I had enormous fun running games and freeform demos of 13th Age at GenCon. On the way I met…
… a halfling with a clockwork heart made by the dwarves who revealed his extra gear when it came time to snatch the treasure
…an elven ranger who’d lost his eyes to faulty justice and received two opals from the Elf Queen in recompense so that he is now known as the Queen’s Eyes
…the five favorite sons of the Imperial party circuit in Axis (as close to the Brat Pack as I can imagine running in my serious-adventure versions of 13th Age!)
...another group of PCs who sorted themselves more or less into bandits and pursuers, so that I could start the action with a Spaghetti Western style face-off with icon relationship rolls complicating the backstory until the real bandits attacked
…a pyromaniac wood elf who turned out to mainly be burning out temples and cultists of the Diabolist thanks to the guidance of the Crusader, but was too tight-lipped to bother explaining that to horrified onlookers
…a halfling acrobat who’d managed to perform his way out of the Diabolist’s Circus of Hell (I hadn’t known there was a Circus of Hell!)
…another halfling rogue who was a dealthless pirate whose soul is trapped by the Blue in Drakkenhall
…an impolitic lady-in-waiting of the Imperial Court more suited to smiting monsters and rival courtiers with her awesome Golden Monastery skills
…and a dwarf cleric/explorer who found it in his heart to overcome a life spent subjugating nature to open himself to the power of the High Druid just in time to get the boost he needed to be flung from the ground by earth elementals and put the hammer-smack onto the imp escaping with the Emperor’s Earrings (…that were about to returned to the Dwarf King, since the rest of the party didn’t have a bead on the treasure!)
The One Unique Thing element of character creation, along with the backgrounds and the icon relationship roll mechanics, mean that every game of 13th Age gets to surprise the GM as much as it surprises the players. I left the convention inspired and happy instead of tired the way I sometimes am after running demos that are variations on the same theme.
Of course there were other wonderful One Unique Things and backgrounds generated by players, but I hesitate to write them all out now. The happiness of people creating their character’s unique story isn’t aided by me saying, “Oh yeah, I’ve run another game where someone did something similar.” I know that in the long, or even the short run, people will be sharing loads of stories about their characters, just for this moment I’m content not to record full lists.
We will be running more two hour demos at PAX next weekend. I’ll be there on Friday and Sunday as part of our demo team that will be running all weekend. We use pre-generated characters that leave all the fun story stuff to the players to create in the first hour of the demo: UniqueThing, backgrounds, icon relationships. I’m gonna see if we can work with the same sort of freeform experience that works with what the players bring to the table. It may be tough for GMs who aren’t as fluid with the game or it may work out perfectly, we’ll see.