13 Oracles

13 Oracles

by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Inspired by the oracles of Vincent Baker’s In A Wicked Age, these 13 Oracles may inspire improvised encounters or even whole adventures in your 13th Age campaign. There’s one Oracle for each icon, and each Oracle has four tables – places, objects, people and circumstances.

There’s no right way to use an Oracle. The simplest is to roll a d6 (or a bunch of d6s) for the Oracle corresponding to the local Icon. So, if the characters are visiting Horizon, and you’re stuck for an idea, roll a few of the Archmage Oracle tables and interpret the results.

Place: 5 – A laboratory

Object: 6 – A magical weapon, in need of a wielder

Person: 2 – A wayward apprentice

Circumstances: 1 – Struck by a curse

So, researchers in the laboratory accidentally opened some sealed chest from a bygone age, and inside was a cursed sword in need of a wielder. It attached itself to the hand of an unfortunate apprentice. Now, he’s on a rampage across Horizon, dragged by the bloodthirsty weapon. The wizards need the player characters’ help in stopping him, but they don’t want to kill him – the adventurers must keep the weapon busy until the wizards work out a way to break the connection between the two.

More ambitiously, you can mix tables from different Oracles. The PCs run into an orc incursion into the Empire? Roll on the Emperor and Orc Lord oracles and pick the most suitable results.

Place (Emperor): 2 – A crossroads at midnight

Object (Emperor): 5 – An Imperial writ

Person (Orc Lord): 1 – Refugees from a captured city

Circumstances (Orc Lord): 5 – Mercenary work

While travelling, the PCs come upon a dispute between a band of refugees and an officer of the Imperial Legion. The officer has a writ that demands that all fighting men join in the struggle to turn back the orcs. There are some members of a mercenary company amid the refugees, but they don’t want to fight the orcs. They’ve already seen what those monsters can do, and they’re not going back to the battlefield – not for gold, and certainly not for a scrap of paper with a wax seal. Can the adventurers rally the mercenaries and get ready for the orc attack that comes at the break of dawn?

All the 5s and 6s in the Oracles can be interpreted positively, so you can use an Oracle to determine the benefits from a Relationship Dice roll. So, for a group of four player characters:

Place (Great Gold Wyrm): 5 – a dragon’s lair

Object (Orc Lord): 6 – A war horn

Person (High Druid): 5 – A talking animal

Circumstances (Prince of Shadows): 6 – Targeted for assassination

So, in this session, the paladin leads the party to shelter in the lair of a grumpy gold dragon who lets them rest and recuperate, but demands they entertain it to pay for their supper.

The barbarian finds a magical war horn that has a chance of raising the escalation dice when blown.

The ranger befriends a talking eagle, who brings news and rumours from distant lands.

And, at the end of the session, the thief receives a warning. The adventurers are going to be attacked tonight by assassins in the employ of one of their foes. Now, they can turn the table on their would-be murderers…

Gamemasters who are simultaneously terribly lazy and brilliantly creative (or who really like challenges) can even improvise a whole adventure based on the results of an Icon Relationship roll. Just take all the results rolled by the players and run them through the Oracles. Try breaking the dice into groups of four, and using those to create scenes.

For example, taking my current player characters as an example –

Sir Victor: Priestess 1, Emperor 3, Archmage 3

Findel: Elf Queen 4, Archmage 3, Priestess 1

Slate: Dwarf King 1, Dwarf King 3, Priestess 1

Uther Corvin: Priestess 2, Three 1, Three 2.

(Note the total absence of any 5s or 6s. Why can’t they roll like that in play?)

Taking a simple approach, and reading column by column for each scene, we get the first scene of our adventure:

Place (Priestess): 1 - An almshouse

Object (Elf Queen): 4 – A jeweled crown

Person (Dwarf King): 1 – a cave troll

Circumstances (Priestess): 2 – wracked by doubt

So, one of the character passes an almshouse where food and clothing are given to the poor. She spots that one of the beggars is a former friend of hers, a fellow adventurer who has clearly fallen on desperate times. Over a bowl of stew, she learns that the adventurer was part of a band of treasure hunters who entered a ruin ruled by a troll king. Something horrible happened, and the adventurer fled, leaving his friends to perish.

For scene 2:

Place (Emperor): 3 – a raucous inn with a fighting-pit

Object (Archmage): 3 – a bloody dagger

Person (Dwarf King): 3 – a canny merchant

Circumstances (Three): 1 – blackmailed by a former lover

The merchant is another survivor of the ill-fated expedition, and he’s got the map to the dungeon. When the adventurers visit his inn to obtain the map, though, they discover that he’s being blackmailed by a mysterious woman. He tries to kill them by releasing the monsters from his fighting-pit (interpreting the dagger metaphorically as ‘betrayal’).

Finally, scene 3:

Place (Archmage): 3 – an isolated tower

Object (Priestess): 1 – a thing of broken glass

Person (Priestess): 1 – a false prophet

Circumstances (Three): 2 – conspiring with unlikely allies

Ok. The isolated tower is the ruin ruled by the ogre. The ‘thing of broken glass’ is the jeweled crown glimpsed at the start of our tale, because the mysterious woman has tricked the ogre into working for her by giving them worthless baubles. She’s the false prophet – maybe there’s an ancient temple under the tower that the ogres are excavating. And the alliance between the ogres and the woman is the unlikely conspiracy, which the characters can shatter if they can show the ogres that they’ve been deceived.

The Care And Feeding Of Oracles

If you make heavy use of Oracles in your game, then print out the tables and strike off any entry that comes up more than twice. Replace it with something new. So, if you’ve had two Bloody Daggers already, cross it out and put it something else evocative of the Archmage, like a page torn from a spellbook or a wand.

The Archmage

Places

1. Arcane, magic-haunted ruins.

2. A bustling guildhall.

3. An isolated tower.

4. An enchanted lake.

5. A laboratory, home to bizarre experiments.

6. A flying realm

 

Objects

1. A unmarked potion

2. An object that comes to life

3. A bloody dagger

4. A golem’s hand.

5. A spellbook from a previous age

6. A magical weapon, in need of a wielder

 

People

1. A summoned elemental spirit

2. A wayward apprentice

3. A mad wizard. Mad, I tell you.

4. A hedge-sorcerer

5. An emissary from another realm

6. A scroll-courier of the Archmage

 

Circumstances

1. Struck by a curse

2. In magical disguise or invisible

3. Enacting a ritual

4. In lost scrolls or records

5. Polymorphed into an animal

6. Tapped into the magical ley-lines

 

Crusader

Places

1. A gaping portal to Hell

2. A blacksmith’s forge

3. A lonely road through a desolate land

4. A secret sanctum

5. The perilous castle of a cruel knight

6. The camp of an army

 

Objects

1. A vial of demon’s blood

2. A horse without a rider

3. A shattered helmet

4. A key to a perilous place

5. A summons or sealed orders

6. A weapon, forged in the fires of hell

 

People

1. A prophet of doom! DOOM!

2. Someone wearing human skin. Possibly their own.

3. An innocent child. Allegedly.

4. A hunter, stern and cruel

5. An armoured knight with a visored helm

6. The ghost of a fallen warrior

 

Circumstances

1. Possessed

2. On fire

3. Imprisoned

4. Locked in a mortal battle

5. Mustering for war

6. On a desperate mission

 

Diabolist

Places

1. A library in a temple

2. An abandoned house, fallen into decay

3. A travelling market

4. In a dream

5. In your home

6. The Diabolist’s Fortress

 

Objects

1. A silver ring

2. A secret casket

3. A leather-bound grimoire

4. A mirror

5. Your heart’s desire

6. A true name

 

People

1. A scheming politician

2. A fortune teller

3. A fool

4. A desperate exile or refugee

5. An inquisitive scholar

6. A bound demon

 

Circumstances

1. In direst straits and looking for a way out

2. Laughing merrily

3. Heedless of the real danger

4. Meddling with terrible forces

5. Called up from the Abyss

6. In the nick of time

 

Dwarf King

Places

1. A lost dwarf tomb

2. A mine or tunnel

3. A wind-swept mountain

4. A brewery or a livestock farm

5. A forge or treasury

6. A dwarf fortress

 

Objects

1. A big rock.

2. Someone’s beard

3. A lost crown

4. A trapdoor, unopened for many years

5. Gold gold gold.

6. A masterpiece made by smiths of yore

 

People

1. A cave troll

2. A heartless judge

3. A canny merchant

4. A dwarf warrior

5. A guild master

6. A dwarven noble

 

Circumstances

1. Bound by an oath

2. Out for revenge

3. Lost in the dark

4. Buried underground

5. Imbued with ancient power

6. Wealthy beyond avarice

Elf Queen

Places

1. A forest village

2. A circle of standing stones

3. A dark cave

4. A murderer’s lair

5. A land that exists only in moonlight

6. The Overworld

 

Objects

1. A stag hunt

2. A glass of wine

3. An arrow shot from afar

4. A jeweled crown

5. A shard of a star

6. A lost spell

 

People

1. A changeling child

2. A bard whose songs come true

3. A merry dreamer

4. A mad wizard who breeds monsters

5. An elven knight under enchantment

6. A spirit of nature

 

Circumstances

1. Under a spell

2. Dreaming a magical dream

3. Lost in the woods

4. At a wonderful feast

5. Under strange stars

6. Inspired by the Queen

Emperor

Places

1. A small farming village

2. A crossroads at midnight

3. A raucous inn with a fighting-pit

4. A ship at sea

5. An Imperial courtroom

6. A castle or fortress

 

Objects

1. A dragon’s tooth

2. A copper coin

3. A farmer’s cart

4. A scales

5. An imperial writ

6. A gauntlet or glove

 

People

1. A fearful beggar

2. A gossiping fishwife

3. The one honest man

4. An Imperial soldier

5. A bored noble

6. An adventurer

 

Circumstances

1. Unseasonable weather

2. Under siege

3. Making merry

4. A festival or joust

5. In sight of land

6. Defending the Empire

Great Gold Wyrm

Places

1. An empty cavern

2. The mouth of the underworld

3. A watchtower

4. A mountain pass

5. A dragon’s lair

6. At home

 

Objects

1. A torturer’s tools

2. A footprint that leads somewhere

3. A well, deep and fresh

4. A strong wall or gate

5. A heraldic shield

6. A tale or dream of heroes of old

 

People

1. A monster in disguise

2. A coward who can be redeemed

3. A bully with sinister allies

4. A paladin in peril

5. A wise old man

6. A dragon in human form

 

Circumstances

1. A funeral

2. A desperate hour

3. A vigil

4. Revealing secrets

5. Swearing an oath

6. At the breaking of the dawn

High Druid

Places

1. By a raging river

2. Under an oak tree

3. In the ruins of a lost city

4. In the ocean

5. Riding on a storm cloud

6. In an enchanted grove

 

Objects

1. A carved staff of wood

2. A bronze sickle

3. A bunch of herbs

4. A rough-hewn altar

5. The skull of a beast

6. A seed infused with magic

 

People

1. A hermit by choice

2. A barbarian champion

3. An outlaw with a secret lair

4. A shepherd

5. A talking animal

6. A spirit of the wild woods

 

Circumstances

1. Being born

2. In spring bloom

3. In summer light

4. Withering at twilight

5. In the ice gasp of winter

6. Dying

Lich King

Places

1. A living dungeon

2. The white cliffs

3. The depths of the sea

4. A winding lane where few pass by

5. A graveyard

6. A ruin from an earlier Age

 

Objects

1. A chattering skull

2. A thing wrapped in cobwebs

3. An ornate gravestone

4. An eyeball

5. A frozen memory

6. A bone-white crown

 

People

1. A dying woman

2. A physician or taxidermist

3. An old chess-player

4. A masked actor

5. A scholar

6. A ghost or lich

 

Circumstances

1. Sitting in silence

2. Whispering in the night

3. Rising up from below

4. A flash of brilliance

5. An inheritance

6. Doomed to die

Orc Lord

Places

1. In a burning building

2. The edges of the desert

3. An unknown region

4. An animal pit

5. In a burning building

6. An orc camp

 

Objects

1. Buried treasure

2. A jagged sword

3. A man-trap

4. A pyre

5. Broken chains

6. A war-horn

 

People

1. Refugees from a captured city

2. An exile

3. A gladiator

4. An errant son

5. A scout for the Orc Lord’s army

6. A military leader

 

Circumstances

1. Wracked by plague

2. Hunted

3. A debt of honour

4. A sneak attack

5. Mercenary work

6. Gathering allies

Priestess

Places

1. An almshouse

2. A tenement

3. A ruined temple

4. A still lake

5. A hidden shrine

6. The Cathedral

 

Objects

1. A thing of broken glass

2. Graffiti in an alleyway

3. A shaft of sunlight

4. A statue of a god

5. Hooded robes

6. A holy book

 

People

1. A false prophet

2. A fanatic

3. A poor widow

4. An angel or a demon

5. A cleric

6. A higher power

 

Circumstances

1. Blinded

2. Wracked by doubt

3. In prison

4. Torn between two forces

5. Bound by a sacred duty

6. Blessed with good fortune

Prince of Shadows

Places

1. The sewers

2. A thief’s hideout

3. An alleyway

4. A palace

5. A secret passage

6. Right behind you

 

Objects

1. A secret message

2. A ring with a concealed compartment

3. A knife in the back

4. A stolen whisper

5. Someone else’s property

6. A key

 

People

1. A bandit on the road

2. A ghost

3. One in possession of a fortune

4. A smuggler

5. A desperate man

6. A spy

 

Circumstances

1. Living large

2. Lurking in the shadows

3. Under observation

4. Star-crossed

5. Wrapped in an enigma

6. Targeted for assassination

The Three

Places

1. A fetid swamp

2. A nasty dive of a tavern

3. A coffee-house or other cosmopolitan entertainment

4. An alchemist’s laboratory

5. A monastery espousing a curious philosophy

6. Drakenhall

 

Objects

1. A legal contract

2. An egg

3. A rope or noose

4. A mask or helm

5. A cryptic letter

6. A thing in a vat

 

People

1. An inhuman monster

2. A courtesan

3. A mountebank or trickster

4. A counterfeiter or fence

5. A traitor or defector

6. Something in human form

 

Circumstances

1. Blackmailed by a former lover

2. Conspiring with unlikely allies

3. Rotting from within

4. Embroiled in controversy or legal troubles

5. Wielding secret sorcerous power

6. Treacherous, dangerous and ambitious


3 Responses to “13 Oracles”

  1. Bruce Gray says:

    Hi!

    Now this is good stuff. Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah to the author and hope to see more….

    Bruce

  2. George says:

    A work of art, this article.

  3. shadowcentaur says:

    This takes what I love about Fiasco and imports it into 13th age. I can’t wait to try this out.

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