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!

The Expanse Roleplaying Game Kickstarter: Here Comes the Juice!

The Expanse Roleplaying Game coverSo, if you haven’t heard, on Monday, Green Ronin launched a Kickstarter for the new The Expanse Roleplaying Game using the Adventure Game Engine, and by “launched” we mean in true Expanse fashion, involving some massive acceleration and heavy Gs! The Kickstarter funded fully within the first hour, hit over 300% funding within ten hours, and is still going strong!

The Expanse, of course, is the hugely popular series of science fiction novels by James S.A. Corey, brought to television by SyFy. In fact, the series is so popular that when SyFy decided to stop producing The Expanse series, the online #SaveTheExpanse campaign helped to convince Amazon Prime Video to pick it up and begin producing a fourth season.

Green Ronin Publishing has a license with The Expanse creators (James S.A. Corey is the pen-name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) to publish a tabletop roleplaying game based on the books. This is familiar territory for the authors, since The Expanse started out as a concept for a massive multiplayer video game, and was used as a setting for a roleplaying campaign before the novels were written. Now it has come full-circle back to its RPG roots.

You can find lots more information about the forthcoming Expanse Roleplaying Game at the Kickstarter page, and you can also download The Expanse Quickstart: A complete set of scaled-down rules, pre-generated characters, and an initial adventure to get you playing in the universe of The Expanse right away. It’s a great opportunity to “test-drive” the game before you decide to back it.

To those who have already backed this project on Kickstarter…thank you! Everyone at Green Ronin is blown away by your show of support and your interest in the game, and we’re excited about taking the opportunity to come up with even more stretch goals to make The Expanse RPG the very best that it can be and to reward you for the confidence you have shown in us.

The Expanse Backer Badges!

Earth: I backed The Expanse RPG on Kickstarter Mars: I backed The Expanse RPG on Kickstarter Mars: I backed The Expanse RPG on Kickstarter

In the meanwhile, if you want to show your support and help to spread the word, we’ve come up with these backer badges. Choose the faction you most identify with: Earth, Mars, or the Belt, change your various profile pictures to show your support for the project, and hold on for some more juice as The Expanse Roleplaying Game Kickstarter continues to accelerate! This ride has just begun and there are a lot of adventures awaiting us.