• COMING SOON! -- Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition! Level up your 5E game! The standalone advanced 5E tabletop RPG adds depth and diversity to the game you love!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

Agon 2nd edition

pemerton

Legend
I was given a gift card for my local games shop (Mind Games in Melbourne) and saw this on the shelf and picked it up.

I've had the free PDF for a long time (August 2006 download date) but never played it, and never read it that closely. The revised edition is also a game of Homeric Heroes forced to wander the Mediterranean as they try to return home, but is pretty different mechanically, and maybe in play too (I'm not sure exactly how the original version was meant to play).

The resolution is a little bit like Cortex+ Heroic: roll a dice pool built from Name, Epithet and Domain (a bit like Distinctions in Cortex+) and keep the two best results. The target number is determined by the GM ("Strife player") taking the best single result from his/her pool and adding a fixed value that reflects the current intensity of the strife.

There are a lot of interacting resource-and-recovery pools that power additional dice and absorb fallout: Pathos (the closest thing the system has to Healing Surges), Divine Favour, and Bonds (which allows bringing another character in to help you, either adding to your pool or protecting you from fallout). At the end of each contest, the highest successful player gets full Glory (equal to the target number), the other successful player(s) get(s) half that, and any player who lost gets 1 Glory. Glory serves similarly to XP: at certain totals the PCs' Name die is stepped up. There are also ways for gaining Boons, by pleasing the gods or by suffering lots of Pathos - these generally step up other dice (eg Epithet or Domain).

Angering the gods generates Wrath, which is a bit like the Doom Pool in Cortex+ and allows the GM to introduce additional dice into his/her pool. Pleasing the Gods can generate Divine Favour, and eventually allows the wandering heroes to return home.

The overall dynamic of play, as described in the book, reminds me a bit of AW and also of Dogs in the Vineyard (but with Islands and their strife in place of Towns and their sin). One feature which I would have to experience in play to get used to is that action declaration is rather sparse, and more of the detail comes out after a contest is resolved - players recite the deeds of their heroes.

I'm rather keen to play this game. Has anyone had experience with it?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I backed it and have the book and have read it, but I’ve yet to play it. I’m interested in hearing what others may say, too.

I’ve watched a little bit of actual play by John Harper, and I think your expectations of how it plays are probably pretty accurate.
 

pemerton

Legend
I backed it and have the book and have read it, but I’ve yet to play it.
I didn't know this was Kickstarted recently, but I guess that makes sense.

I’ve watched a little bit of actual play by John Harper, and I think your expectations of how it plays are probably pretty accurate.
From watching that, do you have any thoughts on the interplay between the declaration of approach and goal going into a contest, and the recitation of deeds after the dice are rolled?

I was reminded of this, from Ron Edwards:

Fortune-at-the-End: all variables, descriptions, and in-game actions are known, accounted for, and fixed before the Fortune system is brought into action. It acts as a "closer" of whatever deal was struck that called for resolution. A "miss" in such a system indicates, literally, a miss. The announced blow was attempted, which is to say, it was also perceived to have had a chance to hit by the character, was aimed, and was put into motion. It just didn't connect at the last micro-second.

Fortune-in-the-Middle: the Fortune system is brought in partway through figuring out "what happens," to the extent that specific actions may be left completely unknown until after we see how they worked out. Let's say a character with a sword attacks some guy with a spear. The point is to announce the character's basic approach and intent, and then to roll. A missed roll in this situation tells us the goal failed. Now the group is open to discussing just how it happened from the beginning of the action being initiated. Usually, instead of the typical description that you "swing and miss," because the "swing" was assumed to be in action before the dice could be rolled at all, the narration now can be anything from "the guy holds you off from striking range with the spearpoint" to "your swing is dead-on but you slip a bit." Or it could be a plain vanilla miss because the guy's better than you. The point is that the narration of what happens "reaches back" to the initiation of the action, not just the action's final micro-second. . . .

Is there such a thing as Fortune-at-the-beginning? Playtesting so far indicates that it's not very satisfying for Narrativist play; see discussions at the Forge of Human Wreckage and The World the Flesh and the Devil.​

And here's the statement of action resolution from The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, by Paul Czege:

When a player has stated intent for the character to do something where the outcome is in question, the GM will give the player one of the conflict resolution dice with the plus and minus symbols on them. Which one depends on his assessment of the difficulty of the situation and the character's ability to accomplish what the player intends. "Average" difficulty is represented by the 2+/4- die.

The player rolls both his W/F/D die and the one the GM gave him. If the result is a Devil+, it means the victory was one in which the character transcended some aspect of the Devil, and the player narrates the outcome. If the result is Flesh-, it's a failure of the flesh and the player narrates the outcome. . . .

There are no opposed rolls, and the GM never rolls. However, if a player rolls a red plus or red minus it means the GM narrates the outcome, rather than the player. This give the GM power to introduce bittersweet victories and dramatic, crippling failures.​

Not quite the Recitation of Deeds, but I hope it makes sense why I was reminded of it.
 

@pemerton I see what sparked the thoughts for sure. I don’t know how closely the actual play fits into Edwards’s idea. My initial take is that it’s more Fortune in the Middle. Each roll in Agon is meant to be a big deal, and can encompass an entire challenge more than one discrete action.

So I think the roll is used to help determine some of the specifics of the situation and why things went the way they did.
 


I'm rather keen to play [AGON]. Has anyone had experience with it?
Yes, I ran a 7 session campaign of it. Some short notes:
  • It is a ton of fun and captures the epic feel of Greek legends well. Players will be declaring their actions in formal style: "I, Minros the Big-Hearted, accept the challenge of the Sphinx and will call on my friend Cyrene the snake-tongued to assist me"
  • Sessions are not long; 3 hours was very typical for an Island, even with adding complciations
  • The aspect of vying to be best adds a bit of PvP to the game that also adds to the Greek heroic feel. It's nicely balanced in that it's not direct conflict, but definitely adds intra-players competition.
  • Worked nicely for four people, might have been better with three. Seemed a little too easy with four and there is not a lot of adjustment the GM can make for that. Three players is the sweet spot.
  • It has a formal feel, as each session follows a pretty fixed pattern. I thought this might annoy me, but actually it was fine.
  • I'm not sure if I got this right, but it seemed my players accrued too much XP for the campaign to last for the "regular" length. Fortunately I was running the short campaign so it was just about OK for me.
I made up some play aids for the group to use, including a table mat with spaces for people to place their dice on when declaring their actions -- but I think a simple paper print-out would work well. Below is a picture of my set-up in play. In terms of feel, much closer to Dogs in the Vineyard than AW. Each action resolution is a big deal and is as much about how you want to roll-play as maximize your win chances.

Overall, I'd recommend it for a fun short campaign (3-10 sessions) especially if a more formal epic feel will be a good change of pace.

Agon.jpeg
 


That play mat is snazzy! Did you design that @GrahamWills ?
Yes. I composited backgrounds from the AGON site and overlaid the central design from the book for conflicts, then added the player sections in each corner. Here's the (100MB+) photoshop file: http://willsfamily.org/files/rpg/misc/28x24_Graham_Wills.psd

I am happy for other people to use it as they like, but the artwork and components are copyright Evil Hat, so please respect that. Otherwise, enjoy!
 

pemerton

Legend
@GrahamWills, thanks for the posts! I think I'm too lazy to do anything as elaborate as your setup, but I am curious what the d20 in the middle is for?

Your comments on session length fit with my intuitions on reading, and comparing to other episodic-based games that I've run like The Green Knight and Prince Valiant (I've never played or GMed DitV).

You said "Each action resolution is a big deal and is as much about how you want to roll-play as maximize your win chances." Can you elaborate on that?

Also, can you say anything about how you approached the determination of divine favour (both for winning contests and as part of the post-Island denouement phase) and wrath (which I think happens only in that latter phase)?
 

@GrahamWills, thanks for the posts! I think I'm too lazy to do anything as elaborate as your setup, but I am curious what the d20 in the middle is for?
When I roll for the opposition, I set the d20 to that number so the players can see what they need to achieve. it’s not rolled — just used to mark a number. It was actually a little small and numbered cards would have been better, but I don‘t have any.
Your comments on session length fit with my intuitions on reading, and comparing to other episodic-based games that I've run like The Green Knight and Prince Valiant (I've never played or GMed DitV).

You said "Each action resolution is a big deal and is as much about how you want to roll-play as maximize your win chances." Can you elaborate on that?
(typo by me in the above — I meant roleplay, not roll-play. Hope that wasn’t a source of too much confusion)

This is an easy game to minimax; it won’t work with players who like to get every strategic advantage possible. They can add their good domain to every roll, make sure they can maximize aid for tough fights and so generally, if they want to ensure victory every time, it will be hard to run a challenging game. So it needs the players to buy into the roleplaying aspect. If you are trying to persuade a lover to return to his estranged family, you want to use domains and other modifiers that make sense. Mechanically, you can pay to add the fighting domain, invoke the help of Ares and win the conflict. But when the Minotaur (one of my players’ characters) has to roll oration, and none of his gods will help, it makes the challenge both trickier and more real. Of course, if they have a clever idea on how to use a different domain, or they invoke a god in a subtle way, that’s even better! But the game needs that to be the way that challenges are approached for it to be really fun.
Also, can you say anything about how you approached the determination of divine favour (both for winning contests and as part of the post-Island denouement phase) and wrath (which I think happens only in that latter phase)?
For me, it was a simple call. For each island I looked at which gods had any interest in the island, and if they would be happy with the outcome. So, early on, the players reunited a pair of lovers and stole things from birds sacred to Zeus; they also supported one leader who reduced the power of a temple to another god. Pretty obvious.

I think once when I stated what I thought the gods’ reactions were, that the players disagreed and I changed my mind, but mostly it was pretty clear. In fact most often the players would state that they expected it as they took action.

For me, the trickiest part of the game was deciding when something was a contest or not. I’d usually have a few definite contests in my notes, and by default most other situations were resolved without contests. But I like contests and so would add them occasionally, which inflated XP rewards per session and so escalated the game faster than I intended. I thought of some form of “trivial contest” rule, but the point of the game is for any contest to be consequential, so that’s probably a bad idea. Maybe adding situations where spending a favor or check or something would solve a minor issue would work. Or maybe (and likely) I just took some time to get used to the flow.

hope that helps!
 

pemerton

Legend
When I roll for the opposition, I set the d20 to that number so the players can see what they need to achieve. it’s not rolled — just used to mark a number. It was actually a little small and numbered cards would have been better, but I don‘t have any.
Cool, makes sense.

(typo by me in the above — I meant roleplay, not roll-play. Hope that wasn’t a source of too much confusion)
It wasn't - I picked it as a typo because the literal reading just wouldn't have made any sense at all!

This is an easy game to minimax; it won’t work with players who like to get every strategic advantage possible. They can add their good domain to every roll, make sure they can maximize aid for tough fights and so generally, if they want to ensure victory every time, it will be hard to run a challenging game. So it needs the players to buy into the roleplaying aspect. If you are trying to persuade a lover to return to his estranged family, you want to use domains and other modifiers that make sense. Mechanically, you can pay to add the fighting domain, invoke the help of Ares and win the conflict. But when the Minotaur (one of my players’ characters) has to roll oration, and none of his gods will help, it makes the challenge both trickier and more real. Of course, if they have a clever idea on how to use a different domain, or they invoke a god in a subtle way, that’s even better! But the game needs that to be the way that challenges are approached for it to be really fun.
Thanks. I'm curious how this will go with my group - or to be more precise, I'm wondering if the revealed player behaviour will match my mental predictions across the players! (There are some similarities to what you describe here in other systems we play like Cortex+ Heroic and 4e out-of-combat.)

For me, it was a simple call. For each island I looked at which gods had any interest in the island, and if they would be happy with the outcome. So, early on, the players reunited a pair of lovers and stole things from birds sacred to Zeus; they also supported one leader who reduced the power of a temple to another god. Pretty obvious.

I think once when I stated what I thought the gods’ reactions were, that the players disagreed and I changed my mind, but mostly it was pretty clear. In fact most often the players would state that they expected it as they took action.
OK. Did you do much handing out of Divine Favour as an immediate consequence of a contest?

For me, the trickiest part of the game was deciding when something was a contest or not. I’d usually have a few definite contests in my notes, and by default most other situations were resolved without contests. But I like contests and so would add them occasionally, which inflated XP rewards per session and so escalated the game faster than I intended.
I think our Prince Valiant game is probably awarding Fame at twice (or thereabouts) the rate per session that the rulebook envisages; but given the (in)frequency of our sessions that's not a problem. So if the same thing were to happen in Agon I'd probably be OK with it.

But another question I have related to contests is when you use a place as the opposition (eg scaling a cliff). On a quick read of some of the islands (I don't want to read them all in case we have any shared GMing) most of these don't seem to have epithets. Would you just make one up in that case?
 

OK. Did you do much handing out of Divine Favour as an immediate consequence of a contest?

But another question I have related to contests is when you use a place as the opposition (eg scaling a cliff). On a quick read of some of the islands (I don't want to read them all in case we have any shared GMing) most of these don't seem to have epithets. Would you just make one up in that case?
Here’s a note from a custom Island I designed — this may answer both the above questions:

————

Forest​

The forest has many raiders, but poorly organized and they do not attempt to attack you. However it is also inhabited by Harpies. You find the discarded clothing of two young persons and bare footsteps leading deep into the forest, followed by booted prints of the pursuing raiders.
  • Craft and Reason to find the lovers in the forest (Antio and Xestra)
  • Minotaurs get a d8 advantage in the maze of trees
  • d8 dark forest; d8 raiders; d12 (sacred) harpies; d12 Ares
  • Success: Divine favor of Aphrodite for all
————

This was on an island that was being sacked by seas raiders (previously the players had only partially succeeded with uniting an Island, so I made that island united as a piratical haven — this was the result). It’s about the most level of info I defined for a simple encounter with minimal consequences. For the challenge, I had 3 ever-present epithets; the raiders who were under Ares’ personal protection, and Zeus‘s harpies (they had his wrath almost all the campaign and in this finale island he was out for blood). For physical challenges I’d usually pick a single feature and assign a difficulty to that.

This was a pretty hefty challenge, but in fact the players went to a temple of Zeus earlier in the session and sacrificed to him successfully, so the harpies were withdrawn. Since the players had previously united in the worship of Ares, they actually all had some good favor with him, so they used that on this challenge. Greek gods have no problems playing both sides …

i didn’t usually give flavor in the middle of an island, but this was the final session, so no point doing it at the end! On reflection, when I next run AGON, I’ll probably do more of that.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top