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True20 Adept's Handbook
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:47:28

Adepts come in many shapes and sizes. Sorcerers, pact-bound warlocks, goddess touched witches, divine clerics, psychics, and even more. This book helps you figure them out and given them form. Various paths are given and all the expected ones are here; necromancers, occult scholar, wizard, voodoo priest and yes there are even witches. In addition to detailing various types of adepts and the genres they appear in, there are plenty of new adept/supernatural powers, skills, and feats. There is even a section on items.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Adept's Handbook
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True20 Fantasy Paths
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:36:01

Using only the True20 classes of Expert, Adept and Warrior you can create all the standard, or at least the d20 3.x standard, fantasy classes. Yes, Wizards in the D&D sense are not the same as True20 adepts, but you can get them there if you have this book. Each class is defined and then progressions from level 1 to 20 are given. Of course, you can stray from the various paths to do your own thing, that a strength of True20, not a weakness. Also, an added feature of these fully stated out level progressions is that if you need an NPC, say a 3rd level bard or a 15th level cleric, then you have those stats ready to go. It doubles as a rogues gallery.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Fantasy Paths
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True20 Bestiary
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:28:08

If I have said it once, I have said it 100 times. There is no such thing as too many monster books. This is the book you want to fill your games with all sorts of nasty beasties. The monsters are largely OGL derived and that is 100% fine by me! As with the d20 rules, True20 monsters are built like characters, so a creature that has certain powers has to be an appropriate level to have them. It means that monster building on the fly is a bit trickier till you get the hang of it. But this book provides hundreds of monsters, so that is not an issue really. The creatures have a fantasy origin, no surprise, given True20's fantasy antecedents. The creatures here though are constrained to fantasy settings though. Dinosaurs and Dragons can attack in downtown Manhattan and vampires work well in every setting just to give a couple of examples. Again, a must buy for any True20 fan.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Bestiary
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True20 Companion
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:19:48

This book follows the form, if not format, of the Blue Rose Companion. In this case the book covers different campaign models. This includes Fantasy, Horror, Modern, and Sci-Fi. Each section includes various character paths, skill uses, feats, and powers. Outside of the True20 mechanics, there is good advice for running the various genres and sub-genres presented. In particular, I enjoyed the Fantasy and Horror sections. The big surprise to me though was the Modern section. While I did enjoy the Modern d20 rules, I felt it really lacked something. Turns out it wasn't laking, it was over done. Thr True20 Modern is stripped down to just what you need and it is perfect. I lament not running more Modern True20 games with these rules to be honest. Of course, you can mix and match. I pretty much add Horror to everything so Horror-Fantasy, Modern-Horror and Sci-Fi-Horror are all things I do and they are all here. What makes the PDF better than the print book is the ability to print just the sections you want. True20 is not 100% modular, like say GURPS, but it is pretty close. If you have True20 and want more out of it, then this is the book you need.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Companion
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Blue Rose - The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (True20)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2016 08:12:22

Review: Blue Rose (True20 Edition) Poster here as well: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2016/12/review-blue-rose-true20-edition.html

Blue Rose was published in 2005 by Green Ronin. The book is 224 pages perfect bound soft cover. Color covers and black and white interior art. Cover art is by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and the book was largely written by Steve Kenson, Jeremy Crawford, Dawn Elliot, and John Snead

I am reviewing my softcover book I bought at Gen Con 2007 and the PDF. Full Disclosure in Reviewing: I bought these on my own and Green Ronin has no idea I am reviewing a 10+ year old product.

I printed out my PDF in 2008 so I could write on my book. I am inserting those notes and observations here. Most of those were written during my “Black Rose” campaign where I mixed elements of Gothic Horror in with my Blue Rose.

What is Blue Rose? Blue describes itself as a “Romantic Fantasy Role-Playing Game”. It starts off by telling us what Romantic Fantasy is, at least in this context. So. Romantic Fantasy. The premise is simple enough really. Instead of the works of Howard, Tolkien, Burroughs and (to some degree) Lovecraft we are going to base this game on the works of Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, and Diane Duane among others all listed on page 13. This is the Appendix N of Blue Rose. Also. I seriously don’t understand some other arguments brought about Blue Rose and Aldis in light of these books. I have the feeling that many of the critics of this game just don’t understand, or have read, this genre. Calling this SJW gaming shows a profound lack of insight to the source material. Aldis is Valdemar with the serial numbers filed off.

Now let me pause here and it will not be the first time. If this was 2005 I would feel the need to keep moving, but this is 2016, and a lot has been said about Blue Rose and I am not deaf to that. So I will add bits like this where needed. This is the first. Since I am giving over to retrospect we can also dispense with the notion of not knowing was True20 is/was. True 20 and Blue Rose is a very, very stripped down version of the d20 rules. All the dice rolls have been reduced to a single d20. Attack? d20. Cast a spell or use magic? d20. Sneak into a dungeon to free slaves? d20s all around. There are no hit points, only a damage track so no rolling for damage. Other games now do this. Both back then and today. This makes things move a bit faster in combat and can make combat very, very deadly. Sure if you are high enough level you might be fine. Unless your combatant is also equally skilled or greater.

Chapter I: World of Aldea As a campaign world we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis. The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races. This history is compelling and does make you feel there is much more that is not written down. We can come back to this in the supplement book “The World of Aldea”. I rather liked the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings.

This chapter also covers that background of the world, the half a dozen countries/cultures you can encounter. We have Aldis, the country of the main heroes and the “good” land of the game. This is one that characters are most likely from. Jarzon, a theocracy that shares some history with Aldis but is a vaguely evil, or least intolerant, land. Kern, home of the Lich King Jarek, is a remnant of the old time before the great shadow wars.

Yes. This is the chapter that introduces us to the now infamous Golden Hart. You know what else it is? The last time you ever hear about it. Unless one of the characters is going end up becoming the next Sovereign of Aldis the Golden Hart will have no affect on the characters whatsoever. I never once cared how the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk or Waterdeep was elected or even who that person was. It has never affected anything in the last 36+ of gaming for me and neither does this. It’s really no different than the Lady of the Lake. Claims that the Golden Hart "tramples" on Role-playing also shows that the person complaining never actually read the book, or played the game.

Information is given on Aldis. Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it. It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates, and the remains of various shadow cults. In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do.

Chapter II: Creating Your Hero Character creation is mechanically a breeze. Since it is d20 derived nearly everyone knows what to do here. The big difference is that instead of scores 3 to 18 you have just the bonuses. So -5 to +5. Everyone starts at 0 and you are given 6 points to divide up. In more “Cinematic” games I have given out 10 points. I also prefer players create their characters together. With backstories that would either augment or complement each other in some way. In Romantic Fiction we often have a single protagonist that joins up with others and soon new bonds are formed. Here we start out with potentially a lot of protagonists. So the dynamic is already slightly different. Now when I say created together I mean in cooperation with each other; the characters might not know anything about each other and even come from different parts of the world, but the players have a vision for what they want and should work on it together.

Races include human, vata (somewhat like elves), sea folk, Rhydan (intelligent animals), night people (likewise somewhat like half-orcs) and the human Roamers.

Blue Rose/True 20 only has three classes; Adept, Expert and Warrior. There are no XP advancement tables; characters level up after a set number of adventures. To borrow from D&D4, you could level up after 10 encounters, but really it is up to the Narrator. An aside...the Game Master for Blue Rose is called a Narrator. Personally I would prefer to call them “Chroniclers”. Seems to fit the feel of what I want in my games.

This chapter also introduces “Callings”, “Conviction” and “Reputation”. Callings are the most interesting of all. Each heroic calling is associated with a Tarot card major arcana. These are related to the alignment system in Blue Rose (Light, Twilight and Shadow) and to the Natures of the characters which are associated to a tarot minor arcana. While it can be used purely as a roleplaying device (as I have done) to guide your character. The mechanical aspect in relationship to Conviction. Conviction is more or less like “Hero Points” or “Drama Points”. A similar mechanic can be found now in D&D 5 with the “Backgrounds” and “Inspiration” systems. They are not 100% the same, but one could be used in the place of the other or used to inform the other. Personally I think it is a damn shame we never got a set of Blue Rose Tarot cards.

Chapter III: Skills This covers the skills the characters can take. Again in something that was new in the d20 times, and became more common later on is how Blue Rose does skill ranking. Skill check = 1d20 + skill rank + ability score + miscellaneous modifiers. Skills are grouped into Favored Skills (based on class), Trained and untrained skills. Need new skills? There is a feat for that (next chapter).

Chapter IV: Feats Like d20, Blue Rose has feats. The feats are your means of customizing your character. Want to be a classic thief? Taken the Expert class and the right skills and feats. Want to be a Paladin or Ranger, take the Warrior class with various feats. Unlike D&D the feats do not have ability score minimums. They do have class requirements and some have other feats as requirements.

Chapter V: Arcana The magic of the Blue Rose world. Magic is both ubiquitous and mistrusted. Nearly everyone has some level of magic. Either they are an Adept or they have a wild talent or two (taken by a feat). At the same time magic, in particular the form known as Sorcery, is mistrusted due to the wars with the Sorcerer Kings. Arcana is divided up into a few categories: Animism Healing Meditative Psychic Shaping Visionary and finally Sorcery.

You can make a number of different sorts of Adepts using the different types of Arcana. In particular I had a lot of fun making various “Benders” like those seen in Avatar the Last Airbender and Avatar the Legend of Korra. You can easily make Air, Earth, Fire and Water Benders. You can even make a “Spirit Bender” which has a lot of potential. Of course I have made many witches. This is not Vancian magic. Once you have a magical gift you can use it all you like...until you can’t that is. There is a fatiguing effect here. Makes magic really feel different than D&D.

Chapter VI: Wealth and Equipment Since the accumulation of wealth and the killing of things is not as important here there is an abstract wealth system. Instead of gold you have a Wealth score. If you want to buy something less than that, then you can. If it is greater, well you will need to roll for that. The system is very similar to what was found in d20 Modern. As expected there are plenty of lists of goods and services. Aldis is a civilized place. Additionally there are arcane items that can be bought, not a lot mind you, but some.

Chapter VII: Playing the Game This includes the very typical combat and physical actions found in every game; especially one based on the d20 rules which has D&D in it’s ancestry. There is good section on social interactions. If run properly a good Blue Rose game will include people that can talk or socialize their way out of problems as much as fight their way out.

Chapter VIII: Narrating Blue Rose This is the GM’s section. Again, I much prefer the term “Chronicler” to “Narrator”. “Chronicler” also implies that the characters are doing something worthy of Chronicling. The chapter has the very pragmatic “Assigning Difficulties” which works well for any d20 derived game, which includes D&D editions 3, 4 and 5. It covers Blue Rose’s particular form of level advancement. There are guides for roleplaying situations like Romance and Intrigue. Again, while situated in the Blue Rose and True20 systems, they could be used for any game. What is particularly useful is the very old-school like table of 100 Adventure ideas. Need an idea? Roll a d100. Each one of these can be expanded into an adventure. This flies in the face of any notion that Blue Rose is a limited game. Equally useful is the section on “About Evil” which gives advice on how to handle evil NPCs. They suggest avoiding using “mustache twirling evil stereotypes” or “evil for evil’s sake” NPCs. Though I will point out that some of their source material does exactly that. They favor a more nuanced approach to evil, reminding the reader that no evil person thinks of themselves as the bad guy.

Chapter IX: Bestiary There are some familiar names here, but don’t automatically assume you know what these creatures are about. Griffons for example are given more emphasis and intelligence here than in their D&D counterparts. This is completely due to how they are treated in the Romantic Fiction novels, in particular the novels of Mercedes Lackey. Also, unlike the books, there are a lot more creatures here than what I recall reading. So there are plenty of creatures that can either guide, beguile or challenge the characters. There are about 70 or so creatures here. Adding more would be easy, really TOO easy to be honest. Most creatures need have a good reason to be in the game/world. For example there are no Manticores here. You could make a very good reason for them to be there as something like anti-griffon or even a magical race the bred true to fight griffons. Maybe they were created during the Shadow Wars or even before in the Empire of Thorns. They are rare now since most were killed.

Introductory Adventure: The Curse of Harmony What it says on the tin. An introductory adventure featuring some of the different aspects of this game.

Appendix: D20 System Conversion Of course you know I loved this. The ability to mix and match from d20? Hell yes. In fact I did just that for my own Blue Rose/Ravenloft mash-up. I found that it works best to convert to Blue Rose than trying to convert Blue Rose to some d20 system.

And True20 True20 came out after Blue Rose and offered some improvements on the base system. For example Toughness no longer increases with level. This is a good change. As my gaming in Blue Rose increased I found I used more and more True20. In particular anything with a horror, supernatural or magic bend to it. Plus the True20 system, as published,

Normally at this point I make a case as to why you should buy this book. I figure most of you have made up your minds about this game long ago. So instead I am going to say give this game a try. It is fun. It is different that most of the Murder-Hobo games out there. Even if you don’t like the game there is the setting. If you don’t like that then there are plenty of mechanics and ideas that can be used in any other game. If nothing else check out the Quick Start version of the game that Green Ronin still gives out for free.

There is a lot here that could easily be added to a D&D5 game. Indeed, some of the roleplaying ideas in D&D 5 share at least some history with Blue Rose and True20. Maybe a D&D5 version of Blue Rose is in order.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Rose - The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (True20)
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Blue Rose Companion (True20)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/15/2016 21:46:36

The Blue Rose Companion contains plenty of new material to keep your Blue Rose game fresh. Now I will be candid here. There is a lot here that has the appearance of being material that was not quite ready for the core book. This is not uncommon really. I usually have enough material left over from books to make another book. Not all of that material will, or should, see the light of day. Most of the material here is good stuff.

Like the core the Blue Rose Companion was published in 2005 by Green Ronin. The book is 120 pages perfect bound soft cover. Color covers and black and white interior art. Cover art is by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Authors are listed as: Designed by Chris Aylott, Elissa Carey, Joseph Carriker, Steve Kenson, Alejandro Melchor, Aaron Rosenberg, Rodney Thompson Additional Material by Jeremy Crawford. Fiction by Dawn Elliot. Edited by Jeremy Crawford and Developed by Steve Kenson

Chapter 1: Heroic Roles Nearly the first third of the book is given over to Heroic roles and Paths characters may take. With a base class assumed (Adept, Expert or Warrior) the character can then take a prescribed set of feats, arcana (in some cases) and skill focuses to come up with a "class". Such roles include, Animist, Arcanist, Contemplative,Healer, Psychic, Shaper, Seer, Bard,Infiltrator, Merchant, Noble, Scout, Spirit Dancer, Thief, Clan Warrior, Crusader, Knight, Ranger, Soldier, and Swashbuckler. Plenty more can also be derived from these examples. A few points. They are not in alphabetical order, but instead grouped by base class. The Shapers make for FANTASTIC "Benders" from "Avatar: The Last Air Bender" and "Avatar: The Legend of Korra". Making an Avatar takes a little more work. Also, I never made a witchcraft path for this. I know crazy, but being able to customize what I wanted allowed me a lot of freedom in character choice. I have some characters I call witches, but that is about it.

Chapter II: Heroic Abilities This covers various uses for skills and "tricks" something you can do with a skill, such as doing a one hand handstand. The base DCs are nice and yes, totally portable to other d20 based systems.

Chapter III: The Arcane Arts This covers another third of the book. This chapter covers all sorts of new Arcana as well as tools of the Art, Skill and War; or items usable by Adepts, Experts and Warriors. I was quite pleased to "Daemonbane"; I had a similar named blade in my D&D games. Rituals, summonings, and places of power are discussed here as well. This is the sort of thing that would have been great to have in the core book and more fully integrated into the rules from day one. Additionally there is a new rule associated with rituals, Élan or magical power. This one is fine here since the heroes are supposed to using this sort of power anyway, or at least not in theory. Still this is a good reason for me to keep printing out my PDFs. I can rearrange the pages as I like and insert this chapter in the Core.

Chapter IV: Bestiary The last part of the book contains new monsters. In particular I enjoyed seeing the Sahuagin, or Sea Fiends, in their True20 format. With Sea Folk, these guys are must have. Again, good to have this printed out to rearrange.

In general this is a good addition to the Blue Rose game, in fact there are few things here that I used all the time that I would have sworn where in the Core till I started doing these reviews again. Rereading this book today also reminded me how close Blue Rose was and is to my preferred style of gaming.

This book also set the stage for what future True20 books would look like and do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Rose Companion (True20)
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Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero's Handbook
by Erwin D. H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/02/2016 12:44:25

While most of the content was already present in the previous version of this book, it nevertheless adds plenty of additional information and options. If you are new to this game, I would strongly advice you to choose this version over the core book. If you already have the core book, this might not be for everyone. It all depends on how hardcore you are.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero's Handbook
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Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
by patrick m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2016 14:48:02

This is my favorite super hero game. You can save the universe or protect your neaborhood with equal ease. The game played easy and with distinctly diffrent characters. Everybody always enjoys when we play this game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
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Chronicle of Sorcery
by Robert F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/06/2016 11:51:02

I really wanted to like this book, I really did, but sadly this book has no kind of functional magic beyond the three common arts with one of them (warding) being almost completely useless given how it would barely affect either of the other common arts. If the rumored expansions to blood magic, wortcunning, and spirit whispering came out then I wouldn't mind but it's been a long time since anyone has heard anything a bout those future expansions. Until more information on the example lores, and how to make balanced spells are released, I can't recommend this.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of Sorcery
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Fantasy AGE Encounters: Children's Crusade
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2016 09:16:10

More would have been better. What you have here is some background info and NPC descriptions. There is also one random table. I will say that one thing Fantasy Age products do well is focus on role playing other than combat, while providing excellent seeds for GM's to write. I like this pdf, but another page with more context would have been good.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Encounters: Children's Crusade
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Fantasy AGE Bestiary
by Doug C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2016 12:36:20

A great resource for fleshing out your AGE campaign! The images are stunning, and the adventure hooks with each creature are a brilliant idea!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Bestiary
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Wild Cards: Aces & Jokers
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2016 16:27:41

While the price is reasonable the content is the real problem. The stats and information on the characters is squeezed together instead of a full or half page layout. I have a large number of Green Ronin products and this is not one of the good ones. The only saving grace is the price for the PDF.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Cards: Aces & Jokers
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Titansgrave: The Hermit's Road
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/05/2016 15:28:21

just bought it. so far im really liking the quest. however, if you did finish The Ashes of Valkana, it would be a good idea to bridge the gap between that book and this one. bottom line: great quest/adventure, i cant wait to play it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Titansgrave: The Hermit's Road
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Paragons
by Peter F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/19/2016 22:49:50

Paragons is a strange beast. I absolutely adore this book, but I can't recommend it without a few initial caveats. First and foremost is that Paragons is not exactly a setting. It's a toolbox, albeit one with all the elements of a setting: a high concept (a real-ish world with mysterious superpowers, where the "Breakout" of paranormal ability is relatively recent), a whole boatload of organizations and NPCs to interact with, lots of adventure seeds, and the Imageria -- a spirit world/collective unconscious/paranormal enigma in which all of myth, legend, and story can be found in some form or another. Second is that the design of the book leans heavily towards being a source for GMs. All the information on the NPCs, including any secrets they might have, are listed right there in the character section, rather than separated into their own chapter as used to be commonplace. Finally, Paragons is almost ten years old as of this review -- the setting and concepts translate surprisingly well, but a few things stand out as anachronistic (remember when the TV series Heroes was the hot new thing, just before Iron Man changed the superhero landscape forever?), and it uses Second Edition M&M, so playing Paragons in 3e will take a little work.

All that said...remember when I mentioned loving Paragons? This book just oozes personality, somehow implying an enormous setting with a rich history without setting any of it in stone. For a GM who wants a semi-realistic modern setting with super-powers, a world of dark strangeness revealed, or a gonzo everything-is-connected framework to provide connections in a more four-color setting, Paragons can't be beat. Its organizations have enough detail to hint at complex, ongoing agendas while leaving plenty of room for GM development or reimagining. Every NPC is an interesting potential plot hook. The Imageria gives Paragons a unique flavor that keeps it from being generic, while having more than enough flexibility to serve a wide variety of different campaign purposes. Many of the forces in play are connected, giving Paragons a lived-in feel, while still managing to allow for the insertion or removal of characters or factions without disrupting the meta-setting's elegance. It's simply a master class in world kit design. Frankly, I would call it perfect were it not for the aforementioned lack of separation between player and GM sections.

There's a trend in superhero gaming that leans toward getting back to the bright colors and "anything goes" nature of old-school comics. It's a welcome move towards optimism and pure fun, and Freedom City staked out territory in that realm many years ago. Even so, there's still plenty of room for a more critical eye on what superhuman powers would do to, and with, real people. Further, not only is there nothing stopping groups from running a near-straight superhero campaign in Paragons, the idea gets plenty of support with the official UN super-team Vanguard and a few sample NPC heroes (though the Paragons plug-in found in Worlds of Freedom would probably help). Just don't expect the super-villains to fly around wearing spandex; that's largely a hero gig. Where Paragons shines is in the chance to do other things with superpowers, either instead of or in addition to old-fashioned rescuing. There are mysteries to solve, conspiracies to foil, tough questions to face, vast reaches of space and Imageria to explore, and the big question to which Paragons gives no definitive answer (while covering the most likely possibilities): just how is all this impossibility possible?

I cannot recommend Paragons enough to GMs looking for something unique in a modern setting. Yes, it takes a lot of buy-in, and much of the work is front-loaded, but the results will almost certainly be worth it. Paragons is a book and world that needs a lot more love.

As a final aside, much of the buy-in and early work can be minimized by borrowing from a few of the other "secret modern world with powers" books on your shelf. Mage (either), Shadowforce Archer, Feng Shui, Conspiracy X, just about anything with Lovecraft...all can be raided for parts, with groups and/or characters fitted into Paragons with a minimum of fuss.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paragons
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
by Robert L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2016 12:09:42

This review appeared originally at www.forgotmydice.com

In a world where D&D exists, one of the questions I often find myself asking when I read fantasy RPG systems is this: Why am I playing this when I could be playing D&D? It’s a simple question, and not every game system has a satisfactory answer. Fantasy Age, however, is one system that not only do I like a lot, it also has two answers to that eternal question. Firstly, there are three classes in the game, and none of them are a cleric. It is a system that from the ground up has no plans for the divine world and the player character world ever touching. You can make that happen obviously, but again it’s not baked in. Secondly, Fantasy Age reminds me a lot of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia. It is a complete RPG system in one book, which is helpful when you want something a little lighter.

The Basics Fantasy Age is the core rule book of the AGE system, which stands for Adventure Game Engine. It is the system that was first used for the excellent Dragon Age RPG. They have been talking about separating the system out for years, but sadly it was released just after D&D 5th edition, which meant it got over-shadowed by the big kid on the block. Luckily, Fantasy Age got a boost when Wil Wheaton used it for his own YouTube series Titansgrave. So soon after release, the game had a long adventure campaign that you could run. Plus, Titansgrave is set in a science-fantasy world, so you get the added bonus of playing a game with some robots and blasters thrown in, which was a nice change of pace if you have been playing traditional high fantasy D&D for a while.

Fantasy AGE by itself is a generic high fantasy game. The overview of it covers all the bases you will probably want. You got Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Humans, and Orcs. The three classes are Mage, Warrior and Rogue. It has a short section on monsters and how to make more (sadly the book doesn’t come with enough monsters on its own, but fortunately the internet has more than made up for this). Plus there is a small intro adventure in the back. All of that in one hardback book for $29.95 MSRP… that’s a lot of value in-between those covers!

One of the biggest draws for me for the Fantasy Age system is that a lot of “fantasy” stories out there are difficult to translate to D&D. The main reason is that one of the core classes of D&D the cleric class, but very few popular fantasy stories feature clerics (at least, D&D clerics which have direct links to known gods which are also the source of magical power for these clerics). Fantasy Age is a very solid and simple game engine. So settings where the gods and religion are much more a matter of faith rather than gameplay, such as Dragon Age or Game of Thrones, you have a rules system that is much easier to for it to plug into.

The Rules Characters are created using a similar system to 5th edition D&D, including picking a Race, a Class, and a Background. Also, much like D&D, early in level players pick a specialization that gives them extra powers and focuses them around a particular sub set of abilities. Unlike D&D, players eventually learn two of these specializations, so mixing and matching these can lead to some very interesting combinations.

Characters also get “talents” as they level up, which in D&D terms can be thought of as feats. What I like about this system is that talents have three levels of mastery: novice, journeyman, and master. It’s up to the individual player how their character will progress. They can focus on and master a few talents, or spread out the points and be novices in many, random talents. So even though there are only three initial classes to pick from, they can be customized to be different in a myriad of different ways.

The dice mechanic in Fantasy Age is different as well. Instead of rolling a single dice, you roll 3d6. Two of your dice should be the same color, and one of them should be a separate color to symbolize the Stunt Die. Whenever you roll, if you roll doubles on any of the 3 dice and the total roll equals a success, you generate Stunt Points equal to what you rolled on the Stunt Die. For combat rolls, this allows you to add riders onto your attacks. For skill checks, this allows you to add different dramatic effects so you complete a skill with particular panache. I’m also a fan of this system as it makes figuring out the difficulty level of tasks easy. Because you’re rolling 3 dice most of the time, the most common roll result is 10. So if you ever find yourself needing to roll a number higher than 10, especially 12+, you should probably spend some resources or use a class ability to get yourself a bonus, or just use a different tactic to solve the problem.

Finally, in D&D, the Strength or Dexterity stat gives you a straight bonus to your hit and damage rolls. In Fantasy Age, the stats are more nuanced, resulting in the stats Accuracy, Dexterity, Fighting, and Strength, among others. This means you can have the stats reflect the fluff of a character, such as a creature that is super strong but has a hard time hitting things, like a Ogre. But when one stat affects both those aspects, it means you can’t have a character with a low attack bonus but with a high strength stat. So this system allows the Game Master more creativity when creating monsters for the players to fight. For instance, you can make something very skilled at applying weapons to adventurers but also with weak strength (like say a Sprite) so the little sword hits don’t do much damage. Or you can make a big giant that will hit you like a truck but has a hard time connecting with the humans that only come up to its shins.

Final Thoughts This is a really great book, and I have a fondness for any game system that manages to fit everything you need in one volume. The game system itself is much more rules-light and narrative than D&D, but still has enough crunch to make things interesting. It is definitely on my list of games I’d like to play or run, either by running Titansgrave, or by converting it to another setting. Anyone looking for a similar game system should give it a try.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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