Ronin Round Table: The Benefit of Random Encounters

By Chris Pramas

Publishing games is a funny thing. Sometimes games come from personal passion, sometimes from meticulous planning, and sometimes from random encounters. Love 2 Hate, a card game we are publishing this summer, is one of the latter.

It began back in 2002. Nicole and I went to London for a one day convention called Dragonmeet. As is usual for such overseas trips, we stayed for more days than we needed to so we could make the most of it. We stayed with James Wallis, a longtime industry friend and the designer of such games as Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. James had a conveniently located apartment in London. During Dragonmeet he also had another houseguest: Colm Lundberg.

Colm was over from Ireland for the con and we hadn’t met him before. He was a convention organizer himself and it was from him I first learned of the legendary Irish charity auctions. We all got along well and had some fun times in London that weekend. After a couple of days, he returned to Ireland and we to America. When Facebook became a thing, we became FB friends and stayed in touch that way. While I returned to England many times subsequently (even for Dragonmeet again in 2010), our paths never did cross again.

Love 2 HateA couple of years back Colm let me know he was tinkering with some game designs. He wanted some advice on what to do with them and how to find a publisher. This I gave him, also noting that I’d be happy to take a look at them. This led to him sending some prototypes to me here in Seattle. One of them was a party game in vein similar to Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. It was called Love 2 Hate.

Now Green Ronin’s focus has traditionally been RPGs. That said, we have done card games before (Torches & Pitchforks and Walk the Plank) and it was always my intention to do more types of games than RPGs. So one Thursday at Jon Leitheusser’s place when roleplaying was off the table, we playtested Love 2 Hate and I gave Colm some notes. He continued to hone the cards and then sent me another prototype. This we playtested at the Green Ronin Summit in October and after an hour the team agreed: Love 2 Hate was fun and we should publish it!

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In January Nicole, Intern Kate, and I went to Cork for WarpCon. The convention had invited me over as a guest and I was delighted to accept. It was our first trip to Ireland and Colm was there, of course. So we finally got to see other again! Even better, we got to show people Love 2 Hate.

People playing a demo version of Love 2 Hate at WarpCon

You meet someone at random at one convention and 12 years later you meet at another one to demo the game you are going to do together. This is the sort of thing I love about the game industry. Amusingly enough, we flew to London after WarpCon and stayed with James Wallis and his family for a few days, so the whole thing really did come full circle!

Ronin Round Table: Those At Our Game Tables

By Joseph Carriker

Last week, the gaming community was faced with the loss of one of our own once again: Aaron Allston, well-known designer for Champions and Dungeons & Dragons, and author of numerous novels, particularly in the Star Wars universe. And though I didn’t know Mr. Allston myself, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of some loss—a loss that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, to be honest. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, of course. There’ve been others who have passed, our luminaries and founding fathers, in recent memory, and I found myself experiencing the same kind of loss. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons, died in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ve certainly known who they were, in every case. It’s hard not to, if you pay any sort of attention to the names on that credits page. I’ve played their games, and read their material over the years. In nearly every instance, these were folks who I’d had the chance to meet (or at least correspond with, in some fashion), but I couldn’t claim to know them. Many of my friends and co-workers certainly have, and I think that’s been part of it. I’m a little embarrassed by that sense of loss. Do I as someone who has only experienced their work have a right to that?

I think that at the end of the day, though, there’s a good reason for it. These aren’t just some people who’ve passed"they are the people who’ve been at our gaming tables with us over the years. We’ve built friendships and great memories through the vehicle of this work, and in a real way, it’s hard not to feel impacted in some fashion when those who created those things pass on. We’ve invested emotion in these memories, and those memories include not just the people at the tables with us, the games we were playing, the worlds we were exploring.

In a way, these folks are just as much a part of those great memories as the people who were physically there, even if the context is different. The context of our grief is different, as well. They leave loved ones, friends and family behind, and part of the embarrassment I’ve felt is rooted there. It’s hard not to think, "Who the hell am I? I’m just a dude who enjoyed their work," like there were some kind of minimum connection necessary to justify a sense of grief and loss.

But that’s also it. As someone who also creates game material, I do feel connected to those who play the games I work on. Though folks in this industry often groan at the thought of facing down a convention of people telling us about their characters, we’re still there, because even with dread is the joy of hearing people enjoy the things we loved creating. In some way, I and my co-creators are at those gaming tables as surely as Gary, Dave, Aaron, and other creators have all been at ours.

This sense isn’t unique to us, of course—people grieve over musicians, actors, writers and artists all the time. But our game designers, writers, artists, and creators are our people, and their work stands out in our memories, in a way that’s uniquely ours.

So here’s to those who’ve shared our gaming tables over the years, through the often-lonely work they’ve put into creating these games we all love so well. You’re friends, and sometimes even family, whether you know it or not. And even those who are no longer with us will continue to share a place at our tables for a long time to come.

Ronin Round Table: Pathfinder Update

Hey folks! I’m Owen K.C. Stephens, the newest member of the Green Ronin Staff, and the Pathfinder Developer. I was brought on to (among other things) help see the Pathfinder books for Freeport: City of Adventure and the new Advanced Bestiary through the writing, editing, and development process. I wanted to talk for a bit about where things are and some of the decisions made along the way.

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Ronin Round Table: The Free & the Brave

By Steve Kenson

You’ve heard a lot about the forthcoming Atlas of Earth-Prime series in previous Ronin Round Tables. As we approach our launch date, let’s take a look at the premier issue of the series, which starts close to home in the nation of Freedom City and Emerald City: the United States of America.

We had two goals for the U.S.A. Atlas: First, talk about some of the places and geography beyond our two main "super" cities, shifting some of the "Beyond Freedom City" material out of the Freedom City book into its own space and, second, open up some opportunities for different types of Mutants & Masterminds adventures and series set in the United States other than "four-color urban superheroes." So, what kinds of new settings can you expect from the first Atlas?

  • Occult America: Two flavors of "occult mystery" settings, the Southern Gothic of Embouchere, Louisiana, with a simmering gumbo of bayous, Voodoo, criminal syndicates, and mysterious cults, and the Colonial Shadows of Mystery, New Hampshire, situated in the shadow of Mystery Mountain and its tall tales and legendary creatures, both good for use with the Supernatural Handbook.
  • Hard Justice: For two places where justice is far less black-and-white, we revisit Buckner Ridge, the home of the private super-prison Lockdown (and the secrets it contains) and Ferroburg, Pennsylvania, a rusting steel-town beset by crime and urban decay, but protected by a new breed of vigilante willing to do what it takes to save the city, whatever the cost. Great for Iron Age style games of low-powered heroes in the style of a superhero TV series.
  • Hidden Heartland: Midvale, Kansas, is much like any middle-American farming community, faced with the shift from family farms to "big agribusiness," but there’s also the nearby Crater Mound and Serpent’s Run. What secrets do those ancient earthworks conceal and how much super-powered weirdness lies just beneath the surface of an otherwise "normal" town?
  • Strange & Familiar: Short write-ups of real-world cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and a look at their super-defenders, including Gatekeeper (a new Master Mage?) and the new Raven.

That’s the U.S.A.—waiting in the wings we have La Liga de Metaluchadores in Mexico, ancient astronauts amongst the Mayan ruins, the ghost pirates of the Bermuda Triangle, a shapeshifting Jamaican drug-lord…and that’s just in North America! Stay tuned for a whole new world coming soon!

Ronin Round Table: Around the World in 20 PDFs

By Jon Leitheusser

For the last three years (three!?) Green Ronin has released a weekly series of PDFs for the Mutants & Masterminds game. First were the Threat Reports, followed by the Power Profiles, then the Gadget Guides and Wild Cards SCARE Sheets. Each series has filled a particular niche and served a particular purpose.

We did the Threat Reports because M&M Third Edition was brand new and we wanted to provide Gamemasters with villains and story ideas, give players some bad guys to fight, and introduce people to the Emerald City setting. The series went over very well and convinced us to continue with the PDF series over the following years.

The Power Profiles were created to show players and GMs how to build powers, give examples of some unusual powers, and to make it easier for everyone to create the sorts of characters they wanted—whether they were player characters, NPCs, or villains. Because M&M is both an effects- and point-based system, it can be tricky to get new players up and running with a character they really like. Power Profiles was a way for us to make it easier for them to do just that.

The Gadget Guides series grew out of Power Profiles. People on the Atomic Think Tank asked for a gadgets Power Profile. Steve and I both thought what we really needed was a series of PDFs that covered a wide range of different sorts of gadgets, from swords and guns to traps and nanotech. This series will be collected a little later this year, and when it is it’ll create a veritable catalog of devices and equipment players can use as inspiration.

Alternating with the Gadget Guides were SCARE Sheets based on characters from the latest Wild Cards novels. We’ve had a long relationship with George R.R. Martin and when he told us the series had been picked up by SyFy and Universal to be the subject of their first film together, we were excited to have the chance to show off more Wild Cards characters. The PDFs in this series typically presented a character along with their history and powers. It was a great way to provide GMs with more characters for their game and re-introduce Wild Cards to M&M fans.

Now, in our fourth year, we’re pulling inspiration from the Atomic Think Tank once again! Last year someone (I wish I knew who) mentioned they wanted a "World of Freedom" book that fleshed out the rest of the world Freedom City and Emerald City are located in. It turns out we loved that idea and that the world has an actual name: Earth-Prime!

So, I’m very happy to announce The Atlas of Earth-Prime! It’s a 20-part, twice-monthly series of PDFs that covers every corner of Earth-Prime. Each PDF will be in the eight- to ten-page range and will introduce you to new characters, places, organization, businesses, and groups. Most importantly, the idea behind the series is to give you information to inspire stories and adventures that criss-cross the globe and take your heroes places you may not have considered in the past.

Just like our own world, Earth-Prime is filled with unique and unusual people and places. While the Atlas entries expand on previous material from older sourcebooks, it mostly includes all-new information in order to make the setting more vibrant and exciting. Now when your characters move beyond your home city or home country, there will be a world of things to do, see, and punch in the face.

One thing we decided early on, was that we would focus on the comic book aspects of the setting as opposed to real-world socio-political issues. We don’t ignore the bad things in the world, but instead we approach them in a way that will hopefully give you inspiration for super-heroic stories. So, super-powered people in other countries take on the roles of superheroes and supervillains, just like they do in America. Sure, there are paranormal mercenaries in South America and Africa, but they’re comic book mercenaries.

We also agreed that these PDFs wouldn’t include much hard data about the various countries. So you’re not going to find the population of Cuba in its listing, or the top three exports from Sri Lanka. If you want that sort of information, there are plenty of real world resources available to you.

Finally, and this may have been the most important thing we wanted to do with this series, we wanted to try and get writers from around the world to work on the entries for their region. So far we’ve done pretty well with that: Steve Kenson, an American, wrote the entry for the U.S.A; Scott Bennie, a Canadian, wrote the entry for Canada; Alex Melchor, who lives in Mexico City, wrote the entries for Mexico and Central America, and Fred Furtado, from Brazil, wrote the entry for South America. We may not be able to find writers from Africa or some other parts of the world, but we want to give this series a more global feel, and we didn’t think we could do that if all the entries were written by white guys from America. Plus, we didn’t want to end up with characters like Captain Shamrock, the hero of Ireland if we could help it. And we can.

Steve and I and the other writers on this series are very excited with the ideas we’ve come up with and we’re looking forward to getting the PDFs finalized and out the electronic door. You should see the first Atlas of Earth-Prime: The United States of America in a couple of weeks. We look forward to exploring the rest of Earth-Prime with you!

To celebrate the launch of the Atlas of Earth-Prime, we’re putting the Threat Report book and PDF, Power Profiles book and PDF, Gadget Guide individual PDFs, and the collected SCARE Sheets PDFs on sale for 25% off. Get to the Green Ronin Online store and stock up! The sale ends soon!

Ronin Round Table: Obligatory Dungeons & Dragons Anniversary Post

By Jack Norris

Irreverent title aside, Sunday marked the 40TH anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. Like a lot of gamers, D&D was my first roleplaying game, and though it wasn’t my last or even my favorite I have to admit I owe it quite a bit and am happy to celebrate four decades of the game. Because D&D was my gateway into tabletop gaming, a field I not only love as entertainment but now do for a living, at least partially.

I didn’t get into D&D 40 years ago. That would have been a great trick, but it would have involved me playing the game as a 1 month old. I did, however, start playing about ten years later. I don’t remember much about my first games, save that my players were whoever I could get. After Dad humored me and various relatives gave it a shot, I managed to find a group of local friends to play the game with. Some were already gamers, others were new to it. In retrospect, none of us much knew what we were doing. We mixed editions of the games, made grand mistakes, and yet still managed to have tons of fun. Enough that when someone in our group pointed out there were other role-playing games out there, we jumped on. So eventually the weekly D&D game went away and was replaced by Marvel Super Heroes, DC Heroes, Star Frontiers, Pendragon, and Champions, just to name a few. Most of us didn’t go back to D&D except for brief visits, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important to us in ways we didn’t realize much at the time. By college I was running or playing Mekton, Castle Falkenstein, Feng Shui, Legend of the Five Rings, 7TH Sea, and many other games that wouldn’t have likely had an audience and an industry without D&D.

Even if I wasn’t playing it much after my early teens, I was influenced by D&D and my childhood games when running new stuff and later in my design work. Even though I’ve never worked on the D&D product professionally, it’s definitely had an impact. Sometimes this influence was built around wanting to emulate what I loved in the past. Other times, I wanted to avoid past problems and issues I saw with D&D when applied to certain ideas or genres. Either way, it was useful to me and made the fun times I’ve had with gaming better in a variety of ways. So hey, D&D? Thanks, old timer. This is also why I never much buy into all the edition warring and such we see online; because D&D isn’t an age-old hero that did everything right all the time, nor is it a necrotic reanimated horror that won’t die. Nope, it’s a fun cool game with a long, rich, and influential history, that like every RPG out there isn’t for all people or all situations. And that’s totally okay.

Finally, it’s fun to look at upcoming Dragon Age products and see just how much the line I develop for Green Ronin owes to a game published in little white pamphlets 40 years ago. Classes, levels, and other elements rest at the core of an "if it ain’t broke…" ideology that surrounds Dragon Age, both our game and the video game RPGs we base the line on. Stunts allow players to capture the maneuvers, feats, and combat techniques of various editions without turning their character sheets into an overwhelming laundry list of stuff that only a few characters can do anyway. There’s a hundred little ways Dragon Age is like D&D and yet also different, and this mix is one of the things I love about working on the line; it’s simultaneously familiar and new.

Anyway, there’s my D&D testimonial for the grand anniversary. I hope you’re all enjoying your games, whatever they may be.

Ronin Round Table: Green Ronin at ChupacabraCon 2014

By Donna Prior

Team Ronin decided to start the New Year off right with some convention appearances! When Steve Kenson told us that he was invited to come down to Austin to be a special guest at a gaming convention, Chris Pramas and I decided we wanted to join in the fun. Well, okay, it is entirely possible that BBQ had a big influence on this decision.

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We all volunteered up our services to be panelists, and also host an in-person Green Ronin Round Table, for anyone who wished to come meet us and gab about games. Steve and I also ran a few games. Steve ran Mutants & Masterminds and ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying. I ran a couple fun introductory Dragon Age RPG sessions.

Not only that, but we were able to meet up with Green Ronin Freebooter Demo GM, Chris Ovalle! Our volunteer GM team is small, but we have some really great folks who are participating. Chris ran an adventure set in Midgard using the AGE system.

For my part, I had an amazingly great time. The ChupacabraCon folks were an absolute delight, both before and during the con. Any time I would look lost, or just poking around, they would say hello, ask if I needed help, or just generally chatted about games & life.

I made some new friends, played some new games, and managed to sneak in some visits with old friends in Austin! I also got to be the total fangirl I am, when they allowed me to be on a panel with Ernie Cline, Aaron Allston, Ross Watson, Aaron de Orive, and Jennifer Rehnay. We had a wonderful time sharing stories, poking fun at each other, and just being general silly passionate nerds. Our panel was "Creative Careers and how we got there!" Our audience was wonderful and seemed to enjoy our many tangents and geeking over Star Wars, Rush, and how rejection has helped shape who we are.

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Besides the big hug from Ernie, one of the best highlights for me was that I got to talk about the Freebooter Volunteer GM Program. This program, and others like it, are my biggest passion. I love bringing people together over games; this is why I wanted to work with Green Ronin. Well, besides the fact that they’re all amazing people. But truly, there are some very passionate people who play Green Ronin games and I wanted to help them be more involved. Our program is still very small, but we have some great creative volunteers. We’re looking for more, so if you’d like to know more, you can check out the program here

Ronin Round Table: Chupacabracon!

By Steve Kenson

By this time next week, I plan to be joining fellow Ronins Chris Pramas and Donna Prior at the inaugural Chupacabracon in Austin, TX, alongside a star-studded list of guests. If you’re in the Austin area, check out the convention’s website and consider joining us for a weekend of games and geekery (and, if all goes well, local BBQ under the guidance of former Austin resident, Mr. Pramas).

Here’s some of the Green Ronin goodness you can find at the convention:

Friday, January 17th

  • 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm – Mutants & Masterminds with designer Steve Kenson. Get a sneak peek at some exciting upcoming adventure material from Green Ronin!

Saturday, January 18th

  • 9:00 am – 1:00 pm – The Forgotten King’s Tomb with Carlos Ovalle, Freebooter Volunteer. An adventure for 2nd level characters set in Kobold Press’s Midgard using the Green Ronin AGE system.
  • 11:30 am – 1:00 pm – Design a Game in an Hour seminar with Steve Kenson
  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Dragon Age Roleplaying Game with Donna Prior. A 2-hour short adventure, The Arl’s Ransom, to introduce players to the Dragon Age RPG.
  • 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm – ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying with Steve Kenson. Create and play your own original superheroes in this adventure.
  • 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm – Creative Careers and how we got there! seminar with Donna Prior, and other guests covering a variety of creative-driven careers and how we all got started.
  • 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm – Cross-Media Chaos with Steve Kenson, Aaron Allston, and other guests discussing the process of working with settings and characters that cross multiple types of media, from comics and games to novels, film, and television.

Sunday, January 19th

  • 9:00 am to 11:00 am – Dragon Age Roleplaying Game with Donna Prior. A 2-hour short adventure, The Arl’s Ransom, to introduce players to the Dragon Age RPG.

Chris, Donna, and Steve will also be available throughout the con to answer questions and tell you about Green Ronin’s newest and upcoming products.

Ronin Round Table: Emerald City Update

As we head into the holiday break, I have some news that I hope will be met with the understanding and generosity of spirit that is part of the season. It’s about Emerald City, the long-awaited supplement for Mutants & Masterminds that details Freedom City’s west coast counterpart.

When we originally announced this book, it was going to be a single volume hardback. We later decided to change the format and make it a slipcase with three books and a poster map. When we made that decision, we looked into the financials of that format and it seemed workable. It’d be a little more expensive than doing a single hardback but not excessively so.

Two years ago when we started this journey the available options were different, not to mention much cheaper. Our original supplier can no longer meet the price for the project, nor can any of other other suppliers come close. The book had an unusually long period of development and while that was great for making the content shine, it was not good from a production standpoint.

The upshot is this. The best price we’ve been able to find to print Emerald City in the slipcase format we wanted is $16,000 more expensive than doing a hardback book. While we are willing to spend some extra money to make a product shine, $16K is just untenable. It is with reluctance that I must now announce that Emerald City is returning to the hardback format. It will still be divided up into three sections, but it’ll all be in one volume. The poster map will be glued in the back (and that glue will be easily removed). The MSRP will be the same.

We know that many of you pre-ordered the slipcase from us already and we’re sorry to do a format change at the last minute. By way of apology, we’re sending everyone who pre-ordered through the Green Ronin Online Store a $10 coupon for your next purchase.

The content of Emerald City is unchanged. It’s still a kickass setting for your M&M campaign. It’s just the format that’s changing a bit.

Thanks for your understanding, and happy holidays.

Chris Pramas
Green Ronin Publishing

Ronin Round Table: Around the World and Back (to Freedom)

By Steve Kenson

So in last week’s Ronin Roundtable, Jack Norris gave you a preview of what’s on the horizon for Dragon Age in electronic releases for 2014. This week, we talk a look at Mutants & Masterminds following the conclusion of the Gadget Guide and Wild Cards SCARE Sheets in 2013. (And don’t think we’ll forget about Gadget Guide. A book-length compilation is in the works, including at least 20 pages of additional material.)

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