The Naperville Freaks, Geeks and Weirdos meetup group hosted a One-Shot RPG gathering at Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL. Ben Roby ran a modified version of the Blood & Lightning adventure from 13th Age and sent us the following play report.
Ben and his co-GM Sarah are running 13th Age again in March. Register for 13th Age: Quest for the Twilight Lotus.
The adventure was planned to fit into six hours with a short amount of character development in the beginning. Basically I had all the crunchy bits completed and let the players develop their own unique thing, backgrounds, and icon relationships. The adventure was a heavily modified and abbreviated version of Blood and Lightning. Basically I made the adventure adapt to whatever icons the characters chose to associate with.
As we sat down for the session I got a feel for everyone’s roleplaying experience. I explained that there would be a lot of familiar stuff but three big features characterized 13th Age: Unique Things, Icons, and Backgrounds.
The one unique thing got them excited to have a personalized touch to their character. Since I had been play testing 13th Age for several months, I used examples from our regular game to give them ideas of what to invent. The party consisted of a bard version of Indiana Jones, a paladin who was the beloved of the Elf King, a ranger raised by wolves, the last scion of a Demon Touched Drow noble house of sorcerers, and a Halfling who was fathered by the Prince of Shadows after stealing her from a God’s mind.
When we moved to Icon Relationships I jotted down everyone’s connections. It became apparent that the Elf Queen was the common thread and only one evil icon was present – The Lich King, who had a complicated relationship with the Bard in her exploration of tombs for magical artifacts. I jotted down some notes and circled the appropriate alterations in my adventure to make the villain the Lich King, and their patrons the Elf Queen and High Druid.
I explained the difference of backgrounds from a skill list and let the players define them using their unique thing and icon relationship as inspiration. The players wrote down ideas and allocated their points. I encouraged a few players to crank up the flavor in their backgrounds (Thieves Guild became “Brotherhood of 1,000 blades”, etc.)
Once all the characters were ready, we began the adventure. The Dark Elf sorcerer was given a chance to redeem his house in the Elven Court by retrieving an ancient artifact from Boltstrike Spire: Glazentorg, a gauntlet able to wield vast amounts of energy. The gauntlet was being used to charge one of the last remaining Grey Towers along the Iron Sea. Once fully charged, the tower would maintain the wards keeping the horrors of the sea at bay. The Elf queen had hired an expert in magical artifacts (The Bard), a military commander (Paladin), as well as two emissaries from the High Druid (Ranger and Rogue). The sorcerer eagerly agreed to regain some favor for his house.
A High Elf accompanied them as a guide and gave me the opportunity to casually inquire about their characters. As they did so, I occasionally interjected and described how the terrain was changing. It gave the players a chance to get into character and tell some stories relating to their backgrounds. Their travel was suddenly interrupted by the High Elf getting taken down by a crossbow bolt and screams coming out of the forest.
A raiding party of Goblins bore down on them while they were stuck in a Ravine. I was using a grid map and mini’s in the loosest way I could – Just to give players a visual representation of what was going on, not to limit or codify how they moved. The paladin quickly threw himself into the fray and got the first opportunity to see how great the Mook mechanic works: With a well placed smite he set three goblins flying in pieces. Our rogue hustled up the Ravine wall with a use of his Swashbuckle talent to hurl some archers down to his allies. The sorcerer and Ranger traded shot for shot with a pair of decaying shamans. The bard kept fumbling rolls and soon had a goblin on his back trying to shiv him with a dagger.
Every player quickly found something fun on their character sheet. The only amount of confusion came with how the Wood Elf’s Elven Grace ability played out. The escalation die steadily turned the tide of battle in the player’s favor. The battle eventually started winding down but not before the lifeless corpses of the goblins raised up for one last attack before crumpling. It became clear that Necromancy was afoot and the Bard was able to use his backgrounds to fill in the party on what to expect. Cautiously, the party journeyed on.
When the adventuring party reached Boltstrike Spire, they were greeted by Zanj, a high elf fighter. He led the party on to the grounds and explained the purpose of Boltstrike Spire: It channeled energy from the sea to help empower the surrounding wilderness and the wards. The Artifact, Glazentorg, was being used to help direct those energies and would need to finish its ritual before being disengaged from the spire. Zanj handed the party off to the commander, Quellis, a Druid who maintained the watch. Zanj departed, escorting mages up the spire to help with the ritual. When the party mentioned Goblins in the woods with necromantic energies, she was alarmed. They had beaten back a small nest of them lately and they would not return without help.
When Quellis took them to the cliff face that Boltstrike rested upon, all hell broke loose. With a deafening shockwave, the top of Bolstrike exploded raining down debris. The Bard and Paladin immediately ran up the tower followed by Quellis. The three remaining characters unexpectedly stayed on the ground (The rogue stating the money wasn’t worth the risk). Improvising, I narrated that giant arcs of lightning were streaking down from the tower, carving huge scars into the ground. The sorcerer, rogue, and Ranger had to try and find cover and shepherd several guards to safety. The rogue ended up getting hit pretty bad by a tree exploding in front of him.
When the Paladin and Bard reached the tower they had just enough time to see a great Dracolich take flight with Zanj on his back. Zanj raised Glazentorg and fired off a lethal bolt of lightning at Quellis, taking her down. With her last breath she commanded the adventurers to recover Glazentorg, no matter the cost.
Recovering from the chaos the party set about trying to figure out just where the dragon would have fled to. The rogue used his relationship with the Prince of Shadows to claim he had a contact in the tower who could help them out. The paladin and ranger combined their military and area knowledge to pinpoint a cave lying underneath a nearby Ruin, Greenstand. The bard and sorcerer discovered that the ruin had been booby trapped by Zanj when he was second in command and that the correct key word could disable its defenses.
The party set out once again, determined to punish Zanj and recover the glove. They got the drop on a horde of zombies and necromancers outside the fortress and hatched a plan. The paladin and sorcerer drew the mindless zombies out while the bard, ranger, and rogue swept around and decimated the casters. The rogue was especially happy to use his swashbuckle talent to handspring off a zombie’s head and get a lucky critical strike on one of the necromancers. The sorcerer blew apart the zombies with a nasty series of empowered Breath spells. And the Paladin loved being swarmed by seven zombies at once.
Once inside the ruins they found Zanj in a large chamber with stained glassed windows overlooking the ocean. When the rogue tried to fling a dagger into his back, it stopped in midair revealing a protective shell around him. At once the party was attacked by twisted abominations of magic gone wrong. Monstrosities who had been warped into scale-covered bodies with great claws for hands. Zanj continued to hurl lightning bolts out at the party, but with each abomination that died, his shell became weaker.
When the shell eventually shattered, he charged the bard and got a powerful critical strike, wrapping the gaunlet around his throat and electrocuting him. He eventually succumbed to a lethal pummeling in large part to the sorcerers Arc Lightning. When Zanj went to one knee, the Dracolich crashed through the stained glass windows. Zanj begged Glazentorg for aid and the gauntlet moved on its own to point toward the Dracolich. A stream of energy drained the undead dragon of its remaining power and Zanj mutated before the party’s eyes.
Zanj, now a horrific abomination, leaped into the party, viciously ripping into each member in turn. The Sorceror and Paladin went down, inspiring their allies with their sacrifice. The Bard managed to pry Glazentorg off of Zanj, and turn its power against him. As Glazentorg disintegrated Zanj into dust, the party was happy to have triumphed and saved the realm.
All in all, it was a fantastic session, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the parties figure out he character creation process. The combats were quick and highly cinematic. Three of the players were very eager to know when they could purchase the game.
Photo credit: Josh Stein