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13th Age What should 4e steal from 13th Age?

Dungeoneer

First Post
Well, I just finished running a short, two-session game of 13th Age for my group. They liked it, but felt the combat was just too lightweight compared to 4e. "The roleplaying is better in 13A, but the combat is better in 4e." *sobs*

Well, it looks like we'll be going back to 4e but we have all agreed that we should steal copiously from 13A. For my tastes, the more we steal the better. :devil: So I guess the question is, what can be stolen from 13A and hacked into 4e with minimal damage to the overall system? Here's a few thoughts so far:


  • Backgrounds As Skills - Replacing skill checks with backgrounds was a big hit with this group. They like that it encourages roleplay instead of a boring DC check.
  • Escalation Die - I definitely felt as though the Escalation Die kept the game from dragging, even on tough combats. My understanding is that if you bump up defenses in 4e by two points a piece the ED should work fine. Has anyone tried this?
  • One Unique Thing - This has no real mechanical bearing on the system, but OUTs seem like a great way to flesh out characters and give them interesting hooks that the DM can actually do things with.
  • Incremental Advance - I can't think of any reason this wouldn't work in 4e with the exact same rules: pick one thing from the next level and add it to your character, excepting attack and defense bonuses.

What else should we appropriate/pillage/respectfully borrow from 13A for our 4e game?
 

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MoutonRustique

Explorer
There are beautiful tools in there to facilitate theater of the mind. Which 4e is sorely lacking in it's "sales pitch".

It would be very easy - and in many situations of good and proper use - to pilfer the "engaged/near/far" distances to facilitate TotM; as well as the "affects 1d3 targets" of AoE.

It's an easier port to 4e than many could think - while 4e does have a great deal of strategic placement and effects that rely on them, in truth (IMO) many can be handwoven in. The perfect example would be combat advantage: one could argue that rogues have a vested interest in specific placement, but in effect, there are so Asmodeus-damned different ways to get CA that there is no purpose in being stingy with it.

A non friendly AoE is also easy to adjucate: simply assign a "primary target" for the spell, treat adjacent foes and all engaged allies as potential targets and determine randomly who gets struck by die roll - I'm a fan of having a d8 be rolled for every potential target and all those with the 2 lowest valued rolls are affected. It's easy, it's fast and it usually means 2 targets affected, sometimes 3 and rarely 4.

Friendly AoE can use the same mechanic; friendly targets simply don't have to roll.

As an option, the "primary target" is either automatically a target or suffers a -2 on his roll (in the former case, the additional targets are those with the lowest valued roll - assuming you want the ~2-3 targets of 13th Age. For a different tactical approach, you could also have each "engaged group" be a target - this could make "one on ones" a very important tactical choice as AoE characters would pummel grouped foes.)

For the above, note that I believe there are no right/wrong answers, only different effects on tactical decisions - and the in-world consequences that follow them with regards to npc decision making processes.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Holy distant mind-reading on the web batman - I was just thinking about what could be stolen from 13Age, And even the bit about Theatre of the Mind ranges and area of effects rings home. (if you people are going to go dancing around in my head at least buy me dinner first):p
 
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Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
My favourite part of 13th Age is the idea of backgrounds as skills. I think that is so innovative and elegant that I really do wish there was a way to programme it into the Character Builder. (Although, of course, it's really easy to do by hand. The only problem arises when it comes to being trained in a skill in order to gain access to a particular feat, skill power, and/or paragon path but I suppose that can also be kit-bashed.)

I'll be using the escalation die in my next 4E session but I am also going to experiment with starting the die at a higher value after the first encounter to further encourage my players to press on (I don't use milestones and I give out an action point with every encounter so this might just be the extra bit of encouragement they need to try and do more).

I find that 4E's Character Themes seem to fill the role of 13th Age's One Unique Thing so I don't really miss the latter but, of course, the latter is infinitely more flexible than choosing from a list of 100 or so Character Themes.

I would also add flat damage from monsters except that I have been doing that since 2E. (I don't do it in every combat - and the players also have the option of using average damage at any time - but it does save time.)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
My favourite part of 13th Age is the idea of backgrounds as skills. I think that is so innovative and elegant that I really do wish there was a way to programme it into the Character Builder. (Although, of course, it's really easy to do by hand. The only problem arises when it comes to being trained in a skill in order to gain access to a particular feat, skill power, and/or paragon path but I suppose that can also be kit-bashed.)

I'll be using the escalation die in my next 4E session but I am also going to experiment with starting the die at a higher value after the first encounter to further encourage my players to press on (I don't use milestones and I give out an action point with every encounter so this might just be the extra bit of encouragement they need to try and do more).
Ah that is interesting I like it - increase its purpose already its a pacing tool - wheels turning turning - what if adventures had stages and at various stages you bump the intensity.
I find that 4E's Character Themes seem to fill the role of 13th Age's One Unique Thing so I don't really miss the latter but, of course, the latter is infinitely more flexible than choosing from a list of 100 or so Character Themes.
Agreed what I think the one unique thing does nicely is emphasize an element of players are indeed allowed to be not like the world or even more to define something brand new but liberal reflavoring and custom themes can do it too.
I would also add flat damage from monsters except that I have been doing that since 2E. (I don't do it in every combat - and the players also have the option of using average damage at any time - but it does save time.)
Yup think I seen that either as a house rule or in Dragon Magazine long long ago.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
Ah that is interesting I like it - increase its purpose already its a pacing tool - wheels turning turning - what if adventures had stages and at various stages you bump the intensity. (snip)

That's a great idea. I need to think about that some more.

(snip) Yup think I seen that either as a house rule or in Dragon Magazine long long ago.

Actually, I realised that I've been doing it since 1E. Once we started learning about probability in high school maths I remember thinking how much faster it would be to run games if I didn't have to always roll dice. Et voila, average damage. I would definitely use this for higher level 13th Age games: who wants to be a 10th-level fighter rolling 10d8? :) (That's a rhetorical question, of course; I know many players love rolling a fist full of dice, especially in a major combat.)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
That's a great idea. I need to think about that some more.
I tend towards burst inspiration's but it seems there is a parallel between parts of the story where initially the heroes get there arses handed to them and as the story progresses later they break out whoopass ... it seems psychologically it is where certainty congeals. There is some of that within a single fight but it goes beyond it.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
My favourite part of 13th Age is the idea of backgrounds as skills. I think that is so innovative and elegant that I really do wish there was a way to programme it into the Character Builder. (Although, of course, it's really easy to do by hand. The only problem arises when it comes to being trained in a skill in order to gain access to a particular feat, skill power, and/or paragon path but I suppose that can also be kit-bashed.)

Hmm, it hadn't occurred to me that there might be things that have skills as prerequisites. Surely there can't be too many of them though? Any examples?

Another possible issue is that 4e assumes that your skills increase with level, while 13A does not. Would probably need to add 1/2 level to background skill checks.

I'll be using the escalation die in my next 4E session but I am also going to experiment with starting the die at a higher value after the first encounter to further encourage my players to press on (I don't use milestones and I give out an action point with every encounter so this might just be the extra bit of encouragement they need to try and do more).

I do like the Full Heal Up system from 13A where players automatically get the equivalent of an extended rest every four encounters. The GM can hand out a full-heal up or even a partial heal up early if they want. But recharging HP and dailies is no longer tied to a day of game time unless you want it to be. Gives the GM great control over the pacing.

I'm concerned that this is such a large structural change that it would have unforseen impacts on the game, though. Granted, I can't think of any off the top of my head. But I feel like there might well be a catch.
 

Escalation Die - I definitely felt as though the Escalation Die kept the game from dragging, even on tough combats. My understanding is that if you bump up defenses in 4e by two points a piece the ED should work fine. Has anyone tried this?
One Unique Thing - This has no real mechanical bearing on the system, but OUTs seem like a great way to flesh out cha

I like these two ideas, although I wouldn't bother with a defense boost.

When stealing narrative ideas, I think of, oddly enough, D&D Next's backgrounds (at least the old backgrounds). For instance, "Soldier" might give a low Charisma fighter a way of using social skills. Of Fred Generic, Fighter 1, a lord he is talking to might say of him "Captain Normicus always said you are a good man", and you get a social skill bonus to use on him.

Someone needs to tell me about 13th Age "backgrounds as skill". I'm a bit leery of playing around with the skill system. Of all D&D versions, I like 4e's skills system the best.
 

Scrivener of Doom

Adventurer
(snip) Another possible issue is that 4e assumes that your skills increase with level, while 13A does not. Would probably need to add 1/2 level to background skill checks. (snip)

Actually, no.

In both games being trained in a skill (4E) or having an appropriate background (13A) is a bonus to a level-based ability check. You wouldn't need to add in any other modifiers because the level-based component is already included.

(snip) Someone needs to tell me about 13th Age "backgrounds as skill". I'm a bit leery of playing around with the skill system. Of all D&D versions, I like 4e's skills system the best.

It's fairly close to 4E's in practice.

Basically, skills in 13A require a check based on your stat bonus plus your level (rather than half your level in 4E). To that you add a bonus if you have an appropriate background or can convince your DM that the background would apply. You have 8 points - with a maximum of 5 - that you can apply to any sort of background you can think of. In essence, it replaces the trained bonus you have in 4E.

As an example, when I was mucking around with the 13A conversion of a 4E character, I gave him a rather long-winded background: 5 points in I was a Purple Dragon Knight of Cormyr and 3 points in I was betrayed by my uncle and dishonourably discharged due to his treachery. The former would apply in anything related to military pursuits and interactions with nobility, soldiers, and peasants. The latter might apply to tests to lie or to detect lies or even to scare off a group of bandits or bluff them into thinking he is one of them.

In short, to get the bonus you have to convince the DM why the background applies... and that can lead to some interesting roleplaying. And sometimes you might only get half the bonus if there's a connection to the background but it's a little bit tenuous.

I suppose you could even use this system on top of the existing 4E skill system and ditch 4E's backgrounds. Instead of a +2 to a single skill as 4E's backgrounds often allow, maybe have 5 points you can allocate in one or more backgrounds of your own design, cap the bonus at, say, +3, and then simply add the bonus on top of any relevant skill check. The beauty of this is that you can still use the Character Builder: a simply post-it note would suffice to record the additional bonuses.

Damn, I really should use that now....
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In short, to get the bonus you have to convince the DM why the background applies... and that can lead to some interesting roleplaying. And sometimes you might only get half the bonus if there's a connection to the background but it's a little bit tenuous.

I suppose you could even use this system on top of the existing 4E skill system and ditch 4E's backgrounds. Instead of a +2 to a single skill as 4E's backgrounds often allow, maybe have 5 points you can allocate in one or more backgrounds of your own design, cap the bonus at, say, +3, and then simply add the bonus on top of any relevant skill check. The beauty of this is that you can still use the Character Builder: a simply post-it note would suffice to record the additional bonuses.
That is basically what I was thinking of and for me that is to scale as I have been allowing people to choose 3 of the generic backgrounds and combine them (being effectively the same as the more potent backgrounds - ie the Scales of War and Forgotten Realms ones)
 

Dragonblade

Adventurer
I used the Escalation Die in 4e straight up and it worked great. Though I do use a number of other house rules in 4e to make monsters tougher that don't come from 13th Age. :)
 



R

RevTurkey

Guest
Steal the Icons...and Setting.

Steal the Magic Items limits.

Personally...I would just get a cheap copy of the 4e Players Handbook...then rip the binding off and glue it on the 13th Age book...and see if your players are happier.

:)

(Btw I enjoyed 4th Ed...I just like 13th Age more)
 

Pour

First Post
  • 13th Age Backgrounds instead of skills/themes. It's just so elegant, versatile, and thematic. My players and I love it.
  • One Unique Thing instead of 4e background. Replace a small skill bonus or extra language with something character-empowering, meaningful in the narrative, and setting-defining.
  • Combat Distances. Engaged/Disengaged combined with near/far adapted as skirmish/gridless combat option; conversely, convert square counting to engaged/near/far distances and basically speed up regular combat up considerably and still maintain an appreciable tactical element; And keeping mark, prone, and flanking would create something special I think
  • Weapons Damage and Attack Bonuses +1w/1 level and +1/level attack. Simplified, streamlined, and leave specific weapons and armor mostly cosmetic overlay.
  • Escalation Die to speed up combat.
  • Montages to prop up the 4e exploration/travel pillar; Combine 13th Age montage with 4e skill challenge, tie to a recovery economy and the 'fail forward' mentality
  • Easy, Moderate, and Hard saves and recharges (6+, 11+, 16+)
  • Recoveries, Rally, and Staggered instead of Healing Surges, Second Wind, and Bloodied, for no other reason than I like those names better and a few people might stop whining.
  • A blend of 13th Age and 4e Conditions (I like 13th Age dazed and weakened)
  • Death Attacks w/ Last Gasp Saves on Select Elites/Solos (to allow a little more death attack into 4e, but not quite save or suck given the requirement of hit, then save... but that'll probably be controversial)
  • "Nastier Specials" Options for Monsters Listed Under Blocks
  • Some sort of Relationship Die rolled at the start of sessions in lieu of combat-oriented Action Points. Instead of extra standard actions, use RD as a kind of fate token to affect story or combat.
 

The Human Target

Adventurer
How does the Escalation Die work? It's basically a d6 that advances and provides a corresponding attack bonus as combat rounds advance? Or is there more to it?

That's the basic idea, and then from what I know there are some PC and monster actions that tie into where the escalation die is at.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
Steal the Icons...and Setting.

Steal the Magic Items limits.

Personally...I would just get a cheap copy of the 4e Players Handbook...then rip the binding off and glue it on the 13th Age book...and see if your players are happier.

:)

(Btw I enjoyed 4th Ed...I just like 13th Age more)

LOL. I think they'd notice when they suddenly couldn't flank or charge. But it IS tempting!

  • Death Attacks w/ Last Gasp Saves on Select Elites/Solos (to allow a little more death attack into 4e, but not quite save or suck given the requirement of hit, then save... but that'll probably be controversial)
I haven't tried this yet, but this reminds me of one other thing I want to steal from 13th Age... the death save systems. I think the harder saves combined with a free recovery on a natural 20 is way more dramatic. And it's mechanically very similar to 4e anyway so there should be no problem dropping it in.
 

cavalier973

Explorer
Characters can only truly be killed by a named villian/antagonist--or, perhaps, when the death is meaningful in some way. This is actually an optional rule in 13th Age, but I like it.

I actually just finished a post on my blog about changing up the ability scores in 4e. I like the OD&D version of ability scores; how they're generated, the very low bonuses (really, no bonus to hit/damage in OD&D, I've discovered, but in Basic, I think, it was *Ability Score - 10 and then divide by 4, round toward zero*), the generally static ability scores. I started a thread a couple of years ago asking how much changing back to that earlier paradigm would mess up the 4e math. My idea was to de-emphasize the importance of ability scores, making it less necessary to invest in having the highest primary stat in order to still be effective. The scientific consensus of the thread was that changing to an earlier style of ability score generation/use would mess 4e up pretty badly.

However, I have a hunch that using escalation die would alleviate some of the problems. But then one must figure out how to scale up the defenses, so that monsters aren't wiping the floor with the characters.
 

Dungeoneer

First Post
Characters can only truly be killed by a named villian/antagonist--or, perhaps, when the death is meaningful in some way. This is actually an optional rule in 13th Age, but I like it.

I actually just finished a post on my blog about changing up the ability scores in 4e. I like the OD&D version of ability scores; how they're generated, the very low bonuses (really, no bonus to hit/damage in OD&D, I've discovered, but in Basic, I think, it was *Ability Score - 10 and then divide by 4, round toward zero*), the generally static ability scores. I started a thread a couple of years ago asking how much changing back to that earlier paradigm would mess up the 4e math. My idea was to de-emphasize the importance of ability scores, making it less necessary to invest in having the highest primary stat in order to still be effective. The scientific consensus of the thread was that changing to an earlier style of ability score generation/use would mess 4e up pretty badly.

However, I have a hunch that using escalation die would alleviate some of the problems. But then one must figure out how to scale up the defenses, so that monsters aren't wiping the floor with the characters.
If you want to discourage min-maxing, another idea you might steal from 13th Age is using the middle ability score to calculate defenses.
 

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