Monday, January 28, 2013

Skill Equality Wins Out!!!

It's technically a pretty small thing, very easy to houserule.  Why, then, did the old class-based variable distribution of background points irk me so?  It's the principle of it.  D&D skills, when they were first introduced, existed in a very different system-level environment than 13th Age backgrounds.  Classes were balanced in part (albeit relatively poorly) based on differences in out-of-combat (OOC) and in-combat (IC) utility.   Rogues get more skills because they can't fight as well as Fighters.  When 13th Age tried to preserve the "tradition" of some classes being skill monkeys and others skill-impoverished, it didn't make any sense because all classes are relatively capable in combat.

Actually, 13th Age already has a mechanic for balancing IC vs OOC utility - the Talents system.  Players that want an exceptionally skilled Rogue can simply take the Thievery Talent.  Rogues have equal access to combat options, but by giving one up you can really load up on background points.  Same with the Ranger's Tracker talent, and the Bard's Loremaster/Mythkenner Talents.  All of the traditionally "skill-heavy" classes can already represent those archetypes through Talent selection!  Giving them more starting background points was redundant, and more importantly unfair. 

In case you haven't figured it out yet based on the title of this post, the final version of 13th Age will rectify this design mistake.  All classes will get 8 background points starting out.  Of course the only effect this will have on my 13th Age games is that it will have one less houserule.  More important to me is the fact that this game, which is currently one of my favorite RPG systems, is simply more polished.  The old background points were the most noticeable "sore thumb" of bad design in an otherwise phenomenal game.

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