[Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

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shesheyan
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[Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:57 am

Having recently reread the Moldvay Basic book I decided to read my copy of Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin. AGE is the acronyme for Adventure Game Engine, a generic system that now has four variants : Blue Rose AGE romantic fantasy, Fantasy AGE, Modern AGE and The Expanse AGE (sci-fi). The AGE system is Green Ronin's answer to the rules light rpg movement trigged by Savage Worlds (Pinnacle Entertainment).

Designed by Chris Pramas, the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is structured like the Classic D&D booklet. Half the book is dedicated to characters creation and rules of the game (80 pages). The second half is for the game master and includes a short adventure (62 pages).

Hardcover book with stitched backing. US letter size. The interior paper is semi-mat that reduces glare. Paper stock is not cheap, they are thicker than the 5e paper. All color illustrations ranging from very good to excellent quality. The professional graphic design will not win awards but it is very functional with titles, subtitles and body text of appropriate sizes. Don't expect over sized text for old eyes but it is not too small either. I'm 54 and did not have problems reading the rules with my glasses. The prose is very straight forward and to the point. 142 pages.

Introduction : The usual What is a Roleplaying game and Basic Game Concepts are presented in the four page introduction.

Player's Section : After reading the rules I created three characters. A mage, a rogue and a warrior. I took me 30 minutes to create the first character, 20 to build the second and 15 the third.

There are nine abilities : Accuracy, Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Fighting, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, Willpower. Generated with a 3d6 roll or point buy system. Ranging from 3 (-2) to 18 (+4). In this system an ability bonus of zero is normal for a commoner. Really like that Accuracy is decoupled from Dexterity, Strength is decoupled from Fighting, Communication from Intelligence. Perception, not Dexterity, gives bonus damage to range attacks! Very close to my ideal ten stats home-brew system. More granularity and less single Uber Ability characters.

The Races : Dwarves, elves, halflings, human and orcs are the core races for character creation. Each race as a fixed set of racial abilities that mirrors the usual fantasy tropes. Also, to add variability the player rolls twice on a racial benefit table. I really like this. Not all dwarves were created equal after all. [edit] The is a mixed-blood rule that allows players to create half-races (half-elves, etc).

Social Class & Backgrounds : First the player rolls on the Social Class table which includes : Outsider, Lower, Middle and Upper classes. Then she rolls in the appropriate background table. The background gives an ability focus choice between two selections. You can choose to roll on a table that is below your actual social class. This means you could be a Noble with a Criminal background. Again another simple system that gives the player more creative choices. I would be fine for letting a player choose these, instead of rolling, if she had a good character concept to start with. Another short be flavorful section.
Last edited by shesheyan on Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:16 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:58 am

Classes: FAGE is a class based system. There are three classes. The Mage, the Rogue and the Fighter. At first glance this feels underwhelming. When I first read the Dragon AGE (the precursor edition of FAGE) quick start rules years ago I was turned off by that. I should have dug deeper. The classes are broad canvases that you fine tune into the character you want by making creation choices. For exemple, all spell casters start by first choosing Mage. Then you select Arcane Talents to give a direction to your spell caster. Thus it is possible to create wizards, clerics and druids very easily.

Each classe has primary and secondary attributes. Players should put their best attribute scores in the primary slots. The concept of primary and secondary attributes is also used when leveling up. When gaining leveling up benefits you must alternate between primary (even levels) and secondary (odd levels) attributes.

Weapon groups determine which weapons each class can use. Starting health is class dependent. Starting wealth is social class dependent.

Finally you gain one class power per level (20 levels). They can be new talents, new ability focuses (skills), class specializations, new magic talents or stunt bonuses. Powers, specializations and ability focuses all have three levels : Novice, Journeyman and Master. You can upgrade their level when you gain classes powers.

A character gains his first specialization at level 4. For exemple the warrior can choose between Berserker, Guardian, Knight or Mage Hunter.
Last edited by shesheyan on Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:50 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:01 pm

Actions : One major + one minor OR two minor actions. Free actions are available. All the usual action types are included. Variable actions are used for Power Talents and Reloads. Activation in order of Initiative. A round last 15 seconds thus 4 per minute.

Ability Test : 3d6 (average 10.5) + Ability bonus + Focus (skill). I really like the bell curve probabilities of 3d6. I favor this over the linear probability of the d20 or the unwieldiness of dice pools.

To test player rolls 3d6 dice. Two of one color and another of a different color (stunt dice). Average TN is 11 on a scale of 7 to 21. If the total of the three dice plus bonuses is equal or more than the TN its a success. If you roll a double on any of the three dice the other uses of the Stunt dice comes in play. It first tells you the degree of success. 1 is by the seat of your pants success while 6 is an extraordinary success.

The Stunt Dice also tells you how many Stunt Points (1-6) you get to trigger cool effects. Stunts are not attached to characters. Everyone can use them. Categories are : Combat Stunts, Exploration Stunts, Social Stunts.

In combat you roll against the targets Defense score. Equal or more is a hit. Armor reduces damage.

Progression : Characters progress by gaining experience points or at milestones decided by the GM. There are 20 levels. Level 2-6 require +2000 xps to gain a level. Level 7-12 require +3000xps. Levels 13-20 require +4000xps.
Last edited by shesheyan on Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:02 pm

MAGIC :
FAGE does not use Vancian spell slots. Instead it propose a system of magic points. The MPs are spent to try to cast the spell. The player rolls against the TN of the spell. If he fails the points are lost. Spell are subject to the Stunt mechanic. 

Casting is 3d6 + Will attribute + Arcana Focus (if applicable) vs TN. Some spells trigger a saving throw by the target. The roll is made against the Mage’s spell power level : 10+ will + Arcana focus (fi applicable).

For each hour of full rest / meditation the character regains 1d6 + Will Magic points. If the character can get 8 hours of uninterrupted rest he regains ALL his MPs.

There are four types of spells : Attack, Defense, Enchantment and Utility. Some spells can be maintained, others are variable costs. Casting times vary : minor action, major action or 1 minutes (4 rounds).

MAGIC :
One thing I didn't notice while reading the magic section is that Mages can wear armor but it comes with a Magic Point penalty called Strain. A Mage can wear a Heavy Plate if he wants but the cost of casting each spell is +6 MPs. It is self defeating. On the other hand wearing a Light Leather costs only +1 MP, a Heavy Leather +2 MP. That is quite useful in a system in which armor reduces damage.


ARCANA :
There are 12 Arcana traditions : Air, divination, earth, fate, fire, healing, heroic, lightning, power, shadow, water, wood. A Mage starts with two arcane of his choice. For example to create a cleric just select Healing and Divination. Arcana’s can be mixed and matched as the player sees fit. This opens up the door to interest character concepts.

Each Arcana contains 2 novices spells, a Journeyman spell and a Master spell. For a total of 24 novices spells, 12 journeyman spells and 12 master spells. For a «Basic Book» it is a satisfying number.

[ Note : Modern AGE also contains a lists of Arcane powers. Some of them can be directly imported in FAGE to give it more breath. If you want to do a Psionicist import Empathy, ESP, psychic projection, pyrokinesis, shielding (mental) telekinesis, telepathy. ]



We have tried this system in our Modern AGE system and it works really well and its more flexible than spell slots. The random possibility of Stunt points to augment the effectiveness of spells create a lot of hurrays when a player rolls a double.
Last edited by shesheyan on Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:55 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:03 pm

Equipment


Starting money is dependent on your social class.



This first part of this section features, armors and shields, weapons, grenades. Gun powder weapons are included but are subject to GM approval as per the setting.

Armor other than light leather armor reduces the characters movement. Heavy plate reduces movement by 5 yards. That makes sense because armor reduces damage. It balances out protection versus mobility.



Weapons are divided in categories called Groups : Axe, black powder, bludgeoning, bows, brawling, dueling, heavy blades, lances, light blades, polearms, spears, staves. You class determines which Groups you have access to. All weapons deal a variation of d6 damage. A dagger is 1d6+1. A two-handed mauls 2d6+3. Two-handed sword 3d6. Bow long 1d6+3. Fist 1d3.

Ranges are expressed in yards. If you use a battle map the rules recommend 2 yards per square.



Currency is 1 GP = 1 SP = 100 CP. Prices are mostly in silver pieces. A heavy plate is 60 sp. Gold should be very rare making it precious.



The other section deals with characters gear, tools, carrying gear, clothes, trade goods, raw material, professional gear, home and hearth wares, food and lodging. One glaring omission are pack animals and transportation. That is really weird since there are rules for Mounts and Combat, and Flying Combat. [edit] Animals are in a section at the end of the Bestiary. There are guidelines to make Giant version. Vehicles are in the Companion book.

That concludes the eighty page Player’s Section.
Last edited by shesheyan on Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:06 pm

Game Master Section



Chapter 7 details the GM’s Job. Preparing, running, planning and adjudicating the rules are covered in 5 pages. Information management, styles of play, problem players, assumption clashes are also covered. 

Planning a fantasy campaign is the next chapter. Dark fantasy, high fantasy, horror, low fantasy swashbuckling are described shortly.


Chapter 8 is all about Mastering the Rules. Time, consequences of failure, basic tests, opposed tests, advanced tests. Follows a section about roleplaying and the rules, surprise, attack modifiers (cover, rain, etc). The last part is about handling hazards. You want to run a combat in a burning inn? This rule is very interesting. There are 3 very exemples, a burning inn, a pit trap and rushing the river.



Chapter 9 is the Adversaries. This part of the book is under developed. You will need to get the FAGE Bestiary. It contains only 13 iconic creatures. Threats are either Minor (for levels 1-4), Moderate (levels 5-8), Major (levels 9-12), Dire (levels 13-17), Legendary (levels 18-20). This section doesn’t supply monster creation rules but it provides rules to beef up adversaries. I guess you could use them to modify an Orc into a Gnoll.

Chapter 10 Rewards. Covers leveling up, reputation, goal fulfillment, treasure and magical items. There are 13 temporary magic items (potions, etc) and 13 permanent magic items. A list of common magic item abilities is provided so the GM can create his own items.

Chapter 11 Details how to create a campaign setting. FAGE basic book does not contain a setting.



Chapter 12 Is a 12 page scenario called Adventure in Highfalls Swale.

The book ends with a glossary an index and a one page character sheet. 



The GM part of the book feels a bit under developed. For a (new) game master looking to get a game going rapidly without reading the three D&D books it will be appropriate. It contains all the usual advice for GMs. While I understand that this is a «Basic» rulebook, it would have benefit greatly by having 8-16 more pages to flesh out transportation, animals, adversaries and the reward section. Edit : But they decided to put them in the Bestiary and Companion book.



Fortunately, the basic book is now supported by a Bestiary, a Companion book and the Titansgrave setting which can be bought in pdf. The 30$US price for the Basic hardcover is fair. Also the game only requires a set of six-sided dice to play. A very low investment to try out rpgs if you never have or if you are a curious experienced player.



Having played three sessions of Modern AGE I can also say that the system works. I feel confident enough about it that I would be will to do a level 1 to level 10 FAGE campaign. But my players are in D&D 5e for now. Later this summer I will test these Basic rules by doing a solo adventure (no gm) random dungeon crawl with three characters - a mage, a rogue and a warrior.

It would not be fair to compare it with the 1000+ pages of the three D&D core books. 

I’m giving this book a rating of 4 stars. Despite a lack luster GM section it packs a lot of material in 142 pages.
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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:34 pm

Just added MAGIC, post #4.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 5:30 pm

Just added equipment, post #5

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 02, 2019 6:56 pm

Just added GM Section comments. post #6.

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by Kythkyn » Wed Jun 05, 2019 4:59 pm

Shesheyan's in depth review is wonderful. If you want another perspective from a few years ago, too, check out the review I wrote... a few years ago!
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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:51 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 4:59 pm
Shesheyan's in depth review is wonderful. If you want another perspective from a few years ago, too, check out the review I wrote... a few years ago!
Very good review. You dig deeper in the class progression system. It is true that spending space on the cost of dishes and furniture would have been better spent on transportation and pack animals. I guess someone in the design team had a pet peeve about not enough house making info in RPGs! ;)

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Re: [Fantasy AGE] Reading the Basic rulebook

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:55 pm

MAGIC :
One thing I didn't notice while reading the magic section is that Mages can wear armor but it comes with a Magic Point penalty called Strain. A Mage can wear a Heavy Plate if he wants but the cost of casting each spell is +6 MPs. It is self defeating. On the other hand wearing a Light Leather costs only +1 MP, a Heavy Leather +2 MP. That is quite useful in a system in which armor reduces damage.

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