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[Let's learn] 13th Age

JoeNotCharles

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I'm having some confusion about the encounter building math. I'm used to 4E, where:

1. You start with the level of the PC's.
2. You adjust that to get the level of the encounter: a few levels higher for a hard encounter, one or two levels lower for an easier one.
3. You fill the encounter with monsters, with a formula relating the monster level to the encounter level.

I just realized that 13th Age is missing that second step. The encounter tables as written all compare the monster levels directly to the PC levels, and then there's a sidebar saying "these tables will give you a fair fight, and then there's a bunch of ways to modify it to make it harder" .

Are there any guidelines for how much to change to make things just a bit harder or just a bit easier?

For instance I'm converting the first half of Reavers of Harkenwold, a 4E adventure for 5 L2 characters, to a 13th Age adventure for 4 L1 characters. Most encounters are L2 but there's one that's supposed to be minor (L1), a couple of major battles (L3) and then a climactic showdown (L4). Since the 13A level scale is compressed compared to 4E I would make these all L1, remove a few mooks from the minor encounter (or maybe not even bother and just use a full-strength encounter there), add some difficulty to the major encounters, and make the climactic battle a "L2" .

So what's "add some difficulty"? Would adding a 5th PC worth of monsters be appropriate? Adding a "nastier special" to one of the major monsters of the battle? Or do I need to add nastier specials to ALL of them to make a notable difference in difficulty?

For the climactic battle is valid to say "pretend the PC's are L2 and plug in the numbers from the chart" (so the L1 enemies they've been facing now count as 0.7 each) or will that produce an encounter that's TOO hard? Or is that not even enough to make a very difficult but not impossible battle?
 
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Black Flag

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I had intellectually known this, but this time around it really started to sink in that saves in 13A are basically unmodified. Your stats don't help, your level doesn't help. There are a few specific cases where something gives a bonus or a penalty, but it's basically just easy/normal/hard, roll 1d20. I guess I welcome comments on that, if anyone has any. Does it bug people? I'm not saying it's a problem--it's just a different design choice than I'm used to.
I love it. If you’re familiar with D&D4, it makes sense. If you’re mainly familiar with 3e or 5e, it’s a paradigm shift. It’s because when 4e replaced the traditional function of the saving throw with static defenses on the model of AC, it repurposed the the saving throw to represent primarily the duration of an effect rather than whether it applies or not. So there’s no rolling to hit and then having an effect negated by a save; if you hit, it takes effect, and saves on subsequent rounds determine how long it lasts, without having to count rounds.

13th Age works the same way, though reducing the defenses to 3 instead of 4 and increasing the save difficulties to 3 from 1. This carries over to disengage checks, in the sense that you’re basically seeing how long the other character’s ability to lock you down lasts. Not every use of the saving throw is about determining duration, but the thing every use has in common is that the saving throw is what you use when you specifically don’t want the character’s stats or level to affect the chance of success. Otherwise you’d use an ability check.

At first it might seem reasonable to have more powerful characters save more easily, but in practice it would be hella boring if those who already had high defenses also never had effects apply for more than a round or are never locked down by melee combatants. These are things you want to happen at roughly the same rate across a character’s career, and from one character to the other.

I also started to wonder during the fight whether this game ever uses the straight attributes (not the modifiers, which obviously come up a fair bit). I saw a monster in Book of Ages that had a specific ability that triggered depending on how a roll compared to the target's (something) score, but other than that I can't think of where it would matter that you have a 14 STR instead of 15. Is there something I'm not thinking of? Would the game basically be the same if in a 2nd edition they just did the modifiers and forgot about the scores?
Honestly, the 3-18+ ability scores have been vestigial in d20-type games for the past two decades. There’s no good reason to determine a score when the only thing the system actually cares about is the modifier.

Race/class bonuses are typically +2 to a score, which translates into a +1 bonus, so that’s easy (Gloranthan trolls complicate this).

There is one change the system needs: currently at 4th, 7th, and 10th level you get +1 to 3 ability scores. This is inherited from recent D&D editions but remains super janky in execution, since it’ll only sometimes result in an even-numbered ability score, and it’s only the even numbers that matter. Looking at the typical array, I figure only 6 of the 9 +1s that you get will actually result in an increase to an ability bonus over the course of a character’s career. That being the case, I’m thinking it should just be +1 to 2 different bonuses at 4th, 7th, and 10th level, for a total of +6.
 
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ruemere

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JoeNotCharles JoeNotCharles The encounter building gets a treatment in every bestiary in addition to the core book.

You can also use my method.
I assume that the number of monsters is the same as PCs.

1. Drop every fourth monster to make it easy.

2. Make a single monster double strength to make the encounter hard.

3. Since mooks make everything better (seriously), replace one monster with 5 mooks.

4. Adjust roles of present monsters. You want the players to carefully pick targets. A blocker is here to make players waste time while ranged foes eat away at resources. A spoiler debuffs. A leader buffs their own.

Obvious combos:
Two blockers, swarm of mook archers.
A wrecker, a double-strength blocker, a swarm of melee spoiler mooks.
Archers plus obstacle.

5. Avoid troops. Bland, boring and remove challenge from a fight since they usually are the same in melee and at range.
 
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ruemere

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I'm having some confusion about the encounter building math. (...)

So what's "add some difficulty"? Would adding a 5th PC worth of monsters be appropriate? Adding a "nastier special" to one of the major monsters of the battle? Or do I need to add nastier specials to ALL of them to make a notable difference in difficulty?

For the climactic battle is valid to say "pretend the PC's are L2 and plug in the numbers from the chart" (so the L1 enemies they've been facing now count as 0.7 each) or will that produce an encounter that's TOO hard? Or is that not even enough to make a very difficult but not impossible battle?
Difficulty is a function of raw numbers and player skill.
It's difficult to make assumptions not knowing who is in your party and what kind of opposition they are facing.

If in doubt however, use defaults and avoid blockers, and double-strength creatures. Use mooks. That's all.
 

Civil Savage

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Really specific question:
13 True Ways, p 181 - River Devil Minion. Their primary attack doesn't list its attack roll or target. Anybody know?
 

ruemere

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Hmm. I've taken a look at the very first combat encounter, page 12-13, Encounter E1. Here's how I would convert it for 1st level party.

1. Encounter level 2 means it's already level appropriate for 13th Age.

2. Creatures: 4 (weakling) troops, 2 skirmishers (nasty specials), 1 non-combatant.
weakling: 50% strength. We're using definition of a weak creature from
skirmisher: nasty special. Let's say it goes like this: 16+: Target is hampered, save ends, and the wolf pops free from the target.

3. Since the encounters seems pretty interesting, and to keep conversion simple, let's leave it as it is. The stats for brigands will be based on standard creature spread (they're troops, they are supposed to be boring):

Adventure Tier encounter (DCs are 15/20/25 for Normal, Hard and Ridiculously Hard tasks)

4 Weakling Brigands
Size/Strength Normal; Level 1st; Role Troop; Type Humanoid
Initiative +2 (thugs);
Scimitar +6 vs. AC: 4 damage
R: Crossbow vs. AC: 4 damage
AC PD MD HP
17 15 11 13


2 Skirmisher Wolves
Size/Strength Normal; Level 1st; Role Troop (Skirmisher); Type Beast
Initiative +4;
Bite +5 vs. AC; 5 damage
[Nasty Special: Skirmisher] Natural 16+: Target is hampered (basic attacks only), save ends, and the wolf pops free from the target.
Pack attack: This creature gains a +2 bonus to attack and damage for each other ally engaged with the target (max +4 bonus).
AC PD MD HP
17 15 11 28
 

ruemere

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Really specific question:
13 True Ways, p 181 - River Devil Minion. Their primary attack doesn't list its attack roll or target. Anybody know?
It's +18 and it's vs. PD. Full line:

Tentacles and talons +18 vs. PD—60 damage

+18 because the creature is of 13th level.
vs. PD because another tentacled devil uses PD as the target defense.
 

JoeNotCharles

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Hmm. I've taken a look at the very first combat encounter, page 12-13, Encounter E1. Here's how I would convert it for 1st level party.

1. Encounter level 2 means it's already level appropriate for 13th Age.

2. Creatures: 4 (weakling) troops, 2 skirmishers (nasty specials), 1 non-combatant.
weakling: 50% strength. We're using definition of a weak creature from
skirmisher: nasty special. Let's say it goes like this: 16+: Target is hampered, save ends, and the wolf pops free from the target.

3. Since the encounters seems pretty interesting, and to keep conversion simple, let's leave it as it is. The stats for brigands will be based on standard creature spread (they're troops, they are supposed to be boring):

Adventure Tier encounter (DCs are 15/20/25 for Normal, Hard and Ridiculously Hard tasks)

4 Weakling Brigands
Size/Strength Normal; Level 1st; Role Troop; Type Humanoid
Initiative +2 (thugs);
Scimitar +6 vs. AC: 4 damage
R: Crossbow vs. AC: 4 damage
AC PD MD HP
17 15 11 13


2 Skirmisher Wolves
Size/Strength Normal; Level 1st; Role Troop (Skirmisher); Type Beast
Initiative +4;
Bite +5 vs. AC; 5 damage
[Nasty Special: Skirmisher] Natural 16+: Target is hampered (basic attacks only), save ends, and the wolf pops free from the target.
Pack attack: This creature gains a +2 bonus to attack and damage for each other ally engaged with the target (max +4 bonus).
AC PD MD HP
17 15 11 28
I was just going to convert that directly: in 4E it's human brigands and gray wolves, so I was just going to do 2 human thugs and 2 wolves (add more thugs for each character past 4) to get a straight up L1 encounter. I'm not sure I like the idea of making the first encounter with Iron Circle troops "weaklings" - it would leave an impression that the big bads of the adventure are pushovers.

Regardless, what about E4: Hunted! That's supposed to be a bit more dangerous (L3 in 4E, for a 2nd-level party). For 5 chars it's:

1 Iron Circle dark adept (L3 controller leader)
3 Iron Circle brigands (L1 soldier)
4 Iron Circle rabble (L2 minion brute)
1 Rage Drake (L5 brute)

For an L1 party of 4 chars I was going to do:

1 Dark Adept (L2 caster, downlevelled Blue Sorcerer with some damage types swapped)
- counts as 1.5
5 human rabble (L2 mook - they're in a sidebar under Warbanner in Bestiary 2)
- counts as 2
1 Young Dire Wolf (large L2 troop, downlevelled Dire Wolf)
- counts as 3

That's almost a double-strength encounter (counts 7.5 L1 chars). Is that too much?
 

ruemere

Registered User
Validated User
I was just going to convert that directly: in 4E it's human brigands and gray wolves, so I was just going to do 2 human thugs and 2 wolves (add more thugs for each character past 4) to get a straight up L1 encounter. I'm not sure I like the idea of making the first encounter with Iron Circle troops "weaklings" - it would leave an impression that the big bads of the adventure are pushovers.

Regardless, what about E4: Hunted! That's supposed to be a bit more dangerous (L3 in 4E, for a 2nd-level party). For 5 chars it's:

1 Iron Circle dark adept (L3 controller leader)
3 Iron Circle brigands (L1 soldier)
4 Iron Circle rabble (L2 minion brute)
1 Rage Drake (L5 brute)

For an L1 party of 4 chars I was going to do:

1 Dark Adept (L2 caster, downlevelled Blue Sorcerer with some damage types swapped)
- counts as 1.5
5 human rabble (L2 mook - they're in a sidebar under Warbanner in Bestiary 2)
- counts as 2
1 Young Dire Wolf (large L2 troop, downlevelled Dire Wolf)
- counts as 3

That's almost a double-strength encounter (counts 7.5 L1 chars). Is that too much?
Weakling is a technical term, just like a mook. Halve the damage, halve HP, counts as half the same level creature. They don't need to appear weak :)

2 * skirmisher + 4 * 0.5 * weakling = 4 level one creatures, which just about right for 4 level one PCs.

For the E4:
I don't have the adventure with me, and I am on my mobile, so it is difficult to do a conversion. That said:

The difference in levels means that the enemies will hit more often while their AC is going to be higher. Consider downlevelling them all down to 1st level, adding more mooks, changing the wolf to double strength 1st level.
Also, mooks and troops are boring. Mooks die fast, so people won't complain, the wolf however... Give it something that will impart feeling of power and danger...

For example add this to wolf's primary attack:
Natural odd hit: Grab and toss vs. PD: The wolf grabs a medium creature (5 bleeding, save ends) and tosses them playfully into nearby stream/tree/wall (target pops free).
Natural even hit: Intimidating glare vs. MD: The wolf growls menacingly (weak, save ends).

Same deal with the caster.
 
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