"Statless" 13th Age

Written by Ryven Cedrylle.

Why Eliminate Stats?

1) In a game that wants to give you mechanics to expound on your backstory and interact with the big movers and shakers of the world (Backgrounds, Relationships, OUTs), hard measurements of a character’s abilities seems out of place – a relic of systems gone by.

2) Justifying which ability score to use for which skill check can be fuzzy. I don’t run fast because I’m all lean and lithe, it’s because I’ve got these big meaty legs that propel me around. That’s Strength, not Dexterity. My persuasive speaking style? Not Charisma. I’m smart – it’s Intelligence. I debate. Doesn’t mean I’m attractive in any other way. Sometimes no ability really makes sense.

3) Since Dexterity and Constitution and used in determining AC, PD, HP and initiative, they’re more mathematically important than the other four stats for combat and classes that get to use them as to-hit stats are inherently better or more efficient. (For example, take a Level 1 {10/18/18/10/10/10} Human Ranger. You’ve got 33 HP, a 19 AC, a 16 PD, an 11 MD [the one pitfall] and a +5 initiative bonus. Also, you hit at +4 with +4 damage. That would require an 18 STR, 18 DEX and 16 CON for the Fighter to not quite match. You’re probably also as tough as and faster than a Paladin that’s using both STR and CHA. You might have trouble with skill checks… maybe.)

Characters made using the statless system proposed here will all be closer to the Ranger example than the Fighter, so the gamemaster should be aware that some characters will be getting a slight but not overpowering mechanical boost and should prepare appropriately. In actuality it's a slight downgrade for the optimized Ranger and Rogue, about the same (plus or minus) for the Paladin, Barabarian, Fighter and Cleric depending on build and a nice little helping hand for the caster classes. Characters taking Talents from other classes or strange build combinations like bow-based Clerics will also find a significant benefit.


Basic Modifications

Getting rid of stats for 13th Age is actually quite easy, there are only a few changes you have to make to the core game to accommodate using Backgrounds instead of stats.

*When characters reach levels 4, 7 and 10, instead of the usual +1 to three ability scores, you get +1 to a Background up to the usual maximum of +5. These points can be used to create new Backgrounds reflecting your adventures, or as your campaigns unfolds, add the additional point and rewrite one of your original Backgrounds. Your “Silver Hand Mercenary +2” might become “Silver Hand Traitor +3” or "Silver Hand Captain +3" depending on how your relationship with the Silver Hand has gone so far.

*If you take bonus Background points via Feats such as Further Backgrounding or the Ranger’s Tracker Talent, those do not apply to your stats. We are only interested in the 8 Background points all characters gain at creation, plus the bonus points characters get as they increase in Level if adding those points to a previous Background or creating a new one would alter the calculation of bonuses.

Gamemasters might consider dropping all skill check DCs by about 3 to 5 since ability scores won’t get added in anymore, or may opt to leave them at their default values for an added challenge.

PD, MD, and Initiative

Start with your top three highest Backgrounds (if you only have two Backgrounds, assume a third “0” Background). Distribute these bonuses among PD, MD, and Initiative in place of the normal stat bonuses.

Example: A Level 1 Barbarian has four Backgrounds at +4, +2 and +1 and another +1. She takes the highest three, giving her +4, +2, and a +1. She wants a good PD, so she adds the +4 and her level to her base 11 to get a 16 PD. She also wants a decent Initiative so she uses the +2 for that. (+3 total with level) Her MD has to use the final score, so she adds her base 10 with her level and her +1, giving her a total of 12 MD.


Armor, HP, and Recovery

Again, starting with your top three highest Backgrounds, take the two with the lowest value. If you are using light armor you may apply them to your HP and your AC bonus as you see fit. If you are wearing heavy armor, you must use your lowest Background for AC and middle for HP. Your Recovery bonus is equal to the bonus assigned to your HP. If a character decides to change what type of armor they wear, feel free to recalculate your stats.

Example: Our Level 1 Barbarian’s three highest Backgrounds are +4, +2, and +1, but she ignores the +4 since it is her highest Background. She is wearing light armor, so she gets to choose how she adds her +2 and +1 to her HP and AC bonuses. She decides to add the +2 to her AC, and the +1 to her HP. She uses the Barbarian’s base value for light armor of 12, then adds her level, then her Background bonus of +2 for a total of 15 AC (12+2+1). She then takes the Barbarian’s base HP of 7, adds her Background of +1, and multiplies it times the level 1 HP modifier of 3 for a total of 24 HP (7+1 x 3). She also takes her HP bonus and applies it to the Recovery formula for a Barbarian, giving her (D10 x Level) +1.

For comparison, our Barbarian is AC 15, PD 16, MD 12, Init +2, 24 HP.
Standard {18/12/16/10/10/10} Barbarian has AC 14, PD 15, MD 11, Init +3, 24 HP
Standard {18/16/12/10/10/10} Barbarian has AC 14, PD 14, MD 11, Init +2, 30 HP
Our Barbarian is a bit improved but not overwhelmingly so.

Incidentally, if she were wearing heavy armor, she would not had a choice how she distributed her Background points, and would have to add her +1 to her armor, and +2 to her HP. The Barbarian’s base value for heavy armor is 13, then she adds her level, then her Background bonus of +1 for a total of 15 AC (13+1+1). She then takes the Barbarians base HP of 7, adds her Background of +2, and multiplies it times the level 1 HP modifier of 3 for a total of 27 HP (7+2 x 3). She also takes her HP bonus and applies it to the Recovery formula for a Barbarian, giving her (D10 x Level) +2.This might seem like a much better deal than the light armor, but Barbarians who wear heavy armor also receive a -2 penalty to their attack rolls!


Provided are two variant options for calculating combat bonuses. Variant 1 is much more straightforward, assigning all classes a Primary bonus based on which stat they traditionally emphasize, with all else gaining a Secondary bonus. These characters are probably going to be slightly stronger than their Variant 2 counterparts, and the game will definitely tend to favor Casters such as the Cleric, Wizard, and Sorceror who become much more proficient in melee. Variant 2 allows players to create a custom tailored fighting style, at the expense of some finnicky rules to account for certain abilities. It also tends to swing the balance of the game very slightly more in favor of martial classes such as the Fighter, Ranger, and Barbarian.

Attacks (Variant 1)

Apply your best Background bonus to Attack rolls and Damage rolls for any Attacks, Talents, or Powers using the primary stat for your class in the table below. For Attacks, Talents, or Powers which would normally receive a damage bonus based on a stat other than the Primary, use the second highest Background for any Attack and Damage roll bonuses. The primary might change based on Talent choice if it allows for attacks to be made with a different stat.


Class Primary Stat
Barbarian Strength
Bard Charisma
Cleric Wisdom
Fighter Strength
Paladin Charisma
Ranger Dexterity
Rogue Dexterity
Sorcerer Charisma
Wizard Intelligence


Example: Our level 1 Barbarian’s  highest Background is +4 and her second highest Background is +2. Because Strength is normally the modifier used for Barbarian Melee attacks and it is also the Barbarian’s primary stat, she uses her highest Background of +4 and adds her Level vs. AC to determine her Attack rolls for her Melee attacks. If she hits, she rolls her Weapon damage dice equal to her level, and adds her +4. Ranged attacks for Barbarians normally Dexterity, so she would add her second highest Background of +2 since it is not her primary stat. If she somehow manages to cast a spell or two, those spells are also +2 to hit and +2 damage as appropriate.

Attacks (Variant 2)

Take your top three Backgrounds and apply one each to your Powers, Melee, and Ranged Attack roll and Damage bonuses. A few abilities call for two modifiers, such as Turn Undead, which normally calls for a Wisdom and a Charisma bonus. For these instances, use your Powers bonus, as well as the next-lower Background in the top three Backgrounds array (If you only have two Backgrounds, or your Casting Background is already the lowest of your top three, assume a “0” Background). Abilties and Class Features such as the Fighter’s Threatening which are not necessarily directly tied to Powers, Melee, or Ranged will default to the second highest Background value. Flexible Attacks such as Fighter’s Maneuvers and Bard’s Battle Cries will always use the bonus associated with the type of attack which they trigger off of. Ignore abilities such as Part A of the Bard’s Loremaster and Mythkenner Class Talent which change the ability modifier spells apply.

Example: Our friend is now making a Level 1 Cleric, and his three highest Backgrounds are +4, +3, and +1. He thinks he wants to be a really good brawler, so he assigns his +4 to his Melee Attack roll and Damage bonus. He also wants to be able to support his group, so he assigns his +3 to his Powers. He doesn’t think he will used Ranged much on his battle Cleric, so he assigns his +1 there. Our example Cleric would Turn Undead using his Level, his Powers background of +3, and the next lowest at +1 for a total of +4.

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