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 13th Age Information

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PostSubject: 13th Age Information   Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:47 am

What is 13th Age?
Simply put, 13th Age is a "love letter to D&D", through the eyes of Rob Heinsoo (lead designer for D&D 4E) and Jonathan Tweet (lead designer of D&D 3E).

To elaborate, it's a d20 game based on the D&D 3.5E OGL, that takes the balance found in 4E, the principle of customization that's heralded as 3E's strong point, and just about every tweak and houserule that was popularized during 2E and earlier, then mashed it together with ideas from indie RPGs such as FATE, Dogs in the Vineyard, Burning Wheel, and Ars Magica, to create a "story-focused fantasy roleplaying game" that feels like every edition of D&D mashed into one system.


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PostSubject: What are its features?   Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:40 am

What are its features?
For a shorter list, see 13 Facts About 13th Age.

  • One Unique Thing.  This is often the distinguishing factor of a novel's protagonist, turned into a system feature.  This is "rule zero" placed in the hands of the DM and player simultaneously, allowing players to create truly unique characters that aren't necessarily game-breaking... unless the DM is 100% certain he can handle them.
  • Icons.  These are your Elminsters, your Vecnas, your Silver Flame Popes; major NPCs that shape the world, but are designed in such a way that A) they rarely get into the action themselves, and B) aren't immortal or unkillable; more often than not they're merely positions or placeholders that the DM can rename or replace if desired, or even remove when part of the story.  And yes, PCs can become Icons themselves in the long run.
  • Icon Relationships. A modification of the alignment system, which is faintly reminiscent of how it was used originally while easily adaptable to the 9-point or 5-point alignment, this anchors the PCs to the world they're in.  And it's well-played too: instead of merely saying who you're aligned towards, it even gives you insight on what sort of relationship is, so you can be working for the Emperor or even against the Emperor, even if you're not associated with any other Icon.
  • Relationship Dice. Taking Icon Relationships further, this mechanic (just like FATE's Fate Points) allows players to tweak the story as desired... if they roll well.  Rolling a d6 for each point of relationship you have with a particular Icon, whenever you get a 6, you or the DM can describe something related to that Icon that helps you and/or the party in some way; for example a wandering wizard who is an ally of the Archmage comes to aid the party.  When you get a 5 however, this is the "putting the player in the spotlight" move in Dungeon World, or what Wade Rockett calls the "Mephistophelean bargain": you get what you want, but at a cost.  For multiple dice, the story gets even more interesting should a 5 *and* a 6 come into play.
  • Escalation Die. Normally starting at round 2, when the PCs are giving it their all during a fight, at the start of the round the DM brings out a d6 with the "1" side faced up.  All PCs gain a +1 to attack rolls for that round.  At the start of each succeeding round, as long as the players are actively contributing to the fight, the die increases in value by one, up to its maximum of "6", and all PCs gain a bonus to attack rolls equal to that value.  This gives you a maximum of +6 to all attack rolls by round 7, which makes it far easier to face higher level threats as well as finish fights faster overall. Add the fact that you have several creatures that gain different benefits based on the escalation die's value, and it makes the battlefield less predictable.
  • Backgrounds as skills. Instead of having to assign a random bonus to determine how beneficial a background is to a character's checks, skills become part of the character's background, allowing you to apply a single background to different ability checks.  After D&D 4E's flexible skills that can be applied to different circumstances, this for me is a natural evolution of the skill system.  Does this mean "demigod" or "jack of all trades" is a valid background?  Yes and no, as discussed here.
  • Zones instead of squares. This allows for a variety of play styles: theater of the mind play, gridless map play, square grid play, and hex grid play.
  • A different way to use rituals. With the same magic-limiting aspect of D&D 4E rituals, but removing the need to separate rituals from regular spells, 13th Age allows casters (some with a feat) to turn one of their regular spells into a powerful ritual, as deemed appropriate by the DM.
  • Failing forward! Some recognize this as "Yes and/but...", while others see this in GUMSHOE's mechanics, but basically this is as simple as "regardless of how bad the roll is, the story still pushes forward."  Instead of a simple pass-fail for non-combat ability checks, you have a gradation from "success" and "success with complications", to "hilarious failure because of a natural 1" (which I personally add the phrase, "now moving on...").  This allows a continuity of pacing, and reduces the need to over-specialize.
  • Familiar world. Valiant warriors, bookish wizards, stealthy rogues, powerful magic and everything you'd expect in a game set in a medieval fantasy world.
  • Familiar mechanics. Just like any good D&D derivative, you have your standard six ability scores, levels and classes that make up the backbone of the system.
  • Simplified conflict resolution mechanics. Roll a d20, add modifiers, compare to a target number, and resolve.  Exactly like in virtually every edition of D&D, but embraced in 3E's simplification of saves, and 4E's transformation of saves into non-AC defenses.
  • Simplified defenses. Continuing the 3E and 4E evolution that simplified defense systems -- from a plethora of saves + AC, to just Fortitude, Reflex and Will saves + AC, to AC and NADs then saving throws taking on a new meaning -- by simplifying defenses to simply 3 types of defenses: armor class (AC), physical defense (PD), and magical defense (MD).
  • Expanded saving throws. The saving throw system in 4E was expanded to easy saves (6+), normal saves (11+), hard saves (16+), and impossible saves (21+).
  • Simpler death-related mechanics. Instead of having to introduce new mechanics for death and petrification and the like, death saving throws is now simply hard save (16+) ends, and you get to spend a healing surge once it ends (plus you get to take your turn as normal if you rolled a natural 20)... but on the other hand, four failures = death (and no there's no "nothing happens" area where rolling a 10-15 prevents you from dying or getting up). Also, petrification and the like are now summarily placed as "last gasp saves", which are also hard save (16+) ends, and like death saving throws causes death when you fail your save at the end of your turn four times.
  • Death isn't cheapened by resurrection. Yes there's a "raise dead" spell, but unlike D&D from any edition, there are given restrictions to how many times a character can raise dead, as well as be raised from the dead (it's once per level per cleric [a maximum of 10 per cleric, unless the DM rules a different interpretation], and by the second or third resurrection of either the cleric or the dead person, it can be potentially fatal to the cleric... and yes that means a cleric can be killed by attempting to raise dead someone that has been raised five or more times by others, even if it's the first time that the cleric tries to use the spell on him).
  • Simplified leveling structure. The levels are limited to 10 instead of 20-30.  This might seem like a downside to some, but when you merge spell levels with character levels it makes much more sense that you're only up to level 10; after all, level 9 spells are supposedly the most powerful spells you can cast, why separate the tracking of these two? Why not just make them one "level" instead of a variety of levels to track?  To compensate, levels are given greater emphasis; one level in 13th Age is the equivalent of three levels in D&D 4E.
  • EXP is removed.  It's one of the most common houserules since D&D's conception, focuses on story progression as opposed to EXP harvesting, and allows the DM to control the story's pacing directly, as opposed to trying to fit in various mechanics to do exactly that.
  • Karma system.  It not only set a hard limit on the character's ability to benefit from magic items of the same type (so no wearing of two different boots to benefit from both magic items), but also puts a soft limit on how many magic items you can benefit from, using "quirks" or sentience that allow the items to force you to roleplay in a certain way, should you become too greedy.  It's also noted that magic items can actually die or deactivate, and because the system's math does allow tables to make them optional
  • Mooks.  This is an interesting evolution of the 4E minions and the 3E frail monsters, which reduces the need for area attacks, multiple attacks and even 4E swarm monsters, all at once.  Basically mooks are minions that have more than 1 HP, share HP and take damage on a miss.  Whenever the HP pool takes enough damage, out goes one mook.  This immediately makes multi-target attacks very devastating to mooks, much like how D&D 4E swarms are vulnerable to area attacks, but further ups the ante on heroic action adventuring, allowing you to execute cleaving attacks on hordes without needing additional mechanics.


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PostSubject: What are the advantages of 13th Age?   Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:41 am

What are the advantages of 13th Age?

  • Easy to DM. D&D 4E was easy to DM in terms of preparation, but the long fights and hefty tracking made DMs susceptible to burnout (I know I did).  The fact that you're tracking just 10 levels and everything's designed so that less tracking is necessary makes it a breeze to DM, even in the long run.
  • Fast gameplay, both in and out of combat. The game elements come together to bring you combat that's almost as tactical as D&D 4E, but clearly much faster than 4E in resolution, even at higher levels.
  • Modular design, within a solid system. You can adapt any system in 13th Age to any d20 RPG with very little to no hassle.  At the same time, you can run the rules by the book with no tweaking necessary.
  • Houserule-friendly.  Everything is designed so that they're easy and simple to tweak as necessary (the One Unique Thing alone is already a powerful example of this).  The fact that it uses the OGL means that it is very third party friendly as well.
  • Gorgeous layout.  I'm primarily talking about the fact that instead of class features being set in stone and feats all dumped into one section, each class has a variable set of class features called class talents, and all feats that modify each race, each class feature, each class talent and even class power are segregated in such a way that you can easily browse through all 400+ feats of the book without being overwhelmed by the choices.  The fact that the glossary and index are merged in such a way that the index IS the glossary (having a short summary that reduces or removes the need to flip pages just to get terminologies straight) is a wonderful boon on top of it all.
  • It plays like D&D even if the mechanics are different.  This is more of a "feel" thing, but even without all the mechanics associated with D&D -- saves, Vancian magic, 9-point alignment -- the overall experience is still very much D&D, regardless of what edition you're coming from.

Ash Law says it right when he states,
Ash Law wrote:
"One of the reasons I like +13th Age so much is that it sits in the middle of the gaming venn diagram.

"It is OSR in that you have an excited fan base talking about new ways to use existing mechanics and coming up with new mechanics, mashing it up to fit their favorite setting, and excited creators who enable nay encourage that. It is a Story Game in that it encourages and rewards story and character over rule-play, and the rules are in service to the story of the characters. It is a modern game in that it isn't afraid to try new things, things that do not traditionally appear in d20-rolling fantasy games. It is a classic game in that it focuses on heroes and monsters and dungeons and dragons (and kobolds, and gelahedrons, and fantastical locations, and cursed swords, and ancient ruins, and gritty tales of high fantasy, and wizards, and barbarians, and paladins).
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PostSubject: What are its shortcomings?   Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:42 am

What are its shortcomings?

  • Balanced, yet unbalanced.  In some ways yes it is balanced because thanks to backgrounds, relationship dice and your one unique thing you're able to keep your character as capable of contributing to a scene and a fight as a caster, but at the same time it's not balanced because there are two types of classes in the game -- simple classes that gain class talents over time, and complex classes that gain powers over time -- and naturally simple classes have to rely on ability checks more than complex classes, who have powers to boot (thankfully though most simple classes have talents that lets PCs gain powers, while the Barbarian has much more powerful class talents at higher levels). Additionally, while there's a very hefty move to limit the advantages of mechanical-level system mastery, there still is some game-bending combos even after the book's release.
  • Limited audience.   I'm very aware that some players consider it as 4.5E, 4E's equivalent of Pathfinder, or the spiritual successor of 4E. However, as Ash Law puts it,
    Ash Law wrote:
    "It isn't all things to all people, and doesn't try to be. Nor is it fully in any part of the diagram. It isn't OSR because many sacred cows were brutally slaughtered to make delicious rpg-burgers (no XP? Flat monster damage except for dragons and similar? Alignment as a purely optional non-core thing? Power balance baked in at core?). It isn't a Story Game because it contains tactical combat elements (while keeping combat fluidly cinematic and fast-moving). It isn't modern because the roots of this game can be found in the oldest of the boxed sets and feels like the classic games of yore in all the right ways. It isn't classic because the focus is on the characters and their place in the world rather than strict acquisition of gold and goblin scalps and eschews many of the more fiddly parts (no tracking encumberance or rations or other make-work)."


  • Limited content. Thankfully the simplistic design and modular nature of the system allows you to adapt D&D adventures from all editions to 13th Age (in fact I've been able to adapt LFR to 13th Age with virtually no issue), but this is a natural part of having any new system.  13 True Ways -- which features the Chaos Shaman, Battle Captain, Monk, Druid, Occultist, summoning and dragon riding rules, among other things -- and the 13th Age Bestiary are currently under way, and there are a number of third party products that have been successfully funded in Kickstarter already.  By the way, 13th Age has just recently launched an Organized Play setting called Tales of the 13th Age (I'm one of the authors/Tale Spinners), and they are adventures that occupy six sessions per play, and are designed to be run independent of each other as well as in succession to each other (so newbie players need not be left behind by much if they come into the mini-campaign in a much later session).  While it's only 6 weeks for level 2 characters only, there are plans to push this for all 13 Icons and all 10 levels, which in theory would roughly equates to 780 sessions' worth of adventures (15 years if you play once a week!), if that plan falls through.
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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:45 am

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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:59 am

Cool stuff. I'm really getting into 13th Age. It feels like a 4e inspired game to me. It has simple yet elegant mechanics like 4e too. I was actually going to buy one a few weeks back but my card was denied because It was an out of country purchase. That's what you get for buying disposable visa cards for online shopping. I do plan on putting the money In my real bank account though next time so I can pick it up. I really like the way 13th Age handles your one unique thing and that it doesn't have 101 rules like other d20 games to bog you down.

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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Aug 08, 2013 8:52 pm

Felorn Gloryaxe wrote:
Cool stuff. I'm really getting into 13th Age. It feels like a 4e inspired game to me. It has simple yet elegant mechanics like 4e too. I was actually going to buy one a few weeks back but my card was denied because It was an out of country purchase. That's what you get for buying disposable visa cards for online shopping. I do plan on putting the money In my real bank account though next time so I can pick it up. I really like the way 13th Age handles your one unique thing and that it doesn't have 101 rules like other d20 games to bog you down.
Exactly. The way the book is organized and the game is run is so intuitive that the only time I actually pull up the book nowadays would be for the lore, and even then it's only for written lore I want to add into my games. Everything else I rely on personal DM notes (either written or mentally tucked away for future use) or on a variety of 1-2 page aids, like the GM Aid and a bunch of 3"x5" index cards.

Speaking of lore, another feature of the system is that unlike most TRPGs, the default campaign setting -- the Dragon Empire -- is designed from the ground up to be homebrew-friendly. You could plop in your existing homebrew campaign, or even have players introduce their own concepts to the world with virtually no hassle. Nothing in the lore is really set in stone aside from the cities' locations, and even the Icons themselves are malleable (as mentioned earlier); either there's a "Rob says/Jonathan says" dichotomy on what could possibly be found in the world, or there's this "here's how we envision how this part of the world looks like".

While the product and company is completely different, I highly recommend Dungeon World as a complementary aid to 13th Age, as the former provides excellent DMing and player advice, while the latter gives you just enough crunch to let you play what I consider a truly D&D experience, without weighing you down too much on mechanics.

I think what also has to be noted is the overall tone of the book's content. Unlike most TRPGs I've read, it feels like the book isn't so much a rulebook as a discussion table between you and the game designers themselves. While there are parts that basically go for "you have to do this", there are also parts that basically go for "you can do this", with Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet giving insight on why each rule is designed a certain way from their perspective, and how it can be played around at other tables. It's this personal touch that makes all the difference to me, because I'm no longer just reading a rulebook and trying to make their game work for my table, it's more like being right there at their game table, teaching my how to make our game work for my table.
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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:57 pm

Gary Gygax wrote in similar way. If you ever get to read on of his books you cal really tell that he poured his heart into those books. It's good to see that some game designers still care enough about gaming and not just making money.

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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:45 pm

I just stickied this.
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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:08 pm

The 13th Age SRD has just been released! Smile You can view it at http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=13316
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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:14 pm

*snap*

Was just getting ready to post about this. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:01 pm

A 4E Player's Guide to 13th Age, by Mike Shea, webmaster of Sly Flourish, author of Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips (which is technically DMG 3) and The Lazy Dungeon Master (my personal favorite DM guide). Very neat review of 13th Age, on why 13th Age is worth picking up by any D&D 4E group (be it as an augmentation of, or as an alternative to, D&D 4E).
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PostSubject: Re: 13th Age Information   Sun May 11, 2014 4:29 pm

Are there any pg. 42 like things for 13th Age?

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