Shaping worlds with the Modern AGE Companion

Let’s take a good sit-down look at Green Ronin’s new Modern AGE Companion. If you’re a fan of the system then this will surely be a must for you. For everyone else, there’s possibly enough nice ideas and nuggets of gamer gold to warrant picking this up.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive a pdf of this new book for Green Ronin’s Modern AGE line. As such, you’ll need to keep in mind that I haven’t seen the hard copy. Having picked up a number of Green Ronin’s books in the past, I can only assume it’ll be of the same high quality as normally expected.

The Modern Age Companion Cover
Maybe a tad futuristic but you can’t help wonder about these modern characters’ stories.

I’ll also have to assume that if you’re reading this you’ll have a passing knowledge of the Modern AGE system. If not then you’ll have to take my word that it’s well worth checking out. The format here remains unchanged from the core rules. There are your standard two columns, cut away boxes for examples and clarifications alongside lots of full colour art to trigger the idea neurons. I’m in danger of getting ahead of myself here, but there’s vibes of everything from bleeding-edge dystopian underworld to eldritch horror and steampunk weirdness.

Good advice for all

In order to best cover all the of new ‘stuff’ in this book, I’ve broken some of the chapters into sections below. Although, before getting stuck in it’s worth pointing out some fantastic advice delivered right at the beginning. This book is intended for everyone. It’s not a set of secret rules for the games master to inflict punishment upon his players. Nor is it some twinky collection of abilities for players to win every challenge. Instead, it’s a toolbox to expand and enhance. It might go without stating for some, for others, this will be invaluable and really help drive the benefits of collaborative gaming. After all, we all do it for the fun, right?

Raiding tombs for treasure or battling otherworldly enemies, the choice is yours.

Characters, Talents & Specialisations

Elves, dwarves, demons, and AI – oh my!
Although titled Modern AGE, the system is well-equipped to handle pretty much anything from the age of sail through to the near future; I’m sure with a bit of prep work, you could happily run further back in time if you wanted. (Hang on, I’ve always thought about running a time travel game…) The Modern AGE Companion unpicks some of the rigidity of the character design process and provides guidance on a more free-form approach. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with having this structure, many seasoned gamers will want the opportunity to tweak aspects here and there; ultimately the balance is preserved. The big news, however, is the addition of fantastical backgrounds. Herein lies the opportunity to play that savvy elf gunslinger, demonic lawyer, or even clockwork automaton you’ve always wanted to.

Along with the new backgrounds, there’s a heap of new talents and specialisations. Additionally, players also have the option of progressing beyond mastery as presented in the core rules; we’ve got grandmaster and apex too. Rather than just a line with a name and in-game effect, I like that we’re provided details of how the talents are broken down at every level to give a bit more of what you can expect to do with your ‘stats’. For specialisations, the Companion also provides information on how these would be applicable in your setting or era of choice.

New Rules Everyone

Once you’re happy with the new character options, how about some neat new rules that you may want to incorporate into your existing games? Or maybe even influence your next? I for one, love the alternative damage option presented and will no doubt use it.

Nothing says cool like a strut in front of a big explosion!

I cut my teeth on games like Dungeons & Dragons, and whilst I still love them, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the concept of ‘hit points’. Undoubtedly, one could simply abstract them away, but there’s always that niggle because of how ‘standard’ they’ve become. With the core rules offering a more traditional approach, here we get the chance to essentially make a save versus damage in the form of a toughness test. Succeed and you shrug off the hit as it merely grazes you or maybe knocks the wind out a little. Fail, and the consequences can be far more dire…

There are new rules included for duels, fighting styles, using miniatures and battle maps, as well as all manner of hazard types and effects. With plenty to pick and chose from, that’s lots of help to build your game your way. Special mention has to go to the inclusion for beefy fear rules. You simply can’t have eldritch horror without the chance of shattering your mind, after all.

New stunt tables you say?

The inclusion of more general stunt effects is a handy tool for new and existing players alike. It’s something I’d probably want to keep handy at the table more often than not. I like the idea of players having more specialised or personal stunt effects but having general ones to hand will surely be invaluable.

And magic items!?

For fear of rambling on too much, I should also briefly mention two new types of ability. These take the form of innate abilities and extraordinary items. The former should speak for itself whilst the latter allows for cool alien-tech or magic items. Honestly, who wouldn’t want a blessed arcane six-shooter or psionic-powered healing ray?

The Social Animal

I’m very much a role player rather than a roll player. Thus, most of my games have a lot of social interaction in them. Chapter six then is great for me as it expands on the core relationship rules and opens up the possibilities of companions and followers. Also included is information on how to run organisations within a game. Some may recognise a few of the ideas from the World of Lazarus setting and this broadens the scope for the various genres one may run. Essentially, creating an organisation is a bit like a simplified character generation. Rules-wise, it’s simple and effective. You know the key stats of any given group you want to like its general wealth or influence, without tedious book-keeping. In this way, you can cover everything from low-level street gang through to global conspiracy networks but the focus is always on the ‘game’.

You can’t have a Modern AGE Companion without at least one chapter on technology. Chapter seven, rather than providing endless lists of weapons and gadgets, instead presents ways to modify and tinker what you already have. Personally, I find this to be a much better approach. I’d rather be in and about the action of the scene without wondering which specific calibre or model of handgun they bad guys are packing.

The Modern Campaign

For me, the best was saved for last. Rounding off the book, chapters eight and nine are more ideas focused and discussing the myriad genres and settings that a group may find themselves in playing Modern AGE. There will no doubt be those out there that will deride this kind of material as merely padding, relying on their own ingenuity to flesh out their games. For the rest of us, I’m sure we can enjoy a helpful prod or prompt. Maybe even that light bulb moment that ends up jump-starting a campaign. This is also the section of the book that those for whom Modern AGE might not be their principle game, will find the most useful.

Building on what’s presented in the core rules, here we consider campaign rhythm. The companion introduces the concept of the complication and serendipity pool. Although requiring a bit of ongoing record keeping this is a neat feature of tracking the good and bad luck that falls upon the group. In true cinematic or gritty fashion, it’s a mechanic to represent that inevitable setback that occurs following a seeming success or the dramatic bounce-back following defeat. Players can then add new stunt effects using this die pool and really ramp the flair and oomph factor.

Don’t you just love when a plan comes together?

Chapter nine, Genres, provides a brief summary of five different settings and themes with a suggestion of rules appropriate for the era. Being only a couple of pages in length for each, these are by no means exhaustive setting notes. Instead, they’re pointers and plot hooks along with good references with which to tease out your own campaign threads.

Whats the TL;DR?

All in all, this is a fine addition to the Modern AGE line. I’ll have to admit that there’s maybe a little less magic and modern fantasy elements than I was expecting. However, there’s still oodles of new stuff overall. It’s just making me all the more excited to see Green Ronin’s new Threefold setting. The Modern AGE companion delivers on the premise of a toolbox with which a group can shape their own game into something that is truly theirs!

You can pick up your own copy of the Modern AGE Companion from Green Ronin here.

If you’re already running a game or thinking about using the system, we’d love to hear your thoughts below or over on our Facebook page.

2 Comments

  1. So, I’m really a fan of the AGE system, but the thing that gets under my skin more often than not, is that there aren’t really any non-combat classes. I’m wanting to build characters who – while they can pick up a sword or a gun and use it – doesn’t have that as their specific focus. Instead, I’m interested in characters whose focus (and special abilities from the class specifically) focus on conversation, contacts, influence, and politics. Instead of, for example, +1d6 damage on the first attack against someone with a lower Dexterity, I want something that hits a person socially. This, of course, includes things like magic and psionics that work on a social level as well. 🙂

    • I think a large part of this can stem from the way a game is run. Mechanically it can be easier to think in terms of combat bonuses and then social aspects devolve simply to resisted rolls.
      To your specific point though, I haven’t really tore into the system or played a long campaign with Modern AGE yet but I thought the social stunts did add a lot of oomph. As a fan of social characters (I’ve had a soft spot for bards since seeing Alan-A-Dale in Disney’s Robin Hood) I would have had no objection to a larger range of social special powers though. As it stands, with only a limited number of empathy style powers, I’m hoping we’ll see more in Threefold. I’m also guilty (although maybe its not a negative trait) of sometimes playing a little loose with social rules in games if there is sufficient effort and it furthers the story.

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