As is (I hope) obvious from this blog, 13th Age has definitely caught my fancy! It has definitely inspired a re-working and expansion of many aspects of the World of Tolrendor. I mean when one of the key aspects of the RPG is the story, and there are strong mechanical aspects that drive that (Icons, One Unique Thing, Backgrounds), you can’t help but get inspired :)
However, I’m still very committed to my 4E campaign with my kids, the Amber Tower, and they have made it clear that they want to continue playing 4E. They enjoy it, and they’re happy with their characters. I have absolutely no problem with this; I still enjoy DMing 4E, I think it’s a great RPG which has effectively died well before it’s time. I love the ease of preparation, not only for the rule-set, but also because of the digital tools [WIZARDS, are you listening? PLEASE DO NOT withdraw support for the 4E tools – I will gladly pay the DDI subscriber fee ad infinitum as long as you commit to that!]. I also have so much 4E material that I’d love to use that there is years of role-playing left before that runs out.
But 13th Age is cool! So what’s a DM (GM?) to do? Simple really, just use the cool stuff in my 4E campaign. Icon relationships and relationship rolls are story drivers, so just use them! There is nothing in any RPG which doesn’t support the concept of powerful NPCs driving the story :) A character’s One Unique Thing is similar; it is non-mechanical and essentially an aid for the DM to build a campaign story around a character’s back-story. Again, not a concept that is going to break any ruleset.
If there is one thing that does frustrate me about 4E, it’s the time that combat takes. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy combat in 4E with it’s tactical options (I’m an old-time war-gamer at heart), it’s cool powers etc, but there does come a point in a battle when typically it becomes a grind, and seems to take up more of the precious session time than I’d like. Lots of people have suggested solutions to this, but 13th Age has a great one built in: the Escalation Die. This is a perfect rule for 4E; every round after the first, all player characters get an extra +1 (cumulative) to their attack rolls, representing the momentum and adrenalin that their heroism brings to the party. Suddenly the 4E grind is reduced, as the PCs cause damage more reliably compared the monsters. Does this unbalance the maths of 4E? Probably. Do I care? Absolutely not! I’m far more interested in having a fun combat and moving on with the story than I am in worrying about perfect balance …
So there you have it – the familiarity and enjoyment of 4E spiced with the key elements of the 13th Roleplaying Game. I ran my first session with it last weekend (a little solo campaign I’ve started with my son before introducing a new character to the Amber Tower party) and … well all I can say is that 13th Age condiments are here to stay :)