Ronin Round Table: My Gaming Agenda

More than once, Green Ronin has been accused of having "an agenda" when it comes to its published products. Now, it’s no secret that the owners and core of Team Ronin skews to the left politically and socially but, generally speaking, I can’t think of any products where those personal beliefs took precedence over accurately portraying the genre and style of the game or setting in question. Yes, elements of Blue Rose are quite socially progressive, but that’s the nature of the Romantic Fantasy genre the game looks to emulate. Is Testament promoting a "Fundamentalist agenda"? Does Freeport: City of Adventure promote piracy? Does Legions of Hell mean Green Ronin is secretly run by heavy-metal Satanists? All those and many other products don’t have any "agenda" beyond being interesting game books. They may not all interest the same audience, but that sort of diversity is a good thing.

That’s where we hit upon my one and only "agenda" when it comes to writing and developing game books and settings: inclusiveness. It’s no secret: I’m gay and have been out for longer than I’ve been "in" at this point, and I’m looking forward to June’s Pride events and marching in the Boston Pride Parade, as I have for the past several years. I know what it’s like to be on the outside, and so do a lot of gamers, in one fashion or another. In fact the "gamer as outsider" is so archetypal it has become stereotype.

Last year at GenCon, I was privileged to sit on a panel for a seminar we called "Queer as a Three-Sided Die" to talk about sexual minorities (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, etc.) in gaming. My fellow panelists and I had no idea how it would go over. As it turned out, the room was packed, and the event was recorded on video for YouTube! The audience helped to remind us how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go. Depictions of trans- people are still at the point where those of gay characters were a couple of decades ago. Online communities like Gaming as Women and the documentary project Gaming in Color show there are strong, and often unacknowledged, parts of our "tribe".

Several years ago, my Green Ronin colleagues adopted the nickname "The Johnny Rocket Fan Club" for the various "gaymers" who would stop by our booth to thank me for including an openly gay character in the Freedom City setting. I’ve gotten emotional fan letters from gay readers of my Shadowrun novels who appreciated the matter-of-fact handling of Talon the street mage having male romantic interests. Might not seem like a big deal (unless you think I’m pushing "my agenda") but to some of them it was the first time they looked at a heroic adventure setting and saw themselves as heroes. So, if I can create a world where someone looking to live out a fantasy can see a reflection of themselves in there somewhere, I’m going to do it, and not just gay characters but women, people of all races, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, and more. That matters a lot to me, and that’s my "agenda" in as much as I have one: In our worlds, we can all be heroes.

Steve Kenson

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Ronin Round Table: Chronicle System Community Development

The Chronicle System is what we call the "engine" that "powers" our A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying system. Though we have no plans at current to divorce the system from the setting of Martin’s Westeros, we would like to expand on it some. To that end, we’ve been working on a series of PDF releases under the Chronicle System banner.

In many ways, these products are for our fan-base, who have always wanted some expansions to the system. We’ve talked to folks on the forums and in person and the results of those conversations are the Chronicle System products in the works.

But, we figured we’d take that community participation one step further. Not just in terms of what product ideas you’d find useful, but also its specific contents. This week, I posted the first of our Community Development posts in our Chronicle System Community Development forum, a subforum under our A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying forum. In it, we’ve presented a whole expansion to a favorite system of rules for the game: the Holdings element of House-building.

The intention behind doing so is simple: we want your feedback. What will be useful to your game? What is flavorful? What inspires you and what leaves you flat? We’d love your feedback on as macro or micro a level as you care to share, knowing that your contributions are going to be put to serious consideration and implementation by the developer. Obviously, not every idea can be used, but I’ll be mining the conversations for the very best ideas.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be presenting more and more chunks of this PDF for scrutiny and discussion, so that the final product isn’t just something that our fans want, but something that our fans helped make. It should be something everyone really wants to get their hands on—those ideas that will help your game, as developed by those of us who create the game system.

At this point, it’s an experiment—we’ll see how this goes. But if it works, who knows? We might like the process so much that we do it again in the future.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for playing.

Ronin Roundtable: Deal Your M&M Game a Wild Card

Steve Kenson

The new Wild Cards SCARE Sheets series for Mutants & Masterminds got underway this month with the release of the free "Issue #0" conversion guide for the third edition of the game and overview of the Committee (the focus of the "Committee Triad" of Wild Cards novels), followed by Issue #1 with everyone’s favorite blogger, would-be journalist, and peeping wasp, Jonathan "Bugsy" Hive.

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Ronin Round Table: Jack Norris

Hey folks, this is Jack Norris, newly minted Ronin and the new Dragon Age and AGE System developer. Figured it was time I properly introduced myself to all our customers and fans. So who the heck am I and why should you care? Excellent questions, glad you asked.

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Ronin Round Table: Green Ronin and Retailers

Bill Bodden

Green Ronin loves our retailers.

Before you all yawn and click away, let me explain. Tabletop roleplaying games have been languishing for the last few years. Many stores, when faced with ordering less or going out of business have been cutting back on the category that attracts the least attention. Right now, that category is tabletop roleplaying games.

At Green Ronin, RPGs are our main product lines. We’ve been fortunate to have three very popular licenses—Dragon Age, DC Adventures, and Song of Ice and Fire—that have drawn fan interest and critical claim alike. As satisfying as that may be, neither of those things pay our printing bills directly, so we look for new ways to create revenue. One has already been mentioned at the Ronin Roundtable a couple of weeks ago; we’ve hired Donna Prior as our new Events Manager who will be in charge of getting our games played in stores and at conventions. We’re so sure that if people try our games they’ll like them and want to purchase them to play them regularly that we’re putting money behind it.

Why should we do this? It’s simple: Game stores are the incubators of the gaming world. They inspire customers to try new games, provide gaming space to allow people to meet for gaming sessions, and often are the best way to meet new gaming buddies. Without game stores, it would be much more difficult to reach our audience, and for our audience to find like-minded people with whom to enjoy their favorite pastime. Many gamers have gone on to publish games of their own, including nearly everyone at Green Ronin, so it’s not hard for us to draw a direct connection: without game stores, Green Ronin probably wouldn’t exist.

We want to encourage our fans to support Green Ronin and their local game store by buying products locally if possible. But let’s take it to the next level: don’t just buy our games from your Favorite Local Game Store; buy everything you can from your FLGS. We recognize it isn’t always possible to do this: there are many places in the world where there just aren’t any game stores, or the nearest one is impractical to visit regularly due to distance, lack of transportation or other issues. All we ask is to do what you can to support your Favorite Local Game Store.

If your FLGS doesn’t carry a game you want, ask if they can order it. Maybe they missed hearing about it when it was new. Since so much new product rolls out in any given week, they may only have had one good chance to hear about any given item – we’re all human, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. If you know in advance that you’ll want a new book, ask to pre-order it. This not only ensures that you get the book you want when it comes out, but also helps the store estimate better how many of that book to order, which helps Green Ronin in knowing how many copies we need to print. Having good information like that helps us stay in business by not overprinting or underprinting a product.

If your FLGS can order the game, book, or dice you want, I encourage you to get that item through the store. First, it shows that there is demand for RPGs, and second, it helps educate store staff on products that people are looking for. Stores provide a valuable service by offering the best selection possible for your instant gratification, but sometimes they need a little nudge to bring in more of what people want. Buying from stores whenever possible helps do that, and also helps keep our hobby strong for years to come.

Ronin Round Table: Aces & Gadgets

In 2013, Green Ronin is launching our two new alternating weekly series for Mutants & Masterminds, what I’ve been working on since Power Profiles wrapped up at the end of last year: Gadget Guides and SCARE Sheets for the Wild Cards setting.

Gadget Guides premiered with Robots, a guide to creating and using mechanical marvels (and menaces) of all kinds in your M&M games, and continues with Utility gadgets, looking at all of the belts, bags, and other containers that seem to hold everything but the kitchen sink for intrepid heroes. After that will be some Guides focusing on different types of weapons and, well… we’ve got a whole lot planned to take us through most of the rest of this year. Got a specific request or something you’d like to see? Let us know over on the Atomic Think Tank!

SCARE Sheets, written by John Jos. Miller, with game material and notes by yours truly, is an expansion to our Wild Cards sourcebook, looking at the epic shared world setting changed forever when an alien virus mutates some of humanity into super-powered aces and twisted and deformed jokers. Of course, Wild Cards was published for the second edition of Mutants & Masterminds, so our first release for SCARE Sheets will be a free quick conversion guide to using the sourcebook with the third edition of the game.

Beyond that, the SCARE Sheets look at the characters of the new generation of Wild Cards books, starting with Insight Straight and continuing through Busted Flush, and Suicide Kings. SCARE is the Special Committee for Ace Resources and Endeavors, a U.S. government agency dealing with wild carders, and the products are formatted as SCARE reports on important ace and joker characters and factions, similar to the AEGIS Threat Reports of our first weekly electronic series. Like Threat Reports, each entry gets you a full write-up of a single character or short write-ups of a small group or faction.

Of course, Wild Cards characters vary considerably in terms of power level compared to the classic four-color Mutants & Masterminds types. Many of the characters in SCARE Sheets are in the PL 6-8 range, although the highest level are PL 10-11 and one PL20! (I’ll let you guess who). I wondered if some of the more unusual characters of the series, like the Amazing Bubbles, Genetrix, Hoodoo Mama, or the Righteous Djinn, would pose serious design challenges in terms of writing them up as M&M characters, but it turned out that the system handled them all quite well. Readers interested in power creation may find some interesting things in the series.

Even if you’re not running M&M set in the world of Wild Cards, the SCARE Sheets offer value in the form of ready-made characters (just like Threat Report) you can "re-skin" for your own series, or just drop into it as-is. While the punk musical sensation Joker Plague probably isn’t playing any venues in Freedom or Emerald City, aces like Jonathan Hive and Curveball wouldn’t be all that unusual there, especially in Silver Storm altered E.C. Even the child soldiers of the People’s Paradise of Africa could be the unfortunate victims of alien or genetic experimentation in a superhero setting, and the Righteous Djinn… well, his power is largely based on what abilities he can steal, so the more powerful your heroes are, the worse of a threat he becomes.

Hope you enjoy both the Gadget Guides and SCARE Sheets. At $1.29 per Guide and just 99 cents per SCARE Sheet, it’s pretty hard to go wrong and easy to pick up something new for your Mutants & Masterminds game. Follow along with us this year and see what aces and gadgets we have up our sleeves—I’ll be looking forward to showing you each Wednesday!

Ronin Round Table: The Great Hero Poll

While some of us have been working hard to get our second Kickstarter campaign going (Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG in case you weren’t sure), other Ronin have been working away on the result of our first Kickstarter campaign. Today we have some data to share about the Mutants & Masterminds characters that will appear that book:

One of the stretch goals for the Mutants & Masterminds 10 Year Anniversary Edition Kickstarter was the inclusion of ten characters from previous editions of the game. The fans quickly funded that particular goal, so then came the fun part—figuring out which characters to include.

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Ronin Round Table – Events, Volunteer Programs, and Community Building

Greetings! I’m Donna Prior, the new Events Manager at Green Ronin. I’ve been busy working on a lot of documentation, and I’ve been remiss in introducing myself to you all. So, hello! In my first Ronin Round Table, I’d like to share a bit more about myself and the bits & bobs I’m working on for an official GR volunteer team.

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Ronin Round Table: Gateway to Gaming

Evan Sass

Most of us at Green Ronin have a weekly game night, and some have two or three. We got into this business because of our love for the hobby. That love started when somebody shared their own passion for roleplaying, or gave an RPG book as a present, or we found a dusty box with an intriguing cover on a shelf at a shop.

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Ronin Round Table: Brand New Gamers

Joe Carriker

Some geeks in social media seem to like to decry the mainstreaming of geek culture. I won’t get into that here, but I will say I’ve noticed a positive benefit: after deriving enjoyment from these movies, big video games and the like, quite a few folks—some of whom I’ve known for years—have expressed interest in trying out some of the other parts of geek culture they’ve heard about but never quite had the chance to try.

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