The ranger is one of the simplest classes to build and play, but your choices of talents will determine what kind of ranger you are. Rangers can vary from animal-companion assisted trackers, deadly archers, to frighteningly efficient melee characters.

The ranger is a simple class, nothing flashy. Basic attacks, modified with expanding crit ranges or increasing the number of attacks possible. The first build focuses on multiple attacks, the second here on expanded crit ranges.

A third build possible involves magic (fey queen’s enchantments and ranger ex cathedra), animal companions, and ranger’s pets. This has the ranger as a magic user who supports their animal companion with spells. I’ve seen such builds work very well in the past, with a panther as the front line fighter and the ranger staying in cover and picking off enemies that try to hurt the beast.

Ranger talent clarifications

You should note two important things about the ranger’s talents. The first is that the ranger’s animal companion talent is superseded by the druid’s version found in 13 True Ways. If you only have the core book don’t worry about it, if you have both books use the updated version of the talent.

The second note about talents is a tiny wrinkle in favored enemy. Favored enemy lets us pick a race type (aberration, beast, construct, dragon, etc…) against which our attacks have an expanded crit range. Picking the humanoid type as your favored enemy is worth two talent slots instead of just one. The wrinkle comes in the adventurer-tier feat which lets us switch favored enemies during a full heal-up. What happens if you spend two talents on favored enemy to get humanoid but then switch to a non-humanoid favored enemy? The answer is that if you spend two talent slots and a feat you can get humanoid as your favored enemy and switch to two non-humanoid monster types simultaneously (dragon and ooze, beast and plant, devil and demon, etc).

Easy-crit ranger

Download the Easy Crit Ranger character sheets here.

This ranger build is focused on tracking down enemies and ending them, with a crit range that can be as low as 10+, and dealing triple damage!

This tough little ranger doesn’t care what they fight with—they are equally at home with a bow or with a two-handed great-axe. No subtlety here—just devastatingly accurate attacks.

Tactics with this ranger involve looking for ways to maximize the expanded crit rang—marking favored enemies and first striking them. Keep in mind how and when the crit range expands for this ranger; critting over 50% of the time, if the right confluence of factors comes into play, rocks—the key with this character is hitting the right enemies at the right time to get the maximum crit range possible.


First Strike

Expanded crit range with opening attacks.

Lethal Hunter

Mark enemies to gain an expanded crit range.

Favored Enemy

Pick a creature type that you have an expanded crit range against. The adventurer feat lets the creature type picked to be changed, and spending a second talent lets us pick ‘humanoid’ as a monster type.


The halfling’s evasive and small racial powers gives this ranger extra survivability in combat.


For this ranger, Strength is vital for our melee attacks, with Dexterity needed for ranged attacks and Constitution for much-needed hit points.

1st level

Attributes: Str 17 (+3) Con 17 (+3) Dex 15 (+2) Int 10 (0) Wis 10 (0) Cha 8 (-1)

Racial Powers: evasive, small

Talents: first strike, lethal hunter, favored enemy

Feats: favored enemy

2nd level

New feat (lethal hunter).

3rd level

New feat (first strike).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (toughness).

5th level

New talent (favored enemy), new feat (favored enemy).

6th level

New feat (lethal hunter).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (first strike).

8th level

New talent (archery), new feat (archery).

9th level

New feat (lethal hunter).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (first strike).



Wizard Overview

The wizard is in many ways the most complex of the classes from the 13th Age core rule book. At the start of each new day you can memorize a different set of spells, so the only real things that permanently change as a wizard levels up are their feats. Wizards however do tend to have a standard set of most-likely spells, so for these builds I’m laying those out for these builds.

The wizard’s class features are cantrips (minor yet useful magic), cyclic magic (powerful magic that can be used repeatedly in battle), overworld advantage (daily spells become recharge when in the overworld), and ritual casting (cast spells as hour-long rituals for more unusual effects).

Also of note are utility spells, which are stand-ins for a host of useful effects from saving wizards from falls to talking to magic items.

Explorer Wizard

Download the Explorer Wizard character sheets here.

This wizard is built to be all about having as much utility as possible-with a spell for every occasion. Play this wizard if you like solving problems with magic, and enjoy improvising new uses for spells.

Memorizing two acid arrows a day gives this wizard a powerful attack, and magic missile grants the wizard a reliable offence, giving the explorer wizard a good core of combat spells for when things go bad.


Cantrip Mastery

Use cantrips at-will, and do unusual things with them.

High Arcana

Memorize daily spells twice, and use counter-magic to resist unfriendly spellcasters. With the feat for utility spell this gives you four uses of the spell per day if memorized using two spell slots.

Vance’s Polysyllabic Verbalizations

Change the names of spells to get extra effects from them.


High elves can perform a highblood teleport, very useful to a wizard exploring dangerous places.


Intelligence is the single most important attribute for this character, but not to the exclusion of all else: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 18 (+4) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 12 (+1).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 18 (+4) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 12 (+1).

Racial Power: highblood teleport

Talents: cantrip mastery, high arcana, vance’s polysyllabic verbalizations

Feats: utility spell

Most likely memorized spells: counter-magic 1st level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow, charm person, magic missile

2nd level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2), charm person, magic missile), new feat (magic missile).

3rd level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur, charm person, magic missile / 3rd level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2)), new feat (precise shot).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur, charm person / 3rd level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, sleep), new feat (linguist).

5th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur / 3rd level: hold monster, sleep, charm person, magic missile / 5th level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2)), new feat (magic missile).

6th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 3rd level: hold monster, sleep / 5th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, invisibility, dimension door), new feat (utility spell).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 3rd level: sleep / 5th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility, charm person / 7th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile), new feat (linguist).

8th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 5th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility / 7th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, blink, flight), new feat (magic missile).

9th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 5th level: invisibility / 7th level: blink, flight, haste, fireball, dimension door / 9th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person), new feat (further backgrounding).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 7th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility / 9th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, teleport (x2), blink), new feat (further backgrounding).



Wizard Overview

The wizard is in many ways the most complicated of the classes from the 13th Age core rule book. At the start of each new day you can memorize a different set of spells, so the only real things that permanently change as a wizard levels up are their feats. Wizards however do tend to have a standard set of most-likely spells, so for these builds I’m laying those out for these builds.

The wizard’s class features are cantrips (minor yet useful magic), cyclic magic (powerful magic that can be used repeatedly in battle), overworld advantage (daily spells become recharge when in the overworld), and ritual casting (cast spells as hour-long rituals for more unusual effects).

Also of note are utility spells, which are stand-ins for a host of useful effects from saving wizards from falls to talking to magic items.

War Wizard

Download the War Wizard character sheets here.

This wizard makes things go boom!

OK, this wizard also has many options for how to make something go boom, but the build is focused solely on high damage output and showy spells. No utility spells here, just lots of daily damage-dealing power (of course with the wizard’s ability to swap out spells a player who finds their wizard regularly going down can swap out attack spells for more defensive ones).

On the downside, this build sacrifices protection and durability for aw firepower (though taking the toughness feat and the abjuration talent helps somewhat), making teamwork vital if you want to last long in a fight with this ‘glass canon’… though with the amount of damage you deal, fights tend to end quickly!



When you cast a daily spell, you gain a bonus to your defenses.


Once per battle max out the damage on a spell that targets PD.

Wizard’s Familiar

A raven (with the abilities scout and flight)


Humans with their quick to fight racial power and extra feat make great battle wizards.


This glass canon has a focus on intelligence: Str 10 (0) Con 14 (+2) Dex 10 (0) Int 20 (+5) Wis 10 (0) Cha 10 (0).

1st level

Attributes: Str 10 (0) Con 14 (+2) Dex 10 (0) Int 20 (+5) Wis 10 (0) Cha 10 (0).

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: abjuration, evocation, wizard’s familiar

Feats: abjuration, ray of frost

Most likely memorized spells: 1st level: acid arrow, ray of frost, color spray, shocking grasp, shield

2nd level

Most likely spells (1st level: acid arrow, ray of frost, color spray, shocking grasp, shield, magic missile), new feat (toughness).

3rd level

Most likely spells (1st level: blur, color spray, magic missile / 3rd level: ray of frost, force salvo, crescendo, lightning bolt), new feat (force salvo).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (1st level: blur, magic missile / 3rd level: teleport shield, ray of frost, force salvo, crescendo, lightning bolt, confusion), new feat (linguist).

5th level

Most likely spells (1st level: magic missile / 3rd level: crescendo, lightning bolt, teleport shield, confusion / 5th level: fireball, acid arrow, ray of frost, force salvo), new feat (fireball).

6th level

Most likely spells (3rd level: blur, magic missile / 5th level: crescendo, lightning bolt, teleport shield, confusion, fireball, acid arrow, ray of frost, force salvo), new feat (evocation).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (3rd level: magic missile / 5th level: crescendo, lightning bolt, acid arrow, force salvo / 7th level: fireball, ray of frost, overcome resistance, teleport shield, confusion), new feat (abjuration).

8th level

Most likely spells (5th level: magic missile, crescendo, lightning bolt / 7th level: flight, overcome resistance, acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, teleport shield, confusion), new feat (fireball).

9th level

Most likely spells (5th level: magic missile, / 7th level: lightning bolt, flight, overcome resistance, teleport shield, confusion / 9th level: acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, disintegrate, meteor swarm), new feat (abjuration).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (7th level: blur, teleport shield, confusion / 9th level: lightning bolt, flight, overcome resistance, acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, disintegrate, meteor swarm), new feat (ray of frost).

[Author Roland Rogers is a 13-year-old 13th Age player whose One Unique Thing is that he Knows All the Monsters. ]

Do you want to annoy your GM?

Do you want to never be hit by any attack?

Do you want to always get the most out of your most useful spells?

Do you want your teammates to always get the most out of their attacks?

Do you want to never miss?

Look no further.

Use these abilities that cause or force rerolls or allow another attack. The page references are in brackets.

Core Book

Lethal – Half-orc racial power (65)

Once per battle, reroll a melee attack and choose the preferred roll


Evasive – Halfling racial power (70)

Once per battle, force an enemy that hits you with an attack to reroll the attack with a -2 penalty


Justice or Vengeance – Cleric domain (95)

When an enemy scores a critical hit on you or one of your allies, you gain an attack reroll blessing to give to a nearby ally. They can use it to reroll an attack this battle.


Trickery or Illusion – Cleric domain (97)

Once per battle as a quick action roll a d20. This is your trick die. You can change an ally or enemy’s natural attack roll to the result of the trick die


Hammer of faith – Cleric spell (98)

Once during the battle when this spell is active, reroll a basic melee attack and keep the result


Prayer for readiness – Cleric spell (101)

5 nearby allies gain a blessing. Later during the battle, any targeted ally can use the blessing to reroll a missed attack


Comeback strike – Fighter talent (105)

Once per battle when you miss a fighter attack, make another attack with a -2 penalty


Hack & Slash – Fighter Maneuver (108)

When you get a natural even roll, and the escalation die is 2+, make a second melee weapon attack against a second target.


Spinning charge – Fighter Maneuver (109)

When you move before you attack and roll a natural even hit, then after dealing damage you can pop free from the target, move to a different enemy and make a basic melee attack against that enemy


Swift dodge – Rogue power (130)

Requires momentum – if you are hit by an attack against AC you can make the attacker reroll the attack


Assassin’s gambit – Rogue power (131)

Make a melee attack dealing half damage, and if you kill the enemy then you can make another attack


13 True Ways

Try again – Commander command (36)

Let an ally reroll an attack, but they must keep the reroll

Timely mistake – Occultist spell (108)

When an enemy hits you or one of your allies with a natural roll, you can make them reroll the attack and take the lower result











The soon-to-arrive 13th Age Glorantha (13G) book from Moon Design is more than 6/8ths of the way through layout. I’ll share some monster conversion notes from Glorantha to the Dragon Empire when the layout is complete and the book is available to order on BackerKit.

For now, let’s look at a couple of mechanical elements in 13G that could have a place in core 13A games. We’ll start with a small mechanical wrinkle, and finish with a new play-style.

Battle healing

Compared to the core 13A environment, there’s a lot less healing available mid-fight at most 13G tables. Characters can still rally, and many classes have abilities that let them recover hit points once or twice, but there aren’t any focused healing classes. There’s no cleric, and even the earth priestess is more likely to occasionally heal heroes who are fighting well rather than getting themselves badly cut up.

Instead of mid-combat healing spells (which is how some other Gloranthan RPGs have handled it), we opted to let an action called ‘battle healing’ give characters a chance to help fallen allies get back into the fight. Depending on your character, the action can represent anything from performing minor magic to kicking your ‘friend’ until they get up and fight!

If you end up playing a 13A campaign with no cleric, no druid, no healer-identified-healer, you should consider borrowing the 13G battle healing rules as an alternative to loading the PCs down with healing potions.

At present, I suspect that combining battle healing rules with the type of ready healing that comes from having a cleric in the party may be too much of a good-healing thing. However, as a one-time dramatic event, particularly in combination with icon relationship advantages, it could be a good way to balance a ridiculously nasty-special battle.


Heroquesting is a powerful element in the lives of Gloranthan characters, who enter the otherworld to defend the cosmos and gain personal power by recreating the mythic actions of their gods. Chapter 7 of 13G has detailed rules for creating new heroquests—including heroquests for lost and broken myths where things didn’t go so well for your gods, and you need to do better!

The Dragon Empire isn’t usually about the gods. But it is all about the icons! And given that the Dragon Empire has had 12 previous ages, each of which has presumably had its own ascendant and teetering icons, well, it’s easy enough to adapt the mechanics of heroquesting as ritual adventures that quest back into previous ages. In the Dragon Empire, I’d call this style of adventuring mythcrawling, keeping it distinct from heroquesting.

The book I’m developing now, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of Ages, has many examples of ascendant and teetering icons, spread through example ages that GMs are meant to adapt and blend as they choose. I’m not going to add mythcrawl notes everywhere in the book, but I’ll  have a couple of examples in sidebars to complement Gareth’s notes on time travel and resurgent histories.

For a more detailed introduction of this idea, and a Dragon Empire example that I wrote back in 2014, see Heroquesting the Dragon Empire. It has taken awhile, but it’s nice to see that most of what I wrote about heroquesting/mythcrawling as 13G was starting still plays true.

by Mike Shea

We live in a marvelous time for tabletop roleplaying games. Over the past ten years we’ve seen an explosion of wonderful game systems, each bringing a unique take to this hobby we love. We gamemasters can learn a lot by reading, and even playing, as many different RPGs as we can. We can find all sorts of ideas to bring back to our RPG of choice and—who knows—might even find ourselves regularly playing a variety of systems instead of just one. While most RPG players are familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, these other systems bring a unique take on the worlds they help us create.

13th Age is one such system. Its designers took their own vast experience building previous versions of D&D, and refined them into a system they thought would bring the most fun to the game.

Their philosophy diverged from the philosophy of the designers of the fifth edition of D&D, which carries the torch of a 40-year history. 13th Age is not bound by any such history, and thus Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo were free to build the d20 system of their dreams: their love letter to D&D.

With the increasing popularity of 5th edition, more new players and GMs are entering the hobby. This article delves into the ways 13th Age differs from 5e, and the distinctive features that 13th Age brings to the table. These features include:

  • A focus on superheroic fantasy
  • Character relationships with the Icons—the great powers of the world
  • Open backgrounds and “one unique things” that tie characters to the world
  • Escalating power across 10 levels of play
  • Two-dimensional monster design
  • Abstract combat mechanics which are perfect for narrative battles

As GMs, we grow by taking in new experiences and adding them to our previous knowledge. Trying out new game systems is one way to engage in these new experiences. We have no edition wars here: We play no favorites. With such a wide and rich variety of RPGs, we can try many of them out, learn from each of them, steal features we like, and focus on the one that best fits our needs.

So what can 5th edition DMs and players expect from 13th Age? Let’s have a look.

Superheroic Fantasy

At lower levels, D&D 5e focuses on the gritty and realistic feeling of local heroes growing up. Adventurers begin as careful explorers of a large and dangerous world. As they gain experience, their power grows—but not until the highest levels do they begin to change the world around them.

In 13th Age, the characters are powerful and unique beings at the moment of their creation. They aren’t just heroes, they’re superheroes. We can see this both in the mechanics of the game (such as a character’s high initial hit points) and in the flavor of the game (such as defining each character by their One Unique Thing that defines them in the world). As 13th Age characters gain levels, their power grows steeply. They become even more superheroic, roaring across the lands and venturing into the depths of living dungeons.

The world in 13th Age, the Dragon Empire, is as superheroic as the characters. The world is a flat disk, with the overworld of flying cities above and the Abyss below. The lands are scarred by hellholes, and trod by beasts as big as cities.

From the very beginning, 13th Age dives into the deep end of high adventure.

The Icons

Most fantasy RPG settings have higher powers, whose agendas and conflicts provide the background for adventures. In D&D, this usually takes the form of a pantheon of gods and demigods, either good or evil (or a bit of both). 13th Age focuses instead on the icons.

These powerful beings, such as the Prince of Shadows, the Elf Queen, the Orc Lord, and the Crusader, rule over the Dragon Empire. They are the movers and shakers in the world. Though mortal, they are rarely threatened in battle. They’re not boss monsters: they’re the moving pillars of the world. The web that lies between the Icons (there are 13 of them in the Dragon Empire) binds the world and weaves the player characters into it, for good and ill.

During character creation, the players decide which icons their character is connected to and whether those connections are positive, negative, or conflicted. The characters may not be powerful at 1st level, but they are important. They are are significant players in, and help define, the larger power struggles of the world.

In addition to signaling to the GM what the players want from the campaign (Lots of magic? Battles with orcs? Heists and intrigue?), the icon mechanics help drive the improvisational aspects of 13th Age, something that the game heavily embraces. At the beginning of each session, the players roll 1d6 for each icon relationship. 1 to 4 mean nothing. 6s offer some advantage to the character based on that relationship. 5s also give an advantage but with some complication.

Backgrounds and the One Unique Thing

In the 5th edition of D&D, characters are defined by their race, class, background, traits, and skills. Race and class selections in 13th Age will feel familiar, but 13th Age combines the aspects of skills and backgrounds into a larger character background feature.

Players create their characters’ backgrounds themselves: there is no pre-existing list of backgrounds to choose from. These backgrounds further define and refine the character and their place in the world. A player invents a number of relevant backgrounds for their character (usually two or three) and assigns eight points among them, with no more than five in any one background.

Whenever a character in 13th Age attempts something that would require a skill check, the player rolls and adds their attribute bonus. If they have a background relevant to the situation, they can add the points they have allocated to that background.

The open-ended nature of these backgrounds help players define their characters’ role in the world. Instead of “Sage”, a player may define part of the world with a background like “former sage of the Crusader’s inquisition, now on the run”.

Example: A paladin with the +3 background “Student in the Hidden Monastery of the Great Gold Wyrm” has to cross a tightrope across a pit. The paladin’s player says to the GM, “The monastery I trained in as a youth sits on a mountain cliffside, and all the buildings are only connected by tightropes. So I’m really good at walking tightropes.” The GM agrees that the +3 bonus applies to this skill check, and quietly writes a note to herself, “Future adventure: party goes to the hidden monastery, has awesome battle on tightropes.”

13th Age characters are further defined by their “one unique thing”. This trait sets their character apart from everyone else in the world. This can be something relatively personal like, “is guided by three ghost witches only she can see” or something larger in scope like, “is the only person in the world who can hear the laments of the Koru”. Like backgrounds, these unique features help the player define parts of the world beyond the bounds of the character sheet.

Abstract Combat

Though we can play the fifth edition of D&D without a map or miniatures, the distances, ranges, and areas of effect in D&D are defined in five foot increments. For this reason, many players and GMs choose to play D&D on a gridded battle map, with each square accounting for five feet of distance.

13th Age ignores fixed distances and instead talks about distances in abstract terms such as “nearby”, “far away”, “grouped”, and “engaged”. While we can play 13th Age with physical maps and miniatures, these abstract distances let us ignore individual squares and focus on the big movements and motions of the characters. These abstract distances still have mechanical effects in the game, such as a fireball being able to hit 1d3 nearby enemies in a group (or 2d3 enemies if you’re willing to hit your friends!).

Because of these abstracted distances, it’s as easy to run a 13th Age battle completely in the “theater of the mind” as it is with miniatures and a map. It also means we don’t have to worry about the small details of things like positioning and specific movement, and can focus on the high fantasy and superheroic action that’s central to 13th Age. Players and GMs who enjoy a map and miniatures can still use them with 13th Age, but we are no longer bound to the squares on those maps. Only relative distances matter.

For players and GMs used to running games on a gridded battle map, this can take some getting used to but it’s worth the effort. Battles in 13th Age feel less like chess and more like an explosive action movie.

Flat Versus Escalating Math

13th Age embraces the drive of superheroic fantasy in the game’s mechanics as well as its story. Those familiar with D&D 5e’s character growth recognize that the statistics of characters grow on a shallow curve (often called “flat math”). Armor classes are set by the armor of the character and don’t increase with the character’s level. A character’s attack bonus does go up with level, but slowly.

In 13th Age, a character’s power grows steeply from level to level. 13th Age only has ten levels but each level feels like two levels of growth in D&D. A 10th level character in 13th Age is roughly equivalent to a 20th level character in D&D 5e.

Not only do attack bonuses, saving throws, and armor classes go up as a character levels but the amount of damage dice a character uses on attacks also increases. Fifth level fighters roll five dice worth of damage on each attack. High level characters roll huge handfuls of dice on attacks, dishing out triple digits of damage. (Although at higher levels of play, to speed things up the rulebook recommends averaging some or all of the damage dice instead of rolling all of them.)

This steep curve once again reinforces the superheroic feeling of 13th Age.

Two Dimensional Monster Design

The monster design in 13th Age follows a design similar to the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons (but don’t let that scare you away if you weren’t a fan of 4e). Monsters not only have levels, but also sizes or strengths independent of level. These sizes and strengths include mooks, normal monsters, double strength (or large monsters), and triple strength (or huge monsters). These sizes and strengths mean that a level 4 triple strength monster is roughly equivalent to three level 4 characters. This two-dimensional monster design makes it much easier to build “balanced” encounters to challenge a group. A simple chart gives us a gauge of how many monsters of what types will balance well for a party at a given level.

Monsters in 13th Age use static damage instead of rolling dice, which may seem odd at first but becomes totally natural. Like characters, they also scale significantly in power as they level. The balor, for example, dishes out a whopping 160 damage on a single hit with its lightning sword.

Nearly all monsters also have attacks or powers that are triggered by dice results and other circumstances in the battle. For example, here are the balor’s attacks:

Abyssal blade +18 vs. AC—160 damage

Natural even hit: The balor deals +1d20 lightning damage to the target and to one other nearby enemy of the balor’s choice. Then repeat that damage roll against the targets once for each point on the escalation die (so if it’s 4, that’s four more d20 rolls)

Natural even miss: 80 damage.

C: Flaming whip +18 vs. PD (one nearby enemy)—50 fire damage, and the target is pulled to the balor, who engages it.

Natural even miss: 25 fire damage.

Limited use: 1/round, as a quick action.

Because each monster is “scripted” to take action on random die results, they’re capable of surprising both the players and the GM.

A Differentiated Game of High Fantasy

Unbound from the need to embrace the elements of traditional fantasy RPGs, 13th Age gives us an RPG that thrusts us deep into high fantasy. Our characters are big and bold. They’re unique actors in a unique world torn by the forces who rule over it. 13th Age is a world of hellholes and living dungeons. It is a world of floating cities and underground labyrinths. The game system itself embraces this superheroic fantasy with bold mechanics that handwave common wargaming details and thrusts its players into the actions of our limitless imaginations.

I love 13th Age. I also love 5th edition D&D. These games are not mutually exclusive. We can love many roleplaying game systems and each one gives us things we can use in the others. In a single volume, 13th Age gives us a beautiful system of high fantasy roleplaying that every GM should try. Whatever system you prefer, you’re sure to find ideas in 13th Age you can use in any system. And who knows? It just might become your system of choice.

Mike Shea is a writer, gamer, technologist, and webmaster for the D&D website Sly Flourish. Mike has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and wrote the books The Lazy Dungeon Master and Sly Flourish’s Fantastic Locations. Mike lives in Vienna, Virginia with his gamer wife Michelle and their dire worg Jebu.

by Rob Heinsoo

One of the great touches that Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan added to the unique hellholes he created for the upcoming Book of Demons is a customized random demon ability table for each hellhole. While developing the book, I realized that Gareth’s work was pointing to something that has bothered me for a while: I’m not fond of the way I designed the original Random Demon Abilities Table (13th Age core rulebook, page 209). My problem with the table I wrote for the core book is that several of the abilities it generates don’t often make the game more fun. A couple of the abilities (true seeing, resist fire) are irrelevant in many battles. Another ability, gating in a lower level demon, is interesting (and highly traditional!), but adding another lower level enemy to a fight interferes with pacing and may not warrant the trouble.

There are still times I’ll use the original table, but I’m more likely to use one of Gar’s customized tables or the new table I’ve added to the monster-stats section of Book of Demons. Here’s the new table.

There’s a bit more commentary on sources of random demon abilities and using the new table in the book. As you’ll see, the point of these new abilities is that they’re most always capable of having some form of impact on a battle. In one case, that impact could even be on future sessions.

New Random Demon Abilities (d6 or d8)

1: Deathwish—The demon takes a –2 penalty to all defenses and gains a +3 attack bonus.

2: Entropic warp—When an enemy deals miss damage to the demon, that enemy also takes half that amount of damage.

3: Bad ending—While staggered, the demon gains a +2 bonus with its attacks.

4: Big hate: Each battle, the demon gains a +4 attack bonus until the end of the battle against the first enemy that hits it with an attack.

5: Loophole—When the demon starts its turn with 10 hit points or fewer, it can teleport out of the battle as a move action. If it does it will return to face the PCs soon. Add the full-strength demon to an upcoming battle as a nasty complication to an upcoming battle, having it teleport in during the first or second round of combat. (Champion tier: 25 hp or fewer; epic tier: 50 hp or fewer).

6: Teleport 1d3 times each battle—As a move action, the demon can teleport anywhere it can see nearby.

7: Demonic speed—The demon can take an extra action each turn while the escalation die is 4+.                                                                                                                                                             

8: Theft of fate—At the start of each round, the demon rolls a hard save. If the save succeeds, it steals the escalation die that round, adding the escalation die to its own attacks but preventing the PCs from adding the die to their attacks.


Download the free 13th Age Bestiary 2 preview pack, with the Great Ghoul, chaos hydra, and rakshasa!

It’s Adopt-a-Monster month, when we urge you to take home some of the adorable beasties in our 13th Age product line. (Whose heart wouldn’t melt at the sight of a little intellect devourer scampering up when they come home in the evening?) This year’s Adopt-a-Monster mascot is this cuddly rakshasa kitten by artist Rich Longmore.

The rakshasa is featured in the first 13th Age Bestiary, and really comes into its own in Lions, Tigers & Owlbears: The 13th Age Bestiary 2. There it receives an expansive 7-page treatment, with entries that include the rakshasa sybarite, devourer of wizards, delver, mastermind, saint, and magician. There’s also a section on rakshasas and the icons, building battles, lairs and treasures, adventure hooks, and more!

You can pick up a print copy of the 13th Age Bestiary 2 in the Pelgrane Store.

Here’s just one of the many monsters you can adopt today—and it’s a great example of 13th Age monster design for a more complex creature…

Rakshasa Sybarite

A keen interest in alchemy and an understanding of the physiology and psychology of humanoids makes this hedonistic monster mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Double strength 6th level caster [humanoid]

Initiative: +11

Silver-shod claws +11 vs. AC (2 attacks)—12 damage

Attack also beats the target’s PD: 12 ongoing poison damage.

C: Powders, potions, and lotions +11 vs. PD (1d3 nearby enemies in a group)—20 poison damage

Natural 2 or 12 hit: Target is weakened until they next take damage.

Natural 3 or 13 hit: Target is vulnerable to poison attacks until the end of the battle.

Natural 4 or 14 hit: Target is hampered until they next heal or gain temporary hp.

Natural 5 or 15 hit: Target is hampered until they next hit with an attack.

Natural 6 or 16 hit: Target is stuck, save ends.

Natural 7 or 17 hit: Target is dazed, easy save ends.

Natural 8 or 18 hit: Target is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Natural 9 or 19 hit: Target is confused, easy save ends.

Miss: 7 poison damage.

[once per battle] C: Psychic seduction +11 vs. MD (1d3+1 nearby or far away enemies in a group, group must contain at least two targets)—20 psychic damage, and the target is confused (hard save ends).

Miss, but another target in the group was hit: Target is confused until the end of its next turn.

All targets missed: The psychic seduction attack is not expended can be used again this battle.

Shapechange: As a standard action, the rakshasa can change its form to that of any humanoid, or back to its own shape. Seeing through the shapechange requires a DC 20 skill check.

Nastier Specials

Contrabando: The rakshasa has a stash of illicit substances—once per battle as a quick action, it can either deal 20 ongoing poison damage to one enemy that it has just left engagement with OR become dazed but heal 30 hit points at the end of each of its turns (save ends).

Shapechanger’s surprise: Once per battle as a quick action the rakshasa changes forms to something that causes consternation and misunderstanding among its enemies— causing each enemy to become dazed until the enemy with the lowest MD saves.

AC 20

PD 20     HP 230

MD 19


Friday the 13th Age LogoIt’s Friday the 13th, and you know what that means: it’s 13th Age DayTo celebrate, we’re offering a 13% discount on select 13th Age products at the Pelgrane Store and DriveThruRPG until Monday.

Use the code 13TH@FRI at the Pelgrane Store.

The discount applies to all 13th Age PDFs on both stores, and all print items except bundles, Bestiary 2, and Fire and Faith. Check out the game for the first time by buying the core book, or fill the gaps in your collection!

How can YOU participate in Friday the 13th Age (besides buying stuff)? Post something cool and useful for the game online with the hashtag #FridayThe13thAge. We’ll happily reshare the best of the bunch!

For example:

  • Link to a monster, magic item, icon, setting, homebrew class, house rule or play aid that you or someone else in the community created.
  • Share helpful 13th Age GM tips,.
  • Tell people about your favorite 13th Age product, whether it’s by Pelgrane Press or a third party publisher who’s creating great 13th Age material.
  • Link to a 13th Age podcast or YouTube channel that deserves more attention.
  • Play 13th Age and post a pic; or play online via Google Hangout or Roll20.
  • One Unique Things!

Friday the 13th Age comes but once a year. (Maybe two or three times, depending on the year.) Take advantage of this special offer while it lasts!


We were as surprised as anyone that our announcement of 13th Age—a new d20-rolling fantasy RPG by the lead designers of 3rd edition and 4th edition—happened right when Wizards of the Coast announced that 5th edition was on the way. Though part of the same tradition, the games had fundamental differences in approach, and provide very different experiences of the same genre.

So, which one is right for your group? We’ve linked to some forum threads and blog posts on that very topic below!

From “Fifth Edition D&D versus 13th Age (the good, the bad and the damned)”

5e D&D tries to keep some “classic” D&D features, while 13A has more experimentation and innovation. As far as quality goes, I think both options are equally valid.

From “What are the ‘use cases’ for using DnD5e over 13th Age?”

M. Weasel: I chose to use 5e for my current campaign (a player-driven hex crawl), and had a great time using 13th Age for my previous D&D-type game (investigation/big-damn-heroes action in Eberron). The biggest reason for me was that 5e feels more down-to-earth and traditional, while 13th Age feels like it has that big-damn-heroes style baked into it. That comes from a mix of what powers characters get, how hard characters are to kill, how magic items are designed and capped in each system, etc. Based on that, the feel of 5e was a better match for what I was aiming for with my game (relatively traditional D&D world, little fish in a big pond). Beyond that, I changed groups since my 13th Age campaign – some of my current players are not fond of Backgrounds (which is a pity, since I personally love them), and one of them loves the ol’ D&D-Puzzle-Wizard thing, which 5e does better than 13th Age. That said, I do miss many parts of 13th Age, especially in terms of monster design – it just has so many brilliant monsters.

Lemurion: I want to essentially replicate the AD&D 1e play style with a more modern rule set.  From everything I’ve seen, 5E is better at reproducing that kind of gaming experience than 13th Age. …5E is a good compromise for those who prefer modern rules to the Gygaxian prose of 1e, but still want to play in a similar style.

From Google+

Michael Kailus: In practice, 5E works much better for games where the players roleplaying creativity goes more towards “playing an adventurer” vs. “telling a fun action story.” 5E answers the question “how would I get past the trolls if I was Bilbo Baggins” and 13th Age answers the question “what is the sickest shield kickflip I could do if I was Orlando Bloom Legolas?” …As a GM, this has an interesting effect. GMing 5E is largely about prepping a story and situation and then seeing what the characters do. In 13th Age, meanwhile, you pretty much plan out a series of combat encounters (the actual action) but develop the story behind them collaboratively with the players. You know they’re going to fight five level three monsters before the “third act” of the adventure, but you might not know who hired those monsters or why the players need to stop them. By contrast, in 5E I’d plan out a group of monsters and their leader and the players might not fight them at all.

Martin Killmann: I have a very short explanation for you: The DC cinematic universe runs on 5E, but the Marvel cinematic universe runs on 13th Age. DCU is trying to be serious about conserving the legacy of iconic characters like Superman and Batman, whereas Marvel is like, “here’s a talking raccoon.”

From “13th Age vs. 5e?”

padgettish: 5e added a lot of stuff to up the presence of your character’s character in the mechanics of the game. When it comes down to it, backgrounds and inspiration don’t really stack up against a one true thing and icons. 13th Age will always do a better job at weaving the players into the narrative and empowering them to make their characters narratively important. 5e’s skill system is much less abstracted, though, and its mundane elements feel a lot more grounded in a living setting. If you’re running your typical fantasy story, 13th Age will be a lot better, but 5e will edge it out if you’re playing something like “all the characters are running a guild/merchant cartel” or a sandbox game where touches of minutia and simulation are important.

13th Age‘s combat is much tighter within a single encounter, and there’s a bit more of a game to it. At present, 5e’s design seems built more around one or two characters dropping a spell or ability to drastically change the circumstances of an encounter (at level one Sleep or Dragon Breath can easily wipe out a group of equal level monsters) and tactically mopping up the survivors. In 13th Age I feel you can really stress out the players without relying on tapping out their p/day resources, while thus far 5e seems to focus more on budgeting your resources from one encounter to the next. My group’s been playing through Tyranny of Dragons Rules as Written to get a feel for the “intended game,” and it even goes so far as structuring the story so taking short rests is something you have to budget and can’t just do after every encounter.

From “13th Age and 5ed”

wheloc: A lot of groups like to have freeform exploration but tight and tactical combat, and this is what 13th Age offers in spades. The exploration rules, like backgrounds and icons, are very loose and mostly amount to “do whatever seems fun”. Combat is more robust, with specific rules to do combat-stuff, and classes mostly consisting of bundles of combat abilities. It does encourage combat “set-pieces” and “everything looks like a nail” use of combat abilities, but for groups that enjoy this sort of thing this is a feature rather than a bug.

For groups that want more specific exploration rules, and maybe less specific combat rules (or at least different specific combat rules), D&D 5th edition might be a better choice. The classes and backgrounds (at least some of them) are a mix of combat and exploration abilities. Combat isn’t exactly freeform, but there’s more of a broad pool of combat options to draw from, and less of a restrictive list of combat abilities for each class.

From “[5E or 13th Age] Which is easier to run? Which is easier to play?”

Dionysos: In my opinion, as somebody currently running campaigns in both systems, 5th edition is far simpler to play and to run. The rules are easy and straightforward. 13th Age, while much simpler than 3e or 4e, is a strange fusion of traditional adventure game and artsy storygame, and so it will naturally be a little tougher to get your head around. Having said that, 13th Age is the more interesting of the two.

Lesp: For a brand-new, no-experience group, I’d probably say that, while there are pros and cons to each in terms of accessibility, 13th Age is probably a hair easier. 5e has a little more counterintuitive baggage sitting at its core than 13th Age does. However – and this is important – the 5e Core Rulebook is more clearly written. The 13th Age rulebook isn’t bad or anything, but there are definitely places where referring to the FAQ will save you a huge amount of time in trying to understand things, because there are rules that are in very odd places. …Both systems are top notch in terms of ease of play compared to most other D&D-alikes, and I don’t think you can really go wrong with either choice. 13th Age is arguably more demanding on DMs when it comes to thinking on your feet (it has significant improvisation vectors built in on both sides of the screen), while 5e is more demanding of DMs in terms of managing mechanical references and requires more work to produce satisfying combat encounters, but neither game is super demanding in any of those regards.

Extrakun: I believe whether you like 13th Age “background checks” depends on your play-style and the kind of game you like. From my reading of the rules, the game is supposed to be a constant back and forth between GM and players—this is even the style of the organized play scenarios. The GM will outright ask players questions such as, “All right, Jen, you used to run with the Thief’s Guild at Drakkenhall, but were chased out. Why?” …In 13th Age, the authors see “skill checks” as more of a narrative experience than a gameplay one.

neowolf: For running I think they’re about on par. 5e is a little more mechanically complex, 13th Age is a little more improv demanding. So this could depend on what your strengths and weaknesses are as a GM, but overall I don’t think either is much worse than the other to run. For playing, I don’t think either stands out either, however I do think that 13th Age has the advantage and disadvantage of being written in a fairly conversational tone, that assumes this isn’t your first rodeo. A lot of terms go unexplained and there’s no sitting down to explain to you what a roleplaying game is. For an experienced player, I think this is great. It helps it to be a more enjoyable read. For a completely new player, I think it can be a little confusing. Though I think this is mitigated pretty much entirely if you’ve got a group showing you the ropes as well.

Want to see 13th Age in action? Check out this actual play video from Saving Throw:

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