First 13th Age Session

by wolvercote66

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After a month of prep and conversion work I ran my first 13th Age session last night.  I had made up some pre-gens to save time; a Tiefling Rogue, Dragonic Barbarian and Human Wizard.  The players are all seasoned veterans of 4E, and Pathfinder so the amount of time spent explaining the differences was minimal, allowing us to dive right into things.  I easily converted Paizo’s: “Shadow in the Sky” adventure path to the 13th Age rules set with minimal fiddling.  I won’t go into details about the content but the module has proven to be an easy conversion with just enough combat and roleplaying for a group testing out how a new system works.

Some observations from my side of the screen have to include combat.  I didn’t alter the number of potential foes the PCs could face for this first foray into 13th Age, despite there only being 3 PCs and no dedicated healer.  The first combat went great with 2 Thugs, a wizard and rogue type npcs initially facing only the rogue and the barbarian, (the wizard was blinded and helpless for 4 rounds).  The two of them held their own against a superior force until the wizard on his first round of combat, blasted the NPC wizard with a Ray of Frost.  He had evoked it and was quite thrilled with being able to unleash such a massive amount of damage.  The rogue and barbarian both had to rally once but all in all there was just enough pressure put on the PCs to make the first fight memorable.

I played without a map, but used minis to track who was fighting who and basic positioning while describing the setting as written.  It worked out just fine and not having to track movement and all that it entails is a big time saver.  It brought me back to my glory days of 2E and theater of the mind combat.  One of my players suggested using a bullseye-like target system to track positioning, with the center being engaged and each ring after a different range.  I have toyed with a similar idea for WFRP 3E as well, but never utilized it, as it is not fully effective with multiple foes and PCs.

The use of backgrounds surprisingly took some getting used to for some of the players.  I personally think it’s a brilliantly simple way of working out skill checks, and I think they will get a hang of it in no time.  There was quite a bit of exploration, searching and interaction with NPCS to allow for a wide range of potential skill challenges.  I went with the “fail-forward” philosophy as much as possible, and while it forces the DM to sometimes have to think super quick about a result, it moves the story along at a better pace.

A complaint I have right off as a DM is that tracking my dice rolls is not that simple.  Specifically, noting even and odd results that have to carry over to the next round.  I found it difficult to track if an NPC had rolled even the round prior in order to get a benefit the following round and will have to make better notations next time.  I know when I make creatures for this system I won’t be creating anything with that type of mechanic.  I didn’t like it at all. Clunky as heck.

In conclusion, it was a success.  The players and I had fun. The system played well and my conversion and balancing did too.  I’m looking forward to continuing the adventure path and seeing how 13th Age plays over the course of this module.