Fantasy AGE: Basic Rulebook, by Green Ronin
I must admit that I had never heard of this game before idly picking it up as a reasonably easy read. As someone who is very interested in tabletop role playing games , I do not have a very high threshold for reading such books and trying to understand what niche they are trying to fill. In this case, it did not take too long before I saw that this particular book was aimed at a fairly basic level of gamer, someone who didn’t want a lot of die rolls or complicated sets of die and wanted a straightforward d6 tabletop role playing game that offered a simplified class system and streamlined gameplay. The fact that the game has been played by noted geek Wil Wheaton adds to its appeal for a certain audience that is more mainstream than a hardcore D&D or Pathfinder player but still someone who is at least open to playing tabletop role playing games. To its credit, the authors of this book offer a great deal of variety and are pretty open to the fact that they view the cauldron of fantasy games and literature as being fair for appropriation.
The book itself manages to contain a surprising breadth of material in its less than 150 pages of material. As might be expected, that expanse of breadth comes with certain sacrifices in depth that will be unsurprising to those who are familiar with other more complicated games of its type but may not be as obvious to those who are not so familiar. The book is divided into two twelve chapters that are in two unequal parts. The first part is the player’s guide, and it includes a very basic introduction to the art of tabletop role playing games. After that comes chapters on character creation, with only three classes: mage, rogue, and warrior, basic rules, character options and specializations, equipment, magic, and stunts. These chapters take up over half of the book. The remaining six chapters are included under the Game Master’s Guide. These chapters include material on the job of the game master, mastering the rules, adversaries, rewards, campaign settings, and a beginning campaign in Highfalls Swale. This is followed by a glossary and index. Overall, the contents of this book manage to combine what most games of its type would take several volumes of much more detailed and complex material to cover, but which might be too complex for most beginners.
Ultimately, I see the value of this particular book and the game it is from as serving as an introduction to this style of gaming as a whole. Admittedly, for someone like me, this game is more than a little bit basic and not nearly filled with enough options or complexity to fully interest me. On the other hand, the book and game are at least a knockoff brand of reasonable competence and if I was playing this game with some novice gamers who were just getting into role playing games I would likely enjoy myself. As I think that most other gamers would feel the same way, I can admire how this game strives to carve a niche as a gateway to more complex and more detailed role playing games, providing novice gamers with an entry-level game that alerts them to the possibilities of fantasy and role playing without demanding too much of them aside from alertness and creativity. I can see that this game would at least cultivate those who can move on to more advanced games without too much difficulty after mastering this one, and that is likely what this game was created to do. It may be a low bar to reach, but this game appears to have accomplished its mission.
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