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'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
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.