Monday, June 28, 2021

Escalation Issue 9 is Available

Escalation Issue 9 Cover
I'm pleased to announce that Escalation Issue 9 is now available! You can find it on the Vault of the 13th Age. This issue's theme is House Rules. There are rules for icon relationships, NPC companions, consumable item creation, increasing monster challenge, injury and dying, initiative, packing even more richness into a natural die roll, and more. Some of these house rules complement each other, while others directly conflict with one another. As a huge fan of tweaking a system to make it my own, I hope you'll enjoy the options that you'll find in this issue—some come straight from my own table!

We love to hear feedback, so let us know what you enjoy and would like to see more of in the future. What's missing that you'd like us to include next time? What didn't work so well, and we should consider omitting? This is the community's fanzine, and we want to make it as useful as possible for you.

Please consider submitting articles that expand upon the theme of the High Seas for Issue 10. See the information on the right side of the page if you'd like to submit an article or art.

Thanks again to everyone who made this possible!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Articles Needed: Pirates and Nautical Fantasy

Swashbuckling Adventurer
We tried something new for the upcoming issue's theme, and ran a poll. By scoring three options from 1 to 5, our fans voted for "Pirates and Nautical Fantasy" with 138 total points. The runners up were "Modern or Near Future Fantasy" with 114 points and "Fantasy Robots and Power Armor" with 108 points. So it was pretty close, but we have our winner for Issue 10!

I wanted to share some of the ideas for other issues (or perhaps standalone articles) that were submitted with the survey responses. We're always looking for interesting articles, and don't require all articles in an issue to be strictly related to the theme. If you're interested in fleshing out one of these ideas, please drop us an email with your idea.

  • The overworld (two suggestions for this one)
  • Environmental hazards and how to take advantage of them
  • Apocalypses
  • Areas of the Dragon Empire
  • More adventures
  • Variations on mechanics, such as icon advantages, uses of the escalation die, backgrounds, and failing forward
  • Beyond the Dragon Empire
  • Using 13th Age to run a game in Mythic Europe
We'll add some of these to our queue of issue theme ideas. Perhaps you'll see them in future polls!

If you're looking for ideas for an article, here are some thoughts that we had. You aren't limited to these suggestions, of course.
  • PC options – What themes, feats, races, or even completely new classes fit in a campaign dominated by pirates or underwater adventure?
  • Nautical combat – How can you model ship-to-ship combat in a simple way that still feels like 13th Age?
  • The Iron Sea – The Iron Sea is inhospitable to say the least. What lies beneath its surface? How have brave adventurers managed to brave the tsunamis and giant monsters, and what's valuable enough for them to risk their lives?
  • The Strangling Sea – How would you extend or enhance the Strangling Sea adventure?
  • Adventure! – Whether it's exploring the islands of the Midland Sea or diving beneath the surface of the Iron Sea, there are endless opportunities for nautical adventures.
  • Monsters – Can you ever have enough aquatic monsters for your game?
  • Treasure – Pirates love their booty. What items are worth the risk of diving beneath the waves or facing the ships that sail atop the seas?
Whether you're submitting an idea for a nautical article or one of the other ideas shared by the community, you can find submission guidelines and our email address at the top right side of the page. I look forward to seeing the community's take on the Midland Sea, the Iron Sea, and beyond!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Escalation Issue 10 Theme

While the team works on the final edits, layout, and art for Escalation Issue 9, I thought this would be a good time to reach out to the community to gather your thoughts on Issue 10. We've received some suggestions on Discord, Facebook, and MeWe for the next issue, and I always appreciate the proactive engagement from fans of 13th Age!

I created a short survey with the community's suggestions, and now it's your chance to share what you're most excited to contribute toward. Don't see anything that catches your interest? That's okay—send your suggestions at the end of the survey. I'll keep the survey up for at least two weeks (until May 10, 2021), and possibly longer, depending on how work on Issue 9 is progressing at that point.

Complete the Survey

I look forward to checking out the topics the community is most enthusiastic about!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Escalation Index

I was floored to learn that community member Heath Glandon spent over three months building an index for the content found in Escalation issues 1–7. You can find Heath's labor of love on the Vault of the 13th Age. There are three different indexes: Topical, Author, and Artist. Definitely check it out!

This incredible collection is available as both a web page, which can be picked up by search engines, and as a consolidated PDF—perfect if you want to print it out or refer to it offline. Just scroll to the bottom of the 13thage.org page to find the PDF download.

I wanted to learn more about Heath and what prompted him to create this index, so I sent him some questions. He was kind enough to respond and grant me permission to share his reply with the community.

Escalation: It’s not every day that a fan takes the time to build something like this on the community’s behalf. What motivated you to do it? 

Heath: I’ve been playing 13th age for awhile, and have even searched for and used some of the many user-contributed resources at 13thage.org. I had even noticed the Escalation Fanzine issues there on the site, but never really got into them until recently. I think the way people find things most of the time these days, is through searches. I’d be looking for something specific, like some additional Cleric spells, so I’d do some web searches or browse the folders at 13thage.org or 13thagesrd.com. Never did it occur to me to look through the Escalation issues. Once I started reading them I realized how valuable they are, how useful the content is, and how they are being overlooked by the average player. If there were some way for the contents of these issues to be indexed and searchable, well, that would make all the difference. I knew what a huge task it would be, and that it might never end, but so worth it. It can be frustrating when you remember reading something and then being unable to find it later.

Escalation: What’s your methodology? Are you using any technology to help?

Heath: I had already gotten my user-contribution feet wet by uploading a resource for character creation, so I thought to myself, “I’m going to be reading through all of these issues anyway, why not just build the index as I go, then paste it into an article so it will come up in searches?”

My methodology was simple. I read through every issue, one page at a time, and tried to categorize everything as simply as I could, typing into a word processor. As I read each article, I would ask myself, “Where in the index would I hope to find this information? What word or section would I be looking in and be excited to find this article? What words would stand out if I was trying to find this article in the future?”

Escalation: How has the index already been a help to you? How might someone use it that they might not have thought of? 

Heath: For me, it’s often trying to find that thing again that I read that one time. I’ve used the index to find those things, like when I wanted to share with someone the way ASH LAW described the classic alignments. Or that magic item that made it hard to lie. Or how to do a wedding (which wasn’t under “wedding” but under “marriage”).

When it’s time to create a new character, I’ll see if there are any variations in the index that might apply to my class (Oh yeah, forgot about lycanthropy. THAT would make an interesting character...), or wrap some lore around one of the magic items in my background, or consult the list of divine blessings for a One Unique Thing.

Planning new campaigns is easier when you skim through the index, too. All these ideas just start flowing. So many possibilities for those duergar underdwellers. I need a town like Sun Falls, and they’ll be at war with the frost giants. These guys over here are going to be in league with a necromancer baddie, maybe someone like Nemo Haze.

Escalation: How long did it take you to create it, so far? When did you get started?

Heath: I started in the middle of November 2020 and got through issue 7 at the end of February 2021. At work, I am often writing and testing scripts so I’ll code for a while, then launch the script, and while it’s running I’ll check my email and tech tickets. But if there are no issues for me to deal with while I’m waiting for my script to finish, I do some other something. From November to February that something was reading and indexing the Escalation issues. I’ve still got issue 8 to go, plus I hear 9 is on its way. And I haven’t even looked at the Skyfall and Under Pressure adventure issues.

Escalation: Would you mind sharing a little about yourself?

Heath: I’ve been happily married for almost 30 years, with four awesome kids, who are no longer kids (all of which are currently in a 13th Age campaign together). I’ll even be a grandpa this year, Lord willing. I’m a Christian with a seminary degree, hoping to become a pastor one day (find me on YouTube or sermonaudio.com if you have trouble sleeping). I’m also an IT guy, but that’s just my day job.

Escalation: When did you get started with RPGs? With 13th Age? Are you typically the GM, a player, or a mix? 

Heath: I got started as a kid around 1985 with the D&D Basic set. Soon after, I purchased the Expert, Companion, and Master sets. I had a small group of friends that would play with me. One of which bought every Advanced D&D book that came out. I preferred the less-restrictive rules but enjoyed reading his books anyway. Planning out adventures and creating NPCs consumed all of my time. Countless hours were spent drawing continents, dungeons, traps, and battle scenes, all on graph paper of course. Other genres besides fantasy always intrigued me, but as a player, I never found one that worked well.

College happened and role playing stopped altogether. When my kids got old enough, I realized I had a whole group of people to role-play with living in my own house! But alas, my two boys were the only ones truly excited about it at first. I searched around for a generic game and got involved in play testing Strands of Fate with my boys. Later on, they wanted to get into a more meaty game, so we bought D&D 5e and played around with that some, until one of my sons heard about 13th Age. Wow. Just wow.

Once my sons grew old enough, they have typically been the GMs of the games I’ve been playing, including my current games. One of my sons has led the last four 13th Age campaigns I’ve played. The other son is currently creating his own superhero based system and we are in the process of creating our characters now.

Escalation: Thank you so much for sharing that information about yourself. I'm a huge proponent of passing our hobby along to the next generation, so kudos to you for gaming with your kids!

I'm so appreciative of the hard work you've put into this project. It's such an amazing tool for the community. Many thanks to you!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Seeking Volunteer Editors for 13th Age Glorantha Project

The Escalation team is working with Evan Franke of Exploring Glorantha fame on a 13th Age Glorantha special issue: Red Moon and Warring Kingdoms. This exciting sourcebook will introduce followers of the Lunar Way as the heroes of their own stories. Far from Dragon Pass and the Lunar Empire where the 13th Age Glorantha (13G) core book takes place, these Lunars are faced with an existential threat to their way of life in the lands of Fronela.

The book will establish the central conflict in the region and provide a history and gazetteer, serving as an primer to those 13th Age Glorantha players who were introduced to the setting in the 13G core book. It will also offer new classes, playable races, and feats. We hope the book proves valuable to both 13th Age fans and Glorantha fans, even if you're unfamiliar with the setting or the 13th Age system.

To produce this book while still releasing future issues of the Escalation fanzine, we need help from the community. A draft of the book is already complete, and now we're seeking volunteer editors to ensure that it's the highest quality when it's released. We need copyeditors and developmental editors. Whether you're familiar with Glorantha or with the 13th Age game system (or neither one), we could use your help—you don't need experience with both the setting and the game system to lend a hand.

We understand that volunteer work isn't your day job—Escalation is put together exclusively by volunteers, so we totally get it! We'll work with your schedule, your availability, and your areas of expertise to connect you with chapters that you're best suited for.

If you're interested in learning more, please email us at escalationfanzine (at) gmail (dot) com. We'd love to provide additional details that you can use to consider whether you're able to assist us in getting this work to the fan community.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Iconic Podcast Interview

I returned to the microphone to engage in another fun discussion with the fine folks at the Iconic Podcast, recently. If you aren't already subscribed to Iconic, I highly recommend going through their backlog of episodes. They offer fantastic 13th Age news, reviews, interviews, and creative ideas for campaigns. If you're not listening to Iconic and you're a 13th Age fan, you're missing out!

You can download the interview from their website: https://iconicpodcast.com/2020/10/19/s4-e15/.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The 13th Age Community-Selected Icons

Sketch of the Mageflame

A month back, we ran a survey asking the 13th Age community to select their favorite icons from the sets of Open Game Content (OGC) icons that work seamlessly with official material. The results are in, and we're pleased to share them with you. As a third-party publisher, you're allowed to use these icons in your products under the Open Game License. Pelgrane Press is going to commission art for each icon symbol, which will also be OGC. In a very real way, these are the community's icons!

  • The Mageflame – The most powerful wizard in the world is said to possess a special spark, the Mageflame, that allows him or her to rise above the other masters of the arcane. The current bearer of the Mageflame is a powerful wizard who commands a small army of magic wielders to place and maintain grave wards, beast barriers, and weather towers across the land. His realm is a giant floating city in the sky. He is nominally allied to the Ivory Throne, but it’s unclear what role the surface world plays in his larger agenda.
  • The Conqueror – The chosen champion of the dark gods. He rallies armies and razes demonic strongholds, capturing them to make his army stronger and fight ever more demons. He is the counterpoint to the Godspeaker, and in open warfare with the the Tempter.
  • The Tempter – The youngest of the current icons, her predecessor, the Dark Master, having been destroyed by the Elven Court. Because she is currently fighting both the Conqueror and the Elven Court, she is having problems expanding her power base. The Tempter serves as a conduit that allows demons to come into the world. In other words – she is the portal.
  • The Lord of the Forge – Deep below the mountains, the ruler of the dwarves keeps the different keeps and strongholds united as a kingdom. His position places him in control of a powerful forge from Ages past that allows for the production of new magic items, albeit at great cost of time and resources.
  • The Elven Court – The ruling court that oversees the alliance between three factions of elves – Wood, High, and Dark. A tentative peace is held between the factions to keep them from acting out on ancient rivalries and grudges. Elves have long lives and even longer memories. For now, the elves understand that only by working together they can keep the younger races from encroaching on their territory. But still, that doesn’t prevent the occasional conflict to be resolved with arrow, magic spell, and poison.
  • The Ivory Throne – In the imperial capital, the king or queen of men rules from a splendorous seat of power. Over the ages, their realm has risen and waned, and today, the sovereign doesn’t control even half the territory they claim to be theirs. But as long as the throne stands, the kingdom will not fall. The Ivory Throne is allied with the Mageflame, the Godspeaker, and the Gatekeeper to keep civilization from teetering back into darkness.
  • The Gatekeeper – A gigantic ancient being that some claim to be the physical embodiment of a God. Others claim it is a celestial left to watch over the world they created. The Gatekeeper spends their days locked in battle with the demons that would otherwise destroy the world. A massive battle in a previous Age has left the Gatekeeper in a diminished state – some fear he is on the verge of death. The Gatekeeper is served by a noble order of Paladins who have sworn to fight demonic incursions. They directly oppose the Temptress, but they are wary allies of the Conqueror. In the short term, their goals may be aligned, but the endgame is very different.
  • The Wildwalker – As civilization grew, nature retreated. But as the forests shrank, a powerful voice emerged to make their pain heard. The current Wildwalker is a young druid with a powerful rallying cry to fight back. Before, the balance of civilization and nature tilted towards civilization, but she wants to tip the scales back, and many fear this will lead to war with the Ivory Throne.
  • The Deathless One – The master of undead and wielder of the raw power that animates such creatures. The Deathless One was once the Mageflame and achieved a state of deathless immortality through control over negative energy. Once his fellows learned that he would neither die nor abdicate, he was forcibly removed from his position and the benefits it provided. Shortly after, he took control of a small kingdom through the expedient of murdering everyone and raising them under his control. He has been quiet for some centuries, tinkering away at making better and stronger undead creations. Biding his time, waiting to strike and liberate the world from the cruelties of life.
  • The Devourer – The savage races of the north, the orcs, goblins, ogres and giants, are too locked up in tribal warfare and seasonal raids to pose a threat to civilization. But every now and then, a leader of such strength, ferocity, and cunning rises up to unite the tribes and propels them onto the main stage of history. In this Age, the orcs have proven to be worthy of everyone’s attention under the leadership of one who embodies a terrifying concept – relentless hunger.
  • The Godspeaker – The bright gods play a distant role in this world, but in this Age they have blessed someone with the ability to consult with them directly in return for spreading their will. The Godspeaker has unified disparate divinities under one umbrella, but that doesn’t come without petty squabbles among competing clergy. The Godspeaker may speak, but to act, they would have to unite many diverse and stubborn voices with opposing beliefs on anything from the meaning of marriage to what meats are acceptable to eat. They act as the counterpoint to The Conqueror, champion of the dark gods, and like the Ivory Throne, they serve to protect civilization.
  • The Faceless – Nobody really knows who the Faceless is or what they truly represent, but everyone is willing to sell you their theory for good coin. Some call the Faceless the one true god, enjoying playing with the toys of the world. Others say the Faceless is “only” a highly successful band of rogues, and that the Faceless’s claim of the theft of a star was merely the hunger of the Devourer that they took credit for. Whatever the truth, the Faceless is always at the heart of yet another riddle and mystery.
  • The Council of Scales – By itself, a dragon is a worthy adversary of a band of adventurers. The eldest dragon of each chromatic color rivals the power of entire small nations. Together, as a council, they control entire cities, mountain ranges, and seas, and rival the Ivory Throne in the size of lands they control. If one day they decide to seize their internal squabbles and march their scaled armies into human lands, the throne could finally fall.
  • The Dweller Below – A dark reflection of the Wildwalker, ruling over the creatures and sentients who live away from the light, either in caves or deep beneath the waves. Most surface dwellers have forgotten about the Dweller Below or believe him to be a fable crafted to scare children. He simply sleeps in his nest, but will rise if his realm is disturbed.
Note that we have adjusted the icon descriptions slightly so that when other icons are mentioned, they align with the synthesized community list. Also, the Tempter was originally named the Dark Mistress at the time of the survey, but has since been updated.

Sketch from Maximilian Schmuecker's work on the Mageflame icons.