This month's Through the Scrying Glass is up, and it confirms that 13th Age is now due for a February 2013 release (at least). I can't say that I'm surprised, but if it ensures a quality final product I'm all for it. Of course it helps that I have what are pretty much the finalized rules in Escalation Edition 6; it's pretty much just the layout that's left.
I'll admit that with previous Escalation Editions I merely glanced at the PDFs, not really combing through them to note all of the changes. No real reason to, since I'm not currently running or playing a 13th Age game. This time I skimmed through most of the PDF, and while I'm sure I didn't catch everything a few things did jump out at me.
Situational Weapon Use
This is a narrative-based rule that says if the situation seems to indicate that a smaller weapon would be an advantage while a large weapon might be a hindrance (say, if you're grabbed or fighting in cramped spaces), then the die values should be switched. For example, Fighters normally use a d4 for daggers and a d8 or d10 for heavier weapons (1 and 2 handed, respectively). This rule means that if you don't have room to swing that honkin' Greataxe, its damage die could go down from a d10 to a d6, while the dagger's damage would be upgraded from a d4 to a d8. I'm all for introducing a mechanical incentive to use a different weapon when common sense dictates it would be more useful.
Helpless is now an official condition, and the desperately-needed Stuck condition was also added! Stuck is basically the equivalent of Immobilized, and prior to EE6 a mobility-denial status effect wasn't standard in the game. Specific effects (like the Hold Person spell) specified that an affected target couldn't move, but standardizing the Stuck condition improves ease-of-reference (and makes homebrewing monsters and houserules a bit easier). The Coup-de-Grace action has also been changed to essentially require a full turn (standard, move, and quick action), which protects fallen PCs (monsters can't run up to a downed player just to finish him off; though if he was already engaged....).
I haven't gone through all of the classes in much detail, but I did notice a few things. The Fighter now gets 2 class features (Extra Tough and Threatening). He's sticky and more durable; nice!
The Ranger and Rogue have had their extra damage features toned down a bit. Multi-attacking drops a Ranger's weapon damage dice down a notch (from D8s to D6s, for example) even if you don't get the second attack. In other words, you choose before you roll whether you want to go for the multi-attack (actually, that's the default option with those talents and you have to specify if you want only 1 attack), and if you get the natural even roll then great, but if it's odd then you're out of luck. The Rogue's Sneak Attack has had its dice demoted as well. From what I've gleaned from messing around with character creation, these changes were probably for the best; it seemed like Rangers and Rogues easily put everyone else to shame in the damage department. They're still really deadly (it's kinda the schtick of those classes, after all) but it feels more balanced (says the guy who hasn't playtested the changes, lol).
Rangers can choose the standard animal companion (which takes up 2 talents), or they can opt for a pet that takes only 1 talent and basically uses the Wizard's Familiar rules. The Tracker talent also comes with a Terrain Stunt power, which lets Ranger players take control of the narrative by specifying some environmental effect that they can use to their advantage as a quick action. I noticed in the last EE that Rogues got the Swashbuckle talent which lets the player improv some daring stunt. I gotta say, I like that 13th Age has striven to give the martial classes options for free-form narrative control, because in the early EEs it seemed like that was more of a spellcaster thing.
The Wizard's Echo Spells were changed to Cyclic spells which key off of the Escalation Die (rewarding players who wait before casting). This makes them a more consistent resource than being usable only after Daily spells, and it allows for more tactical flexibility, but there was just something really cool about accessing specific spells by harnessing the leftover energy of your most powerful magics. Either way it's an interesting take on limited-use resources.
Cool to see the finalized Wizard spells. I like what was done with Color Spray and Ray of Frost. Shocking Grasp seems kind of cool as well, though a little on the weak side. Perhaps I'm underestimating how dangerous it is for a Wizard to be locked down in melee, though. The damage just seems very negligible.
As I said, I didn't go through the final Escalation Edition with a fine-toothed comb, but these are the coolest things I discovered while skimming through it. I'll bet there are loads of goodies in the monster section, too. Looking forward to getting my hard copy, even if I have to wait!