Recently someone approached me asking if I’d feature his game in this magazine. I always pay attention to this type of request as Indie and new games and sometimes games are better than others, but few times looked as good as Age Past.
Although the game is still in production and some work needed to be finished, the production values that Jeff Mechlinski has imbued in this game are absolutely stunning. The attention to detail is more than good enough, the website looks stunning and the plans for the game are more than exciting.
But, rather than me going on about it for much longer, let’s read what he has to say!
Tell us a bit about you… things like where are you based, what’s your background in games. – I love games and have been playing all kinds for most of my life. I fell in love with video games on the Atari 2600 very young. I also became interested in DnD while in middle school and that developed into playing many different system throughout high school. I also started playing Axis and Allies and have played different euro board games for many years. Since DnD 2nd edition took a hit in the mid to late 90’s many other and newer games came on the scene and my exposure with gamiest style RPG’s is fairly broad. Now I am willing to play anything as I love all types of games.
There seem to be a great background and data on this book. Tell us something about the setting. What’s the gist of it? – At first my primary goal was to make a new mechanical system so the background was a bit bleak. After talking with some friends they encouraged me to make a world which would help players immerse themselves in. I always just made up my worlds but not everyone likes doing that. I created a history of the world which I thought was unique and was based with basic cause and effect scenarios. Any new world is an emergent system, similar to the weather. We can predict the weather in a few days or even a month but we cant say what the weather will be like in 10 years on a specific day. Knowing this I tried not to make too many rules for the world and worked with a hybrid creationism-evolution idea and didn’t try to micro-manage the world’s inter-workings. Gods created the world and all living things, but after that evolution takes over. The innate magical forces in the world accelerate evolution and make the monsters more terrible and allow humans to use magic. The world is also broken into 4 continents called spheres. This main book really includes rules for the Incian sphere which is typically magic based, but the rest of the spheres each have their own flavor and I intent to make them supplements in the future. Each sphere has its own genre. Incia = fantasy, Hokate = steampunk, Azikier = asian martial arts, Suuntar = runepunk. Each sphere has something that the others do not have and the nations of one sphere use power and politics to interact with nations on the other side. The main catch is that it is EXTREMELY difficult to get from one sphere to the next. Each realm is enclosed by itself and separated by its neighbour so they retain their own culture while always trying to benefit from what their estranged brothers have. A Gatling gun is powerful but a magic Gatling gun can take down an empire.
The amount of material present for your book. Where did you get the idea for this game and when did you start gathering material and writing it? – My initial ideas came in the late 90’s right before DnD 3rd edition. I created a system that included Skills and Abilities… sound familiar? but I didn’t put too much work into it. After getting back into 3.5 edition DnD I got frustrated with many of the mechanical aspects of the games and decided to make a system in which any person can make any type of character. I was frustrated with typical class based build systems that required you to buy many many different books to get the character you wanted.
You could have gone for a pre-made system and instead you have created your own dice system. Tell us a bit about that process. What inspired you to create Elegant d10? – Well to put it bluntly most rolling systems are flawed for one reason or another. D20 works with a 5% grade that over time overpowers the base 20. At higher levels having a +20 score means the variability is gone. With success based systems its impossible to fumble at higher levels. Elegant10 allows for many things to happen and allows players to control the outcome of their roll. It also forms a bell curve when rolling and grants results that are more expected. A character that is good at something tends to roll well but not all the time. Also the calculation is fast as most rolls result between 4 and 20 so there isn’t a lot of crunching. I think its the best rolling system available. Players can choose to not roll any number of dice to add +1 to the roll. Since the final result is only based on the highest rolled plus what is held for a +1 the player gains control of what their min and max result is likely to be. But cutting down and rolling to few dice can make it dangerous as the chance to roll higher is the same as rolling lower and failure is also increased. So an experienced character will always complete something easy but will have the same chance of failure when attempting something high level as a low level character has when attempting something easy. There should be a rolling calculator on the website soon!
The production values throughout the full spectrum of material you’ve created is truly stunning, from the layout to the website. Is this your first production? Did you have much help creating it and if so, from whom? – Thanks!!! I am an Industrial Designer by degree and have seen many projects through bust most have been in 3D or physically made. This is my first graphic production. I have to admit that all of the imagery has been done by Alex my artist. He lives in Bulgaria and we communicate virtually. He is amazing at taking my ideas and bringing them to life. He also interacts with my web designer. I use Alex’s art as elements for the layout of the book which I do in Quark. So professional programs are used which helps.
You seem to have gone for quality rather than quantity when putting down the list of skills. What’s the thinking behind the skills you have included in the book? – In Age Past anytime you roll anything it is a Skill. I feel that most games overuse attributes and skills. After play testing and thinking and philosophizing I determined that a person’s Influence is what is used to influence and things like haggle and negotiate got eliminated as they were redundant. Therefore the Attributes got melded into skills. The main idea is that a character with high social skills tends to have all social skills high. So really i tried to break down the skills into the base-line needed for playing. Also as saves are the exact same thing as attributes the character customized their defence at the same time as their offense.
DnD has the base attack bonus bust I just made a Combat skill. The better you want to fight the higher you buy your skill. Heroic traits modify talents, so there are 4 classes of talents and a heroic trait for each. An HT is a character’s gusto! Brawn is the character’s physical presence and affects Strength, Endurance, Athletics, and Combat. So having a Brawn of 2 increases all its child talents by +2. This explains on how a little anime girl with a low strength tear apart mecha, as she would have a very high Brawn or physical gusto. The talents also allow a player to choose either jack-of-all-trades, super specialized, or dual-purposes paths so they can make exactly the character they want.
The Powers list and concept really jumped at me for its originality and how different it is. Please tell us about them and how you came to create that part of the book. – There are two answers. 1. I wanted a player to be able to choose exactly how to make their characters. 2. I wanted BALANCE!! A particular power can be taken more than once so it grows with the character and each power has its own point cost. The more powerful the power the most points it costs. When making them I tried to think of every power, feat, ability and strength in every book and movie. I took the best and threw them in so players have a wide variety of FUN things to choose from. If you want to walk on walls there’s “spider climb” and if you are a master fight from horse back there’s “mounted combat.” Also there is no distinction from spells and traditional combat. A player with multiple attacks can cast two spells or a spell and another action. This makes combat EXTREMELY dynamic as the combination for action are endless after endless combination of power selection. This all integrates with an easy to use action system.
You have added the Psionic rules in the same space as the Spells. What’s the rationale behind that?– The main reason is simplicity. Any character can be psionic is they choose to be as it is a power. And really its just a term. If the psionic player chooses to take all fire spells than they could be considered “fire touched” by a fire god and really they aren’t psionic at all. Also generally speaking psionics are weaker than a full spell caster, and its meant to compliment an archetype in a specific way. Since a psionist uses spells as his power it made sense to add the rules in the spell section.
It is though a seriously impressive list of spells. Did it drive you mad coming up with so many different ones or was it an easy process? How did you go about it? – HA!! BOTH! There are two sets of spells in the book but no one would know. In the last edition of the book i added an extra 70+ spells to make each school more interesting. I wanted both utility and combat spells that are usable and that people want to use. I have found in play testing that the same spell usually only gets cast twice an encounter. Like anything iterative the beginning is easy as there is plenty of room for ideas, but as the process goes on finding things that are creative and new and useful becomes more challenging. I tried to just make a term or word with an idea of how powerful it will be. I then added more rules to bring it to life. I also wanted weird and unusual stuff that most other games don’t do. Also the idea behind the spells are simple so i could fit so many into a small area. This was done to assist in gameplay. The more simple the spell the more likely it is to not be a problem during gaming.
How integral and present will combat be compared with other fantasy settings?. Have enough rules and tools have been devised for those players who prefer to go about avoiding combat? – Great question! Right now the talents that are non-combat based are 7:1 against the combat talents (including Agility; 15:1 without). There are plenty of rules to sneak past the guard instead of fighting him and pretty much the entire Mind spell school can be used to mind screw people. Every other spell school has something to help in non-combat circumstances. In fact the right selection of spell schools can lead to a situation where it is more powerful to avoid combat. I also have new rules for surprise knockout to take care of unaware guards and I feel the reaction and charisma based skills are great for non-combat circumstances and they have been developed. I never developed a social combat system as never felt one was needed. All rolls against another character are opposed so it works the same as combat leaving the loser with less social options. I feel that this should be enough for those that want to avoid combat.
Including naval warfare is a very unusual thing for a fantasy setting. Why did you feel it was important to include it? – Generally speaking half the naval warfare rules are weak. But they are in there for people with ship models that want to play or command ships. The other half of the rules are more akin to ship management more than combat in which players who are crew or passengers on a ship might be more useful for. In short they are there for those who want them, if you never plan to be on a ship than just skip that page.
You have arrange animals, monsters and creatures in a very different way. Explain what was the thinking behind it. Where you trying to solve an issue you have seen in other systems? – To completely explain this might take several pages and has to do with the system as a whole. But to paraphrase; I wanted unique monsters that were easy to deal with from a GM standpoint. I also wanted any monster or set of monsters to be the basis for an adventure. With the current graphical setup I can get two monsters on the same page and sometimes I can get 3. This allows me to have a great background for each and get all of the monster’s abilities and such in one graphical column. The information for the monster can practically instantly obtained by the GM and all his monster buddies are right next to him. This also help get a whole series of monsters across the page, in effect making monster communities. I was thinking about doubling the number of monster sin the book but would need A LOT of art so it might not be practical.
You have separated the use of miniatures into a full section all of its own. What advantages do you think this has? – I HATE GRIDS! there I said it. I hate the idea of making a system around things that we HAVE to do. The miniature system is the best as all the needed pieces are present. To move just use a tape measure and to determine a blast lay a template or just measure. The movement rules have been moved to the back of the book as they are not necessary for play. This is why all units throughout the book are given in both inches (for table movement) and feet (for RP description). Those players who wish to only use description based play do not have the book interrupted by rules they don’t need. Also it was easier to keep all these rules together when they are in their own section. The idea is to understand the game then understand how to play it with minis.
How have you found the process of putting all together? what have been the highlights and the low points? – High points: its very satisfying figuring a new mechanic or way to do something that works very efficiently and smooth. Breaking the mould is exciting and getting to design something new is exciting. Working with great and talented people that get involved on a higher level is also great! Low points: editing which never ends and realizing that a mechanic is broken can be humbling, but its important to find and fix these. To make a late change means finding every instance throughout the book and correcting it. Also its very time consuming to put everything together and expensive. The worst is trying to get other people excited and playtest the game. Since many people aren’t open to new things it can be difficult to get them involved. Also I am very open to making sweeping changes and would love some great constructive criticism.
Where would you like the game to reach and future plans do you have for the future of this setting? – For future plans I have 3 more spheres to write about. Hokate is the neighbour of Incia and is techno-steam based with electro cannons and steam driven armour. Azikier is martial artists very Asian style where mana is converted into physically altering chi. Suuntar uses rune magic. Imagine taking very thin crystal films and embedding them with runes, now stack the film each with its own command set, and you have a magical rune driven computer. It starts getting creepy when you take a dead person’s soul and bind it to the computer giving it AI. Most of these areas are detailed in the Incian book giving readers something to think about or plan avantures around. This creates a multi-genre world and intersphere politics are the main adventure driving force in the game. I’d like to sell the book and publish it for a profit if possible, but will be happy to give it away if that doesn’t look to be a possibility.
Age Past is nearly ready and news keep coming to the website regularly. Here at G*M*S Magazine are very much looking forward to the finished product!
Paco G. Jaen