Modern Monday: The Companion and Beyond

Last time I was here I gave you a rundown of the Modern AGE Companion, currently at press and available for preorder or just PDF (in our store or at DrivethruRPG). Some of you were surprised our fourth Modern AGE release was already here, but believe me, we’re just getting started.

The world and the game are both bigger than you think.

Using the Modern AGE Companion

My last post provided a rundown of the Modern AGE Companion’s contents. It’s a big book of optional rules, and Modern AGE will generally not assume you have the book when it comes to understanding others down the line, though we may use some of its principles for “back end” design guidance. Thus, a power in a new book might be consistent with the Companion’s rules for extraordinary abilities, but you won’t need both books to understand it.

Some rules in the Companion are integrated with each other (such as the connection between the Demolitions Training talent and the new rules for, uh, demolitions) but in most cases, options exist to disconnect them. Incidentally, here’s a preview of the new rules for blowing things up.

Get a taste of Threefold on June 15th for Free RPG Day.

Burning Brighter on Free RPG Day

Next up, Modern AGE represents on Free RPG Day, with a Quickstart in the new Threefold setting, presenting the adventure Burning Brighter. Think of the old Quickstart as a prototype; this one sends characters across multiple strange worlds, to contend with transdimensional mobsters, the demonic invaders of a subterranean realm, and an unhinged clone—and the baby griffon’s still there, too.

The Threefold Quickstart drops on Saturday June 15 and will be available from participating retailers. While Green Ronin will be at Origins Game Fair this release is a retailer exclusive, so you won’t find it at our booth. However, I would be happy to see any you acquire that you see fit to bring by. I’ll be at the convention all week and would love to see it!

Open the Gates to Threefold in Q3

Threefold is the first original in-house Adventure Game Engine setting since the re-release of Blue Rose for the system. Unlike Blue Rose, which is an entire game, Threefold is a supplement to the Modern AGE core, similar to our licensed setting, World of Lazarus.

Threefold is big.

By “big,” I mean expansive in its ambitions, structure and possibilities for play. I wanted a setting where you could play virtually any character type in any genre, with the three “poles” being transhumanist SF, young-adult style fantasy, and dark fantasy, bound together by the concept of “speculative fantasy,” where weird things have rational underpinnings, and provide dilemmas that can be solved with a mix of clear thinking and idealism. I outlined Threefold as the kind of setting that might last through 20 years and 100 support products, and while I don’t expect that, you don’t get its spirit without wanting that.

“Big” expresses itself in the setting’s worlds—plural. Threefold is a setting of interdimensional travel through alternate Earths, fantasy lands, flame-tossed underworlds, and places that defy easy categories. Connected by gates, the countless planes are more than a mix of possibilities. Transplanar empires commanded by demigods, liberated members of the armies of the damned, and idealistic mystics struggle with each other, while enhanced operatives on Earth “hold the fort,” manipulate alternate histories, and deal with bizarre problems in their own backyards.

I want to tell you more, about the Sodality’s vows, the scarab badges members carry, and the conflict between the AI Lucifer and the counterparts who control organized crime, trading in things like souls and magic swords. But I have to let it drip out slowly. Get the Quickstart for Free RPG Day for more—for now. The hardcover is currently in art and layout, and due for release in the 3rd quarter of this year.

Encounter Enemies & Allies in Q4

Enemies & Allies is a book of strange creatures, useful Non-Player Characters, and optional rules to fit your game to their implied genres. The entries in this book cover modern fantasy, horror, technothrillers, crimes dramas, and near future or secret world science fiction. An appendix rounds things out with options to build creatures and NPCs from scratch, along with guidelines for converting creatures from other Adventure Game Engine games, such as the book’s Fantasy AGE counterpart, the Fantasy AGE Bestiary.

Enemies and Allies is fully written, in pre-production, and scheduled for release at the end of this year.

Get the Word Out

So, this is what’s coming, and when—at least, in terms of things I can talk about. I’ve talked about these books before, but sometimes people miss these messages and default to what they imagine might be happening. I develop most of Modern AGE’s books and follow each of them from conception to publication. I know what’s happening. So, if people are wondering what’s happening with the game, tell them what I’ve told you—or share this article.

The Expanse: Expansive Content

We’ve had a lot to say about The Expanse Roleplaying Game during the game’s development and successful Kickstarter, so we thought it would be helpful to provide a quick and helpful guide to all things Expanse from Green Ronin Publishing here on our site and elsewhere.

First and foremost, the link greenronin.com/blog/category/the-expanse-rpg/ is your key to Expanse-related posts on the GR.com site. You can download The Expanse Quickstart from here to check out the game and give it a try with a complete starter adventure and pre-generated crew of characters.

 

The Expanse Kickstarter

The Expanse RPG Kickstarter is where it all begins

Where you can see all of the promotional materials of the Kickstarter and, more importantly, view all of the public updates

 

The updates include a number of excerpts and previews from the game as “Expanse Extras”:

Expanse Extra: Spaceship Combat Example

Expanse Extra: Qualities & Flaws

Expanse Extra: Interludes

Expanse Extra: The Churn

Ronin Roundtables

Next, you can check out the previous Ronin Roundtable articles on The Expanse, looking at different previews and aspects of the game to supplement the information found in the Expanse Quickstart.

The Expanse: Questions of Canon

The Expanse: Doors and Corners

The Expanse: Starting Points

The Expanse: Space Combat

The Expanse: Power Armor

The Expanse: Character Creation

The Expanse vs. Modern AGE

Expanse Transmissions

Even with only the Expanse Quickstart and the PDF edition of The Expanse Roleplaying Game core book available, a number of groups have already launched their own Expanse games. If you’re curious to see the game in action and want to check out some actual play games on The Expanse online, here are some good places to start:

Happy Jacks offers an actual play of The Expanse RPG from ShadowCon

Jowzam’s Den ran a stream of the Expanse Quickstart adventure “Cupbearer” live on Twitch. Available for viewing on YouTube

Mosaic Gaming Network’s “Rolling with the Regulars” offers their “Phoenix Rising” vidcast and podcast of The Expanse, starting with Episode 0

The Spice Must Roll is a live broadcast of sci-fi tabletop RPGs. Season 1 focuses on The Expanse RPG, starting with Episode 0

Ronin Roundtable: Death Has Many Faces

The final season of Game of Thrones has special significance to those of us at Green Ronin Publishing, since we worked with George R.R. Martin on A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying when the successful show was just a concept. If you haven’t checked out the RPG—or even if you have, but your collection is incomplete—don’t miss out on the current offering from Bundle of Holding, available for the next week or so, where you can get all of the PDFs of the game line, including some Chronicle System supplements, for one bargain price.

Of course, a number of things about the world of Westeros and the saga of A Song of Ice and Fire have been revealed since the RPG core book was published, and Game Masters might want to add some new elements to their SIFRP games. In honor of one of our favorite Game of Thrones characters and the final season of the show, we offer a small additional quality.

 


Faceless Man (Fate Quality)

You are no one.

Requires Face in the Crowd, Furtive or Talented (Stealth), Treacherous, one or more Fighting quality, and sponsorship and training at the Temple of the Many-Faced God

You have mastered the arcane art of face-changing. If you kill a target, you can take their face and wear it, effectively becoming that person in appearance and voice. Under ordinary circumstances, this gives you a flawless disguise. Even those with reason to be suspicious of you can only detect something is amiss with Hard (15) Awareness (Empathy) test and even then may not realize the extent of your deception until it is too late. You automatically surprise anyone unaware of your true nature and gain bonus dice equal to your Cunning, in addition to the usual +1D.

You can save faces you have added to your collection, storing them for later use. It takes about a minute to don a face and assume its form, but you can remove a face you are wearing (ending the guise) as a lesser action, if you wish.


 

Superteam Handbook: They Grow Up So Fast

Last week we took a look at the meat of the upcoming SuperTeam Handbook: The team outlines. We took a look at how each team is provided with plenty of material for GMs and players alike to build a campaign around them, using either their own custom characters or the sample characters provided for each team. This week, let’s take a look at one of those sample character. Keeping with last week’s preview of AEGIS: Red Group and go with the team analyst, Jessie Baker!


Jessie Baker

From a young age, Jessie Baker was better acquainted with books than with people. People confused her and set off her anxiety, but books were all about facts and evidence; no body language to misread, no missed cues, no laughing behind her back, no irrational emotional reactions, no lies. What she understood clearly of the human condition, however, was desire. She understood what people wanted and what they’d do to get it. It was a simple math problem, and those were easy enough. That was cause and effect, and it helped her navigate relationships with her family and the friends she made. It was ultimately the reason she loved political science and politics so much…what was the desire and what would someone do to get it? Sometimes people didn’t know themselves, but Jesse invariably did.

Her insight helped Baker find a place in AEGIS despite her poor communication skills and general disregard for hierarchy and protocol. Her rocky career was due to end after she penned a scathing report on her superior’s incompetence and nepotism, when Chief Administrator Bonham took personal interest in her skillset.

Jessie joined Red Group as its first member, but Bonham refused to make her cell lead—not until she learned how to lead people and not abuse them. It stung a bit, but she appreciated his candor and his willingness to recruit from outside the agency. She still personally thinks of herself as the group’s leader—she does, after all, see the leads that take them into any given mission—but no one else in Red Group agrees with her self-assessment.


 

Jessie is the “I’m not very likable, but I am very, very good at what I do” character that pops up in so many TV procedural dramas, reflected by plenty of well-spent skill ranks and carefully chosen Advantages. With a keen eye for patterns, she’s a natural tactician as well, letting her use Inspire to improve her teammates’ abilities despite her rough exterior. And her specialization is more defined with a pair of talent-style powers. “I Know a Place” lets her provide the team with rotating headquarters and specialty vehicles thanks to her extraordinary research and organizational skills, while “Watch for Patterns” lets her guess where and how trouble will pop up thanks to her study of criminal psychology. Neither of these abilities is a super power, per se, but help set Jessie apart from the rest of her team. She’s the fact-finder and resources mastermind, with just enough gunplay to hold her own if a fight starts (and clearly a fight wouldn’t be starting right now if everyone had just listened to her in the first place!).

Here’s Jessie’s full spread, with background and character sheet:

 

A New Look

Keen-eyed reads will notice that Jessie’s character sheet looks a little different than how we’ve presented NPC character sheets in the past in products like Rogues Gallery and Freedom City, 3rd edition. One of the big goals in putting together the SuperTeam Handbook was to have a product any group could crack open and start playing within fifteen minutes, regardless of the flavor of campaign they wanted to run with. So in addition to making sure every team included guidelines for the kinds of adventures they have and a list of likely opponents they’d face, we also took some time to re-organize the character sheet to be fast and user-friendly for players. The hope is that everyone at the table can print a single sheet, front and back, and have everything they need to begin their adventures.

If you like our existing format for NPCs, no worries; the new character sheet designs presented in the SuperTeam Handbook is intended for player-facing material and takes up a lot more space than the traditional layout, so most NPCs in future products will still be presented in the traditional style, with the revised style mostly saved for player handouts.

Tune in two weeks from now when we take a look at the bonus NPCs the SuperTeam Handbook provides in the form of Mentors and Nemeses!

Team Preview: Red Group

 

We’ve spent the last few blog entries detailing some of the cool chapters in the SuperTeam Handbook that let you build your team from the ground up for thrilling heroics.

One of the most beautiful things about the Mutants & Masterminds system is its flexibility. While we generally sell it as cape-and-cowl set flying around throwing busses and fireballs at each other, the bare bones of the system can handle almost any action- and intrigue-focused flavor of modern, scifi, or historical games. One of the big goals of the SuperTeam Handbook was to provide a stealth campaign guide for more than just four-color heroics (there are plenty of those, too). Project: Freedom is classic superheroics mixed with behind-the-scenes political intrigue. The Upstarts are all about sabotage and civil disobedience. The Shadow Knights are chopsocky and ninja weirdness. And today we’re going to take a closer look at Red Group, an experimental AEGIS team who use criminal’s tactics against them with con games, theft, and sabotage to stop crooks and villains before they can threaten the world!


Power Level: 5    Power Points: 75
Team Template    7 points
Advantages: Benefit (cipher), Benefit (security clearance), Equipment 4 (team equipment and vehicle contribution), Team Code
Equipment: AEGIS concealed fiber armor (Protection 2, subtle), AEGIS blaster pistol (Ranged Damage 5), smartphone, vehicle contributions; 2 additional points of equipment
Complications: Loyalty Enforcement, Reputation (Criminals)


The public image of AEGIS, the American Elite Government Intervention Service, is dominated by steely-eyed operators or agents in heavy MAX power armor, who engage criminal organizations, terrorists, and supervillains. What the people don’t see are the five ordinary looking men and women quietly watching from nearby coffee shops or store fronts. They couldn’t imagine that these run-of-the-mill individuals are part of a new AEGIS initiative: Red Group, a pilot program sponsored by none other than Stewart “Rockstar” Bonham, Chief Administrator of Freedom City’s AEGIS operations.

The idea for Red Group was born from an unexpected skirmish between members of the Santa Muerte cult and SHADOW cells in Freedom City. The Santa Muerte cult under undead Tepalcatli had restricted their operations to Central America and the southwestern United States, but when SHADOW tried an aggressive push into the Mexican state of Chiapas, Tepalcatli retaliated with strikes against SHADOW operations in Freedom City, almost burning down Southside in the process.

AEGIS’s post-incident audit absolved the crimefighting agency of any failure to intercede and prevent this tragedy, but there was one voice of dissent from inside the Command Division: Analyst Jessie Baker. She claimed the Command Division had possessed actionable intelligence well before the Santa Muerte/SHADOW war, and that they failed to capitalize on it early enough. And when Command did pass the information along, it was through the Directorate arm first—standard protocol—preventing the Agent division from moving on the intelligence earlier. The auditors were ready to ignore Analyst Baker’s accusations; she had a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way, and her actionable intelligence had been little more than conjecture at the time. At best, her correct prediction was a coincidence, and they thought even that was generous. But Chief Administrator Bonham was intrigued. Baker may have the tact of sandpaper, but her predictions over the years had time and again proven correct off the faintest evidence, however untraditional her methods.

Bonham concluded there was a critical flaw in the way AEGIS communicated between the analytical thinkers who gathered intelligence and the structural thinkers who decided how to act on it. The analysts were having a hard time convincing the military and bureaucratic arms of potential threats because of how both sides parsed data and how analysts were able to think outside the box for deductive reasoning. The criminal organizations of the world were uniting in the interests of business, and they were sharing disciplines while governments were still restricted by their own borders. AEGIS had lost the ability to be agile under a heavier bureaucracy. Bonham also recognized that Baker was in danger of being fired by her superiors or walking away out of frustration, but she wasn’t just an asset. He saw in her the promise of a new AEGIS, a more fluid and dynamic organization that could predict and act rather than waiting for an event to warrant a response. So he offered her an opportunity instead.

Red Group is an autonomous unit under the direct supervision of Chief Administrator Bonham. It falls somewhere between the Command and Agent divisions, essentially allowing analysts to train and operate like agents in order to immediately act on the intelligence they gather in the field. Off the record, Red Group consists of five members—all specialized, all talented, and all an awkward fit for AEGIS itself—whose processes and instincts haven’t yet been dulled by years of rote paperwork and procedure.

Red Group is a secret arm of AEGIS for one very simple reason: Their mandate is to think like villains in order to predict upcoming conflicts and sabotage them before they happen. Their operations consist of five primary goals:

  • Find holes and weak points in the infrastructure and security of American institutions and facilities.
  • Identify and map out support networks for villains, from smugglers to financial backers to suppliers to underground clinics.
  • Construct complex profiles on villains, uncover their identities, and do exhaustive research on their formative elements like friends and family.
  • Envision, create, and carry out scenarios to determine proper courses of action.
  • Sabotage supervillains and criminal organizations before they can carry out attacks.

There’s one other mandate that Bonham insisted on. While Red Group has access to AEGIS’s supplies, housing, equipment, and deep pockets when a crisis calls for it, Bonham wanted them operating autonomously with fewer strings connecting them to their mother organization. This meant building up their assets and connections to foster street cred, to better understand how villains might work, and to avoid relying on AEGIS given the organization’s distrust of Bonham’s pet project. Red Group rarely operates out of the institution’s primary office, known as the Iceberg, in Freedom City. Instead they operate from a variety of temporary locations scouted by Baker and rely on black-market and stolen resources. Their techniques are unconventional—illegal in some circumstances—and justified post-mortem by how effective they are at preventing death and destruction. How exactly this approach will be seen by the general public if and when Red Group ever comes to light remains unknown, but for now their mission is to save lives, and their playground is every shadow in the United States.

SuperTeam Handbook: Buttery Roles

Last time, we made a brief mention of one of my favorite elements of the new Mutants & Masterminds SuperTeam Handbook: Roles. Think of these like the roles in a casting call: you are putting out a call for tall, handsome, and likeable with good comedic timing, but you’re not necessarily looking for Chris Hemsworth specifically (kidding; I am always looking for Chris Hemsworth; that man is a delight). Roles are guidelines and suggestions about the part you want to play. Broken into Tactical Roles and Concept Roles, they help you define who you are in relation to your teammates so that you can stand out and shine while still playing a part in the greater story. Each one provides guidance on how to build your characters, what powers and advantages help you fulfill your role. If each player picks a Tactical and Concept Role before building their character, it can help guide tough decisions in character creation and ensure heroes aren’t tripping over each other in combat.

There are several examples of each role, so like a true gamer, I’m going to roll randomly for examples, and we’ll see if we can put together a character concept from the combination: For a Tactical Role, I got Protection, and for the Concept Role I got Hotshot. Let’s take a look at the general description for each.

The Protector:

 

While the Assault and Control characters dominate the battlefield, it is up to the Protection hero to keep people safe—both their teammates and often innocent civilians in harm’s way. Heroes in this role might interpose their own invulnerable forms to deflect attacks or use powers to create protective barriers. Protection heroes also help with the aftermath of combat, using their abilities to treat or heal injuries.

 

The Hotshot:

You have got it and, given half an opportunity, you intend to prove it to the world! The Hotshot is a show-off, daredevil, or showboat, the hero who is looking for a spotlight and, if there isn’t one, will create it. Some Hotshots are just confident (many would say over-confident) and enjoy showing off what they can do—as many people would given the kinds of powers wielded by superheroes. Others are arrogant and need to demonstrate their superiority, or lack self-esteem but compensate with a show of bravado; fake it ‘til you make it!

Hotshots are generally earnest, even lovable, but they’re the first to look for trouble or stir it up if they can’t find any.

 

Each Role offers some trait suggestions, such as “Hotshots tend toward physical traits, whether incredible athletic prowess or impressive physical powers like super-strength or energy projection,” and “Interpose is the classic Protection hero Advantage, while other general Advantages like Diehard, Great Endurance, Instant Up, and Second Chance are useful to ensure the character stays in the action. Combat Advantages like Move-by Action, Redirect, and Set-up can help turn defense into an offensive edge for allies, while Leadership helps them to bounce back from some common conditions.” To me this screams a nigh-indestructible and incredibly annoying prank-themed hero who focuses on distracting villains. If we give her a high Presence, plenty of Deception, and advantages like Taunt, Redirect, and Set-Up, we already know she’ll be spending her action almost every round on taunts and jibes, either to goad the villain into doing something self-destructive or to set her allies up for a solid right-hook. Since she won’t be attacking as often, I can save some points by not giving her the best attack or damage in the world—say a +10 to hit but only 3 or 4 damage—and pour what I save into defenses or a few fun ancillary powers like Senses or Leaping so she can have a few stand-out moments when it comes to investigations or chase scenes.

Let’s put it all together:

 

Barbara Quip was a mousy accountant who enjoyed her simple life of work, reading, and cat videos, but found her life turned upside down when her bank was robbed by the villain Fear-Master (check out Freedom City, 3rd edition for his background). The duke of dread’s subsonic fear devices drove the bank into a panic, but for the meek young woman who had never experienced so much as a horror film, they ratcheted her mind into catatonia. When Barb finally awoke days later in the hospital, the doctors explained that her amygdala—the fear center of the brain—had suffered heavy scarring, leaving her incapable of feeling fear. The same damage left her adrenal glands in permanent overdrive, transforming the shy young woman into a hyperkinetic, manic shadow of her former self. Barely in control of her emotions, she took disability leave from her quite day job as she learned to adjust and became an urban thrillseeker by the name of Nuisance.

While Nuisance has the speed and accuracy to kick the tar out of a few bank robbers, she needs to rely on her wits and her more practical teammates to face any dire threats. That’s fine by her, as she likes the near misses and the snappy one-liners a lot more than she likes bruised knuckles.


Nuisance PL 10
STR 3, STA 8, AGL 8, DEX 4, FGT 5, INT 0, AWE 2, PRE 5

Powers: Adrenal Overload: Enhanced Stamina 4, Enhanced Strength 2, Leaping 5 (250), Regeneration 5, Agymdala Burnout Immunity 6 (Emotion Effects, Sleep), Hyperaware Senses 5 (Acute Smell, Danger Sense, Low-light Vision, Ultra-hearing, Ultravision). Advantages: Close Attack 5, Evasion, Extraordinary Effort, Fascinate (Deception), Improved Defense, Improved Initiative, Redirect, Set-up, Taunt, Teamwork, Ultimate Effort (Deception checks), Uncanny Dodge. Skills: Acrobatics 8 (+16), Athletics 4 (+7), Deception 12 (+17), Expertise: Math 8 (+8), Insight 6 (+8), Perception 4 (+6), Stealth 4 (+12). Offense: Init +12, Unarmed +10 (Close, Damage 3). Defense: Dodge 12, Parry 12, Fort 8, Tou 8, Will 11. Totals: Abilities 58 + Powers 33 + Advantages 16 + Skills 23 (46 ranks) + Defenses 20 = 150


I’m kind of excited to play her. She’s well outside my normal M&M wheelhouse, so I wouldn’t have normally considered this kind of build. Hopefully I can convince another player to look at the Assault Tactical Role and the Role Model Concept Role so she’s got a straight-laced partner to play off of!

Who’s Who and What’s What

In the previous blog, I mentioned that I’d give you the lowdown on the various teams this week, so here we go!

  • UNIQUE (PL 12): The United Nation’s premiere superhero team, focused on tackling global threats and natural disasters
  • Project Freedom (PL 11): A band of reformed villains putting their powers to use as super-powered community service.
  • The Outliers (PL 10): The heroes who don’t quite fit anywhere else, tackling problems too outrageous for any other team to notice.
  • The Upstarts (PL 9): Bound by their alien heritage and hunted by a private corporation, they focus as much on survival as they do righting wrongs.
  • Magna Force (PL 8-11): Empowered by a lost Preserver artifact, they defend the Earth from cosmic threats from behind the controls of giant, fighting robots.
  • The Ferroburg Four (PL 7): A hard-luck city needs its own hard-luck heroes, battling evil with grit, determination, and a solid left hook.
  • The Shadow Knights (PL 6): Spawned in a bizarre genetics accident, four sisters battle ninjas, magic aliens, and genetic abominations from the shadows of a technological playground.
  • Red Group (PL 5): Sometimes the good guys need to think like the bad guys, and this elite AEGIS team is licensed to turn crime against itself.

Hmmmmm…. but which one do we look at in detail next week?

Announcing Mutants & Masterminds, Powered by Champions!

For far too long, we here at Green Ronin have stuck our head in the sand and focused entirely on the Mutants & Masterminds game engine, ignoring the many other superhero game systems that came before. And ultimately, that kind of myopia doesn’t benefit anyone but ourselves. Our fans deserve better. We’ve long partnered with Steve Kenson’s Adamant Entertainment to bring you Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, and so we have reached out to the creators of other amazing superhero game engines, both active and defunct, to begin the new Mutants & Masterminds System Upkeep, Collaboration, & Knowledge Exchange Roundtable. Our goal is to bring you the great Mutants & Masterminds products you love, for the systems you play!

Releasing at the end of this month is the new Mutants & Masterminds: Deluxe Champions Handbook, powered by classic Champions 3rd edition! Everything you need to play a Champions-powered Mutants & Masterminds campaign, complete with extensive point-buy systems our fans already love, plus tracking END to pay for your powers, sorting your attacks in Killing and Non-Killing, and many other elements that add a much-needed authenticity M&M has always lacked. A lot of you will ask “why not use Hero System, Sixth Edition or Champions Complete?” And that is an excellent question. One which I have no answer to. Licensing is a strange mistress and the rites must be observed.

We’ve been hard at work to fill out the System Upkeep, Collaboration, & Knowledge Exchange Roundtable line, and you’ll be seeing monthly releases to support it for the next year. After the release of the Mutants & Masterminds: Deluxe Champions Handbook this month, expect soon-to-be fan favorites like Freedom City powered by Villain & Vigilantes, Emerald City powered by Heroes Unlimited, and Rogues Gallery powered by Street Fighter the Storytelling Game!

SuperTeam Handbook: Here Come the heroes

The Mutants & Masterminds SuperTeam Handbook, the newest addition to the 3rd edition lineup, is just around the corner. The text is finished. The layout is finished. At this point we’re just waiting on the final art and proofreading! In just a few weeks, it’ll be in your hands, ready to help your table get more out of their team!


The SuperTeam Handbook also marks the last leg of John Leitheusser’s prodigious run on Mutants & Masterminds, which started way back in 2nd edition and included the DC Adventures Roleplaying Game back in 2010. This book was his vision and his last product pitch for the line, and I’m happy he chose me to help usher it through to completion.

“But Crystal,” you say,”My group is already a superteam! We’re a team, and I think all my friends are just super, ergo…”Okay, yes, you’re friends are totally super, but here me out: Are you a superteam or a SuperTeam? Because there’s a difference. One looks way better on T-shirts. And you know what T-shirts are? They’re a quick and easy team uniform! Now you match. You’re even more of a team. Boom!

That’s value added.

Too much coffee. Let’s try this again.

Most RPG books are aimed and providing plenty of cool stuff your can do as a solo character, but most RPG groups play as teams. You’re not the only cool kid on the field. The SuperTeam Handbook looks at the awesome stuff you can do together as a group, from practical concerns like sharing points to build better HQ to drama-rich character interactions and personality conflicts that’ll just churn out those delicious Hero Points we all love. It’s a book that doesn’t just assume you’ll all work together as a team, but asks why you all work together, and how well you function as a group, and what do you do to stand out as a group. The player section introduces tactical and personality roles to help you flesh out your character’s own role as well as how well they mesh with other characters on the team and how they approach combat. It’s important to remember that your psychic doesn’t need to hit as hard as the brick or the living gout of elemental plasma; you pull your weight on the team your own way, and that can also be healing, buffing your allies, protecting people, or heckling the villain; they don’t call him “Robin, the Boy Distraction” for nothing!

“Ugh, but Crystal,” you say, forgetting I cannot hear you and this was all written days ago, “This all sounds like that icky story games, improv stuff. Where’s the beef?” Dude, chill. There is plenty of crunch for you lovely crunch-monkeys, too. The SuperTeam handbook introduces team templates so everyone can pool their resources to buy cool jets, submarines, and asteroid bases. And to make that process easier we also introduce plenty of cool jets, submarines, and asteroid bases. Behold!

 

Orbiting Asteroid Base 30 EP

Size: Awesome, Toughness: 10, Features: Combat Simulator, Cold Storage, Communications, Computer, Defense System, Fire Prevention System, Gym, Hangar, Holding Cells 2* (Impervious), Infirmary, Isolated, Upgraded Laboratory (+2 Expertise [Science]), Library, Living Space, Personnel, Power System, Security System 3 (DC 30), Workshop

 

There are also several new powers built with group functionality in mind, new team maneuvers to test out, and new advantages to help define what you can chip in to your team’s joint efforts.

Ladders, not Shackles

The meat of the SuperTeam handbook is over 100 pages of new, ready-to-play superheroes, spread across eight different SuperTeams. Each team contained 4-6 members as well as a four-page introduction with information on their background, their shared resources, and plenty of story hooks for Gamemasters to pick up and run with, as well as a team nemesis to face off against!

The teams in the SuperTeam Handbook are “soft canon,” which means they’re there as a guideline for players and Gamemasters. Every team is assumed to exist somewhere within Earth Prime, but the rosters and statblocks presented are aimed at players rather than at being perfect expressions of their role and history. You shouldn’t feel like the version of UNQIUE presented in this book is the One True UNIQUE that must always exist in Earth Prime. If you like the team concept and guidelines but not the characters (as player character heroes or NPCs), feel free to tweak them or toss them out and substitute your own. The SuperTeam Handbook is a toolkit on every level, not a definitive reference book.

Here’s the complete list of which teams will be showing up in the SuperTeam handbook, but you’ll have to wait for next week to learn the details of who’s who:

  • UNIQUE (PL 12)
  • Project Freedom (PL 11)
  • The Outliers (PL 10)
  • The Upstarts (PL 9)
  • Magna Force (PL 8-11)
  • The Ferroburg Four (PL 7)
  • The Shadow Knights (PL 6)
  • Red Group (PL 5)

Return to Freeport: A Love Letter to Freeport

I can’t properly express how excited I am to see Return to Freeport in its final, compiled form. This is a project that has been with me for a long time, and I couldn’t be more delighted with the final results. The idea of developing six adventures (by six amazing authors–Crystal Frasier, Jason Keeley, Jody Macgregor, Patrick O’Duffy, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, and David Ross) that each stand alone but also form a single united narrative, seemed daunting when I came on-board in 2013 to help with “Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG,” but I never would have guessed the final book would take until 2019 to see print.

Six years, for six adventures. And let me say up front—that’s almost entirely my fault. It is certainly not the fault of the authors, artists, or anyone else at Green Ronin. Mea culpa, and sorry folks.

And while I might be biased, I think the end result here is worth the wait!

The 168 pages, full color, hardback compiles and updates the six adventures we originally released in PDF format into one glorious book. The adventures take characters from 1st to 12th level, and go from hunting down the source of a curse in the streets of the city, to facing ancient terrors and enemy fleets on the high seas, to rooting out traitors and madmen in an even-darker version of the City of Adventure.

As much as possible, this book is a Love Letter to Freeport. I hope we managed to capture the unique blend of fantasy, horror, and swashbuckling action that has been the hallmark of Freeport since it launched almost 20 years ago. The authors have done a tremendous job both highlighting many of the elements introduced in the 544-page “Freeport: The City of Adventure” sourcebook, and in creating new foe and allies to surprise the players. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but there are unhuman gangs, undead crews, love, hate, revenge, and political machinations from other planes of reality… all with a side of grim smiles and sharp cutlasses.

One of the joys of working on a project like this is getting to expand a setting you love with characters, maps, and art to help bring it to life. Cover artist E.M. Gist knocks it out of the park illustrating one of the more dramatic moments of the adventure, and through the book the illustrators have done awesome work bringing the gritty streets of the city to life, and creating the look for new and unique ships, monsters, and locations into glorious detail. Even if I didn’t love the adventures themselves (and I do), I’d delight in the visuals that help expand one of the most veteran d20 locations.

I had a lot of fun visiting Freeport as a player when the first adventures for it came out, and I am thrilled to have been allowed to return as at our guide now, nearly two decades later. This book is a literal Return to Freeport for me, but it’s also a great opportunity to come visit the City of Adventure for the first time.

Just keep your eyes open, and your weapon handy.

 

Faces of Thedas: Yvette? Really?

(This round table contains mild spoilers for Fenris in Dragon Age 2. Yeah, it’s been 8 years but I still meet folks who just started playing it, Inquisition, and even Origins so erring on the side of spoiler alerts)

Hey folks, this is Jack here to talk a bit about Faces of Thedas.

Now no big book of characters can include every character in a large universe. You can look at our various offerings in DC Adventures, Wild Cards, A Song of Ice and Fire, and now Dragon Age to see this. The books include a lot of characters and groups, but not everything makes it into a particular book.

So who makes the cut? Well, it depends.

In Faces it was an intentional mix. The prime focus was on “quest givers”, people who enabled adventures and roleplaying opportunities for players, not who necessarily had their own adventurers. This is where characters like the Divine, Josephine Montilyet, and others came in.  But not all the characters fit exactly into that category. In many cases, characters were selected with a fair amount of wiggle room in how they could be used, often because they had targeted, and important but limited involvement in the canonical tales of Thedas.

In addition, some characters were included because they’d make good antagonists.  Potential antagonist characters weren’t necessarily villains, but definitely characters who could easily end up on the other side of a conflict from player heroes. This is your Lambert or Knight-Commander Meredith. Depending on the timeline and group? This might even be your Iron Bulls and Alistairs. This is also why we briefly revisited some of the important Darkspawn “bosses.”

Other characters were included because they would make potential romantic interests, allies, and patrons. These included some companions from the games, like Leliana. This also included characters with ties to important groups or events that still had that aforementioned wiggle room that makes them easier to throw into a campaign or adventure.

Some characters were also included because not including them was never an option. Be it Bioware or one of the several Dragon Age fans on our staff, there were characters people inside the production of this book wanted to see. This is also your Alistair, but also your Dorians and Cullens and so on.

With a few characters—very few admittedly—it was even the case someone in on the production side didn’t want to use a character in the book. Sometimes that person was me, but not always. I’m not going to detail who those characters were, but it was never a matter of “ugh, I don’t like them!” but some other reason that seemed compelling enough to use a different character.

So what about some of the folks who didn’t make it? It’s not that they couldn’t fit into one of these roles. Its not that they weren’t cool or no one liked them. It was just they didn’t make it for various reasons. For example, I actually like Fenris a fair amount. However, Fenris’ tale is pretty self-contained, socially isolated, and during Dragon Age 2 its quite possible he ends up dead at Hawke’s hands. So instead we had characters like Iron Bull or Michel—skilled passionate warriors with a story whose net cast a bit wider plot and campaign wise.

Note a lot of this was clearly “in our opinion.” That’s the thing about design, there’s always an element of personal, even arbitrary decision making. I’m not trying to thumb my nose and say, “well when you’re developer you can fix it!” but…there is a much less confrontational and more good-natured truth to that.  Not everyone will agree about what to include in a product.

And in case anyone is really wondering? I like Yvette. Yes, she’s a minor character who arguably “doesn’t matter”. I also think she makes a good romantic foil and political connection for campaigns who could grow and develop in response to interactions with a player group. So now you know.