"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." -- Galatians 5:13*
I love me some 13th Age. I love each character having One Unique Thing. I love the backgrounds instead of skills. I love the escalation die. I love the Icons and relationship rolls. I love all the quirky flavor that the default setting has. I love simplified combat with fixed monster damage. I love magic items with personalities. HOWEVER: I do not love the character classes, though they're fun. I do not love the complexity of the game, though it's only slightly more baroque than I am seeking. I do not love the math behind the skill system, or the actual mechanics for icon relationship rolls. I do not actually love the 13th Age setting (though it's growing on me).
So far, I am really liking D&D 5e, though I haven't played it yet. I'm playing it two or three times this weekend. Based on my own analysis and that of others smarter about such things (like Rob Donoghue), I think this system is exactly what I'm seeking. Except it's missing all the cool stuff I love about 13th Age.
No problem! The 13th Age rules themselves tell you, hey, even if you don't play this game, steal its ideas for your other game. So I'll probably play 5e for a while to give it a chance as-is and then start grafting on 13th Age ideas.
Ideas that are easily transported from 13th Age in to D&D 5:
* One Unique Thing. Is there any reason each D&D character can't just have One Unique Thing, as long as it isn't an explicit combat ability?
* Backgrounds. The skill system in 5e isn't all that interesting. It really doesn't hurt that much, I think, to drop in backgrounds instead. They're far more /interesting/.
* Icons. Any setting can have icons. Characters are the main tool for Icons to break out of their equilibrium. Now PCs make a difference. Now PCs have relationships to the setting in a tangible way. Just import some kind of a Success/Success with Trouble/Failure roll, even if it's the same, weird 1d6 roll 13th Age uses.
* Quirky Magic Items. Every magic item has a personality. You attune to the magic item, and that makes you take on some of its personality traits.
* Escalation Die. At the very least, just use it as a straight-up combat accelerator. There won't be any D&D tricks that use the escalation die, but that's okay. Much faster combats.
* Fixed Monster Damage. I think this might already be a 5e rule (maybe optional). Just average damage (5d6 damage becomes 18 damage) and use that number. Much faster combats.
* Zones / Ranges / Engagement. 13th Age has some elegant rules for engagement, adjacency, and zoned ranges. Movement is freeform and mostly Theater of the Mind. I think this is pretty compatible with 5e. The 13th Age classes are built pretty heavily around this stuff, so who knows how well this transports without those class talents. I'll need to play around with this one.
Here are some house rules I'll probably use, too. They are not actually from 13th Age, but I wouldn't have come up with them without 13th Age suggesting certain ideas:
* Simplified Damage for PCs. Fighters do 1d10 (1d8 ranged) with their main weapon. Clerics do 1d8 (1d6 ranged). Rogues do 1d6 (1d8 ranged, 1d8 with a dagger). Wizards do 1d4 (1d6 ranged). Want to play a wizard with a sword? Fine, 1d4 damage. Want to be a fighter with a knife? 1d10 damage. Actual choices for dice need to be playtested and tweaked.
* Activating Magic Items. As you level up, if you get more than a couple magic items, it's hard to play all their personalities. Each magical power comes with a personality quirk and has a checkbox next to it. Role-play that quirk, check the box. At the end of an adventure session (or maybe long rest), uncheck all the boxes.
What things do you want to transport from 13th Age into D&D 5th Edition?
* I'm really not religious. This just amused me. Also, if you're transporting 5e ideas back into 13th Age, I think we should call that NextAge.