153950Amazing what not being in GenCon can do to someone’s willpower. As soon as I realized that TitansGrave: the Ashes of Valkana had become available on DriveThruRPG it was already downloading.

So much for that marshmallow test moment.

Anyway, since I have it, I might as well take a peek and share my thoughts on it, yes?

Foreword

The book opens up with a neat little letter from Wil Wheaton, the creator of the setting. Everyone knows him from his incredibly impressive Geek credentials, and Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a big feather on his cap as it is the realization of his own wild imaginings in the 80’s (a decade near and dear to my own heart.)

Chapter 1: Valkana

The first Chapter of the book gives a run down on the history of the world of Valkana. Those that have watched the Tabletop videos will be familiar with this as Wil pretty much narrates this in vivid detail. It’s a solid introduction to the setting, and a lovely backdrop for the current state of unrest (and opportunity) for the player characters.

The book focuses its attentions to describing one region in particular: The Tasmetra Basin, which is graced by a lovely poster map. The Tasmetra Basin contains three city states: Nestora, Karros and Vorakis.

Each of the city-states is given thorough treatment, with a look at their history, rulership, people, notable citizens and locations. Nestora in particular enjoys a two-page spread city map, something that I wish we could have seen for Karros and Vorakis.

Chapter 2: Characters and Equipment

Being a setting book for Fantasy AGE, Valkana diverges in key points from the default of the Fantasy AGE book. Most notably in the form of a new race: the Saurians, and the existence of certain weapons that are more science-fiction than fantasy.

Saurians have a full race write-up in the same format as Fantasy AGE and anyone familiar with Fantasy AGE will get this without any issues.

The game also introduces a few Class Modifications that will apply towards the default classes of Fantasy AGE, such as different starting weapon groups to account for the new weapons in the game.

New Focuses and Talents are also introduced, mostly to allow for interaction with the advanced technologies available to Valkana’s science-fantasy setting. The technologies themselves are introduced next, from blaster weapons to special armor and even handy tools like flashlights and binoculars.

Chapters 3 to 10: The Adventure

The rest of the book is a complete campaign that traces the entire plot of the Tabletop campaign. I won’t go into too much detail here as I don’t want to spoil anything to those who haven’t watched the show.

Each chapter is broken into multiple scenes, each of which is labeled as as Combat or Roleplaying encounter. There’s some “read aloud” text now an then, but plenty of little asides for a GM to use in his own game. The formatting for the adventures are very well done with enemy statistics appearing exactly when they need to be visible at the point in the game.

The adventure is a solid one, with interesting locales, conflicts and more than just fighting involved to get through the conflicts and more than it’s fair share of plot twists.

The book ends with the character sheets for the 4 protagonists from the show, which can appear as NPCs, or serve as pregenerated characters for new groups.

Conclusion

TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a splendid setting that gets the whole Thundarr: The Barbarian vibe across in a consistent world. The setting is very cool, especially for an 80’s kid like me, and the artwork is an absolute joy.

The additional mechanics are very sparse but definitely useful for branching the AGE system into sci-fi stuff, without adding too much complexity.

The adventure is the key component of this product and it is perhaps one of the most fun-looking I’ve read up on in a while. At this point I’m already tempted to call up my gaming group to ask them if we could run this right away.

My only nitpick about it is that I wish it covered more ground in the setting. Still you could have more than enough fun romping around the regions detailed in the book so far.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this line might develop into and how they plan to expand it. Bottomline? Buy it. It might just be your new favorite science-fantasy setting.

Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is available in DriveThruRPG for only $13.99 or roughly Php 674.00


If you’re one of those stuck NOT being in GenCon like me, this should help it hurt a little less… TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana, the Science-Fantasy RPG from the mind of Wil Wheaton is now available in PDF format on DriveThruRPG!

153950Here’s the official blurb from the page:

You watched the show; now play the game! Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is Wil Wheaton’s new tabletop RPG show on Geek & Sundry. It introduces an original science fantasy setting that mixes high magic and hi-tech. Written by a stellar team of award-winning designers, this companion book for the Fantasy AGE RPG gives you background info on Titansgrave, and all the adventures you saw on the show. The adventures include new encounters and options that will let you make the story your own. So grab your blaster and ready your spells. Titansgrave needs heroes!

I’m definitely interested in this, and seeing as I’ll be doing a Let’s Study series for Fantasy AGE, I don’t think it will take long for a Let’s Study review for TitansGrave to happen soon!

You can grab TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana on PDF for only $13.99


Hello and welcome to the last part of our Let’s Study series of the Fantaji Universal role-Playing Game. We’ll be taking a look at the last 1/4th of the book, detailing some “mods” and settings that come with the game.

Mods are technically rules extensions that push the mechanics further, and are great for imbuing your game with a specific feel.

The “neutral” mods are applicable to across different settings, and include:

Milestone Arcs

This Mod allows you to build arcs into a character story, defining a pre-set path towards their destiny as opposed to choosing random Milestones as you go along.

Power Clashing

This Mod allows you to generate more Drama when you roll better than your opponent.

Boons

This Mod let you cash in Themes for more benefits than what the default Milestone System has.

Settings

As mentioned earlier, Fantaji comes bundled with 3 mini-settings, which I believe will be expanded further once Anthropos Games is able to produce full sized books for them. In the Fantaji book, they show a complete Campaign Worksheet, giving you a glimpse of how it was planned out to help you when you make your own games.

Bloodsbane

This is their dark historical fantasy game. It’s got a whole lot of grim and gritty fantasy going for it, from a plague that has devastated the land, to a conflict between three kingdoms, and religous unrest. It’s a kind of setting that might interest fans of Dragon Age in terms of bleakness, though there’s a lot of cultural flavor in each of the kingdoms that is reminiscent to Early Dark RPG, also by Anthropos Games.

The Land of Mazaki

For Anime-ish fantasy fans, Mazaki would be your thing. With fantastical animals and multiple clashing cultures, it’s a setting ripe for action-adventure without being too depressing.

An interesting point to this setting is the importance of keeping nature in balance. The harmony of nature is already thrown off in the game, and the presence of angry feral spirits can serve as a backdrop of a full campaign.

Fans of Asian-inspired settings will also like the fact that Mazaki introduces an Elemental magic system AND a martial arts system that slots seamlessly with the core Fantaji rules.

Waning Moon

For fans of modern urban horror, Waning Moon serves as a gothic setting with demons and fey creatures in a modern world, and the humans who wage war against them. It’s pretty much inspired by the likes of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.

It’s an intriguing setting, and I especially like the hellgate system.

Gamma Centauri

For Sci-Fi fans, Fantaji flexes its techno-muscles with Gamma Centauri, a space opera / Cyberpunk dystopia that has earth reduced to a husk of its former self, having been drained by aliens. It’s pretty bleak as far as space opera goes, but it does present a unique setting that I’ve not seen much of.

Gamma Centauri introduces a Damage Grades Mod that simulates damage dealt by things bigger than human-scale.

Review & Conclusion

Fantaji reminds me of Early Dark in the sense that both of them are clearly works of people who had a single, powerful vision. Fantaji’s approach to gaming takes narrative elements and “gamify”s them, using Drama as a currency to push characters (or obstacles) further. The “Playing To” mechanic insures that all actions serve the hidden bounds of a story’s themes and it all comes together like clockwork.

That said, the elegance of the mechanics also makes it a little difficult to grasp. I’ve read through it and I understand it, but it wasn’t easy. YOu will need to discard quite a bit of your old habits as far as RPG rules go. I definitely see spending more than a few practice sessions of work from all players to finally get it up and running smoothly, but once everyone gets it, Fantaji should run very well.

In addition, Fantaji is very well illustrated and the layout is clean. The language used is pretty accessible, though there are a few parts which make me flinch just the slightest bit, such as when it uses marketing language inside the product (it’s “crazy versatile!” being the most memorable phrase that comes to mind.)

Overall, Fantaji is an unique entry to the lineup of universal RPGs that has a LOT of new ideas. If you like generic RPGs but are tired of point buy options, you might want to give Fantaji a go. It’s not quite FATE, but it certainly feels like a fork of the idea of gamifying a narrative. Definitely a worthy addition to an RPG shelf.

The Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for $15.00 or roughly Php 675.00

If you liked this Let’s Study series, and would like to help me out in making more, please consider being a patron in my Patreon account.


Now that we’ve gone over the mechanics and character creation, we’ll focus on the GM-centric chapters.

Running a Campaign

I’m glad to see that Fantaji’s planning bits is close enough to other games that the advice here is useful to anyone. They open up with a discussion on story arcs, including the classic three-act structure. Recurring Themes are also mentioned here, which are a nice touch as they apply to the game time and again when they show up in different Scenes.

One of the most useful tips I saw here is to envision a Fantaji game as a central conflict that can be resolved by winning a series of key victories. It’s a handy thing to remember and helps align my methodology to tackling campaign creation in smaller steps.

I find it interesting that this chapter is the more approachable version of the prior one. While both have a lot of examples to work with, Running a Campaign does a better job of introducing the moving parts and how they’ll interact.

Game Creation

Now we’re definitely in familiar territory. I’m glad that Fantaji has a discussion of world creation. Some systems tend to be a little too in love with themselves and forget to give the necessary advice to teach new GMs how to build their own campaign setting.

There’s a lot of good advice here, helpful for new and experienced GMs alike. I like that they’ve also included a list of questions for brainstorming. As a GM who is new to this whole shared campaign creation process, it gives me something to work with beyond, “Talk it over until everyone’s happy.”

In addition I do like the fact that Fantaji brings up certain aspects of a game world that any world builder would do well to think about. I’m going through it and I’m seeing things that I wish I’d thought about when I was building some of my homebrew campaign worlds.

It’s clear that the Fantaji team are very old hands at world creation. There’s a lot of good advice and solid wisdom tucked away in these pages that would come in handy for anyone who likes building their own settings.

Next up, we’ll look at the last chapter, which deals with the Neutral Mods and settings that come with Fantaji.

The Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for $15.00 or roughly Php 675.00


At this point, the Fantaji book goes on to talking about how to run a scene. This is perhaps one of the most GM-focused chapters, but is important given how Fantaji’s mechanics are fairly different from most others.

Thankfully, Fantaji’s mechanics are flexible in that they can handle all sorts of conflict, from social to physical. I found this particular chapter interesting as it shows different ways of implementing them in play.

I do like the fact that the authors acknowledge that different groups have different approaches, and the chapter acknowledges these and offers examples and suggestions for each. These include “Smooth Play” mods that are generally organic scenes, a method utilizing random draws for truly random encounters, and a board game style of play that creates a trail of various face down tiles.

Aside from these, Obstacles, Themes and Conditions are also given some attention, with examples of each kind of obstacle given attention. There’s a lot of them to consider, and I’m glad that each example can be used as a springboard for new GMs. Majority of the chapter is composed of detailed examples, and I would encourage careful and thorough study of this chapter to really get a grasp of the game.

—-

At this point it’s become clear that Fantaji is a system born of a lot of thought. The translation of literary concepts to play elements makes it a unique entry in RPGs, mechanics-wise.

However, the versatility comes at a price. It demands that you unlearn a lot of how RPGs function, and can leave readers feeling a little lost. I’m curious as to how this will work out in the long run, but I feel that I could stand to watch a session or two before I feel confident enough to run this.

Speaking of running games, our next article will cover Running a Campaign and Game Creation.

The Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for $15.00 or roughly Php 675.00