Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fantasy AGE Rpg Overview/Review



I've been running games with the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system since the first Dragon Age box set came out. While I was not all that happy with how those were released, I really liked the AGE game system that powered it. If you're familiar with the Dragon Age RPG or the Blue Rose 2nd edition RPG, then you're familiar with Fantasy AGE.

For those not familiar with the Dragon Age RPG or the Blue Rose 2nd edition RPGs I'll try to go over enough information to get a feel for the system. Fantasy age is a somewhat generic fantasy game system. There is a few things that make Fantasy AGE stand out, I'll try to cover them all. 

First of all the dice. In Fantasy age most rolls are made with 3D6 with one of those die a different color. The odd color die is the stunt die. If on a successful roll any two dice roll a matching pair the character gains stunt points. The amount of stunt points gained is equal to the number rolled on the odd colored die. Stunt points can be spent to add stunts and effects to the action they were rolling on. For example a combat stunt adds knock back to an enemy, do extra damage, or make the attack bypass armor.

Stunts on a spell casting roll can lower the cost of spells, and add effects as well. Stunt points to me is the biggest reason to play Fantasy AGE...it's what separates it from the crowd. Although there is plenty more to like about this game. I'm personally a big fan of rolling 3D6 rather than a D20, it's less swingy. The 3D6 Bell curve keeps high and low rolls possible while mostly rolling to the average making abilities more meaningful.

Combat in Fantasy AGE works in a familiar way with attack rolls being made against an opponent's defense. Attacks that roll greater than the defense means the attacker gets to roll damage dice against the target. But that's where similarities end. In Fantasy AGE Defense is a set value plus dexterity and shield bonuses. Armor doesn't add to Defense. Instead armor subtracts from the damage roll, heavily armored targets are not harder to hit, but rather harder to wound. I really like how this works, it's once again one of the reasons to pick Fantasy AGE over other fantasy games.

Fantasy AGE uses nine ability scores. Ability scores range from -2 to 4 to start but can go as far as 8. In most rolls a player rolls 3D6 and adds the appropriate ability score as a modifier to the roll. Rolls are either against an opponent's defense, an opposed, or against a static difficulty.

Each ability score has multiple focuses, these focuses are deeper skill and training. Having a focus grants a +2 to ability score rolls they apply to. For example a character with a Dexterity of 2 tries to pick a lock, she also has a focus on lock picking. When making a Dexterity roll to pick the lock she adds 4 to the roll. I really like how simple and intuitive this is. As players level they gain more ability points and focuses. Like most fantasy RPGs there is a power creep in leveling, but I find that Fantasy AGE does it fairly intuitive and without a truck load of numbers to track. 

Characters are also made up of Race, Background, and Class. Races are your standard fantasy examples of Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Human, and Orc. Each race gets some set bonuses as well as one thing rolled randomly on a chart. Backgrounds are based around social class. Rolled randomly or chosen if the GM allows, adds a focus and some strong role-playing flavor. 

Fantasy AGE has only 3 classes Mage, Rogue, and Warrior. While this really seems limited, there is a lot of layers of customization, allowing two players of the same class to play totally differently.

The most profound way to customize your character is with talents. Some talents are class specific they cover things like fighting styles and special training. Talents cover things like learning Alchemy, Lore, weapon styles, and Scouting. Talents often have requirements to take beyond class specific. For example to take Mounted combat you must first have a focus in Riding.

Talents come in 3 steps novice, journeyman, and Master. When gaining new talents you often have the ability to gain a new talent, or step up one you already have. I find talents to be great, especially with the limited number of classes in the game. This is the one area of the book I wish there was more of. They cover all the bases but that is about it. I would assume any settings or companions to come will add more.

The next level of of customization is class specialization. At level 4 characters can specialze in an aspect of their class. Mechanically these work like talents with three steps, but are only open to a single class. For example miracle worker is a mage specialization that makes them better healers.

Magic in Fantasy AGE is learning and casting of set spells. Characters spend magic points to pay the cost of the spell and make a spell roll. Spell rolls can generate stunt points giving the caster the ability to add effects. There are 12 schools of magic with 4 spells in each school. I like how magic works, especially how stunt points and the magic system works together. 

Fantasy AGE has about 20 pages of GM advice. This section is full of advice on how to flavor the game, how to emulate different styles of play. About what you would expect in a generic fantasy RPG. The advice seems like it would be very helpful to new GMs, better than most RPG GM sections. There is 10 pages of monsters, it's a small section but they pack in a lot, most your basics are covered from goblins to dragons. There is another 7 pages on rewards, how to handle giving experience points and sample magic items. A small section on campaign settings and even a sample Adventure in the back.

All in all I think Fantasy AGE is a really good game. The mechanics are solid and don't get unweildy. Most my run time with the AGE system was with a Dragon Age campaign I ran. But I've run Fantasy AGE enough to see it's really solid.

If I have any criticism I would say I wish there was more. More races, more talents, more specializations, more spells, and more monsters. Strangely enough I think the three classes in the book are just fine. Fantasy AGE has enough layers to branch into that having only three classes as roots works fine. As far as more of all the other character aspects, I assume we'll get those in the companion and or setting books.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Genesys RPG impressions. Part 2: Characters.

Characters in Genesys are pretty straight forward. Characters seem to have enough depth mechanically without being overloaded with complexity. While the story elements the system tries to add with motivations feels really flimsy. But I would imagine it'll make more sense in the setting books. A setting specific motivation will make more sense than a generic one.

Characters have Six characteristics and four derived or secondary characteristics. The characteristics are your pool of dice that are rolled to attempt actions, while the secondary characteristics are mostly combat based akin to hit points, endurance, armor, and defense. Nothing really special here or customizable here. Abilities are mostly set based on a few choices.

Next is a list of skills separated into 6 catagories, with room to add more. Skills are where Genesys is different from most dice pool systems. Skills don't always add to the number of dice rolled but instead upgrade the dice rolled where they overlap with characteristics. Each upgrades one die per rank. So two in a Characteristic and three skill is rolling 3 die with two of them upgraded. Same the other way, two in a skill with a Characteristic of three is also rolling 3 dice with two upgraded. This to me is the biggest departure from most dice pool systems. This an aspect I have mixed feelings about. I think it's great that it keeps dice pools down. But really seems to throw things in the players favor making challenging them harder. As rolling many proficiency dice is pretty common, but they are most commonly opposed by difficulty dice alone. While the  proficiency dices counter part, the challenge die is only situational. Meaning at least for my reading rolling a triumph should be way easier than despair. Not to mention more advantage and success rolls per player roll.

Another level of character customization is talents. Talents are tiered from one through 5. Starting talents are assigned by those few choices at start, additional talents are purchased with experience, cost ascending with each Tier. To purchase each higher tier you must have more of the lower tier. So for example you can't but a tier 2 talent until you have at least 2 tier 1 talents. Some talents can be ranked by paying experience, so they expand taking up the next tier as well for more effect.

Talents seem pretty well balanced, but as with any game with edges/feats some will seem more useful than others. More than anything other aspect of Genesys characters I like talents. It's one of the few really customizable parts of Genesys. Many aspects of characters like Characteristics can only be raised with talents.

The next two aspects of Genesys characters is gear and magic. I plan to make separate post for those.

Genesys RPG impressions. Part 1: The Dice.

I've had some time to look over the Genesys RPG PDF. At some point I'll do a proper review, probably after I get the physical book. For now this is just my thoughts on a quick read. Also this is my impressions, it's my opinion of the game strictly from my perspective.

This first installment I'll cover the dice. Genesys uses special dice made by the publisher. Genesys uses a dice pool rolling method mixed with "read the chicken bones" elements. I'm a fan of dice pool games, I'm not sure yet how I feel about negative/difficulty dice being added to the players side of the roll.
The rolling method is good and bad symbols cancel each other, and the net result is the outcome. It does it rather well, the only part of this I don't like is some of the dice sides having multiple symbols on a single side. This can slow players down from quickly seperating cancelled out sets to get the net result. Not badly, but it's less intuitive for a newcomer to the system. Also in dice pool systems I much prefer set difficulties, but I think I like players rolling difficulty more than opposed rolls.

Genesys dice separate degree of advantage and disadvantage from pass and fail. The idea is that good and bad can happen whether the player rolls a pass or fail. I still feel a bit mixed on this. I've never felt I needed the dice to tell me what part of the story I need to make more interesting. Any GM worth their salt could use degree of fail/success to do that if they really needed it.

The one difference I feel here between other pass/partial/fail games and Genesys is that Genesys is built around the dice. In other degree of success games the dice pivot the narrative. But could be replaced with any other pass/partial/fail mechanic because the narrative is hinged on the roll but not driven by it. Genesys on the other hand is reliant on more than just outcome, but also the number of different symbols on the dice, making the system inseparable from the narrative and mechanics. While the dice interpret elements of story they also don't get out of the way for the story like other fail forward style of games. Not good or bad, but it is a story game with crunch because of the dice.

Another element of the dice is the spending of rolled symbols. Players can on a success spend 'good things happen' symbols to trigger critical hits, special abilities, and effects. This is the element of the dice I like more than the "read the chicken bones" elements. This is the element of using Genesys dice that really seems fun to me, both as a GM who like to tinker, and as a GM who likes to see his players play around with meta gaming currency to pull off stunts and general badassery.

My final verdict on the dice in as follows:
Dice pool system: positive.
-Players rolling difficulties: mixed.
Reading the chicken bones: Not a fan.
Pass/partial/fail: mostly positive.
Rolled elements as meta-resources: love it.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cortex Prime impressions of the SRD pt3

Another area of the SRD I find interesting is the options for Life points (hit points), and stress. Again Classic cortex has been included in the mix giving the option of hit points if a stress track just isn't your thing.

Once again I don't see why I should have to pick one. I could see playing with both. Life points for combat using cortex classic weapon damage codes or reading the effect die. While at the same time using effect die and stress for social and mental conflict.

I could see stress tracks being good for all kinds of tasks actually. Everything from picking a lock to fast talking a guard could be assigned a die code that is the amount of stress needed to complete a task. Each go at it adds stress towards completing the task.

Life points could be used the same way really, assign a difficulty total to tasks (between 8 and 24 for example). Subtract the number on the effect die (or effect die type if you perfer) from the Total. When the task points reach 0 you complete the task.

These options make weapons and health as abstract or as close to hard numbers as fits the setting or the groups taste. Again I find this level of customization really refreshing and fun.

Cortex Prime impressions of the SRD pt2

I'm reading heavenly into all the options in the Cortex SRD. My impressions part 1 is here. One of the things that jumps out at me is the ability to mix and match options. Prime looks to be very modular game allows for cherry picking of mechanics.

For example something I think would be great for lower level heroic games, like street level supers is mix heroic dice with doom pool. Allow the players to bank dice specifically to do things better (add to the total of rolls). While the GM gets dice to  make the bad guys a bigger threat, both without specifically raising the power level of the game. More or less normal people (although possibly highly skilled) pulling off heroic feats when they need them.

Characters turning a great success in one area into greater success in another, which I love. It feels to me like story momentum.

I came up with a variant as well, allow player to bank spoilers as hero dice, each banked spoiler becomes a banked d6 hero dice. GMs can set a limit to the number of hero dice that can be banked from a single roll if they fear the players would gain hero dice too fast.

I like the idea that it doesn't cost plot points when banking hero dice, it gives the player a way to take advantage of spoilers even when they are out of plot points. Then gives them (another) motivation to play their flaws and negative distinctions to come up with plot points to use the hero dice.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Cortex Prime impressions of the SRD pt1

Reading through the most up-to-date SRD (01-01-18) for Cortex Prime I'm really impressed. +Cam Banks​ has done an amazing job creating a core tool box that can accommodate a lot of styles of play.

I was someone who played the original sovereign stone and loved classic cortex. When Heroic came out in Marvel I didn't get it. I didn't get the abstract nature. It took me a while to 'get' the system. Once I did I really liked it. Some incarnations of Plus took me a while to warm up to.

This tool box approach allows for a mix and match of different options from all the past application of Cortex, as well as some new levers to push and pull to get new effects and styles of play. I love the idea that the system can bend and stretch to be what best facilitates the fiction and action. I'm really looking forward to the finished product.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Reaping blade


The Reaping blades are relics of the past. Legends tell of 13 Clerics, members of a long forgotten cult who traveled the lands along the border of the gloomwoods, long before the litch Lord's push into the middle lands. Known for their ability to root out corruption and undead, laying undead to final rest.

Legends tell of day they banded together and road against the litch lords....never to be seen again.

A few of the blades have resurfaced over the years, but always seem to fade again into legend.

A reaping blade has all the attributes of a normal sword. With the exception of being priceless and Exotic.
When within 100' of an undead being or a corrupted soul the blade vibrates softly, often only noticeable to the carrier of reaping blade.

Special : Any attack against undead adds a bonus of +2 stunt points then stunt points are generated.
Special: spending 2 stunt points and the Reaping blade erupts into flames. The flames do not harm living flesh. Undead take an extra +1d6 damage from attacks for the rest of a conflict or until extinguished by the wielder.

Fantasy AGE Rpg Overview/Review

I've been running games with the AGE (Adventure Game Engine) system since the first Dragon Age box set came out. While I was no...