Thursday, May 5, 2016

Three Dragon Ante mix, with coins

We played Three Dragon Ante a few weeks ago, just a couple days before the coins from the last Campaign Coins Kickstarter showed up in the mail. So for next game, I'm ready with metal coins. It's a benevolent circle, given that 3DA helped inspire Campaign Coins to start making gaming coins!

Later this year we'll be able to play with dwarven towers from the 13th Age Coins and Icon Tiles kickstarter, which sure looks like it's going to fund in style and will probably be making the twelve-sided icon die from our 13 True Ways kickstarter available again. (You can find a few of the square dwarven tower prototypes anchoring the coin pile above.)

For those of you who have both the original Three Dragon Ante and the Emperor's Gambit sequel, here's the card list I'm playing Three Dragon Ante with these days, a mix of dragons and mortals and dragon gods from both the sets. This set-up has a good mix of card drawing, outright theft, and manipulation of the ante cards. If people have other mixes they play to get different effects, I'm curious to hear it.



Mortals & Li'l Dragons: 
The Dragonslayer
The Druid
The Emperor
The Queen
The Sorcerer
The Spy
The Thief
The Wyrmpriest

Dragon Gods: 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Big Trouble in Little China!

GenCon is going to be fun this year!

In addition to however many volumes of 13th Age we have out by and for the show, I'll be enjoying the release of a new game from Upper Deck based on my favorite deckbuilding card game.

I've been a Legendary fanboy since Devin Low invited me to early playtests. You'll find my wife Lisa and me in the playtesters list for most of the Marvel Legendary sets. So it was wonderful to design a Big Trouble in Little China set intended to be playable with the Marvel sets.

The Villains and Masterminds and Schemes can all add something new for people who want to draft big trouble into their Marvel games, and Iron Fist could pay a visit to Little China. But BTiLC is very much its own experience, with interlocking characters and mechanics that want to be played together, as well as new Schemes that pivot around Chinatown. I'm particularly happy with the story-oriented solution for handling the starting heroes, but it's a little too soon to spill those beans. I'll say more about the game's design goals and solutions in future posts.

This was so much fun to make! The result is sort of a love letter: Legendary is Lisa's favorite game, and Big Trouble in Little China is designed to be Legendary the way Lisa likes to play it. Except for the worst of the Masterminds . . . Lisa saw that Mastermind and said "Oh. You just designed this to screw me, didn't you?"

Me: Not you. Your play style.
Lisa: The world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Three Powerful Months

I'm excited about this year's 13th Age Monthly lineup. The first three months show off the mix of GM material and player goodies we're aiming for. The artists are doing splendid work, and in fact for much of the year, 13AM is likely to be the place to see color 13th Age art.

As you can see from the design credits so far this year, I'm staying fully involved with the Monthly. 13AM isn't quite a Ken Writes About Stuff situation, like Pelgrane's other monthly game subscription, because there will always be other designers writing for the Monthly. But I've gotten a lot more involved than we expected when we started this project, developing and art-directing all the issues. I've never handled a monthly publication process before. It started as a learning experience and has become fun.

We promise 4000 words a month and we nearly always publish more than that, because . . .fun!  If you're subscribing, you've already got the first two issues shown below, with covers and interiors by Lee Moyer and Patricia Smith. Sorcerer Summoning, with cover and interior art by Rich Longmore, is getting shown off for the first time below. It will be out at the end of this week. If you subscribe now you'll get all the issues from 2016 as well as the OP adventures when they release. . . . and that should also be happening at the end of the week, since ASH LAW's Into the Underworld Part IV is ready to be unleashed.

See you in the Monthly.

Monday, March 21, 2016

13th Age in Glorantha monster list sample

Jonathan and I are so close to finished with design work on 13th Age in Glorantha we can taste it. A taste is not a meal, and we're still working this week.

Jonathan is deep in a heroquest in which Humakt reasserts control of Death. I'm handling Sartar Magical Union mechanics and writing geography bits.

A lot of fun things have entered the game in this last phase of design. I thought I'd share one here that shows Glorantha's visual style and our use of the runes. This is the almost complete 4th level monster list that shows how we're using other 13th Age resources in Glorantha.

P. XX references are to monsters in the book, the other creatures are from previous 13A books as indicated. If names have been changed, the original name appears in brackets.

Monsters are organized by rune since that's often how they're encountered; Chaos creatures attacking alongside other Chaos creatures, Darkness creatures banded together, and so on.

The runes in the list start with Air swirling on top, then Beast like a dragon's eye, Chaos looking like a horned devil, the great blot of Darkness, one Earth creature, one Fire creature, several Moon creatures of the Lunar Empire, and a couple weirder undead with the Unlife rune.

We're pretty excited about how the full Monster List has turned out as both a resource and inspiration. GMs will have plenty to work with if they only have the core book and 13G, while anyone who has 13 True Ways and the Bestiary ends up with way more additional material than we expected.

[Click on the table for a better view]

Monday, January 11, 2016

early 2016 13th Age update

Here's the early 2016 update about a few of the upcoming 13th Age books and projects. Unlike updates that are all about the publication day, I'm writing from my creator-perspective; there are creative fountains I have to maintain, but the pipelines beyond the design/development/art phase are Pelgrane's (and Chaosium's), not mine to service. So I'll post later updates when I'm sure of street dates.

Except for Chaosium's 13th Age in Glorantha, these are all Pelgrane publications.

printing now
The 13th Age GM Screen and Resource Book has been in the printing process awhile already and will therefore be in stores super soon! Cal Moore and Wade Rockett did a great job with the screen info and book and as developer I chummed the waters. Pre-order people can already get the PDF from the Pelgrane store. It's an excellent resource for anyone running 13th Age and would be the new product to pick up for people who just bought into the 13th Age Bundle of Holding because of the help the 64-page resource book gives phrasing campaigns, running memorable sessions, and providing a big fold-out map of the Dragon Empire to lay in front of the wonderful screen art from Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell. 

released and headed towards wider distribution
Greg Stolze's The Forgotten Monk novel is available in print and PDF from the Pelgrane store. It's going to have wider distribution through Stone Skin Press later this year. It's a charming book, by turns deadly serious and idiosyncratically funny. This would be the new product for people who just bought into the 13th Age Bundle of Holding because it's something completely different, a narrative entry point into 13th Age that shows how every GM/creator can make their campaign/world their own. 

about to start again
13th Age Monthly is back for its second year. The cover of the first installment of 2016 is pictured above and will be released toward the end of the month. Rakshasas & Reavers is a monster supplement, with a bunch of creatures Jonathan and I have been using in our games. As last year, each 13AM issue is slated for a minimum of 4000 words, but looking back at 2015 we were almost always over that. 2016's mix of GM stuff, player content, and stuff for everyone will include articles on summoning spells, phoenixes, rules for adventuring in the middle of mass battles, an adventure tie-in to 13 True Ways, and a piece on the forests I've been noodling with for awhile now and am finally happy with. People who like to cherry pick can eventually find individual issues on the Pelgrane Press store and on Drive-Thru RPG, but subscribers also get the new 13th Age OP adventures. That's a good deal. 

in layout
Cal Moore's High Magic & Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons is now in layout. With 44+ battles and battlemaps, I believe the book is going to clock in at something like 190 b&w pages. The book was great fun to develop and art direct. Patricia Smith handled the cover and she and Rich Longmore shared the interior work. Above Patricia's wrap-around cover and below this text, I've inserted a couple of Rich's interior pieces I enjoy, lifted from battle scenes/mini-adventures involving the Archmage, High Druid, Orc Lord, Prince of Shadows, and the Three. I'm not going to say *which* icon these are from, don't wanna play the spoiler, we'll let players find out!

art in progress
Cal Moore's next book of mini-adventures and fight scenes to drop into campaigns is called The Crown Commands: Battle Scenes for Four Icons. Art is underway and I expect to finish development by the end of March. If the icon wears a crown more often than not, and is pretty sure they could rule the entire Empire, given the chance, their battle scenes are in this book. Dwarf King, Elf Queen, Emperor, Lich King.

design moving close to completion, art in progress
13th Age in Glorantha is the giant project Jonathan Tweet and I have been working on for Chaosium. It's late, but it's getting close to done. It's a Kickstarted labor of love like 13 True Ways and has a similar number of improvements that push the system into places it hadn't gone before. Moving 13th Age to Glorantha overhauled the storytelling mechanics, but all the new classes and transformation classes and monsters and rune gifts and subsystems will be entirely useful in core Dragon Empire games for people running campaigns not set in Glorantha. (Illustration above by Jan Pospisi is an early work-in-progress of Gagix Two-Barb, an  NPC/monster who Jonathan is busy turning into a long-running campaign nemesis; I love the energy of this early draft.)

second draft complete, awaiting a bit of dev work and art
Shards in the Broken Sky by ASH LAW will be the next adventure book on my dev-docket when The Crown Commands is finished. It's going to be quick and we've got an artist excited about tackling ASH's amazingly detailed art order, so the first adventure we announced will finally be out this year. 

first draft complete, devwork pending
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has outpaced my dev-calendar by finishing Book of Demons! It includes a pact-making demon summoner class we haven't decided the name of yet. Exciting work, and the same size as Book of Loot

three other things
There are three other books/projects underway under Pelgrane's wings and two of them are new styles of product for us. But I don't expect any of them to be published ahead of the books mentioned above, so let's save them for later. 

yours in the whirl, 
Rob Heinsoo

Sunday, December 27, 2015

a Moby Dick of a dungeon

There are still a couple of days (well, a little less!) left to get the 13th Age Bundle of Holding that contains so much of what my friends and I have been working on the past few years.

After the bundle's opening trio of the core 13th Age book, the 13 True Ways supplement, and the wonderful 13th Age Soundtrack album by James Semple and friends, the next chunky object in the bundle is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan's 364 page campaign-masquerading-as-a-mega-dungeon, Eyes of the Stone Thief . 

Here are a few fun things about Eyes of the Stone Thief that may not be common knowledge . . . .

1. whale book

Gareth's initial concept for the adventure was summed up by the project's original slangy name: Moby Dungeon. In a world where dungeons are alive, the dungeon at the center of this story would proactively hunt and kill things the PCs loved. Originally there was a Captain Ahab-style NPC, but that role got taken over by the PCs themselves! Given Gar's original inspiration, it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that the initial short adventure turned into a mega-dungeon with numerous aboveground locations and NPC factions that tie into the dungeon's plotlines.

You can see a trace of the original inspiration on Ben Wooten's cover. The halfling spellcaster has lost a leg and her comrade hefts a harpoon, waiting for the moment to throw at the surfacing dungeon!

2. women
Speaking of the cover art, Eyes of the Stone Thief features an art decision that turned out a bit harder to see than we'd intended. There's a consistent adventuring party used throughout the book, and all members of the adventuring party are women. Heavy armor and some small art means I'm not sure how many people noticed that.

3. colorizing the black and white
Eyes of the Stone Thief was originally a black and white book. Then Simon took stock of the wonderful full color maps Herwin Wielink had created for the book and of what we'd already accomplished with the other full color hardcovers, 13th Age and the Bestiary and 13 True Ways. Simon decided he wanted to take the time and make the effort to convert the book to color.

So Pelgrane ran a test, getting each of the artists to color one of their pieces. It went well and the colorization went forward. Towards the very end of the production process, when Lee Moyer was visiting me in Seattle, he saw the book on screen over my shoulder and asked to look at all the art. Lee is a master of light and shadow and color and he saw where he could strengthen the book. He made a bid to do touch-up work on pieces that weren't as dramatic. Pelgrane accepted and the results were magnificent.

The art process for the book captured how we've been approaching 13th Age work. We're not always as quick as we might be, but we're taking the time to get things right, and Simon and Cat at Pelgrane are wonderfully supportive, even to the extent that they'll make quality-control decisions I'd feel pretty bad about making with someone else's money.

4. but wait, the book isn't ALL in color
Gareth's art direction and vision for the book delivered four pages of truly old-school madness! Four pages of the Quillgate Library, down in the dungeon's epic-tier depths, appear in oldest-school black and white from the earliest days of D&D, the exact style and shade of paper used for the earliest rpg books widely published in the UK (as I understand it, my UK gaming history facts may be slightly off). And Russ Nicholson, famed illustrator of so many UK game books, provided the art, including a full page illustration of the dungeon cresting as a wave!

It's a joke from the old days, so it's not a surprise that the joke was too subtle for some people. Pelgrane sometimes gets complaints about misprinted pages in Eyes of the Stone Thief! "There's something wrong with 4 pages, they're in black and white and they look awful." I love the fact that Gareth, Simon, and Pelgrane buried this chunk of the forgotten module UA3 LOST TREASURY OF THE DWARVES in the middle of Eyes of the Stone Thief.

5. reviews and all that
You can find reviews and details of Eyes of the Stone Thief here and here and many other spots. I'll just close with an anecdote from one of my friends who plays in someone else's 13th Age campaign. The game has always been wonderfully GMed and huge fun, and then it got a little better. At some point my friend noticed that the battles had gone up a notch, full of interesting terrain and strange and memorable situations. A little while later, my friend realized that the GM had gotten hold of Eyes of the Stone Thief and was mining it for encounters, sprinkling its bizarre battles into the flow of the campaign.

Find it along with many other 13th Age goodies in the Bundle, or look for it in print at your local gaming store.