Combat Defense. Some slight changes to other rules support this shift.
  • Rules for fantasy ancestries are integrated into character creation.
  • Intrigue has been revised both for clarity and to bring some of the systems into line with more rigorous player safety standards.
  • Sorcery is part of the core rules. These rules are a streamlined version of the rules originally introduced in Chronicle of Sorcery.
  • Our new setting is the Shattered Era, though the rules themselves are largely setting neutral.

The Chronicle System Guild

The biggest new information comes last. At Gen Con we revealed something we’ve only mentioned in small conversations: the Chronicle System Guild. The Guild is a community content program for creators who want to use the Chronicle System to publish adventures, rules, and settings. If you’re a publisher working through DriveThruRPG, you’ll be able to publish Chronicle-compatible products by following the rules and license we lay out. Sword Chronicle will be the rulebook publishers reference.

We’ve been working on the Chronicle System Guild in a sort of intensive stealth mode since June, helping new and established DriveThruRPG publishers prepare their products to launch when the program premieres. We expect additional supplements to follow from our partners. The terms are very close to those of other community content programs, and we’ve tried to keep the restrictions minimal.

The Chronicle System Guild launches at or around when Sword Chronicle does. The goal is a simultaneous premiere, but dates are often shifting targets. Once it starts, you’ll be able to find all the details on DriveThruRPG.

Chronicle System Guild! For all your Sword Chronicle needs

Return to Freeport

Twenty years ago, at Gen Con in August of 2000, Green Ronin Publishing released one of the very first adventures for the brand-new third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, also one of the first published under the new Open Game License. Death in Freeport was the first experience many had in playing the new edition, both that weekend and in the months and even years that followed. As part of celebrating Green Ronin’s 20th anniversary this year, we’re pleased to offer players both old and new the opportunity to return to the swashbuckling “City of Adventure” with a re-release of Death in Freeport, updated for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game!

Death in Freeport for 5th edition!Of course, along with editions, a number of things have changed in the past twenty years, not the least of which is a worldwide pandemic that has placed some limits on printing, publication, and distribution. That means this new edition of the adventure will be available only in electronic (PDF) and print-on-demand (Coming Soon!) formats. On the other hand, we’ve come a long way from producing black-and-white saddle-stitched booklets with line art: The new edition of Death in Freeport is in full color, with plenty of color illustrations, the style of our other 5e products like Book of the Righteous and Book of Fiends.

What about the adventure itself? Here, we largely stick to tradition and the original work of Freeport creator Chris Pramas. Death in Freeport introduces the player characters to the free city and pirate haven known as Freeport, and entangles them in the mystery of a scholar who has gone missing, leading them to a much deeper threat, both figuratively and literally!

Of course, all of the adventure’s mechanics, encounters, and characters have been updated for Fifth Edition, and that includes the four pre-generated player characters who were a part of the original Death in Freeport: Rollo (gnome fighter), Malevir (half-elf sorcerer), Alaina (human rogue), and Thorgrim (dwarf cleric). As an added bonus, we’ve created three unique backgrounds and four original sub-classes for these characters, included in an appendix in the adventure. They feature the backgrounds of Privateer, Historian, and Street Knife, and the sub-classes of:

  • Valor Domain: A cleric domain to stoke bravery, cast off fear, and serve as a beacon of courage to your allies.
  • Buccaneer: A martial archetype for sea-faring fighters who rely on striking fear into the hearts of their foes, and using that fear to make themselves all the more deadly!
  • Alley-rat: A rogue archetype that rules the streets and alleyways, turning terrain into deadly traps and even developing Lair Actions for your turf!
  • Serpentkin: A sorcerous origin drawing upon the ophidian power well known to long-time fans of Freeport, summoning spirits and forces with a serpentine bite.

So whether you are looking for a fun 1st-level adventure to introduce players to the City of Adventure (or to Fifth Edition or even tabletop gaming) or just some characters, encounters, ideas, and traits you can loot and plunder for your own 5e games, join us for our return to Freeport!

Now available in the Green Ronin Online Store

or check it out on DrivethruRPG

Sword Chronicle: Introducing the Shattered Era

A funny thing happened on the way to making Sword Chronicle.

Sword Chronicle was based on the simplest of ideas: Taking the popular Chronicle System, which powered the now-concluded A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game, and using it to make a fantasy game that wasn’t connected to any licensed intellectual property. Green Ronin had already explored this space a little by creating PDF supplements for the Chronicle System that weren’t tied to any particular setting. That gave us the advantage of producing an all-new game using the system that already had support. Good stuff!

Shattered Era!

However, as a full-fledged roleplaying game, Sword Chronicle needed to provide a place to run campaigns: a setting of its own. Furthermore, this needed to get done quickly, since we wanted to release the game quickly.

Any sizable, longer-lived game company works on ideas that, for one reason or another, don’t turn into published material. That includes game settings. So, I looked around in the Green Ronin Vault (note: I just made this name up) and found a setting that, with a little adaptation, could work for Sword Chronicle. This had been called Shattered AGE, and had originally been designed for Fantasy AGE. For various reasons we didn’t stick with it, but the setting, designed by Jaym Gates and Jack Norris, had some solid bones. Its factions were suited to Sword Chronicle’s house systems. Best of all, it represented a departure from many of the assumptions of medieval fantasy without moving away from the most accessible elements or a play style suited to the Chronicle System.

Jaym wrote a draft collecting critical elements of the setting, and I got to work developing. First up, a name change. It became the Shattered Era, since we typically reserve the word “age” for, well, AGE. Next, I expanded and particularized one of the main ideas of the setting into a particular flashpoint: a time and place where multiple houses, including those controlled by players, could vie for power. A few stylistic flourishes later, and we had a setting for Sword Chronicle.

Welcome to the Breachlands

The last chapter of Sword Chronicle introduces the Shattered Era setting through the Breachlands. Once, the world of Annarum was the jewel in a crown of worlds, linked through high magic that harnessed the power of the stars. But some stars are evil, and one, the Unbidden Light, fell to Annarum, severing the ways to other realms—except for certain breached through which it drew strange creatures and fearsome armies. Using some of the last of the high magic, the dwarves made the Wall, which divided the “fallen” realms from the survivors.

Not long ago, the Wall fell.

Not long ago, the descendants of the Eastern “survivors” discovered that the peoples of the other side, disparaged as the “Monster Kingdoms,” had flourishing civilizations of their own.

Between them stands the Breachlands, a region inhabited by the survivors of its fallen cities, which were abandoned when the Wall went up. Now they’re nomads, whose territorial claims are all but ignored by nations on both sides of the former Wall, who see opportunities to benefit from the peculiar form of invasion called “colonization.” The rotting Aglam Empire would conquer the Breachlands to reverse its decline. The elves of Fal-Lossthar border the Breachlands, and fear encirclement, while the dwarves of Glassmere have just discovered their cousins on the other side of the Wall have thrived, and with them the Kamtain, or ogres, who were plucked from many worlds for unknown reasons, but now assert themselves as a rising power.

Joining them are mercenaries, religious military orders, and fiefdoms ruled by a combination of intrigue, military force, and sorcery. The high magic may be gone, but sorcery—the subtler arts of power—remain in the hands of a learned few. And on the Western side of the wall, in the Monster Kingdoms, dwell unknown peoples. The four-legged Kurgulan are swift, resolute warriors, strange for Easterners to behold, but their motives are somewhat comprehensible. The same can’t be said for the four-winged Nethuns Sar, master of the Black Prism. Nor do rumors of an invisible kingdom of air elementals, of the snake-beings further west, or of the Mixutul, said to be born dead, reveal any greater pattern to the Monster Kingdoms.

Tailored for Sword Chronicle, the Shattered Era setting includes descriptions of 18 houses with interests in the Breachlands. The game doesn’t assume you’ll use the setting, but it’s there, waiting for wide-eyed explorers and hard-hearted conquerors alike.

What’s Different About Sword Chronicle?

Our recently announced Sword Chronicle roleplaying game varies from classic fantasy RPGs in several respects. In many games, you play a rag-tag group of wandering adventurers, looking for justice, glory, and gold as you wander from place to place. You can do that in Sword Chronicle, but even classic adventures take place in a quite different framework.

Sword Chronicle houses

You Belong to a Noble House

By default, Sword Chronicle player characters all belong to one noble house, battling for survival and even supremacy. In fact, you and your fellow players will create your house together, settling on its strengths, weaknesses, customs, and even its favored symbols.

While you play members of a house, and control it in common, you are not necessarily the house’s leaders—in fact, you may not even be in line for the throne.

You Are Not All Equal

In many fantasy games, player characters who adventure together have roughly equal social status, but this is not necessarily the case in Sword Chronicle. Status is a game statistic, and it varies between individuals just like physical strength or skill at arms, though increasing status can be a tad trickier. Some characters may be the children of the house’s rulers, while others may be knights, bound by oath—and still others may be household servants.

This means that in the wider society to which the characters belong, some characters expect to be able to order others around. In private, the situation might be quite different, as young lords may strike an imperious attitude at court, but do what their advisors tell them in private. While your character belongs to a house, they may be servants, not rulers. This not only presents the challenge of working as a more hierarchical, cohesive group than many games allow, but it presents opportunities to subvert the hierarchy, because there’s more to power than status.

Because feudal societies pass power from parent to child, your characters will often be related. Not only that, but as this makes the passing of generations important, your character must have a definite age, instead of belonging to the rough late teens to twenty- or thirty-something standard of many games. You may choose an elderly character or a child.

You Can Be Manipulated

Unlike many games where you always have the final word over what your character says or does, Sword Chronicle includes rules for intrigue, where clever words and other inducements can manipulate your character into doing things that aren’t necessarily in their best interest. This isn’t to say your character might be made to do something against their will. Intrigue isn’t magic. It’s simply the art of convincing someone that what you want happens to be either what they also want, or at least must accept in order to further their interests. Many games have similar systems, aimed at characters controlled by the Narrator. In Sword Chronicle, player characters can also be influenced this way.

Like combat, intrigue has a set of rules and a choice of tactics, and your character can, if they wish, get better at it over time. However, there are some limits in place to keep these rules from being misused to ruin players’ fun and sense of comfort with the game.

Play Takes Place on Multiple Scales

Since you represent your house, your actions can take place on various scales. Your character might be absorbed in an individual action such as climbing a cliff; engaged in a group effort like a battle or an attempt to sail for a safe harbor; or involved in maneuvers intended to improve the political position of your house.

Different rules handle different scales. This is why, for example, Chapter 9 discusses individual combat—what happens in back alley brawls and duels of honor—while Chapter 10 provides the rules for mass battles. Similarly, your rewards aren’t just for your individual benefit, but can be channeled into improving your house’s capabilities.

Claim a Throne in the Shattered Era

For those of you who know the Chronicle System from the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game, this structure is old hat—or crown, maybe. But Sword Chronicle offers a new setting, the Shattered Era. Next time, we’ll talk about that!

DUNGEONS & DISINTEGRATORS: Netherwar part 3 – Broken Strings

Netherwar part 3: Broken Strings

The newest installment of the Astonishing Adventures NetherWar series, Broken Strings, releases this week, taking your heroes across Freedom City to battle transforming robots and investigate a string of bizarre, toy-themed robberies. But what’s a magic-oriented series of adventures without a crawl through a traditional, fantasy-style dungeon? So Broken Strings eventually takes the heroes into a network of tunnels and prisons filled with traps, puzzles, and supernatural opponents itching for a fight!

If you’ve been following along with the NetherWar story, your heroes are in for a few revelations and some deeper mysteries, but even if you haven’t played the previous installments of the storyline, Broken Strings includes ideas for running it as a standalone adventure!

Delving Dungeons Deep

Mutants & Masterminds has a very different approach to character resources and scarcity—particularly health—than traditional fantasy roleplaying games. Heroes generally shrug off their injuries and conditions after every scene. Just like in comics, a superhero can take a thorough beating but be fine in time for their next encounter with a villain, and when an injury persists, that’s a temporary complication for which the hero earns a Hero Point. Meanwhile many fantasy RPGs limit characters’ access to health, class abilities, and equipment to add an element of resource management and risk assessment to each encounter. Fantasy RPG encounters like those in Fantasy AGE run a gamut of difficulties from trivial to deadly to slowly whittle away characters’ resources until they must rest, turn back, or perish. Superheroes on a dungeon crawl don’t capture the same mood as fantasy adventurers because they never need to track hit points, count arrows, or manage spells per day.

If you’d like to capture the spirit of dungeon-crawling fantasy adventure for Broken Strings or your own M&M adventures, consider to following optional adjustments:

  1. More Encounters

Mutants & Masterminds generally only tracks the big, bombastic battles much like a comic book storyline might, with small, quick encounters relegated to background flavor and montages. But fantasy adventures rely on low-difficulty encounters to build tension and tax resources—a swarm of giant spiders might not present any genuine risk of death, but they still deplete your limited pool of health and possibly spells. To emulate this in M&M, sprinkle in an extra 4-5 encounters with less powerful opponents like Animals, Monsters, and Zombies from the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide and 1-2 encounters with less-potent villains like the Jobber or the Psycho. You can also borrow all sorts of classic fantasy monsters from the Super Powered Bestiary, available from Rogue Genius games. Consider interesting terrain for each encounter and how the villains or the heroes might use it to their advantage. Don’t forget about challenge sequences that you can use as traps, such as those presented in The Pentagram Peril.

  1. Maps

Maps add an element of choice and exploration to a dungeon crawl, while Mutants & Masterminds focuses on dramatic scenes. The difference is showmanship vs. simulation. There’s no wrong answer for which you prefer, but each captures a different mood. If you want your players to struggle, suffer consequences for making wrong choices, and feel triumph for correct guesses, consider mapping the dungeon out and putting encounters at the ends of some dead ends. In this case, the heroes should have a few chances to learn some basic elements of the dungeon’s layout, such as the option of taking a dangerous shortcut or a longer path with more encounters, but less-challenging ones.

  1. Limited Recovery

Mutants & Masterminds hand-waves most healing. Heroes recover one damage condition per minute of rest, meaning they effectively heal entirely between encounters and face each new opponent fresh as a daisy. If you want health and healing to be a more scarce resource, consider replacing the normal recovery rules with Vigor. Vigor provides heroes with a limited pool of recovery they must spend to heal in-between encounters.

Each hero gains a poor of Vigor equal to their Stamina plus their Presence, representing their physical toughness and their force of will. When not actively engaged in combat, a hero can rest for one minute and spend one point of Vigor to reduce the severity of a condition by one step (from Paralyzed to Immobile, for example) or to reduce their accumulated Toughness check penalty by 1. Heroes can still recover from obviously simply conditions (such as standing up from prone) without spending Vigor, with the pool more intended to reflect recovering from damage, resisting poison, and shaking off diseases; the Gamemaster is the final arbiter of what conditions do and don’t require spending a Vigor.

Heroes can only regain spent Vigor by resting for 8-10 hours somewhere safe. The Treatment skill can be used to diagnose illnesses, stabilize dying characters, can revive Dazed or Stunned characters, and provide a bonus against diseases and toxins, but doesn’t provide any direct healing. Powers like Healing and Regeneration provide one additional Vigor per rank and dictate how often a hero can spend Vigor. For example, a hero with Regeneration 5 has 5 additional Vigor and can spend a point of Vigor every other round to heal. Under these rules, Healing allows the healing character to spend their Vigor to heal another character.

  1. Limit Resources

Part of the risk in a dungeon crawl is that heroes don’t have the immediate ability to replace lost or broken gear or reach out to allies. Devices, and especially equipment, are vulnerabilities that the environment can exploit. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of minor antagonists destroying a hero’s weapons or armor in an encounter with the Smash action, as collateral damage from a trap, or randomly as a complication (awarding the character a Hero Point). A hero should be able to repair a Device as part of an 8-10 hour rest. Equipment can’t be repaired or replaced, but a hero should be able to scavenge temporary replacements with effort and/or skill use, though it might not be as good as what they have been using—a hero who loses their armor, for example, can still benefit from borrowing a defeated foe’s leather jacket.

You can temporarily impose these rules to simulate the harsher nature of a magical “dungeon dimension,” or to reflect the time pressure and stress of a supervillain’s gauntlet-style “carnival of calamity,” but make sure to keep in touch with your players about any changes—even temporary ones—you want to make to the rules. Whatever the scenario, the goal is for everyone to have a good time and tell a fun story.

Tune in next month as the NetherWar heats up and serpent people step in to make things really complicated!