Right now on Kickstarter is a campaign by Studio Agate, the producers of my favorite grimdark RPG Shadows of Esteren, is a new D&D 5e setting called Fateforge. To say that the 5e marked is overcrowded is an understatement, but the folks at Studio Agate have produced some great games and settings. What will they do with this system? Let’s find out together.
To start off, here’s the elevator pitch for the world of Eana, home of the Fateforge setting. It aims to be an epic setting, both in terms of worldbuilding and in terms of products. The Kickstarter is for the first two books: Adventures, which is the core book, and Grimoire, the book of magic and spells. This already has me interested but I hope that it’s possible to jump right in with only one of these books since you don’t want to ask people to invest in a whole set when they probably already have a lot of 5e products. Following up on these will be Arcana (planar things and artifacts), Eana (a more detailed look at the world), and Bestiary (just what it says on the tin).
As for Eana itself, Studio Agate tells us it will be “an exotic, epic, colorful universe drawing from various mythologies, as well as from the Sword & Sorcery genre.” That sets things up for a real Conan vibe which is borne out in a lot of the language surrounding this game. It’s a game of slaying monsters, unearthing cults, and becoming famous heroes. Not bad, but not groundbreaking so far.
Something that is groundbreaking is the Modular System, an approach that will be familiar if you’ve delved into Shadows of Esteren at all. Throughout the books there are little icons that point out rules aimed at creating a game just for you. If you want to tweak things to be harder or easier there are adjustments baked in for the DM. It’s a little more nuanced than “hard mode” and “nerf mode,” though.
- Action rules are for the larger-than-life sorts of stories from Conan to Odysseus. If you want your PCs to be the big, bad heroes then include all of these rules.
- Awakening rules are for spellcasters and being able to use magic is not a given in this world. If you want to use an Awakening rule you have to be an Awakened character.
- Dark rules are for ramping up the horror in your campaign, something that depends on the interest and comfort level of your group.
- Gritty rules are for realistic and deadly action, again something that depends on your group. If you have veteran players who want to end up bloodied and half-dead all the time then these are the options for you.
- Intrigue rules are, unsurprisingly, for more spy- and politically-oriented adventures.
- Mystery seems similar, but it’s more about arcane secrets and supernatural occurrences. Ghost stories seem to fit neatly into this category.
- Elusive Magic is an option to make magic more of a rarity in the campaign. Most dramatically, characters can’t just advance in spellcasting and pick what they want, they need to train and learn with mentors.
I’ll be going through the steps of character creation next time but for now I just want to point out one thing that really seems great from a worldbuilding standpoint. The first step in creating a character is to pick their civilization. While this isn’t a mechanical choice, it does set up your role in the world of Eana and it separates race (or species as this book prefers) from culture. No more are elves all magic-users from the Great Forest and dwarves all miners from the High Mountains. They have their usual homelands but their language, culture, and preferences are all from the civilizations that shaped them.
I mentioned this in the discussion of the Modular System above but characters in Fateforge can’t just learn magic if they want to. A lot of people in the world of Eana are Dormant, unable to use magic and (in game terms) unable to make use of any of the Awakened rules. This includes their innate abilities so elves and tieflings who are Dormant can’t use the magical abilities listed for their species. They might know who one is supposed to use a cantrip but they just can’t manage to use it. It’s unclear to me at this point why someone would choose to be Dormant but maybe we’ll find out.
On the other side of the spectrum are Awakened characters who, simply put, can make use of magic. If they are spellcasters they can cast spells, if they have innate powers they can use those, and try other uses of magic. In between are characters who are Close to Awakening meaning they aren’t Awakened at the beginning of the campaign but will do so within a few levels. Seems like a nice middle ground.
I wanted to keep this short for people who want a look into Fateforge but there are a lot of other changes to character creation in 5e when you’re in this setting. Next week I’ll write about what those changes are and what I think of them.