Green Ronin

[Let’s Study: Modern AGE] Part 5: Gear, Stunts, GM Chapters and a Review

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 2.28.11 PM

We’re on a roll and today we’ll be taking a quick peek at some of the remaining chapters of Modern AGE.

Gear

Most modern-day games thrive on Equipment and Gear. Modern AGE does the same thing, with a solid list of weapons and armor, as well as having stats for vehicles, but I can’t help but feel just a teensy bit let down by the adventuring gear.

It covers all of the basics of course, from night vision goggles to gasmasks and smoke grenades, but there’s little in the way of fancy toys that might suit a fancier Espionage game.

Stunts

Stunts make up a huge part of the AGE system experience, and Modern AGE has them in spades. Aside from the usual generic combat stunts, there are sub-tables meant for Firearms, Vehicle, Investigation and Social Stunts as well. There’s a LOT of them to look through, and it can be a source of analysis paralysis.

The book has some good advice though, and encourages that people pick out the stunts that are most suited to their characters and have them written down somewhere easy to look into so you have a pre-filtered list of appropriate stunts to choose from.

That said the stunts add a lot of flavor to Modern AGE and I can totally see how it can really spice up various encounters. Another thing of note is that some stunts are restricted to certain game modes only, which helps in reinforcing just what exactly is “believable” in a certain mode.

GM Chapters

Running a Modern Game presents it’s own set of challenges. Those familiar with handwaving things with “it’s magic” will find that the age of connectivity, social media and handy technology can make things like investigations a lot easier.

Modern AGE’s GMing chapter knows exactly what it needs to do and it does so extremely well. It never assumes anything, starting off with the description of what a GM’s role is, and the considerations that need to be taken when running a game.

There’s advice on storytelling and managing information so that you’re never overwhelmed. Once you’ve got your job sorted out, the game then goes on to talk about how to use the rules as presented to great effect. Chase rules, Breaching security and Hazards are all discussed in detail.

Modern AGE also provides a hefty serving of adversaries of the modern day, from cat burglars to rogue A.I. there’s plenty to go up against. It helps that they’re also sorted according to the kind of conflicts that they’re likely to be a problem. Combat, Exploration and even Social adversaries are listed in ways to make it clear that in Modern settings, shooting something is rarely the only answer.

Rewards are discussed at length as well, with rules governing Reputation, Membership and even Relationships. I’m very happy with this as I do agree that sometimes access to exclusive circles and advancements in relationships are more “realistic” rewards to the things we do as opposed to just counting coins.

Building a Setting

The last of the GMing chapters covers all the alternate settings and eras that can be run with Modern AGE. Each one is covered in a short blurb, with tags for which game Modes are suited for running it and capped off with a short list of inspirational material, and really shows you just how flexible Modern AGE is for running games of various genres.

A Speculative Venture

The book ends with a short adventure with an interesting premise. I can’t really talk about it without spoiling anything but it seems to be just the thing to kickstart a Modern AGE campaign with enough wiggle room to allow for Arcane and Psionics to fit in just as well.

Review

I bought Modern AGE the moment it went live on PDF because I was hungry for a modern day game that could run heists, espionage, spy-fi and action-adventure games. I wanted Uncharted-style tomb raiding, Hitman-style stealth action and maybe a game where I could run the premise of Tom Clancy’s The Division or Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency.

Did it do it’s job?

Oh, yes it did. With smooth mechanics, multiple Modes, fantastic artwork, clear layout and options for Arcane Powers and Psionics, it delivered on all of these in the span of less than 200 pages.

That said, there were minor hiccups. The lack of neat spy-fi gadgets, the limited number of spells for Arcana and Psionics, that little bit about coming up with a concept then disappointing yourself after you’ve rolled your Abilities.  That said these are barely enough to affect the quality of the game.

In the end, Modern AGE is worth every cent. If you’ve ever wanted a ruleset that can pull off an action-packed modern day game, then should be the first game you should check out.

If you want to grab a copy of Modern AGE, they’re selling the pdf over at the Green Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPGfor only $18.95

[Let’s Study: Modern AGE] Part 4: Extraordinary Powers

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 1.35.30 PM

My favorite illustration in the book

Modern AGE might be a game about stories set in the present, but it’s always important to remember that that also covers genres like Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Modern AGE acknowledges this by adding options to enable Extraordinary Powers. The core book covers two broad categories: Arcane Powers and Psionics.

Gaining Extraordinary Powers

While these systems are optional, the GM can make a decision on which of these are available, and how they are acquired. Unlocking them is often just a matter of buying the Talent, though when and how often restricted in some way, such as swapping out an existing Talent in chargen to a Power Talent to enable 1st Level characters to begin with powers.

Power Points

Powers are fuelled by a resource called Power Points. These are calculated as a derived statistic with the following formula: 10 + Willpower + 1d6. Power Points are regained with rest.

Power Activation

Activating a power requires a Power Test of 3d6 + Ability + Power Focus (if applicable.) Furthermore, a power’s force, which is the value needed to resist the power is calculated at 10 + Willpower + Power Focus (if applicable.)

Power Stunts

As with everything in the AGE system, Powers also have their own table of Stunts to choose from, resulting in effects that deal extra damage to strange omens that clue you into the next phase of your investigation.

Arcane Powers

Modern AGE has a list of 8 Arcana: Digital, Divination, Fire, Healing, Illusion, Machine, Power and Protection. Each of the Arcana also has 4 spells of varying degrees: 2 at novice, 1 at expert and 1 last at master. It might not feel like a large list of spells, but most modern games with magic tend to have a much smaller range of spells (unless we’re talking about Mage: the Ascension or Awakening.)

The addition of Arcana that are suited to a modern setting such as Digital and Machine is a nice touch, and helps tie the spells thematically to a practice that has grown alongside technological advances.

Psychic Powers

Like Arcana, Psychic powers is also classified in 8 different talents: Cryokinesis, Empathy, ESP, Psychic Projection, Pyrokinesis, Shielding, Telekinesis and Telepathy. These are also similarly structured, with 4 effects under each talent and broken down into 2 novice, 1 expert and 1 master.

Extraordinary Powers come in very handy if you wanted to run something a little bit adjacent from the usual modern day game. Given what I’ve read now, I think I can actually pull off a Mass Effect game with little trouble, needing only perhaps a layer of Ability modifiers to reflect the different races in the game.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the remaining sections: Equipment, Stunts, and the GM’s Chapters.

If you want to grab a copy of Modern AGE, they’re selling the pdf over at the Green Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPGfor only $18.95

[Let’s Study: Modern AGE] Part 3: Basics & Combat

Screen Shot 2018-07-13 at 10.07.26 AM

Welcome back! We’ll be looking at the mechanics that make Modern AGE work today, so I hope you have your notebooks and pencils ready.

Ability Tests

The basic mechanic for Modern AGE should be very familiar with most people. To make a Test, the player rolls 3d6 and adds their Ability score and adds +2 if the character has an applicable Focus to the task. This is then compared to the Difficulty of the Test. If the roll is equal to or higher than the Difficulty then the test is a success.

The twist lies in the 3d6. As with Fantasy AGE, one of these is designated as a Stunt Die, and is a different color from the others. If the 3d6 roll results in doubles of any kind, then the Stunt Die determines the number of Stunt Points generated for the roll. If the roll was successful, then you can spend the Stunt Points generated for additional bonuses or benefits beyond a simple success.

Stunt Dice also serve as an indicator of the degree of success of a Test. For rolls that require knowing just how well a character did, the value of the Stunt Die is used as a reference.

Determining Initiative

Initiative is determined by making a Dexterity (Initiative) Test. Characters then act from the ones with the highest Initiative Test result to the lowest.

Actions

Characters in Modern AGE can perform a Major Action and a Minor Action during their turn. Major Actions are often those that require focused action and an Ability Test such as an attack or the use of a skill. Minor Actions are ones like reloading a weapon, running to a different position and other actions that don’t require a roll.

Free Actions exist as a third category and involve actions like speaking. Don’t abuse them though, as the GM has every right to restrict the number of Free Actions that can be taken in a turn if it starts getting silly.

Modern AGE gives a handy list of Major and Minor Actions that can be taken, both as a guide and perhaps something to help people plan out what they can do on their turn.

Attacks and Damage

Making at attack is a standard Ability Roll involving either Fighting or Accuracy Abilities agains the target’s Defense. Damage is then determined by rolling the weapon’s damage, with either Strength or Perception adding a bonus depending on whether it’s a melee or ranged attack.

The target then deducts their Toughness + Armor Rating from the damage rolled, and any leftover damage goes through.

Cover

Given that this is a Modern game, firearms are much more common. As such, characters will find themselves prudently taking cover more often. Cover grants a bonus to Armor Rating vs Ranged Attacks, but also penalized that Ranged Attacks you make. The more resilient the cover, the harder it is to fire back. I’m not sure this is an accurate simulation, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for this.

Damage Types

Cover isn’t going to save your hide all the time. Damage is also sorted into three types: Impact, Ballistic and Penetrating.

Unarmed strikes and other attacks that rely in sheer force falls under Impact Damage and can be protected against with Armor Rating with a tag for it.

Ballistic Damage comes from firearms and largely ignores most armor except for those specially designed to withstand it, such as well, ballistic body armor.

Penetrating Damage comes from special cases that ignore armor completely, and is often from hazards like falling or fire, or damage from a Called Shot.

In addition to these, there’s also the consideration if the weapon or attack deals Stun or Wound damage.

Modes and Damage

As a side note, the Mode of the game also changes how damage happens. Gritty games have Toughness reduces Stun damage from Impact and Penetrating sources of damage. Pulp games has Toughness reduce Stun and Wound damage from Impact and Penetrating sources of damage, but not Ballistic. Finally, Cinematic games has Toughness reduce from all sources of damage.

It’s a small tweak but it goes a long way to tailor the game to the kind of feel you want.

Death and Dying

Again, the game modes play a big role in determining at which point a character kicks the bucket. Gritty games are clearly less forgiving, while Cinematic games allow player characters at 0 Health to still be able to take Minor Actions!

Special Rules

The rest of the chapter tackles special rules that apply to certain cases such as handling Grenades, a large and impressive list of Combat Stunts, and rules for handling Exploration / Investigation and Social Encounters.

Modern AGE’s rules are quick, flexible and easy to understand. Moving to the modern and near-future genre has done wonders to show just how much you can do with the core mechanics of the AGE system.

The game modes shine in this section as the tweaks they enable are perfect for coming up with the exact game you want, whether it’s a G.I. Joe paramilitary talk force game (Cinematic, definitely) to something closer to Jason Bourne (Pulp).

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Extraordinary Power options that can be enabled to add a Arcane and Psionic Talents to your Modern AGE game!

If you want to grab a copy of Modern AGE, they’re selling the pdf over at the Green Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPG for only $18.95

[Let’s Study: Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin] Part 1: Introduction

Welcome to the first Let’s Study series made possible by Patreon. If you’d like to help me secure more titles to cover in detail, please consider becoming a patron!

fage
Fantasy AGE is the latest corebook release from Green Ronin, and is the core rules that powered the Dragon AGE RPG, the TitansGrave: The Ashes of Valkana setting as featured in Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop web series, and the upcoming new edition of the Blue Rose RPG.

The system will be familiar to those used to D20, but it would be a disservice to say that Fantasy AGE is a “clone” of that ruleset. Green Ronin introduces a whole bunch of interesting subsystems and tweaks that result in an entirely different experience at the table.

That said, let’s get started, shall we?

Introduction

The book opens with an introductory chapter that goes over the very basic concepts of an RPG. It’s often a clear indicator that the Fantasy AGE RPG is positioned to be a good entry-level product that you can use to introduce people to the hobby in general.

We see some familiar text right off the bat, with a quick discussion of “What is a roleplaying game?” to a “Getting Started” section that tackles what Characters are (and what they do) as well as the concepts of Adventures, Campaigns and what a Setting is.

There’s also an Example of Play section that gives a slice of how Fantasy AGE plays out at the table.

I have to say that I’m glad to see a short section talking about the importance of the Group Dynamic as well. It’s easy to get lost in just talking about your rules, but even just saying a little something about the importance of players (and their characters) getting along says a lot about how the authors wanted this book to be a great first RPG product that assists in setting the proper foundations of a fun group.

Basic Game Concepts

At this point, the book starts off by introducing the game’s basics. Characters were already discussed ahead, but the basic resolution mechanic is introduced as well.

Fantasy AGE uses a 3d6 + Ability roll (modified by bonuses or penalties) against a target number.

It’s a simple enough mechanic, and one that I personally prefer over a d20 roll. The reason for this is that the 3d6 probabilities form a bell curve, where the chance of rolling middle values of the range of results is higher than the chance of rolling the extremes.

This sort of mechanic allows for a more “predictable” performance when taking actions, rather than in the standard 1d20 roll where the chance of rolling any of the numbers is a straight 5%.

Finally there’s a short discussion on the different rolls that might be required, but all using six-sided dice.

the Introduction wraps up with a short note on the rest of the book. Chapter 1 kicks off the Player’s Guide section, which takes up Chapters 1 to 6, and the Game Master Chapters are from 7 to 12

So far we’re off to a good start! I’m enjoying the language of the book as it’s very accessible. There’s a sense that the authors were doing their best to make the game friendly and easy to get into.

Tomorrow we’ll start off with a look at Character Creation, beginning with a look at the available races in Fantasy AGE by default, and follow up with a sample character or two for good measure!

—-

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

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

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.

%d bloggers like this: