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Hteph

Some thoughts after a first read

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After a first skim and some more focused skipping around i got a realisation. There is no system support for anything outside combat, it is a pure (high level/heroquest) combat system ... and nothing else. Three fourth (something) of talents/features/spells/whatever is just a list of damage dice and the rest is about combat round tactics (as far as I have seen).

I haven't had the opportunity to play 13th age, but i have had the books for a while, so I could be wrong, but the Icons relations/roll seemed to create a systemic connection to stuff happening outside the combat round. The Runic attunement that replace it is more or less (I see some excellent use for it outside combat) focused on in-combat use.

This is not a criticism of the 13th age Glorantha per se, as it is probably the best Heroquest Combat system I seen so far (never got the Hero War system to really work), and seems to be thematic/inspirational/system-sound etc ... But to me it is lacking system support like social interactions, religious factions and stuff like ancestry/clan/backgrounds. The skill/background thing is nifty, but it is so abstracted it have a strong feel of "get that unnecessary RPGing out of my combat game".

As I like to have the system integrate with my gaming world (and I think the later versions of RQ has become much better at that) I can't see this really hitting my table soon. I see a use perhaps when the time comes to (combat oriented) Heroquesting doing a couple of  "character creation" pre-quests where my players do the characters choices (they are simple enough) by rituals and mundane dry-run quest emulations. Then use these as their hero plane "avatars" with results and effects feedback into my ordinary RQ game.

I'm not sure what I expected, and this book is very well done and beautiful, but I guess I wasn't the target audience. To me this could only work as a bolt on, plug-in extra stuff. I can hardly bother my players with a new system that will only be used in combat and the rest of the time improvise, handwave and house rule. I have already a Hero Wars/RQ2/RQ3/RQ6 mishmash, adding a modified 13th Age special case that solves the Hero Wars combat is just fitting.

 

(And again I think what it does it does well, some of the classes are awesome, it is just a bit too limited for me to truly enjoy).

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Correct, 13th Age is all about the set piece battles and how to string them together.

Thats not to say there isn’t any investigation, or deal making or politicking but it’s all handled just through roleplaying it out as you would in D&D. Your characters do have background abilities you can use, but that’s about it for not combat/‘adventure’ related abilities.

Simon Hibbs

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I'm left in a weird place by 13inG because there's virtually no decision they made that I wouldn't have made differently. Which isn't any comment on quality, just that it's so monumentally different from what I expected that I'm still not sure what I think. I'd have done icons as cults and left the classes generic archetypes (shaman, rune lord, rune priest), not culture bound. They've done the opposite.

Having said that, I think the idea of runes as icons work. I never quite "got" what I was supposed to do with icons in the original 13G. It was too freeform for my taste for something that was supposed to have a mechanical function. With a more coherent setting like Glorantha, it would have been easier. But turning it all into a simpler runic bonus mechanic works for me quite well. It takes a relatively confusing aspect of 13A and gives you a simple way to deal with it.

I like crunchy combat, but I prefer a very free form approach to culture and roleplaying rather than specific skills, so one of the things that's most attracted me to 13th Age has been it's freeform approach to non-combat skills. So this to me was a strength. I will note that the main critique I've seen, particularly from people who haven't been playing in Glorantha since the 1980s seems to be that the Gloranthan lore is still too deep, too academic, and too impermeable. I tend to agree, in general terms, that Glorantha badly needs the return of Biturian Varosh to ease people in rather than more academic-ish writeups.

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9 hours ago, Numtini said:

 ... Glorantha badly needs the return of Biturian Varosh to ease people in ...

This.

Engrave it upon your hearts & brows, tattoo it alongside your runes.

 

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It is perhaps mostly me being sad to see the concept of HeroQuests reduced to a combat game. Because, honestly, 90% of gamers only really care for stuff which you put numbers on, the rest is just "fluff". I think HeroWars did a good job on that par ( then there was other parts that fell through) and this was a step in a direction that was not in my interest. i'll plunder it for good ideas to augument RQ but I have really no interest in running it.

There are some feats and options and a bit about HQs that are useful loot.

Well, it is hardly the first Kickstarter that turned out to be not what I wanted/expected/imagined/whatever

 

 

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On 28/02/2018 at 2:57 PM, Numtini said:

...and left the classes generic archetypes (shaman, rune lord, rune priest), not culture bound. They've done the opposite.

If they had done that, they couldn’t have given the character classes such distinctive cultural and religious abilities and magic. How would you differentiate rune priests of Lankor Mhy, Hon Eel and Chalana Arroy if they were all the same class?

Simon Hibbs

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41 minutes ago, simonh said:

If they had done that, they couldn’t have given the character classes such distinctive cultural and religious abilities and magic. How would you differentiate rune priests of Lankor Mhy, Hon Eel and Chalana Arroy if they were all the same class?

By converting the icon concept to cult. Offering a few specific cult spells. I mean, we've had a classless system for 35 years that's managed to differentiate cults. I get why they did it the way they did and it's a perfectly valid way of doing it. It's just not what I would have done and came as a surprise.

Edited by Numtini

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I never liked the idea of classes, particularly with regard to limitations on magic and weapons.  Warrior?  Sorry, no spells for you.  Wizard?  Hope a staff and dagger are enough.  The only solution D&D offered was to run a hybrid, at the cost of advancement speed.  

Skills and occupations make much more sense, and the limitations aren't generally systemic.

 

Edited well after the fact:  Armor limitations too.

Edited by Yelm's Light

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34 minutes ago, Yelm's Light said:

I never liked the idea of classes, particularly with regard to limitations on magic and weapons.  Warrior?  Sorry, no spells for you.  Wizard?  Hope a staff and dagger are enough.  The only solution D&D offered was to run a hybrid, at the cost of advancement speed.  

Skills and occupations make much more sense, and the limitations aren't generally systemic.

Yeah; but honestly, Gloranthan Cult-affiliations have long been comparable to D&D "class".  The difference is, magic and weapons are not sharply-restricted but widely-available to ANYONE.  The advantages to a Gloranthan "Class" (I mean Cult) are in the rarities & extras, not in being freed from onerous and odd "no-magic" & "few weapons" sorts of restrictions.

 

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1 hour ago, g33k said:

Yeah; but honestly, Gloranthan Cult-affiliations have long been comparable to D&D "class".  The difference is, magic and weapons are not sharply-restricted but widely-available to ANYONE.  The advantages to a Gloranthan "Class" (I mean Cult) are in the rarities & extras, not in being freed from onerous and odd "no-magic" & "few weapons" sorts of restrictions.

There was still battle/spirit magic, and a fair number of those spells were comparable to or better than some rune spells.  Besides, everybody who was anybody (i.e., PC's) were in a cult and had access to at least some rune magic.

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In RQ2 cults were much less of a focus. You could load up on a very wide variety of potent spirit magic for hard cash. RQ3 narrowed things down a lot by only allowing theists to get a narrow selection of spirit magic from their cult, and dumping some of the most OP spirit spells completely. Cults became essential, and a lot more narrow.

As for 13A, it’s easily the best of the heavy duty D&D family. Many of the classes offer a selection of varied customisation options. Icons and One Unique Things have a lot of narative potential and further differentiate characters. Every character has choices to make, none of the usual D&D “wait your turn, roll D20, miss, wait your next turn again”. Fighters are actually one of the most complex and tactical classes.

Simon Hibbs

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On 21/02/2018 at 8:35 AM, Hteph said:

I haven't had the opportunity to play 13th age

I look forward to your follow up post "Some thoughts after playing 13th Age".

I've played 13th Age - not the Gloranthan version. I'm someone who gave up AD&D having discovered RQ and I've never been able to play D&D again. I was very surprised with 13th Age, it was quite refreshing after 20 or so years of avoidance. We played in the D&D Dark Sun setting - it was great, exploring, trading, survival and fighting. I'm not someone who would GM this, but would certainly play it again.

I suggest you give it a chance and play it. 

 

 

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On 21/02/2018 at 8:35 AM, Hteph said:

There is no system support for anything outside combat

I'm a bit confused by this...

 - One unique things are specified to not be of any use in combat. So "I am the only adopted daughter of Javis Gan" won't help Griselda a lot in a punch up but it'll give her a lot of clout with Trolls in the Rubble. Quite often they lead to story elements being created customised to your character and short circuiting ability checks.

- Backgrounds link you into religions, cultures and roles in that religion and culture. If you've got the background "Champion of the Antorling Clan +5" you can use it much the same way as you could in HQ. You're friendly with the Namolding clan so you can make a CHA check to persuade them to help you, you're an enemy of the Varmandi so make a CHA check to intimidate them - or at least make them pause a bit, you can't really scare a Varmandi. Likewise if you've got "Initiate of Lanbril +3" add it on when you check against WIS to notice something important, INT to check for trapped doors or DEX to see if you get behind that barrel in time to avoid being seen.

- I'll just leave this here from page 50: "As a player, you can narrate runes outside of combat, but as a rule, you can’t narrate runes during combat."

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It has a lot of great stuff.  It's D&D guys.  Of course it's all about those set combat pieces and character classes.  D&D is the antithesis of Runequest.  In Runequest you try to avoid combat when possible.  There are no character classes and you can become whatever you want.  A warrior with great stealth skills is a thing in Runequest.  In D&D, not so much.

Let's face it guys, D&D is stupid, Runequest is smart.  But 13G is really good and has a load of great stuff.  So much so that I'd try playing it.  I'd rather steal everything I can for Runequest however.

Those trickster spells.....O...M...G.

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5 hours ago, Pentallion said:

It has a lot of great stuff.  It's D&D guys.  Of course it's all about those set combat pieces and character classes.  D&D is the antithesis of Runequest.  In Runequest you try to avoid combat when possible.  There are no character classes and you can become whatever you want.  A warrior with great stealth skills is a thing in Runequest.  In D&D, not so much.

Let's face it guys, D&D is stupid, Runequest is smart.  But 13G is really good and has a load of great stuff.  So much so that I'd try playing it.  I'd rather steal everything I can for Runequest however.

Those trickster spells.....O...M...G.

I read 13G and it's great if you like big combats. I considered using 13G to introduce my players to Glorantha as I've got a 5th edition D&D campaign going, but when I read in the 13th Age rules about expecting four combats per session I was pretty surprised. It's unusual for my group if we have two in a session. Our playstyle is different probably because I draw a lot on older D&D which, like Runequest, had incentives for avoiding combat. I use monster reaction rolls and morale rules from Basic D&D and 1gp=1xp as house rules in my 5e campaign, which cuts down on combat. Modern expectations for D&D are apparently having loads of combat. So it seems RQ or even HQ is probably the better fit for my group. Still, I think they did a great job with 13G.

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Just my two cents, but there were plenty of us back in the day who had campaigns full of combat and adventure in the big rubble. And Runequest doesn't really have rules for handling things outside of combat either. It was just something you understood was to be played out through roleplaying. The idea that 13G was going to be a different take on Glorantha, more adventure-centric and less anthropological dissertation, was a big plus for me.

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I should say that I do think it's a great book and would work really well for introducing fans of modern D&D to Glorantha. It can also be used as a source of ideas for other games too. I really like the idea of the Trickster class as a bad luck magnet.

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I have not read 13G -- yet, but I'm thinking about perhaps getting it, but I have played 13A in its standard setting. I can understand the original poster's disappointment about the lack of out of combat crunch. But it had to be expected from 13A.

In short, 13A is the bastard son of D&D4. Mechanically and thematically 4E is the single biggest influence on the game. Like its predecessor, 13A is a game about telling heroic action stories through vivid and dynamic battle scenes. If you read D&D4's Dungeon Master's Guide 2, you'll find these things very nicely stated (btw Robin D. Laws was one of the authors!).

In contrast with its ancestor, it throws away the battle grid, but it also throws away whatever little out of combat crunch D&D4 had, putting icons, backgrounds and unique things in its place.

D&D4 had a (not very good) system for out of combat contests (skill challenges). 13A has nothing in its place. Zilch, nada. Maybe if one wants more structure out of combat should create a HeroQuest-13G Hybrid  of some sort. Or better port in the excellent contest Rules of Revolution d100. It should not be too difficult to create a d20 version of them.

Very interested in seeing how 13G gets used.

 

 

Edited by smiorgan

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These days I prefer systems like FATE and HeroQuest, although for Glorantha I still prefer a version of RuneQuest/BRP for it's nuts and bolts approach. So I think RQG will be my go-to Gloranthan game once it is published.

However it's good for Glorantha itself that there is now a 'Glorantha D20' game, given that D&D is still the most commercially popular rpg on the market. As a player I don't mind playing D&D 5E or 13A D20, but I probably wouldn't GM either.

However I'll be more than happy to play in 13AG if my D20 GM wants to run a Gloranthan game :)

I'll support anything that proliferates Glorantha as a setting, whether it's rpg related or purely narrative, like the G2G. For me Glorantha is up there with Middle Earth as a setting and world immersion experience.

 I can never get enough of Glorantha since I discovered it over 30yrs ago. The current depiction of Glorantha since the G2G  is new and fresh, yet also reminiscent of the ancient world flavour that initially set it apart in the earlier editions of RQ. 13AG seems to be consistent with this flavour, so I'm happy that it is being published!

Edited by Mankcam
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GeneM, I just wanted to mention that we don't expect four combats per session. We define an adventuring day as four normal combats, but that's about resource usage, not a calendar day or any set number of sessions. See page 64 of 13G for clarification of the word daily . . . . Like you (I think!), I normally have one or two battles per session, the rest is roleplaying. 

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Just now, Rob Heinsoo said:

GeneM, I just wanted to mention that we don't expect four combats per session. We define an adventuring day as four normal combats, but that's about resource usage, not a calendar day or any set number of sessions. See page 64 of 13G for clarification of the word daily . . . . Like you (I think!), I normally have one or two battles per session, the rest is roleplaying. 

Ooof, my apologies for not reading thoroughly. You'd think with an English degree I could manage that. Thanks for drawing my attention to that. I appreciate it!

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1 hour ago, Rob Heinsoo said:

GeneM, I just wanted to mention that we don't expect four combats per session. We define an adventuring day as four normal combats, but that's about resource usage, not a calendar day or any set number of sessions. See page 64 of 13G for clarification of the word daily . . . . Like you (I think!), I normally have one or two battles per session, the rest is roleplaying. 

Hey!  Welcome to BRPCentral !

 

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On 3/11/2018 at 2:33 PM, smiorgan said:

13A is the bastard son of D&D4 ... but it ... throws away whatever little out of combat crunch D&D4 had, putting icons, backgrounds and unique things in its place.

D&D4 had a (not very good) system for out of combat contests (skill challenges). 13A has nothing in its place. Zilch, nada. Maybe if one wants more structure out of combat should create a HeroQuest-13G Hybrid  of some sort. Or better port in the excellent contest Rules of Revolution d100. It should not be too difficult to create a d20 version of them.

You know, this was my first reaction on reading the 13th Age rules.  I thought to myself, "This game is billed as story-oriented?  It wouldn't know a story-game if one came up and bit it on the ass."  But having spent some time reading 13th Age books and rolling them around in my head a bit, I've found a new perspective.

It's clear that 13th Age is designed for experience groups rather than novices.  (In fact, it's a horrible product to try and use out-of-the-box if you don't have prior D&D experience.)  As such, my reading of the Running A Game chapter is that it essentially says, you know how you like to run your game outside of combat.  Just do that.  Now, I personally think that my style of gaming is quite out of tune with how Messrs Tweet, Heinsoo and Laws run at their tables.  Every time I read rules text about "the story" and how to make sure that the "party" keeps "following" it, I break out in hives.  I want a story to emerge organically from the PCs' concerns, where core tensions about the game world and about theme are squarely embedded in character concepts from the ground up.  By my lights, that's Narrativisim 101 and is the same approach taken in pretty much all the games I"ve run for the last decade - Sorcerer, Dogs In the Vineyard, The Shadow of Yesterday, Burning Wheel, Smallville/Cortex+ and Dungeon World/World of Dungeons, with just a smidgen of HeroQuest thrown in here and there.

What I've come to realize is that 13th Age is an acceptable Dungeon World.  That is to say that as long as play is structured around a core party/group with reasonable baked-in reasons to stay together and character concerns and conflicts are considered the B-plots I can still have a story-driven game.   Dungeon World has a whole system of Moves dedicated to ramping up story and tension, but I mostly play the lighter World of Dungeons version that John Harper came up with which boils that down to you-get-what-you-want/you-get-what-you-want-BUT/AND.../you-don't-get-what-you-want.  So when I call for rolls I almost always set the difficulty to Hard for the environment tier and allow a success-BUT/AND... for characters who miss by 0-5.  Then I frame lots of opportunities for checks using the same tools that Dungeon World already gives me and work hard to make sure that what's at stake on each check is truly consequential.  I explicitly don't "fail forward" in the described manner where PC success/failure on a given roll largely impacts the color and framing of how you get to the next fight scene.  Instead, I try hard to make the resultant story strongly driven by PC skill checks and let the battles arise organically where they may.  Typically it's enough to have stat blocks to hand for the major antagonists of a story and let the PCs determine when or if they fight.  If you end up with fewer battles this way you can make up for it by making many of them double strength, which both makes them more awesome and also means that full heal-ups and incremental advances still march on apace.  The final component is to remember that battles are contests too and make sure that there is a clear, significant story goal at stake for each battle so that the players understand going in what it is that they will lose if they are defeated or have to retreat.

Honestly, when I run TSoY or HeroQuest I find that about 80% of contests are resolved with single rolls and only 20% invoke Bringing Down the Pain/extended contests.  If I squint I can see 13A skill checks/battles as having the same split.  It does mean that martial/fighty stuff will always be extended and all other kinds of challenge will not but I've come to see that as basically the price of entry for playing a D&D variant in the first place.

Anyway, I'm not trying to say I'm-right-you're-wrong here, but as someone who's struggled with a similar concern and gotten to what I consider a good place relative to it I wanted to share these thoughts.  Hope this is of use to someone.

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On 2/4/2018 at 6:32 PM, Scorpio Rising said:

You know, this was my first reaction on reading the 13th Age rules.  I thought to myself, "This game is billed as story-oriented?  It wouldn't know a story-game if one came up and bit it on the ass."  But having spent some time reading 13th Age books and rolling them around in my head a bit, I've found a new perspective.

[...lots of interesting stuff and play experience]

Anyway, I'm not trying to say I'm-right-you're-wrong here, but as someone who's struggled with a similar concern and gotten to what I consider a good place relative to it I wanted to share these thoughts.  Hope this is of use to someone.

Well, I think we largely agree, in fact. And, to be clear: I do like 13A quite a bit.  It's a really fun game for  experienced players and DMs. 

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On 3/2/2018 at 8:27 AM, simonh said:

How would you differentiate rune priests of Lankor Mhy, Hon Eel and Chalana Arroy if they were all the same class?

I would have done a LOT more of what they did with the Rebel and have some Talents that you can only take if you have the appropriate personal Rune, which by default trends you towards a cult. Take a generic class like Warrior and add a bunch of Talents and abilities and Feats (some of which are likely generic) that you can only take with the appropriate rune, and you have a class that could be Orlanthi, Argan Argar, or Elmal depending on your Runes. Or something like cleric Domains applied much more widely. 

I also found that there was a strong tendency to make the new classes more complicated than the old ones, and I'm not sure that worked that well. If you want very complex specific characters, quite possibly dual-classing is a better mechanic for that. 

If felt like 13thAIG was 13th Age advanced. I wanted it so that if you wanted to play a simple straight forward Warrior or Barbarian, that your character was just as 'Gloranthan'. 

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