17_Gladiators front cover_350In the Dragon Empire, the imperial city of Axis is the hub of civilization—but even there, the barbaric spectacle of bloody arena combat draws cheering crowds. Who among the gladiators will ascend to fame and glory today, and who will fall?

Here you’ll find notes on gladiatorial armor, dragon patrons, crest-taking, staged holy wars, Dragon Empire gladiators as they compare to Roman Empire gladiators, the Lich King’s arenas, and other surprises involving war sports. By Rob Heinsoo.

Gladiators is the fifth installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2016 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!

Stock #: PEL13AM19D Author: Rob Heinsoo
Artist: Rich Longmore Type: 9-page PDF

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13th Age Monthly PhoenixPhoenixes are more than a symbol—they seem functionally immortal, though there may be years or decades or even centuries between some rebirths. Rob Heinsoo and ASH LAW bring these fiery elementals to 13th Age, with writeups for the flamebird phoenix, resurgent phoenix, void phoenix, and solar phoenix. You’ll also find phoenix-themed magic items, adventure hooks, and more!

Phoenix is the second installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2015 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!

 

Stock #: PEL13AM16D Author: ASH LAW, Rob Heinsoo
Artist: Patricia Smith Type: 10-page PDF

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Rakshasas Reavers cover_350

A collection of new monsters that Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet enjoy inflicting on their players—and now you can unleash them at your table. These magical masterminds, icon-trained kobolds, and cloaked skeletal phantoms have surprising abilities that challenge adventurers to think hard about their tactics.

Rakshasas & Reavers is the first installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2016 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!

 

Stock #: PEL13AM15D Author: Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet
Artist: Lee Moyer, Aaron McConnell Type: 11-page PDF

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13MonthlyLogo_250

A collection of 4000+ word 13th Age PDF supplements with new rules systems, Bestiary-style monsters, player character options, and more – gathered together for the first time, so you don’t have to wait to get get them all.

The collected 13th Age Monthly – Volume 1 includes the following PDFs:

  • Dragon Riding, by Rob Heinsoo & ASH LAW. The lethal combination of dragon and rider helped create the Dragon Empire. Now unleash the fury on your foes! Full rules for player character dragon riders appear alongside story advice for campaigns looking to add dragon-riding options. Plus, we’ve made it easy to hack the system so you can devise other styles of riding. (Anyone up for tarrasque racing?)
  • Temples of the Frogfolk, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. The perfect gift for the player in your group who has been waiting to portray a jumpy murderous amphibian. Evil frogspawn lurk just below the threat threshold. Then the chants echo through the mist, the temples surface, and suddenly you’re dead. This installment includes five froggish monsters with four racial abilities to choose from, thirteen reasons to be paranoid, toadstone treasures, five icon-related frogfolk temples, and race stats and special abilities for playing a frogfolk adventurer.
  • Candles, Clay & Dancing Shoes, by ASH LAW. Your PC has gold to burn? Spend it on something that could make everyone’s lives more interesting—especially the GM! Here are six new useful, bizarre, and effective one-use magic items, festooned with multiple adventure hooks and campaign variants. Is that dwarf wearing a featherlight skirt beneath his kilt? If you fire an exorcist missile at a dybbuk at twilight, which one of you screams first? What happens to your spell list if you drink too much gnomish tinto wine (secret ingredient: grave dust)? Answers to these and 75 other magic-item related questions, yours for one low monthly price!
  • Children of the Icons, by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. “I’m the child of an icon.” This One Unique Thing taps into one of fantasy’s most powerful archetypes — and generates a huge amount of player investment in the campaign. Here, players will find inspiration and advice on how this deep connection can play out at the table. For GMs, Gareth presents four possible “children of the icons” campaigns along with two tough monsters that show how iconic parentage can be used to create interesting NPCs.
  • BONUS: Make Your Own Luck, a Free RPG Day 13th Age adventure.
  • Eidolons, by ASH LAW. These bizarre, other-dimensional creatures present themselves as aspects of mortal concepts — meanwhile twisting reality into shapes that have nothing to do with mortal concepts. This comprehensive 13th Age Bestiary-style monster writeup is a gift to GMs who don’t mind shaking the tree until walruses and new philosophies fall out.DragonRider_final_cover_300
  • Summoning Spells, by Rob Heinsoo. 13 True Ways introduced druids and necromancers as the first summoning spellcasters. Now this installment of the Monthly adds summoning spells to the wizard’s spellbook and the cleric’s prayer-roster! Includes rules for various summoning styles, stats for summoned creatures, and variants for campaigns with different flavors.
  • Sharpe Initiatives: Earthgouger, by Cal Moore. A thrillride of an adventure for 3rd or 4th level heroes, designed to be played in one or two sessions. If you play Robin D. Laws’ The Strangling Sea at first level you can use Sharpe Initiatives as a callback to events earlier in the PCs’ careers; but this adventure is designed to bulldoze itself into any campaign in which dwarves aspire to re-engineer the broken underworld.
  • BONUS: At Land’s Edge / The Harker Instrusion, a Free RPG Day release which features both 13th Age and Dracula Dossier content.
  • 7 Icon Campaign, by Jonathan Tweet & Rob Heinsoo. Start with a thought experiment: What would happen if we compressed the 13 icons into 7? Build on GM notes and player questionnaires from Jonathan’s 7-icon home campaign. Polish to a dangerous sheen with six new feats, spells, and talents inspired by the stories of the ‘new’ icons and usable in any 13th Age game.
  • Kroma Dragonics, by Cal Moore & Rob Heinsoo. Start with anthropology fieldwork among the redscale barbarians of the Red Wastes. No, cancel that: the redscale dragonics ate the researchers. Restart with a dig into the myths and aspirations of dragonics influenced by chromatic dragons and the Three. The dig is dicey, but we expect to find monster stats, hierarchy options, adventure hooks, and player character options including feats, talents, and maneuvers.
  • Echo & Gauntlet, by Michael E. Shea & Rob Heinsoo. Start with a nasty magical strike force that works for the Crusader. Continue in a supernatural landscape that speeds their magic. Finish with campaign hooks, the implications of a ruined world that exists alongside the world, and a possible origin story for the Crusader.
  • The Waking Stones, by Lynne Hardy. A megalith is just a set of standing stones—unless they’re actually members of an ancient stone race, reawakening in the 13th age! This full 13th Age Bestiary-style writeup has heroic, ambiguous, and villainous options that should fit into most any campaign.
  • Home Bases, by Steven Warzeha & Rob Heinsoo. Simple new mechanics for player characters who want a castle, tavern, sacred grove to call home and build stories around. Includes rules for the obligations that can make or break your base, examples to suit many different campaigns, and new magic items  for characters who want to put down roots.

You can see the collected content available in Volume 2 here.

Stock #: PEL13AM01D Author: Various
Artist: Various Type: Collection of PDF downloads

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Image1High Magic & Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons is the final volume in the Battle Scenes Series.

The Battle Scenes books are independent collections of icon-themed encounters for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game  at all levels of play, packed with dangerous hand-picked foes on terrifying terrain.

Less prep, more play!

High Magic & Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons brings you 45 challenging and memorable sets of battles, against enemies connected to the Orc Lord, Prince of Shadows, Archmage, High Druid, and The Three. Drop these fights into your game at every tier of play from adventurer to epic, and bring them to life with gorgeous maps by our expert cartographers.

With High Magic & Low Cunning, you can:

  • Give the PCs compelling reasons to fight based on their icon relationships, their stories, and your campaign
  • Pit them against NPCs and monsters whose icon connections make them meaningful opponents—not just random foes
  • Use traps and terrain to provide a challenging environment with opportunities for clever tactics
  • Unleash all-new monsters on the PCs, along with new magic items to wield in battle.
  • Easily adjust battles to make them easier, or harder
  • Use the provided storylines to link each battle to the ones that come after, taking the PCs from one full heal-up to the next using only the battles in the set – with room to expand on these stories to fill multiple sessions of gameplay.

From a white-knuckle white-water ride past orcish hordes, to abseiling kobolds and a perilous magical cloud fortress, High Magic & Low Cunning takes your players on an unforgettable journey to adventure.

The digital download includes “The Wizard’s Gifts”, a bonus scene that’s not in the printed book. You can also get the complete set of High Magic & Low Cunning printed color maps in the High Magic & Low Cunning Map Folio.

The enemy awaits. Are your heroes ready?

 

Stock #: PEL13A11 Author: Cal Moore
Artwork: Patricia Smith, Rich Longmore Developer: Rob Heinsoo
Cartographers: Pär Lindström , Gill Pearce, Ralf Schemmann Type: 192 page monochrome perfect bound book

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ROB_tileMy Playtest Feedback Process

by Rob Heinsoo

I’m just about to start going through playtest feedback for 13th Age in Glorantha. I thought readers of this blog might be interested in how I process playtest feedback for 13th Age books.
Sometimes I read playtest feedback right away. But usually I wait and read as much of it as possible in a single big batch. Glorantha’s first playtest is going to take the big batch approach.

In either case, I take the good ideas I like out of it, or notes that seem to be identifying major problems, and write them down in my own words in single sentence summaries, sometimes noted as to whose feedback they came from. I keep these notebook pages of possible playtest changes going through the entire process. (I write small so I can fit a lot on a two page spread!)

When I’m ready to implement the changes, I start by reading the whole list of possible changes. After crossing off notes that have proven incorrect, I start in and work through the notebook pages list, crossing notes off as I deal with them or decide they aren’t actually problems. How do I decide when comments aren’t problems? A few ways, but mostly through uncovering that the rest of the feedback supports a feature a couple people found problematic, or discovering that the original comments were in fact inaccurate, or by creating new design elements that sidestep the issue, or by weighing the evidence and judging that what bothered the tester is a feature instead of a bug!

Sometimes I’ll get playtest advice that’s so good, accurate, and important that I want to make changes immediately. That happens most often during playtest feedback on classes, when something sparks that can fix a lingering problem or create a wonderful new dynamic.

In most cases, it’s better to wait a few days or weeks longer and make changes in one thoughtful extended pass, because even small changes can require multiple revisions scattered throughout the document. Revising the same sections multiple times because of repeated changes is not only maddening, it also seems to increase the risk of me screwing up a change that should have rippled out to multiple pages of the book.

I suspect that other designers handle playtest feedback differently. But I admit that I’m not sure. I haven’t asked many other designers how they handle the playtest revision process with RPGs.

Here’s a picture of what a typical page of playtest process looks like in my notebooks. These were notes from last year on Robin’s The Strangling Sea.

Yes, I’m still writing in notebooks. When I’m rolling with design work I’m usually just typing into a computer, but when I’m noodling ideas or writing notes about things I want to think about before acting on, I use a pen.

 

 

And while I’m taking photos, here’s the pile of all the notebooks I’ve used for 13th Age design. They’re all from my friend Sara’s company, MakeMyNotebook.com, I love the weight of the paper and their spiral-bound durability as well as the fun covers. I’ve used one full book already for 13th Age in Glorantha (blue robot) and it looks like I’ll use up at least another half (black fish).

(This was previously posted on Rob’s personal blog, robheinsoo.blogspot.com)

Dragon Riding coverThe lethal combination of dragon and rider helped create the Dragon Empire. Now unleash the fury on your foes! Full rules for player character dragon riders appear alongside story advice for campaigns looking to add dragon-riding options. Plus, we’ve made it easy to hack the system so you can devise other styles of riding. (Anyone up for tarrasque racing?)

Dragon Riding is the first installment of 13th Age Monthly Vol. 1. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 1 to get all 12 issues plus the Free RPG Day adventures Make Your Own Luck and At Land’s Edge!

Stock #: PEL13AM02D Author: Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW
Artist: Lee Moyer, Rich Longmore Pages: 8pg PDF

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by Rob Heinsoo

Orc TileWhen I read the fun Wrath of the Orc Lord organized-play adventure written by ALL CAPS WOMAN, aka ASH LAW, I decided I’d want another orc variety or two if I was running the adventure myself. For those keeping pace with the 13th Age OP seasons, Wrath of the Orc Lord is just about over. But I suspect a lot of groups will still be experiencing Wrath and (not-really-a-spoiler-alert) ASH says that the Domain of the Dwarf King adventure coming up in a few weeks also features orcs.

So here’s a new 3rd level orc mook that can sub in for 3rd level Cave Orc mooks or used any other way you like.

My thought process designing the monster went like this:

  1. I’ve got some nice orc minis with spears and shields.
  2. What’s an interesting reason orcs would be fighting with spears?
  3. To keep them at a distance from their foes, so that they wouldn’t lapse into bestial bloodlust, throw away their weapons, and fight with their bare hands and teeth.
  4. OK, so the Orc Lord equips these savage grunts with spears and cheap shields because they do fight better with weapons, but when they lose control or things go badly for them they throw away their weapons and shields and revert to scavenger behavior. So they’re not even trained in throwing spears, and the spears are probably deliberately badly-balanced for throwing.
  5. Looks like two different stat blocks, one for fighting with weapons, one for when the Orc Lord’s discipline has been shattered and they’re fighting tooth and claw.

The results follow. Start battles using the orc spear grunt, which are tougher than most other mooks. Their bestial reversion ability means they might turn into savage grunts midway through the battle.

The savage grunts have a strange ability which is me messing around a bit: their feral aversion ability kicks in whenever they start their turn engaged with a non-staggered enemy, you roll a die and you don’t know if the orc is going to use that die roll to attack (standard action) or disengage (move action).

Orc Spear Grunt

3rd level mook [humanoid]

Initiative: +5

Spear +8 vs. AC—7 damage

Mob of seven: The maximum size of a mob of orc spear grunts is 7 mooks. When you include more than seven orc spear grunts in a battle, use another mob.

Bestial reversion: When an orc spear grunt’s attack drops an enemy to 0 hp or below, or when one or more orc spear grunts drops, roll a single normal save for the orc spear grunt mob, with a bonus to the roll equal to the number of remaining mooks in the mob (for example, 4 mooks left = +4). If the save fails, all the remaining mooks in the mob cast away their weapons and shields and become savage grunts until the end of the battle (use that stat block instead).

AC   20

PD    16                 HP 13 (mook)

MD  12

Mook: Kill one orc spear grunt for every 13 damage you deal to the mob.

Savage Grunt

3rd level mook [humanoid]

Initiative: +5

Claw and teeth +6 vs. AC—5 damage

Feral aversion: When a savage grunt is engaged with a non-staggered target at the start of its turn, roll a d20 that will become either an attack roll or a disengage check!

On a natural even roll, the grunt uses the roll as a claws and teeth attack.

On a natural odd roll, the grunt uses that roll as disengage check that may or may not succeed. If the grunt disengages, it will move to engage and attack a staggered enemy, if possible. If the grunt doesn’t disengage, it will stay and fight.

AC   17

PD    15                 HP 10 (mook)

MD  12

Mook: Kill one savage grunt for every 10 damage you deal to the mob.

13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Rob_HeinsooObskures.de recently interviewed three-fourths of the creative team behind 13th Age. (Aaron McConnell was on deadline and chained to his drawing table that week.) In this installment, co-designer Rob Heinsoo is on the hot seat. 

obskures.de: How did you get involved in gaming, and how did you make the leap to becoming a professional?

Rob Heinsoo: I found a Lowry’s Hobbies ad in the back of Boy’s Life magazine when my family lived in Herbornseelbach Germany in the early 70’s. I started ordering and playing wargames: my first was Fight in the Skies, featuring WWI fighter planes. I ordered Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 when we got back to the USA. I ran games for my sixth-grade friends in Kansas using half-understood mechanics, filling in with melee rules from Napoleonic skirmish wargames when we couldn’t understand the combat tables.

I first started meeting gamers whom I hadn’t taught when we moved to Oregon a couple years later. I played most of the early games — my favorites as a kid were probably Bunnies & Burrows, Tunnels & Trolls, Melee/Wizard, Lou Zocchi’s Knights of the Round Table and McEwan Miniatures’ Star Guard, a sci-fi miniatures game.

In high school I got involved with the Alarums & Excursions fanzine put out by Lee Gold, thanks to a mention in the back of the Arduin Grimoire. The games I liked most then, Runequest, Champions, and Arduin, got a lot of attention in A&E. I started contributing and therefore got to know a lot of people who ended up writing games or owning game companies.

I started working professionally in the game industry just about the time the Internet came into common use. Jobs at Daedalus and Chaosium and A-Sharp and Wizards of the Coast followed, along with many periods of freelancing and work on everything from collectible card games about soccer to roleplaying games about Hong Kong action movies and computer games I mostly can’t talk about yet.

obskures.de: What was the first role playing book you owned?

Rob Heinsoo: Brown box original D&D.

obskures.de: What does a typical working day look like? What do you do, when you are not working on 13th Age?

Rob Heinsoo: As the lead designer for Fire Opal Media I’m involved to some extent in all our games, tabletop and electronic. I also still design some games freelance, notably card games like Epic Spell Wars from Cryptozoic. I’ve got at least one other freelanced card game coming out in 2013.

Other gaming includes an upcoming sci-fi spaceship campaign I’ll get to play in instead of running. Miniatures games I’m always fond of, but don’t play enough. My favorites are DBA and the newer SAGA skirmish game from Studio Tomahawk.

I read, write stories, socialize, play on two soccer teams, and blog at robheinsoo.blogspot.com, sometimes about 13th Age.

obskures.de: Why did you use Kickstarter for 13 True Ways but not for 13th Age?

Rob Heinsoo: Our publisher, Pelgrane Press, asked us not to use Kickstarter for 13th Age, mainly because they’d been burnt by a Kickstarter project that never surfaced. Once we’d pushed 13th Age firmly into the ‘actually almost finished’ column, Pelgrane felt better about getting associated with another Kickstarter project. And in fact they have followed up with two Kickstarter campaigns of their own.

obskures.de: What is your favorite role playing game?

Rob Heinsoo: For mechanics, I lean toward D&D and d20-rolling fantasy. For the RPG world I like thinking about Glorantha, the world used by RuneQuest and HeroQuest.

obskures.de: Who is your favorite game designer and/or game artist?

Rob Heinsoo: Roleplaying designer? Robin Laws. Current boardgame designer? Chad Jensen has been doing things I’ve greatly enjoyed for GMT. And Eric Lang has done a couple of the games I’ve enjoyed playing most in recent years.

obskures.de: What do you think about the recent projects by your  ex-colleagues at Wizards, such as Numenera by Monte Cook? I really thought 13 True Ways would be more successful than Numenera, but I was wrong.

Rob Heinsoo: I backed the Numenera Kickstarter. The game is like a birthday present I can anticipate but I don’t have to do anything more to receive.

As to your original guess about relative Kickstarter performance, I don’t know of any alternate worlds in which a 13 True Ways Kickstarter could have out-performed a Numenera Kickstarter.

obskures.de: What do you plan next for 13th Age, and in general?

Rob Heinsoo: Shards of the Broken Sky, an adventure book. 13 True Ways. A bestiary produced by Pelgrane. Some surprising organized play. And maybe other surprises.

obskures.de: Finally, some fun and quick questions. We start with: Role playing is …

Rob Heinsoo: …a wonderful way of life.

obskures.de: Fighter, Cleric, Rogue or Wizard?

Rob Heinsoo: It occurs to me that from a roleplaying perspective, I tend to play fighters as if they were rogues, rogues as if they were sorcerers and wizards as if they were clerics.

obskures.de: Gamemaster or player?

Rob Heinsoo: Gamemaster. It took me longer to become a good player: there are GMs in the world that I still owe apologies to.

obskures.de: Your favorite game product you worked on (aside from 13th Age)?

Rob Heinsoo: Shadowfist for Daedalus. King of Dragon Pass for A-Sharp. D&D Miniatures for WotC. And a game that isn’t public yet from Fire Opal Media. In truth, however, 13th Age IS my favorite above all of these. Just saying.

obskures.de: I get the best ideas for my games when … or I am most creative when …?

Rob Heinsoo: My goal, and my entire work-style, is to avoid having just one answer to that question.

The designers and developer did a seminar at Gen Con introducing 13th Age to an audience that had, up until then, only known of it through rumor and hearsay. We got this short video clip, and wanted to share:

You can hear more about 13th Age this weekend at PAX, where Rob Heinsoo will appear on the panel “13th Age, Dungeon World and More: Old School RPGs With Modern Design” with Logan Bonner, Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel. Also, Rob H. and Rob W. will be running 13th Age in the Indie Tabletop Games on Demand room, and you can stop by our table on the 2nd floor of the convention center.

In the meantime you can pre-order 13th Age and download a playable copy of the rules in progress, and back Rob and Jonathan’s Kickstarter for 13 True Ways.

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