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Kyle Watt

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So there is a thread on EN World about an alternative initiative system that I think is fantastic, and potentially a great fit for 13th Age.

Essentially, instead of tying initiative order to dice rolls, you use cards. Basically, each PC, and each group of monsters that the GM would otherwise roll for, are represented by a card, and for any combat encounter you form a custom initiative deck of the participants. Major NPCs, or bad guys, can have their own cards like PCs do. You then shuffle all the cards at the beginning of the round. The deck is placed where everyone can see it. The first card is drawn and that PC or monster group takes their turn. Then the next card is drawn and so on. until all the cards have been drawn and everyone has taken a turn. Then the deck is simply reshuffled for the next round, and the process begins again.

Some pros of this system is that turn order is randomized every round, keeping things dynamic and uncertain. Player engagement is increased because you never know whether you'll be next until your card is drawn. One reason d20 moved away from the AD&D model of re-rolling initiative every round is the overhead. But the overhead of rerolling initiative every round is essentially eliminated with a deck you just need to reshuffle. This method also eliminates the need for any initiative bookkeeping.

Some of the cons are that high initiative modifiers are no longer a thing. (Though this could be a pro for some folks.) But regardless, everyone gets a single card and goes when their card comes up. Some house rules for having an initiative talent or feat that lets you get a big initiative boost, might allow you to shuffle two cards into the deck, and then going on the first instance that your card comes up, skipping the other. Or you could re-purpose initiative bonuses to roll against some DC to see who might be able to act in a surprise round.

If you need to track effects that end on a turn you have a couple of options. You can lay the cards out in order as they are drawn and place a bead or other token to mark where in the turn order the effect will start and end. Turn order will be different from round to round, adding some tactical uncertainty. Another option is to still link the effect to the monster or PC it based on, regardless of what their new turn order ends up being. That method also has some tactical uncertainty since the new turn order could be good or bad depending on the effect.

I haven't tried the initiative deck concept in my game yet, but I think its a fantastic idea. Here is the original thread. Props to the OP for the idea, and props to folks in the thread who are already photoshopping their own custom decks:

Is Eyes of the Stone Thief shipping? My local game shop has it in stock, but I haven't gotten my copy yet from Pelgrane. I pre-ordered it back in December. Do I need to wait longer, or have all the other pre-order folks gotten it already?

Any timeline on when the custom escalation die and icon die will be available?

They were part of the 13 TW kickstarter and I presume Pelgrane would also sell them to the general public.

Alternative method for randomly rolling for an Icon:

Here is an idea I had. The book talks about rolling a d12 if you need to randomly determine an icon's involvement in some plot point or other.

It also suggests picking a random icon first, and if you roll that particular icon, its really the Prince of Shadows. However, what if you don't want to take any icon's potential involvement off the table, so to speak?

In that case, my idea is to roll 2d12. Prior to the roll, designate one die as the main Icon die, and the other as the Shadow die. The main die result determines which icon is involved, not including the Prince of Shadows. Then check the second die. If the second die rolls the same result as the first (i.e. you roll doubles), then its the Prince of Shadows involved instead of the icon you rolled on the main icon die. If you don't roll doubles, you ignore the second die.


Variant Advancement and Heal-Up system

So this idea was percolating in my brain, but an excellent post on about Exalted and 13th Age helped bring it all together.

So I don't know if this is balanced or anything, or even if people will like it, but I thought I'd throw it out to the community and see if anyone likes it.

Essentially, every battle/encounter is worth 1 XP. You level-up at 13 XP (Of course!). You can take a full Heal-Up any time you want, but each time you take a full Heal-Up, you pay 1XP.

You can never go below 0 XP. Campaign Losses also cost you 1 XP. Campaign Wins gain you 1 bonus XP. The GM may give 1 or 2 more bonus XP for really hard or amazing battles. And may give half or no XP for really easy or meaningless battles.

When you level up, XP is reset to 0 and you get an immediate free Heal-Up.

My players like to cruise through lower levels and linger at higher levels so they actually suggested making adventurer and champion tier battles worth 2 or even 3 XP by default so advancement goes faster and then making epic tier slow back down to 1 XP. That would be optional of course. The default is 1 XP per battle.

XP can be tracked for the group as a whole, or individually for GMs who prefer that method. My players actually don't like the Incremental Advancement system, they like to get their levels in big chunks, but you could presumably use it normally as in the book, separately from this system. Though conceivably, players who have gained all their class abilities for the next level but have squandered XP could be in a weird spot where they need a bunch of XP to advance, but have already gotten all their abilities from the next level already. That could be a flaw, or a feature depending on how you look at it.

If you go by the standard of 1 Heal-Up per 4 standard battles, you level up at about 17 fights with this system. Just one more than the book's recommended 16. You can change the XP needed to level, but setting it to 13 made a lot of sense. One thing I like about it is it puts Heal-ups in the players hands and makes them decide whether a rest is worth the slight delay in advancement. It adds a little old school resource management to the game.

Then again, it might incent the players to take risks they shouldn't, possibly resulting in a TPK.

Thoughts? Cool idea? Terrible idea? Meh?

Class Analysis and Breakdown:

Hey all,

First a disclaimer that my breakdown of the 13th Age classes is totally subjective. Some of you may disagree with my methodology, or conclusions. That's totally cool. Its really more art than science because the value of so many spells and abilities is vague and situational. How good, or not good something is depends heavily on the DM, the player, and the context of the campaign.

Here is the breakdown:

I wanted to see how all the classes measured up to one another when you factored out everything the classes shared and factored in things that varied. I looked at every class at level 10 so you could compare their full suite of abilities against each other.

Certain classes like the Paladin are very front loaded. They get a huge boost to their defenses right off the bat, but not much later on beyond some Talents. Other classes are backloaded. Like the Wizard whose casting ability increases as he levels.

Essentially, I broke every class down to BP values, or Build Points. I excluded everything all classes shared such as 1 Feat per level, Ability score increases and so on. I focused mostly on abilities such as Talents, Spells, and various class Features. I also looked at baseline HP and defenses. I started off by setting a base value of 1 BP equals 1 Talent and tweaked from there. Ultimately that worked out pretty well. Whenever it made sense I looked at existing Talents to determine precedent values for other things. Since Bastion established 1 Talent equals 1 pt of AC, I went with that. Likewise, the Barbarian Talent for increasing the Recovery die by 1 step, helped me there too.

I wanted to baseline out everything that was standardized, so started with HP Factor. I assigned a value of 0 to classes who had the minimum of 6. Then 1 BP per point above 6. For AC and defenses, I took 10 as the baseline worth 0 BP. Then granted 1 BP per point of defense above 10. For AC, I used optimum AC in a class's preferred armor type as the baseline.

Generally, I ignored assigning values to things like attack penalties with heavy weapons. I started down that road, then realized it was way too fiddly. Furthermore, 99% of the time, it would never matter anyway. Players would almost always default to the optimum choices. For example, if a PC wanted to use a shield, they wouldn't pick a class that couldn't use shields effectively, so the shield penalty in most cases is really more flavor than an actual penalty likely to affect a player. And classes who can't effectively use weapons like a wizard, would always be using spells, so such penalties would likely never seriously impact the game. So I assigned 0 BP for such things.

For Recovery die, I set 1 BP per step above the baseline of d6. Since most classes had 3 Talents at level 1, I based that out to 0, and only gave points for Talents beyond the initial 3. This worked well, until I got to the monk. The monk broke the pattern, so they got a discount, which then they pay back with their level 1 Forms.

Certain values became clear to me over time. Like Flexible maneuvers worth 2 to 1 BP made the most logical sense when I was breaking things down. Likewise, spells and rogue powers are all roughly Talent equivalents. Some classes essentially got a free feat. Cleric and Wizard got Ritual Casting. I assigned that a value of 0.5. Bardic Battle Cries are no different than Fighter flex attacks, and so on.

Some class Features like Smite and Rage were worth more than 1 BP because of all they do for you. Rage essentially gives you a minimum attack bonus of +3, and essentially double vulnerability to every opponent. So I made it worth 3 BP. Smite is almost like having a per Battle spell, and a Daily with multiple uses all in one, so I made it worth 2 BP. I kind of think Animal Companion should be worth 3, but Heinsoo put it at 2 Talents, so I went with that.

I didn't count any class features which didn't do anything on their own, but were merely rules containers for how certain other things worked. For example, Momentum is just a mechanic for some Rogue powers, but by itself doesn't do anything. So its worth 0 BP. Its the actual Rogue powers that are worth 1 BP each. Likewise, features that basically just give you access to things I counted as 0 as well.

Unless you want to rigidly enforce class silos, I think any class should generally be able to snag something from another class, so I don't think merely giving access to something any PC should be able to do anyway should really be worth anything BP wise. YMMV.

After looking at all the classes, it became clear that some classes were built off more BP than others. Since my entire methodology is subjective, you may disagree with my results. I'm also not saying that having more BP necessarily makes a class more powerful than another, but they certainly seem to at least be more versatile or well rounded, with fewer exploitable weaknesses, except for maybe the wizard.

As you can see, the Cleric is the best class in the game when evaluated using my system. With the Ranger being the worst off. Again, if you are into strict siloing of abilities, you may feel that Ranger's lack of depth is made up for by having exclusive access to their Talent list. I feel that their Talent list isn't anything super special, though, and I want to let my players more freely swap Talents, so I disagree.

Anyway, after doing all this analysis, I'd like to see every class at least hit 14 BP, so that means, Sorcerer, EK, Barbarian, and Ranger need a boost. I plan to introduce the following house rules into my game:

Barbarian base HP factor goes from 7 to 9. Their Base PD goes up by 1.
Rangers get Animal Companion for free and their base MD goes up 1.
Sorcerers get their base HP factor increased by 1.
Eldritch Knights get either Armored Caster or Weapon Master for free as a free Class Feature, and the Warrior's Skill feature should be amended to allow trading 1 Sigil for 2 flexible maneuvers.

Then going forward, I intend to let my players swap out class abilities to let them make the characters they want to play. Subject to DM review, of course. For example, my paladin player swapped Smite for Animal Companion to better fit his image of his PC.

Anyway, if you were so inclined, you could use this as a good barometer of your homebrew classes.  I think anything in the 14-18 BP range is pretty well balanced with the existing classes.

Reskinning 13th Age for Final Fantasy:

I posted this over at to give some ideas to a guy who wants to run a Final Fantasy style game using 13th Age. I figured some of you might find it gets your creative juices going too. :)

To have a Final Fantasy style Ninja, you could literally use Rogue as is for Ninja and it would work fine. For a Dragoon, you can use the Paladin as a base, then for the Dragoon's jump attack simply reskin Smite Evil.
Perhaps make a tweak that when they use the power, they have to spend both their move action and their standard action, but can only jump attack nearby enemies (or even far away enemies if you want to go total anime). They specifically cannot jump attack enemies they are engaged with. And Jump Attacks automatically draw OAs if they are engaged with other enemies. Perhaps add a Champion Tier feat that lets them make disengage checks before Jumping, and an Epic Tier feat that maybe gives a bonus to Disengage checks made specifically for Jump attacks.
I just made that up on the spot so it may need some tweaking. Perhaps they can jump as Standard and basically get a free move out of the deal, but the drawback is they take OAs from engaged enemies and can't use Jump against engaged enemies.
For Final Fantasy style summons that essentially work like big attacks (i.e. Knights of the Round), you can simply re-skin the sorcerer or wizard into a summoner and reflavor their spells such that a big monster appears, attacks (doing the spell's damage as normal) and then disappears. Its basically a special effect.

Maybe even say that the Gather Power mechanic is representative of the sumons. So you have your normal spell, then for big damage you spend the action to use Gather Power which represents taking extra time to summon. Then the "monster" (i.e. reskinned spell) appears and per the the standard Gather Power rules does double damage. So reflavoring the Gather Power mechanic makes a neat and effective summoning mechanic.
If you want to get even more creative, and actually have monsters show up and take part in the battle, you could also reskin the Ranger's Animal Companion Talent to be summoned monsters instead of an animal companion. This might need some balance tweaking, but otherwise the animal stats for the various companions should work in a pinch for level appropriate summonings.

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New Eldritch Knight class on Pelgrane's Page XX here:

Check it out. Very cool class. This goes into my game right away! Well done +Lawrence Augustine Mingoa! This is fantastic work, I love it!

One of my players is a sorcerer in a new game we are starting soon, and his OUT is that he is the living phylactery (think Harry Potter style Horcrux) for an unknown (to him) icon and that is the source of his sorcerous power. I'm going to have so much fun with this one as DM. :)

New Talent - Rune Warrior

This is a general Talent that may be taken by any class. It works best in campaigns that don't automatically provide the bonuses that magic items do.

Rune Warrior Talent

Your body is covered by magical rune tattoos which magically enhance your combat abilities and physical performance. Pick any two of: Attack, AC, PD, or MD. You receive a +1 bonus per tier to the chosen abilities. You also gain a +2 Background "Superhuman Ability" which adds to any skill roll involving a feat of physical strength, agility, or prowess, and stacks with any other relevant Background.
However, the magical strain on your body permanently drains one Recovery. The bonuses provided overlap but do not stack with the bonus provided by any magic item. The base talent counts as two magic items towards the normal level limit of quirk susceptibility.
Adventurer Feat: Gain tier appropriate bonuses to the remaining two abilities, but lose another Recovery. This counts as two additional magic items towards your level limit.

Champion Tier Feat: Gain +1d6 damage per tier.

Epic Tier Feat: Increase the Background bonus to +5.
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