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13th Age: The Lay of the Land

My ongoing 13th Age Campaign just finished “Season 2″, and as the GM I’ve been looking back over what we’ve done and thinking about what we should do next. Because our campaign is very freeform, what happens in each session/episode is very fluid; I come prepared with the first scene and the table fills in what that means. So end-of-season is when I take stock and try to figure out what we’ve done that we all like, and how to steer the ship in that direction.

If you’re like me, that means you think to yourself,

“Self, I’m feeling retrospective, and I want to look back and see all the various threads we’ve started and which things tie together. If only I had a huge map to lay it all out.”

Well, that’s crazy. I didn’t make a huge map to lay it all out; I made five.

The first is a throwback to the idyllic end of season 1, and where we stood back then (click to embiggen):

Season 1 Map

You can see that most of this revolved around a few key players: mostly it’s PCs and Icons, with a few interesting NPCs and groups in there. The interplay between the islands is pretty small. (The yellow highlights are for later; ignore them for now.)

If you look closely you’ll find some stuff you’ve probably forgotten; some lady told Vessel to beware “the one without a name”; the Invaders escaped but we never found out who they were; etc. I’m curious what the answers are to all those questions, but I’m not really sure we’ll ever know.

But I was curious who got the most screen time, so I made a heat map with a 15% opaque box that covers the major players in each of the eight episodes:

Season 1 Heat Map

You see that Arroway is featured a lot (4 eps), which jives with my recollection. But Vessel (4 eps) and Nameless (4 eps) were very good at bringing themselves into the stories in big ways even when the story wasn’t about them per se. Törk (3 eps) plays a more supporting role, but does something interesting: he brings in two of the big NPCs we’ll love most: The Butcher and Dral. The only other contender for lovability is Silor, who by virtue of being in the 2-parter wins the screentime race.

Now let’s skip to the end of Season 2 and check our map again (our new PCs get blue lines to help us distinguish them):

Season 2 Map

Things are starting to get complicated. We’ve got a lot more groups vying for attention, and lots of them are starting to interact with each other as a result. We see the Obsidian Salamanders and the One True God nestle up close; we see the Törk’s little triangle with the Orc Lord and Dral get a center of gravity; wee see Silor connect himself to everything he can; we see him get beat out by the Elf Queen and the Priestess as they each pick up a pair of new related PCs; and we see the icons get beat out by the 8-outgoing connections of Arroway, still the most-connected thing on the map.

The yellow boxes are those elements with large unresolved story points that I’m aiming to be the tentpoles of season 3. What is the Butcher out for? What does his gauntlet do? What’s Törk’s grand attempt? Who are the Fallen? Who survived the wreck of The Resolute? Why was it carrying the Devouring Chest and the Guantlet? What happens to Ethril? Who is Silor working for? What’s up with the Salamanders and the One True God? And the Undead are a problem, but we have no idea why…

For fun, take your favorite Grand Unified Theory and draw a circle around the elements that make it up. See how big of an area it covers. See what else seems to want to fall inside.

Let’s look at a heat map for season 2:

Season 2 Heat Map

Nameless (+6 eps) and Vessel (+5 eps) are starting to pull ahead, but Törk (+6 eps) has really found his footing, while Arroway (+2 eps) falls behind. The new PCs are all in lighter sections (1 for Nat, 2 for Malena, 3 for Eyon and Purge), but that’s to be expected as they joined so late

Finally, I made a heat map that combines season 1 and 2:

Season 1-2 Heat Map

Look for shapes more than details, and this shows the focus of the show so far: the major PCs light up, and various areas around them and relationships from them come into view. You can also clearly see which of the Icons are featured most (Priestess, Three, and Dwarf King), which jives with the other graph I sent out before.

I encouraged my PCs to take some time to look at these graphs as they leveled up to 5th Level: maybe that icon relationship they were thinking about would be better spent on some other thing they want to see featured more. Maybe they wanted to play a slightly different style to lean their little blue blob toward some other direction.

But whatever you think of them, these graphs show that together, we’ve created something big and interesting, with lots of nooks and crannies left to explore. I can’t wait to check a few more of them out.