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Christmas Gift Guide 2010 (11/26/10)
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Christmas Gift Guide 2008 (11/27/08)
Screams from the Cave 2008
(11/7/08)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2008 (9/12/08)
Christmas Gift Guide 2007 (11/30/07)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2007 (8/17/07)
GAMA Trade Show 2007 report (4/27/07)
Christmas Gift Guide 2006 (11/30/06)
Ogres' Choice Awards 2006 (7/28/06)
Christmas Gift Guide 2005 (11/29/05)
Christmas Gift Guide 2004 (12/10/04)
Night of the Living Gamer
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(10/22/04)
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Interviews: Green Ronin Publishing

 
Green Ronin Publishing has been at the forefront of the d20 System since the beginning, and remains one of the powerhouses of the role-playing industry. Chris Pramas, the company's founder, answers a few questions for us through Joe Kushner:

For those who don't know you, provide a bit of background information on Green Ronin and your role in the company.

I founded Green Ronin early in 2000, when I was still working at Wizards of the Coast as the Creative Director for Miniatures R&D. It was initially something I did part time that gave me a chance to stay involved with roleplaying publishing. When the idea of d20 was first floated by Ryan Dancey, I thought it was a unique opportunity. Wizards of the Coast has trouble doing certain types of products profitably, especially short adventures. I was sure I could make a success of short adventures in the early days of 3E, so I wrote Death in Freeport and released it the same day as the D&D PH at GenCon. Death in Freeport was a big hit, later winning an Origins Award, and Green Ronin quickly turned from a hobby to a very serious venture. We've been growing steadily ever since. Now we have two full time employees and two part time employees, and we're releasing two books a month.

I'm the president of Green Ronin, which means I make the major decisions as far as product, direction, and vision goes. I still do design work as well, though of late I've tended to do more development work to make sure all our products are up to snuff.

Rumor persists that D20 isn't the sole light of GRP and that there are some rogue elements within the company publishing (or have published) non D20 products. Please enlighten our audience.

In fact, our very first product was Ork! The Roleplaying Game. It came out the month before Death in Freeport and will always have a special place in our hearts. Ork is a light-hearted look at the fantasy ork, with plenty of backstabbing, murder, and mayhem. There's an adventure on our website called "Santa Claus vs. the Orks." That gives you a very good idea of what Ork is all about.

In September we're launching Spaceship Zero, a stand alone, non-d20 game of 50s-style space adventure. If you like old sci-fi serials like Flash Gordon and Rocky Jones: Space Ranger, you'll dig SSZ.

And what about these non-D20 products will appeal to the masses?

Well, both Ork and SSZ are just plain old fun. Things are often very serious in the d20 market, and these games give you a break from that. How can you say no to super intelligent space monkeys?

Will we ever see licensed GRP miniatures from one of the miniature companies out there? With several of them back from the dead, like Ral Partha and Heartbreaker, some might think now would be a good time for it.

It's not beyond the realm of possibility. As is well known, I love minis, so of course I'd like to see it happen. It's a matter of finding the right property and the right partner.

Why Interlink? In many posts, the dedication to the game system and the fun of writing products is clear, but it's also clear from several posts that GRP is a business and that D20 publishers, despite sharing many similar grounds, are competitors. Do you feel that the Interlink is a necessary touch to help publishers from stepping on each others toes with similar themed books?

Well, we could only smack our heads when Paradigm announced its Races of Legend series on the very same day as our Races of Renown series. We've been friendly with Paradigm for quite some time, ever since Henry Lopez approached me at GAMA Trade Show 2001 about putting Freeport into their Arcanis setting. We figured it was far better for us to work together than butt heads, thus OGL Interlink was born. When it comes down to it, we'd rather work with other publishers so everyone can benefit.

There are also rumors about direct and unfriendly competition between GRP and another publisher. You come out with product Y, they come out with product Y. You come out with product X, they come out with product X. What direct strengths can GRP boast over any other publisher when it comes to D20 mechanics, layout, art, and editing?

The thing about d20 is that everyone is basically plowing the same field, at least for the majority of the fantasy stuff. It was bound to happen that companies would end up planning similar books. In most cases, we just chalk it up to parallel development. It happens and all we can do is try to minimize the damage by making our products as good as they can be. I think Hammer & Helm: A Guidebook to Dwarves is a good example of this. I'll put the writing, design, editing, layout, and artwork of that book up against anything in the RPG field.

GRP is one of the few companies to continually make enhancements, add-ons, and previews of their product through PDF files. Do you think other companies should follow suit or is this something GRP is going to stop because it's not achieving its purpose?

Oh no, we're not stopping. We think previews and enhancements are a great way to show people what they can expect from a Green Ronin product. In fact, we'll be putting up an entire church from Book of the Righteous in the very near future. There's no better way to show off what's cool about Book of the Righteous than to preview a complete church. We also have a great enhancement planned for that book that ties back into Legions of Hell.

The standard question, what's next for Freeport?

We're doing a book called Denizens of Freeport, currently scheduled for December. It focuses on the people of Freeport, presenting a rogues gallery of NPCs you can use in Freeport or nearly any fantasy campaign. It'll be sort of like a monster book in format, with one character per page generally. There'll be complete stats, character history and personality, adventure hooks, and a portrait. We recently got in Wayne Reynolds' cover painting for the book and it's a beauty too.

In terms of monster books, Demons and Devils? The Jade Dragons monster book was timed perfect for Oriental Adventures and so is a logical choice, but why pick the big bad evil boys that WotC has neglected (or did I just answer my own question)? More importantly, what's next for the Outsider monster books?

Demons and devils are the monsters everyone remembers from the original Monster Manual. Look at Necromancer Games, for instance; their company logo is Orcus! I had already written the Guide to Hell for AD&D, so doing Legions was a logical choice. I had done a huge amount of research for Guide to Hell, only a small part of which appeared in the book. I was able to do a lot of stuff in Legions I just didn't have space to do in Guide to Hell. Once Legions was under development, it just made sense to follow it up with a book on demons, hence Armies of the Abyss.

And yes, there will be a volume three to the Book of Fiends, focusing on daemons. Look for that next year.

Book of the Righteous should be out by the time this goes up. What strengths do you think it brings to a D20 fantasy game that Deities & Demigods or Faiths and Avatars doesn't?

Well, for one thing, we don't waste a lot of pages giving you stats for gods. I know that appeals to a certain group of players, but it's really not the style of play we prefer. There was some really cool stuff in Deities and Demigods, and then a whole lot of stats that I'll never ever use. Book of the Righteous does two things very well. First, it gives you 23 completely detailed churches you can slot right into your game. You want an organization with holy days, dogma, titles, sample prayers, and holy orders for the God of Valor? It's in there. Second, it gives you a complete cosmology that ties all the gods together, though the degree to which you use this cosmology is up to you. We give you a lot of ideas for using the cosmology, modifying it, or amalgamating it with whatever you're using in your current campaign. Perhaps the best thing about Book of the Righteous is its depth and richness. I mean, it's a book the size of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting that presents a complete and believable fantasy pantheon and mythology. I think it can add a lot to any fantasy campaign.

About the same time, the Assassin book should be out with the Witch coming up next. What happened to the good old Monster Slayer book?

We've cancelled the Monster Slayer's Handbook actually. Some products are just cursed, and you can continue to bang your head against a wall or just cut your losses. I first conceived it in January 2001 and it was meant to be the first Master Class book. Since then several other d20 products have done a big part of what I wanted in that book, so I finally made the call to kill the project.

Do you find that it's smarter to rework a fixed publishing schedule in terms of what other companies are doing or go head to head?

Well, you'll notice we don't announce products much beyond three months in advance these days. That gives us the flexibility to adjust our schedule when we need to. For instance, we announced an elf book in the initial Races of Renown press release. Since then several other companies announced elf books for this summer. We decided to push ours out into next year, so as not to needlessly compete. Also, we hired Jim Bishop to write Wrath and Rage: A Guidebook to Orcs and Half-orcs, so we could do an OGL Interlink product to tie into Paradigm's Eldest Sons: The Essential Guide to Elves. Wrath and Rage will be out in September and it's quite evil.

Really, what we do depends on how far advanced a project is and how easy it is to adjust our schedule. With the elf book, it was easy. We hadn't even approved an outline yet. For Hammer & Helm, we had a completed manuscript by the time we found out other companies were doing dwarf books, so we soldiered on and released it as we planned. It's been a great seller and has gotten a bevy of five star reviews; so far so good!

Where do you see Green Ronin in two years? How about the D20 system?

I think we'll continue to grow, and by then I hope we'll have a couple more full time staff people. We have some super exciting deals in the works, and over the next few months you'll be able to see where we intend to take the company. By then it should also be clear that Mutants & Masterminds is the last word in d20 supers. We have put together an amazing team for that project and I think the game is simply going to blow people away, both mechanically and graphically. You'll begin to see why at GenCon, where we have a special promotion planned.

As for d20, I think we're already seeing the shape of things to come. There will be six or so heavy hitters in the field, with established track records and fan bases. Then there will be a bunch of smaller companies, both print and PDF. The print companies will have trouble breaking in, because distributors and retailers are already wary of new companies with d20 products. This may lead to more moves like the recent purchases of Thunderhead by Mystic Eye. I also think we'll see a larger and larger fragmentation of the marketplace that will lead at least some companies to give up on d20 products, or at least scale back on their plans. A rare few will go out of business entirely, but that will be the exception, not the rule, as you can keep a roleplaying company going for years on very little money.

Game wise, we'll see more experimentation and more games that go OGL and not d20. I also expect we'll see more licensing deals, as companies try to find advantages to bring to bear. White Wolf's Everquest RPG is but the first of those, I think.

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