First edition coverAge of Aquarius
(Russian: Эра Водолея, or "Era Vodoleya
") is the first commercial Tabletop RPG
produced in Russia. Appeared in 2001 and went through two editions to date, it is set in a world similar to our own
, where various supernatural phenomena are a reality but are hidden under The Masquerade
. It was compared to the Old World of Darkness
, but unlike it, Age of Aquarius is a more optimistic and idealistic world
According to the story, the astrological age of Pisces, associated with organized religion and science, is slowly fading
, and the new age of Aquarius, associated with magic
, is setting foot on the world. But our society is incapable to deal with it without catastrophical changes, necessitating use of The Masquerade
to unveil the truth very slowly. To do that, an international conspiracy of security agencies
is created in 1945, called the Nettersheim Pact.
The first edition of this game was mostly concerned with the activities of the Russian organisation of the Nettersheim Pact, called Institute of Applied Exophysics
. The second edition added two more playable organizations: DEFENDER, a heroic Private Military Contractor
which is aware of the big picture and is preparing to fight off an apocalypse
, and the Utopists, who are a loose network of roguish, but generally Chaotic Good Mad Scientists
. Of course, an option to play as an unaffiliated team was always present.
This Tabletop RPG provides examples of:
- All Myths Are True: played with. Because of the somewhat malleable nature of supernatural reality, everything a lot of people believe in exists in some form. Another question is, though, can it interact with you?
- Always Chaotic Evil: played with. Vampires in Age of Aquarius are infected by a demonic virus that slowly turns them evil. A vampire older than a human could be is almost guaranteed to be evil; a young one can try and give The Virus a fight.
- Angels, Devils and Squid: they inhabit the deep astral.
- Animesque: as you can see from the cover.
- The Archmage: Semyon Nikolaev.
- Astral Projection: a psychic power.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: both magic and religion run on this in Age of Aquarius. Basically, if enough people believe in something, it becomes real.
- Colonel Badass: Evgeni Veeda, the Institute's chief operative (technically a Lt.Colonel), and Buran, the DEFENDER commander.
- Damage Reduction: armor does it.
- Demonic Possession: yes, they can do it to you.
- End of an Age: the basic premise.
- Extranormal Institute: the Institute of Applied Exophysics was one before The Great Politics Mess-Up. Then it had to become a full-on force of The Men in Black.
- Experience Points: called "плюшка" (a word that literally translates to "a sweetroll").
- Expy: DEFENDER, of Final Fantasy VIII's SeeD.
- Fantastic Science: exophysics, that is scientific study of the supernatural.
- Fighter, Mage, Thief: the trio of protagonist organizations. DEFENDER is Fighters, the Institute is Mages, the Utopists are Thieves.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly
- Government Conspiracy: the Nettersheim Pact is an international, benevolent one.
- Hermetic Magic: your character can practice it.
- Heroic BSOD: the second edition has a game mechanic for it.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Boris Ivanov, the Institute's head. His stat block comes with a "TOP SECRET" instead of a portrait.
- Knight of Cerebus: the Fallen Primordials, not appearing in any of the two main edition books, but stated in previews to be the Big Bads behind the prequel game Age of Pisces: Scarlet Dawn and suspected to be actually responsible for the attack on the Institute in 1992. AoP:SD is already explicitly stated to be Darker and Edgier than the main setting, and the main setting itself grew somewhat Darker and Edgier after the developers (Aurora, to be precise) came up with these guys.
- The (now defunct) Era-Aquarius forum also contained the developers' references to "the Black Net" and the "New World Order", who are supposed to be the Fallen Primordials' mortal agents and be capable of collapsing the intricate balance of The Masquerade.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: vampires have it as a natural ability, the Institute has to make "forget serums" from vampire saliva.
- Like Reality Unless Noted: it can be played as anything from overt Urban Fantasy to subtle Magical Realism.
- Magic A Is Magic A: exophysics (and the game's mechanics) makes a sharp distinction between magic per se, religious phenomena, psychic powers and workings of spirits. Each of these is quite unique and has a set of game rules, often complex and precise.
- The Magic Comes Back: again, the basic premise. Whether it is a good thing or not, depends on the MIB's efforts.
- Magic Knight: the DEFENDER.
- Magic Misfire: called dysharmony.
- Magic-Powered Pseudoscience: played with. In this world, any science passes through Magic-Powered Pseudoscience phase before being fully estabilished as hard fact. Characters who dabble in it are called "technomages".
- Mainlining the Monster: Vampire saliva is used to make a Laser-Guided Amnesia inducing drug. No profit on it is made, though, since the Institute, who owns the technology, is a noncommercial organization, and it needs the drug itself to enforce The Masquerade.
- The Masquerade: enforced worldwide, but still cracking.
- The Men in Black: all organisations of the Nettersheim Pact are various kinds of MIB. The Russian IAE is a quite benevolent (and mostly plainclothes) version; some others are not.
- Mooks: a game mechanic exists in the second edition that gives the mooks a simplified health tracking system.
- Mysterious Watcher: in the first edition, Semyon Nikolaev was described as that: a shadowy archmage who watches over people and teaches them magic while remaining unseen. The second edition gave him more character evolution, turning him to something like Big Good Mysterious Protector.
- Noble Wolf: Evgeni Veeda, a Lawful Good and very badass werewolf.
- No Export for You: it was made by a team of enthusiasts who had troubles fiding a publisher. Of course it isn't hitting American bookshelves.
- Occult Law Firm: averted. The Institute utilizes an extraordinary tribunal of law that provides the supernatural criminals a free (but terrible) defence attorney and most likely will convict them. It's the investigation that tells innocent from guilty. All this is actually an exaggerated form of Soviet justice system.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Buran's real name is Georgy Maximovich Zheleznyak. Everyone calls him by nickname, which means "Blizzard".
- Our Vampires Are Different: vampirism in this verse is caused by a magical demonic virus.
- Our Werewolves Are Different
- Path of Inspiration: many cultist type enemies of the Institute. The first edition even had the guts to openly accuse Scientology of being one of those.
- Point Build System
- Post Modern Magic: called "neo-magic". It allows you mix different magical traditions and will never conflict with modern lifestyles, but will always be underpowered compared to "pure" Ancient Traditions.
- Power Levels: spirits have these in form of the "Power Index". They range from 1 (an invisible, powerless spirit - typical for a freshly dead soul of a common civilian) through 2-4 (ghosts who can manifest, knock or sometimes even materialize, most nature spirits also go here) through 5-6 (powerful angels and demons who can work miracles) to 7 (small-g gods in full power).
- Private Military Contractor: DEFENDER.
- Promoted Fangirl: Aurora Nikolaeva, one of the authors of the second editions. She even lampshades it in the foreword.
- Psychic Powers: run all the gamut from telepathy to clairvoyance to psychokinesis. Your character can use them if they have the "Psychic" advantage.
- Rat Stomp: rats are included in the enemy stat block.
- Red October: the (yet unreleased) prequel game Age of Pisces: Scarlet Dawn will be set in this era. Think Deadlands IN SOVIET RUSSIA!
- Ritual Magic: all of it. That's what makes magic different from, say, Psychic Powers.
- Sanity Meter: the Confidence stat doubles as one. If you lose it, you can end up with psychological disadvantages or even lose your sanity completely. A very real occupational hazard for both mages and psychics.
- The 13th Department of NSA (the American Nettersheimer organisation) is an allusion to Bureau13.
- DEFENDER has a pilot named Cid.
- The current development team is called POPEREK, which is Russian for ACROSS.
- The Six Stats: a slightly altered version. The three physical stats are ISO standard; the mental stats are Education (loosely equivalent to D&D Intelligence) , Cognition (loosely equivalent to D&D Wisdom) and Confidence (loosely equivalent to D&D Charisma). There is also the seventh stat, Luck. They all range from 0 (a challenged person) to 5 (world-famous for it). A stat of 6 is too uber to be normal and typically belongs to some powerful supernatural creature. 7 and 8 are reserved for god-like NPCs than may even be honest-to-goodness gods or demigods.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: that's how exophysics works.
- They Fight Crime: They are Player Characters. They work for the Institute. They fight supernatural crime!
- Time Abyss: Semyon Nikolaev, a.k.a. Hermes Trismegistus, Enoch and Count de Saint-Germaine. Word of God states him to be 15000 years old.. Still younger than many spirits and gods, but you already expect Archangel Michael, Odin or Cthulhu to be older than the mountains, so they do not fit the trope. And you definitely do not expect the kindly old telephone prankster to be that ancient.
- Trickster Mentor: Granddaddy Semyon again. His favourite way of teaching magic is via phone prank. If Semyon appears in person and speaks plainly and clearly, it means some serious trouble a-brewing, serious enough to warrant his personal intervention. The last time he did so was World War II.
- World Half Full: the twilight between eras is dark and dangerous, but there's hope everything will get better.