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Mutants & Masterminds Patreon: An Interview With Green Ronin Publishing

Are you a fan of Mutants & Masterminds from Green Ronin Publishing? They’ve launched a Patreon to continue the production of great M&M products. Patreon is an excellent tool as EN Publishing has several Patreons (EN5ider, EN World, Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk, and E.O.S.) that help fund the many projects Morrus crafts. Green Ronin going the same route proves the importance of Patreons to the financial health of RPGs. Joining me are Crystal Frasier and Steve Kenson to talk about the Mutants & Masterminds Patreon.

M&M Banner.PNG

EGG EMBRY (EGG): Crystal, Steve, thank you for taking the time to discuss Green Ronin Publishing’s Patreon for Mutants & Masterminds. For those that have not played M&M before, can you tell us a bit about the setting and system?
CRYSTAL FRASIER (CRYSTAL)
: Mutants & Masterminds at its core is a “roll a d20 and add your bonus” style game that adds a lot of elements from storytelling games so players have more freedom to use their abilities in creative ways or even add elements to the story. The game is presented without setting in the core book, but we spend a lot of time fleshing out Earth-Prime, which pays some homage to our favorite comic book characters and storylines while adding a lot of “four-color modern” flavor.
STEVE KENSON (STEVE): In brief, Mutants & Masterminds is a d20-based system built around the d20 + modifier vs. a difficulty class system familiar to players of D&D and other d20-based games. It has developed considerably since it’s D&D 3rd Edition based roots. Although there’s considerable content for Earth-Prime, the setting Green Ronin has been supporting since the first edition of Freedom City, M&M itself is a “setting agnostic” game system, suitable for all kinds of super-powered settings.

EGG: This isn’t the “standard” Patreon, it’s an official Green Ronin Publishing endeavor. What advantages does Green Ronin see for M&M with this service?
CRYSTAL
: Printing physical books is becoming increasingly difficult and is a slow process, so we can’t deliver new M&M content as often as we or the fans would like, and it unfortunately means a lot of older content can’t get the attention it deserves. Patreon gives us the option to release small bits of content at a time in a platform where we can easily hear about what fans want and deliver exactly that, or work on small projects that don’t have an obvious place in the normal print release schedule. Case in point: Our fans on M&M Monday told us they were craving more villains, so the first series of releases for the Patreon are villains!
STEVE: The pandemic has affected how we deliver content to our fans. Patreon both provides Green Ronin with another venue to provide Mutants & Masterminds fans with content for the game, and another kind of content we can deliver. In particular, Patreon lets us tackle smaller projects that don’t necessarily fit into a larger product.

EGG: What edition of M&M will the content available through this crowdfunding platform support?
CRYSTAL
: The material will all be for 3rd edition, with a big focus on updating material from previous editions to the current one. We’re hoping to also tinker with some optional rules ideas that, again, don’t have an obvious place in our print books, and that might include updating rules and feats from older editions to 3rd edition.
STEVE: Although the M&M Patreon will focus on 3rd edition content, one of those aforementioned smaller projects is updating some earlier edition content to 3rd edition, so there will definitely be things for fans of “classic” M&M products!
M&M Backer Levels.PNG
EGG: You offer several backer levels. What does the “Sidekick” level offer to backers?
STEVE
: I like to think of “Sidekick” as the “core” backer level. It gets patrons pretty much all of the actual content we release through the Patreon.
CRYSTAL: Like Steve said, “Sidekick” is the presumed default for most of our backers. At the current release schedule that gets you one character PDF a week for the same price you’d pay for a single Rogues Gallery or Threat Report installment. As the Patreon grows and we can dedicate more time to it, however, that value grows because you’ll start getting access to new setting material and eventually twice as many villains.

EGG: What do you get at the highest level, “Prime”?
CRYSTAL
: “Prime” is the level that gives dedicated fans some personal investment in Mutants & Masterminds. At that level you can participate in developer chats to get answers to your burning setting and rules questions and ask for advice, and you also get name-dropped into the Earth-Prime setting, preserving you as a part of superhero posterity.
STEVE: The “Hero” and “Prime” tiers are more interactive, for really engaged fans, offering things like voting on upcoming projects, interacting with us through development chats or live-streams, and chances to even get name-dropped in new M&M content!

EGG: Like many crowdfunding projects, this one has stretch goals. When these are unlocked, what will they offer to the backers?
STEVE
: The Patreon doesn’t have “stretch goals” so much as it has just regular old goals, or what we might call “benchmarks” that represent a point at which we can devote more time and resources to producing content through the Patreon. As the Patreon has more support, it “levels up” and can offer more to all of the patrons in terms of content. It’s a win-win.
CRYSTAL: The benchmarks basically tell us when people are interested enough in this weird side material that we can start dedicating more time and resources to it. The first benchmark is generating some new content; basically every month both Steve and I will do a short blog-style entry describing something in detail in Earth-Prime, like discussing a specific store or urban legend or organization. Later benchmarks will unlock even more content for the same price.

EGG: Those are cool offers. This Patreon focuses on updating existing content. Will this content be made available to non-Patreon backers somewhere else?
STEVE
: I think the only exclusivity we can promise patrons is that they will see content on the Patreon first. That said, since a number of Patreon projects are things we wouldn’t have done or released as stand-alones, there’s a good chance they’ll remain Patreon “exclusive” until we find another venue suited to release them, such as an updated edition of a sourcebook or the like. We are… weren’t not great at long-term planning. That’s why we’re not villains.
CRYSTAL: The plan is for this material to be available for exclusively to patrons for the time being. A later benchmark will open the basic statblock material for everyone, and I’m not going to rule out the idea of putting together print “M&M Annuals” from Patreon material or something similar, but hopefully if we do something like that we’ll include a special nod to our patrons to let them know their faith in us is appreciated.

EGG: Beyond the Patreon, what other 2021 M&M content can fans expect from Green Ronin?
CRYSTAL
: 2021 is finally going to get the print edition of Danger Zones ready for everyone, with expanded material beyond the individual PDFs, and we’ll be continuing the Astonishing Adventures line with new material to get GMs and players busy. We’re hopefully also going to squeeze the Vigilante’s Handbook in with some Astonishing Adventure support. Just keep in mind that we’re just a pair of part-timers.
STEVE: The overall M&M schedule is Crystal’s bailiwick. I’m just looking forward to being involved in as many of those projects as time and scheduling allow!

Crystal Frasier.jpg
Steve Kenson.jpg

EGG: What non-M&M projects are you working on for Green Ronin or for yourself?
CRYSTAL
: I like to chip in on other Green Ronin lines when I can, especially AGE. I also have a few writing projects going outside the industry like the upcoming Love is a Battlefield anthology for DC Comics and an unnamed graphic novel from Oni Press. I also publish some of my own game tinkering and writing advice on my personal Patreon.
STEVE: I write for pretty much all of Green Ronin’s game lines to one degree or another, so I have various irons in the fire for AGE System projects for Blue Rose, Modern AGE, Fantasy AGE, or The Expanse, as well as Mutants & Masterminds. I also just launched another Patreon to support content for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying from my own Ad Infinitum Adventures imprint, letting me apply the notion of “short, monthly content from a grab-bag of diverse ideas” to that game as well. It’s at [my Patreon].

EGG: Thanks for talking with me. Where can fans find this Patreon and follow your work?
CRYSTAL
: The Patreon is [here]. You can follow me most easily on Twitter, though I post a lot more about politics and queer issues than I do about game design, sadly. I’d much prefer to write only about games and comics, but these are challenging times and it’s important to use the platform you have to spread awareness.
STEVE: We definitely appreciate folks checking out the Patreon and giving us a new way of continuing to bring you the Mutants & Masterminds support and content you enjoy, and hope that you’ll consider becoming a patron.

Mutants & Masterminds from Green Ronin Publishing

“Creating the world’s #1 superhero roleplaying game.” Special thanks to Owen KC Stephens for suggesting this article as well as Troy Hewitt for arranging it with the creators.

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
Green Ronin perplexes me with these initiatives of theirs. First their traditional crowdfunding endeavors really don't offer much value as they tend to be full MSRP and you pay shipping on top of that. The only real "get" with these is that you get a PDF included, though since alot of other publishers will provide a PDF with a physical purchase nowadays as a matter of course, that's not really a great value proposition.

Now this, in which you pay sight unseen for content you don't know will interest you or will be of use for you. The fact that these then will also be made available after probably (according to the interview) and aren't promised exclusive makes one wonder what the reason for signing up for the Patreon is. Why wouldn't I wait until it's made available and just buy the parts of interest to me?

I get how it's a good deal for them, they get paid to develop content that they can use later in print and make money on both ends that way. I just don't see how this is a good deal for anybody else.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
I'm becoming more and more anti these monthly service driven concepts, whether it's for games or software. Everything adds up to this constant drain from your finances. I'd rather just purchase an item(s) that interests me with my set aside hobby money. Anyhow, thanks for the interview Egg, I'm a fan of Green Ronin and own quite a bit of their product lines.
 
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This is a bit of a pity to me, because like, I get that they have to make the game for their audience, but as exciting as M&M was back in the day, there's just no way I'd buy into a d20-mechanic resolution supers RPG now. The high randomness is unattractive for this kind of play, and unless they've changed things (or I'm seriously misremembering), M&M doesn't feature margin-of-success or fail-forward design that would mitigate that. But there's a ton of artistic and design talent in there. Oh well.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Green Ronin perplexes me with these initiatives of theirs. First their traditional crowdfunding endeavors really don't offer much value as they tend to be full MSRP and you pay shipping on top of that. The only real "get" with these is that you get a PDF included, though since alot of other publishers will provide a PDF with a physical purchase nowadays as a matter of course, that's not really a great value proposition.

Now this, in which you pay sight unseen for content you don't know will interest you or will be of use for you. The fact that these then will also be made available after probably (according to the interview) and aren't promised exclusive makes one wonder what the reason for signing up for the Patreon is. Why wouldn't I wait until it's made available and just buy the parts of interest to me?

I get how it's a good deal for them, they get paid to develop content that they can use later in print and make money on both ends that way. I just don't see how this is a good deal for anybody else.
Getting a deal, as a consumer, isn't really what a crowdfunding campaign is all about. I mean sure, sometimes publishers will offer a lower price to Kickstarter backers or Patreon supporters, but that's actually becoming les common across the industry and crowdfunding becomes a more commonly used tool.

As a consumer, crowdfunding MIGHT get you a deal, but what it really gets you is a chance to help make a project you're interested in come to life. If any given project doesn't get enough backers, it usually doesn't happen.

When you are deciding whether to become a backer or a particular campaign or not . . . . you certainly have to weigh the value of the product/service against the price and also the delivery timeframe . . . . but that's not really all that different from making those sorts of decisions on books that are currently in print, sitting on a shelf waiting for you to buy them.

Getting a deal certainly might push you over the edge into backing a project . . . I know I've passed on projects where the crowdfunding price was MSRP, my budget was tight, and I figured I could pick it up later through traditional channels. It might be a good idea for a company to discount products for crowdfunders, but . . . that isn't the point of crowdfunding, and it isn't always going to be the "right choice".

I'm not going to become a Patreon supporter of Green Ronin's M&M Patreon . . . but I hope it works out well for the company and M&M fans. If they launch a Blue Rose or Fantasy AGE Patreon, I just might become a backer!
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I'm becoming more and more anti these monthly service driven concepts, whether it's for games or software. Everything adds up to this constant drain from your finances. I'd rather just purchase an item(s) that interests me with my set aside hobby money. Anyhow, thanks for the interview Egg, I'm a fan of Green Ronin and own quite a bit of their product lines.
I hear you.

I have monthly subscriptions to video games (WoW), television streaming services, and several TTRPG Patreons . . . . it does add up!

To me, it just means I need to pay more attention to what I'm signing up for, and if I'm really getting value out of it. I keep a spreadsheet of every monthly subscription I have, and regularly switch back-and-forth between supporting different services to keep my "entertainment" purchases within my budget. That reminds me, I haven't played WoW in a while, either need to start playing again, or cancel that sub!

But I LOVE, LOVE most of these services and find them a great value . . . I just can't do them all at once!

There's an ad I keep seeing on FB that has all these harried people complaining, "What? Netflix is still charging me every month?" The service offers to track subscription charges for you to help you cancel services you are no longer using and "save money" . . . . I don't find it all that hard to handle that myself, without paying yet another monthly fee for someone to do it for me . . . .
 

ibenny

Explorer
I'm becoming more and more anti these monthly service driven concepts, whether it's for games or software. Everything adds up to this constant drain from your finances. I'd rather just purchase an item(s) that interests me with my set aside hobby money. Anyhow, thanks for the interview Egg, I'm a fan of Green Ronin and own quite a bit of their product lines.
I perfectly agree. It’s bogging my mind that I basically can’t escape this type of new model no matter how much I wish to, there are certain services I need to subscribe. I try and keep them under control with constant supervision but I reached a minimum, while I find the total sum way too much even this way (and I have no media streaming subscriptions like Netflix and such)..it’s crazy and I’m deeply against them.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
I'm becoming more and more anti these monthly service driven concepts, whether it's for games or software. Everything adds up to this constant drain from your finances. I'd rather just purchase an item(s) that interests me with my set aside hobby money. Anyhow, thanks for the interview Egg, I'm a fan of Green Ronin and own quite a bit of their product lines.

It's tough because companies need to keep funds coming in to pay for the development of their lines. Some companies will offer a discount, but others I think don't want to hurt their distributor or retail partners and maintain standard mark-ups even though they are getting far more of the profit than through standard distribution.

As a retailer, I appreciate they haven't forgotten about my market for their products (though some companies set up a tier for me, which I appreciate), but as a fan I want my dollar to be spread as thin as possible.

I think some companies choose not to discount their brand and that can cause some of their market to feel alienated.

It's almost damned if you do or damned if you don't.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
I perfectly agree. It’s bogging my mind that I basically can’t escape this type of new model no matter how much I wish to, there are certain services I need to subscribe. I try and keep them under control with constant supervision but I reached a minimum, while I find the total sum way too much even this way (and I have no media streaming subscriptions like Netflix and such)..it’s crazy and I’m deeply against them.

As a consumer, you should make sure to communicate that reason as you quit a service.
 



Corrosive

Adventurer
That's something I always try to do and I feel I'm usually pretty good about doing so. Though some don't appear to appreciate it or become argumentative.
Speaking as somebody from the other end of that line (different industry), the "why did you leave?" comments is the "call us abusive names" line. Even when people aren't being abusive, they're often really rude. Generally we ignore it.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
As a consumer, you should make sure to communicate that reason as you quit a service.
It's not really a reason they can use though, is it? "I'm not interested in your subscription service because I'm subscribed to too many subscription services?"

It's like telling a car dealer that the reason you're not interested in that shiny Mercedes is because you have too many cars. That's not useful data.

If you want to leave useful feedback, you need to say why you're cancelling this one, not one of the many others you're subscribed to.
 

I'm a big fan of the Mutants and Masterminds system and I've promoted it to many people, but I'm getting more and more irritated with the way GR treat the line, to be honest.

Pretty much all their other lines - all the licences like Expanse, Dragon Age, ASOIAF, plus Blue Rose, get big hardcopy releases, while M&M gets a trickle of e-content that is extremely expensive by comparison, content per content. And this isn't a new thing and it's been very corrosive to the quality of the M&M3e line as a whole. When 3rd edition was first released, GR started releasing the Power Profiles, Gadget Guides, Atlas of Earth-Prime, and Threat Report mini-pdfs for a couple of bucks each and then eventually consolidated them into books. Unfortunately, the books read like bunch of mini-pdfs thrown together, rather than coherent sourcebooks. M&M3e was crying out for a book similar to the 2e Ultimate Power, with help on building powers (clarifying how certain Limited Afflictions work would be GREAT, as would fixing Shrinking, some attempt at a 3e implementation of the 2e Independent and Slow Fade, build options for Weaken to make it less all-or-nothing, and so on and so on). The Power Profiles compiled book (when it finally appeared, much much later) didn't even attempt to address these issues, which were well-known in the community at the time, it simply bundled the pdfs. Similarly, the big Atlas of Earth-Prime sourcebook was hamstrung because its chapters had been broken up in such a way as to make convenient pfd-saleable packets rather than by what would enable a more functional and sensible description of the setting. You can see the footprints of this approach in the book now. It's broken up into 11-page chunks describing individual geographic areas. So you get 11 pages on the Caribbean and 11 pages on Mexico - but also 11 pages on all of 'East Asia' including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines etc. It just makes for a disjointed book that's less-functional as a world setting - and a big part of the reason why is the mandate that everything fitted in nice neat 11-page packets to feed the mini-pdf production model.

It seems like the mini-pdf release model has shaped the entire line, and not in a good way - and I can't help be pessimistic that the patreon will only continue that trend.

I recently signed up to the GR patreon, at the lowest level (A$4.50ish/month). They seem to mostly be doing villain writeups there, and that is a content type that DOES work well with lots of small releases, so I'm fine with that. Frankly, i suspect I won't last long though. The patreon doesn't make it clear that this is the case, but at the lowest level you get a weekly stat block and nothing else. To get the villain's descriptive text, you need to go with the next level up. I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is just a matter of imprecise writing of the patreon tiers rather than anything nefarious, but still, I was fairly cheesed off when i found this out (and to be fair, the descriptions I do have access to seem to be copy-pasted from 2e material I already own, but this may not always be the case in future). To get 4 full villain writeups a month, I'd need to pay A$11. The PDF of the Rogue's Gallery sourcebook (which claims to contain over 150 villains, of which maybe 70-80ish have full writeups and art) is something in the order of A$28 on the Green Ronin online store, while I can get an actual hardcover from a local game shop for A$57. Sure on the patreon you get HeroLab files etc ... but really? The comparative value for money is very, very low here.

So .. I'll give the patreon a while longer, but I'm skeptical. M&M really seems like an afterthought to GR as an organisation these days. The licenced properties seem to be getting all the love instead - none of THEM seem to have to put up with loads of expensive tiny pdf-only releases before maybe getting a hardcopy compilation a couple of years down the track. And that's probably just a reflection of the commercial realities that GR lives in, but it does tend to disgruntle one...
 
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Sunsword

Adventurer
It's not really a reason they can use though, is it? "I'm not interested in your subscription service because I'm subscribed to too many subscription services?"

It's like telling a car dealer that the reason you're not interested in that shiny Mercedes is because you have too many cars. That's not useful data.

If you want to leave useful feedback, you need to say why you're cancelling this one, not one of the many others you're subscribed to.

Respectfully, I disagree. I think saying that a monthly sub isn't the best way for you to support a company but maybe a KS is a better fit for your budget. Different strokes.
 

ibenny

Explorer
Respectfully, I disagree. I think saying that a monthly sub isn't the best way for you to support a company but maybe a KS is a better fit for your budget. Different strokes.
Please allow me to disagree here. My whole sentiment was about wanting to pay less, so the point is not to be able to use a different channel but the option to stop paying altogether and save that money.
 
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Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Please allow me to disagree here. My whole sentiment was about wanting to pay less, so the point is not to be able to use a different channel but the option to stop paying altogether and save that money.
So, you don't have the option of not purchasing subscriptions to gaming services? I'm a bit confused. I find it easy not to purchase something when it doesn't meet my needs or is outside of my budget.
 

ibenny

Explorer
So, you don't have the option of not purchasing subscriptions to gaming services? I'm a bit confused. I find it easy not to purchase something when it doesn't meet my needs or is outside of my budget.
I was talking about things more in a general sense, mostly about various services, not only RPG-related. The problem is that more and more providers resort to this sort of "model", which is at least worrying.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I was talking about things more in a general sense, mostly about various services, not only RPG-related. The problem is that more and more providers resort to this sort of "model", which is at least worrying.
Are you talking software services, like a subscription to MS Office or Photoshop? I can see those as "necessary" for you, depending on your job.

I totally get the frustration of subscription piling on top of subscription and becoming rather expensive. But you'll be paying for the "required" services one way or another, either all-at-once or month-to-month.

Not having the option to "stop paying altogether" doesn't really float with leisure and entertainment services. The folks making that content need to get paid, one way or another. Even with more "required" services, folks got to get paid.
 

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