Fantasy Age has been out for about two weeks now and while I have not yet had the opportunity to get real experience at how well it runs in longer campaigns, I’ve been spending a lot of time examining the system and trying out various things with it. Trying my hands at creating some of my own custom content and seeing how the game behaves in actual combat situations and what differences different numbers make in practice. You could say I did extensive lab testing, but no field testing yet.
The Adventure Game Engine started six years ago with the first release of the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin. The first set was followed up with a second one two years later but for some reason unknown to me the final third set kept being delayed for a very long time. Being split into several sets that were released at a snails pace and being a licensed game for a specific setting probably were major factors why the game never become a huge success, but even despite these circumstances it became quite well known and pretty highly appreciated. With the Dragon Age game wrapped up, Green Ronin decided that the basic rules system of the game is good enough to use it for other games as well. The new edition of Blue Rose will be using it, as well as the new Titansgrave setting. And finally, there’s also a generic fantasy version of the game, which has been released as the Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook. For which, unless I am mistaken, there will also be a Freeport campaign setting book.
The AGE system is pretty much the RPG I always wanted. If I would have made my own roleplaying game (and I’ve given it some thought for quite a while), this is pretty much what I would have wanted to make. The game uses a simple base mechanic of 3d6 + Ability Score + Focus and other modifiers. It’s very similar to Barbarians of Lemuria and also the d20 system in this regard. But I think using 3d6 for the dice part works best. Since rolling very high or very low is very unlikely, even small modifiers of +1 or -2 make quite a signficant difference; much more so than when using a d20. The result of that is both a bit more predictability (which always works in favor of the players) and also that you’re generally dealing with much smaller numbers. In d20 games it is not uncommon to end up rolling 1d20+37 as you’re regularly heaping one another +1 here and another +1 there to make a real difference. The AGE system is much more small scale in that regard and you only need to keep track of a few major factors that change things in your favor or against it, instead of lots of tiny modifiers that are irrelevant by themselves and only really matter if you have lots of them.
Like the d20 system, or more accurately, similar to the d20 system, the game has three character classes. Warrior, rogue, and mage. This provides some useful structure during character creation and character advancement and makes things a lot easier on the players, especially new ones, than games like Runequest, Shadowrun, GURPS, or Atlantis. But the three classes are also very open and only losely defined, which is in clear contrast to Dungeons & Dragons where your class usually sets you on a pretty straight track. The base classes in Star Wars Saga Edition are a good comparison, except that AGE has no multiclassing or prestige classes. Much more important than your character class in defining your character are the nine ability scores. These are mostly the same as in the Dragon Age RPG, with Communication, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, and Willpower. However, the Magic ability from Dragon Age was removed and a major change between the two games, perhaps even the biggest, is the addition of the Accuracy and Fighting abilities. One problem that became apparent with Dragon Age was that it is very easy to get your Strength or Dexterity scores pretty high. If you were using a weapon that uses Strength, you both get a high chance to hit and deal a high amount of damage. If you concentrate on Dexterity you get a very high chance to hit with your weapons and also become very hard to hit at the same time. It also meant that any monster that is really strong also keeps hitting almost all the time, which often is not what you want. Many huge monsters would best be given stats that makes them very clumsy but extremely strong in those rare cases where they do happen to hit you. Creating the Accuracy and Fighting abilities accomplishes just that. These two abilities determine the hit chance with light and heavy weapons while everything else is still covered by Strength and Dexterity. Some people have said that it would have been sufficient to just make a single Fighting ability and that having Accuracy as a second one wasn’t needed, and I can see the reasoning behind it. But I also don’t think having nine abilities instead of just eight is a bad choice either. Having tried out how the game performs in actual fights, I think this change was really an excelent idea.