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April 14, 2014

Ronin Round Table: 2014 Origins Awards

By Jack Norris

Hey everyone, Jack here. As we work on final proofreading and approvals for Dragon Age Set 3 I wanted to take a moment during this week's Ronin Round Table to discuss the Origins Awards and in particular DC Adventures Universe, which I did some small bit of work on.

The Origins Awards are, unsurprisingly, an award show for RPG related projects that takes place at Origins, one of the larger and longest running game conventions in the Midwest. The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design compiles nominees in various categories, from Best Roleplaying Game to Best Historical Board Game, and reveals the winners at the convention. It's always a solid list of worthy competitors and this year is no exception. From Pelgrane Press' 13th Age to Monte Cook's Numenera to Battle Front Minatures' Flames of War and Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day's Table Top, there is a lot of fun impressive and just plain cool stuff up for awards this year. (Here's the full list of nominees.)

I'm no stranger to Origins Awards for stuff I've worked on. Through the efforts of many talented creative teams of which I've been fortunate to be a part of over the years, I've managed to carve out a small bit of the deserved recognition for various games and products over the years. It's always an honor and always a team effort, which is one of the great things about design.

So anyway, this year I get to sing the praises of two books that I truly love and can barely claim any of the credit for. Which is nice because it gives me a chance to talk about how awesome other people are. First is the Night's Watch sourcebook for our A Song of Ice and Fire rpg. I really love this book. The Night's Watch were one of my favorite bits about Martin's books and I've always thought the Wildlings were characters with tons of potential for games and stories. With Night's Watch, you not only get information on how to create and play the Black Brothers, but you also get information about using the Wildlings in your games as well. It's also a darned pretty book, filled with awesome full color art that's inspiring and evocative. Developer Joe Carriker and contributors John Hay, Lee Hammock, Ian Ireland, Michelle Lyons, and Brett Rebischke-Smith all did a bang up job on this one. Night's Watch is up for Best Roleplaying Supplement this year and is in excellent company alongside Pelgrane Press' Eternal Lies, Cubicle 7's Heart of the Wild, Posthuman Studios' Transhuman, and the final entry which I'm going to discuss here in a moment.

DC Adventures Universe is the final book in Green Ronin's 4 book DC Adventures series. It includes tons of information about the world of DC Comics along with various heroes and villains who didn't make it into our Heroes and Villains volumes 1 and 2. Despite me only doing a handful of work on this one myself, it might be my favorite. This book is just so chock full of cool locales, characters, and ideas without a bit of wasted space... I love it. It also includes the most frustratingly difficult statblock I've ever had to tackle, Great Ten's Mother of Champions. The rest of the Ten are no cakewalk to bring to life in DCA mechanics but Mother's "Super-Fecundity" had me stretching my mechanics mojo to its limit. Seriously, I feel like Great Ten creator Grant Morrison owes me a beer. Or Ten. I also helped out with some other cool international heroes like Knight and Squire and some other bits, but most of the heavy lifting here goes to the superlative team of Seth Johnson, Darren Bulmer, Jon Leitheusser, Steve Kenson, John Polojac, and Aaron Sullivan. Other folks like James Dawsey, Prof. Christopher McGlothlin, and Leon Chang also helped out with creating the included heroes and villains, which include everything from Amethyst to the Faceless Hunters of Saturn. Even the Terry McGinnis Batman from Batman Beyond makes an appearance! It's a great end to the series and well worth checking out for any M&M or DC Comics fans. Also, did I mention that one of my personal comic writer heros, Marv Wolfman (New Teen Titans, Tomb of Dracula, Crisis on Infinite Earths), wrote the introduction? How awesome is that?

So yeah, if you missed these cool products? Check them out. Hopefully they'll do well at the awards but in any event, it's great to see them alongside so many cool nominees.

April 7, 2014

Ronin Round Table: Convention Season!

As the Events Manager, this is my favourite time of year...convention season! Not only do I love to attend conventions representing Green Ronin, I love to attend for my "day job" in the video game industry. I've recently attended the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and the Emerald City Comicon. I attended the GDC as an official volunteer, aka the Conference Associates program. In my week in San Francisco, I had an opportunity to run demos of the upcoming Love2Hate card game and of the Dragon Age RPG. People who make video games are also very passionate about tabletop gaming, and I had no problems finding people who wished to get in a game. I even got to talk to Jennifer Hepler about Dragon Age for a bit! She's a fan of the tabletop version and was very encouraging.

At ECCC, I had a table all to myself, to showcase Green Ronin games and to run the DARPG and L2H demos. We talked to a LOT of people about Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures, this being a comics convention and all. We had lots of good traction on the Song of Ice & Fire materials, too. I was running a 2-hour version of our Dragon Age RPG Quickstart adventure, "An Arl's Ransom." It has action, intrigue, and fantastic moral choices, which is one of my favourite things about the game.

RRT1.jpgI didn't have demos set up for our other games, but we certainly will next year. I was happy that Barry brought all those books, as we could give quick overviews on the systems and show them the beautiful arts. The Khaleesi came by and really wanted to sit down for a game. Maybe next year, my Queen!

rrt2.jpgNot only did I get to attend some great events, I also got to have a whole section for game demos at Round the Table Gamer Pub for International Tabletop Day! It was a most excellent event, and it was great to run both Dragon Age & Love2Hate for people in the store. Obviously, we waited until later in the day for the L2H, as it is PG-13. Once we were finished with demos, we also played one of my favourite board games, Shadow Hunters. The staff at Round the Table are fantastic and we love supporting their love of games and craft beer. There was quite the great selection of both!

rrt4.jpgNow, on to Gen Con! 

We love attending Gen Con and we're excited to be coming back again! Thanks to our excellent volunteer team, The Freebooters, we have lots of Dragon Age, Mutants & Masterminds, and DC Adventures on the schedule. We'll be running short demos of our RPGs and card games at the Green Ronin booth. There will be game groups also running Mutants & Masterminds, and we have a special treat for you! Designer Todd Miller will be running 2-hour demos of Ork! The Roleplaying Game!

As I close out this Ronin Roundtable, I do what I always do...give a plug for the Freebooter Volunteer GM program!

Donna Prior

April 3, 2014

Congratulations, Owen!

Green Ronin's Pathfinder line developer, Owen Stephens, has accepted a job with Paizo Publishing, who have graciously agreed to keep sharing him with us in his freelance developer capacity. Here's more about his sweet new day job:

REDMOND, WA (April 3, 2014): Paizo Inc., publisher of the world's best-selling Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as novels, game accessories, board games, and the wildly popular Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, is pleased to welcome the addition of Developer Owen K.C. Stephens to the Paizo design team.

A lifelong gamer, Owen K.C. Stephens began writing articles for Dragon Magazine in 1990, in the hopes of making enough money to pay for his RPG habit. In the decades since, his career has included work for Adventure-A-Week, Green Ronin, Steve Jackson Games, Super Genius Games, White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo. Stephens will join Paizo to helm the development of the quarterly, 64-page Pathfinder Module line, working with both established Pathfinder authors and RPG Superstar winners.

Says Paizo Editor-in-Chief F. Wesley Schneider, "Owen's been helping us build adventures, settings, and rules for the Pathfinder RPG since its earliest days--you'd be hard pressed to find a single author who's worked on more Pathfinder-related projects. Now that the stars have aligned for all of us, we couldn't be more excited to have him lending his expertise to the everyday work of making Pathfinder even more awesome!"

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is the world's best-selling tabletop RPG, in which players take on the role of brave adventurers fighting to survive in a world beset by magic and evil. The Pathfinder RPG is currently translated into multiple languages, and the vibrant Pathfinder universe has been licensed for comic book series, graphic novels, miniatures, plush toys, apparel, and is being developed into a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

April 1, 2014

Hodor's Guide to Hodoring (PDF)

HodorIt came down to the wire, but we were just able to finish up the latest product for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: Hodor's Guide to Hodoring. We've been working on this for a long time and we think you're going to appreciate the usefulness and depth of this book. Best of all? It's free and you can download it now. Hodor!

March 31, 2014

Ronin Round Table: Feedback and Reviews, Please

In the middle of last week, James Dawsey of the Vigilance Press Podcast invited Mutants & Masterminds designer Steve Kenson and I to talk to him about the release of Emerald City and the just-announced ICONS: The Assembled Edition, which Steve also designed.

We had a good talk, which you can listen to on the Vigilance Press site, and we covered a lot of ground. Steve explained how ICONS started and why he decided to have Green Ronin publish the latest version. I talked about Emerald City, its history, and how happy we were to finally see it in print.

As we were wrapping up our conversation, James asked if there was anything else we wanted to mention. As it happened, one of the things I'd been thinking about in the last few weeks is the feedback we receive from our fans.

I have a small group of fans I call on weekly to give me their opinions on the PDFs we release regularly as well as a number of our upcoming books. They are a very valuable "second" set of eyes and often catch things that make our books much better than they would have been otherwise.

We also have a number of very active, helpful, and passionate people who participate in conversations on our Atomic Think Tank forum. They give us ideas for new products, offer opinions about the books we release, point out typos and editing errors that need fixing, and generally help to keep Steve and I motivated to make every book the best possible. We love hearing from our fans and if you're looking to find out more about M&M, what's going on with our upcoming releases, have questions for us, or are looking for write-ups of some of your favorite comic characters, check it out.

The last thing I mentioned was reviews. Green Ronin, thankfully, sells a lot of games and books, but one of the things I've noticed recently is that we don't get a lot of reviews posted online. All of our books are for sale in the Green Ronin Online Store and at DriveThruRPG, and DriveThruRPG has a place to post reviews built right into each product page. I'd love to see more reviews posted to those pages.

Anyway, at the end of the interview I asked listeners to please provide us with their feedback and write reviews of our products. Not only to help us make our books better, but to give other people who are curious about this game or that supplement more information to go on. As people spend more and more money online for PDFs, reviews become that much more important. Unlike picking up a book in your favorite local game store, you can't page through a PDF to see what you think of it. All you have to go on is a couple of images (at most) and sales text written by the people who created the game you're interested in—hardly unbiased, right?

So that's my request of you. If you like our games and want to help other people to make better-informed decisions about them, please consider hopping onto the Atomic Think Tank to join the conversation, writing up a review on your blog, a gaming site, or at DriveThruRPG, or otherwise making your opinion known.

As someone who's already picked up Emerald City, Power Profiles, or any of our other books, you have knowledge others could benefit from. We prefer positive reviews (who doesn't?), but what we're really looking for is a critical examination of our efforts because it helps us make better books and gives potential buyers all the facts. Plus, in the future, maybe someone you inspire to pick up one of our books will write a review you find useful... and wouldn't that be nice!

Thank you,

Jon Leitheusser
M&M Line Developer

March 24, 2014

Ronin Round Table: Icons Assemble!

Icons AssembledThe "cottage" nature of the tabletop gaming industry leads to a lot of funny things: supposedly fierce "competitors" often know and see each other socially, companies trade employees and creative staff, and creators...well, sometimes we get a particular idea that takes on a life of its own.

One such idea was Icons Superpowered Roleplaying, a concept that began when I was mucking about with the attribute ladder of the Fudge RPG and mixing-and-matching its concepts with the old Marvel Super-Heroes game (a long-time favorite of mine, as anyone who has read my essay in Hobby Games: The 100 Best knows). I referred to the initial set of notes as "The Superlative System" and it gathered electronic dust on my website for some time.

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March 10, 2014

Ronin Round Table: The Benefit of Random Encounters

By Chris Pramas

Publishing games is a funny thing. Sometimes games come from personal passion, sometimes from meticulous planning, and sometimes from random encounters. Love 2 Hate, a card game we are publishing this summer, is one of the latter.

It began back in 2002. Nicole and I went to London for a one day convention called Dragonmeet. As is usual for such overseas trips, we stayed for more days than we needed to so we could make the most of it. We stayed with James Wallis, a longtime industry friend and the designer of such games as Once Upon a Time and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. James had a conveniently located apartment in London. During Dragonmeet he also had another houseguest: Colm Lundberg.

Colm was over from Ireland for the con and we hadn't met him before. He was a convention organizer himself and it was from him I first learned of the legendary Irish charity auctions. We all got along well and had some fun times in London that weekend. After a couple of days, he returned to Ireland and we to America. When Facebook became a thing, we became FB friends and stayed in touch that way. While I returned to England many times subsequently (even for Dragonmeet again in 2010), our paths never did cross again.

Love 2 HateA couple of years back Colm let me know he was tinkering with some game designs. He wanted some advice on what to do with them and how to find a publisher. This I gave him, also noting that I'd be happy to take a look at them. This led to him sending some prototypes to me here in Seattle. One of them was a party game in vein similar to Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. It was called Love 2 Hate.

Now Green Ronin's focus has traditionally been RPGs. That said, we have done card games before (Torches & Pitchforks and Walk the Plank) and it was always my intention to do more types of games than RPGs. So one Thursday at Jon Leitheusser's place when roleplaying was off the table, we playtested Love 2 Hate and I gave Colm some notes. He continued to hone the cards and then sent me another prototype. This we playtested at the Green Ronin Summit in October and after an hour the team agreed: Love 2 Hate was fun and we should publish it!

577385_10151930216772592_1139153689_n.jpg

In January Nicole, Intern Kate, and I went to Cork for WarpCon. The convention had invited me over as a guest and I was delighted to accept. It was our first trip to Ireland and Colm was there, of course. So we finally got to see other again! Even better, we got to show people Love 2 Hate.

People playing a demo version of Love 2 Hate at WarpCon

You meet someone at random at one convention and 12 years later you meet at another one to demo the game you are going to do together. This is the sort of thing I love about the game industry. Amusingly enough, we flew to London after WarpCon and stayed with James Wallis and his family for a few days, so the whole thing really did come full circle!

March 3, 2014

Ronin Round Table: Those At Our Game Tables

By Joseph Carriker

Last week, the gaming community was faced with the loss of one of our own once again: Aaron Allston, well-known designer for Champions and Dungeons & Dragons, and author of numerous novels, particularly in the Star Wars universe. And though I didn't know Mr. Allston myself, I couldn't help but feel a sense of some loss—a loss that I wasn't entirely comfortable with, to be honest. It wasn't the first time this had happened, of course. There've been others who have passed, our luminaries and founding fathers, in recent memory, and I found myself experiencing the same kind of loss. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons, died in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Don't get me wrong—I've certainly known who they were, in every case. It's hard not to, if you pay any sort of attention to the names on that credits page. I've played their games, and read their material over the years. In nearly every instance, these were folks who I'd had the chance to meet (or at least correspond with, in some fashion), but I couldn't claim to know them. Many of my friends and co-workers certainly have, and I think that's been part of it. I'm a little embarrassed by that sense of loss. Do I as someone who has only experienced their work have a right to that?

I think that at the end of the day, though, there's a good reason for it. These aren't just some people who've passed"they are the people who've been at our gaming tables with us over the years. We've built friendships and great memories through the vehicle of this work, and in a real way, it's hard not to feel impacted in some fashion when those who created those things pass on. We've invested emotion in these memories, and those memories include not just the people at the tables with us, the games we were playing, the worlds we were exploring.

In a way, these folks are just as much a part of those great memories as the people who were physically there, even if the context is different. The context of our grief is different, as well. They leave loved ones, friends and family behind, and part of the embarrassment I've felt is rooted there. It's hard not to think, "Who the hell am I? I'm just a dude who enjoyed their work," like there were some kind of minimum connection necessary to justify a sense of grief and loss.

But that's also it. As someone who also creates game material, I do feel connected to those who play the games I work on. Though folks in this industry often groan at the thought of facing down a convention of people telling us about their characters, we're still there, because even with dread is the joy of hearing people enjoy the things we loved creating. In some way, I and my co-creators are at those gaming tables as surely as Gary, Dave, Aaron, and other creators have all been at ours.

This sense isn't unique to us, of course—people grieve over musicians, actors, writers and artists all the time. But our game designers, writers, artists, and creators are our people, and their work stands out in our memories, in a way that's uniquely ours.

So here's to those who've shared our gaming tables over the years, through the often-lonely work they've put into creating these games we all love so well. You're friends, and sometimes even family, whether you know it or not. And even those who are no longer with us will continue to share a place at our tables for a long time to come.

February 26, 2014

Atlas of Earth-Prime: United States of America (PDF)

Wild Cards SCARE Sheet 20: Tom WeathersToday we kick off our next PDF series for Mutants & Masterminds with Atlas of Earth-Prime: United States of America. This 11-page, full-color PDF complete with Hero Lab files is available for sale in our Green Ronin Online Store for just $1.99!

Visit a world not our own, but strangely familiar, a world of heroes and villains, of wonders and dangers, and limitless adventure! The Atlas of Earth-Prime is a trip around the world of the Freedom City and Emerald City settings for the Mutants & Masterminds Superhero RPG, looking at different regions and their heroes, villains, features, and opportunities, giving you a whole world to explore for your game. All for less than the cost of a new comic book!

The Atlas begins close to "home" with the nation with the two largest centers of super-powered activity. But Freedom City and Emerald City are not the only places of note in the United States: visit the super-prison Lockdown in Buckner Ridge, TN, or the mystic bayous of Embouchere, LA. Learn about the heroes of New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, or go beyond the ordinary in Midvale, KS, Mystery, NH, or Red Rocks, AZ, located near Magic Mesa. Help clean up the mean streets of Ferroberg, PA, or the halls of power in Washington DC. (For Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition.)

Atlas of Earth-Prime: United States of America (PDF)

February 24, 2014

Ronin Round Table: Pathfinder Update

Hey folks! I'm Owen K.C. Stephens, the newest member of the Green Ronin Staff, and the Pathfinder Developer. I was brought on to (among other things) help see the Pathfinder books for Freeport: City of Adventure and the new Advanced Bestiary through the writing, editing, and development process. I wanted to talk for a bit about where things are and some of the decisions made along the way.

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