Interview – Chris Pramas (Green Ronin Publishing)

Chris Pramas founded Green Ronin Publishing in 2000. In 2001, Green Ronin won an ENnie at the first ENnie Awards ceremony. They have recently worked with DC Comics and Bioware to produce RPGs based upon the DC Universe and Dragon Age, respectively.

Starting off with a more personal question, I first heard of Green Ronin in 2006 when I attended my first ENnies ceremony and saw Mutants & Masterminds do so well. I know that you’ve been around since 2000 and are still going strong today. What keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

Working in gaming is something that gets into your blood. Really, it’s the same impulse that makes people lifelong gamers. It’s creative, it’s fun, and it always brings you back for more. I had friends who have “left the game industry,” sometimes in dramatic fashion. It most cases though, it doesn’t last. A few years later they are back with a new project, even though they know all the grief that can go along with the good stuff. They can’t stay away. It’s the same for me.

In 2001, Green Ronin’s Legions of Hell, The City of Freeport, Death in Freeport, Madness in Freeport, and Focus on Freeport #5: Holiday in the Sun were all nominated and Madness in Freeport won for Best Cartography. You were also up for Best Publisher and the website was nominated for Best Website. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated and won? Did you expect the ENnies to be around longer than that year or just a handful of years?

An interesting bit of trivia is that Green Ronin won the first ENnie that was ever awarded. This was for first year of the awards, when the ceremony was online and hosted by Gary Gygax. The d20 boom was just getting going and our first d20 book, a scenario I wrote called Death in Freeport, won in the Best Adventure category. It so happened that was the first award given out in that inaugural ceremony.

As for how I felt when I first heard of the ENnies, I thought it was cool. EN World was already one of the biggest D&D fansites at that point and I knew it and visited regularly. To get some recognition for my work from a community I liked was nice. I must say I didn’t expect that the ENnies would grow so quickly and manage to supplant the Origins Awards as a RPG award in such short order. I certainly did not expect to be attending big, well-organized ceremonies a decade later.

Did your nominations and wins affect sales of your products? Did they have a lasting effect on sales in general?

You know, it’s hard to say. People rarely tell us, “I’m buying this because it won an award,” when making a purchase. Certainly our ENnie wins have been quite useful when marketing our products and our company, particularly when we won the Best Publisher ENnie three years in a row. All of that is really secondary though. We are happy to simply get some recognition for our work from the gamers who make the hobby what it is.

You’ve recently published DC Adventures and it had been very successful. How did that come about? Did you approach DC, did they approach you, or was it somewhere in between?

It started many years ago when we met some folks who worked on the editorial side of DC. They were gamers and loved M&M and thought a DC game with M&M rules would be awesome. Clearly, we agreed! So we got in touch with the licensing department there and started a long negotiation. I think what ultimately helped finalize the deal was the approach of DC’s 75th anniversary. DC was keen to have their characters and universe everywhere and we were delighted to make that happen in the realm of RPGs.

As for the Dragon Age RPG, I have the same question. Did you approach Electronic Arts or did they approach you? Do you think publishing DA made it any easier to start the ball rolling on DC Adventures?

BioWare approached us, which was quite flattering. They were positioning Dragon Age as the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and they thought it would be cool to do a pen and paper version of the game. I thought, “BioWare…RPG…yes!” The DC negotiations were already underway, so it didn’t affect that.

What products are you working on right now that really excite you? What about with products that will be released shortly?

Set 2 of Dragon Age is pretty exciting. It’s got the rules for levels 6-10 and it adds a lot of fun stuff to the game. We introduce specializations, for example, which let you customize your character even more. You can become an arcane warrior, berserker, or assassin to name but a few. There’s also more world information and a new adventure.

Later in the year we’re doing a new city book for Mutants & Masterminds. For first and second edition we always led off with Freedom City. This time we’re going to do a new city that we’re placing on the West Coast of the Freedomverse. So it expands the “World of Freedom” but is a brand new city setting. We’re pretty excited about it because we’re applying a lot of the lessons we learned from Freedom City. And as a Seattle-based company, it’ll be fun to represent the West Coast in one of our most popular settings.

Now that we’ve been around for almost a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?

For some time now the ENnies have been the most prestigious RPG awards out there. We submit products every year and it’s a given that we’ll attend the ceremony Friday night at Gen Con. I might quibble about this or that part of the process, there’s no other gaming award I feel as good winning.

Last question; if someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?

I’d say the ENnies are sort of like the People’s Choice Awards of gaming. They aren’t stuffy. They aren’t pretentious. They simply aim to honor good RPGs.

Thank you to Chris Pramas for answering my questions. To learn more about Green Ronin Publishing, you can visit their website at http://www.greenronin.com.

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