Monday, November 3, 2014

Six Kobolds walk into a bookstore. . . .


Kobold Guide to Combat (Print Preorder) - Click Image to Close

I'm used to getting together with friends for gaming on Wednesday night. But this Wednesday is different, with a different set of friends, and we'll be on a panel at a bookstore talking about games instead of playing.

Kobold Press is publishing the Kobold Guide to Combat. Editor Janna Silverstein has brought together a few of us Seattle-area contributors for a panel/reading/minotaurshit session (if you have to ask, that's triple the experience point value of a bullshit session) at the University Bookstore at 7 p.m. That's the main UW bookstore at 4236 University Way NE and of course it's a free event. (Some early reports showed the event at 6 p.m. Ignore that disinformation campaign by jealous hobgoblins. 7 p.m. is the hour.)

The panel will be huge fun. With Chris Pramas and Jeff Grubb and Steve Winter and Wolf Baur and novelist John A. Pitts, Janna is going to have her wrangling-facilitator hands full.

Come by to say hello, roll a couple dice (I'll bring them!), buy a copy of the new book, and acquire autographs for handwriting analysis.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Composing the 13th Age

Here’s a uniquely wonderful experience I never imagined having: spending the last year commenting and kibitzing as James Semple and his team of composers and live musicians created the 13th Age soundtrack!
James is in his last couple weeks of work on the album, putting all the pieces together. I just finished writing short liner notes for two dozen tracks. Simon Rogers and James will add to the notes, dialogue-style. That’s perfect since to a small extent Simon and I got to talk about tracks all year long as James created and revised . . . and had new tracks spring on him out of nowhere!
Some of the music is meant to be looped in particular moments of play. Other tracks capture the spirit of a particular icon or location. It’s all excellent. As the album has come together, I’ve been thinking about my mom, a talented singer and classical music lover who died a few years ago. Her influence certainly helped me have any opinion worth hearing as James’ music came together, and I have to thank James and Marie-Anne Fischer and all James' other collaborators for the fact that this soundtrack would have been the first product associated with my gaming career that my mom would have enjoyed! I’m not being melancholy about this. I’m amused that work creating a fantasy world finally led back around to a creative effort that would have amused the woman who introduced me to the Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis, but didn't have much use for fantasy after that. These songs? These songs she would have loved.
The two pieces I’m linking to now are the first and the last pieces composed, I believe. The 13th Age Theme is a rousing start, with moments for reflection. Dreams of a Lost Age came out of nowhere at the very end, a lovely piece that may have many different expressions in the various cultures and traditions of the Empire.

I know that James and Simon are working to get the soundtrack published as quickly as possible. I don’t think we have a firm date yet.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why Jonathan Loves the Red Moon

When my 13th Age collaborator Jonathan wants to blog about game-stuff, he does it here. We're in the last four days of our 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter, and today Jonathan wants to talk about the best bad guys: worshipers of the Red Goddess. We'll be covering them as enemies in the 13th Age in Glorantha book. Those who want deep information on the history and philosophy that Jonathan loves will probably want to add a copy of the Glorantha Source Book to their Kickstarter loot. 

Glorantha has the best villains. There are fearsome, human-eating trolls. There are venomous, regenerating, octopus-headed Chaos giants. But the top villain prize goes to the Lunar Empire and its plan for universal harmony—that is, world domination. Anyone who’s known me for five minutes knows that I adore irony and ambiguity, which is where the Lunars come in. To their enemies, they’re an abomination, but in their own eyes they’re just undertaking the thankless job of enlightening the world. The Lunar Empire recognizes its chief divine enemy in Orlanth, the supreme god of the PCs’ default culture. The Lunar Empire has what I’m looking for in my villains: sophisticated philosophy, good intentions, and dangerous Chaos magic that’s terrifying to the player characters.

The Red Goddess and Chaos
The chief goddess of the Lunars is Sedenya, the Red Goddess. A few hundred years ago, she was born as a human in the sun-worshiping, patriarchal culture north of Dragon Pass, where 13th Age in Glorantha is set. She grew in power until she achieved full godhood. Unlike the old gods who existed before time, Sedenya incorporates opposites, such as life and death. She even accommodates Chaos, the otherworldly force that seems bent on destroying reality. She tames it and trains it to her will. Most Chaos monsters are hideous abominations, but the Lunar elites are neatly dressed and well educated. To the Lunars, their ability to live in harmony with Chaos demonstrates the superiority of their Way. To everyone else, their truck with Chaos proves that the Red Goddess is nothing but one more Chaos god out to pervert and destroy the world. Sedenya now floats high above her empire as the Red Moon.

The Lunar Way
Sedenya teaches her followers to rise above their traditional ways and to embrace universal enlightenment. Each subverted culture keeps its customs and power structure, but the ruling elites are Lunar initiates with a cosmopolitan view of the universe. Since the Empire can annex a land without overthrowing that land’s traditional ways, it has been able to expand continuously. In Dragon Pass, the Orlanth-worshiping people of Tarsh were converted to the Lunar way. There’s something unnerving about an enemy that wins by subversion and perversion instead of merely destruction.

Imperial Domination
We all love underdogs, so a domineering empire makes a great enemy. The Lunar Empire has been subverting and conquering other people left and right, including lands where Orlanth used to be the main deity. The Lunar armies are bigger, better equipped, and better trained than anything the surrounding lands can muster. Cadres of Lunar magicians are specially trained for battle, making the Lunar armies the most magically powerful in the world. What’s worse is that they don’t want to destroy you outright. They want to break you and your people so that you submit to their enlightened oversight. Above the Lunar armies, contingents of magicians, and subjugated rulers are the enlightened Lunar elites who think they have everything figured out and that they’re better than everyone else. What’s not to hate? 

Heroquesting
In 13th Age in Glorantha, the PCs regularly enter the world of myth, where they protect the founding legends of their people from the incursions of Chaos. It’s difficult enough when you meet a legendary hero in a myth and they’ve been corrupted by Chaos, but it’s even worse when Lunar heroquesters are hacking their way into your people’s myths in order to make them compatible with the Lunar Way. Will the PCs’ home turf advantage be enough to let them stop the Lunars and their reality-twisting magic? 

The Crimson Bat
To top it all off, the Lunars also have this giant Chaos demon bat monster with a dozen major eyes and hundreds of smaller ones. A small group of devoted and merciless magicians fly it around the provinces, where they feed rebels and other unfortunates to the Bat. It’s always hungry, and the souls of those devoured live in eternal torment within the Bat. I had the Bat show up in a RuneQuest campaign back in college. It was, at the time, the most terrible monster that had ever appeared in any of my RPG campaigns. 

Modern Humanism
For me the delicious thing about the Lunars is that they are similar to modern secular humanists. They just want to spread enlightened harmony across the world. They help traditional people rise above their parochial and conflicting world views to join together as one. “We Are All Us,” say the Lunars. In particular, they have helped people overcome strongly patriarchal cultures and promoted liberty and higher status for women. With this enlightened view, people can even see that things they once thought were abominations are really just fine. The modern style of the Lunar Way means that these Chaos-worshiping imperialists would also make great PCs in a campaign that plays out from the Lunar point of view. My secret hope is that 13th Age in Glorantha is successful enough that Rob and I can do that project next. 

--Jonathan Tweet, October 2014


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The One Unique Thing in Glorantha

(How did this Lunar mage break into the blog? See Oriane's story below.)

Four days left in the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter, and I'm having fun writing up pieces that are new to one or the other of the game's audiences...

My second favorite part of 13th Age character creation is selecting my character’s One Unique Thing. My very favorite part of 13th Age character creation is helping players figure out their characters’ One Unique Things when I’m the gamemaster!

Choosing your class, race, and powers is fun, but that’s all stuff the game provides, you’re pretty much shopping from menus, figuring out how to best accessorize a dwarf commander. Your One Unique Thing is your first chance to tell everyone how your character is special and how the upcoming campaign or one-shot session is going to be different than all others! As a rule, One Unique Things don’t provide powers, but it’s extremely common for characters with One Unique Things they love to find ways of orienting their later powers around their unique. The same goes for the campaign as the GM cycles between the central stories of each character, using characters’ One Unique Things and backgrounds as plot hooks that matter.

I’ve had a couple people tell me that the One Unique Thing will be an extremely interesting addition to Gloranthan roleplaying sessions because Glorantha hasn’t done this before. I agree that it’s going to be INTERESTING in the all-caps-excellent sense of that word. But I’m not so sure that the One Unique Thing is new to Glorantha.

I’m not arguing the point about other RPGs set in Glorantha. You could absolutely add the One Unique Thing to the next RuneQuest characters you create, and you probably should, I think it would be fun! Heroquest’s freeform character traits come a bit closer to setting up characters who have de facto One Unique Things, but the traits are part of the game’s mechanical system, and that’s not what 13th Age’s version is about, not at character creation anyway.

No, it’s not the game experiences that we’ve shared in Glorantha that have already introduced the concept of the One Unique Thing. It’s the Heroes and Superheroes that Jeff and Jonathan and I have loved for the past few decades of our Gloranthan fandom!

Jar-eel the Razoress is a daughter of the Red Emperor and the culmination of a mystic breeding plan to create the perfect person: magical eugenics! And it worked!

Harrek the Berserk skinned his own god and wears it as a cloak. (It’s occasionally fashionable, since his god was a White Bear.)

Harmast, the Orlanthi heroquester who is the protagonist of several of Greg’s novels, was the last of the Kodigvari, a line of Orlanthi sacred kings in the God Time.

Beat-Pot Aelwrin wears a freaking pot on his head, fights with a cleaver, and was recruited from the Imperial kitchens.

Androgeus combines the worst of both genders into one infinitely powerful package.

Sir Ethilrist went to Hell, but came back as the world’s top mercenary and the unique owner of a Doom Hound.

Arkat? Well, Arkat the Liberator aka Arkat the Destroyer aka Arkat the Betrayer aka Gbaji (?!) had this shtick where he gained a new One Unique Thing every time he gained a level!

You see the pattern, and if you know Glorantha you can add the others! Greg created his major Heroes with a One Unique Thing, because that’s how the best sagas and myths did it.

My certainty that our 13th Age characters had to have One Unique Thing as part of their initial conception? Quite possibly inherited in part from the stories I love most from Glorantha.

Think of it this way: your character may not survive to become a Hero, but 13th Age characters are essentially defined as the type of people who have the potential to become Heroes. That’s what sets them apart from NPCs. Most of the NPCs in the world do not have a One Unique Thing. The PCs are special, and in the case of 13th Age in Glorantha, they’re special in a way that some people will recognize as the spark of power that Heroes possess. Dangerous people to be around, but these are dangerous times.

So when you are creating your first One Unique Thing, think about the type of story have you always wanted to play, but haven’t quite been able to. You may not get to play it all the time, but when the GM or the other players turn the spotlight on you, it may be plots and stunts and adventures related to your unique that shine out.

I can’t be sure how often I’m going to get to play the game myself. I end up being the GM, a lot, and as I said, I don’t mind that. But when I think about the stories I would love to try out in Glorantha, here are the first few that come to mind, and a couple one-liners that Jonathan came up with.

Kitson: The only dark troll ever born to human parents. Father was probably a Kitori tribesman, mother was an Ernaldan priestess powerful enough to keep him and herself alive. My character bridges the worlds as a multiclass Zorak Zoran berserker and Orlanthi Wind Lord.

Karvadi the Claw: (Jonathan’s one-liner, my version) An alynx changed to human form! Probably the consequence of some ancient heroquest playing out, or possibly has no idea what really caused the transformation. Not especially devoted to Yinkin, god of alynxes/cats, because really, you expect a cat to somehow be devoted to another cat? That ‘let’s-worship-Yinkin’ stuff is for humans!

Oriane: Oriane is a powerful but troubled Vingan warrior with an even more powerful Vingan aunt named Jareen. Oriane's troubles largely stem from the strange and disturbing fact that her magic seems tied to the cycle of the Red Moon, which is pretty much like saying that her prayers to the Virgin Mary only work if she burns black candles and sacrifices a newborn. A troubling secret. As the campaign begins, Jareen is dying. On her deathbed, Jareen tells Oriane about a Lunar mage who has come unaccompanied into the clan's territory once every seven years since Oriane was born. Jareen has slain the Lunar every time, but he comes back seven years later looking exactly the same, yet more powerful, and Jareen now understands that Oriane will have to face the mage herself, and perhaps learn the truth about . . . well, you know. Unfortunately Jareen dies without saying when the Lunar mage is due back, or what his powers are. (The GM says "Thank you.")

Yelarn: One day a week, she is possessed by the spirit of one of her ancient ancestors. She keeps the same abilities and some of her knowledge, but her personality and soul varies depending on which ancestor is with her. Often it’s useful, as if the ancestors send someone to help. Sometimes it’s a big problem, as if the ancestors wanted to get someone troublesome out of their ectoplasmic hair for awhile. Obviously doesn’t come up every session, but when it does come up there are sometimes lasting consequences. As Yelarn grows in power, it might just be true that her ancestors start rearranging the gods and goddesses she worships, but those pages have yet to be turned.


Harad Stoneshaper: Harad is a straight out normal 13th Age fighter who worships Orlanth. He doesn’t consciously shape stone. Stone just happens to come to life when he spends much time around it. Statues bend into new shapes, stone doors warp open, buildings tend to survive upright for a time, but if he were imprisoned in a stone structure for weeks? The building wouldn’t survive. This is an example of a unique that starts small but who knows where it will go. The dwarves, for example, are going to *hate* this guy. Unless, that is, they figure out that he is actually the missing piece of one of their broken world engines. Which would be another style of problem!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sword Vale Death Quest

I’m writing up some examples of what 13th Age in Glorantha will feel like in play. Terms and mechanical elements are subject to change.
This first example has a key player character devoted to Humakt. Let’s name her Alana. Before we get into Alana’s One Unique Thing, a couple words about Humakt, the Sword God. Although he’s part of Orlanth’s ring, he is no longer Orlanth’s brother, having severed their kinship, probably as a consequence of Orlanth’s theft/misuse of Death in the Godtime.
But Alana is a female Sword of Humakt whose One Unique Thing is that alone of all Orlanthi, she is still kin to Humakt! What’s not clear yet in the campaign is whether Alana is technically Humakt’s impossible daughter/grand-daughter, or if she is somehow part of a Storm Clan that didn’t get severed from Humakt when he cut his kinship ties with the Storm Tribe in the Godtime. That’s the type of detail that’s better left to be determined by the events of the campaign. (Glorantha note: Alana’s player might have been inspired by rumors of Arkat being Humakt’s son, or she might have cut her way to this story as soon she learned that Humakt had cut himself away from kin.)

The setting, the enemy plot: In a valley named Sword Vale, sacred to Humakt, the Lunars are attempting to engineer a local heroquest that slays both Orlanth and Ernalda. The central myths, in which Orlanth and Ernalda quarrel with Humakt, are too minor to deal serious metaphysical damage to these supreme deities, but even a localized dead zone would be a terrible precedent. Perverse heroquesting of this sort might show the Lunars how to turn Humakt’s power against his allies.
The mechanics behind the story: The party’s Humakti, Alana, learns of the Lunar quest via rolling a 5 on her worship die this season. To be more precise, from the GM’s perspective, the Lunar quest wasn’t even happening until the Humakti rolled a 5 with a worship die. The worship die has generated an obligation and the GM invents the specific details of the Lunar plot to match Alana’s 5. 
Failure to act is failure indeed: The consequences of not even attempting to fulfill an obligation to your god are worse than failing when you try. If the PCs confront the enemy questers and fail, they may suffer damage and magical consequences, but they’ll have whittled down the rune-control consequences of the Lunar heroquest and the Lunars will be weaker than they would have been without the fight.
If Alana and the rest of the PCs simply ignore the Sword Vale problem, the Lunars will undertake the heroquest unopposed, allowing initiates of the Lunar war god Yanafal Tarnils (originally a perverted Humakti himself, according to some) to corrupt the Humakt myth into a Lunar tool. Alana will take a personal campaign loss, probably something that strikes at her core, given that her One Unique Thing is all about unexpected kinship with Humakt. In addition, Sword Vale becomes a new Lunar stronghold, a constant thorn that defies all of Orlanth’s, Ernalda’s, and Humakt’s powers and will have to be dealt with in the end by PCs who follow other gods.

The true action: So of course Alana and the PCs respond to Humakt’s warning. After fighting (or sneaking?) their way into Sword Vale, the PCs have to choose between
  • retaking the heavily guarded central Humakt shrine in order to charge directly into the Lunar heroquest (cue big fight scene), OR
  • performing a different Humakt quest in a different holy spot in the valley (that might or might not lead to direct confrontation, depending on their level of success it might get them into the Lunar myth or it might just partially re-establish Humakt’s control of the Death rune in the vicinity, but the Lunars might still gain more power than they had), OR
  • if the party’s Orlanth and Ernalda magic is much stronger this season than its Humakt magic, the PCs might perform one of the Ernalda and Orlanth wooing/wedding quests.
Note that these heroquests won’t be relevant to the Lunars’ plot within Sword Vale unless the quests are performed inside the valley. This adventure is set up with the notion that the Lunar heroquesters are already on the way to victory. Merely seizing the shrine back from the Lunars, and even managing to kill the Lunar questers *after* they emerge from the Godtime, will accomplish something. But if there’s no confrontation with the Lunar questers in the Godtime, even indirectly, the Lunar magic will probably win out, and Orlanth and Ernalda will be dead (or perhaps just dead to each other) in this valley.
Rewards: Each of the quests has its own odd complications and possible rewards. The biggest reward, since this is Humakt we’re talking about, comes to the war party that meets the Lunars head-on within the myth they’re trying to convert. The Lunars will surely face a battle against Humakti within the myth and if the PCs can have at least one Humakti with them (Alana!), the PCs can stand in for those Humakti. Killing Lunars dead within a Humakt myth? Priceless. Most likely, each PC that survives the battle would gain at least a temporary relationship with Humakt, or a temporary mastery of the Death rune, something that could be used to strong magical effect sometime in the next few sessions. As the central figure in the myth, Alana, along with one random PC (possibly even the party’s Ernaldan earth priestess!) will gain permanent blessings from Humakt, functioning exactly like a 13A magic item with a default bonus, power, and quirk, but connected to Humakt’s power.  
There might be other rewards possible, but in the case of this heroquest, I’d probably play that the other reward one or more PCs might gain would be part of the heroquest surprise, an unexpected scene/stage/battle/interaction in the Godtime that comes as a surprise appearing in the myth. In this myth, I’d probably determine the heroquest surprise partly using a rune relationship result a PC had floating at the start of the quest. If there were none, the heroquest surprise would come straight from a Lunar hell.
And speaking of Hells: You may have noticed that there’s a particular flavor of evil that is missing from this storyline: the Chaotic flavor. Yes, some Lunars are Chaotic. But in this instance, the truly Chaotic Lunars aren’t on-stage. These Lunars are operating far from the Crimson Bat and the other oogy elements of the Red Goddess’ pantheon, possibly because it would be just-stupid to bring obviously Chaotic beings into a Humakt heroquest you were hoping to subvert.
If you wanted to complicate the story above, the Lunars will get a lot more than they aimed at if they succeed with their quest. In fact, let’s set up Act Two no matter whether Alana succeeds or fails.
Act Two says that the Lunars’ attempt to slay Orlanth and Ernalda does not create an opening for the Red Goddess. Instead it creates an opening for a terrible mockery of the royal marriage, in which the king of the storm and the queen of the earth could be locally replaced by the Chaotic god of stolen knowledge (Thanatar) and the definitely-wronged/forever-vengeful Chaotic goddess of rape and monsters (Thed). Thanatar and Thed? Now that’s Oogy.

Maybe even so oogy that the PCs end up not-killing the Lunars as quickly as they would have normally since the Lunars are also trying to stop the Thanatari and the broos. But that’s a moral compass question for your campaign. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jonathan Calls on the Gods

My 13th Age collaborator Jonathan Tweet occasionally uses this space to write a guest blog on a gaming topic. Today he's introducing the gods of Glorantha to 13th Age players. He opens with a truth that I would have punctuated with an exclamation point! 

The gods of Glorantha inspired the icons of 13th AgeRob and I both value the way Gloranthan gods helped player-characters connect to the game world, and that’s basically where the icons came from.

With 13th Age in Glorantha, you’ll be able to see how these gods fulfill a function similar to that of the icons. The thing I like about Glorantha’s gods is that they have personal histories and particular personalities. Gods in game worlds can sometimes be generic and abstract, and in fact the icons of 13th Age are intentionally generic as well. The gods of Glorantha, however, are something different. They have detailed histories and complicated relationships to each other, creating a rich pantheon for gamers to explore. This post highlights some of the gods and shows why Rob and I think they’re so cool.


The Storm King, Orlanth
Orlanth is a mighty god, a destroyer and a builder, a rebel and a leader. His bywords are freedom and action, so he’s perfect as an adventurer’s deity. In the mythic past, Orlanth used Death to kill the Sun Emperor, plunging the world into darkness. Later, he led a party of “Lightbringer” gods into the Underworld to save the Sun and bring hope back to the world. Orlanth’s people are now often depicted as bronze-skinned warriors, I think of them as having a “Germanic barbarian” feel, given that they live in clans with chiefs, jarls, and thanes. In our default time period, the Orlanthi people have thrown off their conquerors from a more advanced civilization, the Lunar Empire. The Orlanthi, the Lunars, and everyone else with a bone to pick are getting ready for conclusive battles that will settle scores once and for all.




The Earth Queen, Ernalda
She is the Great Goddess, the power that reunited the world after it had been nearly destroyed by Chaos. She was once the wife of the Sun Emperor, but Orlanth killed him and demonstrated to Ernalda that he alone was worthy of her. Ernalda binds everything together. Without her, society could not exist, or even the world itself. She was originally an Earth goddess and still has many Earth-related aspects and allies. In times of trouble, Ernalda offers surprising powers, and when you’re playing 13th Age you know it’s going to be a time of troubles. 

Death’s Champion, Humakt
This dire god was the first to bring Death into the world, and he rules the Death rune. Although born a storm god and brother to Orlanth, he has cut his kinship ties to Orlanth and shed his connection to the winds. Now he is the pitiless god of battle and death. His devotees are fearless warriors with a special hatred of the undead. Truth and oaths are also part of Humakt’s purview, and his devotees follow strict codes of honor and justice. In their mind, the best defense is killing everyone who stands in their way. 

The Storm Bull, Urox
This horn-headed brother of Orlanth loves violence and hates Chaos. During the Great Darkness, he faced down and defeated Wakboth, a supreme incarnation of Chaos. Today, his followers are unruly berserks, tolerated by polite society because they are so good at finding and destroying Chaos monsters. Certain players love that sort of character, and maybe there’s one at your table. Urox’s most devoted followers undertake a heroquest that, if they’re successful, grants them horns that actually sprout from their heads. 

The Dark Power, Kyger Litor
She is the chief deity of the trolls. The trolls of Glorantha are both more human-like and more alien than the default trolls that d20-rolling adventurers have been hacking and burning since 1974. Like humans, trolls have a sophisticated culture, with their own myths, gods and mores. These trolls, however, are different. They are scary darkness creatures who will eat people if they can, but they are also devoted enemies of Chaos. Females are bigger than males, and they rule troll society. Due to an ancient curse, most troll births produce stunted dimwits, called trollkin and relegated to second-class status. Or maybe fifth-class status, since they sometimes get devoured. The domesticated animals in troll society are monstrous bugs of various sorts. Over the vast population of trolls rules Kyger Litor. She owns the Darkness rune and provides darkness magic to her worshippers. 

The Red Moon, Sedenya
Orlanth’s great foe is a new goddess, the Red Moon. Unlike the old gods who existed before Time, Sedenya can abide Chaos and even direct it toward positive ends (they say). Her son, the Red Emperor, rules the Lunar Empire, which is at war with the Orlanthi people. If you listen to the Lunars, they will tell you that they have a superior, sophisticated culture capable of reconciling dichotomies and even making peace with Chaos. Barbarians would do well to be reasonable and adopt Lunar beliefs and practices, they say. If the barbarians aren’t prepared to concede, the Lunars are willing to force the issue. The Lunars have already subverted many other cultures, following their goddess’s motto that “We Are All Us.” The Red Moon makes an excellent villain in a campaign, since she is both attractive and deadly. Her followers have excellent military organization, powerful schools of magic, and a religion that’s adept at taking over local beliefs. If that doesn’t work, the Lunars call on the Crimson Bat, a monstrous creature of Chaos [[rh: already added to the 13th Age in Glorantha book as a stretch goal]] that requires human sacrifices to live and that drives its enemies insane. As the Red Moon, the goddess Sedenya literally hangs high above her empire, day and night. From there, she sees her empire spread century by century.


If none of these gods prove to be your favorite, there are others. Babeester Gor is the avenging daughter who like to chop off pieces of her enemies with her mighty ax. The warrior god Elmal once served the Sun but left his court to join Orlanth, and now he is Orlanth’s loyal thane. Orlanth’s warrior daughter Vinga inspires adventurers, especially women, to undertake daring quests. The world of Glorantha is filled with gods from the cosmic to the local, and there are bound to be options that appeal to the various sorts of gamers you have at your table. Rob and I had our eyes opened when we first encountered Gloranthan gods decades ago. We’re both really excited to share more of what we love with the 13th Age crowd. When 13th Age in Glorantha debuts, you’ll see why. 

--Jonathan Tweet, October 2, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Talk Write Talk Write

Idle Red Hands

I'm not sure I've had a more satisfying interview than the podcast episode that Jeff Richard and I recorded with the Idle Red Hands crew last week! Jeff and I wove between Glorantha, 13th Age, and 13th Age in Glorantha. We covered the basics and then we dipped into a few surprises, including Jeff's account of the books we'd like to publish for 13th Age in Glorantha after the Kickstarter and my discussion of how it's going to be possible for some players to play a super-powerful Mistress Race Gloranthan troll! (Hint: It involves eating your lower-level character.) 

obskures.de
Meanwhile in the written digital word, Jeff and Jonathan and I answered some questions for Obskures. Jeff and Jonathan explained why Glorantha is good for thinking and good for gaming, while I talked a bit about the standard campaign dynamic of 13th Age in Glorantha


If you missed it, there was also a fun Iconic podcast with me and ASH LAW about 13th Age in Glorantha just before the Kickstarter began. This was the moment that it became clear to me that ducks were going to force their way into the book. I'd been slightly resistant, but slight resistance wasn't going to suffice, and the ducks have already joined us in style via a stretch goal named Feathered Fury


Speaking of stretch goals, we added three new goals over the weekend, floating the potential for a Chaos cult, an adventure, and long overdue playable mechanics for the bizarre secret societies that eventually came together to form a magician's army called the Sartar Magical Union. In our game, they will be a source of new talents, powers, and spells for most of the 13th Age player character classes. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Note the elf bow

While I've been wrapped up in the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter, there's been a whole lot of gaming bursting out of other pocket universes, including a second edition I've been wanting for years. I'll let a picture set the scene. The photo below is an artifact from my year at Chaosium, 1996-97, an artifact I'd forgotten about until a couple weeks ago.



That's page 52 from the Glorantha book called Elder Races, part of the Elder Secrets box set published by Avalon Hill. I hated the art in that book. Hated it so bad. Hated it so much that I couldn't bear to look at it. And hey: I didn't have to! Chaosium had a photocopier. I had a copy of Feng Shui. Voila! The page that's captioned "A green elf chieftain. Note the elf bow" looked a lot better when I photocopied Jeff Miracola's rendering of The Killer archetype from Feng Shui and pasted it on top of the original 'elf.'

I'd never resurfaced a book before and I've never done it since. This copy of Elder Races features rescue-guest illustrations from Seventh Sea, Pendragon, and Surviving On the Edge.

Of all these books, the one that's still with me is Feng Shui. And *right* *now*, Robin Laws and his dragon-band of sidekicks and sorcerers are running the Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter. Robin has updated the rules splendidly. The Kickstarter campaign is worthy. And a lot of the art looks good enough to color photocopy for personal use and paste over art you just can't bear to see one more time.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

13th Age in Glorantha, Chapter 1 Summary

13th Age in Glorantha will contain around twelve chapters. That’s too much to summarize in a single blog post, so this tour of the work-in-progress book starts with the first chapter: Initiations
As an opening chapter, Initiations introduces newcomers to Glorantha while unveiling several mechanics we’re creating to handle new styles of 13th Age adventures.
As part of Initiations, you’ll find. . . . .
. . . .a short introduction to Glorantha and its gods and runes. Runes aren't like the temporary magic items in the 13th Age core rulebook. Gloranthan runes are symbols that hold true cosmic power. They're the building blocks of reality, and sometimes also the weapons that can destroy pieces of reality you don't like. For example, the war god Humakt is the original wielder of the Death rune. . . and it’s shaped like a sword! Humakt is also the sworn enemy of things that break the laws of death, namely the undead. Humakt’s runes are Death and Truth, but he’s not the only god associated with these runes. Thanks to stretch goals, our book will also include the crazy-berserk troll god of Death and war, Zorak Zoran, who is the dishonorable opposite of Humakt who even offers necromancer-style secrets of creating undead! 


The Initiation’s chapter’s short overview of the world’s mythology has links pointing to all the other full myths that will be appearing later in the book. It will be what newcomers need as an introduction to the world, enough to get them rolling through the myths and dangerous locations later in the book. For those who want more, there will be more information in the Glorantha Source Book that’s also being created as part of the Kickstarter. 
. . . .the basics of the cosmological battle against Chaos, as well as notes on our game’s default setting, a catastrophic moment of Unraveling when Time’s web breaks and Chaos crashes in. The purpose of setting our action during a Chaos-eruption is that newcomers to Glorantha can feel free to play in the world without feeling like they need to understand all its previous details. Long-time fans of Glorantha can do as they like, newcomers can operate in the less-structured setting of the Unraveling.   
. . . . introduction of the system that’s taking the place of the icon relationships in the core 13th Age rulebook. The system appears to have two parts, worship and rune affiliation. Although the system is phrased as ‘worship’ in Glorantha it could easily be used in 13th Age games played in the Dragon Empire or any campaign world with icons. I’m excited about this revision of our freeform storytelling mechanics. We’ve started over, searching for what we most want to use for Glorantha-style games instead of just translating our existing mechanics.
. . . . an introduction to the way we’re handling playable myths. Take a Gloranthan myth, like the story of The Suitors, in which various gods seek to impress Ernalda. Tell the myth, paragraph by paragraph, in standard mythic prose. Wherever the myth demands, write-up a station of the heroquest that a worshipper (and friends) would experience when they cross to the Godtime and adventure within that myth. Myth stations end up something like rooms in a dungeon. What kind of dungeon? Not the logical real-world type! The mythic anything-can-happen & there’s always a heroquest surprise type of dungeon! The type of dungeon where Chaos is actively corrupting pieces of the myth you used to be able to count on, so that one of the suitors for Ernalda’s hand turns out to be an albino demon-Broo wielding a dragon-sword stolen from a heroquest the player characters fumbled earlier in their careers! On the bright side, death while you are heroquesting isn’t necessarily fatal, like death in the actual world—it just creates dangerous obligations, surprising weaknesses, or the type of plot complication/campaign loss that epics get built around . . . if you survive!
It’s worth mentioning that 13G campaigns will generally alternate between adventures taking place on the map and adventures played out in the Godtime of heroquesting. In a sense, the GM is encouraged to set up the war against Chaos (or the Lunars, or whoever the current enemies are) as a two-front battle, fought both in the mortal world and in the Godtime.
It’s also worth noting that low level player characters don’t delve all the way into the deep Godtime when they heroquest. They’re more likely to go on local heroquests, trying to chase the undead out of a particular set of valleys via magic (instead of hunting every last one down in person!), or restoring a desecrated shrine to the ancestors by returning to the moment the clan hero created the shrine, or recovering a specific war banner from a long-lost hill fort. Many of these low level heroquests will show up in the geography chapter that appears toward the end of the book.
At champion and epic tier, the heroes become more likely to survive serious myth-crawling, quests that intersect with the stories of the gods themselves instead the god’s children or followers. We’ll start seeing some of those serious cosmological myths when we get into the second chapter: Orlanth is Storm King.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

dark trolls, meet the Dragon Empire

The big troll chapter kicked into 13th Age in Glorantha Tuesday!

That sentence could be parsed a few ways, so let's work it out again. The Uz Rule Darkness chapter is going to be a big chapter and it's going to be about trolls, who are also big, though not generally as big as they are in games from the Tolkien and Gygax traditions.

We're going to spend a whole lot of 13th Age in Glorantha making sure our trolls are as awesome as when they erupted into Glorantha in Trollpak. But that's future typing. Today I just wanna mention a couple fun things I might do with Gloranthan trolls when I'm running 13th Age in the Dragon Empire setting of our Pelgrane books instead of running games in Glorantha.

This isn't any type of  'official' design talk. This is me coming up with stuff I'd throw into a campaign. Ah, alternate-world Glorantha variants: this is a gaming homecoming! This first idea riffs on Dragon Empire history. If you end up using it, I'll probably want to hear about it, or about other actual campaign play with your own bring-in-the-Uz notions.

Option A: Levered Up from the Darkness
The story starts centuries ago when the dark elves poisoned the underworld to get at the dwarves. As collateral impact the drow hadn't anticipated, their poison also hit the trolls.

Deep down, down below the roots of the earth, far below the halls and mineshafts of the dwarves, there had been nothing but Darkness and the endless caverns of the trolls. That changed when the drow poison dropped into the troll's perfect Darkness. Escaping deeper failed. Fleeing sideways failed. The trolls moved up through the worst of the poison, past budding living dungeons (tastes like mad drow disease), through the dark elves themselves (tastes great!), through the dwarves that saw them as another insane threat erupting from the underworld (densely filling!), and up to caves and complexes near the surface (yummy treats everywhere!).

Much of the troll mythology we know from Glorantha doesn't apply when the horrible surface world the trolls have had to migrate to is the Dragon Empire. So let's introduce some new Dragon Empire riffs. Elves and dwarves are still obviously the trolls' terrible enemies. Riffing on the 13th Age icon histories opens up an immediate twisted variant that's hard to resist.

The trollkin curse that prevents trolls from reliably birthing trolls and instead curses them with trollkin (tastes like depression) is from the dark elf poison. The drow poison didn't drive trolls crazy the way it affects most everyone else, instead it warped their offspring. How? Well, our Glorantha book is going to have trollkin stats. But in this campaign, what if trollkin count as orcs once they've come to the surface world? And this Orc Lord who has shown up in the 13th Age? What if he's actually an empowered trollkin, or at least trollkin-friendly, and he only failing to conquer everything because he keeps dividing his forces to slay elves, dwarves, trolls, and Dragon Empire humans all at the same time?

I like this path better than putting trolls themselves in the Orc Lord's camp. Dark trolls have too much self-respect and way too much matriarchal dignity to put up with orcish crap. But trollkin? With a bit of a twist they might get behind an Orc Lord. And this lets the trolls maintain their strange status as terrible-people-who-somehow-still-on-the-side-of-order-vs.-chaos.

There are other twists and turns in this plotline, but they'd be connected to campaign events instead of obvious from the start. You'd think that the elves and dwarves and trolls might manage to unite against this version of the Orc Lord, but it's going to be tough. Particularly since the Dwarf King is freaking about the fact that the dark trolls in this particular campaign *love* the taste of true magic items, something they never got back in the deep homeland.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sprinkling touches of Glorantha through all your worlds

Explaining 13th Age to people was pretty easy. "Jonathan was the lead designer of 3rd Edition D&D. I was the lead designer of 4th Edition. We've gamed together for around 15 years and have always played in each other's campaigns. So with 13th Age, we went ahead and designed the indie-touched d20 rolling fantasy game we want to play together!"

There was more to it than that, but that's the gist. 

13th Age in Glorantha is a little harder to explain. Let's see. "Jonathan and I both loved Glorantha from the moment we met its world of myths and heroes who learn secrets of power from the gods. In fact, the game that originally carried us into Glorantha, RuneQuest, took us both out of D&D for many years. Now that we have 13th Age flying, we've figured out how to take our d20-rolling dungeon-crawling storytelling game and apply it to creating co-created monster slaying, mythcrawling, and world saving campaigns in Glorantha, the types of games we dreamt of playing with RQ but couldn't quite get the system to handle." 

Well, that's all true! But many of the 13th Age players who get hold of the new book aren't going to be using it at first to run Glorantha campaigns. People are going to be looting the book for things to use in their existing or next-in-planning Dragon Empire campaigns, or whatever they're running from their homebrewed campaign batches. 

I'm going to be running some 13th Age in Glorantha games. I'm also going to be running some Dragon Empire 13th Age games. So as another perspective on explaining 13th Age in Glorantha, I'm going to spend the rest of this blog writing about a few of the ways I'm going to use the 13G book when I'm running the Dragon Empire. (And yes, 13G is my preferred acronym for 13th Age in Glorantha.) Of course you can apply these to any campaign world you play 13th Age in. 

Drafting the Earth Priestess Class
Ernalda is the earth goddess, the queen of the pantheon that's headed by the air god, Orlanth. Orlanth gets to rule because Ernalda says he can.The class that's devoted to Ernalda is the earth priestess. Unlike some of the other classes and class variants in 13G, the earth priestess is going to be something entirely new, a class that's all about providing synergies to multiple members of the party depending on the other characters that are in the party. The metaphor for the way in which the earth priestess treat her allies is as family. She provides unique bonuses to characters they can't gain any other way and she also provides more and more synergies when characters from different pantheons mix within her 'Ernaldan family.' As a leader character, she also has a lot of say in how her gifts are used. The goal is a class that's less techy than the commander but just as likely to be telling allies what to do or how to do it.  

I know two players in my Wednesday night game who love this type of synergistic play. And the simple way it's going to be accessible (and sensible!) within 13A games is through an icon you might have heard echoes of in the paragraph above: the Priestess! Treating diverse talents as family? Embracing characters devoted to other icons and providing a common purpose? Yeah, the earth priestess class says Priestess from the start. 

Gloranthan Gods that Effectively Provide Powers Associated with the Icons!
The earth/Priestess highlights one of the contributions 13G is going to make to 13th Age character design and concepts. 

Since the early days of 13th Age playtesting, we've had people asking for powers and feats and spells that are directly dependent on specific icon relationships. Though you'll find traces of the icon-centered approach in places like the sorcerer's talents and the chaos mage, I've avoided this design direction for the most part. 

Partly that's because when you're designing the basics of classes, you don't want to screen interesting pieces off behind a single story/roleplaying element. Partly it's because we've been extremely focused on creating playable mechanics that as many characters as possible can use. When I've had interesting ideas for mechanics that only fit a small number of characters, I've usually set them aside and concentrated on mechanics that will get wider use. Not to mention that when I've let things that were icon-specific slide through into playtest drafts, playtesters have given me hell! 

But Glorantha alters the design dynamic. For Glorantha, we're designing powers and spells that apply only to worshippers of Ernalda the earth queen, or Kyger Litor the terrifying mother of darkness, or Orlanth the storm king. We have to be specific to capture the essential mythical pillars the world is based on. 

What that means for 13th Age in the Dragon Empire campaigns is that you will get to map the Gloranthan gods to your campaign's icons. Ernalda sure sounds like the Priestess, but maybe in your campaign the High Druid is all about unifying disparate forces against the Emperor, so characters with icon relationships with the High Druid will also make sense as earth priestesses. 

Orlanth and the wind lords are a more interesting case. Depending on the 13th Age campaign you're running, you might decide that powers and spells and class variants that relate to Orlanth could be chosen by character with positive or conflicted relationships with the Elf Queen, High Druid, just possibly the Great Gold Wyrm, and also strangely enough the Emperor! We'll map out the campaign dynamics suggested by these choices. All of these choices could make sense, and as a bit of player empowerment there will also be the option for a character connected to the Crusader or the Prince of Shadows making a case for why they have powers connected to the air and the storm. 

The end result is going to be a wide range of interesting talents, powers, spells, and feats designed to be fully compatible with all other 13th Age powers. But for a change, these talents and spells will make sense associated with specific icons. They will tap into Glorantha's deep mythic approach to its gods and goddesses and you get to control the translation of that approach to your campaign's icons. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adding Uz (aka dark trolls) to 13th Age

We just announced another stretch goal for the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter and it's a doozy. Looks like this:

$60,000 – New Chapter: Uz Rule Darkness

A full chapter on using Gloranthan trolls as PCs, with playable myths and a new Uz* class that taps into many troll goddesses and gods. (*Also accessible to Darkness-rune humans!)

We started on this path when when the earlier $50,000 Enter Zorak Zoran stretch goal that we're presently scooting towards introduced trolls as an Elder Race.

Heck, we *started* on this path when I wanted the dancing troll priestess who appears in the blog post just below this post to be on the cover of our 13th Age in Glorantha postcards at GenCon! But I didn't want to come out and say it from the start because the treatment of Uz/trolls as a fully playable race unlocks my vision for the book.

The default way to play 13th Age in Glorantha is going to be with an eclectic (let's not call them motley!) band of adventurers from different pantheons who worship different gods with diverse powers. The world is under assault by Chaos. Heroquests that used to be solved by Orlanth's air powers alone now require new allies. Chaos monsters that have stolen portions of each pantheon's power can most easily be defeated by warriors whose powers cover a runic spectrum instead of sticking to only a single clan, a single tribe.

Of course Glorantha savants will be able to run many other flavors of campaign. But for 13th Age players new to the world, the important thing is to outline a few central pillars (Orlanth is Storm King, Ernalda is Earth Queen, Humakt is Death's Champion) and riff from there. When Uz Rule Darkness enters the book as a central pillar, we broaden the adventuring party beyond Orlanthi & Friends--or we redefine who can count as friends.

In Gloranthan terms, Dragon Pass is going through a variation of I Fought We Won, when unlikely allies have to bond together. Adventuring parties look a lot like they did in early RQ when most of us combined heroes from diverse pantheons.

In 13th Age terms, the Uz are the first race that comes with its own class! Talents in the Uz class let you focus on insect-transformation powers (the god Gorakikki) or spirit-summoning (Kyger Litor), battle (Karrg), throwing expendable trollkin at your problems (TBD, but possibly Kyger Litor again) or even healing (Xiola Umbar). Yeah, it's one of those druid-style classes, you could have a whole party of Uz without repeating much. And this class will be fully playable in any 13th Age campaign, in fact just lifting the Uz and dropping them into a 13th Age game is one of the straightforward translations from Glorantha to a version of the Dragon Empire.You wouldn't even necessarily need the dark trolls themselves, if you wanted to make it a human thing. Or maybe a half-orc or dark elf thing . . . .

Uz Rule Darkness isn't our next stretch goal. In fact there's a marvelous goal involving the Chaos demon known as the Crimson Bat that comes first, that I'm going to write about soon. But I'm talking about Uz now because we're in the middle of the Enter Zorak Zoran goal, the first bite of the troll. Just as the Zorak Zoran stretch goal is going to add new playable myths to Glorantha, this new chapter that covers many Uz is likely to spin us into new myth cycles in which the trolls are protagonists. Given the central vision of the Chaos-assault upon the world, even the Uz need some help. Crunchy-tasty surface people end being useful for something other than food. It's gonna be a romp!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Priestess Says Dance!



The 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter is live! 

I'm ecstatic that we're rolling.

And we *are* rolling. Jan Pospisil's dark troll priestess bangs the drum and Kickstarter is dancing! (Jan's art is from the Guide to Glorantha and he'll be doing similarly splendid work for our new book.)

See you on the heroquest.

Monday, August 25, 2014

a few of the things I learned at GenCon

People love runes.

How the hipster burned his mouth. 

Ed Greenwood's helpful aide, whose name I never caught, can most memorably be referred to an Elminion. 

Sandy Petersen's upcoming Gloranthan Gods War game is the answer to many of my childhood prayers. My grown-up self is feeling pretty good about it too, and as an added bonus we could use some of the minis in 13th Age in Glorantha!

E-Bay sagely eliminated the sale of souls on its auction site, ruling that souls are either non-existent or human remains, and in either case, sale of souls doesn't fly. Ken, who frequently writes about stuff, observed, "That's what Etsy is for."

The one thing we can all be grateful to Margaret Thatcher for is Warhammer 40K. 40Kcouldn't have happened without her. Thatcher had to soften up the area first. 

Don't ask Will Hindmarch to fetch your balloon off the ceiling unless you are prepared to run. 

When you ask the only nanny who has ever been admitted to the assassin's guild to take care of the baby, it's best to specify precisely what you mean by that. (Thanks, Cthulhuchick!). 

Feng Shui 2 = More Monkeys with Helix Rippers. Atlas Games Kickstarter in September and I'm there with hells on. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

This is us in Glorantha!

Fire Opal and Moon Design have announced the identity and Kickstarter starting date (August 27!) for our wild new 13th Age book!

13th Age in Glorantha is a supplement that will bring 13th Age's d20-rolling storytelling style to mythic adventures in Greg Stafford's world of Glorantha.

I've overjoyed about the project. There is a lot I want to say about the team (Jonathan! ASH! Jeff! Jan!) and our plans and the collaboration with Moon Design. But I'm getting ready to fly to GenCon tomorrow and I've already typed out a lot of what needs to be said at this point in sections of the 13thAgeInGlorantha.com website called WHAT? and DRAFT OUTLINE.

So for now, here's a story about the triptychs below that depict me and my wife Lisa as young adults, middle-aged souls, and clan elders. Stefano Gaudiano painted us as potential members of the clan ring for the Gloranthan computer/iOS game King of Dragon Pass.



Lisa was happy about the inclusion, but then slightly less happy when she turned out to have been included as a priestess of Uralda, the cow goddess, while I got to be an Eurmali trickster!

There were two saving graces. First, Lisa's Gloranthan avatar also appeared as a priestess of the Earth queen, Ernalda, and that was alright. Second, the first time that artist Stefano Gaudiano met Lisa, he jogged across the wide lawn of Olympic Park Institute to catch up with her and said, "Oh! You must be Lisa! I am so sorry I did not meet you before I painted you! You are so much prettier than in the photo I saw, I wish I had met you in person."

Bravo, Stefano.

And bravo for David Dunham and Robin Laws and Greg Stafford, the main architects of King of Dragon Pass, because if you're curious about Glorantha now that we're bringing 13th Age to the world, King of Dragon Pass is a marvelous playable introduction. It worked splendidly for Lisa, who is not ordinarily a roleplaying gamer.

Amusingly, KoDP didn't work quite so well for 13th Age in Glorantha collaborator ASH LAW because he just wanted to go exploring and on heroquests, not take care of his herds and his crops. His clans kept dying of starvation just as he was about to accomplish great things. In ASH's defense, 13th Age in Glorantha IS going to be all about the exploring and the heroquesting, so I may tease him about his lack of clan stewardship, but he's on the right track for our book!

Another place to get an introduction to Glorantha, if you are at GenCon, would be to visit the Moon Design booth or catch the Introduction to Glorantha panel at 6 pm Thursday at Crowne Plaza: Victoria Station C/D. There's also another Glorantha panel that looks like it will be excellent earlier on Thursday, Gaming as Mythic Exploration.

Is the final 13th Age in Glorantha book going to look like the draft outline that's up on the web? To some extent, I think, just as Lisa and I seem to be following trajectories akin to what Stefano traced for us in Glorantha!

If you are dedicated 13th Age player, have no fear, we're going to treat this book with the same love and innovation we put into 13th Age, the Bestiary, and 13 True Ways. If you're a Glorantha fan, I hope you'll come along with us as we play through the myths.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Weblings

My sprite-like pieces of self that get things done on the internet were busy this week. Here's a short list of surfacings. If you already caught them all, thank you and good night!

I wrote a 13th Sage column for Pelgrane Press about when it might be a good idea to let the monsters use the escalation die in 13th Age. Should be helpful to many GMs. And if you're a player it will give you a couple signs to watch out for!

Pelgrane also helpfully posted the schedule of 13th Age seminars at GenCon. Which turns out to be exactly the same as my seminar schedule at GenCon. One seminar a day, and I'll be using the Pelgrane booth as my main home base during the show. I get to team up with ASH and Gareth for a couple seminars on adventure and monster design, with Ruth Tillman (CthulhuChick) and Mike Shea and Wade for another on GMing, and then there's a Year One seminar with Simon and Wade.

If you're not going to GenCon and you still want to hear me run a game, the Reverend En Fuego's crew at BJ's Geek Nation just started posting the first installment of the game I ran for them using 13 True Ways characters. I admit that the full session didn't get around to including a lot of gaming. The character creation process took me by surprise. I usually run demos freeform and just respond to what the table gives me, but for once I thought, "Hey, I'll have something ready and actually bring minis and monster stats." So I made the mistake of preparing three different battle encounters that I thought I'd be able to choose for an action-packed first session. Of course the players surprised me with something I really wasn't ready for, so we're going to get into the meat of the adventure the next session. Was character creation and story set up fun? Oh yeah. Especially if you'll enjoy learning from my mistakes.

Most all the monsters I had planned to introduce to the BJ's Geek Nation crew were from the 13th Age Bestiary. Which coincidentally had its PDF-only version go on sale at the Pelgrane shop and on DriveThruRPG yesterday.

Meanwhile Catalyst has released the full rules for Shadowrun: Crossfire as a PDF and we have confirmation that there are going to be many boxes of the game for sale at the show! I'm not going to be helping with Crossfire stuff as much as some people in Fire Opal, I'll be more focused on 13th Age, but I will help with a Crossfire event or two and teach a few friends how to play.

Speaking of product that will be at GenCon, 13 True Ways has shipped, apparently just ever-so-slightly behind our friend Bruce Cordell's Kickstarter book, The Strange. But that's OK because Bruce started his book long after.... oh. Right. OK. The point is: 13 True Ways will also reach many people soon and will also be at GenCon!

And even as 13 True Ways is en route, the wonderful secret 13th Age project that Jonathan and ASH and I are working on is going to be announced this Sunday! ASH and I will be able to talk about the early stages of the design at GenCon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

OMG! Trilogy!

Last Friday, ASH LAW and I were working on our new 13th Age project in my garage studio. (And no, the new project is not announced yet. Soon!) I cursed because I wanted to look at the commander for a moment in a printed copy of 13 True Ways instead of rummaging through the PDF, and of course that wasn't possib. . . . . wait a minute. "I've got a printed copy," I said aloud, atoning for my cursing. There, in the folded cardboard on the gaming table . . . the printer's proof of 13 True Ways.

The approved proof.

So I got to flip through finished pages to see what I needed. It felt great.




And then I stacked the proof beside the 13th Age Bestiary and the core book and had to admit that it looks like we've got a player's book, monster book, and GM's book, a product scheme we originally avoided by presenting 13th Age as a single all-you-need-to-play volume.

The appearance of a trilogy is probably a good thing. But I have to say ours is a bit different than the traditional player/monster/GM scheme. Our approach is a lot more like the old Arduin Grimoire and its follow-ups that started with Welcome to Skull Tower.

The 13th Age core rulebook sort of qualifies as the player's book, but it also has monsters and treasure and a geography chapter and a sample adventure. The explicit goal is to help players contribute to the story of each unique campaign. The hidden goal is to get players excited about the campaigns they might be able to run themselves, slightly increasing the number of GMs in the world . . . .

The 13th Age Bestiary definitely qualifies as a monster book, but we deliberately let each monster tell us how it could accomplish the most for the game instead of forcing the work into a monsters-only-please format. Frost giants have fimbulwinter environmental effects, chuuls spawn usable magic items, and the fungaloids are hiding a flipping playable PC race. (And yeah, those examples were all ASH's way of adding value!) The unique voices of our many contributors came out stronger because we didn't force authors to force monsters into cookie-cutter boxes.

And then there's the newest book, approved but not quite printed. The setting material and deviltry advice and mini-adventures in 13 True Ways help GMs, but six new character classes and the multiclassing rules and other goodies make it a player's book as much as a GM's book. Our goal with 13 True Ways was to do all the coolest things we could think of, so it's an Emperor's Kitchen Sink book instead of a focused GM product.

I'm going to be happy to present new players with these three books together. They make a compelling threesome and the contents round out the play experience. Add in the first two black and white books, Book of Loot and Shadows of Eldolan, also likely to be available at GenCon, and we've got a line!

Publishing Schedule...
So far as we know, 13 True Ways should be available in print at GenCon. We're planning to drop-ship pre-orders and Kickstarter reward copies in early August direct from the printer. Those shipments will be books only, the various KS extras (and the deluxe leather-bound copies that need bookplate signatures) will be another shipment later. The hope is that most KS backers in the USA will have their copies before GenCon. There are going to be other logistic details to sort out but I won't personally be the person doing most of the sorting, so I'll wait until I know more before saying more. I can say that long-waiting Kickstarter backers will certainly also all be getting another small treat, in part because we feel bad that backers outside the USA aren't likely to have their copies before GenCon. Like all printing and distribution plans, this requires things to stay on track. So far the process has been smooth. 


Friday, July 25, 2014

The ENnie Clan Competes


It is such a good year for the ENnie awards that games I might ordinarily vote highest are not only competing with each other, they're competing against 13th Age! [[Click here to vote if you'd rather vote than read.]]

It's wonderful that 13th Age is nominated for Best Game, Best Rules, and Product of the Year. From my perspective of not actually enjoying competing against friends and collaborators, it's not so wonderful that we're up up against games including Hillfolk, Numenera, and FATE. As Robin Laws has pointed out, all but one of his competitors in the Best Game category contributed to his excellent Hillfolk or its companion campaign book, Blood on the Snow, which is also nominated for best supplement. Pieces of this awards ceremony are as tight-knit as a clan longhouse electing a chieftain and warleader.

I guess that's a high class problem. However these awards get sliced, I'm reasonably certain that I'm going to get to watch joyful friends accept some awards while still having a shot at accepting an award with possibly less well-disguised glee!

Here's the link to the voting site. Anyone can vote. The system lets you rank games so it's not an all-or-nothing choice unless you want it to be. I hope you'll vote for 13th Age if it's your cup of tea, or even if it's your second or fourth-favorite rpg beverage.If you're shy about voting because you don't know many of the games, the ballot helpfully links to info on each nominee.

Other nominees I haven't mentioned that I have fuzzy-sapiens feelings for are (not surprisingly!) the Midgard Bestiary: 13th Age Roleplaying Game Compatible Version (Best Monster/Adversary), Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies (Best Adventure), and the Complete Eternal Lies Suite soundtrack by James Semple and his party of composers which is up for a Best RPG Related Product award.

Along those same lines, I'd somehow missed the also-nominated soundtrack for Night's Black Agents, Dust & Mirrors. How did that happen? Pelgrane Press is doing a *lot* of good stuff. They belong somewhere on the Fan's Favorite Publisher list, I'm thinking. 


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Three reviews

In the last couple days I've seen three great reviews of games I worked on that are about to hit the shelves.

13 True Ways cover

This nicely-angled review of 13 True Ways captures the joy that Jonathan and I got from creating the book. I'd love to say that Lee and Aaron also took joy from the process but Lee was so darn intense when he was working on 13TW. It was a fierce glowing joy, maybe, like dangerous lava radiant beneath the crust.

I'll be doing my best furiously-glowing-Lee impression at the Pelgrane booth at GenCon, and I'm hoping that printing works out so that 13 True Ways will be glowing alongside.



This video review of Shadowrun: Crossfire from the Dice Tower guys is fun and extremely positive. I laughed out loud at the moment that Tom said that he might just be interested in a one-shot Shadowrun rpg session now, though he had not considered that an option before. It was amusing because that was the audience-response that Catalyst hoped for when it hired Fire Opal to design this co-op deckbuilding game--they wanted people who had never played SR to have a way into the world. Greg Marques did a great job as the lead designer on Shadowrun: Crossfire, and the rest of the team was awesome to work with, including people like Cal Moore and Rob Watkins who also work on 13th Age, and folks like Mike Elliot and Jim Lin who I used to work with at WotC.

There's a possibly more informative text review of SR: Crossfire on Boardgame Geek. The review is well-written and much more thorough than I would have expected given the reviewer's brief exposure to the game. For longer exposure, come to the Catalyst Game Labs booth at GenCon. They should have Shadowrun: Crossfire demos rolling and boxes selling.