Here Comes August

I’ve been slack about updating the ole blog lately because July has been crazy busy. Nicole and I are leaving for Finland on Monday and we have to tie up all loose ends and make sure everything is on track for Gen Con before we go. In the midst of that Nik and I went to the Portland area over the weekend for her high school reunion and various family visitation. That same weekend Flying Lab moved its offices from Queen Anne to Belltown. The new location cuts about 15 minutes off my commute each way and I can get here on only one bus. I have also escaped the bullpen at last and have a private office I share with one other person that has a lovely view of Puget Sound. Belltown is the north end of downtown and has lots of new options for lunch, which is great. The office is also a 5 minute walk from Singles Going Steady, the best punk record store in Seattle. Woot.

Usually this time of year it’s all about Gen Con, but I’m actually more excited about attending Ropecon the week before. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gen Con, but this is going to be my 19th in a row and I know what to expect. I will enjoy myself for sure, but it’s unlikely to hold any surprises. This will be my first trip to Finland on the other hand and my first con in northern Europe. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Finland and Ropecon have to offer.

On the Gen Con front it looks like GR will (knock on wood) be able to debut the Wild Cards campaign setting for Mutants & Masterminds. This is the first of our George R.R. Martin projects and I think it came out great. Series author John Jos. Miller wrote a hugely comprehensive setting book, Steve made sure it’s eminently gameable, and Hal made it look awesome. I think M&M; and Wild Cards fans will be very pleased with the finished product. We’ve got some other Gen Con surprises in the works, but I’m not going to say more until I’m sure they’ll make the show.

Now it’s back to work. Much to still do before Monday.

In Honor of Comic Con: Comics

I watched the trailer for the Watchmen movie last week and realized something: I haven’t read the Watchmen since 1990. This is funny because I’ve been telling people that Watchmen and V for Vendetta are genius since college but now I must admit my memory of the former’s plot is hazy. So instead of picking up some new graphic novels this week I threw the Watchmen in my bag and have been reading that instead. What do you know? Still genius.

I also read the first three volumes of Artesia recently and these too are great. Mark Smylie has created a deep fantasy world with real mythic resonance. He doesn’t make it easy on you; Artesia has a dense setting and a large cast. Sticking with it is well worth it though. It’s even more impressive when you consider he does all the art and writing himself. It’s really quite impressive.

Lastly, I finally checked out DMZ, a Vertigo title by Brian Wood. This posits a civil war in America, in which home grown insurgents rise up against the government while the military is deployed overseas. New York City becomes a no man’s land caught between government forces and the rebels. The remaining citizens of NYC are left to survive on their own. I’ve read the first four volumes and I really like it. Wood has created a compelling story that allows him to examine many issues of the “War on Terror” without being pedantic. Volume 4: Friendly Fire was the best story yet.

I do wish I was in San Diego right now for Comic Con but with Ropecon and Gen Con back to back in August, there was no way it was happening. Perhaps next year.

27 Years of Galaga Pays Off

I got a promotion today at Flying Lab. I am now the company’s Creative Director, in charge of all story elements and narrative design. Up to this point I’ve basically been isolated in my writing cave. I will now be stepping up into a leadership role at FLS, which I think I am well prepared for after 8 years of running Green Ronin. Now I must tell the crew that floggings will continue until morale improves!

New in the World of Miniatures

A few years ago a British company called Renegade started a line WWI miniatures ( While most Great War ranges went right for the gasmask and trench warfare phase of the war, Renegade actually started with 1914 armies. So they had French troops in their colorful 19th century style uniforms, Germans in Pickelhaube helmets, cavalry units, and so on. They are cool minis and I’ve eyed them for years now, but I never broke down and bought any because I didn’t think I’d have anything to do with them. WWI is not a popular period for miniatures games. There were rules I could have picked up but my odds of convincing anyone to try out a new period and a new set of rules were slim. It’s a shame because WWI has more to offer the wargamer than people think. Gamers shy away from it because they think WWI was only about trench warfare. This isn’t true, particularly when you get away from Western Europe. There were huge battles of movement in the East, for example, and some really interesting campaigns in Africa.

This week I picked up The Great War, a new set of WWI minis rules by BL Publishing. This game takes the Warhammer 40,000 rules and re-writes them to handle WWI. The core book concentrates on the Western Front but does so at the beginning and end of the war (1914 and 1918), when it was a war of movement. The result is a pleasing skirmish game that may finally draw some attention to this neglected area of miniatures wargaming. The fact that it’s based on 40K is a help, because it’ll be a lot easier to find people willing to try a variant of a game they already know how to play. As I was reading it, my thoughts immediately leaped to the Russian Civil War too. There are many possibilities here.

Speaking of 40K, I got the 5th edition rules as well but haven’t had much of a chance to look them over. I did notice my one tiny contribution to the 40K universe is represented. In one corner of the new galaxy map is a small notation: the Calixis Sector. The history was changed, the location was changed, but I did name it way back when. The book is beautiful; I’ll dig into the rules soon.

Also of interest on the miniatures front is a new line from Brigade Games called King Philip’s War ( This is a little known conflict in my home region of New England that took place in 1675 and 1676. It’s angry Native Americans and big-hatted pilgrims fighting in the backwoods. Nice looking minis and again tempting. Folks who are playing the Witch Hunter or Solomon Kane RPGs should take note of the pilgrim models, as they make excellent witch hunters.

An Interesting Question

By the end of this year third party companies need to stop selling products with the old d20 logo on them. For print product this means selling, giving away, or destroying backstock. PDFs though can simply have the logo and legal info taken out and then be put back on sale. The question for Green Ronin then is what brand do we re-release these PDFs under?

We could simply create a new brand like “Classic 3” to indicate that these are former d20 books that work with D&D; 3 or 3.5. The downside of that plan is that we’d be creating the brand from scratch and we’d have to educate people about what “Classic 3” (or whatever we chose) meant.

The other leading option is to re-release these PDFs under Paizo’s Pathfinder brand. Right now Paizo is playtesting the Pathfinder game, which is basically the next iteration of the D&D; 3.5 rules (as opposed to 4E, which goes off in another direction entirely). Paizo will be doing something like our True20 Trademark License, which will allow other companies to release Pathfinder branded material. When Paizo announced Pathfinder a few months ago, it was big news and it is serving as a rallying point for those gamers who want to stick with the 3.5 rules. It would thus make a certain amount of sense to use Pathfinder for our old d20 stuff and Paizo has already done a lot to establish the brand.

The issue for GR is that Pathfinder won’t be taking its final form for some time. There’s a beta out next month but the final game isn’t releasing until August, 2009. Paizo has said that backwards compatibility is a big goal for them, but there are going to be some differences (possibly some big ones) between Pathfinder and D&D; 3.5. It makes total sense for Paizo to evolve the rules, but I wonder at the implications for GR if we use the Pathfinder brand. We are not planning on going back to these books and making major revisions. If we turn the d20 Freeport Companion into the Pathfinder Freeport Companion, for example, the contents of the book would remain the same. We’d just be changing the title and logo. What I wonder is whether gamers would expect our old books to be revised for 100% compatibility with Pathfinder? Or would they understand that while our books are compatible in the way any 3.5 book will be, they weren’t designed originally as Pathfinder products.

It’s an interesting question and we have until the end of the year to figure out the answer. What do you all think?

Decision Made

I don’t normally cross-post announcements from to my blog, but since I have written a lot about D&D; and third party publishers this year I thought readers would be interested in the final decision.

Green Ronin and 4E

I know a lot of fans have been waiting to find out if Green Ronin is going to support 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and it’s a fair question. Green Ronin’s second product ever was Death in Freeport, an adventure for 3rd Edition that debuted the same day as the Player’s Handbook almost eight years ago. We went on to do quite a lot of 3E support, ending only a couple of months back with the d20 Freeport Companion. Now Wizards of the Coast is terminating the d20 license and offering a different way to support the new edition of D&D.; It’s called the Game System License and we waited from August of last year until June of this year to see it. We’ve spent the last few weeks reviewing the license and discussing it internally and we have come to a consensus.

Green Ronin will not be signing the Game System License (GSL) at this time.

We plan to do one product in support of 4E: the Green Ronin Character Record Folio. This will be an update of the d20 System Character Record Folio and we’ll be publishing it under the Open Game License (OGL).

Other than that we’ll be giving our full attention to our own game lines: Mutants & Masterminds, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, True20 Adventure Roleplaying, and Freeport: The City of Adventure.

We had hoped to include 4E support in our plans, but the terms of the GSL are too one-sided as they stand. We certainly do not blame Wizards of the Coast for wanting to defend their intellectual property and take more control over the type of support products D&D; receives. We do not, however, feel that this license treats third party publishers as valued partners. Under its terms WotC could frivolously sue a signatory for supposed violations of the GSL, lose the actual court case, and still ruin the winning company because the license specifies that the signatory has to pay WotC’s legal fees. Also, the GSL can be changed at any time and WotC is not legally required to so much as inform its licensees.

Let me be clear in stating that I don’t think that the people in charge of WotC currently are just waiting to attack companies with frivolous lawsuits. Once you sign the GSL though, you open yourself up to that at any point in the future. Who knows when new people will take over the D&D; brand and who can say what their vision will be? Who knows when the political winds at WotC will change again and things will get even more restrictive? We do not want to operate under such a cloud moving ahead so that’s why we won’t be signing the GSL.

This means the Green Ronin Character Record Folio is the only 4E compatible product you’ll be seeing from us this year and likely for 2009 as well. Perhaps WotC will revise the GSL in the positive way, but we cannot build our business on maybes. We know this will disappoint those of our fans who have embraced 4E and we’re sorry about that. We have to make the best business decision for Green Ronin’s future and right now this is it.

Thank you for your continued support.

Hey, July

I’ll admit it, July; we’ve never had the best of relationships. You are in the middle of the summer and I am not a fan of hot weather. That’s why I like the temperate Pacific Northwest. But hey, Son of Caesar, why do I feel like you are conspiring against me? I don’t mind doing work, but it seems awfully strange that it’s all coming due in the same damn month. Most of it in the same week even. So what gives, July? Do you have it out for me?

Mini Overload

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of trading over on Bartertown, a website where miniatures gamers sell and swap stuff. Ebay is such a process now, with pictures, sales text, and so on. Bartertown caters to like minded gamers, so I can simply say, “I have a FOW American Rifle Company and I’m looking for British Royal Artillery,” and people know what I’m talking about.

Today I was combing through my collection, trying to assemble my 90s era Warhammer Chaos Dwarfs (the ones with the ridiculously enormous helmets). I haven’t touched them in like 10 years, so I thought I’d see if I could trade them. I found the infantry without a problem, but after that it didn’t go as smoothly. I could not find the Death Rocket or my Bull Centaurs, but I know they must be in my office somewhere.

The trouble is my minis collection long ago got out of hand. At some point, probably four or five moves ago, I labeled most of my boxes with the contents. Over time things have gotten moved around a bit, so the labels aren’t always accurate. Also, I’ve acquired a lot of stuff since then and it’s scattered about. So today I opened a box for a tank and found it stuffed with Heroclix instead, discovered the WWII Chindit minis I had totally forgotten about, and unearthed a box of Battletech minis that date back to my college years. It’s getting harder and harder to find things, which makes me not want to bother looking sometimes. And if I’m not going to use the minis I’ve collected for the past 30 years, why do I have them in the first place?

I think what I need to do is a massive reorganization of my minis. Pull everything out and just start sorting. It would be easiest to do on a big floor, but we don’t have a good area in the house. Kate suggested her school’s gym, which was sweet, but I can only imagine what he principal would say if I asked to use the school’s facilities to sort my toy soldiers. July is shaping up to be a crazy month and then I’ll be gone for half of August, so realistically this can’t happen until September at the earliest. I’m itching to tackle it tomorrow, but I have writing that I need to do instead. Work now, minis later; that always seems to be the way.

Random Bits

1. Here’s the most unexpected thing that happened on the ALA trip. It turned out that a WWII bomber group was having a reunion at the hotel we were staying at. On the shuttle bus over to the convention center, I had a chance to talk to one of the veterans. He was a B-17 pilot who flew 17 missions over Germany. After VE Day he was supposed to go to the Pacific theater and fly a B-29. The war ended before he had the chance. At this reunion his co-pilot and navigator saw each other for the first time since 1945. I thought I might have a chance to talk to other vets at the hotel, but our schedule did not permit. Glad I had the chance to talk to this pilot though.

2. Four more friends are moving down to SoCal, which is a drag. If I wanted a computer industry job down there, I could have one too but I’m just not interested in living in that area. I had enough strip malls growing up, thanks.

3. We had the booth next to Archaia Studio Press at ALA. Mark Smylie gave me the later Artesia volumes I was missing and a graphic novel called Revere: Revolution in Silver. The latter is a lot of fun. It turns the patriot Paul Revere into a werewolf hunting member of a secret society. It’s good to be a silver smith when you hunt werewolves!

4. French punk band Les Thugs are playing here next week as part of the 20th Anniversary of Sub Pop Records. I haven’t seen them in at least 12 years so I think I’m going to try to go. It’s actually a free show and I have no idea how crowded it might be.

5. Cory Doctorow stopped by our booth at ALA. He said if we defied WotC on the sunsetting of the d20 logo, it’d make a really interesting case for PHD candidates. I said that’d be great, as long as they were rich PHD candidates who could pay our legal bills.