Ronin Round Table: Minions!

Hey folks, Jack here. Long time no Round Table, but we’ve been busy on wrapping the Campaign Builder’s Guide and preparing for the push to finish Lairs, our next book after that for Fantasy AGE.

Now originally I had intended to do the third Iconic character from our “core three” heroes featured on our covers and such. And I will do that. However, a discussion with Vigilance Press head James Dawsey about his FAGE campaign got me thinking about a particularly utilitarian entry utilizing the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary. In particular I wanted to discuss Minion rules and how they work with various creatures, but the decisions and analysis here are similar to the thought processes for other parts of the Play Options chapter of the Companion, such as the mob rules.

The Companion has Minion rules for disposing of some creatures as a minor threat. This is represented by a Minion Rating, which is the amount of stunt points (SPs) you can use to automatically defeat an adversary. You can even use this to dispose of multiple minions if you have the points, making it possible for skilled heroes to slaughter lesser foes.  The rules are discussed in more detail in the Companion, but that’s how they basically work.

Now the idea behind those rules is that GMs would assign a Minion Rating based on their needs. For example, goblins might be rated 1 or 2, based on how little a threat they are in a campaign. A high-powered game might give Minion Ratings to giants or other powerful foes, while they are never given those in lower-powered games. However, its also true there are certainly general niches and impressions many Minion type adversaries fall into in most campaigns while other adversaries might use these rules in very particular and unusual—but still valid—ways.

With that said, let’s look at some Fantasy AGE Bestiary creatures and look at how they interact with Minion rules.  I hope this is helpful to those seeking to use these rules in their campaigns.

Beastkin Art by Mirco Paganessi

Bakwanee, Beastkin, and Bouda

These adversaries all fill the “dangerous in large groups, makes great minions for boss monsters” category.  That makes them good candidates for Minion Rating 2. They can be disposed of with some strong attacks, but with some luck you can take down some extras along the way. In high powered campaigns? Drop these down to 1 and watch them fall. Or perhaps make them Mobs and then give the Mobs a Minion Rating—you heard it here first—for games of heroes who can cut down armies like a Fantasy AGE version of the Dynasty Warriors video game franchise.

Chimera

So Chimera don’t usually have Minion Ratings. They’re singular threats and tough. However, you could give their various heads a Minion Rating and then link some of their special qualities to these heads. Hit a “Minion” on the Chimera and they lose their dragon head and its breath or some other part. Other multi-limbed or headed adversaries could be similarly handled. These heads would likely be hard to hit, akin to a Lethal Blow stunt (5 SPs). Thus it would make sense to have these heads be Minion Rating 5.

Gatorkin and Fomoiri

A bit tougher than the above Bouda and company, they usually have Minion Rating 3, meaning a truly epic Stunt can take out two, but they’re still a threat.

Gargoyles

Gargoyle Minion Ratings should be set at around 4. This would be the equivalent of using a Mighty Blow and Pierce Armor to bash through their stone-hard skin with a disabling blow.  Sometimes the adversary suggests a stunt or combination of them which would “finish them”. This makes a good model for a Minion Rating.  In these cases, GMs will to do a bit more bookkeeping might offer a discount to a character who has one of the stunts that go into such calculations, making it easier for them to cut down certain Minions. However, this is another thing to keep track of, so its not for everyone.

Sea Devils and Merfolk

Its worth noting these adversaries are more dangerous in water. Mostly this is because they are at home in this environment where most characters suffer penalties. However, if you’re making aquatic minions? Consider making them with two Minion Ratings, one for out of water and one for in. In this case of these foes? 2 out of the water and 3 in the water makes sense, though you could remove the rating entirely underwater if you want to reinforce how important it is to face these foes on your own terms to ensure success.

Reaper

Reapers generally shouldn’t have Minion Ratings. But what if their ability to mark others for death allowed them to give someone else a Minion Rating? Thus a character marked by a Reaper could be cut down by the creature more easily.  This would also be a way to simulate a “death curse”.  However, be extremely careful using this concept on PCs and if you do make sure they are taken to 0 health and in danger of death by this, allowing them some way to survive.

Vampire Thralls

Vampire Thralls might be Minions, representing how they are sometimes disposed of easily in fiction even as the Vampire Lord is a major threat. This is somewhat represented already with its Hard to Kill special quality, requiring a Lethal Blow stunt to stake or behead them once they have reached 0 Health. However, making these creatures Minions makes them more fragile, doing away with the requirement to reduce their health. In this case, a Minion Rating of 5 is appropriate, the same SPs you’d need to use a Lethal Blow to finish them in their non-Minion state.

That’s just a few examples, but it shows the variety of ways the Play Options rules from the Fantasy AGE Companion can intersect with other books in the line.

Modern Monday: What’s Up? And Your Cool Idea From Gen Con

Modern Monday isn’t as frequent as it used to be, because Modern AGE is out! Buy it, play it, talk about it online. Today I’m going to talk about what’s happening with the game before finishing off with a cool idea put forth by multiple gamers at Gen Con.

(Want to dip your toes in first? Try the free Quickstart out.)

It’s out. Spread the word with your phone, not, uh, the other tool.

What’s Coming Out?

The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook is winging its way through distribution chains (and if you click on the link, you can get it straight from us, too). Preorders were on the march before distribution. We had this at Gen Con and it sold well enough that we had to order more halfway through the convention. I’m not sure how many we got altogether, but we went home with one box of ten. As developer, this lightened my heart.

We had advance copies of the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit at Gen Con, and it should be following shortly. That’s the GM’s screen and reference cards. Being a middle-aged man, I found it weird when people bought this without getting the core, but of course someone explained to me that many of you had the game on PDF and wanted a hardcopy table reference. My beard visibly grayed in response.

The World of Lazarus is the first Modern AGE setting, based on the acclaimed comic series by Greg Rucka. It’s currently finishing layout. This is Crystal Frasier’s project, though I covered a modest chunk of writing. I love the comic and am looking forward to this. We expect this one to drop in a matter of weeks.

The Modern AGE Companion has fully edited text and art notes. It’s due to come out in early 2019. This is a counterpart to the Fantasy AGE Companion, in that it includes many new optional rules, including advanced talents, duels, horror, fantasy and SF backgrounds (like elves . . . and aliens), powers, technology, fighting styles—lots and lots of stuff. As it gets close to release I’ll preview some of its content.

On the Horizon

We have a tentative plan for Modern AGE that covers future releases. As I’ve explained here and there, I usually only announce books when they’re text-complete, so this part’s going to be vague even though some of these are already in production. Note that anything on this list is subject to change, but it includes the following:

  • Adventure support.
  • Adversaries and other NPCs across a range of genres.
  • One original setting with a very broad scope. If it performs well, it will become Modern AGE’s flagship setting.
  • At least one other setting. Setting pitches have been very popular for this game.
  • A dedicated Game Master sourcebook.

Like I said, things in this list are subject to change. I don’t lock things in until they’re close to completion.

Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That: Shifting Mode

As mentioned, the Modern AGE Companion’s text is finalized. This is almost a pity, because I get new ideas all the time. However, there’s one thing I can’t take credit for, which three different people proposed at Gen Con: mode shifting.

Modern AGE has Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic Modes to match your campaign’s style. These geniuses of Gen Con suggested being able to switch modes mid-campaign. This is a fantastic idea, meant to reflect things like the transition from a Gritty investigation to a Cinematic shootout. Of course, it can also be used to create games where, outside of set piece combat, characters can be effectively knocked out and captured. Here’s how I suggest you do it:

  • Calculate each character’s Health in all three modes. When the mode changes use the new Health score. Calculate the amount of damage accumulated separately from a character’s Health score. When your character’s base Health goes up due to a change in mode, recalculate their remaining Health by subtracting damage from the base. When your character’s base Health goes down due to a change in mode, use the lower of base Health or their remaining Health after injury, if any.
  • Use the Defense and Toughness scores of the most lenient mode the campaign will be shifting to. If you’re using all three modes, that’s Cinematic. Recalculating these really isn’t worth the effort.
  • Apply all other mode rules based on whichever one is in play, except the one for Resources. Pick one mode for that and stick to it. The main ones are how Toughness works, and which stunts you can access.

A Little Bit of Gratitude

Modern AGE seems to be a success. Before I go, I want to thank you for making it that way. Enjoy it, Play it. Talk about your campaigns. Have fun.

Ronin Roundtable: Expanse Kickstarter Flip ‘n’ Burn!

So, here’s hoping the Expanse RPG Kickstarter burns just as hard at the end as it did in the beginning, because we have lot of momentum to shed before it all comes to an end at 9:00 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, August 22nd.

That doesn’t leave a lot of time for you to back the Kickstarter, if you’ve been on the fence thus far. So I wanted to highlight some of the great things you can get, along with some of the discussion and previews of the game to-date, so you have all of the information you need to make your own decision (I think James Holden would want it that way). First, what you can get:

At the $30 Drop Ship reward level, you’re getting PDFs of the Expanse RPG core rulebook, the Game Master’s Kit Screen, GM’s Kit Adventure, Reference Cards, Pregenerated Characters, and the six-part Abzu’s Bounty adventure series. With the starter adventure now included in the core book, that’s eight adventures for your Expanse game (nine, if you count the free adventure included in the Quickstart).

At the $70 Destroyer level, you’re getting the Expanse RPG core book and Expanse Game Master’s Kit in print: A 224-page, full color hardcover book, lavishly illustrated with a fold-out map of the Solar System, plus the hardcover stock GM screen, reference cards, and adventure and pregenerated character booklet. Plus you get all of the PDFs, including the six-part Abzu’s Bounty adventure series.

At the $100 Battleship level, you get the special edition of The Expanse RPG core book, with beautiful black leatherette cover with silver solar system graphics and dust jacket, in addition to the printed GM’s Kit and all of the PDF content.

We’ve also unlocked an exciting new pledge level: At $1000, James S.A. Corey will write flash fiction about your Expanse character! Based on the info you send, Daniel and Ty will write a one page (200-300 word) “flash-fiction” piece about your character. These will be shared as a PDF with all backers who pledge $30 or more. In addition to the story, you get copies of the Special Edition and the Standard Edition of The Expanse RPG corebook, a bookplate signed by James S.A. Corey, the Expanse GM’s Kit, and all of the PDF rewards as well!

That’s what you can get (and there are other backer levels to mix-and-match, including levels for retailers), but you wonder “Tell me more about the game…?” Glad you asked!

First and foremost, you can check out the Expanse RPG Quickstart for free: a 40-page PDF that includes essential rules, pregenerated characters, and an adventure you can play right away to give you a taste of the new game. You can also get the Expanse Quickstart in print while supplies last.

You can also take a look at all of the Expanse Extra previews we’ve posted on the Kickstarter. These add to the basic rules in the Quickstart, giving you even more to play around with in your first game in terms of trying things out. They include:

  • Fortune: More about how Fortune works in The Expanse in terms of modifying die rolls and how characters recover it over time.
  • The Churn: How The Expanse RPG keeps players guessing with a system to ramp up the stakes and provide for some exciting twists,
  • Interludes: The Expanse system for handling events that happen in-between the moment-by-moment encounters, providing a framework for long travel times, downtime, and other narrative elements.
  • Qualities & Flaws: Ways to modify technology and equipment in The Expanse to give it individual character and flavor with a minimum of complexity.
  • Space Combat! A look at how combat occurs between ships in space in The Expanse RPG, using a familiar encounter from the novels themselves.

Lastly, you can take a look at some of the media coverage The Expanse RPG has received. We’re incredibly appreciative of all of the excitement shown by fans of the series towards the forthcoming game!

The Expanse Roleplaying Game Kickstarter: Here Comes the Juice! (Initial Launch Announcement)

Starships and Steel blog (news and analysis of the Expanse RPG)

Talking the Expanse RPG With Steve Kenson (BAMF podcast)

Victory Condition Gaming podcast chats with Steve Kenson, Green Ronin Publishing – The Expanse RPG

Polyhedron podcast: Ep. 65 “The asteroid can dodge…?”

The Expanse Is Getting a New RPG, Thanks to a Wildly Successful Kickstarter (io9)

The Expanse Is Being Turned Into an RPG (The Verge)

“The Expanse, Once a Homebrew Tabletop RPG, Is Going Legit” (Polygon)

The Expanse Panel with James S.A. Corey and Green Ronin Publishing (GenCon – YouTube)

#randomworlds online Q&A: The Expanse RPG

Ronin Roundtable: The Expanse vs. Modern AGE by Malcolm Sheppard

It has certainly been a wild ride and we’re looking forward to passing the finish line and opening up the universe of The Expanse for countless new stories and adventures that you help to create!

Ronin Roundtable: The Expanse Versus Modern AGE

I’ve been back from Gen Con for nearly a week, having carried back some great memories—and annoying microorganisms. I got “con crud” in whatever form managed to hit my throat, chest and sinuses, while mixing in a fever. I’m running hot right now. And yet, through the haze of my illness, I remember many, many questions related to our recently-released Modern AGE, and its still-in-Kickstarter cousin, The Expanse Roleplaying Game. The Expanse features some elements originally devised for Modern AGE but is its own game. To sort out the details—and remind you that Modern AGE is out, and we’d love you to crowdfund The Expanse! —read on.

Both Games Are Core Books

First off, many people wondered if you needed Modern AGE to run The Expanse. You do not. The Expanse Roleplaying Game is a complete game based on the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system. However, both games are compatible to various degrees. Modern AGE has a different selection of stunts which can easily be ported over, and has extraordinary powers such as psychic disciplines, which you might want to use in some personal variant of The Expanse. If your primary interest is Modern AGE, new rules for equipment and space travel are among some of the elements you can convert, along with Fortune, interludes, injury conditions and the Churn.

Both Games Are Classless

Not “classless” as in “something Amos might say or do,” but as in bereft of the character classes used in previous AGE games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. In both Modern AGE and The Expanse, characters pick a background, profession and drive: Where they’re from, what they did, and why they get involved with the story. Where the games differ is that while Modern AGE presents a spread of options suited to a wide variety of contemporary settings, The Expanse’s counterparts come straight from the setting of the books, and incorporate the unusual environments of Earth, Mars and the Belt, leading to characters deeply embedded in its future history.

Each Game Has Its Own Take on AGE

While Modern AGE’s core systems were the basis for The Expanse’s design, we see the Adventure Game Engine as something which should be deeply customized for each setting. In Modern AGE, which has no core setting, this is accomplished through game modes (Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic—see here for more on genres and modes) and other options. The Expanse novels present a defined reality for characters to operate in, however, so its rules have been tuned accordingly. Therefore, injuries are tracked using conditions in The Expanse, instead of Health, as they are in Modern AGE, with Fortune acting to moderate them according to a character’s dramatic arc.

Similarly, the narrative tone of The Expanse includes the optional Churn system, where luck is always answered by new challenges, because this is how the books play out. Modern AGE doesn’t have that system, though the upcoming Modern AGE Companion will include Dramatic Rhythm, which Game Masters can apply for similar effects.

Parallel Lines

I’m the developer of Modern AGE. Steve Kenson is The Expanse’s developer. We’re treating these as two independent lines for the sake of support and supplements, so that expansions such as the Abzu’s Bounty campaign don’t use a release “slot” (assuming there even is such a thing) earmarked for Modern AGE.

Plans for supplements for The Expanse beyond Abzu’s Bounty and The Expanse Game Master’s Kit have yet to be announced. Modern AGE’s core book is shipping now, with the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit to follow (we had an early shipment come in for Gen Con, so those of you who bought a copy then got the jump on everyone else!). Next up for Modern AGE is The World of Lazarus (based on Greg Rucka’s comic of near future, posthuman feudalism, unrelated to The Expanse) and in early 2019, the Modern AGE Companion.

The Expanse is in mid-Kickstarter, but You Can Get Modern AGE Now

Since the Modern AGE developer is writing this column, he/I get to use the last bit to blatantly hawk that game. It’s for sale! It’s shipping! Get it from us or favorite supplier.

However, in fever-wracked visions (seriously, Gen Con made me unwell) I can see Steve frowning, so I will also mention The Expanse Roleplaying Game is in mid-Kickstarter. Back it so we can kick over final stretch goals, including new fiction by James S. A. Corey!

Ronin Roundtable: Nisaba Press update!

So, by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the announcement about Nisaba Press’s first novel, Shadowtide, by Blue Rose’s own, beloved Joe Carriker. Joe turned the final manuscript over to me a couple of months ago, and I worked on the edits while I was in New Orleans for a convention. Readers, this book is lovely. It’s full of intrigue, adventure, and chosen family, led by a smart-talking rhy-crow and a grieving Night Woman.

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.

The book is now in production’s hands, along with the interior art order. It’s going to be pretty amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the first entry in Nisaba’s novel line.

But now that Joe’s novel is into production, let’s talk about what we can look forward to next. Nisaba’s fiction is currently focused on our three internal settings, Blue Rose, Freeport, and Mutants & Masterminds. With a Blue Rose novel out, what could possibly be next?

How about a Mutants & Masterminds novel, penned by Aaron Rosenberg? Aaron is an experienced novelist who is familiar with tie-in and game fiction, having written for properties including Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Star Wars, Warhammer, and Eureka. He’s written for a number of game properties, too, including several supplements for Green Ronin. His combination of game and novel experience made him a great fit for our next Nisaba novel.

Coming in fourth quarter 2018 from Nisaba Press, Height of the Storm is a novel about a teenager who gets caught in a storm, and wakes up with a big choice to make. We’ve been through the first round of edits, and the manuscript is back with Aaron for a final writing pass before the copyedit phase starts. Hal has the cover art notes, and we’re looking forward to initial sketches.

In the meantime, check out our short fiction, and keep an eye out for an announcement of the upcoming Nisaba Journal, our first collection of short fiction. The Journal will be produced bi-monthly, containing 4-6 short stories in the featured settings, and available in our web store. The August issue includes stories from Richard Lee Byers, Tiffany Trent, Michael Matheson, Dylan Birtolo, Rhiannon Louve, and a prequel to Height of the Storm from Aaron Rosenberg!

Thanks for reading, folks. I’m super excited to bring you the next round of fiction set in Green Ronin’s worlds.

Basic Hero’s Handbook preview: THE ARCHETYPES: ANANSI

With the arrival of the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook, the world of Earth Prime has a few new heroes illustrating the eight heroic archetypes presented in the books. Four of these characters also appear in the upcoming Mutants & Masterminds Quickstart as pregenerated player character sheets, and so they needed names, personalities, and origins of their own. We turned to RPG industry legend and giant comics nerd, Amber Scott to help flesh out the new Crimefighter, Energy Controller, Gadgeteer, and Paragon of the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Heroes Handbook!

 

———————-

Morowa grew up in the nation of Dakana, a technologically advanced society hidden from the rest of the world. As a child, she always felt confident in her place in the world. With her clever mind and natural talent for athletics, she fit in perfectly as a member of the nation’s defense forces. As she advanced in school, she studied all the courses necessary for her to enter the all-female force comprising Dakana’s greatest defenders.

But her plans for the future derailed as Morowa began having strange dreams. At first, the dreams were  the same. She stood on the edge of a tall building, looking out over an unfamiliar city. It was night, and a moon shone brightly overhead. Below her, thousands of people went about their daily lives, unaware of her watchful presence. The city—like a heart—beat strong, but out beyond the heart poison crept through its veins.

Young and headstrong, she initially dismissed the dreams as a strange quirk of her mind. But the visions continued, and gradually Morowa found herself able to interact with them. She walked around the roof, glancing down from different angles and seeing slices of city life. She witnessed car accidents, assaults, and robberies, but she also saw good-hearted people stepping in to help when they could. And every time a good soul stepped in to help, the poison receded just a little.

Eventually, the young soldier began to notice a tiny spider crouched on the ledge. One night, as she descended again into the dream-city, the spider spoke to her.

“You are destined for more than a life of routine,” the spider said. “The heart you have trained your whole life to protect is strong; it drips with good souls and healthy blood. Your fate lies across the sea. You will help those who need it and strike down those who would harm the innocent. If you love the heart, how can you not love the body it feeds as well?”

After that, the dreams stopped. Morowa resisted, at first. She already had such a clear vision for her future, and it didn’t include traveling to another continent and living among the strange customs of the western world, with its crime and intolerance. But she couldn’t shake the spider’s words out of her head, and after discussing the matter with the shamans and soldiers, she decided to follow the path laid out by her dreams.

The first night in her new city, she dreamed again of the spider. “You have made a wise choice,” the spider said. “Fight with a fearless heart and trust those who come to your aid.”

Morowa fights with her acrobatic skills and with three weapons brought from her homeland. The most obvious are a collapsing staff and spider-shaped throwing disks, but the least obvious is the most deadly: a lifetime raised in a world uncorrupted by petty greed and hate, and the knowledge that such a place can exist where people flourish. Those who have fought her would also add Morowa’s sharp wit to her list of weapons. She calls herself Anansi, after the spider of folk-tales brought to Dakana from distant Ghana. She still knows little of the spider from her visions, but Morowa  knows who she is:  a trickster, and a spider whose bite draws out venom from the veins of the world.

 

Ronin Roundtable: Gamemastering Basics

As Mutants & Masterminds developer Crystal Frasier is demonstrating in previews leading up to pre-orders, The Basic Hero’s Handbook has a lot to offer both old and new players interested in the World’s Greatest Superhero RPG.

 

“But what about Gamemasters?” you ask. Fear not! As it happens, The Basic Hero’s Handbook (or M&M Basic for short) has a lot of offer M&M GM’s as well, including those of you who may want to start running your own games. What sorts of things will long-time and new Gamemasters find in the book?

Encounter Archetypes

M&M Basic provides several “encounter archetypes,” looking at a particular encounter or situation in some detail, including how to stage it, what the game mechanics look like, and different variations you can play out with it. The book includes encounter archetypes such as:

The Doom Room: How to run all of those “training exercise” scenes where the heroes cooperate against a fiendish simulation, or compete against each other. The material in this encounter also does double-duty in supplying game mechanics you can use for various villainous traps!

The Heist: The classic robbery scenario, including what the crooks are stealing, the potential for innocent bystanders in harm’s way, and ways the thieves may use to cover their escape when the heroes try to thwart their heist. Variations include how to mix-and-match some supervillains and different kinds of heists.

The Rescue: A falling jetliner, a runaway train, people in danger and heroes to the rescue! How to handle rescuing people endangered by these and similar problems, along with many variations that can turn them into even more complex encounters, such as rescuing a falling passenger jet while also dealing with the villains who damaged it!

Disaster! Looks at a different sort of rescue encounter, heroes saving people in danger from a catastrophe. This can range from a building on fire or damaged in a quake, to a storm or some other disaster, and sets up how to stage rescues and give the heroes challenges that are not necessarily things they can punch their way through.

You can use these encounter archetypes as building blocks for your own superheroic adventures or time-savers in your own adventure design, since the essential work has been laid out for you.

Ready to Use Villains

M&M Basic offers a set of ready-to-run villains with a variety of different power levels, from 8 to 15, complete with easy-to-read character sheets detailing just what the villain’s powers do in clear terms. For example, take a look at the new Luna Moth, a daring, flying thief with gossamer wings and chemical cocoons to challenge your heroes.

 

Other foes described in Basic terms for Gamemasters include the Power Corps, the Battle Brothers, the mentalist Mindfire, the space bounty hunter Loma Slife, Malador the Mystic, and the sinister Overshadow! Plus GMs get a variety of ready-made monsters and minions to round out the villains and to put between them and the heroes.

Shadows of the Past

Plus the Basic Hero’s Handbook includes a complete M&M adventure, Shadows of the Past, making use of the villains and encounter building blocks provided in the book. You can play through this adventure to introduce a group to the game or kick off a new M&M campaign, and use it as an example for building your own exciting adventures.

Combine this with GM advice and reference material and The Basic Hero’s Handbook has everything a group needs to get started playing the World’s Greatest Superhero RPG!

Ronin Roundtable: Ork! Lore and More Gore!

Okay, I’ve been busy talking about Modern AGE but there’s another game I’m developing. It’s nastier, brutisher, and shorter—and stylistically, promotes the use of words like “brutisher.” That’s Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition.

Ork! was Green Ronin’s first release, and its dank, beer-stained roots can be found in Chris Pramas’ NYC games with Ork! mastermind Todd Miller. These games ran on punk mayhem, goofy improvisation and the peculiar interests of their group, including The World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, The World’s Most Popular Fantasy Miniatures Game, and The World’s Most Popular Vaguely Depressing Filmmaker Who Fortunately We Can Name, He’s Werner Herzog And He Did That Thing About The Penguin Walking To Its Probable Death (It’s on YouTube). To turn this mash into a semi-coherent game, Chris Pramas devised a system, and out it came in the Year 2000, which back then, was practically the future, man.

So Ork! is special to Chris and Todd, and to Green Ronin as a whole. It’s a funny game, but it’s been designed with the same effort as we put into games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. At times this meant a bit of extra work. I was called in to work on Ork! 2nd after Jon Leitheusser had already done a significant amount of development—more than enough to produce a functional RPG. So, my role was to tune the game into something in tune with the spirit of those early games, and which would fit hand-in-glove with the style of Ork! Game mastering—what we call Orkmastering for the deepest, most story-relevant reasons, I assure you—Todd performs when he runs it at Gen Con and elsewhere. That meant a top-to-bottom review and, where necessary, redesign. This stage got us to Cheats, where orks steal dice from the Orkmaster and each other (and risk the wrath of Krom, the merciless ork god), rules for ork magic (which risks the wrath of Krom) and other elements, all of which risk the wrath of Krom, probably.

For me, one part of the design was key: In Ork!, all dice rolls are opposed! Nowadays we have two basic schools of game design. In one, we figure out how things happen in the game based on some tactical challenge or representation of how the game world works. In the other school, we settle things based on their dramatic importance, how they might contribute to a developing story arc, and so on. Orks never went to school, and live with one boneheaded truth: Krom’s got a lot of wrath to spread around. So, in Ork!, opposed rolls represent how much interest Krom has in making life difficult for characters. Krom made the universe, so for the most part, meets expectations like big mountains being tougher to claim than little ones, but may also make things harder by getting bored, believing an ork is acting in a pathetic, unorkly way, and so on.

And lo, Krom’s wrath was spread around, and Ork! was sent to production, the dominion of a mysterious being called “Hal.” And Hal gave Ork! a perfectly serviceable layout. Truly respectable. Until, exercising the attention to detail that has defined our efforts on this game, decided it needed more rippy, blood-spattery bits. Here’s what it looks like now:

Wotank is not a “starter monster.”

Rippy, spattery—perfect for Ork! I look forward to sharing the product of all this work with you. Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition is scheduled to come out in August 2018. The game includes all the rules you need, things to kill (in a chapter called, “Things to Kill”) and a handful of adventures sufficient to get you through a short campaign. See you then!

Ronin Round Table: Maps of Aldis Preview

The past few months have been some pretty hard work finishing up the upcoming Blue Rose sourcebook Aldis: City of the Blue Rose. As a developer and a cartography nerd, I love a good city-focused setting book, so being able to help detail the wondrous and near-idyllic capital city at the heart of the Blue Rose setting was a dream come true.

 

It’s been a great deal of fun guiding writers through creating places, and then seeing those places turned into beautiful, full color maps that inspire as much as they inform. The amazing Liz Courts has lent her talent and vision to this effort, and the results are – as I hope you’ll agree – simply stunning.

To demonstrate the scope and variety of maps, I’m taking this opportunity to show off the Palace Complex, heart of the Aldin government and home to the Sovereign, Queen Jaellin; the House of the Thousand Ways, a very upscale pillow house where Aldinfolk can find healing and companionship in the arms of the specialists of the House; and the village of Dorwine, a small settlement in the countryside that surrounds the city of Aldis.

 

Aldis: City of the Blue Rose will be available for pre-order later this month!

Ronin Roundtable: Playtesting and Origins!

The past few months have been focused on the design and playtesting of the decks of Sentinels of Earth-Prime and I’m happy to report that it’s going great. The fourth version of the playtest decks are currently having their tires kicked and everything is coming together nicely.

Christopher’s playtest set.

Earlier this month, both Green Ronin and Greater Than Games were at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio and this gave us a chance to get together to talk about the business side of things and do a playtest together.

Christopher Badell has ideas!

This was the first time we’ve actually had the whole team in one place so we were able to cover a lot of ground and make sure everything was on track for the next stage of development. In addition to the boss Ronins (Nicole, Hal, and myself), we had Steve Kenson (designer of Mutants & Masterminds and creator of Earth-Prime), James Dawsey (art director for this project), and Christopher Badell (Greater Than Games, designer of the Sentinels games).

The following day Christopher, James, and I met up for a playtest of Sentinels of Earth-Prime.

Playtest at the Big Bar on 2!

I played Lady Liberty, James played Dr. Metropolis, and Christopher played Lantern Jack in a battle against Argo the Ultimate Android in the heart of Freedom City! Argo has powers that mimic those of members of the Freedom League, so this was a challenging fight, particularly with none of our characters being big damage dealers. Nonetheless, we prevailed, saving Freedom City once again!

Lady Liberty, beacon of freedom!

 

As Christopher designed literally every card of Sentinels of the Multiverse, I knew his new decks would be good. My primary concern was that they capture the right feel for the Earth-Prime characters. Back in April we had Steve go over the decks and give Christopher some notes on story and character. That and the continued playtesting have honed the characters so they provide a fun Sentinels experience and a great Earth-Prime experience as well.

At this point the major design work for the game is done, so it’s a matter of nips and tucks to ensure the decks are just right. We said previously that you could expect the game early next year and that is still the case. Right now we are in the lead up to GenCon, our biggest convention of the year, so things are in overdrive at GRHQ. Among other new releases, you’ll be able to get the Basic Hero’s Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds (check out Crystal Frasier’s recent Ronin Round Table to find out more about it).