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Tabletop Game / Age of Aquarius

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First edition cover

Age 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 of dealing with it without catastrophic 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.
  • Color-Coded Item Tiers: The game has a rarity rating for every weapon or item. It features standard rarity ratings of "Common", "Rare", "Very Rare" for most items, and off-the-scale, idiosyncratic rarity ratings for both extremely common items (i.e. Rock: "It's probably lying under your feet right now") and extremely rare items (i.e. Minigun: "Hell freezes over before you find one").
  • 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 end of the Cold War. 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.
  • Imperfect Ritual: The game mechanics allow you to try this at your own risk, with a penalty called magic dysharmony. Some components of rituals are essential and can't be swapped, however.
  • 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 defunct Era-Aquarius forum 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: The game 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".
  • 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 noble and very badass werewolf.
  • 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
  • Point Build System
  • Post-Modern Magik: 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.
  • 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.
  • Ritual Magic: All of it. That's what makes magic different from, say, Psychic Powers.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: Giant rats (based on a Russian urban legend) are included in the enemy stat block.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The 13th Department of NSA (the American Nettersheimer organisation) is an allusion to Bureau 13.
    • DEFENDER has a pilot named Cid.
    • The 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.
  • Supernatural Repellent: Radiation repels and hurts spirits. Those spirits who cannot simply leave the presence of the radiation isotopes (like earth spirits, bound to their land,) were subjected to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • 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.