What Do I Know About Reviews? Trojan War (Fantasy AGE)

Picture2Back in the 3rd edition OGL era, Green Ronin produced a series of books that presented fantasy versions of various historical settings, from “biblical” fantasy with Testament, to Egyptian fantasy with the Hamunaptra boxed set, to Trojan War. In some ways, these were a third party spiritual successor to the HR series of green reference books put out by TSR for AD&D 2nd Edition.

Trojan War, specifically, had an interesting priest class that was less about preparing a set number of spells per day and spending spell slots, and was, instead, about how many times per day you could entreat your deity for spells, with an upper limit and an increasing difficulty to see if you had finally asked for too much. I always wanted to take this divine caster for a spin, but never really got the opportunity.

Green Ronin has released a “new version” of Trojan War, but this time for the Fantasy AGE system. The product specifically mentions that while this is essentially a modern version of that supplement, designed for Fantasy AGE, it doesn’t have quite the page count that the previous volume had. It’s a more focused toolkit approach, instead of an exhaustive sourcebook. Let’s take a look at what’s inside this container.

The Trojan PDF

The PDF itself is 68 pages long. This includes a Modern Age advertisement, a credits page, and a table of contents. This is another Green Ronin product that draws on the deep wells of fantasy artwork that the company has available, using some of their previous line drawings for illustration. This includes various full, half, and quarter page illustrations. The line drawings all have a reddish tone to them.

If you have seen any of the other Fantasy AGE books, this one should look familiar. It has a two-column layout, big, bold headers and underlined sub headers, and formatted tables that match the trade dress of the line, although everything in this volume leans heavily on reds and blacks. Green Ronin books always have clear and easy to access formatting, and this is no different.

Introduction: The Trojan War and Homeric Age

The introduction serves to frame the focus of the book. It’s not a book specifically about recreating Greek mythology, but is focused very much on “Homeric” stories, specifically, the time just before and just after the Trojan War.

That confines the themes of what is being explored to the events leading up to the war, the shifting allegiances of the gods, and the various personalities involved in the conflict, as well as looking a bit at the aftermath, including stories such as the Odyssey.

There is also a sidebar describing the time period and common assumptions, such as the dominance of men and slavery. The book explains that many of the themes of Homeric fantasy can be addressed without reinforcing the commonality of slavery, or the misogynistic tendencies of the age.

Chapter One: Homeric Character Creation

Right away, the disclaimer about Homeric fantasy being a subset of Greek mythology is present. While wider species existed in Greek myths, the Trojan War was about human heroes clashing. That means that the primary options for player characters are humans and Divine Offspring.

If you aren’t familiar with Fantasy Age, individual ancestries don’t give a set benefit, but instead, there is a chart with different options for a bonus or a focus. There are a few different rules for distributing available points depending on a human or divine ancestry.

The social backgrounds that appear in Fantasy AGE have Homeric specific charts in the product. There is an “enslaved” background, but there is a specific call out that this background is completely optional and should only be used if the player and the group want to explore that aspect of the setting for a character’s narrative. The main tweaks to the backgrounds revolve around how even the higher classes in a Homeric setting often had competency in the basic labor that makes their lands prosperous.

There is a list of standard focuses from Fantasy AGE that are appropriate, as well as the introduction of some that make sense for the era being explored. There are notes about existing foci, such as those dealing with locks and traps, and the decreased likelihood of running into moderately complex mechanical devices.

New talents include the following (for those not familiar with Fantasy AGE, these are essentially three tiered stunts or feats from other systems):

  • Arete
  • Athletics
  • Primal Weapon Style
  • Shield Formation Style
  • Swift Footed Style

Additionally, there are Homeric Specializations (similar in concept to prestige classes or subclasses) as well, which include the following:

  • Amazon (mobile and accurate warriors)
  • Charioteer (warriors trained in vehicular combat)
  • Dedicated Warrior (warriors who have dedicated themselves to a specific deity)
  • Demigod (a character that is investing their advancement to exploring their divine gifts, only available to divine offspring)
  • Pharmakeus (a mage that manipulates compounds to create desired results that can alter the nature of an existing thing)
  • Priest (a mage that is dedicated to directing the worship of the gods)

In addition to presenting new specializations, there is also a list of thematically appropriate specializations from previous Fantasy AGE offerings. Many of the specializations in this book (like the Pharmekeus, or the Dedicated Warrior) deal with the interactions of rules for Divine Bonds.

Divine Bonds are a new rule for this setting, which measure how invested the gods are in the success or defeat of a given mortal. Positive divine bonds can be spent on special stunts, even if a character doesn’t roll doubles to trigger a stunt, while negative divine bonds can be spent by the game master to complicate a given situation when an angered god decides to act.

I especially like the divine offspring ancestry for potentially porting to other Fantasy AGE campaigns, and it makes a lot of sense given the setting. I also appreciate a good meta currency, and I like how Divine Bonds can be used to both add divine favor or disfavor to the game, but with a limit provided by the currency.

Chapter Two: Homeric Magic

As with the previous chapter, this section details those Arcana (groups of spells) that are appropriate or inappropriate for the setting. There is a section on “neutral arcana,” which discusses that some magic isn’t so much out of place, as would be the frequency and dependability of the magic being used.

The arcana introduced in this product includes the following:

  • Charm
  • Cursing
  • Poison

All of the above arcana have similar power level effects to the arcana found in other Fantasy AGE books, but they rely on less obvious expressions of that power, like spontaneously poisoning blades, causing muscle spasms and pain, or causing others to be unable to recognize your features.

The Charm Arcana has the same kind of spells that may require some careful adjudication at the table, since command and ensorcell both allow the caster to direct the actions of another character, and beguilement sets someone’s opinion of you to favorable (although it doesn’t dictate their actions directly).

There are various temporary, single use magic items included in this section, including thematic items like ambrosia (which removes diseases, poisons, and long term injuries, as well as granting youth), and lotus (which hinders lore tests and makes spellcasters forget their abilities). Magic items tend to be either unique items loaned to mortals by the gods, or lesser versions of legendary items.

Chapter Three: Homeric Equipment

This chapter has some interesting historical bits in it. For example, the tales of the Trojan War predate formal coins, so while precious metals are still used for trade, they are based on raw weight instead of coinage. Additionally, it mentions how the story of the Trojan War is technically a Bronze Age story, but as told by Homer, it contains several anachronistic references to iron items not produced until later.

I’m not a huge fan of uneven conversion rates, but the worth of metals by weights is going for an average, if not 100% accurate, worth of metal for the time period. Many of the weapons included are standard Fantasy AGE weapons, but with slightly different stats to reflect their bronze construction. In period books like this, there are two methods of addressing this, having a concrete baseline, and modifying from that, or assuming that item stats are relative to the period detailed. This opts for the former, which means you can represent items with different construction in a standard Fantasy AGE game with this product.

The armor section introduces something new for Fantasy AGE, hit locations. This doesn’t go for full verisimilitude and distribute health across different limbs. Hit locations are used to determine if a blow has landed on an area not covered by armor, since piecemeal armor is more common in this period. It’s a system not too different from Warhammer Fantasy or the Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40K games, where one of the dice rolled for the attack determines where the blow would land.

Because ships and chariots are both important to Homeric stories, there is a quick summary of the Fantasy AGE Companion vehicle rules for use in adjudicating chariots in combat, or ship to ship naval battles.

Granular rules for weapon materials and hit locations aren’t usually things I enjoy in a game, but I understand why they are introduced here, and I appreciate that they incorporated hit locations into a standard roll. It adds a “table reference” step, but not an “adjudication step.”

Chapter Four: Religion and the Gods

This chapter approaches the topic of gods that directly intervene in mortal events in a different manner than many level-based fantasy games. This chapter introduces multiple ways that gods intervene in the world, as well as introducing another system that interacts with the Divine Bonds from earlier in the book.

Gods don’t have specific stats, and they don’t have “an” established avatar. Gods have three different forms. Subtle form is what happens when a god wants to make their presence known by causing phenomenon associated with them to appear. Intervention form is when a god appears as themselves and performs an action that helps or hinders mortals. They don’t stick around long enough to be challenged, but they clearly have a hand in what just happened. The Manifestation Form is when a physical body appears. These have statistics, and sometimes appear literally to physically do battle with mortals.

There are Moderate, Major, Dire, and Legendary Manifestations. These are base stat blocks upon which a template for a given god is applied, modifying that manifestation. When a manifestation is defeated, it doesn’t die, it leaves the field. The narrative around this intervention is that fate only allows the gods to directly intervene with mortals so far, and that the gods have a sense of this, and they know when to back off.

In addition to the manifestations, Piety is a way to measure how well a mortal has appeased the gods. There is a list of different actions and if those actions are worth a positive or negative amount of piety. Some actions are listed as applying to the gods in general, or to a specific god. Measuring piety gives the GM tools to determine when characters gain additional divine bonds, both positive and negative.

Because of Homer’s account of the Trojan War, we get some details on human sacrifice in addition to other forms of sacrifice (thanks Agamemnon), but human sacrifice aside, I think this entire paradigm of divine intervention would be a solid aspect to “drift” to other Fantasy AGE settings where godly intervention is part of the paradigm.

Chapter Five: The Homeric Campaign

The final section of the book looks at what a campaign based on Homeric themes looks like. That includes origins, problems, motivations, roleplaying gods, and building adventures. It also looks at what monsters and rules from other Fantasy AGE books are appropriate for this style of campaign.

It gives several examples of times just before and after the Trojan War that would be appropriate for adventures, and some pivotal points where player characters might become the stars of the story.

Beyond the example monsters from existing materials, this section points out that the Fantasy AGE Companion has rules for honorifics. Because epithets are an important aspect of Homeric storytelling, these rules are recommended to support the feel of the setting.

Favor of the Gods

This book serves as a good example of how to mix and match elements from different products to achieve a specific tone, and the rules for divine intervention and piety, especially, are good general tools to port to other settings. I really liked the bullet points of the lead up to the war, as well as the progress of the war.

Achilles? . . . The Iliad? . . . Read a Book!

My biggest complaint about this book is that I would have loved a sample adventure. There are some general suggestions and a few adventure hooks, but a sample adventure would have been a great way to illustrate how to tell stories that weave in and out of the narrative of the Trojan War. While I didn’t want full stats, I would have liked some summaries of the luminaries of the war, with an eye towards using them for adventure hooks.

Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.

This is a good, solid product that I would recommend to fans of Greek mythology or fans of Fantasy AGE. While the product does a good job of being focused and table ready, that same focus makes it less useful as a broader sourcebook. If you want some more subtle arcana, the children of the gods as ancestry options, and a well-detailed system for active gods who still have to operate within limits, all for your Fantasy AGE game, this is a good purchase for you.

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