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!

Ronin Roundtable: Nisaba Press update!

So, by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the announcement about Nisaba Press’s first novel, Shadowtide, by Blue Rose’s own, beloved Joe Carriker. Joe turned the final manuscript over to me a couple of months ago, and I worked on the edits while I was in New Orleans for a convention. Readers, this book is lovely. It’s full of intrigue, adventure, and chosen family, led by a smart-talking rhy-crow and a grieving Night Woman.

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.

The book is now in production’s hands, along with the interior art order. It’s going to be pretty amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the first entry in Nisaba’s novel line.

But now that Joe’s novel is into production, let’s talk about what we can look forward to next. Nisaba’s fiction is currently focused on our three internal settings, Blue Rose, Freeport, and Mutants & Masterminds. With a Blue Rose novel out, what could possibly be next?

How about a Mutants & Masterminds novel, penned by Aaron Rosenberg? Aaron is an experienced novelist who is familiar with tie-in and game fiction, having written for properties including Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Star Wars, Warhammer, and Eureka. He’s written for a number of game properties, too, including several supplements for Green Ronin. His combination of game and novel experience made him a great fit for our next Nisaba novel.

Coming in fourth quarter 2018 from Nisaba Press, Height of the Storm is a novel about a teenager who gets caught in a storm, and wakes up with a big choice to make. We’ve been through the first round of edits, and the manuscript is back with Aaron for a final writing pass before the copyedit phase starts. Hal has the cover art notes, and we’re looking forward to initial sketches.

In the meantime, check out our short fiction, and keep an eye out for an announcement of the upcoming Nisaba Journal, our first collection of short fiction. The Journal will be produced bi-monthly, containing 4-6 short stories in the featured settings, and available in our web store. The August issue includes stories from Richard Lee Byers, Tiffany Trent, Michael Matheson, Dylan Birtolo, Rhiannon Louve, and a prequel to Height of the Storm from Aaron Rosenberg!

Thanks for reading, folks. I’m super excited to bring you the next round of fiction set in Green Ronin’s worlds.

Basic Hero’s Handbook preview: THE ARCHETYPES: ANANSI

With the arrival of the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook, the world of Earth Prime has a few new heroes illustrating the eight heroic archetypes presented in the books. Four of these characters also appear in the upcoming Mutants & Masterminds Quickstart as pregenerated player character sheets, and so they needed names, personalities, and origins of their own. We turned to RPG industry legend and giant comics nerd, Amber Scott to help flesh out the new Crimefighter, Energy Controller, Gadgeteer, and Paragon of the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Heroes Handbook!

 

———————-

Morowa grew up in the nation of Dakana, a technologically advanced society hidden from the rest of the world. As a child, she always felt confident in her place in the world. With her clever mind and natural talent for athletics, she fit in perfectly as a member of the nation’s defense forces. As she advanced in school, she studied all the courses necessary for her to enter the all-female force comprising Dakana’s greatest defenders.

But her plans for the future derailed as Morowa began having strange dreams. At first, the dreams were  the same. She stood on the edge of a tall building, looking out over an unfamiliar city. It was night, and a moon shone brightly overhead. Below her, thousands of people went about their daily lives, unaware of her watchful presence. The city—like a heart—beat strong, but out beyond the heart poison crept through its veins.

Young and headstrong, she initially dismissed the dreams as a strange quirk of her mind. But the visions continued, and gradually Morowa found herself able to interact with them. She walked around the roof, glancing down from different angles and seeing slices of city life. She witnessed car accidents, assaults, and robberies, but she also saw good-hearted people stepping in to help when they could. And every time a good soul stepped in to help, the poison receded just a little.

Eventually, the young soldier began to notice a tiny spider crouched on the ledge. One night, as she descended again into the dream-city, the spider spoke to her.

“You are destined for more than a life of routine,” the spider said. “The heart you have trained your whole life to protect is strong; it drips with good souls and healthy blood. Your fate lies across the sea. You will help those who need it and strike down those who would harm the innocent. If you love the heart, how can you not love the body it feeds as well?”

After that, the dreams stopped. Morowa resisted, at first. She already had such a clear vision for her future, and it didn’t include traveling to another continent and living among the strange customs of the western world, with its crime and intolerance. But she couldn’t shake the spider’s words out of her head, and after discussing the matter with the shamans and soldiers, she decided to follow the path laid out by her dreams.

The first night in her new city, she dreamed again of the spider. “You have made a wise choice,” the spider said. “Fight with a fearless heart and trust those who come to your aid.”

Morowa fights with her acrobatic skills and with three weapons brought from her homeland. The most obvious are a collapsing staff and spider-shaped throwing disks, but the least obvious is the most deadly: a lifetime raised in a world uncorrupted by petty greed and hate, and the knowledge that such a place can exist where people flourish. Those who have fought her would also add Morowa’s sharp wit to her list of weapons. She calls herself Anansi, after the spider of folk-tales brought to Dakana from distant Ghana. She still knows little of the spider from her visions, but Morowa  knows who she is:  a trickster, and a spider whose bite draws out venom from the veins of the world.

 

Ronin Roundtable: Gamemastering Basics

As Mutants & Masterminds developer Crystal Frasier is demonstrating in previews leading up to pre-orders, The Basic Hero’s Handbook has a lot to offer both old and new players interested in the World’s Greatest Superhero RPG.

 

“But what about Gamemasters?” you ask. Fear not! As it happens, The Basic Hero’s Handbook (or M&M Basic for short) has a lot of offer M&M GM’s as well, including those of you who may want to start running your own games. What sorts of things will long-time and new Gamemasters find in the book?

Encounter Archetypes

M&M Basic provides several “encounter archetypes,” looking at a particular encounter or situation in some detail, including how to stage it, what the game mechanics look like, and different variations you can play out with it. The book includes encounter archetypes such as:

The Doom Room: How to run all of those “training exercise” scenes where the heroes cooperate against a fiendish simulation, or compete against each other. The material in this encounter also does double-duty in supplying game mechanics you can use for various villainous traps!

The Heist: The classic robbery scenario, including what the crooks are stealing, the potential for innocent bystanders in harm’s way, and ways the thieves may use to cover their escape when the heroes try to thwart their heist. Variations include how to mix-and-match some supervillains and different kinds of heists.

The Rescue: A falling jetliner, a runaway train, people in danger and heroes to the rescue! How to handle rescuing people endangered by these and similar problems, along with many variations that can turn them into even more complex encounters, such as rescuing a falling passenger jet while also dealing with the villains who damaged it!

Disaster! Looks at a different sort of rescue encounter, heroes saving people in danger from a catastrophe. This can range from a building on fire or damaged in a quake, to a storm or some other disaster, and sets up how to stage rescues and give the heroes challenges that are not necessarily things they can punch their way through.

You can use these encounter archetypes as building blocks for your own superheroic adventures or time-savers in your own adventure design, since the essential work has been laid out for you.

Ready to Use Villains

M&M Basic offers a set of ready-to-run villains with a variety of different power levels, from 8 to 15, complete with easy-to-read character sheets detailing just what the villain’s powers do in clear terms. For example, take a look at the new Luna Moth, a daring, flying thief with gossamer wings and chemical cocoons to challenge your heroes.

 

Other foes described in Basic terms for Gamemasters include the Power Corps, the Battle Brothers, the mentalist Mindfire, the space bounty hunter Loma Slife, Malador the Mystic, and the sinister Overshadow! Plus GMs get a variety of ready-made monsters and minions to round out the villains and to put between them and the heroes.

Shadows of the Past

Plus the Basic Hero’s Handbook includes a complete M&M adventure, Shadows of the Past, making use of the villains and encounter building blocks provided in the book. You can play through this adventure to introduce a group to the game or kick off a new M&M campaign, and use it as an example for building your own exciting adventures.

Combine this with GM advice and reference material and The Basic Hero’s Handbook has everything a group needs to get started playing the World’s Greatest Superhero RPG!

Ronin Roundtable: Ork! Lore and More Gore!

Okay, I’ve been busy talking about Modern AGE but there’s another game I’m developing. It’s nastier, brutisher, and shorter—and stylistically, promotes the use of words like “brutisher.” That’s Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition.

Ork! was Green Ronin’s first release, and its dank, beer-stained roots can be found in Chris Pramas’ NYC games with Ork! mastermind Todd Miller. These games ran on punk mayhem, goofy improvisation and the peculiar interests of their group, including The World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, The World’s Most Popular Fantasy Miniatures Game, and The World’s Most Popular Vaguely Depressing Filmmaker Who Fortunately We Can Name, He’s Werner Herzog And He Did That Thing About The Penguin Walking To Its Probable Death (It’s on YouTube). To turn this mash into a semi-coherent game, Chris Pramas devised a system, and out it came in the Year 2000, which back then, was practically the future, man.

So Ork! is special to Chris and Todd, and to Green Ronin as a whole. It’s a funny game, but it’s been designed with the same effort as we put into games like Fantasy AGE and Blue Rose. At times this meant a bit of extra work. I was called in to work on Ork! 2nd after Jon Leitheusser had already done a significant amount of development—more than enough to produce a functional RPG. So, my role was to tune the game into something in tune with the spirit of those early games, and which would fit hand-in-glove with the style of Ork! Game mastering—what we call Orkmastering for the deepest, most story-relevant reasons, I assure you—Todd performs when he runs it at Gen Con and elsewhere. That meant a top-to-bottom review and, where necessary, redesign. This stage got us to Cheats, where orks steal dice from the Orkmaster and each other (and risk the wrath of Krom, the merciless ork god), rules for ork magic (which risks the wrath of Krom) and other elements, all of which risk the wrath of Krom, probably.

For me, one part of the design was key: In Ork!, all dice rolls are opposed! Nowadays we have two basic schools of game design. In one, we figure out how things happen in the game based on some tactical challenge or representation of how the game world works. In the other school, we settle things based on their dramatic importance, how they might contribute to a developing story arc, and so on. Orks never went to school, and live with one boneheaded truth: Krom’s got a lot of wrath to spread around. So, in Ork!, opposed rolls represent how much interest Krom has in making life difficult for characters. Krom made the universe, so for the most part, meets expectations like big mountains being tougher to claim than little ones, but may also make things harder by getting bored, believing an ork is acting in a pathetic, unorkly way, and so on.

And lo, Krom’s wrath was spread around, and Ork! was sent to production, the dominion of a mysterious being called “Hal.” And Hal gave Ork! a perfectly serviceable layout. Truly respectable. Until, exercising the attention to detail that has defined our efforts on this game, decided it needed more rippy, blood-spattery bits. Here’s what it looks like now:

Wotank is not a “starter monster.”

Rippy, spattery—perfect for Ork! I look forward to sharing the product of all this work with you. Ork! The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition is scheduled to come out in August 2018. The game includes all the rules you need, things to kill (in a chapter called, “Things to Kill”) and a handful of adventures sufficient to get you through a short campaign. See you then!

Ronin Round Table: Maps of Aldis Preview

The past few months have been some pretty hard work finishing up the upcoming Blue Rose sourcebook Aldis: City of the Blue Rose. As a developer and a cartography nerd, I love a good city-focused setting book, so being able to help detail the wondrous and near-idyllic capital city at the heart of the Blue Rose setting was a dream come true.

 

It’s been a great deal of fun guiding writers through creating places, and then seeing those places turned into beautiful, full color maps that inspire as much as they inform. The amazing Liz Courts has lent her talent and vision to this effort, and the results are – as I hope you’ll agree – simply stunning.

To demonstrate the scope and variety of maps, I’m taking this opportunity to show off the Palace Complex, heart of the Aldin government and home to the Sovereign, Queen Jaellin; the House of the Thousand Ways, a very upscale pillow house where Aldinfolk can find healing and companionship in the arms of the specialists of the House; and the village of Dorwine, a small settlement in the countryside that surrounds the city of Aldis.

 

Aldis: City of the Blue Rose will be available for pre-order later this month!

Ronin Roundtable: Playtesting and Origins!

The past few months have been focused on the design and playtesting of the decks of Sentinels of Earth-Prime and I’m happy to report that it’s going great. The fourth version of the playtest decks are currently having their tires kicked and everything is coming together nicely.

Christopher’s playtest set.

Earlier this month, both Green Ronin and Greater Than Games were at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio and this gave us a chance to get together to talk about the business side of things and do a playtest together.

Christopher Badell has ideas!

This was the first time we’ve actually had the whole team in one place so we were able to cover a lot of ground and make sure everything was on track for the next stage of development. In addition to the boss Ronins (Nicole, Hal, and myself), we had Steve Kenson (designer of Mutants & Masterminds and creator of Earth-Prime), James Dawsey (art director for this project), and Christopher Badell (Greater Than Games, designer of the Sentinels games).

The following day Christopher, James, and I met up for a playtest of Sentinels of Earth-Prime.

Playtest at the Big Bar on 2!

I played Lady Liberty, James played Dr. Metropolis, and Christopher played Lantern Jack in a battle against Argo the Ultimate Android in the heart of Freedom City! Argo has powers that mimic those of members of the Freedom League, so this was a challenging fight, particularly with none of our characters being big damage dealers. Nonetheless, we prevailed, saving Freedom City once again!

Lady Liberty, beacon of freedom!

 

As Christopher designed literally every card of Sentinels of the Multiverse, I knew his new decks would be good. My primary concern was that they capture the right feel for the Earth-Prime characters. Back in April we had Steve go over the decks and give Christopher some notes on story and character. That and the continued playtesting have honed the characters so they provide a fun Sentinels experience and a great Earth-Prime experience as well.

At this point the major design work for the game is done, so it’s a matter of nips and tucks to ensure the decks are just right. We said previously that you could expect the game early next year and that is still the case. Right now we are in the lead up to GenCon, our biggest convention of the year, so things are in overdrive at GRHQ. Among other new releases, you’ll be able to get the Basic Hero’s Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds (check out Crystal Frasier’s recent Ronin Round Table to find out more about it).

 

Modern Monday: Modern AGE is Out! What’s It About?

Yes, Modern AGE is available for print pre-order! This means you can also order the PDF immediately, either on its own, or with your book as part of Green Ronin Pre-Order Plus program. Tell your friends! Post on websites! Don’t believe every placeholder date you see posted in Amazon and vendor sites! Even as we speak, the game is in the queue to go to press.

It’s been a trip, from turning the slate of ideas (modern and classless, with some character creation structure provided by Chris Pramas) into a testable, then finished game. I didn’t want to just add guns and technology to Fantasy AGE. To produce an implementation of the Adventure Game Engine that fits the period, we developed some basic design principles. I’ve talked about these before, but since the game is out, I don’t mind going over them again. After that, I’ll talk about where we go from here.

Action, Exploration, Social

Modern AGE structures play around three areas. The Action area includes combat, chases and physical danger. Exploration covers literal exploration along with investigations and breaking into guarded locations.  Social interactions are essential to modern games, which usually take place in highly organized societies where politics are stronger than physical force.

Consequently, we developed new systems and stunts to support the three areas. Chase rules expand what’s possible in an action scene and can apply to chases on foot or horseback as well as in vehicles. Breaching and investigations support capers and procedural stories. For social interaction, we made relationships and memberships, first introduced in early AGE games, core parts of Modern AGE.

Indra and Jeff perform a classic adventure task with new tools. That’s one way of looking at Modern AGE.

Stunts

Modern AGE goes all-in with stunts. Stunts are a distinctive feature of AGE. They perform tasks other games often handle with dedicated subsystems. Grappling and other special combat maneuvers are dealt with here. Instead of using Health points, vehicles get damaged through a special slate of stunts.

The emphasis on stunts requires a change in how players should approach them. Stunts are organized into focused lists, and we’ve expanded how many are available. While any character can use any appropriate stunt, we recommend picking your favorites, including stunts modified and improved by talents and specializations.

Game Modes

The three game modes—Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic—let you modify rules to fit the genre which best suits your campaign. I’ve talked about this in prior Modern Mondays, including last week. Mode most notably affects how characters resist damage with Health and Toughness, but also influences stunts, chases and even Resources.

Getting into the Game

The Modern AGE Basic Rulebook includes everything you need to play the game, including an introductory adventure designed with fantasy and science fiction options, should you wish those to be part of any subsequent campaign. In addition, Freebooter Game Masters at Origins and Gen Con will both be running “Warflower,” an adventure with similar variation.

Want a taste of Modern AGE before you get the core book? The Modern AGE Quickstart features a cut down Cinematic mode rules set, pregenerated characters, and a modern fantasy adventure.

What’s Next?

We’ve announced three upcoming releases. World of Lazarus adapts Greg Rucka’s dystopian feudal future comic for Modern AGE. It’s currently going through finishing touches in layout. The Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit includes a GM’s screen and reference cards. It’s at press.

Further along the line, we have several other books at various stages of completion. The one we’ve announced is the Modern AGE Companion, which has just finished editing. This book presents many, many new systems you can use to adjust the game for the genre or feel you prefer.

See You in a Bit

With the core book out, it’s time for me to give Modern Mondays a rest for a little while. I’ll be back from time to time, to talk about upcoming releases and other projects. I’ve talked your ear off about Modern AGE, but I’ve got another game coming: Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition. See you around!

Ronin Roundtable: LET’S GET BACK TO BASICS

As we put the finishing touches on the Rogue’s Gallery, the Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook was slowly percolating in the background. Now that it is nearly ready to ship to the printers as well, I’m happy to show the results of several months of work and writing!

Mutants & Masterminds is a great game with a robust ruleset built over 16 years and three different editions. It’s flexible enough to handle almost any genre of comic book adventure, from traditional tights-and-fights books to street-level vigilantes to cosmic weirdness to mundane human agents facing off against the unknowable. But that flexibility brings a certain amount of jargon and a learning curve that can be off-putting for new players. Among the first challenges we decided to tackle to make a newbie-friendly rulebook was character creation. The Deluxe Hero’s Handbook offers a wealth of choices for fine-tuning your character to build exactly what you want to play, but for brand new players that freedom can be intimidating. Option paralysis is one of the most commonly cited problems players new to M&M report, followed closely by the amount of number crunching character generation required. The Quickstart Character generator is a perfectly solution for intermediary players, but we wanted a solution for those picking up Mutants & Masterminds for the first time.

Our solution is the Basic Archetype, which boils character generation down to a handful of choices about your character’s theme, personality, and history. With one of the book’s eight basic archetypes and a character sheet, even brand new players can be game-ready in ten minutes!

Each Basic Archetype starts with a brief overview of the concept. Each Archetype has a base suite of Ability ranks and Defense ranks, which you can tweak by selecting a character type. Most come with a few basic skills, but ask you to decide who your character is to determine the rest. Likewise, selecting Advantages is rolled into deciding a few personality traits that help define your hero. Finally, each Basic Archetype lets you select one of three Power Suites that define what exactly puts the “super” in your super hero.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite hero concepts: the Energy Controller:

 

This is Solar Ray, or just Ray to his teammates. He appears—alongside his friends Anansi, Ultra, and Pinnacle—in the Basic Hero Handbook’s tutorial comics. The Energy Controller’s Ability ranks focus mostly on being tough and fast, with the cocksure attitude and powerful presence that usually accompanies the ability to throw fireballs. Their skills options give you some classic comic book staples for energy-wielders, letting you help personalize you hero as say, a lothario test-pilot or a watchful commander. Because Energy Controllers are more defined by their powers, they don’t receive as many Advantages as most heroes, but you still get some flexibility in deciding if your hero is a wisecracking brawler, a cool-as-a-cucumber tactician, or a terrifying force of nature. Finally, their Power Suite choices give you choice of what kind of comic book exploits you want to embody: The Avatar is your classic Human Torch, able to transform into a living incarnation of your element; the Blaster, on the other hand, is a classic one-trick pony who can only do one thing, but does it very, very well (and gets some extra Skills and Advantages, since they’re not out there hotshotting all the time); the Elementalist splits the difference as a master of energy, able to control and wield their element with extraordinary skill, but not transforming into it.

The Basic Archetypes are fast, easy, and flexible enough to make each hero feel personal, obfuscating the math and overwhelming choices while still giving players a standard 150 power point, Power Level 10 starting character they can bring to the table alongside veteran players who create their characters using the rules found in the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook!

The full basic Hero’s Handbook will be available in print later this summer at GenCon. Hope to see you all there!

Modern Monday: Genres

Modern AGE is currently undergoing final touches before the advance PDF and preorders start, so this Modern Monday’s going to be a short one talking about genres, modes and the reason we give them special emphasis.

The Modern Conundrum

Dungeons and Dragons invented its own genre. Yes, it grabbed elements from numerous sources in fantasy fiction and medieval wargames, but its peculiar history mixed those up in a distinct fashion. Over the next 44 years, other games added new elements to the mix, reacted to the curious construction of “dungeon fantasy.” Writers, producers and game developers brought it into new media, adding their own sensibilities and practical insights—and then roleplaying games brought that expanded melange back. At this point, we have a very broad but definite idea of what a classic fantasy RPG looks like. It’s got elves, magic, a team of heroes, high adventure. You can introduce significant variation (and Fantasy AGE does this well—look at Titansgrave!) but there’s always a core experience to refer to and design around.

Modern games never started out with their own mixed-up new genre. The first RPG covering anything like what Modern AGE covers was Boot Hill, and it wasn’t a generalized industrial-age RPG, but a Western game. Unless you go with a full-on alternate universe, a modern era game must deal with the concrete history of the industrial era and beyond, and the fiction found within it: action-adventure, horror, urban fantasy, spy stories and so on. Thus, a game like Modern AGE needs tools you can use to customize it for your campaign’s chosen genre.

Mode and Genre

The front line for customization is game mode: Modern AGE’s Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic rules variants. These primarily affect how physically resilient a character is, but occasionally foray into other areas. For example, the Cinematic option for Resources (wealth in the game) allow for a steady increase as your character advances. They can move on up to international intrigue and prodigious expense accounts without too much trouble. Note that modes are packages of options, and you can always fine tune rules within a mode.

One of the reasons the modes exist is to give you access to rules which fit your selected genre. The Game Master section of Modern AGE presents several genres—folk horror, conspiracy thrillers and more—with their suggested modes.

In the dystopian SF genre, what’s worse than flesh over a metal endoskeleton? Uh, *metal* over a metal endoskeleton. Art by Alyssa McCarthy

Specialized Rules

Beyond modes, Modern AGE includes a few different optional game systems for elements particular to certain genres. The most notable of these are the rules for magic and psychic powers. Both power sets have similar default systems, but rules options let you customize these to fit your campaign. Brief notes for other powers can be found in the game’s coverage of genres. Finally, the Game Master can decide all characters have access to the power of Conviction, a game system which rewards emotionally resonant, dramatic play. First found in Blue Rose, Conviction is presented as an optional system in Modern AGE.

Beyond powers, chases, breaching tests and other secondary systems exist to support the genres in which they appear. Breaching tests are for capers “where a plan comes together,” and chases are a mainstay of action media. Modern AGE even provides some support for the sorts of movies where, against all common sense, people catch up with cars on foot—but that’s Cinematic mode, applied to the chase rules.

More on Genre: The Modern AGE Companion

Coming next year, the Modern AGE Companion (currently text-complete, and in editing) digs deep into genre. It includes coverage on how to make characters for particular genres, and special rules covering the mainstays of many types of fiction. That means rules for fear and horror, duels and complex martial arts styles, gadgets and extraordinary powers, and more. We didn’t take anything vital out of Modern AGE (and in fact we migrated breaching from World of Lazarus into the core game because Crystal Frasier’s rules just cried out to be core material!) but the Companion opens the next level of customization. I look forward to sharing more with you, when the time comes.

Next Monday?

It’s a surprise.