Ronin Round Table: Cross-Pollination in Game Design, or, the Myth of the Designer Knife Fight

Last time I mentioned cross-pollination is game design, or taking ideas from other gaming systems and experiences and using it in other games. This is a common practice and one that I sometimes feel not everyone realizes or expects. Check out some of the more tribalized corners of the internet and there’s this idea that designers and consumers of various games and companies are in some sort of weird secret war. The great Toon-Cyberpunk Massacre of 1994 aside, this isn’t true. I can say with confidence that I don’t get together every weekend to battle other Chicago area game designers with knives for whose design is best. Especially since Greg Stolze is a master of the kris and I heard Allen Turner once killed a dude with a spork, so no thanks. We also play a lot of games. Not just ours or even other games that seem similar to the ones we do, but a number of different products.

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Ronin Round Table: The New Green Ronin Online Store

By Evan Sass

If there’s one part of my job and my freelance work that gives me the heebie-jeebies, it’s taking a system that works and has thousands of users or posts or products, like a forum or an online store, and either upgrading it or replacing it with something completely new. But that is exactly what we’ve done with the Green Ronin Online Store. Heebie. Jeebies.

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Ronin Round Table: Not-So-Secret Origins

[Note: It’s a special double-header Friday for Ronin Round Table. Here’s another post, from Steve Kenson, live at Origins in Columbus, OH!]

By the time you read this Ronin Roundtable, I should be attending the Origins Game Fair in downtown Columbus, OH, as a guest of honor, since the convention’s theme this year is "Superheroes" (if they don’t find a way to work the phrase "Secret Origins" into it, that’s an opportunity lost, if you ask me). So, I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk a bit about Origins and my experiences with it, as both a fan and game industry professional.

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Ronin Round Table : Gaming: It’s In The Blood

I’ve been gaming since I was three years old.

My parents were firm believers in games as a family pastime. We played kids’ games like Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Ropes and Ladders, and Candyland as soon as I was old enough, then graduated to things like rummy, Monopoly, and Clue as my reading skills and attention span developed.

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Ronin Round Table: Math, the Silent Killer or Zen and the Art of Licensed RPGs

By Jack Norris, Dragon Age RPG Line Developer

As will surprise probably nobody, I’ve been thinking a lot about adapting licensed media and non-RPG settings in general to games. Specifically, I’ve been considering the challenges each type of media presents when adapting it for a roleplaying game. So I figured I’d use today’s Ronin Round Table to share those thoughts and maybe give some insight into the strange and wonderful world of adapting licensed properties to tabletop RPGs.

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Ronin Round Table: Freebooters Ahoy!

Green Ronin Freebooter Game Demo Program

FREEBOOTER.pngThe Green Ronin team is happy to announce we’re launching our volunteer GM team, aka The Freebooter Program. We’re especially excited to offer this for our players, and we hope that many will step up to the challenge.

We believe there are many amazing Green Ronin games being run, and we believe our players would love to find more people to play them. The Freebooter Program is a great way to get more games in conventions and games stores. By joining the program, you’ll be able to share your favorite settings with brand new people, and help build a better community.

Many companies require you to partner with a particular store, but we’ve decided not to go that route. We want people in our program to run the games that fit in their schedule and locations. As example, in Seattle, we’re lucky enough to have game stores & cafes support each other. Many local players run games in pubs, coffee houses, and more. Want to run an open “Green Ronin RPG Day” at a coffee shop instead of a games store? We want to support that!

Of course, this doesn’t mean move your regular game to a coffee house to earn XP in our program. We hope that you’ll be setting up demos for new people! We also want to support players who wish to do both small and large conventions. We’re already planning on having quite a few volunteer run games at Gen Con. Heck; I’m running five Dragon Age RPG intro games at Gen Con! Obviously, you don’t have to run that many. We do want you to experience the whole show. That being said, we would like to give you XP rewards for a higher commitment. Yep, I said XP. That’s how we’ll calculate rewards. No ranks are involved; everyone is equally important.

It was also important for us to establish a Harassment Policy and standards of behavior while representing Green Ronin. We’re pretty clear about fostering an inclusive community, no matter where we go. This is why we require you to fill out an application to join. If you’re wearing a Freebooter T-shirt representing us at an event, we want you to feel comfortable. We also want people to feel comfortable when they are interacting with a Freebooter.

If you’re interested in knowing more of the program, or signing right up, you can read a quick overview here on our site. Once you’ve read that and want to join, you’ll head to the Freebooter Forum for the application and further information.

I’m extremely excited about this program. I’ve been a fan of Green Ronin and the staff, for far longer than I’ve been an employee. I believe in this company, the community, and the program.

Game on!

Donna Prior

Ronin Round Table: My Gaming Agenda

More than once, Green Ronin has been accused of having "an agenda" when it comes to its published products. Now, it’s no secret that the owners and core of Team Ronin skews to the left politically and socially but, generally speaking, I can’t think of any products where those personal beliefs took precedence over accurately portraying the genre and style of the game or setting in question. Yes, elements of Blue Rose are quite socially progressive, but that’s the nature of the Romantic Fantasy genre the game looks to emulate. Is Testament promoting a "Fundamentalist agenda"? Does Freeport: City of Adventure promote piracy? Does Legions of Hell mean Green Ronin is secretly run by heavy-metal Satanists? All those and many other products don’t have any "agenda" beyond being interesting game books. They may not all interest the same audience, but that sort of diversity is a good thing.

That’s where we hit upon my one and only "agenda" when it comes to writing and developing game books and settings: inclusiveness. It’s no secret: I’m gay and have been out for longer than I’ve been "in" at this point, and I’m looking forward to June’s Pride events and marching in the Boston Pride Parade, as I have for the past several years. I know what it’s like to be on the outside, and so do a lot of gamers, in one fashion or another. In fact the "gamer as outsider" is so archetypal it has become stereotype.

Last year at GenCon, I was privileged to sit on a panel for a seminar we called "Queer as a Three-Sided Die" to talk about sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc.) in gaming. My fellow panelists and I had no idea how it would go over. As it turned out, the room was packed, and the event was recorded on video for YouTube! The audience helped to remind us how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go. Depictions of trans- people are still at the point where those of gay characters were a couple of decades ago. Online communities like Gaming as Women and the documentary project Gaming in Color show there are strong, and often unacknowledged, parts of our "tribe".

Several years ago, my Green Ronin colleagues adopted the nickname "The Johnny Rocket Fan Club" for the various "gaymers" who would stop by our booth to thank me for including an openly gay character in the Freedom City setting. I’ve gotten emotional fan letters from gay readers of my Shadowrun novels who appreciated the matter-of-fact handling of Talon the street mage having male romantic interests. Might not seem like a big deal (unless you think I’m pushing "my agenda") but to some of them it was the first time they looked at a heroic adventure setting and saw themselves as heroes. So, if I can create a world where someone looking to live out a fantasy can see a reflection of themselves in there somewhere, I’m going to do it, and not just gay characters but women, people of all races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and more. That matters a lot to me, and that’s my "agenda" in as much as I have one: In our worlds, we can all be heroes.

Steve Kenson

YouTube links:

Ronin Round Table: Chronicle System Community Development

The Chronicle System is what we call the "engine" that "powers" our A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying system. Though we have no plans at current to divorce the system from the setting of Martin’s Westeros, we would like to expand on it some. To that end, we’ve been working on a series of PDF releases under the Chronicle System banner.

In many ways, these products are for our fan-base, who have always wanted some expansions to the system. We’ve talked to folks on the forums and in person and the results of those conversations are the Chronicle System products in the works.

But, we figured we’d take that community participation one step further. Not just in terms of what product ideas you’d find useful, but also its specific contents. This week, I posted the first of our Community Development posts in our Chronicle System Community Development forum, a subforum under our A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying forum. In it, we’ve presented a whole expansion to a favorite system of rules for the game: the Holdings element of House-building.

The intention behind doing so is simple: we want your feedback. What will be useful to your game? What is flavorful? What inspires you and what leaves you flat? We’d love your feedback on as macro or micro a level as you care to share, knowing that your contributions are going to be put to serious consideration and implementation by the developer. Obviously, not every idea can be used, but I’ll be mining the conversations for the very best ideas.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be presenting more and more chunks of this PDF for scrutiny and discussion, so that the final product isn’t just something that our fans want, but something that our fans helped make. It should be something everyone really wants to get their hands on—those ideas that will help your game, as developed by those of us who create the game system.

At this point, it’s an experiment—we’ll see how this goes. But if it works, who knows? We might like the process so much that we do it again in the future.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for playing.

Ronin Roundtable: Deal Your M&M Game a Wild Card

Steve Kenson

The new Wild Cards SCARE Sheets series for Mutants & Masterminds got underway this month with the release of the free "Issue #0" conversion guide for the third edition of the game and overview of the Committee (the focus of the "Committee Triad" of Wild Cards novels), followed by Issue #1 with everyone’s favorite blogger, would-be journalist, and peeping wasp, Jonathan "Bugsy" Hive.

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Ronin Round Table: Jack Norris

Hey folks, this is Jack Norris, newly minted Ronin and the new Dragon Age and AGE System developer. Figured it was time I properly introduced myself to all our customers and fans. So who the heck am I and why should you care? Excellent questions, glad you asked.

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