Modern AGE

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

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


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 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.


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

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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

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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.


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.


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 Modern AGE] Part 2: Character Creation

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Hey guys, today we take a look at the Character Creation rules for Modern AGE!

Character Creation in Modern AGE is a simple nine-step process, and we’ll be going through all of them in today’s article.

Step 1: Concept

I’m looking to make a basic character concept for today, so we’ll go with driven African-American woman who is working as a Police Detective. She’ll be the investigator of the team, but will also have some combat ability to serve as a backup combat character.

Step 2: Abilities

At this point, we’ll need to determine the character’s core physical and mental abilities. In Modern AGE, abilities are determined by rolling dice. We’ll be rolling 3d6 and adding them up to get a result that we’ll be consulting a table to get our results.

Once we’ve gotten all our values, we can swap any two scores.

Modern AGE has the following abilities: Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength and Willpower.

Of course, there are other options provided for generating ability scores: Arranging Abilities, which allow you to assign any score to any ability as you see fit, and Buying Abilities, which gives 12 Advancements to improve your abilities. But for the sake of this example, I’ll be sticking with the default.

After a bit of rolling, I’ve come up with the following Abilities:

Accuracy 1
Communication 3
Constitution 0
Dexterity 2
Fighting 0
Intelligence 2
Perception 1
Strength 2
Willpower 2

I swapped Communication and Fighting around as I wanted to retain a stronger focus on being able to talk to someone and get information than fighting. Hopefully the Accuracy can make her a decent shot!

Step 3: Background

This is where we determine the character’s history, early life and history. At this point we roll on a few tables to determine Social Class, and which background they’ll fall under in that Class.

Interestingly, a few rolls later, and my Police Detective comes from an Upper Class Cosmopolitan Background!

The Cosmopolitan Background means that I get to roll for a Benefit from this Background, and record a few other bonuses to my character. I roll a 7 on the Benefit table and get a +1 to Communication, and the rest of the background benefits are: +1 Intelligence, The Intelligence (Current Affairs) Focus, and the Observation Talent.

Step 4: Profession

A character’s profession, on the other hand describes what the character does for a living. While there are groups of professions that fall under each kind of Social Class, you can actually grab a profession from a social class below your character’s. As a side benefit, you gain a +1 Resources per class that their rolled social class is.

Since I’m looking to become an Investigator (a Middle Class Profession) and rolled Upper Class, I get a +1 Resources benefit.

This also gives me the Communication (Investigation) Focus, Intrigue Talent, 15+CON Health and Resources of 5.

Step 5: Drive

A character’s Drive describes their motivation and personality. It’s a solid way to determine what kind of hooks your characters will take the initiative on when confronted with.

After a few rolls, it’s determined that my character is an Achiever

This means that her quality is ambition, knowing what she wants and going after it. Her downfall is obsession, becoming too focused on her goals and unable to see anything (or anyone) else.

She gains the Expertise Talent, and a Rank 1 Reputation Improvement.

Step 6: Resources

Modern AGE characters have a Resources score, which represents the material resources and available cash, credit or whatever other assets they may have.

Starting Resources is based on social class and background, and my investigator begins with a Resources Score of 5

Step 7: Derived Statistics

Given her Abilities, her Derived Statistics are:

Health: 15
Defense: 12
Toughness: 0
Speed: 12

Step 8: Goals, Ties and Relationships

Goals are short-term and long-term objectives that the character wants to achiveve. I’m looking at having her close a case that she’s currently been assigned to as a short-term goal and getting a promotion as her long-term goal. Nothing too fancy but enough to get through it.

Ties are where the character is linked to the other characters in the party. Since I’m making a character in isolation, I’ll skip this step.

Relationships are an interesting mechanic as player characters begin with a number of relationship slots equal to their Communication score. This gives here 3 slots to work with, and each one can be assigned to a character that has a particular PC or NPC. For my Investigator, let’s make 3 Intensity 1 Bonds to her Father, the police chief that she idolizes and to her partner.

Step 9: Name and description

I’m going with detective Sydney Haywood as a name. Taller than average and blessed with a wealth of tightly curled hair that falls past her shoulders, Sydney exudes an aura of confidence and subtle intimidation. Her history with a wealthy family and the training she underwent to join the force gives her an edge in social situations, as she is as comfortable grilling a white-collar criminal that hides behind fancy titles and a six-figure salary as she is with a common street thug.

[Optional Rule: Conviction]

While not appropriate in all modes, Modern AGE also allows for Conviction rules. Similar to the Action Point mechanic in a lot of other games, Conviction allows for characters to spend this resource to enable a host of advantages such as improved defenses or a re-roll.

If this rule was in play, Sydney would begin with 3 points in Conviction.

Final Character Sheet

Sydney Hayward, Ambitious Police Detective
Background: Upper Class Cosmopolitan
Profession: Investigator
Drive: Ambition
Downfall: Obsession

Accuracy 1
Communication 4
Constitution 0
Dexterity 2
Fighting 0
Intelligence 3
Perception 1
Strength 2
Willpower 2

Intelligence (Current Affairs)
Communication (Investigation)


Health: 15
Defense: 12
Toughness: 0
Speed: 12
Resources: 5
Reputation: 1
Conviction: 3

Father 1
Police Chief 1
Partner 1

Overall Character Creation for Modern AGE is straightforward and pretty amusing. While there may be some concerns about picking a concept before rolling for stats, it’s a minor hiccup in my mind that can be fixed by switching the steps around. Likewise, the presence of a point-buy system helps mitigate this as well.

The lack of classes means that there’s a bit more room to customize your character. I certainly prefer having less random tables and instead picking out your options and will likely use this for my game if I bring Modern AGE to my table.

Next up, we’ll be looking at the basic rules for Modern AGE!

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: Modern AGE] Part 1: Introduction

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Green Ronin’s new Modern AGE RPG is coming out at a great time for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for modern day action-adventure RPGs that don’t necessarily revolve around Heist stories.

I’ve had fun with D20 Modern and SpyCraft rulesets before, but since then, there’s been a bit of a lull in paramilitary / modern rules. Until now, of course. So I’m throwing myself at checking out this new release and see if I can’t use it for a new campaign sometime.

For those new to my blog, the Let’s Study series is a multi-part review of a game and it’s mechanics. Along the way we’ll make a character, give the combat system a quick shakedown and maybe even a sample campaign pitch if I’m struck with inspiration.

The book opens with a quick introduction to RPGs and how to get started. This is a pretty much by-the-numbers section, but definitely paints the Modern AGE core book as an introductory product for people who might not have had experience with RPGs before.

The Modes

The book then goes into describing three Modes that make up the options for running a Modern AGE game. These Modes change the rules in a way to address certain popular ways that Modern Adventures are portrayed. These Modes are:

  • Gritty – The most “realistic” of options, this is the Mode where a single bullet can put a character out of a fight, and there’s no such thing as a minor fight.
  • Pulpy – Pulp games are a little more forgiving than the Gritty mode. The heroes start tough, and get tougher as they gain levels. This doesn’t mean they can just kick down the door guns blazing though, as combat will still likely leave the characters hurting.
  • Cinematic – This Mode is the most forgiving for the players, as they get tougher, acquire influence, and pull off the most heroic stunts in the game.

This alone is a great start for me, as it means that there’s more than one kind of modern-day game that the rules can support. From Call of Cthulhu style investigative games with fragile investigators (using the Gritty Mode) to something a bit closer to Spycraft’s Techno-thriller Espionage with the Cinematic Mode.

Next up, we’ll be taking a peek at character creation and see how flexible the Modern AGE ruleset is!

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

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