Chris Pramas is the founder and bossman of Green Ronin. He’s worked on such titles as Warhammer FRP, Feng Shui and the Guide to Hell. This means he’s worked for the likes of Games Workshop, Wizards of the Coast as well as the trend setting Green Ronin. GameWyrd’s questions appear in strange blue, Chris’ answers are in typical black.
1) I like to ask publishers “What makes your products better than anyone else’s” – we either get to see some clever diplomacy or some interesting answers. The question has a slightly different spin for you though. Green Ronin’s products continuingly come out top at ENWorld’s charts. So, what makes your products better than anyone else?
Three things, I think. First, we love what we do. Second, everyone on our staff is an industry veteran with 10+ years of experience. Third, we have been dedicated to putting out quality product from the get-go. When you see an announced book slip its release date, it’s because it’s not ready. We will not put out any old thing, and I think our record reflects that. We try to maintain high standards of design, illustration, graphic design, and editing, so people can trust the Green Ronin logo.
2) You started Green Ronin while you were still at Wizards of the Coast? Why? Didn’t they work you hard enough?
I was the Creative Director of Miniatures R&D at the time, working on Chainmail. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a total minis guy, but most of my professional work had been on RPGs. After a couple of years working exclusively on minis stuff, I found I missed doing RPGs. Starting Green Ronin gave me an opportunity to get back into RPG work and do so on my own terms. Additionally, I thought the d20/OGL was a very good business opportunity. I thought it was worth taking a chance on, since the potential payoff of getting product out the gate early was substantial. The printing of Death in Freeport was a big gamble, but I’m glad I trusted my gut.
3) You worked on many products before Green Ronin, which has been your favourite? If we add those products you’ve worked on while at Green Ronin does your favourite change?
Dragon Fist, my martial arts AD&D variant, is probably my favourite. I love Hong Kong movies and Chinese mythology and history, so designing Dragon Fist was a lot of fun. Luckily, I was able to buy the rights from Wizards of the Coast, and Green Ronin will be publishing a new edition in 2004.
If you include Green Ronin stuff, I’d probably say Legions of Hell. Again, a very fun book to write, and it gave me an excuse to buy a lot of cool books (research, don’t you know!).
4) Have any of Green Ronin’s successes been especially surprising? Which?
I was surprised by the magnitude of Mutants & Masterminds’ success. My basic idea was to do a supers game for the d20 market, but M&M just exploded and has enjoyed success well beyond the core d20 audience. Needless to say, the game’s reception has been quite gratifying.
5) You’re doing a second printing of Ultramodern Firearms? Second printings seem pretty unusual. Why do you think that is?
The advent of d20 has been great in some ways, but not so great in others. One of the real downsides is that the shelf life of the average sourcebook is generally shorter than it used to be. Many companies find that they get 90% of their sales in the first two months of a book’s lifespan. That’s why you see fewer subsequent printings than you used to.
Our books backlist better than most, and Ultramodern Firearms in particular is what’s known as an “evergreen” product. Basically, certain types of sourcebooks have a steady demand and gun books are a prime example. It’s just a very useful book and we plan to keep it in print as long as d20 Modern is supported.
6) If you could make any one game widely popular – which would it be?
Rather than one game, I’d like to see historical miniatures gaming become more popular. I can play Warhammer and 40K anytime I want (and I do), but the only use I’ve gotten out of my extensive collection of 28mm WWII minis was running the playtests for V for Victory (the Polyhedron mini game I did this year). I wish it were easier to find good opponents, with as much enthusiasm for history as I have.
7) Is there anyone in the industry you’d particularly like to have work for Green Ronin or is there a company you’d like to do a guest author product for?
I’d love to have Sandy Petersen write a Freeport adventure. A year ago I probably would have said Graeme Davis, but we made that happen with Tales of Freeport (and two more books forthcoming).
8) Are you concerned about certain religious groups getting upset with Testament? Do you have plans, lawyers or air raid bunkers in place to deal with them?
No, not really. We tried to be respectful of all the different cultures treated in the book and people seem to appreciate the effort. The worst response we got wasn’t from a religious person at all, but a Marxist who was convinced we were publishing “Christian propaganda.” Never mind that Testament is specifically Old Testament, so Christianity isn’t even covered.
9) Are there any aspects of the gaming industry that you’re finding of particular interest right now? What should we be looking forward to?
I’m finding the splintering of d20 to be quite interesting. 3.5 seems to be splitting the audience itself, with some people refusing to upgrade and others picking and choosing which if the new rules to use in their games. Then there are games like Mutants & Masterminds and Spycraft that are based on d20 but have created their own identity. Other companies seem to be following suit. It remains to be seen how far this process will go. I think you can look forward to a lot of ambitious failures.
10) If you could go back in time and do any one thing again – what would it be?
After the success of Death in Freeport, I toyed with the idea of quitting WotC immediately and going hell for leather with Green Ronin. At the time, it wasn’t clear whether d20 would last or be a flash in the pan. If I knew I’d still be doing this three years on and with no end in sight, I would have quit and ramped up our production schedule right away. There was a lot of money to be made the first six months of d20, until everyone and their brother hopped on the bandwagon.
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Out of the Box section now. A couple of unusual questions for which we expect unusual answers!)
11) You’ve been given a suitcase full of small white d6. The challenge is to use them in such a way that gets you into the news – the more coverage the better – what do you try first?
I fly to Europe during the Tour de France. As the pack of bikers round a picturesque corner, I roll the bones across the road. Massive mayhem and media coverage ensues.
12) You’re trying to cross a bridge when some crotchety old guy with a messy beard leaps out in front of you, waves his umbrella around and states, “You shall not pass!” What do you do?
Hail a cab, go across the bridge, and flip off the old guy from the safety of my ride.
(GameWyrd notes – We’re in the Super Bonus Bribe Question section now. We sit back and let the e-View target do all the work by inventing the question and then giving the answer.)
13) What’s on the horizon for Green Ronin?
We had a very busy summer, exhibiting Origins, San Diego Comic Con, and GenCon in quick succession. We spent the rest of August getting caught up, so we have two products about to hit and five more at print. Our Modern GM Screen (with a 32 page adventure by the Game Mechanics) and the second printing of Ultramodern Firearms will be in stores soon. Next up will be Skull & Bones, our Golden Age of Piracy campaign setting. If you liked Pirates of the Caribbean, you’ll love Skull & Bones. Later this month you’ll see the Modern Player’s Companion and Bow & Blade: A Guidebook to Wood Elves, followed by our most requested book of the summer, Crooks for Mutants & Masterminds. I just approved the proofs for Crooks today and it looks amazing. I think fans will find it well worth the wait. Lastly, we just sent Torches & Pitchforks, our first ever card game, to print this week. This will hopefully be the first in a series of card and board games. Look for that in time for Halloween.