A Time of Contemplation – 13th Age

Today I take a look at 13th Age (which I reviewed here) as the system to use in my upcoming Dark Wars campaign.   AT a first glance, 13th Age seems like a good fit for Ta’nar.  I have already ran a number of game sessions in Ta’nar with 13th Age.  Because of this, I have some of the mechanical bits completed.  The new bestiary and upcoming 13 True Ways will expand the options I have to work with for the Dark Wars.  But I feel, and this has held true as I outlined this series, that I could write a paragraph like this on each of the five game systems I am looking.  Each could be a good fit for Ta’nar.  I don’t want just a good fit, but a great one. 

World

How closely does the system match to the high magic, epic fantasy style found in Ta’nar? 10/10

Ta’nar is a world where six Ages have passed and terrors from those times still threaten the world.  It is a world of high fantasy.  Powerful magics have and still shape Ta’nar, the gods can and do walk among their followers, and servants of the Lords of the Dead patrol their master’s borders to maintain the veil between the living and the dead.  The previous description could be for any number of Dungeons and Dragons games over the years.  So it is a pretty safe bet that any system based off DnD would be able to support that type of game play.  13th Age is iconic Dungeons and Dragons, pun intended, high fantasy gaming at its best.  It also allows for players to have a high degree of narrative control with the use of backgrounds.  This, as well as the Icon mechanics, enables players to tie their characters to the different setting pieces, without me having to worry about mechanics.

World Score: 10/10

Mechanics

Ascending to Godhood 5/10 – Not at first blush.  The Icon mechanics provide a great framework to hang deific trappings about the players as they level.  And with the game being d20 based I am sure that I could bastardize other systems for this game.  But as of now this is all speculation.  It has nothing solid.  It score is due to its compatibility and the potential I see in the Icons.

Establishing & Management of Nations 3/10 – Same as above.  I could see using a version of ACKS domain management, various Ultimate Campaign systems, or even hacking up the old Birthright system to use within 13th Age.  But finding that sweet merger would take time and effort.

Customized Deities 8/10 – While all games technically do this, I am looking for some concrete interaction from the system as it relates to deities.  The way Icons work in 13th Age makes this interaction easy to simulate.  The only reason this does not get a 10/10 is because I will have to CASE (create and steal everything) for some of the domain powers.

Mass Combat 7/10 – Similar to point two above, I could very easily use the ACKS’ Domains at War supplement or Pathfinder’s Ultimate Campaign with 13th Age. The reason it scored so high here is that even if I don’t want to go that route, the monster creation mechanics are simple enough that I already know how I would use them for a simple mass combat system.

Creation of Races 10/10 – 13th Age makes race creation simple.  A couple of stat choices, a power, and perhaps a feat or two and you have a playable race.  Because so much of the character’s identity comes backgrounds and icon relationships, the races are simply defined and effortlessly created.

Creation of Classes 6/10 – I almost pulled this category out of my criteria, as I have never made a class for an RPG.  However, there are some organizations in Ta’nar, such as the Society of Atheists and perhaps the Invested, that I could see having custom class features.  If I am going to spend this much time setting the game up, I might as well make some custom classes. The classes in 13th Age are streamlined enough that it would be less difficult to create a class ex nilo in this rules set, than say a Pathfinder class.

Simple Monster Creation Rules 10/10 – 13th Age shines here for me.  Only in Cypher have I found a simpler, more interesting monster creation system.  The ‘pick and tweak’ method gives me a lot of room as a GM for making interesting monsters on the fly, and the Bestiary is filled with fantastic abilities for me to plunder.

Fast interesting combat 10/10 – Every time I have run 13th Age, I have been impressed with its combat speed.  It doesn’t sacrifice tactics for quick resolution either.  My players have been more than satisfied with its resolution (no matter where they fall on the scale of combat complexity) and the escalation die definitely keeps things moving.

Mechanics Score: 59/80

Enjoyment

Have I run this game before?I realized that I have run all five of these games before, and therefore am removing this question.

Does my play group enjoy it? 10/10 – This is a resounding yes.  We have been able to play it on a variety of occasions, including an official playtest, and my players unanimously loved it.  They liked how much it felt like DnD but felt that it was simpler and more narratively focused.  They chose to play this for our current Ta’nar game, but switched to Next to make my life simpler (as I am running Next at my FLGS currently).

Did I enjoy it? 10/10 – I did.  I always find myself stepping away from the table surprised by how much I enjoyed running this system.  I have a great group and rarely don’t have a good time, but the mechanics of the game lend themselves to an enjoyable experience for the GM.

Is the system one that lends itself to mastery? 8/10 – I was asked to define this question a little better, as it is very vague.  It 13th Age a game that has enough mechanics to it, to hold the interest of a group for the length of the campaign?  Honestly I don’t know.  The 10 level limit has me a bit worried, hence the score. Unfortunately, I just don’t have enough information at this time.  I will be doing more digging on the long term viability of the system if 13th Age emerges as the victor.

Mechanics Score: 28/30

Combined Score: 97/120 ~ 81%

Overall a good start for 13th Age.  I assume that as I look at ACKS and Pathfinder, that include the systems I would have to bolt onto 13th Age, these scores may change.  Next Monday I look at Adventurer, Conqueror, King.  This will include more system information as I have not done a review of this game.

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