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This week's playtest of the new commander and the half-revised monk went well.
In the commander's case I didn't make any changes after the playtest. Partly that's because the design is in OK shape for now. Partly it's because Thorinn, the 5th level dwarf commander who used to be a bard, was hapless. He had no hap. When you're rolling d20s, playtesting every so often devolves into "Wow, so this is what the character class looks like when you suck." The dybbuks who had possessed the party's erstwhile paladin friend turned out to have Mental Defenses that deviated from the monstrous norm and even the commander's last-ditch outmaneuver attempt came to naught. The class design mission is to somehow make even these sucky moments potentially worthwhile.
The potential doesn't always get realized. Thorinn has had a slightly rocky road since he transitioned out of being a bard. Weird things happen when your story-oriented 13th Age campaign is also the campaign that's being used to test all the new classes. Thorinn who was once a bard became a bardmander and is now a full-on commander who is likely to shift even more when we adjust for results of public playtesting.
There will be a new playtest document some time next week. The talent half of the monk is revised, the forms half is still underway. Some of the early monk talents worked so well that the rest of the talents were somewhat irrelevant. The monk could vary from hugely powerful to utterly feeble because the talents and forms were so uneven. That's not entirely surprising, given that the class hasn't had an official development pass, but I'm trying to avoid it on this pass. The next version of the monk design aims to make all the talents worthwhile, eliminates one of the pieces of the class that wasn't working (daily options for finishing attacks), makes ki powers a more integral part of the class (instead of only appearing as feats), and opens up some of the unnecessary restrictions on icon relationships and weapon choice and flavor that were getting in the way of character design. Those of you who sent playtest comments? Your comments helped a lot.
Playtest Distribution Plan
As before, we'll be sharing the monk & commander playtest files with people who bought the 13th Age Escalation Edition and people who supported 13 True Ways. We're also planning to go one step further. The publication of 13th Age has brought in many new players and GMs. People are writing us every week asking to help playtest, particularly people who seem to be converting over from other systems and want to know how we're handling classes that aren't in the core book. We've settled on a cunning plan that seems fair. People who pre-order the 13th Age Bestiary by ordering the Hatchling Edition will also get the 13 True Ways playtest files. If you've supported us by buying the Bestiary in advance, you'll see the playtest versions of the new classes and whatever else we decide to send out for wide playtesting on 13 True Ways.
A Different Kickstarter
There's another Kickstarter with 13th Age connections surging towards the finish line this week. Timothy Brown's Dragon Kings project is a campaign world and rock and roll project in the spirit of Dark Sun. The project is funded and is presently a few thousand dollars away from a stretch goal that would create a 13th Age-compatible rules PDF as part of the package. Darren Pearce is the designer slated to tackle the 13th Age aspect of the project and I'd love to see what he comes up with. Give the project a push if you can.
And elsewhere in video...
Mike Shea interviewed me about 13th Age for Critical Hits earlier this week. The first half hour or forty minutes is a discussion of icon relationship rolls, including verbal notes on advice Jonathan and I will be formalizing in the GM chapter of 13 True Ways. The video amounts to working notes on the topic. Other topics include the formats of upcoming adventures and Heisenberg's Monster, Mike's wonderful term for the sense in which 13th Age frees GMs up by allowing them to be surprised by what comes out of the box.
Jonathan and I have moved into a new work phase on 13 True Ways, meeting every afternoon in my garage studio. Long periods of separate work punctuated by discussion. Yesterday Jonathan finished up a big section on icon relations in Drakkenhall and moved on to monster design. Our debate on metallic dragons roamed over the history of D&D and eventually clambered onto our standard 13th-Agey approach of handling the familiar with twists that suit us. We're more or less agreed, but expect designer sidebars in that section.
That monster tile above? That's the silver dragon tile by 13 True Ways artist Lee Moyer. See the Great Gold Wyrm tile in the core book for the ur-tile that set the pattern for the silver.
Meanwhile I finished a draft of the commander class that's ready for internal playtesting but I'm not going to say more about it than I said in yesterday's blog post until I'm happy with the tests. I've moved on to the druid, which somehow immediately generated new insights on handling multiclassing and racial feats, so yeah, enough of the blogging, back to the big picture druid mechanics and the new category of feats that turned out to be hidden in the underbrush surrounding the druid's woods.
The 13th Age Bestiary is now available for pre-order and pre-publication playtesting! Like the Escalation Edition for the original 13th Age book, purchase of this Hatchling Edition of the Bestiary from the Pelgrane Press store gets you a PDF, updates whenever they're available, and then the final printed book and PDF. Unlike the Escalation Edition's many long moons, this pre-order Bestiary is already nearly finished and publishing is going to be a quick process. Simon expects to have the final book out early in 2014.
Now that the Bestiary is on its way, I'm switching back to full work on 13 True Ways with Jonathan. One of the curious effects of the Bestiary is that it's going to change the way we approach monsters in 13 True Ways. Originally we were sticking to the just-the-facts approach of the core book, very short stat-based entries. But the Bestiary shows how we can present full entries on monsters and stick with the game's half-designed-world that leaves important decisions up to each campaign. So the monster entries in 13 True Ways are going to use the full approach from the Bestiary wherever it's warranted.
But enough about the future. Check out the Pelgrane Press Hatchling Edition announcement page that charmingly lists the names of all the monsters in the book. You might have to buy the PDF to figure out what some of the base entries are, others will be clear. We've chosen not to call out which authors were principally responsible for individual entries, so I figured for this introduction blog post I'd go ahead and list one monster that made a special impression on me from each of the other authors. Let's take it in alphabetical order by designer's first name.
ASH LAW did a lot of great work in the book. His chuul entry gets the CREEPY INNOVATOR prize for adding something to an existing monster that makes a lot of sense and opens up all manner of story ideas.
Cal Moore improved every monster as an editor, many monsters as a developer, and Kevin Kulp's whispering prophet and others as a mechanical designer.
Ken Hite made the original monster selection and assignments. Ordinarily I'd have to credit his catastrophic (to PCs) tarrasque, but I *love* the arch tone and precise language of Ken's entry for the manticore, so sorry tarrasque, you just got beat by a manticore.
You may have already seen Kevin Kulp's redcap's first appearance on EN World. I'm also pretty fond of the lammasu as epic tier creatures that may be a touch too overworldly for the PC's good.
Rich Longmore didn't design any monsters but he's doing all the art and gave us the wonderful little hatchling above so hey, he gets thanked and mentioned.
Rob Watkins wrote a psychologically insightful story for some new white dragons who are entangled with the Lich King and then did some great mechanics to back the story up.
Rob Wieland did something elegant with the story of the lich that seems likely to get a lot of use in 13th Age games and storylines. He's also got the monster that ends with z, the zorigami, and I think they're cool enough that I broke the rules again and mentioned two of his critters.
Ryven Cedrylle got a tough assignment, the intellect devourer, and, well, yikes. There are a couple surprising wrinkles in this one. Campaign impact entirely possible.
Steve Townshend has a 5th level warp beast wedged within the madness of rather larger elder beasts; I love the warp beast's shifting impact on each battle and the fact that it makes sense for all sorts of warpage.
Have fun with the Hatchling Edition and send us playtest comments as indicated in the file!
Smilin' Sammy G, as he is known to his friends, was the first of the characters created by fans who supported the 13 True Ways Kickstarter. Sammy comes to us from Alex Paciga, who created a legendary bard with a truly sunny disposition and depths which will make him *interesting* to be around.
This painting of Sammy is by Lee Moyer, of course, who conceived of character portraits as the style for the new book's chapter openings. Sammy G's portrait is presently slated for Chapter 5, the grab-bag chapter that I presently refer to as either Gamemaster's Grimoire or Olde Schoole. The hidden depths I referred to earlier make Sammy a natural fit for this chapter, but I don't want to say too much so that Alex's creation can receive his full ovation in print.
So when is that going to happen, you ask? Hopefully Q1 of 2014. There are two things that could push us into Q2: me butting heads with the developer over character class issues or Jonathan and I getting all labor-of-love and working harder to match the standard set by the core book. If we take that longer path, we'll approach 13 True Ways as we did the Escalation Edition for the core book: we'll send backers and pre-order customers a usable early draft that will keep getting better as it trundles toward the finish line. Otherwise, there's something to be said for happy surprises, and we'll only share the bits that need playtesting.
We've indulged in some periods of 13 True Ways silence while I was working on the core book and the Bestiary. We're now returning to once-a-week updates on 13 True Ways. These updates will soon include other mechanical bits. People have sent us all kinds of good feedback on the monk at 13thAgePlaytest@gmail.com, and we'll be asking for your help with other aspects of 13 True Ways.
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