Why 13th Age


"You guys play D&D?" A friend asked me and another friend. He was new to town, still playing a 4e game online with the group he moved away from, but interested in gathering a new group to play in person.

"I'm in," I said. When I was in middle school, the satanism scare led my parents to forbid D&D. But I loved the art, the imagination, the chance to be with my friends in the kind of stories in the books and movies I loved. I played anyway: a handful of sessions. In high school, another handful of sessions. We spent more time creating characters than playing. I wanted more.

"D&D is out. Pathfinder is in!" said the owner of our local game store, the very next day. My friend and I were convinced. We left with a Pathfinder starter box, and started a campaign. He GMed. I played an elven cleric. It was a blast, except for all the time we wasted looking up rules and modifiers and shuffling 10 pages of character sheets.

"There's gotta be a better way," I thought. I started researching other systems. I discovered Mike Shea. He was running his 13th Age "Moonwreck" campaign and blogging about it. I bought Lazy Dungeon Master and the 13th Age Core Rulebook. I listened to 13th Age co-designer, Rob Heinsoo GM. The 13 True Ways Kickstarter had just concluded: the community was energized. I was hooked.

What I love about 13th Age is the balance of story and math--icons, one unique things, backgrounds, and d20 mechanics with just enough crunch.


What was hard about 13th Age is that it was designed for experienced GMs. When I started GMing 13th Age:

  • I didn't know when a background check should be based on Intelligence vs Wisdom. 
  • I was not ready to improvise (and neither were my players).
  • I didn't know how to use icon relationship dice.

I played through the awkward and relied on Mike Shea, Rob Donahue, Wade Rockett, and the G+ 13th Age Community. It was worth it.

Now the characters built for a 2015 St. Patrick's Day 13th Age one-shot are just about to ascend to 9th level. One of those players is GMing a level-five 13th Age campaign, the first I've ever played in. Running a session is now easier than the logistics of keeping a gaming group going over time--a pretty good gauge of GM competence and confidence.

It's a great way to waste time with your friends. And if I can give anything back to the community or help someone else get into it, that's icing on the cake.