Jon Spengler of Dorkadia volunteered to run 13th Age at Norwescon in Seattle, and posted about the experience on his blog. He’s kindly given us permission to share his article here.
If you’re interested in running 13th Age at a con or at your local game store, we’d love to know! Contact me at email@example.com
I was introduced to 13th Age through a demo run at PAX Prime 2012. The demo was so unique and so fun that I preordered the game immediately after PAX. It was the hands-on experience that made me fall in love with the game. When I was asked by Wade Rockett to run a few demo games at Norwescon 36 this past weekend I jumped at the opportunity!
The convention material for 13th Age is perfectly crafted to show off the strengths of the system. (And it’s publicly available.) It’s a simple two hour structure: in the first hour the players at the table pick from a selection of pregenerated characters and brainstorm their one unique thing, icon relationships, and backgrounds. The second hour is an improv adventure born from those unique things that features a single combat encounter.
The demo is truly bare bones, little more than guidelines for adventure improv and a few sets of monsters to throw at the heroes. But because the meat of the demo is character creation, the players start the game engaged, leaning forward, and invested. In fact, the demo consists almost solely of what makes 13th Age so different from other “d20 rolling games”: the mechanics that give narrative voice to the players. Players of more traditional games start out wary of such mechanics, but by the end everyone is pitching ideas on why exactly “thick headed” is just about the best damn background for a barbarian ever. (It bashes down doors AND helps in social situations!) The improv, player-centric nature of the demo material is brilliant.
I also created PC and monster tokens for the demo using 1-1/2 inch rubber grippies made to protect hardwood floors from furniture. I’m going to make a post about these before long, they were easy to make and really work well for GMs like me that have to pack everything they need in a bag before they head out to game.
The demo I ran was a hoot. All five of my players were engaging with the mechanics, laughing, and buying into the narrative mechanics. I did forget to have the players roll their icon relationships (which I’m kicking myself for) but ultimately it didn’t get in the way. One of the players was a friend of mine that had only tangentially been introduced to roleplaying games. I’m happy to say that she enjoyed herself.
The one unique things were exactly the sort of gonzo flavor that 13th Age revels in that other games would shy from. We had a bard that could sing the dead awake, a paladin that received visions, a half-elf half-dwarf, a barbarian cursed with eternal rage, and a sorcerer that punched the god of honor and lightning, receiving some of its power. That was a fun one to workshop out! There was very little story game experience in the group but it only took the gentlest of nudges to get every single person exploiting the hell out of the creative power they were given. It was really great to see the trepidation melt away as the players took the reigns and ran with the system.
The combat was fast and furious, most of the players immediately grasped their class powers in a matter of a single round of combat. The cleric buffed, the barbarian smashed, paladin smote with impunity. Huge success.
Jonathan Tweet and Ash Law, head of 13th Age Organized Play
I had a great time running the demo and hanging out with the 13th Age crew. I know that all five of the players at my table enjoyed the freedom of the character creation and enjoyed the combat. I had more than one person walk away with their character sheet in their pocket, which is exactly what I did when I left my demo at PAX 2012 and preordered the game. The demo was a success; my only true regret is not being able to run a second game due to time constraints!
In case you haven’t gotten the message yet, you should all really check out 13th Age. (It should be on store shelves in a month or so.)
I have to add a special shout out to Ash Law. He was so busy coordinating the demos and gathering players that it seems like I only got to speak with him for a few minutes. But in the small amount of time I watched him run his demo I realized he was one of the most charismatic, energetic, and creative GMs I’ve ever seen in action. Just reading his comments on the 13th Age G+ community shows his passion for the hobby and his complete understanding of the dynamics of roleplaying. I’m going to try to take some of that magic I saw and apply it at my table.
13th Age is scheduled to be published June 2013 by Pelgrane Press. Pre-order 13th Age at the Pelgrane Shop, and download the v.6 draft of the rules to start playing now!
Rob Heinsoo emerged from his incense-befogged meditation chamber in a state of divine communion with the gods of Light, to bring us yet another update on 13 True Ways…
The fire/layout situation claimed most of my attention, and I just realized that we never officially let you know the outcome of the I Hate This Town voting.
As most all of you suspected, the voting for I Hate this Town followed the pattern established when you voted for Drakkenhall and Horizon as the cities you wanted to see most. Yes, Santa Cora is the city that’s going to get pasted with slanders.
So we set up a halfling robbery illustration to get the hatred started:
I’d describe the architectural style that Aaron McConnell brought to this wing of the Cathedral as monolithic-papacy. All the better for our freedom-loving halfling to plunder.
Aaron and I have talked about how we’ll change things around for the final version. We’ll share that with you once it’s ready.
We’ve just received the prototype images of the 13th Age icon ring. You’ll be able to use it to randomly determine which of the game’s 13 icons is involved in a particular scene — or perhaps pulling the strings in secret.
Dice Rings certainly outdid themselves with the final product and we couldn’t wait to share it with you! We’ll let the image speak for itself.
If you backed the 13 True Ways expansion Kickstarter at $300 or more, you’re getting a gold icon ring along with your other rewards. You can also get a gold ring with the one of the one hundred limited edition 13th Age core books we’ll be releasing.
We’ll be putting the black icon rings up for sale in the Pelgrane shop soon!
Note that all rings will be size 10 only.
The other two rings are prototypes, and won’t be part of the run. Sorry, blue ring fans.
So! Are you as excited about the 13th Age icon dice ring as we are? Let us know in this scientific survey.
We’ll have another status report on the rings as things progress!
Rob Heinsoo returned from avenging the dishonor done to him by the Black Dragon clan to give us this update on 13 True Ways, the first 13th Age expansion book. One of the original playtest’s most exciting classes is back — and as we promised, it’s been made available to all 13th Age pre-order customers as well as the Kickstarter backers.
The new playtest draft of the monk is ready. For those of you who played earlier versions, you’ll recognize the core of the experience. The monk still uses forms that start with an opening attack, continue with a flow attack, and lead to a finishing attack before starting the cycle over again.
This draft of the monk is more polished than many of our playtest documents. That doesn’t mean that it will sail smoothly into publication in 13 True Ways. Our developer, Rob Watkins, is committed to getting the balance right and he says it’s going to take some work.
Internal playtests have already been great fun. If you’d like to help us smooth things out and fix what doesn’t work, we’d love to your comments from actual play. Send your playtest notes to 13thAgePlaytest@gmail.com.
Note that we’re not making you backers (and Escalation Edition supporters) sign an NDA for this playtest, but we do have a request: If you’d seriously like to help the playtest process, don’t post your playtest feedback publicly or discuss it on the internet. In our experience, publicly discussed playtests generate less useful data because people start agreeing and echoing each other (or getting concerned about disagreeing with other people) rather than testing things for themselves.
Comments that are reactions to reading the text rather than playing will be less useful but we’ll still read them.
Given that this is the first class ready for external playtest and there are five more coming, you have some time before the playtest notes won’t help. I’ll speak up about timing when we have a few more of the classes in testing.
Yours in a whirling kick,
Hi, I’m Chris Huth, and this was my fire.
It was just over a month ago that I was importing the credits page of 13th Age into InDesign thinking that I was mere days away from being done, and noting what I thought was the rustic scent of a neighbour’s fireplace.
Then my partner came into the room, asked me if I smelled something, and less than minute later she was outside with the cat and I was trying to wake up the unit below to let them know their back porch was probably on fire. Turned out I was wrong; it was the entire house next door.
Nobody died, which is the important thing. (Including the cats next door, I’m told.) In the month since we’ve dug for salvage through ashes and mud, moved six times, criss-crossed the city looking for a new apartment, lived with three other cats, and a dog, and a pigeon, and scraped soot and grime off of our remaining worldly possessions.
The aftermath could’ve been much worse if not for the support we’ve received. It’s been simply astonishing being the receipient, along with my partner (and cat) of the generosity not just of our friends and family but of distant acquaintances and complete strangers. And, since it wasn’t just my home but my work that was lost, having the support and understanding of not just Pelgrane and Fire Opal but also of the extended community of those who are gaming with the stuff they create… thanks, everybody.
13th Age: Current Status
The big break here was that the vast majority of what was going into the layout—art, text and most of the layout assets—was with Fire Opal Media, not me or my backups. Though getting new hardware and software was a bit of a hurdle, the last three weeks have brought us almost back to where we were before the fire.
Currently we’re just going over each page in turn, layering in the sidebars styles and tables to accompany the body of text and art already in place. After that is only the front matter—credits, table of contents, legalese—and the index to go.
To complete the promotional circle, I’d like to thank Chris Gwinn at Code42 for the Crashplan account we’re currently using as an online backup.
This past weekend I finished judging the Lost Magic spell design contest at Kobold Press (go vote on the finalists!) and so I had magic on the brain when I saw Dave Thompson’s 13th Age True Magic Item Mask of the Charred Zombie on his blog To Hit Arse Class 0.
It’s a fun item and Dave kindly gave me permission to repost it here.
Mask of the Charred Zombie: A plain, slightly charred-looking porcelain mask. (Alternatively, it could be made of burnt wood or something similar.) The mask is always warm, and becomes very hot when its power is used — often burning the face of the wearer.
Chakra: Helmet, Crown, Diadem, Circlet
Bonus: Mental defense; +1 MD (adventurer), +2 MD (champion), +3 MD (epic).
Once per day the wearer can remove a copy of the mask from the front of it, and place it onto a corpse. This chars the corpse and animates it as a Charred Zombie (see below.) The wearer can control 2 of these zombies per level, but can make more if they have another way of wrangling them.
Quirk: The wearer’s skin to starts to crisp; they become unsightly, and averse to cold temperatures.
1st level mook [undead]
As a zombie shuffler, but damage taken from fire attacks heals the charred zombie instead of damaging it. If a charred zombie catches fire (takes ongoing fire damage) it regenerates hit points equal to the damage.
Fire damage cannot heal a charred zombie to above its maximum number of hit points. If a burning charred zombie is hit with a cold damage attack, the fire is put out and it ceases to regenerate from any ongoing fire damage.
Oh great, now it’s burning: When a charred zombie taking ongoing fire damage makes a natural even hit, the target takes 5 ongoing fire damage.
Photo credit: Justin Hall, shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Chris Huth has produced excellent art and layout for Pelgrane Press including Ashen Stars, Night’s Black Agents and 13th Age. Last week his apartment suffered extensive damage from a fire. (You can read more news reports here and here.) Luckily, no one was hurt, but he and his partner have lost their home and most of their possessions. His computer and software – the tools of his trade - and all backup drives have been destroyed with very little chance of recovery. Chris is sleeping in friends’ houses while he searches for somewhere to live.
The Chris Huth Fire Sale
Hard drive after fire damageIt’s tough enough being an rpg freelancer and Chris is one of ours, so, until Friday 00:00 GMT, all margin on sales from Pelgrane Press products from the store will go to help Chris get back on his feet. DriveThruRPG will also give their royalty share to Chris on Pelgrane products.100% of the price of download sales, and 50% of all physical sales will go to Chris. This is one step of several that 13th Age creators Fire Opal Media and Pelgrane will be taking to help out.
The sale is over, you can donate direct here:
How might this affect you?
Well, all the layout for 13th Age and templates for future Pelgrane projects are lost. Chris has to start over from scratch with all of these. It will certainly go quicker the second time, but will delay these projects none the less. More details on specific products follow.
We have the PDFs for most of the layout – in fact, it’s likely Chris would have finished the whole thing this week if it weren’t for the fire. I’ve uploaded the chapters Chris completed to the download page for pre-orderers – nearly all of them.
However, PDFs are not InDesign files, and the best and most efficient way to reproduce the layout is to start from scratch. Reverse engineering PDFs is not a useful option. So as of right now, I think that 13th Age will be delayed for a month. I am very sorry about this – it’s already taken a lot longer than we expected. I suspect it will be out towards the end of June.
Esoterrorist 2.0 and Gaean Reach
Chris had created layout templates for both of these projects, which will now have to be recreated. This isn’t such a big job, but it’s still a lot of work. I suspect both of these will also be set back by a month. I still hope to have them out by GenCon.
Other projects are unlikely to be affected.
Chris Huth originally came to my attention in 2010 when Robin Laws pointed out that a guy in his game group is a talented artist. After a bit of prodding, Chris came up with sample art for Ashen Stars which meshed very well with the art that Jerome created for the setting, and he improved in leaps and bounds. He then produced all the art and did the layout for the GUMSHOE/Pathfinder mash-up Lorefinder. Most recently he did much of the art and all the layout for Night’s Black Agents. When the layout for 13th Age turned out to be a much bigger challenge than we expected, Chris stepped in to create a layout in InDesign which based on the concept produced by Lee Moyer in PhotoShop. Samples of Chris’s work follow.
Ashen Stars Art
Nights Black Agents Layout Preview
Our Seattle-area 13th Age GMs will run demos at Emerald City ComicCon this weekend. We haven’t heard exactly where yet, but here’s the gaming area map — you’ll find us somewhere in there. Or just wander around yelling, “I DECLARE FOR THE LICH KING!” and we’ll yell back.
Come by and join a game of 13th Age:
- Friday, March 1 4pm – 8pm
- Saturday, March 2 10am – 7pm
- Sunday, March 3 10am – 5pm
Also, head over to Artist’s Alley to meet artist Aaron McConnell, see art from the upcoming game, and commission a sketch of your character or one of the icons.
My own shift is on Sunday. I hope to see you there!
The Naperville Freaks, Geeks and Weirdos meetup group hosted a One-Shot RPG gathering at Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL. Ben Roby ran a modified version of the Blood & Lightning adventure from 13th Age and sent us the following play report.
Ben and his co-GM Sarah are running 13th Age again in March. Register for 13th Age: Quest for the Twilight Lotus.
The adventure was planned to fit into six hours with a short amount of character development in the beginning. Basically I had all the crunchy bits completed and let the players develop their own unique thing, backgrounds, and icon relationships. The adventure was a heavily modified and abbreviated version of Blood and Lightning. Basically I made the adventure adapt to whatever icons the characters chose to associate with.
As we sat down for the session I got a feel for everyone’s roleplaying experience. I explained that there would be a lot of familiar stuff but three big features characterized 13th Age: Unique Things, Icons, and Backgrounds.
The one unique thing got them excited to have a personalized touch to their character. Since I had been play testing 13th Age for several months, I used examples from our regular game to give them ideas of what to invent. The party consisted of a bard version of Indiana Jones, a paladin who was the beloved of the Elf King, a ranger raised by wolves, the last scion of a Demon Touched Drow noble house of sorcerers, and a Halfling who was fathered by the Prince of Shadows after stealing her from a God’s mind.
When we moved to Icon Relationships I jotted down everyone’s connections. It became apparent that the Elf Queen was the common thread and only one evil icon was present – The Lich King, who had a complicated relationship with the Bard in her exploration of tombs for magical artifacts. I jotted down some notes and circled the appropriate alterations in my adventure to make the villain the Lich King, and their patrons the Elf Queen and High Druid.
I explained the difference of backgrounds from a skill list and let the players define them using their unique thing and icon relationship as inspiration. The players wrote down ideas and allocated their points. I encouraged a few players to crank up the flavor in their backgrounds (Thieves Guild became “Brotherhood of 1,000 blades”, etc.)
Once all the characters were ready, we began the adventure. The Dark Elf sorcerer was given a chance to redeem his house in the Elven Court by retrieving an ancient artifact from Boltstrike Spire: Glazentorg, a gauntlet able to wield vast amounts of energy. The gauntlet was being used to charge one of the last remaining Grey Towers along the Iron Sea. Once fully charged, the tower would maintain the wards keeping the horrors of the sea at bay. The Elf queen had hired an expert in magical artifacts (The Bard), a military commander (Paladin), as well as two emissaries from the High Druid (Ranger and Rogue). The sorcerer eagerly agreed to regain some favor for his house.
A High Elf accompanied them as a guide and gave me the opportunity to casually inquire about their characters. As they did so, I occasionally interjected and described how the terrain was changing. It gave the players a chance to get into character and tell some stories relating to their backgrounds. Their travel was suddenly interrupted by the High Elf getting taken down by a crossbow bolt and screams coming out of the forest.
A raiding party of Goblins bore down on them while they were stuck in a Ravine. I was using a grid map and mini’s in the loosest way I could – Just to give players a visual representation of what was going on, not to limit or codify how they moved. The paladin quickly threw himself into the fray and got the first opportunity to see how great the Mook mechanic works: With a well placed smite he set three goblins flying in pieces. Our rogue hustled up the Ravine wall with a use of his Swashbuckle talent to hurl some archers down to his allies. The sorcerer and Ranger traded shot for shot with a pair of decaying shamans. The bard kept fumbling rolls and soon had a goblin on his back trying to shiv him with a dagger.
Every player quickly found something fun on their character sheet. The only amount of confusion came with how the Wood Elf’s Elven Grace ability played out. The escalation die steadily turned the tide of battle in the player’s favor. The battle eventually started winding down but not before the lifeless corpses of the goblins raised up for one last attack before crumpling. It became clear that Necromancy was afoot and the Bard was able to use his backgrounds to fill in the party on what to expect. Cautiously, the party journeyed on.
When the adventuring party reached Boltstrike Spire, they were greeted by Zanj, a high elf fighter. He led the party on to the grounds and explained the purpose of Boltstrike Spire: It channeled energy from the sea to help empower the surrounding wilderness and the wards. The Artifact, Glazentorg, was being used to help direct those energies and would need to finish its ritual before being disengaged from the spire. Zanj handed the party off to the commander, Quellis, a Druid who maintained the watch. Zanj departed, escorting mages up the spire to help with the ritual. When the party mentioned Goblins in the woods with necromantic energies, she was alarmed. They had beaten back a small nest of them lately and they would not return without help.
When Quellis took them to the cliff face that Boltstrike rested upon, all hell broke loose. With a deafening shockwave, the top of Bolstrike exploded raining down debris. The Bard and Paladin immediately ran up the tower followed by Quellis. The three remaining characters unexpectedly stayed on the ground (The rogue stating the money wasn’t worth the risk). Improvising, I narrated that giant arcs of lightning were streaking down from the tower, carving huge scars into the ground. The sorcerer, rogue, and Ranger had to try and find cover and shepherd several guards to safety. The rogue ended up getting hit pretty bad by a tree exploding in front of him.
When the Paladin and Bard reached the tower they had just enough time to see a great Dracolich take flight with Zanj on his back. Zanj raised Glazentorg and fired off a lethal bolt of lightning at Quellis, taking her down. With her last breath she commanded the adventurers to recover Glazentorg, no matter the cost.
Recovering from the chaos the party set about trying to figure out just where the dragon would have fled to. The rogue used his relationship with the Prince of Shadows to claim he had a contact in the tower who could help them out. The paladin and ranger combined their military and area knowledge to pinpoint a cave lying underneath a nearby Ruin, Greenstand. The bard and sorcerer discovered that the ruin had been booby trapped by Zanj when he was second in command and that the correct key word could disable its defenses.
The party set out once again, determined to punish Zanj and recover the glove. They got the drop on a horde of zombies and necromancers outside the fortress and hatched a plan. The paladin and sorcerer drew the mindless zombies out while the bard, ranger, and rogue swept around and decimated the casters. The rogue was especially happy to use his swashbuckle talent to handspring off a zombie’s head and get a lucky critical strike on one of the necromancers. The sorcerer blew apart the zombies with a nasty series of empowered Breath spells. And the Paladin loved being swarmed by seven zombies at once.
Once inside the ruins they found Zanj in a large chamber with stained glassed windows overlooking the ocean. When the rogue tried to fling a dagger into his back, it stopped in midair revealing a protective shell around him. At once the party was attacked by twisted abominations of magic gone wrong. Monstrosities who had been warped into scale-covered bodies with great claws for hands. Zanj continued to hurl lightning bolts out at the party, but with each abomination that died, his shell became weaker.
When the shell eventually shattered, he charged the bard and got a powerful critical strike, wrapping the gaunlet around his throat and electrocuting him. He eventually succumbed to a lethal pummeling in large part to the sorcerers Arc Lightning. When Zanj went to one knee, the Dracolich crashed through the stained glass windows. Zanj begged Glazentorg for aid and the gauntlet moved on its own to point toward the Dracolich. A stream of energy drained the undead dragon of its remaining power and Zanj mutated before the party’s eyes.
Zanj, now a horrific abomination, leaped into the party, viciously ripping into each member in turn. The Sorceror and Paladin went down, inspiring their allies with their sacrifice. The Bard managed to pry Glazentorg off of Zanj, and turn its power against him. As Glazentorg disintegrated Zanj into dust, the party was happy to have triumphed and saved the realm.
All in all, it was a fantastic session, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the parties figure out he character creation process. The combats were quick and highly cinematic. Three of the players were very eager to know when they could purchase the game.
Photo credit: Josh Stein