Campaign Planning – 13th Age – Bring on the Elves.

An introduction to  roleplaying games for the uninitiated:  A group of people getting together to tell a story within a world they’ve all agreed on.  It could be one they’ve created themselves, it could be one someone else has created – Tolkein, for example, or Stephen Moffat.  Like all games, there are rules that help the story along by saying what characters in the story can and cannot do, how tough particular challenges are, how big and nasty the monsters are.  One player takes the role of the narrator (or Dungeon Master, Games Master, etc. etc.) and guides the group through the adventure, the other players take the role of the main protagonists in the story.  I can explain further if you like…


Right.  So.  13th Age is a new fantasy roleplaying game from Pelgrane Press.  It’s written by two giants of the roleplaying industry and brings together ideas from years of playing those games, fusing them into a single, wonderful, free-flowing game.  Or it will when it’s published.  At the moment, if you pre-order the game you get access to the “Escalation Edition” of the rules, currently in their 4th incarnation, and you can get on with the adventuring without being encumbered by such things as detailed layout and gorgeous artwork.

Fantasy roleplaying games are numerous – from the grandfather of them all, Dungeons and Dragons, the previously mentioned Castles and Crusades, relative newcomers like The One Ring and Dungeon World.  Each brings something different to the table.  What the current incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons brings is incredible complexity and a reliance on miniatures and battlemats.  What makes 13th Age the game to go to?

  • Icons.  These are the powers of the game world – the Archmage, the Dwarven King Under the Mountain, the High Druid, the Prince of Shadows.  Characters are tied to the Icons by relationships – guaranteed adventure hooks, potentials for help and hindrance.  Take a 3 point negative relationship with The Diabolist and give the GM free reign to make your character’s life “interesting”.
  • The Escalation Die.  Keeping combat interesting, fast and fun.  Find the biggest six-sider you can and start counting up with each round of combat after the first.
  • Backgrounds.  No skills lists to keep track of, just a CV of previous experience.  High Druid’s Ranger 4, for example, or Battle Poet 2…  Any time you can persuade the GM that experience would come in handy, add your rating as a bonus to the dice roll.
  • Flat damage.  A sword will always do x damage (plus bonuses, etc.), a goblin’s bite will always do y damage.  Why is this better?  Well, it’s faster. It keeps things moving. It takes away some of the random crap dice rolls you can get and it means that when you’re down to your last 3 hit points you really don’t want to get bitten – it won’t just be a scratch, it will take your leg off.  And when you get to the higher levels do you really want to spend your time doing the maths having found 15 d10 for fireball damage when you could just slay everything and move on?
  • One Unique Thing.  When creating characters you have to come up with something that’s unique about that character…  This is an excellent opportunity to give your GM some plot ideas.  For example…

Characters were rolled up a couple of weeks ago.  3 players, 1 GM.  2 of the players wanted to play elven rangers, so naturally they’re twins, separated at birth and only recently reunited.  My daughter, playing one of the elves, was reading through the background in the book and declared “I want to be on the run from something.”

A few minutes of bashing this idea around and her character is on the run from the Diabolist because of something she knows.  She doesn’t know what it is she knows, only that the Diabolist mustn’t get her hands on the information.  What she doesn’t know is that one of the other characters is on very friendly terms with the Diabolist…

Last night, the latest Escalation Edition was distributed, expanding sections on spell lists, backgrounds, monsters and more (I haven’t had a chance to go through it yet).

Some of the artwork for the final release has been put up on Pelgrane Press’s website, along with the fully laid out chapter describing the Icons giving a taster of what the book’s going to look like when it hits the shelves early in 2013.  I have a number of Pelgrane’s other games and they have incredibly high production values.

To sum up.  Everything you need to start playing in 1 book, PDF available now. Much good stuff planned for release in 2013.  An open license for the rules system that allows other companies to make compatible product.

Go here:

It’s the first item in the shop.  Just buy it.

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