13th Age Playtest: A Letter from Rob Heinsoo

13th Age Round Two Playtest badgeDear 13th Age playtesters,

For those of you who didn’t see the first playtest draft, welcome aboard for Round Two. And a big thank you to returning playtesters who sent feedback already.

I’m happy with many elements of the current draft. It’s not done, but the pieces that aren’t in the official manuscript yet are taking shape.

I’m unhappy that I wasn’t able to process all the playtest comments before finishing this draft. I got through half of the early feedback and only a core sample of feedback after Simon’s prompt for feedback. So there are a few existing aspects of the design that playtesters have already convinced us need to be fixed. The fixes aren’t in. I’m going to finish going through all the playtesting feedback when I’m back from vacation. There are surely more tweaks to come.

Let’s start with what we need most now from this round of playtesting…

1. The cleric and the sorcerer and wizard have had their core concepts tightened up. We got a lot of playtest feedback from unhappy cleric players. Going back to the class I had to agree, it hadn’t claimed any magic as its own. This draft changes that, partially with a new cleric feature called divine intercession, partly with an entirely redesigned spell list. So the cleric is wholly revised, and the sorcerer and wizard substantially modified. These classes need testing at both low levels and also above fifth level with the spells and upgraded spells that are new to this draft.

2. None of the classes have been played above fifth level except in the playtest game Jonathan Tweet and I have been running. Tests with higher-level PCs would be welcome.

3. We need feedback on whether the new phrasing of the icon relationships works for players and GMs. Some playtesters liked the previous version, others were disappointed. We’ve revised them for simplicity and to emphasize the utility of the relationship with the icon rather than rating the relationship’s strength.

4. We’ve received relatively little feedback about the bard. If someone wants to run a few sessions of a bards’ school campaign, well, I’m mostly ears. (This couldn’t possibly backfire.)

5. We’ve got work to do on character sheets and play-aids. People have started sharing cool things on-line and I’m excited to see it.

6. Problems that people have trying to set up and run their own games will be extremely helpful to hear.

7. In the first playtest I said that people should stick to the rules as written. But playtest feedback from people customizing the game has been wonderful. The game is designed to be customized so I can’t be surprised that this is what’s working for people. So if you want to customize your campaign, go for it. Playtest feedback will probably be more useful if you stick to the mechanics as written, or tell me what was broken and how you fixed it on the fly.

What you shouldn’t worry about testing….

1. The monk is a clever concept but the execution is not on target yet. First round playtesting pointed out the problems. Unlike other classes in this file, the monk didn’t get the attention it needed to improve. I’m going to be running a dedicated playtest for the monk so at the moment, for second round playtesters, I’d say that the monk is not worth testing. It needs rebalancing to nail the dynamic between opening moves/flow moves/finishing attacks. (If you’re playing a monk and want to keep on playing and don’t think it’s broken, well, feel free to tell me that, but hah. It’s going to change.) (And yes, the druid is also headed for a special playtesting campaign.)

2. Multiclassing should be getting a remake. I wouldn’t suggest that you waste your time testing the current multiclassing rules because the playtest feedback is that it needs to be improved. And the solution that’s in the works is different enough that more feedback on the current system won’t help much.

Status Report

Here’s a look at what’s in this draft and notes on pieces that Jonathan and I are still adding.

Finished classes: For this current playtest packet we’ve got the barbarian, bard, cleric, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, and wizard playable to 10th level. There are playtest adjustments to come, more feats, a few more spells, and more polished and complete introductory/explanatory text. But you should be able to play these classes to 10th level. (And in case you’re wondering, the final manuscript will discuss the manner in which class progression stops at 10th.)

Close to done: The sorcerer is also playable to 10th level but is missing a few 7th and 9th level spells. First round playtesters will note that the sorcerer has changed most thanks to a feature called gather power.

Editing: Chapters 1, 2 and 3 have had a first editing pass. Chapter 5 is mostly edited. Other chapters are rougher text, still.

Monsters: There are more monsters coming in the final manuscript. I left a few in-progress monsters in this file. The black ooze, ogre mage, chimera and vampire aren’t as polished as the rest of the monsters, but they’re pretty much usable so I left them in. The monster file will also be organized differently, but hopefully it’s useable for now.

Magic items: We’re not done with the magic item lists. Use what we’ve got. The plan is to do a few items for every chakra.

The Dragon Empire: We’re adding little bits to the setting and smoothing its sloppier sections, but the geography and background pieces are close to finished. Like other pieces, they may be reorganized for the final product.

It’s going to be a fun push. We hope your games go well. And if they don’t, tell us about it.

–Rob Heinsoo

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