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

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:19 am

This thread on Twitter is a good example of the type of player agency in building the setting that I was alluding to.

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

Post by Big Mac » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:28 am
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.
13 and 7 are both prime numbers. Is there a significance in that...or is it just a coincidence?

If the players kind of define who the Icons are, would changing from 13 Icons to 7 have much effect on the impressions of the players?

For example, if you had a group that all decided (at face value) that a dwarven king would be good, but you merged the dwarven king into the follower of the dark gods, you would be merging a good stereotype with an evil stereotype and the players would have to shift one way or the other.

Merging an elf queen and a high druid might not be such a clash, because there are wood elves (in other settings) that hang around nature.

Did 13th Age Monthly only explore the one set of mergers or did they look at each individual Icon and see how well or how badly it would fit with every other Icon?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Big Mac » Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:18 pm

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.
How well do these choices work?

Could every single one of the 13th Icons be bent to fit in with every 9 of the D&D alignments, for example?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by agathokles » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:14 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:18 pm
Could every single one of the 13th Icons be bent to fit in with every 9 of the D&D alignments, for example?
No, in the sense that you can decide to fit each of them in a specific alignment or a few related ones. For example, the Crusader is mostly Lawful Evil. You could stretch him to be Lawful Neutral, to some extent, but that's it. On the other hand, the Dwarf King and the Emperor can fit any Lawful alignment. Most setting elements are defined taking into account this variability, mostly by avoiding reliance on underspecified aspects.
But you could hardly have a Chaotic Emperor, without significant changes to the nature of the Icon and it's relations with the others.

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

Post by Big Mac » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:34 pm

agathokles wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:14 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:18 pm
Could every single one of the 13th Icons be bent to fit in with every 9 of the D&D alignments, for example?
No, in the sense that you can decide to fit each of them in a specific alignment or a few related ones. For example, the Crusader is mostly Lawful Evil. You could stretch him to be Lawful Neutral, to some extent, but that's it. On the other hand, the Dwarf King and the Emperor can fit any Lawful alignment. Most setting elements are defined taking into account this variability, mostly by avoiding reliance on underspecified aspects.
But you could hardly have a Chaotic Emperor, without significant changes to the nature of the Icon and it's relations with the others.
Thanks GP.

So there is a limit to this principle of "Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices" then. :)
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by agathokles » Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:39 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:34 pm
So there is a limit to this principle of "Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices" then. :)
Indeed. The idea is that the "big picture" is set. The "Table" fills in the details -- which can be quite big, as fas as details go, though.

Let me make an example. The Dragon Empire is characterized in broad strikes only. Essentially, the key features are simple: a long-standing Empire ruled by a dynasty of Emperors, supported by a corps of dragon riders and a powerful wizards who defends it from the incursions of demons.
Little else is described. The Empire could easily be similar to the Roman Empire, or one of the Chinese dynasties.
The Emperor could be a benevolent protector, a stern but just ruler, or a self-absorbed ruler only concerned with preserving his power.

Similar considerations can be done for the other Icons: the Dwarf King can be a greedy, grudge nursing tyrant or the noble heir of an ancient tradition, but still he is about recovering lost treasures and avenging past offenses. The Lich King is generally a power-hungry tyrant willing to unleash undeath upon his former realm, but he could be also a wrongfully deposed ruler willing to go to any length to recover his realm.

In 13th Age terms, an Icon can be heroic, villainous, or ambiguous -- quite similar to the Good, Evil, and Neutral alignments. Most Icons can fill multiple roles (for example, the Prince of Shadows can be roguish but fundamentally heroic, or a villainous, self-serving thief, or somethin in the middle), but some are cannot truly be heroic or villainous -- the Great Gold Wyrm's fundamental nature is heroic, for example.

This arrangement makes it so that, if you stay within the parameters, you can rearrange the Icons and change the "details" to a large extent, while still preserving the fundamental aspects of each Icon, and the relationships among them. Thus, you can easily adapt all the published material to your campaign, regardless of whether in your campaign the Empire is ruled by a decadent Emperor closeted in a Forbidden Palace within Axis and defended by dragon-mounted wuxia warriors and by eunuch sorcerers, or instead the Emperor is a great general living in a Domus Aurea protected by legionnaires in banded mail, and the Archmage is a toga-wearing scholar-scientist.

GP

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

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:13 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm
Tim Baker wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 5:28 am
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.
13 and 7 are both prime numbers. Is there a significance in that...or is it just a coincidence?
I believe it's just a coincidence. I wouldn't be surprised if they always try to achieve an odd number so that the icons could never be balanced if they formed two factions. But that's purely conjecture.
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm
If the players kind of define who the Icons are, would changing from 13 Icons to 7 have much effect on the impressions of the players?

For example, if you had a group that all decided (at face value) that a dwarven king would be good, but you merged the dwarven king into the follower of the dark gods, you would be merging a good stereotype with an evil stereotype and the players would have to shift one way or the other.
If the players came into the campaign with the expectation that some of the standard fantasy tropes would be available in the icons, then painting the Dwarf Lord as a follower of dark gods may clash with some of their backgrounds or assumptions. This is definitely something to talk about during Session Zero, to make sure expectations don't collide. The GM should communicate who the icons are and provide a high level explanation of their key points. Or if the GM is completely flexible, then they should reach out to the players for this information (what icons do you want to play with), perhaps merging icons into fewer individuals after gathering this type of data.
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm
Did 13th Age Monthly only explore the one set of mergers or did they look at each individual Icon and see how well or how badly it would fit with every other Icon?
It just offered the one set of mergers. It could be a fun exercise to try to mix-and-match other combinations.

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

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:17 pm

I love your examples, agathokles. Well said.

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

Post by agathokles » Wed Oct 03, 2018 8:24 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:17 pm
I love your examples, agathokles. Well said.
Thanks, Tim.

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

Post by Big Mac » Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:06 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:17 pm
I love your examples, agathokles. Well said.
Me too. They are very helpful.

Perhaps you should invite him to write a short article for Escalation! ;)
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by agathokles » Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:36 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:06 pm
Perhaps you should invite him to write a short article for Escalation! ;)
Thanks for the praise, Big Mac. I'm not terribly qualified, though... I've never actually played 13th Age. I only use some of the ideas from the 13th Age books as conceptual tools for my BECMI campaigns.

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

Post by Tim Baker » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:59 am

agathokles wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:36 pm
I've never actually played 13th Age. I only use some of the ideas from the 13th Age books as conceptual tools for my BECMI campaigns.
I got into 13th Age by taking pieces of it for my D&D game, too. Some of its subsystems are wonderfully modular in nature.

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

Post by JoeNotCharles » Fri Oct 05, 2018 5:17 am

Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm
Did 13th Age Monthly only explore the one set of mergers or did they look at each individual Icon and see how well or how badly it would fit with every other Icon?
I think it just did one group, but here's a fun thread where people rolled randomly for combinations and came up with some really fun personalities for the resulting groups of 7: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?76 ... cons-Style

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

Post by Big Mac » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:54 am

JoeNotCharles wrote:
Fri Oct 05, 2018 5:17 am
Big Mac wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 12:16 pm
Did 13th Age Monthly only explore the one set of mergers or did they look at each individual Icon and see how well or how badly it would fit with every other Icon?
I think it just did one group, but here's a fun thread where people rolled randomly for combinations and came up with some really fun personalities for the resulting groups of 7: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?76 ... cons-Style
Very interesting.

I think that Tim Baker should have a chat with JamesCat to see if he would expand on any of his ideas.

And if there really are "6,227,020,800 combinations" that might mean that Escalation! could have a regular column with a different combination every time. ;)
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:50 pm

JoeNotCharles wrote:
Fri Oct 05, 2018 5:17 am
I think it just did one group, but here's a fun thread where people rolled randomly for combinations and came up with some really fun personalities for the resulting groups of 7: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?76 ... cons-Style
I hadn't seen this thread before. Thanks for sharing!

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

Post by Tim Baker » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:51 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:54 am
I think that Tim Baker should have a chat with JamesCat to see if he would expand on any of his ideas.

And if there really are "6,227,020,800 combinations" that might mean that Escalation! could have a regular column with a different combination every time. ;)
For regular columns, we'd need to find an owner who was willing to provide content on time, consistently. It's certainly possible -- we have a member of the community who provides us with a monster in every issue, for example. We'd welcome other columns like that, if someone was dedicated to keep it going, at least for a while.

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

Post by JoeNotCharles » Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:07 am

I think we can discard all the combinations with less than 3 icons. PC's get 5 points to spend on icon relationships with at most 3 per icon. That means a 1-Icon setup is nonviable by the rules (and sounds really boring so it's not worth tweaking the rules to make it work) and a 2-Icon setup means each PC has 2 points in each icon, and a 3rd point in one of the two. Technically a choice but so similar it's pointless. With 3 icons you can choose 3-2-0, 3-1-1, or 2-2-1 which are at least notably different patterns.

That gives only 13! / 3! = 1,037,836,800 combinations.

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

Post by Yohann » Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:00 am

Another empty vessel a 13th Age table I ran at a local con filled was earlier ages. Well, actually it was the 3rd Age in that particular case.

This happened a few years ago, so quite before the release of the excellent Book of Ages supplement, and I wanted to give the players some sand-and-sandal action.

The Icon rolls mainly helped to determine the way the PCs would travel from the 13th Age to the 3rd Age, and the rest was just up to each GM's table description (I was asked to write an adventure for all the 13th Age GMs at that con), and the outcome that would have ripple effects on later ages, 13th Age included, to each table. When I asked the other GMs how their adventure ended and what effects it had on the 13th Age, none was identical (that was quite a fun discussion we had actually, from what I can remember!)

This meant that the main setting of the game got changed in a way, and it felt okay to everyone who ran and played 13th Age that day.

What I'm trying to say here is that, compared to other games that have a very detailed , official background that can feed a huge metaplot or that can give tools to GMs to design their own adventures which would fit in a grander scale of events, with 13th Age each table can determine the historical past and present of their setting, be it The Dragon Empire or a previous name. This is gives a sense of freedom I particularly enjoy, especially when I see players displaying their narrative creativity to help define what the past of the world they're playing in was made of.

Now I just hope what I said makes sense.
Last edited by Yohann on Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:08 am

Thanks for sharing that. This is one of the things I love about 13th Age!

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

Post by Yohann » Sun Oct 07, 2018 10:27 am

Totally! A very good example of that is Rob Heinsoo's comment, p. 181 of the core rulebook, about the players in a demo session managed to end the 13th Age and start the next one by making the Diabolist a force of good.

That's the kind of modularity and freedom as a GM / player I truly enjoy with this game.

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

Post by Big Mac » Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:20 pm

Yohann wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:00 am
Another empty vessel a 13th Age table I ran at a local con filled was earlier ages. Well, actually it was the 3rd Age in that particular case.

This happened a few years ago, so quite before the release of the excellent Book of Ages supplement, and I wanted to give the players some sand-and-sandal action.

The Icon rolls mainly helped to determine the way the PCs would travel from the 13th Age to the 3rd Age, and the rest was just up to each GM's table description (I was asked to write an adventure for all the 13th Age GMs at that con), and the outcome that would have ripple effects on later ages, 13th Age included, to each table. When I asked the other GMs how their adventure ended and what effects it had on the 13th Age, none was identical (that was quite a fun discussion we had actually, from what I can remember!)

This meant that the main setting of the game got changed in a way, and it felt okay to everyone who ran and played 13th Age that day.

What I'm trying to say here is that, compared to other games that have a very detailed , official background that can feed a huge metaplot or that can give tools to GMs to design their own adventures which would fit in a grander scale of events, with 13th Age each table can determine the historical past and present of their setting, be it The Dragon Empire or a previous name. This is gives a sense of freedom I particularly enjoy, especially when I see players displaying their narrative creativity to help define what the past of the world they're playing in was made of.

Now I just hope what I said makes sense.
Sounds like your group had a lot of fun.

How did your 3rd Age compare with the sort of things they have spoken about for Book of Ages?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Yohann » Sun Oct 07, 2018 9:52 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:20 pm
Sounds like your group had a lot of fun.

How did your 3rd Age compare with the sort of things they have spoken about for Book of Ages?
Oh, we certainly did have a lot of fun.

Concerning the comparisons between our 3rd Age and Book of Ages, the 1st thing is that I didn't think in terms of Anchors, Zeniths and Nadirs. As it was a con game, I roughly sketched that age to kind of look similar to some Egyptian / Babylonian setting, with dragons and gods walking among mortals.

Something I used in that game, and that appears in the supplement, is heroquesting, as I wanted the PCs to reenact some mythological scenes from the 3rd Age that they witnessed (and actually took part in) in front of the 13th Age Emperor in order to save his life.

However, beside that, there are a ton of good ideas in the supplement to dig out for my future games set in a different age (I'm actually kind of thinking of an Illiad sort of adventure, perhaps even followed by an Odyssey).

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

Post by Big Mac » Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:19 pm

Yohann wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 9:52 pm
Big Mac wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 8:20 pm
Sounds like your group had a lot of fun.

How did your 3rd Age compare with the sort of things they have spoken about for Book of Ages?
Oh, we certainly did have a lot of fun.

Concerning the comparisons between our 3rd Age and Book of Ages, the 1st thing is that I didn't think in terms of Anchors, Zeniths and Nadirs. As it was a con game, I roughly sketched that age to kind of look similar to some Egyptian / Babylonian setting, with dragons and gods walking among mortals.
That sounds fun. I bet that would work for other people (even people that don't play 13th Age).
Yohann wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 9:52 pm
Something I used in that game, and that appears in the supplement, is heroquesting, as I wanted the PCs to reenact some mythological scenes from the 3rd Age that they witnessed (and actually took part in) in front of the 13th Age Emperor in order to save his life.
It's cool that you created something that the pros independently created. It shows you were on the money there! :D
Yohann wrote:
Sun Oct 07, 2018 9:52 pm
However, beside that, there are a ton of good ideas in the supplement to dig out for my future games set in a different age (I'm actually kind of thinking of an Illiad sort of adventure, perhaps even followed by an Odyssey).
We have some people here who are interested in the (2nd Edition AD&D) Historical References settings. I bet that some of them would enjoy reading about your Illiad-style adventures.

Do you write anything like a blog about your adventures? Or are you saving them up in case you decide to try to sell it later?
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Re: [13th Age] Your Table Fills an Empty Vessel with Their Choices

Post by Yohann » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:39 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:19 pm
Do you write anything like a blog about your adventures? Or are you saving them up in case you decide to try to sell it later?
Wow! I didn't realize how long it's been since I last posted here.
So sorry for the very late reply as real life got EXTREMELY busy, keeping me away from tabletop RPGs upo until last weekend (character generation for 13th Age actually).

To answer your questions, I'd like to post adventures I run on a blog, as I don't intend to sell anything in the future. The only thing that's holding me back at the moment is time.

Next weekend, I'll run an introduction game for my wife and a couple of friends (with our toddler and theirs running around). That will be a light game, focused of PCs with good relationships with The Diabolist and The Prince of Shadows. That should be fun. And if I've got some time, I'll try and open a blog to post this this adventure in it.

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

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Aug 13, 2019 3:41 pm

Yohann wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:39 pm
Wow! I didn't realize how long it's been since I last posted here.
Welcome back!
Yohann wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:39 pm
Next weekend, I'll run an introduction game for my wife and a couple of friends (with our toddler and theirs running around). That will be a light game, focused of PCs with good relationships with The Diabolist and The Prince of Shadows. That should be fun. And if I've got some time, I'll try and open a blog to post this this adventure in it.
I'm glad you're able to game with your family. That's been a great source of fun for me, and I recommend it.

A positive relationship with the Diabolist and the Prince of Shadows, huh? What could possibly go wrong? ;)

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