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).

 

Modern Monday: Modern AGE is Out! What’s It About?

Yes, Modern AGE is available for print pre-order! This means you can also order the PDF immediately, either on its own, or with your book as part of Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus program. Tell your friends! Post on websites! Don’t believe every placeholder date you see posted in Amazon and vendor sites! Even as we speak, the game is in the queue to go to press.

It’s been a trip, from turning the slate of ideas (modern and classless, with some character creation structure provided by Chris Pramas) into a testable, then finished game. I didn’t want to just add guns and technology to Fantasy AGE. To produce an implementation of the Adventure Game Engine that fits the period, we developed some basic design principles. I’ve talked about these before, but since the game is out, I don’t mind going over them again. After that, I’ll talk about where we go from here.

Action, Exploration, Social

Modern AGE structures play around three areas. The Action area includes combat, chases and physical danger. Exploration covers literal exploration along with investigations and breaking into guarded locations.  Social interactions are essential to modern games, which usually take place in highly organized societies where politics are stronger than physical force.

Consequently, we developed new systems and stunts to support the three areas. Chase rules expand what’s possible in an action scene and can apply to chases on foot or horseback as well as in vehicles. Breaching and investigations support capers and procedural stories. For social interaction, we made relationships and memberships, first introduced in early AGE games, core parts of Modern AGE.

Indra and Jeff perform a classic adventure task with new tools. That’s one way of looking at Modern AGE.

Stunts

Modern AGE goes all-in with stunts. Stunts are a distinctive feature of AGE. They perform tasks other games often handle with dedicated subsystems. Grappling and other special combat maneuvers are dealt with here. Instead of using Health points, vehicles get damaged through a special slate of stunts.

The emphasis on stunts requires a change in how players should approach them. Stunts are organized into focused lists, and we’ve expanded how many are available. While any character can use any appropriate stunt, we recommend picking your favorites, including stunts modified and improved by talents and specializations.

Game Modes

The three game modes—Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic—let you modify rules to fit the genre which best suits your campaign. I’ve talked about this in prior Modern Mondays, including last week. Mode most notably affects how characters resist damage with Health and Toughness, but also influences stunts, chases and even Resources.

Getting into the Game

The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook includes everything you need to play the game, including an introductory adventure designed with fantasy and science fiction options, should you wish those to be part of any subsequent campaign. In addition, Freebooter Game Masters at Origins and Gen Con will both be running “Warflower,” an adventure with similar variation.

Want a taste of Modern AGE before you get the core book? The Modern AGE Quickstart features a cut down Cinematic mode rules set, pregenerated characters, and a modern fantasy adventure.

What’s Next?

We’ve announced three upcoming releases. World of Lazarus adapts Greg Rucka’s dystopian feudal future comic for Modern AGE. It’s currently going through finishing touches in layout. The Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit includes a GM’s screen and reference cards. It’s at press.

Further along the line, we have several other books at various stages of completion. The one we’ve announced is the Modern AGE Companion, which has just finished editing. This book presents many, many new systems you can use to adjust the game for the genre or feel you prefer.

See You in a Bit

With the core book out, it’s time for me to give Modern Mondays a rest for a little while. I’ll be back from time to time, to talk about upcoming releases and other projects. I’ve talked your ear off about Modern AGE, but I’ve got another game coming: Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition. See you around!

Ronin Roundtable: LET’S GET BACK TO BASICS

As we put the finishing touches on the Rogue’s Gallery, the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook was slowly percolating in the background. Now that it is nearly ready to ship to the printers as well, I’m happy to show the results of several months of work and writing!

Mutants & Masterminds is a great game with a robust ruleset built over 16 years and three different editions. It’s flexible enough to handle almost any genre of comic book adventure, from traditional tights-and-fights books to street-level vigilantes to cosmic weirdness to mundane human agents facing off against the unknowable. But that flexibility brings a certain amount of jargon and a learning curve that can be off-putting for new players. Among the first challenges we decided to tackle to make a newbie-friendly rulebook was character creation. The Deluxe Hero’s Handbook offers a wealth of choices for fine-tuning your character to build exactly what you want to play, but for brand new players that freedom can be intimidating. Option paralysis is one of the most commonly cited problems players new to M&M report, followed closely by the amount of number crunching character generation required. The Quickstart Character generator is a perfectly solution for intermediary players, but we wanted a solution for those picking up Mutants & Masterminds for the first time.

Our solution is the Basic Archetype, which boils character generation down to a handful of choices about your character’s theme, personality, and history. With one of the book’s eight basic archetypes and a character sheet, even brand new players can be game-ready in ten minutes!

Each Basic Archetype starts with a brief overview of the concept. Each Archetype has a base suite of Ability ranks and Defense ranks, which you can tweak by selecting a character type. Most come with a few basic skills, but ask you to decide who your character is to determine the rest. Likewise, selecting Advantages is rolled into deciding a few personality traits that help define your hero. Finally, each Basic Archetype lets you select one of three Power Suites that define what exactly puts the “super” in your super hero.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite hero concepts: the Energy Controller:

 

This is Solar Ray, or just Ray to his teammates. He appears—alongside his friends Anansi, Ultra, and Pinnacle—in the Basic Hero Handbook’s tutorial comics. The Energy Controller’s Ability ranks focus mostly on being tough and fast, with the cocksure attitude and powerful presence that usually accompanies the ability to throw fireballs. Their skills options give you some classic comic book staples for energy-wielders, letting you help personalize you hero as say, a lothario test-pilot or a watchful commander. Because Energy Controllers are more defined by their powers, they don’t receive as many Advantages as most heroes, but you still get some flexibility in deciding if your hero is a wisecracking brawler, a cool-as-a-cucumber tactician, or a terrifying force of nature. Finally, their Power Suite choices give you choice of what kind of comic book exploits you want to embody: The Avatar is your classic Human Torch, able to transform into a living incarnation of your element; the Blaster, on the other hand, is a classic one-trick pony who can only do one thing, but does it very, very well (and gets some extra Skills and Advantages, since they’re not out there hotshotting all the time); the Elementalist splits the difference as a master of energy, able to control and wield their element with extraordinary skill, but not transforming into it.

The Basic Archetypes are fast, easy, and flexible enough to make each hero feel personal, obfuscating the math and overwhelming choices while still giving players a standard 150 power point, Power Level 10 starting character they can bring to the table alongside veteran players who create their characters using the rules found in the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook!

The full basic Hero’s Handbook will be available in print later this summer at GenCon. Hope to see you all there!

Modern Monday: Genres

Modern AGE is currently undergoing final touches before the advance PDF and preorders start, so this Modern Monday’s going to be a short one talking about genres, modes and the reason we give them special emphasis.

The Modern Conundrum

Dungeons and Dragons invented its own genre. Yes, it grabbed elements from numerous sources in fantasy fiction and medieval wargames, but its peculiar history mixed those up in a distinct fashion. Over the next 44 years, other games added new elements to the mix, reacted to the curious construction of “dungeon fantasy.” Writers, producers and game developers brought it into new media, adding their own sensibilities and practical insights—and then roleplaying games brought that expanded melange back. At this point, we have a very broad but definite idea of what a classic fantasy RPG looks like. It’s got elves, magic, a team of heroes, high adventure. You can introduce significant variation (and Fantasy AGE does this well—look at Titansgrave!) but there’s always a core experience to refer to and design around.

Modern games never started out with their own mixed-up new genre. The first RPG covering anything like what Modern AGE covers was Boot Hill, and it wasn’t a generalized industrial-age RPG, but a Western game. Unless you go with a full-on alternate universe, a modern era game must deal with the concrete history of the industrial era and beyond, and the fiction found within it: action-adventure, horror, urban fantasy, spy stories and so on. Thus, a game like Modern AGE needs tools you can use to customize it for your campaign’s chosen genre.

Mode and Genre

The front line for customization is game mode: Modern AGE’s Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic rules variants. These primarily affect how physically resilient a character is, but occasionally foray into other areas. For example, the Cinematic option for Resources (wealth in the game) allow for a steady increase as your character advances. They can move on up to international intrigue and prodigious expense accounts without too much trouble. Note that modes are packages of options, and you can always fine tune rules within a mode.

One of the reasons the modes exist is to give you access to rules which fit your selected genre. The Game Master section of Modern AGE presents several genres—folk horror, conspiracy thrillers and more—with their suggested modes.

In the dystopian SF genre, what’s worse than flesh over a metal endoskeleton? Uh, *metal* over a metal endoskeleton. Art by Alyssa McCarthy

Specialized Rules

Beyond modes, Modern AGE includes a few different optional game systems for elements particular to certain genres. The most notable of these are the rules for magic and psychic powers. Both power sets have similar default systems, but rules options let you customize these to fit your campaign. Brief notes for other powers can be found in the game’s coverage of genres. Finally, the Game Master can decide all characters have access to the power of Conviction, a game system which rewards emotionally resonant, dramatic play. First found in Blue Rose, Conviction is presented as an optional system in Modern AGE.

Beyond powers, chases, breaching tests and other secondary systems exist to support the genres in which they appear. Breaching tests are for capers “where a plan comes together,” and chases are a mainstay of action media. Modern AGE even provides some support for the sorts of movies where, against all common sense, people catch up with cars on foot—but that’s Cinematic mode, applied to the chase rules.

More on Genre: The Modern AGE Companion

Coming next year, the Modern AGE Companion (currently text-complete, and in editing) digs deep into genre. It includes coverage on how to make characters for particular genres, and special rules covering the mainstays of many types of fiction. That means rules for fear and horror, duels and complex martial arts styles, gadgets and extraordinary powers, and more. We didn’t take anything vital out of Modern AGE (and in fact we migrated breaching from World of Lazarus into the core game because Crystal Frasier’s rules just cried out to be core material!) but the Companion opens the next level of customization. I look forward to sharing more with you, when the time comes.

Next Monday?

It’s a surprise.

Ronin Round Table: Using the Fantasy AGE Bestiary in Blue Rose

PART I

One of the tremendous benefits of the Adventure Game Engine (or AGE) system is how quickly we’ve developed a diversity of applications for it. Not only does this give us a bunch of great games to play, but allows us to mix-and-match them to get ourselves a breadth of options beyond that of any single game.

Today, we’re going to start a series that shows this off a little. The Fantasy AGE Bestiary is an excellent book full of great monsters, horrors, and adversaries for your Fantasy AGE heroes. But its utility isn’t limited to Fantasy AGE campaigns – we’re going to talk a little about how these monsters might fit into the romantic fantasy setting of Blue Rose.

This is the first of three articles taking these critters, one at a time, and discussing where they might fit into Blue Rose’s setting, and what (if any) mechanical adjustments need to be made to make room for them.

Afanc: Large, hungry beasts that haunt the icy bodies of water in the Ice-Binder, Bitterfang, and Golgan mountain ranges, they are the reason many mountaineers in the high mountains of Aldea prefer to take their water from run-offs and shallow bodies of water. Blackwater Lake in Kern was home to a small cluster of these things, the results of breeding projects by the old Lich King. No one has seen them in a while.

Ahool: Legends of merchants who’ve traveled to Wyss sometimes speak of the diminutive bat-folk of those deep, dark forests. Of course, many people say many things about those lands, and Wyssan citizens are rarely willing to admit whether or not they actually exist.

Amarok by Mirco Paganessi

Amarok: According to some old legends, in the days when the Light was dim in Aldea, the Exarch Yungo snatched into his power a mighty wolf of the Pavin Weald in the early moments of his Awakening, and corrupted it somehow. Instead of Awakening to psychic awareness and sapience, Yungo invested only his greedy hunger and ravenous nature into the place where that spark of Light normally resides, and that wolf, whose name was Amarok, became bloated and gluttonous, the first of its kind.

 

Bakwanee: Sometimes, the essence of Shadow-tainted locations settles into the simplest of life forms that live there, and warps them. This has happened to both the bloodsucking fireflies of the Veran Marsh, as well as the storm beetles of the Shadow Barrens, which hide beneath the ground, save in storms, when they emerge to harvest the ambient static in the air, sparking on their metallic carapaces. From these two frightening but largely harmless insects bakwanee have risen in great swarms, occasionally growing in number until they rush out of the Barrens or Marsh, ravening across the countryside until they are put down.

Basilisk: One of the many creations of the Sorcerer Kings, the basilisk can now be found in marshlands and rivers, as well as deep subterranean places.

Bouda: Wicked shapeshifters hidden among the often sedate packs of hyenas that can be sometimes found in the souther Rezean Plains, the Rezean witches say that the bouda were taught to envy two-legged folk their forms by a darkfiend in service to Ulasta the Green Flame, sharpening until they rose to walk as men did, so long as the bouda feast on their flesh frequently.

Burrower: These massive worms are all but extinct in lands that are even nominally settled. But some of them still haunt wild lands. In particular, the stinger-tail burrowers can sometimes be found in the wilds of Rezea, quickly bursting forth when they detect the ground-thunder of Rezean herds. The bellowing burrowers can be found in the Golgan Badlands, particularly in the foothills where the mountains above echo with their ferocious roars.

Carnivorous Plants: Any place where Shadow comes to rest among natural plant life can give rise to carnivorous plants, particularly if that contagion remains there for more than a single cycle of the seasons. Shadow-tainted wastes aren’t the only locations where this is true: a sorcerer’s glade where she performs her corrupt workings, a garden at the foot of a tower that houses an ancient artifact of the Sorcerer Kings, and even the lands surrounding the lair of a powerful darkfiend or semi-dormant Shadowgate.

Charnel Knight: It is said that when certain Knights of the Skull served the Lich King well, not even death ended their service to Kern. The exact rites responsible for this transformation are not publicly known, even among the Shadowed Seven. No new charnel knights have risen among the Knights of the Skull since the Lich King’s defeat, so it may be that the undead tyrant too that lore – like so much other – with him to his destruction.

Djinn: Elementals are natural intelligences given bodies of the elements. The djinn are a whole thing else. Though almost never seen today, djinn are elemental intelligences of elsewhere, alien entities whose awareness is snatched from those far off places that birthed them, and given elemental bodies and bound by potent magics beyond the scope of the simple Spirit Summoning arcanum. Give Djinn the Shaping arcanum appropriate to their elemental nature, and remove the Spellpower and Magic Points from their entry.

Eldritch Crown: It is said that the Vizier of Eyes, a notorious shadow adept of the Sorcerer Kings realm created these, through a hideous pact with a darkfiend that fancied itself a jeweler, save that it used mortals’ eyes in place of gems. The Vizier of Eyes sought to control some of the vainest of the Sorcerer Kings and it worked to some extent. Unfortunately, the adept could not control these creatures, and they escaped him, and the darkfiend made a perfectly fetching necklace of the Vizier’s own eyes.

Fire Ogre: Potent fire elementals of terrible power and fury, fire ogres are rarely summoned. Unlike elementals, when fire ogres return to the fiery recesses of the deepest depths, they do not forget what they experienced in the bright world above. Their destruction and their subjugation to the will of adepts both infuriate them, and they wait eagerly to turn that rage into destruction upon their return to the world again.

Ronin Roundtable: Rogues Gallery

Villains, can any superhero game or setting ever really have enough of them? Villains are one of the driving forces in a superhero series, since it is their schemes and plans the heroes are looking to foil, and therefore their motives and activities to call the good guys to take action.

 

 

The newly released Rogues Gallery for Mutants & Masterminds (still in pre-order) is a collection of numerous supervillains for your series, ranging from powerful world-beaters to petty crooks and everywhere in between: aliens, mystics, mutants, and more. The book features the the Amalgam (with all of the powers of two of the world’s greatest heroes), the Alchemistress, and the sinister Bres the Beautiful—all foes capable of challenging an entire team of heroes. On the other end, foes like the Sportsman and Princess Poison or the House of Usher are well-suited for street-level games challenging themed crooks and criminal syndicates.

 

Those of you who picked up individually published villains from the Rogues Gallery PDF series will already be familiar with some of them, but the print edition offers even more, with new villains not released individually added to the book, including some updates to previously seen M&M foes, such as:

 

Alien-Gator was first mentioned in early notes on the history of Freedom City as a 1950s foe of the Centurion, later detailed in Freedom’s Most Wanted and now updated for the modern era in Rogues Gallery. The new Alien-Gator recognizes that the female of the species is often far deadlier than the male.

 

Bres the Beautiful, the powerful prince of the other-dimensional Fomorians, first appeared back in the Freedom’s Most Wanted sourcebook, and ties in with Great Britain and Europe as described in Atlas of Earth-Prime as well as Earth-Prime’s mystic history.

 

The Maestro, malevolent master of music, is conspicuously absent from the Crime League in the third edition of Freedom City, and Rogues Gallery explains what becomes of a Golden Age villain who makes a literal deal with the Devil.

 

Megastar is another character from earlier editions of Freedom City, originally a young hero and member of the teenaged Next-Gen. His story in Rogues Gallery—following the events of the Silver Storm and the Emerald City Knights series and the creation of the Argents detailed in The Cosmic Handbook—shows that not all heroes manage to stay heroes forever.

 

… and that just scratches the surface of the characters Rogues Gallery has to offer! Like any good villain book, it is more than just a collection of bad guys and stat blocks, but also a source of adventure and story ideas driven by these various villains, enough to fuel your M&M series for quite some time to come. So whether you are a long-time player or Gamemaster interested in the latest dubious double-dealings of the Earth-Prime setting, or someone new to Mutants & Masterminds looking for some ready-made villains for your heroes to fight, Rogues Gallery has something new for you!

Too-Modern Tuesday: All the AGEs

Hi folks! It’s Memorial Day, so Modern Monday is coming in a little late. In response to some online questions last week, I want to clarify what the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) roleplaying games are, how they’re connected, and who’s managing them. When I talked about plans for Modern AGE, a few of you were wondering why I didn’t talk about Fantasy AGE or The Expanse. So, here’s the explainer.

What is the Adventure Game Engine?

The AGE system powers several Green Ronin roleplaying games. Along with the Chronicle System and Mutants and Masterminds, it’s one of the three systems Green Ronin has designed which the company is actively developing through various lines. (Okay, there’s Ork! too, so let’s say, “the three systems not based on the whims of a sadistic ork god,” instead.) We also work on projects for open game systems like 5th Edition, but AGE, Chronicle and M&M are specifically ours.

AGE is not a “generic” system. Rather, it’s a set of common game mechanics and principles which we use as the basis for a number of separate games, each with additional rules designed to emphasize a certain type of play. Some cross-pollination occurs between the lines, of course, but each AGE game has its own emphasis, and is developed separately.

AGE’s foundations include rolling 3d6 plus bonuses versus a target number, selecting stunts by generating Stunt Points through matching dice, and trusting the GM to improvise and make the system their own. That’s not all it’s about, but those are the most notable elements.

The AGE Family of Roleplaying Games

So, now you know that each game is its own thing with its own development, proceeding from some common elements, let’s break that down into specific games.

Dragon Age

Based on Bioware’s computer RPG series and its world of Thedas, Dragon Age presented the first version of the AGE system.  Dragon Age was originally released in three box sets which brought adventurers from 1st level to the apex of their powers but is now available in one omnibus edition.

Developer: Jack Norris

Worth Noting: In Dragon Age, Strength improves ability in close combat, and Dexterity is used for ranged combat. Dragon Age also has many elements inspired by the world of Thedas, including detailed rules for traps, unique specializations, and character backgrounds unique to that world, such as the Dalish Elves and Ferelden people. Classes are Mage, Rogue and Warrior.

Fantasy AGE

Fantasy AGE is an implementation of AGE designed to support classic fantasy genre gaming. It’s designed to be easy to learn. The core rules aren’t tied to any specific setting, but Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a post-apocalyptic science fantasy adventure series designed for its use. Fantasy AGE is customization friendly, with the Fantasy AGE Companion providing a host of expanded and optional rules GMs can apply as they see fit.

Developer: Jack Norris

Worth Noting: Fantasy AGE introduces Fighting and Accuracy to govern heavy weapons and light or ranged weapons, respectively. Magic provides spells according to theme-based arcana. The Mage, Rogue and Warrior classes are present here, with mechanics designed to support heir respective niches.

Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying game of Romantic Fantasy

The current edition of Blue Rose is the successor to its first edition, which used the OGL-based True 20 system. Blue Rose emulates progressive and romantic fantasy, especially as it evolved from the 1980s onward. In its world of Aldea, truly just societies (and not just despotic regimes we accept as “good” because it’s part of a genre convention to be cool with kings) thrive, but not without challenges. The adventure compilation Six of Swords can get you started.

Developer: Joseph Carriker

Worth Noting: Blue Rose introduces Relationships and Conviction as core mechanics, giving characters extra resources to draw on in defense of the people and motivations which define them. Character backgrounds are tailored to Aldea, and include the mystical vata and the rhydan, sapient, psychic animals. Magic as an intuitive psychic gift is a strong part of the romantic fantasy genre, so Blue Rose’s arcana differ from those of Fantasy AGE to support that.

Upcoming: Modern AGE

Modern AGE’s preorders and advance PDFs will be available Very, Very Soon. I won’t go into detail because I’ve been doing that for weeks. Modern AGE has no default setting, but the World of Lazarus, following the core book shortly, will provide a possible setting based on Greg Rucka’s comics series.

Developer: Malcolm Sheppard

Upcoming: The Expanse Roleplaying Game

Coming to crowdfunding this year, The Expanse is based on the novel series by James S. A. Corey (which as many of you know, is Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), which explores a future wracked with interplanetary rivalry. Earth and Mars compete for control of the Solar System while the peoples of the Belt struggle with their demands—at least, that’s how it starts. The Expanse tailors the AGE system for gritty hard SF stories, including new rules for technology and spacecraft.

Developer: Steve Kenson

Next Monday

Next time, I’ll go on and on about the genres I like, and how Modern AGE supports them. Until then, I’m working on the next couple of books for the game. Take care!

Modern Monday: What’s Coming?

So, after answering some questions last week, general chatter compels me to talk about what we have planned for Modern AGE. In most cases, I’m going to talk about the current state of each release. Then I’ll answer a common question about how Modern AGE compares to its sister, Fantasy AGE.

In Production

The following things are in various stages of production—that is, the creation of a book from developed and edited text files.

Modern AGE Quickstart: It’s out! Read about it and download here!

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (This is the core book!): This is currently going through last proof and art finalization. The advance PDF and preorders should be ready for June.

World of Lazarus: World of Lazarus is the first setting book for Modern AGE. It’s based on Lazarus, Greg Rucka’s dystopian-transhuman comic. Check the comic out (external link to Lazarus at Image Comics). This should be finished production shortly after the core. Note that project is a creation of Mutants and Masterminds developer Crystal Frasier, which is fitting, since she knows how comics and games intersect much better than I do.

Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit: This is the GM screen and reference card kit for Modern AGE. This is very close to finishing production and will be released hot on the heels of the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and Lazarus.

Text Complete

The following thing happens to be text-complete, by which I mean writers have written it, and I’ve developed it, but it hasn’t entered production.

(Announcing the) Modern AGE Companion: This is currently in editing. I may add a short set of options we excised from the core book. The Modern AGE Companion includes expanded rules for powers, new talents and specializations, expanded stunts, campaign management, technology—lots of stuff. The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook is absolutely a complete game, but the Companion is anchored in the idea of customizing the rules for your campaigns.

Did I just announce a new book? Yes. I’ll probably give it a proper breakdown once we reach production. When is it coming out? That’s still to be determined.

Outlined and Approved

Okay, so my policy is the further something is from release, the sketchier I’m going to be about it. The following books have had their outlines approved, so I can start working with people to get them designed. They have cute code names for now.

Project Cranky (Real Name TBA): This is a utilitarian supplement for Modern AGE, not tied to any set campaign.

Project Crooked House (Real Name TBA): This is an original in-house setting.

Comparing Modern AGE and Fantasy AGE

How many shows have you seen where there’s always something weird going down in the “warehouse district?” We are not about to challenge that cliché. From the Modern AGE Quickstart, available now!

So, I’ve fielded a few questions about how Modern AGE relates to Fantasy AGE. Modern AGE isn’t just a case of copying and pasting guns over swords. I’ve already talked about how it’s a classless implementation of the AGE rules, but there are several other under the hood changes. These range from Resources, the system we use to manage in-game purchases without you roleplaying getting loans and doing taxes, to Breaching, the advanced test variant designed by Crystal Frasier to support heists and capers. These demand cooperation and dramatic reversals. Crystal originally designed these for World of Lazarus, but we all agreed they were so cool they should be in the core rules. Social systems and investigations are also part of Modern AGE’s core, as is appropriate for games where characters will be deeply embedded in complex societies.

Fantasy AGE features magic as a core assumption instead of an optional extra. Certain rules emphasize the special roles of each of its classes. It has several talents not present in Modern AGE, such as Armored Training and Horsemanship, which could be used for modern games, but represented cases rare enough for me to exclude them in favor of others. Fantasy AGE’s magical Arcana can expand the range of what’s available for Modern AGE characters, and Modern AGE’s new rules might be useful for many Fantasy AGE games, but in the end they’re separate lines, with differences that in some cases, cut right down to core systems. We trust you to perform whatever creative mashups you like. I for one would love to hear about any such “FrankenAGE” games.

Modern Monday: Occasionally Asked Questions

For this Modern Monday I’ve harvested Modern AGE questions from the Ronin Army forums. Instead of just copying and pasting them, I’ve synthesized some repeated questions into stuff I can answer in one go. I also made up a couple of questions I figured you’d want answered.

Persistent detective work pays off. Or just asking.

Is it a standalone game?

Absolutely. You don’t need Fantasy AGE (or any other AGE RPG) for Modern AGE. The World of Lazarus, Modern AGE’s first supplement, does require the Modern AGE core. That said, there are many useful things you might port between various games. Modern AGE’s Breaching rules, which cover capers and other complex cooperative tasks, would be interesting to apply to other AGE games, and in a modern fantasy game Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose both have elements which can be ported to Modern AGE.

Does work on Modern AGE affect other Green Ronin projects, or vice versa?

Modern AGE is one member of the Adventure Game Engine family, so naturally some folks are curious about whether work on Modern AGE affected, or will affect, releases for other games. Nope! Each game has its own line developer and writers who know how to manage their time. I did some writing for the Fantasy AGE Companion and the Titansgrave setting, but this happened during draft cycles, while writers were working, so it didn’t delay anything else. The production schedule gives it its own space. It’s all good.

Will there be cross-genre support?

Yes. This is handled in a few different ways. First, campaign mode (Gritty, Pulpy, Cinematic) can be used to fine-tune how various things work, so you can decide how action-oriented your game is. Second, the Game Mastering section devotes significant space to various genres, on their own and by historical period. This kind of “soft” support can be found throughout the game, including in suggestions on how to adapt various systems for specific genres and periods. Third, the game does have a slate of powers you may or may not choose to add to your campaign. That brings us to the next question:

Are there powers?

Modern AGE provides detailed support for two types of powers: magical arcana and psychic disciplines. These are mechanically similar in their base treatment, but the rules include options for distinguishing them from one another. In addition, the game has a “rough draft” treatment of the sort of minor powers we often see in TV series. If you want full-on superpowers? Well we have this game you might have heard of, called Mutants and Masterminds.

How does classless AGE work?

In Modern AGE, characters are initially defined by a social class and its associated background, a profession, and a drive. These provide initial ability bonuses, talents and other traits. As you level up, you choose further ability and talent advances, along with a few other things such as specializations. You can’t improve the same ability twice in a row and will eventually incur the multiple advancement cost for peak improvements, so this prevents doubling down on Fighting, for instance. Your character’s special abilities are defined by talents and later, specializations.

How does Health work?

Your character’s initial Health is determined by profession, drive and Constitution. When you advance, further increases are based on the game’s mode. In Gritty mode, your Health doesn’t increase at all. In Pulpy mode, the increase is 1 + Constitution (minimum 1). Cinematic mode grants the full 1d6 + Constitution per level increase might know from other AGE games.

Where’s the book at?

Modern AGE has passed through initial layout, proofing and copyfitting stages (copyfitting is when we tweak the text to flow better in the layout). The advance PDF, which we release so you can get an early look (and point out typos) before we absolutely lock down the text for print, will be coming very soon indeed. After that it goes through processes to get things into print.

What About the Quickstart?

Even sooner. Days. The Quickstart gives you streamlined rules pre-set to Cinematic mode, ready to play characters, and a modern fantasy adventure, “Burning Bright.”

Other questions?

I read the forums at www.roninarmy.com regularly. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer all your questions but posting there is the best chance of putting them in front of my eyes.

Next Modern Monday?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll announce a new book or something. See you then!