13 True Ways Ankheg ThumbnailRob Heinsoo burrowed his way out of the ground, startling the Pelgrane staff tremendously, and delivered this 13 True Ways update.

13th Age is almost here! Quick – reserve your copy today at the Pelgrane Shop or your local game store and download the finished PDF!

Matt Nelson entered the Monster Art +13 contest for 13 True Ways with the following proposal:

The older fantasy art that stands out to me depicts the moment right before a losing battle. It doesn’t show what happens in the fight – the threat of doom can be more captivating than the violence itself. Instead, it focuses on that moment when the heroes realize they’re outclassed – seeing the dragon’s eye looking in through the window or dozens of undead crawling out of the ground around them.

I suggest a piece depicting a party trekking through the Frost Range. A gigantic Remorhaz bursts out of the snowy ground behind them, and the fur-clad heroes turn to face the monster, drawing their weapons and realizing that their luck has run out.

Want something smaller? Lose the snow and make it an Ankheg. (Any monster with a silent “h” works.”)

The remorhraz is getting loving attention in the 13th Age Bestiary and I didn’t want to double-cover it in 13 True Ways. The ankheg waved a pincer signifying “I would love to ambush some halflings and gnomes.”

Hence this great thumbnail from Aaron McConnell. Maybe it’s called “I’m Your Silent H.”

I feel a little awful about this illustration. Not because of the panic on the faces of the fleeing halflings. No. I feel something awful because the brave halfling woman standing her ground is NOT a Shaman. Another title of this rough sketch could be “This is not a chaos shaman.” Doesn’t matter what Aaron wrote up on top of the illustration. This woman is a druid.

We’ll show you the chaos guys quasi-soonish.

Rob Heinsoo crawled miraculously unharmed out of the massive footprint left by a Koru Behemoth to give us this sneak peek at more 13 True Ways monster art…

The Monster Art +13 contest we ran after the 13 True Ways Kickstarter had one entry that I discarded immediately. It was from Christoper Tatro and it read like so:

Ever see a dog in a stand-off against three larger animals it doesn’t quite know what to make of, like turkeys or goats or something outside its realm of experience? How it crouches its front end down and growls, its back end still raised and ready to spring or run? And the other animals just look on unphased and unimpressed?That, but with a tarrasque facing down three Koru Behemoths, in a clearing with a nearby forest coming up only to about belly-level for scale.

I laughed. Christopher wanted his tarrasque and he wanted it with Koru Behemoths on top! He’d only forgotten the part that said that one of the Koru Behemoths was swinging an aircraft carrier as a baseball bat.

My first reaction was because I’d decided to avoid illustrating any Behemoths for awhile, to let people’s imagination carry them wherever they wished . . . a plan that pays off with great fan art like the piece done by Temporalpyradox on the Impossible Forge tumblr. Also, Ken Hite was already going to run the tarrasque in the 13th Age Bestiary, and I didn’t want to horn in on that action.

But the more I thought about the image the more it appealed to me. And I remembered our guiding principle that showing off one flavor of Behemoth meant nothing about all the other flavors. So I asked Aaron McConnell what he thought of the illustration, implying that I thought it was crazy. And of course Aaron said, “Oh, I don’t know. It sounds kind of challenging. I could get into that.”

So here you are. I’m showing the rough draft of this two page spread though the final may be somewhat different. There are going to be more elements that show scale, there are going to be more features and carapaces and such on the behemoths, maybe small changes to the tarrasque. I think of this look for the Behemoth as moving forests, probably more connected to the High Druid than others.

And yes, the tarrasque will appear first in the Bestiary, with a great writeup from Ken. Jonathan and I will find some other Way of the Tarrasque in 13 True Ways.

Tarrasque v Koru Thumbnail

13 True Ways Cover Draft May11 2013

  1. The 13 True Ways cover above is our first rough draft. Aaron and Lee still have lots of work they plan to do on it. That’s a wind-and-lightning powered druid fighting a dragon who has yet to be revealed. It gives us game designers something to strive towards.
  2. Lee calls the piece Over Drakkenhall. I love the name, partly because it reminds me of the WWI airplane battles that were my entry into gaming playing Fight in the Skies/Dawn Patrol. I guess I can confess that my slang for the cover-dragon is ‘the Bloody Red Golden,’but don’t worry, the story behind this has everything to do with Lee’s/Aaron’s art mixed with the sorcery of the Blue and nothing further to do with WWI ace jokes.
  3. On other 13 True Ways work, Lee and Aaron continue to roll through the art, Robin Laws has turned over great work on devils, Drakkenhall, and Axis, and Jonathan is carving his own twisty multi-icon passages through the ruins of Drakkenhall.
  4. While Jonathan, Aaron, and Lee press forward on 13 True Ways, I’m using my designer-head for a few weeks to help with the 13th Age Bestiary that Ken Hite has organized for Pelgrane. It’s mainly designed by people including ASH Law, Ken, Kevin Kulp, Rob Wieland, Ryven Cedrylle, and Steven Townshend, with editing by Cal Moore. There are innumerable dangerous and quirky touches that deserve to be touched on in later posts. For now I’m developing monsters, improving mechanics and suggesting ways that the monsters’ stories can dare more in individual campaigns.
  5. And in regard to the book you’ve all been waiting for…. Once upon a time my page count estimates suggested we wouldn’t have room to print the last chapter of 13th Age, the mini-adventure called Blood & Lightning. We said we would put the adventure on line since we couldn’t fit it into the book. Well the good news is that I was wrong and the adventure does fit into the book. Last week, with the 304 page layout finished except for page xx’s, Simon and I decided to add the revised Blood & Lightning adventure back into the mix. We’ve got a 320 page book now with no need for an adventure download and it looks like the decision is only going to cost us three days. So we’ll have more good news soon, I think.

13 True Ways Murder PixiesRob Heinsoo recently emerged from the depths of the Queen’s Wood with disturbing tales of the little folk — and a piece of art from 13 True Ways.

David Kaehler was one of the winners of the Monster Art +13 contest for the 13 True Ways Kickstarter.

David asked for a somewhat straightforward illustration of pixies in a mushroom circle firing sleep arrows at surprised adventurers.

I decided that Aaron McConnell’s amazing talents meant I didn’t have to settle for a somewhat standard image. I rolled the picture forward a few minutes. What happens to adventurers brought low in a pixie circle? Aaron’s first draft is below.

It’s dark, it’s a ritual, and that’s one pumped-up pixie.

Haven’t done the mechanics yet, but they’re going to be fun.

The final illustration will bring out what’s going on at the bottom of the illustration with a bit more clarity while still maintaining the frayed boundaries of good taste.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, murder pixies.

- Rob Heinsoo

13th Age Escalation Edition v6Our 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!


Enraged TreantRob Heinsoo recently emerged from the woods near our Seattle offices to deliver this update on 13 True Ways before returning to the wild in the company of a pack of wolves that seemed to obey his telepathic commands. 

Here’s the second rough sketch by Aaron McConnell showing off one of the winners from the Monster Art +13 contest. The treant was suggested by Martin Dickson. I liked the spirit of Martin’s entry, though I advised Aaron to focus on the central details, avoiding complications like animated trees, a second treant and the kin of Squirrel Nutkin. But don’t worry: I’ll work enraged squirrels into the monster’s Nastier Specials.

A treant follower of the High Druid, accompanied by its animated trees, attacks and destroys a New Road work camp in the Wild Wood. Tree-stumps can be seen outside the camp. The attackers smash the camp palisade, makeshift huts, and supply wagons and scatter human laborers and lumberjacks. Imperial guards fight back valiantly but are being overwhelmed and trampled, or in one instance thrown. In the background a second treant is tearing up a newly finished section of road, its roots tumbling the embankment and cracking the paving stones. Assisting in the attack, largely ineffectually and mostly for comic effect, are small woodland creatures; as the civilian workers flee to escape the treants’ wrath they are being furiously “savaged” by the kith and kin of Bambi, Thumper, and Squirrel Nutkin.

If you enjoy Aaron’s sketches and you’re going to be at Emerald City ComicCon in Seattle, check out this link and commission something personal for the show.

High on druids,
Rob Heinsoo

13th Age Leviathan and Sorcerer Emerald City Comic Con is coming up the end of this month, and the 13th Age crew will be there — Rob Heinsoo and our volunteer GMs will run demos, and I’ll be in the Artist Alley.

I’ve had to turn commission requests down within the past year due to my work schedule, but I’m making the time in the weeks leading up to the convention to do some!

If you’re interested in getting an original drawing of your favorite 13th Age Icon or character, please email me at aranmcconnell(at)hotmail(dot)com with “COMMISSION” in the subject line, to pre-order yours now.

Here’s what I’m offering:

  • A black and white single character sketch, full figure or head (like the icons below), 9″x12″ for $50. 

Anything beyond that, such as a character along with an icon, is going to cost at least $75 and will depend on the complexity of the image.  I think we’ll both be happiest with a straightforward concept that is boiled down to the elegant essence at the core of a character.  The sketches at the bottom of the post were done with that sentiment in mind.

So, if you’re planning to be at ECCC please consider signing up for a demo of 13th Age and pre-ordering a sketch! Pre-ordering is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to get a sketch.

The last time I attended a convention was PAX in Seattle last year and it was a good time.  At one point, Lee Moyer and I were both at the table drawing collaborative sketches based on suggestions from fans of 13th Age.  The two examples shown at the top of this post are The Leviathan, described to have a “lobster-esque body with the torso and head of a woman, braided beard and eyes without pupils,” and an “11 year old sorcerer boy with ties to the Elf King.”

We were able to work on suggestions like these at PAX because the “commission craze” hasn’t really caught on there like it has at  ECCC.  At the Comic Con word is out that artists are willing to do sketches for money…surprise, surprise.  The pre-order concept has been a popular solution for the artists who want to do more commissions than they can accomplish in a single weekend.

Thank you, and I hope to see you in Seattle!

Diabolist_Sketch_72dpiElfQueen_Sketch_72dpi High Druid_Sketch_72dpiDwarfKing_Sketch_72dpi LichKing_Sketch_72dpiCrusader_Sketch_72dpi

Devil of the Fangs: “When the Blessed Emperor pacified the Midland Sea, most of the terrible giants of the deeps swam out into the Iron Sea. But some of the great krakens moved onto land. They converted their deep magic into river magic and became the river devils, armored squid-like monstrosities capable of heaving themselves from one river to the next, always avoiding their ancient home. The very worst of the river devils made deals with the Diabolist to become devils in truth. The most terrifying river devil of this age is the Devil of the Fangs. The Devil torpedoes through the river networks that give it its name in a squid-like form before heaving itself onto land with tentacles shape-changed into taloned arms.”

General Ironicus, one of the backers of 13 True Ways, was able to generously offer his support at the Diabolist Pledge Level. The illustration above is the preliminary sketch of his monster that has been seamlessly integrated into the 13th Age universe.  These are the final days for the successfully funded 13 True Ways kickstarter and therefore the final opportunity to be directly involved in the creative side of the book.  Imagine the street cred you’ll get when all the kids are playing the hot new game 13th Age, and you can brush your knuckles against your sports jacket and say you personally contributed to the 13th Age universe.  Kickstarter…where dreams become reality.  Wait a minute, I’m proselytizing 13th Age not Kickstarter, but in this case the degrees of separation are minor.  Many thanks to those who helped fund the book, and thanks for your consideration as we attempt to meet our stretch goals.

Here’s the pencil sketch of the Devil of Fangs before I started working on it in Photoshop:

If you want to read more about the conception of this monstrosity go here: Kickstarter Update #12.

Diabolist BannerThe 13th Age crew will be out in force at PAX Prime! If you’re attending, we invite you to…

Stop by our table: We’ll be on 3rd floor of the  Washington State Convention Center, right in front of rooms 305 and 306. We’ll be easy to find: look for the big Archmage and Diabolist banners.The table will be open 10 AM – 10 PM Friday & Saturday / 10 AM – 5 PM on Sunday.

You can see a preview of the book’s layout and get a first look the 13th Age: Forge of Heroes Facebook game.

Play 13th Age: GMs including Rob Heinsoo and developer Rob Watkins will be running two-hour 13th Age demo games at Indie RPGs on Demand (WSCC rooms 305 and 306)

  • Friday & Saturday 10 AM- midnight
  • Sunday 10 AM – 4 PM

Get a 13th Age art print signed by artists Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell, and maybe a quick sketch. Prints are for sale at the Gamma Ray Games booth. Here’s when Aaron and Lee will be at the table:

  • Aaron: Friday 2-4
  • Lee and Aaron: Saturday 2-4
  • Lee: Sunday 10-11 Unfortunately, Lee had to leave PAX early and won’t be signing today

Their illustrations for 13th Age are in display in The Art of Roleplaying Games exhibition at Krab Jab studios. RSVP at the link for the Artist Mixer on August 30th.

Attend our panels at the  at the Red Lion Hotel Tabletop Theater (San Juan Room):

  • “13th Age, Dungeon World and More: Old School RPGs With Modern Design.”
    Friday 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel will talk about how dungeon crawling RPGs can benefit from advances in rules and storytelling tech. That’s a lot of awesome designers in one room. You probably don’t want to miss it.
  •  “I am Startup and So Can You, America: Designing and Publishing on a Ramen Budget”
    Sunday 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

    Game pros Luke Crane (Mouse Guard, Burning Wheel), Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Quarterly, Midgard Campaign Setting), Chad Dylan Long (13th Age for Facebook) and Jay Schneider (Fire Opal Media) will hose their audience down with numbers, facts and funny anecdotes about self-publishing that will ensure you never want to make or publish anything ever.

You can pre-order 13th Age today and download a fully playable copy of the game-in-progress. Also, check out 13 True Ways, the Kickstarter for its first expansion book.

The Prince of Shadows is part thief, part trickster, and part assassin. To some he is a hero; to others a villain. He has squandered the riches of the dwarves, murdered the hopes of a dragon, and plundered the dreams of a god. His exploits have changed the world, but none can tell you his ultimate goals or motives.   –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.

The Prince of Shadows, our final icon.  Who doesn’t love an international man of mystery?  I do, and I certainly love how Lee Moyer painted this piece.  I’m hesitant to post my pencils, because it makes me look like a slacker, but there’s a lot to be said for the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to evocative illustration.  As I see it, RPG art is meant to stimulate the imaginations of those playing the game, and shadows can be useful in that endeavor.  Speaking of RPG art, I’m delighted to announce that select pieces of interior art from 13th Age will be included in a show at Krab Jab Studio in Seattle.  I plan to attend the reception on August 30th as it coincides with the weekend of PAX, but the show goes up August 11th.  Here are the details.  And here’s the promotional flyer:

Here are my comparatively uneventful pencils for the Prince of Shadows.  (I’m glad Lee used his imagination!)

Here are some early thumbnails before we decided the Prince should go play outside.

And now a little teaser of things to come!  Amidst this sea of thumbnails for the interior art of 13th Age (reduced to maddeningly illegible sizes) you’ll find the thumbnail for an illustration that relates to the Prince of Shadows.  Check back for more excitement in the coming weeks as we rev up for the official release of 13th Age.

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