13th Age – Running the Game

The chapter on running the game opens with the all important section on using Icon relationships, with a wonderful sidebar acknowledging that this is new tech, and that it’s worth watching the internet to see what people do with it.

As we mentioned a while back, the mechanics of Icon relationships are straightforward. You have a few points of relationships spread among the icons. When called for, you roll 1d6 for each point. If a 6 comes up, the relationship matters in a useful way. If I 5 comes up, the relationship matters in a useful way, but there’s a catch. Mechanically, it’s pretty simple.

Conceptually, it’s much more interesting. These rolls are basically the things that are going to provide seeds fro your play, Practically, there are three main times to make a relationship roll.

  1. When that icon (or its agents) show up in an important way
  2. At the beginning of every session[1]
  3. When things have totally gone off the rails.

We’ll get to #1 in a minute. #2 is the real gold (and #3 is, really, just an extension of #2, since it’s very nearly a reboot button). So at the beginning of play, everyone rolls all their relationship dice, and each 5 or 6 is expected to become a plot point in the forthcoming session. Since everyone has at least 3 points, that’s generally going to mean one plot element per player, but it’s subject to the vagaries of the dice[2]. Assuming the GM takes these things seriously, that’s enough elements to really make sure the shape of the adventure conforms to the play.

The idea is a little bit stronger than the support. There are a number of ideas given for how to improvise relationship rolls into play – providing guidance, driving flashbacks, giving goodies and so on. These are fine, but they’re chrome – they’re the way you would use these rolls if you still want to run basically the same dungeon you were going to be running anyway. I get that the examples I want to see (like tying the relationships and, in turn, the PCs directly into the stakes of the day’s adventure) might be a little daunting to someone coming to this fresh faced, but that capability is so awesome that it feels like a wasted opportunity.

It’s with that in mind that I consider rolling relationship dice for dramatic events to be almost incidental, and I admit the writeup doesn’t change my mind. The actual rules for such rolls are pretty thin, and more or less boil down to rolling to see if you grab the spotlight for a given scene (which is a bit weird) with most of the focus on when such rolls are made (short answer – when the GM says so, though players may occasionally force the issue through play).

There’s a nice rule for rolling for random icon influence, but really, that’s it. It’s disappointing. Again, I am crazy about how good the Icons concept is (even if I might be inclined to fiddle with the dice) and I feel like it gets badly undersold in the text.

Next section is on environments and tiers, basically noting that locations are tiered the same way that characters are (Adventurer, champion & epic) and in case that was not clear enough, there’s an actual chard to prove it. Environment tier matters because it sets the baseline difficulty for actions (baseline 15, +5 per tier, +5 per difficulty increments, of which there are 3). So the hardest adventurer tier DC is 25 (2 difficulty increments) while the highest Epic DC is 35 (2 difficulty increments and 2 tiers). This is one of those cases where simplicity was clearly chosen over smooth break points, but the underlying idea is flexible enough (that is, a given dungeon might be largely one tier, but another tier in some places) that it’s not as painful as it could be.

There’s also a kind-of-probably-intentional sliding scale to it, where a Hard Adventurer DC (20) is the same as a Normal Champion DC. This allows for a bit of subjectivity in deciding difficulties, which is almost necessary because there’s a real lack of meaningful difference between the environment tiers besides the level of the characters. There are also default attacks and damage levels for each tier, and it’s all combined into a single table that’s reminiscent of 4e’s famous Page 42.

I was curious to read the section on traps, because the decision for the rogue to have trap sense rather than thievery as a class feature has been sticking in my craw. There’s a nice explanation of why instakill traps are lame, and a kind of thin-seeming explanation of why traps aren’t worth XP (but monsters are) followed by some sample traps and…that’s it.

The section on building encounters is less sparse, but is not much more than functional. Simple formula for coming up with the correct number of enemies without ever actually using terms like “Challenge Rating” Some of it is interesting – Adventurers fight equal level enemies, Champions fight level +1 and Epic fights level +2. I just kind of trust that works out. There’s also some familiar 4e tiering of monsters from Mook to Normal to Large to Huge with Normal as the default. Amusingly, there are guidelines on how to make fights unfair (more, and harder) but not necessarily why you’d do it.

Y’know that thing I keep saying about the assumption that the reader already know what they’re doing? Yeah. That.

The advice on healing up mostly revealed to me that a key concept thad been introduced in the combat chapter without my noticing it. The flee rules note that you can have the party suffer a campaign loss – some sort of in game setback. Turns out that “campaign loss” is actually a game term because you can also take them for resting too often. I’m fine with the rule, but as for the term, this is why god created italics.

The section on leveling up opens up with the big whammy – no XP. Just advance a level every 12–16 battles or so. There’s a list of the benefits of leveling, which is mostly what we’ve seen before, followed by rules for incremental advances to smooth out the progression if anyone needs that.

Wedged in here, for no reason I can really point to, is a section on “Player Picks”, which are a great technique. At the end of the session players can pick fiction elements they want to see recur. It’s a little rule, but a very neat one.

Another nice touch is the “Extraordinary Experience” rule, which basically replaces any formal training system. When you level, you need to have a good story for it, either a transcendent moment or some cool backstory. I dig this in theory, but since everyone levels simultaneously, I wonder if it’s a bit more dull in practice.

Then, as a wrap up comes the 10 levels in 10 session campaign variant, which is just a fun idea.

So, ok, if there’s no XP, then what about loot? Well, yes, there’s loot, though it’s a little abstracted. Basically, rather than accruing per encounter, gold accrues per rest( sorry, full heal-up) which is supposed to be roughly every 4 battles. All of this is predicated on an idea that, really, money isn’t useful for anything but buying potions and minor magic (and it even includes an alternate system to skip the middleman and just pay out in potions and runes).

I admit, I’m a big fan of abstract wealth systems, but this one manages to take me aback a little as even more abstract than I’m comfortable with (and, for context, I’m totally ok with resources being a skill). Thinking about it, I think the issue is twofold. First, I like broke heroes. If I’m going to use cash as a motivator, then it should be motivating, dammit. This is predicated on an assumption of blithe wealth, which totally makes sense if you accept that everyone is sufficiently important that little things like money don’t matter any more. The second point is an extension of that – the idea that money isn’t useful for anything else strikes me a so self-referentially dungeoneering-centric as to actively hurt my sense of setting. If I can’t lose my money betting on the dire badger races, then something is just wrong with the world.

There are also guidelines for handing out magic items, but the actual items are in a future chapter.

The next section in what I might describe as a somewhat haphazard order is ritual magic, and this is another fun, exciting thing. Rituals basically take existing spells and let you use them as the basis for a larger effect. The player pitches that to the GM, who determines how long it will take (1d4 minutes, quarter hours or hours) then call for a skill check.

As a baseline, this is a pretty neat system, and a great way to introduce very open-ended, “magical” activities into the game. More, the examples make it pretty clear that the extent of the improvisation and interpretation allowed is extensive enough that the core spells are only a loose limitation (which is good, since there is no not-having a class spell at the moment).[3]

However, it could use about another page of explanation. Free form magic is cool as heck on the page, but it very quickly runs into issues of scale, drama and repetition.

Scale can be illustrated pretty simply, let’s say I want to put a whole town to sleep – the base spell is pretty easy (sleep) but how should I adjudicate the rest? And how will that differ if I want to just put a building to sleep? What about a whole city? Rituals can allow stuff like this, and that’s cool, but guidance would help. Similarly – can I use a ritual version of blink to teleport my party somewhere? By the ritual rules it totally makes sense, but there is actually a level 9 teleport spell, so it this cheating?

Once the door to a ritual gets opened, you can bet that players will keep using it. It will become part of their regular arsenal of effect, and that means that you run a strong chance of having something that seemed cool in the moment to become a precedent for something you didn’t intend.

There is a little bit of guidance for Drama, in that the GM can declare what is required to cast a particular ritual, and that’s a good baseline. In theory, the GM can answer question of scale by scaling the requirements for various effects (so, yes, you can put the city to sleep, but the required components are MUCH harder to get). That’s awesome in and of itself, but it should just be the tip of the iceberg. If it’s just components, that encourages a scavenger hunt mentality, but when viewed as “when X, then Y” it’s revealed that this is actually a powerful tool of setting design. To come back to the teleport question – if low level teleporting is allowed to specific places (teleport circles or whatnot) then you have just added teleport circles to the world. That’s a thing.

All of which is to say, Rituals are great, but could use more meat

There’s another section on icons which follows that includes a brief history of the setting through the lens of icons and a little bit of discussion regarding how Icons might be change in name or nature. It includes an explanation of why the icons don’t have stats (yay) and why they will someday (less yay) and a chunk on insanity that I don’t quite get the relevance of. There’s also a specific callout to the various ways that visitors from other worlds (which we all understand to mean other games) can enter 13th Age.

The final section deal with Gods. and specifically how 13th Age has shuffled gods into the background with the focus on icons. This minimization makes it trivial to rotate in whatever pantheons you want without substantially changing the game. There’s a sidebar on how Tweet just sort of aggregates it all into “the gods” for day to day purposes, and it’s workable (as is the guidance regarding the Icons that some might worship as gods) but…

So, I get why this is the way it is. The icons are a big deal, and a Forgotten Realms style pantheon would really detract from that. But it feels a bit like a punt. The sense it conveys is that they’d really like to minimize the role of religion in the setting, but don’t want to come out and say as much. I dunno. Interpreted generously, it’s leaving a big question to be answered at your table , but interpreted less generously it’s kind of flat.

Anyway, this is obviously a pretty long chapter, and a few key pieces come together in it and really help sketch out the shape of how play is expected to unfold. It’s a little frustrating because some of the biggest and best ideas (icon relationships and rituals in particular) seem to get a little bit of short shrift, but it’s possible that entire books could be committed to those topics, so perhaps that is unfair of me.

More importantly, it paints more of a picture of the shape of play outside of fights, and it definitely has a specific kind of flavor, one that is pretty clearly not intended to be particularly gritty or detail-oriented. I get the sense that this is intended as sort of a natural consequence of being player-focused, and while I’m not sure I totally agree, it’s at least consistent.


  1. Or, if you’re less strong on the improv, then at the end of the previous session.  ↩

  2. This is a weakness of the system, but they acknowledge that a little.  ↩

  3. This is another area where the weirdness of the Utility spell comes up. If the utility spell is really a spell, then it could probably be the basis of any ritual at all, which leaves me continuing to think that treating it as a spell is not such a great idea.  ↩

18 thoughts on “13th Age – Running the Game

  1. Bill

    Given that only Clerics and Wizards can perform rituals, giving the Utility spell to Wizards may be their way of saying that if you want to do magic then go with a Wizard, but a Cleric can fake it in a pinch.

    Clerics on the other hand have so much power to shape the world because with the Gods being so minimally defined it is really up to a Cleric’s player to define what ‘Religon’ means in the world. The Priestess has a little additional detail but it doesn’t go much deeper than ‘The Gods of Light’ and ‘The Gods of Darkness’. Zeus, Thor, Set, and Yahweh are all Thunder Gods but which one the player picks is going to have stylistic impact on the religions of the world.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      There’s a feat that opens up ritual casting to anyone who gets spells (so Bards, Sorcerers and some Rangers & paladins) and those are where the cross-class tuff can get wonky.

      As to Cleric power, I agree that’s how it *should* be, but I’m not sure that’s supported int he text. It feels like it would be very easy for a cleric’s choices to be treated as “and nobody cares but you”.* Just one more thing where a little guidance would help, just because the overall tone of indifference towards religion runs pretty thickly through the text.

      * Which, as I think might be kind of hilarious, if everyone believes in gods, but Clerics are the huge nerds who care about which gods are better than which gods. Religious fanboys as it were.

      Reply
      1. Rob Barrett

        IIRC, the Santa Cora paragraph in the setting chapter suggests that the rise of the Priestess as an Icon and the appearance of the Cathedral testifies to a renewed divine interest in the world. If I had a Cleric player, I would totally run with that suggestion: the Gods of Light are back–why?

        Reply
        1. Bill

          There is a (big) part of me that is really tempted to use my character to restructure the heavens to my character. Something like this:

          Character: 1st Level Human Cleric (Healer God?)
          One Unique Thing: I am the lone surviving God of Light after the ‘War of Heaven’.
          Backgrounds: I am a (Fallen) God +4, Inventor of Healing +4
          Relationships: Priestess (Conflicted) +2, Crusader (Unfavorable) +1

          Reply
          1. Joe

            Those are some very creative backgrounds, I love them. It’s almost your characters three unique things! 🙂

            I do like to encourage supernatural and legendary backgrounds (particularly those that are grand old titles like, “Warden of the Oldest Tree” or, indeed, “Inventor of Healing”) in my games.

      2. Patrick

        For some reason it makes me want to do things like revive some of AD&D 1e’s more arbitrary assumptions about gods and clerics[1]. That spells up to lvl A are from your faith, between A and B they come from your god’s flunkies, and above B it’s directly from your god.

        Maybe Adventurer spells come from your Faith, Champion spells come from an appropriate Icon, and at Epic tier you finally make mental contact with your deity to get your spells.

        Also RE rituals doesn’t it say that you can’t do the same ritual twice because the universe patches the exploits? And they come out and state that because of this, the actual magical power of the Icons is probably less than you think.

        [1] Also my brain says, do something with Alignment Languages, but that’s probably the quirk of my magic book, cause my brain always says that.

        Reply
  2. TorgHacker

    I found myself nodding a lot with this post. I love 13th Age, and I can definitely see the potential that the Icons have. But I find that advice on actually _using_ them is lacking. Considering how important improv is to this game, I’m surprised that there is practically nothing regarding it.

    Examples on how to use the Icons to come up with an adventure on the fly would have been great. Examples of using Icons when you have a published adventure would have been great. Even with Blood and Lightning, the adventure included with the book, while it’s great that it goes into some detail on different options for different icons, I was left a bit hanging on how to bring in the Prince of Shadows into it.

    Actually the Prince of Shadows comes across as a problematic icon in general, considering how…vague…he is.

    Examples of ritual use would have been great.

    Reply
    1. Jake Olbert

      As The Guy Who Plays the Rogue I was all set to love the Prince of Shadows, but he has fewer anchors to the settings or the rest of the icons than most of the others, which definitely contributes to the vagueness. As a personal process I was taking an analytical look at the icons, charting things like their default associations (heroic/ambiguous/villainous), what setting elements they were tied to, breakdowns of rivalries or alliances, things like that – the eventual goal was a more rigorous understanding of how the icons worked together in order to do more informed hacking of the concept.

      Anyway, when I looked at it, the Prince stood out as having fewer ties to the setting (and no ties to one of the most common/important elements, the Empire) and rivalries that were defined based on what the Prince had done rather than what he wanted to do (for example, the Dwarf King is mad because of a previous theft, but that defines the Dwarf King way more than it defines the Prince). He does sort of imply a unique setting element, the existence of a Thieves Guild, but even there the Prince isn’t really involved with it. The other ‘thin’ archetypes (like the race-based ones) have ties to the Empire, be they allies or antagonists, and strong rivalries and associations; the Prince is sort of a wash.

      It’s nothing that can’t be tightened up in homebrew, of course, and one of the strengths of the icons in general is actually that some loom larger over the setting than others; it helps them fit together more, in my opinion. But yeah, vague is a great word for him.

      Reply
    2. Rob Donoghue Post author

      My gut sense is that in the eye of the writers. the Prince of Shadows is almost explicitly the hand of the GM.

      Reply
  3. Wade Rockett

    Disclosure: I’m the community relations guy for 13th Age, removing that hat and commenting as a GM.

    I get that the examples I want to see (like tying the relationships and, in turn, the PCs directly into the stakes of the day’s adventure) might be a little daunting to someone coming to this fresh faced, but that capability is so awesome that it feels like a wasted opportunity.

    I agree. As read, the dice-rolling part of icon relationships didn’t set me or my players on fire, so they’ve rarely had an effect on my home campaign. But when I ran the 2-hour demo this past weekend at PAX, the power of the icon relationship mechanic to create adventures on the fly astounded me. As a GM I tend to overplan, so improvising an adventure on the spot scared the hell out of me. But once I knew that (for example) the Emperor would be strongly involved in a positive way, the Elf Queen and Dwarf King would be involved in a conflicted way, and the Diabolist would be the main villain, I quickly put together a session in which demons attacked a ceremony which the PCs attended as members of the Imperial court, representatives of the demihuman races (each with an interesting reason for being there), an agent of the Diabolist, and the Emperor’s half-orc son. It was coherent and hugely fun.

    So now I’m going to try less planning in my home campaign, and a lot more icon-fueled improv.

    …rules for incremental advances to smooth out the progression if anyone needs that.

    It’s one of my groups’ favorite things — and RPG players light up when I describe it to them. Having a new toy to play with nearly every session, instead of having to wait for weeks to get them all, is a lot of fun.

    Reply
  4. Melody Haren Anderson

    As a note, there is a really nice stronger ritual (though fan created) system. Admittedly, fan created, but in some ways, isn’t that one of the strengths of a dedicated community? I’ll agree, as is? The Ritual system could use work, and while I don’t mind Rituals not tending to work the same way every time… it just feels like it could be better.

    Thanks for reminding me to have my players roll their Icons!

    Reply
  5. Lawrence Augustine R. Mingoa

    The idea is a little bit stronger than the support. There are a number of ideas given for how to improvise relationship rolls into play – providing guidance, driving flashbacks, giving goodies and so on. These are fine, but they’re chrome – they’re the way you would use these rolls if you still want to run basically the same dungeon you were going to be running anyway. I get that the examples I want to see (like tying the relationships and, in turn, the PCs directly into the stakes of the day’s adventure) might be a little daunting to someone coming to this fresh faced, but that capability is so awesome that it feels like a wasted opportunity.Rather than trying to change the dungeon to include the results, how about trying to create the dungeon based on the results? Personally, my most exciting campaign was created from a bunch of relationship die rolls combined with the improvisation table you mentioned later in the article, zero prepping outside of that.

    Again, I am crazy about how good the Icons concept is (even if I might be inclined to fiddle with the dice) and I feel like it gets badly undersold in the text.When you take everything into consideration, it’s not as bad as you make it to be, at least in my opinion. I have players roll relationship dice at various points in the adventure, and if none of them get 5s or 6s I get to roll a d12 to explain why their icon(s) couldn’t participate, and from there I continue to build the story. As Wade Rockett mentioned, it works much better when you’re going on improv than when you’re prepping stuff.

    This is one of those cases where simplicity was clearly chosen over smooth break points, but the underlying idea is flexible enough (that is, a given dungeon might be largely one tier, but another tier in some places) that it’s not as painful as it could be.

    There’s also a kind-of-probably-intentional sliding scale to it, where a Hard Adventurer DC (20) is the same as a Normal Champion DC. This allows for a bit of subjectivity in deciding difficulties, which is almost necessary because there’s a real lack of meaningful difference between the environment tiers besides the level of the characters. There are also default attacks and damage levels for each tier, and it’s all combined into a single table that’s reminiscent of 4e’s famous Page 42.It is, in fact, intentional. See page 184, which has an environmental chart by level. So another way to look at the existing DCs would be
    level 1-3 DC 15/20/25
    level 4-6 DC 15/20/25/30, but slowly moving away from DC 15 and towards DC 30
    level 7-9 DC 20/25/30/35, and slowly moving away from DC 20 and towards DC 35
    level 10 DC 25/30/35 all the way

    That doesn’t read as well as the chart, does it? Especially when you consider the fact that this ties the DCs to the adventurers directly, as opposed to the adventuring hazards that the adventurers might have stumbled into. It wouldn’t make sense to have anyone just walk up to the Emperor and Lich King and have them establish diplomatic ties with a DC of just 25 at level 1, would it?

    I was curious to read the section on traps, because the decision for the rogue to have trap sense rather than thievery as a class feature has been sticking in my craw. There’s a nice explanation of why instakill traps are lame, and a kind of thin-seeming explanation of why traps aren’t worth XP (but monsters are) followed by some sample traps and…that’s it.You might want to look at the Rogue writeup again for that: not all Rogues are Thieves, even if you consider all Thieves to be Rogues (Venn Diagram and all that). A trained assassin, cutpurse, and acrobat would be nimble (and maybe paranoid) enough to dodge away from triggered traps and possibly prevent them from being triggered, but only the cutpurse is worthy of “Thievery”.

    The section on building encounters is less sparse, but is not much more than functional. Simple formula for coming up with the correct number of enemies without ever actually using terms like “Challenge Rating” Some of it is interesting – Adventurers fight equal level enemies, Champions fight level +1 and Epic fights level +2. I just kind of trust that works out. There’s also some familiar 4e tiering of monsters from Mook to Normal to Large to Huge with Normal as the default. Amusingly, there are guidelines on how to make fights unfair (more, and harder) but not necessarily why you’d do it.

    Y’know that thing I keep saying about the assumption that the reader already know what they’re doing? Yeah. That.While the table itself does warrant some explanation, honestly even during the early stages of learning the system it’s not that hard, and yes the whole chart works as written; during my birthday I ran a one-shot session where the PCs were HORRIBLY outmatched (if I recall correctly it was 3 level 6 PCs vs. 15 non-mooks that are of the same level as the PCs, which is the equivalent of 0.7 * 15 = 10.5 to 3, or a ratio of 3.5 : 1), and in spite of the lack of any healers and the fact that they had to rally a couple of times, in the end they came through.

    I prefer the book simply states how you make a fight harder, but not why, because it’ll likely break on the fluidity of the story, as providing “suggestions” would far more likely implant a subconscious effort to stick to those suggestions, as opposed to properly expressing these things as DMing tools that’ll help you, the DM, get the story across.

    Wedged in here, for no reason I can really point to, is a section on “Player Picks”, which are a great technique. At the end of the session players can pick fiction elements they want to see recur. It’s a little rule, but a very neat one.I think it should’ve gone after the 10 session campaign variant section, but that’s just me. Perhaps it was placed there because it’s part of advancement, except instead of limiting ourselves to a mechanical advancement (“leveling up”), you also have a non-mechanical advancement (“player picks story advancement”).

    Another nice touch is the “Extraordinary Experience” rule, which basically replaces any formal training system. When you level, you need to have a good story for it, either a transcendent moment or some cool backstory. I dig this in theory, but since everyone levels simultaneously, I wonder if it’s a bit more dull in practice.Only if you’re the type who keeps track of mechanics more than story. It’s the same thing with explaining how you level up in every edition of D&D, really (e.g. wizards getting 2 free spells every level up because they spend the off-camera time researching spells)… except instead of the class writeup explaining how you leveled, it’s the players who explain how they leveled. Most groups I’ve been with have never bothered with explaining how they leveled up (although frankly I would’ve loved to reflavor “finding spellbooks” as part of the leveling experience, as opposed to those spellbooks being added on top of your normal 2 free spells per level up as a D&D 3.5 or PF wizard or the like), hence the section really is better off explicitly offered as a variant.

    I admit, I’m a big fan of abstract wealth systems, but this one manages to take me aback a little as even more abstract than I’m comfortable with (and, for context, I’m totally ok with resources being a skill). Thinking about it, I think the issue is twofold. First, I like broke heroes. If I’m going to use cash as a motivator, then it should be motivating, dammit. This is predicated on an assumption of blithe wealth, which totally makes sense if you accept that everyone is sufficiently important that little things like money don’t matter any more. The second point is an extension of that – the idea that money isn’t useful for anything else strikes me a so self-referentially dungeoneering-centric as to actively hurt my sense of setting. If I can’t lose my money betting on the dire badger races, then something is just wrong with the world.It’s explicitly stated that expected gold increases with more options to spend it, it’s just that the default section involved in that (page 55-59) is intentionally stripped to the bare essentials. If you want stuff like a set price for “betting on the dire badger races”, then you’re looking at the wrong sections. Here’s a spoiler: in the section of the book involving a certain city, there are hints of gambling for certain events, but nothing is explicitly written so if you want to find out more you’d have to ask around in the city. (And the way I see it, that section doesn’t write adventure hooks, the whole book is a set of adventure hooks from start to finish).

    As a baseline, this is a pretty neat system, and a great way to introduce very open-ended, “magical” activities into the game. More, the examples make it pretty clear that the extent of the improvisation and interpretation allowed is extensive enough that the core spells are only a loose limitation (which is good, since there is no not-having a class spell at the moment).

    However, it could use about another page of explanation. Free form magic is cool as heck on the page, but it very quickly runs into issues of scale, drama and repetition.

    Scale can be illustrated pretty simply, let’s say I want to put a whole town to sleep – the base spell is pretty easy (sleep) but how should I adjudicate the rest? And how will that differ if I want to just put a building to sleep? What about a whole city? Rituals can allow stuff like this, and that’s cool, but guidance would help. Similarly – can I use a ritual version of blink to teleport my party somewhere? By the ritual rules it totally makes sense, but there is actually a level 9 teleport spell, so it this cheating?You have to go all the way back to the improvisation table you just mentioned awhile ago (page 186), as well as the description of each tier (pages 183-185). Base spell is sleep, and how the ritual would scale I’d say that it’d also depend on its length. Putting a town to sleep at adventurer tier difficulty would likely mean that it’d take days or even weeks of uninterrupted casting, while having to cast it sooner or at a larger scale would push the DCs to champion or even epic tier, or push it up from hard to ridiculously hard, and maybe both. Or perhaps you’d even need magical items as foci for the ritual.

    The tools are all there, it’s just a matter of bringing them together and using them in tandem, as desired.

    Once the door to a ritual gets opened, you can bet that players will keep using it. It will become part of their regular arsenal of effect, and that means that you run a strong chance of having something that seemed cool in the moment to become a precedent for something you didn’t intend.Except it’s explicitly stated that repeat castings by the same caster are less likely to occur, so it’s not as abusable as you might think.

    if low level teleporting is allowed to specific places (teleport circles or whatnot) then you have just added teleport circles to the world. That’s a thing.And allowing and requiring players to craft teleportation circles… is a bad thing? Especially if A) the creation of a teleportation circle becomes harder, and B) everyone — allies and enemies alike — can use them?

    There’s another section on icons which follows that includes a brief history of the setting through the lens of icons and a little bit of discussion regarding how Icons might be change in name or nature. It includes an explanation of why the icons don’t have stats (yay) and why they will someday (less yay) and a chunk on insanity that I don’t quite get the relevance of. There’s also a specific callout to the various ways that visitors from other worlds (which we all understand to mean other games) can enter 13th Age.It’s basically variation suggestions for 13th Age icons.

    So, I get why this is the way it is. The icons are a big deal, and a Forgotten Realms style pantheon would really detract from that. But it feels a bit like a punt. The sense it conveys is that they’d really like to minimize the role of religion in the setting, but don’t want to come out and say as much. I dunno. Interpreted generously, it’s leaving a big question to be answered at your table , but interpreted less generously it’s kind of flat.Religion can have a significant role in the setting, but not in the “gods come down to Earth and wreak havoc” sort of way; the book even explicitly states that in the very section you’re analyzing here.

    Reply
  6. Joe

    One area I wish was a bit more formalised is the incremental advance system. I like the concept (particularly being able to reward players after every session) but I also feel it’s made into a mandatory step by the low number of levels in the game.

    At a baseline there are four items that will increase every level – hit points, skill modifiers, magic item capacity, and a new feat. Of those, only the last is a mechanically interesting choice for the player. The worth of a magic items increase also depends very much on the rarity of items in the campaign. A fifth universal increase is present at levels 4,5,7,8 and 10,with either ability score increases or icon relationships. There’s nothing consistent for 2,3,6 and 9 though, and not every class gains a new feature at those levels either.

    One aspect I liked about 4e was the way every class worked on the same advancement table, but in 13th Age some classes simply get more incrementals to choose from than others. I’m worried that taken in the snapshot scope of an incremental advance, players will recognise some classes as more ‘fun’ than others – because they get more choices if left unchecked. A wizard could happily spend all his advances on upgrading spells, while a fighter gets only the feat and other (“boring”) options at most levels.

    If I want to use the incremental advances as a consistent set of sub-levels across all levels, it looks like I should split each level into five parts at most (giving four incremental options between each major advance). The effect of this is still a rougher curve than I would like, as either I enforce a choice of the four common (only one of which will excite, and one which is of uncertain value) or I let them take any incremental their class allows – at which point class disparity becomes obvious again.

    I do see some opportunities for bending the rules to my needs though:

    A. Fewer increments between levels. Two increments per level creates a 30-level campaign, which is more than enough for most.

    B. Group the less interesting advances into two-for-one choices.

    C. Grant a temporary (until the next full level) bonus feat for any character which doesn’t have a class-based advance at their next level. This could be justified as the character feeling out new tactics before settling on one they prefer (if the extra feat is not labelled as temporary, but both feats are presented on an equal footing), and losing a feat may not be so bad when you’re also gaining a significant damage boost at the same time.

    I could work with that. I would maybe even go so far as to grant a temporary bonus feat at both incremental advances between each level.

    Hmm, apologies for the long post. This and one other area yet to be covered are my biggest problems (of which I have very few) with 13th Age.

    Reply
    1. Wade Rockett

      Everyone in my group likes getting their incremental advances regardless of class. Because they choose what they get, they can patch or upgrade specific things they want to improve about their characters, and whether it’s mechanically interesting doesn’t figure into it. If a character gets something with more “oomph” than others they’re fine with it because that new ability is going to benefit the entire party. But not all groups are the same, so I don’t know if that’s your group’s dynamic.

      Reply
    2. Rob Donoghue Post author

      I think there was also an intentional decision to make the advancement experience different for the different classes (tied back to the simplicity of play thing), but I agree that the idea is a lot less compelling for advancement than it is for chargen.

      Reply

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