One of the fascinating things about jumping in as a game line developer after the game is pretty well established is that you have to go from a casual fan of the game (and it’s various products) to a real expert. That process takes time – I’m still not as expert as I’d like to be with Fantasy AGE just yet – but it can also be a really useful journey of discovery. When you are just reading up on RPG material as you need them for your own games you can miss some really neat, important, or clever bits of game design just because you don’t think they sound like something that appeals to you.
This brings me to the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide.
Now, this book has been out for a while, and my predecessor Jack Norris did a really great job talking about the book’s role, why it’s a crucial tome that should not be overlooked, and previewing some of the excellent material in it. Back in July.
Which I did not read at all. And, as a result, I hadn’t taken a look at this book despite owning it and being a fan of the game system, until it became part of my job.
And, I suspect I’m not the only Fantasy AGE fan who just skipped over this. And that’s a shame.
So, in a combination mea culpa and apologia, I present:
The Top Ten Cool Things I Didn’t Know Were In The Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide.
- Probability Charts.
I played a LOT of Champions back in the 1980s, which used a 3d6 roll low resolution system, so i have some instinctive feel for what the odds are I’ll roll a 9 or less on 3d6. But I am much less apt to know there’s a 44.44% chance to roll doubles on any given 3d6 roll, which is crucial knowledge when coming up with new stunts and wondering how often they’ll come into play. Some GMs will have no use for this, and that’s fine, but it saves the rest of us a LOT of math.
- Rules-Free Good GMing Advice
I really expected this book to mostly be rules, and rules about rules. But there’s a lot of solid, system-agnostic tips and techniques for being a fun, memorable GM in this book. The “Saying Yes to your Players” sidebar alone is worth its weight in gold.
- A Whole Discussion on Changing Frameworks
Sure, I expected lots of good advice and rules for creating various different campaign frameworks. But tips on when, how and why to change a campaign’s framework? Never considered it, and the utility of this book is greatly increased for its inclusion.
- Some Of The Best Advice I Have Ever Read On How To Create Your Own Adventures
Again, this is designed for Fantasy AGE, but transcends just this rule system. I’d happily recommend it to any GM who struggles with feeling comfortable designing adventures for their players, regardless of what RGP system they are using.
It’s much more common for a game to mention a player might end up being called a Dragon-Slayer by locals and bards than to go into any kind of detail about how that honorific may game-mechanically aid the character.
- A Random magical properties Table for Magic Items
This is really useful for helping GMs figure out what the heroes find in the troll-barrow.
- Guidance for Building a Pantheon
Most (though no, not all) RPGs either assume you’ll use their assumed campaign setting’s pre-determined deities (or real-world religious beliefs), or that you’ll largely ignore the divine. Making gods, and delving into questions like is there a difference between a god and an immensely powerful mage or monster, is a fairly specialized skill set that not everyone has much experience with. This is one of the places this book really fulfills its ‘Campaign Builder’ title better than a lot of “GM Guides” I have read, and again I’d encourage GMs building a campaign or any game system to read this.
The Random Religion tables, in particular, are genius.
- SubGenre Rules
It’s one thing to discuss potential campaign genres and subgenres. It’s something altogether different to offer subgenre-specific variant rules. Ranging from Cinematic Acrobatics to Investigation Stunts and Supply Ratings, with these rules you don’t just tell the players they are the wuxia police of a mystically-fueled train making a 1-year journey through a zombie-overrun wasteland (during which it must never dare stop or be overrun), the game rules actually change to support that specific concept.
- Random Charts of Business Details
Players wanting to know what merchant shops are visited by someone they are following in town is one of the things that can cause me to hem and haw for way too long. Being able to bounce some dice and tell them quickly it’s a Weaponsmith and Bookstore, but most of the staff seem busy preparing for someone’s wedding? That’s a fast and fun way to flesh out those unexpected trips into the merchant quarter.
- Location Stunts
I love Fantasy AGE’s stunt system, and to me this is the biggest gem of the book. The idea that in a city rich with magic, stunts that increase magic damage might cost 1 less stunt point? That’s gold, and it opens up a whole new realm of potential encounter and campaign design for Fantasy AGE.
That’s not to say there isn’t a LOT of other material in this book. These are just the things that most caused me to stop and say “huh” out loud! If you haven’t picked it up, give it a look. If you have, but like me have barely cracked the spine yet, I suggest you set some time aside to explore the book in greater depth.
Owen K.C. Stephens is a game designer who has worked on a number of products for Pathfinder, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and more. He is our Fantasy AGE Line Developer when he’s not working one of his other jobs, running his own company (Rogue Genius Games), or writing things for his patrons at https://www.patreon.com/OwenKCStephens.