Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A New Game! 13th Age

The next few weeks are going to be chaotic and hectic in my Real World, so it's possible that I will have late and/or short posts.  I'm sorry in advance.

This week, however, is neither.  See, a friend just started running a 13th Age game - and, one session into actual play, I'm really enjoying it. Enough that if we hadn't already pre-ordered the game, we would be doing so now.

13th Age is a d20 variant or derivative - but don't let that scare you off.  Because it's brilliant. Yes, it's a class-based system at heart. And yes, it's still level-based. But there is so much going on.

To start with, there is no set list of skills.  None at all.  Much like Over The Edge, you choose "skills" that reflect your character's background. My character, for example, has three Backgrounds that tell you quite a bit about him - Orphan Street Thug, Cloistered Historian, and Imperial Inquisitor. But I could have as easily gone with High Street Busker, Baker, and Highway Bandit.  Any time you would roll a skill, choose an appropriate Background. "There is an excellent ambush point six miles up the road."  "Imperial Law says his possessions are forfeit to the Crown." "Actually, this sword is likely much older than that - the Numanian Dynasty dates from the Fifth Age," and so on.

A good Background not only tells the GM what you want from the game, it also tells them something about the setting. In fact, there is an aspect of world-building in your backgrounds.  Was there an Imperial Inquisition before I chose that background for Hochnor? No. My GM hadn't even considered the possibility.  But then I dropped it right in front of him - and, in so doing, forced him to deal with it in some way. I have a hunch other players have done similar things.

Each character in 13th Age also has One Unique Thing about them. It's not usually something with a mechanical benefit. Or, rather, I don't believe it should have a mechanical benefit. I guess your DM could give you a benefit.  I decided to use it to add motivation to Hochnor - as we are now living in the 13th Age of the World, Hochnor wanted to know what caused the other 12 Ages to end. In fact, he sacrificed two of his fingers for that knowledge. And now he is trying to stop this age from ending.

And yes - it's another world-building thing.  If I'm the Only Orc Paladin, then there are no other Orc Paladins anywhere in the world.  If I'm the Diabolist's Secret Apprentice, then he doesn't have any other apprentices out there.  I could be the World's Tallest Dwarf or the Elven Ambassador to the City of Fillintheblank - all of these things change the setting in some way.

Oh - and one more thing that a lot of games miss: The characters' connection to the world at large.  13th Age does this with Icons.  There are 13 Iconic Characters, and you will have a relationship with at least one of them.  You don't need to define it - just rate it (1-3 at start), and decide if it's positive, negative, or conflicted. This gives your character a tie to the real movers and shakers in the world. And, ideally, invests you in the world just a bit more.

They also tweaked the level progression for the game - there are only ten levels of play. And you can get partial progression between levels - as in, "I'm Level 1, but I have one or more benefits of being Level 2,"  Depending on your class, this could be a number of things. Extra Hit Points, new Spells, new Class abilities.

And you know how much it sucks to fail a critical roll?  13th Age has you covered there, too.  They call it "Fail Forward," - if you blow a roll, you don't necessarily fail at what you were attempting. You probably still succeed, only with a complication. Maybe it took extra time.  Maybe you were undetected, but you moved one of the roof tiles slightly and now rain is falling into the house and someone will notice sooner rather than later.

All in all, it's a very well-put-together package that takes the best parts of D&D and packs them all together in a modular way.

Oh - did I not mention?  Each of these three things?  Since the game is d20-based, you can easily tweak most of its new ideas and put them into your Pathfinder game. Very easily.

I'll keep you in the loop on how the game is going.  So far, however, I'm really loving it. And I don't see that changing any time in the near future.

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