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Modern AGE & The Expanse (Dec 2020)

Modern AGE & The Expanse (Dec 2020)

Wednesday 5 January 2022
In January 2022 we revived the December 2020 Modern AGE & The Expanse RPG Bundle, featuring two contemporary and science fiction RPGs that use the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) from Green Ronin Publishing: Modern AGE, for high-power action from the Industrial Revolution onward (2018), and The Expanse Roleplaying Game (2019), based on James S. A. Corey’s mega-popular The Expanse science fiction novels of diplomacy, discovery, and danger in the future Solar System.

This timely revival marked the recent completion of the nine-book Expanse series, a story ten years in the telling. The first book, Leviathan Wakes (2011), introduced righteous starship officer James Holden, the crew of the Rocinante, and an enigmatic alien Protomolecule that reshapes human beings for unknown purposes. Later installments pushed all the characters far beyond known space and way out of their comfort zones. Leviathan Falls, published in late November 2021, concludes the tale with an ending Polygon calls “in equal parts heart-wrenching and hopeful.”

The Expanse saga has often drawn comparisons to roleplaying games, as befits its early development as co-author Ty Franck’s homebrew d20 Modern play-by-post RPG on a gaming forum. Green Ronin’s version, licensed from the novels, enhances the Adventure Game Engine with Fortune points, space travel, and much more.

The AGE rules system powers the Fantasy AGE and Dragon Age RPGs (both presented in our Feb 2018 Dragon Age Bundle) and Blue Rose (presented in March 2020). AGE is a traditional roll-high system where you roll 3D6, including an off-colored Stunt Die, against a target number. Every roll counts; a failed Challenge Test introduces a complication that pushes the narrative forward. The Stunt Die breaks ties and generates Stunt Points, which let you pull off special maneuvers or earn extra benefits in combat and social encounters. Every action type has a menu of Stunt effects.

Modern AGE characters have a Background (social class), any of two dozen Professions, and a Drive (motivation) like Achiever, Caregiver, Rebel, Visionary, or Ecstatic. Any d20 or 5E player should find the straightforward combat system comfortable, and you can tweak the damage rules for Cinematic, Pulpy, and Gritty campaign styles.

Funded in a stellar July 2018 Expanse RPG Kickstarter campaign, The Expanse RPG is a standalone adaptation of the Modern rules. Expanse characters have a Native Gravity, Income level, and Fortune points you can spend to reduce damage and change die results. Advanced Challenge Tests may have a Success Threshold with degrees of success. Combat inflicts damage as various conditions, including Hindered, Deafened, and Free Falling. The extensive chapter on space travel presents scientifically accurate travel between planets, communications times, and ship construction rules — no warp drives or deflector shields here. Forty pages of the 186-page core rulebook cover the Expanse setting, and another 40 give gamemastering advice. The chapter on Threats is twice as long as the one on Rewards, which will sound right to Belters grousing about their low wages mining ice for Mao-Kwikowski Mercantile or Pur’N’Kleen.

The Expanse novels present wheels-within-wheels plots with dozens of characters doing lots of things everywhere. Likewise, the RPG supports many campaign frameworks: freelance traders, paramilitaries, Belter rebels, political operatives, or investigators tracking the mysterious Protomolecule. In a June 2019 Gnome Stew review of The Expanse RPG, Jared Rascher said, “I think this is my favorite iteration of the AGE System rules. There are so many useful tools, and enough bits to make a game interesting without adding in bells and whistles like powers or magic. […] Not only is it a solid game for presenting The Expanse, but it is a good ruleset for hard sci-fi games in general.”

As in its two previous runs, there were six titles in this revived offer’s Modern Collection (retail value $84) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete Modern AGE Basic Rulebook (plus the free Modern AGE Quickstart); the Modern AGE Companion; the cross-dimensional campaign setting Threefold (and it has a free Threefold Quickstart too); Enemies & Allies for Threefold and other Modern AGE games; the short adventure Missions: Warflower; and the Modern AGE Game Master’s Kit.

This revival’s Expanse Collection added four more titles worth an additional $60, including the complete standalone The Expanse RPG core rulebook (plus the free Expanse Quickstart); The Expanse Game Master’s Kit; the full-length six-scenario campaign Abzu’s Bounty; and the short adventure Salvage Op.

Ten percent of each payment (after gateway fees) went to this AGE revival’s pandemic-related charity, Direct Relief. Direct Relief sends protective gear and critical care medications to health workers, with emergency deliveries to medical facilities across the US and to regional response agencies across the world.

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