13 True Ways is the first supplement for 13th Age that is aimed at both GMs and players. It is filled with new classes, monsters, descriptions of places with story ideas for all of them, and if that’s all I said it’d be completely true. But the reality of the book goes much deeper in that most options provided have multiple potential offered hooks. What is the truth? What is mistaken?
As an example, let’s take the devils, lawful counterparts to demons. You might think this is a very simple concept and there’s not a lot to do with it that hasn’t been done before, but the book quickly proves that wrong with an origin and background for each of the Icons, often with various twists on them depending on how you want to handle it. And then if that’s not enough for you, you’ll find another 16 ideas and twists at the end of that chapter.
The classes are great, even if one of them is pretty much the definition of a special snowflake, since the PC who is known as the Occultist is the only one in all the world. The real value here isn’t so much in new classes alone, but in how they handle game mechanics and development for those of you who prefer to homebrew. There are new ideas here, such as Talents you can take multiple times for greater effect. This was where we saw the concept first, but since we’ve seen it repeated elsewhere such as in Deep Magic, the 13th Age compatible version.
Artifacts are laid out as an idea with a few examples. In short, they’re magical items where you can dedicate more of your open “slots” for magical items to them for greater power. I’m not sure how wild I am about the actual examples, but I did find it amusing that two struck me as almost being made for characters in a game I was in that just ended.
5 “cities” are given space in the book; Axis, capitol of the Dragon Empire… Horizon, home of the Archmage and city of magic… the Court of Stars, wandering home of the Elf Queen who rules over all elves… Drakkenhall, city of the empire governed by the Blue, greatest of all draconic sorcerers… and lastly, Santa Cora, city of temples and home of the Priestess and her grand Cathedral. each section details the parts of the city, the culture, and various takes on them… is Santa Cora really a city dedicated to uplifting the spirits of people everywhere, or is it just dedicated to looking like that’s their point?
There are a few “adventure” locations in the book, but they’re handled far different than the modules of the past, more rough outlines with ideas and ways of handling things, rather than too rigidly laying out things (which in my experience tends to invite creative players to throw the whole adventure off the rails). This makes it likely better for the sorts of GMs 13th Age is geared towards, who are good at reacting to change and rolling with it, rather than planning out everything. Not to say the other kind couldn’t find a lot to use, but it’s obvious the game works best for overly flexible GMs.
As much as I love this book, I won’t say it’s perfect. There are minor issues I’ve seen. There are a few examples of the “obiligatory”, as a friend put it, houses of pleasure. Though it’s handled fairly tastefully in my opinion, but I’ve seen books where every tiny location had such places mentioned. So you’d think there was a brothel every few miles along every road. The description of the empire, and its capitol Axis, is interesting but at times almost caricatural – with overly implied decadence, such as describing war as its only export. But these flaws are few and far between. Overall, I was highly impressed with both the quality of the writing and the art. The ideas presented are helpful and well rounded.
One final note for those considering buying this book; one of the planned entries for rules didn’t make it into the book because while everything else was complete, the system for Dragon-riding hadn’t solidified. There are plans for these, along with other things, to be put out in a monthly mini-supplement not unlike Ken Writes About Stuff also from Pelgrane. For those items that were planned to be in 13 True Ways, I believe you’ll get access to those for free if you own the book, or a discount if you’d rather get access to everything.
The book can be ordered from http://www.pelgranepress.com/shop/ both in print and pdf formats.