by Ian ChilversDwarf charging driders_350

A lot of my time used in the preparation of 13th Age sessions is in the creation of encounters. Particularly in the specifics of balancing (or deliberate unbalancing) of encounters to a party’s level. 13th Age has a reasonably simple method for calculating an encounter’s level, but still I always find myself spending more time wrestling with maths than I do monsters. Time that could be better used creating meaningful encounters more closely tied to the story or spent pondering how I might make best use of the Owlbear’s ability to rip off limbs. This is what initially set me to work on creating a spreadsheet that would do all the fiddly, boring maths for me. What started as a quick time-saver focused on automating the application of the monster equivalents table spiralled quickly into how I might be able to make picking monsters based on their level and/or type easier, without having to flick between the various sources.

Whilst the encounter builder helps with preparation before hand, it is also helpful during sessions. Every adventuring group likes to wrong-foot their GM every now and again, and this is in part built into the more improvisational nature of 13th Age. Improvisation is something that I, as a GM, am still very much practising (with mixed results). Having a tool that will enable me to build an unexpected battle, because the PCs chased the The High Druid’s ranger instead of The Three’s assassin, is useful in giving me more confidence that I think ultimately makes for a better roleplaying experience for everyone.

Encounters are made to be run though. For PCs to fight (or avoid) the monsters you put in their path. It was only natural then that the encounter builder also allows encounters to be managed. The monsters are already there; why transcribe it to paper or to another document? The encounter manager pulls through all the monsters included in your encounter and also allows you to add player characters. So in the same way that I can focus on the fun parts of encounter building, the encounter manager helps me to focus more on the things that really matter in an encounter: the story, the tension, the ripping off of arms.

The manager automates, or at least provides prompts for the mechanics of the encounter. It can handle initiative, damage and hit points and it provides space for tracking conditions and on-going damage (something I often forget). This helps to speed up encounters and, everything else being right, makes for more exciting and tense battles.

As I rarely have the opportunity to roleplay in person these days, spending most sessions online with friends, using an encounter manager is natural for me. I have my session notes on one screen and my prepared (or not) encounters ready to open and do battle with my players. Those unpredictable forces for good (or not).

[Ed: You can download Ian’s encounter manager here.]

Bast_350“What fully civilised soul but would eagerly serve as high priest of Bast?” She Who Scratches, the Lady of the Ointment Jar, the great cat-goddess of nighted Khem comes alive in all her varied forms: as a Trail of Cthulhu titan (complete with her monstrous Brood of Bubastis), mysterious Ashen Stars entity, TimeWatch cult leader, and 13th Age Icon. Good kitty!

Bast is the eleventh installment of the third Ken Writes About Stuff subscription and is now available to subscribers – it will be available to buy in the webstore in February. If you have subscribed to the third KWAS subscription, Bast is now on the Subscriptions tab of your bookshelf.

Stock #: PELH38D Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Melissa Gay
Pages: 12pg PDF


Bring your battles to life!

“If we’re going to fight to the death, let’s at least do it someplace pretty.” – Jara the Jaded, High Elf Rogue

The High Magic & Low Cunning Map Folio brings you 45 maps from High Magic & Low Cunning – Battle Scenes for Five Icons, in glorious full color by expert cartographers! The Map Folio includes:

  • Player-facing maps for exciting battles in a mad wizard’s lair, an underground fighting arena, an active volcano, and more
  • GM-only versions of each map with the encounter title, High Magic and Low Cunning page references, monster positions, and hidden terrain features
  • A full index so you can easily cross-reference the maps with scenes in High Magic & Low Cunning

Why run a straightforward, stand-up battle when you can make the PCs dodge bursts of lava, swing on vines across a deep gorge, or fight the animated contents of a wizard’s laboratory gone berserk? Get the High Magic & Low Cunning Map Folio—your players will thank you for it, once their characters have stopped burning, falling, or being pummeled by a living hat rack.

Stock #: PEL13A11M Map wrangler: Simon Rogers
Cartographers: Pär Lindström , Gill Pearce, Ralf Schemmann Type: 90-page map collection

Pre-order now

ROB_tileThe Icon Riffs series offers inspiration for adventure design and improvisation at the table. The ideas presented aren’t numbered, because numbered lists imply a certain consistency between results. These lists are evocative rather than consistent.

They’re also not thorough. This isn’t an attempt to list all the things that could be associated with the icons. There are huge numbers of worthwhile connections already scattered through our books and through players’ and GM’s websites. Instead of cataloging existing ideas, these notes are a brainstorm touching on ideas we haven’t already presented in detail. Some ideas may feed into future products.

(This month’s riffs created in collaboration with Wade Rockett.)

The Prince of Shadows

13A-Prince-Of-Shadows-tile-colorThe PCs start to notice the Prince’s symbol everywhere: in pipe smoke, bootlace knots, temple carvings, rock formations, sheet music, and more; magical tattoos of the Prince’s symbol that last a week and can only be seen by others with the same tattoo; covert missions to rescue slaves and relocate them with new identities, turning them into fiercely loyal assets to the Prince; a crime ring of anti-theist wizards that hires adventurers to steal from gods and demons; clerics of other gods who secretly worship the Prince as a god of lies and trickery.

Sleeper agents who are loyal to other icons—until they receive the signal and remember their true allegiance; ultra-rare dragons who can change their colors, spying or running long cons in Axis and Drakkenhall; whispers of a treaty between the Emperor and the Prince that grants safe haven to all within the palace grounds, leading to certain nervous retainers never setting foot outside the palace.

13A-Dwarf-King-tile-colorThe Dwarf King

A game using rune-carved stone tokens that predates the 1st Age, and which legend says was created by the first Dwarf King as a powerful magic ritual; an annual ceremony where the Dwarf King and every dwarf in the Empire strike the ground with their hammers at exactly the same time—maybe in remembrance, maybe to ensure something happens, or maybe to prevent something from happening; a top-secret program to create and control living dungeons as weapons of war against the drow.

Dwarf-forged cultists who await the coming of the Dwarf-Forged King, an icon  made of metal, fire and magic; negotiations between the Dwarf King and the Crusader over mining rights to a type of metal that’s found only in hellholes; a secret envoy from the Black to the Dwarf King, offering her assassins to help bring down the Prince of Shadows—for a price; rumors that every spring the Dwarf King sends a caravan laden with wondrous items and beautiful, exotic creatures to the Elf Queen.

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

13th Age Alliance black bkgrnd

Game Masters Needed for Gen Con

It’s time to submit events for Gen Con Indy 2016, and once again we plan to run tons of organized play sessions! If you want to join our crew as a volunteer GM, email with your name, contact info, and days/hours you’re available at the show. Hope to see you there!

Download Into The Underworld 2: Lost In The Dark

The third adventure in Season 2 is available for 13th Age Alliance GMs! Into The Underworld is a 2nd level 13th Age adventure in four two-hour sessions, continuing the PCs’ adventure in the realms below the Dragon Empire. They’ll explore the City of Silver Webs, and sail the Demon-Queen’s ship across a sunless sea to a pale shore that might be the land of the dead….

Into The Underworld 2 includes a random encounter table for the underworld with a haunted skull, cave orcs, Dredge-tribe kobolds, and azer pirates.

Not a 13th Age Alliance GM yet? Sign up here.

If you’re a 13th Age Monthly subscriber, you can download Into The Underworld from your order page. (RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OneBookshelf subscriptions to 13th Age Monthly will include the new organized play adventures.)

13th Age Monthly LogoSubscribe to 13th Age Monthly, Get The Rest of Season Two

Like what you’ve seen so far? Well, if you want the rest of Season Two, just subscribe to 13th Age Monthly and you’ll get ALL of Season Two as a free add-on. Plus you’ll get new 13th Age stuff every month, such as the Crusader’s dreaded elite strike force, a race of waking stones, rules for player characters’ home bases, and much more.

Into The Underworld 2 Monster Preview: Cave Croaker

Looking like rock-skinned toads, these ambush predators use their long sticky tongues to snatch travelers of paths through caverns and pull them up to their ceiling roosts.

Whichever adventurer is walking in the front must make a wisdom-based skill check:

Noticing the piles of bones before the cave croakers strike: DC 20. If the lead adventurer fails the skill check two cave croakers get a free attack against the party before initiative is rolled

Cave Croaker

3rd level spoiler [BEAST]

Initiative: +10

Kick +8 vs. AC—8 damage

Natural even hit or miss: the cave croaker pops free and bounces away.

C: Sticky tongue +8 vs. AC (one nearby or far away enemy)—10 damage OR the target loses their headgear

Target took damage and the natural roll was above their Strength: The target is pulled into engagement with the cave-croaker. If the cave croaker is on the ceiling then the target and cave croaker fall after moving, the target taking 2d6 damage.

Echolo-croak-ation: Cave croakers can see in the dark by croaking, though doing so gives away their position too.

Wall-crawler: A cave croaker can climb on ceilings and walls as easily as it moves on the ground.

Nastier Specials

Stickier tongue: If the cave croaker’s natural roll was above the target’s Constitution then the target takes an extra 1d6 damage as a patch of their face or scalp is ripped clean off!

Rocky skin: The cave croaker takes only half damage from attacks that are natural 1-5s.

AC 19

PD 17    HP 45

MD 13

ROB_tileWhen many people give you the same feedback about your game for years, it’s got to have some truth in it. Today’s probable truth: “The combination of the wizard’s Evocation talent and the force salvo spell is broken.”

Some GMs even report that the combo skews their thinking as they set up battles, since they know the wizard is capable of using the combo and dealing an ungodly amount of damage. That’s unfortunate, since there isn’t a problem with the rest of the wizard’s spells or Evocation as it applies to those other spells.

Rob’s Solution to Salvos

Here’s how I handle force salvo when it’s combined with Evocation in my game. I’m not calling this errata. Yet. It’s advice. If you personally haven’t had a problem with the spell and the combo, you don’t have to think about it. But if you want to adjust the spell’s power level in your game, two changes should suffice. 

1. Replace force salvo’s adventurer-tier feat.

The first thing you can do to make an Evoked force salvo less terrifying is to remove the spell’s original adventurer-tier feat, and replace it with this one:

Adventurer Feat: When you miss all targets with the spell, it gains recharge 11+ after battle.

Force salvo becomes a much more balanced spell when it can only target each enemy once. It can still take out or severely damage a number of middling enemies, but it can’t be used to demolish a single powerful foe. If your attack roll against a specific enemy misses, you’re out of luck.

The champion-tier feat provides some consolation by letting you deal damage equal to your level, but each attack roll now matters; so you’re a lot more likely to save force salvo until the escalation die has risen, which makes the spell’s use much more interesting.

2. Strictly limit force salvo’s use to once every four battles.

Yes, it’s already a daily spell—but the rules give GMs some room to interpret what “daily” means, and this daily spell is a bit more powerful than others. I run a lot of double-strength and even triple-strength battles in my game, but that doesn’t mean I want to see this spell used every two or three battles.

For this one spell, turn the rule that “daily” averages out to once every four battles into a strict limitation: Once a wizard casts force salvo, make them wait another three battles before they can cast it again—even if the PCs get a long rest, or otherwise restore their daily powers. (Don’t let the wizard recharge force salvo using any of the various “recharge a daily spell” options scattered through the game.) Make the wizard choose a different spell until the last battle is completed, then let them switch to force salvo if they wish once the new “day” begins.

13th Age wizardBreak This Rule For Dramatic Awesomeness

Limiting force salvo in this way gives GMs an obvious icon relationship advantage to grant wizard PCs. In a situation where the PCs face certain doom, a 5 or 6 roll result could grant the wizard the ability to cast force salvo using the original adventurer tier feat—the way the mighty wizards of earlier ages cast the spell! Or perhaps the icon’s benefit enables the wizard to recover the spell just before the campaign’s climactic battle. If the icon roll result is a 5, there’s a price to be paid for such power…

Using icon relationships to give a wizard PC access to the unfettered version of force salvo as a once-or-twice-in-a-campaign event can turn the combo of force salvo and Evocation into a dramatic story moment, instead of a nettling reminder that game mechanics don’t always play out the way they should!

13th Age Alliance black bkgrndDownload Into The Underworld

The second adventure in Season 2 just went out to 13th Age Alliance GMs! Into The Underworld is a 1st level 13th Age adventure in four two-hour sessions, taking PCs into the realms below the Dragon Empire to investigate a fallen meteorite. But first they must face new enemies, as well as some familiar foes with new twists. Along the way they will encounter gods, strange subterranean seas, and the ever-present threat from the Star-Masks.

Into The Underworld includes a fun random encounter table for the underworld with a collapsed mine, a lost tomb (with optional trap), a slippery rock bridge over a torrent of water, and abominations spawned by a newborn living dungeon.

Not a 13th Age Alliance GM yet? Sign up here.

If you’re a 13th Age Monthly subscriber, you can download Into The Underworld from your order page. (RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OneBookshelf subscriptions to 13th Age Monthly will include the new organized play adventures.)

13th Age Monthly LogoSubscribe to 13th Age Monthly, Get All of Season Two

If you like Race to Starport and Into The Underworld,  subscribe to 13th Age Monthly and you’ll get ALL of Season Two as a free add-on—not just the first three adventures.

Plus you’ll get new 13th Age stuff every month, such as summoning spells, Jonathan Tweet’s 7-icon campaign, the Crusader’s dreaded elite strike force, and much more.

Into The Underworld Monster Preview: Khavlings

Need a 1st level battle with a monster that will really, really annoy the PCs? Meet the khavlings, an irritating sort of kobold/halfling. (Download Into The Underworld to get their spellcasting artillery, the khavling filth wizard.)


These creatures are hunch-backed scrawny menaces that can be found lurking in small gangs in sewers and back alleys of large cities, and sometimes in large semi-nomadic tribes in the underworld. Khavlings have a low animal cunning, an ability to use language (though they prefer to use insults), and a predilection for violence and vandalism.

Khavling Shiv

Khavlings can pass as halflings or short humans when in dark alleys or with their hoods up. They lurk near the dwelling places of more successful humanoids, stealing and committing petty acts of vandalism and violence.

3rd level mook [HUMANOID]


Rusty shiv +8 vs. AC—4 damage

Escalating violence: Provided the target was hit by a khavling last round, add the escalation die to the khavling’s damage.

R: Thrown rubble +8 vs. AC—6 damage

Parting shot: If the khavlings run away from the battle each can make this attack as they leave.

Nastier specials

Touch of khav: Enemies that roll a natural 1 or 2 with a melee attack against the khavling take poison damage equal to the escalation die value.

Violent mind: Enemies that make an attack vs MD against the khavling and miss take psychic damage equal to the escalation die value.

AC 18

PD 16          HP 6

MD 10

Mook: Kill one khavling shiv mook for every 6 damage you deal to the mob.


ROB_tileJonathan and I usually agree on the mechanics of 13th Age, but our memories don’t always agree when it comes to how key mechanics were created.* The escalation die is a prime example.

I remember using the escalation die in a bizarro 4e game, fighting minions of Torog, back before we started work on 13th Age. Jonathan remembers coming up with the mechanic on his own, as part of a system he ran for a couple of months that I…er…never showed up for. Both those memories may be accurate; but recently I discovered that the true origins of the escalation die lay elsewhere.

During a period when Jonathan and I weren’t GMing, Mike Fehlauer manned the captain’s/GM’s chair and took us on a 4e cruise through the Savage Tide. Mike’s excellent campaign benefited from a lot of mechanical experiments, and here’s one that he recently unearthed from an ancient email thread:

Another idea I had for speedy play was to put a card for “end of round” into the initiative deck. Each time that card comes up, all combatants (including monsters) add +1 to all their attacks. Second time it comes up, everyone starts adding +2 to all their attacks. And so on.

The pacing isn’t right, but the general idea is that as time goes on, the combat’s pace toward resolution increases. Sort of like how the blind keeps increasing in poker.

Maybe a better pace is “when a monster or character is bloodied, the ‘combat blind’ goes up by 1. All monsters and characters add the ‘combat blind’ to all their attacks.”

Hmm. Instead of “combat blind”, let’s call it “Savage Tide”. That way, as the Tide rises, things get more deadly. I like the sound of that. :)

Jonathan said that the idEscalation_Die_LKEea was interesting, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to track it. Paul Hughes commented that you could just use a die to keep track.

Jonathan and I both went off and used our own versions of the escalation mechanic in our games, giving the escalating bonus to the player characters but not the monsters. As a result, by the time we decided to design 13th Age together, we were both locked in with using something like the escalation die at the table.

Turns out that it’s really important to have a good gaming group!

*To be honest, Jonathan and I don’t particularly care which of us created specific mechanics, or how—the topic only comes up when other people ask.


13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

13 True Ways limited edition

13 True Ways Limited Edition

We printed 100 limited editions in all, and 13 True Ways Kickstarter backers, and pre-orders, had the first opportunity to buy them. We are releasing the few that are left on a first come, first served basis – when they’re gone, they’re gone!

The books are blue faux leather with gold foil. Each one includes a book plate signed by Rob Heinsoo, Jonathan Tweet, Aaron McConnell and Lee Moyer for you to add to the book. They will also include a limited edition A4 print of Lee’s beautiful Dragon Rider image.

“For 13th Age groups, this is a glorious supplement, a must-have purchase and even if you only are remotely interested in the world or the concepts I mentioned, this may very well be worth it for the idea-scavenging alone.” – Endzeitgeist

Omens of the Age

As the 13th Age unfolds, its mysteries—and dangers—grow more numerous.

Undreamed-of creatures crawl up from the underworld, descend from the sky on metallic wings, and slip through the cracks in reality. Strange magic is loose in the world, whether it’s drawn from the Wild, from the realms of chaos and death, or from the inner power of ki.

Patch things up with your surly magic weapon, hero. The adventure is just beginning.

13 True Ways expands the 13th Age Roleplaying Game in exciting new directions. Within its 256 pages you’ll find six new classes, the lore of devils, the keys to Horizon, the Great Gold Worm’s secret assassin, and much more.

For Players:

  • The chaos mage who embraces randomness, and the monk who embodies discipline
  • The druid who masters the elements , and the necromancer who commands the undead
  • The commander who orders your ranks, and the occultist who orders reality
  • Multiclassing tools to help you create the character you most want to play
  • Treasure to loot, and artifacts that might just loot you

For GMs:

  • All-new details and adventure seeds for Axis, the Court of Stars, Drakkenhall, Horizon, and Santa Cora
  • More ways to use the icons, including variant icons and relationship results tied to a location
  • Lists of 13: deadly dungeons, flying realms, must-visit inns, and more
  • New monsters to challenge your players, including devils, metallic dragons, werebeasts, and soul flensers
  • Four detailed new NPCs with multiple campaign options

13 True Ways: New heroes. New legends. Your world.

13th Age GM Resource Book cover

Pre-Order the 13th Age Gamemaster Screen and Resource Book, and download the PDF now!

“We have targeted the game toward experienced gamemasters and players at all levels of roleplaying experience.” – 13th Age core book

13th Age assumes you already know how to run an F20 roleplaying game—in fact, you’ve probably already done it more than a few times. You’re comfortable customizing a game to fit your style of play, improvising adventures based on player input, being the final decision-maker on rules questions, building out a campaign setting based on a few cool ideas, and creating your own monsters.

As a result of this design approach, 13th Age sometimes asks more from GMs than other games. That’s why we’ve always tried to support 13th Age GMs by answering questions and supplying resources and guidance. A few months ago, we reached a point where we felt we knew enough about where our GMs needed a little extra help that we could write a solid GM’s guide for the game.

Using the Trail of Cthulhu Keeper’s Screen and Resource Book as our model, Cal Moore and I huddled with Rob Heinsoo and talked about what would be good to include in this slim volume (around 64 pages). Based on what GMs had been asking us over the years, what would be most useful?

We’d definitely need to talk more about icon relationship rolls, which were brand-new tech in the core book and have been relentlessly discussed, debated, tested, and tinkered with by 13th Age GMs and designers since then. We often see  questions about using terrain in combat, and Cal had lots of ideas he wanted to develop around that. His recent experience with the Battle Scenes books (still in development) gave him great insight that we could share about building better battles in the game.

13th Age GM Book NPC sampleThe Keeper’s Resource Book included NPCs, so I eagerly volunteered to create (statless) characters associated with the 13 icons that GMs could easily pop into their games as one-off encounters, recurring characters, or even major villains. I also wanted to revisit the subject of backgrounds, which I wrote about in a previous Page XX article.

ASH LAW had begun work on an ambitious toolkit for improvising adventures, but other priorities left it orphaned. I took it apart and rebuilt it into a lean, mean, GMing machine for running zero-preparation sessions of 13th Age. And hey, speaking of ASH, we decided that it was finally time to make his Montage mechanic from Organized Play an official part of the rules. So from now on, when someone asks, “Where are Montages described?” the answer is, “In the GM’s Resource Book”.

We also recruited Rob to write a section called “Six Things Rob Does Now”, and compiled general-purpose GM advice scattered across various books.

We hope you like it, and we hope you get a kick out of the accompanying GM screen, which features freakin’ gorgeous new player-facing art from Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell, and GM-facing quick-reference rules chosen with input from our community. (There’s also a map of the Dragon Empire, this time with the roads included. Huzzah.)

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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