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13th Age podcast being run by Rob Heinsoo

Posted by Dennis

 I wish more designers would do this. They can do a whole lot to clarify the RAI versus RAW and to fill in the blanks.  Of course sometimes when *cough 4E cough* the system may be so complicated that even the designers get things wrong because they've gone through so many iterations of the rules.

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BJ Shea's Geek Nation - 13th Age - Part 1 | 99.9 KISW The Rock of Seattle Header - KISW Right Col - KISW Footer - KISW
Welcome to part one of the 13th Age special! The Reverend En Fuego, Brandon Jerwa and special guest, from the Backroom Comics Podcast, Greg Upton ( are led into the world of ...

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Podcast of the FFG Star Wars Edge of the Empire beta rpg

Posted by Dennis

There is a serious 'gotcha' with the system to me (aside from setting).  This is that the system is being released like the Dragon Age where the first book will only get you levels x-x, then you have to wait an expected year after release to get levels x-x and then yet another year to get levels x-x.  Kind of like Dragon age gave you levels 1-5 in the first release, 6-10 in the next release and then finally 11-20 in the last release.

I just prefer having a complete core system myself.

You can get a free (FFG wants $5 for their smart phone apps) dice rolling app here since you can't buy the dice yet although you could mark up a big set of existing dice (6's, 8's, 10's, 12's from what I can understand).

Just to note, you cannot buy into the beta at this time.  All the beta copies are sold so looking at the free adventure -

or listening to a podcast is the only way to learn anything significant about the system.

Based on what I've picked up the dice mechanic is kind of like Elder Scrolls or Zombie Dice dice.  Each die has a set of symbols on it with your basic +'s or -'s ala Fate/Fudge.   The success and failure symbols cancel each other out until there's one type or the other are left over.  That dictates your success or failure at the quest.   Some dice types have a higher percentage of successes or failures on them depending on if they're good or bad dice.   Exactly like the Red / Yellow dice in Scrolls/Zombie.

Additionally there are special symbols that are designed to encourage effects that aren't flat success and failure.

I had to laugh out loud, the dark side / light side mechanic they use is exactly the same thing I use in Karma Opposed.   i.e. when the players spend their light side force points (i.e. Bennies, Hero, Plot, Fate chips) the GM gets them to spend for the non-player characters.   Then when the GM spends them, they go back to the players.   I don't randomize them the way that EotE does.

But the dice mechanic is interesting, I'd have to do the math to see what the chances of success for the player are on various combinations to see where it breaks but the mechanic is certainly non-genre specific and could power other settings.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - Dice Roller | Daemonstorm
With the release of Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) latest RPG, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, comes another need for some players. The game system uses its own custom dice with unique symbols to handle th...

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One of the mechanics of KO

Posted by Dennis

One of the mechanics, actually the base, bedrock level, mechanic I'm putting in K.O. is that all rolls are opposed rolls.  There are no static DC/TN's to beat.

In that same vein, characters (mostly players and bosses, mooks will ikely have one defense for ease/speed of GM control) choose how they're going to defend against an attack (mental of physical although mental is still back of the mind).  There are three D's to defense, Dodge, Deflect, Dull.  When a creature is attacked they choose which way they're going to avoid getting hurt by a) getting out of the way b) directing the attack somewhere else or c)  reducing the impact of the attack.   The type of defense they choose, if they're successful opens up a small list of resource based options.   For example a Dodge might let them Disengage and not suffer OA's from their attacker, a Deflect might let them direct a melee attack against an adjacent target and a Dull might let them shield bash their attacker and force them to disengage.

One of the bigger problems I have with experienced (read jaded) players is when it's not their turn in  a tactical turn based situation, they disengage from what's going on because they can't do anything in the vast majority of game systems and nothing happens to them that they can do anything about.   If they get attacked they typically can only see how badly it is, not do much about it.  And it's hard to blame them because after a million fights it's hard to get excited to watch someone else (especially at the start of a fight) "I roll to hit, I hit?  I roll damage, okay it takes xx damage.".  Especially in systems that are damage sink attrition mechanics where it can take 20 successful attacks to deal enough damage to reach a point where a blow might matter.

With K.O. I'm trying to 'fix' that 'problem' by letting them make active and valid choices when it's not their turn when they're attacked.  And using the various resource systems I'm going to make it possible for them to interpose when it's not their turn by taking advantage of opportunities.  For instance if an enemy they're engaged in becomes impaired then by expending resources they may be able to take advantage of that by making a OA or disengaging or using a focus ability etc.

Additionally the combat system or rather the health / damage system is going to fall more on the brutal side than the gradual attrition side. One thing I noticed with systems ala Savage Worlds where it was possible to be killed in one roll due to exploding dice, players paid a lot more attention to what was going on.  Not so much with 4E (until I made some changes anyway) where it was impossible to 'die' from even 3 or 4 attacks.

Anyway, that's one of the many things that are going through this jaded old gamer's mind these days as he tries to advance gaming on a personal level.

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ICONs Podcast

Posted by Dennis

Found an interesting little podcast for a 4 color superhero game system which is vaguely FATE based (i.e. heavy narrative, not numbers).

Overall ICONS is significantly simpler than hero or even Mutants and Masterminds which has the tag line of (80% of the depth of Hero system with 20% of the work).  It's not about ads and disads, adders and such, it's about the big view picture of being a super and doing super type stuff.

If I was to ever run a supers type session, this would certainly be at the top of my list of systems to choose from.

You generate your character at random and then have to come up with the raison d'etre.  In the podcast they're using it less like a 4 color Hulk Smash!, Xmen style and more a average guy with some above average abilities and going after normal humans.

Mechanics -

The mechanics are pretty simple, you roll two d6's of two colors.  One is a negative and one is positive You figure the total on the dice so a negative die of 4 and a positive die of 5 = 1 as a result.  You add your value to the result for a final "Effort"

Subtract the DC for whatever you're trying to do from the Effort and if you have anything left over you get an Effect.

So a die result of -2 + an ability of 5 = 3 Effort.  Against a DC2 yields a 1 Effect which is a Moderate success, the minimum needed to do whatever it is you're trying to do.

DC's range from 1 to 10 with a 1 the equivalent of beating up a small child and a 10 beating up someone in a purple hat.   Human ability runs from 1 to 6 at the lowest and peak points of possibility.   So picking the lock on a good safe or making a 1000 meter shot would be a DC 4 or 5 for example.  Of course if you're trying to make that 1000 meter shot with a 22 pistol then it would likely be a DC 9 or 10.

Pretty simple stuff really.  On your turn you narrate what you're trying to accomplish and then use your powers or stats to achieve it.

For damage, the amount of Effect you end up translates to damage against the target's Stamina.

The random character I rolled up has 9 stamina.  Let's say he gets in a fight with some security guards at the library of congress as he plans to steal the necronomicon.   He bzzt's one of the guards but there are four more and before he can have the guard start shooting the other guards open up on him with AR's loaded with penetrator rounds.  (Library of congress doesn't screw around).  Those count as damage 6,  and the guards have a Coordination of 4 which covers shooting things.  They all attack after Wes mind controls their friend.  They roll a 2, -1, -1, 3.  Add their coordination and get an effort of 6, 3, 3, 7.    We subtract Wes's coordination of 2 (he's below average) and get results of 4, 1, 1, 5.  Well that's not good.  All four guards hit.  Wes's forcefield of 5 is subtracted from the damage 6 and he takes 4 x 1 point hits, dropping his Stamina from 9 to 5.  In one salvo he's almost halfway down.

Wes unfortunately had assumed they'd be armed with pistols, damage of 4 which his force-field 5 would have ignored. Too bad for Wes.

Now he retaliates by having the mind controlled guard shoot one of his friends.

Hopefully he can keep stay up long enough to get them all down and get the necronomicon before the whole library is roused, he's stunned or is forced to fly away.  If he had any Determination he could

So in a quick test, game play is pretty quick and simple, just some basic and straightforward subtraction and addition for the most part.

Test Character

In trying the system out, using purely random results, no fudging other than I picked Flight as my free birthright power of choice because I didn't roll a movement power, I ended up with a guy 'who's seen the dark places of the universe and it didn't end well for him' kind of character.

Origin - Birthright
The hero was born with or destined to develop superhuman
powers. The character gains your choice of one additional power, which
should be innate, and not a device, or +2 to a rolled power level.

Attributes - (ironically they use most of the same attributes I chose for K.O., swap Social in for Prowess)

These range from  a low of 1 to a high of 8.

Prowess  6
Coordination  2
Strength 4
Intellect  5
Awareness 4
Willpower  5

Powers - (I rolled max powers of 5, you can start out with as few as none, same 1-8 range)

Mental - Mind Control 6 (uses up two slots)
Defensive - Force Field 5
Control - Telekinesis 5
Offensive - Life Drain 5

4 powers = 5 slots because bzzzzt is pretty powerful stuff.

And I chose as my free Birthright power a movement power although I could have boosted one of the above by 2, but what's a super without a movement power?

Movement - Flight 6

Specialties (I rolled 3 slots and chose from a fairly basic list of what would be skills in most systems.  A specialty gives you a +1 when you try to do something associated with that specialty) -

Occult - Because at this point the mind control and life drain was leading me to a dark cultist kind of figure.
Medicine - A dark cultist who did autopsies of the things he found in the shadows to see how they tick.
Investigation - Trying to uncover the dark and mysterious clues to the other world I now sense is trying to enter our own.

And the last stats -

Stamina 9 (Str+Will)

Determination 0 (6 - starting power slots of 6, determination is the ubiquitous fate points, bennies, karma chips, hero points, awesome sauce, plot poitns etc etc etc)

Background -

Wes Artimus was a normal kid, or as much as normal goes when you occasionally see things in the shadows or tentacles in the toilet (I said tentacles!).

As he grew older, such sights become more recurring and led him to many an ancient tome of mysterious and dark lore.  Reading those pages by flickering candlelight bent and twisted his mind, giving him visions of the elder gods and bestowing upon him the faintest of tastes of their powers even as they insidiously wore away at his sanity.

As the encounters grew more frequent he started to find motionless bodies of those things he saw in the corners and using his ever present leatherman... well let us just close that rather crimson chapter in his background and move on.

Wes now provides for himself as a Ghost Hunter, using his powers to create the things that the slack jawed cattle stare at in amazement as plates rock about and doors slowly close.

But no, not not forever as soon the great old ones  will break down the walls between the here and now and the great void they're trapped in and then truly will the aether shiver with the great spawning!  MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,

Wait was that camera on? *bzzzzzzt* destroy that memory card and then forget everything you've heard and seen for the last 5 minutes.


He's very tall, 6'6" but a permanent hunched posture drops him down to 6' 2" most times and gives him a secretive cast.  Very slight of frame, he's often been compared to a q-tip thanks to the massive shock of white hair at the top of his head which he seldom tries to rein in.

Wes dresses in casual but tough clothing as he frequently has to go into dingy and dirty locations.  He frequently wears a watch can as a token prison for his hair and always a pair of gold rimmed glasses perches on his nose from behind which is dark brown, almost black eyes see the secret world around him.


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KO Math 

Posted by Dennis

The current game mechanics for melee combat for KO (falling somewhere between a dice almost don't matter narrative system and a count the squares take 4 hours to level up system) are coming up fairly balanced between two otherwise identical melee fighters.  The system currently uses d6/d12/d20 or potentially a d6/d10/d20 system, the d12's give a little better 'feel' than the d10's although the d10's give slightly better balancing numbers.

After creating my own deadliest warrior simulation, after 10,000 fights (small enough to be fast, big enough to work around random skews) I get this with d12's between warriors A and B.

It's also balanced reasonably well between the heavy tank and the dex monkey with the needle like rapier.  Currently the intended advantage of being heavily armored up is granting you the ability to be a meat sack, a fight between a Dread Pirate Roberts and a Fezzik is still balanced but the fight will take roughly 2.5 times longer.

The guy wielding the 2 Handed weapon is always a slight underdog but it could be balanced by allowing slightly better/different focuses when they hit with it.

A 1H + Shield vs B 2 Hand
Player A Win %53  (5342)
Player B Win %46  ( 4658)

A 1H+Shield vs B Dual Wield
Player A Win %50  (5017)
Player B Win %49  ( 4983)

A Dual Wield vs B 2 Hand
Player A Win %55  (5522)
Player B Win %44  ( 4478)

The system may or may not support advanced weapons, specifically fully automatic firearms and heavy damage weapons like shotguns and large calibre rifles which are always a PITA to try and balance unless your system  heavily enforces ammo limits and carrying capacities etc. If you're not counting ammo and taking actions to change clips/mags then why would you go for a Glock 17 when you could have a Glock 33 as a Just in Case?   I prefer a system to offer choices rather than 'no brainers' or worse 'you're an idjit if you don't take this' when it comes to gear.

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Randomness in Modules

Posted by Dennis

Reading through a module I picked up, it reminded me to chat about a philosophy of mine and that's don't make everything in your module the result of a random die roll.

i.e. don't let your players actions be dominated by random dice rolls.  Give them the information they need to further the plot, the information that's just obvious, don't make them roll to change a television channel (true story from a pod cast I listened to a few weeks ago).  Don't slow the story and the game down with lots of random dice rolls.

In all the game systems I've designed that have skill systems in them, I use a three tier information/action system.  There's for lack of a better generic term, the Primary/Gimmee, the Secondary/Resource based, and the Tertiary/Random Luck.

The break down is Primary/Gimmee are things that the character can learn/notice/do simply by being present in the scene.   They don't need a roll or a skill.  They just 'get it'.

Secondary/Resource based are things that a character can learn/notice/do because that have 'any' skill/training/resource at whatever it would take or because they have something that would let them do it.  They 'get it' because they have the ability to do so.

And then lastly and least importantly is the Tertiary/Random information/actions.  These I use when I'd like to see possible branching solutions to a problem.   i.e. a PC when making their way home may notice that the crowd seems tense as they walk  through the streets, or they may spot the two figures standing in the shadows near your steps, or a neighbor may decide to give them a warning or whatever.  It's not critical to the story that the various rolls succeed.  It merely provides alternate paths if they do or don't.

Not to point fingers but here's a paraphrased quote from an unspecified module with way too many random rolls -

Getting into the house will require them to use the Lockpicking skill, or break a window which requires a Strength check with a bonus if they use an object to do it.

Anyone else see the problems with this?  There's a chance that a PC might not be able to break a standard house window due to random chance.  I don't know about your windows but I can pop one of mine from a rap with an fist or elbow, much less a rock I pick up anywhere in the street.

Additionally the vast majority of house doors in the U.S. can easily be booted open with a few kicks, door jambs especially tend to be that flimsy.

Under my design this wouldn't even be an entry for this encounter, it falls into the 'gimmee action'.  YOu don't really need to put stats in for everything, just a "The house doors are locked, front and back." and let the players figure out how to get in would suffice.

And the point of the encounter is to let them get into the house, why put obstacles in that path for no purpose other than roll dice?

Earlier on, they also needed a random roll to notice moving NPC's that aren't in any cover or taking any care to conceal their motions during the light of day.   That would fall into the 'primary information' gained. Rather than, "Sorry you had your eyes closed, you missed the ones out in the open because you failed your dice roll."  just add it to the scene description, "You see several moving figures, taking a few seconds to count, you come up with eight of them.."

Anyway, that's been my little discourse (rant) on module design and how much randomness is necessary to have a good story.

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13th Age Playtest 1

Posted by Dennis

This is a playtest for myself of the 13th age system which has a lot in common with any d20 system and 4th Edition D&D in particular.  Not surprising given who the designers are.  I find doing play tests this way helps to cement things in my own mind.

I have a few house rules in mind already to make the combat simpler for my needs but this is being played straight out of the box.  Any changes from RAW is purely error on my part.

Note that all dice rolls are randomzied using and are used as rolled, no fudging involved.

Scene 1 - Where's my Two Dollars?!

We open our scene with Hu'nchi walking back to the room he's renting.  He's just lost the biggest in a serious of bad losses in the Arena.  Not just as a warrior but as a promoter.  He was betting the house, almost literally, on this last series of fights he'd arranged and is now wondering how he's going to pay various debtors.  This is the backdrop for the 'why' this character is going to start a life of adventuring.  Also known as killing things and taking their valuables.

GM: "After the debacle today at the arena you're heading back to your place on the Street of Tinkers where you have a small stock of golds hidden away  as a rainy day fund.  You were able to put paid most of your losses at the arena with only a couple of outstanding debts. One is minor and you're on good terms with the vendor but the other is a moneylender who carries various nicknames like Legbreaker and No Mercy.   Him you owe several hundred in gold too, golds you borrowed for your last string of bouts.  And it was him you ducked out on at the arena."

Tom (Hu'nchi): "I'm going to act natural, my normal self but I want to meet Legbreaker on my own terms not his so I'm going to keep an eye out on the way."

GM: "The streets are still fairly crowded as the sun goes down, the artificer lamps keeping a glow on everything.  It's market day after all when the outer fief's and villages come to town to trade and buy.  Can you give me an perception roll using either Int or Wis?"

Note: This is an d20 roll that the player will make using their Intelligence or their Wisdom modifier at their choice.  This isn't something spelled out per se in the 13th Age rules but as a GM I feel that a character could either intellectually note something or just have a 'feel' about something.

Tom: "Would either my Combat Trainer or Arena Organizer/Participant backgrounds come into play?  I rolled a 19 and add 2 for my Wis modifier and 1 for my level for a 22.  I can add another +1 or +2 depending on which one of those backgrounds might apply."

Note: The player has a couple of Backgrounds that they believe might give them a benefit in perception, situational awareness or just spotting things.   As it turns out the GM agrees.  (If there's any doubt then say yes)

GM: "Either will work so add the highest at +2 which gives you a 24.  Not that you needed it.  It's a normal difficulty so a 15+ is good.  As you enter your street, you get vibe from the crowds, the same vibe you feel before a match is about to start in the arena."

Tom: "I stop at a vendor and check out the wares so I can scope the situation out and see what has everyone on edge.  I'm looking up and down the street especially closer to the place I call home for now."

GM: "A couple of thugs wearing the yellow/purple sashes of the Legbreaker's men are leaning up against the wall of your house in the shadow of the front steps.  The crowds are swinging wide of them leaving which causes gaps that enable you to catch glimpses of them."

Tom: "Can I get a read on their body language?  Do they look like they're looking for a fight or a conversation?"

Note:  The GM decides this is a gimmie, based in part because of the background of the character and primarily because the GM doesn't personally believe every tidbit of information should be a random event.  Another character with different backgrounds would probably be a roll of some kind.

The initial 'sense something wrong roll' is there because the GM's feels it adds a good branching to the story, in one branch the character notices something and reacts accordingly.  In the other he doesn't notice something and has a completely different experience with the upcoming scene.

GM: "They look pretty relaxed, they're talking about something you can tell and they don't have weapons out."

Tom: "I still don't like it, Legbreaker isn't known for his kindness to children and small animals.  I'm going to duck across the street and into the alleyway. If it's clear I'm going to go up the drain pipe on the back wall to the second floor where my room is and slip in and grab my stuff and get out."

Note:  The details of the player's room weren't known until now when they created them.   This type of give and take is what we strive for as GM's.  Get the players to invest in the world.  13th Age helps with this through the backgrounds which the players come up and the GM then incorporates into their world.  The fact that this town has organized MMA fights is based solely on the character's backgrounds.

GM: The GM makes a roll to note if the thugs notice Hu'nchi cross the street but gives them a penalty for inattentiveness of -5.  Being Mook's they have no real background bonuses other than what makes sense to the GM based on the situation.  This means that they need a natural 20 to spot anything and they fail with a 8.  Note that the current iteration has no real recommendations for bonuses of penalties for skill checks, just the base DC's for normal, hard, epicihard checks for each tier.    There are indicators, perhaps, that a +/- 4 or +/- 5 might be the edge of bonuses or penalties one might add given the various Feats and Magic Items that grant them.

"You apparently make it across the street without anyone noticing and navigate down the cluttered and dark alleyway, there's only reflected light back here and what comes through a few windows or badly fitting doors from lighted buildings.  Reaching the back of your building you start up the outside using the drain pipe or rather it's supports for help.  Take a +3 for that and make a strength check."

Tom: "Being an active arena fighter would it be safe to say I've had to climb some obstacles or heck just the wall when things go bad and the dragonlings are winning?"

GM: "Sure, add the +1 for that."

Tom: "Okay a 13 on the die and a total of +... 8? 21.  I scale the pipe trying to be as quiet as possible, hopefully the crowds out front will cover me and I only have to get to the second floor.   I arm walk using the edge of the roof over to my window and nudge it open with my foot before reaching down and climbing through."

Note: Hu'nchi has a 19 strength (+4), is level 1 (+1), has a moderate resource in the form of the drain (+3).  While one might consider that doing all the above with one roll is being a little too generous on the part of the GM, remember the GM is supposed to make it possible for the players to feel heroic and awesome.   Making four rolls that result in a near 100% likelihood that random chance will cause a failure isn't typically fun for the players and can slow down the action.

Besides the GM has a surprise for the player. 🙂

GM: "As you drop lightly to the floor inside your room, a slow clapping starts from across the room where your single chair and table are.  A light blooms and you see a familiar figure seated in your chair.  You also don't fail to notice the three thugs clustered on the far wall. Behind them on the floor is a cloth covered lump.  It's Faelin the Legbreaker's nephew.  Also known as Fancy Fae although not to his or his uncle's face. His rich clothing is at odds with your rather run down room."

Tom: "I nod at him but don't say anything.  Let him talk first."

GM: "A few moments pass and then he says 'So Chi, you don't mind if I call you Chi do you?  Great.  After the bout this afternoon somehow Uncle's bagman missed you at the Arena and he was a bit put out with him for not making the pick up.   When he's able to walk again, I'm sure he'll do a better job in the future at his job.  Uncle asked me to come by and talk about your debt.'  He sniffs loudly looking around, 'Although I must say if I'd of known just how badly you lived I might have objected more.'"

Tom: I'm going to try and talk my way out of this since I don't have his money and four on one odds aren't great. "Hey Faelin, fancy meeting you here...  Sorry must have missed your man at the arena, it was pretty packed.  Wasn't intentional I can assure you.  I was just on my way to collect some money owed to me and was going to drop by Legbreaker's place later this evening."

GM/Faelin: "And you came climbing up the side of your own building like a spider monkey because?  It wouldn't have anything to do with my boys out front?   The ones that are now in the alleyway...."

Tom:  "Can I hear anything or tell if he's lying?"

GM: "Give me an intelligence roll for hearing and/or a wisdom roll to detect if he's lying."

Tom: "I think my arena participant background will cover the lying part, I'm using to dealing with lying scum.   My combat training should help with hearing someone sneaking up behind me, even if it's two stories down."

GM: The GM agrees and Tom rolls.  For insight into Faelin's lying he rolled a 9.  Add +2 for his background, +2 for his Wisdom and +1 for his level for a total of 14.  Failed.  If Faelin had been actively lying it would have been an opposed roll. But he's telling the truth.   For his hearing check he does better, a roll of 15, +1 for the background, +2 for Int and +1 for level for a 20 total.

"You can't really tell that he's lying, if he is but through the window behind you comes the sound of movement, people not trying to be subtle or sneaky.  You also notice the cloth covered, it looks like your bedsheet, lump behind the three men moved."

Tom: "Greeaaaat.  How big is that lump?"

GM: "Maybe human sized give or take."

GM/Faelin: "I see you've noticed my package.  Jek could you open our present for our friend here?"

One of the thugs bends down and hauls the bundle up, the bedsheet falls away and the slight figure of the landlord's daughter is revealed.  She has a lump on the side of her head with a slight trickle of blood but is breathing if unconscious.

"Just in case you were entertaining bad thoughts about not..."

Tom: "I attack while he's monologing.  I don't see any way this is going to end well for anyone so why give him the pleasure?"

GM: "All right then!  Let's make an an opposed check your dexterity versus an average intelligence roll for them.  If you win, I'll give you a +5 bonus on your initiative."

Note: As of this writing there is no surprise or surprise round in the system.  The above seems like a decent compromise to me, for this specific scenario  two sides, both kinda antsy but one going into action in the middle of someone else talking who's used to people hearing him out.  Rather than make 4 different rolls which helps to insure that the player won't win, I chose the single roll average but will give them a bonus for their number.

13th Age works well without any maps and requires no grids at all but miniatures or just some way to differentiate rough positions can help to keep things straight in people's minds.  In this scene, anyone in the room is considered to be Nearby each other and anyone outside the room is considered Far.   In general I believe you could use a dry erase board with one big circle and a few smaller circles inside it to designate a few Nearby zones and the overall Far zone and call it good.   Then move the mini's which could be anything, actual minis or coins or dice or chips next to each other to designate Engaged as necessary. 

Tom:  "Okay I rolled a 12, add +3 for my dex, +1 for my level and my combat training should work here for another +1.  That gives me a 17."

GM:  "Okay I'm going to give them a total of +3.  That's +1 for their average Int mod and I'm going to add +1 for each two of them for a total of the +3.  A 7 comes up on the die so a total of 10.  You win the reaction contest and get the +5 on your init roll."

Tom: "Sweet!, Damn another roll of a 12 with a +3 for dex , +1 for level and the +5 bonus  for a 21 init roll.

GM: "The bad guys get a 16 total for the mob of thugs and Faelin gets a 14.  You get to go first, then the thugs will go and then Faelin.  I'm gong to give them a -2 because you've kind of shocked them with your speed of action on their rolls for the first round."

Round 1 -

Init: Hu'nchi, Thugs, Faelin  - Note: Order is fairly static barring someone delaying their turn to go later for the remainder of any battle or other things that might change the order.

Tom: "I'm assuming we're all Near here in the room and the guys below are Far."

GM: "Correct."

Note: 13th Age has four distances, officially three, there's Far, Nearby and Engaged.  I add the fourth one, Not there. 🙂   It's a move action to change from one distance to another.  So moving from Far to Engaged is two move actions or your whole turn.  This can change based on situation and GM discretion.  There is no 'grid' in 13th Age.  You can use a move action to engage anyone you're Nearby, preferably with some nice narrative.

This is where something like Hero, Karma, Plot, Benny, Fate chips would come in handy, to allow the players to spend those to get an actual combat bonus provided they give a good narrative for their maneuver.

Tom: "I'm going to draw my sword and dart across the room and plunge my sword into the thug holding Emillia and try to get him to drop her."
Mechanically: Tom declares he's going to use a Flexible attack.  This means he rolls his attack roll first and then picks which attack from his repertoire he's going to use.  He rolls a 18 on the die.  This allows him to use either of his flex attacks.  Since Precision Attack triggers on a 16+ roll and it makes narrative sense he choose that.  He also a feat that doubles the damage boost on it which isn't a bad thing.   He rolls damage, 1d8 (he's using a long sword at the moment for his walk about town) for a 6 roll and adds his Strength mod for a +4.   Precision  Attack adds an additional +3 for his Dex modifier and he took a feat that doubles that so another +3.  That's 16 damage.

Mooks are similiar to Minions in 4E and various other low end mobs in many other systems.  In 13th Age mooks are tyipcally a group of 5 creatures that have the stats of their base creature.  In this case a Human Thug.   They share a pool of hit points, each being worth 1/5 of the base.  In this case the base Thug has 27 hit points and we're going to round that up to 30 to get a number divisible by 5 so each mook is worth 6 points.

GM: "Very well done, that's going to take out 2 and wound the third!  Tell us what happened."

Mechanically: Tom's 16 damage drops the pool from 30 to 14.  For each 6 points he kills one mook and the leftover damage is applied to a remaining mook if any.

In this case, he's used his move action to Engage all three mooks since the scene has already been set such that they've been described as standing together.  Tom's killed two of them and wounded the third.  Pretty sweet results for him and he narrates his victory.

Tom: "I dart across the room to stop in front the three of them and before any of them can react, I've punched my sword through the one holding the girl in the throat and he staggers backwards trying to stop the flow of blood.  I continue the motion sideways and slam my sword through the second one, puncturing his lungs and then slam a foot into the third driving him sideways with the sound of ribs cracking."

Note:  The player has free rein (at least in anything I run) to describe the results of their actions.  Personally I don't describe the player's actions for them, it disengages them and frankly it's a lot of work trying to come up with clever narrative for every single action of both the players and the NPC's.

GM/Thug: "Faelin starts yelling for help, shocked by the outbreak of sudden violence.  The remaining thug in the room staggers, face twisted in pain and then draws a heavy studded club from his sash and moves against you, trying to bring it down on your head but his aim is thrown off as his ribs grate in his chest and the heavy weapon smashes splinters from wall sending a loud thud through the building.  Through the window you hear the sounds of someone struggling to climb up the same pipe you did followed by a yelp and then a heavy thud and pained cry while rapid footsteps clank down the alley, possibly heading toward an entrance or just to get help."
Mechanics:  The Mook rolled a 4.  +5 for his base bonus for a 9 which doesn't meet or beat  Tom's current AC.  The thug outside rolled a 3 for his attempt to climb up the wall.  Too much beer and not enough working out obviously.  

Note:  Faelin hasn't acted yet, just screaming like girl isn't an action.  His yells were designed to engage the remaining two mooks in the alley into the fray. 

GM/Faelin: "He stumbles backwards, the chair falling over and almost knocking him down.  He draws his sword, a thin rapier like blade with a jewel encrusted hilt.  He continues backwards into that corner, yelling for help the whole time."
Mechanically:  Faelin is going to Ready or save his standard action and use it to attack Hu'nchi if he advances.

Note:  Delay, Ready, Refocus, Reserve actions aren't officially a part of 13th Age but the designers do mention, use them if you wish and have a need for them.   In this case it makes perfect sense to use something like the 4E Ready action but without modifying Initiative order in any way.  If by the start of his next turn he hasn't done anything he's lost his action and must act as normal although he can choose to Ready that action instead.

Round 1 results:  2 thugs are dead or dying.  A third is wounded.  A fourth and fifth thugs are doing something out of sight of they player.  Faelin is waiting for the player to do something.

Round 2:

Note:  The Escalation die, a d6, is put on the table showing a 1.  The players get to add this value to their attack rolls. It rotates to the next highest number at the start of each round until it hits 6.  The GM has the option to reset it if the action stagnates for some reason, personally if everyone calls a time out and tries to negotiate a surrender or whatever I'd reset it to 0,  and of course it's reset between battles.

Tom: "I'm going to circle around to the side of the thug and then attack him.  I want to be able to keep an eye on Faelin."
Mechanically: He rolls a  4, with a +5 for a 9.  A miss.  He's going to invoke his Comeback Strike which lets him make a free attack once per battle when he misses with his first attack. Its at a -2 penalty and he rolls an 8, +5 - 2 is an 11.  With the +1 from the Escalation Die a 12.  Not nearly enough to hit the Thug's 17 AC.  

But heroes deals their level in damage even on a miss so the Mook pool takes another 2 damage, 1 from each attack, dropping it to 13. 

GM/Thug: "The thug is recovering a bit and he bats your first strike and then your second away, sparks flying from the metal studs in his club but the broken ribs in his chest grate as he exerts himself, grinding into this chest.   Behind him Faelin shouts 100 gold if you cut the son of a bitch down!  His eyes light up and he swings but you parry his club away easily.  Through the door to the hall comes the thudding footsteps of at least one person racing up the stairs and then the door bursts open and one of the thugs from outside is standing there, a wicked long dagger in hand.  He'll be in the room next turn."
Mechanically:  Another roll of 4, the sun's giving us some crappy numbers right now. ( uses sunspot activity to create random numbers)

GM/Faelin: "A gold hilted dagger flies past your head easily three or four feet wide and hits the wall sideways and drops down the floor.  Faelin grits his teeth and draws another one."
Mechanically:  A roll of a 2 on his throw...

Round 2 Results:  Nothing much happened although the remaining two thugs have managed to move to where they can enter into the room next time.

Round 3:

Note: Escalation die moves to 2.

Tom:  "Damn it's going to get crowded in here, this guy has to go down fast."
Mechanically:  He rolls a 10, +5 (str+level bonus) for a 15, +2 for the ED for a 17. Just enough to squeak a hit in on the guy.  A damage roll of 8 + 5 yields 13 damage.   That's as much as is left in the mook pool killing them all...

What this really means is that he didn't magically kill all three including the ones outside.  But we'll let him describe it. 

Tom: "I whip my blade up with both hands, eviscerating the bastard in front of me and his chest opens up like a paper bag dumping his internal organs out onto the floor and blood sprays out covering my front.  I kick the body back where it slams into the guy standing in the doorway.  With his friends blood dripping off my face and my blade I flick it tot he side leaving a line of red on the floor as I give him my best Arena victory scream and vow his death will be even worse.   He and the other guy in the hallway turn and run, dropping their weapons and I slowly turn toward Faelin."

Note: This is an excellent way to narrate the character's 'killing' the remaining mooks.  You don't have to kill a creature to get victory over it.  The player now feels like a flippin hero of legend with his actions. 

GM/Faelin: "Shadows take you!  What's it going to take to let me walk out of here."

Note: Faelin is a coward and a bully.  Without his men to back him up, he wants no part of this fight.  Not after seeing three of his men killed in seconds and two others scared away.  

Round 3 results:  Three thugs dead or dying, two removed from the encounter, both of the remaining primary characters unwounded.

Round 4: 

Tom: "I advance on him slowly with a terrible purpose on my face and with proper Princess Bride intonation say 'Drop. Your. Sword.'"

GM: "Give me a Charisma check to intimidate him.  He rolled a 14 to oppose"

Tom: "Damn, a 11, +1 for my Charisma mod.  Could I get +2 for my experience intimidating people in the arena? What about the escalation die?"

GM: "Sure on the background use, no on the ED, it's only for attack rolls per the rules although I'd be tempted to use it here.   But that'll give you a 14 and I'll give you the tie."

GM/Faelin: "The sword clatters to the floor as does the dagger in his other hand."

Tom: "Sit.  Down."

The remainder of the scene plays out with Tom tying Faelin to the chair.  His weapons he takes and passes one of the jeweled daggers to the girl for her trouble, he keeps the rapier and other dagger.  Bundling up the possessions he wishes to keep he leaves and heads out toward the main gate, pack on his back and gold in his pockets from a quick sell of Faelin's weapons.  He knows if he stays that Legbreaker would get to him eventually so it's best that he get on the road and see what the world has to offer. 



Game Math – 13th Age

Posted by Dennis

Note that there are ancillary benefits that aren't accounted for here.  Fighters are harder to hurt with higher armour and deeper health reserves.  Casters have other tricks than pure damage etc or attack alternate lower defenses, clerics have the ability to heal their damage giving them longer life spans during a fight.

Some preliminary melee damage number simulations using level 1 characters with the exception that the Ranger had to spend a class talent to get the 'roll a second attack on any even roll on the first attack'.    Basic dual wield allows a second attack roll only on a 2.  Ranger talent allows a second attack on any even roll when dual wielding.  This is roughly a 25% damage boost by itself making it a must have in terms of power gaming.

The Rogue entry spent a Talent to pick up Lethal which increases crit range to 18+ (this adds 30% more damage FYI for a single talent expenditure which makes it a must have again from the power gaming perspective).  And the numbers reflect that the rogue is always assisting another ally against a target so they always get their sneak damage.

All weapons used in the simulation are 1d8's (even the rogue's short sword is a 1d8 for them) except the 2 handed stats which are a 1d10, the largest damage die weapon in the system at the moment.  There are other sized weapons, the 1d4 and the 1d6 but they offer no mechanical advantages to using them although for many classes (i.e. casters) a 1d6 is the best they can use without taking 10% attack roll penalty for a 25% damage boost.

Sneak damage is a bonus 1d10 when the rogue attacks a character that's already engaged with someone else.

Versus a AC 15 (Arbitrary number)
Base Dual Wield Stats:
Hits: 26489     Ratio: 0.26489
Damage per turn: 1.43824
2's rolled: 5080
Rogue with Lethal Talent and Assumed Sneak Damage Wield Stats:
Hits: 26275     Ratio: 0.26275
Damage per turn: 3.33512
2's rolled: 5027
Ranger Talent Dual Wield Stats:
Hits: 25012     Ratio: 0.25012
Damage per turn: 1.95777
Evens: 50064
Single Wield Stats:
Hits: 24932     Ratio: 0.25012
Damage per turn:  1.34493
2 Hand Stats:
Hits: 25108     Ratio: 0.25108
Damage per turn: 1.65612

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Karma Opposed Weapons/Damage

Posted by Dennis

One of the things that I'm toying with regarding weapons in KO is taking a page from 13th Age and using the dice in relation to them in addition to the simplified wounds system.  Systems with hit points that run up into the triple digits provide more granulaity and book keeping than I'd like for a simpler narrative system.

To that end in KO I'm considering having Wounds much like Savage Worlds where your wounds is the typical damage sink / avoidance mechanic.  My thinking is small weapons deal 1 wound, medium weapons deal 1 wound on an odd natural roll and 2 wounds on a even natural roll and large weapons deal 2 wounds.   This allows for ever larger weapons like a dragon to deal 3, 4, 5 or even more wounds.   Small weapons can be dual wielded.  To make them viable, any even roll allows for an attack with the second weapon. There's a medium defensive bonus for dual wielding that helps to balance them with the other forms of weapons.  Medium weapons cannot be dual wielded but you can incorporate a shield which again grants a small defensive bonus.

Just a thought as I work out where I want the mechanics to go in my head and noting it here for the record and in case it prompts someone else's thought trains.


First post on Karma Opposed

Posted by Dennis

A new game system I'm toying with has a working title of Karma Opposed.  It's a story heavy, rules light(er) with opposed rolls for most things that other systems have flat rolls vs target numbers for.  The idea there is keep players engaged in the game even when it's not their turn.

One of the mechanics of the system includes Karrma Stones.

Each player and the GM are granted 2-3 Karma Stones at the start of the session, yin yang symbols if I can swing it.  They can use these to add bonuses to rolls, introduce plot twists, gain favor, scene tweaks etc.  Fairly standard stuff there.   The GM primarily uses them to increase the strength of an encounter in some way by spending them to boost rolls, recover downed mooks or summon reinforcements.  Things that are usually story driven or by fiat are now resource based to some extent.

The reason for that resource management twist  is that when a player spends a karma stone, it goes directly to the GM.  When the GM spends a karma stone it goes into a neutral state.  When any player thinks another player has done something awesome, narrated something really cool, role played exceptionally well, they can award that player a karma stone.  Each player must be awarded a stone before a player can receive a second one.  This is to encourage every player to do cool shit.

It also takes the typical 'the dm hands out the treats' to a system where the players are rewarding each other for good game play.  Obviously there is some honor system involved, giving karma stones for "You rolled that d20 great!" shouldn't be done, or at least very often.

There's also the side effect that putting karma stones into play means that the GM's resource pool builds up.

Neither side is obligated to spend their stones but I think the give and take will naturally encourage both sides to spend them as they see good opportunities too, rather than hording them like some systems kind of encourage that have such things.   It also removes the onus of rewarding players from the GM and puts it back on the players.


13th Age – Fighter Hu’nchi

Posted by Dennis

So this is a first pass through on character building.  One of the things that's evident is the background mechanic helps quite a bit to get a grasp on the character.  Much like the Questions from Don't Rest Your Head it causes you to look past the character's numbers and into what they've done, experienced and trained up to this part.

We start with the basics.  The first thing I had to do was create charts showing the advantages of the races and classes and how the basic numbers are generated.   I hope something like this makes it into the final product as it's a pain in the ass having to flip back and forth.

I went with something basic, human fighter.   Being Human lets you add +2 to any stat.  Fighter lets you add +2 to either Strength or Con.  You cannot add the boosts to the same stat.   All the race/class's get two +2's as a result in their primary attributes.

As an aside, for 4th Edition I house ruled it so that players weren't so 'racially bound' in where they put their bonuses.  PC's are supposed to be the exception to the rule so if a player wanted to play a dwarvish wizard I saw them as being the one that broke the mold, not forced to play at a disadvantage because they didn't want to play an elvish wizard.  13th Age starts down that path but doesn't go as far as I'd like but it''s okay.

In a nod to Old School I used the roll your stats method, using numbers generated by which uses the noise of the sun as random seeds.   As I kind of expected from the mechanic, I ended up with a really good character.   The method is 4d6 per roll, drop the lowest die, roll 7 times and drop the lowest roll.

Hu'nchi the Fighter ended up with  a Str: 19, Con: 19,  Dex: 17, Int: 14, Wis: 15, Cha: 13.   The two 19's are from adding the race and class +2's to two of the three 17's I rolled.

This is my biggest issue with random stats, it leads to OMFG and Waaaa characters.   The PC who rolled the average or even below average character, well it's the rare person who does't feel a little let down as a result.   We can say all we want, "Yeah but now you have an interesting character to play!  Play up the flaws!".   But for a lot of people that's small comfort as they're suffering up to a 25% power imbalance compared to other players or worse.

The system does support and provides for Point Buy attributes.

Next I determined his defenses which had me flipping down to the FIghter section.  As a Fighter if he's wearing Heavy armour (and why would you not?) he has a base AC of 15.    Then we take the middle value of Str/Con/Dex which in this case ends up being a 19.  That's +4 and throw in one for his level.  He has an AC of 20 while dressed in 'heavy armour'.

Armour is defined as Light and Heavy.  There aren't 18 types each with some minutae difference that always ends up resulting in really there being one good armour and you have to sacrifice character ability/numbers to satisfy your roleplaying/characterization.   Here, much like Gamma World 4E, it's up to the player to determine what Heavy armour is for their character.

Next up is Physical and Mental Defenses.  These work the same as AC and are computed from a base + the middle modifier of three stats + level.

End result is AC 20, PD 15, MD 13.

Now comes the first step in breathing some life into this character.  We define the one Unique thing about him.  Yes it's a him.   As part of my particular game worlds canon I decide to incorporate a decades old running mechanic where one of the characters in each campaign is related in some way to one of the characters from the previous campaign.  Usually the players don't  know just who it is.

Hu'nchi (Hoo-un-chee) is the current male descendant of the Iron Lord, the immortal guardian of Castle Dragon.  I also kind of added the Iron Lord as an Icon, I already have several of the 13th Age Icons in my world so it made sense to just add mine to theirs.   The character isn't aware of his lineage, just that he's had a knack for weapons and has always been drawn that way, up to and including a stint as an arena fighter much like his famous predecessor.

With that in place we add in his Backgrounds.  These replace the use of skills.   They're similiar to Professions from Barbarians of Lemuria.

I put two points (+2 to rolls where the background makes sense for the roll) in Adherant to the Way of the Warrior.  He's followed the path of the warrior his whole life, their practices, their lore and legend, their training regimes.

He also has a 2 point background, "Arena Combat Participant" which grants him knowledge of such things as planning and staging contested fights, the politics involved, gambling, refreshments and all the frameworks that go into arena combat.

He has a 1 point background, "Weapons and Armour." which could be of use when picking out quality weapons, identifying their maker and origin, crafting them if need be, what they're worth, their care and upkeep.

And lastly a 1 point backgorund in "Combat Trainer".  He knows how to train warriors, the best training methods for a given style, what styles are most popular where and the like.

Next we determine his relationships with the Icons of the world.  Icons aren't gods although they may come off that way given their power levels.   Every character has some kind of link with one or more of the Icons of the world.

We choose a Conflicted 1 - Iron Lord, a Positive 1 - Crusader and a Conflicted 1 - Emperor.    This means that the character can use these relationships to advance their own storylines and to impact the plot play as it impacts their character.  The number values are bonuses to die rolls (or potentially negatives) in non-combat situations where a roll might be called for.

The end result is we have a young warrior, he's fought and taught in the savage arena fighting of K'tar and survived.  He thinks the Crusader has the right of it, might of strength of arm but wonders why the crusader continues to bow down before the Emperor.   HIs unknown past, his links to the Iron Lord, will touch his life in ways that may be for good or ill but touch him they shall.

I now have a good picture of this character, he's proud and arrogant, the folly of untested youth.  He's brash and over confident because he was lucky and that may get him killed when a true test shows up and he fails to take into account a realistic assessment of his own skills and those that oppose him.

Then we get into some characterization.  He wears heavy armour, fashioned from supple leather with bars of steel over a cotton undergarment.   His weapons are a greataxe with a two handed hilt of sharkskin and he also carries a warhammer and shield if he needs to 'tank it up'.   Due to a problem with gambling he's down to a mere 30 gold in his pocket and has been forced on the road by those he owes debts to seek his fortune elsewhere.

For his Talents we select Cleave, Comeback Strike and Tough as Iron.

For his Maneuvers we add Precision Attack, Deadly Assault and Shield Bash.

For his Feats we throw in Improved Initiative which when combined with his human granted ability Quick to Fight should see him being first to act in most fights.  Because he who acts first wins more often.

He also gets a bonus Feat for being Human and we throw in Strong Recovery to go along with his Tough as Iron talent.   He's a walking talking damage sink.  It's how he made his name as the Rock in the pits.  Attacks hit him like a wave and like the wave they broke around him to go after easier targets.

Next up, we'll throw Hu'nchi into a pit with a couple or three goons and see how he fares when we take the mechanics for a spin.

Filed under: 13th Age, Playtest, RPG No Comments

13th Age Review

Posted by Dennis

So I've read through the system a few times.  I like quite a lot of what I'm seeing.  Quite a lot.

Just to give you my final thoughts, I'd rate this an 80% without table time to see how she moves when the dice hits the table.   This is a fairly good rating from me.  Sure I can find nits to pick but it wouldn't take much HR'ing to make this a go to for classic fantasy trope'ic play for me.

The score is subject to change for the final product and my own and player reactions to it once it gets put to use.

The meat of the post -

Firstly it's not complete in terms of content.  There's a lot of placeholders for things like monsters and the spell lists are kind of slim.  So this isn't a review of a final product, just a preliminary overview of the system.

It's your classic DnD trope.  Same classes, same monsters, same spells, d20 rolls.

Levels range from 1 to 10.  Each level nets you stuff.  They essentially got rid of the every other level sucks because you get nothing except a few more hit points that's plagued DnD since day one.

They also have 'incremental' advances.  Each level gets you quite a lot of new toys.  So at the end of each session that you didn't level up, you get to pick one of the new things you'd get when you did level up and use it on a loaner basis.   When it's time to level up, if it turns out what you picked for the loaner isn't to your style you don't have to keep it.   A nice way to let players try before they buy and give them a new carrot for each session.  Recommended is you level up after every 12 to 14 encounters.   There's no experience tracking, challenge rating, dividing crap.   Every player levels up at the same time, regardless of participation.  In a way they have to.  More than 1 level difference in the players means someone's over or under powered due ot the power escalation.

The mechanics are lighter than 4E but it keeps quite a lot of flavor of 4e.   Each class has powers/tricks/moves that come in at-wills, rechargables, dailies.

So be warned, if you hated 4E, you're going to be pre-disposed to hate this.  If you like 4E then you might very well like the way this takes 4E and puts in on diet, especially at the higher levels where the slog fest really starts to kick in.

Daily is a misnomer, a 'day' is four encounters and has nothing to do with time passing.  From a 'reaslism' viewpoint this makes no sense.  From a game play viewpoint I love this.

You can do a full rest every four encounters (give or take at the DM's discretion and at your risk).   This helps IMO to eliminate the "Let's rest up after each fight."  Now you have to push through the loss of resources and fight smarter, not harder.  No resting up right before the big boss fight.

Rechargables (encounter style) powers have an activation roll after the encounter.  You only get one shot at recharging the power, it's not automatic.  If it doesn't recharge you have to wait until after the next encounter to try again.  It helps to add situations where the PC's may have to work around missing resources rather than lather rinse repeat syndrome in each encounter.  What if a few key parts of killer combos is missing?  Now you have to come up with something else to defeat the bad guys.

At any time the party as a whole can retreat from an encounter, grabbing the downed and wounded.  A retreat though causes a Complication.  If you were trying to save the sacrificial victim?  She gets killed.  If you were trying to rescue the princess?  She gets moved to another location.  Trying to find the last section of the staff of Law?  Someone else nabs it.

It's not a new technique but I love the fact that it's in the rules...

The same thing happens if you can talk the DM into letting you have a full rest at a shorter interval than 4 encounters.

An encounter by the way is something that requires you to expend resources.   Talking to a street merchant for an hour about the qualities of rope isn't an encounter.

They also have a rule very similar to one that I have in another system I'm working on.  They call it the Escalation Die, I call it Heroic Momentum.  Their rule is there's a big d6 somewhere on the table starting with Round 2 of any fight.  The PC's get to add the value of that die to their rolls.  Each turn the die is turned to the next biggest number.  So by turn 7 the PC's are at a +6.

In my system on any round that at least one PC has a successful meaningful skill roll (attack, heal, buff etc) the party gains momentum for the next turn, the format is still under design.  This keeps piling up until the fight is over or if everyone who makes a skill roll fails on their turn then it's reset to zero.  Nothing rewards success like success and nothing's more defeatest than watching everyone whiff.  Given a 3 or 4 player group with a 60-70% chance for success, odds are good that the momentum will keep building.

But I digress.

Their damage system is iffy for me at first glance but I can kinda see where they're going with it.

One thing I did with 4E was throw out the level +1 boost and dropped HP across the board and reduced attacks and defenses of the monsters across the board to remove the severe stratification that 4E had.  As a result I was able to use monsters that were even 6 levels higher than the players, or 4 levels lower and still make a good fight out of it.   This system I might attempt the same thing.  I don't care for combat systems where the very tippy top of the food chain can completely ignore the lower parts.  I want the top tier to be worried about the lower tier at least a little.

The reason it's iffy is, what this does is cause content stratification especially at the lower levels.  This effect is reduced the higher the levels.  There's a big difference between 1d8 and 3d8  versus 7d8 and 10d8  compared to a level 1 vs a level 3 and a level 7 vs a level 10.

Everyone has at least 8 recoveries (think healing surges) and there's a second wind style option you can use during combat.  When you spend a recovery you roll 1dX per level where X is based on your class.  Or you can just take the average.   This change is good as it removes the 'well crap, who's getting stuck playing the cleric this time?' that we all go through. Clerics are a great resource but they're not critical.

After a fight you can spend as many recoveries as you want but you're obligated to spend at least one, if you have it, if you're at or below 50% health.  You can't horde your recoveries and try to find almost dead if for some strange reason you might want to do that.   This takes a few seconds of 'world time' so as long as you have the slightest break in combat you can catch your breath.

Map grids aren't needed.  There are three distances, Out of the area (my word for it), Far, Nearby.   Any creature in the Nearby ring can reach any other creature in the Nearby ring as a single move action.  No speeds, no counting spaces, no hard corners.  If the general layout suggests it's possible, other creatures can try to intercept another creature's movement and get OA's.   Any creature can shift from Far to Nearby or vice versa as 2 moves.   Out of the area requires a Retreat.  For melee attacks you have to be Engaged with the opponent i.e. base to base.   For ranged attacks you don't have to engaged.  If you are engaged then you suffer OA's as normal for ranged attacks and spells.

There's no shift move action, if you want to Disengage you just do it and roll a d20.  On a 11+ you dodge any OA's you'd of taken.  Otherwise you take an OA.  This nets you about about a 75% chance on average of being able to disengage without penalty.

The bard and fighter, possibly some others have attacks that are called Flexible.  You say you're going to use a Flex attack and then roll the dice.  You can then pick any attack you have that the dice would result in a hit that has the Flexible keyword.  This helps to elminate 'blowing a daily' for fighters and bards as long as it's flexible.  If the dice indicate a miss, you just go with a 'i'm using an at will'.  If it's a critical hit you could go with the daily.

Virtually every damaging attack deals at least your level in damage even on a miss.

Attacks target one of three defenses, AC, Physical Defense, Mental Defense.

A lot of the ideas are designed to reduce the combat slog.  A level 1 fight and a level 10 fight should each last about the same amount of time because while the numbers are escalating drastically, the ratio of damage to hit points remains pretty close.    This gets rid of the slower and slower fights as you go up in level that 4E had because damage didn't keep up with damage sinks.

They also want every round to mean something, no wasted rounds i.e. game time because everyone missed.  Even on misses the bad guys are getting whittled down a bit.

SKills are a thing of the past (Big effin' yay!) and they use a background system very similar to say Barbarians of Lemuria's Professions.   If a background you have would be beneficial to the 'skill roll' you're about to make, you get that background's value as a bonus.  Simple and heavily promotes more narrative style play than calculator play.

Monsters are lighter than 4E in that they don't have a lot of stats. The below is just a level of epic stupidity of information for a monster for a DM to have deal with.  I mean seriously W...T...F...  When the hell would you EVER need to know what a Balor's survival skill rating was?  Or trying to remember to add the various bonuses for the feats list?


Demon, Balor
Large Outsider (Chaotic, Extraplanar, Evil, Tanar’ri)
Hit Dice: 20d8+200 (290 hp)
Initiative: +11
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares), fly 90 ft. (good)
Armor Class: 35 (–1 size, +7 Dex, +19 natural), touch 16, flat-footed 28
Base Attack/Grapple: +20/+36
Attack:+1 vorpal longsword +33 melee (2d6+8/19–20)
Full Attack:+1 vorpal longsword +31/+26/+21/+16 melee (2d6+8/19–20) and +1 flaming whip +30/+25 melee (1d4+4 plus 1d6 fire plus entangle); or 2 slams +31 melee (1d10+7)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft. (20 ft. with +1 flaming whip)
Special Attacks: Death throes, entangle, spell-like abilities, summon tanar'ri, vorpal sword Special Qualities: Damage reduction 15/cold iron and good, darkvision 60 ft., flaming body, immunity to electricity, fire, and poison, resistance to acid 10 and cold 10, spell resistance 28, telepathy 100 ft., true seeing
Saves: Fort +22, Ref +19, Will +19
Abilities: Str 35, Dex 25, Con 31, Int 24, Wis 24, Cha 26
Skills: Bluff +31, Concentration +33, Diplomacy +35, Disguise +8 (+10 acting), Hide +26, Intimidate +33, Knowledge (any two) +30, Listen +38, Move Silently +30, Search +30, Sense Motive +30, Spellcraft +30 (+32 scrolls), Spot +38, Survival +7 (+9 following tracks), Use Magic Device +31 (+33 scrolls)
Feats: Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Power Attack, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (telekinesis), Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (longsword)
Environment: Infinite Layers of the Abyss
Organization: Solitary or troupe (1 balor, 1 marilith, and 2–5 hezrous)
Challenge Rating: 20
Treasure: Standard coins; double goods; standard items, plus +1 vorpal greatsword and +1 flaming whip
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: 21–30 HD (Large); 31–50 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: —

In 13th Age you have the minimum stats needed to run the monster effectively along with its nifty keen powers that make running monsters just a little more fun and fighting them just a little more fun than standing there rolling d20's until someone drops.  The balor entry is blank so I picked another demon at random.  I also changed some of the headings because I'm intrusive like that.


Large 9th level caster [demon]
Initiative: +17
Defenses -
AC 22 PD 22 MD 18
HP 320
Combat Moves
Melee - Pincer +14 vs. AC, 2d4 x 10 damage Natural 11+: The demon can grab the target, preventing it from disengaging or making non-basic attacks until the end of the target’s next turn. If the glabrezou somehow makes another attack while holding a victim, it can wind
Close Hellfire :+ 14 vs. PD (up to three nearby enemies), 2d3 x 10 fire damage Special: Hellfire also targets any allies engaged with the targets.
Range: Painbolt +14 vs. MD, 2d6 x 10 psychic damage Special: This attack can target a nearby or distant creature.
Cool Tricks -
Lesser teleport: At will, as a move action, a glabrezou can teleport itself about 50 feet. It has to see its destination or at least have a really good idea of where it’s going to end up.
Mirror images: At will, as a move action, a glabrezou can create multiple images of itself that make it harder to target. The next time an attack would hit the glabrezou, the attacker has to roll 11+ or miss it instead, but at least the miss hits the images and dispels them.
Power word stun: Once per day as a free action, the glabrezou can utter a power word, cancelling a single action that a nearby creature has just taken, whether it was casting a spell, healing an ally, or whatever. The GM can see the results of the action, such as a die roll, before deciding whether to use the power word.
Nasty Tricks - 
True Seeing


So my final thoughts are, even though this the same DnD we've had for 30+ years in terms of classes and roles, it's a damn good take on it amid the sea of OSR that's going on that harkens back to the "I roll to hit." "I roll damage." Players need a push to get them off their dice and trying to do cool shit during conflict other than roll dice.


Site Maintenance

Posted by Dennis

A lot of site maintenance this morning.  NOticed that a lot of posts were drafts.  Also noted that the WP install was behind so I installed it.  And voila the stie she broke.  I think the upgrade broke the install.  Tried upgrading manually without any luck.

Rolled back to version 3.3 and all was fine.

Then tried the autoupdate again, this time making sure I pulled backups of the site and the current database (duh, but I have a weekly backup job so the worst I'd of been out is a week of non-activity.).   And this time it worked okay.

Also noticed a dramatic up tick in spam posts on the hidden forums site on the page that the only people who visit are spammers.  Hope you had fun selling blue pills to each other.  I've deleted the forums code base and dropped all the tables from the database for it.

And that's how I got caught up on the KOC site this morning.

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13th Age Kickstarter

Posted by Dennis

Our group bought into the 13th Age Kickstarter and frankly I like what I"m seeing.

They have several (although not necessarily unique really once you've amassed a large collection of game systems) systems in place that should lighten up 4E without going back to the old days of 1st Edition.

I haven't had a chance to play it but I'm really liking what I see so far and I've seen a LOT of systems.

That is all.  🙂

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IT Stuff – 

Posted by Dennis

Because this was such a PITA trying to resolve and nowhere on the internetz did I find the answer I'm putting it here for Google to spider and offer up in search engines.

I have the unfortunate task of one of my many duties is managing file/print servers in 7 countries for our companies.

I've run into a few instances where systems get a 'Unable to connect" Error 0x0000007e when trying to add a print queue to desktops.  Since I'm stuck with the print servers this becomes my problem.   Some clients work fine.  Some don't.  Some used to work, now they don't.  Some didn't, now they do.  One queue has the problem (sporadically) but another queue with the exact same printer driver/model doesn't.   The problem is pretty erratic and not repeatable or consistent.

Well I've finally figured out what the cause is.  In the registry for those printer entries on the print server there's a key for CopyFiles just for a BIDI dll aka BiDirectional printing.  This key on the 'broken' printers referenced a file or location that didn't exist.  The file is completely unecessary.  When some clients try to attach, they get the normal driver installation but then this copyfile key kicks in and breaks the connection.

Just delete the damn CopyFile key and its sub keys and you'll have resolved the problem.

Maybe this will save someone else some 'The web server is down' pain in the assedness.

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An interesting read – 

Posted by Dennis

Embedded Link

138 Years of Economic History Show that It’s Excessive PRIVATE Debt Which Causes Depressions - Washington's Blog
Too Much Government Debt Hurts the Economy … But Too Much Private Debt KILLS It. Preface: We like to debunk myths held by both the left and the right. For example, we have repeatedly argued that gover...

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I thought this was funny in a interesting kind of way

Posted by Dennis

Or interesting in a funny kind of way....

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Normalcy Bias

Posted by Dennis

(I love this phrase for some reason).  Definition provided by Wikipedia -

The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation

Embedded Link

Normalcy bias - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effe...

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Posted by Dennis

Blizzard / got haxx0rd.  You may wish to consider changing your details and if you use the email / password / security questions on any other sites, especially ones that could cost you money you may want to go and change those elsewhere too.

Embedded Link

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Critical Thinking

Posted by Dennis

As a strong proponent of "Think for yourself." and "Question everything." this is... appalling.

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Embedded Link

Skepticblog » It’s official: Texas GOP bans critical thinking

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