Monday, July 9, 2012

13th Age Preorder

Soooo I preordered the game on a whim.  You get a PDF of the most recent playtest version (revised), which will be further updated as the game continues to be tweaked.  Most of the playtest reviews and impressions I read were glowing, so I figured "what the hell, why not give it a shot?"  I haven't gotten all that far into it (haven't even read any of the classes), but I'm sort of wondering whether the preorder was such a good idea.

One can't help but compare it to D&D Next, since the game is described by its designers as "a love letter to D&D," and especially since those designers are Rob Heinsoo (of 4th Edition) and Jonathon Tweet (of 3rd Edition).  The game heavily emphasizes story and narrative priority, but it seems like it might have gone a bit too far in that direction.  Overall the style of game that can be run seems like it will be a bit niche (at first glance), as opposed to D&D Next's goal of appealing to as broad an audience as possible with modularity.  In short, the system seems less flexible than I'd hoped, though I may be wrong on that.  The writing does transparently advocate house rules, alternative rules, etc. 

Another letdown is that I've become very excited by the prospect of bounded accuracy, which is not in 13th Age.  While the escalation die is a good idea, the relatively low-accuracy of PCs seems like a step backwards (to un-errata'd 4E), but perhaps quicker combat rounds will rectify that. 

I do like the skill system, which is even more open-ended than D&D Next, but unfortunately defaults to certain classes getting more skills than others (that's getting house-ruled right away!). 

The biggest disappointment is that it seems like the Druid might not appear in the core book, ostensibly because of design difficulties.  I'd rather the thing be delayed and actually get a core Druid, especially since the PDF will be updated as the game gets more finalized anyways. 

More thoughts to come as I continue to read the PDF.


  1. Hey Brian, Wade from Fire Opal Media here. I'm hoping that as you read further, and try the game out, you won't be disappointed. If you haven't gotten to the classes yet, you're probably still in a heavily story-focused section of the book.

    You are right about not appealing to as broad an audience as possible -- the game grew directly out of Rob and Jonathan's own Wednesday night gaming sessions, so the audience is really, "People who like to play fantasy RPGs the way Rob and Jonathan like to play them." But as you said, it's designed to be house-ruled quite a bit, or you can take specific mechanics and use them in your preferred game. (The new issue of Kobold Quarterly has an article by Rob on converting the Escalation Die rule to 4th Edition, 3rd, and 3.5 D&D, Pathfinder, Dragon Age RPG and Feng Shui.)

    I look forward to hearing what you think as you get deeper into the game.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I've skimmed through some of the classes since writing this, and there's definitely some interesting stuff to be found. So far the Fighter and Bard were probably my favorite. I like that there's still complexity despite the lack of grid rules, and minus the glut that 4E accumulated.

      I'll write up a more coherent review once I've had time to read through the whole document and digest everything, but I think once I start to accept the system for its strengths I'll feel a lot better about it. I may have been caught off guard in that I expected it to be more of a direct competitor with D&D Next, but I think the goals of the 2 systems are more different than I thought.