As highlighted in a previous post, a couple of weeks ago I ran my first ever session of the 13th Age Roleplaying Game. We’d had a blast creating new characters, with all the interaction and shared story creation promised by 13th Age, but now was the time to get into the action!
The campaign will take place in the Havenscoast region of Tolrendor, and the characters are (or will become) members of the ‘Eyes’ of the Watch, an elite clandestine group that patrols the borderlands of the city-state of Camlan, and undertakes scouting missions into the dangerous Barrens:
As a first adventure, I had decided to run the Shadows of Eldolan adventure published by Pelgrane Press as an introductory adventure for 13th Age. It is easily fitted into any campaign, as it is set within a single town – in my case this quickly became Shadows of Sarb, a Camlan border town which makes a great starting place.
The adventure starts by having the characters invited to a meeting with a representative of one of the Icons in Hawkers Square. In my case it was obvious that this should be Targrin ‘Shadowblade’, a sergeant in the ‘Eyes’ who will become one of their main contacts during the campaign.
To set the scene, I asked the players to narrate for each of their characters, using the ideas they had already generated with their One Unique Thing, Icon relationships and Backgrounds, where they had come from, and how they had ended up in Sarb. Just like when we created the characters, this worked really well. As the GM, I just pitched in to give their ideas context in the setting, suggesting names or places that would fit. For example, Samarak the dragonborn barbarian’s backstory was as follows:
After sailing from the northern lands through the maelstrom of Karag and into the calm waters of the Inner Sea, Samarak’s longship was attacked and captured by pirates out of the City of Corsairs (the base of an Icon which Samarak has a negative relationship with). At the insistence of his crew, Samarak escaped from the burning ship by jumping overboard and floating away clutching a broken spar. Later, he was rescued by a war-galley out of Mirranor, the city of the high-elven Sea Lords, and set ashore in Sarb. Then, getting in on the act, Kirin the high elf wizard, who has been sent by the Sea Lords on a secret mission to the Havenscoast (one which involves one of the other characters…), happened to be sailing towards Sarb on the same ship, so met Samarak enroute.
In this short session of shared story-telling, the players gave me enough material to run multiple campaigns, not just one!
But enough talk 🙂 Immediately after the characters meet Targrin, the adventure kicks off with an attack on Hawkers Square organised by the main (as yet unknown) villain, so it’s straight into Roll Initiative!
This was my first battle with the 13th Age rules, and I was very interested to see how it went. Overall it didn’t feel too much different from 4E combat, except for movement, which is much simpler. Combatants are either near the action, and can move to engage in one move, or far, which is where the spellcasters and ranged attackers like to hang 🙂 When in melee combat, you are engaged, and are subject to opportunity attacks if you try and disengage. Obviously there are plenty of other differences, but of the two players at the table, one had only played 4E before (my son) and the other had mainly played back in the day of AD&D; neither had any trouble adjusting to the new rules.
Combat did take quite some time, but I’d put a lot of that down to us having to read the players’ power and spells every time we used something new, to make sure we understood all the implications. The players certainly seemed happy with their options: the dragonborn barbarian was soon in the middle of combat raging at Zombies; the halfling thief was bouncing all over the place spending momentum with his Swashbuckle talent, and debating hotly with the GM the limits of ‘you can spend your momentum to pull off a daring stunt the likes of which others could scarcely conceive’; the high elf wizard was spraying spells everywhere (from a distance of course), and the half-elf commander druid was … well, probably taking the longest as her player flipped between the two classes and the multi-class rules in 13 True Ways … but her ability to give out re-rolls for command points was pretty valuable!
The Escalation Die also played its part in speeding up the latter stages of combat. It is definitely noticeable that the characters are suddenly hitting more regularly, and quickly the monsters start to thin out. There were not too many cool examples of either character or monster powers triggering off the Die, although the wizard was making use of his cyclic Color Spray!
The session ended with all the Zombies dead, and the players rolling their Icon relationship dice to see what information and leads they could glean from the scene, and to set some story ideas for next time. A pile of 6s and 5s came up, so I’ve got my work cut out 🙂
All-in-all, it was a totally enjoyable first session, and the promise of the 13th Age RPG seems to be realised – familiar yet different to play, and the shared storytelling angle is definitely something to build on! The next session will also be my first attempt at actually running a game over the internet (using Roll20.net), so that’ll be interesting …