GenCon logo_websiteComing to you live…

Well, obviously not live live – while I may be writing this from a hotel room in Indianapolis, it won’t be up on the Pelgrane site for a week. And for that matter, I’m hardly alive either, after the arguably best but very definitely longest four days in gaming.

Let us start again. That seems to be a wise move.

I ran two or three 13th Age demos each day of GenCon, using pregenerated characters that had basic mechanics but no Icon, backgrounds or OUTs, and a very simple intro scenario that can be summarised as “something bad is happening in Glitterhaegen that is neatly resolved in an hour with two quick fight scenes and a skill roll”. While all the demos (bar one) followed that basic story, bringing in elements from the players’ contributions meant every game felt radically different.

I’ll use the last demo I ran, late on the Sunday afternoon as an example. Even though five people had signed up, only one actually showed (every other demo had between three and six players) – a lovely chap named Edgar, and I hope he doesn’t mind being used in this article. With only one player, Edgar asked for a halfling rogue pregen, so after running through the basic mechanics, we started on what makes 13th Age different from other F20 games and such a joy to run.

I gave all the demo characters a 1-point Positive relationship with the Emperor, mainly so I could use “you’re all working for the Emperor” as a fallback story if nothing else suggested itself. I then showed Edgar the full list of Icons, and asked him to pick one more.

Negative with the Elf Queen, says he, picking an unexpected Icon relationship. I asked him to go into a little more detail on this, and he describes how he was the only thief to successfully steal from the Queen’s court, coming up with his One Unique Thing at the same time.

I told him to leave Backgrounds blank for now – in a one-shot demo, or even in a campaign for that matter, it’s often more fun to fill in backgrounds when they’re needed in play. As there was only one player, I added a GMPC, a half-elf paladin of the Crusader (OUT: On Fire).

I had three different variations of my simple little plot based around three different Icons – a soul-stealing merchant for the Diabolist, a grave-robbing necromancer for the Lich King, and a pirate plotting to take advantage of an impending Orc Lord attack. I could have just said “because you’re servants of the Emperor, you’re called upon to help Glitterhaegen” and introduced any of the three variations or used my GMPC paladin’s Crusader relationship to bring the PCs in to investigate the soul thief, but instead I changed ‘Orc Lord invasion’ to ‘demonic elves out of the Bitterwood’ and brought in Edgar’s antipathy towards the Elf Queen. I always try to tie plots to the player characters; even if the connection is a bit tenuous, it’s worth it to be able to go “because of this thing about you, in particular, you’re involved in this adventure.”

Next, we rolled Icon relationships; Edgar’s Emperor came up with a 6, and I gave him a belt of the city (from the Book of Loot) to help with the investigation.

Actual play time! I described how the city was under threat of invasion by dangerous, isolationist elves who considered humans to be usurpers. While the Imperial Legion manned the walls, there were rumours of elven commando units sneaking into the city, and traitors were said to be in league with the elves. The PCs had traced one such traitor to the grand bazaar, a huge, crowded open-air market in Glitterhaegen.

I planned to set my first fight scene in the market. My original notes called for an attack by a band of illusory orcs, but I could use disguised elves just as easily. I then asked Edgar a few questions about the market.

  • The grand bazaar’s dominated by a structure or monument of some sort. What is it?”
  • “Something’s happening in the market that’s going to make your investigation harder – what is it?”

By asking these questions after I’d set the initial parameters of the scene, I gave Edgar control over specific details of the scene while retaining overall control. No matter what he came up with, I could still use my attacking elves. It gave him a sense of engagement with the setting, which is great. It also forced me to stay awake and keep thinking on my feet – setting up situations where the GM gets surprised is super valuable, especially when you’re running a bunch of convention demos in a row. If there’s no challenge for the GM, it gets boring and the players pick up on that boredom. Finding tools to keep your own energy and enthusiasm up is a good habit for a GM to cultivate.

I deliberately didn’t ask open-ended questions, like “where do you find the traitor?” Some players freeze when given that much freedom of choice – for that matter, I wouldn’t be completely confident about my ability to improvise a scene that would still work within the constraints of a demo if the player came up with something completely unexpected (“I find the traitor in a dragon’s lair under the city!”).

Edgar proposed a giant statue of a former admiral, blowing a horn, and a street preacher, both of which worked perfectly with my intended plot. I decided that the street preacher was the traitor in disguise, trying to convince people to abandon Glitterhaegen and flee on the waiting ships – which his pirate fleet would then capture and despoil. The giant statue was a great image and focal point for the fight. (Previous demos gave answers like “a huge crystal gazebo”, “a temple to Mammon”, or “an elven graveyard” and “a children’s festival” or “a funeral procession”).

Edgar’s halfling went off to listen to the preacher, so I got to ambush him with my fake demon elves who attacked the gathered crowds. Cue a quick fight scene. I used the orc stats I’d prepared earlier for my elves instead, hastily reskinning them. If any of them had critted, I’d have described their expanded-crit-range ability as a blast of magical hellfire or something suitably infernal.

Afterwards, I didn’t bother to make him to roll to see if his rogue noticed that these elves were common wood elves, not the fabled demon elves that threatened to attack Glitterhaegen. Instead, GUMSHOE-style, I just told him that because of his experience in the elven court (his OUT of “I stole from the Elf Queen”), he recognised these elves for what they were, and he quickly deduced that they were deliberately trying to whip up terror and dismay in the city. The flipside of the ‘fail forward’ principle is that if failure is boring, don’t ask for a roll. He quickly deduced that the elves and the street preacher were in league, and scampered up the statue to confront the traitor.

Instead of attacking, he launched into his own speech, rebutting the traitor’s tales of gloom and doom. I asked Edgar to roll, and he decided to create a background on the spot to give him a bonus. He was, he announced, the former mayor of a Halfling town, and so was experienced in public speaking. Defining backgrounds in play often generates surprising juxtapositions like that – if I’d insisted that he fill in all his backgrounds during the brief character creation phase at the start of the demo instead of leaving them blank, he’d probably have gone for something like “burglar” or “forester” to fit in with his One Unique Thing of having stolen from the Elf Queen, not “ex-mayor”.

Between his not-bad Charisma, his belt of the city, his background and a good roll, Edgar’s Halfling convinced the people of Glitterhaegen to rally to the defence of the city instead of fleeing on board the waiting ships. The frustrated preacher revealed himself to be the treacherous pirate, dropping his act and acquiring an outrageous accent – YARR! – in the process. While my original notes called for the player characters to encounter the traitor on board a ship, a swashbuckling fight on the shoulders and head of a giant statue worked just as well.

Fight scene, players win, demo ends. Huzzah!

One could argue – and in certain moods, I’d agree with this – that 13th Age is a game of two halves. There’s the relatively detailed and balanced combat engine, and the considerably looser and fuzzier story-generating mash of backgrounds, Icons and OUTs. Certainly, in a simple 45-minute demo like this one, I was able to use that divide to my advantage by warping the mutable story-side elements around the player’s choices and answers, while leaving the mechanical side unchanged.

Interestingly, one of the take-aways from the 13th Age adventure design panel seminar was that people preferred using adventures for inspiration and pre-prepared encounters to use in their own games instead of running the adventures as written in the book. While we’re unlikely to go so far as to publish a book that’s half stats, half fuzzy ideas on how to put those stats into context, that flexibility is one strength of 13th Age that we’ll build on as we look towards GenCon 2015.

 

 


Gen Con is almost here, and we have some great seminars lined up. Pelgrane Press has also submitted a GUMSHOE panel as well as an overall Pelgrane Press panel, and we hope to see those go live soon.

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. Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Philippe-Antoine Ménard and ASH LAW will 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 Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and ASH LAW 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.

Pelgrane Press has received 15 nominations in 11 categories for 9 products in this year’s ENnie awards, in a field festooned with stellar games and publishers. And this year, 13th Age is up for Best Game, Best Rules, and Product of the Year.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Midgard Bestiary: 13th Age Compatible Edition from Kobold Press (designed by ASH LAW and edited by me) is nominated forBest Monster/Adversary.

There are so many great RPGs in the running this year that it’s hard to go wrong. But if you honor us with your vote, we’d be incredibly grateful.

(And hey, check out the free ENnies Sampler 2014 that Pelgrane posted on DriveThruRPG, with excerpts from each nominated book and music from the two nominated game soundtrack albums.)

Black DragonOver on the very active Google+ 13th Age community, Sean Dunstan has pulled together a complete list of monsters from the core 13th Age rulebook, the 13th Age Bestiary and 13 True Ways. John Clayton has kindly reproduced that here in table format; you can also download it as a zipped Excel spreadsheet on the 13th Age Resources page.

 


Level Monster Size Role Type Book Page #
0 giant ant normal troop beast Core 206
0 kobold grand wizard normal mook humanoid Bestiary 123
0 squib swarm normal mook beast Bestiary 179
0 stirge normal troop beast Bestiary 197
0 stirgelings normal mook beast Bestiary 197
1 archer stirge normal archer beast Bestiary 197
1 cobbler stirge normal blocker beast Bestiary 197
1 decrepit skeleton normal mook undead Core 246
1 dire rat normal mook beast Core 206
1 ettercap acolyte normal mook humanoid Bestiary 73
1 fungaloid creeper normal troop plant Bestiary 83
1 giant scorpion normal wrecker beast Core 206
1 goblin grunt normal troop humanoid Core 229
1 goblin scum normal mook humanoid Core 229
1 gravemeat normal mook undead Bestiary 97
1 human thug normal troop humanoid Core 235
1 kobold archer normal mook humanoid Core 237
1 kobold warrior normal troop humanoid Core 237
1 orc warrior normal troop humanoid Core 242
1 skeletal hound normal blocker undead Core 246
1 skeleton archer normal archer undead Core 246
1 swarm of bats normal spoiler beast Bestiary 13
1 watch skull normal troop undead Bestiary 109
1 white dragon hatchling normal troop dragon Bestiary 219
1 wibble normal mook construct Bestiary 223
1 wolf normal troop beast Core 207
1 zombie shuffler normal mook undead Core 251
2 aerial spore normal mook plant Bestiary 83
2 ankheg large troop beast Core 208
2 avenging orb normal caster humanoid Bestiary 204
2 bat cavalry large wrecker beast/humanoid Bestiary 14
2 bear normal troop beast Core 207
2 boombug normal troop beast Bestiary 113
2 bugbear scout double-strength troop humanoid Bestiary 24
2 claw flower normal spoiler plant Bestiary 161
2 destroying sword normal wrecker humanoid Bestiary 204
2 dire bat normal troop beast Bestiary 14
2 enduring shield normal blocker humanoid Bestiary 204
2 ettercap hunter normal blocker humanoid Bestiary 73
2 feral warbanner double-strength caster construct Bestiary 207
2 giant web spider large blocker beast Core 207
2 goblin shaman normal caster humanoid Core 229
2 hellwasp normal spoiler beast Bestiary 113
2 hobgoblin warrior normal troop humanoid Core 230
2 hook scuttler normal blocker beast Bestiary 113
2 human rabble normal mook humanoid Bestiary 208
2 human zombie normal troop undead Core 251
2 hunting spider normal wrecker beast Core 206
2 kobold hero normal leader humanoid Core 237
2 kobold skyclaw normal mook humanoid Bestiary 124
2 lizardman savage normal wrecker humanoid Core 237
2 medium brass dragon normal troop dragon 13 True Ways 184
2 medium white dragon normal troop dragon Core 218
2 newly-risen ghoul normal mook undead Core 225
2 orc archer normal archer humanoid Bestiary 156
2 orc berserker normal troop humanoid Core 242
2 orc shaman normal leader humanoid Core 242
2 pit-spawn orc double-strength mook humanoid Bestiary 156
2 razor shark normal mook beast Bestiary 187
2 sahuagin raider normal troop humanoid Bestiary 187
2 skeleton warrior normal troop undead Core 246
2 skin devil normal troop devil 13 True Ways 168
2 splotchcap normal archer humanoid Bestiary 175
2 sporrior normal wrecker plant Bestiary 84
2 swarming maw normal wrecker beast Bestiary 113
2 trog normal spoiler humanoid Core 247
2 wererat normal troop beast 13 True Ways 205
2 zombie beast large troop undead 13 True Ways 207
3 barbellite normal troop beast Bestiary 179
3 blue sorcerer normal caster humanoid Bestiary 21
3 braincap double-strength wrecker plant Bestiary 84
3 bugbear normal troop humanoid Core 230
3 bugbear schemer normal leader humanoid Bestiary 25
3 catacomb dragon large wrecker dragon Bestiary 17
3 cave orc normal mook humanoid Bestiary 156
3 cenotaph dragon normal troop dragon Bestiary 219
3 Crusader warbanner double-strength caster construct Bestiary 208
3 dawn zorigami normal spoiler construct Bestiary 225
3 death-plague orc large spoiler humanoid Bestiary 158
3 dire wolf large troop beast Core 207
3 dretch normal mook demon Core 210
3 drow spider-mage normal caster humanoid Bestiary 58
3 ettercap supplicant normal caster humanoid Bestiary 73
3 ettercap warrior normal blocker humanoid Bestiary 74
3 fire bat normal mook beast 13 True Ways 162
3 fungaloid drudge normal troop plant Bestiary 84
3 ghoul normal spoiler humanoid Core 225
3 gnoll ranger normal archer humanoid Core 229
3 gnoll savage normal troop humanoid Core 228
3 goblin bat mage normal spoiler beast/humanoid Bestiary 14
3 hell hound normal wrecker beast Core 234
3 hungry star normal wrecker aberration Core 235
3 imp normal spoiler demon Core 210
3 intellect devourer normal spoiler aberration Bestiary 116
3 kobold dog rider normal troop humanoid Bestiary 124
3 kobold engineer normal leader humanoid Bestiary 124
3 large brass dragon large troop dragon 13 True Ways 184
3 lemure normal mook devil 13 True Ways 169
3 magma brute normal wrecker construct 13 True Ways 163
3 medium black dragon normal wrecker dragon Core 218
3 medium bronze dragon normal wrecker dragon 13 True Ways 184
3 ochre jelly large wrecker ooze Core 241
3 ogre large troop giant Core 240
3 ogre penitent large blocker giant Bestiary 149
3 orc battle screamer normal leader humanoid Bestiary 157
3 Orc Lord warbanner double-strength caster construct Bestiary 209
3 orc tusker normal troop humanoid Bestiary 157
3 otyugh large blocker aberration Core 243
3 pixie pod double-strength leader plant Bestiary 161
3 pixie warrior normal spoiler humanoid 13 True Ways 198
3 poddling normal mook plant Bestiary 161
3 redcap normal wrecker humanoid Bestiary 175
3 rust monster normal spoiler aberration Bestiary 184
3 slime skull normal spoiler undead Bestiary 109
3 small air elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 189
3 small earth elemental normal troop elemental 13 True Ways 189
3 small fire elemental normal troop elemental 13 True Ways 189
3 small water elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 189
3 spinneret doxy normal spoiler humanoid Bestiary 120
3 trog chanter normal leader humanoid Core 247
3 weaver swarm normal mook beast Bestiary 61
3 werewolf normal troop beast 13 True Ways 205
4 awakened trees normal mook plant 13 True Ways 202
4 azer soldier normal troop dwarf 13 True Ways 162
4 barbarous bugbear normal wrecker humanoid Bestiary 25
4 basilisk large wrecker beast Bestiary 10
4 Blackamber skeletal legionnaire normal troop undead Core 246
4 cambion dirk normal mook demon Bestiary 31
4 centaur lancer normal troop humanoid Bestiary 35
4 chaos beast normal troop aberration Bestiary 39
4 chaos behemoth huge spoiler aberration Bestiary 40
4 chaos brute large wrecker aberration Bestiary 39
4 chaos glorp normal mook aberration Bestiary 39
4 chuulish slave normal troop aberration Bestiary 51
4 demonic ogre large spoiler giant Bestiary 149
4 derro maniac normal troop humanoid Core 216
4 derro sage normal caster humanoid Core 216
4 despoiler normal caster demon Core 210
4 dire bear large troop beast Core 207
4 drow soldier normal mook humanoid Bestiary 58
4 elder spore normal mook plant Bestiary 85
4 ettercap keeper normal leader humanoid Bestiary 74
4 flesh golem large blocker construct Core 231
4 fungaloid empress huge wrecker plant Bestiary 85
4 fungaloid monarch double-strength leader plant Bestiary 84
4 gelatinous tetrahedron huge blocker ooze Bestiary 88
4 ghoul fleshwripper normal wrecker undead Bestiary 97
4 ghoul licklash normal blocker undead Bestiary 97
4 ghoul pusbuster normal spoiler undead Bestiary 97
4 gnoll war leader normal leader humanoid Core 229
4 half-orc legionnaire normal troop humanoid Core 233
4 harpy normal spoiler humanoid Core 234
4 hell imp normal spoiler devil 13 True Ways 170
4 hobgoblin captain normal leader humanoid Core 230
4 honey devil (slime devil) normal troop devil 13 True Ways 171
4 huge brass dragon huge troop dragon 13 True Ways 185
4 jest bones normal spoiler undead Bestiary 109
4 kobold bravescale normal blocker humanoid Bestiary 125
4 kobold dungeon-shaman double-strength caster humanoid Bestiary 125
4 kobold shadow-warrior normal mook humanoid Bestiary 125
4 large white dragon large troop dragon Core 218
4 lethal lothario normal leader humanoid Bestiary 121
4 lich baroness normal spoiler undead Bestiary 135
4 Lich King warbanner double-strength caster construct Bestiary 210
4 medium copper dragon normal spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 185
4 medium green dragon normal spoiler dragon Core 219
4 minotaur large troop humanoid Core 239
4 ogre berserker large wrecker giant Bestiary 149
4 ogre crusader large troop giant Bestiary 150
4 owl bear large wrecker beast Core 243
4 ravenous cannibal normal mook humanoid Bestiary 212
4 screaming skull normal troop undead Bestiary 110
4 troll large troop giant Core 248
4 wereboar double-strength troop beast 13 True Ways 205
4 wight normal spoiler undead Core 249
4 woven normal mook humanoid Bestiary 121
4 zombie of the silver rose normal mook undead 13 True Ways 207
5 air elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 190
5 binding bride normal spoiler humanoid Bestiary 121
5 bulette large wrecker beast Core 208
5 cambion sickle normal troop demon Bestiary 31
5 centaur raider normal wrecker humanoid Bestiary 35
5 common treant normal spoiler plant 13 True Ways 202
5 demon-touched human ranger normal archer humanoid Core 235
5 dire boar large troop beast 13 True Ways 160
5 drow sword maiden normal troop humanoid Bestiary 58
5 earth elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 190
5 ettin large troop giant Core 224
5 fire elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 190
5 flaming skull normal caster undead Bestiary 110
5 frenzy demon normal wrecker demon Core 211
5 gargoyle normal troop construct Core 224
5 gelatinous cubahedron huge blocker ooze Bestiary 89
5 gelatinous cube huge blocker ooze Core 241
5 ghast normal wrecker undead Bestiary 98
5 gorge dragon large spoiler dragon Bestiary 17
5 green bulette large wrecker beast Bestiary 27
5 half-orc tribal champion normal wrecker humanoid Core 233
5 hobgoblin warmage normal caster humanoid Core 230
5 huge white dragon huge troop dragon Core 219
5 hydra, 5 heads huge wrecker beast Core 236
5 Iron Sea shark double-strength mook beast Bestiary 188
5 kobold dragon-soul normal troop humanoid Bestiary 125
5 lumberland dirt-fisher huge wrecker beast Bestiary 28
5 manticore bard large caster beast Bestiary 139
5 mantikumhar large spoiler beast Bestiary 139
5 mausoleum dragon large troop dragon Bestiary 219
5 medium blue dragon normal caster dragon Core 219
5 ogre champion large wrecker giant Bestiary 150
5 ravenous bumoorah normal wrecker beast Bestiary 28
5 rust monster obliterator normal spoiler demon Bestiary 184
5 sahuagin normal wrecker humanoid Core 245
5 sahuagin glow priest normal caster humanoid Bestiary 188
5 smoke devil normal troop devil 13 True Ways 172
5 swarm prince normal spoiler humanoid Bestiary 121
5 swaysong naga large leader beast Bestiary 143
5 thunder bat normal archer beast Bestiary 15
5 warped beast normal wrecker aberration Bestiary 70
5 water elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 190
5 wendigo spirit large wrecker undead Bestiary 212
5 werebear large troop beast 13 True Ways 206
5 whispering prophet normal leader aberration Bestiary 216
5 wraith normal spoiler undead Core 250
5 wyvern large wrecker beast Core 250
6 apex zorigami normal spoiler construct Bestiary 225
6 bat demon (squishy) normal mook demon 13 True Ways 164
6 bearded devil (barbazu) large blocker devil 13 True Ways 173
6 blizzard dragon large wrecker dragon Bestiary 220
6 blood rose double-strength wrecker undead 13 True Ways 195
6 cambion katar normal wrecker demon Bestiary 31
6 centaur champion double-strength leader humanoid Bestiary 36
6 centaur ranger normal archer humanoid Bestiary 35
6 chuul large spoiler aberration Bestiary 47
6 chuulish swarm normal troop aberration Bestiary 47
6 clay golem large spoiler construct Core 231
6 corpse dybbuk double-strength troop demon Bestiary 64
6 coursing manticore large spoiler beast Bestiary 140
6 crimsoncap normal spoiler humanoid Bestiary 175
6 death blossom double-strength caster undead 13 True Ways 194
6 dire tiger large troop beast 13 True Ways 160
6 drider large caster aberration Core 223
6 drow spider-sorceress normal caster humanoid Bestiary 59
6 frost-wurm large troop beast Bestiary 180
6 gelatinous octahedron huge blocker ooze Bestiary 89
6 hag normal spoiler humanoid Bestiary 105
6 hill giant large troop giant Core 225
6 ice zombie normal mook undead Bestiary 79
6 intellect assassin normal spoiler aberration Bestiary 118
6 jotun auroch huge mook beast Bestiary 78
6 large black dragon large wrecker dragon Core 220
6 large bronze dragon large wrecker dragon 13 True Ways 185
6 lich flower double-strength blocker undead 13 True Ways 194
6 lokkris normal mook beast Bestiary 61
6 manticore large archer beast Core 238
6 medium red dragon normal wrecker dragon Core 220
6 medium silver dragon normal spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 185
6 Medusa outlaw double-strength wrecker humanoid Core 238
6 ogre mage knight large wrecker giant Bestiary 152
6 parasitic dybbuk double-strength spoiler demon Bestiary 64
6 poison dandelion double-strength spoiler undead 13 True Ways 195
6 sahuagin mutant double-strength wrecker humanoid Bestiary 189
6 sparkscale naga large leader beast Bestiary 144
6 specter double-strength wrecker undead 13 True Ways 201
6 spider mount large troop beast Bestiary 60
6 vampire spawn normal spoiler undead Core 249
6 vrock normal spoiler demon Core 211
6 weretiger large troop beast 13 True Ways 206
6 winter beast large troop beast Bestiary 79
7 bergship raider large spoiler giant Bestiary 77
7 big air elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 191
7 big earth elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 191
7 big fire elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 191
7 big water elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 191
7 bronze golem large blocker construct Bestiary 100
7 cloud giant mage huge caster giant 13 True Ways 165
7 cloud giant thane huge wrecker giant 13 True Ways 165
7 crustycap normal wrecker humanoid Bestiary 176
7 devil of the fangs huge spoiler devil 13 True Ways 180
7 drow darkbolt normal archer humanoid Bestiary 59
7 ethereal dybbuk double-strength wrecker demon Bestiary 65
7 fallen lammasu large wrecker beast Bestiary 131
7 frost giant large spoiler giant Core 226
7 gelatinous dodecahedron huge blocker ooze Bestiary 90
7 gnoll fiendfletch normal archer humanoid 13 True Ways 196
7 gnoll shredder normal blocker humanoid 13 True Ways 196
7 hezrou large troop demon Core 212
7 hooded devil normal troop devil 13 True Ways 174
7 hydra, 7 heads huge wrecker beast Core 236
7 ice sorceress large caster giant Bestiary 77
7 lammasu warrior large troop beast Bestiary 131
7 large green dragon large spoiler dragon Core 220
7 manafang naga large leader beast Bestiary 144
7 medium gold dragon normal caster dragon 13 True Ways 186
7 moon dragon huge troop dragon Bestiary 220
7 ogre mage large caster giant Core 240
7 orc rager normal mook humanoid Core 242
7 phase spider large wrecker beast Core 244
7 umluppuk huge spoiler aberration Bestiary 69
7 void dragon huge caster dragon Bestiary 18
7 volcano dragon large wrecker dragon Bestiary 168
8 adult remorhaz large wrecker beast Bestiary 180
8 black skull normal caster undead Bestiary 110
8 cambion hellblade normal wrecker demon Bestiary 32
8 Carid, reseeded triple-strength troop plant 13 True Ways 254
8 couatl large spoiler beast Bestiary 52
8 elder swaysong naga normal leader beast Bestiary 144
8 fire giant large wrecker giant Core 227
8 frost giant adventurer large spoiler giant Bestiary 78
8 fury devil (erinyes) normal wrecker devil 13 True Ways 175
8 giant praying mantis large blocker beast 13 True Ways 161
8 glabrezou large caster demon Core 212
8 iconic chimera large wrecker beast Bestiary 42
8 lammasu wizard large spoiler beast Bestiary 132
8 large blue dragon large caster dragon Core 221
8 lich count double-strength spoiler undead Bestiary 135
8 marble golem large troop construct Bestiary 101
8 mummy double-strength wrecker undead 13 True Ways 197
8 ogre lightning mage large caster giant Bestiary 152
8 parasitic lightning beetle normal mook beast Bestiary 164
8 purple larvae normal mook beast Bestiary 165
8 purple worm huge wrecker beast Bestiary 164
8 rakshasa double-strength caster humanoid Core 245
8 shadow dragon large caster dragon Bestiary 193
8 shadow thief normal mook dragon Bestiary 193
8 stone giant large troop giant Core 226
8 stone golem large blocker ooze Core 232
9 black pudding huge wrecker ooze Core 241
9 bone devil (osyluth) large troop devil 13 True Ways 176
9 chimera large wrecker beast Core 209
9 deep bulette huge wrecker beast Bestiary 28
9 despoiler mage normal caster demon Core 213
9 djinn large spoiler giant Bestiary 93
9 dread specter triple-strength wrecker undead 13 True Ways 201
9 drow cavalry double-strength wrecker humanoid Bestiary 59
9 elder sparkscale naga normal leader beast Bestiary 145
9 elder wendigo huge spoiler demon Bestiary 212
9 empyrean dragon huge spoiler dragon Bestiary 18
9 epic air elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 192
9 epic earth elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 192
9 epic fire elemental normal wrecker elemental 13 True Ways 193
9 epic water elemental normal blocker elemental 13 True Ways 193
9 fire giant warlord large leader giant Core 227
9 giant vrock large spoiler demon Core 214
9 headless zombie normal troop undead 13 True Ways 207
9 hoard spirit normal mook construct Bestiary 169
9 hoardsong dragon large spoiler dragon Bestiary 169
9 hooked demon normal mook demon Core 213
9 huge black dragon huge wrecker dragon Core 221
9 huge bronze dragon huge wrecker dragon 13 True Ways 186
9 lammasu priest large caster beast Bestiary 132
9 large copper dragon large spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 186
9 ogre minion large mook giant Bestiary 150
9 prismatic ogre mage large caster giant Bestiary 153
9 skull of the beast large wrecker undead Bestiary 110
9 soul flenser normal spoiler aberration 13 True Ways 199
9 the flensed normal mook aberration 13 True Ways 200
9 wraith bat normal mook undead Bestiary 15
10 barbed devil (hamatula) normal caster devil 13 True Ways 176
10 dusk zorigami normal wrecker construct Bestiary 225
10 efreet large wrecker giant Bestiary 93
10 elder manafang naga normal leader beast Bestiary 145
10 great fang cadre (orc) normal mook humanoid Core 242
10 iron golem large wrecker construct Core 232
10 large red dragon large wrecker dragon Core 222
10 large silver dragon large spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 187
10 massive mutant chuul huge wrecker aberration Bestiary 48
10 nalfeshnee large caster demon Core 214
10 river devil normal wrecker devil 13 True Ways 180
10 spawn of the master (vampire) normal mook undead Core 249
10 storm giant huge archer giant Core 228
10 treant titan large spoiler plant 13 True Ways 203
10 vampire normal spoiler undead Core 248
11 elder couatl large spoiler beast Bestiary 53
11 greathoard elder huge wrecker dragon Bestiary 170
11 huge copper dragon huge spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 187
11 huge green dragon huge spoiler dragon Core 222
11 ice devil (gelugon) normal leader devil 13 True Ways 177
11 large gold dragon large caster dragon 13 True Ways 187
11 medusa noble double-strength caster humanoid Core 239
11 remorhaz queen large wrecker beast Bestiary 180
12 ancient purple worm huge wrecker beast Bestiary 164
12 flamewreathed dragon huge spoiler dragon Bestiary 170
12 horned devil (conugon) large troop devil 13 True Ways 177
12 huge blue dragon huge caster dragon Core 222
12 lich prince double-strength spoiler undead Bestiary 136
12 marilith large troop demon Core 215
12 smoke minions normal mook construct Bestiary 171
13 balor large wrecker demon Core 215
13 Hagunemnon large wrecker aberration Bestiary 69
13 huge red dragon huge wrecker dragon Core 223
13 huge silver dragon huge spoiler dragon 13 True Ways 188
13 river devil minion normal mook devil 13 True Ways 181
13 the final devil huge leader devil 13 True Ways 181
14 huge gold dragon huge caster dragon 13 True Ways 188
14 pit fiend huge wrecker devil 13 True Ways 178
15 tarrasque huge wrecker beast Bestiary 201

01LootEven as I write this, the indefatigable Chris Huth toils into the Canadian night, putting the finishing touches to The Book of Loot, our upcoming compendium of new magic items for 13th Age. The book’s crammed full of wonderful treasures and potent creations of sorcery, along with several items that we ourselves call out as utterly unforgivable puns.

Not every item written made it into the book for one reason or another. Some were cut for thematic reasons, others for balance. Here’s one that fell early on, on grounds of complexity. It’s an Epic-tier item associated primarily with the Emperor icon.

Epic

Chessboard of the Ages: There is no mistaking this item; the board of onyx and marble, and the gold and ruby playing pieces are described in songs and sagas from previous ages. However, the pieces are subtly different each time – the pawns change to resemble the allies and enemies of the chessboard’s bearer, while the features of the Icons of the Age appear on the other pieces.

When you first take possession of the chessboard, the GM gives the role of your opponent to some rival, ongoing villain or even an enemy Icon (GM: roll relationship dice if you want). Usually, it’s the Lich King or Orc Lord. You have the opening move. Once per battle, you may ‘move’ by activating one of the chess pieces as a free action. Each piece has a different ability. You may use each ability once per piece (so, you can use the pawn power eight times total in your life, most of the other powers twice ever, and the king and queen powers once each). A piece disappears when used.

Unlike most magic items, the chessboard doesn’t have a recharge value. Once you use a power, you can’t activate any of the chess pieces again until your opponent takes a move (or until your opponent voluntarily forfeits the chance to use a power – see the King, below, for why that might be a good option)

The powers possessed by the chess pieces are:

  • Pawn: One nearby ally may take an extra standard action in their next turn or heal using a recovery as a free action.
  • Rook: Cast teleport (as the wizard spell) to travel to any stronghold or flee from a battle without incurring a campaign loss
  • Knight: Gain three paladin talents with all associated feats until the end of a battle or call a legendary hero to aid you for one battle
  • Bishop: Cast any one Divine spell of up to ninth level or automatically succeed at any one skill check, no matter the difficulty
  • Queen: Either copy the powers of any  other chess piece remaining on your board (other than the king) or sacrifice the queen to remove any one piece possessed by your opponent, other than the king.
  • King: You may only use the king’s power if you have at least twice as many pieces left as your opponent, and your opponent has suffered a significant defeat in the real world outside the chess game. When you use it, the chess game ends and the chessboard vanishes. However, your opponent is magically compelled to perform one task for you as a forfeit for losing the game. You may specify the task as you wish, and the opponent must obey.

Quirk: You share your opponent’s dreams while playing. 

I may be mad – no, I am mad – but I can count. Eight pieces for good, eight for evil, that makes sixteen. But they say there are but thirteen Icons in the Empire. Who are the other three? Or do some play both sides, like the treacherous harlots they are?

-        Erach, crazed preacher

 

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.

 

Grr'OwlNow that the 13th Age Bestiary is about to ship, and design on 13 True Ways is finished, we can turn our attention back to other important things. Like announcing a contest winner!

We invited readers to submit captions for Rich Longmore’s great illustration of a bronze golem looming over an owlbear cub. We selected three finalists, which went to Rob Heinsoo for judging.

The winner of the Limited Edition 13th Age Bestiary:

Daniel Gallaher: “Mr. Snuggles Murderton! I’ve been looking all over for you!”

Runners up ($20 Pelgrane vouchers):

Jace Parker: “Perhaps a Clockwork Golem could learn to love. An Owlbear, however, will never learn to show mercy.”

Dennis Newcomb: “And what happened, then? Well, in Axis they say – that the Forgeborn’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of love came through, and the Forgeborn found the strength of ten Forgeborns, plus two!”

Daniel, Jace and Dennis, please email support@dyingearth.com to claim your prizes.

Congrats to the winners, and thanks to everyone who sent in an entry!

While the 13th Age Bestiary was in playtesting, we heard some fun stories about groups that temporarily allied with monsters and wanted guidelines about how to handle their unlikely allies. Here’s Jonathan’s advice to GMs on handling this unusual situation, along with a paragraph I’ve inserted that addresses healing. –Rob Heinsoo

By Jonathan Tweet

Gnome Riding Dragon13th Age campaigns where diplomacy or skullduggery are options sometimes end up with creatures that start as monsters fighting alongside the party. This can cause some problems if all the new ally’s abilities are handled exactly as they were when the creature was functioning as an enemy of the PCs.

If 13th Age were a simulation, then monsters and characters would be interchangeable objects. You would be expected to treat the monstrous ally as written, so it would act, for example, “the way a naga really would act.” But 13th Age is only partially a simulation, and both PCs and monsters are hand-crafted to fit their distinct roles at the table.

GMs, if a monster joins the party, consider each of its special abilities to see whether that ability makes sense for a creature functioning as a PC. Feel free to interpret special abilities loosely. These monsters aren’t like cards in a collectible card game, where you have to follow the letter of the card text.

The goal is to make these temporary alliances fun rather than weird or exploitative. Given how many surprises can lurk within mechanical combinations the game wasn’t expecting to handle, don’t be shy about changing interpretations on the fly. So long as your intentions are good and the results are amusing, the players should thank you.

Here are some example adjustments.

Powerful monster abilities: Certain per-battle abilities, such as demonic teleportation or trollish regeneration, are abusive if they can be used every five minutes. If they are powerful, they might be too decisive and repetitive as per-encounter powers. In such cases, assign the power a recharge roll. 11+ is usually fair, and it provides variation between battles.

Escalation die interactions: Abilities that reduce the escalation die can be thought of as reducing the enemies’ access to the escalation die, if any. Those abilities should work against dragons, but if the party happens to have a frost giant ally, don’t always penalize them with a slower escalation die. Once, perhaps, for dramatic flavor, but as a rule such abilities are meant to be used when the monster is fighting the PCs, not allied to them.

Flying: A monster’s long-range flying ability may be far more limited than its write-up mentions. It may be limited in how far it can fly in a day or how long it can fly without a quick rest. The monster write-ups describe how well a creature flies in a battle, when its life depends on it.

Monsters that are tougher when hurt: If the PCs end up exploiting a monster’s power by dealing it damage, keeping it staggered, putting minor effects on it, or that sort of thing, the power could probably use a re-interpretation. A “when staggered” power, for example, might be re-imagined as “when staggered, and for up to 5 minutes a day.”

Healing: If the PCs want to use precious healing spells, commands, or potions to keep monstrous allies alive, you should probably let them, at least once per battle. Treat the monster as if it has a single recovery that can be used in each battle, regaining 25% of its starting hit points when it does so.  Heinsoo’s version would have you roll a d4 and multiply the result by 10% to find out the percentage of the monster’s hit points it regains using the recovery, so do whichever you like. If you want the monster to heal a bit between battles, that’s fine, but you probably want it to heal less than the PCs to help the PCs feel special.

Out of combat possibilities: Certain battle abilities might suggest other capacities that the monster could use while exploring or interacting with people. At the GM’s option, for example, a confusion ability could be used to fast-talk someone. Again, even if that ability is an at-will power in battles as a monster, it probably works best if it’s being used on the PC’s side as a power that only has a chance of recharging. Obviously there could be some extremely surprising stories resulting from abilities used by allied monsters, but if they seem like they’re overshadowing the PCs’ abilities, backgrounds, and One Unique Things, then the recharge on the monster’s ability is too low or the ability itself needs to be toned down.

By Rob Heinsoo

13 True Ways front coverThe text below is from a 13 True Ways Kickstarter update I posted yesterday. Since it talks about material that will also interest everyone buying 13 True Ways on pre-order or ordering it from their hobby shop, I’m posting the update here as well.

By now most of you will have seen the 13 True Ways PDF, except for those old-fashioned souls who want to wait for the printed book. I know there are some of you because Jonathan is one! Yes, Jonathan Tweet doesn’t want to spoil the surprise by looking at the PDF. Since I handle art and layout and editing communication, Jonathan still doesn’t know what the final book is going to look like, apart from the text, so if you are waiting for the printed book later this summer you have some good company.

Along with the final printed books there are other backer rewards in the works, such as dice and t-shirts and postcards. Those are all at various stages in the production queue, and I can’t predict when they all will be ready.

For now I want to talk about another aspect of 13 True Ways delivery: the other PDFs that are going to show up on your computer in coming months.

We ended the Kickstarter promising a 180-page book. Once we got into the design phase, our labor-of-love approach pushed us up to 256 pages. And because it was a labor of love, Jonathan and I prioritized the things we thought would be the most fun, and held our work to a very high standard. If we felt meh about something, and believed that you would feel meh about it too, it didn’t go in. We ended up delivering on all the stretch goals in the Kickstarter along with all the backer rewards, but some of our ideas in the original 13 True Ways Kickstarter plan didn’t make it into the book.

So here’s what we plan to do about it.

We’re going to finish those pieces properly as part of the upcoming subscription-based 13th Age annual (name to be determined), along the lines of the excellent Ken Writes About Stuff from Pelgrane Press. I should be clear that the we I’m mentioning includes me, but not always the other members of the original 13TW team. Sometimes I’ll be the designer, other times I’ll act as developer with other talented contributors handling the design work. Sometimes we’ll be completing work that I started on 13 True Ways but didn’t finish to my satisfaction.

13TW Kickstarter backers will have two options when the annual goes live:

  1. You can choose to get only the issues that contain 13 True Ways follow-up content, for free
  2. You can choose to purchase the entire first 13th Age annual at a discount which covers all of the free content to which you’re entitled, plus a bit extra

Not every month’s installment will contain 13 True Ways follow-up content, and there’s no set schedule about when a particular piece of 13 True Ways follow-up content will be completed. This may stretch out for quite some time, because during the design phase of 13 True Ways we unexpectedly hit on a few things that could serve as the basis for larger books. If they do get turned into books, when those surprises get unveiled we’ll send a related freebie to 13TW backers. Think of this operation as a purchase that keeps on providing surprising micro-rewards.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and list the things that didn’t make it into 13 True Ways and my current thoughts on how they’ll be part of the 13th Age annual subscription, or not.

Appearing in the annual at some point

  • Details on forests & woods to make them distinct: This grew into something a bit different than I thought originally.
  • More on gladiatorial games: Yeah, there’s some more we can explore here.
  • Rules for dragon-riding: I know that a lot of you were really looking forward to this—I was, too—and some of you even backed the project because of it. So I’ll be blunt: so far all the systems we’ve come up with have been worse than no system at all in terms of their impact on the game. I’m not interested in publishing bad systems, and I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in getting them. ASH and I are continuing to work on these rules, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure they get included in the first annual. I can promise that we’re not going to shrug our shoulders and send you something that we think isn’t worth using, just so we can check off a box on our to-do list. We’ll get it to work because I know ASH will kill me if we don’t.
  • Illustrated comparisons of the adventurer, champion, and epic tier: We’ll do these, but probably not by Aaron and Lee.
  • Some fantastic maps of the overworld and portions of the underworld: Ditto.
  • A cutaway map of a typical elven wood: Same.

Partially appearing in the annual after their actual potential is realized in future books

  • Racial feats: because they do appear to have a place in the game, but that place may come as a surprise.
  • Feats associated with the icons: same story. The obvious mechanics weren’t so good, but there is something interesting hidden behind the idea.
  • Stats for the 13 icons themselves: As the game evolved and matured through further development and play, we became increasingly convinced that this was an idea we didn’t want to pursue half-cocked. You can see the care we took detailing the 4 backer-created NPCs in the Gamemasters’ Grimoire chapter of 13TW. In a sense, those NPCs function a bit like mini-icons, and our final approach to this topic may bear some resemblance to the multi-option approach used for the NPCs. But when I say ‘final approach,’ I’m acknowledging that this isn’t something we intend to pursue soon. When we do finally take this path, it’s almost certainly going to be the basis for a book rather than a slice of a different book. In the near-ish future, we will be doing monster-style stats for various servants and followers of the icons. Some of the high-level lieutenants of the icons will find their way into a 13TW-backers update to provide touches of the high-level play people might have been looking for from actual icon stats.

There are also going to be surprise backer freebies along the way, some of which expand on ideas that made it into 13TW.

That’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll be in touch about the annual’s start date and other details once we’ve built the plan out further, probably before or around GenCon.

Yours in the whirl,

Rob Heinsoo
Lead Designer, Fire Opal Media

13thagelimited

You may recall that the first batch of 100 limited edition copies of 13th Age sold out around this time last year. You may also remember that we printed 200 limited editions in all. We’re giving some away for a secret reward and this month, we’re releasing 60 more.

The books are faux leather with gold foil. Each one includes a sticky-backed book plate signed by the four creators for you to add to the book.

We are not offering an upgrade version.

The book retails at $100 / £65 plus shipping.

You can order it here under Recent Releases.

PlatesSigned_END

Book_of_Loot_coverLet us have a moment of silence for the defeated monsters.

 

Now, let us take their stuff.

 

What’s In This Book

Loot!
That’s both an answer and an exhortation. Yes, 13th Age is all about the story and the awesome action, but we’ve all got a treasure-hungry munchkin inside of us, and it’s time to let that grubby-fingered kid out to play.

The Book of Loot is full of more magic items to be found, stolen, given as rewards or otherwise looted by the player characters. We’ve also thrown in a short chapter on ways to make mundane treasure more interesting, and a selection of new one-use magic items.

Stock #: PEL13A06 Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artist: Joshua Calloway, Cougar George Pages: 72 page perfect bound

Buy

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