Our first actual playtime in our 13th Age campaign set in the vast Stonewood was last night, so here are some thoughts on an extended lead-in ramp, designing as a GM and other bits.

Our desire to kickoff a roleplaying game from our larger boardgaming group was met with enthusiasm by the 6 of us. We chatted about various game and style options. We had initially intended to play D&D 4E as it has a great on-the-table combat experience and we even came up with some basic character concepts. I bought the basic books for the system when it came out all those years ago, but hadnt played so I was keen to try it. But after a bit we changed to 13th Age to get a more story-centric experience that still brought the classic fantasy combat onto the table at the same time and hopefully the same ‘roll for initiative’ experience. This change made the upcoming game more exciting for our veteran roleplayers (getting to play with a new system with lots of good ideas in it). We also have some players new to roleplaying altogether and while 13th age wasnt created for this level of player, we went in hoping it would all work out as a group.
With 13th Age locked in we actually had a few weeks before we could actually start playing so we started a whole process of world and character building, mostly via email but with a few separate catchups esp to help the new players. This time became a really fun experience for me (and I think the others) as ideas flowed in from everyone and I tried to bring every one of them into the game in some form. With each email thread, characters evolved, their backstories intertwined and the world gained detail and texture. To get the game format going we needed Icons which flowed out of the discussions for heroic, ambiguous and villainous personalities in the region. 
I think it shows people’s enthusiasm when they happily did world creation homework of various sorts. So, while diving in and playing would have been fun, in the end this breathing space allowed us time to sort out lots of things and play at world building and collective storytelling.
OK, onto the game, I did more prep than I intended and maybe that railroaded things more than I intend for our campaign, but I didnt really mind this for our first session where it really was intended to serve as a launch point for our new players and time for us all to learn the mechanics and get a feel for everyone’s role in and out of combat. Though I probably need to be more animated as a GM and weave more complexity into the choices the characters need to make, the heroes had a tough time but pulled through 3 combat encounters all still breathing and showing they can certainly dish it out when needed.
While I have access to quite alot of miniatures I was keen to give Pawns a try as they allowed me to create custom versions for all the various types of Fanglings the heroes were coming up against. They also bring a certain style to the tabletop and thought they arent 3D they look groovy. I didnt take the time to give each custom pawn a ‘back’ which was a mistake since they looked kinda blank for people on the wrong side of the table.  That said it meant we did have nice pawns for the giant scorpions, the various fanglings and even semi-suitable pawns for the characters themselves.
I think each character got to shine at some points. Garm the veteran warrior had a few moments where he unloaded on the enemies with brutal force, Erevan the wizard let loose a few spells that really changed the battle. Navi the little rogue detected traps and got some nice backstabs in. Dalgar the cleric was keeping people alive while diving into the front lines and Raf our bard sang and chanted in both supportive and offensive ways.
One of the challenges for me now is to try and craft an adventure that doesnt feel like a string of combat encounters even if that is how the game structure works. Giving the players options and decisions to make that alter the environment and progress the story in fun ways.