It has now been over a month since I got my hands on the Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook. Like many people, my gaming group meets on an infrequent schedule. Although Pathfinder (and 3.5) has been our game of choice, the demands of life and desire for a quick game made it necessary to switch to a games that was a little lighter on rules and mechanics.
My previous experience with the AGE System (Adventure Game Engine) was with the Dragon Age roleplaying game published also by Green Ronin. Those familiar with Tabletop will recognize it from Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana campaign. As Fantasy Age is a departure from the Dragon Age setting but without a “default” setting of its own, it is generic enough to incorporate additions such as lizard people and blaster rifles.
The Fantasy Age Basic Rulebook features a few changes and improvements, mostly in how characters determine their starting ability focuses (race is separate from background and backgrounds are divided among social classes). Strength and Dexterity are no longer used for determining accuracy and damage, the rogue’s backstab ability is revamped with a more robust pinpoint strike that is often more applicable, and the spells for mages have changed to reflect no longer being setting-dependent. Overall, those with previous exposure to the AGE system will be very comfortable settling in.
What is more important is what has not changed. The key mechanic, stunting, remains intact in all its unpredictable glory. Rolls are as much interpretation as addition, with doubles resulting in a variety of effects from delivering a devastating hit to knock the foe several feet and quickly reloading your crossbow for a follow-up shot. Many tabletop roleplaying games in the past have had ways of defining extraordinary success, such as critical hits, but Fantasy Age goes one step further. Rather than simply achieving a numerical effect, stunting moves along the narrative of combat, often in really fun ways. It also hands these tools to the player, allowing he or she to define his or her own badassery.
Despite some rather glaring typos, Fantasy Age offers a rules-lite solution for easy and fast play. Also, the fact that stunts occur far more often than your typical critical on a d20 means that dice rolls never become stale.