N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season RPG: An Interview with Chris Pramas (Green Ronin Publishing)

Years ago, I was at Gen Con when Will Sobel, then Green Ronin’s media coordinator, told me about an exciting property that they were licensing for an RPG, N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy. This brings her work to tabletop where it’ll shine next to Mike Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk 2020 and RED, Chris Spivey’s Harlem Unbound and Haunted West, and Tanya DePass’ (who is working on this project) Into the Mother Lands. With Green Ronin bringing The Fifth Season RPG to tabletop, I talked with Chris Pramas about N.K. Jemisin’s world.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Can you share an overview of The Fifth Season RPG?
: Fifth Season is an AGE system roleplaying game based on the award-winning Broken Earth Trilogy of novels by N.K. Jemisin, about a world where seismic and volcanic activity make survival such a struggle that “stonelore” concerning how to ensure the continuation of a community has governed life for thousands of years, and rare individuals, known as orogenes, are gifted (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with the power to quell or cause geological catastrophes.

EGG: The books from N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth Trilogy, the foundation of this project, won Hugo Awards, a Locus Award, and a Nebula Award. Will this rulebook cover the entire Broken Earth Trilogy (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky) or just the first novel?
: The Broken Earth Trilogy tells a specific story with a particular beginning, middle, and end which, without going into spoilers, changes many things. The Fifth Season RPG looks at telling other stories in the Stillness, the continent where people live on that world. So, you can say it’s set before the first novel, and it means those interested in the setting can read the novels without spoilers. (And if you haven’t read them you, you absolutely should — they’re fantastic.)

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EGG: You’re using the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system to power this tabletop roleplaying game. This engine was used for The Expanse RPG, the tabletop adaptation for Dragon Age, the Modern AGE including adapting Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus comic series, and more. What makes the AGE system the right option for N.K. Jemisin’s story?
: The AGE system has proven really adaptable for all kinds of settings, as you note. We’ve used it for both original games and our own properties, like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose, as well as licensed settings, from The Expanse to Dragon Age. We’ve been able to apply all that we have learned and developed with the AGE system over the past decade (and multiple games) to framing the challenges of the Fifth Season, while also continuing to innovate and develop AGE in different ways, such as incorporating the setting’s use-castes and a system for creating comms (communities) and adding gameplay at the comm level in seasonal turns, actions, and events.

EGG: One of AGE’s secret sauces involves Stunt Points, options to buy cooler effects. In The Fifth Season’s version of the engine, will the “Stunt Points” be called that? What types of actions will players be able to obtain by spending those points?
: They are still called Stunt Points, and while players will find many of the familiar stunts from other AGE system games in Fifth Season, there is also a focus on exploration, investigation, and social stunts over action and combat stunts, as well as relationship stunts, based off systems we used in Blue Rose and Modern AGE. “Feral” orogenes are also handled with stunts, as are some of the skills and abilities of the different use-castes in the society of the Stillness.

EGG: You have a free quickstart for this project. What does the quickstart include?
: The Fifth Season Quickstart will be available for immediate download for folks to check out the game, the world, and its stories. The 45-page PDF comes with a complete, condensed overview of the rules of play, a walkthrough of the character sheet, an introduction to the world of the Stillness, a sample comm (home community), six ready-to-play characters with player reference sheets, and the 15-page introductory adventure “Stress Fractures,” set in our sample comm, giving players and Game Moderators a sense of the unique challenges faced by characters in the Stillness, as compared to many RPG “adventurers.” We’re also making the Quickstart available on Roll20 so it will be even easier to get a game together to try it out.

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EGG: Who is working on this project?
: The Fifth Season has a terrific team behind it, including Joe Carriker, Hiromi Cota, Samantha Day, Tanya DePass, Steve Kenson, Monte Lin, Nell Raban, Alice Rendell, Eugenio Vargas, Kiara Vincent, and LaShawn M. Wanak, among others. In theme with the world, it really takes a community to bring everything together.

EGG: How much will N.K. Jemisin be involved in crafting this book? Will there be any original fiction from N.K. appearing in the rulebook?
: She has final approval of everything included in Fifth Season, of course, but is providing oversight rather than contributing directly to the book. More fiction and Fifth Season screenplay adaptations don’t write themselves! She has graciously agreed to provide signed bookplates for a select number of early backers of the crowdfunder, however, which we’re excited to offer.

EGG: This project is crowdfunding on Backerkit. Why choose Backerkit for this project?
: We’ve used Backerkit extensively and successfully for many of our previous crowdfunding projects, so when they announced they would be providing the front-end backing as well as after-funding support, it seemed like a natural for us to try it out.

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EGG: Beyond The Fifth Season RPG, Green Ronin has a new Fantasy AGE edition coming? What can you tease about that project?
: It never rains but it pours! With our recently crowdfunded Cthulhu Awakens RPG in production, and Fifth Season ready to go into crowdfunding at the time of this interview, we also have the second edition of our popular Fantasy AGE RPG getting ready to head off to print and pre-order. Fantasy AGE second edition is the culmination of all of our development of the AGE system since the original Basic Rulebook was published back in 2015. There have been a lot of words under the bridge since then, and we felt it was time to re-launch Fantasy AGE with a new core rulebook that reflected all of that and incorporates some of the mechanical innovations of other AGE RPGs. The new Peril system, for example, adapts the Churn rules from The Expanse RPG. Players will also find a new fourth character class (the social-focused Envoy), updated mechanics, more specializations, new and updated character ancestries, and expanded spell list and much more. The core book also introduces the Breakwater Bay starter setting and adventure and an introduction to the meta-setting we’re calling Stranger Shores that includes any fantasy realm you care to imagine.

EGG: For fans wanting to learn more about this crowdfunding project on Backerkit, where can they look? What about for Green Ronin?
: Folks can visit the Backerkit landing page for Fifth Season to get the Fifth Season Quickstart right away. As always, [our website] is our home for all of our news and information, and we encourage gamers interested in our work to check out our weekly streaming shows like ThursdAGE every Thursday, on our YouTube channel.

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The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game by Green Ronin Publishing
  • End Date: Feb 23, 2023 at 7:00pm PST.
  • “N.K. Jemisin’s multiple Hugo Award-winning Broken Earth Trilogy comes to tabletop RPGs in The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game!”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

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Is this the first licensed RPG by a Black author?

We've obviously seen RPGs based on the works of JRRT, GRRM, Star Wars, Star Trek, DC and Marvel Comics, all of whom are either white men or are led by white men.

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