The first announced supplement for 13th Age, 13 True Ways, is finally out in PDF form. If you preorder the book (which has a projected print release date of August), you'll get the PDF now. This book is pretty much a grab-bag of everything, with plenty of useful material for both players and GMs. And with that, I'll just dive right in.
Chapter 1: Classes
This chapter contains 6 new classes for 13th Age, bringing the total for the system up to 15. This includes the Druid and Monk, both initially intended for the core rulebook. They were left out to prevent further delays of the book, because they weren't yet ready. I'm fully in favor of making sure that a class is done right even if it means getting to it later, so while the wait was agonizing it's worth it to see the classes in their polished form. Rounding out the list is the Chaos Mage (great for players with a randomness fetish), Commander (13th Age's answer to the 4E Warlord), Necromancer (finally a game gets this archetype right!), and the Occultist (a reality-bending spellcaster...no, THE reality bending spellcaster. There can be only one).
The Chaos Mage takes the wild magic flavor that's hinted at in the Sorcerer and takes it to the extreme. You get three categories of spells - attack, defense, and Iconic. When you roll initiative and at the end of each turn you randomly select a category (the default method is drawing colored "stones" from a bag, but there's an alternative that uses dice, though it's a bit clunkier). On your next turn, you get to choose which spell of that category you want to cast. You have a limited number of daily and 1/battle spell slots, so you're generally deciding whether you want to use an at-will spell or a limited use spell of some kind. If you roll Iconic there are spells associated with each Icon (the Icon you use is determined by rolling a d12; the Emperor doesn't mess around with Chaos). Some Talents allow you to randomly obtain spells from another class (Necromancer, Wizard, Cleric, or Sorcerer), and so this can give you a few extra choices (most of these will be assigned to either attack or defense, depending on what makes sense). Their other talents are Warp talents, which give you a random benefit whenever you roll a certain spell category (i.e. Attack Warp, Defensive Warp, and Iconic Warp). Finally, there's a class feature called High Weirdness (as if all of these layers of randomness weren't enough!). High Weirdness gives you a random effect by rolling on a d% table in certain situations, and the effects aren't always beneficial. I look forward to seeing this class in play because it looks like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this class will only appeal to a subset of players, and I'm not sure if any of them are at my table. Maybe I'll take it for a spin one of these days, though admittedly I'd probably get burned out on the chaos after more than a few sessions, so I doubt I'd use it for a long-term campaign.
The Commander seems to be able to do much of what a 4E Warlord could, but without using 4E's AEDU system. Instead Commanders use a mechanic called command points, which are gained during the fight. You can either gain them by hitting with a melee attack (fight from the front), or by using a standard action to automatically gain command points (weight the odds). Commanders rely on their interrupt actions, with which they spend command points to trigger Commands on their allies' turns. They can allow allies to rally, let them re-roll missed attacks, boost their damage, gain movement, etc. As a Commander, you'll really have to pay attention on everyone's turn to best make use of your abilities. Commands are at-will, and rely on the flow of command points to limit their use. Commanders also have Tactics, which are quick action recharge powers. A major "family" of Tactics lets you use your quick action to grant extra attacks to your allies. Yep, Warlord fans will enjoy this class, which along with the Monk is one of two new "martial" archetypes that join the Rogue on the complex end of the spectrum.
I'll probably end up doing a more detailed breakdown of the Druid in a future post (it's one of my favorite classes, after all). Druids have shouldered a lot of different roles in D&D (sometimes simultaneously, if you've ever heard of CoDzilla from 3.x/PF), and the 13th Age design goal for the Druid was to let players build their own Druidic archetype without having to wield an overpowered mess. Each of the 6 Druid talents encompasses a distinct schtick; you've got Animal Companion, Elemental Caster (which includes summoning), Shifter, Terrain Caster, Warrior Druid, and Wild Healer. If you spend a single talent slot on a given talent you're an initiate in that sphere, but you also have the option to take a talent for two talent slots, in which case you become an adept. Each talent lists its benefits for initiates and adepts separately. As an added bonus, the Ranger gets a revision that makes its Animal Companion talent the same as the Druid's (if they keep it at two talents they gain a list of animal-buffing spells, or they can choose to spend only 1 talent on it and they get the companion every other battle). Another interesting twist is that the spellcasting talents grants a mini spell list but by default only give you daily powers. Druids can spend feats to pick up at-will and (with Terrain Caster) 1/battle spells. The class design really does seem to strike a balance between covering everything that Druids have historically done without having to balance CoDzilla against the other classes.
The Monk is probably the most complex of the "martial" classes, rivaling some of the more complex spellcasters. Monks use attack forms that consist of an opening attack, a flow attack, and a finishing attack. Each form consists of a theme, but the fun of playing a Monk is mixing and matching your forms. Using the opening attack from Dance of the Mantis to quickly get into melee range, following it up with the flow attack from Claws of the Panther to hit multiple guys, and then finishing it up with Three Cunning Tricksters for some defensive retaliation goodness. You also gain a cumulative +1 bonus to AC after each step in your form, which resets back once you use another opening. It does a great job of emulating movement while using a very different mechanic than the Rogue's momentum. Monks also get a pool of Ki that they can use to modify their natural die roll by +/-1 (many forms use natural result triggers, but it's also nice for critting and triggering two weapon fighting), and in addition to that each talent grants an option for using Ki and the forms have feats that use Ki. So you've got the sequential form-based tactics to think about round-by-round as well as a daily resource in Ki to use when you really need a little extra oomph! The Monk is a lot of fun to play, and does a great job of emulating wire-fu martial arts.
The Necromancer is a breath of fresh air (except, you know, in the literal sense) because D&D has never done this archetype justice. 13th Age hits it out of the park. You've got an improvisational talent (Cackling Soliloquist) that calls to mind Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations but with much more awesome flavor, one that lets you speak with the dead, a Redeemer talent that frees the souls of the undead you utilize (releasing a burst of holy energy when they're destroyed), you can gain a skeletal companion much like a Druid or Ranger get an animal companion (except you can set yours on fire with the right feat!), you can kill enemies that are already close to death with a quick action, and finally a talent called Sorta Dead which grants you the benefits of being Undead when it's convenient (or not, if it's not), and lets you roll a save when you die to heal instead. Largely it's a fairly meat-and-potatoes spellcaster from a mechanical standpoint, with a heavy focus on summoning. There are some surprising support spells in their list too (Necromancers can heal, but of course they do so by siphoning off someone else's life force!), and transmutation spells that offer various undead forms, and a surprising variety of plays on necromantic energy (things like unholy blasts and rotting curses). And then there's my personal favorite, a spell that targets mooks by animating their own skeletons and causing them to burst forth from their bodies, granting you a shiny (well, bloody and messy probably) new skeletal minion.
Finally, we have the Occultist. That's THE Occultist, because the default fluff is that there's only one. Basically she's a powerful spellcaster that rearranges reality to suit her whims. Like the Commander, he mostly focuses on interrupt actions. The gist is that you spend your standard action to gather your Focus, and then you'll spend your Focus on someone else's turn to either make reality more favorable to your allies or make things suck even more for your enemies. Reality also works a little differently for the Occultist, who recharges spells just a bit differently from normal people (she doesn't necessarily recharge the same spell, but rather that spell slot), and because he tends to send his intellect all manner of places that's not his physical body, he receives magical healing a turn late. The Occultist sounds like a very interesting support character, with perhaps more of a damage focus than the Commander, and to use 4E roles can be a neat mix of leader (helps allies) and controller (screws over enemies).
Chapter 2: Multiclassing
As expected, 13th Age multiclassing is not as straightforward as most other mechanics for the system. The classes are just too diverse for a simple formula, and the designers are (rightly) too concerned with balance to allow a min/max focused solution that would run roughshod over other PCs. Each class has details for making 1st level multiclassed characters (the new classes have a line for it right in their level progression chart), and otherwise a multiclass character gains spells or other powers one level lower than their current level. So a 4th level Fighter/Wizard would have the maneuver pool of a 3rd level Fighter and the spells of a 3rd level Wizard. You get the base AC of whichever class is better for a given armor type (though penalties still exist if, for example, you cast Wizard spells while wearing heavy armor), and you average your base HP (rounding down AFTER you multiply for your level) and recovery die (the die type rounds up). Your weapon damage die drops UNLESS both of your classes are from a list of "skilled warriors," and the ability score you use is your "key modifier." There's a big key modifier table for each class combination that ensures each multiclass character has to care about two ability scores. Your key modifier is the lowest of the two indicated ability scores, and is used in place of either score for the purposes of making attacks and damage. The math is really well-done for the most part; for example, Fighter/Wizard and Fighter/Sorcerer key modifiers are Dex/Int and Dex/Cha, respectively. Str certainly would have been more intuitive, but that would result in a character that wants to keep two scores high, neither of which contribute to AC. As Dex is an AC boosting stat you won't get gimped for these combinations.
Still, multiclassing generally won't get you an overpowered character. Quite the contrary; the designers flat out state that most of the time a multiclass character will probably have less raw power, but more diversity. They also advise doing the simple talent swaps from the core rulebook if that fits your concept well enough; multiclasing is mostly for those who have a concept that they just can't achieve any other way.
Part 2 of my overview of 13 True Ways features chapters 3-6. Yep, that's a lot more chapters than Part 1, but the class chapters are very meaty so I'm cutting this post off here.