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Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



For no particular reason:



13th Age is a D&D 4th edition-based heartbreaker developed by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. It fully embraces D&D 4e's focus on a detailed, tactical wargame, ditching much of the crufty non-combat systems. This half of 13th Age is designed with criticisms of 4e firmly in mind. Outside of combat, it uses narrative-focused, player-GM-collaborative storytelling methods, many of them clearly borrowed from games like FATE and PBTA. The end product appealed only to a subset of 4e fans, who already had the crunchy tactical wargame they wanted, but I do think it contains in it some interesting ideas worth looting. I like 13A, but I can't say I'd ever actually play it.

13th Age's duality is striking right from the beginning: the obligatory "intro to roleplaying" page doesn't have an example of play, but straight up says that you want an experienced GM for this ship. It assumes that you already know what a "d20" game is - and that it's a euphemism for D&D - and similarly alludes to World of Darkness and Exalted as inspirations. They emphasize that this is D&D but with greater player investment in affecting the story, drawing specific comparisons between 13th Age and the third and fourth editions of an unspecified game system.

Before character creation, however, comes the Icons.


Not pictured: the Crusader's closed, spiked gauntlet and the Great Gold Wyrm's downward-pointing arrowhead-shaped dragon head

Icons - We Resemble But Are Legally Distinct From The Bahamut Guild

The thirteen Icons are a mashup of organizations, nations, big-dick canon NPCs, and pantheons; they're the kind of people who get "the" before their name whenever you talk about them. They aren't gods, but they serve the same role that the gods do in, say, Forgotten Realms. They're not unkillable, but they don't have stats in the same way that PCs or monsters do. Each of them is the head of some sort of massive organization, so not only are they individual people, but they're general affiliations. PCs align with or against them at character creation, the same way you'd write "Chaotic Good" on your character sheet in other D&D clones. (More on that later.)

Now, 13th Age introduces the Icons just in vaguely alphabetical order to introduce you to the setting with a bunch of out-of-universe gazeteer material, but since I'm summarizing, I'm going to borrow the organization from later in the book. (More on how these are divided and how the divisions are kinda flexible later.)

The heroic icons are the enthusiastic supporters of the mostly-human Dragon Empire, part of 13th Age's implicit setting. Incidentally these are all the icons that correspond strongly with classes that aren't "rogue".
  • The Archmage is holding the Empire together with his magic. By drawing on the ley lines, he's keeping the monsters, the ravages of nature, and his (undead, malevolent) predecessor at bay. That said, he is still a powerful wizard, so he and his underlings tend to delve into Secrets Best Left Undisturbed or just let experiments get out of check. He also isn't on especially good terms with the wilder, nature-inclined icons, or the enemies of the Empire.
  • The Emperor mostly benevolently rules the Dragon Empire. Almost all of the other icons are either his lieutenants, allies, or actively trying to overthrow him. He's pretty sketchily described; only thing between civilization and chaos, long line of rulers, yadda yadda. He's just the personification of the empire that covers most of the described world, so the Empire's relations are his relations.
  • The Great Gold Wyrm is Bahamut, okay? He's a giant gold dragon who martyred himself by using his body to plug the Abyss, a breach between this world and the one where the demons live. He's technically a god in the traditional D&D sense, but he's also a dragon in a specific place that you can go and meet if you want to (as long as you don't mind that it's in the middle of a demon-infested wasteland). His main role is serving as a patron for good old-fashioned demon-butt-kicking paladins. By the way, he's going to die and when he does the demons are going to invade.
  • The Priestess is the face of the Gods of Light. What exactly the gods are and if they even really exist is left deliberately vague in 13th Age; there's no real pantheon. You can make up whatever you want. If you worship the kind of god that lets you cast Protection From Evil 10' Radius, then you're on Team Priestess. She's the prophet of something-or-another, or maybe not, but she's got the shiny clerics on her side and that's almost as good.

The ambiguous icons aren't trying to drown the world in demons or zombies, but they aren't properly on the side of the Empire either. They're non-human and sometimes kind of inhuman, or they're using the power of darkness against the power of worse darkness, or they've got a secret agenda that isn't bad in an obvious what but you kinda never know.
  • The Crusader is the icon of Lawful Evil PCs. He's an rear end in a top hat who fights demons and doesn't really care about anything else, including collateral damage or being nice. He worships the Dark Gods and binds terrible monsters to his service, but he mostly focuses on conquering the breaches between Hell and ordinary reality and slaying demons. He's technically loyal to the Emperor, but nobody actually likes the Crusader and a bunch of icons - including the Priestess and Great Gold Wyrm - despise him.
  • The Dwarf King is the king of all of the underground and everything that comes from it. He's the ally of the Emperor - who rules everything aboveground, no real conflict - but Dwarf King claims all treasure found underground regardless of who it belongs to, which might be inconvenient for dungeon-crawling heroes. Grudges, fights underdarkground monsters, shaky truce with the Elf Queen, you know the dwarf cliches.
  • The Elf Queen is super mysterious and maintaining a delicate balance between the high elves, wood elves, and dark elves. She's allied to the Emperor but her alliance with her sister and her long-game schemes means she doesn't necessarily get on with all of the Emperor's servants. She's dreamy and mysterious and by the way she's kidnapped the fourth member of the Three. (More on them later.)
  • The High Druid protects nature and the balance, and is generally benevolent. That said, she is on the brink of going to war with the Emperor over the expanding colonization efforts of the Empire, and especially over the Archmage tapping into the ley lines of magic to drain their power and tame nature. If this happens, it will not only be a disaster, but also a big problem for her sister, the Elf Queen.
  • The Prince of Shadows is the icon of rogues and Chaotic Neutral PCs (but I repeat myself). He's an anarchist with an unspecified agenda, and he likes sneaking around, tricking people, and stealing things. Nobody really much likes him but the Dwarf King especially hates him.

The villainous icons are planning to overthrow the Empire and/or eat anyone who displeases them. They aren't antisocial, but all of them are bad people (at least insofar as they can be called people).
  • The Diabolist summons demons and likes demons and and runs demon cults and wants to corrupt people and overrun the world with demons. She's a human - sort of - and basically everyone who is not a demon or a demon cultist hates her. She has some sort of relationship with the Prince of Secrets but it's not exactly clear who is taking advantage of who.
  • The Lich King is an icon from a previous age. He was once the Wizard King, but turned himself into a skeleton because that's much more metal I guess, and got himself overthrown by the Emperor's ancestor allied with literally everyone else in the goddamned world because he's a skeleton. He's really mad about it. Also he's Vecna, complete with the magical replacements for his missing eye and hand.
  • The Orc Lord wants to overthrow the Emperor and set things on fire. Any order works, really. Nobody likes him, but the Elves especially hate him. That said, this is only the second time the Orc Lord has appeared, and the first Orc Lord helped everyone else overthrow the Lich King.
  • The Three are not one person, but rather three dragons: The Blue, the Black, and the Red. Being dragons, their main interests are eating people and owning everything. That's complicated by the fact that the Blue is one of the Emperor's governors, and that governorship comes with a geas that prevents her from acting against the Emperor. Normally, they'd be all-in on trying to worm their way around that geas, but they also have ages-old grudges against the Great Gold Wyrm (for obvious reasons), the Lich King (who killed the White), and the Elf Queen (who has secretly kidnapped the Green). The Three also don't get along with each other especially well.

13th Age uses the icons instead of alignment - there's no supernatural Good or Chaotic tag (and no actual Protection From Evil 10' Radius spell, for that matter). That said, it's a D&D clone, so their one single concession to alignment is an Icon Alignment Chart because you were going to make one anyway.



Next: My One Unique Thing is that I'm Batman

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 23:53 on Mar 24, 2017

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Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



icons are neat because they frontload a clear reason both to adventure and for players to get involved in writing the plot along with the gm, and they do a decent job of giving pcs possibly conflicting team affiliations that are not Murder Each Other On Sight.

but in and of themselves they're mostly super bland. the Three are the biggest standout, although the Great Gold Wyrm is fun for the fact that he lives in a place that's an adventure to visit and is set up as someone the pcs will have to replace somehow

Halloween Jack posted:

I'm just curious because that's the main complaint I've heard about 13th Age: that the warriors and spellcasters are balanced

don't worry, i'm about to do some crapping, including on class balance. this game is fascinating but it has Problems

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



the racial leaders plus characters like arthas and azshara and the old gods collectively or individually are a good warcraft-style replacement for 13a's icons

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Halloween Jack posted:

Is it generally true that doing a tactical combat, combat encounter focused game with a 3d6 mechanic as opposed to d20 is going to make the PCs more consistently dominate weaker enemies, and have less of a chance of pulling it off against more powerful ones, since the mechanic is less swingy?

players have to deal with long-term consequences of bad luck and monsters don't. so less bad luck overall - rarer bad outcomes and weaker bad outcomes - is good for the players.

so if the only change is that rare outcomes happen less, than 3d6 versus d20 favors the players. that's less bad luck.

but usually more important than less bad luck is weaker bad luck. if 3d6 is an excuse to make crits crittier and fumbles fumblier, then the 3d6 game could definitely be worse for players because absorbing worse bad luck spikes is generally harder in the abstract than absorbing more bad luck spikes.

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I find the big turnaround on attitude re: 13th Age interesting. It's one of those games that was really warmly received but as time went on dissatisfaction just kinda grew on it over time,

i have a theory on why this is. it's one of the main reasons i wanted to do 13a, and I'll be getting to it soon.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.




This isn't actually the logo they went with. The final logo is a square. I can't use a square as a header, c'mon now.

13th Age part 2: My One Unique Thing is that I'm Batman

Now that we know this crucial information about the Icons, it's time to make a character. And man, is the character creation layout a complete clusterfuck. It's fine enough if you've already played a D&D game before: it gets the stuff lifted directly from D&D out of the way and immediately proceeds to the parts that are new or require lots of 13A-specific rules text, but if you haven't played D&D before, it's useless.

Bear in mind that while 13th Age is a D&D clone based heavily on 4th edition, it isn't cross compatible with that edition nor any other, in the way that OSR games often maintain compatibility with Rules Compendium first edition, or in the way that Pathfinder can easily run D&D 3e material. This isn't explicitly stated anywhere but quickly becomes apparent in character creation. 13A is full of things designed to be stripped and added to other editions of D&D, but itself is as different from any edition of D&D as they are from each other.

Demographic Declaration

First you pick a race, which is going to give you +2 to an ability score. There's a list of races: all of the D&D standards, three types of elves, plus maybe your game has aasimar, tieflings, "forgeborn" (dwarf robots), or "dragonics", which is just the worst name for dragon people. Then you pick your class: most of the D&D standards, with the bard and sorcerer present but the druid, monk, and warlock notably absent. (The druid and monk appear in a later book, and the warlock's core mechanical concept is almost exactly identical to the bard's so it doesn't fit.) What does your class do? It gives you +2 to an ability score that is different from the one you got from your race! Anything else is again in a later chapter. And I do mean ANYTHING else: there's no description for the races or classes whatsoever, including what ability score they use or which they can boost. There is, however, room enough for sidebars stating that it's okay to reskin races if you want something not listed here, and a sidebar stating that multiclassing is going to appear in a later book so buy more books.

Next up is ability scores: you can use 4d6 drop low or 3e-style point buy. Again, what's notable here is both what's present and what's absent.



This is one of the first appearances of the "author voice" sidebars, one of 13th Age's little idiosyncrasies. Either Rob Heinsoo (pictured here) or Jonathan Tweet (a stylized J.T) butts in to explain why a rule works this way, how you could modify it, or even explain that a rule may not work very well in some games and how you can fix that. They aren't usually quite as defensive as Heinsoo defending rolling attributes; instead, they lay out clearly why 13A works the way it does and warns people about possible pitfalls before it happens. The tone is that the game is really more a set of guidelines and that it might not work perfectly, and that isn't caused by powergamers or a powertripping GM. The honesty about the game's limitations and the urge to not turn them adversarial is nice.

Statistical Bullshit

What isn't nice is that this is the "ability score" section and it doesn't explain what the gently caress ability scores actually are. They are the usual six Strength, Intelligence, etc. from D&D, with no goofy renames, but if you don't already know what they are supposed to represent or what class might want which, then you are just poo poo out of luck. This seems like a major omission when even long-time D&D players tend to be a little vague on what the difference between Intelligence and Wisdom actually is. There's no indication at all whether 13A is the sort of game that favors extreme dumpstatting (like 4E did), whether ability scores are especially important (one, maybe two tops), or what effect ability scores have on tasks that are not murdering people (probably a negligible one). What is clear is that 13A uses the D&D 3e system where your ability scores don’t really mean anything at all, and instead turned into a modifier that (typically) ranged from -1 to +5.

You get about half of the mechanical detail necessary to understand how you translate that modifier into derived stats like Armor Class, Physical and Mental Defense (which are static target numbers, like 4e's non-armor defenses), Initiative, Recoveries, and Hit Points (which are class based and not rolled), but you're not going to learn how your ability scores affect to-hit rolls until you get to the class chapter.

As it turns out, except for hit points (CON is as important as ever) and attack rolls, your ability scores do about gently caress all. AC, PD, and MD - and it’s never really clear why there’s a difference between AC and PD - are all derived from your class, plus your middle score from a set of three stats. So AC is (AC from your class) + (the middle of con/dex/wis) + level. PD and MD work similarly, with different ability triplets. This is a whole lot of goofy-assed math in order to always get like either +1 or +2 to your defenses, but if it didn’t exist, ability scores that aren’t used in your class abilities would have no role in combat whatsoever. In theory, this is supposed to prevent people from stacking one stat and using it for everything (along the lines of DEX in many post-3e D&D clones/editions), but it just doesn’t work and it’s a bunch of groggy pointless complexity that is neither fun nor in keeping with the bulk of 13A’s design.

One Unique Idea As Long As Feng Shui Doesn't Count

Wither that perfunctory and wholly incomplete rundown of the mechanical combat bookkeeping out of the way, it’s time to get dramatic. Every character has One Unique Thing. (It isn’t capitalized in the book but dammit, it should be.) Your One Unique Thing can be anything you want, as long as it doesn’t dominate the story too much or have game-mechanical effects. (Astute observers will note that One Unique Thing is almost identical to Melodramatic Hooks from Feng Shui, written by long-time Tweet collaborator Robin Laws.) Within those boundaries, go crazy. The idea is to get the GM to have ideas for how to get your character involved with the story, while also making your character memorable for everyone involved. Not all of the example Unique Things are especially… well… unique; a lot of the examples are "I have access to information about the plot that the GM will dripfeed whenever appropriate" or fishmalky gimmicks like "I'm an elf wizard who likes fire to a worrying degree." There is some good advice about discouraging Unique Things that will disrupt stories without ruining the concept: the examples of what not to do include "I can tell when people are lying" or "I can fly", which get changed to "I see hidden truths in shadows" and "I have wings".

The clear goal of the One Unique Thing is to teach players - presumably D&D players - that they deserve to take a hand in creating the game world instead of ceding that role entirely to the GM. Players are explicitly encouraged to choose Unique Things that aren't just story hooks, but flesh out - or entirely invent - some part of the world they want to explore. Bob Who Always Wants To Be a Ninja is a feature, not a bug; the GM is encouraged to embroider on this. Maybe Bob is always being pursued by ninjas. Maybe there's a whole ninja clan, bubbling under the surface. Maybe Bob will get to found the Dragon Emperor's Secret Hand Clan. It's pretty basic stuff, but placing it in the middle of the stat-heavy, template-heavy character creation chapter sends a significant statement about its importance and focus on player agency.

One Unique Thing is an important statement of intent: not every player option in 13th Age has a specific, rigidly-defined game effect or statistical implementation. This is not an especially new or revolutionary idea, but it's an explicit rejection of an implicit design principle in 3rd and 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons where players were heavily encouraged to only do things that are mechanically supported. 13th Age wants to have its storygame and its tactical wargame, but former D&D players can already be counted on to be invested in the tactical wargame. Gestures like this help keep players interested in both halves of the game.

I'm Batman

Skipping slightly ahead - the Icon Relationship system won't fit into this post - is the other freeform character creation rule: Backgrounds. 13th Age doesn't have skills or proficiencies. Rather, every character has Backgrounds, which are free-form skills invented at character creation by the players. Every character gets eight points to invest, and they can be in anything really, although no character can have more than five points in a single background initially. (Again, attentive players will notice that this is basically FATE Core's skill system.) Using Backgrounds works like skill rolls: you roll (GM's choice of an appropriate stat modifier) + Applicable Background + Level, against fixed DCs based on the difficulty of the task and how hardcore the surrounding environment is. (More on that last later.)

To illustrate how this system works - and how it fails - we need players. Let's meet Paul and Fred.

Paul makes an elf wizard, one Dexter Das, who is currently on the outs with the Imperial College of Magic And Regional Affiliate Universities due to inappropriate magical experimentation. Dexter's backgrounds are Inattentive Student of Magic +2, Arcane Lore Humanoids Of All Genders Were Not Meant To Know +2, Arcanoacademic Bureaucracy +3, and Inexplicably Surviving Disaster +1.

Fred loves paladins and adventuring, so he makes human paladin Athena Darkpath, extremely experienced and somewhat world-weary crusader in the name of the Great Golden Wyrm. Athena's backgrounds are Renowned Adventurer +5 and Has Seen Some poo poo +3.

Whether a background is applicable to the current task is mostly up to the players, so Fred is going to have Athena roll that +5 on anything he can possibly conceive of being related to "adventuring" or "being famous" - it's hard to imagine many situations that wouldn't fit into one of those two slots. On the other hand, Dexter's best skill is +3; Paul is punished for Dexter dabbling in many different areas of narrow applicability. Paul's skill list is better in the sense that it gives a clearer idea of what Dexter does and does not know how to do, but all it means is that his character can make fewer skill rolls and gets smaller modifiers when he does so.

There's a real incentive for everyone to make one of their backgrounds "Omnicompetence" or "I'm Batman" +5 and never use any other background for anything else. There's also no framework for players to avoid stepping on each others' toes: it's hard to imagine many situations where Unknowable Arcane Lore isn't something that Renowned Adventurer couldn't also handle. There's no good reason to be using skill points in this sort of system at all. It would work just as well if players picked two or three background attributes and just got a fixed modifier on skill checks that somehow fit into those background attributes. Combine that with a discussion on how backgrounds should not be "literally everything" and should be designed with an eye for not overlapping with other players too badly, and this could be a workable system.

Next: Relationship Status: It's Complicated

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 18:49 on Mar 26, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



writing something that has no mechanical hook on your character sheet is the whole point of One Unique Thing. the idea is to deprogram D20 players from the idea that everything must have a specific rules implementation and statistical value in order to matter.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



PurpleXVI posted:

The Word of Good Boy, the Word of Collie, the Word of Fetch.

Fetch is happening, friends, and soon. Are you right with Your Master?

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



i kinda want to do trollman's diet WOD clone after i do 13a, it's another fascinating failure

Nessus posted:

I don't think anyone at any point has acted like GURPS is some kind of an accurate simulation of the objective function of reality, although I have seen people dick around about how to accurately model historical figures. Usually this revolves around things like "Should Adolf Hitler have the Lucky or Extremely Lucky advantage?"

there's a whole series of GURPS books that are just statblocks of historical figures. i owned them in a collection i sold a long time ago, they were not useful books

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 00:45 on Mar 26, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



gradenko_2000 posted:

I'm going to stake-out the possibly controversial position that GURPS isn't actually simulationist. Or at least, not always, and not as consistently as even D&D 3e.

I mean, just look at the skill system: roll 3d6, and get a result equal to or less than your effective skill in order to succeed. Now, while there are some guidelines for applying penalties or bonuses to various rolls (-2 Architecture if it's strange, -5 Architecture if it's "alien"), GURPS doesn't specifically tell you that balancing on a 6-inch wide surface has a base DC of 15, or that it's DC 17 if the surface is also slippery, like D&D 3e does.

you're describing rearranging the arithmetic as somehow changing the way the world works. 3d6+skill versus target number 10+(average expected skill to accomplish the task) is the same as roll 3d6 under skill to accomplish that same task. GURPS just uses THAC0-style roll-under for skills instead of D20-style additive sums, that's all

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



it's almost like "simulationist" is a term made up by a known (if talented) flake with no clear definition other than "games which aren't dogs in the vineyard"

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Halloween Jack posted:

Based on skimming it, I fear that might be a lose-lose proposition. Either you review it in such a way that misses the forest for the trees, or you're just endlessly picking on Trollman for his peculiar, acute disorder with regard to understanding fiction.

the idea of crossover WOD designed with specific, functional parties with an assumed genre (Supernatural/Scooby Doo Monster Crew) is interesting, and the world he's designed is shaped by the limitations of his goals in ways worth talking about.

the idea that solving mysteries involves a significant amount of system mastery is just :psyduck: though

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



after sundown (which is a terrible title) is predicated on the idea that you have to fit every supernatural thing in a box for the game to work, so it makes sense some of those boxes are really general and open-ended given that. "oh this tangle of demonic vines is actually a shapeshifter asura that has completely lost its mind, not just an everyday evil plant" is a thing he wants PCs to say.

the problem is that that premise is nonsense, and doesn't even make sense given the source material. it almost make sense in a game where the supernatural being bolted into these immutable boxes is thematic: eg shadowrun's environmentalist and pro-native cyberpunk, or o-mage's vision of a world locked down by the technocracy. it absolutely does not make sense to instruct gms not to make rule-breaking weirdness in a game based on supernatural and x-files and anita blake. trollman et al. can only envision player agency in a world where players have a full understanding of the game world and the game rules and can combine those very different knowledges into puzzling out mysteries.

FMguru posted:

Trollman is also weird in that every "original" idea he has is a reskinned pop culture thing.

this is kind of weird and internet diagnosis-y and doesn't match with even a passing reading of his professional work

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 15:04 on Mar 26, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Doresh posted:

(The "box" actually being the "Bucket full of Dice (tm)").

a bucket is just a round box, when you think about it

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.




IIRC one of the authors of this book, David Hill, regged on SA recently.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



temporarily yanked because of a huge copy-paste error

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 18:42 on Mar 26, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



poo poo, I hosed up that F&F with copy-paste. I'll repost it in a tic

e: okay this should be unfucked



13th Age part 3: Relationship Status: It's Complicated

13th Age's last unique character creation system is its replacement for alignment: Icon Relationships. Relationships represent how likely it is that your relationship with that icon will benefit you. Each PC gets three points to spend, and you can spend them more or less however you want on almost any icon you want, establishing Positive, Ambiguous, or Negative relationships. You can spread out your points or concentrate them in one relationship, whatever you like. Every session, the GM rolls a d6 for each relationship point for each character: every 6 rolled means that relationship benefits that PC somehow, every 5 means that PC benefits but at the cost of some sort of complication. Positive relationships generally mean the icon or their organization helps you out, negative means their enemies help you out, ambiguous could go either way.

Relationships are supposed to represent the likelihood of the relationship mattering, not the depth of your alliance or enmity, but for some reason you can't spend too many points being the ally of an evil icon or the enemy of a heroic one. There's really no reason a hero couldn't be well-connected with the anti-Emperor resistance, or constantly receiving “help” from the Diabolist as part of some scheme only she understands. The justification is that too many positive points with a villain would make you their henchman - but there's no reason such a relationship would necessarily be reciprocal. It's an easy rule to ignore, but the table to explain which relationships have which cap sprawls over an entire page, crammed with of repetitive filler endlessly redefining "positive", "ambiguous", and "negative".

In addition to being a source of story hooks, this is supposed to be a replacement for alignment. However, while alignment does completely suck if you have even a basic understanding of moral philosophy, it's really fast and efficient and easy to communicate, which Icon Relationships are not. "Lawful good" is clear in a way "ambiguous Emperor 2, negative Three 1" is not. Describing this mouthful chews up five pages of rules and charts, jammed ill-fitting into character creation between rolling ability scores and choosing skills. Relationships needed streamlining to make it easier to communicate, both between players and in terms of rules text.

Rolling a One On The Ol’ Craft (Layout) Check

After relationships comes Backgrounds and how to resolve skill checks, which I've already discussed. What I neglected to mention is the lengthy aside about Failing Forward. This is a good guide to using “failure” not as a roadblock but as a reason to introduce further story complications, both to keep the game flowing but also to help avoid d20’s tendency to make everyone fail at routine tasks a significant amount of the time. I can't fault Fail Forward as a principle, but I can fault it for being ANOTHER full page of rules text that does not pertain to character creation before we even learn what a bard does.

Also introduced in passing in the background/skill description is that the game is broken up into Adventurer, Champion, and Epic tiers, and that Champion and Epic environments are a little too hardcore for lower-level heroes. It won't be until the next section that we learn that Champion means levels 5-7, Epic means 8-10, oh and by the way this game only goes up to level 10.

Have I mentioned that I hate 13th Age’s layout? Because man. It sucks a lot.

Elven Centipede

You get one feat per level and there's 10 levels. Get it? Huh? Get it?

Anyway. Feats are broken up into level-based tiers: champion feats come online at level 5, and epic feats at 8. This section only has the most boring feats, like Improved Initiative or Toughness or Rapid Reload, the inexplicable crossbow feat tax that appears in every D20 game despite the fact that literally everyone houserules it because it's not like you're going to powergame with a crossbow and this game doesn't even have iterative attacks ugh it's so useless and

I seem to have lost track there. In any event, the general feats are the usual pile of uninspired, uninteresting junk, except for Ritual Casting which is absolutely huge (assuming you don't have a PC who gets it for free) because 13A rituals are unfucked compared to 4e. The vast, vast majority of feats are actually modifiers or riders on abilities you get from your class or race, so they aren't listed in detail here; rather, they're listed immediately under the power or talent or spell they modify. Despite this, the feat section has eleven useless pages listing every single feat and its summarized effects, in insufficient detail to make any educated decisions about what feats to take or even what feats you're eligible for.

We still don't know what races or classes do yet!

Guess what's next? It's what you're all waiting for…

someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this

It's the gear tables for no apparent reason!

In particular, 13th Age's somewhat-unusual-for-a-D&D-clone handling of weapons and armor. 13A disposes of Gary Gygax's fetishism for differentiating weapon and armor types; everything is collapsed into general categories, and "special weapon qualities" like Reach or Finesse don't exist at all. This extends to the feats and class abilities: there's no Weapon Focus or other options that encourage people to make their character be the Shortsword-Only Guy (except for Rapid Reload, the inexplicable D20 albatross feat). Weapons and armor are mainly an aesthetic choice, rather than a mechanical one.

All of the weapons are collapsed into size (one-handed or two-handed), complexity (small, light/simple, and heavy/martial), and whether or not they are ranged. There isn't any mechanical difference between a longsword, a broadsword, a battleaxe, flail, or morningstar. Weapon damage is on a d4/d6/d8/d10 scale where each step of increasing size and complexity increases damage a step: a (small, one-handed) dagger or club does d4 damage, while a (two-handed, heavy) greataxe or lucern hammer does d10. There are no special weapon qualities any more; the only time the weapon type matters is damage, and the -2 atk penalty for using a weapon that is too large or complex for your class. (The details of weapon damage aren't actually in this section; they appear - and are repeated - in each class writeup.)

Similarly, armor is collapsed into light armor and heavy armor and shields - and, as, light armor includes rugged adventuring clothing, anyone can wear the former with no penalties. Armor is extremely abstract: basically anything that isn't simple clothing is light armor, and anything with a significant amount of solid metal is heavy armor. As mentioned earlier, AC is based on a combination of your class and your current armor: every (core) class has a base AC of 10 or 11 with no armor and base AC ranging from 10-14 in light armor. Some classes can wear heavy armor without a penalty and get up to base AC 14-16; everyone CAN wear heavy armor, but only get an additional +1 AC over their light armor value (which may be as low as 11) and get -2 to atk. Shields are similarly simple: all shields give you +1 AC, with a -2 atk penalty if you don't properly know how to use one.

This could possibly be simplified even further into making damage and AC purely a matter of your class with situational penalties when you're using something grossly inappropriate or undersized as a weapon or fighting in a loincloth, but it's a good enough level of abstraction given 13A's level of tactical complexity.

spend less on candles


There's pages and pages of this. I should be used to it by now, but I'm not.

What isn't abstracted is the traditional list of medieval (and anachronistic) weapons, armor, sundry goods, and services. Discussing coinage (copper, silver, gold, and platinum, 10:1 to trade up) and sprawling tables chew up three more useless pages. Nearly a full page's worth of this is devoted to specific costs for specific sorts of weapons and armor and they don't even do different things any more. A staff - which is just a sturdy, long stick! - is 1 gp, which is enough to eat for a week. Why does a mace cost more than a morningstar?

There are some cute ideas: every table section also has a list of unique or odd things, like a "large tabby cat in Horizon, guaranteed free of fleas and demonic possession", a "fine for unnecessary violence in Santa Cora", or different prices for a "ferry ride across the Grandfather [River]" depending on whether the bridge is out or not. It's a charming way to spice up these tedious and not especially interesting or useful tables of arbitrary prices.

It's nice that they made the effort, but who gives a poo poo. I have no idea why this section is here. Not only do we not yet know how much money a character has to spend, or what sorts of items they might want, or what sorts of items they can even use, but it turns out that characters get their weapons and armor free at character creation and won't even care how much they cost. Very few campaigns are ever put players in a situation where they care about the fact that candles cost 1cp per. It's an absolutely baffling layout decision, especially given that 13th Age is often so abstract that a campaign might never need to consult this table for the specific numeric cost of these mundane items.

We are on page 62 and we still don't know what an elf wizard even is or does.

Next: No, Really, It Is Actually A Metaphor For Race

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 21:40 on Mar 26, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Halloween Jack posted:

I'm not sure what you mean; has he ever been the primary author of anything for an established company?

I get that AF and his Tomes are free online stuff, but still. He only writes in a tone that's like, shooting the breeze about house rules on a forum, plus occasional lame jokes.

he's got a bunch of SR4e credits that I'm aware of, and there might be other stuff I'm not

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Halloween Jack posted:

Jaws and Joe Young? That's what FMGuru is talking about and it's so drat bizarre

that's not something present even in tomes and ends of the matrix, it's specifically an after sundown thing. AS's whole premise is mashing up all sorts of disparate horror-adjacent genre fiction into a whole that still had coherent magical rules.

FMguru's idea that Trollman or TGD posters can't understand theme or symbolism is baffling even when you just look at after sundown, because the back half is soggy with travelogues interspersed with boring rambling analysis of what horror themes actually mean and how to incorporate them into this game which really doesn't support anything that isn't somewhere between scooby doo and van helsing.

stop being goony psychoanalysts. sometimes a book sucks because the writer isn't very good at conveying their ideas, not because of some deep-seated inability to comprehend ideas which are not properly tackled in a particular work.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Evil Mastermind posted:

I'm pretty certain I remember Triffids being mentioned in there somewhere.

they're a broken out subtype

I am shutting up about AS now though unless someone does a proper write up of it

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



LuiCypher posted:

DID YOU KNOW?! Chaos Space Marines, especially Noise Marines, used to be infinitely more :krad: than they are now. Please note that his weapon is now a guitar. I imagine being killed by him might go something like this.

this is an extremely pro click

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



should I do fewer of these but longer or what, I feel like I might be spamming up the joint, I dunno.



13th Age part 4: No, Really, It Is Actually A Metaphor For Race

Fantasy races in 13th Age work similarly to most D&D games, especially 4th Edition: you get a special racial power (similar to entry-level powers you get from your class), a +2 boost to one of two ability scores, and possibly some minor additional effects. Unlike most D&D clones, the +2 boost isn't as important because your class also gives you +2 to one of its ability scores, and you can't stack the two. So a Half-Orc Fighter can get +2 to STR or DEX from being a half-orc and +2 to STR or CON from being a fighter, but can't stack those boosts for a total of +4 to STR.

Racial powers are worth about one standard action per battle under certain conditions per battle. For example, humans reroll initiative and take the best (and get an extra feat to boot), dwarves can use a Recovery (basically Healing Surges from 4e) out of sequence once per battle when they get hit, half-orcs can reroll a to-hit once per battle. Defensive abilities are also common: halflings can force a reroll against them once per battle and apply a penalty to the reroll, gnomes can inflict a -4 to-hit penalty on enemies under certain conditions (and get a weak at-will sound/smell illusion ability). "Smallness" is all but a non-factor: halflings and gnomes use the same gear and weapons as everyone else, and just get a minor AC bonus against opportunity attacks.

Most of the races are loosely sketched, and you can really tell which race Tweet and Heinsoo care about - and that race is elves. There are three different kinds of elves - High Elves, Wood Elves, and Dark Elves - plus half-elves, and each of them has a different and unique racial ability and racial ability modifiers. While, for example dwarves get "you know dwarf cliches, use some of them I guess," elves get a page and a half about various story hooks and their splintering politics a description of their ideal society but also how that society is starting to fray at the edges so the image they project may not actually be how they live any more. Despite all this chatter, I have no idea what the difference between a Wood Elf and a High Elf is. They both live in trees, although I guess wood elves live in trees and high elves live in towers in trees? What I do know is that their racial abilities are bullshit.

gently caress Elves

Two of the three types of proper elves have completely bullshit racial abilities. High elves, once per battle (which is once per five minutes or so in out-of-combat terms), can teleport anywhere they can see as a move action. This doesn't have a range limit, and there's no obvious maximum range. After all the talk about not giving players One Unique Thing that bypasses stories, it seems like a bad idea to give PCs an ability that passes through any opening, over any gap, up or down any structure, etc. There's not even any particular setting justification for it, or any consideration of what it would mean to have a race of teleporting elves in the setting. It was very obviously only considered in terms of its limited combat applications.

Wood elves, on the other hand, have Elven Grace. Elven Grace is a combat-only ability and it is just free actions. Every turn, a wood elf rolls a d6 (or a d4 if they take a feat at level 5, which they will absolutely take because who wouldn't). If they roll equal to under the number of turns that have passed this combat (technically the Escalation Die's score but we'll get to that later), they get an extra standard action this combat. They can keep rolling on subsequent turns, they just use a die of a step larger (so a d8, then a d10, etc.). This will generally mean they get 1-2 extra actions that they can use for anything every combat - and generally 2-3 if they take that feat. You want to be a wood elf. Everyone wants to be a wood elf. There is no reason to be anything but a wood elf.

Wood elves, besides being OP, get to show off their interaction with the Escalation Die, one of 13th Age's new and shiny mechanics. Half-elves, on the other hand, get to interact with 13A's use of raw d20 scores as an additional random number generator. Once per battle, half-elves can subtract one from the raw result of any d20 roll they make. The main reason you'd want to do this is to take advantage of abilities that trigger when you make an odd or even roll, or abilities that trigger when you get a natural roll of a specific number, such as 13A's dual-wielding rules. (Anyone wielding a weapon in each hand can reroll an attack if they roll a natural 2 - and anyone can do this, it's not a feat or class ability.) This isn't an especially good ability, even for the classes that have roll-based triggers, but it is a design that 13A's developers clearly thought was clever enough to stick with despite its limited utility.

Anti-Racist is Code For Anti-Elf

Since 13th Age has half-orcs and half-elves, the obvious topic has to be dealt with. Half-orcs aren't the children of mixed marriage or rape; orcs and humans aren't compatible. Rather, half-orcs are stronger and wilder humans, born different from other humans as part of a High Druid plan to counter the "magical infection" that orcs represent. (Orcs were created by elves as part of a long-ago scheme to accomplish an unspecified goal - and while the Elf Queen considers the existence of the orcs her greatest shame, the first Orc Lord helped overthrow the Lich King.) Half-elves can be born to mixed marriages, but also sometimes when elves and humans cohabit peacefully, elf or human couples will have half-elven children and everyone seems more or less okay with that.

Half-elves are a clumsy metaphor for real-world racial and cultural integration and I don't know how I feel about that. Using magical racial differentiation with regard to humans and elves is a metaphor for culture rather than genetics is a nice departure from the grim eugenics of most D&D clones. Elves and humans can simply assimilate into each other and forget that there was any difference in the first place, in a reasonable facsimile of real-world integration. Humans who live with elves will have half-elven children, who can in turn have elven children. On the other hand, you still have black-skinned elves who are universally talented at murdering people - the Dark Elf racial ability is Cruel! - and Orcs are magically transmuted to be irredeemable killing machines. On top of all of this, race is only a matter of culture with regard to elves and humans: dwarves, halflings, and gnomes don't fit into this at all. It's just a trace of an evocative idea, not fully realized.

We Would Like To Apologize For Including These Options

There are four "optional" races, with shorter writeups and sketchier rules. They're framed as optional because three of the four were fairly controversial when they were introduced in official D&D books: Forgeborn are clearly based on Eberron's Warforged living golems, and Dragonics and Tieflings are based on Dragonborn and Tieflings, both of which were controversial when they appeared in the D&D 4e Player's Handbook. Aasimar are the fourth "optional" race, and are included because of the opposite teacup tempest controversy: while the 4e PHB had fiendish Tieflings, it did not include holy Aasimar.

The main difference between the optional races and the other races is that the implicit 13th Age world doesn't give them a prominent role, so they're easy to drop if someone is a picky grog. "If a player wants to play one of these races, they should have that right, but not necessarily at the expense of the GM’s vision" stands out as the sort of thing 13A rejects in other areas. It makes sense given how much vocal anger there was about Eberron and the 4e PHB's races, but it sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of 13A.

For all the furor, they aren't anything special. Dragonics/Dragonspawn are dragon people who have a weak elemental breath weapon (which at least doesn't take up your standard action). Holy Ones/Aasimar are "near human[s]" "touched by the bright gods" and get a weak defensive buff that falls off when they get hit. Forgeborn - aka Dwarf-Forged, because they are dwarf-shaped living golems - get a variation of the dwarf racial ability. Tieflings are "touched by the Diabolist" and get a free-form curse whenever an enemy rolls 5 or less. I guess if you want to run one, you already know what they look like, because none of them get even a cursory physical description!

Tieflings and Forgeborn are also a little half-baked, in a way which is also characteristic of 13th Age. Tieflings' racial ability turns any d20 roll against them of 5 or less into a fumble:

quote:

Start with the other racial once-per-battle abilities as a model of how big an impact this power should have... but feel free to go a little beyond, since the timing of the power is out of the tiefling’s control.
A typical curse might lead to the cursed attacker dealing half damage to themselves with their fumbled attack and being dazed [ed: that's -4 to hit, not action loss] until the end of their next turn. But the GM should reward storytelling flair that aims at effects that aren’t just game mechanics and damage with significant outcomes.
If the GM thinks your suggestion is going too far, they can enforce a smaller version of your curse or call for an unmodified d20 roll on which you’d better roll high to get the curse result you’ve suggested.

This isn't the last "make something up I guess" power in 13th Age, and these powers tend to rub me the wrong way. There's not enough to them to justify the page space spent on them. They don't inspire stories, they don't pose a puzzle, and most of them don't really do anything. (This one stands out because it does have a suggested, defined effect.) They take up defined mechanical space - and column inches - but don't fill that space the way a more realized power does.

Contrast with the Forgeborn. Forgeborn are living constructs that don't have to eat or breathe… unless that sounds like a hassle for your game. It's a little underbaked, but there's at least a concession to the fact that Warforged had a lot of rules text and a very alien feel that may not fit into your game, even if you want a stone dwarf golem PC. That said, half of the column on this page is just blank, so they probably could have afforded to spill a little more ink on the consequences of being an inhuman construct and how to properly integrate such a character into your game.

We are now on page 75 (of 320) and have finally gotten to character classes. This book's layout is a trainwreck.

Next: The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 21:47 on May 8, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



megane posted:

One of the examples straight up admits this. "Everyone should be able to do these, but here's a feat you can take if you, uh, want to, I guess."

Yeah, the language feats, I skipped over that (to cover it later). There's a whole mini-essay on "We think languages are unfun bullshit and you should not pay character resources to learn languages. But, if you must..." and a feat writeup for knowing languages. 13A is practically defined by all of these D&Disms that they reject but feel the need to accommodate. You can see visible scars from various D&D controversies, like the optional races.

It's worth mentioning that, besides the language thing, Feats in 13A generally aren't, well, feats. They don't let you Do A Feat of Strength/Skill, thereby implicitly removing the ability to do that thing from everyone else. Rather, they're mostly riders on class abilities. For example, the gnomish racial feat turns their triggered penalty to attack into a triggered penalty to attack and defense. That said, talents and powers do have the same ability space problem most D20 games have with feats.

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 00:05 on Mar 28, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.





13th Age part 5: The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles

13th Age classes are based chiefly on 4th edition classes: everyone rolls to hit for everything based on a single stat (all but bards and clerics are "A classes" in 4e charop terms), and all damage scales based on level. (There are exceptions to these rules, of course.) Hit points, defenses, initiative, and recoveries (which are 4e-style healing surges) are all fixed and based on level. Whether you use strength or dexterity for melee attacks is based on your class (although some classes can choose either), and everyone's basic melee attack always does at least their level in damage on a miss (except wizards'). Your class also determines which weapons and armor you can use without a penalty, as well as your weapon damage - although all classes do the same amount of damage with a given sort of weapon in the core book.

Your class also gives you a +2 boost to one of two primary stats, and as mentioned before this doesn't stack with racial boosts. As a result, there isn't the 4e-style pressure to play the Right Race For This Class. You're not permanently behind the curve as a fighter if your race didn't give you +2 STR, for example. It's a good patch on the wonkiness of racial ability scores while retaining them as one of the D&D sacred cows, but it does further contributes to the meaninglessness of ability scores (something I'll discuss in greater detail later).

13th Age only has 10 levels, broken up into Adventurer (1-4), Champion (5-7), and Epic (8-10). I don't have a good place to point this out in a clear way, and neither does this rather poorly-organized book.

Feats are mostly interspersed in the class writeups, reflecting their role in 13th Age. With a few exceptions, 13A has completely abandoned the original D&D 3e design idea that each feat is a particular feat of strength or skill. Rather almost all feats are modifiers to other abilities: broadening them in scope, boosting their effectiveness, or adding additional themed uses for that ability. Many abilities - including individual spells - have their own feat chains, with adventurer/champion/epic feats that must be taken in sequence.

From Each According To Their Abilities

Class abilities are broken up into three categories. (Class abilities isn't an actual term 13th Age uses, but it's a good catchall for "crap you get from your class that isn't a feat or a stat".) Features are things every member of a class has. All barbarians have Barbarian Rage, all fighters are Extra Tough. Class features also often provide a framework to slot their talents or powers into. "Bardic Songs" describes the basics to understand how to use bards' level-based powers.

Talents work much like Pathfinder talents: they're selectable class options, similar to most D20 games' feats, but class-specific and generally more impactful. Rather than the 3e-style fixed schedule of new abilities at certain levels, everything you'd normally see on a level-up list is part of the pool of talents. Players can choose three at level one. Rangers, paladins, and barbarians - the classes that don't normally get spells or powers - get two more from level up, and fighters get one more from level up for some reason. Talents can be as broad as a kit of themed passive and active abilities, or narrow as an X/day power or a modifier for core ability/spell. There's no attempt to balance them internally, either: oftentimes there are clearly "main" talents and "fluff" talents.

A Wizard Did It

Powers are abilities tiered based on (odd) levels, and are written up similarly to 3e spells or 4e powers. In general, magical powers are called spells, can generally only be used once per "full heal-up" (basically daily), and work like 3e cleric spells in that everyone knows all of them and is mainly limited by how many spell slots they have. (If a spell is somehow limited, it's usually tied to a talent.) Spell slot tables look like 3e spell tables but work like 4e power schedules: most classes only have around a half-dozen spell slots, as low-level slots are replaced with higher-level ones. If you want to cast a lower-level spell, you slot it in whatever slots you have and get a scaling effect based on the slot's level.


This is the sorcerer's spell progression table.

Non-magical classes mostly don't have spellcaster-style power progression. When they do, it works in a way particular to that class. Usually, martial powers are at-will but have some sort of conditional trigger or limitation. Mundanes can't choose different powers every full heal-up, but they can switch their powerset around completely with every levelup and whenever they can justify it to the GM with a training montage or something.

Get A Good Night's Rest

An important topic that we won't find out about for another 100 pages is the recharge schedule for powers and recoveries. Things you can do once per fight are recovered after a quick rest, and "unless the GM is being a stick, you can always get a quick rest between battles." If you have a power that recharges on an X+, you can roll to recharge it during every quick rest. You refill your HP, recoveries, and "daily" abilities with a "full heal-up," which happens approximately every four battles. Despite the fact that this may or may not be daily, abilities are still described as "daily." There's no explicit way to game full heal-ups for a 15-minute working day: spells aren't recovered after a strictly-described amount of sleep, for example. Instead, if the party really can't carry on, they can accept a "campaign loss" for an early full heal-up; some story setback happens because they took too much time recovering from wounds and waste. ("Campaign loss" is a term introduced another dozen pages after the rules for full heal-up, of course.)

This Is How We Do

There are three informal categories of 13A classes, based on their main combat action: Basic Mundane classes who mainly use their basic attack and modify it with talents, Spellcasters who mainly cast a spell on their turn, and Power Mundane classes who primarily rely on their power trees. (These are names I made up, for what it's worth. It's just a way to organize these classes into future posts.)

Basic Mundanes - barbarians, paladins, and rangers - are mainly playing 3e. They don't have a list of powers at all: their main combat action is to use their basic attack, buffed by their features and talents. Barbarians are extremely simple by design and thus extremely boring - two of their talents are identifiably Cleave and Whirlwind Attack, for example. Rangers break the action economy by making double attacks and having an animal companion. Paladins are more or less recognizably the 3e paladin, and have a salad of random abilities that don't come together into any coherent theme other than "doing stuff paladins have done in previous editions of D&D".

Spellcasters - sorcerers, wizards, and to a lesser extent clerics and bards - cast spells. Most of them can only be used once daily, although some have a chance to recharge after every fight and other are at-will powers. All spellcasters have at least one at-will ranged attack, even clerics and bards, who can also rely on their mundane basic attacks. Clerics have spells that consume their standard action for a big effect, but most of their spells are quick actions or involve "make a basic attack, and [additional thing happens]."

Power Mundanes - fighters and rogues, and to a lesser extent bards and clerics - rely on basic attacks, but those basic attacks in turn trigger powers from their power tree. Fighters and bards have "flexible attacks" - when they make a mundane attack and roll a certain result, like "odd miss" or "hit on a natural 15+", they can trigger one of their flexible attack powers as an additional rider. Rogues rely on momentum: a rogue gains momentum when they hit with an attack and loses it when they are hit or use an ability that expends their momentum, and most of their abilities can only be used when they have momentum.

Next: I Waste It With My Crossbow

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 21:20 on Apr 2, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Night10194 posted:

Rogues are also notable for being monumentally, incredibly boring despite being the intended 'complex' martial class.

Bards, however, are loving rock stars and amazing.

my favorite part is how their core mechanic is fundamentally incompatible with ambushing people

one of their two capstone powers is "prevent yourself from being ambushed by a hidden or invisible enemy" but you can only use it when you already have momentum

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 17:06 on Mar 29, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



my april fool joke is the welsh language



13th Age part 6: I Waste It With My Crossbow

The barbarian and paladin are the least engaging and worst-designed of 13A's classes, as they are intentionally designed as a throwback to poorly designed martial classes of previous editions. "I hit it with my axe" just isn't very interesting! The few non-attack-based actions they can take - with the exception of the backgrounds and icon relationships all PCs have - are marginal, limited, and largely included just because those options existed in previous takes on D&D. These problems are also true of the ranger to a lesser degree. The ranger has a stronger theme - hunting a single target and overwhelming it with many attacks - but there's enough space in that theme for more than just statistical buffs to inserting swords into owlbears.

13th Age does away with the bonus accumulation of both 3e and 4e. That means combat and character creation is much more streamlined for these sorts of characters - and that's great! The only downside is that the game mastery and research required to stack up all those bonuses covered up their relative lack of complexity. A 13A barbarian isn't less interesting than a typical 3e fighter or 4e ranger, but the process of making one is less interesting. Eliminating all of the newbie traps and the white noise concealing the good options means that there's no way to trick yourself into thinking that hitting things with an axe really hard is as versatile or interesting as other classes' skill sets. The thinness of 13A's combat is most obvious with these very thin character classes.

Raurghagghpbbthtgraughthbbheeeegragphraghicphbbt
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c54SvkgQ04A

Barbarians rage out. Barbarian Rage is their one single daily/recharge 16+ power: rage lasts for an entire fight, and any attacks made while raging are rolled on 2d20. If one die hits, it's a hit. If both dice hit and are 11+ (or if one die is a natural 20, as usual), you crit. (Crits are double damage, and there's no 3e-style threat confirmation roll.) The one tactical decision to make as a barbarian is whether or not to rage, and it's almost always the correct decision to rage. If you find that one decision too taxing, there's a feat chain that causes barbarians to automatically rage for free after a certain number of rounds in combat.

Barbarians don't get much in the way of customization options, either. They have talents, but so do all classes, and barbarians' aren't especially interesting. They can take cleave, or get a little bit of conditional extra damage, or get a free-action recovery (that is wasted if you miss with your attack that turn). It's almost all ticky-tacky little bonuses. Barbarians have special talents that they can only choose at higher levels - this is touted as a special feature of the class - but there are only two talents each at champion and epic to choose from. One of them is +2 to mental defenses one fight per day. Another is "calling on your ancestors to send a spirit army to assist you" - which means for one fight a day you have a chance each turn to get an extra attack.

The barbarian's design seems to be motivated by a common apologetic argument for the design of the D&D 3e fighter: some players actually want their characters to do the same thing every round because they don't find D&D-style tactical combat very interesting. Often as not the example player who isn't interested in combat is a chauvinistic "someone's girlfriend" stereotype. Unfortunately, the barbarian's autoattacking isn't very interesting either - and now the barbarian's player is into a PC that can't ever do anything but melee basic attacks. Left unanswered is why you're bothering to play D&D - or 13th Age - when one of your players clearly does not want to engage with one of the most complex, time-consuming rulesets.

Barbarians aren't offered any real compensation for their narrow focus. Rage is good for hitting people, but it has no described game effect outside of rolling to hit - even though they explicitly mention you might "decide to rage out of combat for dramatic roleplaying effect". You'd expect barbarians to be tough, but their low AC, inexplicably middling HP, and otherwise unremarkable stats place them behind fighters and paladins, and only slightly ahead of bards.

Because Good Is Dumb

While barbarians are boring, paladins are confused. In the Original Edition Handed Down To Us By Gygax, Ayn Rand, and Jesus, Paladins were originally Fighters But Better, as a reward for cheating at rolling high ability scores and adhering to a dickish strict moral code. It wasn't balanced, but it was thematically consistent: paladins get holy power in return for holy service. As players homebrewed new rulesets to make fighters to be less godawful boring and D&D developed a snarl of class option books, the paladin's niche shriveled. Fighter But Better doesn't have a place in a game where classes are meant to be more balanced - if not balanced in power, then at least balanced in complexity and player interest. By 3e, paladins were in an extremely bad place, as D&D clerics stepped on paladins' thematic and mechanical niches. Why specialize in smiting enemies and healing allies when you can do those things and everything else a cleric can do, too?

13th Age's paladin is clearly based on the 3e paladin, and it's nearly as bland. Smite Evil - a generic [CHA mod]-times-per-fight damage bonus on a basic attack - is back as a core class feature, as are passively excellent defensive stats. Their talents - and paladins don't have any paladin-specific powers except for what they get from talents - are a random selection of features from different editions. Paladins can shrug off debuffs, or Lay Hands On allies to heal them, challenge enemies to a duel, intercept incoming attacks, etc. The only thing saving paladins from being hopeless is that they can use talents to loot cleric domain talents or spells, giving them interesting combat options and thematic elements beyond "hit a dude while being really tough in a passive way".

13th Age does do away with paladin codes of conduct. There's no discussion of codes of conduct whatsoever, and no class in 13A can arbitrarily lose all of their abilities in the way of older D&D classes. Paladins are generally good, but not exclusively so. Evil paladins clearly exist in the setting - one of the icons is a paladin who is literally in league with devils - and they're briefly discussed. Even Smite Evil can be used to smite, you know, whoever, since 13A doesn't use Evil tags or alignment.

While I can't say I miss fallen paladin shenanigans, 13th Age doesn't carve out any new replacement niche. Heavily armored holy warriors who support their allies already exist: clerics. The relative paucity of player options in 13th Age means many classes have "take an ability from a different class's list" as an option, which means the paladin is even more obviously derivative and unnecessary than usual.

Frostkiller, Shiny, and my pet Chwerthinllyd

Rangers have a clear, strong concept: they are middling-toughness martial characters who specialize in hunting down a target and taking it down with a flurry of blows. You can choose different murder specialties, different degrees of emphasis on "hunting," "focusing on a target," and "lots of attacks." They're coherently themed in a way most classes are not.

The 13A ranger will be immediately recognizable to anyone who played a 4e ranger. You can choose three talents, and your talents are broken up into two-talent specialties: two talents to dual-wield, two-talents to shoot flurries of arrows, two talents to mark and wreck a target, a single animal companion talent that counts as two talents, and a handful of one-off talents to track prey or poach spells from clerics or sorcerers.

You're obviously meant to pick up either the bow dual-strike or melee dual-wield talent. They don't guarantee a second attack; rather, if you make a natural even attack roll (hit or miss), you get your second attack. (You can take both, but they don't play nicely together: ranger melee attacks can use DEX or STR to hit, but only STR to damage, so you can't run both ranged and melee off of the same main stat.) Once you've got your main attack, you pick your choice of ticky-tacky conditional bonuses or utility powers.

The biggest optional utility power is an Animal Companion, a full-fledged NPC who also attacks on your initiative without costing you any actions, and heals whenever you use a recovery. Pets only have six stats and one "trick," which is usually a conditional modifier on their basic attack. Their stats are pointlessly confusing, however: a pet is considered to be one level lower than the ranger, so a 4th-level ranger uses the "Level 3 Animal Companion" stats, and there are "0th-level pets". Pets stats also almost-but-don't-quite smoothly increase per level: for example, AC goes up by one for each level, except for one level where it goes up by two. It's needlessly fiddly but not overly so, and the end result is that the bear or snake or whatnot grants the ranger an additional attack.

Animal companions are conceptually freeform. Pets get a "trick" based on their species - snakes have poison, wolves get a boost when attacking the same target as the ranger, etc. - but players are encouraged to assign whatever trick they like to whatever species they like if they'd prefer, as long as it makes sense. Pets can become large dire beasts at higher levels or be replaced with more fearsome animals instead of leveling up at higher levels - but there's no game effects attached to any of this. 13th Age abandons the idea that any in-universe difference has to be accompanied by a specific fiddly rule effect.

Animal companions are revised in the second 13th Age Book, 13 True Ways. Rangers and druids with pets get a small pool of spells and a short spell list focused entirely on buffing and healing the pet. They also get the option to spend only one talent on an Animal Companion; such Animal Companion Initiates (as opposed to Adepts, who invested two talents) can only have their companion around for every other fight and can't cast the pet spells.

Rangers get another freeform talent, and this one I like, at least in concept. If you take Tracker, "you get to say things about the terrain that the GM may not have realized." Tracker lets the ranger's player take advantage of the environment in an improvisational way, by making up some natural feature that was always there, which comes into play on a random (but predictable) turn. Tracker rangers can knock a stalactite on foes, lure them into tripping over something, knocking down a hornet's nest, etc. The problem is that such "terrain stunts" don't have a clearly defined rules effect when the enemy sets off your trap card. The suggested effects, buried in a sidebar, are very weak and don't clearly describe how to implement their effects. It's not clear if there's an attack roll (it's implied that there isn't), nor is their any suggested default effect to help bypass disagreements about what the talent should be able to do. Tracker is a great idea, but it's not so much badly designed as not even fully designed at all.

With a little text introducing basic templates for rangers - a notable omission - they could have been the "simple martial character" for the strawman 3e fighter liker. It's perfectly reasonable to make a ranger who is really good at stabbing and nothing else, but players who get bored with that and want to expand their options or explore more of the games' systems still have the option to do so. Rangers will still be using their basic attacks for the vast majority of their turns for the vast majority of fights, but they're not as bad off as the other basic-attacking mundanes compared to the rest of 13A's cast.

Next: Everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 21:50 on May 8, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



PurpleXVI posted:

Based on this review, I'm kind of baffled why anyone would play 13th Age. It feels kind of... Pathfindery, an attempt at "fixing" D&D without actually understanding what needs fixing.

Having never read 13th Age myself, the way people talked about it I always thought it was far more FATE-esque, a lot more narrative.

it's a hybrid of FUDGE and D&D, and its layout and the FATAL & Friends format kind of obscure that. i have more thoughts about this once i'm done with chargen

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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RocknRollaAyatollah posted:


The Gangrel are pretty much clan Wolverine

so they're a canon mystery that was finally resolved by the third successor publisher and turned out to be a huge boring disappointment?

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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Doresh posted:

Imagine a fantasy heartbreaker where the "classes" are just talents you pick.

wasn't this the elevator pitch for GURPS?

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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gradenko_2000 posted:

and I mean this very literally in that there are some pretty committed people out there who convert D&D 5e to Star Wars

including WOTC, who did so profitably and reasonably successfully for a decade

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.





13th Age part 7: Everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems

Spellcasters in 13th Age are immediately recognizable to anyone who played 4e or a spellcaster in 3e: they do a large, flashy effect a couple times a fight and fall back to weaker, low-impact filler for mop-up. Spellcasting is pure Vance: spellcasters have a half-dozen-ish spell slots, and after each full heal-up fill them with the spells of their choice, most of them one-shot "Daily" spells. All of the spellcasters are "prepared" casters in 3e terms: there's no 3e-style sorcerer or psion where the player choose what spells to cast on the fly and can spam the same one-shot spell with all of the spell slots.

That's only true of spells that don't recur on their own, however. 13A differs from many D&D variations in that some spells are on different schedules, including reusable At-Will spells and randomly reusable Recharge spells. For example, a wizard needs to devote a spell slot of at least first level to Magic Missile, an at-will spell, but she can cast it as many times as she'd like. A sorcerer needs to devote a fifth-or-higher-level spell slot to Three Dooms, a Recharge 16+ spell, but once it's used he can roll a d20 after every fight and gets the spell back on a 16+. Daily does mean daily: barring certain talents, there's no way to prepare the same spell multiple times in multiple slots.

Spell levels are sort of synonymous with character levels: there are no second-level spells because spellcasters don't get new spells at level two. Spells do scale upward as the character's level increases, but not automatically like in 3e and 4e; instead, to get the fifth-level effect of Magic Missile, a wizard needs to put it in a fifth-level slot. Offsetting this somewhat is the fact that spell slots aren't a pyramid, as in 3e. A ninth-level sorcerer has nine spell slots: six of them 9th-level, and three of them 7th-level. There's nothing stopping her from using lower-level spells; she just slots them into the higher-level slots and gets higher-level effects from them. The removal of a huge backlog of lower-level slots does a lot to reduce 3e-style caster supremacy: expending a spell slot on a daily spell always feels like a real expense.

Spellcasters can choose to prepare all of the spells in their class (plus possibly some extras from their talents), but this is less of an issue than it is for divine casters in 3e because there are just so few spells listed. A second-level sorcerer can prepare five first-level spells, and there are only six first-level spells, three of which are barely-distinguishable at-will energy bolts. Each class only has two or three 9th-level spells. The spell lists are tiny.

The tiny spell lists reflect the smaller conceptual space for the tactical ruleset. For the most part, spells are focused on in-combat effects. There are a few glaring exceptions: e.g. clerics get a spell to transport the whole party long distances. Exceptions aside, this focus on combat effects is both a product of practicality and design ethos. Not only does this book not have the space to fit in the dozens or hundreds pages of spell/power listings that typically appear in official Dungeons & Dragons Players' Handbooks, but 13A does not generally go in for specific, strictly-defined effects outside of combat.

So, if you ever just want to hang out and chant or call the corners...

Out of combat magic is mostly handled by Ritual Casting, a feat clerics and wizards get for free, but available to any spellcaster (including classes like rangers and paladins if they've gotten spells from a talent). Despite being listed with feats, ritual casting isn't properly described until page 192. It's Background check that takes minutes or hours - or however much time is dramatically appropriate, really - and consumes a prepared spell to create a freeform magic effect. The examples include a wizard destroying an artifact with Acid Arrow, or a wizard putting the guards around their cell to sleep with Sleep.

It's telling that both examples involve a wizard, and it's a step back from 4e's Ritual Casting in that way. While 4e Rituals involved a bunch of bookkeeping and resource expenditure that made them mostly impractical if all of that wasn't houseruled away, any character of any class could take the feat and draw on magic out of combat as long as they had the relevant skills. 13A goes back to the 3e idea that some characters are magic and some just aren't, which is a baffling reversion given the fact that characters may indeed have One Unique Thing or Backgrounds that give them a good reason to have magical abilities that simply aren't useful on a combat timescale. There's nothing stopping a GM from houseruling that Rogues or Fighters can take the Ritual Casting feat and perform rituals, but it involves throwing out everything about the Ritual Casting rules except for making Background checks. At that point, there's no reason to have Ritual Casting as its own system discrete from the Background check rules except for the fact that D&D 4e did it that way.

Next: FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE - Spellcasting Classes

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 17:30 on Apr 2, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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Mors Rattus posted:

Scaling up of spells as spell levels increase is definitely a problem - most often, a higher level spell is flat out better. This is especially true of Sorcerer's level 1 and 3 breath spells. Having done the math, the other ones scale up at least decently well, but Breath of the White and Breath of the Green are both simply, flatly worse in every way possible. (You can resolve this by giving them +1 targets each time they go up a slot, however.)

this is something I noticed to be true mainly of sorcerers (and druids) - wizards are all over the place and clerics get their bread and butter early.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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gradenko_2000 posted:

Much like the Fighter, it avoids the grog argument over 5 minute short rests purely for the sake of avoiding it but replacing it with something that at the very minimum is still only just as good, and in many ways is worse.

it doesn't avoid it at all. in fact, "per battle" abilities are refreshed whenever the party gets even a moment to catch their breath. "recharge X+" is mostly used in place X/daily - and almost exclusively for magical effects - and it's never clear why, really.

btw I lied about talents in a previous section: only classes without spells and powers get five talents total. every class gets three at chargen. rangers, paladins, and barbarians get two more from level up, and fighters get one more from level up.

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.





13th Age part 8: FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE

Spells in 13A will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has played D&D 4e. Spells roll [the class's caster stat modifier] + level + d20 to hit AC/PD/MD. Spells have a Hit line that only happens on a hit, and an Effect line that always happens. They might also might have a Miss line for a miss, or variations on the theme like Odd Hit or Natural 19+. This means that casting stats are baked into the spells: a Ranger who uses a talent to get a Sorcerer attack spell has to use CHA for hit and damage. It's an intentional design decision as far as I can tell, since there are several talents or feats that boil down to "Use [your main stat] on [other class's] spells."

AOE powers don't have a fixed radius, as in other games. Without getting into 13th Age's highly abstract positioning rules, a spell that would be an explosion or cloud in other editions simply hits "1d4 nearby enemies in a group". Spells that classically murder the party, like Fireball and Meteor Swarm, have that baked into their rules as an inherent effect.

Saving throws work exactly like 4e. At the end of someone's turn - PC or NPC - they roll a d20 for every save-ends effect on them. If they roll an 11+ - or a 6+ for the occasional easy save or 16+ for equally-rare hard saves - the effect ends. Ongoing damage is one sort of common save-ends effect, and it is dealt immediately before the save, so it won't prevent a monster's turn, but the save won't prevent the fire or acid from killing the monster.

I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll deliver a bizarre and out of place rant about Israel

If you're not familiar with more recent editions of D&D, sorcerers are solitary genius one-offs with unique magical powers but no particular skill with weapons or armor. The D&D 3e sorcerer was mostly an excuse to try out a new, non-Vancian magic system, but the concept of a spellcaster who was magic instead of someone who learned magic resonated with players - and appeared in 4e as both the Warlock and, well, the Sorcerer. However, in both games, wizards largely overshadowed sorcerers and warlocks, while struggling to feel different from them in any meaningful way. 13A sorcerers are still wild prodigies as contrasted with the ascetic study of wizards, and their magical abilities draw on the symbolic power of the Icons, possibly aggrandizing or draining them, or maybe just tapping into them in a passive way. This is a neat concept, but in practice you roll a lot of charisma-based attack rolls to make things explode. Sorcerers still can't escape the recurring problem of the limited conceptual difference between themselves and wizards.

Sorcerers' flashiest class feature is Gather Power. A sorcerer can spend a turn to double the effect of her next attack spell by spending a standard action to huff and puff or look menacing or whatever suits her particular idiom. Gathering power also a minor random effect (from a mercifully small table), and it gets double effect out of one of the sorcerer's relatively small pool of spells. This isn't as bad a deal as it would be in other versions of D&D, because the escalation die (oops, haven't talked about that yet!) somewhat discourages frontloading attacks, and because of how AOE works in 13th Age. Unless the party or the enemies explicitly spread out to avoid AOE, there's little reason to need to set up ambushes and frontload casting to maximize AOE powers.

Sorcerers also feature lots of randomness, on top of the inherent randomness of (their relatively few) normal AOE spells. Breath Weapon-tagged spells are daily spells that work once in a combat, then for the rest of the combat the sorcerer checks at the beginning of every turn to see if they can reuse the breath weapon, similar to the "refresh" attacks of both 13A and 4e NPCs. Chain-tagged spells will spread to an additional target on a natural even attack roll, and will keep chaining until you stop rolling evens or run out of new targets you want to hit. This combination of randomness and Gather Power makes sorcerers feel very explosive. Sometimes you'll Gather then drop Three Dooms, which makes all its chain rolls and blows away half the field. Sometimes you'll gather for Breath of the Green, only get one target for the AOE roll, miss that one target, then never refresh the breath. Their variance is capped a little bit by the fact that most of their attacks deal XdY + (charisma modifier) damage, but that little muffler on the statistical variance isn't felt much in practice.


Sorcerers are less cool than Doom Patrol, unfortunately.

As for talents, the 3e theme of "sorcerers get magic from dragons" is blown up into "sorcerers get magic from icons". Most of the sorcerer talents are linked to one of the various magic-themed icons. All sorcerers can poach from the wizard list at a penalty; the Archmage talent lets sorcerers poach a spell without that penalty, and an associated feat allows them to attack with the spell using CHA (instead of the usual INT for wizard powers), the Three and the Great Gold Wyrm talents interact with breath weapons, the Diabolist talent is a spell rage similar to the barbarian's but with a self-damaging kicker, etc. Atypically for a d20 game, these icon-linked talents aren't mutually exclusive: there's no reason a sorcerer can't draw on both the power of the diametrically opposed Archmage and Lich King. There's no actual reason you'd do that, because the Lich King talent is terrible and one of its associated feats is a literal joke that exists for no reason than to hammer home how boring 4e Weapon Expertise is and also that the Lich King is Vecna for anyone who didn't notice, but…

I seem to have lost my train of thought again. Anyway. There's a handful of less flavorful talents, like a Spell Fist talent that makes you less incapable in melee at the cost of needing high CON as well as CHA, a talent to get a familiar if you want a magic pet rat for some reason, and a sucker talent to get an extra point of Icon relationships. But you didn't roll a sorcerer to gently caress around with talents!

Sorcerer spells - and remember, every sorcerer knows all of them - have three main qualities. First, there's not a lot of them. All sorcerers can poach a wizard spell as if it were a spell of two levels higher than it actually is, but that's mainly for utility spells, as wizard attack spells are based on INT. And sorcerers will be poaching, because a third-level sorcerer has six spell slots and knows ten spells, five of which are minor variations on "At-Will, do 3dX+Cha damage to some poor bastard." Sorcerers have such a tiny pool of spells that they will be casting the same spells day in and day out until they level up. This is a problem that is going to come back to bite all of the spellcasters.

Second, they almost all do damage, and the ones that don't are kind of insulting. The worst is a 5th-level spell that gives +5 on CHA checks but turns any failed check into a disaster. Another insultingly bad spell gives you another party member's racial ability for one battle. One 9th-level spell is so thinly sketched it can barely be called an ability:

quote:

You gain some surprising or bizarre magical effect associated with the power of [a randomly-selected, magic-related] icon to assist you. The effect is entirely up to the GM, though the immediate impact of the spell should always be favorable for you. The long-term consequences of randomly invoking the power of an icon that may be an enemy might not be favorable for you, and should be played for narrative interest by the GM, particularly if the impact of the spell was huge for you. Since this is a daily spell, sizeable impact is fine, but don’t award any extra effect for empowered casting, especially since the spell can be cast effectively out of combat.

Except for the table to roll on, that is the entire text for Calling The Blood's effect. There's no example for what this spell is actually supposed to do. It's one of your three 9th-level spells - and one of the others, Silver Flame, doesn't even work if you don't have any relationship dice with the Archmage! It's confusing why these spells even exist; Ritual Casting already handles out-of-combat magic in a freeform way. If sorcerers had some sort of combat spell that charmed enemies or drew on the power of a random icon - incidentally, they do not - then that could be translated into whatever improvisational ritual effect you needed for the story. It's wasted space due to a lack of focus, and that's a problem particular to sorcerers.

Lastly, sorcerer spells are just better at higher levels. Since basically all of the spells melt someone's face, it's easy to do the math and figure out which spell does the most facemelting. The correct answer is Scorching Ray and whatever your highest level daily attack spells are. It's nice that you're not trapped in the 4e pit of casting Searing Orb from level 5 to 25, but there's not a lot of meaningful difference between Breath of the White and Breath of the Void. Given the narrow design space and limited pagecount, this is inevitable, but still a damper in practice.

This is another one that ran long. Wizards and maybe clerics for the next post.

Next: Dare you enter my magical realm?

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



Two Headed Calf posted:

Are you going to be doing True Ways as well? That book is a mess.

sure. here it is:


13th age 8.5: 13 True Ways kind of sucks

FOOL! Doctor Doom does as he PLEASES! :gaz:
  • the chaos mage is a trainwreck. i get the high concept but there's so much bullshit and table-checking to the class that it's disruptive to play. "gain a random spell from such-and-such class" ugh gently caress you
  • commanders are a workable if bland take on 4e leaders in 13A terms, but 13A's very abstract combat leaves them little else to do other than give other people extra actions
  • the druid is like five classes all jammed together in one and obviously designed that way because it's what they promised in a kickstarter. it's so overbroad that "i'm a druid" is meaningless, i've seen less overcomplicated point-buy games
  • monks have a hundred cool ideas (four lost secrets! the grandmaster of flowers! every style is a poem!) but are overcomplicated and loving terrible, as is typical for monks in D&D
  • necromancers are inexplicably the best-designed, most-versatile spellcasters in 13A and it blows my mind - only downside is that they have the worst layout of 13A and that's really saying something
  • the occultist has a rad concept but sucks major balls because it's all reactive so you can end up with really unfun dead turns
  • i don't give a poo poo about multiclassing and neither do heinsoo and tweet. it's a ban list of the overpowered combos they thought of, and i've never expended any energy on trying to think of any of my own
  • i like their city writeup format but there's not a lot of meat there
  • except for drakkenhall, which owns owns owns. drakkenhall is worth ripping out of 13A and using in your own game.
  • horizon does a decent job of conveying how the icons are more organizations than individuals but i don't get a feel for horizon as a place and they don't have the room to make it as weird as they obviously want to
  • a quarter of this book is monsters which uh okay I guess? i didn't see anything obviously out of line but i also didn't look that closely and probably never will. same for artifacts and magic items and the example npcs that are obvious kickstarter rewards tbh
  • there are a loooooooooot of pages about how to use devils in your game. none of it was especially memorable to me but it's a pretty good source for campaign concepts if you really like devils i guess
  • the random dungeon idea seed list absolutely rules, as do the example dungeon concepts, and they're usable in any sufficiently weird fantasy setting

in conclusion:

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 06:14 on Apr 3, 2017

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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Halloween Jack posted:

Idunno if you're serious of not, but "HP = Meat Points???" is the silliest D&D argument to have, because Gygax said "Of course not" right in the AD&D1e DMG.

counterpoint: it's a thing gary gygax wrote in the AD&D 1e DMG, so it is exceedingly statistically likely to be a terrible idea

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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senrath posted:

Do you have a citation to back that up?

human beings use phrases like "almost everyone" to mean "almost everyone I know".

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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DNA Cowboys posted:

Duly noted!

it's vol 2 issue 29

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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paizo has sold multiple lines of miniatures

Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
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13th Age part 9: Dare you enter my magical realm?

13A's wizard and cleric are recognizable to anyone who played either class in 3e or 4e. Both of them were reasonably well-designed and well-liked classes that worked well in a vacuum - they remain so in 13th Age. Their shared problem in previous editions is that they were so versatile and powerful that they overshadowed other, narrower classes, even in those classes' supposed specialties. Most of their versatility was stripped simply by the fact that 13A is not an official edition of D&D. Both classes have much shorter spell lists, no "splat" material from supplemental books, fewer spell slots, and a reduced and 4e-like idea of what a spell should be able to accomplish. Clerics and wizards still have broad-based abilities to affect the setting through Ritual Casting, but they also come with practical advice on how to avoid letting magic bypass stories and challenges in unentertaining ways. They still have their broad, nearly unlimited scope - so much so that when other classes learn a generalist magical knack from a talent, it's almost always "you can use one cleric/wizard spell" - but now other classes also have broadly defined, narrative-shaping powers. Even so, they step on too-similar classes' toes, and have setting-defining powers tucked away in their class-specific lists.

Cease's Incessant Posting

Wizards are...wizards. They're the nerds of magic. Where sorcerers are explosive and random, wizards are consistent and predictable. For example, in contrast to sorcerers' Breath spells, wizards have Cyclic spells, which they can use at-will but only on even-numbered turns. Every spellcaster can cast Rituals if they have the feat - wizards not only have the feat, but can cast them faster. (It's not much of an advantage, since rituals don't normally have a set casting time.)

Wizards also have lots of crease-marks from previous editions of D&D. Their cantrips - minor, non-standard utility spells with no combat impact - are limited to (Int mod) uses per five minutes, because people complained that unlimited use of cantrips in Pathfinder was somehow overpowered. But, other people liked at-will cantrips, so there's a talent to give that back (and allows players to heighten cantrips into larger spells in a freeform way that works just like Ritual Casting but doesn't actually refer to the Ritual rules at any point).

Wizards get another free-form talent, Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations, and like most of the free-form talents, it's a cool idea with a terrible implementation. In return for taking the talent and adding a minor additional action cost, players must rename their spells to Dexter's Ridiculous Designations and get an additional freeform effect from the GM that may or may not be useful or good. The examples include NPCs babbling exposition, being taunted by spirits, or sleeping uncomfortably. There's no real reason players and GMs shouldn't just do this. It's a neat idea but it's out of place in the character building section - this is One Unique Thing territory.

Familiars - technically a wizard talent, but sorcerers and rangers can take them too - aren't full-fledged NPCs in 13th Age. They only contribute meaningfully to the story as separate characters if it's narratively convenient or if you buy an ability to let them do so reliably. In combat, they hide and can't be targeted. They have their own sublist of purchaseable abilities, ranging front crunchy combat buffs (eg +1 to saves, or it poisons enemies when you hit with a melee attack) to loose, narrative abilities (eg flight, speech). The specific, fiddly, mostly combat-focused list of sub-talents seems unnecessary - "you have a rapport with a magical animal that can operate separately from you when necessary" would be fine! It would be a better-designed choice than many of the other open-ended narrative talents.

It's not like wizards lack for open-ended utility, though. They get a special, flexible "Utility Spell" that they can prepare instead of a combat spell. They don't have to pick which utility spell it is until they cast the spell; so the slot could be Hold Portal or it could be Scrying, as needed. (This is a codification of a poorly documented 3e wizard trick: leaving spell slots "blank", to fill them with utility spells later in the day as needed.) This is a neat idea but, again, it's not clear why it's a wizard-specific idea. Why are these spells exclusive to wizards? (Or are they? It's not clear if other classes that can "borrow" wizard spells can use these spells.) Why does this system exist when it fundamentally overlaps with and recreates Ritual Casting? Why is Levitate a utility spell but not Flight? Why is Charm Person a regular spell instead of a utility spell, since it can't be used in combat? Between wizards superficially superior use of Ritual Casting, cantrips, utility spells, and talents like Vance's, the class has too many overlapping, pagechewing variations on "wizards do every magical utility thing you can imagine."

Once you set aside the open-ended utility powers, wizards work more or less like sorcerers. They still have too few spells to fill up all their slots, they still slot a few large dailies and an at-will to fill up the rest of their actions. (Edition watchers will note that Magic Missile autohits, Sleep is not a first-level spell, and Invisibility lasts until attacking because lasting invisibility is specifically called out as a gamebreaker). Wizards still have save-or-die spells like Sleep and Hold Monster, but they only work on enemies with HP below a certain level-based threshold and allow a hard (16+) save after each round to break them. (Charm Person also works like this, but can't be used on creatures in combat.) Where wizards differ from sorcerers is that even their combat spells tend to be more varied in effect, so low-level spells aren't overshadowed by higher-level ones.

While randomness is a sorcerer theme, wizards have spells that can be cast recklessly, out of of tradition. Fireball is an AOE spell that can cast extra enemies at the cost of hitting d4 allies in melee with those enemies. Meteor Swarm automatically does reduced damage to any allies in melee with its (many) targets. Also as a matter of tradition, wizard blasts do pure XdX damage, not XdX+(INT mod) damage like most classes' powers.

This contributes to a problem with Evocation. Evocation is a wizard talent based on 3e's popular (if suboptimal) Maximize Spell feat. Once per battle, instead of rolling dice, a spell just does max damage. This means wizards do pretty ridiculous damage with their one big spell. It would probably be fine if it weren't for Force Salvo, a daily spell that shoots (1+INT mod) missiles at different targets and does fairly high damage. An Evocated Force Salvo hit just about one-shots any at-level or weaker enemy. Combine this with a Force Salvo feat that allows you to shoot missiles at a target until you hit it, the High Arcana talent which allows the wizard prepare a particular wizard spell in two slots (instead of every slot needing to be a unique spell), and the wizard ability to recharge daily spells when cast outside above ground - things get very silly very fast. Heinsoo issued a wishy-washy not-quite-an-errata for it. It's a classic situation of envelope-pushing options intersecting - Evocation and Force Salvo aren't quite gamebreakers on their own.

With the exception of the curvebreaking Evocation/Force Salvo combo, there's nothing about wizards in and of themselves that is bad. The problem, as usual, is the constant need to reassure everyone that wizards can use magic as a one-stop-shop to solve every possible problem, and doing so by adding dozens of examples of specific problems magic can solve. It's obviously in response to criticism that the 4e wizard was too limited - but Backgrounds and Ritual Casting already fixed that.

Someone here has to play one and it's not going to be me

Clerics heal and buff the party and are super unexciting. They are similar to 4e clerics in that healing or buffing is not the main thing you spend your turn doing - you buff the group and also move around and attack like anyone else, all in the same turn. Like 4e clerics, they specialize in either bashing faces or shooting holy lasersjavelins (pew pew holy lasers was a common anti-4e meme), and your choice of primary stat - strength or wisdom - determines which your cleric does better. Whatever specialty you choose, a cleric won't outmatch a pure martial or a pure spellcaster, but they can reasonably approximate one while also serving as a buffbot.

As I mentioned with the icons, the gods are a largely abstract presence in 13A by default. Cleric talents are domains that grant one-daily abilities and occasionally some other miscellaneous benefit. Domains returning for 13A is no surprise, since they're are the template for every class-specific customization option in D&D since 3e, but unlike other D&D games, domains aren't tied to specific deities. Domains aren't even tied to specific concepts: almost all of them have two, like "Life OR Death" and "Justice OR Vengeance". This helps somewhat to solve the problem with puppykicker domains: for example, 4e's Tyranny domain, which never quite made it clear why a penalty to saving throws or extra damage on attacks against enemies below half HP was something only evil gods granted. While you can always "refluff" these domains for a related concept - and 13th Age repeatedly encourages you to do so! - it helps that 13A avoids naming an ability "Domain: Impaling Babies On Spikes."

To talk about clerics means you need to talk about healing. 13A has Recoveries, which are 4e's Healing Surges. X times per day, a character can take a standard action to heal Y HP. Both variables are based on your class, CON mod, and level. On top of this, the end of a game day - which may not be an actual 24 hours period - grants a full heal-up, which restores all HP. Clerics initially make recoveries more action efficient - all clerics can, twice a battle, let someone make a recovery without taking an action, and this Heal ability doesn't count against their limit of spells. At higher levels, clerics can cast spells that give people "free" recoveries that don't count against their daily limit, boost the effects of recoveries, etc. In 4e terms, cleric daily spells can give "surgeless" healing, but not a lot of it. Clerics aren't necessary to maintain the party against regular attrition.

This pushes clerics into a sort of passive support role: they're capable holy warriors who inspire (read: buff and heal) allies with their holy presence. Most of their spells are buffs that can be cast "for power" - a large buff on a single ally that is not the cleric - or "for broad effect" - a smaller buff on several allies, which can include the cleric. While most of their spells are these split buffs, clerics have the tools to make spellcasting their main combat strategy in addition to the minor action heals and buffs: they have an at-will ranged magic attack (which uses WIS for to-hit rolls and damage), an at-will melee attack that grants someone an additional saving throw, and a handful of wizard-style magical blasts that also buff someone as a side effect. The biggest flaw is one imported from 4e: blasting and mixing it up in melee rely on different stats, so clerics are better off specializing in one or the other - and that's painful with such a narrow spell list.

The rules for resurrecting the dead are crammed into a cleric spell, even though it's implied that more than just clerics can do this. Resurrection isn't hard and isn't risky, but it is limited: the spell can only be cast once per level, which means each cleric can only do it four times. Each time, the resurrection is tougher for both the cleric and the resurrected: if a cleric casts it a fifth time, they die. Everyone also has a similar quota of how many times they can be resurrected. This is a neat story idea, but the only reason that this is tied to the cleric is to maintain scarcity in a party - and it's not clear if leveling up without using up your rez quota wastes those resurrections. It's an explanation for why resurrection is rare in the setting: a common 3e criticism, where rich person should be unkillable. There's no discussion of alternate setting-based ideas of how resurrection works, however, and it doesn't mesh well with the earlier statement that not all people level up using PC-style classes. It also sucks that this extremely limited plot device is only one of two 7th level cleric spells!

Clerics have outlived their strict necessity, but still work because people do want to play crusading holy warriors. Deus vult and whatnot. 13A lifts the 4e cleric, warts and all, and it works well enough. Beside the stat split between muscle and blaster clerics, their biggest problem is that they do everything paladins do, leaving them no conceptual room whatsoever. Like wizards and sorcerers, clerics suck up so much conceptual oxygen that paladins have no room to breathe.

Next: I haven't had the occasion to practice this one.

Cease to Hope fucked around with this message at 22:16 on Apr 6, 2017

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Cease to Hope
Dec 12, 2011
Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.



oh, I forgot one thing.

Familiars - technically a wizard talent, but sorcerers and rangers can take them too - aren't full-fledged NPCs in 13th Age. They only contribute meaningfully to the story as separate characters if it's narratively convenient or if you buy an ability to let them do so reliably. In combat, they hide and can't be targeted. They have their own sublist of purchaseable abilities, ranging front crunchy combat buffs (eg +1 to saves, or it poisons enemies when you hit with a melee attack) to loose, narrative abilities (eg flight, speech). The specific, fiddly, mostly combat-focused list of sub-talents seems unnecessary - "you have a rapport with a magical animal that can operate separately from you when necessary" would be fine! It would be a better-designed choice than many of the other open-ended narrative talents.

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