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Custom Campaign Backgrounds: One reason the AGE system is really powerful

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  • Custom Campaign Backgrounds: One reason the AGE system is really powerful

    I'm in the process of starting a new campaign using an amalgamation of the Expanse and Modern AGE systems. (Expanse wins, unless Modern offers more resolution for a system I expect to use more often, like ground vehicle stuff, or long arms). One of the things that I found to be EXTREMELY powerful, and wanted to share, was the ability to replace the backgrounds with custom items that drove the players toward creating thematic characters that fit into the setting.

    In my case, the setting is a few years after an alien invasion (think V). As part of the characters' backstory, it was very important to know what they did during the alien invasion. So I replaced all of the backgrounds with custom ones (Outcast, Rebel, Infiltrator, Worker, Collaborator) that forced them to make the setting decisions a core part of their character creation. These backgrounds represented both background, as well as the social class. Then I tied the different professions to the backgrounds, as a way of reinforcing the setting. I didn't strictly enforce these in character creation, but nobody actually picked a profession outside their background.

    In the end, I ended up with a character creation process that seamlessly melded fitting the character into the world with generating their stats, and used the associated tables to tell a story, giving the players a feel fro the setting without having to generate or read a thick campaign synopsis. I was also able to focus the backgrounds on creating characters with the kinds of skills I knew would be useful in the game I had planned.

    This was made possible by the way the backgrounds were structured. Rather than having a pile of special powers that need to be balanced against each other, the Backgrounds in AGE are based on a simple set of additive traits that are already balanced against each other. All I had to do was create new ones using the existing examples.

    In addition, two of my players ended up with specialty characters that didn't fit into the basic setting (one was an alien). I had that player create his background block for the alien race, as a way of mechanically describing the race. (This calls back to the ancient Your race is your class setup). This will be a paradigm I carry forward as the game progresses.

    All in all, this is 100% a feature that I'm excited about taking advantage of in future games.

  • #2
    Interesting! I'm just getting into AGE, having read MAge & Expanse quickstarts and friend's Expanse but I'm still waiting my MAge to arrive in mail. I'm planning to use it but picking some parts from Expanse; Fortune & injury mechanics in Expanse really caught my eye, and I thought of adapting it into MAge. But as I've been pretty much into Powered into Apocalypse lately, I thought of changing tweaking dice a bit; You can change a die by 1 or 2, but doing so includes a complication. I'm planning to do a write-up of this later.

    I still haven't seen much fan-made stuff online for AGE games, but I hope to see some in future. It would be great to see your backgrounds too!


    • #3
      I really like the «toolbox» approach of the AGE system. As you say it is very powerful. One can mix and match parts of the different games with little modifications to obtain exactly the game you and you group want to play. Not a lot of game systems let you do that. With most games if you start tinkering the whole building falls down quickly.
      marc c (also know as shesheyan on other forums)