Welcome back!Today’s Let’s Study article will be a bit of a shift as we’ll be looking at the entire Game Master’s Guide section of the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook in one go, rather than by chapter.
Every basic rulebook should always be able to communicate and sell people on the idea of running a game. This means that they should be able to portray the act of running a game as a fun alternative to playing. To do this, they’d have to show both the mechanics that GMs use, as well as teach the psychology and methods that GMs apply in their games.
So how does Fantasy AGE measure up to that task? Let’s Find out.
The Game Master
The first chapter is all about the role of the Game Master. The book starts with a rundown of the GM’s list of tasks from learning the rules to preparing for and running a session. There are a few rules mentioned here, with an interesting section mentioning tricks like secret tests and even mention of GM fiat for circumstances where you have dumb outcomes that the GM can just overrule.
Creating adventures is also touched upon, with a few paragraphs dedicated to each step, from defining the challeng, outlining the plot, introducing subplots and encounters, and wrapping up the adventure. Running adventures is discussed next, with a few tips on information management by the use of tools like quick reference cards and initiative cards for help.
I’m particularly happy to see talk about knowing the group, and the problem player stereotypes as well as how to handle them (if possible.) Conflicting expectations in the form of “Assumpion Clashes” are also detailed, which is something that I would have killed for as starting advice when I was still a fledgling RPG hobbyist back in my first campaign.
Mastering the Rules
The next chapter talks about GM-specific rules minuitae, such as test difficulties, advanced tests, combat considerations such as morale and surprise and how to simulate various hazards and traps.
This chapter gives a quick selection of enemies that the party can go up against. Threat level is discussed, as well as how to beef up adversaries to stronger forms.
The list of adversaries in the book make for a decent selection of opponents, ranging from the Bandit to a Dragon. Each has access to stunts and even special qualities that give them an edge in a fight.
While there aren’t rules for Adversary creation per se, there is a handy list of special powers provided. Creative GMs can whip together a new adversary by reskinning existing ones and swapping out special abilities as necessary.
The next chapter talks about the types of rewards that the heroes can gain from their adventures. Aside from the usual experience point rewards and treasures, it’s good to see a quick note about adding reputation rewards as well. It might not be something mechanical but it will go a long way to making the players feel like they’ve done something amazing.
Magic Items also get coverage in this chapter, with a quick talk about their rarity as well as a list of vairous enchantments that can be applied to various items, from bonuses to armor and damage, immunity to a specific hazard or effect.
Also included area small list of magic items that can be used in any campaign.
Fantasy AGE doesn’t begin with a campaign setting by default, but it does have a chapter about making your own campaign settings. They mentioned Green Ronin’s Freeport setting, with advice to check out The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport or Freeport: The City of Adventure.
The plug for Freeport aside, the rest of the chapters is a checklist of little considerations when making a setting. From adapting existing settings to making yours by yourself or with collaboration with the players, Fantasy AGE does a good job with opening the options to new GMs.
In addition, there’s a section called “Good Rules of World Building” which is full of neat common sense advice for new GMs.
Adventure in Highfalls Swale
Highfalls Swale is a mini-setting included with Fantasy AGE as a starter for new groups to get their feet wet. Starting adventures like these help a lot as it takes away a lot of the initial prepwork from a new GM and gets them going to the fun bits right away.
I remember when I was new, making stuff wasn’t high on the list of “fun” things… that comes much later on after I was already confident that I could run an adventure first.
I’d rather not go into too much detail about the adventure for risk of spoiling things, but it does offer a good starting point for Level 1 adventurers. There’s a solid mix of roleplaying, combat and non-combat encounters which makes it a great start for various groups looking to try Fantasy AGE for the first time.
Fantasy AGE provides new GMs with a solid foundation for starting a game. With so much advice and support in the second half of the book, I can say with certainty that new GMs will be in good hands. All that’s missing is the experience itself, and the adventure at the end of the book is a wonderful way to get people rolling (and talking) about new adventures to be had with Fantasy AGE.
After reviewing so many books, it’s easy to think that all GM chapters are the same, but Fantasy AGE certainly has a much more grounded tone, and the advice comes from someone who genuinely wants new GMs to give it a spin, by banishing fears and issues one at a time.
Definitely a winner as far as GM guides go, and it can certainly be worth the price of Fantasy AGE just for these chapters alone.