Fantasy AGE 2e! The Review!
Back in 2017, I stumbled over Fantasy AGE, a 3d6 based fantasy tabletop RPG by Green Ronin. I was all in. It was the breath of fresh air I needed from D&D and D&D-esque games. I even featured it a few times in articles about games to try or alternatives to D&D. So when I heard there was a 2nd edition coming, I knew that I had to check it out!
Notification: I was provided with a an electronic copy for review of the Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition Core Rulebook by Green Ronin, as well as art assets to use.
Fantasy AGE comes by its name honestly. The Adventure Game Engine was developed by Green Ronin for their successful Dragon Age tabletop RPG adaptation of the popular CRPG by Electronic Arts. The AGE mechanics were stable, Green Ronin had an established setting, and the rest was history. Releasing in 2017, it was followed up by some excellent supplements and expansions, and an interesting but under developed science fantasy setting called Titansgrave.
As a game, the first edition was solid with only mild problematic aspects, especially compared to the dominant game in the hobby, D&D. It wasn’t without issues though. For reasons unknown, Green Ronin decided to try a “quiet campaign” to advertise it. In my opinion, this was a strategic error that hampered the game’s success as it didn’t have a critical mass in its fandom to give that plan the traction needed to succeed. The result was a good game that languished in the background radiation of the hobby. Hopefully this is over now though!
The AGE system has been polished and updated. Content and ideas from subsequent AGE based games has been integrated into the game, and it’s good. It was a needed update and makes the game run smoother than the first edition.
Diversity. Fantasy AGE has always been good about diversity in its art, and this practice has continued into the 2nd edition. It’s easy to pick this game up and feel seen, something that many games still struggle with. What’s great is that they also show the peoples of the game interacting normally and in mixed company, which does a lot to breakdown the silo effect that many fantasy games develop around their peoples.
There’s a solid baseline of player ancestries. There’s Draak (a lizard/dragonfolk), Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Human, Orc, and Wildfolk (a broad term for beastfolk and birdfolk). The rules for mixed ancestry are still there too, with mechanics that make it fun and that avoid narrative implications. Want to be a Dwarf-Goblin? Elf-Orc? It’s all on the table and non-game breaking.
The Envoy class addition. The original Fantasy AGE rocked the boat in terms of class design by breaking the expected D&D style classes into flavours of Mage, Warrior, and Rogue, where the player’s choices of powers and abilities defined the character. Envoy fills a social and command role in the design, a space that was lacking, and is a welcome addition to the mix.
The Adversaries section, specifically the mod section. It’s a solid section on modifying adversaries to make them unique, which dovetails nicely with the selection of baseline options. This gives really good tools to make encounters unique even when using the same adversaries again.
The GM Section is phenomenal. It doesn’t assume anything and provides new and old GMs alike with a comprehensive set of tools to get things going, all the way from a section on setting expectations to using safety tools at the table to quick reference sheets. There’s even a section on assisting roles that the players can take on to help the game running smoothly. The optional rulesets are top end too and fit easily into the standard rules to give a game a unique flavour. It’s great!
The ancestry system’s benefits mechanics still conflate naturally occurring abilities and cultural aspects. This is an issue that has come up from 1st edition and that I was hoping they’d have rectified, but it’s still there and still pushing that problematic concept.
Serpentfolk as Adversaries only. After coming out swinging with Wildfolk, it was disappointing to see Serpentfolk still in the Adversary section. People are going to want to play them, and having them languish in the Adversary section detracts from the story options I think. Especially given the setting presented which makes their isolationism difficult to make work.
The Adversaries section needed to be a bit longer I think. I realize that the book is already pushing 288 pages, about double the size of the original core book, but the selection in the Adversaries section is thin. The mod section for Adversaries is good, but it’s also having to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep things fresh owing to the low count of monsters. Given the presence of a starter setting, I think that this would have done a lot to define it further.
This is a solid second edition. Lots of lessons learned, lots of compilation of information and rules. I’ll be clear here, I didn’t include the micro-setting of Breakwater Bay in this review simply because it deserves its own review. That said, it’s a good game and a more than worthy follow up to the original. I’m comfortable placing Fantasy AGE 2nd Edition at Rank A. This is a game that can stand beside the likes of D&D and Pathfinder comfortably as is, and when it gets its supplements, it will be a truly competitive game offering options that neither of its peers can offer. At the time of writing, it is available in pdf format and for pre-order in hardcopy.
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