Trail of Cthulhu and the 13th Age

Trail of Cthulhu was a game-changer for Pelgrane. I was very excited when Chaosium agreed to the license, and when I added Kenneth Hite to Robin Laws’ GUMSHOE system I was pretty sure we had horror gamer catnip. The analogy with 13th Age is plain. Take the two developers of the previous versions of D&D, free them to do exactly as they wish, and we get something fresh, original and idiosyncratic for fantasy gamers. If you look at my business post – you can see what happened in 2008 when Trail was released, and in 2011 when 13th Age was placed on pre-order.

For both projects, the look and art was a given – it had to be Jérome Huguenin for Trail, and Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell for 13th Age. Ken’s interactions with Jérome’s art influenced the final Trail manuscript, and Rob riffed off Aaron and Lee’s take on the 13th Age. These weren’t artists called into illustrate a finished project – their art influenced the writers and designers, and vice versa.

The two lines have another similarity. They are both commercial and critical successes. 13th Age is rapidly catching up with Trail in terms of core book sales, and reviews of both lines are stellar. So why I am I banging on this? Well, 13th Age is at the stage where Trail of Cthulhu was in 2008, and I want to give 13th Age players an idea of  the extent of support we will give 13th Age; so that if you mount the 13th Age dragon, you have some idea where the ride might take you.

Trail of Cthulhu

Since Trail launched in 2008, we’ve released 33 supplements, including music and compilations, racking up 13 ENnie awards, nominations and honourable Our most widely acknowledged contribution to Mythos gaming is in the breadth and innovation of our adventure design and 21 of these releases were adventures. The first supplement for Trail of Cthulhu was Stunning Eldritch Tales – Robin Laws establishing a benchmark for Trail adventures, which Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan followed up with Arkham Detective Tales. Here are a few more highlights:

Shadows over Filmland: this set of adventures mixes up the Mythos with the horror films of the 1930s, and includes the Backlot Gothic , the gloomy and torch-wieldling festooned setting for thos films. Each chapter has a frontispiece illustrated by Jérome in the style of a film still. So, meet the Lord of the Apes, Dracula, the invisible man, zombies and Dr Frankenstein – who has Herbert West’s lab notes.

Rough Magicks – Ken’s more detailed take of mythos spells and rituals was followed by Robin’s Armitage Files, a new take on GUMSHOE which encouraged improvised play, showing the versatility of the system (and the creator).

Graham Walmsley’s Purist adventures: featuring the sad and the soul-sapping, Graham brought a new aesthetic to Trail, where hope is lost, characters have no good choices and the Mythos is victorious. They have since been collected together in Final Revelation. series of PDF adventures: by authors including Jason Morningstar, Bill White and  Adam Guantlett allowed those authors to play their own games in our playground of despond, giving us scenarios set in Georgian times, in the Great War, at the dawn of the Nuclear Age and in a 1930s apocalypse, now collected in Out of Time and Out of Space.

Bookhounds of London is Ken’s bravura take on a Mythos city book, which with its companion volume Paulas Dempsey’s Book of the Smoke formed part of the amazing Bookhounds of London limited edition.

Finally, I’ll mention the culmination of years of work from Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball, with help from many others: Eternal Lies, the world-spanning adventure inspired by Chaosium’s seminal campaigns. Combined with James Semple and his team’s music this is truly epic and the most ambitious book we have created to date.

We will continue to support Trail with vigour – it is evergreen. Coming up are Mythos Expeditions, Dreamhounds of Paris  and Fearful Symmetry. Many more are in the pipeline.

13th Age

Its clear that 13th Age will be bigger than Trail. We will support 13th Age just as solidly and vigourously as we have Trail of Cthulhu, bring in top writers and artists, and our own uninhibited take on fantasy roleplaying. Fire Opal Media are producing some books in-house for Pelgrane to publish (13 True Ways) – with others we are working with various degrees of collaboration mainly with Rob Heinsoo on the Fire Opal side. So what should you expect?

We will work with the best people we can find who are inspired by 13th Age. Whether that’s our staff, freelancers we respect, or third-parties taking our open game license engine and having their own take on the Archmage Engine, we are happy.

So what’s to come?

  • The 13th Age Bestiary is in layout, and it combines everything we’ve learnt from monster creation in the Dying Earth, the Book of Unremitting Horror and Trail itself – that is, monsters should be entertaining and carefully constructed opponents, but also adventures in their own right with life and background – but they should not be set in stone. We want GMs to have the material they need to reimagine their creatures to fit their version of the 13th Age.WoodElves
  • 13 True Ways is a labour of love by the original designers at Fire Opal, and features the elements 13th Age fans have said are missing from their games – in particular a wider range of classes and creatures. Progress report here.
  • Shadows in Eldolan brings an urban mystery for 1st level adventurers featuring rival wizard schools and the undead – a benchmark adventure.
  • The Lair of the Stone Thief is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s dungeon campaign featuring a living dungeon, malevolent and viscious with a similarity to a certain white whale.
  • Shards of the Broken Sky is a  sandbox adventure for 13th Age centering on the crash of one of the Archmage’s flying realms. As threats multiply, the flying land turns out to have been the control point for magical wards neutralizing three ancient evils. With the cone of secrecy shattered, each of the thirteen icons offers rival opportunities for glory, plunder, or heroic sacrifice.
  • The Strangling Sea is Robin D Laws introductory adventure. In this 13th Age adventure for a party of 4-6 1st-level adventurers, our heroes attempt to retrieve the enigmatic engineer Inigo Sharpe from his unfortunate imprisonment in the Stranglesea. This fantastical equivalent of our world’s Sargasso Sea traps wrecked ships, strands castaways, and supports an array of dangerous animal life.

These are still at the pitch stage – let us have your comments:

A 13th Age GM’s screen which is based on The Noteboard, and a Noteboard based battlemat with the 13th Age map on one side and a whiteboard on the other.

All for Love: (1st to 10th level campaign) Every generation, the rich, beautiful, politically powerful Orlando family introduces its sons and daughters into Imperial court life in a series of balls, jousts, tournaments, and increasingly perilous quests.

Every generation, the Orlandos’ rivals (human and otherwise) try to destroy them in a series of vendettas, assassinations, and increasingly unhinged proposals of marriage. You and your fellow heroes have fallen in love with the newest generation of Orlandos — or at least with their wealth, beauty, and political power. What will you do to win their attentions, to protect the things — and perhaps even the people — you love? Everything it takes, of course.

A book on Icons and their organisations.

Kenneth Hite’s Swords and Mythos – either a straight Earth port, or set in an earlier age: both of Ken’s pitches follow:

Swords and Mythos – Terran Version

From Sarnath to Mu to Hyperborea to Cimmeria, the ancient Earth swarms with dark cults, eldritch horrors, and foul magics — and with mighty heroes who drive them back into nightmare or master inhuman lore for human gain. This sourcebook reframes 13th Age for the primal Earth of heroic dark fantasists like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, and Richard Tierney — and for a surprising amount of Lovecraft! Gods and monsters of the antediluvian Earth appear, ready to topple civilization or sink a continent. Magic, Icons, Relationships, and One Unique Things get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got the steel to meet them in the shadows.frostgiant

Swords and Mythos – 13th Age Version

Before the Dragon Empire, before the storms calmed in the Midland Sea, before the Elf Queen took her oaken throne, before the Orcs were formed from the corpse-meat of a forgotten species, there was an age of terror and wonder — the Zeroth Age. The oldest Icons ruled, then: the Tattered King, the Dreamer in the Deep, and the Crawling Chaos, Icons that walked the world as Avatars and selected heroes to carry steel and shape sorcery in the names of those Great Old Ones. In this “swords and Mythos” setting, the familiar 13th Age rules and Relationships get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got what it takes to meet them in the shadows.

The OGL and Third Party Publishers

We’ve presented a clear and complete SRD, and in the next week or two, expect to see compatibilty licenses for publishers similar to those used for Pathfinder (we thank Paizo for the use of their license). The following creators have added 13th Age to their project.

  • Dragon Kings project: Timothy Brown, creator of Dark Sun setting is providing a PDF rules supplement, funded through his Kickstarter.
  •  Sasquatch Game Studio: Features Richard Baker (3rd edition, Pathfinder), Stephen Schubert (3e, 4e, D&D Miniatures), and David Noonan (3e, 4e, Pathfinder) and their Primeval Thule offers 13th Age rules alongside D&D and Pathfinder
  • Vorpal Games: Brian R. James (3e, 4e, Pathfinder), Matt James (4e, Pathfinder) in their Red Aegis RPG.
  • RKDN Studios: artist Chris McFann, whose work with publishers helps him bring designers such as Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur and Ed Greenwood to projects such as the Bestiary of the Curiously Odd .

Watch out for a big announcement in the next couple of months, featuring a big RPG name.



14 Responses to “Trail of Cthulhu and the 13th Age”

  1. Machpants says:

    The Swords and Mythos both look great, but Conan-esque 13th Age? Yes please.

  2. Aaron Smith says:

    I would like to propose a voting system, or a poll that can be voted on for the upcoming or proposed projects. I would _love_ to place my vote for the Swords and Mythos Terran version, while the 13th age version leaves me cold.

  3. dodgepong says:

    Re: the Noteboard, I have been *dying* for a battlemat like the Chessex ones that has a square grid on one side, but is blank on the other. The Noteboard is close, but I honestly don’t like the spaces caused by the cutouts.

  4. Melody Haren Anderson says:

    I’ll be honest, the GM screen, the battlemat (though I have no clue if I’d ever use that), the icon book, and Swords and Mythos (I prefer the 13th Age version slightly more, since we have Primeval Thule… but both DO sound good) all are things I’d want VERY MUCH.

    I’m not sure if I’d use All for Love, BUT… that said, it looks like something I’d mine for ideas if nothing else! But it’d be lower on my “to buy first” list than the others.

  5. Alloyed says:

    All For Love sounds awesome, as do the two upcoming intro adventures. Like, I wish I had those right now to use to introduce people to the game. Sadly rubbing my wallet on the screen doesn’t appear to be doing anything.

    The Terran version of the Sword & Mythos sounds boss; if the 13th Age version had its own primordial deities rather than just slapping Nyarlathotep in it I’d be more interested, but I don’t find the mashup style crossovers particularly compelling. The Terran version, though, sounds like a perfect storm of Hite-ian madness.

  6. M. Gordin says:

    Both of the Swords and Mythos pitches sound great – I’d definitely pick those up.

  7. kim says:

    i really love all for love

  8. Bryant says:

    Terran Swords and Mythos sounds awesome.

  9. Hello,

    First I would like to say that I have been GM’ing a 13th age game for the past 5 months and my players and I love it.

    I have been a GM for 13 years and GM’d a plethora of game types and 13th age is like a breath of fresh air after being in a lich’s tomb.

    That being said, I would pay quite a bit for a Chessex Mat that was the 13th Age world map on one side and squares/hexs on the other. With as story/plot driven as the game is, it would be the biggest benefit.

    As for it being a noteboard, I have a problem with that. They are kind of annoying. Great in theory, but they never quite work right, and there is just something much more visually stimulating about seeing the world map on a tan leather-like mat that would go over both thematically and functionally.

    I would also love to see a kickstarter for some 13th age dice.

    Really happy to see more effort being put into 13th age by Pelgrane. If you don’t mind, I would like to share how my 13th age story started.

    In August of this last year (2013) I went to GenCon with the purpose of trying DnD next. I had just come back from a year long deployment overseas and had played 4th Ed 3x a week for 12 months. My players were excited to try something new.

    I was at lunch on the second day of the con when my friend mentioned that he had already been to play test DnD next, and I could take a look at the character sheet if I wanted to. I said yes and he grabbed it out of his bag, and went back to eating.

    I looked at it for a few minutes and started to get excited. Look at all of these new ideas. I quickly asked, “so, what’s the one unique thing?”

    He laughed and said oops, and that he had handed me the wrong sheet.

    It didn’t matter. I was hooked. I sat and looked at all of the massive potential just on the character sheet and quickly demanded where the booth was that he got this. I left lunch immediately and went to find this 13th age game, before they sold out.

    I found the Pelgrane press booth and quickly asked the lady with the lovely accent wtf 13th age was and how much money did she need from me.

    She said one sentence that still sticks with me, “Well, its what DnD should have been. ” I laughed and then looked over and saw Mr. Heinso standing there and knew I was going to be in good hands.

    Now, 5 months later, I am begging for more source materials. Seriously, True Ways needs to be out yesterday.

    Here is looking at you guys and I will be following your updates.

    Thanks. Steve

  10. Kalev Tait says:

    While both Swords and Mythos do sound good, the Terran one gets my vote as well – mostly as it seems a better ‘fit’ for Ken.

  11. Michael Pace says:

    I vote for “Swords and Mythos- Terran Version” There are very few in print Conan style games out there. Out of the current in print Conan games, one is a board game and the other 2 are oldschool RPG’s. I would very much like to see a modern adaptation of a Conan style RPG.

  12. Antonio Eleuteri says:

    The GM screen with map and the Sword & Mythos, Terran version, I would pay immediately for. Like, NOW.

  13. Gavin says:

    Sword and Mythos for 13th Age sounds amazing!

  14. David Paul says:

    I’d vastly prefer the Terran version of Swords & Mythos.

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