I finally got to continue my game with the neighbor boys. As a refresher, I’m running them through the Blood & Lightning sample adventure from the back of the 13th Age book. Our last session was spent getting the game started, and the first fight with the goblins, who they discovered were quite ominously in the service of the Lich King. This was especially significant for the Half-Elf Fighter, who has earned the Lich King as a special enemy in his back story.
Tag Archives: 13th Age
The other night I was finally able to get the first game of 13th Age in with my crew of neighborhood boys. It was a blast!
After getting everyone settled, answering last-minute character build questions, we got going. We opened with character introductions, which came very easily because of their “Uniques.” It gave them an solid foundation for their character, which made it easy for them to give an explanation to the others. The Backgrounds gave everyone clear cues about the role that each could play in the expedition they were part of. I had everyone make their icon rolls, and noted them for later. I ended up not actually getting to use them this session since the rest of our time was spent in the combat. But their icons relationships were already very tightly tied to why they were involved in the first place, that their presence was felt, even if I didn’t get around to using the rolls.
I’m using the Blood & Lightning sample adventure from the core book. I’m using the Elf Queen version of the tower, and it’s caught between attacks from the Lich King’s goblin minions and the forces of the Three.
We quickly moved into the first encounter, a simple skirmish with some goblins. I had 3 PC’s, and decided to add an extra goblin grunt and scum, so that there were 3 of each in addition to a goblin shaman. This ended up being a pretty challenging fight. Had I not included those extra goblins, it would have been pretty easy. One character had to rally, and another was close to going down. That Goblin Shaman hits hard when you’re only dealing with Level 1 HP pools.
So, what did the boys think? They loved it, they had an absolute ball! The oldest and middle boys seemed to have a pretty good grip on their abilities, and were very into the figuring out their powers. The oldest one, especially, really dug into the narrative descriptions. The youngest one struggled more with putting things into words. We helped with some questions, but mostly he was happy to plunk away with his golden sparkly magic missiles, and he just couldn’t wait for a good chance to use his Acid Arrow. We had to help him know when the right time to use his spells were, like Shield, and eventually Acid Arrow. Even though he wasn’t describing much, I could tell he was picturing this epic combat in his head, because in between turns he never stopped making his sound effect for magic missiles. The battle was raging on in his mind all night! It was pretty hilarious, not to mention adorable. I made a real effort to keep the battle descriptions really exciting and active.
The fighter’s flexible attacks were awfully fiddly, and the oldest boy playing him missed several opportunities I think. We really need to summarize those options into a 3×5 card for him, so that it’s easier to keep track of. The wizard is a lot to handle for the youngest boy (about 10), and he definitely requires some hand-holding. The middle boy playing a sorceror handled his just fine, and it feels like a good balance. He hasn’t tried the breath weapon spells yet, which I think will complicate things more.
Battlemaps and Movement
We were using a battle map, I actually was using a corner of the Ranger’s Camp by One Dollar Dungeons, and it worked great! Everyone was also using pawns from Paizo’s NPC Codex Box. Movement was handled very freeform, even though they were on the grid. They easily latched onto the meanings of engaged/nearby/far away. The general rule was that nearby was 5-7 squares, always erring in their favor. It was super easy to manage. The fight moved around nicely, but it never felt finnicky or tedious.
The fight lasted for 7 rounds, and took about an hour. I’m pretty sure had I not added those extra goblins it would have ended two rounds earlier. The Escalation Die was awesome! By the time that thing reached +5, the felt like they couldn’t miss! I’m a big believer that missing is no fun at all, so I really enjoy this mechanic. I can also see it providing a nice incentive for characters to not “go nova” on round, unless the opportunity is just really juicy, knowing that they’re odds of hitting with their big guns are much better later in the fight. I definitely will port this simple mechanic to any PF or 4E games I play.
How does it compare to D&D?
How did this “feel” compared to PF/3.5 and 4E and other D&D experiences? Speed-wise, it felt a little faster than PF/3.5 and a lot faster than 4E. There really wasn’t any “analysis paralysis” going on. There was no counting squares, no checking to make sure they’d used their full action economy. Now, to be fair, this was a group of first time players, (beyond a basic tutorial) so the system mastery was nil. But it was easy, fast, and a LOT of fun. It also felt “authentically D&D,” if that makes sense? I absolutely felt like I was playing D&D, not some spin-off. I will definitely be filing this mentally as an edition of D&D, despite not being made by WOTC. I would probably say that mechanically it felt closer to 4E, between defenses, saves, and clearly defined powers, but a lot faster and looser. Narratively it felt more in line with older editions.
I have more thoughts about 13th Age that I’m going to save for later posts. But I’m a big fan so far. I enjoy this system quite a bit, and so are they boys!
So today I got to do something exciting. I got to introduce two young neighborhood boys to RPG’s. These are two brothers, one 15, the other is 13. They’ve had some interest in other gaming stuff, (Magic, Warhammer, etc), and I asked if they were interested at all D&D. They’d heard about it, and seen stuff at our FLGS, but didn’t really know much about it, but were interested. So we sat down tonight and dipped their toes in.
I had about an hour of prep time to figure out what I was going to do. Which system would I use? I was seriously considering 3 different options:
- D&D Next
- 13th Age
I’ve been following the D&D Next playtest very closely, and have really wanted to give it a try. That system seemed the simplest, and probably would be the easiest to introduce. However, I’m not too keen on getting something started with brand new players, and then deal with the changes to the playtest packets and such. I didn’t want to be dealing with an extra layer of uncertainty from the whole “this is a playtest, so it’s kinda in flux right now” thing.
I’ve had quite a bit of experience with Pathfinder, and am very comfortable with it, and all the rules are readily available online through d20pfsrd.com, which would be handy for them. However, there are a lot of fiddly bits with the system that can get really overwhelming really fast. And after having fallen for many new systems lately (Savage Worlds, Fate, D&D Next, 13th Age) there are just a ton of things that annoy me about the system. But it also has a ton of content support. I could easily run one of their standard modules. Easy peasy.
I just pre-ordered 13th Age this last weekend, and have been devouring the rules from the PDF I got through their Bricks & Mortar program. I really like it! I love how it combines the best of 3.X and 4E, with a strong emphasis on epic narrative (an elements I’ve recently realized is a central desire in my gaming). It has a pretty light rule-set to get started with, not much heavier than D&D Next. And… I kinda wanted to drive around the shiny new RPG I just bought.
In the end, I decided to roll with 13th Age. However, I was uncomfortable introducing the icons and background/skills systems right off the bat. Icons require a ton of additional explanation before you can use them at all, and they really have more to do with world-building/character conceptualization, than learning the basics of the game. The backgrounds/skill system isn’t complicated at all, but it’s really open ended. I decided i can tackle both of those pieces later during character creation.
Here’s how I introduced them to it:
- I printed off all the 13th Age pregens. Note that they are all level 2.
- I grabbed a bunch of different character miniatures that I had, my dice bag, and a laminated battle map.
- I started by explaining what an RPG is in a big-picture sense. The whole “cooperative storytelling where your characters are the heroes of a fantasy adventure novel” thing. They ate it up.
- I also explained a very little bit about how there are a lot of flavors of D&D, mainly to make sense of the fact that they were about to see 13th Age on everything instead of D&D.
- I explained the different classes, in a very basic way and tied them to the character models I had. I cannot overstate the impact of having the models handy. They kept picking them up in turn as we discussed the different class concepts,
- I then explained the core d20 mechanic of “roll a d20, add some modifiers from your character sheet, and compare it to a target number set by me.”
- I explained the big 6 ability scores, and how they defined their character.
- I had them each pic a pregen that sounded interesting. The older boy picked the Half-Elf Fighter, and the younger boy picked the Dark-Elf Sorceror. We picked some models that worked for those.
We then played through super simple scenario. i told them they were breaking into an Orc fort to rescue a captive, I placed their models in a hallway drawn on the grid. I had them make Stealth checks, (simple Dex check) to introduce ability checks. They failed, and 2 Orcs came running around the corner, and we rolled initiative.
At this point I had to do some heavy controlling to keep the characters from overwhelming them. Even though the rules are quite simple and streamlined in 13th Age, even level 1 characters have a LOT of options. I actually got them to ignore the majority of their powers for round 1, and just focused on their basic or at-will powers. As each round passed, we explained how more of their options on their character sheets worked.
They LOVED it! We’re going to try to play weekly. They both wanted to stick with the classes they used, and made some different race choices. I’m going to mostly build their characters for them, and give them a handful of distinct choices they can make on some details. I think I’m going to use the sample adventure in the 13th Age book, Blood & Lightning. While we’re playing through that, I’ll probably look for some other content (Paizo probably…) that I can hijack and convert.
So that’s how I introduced two new players to D&D, err…. 13th Age today! Look for more updates later!