The Greatest Trick…

The devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

The greatest trick I ever pulled was sacrificing myself to save the world, guarantee the ascension of my allies to godhood, and make them question their own noble and heroic natures.

So, it ended, in the most epic of fashions. The Seven of Steel was reunited: Maxius the LG Crusader of Heironiu, grumpy goody-two-shoes stick in the mud; Pentus, LN Monk of Cyndor, not quite OCD, and humorless but not-not OCD; Tirah, CG elven Bladesinger, Sleeyag through and through; Kallr, tough grugach ranger, of course still plays with bunnies, but kicks major ass; Dwin, spellfilcher, lover of Tirah, sleeyag; Uyag Gnarlfist, 1/2 giant gladiator, 1/2 of the BAMF team, and my BFF, and me, Damien Abisson, blade bard, rabble-rouser, trash-talker, and voted most likely to irritate everyone else in the party!

First we finally got our hands on the Tarrasque. Uyag, of course beat it. Uyag also had my sword (most might know it as the Sword of Kas, but it truly is the Sword of Damien), but was all pouty because I hadn’t visited. Sorry, Yagger, I was busy underground railroading people to safety. You know, helping people. Plus, I think Uyag might have taken to wearing an old-man diaper, 1/2 Giants don’t age that well. I swapped it out with my duplicate, because that’s how I roll.

Tarrasque went down, because we truly are BAMFs, and oh yeah, we had descended to godhood, because some black tentacley thing was killing all the gods. Blah blah blah Pentus and Dwin said words that I am sure were important.

We had to deal with Iuz, and Ivid, and Vecna. We went in that order, not before Pentus one-touch death-punched our frenemy Majere Arctus, nihilist and all-around jerk. Tirah pouted a bit, thinking maybe we shouldn’t have one-pounched him to death. If he hadn’t been an utter jerk maybe he’d still be alive.

Iuz first, and his Fiend-Knights. We killed him dead. Next, we had to bring the smack-down on some guards in the Great Kingdom protecting Ivid, and, to the surprise of no one, Damien had the highest body-count. Again, that’s how I roll. Uyag and Kallir might be more effective, but I look better.

Ivid is a big ole baby, and ran away after I brought the hurt.

We went to fight Vecna, of course, and he had gotten all necro-magic on his Frenemy Kas and we had to get through Kas first. Dwin stripped him naked, except for his mantle, and Pentus rewound time so Uyag could break it. I challenged him to a duel, he accepted, and hurt me dead, but Maxius hooked a brother up and raised me from the deadbook. And then, when his mantle was gone, I told him I’d give him his sword back after we killed Vecna. I was lying, but not really, because I didn’t have his sword, he wanted to call my sword his. That was his mistake. God of Deception, hello.

So, we jumped to Vecna’s plane. We hadn’t had the best of times there in the past. D’oh, Dwin had brain-farted and realized we needed to close some sort of gate and we should have done that before coming here. Silly sleeyags, always forgetting stuff that might save the world. Dwin ran away to seal the gate, and no doubt trap us all here, to die. Leaving Dwin and Ivid as the only deities on Oerth. But as Luck would have it, the gate was still open, and I was able to try and get all my allies and myself through it before it closed, trapping Vecna in his realm, powerless as a deity, and soon to be appetizer for the black mass of tentacles chomping on all the other gods.

I’m a Lucky cat, it’s one of my domains. So, this was a “as luck would have it moment.” Maxius was an old man, and probably just wanted to get home and watch golf, Pentus of course, thought me up to no good, and resisted. So, it all came down to a roll. Pentus could be a big jerk. I rolled my d20, and, as fate would have it this day:

NATURAL 20! Pentus had no recourse and was through the portal, leaving me and Vecna, but fate was not done this day. I had to roll to get myself through.

NATURAL 1!

Thus, my fate was sealed, and I would be devoured, along with my sword and my new best frenemy Vecna, by the black mass of tentacles. Ewwww.

But every hero there that day, they know, that fate stepped in and made my sacrifice the most noble. Faced against a power greater than our might combined, one hero stood above them all, and sacrificed himself so that Oerth could be the one world saved, so that my friends and allies might take their place as mighty gods. But only one individual from that day will have worshipers of all the seven deities tithe in his name. The greatest hero of all, Damien Abisson.

And like that, he’s gone.

The greatest trick the greatest hero ever pulled was convincing the world he was a jerk, a reluctant ally worthy of disdain and mistrust.

El Jefe was getting the gang back together for a birthday game for The Jen, and this time it was a reunion of the Lords of the Land, AKA The Seven of Steel. For many years, Jeff had resisted revisiting this 2e campaign, having moved past 2e, but not happy with anything that has come along since. I made my pitch for a 13th Age version, because anyone who knows me knows I love the 13th Age! El Jefe wasn’t biting. But when the announcement went out, he declared he had finally found the system, a retro-clone worthy of the Seven of Steel.

My tastes and play-style have changed, and I made a pitch for Damien having found love and mellowed in the years since the team went their separate ways. El Jefe could neither confirm nor deny my unrequited love (his notes had no mention of it).

185960What El Jefe was doing was being very cagey about the system. It was not until our first combat, with the Tarrasque, that we all felt imbued, and he delivered unto us our sheets of character, tomes worthy of godhood indeed, as we had become Godbound!

Trouble was, we were only 1st level godlings.

But, it was great. As is my wont, if I play a game, I buy the game, it is my way of supporting the industry I love so, and so El Jefe handed me his copy.

The game itself was a great deal of fun, it captured the epic nature of our characters and our enemies, and as disappointed as I am that my character is the only one that isn’t living the good life as a god on Oerth, I take solace in the fact that every member of the Seven who always thought Damien more trouble than he was worth knows that I willingly sacrificed myself so that they all may live, and so that every being remaining in existence would be able to draw breath. And they will know that I did it, and not them.

Because, that is the kind of jerk hero Damien is.

And, i am looking forward to playing around with this game and system, as it scratches an itch I have had for some time, a game that allows for players to take on the role of gods.

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GAME THE GAME: Friday the 13th Age and Beyond

It’s the 13th Age. 13 Icons. There are mentions of prior Ages, and prior Icons, I got to wondering, did the 1st Age have only 1 Icon? Will the 21st Age have 21 Icons?

Icons Who Came Before

The Fool
Grandmaster of Flowers
Grandfather Assassin
The Inquisitor
The Sliding Princess
The Summoner
The Wizard King

Some of these Icons and their brief write-ups greatly intrigue me. When Acts of Geeks ran an extensive playtest of 13th Age, our game ended at Epic Level with the PCs assuming their place as Icons, replacing some of the current Icons!

It was perfect and awesome and beyond Epic (was there a 3.x book that detailed beyond epic?).

But, extrapolating beyond the 14th Age (with potentially 14 Icons), I imagined a far future (isn’t that how Shadowrun came to be) with awesome new Icons, though some of the current Icons would surely still be around.

The Lich King of course. The Emperor.  The Priestess.

But what new Icons would take their place? With forgeborn being a thing, are cybernetics that far behind?

Stealing from my own game, I present:

gg_logoG33k Grrl

If her stories are to be believed, she is all natural. Her ability to interface with technology, that is. And the rest too, get your minds out of the gutters. She is the ultimate information broker. She talks to machines, she jokingly calls herself the computer whisperer, but few would dispute the veracity of her claims. If it is out there, somewhere, she can access it. She is a great friend to have, but she doesn’t make friends too easily.

QUOTE

“Who is buying me drinks? You? Yeah, your husband knows about your girlfriend already, I don’t want to deal with that.”

 

 

 

GAME THE GAME: Friday The 13th Age Monk

The monk has always been anomalous in the inherent, implied setting of D&D. While every other classic character class has a clear high-fantasy analogue, the monk is clearly rooted in eastern traditions. Given the release date of AD&D, I can only imagine that Mr. Gygax was a big fan of the television series Kung-Fu. But, as cool as the idea of the 1e monk was, they were ultimately all the same. Yes, stats might differ, but the abilities would be the same. As game design has moved forward, players were given more choices, and we have seen many different iterations of the monk, some hewing closely to the original, and others changing with the times and edition.

gtgma13th Age, a game written from the ground up to make sense of and integrate all that came before, presents, in my opinion, the coolest, most versatile, fun to play monk yet. My index cards for my character are great fun. I have one card with my opening moves (jab), one card for my flow attacks (punch), and on for my closing (kick). I can easily imagine my monk doing awesome stuff worthy of any martial arts film. If you want to ensure you have the Flurry of Blows prevalent in many previous iterations of D&D, you can do that, but if you want to fire a bow, or do wire-fu, that is there too. One can easily imagine creating multiple schools of monks, each with their own specialties.Shoot fireballs DBZ style? Check! Jackie Chan? Ding! It’s all there, and my monk will be different than your monk.

Intrigued? Interested? Seeking enlightenment? Pick up a copy of 13 True Ways, as always, it is my opinion that you will not be disappointed.

GAME THE GAME: Tell Me About Your Character (Actual Play Edition)

AoG Editor Mike has started up a 13th Age game. AoG columnist Kim is dealing with her impressions , and I thought it’d be a wonderful time to share my thoughts on some big picture gaming stuff, with opinions that might enlighten, anger, or even bore you.

The genre of D&D (yes, it is a genre, it is not Fantasy, it is not Swords and Sorcery, it is D&D) is very firmly rooted in the concept of leveling-up. You start as an inexperienced character, and advance in power and prestige, making the world a better place.

This leveling-up is the most intrinsic part of a D&D game across all iterations.

And, yes, 13th Age is a D&D game, make no mistake.

As I reflect upon our second session, which Kim has detailed her take on here , I wanted to share what I feel are some insights into gaming and leveling-up and D&D in general.

My character (c’mon, it’s a D&D game, it has to include the phrase “my character”) is a monk.

I have run panels on gaming and GMing, and I always encourage folks that less is more. Let the characters develop through play. A character doesn’t need 10 pages of back story, his story is one that is about to be told.

My character was selected by his order to do a job. I have some additional thoughts, but his story is starting with him leaving his monastery and heading out into the Big World to accomplish his goal.

I had some more thoughts about what he was like, but I didn’t necessarily verbalize them.

This article is my reflection on that process, and advice for other gamers and GMs.

Let your character and personality develop through play.

If you have 10 pages of back story, you are focusing on the past.

Focus on the present and the future.

Be surprised by the things your character does.

Old School D&D players will swear by the alignment system. It guides their characters and informs us what we can expect. My character is (imaginary) flesh and blood, he has a moral compass, and he will make choices. And, how many of us, can say that we are the same as when we were in high school, or college. People mellow. People change. Conservatives become liberal. Listening tastes change from Ministry to NPR.

Instead of having your past drive your character and their choices, allow your character to make their own way.

Is it interesting that X happened to your character? Or, is it more interesting when your character responds to something at the table, during the game, in a way that surprises your fellow players, the GM, and yourself.

I had a paladin. He had a daughter. The DM at the time was lamenting the fact that characters never had families. So, I took him up on this “challenge.” Other members of my paladin’s order decided that my daughter was “the one” or some such. They took her from my wife. My wife was upset. This made me upset.

I found my daughter, and took her back, turning my back on the order.

LG on LG violence?!?

Yup.

This surprised me.

I ran a Star Wars birthday game for a friend. He wanted an alt-reality where Luke joined his father and they united, and thee was all sorts of badness across the universe. And, he wanted to be a dark jedi.

So, it was a dark game.

A game of villains.

Killing those rebel scum.

And then, Luke asked the player, his student, to strike down the weak Lord Vader, so that they might rule together.

And, the player refused.

This wasn’t what his character wanted. He thought he wanted it. I gave him the chance.

And he bowed his head and declined.

And that player surprised himself.

Be in the moment.

In our 13th Age game, there were some orcs. They wanted something. Their army of thousands set up camp outside the town we were in. They were not attacking… yet.

monk01So, while some of my fellow players prepared for war, prepared for a battle we might not win, because these were orcs, and orcs are bad, my character, the monk named Ash, went out to talk to the orcs, accompanied by the tiefling druid.

We had a parlay. I asked what they wanted. They wanted an axe. Ok, what were they willing to give up for the axe? What did we want for the axe? There were some negotiations, communications with the higher-ups (Icons), and it was determined, if we secured the axe, they would deliver the Orc Lord’s head on a platter to the Elf Queen.

This made the Elf Queen happy, as the Orc lord long ago had killed her husband. The Orc Lord didn’t necessarily know this plan, but the orc who orchestrated was seeing a bigger picture.

So, the orcs got the axe named “Elfkiller”, there will be a new Orc Lord, and everyone in the village was safe.

When Ash left the confines of the monastery walls, I had no idea what the world had in store for him. I have a mission. But, along the way, it seems I am going to do some things that surprise me.

Likely, Ash will call himself orc-friend, and this makes the orc-haters mad. But it seemed the honorable thing to do.

Because, maybe we all need to just share a Coke and a smile.

If you are playing (or creating) a game about XP, then your game needs to reflect this.

Awhile back, several of the AoG staffers played some Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

There were some neat things in this game, but after three or four sessions, Black Panther had leveled-up quite a bit due to the XP system, to the point where has significantly more powerful.

So, what you are telling me is that through the over 1600 appearances T’challa had made in comics up to the point when he was statted up and he was being played in this campaign he had achieved X power level, yet in 3-4 sessions, he was not significantly more powerful? That didn’t work for me.

ff01And Johnny Storm? For the over 4,000 issues he has been in he doesn’t even have a d8 in Combat? I can accept that, however, I cannot accept that after 3-4 sessions, now he does, and ultimately, having even a d8 in MHR makes a significant difference.

MHR needed to figure out what is was about as a game? Was it about XP? If so, what did XP promote? What could one do with XP? I appreciated the Milestones, and what they encouraged, but they didn’t synch with the rest of the system.

D&D is a genre about leveling up.

It’s cool that your character has a backstory. Mechanically, does your backstory make sense? With 4 ranks in a specific background or skill, can you accomplish what your backstory proclaims?

Does your system understand this?

If I am a former soldier, possibly even an officer, in a 5e game, why does a single kobold scare me at 1st level? Or rather, why is a single kobold a threat to me? This doesn’t seem to synch either.

In D&D 1st level characters come to the table full of potential, hopes, and dreams. Likely, they haven’t “done” much, their stories are going to unfold through play.

Is your background, be it 10 pages, or 10 sentences, supported by the game system?

Ash had potential, that is what the monks saw in him.

Since our game is not quite an “open-secrets” table (see the Morley-Wick method of gaming) , I’m not quite ready to reveal what that potential is, but it is there, and the mechanics of the system support it.

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?

Game The Game: The Dice of Our Lives

There are many essays, and even whole websites devoted to discussions of game design, I am going to add to it, in my own way, but instead of delving into the realm of GNS, I want instead to talk about dice.

Dice are cool.

Dice are fun.

Many gamers have fond memories of rolling a d20, and hoping against hope for a natural 20.

It is an incredible feeling, getting that 20 at just the right moment.

The newest version of that game many of us hold fondly in our hearts has recently been released, and it uses a d20. However, unlike (most) previous iterations of this game, the dice can do fun things. Instead of having to add in modifiers, positive and negative (and waiting for Alan to add them all up, or for some Madden math [defined as announcing your total several times, each time adding in yet another positive modifier: “I rolled a 10, plus my BAB of 3, 13! Plus my weapon bonus of +2… 15! Pause Plus my flanking bonus… 17! And so on.]) The 5th edition of D&D asks players to sometimes roll two d20s, and depending on the situation, keep the highest or lowest. This is their Advantage/ Disadvantage system.

Discussion of it being too subject to GM fiat and player manipulation is neither hear nor there, it is a change. Cool(er) things can happen now, less reliant on the math, and speeding things up.

The game I wrote, does some similar things (and for those keeping track at home, predates this innovation). In my game, players may roll multiple dice, and keep the best (if they are doing well) or worst. And, if the get a natural 12 (yes, the game uses d12 instead of d20s, and I didn’t want to assume everyone would understand what a nat12 was), even cooler things happen, mainly that their final total will be bumped up quite a bit, depending on the level of the Trait they are using. The more powerful the Trait, the more significant the increase. In play, it is always fun and exciting when this happens, big numbers are exciting and dramatic.

So, feeling the crunch of an AoG deadline, I thought I would briefly go over my top three systems for dice mechanics, and one honorable mention!

13th Age, a favorite here at AoG uses that one d20 roll, but often has cool abilities that kick in at different points, perhaps if the natural die result is greater than 15, perhaps an odd number greater that 11, all sorts of coolness. Now, take the Advantage/ Disadvantage system from that 5e game, and you have the super awesomest FRP ever!

Brave New World, one of my favorite systems for awesome excitement, where the drama of a dice roll directly influences the drama of the action that follows. Roll a number of d6s, natural 6s explode, every 5 points above a target number, one can activate tricks, which means your action does super awesome cool stuff. I love it! This is what I wish a lot of systems did, although the narrative isn’t as dramatic as an Exalted roll where one announces their attack (perhaps by standing on a chair, gathering up 24 dive, and rolling them with authority), what sucks in that system is if you miss. I like that success determines the effect! Not declared effect and then roll for success.

Monsterhearts, a child of the Apocalypse World phenomenon, is, IME and IMHO, the most elegant spinoff “Powered by the Apocalypse.” Why? Not because of the subject matter, but because of the simplicity of every action being defined in a very small number of ways, and the die roll for that action having very specific outcomes. It forces the players into a very rigid way of thinking, which is so rigid as to be freeing. I do love this game, and not (necessarily) because of the content matter or implied setting, but because of the real sense of danger every die roll brings, because of the simplicity in executing the result of those die rolls. There is no escaping danger in Monster Hearts, no dump stat.

The One Roll Engine, used in several different games, there is a beautiful piece of design here, one roll determines where you go in the initiative order, where you hit, and how well you hit. It is a really bold idea and execution. However, with Hard Dice, every attack is a head shot, which makes it very deadly. Granted, that makes game play have a very distinct feel, but isn’t 100% there for me, but it is a lot of fun, and very innovative.

Now, having my words out there for all internet eternity, I try and be careful. Are there dice systems I don’t like? Sure, of course. This makes me human. And can I write long dissertations on why I do not like them? Yes. But, I won’t, because, in life, we can be positive, or we can be negative, and I am going to focus on the positive. Maybe you like a system I do not, and maybe we could have a long “discussion” about the merits and flaws of said system. I do enjoy these discussions as long as they are positive and contain civil discourse. But, for now, I am going to focus on the positive. And, at the end of the day, when you sit down to roll dice, the system you like is the best system for you, and I will always support you for that. Because, I always try and remember, the most important part of RPGs is that G, it stands for Game, and a Game is supposed to be fun, and no one should tell you how to have fun!

Game the Game: The Dice of Our Lives

There are many essays, and even whole websites devoted to discussions of game design, I am going to add to it, in my own way, but instead of delving into the realm of GNS theory, I want instead to talk about dice.

Dice are cool.

Dice are fun.

Many gamers have fond memories of rolling a d20, and hoping against hope for a natural 20.

It is an incredible feeling, getting that 20 at just the right moment.

4e_dungeonThe newest version of that game many of us hold fondly in our hearts has recently been released, and it uses a d20. However, unlike (most) previous iterations of this game, this d20 can do fun things. Instead of having to add in modifiers, positive and negative (and waiting for Alan to add them all up, or for some Madden math [defined as announcing your total several times, each time adding in yet another positive modifier: “I rolled a 10, plus my BAB of 3, 13! Plus my weapon bonus of +2… 15! Pause Plus my flanking bonus… 17! And so on.]) The 5th edition of D&D asks players to sometimes roll two d20s, and depending on the situation, keep the highest or lowest. This is their Advantage/ Disadvantage system.

Discussion of it being too subject to GM fiat and player manipulation is neither here nor there, it is a change. Cool(er) things can happen now, less reliant on the math, and speeding things up.

The game I wrote, does some similar things (and for those keeping track at home, predates this innovation). In my game, players may roll multiple dice, and keep the best (if they are doing well) or worst. And, if the get a natural 12 (yes, the game uses d12 instead of d20s, and I didn’t want to assume everyone would understand what a nat12 was), even cooler things happen, mainly that their final total will be bumped up quite a bit, depending on the level of the Trait they are using. The more powerful the Trait, the more significant the increase. In play, it is always fun and exciting when this happens, big numbers are exciting and dramatic.

So, feeling the crunch of an AoG deadline, I thought I would briefly go over my top three systems for dice mechanics, and one honorable mention!

13th Age, a favorite here at AoG uses that one d20 roll, but often has cool abilities that kick in at different points, perhaps if the natural die result is greater than 15, perhaps an odd number greater that 11, all sorts of coolness. Now, take the Advantage/ Disadvantage system from that 5e game, and you have the super awesomest FRP ever!

Brave New World, one of my favorite systems for awesome excitement, where the drama of a dice roll directly influences the drama of the action that follows. Roll a number of d6s, natural 6s explode, every 5 points above a target number, one can activate tricks, which means your action does super awesome cool stuff. I love it! This is what I wish a lot of systems did, although the narrative isn’t as dramatic as an Exalted roll where one announces their attack (perhaps by standing on a chair, gathering up 24 dive, and rolling them with authority), what sucks in that system is if you miss. I like that success determines the effect! Not declared effect and then roll for success.

Monsterhearts, a child of the Apocalypse World phenomenon, is, IME and IMHO, the most elegant spinoff “Powered by the Apocalypse.” Why? Not because of the subject matter, but because of the simplicity of every action being defined in a very small number of ways, and the die roll for that action having very specific outcomes. It forces the players into a very rigid way of thinking, which is so rigid as to be freeing. I do love this game, and not (necessarily) because of the content matter or implied setting, but because of the real sense of danger every die roll brings, because of the simplicity in executing the result of those die rolls. There is no escaping danger in Monsterhearts, no dump stat.

The One Roll Engine used in several different games is a beautiful piece of design. One roll determines where you go in the initiative order, where you hit, and how well you hit. It is a really bold idea and execution. However, with Hard Dice, every attack is a head shot, which makes it very deadly. Granted, that makes game play have a very distinct feel, but isn’t 100% there for me, but it is a lot of fun, and very innovative.

Now, having my words out there for all internet eternity, I try and be careful. Are there dice systems I don’t like? Sure, of course. This makes me human. And can I write long dissertations on why I do not like them? Yes. But, I won’t, because, in life, we can be positive, or we can be negative, and I am going to focus on the positive. Maybe you like a system I do not, and maybe we could have a long “discussion” about the merits and flaws of said system. I do enjoy these discussions as long as they are positive and contain civil discourse. But, for now, I am going to focus on the positive. And, at the end of the day, when you sit down to roll dice, the system you like is the best system for you, and I will always support you for that. Because, I always try and remember, the most important part of RPGs is that G, it stands for Game, and a Game is supposed to be fun, and no one should tell you how to have fun!

GAME THE GAME: d8 Games to Play While You Wait For the 5th Edition of D&D

The latest edition of D&D is scheduled to be released over the next six months. The Boxed Set just dropped. The PHB is still 3 weeks away, and the DMG and Monster Manual don’t hit until September and November.

But what if you just cannot wait? Or what if this new edition has reignited your interest in gaming and you are itchy to roll some dice. Here are d8 games to take a look at that are like D&D but different!

Cover_500px11) 13th Age– Pelgrane Press. Take the lead designer of 3rd Edition and the lead designer of 4th edition, put them in a room, and they will deliver unto you 13th Age. This one is a favorite of Acts of Geek. In our opinion it has some of the best features of all four editions with even more cool new innovations!

2) Castles and Crusades– Troll Lord Games. It will feel very familiar to old school D+D players, but has some interesting innovations to make characters feel unique. Many monsters have interesting features, and are not just HP and AC.

3) Lejendary Adventures– Out of Print, check Amazon or your Local Game Store, or this intro pdf . Since leaving TSR, the Master, Gary Gygax wrote several game systems. This was his last one. There are some brilliant ideas contained within, the game needs some polish, and probably some house rules, but there is great potential contained within. Plus, you know, Gary Gygax wrote it.

4) Pathfinder*- Paizo Publishing. The Most Popular RPG Today! That may not be their tagline but it should be. Don’t be too fooled. It is D&D 3.x with some changes, but they continue publishing product, so folks have embraced it. If you want that 3.x experience, give this a look. Top notch production values and lots of support!

DWcover5) Dungeon World– Sage Kobold Productions. All those other games- old school. Dungeon World- New Wave. Or maybe punk rock. Powered by the Apocalypse, this Apocalypse World derivative will have you approaching roleplaying and dungeon-delving in a whole new way. It just might blow your mind.

6) Shadow of Yesterday– CRN Games. The author flat out tells you this is his fantasy heartbreaker. One of the early wave of Indie Games, the setting is unique and the mechanics support the setting. This isn’t Uncle Gary’s D&D, this is the D&D your dad kept under his mattress (wink). Mature and evocative!

7) FATE– Evil Hat Productions. FATE comes in two flavors FATE Accelerated and FATE Core. The former even is a pay what you like pdf download. (http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-downloads/) Fate does thinsg differently, will have you wanting to make characters, but be forewarned, character creation is part of the game and needs to bo done with everyone at the table. It is a generic system, so if you want the Fantasy setting, you’ll have to pick up Fate Worlds Volume One, or just figure it out based on the “implied setting” in the core book.

8) Hillfolk– Pelgrane Press. Robin Laws’ game of Iron Age Drama doesn’t contain a fantasy setting like you might be looking for, but it does contain a whole bunch of other very cool settings. Written by some RPG luminaries. But, if you want your game to feel like an HBO or FX series, give this a try. Your game won’t be about Power Attacking, it will be about interpersonal drama.

Honorable Mention (or is it an outside of the box mention): Numenara– Monte Cook Games. One of the lead designers of 3rd edition wrote this fascinating post-fantasy game that has a lot of similarities to games that use a twenty-sided die (and this game does as well). The setting is not fantasy, but is indeed fantastic. Set aside a weekend to read this one and take it all in, but given that the Kickstarter made over half a million dollars, the quality comes through!

*If you already own Pathfinder, and are looking for something a bit different, pick up Wicked Fantasy– John Wick Presents. All the Pathfinder rules you love, but John Wick’s unique take on a fantasy setting is evocative, interesting, and as always, makes me want to play in one of his games.

13th Age: My Summer Girlfriend

The town where I went to high school had what we called “summer people.” Now, if I was a more indie or arty game designer, “summer people” would be some cool fae like race, and my game would be about telling cool stories about these fae. But no, “summer people” were simply folks who came to our tiny town and summered there.

13th Age (published by Pelgrane Press) is a D&D like game written by the lead designers of 3rd and 4th Edition (“Designer Powers Activate!”). Long ago, several of the Acts of Geeks folks did a play-test of 13th Age, and in true college essay fashion compared and contrasted it with their play-test of D&D Next. We all loved 13th Age, and felt very meh about D&D Next. This was in the Spring of 2013.

I went to GenCon in 2013 and stopped by the 13th Age booth hoping that maybe they would have some new product.  We were all eager to play more. They were really nice and when I told them of our play-test they gave me a fancy escalation die. In that time, I have been an unofficial member of the 13th Age Street Team. I have communicated with all my D&D/ Pathfinder friends, whose tastes run the gamut from Basic D&D to 4th Edition. “You should check this game out, it has the best elements from all the versions of D&D that you love, is very narrative and crunchy enough, the Icons are really cool, combats are fun and exciting. We had two paladins in our party, one was a ninja-paladin, and they were both totally different.”

And…can you hear that? Crickets. No one was particularly interested. The original 13th Age supplement Kickstarter made over $70,000, which is not insignificant. Well, maybe in today’s age of Potato Salad it is. Now, over a year later, Pelgrane Press has released one 13th Age product. The core book. The 5th Edition of D&D just released and already there’s a free pdf and the boxed set. At GenCon they will be releasing the Players Handbook, followed closely by the Monster Manual and Dungeon Masters Guide. And these same friends, who spurned my Amway-like advances are all abuzz, even though many of them felt similarly about the Next Playtest.

What happened? 1) 13th Age was one book. It has monsters, and is indeed a complete game, but for D&D fans, some stuff was missing: multiclassing, more monsters, more magic items, other races and classes. 2) Layout. It is beautiful book, but with all my experience with the game as a GM, I never had to make a character. When I have sat down and fiddled around, there was a lot of flipping around, and some confusion. It was not poorly laid out by any means, but it also was not a mean, lean, character generation machine. Some parts could have been more intuitive. 3) Support. I only have experience with my FLGS, but was 13th Age available in other stores? Were these friends of mine unable to find a copy, is that why they spurned my non-pyramid scheme suggestions? And over a year later, there is still just the one book. Now, I am well aware that some games require only one book, but if you’re trying to offer an alternative to D&D some very specific beats must be hit.

Back in high school, there was this very cute girl, a summer girl. My friends and I got to know her. Being young and doofy, I asked her if she wanted to see a movie, because that is what we did in the summer. Sure, I mean, a date would have been great, but, I wasn’t thinking along those lines, more, “hey, this is what we do, if you want to do something.” Imagine my surprise when she held my hand during the movie. In today’s age of Facebook, I have yet to find her and reconnect with her. Several years after that summer of holding hands and French-kissing, I cleaned her swimming pool every week, or rather the swimming pool at the house where she was living, and always hoped I’d catch a glimpse of her. But it was not to be. 13th Age, I still do love you. I want to love you. Sure, I’m a gamer, and no doubt I will be swept up into hysteria of the D&D PHB release at GenCon this year and will buy a copy, but I want it to be you 13th Age.