Incoming transmission….

It’s almost here! Kickstarter backers of The Expanse Roleplaying Game should be on the lookout for the PDF of Abzu’s Bounty this coming week. Pre-orders and PDFs will be available on the Green Ronin website soon after that, and those of you at PAX Unplugged will have a chance to get your hands on physical copies. All of us at Green Ronin want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who backed The Expanse RPG and made this possible. As my first development project for Green Ronin, bringing Abzu’s Bounty to life has been an exciting ride, and I’m really proud of the work the writers and artists put into making this amazing book.

Art by Andrey Vasilchenko

I’ve discussed many of the details in previous posts, but for those of you who may have missed them, here’s a summary. Abzu’s Bounty is a six-part, system-spanning campaign for The Expanse Roleplaying Game. The campaign can take place during the early Expanse novels (Levianthan’s Wake and Caliban’s War). The story opens with characters onboard an ice hauler collecting ice from the rings of Saturn. The crew discovers a strange silicate in some of the ice. The characters soon find themselves enmeshed in a conspiracy that takes them from Prometheus (one of the moons of Saturn) to the inner planets of Earth and Mars and places like Titan and Luna in-between. The book is full of NPCs and locations that are important to the Abzu’s Bounty campaign but could just as easily show up in your own stories. The campaign is designed in such a way that you can play it straight through or pick and choose the parts you want to add your own stories as the characters untangle the mystery. For a more detailed look at what you’ll find inside, check out my earlier posts.

I wish I could say more, but I can’t give away all of the secrets. I look forward to hearing about the adventures of the crews of the Abzu’s Bounty. I hope you all have as much fun playing it as we’ve had creating it.

PAX Unplugged and Freebooting

Green Ronin is very excited to be attending PAX Unplugged again this year. PAX Unplugged is Penny Arcade’s completely analog convention. It’s become known as the convention where people actually play games – a lot of them! Crazy, right? So, if you are in Philadelphia the weekend of December 6 – 8, please come join us and play some games.

You will be able to find us at Exhibitor’s Hall Booth 3649. Even better is that this year we will also have a table within the free play hall in an area designated for exhibitor demos. We will have our own dedicated table throughout the entire weekend!

Speaking of the demo table – we could really use a few more people to help us run games. Does this sound like fun to you? In addition to the fun of running games, Green Ronin will reimburse your badge and give you a t-shirt. Win-win for all of us!

If you’re already a Freebooter and interested, please contact me to discuss details.

Not a Freebooter but still want to run games for us? No problem! Becoming a Freebooter is fun, easy, and packed with perks. The first step is to fill out this form. If you want to help with PAX Unplugged, please also send me an email at freebooters@greenronin.com to make sure I expedite your application.

The Expanse RPG – Gen Con 2019

Finally, if you’re attending PAX Unplugged, please feel free to drop by our booth and say hello. Happy gaming!

Abzu’s Bounty is Coming Soon!

Abzu’s Bounty, the first campaign for The Expanse RPG, is almost ready to go. The layout is complete, and we’re waiting for a few final pieces from the artists. And speaking of art, I want to take a moment to say that the artwork in this book is gorgeous! It has everything you’d expect to see in an Expanse campaign: space battles, incredible planetary vistas, pirates, OPA terrorists, abandoned asteroid bases, and more. This book has it all!

As you’ve probably read, Abzu’s Bounty is a six-part, system-spanning campaign filled with action and adventure. We’ve given you the broad strokes, but today I want to delve further into the details without spoiling the plot. The story opens on board the ice hauler, Abzu’s Bounty, gathering ice in the rings of Saturn. The default setting has the characters as members of the Bounty’s crew. However, established characters can just as easily be on board for their own reasons. The crew of the Bounty discovers something unusual in the collected ice. The characters quickly find themselves swept up in conspiracies involving multiple factions from around the solar system. Not long into the campaign, the crew has the opportunity to claim a ship for themselves–an old pirate vessel called the Anne Bonny. With a ship of their own, they’re set to take on all of the challenges that await them: OPA terrorists, private security companies, space pirates, Martian secret agents, corporate masterminds, and more.

Abzu’s Bounty has a direct tie-in to the adventure To Sleep, Perchance to Dream in the core rulebook, but it is not necessary to have played that adventure. But for those who have played it, they finally get to meet Alexander Pope, the villain and mysterious entrepreneur who remains behind the scenes.  Players and GMs who have read the novels will also recognize several characters lifted right from those pages, and there are a quite few fun Easter eggs scattered throughout.

One of the aspects that I think is really cool about this book is that besides being a book full of adventures, it also provides a wealth of useful setting information. You’ll learn more about Luna, the pleasure domes of Titan, the tunnels of Mars, hidden and abandoned space stations, and even a pirate radio station–not to mention new organizations and factions and a shipload of NPCs. Lots of cool stuff that you can use in your own campaign or beyond the events in Abzu’s Bounty.

The campaign is designed so that you don’t necessarily have to run every adventure. You can easily skip those that don’t feel appropriate for your group. If you decide to tell this story, beginning to end, there is plenty of room for GMs to insert their own side stories or expand on the existing adventure. The campaign is designed for characters beginning at 2nd level and advance through 7th or possibly higher. A lot of flexibility is built into the story. The finale even provides an alternate ending for GMs who want to raise the stakes or offer the players a more challenging climax to the story. Be wary though, the odds of all the characters surviving this option are grim.

So, there you have it! I’ve endeavored to give you a more in-depth look into Abzu’s Bounty without giving away any of the secrets. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded. I look forward to hearing stories of how different groups tackle the challenges in Abzu’s Bounty–how they succeed and rise to the challenge.  Until next time!

Abzu’s Bounty, a campaign for The Expanse Roleplaying Game

It all started a little over two years ago when Steve Kenson asked me if I’d be interested in writing for the forthcoming roleplaying game based on The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey. I jumped at the opportunity not only because was I looking for freelance work, but I was a huge fan of both the novels and the TV series. I ended up writing The Expanse Series chapter for the core rulebook which covered the many types of stories and campaigns you can tell in the setting. I also wrote the adventure included in the core rulebook, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. A year later, at Gen Con, Steve and I met to discuss the possibility of me writing for and developing the first major sourcebook for The Expanse RPG, a solar system spanning campaign called Abzu’s Bounty, which of course, I eagerly accepted.

 

art by Conceptopolis

Now, here we are a little over a year later and I’m honored to announce that I’ve been offered a position with Green Ronin Publishing as the developer for The Expanse RPG line. This is super exciting for me because not only do I love many Green Ronin games, but I respect them as a company. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the lore of The Expanse and bringing you new and exciting source material to fuel imaginations and to help Game Masters tell stories of planets of the Sol system and beyond.

Today I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of Abzu’s Bounty. This massive, six-part campaign mirrors the events in the early Expanse novels and takes the player characters from the rings of Saturn to the surface of Luna and many places in-between. Over the course of the story they visit the asteroid base of Prometheus, the cities of Mars, the glamorous domes of Titan, and long-abandoned refineries on Luna. The campaign is designed so that Game Masters can run it exactly as written or use the parts they like and insert their own stories. Each chapter also provides a wealth of setting information and NPCs that could also be used in designing your own campaign.

Abzu’s Bounty will be available for pre-order soon, with an early release at PAXU this year! This campaign requires The Expanse Roleplaying Game.

Remembering Alejandro Melchor

This week was supposed to be set aside for me to talk about the Modern AGE Companion a little more, but I want to talk about Alejandro (aka Alex, or Al-X) Melchor instead. Alex passed away last week, due to the extended complications of a stroke he suffered in March.

Alex worked on every Modern AGE book currently at any stage of completion. In the core, he wrote rules, focuses, talents and part of the extensive Game Master advice in that book. He brought his talents to the World of Lazarus, the Modern AGE Companion, and the upcoming Threefold and Enemies & Allies, too. I’m currently looking for writers for a new book. It has an Alex-shaped hole in it now.

I first got to know him through a semiprivate community we shared, in 2001. I’d just been invited, as responses to my early professional work for White Wolf had been good. Alex did some work for them as well before taking an intensive gig with Mongoose Publishing in the early 2000s. I drifted away and he was busy, though I knew him through the Open Game License credits I bumped into while designing my own stuff. In the interim he developed an enormous list of credits, tending toward mechanically intensive work. I’d say one great thing about him is he could work on rules that reinforce stories and atmosphere, because getting game systems down was quick work for him.

Steve Kenson got to know Alex well, and took the lead in doing what we could to help when he fell ill. He reintroduced me to Alex, and Alex became a bedrock contributor for Modern AGE. He did so much more, in his own communities, on other games, and with other creative people, but I don’t want to presume to talk about any of that. We worked hard. We made some good ideas playable together. And he was unfailingly nice to everyone, a born collaborator, but didn’t hesitate to point out what he thought would be bad ideas.

According to family and friends, Alex liked proactive, resourceful, tough woman protagonists. Modern AGE uses a loose set of iconic characters created by the writers. Alex created Indra Winchester, the technically-inclined punk, who you can see on the cover of the Modern AGE Companion and inside the books of the line. In examples, he’s her player. I plan to keep it that way.

It seems so inane to go through his qualities as a creative guy, when of course there was more, but he was my comrade in making games. That’s what I’ve got to work with, even though it’s not enough to give the man his due. He was a visual artist, and beloved by various communities. And more, always more. In and out of this industry, I won’t be missing him alone, and won’t be the only one feeling new gaps in what might be possible, in work and life. I’m going to miss him.

 

Ronin Roundtable: Expansive Future

The Expanse Roleplaying Game, along with The Expanse Quickstart and GM’s Kit, are just the beginning of the game products for the popular sci-fi series. Green Ronin has more in the works, including two follow-up products that will round out and complete the stretch goals of the successful Kickstarter, and then some. Let’s peer into the future of The Expanse RPG with a look at those.

Abzu’s Bounty

One stretch goal of The Expanse RPG Kickstarter was a campaign series of adventures to supplement adventure material in the core book, GM’s Kit, and Quickstart. That series is Abzu’s Bounty, a complete Expanse campaign with a linked series of six adventures. It is designed as a “starter” game, although it contains advice on moving from one or more of the already published adventures into the series, and has links to the background of the “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” adventure from the core book. The player characters in Abzu’s Bounty go from relative nobodies to potentially deciding the future of the System by the end of the campaign.

No spoilers as to the plot, but Abzu’s Bounty ventures across the System, from the Outer to the Inner Planets and back, and includes a means of supplying the crew with a ship of their own. There is also plenty of Expanse-style skullduggery and intrigue along the way. By the end of the series, characters should be in the mid-level range, starting at 2nd and ending up 7th or 8th level, leaving plenty of room to grow as The Expanse RPG does.

Abzu’s Bounty is written and developed, and in the editing and art phase of production.

Ships of the Expanse

The other major stretch goal of the Kickstarter was deck plans for a number of ship classes from The Expanse setting. Those will feature as part of the forthcoming Ships of the Expanse sourcebook; backers will get downloads of all of the stretch goal deck plans, but the sourcebook will include those and much more. In particular, Ships will take the basic chapter on ship-building and in-game use of ships from the core rules and build upon it, offering expanded details, options, and ways of creating and using ships in your own game.

Plus there will be those deck plans and details, closer looks at even more types of ships found in The Expanse, what they look like and how they’re laid out. This will make Ships of the Expanse a popular book with fans of the series and gamers alike.

Ships of the Expanse is in the design phase, with authors just completing their first drafts, as it moves into development.

Further Out

As players of The Expanse RPG know, the core book focuses on the period between the first two novels (Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War) with a lot of Expanse history waiting to unfold in the future. We’ve identified several distinct eras to Expanse game play, and the next one takes the setting and the series “further out” than ever before—far further than most of humanity ever imagined—once the protomolecule’s mysterious work on Venus is complete.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game and GM’s Kit: Pre-Order and PDF

The Expanse Roleplaying Game PreorderIf you missed the Kickstarter campaign, you can now pre-order both the Expanse Roleplaying Game and the Expanse RPG Game Master’s Kit in our Green Ronin Online Store.

The Expanse RPG brings the science fiction universe from James S. A. Corey to the tabletop. Using the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) rules that power Green Ronin’s Fantasy AGE, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE RPGs, The Expanse takes players to a far-future solar system where humanity is divided: Martians, Belters, and the people of old Earth struggle for political power and resources, but older, alien, forces stir in the universe, and human history is about to take an unexpected new turn.

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

The Expanse: Questions of Canon

The Expanse series of novels details major characters and events that establish the setting where The Expanse Roleplaying Game takes place. Much of this is described in the core book, but when you’re writing an adventure, how much of the “canon” of the setting should affect what you’re writing and, if it does, does it matter if you change it? When designing your game, you’ll be faced with deciding how much the existing Expanse setting and series affects your story. The following are some techniques to use when dealing with it:

Art by Victor Leza Moreno

  • Inspiration: You can use the existing canon as a springboard for your own storyline. Use of existing characters and events gives you a healthy pool of stories, personalities, and ideas from which to create a foundation for a great campaign. This also creates an immediate level of recognition for you and players familiar with The Expanse series. The trade-off is that you are bound to those portions of the canon you incorporate into your game. For example, if you decide to use Miller as a major NPC in your game, you are limited to a certain periods of time where that would be possible, and you have to be aware of Miller’s ultimate fate (and the fact that your players may know it as well) unless you choose to change things. If you do, you might find it messes with the players’ expectations. That can be a good thing or a jarring and unpleasant experience.
  • Flexible Canon: You can use canonical elements in your game, such as the setting or past events, but choose to change some things that might conflict with your planned storyline and allow the player characters to significantly alter canon through their actions. All of the major components can remain prevalent, such as the major factions and locations, but with tweaks in the events that follow. What if there were more survivors of the Canterbury? What if the player characters were the ones hired to track down Julie Mao—or were hired in addition to Star Helix and Miller? What if your story involved the crew of the Rocinante as major NPCs? The “flexible canon” approach is generally the one we have taken with the Expanse RPG: Things are as described from the books, at least initially, but the potential exists for the player characters to change things. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much tension or excitement for their story, would there?
  • Ignore Canon: You can bypass canon altogether, or base your story around events with little to no effect on existing canon. The Expanse setting is vast and you could tailor stories and events that barely even touch the established canon outlined in the fiction. An entire campaign could focus on a crisis on one of the many different stations, or center your story on an exploration crew traversing the outer planets.

Whatever you decide, make sure if your players are aware of existing canon, they are also aware of any important changes you make to avoid confusion and clashes of expectation. In addition, if you do alter major events, be aware of the chain-reaction it may have on other events and characters down the road.

The Expanse: Doors and Corners

The Expanse RPG tweaks the damage system from the AGE System a bit by changing Health to Fortune, a measure, not of how healthy and durable characters are, but how lucky and “important to the plot” they are (the durability aspect gets covered by a Constitution-based trait called Toughness instead). The “ablative” qualities of Fortune remain the same: players spend it in order to reduce or mitigate the damage their characters suffer. If an attacker rolls 10 points of damage, a player can spend 10 Fortune points, and the character escapes any serious harm—that time. Of course, players can also spend Fortune to improve their characters’ chances of success with tests and, sooner or later, their luck is going to run out.

 

Art by Mirco Paganessi

Injuries & Wounds

If Fortune isn’t enough to completely spare a character from damage, then it is going to hurt. The character is either going to be taken out (see the following) or needs to take an injured or wounded condition to reflect the remaining damage.

If the character accepts an injured condition, the damage is reduced by 1d6. If any damage remains, or the character is already injured, the character must accept a wounded condition next or be taken out. If the character accepts a wounded condition, the damage is further reduced by 1d6. If any damage remains, the character is taken out. Once a character has the wounded condition, any damage that gets past Fortune takes them out.

Taken Out

If damage remains after applying Toughness, Fortune, and taking an injury or a wound, then the target is taken out of the encounter. The attacker may choose to impose any one condition reasonable for the type of attack which takes out the target. So, for example, an attacker may choose to take out a target with a gunshot and leave them dying, just wounded, or even just unconscious. The key point is that the attacker decides on the target’s condition.

Rolling Over

An Expanse character can also choose to roll over in an encounter. In essence, the character’s player chooses to take that character out of the encounter, except the player chooses the character’s condition, subject to the approval of the GM, rather than leaving their fate up to their opponent. Rolling over is a “live to fight another day” tactic for when it’s clear a character is overmatched and doesn’t have much of a chance otherwise. You can only roll over in an encounter before you are taken out. Once you begin applying damage from an attack that has the potential to take you out, it’s too late to roll over, so choose carefully.

Option: Dead-to-Rights

If you want a slightly more lethal Expanse game, consider the following option: In any situation where one character has another “dead-t0-rights” the target character cannot spend Fortune to eliminate damage, all damage must be accounted for with Toughness, injuries, or wounds, and any excess results in the character being taken out, as usual. Standard situations where a character is dead-to-rights include being completely surprised by an attack (such as shot by an unseen sniper, for example) or having the helpless condition, completely unable to avoid an attack or hazard. It’s up to you to define situations that leave a character dead-to-rights, and to tell the players in advance. For example, if you want them to respect guns, make it clear that having someone holding a gun on you means they have you dead-to-rights, unless you can somehow distract their attention. This means characters will probably be less likely to rush armed opponents, for example. Try to use this option as a tool to help the players make informed decisions about the risks their characters take.