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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sometimes home base is a tavern named Luckys

Steven Warzeha and I just finished design work on this month's installment of the 13th Age Monthly. It's a surprise issue, added to the mix at the last moment because I was inspired by Steven's take on adding Home Bases to our player character options. Not all campaigns will want to use the mechanics, and many campaigns won't want to use them all the time, but I think they make a lot of sense for handling the 'this is our base' story that surfaces frequently in my own games.

The Home Bases art above is by Rich Longmore, illustrating the moment when the party's tavern base attracts some heat from thugs loyal to the Crusader! We'll have the issue out in a few days, after layout.

For those of you haven't signed on to the 13th Age Monthly, the current 13th Age Bundle of Holding just added a 20% off coupon to the bundle. The coupon is usable this year, in which case you'll get the past twelve months of issues, starting with Dragon Riding and continuing through Summoning Spells and Echo & Gauntlet. Or wait and use the coupon for next year's subscription, that will start with an article from Jonathan Tweet and me called Rakshasas & Reavers.

Subscribers to the 13th Age Monthly also get the upcoming seasons of our organized play program as a free bonus. So signing onto the Bundle of Holding not only gets you ASH LAW's Diamonds & Shadows,  a revised and expanded version of the earliest months of our organized player program, it can also give you a headstart on the adventures that will be bundled with upcoming issues of the Monthly.

For those of you already inside the subscription base, don't worry, Pelgrane will be taking care of you too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gamehole Con was fun!

This is an open thank you letter to Gamehole Con, who flew me and many other game designers across the country a couple weeks ago for a sweet and extremely well-organized weekend of gaming.

Personal highlights included. . .
. . . .meeting Tom Wham and watching him demo Feudality, because I’ve played so many hours of his games over the years, and it was wonderful to watch him explain one of his creations.
. . . running a session of 13th Age in Glorantha that rivalled the 6 Feats Under session for sheer manic energy, particularly when the trickster managed to go airborne via a Life-infused Air spirit he’d caught in his bag of mischief.
. . . running another 13th Age in Glorantha session that nearly led to a permanent change in the curve of Humakt’s sword, which is a fancy way of saying that the Lunar Empire nearly Illuminated the PCs’ quest.
. . . a panel about 13th Age and many editions of D&D that Jonathan Tweet and I ran Saturday morning.

The panel centered on a question and answer session. I don’t believe anyone recorded it. I don’t recall all the questions, but I wrote a few of them down. The answers below incorporate some of Jonathan’s answers and most of my own.

Q: Do the icons know they are icons?
A: Jonathan and I assume that the icons know they are icons and that this is a term that means something in the world. Greg Stolze’s The Forgotten Monk novel shows this well, the world and ages of the Dragon Empire make sense when the icons are aware of their own status. It would be possible to run a campaign where the icons weren’t at all certain of their status, but that feels like a different approach than what we’ve chosen as our baseline.

Q: Where do the conversational sidebars come from?
A: Our standard banter. The fact that we don’t always agree, and felt like showing that we sometimes disagree helps free up GMs and tables to play things their own way, since not even the designers entirely agree on all points. And most of all, a desire to use a conversational tone.

Q: Why was the druid missing from the core book?
A: Simply didn’t have a good version of it ready for when the rest of the book was done. Same for the monk, which was on the cover of the core book partly because I was trying to inspire myself to make sure I finished it, but no.

Q: What was the last icon added?
A: I asked the audience to guess. The second guess got it: the Crusader. I realized we needed an icon for evil characters who wanted to be part of the establishment, highly ambiguous heroes.

Q: Were there other icons we did not add?

A: Yes, and I’ll name three. We talked about a Merchant Prince, but went with the Prince of Shadows instead. Jonathan had argued for Tiamat, especially as an evil dragon inspiration of cultists, but I didn’t like that and we gave her stuff to the Diabolist and the Blue of the Three. And finally, I had proposed a Mother of Dungeons, something in the center of the world creating living dungeons and sending them up as eyestalks, and Jonathan shut that down by pointing out that it wasn’t really someone PCs would be able to have a meaningful relationship with, which helped establish our understanding of what it meant to be an icon in the first place. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gamehole Con: Sweet home Wisconsin

Next weekend is Gamehole Con in Madison.

The convention is amazingly well-organized, has a slew of great guests, and a huge number of game sessions in the works.

My official schedule is down below. Saturday's morning 13th Age panel is a) the earliest you'll see me at a game convention, and b) a chance to see whether Jonathan and I are unusually loose-lipped as we're harvesting first-coffee and first-tea of the weekend.

For my wife Lisa and I, this particular convention comes with a huge bonus: we both have relatives all through Wisconsin, so it's not just a game convention trip, it's a chance to connect with aunts and uncles and cousins all across the state.

The last time Lisa was in Wisconsin she bought a pair of lightsaber toys in Baraboo, which soon led to an airport announcement that a TSA representative had waited their entire career to be able to deliver: "Will the woman who left a lightsaber at the Security Check please return to TSA to recover her lightsaber?"

Looking forward to seeing and gaming with many of you in less than a week, with or without lightsabers.

My schedule . . .

Friday, November 6th
10:00AM    13th Age Demo
8:00PM      Shadowrun: Crossfire's Gonna Get You

Saturday, November 7th
8:00AM      13th Age & Other Ages
2:00PM      13th Age: The New Batch

Sunday, November 8th
10:00AM    13th Age: The New Batch

Lisa, lightsaber recovered . . . 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

7 Icon Campaign

[cover by Lee Moyer]

Last week I put the finishing design touches on the next issue of the 13th Age Monthly, due out at the end of August.

7 Icon Campaign is a change of pace for us, and it was great fun to create. It started as a thought experiment: Jonathan wondered how it would work to compress our game's 13 icons into 7. The experiment was a success, and it led to his new campaign. If you already know the 13th Age icons, you can probably figure out who has been combined with who by inspecting Lee's wonderful cover above. 

7 Icon Campaign is based on Jonathan's original campaign notes, and the questionnaires that he handed out to us players before we created our characters. I've elaborated on the original notes with a mix of feats, talents, and spells. They're inspired by the new composite icons but will work fine in any 13th Age game. In just under 6K words, there's a new racial feat for dwarves, a feat for either clerics or wizards, a new necromancer spell, and one new talent apiece for the bard, sorcerer, and paladin. My favorite is probably the necromancer spell, but you may be a nicer person than me and have other preferences. 

You can wait until some time in September to buy the single issue, or pick up a subscription to the full year of 13 issues in the Pelgrane store. Or you can take advantage of the sale that Drive-Thru RPG is running until August 19th, and subscribe at $3 off the usual price, so it's only $21.95. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GenCon and other news

As a big change of pace, I'm not attending GenCon this year. My family needed me home more than people needed me at GenCon. Given that I experienced the full GenCon prep period but won't have the full GenCon, I'm going to enjoy rounding into my non-GenCon jobs.

Here's a round-up of some of the people from Fire Opal who are attending GenCon, many of whom will frequently be found at the Pelgrane booth among the Pelgranistas.

Cal Moore will be at GenCon, should be on a 13th Age panel or two, and has just had Sharpe Initiatives: Earthgouger come out as this month's installment of 13th Age Monthly. Earthgouger is a tiny taste of the many types of fun that Cal put it into the upcoming Battle Scenes books. I'm developing and writing the art order for the first book in that series, tentatively titled High Magic & Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons. Cal has been the editor extraordinaire for all my 13th Age books (including the 13th Age Bestiary that is up for an ENnie) and I'm enjoying turning the developer/editor tables and working on his big books.

ASH ALL FREAKING CAPS ALL THE TIME LAW will be at GenCon, fresh from having put together the final installment of the first season of 13th Age OP, The Battle of Axis, and the first installment of the second season, Race to Starport, that's going to be played often at the con. ASH has been working on other 13th Age things also, those are merely the two adventures I personally developed in the push towards GenCon. He'll be on 13th Age panels. Go, ASH, go!

Wade Rockett will be on every 13th Age panel except the Monster Design Workshop. He will be splitting time between the Pelgrane booth (#609), helping get the 13th Age Alliance started, and the Kobold booth. Which reminds me, I need to arrange a pelgrane vs. kobold deathmatch in the poking-the-Emperor-in-the-eye gladiatorial arena in Drakkenhall, but that probably doesn't have much to do with Wade, who is All About the Owlbears.

Rob Watkins and Jay Schneider will be mostly busy with Shadowrun: Crossfire, the co-op board game we designed for Catalyst that is up for an ENnie in the RPG Related category. Jay is also going to be busy with biz.

Jonathan Tweet is taking a break from 13th Age in Glorantha to attend the con! He will mostly be found at Peter Adkison's Chaldea booth (#2332) running a Chaldea minigame he designed. He'll also be on the 13th Age in Glorantha panel. The two of us recently talked a bit about that game, and many other 13th Age topics on the recently released "The Future of 13th Age" episode of the Iconic podcast.

And speaking of 13th Age in Glorantha, here are a couple photos from our game last Wednesday. The first photo has Neil Robinson of Moon Design (GenCon booth #2535) on the left, playing Vastorlanth, a Moon-touched Lothario of an Orlanthi rebel. I'm in the dragon shirt enjoying the action with the escalation die cranked to 3. And that's special guest star Jeff Richard of Moon Design on the right, lowing as Mel, the former herdman Storm Bull berserker. The second photo is Jonathan's end of the table, with the glowing ball in the center of the battlefield representing the magical Water feature created by Sean's storm sorcerer when he narrated his Water rune to purify the broo-infected corpse of the Bagnot former headman and rolled a complication. Walktapus tentacle just visible at the bottom of the shot . . . .