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. 


  1. You know-- instead of denying the reality, maybe it is time to admit that well... maybe those more established publishers fell into their current system hardly by accident.
    The Dungeons and Dragons editions came as a "here is absolutely everything you need to play" core set that included things for players and dms with all the various monster stats.
    And the supplements to that were kind of disorganized-- as in they contained a mixture of sort... whatever struck the game designers at the time without it really being relevant to any particular part of the game. 13 True Ways is basically that-- its a splat book that contains quite a few character classes but is mostly focused on setting and then also has a bunch of monster stats...

    But how is that going to work out in actual play? Oh, I am using this monster but... wait.... was it in the Core Book or True Ways or the Bestiary again? I forgot something in my notes and need to look up how this ability works.

    So instead of having your monsters centrally located, you have them scattered across three books already and the problem is only going to get worse with future expansions.
    Important setting information is split between the core book and true ways instead of being neatly condensed-- assuming that whatever is in the bestiary book can be discounted.
    And players are going to want access to both the core book and true ways when doing character creation and if they multiclass and use a class from each book then they are going to need both books available whenever they level up.

    It is entirely possible that things couldn't have been done any other way, things were released as they were made and you can't very well have organized things more neatly when you hadn't even dreamed up a lot of what you are putting into the books. But there is no need to declare yourself superior and pat yourself on the back either.
    Years from now when you get around to doing a 2nd edition, you might want to seriously consider printing it in such a way that character creation stuff is all grouped together in a single book while monsters are all neatly organized in a separate book while all setting information is located entirely in a third and you might even consider creating a book that explains about running games that is dedicated solely to that aspect. That is, if the game ever grows beyond the assumption that it exists for players who have played other RPGS previously rather than trying to appeal to absolutely raw newbies.

    But, you know... years from now... the way technology is going, who is to say that paper books would even be the best medium for the game's release. By that point some sort of easily searchable E-reader program might be the far superior method for releasing the game... and if that is the case, then it will be a lot easier to expand it in such a way that new information can be collected easily with the most similar previously released information.

  2. With the PDFs in hand and some command-line trickery, I'm going to explode these 3, and the Midgard Bestiary, and then look at the recombination options. PHB/DMG/MM (and the OCD in me is always looking for a 3rd letter for that last one) is one possible option.

    I'm a firm believer that technology should be able to provide a solution here and that we're not even using PDFs to the extent of their true abilities. What's needed is a unified approach that will work across all platforms and provide the same beautiful look - I can take the SRD and create an app that will look and feel pretty much the same across the major devices but it won't be pretty. And if you lose the pretty, you lose a lot of the feel of the game. But there will be a solution out there...