I remember the 13th Age kickstarter launching and getting some early details and playtest documents from Pelgrane. At that time, I didn’t really have a clear idea what to expect and am generally not a fan of traditional fantasy class/level based games. However, what drew me in were the writers and the more indie elements that were being developed in the game, and also that it was being produced by Pelgrane. For me, over the last few years, the company has not put a foot wrong and the Gumshoe games, particularly Trail of Cthulhu (and the marvellous adventures released for it) has made it almost a certainty that any new release from them will be on my ‘to buy’ list. Hence, I pledged for both the core book and the 13 True Ways kickstarters and this morning downloaded the PDF for the latter.
13 True Ways is the fourth release for 13th Age, counting the bestiary and the Free RPG day adventure, and it is superb. It is a 260 page book with beautiful art. I thank my former self for having the wisdom to back the kickstarter. In my head, I thought of it as a book of new classes for players. It is that but so much more. As well as detailing new class options (more later), the book covers the setting in greater depth with some key locations being detailed- Axis, Horizon, Drakkenhall, Court of Stars and Santa Cora. There is a really interesting chapter by Robin Laws on how to use Devils in your 13th Age campaign, with each account of their role in the setting being linked to one of the Icons. A really fun chapter (‘Gamemasters’ Grimoire’) has all sorts of handy ideas to spark an adventure or to be utilised for a session – taverns, artefacts,magic items, flying realms, dungeons, monastic tournaments, and NPCs created by some of the backers. There is a whole chapter on monsters with a particular emphasis on devils, dragons, and elementals.
As with the Core book, the new classes seem to effortlessly capture what features are required to make a character that really feels like the class – the Necromancer has to waste away (a positive constitution modifier impairs your spell attacks) and can commune with the spirits of the dead (death priest) or enjoy a cackling soliloquy (with the hope of recharging a daily spell). The Monk can fuel their attacks with Ki, and their martial arts are group into forms with opening, flow and finishing attacks. The authors acknowledge the breadth of representation of Druids in games and convey that too: the Druid can be an elemental spellcaster, a fearsome melee combatant, a healer, a controller of the landscape and terrain, or one who controls beasts or themselves shifts into beast shape to scout or fight. You can build the Druid that fits your conception of the class. I tend to like spellcasters so haven’t read too much on the Commander as yet – the Occultist (only one of these is in existence!) who can bend, warp and truly perceive reality together with the Chaos Mage are also great fun. The latter has a mechanic for random spell casting (with spells divided as attack, defence or icon) and then the player choose to use an at-will/battle or daily spell. Talents bring in extra random effects and when critted the Chaos Mage gets to roll on High Wierdness table with all sorts of cool effects! The book also covers Summoning (a feature for both the Necromancer and the Druid) as well as containing rules for multi-classing.
All in all, I am very impressed with 13 True Ways and hugely looking forward to getting my hands on the hard copy. I think I may have to supplement my Tiefling Sorcerer in the 13th Age Organised Play with a Chaos Mage, Monk or Druid. If the 13th Age core book hasn’t (as yet) convinced you, then I’m sure 13 True Ways will – 13th Age generally, and this supplement particularly, make a superb job of making class/level based fantasy RPGing feel fresh, original and exciting yet with some familiar elements. For players who’ve already lost their hearts to 13th Age, this release will just make the passion burn brighter. Highly recommended.