Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Horizon, Commanders, Mummies: a 13 True Ways Update

Given the push we are making to finish design and art on 13 True Ways, it's time for an update. I'm not going to talk about the things we're doing that aren't done yet, those will appear in upcoming updates.

Jonathan has written a wonderful take on Horizon, City of Wonders. As Jonathan says in the introduction to the 10,000 word piece:

 The metropolis of Horizon is probably the most daunting of the Dragon Empire’s seven great cities, certainly the most unearthly. Some find it to be a higher order of reality, more rational and perfect than the everyday world. To others, it is an impenetrable labyrinth of riddles and forbiddance. You come to Horizon because you have to, and you often leave under the same circumstances. Here, the skeins of destiny tangle with the Archmage’s ley lines, and reality will never be the same.

Jonathan's Horizon hovers on the constructive edge between inspirational ideas and solid questions for each campaign. I'd show off a piece of the wonderful Horizon city art from Lee and Aaron here, but it might give the wrong impression, because part of Jonathan's approach to our half-designed world is to explain a dozen ways that the art and map of the City of Wonders can be interpreted in each campaign! So we'll let that art wait to be unveiled later!

The Commander
The commander class has been through a fruitful round of playtesting and development and will be sent anew to people who are getting the updates. The designer note I left out of the first iteration of the class was that I'd deliberately designed the commander's weakest possible version. It was an experiment, starting weak in order to be able to increase the power level in later drafts. And yes, all the playtesters who sent us comments noticed that they'd been handed weak beer and several people had great suggestions. The new commander is stronger and more fun. To find the things that have changed, you'll only need to look for the yellow and green highlighting.

As we close on the final version of the commander stats, here's the first draft of a piece of commander art, a dwarven commander whose troops will be carrying the flag of the Emperor. This guy is still fighting under the original name of the class, but Battle Captain is the name of one of my favorite talents from the class, a talent that got a lot better in this draft, so I'm going to shake off the guilt of showing off the old name.

Monsters! Monsters! 
After I worked all-out on 13th Age Bestiary monsters for months, Jonathan has taken the reins for recent batches of monsters that include the werebeasts, the metallic dragons, a heap of undead, and the devils, including four new sometimes-covertly operating devils created by Robin Laws as part of the Kickstarter goals.

As a sample of the writing in the new monsters, here is Jonathan's story-riff on mummies, followed by a beautiful but still rough draft of a piece of art that was one of the Monster Art +13 winners in the Kickstarter.

Mummies: Down through the ages, powerful magicians have endeavored to preserve their own lives, escaping both the mystery of death and the horror of undeath. The secrets by which they preserve themselves at the end of their mortal lives are lost, but someone always finds or recreates those secrets. Ideally, these carefully preserved mummies live on in a sort of passive false life of the mind, dreaming endlessly in their sarcophagi but never passing on into death itself. It’s good work if you can get it. The problem is that the Lich King is dead set against letting anyone enjoy such a happy ending. When his servitors discover mummies, they invariably animate them and turn them into proper undead minions.
As those who have unnaturally extended their lives, mummies make exceptionally dangerous undead. The most powerful mummies reanimate as masterminds who take charge of those around them, while the lesser ones submit to their new masters’ commands. In any event, these unnatural creatures, trapped between life and death, are among the most spine-chilling of the Lich King’s minions. In theory, mummies might have enough humanity left that living souls could appeal to it and perhaps reach some sort of accord. In practice, it’s mummy rot for all those who tamper with the mighty who refuse to die.

The mummy art: Evan Franke originally asked for somewhat South American/Tibetan mummies being called forth by a high priest. I thought that was a good place to bring in a necromancer. This version by Aaron is considerably advanced from the version we showed Evan earlier, but it's still going to get a bunch of finishing work from Lee, including the finished spiral stair that leads to adventurers or a world ripe for conquest.

And Speaking of the Necromancer . . . 
I had an epiphany about this class. It's not a class. It's a multiclass. A multiclass that works especially well as a multiclass option for other spellcasting classes. So the sorcerer, cleric, and wizard are getting detailed multiclass combinations with the necromancer multiclass. Other people can do it but they're not as cool, and that's kind of the way 13th Age multiclassing tends to work: some combinations are deliberately more fun than others.

The Monk
There's a new version of the monk coming as part of the playtest update. It features interesting solutions to the demand for multiple high ability scores, ki powers that matter, and high-graded fun options for monk talents instead of some of the earlier talents that didn't compare well.

See you with another 13 True Ways update later next week.


  1. Great update! I'm sure the commander in my group will be happy for the power boost.

    On the Necromancer, though, I'm a little confused as to why other multiclass options would be "less cool". The idea of a Paladin/Necromancer who uses Necromancy to "save" his fallen comrades sounds beautiful. Or A Bard/Necromancer who sings the dead to life. I guess I should reserve judgement until I see it in action, though.

  2. I echo Alex's praise, great update.

    One thing (entirely self interested), the mummy picture is not showing up (I have tried display on IE, Firefox and Safari). Any chance of repairing the problem and giving us (okay me, me, me) a peek?

    Thanks Rob. Really looking forward to the book.

    1. Evan, I reposted the art on the top of the blog. You of all people should not be ironically forbidden from the view.

  3. Rob, please, if you're going to add prestige classes (which is what you're describing the Necromancer as) don't design them to be used primarily in conjunction with the classes that are already the most interesting to play in the game. If any classes need them, it's the ones that you designed as "newbie friendly", because after a couple of levels the players who chose those classes will no longer be newbies, and they get bored pretty quickly of the abilities of those classes which are all basically "Hit harder" or "Hit more" and nothing more complicated.

    I love your system, the mechanics and the way things work are crazy fun and I love the ability to make my characters unique and skillful in their areas regardless of class or race, and the streamlined character creation and freedom with magic items and the world is amazing, but I love Rangers and Paladins and Barbarians and the lack of options and interesting skills for them makes them a lot less fun to play and that makes me sad.

    1. We have plans for what we're going to do with the simple/newby classes. But those plans *probably* won't be in this book. Fixing the newbie classes wasn't one of the original design goals for 13 True Ways and right this moment we're entirely focused on getting this book done the most fun ways possible. The follow-up to this thought is that Jonathan and I are both staying deeply involved in 13th Age design and we know what our plans are for addressing the simple classes in the future. It's going to be fun. But odds are it won't be 13 True Ways.

  4. Prestige Classes are dumb and just a way to mask giving a certain subset of classes more options over the rest, especially when the PrC in question has more than enough design space to easily be it's own unique thing and the Multiclass thing just sounds like PrC's in all but name (Down to the fact that it exists to just give Casters more options, especially when they already have plenty when classes like ranger and paladin and barbarian are HURTING for interesting shit to do and be) and honestly just doesn't sound very interesting at all.


    1. Like unless you just straight up Double the amount of damage the previous build of the monk did nothing about the class makes it SO much better that it HAS to have this extra restriction (That kind of flies in the face of the tone and ideas behind the rest of the game) to be balanced.