The 13th Hack – Part 1

In my left hand, the 13th Age SRD.  Or rulebook if you’ve got it.  Big, weighty, gorgeous, full-colour, tome of everything you need to run an RPG in the Dragon Empire and beyond.  It’s my go-to game for fantasy gaming.  Or it was…

In my right hand, The Black Hack.  19 pages long, including the obligatory license page.  Simple. Streamlined. Sweet.  Pares everything down to bare bones and makes gaming on the fly an absolute joy.  Grab the dungeon dice or cards, grab an old module that’s been collecting dust on the shelf, convert as you go along.

It seems somehow logical that left and right should meet…

13th Age is, if approached from a certain direction, the ultimate gaming condiment set, full of tasty morsels that can season and spice whatever game you happen to play.  You don’t have to use all the rules, just the bits and pieces you want to.

The Escalation Die

Get the biggest damn D6 you can comfortably lift.  Round 2 of combat, it goes on the table, 1-up.  Given that TBH is a roll-under system, you subtract that from your d20 rolls in combat.  Criticals now occur on 0 or 1.  20 is still a fumble and if you roll your stat bang-on you trigger a GM Intrusion.  (Okay, so I’m stealing that from Monte Cook’s Cypher system games, basically it’s carte blanche for the GM to introduce something into the game – reinforcements for one side or the other, your weapon breaks, something interesting happens.  And it’s got to keep the story moving forward).

Round 3 the Escalation Die shifts to 2.  Criticals now occur on -1, 0 or 1. Fumble on 20, GMI on rolling your stat exactly before modifying.

Round 4… You’re clever, you get the idea.

Go nuts with this.  Base monster powers off the die.  Is it odd?  Is it even?  Can a nasty special monster also use the Escalation die?

Damage on Miss

Simple.  You fail to hit, you deal your level in damage to the creature you were attacking.  Point is, you’re the Big Damn Heroes and you’re there to kick arse and take names.  Even if you can’t write the names down, don’t have a pen, and couldn’t read them even if you did manage to write them down.  Yes, Barbarians, I’m looking at you here.

You can also play with the attack rolls.  Natural Even Hit, Odd Miss, exact hit…  Base powers off and around things like that.  A magical sword that deals double damage if you roll the exact number you need to hit.  A pair of gloves that grants you an extra action if you miss on a natural even roll.  Index cards come in handy, or post-it notes.


An idea I’ve already seen suggested as a skill system option in TBH elsewhere.  Characters in 13th Age don’t have skills, they’ve got Backgrounds.  Maybe you were the Chief Gardener for the Chef of Ulambril.  Roll with Advantage whenever you can blag a use for that Background.  Oh, and you’ve also introduced the Chef of Ulambril into the game world – what made you leave her service, what did she cook, what did you grow? Where or what is Ulambril?  Interesting enrichment to the game world in a single sentence.  Every Background should add almost as much to the game canon as “The Doctor’s Wife” did.


These are the movers and shakers of the world.  Not gods, but rulers of kingdoms, of guilds, the powers behind the throne perhaps.  13th Age gives you 13 laid out and beautifully illustrated, the SRD gives you 13 more.  And you can find more online or make up your own.

Each player gets to have a relationship with 1 icon at 1st level, gaining another relationship every 4 levels – so 1st (1), 5th (2), 9th (3).  Relationships can be Positive – the icon likes you and wishes to help.  Conflicted – the icon is like a cat, it doesn’t really care if you live or die, it may help you, it may wind itself around your legs when you start to walk down the stairs.  Negative – the icon hates you and will do everything in it’s power to ensure you fail.  Wait, that’s more like a cat.

At the beginning of the session, roll a d6 for each relationship.  On a 1, your icon will exert some influence to assist you (positive or conflicted) or hinder you (negative).  On a 6, the opposite happens and you could find yourself working alongside crack troopers of the Skeleton Lord to steal a rare ingredient from the gardens of Ulambril (no, I still don’t know where they are or what’s growing there).

The 13th Age Icon mechanics are different.  Use them if you like.

Next Time on the 13th Hack…

Character classes! Monsters! Powers! Levelling up!


Battleborn – A Review after ~30 minutes play 0.5/5


First person multi-player shooter from Gearbox, the makers of the Borderlands series of games and now, along with Sony, the proud owners of £60 of my cash for a game I’m never going to play.

TL:DR – It’s not another Borderlands and it sucks royally for casual play.

The Good

For there are good things about Battleborn.  There’s a wide range of playable characters, even if how you get to them is just a tad arcane.  The graphics are excellent, top-notch Borderlands-esque stuff. And the comedy is still there.

And I’m out.  ‘Fraid it’s all downhill from here, folks.

The Bad

So…  The prologue, where you learn how to do stuff in-game, is entirely single-player.  And the only way for any given player to unlock specific characters to play in the game is to complete the prologue.  So everyone in the group has to go through the same prologue separately.

Split screen!  Ouch!  Think you need glasses?  You will if you want to read the in-game text in split screen mode.  Makes upgrading your character almost entirely random unless you get up and stand inches from the screen.  Oh, and the map’s on-screen the whole time in split-screen mode.

Infinite respawns!  Just like Borderlands, you get to respawn as often as you die in Battleborn, making it frustrating but ultimately do-able.  Oh, no, sorry.  Strike that, I meant the opposite.  You’ve a finite number of respawns in Battleborn before you’re dead and out of the game.  And if all of you die, you fail the mission and have to start again from scratch.  From. Scratch.  And this is even in the private story mode where no-one else can see what you’re doing.

Time restrictions.  Ah, the joy of pausing Borderlands mid boss-battle in order to take a breather, get a fresh cup of tea, go collect the kids from school, hang out the washing…  Leave the game paused long enough and the characters start making sarcastic comments.  Battleborn reckons it knows better.  Each connection to the game servers – because, yes, it has to be continually connected to the network to work – is only kept open for a finite amount of time.  So you can imagine just how much fun it is to race through to a final boss battle only to get timed out.  Well, I can only imagine as I’ve given up playing this PoS, and we died before getting anywhere near a boss battle.

Levelling up.  Ah, the thrill of deciding where to put that hard-earned skill point.  Which ability will make your character better at doing what you want it to do.  We all like doing that, so in Battleborn they’ve decided that every time you play, you get to level your character up from scratch!  Oh, and it’s an either/or choice as each time there’s only 2 choices.  Not that I can read what they are…  So yeah, you work hard on a mission, spend your points wisely, pick up some badass gear and then…  You get to lose it all and start again from scratch next time!  Hooray!

The cartoons…  Which you are forced to watch because they’re unskippable…  Hideous anime-style shite that has clearly been chosen because someone liked Battle of the Planets.

The story mode.  Doesn’t really exist.  It’s just missions strung together.  As far as I can tell from Prologue plus maybe 5 minutes of Mission 1.

To Sum Up

Battleborn is not a game for the casual gamer.  It is a game for people who have dedicated, ring-fenced, gaming time, 70″ or better TVs and lots of friends who also have dedicated, ring-fenced, gaming time and massive TVs.

And the worst part is Sony won’t refund a digital purchase once you’ve downloaded it.

Bake like you mean it – Bananananana Bread

As Terry Pratchett said, it’s a very hard word to stop once you’ve started.

So.  For Sport Relief here at school we had a bake sale, one that did very well as we have a hugely talented team of bakers.  Cupcakes, cookies, sports-decorated gingerbread men, cookies, brownies, rice crispie cakes, did I mention cookies?  And banana bread.

Now the banana bread was a slow burn.  Problem is, it doesn’t look the most appetizing and it’s not visually grabbing like the Sport Relief cupcakes or the bright red cookies.  But those who did try it loved it.  Therefore, by popular demand, here’s the recipe:

To make 1 big loaf (or a couple of smaller ones) you’ll need:

  • Greased and lined loaf tin/s – No need to line all 4 sides, just do the 2 long sides and the base so you can lift the loaf out once it’s done.
  • 125g soft butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 over-ripe bananas, mashed – we cheat here and use a hand mixer to “mash” the bananas.  Works like a charm.  Remember, kids, the really sweet, ripe, bananas are the ones with all the black and brown bits on the skin.  Don’t be revolted because it’s not just on the yellow side of green.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 250g self raising flour.  Leave this in a bowl on the scales…
  • 1tsp baking powder (you can use plain flour, but you’d then need 3tsp baking powder.  And if you don’t have baking powder it’s 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1/2tsp cream of tartar to make 1tsp baking powder)
  • Oven set to 160C

Okay.  Lock and load.  This is an easy one.

  1. Mix butter and sugar until you’ve a paste.  You don’t need the full Kenwood butter/sugar->cream here.
  2. Mix in the mashed bananas, the vanilla extract and the eggs.  This gives you a gorgeous lumpy wet mix.
  3. Mix the baking powder into the flour then sieve this over the wet mix in 3 stages, folding in completely after each stage.  You want a mix that is still lumpy, not a silky smooth mush, so don’t over-fold.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking tin.
  5. Bake for an hour for a big loaf, 40 minutes for a pair of small loaves.  Test with a skewer when time’s up, if it comes out clean, it’s done.

I’ve had “issues” with banana bread being really, really, really slow to cook.  The first time I did this it took a good half hour longer (but still tasted great), so if the skewer comes out with batter on it, give it another 10 minutes and test again.  If it looks like the top’s burning, give it a foil hat at this stage.

Leave it to cool for about half an hour to an hour before you take it out of the tin.  Take it out too soon and mine have collapsed into a gorgeous, banana-bready crumbly pile.  If that happens, just add custard and pretend it’s what you meant to do all along.

This recipe has been adapted from the Banana Bread recipe found on page 209 of James Morton’s “Brilliant Bread” – this is the mark 3 for us according to my notes.  I have learned a lot from this book, most especially not to be scared of sourdough.  Get a copy.