Gen Con Report 2021

Another Gen Con is in the books, and what an unusual Gen Con it was, in many regards.

Green Ronin booth at Gen Con 2021!As folks may know, this year Gen Con held a “hybrid” event, consisting of online and “pop-up” Gen Con events hosted by local game stores, in addition to the traditional in-person event at the convention center in downtown Indianapolis, where Gen Con has been hosted for over twenty years now. In-person Gen Con observed a number of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a cap on attendance, a mask requirement for all indoor and crowded outdoor areas of the con, and closing the convention center overnight for a complete cleaning. Along with reduced attendance came a reduced number of exhibitors: Many Gen Con stalwarts did not attend, and many others cancelled their plans to do so.

Green Ronin, like many exhibitors, reduced our presence at the convention: smaller booth space and minimal staff, just four of us, the smallest Gen Con staff we’ve had since I started working for Green Ronin back in 2003! We still managed to include our full lines of product on the tables that we had, and were pleased to be able to offer a limited number of copies of the new Ships of the Expanse, along with other new offerings like the Envoys to the Mount campaign for Blue Rose. We cleared out our remaining copies of The Expanse Quick-Start by giving a free copy with any purchase of $25 or more. They were all gone by Friday!

Ships of the Expanse was available in print for Gen Con!

While Gen Con 2021 was by no means an ordinary Gen Con, it was still a success. Sales justified our costs for being there and attendees expressed their gratitude at seeing us and having the opportunity to check out our products, both new and new-to-them. We saw lots of interest in The Expanse, Blue Rose, Mutants & Masterminds, and the AGE System, as we expected, but were also pleased to see to see interest in both our 5e products like The Lost Citadel, Book of Fiends, and The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide as well as our older Pathfinder products for Freeport.

Mask discipline in the exhibit hall and within the convention was generally excellent. While I occasionally saw a few noses hanging out, I didn’t see anyone unmasked anywhere they weren’t supposed to be. We generally took a cautious approach, avoiding a lot of the crowded events and areas, and combining taking our meals in our hotel rooms and visiting less crowded restaurants, especially those offering outdoor seating. Hand sanitizer was our constant companion and Nicole implemented a barcode scanner for sales checkout to help minimize the handling and passing back-and-forth of products. Because of our minimal staffing, and ownership’s preference not to ask anything of volunteers this year, we didn’t run any in-person events or games ourselves. As it was, we barely got away from the booth to walk the show floor (although we did all manage it).

Gen Con classics from the AGE system games.In spite of all of the differences, the heart of Gen Con remained very much the same: People were excited to be there and happy to see us, and enthused about their favorite games, while curious about what was new and coming next. We even met more than a few attendees who told us it was their first Gen Con ever! Certainly, we’re looking forward to welcoming them back to the show under better conditions in the years to come. We certainly appreciate everyone who visited the booth and who shopped or took the time to offer their kind comments.

We’ll have an even smaller presence at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, in just two weeks: Two staff members are scheduled to be there, but will be there nonetheless. We’ll have a similar-sized booth and all of the same product and are looking forward to greeting our friends, old and new.

Chris Pramas also recorded a quick interview with 1-2-3 D&D History at Gen Con. Check it out!

Ships of the Expanse: Torpedoes Away!

Ships of the Expanse<Incoming transmission.>

<URGENT! Imminent contact detected!>

Ships of the Expanse is so close we won’t even experience any time delay on this transmission. Ty has signed off on the book, and it’s off to the printers. Since we’re so close, I thought now would be a good time to talk about combat.

Let’s begin with stunts. We added a bunch of new command stunts to the original list to allow for some even crazier maneuvers, including my favorite, Burn Them, which allows a ship to use its Epstein drive as a weapon. (I know I mentioned this in a previous RRT, but I think it bears repeating.) There is also Down with the Ship, which allows the commander to expend their own Fortune to remove damage taken by other characters (as the result of a Collateral Loss) onboard the ship. Or, Rapid Reload which lets you launch an extra torpedo. We’ve also added fleet command stunts and individual crew stunts, allowing the commander to give their generated stunt points to individual crew members to be used on their action. Crew stunts like Not My Ship! permit the engineer to sacrifice their own Fortune to protect the ship, or Steady as She Goes, which allows the pilot to lessen damage from a high-G maneuver.

Next up, the expanded electronic warfare section goes into things like hacking another ship’s systems or even wresting control of a torpedo that is being manually guided. The ship’s gunner gets a little love with systems for trick shots, firing weapons without an automated targeting system, and new rules for targeting specific systems. There is also an extensive section on all the different ways you can hide in space as well as more details on stealth technology.

But, who really wants to hide? Would you rather blow things up? We’ve got you covered with a whole section on alternative weapons. This includes flinging asteroids, making debris screens from shattered asteroids, and we get into the versatility of a torpedo. No longer are these just “fire and forget” weapons. We cover using torpedoes as mines, proximity torpedoes, and even using a torpedo as a point defense weapon. PDCs down? Fire a torpedo at that incoming torpedo! Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t revisit the nuke and get down and dirty discussing the absolute devastation these weapons can cause.

Torpedoes Away!

Information can often be the best weapon and now you’re armed with details about the expanded combat rules. The countdown has begun; deploy PDCs and get ready to make contact. Yes, that means the PDF should be out sometime THIS WEEK, with the print copies coming as fast as we can. As I’m sure most of you know, printing and shipping is still a little wonky due to COVID-19, but I promise we’ll have them in your hands as fast as we can.

Over and out!

< Transmission ends.>

If you pre-order a print copy, you can add a PDF for just $5 in our Online Store! You can also pre-order the book from your Friendly Local Game Store if shipping fees, or changing customs regulations has made getting the book difficult in your neck of the woods. We can even send $5 PDF codes to your local game store as well!

Ships of the Expanse: The Ships and Deck Plans

<Incoming transmission.>

Ships of the ExpanseAlthough they come in the final chapter, the deck plans are very much the centerpiece in Ships of the Expanse. It is also, in part, the reason this book took so long to get out. Although the pandemic can take most of the blame there, making all these plans involved an incredible amount of time. We know it took a while, but a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this project. We apologize for the delay, but I think you’re really going to enjoy this book!

There are 28 ships detailed in this book, and we took a lot of time and care to get every one right. We wanted to make them useful for gameplay and make sure that they were as realistic as possible. You might be surprised how long it takes to figure out exactly what goes on each deck: how many crash couches are needed for the crew, how many bunks, where does the galley go, does this ship have a med bay, how many cargo holds, how can you access the cargo holds, and so on. Needless to say, it gets complicated.

Today, you get to see a preview of one of the deck plans, the UNN Monroe-class Light Destroyer, and I’ll break down what all you’ll find in the ships section of Ships of the Expanse. They are in the order of UNN, MCRN, Independents, and finally, a few unique ships such as the Anne Bonny from Abzu’s Bounty. Then they are then listed in alphabetical order. We debated organizing them by size class, but in the end, alphabetical seemed best for easy reference.

PDF PREVIEW for the Munroe-class Light Destroyer

Each ship opens with the ship’s specifications, which is very similar to how they are presented in the Expanse core rulebook, but these are a littleMunroe-Class Light Destroyer more detailed. They also feature the new qualities and flaws that are included earlier in this book. Following that are a few paragraphs that talk about the ship’s origins and history as well as its purpose within the military fleet or as a civilian vessel, followed by a story hook that presents how the ship might appear in an adventure. I think the story hooks will be especially useful for inspiration (and to give you an excuse to use your new deck plans) since it isn’t always easy to figure out how a group of PCs might end up interacting with some of these beasts.

Following the text, you get two silhouettes from different perspectives. One of these shows the actual decks as well as elevator or ladder shafts.  And then you get to the good stuff―the deck plans! For each individual ship you get deck plans for each type of deck. However, if there are four decks of crew quarters, we only provide one plan for that since they are going to be identical in most cases. There is also a key that indicates which decks are on which level.

So, let’s talk deck plans. One of the choices I can see being controversial is the decision to include cargo and the like on the schematics. We felt that it added visual interest and also gave a better idea of space and scale. If you’re using the deck plans on a VTT or the like, you can just ignore the cargo if you want your cargo bay to be empty. I know everyone is going to have their own opinions on certain details. In the end, we had to make our own choices, often with very little actual information to go on. Though, I think you’ll agree that these things look fantastic and will be a wonderful addition to any Expanse game, not to mention just being a lot of fun to pour over.

Over and out.

< Transmission ends.>

Ships of The Expanse: Expanding How You Play

<Incoming transmission.>

Ships of the ExpanseShips of the Expanse is coming to a spaceport near you soon! In my last transmission, I presented overview of what all is in the book, but now I’m going to get into some of  the nuts and bolts.

The Expanse RPG presents  a solid basis for spaceship rules. There is more than enough information provided to set the stage for exciting adventures in space and breathtaking ship combat. Ships of the Expanse takes the framework laid out in the core rulebook and builds upon it to give the players and Game Masters more options for play and more opportunity for drama. Ships provides players and GMs with a lot of new styles of play, including being merchants, smugglers, prospectors, or even pirates.

Players interested in being merchants will be excited to find in-depth rules for buying and selling (and smuggling) cargo. There are charts, tables, and guidelines for buying and selling cargo and taking on passengers. These include Income modifiers and possible risks and complications. You’ll also find rules and details for prospecting for those who want to search the belt for ice and ore minerals. Of course, everything in this book is entirely optional, and players and GMs can pick and choose which rules they want to add to their campaign and which they want to ignore and keeping in line with the core philosophy of The Expanse RPG, these rules aren’t overly cumbersome and are intended to enhance rather than bog down gameplay.

Ships of the Expanse gives you costs and details for making post-market modifications to your ship. There are also Income rules for purchasing and repairing ships as well as selling salvage. Now you know exactly how much it costs to add hull plating or install a torpedo launcher. There’s also quite an extensive list of new Qualities and Flaws for ships. Here are a few to wet your appetite: Increased Acceleration (makes it easier to increase or decrease range), Gourmet Galley (might as well eat well on those long journeys), Drone Bays (keep drones on hand for ship repair, reconnaissance, or even combat), High-Charged Rail Guns (you know you want one), Advanced Security Systems (to keep nosy spies off your ship), Advanced Targeting Systems (make sure you hit your target), and much more.

Expanded rules for all your spaceship needs!

You’ll find many and expanded rules for combat. There’s a greatly expanded list of command stunts as well as the inclusion of fleet stunts and the option for individual crew (pilot, engineer, electronic warfare, etc.) stunts, and guidelines for creating stunts on the fly. Fire up your Epstein and go in weapons hot with new ship maneuvers, including using debris as a shield, skimming planetary atmospheres to shake pursuers, hacking other ships, and utilizing torpedoes for point defense. All of this only begins to scratch the surface, so this is a book that Expanse players are not going to want to miss.

And don’t worry, I didn’t forget the most important part – the new ships! Keep your comms open for my next broadcast, where I’ll get into details on all the cool new ships and deckplans!

< Transmission ends.>

Ships of the Expanse – Welcome Aboard

Ships of the Expanse<Incoming transmission.>

This is the book you’ve all been waiting for! The first major supplement for The Expanse RPG is all about ships and the dangers and rewards of space travel. So, strap into your crash couch–we’re in for a wild ride.

The focal point of many Expanse games is the characters’ ship. Characters are likely to spend most of their time on board a ship, and in many ways, the ship is a character in and of itself.  Ships of the Expanse features everything you’ll need to bring your spaceships to life. The book is packed full of new details and rules for ship construction and combat and also explores what life is like during long voyages throughout the solar system to the hazards and dangers of space travel. This transmission gives you a chapter-by-chapter overview of what all you can expect to find in Ships of the Expanse, but keep your comms open since there’s more to come.

Chapter 1 explores the various shipbuilding facilities throughout the solar system and offers rules for ship construction, repair, maintenance, and salvage. There are also tons of new vehicles, including drones, ground vehicles, mechs, rovers, and thruster packs for when you need to get around a space station or explore the surface of an alien world. For the ships themselves, there is an expanded list of Qualities and Flaws and detailed rules for upgrading your ship. You’re gonna need that new rail gun to fend off OPA pirates, after all. You’ll also find some guidelines for ship reputations, honorifics, and even ship Bonds.

Chapter 2 offers a ton of new rules for ship combat and operation. It’s full of new stunts, including cool things like Burn Them, which lets your turn your Epstein drive into a weapon. There are also new maneuvers and expanded rules for torpedoes and stealth technologies. A section on ship tactics covers things like hiding in space, using asteroid debris to shield yourself from incoming torpedoes, and expanded torpedo rules. You’ll also find new information on acquiring and carrying cargo and passengers, as well as smuggling and piracy. There are also a bunch of new hazards Game Masters can use to torment their players.

Chapter 3 is an in-depth look at life onboard a spaceship. What do the crew members do between the long passages between ports? What’s it like to live in micro-gravity? What do you eat in space? All these questions and more are answered here. There are also rules for Interludes while traveling between worlds, and guidelines for telling stories set entirely onboard a ship.

And finally, Chapter 4 is the section you’ve all been asking for: new ships! This chapter features expanded details on some of the ships provided in The Expanse RPG as well as a boatload of new ships from The Expanse novels. Not only are there stats and descriptions but also scaled deckplans. The deckplans are perfect for use if you like to use miniatures in your games or if you just want to get a better idea what these ships look like on the inside.

Check your seals and hang in there podnas! Ships of the Expanse is coming soon!

< Transmission ends.>

Living in Dev-Time

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel!

“When is that book going to be done? When?”

It can be strange living in what I call “dev-time” (or “development time”) because eagerly-awaited projects are often not just yesterday’s news for me as a writer but most likely last year’s news at times. The development cycle of a book, much less an entire game, is a fairly long one, and getting all of the words written is among the very first steps. Typically, I may get to see a project at the concept stage, getting in on discussion of whether or not to do it at all, along with what it might look like, contain, and so forth. More often, I get involved at or after the outline stage, when the overall concept of the book is pretty well established, and the developer is looking for someone to write stuff. That’s me.

Now, these days, I don’t write too many entire books for RPG publishers, including Green Ronin. While product development time for a book is long, actual writing time is relatively short. So unless I’m publishing a book myself (as I do with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying) and can take 4 to 6 months to write it all, or I’m working with an extended publisher timeline that allows me to write sixty to eighty thousand words or more, chances are I’m only writing a part of a book, a chapter or two (maybe three). Solo projects tend to be short: adventures, Patreon write-ups, articles, and the like, and many of those also get incorporated into larger books or collections.

I get my assignment, write it, and (ideally) hand it off at the appointed deadline. There’s feedback, development, revisions, new drafts, and then I hand over a final version of the text. Typically, that’s where my involvement ends. Sure, an editor might have the occasional “what were you thinking here?” question (tinged with varying degrees of frustration) or an art director might need notes or “does it look like this?” confirmation but, for the most part, my text sails off to those other shores to continue the rest of its journey towards becoming a finished book without me. That can sometimes be a long journey, even under the best of conditions. When conditions look like they have over the past year or so … even longer.

Thus the eagerly-awaited book someone is looking forward to is already in my rear-view mirror, often several exits back behind other recent projects I have handed off, some of which the public hasn’t even heard about yet. There’s a running joke in the freelance business that sometimes the only answer to a polite inquiry of “So what are you working on these days?” is “Upholding my non-disclosure agreement.” Dev-time is such that many projects aren’t even announced publicly at the time when people are writing them, although there may be rumors (the tabletop game industry being quite small and tight-knit).

While I have moved-on to other projects, the words I’ve already written are sailing through development, editing, layout, illustration, and proofreading. If they’re destined to see print, there will also be preflight checks, print buying and quotes, print proofs, and more before the book is finally handed-off to the printer. Even then, there’s printing, binding, shipping, warehousing, and distribution before it finds its way to a game store or gets shipped off to the buyer. In every one of those steps there is both margin for error and the potential for things to go wrong. I mentioned before about “ideally” handing off my text by the agreed-upon deadline. I pride myself on getting my work in on time, but life happens. This past summer, I took a fall off my bicycle and fractured my hip. While my recuperation didn’t overly impact my ability to work, allowances still needed to be made. Multiply that times all of the people who touch a project before it sees print and you magnify those allowances accordingly. People get injured, sick, divorced, married, pregnant, quit or take on new jobs, lose loved ones, run into financial problems, and all of life’s other challenges, to say nothing of encountering global pandemics, political upheavals, and more—all in the same year!

So if anyone involved in the publishing process of a book or product ever looks vaguely bewildered concerning its eagerly-anticipated release, it is quite possible that they exist in “dev-time.” From their perspective, that project has been “done” for some time, and it’s not that they’re not eager to see the finished products (believe me, there are several of my projects I’m looking forward to actually holding in my hands), it’s just that they’ve had to move on to other things in the meanwhile. Patience and understanding that there is more going on behind the scenes than you know will always get you a kinder response.

End of Year Sale and GR Gift Guide

Happy holidays from all of us at Green Ronin! I don’t think 2020 was the year any of us hoped for but on the upside, it’s almost over! Right now, we’ve got our Year End Sale going on, which offers 20% off most of our titles through January 3. Get gifts for your friends and family, or just treat yourself. If you survived 2020, you deserve it! Two important notes. First, we do offer gift certificates in our online store, so if you don’t know what to get for the gamers in your life, that’s always an option. Second, shipping is particularly slow this year, so if you want things in time for Xmas, get your orders in early. If you aren’t sure what to get, I’ve put together a gift guide that may help. Let’s get to it!

Death In Freeport for Fantasy AGEAs you may heard, 2020 was Green Ronin’s 20th anniversary. One way we celebrated that was with new editions of one of our earliest releases. I wrote Death in Freeport 20 years ago, and now it’s available in two formats: Fantasy AGE and 5th Edition. Pick your system and then set sale for Freeport, the City of Adventure! Fantasy AGE fans will also enjoy Lairs, another new book for this year that features a host of ready to use encounters. 5E fans should check out The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, where players are survivors of an undead apocalypse in the last city standing.

 

Enemies and Allies for Modern AGE

If you want a flexible RPG that can handle just about every sub-genre of action adventure, check out Modern AGE. It got its character/adversary book this year with Enemies & Allies. If you want a kickass setting, also check out Threefold. It got some adventure support with Five and Infinity, which we serialized over the course of the year. We also launched Modern AGE Missions for even more PDF adventure support. We’re certain you need 30-50 feral hogs in your Modern AGE campaign, so make sure to check that out!

 

Envoys to the Mount for Blue RoseBlue Rose, our Romantic Fantasy RPG, is also getting (and giving) a lot of love right now. If you’ve never checked it out before, there’s a new Quickstart that gives you a complete adventure with rules and pre-generated characters. For more experienced players, we’ve just put Envoys to the Mount up for pre-order. This is a complete campaign for Blue Rose that takes characters through all four tiers of play. There’s also a tie-in fiction anthology called Tales from the Mount that’s available now. You can get a bundle with both Envoys and Tales too!

 

Sacred Band 2nd editionSpeaking of fiction, our imprint Nisaba Press has some great titles for holiday reading. Blue Rose fans will definitely want to check out Sovereigns of the Blue Rose, an anthology of stories about the fourteen rulers of Aldis. We’ve also just released Sacred Band, Joe Carriker’s critically-acclaimed LGBTQ+ superhero novel. Supers will also enjoy Roadtrip to Ruin, the latest Mutants & Masterminds novel. If short stories are your jam, we’ve released three anthologies this year: For Hart and Queen for Blue Rose, Powered Up for Mutants & Masterminds, and Under a Black Flag for Freeport.

 

 

Time Traveler's Codex for Mutants & MastermindsSuperhero fans should look no further than Mutants & Masterminds. If you haven’t tried it before, jump right in with the Basic Hero’s Handbook. We’ve just release the Time Traveler’s Codex (now available in print!), which is a whole book about timeline hopping shenanigans. If you’ve been wanting adventure support, we’ve really leaned into that this year with the Astonishing Adventures PDF series. These include stand-alone adventures and the five-part series NetherWar. Danger Zones is another new series. Each entry details a new location for superheroic action. And, by popular demand, we’ve also just released a deck of Condition Cards!

 

Ships of the ExpanseBut what if you want to go to outer spaaaaccceeee? That’s where The Expanse RPG—based on the terrific novels by James S.A. Corey­—comes in. There’s a free Quickstart if you haven’t dived in yet. This year we released Abzu’s Bounty, a series of six linked adventures for the game. Salvage Op offers a one shot for an evening or two of play. We’ve also just put Ships of the Expanse up for pre-order. This is the long-awaited book full of deck plans and details about the spaceships of the setting.

 

Sword Chronicle RoleplayingLast but by no means least, we launched the Sword Chronicle RPG this year. This takes the system we designed for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and spins it off into as an independent fantasy system. This has been available as a PDF for several months but just this week we’ve made it available as a Print on Demand title on DriveThruRPG.

 

Happy holidays, everyone! See you in 2021!


Shake Things Up – Adding Complications to Encounter Designs

Whether you are a veteran GM who crafts every campaign world and adventure from scratch, a newcomer to running games who is just trying to get through a published adventure, or someone preferring any of the hundreds of possible in-between styles of gamemastering, sometimes you realize your encounters are in a rut. It may not be your fault—many GMs run published adventures for lack of time to create all their own content, and even for GMs who make a lot of custom adventures, players can often get really good at determining how a specific game works, and cutting to the solution of any challenge much faster than expected. Even if neither of those issues is a problem, sometimes you realize a player has built a character to be good at something that never comes up in play… and they feel cheated for not getting to do the kind of adventure they are prepared for.

Regardless of why you think your existing adventure toolkit isn’t doing everything you need it to, and no matter the game system you are using, it may be time to shake things up with a complication. Or a dozen complications.

Complications

Art by Biagio D’allessandro

Simple Complications

There are a number of very simple complications you can use to change the feel and flow of the RPG sessions you run. Here’s three that don’t take much advance work or thought.

Add Restrictions: If the players have gotten good at killing foes, require them to drive off threats without seriously hurting anyone. If they are masters of out-talking competitors during negotiations, make them argue their case next to a waterfall so loud no one can hear anything. If a single character is the best hacker the world has ever seen, set up the need to get information during a complete blackout when no computers are running. If the players’ favorite tactic is setting everything on fire, make them fight underwater.

The advantages of adding a restriction is that it doesn’t change the core rules of the game, it just makes players tackle a problem with some of their options off the table. You shouldn’t do this often—then it’s just shutting down character abilities—but there’s nothing wrong with forcing players to be flexible now and again.

Add Hindrances: While a restriction is specifically something that takes away some of the players’ normal options, a hindrance is something that makes the challenge of the encounter more difficult by adding new elements that can cause problems. If the PCs can sneak into any secure site anywhere, make them do so with an angry songbird in a cage they can’t muffle. If they normally bully citizens into giving them what they want, make them carry out their investigations with a bigger bully the citizens already hate. If they are experts at ranged combat, have a fight in a corn maze, with strong winds and torrential rain reducing visibility.

Add A Twist: Don’t go all M. Night Shyamalan about it, but sometimes the situation not being exactly what is expected is a great complication to throw at players. Perhaps the “attacking” wolves are just running from even bigger monsters right behind them. The crime family not only capitulate to the PCs’ demands they lay off a neighborhood, they ask the PCs to help them go fully legit. The final lock on the dragon’s vault is a sleeping cat you have to move without waking.

Secondary Challenges

Rather than just adding complications to an encounter’s normal challenge, you can add an entire secondary challenge of another type. If the encounter is a fight with a band of highwaymen, perhaps a group of mercenaries wander by and the bandits try to recruit them as reinforcement while the fight is already underway. Now in addition to the initial challenge of the combat, the PCs must deal with the secondary challenge of a negotiating while the fighting is ongoing. If the PCs were trying to break into a vault before the next guard shift comes by, perhaps they discover previous thieves have already rigged the vault with a barrel of gunpowder on a lit fuse, and now both problems have to be handled at the same time.

A secondary challenge can be a great way to allow characters who aren’t good at the type of encounter as the main challenge (or players who just don’t care about that kind of encounter) to get some time in the spotlight of attention anyway. If you have a complex puzzle lock with riddles, and that kind of challenge bores one of your players who has a combat-focused character, adding a mini-secondary challenge can give them something to engage with while the other players tackle the puzzle lock. Perhaps the lock is also haunted, so ghosts of past (unsuccessful) lockpickers materialize and attack every few rounds

When adding secondary challenges and complications there is often a temptation to make sure the difficulty of overcoming them is tied to how crucial it is they be overcome. That’s pretty standard design for the main challenge of an encounter, but it can be needlessly difficult and complex for something you are adding as a complication. When an encounter already has a key challenge, it can be overwhelming for an additional challenge to require the same degree of focus, effort, and resources. If you’re going for a climactic, epic encounter, that may be exactly what you want. But if you are just adding a complication to increase variety and interest in the encounter, there’s no reason it has to be as challenging as the primary problem—in many ways it’s more interesting if it isn’t. If most of the characters are trying to evacuate children from the burning orphanage, and you only expect one or two to be dealing with the still-present arsonist, making him relatively easy to deal with keeps the encounter’s focus on the lifesaving, rather than a fight. The characters who are poorly equipped to help get kids out, or who can’t resist a chance for a brawl, can focus on just a few of them easily defeating the firebug, while the rest of the characters get the more important plot point of saving children.

But that doesn’t mean the secondary challenge can’t be just as important, even if it’s not just as hard. Obviously, the children in the burning building need to be saved, but stopping the arsonist is important as well. Not only does it keep him from starting more fires (possibly in the building just across the street), so resource efforts don’t have to expand, it’s also a potential opportunity to find out why he started the fire to begin with. Is it fire-for-hire, as a crimelord wants to make a point, or a developer needs the land to finish a new project? Or did one of the children see something the arsonist wants to make sure never gets reported?

Keep it Fun

No matter what elements of complications you add to spice up encounters, try to make sure you are creating things your players will see as challenges to be overcome, rather than efforts to punish them for having powerful or single-minded characters. Problems with how characters are built or players should be handled with a conversation out-of-character on what is bothering you, and how the players can help you have fun while still making sure they have a good time.

Complications and additional challenges are to make the game surprising and fun for everyone and, like seasoning in good cooking, a few sprinkles now and then often go a long way!

A Series of Tubes (Green Ronin on YouTube)

“Or we can just dive-in, do it, and see what happens.”

That was Green Ronin Community Director Troy Hewitt, one of our resident extroverts, encouraging us to pivot in the time of covid-19 toward our community, using the means at-hand, including video streaming. Troy has a great way of getting those of us who would want to study the situation for, well, ever out of our heads and into action. That next week, the first “Mutants & Masterminds Monday” live-streamed with me and M&M Developer Crystal Frasier, with Troy acting as host, moderator, and on-the-fly tech guru.

It’s now almost three months later and we have eleven (soon to be twelve) M&M Mondays under our belts. It’s still very much a “see what happens” learning process, but we’ve had guests on the stream, fielded questions from our audience, and Troy has come up with a few fun activities for us to do. We’ve even developed in-jokes (as gamers interacting are wont to do) from Crystal’s “journal of dreams” to our tendency to come up with new projects for ourselves while on the stream.

Green Ronin on Youtube!

All of which is a long introduction to announcing that, as things are progressing, some of our “M&M Mondays” episodes are available on Green Ronin Publishing’s YouTube channel. We’re putting more up as we go and the eventual plan is for us to start streaming live on YouTube and Twitch as well as on Facebook, so there will be even more places where you can see and hear from us and we can tell you everything that’s going on with Mutants & Masterminds and Green Ronin Publishing.

 

Not going to lie, for an introvert like myself, being on-camera isn’t easy, and I have been on-camera more in these past three months than I think I have been in the past three years, and then some. But at the same time, it has been wonderful getting to talk on a weekly basis with Crystal and Troy and our guests and to hear the questions and feedback from our community, many of you from week to week. It hasn’t been easy for Green Ronin (or many small businesses) with the initial loss of distribution and with many game stores still closed or doing only limited business. So every purchase of Green Ronin’s games helps, whether it is from the GR Online Store or supporting your favorite local game retailer.

We’re about two weeks from experiencing Gen Con Online for the first time (another “dive-in and see what happens” experience) and Green Ronin Publishing will be there with our games, our staff of wonderful and creative people, and with you, our community, and I’ll be there, in front of my camera, just as I plan to be next Monday. I don’t know for how many Mondays, to be honest, because things are changing fast and often these days but, I can tell you this: We’ll see what happens.

Hope you can join us sometime.

Ronin Report, July 10th, 2020

It’s been a couple of months since our last Ronin Ronin Report: new serialized adventures!Report so I thought I’d update you all on how the company is faring during the ongoing COVID crisis. In March and April things were dicey. When our warehouse shut down and we could not ship physical books anymore, that put us a bad situation and severely impacted our ability to bring in revenue. Team Ronin really pulled together though, and we were able to roll with the punches and make some contingency plans that helped us weather the roughest patch.

Thankfully, Alliance—the game distributor who warehouses our books—re-opened with new safety procedures in place in May. This meant we could begin shipping books again, both to customers of our online store and the distributors who serve game retailers. This was a big help. A couple of print jobs that had been put on pause were also able to get going again. Lairs for Fantasy AGE and the reprint of the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide for Mutants & Masterminds both arrived and are available now. We also ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for the Book of Fiends on Game On Tabletop.

All of this means that things are more stable now than they were a couple of months ago. Does it mean everything is back to normal? Well, no, unfortunately not. Pretty much every convention in 2020 has been cancelled at this point, game stores are still struggling, and orders did not magically go back to their pre-COVID levels. We had to make some big adjustments to our schedule and have to be much more strategic about what gets printed and in what quantities. And yes, M&M fans, we will print the Time Traveler’s Codex! We just need to find the right time for it.

The hardest decisions we had to make regarding our schedule were pushing the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook and Fifth Season RPG into next year. 2020 just Ronin Report: new serialized adventures!isn’t the right time for big launches like that, so we reluctantly made that call. On the upside, it does give us more development time on both projects and we are putting that to good use.

Overall, we are getting by but it’s not an easy time. If you’d like to support us, pick up some Green Ronin books from your local store or our online store. We also have some exciting stuff being serialized in electronic format: Five and Infinity for Modern AGE, the NetherWar adventure series for Mutants & Masterminds, and new Blue Rose Adventures. Nisaba Press, our fiction imprint, has released two new short story collections (For Hart and Queen for Blue Rose and Powered Up for M&M), and the superhero novel Sacred Band is also up for pre-order.

And there’s more fun stuff coming up. In August we’ll be launching Sword Chronicle, a full fantasy RPG built on the rules from our Song of Ice and Fire RPG. Ships of The Expanse will bring all the sexy spaceships to your Expanse games. Danger Zones will provide lots of interesting adventure locales for Mutants & Masterminds. And we’ve got a 20th anniversary surprise to boot!

We hope you are all staying safe out there. Remember to wear a mask when you go out and maintain social distancing. We know it’s hard for gamers used to sitting around the table together, but we want to see all your faces when this is all over.

Ronin Report: new releases from Nisaba Press!