Green Ronin Publishing

 
green ronin logo

Green Ronin Publishing

Ronin Roundtable: ROGUES, INDIVIDUALLY

Feb 19 2018

Mothers, lock up your sons: Rogue’s Gallery is coming. This hardback collects the 40+ Rogues Gallery PDFs in one collection, along with a dozen new villains and antiheroes to terrorize your campaign. Your heroes could fight one a week and still not finish by New Year!

Villain books are a classic installment in superhero RPGs, going back to classics like Champion’s Enemies supplements or Heroes Unlimited’s Villains Unlimited. They provide opponents to fight, sure, but they also flesh out a side of the setting that heroes rarely get to see, and that hero-facing books rarely delve into. If superhero games, at their core, are about optimism and what one determined individual can do to help others, then villain books show the pessimism of those same worlds: What happens when someone, despite all their power, can’t or won’t use it to help others, or even themselves. Mutants & Masterminds has always been about nuance and complexity—every bit as much it tries to be about being your best self—and I think the incredible diversity of characters presented in Rogue’s Gallery showcases some of the best that earth Prime has to offer: Classic throwbacks to the Silver Age like Amalgam, Elzaya, and Tun; villains that seem to painfully mirror our real world like Drive-By and the newly returned House of Usher; cold professionals like Chakram and IGT-92; off-the-wall weirdos like the Candy Crew, Newt, and Explodo, and more than a few characters who came so close to being one of the good guys like Arctic Fox, Eminence, Freestyle, and Red Mist. This last category are probably the most vital, holding a mirror up to reflect the ugly failings of the world, and all the things the heroes, through luck or perseverance, have escaped. “There, but for the grace of God,” is a popular and heart wrenching theme in a lot of comic books; it provides a moment of introspection in a medium that is all too often about jumping between spectacular fight scenes.

To round out the collected edition of Rogue’s Gallery and the setting of Earth Prime, we collected a dozen new antagonists from some of the brightest Mutants & Masterminds writers. With the book following on the heels of Freedom City, 3rd Edition, most of these new villains operate out of Freedom City, or at least mention it briefly, but the ultimate goal was to round out the villain list for several of our newest books, including the Cosmic Handbook and Hero High. Some are classics, many are brand new, but we tried to tie all the new villains into the advancing timeline of Earth Prime, and the recent changes described in Freedom City. Here’s what’s in store:

  • Alien-Gator II: This time, it’s personal! An alien from the alligator-like race known as the Jereid, Ssellessk’thaa was trapped on Earth as part of Freedom City’s recent refugee crisis. More aggressive than her 60s-era counterpart, and in full possession of her wits, she sees humanity as the corrupt, selfish, and brutal creatures they are, and has turned to crime against this unjust system in order to acquire what she needs to escape Earth and return home.
  • Empress Sola: One of the many Dark Lords held in check by the now-deposed Una, Sola rules a dimension deprived of its magical core, forever cursed to siphon the life force from other worlds to survive. Now Sola has set her eyes upon the magic-rich world of Earth Prime.
  • Johnny Frostbite & Ice Princess: This daddy-daughter duo share the same ice powers, but radically different instincts for using it. Johnny hopes to shield his beloved daughter from the life of crime he fell into, but they remain on the run from a vindictive ex-wife.
  • Lady Guillotine: The new Lady Liberty has her own arch-nemesis after only a few months on the job, and her rival wants more than just Sonia’s powers: She wants her head!
  • Maestro II: With the original Maestro vanished, a handsome young inheritor has claimed the Master of Music’s legacy and wields similar powers.
  • MegaStar: Included by popular demand! Christopher Beck was a member of the original Next-Gen some 15 years ago, but never seemed to find his place in Freedom City’s hero community after graduation. A disillusioned man desperate to find something to belong to, he has a whole new team as one of the Argents!
  • Mother Moonlight: Heroism isn’t without its casualties, and loss drives people to terrible ends. When so-called heroes slaughtered her children, Anna-Marie Delgado gave herself over the goddess of rebirth in order to gain the power to take the children—literal and metaphorical—from every monster who wears the mantle of hero.
  • The Orphean: Trevor Cushing lead his ideal life once upon a time. Studying music and magic alongside his wife, the pair could easily have shared the role of Earth’s next Master Mage as readily as they shared a life and soul. Now that his wife has been maliciously ripped away, though, the Orphean focuses on nothing but tearing down the boundaries between life and death to restore her to his side, no matter who else must suffer.
  • Prince Rokkar: The Star Khan’s campaign of conquest rolls over other stellar empires large and small, and when it conquered the Kash’rodan Empire, Khanate governors banished the juvenile prince to the backwater planet Earth. Though young, Rokkar wields the strength, fury, and firepower of a true Kash’rodan warrior, thanks to a little support from his loyal nanny-boy, MC-1.
  • Princess Silverwing: Power don’t make someone a hero, as Alison Middleton insists on demonstrating. Afraid of being mundane, she convinced herself that her mutant ability to generate gravitons is actually “fey magic,” proving her “true” heritage as an exiled princess from a magical world. Now Princess Silverwing is hellbent on returning to a time and place that doesn’t exist, or else making her life on Earth Prime a little more magical.
  • The Starblights: Magical girls gone bad, the Starblights wield their magical power from another dimension to defend their turf and rumble with other supers.
  • Vathek the Appeaser: One of history’s greatest scholars and romantics, Caliph Vathek of the Abassides’s ego doomed him when he thought to get the better of the infamous strange he summoned to grant his every wish. Instead the scholar found himself bound as the devil’s apprentice, doomed to servitude until he sends his master enough souls to buy off his own cosmic debt.

And because you’ve all been waiting so patiently for this volume, here’s one of the new heroes to get you started: Princess Silverwing!

RG_PrincessSilverwing

Earth-Prime Fiction: “Night of the Witch”

Feb 16 2018

Earth-Prime Fiction: Night of the Witch“Night of the Witch” is a short story set on Earth-Prime, the core setting of Mutants & Masterminds and Sentinels of Earth-Prime.

It’s Halloween Past, and Seven finds herself wrapped up in an eldritch conspiracy that will force her to team up with Lantern Jack to save the city.

For just $1.99, you can download this 16-page short story in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three!

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

Ronin Roundtable: Walking the Royal Road III: Encounters in Aldis Preview

Feb 12 2018

One of the resources I wanted to include in the upcoming Aldis: City of the Blue Rose when development began on that book was a simple “random encounters” system. Rather than monsters to fight, though, I wanted this system to be iconic “day in the life” scenes for the mighty capital city of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose.

Aldis: City of the Blue Rose book cover is a work in progress and may not reflect the final version. Art by Alayna Danner!

The Encounters in the City of Aldis appendix works simply: draw anywhere between one to three cards from the Royal Road (depending on how much detail you want to pepper the scene with), interpret as appropriate for the scene in question, and present to the players. It can also be interesting to have players draw their own cards for their scenes, and to even have them construct the scene as they or another player encounter it.

Below are two examples of how we’re using the system.

Example I: A Busy Square in the Middle Ward

For this example, painting the scene for player characters who’ve arrived in a busy neighborhood square, the Narrator chooses a three-card draw, having each of the players who are present for the scene draw one card. The cards drawn (and the interpretation from the appendix) are:

  • Nine of Chalices*: A small group of people gather about an old city well. Some people in the group solemnly lower their heads and whisper something into its dark waters. Turning around, they decisively march across the square. Others, barely able to hold back their giggles, run up to the well, squeak out a quick word or two, and then excitedly run off.
  • The Hierophant*: You cannot help but pick up on small conversations that buzz about your ears. Turing to see one of the sources of these spirited conversations, you happen to see a small group engaged in polite, but animated conversation. At the center of this small group, a noble is enraptured by the storytelling abilities of his companions. The noble, dressed in clothing that seems to set them apart from the more obvious locals, soaks up the conversations eagerly, only interjecting to ask clarifying questions about the various tales and descriptions the seasoned locals provide.
  • Queen of Swords*: You see an older citizen carrying scrolls and assorted books, one with a marking reminiscent of Queen Allia’s heraldry. They are soon met by other, similarly dressed citizens who begin discussing various aspects of Aldin history. Their voices remain calm and clear, each waiting for the other to finish their point before interjecting.

Using This Draw: All of these cards are set up fairly well for scenes of the sort being played through here; one of them even makes mention of a square! The Narrator describes the scene:

  • “The square is bustling with people both lingering and passing through the square. In one corner stands an old city well around which people gather. Some solemnly, and other excitedly, some of the locals seem to be whispering to one another…wait, no, they’re whispering to the well itself! In the middle of the square stands an old tree, under which a small group of people are picnicking. One seems to be noble by dress, and she is listening intently to the stories of her companions, all of whom seem to be trying to outdo the others with delightful stories and anecdotes. Nearby, a man of advancing years wearing the heraldry of one of the former Sovereigns of Aldis walks past you, carrying a tall, teetering stack of books and rolled scrolls. He makes his way past you, walking carefully to avoid overbalancing his burden. You can see two others crossing the square, wearing a similar sigil. When they see him, they quicken their pace so that they can help relieve him of some of the books he carries. They pause to one side of the square, greeting one another and discussing the contents of the books in delight.”

Example II: A Subdued High Ward Tavern at Midnight

For this example, one of the player characters is meeting a contact in a familiar tavern in the deeps of the night. The setting is one where not much is going on, but the Narrator wants to inject a little color into the scene, just to keep the player character (a spy always on the lookout for enemy operatives) on their toes, so the Narrator draws a single card:

  • Five of Pentacles*: A wounded citizen walks the streets ringing a small bell. They are accompanied by four others in distinctive clothing that marks them as priests of the Primordials. As the group slowly traverses the streets, they call out for charity, not for themselves, but for others. Onlookers seem moved by the procession and begin to speak with one another about how they too can help.

Using This Draw: Now, this card obviously isn’t entirely well-suited on its face for this scene. But the Narrator makes some alterations, adapting it for the quiet of the night-time tavern, thus:

  • “As you enter the tavern, your contact waves to you from the back of the room. The only others in the taproom are a quartet of folk who all wear the vestments of priests of the four Primordials. At the edge of their table is a hand bell and a begging bowl. They have split the coins from the bowl up in the middle of their table, and they are discussing to whom the various small piles of coins ought to go, sliding coins around as they illustrate their points. As you pass them by, you hear quiet but passionate discussion regarding a recently widowed mother of three, while another champions the work of a healer that seeks out the sickly poor in the Lower Ward.”

 

* Note that all the quoted text is as yet unedited, and may change in the final product.

New Blue Rose Fiction

Feb 7 2018

Of Shadows and Light: Blue Rose fictionToday we have a new short fiction piece up for sale, set in the World of Aldea from our Blue Rose RPG! Rhiannon Louve brings us “Of Shadow and Light,” Part 1 of a series titled “Those Who Wait.”

Marn the Rose Knight is used to saving the world, but can Kiyn help her learn to save herself?

 

For other Blue Rose fiction, see:

Or view our entire Nisaba Press fiction catalog here.

Return to Freeport, Part Five: A Storm of Sails

Feb 7 2018

Today we introduce Part Five of our Return to Freeport Pathfinder-compatible PDF adventure series.

Return to Freeport
Freeport is known for its adventures, from Death in Freeport (the one that started it all!) to the mega-adventure Black Sails Over Freeport. Now the City of Adventure goes back to its roots with Return to Freeport! This six-part adventure series for the Pathfinder RPG is a new way to begin your Freeport adventures.

Part Five: A Storm of Sails
In Return to Freeport, Part Five, the adventurers set sail once more from the City of Adventure, to protect the pirate port from a vengeance-hungry fleet from far southern waters.

Looking for more Freeport action? You’ll probably enjoy these two short fiction pieces set in the City of Adventure! Each is just $1.99, and comes in three formats for your device(s) of choice (PDF, mobi, and epub). Brought to you by Nisaba Press, Green Ronin’s new fiction imprint!

  • “My Night In Freeport,” by Anthony Prior
    A naive cabin boy goes ashore in Freeport for the first time, and learns important lessons about life in the big city, why attention to proper knot lore matters, and about the sailors’ code.
  • “Unlikely Tides,” by Dylan Birtolo
    A new ship’s crew of unusual composition tacks against the wind to establish their places on the seas and in Freeport: The City of Adventure.

Ronin Roundtable: Back Issue Gaps

Feb 5 2018

Some three years ago in “Back Issues” I talked about some of the planned additions to the forthcoming third edition of the Freedom City setting sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds. With the latest look at Freedom City now available, I wanted to devote some space here on Ronin Roundtable to talk about some of the “back issue gaps,” or the characters from previous editions of Freedom City (or other Earth-Prime sourcebooks) not included in the new edition.

 

I got my start in RPGs working on “living” settings: Even before I was a regular freelancer for FASA Corporation, their BattleTech and Shadowrun settings were “activated” worlds where time passed at more or less the same rate as it did in the real world, and the same was later true of their Earthdawn setting. I was an active GM and player for West End Games’ Torg, which also moved its Infiniverse setting and the associated Possibility War, forward month by month, year by year. One of Freedom City’s major inspirations—Kurt Busiek’s Astro City comic book—likewise follows the progress of real time, such that Astra, the “little girl lost” in one of the first issues of the series, recently celebrated her college graduation!

Back when Green Ronin was looking to publish a second edition of Mutants & Masterminds and Freedom City, there was a desire to expand upon and change up some things, and the passage of time seemed as good a reason as any for that to happen, so we shifted the setting forward a few years to match the difference between the first edition in 2003 and the second in 2006. That approach largely continued throughout the second edition line, although we were more often filling out parts of Earth-Prime’s past or more distant future than its present.

Of course, the space between the second edition of Freedom City and the third is a good deal more substantial, eleven years, just over a decade, and nearly fifteen years since the setting first appeared. It was clear that a lot more was going to change over that time than between the first two editions. Some of Freedom City’s heroes and villains are immortal and unchanging, but others have aged and gone through transitions in life, from the second Raven retiring from crime-fighting to go into politics (passing on her mantle to a young man who was just a teenager in our first Hero High sourcebook) to Johnny Rocket, who was barely out of his teens in the first edition, who is now a mature man, married, and raising a foster daughter with his husband.

While we were able to include well over a hundred different characters in Freedom City, third edition, we couldn’t include everyone, and we’re sorry if anybody’s favorite character happened to not make the cut. A few show up in various places in Atlas of Earth-Prime, The Cosmic Handbook, and the forthcoming Rogues Gallery, but even those books don’t cover everyone. Freedom City and Earth-Prime grew a lot over the years, and in some cases it was best to let certain characters fade into the back issue bins of history, the “Whatever Happened To…?” files. That’s not to say we might not revisit some of those characters in future M&M products but, for now, the spotlight has shifted.

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t include your favorite characters in your own Earth-Prime series. One of the great things about tabletop roleplaying games is that the world is literally what you make of it, and it is yours to do with as you wish. You might decide, rather than time marching onward, that the “present day” of Freedom City remains largely frozen at your favorite point, with its back-story slowly shifting forward in time, much like how the major comic book universes are always set in the present day, with modern histories that extend “10-15 years ago” in spite of focusing on major characters who have existed for more than 70 years!

Likewise, you might decide to include your own “Whatever Happened To…?” story and update the fate of your favorite character, or recapture their essence by creating a new “legacy” character who shared the original’s name, and possibly their motif, powers, and some of their history, but is a new version for the modern world. Freedom City is rich with such characters, and the third edition offers more than a few examples, including new heroes like Centuria, Thunderbolt, and the current Lady Liberty.

Whichever era of Freedom City you choose to play in (and whichever edition of M&M you choose to play it with), I hope you enjoy your time visiting a city that has come to mean a lot to me over the years, and that you truly “make yourself at home” and enjoy the “freedom” of Freedom City to create your own heroic tales of adventure!

Freeport Short Story: Unlikely Tides

Jan 31 2018

Freeport Short Fiction: Unlikely TidesToday we present a new short fiction piece by Dylan Birtolo, set in Freeport: The City of Adventure. In “Unlikely Tides,” a new ship’s crew of unusual composition tacks against the wind to establish their places on the seas and in in the city.

For just $1.99, you can download this rollicking tale in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three! We’re not the captain of your ship.

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

“Unlikely Tides” by Dylan Birtolo

Ronin Roundtable: Fantasy AGE Companion Preview

Jan 29 2018

Hey folks, Jack here. It’s already a busy year here and part of it is putting the final touches on our upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion. The book is written, edited, and currently in its final layout and art stages, so I thought it would be cool to present people with a preview of the book.

Moreover, I find the best previews are generally ones that themselves either show the look and feel of product off or can be used as a sort of stand-alone bonus for people. In this case, we went with both. This preview presents one of our new race options for player characters, Beastfolk.

Beastfolk are animal like humanoids who mix humanoid forms with the natural abilities of various animals. Using this option you can play a cat-person or monkey-person or any number of similarly themed characters.

FA_Comp_preview_01_spreads

 

Beastfolk are only one of many new elements in the upcoming Fantasy AGE Companion, including more fantasy races, new arcana, new specializations and talents, rules for both gritty and cinematic play, mass combat, and more!  Some of these editions are adapted from other AGE games for Fantasy AGE but much of it is brand new.

The Fantasy AGE Companion is coming in  March in print and pdf.

Earth-Prime Fiction: “Everyone: This Is Kevin”

Jan 25 2018

"Everyone: This Is Kevin"The latest entry in our ongoing short fiction series, “Everyone: This Is Kevin” is a short story set on Earth-Prime, the core setting of Mutants & Masterminds and Sentinels of Earth-Prime.

Even robot superhero boys need to go to school, but Kevin soon learns that there is more to an education than pencils and chalk.

For just $1.99, you can download this 16-page short story in your choice of PDF, ePub, or mobi (Amazon Kindle). Or all three!

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press is the fiction imprint of Green Ronin Publishing. Nisaba will be publishing novels, anthologies, and short fiction tied to the rich and varied worlds of Green Ronin’s tabletop roleplaying properties. Current plans include stories of swashbuckling horror in the fantasy world of Freeport: City of Adventure, tales set in the romantic fantasy world of Aldea from the Blue Rose Roleplaying Game, superheroic adventures set in the world of Earth-Prime from Mutants & Masterminds, and chronicles of fantasy survival-horror in the world of The Lost Citadel.

Ronin Roundtable: Why Your Big Bad Gets Clowned

Jan 22 2018

I’m excited. Hal’s been showing me art from the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (that’s the core game, with all the rules you need to play) as the book goes through the production process (yes, it’s been written, playtested, edited and is now going through Adobe sorcery. Meanwhile, I have a team of authors working on the Modern AGE Companion, a book of optional systems for the game.
In case you missed previous posts, Modern AGE is the AGE system game designed for contemporary adventures, covering a period from the dawn of the industrial era to the present day, with options for different genres, psychic powers, and magic. Since the art is coming in, I want to use it as an inspiration to talk a bit about adversaries, not just in this game, but most traditional roleplaying games.

Art by Victor Moreno ~ “They’ve waited a long time to meet her, and you don’t want her keeling over in the first round.”

 

Enter the Devil’s Advocate

I’ll be nerd-biographical: Back in the 80s, I was playing in a house ruled AD&D game (who wasn’t, if they were playing back then at all?) where we slashed and burned our way past the “sweet spot” levels, where, at least by the standards of AD&D, the game remains balanced and easy to run. People often identify this range as levels 4 to 8. We’d hit 15th. Our DM Rick was obviously struggling, since he had to choose between foes with raw, big numbers, which turned combat into a grind, and enemies so complex that he needed to do significant planning ahead of time. We came, we saw, we conquered.

Then one day, things were a little different. Rick told Talid, one of the players, to sit right beside him. We got into the game. A wizard teleported behind us—and behind cover—nuked us with a bunch of fireballs courtesy of an item . . . and teleported out again. Talid chuckled. He was playing that damn wizard. Rick had offloaded the job of running a complex adversary to him. We eventually called him the “Devil’s Advocate,” not for the villain he was playing, but for the position. Just like old-school games had “mappers” and “callers,” we had a titled job for the person who played our enemies, distinct from the GM.

The Players’ Cognitive Advantage

Many, many groups have done this, of course, but I don’t mention this for its novelty, but because it taught me a game design principle which I’ve kept in my pocket ever since. Given the same character and familiarity with the system, a player will almost always use that character more effectively (at least in interacting with rules and challenges) than the GM.
I’ve noticed this in virtually every game I’ve witnessed, played in or run, and the reason is easy to tease out of the story, above. A player usually has just one character to deal with. They can become extremely familiar with that character, develop strategies, and devote their full attention to effective play. The GM doesn’t have that luxury; they’ve got other NPCs to run, an adventure to manage, and a campaign to track—and GMing is, for many people, more tiring simply because of the type of social interaction, where you speak to a group and must keep it focused.
And this power imbalance is often frustrating, especially to math-centric GMs, who can see their NPC should be balanced against the PCs, on paper, but ends up being a pushover. It’s not the math. The players are smarter than you—at least in this instance. They have a cognitive advantage.

Diabolical Advocacy and Streamlining

You can solve this in one of two basic ways. First, you can have a player act as Devil’s Advocate, running villains for you. It’s fun, but in many cases the pendulum swings the other way, and the enemy becomes too powerful to handle.

The other approach is to simplify the procedures for running your enemy. The crudest way to do this is to create adversaries who can only perform one task competently, like beat you up and absorb damage. The disadvantage here is that one-trick enemies can get boring. The variation we use in Modern AGE is to give many adversaries distinct abilities that serve as shorthand for what would otherwise be convoluted sets of abilities, or add flavor that a foe’s basic abilities don’t impart. For example, the Criminal Mastermind adversary has several abilities to stay dangerous without needing to shoot anybody, such as:

  • All According to Plan Stunt: For 3 SP, the mastermind can declare that another NPC present in the scene was working for them all along. That NPC betrays the heroes or produces some information or equipment the mastermind needs right then, and counts as their ally from then on.

(The Criminal Mastermind has other abilities, but you’ll have to grab Modern AGE for the full rundown. I’m not trying to tease, but this post is pretty long. Sorry.)

  • Scot-Free: Whenever the characters would capture, kill, or otherwise defeat the mastermind, the GM may offer the player of the character who bested them 5 SP to use at any point in the future on a relevant test, even if the winning test didn’t roll doubles, in exchange for the mastermind escaping to oppose the heroes another day. (If you’re using the optional Conviction rules, the player gains 1 Conviction instead.)

Both the Devil’s Advocate and streamlining are fine tactics for dealing with PC/NPC imbalance, and which one you use will depend on a bunch of other considerations, such as whether anybody wants to play Devil’s Advocate. Remember that this problem won’t come up if you know the rules better, or can marshal other advantages that compensate for your more diluted attention—and remember that sometimes, the PCs should win. Never snatch victory away when it’s truly deserved.

  One Response to “Green Ronin Publishing”