Erik Kain recently gave 13th Age an excellent review on Forbes.com, saying:
“…one of the best systems I’ve encountered—and I’ve either played or read the rules to countless d20 systems at this point—is 13th Age, a game cobbled together by Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo.”
He then goes on to say:
“13th Age is … fun, fast, and accessible and encourages imagination from players and GM alike. It bakes some very cool new ideas into the d20 ecosystem while keeping all the major pieces intact. Of the many systems I’ve read recently, it’s one of the best. The demo adventure I was able to play was a lot of fun, from character creation to combat, and left me excited to play more (which is a good sign.)
And since it’s part of the OGL it’s simple to use it for everything from 3rd Edition to Pathfinder. In many ways, it’s exactly the progressive design that I think a lot of D&D fans were hoping for when 4th Edition came out and that fans are now hoping for with 5th Edition.
You can read Erik’s full review here, and you can watch the interview he does with Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet about 13th Age below.
The Other Steve recently picked up his Escalation Edition copy of 13th Age and can’t believe he waited so long as, in his words, “13th Age is, hands down, the most exciting modern D&D variant I have encountered.” In a detailed review over on BoardGameGeek, he explains how 13th Age:
…sits at the nexus not just of 3E and 4E – which has engendered much discussion from D&D fans – but also of the “story games” movement. It brilliantly melds the approaches of these three games into a cohesive, and fascinating, whole.
Then, on top of all that, it adds a new and compelling take on an RPG setting – defined by the game’s 13 icons – that provides dramatic conflict, ample room for GM and player input to the story, and makes the PCs themselves prominent.
The bottom line, he says, is that 13th Age:
…retains the strength of [the d20] system – a rich tactical landscape with vast space for character customization – but adds more freedom, and a well-designed toolbox, to add narration to the game. Toss in an exciting new style of setting design – centered around conflicts rather than places – and some simplification and abstraction to the combat mechanics, and the result is a beautiful game almost perfectly matched to my tastes.
You can read The Other Steve’s well-reasoned explanation of why he thinks he’s in love with 13th Age in the full review here.
Michael Evans reviewed the 13th Age Escalation Edition for EN World, providing one of the most in-depth and crunchy-yet-concise examinations of the game to date. I encourage you to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of his review.
“As far as the Character Class design of 13th Age, I am quite impressed so far. I feel that the authors have managed to achieve a very positive blend of 3rd Edition and 4E concepts, but with some really interesting and thoughtful innovations to make the game more role-playing than roll-playing.”
“…[T]he ability of getting both d20 and 4E combats playable without a battle map is fairly impressive, and the FLWQ problem plaguing older D&D editions has been nicely solved here.”
“…I have to admit there is a lot to like about 13th Age, and I can see many 4E fans meeting Pathfinder/OGL fans on common ground with this game. While it has some mechanics which are reminiscent of both d20 and 4E, it strives very hard to favor story-telling and role-playing over that of rules crunching, and has some innovations to get players to develop strong and unique characters for a campaign. And it quite surprised me in finding ways to retain a decent amount of complexity in combat and game play without requiring maps and minis, and it still leaves flexibility for game masters to adjudicate and improvise.”
Michael Wolf over at Stargazer’s World has written a detailed and balanced review of Kenneth Hite’s newest GUMSHOE offering, Night’s Black Agents. You can read the full review here.
It’s very well written, basically allows you to run or play in every spy thriller subgenre with vampires or not, and it adds a lot to the Gumshoe system without feeling too complicated. If you are interested in spy games you should definitely check this game out, I doubt you’ll find anything better anytime soon.
Kafka over at RPGNet has given an in-depth, 9/10 review of Out of Space. There is a slight error in the review when he says we have included nothing extra in the book, when in fact there is an extra 10% (8,000 words) but this is acknowledged in the thread below the review. You can review the full review here.
Pelgrane Press always manages to create such a visually beautiful product and one that will have additional rules to make it all worthwhile. Thus, despite my misgivings about nothing extra added to these scenarios – they are all first rate and play as one or two shots. Even, if you do not play Cthulhu and have a generic horror game that will explore the “real world” through a distorted mirror of the occult and otherworldly horror…you will find that this is a rich mine for your nightly game.
Jon Spengler at Dorkadia recently ran 13th Age for his gaming group, and shares his first impressions of the mechanics. It sounds as if they had a great time — Jon describes the gameplay as “simple and authentic feeling”:
[In] just a single page character sheet and a handful of potent abilities/spells, each player character functions in exciting and iconic ways. In our first encounter the fighter intercepted zombies to protect his allies, the rogue was elusive and deadly, the wizard used cantrips to confuse, the sorceress lit everything on fire, and the bard maneuvered, healed, and boosted the team. I wish I had a better word to use, but it all felt genuine despite its relative simplicity.
…13th Age is, perhaps, the first d20 game that I’ve ever played that treats the game inside of combat and the game outside of combat with equal love, attention, and innovation.
Two wider geek-media huzzahs for Pelgrane core games hit this week, and by some kind of odd coincidence, they both feature interviews with me.
Andrew Girdwood of Geek Native shares the news of how you can get Trail of Cthulhu for 55% off at DriveThruRPG if you haven’t bought it yet, and asks me all manner of questions including “What music goes well with Trail of Cthulhu?” You know I plugged James Semple’s amazingsoundtracks, but click through to see what else I suggested.
Ed Grabianowski, meanwhile, gives Night’s Black Agents a very flattering review at io9.com (“Filled with innovative features that help create a unique gaming experience”) and asks me, among other things, about playtest highlights I didn’t mention in the “DVD Commentary” sections in the book. Find out where the giant stone vampire head was, here.
Jontheman over at TheRPGSite.com has reviewed the new music for Ashen Stars, All We Have Forgotten, by James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer and Yaiza Varona.
All in all it’s an excellent album with some great music, and it’s suitable not only for Ashen Stars but for any science-fiction game. I can see this music working well for sci-fi horror, cyberpunk or a general exploration game.
On RPG.net, Darren MacLennan gives Trail of Cthulhua 5/5 playtest review. Despite encountering some of the usual roadblocks for players new to GUMSHOE, Darren concludes:
On the other hand, Trail of Cthulhu taught me how to write an investigative adventure, has a ton of useful resources for Call of Cthulhu – and if you’re not married to Call of Cthulhu already, like I am, it’s entirely possible that it’ll work better for you.
He also calls Trail “an ultralight glider,” which is a lovely metaphor of gameplay to shoot for, I think.
Vampires and spies – once you’re past the initial surprise, you’ll see that they work tremendously well in tandem. Well, I think they do, and I think the book’s an absolute knockout.
After that starter, the main. The Iron Reviewer himself, Matthew Pook, takes a long, long look at Night’s Black Agents in his most recent Reviews From R’lyeh, and comes away well pleased:
As good as the toolkits that Night’s Black Agents provides are, the rules and advice deliver on the game and genre that they promise. Whether it is blood pumping action or heart stopping shocks, Night’s Black Agents is probably best shaken, and definitely has the “Vampire Spy Thriller” staked.