Thursday, July 19, 2012

13th Age Character Generation

Over the last several days I've been slowly working on four 13th Age characters to get a better sense for how the system works.  The mechanical bits that normally comprise most of character generation in other games can be rolled up very quickly.  You buy (or roll) ability scores, and these (along with class) determine most of your combat stats.  Since weapon and armor stats are class-based you don't have to weigh the pros and cons of leather vs studded leather vs hide or a rapier vs a longsword vs a battleaxe.  All light armor and all one handed melee weapons are generally going to be the same statistically (but different based on class; for example, Rogues deal 1D8 damage with daggers, the same amount that Fighters deal with a longsword!).  Then you choose 3 class talents and, if applicable, spells/maneuvers/powers.  Much more time is spent on the "fluff," like your backgrounds, one unique thing, and icon relationships.  To get a game moving quickly with first-timers, you can probably figure most of that stuff out later as the game plays out and everyone gets a better sense of their characters.  Perhaps replace generic backgrounds with more specific, fleshed out options.

I'll go the route of "show, don't tell" and post all 4 of the characters I came up with.  This should give people a good idea for what a 13th Age character actually looks like.  Note:  I house-ruled that everyone gains 8 background points to start out with, instead of the outdated system where they're tied to class.

Beriogelir Celebduin
Male Half-Elf Ranger

One Unique Thing:  Only Half-Elf to ever manifest the Aspects of the Three Shards.  He has a Wood Elf mother (and was raised as a Wood Elf), has the magical abilities of the High Elves (Highblood Teleport as racial power), and has a mystical connection to a Drow Living Sanctum, which most Drow can't even access.

Kirjani Tribesfolk (nomadic) +4
Circle of the Hunting Wolf guerilla commander +4
Sailor +3

Icon Relationships:
Elf Queen 1D conflicted
High Druid 2D positive

Feat:  Further Backgrounding (3 extra background points)

Double Melee Attack (the 13th Age version of Twin Strike)
Double Ranged Attack (as above)
Lethal Hunter - First Strike (high crits the first time you attack any given enemy)

Abilities (in order of Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, Cha)
14, 14, 18, 10, 14, 8

Defenses: AC 17, PD 13, MD 10

HP 27, Recovery d8

Escalation 2:  Half-Elves now get their own racial power instead of choosing on the fly between human and elf powers.  I elected to keep Highblood Teleport as Beriogelir's power simply because it fits his One Unique Thing.

Note:  As you can tell based on my choice of talents, I'm going for the flexible generalist Ranger who can mix it up in melee just as well as he can pepper things with arrows.  This is the first system where I haven't felt like I was being punished for going that route.  Yeah, I gave up another talent I could specialize in for one style or the other, but I've arguably added some tactical depth onto what would normally be a pretty simple class.  For example, if I anticipate the need to protect a squishy by intercepting, I can more easily do that if I'm not engaged with another enemy (i.e. shooting stuff).  Once I take the hit for them, I can whip out my swords and kill things pretty much just as well.  It's also interesting from an HP management perspective; do I open myself up to attacks in melee or stay safe?  Do I wade into melee because the Fighter's taking too much damage?  IMO the flexible style offers more meaningful choices than having an animal companion, which is the book's example of a slightly more complex Ranger.

Brynna Farglade
Female Human Wizard

One Unique Thing:  Randomly hears voices of the dead, but cannot control it.

Arcane Academy of Axis Fellow +4
Archaeologist +4

Icon Relationships:
Lich King 2D negative
Archmage 1D conflicted

Feat:  Toughness, Energy Bolt Adventurer feat

Class Features:
Ritual Magic

Cantrip Mastery (cast more cantrips, and as quick action instead of standard)
High Arcana (faster rituals, 1/battle countermagic to cancel and enemy spell as a reaction)
Familiar - Screech Owl (can roam 1/day, grants +2 to perception related checks, can guard while you sleep, if unreliably).

Abilities (in order of Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, Cha)
10, 10, 12, 18, 16, 12

Defenses: AC 12, PD 10, MD 15, Saves +1

HP 21, Recovery d6

Energy Bolt (at will)
Acid Arrow
Command (echo spell, so it can only be used after a daily)
either Charm Person, Blur, or Utility, depending on the day

Note:  In EE2 Humans get a bonus feat.

Tharis Evendim
Male Wood Elf Fighter

One Unique Thing: Can transform into a house cat at-will, and leads a network of feline spies in Axis as the Prince of Cats.

Famous Athlete (Kari, which is like soccer in the forest) +3
Cat-like +3
Silverleaf Knight +2

Icon Relationships:
Elf Queen 1D positive
Prince of Shadows 2D conflicted

Feat:  Strong Recovery (can re-roll a recovery die whenever you use a recovery)

Tough as Iron (Rally, which is basically second wind, as a quick action)
Intercept (Fighters are better at it if they choose this)
Cleave (extra attack 1/battle when you drop a non-mook)

Abilities (in order of Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, Cha)
16, 14, 16, 10, 12, 12

Defenses: AC 19, PD 13, MD 11

HP 30, Recovery d10

Defensive Fighting (AC bonus on natural even rolls)
Shield Bash (pop target off of you on natural even rolls)
Precision Attack (extra damage equal to Dex mod on hits of natural 16+)

Derndolfin Dwarrowhelm
Male Dwarf Bard

One Unique Thing:  Neither he nor anything he's wearing can get wet (an homage to Tom Bombadil, whom I imagine Derndolfin being similar to in some ways).

Dwarven Drum Corps +4
Well-travelled +4
Quixotic +3

Icon Relationships:
Dwarf King 1D positive
The Three 2D negative

Feat:  Further Backgrounding (3 extra background points)

Jack of Spells (choose a spell from another class)
Spellsinger (choose another song or spell; doesn't count against your normal limit)
Storyteller (1/scene tell a brief story that allows an ally to re-roll their relationship dice).

Abilities (in order of Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, Cha)
16, 12, 10, 14, 12, 16

Defenses: AC 14, PD 11, MD 13

HP 24, Recovery d8

Battle Cries:
Break Off! (ally can disengage on your even rolls for a basic attack)
Pull It Together! (natural 11+ 2x/battle ally can heal w/ recovery)

Song of Heroes (grants nearby allies a +1 to attack while it's sustained)

Befuddle (confuse target on a hit, daze on a miss.  Confuse is kinda like 4E's dominate, so it's good).
Soundburst (Area attack that also dazes)
Cure Wounds (Jacked from Cleric, you or an ally can use a recovery.  Don't worry, this is a quick action).

Escalation 2:  Clerics aren't the only healers now!  The second revision of the EE rules added Pull It Together!, which is a battle cry reminiscent of the Cleric's "Heal" class feature.   I'm surprised the designers didn't follow the 4E "2/enc heal" pattern right from the start for all leader-type classes.

On the Genius of Backgrounds
In case it wasn't obvious before, this should give you a good idea of how backgrounds work.  It's completely open-ended, so the player can write down anything they can imagine.  I'm listening to an actual-play podcast right now where the Barbarian's backgrounds are Force is Always the Answer, Disconcertingly Popular, and Right Place, Right Time. 

Basically, if you can justify that an ability (skill) roll can make use of a relevant background, you get the bonus.  So if the party needs some knots tied, Beriogelir can invoke his Sailor background to do it.  Kirjani Tribesfolk would cover all of his Ranger-y skills like survival, natural lore, tracking, etc. since they're nomadic hunter-gatherers, and guerilla commander not only covers things like stealth and battle tactics, but also social checks if he's in charge of anything or in a position to be giving out orders.

Brynna can use Arcane Academy of Axis Fellow for any kind of magical lore, but can also leverage connections by name-dropping for dramatic effect, using their library, etc.  I though archaeology would be cool because it could cover not only dungeoneering type stuff, but also anthropological lore.  I could probably even make a case for pulling some Indiana Jones shenanigans (the game is all about being Big Damn Heroes, after all). 

Tharis' Famous Athlete background can apply to any Cha check where people would recognize him, as well as most physical, kick-in-the-door or endurance type checks.  Cat-like could cover things like stealth, perception, balance, and even certain types of animal lore.  Silverleaf Knight is pretty much the same idea as the "Knight" background in the D&D 5E playtest, so it would provide bonuses to things like animal handling (knights tend to ride horses), diplomacy, heraldic lore, and possibly religious lore.  Specifying that he's a Silverleaf Knight not only provides flavor, but gives him the option of using the specific organization's contacts and/or reputation to his advantage.  This system is so cool!

For Derndolfin, Dwarven Drum Corps provides the all-important musical/performance background that Bards tend to use a lot, but it also incorporates military skills and knowledge.  Well-traveled is a sort of folklore/Bardic knowledge catch-all, but it could also potentially apply to endurance checks to keep moving, or even situations where knowledge of boats, wagons, etc. might be useful.  Quixotic is one that I figure would work like many traits in The One Ring.  You get things like Generous, Gruff, Forthright, etc.; qualities that don't really represent active skills or knowledge, but still affect how you go about doing things nevertheless.  Any time he wants to do something impulsive, irrational, or mildly insane I could justify adding this bonus to any checks he makes.  Imagine a Barbarian with an Anger Management Issues background!  Seriously, there is an infinite amount of fun to be had with this.

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