Monday, August 11, 2014

This is us in Glorantha!

Fire Opal and Moon Design have announced the identity and Kickstarter starting date (August 27!) for our wild new 13th Age book!

13th Age in Glorantha is a supplement that will bring 13th Age's d20-rolling storytelling style to mythic adventures in Greg Stafford's world of Glorantha.

I've overjoyed about the project. There is a lot I want to say about the team (Jonathan! ASH! Jeff! Jan!) and our plans and the collaboration with Moon Design. But I'm getting ready to fly to GenCon tomorrow and I've already typed out a lot of what needs to be said at this point in sections of the website called WHAT? and DRAFT OUTLINE.

So for now, here's a story about the triptychs below that depict me and my wife Lisa as young adults, middle-aged souls, and clan elders. Stefano Gaudiano painted us as potential members of the clan ring for the Gloranthan computer/iOS game King of Dragon Pass.

Lisa was happy about the inclusion, but then slightly less happy when she turned out to have been included as a priestess of Uralda, the cow goddess, while I got to be an Eurmali trickster!

There were two saving graces. First, Lisa's Gloranthan avatar also appeared as a priestess of the Earth queen, Ernalda, and that was alright. Second, the first time that artist Stefano Gaudiano met Lisa, he jogged across the wide lawn of Olympic Park Institute to catch up with her and said, "Oh! You must be Lisa! I am so sorry I did not meet you before I painted you! You are so much prettier than in the photo I saw, I wish I had met you in person."

Bravo, Stefano.

And bravo for David Dunham and Robin Laws and Greg Stafford, the main architects of King of Dragon Pass, because if you're curious about Glorantha now that we're bringing 13th Age to the world, King of Dragon Pass is a marvelous playable introduction. It worked splendidly for Lisa, who is not ordinarily a roleplaying gamer.

Amusingly, KoDP didn't work quite so well for 13th Age in Glorantha collaborator ASH LAW because he just wanted to go exploring and on heroquests, not take care of his herds and his crops. His clans kept dying of starvation just as he was about to accomplish great things. In ASH's defense, 13th Age in Glorantha IS going to be all about the exploring and the heroquesting, so I may tease him about his lack of clan stewardship, but he's on the right track for our book!

Another place to get an introduction to Glorantha, if you are at GenCon, would be to visit the Moon Design booth or catch the Introduction to Glorantha panel at 6 pm Thursday at Crowne Plaza: Victoria Station C/D. There's also another Glorantha panel that looks like it will be excellent earlier on Thursday, Gaming as Mythic Exploration.

Is the final 13th Age in Glorantha book going to look like the draft outline that's up on the web? To some extent, I think, just as Lisa and I seem to be following trajectories akin to what Stefano traced for us in Glorantha!

If you are dedicated 13th Age player, have no fear, we're going to treat this book with the same love and innovation we put into 13th Age, the Bestiary, and 13 True Ways. If you're a Glorantha fan, I hope you'll come along with us as we play through the myths.

Friday, August 8, 2014


My sprite-like pieces of self that get things done on the internet were busy this week. Here's a short list of surfacings. If you already caught them all, thank you and good night!

I wrote a 13th Sage column for Pelgrane Press about when it might be a good idea to let the monsters use the escalation die in 13th Age. Should be helpful to many GMs. And if you're a player it will give you a couple signs to watch out for!

Pelgrane also helpfully posted the schedule of 13th Age seminars at GenCon. Which turns out to be exactly the same as my seminar schedule at GenCon. One seminar a day, and I'll be using the Pelgrane booth as my main home base during the show. I get to team up with ASH and Gareth for a couple seminars on adventure and monster design, with Ruth Tillman (CthulhuChick) and Mike Shea and Wade for another on GMing, and then there's a Year One seminar with Simon and Wade.

If you're not going to GenCon and you still want to hear me run a game, the Reverend En Fuego's crew at BJ's Geek Nation just started posting the first installment of the game I ran for them using 13 True Ways characters. I admit that the full session didn't get around to including a lot of gaming. The character creation process took me by surprise. I usually run demos freeform and just respond to what the table gives me, but for once I thought, "Hey, I'll have something ready and actually bring minis and monster stats." So I made the mistake of preparing three different battle encounters that I thought I'd be able to choose for an action-packed first session. Of course the players surprised me with something I really wasn't ready for, so we're going to get into the meat of the adventure the next session. Was character creation and story set up fun? Oh yeah. Especially if you'll enjoy learning from my mistakes.

Most all the monsters I had planned to introduce to the BJ's Geek Nation crew were from the 13th Age Bestiary. Which coincidentally had its PDF-only version go on sale at the Pelgrane shop and on DriveThruRPG yesterday.

Meanwhile Catalyst has released the full rules for Shadowrun: Crossfire as a PDF and we have confirmation that there are going to be many boxes of the game for sale at the show! I'm not going to be helping with Crossfire stuff as much as some people in Fire Opal, I'll be more focused on 13th Age, but I will help with a Crossfire event or two and teach a few friends how to play.

Speaking of product that will be at GenCon, 13 True Ways has shipped, apparently just ever-so-slightly behind our friend Bruce Cordell's Kickstarter book, The Strange. But that's OK because Bruce started his book long after.... oh. Right. OK. The point is: 13 True Ways will also reach many people soon and will also be at GenCon!

And even as 13 True Ways is en route, the wonderful secret 13th Age project that Jonathan and ASH and I are working on is going to be announced this Sunday! ASH and I will be able to talk about the early stages of the design at GenCon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

OMG! Trilogy!

Last Friday, ASH LAW and I were working on our new 13th Age project in my garage studio. (And no, the new project is not announced yet. Soon!) I cursed because I wanted to look at the commander for a moment in a printed copy of 13 True Ways instead of rummaging through the PDF, and of course that wasn't possib. . . . . wait a minute. "I've got a printed copy," I said aloud, atoning for my cursing. There, in the folded cardboard on the gaming table . . . the printer's proof of 13 True Ways.

The approved proof.

So I got to flip through finished pages to see what I needed. It felt great.

And then I stacked the proof beside the 13th Age Bestiary and the core book and had to admit that it looks like we've got a player's book, monster book, and GM's book, a product scheme we originally avoided by presenting 13th Age as a single all-you-need-to-play volume.

The appearance of a trilogy is probably a good thing. But I have to say ours is a bit different than the traditional player/monster/GM scheme. Our approach is a lot more like the old Arduin Grimoire and its follow-ups that started with Welcome to Skull Tower.

The 13th Age core rulebook sort of qualifies as the player's book, but it also has monsters and treasure and a geography chapter and a sample adventure. The explicit goal is to help players contribute to the story of each unique campaign. The hidden goal is to get players excited about the campaigns they might be able to run themselves, slightly increasing the number of GMs in the world . . . .

The 13th Age Bestiary definitely qualifies as a monster book, but we deliberately let each monster tell us how it could accomplish the most for the game instead of forcing the work into a monsters-only-please format. Frost giants have fimbulwinter environmental effects, chuuls spawn usable magic items, and the fungaloids are hiding a flipping playable PC race. (And yeah, those examples were all ASH's way of adding value!) The unique voices of our many contributors came out stronger because we didn't force authors to force monsters into cookie-cutter boxes.

And then there's the newest book, approved but not quite printed. The setting material and deviltry advice and mini-adventures in 13 True Ways help GMs, but six new character classes and the multiclassing rules and other goodies make it a player's book as much as a GM's book. Our goal with 13 True Ways was to do all the coolest things we could think of, so it's an Emperor's Kitchen Sink book instead of a focused GM product.

I'm going to be happy to present new players with these three books together. They make a compelling threesome and the contents round out the play experience. Add in the first two black and white books, Book of Loot and Shadows of Eldolan, also likely to be available at GenCon, and we've got a line!

Publishing Schedule...
So far as we know, 13 True Ways should be available in print at GenCon. We're planning to drop-ship pre-orders and Kickstarter reward copies in early August direct from the printer. Those shipments will be books only, the various KS extras (and the deluxe leather-bound copies that need bookplate signatures) will be another shipment later. The hope is that most KS backers in the USA will have their copies before GenCon. There are going to be other logistic details to sort out but I won't personally be the person doing most of the sorting, so I'll wait until I know more before saying more. I can say that long-waiting Kickstarter backers will certainly also all be getting another small treat, in part because we feel bad that backers outside the USA aren't likely to have their copies before GenCon. Like all printing and distribution plans, this requires things to stay on track. So far the process has been smooth. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The ENnie Clan Competes

It is such a good year for the ENnie awards that games I might ordinarily vote highest are not only competing with each other, they're competing against 13th Age! [[Click here to vote if you'd rather vote than read.]]

It's wonderful that 13th Age is nominated for Best Game, Best Rules, and Product of the Year. From my perspective of not actually enjoying competing against friends and collaborators, it's not so wonderful that we're up up against games including Hillfolk, Numenera, and FATE. As Robin Laws has pointed out, all but one of his competitors in the Best Game category contributed to his excellent Hillfolk or its companion campaign book, Blood on the Snow, which is also nominated for best supplement. Pieces of this awards ceremony are as tight-knit as a clan longhouse electing a chieftain and warleader.

I guess that's a high class problem. However these awards get sliced, I'm reasonably certain that I'm going to get to watch joyful friends accept some awards while still having a shot at accepting an award with possibly less well-disguised glee!

Here's the link to the voting site. Anyone can vote. The system lets you rank games so it's not an all-or-nothing choice unless you want it to be. I hope you'll vote for 13th Age if it's your cup of tea, or even if it's your second or fourth-favorite rpg beverage.If you're shy about voting because you don't know many of the games, the ballot helpfully links to info on each nominee.

Other nominees I haven't mentioned that I have fuzzy-sapiens feelings for are (not surprisingly!) the Midgard Bestiary: 13th Age Roleplaying Game Compatible Version (Best Monster/Adversary), Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies (Best Adventure), and the Complete Eternal Lies Suite soundtrack by James Semple and his party of composers which is up for a Best RPG Related Product award.

Along those same lines, I'd somehow missed the also-nominated soundtrack for Night's Black Agents, Dust & Mirrors. How did that happen? Pelgrane Press is doing a *lot* of good stuff. They belong somewhere on the Fan's Favorite Publisher list, I'm thinking. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Three reviews

In the last couple days I've seen three great reviews of games I worked on that are about to hit the shelves.

13 True Ways cover

This nicely-angled review of 13 True Ways captures the joy that Jonathan and I got from creating the book. I'd love to say that Lee and Aaron also took joy from the process but Lee was so darn intense when he was working on 13TW. It was a fierce glowing joy, maybe, like dangerous lava radiant beneath the crust.

I'll be doing my best furiously-glowing-Lee impression at the Pelgrane booth at GenCon, and I'm hoping that printing works out so that 13 True Ways will be glowing alongside.

This video review of Shadowrun: Crossfire from the Dice Tower guys is fun and extremely positive. I laughed out loud at the moment that Tom said that he might just be interested in a one-shot Shadowrun rpg session now, though he had not considered that an option before. It was amusing because that was the audience-response that Catalyst hoped for when it hired Fire Opal to design this co-op deckbuilding game--they wanted people who had never played SR to have a way into the world. Greg Marques did a great job as the lead designer on Shadowrun: Crossfire, and the rest of the team was awesome to work with, including people like Cal Moore and Rob Watkins who also work on 13th Age, and folks like Mike Elliot and Jim Lin who I used to work with at WotC.

There's a possibly more informative text review of SR: Crossfire on Boardgame Geek. The review is well-written and much more thorough than I would have expected given the reviewer's brief exposure to the game. For longer exposure, come to the Catalyst Game Labs booth at GenCon. They should have Shadowrun: Crossfire demos rolling and boxes selling.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Authors leveling up

I read two good books in the last couple weeks, both by authors who started their careers along different tracks.

ARI: Let's say that Ari Marmell started out writing D&D sourcebooks. That's probably almost true, at least in a publishing sense.

Ari has been writing novels for a few years now. If you read one of his early books, but nothing since then, I'm happy to say that Ari has gained several levels as a writer. I say this as someone who set aside one of his earliest novels after being jarred out of the story by problematic sentences. But that's no longer a problem. Sentence by sentence, Hot Lead, Cold Iron is smoothly written and great fun. The urban fantasy twist into the world of faeries worked for me, the plot stayed interesting, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

"ROBERT": You knew that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for JK Rowling right? Word got out. The Silkworm is a sequel to The Cuckoo's Calling. I eventually liked the Harry Potter books, though I still haven't gotten around to reading the later books in that series. I'm extremely happy that Rowling has moved on to writing adult mysteries. I understand why she wanted to pursue this new direction writing under a pseudonym. This work is excellent and deserves wider readership so I suppose it's not such a horrible thing that the secret leaked.

I liked The Silkworm more than the first book in the series, in part because of its handle on the psychology of the main characters and its accurate assessments of how the same events are different for women and men. That character development started in the first story, and in any case it's well worth reading The Cuckoo's Calling first.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tweet's Beginner RPG

Part of my job as Jonathan's friend is to make sure his good jokes don't get wasted.

Talking about his Grandmother Fish book the other day, Jonathan said, "Y'know, I could say that this is my most accessible beginner roleplaying game yet! But I'm not going to say that. Only to friends."

At which point I step in.

If you visit the Grandmother Fish Kickstarter page and download a preliminary draft of this child's-first-book-of-evolution, you'll see that describing the book as a beginner roleplaying game is amusingly true. Kids play animals that squeak and wiggle and chomp!

RPG-talk isn't precisely on target for a Kickstarter page that's primarily aimed at science enthusiasts, parents, and humanists. But for this blog that handles games more often than not? Yeah, I'll happily spread the joke that Jonathan was a notch too tight-laced to use.

And if you like what you read and decide to sponsor the Kickstarter, please use your pledge to support our triceratops allies against the fanged aggression of T-Rex!

Please click to download a preliminary draft PDF copy of the book (approx 4 MB)