13th Age RPG.. oh, man; how I love this game. This game is your standard d20 RPG system developed by a company out of the UK called Pegrane Press. The team that developed this game was stacked (Rob Heinsoo, Johnathan Tweet, Lee Moyer, Aaron McConnell and many more) and it certainly shows!
The overall tone of the core rulebook (13th Age) is rather snarky and not very serious, thus making it rather interesting to read to be honest. Personally, I don’t think that can be said for many rulebooks. But what about the system itself? It runs off of what Pelgrane Press calls the Archmage Engine, which is their D20 sytem, as opposed to their GUMSHOE system which is a D6 based system. If I’m being perfectly honest; If you’ve played that other RPG that rhymes with Mungins and Tagons, you’ve played this one. Now that’s not true to the point where it’s a perfect replica, 13th Age does a lot of things better and also has a lot of mechanics the other game doesn’t.
Where to begin? So firstly, I suppose, 13th age is your run of the mill D20 system in regards to how you do things; Skill checks are a D20 roll + an ability against an unspecified DC (obviously known by your GM), attacking an enemy is a D20 roll + an ability and so on and so forth. HOWEVER! What I really enjoy about this game is that there are no skills to add to die rolls. Now some of you are probably going to be shocked by that if you’re used to some more crunchy game sytems that rhyme with… oh nevermind, you know what I’m talking about. So this game has a mechanic called the Backgrounds mechanic, which I believe to be ultimately superior to skills. In basic terms, it’s a more story driven version of skills. You have 8 points to spend on these backgrounds (which you actually make up) and the title of the background can pertain to a wide range of skills. The best part though for those game breaking players, is that you can only have a max of 5 point in one backgrounds (for the guy that has the “I’m good at everything, hurr durr” background.
For example: You could have a human cleric. Let’s say that I envisioned this character to have found whatever god he/she’s worshipping by being some lowly street drug addict. I could have a background titled “Junkie on the Streets of The Cathedral +3”. Now why so specific? Because it tells me something about my character that’s a little more interesting than saying “street urchin” or “former drug addict” This covers the who and what. The when and how might be brought up during an in character conversation and creates a roleplay opportunity for you and your mates! Look at that, gaming made easy.
That was a lot more specific than I originally wanted to make this post because I will cover mechanics in detail at a later date. So to back track a little bit, this game (to me) is the perfect D20 system that has rules embedded in it to help flesh out your character. The biggest drastic difference from that other game is that there’s no alignment/deity system inherently built into the game. You MAKE all of that stuff up yourself! It’s brilliant.
So let’s see here…
Encourages roleplaying and character development? Check.
Simple mechanics that don’t involve tedious skill tracking? Check.
Awesome artwork in the book to help inspire you? Check.
What more could you want from a game, I mean seriously. Go out and buy this one, it’s a worthy investment. If you’re not sold just yet, there’s an SRD out there. Check that out before you commit to a purchase to see if the overall idea is appealing. If you are sold however, you can visit Pelgrane Press and purchase it from there to get crackin’. When you buy the book, please ignore the elf ranger on the cover that’s using her bow COMPLETELY wrong.. gave me a chuckle however.
Happy Gaming and Stay Metal! \m/