The Years of Adventure is a tabletop roleplaying game that takes characters across lifetimes as they learn, adventure, live, rule, and leave a legacy throughout the years. Pivotal moments in this game often come down to seconds and minutes, but the weeks and years leading up to those moments are just as important. In long campaigns of The Years of Adventure, characters journey through their entire life, gaining skills and abilities as they go from inexperienced youths to seasoned veterans. Eventually, characters may even retire, or perish, while the game continues on through their successors.
Inspired by epic fantasy series such as the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Earthsea, and A Song of Ice and Fire, The Years of Adventure was designed to create sweeping, large scale stories with a personal focus. Characters in this game may delve into ancient ruins and dark dungeons, explore mystical places, and battle magical beasts, but they are just as likely to negotiate a peace treaty with a neighboring monarch, lead soldiers into a large-scale battle, or spend years researching the secrets of immortality. They may even take a break and live quiet lives for 10 years before the call of adventure pulls them back out once again.
The following are the core principles used to guide the design of The Years of Adventure:
- Player Agency (Embrace the Sandbox): In sandbox play, there are no strict plots to plan out and follow. The Years of Adventure is designed to be character-driven from the outset: there is no story except the one created at the table, as a result of play. The game provides the tools for GMs to fill the sandbox, and systems to encourage players to choose their own adventure.
- Characters Change Over Time: The are no rigid character classes in The Years of Adventure. Instead, characters are defined by their skills, and abilities associated with those skills (referred to as techniques). Skills are improved and acquired organically over time through experience and training. A warrior does not always need to be a warrior: they can learn lead their people as a civilian, develop a love for music, or even learn magic. They may even do all of these things, adding new skills as they age. Long campaigns may see characters through their entire lives, and no person is the same throughout their lifetime.
- Actions Have Consequences: In sandbox play, the world reacts to the characters’ actions. Characters may improve the world through their heroics, or suffer the consequences of their poor choices, even up to injury or death. When combined with player agency, this also means that nothing should happen to the characters at random, the characters must always have a choice.
- The Rules are a Guide: Ultimately, it is the GM in communication with the players that decides what happens in the game. The rules and dice are meant to facilitate and guide play, but they are not the final arbitrator. They should be used or discarded in whatever manner provides the best experience for everyone involved.
Old School Meets New School
The Years of Adventure is part of the growing movement known as the New School Revolution. It takes inspiration from old-school tabletop RPGs and the games based on them, but it also pulls from modern gaming innovations, and isn’t afraid to drop tradition to meet its design goals. While TYOA does not always look like other games in the NSR, it does strive to meet many of the same goals of the movement.
For GMs, this means streamlined rules that build a fast-paced, easy to run game with the tools to make your life easier. For players, this means simple rules and a free-form character system that is quick to learn, but has the mechanical depth to ensure that no two characters will ever feel the same. For everyone, the game can serve all of your sandbox fantasy gaming needs, from one-shots to 100+ session campaigns.
One of the best parts of the NSR (and the OSR it is descended from) is the diverse library of adventures and settings made for its most popular games. Compatibility with these adventures is a major design goal for The Years of Adventure.
Systems Overview: The Toolbox
There are many subsystems that make up this game. When learning the game, the recommended approach is to treat each of these systems as tools in your toolbox, to be learned and used when you need them, and safely tucked away when you don’t.
The first, and most important, things to learn about in The Years of Adventure are skills and skill checks, the unified resolution mechanic used in the game. Skills are the primary attribute used for defining characters and their abilities. Skill checks are used to resolve any uncertain actions that a character might take, from jumping over a chasm or sneaking up on an enemy, to deciphering magical phenomena or even leading armies in battle. The only actions skill checks are not used to resolve are related to combat. Even then, skill checks and opposed skill checks may always be used in a pinch to resolve some unknown action. If you understand skill checks, you understand the basics of how to play this game.
Second to skills, characters have techniques. These special abilities modify and enhance character’s skills to solve problems in unique ways, often by enabling, improving, or removing the need for, a skill check. There are over 400 techniques in The Years of Adventure, although even the most powerful characters are likely to acquire no more than 20 of them, and inexperienced characters often only have 2 or 3. For new players, there are Character Origins, which provide a recommended combination of skills and techniques to get into the game as quickly as possible.
Characters also have a number of other important attributes, such as hit protection, determination points, stress and injuries, armor class, effort (for magical characters), and motivations. Many of these attributes will be familiar to those who have played other fantasy TTRPGs, while some are unique to The Years of Adventure. Motivations, for example, are used to guide a character’s roleplaying by aiding them on skill checks they are particularly passionate about. If they fail to succeed on their motivations, however, they may acquire Stress, which can only be removed with time and relaxation.
There are a number of systems characters will interact with through play, such as combat encounters, social encounters, injuries and scars, overland and sea travel, and the various ways of using magic, such as freeform rituals, when the established magical techniques just aren’t enough. These systems are largely optional or situation-specific, but can greatly enhance the enjoyment of those particular activities.
There are also a number of systems available to facilitate sandbox play. First and foremost is the Year Action system, which governs character advancement and the pace of a campaign in general. Characters use year actions to lay out the significant things they are doing in a year: questing, training, researching, participating in faction or domain play, or resting and relaxing after doing all of those activities.
Domains and Factions are the last two pillars supporting the TYOA sandbox, and both are tied into the year action system to serve as a guide to long campaigns. Domains represent entire governments, while factions represent the guilds, powerful families, mercenary companies, rebellions, religious organizations, and other smaller groups acting within a domain. There is a robust system for Armies, Navies, and Mass Combat to manage the type of interactions that may come up when resolving the actions of Domains and Factions.
The Years of Adventure has been a long labor of love, but it is still very much a work in progress. If you’d like to try it out now in it’s early state, you can find it for free on Itch.io or on the Archstone Press Patreon where you will also find adventures, settings, and other supplementary content for The Years of Adventure.