Sunday, December 27, 2015

a Moby Dick of a dungeon

There are still a couple of days (well, a little less!) left to get the 13th Age Bundle of Holding that contains so much of what my friends and I have been working on the past few years.

After the bundle's opening trio of the core 13th Age book, the 13 True Ways supplement, and the wonderful 13th Age Soundtrack album by James Semple and friends, the next chunky object in the bundle is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan's 364 page campaign-masquerading-as-a-mega-dungeon, Eyes of the Stone Thief . 

Here are a few fun things about Eyes of the Stone Thief that may not be common knowledge . . . .

1. whale book

Gareth's initial concept for the adventure was summed up by the project's original slangy name: Moby Dungeon. In a world where dungeons are alive, the dungeon at the center of this story would proactively hunt and kill things the PCs loved. Originally there was a Captain Ahab-style NPC, but that role got taken over by the PCs themselves! Given Gar's original inspiration, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that the initial short adventure turned into a mega-dungeon with numerous aboveground locations and NPC factions that tie into the dungeon's plotlines.

You can see a trace of the original inspiration on Ben Wooten's cover. The halfling spellcaster has lost a leg and her comrade hefts a harpoon, waiting for the moment to throw at the surfacing dungeon!

2. women
Speaking of the cover art, Eyes of the Stone Thief features an art decision that turned out a bit harder to see than we'd intended. There's a consistent adventuring party used throughout the book, and all members of the adventuring party are women. Heavy armor and some small art means I'm not sure how many people noticed that.

3. colorizing the black and white
Eyes of the Stone Thief was originally a black and white book. Then Simon took stock of the wonderful full color maps Herwin Wielink had created for the book and of what we'd already accomplished with the other full color hardcovers, 13th Age and the Bestiary and 13 True Ways. Simon decided he wanted to take the time and make the effort to convert the book to color.

So Pelgrane ran a test, getting each of the artists to color one of their pieces. It went well and the colorization went forward. Towards the very end of the production process, when Lee Moyer was visiting me in Seattle, he saw the book on screen over my shoulder and asked to look at all the art. Lee is a master of light and shadow and color and he saw where he could strengthen the book. He made a bid to do touch-up work on pieces that weren't as dramatic. Pelgrane accepted and the results were magnificent.

The art process for the book captured how we've been approaching 13th Age work. We're not always as quick as we might be, but we're taking the time to get things right, and Simon and Cat at Pelgrane are wonderfully supportive, even to the extent that they'll make quality-control decisions I'd feel pretty bad about making with someone else's money.

4. but wait, the book isn't ALL in color
Gareth's art direction and vision for the book delivered four pages of truly old-school madness! Four pages of the Quillgate Library, down in the dungeon's epic-tier depths, appear in oldest-school black and white from the earliest days of D&D, the exact style and shade of paper used for the earliest rpg books widely published in the UK (as I understand it, my UK gaming history facts may be slightly off). And Russ Nicholson, famed illustrator of so many UK game books, provided the art, including a full page illustration of the dungeon cresting as a wave!

It's a joke from the old days, so it's not a surprise that the joke was too subtle for some people. Pelgrane sometimes gets complaints about misprinted pages in Eyes of the Stone Thief! "There's something wrong with 4 pages, they're in black and white and they look awful." I love the fact that Gareth, Simon, and Pelgrane buried this chunk of the forgotten module UA3 LOST TREASURY OF THE DWARVES in the middle of Eyes of the Stone Thief.

5. reviews and all that
You can find reviews and details of Eyes of the Stone Thief here and here and many other spots. I'll just close with an anecdote from one of my friends who plays in someone else's 13th Age campaign. The game has always been wonderfully GMed and huge fun, and then it got a little better. At some point my friend noticed that the battles had gone up a notch, full of interesting terrain and strange and memorable situations. A little while later, my friend realized that the GM had gotten hold of Eyes of the Stone Thief and was mining it for encounters, sprinkling its bizarre battles into the flow of the campaign.

Find it along with many other 13th Age goodies in the Bundle, or look for it in print at your local gaming store.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sometimes home base is a tavern named Luckys

Steven Warzeha and I just finished design work on this month's installment of the 13th Age Monthly. It's a surprise issue, added to the mix at the last moment because I was inspired by Steven's take on adding Home Bases to our player character options. Not all campaigns will want to use the mechanics, and many campaigns won't want to use them all the time, but I think they make a lot of sense for handling the 'this is our base' story that surfaces frequently in my own games.

The Home Bases art above is by Rich Longmore, illustrating the moment when the party's tavern base attracts some heat from thugs loyal to the Crusader! We'll have the issue out in a few days, after layout.

For those of you haven't signed on to the 13th Age Monthly, the current 13th Age Bundle of Holding just added a 20% off coupon to the bundle. The coupon is usable this year, in which case you'll get the past twelve months of issues, starting with Dragon Riding and continuing through Summoning Spells and Echo & Gauntlet. Or wait and use the coupon for next year's subscription, that will start with an article from Jonathan Tweet and me called Rakshasas & Reavers.

Subscribers to the 13th Age Monthly also get the upcoming seasons of our organized play program as a free bonus. So signing onto the Bundle of Holding not only gets you ASH LAW's Diamonds & Shadows,  a revised and expanded version of the earliest months of our organized player program, it can also give you a headstart on the adventures that will be bundled with upcoming issues of the Monthly.

For those of you already inside the subscription base, don't worry, Pelgrane will be taking care of you too!