[13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Discuss Pelgrane Press's 13th Age rules here. Discussion of the Dragon Empire campaign setting can also be held here.

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[13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sat Jun 30, 2018 4:56 am

I can be hard to describe the Dragon Empire, the default setting of 13th Age, to someone who isn't familiar with the game. I've tried various approaches over time, but it never feels sufficient. I think Robert Ahrens did a nice job of capturing a lot of what I'm often trying to explain in a comment he added to this discussion on the 13th Age Google+ Community.
Robert Ahrens wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:52 pm
I think it's wrong to think of the Dragon Empire as a "world" in the same way as [7th Sea's Theah, Warhammer FRP's Old World, Kobold Press's Midgard, Middle Earth, Barker's Tekumel and Stafford's Glorantha]. The Dragon Empire and the whole "setting" of 13th Age is deliberately constructed out of clichés (you can call them "tropes" if "cliché" sounds pejorative to you). The whole point is that everything in the Dragon Empire feels familiar because as a gamer you've seen it all before. You only need to be told that this guy is called "The Emperor" for you to immediately think of Joaquim Phoenix with his thumb down, Palpatine, the King of Qin and Asterix the Gaul standing up to Caesar. The point of the Emperor is that you only have to say "the Emperor" to your players and they can immediately grok what that means. But the concept of who the Emperor actually is is deliberately undefined so that you can "color it in" based on the needs of your campaign and the Icon and OUT choices your PCs make. He could be corrupt like Caligula, or epoch-shaking like Julius, or a twelve year old boy or a weird wooden puppet animated by malevolent courtiers. He's based on all of these things, or really on the intersection between them, so he's every Emperor but he's also not really any of them until you fill his empty vessel with choices.

And everything I just said applies to every detail of the Dragon Empire setting, too. You can make any kind of historical analogy and be "doing it right," but you aren't pinning down the "truth" of the Dragon Empire, just using the framework the way it's intended -- as a sort of scrapbook for pasting in your own ideas.
I thought I'd capture this quote here, so I can easily direct those who are curious to it in the future.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by shesheyan » Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:23 am

It funny because its one of the things I understood immediately and found it was a very clever bit of post-modern design. When I think Emperor, the Dominator of the Black Company novels comes to mind.

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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:37 am

shesheyan wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:23 am
It funny because its one of the things I understood immediately and found it was a very clever bit of post-modern design. When I think Emperor, the Dominator of the Black Company novels comes to mind.
I find it interesting that you were quick to understand that. I wonder how your background might differ from other gamers who I interact with, allowing you to quickly grok what the game is trying to achieve in terms of setting. I just had a lengthy conversation with one of my adult kids yesterday about whether or not 13th Age could support an Egyptian fantasy-themed setting. I explained that he could take the Dragon Empire, rename a few things, and already have his Egyptian setting. We often see things through a Western European inspired filter, but the Dragon Empire will work virtually as-is with fantastical elements inspired by China, Mesoamerica, Egypt, Greece, or many other parts of the world. Change some labels and perhaps some elements of the geography and climate, toss in your PCs' one unique things and backgrounds, and you have enough of a skeleton to run a campaign.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by shesheyan » Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:43 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:37 am
shesheyan wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:23 am
It funny because its one of the things I understood immediately and found it was a very clever bit of post-modern design. When I think Emperor, the Dominator of the Black Company novels comes to mind.
I find it interesting that you were quick to understand that. I wonder how your background might differ from other gamers who I interact with, allowing you to quickly grok what the game is trying to achieve in terms of setting. I just had a lengthy conversation with one of my adult kids yesterday about whether or not 13th Age could support an Egyptian fantasy-themed setting. I explained that he could take the Dragon Empire, rename a few things, and already have his Egyptian setting. We often see things through a Western European inspired filter, but the Dragon Empire will work virtually as-is with fantastical elements inspired by China, Mesoamerica, Egypt, Greece, or many other parts of the world. Change some labels and perhaps some elements of the geography and climate, toss in your PCs' one unique things and backgrounds, and you have enough of a skeleton to run a campaign.
I think its because I have a background in communication, art design and cinema. I tend to look at things from a semiotic point of view. In one of my advanced cinema classes we did an analysis of Vladimir Propp's Russian Folk Tale decryption formula. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of mixing and matching elements of stories in different ways. Once you start substituting things you are only one step away from integrating things form other influences. Propp influenced Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. He was largely ignored in the western world until 1958 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp

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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:35 am

shesheyan wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:43 am
I think its because I have a background in communication, art design and cinema. I tend to look at things from a semiotic point of view. In one of my advanced cinema classes we did an analysis of Vladimir Propp's Russian Folk Tale decryption formula. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of mixing and matching elements of stories in different ways. Once you start substituting things you are only one step away from integrating things form other influences. Propp influenced Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. He was largely ignored in the western world until 1958 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp
His description of the narrative structure is interesting. I'd never seen a list of functions provided like that. Good resource for adventure ideas!
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Coronoides » Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:57 am

How easily could you separate 13th Age from this default 'Meta-Setting'?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:47 am

Coronoides wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:57 am
How easily could you separate 13th Age from this default 'Meta-Setting'?
There are a couple character spells/abilities that mention specific Dragon Empire icons. Other than that, there are no mechanics tied to the setting or its icons (powerful NPCs who are the heads of factions that span the empire), and those are easily changed to reflect icons in another setting. The Amethyst, Midgard, Primeval Thule, Dragon Kings, Parsantium, and Nocturne settings all use the 13th Age game system with their own settings.

If you're asking about the other way around, you the setting presented in 13th Age is pure fluff. It's not expressed with any game mechanics whatsoever. You could take the Dragon Empire and flesh it out using D&D, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, GURPS, OSR systems, Genesys, or scores of other systems that support fantasy tropes. The setting refers to certain types of monsters or demihuman races. They're all pretty core fantasy elements, but even these could be swapped out for something from your system of choice.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Coronoides » Sun Jul 01, 2018 3:25 am

THanks. I prefer generic systems and had passed over 13th Age for that reason. Worth another look.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jul 01, 2018 10:04 am

shesheyan wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:23 am
It funny because its one of the things I understood immediately and found it was a very clever bit of post-modern design. When I think Emperor, the Dominator of the Black Company novels comes to mind.
You did better than me, Shesheyan. :oops:

I assumed the Dragon Empire was a basic outline to be expanded upon in later products. (Maybe that is because that is how Spelljammer went.)
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jul 01, 2018 10:18 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:37 am
shesheyan wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:23 am
It funny because its one of the things I understood immediately and found it was a very clever bit of post-modern design. When I think Emperor, the Dominator of the Black Company novels comes to mind.
I find it interesting that you were quick to understand that. I wonder how your background might differ from other gamers who I interact with, allowing you to quickly grok what the game is trying to achieve in terms of setting.
Shesheyan was actually listening. :P
Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:37 am
I just had a lengthy conversation with one of my adult kids yesterday about whether or not 13th Age could support an Egyptian fantasy-themed setting. I explained that he could take the Dragon Empire, rename a few things, and already have his Egyptian setting. We often see things through a Western European inspired filter, but the Dragon Empire will work virtually as-is with fantastical elements inspired by China, Mesoamerica, Egypt, Greece, or many other parts of the world. Change some labels and perhaps some elements of the geography and climate, toss in your PCs' one unique things and backgrounds, and you have enough of a skeleton to run a campaign.
I think what you have here, with 13th Age is a "old school" concept wrapped up in "new school" mechanics, with "new school" art.

If you go hang out with the OD&D fans, they mostly seem to scratch build their own homebrew worlds and a lot of them don't see the need for people to buy campaign settings like the ones that The Piazza has forums for. They just knock up worlds to suit their own games, as they go along.

There are, of course, plenty of new school gamers who have carried on making homebrew worlds, but TSR and WotC have marketed campaign settings all the way through 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Edition...and Classic D&D had the Known World/Mystara embedded into it, even if they were not sticking a setting logo onto it until it got converted to 2nd Edition.

That's decades of programming customers to buy the core rules and buy a campaign setting.

From what you have told me, the 13th Age team have taken the SRD and cut back everything they thought was not needed to make it as simple as possible. And it looks like the took inspiration from super-early D&D when they designed the Dragon Empire.

It's probably the modern presentation (and awesome art) that has made some folks look at 13th Age and assume it was going with the same sort of modern values that other game systems published in the same period have done.

You only have to compare 13th Age to Pathfinder to see how Paizo have given Golarian much more detail than almost any D&D world that has a forum at The Piazza. It's probably only Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Dragonlance and Greyhawk that can compete with Golorian for level of detail.

I think that a lot of gamers just assume that is what everyone does and the 13th Age concept flies over the top of their head, because "no school gaming" is just not something that people talk about much.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:18 am

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 10:18 am
I think what you have here, with 13th Age is a "old school" concept wrapped up in "new school" mechanics, with "new school" art.

If you go hang out with the OD&D fans, they mostly seem to scratch build their own homebrew worlds and a lot of them don't see the need for people to buy campaign settings like the ones that The Piazza has forums for. They just knock up worlds to suit their own games, as they go along.

You only have to compare 13th Age to Pathfinder to see how Paizo have given Golarian much more detail than almost any D&D world that has a forum at The Piazza. It's probably only Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Dragonlance and Greyhawk that can compete with Golorian for level of detail.

I think that a lot of gamers just assume that is what everyone does and the 13th Age concept flies over the top of their head, because "no school gaming" is just not something that people talk about much.
I think 13th Age goes back to older D&D roots in a lot of ways, as you mentioned. While not an OSR game, there are certain OSR sensibilities in fostering emergent play at the table.

There's one other aspect of the Dragon Empire that hasn't been mentioned in this thread. While the core book provides a skeleton for the setting, based largely on well-known fantasy tropes, subsequent books have zoomed in to provide possible details for areas of the map. 13 True Ways fleshes out several cities in the setting, but it provides more than one interpretation of each city. This drives some people crazy, but I think it's fantastic -- the best of both worlds. I have first class game designers providing me with details for the setting, yet I get to choose the ones that work best with my group. It keeps the setting new and fresh each time I run a campaign. I can explore another version of Drakenhall after my current campaign wraps up, and as the GM, I'm excited to try it out.

Similarly, the adventures provide details around various cities and wilderness areas and so on. But these are just possibilities, and aren't official canon.

The latest sourcebook, Book of Ages, allows groups to define the twelve ages leading up to the titular 13th Age. The book provides mechanics to flesh the world's history out, making it as much a part of the game as killing monsters or making skill checks. With these tools in hand, you're equipped to create this rich background for your version of the Dragon Empire, but it's sure to be different from anyone else's.

I love hearing how my Dragon Empires (I've had many variations over the years) differ from my fellow 13th Age GMs'. I hope to someday entice more GMs to share their stories here.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Big Mac » Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:42 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:35 am
shesheyan wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:43 am
I think its because I have a background in communication, art design and cinema. I tend to look at things from a semiotic point of view. In one of my advanced cinema classes we did an analysis of Vladimir Propp's Russian Folk Tale decryption formula. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of mixing and matching elements of stories in different ways. Once you start substituting things you are only one step away from integrating things form other influences. Propp influenced Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. He was largely ignored in the western world until 1958 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Propp
His description of the narrative structure is interesting. I'd never seen a list of functions provided like that. Good resource for adventure ideas!
I saw your topic about "Russian Folk Tale analysis and creating scenarios".

That looks like it is going to be very useful. :cool:

I wonder if Escallation! could have an article about using Valdimir Propp's system to help with 13th Age gaming. :?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by willpell » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:40 pm

Robert Ahrens wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:52 pm
You only need to be told that this guy is called "The Emperor" for you to immediately think of Joaquim Phoenix with his thumb down, Palpatine, the King of Qin and Asterix the Gaul standing up to Caesar. The point of the Emperor is that you only have to say "the Emperor" to your players and they can immediately grok what that means.
I vehemently disagree with this assessment. A few pop-cultural portrayals of evil or corrupt Emperors does not mean that every Emperor is evil or corrupt by default, and I disapprove of encouraging the players to be intellectually lazy in this way. I have a good Emperor in my setting, and even if I wanted to make him turn out to be evil, I wouldn't want the players to think that this made him just a clone of Caesar or Palpatine.
a weird wooden puppet animated by malevolent courtiers.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:58 am

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:42 am
I saw your topic about "Russian Folk Tale analysis and creating scenarios".

That looks like it is going to be very useful. :cool:

I wonder if Escallation! could have an article about using Valdimir Propp's system to help with 13th Age gaming. :?
13th Age provides several tools to create the story around the characters: their one unique things, backgrounds, and icon relationships. I suspect these could somehow be tied into the system, but the details are beyond me right now.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Matchstick » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:36 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 2:47 am
Coronoides wrote:
Sun Jul 01, 2018 1:57 am
How easily could you separate 13th Age from this default 'Meta-Setting'?
There are a couple character spells/abilities that mention specific Dragon Empire icons. Other than that, there are no mechanics tied to the setting or its icons (powerful NPCs who are the heads of factions that span the empire), and those are easily changed to reflect icons in another setting. The Amethyst, Midgard, Primeval Thule, Dragon Kings, Parsantium, and Nocturne settings all use the 13th Age game system with their own settings.
I would take it a step further perhaps and say that if you remove those same very few spells/abilities you can cut icons out of the game altogether if you want, whether the setting is the Dragon Empire or a complete homebrew. The icon mechanics are not crucial to any of the mechanics of the game other than those couple of spells/abilities. So if you're thinking of playing in a homebrew setting but developing icons is intimidating, skip the icons and go for it. Heck, you may find that as you progress you want to start slowly adding in some of the icon mechanics as the icons of the campaign reveal themselves. :)

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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Big Mac » Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:45 am

Matchstick wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:36 am
I would take it a step further perhaps and say that if you remove those same very few spells/abilities you can cut icons out of the game altogether if you want, whether the setting is the Dragon Empire or a complete homebrew. The icon mechanics are not crucial to any of the mechanics of the game other than those couple of spells/abilities. So if you're thinking of playing in a homebrew setting but developing icons is intimidating, skip the icons and go for it. Heck, you may find that as you progress you want to start slowly adding in some of the icon mechanics as the icons of the campaign reveal themselves. :)
That's an interesting point of view.

I started out with AD&D and moved onto 3rd Edition D&D, but I remembered looking at BECMI D&D (from the outside) and how Basic D&D has less rules for people to worry about than all of BECMI...and how Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals all add more.

The rules I play with have everything bundled together, but it is sometimes hard for newbies to work out what to learn first and being able to work out that certain rules are things that people do not need to bother about on day one can be helpful.

So you saying that Icons are not an essential part of 13th Age is interesting. Especially tied into what Robert Ahrens said about the Dragon Empire being something that can start off with not much level of detail.

I don't know all the thematic elements of 13th Age, but it would be interesting to see what sort of minimalist subset of 13th Age someone could start with. (I'm inclined to think that the Dragon Empire would be optional too, considering that some publishers have published other campaign settings with 13th Age rules.)
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Ashtagon » Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:42 am

I think the problem with relying on cliches and expecting people to fill in the blanks is that people are not identical. One player's idea of "emperor" may be quite different from another's and different again from the GM's idea. If everyone relies on tropes, then it will start to fall apart when the tropes they are assuming are being used turn out not to be compatible with the ones the GM is using, and even more badly when they aren't compatible with the ones the author used.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Angel Tarragon » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm

Ashtagon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:42 am
I think the problem with relying on cliches and expecting people to fill in the blanks is that people are not identical. One player's idea of "emperor" may be quite different from another's and different again from the GM's idea. If everyone relies on tropes, then it will start to fall apart when the tropes they are assuming are being used turn out not to be compatible with the ones the GM is using, and even more badly when they aren't compatible with the ones the author used.
The point is that the GM gets to define the super specific details of the those cliches or tropes, rather than leaving it vague for the players to internally conceptualize those details.

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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:24 am

Ashtagon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:42 am
I think the problem with relying on cliches and expecting people to fill in the blanks is that people are not identical. One player's idea of "emperor" may be quite different from another's and different again from the GM's idea. If everyone relies on tropes, then it will start to fall apart when the tropes they are assuming are being used turn out not to be compatible with the ones the GM is using, and even more badly when they aren't compatible with the ones the author used.
As the players and GM begin to define the details, those facts about the setting become canon for that table's version of the Dragon Empire. So if one player defines their One Unique Thing as "I'm the only halfling to have survived the Emperor's purge," that's now canonical, and the Emperor is unlikely to be a good character (unless halflings are all evil). The GM or other players can't say something that contradicts the player's One Unique Thing, although they could reveal information that frames it in another way. For example, maybe the Emperor's purge was to keep the halflings safe, by sending them to another location or plane of the multiverse. Or maybe he did kill all those halflings, but his family would have been killed by a terrible curse if he didn't (this is starting to sound like Baba Yaga's grudge against the gnomes in Midgard).

The details emerge during play, and that keeps things as fresh for the GM as they do for the players.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:28 am

Big Mac wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 9:45 am
I don't know all the thematic elements of 13th Age, but it would be interesting to see what sort of minimalist subset of 13th Age someone could start with. (I'm inclined to think that the Dragon Empire would be optional too, considering that some publishers have published other campaign settings with 13th Age rules.)
I think you're pretty close to the minimum if you use what's in the core book. Locations are generally given a paragraph or two of information, and there's more empty space on the map than there are points with labels.

In regards to the icons, there's a 7-icon version of the Dragon Empire that was provided in an issue of 13th Age Monthly. It reduced the default 13 icons into 7 by combining the tropes for a dozen of them. For example, the Dwarf King was also a follower of the dark gods. The elf queen was also a high druid. Combining the 7 icons with the high-level overview of the Dragon Empire in the core book, you'd have an outline that you could fill in that would still be recognizable as the Dragon Empire
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:29 am

Angel Tarragon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm
Ashtagon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:42 am
I think the problem with relying on cliches and expecting people to fill in the blanks is that people are not identical. One player's idea of "emperor" may be quite different from another's and different again from the GM's idea. If everyone relies on tropes, then it will start to fall apart when the tropes they are assuming are being used turn out not to be compatible with the ones the GM is using, and even more badly when they aren't compatible with the ones the author used.
The point is that the GM gets to define the super specific details of the those cliches or tropes, rather than leaving it vague for the players to internally conceptualize those details.
I would add that it's not just up to the GM to define these details. Using icon advantages, OUTs, backgrounds, and montages, the players get the opportunity to define aspects of the setting, too.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Coronoides » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:14 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:29 am
Angel Tarragon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:21 pm
Ashtagon wrote:
Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:42 am
I think the problem with relying on cliches and expecting people to fill in the blanks is that people are not identical. One player's idea of "emperor" may be quite different from another's and different again from the GM's idea. If everyone relies on tropes, then it will start to fall apart when the tropes they are assuming are being used turn out not to be compatible with the ones the GM is using, and even more badly when they aren't compatible with the ones the author used.
The point is that the GM gets to define the super specific details of the those cliches or tropes, rather than leaving it vague for the players to internally conceptualize those details.
I would add that it's not just up to the GM to define these details. Using icon advantages, OUTs, backgrounds, and montages, the players get the opportunity to define aspects of the setting, too.
Ashington's point is still worth noting I think. A diverse play group should keep detailed notes essentially building up their own 'canon' setting document. This is especially important in countries with high immigration (nearly 30% of Australians were born overseas). In these nations everyone at the table would have differing cultural baggage regarding emperors, elves, and other tropes.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Ashtagon » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:17 am

Case in point about cultural baggage:

I once tried to run a campaign in which the PCs would be heroic Celts and their druid leader/priests striving to defend their homeland against the strange Roman invaders from the south.

They were horrified by the idea. Apparently, druids were cannibals for some of them.

The campaign didn't even last two sessions.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Coronoides » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:08 am

Another example. I didn't know my grandmother well but I suspect she casually believed in fairies the same way that many Westerners still believe in ghosts. She probably would have been uncomfortable with how casually we discuss these creatures that were not supposed to be discussed out loud.
Last edited by Coronoides on Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Sturm » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:49 am

Ashtagon wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:17 am
Case in point about cultural baggage:

I once tried to run a campaign in which the PCs would be heroic Celts and their druid leader/priests striving to defend their homeland against the strange Roman invaders from the south.

They were horrified by the idea. Apparently, druids were cannibals for some of them.

The campaign didn't even last two sessions.
That's funny, I would have thought in the UK all had a positive idea of the Celts?
We once did a campaign against the Romans too, as my region of northern Italy, Liguria, was once invaded by Romans. (Note that Ligurians were not Celts, even if they partially intermingled in some areas). Note that in Italy teaching in schools still have a sort of pro-Roman "civilizer of barbarians" prejudice stemming from the XIX and XX centuries, so the campaign was a sort of overturning good guys/bad guys players could appreciate. Obviously later Liguria became very much integrated in the Roman Empire and this was part of the campaign too, as it went through several centuries in game time.

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