Game the Game: The 13th Kool-Aid

I have three friends who all like and run D&D.

Friend A loves the Old School Renaissance, has issues with 4e, can tolerate 3.x and is loving 5e so far, even having committed to running 6 sessions of it at a gaming convention. Friend B feels somewhat similarly about 1st and 2nd Editions, enjoyed 3.x well enough, has a deepseated hatred of 4e (as a GM, though he enjoyed playing it as player), and is also enjoying 5e. Friend C liked 4e a lot, like 3e a lot, and thought both were improvements on 1st and 2nd, yet he too is running 5e.

I have shared my love of 13th Age with all of them, Friend B is the only one who has looked into it too much, and didn’t like the way magic worked. Friend C has promised he will take a look, but his job keeps him busy along with his family. Friend A has not as far as I know looked at it.

Why? WHY? I might cry out, clenching my fist, as if I had some financial investment in it. I don’t.

And I think I can answer why. I have discussed before how 13th Age could have been laid out better.

More than that though, the player creation portions of the book are dense.

So, even though these cats are DMs at heart, I don’t think they can get past the character creation.

So, on the off-chance that Jonathan Tweet or Rob Heinsoo or some of the fine folks from Pelgrane stop on by, here is my suggestion: create a book for DMs. Create a book that explains the rules, make some DM Screen inserts, create a book that just explains how to run the game, create a book that has the monsters, create a book explain why the One Cool Thing is awesome, as are the backgrounds, show off the Icons. Let the players for these DMs deal with the character creation chapter. Highlight the good from a DMing standpoint. I think folks get lost, and can’t see past what they see as elements they don’t like. I want all of them to see how the game is run, how much players enjoy their characters, how a campaign isn’t reliant on magic items, how one character has a conflicted relationship with the Elf Queen because of a mispronounced word, and how this is a wonderful thing. Make it thin, make it cheap. Convert the DM, convert the players!

As a DM, my only complaint is that they don’t have a DM Screen or inserts available. That is a minor quibble. It plays beautifully. It allows for DMs to tell the stories they want to tell, to create the conflicts they want to create, to populate their worlds with interesting NPCs. The rules encourage this, not just with words, but with actual game mechanics.

Is this too much to hope for as the holiday season approaches?

A warm fire, some winter themed Mountain Dew, a bowl of Holiday Doritos, and a table of friends to game with?

7 thoughts on “Game the Game: The 13th Kool-Aid

  1. I have several issues with the 13th Age book, which I voiced openly when I got the book. I received a reply over social media (which I wasn’t expected) and was told that the game is not for new RPG players. A lot is assumed of the reader and that is intentional.

    With that approach, it’s no wonder that anyone would feel lost trying to run 13th Age. I’m several sessions into running a campaign and I’m still discovering the number of ways in which 13th Age is different from D&D, which it only resembles.

    That said, I’m not sure that there is a whole book’s worth of unique material worth sharing on how to GM 13th Age. I borrow a bit from Dungeon World and Fate Core, which do a fantastic job teaching all the skills I needed to start unpacking 13th Age properly. The Dungeon World GM chapter is probably the best chapter on GMing that I have ever read and I recommend it often.

    As for at the table references, I have copied pages 317-320 for use at the table. I also have pages 252 & 255 copied out for monster creation, but I’ve used them to adjust things on the fly at the table too.

    I agree that 13th Age doesn’t do much to sell itself to people who aren’t immediately grabbed by what it does. The best remedy is to run it for them. Almost everyone I’ve run the system for gets that “AhA!” moment when they realise how much backgrounds alone change how they play the game. That plays style isn’t for everyone but, after Pathfinder, 3E, and 4E, some players may be looking for a different experience which 13th Age can provide, if you can show it to them.


    • I agree, but, in running it for them, they do not get to see why it is cool for a DM, and these are folks who are DMs first and foremost.

      It could be a small book, a pdf, maybe a 16 or 24 pager? Just the rules for running the game.

      I think if my friends (and others) read how the game runs, they would start crying nerd-tears of joy, because I think it does what D&D implied: to create a game for lovers of every Edition. It runs beautifully. Long ago, we at Acts of Geek did several playtests of the game, at various levels, and the unanimous consensus was love of 13th Age.

      I have all the supplements, love them all.

      I love that a campaign can be very low magic (in terms of magic items), that magic items have flavor, I love so much about it, and want my fellow DMs to love it as well.

      Not a book of new stuff for DMs, just the stuff from the core book, that i for the DMs. They don’t need character creation rules, classes, spells, etc. Show them how the game runs, show them what monsters are like, show them how it is everything magical from 1st and 2nd but with some of the best sensibilities of 3rd and 4th.


      • …and show them that damned scarab monster with the ongoing eggs-in-you damage, where if you make the save, more monsters burst out of you because they’re finished gestating. Or the fact that zombies roll initiative with d12s, just because they’re slower. Simple monster mechanics that are genius, make sense, and are fun to implement.

        It’s awesomely flavorful monster stuff like that which makes me a fan of DMing 13th Age. So much cooler and more memorable than the largely similar monsters in the latest (5E) version of D&D (seriously, what separates a 5E goblin, kobold, orc, hobgoblin, human, elf, ogre, or bugbear other than a couple changed stat numbers?).


      • 4e monsters had flavor, yes they did, and this captures all of that and more!

        The simplicity of running a 13th Age game is a beautiful thing, and agreed, the monsters all feel different and do awesome things!


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