Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I is for the Imperial Age
The Imperial Age from Adamant Entertainment (who also gave me last year's I for Icons) is a great collection of Victorian Age source books. Designed to support D20 Modern, they can be used with just about any Victorian RPG.
I have been using them with Ghosts of Albion, mostly the background information and some of the game-specific material. But I find that stylistically they tend to support games like Victoriana a little bit more.
I bought a lot of these books when they first came out, but "sat" on them while I was promoting Ghosts of Albion. I didn't want to get distracted.
Now Ghosts is out there doing it's own thing so I can talk more about the Victorian games I really enjoy.
All the Imperial Age books are all well written and features art from the age, either public domain art and paintings as well as some original art. In all cases the art is very evocative of the time and very well done.
The books are all easy to read, with clean layout and font sizes. They can be printed with ease without killing your printer cartridge.
The GameMaster's Guidebook to Victorian Adventure (31 pages with cover and OGL page)
A fantastic guide for running a Victorian Age game. Plenty of background is given about societies, countries and people of the time. Quick overviews of Victorian thoughts on sex, the occult, and other countries can add plenty of flavor to any game. As well as Alternate-versions of the Victorian setting such as Steam-Punk, Horror, Supers and Alt-Reality.
On the d20 specific side of things, a number of feats are given to be used (but can easily become backgrounds or qualities, depending on what your game needs) and even some advise on converting "Thrilling Tales" Advanced Classes over to Imperial Age.
The advice given is quite good, but the book almost pays for itself in terms of the near complete list of weapons (in d20 format) used. There is a brief timeline and some references.
If you enjoy Victorian games like I do then this is a great product whether you play The Imperial Age, another d20 product or something else all-together.
Imperial Age Magick (36 pages with cover and OGL page)
I love Victorian era games and I love games with magic in them. So this book was a no brainer for me to pick up. Using the vernacular "magick" this book present magick as seen through the eyes of the Victorian. There are rules to magick and there is heavy reliance of the lieks of Dee and Crowley. But that is what makes this book cool.
Magick is presented in three different styles; the common d20 magic, a skill based magick, and a school based magick where there are many different types of magick being used at the same time. The GM needs to decide how magick works and what level of magick is the game; everything from High (D&D like) Magic to Low or No magic at all.
Plenty of background is given for the various types of magic and the authors really did their homework in terms of reading Dee, Levi and Crowley (among others).
d20-wise there are new feats and new uses for skills. All easily adaptable.
There is a section on magickal gear which I would have liked to see more of to be honest.
The chapter on "Running a Magickal Campaign" bears special mention since it is above and beyong the Imperial Age normal game, but it also has plenty of ideas for all Victorian RPGS.
There are some very useful Appendices, including a Hermitic Scholar class (why it wasn't in the main text I am not sure).
This book is not the end-all be-all of magick in the Victorian age or games, but it is a solid resource full of great advice, ideas and tips. My only gripe is there could have been so much more added. But this is balanced with the cover price I guess.
The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Alienist (12 pages with cover and OGL page)
An Alienist is what we would call a psychiatrist today. But in the terms of the Imperial Age game, he is a psionic parapyschologist.
The archetypical Alienist would be Dr. Seward from Dracula (sans psionic powers) or maybe even Hannibal Lector for an evil one.
This book also deals with the psychologically disturbed and how some of them can manifest wild psionic powers. So not quite the crazy one sees in Cthulhu by Gaslight, but more so than Masque of the Red Death.
I give this book credit for coming up for something very original. I think it is more closely tied the to campaign than say some other Advanced Classes like the Monster Hunter, but I can see this working quite well in say a Rippers game.
The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Monster Hunter (6 pages with cover and OGL page)
A new advanced class for bumping back the things that go bump in the night. The monster hunter here is a combination of Van Helsing and Alan Quatermain.
There are some good ideas here, but nothing new or earth shaking. The class itself is solid and something any d20 character would take a level or two in.
I would have liked to see some monster hunting societies, but I am not complaining for the price.
The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Scientific Detective (7 pages with cover and OGL page)
Playing Sherlock Holmes.
Having been re-reading a lot of Holmes lately I find this class spot-on. If the Monster Hunter class is for fighting monsters, then this class is designed to stop crime. The two work well together since they cover such different grounds.
There is a new feat and a repeated one from Monster Hunter (Gentry).
Again, great value for the price.
The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Gentleman Scientist (13 pages with cover and OGL page)
If the Scientific Detective book allows you make Holmes, and Monster Hunter make (a younger) Van Helsing, then this book allows you to make a Victorian fantasy Tesla.
If you are looking to turn The Imperial Age into a more Steam Punk style game, then you need to start with this book.
Plenty of new feats are included to allow your Victorian Weird Scientist to make their inventions.
Outside of the d20 realm this book is also a great guide for any sort of weird/super science for the Victorian Age. While specifically that, it is a great start.
The Imperial Age: Anarchism (11 pages with cover and OGL page)
A little history is helpful here. Anarchism was a big deal to the Victorians. Not just in terms of a political movement, but in terms of what it meant. Society was everything to the Victorians, Anarchy was the opposite of that.
So first off, major kudos for the authors for recognizing this. It is an edited and thumbnail version, but this is a game book, not a textbook.
While this book is about anarchism, it is also full of things those other misfits of society might need: namely the adventurer.
The book has plot hooks, points of view and what anarchism means in a game world. So all of this (the first 3/4s of the book) can be used in any game.
The Anarchist Advanced class is pure d20. The new feats are a good, useful bunch that other character might want to take.
The Imperial Age: British India (67 pages with cover and OGL page)
Most Victorian Age games give a paragraph or two about India, which is too bad really. Victoria herself was known as the "Empress of India".
A good overview of the British involvement in India is given. Again, this is not a textbook, but a game book. There are plenty of places to get more detail, but I think what is here is a great start.
Since so much of the British involvement in India was political and military, overviews of the Government and Military, both in England and India is also given.
I like the authentic maps.
In an interesting addition, several Esoteric Societies are included. Obviously due to their ties with anything "Oriental".
A GM's section on running a campaign in India is presented covering Fantasy, Horror, Occult and Engine based game.
We don't get into any d20 specific information till about 46 pages into the book (almost 3/4ths through the book).
d20 specific info includes a section on creatures (wish there more, but this is good), weapons and feats.
The book ends with a set of reference books and films.
All in all I thought this was a great book for any Victorian-era game. I would love to see more, but I think the book did what is set out to do.
What I can't get from this book I can get from here: http://books.google.com/books?id=-kAuAAAAYAAJ
The Imperial Age: Engines (67 pages with cover and OGL page)
Rules and ideas to turn your Imperial Age game into a Steampunk or Gearpunk game. This book goes beyond what is presented in Gentleman Scientist and presents a new campaign model.
More so than the other books in the Imperial Age line this one has more d20 information. There is also less "history" than the other books.
Despite all of that, this is a good supplement to add all sorts of things to your game. If you are a fan of Steampunk/Gearpunk and your current Victorian Game of choice does not support it, then this is a good choice. If it does then this is a great source for more ideas.
The Imperial Age: Faeries (78 pages with cover and OGL page)
The Victorians loved faeries. Even the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved them a believed they were real. This book help you do that for your game as well.
Plenty of faerie races are given along with their d20 stats for playing them as characters. These will work well in any d20 game regardless of the time period.
A new mechanic is introduced, Traits, but familiar if anyone has played Unisystem or GURPS. In fact it is because of this that makes this book more easily ported over to games like Ghosts of Albion or Victoriana.
Traits and Drawbacks can be bought to customize characters.
Rules for Fey-Touched characters are also given.
There are some monsters stated, mostly these are fey creature that would not work well as characters. Plenty of new feats and an advanced classes.
Advice is given on the Faerie lands and how to run games that involve the fey.
This might be my favorite of the Imperial Age books just in terms of material to be used. The organization of the material is kind of all over the place and the art is not quite a good as the other books, but that didn't matter to me since I was most interested in the words on the page.
The Imperial Age: Fantastical Races (70 pages with cover and OGL page)
D&D style races in your Imperial Age game.
This book is a nice companion to Faeries in terms of expanding the fantastical elements of your game. Also with a little bit of work they could also expand it more into horror.
In addition to the expected Dwarf, Elf and halfling, we also get Beastfolk (similar to the ones found in Victoriana and Gaslight), Celestial Blooded, Demon Blooded, Dragon Blooded, and Lizard Folk.
There are plenty of Paragon Classes for each race as well as feats.
Some campaign ideas are presented, but I feel some of them are getting farther and farther away from the Victorian norm.
Though it is a very fun book and has some great ideas.
The Imperial Age: Fisticuffs & Swordplay (25 pages with cover and OGL page)
Fightclub for Imperial Age.
Information on Fisticuffs, Bartitsu, and swordplay. Plenty of background and history and bunch of new feats.
Very useful in a game where guns might be rare.
The Imperial Age: Grimoire (75 pages with cover and OGL page)
This book picks up where Imperial Age Magick left off.
The Imperial Age: Grimoire covers grimoires, or magickal texts.
Included is information on how to find these books, how to read and use them and what must be done to unlock their secrets.
There are some sample grimoires detailed, with their spells and some secret societies. A lot of information is included here and could easily be adapted to any game. I am thinking of Cthulhu by Gaslight in particular.
Some new and many old OGC spells are also included. They are all by design d20, but can be converted. This makes up a lot of the book, but it is needed.
All in all a great book.
The Imperial Age: Hell Hath No Fury (35 pages with cover and OGL page)
Hell Hath No Fury is a "Penny Dreadful", an adventure for the Imperial Age Game. Designed for newer characters (2 to 4 1st level).
The author takes care to let you know that while the Imperial Age can cover a variety of Victorian game types, he had to make some assumptions to have a pre-written adventure work out, so this one is described as Occult Steam. I like that.
The adventure is presented in Three Acts and moves at a brisk pace.
The mystery reads like a "Penny Dreadful" and has the feel and atmosphere of a Victorian mystery. I don't want to spoil things, but this is a fun adventure for the first time players.
The Imperial Age: London (82 pages with cover and OGL page)
A history and overview of the greatest city of the British Empire. What I liked were the inclusion of the real maps from the time, but improved over how they were presented in the India book.
There is even a brief description of some of the neighborhoods, Gentlemen's Clubs and important sites. Background on the Peelers is also included.
The book is an overview and doesn't go into great detail in any subject. Though it is not supposed to be a textbook or a history book, a little more would have been nice.
All in all though it is a fine book. Perfect for any Victorian game since the d20 content is minimal.
The Imperial Age: Spiritualism (17 pages with cover and OGL page)
Spiritualism was a big part of the late Victorian age. Not simply Occult, Spiritualism dealt specifically with the communication with those beyond death.
The first part of this book details this well. The second part discusses how all of this plays out in the Imperial Age game, including the different sorts of campaign modes one might choose.
We are also given a new Advanced Class, the Medium and plenty of new feats, magic.
Again, most of this book is "system free" so it can be used in any game. The d20 specific stuff is still quite useful.
The Imperial Age: The Price of Immortality (34 pages with cover and OGL page)
Another Penny Dreadful for The Imperial Age.
This one takes advantage of the material found in the London book, so having that on hand is helpful.
It is obvious that the author(s) have learned more about adventure design since "Hell Hath No Fury" since this is a more complex plot and a more detailed adventure (despite being the same size).
A very entertaining adventure that plays to "The Imperial Age's" strengths well.
The Imperial Age: Victorian Monstrosities (89 pages with cover and OGL page)
A monster book with more. Many of the most frightening creatures we know today have their roots in Victorian literature and history. Dracula, Carmilla, Jack the Ripper, Half-human mutants, cults. All can be found in the pages of Victorian origin.
More than just a monster book (though it is that as well), this presents some "history" behind the monster. I am reminded of some the more detailed Monster Hunter guides I have seen for other games.
There is so much here that it is difficult to quantify it all. But there is a lot and a lot of it is very, very good.
The stats are all d20, but the backgrounds work for any game.
The Imperial Age: Victorian Occupations (16 pages with cover and OGL page)
This book has the distinction of being the first Imperial Age book I bought.
These are optional, alternate occupations for d20 Modern characters. Though the background works for any game.
Not a lot of detailed material, but a lot of material all the same.
If you need a list of professions then this a good place to go.
The Imperial Age: True20 Edition (271 pages with cover and OGL page)
True 20 is a perfect solution for all sorts of Modern d20 based games for me and Imperial Age shows why. The rules are adapted from the Imperial Age supplements for d20, so a lot here has been seen before, but all of it looks new through the lens of True 20.
All the Imperial Age products ooze style and this one is no different. There may be better Victorian Age games out there, but one can't deny that this is a great product and a welcome addition to any Victorian gaming library.