Monday, February 6, 2023

13th Age


I've had the 13th Age core book for sometime, but after picking up most of the rest of the publications for the game in a recent Bundle of Holding, I decided to give it a try. My online group was willing to give it a try. 

For the unfamiliar, 13th Age is sort of an "alternate evolution" of D&D. Debuting in 2013, it sort sort of took D&D 4e and stepped in a rules lighter direction, adding some freeform elements, quite different from the specification of 3e versions of the game. It's roughly equivalent in crunch, I would say, to 5e, but lighter than 5e in some areas.

We spent the first session in character creation. It took perhaps a little longer than 5e because the freeform elements required a little more thought. What are these elements? Well, the biggest is that every character has "One Unique Thing" some (noncombat) thing that sets them apart from perhaps everyone else. Not only does this serve as a character hook, but it allows the player to define something about the world. 

Then there are backgrounds. Unlike 5e backgrounds which are essentially packages of skills and accoutrements, 13th Age backgrounds are player defined (and presumably GM negotiated) broad skills. You could do something simple like "Miner," but it could also be something like (one my wife picked) "Gnomish Debutante." Like the One Unique Thing, backgrounds have the effect of fleshing out the world to a degree. The only downside I see to them is that characters might not be as "well-rounded" in the arena of adventure related tasks as their 5e counterparts. Still, that just means that (like older versions of D&D) skills are likely of less importance.

One final element not found in typical D&D is that every character has a relationship to one of the settings Icons, vaguely defined (so the GM can flesh them out more) beings of great power and importance in the setting. Characters can have a positive, conflicted, or negative relationship with one or more Icons. These are meant to be adventure hooks. You roll to see when they might come into play.

Anyway, the group seem to like what they've seen of the system so far and are interested in giving it a go.


Dick McGee said...

FYI, there is a second edition in the works, but it's still in early playtest and quite a ways off as yet. They've promised it will be as backward-compatible as humanly possible, so all your freshly-bought 1st edition stuff should remain useful. Most of the changes I've seen bandied about to date are tweaks to character classes (some quite extensive) rather than major changes to core mechanics. A "3.00 to 3.5" kind of shift rather than the "4 to 5" transition.

I find Icon relationships not only provide plot hooks and complications, they signpost what types of adventures your players hope to see. A group with a bunch of people with a relationship (positive or negative) to the Prince of Shadows probably wants skullduggery and heists and roguish shenanigans. See multiple Lich King relationships suggest they want to see undead and necromancy featured. And even positive relationships with a heroic icon hint at what kind of opposition they hope to see - 3 point positive for the Gold Wyrm implies opposition from the Three and the Demonologist, for ex. Usually players pick a diverse lot of relationships with many different icons, and blending those together so they can share the limelight in a coherent way is an interesting creative exercise. OCs become increasingly important to their icons (be it as friend or foe) as they level up, so the relations with them become a soft replacement for 4e's paragon paths and epic destinies.

Trey said...

Good insights! Thanks.