The Jade Hare

A band of friends, travelling to the town of Escudo in Saragón, stop for the evening in the insular, Ylari town of Estoque some few miles from their destination. They’ve been travelling a while and, with evening turning to night, this small village seems as good as any place to stay. Draigh Veloci the human honourbound fighter, Roen’Thagur the tortle Inheritor and priest of Mother Ocean, Roxy the rakasta swashbuckler bard and Dren Ramos Salazar the elf beastrider archer (fighter), four adventurers in all, visit the only inn in this small town. To their surprize,they are not the only adventurers in the inn this evening. A large party, sent out bu Don Luis de Manzanas himself are currently waiting on their food. Of the twelve patrons aside from the party, only one, an elderly human man named Abdullah, is native to the town.

Abdullah calls the adventurers over, and tell mostly Roen and Dren the story of the town’s most precious item, a Jade Hare. According to the old man, the Jade Hare protects Estoque, much as the Barrier Mask protects Saragón. He invites them to come to the museum in town (his house), to see the hare tomorrow, before drifting off to sleep for a while at the bar.

The leader of the Don’s party, Maria Cordoba, invited the wayward adventurers to dine with them, as the large party has already ordered almost all of the inn’s food anyway. Delicacies of Ylari treated turkey, wild rice, and a mixture of native and imported vegetables sate the two adventuring parties while they chat over dinner. The Don’s party is on a mission to find an artifact, and although Maria cannot conscript them herself, she offers that if they’re interested, they should attempt to make contact with the Don. A young man named Orlando recognizes Draigh’s crest and asks if he’s honourbound. Learning that he is, he attempts to set up a duel between Maria and Roxy, though Maria insists they won’t have the time right now, much to Orlando’s dismay.

ibn Ali, the inn keeper, does his best to see to the comfort of the patrons, but most of the adventurers have to sleep on the floor, as it is clear that the inn isn’t large enough to handle such a large crowd. The early morning sees the Don’s party leave, and our intrepid adventurers having time to bathe, eat and, they expect, continue on their way. After stopping in to the museum to see the fabled Jade Hare, of course. Their plans are suddenly upended when a panicked Abdullah bursts into the inn, exasperatedly shouting “they’ve stolen the Jade Hare!” It’s apparent immediately who’s taken it. A band of goblins prowls the town. The adventurers spring into action to rescue the Jade Hare, but are stopped by some goblins before they can intercept the lead!

After felling the goblin foes, the group look to their tracker to find where the goblins took the Jade Hare, but it turns out Dren is more a tracker in theory than in practice. Thankfully, with the aid of Roen’Thagur’s far sight legacy, they managed to stay in the right direction for some time. As luck would have it, when they lost the trail, they found a merchant named Yusif ibn Ahmad, an animated man prone to falling to his knees and praising or cursing al-Kalim, depending on the news. Upon hearing the precious Jade Hare was stolen, he eagerly offers information regarding a cave where a sorcerer lives, who also has goblin guards. “Likely unrelated.”

The adventurers take no time getting to the cave, and there they find a large entrance full of bats! Wading their way through the mass of angry bats, the group presses inward to find a cave that quickly becomes a well hewn headquarters for the mysterious mage. Inside the hidden hideout, the adventurers encounter goblins, an ill-tempered hobgoblin chef, a goblin and his pet spiders, and two ghouls resting under bags of old millet, who paralyze and almost end the young life of Dren. The goblin barracks proves difficult, but the final meeting with the sorcerer and his bugbear bodyguard Balgoruk provesnearly deadly! The sorcerer is ready for the adventurers, immediately hitting them with a spell that paralyzes everyone save for the elven archer. A chance to turn the tides and perhaps save his friends is passed up in favour of shooting arrows at Balgoruk and showboating, causing the bugbear to run around the cave to come up behind the archer. The sorcerer, in the meantime, casts spell after spell to harm the party and protect himself. Balgoruk’s ax nearly splits Dren in twain, causing the terrified archer to throw millet at the bugbear’s chest and run away. So angry with the disrespect, Balgoruk punches Dren in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him out. But Roen takes the opportunity to fell the bugbear with his red steel mace. Roxy tends to the fallen Dren, making sure he doesn’t die, while Draigh steps into engage the sorcerer. A mirror image spell makes Draigh’s mighty swings all but pointless, but the sorcerer, feeling that a single tap would end his life, disappears and runs off to collect hit things, using invisibility to hopefully escape. Draigh’s war cry legacy stops the invisible sorcerer in his tracks, and a wild, lucky swing finds the sorcerer cut in half!

The room the sorcerer retreated to is an alchemy lab of sorts. There, the adventurers find several unmarked potions, as well as a hastily drank vial of what Roen immediately identifies as Crimson Essence, the materials to produce Crimson Essence, and a note from someone named ‘Balazar’. Tucking the potions, the note and the vial away, the adventurers continue to look for the Jade Hare. Draigh finds a key on the body of the sorcerer, as well as a red steel dagger. The key leads to a treasure room that is protected by a gargoyle! Dren shatters his sword on the creature’s hide, while Roxy’s blades cannot penetrate the skin. Draigh uses the red steel dagger to pierce the creature and, while it cries out, Roen finishes the creature before it can fell any of them. Along with the Jade Hare, the adventurers find a haul of coins and various treasures! The adventurers hastily return to Estoque to find elated townsfolk. The travelling merchant Yusif ibn Ahmad announces that today will be a celebration, and the inn keeper Ali whips up his greatest delicacies, while Yusif provides exotic spices for the food and some of his personal stock of tej (a style of mead).

What lies in store for our intrepid adventurers remains to be told…

The Note
01 - Note

Secret GM Notes and Preparation!

Surviving the goblin barracks

Dren is about to die!


Red Steel

So I found these in near mint condition at a gaming store a city over.

Red Steel is one of those weird campaigns that my group saw vestiges of while we were actively playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, but something I never got to play. The only GM who had any of the stuff for it, a random book from one of the boxed sets, and he thought it was “too weird”. This guy also didn’t understand how THAC0 worked, and thought the game was unplayable past level five, but I digress.

Anyway, what I saw I was always like “looks neat.” Over the years, I went on to 3e and stuff, and Red Steel kind of didn’t. Not officially. There were things in a few Dragon magazines here and there, and I did add some of those races to some of my campaigns. Anyway, I have been really wanting to introduce my new players to AD&D, and it took a little talking up to get them like “yeah, let’s play this weird, old game”. I also had to explain that THAC0 isn’t really that difficult, haha. Anyway, I got them to agree to play, and then random ass trip finds me these two boxed sets, with everything. The CDs are even still cellophaned! So I am so hyped to get this going and to introduce my current players (save my Husbutch, who used to play AD&D with me) to the weird and wonderful world of AD&D and the Savage Coast!

So, expect campaign updates!

Some Random Events!

Here are some random pictures from some games I’ve run or been running, and also a random four way card game! I haven’t updated in a while, so I thought why not?

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
This is a really fun card game. I left the TCG scene back in like 2001? 2002? But have been playing a few less than collectible games. What I really like about this one is that the art is above phenomenal, the game play is interesting and fun, and it’s not one of those games where you need to constantly buy boosters and stuff. I say like it’s a bad thing, but I mean, we have bought a tonne of the expansions.

Dungeons and Dragons (3e)
Some scenes from a 3e D&D game I am running for a small group, mostly my house. We have the final confrontation with the boss in a Kobold dungeon, and a shot from my DMing screen. Also, that’s just 3e D&D. Yup, just good ol’ 3e.
3e D&D 13e D&D 2

Savage Worlds
I ran a random event at a gaming store by me. The only people who showed were my normal group, and a friend we hadn’t seen in a while. It was nice catching up, even if the event was kind of a flop, and she’s been joining us for other games since! So I guess it wasn’t a total flop
Savage Worlds

Shadowrun: Anarchy
We played a few sessions, but we kind of stopped because my Husbutch couldn’t really get into it. But Cyberpunk’s not really her cup of meat, so it’s all good. She had fun though, but I didn’t want to be like “suck it up” when I have so many other games we can play, haha


Sontougi Wood

Sontougi – Asian Adventures with Fantasy AGE

Background Information
My wonderful Husbutch bought me the Fantasy AGE companion, and, while waiting for the physical copy, we delved into the PDF. (I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the system, BTW). We looked over the new races, talents, specializations and spells, and both started formulating character concepts. Our friend took a look at it, and he, too, started coming up with a character idea. We had no idea what these characters were for, just all started with “huh, this could be a cool concept.” We started discussing our ideas over the week, and did a little waffling here and there. As you all may or may not have noticed, I have not been feeling Eurofantasy lately, so right as we started discussing, I pitched taking influence from East Asia. Normally, I push a little more for Chinese inspiration, but they’re both more familiar with Japanese culture if for no other reason than animé. So, we started to hash out some basic ideas while we rewatched Inuyasha, and we came up with our setting: Sontou. And the name of our campaign is Sontougi, or the Chronicles of Sontou

Sontou is the Precious Island, and the place where our game is set. It is a fantasy Japanese analogue, inspired by history, mythology, game material, and some rule of cool animé. The group is made up of a Half-Oni (Blooded) rogue named Ren (蓮), who is the son of a Daimyo. The Daimyo had no particular love for his son, but found the semi-demonic appearance something he could use to frighten his enemies. Not wanting that life for himself, Ren has become somewhat of a Ronin, and traveling bard/martial artist. Jin Gang, also called Kingou (金剛) is an enigmatic living machine (Orean) from the continent, who came with as part of an envoy some time in the past. He was activated when Ren and the third party member found him and uncovered him, the spark from the mage waking him. His memories are not clear, but somehow he ended up buried in sand for an unknown amount of time. The remainder of his envoy, all humans, died trapped in a cave. Hikaba Dappo (皓牙妲秀) is a Kitsune (Beastfolk) mage specializing in Beast and Illusion arcana, and arms herself with a spear. She doesn’t really have any driving goals right now, but she brought the party together, and is sort of the glue keeping them together for now. She tried to steal Ren’s money while he was sleeping against a tree, and the ensuing chase led them both onto the beach where Kingou was found. Dappo’s magic accidentally activated him, and Ren was taken with her looks and cute personality enough to excuse the attempted theft, that they decided to at least get off the beach and find a place for Kingou to eat. Their adventures together started as they entered a small village, one that Ren had recently been run out of for flirting with a married woman, only to find the entire town had been overrun by giant spiders. They found no survivors, and now find themselves searching for a way to at least alert the local lord of the issue. But, being a roleplaying game, things will probably not be that easy.

Map of Sontou
This is the map of Sontou I made for the game. I like map making, and all good campaigns deserve a map, right?

Let’s Do a Homebrew!


Welcome to the first installment of Let’s Do A Homebrew! Hereafter referred to as LDH. I’m going to use this little series to like showcase building a homebrewed setting. As time goes on I may venture into different homebrew ideas, or just like idea dump in this series. I don’t yet know. What I do know, though, is that for the foreseeable future I’ll be using this series to showcase a homebrewed fantasy setting. But the Grell! you say, will you still be doing your game reviews? I need them to LIVE. Of course I will. I just feel like this blog can and should be used for more. Plus I doubt you actually need my reviews to live. Seems a bit hyperbolic. I appreciate the sentiment though. I really do. You’re simply too kind.

So, the first thing to do when deciding you’re going to make a homebrew is to have a game in mind. You can make your own. And one of these days the Grell will showcase some of her very own systems. But for now, let’s just assume we don’t want to do all that work. Pretty much any favourite system works. I know a lot of people love to use D&D, for example. I am going to use Fantasy AGE. If you’re unfamiliar, you can read my review here (although now I am sceptical that you really need my reviews to live…). Anywho, like any good homebrew, I’ll be making a bunch of my own stuff and tinkering and adding house rules. Who doesn’t love world building and setting specific rules?

So, when coming up with your homebrew, it’s good to kind of think about what sort of setting you want to do. Fantasy AGE presumes high fantasy, like many role playing games that are based in Tolkienesque faux-mythology. So wizards and warriors, dwarves and elves and all that. Standard High Fantasy is really a fine model, but it’s not the one I want to use right now. So the first thing I am going to decide on is that there won’t be any of the standard fantasy races. Goodbye elves, dwarves. For now, I will be taking humans as a given, and I don’t know at this phase if I even want other people to populate this world.

I also know off the bat that though Standard High Fantasy loves an armchair historian version of mediæval Europe, I don’t want to be heavily influenced by that so much as other cultures from other parts of our own world, and of course my imagination. If you’re thinking about homebrewing, but your only real points of reference are other table top role playing games or mediæval Europe, you might consider taking some time to learn, really learn, about other fascinating histories and cultures our own world has. Be careful to not just slap a Japanese veneer on that faux-mediæval Europe, though. If you’re going to draw from other cultures, be appreciative, not appropriative. I mean, yes, on one hand it’s a game, but on the other hand, if you’re drawing from the real world for inspiration, it’s always best to be respectful of the actual folks and myths you’re drawing from. For example, outside of my own culture, the best working knowledge I have is of Chinese history and culture (I minored in it, I’d better have a decent knowledge, haha). But for this Fantasy AGE setting, I think I want to assign myself a lot of homework. So I am going to initially look at the histories of East Africa (specifically the Swahili coast), the Sassanid Empire and the Mughal Empire. But of course, this will also first and foremost be a fantasy setting. So just as popular settings like Greyhawk draw on Europe but aren’t bound by it, I too will draw from the places mentioned but not be bound by them. And these inspirations are subject to change or be further defined as I go. But for now, that gives me the kind of feeling I want to begin with. Perhaps my first city will be something like mediæval Zanzibar.

I’ll be sticking to Fantasy AGE’s core classes pretty closely. So players will have the option to play a mage, rogue or warrior. I will, however, reflavour and change a little bit about each. I know that I don’t want to have a lot of gunpowder weapons, so I know there will be some changes made to the core book’s weapon groups. I have some ideas on magic, which are more from my imagination than from any one specific worldly culture, so I’ll get into that as I detail the world more. I’ll kind of fluctuate between giving advice and giving a behind the scenes look at how I am detailing this fantasy world as I go.

So to recap, we’re going to have:
‣ Humans and maybe some other, non-standard fantasy races
‣ Mages, rogues and warriors
‣ No gunpowder tech
‣ Inspiration from the Swahili Coast, Sassanid and Mughal Empires

So yeah, I hope you enjoyed this introduction. I’ll post the next installment soon. Any and all feedback is highly appreciated, as always. Game on, game players! Grell Out! (I’m trying to find a good tag line)

Grell Review: Dungeon World

Dungeon World is a fantasy roleplaying game published by Sage Kobold Productions. The game is Powered by the Apocalypse, meaning it runs off of a modified Apocalypse World engine. I’ve played a few PbtA games, but full disclosure: I’ve never actually played Apocalypse World. I digress. Anyway, Dungeon World is PbtA, but its design goal was to emulate old school fantasy games, such as AD&D, but with modern rules. And I think it does this well. More on that in a moment. A friend introduced me to Dungeon World, though oddly enough I played it before he got the chance to. Anyway, let’s get into that great Grell stuff that keeps you coming back… to this third blog post… a year after the last…

What Pleases the Grell
There are a lot of things I really like about this game. I will start by saying that it has a specific game model in mind, and it does it well. That is, it seeks to recreate the fun and wonder of old school games. Not the mechanics, but that sense of fun and wonder we felt when we were younger. Not too long ago I dusted off my AD&D books. I got that feeling I got when I was a girl, that giddiness. The smell of the book. The art. I started reading, plotting out all of the fun things I was going to do. And then I hit the mechanics. And the wonkiness. And the… well… AD&Dness of it all. And I remembered why I stopped playing the game that introduced me to table top, the game that used to inspire me like no other. But Dungeon World takes that nostalgia factor and adds simple, elegant rules. The muddy bookkeeping is gone, the fifteen minute workday is gone. But the sense of wonder and excitement is there. It feels like AD&D used to, even if it runs nothing like it.

It’s important to keep in mind that DW was made for a specific game style. There aren’t a plethora of races, and the ones there are have class restrictions. The classes are somewhat linear, though they are customizable enough. The game’s level based, and has the normal D&D stat range (strength, dexterity, constitution etc.). The game, however, doesn’t have the illusion of customization that similarly inspired games like Pathfinder have (I may write a blog about that later). This doesn’t sound like a plus, this sounds like negative things, is what you’re thinking. Probably. But the thing is, because DW is supposed to feel like old D&D games, these are actually big pluses. They go a long way toward facilitating that feeling. Like, when I open the book, look at it, it feels not only like AD&D, but it immediately recalls other fantasy things I loved when younger (and still do), like Slayers and Record of the Lodoss War. Like, if I want to run a game that feels like that, I am going to run Dungeon World. Elves do elf things, dwarves do dwarf things, and all kinds of tropes that I otherwise hate in games. But I love them in this game.

So, systemwise, it’s pretty simple. Roll 2d6+relevant stat. 7+ is a success, 10+ is usually like a critical, 6 or less is a fail. If you fail you get 1 exp and the GM gets to use your failure against you somehow. There are a bunch of moves, and generally you roll on whatever move is closest to what you want to do. There’s an SRD you can check out, so I am not going to spend too much time going over mechanics. The core book is inexpensive, and a little over 400 pages, most of which is game stuff. There are a plethora of monsters, as well as all kinds of tips on making your own. In fact, there are tips for making your own everything. One of the other stand outs to me is that the book either addresses the reader directly, or when not referring to a specific character, used gender neutral pronouns. Honestly it’s such a small thing that has a huge impact. I think anyway. Also, I enjoy the fronts mechanic, which are kind of just simple note taking mechanics, but they’re pretty helpful. And the little easter eggs. Like James Ninefingers. I mean, that’s just amazing. I couldn’t even when I read that.

What Displeases the Grell
This game is up front with what it is, what it wants to accomplish. And honestly, because of that, I can’t think of anything that really displeases me. Like, it’s not my go to for roleplaying, or even fantasy roleplaying. It is my go to for wanting to do like a classic D&D game, where the world is fresh and ready to explore, and there’s action and drama and comedy and weird stuff going on. Because the game tells you what it is, and doesn’t masquerade as anything other than a game that wanted to be D&D PbtA, there isn’t a lot I can fault it on. It’s laid out well, things are explained. There’s a lot of transparency, and it’s really a riot to run. I haven’t really gotten to be a PC yet, but that looks fun too. I mean, there are even muscly orc women in there! So yeah, I guess the closest thing to displeasure is that it’s not universal and it’s not meant to really feel like anything other than what it is? I wouldn’t run a gritty sword and sorcery game with it, but you’re not really supposed to anyway, so that’s not even a fault.

The Grell’s Verdict
If you want to play AD&D or any other oD&D but you don’t want to dust those books off, remember how THAC0 works, or wade through a bunch of unnecessary encumbrance rules, this is likely the game for you. Like, it feels like I am playing D&D and Slayers and just… for the job it sets out to do, it does it with no complaints from this Grell!

Grell Review: Fantasy AGE

For those who do not know, Fantasy AGE is a role playing system by Green Ronin. The Fantasy Adventure Gaming Engine first made its appearance in the Dragon Age table top role playing game also by Green Ronin. (Dragon Age, Fantasy Adventure Game Engine. Fantasy AGE. Get it? Huh? Pretty clever).

I tired out Dragon Age when it first came out, the table top version, when a friend of mine got it and wanted to try running it over Roll20. At first I was a little skeptical, especially since the game only came with the first five levels. The system was simple enough, though. And also I wanted to play a game. I’d played Dragon Age Origins, Awaking and II by that point, so I knew the world well enough, so it was just a matter of learning the table top version. Soon after, I got a copy of the first installment of Dragon Age, and ran a few sessions at home. The AGE system was pretty good overall, we all liked the stunt system after kind of getting used to it, and so I started thinking about stripping the Dragon Age from it. I soon found out I didn’t have to, because GR was coming out with a streamlined version. I immediately ordered it from my local game store. The owner never bothered putting the order through though, because why would he? Me and my Girlfriend had only handed him hundreds of dollars for superfluous gaming merchandise since he’d opened earlier that year. I digress. Anyway, after a trip out to another city for funzies, I had myself a copy of not only the core book, but also TitansGrave, which I had also been eagerly anticipating, because Science Fantasy. But enough story time, let’s talk system!

What Pleases the Grell
So, the game comes with no implied setting, but a kind of implied world. Not like D&D, but like in that the core rules, the classes, races, are kind of set up to give you a sense of generic Eurocentric fantasy. Which is understandable, given that it comes out of not only Dragon Age, but also the legacy of D&D and similar fantasy RPGs. But the system is easy enough to adapt with little to no effort, either just by reflavouring, or taking a relatively short amount of time to create home brewed races. However, just looking at the implied fantasy tropes present, it is cool that they did not treat orcs as Tolkienesque caricatures of black people. The rest of the races in the book are familiar to anyone who’s played D&D or similar table top games. Elf, dwarf, halfling, gnome, and of course human. Half-races are represented in a really clever way, where the player mixes the racial modifiers of the two parent races, which has allowed not only for ubiquitous half-elves, but also half-elf half-orcs, half-human half-dwarves, and in one TitansGrave game I ran briefly, a half-elf half-saurian (lizard people introduced in the TitansGrave: Ashes of Valkana book). So that is a nifty departure from, say, D&D.

When it comes to classes, what I really like is the lateral leveling. So, it is a class based game, with 20 levels. The three classes are Mage, Rogue and Warrior, which sound exactly like what they are. At first level, a character is outfitted with decent stats, enough gear and hit points to not die in a single encounter, and at least one talent. The system itself is 3d6+stat (skill), so everything is essentially a stat check using one of the nine stats, and then if you have the focus, an additional +2. Stats increase every level, and a character gains focuses each level as well, but the system mitigates where and what you can take in such a way that the character doesn’t become overburdened with skills, or underwhelmed with them either. Initial hit points are high, but subsequent HP gained isn’t. Mages use spell points to power their spells, but don’t gain an unwieldy amount. At least, not in the actual play I have done. It doesn’t feel like any one class outshines any other. A character’s class and race can be used to do some initial optimization, but there’s not like one race that is best for one class over another. So it kind of curbs choosing a race simply to make the best out of your class.

Anyone familiar with 3e D&D, Pathfinder or any iteration thereof will quickly be familiar with the Talent system in Fantasy AGE. Each talent allows the character to break the rules, so to speak, or give them added options that they would otherwise not have, and each comes in three levels which can be taken consecutively. But otherwise they are mechanically similar. There are probably as many combat related talents as there aren’t, but I am not going to count right now. The magic system is something I really like, and works similarly to the talent system in that a Mage takes magic talents to gain access to their spells, allowing for a character to focus in a few types of Arcana (essentially schools of magic) and mastering them, or for the Mage to dabble in many Arcanas at the cost of not gaining the highest level spells. Although the core book doesn’t have too many Arcanas, maybe 12?, it is cool that a character isn’t railroaded into only taking a certain kind of spell, or forced to wait until very high level to gain access to those high level spells if they don’t want to. Also, on that note, there is no such division of like Arcane and Divine magic, for example. Mechanically, magic is magic is magic. There are also specializations, which are pretty much class specific talent trees that allow a character to focus their class in a certain direction, like becoming a powerful healer or a swashbuckler. Mechanically they are the same as talents, though.

The stunt system. This is what definitely sets Fantasy AGE apart from its spiritual predecessor D&D. So, the mechanics are 3d6, right? One of those d6s is a different colour (or size or whatever) from the other two. If you roll doubles on any of the three dice, you look to the stunt die to see how many stunt points you generate (provided you pass the test, of course). These points are used to do all kinds of nifty things, in and out of combat, such as gain extra damage, attack an additional time, lower the spell point cost of a spell, give an initiative boost and so on. And in actual play, rolling doubles comes up like 40% of the time, so a lot more than I initially thought (someone did the actual math, but as we all know Grells are bad at math, so…). So the stunt system is kind of a really cool added level to combat, in that maybe not only did you hit your opponent, but you devastated them, or flung them across the field or something like that. It adds a real cinematic element to combat, while providing a simple but game changing system mechanic. I wasn’t sold on it on my first play through of Dragon Age, until like half way through the session, when I was like “okay, this is cool”.

What Displeases the Grell
Okay, so some of the things I don’t like. Well, for one thing, the editing was rushed, and there are discrepancies between the PDF version and the hard copy (I go by the hard copy always, because it favours the players). Some things aren’t explained well, like the Novice talent from the Mage Hunter Warrior specialization, which makes a mage hunter’s chosen weapon considered magical. No explanation of what that does, it doesn’t seem to confer bonus damage or anything like that. The astute GM will find that that comes in play with a few monsters, like the Ghost, which is only harmed by magic attacks. I feel like there was more they wanted to say with this, but either didn’t have the time or accidentally forgot? Another example that comes to mind with the specializations is the Sword Mage specialization, which allows a Mage to use a melee weapon as a casting implement, provided it’s a one handed sword. I get the one handed thing, but it only being a sword seems an unnecessary layover from games like D&D. It’s a simple enough fix, though, and I have had one Axe Mage.

I think that when it comes to the equipment chapter, a little too much space was dedicated to mundane items, like the cost of a bed frame. I know that some players might like this, and that if a player came to Fantasy AGE without having first played another fantasy game, such tables probably have some merit, but given that the game flat out tells the reader that there is no need for specific smithing skills, because it’s an action RPG before it is a simulation RPG, what amounts to two pages of mundane gear seems counterintuitive. Not a huge deal, though.

Though I really like the talent system, I feel like there is a lot of room for more stuff that seems like it should have been basic? And some of the specialties are underwhelmingly generic, but then I guess they’re supposed to be. But, like, some of them don’t fit? Mage Hunter comes to mind, in that it assumes the campaign uses black powder weapons, but also gives the suggestions on how to make it not that? It’s kind of a minor complaint, I guess, but seeing as the Dragon Age game has more specialties, I don’t know, I was kind of like “eh” when I saw a lot of the Fantasy AGE ones. I guess I feel they played too safe?

The bestiary in the book is pretty limited. Now, I will concede that for space reasons they surely didn’t want to overburden the book. They give some examples of how to modify and tweak monsters, and each monster has its own entry, and even its own stunts (these are all good things), but what I don’t like is that they don’t give much in the way of designing your own. Veteran GMs aren’t going to have any issue coming up with their own monsters, though. Maybe the Fantasy AGE Bestiary will have more info, but I don’t have that (yet. Come on Christmas!). But like I said, it’s not difficult for a GM to come up with their own.

The Grell’s Verdict!
To be perfectly honest, even with four paragraphs, all of these dislikes are completely minor. I mean, editing is whatever, a minor annoyance. Mundane gear is handy to have sometimes, and it’s easy enough to make balanced monsters and specializations. I’ve already made a few (I might even share them). These are all small things that are easily overlooked. Overall, the Fantasy AGE book is more of a toolkit than it is a complete setting and game. The AGE system is being used not only for Dragon Age and Fantasy AGE, but also TitansGrave and Green Ronin’s romantic fantasy setting Blue Rose (I am super looking forward to Blue Rose, BTW. We backed it and I’m getting two copies of the core book!) The system is simple, elegant, but diverse enough that it can handle multiple genres (Dark Fantasy, Generic Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy so far) while not feeling like the same game every time. I really like it, it’s a joy to run, and I have a feeling it’s going to be around for a while. I recommend playing it, and picking it up if you’re so able. Even if you don’t play it, there is a lot of good information and gorgeous art, so it’s definitely worth space on any table top gamer’s shelf (or hard drive).

Anyway, that’s it for my first game review. I’ll probably do more. Thanks for reading!