Fantasy AGE and You – Using Adventures from Other Games

So, here I am the Fantasy AGE developer with tons and tons of d20 adventures sitting on my shelves. A lot of them are really cool concepts, from a tour through the waters around Freeport to more than a hundred Adventure Path volumes from my former employer. I definitely want to run more Fantasy AGE games, but my time is limited and it seems a shame to just chuck all my older gaming products. That makes me wonder, naturally, how hard is it to adapt adventures and settings from other game systems to Fantasy AGE? And, is it worth the effort?

The answers are; not hard at all (though there’s an easy way and a hard way), and, of course, it depends.

Fantasy AGE

Let’s talk about the value of such an idea before we get into some tips on how to do it. The most obvious reason to convert materials for other games to Fantasy AGE is because you like the way Fantasy AGE plays as a game, but need ideas to fill your adventures. Especially for games built around having races, 20-level classes, and fantasy themes. The adaptation work isn’t particularly difficult, so you can easily treat multiple games’ worth of material as idea generators for your Fantasy AGE game.

One potential source for adventures: Freeport: City of Adventure (Pathfinder 1st edition)

One potential source for adventures: Freeport: City of Adventure (Pathfinder 1st edition)

This is especially helpful if you have multiple game editions of material for the same world, or want to mix elements from different system’s game worlds. So if you want to use the core world of one 20-level fantasy game, an adventure that uses a different game system, and a monster from a third, adapting all of these elements to Fantasy AGE may well be easier than picking any one of the three systems you are borrowing from to adjust everything to.

There is, of course, a secret to adapting other games to Fantasy AGE the “easy way,” and it is this: don’t even worry about trying to get it right.

Seriously, Fantasy AGE is not a game where you need to worry about a dozen tiny bonuses or have exactly the right balance of skills and special abilities. Yes, you CAN do things the ‘hard way’ and try to emulate every single special attack, creature type property, and tiny circumstantial bonuses… but mostly that’s not going to produce an end result that is any more fun and satisfying. As long as you use an appropriate equivalent, you can swap out a Fantasy AGE stat block for most things you might encounter in other game systems. If you tell players they are facing a band of 3-foot tall kobolds, they’ll never know you’re actually using the stat block for goblins. Or bandits. Or living dolls.

There are just a few things it’s useful to understand when working on your simple adaptation.

Adversary Threat Level

Fantasy AGE has guidelines covering what level PCs are expected to deal with what degree of adversary threat (Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, 104), and this is a good general guideline for adapting a Fantasy AGE stat block to represent a foe from another game system. If you have 7th level PCs, and you are running a d20 adventure for 12th level characters, it’s best for most of your adversaries be moderate threats. Yes, that means instead of making a 12th level d20 evil sorcerer a 12th level Fantasy AGE mage you may just want to pick a moderate threat monster with spells, and treat it as a sorcerer. A djinn or shadow person (Fantasy AGE Bestiary) can substitute for a fine spellcaster, and similar you can use any of the elementals from that book as element-themed mages.

Don’t do any more work than you have to. This is supposed to be fun for you too, after all.

Shuffle Special Qualities

Freeport Bestiary (Pathfinder 1st edition)

Anything that isn’t appropriate for your adapted foe? Just ignore. Don’t worry about fine details of balance—if you want a simple air-mage just grab the wind djinn, ignore the flight (or describe it as a spell) and strike out the bound special qualities, and go for it.

If it’s crucial your adapted monster have some special ability to fit the theme of an adventure or to have an encounter make sense, look at the Modifying Monsters rules (Fantasy AGE Bestiary, 133) and pick something close-enough. Again, the idea isn’t to exactly emulate every feature of your adapted adversary, but just to pick a few things that match its theme. If you really need to give a creature a new power to emulate some special ability the bestiary doesn’t give you any options for, consider just giving it a stunt that access a spell from an appropriate arcana.

It’s All Hazards And Tests

Nearly anything that does nasty things to the PCs and isn’t an adversary can be translated into Fantasy AGE as a hazard (Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, 101). Trapped chest? Hazard you can avoid with a Perception test, and bypass with a Dexterity (Traps) test. Poison cloud? Hazard you can reduce the damage of with a Constitution (Stamina) test. Barrier against good? Hazard you can ignore with a Willpower (Faith) test. Hazards don’t have to be restricted to damage (though it is the simplest option), so you can apply other effects (borrowed from arcana or adversary abilities, or that you make up on the spot). A tar pit can be a hazard that just prevents a character from moving until they pass a Strength (Might) test, a magic blinding rune can require a Willpower (Self-Discipline) test with failure causing the character to be unable to see for 10 minutes, resulting in a -3 to attack rolls and halving their movement rate.

Similarly you can translate most non-combat challenges into basic, opposed, or advanced tests as appropriate. If an adventure has special rules for a chariot race, finding the right book in a partially-flooded library, or building a rebellion within an occupied city, it’s rarely going to be worth it to try to emulate the details of those rules. Just pick the test type that seems closest, tell PCs how often they get to roll based on how long the goal should take, and move on.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When looking back on enjoyable RPG experiences, most players remember when they pulled off an amazing stunt, discovered the mayor was a vampire, swam across the River of Souls, slayed the dragon, or were the last defender standing at the Gate of Heroes. They don’t generally care as much if they had five +1 bonuses from different sources, managed to master the special rules for winning a senate debate, or got lucky on the 4-part drowning rules. The Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook has all the tools you need to challenge the players and create memorable adventures, as well as advice on how to create new threats and encounters. When adapting material from other games, all you are doing is borrowing names, art, and general plots as blueprints for creating Fantasy AGE adventures.

If you keep things fast and fun, the players will never know if you didn’t give the half-dragon dire rat ghost from a d20 adventure all of its special defenses—they’ll just remember the dang thing kept running through walls and breathing fire on them until they skewered it for good.

PAX Unplugged and Freebooting

Green Ronin is very excited to be attending PAX Unplugged again this year. PAX Unplugged is Penny Arcade’s completely analog convention. It’s become known as the convention where people actually play games – a lot of them! Crazy, right? So, if you are in Philadelphia the weekend of December 6 – 8, please come join us and play some games.

You will be able to find us at Exhibitor’s Hall Booth 3649. Even better is that this year we will also have a table within the free play hall in an area designated for exhibitor demos. We will have our own dedicated table throughout the entire weekend!

Speaking of the demo table – we could really use a few more people to help us run games. Does this sound like fun to you? In addition to the fun of running games, Green Ronin will reimburse your badge and give you a t-shirt. Win-win for all of us!

If you’re already a Freebooter and interested, please contact me to discuss details.

Not a Freebooter but still want to run games for us? No problem! Becoming a Freebooter is fun, easy, and packed with perks. The first step is to fill out this form. If you want to help with PAX Unplugged, please also send me an email at freebooters@greenronin.com to make sure I expedite your application.

The Expanse RPG – Gen Con 2019

Finally, if you’re attending PAX Unplugged, please feel free to drop by our booth and say hello. Happy gaming!

What’s the “Deal” With Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards?

art by Stephanie Pui Mun Law

“The door of the Great Tower of Uln finally shatters inward, sending splinters flying. It turns out it’s been smashed by a Blade Troll, like the one you fought in the Polemarsh, but bigger, and better-armored. Okay Amanda, it’s your turn. Your mage Soidhe is still on top of the tower, though she can see down the central stairwell all the way to the bottom floor. What’s your mage going to do?”

 

“That troll is going to be a problem! Is Joe’s warrior Ironeye still guarding the bottom of the stairs?”

“Yeah, Joe never said he moved, so that’s where he still is.”

“Great! I’ll cast agent of fate. If Ironeye needs help dealing with that monster, I want to be ready to give him some stunt points.”

“Okay, but you are 20 yards up at the top of the tower. How far away can you use agent of fate?”

“Oh, it’s never come up! We’re always right next to each other. Lemme look. Hey, Joe, can I borrow the Basic Rulebook?”

“Er… sure Amanda. Just don’t lose my spot—I’m reading up on some alchemical stuff. But, hey, isn’t that spell in the Companion anyway?”

Okay, okay, it’s a contrived example. There aren’t that many things to look up during a Fantasy AGE game, and you can write down all the information you need about every Arcana you cast on your character sheet, to avoid having to look things up. And that’s by design, to be honest. If you have the Basic Rulebook and some dice, you have everything your group needs to play Fantasy AGE.

But, especially if you are the GM and have to have new arcana in play every time the players face an enemy mage or arcana-wielding monster.

So, we thought we’d make things easier! The Fantasy Age Arcana Cards have all the information you need for all the spells in the game (from both the Basic Rulebook and Companion) in easy-to reference individual cards. Instead of having to write down all the details for your spells, and update that as you gain higher degrees of mastery, you can just grab the arcana cards you need and have all the information available, without flipping through multiple books. For arcana with spells spread out over multiple books it’s especially useful for having all the spells in one place—no need to flip to the Basic Rulebook for Air Arcana’s protective winds, and then to the Companion for air bubble.

But of course this wouldn’t be a gaming article without suggesting some ways you can use arcana cards for even more than just fast access to fun facts! One of the fascinating things about cards is that they can be used to quickly and easily determine random results? So what can you do with randomly-selected arcana? Well, here are three ideas:

Build-A-Mage: While a player could decide to make a deal-an-arcana character, this is primarily useful for a GM who wants to be able to quickly create very-different feeling mages. Got a witch who knows three arcana? Deal three cards at random and see what you get. For extra style points, build a theme based on those random results. Deal yourself Air, Shadow, and Water arcana? You have created a servant of the Midnight Typhoon.

Chaos Magic: Okay, do NOT dip into this well too often. But in areas of chaos magic, no matter what spell a mage THINKS they are casting, a failed casting roll results in a spell of the same level of expertise from a randomly-selected arcana card.

Random Weakness Generator: Want to make a monster a little weirder? Give it a weakness by randomly assigning it an arcana it is vulnerable to. For example, if you randomly dealt the Fate Arcana card, you could decide the Blade Trolls of Arak-Uln are legendary monsters—each with its own legend that speaks of how they have destroyed the fate of great heroes. But those legends also suggest they have a weakness against Fate itself, and each troll takes 1d6 more damage when struck by an attack modified by a Fate Arcana spell.

Fantasy AGE Arcana Cards will be available as print-on-demand products via DrivethruRPG on October 30th!

Fantasy AGE: Shaking the Pillars of Heaven

Well, it’s been an interesting run, but it’s time to move on.

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook

Starting in October I’m going to be leaving my position as Fantasy AGE developer and thus my regular position at Green Ronin. This has been awhile in coming—I’ve known for several months I needed to make a change.

Why? Well, it’s complicated. But mostly? I’m tired. After several years of personal tragedy, heavy workloads, financial and health issues, the occasional resurfacing of past harassment, and so on? I feel a bit like Egg Shen at the end of Big Trouble in Little China:

My work is done. Lo-Pan is dead, the evil spell has been lifted, years ago I promised myself a long vacation…and it’s time to collect.

That’s not entirely accurate of course, but metaphorically? It’s appropriate. For the past several years I’ve been keeping everything going as best I can. Maybe not always as well as I could in a perfect world, but keeping things moving forward as best I could.  I’m proud of the work done; I’m especially proud of the talented folks I worked with making the various books in the Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age lines, as well as the Blue Rose core book.

However, the Fantasy AGE line needs someone who really wants to work on it. Which, despite my aforementioned pride in the work done? That just isn’t me anymore. I’ve walked this road about as long as I can or want to. Again, that’s not a slam on the work, the people involved, fantasy, gaming, or anything else the line intersects with. It’s just where I am now.

I’ll always be happy I took this gig. It was the right thing to do at the time. I’ll always be proud of the work done. And it’s possible you’ll see me again on various Green Ronin projects, either as a freelance writer or maybe even a developer if the right specific project comes along.

Never can tell with me.

And I’m not going to be a hermit or anything. I have four more books for my wu xia/kung fu game, Tianxia, to finish, there are three more John Carter of Mars books in the pipeline and even

Fantasy AGE Bestiary

some other work past that.

But damn, I am worn out. And since I still have a lot of things I want to design, write, create, and so on in the future? I needed to let something go so I can recharge, rest, repair, and then do those things. After a lot of consideration, this was the thing to let go.

Sometimes it’s that simple.

So, I wanted to end by saying thanks to the fans and customers for their support and enthusiasm. To Green Ronin, I want to say thanks for the opportunities to put my stamp on not one but three of the company’s lines (and that’s not even counting the various Mutants and Masterminds projects I was able to contribute to). To Fantasy AGE’s new developer, Owen K.C. Stephens, I want to express my heartfelt enthusiasm and well wishes. I know you’re going to do great. To my various collaborators I want to give my love and appreciation; literally couldn’t do it without you. In particular, I want to give a shout out to Jamie Wood and Matt Miller, two fine freelancers who started on Dragon Age with me and kept working to the current Fantasy AGE projects. While there were so many great folks on various books, you two were always there when I needed you, and that’s appreciated.

And to my fellow Ronins, while it wasn’t always easy or smooth…we really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we?

Later,

Jack.


Fantasy AGE Companion

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Michael Corleone. The Godfather, Part III

Okay, that quote makes it sound like I’m unhappy to be back at Green Ronin, and nothing could be further from the truth! But let’s be honest, how often do I get to use an Al Pacino quote? I may not even be the Gamefather, much less the Godfather, but I know a good quote when I steal one!

Fans of Green Ronin as a company may recognize my name from my time as the Freeport/Pathfinder Developer, or my various freelance contributions to d20 game books Green Ronin has been so kind to include me in over the past two decades, but folks who are primarily fans of Fantasy AGE are likely to have no idea who I am, and I’d like to take a chance to introduce myself.

I have just a couple of small AGE credits, dating back to some GM advice of mine that got used in Dragon Age. But to be entirely up-front, my professional expertise has primarily been in things adjacent to D&D and Pathfinder, so taking the role of Fantasy AGE developer takes me into new territory professionally and I’m extremely excited about that.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide

I think Fantasy AGE is one of the most dynamic and exciting RPGs to come along in the past decade, and I couldn’t be happier to be involved with its evolution going forward. Jack’s done a tremendous job shepherding from his first involvement with it to this point, and I want to take a moment to thank him for his hard work on the line, which is in great shape as he and I arrange for the hand-off of projects currently underway.

I don’t officially take the reins until October, but Jack and I (and the rest of the awesome Ronins) are already working at making sure things transition smoothly. We’ll have exciting new things to announce eventually, but for now I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself, and give people time to get used to the news.

Owen K.C. Stephens

September 2019

Prepare for Gen Con 2019: A Green Ronin Guide

It’s almost time for the Best Four Days in Gaming and the first sign of the end of summer, and we’re scrambling to see what new games we’ll be playing in September – but we couldn’t find anything! Every year tons of new games being released at Gen Con, or at least that’s how it’s been in the past, so we figured we’d give you a quick run down of what Green Ronin has to offer that’s new this year – each of these will be available in limited quantities at booth 929, and released later into your friendly local game store!

Also, be sure to check out our seminars and scheduled games!

Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide

The first is the new Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide. The original third edition Gamemaster’s Guide has been out of print for a while now, and the Deluxe guide is a hardcover version with 32-pages of brand-new material and is the best resource for new GMs right after the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook or Basic Hero’s Handbook.

Crystal Frasier had a look at the table of contents and even free preview PDF of a new archetype in Bigger. Stronger. Better. The Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide

If you’re not at Gen Con 2019 you can Deluxe your Gamemastering skills on September 10th.

Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook

We also have the new Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook which brings the focus on super teams. This book includes eight pre-made super teams with details and rules for both players and gamemasters to add more team dynamics to your game. This has been a long-awaited addition to the Mutants & Masterminds game – and retailers will have it on August 6th through their preferred distributors.

If you’re looking for more information about Superteam Handbook you can check out what SuperDev Crystal has to say about it in these links;

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide

Fantasy AGE has come a long way since its release, and now we’re proud to bring the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide! Whether you’re looking to make your own fantasy pantheon, advice on interesting locations, how to make effective of entertaining encounters, this book has advice, mechanics, and examples that are ready to plop into your game! 

This will be available in retail on August 20th. Jack Norris has more to say about what to expect in his blog posts

Threefold: A Campaign Setting for Modern AGE

Last year we released Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and seen lots of feedback and released supplements including the successful Modern AGE Companion which we sold out of in the first two days at Origins earlier this year. Now we’re releasing the original setting Threefold, a full campaign setting with secret organizations, multiple worlds, and the ability to change your setting and theme while maintaining the same tone and characters. Threefold aims to be the flagship setting for Modern AGE going forward and will have plenty of books in the future.

Threefold will be available in distribution September 3rd. Does that sound up your alley? Malcolm can tell you all about what to expect in his original setting in these past Roundtables;

Nisaba Press: Height of the Storm – A Mutants & Masterminds novel

Height of the Storm: The first Mutants & Masterminds novel, by Aaron Rosenberg!!Height of the Storm is the tale of a young woman who takes over her grandfather’s role as the protector of her town, working with his old rival to learn to harness the powers she so recently discovered. But not all enemies are as evil as they may seem, and Lindsay finds herself weighing the safety of the city against the redemption of a man caught in events out of his control.

Just check out what Nisaba Press line manager, Jaym Gates had to say about the book, in Nisaba Press Update Height of the Storm

2019 is shaping up to be quite the exciting year for us and Gen Con will be a blast! Keep your eyes locked here during the convention for a special announcement. If you’re at the show, swing by and grab your new favorite book and meet the team.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide: Art, Process, and Inspiration

Hey folks, Jack back again to talk about the our new Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. This time I want to talk a bit about the art in the book, how it comes to be, and its utility beyond just looking great.

So, with a book like the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, where the focus is inspiring and guiding GMs with their own campaigns, art isn’t just cool, its potentially inspirational. Maybe that cool picture is just the spark someone needs to figure out the tone, style, or some element of a campaign that’s been eluding them. Inclusivity is also a concern; we want books that show a range of characters that will appeal to a diverse player base—not every dwarf looks like a short-bearded Scotsman and not every shining knight is a handsome European looking dude.

So how does the art get selected? Well, basically after the text is written and edited, it gets passed along to layout and art direction, which then tells the developer (me) what sort of art we need and where. This is generally both vague from a creative standpoint and precise from a technical one. So stuff like “We need a half page illo for this section” or “We need something for the start of each chapter in these dimensions” and so on.

Once I get those, I look at the text around where the art is to be placed and write up art descriptions like:

A trio of heroes are standing before a gigantic egg that sits in a nest of bones, vines, bits of smashed buildings, and other materials that present a feeling of menace. The egg is obviously thick shelled, mottled, and dark. It is cracking and something is beginning to emerge. Only parts of the creature inside can be seen, a glaring yellow eye, a scaly claw with some wet feathers along its length, and some tendrils or tentacles coming through certain cracks. The image here is very much that of a the birth of an alien and terrible thing. The heroes are very small compared to the vast egg and as such are mostly for scale, though one can be seen to be an armed warrior, one an archer, and another a spellcaster of some sort with a glowing rod. The scene is some vast underground chamber of which only some of it can be seen in the light of a mage’s rod and some glowing fungus around the cavern.

Often these descriptions have themes or tones I want captured. For example, a piece for a chapter about building monsters might have a scholar teaching monster anatomy. Or perhaps I want to capture the feeling of some comic cover, book illustration, or other inspiration from my own youth. You can see this in stuff like the M&M Cosmic Sourcebook, which I helped write some art descriptions for—several of the pieces in one chapter are homages to classic comic covers using Earth Prime heroes instead of Marvel and DC ones. I do this because I think this sort of influence, depth…call it what you will, shines through in the presentation of the art with the text of the book. And while I can’t make the art or lay it out? This is the part I can contribute—the initial set up for the artist to work their magic, so to speak.

Sometimes these descriptions reference other characters, books, etc… from Green Ronin itself, often mixed with some other piece of media I was enjoying or thinking about at the time:

A hero fights against a swam of vampire thralls. The area around is blasted and twisted, a place that resembles a post-apocalyptic version of a late medieval or early Renaissance Eastern European village, with some faces seen from those hiding inside crumbling buildings. The hero is the red headed swordswoman from page 17 of the FAGE Companion. She still has her massive sword, which she is swinging to catch a thrall or two as they try to leap on her. She has been scratched up a bit from the thrall’s claws, but seems to be holding her own. In the sky a faint red sun can be seen through layers of a cloudy gray sky–the idea is that something here or perhaps across the whole world obscures the sun enough to mute its effects on the creatures, meaning there is no true safe time in this world from such horrors.

I’ve become fond of that red-headed swordswoman in the Fantasy AGE Companion, something about the piece she appears in made me want to revisit her.  And then I watched Netflix’s Castlevania series and I decided she needed to fight vampires in this Campaign Builder’s Guide. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

So then these descriptions are sent off to a freelancer artist who gives us a number of rough sketches to review. The art director and I (and often other folks) discuss which versions we prefer, often saying stuff like “Totally C instead of A or B but we need to work that charging velociraptor riding cavalryman from A in.” Sometimes this process is very quick, sometimes we go back and forth more, but in either case that’s just the process. Some of the best pieces in Fantasy AGE—in my opinion—were fast and easy from a feedback perspective. Others were long and hard, and just as amazing. In any event, the artists also add their own ideas, style, and embellishments. Sometimes an artist will present a piece that’s “wrong” from what we asked for in terms of an angle or action and yet its completely perfect and we love it. Other times great pieces get tweaked because they need to invoke something important from the book.

Anyway, once the sketches are approved and artist knows just what we want? They make the piece. Sometimes they share steps along the way, other times not. In any event, they eventually turn in a piece for approval and any final tweaks and adjustments are made. 

So after all is said and done, the monster egg piece becomes:

Art by Bryan Syme

While our red-haired swordswoman fighting vamps is presented as:

Art by Pedro Sena

And that’s essentially how it works. Just for dozens of pieces of various sizes and dimensions. It’s at times a complex process, but I truly enjoy it.  Hopefully those of you checking out the Campaign Builder’s Guide will find pieces to inspire and delight you as well.

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide Pre-Order and PDF

Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder's Guide: Pre-Order and PDFThe Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide is now available for pre-ordering and in PDF format. As usual, when you pre-order the physical book, you can add the PDF version to your order for just $5, to download right away. If you prefer to shop from your local store, make sure they know about Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus, so you can get the same $5 PDF deal by pre-ordering through them.

Build Worlds of High Adventure!

Welcome to the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide, a book of advice, examples, and in-depth discussion of various elements of tabletop fantasy roleplaying campaigns aimed specifically at Fantasy AGE. Included within you’ll find:

  • In-depth analysis of campaign structure, set-up, and play frameworks
  • Step-by-step advice on designing challenging encounters and interesting adventures
  • Monster and character design assistance to help GMs make convincing, compelling, and challenging adversaries and foils for their campaigns
  • Information on designing religions and divinities
  • Notes on taking your campaigns beyond ordinary power levels and into the realms of truly epic adventure
  • Modifying and adjusting your campaigns to embrace various fantasy subgenres such as fantasy horror, historical fantasy, or post-apocalyptic horror
  • An assortment of helpful tables throughout the book to help generate everything from businesses and criminal organizations, to cults and religions

Each chapter includes detailed examples of the advice and guidelines within, showing how to directly implement the tools and advice of the Campaign Builder’s Guide. The Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide requires the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook, and users will find the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary exceptionally useful when using this book.

Step up your game with the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide!

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Asked and Answered

Hey folks, Jack here. As we are getting ready to release the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide literally any day now, I thought I’d take a moment to answer three of the more common questions I’ve gotten leading up to the release. Hopefully this sheds a bit of light on the book’s content.

Epic Play! Art by Mirco Paganessi.

Q: You said the book has a chapter on epic play, you mean high level play?

A: Well yes and no. I mean epic play. Big sweeping threats, plots, and other elements. Deadly artifacts and beings with godlike powers. Dogs and cats, living together. You know, mass hysteria.

That often is high level stuff. When heroes hit the upper levels of the game, they start to run into more dragons, demon lords, and similar nasty threats. These threats tend towards big ambitions and can often affect things on a national if not global scale. But on the other hand? One of the most famous stories in fantasy is about a short little gentleman farmer and his gardener taking a magic artifact to the most dangerous place in the world so they can destroy it and in doing so basically kill an evil god. Epic as all hell, but the heroes weren’t necessarily Level 20 badasses.  So the book will talk about both high level and just generally epic play, including how to make campaigns where heroes are godlings and divinely powered superhumans from Level 1 if desired—mechanically its simpler than many think.

Q: What kind of Alternate Rules Does the Book Have?

A: There are several optional and alternate rules for GMs wishing to give their campaign a certain flavor or feel. These generally combine very well with similar rules in the Fantasy AGE Companion. For example, in a dark fantasy game a GM might take the new Grave Wounds optional rule and combine it with rules from the Fantasy Age Companion for increased lethality for a very dangerous and gritty campaign. On the other hand, another GM might use action points and other similar rules from the Companion and add in the Cinematic Acrobatics rules for a Wu Xia-style fantasy campaign. And so on.

Some of these rules are brand new. Some others are adapted from other AGE system games, though usually with noteworthy changes. Which brings us to…

Q: Wait, Haven’t I seen this Stuff Before?

Maybe. While the majority of the book is new content, in a few cases rules from Dragon Age, Blue Rose, and Modern AGE were adapted for a particular element of campaign building. This was done so that customers didn’t need to buy books outside the Fantasy AGE line to get an appropriate rule. In most cases these rules were altered or adapted, such as with the Investigation Stunts included in the book—these are similar but not identical to those found in Modern AGE.

Also, in a couple rare instances an older rule or concept from Fantasy AGE itself was revisited to preserve the step by step flow of the book’s chapters on campaign building. The prime example of this is the inclusion of a summary of the Companion/Follower rules, as well as briefly revisiting Honorifics, Memberships, and Titles in the chapter on building campaign rewards.

These concepts are revisited because the discussion in the Campaign Builders Guide is about how the GM can design, use, and incorporate these elements as rewards as part of a larger campaign building strategy. As an important part of campaign development? We came back to them for a brief section to avoid the distraction their absence would cause—especially in readers who haven’t yet picked up the Fantasy AGE Companion.

I hope that clears up a few common inquiries and shows how the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builders Guide combines campaign building advice, new content, and the occasional revisiting of established AGE elements to help GMs form and shape their own settings and campaigns.

Fantasy AGE: Campaign Builder’s Guide – Necessary Tools and Hard Sells

Hey folks, Jack here. Today we’re talking about our soon to be released Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder’s Guide. So what is it? Well, its not a traditional rulebook or adventure…

And right there is where I’ve lost some of you. That’s okay. Let’s see if I can bring you back.

There’s both a definite need and strange reaction to how-to guides, toolkits, and other books in various game lines. While they are appreciated by many, there is a rather vocal minority that not only is sure they don’t need these books but tells others they don’t and even sometimes goes so far as to declare such releases a waste of…something. Time, resources, money, you name it. I see this sometimes when I’m haunting various corners of the internet looking for an idea about what products to propose or what to include in them.

However, if you haunt the messages boards and gaming discussions of the internet, you also see one of the biggest roadblocks to people playing a particular game is “that’s cool, but what do I do with it?” Without a clear guide for how campaigns start, run, and continue, sometimes its hard to get started. This has increased with the influx of newer gamers recently, mostly brought in by streaming and other media treatments of RPGs. We also see a lot of “Man I want to run this, but I am just not sure how. Especially a campaign, how do you even do that?”

It doesn’t stop there, either. Large discussions about “how do I hack this game for this genre?” or “How do I design monsters for this?” are very common. These are also questions sometimes we writers and designers get directly. And these questions aren’t just from new gamers, but anyone who finds that despite their considerable gaming abilities, some parts of conceiving, creating, and running a campaign either elude them or are just kind of a slog.

That’s where, at least for Fantasy AGE, the Campaign Builder’s Guide comes in. It’s a filled with examples, advice, random tables, and various other tools to build campaigns—in whole or in part. And while its undeniably true that veteran GMs will get less out of this book than the rookies, it was written and designed with everyone in mind.

Because if you’re like me? You have your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to preparation, design, campaign building, etc… Maybe you make killer monsters and adventures, but how to really capture epic play eludes you. Maybe you’re a wonderful encounter builder and everyone loves your NPCs, but when you tried to design a religion for that religious order, you don’t feel you managed it well. The Campaign Builder’s Guide covers enough topics and concepts it has a little something for everyone, and a lot of something for many people.

So what’s covered? Well there are advice and examples for:

  • Campaign concepts and frameworks.
  • Encounter building
  • Adventure building
  • Building rewards
  • Character building 
  • Location creation
  • Designing divinities and religions.
  • Sub-genres and genre specific campaign changes
  • Running epic campaigns
  • Monster building

Plus, random tables to help GMs generate ideas on the fly. 

So there’s a lot in there. I daresay something for everyone. I’m going to wrap up with a little preview—a look at an example of Campaign Framework design, the Mean Streets of Kavask.

Remembering Alejandro Melchor

This week was supposed to be set aside for me to talk about the Modern AGE Companion a little more, but I want to talk about Alejandro (aka Alex, or Al-X) Melchor instead. Alex passed away last week, due to the extended complications of a stroke he suffered in March.

Alex worked on every Modern AGE book currently at any stage of completion. In the core, he wrote rules, focuses, talents and part of the extensive Game Master advice in that book. He brought his talents to the World of Lazarus, the Modern AGE Companion, and the upcoming Threefold and Enemies & Allies, too. I’m currently looking for writers for a new book. It has an Alex-shaped hole in it now.

I first got to know him through a semiprivate community we shared, in 2001. I’d just been invited, as responses to my early professional work for White Wolf had been good. Alex did some work for them as well before taking an intensive gig with Mongoose Publishing in the early 2000s. I drifted away and he was busy, though I knew him through the Open Game License credits I bumped into while designing my own stuff. In the interim he developed an enormous list of credits, tending toward mechanically intensive work. I’d say one great thing about him is he could work on rules that reinforce stories and atmosphere, because getting game systems down was quick work for him.

Steve Kenson got to know Alex well, and took the lead in doing what we could to help when he fell ill. He reintroduced me to Alex, and Alex became a bedrock contributor for Modern AGE. He did so much more, in his own communities, on other games, and with other creative people, but I don’t want to presume to talk about any of that. We worked hard. We made some good ideas playable together. And he was unfailingly nice to everyone, a born collaborator, but didn’t hesitate to point out what he thought would be bad ideas.

According to family and friends, Alex liked proactive, resourceful, tough woman protagonists. Modern AGE uses a loose set of iconic characters created by the writers. Alex created Indra Winchester, the technically-inclined punk, who you can see on the cover of the Modern AGE Companion and inside the books of the line. In examples, he’s her player. I plan to keep it that way.

It seems so inane to go through his qualities as a creative guy, when of course there was more, but he was my comrade in making games. That’s what I’ve got to work with, even though it’s not enough to give the man his due. He was a visual artist, and beloved by various communities. And more, always more. In and out of this industry, I won’t be missing him alone, and won’t be the only one feeling new gaps in what might be possible, in work and life. I’m going to miss him.