OK, lets start this off by saying, I reviewed this about 2 years ago as a YouTube video. I had not yet run the system and was reviewing the PDF. It would be another two months before I got the printed book. And nearly a year before I got to run the system. What got me interested in this system is probably what got many people interested. Wil Wheaton’s TitansGrave live play on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.
At the time, I was looking for a system that would play faster and more simply than Pathfinder but still offer more rules crunch than systems like FATE. In this regard, I think the Fantasy AGE system did deliver.
To start, what I liked about the system is that for the most part all you need are a few D6’s and a couple of D4’s or D8’s depending on the damage your weapons or spells do.
The base mechanic is a roll of 3D6, one of these is a different color and is called the stunt die. If you ever have any two of the three dice come up as doubles, you gain a number of stunt points equal to the number on the stunt die. This is like a critical hit in most games, but you have a greater range of options to choose from. This mechanic including the stunt die, is incorporated into all attribute checks. There is a stunt table for combat, magic, exploration and social interaction.
The system has three classes, Rogue, Warrior and Mage. Each is fairly broad in its focus and scope. A rogue is actually anyone who would favor skills and agility like the D&D rogue or even the nonmagical aspects of a bard. A warrior would be any martial type such as fighter or barbarian. The mage would cover any magically inclined type from the D&D wizard or sorceror to the cleric.
Fantasy AGE allows for specialization of the class to allow them to develope in many different ways. What this means is the classes start out fairly similar, but as you level up, your character gets options to branch out so that two fourth level warriors could have very a very different look and feel between them.
Stats and skills are simple and pretty direct. Abilities are most commonly rated between -2 to 4 for starters. This is the bonus (or penalty) to any roll you make that deals with that ablity. Skills are handled as focuses. Basically, if you have a focus in a particular area, you gain a +2 bonus for any checks involving that focus. As you increase in level, you can increase your abilities up to a maximum of +8. Any focus you have would add another +2 to that. Most target numbers fall between 10 to 18, so having a +6 total bonus is pretty darn good!
Basically, abilities are broad deffinitions of what you can do. Strength, Dexterity, etc. are all abilities. Focuses are areas of specialty in that ability. Take for example Fighting. This is what determines how effectively you hit in combat. Having a focus Axes would give you a +2 to hit when weilding an axe.
Now, in addition to classes, you also choose a race and have a background. Each of these grants specific ability bonuses, focuses or racially unique powers (such as low light vision).
Magis is a bit different than in most games. The mage selects schools of magic, each one has four spells in it that you gain as you progress in levels. When you level, you can learn a new school or advance in a school you allready know. Casting spells is a skill roll and expenditure of spell points.
One area that I feel they could have improved on for the core book would be the GM section. This would include the area for GM advice, encounter building, dealing with environmental hazards, poisons, traps and a far more diverse bestiary. This is one area I felt really came across as rushed in trying to release it. They did release a bestiary several months after the core book and it did a great job of providing enough variety in the adversary selection. Future books that are in the pipeline should help to resolve the other issues as well as expand the player options even further.
Is Fantasy AGE a great game? I don’t think so. Is it a good game? Yes! Is it a fun game that can keep the action going without the rules getting in the way while still providing a well defined structure? Yes it does. And that is what I think they were going for.
Fantasy AGE is not perfect, but it is also coming from a small publishing house whose writers and editors have a passion and love for what they release. I feel they rushed this project trying to keep in line with the production and release schedule of Wil Wheaton’s TitansGrave, but they still strove to get a good product out.
I’d say if you are looking for an easy to learn alternative to the big boys of RPGs, this might be just what you are looking for.
Want to see my original video review?
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