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Game Review: The Runed Age
This is a review of the RPG Game “The Runed Age”, published by Stormforge Productions, written and by Izak Tait, co-produced by Scott Andrews. The Runed Age PDF is around 310 color pages and includes a beginner “adventure”. The book as some good art works in it, but not a whole lot.
The Runed Age is about fighting and intrigue in an Enlightenment-era type of world where magic is a skill that anyone can learn. Apparently, the secrets of magic are known and codified into Runes. And literally everyone, from every background, knows how to use some Runes. Of course, it’s not utopia… that would be boring. Runes need to be powered. They can be powered slowly with other forms of energy… which need to be generated. They can be powered with blood… which is not practical for most people. And they can be powered with a special magical plutonium metal called “Orichalcum.” And that metal is rare. So yeah… there is rarity in this world even if everyone can purify their own water, start magical campfires and create materials out of thin air.
Recently in this world, a Rune which produces electricity was discovered. Which means that now there is a hole lot of crazy R&D work going on to utilize the new Rune to make interesting devices to kill each other with.
The intro story and many of the fiction works in this game are “pulpy”, but nicely written and engaging. These stories paint a picture of a morally ambiguous world were technology and magic come together. However, this book is written to be understandable to players new to the game.
In many ways I feel like this is an RPG of the Japanese manga Full Metal Alchemist (no… not anime / manga feel… I’m talking about the world setting), with magic and new magic-powered technologies, in a diverse late-Enlightenment world where old institutions will change because of the new technologies. It’s like a “steam-punk” world without they actual steam, but otherwise similar aesthetics. I do wish there was more art that showed more pictures of the world instead of character art. That would help us understand the feeling a little bit more.
The Runed Age uses the Sigil system created for this game. The system seems to be a pretty typical d100, roll under system. This is nothing new, but it is my feeling that this type of system works well for gritty, possibly tactical games that have specialized weapons and specialized characters. It’s simple in concept, yet has a science-fiction-y feel… like a more tactical yet cleaner version of Call of Cthulhu. But the system is not exactly a D100 Basic Role Playing (BRP) game. There are no levels and now classes. There are not as many skills as in other BRP games. Hit locations are determined by reversing the digits on the to-hit roll. Damage is determined by comparing the different between the degrees of success of the attackers and defenders rolls. This is straight forward, yet it does require doing some math.
Character generation is like old Traveller. Lots of tables to generate an extensive and detailed character history. You can pick any background you want – supposedly all the background combinations are balanced. But I think it would be fun to plan out my age then roll 10 tables to determine a detailed past history (which also determines my starting skill levels).
The magic system of The Runed Age is somewhat unique. “ Runes are drawn, etched, carved, painted, sculpted, etc. and then energy is put into them, and then they work. If you think of the more traditional games and media you have seen magic in, the runic arrays here are more like enchantments and magical traps.
BUT, unlike your more traditional media, you can do anything you want with the arrays … From fireblasts to blood draining swords to hoverboards (ashamedly yes, really) the only limitation to what you can do with the runes is your own imagination.”
A type of graphic runic language, or Rune-HTML, which players need to learn to create runes (and every character can do this). It’s cool, but requires players really learn it. The Runes are both enchantments and also special powers which the playe can use. I think it may seem to be a hassle to learn the actual runes, but once you do so, it looks very cool and is not difficult. Not to mention, as the game is called The Runed Age, actually writing down the runes helps visualize what the characters are doing.
Magic is handled by either using blood (ie. player health) or using Sigals, which are like Fate points but only power runic arrays. Sigals are gained by narrative mechanics… “GM Intrusions” which are a little like Compels in FATE. So it is a very flexible system, and, in my opinion, offers a balance between traditional and modern RPG styles.
This looks to be a fun game. As I like class-less, level-less systems more than systems derived from The Most Popular RPG in the World… and like traditional style games more than “story creation” games, this is something I would be happy to play. I really like the free-form magic system. If you particularly like steampunk or alternate technology settings set in a European 17th – early 20th century setting, I think this is a great game to try out.