The Dwarf King’s Double’s Second Beard
Our session started with me standing outside the room at ZOECon giving away books. That’s right, I had a load of old game books and was just giving them away! We inherited a ton and while the wife and I picked out the cool or rare stuff (original box set D&D!) we were left with a random assortment of games and supplements that we had no space for. However, plenty of gamers felt differently and classic games found new homes. It was like Christmas, only with less elves and more geeks.
Talking of elves and geeks, I rounded up five players for 13th Age. We ended up with three elves: an elf wizard, an wood elf ranger, and a dark elf sorcerer. Added to the party were a stalwart dwarven fighter and a halfling thief.
At the start of the game I had a good long think about why the group was together. Everyone had a positive icon relationship to the Dwarf King … except the halfling. The halfling had as his One Unique Thing (a neat 13th Age mechanic that lets you shape the world) that he could perfectly imitate a dwarf, and as a background had put 5 points into “I braved untold dangers to steal the Dwarf King’s favorite magical drinking tankard”. Wow – with a cool background like that, adventures just write themselves! So there they started, with the ‘heroes’ being bought in to find the Dwarf King’s missing tankard, and the halfling being bought in to the grand hall in chains.
The dwarf fighter Bristlebeard (as played by Stan!) had as his One Unique Thing that he was the Dwarf King’s body double. Not only did he turn up at official functions when it was too troublesome for the Dwarf King to attend, but he was the second dwarfiest dwarf alive. Naturally Bristlebeard was appointed party leader, with the elf wizard acting as ‘parole officer’ for the halfling.
The group set out to find the mysterious strangers to whom the halfling had sold the sacred tankard, and discovered (thanks to the wood elf ranger who had as a background “Famed Far And Wide As A Tracker [4 points]”) a trail leading northwards to the most northerly of dwarven forts. Worse, the tracks were of a small orc army.
Hitching a ride with the ladies of a dwarven ‘comfort wagon’ due to visit the fort (“Who can resist Bristlebeard’s charms? No dwarf woman – that’s for sure! [3 points]”) the party made quick time towards the fort, as the drow rode ahead on his beast (One Unique Thing: “I have a loyal giant battle tick”). The drow’s keen eyes spotted orcs in the fort, and worse the orcs had spotted them. The drow sorcerer rode back and the party came up with a plan … Bristlebeard and the drow would distract the orcs, while the wizard, ranger, and halfling rogue slip round the back of the fort.
I had the sneaking characters make some Icon Relationship rolls. Both the ranger and the wizard succeeded on rolls for their positive relationships with the Prince of Shadows. We decided that they had attempted to rob this fort in the past as a one-off job for the Prince of Shadows, each of them disguised and unaware of the other’s identity as part of an elaborate heist that didn’t quite work. Not only did they know the layout of the fort but they knew the best place to climb over the back wall.
Meanwhile Bristlebeard convinced the orcs that he was in fact the Dwarf King, and proceeded to moon them with his ‘second beard’. With the orcs distracted and terrified the sneak attack squad climbed in the back, and the halfling got to try out another neat part of 13th Age – “Fail Forward”. The halfling failed his climb roll so I gave him the option – succeed on climbing up but fall off the top of the wall into the courtyard, or climb up but get his coat stuck on a nail and have to free himself. He chose to fall face-first into the courtyard and down he went!
The orcs spun around to see the sneak attack squad getting into position, but before they could react the drow sorcerer charged forward on his riding tick. He hit two orcs with a blast of firey magic, and I pointed out to the player that he might want to use his racial special ability – drow are renowned for their cruelty. Laughing, the player added extra damage to his successful attack and sent orcs screaming off the palisade wall into the courtyard below. Then his tick climbed the fort’s defenses with the sorcerer on his back!
A ten-round fight followed, and I would spare you dear reader from the boring bits, except there weren’t any. In the next half hour the heroes made derring-do, buckled their swash, roared battle cries, and at one point the wood elf jumped sideways off the fort while firing his bow four times, John Woo style. 13th Age really has cool classes. Really cool.
The wood elf ranger was firing arrows, followed by more arrows, and then heck, some more arrows. The halfling was rolling around the place, stabbing and firing his bow. The dwarf stomped around the place, kicking crotches and falling into defensive stances. (He missed a lot, but hey, even when a dwarf fighter misses he can still kick real hard and drop back behind his shield). The elf wizard teleported around the place and put orcs to sleep. The sorcerer … he ‘sorcled’ the heck out of everything with fire and ice and lightning (from the back of a giant bug).
After the battle the party entered the still smoldering ruin of the fort’s forge to discover the Dwarf King’s magic tankard and a magic sword, around which the bodies of the slain dwarves of the fort were arranged in the pattern of a rune. With the sorcerer and the wizard blasting ice magic to make everything safe, Bristlebeard the dwarf rushed in to disrupt the ritual.
Alas, it didn’t work. A demon-thing erupted from the ground and the orcs arose as zombies. While all this was occurring, the drow sorcerer had fabulous magic powers revealed to him as he held aloft the magic sword and loudly proclaimed “I have the power”. There was lightning, a ghostly castle appeared, and the drow’s giant riding tick gained armor.
Another furious battle followed, the dwarf holding the demon-thing at bay while the others fought the evil orc zombies and the sorcerer ‘bravely’ had his tick drag him out of combat and help him run away. It turned out that the whole thing was secretly a ploy by the drow to seize control of the sword that the dwarves had kept hidden in their obscure northern fort, a sword that he knew about because of his connections to the Prince of Shadows – and with that another playing piece was promoted in the great game between the Icons.
With grins around the table we called it a day. Drow are sneaky, halflings and dwarves rock, and elves channel the spirit of John Woo.
If all this sounds like a fantastically good time to you, pre-order 13th Age today.