Today we’re going to take a look at 13th Age, a new roleplaying game from D&D 3e & 4e designers Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet and published by Pelgrane Press. As with all our Let’s Study series of posts, we’ll be taking a close look at each of the components of the game and we’ll see if we can draw some interesting learnings from it.
After the Let’s Study on Numenera, it just seemed appropriate to give 13th Age a look over. If anything 13th Age draws strong connections to the last few generations of D&D, given that it is an OGL product.
Right off the bat 13th Age gives the reader an idea of what it is and what it is for. To get some of the bigger items out of the way, it is an OGL product, so there will be levels and classes and d20’s are going to be rolled. That said, it also says that 13th Age is geared to be a game where players are meant to be intentionally engaged in the level of character and story, something that you usually get from a non-D20 game. 13th Age is the OGL d20 Game that utilizes story-oriented tricks and features from other games to deliver a different d20 fantasy experience. That said, there’s a host of crunch modifications too to improve the d20 experience from a mechanics perspective as well.
One of the biggest concepts that is central to a game of 13th Age would be the Icons. Icons are the most powerful NPCs in the world. These 13 individuals are the movers and the shakers of the setting. Each icon is usually set in opposition to one or more other icons and the tension between them define the state of the world. As the book puts it, the world is in motion, driven by the icons.
Icons are meant to act similarly to clans or factions in other roleplaying games. They’re meant to give characters a stake in the world and something to stand for. This is a particularly interesting use for uber NPCs, as I’ve always been a fan of games with strong factions such as L5R and the World of Darkness games.
13th Age certainly makes an interesting proposition as to what it sets out to do. The idea of being able to encourage a stronger story for OGL games is a worthy goal, and seeing these two designers make it happen will be worth the price of admission.
I did notice however that the game doesn’t even try to sell the setting at all. In fact, in the chapter-by-chapter introduction, the setting doesn’t get treatment until Chapter 8.
Tomorrow we take a look at the Icons, the super-NPCs that define the setting… at least, ideally until the PCs step into the picture.