13th Age is clearly a spiritual successor to both 3.5 and 4e, with a dash of indie games mixed in. While it occasionally feels like the mechanics are a solution searching for a problem, there's lots of good ideas that can be stolen for a 5e or OSR game.
I myself and most of my gaming gals and buddies are working in the investment business. How often do we have time to play for the old d&d experience? Never. How often can we carve out some time on a Sunday afternoon? From time to time. How long do we know in advance? One to two days. So our setup is: no time to prepare an adventure, especially a pre-written one. No time to delve deep into a new campaign setting. We don't have the time to prepare pre-written campaigns or study a particular setting. We invent the setting on the fly and the story as we go. Sometimes I use the available for free organised play adventures as a backbone.13th Age became quickly became our system of choice, the reasons being:Every rule contributes to the storyEach character has a One-unique-thing: it is meant to message the intent of the player to the gm, why his pc matters to the story.We want every class a uniquely different feel. 13th Age classes are different. Totally.We don't want to fuss around with a detailed skill system. We want to have a skill system which details the background of the pcs and the campaign setting. Instead of „skills“, 13th Age works with backgrounds. Backgrounds encompass everything your character has done before becoming an adventurer. If you can explain why a certain background applies to a given situation, apply the background bonus.We want the characters to be uniquely connected with the story background - the icon systems directly connects the PCs to the movers and shakers or their respective organizations.Feats directly connect to the character-built - we do not want to study a few hundred of them and figure out the interdependenciesThe PCs immediately feel like Heroes in an action-packed high-fantasy movieIf you have the time to play D&D every week or other week, you can certainly take an established setting or campaign and play Pathfinder or fifth edition. If you don't: there is no other game for the spontaneous dungeoneering and dragonslaying experience than 13th Age.
4e-style codification of abilities with indie game narrative elements is an interesting mix, but not really my cup of tea. Nice book and a few interesting ideas that can be stolen and imported into other games.
Seems to take the worst elements of 3.5 and 4e, and then blend them with more system mechanic tricks. The saving grace is probably the setting, which is both interesting and actually has a lot of thought about usability - although sadly this will almost certainly never be used by groups without the accompanying terrible system.
There's a lot of things that I like in 13th Age. For me, it's a better version of D&D 4th edition that puts more focus on the character.I love playing this game in convention, since the story is often inspired by the characters and their icons.
For me, this is the perfect edition of D&D style rules, taking what I consider the best parts of 3.5 and 4th edition and combining them with some of the great story based rules we've been seeing in indie RPGs over the past few years. Add in a fantastical setting that's ripe for letting a GM do whatever they want and you have a winner!
I really love this system. I haven't played it much so I may not have played it enough to uncover any problems with the system. I love the escalation dice and how that helps make sure comabts don't go on too long. The One Unique Things can easily be ported into any other RPG. The icons who are the big movers and shakers of the world can help drive your PCs stories through their interactions with them and the combat rules are interesting and fun without dragging on too long. The only negative so far is the book could have probably been ordered better.
My first impression of the game is that it blends in the usual D&D/d20 system with the character creation and traits of a narrative based system such as Dungeon World. It feels very well presented and I like the concept of Icons. The ruleset seems quite light, which is actually a slight negative to me, as I enjoy games with quite a lot of character progression options. I also felt that the character creation told me about my character's background, but not what traits my character has, such as with 5e's flaws, bonds etc... I also thought that the setting needed some previous knowledge to get the most from the game. Overall, a reasonably good game I would play again.
I'm not (yet) 100% on board with all the ideas that combine to create the full 13th Age experience, but there's so much good stuff in there, that I'm willing to give it a try.
In fact it may save our (pretty much) doomed 4e campaign. It keeps just enough aspects of 4e to make me want to play it.
It also introduces quite a few concepts that are revolutionary for something that might otherwise be considered a 'D&D clone'.
(I'm rather late to the show, so I won't repeat specifics that have already been reported in much better detail elsewhere.)
The authors also go to great lengths to provide insights into their design process and stressing that pretty much everything should be considered 'optional'.
Don't care for a rule? Ignore it, make up your own, or pick an alternative that they helpfully decided to include, too!
It's not just a great RPG system, it's also fun to read and inspires you to think about your current favorite RPGs and wonder if it couldn't use a couple of of house-rules to make it more like 13th Age...
Good points (beside the amazing writing style): the Icon Relationships points, the One Unique Thing, the Escalation Die (true reason: because it adds the variability of the time factor to fights!). However, Backgrounds are too much free-form IMO. Ironically, all these elements can be easily taken away and used in another system.
Bad points: 1) the rule system isn't flexible enough, I have always the feeling of being limited in my options. 2) The indie aspect of building the story collaboratively between master and players is handled in very confusing ways (IMO). I go mad when the players are left free to change the lore/history of the world or whatever!
To sum things up, I have the bad feeling that the rule-system of 13th Age is dualistic, suffering from a rigid division between Flesh (the combat crunch, which is not flexible enough) and the Spirit (the non-combat aspects, that are so fantastically free-form and so unrelated to the crunch to result very difficult to manage).
The system deserves a 4-points rating for its better ideas (Icon Relationships, One Unique Thing, Escalation Die) AND because of the excellence of two system-dependent products: the Bestiary and Eyes of the Stone Thief, each in the Top 10 of their respective category (Bestiary and Adventure).