Commanders, Monks, Playtest Files, and Dragon Kings

By Rob Heinsoo

This week’s playtest of the new commander and the half-revised monk went well.


In the commander’s case I didn’t make any changes after the playtest. Partly that’s because the design is in OK shape for now. Partly it’s because Thorinn, the 5th level dwarf commander who used to be a bard, was hapless. He had no hap. When you’re rolling d20s, playtesting every so often devolves into “Wow, so this is what the character class looks like when you suck.” The dybbuks who had possessed the party’s erstwhile paladin friend turned out to have Mental Defenses that deviated from the monstrous norm and even the commander’s last-ditch outmaneuver attempt came to naught. The class design mission is to somehow make even these sucky moments potentially worthwhile.

The potential doesn’t always get realized. Thorinn has had a slightly rocky road since he transitioned out of being a bard. Weird things happen when your story-oriented 13th Age campaign is also the campaign that’s being used to test all the new classes. Thorinn who was once a bard became a bardmander and is now a full-on commander who is likely to shift even more when we adjust for results of public playtesting.


There will be a new playtest document some time next week. The talent half of the monk is revised, the forms half is still underway. Some of the early monk talents worked so well that the rest of the talents were somewhat irrelevant. The monk could vary from hugely powerful to utterly feeble because the talents and forms were so uneven. That’s not entirely surprising, given that the class hasn’t had an official development pass, but I’m trying to avoid it on this pass. The next version of the monk design aims to make all the talents worthwhile, eliminates one of the pieces of the class that wasn’t working (daily options for finishing attacks), makes ki powers a more integral part of the class (instead of only appearing as feats), and opens up some of the unnecessary restrictions on icon relationships and weapon choice and flavor that were getting in the way of character design. Those of you who sent playtest comments? Your comments helped a lot.

Playtest Distribution Plan

As before, we’ll be sharing the monk & commander playtest files with people who bought the 13th Age Escalation Edition and people who supported 13 True Ways. We’re also planning to go one step further. The publication of 13th Age has brought in many new players and GMs. People are writing us every week asking to help playtest, particularly people who seem to be converting over from other systems and want to know how we’re handling classes that aren’t in the core book. We’ve settled on a cunning plan that seems fair. People who pre-order the 13th Age Bestiary by ordering the Hatchling Edition will also get the 13 True Ways playtest files. If you’ve supported us by buying the Bestiary in advance, you’ll see the playtest versions of the new classes and whatever else we decide to send out for wide playtesting on 13 True Ways.

 Dragon Kings Kickstarter

There’s another Kickstarter with 13th Age connections surging towards the finish line this week. Timothy Brown’s Dragon Kings project is a campaign world and rock and roll project in the spirit of Dark Sun. The project is funded and is presently a few thousand dollars away from a stretch goal that would create a 13th Age-compatible rules PDF as part of the package. Darren Pearce is the designer slated to tackle the 13th Age aspect of the project and I’d love to see what he comes up with. Give the project a push if you can.

And elsewhere in video…

Mike Shea interviewed me about 13th Age for Critical Hits earlier this week. The first half hour or forty minutes is a discussion of icon relationship rolls, including verbal notes on advice Jonathan and I will be formalizing in the GM chapter of 13 True Ways. The video amounts to working notes on the topic. Other topics include the formats of upcoming adventures and Heisenberg’s Monster, Mike’s wonderful term for the sense in which 13th Age frees GMs up by allowing them to be surprised by what comes out of the box.

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