Ronin Round Table: Powers AGE

By guest blogger Brian Poel

Over a holiday drink, I was talking with the good folks at Green Ronin about my recent escapades in hacking the Fantasy AGE system into a modern-day superpowers game. Nicole asked me if I’d like to do a write-up for the web site outlining some of my changes. Of course I would!

Paragon

CHARACTER CREATION

The first thing I did was to crack open the character creation system to get rid of Races and Classes. I wanted character generation more flexible and didn’t want any Race differentiation in a modern world.

I expanded the Backgrounds system into 2 separate choices, each with their own selection of Ability Bonus and Focuses:

  • Aptitude and Hobbies:
    • An open ended opportunity to increase 1 Ability and choose 1 Focus
    • Also choose between 1 Weapon Group / 1 Lore focus / or 1 Sport-themed Focus
  • Social Class and Career:
    • A modernized reskin of the charts from Fantasy AGE, with updated Focuses
    • Also increase 1 Ability score associated with that career (but not the same ability as the Aptitude/Hobby selection)
    • Choose 1 Mundane Talent, associated with Aptitude, Hobby or Career
  • Choose 2 Gifted Talents: 1 Gifted Ability and 1 Gifted Power
  • Choose 4 primary and 5 secondary Abilities

Compared to Fantasy Age this results in the same 2 Ability score increases, and a similar number of Focuses and Talents.

GIFTED TALENTS

For a character’s super powers, a beginning character gets 1 Gifted Ability and 1 Gifted Power. All of them follow the usual Novice / Journeyman / Master progression.

Activating a Power costs Power Points (aka Spell Points). A character’s starting Power Points is equal to:

10 + Willpower + value of the character’s starting Gifted Ability

Gifted Abilities

All of the 9 Gifted Abilities share the same core power of Boosting that Ability to increase its value. Using a Major Action and succeeding at an Average Difficulty test (11) using that Ability score, the character can increase the Ability for the encounter by +1. This bonus increases to +2 at Journeyman and +4 at Master. At each greater tier, the previous Tier’s bonus becomes an “always on” bonus, while the increased value requires a conscious effort to Boost.

Because there are no Mage, Rogue, or Warrior classes, in addition to the raw stat bonuses each tier of the Gifted Abilities also includes various perks that the Fantasy AGE classes receive as they level up.

Here’s an example:

Gifted Dexterity

NOVICE

  • Boost Dexterity
    • Power Type: Enhancement
    • Power Point Cost: 2
    • Invocation Time: Major Action
    • Target Number: 11
    • Test: Dexterity​
    • ​+1 Dexterity for the Encounter
  • ​While Dexterity is Boosted:
    • Pinpoint Attack: Once per round, you can add 1d6 to the damage of a successful attack if your Dexterity is greater than your opponent’s.​

JOURNEYMAN

  • Passive Bonuses:
    • ​+1 Dexterity always
    • ​Advantages from the Novice level requiring this Ability to be Boosted are now available at all times. (Pinpoint Attack)​
  • Boost Dexterity
    • Bonus increased to: +2 Dexterity
    • Boost Dexterity is is now a Minor Action​
  • Choose 1 of the following benefits to receive while this Ability is Boosted:​
    • Scouting: You can use the lay of the land to your advantage. If you fail a Dexterity (Stealth) test, you can re-roll it, but you must keep the results of the second roll. If the character also has the Scouting talent, the re-roll gains a +2 bonus.​
    • ​Quick Reflexes: You can prepare yourself for action in an instant. Once per round you can use Ready as a free action on your turn. If the character also has the Quick Reflexes talent, once per Encounter the next action taken that round gains a +2 bonus.​
    • Riding: You can ride like the wind. When you ride small mechanized or living transport (such as bicycles, motorcycles, or horses), it gains a +2 bonus to its Speed. If the character also has the Riding talent, this bonus is cumulative.​

MASTER

  • Passive Bonuses:
    • ​+2 Dexterity always
    • Advantages from the Journeyman level requiring this Ability to be Boosted are now available at all times. (Scouting, Quick Reflexes, Riding)​
  • Boost Dexterity
    • bonus increased to: +4 Dexterity
  • ​While Dexterity is Boosted:
    • Perforate: You know how to take advantage of an enemy whose guard is down. Perforate is a special stunt that you can perform for 2 SP if you’ve just hit an opponent with a Pinpoint Attack. You can make a second Pinpoint Attack against the same opponent; this second attack does not generate stunt points.​

Gifted Powers

Gifted Powers are, for the most part, lifted wholesale from the Magic Talents of Fantasy AGE. Because this selection is heavily leaning on an Elementalism theme, I wanted to make some more “modern” Superhero sets as well. For the most part, I went to the spells from Dragon Age and either stole them intact, or re-skinned them for a new theme.

For example, the Technomancy Talent consists of several re-skinned Dragon Age spells. Walking bomb became a technical hex power that causes a targeting piece of technology to take damage each turn and possibly explodes if it takes enough damage. And rejuvenation became the repair power that grants Health to a technical object.

One core difference from Fantasy AGE is that the Ability used to activate these various Gifted Powers changes based on the 1st level Gifted Ability of the Player–it is not always Intelligence (as you’d find with a Mage from Fantasy AGE). Otherwise, all Powers would be Intelligence based, which doesn’t make sense for a wide variety of Superhero concepts. This also means that a character with Gifted Strength + Pyrokinesis would be different than a character with Gifted Willpower + Pyrokinesis, if only in the flavor of how the player roleplays their Gifts.

Here’s a summary of the new “modern” Gifted Powers:

MENTALISM

  • Novice:
    • Daze: based on Dragon Age spell of the same name
    • Invigorate: based on Dragon Age spell of the same name
  • Journeyman:
    • Memory: based on Dragon Age spell of the same name
  • Master
    • Overwhelm: inspired by Dragon Age spell Horror

 

TELEKINESIS

  • Novice:
    • Flying Debris: damaging spell, balanced against others
    • Levitate: based on Dragon Age spell of the same name
  • Journeyman:
    • Force Cloud: blend of Dragon Age spells: Protective Wind and Miasma
  • Master:
    • Crushing Prison: based on Dragon Age spell of the same name

 

TECHNOMANCY

  • Novice:
    • Machine Senses: modified version of Fantasy AGE spell Voices on the Wind
    • Technical Hex: modified version of Dragon Age spell Walking Bomb
  • Journeyman:
    • Repair: modified version of Dragon Age spell Rejuvenation
  • Master:
    • Dominate: inspired by a variety of spells: Awaken Tree, Waking Nightmare, and Wrath of the Elvhen

 

PHOTOKINESIS

  • Novice:
    • Hologram: typical illusion trope, limited to Self, no invisibility
    • Light: based on Fantasy AGE spell Arcana Lantern
  • Journeyman:
    • Laser: damaging attack, balanced against other damaging spells
  • Master:
    • Mass Hologram: illusion with Medium range

 

MODERN WEAPONS

I also needed to stat out a variety of modern weapons and define some Weapon Groups and Talent sets to go with them.

Resisting the urge to be too exhaustive, I narrowed the list to:

  • Pistols (single-shot revolvers and semi-auto pistols)
  • Shotguns
  • Automatic Weapons (SMGs and assault rifles)
  • Long Rifles (hunting rifles and sniper rifles)

In order to capture their flavor and meet modern expectations, I relied, for the most part, on granting cheaper access to certain Stunts. For example, Automatic Weapons can do Lightning Attack for -1 SP, and Long Rifles can do Pierce Armor for -1 SP.

And because I know my players, I also expanded Unarmed Style from Fantasy AGE into 3 separate Talents: Brawling, Martial Arts (defensive), and Martial Arts (offensive).

Here’s an example of the Long Rifles talent set:

  • ​NOVICE: Your Long Rifle attacks are extremely accurate, given time to prepare: if you spend the entire previous round Aiming, this action provides a +3 bonus instead of the usual +1 bonus.​
  • ​JOURNEYMAN: With the right ammunition and good aim, Long Rifles are especially deadly against armored targets. If you pay 3 SP for the Pierce Armor stunt, the damage is penetrating. (Long Rifles may normally perform the Pierce Armor stunt for only 1 SP. The Pierce Armor stunt normally halves your opponent’s armor rating, but penetrating damage allows you to ignore it altogether.)​
  • ​MASTER: Nothing beats the critical hit potential of a high caliber sniper round. If your attack hits, you may perform the Lethal Blow stunt for 4 SP instead of the usual 5 SP. ​

Here’s an example of the Brawling talent set:

  • ​NOVICE: You’ve been conditioned to take a beating and keep on fighting. You have an Armor Rating of 2 against unarmed melee attacks. (If also benefiting from other Armor bonuses, only the higher Armor Rating will apply.)​
  • ​JOURNEYMAN: Your hands, and head, are as tough as iron. When you attack with a weapon from the Brawling Group (including your fists), you cause +1 damage. Increase Armor Rating to 4 against unarmed melee attacks.​
  • MASTER: Your haymaker staggers your opponent when it connects. If you perform a Mighty Blow Stunt, you may also perform the Skirmish Stunt for -1 SP — though the first SP spent on Skirmish always moves your target. (Skirmish normally allows you to move yourself or the target of your attack 2 yards in any direction for each 1 SP you spend. So the first 2 yards of movement for the target is free.)​

LEVELING UP

As players level up, they alternate between investing in Mundane Talents and Gifted Talents, along with the normal Fantasy AGE increases to Primary / Secondary Abilities and Focuses from same.

By the time they reach Level 11, they’ll be able to bring their starting Talents to Master tier, or invest in 3rd Gifted Talent and bring all of them to Journeyman tier.

I did away with Specializations from Fantasy AGE to focus on progressing through Gifted Talents. Although my players haven’t gotten to this point yet (we’re just getting started) my current intention is to develop super-powered Specializations geared to levels 11 and higher, with suitably outrageous effects that highlight the transition from a more low-powered “origins” style of storytelling in the lower levels, up to something appropriately Super for Levels 11-20.

WHAT’S NEXT

If you’d like to see more of this design, just let the good folks at Green Ronin know, and I’ll delve deeper into the various high-level examples that I’ve given here. I really love the AGE system and am enjoying putting it through its paces in a new expression.

Evan Sass

Evan Sass

Evan got his start in the hobby game industry in 1995, as a co-founder of Rubicon Games. Among other games, he has worked on Cranium, Cranium Hullabaloo, and the Pokémon trading card game. He has been editing and proofreading books for Green Ronin since our first product, Ork! The Roleplaying Game. He has been managing our web sites since about 2002. He co-designed Walk the Plank, our card game of piratical trick taking, and is our in-house Dragon Age and Fantasy AGE editor.
Evan Sass

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