Haven’t posted in a bit which is largely irrelevant but notable in that I’ve been busy with not only wounding my very soul trying to finish DARK SOULS before I start the second one but I also ran Lamentations of the Flame Princess on Wednesday night and 13th Age on Thursday night. This is good. Given the potential of burn out, I think it’s going to be tough for me to work on both at once but fuck all I’m going to try. I’m in an enviable position, at least from my view, that I get to run both these games and can compare them. 13th Age, of course, represents the ultimate in new-school design for D20 and D&D. It’s fundamentally based off 4th Edition but has a lot of things from Original D&D that infiltrate it, like not using miniatures for fights (we sort of do) and all that. The fact that there are no experience points is wonderful and it’s very very easy for me to make encounters that are balanced (and imbalances them when I want), so that’s sweet too. However, the game does not have very many adventures out for it and that’s sad for now. I look at the massive amount of OD&D, 4th and 3rd edition content created in just the last 5 years and it’s staggering. While most is absolute tripe, there are still some gems in each of those systems. I think anything 4th Edition could easily be converted to 13th Age, but given that it’s a miniatures battle game (and a very very good one) that’s not the type of game I want to run at the moment (nor my players want to play), so the adventures for that are really fight fight fight fight. 3rd Edition– what can I say, there’s a lot of shit out there for it, and some excellent modules. However the rules are not to my taste and the stuff is probably really tough to convert. That said, 13th Age is great, but as a lazy ass GM, I want modules to pull shit from and they do not yet exist.
In contrast, Lamentations of the Flame Princess simply has so much content available to it out there because it is essentially a super-tight version of the Basic D&D from 1981. For the one off I’m going to run next week, I made a list of adventures on a piece of paper that included modules from the late 70’s to pieces written in 2013 and had this one girl I sort of know pick the name she liked best as my groups demise. Stuff like Secret of Bone Hill (classic) and Anomalous Subsurface Environment (newschool megadungeon) were on the list in addition to the Lamentations stuff so I am just crushed with choices. She picked something appropriately terrifying (the Lamentations of the Flame Princess module names are hard to pass up).
In contrasting these two games I must note one key thing that Basic D&D does compared to 13th Age, something that the Lamentations author notes in his referee book: you focus on what your character is doing in the game rather than what your character can do. There isn’t a lot of fucking around with X at will daily power and this combo of powers with other players in Basic D&D. One of the players commented during the Lamentations game: “I’ve got one spell and a mace! I can’t do anything!” yet that certainly didn’t stop the gaming night from being pretty damn awesome. The constraint of limited powers (or none) helped focus the game to different things.
What 13th Age does it does extremely well. My players are starting to learn some bread an butter character buff and debuff combos that will serve them very well in the more difficult fights to come. The magic item system is easy to use and the constraints by chakra I adore as a GM and while classes can be complex, they reward study and application in fights. I really want someone to roll up a Wizard one of these days because that class is what I would play if I could stand playing rather than DM’ing. There are spells where effects are made up EVERY SINGLE TIME they are cast, and that’s cooking with all sorts of rump gas. Battles are fast and the escalation die makes it so later in a fight players are GOING to hit the enemies–and when some monsters also use the escalation die, look out! So both of these game systems I say at this time I really like, but 13th Age is in it’s infancy for adventures. What’s more, 13th Age and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are great for the lazy DM for sure, which, despite running two games in two different systems the same week, I really really am. I promise.
If you have a passing interest in the Old School D&D scene/’community’, I can’t recommend this blog enough. They basically say everything is absolute shit, so if they say something is good, which they do from time to time, it’s REALLY good. The blog also does trainspotting on some of the human trainwrecks barreling down the D&D nerd express (and most importantly, blogging about it) with shit like this amazing gemstone:
The fighter says, “I press her down to the sand. I’m very careful not to push to [sic] hard, not to hurry. I want her to understand that this is not sex, this is me caring for her.”