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.
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.
Welcome back to our look at Green Ronin’s 2019 plans. If you missed the first two entries, you can check them out here and here. In this final installment, I’ll be talking about Modern AGE, Fantasy AGE, and Dragon Age.
All three of these games are powered by the Adventure Game Engine (AGE), which has become something of a house system for us over the past five years. Blue Rose and our upcoming Expanse RPG also use AGE, so if you play any of these games, you’re learning the core rules of a growing group of RPGs that cover a variety of genres. I originally designed the Adventure Game Engine for the Dragon Age RPG, and it took off from there. I’m thus happy to report that Faces of Thedas, the long-awaited sourcebook for Dragon Age, is nearly here. Once we get the final green light, we’ll put the PDF up for sale and launch the pre-order. The hour is nigh!
Last year we released the Fantasy AGE Companion, the first real rules expansion for the game. We are following that up this year with two books to make running Fantasy AGE even easier. First up is the Campaign Builders Guide, which is designed to help Game Masters create, build, maintain, and run campaigns. It is filled with advice on crafting encounters and adventures, creating interesting monsters and locations, running epic-style campaigns, and more. It also includes tables to help generate campaign elements when a bit of spontaneity and randomness is desired.
After that we have a book called Lairs, which provides a series of detailed challenges you can adapt to your Fantasy AGE campaign. Each chapter presents a terrifying or formidable adversary, their servants and followers, and their headquarters, base, or lair. Also included are rules for lair and scene specific stunts to step up location-based action in your game. Between Lairs and the Campaign Builders Guide, Game Masters will have many new tools to work with.
Later in the year we should have a setting book for Fantasy AGE. Jack Norris and Jaym Gates have been working on a new setting and you’ll hear more about that as the year progresses. We do also still hope to release the Titansgrave world book, but that depends on some things beyond our control getting sorted out. Can’t say any more than that but fingers crossed.
Last year we launched the Modern AGE RPG, releasing its Basic Rulebook and GM’s Kit. As its name indicates, this takes the AGE rules into a contemporary context. You can use it to run anything from the Industrial Revolution to the near future. Optional rules for extraordinary powers mean Modern AGE easily handles things like urban fantasy or fighting occult Nazis as well. Just last week we released The World of Lazarus, the first campaign setting for the game. It’s a dystopian near future setting based on the Lazarus comics by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and it’s a great way to get your Modern AGE campaign going. If you’d like to know more about The World of Lazarus, developer Crystal Frasier did a series of Ronin Round Tables about it that you can find here.
Next up after The World of Lazarus is the Modern AGE Companion. This sourcebook expands the Basic Rulebook in a bunch of fun ways. There are new backgrounds, professions, and talents, plus new rules for extraordinary powers, technologies, and organizations. It’s also got a very useful chapter on adapting the rules to various genres, such as gothic horror, alien invasion, and Cold War spies. Summertime will then see the Enemies & Allies sourcebook. If you’re looking for adversaries and NPCs for your campaign, look no further! Since Modern AGE covers many different genres, Enemies & Allies ranges far afield, from elite operatives and scientists to horrors and arcane beings.
Later in the year we are going big with our first original setting for Modern AGE, Malcolm Sheppard’s Threefold. It’s an epic modern fantasy setting where characters explore countless planes of existence. In it, our Earth is only one of many alternate worlds. Beyond them, the Otherworlds contain dimension-spanning empires of godlings and sorcerers, and Netherworlds ruled by demon-gods raise armies of the damned. Characters might travel between planes as agents of the Sodality, an organization devoted to peacekeeping and exploration, defend Earth as cyborg agents of Aethon the conspiracy which patrols multiple timelines, or serve other groups. Threefold is big by design, and broad enough to contain all of Modern AGE’s genre possibilities. Stay tuned for more info and teasers about Threefold throughout the year.
A Banner Year
All in all, 2019 is shaping up to be a great year and there’s more to come. Look for an announcement about our community content program for Fantasy AGE and Modern AGE soon. As always you can keep us with us on this website, Twitter, or Facebook. We’ve got more fun stuff to reveal as the months go by. Here’s hoping 2019 is better for everyone!
Now originally I had intended to do the third Iconic character from our “core three” heroes featured on our covers and such. And I will do that. However, a discussion with Vigilance Press head James Dawsey about his FAGE campaign got me thinking about a particularly utilitarian entry utilizing the Fantasy AGE Companion and Fantasy AGE Bestiary. In particular I wanted to discuss Minion rules and how they work with various creatures, but the decisions and analysis here are similar to the thought processes for other parts of the Play Options chapter of the Companion, such as the mob rules.
The Companion has Minion rules for disposing of some creatures as a minor threat. This is represented by a Minion Rating, which is the amount of stunt points (SPs) you can use to automatically defeat an adversary. You can even use this to dispose of multiple minions if you have the points, making it possible for skilled heroes to slaughter lesser foes. The rules are discussed in more detail in the Companion, but that’s how they basically work.
Now the idea behind those rules is that GMs would assign a Minion Rating based on their needs. For example, goblins might be rated 1 or 2, based on how little a threat they are in a campaign. A high-powered game might give Minion Ratings to giants or other powerful foes, while they are never given those in lower-powered games. However, its also true there are certainly general niches and impressions many Minion type adversaries fall into in most campaigns while other adversaries might use these rules in very particular and unusual—but still valid—ways.
With that said, let’s look at some Fantasy AGE Bestiary creatures and look at how they interact with Minion rules. I hope this is helpful to those seeking to use these rules in their campaigns.
Bakwanee, Beastkin, and Bouda
These adversaries all fill the “dangerous in large groups, makes great minions for boss monsters” category. That makes them good candidates for Minion Rating 2. They can be disposed of with some strong attacks, but with some luck you can take down some extras along the way. In high powered campaigns? Drop these down to 1 and watch them fall. Or perhaps make them Mobs and then give the Mobs a Minion Rating—you heard it here first—for games of heroes who can cut down armies like a Fantasy AGE version of the Dynasty Warriors video game franchise.
So Chimera don’t usually have Minion Ratings. They’re singular threats and tough. However, you could give their various heads a Minion Rating and then link some of their special qualities to these heads. Hit a “Minion” on the Chimera and they lose their dragon head and its breath or some other part. Other multi-limbed or headed adversaries could be similarly handled. These heads would likely be hard to hit, akin to a Lethal Blow stunt (5 SPs). Thus it would make sense to have these heads be Minion Rating 5.
Gatorkin and Fomoiri
A bit tougher than the above Bouda and company, they usually have Minion Rating 3, meaning a truly epic Stunt can take out two, but they’re still a threat.
Gargoyle Minion Ratings should be set at around 4. This would be the equivalent of using a Mighty Blow and Pierce Armor to bash through their stone-hard skin with a disabling blow. Sometimes the adversary suggests a stunt or combination of them which would “finish them”. This makes a good model for a Minion Rating. In these cases, GMs will to do a bit more bookkeeping might offer a discount to a character who has one of the stunts that go into such calculations, making it easier for them to cut down certain Minions. However, this is another thing to keep track of, so its not for everyone.
Sea Devils and Merfolk
Its worth noting these adversaries are more dangerous in water. Mostly this is because they are at home in this environment where most characters suffer penalties. However, if you’re making aquatic minions? Consider making them with two Minion Ratings, one for out of water and one for in. In this case of these foes? 2 out of the water and 3 in the water makes sense, though you could remove the rating entirely underwater if you want to reinforce how important it is to face these foes on your own terms to ensure success.
Reapers generally shouldn’t have Minion Ratings. But what if their ability to mark others for death allowed them to give someone else a Minion Rating? Thus a character marked by a Reaper could be cut down by the creature more easily. This would also be a way to simulate a “death curse”. However, be extremely careful using this concept on PCs and if you do make sure they are taken to 0 health and in danger of death by this, allowing them some way to survive.
Vampire Thralls might be Minions, representing how they are sometimes disposed of easily in fiction even as the Vampire Lord is a major threat. This is somewhat represented already with its Hard to Kill special quality, requiring a Lethal Blow stunt to stake or behead them once they have reached 0 Health. However, making these creatures Minions makes them more fragile, doing away with the requirement to reduce their health. In this case, a Minion Rating of 5 is appropriate, the same SPs you’d need to use a Lethal Blow to finish them in their non-Minion state.
That’s just a few examples, but it shows the variety of ways the Play Options rules from the Fantasy AGE Companion can intersect with other books in the line.
Hey folks, Jack here. So with the release of the Fantasy AGE Companion I thought I’d tell you a bit more about the next book in the line.
Now I know some of you are probably thinking “Oh, man, the Companion took so long to come out so how long is this new book gonna take?”
Well, not nearly so long because its mostly written. Its not entirely written, there’s still some more to do on it, but the early drafts are in and looking good.
See, a few months ago I had an idea for a new book to round out the “core books” for Fantasy AGE and had some interested writers who either were not working on the Companion or had finished their work for it. So…I set them to work on this new book, the Campaign Builder’s Guide.
So what is it? Simply put, it’s a book about all the aspects of building your campaign. Each chapter covers a different topic, from encounter design to creating religions and pantheons to designing rewards and more. Each chapter is gives advice and a deep discussion of the process of designing and creating these aspects of a campaign. Then it finishes off each chapter with a detailed example of the campaign element using those guidelines and advice. So each section includes both ready to use campaign elements and guidance on how to make your own.
For example, one of our Fantasy AGE Bestiary contributors will be doing a chapter on adversary design. He’ll go through the process of creating a threat for your campaigns, the problems, pitfalls, and a few tricks you can use to really make your villains and monsters work well. Then at the end of the chapter he will present some all new monsters designed with that advice in mind. Likewise, I’ll be writing on how to customize your game for various fantasy subgenres and then picking a genre and providing optional rules and adjustments to Fantasy AGE to make it better fit. Each chapter will follow a similar format for different parts of a campaign. Also included will be a chapter of various random tables to help GMs generate locations, groups, and concepts on the fly.
This book is designed to be a GM’s guide in the sense it will guide GMs on how to do things for themselves more effectively and also present examples for their use. The book will be released later this year and should round out our current lineup of core book, rules companion, and bestiary.
We are pleased to let you know that you can now pre-order the Fantasy AGE Companion in our Green Ronin Online Store, and when you add the pre-order to your cart, you’ll be offered the PDF version for just $5, for immediate download. (Please make sure to click “Add To Cart” on the popup/overlay once you add the pre-order to your cart.)
The Fantasy AGE Companion provides a plethora of new rules and play options for your Fantasy AGE roleplaying game campaign. This book expands upon the core Fantasy AGE rules and provides alternative game systems so that you can build rules and characters which fit any setting and genre you desire.
I’m excited. Hal’s been showing me art from the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (that’s the core game, with all the rules you need to play) as the book goes through the production process (yes, it’s been written, playtested, edited and is now going through Adobe sorcery. Meanwhile, I have a team of authors working on the Modern AGE Companion, a book of optional systems for the game.
In case you missed previous posts, Modern AGE is the AGE system game designed for contemporary adventures, covering a period from the dawn of the industrial era to the present day, with options for different genres, psychic powers, and magic. Since the art is coming in, I want to use it as an inspiration to talk a bit about adversaries, not just in this game, but most traditional roleplaying games.
Enter the Devil’s Advocate
I’ll be nerd-biographical: Back in the 80s, I was playing in a house ruled AD&D game (who wasn’t, if they were playing back then at all?) where we slashed and burned our way past the “sweet spot” levels, where, at least by the standards of AD&D, the game remains balanced and easy to run. People often identify this range as levels 4 to 8. We’d hit 15th. Our DM Rick was obviously struggling, since he had to choose between foes with raw, big numbers, which turned combat into a grind, and enemies so complex that he needed to do significant planning ahead of time. We came, we saw, we conquered.
Then one day, things were a little different. Rick told Talid, one of the players, to sit right beside him. We got into the game. A wizard teleported behind us—and behind cover—nuked us with a bunch of fireballs courtesy of an item . . . and teleported out again. Talid chuckled. He was playing that damn wizard. Rick had offloaded the job of running a complex adversary to him. We eventually called him the “Devil’s Advocate,” not for the villain he was playing, but for the position. Just like old-school games had “mappers” and “callers,” we had a titled job for the person who played our enemies, distinct from the GM.
The Players’ Cognitive Advantage
Many, many groups have done this, of course, but I don’t mention this for its novelty, but because it taught me a game design principle which I’ve kept in my pocket ever since. Given the same character and familiarity with the system, a player will almost always use that character more effectively (at least in interacting with rules and challenges) than the GM.
I’ve noticed this in virtually every game I’ve witnessed, played in or run, and the reason is easy to tease out of the story, above. A player usually has just one character to deal with. They can become extremely familiar with that character, develop strategies, and devote their full attention to effective play. The GM doesn’t have that luxury; they’ve got other NPCs to run, an adventure to manage, and a campaign to track—and GMing is, for many people, more tiring simply because of the type of social interaction, where you speak to a group and must keep it focused.
And this power imbalance is often frustrating, especially to math-centric GMs, who can see their NPC should be balanced against the PCs, on paper, but ends up being a pushover. It’s not the math. The players are smarter than you—at least in this instance. They have a cognitive advantage.
Diabolical Advocacy and Streamlining
You can solve this in one of two basic ways. First, you can have a player act as Devil’s Advocate, running villains for you. It’s fun, but in many cases the pendulum swings the other way, and the enemy becomes too powerful to handle.
The other approach is to simplify the procedures for running your enemy. The crudest way to do this is to create adversaries who can only perform one task competently, like beat you up and absorb damage. The disadvantage here is that one-trick enemies can get boring. The variation we use in Modern AGE is to give many adversaries distinct abilities that serve as shorthand for what would otherwise be convoluted sets of abilities, or add flavor that a foe’s basic abilities don’t impart. For example, the Criminal Mastermind adversary has several abilities to stay dangerous without needing to shoot anybody, such as:
- All According to Plan Stunt: For 3 SP, the mastermind can declare that another NPC present in the scene was working for them all along. That NPC betrays the heroes or produces some information or equipment the mastermind needs right then, and counts as their ally from then on.
(The Criminal Mastermind has other abilities, but you’ll have to grab Modern AGE for the full rundown. I’m not trying to tease, but this post is pretty long. Sorry.)
- Scot-Free: Whenever the characters would capture, kill, or otherwise defeat the mastermind, the GM may offer the player of the character who bested them 5 SP to use at any point in the future on a relevant test, even if the winning test didn’t roll doubles, in exchange for the mastermind escaping to oppose the heroes another day. (If you’re using the optional Conviction rules, the player gains 1 Conviction instead.)
Both the Devil’s Advocate and streamlining are fine tactics for dealing with PC/NPC imbalance, and which one you use will depend on a bunch of other considerations, such as whether anybody wants to play Devil’s Advocate. Remember that this problem won’t come up if you know the rules better, or can marshal other advantages that compensate for your more diluted attention—and remember that sometimes, the PCs should win. Never snatch victory away when it’s truly deserved.
Last time I was here, I introduced Modern AGE, the contemporary era implementation of Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine. Look on this very page, and you’ll see the cover. I’m not going to call it the absolute, final article–fine tuning the look is Hal’s business–but this is darn close. I’m going to riff on the cover to tell you a bit more about what to expect.
Who’s on That Rooftop?
Like many games, Modern AGE features iconic characters we use for examples of play, who indicate the kinds of characters you can build and advance. Early in outlining, I designed each iconic with input from a writer, making it their character–you’ll see the writers’ names pop up as example players (Meghan Fitzgerald is our “iconic GM” in these examples). Let’s look at who the characters are, and what they tell you about the game.
They Know What to Say
On the far left, Sean checks their phone. “Played” by Howard Ingham, Sean’s a socially focused character, and even though we don’t have set character sheets for iconics like them, they’re bound to have a high Communication score, along with focuses supporting social interaction. Modern AGE includes social influence and connection rules in its core. First off, we present a selection of attitudes an encountered NPC might have, and rules for gradually shifting an attitude in a direction conducive to a character’s desires. But this is an AGE game, so we’ve also baked in an option to get things done with one roll. If you’re like me, there are times you want to play through developing a relationship, and times where you want to know whether an NPC will help or hinder a hero right away. The rules let you do both.
Sean might also draw on a Relationship with an NPC, or Membership in an organization–we have rules for both, evolved from predecessors in Blue Rose. Sean might have the Intrigue talent to draw information out of connections, and a specialization like Executive or Socialite that makes it easy to draw on social ties.
Crouched in the middle, Brian McLaughlin is an ex-military operative, “played” by yours truly. Brian probably has a character Background or Profession rooted in military affairs, and a Drive that motivates him to stay armed, and ready for action. Modern AGE Drives provide a capstone benefit at character creation, bundled into a reason to say “yes” to engaging with a campaign’s stories. Brian’s focus is on ranged combat, so guns, bullets, and how to deal with them are obviously important to him. That means Brian picked armor with a high rating against ballistic damage. In Modern AGE, we split damage into impact damage, inflicted by melee weapons, ballistic damage, delivered by firearms, and armor-piercing penetrating damage. Ancient armor doesn’t protect against ballistic attacks; modern armor does. Almost nothing resists penetrating damage.
Brian may have the Rifle Style focus, and perhaps a specialization in Sniper or Gunfighter, which can make him a formidable opponent even when his targets have armored up. But much depends on the game’s mode, our term for what rules might be in play to support a genre. All characters have a resistance to damage called Toughness, but in the gritty game mode, it only protects against mild blunt force trauma. In pulpy and cinematic modes, however, one of Brian’s targets might shrug a shot off, and keep in coming.
She Hits Hard
Over to Brian’s right is Amy Wilson, “played” by Matthew Dawkins. She’s trained and motivated to deal with anyone getting too close for comfort. Amy’s a martial artist and melee weapons expert. Matthew wrote the equipment section, and knows the sort of blades, bludgeons and other weapons she might acquire. AGE games aren’t equipment focused, so each weapon represents a general category. Furthermore, note that with no classes, we’ve dropped the penalty for not being trained with a weapon, but since Amy is probably trained in multiple armed and unarmed fighting style talents and the Martial Artist specialization, don’t expect to be on an even footing.
One of the organizational changes we’ve made in Modern AGE will affect how Matthew plays Amy. In other AGE games, we presented one big list of combat stunts; in Modern AGE we have more stunts, but they’re split into smaller lists of stunts linked to specific actions (with some that fit any action, and advice that there is wiggle room). Some stunts are listed as “core,” meaning that as low-cost options that are easy to describe, they can be your first choice, to avoid decision paralysis at the table. We hope that this combined with short, focused stunt lists makes picking stunts easier. We’ve done the same for non-combat stunts as well.
Beyond the Rooftop
So that’s who’s on the cover. What are they doing on that rooftop? What city are they in? (And who are the iconics I haven’t introduced yet, including the one who leads into chatting about the investigation rules?) Modern AGE doesn’t have a default setting, so it’s up to you, though the World of Lazarus, coming out at the same time as a supplement, provides immediate possibilities. If you want to know more, your best bet is to come visit our booth at Gencon–we’re Exhibitor #1321–or visit the “What’s New With Green Ronin Publishing!” panel at noon on Saturday.
So, at the beginning of May, we announced we’re going to produce the World of Lazarus, a guide to roleplaying in Greg Rucka’s SF-feudal Lazarus comic series. We noted it would be a setting for the Modern AGE roleplaying game.
Yes, this means we’re making a Modern AGE game. We said so in a sort of soft, sneaky way, but today, we’re going to dig into what that means.
Modern AGE uses the Adventure Game Engine to power stories set in the “modern era,” a period we’ve designated as running from the 18th or 19th century, through the present day, and into the near future. That means guns and computers, transoceanic empires and raucous democracies, and the Cold War and beyond, into the great geopolitical realignments of our time. But it also means urban fantasy, psychic powers, conspiracies and all the speculative and strange sources that fuel modern stories.
The Adventure Game Engine is the system you first saw in the Dragon Age roleplaying game. You witnessed its evolution into Fantasy AGE with Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave setting, and into Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy. Modern AGE might be thought of as a counterpart to Fantasy AGE, but if you’re familiar with one of these games, the rest will come easily. Modern AGE adds some new things to the system, and revises a few solid concepts to make them easier to use.
Developing the game, it’s been important to me to stick with the A.G.E. system’s core concepts: ease of play, strong tools for character development, and most of all, stunts.
Stunts and Areas of Interest
Stunts are the system’s “killer app;” where other games often struggle to integrate special actions and exceptional results, the A.G.E. system uses stunts to make them emerge during play. Modern AGE introduces some new stunts, but we also recognize the decision paralysis that can happen when doubles hit the table. That’s why we’ve designated go-to core stunts and places stunts into shorter, focused lists.
Putting stunts into categories means thinking about what characters do during the game. Accordingly, we’ve mapped out three core areas of interest: action, exploration and social play. Action encompasses combat, chases and other physical challenges. Exploration combines its counterpart in Fantasy AGE with investigation. Social play develops the “roleplaying” category, acknowledging that modern games often require heroes to present themselves properly in all the scenarios thrown up by complex contemporary cultures.
The three areas of interest act as a focus throughout Modern AGE’s design, not just stunts. Heroes with abilities covering all three can take on nearly any challenge the GM cares to throw at them.
Character and Genre Modes
Fantasy AGE presents broad classes, archetypes in that genre, and provides advancement options that allow you to lock in more specific elements over time. Modern era games don’t have the same archetypes, however, and don’t need the same niche protection vital to the feel of fantasy adventure gaming. So, we’ve gone classless. After developing a background, a profession and a drive that pushes your hero out of obscurity and into the story, you’ll select ability advancements, talents and specializations freely.
In some games, a private eye is someone who uses a car, camera and laptop to find evidence for divorces and lawsuits, while in others, they’re a two-fisted, iron-chinned stalwart with a talent for getting tangled in murders. The difference? Genre. Not all modern games feature the same degree of realism, so we’ve included specific rules modes to fit the stories you want to play through. The three basic modes are gritty, for stories where violence is unforgiving, pulp, where a battered hero can, say, claw their way out of danger, and cinematic, where protagonists achieve the competence often reserves for fantasy heroes and the most outrageous action games. These modes affect character toughness and stunt access, and guide advice you’ll read throughout the book.
In upcoming columns, I’ll talk more about Modern AGE’s design foundations, and the details that make them work. Until then, let me ask you something: What clicks for you about the Adventure Game Engine RPGs you’ve played? What do you want to see down the line? I’m developing it even as we speak, and things are getting locked in, but I’d love to read your conversations–and ever so sneakily, have you spread the word that Modern AGE is coming . . .
And in a Further Manipulative Move
. . . oh wait. It’s not all about me. While you should indeed talk about Modern AGE until it’s a breakfast cereal, I have been reminded that our Kickstarter for The Lost Citadel — Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Roleplaying is in full swing. I was actually one of the authors in the short story collection that inaugurated this shared world, which we’re transforming into a setting for 5th Edition roleplaying. But if you’re an Adventure Game Engine fan, know this: If we hit $32,500, we’ll unlock the A.G.E System Hack, which converts the Dead-bound Zileska setting to A.G.E family games.
And if you’re curious about the setting and stories of The Lost Citadel, we have a sample short story available for FREE on our website. Check out Requiem, In Bells, by Ari Marmell.