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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

13th Age, Organized Play, Actual Play and the universe of great ideas

For anyone who reads this blog (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) , you know that I try to keep up an actual play description (pretty much bow by blow) of my current "Heroes of the 13th Age" game.  Our progress has been slow, as we can only manage about a gathering once a month at best.  Still, we are close to done with our first epic adventure and dungeon crawl, and the characters are all going to get to level up to second level.

While I have been developing my 13th Age game, I have tried to absorb all that I can from other people's experience with the system and the world of 13th Age.  There is a lot of fun stuff out there from which to learn.

One thing in which I have not been able to participate is the 13th Age Organized Play.  Pelgrane Press, with the work of 13th Age luminarie Ash Law (head of organized play) & Wade Rockett (strategy and promotion), have put together a plan for a series of regular games in which friendly local gamings stores and individual groups can participate.  Each will apparently revolve around places and issues important to one of the 13 Icons of the game.  The first, Crown of the Lich King, is already done, and a second set of adventures, Wyrd of the Wild Wood, is in progress (dealing with the High Druid).  Each regular game is 6 weeks of adventures (at least in its ideal form), much like the pioneering D&D Encounters model used by Wizards of the Coast.  However, after the 13 individual icon inspired adventures, there will be an epic scale 13 week "end of age" adventure released (read more in this article).

Why am I not getting into this?

Basically, timing.  The organized play is interactive.  Play reports need to be submitted, because events in the earlier adventures help shape later planned events.  Given the timing of getting my ten person group together, we would not have even started Crown of the Lich King.  So, Organized Play, will have to go on its own way.

But, I can still draw inspiration from it, because so many other people are sharing it.  If you want to vicariously experience the organized play (or just compare your experience to others'), I highly recommend the following:

A Game of Whit's Whit Mattson is currently running his play group through Crown of the Lich King using an online meet up, and he is recording and posting the play sessions.  They are very entertaining, and I have learned a lot about pacing and technique from just watching.  The videos are posted through YouTube, so you can find them directly there, but Whit's website has a deep library of video and audio actual play, as well as reviews and other interesting things.  Whit and his friends were early playtesters of 13th Age, and their actual play recordings of the playtest definitely help to inspire me to run the game (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  Whit and his group are running a little behind on posting their actual play, and they are not on the strict schedule for Crown of the Lich King, but they are a fascinating group to watch.  Highly recommended.

Tales of the 13th Age is the website for the written (and illustrated!) actual play reports by a GM tag team, Ben and Sarah, who are running the organized play at Fair Game store in Downers Grove, IL.  They are keeping to the strict schedule of the Organized Play, and have already completed Crown of the Lich King.  It has been fascinating to see that they played through the same structure that Whit's group (above) is following, yet the play packets are so flexible, that so many details are different, and so responsive to the individual characters, their Icon relationships and their One Unique Things (1UT) and Backgrounds.  So now Ben and Sarah are running Wyrd of the Wild Wood, and I am hooked on their narration.  Their write-ups definitely show how to run a good store game, where people may have to drop in and out.  They clearly have a lot of discipline in keeping the pacing.  Also, they are geniuses with bringing interesting visual terrain and monsters (hey, play doh giant monster tenticles--awesome!!) to the table.  They document this with actual play photos.  I love reading the reports and I learn a lot. 

After I got hooked on the Organized Play write-ups/broadcasts, I started looking for more examples of play.

There is a very intribuing start of a blog at 13th Age: Squires of Skyharbor Abbey.  I am hopeful that more will appear at it soon, but what is there so far has been very interesting reading.

Also, a really interesting set of actual play recordings can be found under the term 13th Age MadCast.  A GM that goes by the moniker Khaos and his group have been new to playing 13th Age, and they obviously started with the adventure in the rule book (having to do with the Bolt Strike Tower (of which an earlier version Whit's group above played through for the playtest).  The actual play picks up in the aftermath of the written adventure, and it is the epic way the game springboards from there that is really fascinating. 

It is also prolific.  They began to record their third play session (at least that is the earliest I can find), and they are well into ten or so sessions recorded at this point.  They play in a virtual play space and are calling in from different time zones.  Unlike A Game of Whit's, we don't see the players, but instead we see the (often static) play space, so it is more like listening to a podcast than watching a video.  Still, despite it being visually less engaging and despite it dragging at times as the group is very large (so the juggling Khaos has to do as GM is daunting), the way the characters and the story develop is really fun and interesting.

Here are all the links to what they have put up on YouTube so far:

MadCast 13th Age Session 3 (2/2)by MadCast13thAge
MadCast presents: 13th Age, Sept. 7th (Part 2)
13th Age, led by Khaos (22/9/13) - Part 1
I am on Session 5, and before I figured out the order, I listened to some of a later session, and Khaos is clearly building to some epic challenges for his players.  This is harder going than the other write-ups or recordings, but it is definitely rewarding and entertaining and there are ideas I will be stealing.


  1. Greetings Evan! This is Sarah from the 13th Age Tale Spinners blog. Ben and I just found your article and cannot thank you enough for the kind words you had for our blog. We are just two GMs who love sharing information about a game we both love. Running a game in a FLGS does present the challenge of shifting players in and out frequently, but it also means the game gets more exposure which is always a bonus. I'll make a note to use play-doh for another monster soon. The play-doh Kraken fight was among the favorites in our group so far. ;)

  2. Dear Sarah,

    Thanks so much for commenting! I am happy to say nice things about your write-ups (and the write-ups by your players-yay!) any time. You and Ben are doing things right.

    I must admit to having extreme envy for all the wonderful things you bring to the table. So many lovely figures and wonderful homemade touches (love the crystals!). I think the photos you post really help to convey the sense of fun that you and Ben must bring to your games.

    I shall have to see if I can get a few photos into my narratives, but I have to say I am barely organized enough to get things written up in a first draft and posted.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Keep up the terrific work. I hope I get to vicariously experinece all 13 basic adventures and the End of Age extraveganza through your narratives!