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 system that powers Fantasy AGE. For those not familiar I'll try to go over enough information to get a feel for the system. Fantasy age is a 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 can push back to an enemy, do extra damage, or make the attack penetrate 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.