[First Impressions Review] Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook by Green Ronin

Posted: July 23, 2015 by pointyman2000 in Fantasy AGE, Green Ronin, Reviews, Roleplaying Games
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fageThe AGE system first came to my attention when it was released with the Dragon Age RPG. I’ve had some opportunities to read about it, but I never really sat down to go over it in detail.

So when I heard that the system was being decoupled from the license and being re-issued as it’s own thing, I was immediately intrigued. The fact that the system was being used for the recently concluded Blue Rose Kickstarter (which I backed) didn’t hurt either.

Fantasy AGE is technically a generic fantasy RPG that will let you play the heroic characters in the well-known adventure fantasy style of play made popular by D&D. If you’re familiar with the 3.X era of rules of D&D, some of the concepts and ideas used in Fantasy AGE will be familiar to you, as the AGE System draws much of it’s inspiration from True20, which in turn was an offshoot of D20.

The book itself is beautifully illustrated, and well laid out in an easy to read fashion. As a generic fantasy ruleset, it doesn’t come with a setting, so those looking for a new game with a complete world might be a bit disappointed.

That said, what IS here is a complete ruleset for running fantasy, with a few innovations that break away from the norm, while sticking to a few sacred cows that could use a bit of simplification.

Basic Mechanics

The Resolution system for the AGE system is a 3d6 + Ability roll against a set difficulty. The twist here is that one of the three dice you roll should be a different color, as it serves as the “Stunt Die” which serves several different purposes.

If a player rolls doubles, then the value of the Stunt Die determines how many Stunt Points is made available for the character for that action. The Character may then execute any number of Stunts that they can pay for with that pool of Stunt Points.

It’s a neat mechanic, and the addition of Stunts certainly adds a bit of dynamism to an encounter.

Character Creation

Making a character in Fantasy Age is pretty straightforward, and might trigger some deja vu from D&D players. The first step is to determine a character’s Abilities. These are:

Accuracy
Communication
Constitution
Dexterity
Fighting
Intelligence
Perception
Strength
Willpower

Unlike D&D, there’s no need to derive further stats from these, as the values in your Ability are the ones you’ll add to your 3d6 roll. I appreciate how this cuts out an unnecessary step and just keeps the useful bits.

Abilities can be rolled and assigned in order, rolled and assigned by preference or bought in a point-buy system.

Ability Focuses are an area of expertise within an Ability. This is the “skill” system of Fantasy Age, and each of the Abilities has at least 4 different Focuses in them. For example, Strength Focuses include Climbing, Driving, Intimidation, Jumping, Might and Smithing.

There are six races to choose from in Fantasy AGE: dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, human and orc. Each one has it’s own package of Modifiers to the character, as well as a small table of randomly determined additional Benefits. It’s a nice touch as it makes certain that two characters of the same race will still have something to make them different from one another.

Once you have your Abilities and Race squared away, you move on to Backgrounds. This trend of adding backgrounds with mechanical impact is a good one, and I’m glad to see it here.

Backgrounds are determined by making a couple of rolls and a lookup in a table. Backgrounds are sorted by Social Class, which ranges from Outsider to Upper Class, and each of those has a smaller list of Backgrounds to come from. Each Background bestows an Ability Focus to the Character.

Finally we get to Classes. There are only three Classes in Fantasy AGE: Warrior, Rogue and Mage. Each of these Classes has a package of traits, including recommendations for primary and secondary Abilities, starting Health and Weapon groups that the character can wield. Each Class also has a large list of powers, that expand with every additional level up to the cap of level 20.

Each level either bestows new abilities or gives opportunities to learn Talents, which are like D20 Feats, though each having a 3 tier progression from Novice, to Journeyman and Master levels.

The only derived stat I could see in the entire character creation process would be the calculation for the character’s Defense value, which is done by adding up 10 + Dexterity + Shield Bonus (if applicable.)

Character Specializations

Here’s the fun part. I know I said that there are only 3 classes in Fantasy AGE, but they get to add back a lot of variation by adding Character Specializations. These are micropackages that are tacked onto an existing character, bestowing benefits at certain levels. Again these benefits are ranked as Novice, Journeyman and Master and have certain requirements for a character to obtain.

Equipment

The Equipment chapter of Fantasy AGE feels surprisingly… old. There’s a lot of bean counting, with perhaps only the absence of encumbrance and weight as the only improvement from the classic D20 stuff.

That said there’s an audience for this kind of stuff, so if you’d like listings for mundane tools, services, goods, food and lodging, the game has those too.

Magic

The Magic system for Fantasy AGE works on the basis of 12 Magic Talents, each covering a different Arcana. Mages begin with 2 of these (each one granting 2 spells each), and they advance in rank as they level up.

Spells require Magic Points to cast, which are calculated by a simple formula: 10 + Willpower + 1d6. This value goes up every time the Mage levels up as well.

Mages learn multiple Arcana, making them surprisingly flexible.

Stunts

Perhaps the biggest mechanical highlight in Fantasy AGE would be the Stunts System. It’s neat and easy to remember, and when used outside of just combat, it lends to some unpredictability that can be a lot of fun. The book also includes tables for Exploration and Roleplaying related stunts, which should help jog the imaginations of the players as they go through their adventures.

The GM section

The rest of the chapters goes into some very thorough GMing advice, and covers all the important bits from running the game, to coming up with your own setting, to a chapter on monsters and a sample adventure. It’s a great template to follow and the kind of content that I’d love to see in more games of this kind.

Conclusion

The Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is beautiful, well-laid out, accessible and sits on the lighter side of rules complexity. There’s a lot to like here, much like in 13th Age, as it improves on an existing ruleset but doesn’t innovate where it doesn’t need to.

It feels solid, and the Stunts are a nice touch. I can certainly see introducing this game to new players and getting them started with little trouble. With new Settings coming out soon, it’s definitely worth your money.

Also, given that this is “Fantasy” AGE, I’m quietly hoping that there will be a “Sci-Fi AGE” “Modern AGE” or even “Supers AGE” somewhere on the horizon too.

—-

The Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is available in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for only $15.99 or roughly Php 720.

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Comments
  1. Edward says:

    Nice writeup, like you i’ve been waiting for the “generic” version of the AGE system since the release of Dragon Age. I’m pretty pleased with their effort and looking forward to where else they take the system.

  2. chadhulhu says:

    Love the review, and I also would love to see it go farther in different genre, Horror AGE, etc. I am playing around with it, after trying Dragon Age, which I gotta admit I fell in love with, making me wonder if it will beat my D&D love.

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