Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook

From: Green Ronin Publishing

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook is a new Core Fantasy RPG Rulebook from Green Ronin Publishing.

I have been running the Fantasy Age Titansgrave campaign for a little over a year now and feel like I have a good handle on the rules set.  I primarily got turned on by it from the online chronicle of the campaign by Wil Wheaton.  Of course, we all know it as the generic version of the Dragon Age RPG, but many would ask what makes it stand out and unique.  What would make you want to play this game over other systems?

I largely prefer simple systems that are easy to run. Savage Worlds  has grown to be one of my favorite systems.  While Dungeons & Dragons 5e is fun, it is a little too involved.  Fantasy AGE is just just enough balance of complexity and free flowing that I can feel comfortable running it.  It has its quirks but it also has its unique and fun aspects that separate it from other games like it.

From page # 3: Welcome to Fantasy AGE, a roleplaying game that lets you be the hero in your own sword & sorcery adventures.

The Fantasy AGE book contains 12 chapters that lays out a complete and generic fantasy RPG.  Chapter 1  contains the basics of character creation which include character concept (including Race, Class, etc), abilities scores, Focuses and Talents.  Depending on what level you start at, you may also have to look of Specializations.  Races include Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Human, and Orc.  You also flesh out your character with a little background and social class benefits.

The Classes remind me of the True20 classes – very generic and simple, allowing for a broad range of variations. They are Mage, Rogue, and Warrior.  It boils everything down into the three areas of any system – magic or supernatural power user, skill user and combat user.   Where Dragon Age had more setting specific classes, Fantasy AGE created more generic ones as one would expect.

Chapter 2 explains the basic rules for the game system.  It is a very elegant game system.  Based on a 3d6 roll (two being one color and the third a different color), you get a similar range as basic d20, except in more of a bell-curve distribution.  To offset that “boring bell curve“, they add it a innovative mechanic called the Stunt system.  If doubles are rolled on any of the three dice, the Stunt die (which is a different d6 from the other 2) is the number of points that can be spent on Stunts.  There are several type of Stunts and many creatures have their own special Stunts.  Combat stunts are the most commonly used.  These include ways to knock opponents down, cause more damage and other tactically advantageous things.  Spell Stunts enhance in spellcasting (see below for Magic).   Additionally, Fantasy AGE has Exploration and Roleplaying stunts which can be used outside of combat and spellcasting.  There is a whole chapter dedicated to Stunts deeper in the book.

Fantasy AGE is not your typical skill based RPG.  It does have levels and classes Characters have three basic areas that define them and then a fourth that expands them.  Abilities scores, Focuses and Talents are the basic options for a character.  Ability scores are straightforward values ranging from -2 to +4 (generated via a 3d6 roll)  Focuses are like a cross between skills and those basic d20 Feats that give you a single bonus.  All Focuses give the same bonus.  For characters that are level 10 or less, the bonus is +2.  This can be increased to +3 after the character reaches level 11 and beyond, by selecting the Focus again.  Ability Focuses include things like Gambling, Investigation, Running, Crafting, various weapons categories and Morale.

Talents on the other hand or more involved than simply adding a number.  They are kind of like old d20 class abilities, where they provide special abilities and ways to class specific things.  All have 3 levels of effect – Novice, Journeyman, and Master.  A player character can choose these successively as he gains Talents in his class. These include Animal Training, Duel Weapons Style, Linguistics, and Scouting. There are basic Talents as well as Magic Talents.  Magic Talents will be covered in Magic below.  Additionally, there is a thing called a Specialization – which is sort of like a Prestige Class of old d20.  It’s less involved than another class and is more like an expanded Talent.

One of the more initially frustrating and, in my option, clunky parts of the system is the Weapons Groups concept.  Reminiscent of Weapons proficiencies in d20, they are neither a Focus or Talent.  They are areas that define what weapons your character is trained in.  Each weapons in categorized in a Weapon Group.  Warriors of course have the most, Rogues have a handful and Mages have a couple.  The problem I have is that you do not get a chance to gain more groups very often.  You have a chance to gain on in Background, etc, but they seem a little limiting.  For instance, because a Mage does not have Heavy Blades, he will suffer a -2 without the Weapons Group. Additionally, he can never get the Focus for Heavy Blades.  Generally, a mage is always going to suck at a sword until by some miracle, he gains the Weapons Group.

Another complaint is the lack of Specialization choices.  There are twelve listed in the book and that just is not enough.  If a GM or player wants a specific concept, there is not a lot of base it on.  At least expand the list with some online resources or something.  I had to create a few of my own in my Titansgrave campaign.  Speaking of Titansgrave, my players and I also faced a difficulty in that it’s difficult to create a technical character despite the options given in the Rogue class.   It always tends to pull the character towards thievery and less skill use.  Perhaps Titansgrave needs a technician class.

What I do like about the character options is the flexibility while still keeping the character within their core concepts.  It is not cookie-cutter because one Warrior can be completely different from the next, for example.  Same for Mage and Rogue.  However,  they remain true to the core concept throughout their development with subtle limitations on what they can and can not choose from.  Concepts like Primary and Secondary attributes keep things comfortably balanced. Multi-classing is also not a thing in Fantasy AGE.  You can not have a magic using Warrior.  If you want that, you build it off the Mage class and focus on combat options.  However, custom Talents can in introduced to allow certain classes to magic if the GM allows.

From page #3: In Fantasy AGE you and your friends take on the personas of warriors, mages, and rogues in a fantastical world and try to make your names by overcoming sinister foes and deadly challenges.

While where are on the subject of magic, I might as well skip over into those chapters.  Mages have access to special talents called Magic Talents, which are sort of like schools of magic or Arcana.  The define a broad area of magic the mage is skilled in.  The Mage through his life-cycle will have multiple Magic Talents.  These include the basic Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, but also include Life, Fate and others.  In total, there are twelve Arcana to choose from.

Each Magic Talent is broken down into 3 areas like normal talents – Novice, Journeyman and Master, and each level gains the Mage access to spells.  There is a spell roll and sometimes there is additional roles like Accuracy for thrown spells, etc.  Spell casting is limited by the number of spell points the character has.  This is based on level, as well as the related attribute.

Far from a Vancian Magic system, I found it adequate for my needs as a GM.  I do wish there were more options for spells and I would imagine at some point, a magic book would might get published.  My players seems to like it enough and it does seem balanced enough that the warriors and rogues don’t feel useless with a mage around.

The trappings of fantasy are all pretty standard, and Fantasy AGE provides a reasonably sufficient chapter on weapons and equipment.  The obligatory GM section explains in more detail the GM’s job, advice on preparing adventures and game sessions, adjudicating rules, and planning a campaign.  An additional chapter covers Mastering specific rules.  Although I am an experienced GM of 30+ years, it never hurts to skim through these sections because not all games run the same.  One section that made me chuckle here was the section on Problem Player Types.  Some of this is brutally honest.  I wonder if a player ever reads this and says…. hmmm, that might be me.  Most important out of this is the GM’s dos and don’ts.  I highly recommend a new GM go through those.

The Adversaries section cover a few NPC bad guys as well as several standard monsters.  Not extensive, it does provide you with enough to work with.  This where some of the monster specific Stunts are introduced.   Fantasy AGE is a experience points and leveling system but I have simply gotten into the habit of telling my players when they can level up instead of keeping track of so many points.  Among the final chapters of various  miscellaneous subjects and appendices is a short adventure Choosing Night.  Because I dove right into Titansgrave with this system, I never really looked at it, but I recommend checking it out if you prefer a purely fantasy adventure to run.

In conclusion,  Fantasy AGE  is a fun and easy to run system.  It has is idiosyncrasies like any other system, but overall I have found it to be heroic, fun to play as a player as well as a GM, and easy to adapt to.  It has enough familiarity from other systems that one can easily transition to it while at the same time, it simplifies things so you don’t have to do as much book diving.  If you are looking for a different system that is not math-heavy like some systems like Pathfinder, I recommend this system.

For more details on Green Ronin Publishing and their new Core Fantasy RPG Rulebook “Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook” check them out at their website, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook

From: Green Ronin Publishing

Type of Game: Core Fantasy RPG Rulebook

Lead Design And Development: Chris Pramas

Additional Design: Joseph D. Carriker, Seth Johnson, Steve Kenson, Jon Leitheusser, Jack Norris, And Owen K.C. Stephens

Editing: Evan Sass Proofreading: Jon Leitheusser, Steve Kenson, And Jamie Wood

Art Direction And Graphic Design: Hal Mangold

Cartography: Andy Law

Cover Art: Svetoslav Petrov

Back Cover Art: Carlos Villa And Brian Hagan

Interior Art: Justin Adams, Kyle Anderson, Marius Andrei, Ivan Dixon, Olga Drebas, Talon Dunning, Mikhail Grueli, Brian Hagan, Matt Hansen, Ilich Henriquez, David Hueso, Stephanie Pui-Min Law, Joel Lagerwell, Todd Lockwood,Britt Martin, Rick Otey, Ozan Art, Mirco Paganessi, James Ryman, Wayne Reynolds, Alex Stone, Michael Sutfin, Christophe Swal, E.I. Vidal, And Carlos Villa

Pages: 132

Game Components Included: Core Rule book

Game Components Not Included: Dice, pencils, paper

Retail Price: $29.95


Reviewed by: Ron McClung