Tag Archive for: AGE

Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Core Rulebook – Available to pre-order now!

We are excited to announce that the day has come at last! The Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Core Rulebook pre-order is live!

You can get a copy of the PDF immediately with your pre-order by selecting the $5 add-on when you add the print book to your cart. And if the costs for shipping are a bit rough, be sure to ask your Friendly Local Game Store to pre-order the book. If they belong to our Pre-Order Plus program (all it takes is a quick email), you can get the $5 PDF through your local store too! We know international shipping has gotten a little extreme lately, so be sure to support your FLGS, skip the shipping fees, and take advantage of a great deal all at the same time!


Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook

Available to Pre-Order now!

Leap into sword & sorcery RPG adventures with the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook!

Powered by the popular Adventure Game Engine,Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition is easy to learn, fun to play, and welcoming to new roleplayers. The Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook includes these features:

  • Simple Character Creation: Pick an ancestry (such as draak, dwarf, goblin, and wildfolk), pick a class (envoy, mage, rogue, or warrior), pick a specialization (such as duelist, diplomat, pirate, and sword mage), and jump into the action.
  • Heroic Stunts: The heart of the game is the stunt system, which brings dynamism and drama to the table. Roll doubles on 3d6 to pull off unexpected moves in combat, cast more potent spells, perform amazing feats of physical and mental prowess, or even cut a rival down to size with a few clever words.
  • Mighty Magic: Spell casters learn arcana, which are themed groups of spells. Mixing and matching the 19 arcana gives the mage class a huge amount of flexibility. To get started, choose two arcana like Beast, Cold, Death, Earth, Fate, Fire, Healing, Protection, Mind, and Shadow.
  • Game Master Guidance: If you are new to RPGs or have never GMed before, the Core Rulebook breaks it all down for you. Not just GM advice but practicalities as well. There’s guidance for each of the GM’s four roles: Game Planner, Game Host, Game Runner, and Game Moderator.
  • Customizable Rules: The GM can use optional rules for the campaign to better reflect the setting. Choices include the twin systems of Peril and Daring, which allow for dramatic swings from disadvantage to advantage as the tension builds. Horror rules can give the campaign a sinister turn. The Fortune system is an alternate way to handle health and damage first introduced in The Expanse RPG.
  • The Stranger Shores: The Core Rulebook introduces a campaign setting of its own called Stranger Shores. Brave the Deeps, which have been the doom of many a ship. Sail with a Mystic Navigator to travel to distant lands.
  • Breakwater Bay: Enter the Stranger Shores with Breakwater Bay, a starting adventure area to kick off your campaign. The book includes Set Sails for Breakwater Bay, a complete adventure.
  • So Much More: You’ll also find character talents, challenging monsters, chase rules, magic items, relationships and bonds, and more. This is the complete package.
  • Part of the Family: Green Ronin publishes other RPGs powered by the Adventure Game Engine: The Expanse, Modern AGE, Blue Rose, Cthulhu Awakens, and Fifth Season. If you’ve played any AGE games, you already know the core of the system. Veteran gamers will be pleased to hear that Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition is largely compatible with all previous Fantasy AGE releases.

Swords, sorcery, stunts, and Stranger Shores—the Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook is your portal to exciting new RPG adventures!

Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Preview: Magic

Fantasy AGE Core RulebookFantasy AGE’s magic system is getting a bit of a polish for the new edition. The fundamental rules are the same, but there are more spells and options for spellcasting characters. This preview is going to be a bit more straightforward, as we’ve made various adjustments across other AGE books, and took those efforts and adjusted them some more for the upcoming core rulebook. Many of these got their start in the old Fantasy AGE Companion¸ but in each case we’ve revisited the spells and other rules to examine game balance and clarity of writing.

Let’s take a tour.

More Spells and Arcana

The Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook includes 19 magic talents—seven more than the old Basic Rulebook: Air Arcana, Beast Arcana, Cold Arcana, Death Arcana, Divination Arcana, Earth Arcana, Enchantment Arcana, Fate Arcana, Fire Arcana, Healing Arcana, Heroic Arcana, Illusion Arcana, Lightning Arcana, Power Arcana, Protection Arcana, Mind Arcana, Shadow Arcana, Water Arcana, and Wood Arcana.

In addition, each Arcana has multiple spell possibilities, so two mages with the same Arcana can possess different spell selections.

Fantasy AGE Magic!


Example Spell: Tree Form

Requirements: Wood Arcana (Master)

Spell Type: Enhancement

MP Cost: 12

Casting Time: Major Action

Target Number: 15

Your body transforms, taking on the form of an animated tree.

This transformation lasts for the remainder of the encounter or until you choose to end the spell (a free action). You gain the following statistics as your body turns into that of a gnarl­walker (see Chapter 9).

Abilities: Constitution 6, Dexterity 0, Strength 6, even if this would reduce your ability ratings. All other abilities retain the caster’s usual ratings.

  • Focuses: Fighting (Branch Blows), Intelligence (Natural Lore).
  • Other Statistics: You gain an Armor Rating of 8 from the monstrously tough hide special quality. This doesn’t stack with worn armor, however.
  • Special Qualities: You gain the gnarlwalker special qual­ities of big, made of wood, many branches, mighty and lethal, monstrously tough hide, and voice of the green.
  • Your new body doesn’t impede your ability to cast other spells. However, your clothing and worn equipment are absorbed into your tree form, reappearing when you return to your usual form.

In this case, we not only included this spell in the core rules (there was an earlier version of it in the Fantasy AGE Companion) but made a dedicated creature for both the spell and the GM’s general use instead of reskinning the walking dead, as the precious version did.

Alternatives to Duds

In the last edition of Fantasy AGE if you failed a casting roll, you lost the magic points and got nothing in return, which leads to some dud results for mage characters. The new rules include an option to save a failed spell by spending more magic points, and a spell failure now costs less than a normal casting.

Minor Arcana

Introduced in prior AGE material, minor arcana join the core Fantasy AGE rules. These minor utility spells just cost 1 MP each, and they allow mages to do a number of convenient things outside the purview of action and high sorcery.


Example Minor Arcana: Mage’s Compass

Mage’s compass tells the mage unerringly where a cardinal direction (usually north) lies, and the time until the next sunrise or sunset. The direction cannot use as its reference point a specific geographical location beyond a cardinal direction or the equivalent in worlds that have unusual dimensions.


Divine Magic

The idea of “divine” versus “arcane” magic is an RPG neologism that was never especially prevalent in supernatural beliefs or fantasy fiction until popular RPGs conceived of the split. In some respect Fantasy AGE has always cleaved to an older tradition from sword and sorcery where gods and demons are simply part of the practice of magic. However, divine magic as a category is popular! That’s why we’ve added options for spellcasters who concentrate on magic from the gods, but these rules are optional. We’re Fantasy AGE, so we do things our own way.

Other Amazing Feats

We still haven’t talked about stunts, creatures, GMing material, and a number of other revised and new parts of the new Fantasy AGE core rulebook. Maybe next time!

Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Preview: The Latest in AGE-ology

Fantasy AGE Core Rulebook 2nd EditionThis time around we’ll talk about some of the rules that are new to the 2nd edition of Fantasy AGE. As some of you may know, we’ve devised new rules across multiple Adventure Game Engine lines, including Modern AGE, Blue Rose, Cthulhu Awakens, and The Expanse. Many of these rules could be ported to Fantasy AGE with minimal adaptation, so, well, we did it! That’s the advantage of a common system.


New Core Systems

New-to-Fantasy AGE core rules include:

  • Rules for foot, riding, or vehicle chases—and crashes, too. These rules, evolved from Modern AGE, emphasize chases as dramatic events instead of counting map inches.
  • An investigation system which can run on high or low detail, depending on what fits the adventure.
  • A straightforward social system.
  • Challenge tests, for complicated extended tasks, such as heists—and Simple Tests when you need a straightforward answer without stunts. (Yes, it sounds weird, but once you see them, you’ll know why.)
  • Conditions and more defeat options. Falling to 0 Health isn’t automatically lethal anymore. Instead, the attacker or scenario determines whether you’ve been knocked out, killed, or simply beaten down for capture—though the rules provide an option for your foe to leave you with a scar you’ll never forget.

This is besides the various changes and expansions, such as talents and specializations. we’ve been talking about in other articles. There are also a number of other small tweaks here and there that help smooth play, and a couple of places where we’ve refined rules descriptions.

New Optional Systems

Fantasy AGE’s 2nd edition also includes a number of optional systems. These aren’t “default” Fantasy AGE, but what does that even mean? It’s your game.

Peril! You may have seen this system before, in The Expanse, where we call it the Churn, and in the Modern AGE Companion, where we call it Complications. Peril is Fantasy AGE’s version: a system where heroes who succeed frequently automatically generate further challenges, so that there are always dangers to face in adventures.

Daring! Of course, sometimes heroes in trouble need a dramatic reversal. The original version of this system from the Modern Age Companion, Serendipity, has been further refined into Daring, its Fantasy Age form. Daring offers special benefits to characters suffering from a run of bad luck, so that once fate smiles upon them once again, they can hit harder and do better than ever before.

Fortune! A popular option originally designed for The Expanse, Fortune is an optional replacement for Health that represents a hero’s ‘script immunity” beyond raw toughness. Characters spend Fortune to indicate that attacks and dangers just miss them, and provide a way to trade safety for excellence, as you spend Fortune to boost dice rolls.

Relationships! Originally introduced in the Blue Rose RPG, Relationships have become one of AGE system’s signature systems. Relationships provide Bonds heroes can draw upon when they support strong feelings about another PC or NPC—and sometimes, more abstract things. You can use it to represent powerful love, implacable hate, or even the kind of snarky friendships heroes tend to have.

More!

I wasn’t sure what I should put in this article and what I should save, but I’m at over 500 words now, so why get long-winded? I’ll tell you about things like divine magic another time. Cheers!

Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Combat Preview: Let’s You and Them Fight

Fantasy AGE Core RulebookWhat’s combat like in the new edition of Fantasy AGE? First of all, if you’ve played Fantasy AGE before, or any other AGE game, the basic procedure is the same: Roll initiative and round by round, take a major and minor action, or two minor actions. You attack using an ability + focus associated with a weapon or attack form, rolling a test against the target’s Defense. Most of what we’ve added won’t be unfamiliar, though some of it has been tweaked.

Actions

The selection of actions is mostly unchanged, though Defend and Guard Up, which had some confusing elements when compared to each other, have been streamlined. The previous Stand Firm has been changed because as written it was also difficult to use. We have also added Full Speed, a new major action utilized in chases, and Stunt Attack.

Stunt Attack may be familiar to you from Modern AGE and The Expanse, and represents the fact that in AGE games, many special attacks such as grapples or trying to bypass armor are handled by stunts, not some other special subsystem. Fantasy AGE’s version gives you 2 SP on a successful attack, or on a roll of doubles, all the SP indicated, at the cost of the base attack inflicting 0 damage. Thus, you would use Stunt Attack to spend SP on the Grab stunt to get a hold of an enemy—that’s it. Easy.

Combat Stunts

Fantasy AGE’s combat stunts have been revised somewhat, but are largely the same as the prior edition. We’ve added options to grab and pin an enemy. Here’s Grab:

  • Grab (Melee, 2 SP): You grapple with your enemy. You and your target make opposed Accuracy (Brawling) tests. If you win, you grab your target and they can’t move out of your reach until after your next turn. On subsequent turns, you may use a minor action to maintain the grab, preventing them from moving away from you as long as you make another successful opposed simple Accuracy (Brawling) test with your target, though your target rolls this test as a reaction—they don’t need to use an action to try to break free. Grabbing a foe doesn’t prevent them from attacking, casting spells, or taking other actions—they just have to stay adjacent to you while doing it.

Furthermore, members of each character class can add Class Stunts to their repertoire on top of the universal combat stunts, and as you might imagine, the ones for Warrior characters are particularly potent. Here’s an example:

  • Storm of Strikes (Warrior Stunt, 5 SP): You unleash swift blows in every direction where a foe can be found. Apply your attack roll to a number of additional targets equal to your Dexterity. If you are using a missile weapon, you must have sufficient ammunition to attack all targets, but reloading is part of this stunt and doesn’t use up actions as usual, unless reloading your weapon requires a major action or multiple minor actions per reload, in which case you can’t use this stunt.

Combat in Fantasy AGE can be full of exciting Stunts!

Victory Conditions

Perhaps the biggest revision to the combat system is the addition of Conditions—special injuries and other factors with standardized effects—but we’ve strived to keep them to a minimum so that they speed play instead of hindering it. Furthermore, Conditions are useful due to the fact that dropping to 0 Health doesn’t necessarily mean you or your foe are dying. Bandits might take you for ransom. You might knock out a foe out of mercy. A hated enemy might even give you a painful scar to remember them by. If you’ve knocked someone down to 0 Health, you choose whether they take a Defeat Condition, choosing from Dying, Helpless, or Unconscious. These make you vulnerable to a coup de grace—even when mercifully beaten, someone in that dire condition can still be dispatched—or the adventure might continue with your capture, waking up later, aching…or the traditional bleed-out.

More About Miniatures

Fantasy AGE still runs smoothly with pure imagination, in what some call the “theater of the mind.” We have however spruced up options for using miniatures beyond the loose advice in the prior edition with the introduction of optional Tactical Speed and a bit more discussion of miniature or token and map based play. Beyond giving you more options, we’re recognizing that in the virtual tabletop era, maps are very common in online games.

Beyond Combat

All this happens in Chapter 2 of the new Fantasy AGE, but that chapter has more than revised combat rules:

  • Chase rules
  • Social attitudes and influence
  • Rules for investigation

We’ll talk about some of those in future previews!

Fifth Season Preview: When Are We?

The Fifth Season Roleplaying GameReaders already familiar with the Broken Earth trilogy may wonder: When during the context of the novels is the Fifth Season RPG set?

As readers already know, the Broken Earth novels tell an in-depth story of their main characters and their story has significant effects on the world and its future. Therefore, the decision was made to set the Fifth Season RPG sometime prior to the key events of the first novel, The Fifth Season, although it’s entirely possible to set your Fifth Season campaign during the events of the novels, looking at how your comm deals with all that unfolds during them, if you wish.

The RPG looks at things on a much more local level than the novels, although you can decide to take the future of the world in an entirely different direction, if you want. One of the great things about roleplaying games is they place imaginary worlds into the hands of your game group, to spin out your own stories however you want. They also allow us to explore different aspects of a fictional setting in ways the source fiction did not, or only touched upon.

Deadciv Ruins are very mysterious

Wait… is that a Freeway?

Deadciv Ruins

One aspect of this for Fifth Season is the concept of “deadcivs,” long-dead civilizations and the ruins they have left behind. The history of the Stillness is tens of thousands of years, significantly longer than the entirety of recorded human history in our modern world. There have been many Seasons over that time, and untold numbers of comms and entire civilizations have come and gone, to say nothing of what may have existed in the time before stonelore was first recorded, in the lost annals of human history.

While most deadciv ruins have been buried, crushed, or otherwise destroyed by the churning, shaking, and thrashing of Father Earth, the potential for artifacts, remnants, or even some surviving locations of those lost civilizations is a rich field for Fifth Season Game Moderators. They can offer unusual places for characters to explore, filled with their own hazards. Unique items may intrigue and fascinate Innovators in the comm, while deadciv artifacts can be treasures to make a comm thrive — or lead other comms to covet what they have. With “sufficiently advanced technology” most deadciv artifacts can serve as the equivalent of “magic items” in a Fifth Season setting, although far more rare and more easily misunderstood than their fantasy RPG equivalents.

Fifth Season Preview: Game Play

The Fifth Season Roleplaying GameGame play in the Fifth Season RPG proceeds on two distinct scales. The story of the comm unfolds in seasons, each of which is a “turn” of part of the year, and features an event, a check of the comm’s prosperity, and an opportunity for the comm to work together on an activity to achieve a particular goal. Within the unfolding of the seasons are stories focusing on the individual characters from the comm. These adventures are often tied to the events of the season, but not necessarily, and the encounters the characters have during them may have impact on the comm as a whole. In some cases an adventure is meant to address a misfortune suffered by the comm during a seasonal event, and may be able to mitigate that misfortune or eliminate it altogether.

Comm Turns: Seasons

A comm “turn” is a “season.” Ordinarily there are four seasons in a year. During each season, the GM rolls for a seasonal event, the comm makes a prosperity test, and can initiate a comm activity.

Seasonal Events

Seasonal events represent the random fortunes of a comm surviving in the Stillness. They are not the only things to happen in the entire season, just particularly noteworthy events. The Game Master rolls on the Seasonal Events Table to determine what the key event will be for that season and integrates the event into the narrative of the campaign as desired.

Many seasonal events are misfortunes that can befall a comm. These are similar to hazards encountered by characters but on a comm-wide scale. Misfortunes can weaken a comm, reducing its Stability and, if severe enough, even bring about the comm’s eventual dissolution. Also like hazards, many misfortunes can be mitigated or avoided altogether. This usually involves a test using one of the comm’s traits, although in some cases the Game Moderator may substitute an adventure for the test if characters intervene in the event.

Everything changes in a Fifth Season

“Everything changes in a Fifth Season”

Intervention

The tests and outcomes for seasonal events assume the comm is bringing what resources it can to bear, but that the player’s characters are not doing anything in particular apart from assisting like any other members of the comm. However, in some cases, the GM may wish to set up an adventure either based on the season’s event, or in place of it. In these cases, the player characters are said to be intervening in the seasonal event, and their intervention may affect its outcome. Essentially, the adventure takes the place of the usual test or tests involving the event and the characters’ actions decide its outcome.

Comm Prosperity

Once the event of the season is determined, the comm’s prosperity is tested. This is a measure of the comm’s overall success and survivability. Failure means the comm suffers misfortune and loses Stability. If the test succeeds, the comm continues to do well, at least meeting its essential needs, perhaps even succeeding well enough to apply an advancement to the comm’s Cache score.

Comm Activity

Each season, a comm can also initiate an activity, similar to a character’s action, such as Conflict with another comm or group, Growth to build up the comm, Improvement of one of the comm’s traits, Innovation to add a new focus to a trait, Preparation to add a bonus to the comm’s next prosperity test, or Recovery to restore lost Stability to the comm.

Comm Conditions

Comms can take on certain conditions to deal with a loss of Stability, like characters do to mitigate damage. The comm then needs to recover from the condition using the recovery activity. Conditions are not as necessary for comms to avoid Stability loss, as they tend to be more resilient than individual characters.

The Fifth Season

“Everything changes in a Fifth Season” according to stonelore, and that is true of Seasonal play and events as well. The Game Moderator ultimately decides when a Fifth Season occurs in the context of the game, although there is a guideline for a Fifth Season to begin as a Seasonal Event. During a Fifth Season, the difficulty of a comm’s tests increase, seasonal events differ, and the comm relies upon its Cache for prosperity tests rather than its other traits, and Cache slowly diminishes over the course of the Season. A Fifth Season makes it more difficult for a comm to survive, and to recover from its misfortunes. A comm with a strong Cache score can last through a Fifth Season … if it is not too long.

An Interview with N.K. Jemisin

We wanted something special for the last three days of the crowdfunder and here it is: an interview with N.K. Jemisin herself!

Check out the Fifth Season RPG on Backerkit now!

Crowdfunding campaign ends this Thursday! Signed Bookplate Bundles still available!


Q: Roleplaying games and speculative fiction are close cousins. What did you find most intriguing about bringing The Stillness to tabletop RPGs? Do you have any experience with RPGs yourself?

I played a little tabletop back in college — Marvel Superheroes, if I recall, and just a little D&D (back then it was AD&D). My group back then was mostly into adventure with a lot of fighting, which I wasn’t much into, but they were my friends. I had fun with them no matter what or how we were playing. Since then, I’ve been invited to join a couple of groups, but just didn’t have time — juggling two careers doesn’t leave a lot of room for leisure. But since I’ve ratcheted down to just one career, things are better, and I’m gearing up to join a new D&D group now. Also playing around with world concepts for if I decide to try GMing for the first time.

As for bringing the Stillness to tabletop, honestly, I’m still just fascinated by the idea of other people wanting to go to this place where the apocalypse happens every Tuesday! For fun!  LOL. But I can’t wait to see people play it.

Q: You incorporated a lot of real-world orogeny, geology, volcanology, and plain physics into your novels. What was the most interesting thing you learned in your research for the Broken Earth?

Mount Rainier. This probably isn’t super interesting to other people, but I constantly see character in concepts and natural forces, maybe because I partially grew up along the Gulf Coast where hurricanes have names, and we speak of them like they’re people… or maybe just because I think like a fantasy writer. I’d been to Seattle before and just thought, “Ooh, such a pretty mountain.” Then I read up on it and realized it’s a Decade Volcano — one of the most potentially destructive mountains in the world. It could wipe out Seattle and Tacoma like that, in a variety of absolutely horrific ways. There are worse volcanic threats out there (there’s a chance the Yellowstone supervolcano could wipe out humanity), but the specific danger of Rainier is its beauty. People want to live near it, and I can’t blame them. I would love to wake up to the sight of that mountain every day — but a population that size in the vicinity of a mountain that terrible is a horror movie waiting to happen.

Nothing but respect for people who choose to live in such places. I get that the ephemerality of it is part of the appeal. I just prefer for my own natural disasters to be slower-moving, and not so apocalyptic.

Green Ronin is based in Seattle so we’re in the blast zone. Lucky us! Nicole, our COO, grew up in Oregon and she remembers the Mount St. Helens eruption vividly.
Q: The Broken Earth Trilogy tells a specific story, but game groups will create their own. What ideas do you think they could explore in the Stillness?

The Stillness is a pretty big world, and there’s lore throughout it that got alluded-to but not shown in the Broken Earth books. I’d love to see people play around with all that hinted-at stuff.  What other secrets do the lorists keep behind their black-painted lips, and why must they stay secret? Were there ever expeditions that tried to sail around the great empty ocean that covers half the world, and did they find anything (maybe like an ancient city full of stone eaters) when they did it?  You’ve seen some of the ways that terrestrial animals and insects change during a Season, but what about the plants or marine life? If a quiet farming comm discovers a huge and dangerous ancient ruin lurking underneath it, how do they deal with that?  How do people have fun in a world that’s constantly on the brink of extinction? There’s lots to explore.

Q: Can you give aspiring Game Moderators a few things to bear in mind when they are making their own stories in The Stillness?
  • The cultures of the Stillness are different from those of our world in one key way:  They understand that rapid adaptation to change is essential for survival.  A typical comm’s structure is modular, with every resource — food, weapons, labor, knowledge — meant to be shuffled around as needed in the event of a Season. This means that comms which opt for democracy or consensus at ordinary times turn instantly authoritarian once Seasonal Law I declared.  Hoarding or charging money for goods and services within the comm is instantly illegal.  Having more children without permission is instantly illegal. A wealthy merchant becomes neither wealthy nor a merchant once the Season comes, because any resources they possess are confiscated for the community pile, and the merchant’s life becomes governed by their caste and its duties.
  • Every person is trained to expect this modularity from childhood, though some keep the lesson in mind better than others. The formerly-wealthy merchant knows better than to protest if their goods are confiscated — but they might do it anyway, because they’re used to the privilege of wealth.  Too much protest means exile.  Meanwhile, members of the Strongback caste are always aware they can be exiled if they aren’t willing to work and obey others.  The partners of Breeders, if not Breeders themselves, must be prepared to accept non-monogamous behavior and to raise a child which might not be their own.
  • The people of the Stillness are exactly like us, psychologically — especially in being prone to react irrationally under stress. The onset of a Season is a critical time in which a community’s survival depends wholly on if its Leadership can overcome the natural human tendency to freak the hell out during an emergency. If they fail, the people of a comm could revolt against their Leadership, wasting resources and effort that should be spent on survival on infighting. Comms that do this rarely survive Seasons.
  • Good Leadership, therefore, requires a balanced approach, discouraging change resistant behavior while not being too heavy-handed. Too much authoritarianism, or totalitarianism, is inadvisable.
  • Seasonal Law is resource-focused but still explicitly anti-eugenicist. Bigotry, which is known to destroy or weaken communities, is illegal at all times. Disability is not a cause for exile in itself, though a disabled person must find a way to be useful; fortunately there are many necessary tasks that can be done by someone with limited mobility or cognition. Medical care is in a permanent state of emergency triage:  those who can be saved more easily are prioritized over those who will need more resources or whose condition is more precarious.
  • Commless people aren’t all bandits. Many are “free spirits” who can’t or choose not to function within the expected modularity — or who want to develop their own ways to survive a Season. Some of those ways, such as those of the comm of Meov in the books, are viable — though the only way to be sure of viability is to wait for a Season and see.
Q: The Fifth Season RPG will be lavishly illustrated. Will this be the first time (apart from cover art) that readers will get to see visual interpretations of the Broken Earth?

No.  The Subterranean Press special editions of the Broken Earth books feature astounding art by Miranda Meeks, and since the books have been published in many other languages, several of the foreign editions have had unique cover art that’s astounding. I also regularly see fanart from my readers that blows me away! But I always love seeing new depictions by skilled artists, and I’m loving what I’ve seen so far from you guys.

Q: We understand that the Broken Earth trilogy has been optioned for a television or streaming series. Can you tell us anything about the progress of that project?

Just that it’s not going to be a TV series anymore, but a feature-length film series; the rights were bought by Sony Tristar. I turned in the first movie script a few months ago.  Beyond that, I can’t say, sorry!

No worries, a feature film series is exciting stuff! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. 

Fifth Season Preview: Character Creation

The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game

Crowdfunding now on Backerkit!

Once a Fifth Season game group has created their comm (detailed in Fifth Season Preview: Comm Creation) they can get down to creating individual characters. Those familiar with Adventure Game Engine character creation know it often involves choosing a character Background, a Class or Profession, Talents or Specializations, and a Drive or Goals. The Fifth Season RPG is similar in many regards, with a few notable differences. Let’s take a look at the steps of character creation:

Step One: Concept

Come up with the sort of character you’re interested in playing. Talk with the GM and the other players in your group about your character concept and how well it will fit into the kind of game the GM is looking to run, the kind of characters the other players want to create, and the comm you have co-created for them.

What About…?

Orogenes and Stone Eaters? Yes, they’re mentioned in Fifth Season. The Orogene talent allows for the creation of feral orogenes, but there’s no provision to play a Fulcrum-trained blackjacket with one or more rings yet. Likewise, there are no rules yet for playing a Guardian, much less a nonhuman like a Stone Eater. The focus in the core game is on the human inhabitants of comms in the Stillness. Further development of character options will appear in later Fifth Season supplements.

Characters in the Fifth Season can have a variety of backgrounds and use-castes

Step Two: Caste

In the society of the Stillness, each person has a role to play in the survival and well-being of their comm. These roles are broadly defined by use-castes, or simply castes: the ways in which people are useful to society. People are generally born into the use-caste of their same-sex parent  by default, although it is not unusual for someone to apply to change castes, or to be encouraged to do so, as particular talents or inclinations emerge as they reach adulthood or even later in life.

Fifth Season focused on five of the seven primary use-castes (the other two being Guardian and Orogene), as follows:

  • Breeders have a bonus to Perception and choose from the Companion, Crafter, and Safeguard specializations.
  • Innovators have a bonus to Intelligence and choose from the Geomest, Geneer, and Lorist specializations.
  • Leadership has a bonus to Communication and chooses from the Diplomat, Organizer, or Trader specializations.
  • Resistants have a bonus to Constitution and choose from the Caregiver, Cultivator, or Stalwart specializations.
  • Strongbacks have a bonus to Strength and choose from the Guard, Hunter, and Laborer specializations.

Step Three: Abilities & Focuses

All AGE system characters are defined by nine abilities. They’re scored on a numeric scale from –2 (quite poor) to 4 (truly outstanding). A score of 0 is considered average or unremarkable. The abilities are:

  • Accuracy measures aim and precision, and your ability to hit targets with lighter and ranged weapons.
  • Communication covers your character’s social skills and ability to deal with others.
  • Constitution is overall health, fortitude, and resistance to harm, illness, and fatigue.
  • Dexterity encompasses your character’s agility, hand-eye coordination, and quickness.
  • Fighting is your character’s ability in close combat with heavier weapons.
  • Intelligence measures reasoning, memory, problem-solving, and overall knowledge.
  • Perception is the ability to pick up on and notice things using any of the character’s senses.
  • Strength is sheer muscle power, from lifting heavy things to feats of athletics.
  • Willpower measures self-control, discipline, mental fortitude, and confidence.

In this step, you allocate points to your character’s abilities, modified by their caste. You also choose focuses. An ability focus (or just focus for short) is an area of expertise within the broader ability. For example, while Communication determines in general how effective a communicator your character is, the Persuasion focus describes a particular expertise in convincing other people to agree to the character’s proposals.

Step Four: Drive

Your character’s Drive describes what motivates them to act, to say “yes” to an opportunity. Drive gives you cues for action as a player and provides the GM with “hooks” to encourage your character to take action. While some drives are more common for particular castes than others—Leader for Leadership, for example—any drive can be combined with any caste or specialization as the player sees fit. Interpret your character’s drive based on their other traits.

Your Drive provides you with a quality and a downfall, one ability focus, and one talent.

Step Five: Improvement

In this step, round out your character’s traits by improving two of them. You can choose the same option twice, but the benefits don’t stack. So, while you can choose two Ability Improvements, you cannot apply them both to the same ability score.

  • Ability Improvement: Increase an ability score of your choice by +1. This can increase the ability to a score higher than 3.
  • Ability Focus: Gain a new ability focus of your choice.
  • Talent Improvement: Gain the novice degree in a new talent, or improve an existing talent by one degree.

Step Six: Finalize Abilities

Once you have allocated abilities and chosen caste and drive, along with their associated choices, and made your improvements, now it’s time to finalize your character’s abilities. You can make any tweaks or adjustments, shifting an ability point here or there, or changing around some of your focus or talent choices, to get the final set of your character’s abilities.

You also use this step to calculate your character’s secondary abilities like Speed, Defense, Toughness, and Fortune.

Step Seven: Goals

While a character’s drive moves them forward, the character’s goals are what they move toward. Ideally, goals should help to define what is important to your character, and offer the GM inspiration for stories and ways to involve your character in adventures. You’re asked to come up with at least one short-term and one long-term goal for your character.

Step Eight: Relationships

Comms are made up of people, held together by a complex web of relationships: parents and children, siblings and cousins, lovers and spouses, friends and rivals, and more. All of these various relationships define the comm and the place of the individual characters in it. Certain relationships are especially important to characters, and Fifth Season reflects that by giving those relationships a description (the relationship bond) and a numerical value (the relationship intensity).

Your Fifth Season character starts out with an intensity 1 bond with their comm, defined as they see fit, along with additional relationship intensity ranks equal to the character’s Communication ability score, if it is 1 or higher. Relationship bonds can be spent as bonus Stunt Points for actions related to that relationship.

Step Nine: Challenges

As an optional step of character creation, you can define one or more personal challenges for your character. A personal challenge is similar to the kinds of challenges the characters face and overcome in the course of their adventures, but this challenge is both specific to your character and something they carry with them wherever they go. It can show up in the course of the game, by your choice, to challenge your character. A personal challenge can be a physical disability, a psychological difficulty, or a social challenge, as you define it.

Encountering and dealing with a personal challenge in the context of the game provides a bonus to the character: they gain Fortune. The Fortune gained from overcoming personal challenges is temporary, so it can restore lost Fortune, but if it raises the character’s total over their usual Fortune score it only lasts until it is expended, then it is gone.

The key thing about personal challenges is that they arise as challenges only when the player wants. Otherwise, that aspect of the character still exists, it just doesn’t particularly pose a challenge. This allows players to portray characters who have particular qualities without feeling burdened by them, if they don’t want to be, or when they are not in the mood to deal with that particular challenge in game. We don’t always have the option of consenting to challenges in our real lives, which is why it is important to give players that option when it comes to their characters at the game table.

Step Ten: Description

Finally, you take the opportunity to gather up everything you’ve learned about your character during this process and put together a description of them: their name, what they look like, how old they are, what their personality is like, and some of their likes and dislikes. It doesn’t have to be long, just a paragraph or so to briefly introduce others to who the character is, just like you’re describing a character from a favorite book, movie, or television show. In fact, if you like, you can even “cast” an actor or personality in the role of your character and use that to enhance your description!

Next: With the comm and the characters in place, we look at moving the story forward on two different levels of game play.

Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Preview: Advancements – and Damage!

Fantasy AGE 2nd edition Core RulebookFantasy AGE’s new edition does its best to strike a balance between keeping the game familiar—so familiar that many elements from the old edition work with little to no adjustments—and making improvements in all areas. One of those improvements was giving characters more ways to distinguish themselves from each other right from the beginning of play, and one of the ways to make it happen is through level advancements: the benefits characters gain as they level up.

Getting Focused

Most of the game’s focuses are the same, though there are a few tweaks here and there, such as a Slings focus since we added that heretofore missing weapon category to the game. At Level 11, however, two things happen: Your character gains a +1 Bonus to all the focuses they know for free, and they can add the option to double focus by spending an additional focus advancement on a focus they already know. Thus, known focus bonuses increase from +2 to +3, and focuses you choose to concentrate on can increase to +4.

More Talents

In addition to the all-new ancestry talents mentioned earlier in this series, we’ve revised many talents from the prior edition’s Basic Rulebook and Fantasy AGE Companion.

More Specializations—and Sooner

In the new edition, characters take a specialization starting right at Level 1, to better define who they are right from the start. Characters also gain one specialization slot at each odd-numbered level, with fewer restrictions than there used to be.

Fantasy AGE Advancements and Damage

What About Dawizar—I mean, Damage Scaling?

One long-time observation about Fantasy AGE is that characters and monsters get pretty tough compared to the damage output of various weapons, spells, and other threats as characters go up in level.

We crunched the numbers to get a look at this and determined how a model attack would scale at different levels and monster Threat ranks. We wanted to avoid the “treadmill effect” of advancement becoming meaningless where equally advanced enemies would inflict equivalent damage, so that characters and creatures are actually never any harder to beat in encounters (many games do this with monsters and things like “Level 20 slippery ice,” but Fantasy AGE isn’t one of them). We also wanted class niches to become increasingly present in the equation. Consequently, every class has a version of the following level 6 feature:

  • Damage Bonus: You may add your weapon focus (if you have one) when inflicting damage with a melee or ranged attack.

That’s taken from the Envoy. Mages also gain this for Arcane Blast and spells. This may seem like a piddly benefit, but at Level 11 this +2 bonus increases to +3 and might even be increased to +4.

At Level 16, members of each class gain an additional damage bonus that works out to around 1d6 depending on their class, on an action or in a circumstance appropriate to their class. This stacks with other bonuses. Here’s the one for the Rogue:

  • Stunt Die to Damage: You may add the value of the stunt die of your attack test when you use Pinpoint Attack to inflict damage against a creature.

In addition, members of each class gain various other circumstantial damage bonuses. Compared against the math, they meet our design goals.


Specialization Preview: Skald

Skalds are battlefield poets who sing and write about heroes and war—those of ancient times, and those before them—during the heat of battle. They fulfil a dual role, urging heroes on to greatness, then immortalizing their deeds in verse. These chronicles can feature skalds themselves, who plunge into the thick of the fight to witness bravery and horror, and participate as earnestly as their companions, adding inspirational words to the clash of steel and roars of beasts.

Skald Talent

Classes: Envoy.

Requirements: Communication 2 or higher, the Communication (Performance) focus, and the Intelligence (Military Lore) focus.

You’re a fighting poet who draws upon legends of heroism and tactical brilliance to achieve victory.

Novice: You spout improvised and memorized poetry that guide your friends and intimidate your foes. When using the Coordinate Envoy ability, you can use the stunt attack option as a minor action, but instead of an attack roll you make an opposed Communication (Performance) test vs. your foe’s reaction Willpower (Morale) roll. If you use this and the ordinary Coordinate ability in the same turn, you must pass on the SP you gained from each to a different ally. Your ally must be able to understand you.

In addition, to survive the battles you’ll sing about, you receive training in one additional Weapon Group of your choice.

Expert: Your knowledge of great battles gives you tactical wisdom that supplements your fighting ability. Once per encounter, you may add your Intelligence (Military Lore) focus bonus to your attack roll, as an applicable bit of lore occurs to you. You may instead grant this bonus to an ally (they get your focus bonus, not theirs), who must use it on their next turn. Neither option uses up an additional action, but you can only use one of these options once per encounter. If you affect an ally, they must be able to understand you.

Master: Your lore-backed verses can wound your enemies’ spirits as powerfully as a blade might cut their bodies. As a major action, you can make a Communication (Performance) test vs. your foe’s reaction Willpower (Morale) roll. Your foe must be able to feel fear, understand you, and be within 10 yards. If you succeed, you inflict 1d6 + Willpower penetrating damage, and you can attach combat and Envoy stunts to the result if you have the SP and they’re appropriate to an attack based on frightening and demoralizing a foe. You may not, however, use this attack to perform a coup de grace—no matter how artfully you tell someone they’re going to die, you can’t just kill them that way.

Fifth Season Preview: Comm Creation

The Fifth Season RPG live now on Backerkit!

While the freely available Fifth Season Quick-start provides a substantial “test-drive” of the Fifth Season RPG (now crowd-funding on Backerkit) the Quick-start necessarily leaves out some things in the interests of space and getting folks up-and-playing the game as quickly as possible. For those interested in the Fifth Season RPG, we’re going to take a tour through some of the features of the full-fledged game that the Quick-start doesn’t touch upon, starting with comm creation.

A Fifth Season campaign also starts with comm creation. As the book itself says:

“The comm is what binds the characters together as a group. Presumably, whatever their personal goals and agendas, the success and survival of their shared comm is foremost in the characters’ minds … In many ways, the comm serves as a kind of “meta-character” within a Fifth Season chronicle, a shared part of the story created and sustained by the entire group. While individual player characters may come and go, survive or perish, prosper or fail, the comm goes on. In a long-running chronicle, the comm may even outlive all of the characters, as future generations come up and take their places and see to the care and growth of the community.”

The game group creates the comm before creating their individual characters. This provides a good basis for character ideas and concepts, ensuring they fit in with the comm and the overall direction of the campaign. That said, players may have certain character ideas in mind while creating the comm, and it’s perfectly valid to guide comm creation in the direction of those concepts as well.

The process of creating the comm has four steps:

Comm Creation is an important aspect of the game and your characters

Step One: Concept

First, the players as a  group decide on an overall concept for their comm. Where in the Stillness is it? How big is it? How old? What kind of comm is it? This is influenced by the game’s Session Zero and the type of campaign the group wants to run.

It is best to keep the concept loose at this initial step, subject to changes based on the rest of the process, just enough to offer a basic framework for the group to create the comm around. For example, it’s sufficient to say “A small comm in the Nomidlats, probably north of the Tufa Mountains, possibly near a river.” Even that narrows the field of possibilities considerably and offers some direction to the comm creation process.

The comm’s concept can help to direct further decisions about the comm and its traits, people, and qualities, but those things can also affect and change the comm’s concept as they develop.

Step Two: Traits

Like characters in Fifth Season, comms have traits that define them, describing areas where a comm is strong or weak, fortunate or unfortunate. The primary comm traits are related to five of the primary common use-castes of people in the Stillness:

  • Strength: Strongback caste. A combination of the comm’s ability to perform physical labor and their military might in fielding soldiers.
  • Resistance: Resistant caste. The comm’s ability to withstand disease, starvation, and related challenges, both due to the presence of a strong Resistant caste and their skills in caring for others.
  • Innovation: Innovator caste. The comm’s ability to come up with new solutions and ideas and to practice technical skills.
  • Leadership: Leadership caste. The quality of the comm’s leadership and organization and the comm’s ability to handle matters diplomatically.
  • Resilience: Breeder caste. The comm’s resilience and ability to recover from setbacks and losses.

Comms also have the secondary traits of Size, Cache, and Stability. The players assign values to the comm’s traits as a group, as well as choosing focuses for them, similar to the ability focuses AGE system characters have.

Step Three: Qualities

Traits provide quantitative values for the comm. This step looks at the comm’s qualities. It poses a series of questions to the players (chosen or randomly rolled from a table) wherein each player answers something about the comm: Qualities include Status, Geography, History, Features, Culture, and Secrets. You can use the prompts provided in the game or make up your own using those categories. Each player gets input into what the comm is like, and ideas about the comm may develop and change as different qualities are applied.

Step Four: The Year Before

To complete the comm creation process and move on to the creation of the primary characters the players will portray, the group plays through one year (four seasons) of comm level game play as defined in the rules. This defines the kind of year the comm has had just before the campaign begins.

Some groups might want to play out a longer or shorter time, anywhere from just a season or two to multiple years, but the year before is the minimum recommended time. Play out this time before creating the player characters, as the events in the year before might well spark some ideas for characters and their own stories.

Next: Character creation in Fifth Season, including use castes and specializations, along with talents and some possible secrets…