|RPG published by
|Essential Books||Core Rulebook
13 True Ways
Book of Loot
Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: Bestiary 2
Dark Alleys & Twisted Paths
13th Age is an RPG written by one of the lead writers of 4E and a designer from both sides of the edition war, but with less of the jank in rules and without the legendary IP behind it. It still rolls with the d20 system, but in some different ways compared to both 4E and 3.X. Among the top of the differences is a bigger focus on narrative, with all PCs having ties to iconic figures in the setting mythos and each PC having a single detail that makes them unique among all others like the special snowflakes they are.
The core setting of 13th Age is the Dragon Empire, a realm influenced by legendary entities. While the key cities are spread rather wide, there are some key spots to look at both in and around the borders, chiefly Axis, where the capital resides, Forge, where the dwarves live after the drow poison-bomb plot, and Santa Cora, where the Priestess' big cathedral sits. Dungeons also exist littered about, with certain 'living dungeons' also existing to spontaneously pop up and be a nuisance.
The Abyss is essentially Hell, which is currently in the process of leaking into reality, with the Great Gold Wyrm attempting to hold back all the demons he can. While smaller tears exist, those are usually held back by goldie's agents, smashed by the Crusader's forces, or otherwise restrained by heroes.
Of Course, the entire idea behind the setting is to play in a more customized world. Grab the Book of Ages and design a whole universe with your players!
A key feature of the game is each hero's relationship with these Icons. Upon creation, each PC gains three relationship points to spend and forge relationships with the Icons for good, ill, or otherwise. During a session, each player rollls a d6 for each relationship point spent on an icon. 5's indicate that the icon will have a big impact on the story, though not without complication, while 6's indicate an icon's impact without any consequence. Tiering up will only allow you to either forge new relationships or strengthen existing ones.
- The Archmage: Your typical quest-giving old wizard who is the master of all things magical. Expect lots of magical powers to aid him, but only in exchange for weird tasks. He's aligned with the Emperor and Priestess, but doesn't really care much about the High Druid and Elf Queen.
- The Crusader: A demon-slayer who's gotten a little too caught up with the dark gods and now wants to conquer...once all the demons are dead. Though officially loyal to the empire, he has no friends there and the Priestess and Great Gold Wyrm dislike that he's around, while the Diabolist is scared shitless.
- The Diabolist: A demon-binder and wielder of forbidden magics, dedicated to a more infernal game in dealing with the Abyss. She's literally terrified of the Crusader, with the Great Gold Wyrm and Priestess being more irritants. The Prince of Shadows is possibly more of an...asset than an ally.
- The Dwarf King: Leader of all Dwarves and chief representative of their interests. He's also allied with the Emperor and has a tense truce with the Elf Queen, though he hates Dark Elves and wants the Prince of Shadows dead.
- The Elf Queen: The leader of all elf-kind and ruler of the one place where all three kinds of elf can call home. She's also responsible for creating all Orcs, which she regrets, and imprisoned the Green, earning the ire of the other Three. She's allied with the Emperor and half-sister of the High Druid, though she has issues with the Dwarf King and Archmage.
- The Emperor: Ruler of the Dragon Empire and leader of all things good. He has the Crusader and Great Gold Wyrm on his side for the moment, while he has the Dwarf Queen and Elf Queen in a truce and the Archmage and Priestess as staunch allies. Unfortunately, he's been confronted by the Lich King, who wants to take the Empire for himself, and the Orc Lord.
- The Great Gold Wyrm: The mightiest of metallic dragons and protector of the world from the forces of the abyss, to the Diabolist's anger. He also is aligned with the Dragon Empire and has his own grudge with the Three. Unfortunately, being protector of the Abyss has become very taxing to the point where it takes all his being to keep the worst rifts shut.
- The High Druid: Ruler of the the forces of nature, head of the Resurgent Wild, and sorta half-sister to the Elf Queen. Though she's usually involved with protecting her woods, she does take issue with the Emperor's colonization efforts and the Archmage's attempts to control the wild.
- The Lich King: An undead king who ruled what would become the Dragon Empire. He was originally known as the Wizard King, but he was a complete uncontrollable dickbag, so the humans, dwarves, and elves joined forces to kill him...and then he came back from the dead. Nobody likes him, but those who mess with the undead are tied to him and sometimes criminals will serve him just so they can cheat death.
- The Orc Lord: Leader of all orcs, which bothers anyone in the Empire. Apparently, the elves created the orcs, and the Orc Lord himself helped slay the Wizard King, but they're still a bunch of chaotic barbaric types. The Empire dislikes the threat the Orc Lord poses, but compared to all the other adversaries, a band of greenskins isn't as much of a threat as they could be.
- The Priestess: Champion of the Gods of Light and most powerful holy person. She's the humanitarian priestess archetype, dedicated to good in all its forms to brave the forces of evil. She's allied with the Empire, though she isn't always on level with the Great Gold Wyrm and has issues with the Crusader.
- The Prince of Shadows: Archetypal dickass thief, now made a metaphysical legend. Though technically partnered with the Diabolist, he doesn't really do much. He's also trying to hide from the Dwarf King's grudges and the Archmage's attempts to steal some magical artifacts. All said, though, he's not entirely evil, just a loner who takes no sides and has no friends.
- The Three: Three mega-powerful asshole chromatic dragons, Red, Black, and Blue, who are archenemies with the Great Gold Wyrm. What of the White and Green, you ask? Well, the White was killed by the Lich King back when he was alive (which he gets his jollies off of via necromancing dragons) and the Elf Queen keeps the Green prisoner. Of the remaining three, the Red is the rampant murder-engine, the Blue is an arch-sorcerer who is somehow a servant to the Empire, and the Black is a super-shadow-assassin dragon.
A lot of the basic d20 rules still apply here. Six key stats, roll high for good things, combat designed by the people who gave the game an action economy, the whole shebang. Then things start diverging from the mold in key ways...
Divergences from D&D
- The level progression is slashed to ten levels rather than the typical 20 or 4E's 30-level slog. To compensate for this shorter development, feats are given at each level.
- That said however, the power-level tiering from 4E still exists in a sense. Level 1-4 is Adventurer, Level 5-7 is Champion, and Level 8-10 is Epic. The big significance is really which feats are available and how powerful attacks are.
- Feats are also considerably gutted. Rather than the obscene sprawl, now all feats directly influence a specific ability the PC has, from spells to class talents and racial abilities. The only non-class feats are a small list of Adventurer-tier ones, and none of them are really any powerful.
- Another deviation of note, a player can earn part of their level up before the level up, which means that a DM can reward players with new toys fairly often for a game that at first brush, only covers 10 levels.
- In a way to diverge from the mandatory and oftentimes silly bloated list of skills, all skills are instead abolished. Instead, all PCs gain Background Points which they can invest into a job that would pertain to the character's history. Then, whenever a certain task would fit within a certain background's purview (like a blacksmith making weapons, a debater chatting with folks, or a spy sneaking around), the test is instead d20 + Background Ranks + Whatever relevant stat applies.
- NAD's are kept as a holdover from 4E, though remarkably changed. Now there's only Physical and Mental Defenses, with each being keyed off the middle stat between the physical and mental stats. This demands that all characters to need to keep an eye on around 4 stats.
- Similarly, AC is made to key off the middle stat between Con, Wis, and Dex.
- Ranges are done away with. In order to be more narrativist, all abilities are now set between generalized ranges, from adjacent/engaged to close to far. At the very least, it does away with forcing everyone to grab their goddamn ruler so they can measure exact feet or meters. This also makes combat run much faster while sacrificing little depth. Minis and battle maps are still recommended, and 5 foot steps are easy to port into the system if you desire.
- Combat also has a resource called an Escalation Die to track. On each turn after the first, the die goes up by 1, and the PC's gain a boost to all attack rolls. While meant to show the dramatic pitch of ongoing combat, it's clear that this is here to prevent long drawn-out battles, and it also prevents players from Novaing down encounters.
- Like 4E, all HP is set at a static value that's only modified by Con. There are also Recoveries, which restore HP via a healing surge-styled dice-roll (a feature that would later be the basis of 5e's recovery die).
- There's a big focus on what you roll, with certain abilities only triggering on a natural odd or even roll.
- The inventory is also remarkably watered down, with the main differences in gear being the price-points and classes. This is because each class actually tells what the starting AC is for characters wearing specific armor types while also telling how much damage each weapon deals.
- Similarly, magic items are nowhere near as cut and dry aside from giving a specific bonus per tier (Weapons to attack/damage, armor to defenses, etc.), with cursed items giving not only penalties, but also some curious quirk.
Rather than deal with all the bonuses here and there or whatever, each race and class grants a +2 bonus to one of two key stats, with each bonus being on a different stat.
Similar to 4E, all races have some sort of racial power.
- Aasimar/Holy One: +2 Wis/Cha. Typical touched-by-the-gods holy race fare. They have a way to boost their defenses early in the battle until they're injured.
- Dragonic/Dragonspawn: +2 Str/Cha. Due to the nature of dragons in this campaign, the existence of these not-dragonborn is considered a rarity (the exact rarity defined by the PC who picks this race). They have a breath weapon.
- Dark Elf: +2 Dex/Cha. Typical dickbag drow fare, though they might not entirely be evil, just petty. Dark Elves can deal ongoing damage, and have a feat that boosts damage with swords.
- Dwarf: +2 Con/Wis. Typical dwarf fare here. Their power gives them a heal if they take a hit.
- Forgeborn/Dwarf-Forged: +2 Str/Con. They're Warforged with the serial numbers filed off and a potential to not entirely be mechanical (Though there is a third-party material that makes a more detailed Warforged). They can resist death a bit easier than others by healing just as they hit 0 HP.
- Gnome: +2 Dex/Int. Typical gnome fare. They're small, they make illusions, and they can daze an enemy.
- Half-Elf: +2 Con/Cha. Their origin seems to trace back to the victory against the Wizard King, which united elves, men, and dwarves, and thus are a common sight in the Empire. Their power modifies a natural die roll by subtracting 1. This can definitely be enough if you have to trigger a certain power.
- Half-Orc: +2 Str/Dex. A sorta-magical response to the uptick in orc activity, making them like the monsters they fight. They can re-roll one attack.
- Halfling: +2 Con/Cha. These guys are a bit of a wild-card with nobody able to properly pin down their origins, besides their recency. They're also small and they can force an enemy to re-roll an attack.
- High Elf: Typical high elf fare. +2 Int/Cha. Their power is the Eladrin Fey Step.
- Human: +2 to any stat. Typical human fare here. They gain a free feat and a re-roll on the initiative.
- Wood Elf: +2 Dex/Wis. The grey to the high elf white and dark elf black. They have a chance to gain extra actions as the battle goes on using the power of speed.
- Tiefling/Demontouched: +2 Str/Int. Typical touched-by-demons race with some influence by the Diabolist. Their power forces any attack or save roll of 1-5 to become a 1 and fail with some special thematic consequence.
Each class is customized using Talents. While primary casters are locked into only having three talents, others can potentially gain talents as they tier up. Spells are not only class-specific (without a particular talent or ability to poach a few spells at most) but they also scale up with level.This is because a caster's limited spellslots get allocated to higher levels while abandoning lower levels as they advance. Multiclassing is also a thing, though it's more akin to 2E multiclassing where you progress in two classes at once, and even then the progress is very watered-down. HP and Recoveries are averaged between each class, all damage die for non-caster classes is dropped a size, and you have to pick one talent from each class, with the third being free for either class. Each class also has features that don't play so well with each other unless you buy a multiclass feat that can let them. In addition, the progression for all spells and other tricks like fighter maneuvers is reduced by a level. Delve into Third Party Content on the SRD for classes like Psion, Swordmage, Warlock, Slayer, or Fateweaver.
- Barbarian: +2 Str/Con. All barbarians can rage, which lets them roll 2d20 for all attacks with crits registering if both die roll 11+ and hitting. While normally only a daily ability, if the barbarian rolls 1d20+Con after a battle and scores a 16+, they can do it again that day. Their talents focus on either dealing more damage, be it on one enemy or hitting multiple at the same time, or being even tankier, either by finding ways to heal themselves or finding ways to bolster their defenses.
- Bard: +2 Dex/Cha. Bards have three resources to track: Songs, which aren't spells but can be prolonged via a sustain test but can end for some special boosts, Battle Cries, which trigger based on the Bard's attacks and benefit others, and spells. Their talents either change the main stat from Cha to Int/Wis, gain a spare battle cry or spell/song, or find ways to use their singing to influence how the icons impact the story.
- Chaos Mage: +2 Int/Cha. A true oddball of a class, all their spells are only picked via random rolls, while critting them makes all sorts of weird (not necessarily good) things happen, which can be dispelled by wasting a turn. Their talents allow them to poach one random spell from any of the main casting classes (Wizard, Sorcerer, Cleric) or finding a random boon based on what kind of spell they pick up. Their spells are split into Attack, Defense, and Iconic (A catch-all group of spells influenced by particular pantheons of Icons).
- Cleric: +2 Str/Wis. While all clerics can heal allies in combat and use spells that can either be cast over several targets or focused on one, the talents they pick (Which are pretty much Domains) can make them dedicate to being either an armored warpriest or a backline supporter.
- Commander: +2 Str/Cha. A Warlord with a new coat of paint. They have Commands and Tactics to use up, with the former costing Command Points (a resource which the Commander keeps track of and can gain during combat) and the latter being triggered by attack rolls. Their talents also can turn them from Cha-focused to Int-or-Wis-focused, grand new ways to support allies, or give them additional proficiences since they can only use simple weapons and light armor.
- Demonologist: +2 Con/Cha. Premiering in the Book of Demons, this is another oddball like the Druid, made even weirder by the fact that they have a racial feature: Tieflings can choose to make their primary stat Intelligence if they so wish. You have to split your talents between the Paths of Corruption (Diseases, Curses and being mostly mage-like), Flames (Pyromania) and Slaughter (Making you a warrior with the trappings of a mage). Each Path comes with their own spells, a specialized list of Daily summoning spells (That more dedicated Demonologists can recharge on a rest) and each actually has sub-talents to select based on your dedication. The troubling thing about summoning is that there's a chance that a summon that dies in battle might get back up and try and kill you instead.
- Druid: +2 Str/Dex/Wis. Another major oddball, all their talents can either give them limited access in one discipline or spend two talents to give advanced proficiency in one discipline. The disciplines are: Animal Companion (Lifted from Ranger, though spending one talent means it'll get lost half the time since they're summoned and spending two gives constant access and special spells), Elemental Casting (Spells based on the elements, which include summoning elementals), Shifter (Your Wildshaping which allows for either benefits in combat or turning into something small to help with recon and gain some perks in the coming battle), Terrain Caster (Spells themed around the terrain they're in, with feats giving spells usable anywhere), Warrior Druid (Which gives special abilities that tie into attacks), and Wild Healer (Spells for being a healer)
- Fighter: +2 Str/Con. Fighters are the sticky bothers they were in 4E, though talents can focus on either being tanky or being more painful. Additionally, all fighters have an extra recovery die and penalizes any attempts to disengage from them. Their big resource is in Maneuvers, which are special effects and attacks that are triggered by things that happen in the battle (but mostly natural dice rolls).
- Monk: +2 Str/Dex/Wis. Monks still use Ki and still fight unarmed with Jab, Punch, and Kick attacks (Though some talents prefer weapon use). Monks use Forms, which give a sort of combo chain with Openers, Flows (chaining attacks) and Finishers like some sorta fighting game. Their talents also give a Ki Power.
- Necromancer:+2 Int/Cha. Rather than most games, Necromancers here aren't necessarily evil, though they'll always have some sort of relationship with a necromantic icon. All necros can summon the undead and actually benefit a bit less from a good Con. Their talents cover quite a few fields, with Wizard Spells, abilities about Iconic influence, an undead minion, and a hilariously cheesy one which involves wasting an entire goddamn turn to cast a spell and do bad-guy things like laughing or monologues to gain some thematic benefit.
- Occultist: +2 Int/Wis. A less oddball class, they still have spells to work with, but their healing comes a turn after getting the spell cast on them, while their spells all seem to focus upon gaining and expending Psychic Focus, such as the mandatory spell. Their talents tend to tie either to their Iconic ties or their spells. The big focus of Occultist spells is on Interrupt actions. You Focus on your turn and interrupt the flow of combat with reality warping magic. I tend to think of them as 'Harry Potter' wizards.
- Paladin: +2 Str/Cha. Unlike D&D, paladins here aren't divine casters by default. Their only default feature is Smite Evil, which deals a bonus damage on one attack each battle. Their talents can grant limited access to a Cleric's spell list and domains, while others center upon being the biggest tank you can possibly tank. The Core Paladin is a class aimed at beginners, with Dark Alleys all Paladin talents come with a new way to use Smite that gives the class much more depth.
- Ranger: +2 Str/Dex. Like the paladin, these guys are also not default casters. Their talents can give them spells from the cleric or sorcerer, while others are spent on finding extra ways to bring the hurt. Spending two talents can also bring an animal companion to fight as a partner. Most Rangers focus in fishing for double attacks with either a ranged weapon or a melee weapon. Look to 3pp for a great Arcane Archer/Seeker type class.
- Rogue: +2 Dex/Cha. These guys still get Sneak Attacks and can sense out traps, while also gaining a resource called Momentum, which is gained from hitting and lost by being hit. They have powers which focus upon having momentum, but some also need to spend it. Their talents all rely upon having some sort of sneakiness involved, like thievery or walking into shadows to teleport around.
- Sorcerer: +2 Cha/Con. These guys have a reliance upon the random, ranging from spells that can recharge during the battle to spells that deal randomly-typed damage. They also can poach some of the wizard's spells, though always at a lower level (unless you spend a talent on that). Sorcerer Talents are mostly about Heritages, not-bloodlines which grant some sort of benefit, with others being either a slightly weaker familiar or being an up-close spellslinger. The signature ability of the Sorcerer is to Gather Power, where they skip a standard action to deal double damage with their next spell.
- Wizard: +2 Int/Wis. All Wizards gain access to cantrips and the potential to re-cast spells. Talents give them either specializations to certain schools, familiars, or the ability to fancily name spells for thematic benefits in a way that would make Jack Vance blush.