We had high hopes for 13th Age, but its popularity took even us by surprise. Very quickly the game attracted a strong community of passionate fans who’ve run some amazingcampaigns, and used the new DIY-friendly mechanics created by designers Jonathan Tweet (D&D 3rd edition) and Rob Heinsoo (D&D 4th edition) to create new classes, spells, monsters and magic items.
Check out the latest testimonials from Twitter and Google+:
“You know 13th Age is a unique creation when, depending on who you ask, people will insist that it’s a direct successor of D&D 3.x, or of D&D 4E, or of the OSR. I think it’s a combination of all of the above, and people are focusing on certain aspects of the game when they make those comparisons. We’re getting the best of all worlds with 13th Age.” – Tim Baker
“I really enjoy 13th Age — the game rules, the setting, and the lovely bullshittery it enables. All kinds of fun.” – Patrick Weekes
“Our 13th Age campaign is blossoming into one of the most amazing, highly improvised RPG campaigns I’ve ever played. So much so that I consider it one of the high points of my GMing career.” – Philippe-Antoine Menard, the Chatty DM
“It makes clerics fun, and makes a mechanic of setting fluff. 13th Age rocks.” - @FrayJoker
“While reading through it, I think I finally hit upon why I like this game despite its D&D 4e roots: many rules are expressly stated as some variation of ‘use common sense’ or ‘do what makes sense for the fiction/situation’. I like that a lot. I’ve moved away from rules-heavy games (both as a player and as a GM) specifically because I often feel constrained by the system in ‘crunchy’ games. I don’t need rules for coup de grace attacks and other actions that should have very concrete fictional results. I like systems that get out of the way by themselves, without me having to intentionally ignore rules.” - Christopher Stone-Bush, Idle Red Hands podcast
“My players (and I) loved some parts of 4e, and it has taken those parts, along with the best of AD&D, 3.5, etc, and made the best d20 game I have ever run/played.” – David Thomas
Another great review from Jonathan Hicks, the Farsight Blogger, about 13th Age. Jonathan says,
“I think this is a great game. It’s wonderfully presented, colourful, full of flavour and brimming with great ideas that can not only work for 13th Age game but pretty much any roleplaying game, D&D or otherwise”
Giving it a classy and well done 4 for Style and an excellent 5 for Substance, Jonathan concludes by saying,
“I can very highly recommend 13th Age, both as a general OGL D&D game – as the changes and streamlining of the rules is very good – and the new Icon and One Unique Thing rules make for an incredibly well put together story-driven system that marries narrative games with old-school roleplaying goodness.”
On RPGNet, Kafka has given 13th Age an excellent 5 for Style and meaty 4 for substance. Describing the art as “truly phenomenal” and the writing as “superb”, Kafka states that “Purple prose is in abundance and makes reading a delight, as opposed to realms of rules and tables”, but also points out that:
“The casualness is not to be mistaken for a languid tone but rather a playful and humorous conversation that one would have with a friend.”
Kafka concludes by saying “If you are d20/4e player, you should certainly pick up 13th Age, and even if you are a causal FRPG player/game master like myself – this is a rich tome containing lots of useful information.”
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.”
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.