Keep watching the skies! Race to Starport, the first adventure in Season Two of 13th Age organized play, is coming in the next few days. Keep an eye out for the email—13th Age Monthly subscribers will be able to download it from their order page, and non-subscribers will receive a download link.
In this adventure the player characters discover a new threat, face strange beings banished to the stars in a previous age, and must race to stop a portal being created that will bring more monsters into the Dragon Empire.
Race to Starport is split into six two-hour sessions (for a total of 12 hours run time) and is designed for characters of levels 1 to 4. The accompanying Race to Starport Bestiary includes human bandits, new zombie types, cultists, and extradimensional horrors!
If you took our organized play survey a while back, and you live in North America, your gift is in the mail. We’re shipping the reward postcards now and you can expect to see them in the next 2-4 weeks (depending on location).
An interviewer once asked us, “If someone has never played a tabletop RPG, why would 13th Age be a good game for them to try?”
Well, that interview never ran, so we’re going to share our answers here. We designed 13th Age for experienced GMs, but it can be a great entry point into the hobby for new players. Here’s why:
Jonathan: Number one: creativity. When new players try a tabletop RPG, they often get excited about the creativity and imagination that go into creating their characters. They’ll say things like, “I want to have a pet fire lizard like one from the Pern books,” or “I want to be a princess.” In other games, you can try to make these unusual features work somehow, but in 13th Age inventing unique traits for your character is built right into the rules. The system is flexible enough to accommodate oddball ideas without having to make them fit some pre-existing character template.
These days, computer games make it easy to create characters “by the book,” but only tabletop games really give you free-form, creative flexibility, and we really dialed up the creativity with 13th Age. A beginner will see right away that this isn’t just a computer game on paper.
Rob: The character’s “One Unique Thing” really goes over well with young players. “I’m the only person who can talk with birds,” said a 7-year old in a friend’s game. “I’m the Last of the Clockwork Knights,” said another friend’s 12-year old, who decided that 13th Age would be the first game his father would run for the family. Instead of telling new players, “No, that’s not what this game is about,” 13th Age starts with a half-designed world that asks players to help start the stories and background ideas that matter to them. The character who talks with birds ends up getting messages from the Game Master that couldn’t be delivered to anyone else. The clockwork knight turns out to be the last of the mechanical people we called forgeborn, but in this world they’re going to be called clockwork knights.
(Actually I’m not going to run games for beginners again without using the One Unique Thing, and I mean any game, not just 13th Age. To get new players seriously involved in a tabletop RPG quickly, check out our implementation of the One Unique Thing and apply it when you are running other games.)
Another great reason to start with 13th Age is that the game is grounded in the traditions of fantasy gaming and fantasy fiction. By providing players with the comfort of the familiar, along with various twists that inspire them to take things a step further, the game frees them to create exciting new stories.
A third reason to start with 13th Age is that we tried not to waste the reader’s time. Playing tabletop RPGs is the opposite of boring, but even some of the best RPGs have boring sections. If you take the time to read a page in 13th Age, we aimed to provide ideas, sentences, and small surprises that would make that time well spent. For examples of what I mean, look at the price list, the example of play, or the index. Even I feel silly saying that—who wants to look at those sections? But we found ways to make even those pieces worthwhile.
13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.
Start with a thought experiment: What would happen if we compressed the 13 icons into 7? Build on GM notes and player questionnaires from Jonathan’s 7-icon home campaign. Polish to a dangerous sheen with six new feats, spells, and talents inspired by the stories of the ‘new’ icons and usable in any 13th Age game.
7 Icon Campaign is the eighth installment of the 13th Age Monthly subscription. It will be available to buy in the webstore in August. When you subscribe to 13th Age Monthly, you will get all issues of the subscription to date.
|Stock #: PEL13AM09D
||Author: Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet
|Artist: Lee Moyer
Following on from my 2012 post about unappreciated Pelgrane products. I present to you two more such treasures, and my speculation as to why they are neglected.
The Gaean Reach RPG
“…this is a dead simple, easy to learn, quick to play science-fiction romp well worthy of a few evenings and weekends of your life.”
What it is: Across the vastness of the Oikumene a few individuals of exceptional infamy project their lust for power. Fear of their names spreads from planet to planet like a cancer.None of these evokes greater loathing and terror than the world-spanning criminal mastermind Quandos Vorn. He is your nemesis, and you must defeat him.
Why it’s hidden: This game has been published almost solely because of my love of Jack Vance. I’m guessing now that most of you didn’t even connect the author of the Dying Earth with his SF setting called in general, The Gaean Reach. Perhaps I should have called it “Jack Vance, the writer of the Dying Earth, wrote SF books and this is the game about them.” Like most games based in an existing setting, there is an assumption that readers are expected to be familiar with it.
Why its a treasure: It’s a game with a unique premise – the players devise the most horrible, devious and grabby enemy they can, then set out to defeat that nemesis. It combines the wit and human foibles of the Dying Earth, with the GUMSHOE investigative system, with additions which make sure you don’t kill your nemesis (and she you) too early in the narrative. You don’t need any knowledge of the setting to play, though the setting is wonderful and in some cases creepy.
Read more here, or get it from the store.
13th Age Soundtrack
“It’s an amazing selection of music and I can’t see any gaming group not getting something out of it. More than anything, it’s unique; there are no movies, shows or games that have this music so the player’s will not have heard any of it before and will always equate it with their 13th Age games, or whatever ongoing RPG setting they’re gaming in. If that’s not perfect for a gaming group then I don’t know what is.”
What it is: a huge collection of music and sound loops for the 13th Age.
Why it’s hidden: This one is a puzzle. Maybe fantasy roleplayers don’t use music with their games as much as with other games types. Maybe our marketing has been remiss.
Why it’s treasure: an epic collection of music, soundscapes and loops which paint a huge Turner-like picture of the Dragon Empire, created with crazy professional standards an orchestration and live musicians. It’s beyond what many fully-fledged video games or movies would expect. Listen and wonder!
Read more here, or get if from the store.
13th Age theme:
Dreams of a Lost Age:
Endzeitgeist reviewed the Book of Loot on their website, giving it 5 stars, the Seal of Approval, and nominating it for the Top Ten of 2015! You can read the full review here. Thanks Endzeitgeist! Endzeitgeist says,
“This book, much like the superb Bestiary of 13th Age, is more inspired than I ever believed it to be possible – the
Book of Loot was NOT a book I looked forward to reading and when I did, I was continuously and constantly blown away – so much so, that I have used A LOT of the items herein – in 13th Age, PFRPG, DCC – their playfulness and imaginative potential is downright genius and they bring back a sense of the unpredictable, of the MAGICAL.”
“Author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan delivers an absolutely stunning assortment of items that breathe narrative potential, that inspire, that actually feel like they could spring straight from the pages of your favorite fantasy novels, with the vast majority of them being able to support a story all on their own – or even a campaign. Add to that the novice-friendly advice in the beginning and we have a book that is a little masterpiece – it constitutes one of the best magic item books I’ve read since 2nd edition and brings back defining characteristics of what magic items can be – more than a sum of endlessly recombined numbers, bonuses and parts, more than just a mathematical bonus-machinery. And yes, there are such items herein, but ultimately, even these have some sort of component that makes them transcend their system-dependency. I consider this book an excellent buy for all d20-based systems and as such, this book receives 5 stars + my seal of approval and status as a candidate of my Top Ten of 2015 – a capable GM who understands the mechanics of 13th Age and another system can easily convert them. GLORIOUS!”
There has been talk on our social media channels about the orientation of the 13th Age GM’s Screen. It’s going to be portrait, and I wanted to talk about that choice.
Our Keeper’s Screen for Trail of Cthulhu is three-fold and portrait-oriented. We’ve just reprinted it. Strangely, I have never had any push back or comments on the portrait vs landscape version Keeper’s Screen since it was released many years ago, so the comments were unexpected.
The first thing to say is that there are strong arguments for both – in fact, it’s purely a matter of taste. However, it’s a binary choice so it’s literally impossible for us to please both groups without doing two screens.
I chose vertical for the Keeper’s Screen because the primary purpose of a Keeper’s Screen is to hide the Keeper’s notes. Portrait screens do that job better. They have the downside of hiding more of the GM, but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to make them landscape. From an aesthetic point of view, I think the potrait oriented screen has a more pleasing aspect ratio, closer to traditional triptychs.
The same reasoning applies to the 13th Age GM’s screen.
This did lead me to wonder – am I in a minority? So, I contacted Danny O’Neill of Hammerdog Games, who produces the World’s Greatest Screen who offers both a landscape and a portrait version and has no skin the game.
He told me that portrait screens sell marginally better than landscape screens, but there’s not much in it. It’s a truly even split.
So what can you hardened Landscapers do? Well, one of our forum members has created a landscape-oriented screen you can print out here. And who knows, we might do a landscape version in future.
Now, with that dealt with, I’m waiting for the four-fold crowd to kick off.
Endzeitgeist reviewed the 13th Age Bestiary, and even gave it the Seal of Approval! Thanks Endzeitgeist! You can read the full review here. Endzeitgeist says,
“From modifications of escalation or relationship dice to truly unique options, some of the abilities herein are, no hyperbole, GENIUS. Take the redcap. Tried and true delightfully evil fey – we all know and love the iron-shodded menaces. Well, herein, they have taboo-words – even if you *think* them, they get power from it and may teleport et al., gaining potentially a nasty array of additional actions. Now how is this represented? When a PLAYER says the taboo word, the ability kicks in. Yes. This is pretty much brilliant and can provide quite a mind-blowing experience when handled with care. This is just ONE example out of a bunch of them. This book’s abilities OOZE creativity and will enrich ANY d20-based game I run for years to come.”
“Rob Heinsoo, Ryven Cedrylle, Kenneth Hite, Kevin Kulp, Ash Law, Cal Moore, Steve Townshend, Rob Watkins, Rob Wieland – congratulations. You have actually managed to craft the first “Bestiary I” since the days of second edition I liked to *read*, the first that inspired me. This book manages what neither monster manuals of 3rd or 4th edition or PFRPG’s bestiary-line has succeeded in doing – actually inspire me to use creatures, to craft adventures around them, to use them to make the world feel more alive. While a rare few 3pp bestiaries over the years manage this sense of wonder, it usually stems from clever mechanics or uncommon concepts, only rarely from actual narrative potential. Ultimately, this book, in spite of its “1st bestiary”-handicap, did all of that and more and makes me giddy with anticipation and hopeful we’ll see more far-out creatures in the level of detail as provided herein.”
[Update: it will definitely be potrait. Find out why here
The original team of Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnel are creating the artwork for the 13th Age GM’s Screen.
I believe you need a dragon on an f20 screen, and we don’t want to do things by halves, or even thirds, so our screen features the tripart Icon – The Three. Why they’ve come together from the black marshes (the Black), the outskirts of the Empire (the Red) and Drakenhall (the Blue), who knows, but it can’t be good -perhaps freeing the Green from the guardianship of the Elf Queen?
I love the light and depth in the image of the The Three with their sorcerers in the foreground, and what this promises for the final image. Click on the image to see its full glory.
I had Intentions of writing this post on the Monday of Gencon itself, when it was due. That’s the sort of stupid idea you have after six days of little sleep and absurd heat. Plus, we had a Pelgrane planning meeting, where we discussed awesome things to come, and how we’re going to celebrate the 10th anniversary of GUMSHOE.
Between panels and selling books, I ran a few demos, including another run-through of my toy 13th Age demo, Midnight in the Bazaar. I’ve run it at multiple cons, and it’s done yeoman service. The text of it is below, although in all those multitudinous demos at many cons, I’ve never played it quite as written. The trick to 13th Age demos is to grab the players’ One Unique Things and run with them.
For example, this year I had four wonderful players who came up with:
- I’m the ambitious daughter of the Dwarf Lord
(6th 3rd in line for the throne)
- I’ve got Seven Evil Exes from my time studying at the Diabolist’s Academy
- I’m always fashionably dressed, no matter what the situation
- I’m a spy for the Blue Dragon (I may be misremembering this one, but the player definitely had a Positive Relationship with the Three).
(I may have also completely forgotten the line in the adventure where the PCs are all supposed to have a 1-point relationship with the Emperor. Sunday of Gencon – don’t stop there, it’s bat country.)
With that set, I dropped the initial hook entirely, and instead had the Dwarf noble attending a wedding at Glitterhaegen where the groom got kidnapped by some of the Seven Evil Exes, so the party had to chase after the kidnappers and rescue the poor fellow. The wedding covered the two “social” OUTs, and I just reskinned the Diabolist foes described below to match how the player described the Evil Exes. Pigeons from Hell, for example, became a breath weapon attack.
For Icon rolls, the only 5s and 6s were a double 6 for the Dwarf Lord and a 6 for the Three. I gave away a magic item for the Dwarf Lord roll – I don’t generally like giving items for Icon rolls, but it’s fine for a quick demo. I promised to work the Three benefit into the game, and had a fantastic opportunity to do so when one of the players described the Bazaar as being guarded by lizard men, so I was able to hint at a plot by the Black Dragon to infiltrate Glitterhaegen with his lizard mercenaries, and let the player spend that benefit to recruit some lizard men scouts to help him find the missing groom.
Midnight in the Bazaar
A 45 minute (or less) 13th Age demo
The characters have finally tracked down the vile instigator of the evils that have befallen the city of Glitterhaegen. Now, they’re about to confront him in the great marketplace just as he puts his scheme into motion.
The pregenerated characters have their ability scores, attacks and spells pre-selected, as well as brief notes on how each power works. What they don’t have are:
- Full Icon Relationships
- One Unique Things
For Icon Relationships, all the characters have a 1-point positive relationship with the Emperor – they’re a band of adventurers and troubleshooters with a good reputation.
Each player now chooses their remaining Icons. Use these as a guideline to pick the nature of the bad guy. If there’s a clear majority for one villain, then the bad guy works for him and uses the appropriate theming and mooks.
What’s Going On?
A mysterious foe has done something evil in the city. The nature of the threat depends on who the bad guy’s working for:
- Lich King: There’s a necromancer in town, the Grey Rat, stirring up the catacombs and awakening the dead. The characters have spent weeks crawling through dungeons and hunting zombies. The necromancer seems to be concentrating on the tombs of the wealthy families.
- The Grey Rat’s secretly interrogating the dead; he’s searching for the location of the fabled Bank of the Dead, a secret treasury managed by undead merchants who rise once a century to make long-term investments.
- Orc Lord: An orc army approaches from the west, and there’s a Traitor in the city, trying to weaken Glitterhagen’s defences before the siege begins. Many have already fled the city.
- The Traitor is secretly a pirate captain – by sparking panic, he’s forcing all the rich nobles to flee by ship, and his pirate armada’s going to sweep in and loot the laden refugee ships
- Diabolist: The characters were hired to investigate a spate of possessions and strange events, and they’ve learned that the one thing all the victims had in common was that they bargained with a mysterious merchant – a Soul Broker – in the marketplace.
- All those souls are going to get used in a ritual to invoke a demon of greed.
Now, the characters are on the verge of tracking down their foe in the Grand Bazaar.
Ask a player who got a 5 or 6 on an Icon roll how their Icon ally helped them find the villain. (If no-one got an appropriate 5 or 6, then go for the most suitable background and ask the player how they tracked down the villain).
If you can, use the other 5s or 6s now – maybe hand out a +1 weapon or some other benefit. Put any outstanding 5s and 6s in front of the players and explain that they can use them in the game if they can think of something suitably cool.
Next, go around the table, focusing on players who didn’t get Icon benefits, and flesh the scene out with leading questions.
- The Bazaar is a huge open-air market square. Lots of booths and tents. What’s the biggest landmark in the Bazaar?
- How do you arrive in the Bazaar? Are you going for speed or stealth as you pursue your quarry?
- Something’s happening in the Bazaar that’s going to be an obstacle. What is it?
- The guard in the Bazaar are unusual in some way. How so?
- You’ve got a bad feeling about this. What’s worrying you?
The villain’s somewhere in the Bazaar, moving through the crowds. The characters arrive and hunt for him, using whatever tools or clues they’ve established. After a few minutes’ hunting, they spot the villain approaching an ornate purple tent. As they move to stop him…
A Note On Timing
Intro, Character Setup, Basics – 15 minutes
Lead into first fight – 5 minutes
First fight – 15 minutes
Lead into second fight – 5 minutes
Second fight – 10 minutes
The Grey Rat (Lich King villain): The ground of the bazaar suddenly collapses. The old city catacombs run under the bazaar – they run under everywhere – and undead creatures swarm out. The Grey Rat scurries down into the catacombs. To get to him, the characters must fight through the skeletal horde.
2nd Level Troop [UNDEAD]
Spear +8 vs. AC – 6 damage
Resist Weapons 16+
PD 14 HP 26
1nd Level Mook [UNDEAD]
Spear +6 vs. AC – 3 damage
Resist Weapons 16+
PD 14 HP 7 (mook)
Once the undead are defeated (or bypassed), the characters can search the tent and find a map of the catacombs, clearly drawn by interrogating the dead. He’s pinpointed the location of the Bank of the Dead beneath the city. It’s located directly beneath the Well of Foresight, and there’s an old tradition that various trading houses throw copies of their annual reports down the well.
The characters then pursue the villain into the catacombs, following him to the vault of the Bank of the Dead. There are lots of coffins containing slumbering bank-liches, and lots of gold. The characters can either battle the villain and his Decrepit Skeleton horde, or else change the most recent financial reports to awaken the Dread Bankers.
2nd Level Triple-Strength Caster [Humanoid]
Staff +7 vs AC – 15 damage
C: Death Curse +7 vs. PD (all nearby foes) – 7 damage, creates one Decrepit Skeleton per hit
Ratform (1/battle) – turn into a rat. Turns into a rat, avoiding one attack and disengaging.
PD 12 HP 70
The Traitor (Orc Lord villain): Suddenly, orcs emerge from the purple tent and start hacking and slashing. Most of the orcs are illusions, but there are a few orc warriors who are real and solid. The Traitor pops into the tent and flees through the sewers.
2nd Level Troop [Humanoid]
Greataxe +7 vs. AC – 8 damage
Dangerous: Crit range increases by 3 unless staggered
PD 15 HP 30
1nd Level Mook [Illusion]
Axe +6 vs. AC – 6 damage
Illusion: A partially damaged illusion is destroyed
PD14 HP7 (mook)
The orc attack starts a panic in the market. People hurry down to the docks towards the ships, and the great exodus begins. It’s clear that anyone who has a ship to go to is leaving the city.
The Traitor ran into a sewer entrance. Pursuing him through the sewers, the characters find their way to an exit on a waterside warehouse. There, they see a ship departing, its sails filled by a magical wind. The traitor’s standing at the tiller. The characters need to leap on board or otherwise stop the ship from leaving the harbor, or else the Traitor will send in his pirate fleet!
The Pirate Captain
2nd Level Triple-Strength Wrecker [Humanoid]
Cutlass +7 vs AC (2 attacks) – 13 damage
Natural even hit: Swashbuckle! The captain moves, making the target vulnerable until they move to counter.
Miss: 6 damage
Ring of Illusion: When the captain is staggered, he adopts the illusion of one of the player characters.
PD 16 HP 90
The Soul Broker (Diabolist villain): The Soul Broker ducks into a strange curiosity shop down a side street – but when the characters try to follow him, the purple tent comes to life and attacks. Demonic imps pour of it, while the tent itself flails at them with viciously sharp tentpegs and whipping guy-ropes.
2nd Level Triple-Strength Blocker [Construct]
Ropes +7 vs. AC – 7 damage
Natural 16+: Target is grabbed
Engulf +7 vs. PD (grabbed targets only) – engulfed victim takes 10 ongoing damage
PD 16 HP 90
1st level Mook [Demon]
Claws +6 vs. AC – 4 damage
Mockery: If a character misses an attack on an imp, he takes 3 damage
PD 11 HP 7 (mook)
The curiosity shop is larger on the inside than on the outside, as the dimensions inside stretch absurdly. After blundering through aisles lined with strange things, the characters find their way onto the roof, where the Soul Broker’s engaged in a strange ritual with a flock of doves and a dozen glowing glass baubles. Each bauble contains a soul, and the broker argues that the rich nobles and spoiled brats whose souls he obtained had already damned themselves through greed. By incarnating them as birds, he’s giving them a chance to earn redemption – and the characters won’t stop him!
The characters must defeat the mad diabolist and his pigeons from hell.
2nd Level Triple-Strength Caster [Humanoid]
Staff +7 vs AC – 15 damage
C: Madness +7 vs. MD – 14 damage, and target is Confused (save ends)
Pigeons from Hell – free +7 vs AC attack on all nearby foes, 5 damage
PD 12 HP 70
A thrillride of an adventure for 3rd or 4th level heroes, designed to be played in one or two sessions. If you play Robin D. Laws’ The Strangling Sea at first level you can use Sharpe Initiatives as a callback to events earlier in the PCs’ careers; but this adventure is designed to bulldoze itself into any campaign in which dwarves aspire to re-engineer the broken underworld.
Sharpe Initiatives: Earthgouger is the sixth installment of the 13th Age Monthly subscription. It will be available to buy in the webstore in July. When you subscribe to 13th Age Monthly, you will get all issues of the subscription to date.
|Stock #: PEL13AM08D
||Author: Cal Moore
|Artist: Rich Longmore