Ronin Roundtable: Summit Time

Once the summer convention season is largely completed but before we lose the momentum that meeting our fans and fellow gamers brings, Green Ronin holds its annual summit in the Seattle area to plan out what we hope to bring to market for the next year. Summit time is important to our company because everyone at Green Ronin works remotely, bringing their individual skills and unique talents to bear from their own home offices around the country.

2017 means it’s been 17 years of our little endeavor that began as a way for GR President Chris Pramas to keep his hand in roleplaying while he worked a day job in the fledgling miniatures division at Wizards of the Coast circa 2000. Considering how we work, with so many of us working in what might seem like isolation, I’m amazed and gratified at how stable the core of our team has been and how we’ve managed to grow ourselves to include so many ridiculously talented and patently wonderful people.

When we first started it was just me and Chris, though our pal Hal Mangold was involved from project #1 and our dedicated webmaster Evan Sass followed up not long after. Hal went on to become our business partner in the reconstituted Green Ronin Publishing LLC and if you’ve listened to my bit on the recent installment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff you know the high regard in which we hold him. The fact that they were, 16 years ago, the Best Man and Dude of Honor (respectively) at our wedding in 2001 should only be further evidence of our fond ties to these men.

I mention this because I consider “our people” to be not just coworkers and colleagues but also friends, near family. Summit time, in addition to being very much a working retreat where we meet for serious discussion and strategy for 8 or 9 hours each day, is also akin to a family reunion or some other sort of social gathering. We cook together, eat together, play games and watch movies and relax together. It’s bonding time… not “enforced bonding” or corporate ice-breaker game playing, but letting our introverts introvert, letting people who love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles nerd out together, letting the night owls night owl and the early birds fix breakfast. It’s bonding time, time that reminds us all that our coworkers are humans and not just words in an email or posts to a Slack channel.

This year was kind of a big year for us because we reached a threshold where the number of “newbies” who had been to one (or none) of our summits in the past were nearly equal to the “old timers” who have now been to several (or every) previous summit. This year we welcomed Mutants & Masterminds line developer Crystal Frasier, who had the poor luck to be hired just after last year’s summit and so who had to go a full 11 months working for us without the experience of summitting to bolster her. Similarly, our magnificent Modern AGE line developer, Malcolm Sheppard, also had to wait through many months of work before meeting most of the rest of the team this year. After a full decade of waiting for Green Ronin to be in a place to launch a fiction line, 2017 was the year we were able to put our plans in motion and that meant that our Managing Editor Jaym Gates joined us for the first time this year as well. We also welcomed Veronica Templar, who graduated from volunteer to Event Coordinator when Donna Prior moved on. Veronica had, at least, met most everyone through her volunteer work for us as booth staff for GenCon but it was still her first summit in an official capacity (and she was dealing with an icky virus of some sort to boot). Finally, our Lost Citadel developer, CA Suleiman, joined us for summit business as well, though he did have the advantage of having worked as a Green Ronin freelancer before and knew at least a few of us before we dragged him out into the wilds of Eastern Washington to extract summit work out of him.

If there’s any indication that big things are afoot, looking around and seeing that a full 1/3 of your company summit is made up of new blood is certainly that.

Every year I leave the summit feeling energized and excited to tackle the upcoming year and this year was no different. If anything, I’m more excited than usual because I’ve gotten to see what Malcolm has been cooking up for our Modern AGE release and that in addition to our upcoming Mutants & Masterminds releases we have the wonderful work Crystal has put into the Lazarus setting. The line-up for Nisaba fiction is exciting me beyond words because as I’ve said, I’ve wanted to do this fiction line for a decade and Jaym is the PERFECT person to handle it for us. The Lost Citadel project was my “special project” last year and seeing it come into its own inside the company through CA’s capable guidance makes me nearly as happy as seeing Blue Rose make it out into the world did this year. Veronica blows me away with the things she’s taking on to up our convention presence and reboot the Freebooter volunteer program.

2018 holds much promise for Green Ronin and we have a really dazzling array of things planned. In addition to the new initiatives from our new faces, there are many things planned from our tried and true stalwarts as well. Chris will be along in the future to talk more about the specifics but I’ll just say that at the summit everyone was given a chance to pitch a “special project”…something done out of love or passion or inspiration. These are longer-term plans and ideas that Jack Norris, Joe Carriker, Steve Kenson, and Chris himself will elaborate on in future Ronin Roundtables. The most important part for me was that every idea had an advocate, that there was at least one person truly excited and inspired about every single “special project” to hit the table… and if circumstances keep us from doing them all right now, I definitely don’t want that to hold us back from making time to do them in the future. Nothing sells me quite as much as genuine passion for a project and the summit offered that in spades.

I am utterly convinced I work with the best people in all of gaming. That’s what Summit Time means to me and it’s one of the reasons I’m still in this business after 28 years. I hope you all come to love what we’ve got cooking as much as I do!

Ronin Round Table: Integrating Wizards 5e Adventures with the Tal’dorei Campaign Setting

Bidet, Critters!

Now that you have the Tal’dorei Campaign Setting in your hands, what can you do with it? Play games, of course. But what adventures? Wizards has released a number of adventure books since 5th edition launched, and some of them are easy to integrate into Exandria.

Caution: Spoilers for Out of the Abyss are contained beyond this point. If you wish to play as a player, stop reading here. You have been warned!

One of the Adventure books that Wizards has released for 5th Edition D&D is called Out of the Abyss. It was primarily written by Green Ronin, on behalf of Wizards. The adventure, as written, is set in the Forgotten Realms, but it takes place mostly in the Underdark, and so requires very little massaging to use it in Tal’dorei.

You may wish to change the names of some of the cities of the underdark. I don’t think it will really matter much for most of them, although many of them have been in use in the Forgotten Realms for many years. There is a rough map on page 19 of the adventure that shows approximate locations of the underdark cites in relation to the overland Forgotten Realms map. You probably don’t need to change this, as the facing page has approximate travel times between the various locations. It’s probably best to use that as a rough guide for travel.

The largest change needed in the book is Chapter 8. The first thing to do is replace Bruenor Battlehammer and Gauntlgrym with Gradim Greyspine and Kraghammer. Then, replace the various Forgotten Realms specific factions (The Harpers, The Lords’ Alliance, The Zhentarim, The Emerald Enclave, and The Order of the Gauntlet) with Tal’dorei specific ones. (I’d suggest The Arcana Pansophical, The Ashari, The Council of Tal’dorei, The Chamber of Whitestone, and The Clasp.) Special note: In the adventure, the Zhentarim have a trading outpost in an underdark city. Have one of the factions that you replace the Zhents with (perhaps the Clasp?) have a similar outpost.

Please feel free to make any other changes you might need or want to. Playing with a toolbox is fun, and can help you level up as a DM. Bonus conversion: here is the sword Dawnbringer (found early in the adventure) turned into a vestige:

Dawnbringer

Weapon ( longsword ), legendary ( requires attunement by a non-evil creature )

Dawnbringer appears as a golden longsword hilt. When it’s attuned and held in your hand, you can use a bonus action to activate it, causing a glowing blade to appear. Dawnbringer functions as a longsword with the finesse property. You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this weapon. It deals radiant damage instead of slashing damage. When you hit an undead or demonic target with it, it deals an extra 1d6 radiant damage.

Sentience/Personality: See the adventure, page 222.

Awakened:

Increase the bonus to attack and damage rolls to +2.

Increase the extra damage to undead or demonic targets to 2d6

Once per day, you can use your action to cast lesser restoration on a target you are touching. ( Recharges each day at dawn. )

Exalted:

Increase the bonus to attack and damage rolls to +3.

On a critical hit against an undead or demonic target, maximize all damage dice. ( Treat them as if you rolled the maximum number on the die. )

The first time each day that one of your allies within ten feet of you drops to zero hit points, Dawnbringer heals them for 2d8+2 damage. ( Recharges each day at dawn. )

Tune in next time for a more in-depth conversion, Princes of the Apocalypse!

Ronin Roundtable: The Freedom to Change

One of the core features of Earth Prime is that it’s a dynamic setting. Just like your favorite comic books, the world constantly changes as new crises challenge heroes and villains alike, and the steady march of time means new heroes enter the picture as older heroes retire. In the Emerald City Knights adventure arc, we introduced a status quo on the west coast then tore it apart in the space of six months. In Hero High, we introduced the newest iteration of Next Gen (the first team having long since graduated to bigger and better things). In the Cosmic Handbook, we destroyed entire planets, destroyed an empire, and cranked up the danger as the Star-Khan conquers much of the Lor Republic and Blackstar forms his Blackguard to oppose the Star Knights.

The upcoming Freedom City introduces many changes of its own that have gripped the city since its last depiction over a decade ago. Popular Mayor Michael O’Conner has long since moved on, now representing the entire state as Senator O’Connel, with a dedicated familiar face taking his place. Crimelord August Roman is out of the picture, replaced entirely by his endlessly opportunistic daughter. Perhaps some of the most exciting changes are in the Freedom League’s roster. Several long-term members—including Captain Thunder and the Raven—have retired to make way for a new generation. Let’s take a sneak-peak at two of the newest members:

 

 

Thunderbolt is Ray Gardener, Jr, formerly of the teenage superteam Next-Gen. Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, he used the electrical powers he inherited to fight crime as the young hero Bolt. A little too eager to prove himself worthy of his father’s legacy and earn a place in the Freedom League, he fell right into the clutches of the fiendish Dr. Stratos, who used the young man as bait to lure Captain Thunder to his doom. The adventure that followed left Captain Thunder drained of his power and Ray Jr. infused with more elemental energy than his young body could handle. Now trapped inside a containment suit to stop his form from dissipating, Ray Jr tries to fill his father’s role on the Freedom League, but instead of youthful zeal he now finds his purpose in service, accepting the burden he struggled so hard to gain in his younger years.

 

 

Lady Liberty, by contrast, is one of the city’s newest heroes, and is still enthusiastically learning the lifestyle and the scope of her powers. Medical student Sonja Gutierrez sacrificed herself to save a stranger and found herself empowered by the Spirit of Liberty. Now inducted as a provisional member of the Freedom league thanks to her legacy status and tutelage under the previous Lady Liberty, Beth Walton-Wright, Sonja still struggles to balance her superheroics with her education and work. Unlike previous Lady Liberty’s, Sonja’s love for her native country is nuanced—she admires the spirit and potential of the United States against the terrible ways it treats immigrants like her parents and trans women like herself. Her frustrations are only amplified by a small by vocal group of conspiracy theorists who insist she somehow stole the mantle of Lady Liberty—including her nemesis, the murderous Madame Guillotine.

 

 

Ronin Roundtable: On the Edge of Ork!

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, is into production, which in orkish means Hal am use machines and science to make book soon! (Me am creative focused; me am have lesser knowledge of Adobe products.)

Ork! Is dear to our throbbing, fat-armored hearts. We didn’t want to phone it in by just cleaning up and re-releasing the old game. Ork! am all new! Ork! am been through playtests!

Ahem.

One of those playtests was at this year’s Gen Con, where the game’s creative Orkmaster, Todd Miller, ran a game with the new rules. Todd designs fantastic, absurd adventures. My friend Wood characterized the vibe of Ork! as “stupid things by clever people.” There are many ways to play orks out there in RPGland, but if you want a game about rampaging orks that references Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, alcoholic poets, Zardoz, and maybe Thundarr the Barbarian by way of The Road Warrior, we’re there for you, in a low-key sort of way. I think Todd’s adventure was based on John Fowles’ The Magus, but man, not the movie. Well it’s Ork!, so maybe the movie. But with more dismemberment—and ad hoc cures for dismemberment.

My main concern (beyond having my character staple back on some errant limbs) was making sure the system worked, and that Cheats did what they were supposed to do. As I mentioned last time I talked about the game, Cheats provide some room for character differentiation, and contribute to the classic rhythm of Ork!, where you’re encouraged to dig yourself a big, violent hole. Cheats let you steal opposed-roll dice from the Orkmaster, but those dice get used against you later. In play, that meant watching dice stack up in front of players until Todd saw fit to drop them on their orks.

Cheats sort of act as the flipside of ork points—the magic bean system we use to reward violent, impulsive, orky behavior—but where ork points are rewards for playing like an ork, Cheats represent a way to think like an ork, sealing your doom with short term gain. Indeed, one of the traditional elements of an Ork! game is dying, appearing before the ork god Krom, and seeing whether he’ll let you feast with heroes, or get reincarnated as a pine cone, or a strangely smelly rock.

But if you live, there’s room to keep playing. This edition of Ork! includes an enormous adventure section that can take orks through an entire campaign, from new gunks (junior, nameless orks) raiding the sickeningly cute squishy men for pies and ordnance (see the adventure! It makes sense!) to hardened bands raiding flying fortresses, and even an honest-to-goodness dungeon.

You Am Design Adventure!

So beyond some orkbragging, let’s get to some advice. If you want to design an Ork! adventure the way Todd does, I don’t know—he’s just too weird, man. But if you want to fake it, here’s what I suggest:

You Am Use Smart Idea: Ork! works as parody in part because you can introduce orks into scenarios that, on the surface, seem too smart for them. While you can run through traditional fantasy dungeons and forests and things, reach beyond this low-hanging fruit and ask yourself how orks would mess up Sense and Sensibility or The Seventh Seal (if the latter was good enough for Bill and Ted, it’s good enough for Ork!). Part of the game’s fun is having the players notice themes and references their less, uh, informed characters would miss.

You Am Beat Idea Until Goal Fall Out: Once you have a scenario that’s too smart for your orks, wring basic conflicts out of it that work on an orkish level: get a thing, kill a thing, wreck a thing, flee a thing, and so on. Sometimes orks wreck the “normal” story; sometimes protagonists recruit them to deal with a problem in the story, making them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern types (or more likely, Macbeth’s hired killers). Sometimes you need to add an extra fantastical element.

Consider My Dinner with Andre as an Ork! scenario. (Really!) As Shawn argues with Gregory about whether his theatre experiences constitute authentic living, this kind of intense discourse may cause ork heads to explode—and indeed, create a reality-breaking aura. Now orks have to break up that conversation to save the world (or their brains) and of course, the taxi and driver, restaurant staff, and strangely animate dishes become foes to be crushed!

You Am Keep It Loose: Orks wander off, kill each other and occasionally explode after an unwise meal, so while you can design adventures around scenes, these should feature plenty of room to go off-script. Every scene or location should be an amusement park filled with things to experience and often, destroy. In other games, designing locations and scenes might benefit from sticking to the overall story arc, Ork! benefits from lots of weird, wonderful and “irrelevant” detail. Include plenty of things for orks to steal, eat or kill that fit the premise of a scene or place, but may have nothing to do with the plot.

You Am Add Warlock: When it doubt, get the warlock to make orks do stuff! The warlock is the GM’s mouthpiece, and since orks are expected to be directionless and unfocused, it’s okay to use the warlock to kick them in the right direction.

That’s the story-brutalizing violence which makes Ork! work, and it’s what we’ve got coming. And green pig faces. Because that’s what orks look like. You know it.

Ronin Roundtable: Cool Dads

Hey folks, Jack here. Warning, this is going to be kind of a down Ronin Round Table, but I think it’s an important one.

A couple weeks ago, my father, James Norris, died. He was too young to die, despite being 70. It wasn’t a heroic death or a quick easy demise. In fact, it basically just sucked.

Because, in the words of Star Lord? I had a pretty cool dad.

But relevant to gaming and the gaming industry? I also had a supportive dad. My dad was my first player. I didn’t know what I was doing with my old D&D Basic set but he thought this rpg thing was a cool idea too and helped me figure it out. We never played again after those early days, but it was in no small part thanks to him that I got into gaming.

But it wasn’t just that one time that mattered. While much of 80s America was buying into that idiotic “Satanic Panic” of the time and burning kids’ gaming books and shaming them for playing games with their friends? My dad stood up for me. He likened my loved of games with the “baseball statistics” games and toy soldiers he loved as a kid. That’s right folks, despite never carrying the label or playing beyond those first few games? My dad was a real OG…original gamer.

When he explained the analogies between his childhood interests and mine to my grandparents? They supported me too. When a relative or neighbor tried to give me shit about gaming? He told them to back off and told me to not be bothered by them being ignorant. He bought me gaming books and even D&D toys (remember those?) when he could afford to and along with my mom they supported me first as a gamer, then as a game writer. He took me to all sorts of fantasy, pulp, and sci-fi films when he could and when he couldn’t my grandparents obliged. We saw Star Wars, Highlander, Krull, Dark Crystal, and many others in the theaters and later on video. We saw Raiders of the Lost Ark seventeen times in the theater. So much of the pop culture pedigree many of us gamers possess I experienced alongside my dad and other supportive family members.

I doubt dad ever read a single game book I wrote, but he would proudly tell others that his son was a writer, did game design, and would often talk with me about the cultural and historical elements I was including in my work.

Even when it was all short car trip “yearly vacations” to a relative’s barbeque and hand-me downs and so on? You can’t buy that sort of support. I knew families who had far more with whom every gaming diversion was a fight. To these folks gaming was “the devil’s work” or just “weird and stupid.”

I was never told to play sports instead, though I did. I was never told to go outside and stop gaming, though I did that too. The only thing that concerned dad and the other family and friends who supported me as a gamer and creator were that I didn’t JUST game. That I learned and grew in other ways. Which is a good thing to do.

By not stigmatizing my gaming and yet quietly encouraging me to have a life outside of it? My dad helped me become a far more well-adjusted person than I might have otherwise. He taught me it’s okay to be myself and more importantly it was vital to let others be themselves. This resulted not only in me gaming but gaming better—it was always about me having fun with friends and not about winning or looking cool or showing up others with how “legit” I was. To this day when I roll my eyes at the various edition wars and pointless conflicts of game design theory I can hear my dad saying “What’s the point of that? If it’s not affecting what you’re doing, why not just let people play what they want and have fun?”

A pretty cool dad, indeed.

I buried my dad a little over a week ago. That’s not a euphemism. With the help of my lovely and supportive wife, herself a gamer whose always supported my work, I dug a grave for my father’s urn in the small cemetery where he now rests and filled in the hole. Then I gave a distracted and inadequate eulogy and cried by his graveside after everyone had left.  And that kinda sucks, I’ll admit. However, what doesn’t suck at all is all the support my father gave me as a gamer and game creator. That’s the lesson I hope people reading this take:

Support gaming and the people who do it. Support your kids, relatives, and friends. Don’t sneer at them and tell them its weird. Don’t buy into whatever society is telling you about it. Don’t push others out of it either or waste time trying to keep them out of it. Be confident in your fun and let others have theirs. Really? Just game, make games of you’re so inclined, and let other people do the same.

All the people—well, okay not Nazis. Dad wouldn’t have expected that of me or anyone else. He hated Nazis (Raiders of the Lost Ark 17 times! folks).

He was cool like that too.

Ronin Roundtable: Freeport in Space

While Freeport City of Adventure was written specifically to work with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Freeport has a history with class- & level-based RPGs with a core d20 mechanic that predates Pathfinder. Freeport has always been a location that’s easily adapted to new game systems and settings, with much of the core information it provides (such as maps, factions, politics, and adventure seeds) are useful to a GM building a campaign or adventure regardless of the game system used.

Thus with the recent release of the Starfinder Core Rulebook, a new game and new setting built off the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and advancing its campaign world thousands of years in the future, it seems a perfect time to discuss how Freeport City of Adventure (and the Freeport Bestiary) can be adapted to spacefaring campaigns!

 

Conceptual Adaptations

While it may seem that a sailing-ship port doesn’t have a lot of relevance to a science-fantasy game, it’s actually not at all difficult to adapt Freeport to a Starfinder Roleplaying Game setting. The simplest way is to leave it on its island, and make it a major starport in a system that is along a significant trade route but far from any major government within your campaign. This allows the layout to be largely unchanged (starships might even dock in the water, as a cheap alternative to expensive high-tech landing pads), and keeps all its internal politics intact. All mentions of ships are simple adapted to starships, and local groups and NPCs are updated to their high-tech equivalents. The city’s factions, history, and even many of its adventures can be easily translated to science-fantasy equivalents.

 

Though it takes more work, Freeport can also be adapted to be an independent spaceport free of any planetary body. It can be placed on an asteroid with an environmental field keeping air in (again allowing the existing map to be used), or even turned into a massive (potentially mobile) space station. For this last option you’d likely need to create a new map (or accept a really oddly-shaped space station), but the scores of shops, temples, homes, and buildings in Freeport can be adapted largely unchanged by simply assuming their technological base (and goods, and NPCs) are updated to appropriate levels.

Obviously rather than flintlock-carrying, peg-leg bearing sea pirates, this updated Freeport is an open base of operations for space pirates. Some may cling to ancient fashions and traditions (eyepatches strapped on even over cybernetic eye enhancements), but in generally their technology and appearance changes to match the campaign setting. However, ship names, rivalries, debts, rumors, and rough parts of town remain conceptually the same whether your pirates and their home sport flintlocks or plasma pistols. Especially given how vast an entire galaxy of adventure is, having a fleshed-out set of goals, organizations, and names is extremely useful, even if you need to update the gear and stat blocks of anyone the PCs decide to fight with.

Finally, although it’s not as useful in most science-fantasy campaigns, Freeport can be dropped into a science-fantasy game largely unchanged. In this case it remains a low-tech sailing ship port, on a world with much less advanced science than a typical Starfinder Roleplaying Game setting. This makes the most sense if you want your high-tech PCs to have at least one low-tech world they interact with. Freeport might be on a planet where advanced technology doesn’t function for some reason, or under a powerful protectorate that ensures its culture isn’t irreparably altered by spacefaring visitors. Or it could be a world that is perfectly well aware of lasers and starships, and happy to trade local materials for such advanced tech, but simply lacks the industrial base to recreate circuit boards and transistors even when such things fall into local hands.

 

Adapting NPC Stat Blocks

While much of the material in Freeport City of Adventure can be updated to a far future setting with nothing more than the flip of a conceptual switch, the numerous named and generic NPCs are more useful if you can use them in your campaign when needed. In general, you can convert an NPC’s stat block using the same process as converting a monster stat block using the guidelines in Chapter 13 of the Starfinder Core Rulebook. This will tell you what skills to change, how to create a target’s EAC and KAC, how to generate Stamina Points, and so on. Most of the conversions are simple enough they take at most a minute or two, and you can actually ignore most of them and just use any appropriate-sounding skill for science-fantasy skill checks (it doesn’t really matter if you use Diplomacy as a Computers check, if you have an NPC you want to be good at computers, and you can simple use half an NPC’s hp as Stamina and half as Hit Points and give them all 3 resolve Points). The end result may not be exactly what a Starfinder Roleplaying Game npc of the same level would have, but it’s close enough.

Equipment is a little trickier—but only a little. You can either just change what an NPC’s equipment looks like (and change reload needs from once per attack to one per 10 attacks) and allow the NPC to attack multiple times based on iterative attacks and two-weapon fighting and similar options, or you can upgrade the NPC to level-appropriate weapons from the Starfinder Core Rulebook, and add the NPC’S CR to the damage.

 

Adapting Monsters

The Freeport Bestiary has a huge number of monsters that players won’t be expecting, making it a great resource for populating strange planets, new worlds, and the drifting hulks of abandoned starships. Altering a monster’s stat block is largely the same process as adapting an NPC stat block. However, a monster may need some additional changes made to make sense in a Star-Freeport setting.

For example, aquatic creatures you would normally encounter at sea should either be updated to exist in a wide range of environments (including flying in gas giant planets, and even travelling through the void of space), or be set up as creatures that might sneak onto a ship, be transported by PCs (perhaps as part of a space menagerie) so they can escape and cause havoc, or be adjusted to be planar creatures able to travel through realities (and possible be encountered during hyperspace travel). The important part is to make sure PCs don’t have to go to a planetary body of water to encounter them. Similarly monsters tied to specific terrain types, be that jungles or underground caverns, should be liberally re-envisioned to dwell in fungal forests, asteroid interiors, or the crypt-worlds of necromancer robots, as needed to fit the campaign. Constructs may be given the technological subtype to represent various robots, or left as magical creatures powered purely by eldritch forces.

Other monsters can simply be moved to locations the plot sends PCs to. It doesn’t much matter if an ancient ruined temple is a remnant of a long-lost serpent-folk empire on one world, or part of a reptilian civilization that spanned a thousand star systems, if it’s an adventure site it needs demonic traps, undead lurkers, constructed guardians, and inhuman intelligences with their own reasons for breaking in.

 

Exploration is About the Unexpected

The very fact most players won’t think of Freeport material as a natural fit for a science-fantasy game means they won’t see it coming when Mr. Wednesday has a task for them involving tracking down the privateer starship Morgenstern, or offers to vacate their gambling debts if they’ll deal with a bloathsome that’s settled on an asteroid with valuable mining concerns on it.

Ronin Roundtable: Upcoming Releases!

Well that was a GenCon for the books! Absolute mayhem at our booth, with folks lining up to grab our new releases. The announcement of the Expanse RPG license. New opportunities and incredible partnerships in the offing. It was amazing and we have you to thank for it. 17 years in business and we are stronger than ever before. Seriously, thank you!

We’ll be taking a couple of days to recover but then it’s back to work on our next batch of books. This seems an opportune time to update you on our releases for the next six months. We’ve got a lot going on so let’s get to it!

RPG Releases

Our next book will be the new edition of Freedom City for Mutants & Masterminds. We’ve been working on this for a long time and the hour is finally nigh! This is the original setting for the game, the metropolis that birthed the Earth-Prime setting. And at 320 pages it’s as mighty as Captain Thunder! Look for Freedom City in October.

November is a triple threat. We’ve got another Mutants & Masterminds book, Rogues Gallery. This was a PDF series we did for the last couple of years. The book collects all the villains from that and adds some new ones as well. If you are looking for foes for your PCs to tangle with, Rogue Gallery has you covered. Next up is the Fantasy AGE Companion, the first major rules expansion for the game. It adds new, fun material for almost every aspect of the game. There are new talents, specializations, arcana, and spells, as well as rules for chases, relationships, organizations, mass combat, and more! Finally in November we’ve got the second edition of Ork! The Roleplaying Game. This was Green Ronin’s very first release 17 years ago. Ork is a beer and pretzels RPG, great for one shots or when you want a lighter hearted game. Show those evil Squishymen who’s the boss!

 

We also hope to get Faces of Thedas, the next Dragon Age book, out before Xmas. The final text for that is up with BioWare for approval. Once we get that signed off on, we’ll be able to slot it into a month for release. Watch our social media feed for more on Faces of Thedas in the coming months.

 

As you can see, we’ve got quite a lot planned for the rest of 2017. For this reason we decided to move Modern AGE and the World of Lazarus from their original November release date to January. This gives us more time to develop the books, and lets us start 2018 with a bang. Modern AGE takes the Adventure Game Engine to Earth, letting you run games anytime from the Industrial Revolution to the near future. World of Lazarus, the game’s first support book, lets you play in the setting of Greg Rucka’s awesome comic. If you haven’t read Lazarus before, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s seriously great.

In February we’ve got two more releases: Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook and Return to Freeport. The Basic Hero’s Handbook is both an entry point for those new to Mutants & Masterminds and a useful table reference for anyone playing the game. If you’ve been interested in M&M but looking for an easier way to learn the game, the Basic Hero’s Handbook is for you. Return to Freeport is a six-part adventure for the City of Adventure. It’s the first new adventure content we’ve done for Freeport in some years, and it’s designed for a Pathfinder RPG campaign that’ll take you from levels 1-11. At nearly 200 pages in length, Return to Freeport packs in a lot of adventure!

Nisaba Press

A few months ago we announced that we were adding fiction to our lineup and that we had hired Jaym Gates to lead that effort. Our fiction imprint is called Nisaba Press and the Offerings sampler we released at GenCon and online last week gave you the first taste of what we’ve got cooking. We’ll be publishing short fiction monthly and novels and short story collections in print. In November we’ll be publishing Tales of the Lost Citadel, an anthology of stories set in the world of our upcoming Fifth Edition setting that we Kickstarted this summer. Then in January we’ll have our first Blue Rose novel, Shadowtide, by Joseph Carriker. Joe has also become line developer for the Blue Rose RPG, so he’s all up in Aldea!

More to Come

So that’s the overview of what’s coming in the next six months. We have our yearly planning summit next month and we’ll be making plans for the rest of 2018 and beyond. We’ve already got some awesome stuff in the works, like the Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game and the Expanse RPG. I’ll be back early next year to talk about more of our plans. Game on!

Ronin Roundtable: Covering the Modern AGE

Last time I was here, I introduced Modern AGE, the contemporary era implementation of Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine. Look on this very page, and you’ll see the cover. I’m not going to call it the absolute, final article–fine tuning the look is Hal’s business–but this is darn close. I’m going to riff on the cover to tell you a bit more about what to expect.

Who’s on That Rooftop?

Like many games, Modern AGE features iconic characters we use for examples of play, who indicate the kinds of characters you can build and advance. Early in outlining, I designed each iconic with input from a writer, making it their character–you’ll see the writers’ names pop up as example players (Meghan Fitzgerald is our “iconic GM” in these examples). Let’s look at who the characters are, and what they tell you about the game.

They Know What to Say

On the far left, Sean checks their phone. “Played” by Howard Ingham, Sean’s a socially focused character, and even though we don’t have set character sheets for iconics like them, they’re bound to have a high Communication score, along with focuses supporting social interaction. Modern AGE includes social influence and connection rules in its core. First off, we present a selection of attitudes an encountered NPC might have, and rules for gradually shifting an attitude in a direction conducive to a character’s desires. But this is an AGE game, so we’ve also baked in an option to get things done with one roll. If you’re like me, there are times you want to play through developing a relationship, and times where you want to know whether an NPC will help or hinder a hero right away. The rules let you do both.

Sean might also draw on a Relationship with an NPC, or Membership in an organization–we have rules for both, evolved from predecessors in Blue Rose. Sean might have the Intrigue talent to draw information out of connections, and a specialization like Executive or Socialite that makes it easy to draw on social ties.

He Shoots

Crouched in the middle, Brian McLaughlin is an ex-military operative, “played” by yours truly. Brian probably has a character Background or Profession rooted in military affairs, and a Drive that motivates him to stay armed, and ready for action. Modern AGE Drives provide a capstone benefit at character creation, bundled into a reason to say “yes” to engaging with a campaign’s stories. Brian’s focus is on ranged combat, so guns, bullets, and how to deal with them are obviously important to him. That means Brian picked armor with a high rating against ballistic damage. In Modern AGE, we split damage into impact damage, inflicted by melee weapons, ballistic damage, delivered by firearms, and armor-piercing penetrating damage. Ancient armor doesn’t protect against ballistic attacks; modern armor does. Almost nothing resists penetrating damage.

Brian may have the Rifle Style focus, and perhaps a specialization in Sniper or Gunfighter, which can make him a formidable opponent even when his targets have armored up. But much depends on the game’s mode, our term for what rules might be in play to support a genre. All characters have a resistance to damage called Toughness, but in the gritty game mode, it only protects against mild blunt force trauma. In pulpy and cinematic modes, however, one of Brian’s targets might shrug a shot off, and keep in coming.

She Hits Hard

Over to Brian’s right is Amy Wilson, “played” by Matthew Dawkins. She’s trained and motivated to deal with anyone getting too close for comfort. Amy’s a martial artist and melee weapons expert. Matthew wrote the equipment section, and knows the sort of blades, bludgeons and other weapons she might acquire. AGE games aren’t equipment focused, so each weapon represents a general category. Furthermore, note that with no classes, we’ve dropped the penalty for not being trained with a weapon, but since Amy is probably trained in multiple armed and unarmed fighting style talents and the Martial Artist specialization, don’t expect to be on an even footing.

One of the organizational changes we’ve made in Modern AGE will affect how Matthew plays Amy. In other AGE games, we presented one big list of combat stunts; in Modern AGE we have more stunts, but they’re split into smaller lists of stunts linked to specific actions (with some that fit any action, and advice that there is wiggle room). Some stunts are listed as “core,” meaning that as low-cost options that are easy to describe, they can be your first choice, to avoid decision paralysis at the table. We hope that this combined with short, focused stunt lists makes picking stunts easier. We’ve done the same for non-combat stunts as well.

Beyond the Rooftop

So that’s who’s on the cover. What are they doing on that rooftop? What city are they in? (And who are the iconics I haven’t introduced yet, including the one who leads into chatting about the investigation rules?) Modern AGE doesn’t have a default setting, so it’s up to you, though the World of Lazarus, coming out at the same time as a supplement, provides immediate possibilities. If you want to know more, your best bet is to come visit our booth at Gencon–we’re Exhibitor #1321–or visit the “What’s New With Green Ronin Publishing!” panel at noon on Saturday.

Freebooters Ahoy! The Changing of the Guard.

It is a sad announcement for me to make, but I’ve recently flown the coop and am no longer managing the Freebooter Volunteer GM Program, nor the Events coordination for Gen Con and other shows. I resigned a bit ago, but we all felt like it was good to say goodbye to the community and offer a very hale welcome to Veronica Templar, your new Events/Freebooter Manager!

I’ve been very lucky to be working with Team Ronin these years, and it’s been a great pleasure to coordinate events with so many great volunteers. Green Ronin couldn’t be happier with the quality of volunteers, both some of our long standing Freebooters and with so many new folks. You’re what makes all the organizing such a pleasure.

For my team, I will miss you all greatly. You’ve been my biggest supporters, friends, and I love the hell out of you all. Luckily, most of you are in my local area, so I will get to see you for games and shenanigans. I cannot thank you all enough for the opportunities you’ve given me.

Where am I going? Catan Studio! I accepted a position managing the Organized Play program. You’ll still see me at shows, but you’ll need come to the Catan Event Hall to say hello! I’ll be busy running the tournaments and overseeing events, but I am always happy to take a moment to catch up and hear about your games.

I’m also still running OrcaCon, the inclusive tabletop games convention, outside Seattle. It’s the Unofficial Green Ronin Convention, and you’ll find most of the staff there each year. We’d love to see some of you come run games for Green Ronin Publishing.

So, things aren’t all sad around here, I’d like to tell you about Veronica! She is amazing and I am so excited she is on board to organize events and Freebooters. She’ll be growing the Freebooter Program, and we’ll be looking for more Freebooters at shows Green Ronin Publishing will be attending. You can read more information on the Freebooter Volunteer Info Page, and the team will be updating it as they start reaching out per show. So, if you haven’t made it to a Gen Con, maybe you can support Origins, UK Games Expo, Norwescon, OrcaCon, and more!

Veronica is a great organizer and has a very kind heart. I hope you give her the same love and enthusiasm you’ve shown me. And patience, as she learns her new role! If you’re interested in signing up as a Freebooter, hop over to that Info Page and fill out the form. She’ll be getting back to folks as we start booking the shows.

Thanks again for the years of support, not just from our Community, but from the Green Ronin Publishing Team. Go forth and be amazing!

Ronin Roundtable: Walking the Royal Road, Part One: Friends & Loved Ones

Hello and welcome to Walking the Royal Road, what I hope to be an ongoing series on using the Tarot (or Royal Road, in Aldean parlance) in Blue Rose AGE games.

The Tarot has been used in roleplaying games for quite a long time, in a variety of contexts, and with good reason. Reading and deciphering the Tarot is less a matter of divination as it is storytelling—each card carries an intrinsic meaning (and sometimes a second meaning when the card appears inverted) that can serve as a building block for a larger narrative. When multiple cards are laid out, with each card position also having a meaning, it is possible to use them to build a small story of some kind, through the language of symbolism and the very human act of pulling disparate elements into a larger narrative.

The Blue Rose AGE core book already suggests a use of the Royal Road: in the establishment of a character’s Calling, Destiny, and Fate. There are also some suggestions for using tarot in Chapter Ten (p. 313, in the section “Walking the Royal Road,” where the title for this series comes from). This series of articles is going to suggest some additional uses for them.

The cards we use in these articles are the Shadowscapes Tarot, with art by the amazing Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, whose art has graced the covers of Blue Rose books throughout the game’s history.

Friends & Loved Ones

Today’s article is going to offer some additional character building. Romantic fantasy, as a genre, focuses not just on magic and feats of derring-do, but also the relationships formed by the characters. Characters do amazing things for love, for friendship, and for hate, and these kinds of motivators should always play into games of romantic fantasy, to some degree.

In order to have these kinds of motivations, though, player characters need some relationships in place. This system is intended to augment the Relationships mechanics, as found on p. 60 of the Blue Rose core rulebook. Where that system helps define how strongly heroes feel about other characters, this one will help with the brainstorming of figuring out who they are.

 

The Spread

The spread for this method is a simple three-card spread for each character.

The Role Card indicates in what capacity the PC knows the character in question. Take a look at the suit (pentacles, cups, wands, swords, or Major Arcana).

  • Pentacles: The person is someone you know in a professional capacity.
  • Cups: The person is someone who know familially, either a member of your family, or someone you met through a family member.
  • Wands: The person is someone you met in a social capacity, at a party or festival, tavern or theater.
  • Swords: The person is someone you know from a training or learning endeavor: a fellow apprentice, or someone you met in schooling of some kind.
  • Major Arcana: You met this person in some extraordinary capacity. Use the card itself as an inspiration: perhaps you met the Chariot while traveling, or you met the Tower during a terrible disaster of some kind.

The Personality Card indicates what this person is like. Use the tables for Calling, Destiny, and Fate in the Blue Rose core rulebook as a starting place. Note that this card does not indicate this character’s Calling, Destiny, or Fate—it’s simply what their outward-facing personality is like. There are always depths beneath this surface.

The Relationship Card indicates what your relationship with this person is like. The meaning of the card should be applied to this in some capacity. A Six of Wands suggests recognition of success, so perhaps this person looks up to you for your heroism; in contrast, the Page of Swords is about having enthusiasm but needing more information, so this card in the Relationship space suggests that the person looks to you as a source of information, or is themselves such a source for you.

 



Example

In the image, we have laid out some cards in the Friends & Loved Ones Spread.

Role: The Magician. We know this person because of magic, clearly. They might be an adept of some kind, or if we’re playing an adept or other talented character, perhaps we aided them with our own arcane arts.

Personality: The Star. Consulting the Callings table on p. 57 of Blue Rose, we see that this card represents “Artistic Mastery.” This character seems to be an artist to everyone they know, and not just a dabbler, either, but someone who really works to master their craft and achieve their vision.

Relationship: Seven of Wands. One of the typical meanings for the Seven of Wands is both aggression and defiance. In the Relationships space, this suggest someone whose closeness to the player character is either defiance—or, it’s someone who maintains the relationship out of defiance.

Conclusion

Here is just one example of a Narrator character generated using the spread above. It’s far from the only one, to say nothing of the variety possible from other card results entirely!

Godia Tulry: The Wishful Scrivener. We met Godia in the way she tends to meet new people—when she barged right up to us to ask us about our experiences and theories about the arcane. The other adepts roll their eyes and make themselves scarce when she shows up, because she’ll take up every bit of your time, if you let her. Despite their warnings, though, we find her delightful. She’s a dedicated magical chronicler, and we’re good enough friends that she has shyly confided that she wants more than anything to wield magic herself some day, but she just doesn’t have the Talent for it. Still, she is very sweet, loves when we use magic around her, and whipcrack sharp when it comes to arcane theory and history.

In the above example, magic is at the center of the friendship between Godia and the player’s character, per the Role card showing the Magician. Her insistent personality around her craft we derive from the Personality card showing the Star, and we’ve interpreted the defiance in the relationship, per the Relationship card showing the Seven of Wands, as coming from others who don’t understand the friendship.

 

Thanks: To Stephanie Pui-Mun Law for her amazing Shadowscapes tarot, which we use in this article. Her deck can be purchased off of Amazon here.