Another day, another fantastic review for 13th Age – in this case, coming from Extrakun over on RPG.net, who rated it a 5 (Excellent!) for both Style and Substance. Describing it as a “lean and mean medium crunch game which is a blast to play”, Extrakun goes on to explain that:
“I have been looking for my ideal fantasy RPG for a long while and usually ended up disappointed because of some aspects coming up short. 13th Age ended my search – the ways the game deals with combat, magic items, adventuring and character development are just exactly what I wanted.”
“I review 13th Age as a d20 game with an emphasis on story, medium crunch character development and combat, and ease of play. By those criterion, I will say 13th Age has succeeded admirably.”
Read the full review here.
Matt Nelson entered the Monster Art +13 contest for 13 True Ways with the following proposal:
The older fantasy art that stands out to me depicts the moment right before a losing battle. It doesn’t show what happens in the fight – the threat of doom can be more captivating than the violence itself. Instead, it focuses on that moment when the heroes realize they’re outclassed – seeing the dragon’s eye looking in through the window or dozens of undead crawling out of the ground around them.
I suggest a piece depicting a party trekking through the Frost Range. A gigantic Remorhaz bursts out of the snowy ground behind them, and the fur-clad heroes turn to face the monster, drawing their weapons and realizing that their luck has run out.
Want something smaller? Lose the snow and make it an Ankheg. (Any monster with a silent “h” works.”)
The remorhraz is getting loving attention in the 13th Age Bestiary and I didn’t want to double-cover it in 13 True Ways. The ankheg waved a pincer signifying “I would love to ambush some halflings and gnomes.”
Hence this great thumbnail from Aaron McConnell. Maybe it’s called “I’m Your Silent H.”
I feel a little awful about this illustration. Not because of the panic on the faces of the fleeing halflings. No. I feel something awful because the brave halfling woman standing her ground is NOT a Shaman. Another title of this rough sketch could be “This is not a chaos shaman.” Doesn’t matter what Aaron wrote up on top of the illustration. This woman is a druid.
We’ll show you the chaos guys quasi-soonish.
This just in from the printers. The book blocks are printing now, but they are going on a three-week break, and the books will be bound in early July to hit our delivery times.
Craig Landers, who has taken this product under his Texan wing, tells us that their presses run at 12,000 sheets per hour when going full blast, and the folder runs at about 4-5 thousand sheets per hour. The colour looks excellent.
What’s it like to play 13th Age at Rob Heinsoo’s table? You might get an idea from listening to the actual play episodes from BJ Shea’s Geek Nation, or reading about playing the demo with Rob at PAX. Recently Rob wrote on his own blog about a rowdier-than-usual session of his home campaign. Enjoy.
Reserve your copy of 13th Age today!
Last night’s 13th Age session was even madder than usual. Three of the six players in the Wednesday night group were rejoining our campaign after finishing several weeks of a mad sprint to get a great new iOS game ready for submission to the PAX 10 contest. It was wonderful to have them back. But a day off from work had included, umm, celebrations earlier in the day that left one of the players flapping madly in the wind before the game night’s drinking had even begun. So to frame the action around the table, the congratulatory note I got earlier this morning centered on having found a way to allow the boozled player to LARP as a Chaos Beast. Metaphorically true.
It takes me way too long to do full game write-ups, meaning that I end up not doing any write-ups. That’s got to stop. So here are high points from last night’s plucky attempt to deliver a centuries-old message tube to the Emperor, who in this case happens to be an Emperor who has been dead all those centuries. He’s buried in a recently rediscovered Imperial Tomb and the Imperial Tomb Approach Paths appear to be experiencing dimensional turbulence, probably related to the destruction of the flying realm that warded the area. Behind the scenes, I was tinkering with dimensional madness because I’ve had the developed mechanics for chaos beasts and naga and drow to get into playtest in a hurry.
The Return of Luthan: Fehlauer had rolled up his one-armed wood elf fighter ages ago and then I’d placed the character sheet in a Very Safe Location that we hadn’t uncovered for later games. His original ability scores? Ridiculously well-rolled. When he had to recreate the character (these were the days before electronic devices . . . . or rather the days before we got around to using them) I had made him reroll his ability scores. It didn’t go so well. So yesterday the session returned to glory days for Mike, because I’d found Luthan’s One True Character Sheet. Happiness is an overly competent mini-maxer reunited with his well-rolled stats.
Chumming My Dungeon: Early on I asked Lightner, playing a bard who’d rolled a story-die result with the Emperor, to go ahead and tell me what the name of the Emperor was who was buried in the tomb. As I was talking, I’d decided that although Emperors in this campaign had no name during their reign, The Emperor being quite sufficient, dead emperors gradually acquired a sobriquet that summed up their spot in the historical record. Without missing a beat, Lightner, playing the Intelligence-nerd bard, said,
“Why, the Bloody Emperor. Of course.”
“Thank you. Oh, thank you,” I said.
“Chumming the dungeon!” chirped Lightner.
The table bursts out in all its voices, “How about the Generous Emperor? Or the Emperor of Incredibly Rich Funeral Goods? The Emperor of You Can Take it With You?” And so on.
Reservoir Elves: At some point, approaching the gatehouse in the middle of the tomb path, I asked for a marching order. They spread the minis across the table. Six abreast. Everyone wanted to be in front. Well. OK. The immediate reference to Reservoir Dogs only temporarily lurched into Mr. Pink designations. Foreshadowing, there.
Hampered: At some point I told Fehlauer that Luthan was hampered, save ends. “Hampered! Oh, slightly dampish.” “But placed carefully at the side of the battle.” And it dissolved from there.
“Thank you. Thank you all. The book has gone to the printer, and you waited for the perfect moment to notice this term. Thank you.”
Rumpled: The battle mat was just a tiny bit folded, mounding in a few rubber crests. Not enough to be a true problem, but it was fascinating to watch people decide that dice that were not favorable to them that happened to be sitting on a slope of any gradient were “clearly cocked.” Rerolls occurred quickly. But really, I was hitting them hard in order to test nagas and some nasty drow, so the one-quarter cocked interpretation of the night was fine.
I’ll Just Lie Here, Thanks: The elven rogue who plays like a ninja, Talimir, wasn’t having the best session, partly owing to the player being smashed. Talimir got smashed too, but by a troll wearing the red and gold livery of an alternate emperor. So Talimir’s player, Mark, kind of faded in and out of the building, getting up for air.
Nobody healed Talimir the first round, so it’s time for a death save. Mark didn’t bring dice this time, grabs a die out of the pile and rolls. That’s the result pictured above, though not the original location of the roll. Mark said, “17,” pushed away from the table, and shambled into the darkness for awhile.
When the explosion of voices around the table had died away, I heard Sean say, “Well, Mark found a way to roll less than 1.”
The Blue Cube of Zero is going to be a thing, particularly since Mark’s usual yellow d20 has rolled so poorly for so long (original 3e playest) that we all know it as Old Yeller.
And yeah, in the daylight I can see that this bead isn’t actually blue, but that’s what it looked like in last night’s bad light and it might be funnier to get the color wrong.
Today, 13th Age goes to press.
The endless ways in which printing might go wrong never cease to surprise me. Taylors have a big plant vacation between now and GenCon, so this is cutting it fine, and the team have been working late nights, with hair pulled out where it is present, and there has been some off-colour language, from me, anyway.
The proofing process has been interesting. 13th Age has been a big collaboration, and the layout has been fiendishly complicated, technically. The first proof was too dark, strange artifacts appeared where there should have been transparencies, and it’s taken Taylor’s top chap Craig Landers to fix things at the printer end and Chris Huth to make changes at the layout end, while Rob Heinsoo and I just muttered in the backgrounded and wrangled everyone. We even called on Beth Lewis, Pelgrane Emeritus, for sage advice. Craig told me in his Texas drawl to stop bugging him while his working, so I did.
For Rob, it must be a distinct contrast to working at Wizards of the Coast, where he could no doubt just breeze in, write a roleplaying game and then pop to the Hasbro cocktail lounge at lunchtime for Mohitos and olives.
So, Craig took these pictures on his iPhone of the interiors so the colours are not accurate.
Rob Heinsoo crawled miraculously unharmed out of the massive footprint left by a Koru Behemoth to give us this sneak peek at more 13 True Ways monster art…
The Monster Art +13 contest we ran after the 13 True Ways Kickstarter had one entry that I discarded immediately. It was from Christoper Tatro and it read like so:
Ever see a dog in a stand-off against three larger animals it doesn’t quite know what to make of, like turkeys or goats or something outside its realm of experience? How it crouches its front end down and growls, its back end still raised and ready to spring or run? And the other animals just look on unphased and unimpressed?That, but with a tarrasque facing down three Koru Behemoths, in a clearing with a nearby forest coming up only to about belly-level for scale.
I laughed. Christopher wanted his tarrasque and he wanted it with Koru Behemoths on top! He’d only forgotten the part that said that one of the Koru Behemoths was swinging an aircraft carrier as a baseball bat.
My first reaction was because I’d decided to avoid illustrating any Behemoths for awhile, to let people’s imagination carry them wherever they wished . . . a plan that pays off with great fan art like the piece done by Temporalpyradox on the Impossible Forge tumblr. Also, Ken Hite was already going to run the tarrasque in the 13th Age Bestiary, and I didn’t want to horn in on that action.
But the more I thought about the image the more it appealed to me. And I remembered our guiding principle that showing off one flavor of Behemoth meant nothing about all the other flavors. So I asked Aaron McConnell what he thought of the illustration, implying that I thought it was crazy. And of course Aaron said, “Oh, I don’t know. It sounds kind of challenging. I could get into that.”
So here you are. I’m showing the rough draft of this two page spread though the final may be somewhat different. There are going to be more elements that show scale, there are going to be more features and carapaces and such on the behemoths, maybe small changes to the tarrasque. I think of this look for the Behemoth as moving forests, probably more connected to the High Druid than others.
And yes, the tarrasque will appear first in the Bestiary, with a great writeup from Ken. Jonathan and I will find some other Way of the Tarrasque in 13 True Ways.
You can order the game directly from us, or pre-order 13th Age at your favorite game shop and still get the finished PDF from us that same day. Your retailer also gets a discount if they pre-order copies, so you’re doing them a double favor.
How to order 13th Age from your retailer and get the PDF now:
- If you retailer is a member of the Bits and Mortar program, place a pre-order with them and they’ll give you a code to download the PDF.
- If your retailer is not a Bits and Mortar store, email a scanned image or a legible photo of your receipt to Cat Tobin at email@example.com, and we’ll send you a link to the PDF.
Retailers only order games if they think their customers will buy them. So if you want your local to stock 13th Age, let them know there’s demand out there!
You can also show your local shop that 13th Age is a Good Thing for them to carry by offering to run a game there — we’re happy to offer you our support. (Just ask the nice folks at Fair Game in Illinois.) Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know when and where you’re running. We can send you flyers, postcards and maybe some other fun stuff!
Erik Kain recently gave 13th Age an excellent review on Forbes.com, saying:
“…one of the best systems I’ve encountered—and I’ve either played or read the rules to countless d20 systems at this point—is 13th Age, a game cobbled together by Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo.”
He then goes on to say:
“13th Age is … fun, fast, and accessible and encourages imagination from players and GM alike. It bakes some very cool new ideas into the d20 ecosystem while keeping all the major pieces intact. Of the many systems I’ve read recently, it’s one of the best. The demo adventure I was able to play was a lot of fun, from character creation to combat, and left me excited to play more (which is a good sign.)
And since it’s part of the OGL it’s simple to use it for everything from 3rd Edition to Pathfinder. In many ways, it’s exactly the progressive design that I think a lot of D&D fans were hoping for when 4th Edition came out and that fans are now hoping for with 5th Edition.”
You can read Erik’s full review here, and you can watch the interview he does with Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet about 13th Age below.
- The 13 True Ways cover above is our first rough draft. Aaron and Lee still have lots of work they plan to do on it. That’s a wind-and-lightning powered druid fighting a dragon who has yet to be revealed. It gives us game designers something to strive towards.
- Lee calls the piece Over Drakkenhall. I love the name, partly because it reminds me of the WWI airplane battles that were my entry into gaming playing Fight in the Skies/Dawn Patrol. I guess I can confess that my slang for the cover-dragon is ‘the Bloody Red Golden,’but don’t worry, the story behind this has everything to do with Lee’s/Aaron’s art mixed with the sorcery of the Blue and nothing further to do with WWI ace jokes.
- On other 13 True Ways work, Lee and Aaron continue to roll through the art, Robin Laws has turned over great work on devils, Drakkenhall, and Axis, and Jonathan is carving his own twisty multi-icon passages through the ruins of Drakkenhall.
- While Jonathan, Aaron, and Lee press forward on 13 True Ways, I’m using my designer-head for a few weeks to help with the 13th Age Bestiary that Ken Hite has organized for Pelgrane. It’s mainly designed by people including ASH Law, Ken, Kevin Kulp, Rob Wieland, Ryven Cedrylle, and Steven Townshend, with editing by Cal Moore. There are innumerable dangerous and quirky touches that deserve to be touched on in later posts. For now I’m developing monsters, improving mechanics and suggesting ways that the monsters’ stories can dare more in individual campaigns.
- And in regard to the book you’ve all been waiting for…. Once upon a time my page count estimates suggested we wouldn’t have room to print the last chapter of 13th Age, the mini-adventure called Blood & Lightning. We said we would put the adventure on line since we couldn’t fit it into the book. Well the good news is that I was wrong and the adventure does fit into the book. Last week, with the 304 page layout finished except for page xx’s, Simon and I decided to add the revised Blood & Lightning adventure back into the mix. We’ve got a 320 page book now with no need for an adventure download and it looks like the decision is only going to cost us three days. So we’ll have more good news soon, I think.