Ronin Roundtable: The Expanse Versus Modern AGE

I’ve been back from Gen Con for nearly a week, having carried back some great memories—and annoying microorganisms. I got “con crud” in whatever form managed to hit my throat, chest and sinuses, while mixing in a fever. I’m running hot right now. And yet, through the haze of my illness, I remember many, many questions related to our recently-released Modern AGE, and its still-in-Kickstarter cousin, The Expanse Roleplaying Game. The Expanse features some elements originally devised for Modern AGE but is its own game. To sort out the details—and remind you that Modern AGE is out, and we’d love you to crowdfund The Expanse! —read on.

Both Games Are Core Books

First off, many people wondered if you needed Modern AGE to run The Expanse. You do not. The Expanse Roleplaying Game is a complete game based on the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system. However, both games are compatible to various degrees. Modern AGE has a different selection of stunts which can easily be ported over, and has extraordinary powers such as psychic disciplines, which you might want to use in some personal variant of The Expanse. If your primary interest is Modern AGE, new rules for equipment and space travel are among some of the elements you can convert, along with Fortune, interludes, injury conditions and the Churn.

Both Games Are Classless

Not “classless” as in “something Amos might say or do,” but as in bereft of the character classes used in previous AGE games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. In both Modern AGE and The Expanse, characters pick a background, profession and drive: Where they’re from, what they did, and why they get involved with the story. Where the games differ is that while Modern AGE presents a spread of options suited to a wide variety of contemporary settings, The Expanse’s counterparts come straight from the setting of the books, and incorporate the unusual environments of Earth, Mars and the Belt, leading to characters deeply embedded in its future history.

Each Game Has Its Own Take on AGE

While Modern AGE’s core systems were the basis for The Expanse’s design, we see the Adventure Game Engine as something which should be deeply customized for each setting. In Modern AGE, which has no core setting, this is accomplished through game modes (Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic—see here for more on genres and modes) and other options. The Expanse novels present a defined reality for characters to operate in, however, so its rules have been tuned accordingly. Therefore, injuries are tracked using conditions in The Expanse, instead of Health, as they are in Modern AGE, with Fortune acting to moderate them according to a character’s dramatic arc.

Similarly, the narrative tone of The Expanse includes the optional Churn system, where luck is always answered by new challenges, because this is how the books play out. Modern AGE doesn’t have that system, though the upcoming Modern AGE Companion will include Dramatic Rhythm, which Game Masters can apply for similar effects.

Parallel Lines

I’m the developer of Modern AGE. Steve Kenson is The Expanse’s developer. We’re treating these as two independent lines for the sake of support and supplements, so that expansions such as the Abzu’s Bounty campaign don’t use a release “slot” (assuming there even is such a thing) earmarked for Modern AGE.

Plans for supplements for The Expanse beyond Abzu’s Bounty and The Expanse Game Master’s Kit have yet to be announced. Modern AGE’s core book is shipping now, with the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit to follow (we had an early shipment come in for Gen Con, so those of you who bought a copy then got the jump on everyone else!). Next up for Modern AGE is The World of Lazarus (based on Greg Rucka’s comic of near future, posthuman feudalism, unrelated to The Expanse) and in early 2019, the Modern AGE Companion.

The Expanse is in mid-Kickstarter, but You Can Get Modern AGE Now

Since the Modern AGE developer is writing this column, he/I get to use the last bit to blatantly hawk that game. It’s for sale! It’s shipping! Get it from us or favorite supplier.

However, in fever-wracked visions (seriously, Gen Con made me unwell) I can see Steve frowning, so I will also mention The Expanse Roleplaying Game is in mid-Kickstarter. Back it so we can kick over final stretch goals, including new fiction by James S. A. Corey!

After writing and designing games as a freelancer from 2000 on, Malcolm Sheppard is pleased to join Green Ronin as developer at large: the one who works on any number of games, from the Adventure Gaming Engine to Ork! Malcolm’s experience before Green Ronin includes Exalted, Mage: The Ascension, Onyx Path’s Chronicles of Darkness and Scion lines, as well as Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase. Outside game design, Malcolm’s worked in community development and education, and as a professional historical re-enactor, where he gave large metal swords to children. (They were blunt!) Malcolm lives in semi-rural Ontario, Canada.