While the 13th Age Bestiary was in playtesting, we heard some fun stories about groups that temporarily allied with monsters and wanted guidelines about how to handle their unlikely allies. Here’s Jonathan’s advice to GMs on handling this unusual situation, along with a paragraph I’ve inserted that addresses healing. –Rob Heinsoo
By Jonathan Tweet
13th Age campaigns where diplomacy or skullduggery are options sometimes end up with creatures that start as monsters fighting alongside the party. This can cause some problems if all the new ally’s abilities are handled exactly as they were when the creature was functioning as an enemy of the PCs.
If 13th Age were a simulation, then monsters and characters would be interchangeable objects. You would be expected to treat the monstrous ally as written, so it would act, for example, “the way a naga really would act.” But 13th Age is only partially a simulation, and both PCs and monsters are hand-crafted to fit their distinct roles at the table.
GMs, if a monster joins the party, consider each of its special abilities to see whether that ability makes sense for a creature functioning as a PC. Feel free to interpret special abilities loosely. These monsters aren’t like cards in a collectible card game, where you have to follow the letter of the card text.
The goal is to make these temporary alliances fun rather than weird or exploitative. Given how many surprises can lurk within mechanical combinations the game wasn’t expecting to handle, don’t be shy about changing interpretations on the fly. So long as your intentions are good and the results are amusing, the players should thank you.
Here are some example adjustments.
Powerful monster abilities: Certain per-battle abilities, such as demonic teleportation or trollish regeneration, are abusive if they can be used every five minutes. If they are powerful, they might be too decisive and repetitive as per-encounter powers. In such cases, assign the power a recharge roll. 11+ is usually fair, and it provides variation between battles.
Escalation die interactions: Abilities that reduce the escalation die can be thought of as reducing the enemies’ access to the escalation die, if any. Those abilities should work against dragons, but if the party happens to have a frost giant ally, don’t always penalize them with a slower escalation die. Once, perhaps, for dramatic flavor, but as a rule such abilities are meant to be used when the monster is fighting the PCs, not allied to them.
Flying: A monster’s long-range flying ability may be far more limited than its write-up mentions. It may be limited in how far it can fly in a day or how long it can fly without a quick rest. The monster write-ups describe how well a creature flies in a battle, when its life depends on it.
Monsters that are tougher when hurt: If the PCs end up exploiting a monster’s power by dealing it damage, keeping it staggered, putting minor effects on it, or that sort of thing, the power could probably use a re-interpretation. A “when staggered” power, for example, might be re-imagined as “when staggered, and for up to 5 minutes a day.”
Healing: If the PCs want to use precious healing spells, commands, or potions to keep monstrous allies alive, you should probably let them, at least once per battle. Treat the monster as if it has a single recovery that can be used in each battle, regaining 25% of its starting hit points when it does so. Heinsoo’s version would have you roll a d4 and multiply the result by 10% to find out the percentage of the monster’s hit points it regains using the recovery, so do whichever you like. If you want the monster to heal a bit between battles, that’s fine, but you probably want it to heal less than the PCs to help the PCs feel special.
Out of combat possibilities: Certain battle abilities might suggest other capacities that the monster could use while exploring or interacting with people. At the GM’s option, for example, a confusion ability could be used to fast-talk someone. Again, even if that ability is an at-will power in battles as a monster, it probably works best if it’s being used on the PC’s side as a power that only has a chance of recharging. Obviously there could be some extremely surprising stories resulting from abilities used by allied monsters, but if they seem like they’re overshadowing the PCs’ abilities, backgrounds, and One Unique Things, then the recharge on the monster’s ability is too low or the ability itself needs to be toned down.
By Rob Heinsoo
The text below is from a 13 True Ways Kickstarter update I posted yesterday. Since it talks about material that will also interest everyone buying 13 True Ways on pre-order or ordering it from their hobby shop, I’m posting the update here as well.
By now most of you will have seen the 13 True Ways PDF, except for those old-fashioned souls who want to wait for the printed book. I know there are some of you because Jonathan is one! Yes, Jonathan Tweet doesn’t want to spoil the surprise by looking at the PDF. Since I handle art and layout and editing communication, Jonathan still doesn’t know what the final book is going to look like, apart from the text, so if you are waiting for the printed book later this summer you have some good company.
Along with the final printed books there are other backer rewards in the works, such as dice and t-shirts and postcards. Those are all at various stages in the production queue, and I can’t predict when they all will be ready.
For now I want to talk about another aspect of 13 True Ways delivery: the other PDFs that are going to show up on your computer in coming months.
We ended the Kickstarter promising a 180-page book. Once we got into the design phase, our labor-of-love approach pushed us up to 256 pages. And because it was a labor of love, Jonathan and I prioritized the things we thought would be the most fun, and held our work to a very high standard. If we felt meh about something, and believed that you would feel meh about it too, it didn’t go in. We ended up delivering on all the stretch goals in the Kickstarter along with all the backer rewards, but some of our ideas in the original 13 True Ways Kickstarter plan didn’t make it into the book.
So here’s what we plan to do about it.
We’re going to finish those pieces properly as part of the upcoming subscription-based 13th Age annual (name to be determined), along the lines of the excellent Ken Writes About Stuff from Pelgrane Press. I should be clear that the we I’m mentioning includes me, but not always the other members of the original 13TW team. Sometimes I’ll be the designer, other times I’ll act as developer with other talented contributors handling the design work. Sometimes we’ll be completing work that I started on 13 True Ways but didn’t finish to my satisfaction.
13TW Kickstarter backers will have two options when the annual goes live:
- You can choose to get only the issues that contain 13 True Ways follow-up content, for free
- You can choose to purchase the entire first 13th Age annual at a discount which covers all of the free content to which you’re entitled, plus a bit extra
Not every month’s installment will contain 13 True Ways follow-up content, and there’s no set schedule about when a particular piece of 13 True Ways follow-up content will be completed. This may stretch out for quite some time, because during the design phase of 13 True Ways we unexpectedly hit on a few things that could serve as the basis for larger books. If they do get turned into books, when those surprises get unveiled we’ll send a related freebie to 13TW backers. Think of this operation as a purchase that keeps on providing surprising micro-rewards.
With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and list the things that didn’t make it into 13 True Ways and my current thoughts on how they’ll be part of the 13th Age annual subscription, or not.
Appearing in the annual at some point
- Details on forests & woods to make them distinct: This grew into something a bit different than I thought originally.
- More on gladiatorial games: Yeah, there’s some more we can explore here.
- Rules for dragon-riding: I know that a lot of you were really looking forward to this—I was, too—and some of you even backed the project because of it. So I’ll be blunt: so far all the systems we’ve come up with have been worse than no system at all in terms of their impact on the game. I’m not interested in publishing bad systems, and I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in getting them. ASH and I are continuing to work on these rules, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure they get included in the first annual. I can promise that we’re not going to shrug our shoulders and send you something that we think isn’t worth using, just so we can check off a box on our to-do list. We’ll get it to work because I know ASH will kill me if we don’t.
- Illustrated comparisons of the adventurer, champion, and epic tier: We’ll do these, but probably not by Aaron and Lee.
- Some fantastic maps of the overworld and portions of the underworld: Ditto.
- A cutaway map of a typical elven wood: Same.
Partially appearing in the annual after their actual potential is realized in future books
- Racial feats: because they do appear to have a place in the game, but that place may come as a surprise.
- Feats associated with the icons: same story. The obvious mechanics weren’t so good, but there is something interesting hidden behind the idea.
- Stats for the 13 icons themselves: As the game evolved and matured through further development and play, we became increasingly convinced that this was an idea we didn’t want to pursue half-cocked. You can see the care we took detailing the 4 backer-created NPCs in the Gamemasters’ Grimoire chapter of 13TW. In a sense, those NPCs function a bit like mini-icons, and our final approach to this topic may bear some resemblance to the multi-option approach used for the NPCs. But when I say ‘final approach,’ I’m acknowledging that this isn’t something we intend to pursue soon. When we do finally take this path, it’s almost certainly going to be the basis for a book rather than a slice of a different book. In the near-ish future, we will be doing monster-style stats for various servants and followers of the icons. Some of the high-level lieutenants of the icons will find their way into a 13TW-backers update to provide touches of the high-level play people might have been looking for from actual icon stats.
There are also going to be surprise backer freebies along the way, some of which expand on ideas that made it into 13TW.
That’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll be in touch about the annual’s start date and other details once we’ve built the plan out further, probably before or around GenCon.
Yours in the whirl,
Lead Designer, Fire Opal Media
You may recall that the first batch of 100 limited edition copies of 13th Age sold out around this time last year. You may also remember that we printed 200 limited editions in all. We’re giving some away for a secret reward and this month, we’re releasing 60 more.
The books are faux leather with gold foil. Each one includes a sticky-backed book plate signed by the four creators for you to add to the book.
We are not offering an upgrade version.
The book retails at $100 / £65 plus shipping.
You can order it here under Recent Releases.
Let us have a moment of silence for the defeated monsters.
Now, let us take their stuff.
What’s In This Book
That’s both an answer and an exhortation. Yes, 13th Age is all about the story and the awesome action, but we’ve all got a treasure-hungry munchkin inside of us, and it’s time to let that grubby-fingered kid out to play.
The Book of Loot is full of more magic items to be found, stolen, given as rewards or otherwise looted by the player characters. We’ve also thrown in a short chapter on ways to make mundane treasure more interesting, and a selection of new one-use magic items.
|Stock #: PEL13A06
||Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
|Artist: Joshua Calloway, Cougar George
||Pages: 72 page perfect bound
If you got your hands on a copy of Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Free RPG Day adventure Make Your Own Luck, you may have noticed that it’s a great adventure. You may have also noticed a couple of typos.
Wizard pre-gen: the descriptions for abjuration and evocation are switched.
Rogue pre-gen’s powers: the rogue’s powers accidentally got left off – here’s what should be on the sheet:
Power: Evasive Strike. If you hit with this attack, pop free from your enemy.
Power: Deadly Thrust. If you use this attack, add your Strength modifier (+1) to your attack roll
Power: Sure Cut. If you use this attack when sneak attacking, spend momentum to add your Sneak Attack damage if you miss.
Power: Tumbling Strike. If you use this attack, you get a +5 to disengaging and can move in, attack, and disengage as a quick action.
Power: Roll With It. Spend momentum when an enemy hits your AC to take half damage.
To celebrate Free RPG Day we’ve invited some well-known members of the 13th Age community to play Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s adventure Make Your Own Luck online via Roll20 and Google Hangouts!
We’ll stream the event live here, then archive it on the 13th Age YouTube channel.
On Saturday, June 21st at 3:00 PM EST / noon Pacific join:
You can pick up your own copy of Make Your Own Luck on Saturday (find a participating retailer.)
Many thanks to our GM team and all the players who attended our games at Origins this year. We sold out of all of our games, and even squeezed in some walk-ups in the scheduled games. Kendall Jung did an amazing job of managing our play events at the show. Onward to Gen Con!
Free RPG Day
Make Your Own Luck, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s prequel to the upcoming Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, is our contribution to this year’s Free RPG Day — you can get it on Saturday, June 21 at your nearest participating game retailer. We’ve heard that some stores are giving GMs their copies in advance so they can run the adventure on the day of release, so you might want to ring up your local store and see if they’ve scheduled a play event.
(Because some folks have asked: Free RPG Day is a retailer-sponsored event created to support game stores, so we’re not giving away PDF copies of the game.)
Make Your Own Luck: Live Play Crossover Event!
In much the same way that Nick Fury assembled the Avengers, for Free RPG Day we’ve assembled a team of players to play Make Your Own Luck via Google Hangout and Roll20 on Saturday, June 21st at 3:00 PM EST / noon Pacific:
Join us live on Aaron’s YouTube channel on Saturday, and watch the mayhem unfold.
Domain of the Dwarf King will go live soon. At Rob Heinsoo’s request it features a dwarf centipede. (I guess I know what Dutch horror movie Rob watched last night.)
Domain of the Dwarf King concludes the Orc War trilogy, and will see the final defeat of General Gul. Or not — that’s up to the adventurers.
The next big Organized Play installment after Domain of the Dwarf King is the first of our champion-tier games: Escape from the Diabolist’s Dungeon!
State of Play
We’e now up to 1186 GMs running Tales of the 13th Age worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. If you know anybody in an Antarctic research station who wants a copy of 13th Age let us know!
by Rob Heinsoo
When I read the fun Wrath of the Orc Lord organized-play adventure written by ALL CAPS MAN, aka ASH LAW, I decided I’d want another orc variety or two if I was running the adventure myself. For those keeping pace with the 13th Age OP seasons, Wrath of the Orc Lord is just about over. But I suspect a lot of groups will still be experiencing Wrath and (not-really-a-spoiler-alert) ASH says that the Domain of the Dwarf King adventure coming up in a few weeks also features orcs.
So here’s a new 3rd level orc mook that can sub in for 3rd level Cave Orc mooks or used any other way you like.
My thought process designing the monster went like this:
- I’ve got some nice orc minis with spears and shields.
- What’s an interesting reason orcs would be fighting with spears?
- To keep them at a distance from their foes, so that they wouldn’t lapse into bestial bloodlust, throw away their weapons, and fight with their bare hands and teeth.
- OK, so the Orc Lord equips these savage grunts with spears and cheap shields because they do fight better with weapons, but when they lose control or things go badly for them they throw away their weapons and shields and revert to scavenger behavior. So they’re not even trained in throwing spears, and the spears are probably deliberately badly-balanced for throwing.
- Looks like two different stat blocks, one for fighting with weapons, one for when the Orc Lord’s discipline has been shattered and they’re fighting tooth and claw.
The results follow. Start battles using the orc spear grunt, which are tougher than most other mooks. Their bestial reversion ability means they might turn into savage grunts midway through the battle.
The savage grunts have a strange ability which is me messing around a bit: their feral aversion ability kicks in whenever they start their turn engaged with a non-staggered enemy, you roll a die and you don’t know if the orc is going to use that die roll to attack (standard action) or disengage (move action).
Orc Spear Grunt
3rd level mook [humanoid]
Spear +8 vs. AC—7 damage
Mob of seven: The maximum size of a mob of orc spear grunts is 7 mooks. When you include more than seven orc spear grunts in a battle, use another mob.
Bestial reversion: When an orc spear grunt’s attack drops an enemy to 0 hp or below, or when one or more orc spear grunts drops, roll a single normal save for the orc spear grunt mob, with a bonus to the roll equal to the number of remaining mooks in the mob (for example, 4 mooks left = +4). If the save fails, all the remaining mooks in the mob cast away their weapons and shields and become savage grunts until the end of the battle (use that stat block instead).
PD 16 HP 13 (mook)
Mook: Kill one orc spear grunt for every 13 damage you deal to the mob.
3rd level mook [humanoid]
Claw and teeth +6 vs. AC—5 damage
Feral aversion: When a savage grunt is engaged with a non-staggered target at the start of its turn, roll a d20 that will become either an attack roll or a disengage check!
On a natural even roll, the grunt uses the roll as a claws and teeth attack.
On a natural odd roll, the grunt uses that roll as disengage check that may or may not succeed. If the grunt disengages, it will move to engage and attack a staggered enemy, if possible. If the grunt doesn’t disengage, it will stay and fight.
PD 15 HP 10 (mook)
Mook: Kill one savage grunt for every 10 damage you deal to the mob.
13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.
Pelgrane Press will be at Origins Game Fair on June 11-14, running the following 4-hour games in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. You can find a master spreadsheet at http://originsgamefair.com/events/games/. Hope to see you there!
||Event Start Date/Time
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Thu 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Thu 6:00 PM
||13th Age – The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle
||Fri 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Fri 2:00 PM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Sat 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Omenquest
||Sat 11:00 AM
||13th Age – Fungaloid Infection
||Sat 2:00 PM
||13th Age – The Folding of Screamhaunt Castle
||Sat 4:00 PM
||Trail of Cthulhu – Voices from the Other Side
||Sat 4:00 PM
||13th Age – Danger at Deathless Gulch
||Sun 10:00 AM
||13th Age – Caverns & Cave-Creepers
||Sun 11:00 AM
We’ve printed 100 limited editions in all, and we are releasing them now for Hatchling Edition pre-orderers only. The books are faux black leather with gold foil. Each one includes a numbered book plate signed by Rob Heinsoo for you to add to the book. They will also include a limited edition A5 print of everyone’s favourite baby owlbear facing off a bronze golem.
We are not offering an upgrade version to existing Bestiary customers.
The book retails at $80 / £50 plus shipping.
As promised, we are emailing all 13th Age Bestiary Hatchling Edition customers with instructions how to order. If we don’t sell out, we’ll open it up next to the rest of the Bestiary pre-orderers, and if there are any left after that, we’ll open it up to everyone.