Product– Modern Age Basic Rulebook
Producer– Green Ronin Publishing
TL; DR-Three games in one where every roll matters! 88%
Basics– Dragon Age in your modern age? Modern Age Basic Rulebook is a stand alone game, applying the basics of the Fantasy Age system to a modern or near modern setting. Let’s break this up into pieces.
Basic mechanics: Modern Age is Fantasy Age is Dragon Age. All three of these use 3d6 + ability + focus to do anything. Like all RPGs, it’s the basic idea of “roll dice, plus a number, to get a different number to win” idea. Easy enough to pick up and play.
Abilities and focuses: Modern Age has a pretty simple number addition pool where you add an ability. Ability is just like your base statistics in DnD. These range from -2 to +4. You also have focuses, which are basically like skills in DnD except that you get a flat +2 to the roll instead of different values. Later you can specialize so you have a +3 instead of the +2.
Talents and Powers: While abilities and focuses do give you some room to build some fun characters, it’s not enough to really differentiate your characters from the pack. That is where talents come into play. Talents are the feats of the system. Talents provide a bonus that makes your character distinct. Talents range from being rich and getting bonuses in buying things to being a bruiser who hits harder. What makes these distinct from DnD feats is there are three levels of each talent. As you level up you can take higher levels of each talent, making you more powerful in your given area. This is how spells/powers/psychic abilities are handled as well. You choose a magic school and that school functions pretty much like a talent providing you new options like making a light happen to casting fireballs. This isn’t a Vancian magic or powers game as characters have a number of power points they can spend at will to do whatever powers they want as often as they can.
Stunt Points: This is the bread and butter of the system. The Age system itself isn’t completely novel as dice + numbers vs a different number isn’t anything new, but this system uses 3d6 with ONE die being a different color. This different die is your stunt die. If any dice show doubles and you succeed, you get to a number of stunt points equal to your stunt die value. These points range from tripping people to better haggling in the market to adding power to your psychic blasts. All dice rolls have a table of stunt points you can spend to make things interesting. This differentiates the system from other roll + number systems, making it its own thing.
Game version: Modern movies are really three different kinds of movies. You have your ultra modern, gritty movies where one bullet kills someone. You have fun pulp where you punch nazis with a satisfying SMACK. You also have movies where one hero kills hundreds of monsters while only getting a single cut over his eye to make him look even more amazing. Modern Age gives you rule tweaks to play in any of these settings by changing damage from weapons, hit points, and number of bad guys you throw at the hero.
Ok, that’s the basics of the game. Let’s look at my thoughts at the game.
Mechanics or Crunch– You can see the direct line from the Dragon Age video game to the Dragon Age game to Fantasy Age to Modern Age. And that is a good thing! I like the basic idea of powers, magic points, and mechanics of the Dragon Age video game, and Dragon Age the RPG system implemented that well. Those basic ideas go from Dragon Age to Fantasy Age and finally to Modern Age. It’s a solid, simple to play system. Stunt points and the fact that any roll can make them happen really makes this game pop. Every roll matters. Something that happens in one roll might have big changes to the next as the points can change things in ways you might not have expected. It’s a great touch to make this stick out from all the other roll vs numbers games out there. My one minor gripe is I would like more powers in a character. Characters don’t get a whole lot of powers to play with if they go that route. If you are ok with a pretty simple system without an overabundance of options, this is a good one to jump into. 4.5/5
Theme or Fluff-This book is light on fluf, but that is decidedly on purpose. Modern Age is a modern setting. It’s just today. You have today’s guns. The only fantasy bit is magic powers, and that’s honestly optional. The game references a comic setting as an option to play, but mostly it leaves the game up to you. The three different versions of the game do help you set the game how you want to play. Gritty, pulp, or cinematic are good options for a GM and players to decide how the world should be played. It’s setting light, but that’s by design, which doesn’t hurt the goals of the book. 4/5
Execution– PDF? YEP! Hyperlinked? YES! Ok, we start solid. Overall the book is well done. The font and tables are not my favorite, but that’s a print issue as they are a bit cramped for my taste. I also think laying out some items in a table for character advancement would help as opposed to telling me in text. Those small issues annoyed me a bit, because I want to be able to glance over things quickly to get what I need to know quickly. Aside from that, the book is well done. The one thing that stuck out to me is the weapons page. WEAPONS HAVE LABELS IN A PICTURE! I can’t tell you how many RPGs I have read where they mention a weapon, and I have to google what they mean. That’s a small thing that keeps me in this book as I speed read through the thing. Reads quick, easy to navigate, and good art to boot make this a solid product. 4.75/5
Summary-I can’t wait for the next Dragon Age video game. That system was solid. This game is a grand child of that video game, and it’s got all the things I know and love from it. The mechanics are simple and the fact that dice rolls have a chance to make something cool happen besides a critical keep things interesting. The fact I can run three different games from one book makes this pretty versatile for the games I want to play. The book was a quick read that got me playing fast. What I don’t like as much is I would like a bit more about the basic setting, but the basic setting is today. So, I could just look outside and see what it’s like. Characters don’t get a ton of options, but that is something from Dragon Age as well. It’s a solid game that makes every roll count, so give this one a try if you crave some modern day gunfights at your table! 88%