To celebrate Free RPG Day we’ve invited some well-known members of the 13th Age community to play Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s adventure Make Your Own Luck online via Roll20 and Google Hangouts!
We’ll stream the event live here, then archive it on the 13th Age YouTube channel.
On Saturday, June 21st at 3:00 PM EST / noon Pacific join:
You can pick up your own copy of Make Your Own Luck on Saturday (find a participating retailer.)
Many thanks to our GM team and all the players who attended our games at Origins this year. We sold out of all of our games, and even squeezed in some walk-ups in the scheduled games. Kendall Jung did an amazing job of managing our play events at the show. Onward to Gen Con!
Free RPG Day
Make Your Own Luck, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s prequel to the upcoming Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, is our contribution to this year’s Free RPG Day — you can get it on Saturday, June 21 at your nearest participating game retailer. We’ve heard that some stores are giving GMs their copies in advance so they can run the adventure on the day of release, so you might want to ring up your local store and see if they’ve scheduled a play event.
(Because some folks have asked: Free RPG Day is a retailer-sponsored event created to support game stores, so we’re not giving away PDF copies of the game.)
Make Your Own Luck: Live Play Crossover Event!
In much the same way that Nick Fury assembled the Avengers, for Free RPG Day we’ve assembled a team of players to play Make Your Own Luck via Google Hangout and Roll20 on Saturday, June 21st at 3:00 PM EST / noon Pacific:
Join us live on Aaron’s YouTube channel on Saturday, and watch the mayhem unfold.
Domain of the Dwarf King will go live soon. At Rob Heinsoo’s request it features a dwarf centipede. (I guess I know what Dutch horror movie Rob watched last night.)
Domain of the Dwarf King concludes the Orc War trilogy, and will see the final defeat of General Gul. Or not — that’s up to the adventurers.
The next big Organized Play installment after Domain of the Dwarf King is the first of our champion-tier games: Escape from the Diabolist’s Dungeon!
State of Play
We’e now up to 1186 GMs running Tales of the 13th Age worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. If you know anybody in an Antarctic research station who wants a copy of 13th Age let us know!
Here is a pot pourri of previews from current projects.
The Book of Loot
Gareth’s tome of magical treasures with a 13th Age spin. Somewhere there is a forum where all these magic items are posting their opinionated diatribes and whining about their owners.
I once knew this barbarian. Eight feet tall he was, and nearly as broad across the shoulders, eyes like smoldering coals. He comes out of the north, as barbarians do, and does all the things you’d expect a barbarian of that sort to do. He loots dungeons, slays monsters, sacks cities, seduces princes. The Emperor gives him a castle to keep him quiet, and a noble title to go with it. So, now that he’s a respectable noble, our barbarian goes and gets himself a suit of magic plate armor, and a magic shield to go with it.
The shield-maker asks him what the heraldic symbol of his house is, and the barbarian doesn’t know. He thinks about it, and picks the most impressive beast he’s ever seen.
KORU! he says, in this deep booming voice like an earthquake.
So the shield-maker paints a behemoth on the magic shield.
Next time a demon shows up, the barbarian girds his loins, and the rest of him too, and rides out to meet it in battle. He invokes the power of his shield and calls on his heraldic spirit…
You can still see the crater. It’s in the shape of a behemoth footprint. Squished him and the demon flat as two pancakes.
That’s why, if they ever make me a baron, I’m going to rule under the sigil of something small and very safe. I’m thinking goldfish. You?
- Stormcrow Jacen, “Merchant”
Glorious Gladiator’s Blade (standard action – recharge 16+): This weapon is a trophy of the arenas of Axis, handed down from champion to champion. To activate it, the escalation die must be 3+ and you must spend a round showboating for the crowd (even if you don’t have an audience.) While showboating, you may not attack and take a -2 penalty to all Defenses. Furthermore, the other players (and anyone else in the room) must chant your character’s name.
The first attack you make in the round after showboating is enhanced by the sword – you may double the to-hit bonus from the escalation die, and add the value of the escalation die to your crit range. So, if the escalation die is 4, you get a +8 bonus to hit and have your crit range increased by +4. Quirk: Craves the adulation of the crowd.
The Eyes of the Stone Thief
Amazing cartography from Herwin Wielink for Gareth’s epic 13th Age campaign.
“…the Maw is a churning pit of stones that swallows whole buildings. Any adventurer taking the quick route through the Maw by jumping into the pit is unlikely to survive. The safer route is to enter the warren of caves and small chambers that wind around the pit. The Maw is infamously treacherous and unstable. Earthquakes, cave-ins and rockfalls can cut an expedition off before they reach the dungeon itself. Most of the Maw’s denizens are scavengers, parasites and sewer monsters who ride along in the Stone Thief’s jaws, hoping to catch some scraps for themselves.”
Getting Started With Tabletop Roleplaying Games
An excerpt from a new book by Robin D Laws.
Roleplaying games more resemble movies or fiction in that different audience members gain different subjective pleasures from them. You might like a movie for its performances and pacing, where friend A liked all the references to an established continuity, and friend B wants to rave about its themes and nods to cinema history. You maybe responded to all of those elements as well, but you wouldn’t rank them as more noteworthy than the ones you singled out.
In a roleplaying game, you are creating the experience just as much as you are enjoying it. Your preferences come through in the choices you make.
Let’s call these the various facets of roleplaying.
Every player gravitates more to certain of these than to others. On any given evening, you might emphasize one cool sliver of the roleplaying experience over others. One session you might dig into a sense of triumph over the bad guys, and the next the exploration of the imaginary world. But overall, as the other players and GM get used to having you at the table, they’ll start to see that you care about some facets more than others. These might change over time as you grow more familiar with the hobby, or become clearer versions of what you liked from the very first.
By noting the facets of play that you respond to, your GM can tailor what she presents you with to bring these to the forefront.
Ken Hite’s Introduction to the forthcoming Russian version of Trail of Cthulhu
About This Game
Trail of Cthulhu is a roleplaying game using the GUMSHOE engine, in which you investigate and explore occult mysteries in the horrific world of H.P. Lovecraft. With the GUMSHOE engine, you never fail to uncover a clue; you always move forward deeper into the story. In Lovecraft’s world, all the clues you uncover point to mankind’s inevitable destruction and the story you enter is a tale of madness and horror.
GUMSHOE divides your abilities into two groups: Investigative abilities and General abilities. Your Investigative abilities never fail. You never roll the dice for them. Just like the heroes of mystery fiction and procedural TV series, if you have the right ability and the clue exists, you will find enough information to move into the next scene and look for the next clue. Discovering what the clues mean, however, recognizing the hideous portrait they slowly paint – that’s still up to you. You can spend Investigative points to get even more information: some new data will add color or background details to the portrait, some extra clues will get you to the horror faster or more confidently – and some of each might save your life.
Whether or not you deduce what cosmic horror or human insanity lies behind the mystery, you will find it – and it will find you. That’s when your General abilities come into play. You can spend points from them to boost your die rolls – if you have enough, you can even guarantee success! But make sure you really need it that time, because your General ability pools won’t last forever, down there in the dark.
Who Is My Character?
Your character is an Investigator of occult mysteries, a seeker after horror in the dark decade of the 1930s. You might be:
- A professor uncovering ancient secrets — at the obscure Miskatonic University in Massachusetts, or the prestigious Moscow State University.
- A journalist looking behind the story – for Time or for TASS.
- A police detective solving horrific crimes – for the Chicago Police or the Leningrad Militsiya.
- A painter or author dreaming of inhuman worlds – in Paris or Sokol.
- An archaeologist digging up primordial ruins – in Yucatan or the Ukraine.
- A parapsychologist exploring things nobody believes – for the Society for Psychical Research in London, or the Institute for Brain Research in Leningrad.
- A doctor tracking unseen dangers – in Florida or in Georgia.
- A scientist exploring the fringes of understanding – in Los Angeles or Novosibirsk.
What Do We Do?
Whoever your character is, you have stumbled onto the fringes of a horrible truth: the Cthulhu Mythos. The world is older than humanity, and we are not the first species to explore it. Those ancient species are not all dead, and those who will come after are beginning to arrive.
Above them all loom the figures of mighty beings whose very existence violate natural law and threaten to overwhelm our understanding of science. These are the beings whispered of in forbidden grimoires and desolate swamps: Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath. They might as well be gods, and there are living cults who worship Them as such, and try to restore Their reign now, when the stars have almost come right.
You and your fellow Investigators discover traces of Mythos activity in your own lives or the lives of your associates. You track down rumors of Mythos manifestations in newspapers and antiquarian journals. You might:
- Investigate a haunted house once owned by a possible cultist.
- Try to find the last copy of a forbidden grimoire before it can be used to summon one of the Old Ones.
- Fight it out with a race of horrifying alien beings lurking beneath an innocent town.
- Be drawn into a film that drives its viewers insane, and try to trace its unknown director.
- Battle a globe-spanning cult by picking up tiny clues to its activities all over the world.
Wherever the clues lead, you seek out those monstrous beings and their cults and you try to stop them in time. You may travel to strange far places or dig deep into the mysteries of your own home city: the Mythos is everywhere.
You’ve heard its call, and now you must follow its Trail or see the world end in madness and frenzy.
by Rob Heinsoo
When I read the fun Wrath of the Orc Lord organized-play adventure written by ALL CAPS MAN, aka ASH LAW, I decided I’d want another orc variety or two if I was running the adventure myself. For those keeping pace with the 13th Age OP seasons, Wrath of the Orc Lord is just about over. But I suspect a lot of groups will still be experiencing Wrath and (not-really-a-spoiler-alert) ASH says that the Domain of the Dwarf King adventure coming up in a few weeks also features orcs.
So here’s a new 3rd level orc mook that can sub in for 3rd level Cave Orc mooks or used any other way you like.
My thought process designing the monster went like this:
- I’ve got some nice orc minis with spears and shields.
- What’s an interesting reason orcs would be fighting with spears?
- To keep them at a distance from their foes, so that they wouldn’t lapse into bestial bloodlust, throw away their weapons, and fight with their bare hands and teeth.
- OK, so the Orc Lord equips these savage grunts with spears and cheap shields because they do fight better with weapons, but when they lose control or things go badly for them they throw away their weapons and shields and revert to scavenger behavior. So they’re not even trained in throwing spears, and the spears are probably deliberately badly-balanced for throwing.
- Looks like two different stat blocks, one for fighting with weapons, one for when the Orc Lord’s discipline has been shattered and they’re fighting tooth and claw.
The results follow. Start battles using the orc spear grunt, which are tougher than most other mooks. Their bestial reversion ability means they might turn into savage grunts midway through the battle.
The savage grunts have a strange ability which is me messing around a bit: their feral aversion ability kicks in whenever they start their turn engaged with a non-staggered enemy, you roll a die and you don’t know if the orc is going to use that die roll to attack (standard action) or disengage (move action).
Orc Spear Grunt
3rd level mook [humanoid]
Spear +8 vs. AC—7 damage
Mob of seven: The maximum size of a mob of orc spear grunts is 7 mooks. When you include more than seven orc spear grunts in a battle, use another mob.
Bestial reversion: When an orc spear grunt’s attack drops an enemy to 0 hp or below, or when one or more orc spear grunts drops, roll a single normal save for the orc spear grunt mob, with a bonus to the roll equal to the number of remaining mooks in the mob (for example, 4 mooks left = +4). If the save fails, all the remaining mooks in the mob cast away their weapons and shields and become savage grunts until the end of the battle (use that stat block instead).
PD 16 HP 13 (mook)
Mook: Kill one orc spear grunt for every 13 damage you deal to the mob.
3rd level mook [humanoid]
Claw and teeth +6 vs. AC—5 damage
Feral aversion: When a savage grunt is engaged with a non-staggered target at the start of its turn, roll a d20 that will become either an attack roll or a disengage check!
On a natural even roll, the grunt uses the roll as a claws and teeth attack.
On a natural odd roll, the grunt uses that roll as disengage check that may or may not succeed. If the grunt disengages, it will move to engage and attack a staggered enemy, if possible. If the grunt doesn’t disengage, it will stay and fight.
PD 15 HP 10 (mook)
Mook: Kill one savage grunt for every 10 damage you deal to the mob.
13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.
Pelgrane Press will be at Origins Game Fair on June 11-14, running the following 4-hour games in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. You can find a master spreadsheet at http://originsgamefair.com/events/games/. Hope to see you there!
||Event Start Date/Time
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Thu 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Thu 6:00 PM
||13th Age – The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle
||Fri 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Fri 2:00 PM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Sat 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Sat 11:00 AM
||13th Age – Fungaloid Infection
||Sat 2:00 PM
||13th Age – The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle
||Sat 4:00 PM
||Trail of Cthulhu – Voices from the Other Side
||Sat 4:00 PM
||13th Age – Danger at Deathless Gulch
||Sun 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Sun 11:00 AM
by Wade Rockett
I’ll start this update by sharing a graph that ASH made, showing what almost a year of 13th Age Organized Play looks like in terms of GMs and sign-ups — click the image on the right to see it more clearly. The initial bump and flatish-line represents our pre-launch OP announcement. Once we went live we saw the numbers really start to go up.
I was going to use the rest of this post to list all 21 Gen Con games we’d scheduled, but THEY ALL SOLD OUT IN A HALF HOUR. Which is wonderful and amazing, because there was always the terrifying possibility that we’d underestimated demand for play and would end up struggling to fill our events. But the enthusiasm and support for 13th Age is greater than ever.
The good news for you is that we received a lot of GM applications after the deadline, so expect to see a second wave of 13th Age games added to the schedule. We’ll let you know as soon as they go live.
13th Age Seminars at Gen Con: GM advice, design workshops & more
But maybe you’re interested in becoming a better 13th Age GM, or learning how to design adventures and monsters for the game? You’re in luck! We’re offering four seminars at Gen Con:
13th Age Adventure Design
Date & Time: Thursday at 1:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn C
The freeform story rules in 13th Age require a different approach to adventure design. We’ll talk about how to design with icons, backgrounds, uniques and more, and answer your questions.
13th Age GM Roundtable
Date & Time: Friday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Grand Central D
Rob Heinsoo, Mike Shea, Ruth Tillman and Wade Rockett share their advice on how to run 13th Age, from handling icon rolls to collaborative world building and beyond. Got questions? Bring ‘em!
13th Age: Year One
Date & Time: Saturday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Victoria Stn A/B
13th Age debuted one year ago at Gen Con! Join Rob Heinsoo, Simon Rogers and Wade Rockett as they talk about where the game is now, share what’s coming next and answer your burning questions.
13th Age Monster Workshop
Date & Time: Sunday at 2:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn C
Join 13th Age designers as they build a new monster that’ll take advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver all sorts of nasty surprises at the table.
…also, check out Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Live on Friday at 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM at the Crowne Plaza : Victoria Stn C/D
13th Age at Origins
We’re also running games at Origins Game Fair June 11-15 — download the Origins event grid.
In his April View from the Pelgrane’s Nest column, Simon provided updates on all of Pelgrane’s current projects. Here’s the latest news on 13th Age:
The 13th Age Bestiary is with the printers, on target for a mid-June delivery date. Pre-order your copy now from the Pelgrane store. It’s available on Bits and Mortar, too, so you can pre-order it from your local retailer and get the PDF now.
The Bestiary limited edition is in the changing rooms at the boutique, trying out new outfits of faux leather colours and gold foil. The limited B is currently available for pre-order, with Hatchling edition customers geting first dibs.
13 True Ways is finally in layout. We apologize for the extreme delay in getting this Kickstarted product out to you – we think it’s worth the wait. We’ll put in on pre-order this month. It’s touch and go if we’ll have it out in time for GenCon and Kickstarter backers come first. A non-laid out PDF version should be out with backers in the next couple of weeks.
For FreeRPGDay , Saturday 21st June, we’ll be releasing a new retail-exclusive adventure Make Your Own Luck. 3500 of these adventures will be distributed free in up to 700 hobby stores. Stores can sign up here and you can find your nearest participating retailer here.
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is nursing the great whale that is The Eyes of the Stone Thief into the the deep waters of art direction; Rich Longmore, Anna Kryczkowska, Juha Makkonen and Pat Loboyko are doing the interior work, and Ben Wootten the cover.
Cartographer Pär Lindstrom is producing maps for Shadows of Eldolan, and we have a first colour draft of the cover by Joshua Calloway here.
ASH LAW has delivered a draft of Shards of the Broken Sky, which Rob will look at when 13 True Ways is laid out.
The Book of Loot, a delicious collection of potent and quirky Icon-featured items is in first draft, also awaiting Rob’s seal of approval.
[SPOILER WARNING - contains minor spoilers for Shadows of Eldolan]
With the launch of 13th Age, we required new artists – with The Eyes of the Stone Thief, the Free RPG Day release and Shadows Over Eldolan all ready as manuscripts, we had quite a backlog. Joshua Calloway, who I feature here, was one of the artists who emailed us a link to their portfolio.
We get about eight such emails a month, and about 20% meet the quality, genre and style criteria we are looking for. Of those who we then contact, about half jump through the hurdles of working for tabletop RPG rates and responding in a timely fashion. Then, another 50% of those who accept a first commission drop out, don’t deliver on time or in rare cases, don’t deliver work we can publish. If that is the case, they get a kill fee equal to 100% of the amount we promised. We do everything we reasonably can to work with inexperienced artists, build their confidence and improve their work. Joshua is experienced.
We’ve ended up with a stable of reliable artists, such as the brilliant Jérome Huguenin and the amazingly versatile Rich Longmore.
Rob Heinsoo worked with 13th Age editor Cal Moore to shape the adventure and the text, and he suggested the cover brief:
Female human or half-elf in a wizard’s cloak with a hood hangs an ornate wooden lantern on a high post with a long staff at night. The magical blue flame in the lantern is shaped like the Archmage’s symbol but it is guttering, sputtering, being blown sideways, and the woman’s face shows concern and worry…
She is not yet aware of the shadowy monstrous humanoid shape or shapes reaching for her from behind, hidden by the night’s shadows.
Rather than dictate the monster of the piece, I’m willing to let the artist use one of the following choices:
EITHER multiple half-armored skeleton warriors, possibly doing the classic rise-from-the-earth shtick
a giant misshapen flesh golem with one over-sized arm and one twisted undersized arm
Cat Tobin as the art director for the project assgned it to Joshau, then worked with him to create the cover. Joshua started with a selection of rough sketches.
These are really cool, thanks! I prefer [B], with a couple of minor changes/requests – her cloak should be full-length to her ankles and slightly baggier around the arms, more like this. Under the cloak, she should be wearing sensible (i.e. non-revealing, non-fitted) clothing, maybe something like this and leggings – it looks from the sketch like you got that already. It would be good to make the flame slightly more obvious as it will be quite a recognisable shape, and if you could keep a space somewhere in the image for the title, that would be great.
From his response, you can see that Joshua has clearly worked on covers before – some covers are a right pain to add title text and other furniture:
Here is the line art to review. I placed a box at the top where the title could potentially go. I can keep the upper area of the image mostly dark except the lantern of course so the values should be close enough for the title to be placed over the tree nicely. Otherwise I can take the tree out, but I thought the roots resembled the shadowy claws making the image that much more creepy.
This really does match the brief. Some artists are over-eager to send us nearly finished pieces, which can cause extra work, but Joshua is taking a sensible step-wise approach. Cat said:
Regarding the shadowy figures in the background, they should be mostly shadow but could they be shadowy zombies instead of generic monsters, please? I should really have clarified that in the art direction, sorry about that.
Also, a bit more detail about her cloak – it’s great the way you’ve got it; it should be rust-coloured, and there should be a Lamplighter’s Guild patch (a lantern), embroidered in either gold or silver on the shoulder visible in the picture, and there should be lanterns embroidered on the cuffs and around the edges (in the place of the circle detail you’ve currently got). Also, if you could give her a brass-coloured chain around her neck with a lantern on it, that would be awesome (don’t worry about it if it would look too finicky, it’s more a nice-to-have).
After this rough, Cat said
This is looking lovely. It would be great if you could make the shadowy figure slightly darker, so it stands out more (we’ll need this in 300-pixel size for previews, so it would be great to have it visible even at that scale), and also if you could pick out the Archmage flame symbol a bit more; maybe by adding a blue-y colour to the heart of it like a gas fire, or some warmer oranges/reds to the heart and the outline so the shape is more distinctive. It would be good if it was slightly more of a sideways shape, too, like it’s being blown to the side in the wind – again, that’s something it would be good to do with the colouration.
This is an important point. Covers must look goood at 200px across for display on websites such as rpgnow.com, as well as at full size on the shelf.
Here is Joshua’s updated version:
After a bit of feedback from Rob (basically, darken the back arm) and final polish, here is the final. It’s an excellent piece of work which can stand proudly beside the 13th Age, 13 True Ways and the 13th Age Bestiary.
A 13 True Ways Preview
Chapter five of 13 True Ways is all about devils—those malevolent creatures from the Pit who delight in corrupting, binding and tormenting mortals. Where demons rage, devils persuade; where demons destroy, devils subvert and dominate.
Typically their role in your campaign depends on which icon you associate them with. If devils are most closely identified with the Archmage in your campaign, they are the servants and betrayers of wizards. If you prefer to tie them to the Elf Queen, they are haters and despoilers of beauty. If you choose to tie them to the High Druid, they work to transform the Wild into a desolate, industrial wasteland.
And then there are ideas that don’t follow the standard format tying the devils to icons. Some of these apply better to monstrous devils, and others work with the new covert devils you’ll find described for the first time in 13 True Ways.
Continue reading »
by ASH LAW
At the beginning of April 2014 I had my first development meeting with Rob Heinsoo for Shards of the Broken Sky. The book stood at 66,000 words, and it was a good point to stop and discuss things before I wrote more. Most of the book will probably stand as-is, but some bits definitely needed to be changed. Remove kobolds from here, add a sidebar there, that sort of thing.
One of the big things that needed revision was a dungeon themed around the lost tomb of the First Emperor, and after much discussion one part of the dungeon got jettisoned. The reason it got cut was that while awesome we couldn’t see a way to fit it thematically into the revised imperial tomb as a level of the dungeon. It was still cool as a dungeon, and frankly I don’t see enough Anglo-Saxon dragon-riddle dungeons. Rather than let it go to waste we talked about giving it to GMs through See Page XX, so here it is.
Rob says: “It’s a very odd dungeon, given that you will fight under your level, and then up to your level. Unless you are epic tier you are eventually supposed to run away, not a message that heroes find easy, but this will teach them.”
ASH says: “… Unless you are good at riddles and can trick your way past dragons.”
Download the Dungeon of Dragons as a PDF