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From 13 reviews

Age of Steel

First Edition

Contents

Publisher Description

It is an age of innovation and advancement,
an age of chaos and conspiracy,
an age in which heroes must be as hard as steel!



Age of Steel is a dieselpunk roleplaying game set in the world of Neres; a world not unlike our own in the first few decades of the 20th century. Neres has just emerged from its first global conflict; the ‘Great War’ in which hundreds of thousands of men and women died in the mud and horror of the trenches.

 

A Unique (and Very Dieselpunk) Setting [ edit ]

Unlike the other dieselpunk games we've looked at, Age of Steel is not set in an alternate-timeline Earth, but rather is set in it's own completely unique world.  Although this world has some clear parallels to Earth, each nation in it is distinct and individual (ie. this is not a setting where you can say "oh that country is the equivalent of France").

One major difference between Earth and Neres (the world of AoS) is the invention of various technologies such as more advanced airships, "battle rigs" (ie. dieselpunk mecha), and "mechaugmetics" (ie. dieselpunk cybernetics).  Together these differences, along with a rich and detailed setting history, make Neres a fantastically new and different place to explore dieselpunk adventures.

Age of Steel, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Age of Steel uses a point-based system for character creation, and the first decision the group has to make is what power level (ie. how many points) to use.  A "standard" hero starts with 20 points, but characters can also be heroic, superheroic, or legendary (35 points).

Creation begins with the player selecting the character's name, nationality, and concept, and then using those points to buy their character's stats, skills and backgrounds.

Stats

Characters in AoS have three stats: Physique (in D&D terms Strength/Dexterity/Constitution),
Intellect (Intelligence/Wisdom) and Presence (Charisma).  Characters start with a 1 in each stat, and can spend points (up to 10) to increase a stat, to a maximum of 5 points.

Skills

Age of Steel features 27 different skills (eg. Bluff, Firearms, or Pilot), and each one can become "trained" for 1 character point.  In campaigns with Heroic or higher characters, a trained skill can be "mastered" for 2 more points.

Knacks

After buying skills each player can select three skills as their "knacks", to indicate that the character is especially good at those skills.  Skills which are knacks provide extra dice when used.

Backgrounds

Players who want their character to start with a job, hideout, vehicle, favors owed to them, a reputation, or just a bit of extra starting cash, can buy these intangible advantages as backgrounds.

Each background can be bought at three levels (costing 1 point each).  Characters can only have a maximum of three total levels of backgrounds if they are standard, and then three points more for each point level after (ie. legendary characters can purchased 12 levels of backgrounds total).

Starting Equipment

The final step of character creation is to spend money, and again the amount varies depending on the starting point level (from $350 for a standard character to $2000 for legendary ones).  Since a battle rig or airship can cost $1000 or more, standard characters wishing to start with such vehicles will need to use their background points to acquire them.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

The primary success mechanic in Age of Steel is a skill check.

Skill Checks

Every skill in AoS has a corresponding stat, and to make a skill check the player rolls a number of dice equal to their points in that stat (1-5).  They need to achieve a number of "successes" on those dice equal to the difficulty number set by the GM.

To succeed on an an untrained skill a player needs to roll a 5 or 6, but if they are trained in the skill a 4 also counts as a success.  If they have mastered the skill, then a 3 also counts as a success.

If a character has a knack in a skill they gain two extra dice for the roll.

Opposed Skill Checks

If the character is making a check that is opposed by another character (eg. in combat) the GM decides which one is the "passive" character.  That character makes a skill check, and then the "active" character must roll the same number of successes (or more) to succeed.

Moxie Points

Characters also start with a number of "moxie points" (based on their character point level).  These points can only be used once, although the GM can award more moxie points for good role-playing or completing a goal.

Moxie points can be spent in several ways, such as to provide temporary armor or avoid a roll that would result in death.  They can also be spent on skill checks, giving the player twice as many dice to roll for that check.

Combat [ edit ]

Initiative

Combat begins with each character rolling their Physique stat as if it was a trained skill (ie. 4+ counts as a success).  Their total number of successes becomes their initiative score for the combat.

If one group surprises another group, the group with surprise gets two extra dice for their initiative roll.

Actions

Each round of combat a character gets one primary and one secondary action.  Primary actions are things like attacking with a weapon or tackling someone, while secondary actions are things like aiming or moving.

Attacks

To attack a player makes an appropriate skill check (Firearms, Melee, or Unarmed).  This check is opposed by the defender's Melee/Unarmed skill (for melee combat) or their Reflexes skill (for ranged).

Both sides can potentially get modifiers to their roll, for instance due to close range (for ranged attacks), darkness, cover, etc.

Damage

Weapon-based attacks roll a certain number of dice for damage, depending on the weapon.  Melee attacks get bonus dice to the damage roll equal to the attacker's Physique stat divided by three, rounded up (and unarmed damage is purely based on Physique).

The attacker rolls and totals up the amount of damage (it's not a check so there are no successes).  The defender then subtracts their armor's value (if any) from the dice, and any remaining damage is subtracted from the their "grit points" (ie. hit points).

If the attack deals ten or more points the defender must make a wounds saved (ie. trained Physique check), and if they fail they also take a wound point.  If a character runs out of Grit points then each attack (regardless of damage) deals a wound point, and if a character runs out of both Grit and Wound points they are knocked unconscious and are bleeding out.

Vehicular Combat

Age of Steel also has separate rules for vehicular combat, with alternate primary/secondary actions such as Ram, Accelerate, and Emergency Break.

Should You Visit Neres? [ edit ]

Aggregated Review Scores

SourceAverage Score# of ReviewsAs Of
Drive Thru RPG4.3/5121/22/2022
RPG.net4/513/11/2022

Age of Steel is not a game from a major publisher. Quite the opposite, Isolation Games (the maker of AoS) is "a one-man-band indie roleplaying games company founded in 2017 and based in the South of England".  In other words, Age of Steel is made (largely) by a single developer, Rob Leigh, and he hasn't exactly succeeded in getting major publicity for the system.

However, the good news is that, even though it only has 12 customer reviews on DriveThruRPG, Age of Steel managed to earn a strong 4.3/5 stars average.  Similarly its review on RPG.net earned it a 4/5 stars, with the reviewer writing "overall this is an excellent little indie game that I and my group have really enjoyed playing through."

If you're looking to leave Earth and experience a new and detailed world, full of dieselpunk adventure ... a world with not just the usual airships and WWII-era technologies, but also mecha ("rigs"), cybernetic limbs (""mechaugmetics"), and many other unique aspects ... Age of Steel could be the perfect game for your next dieselpunk campaign.