Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tweet and Heinsoo Craft 13th Age As A 'Love Letter' to Their Favorite Dungeon-Crawling Fantasy Game

13th Age, an upcoming RPG (currently in playtest) to be published by Pelgrane Press and designed by Jonathan Tweet (designer of Ars Magica, Over The Edge, Talislanta 3e and Lead Designer for D&D 3e) and Rob Heinsoo (who has designed and/or edited for Nexus: The Infinite City, Over The Edge and D&D 4e) is already gathering buzz and interest around the internet. A press release here has some of the details of the upcoming game.

A couple of interesting quotes from the press release:

"Our goal with 13th Age is to recapture the free-wheeling style of old-school gaming by creating a game with more soul and fewer technical details," said Tweet, who spoke alongside other game industry veterans on panels at Norwescon 35, a fantasy, science fiction and gaming convention in Seattle.

Tweet continued, "13th Age makes the play group’s campaign the center of attention, with a toolkit of rules that you can pick and choose from based on the kind of game you want to play. The mechanics of 13th Age draw from classic games as well as newer, story-based games."
Although they can't yet share details about 13th Age with others, playtesters have been enthusiastic about it on online message forums. Playtester Adam Dray said, "Tonight, the one player who comes to the game for mostly social reasons said after a test combat, 'That was fun!' and engaged with her character in a deeper way than she ever has."
 Another playester, Eric Provost, said simply, "I want to play this until I can't play anymore."

I am sort of surprised that there isn't more buzz going on about this game. This sounds like the sort of thing that Wizards of the Coast is attempting to do with their upcoming edition of D&D. I'm about to do something uncommon for Bloggers in RPG circles and say that I can't really comment or compare and contrast these two games because I haven't seen the playtest documents for either. To see which of these games actually reaches these goals, I am going to have to wait for each of them to come out...just like the rest of you. I am curious to see what comes about with The 13th Age, if only because Tweet has created two of my favorite games in Ars Magica and Over The Edge.

A poster at the Something Awful boards did have this to say:

So yeah, there is a playtest going on. For awhile the NDA was simply don't distribute the files and a bunch of information was posted (see every post after this one). Now, it's don't talk about the game beyond the broadest of terms. Here's some of those broadest of terms. Keep in mind this is playtest and everything could change next round.

  • I am enjoying this playtest.

  • The playtest document is 200 pages of text, and extremely put together for such an early draft. The underlying framework is very exposed. There's a monster on a business card section as well as instructions on how to tweak monsters in general.

  • There's lots of advice on how to play the game; everything from which classes have the least fiddly bits to track, to "this mechanic ties into our design goals this way; this mechanic ties into D20 traditions this way."

  • The whole thing is riddled with optional rules. There are tons of "this is the rule, don't use it if you don't want to. Rob certainly doesn't," and, "if you ignore this rule, do X to fix the math."

  • Combat is simplified. Maps are still used, but distances are relative and broad. Minions are faster to run, status effects and modifiers are simplified, combat moves faster after each round.

  • This isn't a complete revision of D&D traditions (at least not yet). Alignments, ability scores and binary skill checks are all in, but have been reduced in importance, modified, or their most obnoxious elements have been otherwise diminished.
So, some interesting stuff. Let's see what happens with it, as it develops. I did manage to grab an exclusive look at a piece of pencil art from the upcoming game. This is an Orc Lord, which I am assuming is going to be a bad guy.
Hopefully we will hear more about this game in the months to come.