Necromancerby Rob Heinsoo

ASH LAW and I are both going to be running quick 13th Age games at the new AFK Tavern in Renton tomorrow, April 5th, as part of International Tabletop Day.

ASH is showing up around 11 am, I’ll be there around 12:30 to run a couple two hour games before I return to my regularly scheduled work weekend.

I’ll be running demo style games, the usual pregen character sheets that the players get to add the interesting stuff to, backgrounds and icon relationships and the One Unique Thing.

But not all the pregen sheets will be the usual sheets. Tomorrow I’m going to bring pregen sheets for characters like the woman pictured here,  in art by Aaron McConnell and Lee Moyer: the necromancer. I know that class hasn’t gone out to wider playtesting yet but it went a round within Fire Opal and it will be fun to bring it into the game tomorrow. What type of fun? Well, here’s one of the popular talents from the necromancer in its pre-edited form. Not everyone wants to play this way, but for those who do . . . .

Cackling Soliloquist
If you spend your move action, your quick action and your standard action casting a daily spell that ordinarily only requires a standard action—while screaming grandeloquently, cackling maniacally, or megalomaniacally describing the grandeur of your plans and the futility of your enemies’ resistance—the daily spell you are casting becomes a recharge 18+ spell (roll after the battle) and you can invent a slight improvement to the spell, especially if it’s at least partly story-oriented.

Adventurer Feat: The sound of your own voice invigorates you and you gain 1d6 + your level + Charisma temporary hit points when you use Cackling Soliloquist.

We may or may not play with the chaos mage’s special brand of crazy tomorrow. I’m working on the first revision for that class today and if works out we’ll probably use it, if I’m not happy yet it will have to wait outside the tavern.

Looking forward to tomorrow and seeing friends I haven’t seen for awhile as well as new souls and necromancers.


Join Rob Heinsoo and ASH LAW at AFK Elixirs and Eatery in Renton, WA on Saturday, April 5th for International TableTop Day! Here’s the schedule at the table:

  • 11:00 AM to approximately 1:00 PM – ASH
  • Approximately 1:30 PM to 5:00 – Rob

First come, first gets-to-play. As a special bonus they’ll have pre-generated characters for the never-before-seen necromancer and chaos mage classes from 13 True Ways. We hope to see you there!

Wil and Felicia are heroicWhile we’re on the subject of TableTop Day, we realized that we do not have tabletop tokens to represent Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day in our games. ASH used ProFantasy Software’s Character Artist 3 to rectify the situation.

Download the printable tokens

 

 

13 True Ways - Rolandby Rob Heinsoo

For this all-out push to finish 13 True Ways design, I’ve been channeling the man pictured here, a ruthless paladin/commander named Roland Abendroth. Roland is the creation of Davideogame, one of our high-level backers on 13 True Ways. Lee Moyer suggested creating portraits of the backer-created NPCs as full page art and Lee’s portrait of Roland opens Chapter 1: Classes.

This week, Jonathan is busy with the full write-ups of Roland and the other NPCs, crafting a format that blends useful story with player torment and eventual resolution.The NPC write-ups will appear in chapter 6, the Gamemasters’ Grimoire, where we indulge our ancient affection for grab-bag books like Arduin by including a bit of anything and everything wonderful that’s not long enough to merit a full chapter.

Before starting on the NPCs, Jonathan created a dozen or so truly twisted monsters, including specters that outright steal the escalation die and pixies that ensure that player characters who choose fights with pixies are going to regret it, even when the PCs win. I want to say it’s ‘high comedy’ but I’m pretty sure that’s just me being ironic and it’s actually low comedy.

My work lately has focused on the first two chapters, Classes and Play Character Options, notably the first draft of the necromancer. Comments from internal Fire Opal critique have been helpful and when revisions are complete and satisfactory the class will go out to wider testing. For those tracking earlier updates, I changed the initial design in which the necromancer was a multiclass. The necromancer is now a full class with summoning spells, skeletal minions, death priest options, and cackling soliloquies.

In other news, art for 13 True Ways is finished (unless I talk Lee into one more illustration that was his good idea but that falls outside the scope of his responsibilities). We haven’t been sharing huge amounts of the art yet but it’s in the wings. Just as Jonathan and I tried new things with game design in 13TW, Lee and Aaron pulled some stunts I did not expect and would never have demanded.

by Rob Heinsoo

13 True Ways Great Bear DruidBy now, everyone who has been part of the 13 True Ways support network (Escalation Edition, Kickstarter, Bestiary pre-orders) has gotten notice of the availability of the new druid and the updated commander and monk.

As you’ll see, the druid class is a beast. The challenge of embracing elements of traditional druidic roles (wild healer, animal shifter, elemental magician, summoner, warrior of the wild) became huge fun as I took new approaches (talents defining spell lists and abilities, carefully calibrated summoning mechanics, spell lists tied to specific terrain). It’s definitely the biggest of all the class design jobs. I hope it turns out to be as much fun to play as it was to design.

Other 13 True Ways progress includes the fully edited and illustrated write-up of Horizon from Jonathan and Lee, and full illustrations and text for Drakkenhall from a combination of Jonathan, Robin D. Laws, and Lee Moyer. The great bear druid piece above is newly competed as well, a sketch from Aaron finished by Lee.

This week Jonathan is working on miscellaneous monsters, including azers, pixies, and cloud giants. I’m working on multiclassing after cooling down from the druid work by finishing a list of Thirteen Icon Variations that can shape a campaign.

- Rob

This editorial originally appeared in the January issue of See Page XX as Trail of Cthulhu and 13th Age, and we want to make sure everyone who follows 13th Age news has a chance to see it. In it, Pelgrane Press publisher Simon Rogers makes a commitment to support for 13th Age that will match the support for its best-selling game line to date — Trail of Cthulhu. 

If you’re deciding on your next fantasy RPG and publisher support is a factor, you can be confident that 13th Age is a strong product line with many adventures and supplements to come. Here are just a few.

Trail of Cthulhu was a game-changer for Pelgrane. I was very excited when Chaosium agreed to the license, and when I added Kenneth Hite to Robin Laws’ GUMSHOE system I was pretty sure we had horror gamer catnip.

The analogy with 13th Age is plain. Take the two developers of the previous versions of D&D, free them to do exactly as they wish, and we get something fresh, original and idiosyncratic for fantasy gamers. If you look at my business post – you can see what happened in 2008 when Trail was released, and in 2011 when 13th Age was placed on pre-order.

For both projects, the look and art was a given – it had to be Jérome Huguenin for Trail, and Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell for 13th Age. Ken’s interactions with Jérome’s art influenced the final Trail manuscript, and Rob riffed off Aaron and Lee’s take on the 13th Age. These weren’t artists called into illustrate a finished project – their art influenced the writers and designers, and vice versa.

The two lines have another similarity. They are both commercial and critical successes. 13th Age is rapidly catching up with Trail in terms of core book sales, and reviews of both lines are stellar. So why am I banging on about this?

Well, 13th Age is at the stage where Trail of Cthulhu was in 2008, and I want to give 13th Age players an idea of  the extent of support we will give 13th Age; so that if you mount the 13th Age dragon, you have some idea where the ride might take you.

Trail of Cthulhu

Since Trail launched in 2008, we’ve released 33 supplements, including music and compilations, racking up 13 ENnie awards, nominations and honourable http://www.pelgranepress.com/trail/images/cover/shadowsoverfilmland.pngmentions. Our most widely acknowledged contribution to Mythos gaming is in the breadth and innovation of our adventure design and 21 of these releases were adventures. The first supplement for Trail of Cthulhu was Stunning Eldritch Tales – Robin Laws establishing a benchmark for Trail adventures, which Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan followed up with Arkham Detective Tales. Here are a few more highlights:

Shadows over Filmland: this set of adventures mixes up the Mythos with the horror films of the 1930s, and includes the Backlot Gothic , the gloomy and torch-wieldling festooned setting for thos films. Each chapter has a frontispiece illustrated by Jérome in the style of a film still. So, meet the Lord of the Apes, Dracula, the invisible man, zombies and Dr Frankenstein – who has Herbert West’s lab notes.

Rough Magicks – Ken’s more detailed take of mythos spells and rituals was followed by Robin’s Armitage Files, a new take on GUMSHOE which encouraged improvised play, showing the versatility of the system (and the creator).

Graham Walmsley’s Purist adventures: featuring the sad and the soul-sapping, Graham brought a new aesthetic to Trail, where hope is lost, characters have no good choices and the Mythos is victorious. They have since been collected together in Final Revelation.

http://www.pelgranepress.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Eternal_Lies_cover_mockup.jpgA series of PDF adventures: by authors including Jason Morningstar, Bill White and  Adam Guantlett allowed those authors to play their own games in our playground of despond, giving us scenarios set in Georgian times, in the Great War, at the dawn of the Nuclear Age and in a 1930s apocalypse, now collected in Out of Time and Out of Space.

Bookhounds of London is Ken’s bravura take on a Mythos city book, which with its companion volume Paulas Dempsey’s Book of the Smoke formed part of the amazing Bookhounds of London limited edition.

Finally, I’ll mention the culmination of years of work from Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball, with help from many others: Eternal Lies, the world-spanning adventure inspired by Chaosium’s seminal campaigns. Combined with James Semple and his team’s music this is truly epic and the most ambitious book we have created to date.

We will continue to support Trail with vigour – it is evergreen. Coming up are Mythos Expeditions, Dreamhounds of Paris  and Fearful Symmetry. Many more are in the pipeline.

13th Age

Its clear that 13th Age will be bigger than Trail. We will support 13th Age just as solidly and vigourously as we have Trail of Cthulhu, bring in top writers and artists, and our own uninhibited take on fantasy roleplaying.

Fire Opal Media are producing some books in-house for Pelgrane to publish (13 True Ways) – with others we are working with various degrees of collaboration mainly with Rob Heinsoo on the Fire Opal side. So what should you expect?

We will work with the best people we can find who are inspired by 13th Age. Whether that’s our staff, freelancers we respect, or third-parties taking our open game license engine and having their own take on the Archmage Engine, we are happy.

So what’s to come?

  • The 13th Age Bestiary is in layout, and it combines everything we’ve learnt from monster creation in the Dying Earth, the Book of Unremitting Horror and Trail itself – that is, monsters should be entertaining and carefully constructed opponents, but also adventures in their own right with life and background – but they should not be set in stone. We want GMs to have the material they need to reimagine their creatures to fit their version of the 13th Age.WoodElves
  • 13 True Ways is a labour of love by the original designers at Fire Opal, and features the elements 13th Age fans have said are missing from their games – in particular a wider range of classes and creatures. Progress report here.
  • Shadows in Eldolan brings an urban mystery for 1st level adventurers featuring rival wizard schools and the undead – a benchmark adventure.
  • The Lair of the Stone Thief is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s dungeon campaign featuring a living dungeon, malevolent and viscious with a similarity to a certain white whale.
  • Shards of the Broken Sky is a  sandbox adventure for 13th Age centering on the crash of one of the Archmage’s flying realms. As threats multiply, the flying land turns out to have been the control point for magical wards neutralizing three ancient evils. With the cone of secrecy shattered, each of the thirteen icons offers rival opportunities for glory, plunder, or heroic sacrifice.
  • The Strangling Sea is Robin D Laws introductory adventure. In this 13th Age adventure for a party of 4-6 1st-level adventurers, our heroes attempt to retrieve the enigmatic engineer Inigo Sharpe from his unfortunate imprisonment in the Stranglesea. This fantastical equivalent of our world’s Sargasso Sea traps wrecked ships, strands castaways, and supports an array of dangerous animal life.

These are still at the pitch stage – let us have your comments:

A 13th Age GM’s screen which is based on The Noteboard, and a Noteboard based battlemat with the 13th Age map on one side and a whiteboard on the other.

All for Love: (1st to 10th level campaign) Every generation, the rich, beautiful, politically powerful Orlando family introduces its sons and daughters into Imperial court life in a series of balls, jousts, tournaments, and increasingly perilous quests.

Every generation, the Orlandos’ rivals (human and otherwise) try to destroy them in a series of vendettas, assassinations, and increasingly unhinged proposals of marriage. You and your fellow heroes have fallen in love with the newest generation of Orlandos — or at least with their wealth, beauty, and political power. What will you do to win their attentions, to protect the things — and perhaps even the people — you love? Everything it takes, of course.

A book on Icons and their organisations.

Kenneth Hite’s Swords and Mythos – either a straight Earth port, or set in an earlier age: both of Ken’s pitches follow:

Swords and Mythos – Terran Version

From Sarnath to Mu to Hyperborea to Cimmeria, the ancient Earth swarms with dark cults, eldritch horrors, and foul magics — and with mighty heroes who drive them back into nightmare or master inhuman lore for human gain. This sourcebook reframes 13th Age for the primal Earth of heroic dark fantasists like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, and Richard Tierney — and for a surprising amount of Lovecraft! Gods and monsters of the antediluvian Earth appear, ready to topple civilization or sink a continent. Magic, Icons, Relationships, and One Unique Things get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got the steel to meet them in the shadows.frostgiant

Swords and Mythos – 13th Age Version

Before the Dragon Empire, before the storms calmed in the Midland Sea, before the Elf Queen took her oaken throne, before the Orcs were formed from the corpse-meat of a forgotten species, there was an age of terror and wonder — the Zeroth Age. The oldest Icons ruled, then: the Tattered King, the Dreamer in the Deep, and the Crawling Chaos, Icons that walked the world as Avatars and selected heroes to carry steel and shape sorcery in the names of those Great Old Ones. In this “swords and Mythos” setting, the familiar 13th Age rules and Relationships get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got what it takes to meet them in the shadows.

The OGL and Third Party Publishers

We’ve presented a clear and complete SRD, and in the next week or two, expect to see compatibilty licenses for publishers similar to those used for Pathfinder (we thank Paizo for the use of their license). The following creators have added 13th Age to their project.

  • Dragon Kings project: Timothy Brown, creator of Dark Sun setting is providing a PDF rules supplement, funded through his Kickstarter.
  •  Sasquatch Game Studio: Features Richard Baker (3rd edition, Pathfinder), Stephen Schubert (3e, 4e, D&D Miniatures), and David Noonan (3e, 4e, Pathfinder) and their Primeval Thule offers 13th Age rules alongside D&D and Pathfinder
  • Vorpal Games: Brian R. James (3e, 4e, Pathfinder), Matt James (4e, Pathfinder) in their Red Aegis RPG.
  • RKDN Studios: artist Chris McFann, whose work with publishers helps him bring designers such as Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur and Ed Greenwood to projects such as the Bestiary of the Curiously Odd .

Watch out for a big announcement in the next couple of months, featuring a big RPG name.

 

 

13TrueWaysCover_May11_2013By Rob Heinsoo

Given the push we are making to finish design and art on 13 True Ways, it’s time for an update. I’m not going to talk about the things we’re doing that aren’t done yet, those will appear in upcoming updates.

Horizon
Jonathan has written a wonderful take on Horizon, City of Wonders. As Jonathan says in the introduction to the 10,000 word piece:

The metropolis of Horizon is probably the most daunting of the Dragon Empire’s seven great cities, certainly the most unearthly. Some find it to be a higher order of reality, more rational and perfect than the everyday world. To others, it is an impenetrable labyrinth of riddles and forbiddance. You come to Horizon because you have to, and you often leave under the same circumstances. Here, the skeins of destiny tangle with the Archmage’s ley lines, and reality will never be the same.

Jonathan’s Horizon hovers on the constructive edge between inspirational ideas and solid questions for each campaign. I’d show off a piece of the wonderful Horizon city art from Lee and Aaron here, but it might give the wrong impression, because part of Jonathan’s approach to our half-designed world is to explain a dozen ways that the art and map of the City of Wonders can be interpreted in each campaign! So we’ll let that art wait to be unveiled later!

The Commander
The commander class has been through a fruitful round of playtesting and development and will be sent anew to people who are getting the updates. The designer note I left out of the first iteration of the class was that I’d deliberately designed the commander’s weakest possible version. It was an experiment, starting weak in order to be able to increase the power level in later drafts. And yes, all the playtesters who sent us comments noticed that they’d been handed weak beer and several people had great suggestions. The new commander is stronger and more fun. To find the things that have changed, you’ll only need to look for the yellow and green highlighting.

13 True Ways Dwarf Commander DwarfAs we close on the final version of the commander stats, here’s the first draft of a piece of commander art, a dwarven commander whose troops will be carrying the flag of the Emperor. This guy is still fighting under the original name of the class, but Battle Captain is the name of one of my favorite talents from the class, a talent that got a lot better in this draft, so I’m going to shake off the guilt of showing off the old name.

Monsters! Monsters!

After I worked all-out on 13th Age Bestiary monsters for months, Jonathan has taken the reins for recent batches of monsters that include the werebeasts, the metallic dragons, a heap of undead, and the devils, including four new sometimes-covertly operating devils created by Robin Laws as part of the Kickstarter goals.

As a sample of the writing in the new monsters, here is Jonathan’s story-riff on mummies, followed by a beautiful but still rough draft of a piece of art that was one of the Monster Art +13 winners in the Kickstarter.

Mummies: Down through the ages, powerful magicians have endeavored to preserve their own lives, escaping both the mystery of death and the horror of undeath. The secrets by which they preserve themselves at the end of their mortal lives are lost, but someone always finds or recreates those secrets. Ideally, these carefully preserved mummies live on in a sort of passive false life of the mind, dreaming endlessly in their sarcophagi but never passing on into death itself. It’s good work if you can get it. The problem is that the Lich King is dead set against letting anyone enjoy such a happy ending. When his servitors discover mummies, they invariably animate them and turn them into proper undead minions.

As those who have unnaturally extended their lives, mummies make exceptionally dangerous undead. The most powerful mummies reanimate as masterminds who take charge of those around them, while the lesser ones submit to their new masters’ commands. In any event, these unnatural creatures, trapped between life and death, are among the most spine-chilling of the Lich King’s minions. In theory, mummies might have enough humanity left that living souls could appeal to it and perhaps reach some sort of accord. In practice, it’s mummy rot for all those who tamper with the mighty who refuse to die.

13 True Ways Mummy and NecromancerThe mummy art: Evan Franke originally asked for somewhat South American/Tibetan mummies being called forth by a high priest. I thought that was a good place to bring in a necromancer. This version by Aaron is considerably advanced from the version we showed Evan earlier, but it’s still going to get a bunch of finishing work from Lee, including the finished spiral stair that leads to adventurers or a world ripe for conquest.

And Speaking of the Necromancer . . .

I had an epiphany about this class. It’s not a class. It’s a multiclass. A multiclass that works especially well as a multiclass option for other spellcasting classes. So the sorcerer, cleric, and wizard are getting detailed multiclass combinations with the necromancer multiclass. Other people can do it but they’re not as cool, and that’s kind of the way 13th Age multiclassing tends to work: some combinations are deliberately more fun than others.

The Monk
There’s a new version of the monk coming as part of the playtest update. It features interesting solutions to the demand for multiple high ability scores, ki powers that matter, and high-graded fun options for monk talents instead of some of the earlier talents that didn’t compare well.

See you with another 13 True Ways update later next week.

13TrueWaysCover_May11_2013By Rob Heinsoo

Given the push we are making to finish design and art on 13 True Ways, it’s time for an update. I’m not going to talk about the things we’re doing that aren’t done yet, those will appear in upcoming updates.

Horizon
Jonathan has written a wonderful take on Horizon, City of Wonders. As Jonathan says in the introduction to the 10,000 word piece:

The metropolis of Horizon is probably the most daunting of the Dragon Empire’s seven great cities, certainly the most unearthly. Some find it to be a higher order of reality, more rational and perfect than the everyday world. To others, it is an impenetrable labyrinth of riddles and forbiddance. You come to Horizon because you have to, and you often leave under the same circumstances. Here, the skeins of destiny tangle with the Archmage’s ley lines, and reality will never be the same.

Jonathan’s Horizon hovers on the constructive edge between inspirational ideas and solid questions for each campaign. I’d show off a piece of the wonderful Horizon city art from Lee and Aaron here, but it might give the wrong impression, because part of Jonathan’s approach to our half-designed world is to explain a dozen ways that the art and map of the City of Wonders can be interpreted in each campaign! So we’ll let that art wait to be unveiled later!

The Commander
The commander class has been through a fruitful round of playtesting and development and will be sent anew to people who are getting the updates. The designer note I left out of the first iteration of the class was that I’d deliberately designed the commander’s weakest possible version. It was an experiment, starting weak in order to be able to increase the power level in later drafts. And yes, all the playtesters who sent us comments noticed that they’d been handed weak beer and several people had great suggestions. The new commander is stronger and more fun. To find the things that have changed, you’ll only need to look for the yellow and green highlighting.

13 True Ways Dwarf Commander DwarfAs we close on the final version of the commander stats, here’s the first draft of a piece of commander art, a dwarven commander whose troops will be carrying the flag of the Emperor. This guy is still fighting under the original name of the class, but Battle Captain is the name of one of my favorite talents from the class, a talent that got a lot better in this draft, so I’m going to shake off the guilt of showing off the old name.

Monsters! Monsters! 

After I worked all-out on 13th Age Bestiary monsters for months, Jonathan has taken the reins for recent batches of monsters that include the werebeasts, the metallic dragons, a heap of undead, and the devils, including four new sometimes-covertly operating devils created by Robin Laws as part of the Kickstarter goals.

As a sample of the writing in the new monsters, here is Jonathan’s story-riff on mummies, followed by a beautiful but still rough draft of a piece of art that was one of the Monster Art +13 winners in the Kickstarter.

Mummies: Down through the ages, powerful magicians have endeavored to preserve their own lives, escaping both the mystery of death and the horror of undeath. The secrets by which they preserve themselves at the end of their mortal lives are lost, but someone always finds or recreates those secrets. Ideally, these carefully preserved mummies live on in a sort of passive false life of the mind, dreaming endlessly in their sarcophagi but never passing on into death itself. It’s good work if you can get it. The problem is that the Lich King is dead set against letting anyone enjoy such a happy ending. When his servitors discover mummies, they invariably animate them and turn them into proper undead minions.

As those who have unnaturally extended their lives, mummies make exceptionally dangerous undead. The most powerful mummies reanimate as masterminds who take charge of those around them, while the lesser ones submit to their new masters’ commands. In any event, these unnatural creatures, trapped between life and death, are among the most spine-chilling of the Lich King’s minions. In theory, mummies might have enough humanity left that living souls could appeal to it and perhaps reach some sort of accord. In practice, it’s mummy rot for all those who tamper with the mighty who refuse to die.

13 True Ways Mummy and NecromancerThe mummy art: Evan Franke originally asked for somewhat South American/Tibetan mummies being called forth by a high priest. I thought that was a good place to bring in a necromancer. This version by Aaron is considerably advanced from the version we showed Evan earlier, but it’s still going to get a bunch of finishing work from Lee, including the finished spiral stair that leads to adventurers or a world ripe for conquest.

And Speaking of the Necromancer . . . 

I had an epiphany about this class. It’s not a class. It’s a multiclass. A multiclass that works especially well as a multiclass option for other spellcasting classes. So the sorcerer, cleric, and wizard are getting detailed multiclass combinations with the necromancer multiclass. Other people can do it but they’re not as cool, and that’s kind of the way 13th Age multiclassing tends to work: some combinations are deliberately more fun than others.

The Monk
There’s a new version of the monk coming as part of the playtest update. It features interesting solutions to the demand for multiple high ability scores, ki powers that matter, and high-graded fun options for monk talents instead of some of the earlier talents that didn’t compare well.

See you with another 13 True Ways update later next week.

By Rob Heinsoo

This week’s playtest of the new commander and the half-revised monk went well.

Commander

In the commander’s case I didn’t make any changes after the playtest. Partly that’s because the design is in OK shape for now. Partly it’s because Thorinn, the 5th level dwarf commander who used to be a bard, was hapless. He had no hap. When you’re rolling d20s, playtesting every so often devolves into “Wow, so this is what the character class looks like when you suck.” The dybbuks who had possessed the party’s erstwhile paladin friend turned out to have Mental Defenses that deviated from the monstrous norm and even the commander’s last-ditch outmaneuver attempt came to naught. The class design mission is to somehow make even these sucky moments potentially worthwhile.

The potential doesn’t always get realized. Thorinn has had a slightly rocky road since he transitioned out of being a bard. Weird things happen when your story-oriented 13th Age campaign is also the campaign that’s being used to test all the new classes. Thorinn who was once a bard became a bardmander and is now a full-on commander who is likely to shift even more when we adjust for results of public playtesting.

Monk  

There will be a new playtest document some time next week. The talent half of the monk is revised, the forms half is still underway. Some of the early monk talents worked so well that the rest of the talents were somewhat irrelevant. The monk could vary from hugely powerful to utterly feeble because the talents and forms were so uneven. That’s not entirely surprising, given that the class hasn’t had an official development pass, but I’m trying to avoid it on this pass. The next version of the monk design aims to make all the talents worthwhile, eliminates one of the pieces of the class that wasn’t working (daily options for finishing attacks), makes ki powers a more integral part of the class (instead of only appearing as feats), and opens up some of the unnecessary restrictions on icon relationships and weapon choice and flavor that were getting in the way of character design. Those of you who sent playtest comments? Your comments helped a lot.

Playtest Distribution Plan

As before, we’ll be sharing the monk & commander playtest files with people who bought the 13th Age Escalation Edition and people who supported 13 True Ways. We’re also planning to go one step further. The publication of 13th Age has brought in many new players and GMs. People are writing us every week asking to help playtest, particularly people who seem to be converting over from other systems and want to know how we’re handling classes that aren’t in the core book. We’ve settled on a cunning plan that seems fair. People who pre-order the 13th Age Bestiary by ordering the Hatchling Edition will also get the 13 True Ways playtest files. If you’ve supported us by buying the Bestiary in advance, you’ll see the playtest versions of the new classes and whatever else we decide to send out for wide playtesting on 13 True Ways.

 Dragon Kings Kickstarter

There’s another Kickstarter with 13th Age connections surging towards the finish line this week. Timothy Brown’s Dragon Kings project is a campaign world and rock and roll project in the spirit of Dark Sun. The project is funded and is presently a few thousand dollars away from a stretch goal that would create a 13th Age-compatible rules PDF as part of the package. Darren Pearce is the designer slated to tackle the 13th Age aspect of the project and I’d love to see what he comes up with. Give the project a push if you can.

And elsewhere in video…

Mike Shea interviewed me about 13th Age for Critical Hits earlier this week. The first half hour or forty minutes is a discussion of icon relationship rolls, including verbal notes on advice Jonathan and I will be formalizing in the GM chapter of 13 True Ways. The video amounts to working notes on the topic. Other topics include the formats of upcoming adventures and Heisenberg’s Monster, Mike’s wonderful term for the sense in which 13th Age frees GMs up by allowing them to be surprised by what comes out of the box.

by Rob Heinsoo

Silver Dragon 13 True WaysJonathan and I have moved into a new work phase on 13 True Ways, meeting every afternoon in my garage studio. Long periods of separate work punctuated by discussion. Yesterday Jonathan finished up a big section on icon relations in Drakkenhall and moved on to monster design. Our debate on metallic dragons roamed over the history of D&D and eventually clambered onto our standard 13th-Agey approach of handling the familiar with twists that suit us. We’re more or less agreed, but expect designer sidebars in that section.

That monster tile? That’s the silver dragon tile by 13 True Ways artist Lee Moyer. See the Great Gold Wyrm tile in the core book for the ur-tile that set the pattern for the silver.

Meanwhile I finished a draft of the commander class that’s ready for internal playtesting but I’m not going to say more about it than I said in yesterday’s post until I’m happy with the tests. I’ve moved on to the druid, which somehow immediately generated new insights on handling multiclassing and racial feats, so yeah, enough of the blogging, back to the big picture druid mechanics and the new category of feats that turned out to be hidden in the underbrush surrounding the druid’s woods.

hatchlingRob Heinsoo had a few minutes to spare before it was time to feed the miniature koru behemoths who migrate ceaselessly through his back yard, and shared some insights on the new 13th Age Bestiary and 13 True Ways:

The 13th Age Bestiary is now available for pre-order and pre-publication playtesting! Like the Escalation Edition for the original 13th Age book, purchase of this Hatchling Edition of the Bestiary from the Pelgrane Press store gets you a PDF, updates whenever they’re available, and then the final printed book and PDF. Unlike the Escalation Edition’s many long moons, this pre-order Bestiary is already nearly finished and publishing is going to be a quick process. Simon expects to have the final book out early in 2014.

Now that the Bestiary is on its way, I’m switching back to full work on 13 True Ways with Jonathan. One of the curious effects of the Bestiary is that it’s going to change the way we approach monsters in 13 True Ways. Originally we were sticking to the just-the-facts approach of the core book, very short stat-based entries. But the Bestiary shows how we can present full entries on monsters and stick with the game’s half-designed-world that leaves important decisions up to each campaign. So the monster entries in 13 True Ways are going to use the full approach from the Bestiary wherever it’s warranted.

But enough about the future. Check out the Pelgrane Press Hatchling Edition announcement page that charmingly lists the names of all the monsters in the book. You might have to buy the PDF to figure out what some of the base entries are, others will be clear. We’ve chosen not to call out which authors were principally responsible for individual entries, so I figured for this introduction blog post I’d go ahead and list one monster that made a special impression on me from each of the other authors. Let’s take it in alphabetical order by designer’s first name.

ASH LAW did a lot of great work in the book. His chuul entry gets the CREEPY INNOVATOR prize for adding something to an existing monster that makes a lot of sense and opens up all manner of story ideas.

Cal Moore improved every monster as an editor, many monsters as a developer, and Kevin Kulp’s whispering prophet and others as a mechanical designer.

Ken Hite made the original monster selection and assignments. Ordinarily I’d have to credit his catastrophic (to PCs) tarrasque, but I *love* the arch tone and precise language of Ken’s entry for the manticore, so sorry tarrasque, you just got beat by a manticore.

You may have already seen Kevin Kulp’s redcap’s first appearance on EN World. I’m also pretty fond of the lammasu as epic tier creatures that may be a touch too overworldly for the PC’s good.

Rich Longmore didn’t design any monsters but he’s doing all the art and gave us the wonderful little hatchling above so hey, he gets thanked and mentioned.

Rob Watkins wrote a psychologically insightful story for some new white dragons who are entangled with the Lich King and then did some great mechanics to back the story up.

Rob Wieland did something elegant with the story of the lich that seems likely to get a lot of use in 13th Age games and storylines. He’s also got the monster that ends with z, the zorigami, and I think they’re cool enough that I broke the rules again and mentioned two of his critters.

Ryven Cedrylle got a tough assignment, the intellect devourer, and, well, yikes. There are a couple surprising wrinkles in this one. Campaign impact entirely possible.

Steve Townshend has a 5th level warp beast wedged within the madness of rather larger elder beasts; I love the warp beast’s shifting impact on each battle and the fact that it makes sense for all sorts of warpage.

Have fun with the Hatchling Edition and send us playtest comments as indicated in the file!

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