In fact, in comparison with other Gumshoe System RPGs, Ashen Stars is fundamentally straightforward and unfussy. Were it not for what the RPG does to the genre it is emulating, that is rework it as an investigation game, Ashen Stars would be considered to be a very traditional RPG. Instead it highlights and makes its focus upon the usually ignored investigative nature of the genre, the feature of Ashen Stars and so refreshes the genre.
The Everwayan points out that with “…all the excitement over the release of 13th Age, it might be easy to overlook another excellent new release from Pelgrane Press, the Western RPG Owl Hoot Trail.”
Further along is mentioned “The setting is mostly up to you. You can dial up the Weird Westerness or dial it down and keep things pretty gritty. There is a small section on foes and monsters, including some D&D old reliables reskinned a bit for a Western fantasy setting. Any GM worth her salt will be able to adapt easily the monsters from any d20/OSR game for Owl Hoot Trail.”
The whole campaign captures the feel inherent in the core rulebook excellently with plenty of scope for the characters to grow, develop, struggle as the experienced mercenary spies that they are supposed to be, complete with options presented based on the mode of game you have chosen to run.
Another day, another fantastic review for 13th Age – in this case, coming from Extrakun over on RPG.net, who rated it a 5 (Excellent!) for both Style and Substance. Describing it as a “lean and mean medium crunch game which is a blast to play”, Extrakun goes on to explain that:
“I have been looking for my ideal fantasy RPG for a long while and usually ended up disappointed because of some aspects coming up short. 13th Age ended my search – the ways the game deals with combat, magic items, adventuring and character development are just exactly what I wanted.”
“I review 13th Age as a d20 game with an emphasis on story, medium crunch character development and combat, and ease of play. By those criterion, I will say 13th Age has succeeded admirably.”
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.”