D&D versus 13th Age – Who Would Win?

I’ve been asked at panels, on social media and in person about the effect of D&D 5th Edition on 13th Age.  The concern is that 5e will negatively affect 13thD&D Age sales is also averred to in this excellent review of the 13th Age Bestiary over at Geek Native. Won’t the new version of 5th Edition have an impact on your sales? My answer is, I sincerely hope so.

When D&D 5e came out, I held my breath. How good would it be? Would it upset people? Would it divide the market?  D&D has to be vanilla. I mean that in the best possible way – it has to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible.  It was an extraordinarily difficult brief, but Mike Mearls and his team did it. It’s a great game, and there is no noticeable division amongst players of previous versions.

Thank goodness.

sD&D is the pioneer, with the sales muscle of a big corporation behind it; it’s the category brand, the market leader, the gateway drug. If D&D succeeds, RPGs succeed. (I’m putting aside the special case of Pathfinder for this article, owlchubwhich I might discuss another time). As the co-founder of ProFantasy Software, I am keenly aware that sales of Campaign Cartographer 3 depend on the size of the roleplaying game market – really – the number of tabletop gamers. And we are all D&D players, from the Forge to the OSR. There may well be some churn between different RPGs, but nothing that affects us. The only table-top RPG non-roleplayers can name is D&D.

But this leaves room, more than room, for the distinctive quirkiness of 13th Age and other similar games in the category. D&D can’t speak in the voice of the individual designers, push ideas to the edge of too far, or even irritate reviewers with informal language. But there is room for games which do.  I do like the idea that 13th Age is, in some way, a serious competitor to D&D. Hah – we are a pimple on the buttock of their enormous sales! The theory assumes we are talking about a static market, and that 5e is taking share from other RPGs – absolutely not.

What a succesful D&D 5e does is increase the number of gamers.

13th Age appeals to a certain percentage of gamers.We hope that it will continue to appeal to a growing percentage of gamers. However, with D&D 5e a big success and the market getting larger – we don’t have to appeal to a growing percentage gamers.  Tiny companies can’t do much to increate market size. Market leaders can. If we appeal to the same percentage of gamers, we will still be selling an increasing number of copies. As it happens, we are doing both.

So in answer to the premise D&D versus 13th Age, who wins?

Gamers win.

13 Responses to “D&D versus 13th Age – Who Would Win?”

  1. Jay says:

    There seems to be a strange contention that folks can play one and not the other, as if eating snickers means you can never try a flake. I went out and bought the 5e PHB on release day, but it certainly doesn’t mean I won’t always have time for 13th Age.

  2. Terry O'Carroll says:

    5e is indeed vanilla, but it’s a high-end vanilla, with real vanilla bean in it.

  3. Mike Schwartz says:

    Exactly! I play 13th Age on Friday nights and 5e on Monday nights!

  4. Ed says:

    I’m glad you liked my review! In hindsight, I was a little harsh on the language stuff, but I hope I made it abundantly clear that 13th Age is an incredible game and absolutely deserves to be read and played.

    I also think you brought up an excellent point regarding how everyone wins when D&D does well. It is that kind of wisdom that makes Pelgrane Press a winner, and me just another lowly voice on the Internet. Best of luck!

    • Simon Rogers says:

      I have no problem with your language; I was using your review to make a wider point that there is room for a variety of games and a variety of tastes. I am very grateful you took the time to read, analyse and review our book.

  5. Caremon says:

    Personally, I think D&D5 is a giant step backwards in terms of both mechanics, but also as a game itself, compared to 4E, while it might not be as polarizing, it’s in essence, an example of a gaming company caving in to the complaints of a part of their customer base, and providing a product that is in every way inferior, because those people “liked” the inferior product they used to make better.

    It’s not a great system, it’s a system that’s actually poorer than it’s predecessor both in terms of mechanics, but also in terms of math, reintroducing mechanics that were never good mechanics, ideas that were never good ideas, simply because they “always used to be in D&D”

  6. Jordan says:

    Well, everyone has opinions, so I’ll throw mine out there. I think 5E is a giant jump forward, in that it is a game that will actually make it to my group’s table. Since it is getting pretty rave reviews, I hardly think it has to do with WOTC “caving” to anyone. Could it be possible that people just have different preferences, instead of calling something inferior in every way? Sheesh.

  7. In the battle between D&D and 13th Age, the loser is my wallet! :D

    I’m running both: 13th Age on roll20.net during Friday nights and D&D for my newly-assembled gaming group Sunday evenings.

    Great time for gaming.

  8. Nicholas says:

    Honestly, it’s not true that D&D 5e didn’t have its divisions and neither did it rein in that many players (as far as I know and based on the numbers with regards to sales) as it will have expected. Noise is low – true but that’s because whoever have left after the 4e shock and moved onto either PF or other genre stays there. Some didn’t venture back and as other posters had said, some are doing both or more.

    Myself, D&D 5e didn’t totally embrace old-school gaming. There are still too many elements (at least in the basic and PHB) of MMO style of gaming. Two notables are the healing system in short and long rests and emphasis on easy hits and high hit points (WoTC claims its for ensuring that low level critters can still prove effective but do think through thoroughly and you’ll see that it isn’t true) – D&D 3.5e or even AD&D low level critters can still take down a high level character if there are enough numbers!

  9. Nicholas says:

    Oh…and to directly comment on the article, I do both (but house-rule heavily for D&D 5e)

  10. Nicholas says:

    Just in case, the cantrip rule is totally MMO too. And certain cantrips gets better with level!! It’s like free shooting wizard with ray of frost!! Damages can go as high as 8d4!!

  11. Allan Samuelson says:

    I love 13th Age and will always keep a place in my heart and at my table for it. But D&D was my first love back in 1974 and I love the new edition. I am adapting the One Unique Thing and the Icon Relationship systems to my D&D game.

    Honestly I love the variety of games that are out there now. There are so many options anyone should be able to find a game they enjoy.

Leave a Reply