Another mechanic I like from 13th Age – Background Traits

As I said in my review of 13th Age the book is chock-full of interesting ideas that can be piked for use in whatever game you may happen to play; i’ve already talked about the escalation dice dice my previous blog post, now i’d like to talk about another interesting mechanic, background traits.

In 13th Age background traits take the place of skills in a more standard D&D game, this background traits can be anything you want, from “queen’s secret assassin”, to “raised by wolves”, “a dwarf with a clockwork heart” or anything else that you can possibly imagine; after creating their traits the player has a number of points to allocate to each, resulting in a modifier against each trait. When it comes to making a test, the player adds the modifiers of any and all background traits to their D20 roll to determine success.
This is quite an interesting mechanic for me and it seems like a hybrid of the more freeform Aspect rules in the Fate system and a more traditional skill system; as someone who is a die-hard fan of the more abstract Fate Accelerated approach to gaming (you can see my original written blog post on Fate Accelerated here and my video review of it here) i’m a great fan of not using more mechanics than necessary, preferring a minimal-crunch approach to my gaming. This is especially true given that i’m current slowly wading into the murky waters of online playing via G+ hangouts and want my players to be able to easily pick up and understand the rules without having to constantly clarify them for the players.
I’ve recently been considering using an Aspect only approach to Fate (as detailed here) but, as has been pointed out to me, that Approach does create a rather huge list of Aspects and involves having to add up the numbers of a lot of Aspects prior to each roll, something which may slow down a game significantly.
Perhaps the solution lies in having a smaller number of freeform Approaches/Traits and giving the characters a number of points to allocate to them (as per the 13th Age rulebook)?
Summary

Using these rules a character would look something like this:
  • Starting refresh/fate points: 5
  • Traits: Character picks 8 Traits (which can be anything), they then receive a number of points (currently i’m thinking 12) that can be allocated between these traits (although no individual trait may be raised above +3 at character gen) 
  • Stunt: 1 (a signature move than can be used to do something cool once per session, as detailed in the Fate Accelerated book- costs 1 FP)
  • Stress: 3 boxes
  • Consequences: 3 consequence boxes
When a character wanted to make a test they would use their highest appropriate Trait and add an additional +1 for every other trait that was applicable.

Escalation Dice

I’m currently reading through the 13th Age RPG (I hope to do a review for my Youtube channel when i’ve finished reading it) which is written by some of the people who worked on both 3rd and 4th edition D&D; although I doubt that i’d ever run the game completely (since, although being described as “medium-crunch”, the game is still a little rulesy for me) but it does contain some very interesting ideas that i’m planning to take and use in my future games.
One of the most interesting to me at the moment is the escalation dice; this is a mechanic where the players (not monsters and NPCs) receive a bonus that starts at +1 on the 2nd round of a combat and increases by +1 each round ( to a maximum of +6) as the combat progresses. This represents the character increasingly finding ways to take advantage of a combat as it progresses, although the GM can reset the escalation bonus to +0 if the characters are avoiding combat or there is a sufficient.
I love this idea and can see how it would help prevent prolonged combats where the enemies and PCs are just slugging it out; this may be something I look at using in Fate in the future.