Sunday, 20 February 2011

Review: The Age of Shadow

This is the first in a set of posts reviewing roleplay games and systems. For our first look, I've chosen one of my new favourites. The Age of Shadow is a fantasy based roleplay game that uses the Open Quest rules system. This is a basic D100 percentile system for those new to the standard. First, a few stats.

Name: The Age of Shadow
Genre: Fantasy
System: Open Quest (D100)
Games Author: Kristian Richards
System Author: Newt Newport
Price of Core Book: FREE


Age of Shadow Front Cover
The first thing that you are aware of after downloading the book, is the quality of its design. The front cover look extremely professional and this is continued throughout the book. The fonts used on the cover are illuminated but still easily readable but are not carried on inside the book. This is probably a good thing as large amounts of text are easier to read in simple fonts.

Each page is organised into 2 columns of text, evenly spaced and well aligned. The information flows well and very few words are cut off or hyphenated. This makes it very readable and even enjoyable. The information is dispersed with the occasion table to better display the information along with the odd picture.

While I think those of us used to playing D&D will want more pictures and artwork, these things are both expensive, and not easy to do. For a free self released book it is superb and receives a tavern rating of 8/10 flagons of ale.

Character Creation
Character creation is a major part in any game and there are some expected standards within the roelgaming world. The first is an explanation of any characteristics. The Age of Shadow dedicated the first page to exactly this. The game uses 6 stats, Strength, Dexterity, Size, Intelligence, Power and Charisma. The characters stats are created by rolling a number of D6 and adding modifiers dependent on race. This information is placed in a very accessible table.

Open Quest uses some additional attributes, and the second part of character creation look at these. Damage Modifier, Hit Points, Major Wound Level, Magic Points, Corruption Level and Movement Rate. The most interesting of these is the major wound level. The characters major wound level is equal to half his/her total HP. If this number of HP is taken in one hit, the character suffers a major wound, these include loosing limbs, being blinded and all manner of nasty things that can happen in a sword fight.

Age of Shadow Character Sheet
 Stage three is all about generating your character's skills. In this system, the skills are split into different sections, these are; Practical Skills, Knowledge Skills, Resistances, Combat Skills and Magic Skills. his breaking up on the skills list allows for a much larger variety of available skills when compared to most games. Most of the sets are self explanatory except resistances, which are basically the same of your saves in D&D.

Stage four is all about the character as a person, their background, their race abilities and their fate points. Each race has a set number of background points which they can spend in increasing skills, increasing their starting gold or learning new spells among other things. This system will really help players create a character with a bit of a background rather than a fresh 2D adventurer.

There are only three races available, Elf, Dwarf and Human and, while this is comparatively small to most games, you don't feel it when you play.Besides, the game is such a great source of basic inspiration, it wouldn't take a lot to simply create some extra home brew races. (I'll be doing this later and adding them to the download page).

Fate Points are an interesting way of making an every day character into a glorious hero. fate points are used re-roll an important dice roll or downgrade a major wound to a normal wound or even, saving your character from death! It a really cool way of the character winning against all the odds, think of how Boromir was when he got himself all shot up, that kind of thing. Cool? I think so!

Stage five is the time to fill out the character sheet, which is very well layed out and is totally self explanatory. You get given a basic starting kit with all the basics plus a weapon and some gold to spend on extra bits to personalise your character. This is great as it saves time working out how much the basics like a back pack and bedroll cost.

All in all this is a great character creation system. Its fairly quick, uncomplicated and can be used to create some really dynamic characters. the only slight snag is the small number of races, but as noted before, this is easy to fix yourself. All things considered, its another 8/10 flagons of ale.

The Combat System
This game uses the standard OpenQuest D100 combat system. I won't go into it in depth now, as it would take long while but i will give you a run down and the pros and cons. The system uses a basic action and reaction system, a attacks, b either defends or is hit. This simple system means that combat doesn't get bogged down in many many rolls. The core book gives us a list of options when it come to combat actions and they cover pretty much anything you might want to do, if its not there, the GM will have to do their job!

The rules set covers standard combat situations, mounted combat and grappling. These three section cover almost anything you are likely to encounter in game terms. Each works of a standard success/failure system using target values etc.

While the system is nothing new there is also nothing wrong with it and, while its not overly complex it is stable enough to produce some interesting and variable results. It makes for a brilliant system for more experienced GM's who are able to fill in the short fall in rules with cool off-the-cuff rulings and descriptions. All in all, well worth 7/10 flagons of ale.

Additional Features
One of the nicest things about the game, is the way in which magic is portrayed in two forms, Innate Magic and Sorcery. As the name suggests, innate magic is formed by the casters own innate ability which they are born with. Sorcery on the other hand is a learned craft that can be wielded by all. The differences are actually much bigger than this, but that's the gist of it.

In addition to this, the book has a large section on adventuring that contains all little add-ons a GM might need, like drowning, falling and suffocation. Plus all the less deadly stuff such as how far and fast people move and how often they need to sit themselves down and eat something or, someone (very dependant on the party, in most of my games this would be perfectly agreeable as long as it wasn't a Gnome!)

As if this wasn't enough, a Bestiary has also been included. Filled with nasty beasties to challenge your players this is a great resource. With it being in the main book it really saves ou time in having 2 open files and flitting between the two. This section also details the magic items available and some loot rules!

This book is packed with additional bits and bobs, far more than I have come to expect from free RPG's. For this reason, I give it 9/10 flagons of ale.

Available Support
So, after creating this awesome game, spending all hose hours perfecting it, testing it, correcting it, you would expect a slick website, up to date blog, live forum chats and more wouldn't you? Well if you do, you wont be disappointed here! I emailed the site about the download link for te game, and within 20 minutes had a response from the writer himself!

The whole set up is great. The site itself has a whole host of additional downloads to add to your enjoyment of the game as well as updates on up coming releases. The blog is updated at least once a week if not more and contains some really great posts. Finally, the forum is alive with chatter discussing the game, and exchanging opinions on it.

While the site doesn't have the same feel as say, the wizards of the coast site, it is great to look at, functional and not in any way cluttered. For these reasons, I give the available support, 10/10 flagons of ale!

Last Orders
All in all, this is a great game, made by a highly talented games designer and given to us, the gamer, for free! What more can we ask for? With a totally of 42/50 flagons of ale I would suggest this game to anyone who wants a really good book from which to build a new and exciting series of games.

Until next time, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes ever,"What do you mean you character can only have either clothes OR a spell component pouch?"


  1. Thank you for such a nice review.

    Regarding races ...if you would like to include halflings, then I did put out some basic rules for them (on the blog) back in December if that is of interest.

  2. Awesome, Halflings would make for interesting characters. No worries for the review, it's all true. You've produced an excelent piece of work.

    If you are interested in writing a post for us, you would be welcome anytime.

  3. Hi, I have just reviewed this game on my rpg blog and i find it very bad. There are a lot of old ideas with some good idea released very bad.
    The manual says it will be a simple system but we have a lot of point (look a the dwarven chars table) where things are very complicated.
    Some things are not well balanced also.

  4. I suppose what with it being a free open source game it very much depends on the people playing it. I play test with a very cool goup who play with fun for all in mind as apposed to searching for a way to break or unballance the system. If parts seem unballanced for your group, as GM just change them.