Hello everyone, today we’re going to try to put together a character for 13th Age. We’ll go through it step-by-step with the occasional side commentary on each of the sections.
Those familiar with d20 games will probably find this to be easy to follow along, so here’s the checklist of Character Creation for 13th Age:
- Gamemaster input
- Determine Race
- Determine Class
- Generate abilities
- Calculate combat Stats
- Define your One Unique Thing
- Define Icon Relationships
- Spend Background Points
- Pick 1st level feat
- Specify Gear
Gamemaster input, in a nutshell is the simple task of talking to the GM before making a character. It’s common sense in most groups, but it does merit some form of mention. I’ve been in some groups where players will just slap together a character then expect the GM to force fit it into a campaign, resulting in the all-too-common square peg, round hole issue.
Considering that this is an experiment, I don’t really have a GM to talk to with regards to what works in their campaign. Let’s just try to stick to something interesting for now.
13th Age has the following races available to choose from: Human, Dwarf, Dark Elf (drow), High Elf, Wood Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling and Half-orc.
These are pretty standard for the OGL d20 crowd, but I’m certain that the races in 13th Age operate differently from the ones people are probably familiar with. Rather than go through all the Races, let’s just pick one for the purpose of this article.
I’ve always been a fan of Gnomes so let’s try that. Flipping through to the section on the book detailing races we get the following information:
+2 to Dex or Int, and the Small quality, which grants a +2 AC bonus against opportunity attacks. I also get two Racial powers: Confounding which allows me to daze a target once per battle if I roll a natural 16 or higher on an attack roll, and Minor Illusions, which allows the character to create a strong smell or sound nearby as a standard, at-will action.
So far, so good. Gnomes stick to their tiny trickster archetype and retain some tricks that make them annoying in combat.
Oh, as a side note, there’s a bit of information here on Nonstandard Races. This writeup encourages players to try coming up with unique stories by coming up with custom races. Of course, the caveat is that these have to be approved by a GM, and the book goes on to say that the pitch is more likely to be approved if the new racial choice lines up with currently existing rules.
In my gaming group, we call this practice “Reskinning” and tend to apply it to pretty much anything. I’ve had L5R games where players are allowed to take schools from another clan and use it after reskinning it to fit their Clan. Again, it’s not new per se, but it does merit a mention for those who might not have come upon the idea before.
Come to think of it, I could reskin my Gnome to be some sort of Anime-inspired Kitsune foxgirl…
So let’s go with that, simply because I can.
The next step in creating a character is determining a Class for it. 13th Age gives a respectable spread of Classes, including the Barbarian, Ranger, Paladin, Fighter, Cleric, Sorcerer, Rogue, Bard and Wizard. No Monk or Druid on the list so far. Each one has their fair share of detail, and I might consider dissecting each one in a future series, but for this particular article let’s pick one and roll with that.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s go with the Ranger Class.
This gives my character a +2 to Strength, Dexterity or Wisdom as long as it isn’t the same ability increased by your Racial Bonus.
The Class writeup also has a few suggestions for concept and Icons to align with, I’ll save that decision for later though.
Along with the bonuses, there’s also the Gear that the Ranger starts with, which includes Light Armor, a Melee Weapon or two, a Ranged weapon or two and other mundane gear appropriate to their concept and backgrounds. Rangers may start with either 25 gold, or 1d6 x 10 gp depending on their attitude towards money.
The traditional OGL d20 two-weapon fighting for Rangers shows up here as well, with a smattering of weapons that are thematically appropriate to the Ranger.
Basic Melee and Ranged Attacks are described in a fashion that I can only describe as 4e-ish. It’s succinct and useful so there’s nothing to complain about but it did trigger memories of 4e for some reason.
I also get to choose three abilities for my Ranger. I’m not sure I want an animal companion (or pet) so I’ll go with
- Animal Companion (counts as 2 picks)
Since we’re on the reskinning gig anyway, I’ll push the envelope and say that my Animal Companion is actually my Animal FORM. So rather than attacking / moving twice, I’ll just shift back and forth from Fox form and Kitsune as a free action between turns. I lose the “Extra” actions that Rangers normally have but I don’t really mind.
There we go, Generate abilities. No wonder this all seemed to be referring to things I don’t have yet.
Generation of Abilities is done by either the usual random attribute method of rolling for stats, or Point Buy. I’m personally in favor of the Point Buy method, and the book gets plus points for having sample point buy arrays to pick from.
I’ve always been somewhat partial to a more moderate spread of stats so I’ll go for:
Str 10 (+0)
Con 12 (+1)
Dex 16 (+3)
Int 16 (+3) +racial bonus
Wis 14 (+2) +class bonus
Cha 10 (+0)
Going back to the calculations that were mentioned earlier, my Gnome Ranger has the following:
1 adventurer feat
3 Class Talents
Initiative is +4
Physical Defense: 13
Mental Defense: 13
Recovery Dice: (1d8 x Level)+1
Backgrounds: 8 points, max 5 in any one background
Icon Relationships: 3 points
Feats: 1 per level
The One Unique Thing
Taking a step back away from the usual number crunching of character generation, this is the point where the player comes up with the One Unique Thing. “Uniques” are little details that come with the character concept that make a character just that bit more special to the world. These don’t have mechanical effects, but add to the fluff of the character.
It’s an interesting mechanic that represent a step that I feel many gaming groups actually implement but haven’t really given a name for. It’s inclusion in the rules is a significant one, as it forces more mechanical players to stop and think a bit for how to make their character more interesting than just a bunch of numbers.
The book pays a lot of detail on the One Unique Thing, noting that it should serve as a plot hook as well as fluff that could be a springboard for character centric stories.
For my character, I figure that I can continue my Kitsune theme by saying:
“I am a kitsune trapped in the 13th Age world after the Archmage miscast something that caused a paradox that shunted me from my home dimension to this one.”
It has absolutely no mechanical bearing. I’m a reskinned gnome running about in a western fantasy world with a grudge against the Archmage that threw me here. It gives me some sort of direction, and that’s never a bad thing.
Starting characters start with 3 points to distribute to Icon Relationships. The number of point spent on an Icon measures the overall usefulness to a character as it describes the influence a character has on that Icon.
Given that I have three points, I figure I’ll spend 2 points on a Conflicted relationship with the Archmage and 1 for a Negative relationship on the Diabolist. Both are magic-oriented and might find it interesting that I’m a dimension hopping invader from another world that isn’t a demon. The Archmage knows that I’m a paradox manifestation and considers me a mistake but knows it’s not my fault. The Diabolist wants to study the circumstances of my summoning to use to their advantage.
In place of skills, 13th Age uses Backgrounds, which are player-defined descriptors that are rolled in the same manner as skills to perform tasks. By letting the Player define it, there’s a gray fuzzy area that describes their competence in a range of things. As with most things in 13th Age, the GM and player have to come to an agreement as to the coverage of their backgrounds.
I think I’ll spend it my 8 points on:
Wily Fox-Spirit +4
Savage survivor +4
As with most OGL games Feats still exist in 13th Age. There’s a large list of interesting feats which are divided between Adventurer, Champion and Epic Tier feats. For the purpose of this character, we’ll be picking from the Adventurer Tier.
Given her concept as a dimensional accident, I’ve chosen Linguist as her feat to simulate her attempt to figure out the new world she’s in.
So at this point I have a functional 1st level character in the form of a dimensional-magic-freak-accident anime kitsune fox-girl who can shapeshift and just wants to go home. Sure I’ve reskinned the heck out of the race and class, but I think that’s what the authors had in mind anyway.
Character Generation isn’t easier than most OGL d20 games, but the addition of One Unique Thing, Backgrounds and Icon Relationships in the character generation rules, and specific paragraphs allowing for customization are useful for groups who prefer to play according to Rules as Written.
Most groups don’t usually throw a fit when a player wants to try and skew towards uniqueness even if not explicitly covered by the rules. But for those people who are used to the mindset of “If it’s not in the rules, it’s not allowed” then 13th Age fixes that issue very well.
In many ways, I feel that 13th Age helps bridge the gap between more rules-y groups with more story-oriented gameplay in a fashion that works best with their mindset. Nothing here is particularly new, but that is a secondary consideration to the idea that the rules work well.