I'm editor of a brazilian roleplaygames blog, Paragons [www. paragons .com.br] and I had the oportunity to interview the Green Ronin president, Chris Pramas. Despite the interview be driven for brazilian reader there are a lot of thing that could be interesting for that whom want know a little bit more about this great game designer.
1 - For those who do not know, who is Chris Pramas?
I’m a game designer, writer, and publisher who has been working in the game industry since 1993. I’m the founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing. I designed the second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, I created Freeport: The City of Adventure, and I designed the just released Dragon Age RPG. I’ve been living in Seattle, Washington since 1997, though my roots are in Boston, Massachusetts and New York City.
2 - Tell us your history as game designer and as Green Ronin frontman.
I got started as a freelancer writer way back when. I was in graduate school in New York City and working in a coffee store on the Lower East Side. I figured I wasn’t busy enough with a job and school, so why not start writing? I ended up writing for games like Underground, Feng Shui, and the Whispering Vault. A couple of years later I started my first company. That was a useful experience but ended badly. Then I went to work at Wizards of the Coast for four years. I worked in Roleplaying R&D at first and ended my tenure as Creative Director of Miniatures. By that point Green Ronin has been going for two years. I had started it as a side project but things were going so well that I just stepped into doing Green Ronin full time when I left WotC.
3 - You have been working with licenses like Warhammer, Song of Ice and Fire and now with Dragon Age. How does it work with this kind of roleplaying game? Is it different than working with your own ideas?
It is different because there’s always something who has to approve your work. With A Song of Ice and Fire, that’s George RR Martin himself, though usually it’s various licensing people. The challenge with licensed games is to try to create a game that reflects the source material best while also being playable and fun. With Dragon Age I opted to create a new system from scratch because I thought that would best serve a pen and paper RPG. Dragon Age: Origins is awesome (ask my wife, she’s played it through five times!), but the game mechanics that work for a computer game don’t necessarily work best for a traditional RPG. In the end you have to try to please the licensor, the fans, and yourself and that’s always a bit of a balancing act.
4 - Here in Brazil Mutants & Masterminds has a lot of fans. They usually use these mechanics as a generic system. What do you think about this? Are there any Green Ronin projects that use this system in the same way? With sourcebooks like GURPS?
We did a couple of books like that in 2009 in fact. The first was called Warriors & Warlocks and it showed you how to do comic book fantasy with M&M. Then we did Mecha & Manga, which gave similar treatment to anime and Japanese comics.
5 - Looking on the Gren Ronin's release for Q1 2010 there aren’t any True20 book. Is there some reason for concern? Will there be new books in the future?
The next thing for the game is True20 Ancients: Rome, which we’re doing in conjunction with Highmoon Games. I will admit that 2010 is a pretty light year for True20. We need to focus a lot of attention on Dragon Age to launch it right, and provide continued support to A Song of Ice and Fire and M&M. We also have something big in the works that I hope we can announce soon.
6 - We know that Green Ronin knows how work with OGL, but the last two new publisher lines, Song of Ice and Fire and Dragon Age, used new systems. Why? Is a new market wave to use new system to each game in the same way pre-OGL? Or this was just a coincidence?
When we do a licensed game, we want to use mechanics that best fit the source material. For both games we decided that a new game, built from the ground up using the assumptions of the setting, was a better way to go than doing yet another d20 variant.
7 - About Dragon Age. How has it been work with Bioware? Did they give you freedom to develop new elements for the setting?
BioWare has been a great partner. They gave us access to a lot of material and art and provided good feedback on our approach. They’ve also been very willing to help us promote the game. After the first time BioWare ran a story on their website about our game, we had to get a new server for our website to handle the traffic load. Can’t complain about that! And yes, we can add setting elements, though naturally everything we do is subject to approval.
8 - There is an old school movement rising, and in Dragon Age there are some elements that remember D&D’s first editions. Do you think that this reflects your personal game style? And what do you think about this old school, retro game movement?
It does reflect my style of gaming and it’s no coincidence that Dragon Age is closer in tone to Basic D&D than 4th edition. People in the game industry complain all the time that our audience is shrinking while putting out huge games that are really complicated. With Dragon Age I was really trying to make a game that was friendly to new players and easy to get into. And boxed sets are such a good vehicle for that I had to go that way for the game too.
As for the Old School Renaissance, it’s cool and I’m certainly sympathetic to many of its views. I think there are certainly lessons we can learn from the games of 25 years ago. Like any movement though, people can take it too far. Not everything in those games was perfect and worth emulating to the smallest detail. As a designer I’d rather take some inspiration from those games and then do my own thing (the approach I took with Dragon Age) rather than recreate them point by point.
9 - For me is clear that the RPG market doesn't have a great cycle of new gamers nowadays, maybe because of computer games and video games. What is Green Ronin doing to fix that? And what do you think the market has to do to attract new players?
When I first got into game design, I didn’t really care about attracting new gamers. I figured that was TSR’s (and later WotC’s) job and my audience were really existing gamers. Over the years though I’ve had a complete turnaround. I realized at a certain point that WotC’s efforts in that department were not all they could be. So we tried some experiments. First there was Blue Rose, which was an attempt to attract a new demographic to RPGs (fans of romantic fantasy literature). Then we did Faery’s Tale Deluxe, a game designed for younger players and great for parents to play with their kids. Both of those games were successful, but the marketing we could afford to do was limited. That’s why I saw Dragon Age as such a great opportunity. Here we’d have BioWare on our side and we’d be tied to a property that millions of people would be exposed to. That’s why I decided to do Dragon Age as a series of four boxed sets and make the whole thing friendly to people who had never done tabletop roleplaying before.
10 - Disregarding Dragon Age, what are the Green Ronin future plans?
Our next book for M&M is Silver Age, which is another genre book to
complement Golden Age and Iron Age. Then there’s Aces & Jokers, which is character book for Wild Cards. Going to print real soon now is Family Games: The 100 Best. This is a sequel to Hobby Games: The 100 Best and it follows a similar format. We got 100 game pros to each write an essay on a family game they think is great and/our influential. Hobby Games: The 100 Best is my favorite book of everything that Green Ronin has published, so I have high hopes for the sequel. For A Song of Ice and Fire we hope to release the Campaign Guide very soon. It’s all done and just awaiting GRRM’s final approval.
Then there’s that big announcement I mentioned earlier. Sorry I can’t say more!
11 - Here in Brazil there is a hoax that Dragon Age can be translated to Portuguese. Do you know anything about it? Can we have any hope?
Sure, you can hope. There is a company I’m talking to about it. Negotiations haven’t gone far yet, but it is possible.
12 - Send a message to the Green Ronin Brazilian fans!!
First, I have to say it’s awesome that we have fans in Brazil! I love that gaming has spread all over the globe (it’s like punk rock, my other great passion). I have had a chance to travel to Europe many times, going as far as Finland, and it was cool to see both the similarities and differences in the way people game in various regions. I have never been to Brazil, but I would love to go. So if any convention down there wants to bring me out, just say the word and I’ll give a message to Brazilian fans in person!
Thanks for reading this interview and thanks for supporting us over the years. We really do appreciate it. Game on!
I Hope that you had liked of this interview. Thanks for reading, folks!!