PAX Australia 2017 Focus – Altais: Age of Ruin

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I wont lie – I’m a sucker for a thick RPG rulebook with gorgeous art on the front.  Well, at least it was enough to catch my eye and encourage me to pick up the book and have a read. And I’m glad I did, Altais: Age of Ruin is an intriguing and richly detailed world with a fairly interesting spin on magic and how it’s used.

Altais: Age of Ruin is a dystopian fantasy roleplaying game set on a world where the land has been ravaged by magic, where once noble kingdoms have fallen into tyranny and rebellion, and where the players can work to save the world or dance in the ashes.

We begin at the end of the story: humanity has fled their home to other worlds, built new civilizations and waged countless wars. Society has fallen and technology has been lost, but now on the distant world of Altais they try one last time to rebuild while the ancient enemy, the Rephaim, claim more territory every year. It is a desperate and dangerous time: The perfect time for heroes.

I caught up with Richard Stern and Laura Wilkinson at PAX Australia 2017 after signing up for a 5pm roleplaying session on the Saturday.  If you’ve read any of my previous articles from PAX this year you’ll know I was smart enough to setup meetings or sessions that involved plenty of sitting down later in the day.

Laura is a designer and writer for Perhelia Games, who have developed Altais: Age of Ruin, while Richard is the primary writer and creator. Having recently completed a successful Kickstarter Campaign that also achieved a number of stretch goals the game is now availabe on DriveThruRPG in both physical and digital formats.

I was joined by fellow ATGN contributor Harrison and provided with a number of characters to choose from.  While Harrison’s character was more of a rogue that excelled at agility and dexterity, I picked an older, wiser character with the power over storms and gravity (with the latter creating some interesting situations).

Magic is a bit of a taboo in Altais; it was magic that arguably helped destroy the world so people are naturally a little afraid of it.  Ironic then that the bulk of our party were casters, but at least it allowed me to see the variety that the magic system offers.  It’s really quite powerful, and I’ll definitely need to spend some time with the rules to ascertain just how right or wrong we were doing it in our demo game.  In one encounter I simply removed the gravity from a specific area of the dungeon, causing our opponents to float helplessly about the room, while in another my fellow mage who had the power over matter and the ability to change liquid into solid, solid into gas and the like, stopped several rat-like creatures in the sewers simply by turning the water into ice.

Compared to some systems this might seem a little overpowered at first level, however it certainly created some fantastic storytelling moments and ingenious thinking from the group.  Yet another caster in our group had the power over fire and was able to cause a distraction on the surface by setting fire to buildings and diverting the guards attention while we moved beneath the town towards our objective.

The entire game makes use of only 10 sided dice, whether for a skill check, attack or damage.  I really like how your scores add to the dice roll, not only to determine success or failure but degrees of success as well.  This too led to some really awesome storytelling moments, even in our short two hour session.  There was definitely a sense of achievement and excitement when rolling dice in a tense moment only to knock it out of the ball park with a success that was multiple tiers above the challenge.

The world map is split into several regions, each very different from the others and with some interesting design choices helping steer the game away from the cliche ‘European’ style world.  What location your character is born and raised in will help determine your particular class or build as well.  A large part of the world map though has fallen to the dark, and nasties are continually pushing East to devour what is left of humanity.

Being that the world is set in the far and distant future, where humans have taken to the stars, colonized other words and then forgotten about their heritage, the possibility for ancient and powerful technology exists.  In our small sample adventure we encountered a robot or android in a severe state of disrepair who had been walking the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

If any of this has gotten your attention then you don’t need me to prattle on about it anymore. A preview of the rulebook which contains a wealth of world information was made for the Kickstarter campaign and can still be read here.

Different and alien enough to be interesting, but familiar enough not to ostracize players and with an interesting dice roll and magic system that lends itself to some truly epic storytelling moments.

To summarise, both Harrison and myself, as well as the other players at the table had a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable time playing Altais: Age of Ruin and hopefully we will have our own copy of the book soon so we can give it a more thorough review.  At only $24.99 USD for the PDF copy, after reading the preview I linked above you might have all you need to convince you to pick up the game.

Liked it? Take a second to support ATGN on Patreon!

Leave a Reply