Ronin Roundtable: Examining Specializations

As I am working to finish the Specializations chapter for the upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion, I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about specializations.  Namely I wanted to take a look at how specializations are generally built and why they are built that way.

First and foremost it’s important to realize that specializations aren’t prestige classes or sub-classes you see in some other games.  There simply isn’t enough mechanical “oomph” in a single three tiered ability tree to cover various character elements the way a multi-level class overlay or substitution used in games like Pathfinder or D&D does.

And really? That’s okay. Because what Fantasy AGE specializations allow players to do is to combine them with talents, focuses, and other specializations to create highly customized characters.

So a specialization that makes you an expert axe-fighter, no matter how cool it is, won’t substitute for having the Axes focus. Or various talents to better swing, throw, and fight with your chosen weapon in various ways.  You will still want all of those things. And as the character advances if you decide you want to be an expert axe-fighter who is also adept at hunting down renegade sorcerers and evil mages? Well, you’re going to want to invest in the Mage Hunter specialization when you get a chance—likely customized to use Axes instead of Black Powder Weapons with its Novice rank.  Such combinations are how you build your “prestige class” for your character in Fantasy AGE, often making particular combinations of character abilities that are very distinctive and unique to most other characters around.

With these limitations and advantages to the system in mind, when designing specializations, it’s important to add mechanical elements that push a character upwards or sideways from other talents, class abilities, and the like, avoiding those things which simply replace an existing ability.  Don’t add a Novice specialization rank that takes another talent and makes it useless. On the other hand, don’t create an ability so overpowered when combined with another talent that it becomes a singular optimal build.  Neither one is particularly satisfying, and will result in specializations that are either too weak or too inflexible to be useful beyond a specific type of character.  So to use our axe-fighter example again, it’s cool to add a rank that lets you do certain stunts easier if you’re using an axe.  But don’t offer discounts on stunts that are already made easier by other talents.  That’s not a unique cool ability, its redundancy.  Likewise, don’t make an ability that’s pretty useless unless your character is dual-wielding axes, as this shuts out the character who uses two-handed, single weapon and shield, or single weapons.  This forces everyone with the specialization into basically the same or very similar builds.

Of course sometimes these rules are broken.  A specialization might be crafted with only single weapon fighting in mind or a talent ability might combine to make an expensive stunt cheap as part of a specialization’s core concept.  But in most cases, you’re better off with diverse powers and abilities that complement each other and provide neat options, instead of mere substitutions and numerical upgrades.

Also, when designing your own specializations as GMs or as players (with GM approval and aid), remember to treat specializations generally. Designing a specialization just for your PC might seem like a great idea, but it’s actually a really easy way to unbalance your character and not always in your favor!  For example, it might seem like a great idea to craft a warrior specialization that requires every strength and aptitude your PC already possesses and stacks potent abilities on top of talents and class abilities you’re already using.  But what happens if in a few levels you realize that more powerful monsters, more cunning foes, and more dangerous threats don’t fall to your “killer combos” as easily as their lower-level predecessors did.  Often, designing for more general utility within a theme is more useful and its certainly easier to apply to multiple characters in a campaign.

Azadrumoda

So with all that said, let’s look at how to build a specialization.  We talked about the Axe-fighter, so let’s give them a try.  I’m envisioning a specialized warrior, perhaps hailing from particular cultures, who are devoted to mastery of the axe in its various forms.

First this new specialization needs requirements.  These are usually relatively easy to reach, but not a foregone conclusion.  They also tend to include at least one ability score that best reflects a natural aptitude or particular physical or mental training.  In this case a few requirements are obvious. Given the concept and weapon involved, it seems like this would be a warrior-based specialization.  Also Weapon Group Axes would be required.  A focus with axes is so useful it’s hard to imagine most pursuing this specialization without it, but I’m leaving it off since it isn’t strictly required…just recommended.  To these obvious requirements I add a Strength of 2 or greater—it takes a lot of power to get and keep this sort of weapon moving effectively, especially the bigger ones.

With requirements out of the way, you need a Novice, Journeyman, and Master rank abilities.  These should match up roughly with talents or other specializations already in existence in Fantasy AGE.  For example, an ability that allowed a reduction in the cost of a stunt is roughly the same as many other talents.  A stunt cost reduction that only works in certain conditions might be a bit weak by itself, suggesting such abilities should allow for reductions in multiple stunts.  Balancing these is a bit of art and science, but with some practice it becomes fairly easy.

In the case of the axe-fighter specialization, it makes sense that even Novices would learn to always ready an axe with a free action.  However, this makes the novice level Quick Reflexes talent and Journeyman rank Thrown Weapon Style talents less useful.  So instead, let’s design an ability that reflects the ability of the fighter to throw an opponent off guard and seize an opportunity with a flurry of axe strikes.  Thus let’s say that as long as they’re using an axe on an attack, a novice rank axe-fighter can use the Seize Initiative stunt for 2 SP instead of 4.  Note: This is identical to the Scouting Journeyman talent.  But that’s a rogue talent…so it’s not rendered redundant by this warrior-only specialization.  Also, since it only works with axe attacks, it’s a bit weaker than the Scouting talent, which means making it novice rank specialization seems appropriate.

Now for the Journeyman rank.  It seems that axes are often considered to be scary because they can be used to deliver nasty blows and even glancing blows can be serious. Nobody wants to get hit by an axe and those skilled in its use are aware of this. So how to translate that into a Journeyman ability? You could give a discount on the Threaten stunt but we’ve already done a SP reduction so let’s consider an alternative tact. A Defense bonus might work, but that’s very similar to the Single-Weapon Style Talent. So instead let’s take this another way: the reason people are scared of axes is because getting hit by one is freaking horrible. Even if you armor stops most of it? It still hurts. So it makes sense Axe-Fighters can do serious damage with their axes. Again we might do a discount on Mighty Blow here that’s a Two-Handed Style rank. So instead let’s step sideways from those talents and provide a non SP discount bonus to Mighty (and Lethal) Blow and give an extra 1d6 damage when using Mighty Blow with an axe. Nasty to be sure, but it requires a particular weapon and a stunt at full cost, balancing out the effect.

Finally we have Master. Master rank Specialization qualities are at the core of the Specialization and can be quite nasty. So what’s the core of an expert axe-fighter? Striking hard and fast, keeping a foe on the defensive, and battering past armor and shields all apply here and what does that suggest? It suggests opening up a foe and finishing them off.  So what Master ability represents this? There are many options, but I’m going to go with two “lesser” abilities. First is the ability to use variant of the Disarm stunt to “hook” or bash aside a shield. This eliminates the shield bonus of a character until they take a Ready action to restore it.  The shield isn’t tossed aside like a Disarm against a weapon, but it is rendered useless for a time.   That’s pretty cool, but it only affects shields, so we should add something else. Let’s examine that against opponents who don’t have a shield to hide behind? A skilled axe fighter is very dangerous to attack as they’ve got a heavy, sharp weapon swinging about. So against unshielded foes? Axe-Fighters gain a Defense bonus, let’s say +2 because of the Master rank and limited use.

So there we have it. Your very own Axe-Fighter Specialization:

Requirements: Strength 2, Axes Weapons Focus Group

Novice: You may use the Seize the Initiative stunt for 2 SP instead of 4 when wielding an axe.

Journeyman: When using the Mighty or Lethal Blow stunts with an axe, add an additional d6 damage.

Master: You can use Disarm to “hook” shields, removing the shield bonus until the shield-user takes a ready action. You also gain +2 to your own Defense when fighting unshielded opponents.

Nasty, scary, tough, and yet pretty much useless without its chosen weapon, which provides some nice balance.

That’s just an example, but it shows the process of creating new Specializations in Fantasy AGE and is a preview of the process and types of things you’ll see in the upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion.

Ronin Roundtable: Rhydan of Unusual Size

 

After some shipping snafus, the Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying game has made its way into the hands of Kickstarter backers and will likewise be finding its way to a game store near you (especially if you ask your friendly local game store to stock it…).

One element of the Blue Rose setting that differs from “vanilla” fantasy worlds is the rhydan: “awakened” intelligent animals with psychic abilities. Indeed, the name “rhydan” in Aldea (the world of Blue Rose) essentially means “thinking beast or animal”. Rhydan are based on the various—often psychically-linked—animal companions found in romantic fantasy fiction, psychic “catalyst creatures” and companions from science fiction (from Andre Norton’s Star Man’s Son to Alan Dean Foster’s For Love of Mother Not), as well as the talking animals of various faerie and folk tales.

Rhydan “awaken” from otherwise ordinary animal species, and Blue Rose presents a handful of the most widely known rhydan, along with a table for “create your own rhydan” options. Early readers of the book particularly noted that rhy-cats (one of the most common rhydan) typically look like siamese cats, but are the size of mountain lions and wondered: Are all rhydan of such unusual size?

No, or at least, not necessarily. Rhy-cats were some of the very first rhydan in the earliest drafts of Blue Rose (before we were calling them “rhydan,” in fact) and they were conceived of as a specific species, unique to Aldea. That status carried over into the final draft of the original edition of Blue Rose, which had fewer rhydan options than the current edition. Nevertheless, when we updated how rhydan were conceived of in the new edition, we kept rhy-cats largely as they were as a nod to the game’s legacy. It could well be that ordinary house-cats, or even great cats like lions, tigers, or panthers (oh my!) could have rhydan members.

 

It’s likewise possible, given how rhydan already differ from their “parent” species, for rhydan characters in Blue Rose to be quite different in terms of size or even morphology from their mundane cousins, if you and the Narrator wish. For example, while the Blue Rose book doesn’t offer options for extremely small animals like mice as rhydan, it would be possible, or the Narrator could even offer the option of using an existing animal template, such as the raccoon, as a basis for a two-foot tall rhy-mouse with manipulative paws (and, a penchant for swashbuckling, perhaps?). The same might go for rhy-rats as well as others such as rabbits. Similarly, while there’s no rhy-elephant (rhylephant?) option in the game, perhaps a small awakened elephant from a distant clime, based on the horse template with a lower base speed and the addition of a tusk attack and manipulative trunk, is an option. Extrapolate outward from existing templates for similar creatures and variants.

Each rhydan is already unusual amongst its own species, so there’s no reason you can’t further tweak their unusual nature to better suit a concept a player might enjoy. Spin out interesting new characters and companions for your own Blue Rose series!

Ronin Roundtable: New Paths in Freeport!

 

Adding New Paths to Freeport

Freeport: The City of Adventure updated the Freeport setting to the full set of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules… as they existed at the time. Since we published the massive 544 page ultimate urban fantasy setting and sourcebook in early 2015, new hardbacks have been published for Pathfinder. Most notably Horror Adventures, Occult Adventures, Pathfinder Unchained, and Ultimate Intrigue. So does that mean there’s no room for the classes and ideas from those books in Freeport?

No, absolutely not!

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most noteworthy ideas from those volumes, and how you can use them in your Freeport campaign. Of course you don’t need any of these new books to run an awesome Freeport game. But if you already have them, Freeport makes a fine place to use them!

Horror Adventures

Okay, this one is really easy.

Add everything.

Well, feel free to add everything, and to skip anything you don’t like the look of. The sanity rules in Horror Adventures can either replace or augment the madness rules in Freeport: The City of Adventure. Corruptions, especially deep one, ghoul, possessed, and shadowbound, tie neatly to the horror elements of Freeport, especially those touching on cults and elder gods. In fact, adding an advance corruption to an npc using the cultist npc class from Freeport: The City of Adventure is a great way to make a unique and unexpected cult leaders.

The archetypes and class options from Horror Adventures are all perfectly appropriate for Freeport, but it’s worth mentioning the mad scientist (alchemist), dreadnaught (barbarian), elder mythos cultist (cleric), hexenhammer (inquisitor), cult hunter (investigator), bloody jake (slayer), serial killer (vigilante—see the discussion of Ultimate Intrigue, below, for thoughts on the vigilante), and elder mythos scholar (wizard) work particularly well for darker Freeport campaigns or for noteworthy villains.

Similarly many of the feats, spells, rituals, gear, and magic items work best in the hands of npcs, though if players want to dip a toe into problematic powers, this book expands the ways a GM can let them to that. The advice on running horror games and the shot bestiary are solid, but it’s worth remembering that while Freeport has horror elements, it’s as much pulp swashbuckling adventure as it is fear or horror.

Occult Adventures

Everything in Occult Adventures works fine in Freeport, but in general has a flavor of strange philosophies and traditions from far-off lands. A GM perfectly well can add an Academy of Psychic Sciences in the Eastern District of Freeport of a local, notable source of occult knowledge is desired, but these rules also present a wonderful opportunity to present fully flesh-out options for characters from “far away” to access to help them feel foreign and a bit alien. Given the nature of the Coils in Freeport cosmology such far-off lands could be anywhere, but existing options such as Mazin or Khaeder (or both) can also be reskinned as the home of psychic magic. This also creates a natural backstory for such characters, given that the ivory Ports on the continent are the primary traders with Khaeder, making them a logical starting point for Khaeder psychics, and a reasonable place to establish some small amount of psychic-aware schools and sages.

Pathfinder Unchained

The unchained versions of the barbarian, monk, rogue, and summoner work just as well in a Freeport game as the original classes (and, to be honest, the unchained summoner makes more sense and the unchained rogue is more flexible and interesting). The rest of the optional rules depend very much on whether you like the ideas behind them. There’s nothing about changing the action economy or altering skills that interferes with the rules from Freeport: The City of Adventure, and options like esoteric material components, innate bonuses, and scaling items can actually help reinforce the swashbuckling-with-magic feel of Freeport. Similarly the simplified monster creation rules work just fine, and if you like them, by all means use the,.

Ultimate Intrigue

There’s nothing about the Freeport setting that requires a GM to run games filled with intrigue, mysteries, social climbing, backstabbing, and interpersonal drama—but a lot of people sure seem to prefer it that way! For those folks, Ultimate Intrigue can be a significant boost to the level of talking, investigating, and scheming going on in a game.

The rules on influence can easily be used to track the PCs interactions with factions throughout Freeport, ranging from the various crime organizations to businesses, nobles, the guards, and even specific captains and crews. The research rules are great for mysteries that need more than a single check to find the answers for. The heists section is more advice than rules, but can still be useful for a GM wanting to add more complex schemes to a campaign. The pursuit rules work fine for tacking people across the city, or across an island, but can also be easily adapted for sailing ships attempt to catch up to or evade on another, or beat each other to a destination. The social conflict rules offer more advice and a number of examples of how to add social challenges to a game, and if a GM could use some help getting the most out of the colorful personalities and politics of Freeport, these can be a good jump-starter.

Then, there’s the vigilante class.

There are many fantasy campaign setting where a character with a social identity and a separate, secret vigilante identity don’t work well. If a game is primarily focused on clearing out a dungeon, or fighting as part of a formal military unit, or learning magic at a wizard school, the vigilante class has very few opportunities to shine. That can be true in a Freeport game as well, but characters inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel or some version of Robin Hood can work very well in a Freeport game that has a lot of social interactions and scheming.

Before allowing vigilante PCs into a Freeport game, the GM should consider how they’ll interact with the campaign’s intended plot. Because the vigilante is built around the idea of having two identities, any player running one is going to look for opportunities to take advantage of that ability. If the campaign is going to include patrons and nemesis in social settings, and heists, and spying, and fights in back alleys the PCs would prefer not to get linked to, that’s likely to work well. If social interaction is going to be more straightforward, and most games focus on delving into cult temples hidden in the sewers or exploring new islands filled with ancient dangers, the vigilante (and characters using any similar options from the archetypes, feats, and so on in Ultimate Intrigue) is likely to get frustrated and have less fun.

Everything Else

Of course there are lots of other sourcebooks available for Pathfinder, from a lot of publishers, ranging from 1-page collections of a few themed feats to 32-page player-focused books to huge tomes on psionics, dragons as player characters, and 1930s-era pulp adventures. More easily than many settings, Freeport can handle all of it, if the GM and players think a new set of rules or options looks good and interesting. Adding too much may make the setting lose much of its existing flavor, but that doesn’t mean it’d be any less fun. The fact the cosmology of Freeport includes the idea that the coils of Yig have already drawn in pieces of other worlds closer to Freeport, and with the right ship (and the right magic) a crew could sail to nearly anywhere, means that anything a group decided to add to a Freeport campaign “fits in,” even if it’s something so strange the locals are likely to shoot first, and ask question alter.

Ronin Roundtable – Sentinels of Earth-Prime: The Big Picture

We’ve got one day left on our Sentinels of Earth-Prime Kickstarter. If you haven’t backed it yet, head over to Kickstarter and check it out. It’s a cooperative card game that takes place in the core setting of our Mutants & Masterminds RPG and uses the excellent Sentinels of the Multiverse rules by Greater Than Games. The great news is that the Kickstarter funded in nine hours and now has topped $135,000, so we will be making Sentinels of Earth-Prime for sure and we’ll have the resources to produce the first print run up front. That really is one of the best things about Kickstarter from a publisher’s point of view, so if you are a backer, thanks for making it possible. Today I thought I’d share our long-term plans for Sentinels of Earth-Prime because we aren’t just launching a game here, but a game line. Let’s talk about what that means and how it relates to Mutants & Masterminds.

 

The first step is, of course, making the core game and the mini-decks that are part of the Kickstarter. Those are scheduled to ship to backers in April of 2018. We’ll then release them into stores, as we value our partners in retail and distribution and want the game to reach the widest possible audience. This should get Sentinels of Earth-Prime out just before summer, which is convention season for the game industry. We can thus run demos and promote it at important conventions like Origins and GenCon. This should all make for a strong rollout and help establish Sentinels of Earth-Prime as a worthy successor to Sentinels of the Multiverse.

What’s the next step? Expansions, of course! The way we’re designing the core game, it tells the story of key events in the years 2002-2006 of Earth-Prime, most notably the Grue attack on earth and Omega’s invasion of Freedom City. From there we have two boxed expansions planned. The first will advance the timeline to 2012, covering the Silver Storm in Emerald City and related events. The third expansion will bring the timeline up the present day, and include elements from The Cosmic Handbook and the new edition of Freedom City. Our plan is to do one release a year for the line, so the core game in 2018, the first expansion in 2019, and the second expansion in 2020. We may do additional mini-decks along the way. Certainly, we have plenty of characters to work with! Over the past 15 years, we’ve published literally hundreds of heroes and villains from the Earth-Prime setting, and more are on the way.

Mutants & Masterminds, the roleplaying game that birthed the Earth-Prime setting, will of course be continuing its run concurrently with Sentinels of Earth-Prime. The long-awaited third edition of the Freedom City sourcebook is coming out next. It’s in layout now and should be going up for pre-order by the end of the month. After that is a new print collection of the Rogues Gallery series of villains, which will include some all-new content, because you can never have enough villains in a superhero RPG! We round out the year with the launch of the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook. As the name indicates, this is a beginner friendly entry point into the Mutants & Masterminds RPG. If you’ve never played M&M before, it’ll be a great place to start.

That should give you a good idea where we are going with Sentinels of Earth-Prime and Mutants & Masterminds. If you want to get in on the Sentinels of Earth-Prime Kickstarter, there’s still time! There are some stretch goals we’d love to unlock before the campaign ends, so do check it out. We’re counting on you, heroes!

Ronin Roundtable: Critical Role – Vestiges of Divergence

As we’re closing in on the finish line for Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting, I’m putting the finishing touches on the chapter that deals with the heroes of the land. Part and parcel of that hero experience is, of course, magic items, and Tal’Dorei has some very cool things to offer, in the form of Vestiges of Divergence.

For those not in the know, the Vestiges are holdovers from a powerful magical era. When found, their power is subdued, after long years slumbering. But as the hero accomplishes more and greater tasks, the magic of the Vestiges stirs and begins to rise, allowing heroes to advance these items first to awakened status and finally to exalted status through the performance of great feats or personal development.

 

For today’s post, I’m going to share with you the Pyremaul, a massive hammer filled with potent elemental power.

Pyremaul

Weapon (maul), legendary (requires attunement)

Forged from deep red iron, this massive hammer houses an ever-burning gemstone of orange flame. You have a +1 bonus to attack rolls made with this weapon. When you hit with an attack using this weapon, the target takes an additional 1d6 fire damage.

You can choose to have this weapon shed bright light in a 30 foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. If you kill a creature with an attack using this weapon, the corpse is immolated, turning to ash.

Awakened

When a character awakens Pyremaul, apply the following changes to the item’s traits:

  • Increase the bonus to attack rolls to a +2.
  • Increase the additional fire damage inflicted by a hit to 2d6.
  • When you score a critical hit with this weapon, the target must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Exalted

When a character exalts Pyremaul, apply the following changes to the item’s traits:

  • Increase the bonus to attack rolls to a +3.
  • Increase the additional fire damage inflicted by a hit to 3d6.
  • When you score a critical hit with this weapon, the target must succeed on a DC 17 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. The target also suffers an additional 3d6 fire damage from the critical hit.

(It should be noted that this item is currently in-development, and this draft may not reflect its final description.)

Ronin Roundtable: Small Shows

I don’t write up a lot of blogs here for Green Ronin. Mostly, everyone sees my pushes for GMs for Gen Con and an occasional posting for other folks. I’m taking on the duties this week for the Ronin Round Table and I’m super stoked to talk about fan-run conventions and smaller events.

We receive a few emails here and there from fan-run conventions looking for support. This could mean a variety of things, ranging from free books, GMs to run games, or Green Ronin Staff & Developers to be Special Guests or Guests of Honor at various cons. Some events are looking for sponsorship or product for their game libraries. I’ll talk about each one and how we can (or sadly, cannot) support your event.

GMs – We have a pretty small group of super fans who run games for us at Gen Con aka the Green Ronin Freebooters. Many of them run games in their local game stores and conventions. They do this for the love of the hobby and supporting local game communities. We have a bunch of free content & “Quick Start” adventures which can easily be converted to “con games”, over at freeronin.com. Many of our GMs run their homebrews, tailored to their FLGS/con.

How we’re supporting the GMs – We’ve been working on more Quick Start adventures, which will make it easier for not only our Freebooters, but for any GM to run at a game store and con. These will be great introductory adventures, to highlight our game systems and our worlds. We’re talking of an asset kit, too, so any GM, FLGS, or Con can use these assets to promote their games and events on their social media.

Free Products – This one is tough. We’re still a small team, even though GR has been around many years. We simply cannot afford to send every convention free product. We still have to pay for the game, as it were, to “buy” it for said con. And then spend the shipping to send it out. We get many requests for books to add to a con’s library or “play & win” program.

But really, to be honest? Not a lot of folks actually pick up an RPG book to learn how to play over the course of the con. There are always exceptions, of course, for super motivated RPG players. And sadly, many of us in the industry have been burned by con organizers keeping the products themselves or selling them on eBay/their FLGS.

Green Ronin as Guests – This is an upside for everyone! You get to invite our staff to a show, we get to talk about our products, run some games, talk about the industry, and all kinds of cool things that benefit the con and our staff. Many of us have been invited to a variety of events, all over the world. We’re also more likely to bring a small amount of product with us to sell and donate, as we’ll be able to meet the organizers and the community.

Small conventions are great. It’s really wonderful to be able to easily chat with our community. It’s a great way for us to network with other publishers, and meet future freelancers. It’s a good way for us to bring content to your show, especially when we’re doing writer’s seminars, giving advice about publishing, or talking about diversity in our games and in our industry.

If you’re interested in our Freebooter program, you can check it out here. If you’d like to invite a member of the Green Ronin Team to your event, you can email me directly and let me know who you’re interested in bringing on board. You can find me at donna@greenronin.com and I’ll reach out to my team. We can focus panels, workshops, and games for your event.

Ronin Roundtable: Freedom City, Then and Now

The worlds we create certainly can take on a life of their own. That has been my experience with Freedom City, the central starting point for the Earth-Prime setting for Mutants & Masterminds, now the focus of two major forthcoming projects that reflect the history of the setting and its future.

Sentinels of Earth-Prime

Over on Kickstarter, the Sentinels of Earth-Prime card game takes the hugely popular Sentinels of the Multiverse and brings its game mechanics and design to Freedom City, focusing on the “classic” era of the second edition of the Freedom City sourcebook from 2005, and the Freedom League of that time, along with some of their most fiendish foes, like Omega, Argo, Hades, and the Meta-Mind of the alien Grue Unity.

For M&M fans new to the card game, Sentinels pits teams of heroes up against the challenges of particular villains and environments, using decks of cards to represent all of those factors, and emphasizing just the kind of heroic teamwork the Freedom League is know for. For Sentinels fans new to Mutants & Masterminds, the Freedom City setting is meant to capture the classic feel of the superhero comics and offer a setting for telling all kinds of stories in a roleplaying context. If you’re unfamiliar with the heroes of the Freedom League or their foes, worry not! We have plans to profile all of the characters in the days to come while the Kickstarter is ongoing, along with providing you with some looks at Freedom City, its history, geography, and feel as a setting

For those who’d prefer not to wait, of course, you can find out plenty about the larger context of the Earth-Prime setting in the Atlas of Earth-Prime, Emerald City, Hero High, and Cosmic Handbook sourcebooks, available in print and PDF from the Green Ronin online store. Speaking of which….

Freedom City, Third Edition

Freedom City is also getting some much-needed attention from the roleplaying side of things in the forthcoming third edition of the Freedom City setting sourcebook, which rounds out all of those previously mentioned setting books to provide a complete look at Earth-Prime. More than ten years after the events in the previous edition of Freedom City that is the focus for Sentinels of Earth-Prime, the Freedom League and other elements of the world have seen some changes: Older heroes have retired, passing on their mantles to a new generation, and new heroes have appeared, often with ties to past events.

Captain Thunder and Lady Liberty have both lost their powers and left the Freedom League, but the Light of Liberty has chosen a successor, and Captain Thunder’s son, Ray, Jr., has graduated from the Next-Gen and the Claremont Academy to take his father’s place in the League, although not in quite the form anyone expected. Likewise, the Raven has followed in her father’s footsteps to pass her dark cloak and experience on to a young hero operating out of New York City (as detailed in Atlas of Earth-Prime) to take up a career in politics. Meanwhile, the previous “rookie” heroes of the League like Bowman, Johnny Rocket, and Star Knight are now seasoned veterans, helping out the “new kids” like Thunderbolt, Lady Liberty, and Centuria, the daughter of the legendary hero Centurion from an alternate Earth destroyed by Omega. The ageless and immortal members of the team, like Daedalus, Dr. Metropolis, and Siren, remain largely unchanged, although Daedalus’ involvement in aiding alien refugees from the shattered Lor Republic has led some earthly authorities to question his loyalties.

And that’s just within the ranks of the Freedom League! The new edition of Freedom City also looks at various other heroes of the setting, like the Atom Family, along with the ranks of some of Earth-Prime’s most infamous villains, nearly a hundred characters in all. This is combined with new and updated art and additional views of Freedom City like those seen here.

Ronin Roundtable: Sentinels of Earth-Prime Card Game Coming to Kickstarter This Month!

Sentinels of Earth-Prime, coming to Kickstarter, April 2017

Mutants & Masterminds is Green Ronin’s longest running RPG, first debuting in 2002 and receiving continual support ever since. The game’s very first supplement, Freedom City, introduced a world that we’ve continued to expand upon over the years in ways big and small. This culminated in January with the release of the Atlas of Earth-Prime, a full world book for the setting. It was a fitting way to celebrate Mutants & Mastermind’s 15 year anniversary but there’s more to come. The Third Edition of the Freedom City sourcebook is coming out in June. And later this month we’re launching a Kickstarter for the first ever Mutants & Masterminds card game, Sentinels of Earth-Prime!

I’ve long wanted to bring some of our RPG properties to the world of card and board games and Sentinels of Earth-Prime is our chance to do just that. It’s happening because a few years ago I started playing a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse from Greater Than Games. I got to know its designer, Christopher Badell, on the JoCo Cruise and it turned out he was a long time Mutants & Masterminds fan. Comics, of course, are no strangers to crossovers and team ups, so it didn’t take long for us to start talking about doing a project together. The result will take Christopher’s excellent Sentinels of the Multiverse rules and our Mutants & Masterminds setting and combine them together into a powerhouse new game, Sentinels of Earth-Prime! As you may have read in our press release a few weeks ago, this will be a joint venture between Green Ronin and Greater Than Games.

Sentinels of Earth-Prime will have the same basic format as Sentinels of the Multiverse. It will include decks for ten heroes, four villains, and four environments. Naturally, I brought in Steve Kenson (designer of Mutants & Masterminds and creator of Earth-Prime) to help with the setting and story side of things. I wanted to use the classic Freedom League as the game’s heroes, as they had deep roots in M&M and conveniently consisted of exactly ten characters. Steve then suggested we use events from previous RPG books as the basis for our story, in particular the many invasions that the heroes of Earth-Prime had fought against over the years. The core game will concentrate on events that took place from 2002-2006 on Earth-Prime. Then we’ll advance the timeline in expansions down the road, until the card game and the RPG are synched up. In this way Sentinels of Earth-Prime will both explore the setting and serve as a tour through its recent history.

The Sentinels of Earth-Prime Kickstarter will go live the week of April 17. Follow us on Twitter (@GreenRoninPub) or Facebook to keep up with it and other Green Ronin news. We’re incredibly excited about this project and the chance to work with Greater Than Games. We’re starting a whole new chapter to the Mutants & Masterminds story. We hope you’ll be a part of it!

Ronin Roundtable: Musings on Women, Games, and the Tabletop Industry

About a month ago I attended the DICE Summit in Las Vegas. The DICE Summit isn’t normally part of my convention rotation but I was invited to sit on a panel about what electronic games can learn from tabletop gaming and that topic is decidedly in my wheelhouse. The panel was moderated by Randy Pitchford of Gearbox and my fellow panelists were Mike Mearls of Wizards of the Coast and a colleague formerly of the tabletop business who made the move to the videogaming world, Josh Mosqueira, lately of Bonfire Studios. If you missed the livestream of this keynote, and are really, really curious to see how it went down, you can watch the whole thing here: https://youtu.be/F4vLd9cZW2o

The DICE Summit includes game design students and students of other game-related studies in their conference, something I was only vaguely aware of when I participated on the panel. During the coffee hour following our talk, I found myself speaking with first one, then two, then six, then nine female students who are pursuing game-related studies and who were downright eager to hear about opportunities in tabletop gaming. I left the conference feeling very enthusiastic about the diversity represented by these young women and was reminded once again that our industry is relatively young and started so very, very white and very, very male but that has been consistently changing for the better year by year.

One thing that has concerned me over my years as a professional is the lack of a mentorship culture in tabletop gaming. I wrote a whole essay about it for Elisa Teague’s collection, Girls on Games and despite pondering the problem from a few different angles I’m still at a loss on how to best address that situation. This is not to say that individuals don’t mentor others in certain circumstances, just that there is a distinct lack at the level of the game industry’s biggest organizations that doesn’t exist in other professions.
Still, just because there are challenges (even big ones) doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied to just coast along and wait for someone else to make a difference. I like to think that I walk what I talk, personally and professionally. Try to, anyway. I was very pleased to be a part of Gen Con’s Industry Insider Featured Presenters advisory committee last year when we achieved gender parity in invited speakers for the first time. Closer to home Blue Rose is hitting hobby distribution in April and is undoubtedly our most recent public example of Green Ronin’s interest in both portraying diverse characters and attracting diverse players to go along with them. We’ve also expanded and changed up our team, from our convention staff to our line developers, and not only have we gotten to know and work with some great women in the process but we’ve added some excellent new perspectives and approaches to challenges that have helped make Green Ronin a stronger and more productive company across the board.

2017 is still young and I’m excited about the projects we have brewing from now into early next year. We have some new projects, some exciting bits of news, and some upcoming freelancing opportunities to talk about in the coming months. Some of the projects I’m most excited about haven’t been announced yet but more information about every little thing will eventually appear here. Watch this space Mondays.

Ronin Roundtable: It’s a Team Effort

We are a very tiny team here at Mutants & Masterminds, and can only protect so much of the city on our own. But many tiny teams make for a mighty league. Thankfully, Green Ronin does not stand alone on the field of superhero gaming. We’re backed by some of the coolest and most creative third-party publishers in the hobby industry, and there are a lot of them out there, from small passion-project companies with one or two offerings to powerhouses that turn out monthly or even weekly offerings. Time spent in exciting crossovers with Green Ronin’s many allies won’t be wasted, and here are just a few of my personal favorites:

(the Might Miracle Guardians by Tony Parker)

Vigilance Press offers some of the most fun and creative characters out there. Their two Rogues, Rivals, and Renegades collections are some memorable lineups or rogues and rivals (as one would expect from the label), but my personal delight is the Kaiju Kultists installment of the Due Vigilance series and the oft-requested romance comic rules available in Strange Attractors. For added entertainment, give their podcast a listen; Beacon City is a great campaign that features guest stars from the Freedomverse!

Rogue Genius Games’s weekly Super Powered Legends series offers familiar faces from pop culture with modern twists, all written and illustrated by the double-threat Jacob Blackman. Also among their offerings is the incredibly useful Super Powered Bestiary.

The brilliant Steven Trustrum and I got started in the industry around the same time, and I spent most of my twenties with a professional crush on his writing. His company, Misfit Studios, puts out some of the most useful and insightful products around, including the indispensable Better Mousetrap which contains a wealth of character-building ideas, GM advice, new villains and organizations, and plenty of expanded options for the core Mutants & Masterminds rules.

Finally, Xion Studio offers the popular and well-developed Watchguard campaign setting, which I am embarrassed to admit I still haven’t managed to read through despite the incredible reviews and popularity. Despite my personal blind spot, Xion is worth highlighting if only because Charlie McElvy, the creator of Watchguard, is helping Carlos Cabaleiro and Vito Delsante bring the world of their comic book, Golden Guard, to life as an RPG as part of their kickstarter!

Our third-party publishers are an amazing group that work hard and deserve plenty of love. There’s nowhere near enough space here to highlight all the amazing creators who deserve it, so please share your favorites here on our forums or on social media!