Wednesday, July 02, 2014

13 True Ways

We backed the Kickstarter for 13 True Ways - the supplement to 13th Age, and the PDF arrived last week. And it is chock full of awesome.

I'm not sure if I've said it enough, yet: 13th Age is the best game I've played in nearly a decade. I even like it mechanically better than I like FATE.  And I do like FATE.

As a player, the key contents of the new book are the new classes and the rules for multiclassing. As a GM, there are a number of locations which are better-detailed, some new monsters, a full chapter on devils and how to use them, and then a full chapter on GM advice with a number of tools and suggestions.

I'm only going to talk about the player end of things, here, because I'm lucky enough to be a player.

It's worth noting that, unless you decide to multiclass, there is nothing in this book for existing characters. No new gear, no new Feats, no new spells ...  The sole exception to this is the Ranger with an Animal Companion, who now adds a couple of spells to their repertoire.

This book is - for players - all about the new classes and the multiclassing rules.

Since I'm in an established game with established characters, the new classes are not something I expected to be dealing with anytime soon.  But I did take a quick look.  They are the Chaos Mage, the Commander, the Druid, the Monk, the Necromancer, and the Occultist.

The Chaos Mage reminds me a great deal of the Wild Mage from the 2e Tome of Magic. There are random effects that will go off around one of these characters.  But they Chaos Mage also doesn't control what kind of spell they are going to cast - they randomly determine at the end of each round what type of spell they can cast the next round.  It's a powerful class, but the lack of control over your own actions mitigate this by quite a bit.

The Commander has things in common with the 3e Warlord class - they gain abilities to buff the party.  They can allow allies to rally, to make bonus attacks, to re-roll damage, and so on. They have two different groups of powers that do this - Tactics and Commands.  Commands are performed on allies' turns and are interrupt actions. Tactics are preformed on the Commander's turn, and are sometimes Quick actions and sometimes Standard Actions. All of the cost Command Points, which the Commander refreshes by making successful attacks or by doing nothing but gathering points.

The Druid is an oddly flexible class. Depending on the talents chosen, druids can go in a lot of ways. Druids can be forest wizards, healers, rangers, shapeshifters, and more. Realistically, you can have a party of Druids who are all very different from one another. Moreso than a party of Fighters or a party of Wizards or anyone else, really.

The Monk is a master of unarmed combat. Many of their attacks function as combos, with each attack setting up the following attack. There's a bit of bookkeeping for them, as they have to keep track of ki points, which are used to power their attacks.

The Necromancer is a Wizard who deals with the dead. A necromancer will deal direct damage with 'negative energy' attacks, and can learn to summon undead minions. There are Talents that allow you to take more of the base game's Wizard abilities, too. It's worth noting that the book explains that Necromancer does not necessarily mean Evil. There is even a section on the various Icons and how they use Necromancers.

The final class in the book is the Occultist. The Occultist is a one-of-a-kind character. It's a spell-casting character type from "Beyond." The fact that they have close ties to another reality allows them a degree of control over this reality. It's a really weird class that has abilities that fit into several other classes - "Better Yet, Here," for example, is the sort of ability that would be right at home in the Commander's ability list.  Other abilities have special effects like ongoing damage, even on a miss. There are some really neat ideas in this class, but it seems a little disjointed with no clear focus like so many other classes have.

Multiclassing. I'm sure this is being heavily-discussed elsewhere. The 13th Age approach to multiclassing is different from anyone else's approach. And it's ... weird.

Let me back up a bit. In 2e, multiclassing meant you needed most XP than anyone else to go up a level, because you would take any XP received and split it into two separate numbers to compare to two (or more) separate XP charts, and you leveled each class separately. So a Fighter/Cleric would progress at half the speed of either.  And the pairings were restricted. You couldn't be a Fighter/Paladin, for example. It's worth reminding people that in 2e, each class leveled at a different speed, and there were minimum stats to get into the various classes.

In 3e, multiclassing was a "sandwich" approach.  Start with a level of Fighter, and then drop a slice of Cleric on top of that. And then, when we level again, add more Fighter or Cleric or whatever. It was possible to combine any number of classes, so you could be (at fourth level) a Fighter/Cleric/Paladin/Bard.

In 4e, multiclassing was a power swap. You took the Feat to allow multiclassing, and it would allow you to swap out one of your abilities for an ability from the other class. Later on, there were more advanced multiclass swaps available so you could swap higher-level abilities. You had minimum stats to multiclass - to multiclass into Bard, for example, you needed CHA of 13+ (IIRC).

13th Age uses none of these approaches. It's closer to 2e than the others, though.  In essence, you pick-and-choose the talents from two classes, and then you get the better of this and that and so on.  And then you use both class progressions - but at one level lower. So a paladin who multiclasses won't get an extra Class Talent until 6th Level. But this only impacts the Talents, Spells, Battle Cries, and so on.

There's no "power stacking" here - which is good.  So you can't use a Barbarian Rage to roll more dice to hit and add Sneak Attack damage on the end of it.  This means that some classes are better-suited to multiclassing than others right off the bat. The Paladin, for example, looks like it'd multiclass well with just about anything. Because - other than their Smite Evil attack - the Paladin doesn't have many special abilities.

In fact, I multiclassed Hochnor as an exercise the other day - just to see how it turned out. I multiclassed with Commander, because it's an interesting class that looked like fun.  The hitpoints at 4th Level were 57 instead of 60. I had to change on Talent to a Commander Talent, so I gave up Bastion and added Sword of Victory.  This required that I change my Bastion Feat, too - so I just changed it to the Sword of Victory Feat.

And then I added the Fight from the Front and Weigh the Odds class features. And, finally, I added Commands and Tactics.

Realistically, it made my character dramatically more effective. At the cost of 3 hit points and one AC.   More effective to the point where I'm going to ask +Wade Rockett if I can keep the multiclass. But I don't know that (for example) a Wizard/Cleric would be as powerful.  But when I hit sixth level, I'm going to gain two new Talents, once from each Class (because both classes normally gain an additional Talent at 5th Level).

The core book has a bit on Page 75 about Ease of Play.  I suspect that the lower the complexity of the class, the better-suited it is to multiclassing.  I'd wager that Barbarian, Ranger, and Paladin will all benefit from multiclassing, whereas the Wizard and Bard probably suffer from multiclassing, because of all of the moving parts. But I'm not sure - I may need to stat up some Wizards and then some Wizard/Bard or Wizard/Sorcerer characters to see.

Either way: 13 True Ways is not a must-have for a player unless you plan to multiclass or are playing a Ranger. Or want some additional choices for your next character. With that said I do believe that every GROUP should have at least one copy of this book for the players and one for their GM.

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