Sword Chronicle: Introducing Ancestries

As it was based on the eponymous novel series, the first Chronicle System game, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, didn’t provide rules for the not-quite human characters that are staples of classic fantasy roleplaying games. We’re talking about elves, dwarves, and the like. As we were creating Sword Chronicle, a fantasy game that uses the Chronicle System but the setting of your choice (though we include one to start with), we knew this was an area we had to address, but not in the usual way.

First, the term “race,” traditionally used for these fantasy peoples back in the dawn of the hobby, had to go. I had personally abandoned the term in other work back in 2010, in a White Wolf project where I insisted on the use of “peoples.” In my role as Modern AGE developer I used “peoples,” as well, before settling into ancestries as the preferred term in the Threefold setting. Ancestries seems to be what Paizo’s Pathfinder opted for as well.

Second, many prior treatments of fantasy ancestries didn’t provide integrated support for characters with multiple ancestries, and characters whose culture wasn’t the one you’d expect them to inherit. What about a character with elf and dwarf parents, who grew up around humans?

In Sword Chronicle, the answer lies in character qualities, specifically benefits. At character creation, you gain two Ancestry benefits. The Sword Chronicle core rulebook supports dwarf, elf, human, and ogre characters. To indicate ancestry from one of these origins, take one of its corresponding benefits. If you’d like a character to have had all-elf ancestors, you’d choose two elven benefits, but for the example above, you’d choose one elf and one dwarf benefit. You may spend Destiny Points on further benefits, some of which may be easier to get for characters of the appropriate ancestry. As an example, let’s look at dwarves in Sword Chronicle.

Dwarf

Sword Chronicle includes several new Ancestries, such as Dwarves!Dwarves are a hardy people who prefer to dwell in mountains and rocky hills, where they either dig their homes out of the rock, or mine the area for stone to build citadels. Mountain and citadel dwarves have different cultures, and sometimes, distinctive family talents. Most people of dwarven ancestry are hirsute, with many growing long beards. They’re shorter than most humans by a foot or two, but considerably broader.

Dwarven culture values artisanship and concrete achievements over social niceties. In settlements dominated by dwarven social mores, smiths, stoneworkers, and other artisans may be part of the nobility, and lords may even be asked to produce a masterwork in their trade to qualify for leadership. Dwarves may possess more sophisticated technologies than other peoples, but are notably less interested in the study of nature. Dwarven communities practice some agriculture, but usually prefer to trade for things that grow.

Sample Dwarf Benefits


Blood of the Citadel

Ancestry (Dwarf)

The legacy of the citadel dwarves flows through your veins.

Each time you make a Cunning roll to practice a trade involving working metal, stone or other solid minerals, or to identify the value and properties of anything made largely of metal or jewels, you may re-roll a number of 1s equal to your Awareness rank. Whenever you are attacked by fire or heat, increase your passive Endurance by 2. Finally, add +1B to Warfare rolls when attacking, defending, or fighting in fortifications.

Axe Fighter I

Ancestry (Dwarf), Martial

Requires Fighting 4 (Axes 2B) or Dwarf Ancestry and Fighting 2 (Axes 1B)

You can swing axes with dreadful results.

Whenever you make a Fighting test to attack using an axe, you can sacrifice bonus dice before the test to deal additional damage. On a hit with the attack, your target takes extra damage equal to the number of bonus dice you sacrificed at the start of its next turn. This extra damage ignores AR.


What this Means

The first benefit is exclusive to people of dwarven ancestry. Characters without it can’t acquire Blood of the Citadel. The second is a non-exclusive benefit. Other characters can gain Axe Fighter I, but can’t use their ancestry benefit choice (which doesn’t cost Destiny Points) and have to meet a higher prerequisite.

That’s how the system works, and how elves, dwarves, and ogres join humans as character options in Sword Chronicle.

A Series of Tubes (Green Ronin on YouTube)

“Or we can just dive-in, do it, and see what happens.”

That was Green Ronin Community Director Troy Hewitt, one of our resident extroverts, encouraging us to pivot in the time of covid-19 toward our community, using the means at-hand, including video streaming. Troy has a great way of getting those of us who would want to study the situation for, well, ever out of our heads and into action. That next week, the first “Mutants & Masterminds Monday” live-streamed with me and M&M Developer Crystal Frasier, with Troy acting as host, moderator, and on-the-fly tech guru.

It’s now almost three months later and we have eleven (soon to be twelve) M&M Mondays under our belts. It’s still very much a “see what happens” learning process, but we’ve had guests on the stream, fielded questions from our audience, and Troy has come up with a few fun activities for us to do. We’ve even developed in-jokes (as gamers interacting are wont to do) from Crystal’s “journal of dreams” to our tendency to come up with new projects for ourselves while on the stream.

Green Ronin on Youtube!

All of which is a long introduction to announcing that, as things are progressing, some of our “M&M Mondays” episodes are available on Green Ronin Publishing’s YouTube channel. We’re putting more up as we go and the eventual plan is for us to start streaming live on YouTube and Twitch as well as on Facebook, so there will be even more places where you can see and hear from us and we can tell you everything that’s going on with Mutants & Masterminds and Green Ronin Publishing.

 

Not going to lie, for an introvert like myself, being on-camera isn’t easy, and I have been on-camera more in these past three months than I think I have been in the past three years, and then some. But at the same time, it has been wonderful getting to talk on a weekly basis with Crystal and Troy and our guests and to hear the questions and feedback from our community, many of you from week to week. It hasn’t been easy for Green Ronin (or many small businesses) with the initial loss of distribution and with many game stores still closed or doing only limited business. So every purchase of Green Ronin’s games helps, whether it is from the GR Online Store or supporting your favorite local game retailer.

We’re about two weeks from experiencing Gen Con Online for the first time (another “dive-in and see what happens” experience) and Green Ronin Publishing will be there with our games, our staff of wonderful and creative people, and with you, our community, and I’ll be there, in front of my camera, just as I plan to be next Monday. I don’t know for how many Mondays, to be honest, because things are changing fast and often these days but, I can tell you this: We’ll see what happens.

Hope you can join us sometime.

MAKE MINE MINIONS

One of the fun but oft-overlooked elements of Mutants & Masterminds is the minions that some villains bring to the table. What’s the point of fighting a Malador the Mystic without plowing through a horde of zombies to reach him? Who even is Grandmaster if he’s not backed up by a fleet of chess-themed cyborgs? Minions can help develop the character of a villain, increase the threat they pose to heroes, or let the heroes unload and feel unbeatable, depending on how you choose to use them.

As a basic refresher, minions are opponents that are quick and easy to take down, and pose very little individual threat to superheroes:

  • Minions cannot score critical hits on non-minions.
  • Non-minions can make attack checks against minions as routine checks.
  • If a minion fails a resistance check, the minion suffers the worst degree of effect, regardless of the actual degree.
  • Some traits, like the Takedown advantage, work specifically against minions.

Punching... minions... is very satisfying

Minion or Not a Minion?

One of the first questions you should ask yourself when building an encounter is whether or not the villain’s henchpeople are minions or full characters. Some minion statblocks—such as the Robot Jockey, Elite Soldier, and Mystic Ninja—are powerful enough they can pose some risk to superheroes, especially with a critical hit! Others—the Colossal Robot, Tyrannosaurus, and Dragon—are as powerful as PL 10 superheroes. You can easily use these statblocks for lieutenants and treat them as normal characters. While not as powerful as a PL 10 superhero, a PL 7 lieutenant can take more than one solid blow from a hero, might get a lucky critical, and can take 10 on attack checks against any minions supporting the heroes.

On the other side of that coin, you may want to apply the minion rules to a villain archetype to represent extremely dangerous opponents that the heroes can confront quickly, but not without some risk. Applying the minion rules to any of the sample PL 10 hero archetypes from the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, for example, can provide a small army of deadly alien invaders, potent robots, or ninja assassins whose threat comes from their skill rather than their staying power. You might also apply the minion rules to “C-list” supervillains who might have potent abilities, but largely serve as easily-defeated comic relief in your campaign.

Finally, the minion rules are something you can apply gradually to help reflect the heroes’ growth. If your adventure focuses around a secret government program producing robots to police and victimize people with powers, you might treat the robots themselves as normal characters for the first few encounters, presenting a formidable threat the heroes must push themselves to confront, and eventually begin treating the robots as minions to reflect the heroes learning more about their tactics and weaknesses, allowing them to tackle much larger groups.

Remember, the minion rules exist to speed up combat and to reduce the swingy-ness that critical hits can cause. If you want an encounter to run faster—often as a lead-up to a bigger encounter—the minion rules are your friend. But if you want to slow an encounter down to emphasize tension or increase the risk, then toss them out and use standard character rules.

Customizing Your Minions

The minion archetypes presented across various Mutants & Masterminds supplements are generic ideals. Like the hero archetypes in the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, they’re blank canvasses you can paint any sort of costume or personality on. Your ninjas may be standard silent warriors in black outfits, or with a fresh coat of paint you can use the same statblock for a music-focused street gang who fight with capoeira or criminal circus acrobats. How you describe your villain’s minions helps define the villain as well. Your Brute villain might be backed up by a team of Goon minions, but those minions wearing black suits and sunglasses sends a different message about who their boss is than if they dress like wrestlers or who are spliced with bear DNA.

If you want to put in a few extra minutes, consider the villain and what abilities they might provide their henchpeople, particularly in the form of equipment (though a criminal geneticist or cyberneticist might grant other, more permanent boons). A villain like Chakram from Rogues Gallery is a cool-headed professional who probably hires Soldiers as her team, but provides them with scaled-down versions of her own trick throwing rings rather than the rifles described in their statblocks. You can use the exact same ability description—Ranged Multiattack Damage 5—but describe it as throwing disks rather than a hail of bullets. You might also provide a few other trick rings like her crash-foam ring or knockout ring, lowering the effect rank to 5 but using the same Affliction effects. Other villains may provide entire suites of abilities; Madam Zero from Freedom City might provide “Ice Chests” to the generic Goons she hires. These technological breastplates grant the minions immunity to cold and the ice ramp power like Madame Zero’s, and replaces their Pistol attack with an Ice Blast with the same bonus and damage rank—it may even provide other powers like those in Madame Zero’s Cold Control array as alternate effects, likewise limited to rank 3 or 4. You don’t need to track the Power Point costs for these changes, just make sure you keep any new effects within the minion’s existing Power Level.

More Ways to Use Minions

Chapter 3 of the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide includes a sidebar with recommendations to get the most out of your minions. Ideas include using them as ablative villain armor by granting them the Interpose advantage or pooling them for Aid action and team Attacks. Here are a few more ideas that don’t quite use the Mutants & Masterminds rules as written, but can still add fun variety to your game table.

Minions! How Do You Defeat Them?

With their low Power Levels and the heroes’ ability to take 10 on attack checks, minion encounters can just be fun opportunities for the heroes to describe how cool or powerful their abilities are. Rather than rolling dice, you can simply turn to each player and say “There are 12 minions left. How do you defeat three of them?” Let players be creative in how they use and describe their abilities or skills; this may even be a chance for rarely-used powers or features to come up. This approach allows players to define more of their character than just rolling dice until everyone stops moving; they can be as skilled, powerful, sneaky, clever, or merciful as they want.

If you don’t want a minion encounter to serve solely as a Roleplaying scene, or there are some consequences to not taking down the minions quickly—perhaps taking more than one round means any surviving minion trips the alarm, for example—you can split the difference. Have each player roll an attack check or effect check of their choice, instantly taking down one minion with a successful check and one additional minion for every additional Degree of Success. The Takedown advantage plays a slightly different role here, automatically granting a hero one additional minion subdued per rank. This arrangement still lets heroes describe how exactly they take down multiple foes while still leaving room for consequences.

Boss Boosters

While trifling on their own, minions can augment a villain’s abilities, making them a far greater challenge to the heroes. Rather than attack the heroes directly with the minions, describe them as coordinating with their boss, using attacks to distract and herd heroes or coordinate the villain’s defenses. Mechanically, the minions make Routine Checks each round to perform Aid actions. A single minion can boost their villain’s attack check or active defenses by +2 each round. Two minions working together can boost both attacks and defenses. Three minions can work together to provide three degrees of success, increasing the bonus to +5 and six minions coordinating with their boss can increase both their attack and defenses bonuses by +5 each round. This approach takes some liberties with the Routine Check rules (which normally can’t be used in combat, except against minions) and the Aid rules (normally, the Defense bonus only applies against attacks from a single opponent), but greatly simplifies the math involved in minion-heavy fights. It also creates a scenario where villains surrounded by their henchpeople start out very dangerous and gradually become more vulnerable as heroes peel away their allies. Heroes must decide if they want to focus on the more vulnerable minions, gradually reducing the villain’s threat, or strike directly at the mastermind who can more readily avoid their attacks and more reliably strike back. It’s an effective tactic for villains specializing in cunning, like Conundrum or Killshot, or villains who rely on armies of loyal soldiers like Overshadow.

To increase the danger of this tactic, combine it with the Ablative Minions recommendation from the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide to prevent the heroes from defeating the mastermind until all their assistants have been dispatched. This combination transforms minions into a “health bar” for the villain, creating extremely challenging encounters with villains who might normally pose little threat to an entire team of heroes.

Unit Tactics

Villains aren’t the only ones who can benefit from assistance. Teams of minions can coordinate to great effect. The simplest way to track multiple minions working as a group is to group them into batches of four, then increase the attack check, defenses, and damage by +2—the assumption being that one minion acts as the leader, with one augmenting their defenses, another aiding their attack, and a third using a Team attack to improve their damage. The unit fights as a single opponent, and every failed Toughness check by the unit eliminates one of the upgrades—attack, defense, or damage—while a failed save against any area effect wipes out the unit. You can push the limits and use a group of ten minions to augment the same statistics by +5; in this case, two failed Toughness checks reduce a single bonus to +2 before the bonus is lost entirely with another failed check; an area attack wipes out half the minions from a large unit rather than all of them. For this use of minions, the Takedown advantage lets you knock out one additional minion per rank rather than its normal function.

Like the Boss Boosters technique mentioned above, this plays a little loose with the rules for Routine Checks and Aid, but greatly simplifies the math in running large groups of minions, effectively transforming a large group of minions into a single supervillain whose abilities gradually weaken over time. Heroes face a deadly opponent up front, but things get gradually easier as they wade into the fight and start knocking out goons. For tactically-minded villains, you might even combine this tactic with the Boss Booster, with one squad of minions intended to protect and augment their leader and remaining minions broken out into smaller units. The villain can use a Move Action on their turn to issue commands, reorganizing any minions left into full units once again so long as enough of them remain.

 

However you decide to use minions in your game, have fun tinkering with what the system can do and the new ways to threaten—or bolster—your heroes.

Green Ronin Publishing Streaming!

Over the course of the last few months, Team Ronin has been quietly engaging in some experimentation with livestreaming. I say quietly, because even though we’re broadcasting live to the world at large, we purposely chose to keep mum in the run-up to the events in order to give us some room to experiment with format and presentation, and to become familiar with the various technical and logistical aspects of planning, promotion, and of course, going live with the broadcast itself.

It’s been a few months now, and while we will continue to improve our streaming prowess and expand our efforts, it is safe to say that the experiment has been a great success! Though more importantly, we are truly enjoying the experience. So it’s time to level up our streaming game, and like any good endeavor meant to build stronger relationships and connect with people, it’s time to make a little more noise and most importantly, solicit feedback from you directly.

The original idea came as a result of an emergency meeting of the entire team. The spread of COVID-19 was creating a world-wide disruption in every aspect of our business, from printing to conventions- and though at the time there was uncertainty as to how long key infrastructures (like shipping services)  would be incapacitated, we felt certain of one thing: business as usual wasn’t going to work. But as important as finding ways to shift our overall approach to sustaining  a business, there was another, equally important issue to address: in the most trying of times, the connections you make with other humans plays a huge role in your outlook on the world. The more positive, constructive, and authentic human connections you have, your chances of success are increased exponentially. But more than that, we go a long way towards increasing that oft-fleeting feeling of well-being when we can be together in the struggle, even in the face of unprecedented global catastrophe,

So, with a pinch of teamwork, a dash of business necessity, and a heaping helping of blind enthusiasm, the Green Ronin livestreams will continue (until moral improves)! Consider this your invitation to stop by and join the conversation! We laugh a bit, tease a bit, and talk a lot about ideas and motivations behind your favorite Green Ronin projects, inviting your favorite freelancers and contributors from across our catalogue of products to join in the fun.

But be warned! We plan to continue experimenting with the concept, expanding the great ideas and regrouping around those ideas that don’t quite hit the mark. Some of it you’ll no doubt enjoy, other parts might not resonate as much (and that’s ok!). Just be sure to manage your expectations: these live streams are casual conversations and opportunities to connect. While we require time to perfect the presentation, we show up ready to connect and share with you directly.

So, if you’d like to check out a Green Ronin broadcast live and in person, you have two opportunities currently:

Mutants & Masterminds Mondays! Streaming with Crystal and Steve

Mutants & Masterminds Monday with Crystal Frasier and Steve Kenson, streaming live on Facebook at 2p Pacific, every Monday*

 

Fiction Fridays! Streaming with Jaym and Nicole

Fiction Friday with Jaym Gates and Nicole Lindroos, streaming live on Facebook at 2p Pacific every Friday*

Oh yeah, and I’m there too, your disembodied voice cracking wise and trying not to act like too much of an idiot in front of company.

Finally, if you’ve got some thoughts around the kinds of livestreams you would like to see, streaming venues you would like us to explore, or perhaps some thoughts on making the stream more accessible, feel free to send a note to letsplay@GreenRonin.com! I can’t guarantee that every idea can be incorporated, or that we can respond to every single email we receive on the subject of creative improvement, but I do promise we will read them!

Many thanks to those that stumbled across our little experiment and still somehow manage to stick with the program! We look forward to our conversations with you every single week, and hope you do too.

See you on the internet!

*A host of things can impact a livestream, from unplanned internet outages to illness, from to technical fumbles, to… well, just about anything. We reserve the right to shift and change hours, to reschedule, and to expand or contract our broadcast schedule as required by mood or law. Please adjust your expectations accordingly—and don’t forget to bring the fun!

A Pearl of Necessity

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is certainly as true in the tabletop gaming business as it is anywhere else. One of the necessary reasons for writing adventures for the various game-lines that I work on is the need to have something to run when I am a guest at various conventions. For example, I originally wrote the Expanse adventure Salvage Op as a demo adventure to run at conventions before the game was even released. I likewise wrote the Blue Rose adventure Flight of the Snow Pearl (on-sale now!) in order to have something to run at a convention. I honestly don’t recall if it was originally OrcaCon, GaymerX, or one of the big summer conventions where I ran it first, but I’ve used it as a demo adventure at a number of conventions over the past couple of years since I wrote it.

Flight of the Snow Pearl

Cover art by Rita Fei

Without giving away too much about the actual plot of the adventure, Flight of the Snow Pearl is about what poet T.S. Eliot called “a wilderness of mirrors” which has become common parlance for talking about spying and espionage. In a situation or subculture where trust is a dangerous luxury, how do people maintain trust as an essential value? It’s a fairly short, focused, adventure but deals with some essential themes from Blue Rose, including characters helping those in need.

Flight of the Snow Pearl also demonstrated to me the way a fairly simple plot can play out in so many different ways at the table. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have run the scenario at conventions, and it plays-out differently almost every time, with players focusing on different aspects of the plot and characters, and with certain rolls of the dice sending things off in different directions, even in cases where I’ve provided the same pre-generated characters to play. I love how such variability and variety are a part of tabletop RPGs.

So, if you’re looking for an adventure for your ongoing Blue Rose game, or have always thought of giving running the game a try—especially if you might want to run Blue Rose for a virtual convention or online event this summer—check out Flight of the Snow Pearl and give its story a go.

Mastering Time Travel (Part 2)

Gamemastering Time TravelIn the second part of my Ronin Roundtable guest-spot on the Time Traveler’s Codex (part 1 is here, in case you missed it!), let’s look at how the sourcebook talks about Gamemastering time travel, the nature and use of time travel in the Earth-Prime omniverse, and a peek at the Silver Age time period and some familiar faces found there.

As Chapter 3 of the Time Traveler’s Codex points out, Gamemastering time travel stories can be a challenge. The chapter looks at a number of considerations, building on the intro material from Chapter 1, including deciding how changeable the timeline may be, what methods of time travel exist, the various hazards of time travel, and the important question…

Who Controls the Time Machine?

A major element of a time travel story or series is: Who is in control of the means of time travel? If it is the Gamemaster, then time travel can be largely a plot device for getting the player characters to a new era for the start of a new adventure. They might need to figure out exactly why they are there, but how they get there is taken care of. The same is largely true of time travel is under control of a non-player character, particularly some powerful patron who sends the heroes back and forth through time. The characters might occasionally be able to request some “bending” of the rules but, otherwise, the mechanics are out of their hands.

On the other hand, if the heroes are in control of their means of time travel, the Gamemaster will want clear rules as to how time travel works in the setting and the limits of the heroes’ means of travel are, if any. Be prepared for players to come up with unexpected uses of time travel and to test the limits of that ability. Having some type of limit in place, such as only being able to make so many “jumps” before having to recharge or refuel, or a need to avoid excessive stress on the space-time continuum by spacing out the use of time travel, can provide some boundaries.

The Omniverse

The Earth-Prime setting for M&M is not just one world or even one universe but a vast omniverse of parallel realities and alternate dimensions, of which your own series is a part. Whether it diverges only a little from what’s seen in sourcebook like Atlas of Earth-Prime and Emerald City, or diverges a lot, there’s room in the omniverse for everything! The Time Traveler’s Codex looks at time travel as a phenomenon in the context of the Earth-Prime setting, from cosmic beings like the Time Keepers and their Cosmic Clock, to characters like Doctor Tomorrow, Zeitgeist, and the notorious Tick-Tock Doc and his Counter-Clock Culture.

A Silver Age Retrospective

Since a guidebook to time travel requires times to visit, the Time Traveler’s Codex also looks at a wide range of historical eras, including the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Iron Age of the Earth-Prime setting, focusing on Emerald City, Freedom City, and New York City, respectively. Even if the only “time travel” that interests you is setting your M&M game in an earlier era, this part of the Codex has a wealth of material for you!

The Silver Age section looks at the heyday of the original Freedom League, from their founding after Hades’ attempts to invade Freedom City with an undead army in 1960 up through their first meeting with Pseudo during a secret invasion of the Grue in 1969. It also looks at the original Atom Family and their eventual “discovery” of Farside City, and important Silver Age villains like August Roman, Queen Khana, and Set the Destroyer (along with the slightly less important but still notable Red Death and Bee-Keeper).

And don’t forget, alongside the Time Traveler’s Codex, we also have the amazing bonus content PDF “All Time, No Space!” available FREE for download.

Sagas of Sword … and Sorcery!

For the release of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System as the Sword Chronicle fantasy RPG and setting, a lot from its earlier incarnation as Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying (SIFRP for short) was preserved, but a few things have also changed. One of those most notable things is the inclusion of sorcery.

Sorcery in the Chronicle System

Magic in SIFRP was a rare and mysterious thing, the province of a few unusual qualities and not much more than that. For Sword Chronicle we needed a more robust system of magic, suitable for everything from hedge-witches to scholarly thaumaturgists and the adepts of spiritual mystery cults. At the same time, the system needed to be more rooted in the kind of fantasy chronicles the system was designed to tell, rather than the notion of spell-caster as “mobile artillery.”

As the beginning of the Sorcery chapter of the book notes:

Sword Chronicle sorcery is not the overt, flashy spells of many roleplaying systems. It is a “lower” sort of magic, without the pyrotechnics, earth-shaking manifestations, or epic reality-altering of “high-magic” fantasy systems. In fact, many sorcerous Arts provide effects that could, to the skeptical eye, be regarded as coincidence, chicanery, or some combination of the two. Indeed, the price of many of these Arts is so high that even true sorcerers often resort to sleight of hand, tricks of chemistry, and taking credit for things that are genuinely coincidental, in order to avoid paying it.

Fortunately, we had a working basis to start from in the form of Joseph Carriker’s Chronicle of Sorcery release for the Chronicle System, which outlines the essentials for a system of sorcery. Sword Chronicle takes that concept and runs with it, expanding it out into an essential system for magic-workers of all kinds. The “price” mentioned in the introduction previously is Destiny, the Chronicle System “currency” of character potential. Sorcerers harness the power of Destiny to influence and change the world through their Arts, in both subtle and profound ways.

What are those Arts? Sword Chronicle outlines four, each with its own magical Works:

  • The Art of Benediction, which invests people, places, and things with magical blessings and power. Its Works include attunement, blessing, anointing, consecration, and investiture.
  • The Art of Divination, which draws aside the veils of space and time to grant sorcerers knowledge. Its Works include casting, dowsing, reading, and vision for the greatest of prophecies.
  • The Art of Malediction, which brings misfortune and harm to one’s enemies or to bind their wills. Its Works include Castigate, Curse, Ensorcell, Ruination
  • The Art of Warding, which turns away unwanted magic and guards against sorcery. Its Works include various types of wards and sorcerous protections.

Each Art has its Works, which range from quick-and-immediate spells to more complex and powerful rituals, from an immediate Castigate spell to wrack a target with pain to a more involved Rite of Cursing to destroy them from afar, from an immediate Blessing, to the Consecration of a great temple or Investiture of an enchanted blade, intended to last a lifetime or more.

Of course, in addition to Destiny, true mastery of sorcery requires a significant investment of a character’s qualities, and sorcerous qualities determine what Arts a character has learned, or mastered, much like fighting styles and other qualities that define characters in the Chronicle System. Indeed, there are also some qualities suitable for characters who have just a touch of magic, like the Beast-friend, the seer with Prophetic Dreams, or the chosen of Destiny with Prophetic Alignment.

So whether your concept for a Sword Chronicle character is a wise elder wizard, a cunning woods-witch, a zealous warrior of the faith, a rune-crafter, or the former member of a secretive cult, you can create them and their arcane Arts in the Chronicle System.

Even More Perilous! (Ronin Roundtable)

This week sees the release of NetherWar, Part 2: The Pentagram Peril, the segment of the mystic-themed campaign for M&M that I helped to write. I say “helped” because Pentagram Peril wasn’t originally planned as part of a series at all. It was a stand-alone adventure involving the Factor Four and Hellqueen going after some magical treasures when I originally wrote it. But when M&M Developer Crystal Frasier came up with the NetherWar series, the concept fit right into it, so Crystal worked her own particular magic upon my original adventure to make it suitable as a chapter in the series and … voila! The Hellqueen’s scheme now fits into a larger plot involving Earth’s magical power and legacy.

Pentagram of Peril!

Art by Alberto Foche

Peril Times Two!

Speaking of larger plots, Crystal and I were talking for a Mutants & Masterminds Monday broadcast a while back about other magical villains who could fit into the NetherWar series, and Pentagram Peril would be an interesting place to include Dr. Azoth and his Homunculi (from Threat Report, also featuring in the M&M novel Roadtrip to Ruin) as additional or substitute foes. While it would be possible to replace the Factor Four with the evil alchemist and his minions, an even more interesting option is to have Dr. Azoth after the Bloodstones of Vhoka as well!

Perhaps the confrontation at the museum with the Factor Four plays out as-written, but the earlier theft of the other bloodstone from Freedom City University was actually carried out by the Homunculi, leaving each faction with one bloodstone each to start.

This turns all of the middle scenes of the adventure into a three-way competition for the bloodstones between the Factor Four, the Homunculi, and the heroes:

  • The stealthy and shape-shifting Takwin is dispatched to Dakana to infiltrate and steal the bloodstone from the treasury there.
  • The mighty Man-Drake is sent to Agartha to contend with the Terra-King and take the bloodstone from the grasp of Granite and Pyre.
  • Petra is sent to the Antarctic to retrieve the remaining bloodstone from Nullatempus, as easily able to survive the bitter cold there as Sylph.

Do the heroes try to play the villains off each other? Do the villains cooperate to deal with the heroes first before they settle who gets the bloodstone?

Since it’s likely only some of the stones will end up with each faction, the final confrontation at the Maw of Vhoka is both for control of the artifacts and to cast them into the Maw to release and control their accumulated power. It’s possible for multiple villains to gain additional power from the bloodstones, or maybe it is a struggle just between Hellqueen and Dr. Azoth, each using their minions to run interference, as well as summoning bloodstone gargoyles to aid them.

You can also decide if Dr. Azoth is an interloper interfering in the larger scheme of NetherWar or just another part of the larger plan, perhaps a “back up” to ensure the scheme involving the bloodstones is successful, should the Hellqueen and the Factor Four not prove up to the challenge. Either way, the added villainy is sure to make Pentagram Peril even more perilous!

Sword Chronicle: Feudal Fantasy Roleplaying Returns

The fury of battle. Court intrigue. Games of blood and status. That’s Sword Chronicle, a complete roleplaying game for the Chronicle System. We’ve been working on it quietly, with no official announcements before now.

Sword Chronicle: Feudal Fantasy Roleplaying

(not final cover)

Where’s the Hype?

Well, this is the hype. Sword Chronicle was designed under the radar as a response to the COVID-19 situation, which we’ve discussed here. We took a hard look at what we could do in this emergency, and this not only fit the bill, it sent a message that we’re not going to just survive, but survive aggressively, by producing a core rulebook.

The Chronicle System Returns

Originally designed for the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying game, the Chronicle System was devised to work on multiple scales and fields of conflict, from duels to battles to courtly intrigue. Green Ronin’s license to make the game has concluded, and we remain grateful for the opportunity to explore Westeros through the game. But we’ve always wanted to support other settings for the Chronicle System. We started that with setting-agnostic Chronicle System material available through our website and DriveThruRPG. Sword Chronicle is the next step: a core rulebook designed to bring the Chronicle System’s unique characteristics to classic fantasy gaming.

What’s The Same, What’s Changed 

Sword Chronicle uses the Chronicle System you’ve seen before, but adds new elements to support fantasy games, including the following: 

  • Rules for fantasy ancestries, including elves, dwarves, and ogres 
  • A revised version of the magic rules first presented in the Chronicle of Sorcery supplement, integrated into the core rules 
  • Revised and reorganized rules for intrigue: the art of victory in the social arena 
  • The Shattered Era, an optional fantasy setting featuring 19 houses, the nonhumanoid kurgulan people, and the Breachlands, a region fit for empire builders and uprisings

Furthermore, while you don’t need to purchase Chronicle of Sorcery for magic rules if you get Sword Chronicle, all other published generic Chronicle System supplements remain compatible, including creature supplements such as Desert Threats and rules expansions such as Out of Strife, Prosperity. Thus, Sword Chronicle comes with immediate support. You can play it with one book, but the options are there.

Beyond the Sword Chronicle

Sword Chronicle is an expression of the “classic” Chronicle System, but there’s more to come. Don’t forget that The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game, which will use a version of the system tailored to the world of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, is on the horizon. It’s a good time to be a Chronicle System fan. Stay in touch—we’ll tell you when.

What Even Is Time (Travel)? (Ronin Roundtable)

With the 20th anniversary of Green Ronin Publishing and the 18th anniversary of Mutants & Masterminds this year, we’ve been doing a lot of looking back at the past. But what about visiting the past or, for that matter, changing the past? Well, that’s where the Time Traveler’s Codex for M&M comes into play, arriving “just in time,” so to speak.

Time travel is a favorite sub-genre of mine, and the superhero genre is especially fertile ground for it, given the “anything goes” approach of my comic book universes. It’s not all that unusual for a character to be someone else’s potential offspring from an alternate future, or for one’s nemesis to be someone you haven’t even “met” yet, but who is trying to erase you from history! Naturally, when M&M Developer Crystal Frasier proposed the Time Traveler’s Codex, I was first in-line to write part of it!

Time Traveler's Codex on sale now!

 

The parts of the Codex I got to write include: The overview of time travel as a sub-genre, temporal mechanics and rules options, the role of time travel in a series, creating characters with time travel in mind, Gamemaster advice on handling time travel and running time travel adventures (or series), time travel in the Earth-Prime omniverse, and a revisit to the Silver Age of Freedom City as a time travel destination. Here on the Ronin Round-Table, in this installment and the next, let’s take a sneak-peek at a few of these in more detail.

Infinite Possibilities

Well, there wasn’t room in the sourcebook for infinite possibilities (if there is later, maybe I’ll jump back and revise). Still, the beginning Time Traveler’s Codex takes a good look at how time travel might work, and at the various staples of the sub-genre, including alternate timelines (and alternate selves), non-linear time, paradoxes, fixed points in time, and temporal enforcement agents (both natural and supernatural). Gamemasters can decide for themselves what time travel options exist in their own games, with some guidance as to the possibilities and repercussions.

Temporal Mechanics

The first chapter of the sourcebook also looks at optional rules systems for handling things like temporal navigation, temporal drift, temporal mishaps (complications specifically related to time travel), temporal transformations (either from revisions in history or exposure to chronal energies), and retroactive continuity. It’s a place where some of the M&M game systems get to shine, from transformative afflictions to time-related complications. I particularly like the following extension of the hero point mechanics for time travel:

Hero Points and Retcons

Temporal manipulations allow for an additional option for hero points, using the Edit Scene ability to “retcon” changes in history! Essentially, so long as the player can come up with a time travel scenario that explains it, they can spend a hero point to edit the scene to make it the case. For example, heroes might find themselves trapped and without their devices; a player suggests their hero will, at some point in the future, come back into the past and leave an extra set of equipment behind a false panel nearby! The GM approves, the player spends the hero point, and voila! The heroes open the panel to find the gear that they need.

In addition to the normal limit imposed by the number of hero points they have to spend, the GM may wish to impose temporal consequences for an excessive use of this option, perhaps causing a character to start to develop time sickness (following) with the DC of the resistance test based on 10 + the number of hero points spent retconning that game session (or over a certain number that session).

Next Up: Mastering time travel, time in the Omniverse, and a look back at the Silver Age!