13th Age: Monsters, Maps and Magic Items

Well, I am very close to the end of the main rulebook and my itchy mouse finger is considering a PDF copy of 13 True Ways, just so I can prolong the pleasure of this find.  I have over the past week spent my time going through the Monster, Dragon Empire Gazette and Magic Item chapter and I offer up my thoughts here for these chapters.

The Monsters chapter was a little unexpected for me.  The style of monster presentation is not really different, but perhaps alternative to conventional monster presentations in other games.  I say this because each monster essentially has it’s own little statistic presentation listed for you to look at and it is presented in a very standard format BUT there are many differences.

Firstly, the statistic blocks are very concise.  There is no space wasted on the ecology of x monster and how it spends its day.  Instead they just present your monster with a little bit of flavour text.  these flavour texts are things that you should pay a good deal of attention to because they really do add the flesh onto the bones of the creature.

I am looking forward to getting a game of this behind my GM screen!

The other thing missing is a picture of the creature.  Admittedly they tend to use monsters that are very familiar to most players and fans of fantasy settings.  They also provide a general iconic representation of the creature and perhaps a link to what icon they are most entwined with.  The icon representation is not all that great though in a lot of circumstances and certainly any icon that was linked to the Lich King was very difficult to even get a tiny bit of detail from.

Apart from the image problem those these are very well designed.  The statistics are brief but it supplies what you need and in more generic races they even provide you with a variety of stat blocks to use.  This style offers you the ability to very quickly grab a monster and use it in game even if you had no preparation at all.  This added with the flavour text that is at times very funny (see the human statistic blocks to see what I am talking about) this was an enjoyable read and gives you a good number of creatures to work with.  There is even some nice sound advice on how to make your own creatures pretty quickly.

The Dragon Empire map and gazetteer is a good read.  Sure there are locations in that gazetteer that I rolled my eyes at but they were very few and far between.  In this reasonably small chapter there are some brilliant little adventure hooks that have me really quite interested in the setting.  The map is also open to your own additions and they show you how they have inserted their own material on numerous occasions.

The one map that they provide is of the Dragon Empire but there is an Underworld (pretty much all the stuff under the ground) and an Overworld (clouds can support weight and there is a world up there).  Neither of these are detailed and thus a lot of this material is left for you to freely add material to.  There are some areas noted in the gazetteer but the location of those are completely up to you.

There are even spots on the map where material is noted as existing but no names or options are shown so you can turn these parts of the location into anything that you want it to be.  This map to me is much like the Dungeon World concept of “play to learn” and that will make every GM’s Dragon Empire a different place.

Finally, there was the Chapter that I had been looking forward to.  Magic Items!  All the way through the book they talk about the different way these are handled and I was not disappointed.  There are two types of magic items.  The first are one use like potions and oils whilst the others are true Magic Items.

One use items are pretty straight forward although there is one nice rule that I like about these and that is the effect of only one magical potion can apply to you at one time.  Say you take a potion of invisibility so you can drink a healing potion.  Well, as soon as you drink that healing potion the invisibility effect dissipates, its magic completely gone.  I really like that concept.

The true Magic Items live up to what I wanted them to be.  They cover the gamut of items from weaponry, armour, rings, staves, wands, wondrous items, boots, belts etc.  The list of course goes on.  The rule in the game is that you can have as many true items as your level.  If you go over that limit you become victim to the item quirks.

You see, true Magic Items are intelligent with their own personalities.  And with those personalities come quirks which are apparent all the time.  While you have your level or less in true Magic Items you are in control of those urges so if an item wants you to swear like a sailor then you can indulge it or not.  It is your choice.  But if you have your level + 1 in true Magic Items (higher tiered items count for multiple items) then you are a victim to that quirk, and every quirk of every item you have.  So in the above example you may be swearing your head off like a trooper whilst doing a tantalising strip tease and attempting to juggle the antique vases that were sat for decoration at the side of the Mayor’s desk.


The PDF version suffers a bit, or is it the
same in book form?

There are a nice number of items here to look at.  Nothing like your traditional amount found in a d20 game and there are some details and advice given on how to treat your true Magic Items in play and how to create them.  It is sage advice indeed!

So, as you can see, I am still very much a fan of this system.  there are some issues with a bit of the graphical work like the monster icons that may actually be peculiar to the PDF as opposed to the physical copy.  I can not make that comparison at this time though.  The rules that are presented though are still very clever and story focussed despite this being a d20 game.  The main focus here of Jonathan and Rob has been the role playing though and they have done a great job.

I will return in the near future with a look at the mini adventure included at the end of the book as well as a look at the appendices.  Until then, keep rolling 🙂

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