Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Some thoughts about using Fantasy AGE

I recently picked up the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook by Green Ronin Publishing. This new game takes the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) that was first developed for the Dragon Age RPG, and adapts it into a more generic fantasy rules set. This is the system that was used for Wil Wheaton's Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana web series, which I heartily recommend to anyone who wants to see what a RPG campaign is actually like in play. (Chapter 0 provides a good, if very brief, overview of the basic mechanics.) And if you want to play those adventures for yourself, or create your own set in the same world, the Titansgrave sourcebook is now available in game stores.

I'm not a videogamer, and I only rarely play SF games, so I'm less interested in Dragon Age or Titansgrave than I am in the AGE system itself. Green Ronin recently concluded a Kickstarter to produce a new edition of Blue Rose for AGE, and one of the promised rewards for their Freeport: The City of Adventure Kickstarter is a Fantasy AGE Freeport Companion. I bought the Basic Rulebook in order to learn more about the system while I wait for those two books to be produced.

The AGE system seems like just the right level of complexity to try out with my kids, who have been clamoring for more RPG time. They're 11 and 10 now, and been playing occasional games with us for a few years now. So far, we've tried D&D v.3.5, Earthdawn, and Pathfinder, because those are the systems that my wife and I know best. They've enjoyed all these games, and beg for more, but a simpler system would be a better match for their attention spans. Also, my kids haven't quite reached the point in their RPG careers of wanting to read the rulebook for themselves, but when they do, the Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook will be a more attractive choice. At a mere 80 pages for the Player's Guide chapters, it will be far less intimidating than, say, the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

The Blue Rose Kickstarter provided much of the impetus for me considering AGE as a new system to explore with the kids. I loved the original True20 edition, but the system and setting never caught on in my gaming group. However, the tropes of the setting--shining knights, magical animals, justice for the oppressed, etc.--line up very well with my children's tastes in literature and film. (To give just one example, they are huge fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which could easily be reinterpreted as an all-rhydan Blue Rose setting.) I was considering the possibility of running a Blue Rose campaign for them even before this Kickstarter was announced, and now it seems almost a certainty that I will do so once the new book is available. Meanwhile, we can learn the basic Fantasy AGE system together. Preparing adventures should require less time with this system--which will be a big help with juggling my regular "adult" campaign with game time for the kids.

The Freeport Companion for AGE won't come out until after I conclude my current Freeport Pathfinder campaign. My next planned game will be a long-term campaign set in a completely different world, so I probably won't be running Freeport again for some time. When I do, it will probably be a one-shot using a different system--just for a change of pace--rather than a full-fledged campaign. I own the Fate Freeport Companion, so that system is one possibility. But if the Fantasy AGE Freeport Companion lives up to the high standards I expect of Green Ronin, then that system will be my first choice for the experiment.

For now, though, I've helped my kids create their first Fantasy AGE characters, and I will be running the Basic Rulebook's sample adventure for them (and a couple of my regular adult players) sometime soon. I will almost certainly post afterwards about how that went.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Turkey Day Feast!

Next week is Thanksgiving, so I've decided to cook up some holiday fun to share with you. First, I'll present Pathfinder stats for turkeys, then I'll mutate the hell out of one (literally).

A turkey can easily be represented by adding the giant simple template (Bestiary 294) to a chicken (Familiar Folio 24):

XP 135
N Small animal
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +5
AC 13, touch 10, flat-footed 13 (-1 Dex, +3 natural, +1 size)
hp 7 (1d8+2)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1
Speed 30 ft., fly 20 ft. (clumsy); drift
Melee bite -1 (1d4-2)
Str 7, Dex 9, Con 16, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 13
Base Atk +0; CMB -2; CMD 6
Feats Improved Initiative
Skills Fly -7, Perception +5
Special Abilities
Drift (Ex) A turkey flies in short bursts, and can't use its fly speed to hover. When it flies, a turkey must end its action by landing or perching on a solid surface.

Wild turkeys are more agile fliers than their plump, well-fed, domesticated kin: improve maneuverability to poor and Fly skill to -3, and remove the drift special quality. 

Turkeys are hardly threatening, even to low-level characters. But Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary contains numerous templates that can change this feeble poultry into a truly nightmarish beast. The Great Gobbler of Shibaxet is an abomination unleashed upon the mortal world by the cult of Pazuzu, the demon prince of evil avians (Bestiary 4 50). Its sole purpose in life is to devour all creatures smaller than itself.

XP 19,200
Vrock-possessed gargantean turkey (Advanced Bestiary 69, 160)
CE Gargantuan animal (chaotic, evil)
Init +1; Senses low-light vision; Perception +14
AC 17, touch 3, flat-footed 17 (-3 Dex, +12 natural, -4 size)
hp 232 (15d8+165)
Fort +20, Ref +6, Will +6; +4 vs. poison
DR 10/cold iron or good; Resist electricity 20
Weaknesses spell vulnerability
Speed 120 ft., fly 80 ft (clumsy); drift
Melee bite +20 (3d6+19)
Space 20 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks stunning screech, trample (2d6+19, DC 28)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +16)
3/day--heroism, mirror image
1/day--summon (level 3, vrock 16%)
Str 37, Dex 5, Con 32, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 13
Base Atk +11; CMB +28; CMD 35
Feats Awesome Blow, Cleave, Great Cleave, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative, Improved Overrun, Power Attack, Vital Strike
Skills Fly -3, Perception +14
SQ possessed
Special Abilities
Possessed (Su) The Great Gobbler is possessed by a vrock (Bestiary 69). See Advanced Bestiary 70.
Spell Vulnerability (Ex) Dispel chaos, dispel evil, banishment, antimagic field, and certain other spells and effects can suppress or remove the benefits of the demon-possessed template. See Advanced Bestiary 69.
Stunning Screech (Su) Once per day, the Great Gobbler can emit a shrill screech. All creatures except demons and demon-possessed creatures within a 30-foot radius spread must succeed on a DC 28 Fortitude save or be stunned for 1 round. The save DC is Constitution-based.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Freeport Iconics for Fantasy AGE

Whenever I learn a new RPG, I like to create several practice characters in order to see how the various options for character creation work together. I also have a few favorite player characters from old campaigns who I eventually try to rebuild in the new system. And in recent years, I've made a habit of converting the original pregenerated party of adventurers from Death in Freeport into each new fantasy RPG that I learn. I've done this with Pathfinder and D&D 5th Edition in previous columns, and now it's time to try it with Fantasy AGE.  

Note: For Health Points, Magic Points, and starting cash, I've assumed average results for all die rolls (3.5, rounded up to 4 for 1d6, rounded down to 10 for 3d6). 


Thorgrim was the most challenging of the four party members to convert to Fantasy AGE, because d20 clerics can cast spells in armor without penalty, but AGE mages cannot. Here, I've compromised by giving him the lightest possible armor (which will cost him 1 strain on any spell he casts, but not impose any other penalties) plus a light shield (which gives the maximum +1 bonus allowed without Weapon and Shield Style). His magic focuses on bolstering and healing his allies, and his Chirurgeon talent lets him remain a useful healer even when low on Magic Points. As a dwarven war-priest, he has the Initiate background (Middle Class), and he chooses his stunts carefully to give his side a tactical advantage.

THORGRIM (1st-level Dwarf Mage)

Abilities (Focuses)
1 Accuracy
0 Communication
3 Constitution
1 Dexterity
2 Fighting
2 Intelligence (Evaluation, Religious Lore)
1 Perception
2 Strength
2 Willpower

Speed 9
Health 27
Defense 11 (12 with shield)
Armor Rating 3

Weapon / Attack Roll / Damage
Battle-axe / +2 / 2D6+2
Arcana Blast / +1 / 1D6+2

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Skirmish, Defensive Stance, Skillful Casting
Dark SightSee up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source.
Talents: Chirurgeon (Novice), Healing Arcana (Novice), Heroic Arcana (Novice)
Weapon Groups: Axes, Brawling, Staves

Magic Points: 16
Spells: healing touch, hero's inspiration, hero's might, revival
Equipment: Light Leather, Light Shield, Battle-Axe, Arcane Device (holy symbol), backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, 3 torches, traveler's garb, waterkin, whetstone, 15 sp


Rollo is a small warrior who packs a surprisingly hard punch. Note that in the rules as written, small races such as gnomes and halflings have no size-based limitations on equipment use, so I chose to give him a two-handed maul as his signature weapon. This replaces the exotic gnomish hooked hammer he wielded in d20. The Soldier background (Lower Class) was the most obvious choice.

ROLLO (1st-level Gnome Warrior)

Abilities (Focuses)
1 Accuracy (Brawling)
0 Communication
2 Constitution
2 Dexterity (Legerdemain)
3 Fighting
1 Intelligence
1 Perception (Hearing)
3 Strength
1 Willpower

Speed 9
Health 36
Defense 12
Armor Rating 4

Weapon / Attack Roll / Damage
Two-Handed Maul / +3 / 2D6+6
Short Bow / +1 / 1D6+2
Gauntlet / +1 / 1D3+4
Throwing Axe / +3 / 1D6+5

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Knock Prone, Mighty Blow, Threaten
Dark SightSee up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source.
Talents: Archery Style (Novice), Armor Training (Novice), Two-Hander Style (Novice)
Weapon Groups: Axes, Bludgeons, Bows, Brawling
Equipment: Heavy Leather, Two-Handed Maul, Short Bow, quiver and 20 arrows, Throwing Axe, backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, crowbar, flint and steel, 3 torches, traveler's garb, 18 sp


Converting Malevir from a d20 sorcerer to a Fantasy AGE mage required putting his best ability in  Intelligence, which leaves him feeling more of a wizard than before. To preserve some of his former charisma, I left him with a good Communication ability and a focus that will insure he'll be the party's "face man." As the one Upper Class party member (he's an Apprentice), he has quite a bit of cash left over to spend as the player desires. (Sharing some of his good fortune with his companions would, of course, be an easy way to cement their loyalty!)

MALEVIR (1st-level Half-Elf Mage)

Abilities (Focuses)
2 Accuracy
2 Communication (Persuasion)
1 Constitution
3 Dexterity
0 Fighting
3 Intelligence (Arcane Lore)
1 Perception (Seeing)
0 Strength
2 Willpower

Speed 15
Health 25
Defense 13
Armor Rating 0 (3 with stone cloak)

Weapon / Attack Roll / Damage
Morningstar / +2 / 1D6+3
Arcane Blast / +2 / 1D6+2

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Skillful Casting, Lasting Spell, Magic Shield
Dark Sight: See up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source.
Talents: Earth Arcana (Novice), Lore (Novice), Power Arcana (Novice)
Magic Points: 16
Spells: arcane awareness, rock blast, spell ward, stone cloak
Weapon Groups: Brawling, Staves
Equipment: Morningstar, arcane device (amulet), backpack, bedroll, belt pouch, ink (black, 1 vial), paper (10 pages), quill, sealing ring (custom), sealing wax, traveler's garb, waterskin, 34 sp, 2 cp


As a 1st-level character, Alaina will not be able to use the original character's two-weapon fighting style immediately. (However, Dual Weapon Style would be an excellent choice for her new talent at 3rd level, and she already has the Strength necessary to wield two short swords.) Apart from that, she is the easiest of the four heroes to convert to Fantasy AGE, as she was always built as a stereotypical sneak-thief.  Her Criminal background (Outcast) leaves her with very little spare cash at the start of play, giving her all the more motive to seek out more loot!

ALAINA (1st-level Human Rogue)

Abilities (Focuses)
3 Accuracy
1 Communication (Deception)
1 Constitution (Swimming)
3 Dexterity (Lock-Picking)
1 Fighting
2 Intelligence
1 Perception
1 Strength
1 Willpower

Speed 13
Health 30
Defense 13
Armor Rating 3

Weapon / Attack Roll / Damage
Short Sword / +3 / 1D6+3
Crossbow / +3 / 2D6+2

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Rapid Reload, Pierce Armor, Taunt, Lightning Attack
Pinpoint Attack: Once per round, add 1d6 to the damage of a successful hit if your Dexterity is greater than your opponents.
Rogue's Armor: Ignore the Armor Penalty of leather armor.
Talents: Thievery (Novice)
Weapon Groups: Bows, Brawling, Light Blades
Equipment: Light Leather, Short Sword, Crossbow, quiver with 20 bolts, backpack, flint and steel, lockpicks, rope (20 yards), traveler's garb, waterskin, 10 sp

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My recent comics reading

As a kid, my spending money was extremely limited, and usually went towards novels or LEGO or some other hobby rather than comics. However, I did read enough comics (and enough about comics) and see enough cartoons and movies, to become familiar with quite a bit of the DC and Marvel universes. Especially for someone who never collected more than a few issues in a row of any given titles. In fact, I gravitated towards series like What If...? and Elseworlds, where I could enjoy a self-contained story without needing to know the characters' complete histories. (With that first taste of alternate historical fiction, it's little wonder that I got turned on to Harry Turtledove, LXG, and Kenneth Hite years later!)

When I had more spending money as an adult, I bought more comics, but my purchases still tended to be limited to discreet story arcs, like The Infinity Gauntlet, The Death (and Return) of Superman, etc. I also started collecting comics in graphic novel or omnibus format. This was how I was introduced to less mainstream comics like Watchmen, The Sandman, and Hellboy, which still heavily inform my eclectic tastes in comics today.

Here are a few of the comics I've read and enjoyed most in the past year or so:

Locke & Key: After their father's murder, the Locke children have to put their lives back together--and unravel the mysteries behind the weird magical keys that they keep finding in their family's old house. That brief summary completely fails to do justice to the complex story being told here, which alternates between horror survival story, high fantasy adventure, and black humor--and frequently mixes them all. (A fellow Sandman fan turned on to this title. If you like one, you'll probably enjoy the other.)

B.P.R.D.: This series continues the adventures of misfit heroes Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and others after Hellboy's departure from the Bureau. The stakes are higher than ever: During the Plague of Frogs storyline, Abe finds more clues about his origin, and the outside world becomes more aware of the supernatural. By the start of Hell on Earth, horrific disasters and eldritch monsters are appearing worldwide, and humanity is fighting for survival. 

The Sandman: Overture: I've read the entire Sandman series multiple times, so was very eager to read this sequel/prequel. I hesitate to say much about it out of fear of spoilers, but it was a very enjoyable read. (I borrowed the 6 issues from a co-worker, and plan to buy my own copy once the collected edition is available.)

Wonder Woman: So far, WW is the only New 52 series that I've read past the first volume, and I just finished Volume 6 this month. WW has always been one of my favorite DC heroes, ever since watching the TV series when I was a kid. (Jill Lepore's recent book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, did a lot to rekindle my interest.) This new series is excellent, showcasing what defines the character, while cleverly reinventing her identity within the context of her Greek mythology origins.

Ms. Marvel: I've only just started reading this title, after seeing friends post about it online the past few months. The new Ms. Marvel is a Muslim teenager--and nerdy superhero fangirl--who defies many of the conventional stereotypes about costumed heroes. Kamala is an refreshing and much-needed example of female empowerment in comics. WW was a trailblazer in that respect, but Ms. Marvel is probably more accessible to young girls today. Plus, it's just plain fun to read! This is a comic that I will be making an effort to introduce to my daughter--and my son, too.