Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Things to Hack from 13th Age

I just bought the 13th Age bundle from Bundle of Holding. Here's a list of mechanics I think worth hacking.

  •  Icons: In 13th Age Icons are billed as the most powerful npcs in the world and there are 13 of them. They are compared to factions and clans in other rpgs. But what makes them neat is that the pcs form relationships with these icons, grounding them in the setting and helping the setting come to life. The icons are so general that it would be easy to reskin them for your own setting and there's no reason you couldn't add your own icons or subtract from the current list.
  • Ability Score Bonuses: Builds are my bane and its no lie that racial ability score bonuses are a building block for min-maxers. The main problem with racial ability score bonuses is that they pigeon-hole certain races into certain classes (i.e. the dwarf fighter or cleric). 13th Age fixes this problem by attaching ability score bonuses to race and class. So if you want to be a dwarf wizard you don't have to feel dumb because you can choose your +2 bonus to Constitution or Wisdom and still get the same bonus to your Wisdom or Intelligence.
  • Damage and Armor Class based off Class: I've heard of this concept before but never played with it. I'll be honest I still haven't figured out how 13th Age handles this mechanic. Each class entry presents lists of armor and weapons. I'm not sure if a player is supposed to pick one kind of armor and weapon or if they have both lists at their disposal. Regardless its an interesting mechanic and I look forward to investigating it.
  • Physical Defense and Mental Defense: 13th Age boils down saves to Physical and Defense. However they are not saves in the regular sense. They function more like ac in that an opposing roll must meet or beat your physical defense or mental defense. Each class starts with a base for each and adds the middle modifier of three ability scores. For example with modifiers +3, +3, and +1 the middle modifier is +3. I like this a lot but it seems like a nightmare to convert; more experimentation needed.
  • Uniques: Each pc starts with "one unique thing" about them. This unique is billed not to be an ability or superpower; it's meant to be the fulcrum on the pc's story line or character arc. One example is "I am the only human child of a zombie mother". Good stuff.
  • Backgrounds: Instead of using skill points or proficiency bonuses 13th Age lets a pc distribute 8 points among various backgrounds they might have had and apply those points to a skill roll that applies to the various skills that background required. I like this a lot. It's easily gameable and it dissuades playing by a character sheet. My only grief is that 8 points seems like to much. Albeit a single background can only have a maximum of 5 points; that still seems too high for my tastes. Worth playing around with.
  •  Feats: Now I know what you're thinking. Eew feats, right. But 13th Age treats feats more like moves a la Apocalypse World style. Most feats are attached to class but their are general feats and racial feats. You get 1 at first level and another one every subsequent level. What I like about this is that you could have two barbarians at the same table and they could be completely different. However this is quite buildy and most feats are combat oriented. On the other hand there's nothing wrong with player choice as long as their choices aren't game breaking and bloaty. Or maybe not....I don't know.

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