Back to the Old School…
The 2013 first printing of 13th Age and my much abused vintage 1977 box set of original D&D
What is the OSR? It stands for Old School Renaissance (or Old School Revolution). It is a movement in gaming that focuses on role playing games from around 30-40 years ago. In many ways it is like freeform jazz-funk – it is very 70s/80s, it scares me, and I don’t fully understand it … and among the terrible squealing and hurumphening it produces moments of such sublime beauty and genius that it takes my breath away. Also moog synthesizers might be involved.
In many ways 13th Age is an OSR game (and in many ways definitely not). The OSR as a movement embraces a DIY aesthetic and encourages hacking games to do new and interesting things – and so does 13th Age. The OSR movement is all about playing your favorite game the way you want to play it – and so is 13th Age. The OSR movement is all about creating fun games unencumbered by needless rules – and that is 13th Age in a nutshell.
But 13th Age is also very much not an OSR game. In crafting a game with a classic feel but modern rules it sacrifices a lot of sacred cows. Gone is XP. Gone is gaining advancement for gold. Gone is alignment (though see page 27 for how to put it back in). 13th Age also draws upon the full 40 year history of dungeon-delving dragon-slaying d20-rolling RPGs along with taking design cues from ‘story games’.
So how does one OSRify 13th Age? Well… much can’t be OSRified. But some can. By implementing the hacks below you can make your game feel very old school. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those who really like their dungeons with that 70s ambiance here is your slice of jazz-funk.
I should point out that some of these ideas are not mine. Like much of the OSR these ideas were reappropriated, remixed, and remastered. I have tried to give credit where credit is due.
It’s the little things…
In a traditional OSR style game how much you can carry actually matters. That is because dungeon-delving is dangerous and the hard choices you make about what you are carrying into a dungeon can spell life or death for your character.
Tables chock full of the exact weight of a 10-foot-pole or a silver mirror littered older editions of games, like doilies in a grandmother’s drawing room. When I was young my brother and I loved doilies because we could throw them like they were crocheted ninja stars. When I got older I realized they were useless folderol. Now I’m older still, and I see the value in perhaps not leaving little ring marks over the furniture. The modern solution is coasters made of circuit boards or coasters created from core samples of rock or doilies 3d printed out of compressed dreams. Cooler than crochet. So what is cooler than adding up the exact weight of each piece of equipment and comparing it to an arbitrary number? What is the coaster-made-from-a-space-shuttle-heat-tile of encumberance?
I first saw this idea in computer games, and then in the old Ghostbusters RPG. Matt Rundle’s Anti-Hammerspace Item tracker is a more modern iteration (with a brilliant adaptation by Lawrence Augustine Mingoa).
Here is my take on it.
Each character has 24 item ‘boxes’. 6 on the body, 6 on the back, and 6 on each side of the body. Heavy armor takes up a 6×2 block. Light armor or a shield takes up a 2×2 block. Weapons like daggers and saps take up a 1×1 block, swords and axes a 1×2 block, and large weapons like spears or great axes take up a 1×3 block (as does a 10’ pole). Camping gear for the wild (tent, shovel, rope, cook pot, etc) takes up 6 boxes which can be broken down into several 1×2 blocks, but a ranger’s camping gear takes up only two 1×1 boxes. Something big like a small one-person boat takes up six boxes, and a big collection of small things (bag of gold, throwing stars, iron spikes) takes up one box. Most other items (lanterns, oil flasks, a day’s worth of rations) take up just one box. Small characters (gnomes etc) carrying or wearing items intended for larger characters use up double the normal number of boxes doing so. I’ve also included two other 6-box groups: one for a hireling or companion (or animal companion), the other for a steed or pack animal. Needless to say if a steed is stolen or a hireling runs away any equipment on them goes away too. Beyond armor anything that you wear (boots, gloves, hats, amulets) is a freebie that takes up no space.
Characters with strength and constitution modifiers that add up to +3 or higher have 28 boxes (4 sets of 7 boxes), characters with strength and constitution modifiers that add up to +6 or higher have 32 boxes (4 sets of 8).
That’s it. Draw the items in the boxes and away you go. No tracking exact weights or sizes, just draw a picture.
Taking more stuff with you slows you down. More equipment means more ways to solve problems, but also means that you are more weighted down with cumbersome bulky packs and pouches and clanging clanking pots and pans. For every fully filled 6-box (or 7-box or 8-box) subtract 1 from disengage checks and from all rolls to perform acrobatic maneuvers above lava, rolls to sneak past sleeping goblins, rolls to ride sharks, etc.
Welcome to the Meat Grinder.
One feature of early game design was the meat-grinder. OSR style games reward clever avoidance of combat, as combat is far deadlier than in more modern games. 13th Age doesn’t really support meatgrinder-style play and opts for a more heroic style of play.
In a recent 13th Age post on Google plus Mike Mearls floated the idea of tying the escalation die to whole encounters rather than to rounds within an encounter.
Thus the dungeon die concept was born.
The dungeon die works like the escalation die but works for a dungeon and against the players characters.
The dungeon die uses these rules:
- Every encounter where the adventurers fight monsters or set off a trap or otherwise create a loud or discoverable presence within the dungeon the dungeon die goes up by one.
- Sneaking past a bunch of monsters or avoiding a trap entirely decreases the dungeon die by one.
- Using diplomacy to get past monsters or disarming a trap keeps the dungeon die at the same value.
- All monsters add the dungeon die to their attack rolls.
- All monsters that are escalators (like dragons) add both the escalation die and dungeon die to their attack rolls.
- The dungeon die starts as a d6. If the characters go back to town to rest or flee a fight it becomes a d8, then a d10, then a d12, then a d20!
Using these above rules the smarter the player characters are the more likely they are to leave the dungeon alive. Starting fights and setting off traps alerts the rest of the dungeon to their presence and makes fights which follow that much harder. Cleverly sneaking around and checking for traps makes future fights easier as the dungeon returns to a state of quiescence.
Life is cheep, healing is expensive.
Early games had few options for self-healing in combat. To mimic this any time a character would spend a recovery and gain HP they instead spend a recovery and gain a free basic attack. Only magic such as cleric abilities, paladin abilities, or healing potions can allow a character to spend a recovery and gain healing while in combat. Outside of combat a short rest only allows one recovery to be spent on healing.
Simplicity is beauty.
The key to early D&D’s style revival in OSR is simplicity. Back in the old days there were very few classes; checking my ‘77 D&D boxed set I find just three: Fighting Man, Magic User, and Cleric.
The way to OSRify 13th Age here is easy. Fighting Man = Fighter, Magic User = Wizard, Cleric = Cleric. All other classes are verboten. You get to play a human, a wood elf, or a dwarf. All other races are a no-no.
Add alignments, shake well.
13th Age replaces alignments with icon relationships. To OSRify the game don’t remove icon relationships, but use the guidance on page 27 on how to implement alignment.
The effects of alignment are:
- Alignment languages. You may make an icon relationship roll when encountering somebody of the same alignment to communicate secretly with them. This could be ‘the black tongue of evil’ or ‘speaking orcish’ or ‘thieves cant’ or it might represent characters referring to mutually known events or people or scriptures as a sort of code. A 5 or 6 by either party indicates that secret communication successfully took place.
- Detect Alignment. Anybody who can cast spells can make an icon relationship roll to see if a magical effect or object (or in some cases a person) is of a similar outlook as them, cosmically speaking. A 5 or 6 indicates that they get a yes/no answer. If the caster sacrifices the use of one daily spell for that day they may detect the exact alignment of an effect, object, or person.
- Clerics. Magical healing grants +d6 HP if the person being healed is of the exact same alignment as the person healing them, and -d6 HP if they do not share an aspect of alignment at all (true-neutral cleric trying to heal a chaotic-good fighting man would heal d6 HP less). Conversely cleric spells that do damage deal -d6 if the target is of the exact same alignment and +d6 if the target shares no alignment with the cleric.
- Ward against Evil/Good/Law/Chaos. As a ritual a wizard can cast a spell on an area designed to go off when creatures of a certain alignment enter the area. The spell lasts for [INT mod x level] hours before the ward fades away.
The map is your friend.
13th Age prefers to cut to the chase and get to the fun parts, but for some the minutiae of the journey is just as important as the denouement at the destination. Because the old school style of play is deadlier every aspect of the dungeon that can be used to your advantage is vital.
In normal 13th Age if you wanted to backflip off a wall over the head of an ogre to reach the lever that raises the portcullis you’d just tell the GM that you are doing it and the GM lets you know what you need to roll to succeed in the way that you envision. In classic old-school games you need to know just how many feet the wall is from the portcullis, exactly how tall is that ogre, where exactly is the lever positioned, and so on. 13th Age eschews ticky-tacky square-and-foot-counting in favor of heroic fantasy and putting that level of detail back in defeats the point of 13th Age.
However… I do miss the old trope of mapping out a dungeon. Tedious and time-consuming (and occasionally frustrating) as it was there was something deeply satisfying about grid-paper full of corridors and rooms, a record of exploration.
Here is my take on how to put it back in.
The party nominates a player to map. That player draws a map or makes some other record of the exploration of a dungeon or area. The map doesn’t have to be accurate, just accurate enough. Once per battle or scene that player may grant themselves +1 to a roll or another +2 to a roll (if they can justify it using the record of the dungeon that they have created).
“Wait – you get +2 because we can go back to that S-shaped corridor and use the spikes from that pit trap to help you climb the wall. Look – HERE on the map.”
“I grant myself +1 to my roll to disengage because my armor is still slick from the oil pit we found HERE on the map.”
“You get +2 to hit the goblin archer because according to my map we are right over the Well of Darkness HERE and the rumbling sound from below will probably unnerve the goblin.”
Hirelings and Henchmen.
Just as what you take into a dungeon is important so is who you take. The Hirelings and Henchmen feat presents a way for characters to bring along extra help when delving. Fighters can trade in 3 background points to get the feat for free. You may take the feat multiple times but benefits from having lots of one type of henchman or hireling do not stack, so it is best to pick a different type of hireling or henchman each time.
Each time you pick the feat choose one of the following:
- SHIELD MAIDEN (battle brother, fanatic). Grants +1 AC in combat. Bonus rises to +2 at Champion tier and +3 at Epic tier. COST: New shield (and possibly bandages) plus wages = 50 GP after every battle (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If cost is not payed she provides no combat bonus until she is re-equipped, healed, and payed. SKILL: May have a 3-point fighting-related skill applicable outside of combat.
- APPRENTICE (young enchantress, elderly seer, illusionist, gnomish tome-carrier). Grants +1 to hit with spells. Bonus rises to +2 at Champion tier and +3 at Epic tier. COST: Spell components and replacing burnt robes and broken wands = 50 GP after every battle (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If cost is not payed the apprentice provides no combat bonus until they are resupplied. SKILL: May have a 3-point magic-related skill applicable outside of combat, maybe aiding in ritual casting.
- PRIEST (prophet, hermit, wise-woman, etc). Grants +1 to all healing from recoveries. Bonus rises to +2 at Champion tier and +3 at Epic tier. COST: Tithes to their faith = 50 GP after every battle (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If cost is not paid the priest provides no healing bonus until they are satisfied. SKILL: May have a 3-point religion-related skill applicable outside of combat.
- SQUIRE (armorer, manservant, maid, etc). Grants +1 to hit with melee attacks. Bonus rises to +2 at Champion tier and +3 at Epic tier. COST: Equipment, food, lodging, horses, and training = 50 GP after every battle (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If cost is not paid the squire provides no bonus because they do not have the funds to properly care for their master’s equipment and well-being. SKILL: May have a 3-point skill applicable outside of combat, usually related to a peasant background.
- FLETCHER (spear-carrier, flintknapper, smith, bowyer, etc). Grants +1 to hit with non-magical ranged attacks. Bonus rises to +2 at Champion tier and +3 at Epic tier. COST: Provisions, tools, and raw materials = 50 GP after every battle (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If cost is not paid the fletcher can provide no bonus. SKILL: May have a 3-point skill applicable outside of combat, usually related to a peasant background.
- GOONS (villagers, arrow-sheaths, meat-shields, etc). These are three foolish and bumbling idiots to whom you have given poles to prod at traps with. If you would need to roll a save or make a skill check to avoid a trap or avoid falling or other environmental woes you can choose to sacrifice a goon instead. You can also sacrifice a goon to give yourself +1 to your defenses against a single attack (+2 at Champion, +3 at Epic). Once all three goons are gone you need to hire new goons. A trio of goons costs 50 GP to hire (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic), mostly because you need to buy half the tavern drinks before you’ll find somebody willing to come along with you. At the end of every session roll a save for your goons – if you fail then one of the goons dies (they walk out of camp in the night to relieve themselves and are eaten by a grue, they eat a poisonous mushroom, they trip over and fall on a sword they were cleaning for you, etc). If you are down to your last goon and it survives three further sessions you may graduate the goon to another type of hireling, switching the type of hireling that your Hirelings and Henchman feat grants you.
- HERALD (cheerleader, musician, poet, scribe, trumpeter, etc). +4 to initiative rolls and +4 to rolls to impress others. COST = 50 GP every time you enter a large city to buy them nicer clothes and lodging (100 at Champion, 150 at Epic). If you do not pay the cost they’ll still sing songs about you but the songs will not be as flattering. SKILL: May have a 3 point skill in something completely unrelated to adventuring.
Unless otherwise stated henchmen and hirelings act like familiars in that they are not valid targets in combat. Enemies recognize that the heroes are the true threat, not their lackeys. Should a henchman or hireling die the hero with the Hirelings and Henchman feet can gain another at the next largish village they visit.
Of course you can reflavor your henchmen… your shieldmaiden could be an animated construct that acts like a loyal dog snatching arrows out of the air but needs to be repaired after every battle, or your apprentice could be an imp that whispers dark secrets to you and demands you spend money on tithes to dark gods in return. Up to you.
In some ways henchmen work a bit like potions and oils and runes – you get a bonus in exchange for gold spent. In a way they are like background points. However, there are downsides. Henchmen can die (though they can not be targeted in combat), be frightened off, or separated from you – and so while they are in some ways better than magic they are also in certain ways worse.
Travelling around with hirelings and henchmen poses one further downside that travelling with a pouch of magical potions does not … for every henchman or hireling in your group subtract 1 from all rolls whenever the group tries to sneak about, move stealthily, or leave no tracks.
… and when your character dies (the dungeon dice brings the deadliness of 13th Age to near OSR levels) you can always have your new character be your old henchman.
Sprinkling for flavor…
You might not want to incorporate each of these ideas into your game. The dungeon dice can be added to a regular 13th Age game to create an especially deadly living dungeon. The equipment tracker can be used if your group cares about encumbrance rules. The mapping idea encourages note-taking and helps players tie their character’s stories to the narrative of the wider world.
… and of course if you have an OSRian in your group these rules hacks are a great way to ease them into a new game while they show you what is fun about the way they like to play. And if you are an OSRian – hey, its time to for you to teach the new dogs some old tricks.
Our director of organized play for 13th Age, when he isn’t busy avoiding Jazz-Funk Goblins ASH LAW enjoys cups of tea, running 13th Age, and slaying dragons.
By Ruven Wolff
EDITOR’S NOTE: When we heard about Ruven’s Victorian maritime 13th Age campaign, and how he was reskinning the game’s icons as undead pirates, submarines and Luddite orcs, we knew it had to go on the blog. He’s generously written his icons up for us, and added notes on shipping and weapons in this alternate setting.
Practitioners of white magic, organized in a complex web of magic circles, secret societies and witches’ covens, each with its own magic traditions. At the heart of it all stands the Sanctum, the circle of the most powerful wizards to walk the earth, although it is said that the head of the Sanctum itself is one man, the Archmage, so proficient in magic that he is barely human anymore.
The common man will know the Societas Arcanorum as the publisher of the yearly Almanac, which contains weather forecasts, shipping routes, planting tables for farmers and other useful information – everything you need to build and nurture a civilization. Indeed, some consider the Almanac a little too detailed, a little too overbearing; but the fact is, its instructions work, even if they sometimes seem to make little sense for the task at hand and approach things in a roundabout way.
Take the planting of certain crops, which apart from watching the seasons and choosing the right soil also (apparently) requires a close eye on the phase of the moon, certain star constellations, and a certain amount of faffing about with candles and simple sigils. Dealing with the Societas Arcanorum, you never know what of their actions is self-serving and what is just part of a complex magic ritual that serves god knows what purpose – and what is just flimflam designed to keep you from realizing the difference.
The Sanctum is closely tied to the Kaiserreich – indeed, insiders know that the Kaiserreich’s infrastructure minister is none other than the Archmage himself. As such, the Societas Arcanorum is also on good footing with the Church and the Golden Dragons, although there is sometimes disagreement about how to approach their common goals.
As the world’s foremost practitioners of dark magic, the Diablo Club and the Three almost naturally stand opposite the Societas. The Three continually try to get past the Societas’ magical wards that protect the shipping routes, and the Societas equally continually researches new, stronger wards. Magical wars between the Diablo Club and the Societas often go unnoticed by the general public, unless one side reaches a particular spectacular (but temporary) victory.
Knights Templar of the Cross
Religious zealots and ruthless mercenaries whose declared goal is the complete eradication of devil worship. They will stop at nothing to pursue this goal and make little to no concessions to other factors. The Knights Templar have been known to burn towns to the ground on little more than the suspicion of devil worship, with the general populace left largely to themselves, although thankfully such excessive displays of determination are rare.
The Knights Templar consider themselves allies of the Kaiserreich, the Church and even the Golden Dragons. The sentiment is not mutual. However, each of them have had to admit that an unchecked Diablo Club would be a worse enemy (as would the Knights Templar if they don’t consider you an ally). Then again, the Knights Templar would probably ally with anyone who allowed them to go against the Club.
In particularly dark times, even the Societas Arcanorum would rather ally with the Knights Templar than concede a victory to the Diablo Club.
The Diablo Club, obviously. Both the Kaiserreich and the Church direct a considerable amount of effort to keeping the Knights Templar in check, and the Golden Dragons actively despise their practices. The Knights Templar are also somewhat distrustful of Thorgrimmaer & Forinsson Industries – who, they argue, could know what the dwarves might set free if they dig too deep?
If the Diablo Club were ever to be eradicated, there is no telling what manner of „occultists“ the Knights Templar would go against next. Perhaps even the Societas Arcanorum?
The Diablo Club
To outsiders the Diablo Club is nothing but a private club catering to the rich and bored. The truth is far more sinister. The Diablo Club is a haven of depravity and decadence, and its members tend to recruit themselves from that special breed of privileged people that believe nothing should be taboo for them. What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse – unless it’s one of the special club outings that more often than not involves a journey to a remote island and the blood sacrifice of an innocent victim to satisfy the demons that the inner circles of the club have sworn service to in exchange for power.
Even some of its members have no idea about the true purpose of the club. The club is very careful to keep some of its influential members in the dark, as they provide a valuable defense against attempts to close down clubhouses in the civilized regions of the seas. One of those members that outlives their usefulness will soon find themselves invited to one of those island trips. No return ticket.
Allying with the Diablo Club is insane or suicidal at best. However, the club enjoys connections to the Underworld and its off-the-books infrastructure.
The Golden Dragons know what the Club’s deal is and will work against it wherever possible. So do the Knights Templar, and they are less scrupulous about it. The Church works against dark magic as performed by the Diablo Club on general principle, while the Societas Arcanorum counteract their efforts on the more abstract terrain of magic.
Thorgrimmaer & Forinsson Industries
The dwarves have always been interested in the treasures that lie on the ocean floor and beneath, and they have found the greatest treasure of all – oil. This discovery has sparked an avalanche of inventions across the seas, and today there is almost nothing of greater importance that doesn’t, in some way, run or rely on oil. Thorgrimmaer & Forinsson is the world’s foremost oil trading company as well as the largest producer of intricate machines – oil drilling rigs, tankers, cranes, even autonomous carriages, but also mechanical weapons that use an explosive powder.
The majority of dwarves is somehow involved with the company, and they offer very lucrative contract work for everyone.
The Kaiserreich has bought into T&F’s inventions in a big way. So much, in fact, that while each of them is able to exert some pressure, neither could at this point continue to exist without the other. The Kaiserreich runs on oil and dwarven machines, and T&F Industries would collapse without a steady revenue stream – dwarves may be proud workers but they know the value of their work.
The Circle of Druids would like nothing more than reduce T&F’s influence on the world, including by violent means. The company is also under close scrutiny by the Knights Templar, and of course, where there is money, the agents of the Underworld aren’t far – machine and oil shipments are a favourite target for pirates.
The Elven Nations
Far in the North of the seas there is an archipelago where the elven races live, an artistic and magically gifted people that strive for harmony. Within their own circles, that is – the laid-back wood elves generally consider the more sophisticated high elves somewhat arrogant and the latter often call the former uncivilized, and neither are on good speaking terms with the morose dark elves, but ultimately their common history unites them. Many years ago the Kaiserreich had numerous colonies on the archipelago, and it is generally agreed today that neither side showed themselves in the best light back then (although most people limit that understanding to the respective other side).
The Elven Nations no longer wage war against the Kaiserreich. That is widely considered a large step forward. However, they cannot be said to be true allies – too different are their approaches to life, and too high run the resentments from the colonial period. The fact that many elves are old enough to remember life in the colonies – “under the oppressors“, as they say – firsthand isn’t helping.
As a peaceful people, the Elven nations do not condone the Circle of Druid’s violent actions, but they have a desire for living in harmony with nature in common, and many safe havens of the Circle are located in Elven territory. Large sections of the Societas Arcanorum focus on the study and incorporation of Elven magic, although the Elves are reluctant to give up their greatest secrets, preferring to keep them within their own circles. The Elves enjoy a good relationship with the Golden Dragons, who were always outspoken opponents of mistreating colony natives and the practice of colonialism as a whole.
The Elves deeply mistrust the Dwarves’ heavy use of heavy machinery.
The world’s foremost bastion of civilization, the Kaiserreich spans the entirety of the cartographed islands in the seas. A vast fleet that travels along complex shipping routes supplies cities and islands allied with the Reich and quite a few of the independents – unless you want to contact the underworld or the elves, it’s the Kaiserreich or nothing. Generally in a Kaiserreich city you’ll find all the services and perks of civilizations, a good selection of trade goods and reasonably safe streets, and of course a church, an office of the Societas Arcanorum (from which, at the very least, the Almanac is distributed) and a tax office. Very efficiently organized, very safe, very uneventful. Very boring, according so some.
The Societas Arcanorum and the Church are integral parts of the Kaiserreich. The Golden Dragons are valuable allies, and the Knights Templar at least make for better allies than enemies, although each have their own agenda. In faraway regions, either organization is known to serve as the Kaiserreich’s official police force, strongly coloring the local citizen’s perception of the Reich as a whole. And of course the business relationship with Thorgrimmae & Forinsson is so close they might as well officially be part of the Kaiserreich.
As long as the Kaiserreich relies on machines, they aren’t going to be close friends with either the Circle of Druids or the Luddites, although neither is opposed to the idea of the Reich per se. A much larger problem is the Dead Pirate Roberts, who in his lifetime very nearly snatched the throne from the Kaiser, and his death has proven to be only a minor setback in that plan. The presence of the Three regularly threatens port cities and shipping routes.
The Golden Dragons
An altruistic mercenary and professionals-for-hire organization whose primary motivation is furthering the cause of all that’s good and just. Often employed by the Kaiserreich, anyone can hire them for an appropriate fee – appropriate to one’s financial possibilities, that is. However, the Golden Dragons will consider the impact of their missions carefully to make sure they don’t unwittingly participate in evil schemes. They will also regularly become active of their own volition.
The Golden Dragons and the Kaiserreich share many goals and work together well, but the Dragons are critical of some aspects of the Reich, and ultimately tend to feel closer to the Church.
A declared goal of the Golden Dragons is to bring down the Diablo Club. Rumours have it that the Club has already once succeeded in opening a portal to Hell on a remote island, and only the presence of a Golden Dragons fortress keeps the forces of Hell at bay. They are also not fond of the underworld and anyone who uses violence as a first resort, which includes the Luddites and the more radical Druids.
The Circle of Druids
The Circle of Druids advocates living in harmony with nature wherever possible. Members of the Circle of Druids consider the widespread use of oil the wrong path to go down and regularly point out the hazards involved. Lung diseases are markedly more common on oil ships and in other areas with heavy oil use, and there has been more than one bad tanker accident at sea. For moderate factions of the Circle, this means simply abstaining from oil use unless necessary and trying to lead their communities towards other solutions – for more radical factions it means actively sabotaging ships, machinery and even oil rigs. They are known for their use of small, inflatable boats and their self-sufficient way of life, and a few have such a close connection to nature that their feats seem almost magic.
Life on the Elven archipelago has more to offer to most Druids than life in the Kaiserreich. The radical factions will often work with the Luddites – their goals are different, but their methods are similar. Particularly radical factions will even align with the Three. The underworld’s infrastructure often proves useful as well.
Thorgrimmaer & Forinsson don’t like to see the Druids’ ships and boats around.
The Dead Pirate Roberts
Once upon a time, there was a ruthless pirate king that managed to unite enough pirate clans under his rule to threaten the Kaiserreich itself, and only a united effort could end the threat in a fierce and terrible battle. When the mortally wounded Roberts retreated on his ship, the Societas Arcanorum sent a curse after him that would prevent the ship from ever making port again. At that point, they were unaware that Roberts was a practitioner of dark magic, and after his death, he returned, over time granting his ship flight and turning his crew into the walking dead.
This was a long time ago, and only the legend remains today. It is said that encountering Roberts on the sea spells certain doom for you, as he is known to kill at will – and if you’re really unlucky, you return as a magically animated skeleton, either toiling on his ship or on a mission to assault a Kaiserreich harbour, reminding the Kaiser that Roberts is still out there.
If the underworld could be united again, things might be bad. As it stands, they’re mostly too afraid of what Roberts is today.
For decades, orcs were the most reliable and proud workers the Kaiserreich had in its employ. On any dock a vertiable arms of orcs was ready to unload or load your ship quickly and efficiently, and their sailing skills were unparalleled. Then the dwarves sold cranes to the dockmasters and engines to the ship captains, and suddenly 90% of orcs were out of a job, felt unneeded and, as orcs do, grew very angry about it. Deciding that they had no place in this new so-called civilization, they started travelling the seas, destroying machinery wherever they went. What is so wrong about working with your own two hands, anyway?
Sometimes the Circle of Druids finds the assistance of the Luddites useful. They have a great talent for destruction, but little consideration for consequences. Anyone who is prepared to pay them a day’s work for a day’s wages and can put up with their rough ways will have a good ally in an orc Luddite, as long as they don’t put a machine in front of them.
Throgrimmaer & Forinsson rightly consider the Luddites a threat to their livelihood, and the Kaiserreich considers them a threat to its way of living and modern civilization as a whole.
Usually understood to mean the official organized religion of the Kaiserreich. The Church’s main interest is the spiritual well-being of all beings. The concept of organized religion is relatively new, but in the light of threats like the Three and the Dead Pirate Roberts (and for those in the know, the Diablo Club) it tends to catch on very well. The Church offers a place for everyone who wishes to do good and live in peace and harmony with their fellow man, rather than take up arms for the cause.
The Kaiserreich offers the best chance for the Church to prosper, and they feel a spiritual kinship with the Golden Dragons as well, although their methods are very different. Philisophical discussions with members of the Societas Arcanorum are common.
The Church cannot stand the activities of those who would lead their followers to dark places, spiritually speaking, which foremostly includes the Diablo Club. However, the Church also considers the activities of the Knights Templar archaic and abusive of spirituality.
Wherever there are the laws of civilization, there are also those who don’t see a reason to abide by them, or at least those who would abuse them for profit. The concept of the underworld encompasses innumerable street gangs, thieves’ guilds, pirate crews, frauds and smugglers, any of which may be (temporarily) allied with another or (not-so-temporarily) feud with them, but all of which are united against the authority of law when it comes down to it. They are not destructive as such and most of them don’t seek to overthrow the Kaiserreich as an institution; why would you do that when you can live so comfortably in its shadow?
Anyone who has to move illegal goods or wants to travel somewhere they’re not supposed to has made use of the underworld’s infrastructure at some point. The Diablo Club will readily do so, the Circle of Druids often has no other choice.
The Kaiserreich’s police, T&F Industries and the Golden Dragons would all love to see the underworld eradicated.
Out in the untamed seas, sailors say, there lurk three monsters with unparalleled destructive potential. The Narwhal will rip the hull of any ship that crosses its path wide open with its terrifying horn, the Kraken will appear out of nowhere and pull entire tankers to the bottom of the ocean, while the massive Leviathan simply goes where it pleases and leaves nothing but wreckage in its wake. Worse still, the Three are not just animals. Each of them is intelligent, cunning and possesses the gift of magic; untamed, elemental magic that is any bit as powerful as the more formalized types and that the Three will even occasionally bestow upon mortals.
No one quite knows why the Three are so keen on destruction, but given their propensity for it, everyone does their best to avoid them as much as possible.
[There is one thing few initiated know: the Narwhal is not a creature at all, but a submarine crewed by radical separationist mages, whose Captain, known (to the crew and very few others) by the name Outis, holds a particular grudge against the Kaiserreich for its colonial policies. Yes it's basically the Nautilus and Captain Nemo. I like to keep that a secret from players – makes for a nice plot twist - but characters closely aligned with the Three might know about it from the start.]
Aside from their disciples, who are mostly in it for the power, allying with the Three is far too risky for anyone.
Any regular seafarer has much to loose from an encounter with one of the Three. The Societas Arcanorum has put powerful wards in place to protect the shipping routes, but they regularly find them broken or bypassed.
The various organizationsin the setting typically use the following ships:
Thorgrimmaer & Forinsson Industries: almost exclusively iron, oil-powered
Elven Nations: wooden sailing ships and boats
Kaiserreich: both wooden and iron ships, some sailing but mostly oil-powered, with a large amount of ships retrofitted with oil engines
Circle of Druids: wooden ships and nimble inflatable boats, often with sails, but oil engines are in use especially for the inflatables
Luddites: Sailing ships and, unusually, galleys – Luddites make a point of not using machines. Orcs sometimes use iron ships they’ve stolen from the dwarves and stripped of the engines, which is incredibly inefficient but when an orc decides to make a point he can be very stubborn about it.
Necessarily by the game’s design, weaponry moves along the usual lines of “swords, shields, bows, armor“ which may be slightly anachronistic compared to the real-life Victorian age, but is convenient and creates a good atmosphere of adventure, swashbuckling and danger on the high seas. Guns can easily be represented by reflavouring bows and crossbows. They’re probably a dwarven invention (and Luddites would make a point of not using them, either. What, can’t you shoot a normal bow that you need that fancy crutch?).
Cannons were among the first things my players wanted on their ship. In combat I usually don’t bother with assigning attack and damage rolls to them. Instead they make good vehicles for skill rolls and stunts to achieve specific outcomes or win a naval battle.
by Paul Fanning
Races, as well as Backgrounds and One Unique Things, are very rules-light in 13th Age. Heritage feats represent aspects of your character’s heredity and history that aren’t easily covered by these mechanics, or by existing classes. Heritage feats aren’t necessarily for all campaigns, or all characters. Players should consult with their GMs about whether these feats make sense at their tables.
Heritage feats add a layer of complexity and diversity to characters, increasing their non-class rules-focused options. For example:
- A player wants his dwarf Paladin to be a natural shield fighter, so he takes the Born for Battle feat and a couple of appropriate fighter maneuvers.
- Another player may wish for her One Unique Thing to carry a little mechanical/combat weight: her elven paladin’s blood will never be spilled until she faces the Abyss’ greatest demon, so she takes the Mythic Flesh feat.
- A third player wants his tiefling to be decidedly demonic, with wings and sharp pointy things all over the place. He could take Low Glide, Nature’s Arsenal, or a number of other options.
If you want your character to be more focused on what heritage feats provide, your GM may let your character take the Strong Heritage Talent instead of one of your class talents:
New Talent (Any Class)
STRONG HERITAGE: You gain two heritage or general feats.
Suggested Heritage feats
Heritage feats aren’t restricted by race, but some of them are especially well-suited for specific races and classes. Here are a few heritage feats a character of each race might want to take:
Human: Blood Echo, Born to Battle (any class)
Dwarf: Born to Battle (Fighter), Elemental Endurance (Fire or Thunder)
Dark Elf: Alien Mind, Fey Touch
High Elf: Alien Mind, Speaking Mind
Wood Elf: Otherworldy Strike, Purpose over Pain
Halfling: Born to Battle (Rogue), Fool’s Luck
Gnome: Critter, Fluid Identity
Half-Elf: Blood Echo (Human or any Elf), Born to Battle (Bard)
Half-Orc: Bestial Wrath, Will to War
Dragonic: Elemental Endurance, Nature’s Arsenal
Forgeborn: Mythic Flesh, Water Breather
Holy One: Celestial Touch, Low Glide
Tiefling: Elemental Endurance (Fire), Terrible Soul
With GM agreement, a character may take as many heritage feats as they have feats available. As in the 13th Age core rules, heritage feats appear in three tiers: adventurer feats, champion feats, and epic feats. Adventurer feats are available to any character between level 1 and level 10. Champion feats are available starting at level 5. Epic feats are available starting at level 8. Players should give these feats a good in-story explanation when they appear.
Adventurer Tier: Once per battle when an enemy’s attack hits your MD, you can force the attacker to reroll the attack.
Adventurer Tier: Once per day when you are hit by an attack while staggered (even if the attack drops you to 0 hp or below) you can make a basic attack as a free action against the attacker.
Champion Tier: You no longer have to be staggered, but the attacker must be.
Adventurer Tier: Choose one racial power of another race. One battle per day, you can give up a use of your primary racial power to gain the use of this one.
Champion Tier: Two battles per day.
Epic Tier: Each battle.
Born To Battle
Adventurer Tier: You may give up one of your class’ three talents to gain the use of two powers from another class at your level or lower. You cannot exchange a talent for spells or talents. (For example, you can take the rogue’s flying blade and deadly thrust powers, but not the murderous or shadow walk talents.) You can use these powers as if you were a PC of that class at the same level. Any class requirements for using a power come with the talent. For example, if you take rogue powers that require momentum, your character uses momentum rules just as a rogue does. In addition, you may improve your choices by taking feats related to those powers up to your tier.
Champion Tier: Gain an additional power from the same class.
Epic Tier: Gain another power from the same class
Adventurer Tier: Twice per day, but only once per battle, you or an ally you are next to can heal using a recovery as a quick action.
Adventurer Tier: You have a small or normal sized creature that fights beside you in battle. It uses the Ranger’s Animal Companion rules, with the following important changes: It is the same level as you, but its damage dice are as if it was one level lower, and it has one-quarter of the usual animal companion’s hit points.
Adventurer Tier: Once per battle when the escalation die is odd, when an enemy hits you with a melee attack, you can make a melee basic attack against it as a free action.
Adventurer Tier: You gain resistance 16+ to a single elemental damage type: fire, cold, lightning or thunder.
Adventurer Tier: Choose two wizard cantrips. Once per round, or once per minute out of battle, you can cast one of these cantrips (per the normal cantrip rules).
Adventurer Tier: When making a skill check to disguise yourself as someone else, roll twice and use either result.
From Shadow To Shadow
Champion Tier: Once per battle (or once per five minutes out of battle) as a quick action, you gain a +5 bonus to checks to hide that turn.
Adventurer Tier: You are a large-size creature, capable of smashing puny foes. When escalation die is even, if you roll a natural even hit on a melee attack, increase your damage dice one size for that attack.
Adventurer Tier: You gain a +1 bonus to AC when wearing light armor or no armor.
Champion Tier: You gain an additional +1 bonus to AC when wearing light armor or no armor.
Epic Tier: You gain another +1 bonus to AC when wearing light armor or no armor.
Adventurer Tier: Once per day when you rally, you gain an additional use of your racial power that battle.
Champion Tier: Twice per day, but only once per battle.
Epic Tier: Once each battle.
Adventurer Tier: When you fall and are able to take actions (not stunned, helpless, or otherwise bound), roll a normal save. On a success, you land gently and take no damage. On a failure, you land awkwardly and take half damage.
Champion Tier: When you make a check that involves balancing, climbing, jumping, traversing terrain etc. you may roll twice and use either result.
Epic Tier: While you are moving, if an enemy moves to intercept you, you can make one disengage check per intercepting enemy as a free action to avoid that enemy, but you must stop the first time you fail any of those disengage checks.
Luck of the 13
Adventurer Tier: You can subtract 2d6 from the natural result of any d20 roll you make. The original roll must be 13 or higher.
Adventurer Tier: You make saves against untyped ongoing damage both at the start and end of your turn. In addition, once per battle you gain a +2 bonus to your fourth death save.
Champion Tier: Increase your maximum hit points by 2 hit points per your current level. . You also gain a +2 bonus to your third death save each battle, and a +2 bonus to saves against untyped ongoing damage.
Epic Tier: The hit point bonus is now three times your current level. You also gain a +2 to your second death save each battle, and your saves to end ongoing untyped damage are now easy saves. (You still get the +2 bonus from the Champion Tier feat.).
Adventurer Tier: Your unarmed melee attacks do 1d6 damage plus any applicable modifiers. If you are wielding a weapon in one hand, you are considered to be wielding a weapon in your other hand as well. Champion Tier: When your natural melee attack roll equals the number currently showing on the escalation die, you can make an immediate basic unarmed melee attack against the same enemy as a free action.
Adventurer Tier: Once per battle, before you make an attack, declare you are using Otherworldly Strike: roll an extra d20 when you attack and substitute it for one roll, if you wish. Also, do an extra 1d4 on a hit. This extra damage increases to 2d4 at 5th level and 3d4 at 8th.
Adventurer Tier: Once per battle when you hit with a melee or ranged attack against an enemy engaged with one or more of your allies, you can deal an extra 1d3 damage per level.
Champion Tier: Once per day deal an extra 1d10 per level with Pack Hunter (instead of 1d3 per level).
Epic Tier: You may use Pack Hunter twice per battle.
Adventurer Tier: When you take damage from a missed attack, you can roll a normal save; on a success, you instead take no damage.
Purpose Over Pain
Adventurer Tier: You may take damage equal to twice your level to ignore (not end) one dazed, hampered, or weakened condition until the end of your turn.
Adventurer Tier: As a quick action, you can send a 10-word mental message to any number of nearby creatures you can see.
Champion Tier: You can now send a 25-word mental message.
Adventurer Tier: Enemies engaged with you that have fewer than your Level x 6 HP are dazed.
Adventurer Tier: Once per day when you are hit by an attack, you can choose to take half damage from the attack.
Adventurer Tier: Each time you attack or are attacked by an invisible enemy, roll a hard save (16+). On a success, that enemy isn’t invisible to you during your next turn.
Adventurer Tier: You can breathe under water.
Adventurer Tier: When you are staggered and an enemy hits you with a natural attack roll of 16+, take less damage equal to twice your level.
Will To War
Adventurer Tier: When you drop to 0 hp or below, roll a normal save. On an 11+, you do not fall unconscious until you fail a death saving throw.
The Dragon Empire – Through A Mirror, Darkly
by Aaron Roudabush
The Dragon Empire, bitterly cold and dangerous from border to border — whether in the depths of the wilds or the heart of a city — is as cruel, unfriendly land. The people here have long been oppressed and controlled by a line of power-hungry Emperors and their allies: the twisted, mad Archmage, the cruel and powerful Orc Lord and the dangerously zealous Priestess. The common people have little real freedom and live in fear of powerful nobles, fanatical priests, magical disasters, and bloodthirsty monsters. The ages-old protector of this land, the Great Gold Wyrm, has lost all hope of saving it and now seeks to destroy the world before demonic forces can claim it for themselves.
Still, there are rays of light in the darkness. The Crusader leads armies of rebels against the tyranny of the Emperor. The Elf Queen fights a guerrilla war to weaken and defeat the Orc Lord. The Three counter the otherwise unstoppable destruction of the Great Gold Wyrm. Other Icons, in their own way, resist the Dragon Empire and fight to make the world a better place for all. But, despite their strength and determination, they will need help from heroes, both large and small, to claim their victories.
This mirror Dragon Empire is a variation of the default setting that can play with players’ and GMs’ expectations of the Icons and experience a different sort of relationship with them. They can be used all together, along with the brief overview up above, to change the whole setting or transplanted into a “regular” game to shake things up and keep the players guessing.
Power-mad and obsessed with the accumulation of arcane knowledge, The Archmage and his deranged experiments and followers sometimes threaten the Empire, the world — or even reality itself. But with magical strength rivaled only by Elf Queen, his allies reluctantly allow him to continue in his madness, so that in his rare moments of clarity they can take advantage of his abilities.
Insanity and obsession have not made the Archmage any less intelligent or cunning, although they have made him considerably more difficult to predict and counter. The followers of the Archmage often are little more than unwitting pawns in his schemes, but many still benefit from his vast knowledge, unscrupulous experimentation and twisted schemes.
At the heart of the military resistance to the Emperor is the Crusader, fighting to overthrow the tyrant and return freedom to all the lands of the Dragon Empire. From hidden bases he strikes at the Emperor’s strongholds and fights to weaken the allies of the Empire. Years of hard fighting and harder decisions have made him a hard man, but he knows that in the end, his goals are noble – and that even the greatest of sacrifices will ultimately be for the benefit of all.
The Crusader’s followers come from all walks of life: Betrayed nobility, impoverished peasants and fair-minded merchants. So long as they’re willing to take up against the Dragon Empire, the Crusader welcomes all into his ranks. Iron-hard and rough from their long battle against oppression, there is little room among the ranks of the Crusader’s follower for weakness, but they are as fiercely committed to one another they are to their goals.
The Diabolist plays a dangerous game, making deals and bargains to limit the number of devils who can gain entry into the world. Assuming the role of protector now that the Great Gold Wyrm has gone mad, The Diabolist seeks to trap those demons that do get into the world, and force them to work for more noble causes. The devils hate her for her cunning contracts and agreements, but her knowledge and influence make her almost impossible to ignore — either in this world or among hellish planes.
Those who follow the Diabolist don’t always live up to her noble intentions, however, and the world holds as many devils free to wreak havoc as there are those trapped into aiding the forces of good. But the Diabolist is secretive and plans many steps ahead, so who can say what is or isn’t a part of her plans?
Ostensibly a reluctant ally of the Emperor, The Dwarf King is, in reality, the chief supplier of weapons, armor, troops, and shelter to groups and individuals fighting against the Dragon Empire. He fears the Empire may decide mere trade and tribute are not enough and that, in time, the Empire’s forces may choose to conquer the Dwarf King’s territories and subjugate their sturdy inhabitants the way they did the Queen’s Woods and the elves. The Dwarf King would prefer to go it alone, but he knows that he needs allies until the world above his holds and mines can be stabilized.
The Dwarf King’s followers fully understand the precarious situation they find themselves in, but are as stubborn and unrelenting in their goals as he is. Magewrights, tradesmen, soldiers, lorekeepers, and more devote their efforts to the protection of their homes and livelihoods and, ultimately, the eventual defeat of the Dragon Empire.
The queen without a country, the Elf Queen fights a guerrilla war against the Orc Lord to drive him out of the Queen’s Woods and reclaim them for her people. She is aided in this task by the Dwarf King and the Crusader, as well as (sometimes contentiously) the High Druid. Her political skill is even greater than her incredible magical prowess, as it must be to unite the often argumentative factions of the Elven Court in Exile and placate the High Druid. Her savvy, as well as her immense magical talent, are a large part of what has kept the Court and her people safe since the Orc Lord, backed by the might of the Archmage and Emperor’s forces, took their lands.
The Elf Queen’s followers know they are up against the wall and looked at with suspicion across the Dragon Empire. To be associated with the Elf Queen and her court is to be thought a traitor. But all the arts of the elves, and their many allies among the other races, are bent toward the task of breaking the Empire and reclaiming their homeland.
An iron-fisted tyrant who controls the Dragon Empire, the Emperor keeps its people tightly controlled with his terrifying secret police, the allegiance of powerful nobility and his vast legions of well-trained soldiers. He keeps the populace content, or at least distracted, with numerous arenas filled with bloodsport and other games. The current Emperor is young and, as of yet, relatively untested. The Dragon Empire retains the status quo, but none know if, or for how long, that will remain the case. Hot-headed and temperamental, the young Emperor may well push the empire headlong into even greater conflict than already rages within and without.
The Emperor’s followers believe in the stability and security of the Dragon Empire and are committed to keeping it that way. Traitors, rebels, and spies must be rooted out and destroyed for the good of all the people of the empire.
Great Gold Wyrm
Driven to madness from his long watch sealing the Abyss, the Great Gold Wyrm now seeks to destroy the world to prevent demons from ever gaining control of it. In his times of lucidity, he cultivates groups of bloody-minded paladins, fanatical warriors, and black-hearted assassins to remove all obstacles in his way. But in his times of madness, he seeks only to destroy the world with flame and claw. Wide swathes of countryside have been turned into barren glass from dragonfire and more than one town has suffered at the claws of the Great Gold Wyrm. Even the Dragon Empire rightly worries about what destruction may come next.
Many of the Great Gold Wyrm’s followers are as mad as he is, although some merely find the idea of complete destruction fitting with their nihilistic philosophies. The Wyrm’s cults are terrifying, dangerous and hunted by every other Icon, but not all followers are easily extinguished — and some are deliberately allowed to remain so that their madness and fanaticism can be manipulated to another Icon’s ends.
The High Druid fights tooth and nail (often literally) against the constant militaristic encroachment of the Dragon Empire and is reluctantly allied to a number of other Icons in order to fulfill her goal. Although the High Druid sometimes shelters the Elf Queen and her bands of rebels, the forces of nature often fight alone as her ultimate goals are not always the same as other Icons. However, with all the might of the natural world at her command, her forces rarely fight from a position of weakness. The Archmage, with his unnatural taming of the Midland Sea, is her greated and most hated foe.
The High Druid’s followers are often not as militant in their dislike for civilization as the High Druid herself, but frequently are put in a position where opposing unchecked expansion of the Dragon Empire is little different than opposing farms, roads, and towns. They must not only fight directly with bow and blade, but also must convince the citizens of the empire to work in harmony with nature. It’s not an easy task, but the High Druid and her people know it must be done.
Formerly the High King of the lands now controlled by The Emperor, this fallen monarch was killed and sealed away by the first Archmage over a prophecy that he would one day return to reclaim his throne. From the shadows of death, he and his followers plot to return the Lich King to life and fight to free the land from the usurpers. In his undead state, the Lich King can rarely extend his personal power beyond the Necropolis but his control over the unquiet dead gives him more influence than his opponents would like. After killing The White in life, his power now extends over white dragons, whether dead or alive, and the Dragon Empire fears their sight.
The Lich King’s followers are diverse and frequently at odds with one another. Some are dedicated advocates for the return of the High King and fight the Dragon Empire to break its power. Some are necromancers uninterested in political struggles. And then there are the thinking dead themselves, who have not lost sight of the goals and objectives they had in life. This disunity keeps the Lich King from being more effective, but his followers are generally accepting and protective of one another.
The Orc Lord, along with the Archmage and the Emperor, represents one third of the ruling triumvirate of power in the Dragon Empire. The first Orc Lord helped overthrow the Lich King, then went on to conquer the Queen’s Wood with the help of the Emperor and Archmage – a repayment for their use of his brutish armies. In this, the 13th Age, the current Orc Lord still lives for the thrill of battle, the scent of burning buildings in the air and the taste of blood on his lips. The Emperor and the Archmage keep him reigned in and focused on rebels and traitors like the Crusader or the Elf Queen, but this may well be the Age when the Orc Lord breaks free or their control and finally crushes civilization as we know it beneath his feet.
The Orc Lord’s followers are tolerated, but not exactly liked, within the Dragon Empire. Outside the bounds of the empire, they are even less liked for their tendency towards violence and plunder. Not all the Orc Lord’s followers are mindless berserkers, but outside of a few clans and tribes, honor and intelligence are scorned as weaknesses.
A fierce zealot and firebrand of the gods, the Priestess demands worship, sacrifice, and obedience upon pain of death (or things worse than death). Her aims are supported by the Emperor since they frequently target those who would fight against the injustices in the empire, and in return her sermons and holy texts tell the masses that the Dragon Empire is divinely supported. She constantly seeks out heretics, pagans, and the godless to return them to the fold with blood and fire. The gods, if they exist, that the Priestess represents care not where or how the worship comes, so long that it comes regularly and in great numbers. The Priestess and her fanatical followers constantly ensure that the faithful do not falter in their divinely-given task.
Followers of the Priestess often have the zeal of the true believer and act accordingly. They fight against blasphemy, heresy, and apathy within the Empire and fight to spread the word to the godless outside the Empire. Outside of the circles of fervent believers, the Priestesses followers are often disliked or even hated, but few would say such things out loud where they might be overheard.
Prince of Shadows
The Prince of Shadows is folk hero and symbol of rebellion and freedom within the Dragon Empire. He opposes — and steals from — the rich and the powerful to embarrass them and spread their wealth to others less fortunate. He is a constant thorn in the side of the Emperor and his allies, but rarely acts in conjunction for long other Icons. Or at least, that’s how he presents himself — if the Prince is a he at all. Or even a person. Few know the truth of the Prince of Shadows, and there are as many rumors about his true nature as there are heists, exploits, and assassinations attributed to him. The Prince of Shadows may not exist at all outside of a symbol for freedom … or maybe that’s just what he wants you to think.
The Prince of Shadows has been an inspiration for all the downtrodden peoples of the Dragon Empire, which often makes for strange bedfellows. Thieves and assassins work with idealists and rebels in the name of the Prince of Shadows. Robberies, assassinations, information gathering and more are their stock and trade. Not all the Prince’s followers oppose the Dragon Empire, but the tyranny of the empire frequently chafes the sort of freewheeling and independent sorts who are attracted to the Prince in the first place.
The Three are one of the few things that stand between the Great Gold Wyrm and the destruction of the world. The Red is one of the few beings that can match the Great Gold Wyrm in physical combat. The Blue pits his arcane might against the maddened gold dragon. The Black trains and uses mortal groups to counter the Great Gold’s own cults. As greater dragons, the Three rarely work with other creatures, even other Icons, but the danger that the Great Gold Wyrm represents has forced them to seek allies. The Green was captured and imprisoned long ago by The Emperor. The White turned traitor and was destroyed by the Lich King when he still ruled as the High King. Reluctantly, the Three sometimes work with the Diabolist and, when they find that their goals overlap, occasionally the Crusader, but would prefer to use their own mortal followers.
The Red has no followers. Or at least, none that he openly acknowledges. Those who associate with the Red do so from afar, emulating his devastating physical prowess in their fight against the fanatics of the Great Gold Wyrm. The Blue attracts followers of intelligence and arcane power, who learn draconic secrets in exchange for their service. The Black attracts those of more subtle persuasion, and these followers often serve as spies and assassins in the fight against the psychotic gold dragon.
This is the home of the 13th Age / Archmage Engine system reference document.
It contains all the open content from the 13th Age RPG – the Archmage Engine. Whether you are a publisher or a gamer, you can use this under the terms of the Open Gaming License. You’ll find the revision history at the bottom of the Legal doc.
This is not the 13th Age RPG, which is a beautiful, gamer-friendly book packed with extra content and written in the author’s distinctive style. You can get it in the Pelgrane store or your local game store.
Word doc files:
Running the Game
Running the Game
The documents hosted on this page is Open Game Content, and are licensed for public use under the terms of the Open Game License v1.0a.
The Stone Thief is an old and cunning Living Dungeon. For unknown ages, it has slithered through the Underworld, rising to consume towers and cities or other, lesser dungeons. Now, it has your scent. It swims through the earth, eager to steal everything you cherish, eager to drag you down into its hellish labyrinth.
The dungeon’s coming for you. Kill it before it kills you.
This campaign pack for 13th Age is for characters of 4th to 7th level. Modular design lets the gamemaster tailor the dungeon and its perils to the player characters, or pull it apart for use in their own adventures.
Status: In Development
by Rob Heinsoo
Everyone else seems to be decorating for Halloween so I thought we’d meet the holiday on the threshold with a horror-tinted monster preview from the 13th Age Bestiary.
The dybbuk is a creature from Jewish mythology. The version ASH LAW designed takes just as much from Japanese and Korean horror films. Rich Longmore’s art nailed the fantasy/horror crossover.
The Dybbuk Legends section is a good example of our approach to the half-created world of 13th Age. We provide multiple interesting options and trust each GM and their players to come up with the ideas that make for the campaign’s best story. The half-created world completes its creation in each separate campaign.
The Dybbuk Possession section might spark weird horror-haunting stories or it might just go into the background as an explanation of what’s going on when dybbuks aren’t actively possessing someone like the poor elven priestess shown here.
The I Cast Thee Out! sidebar touches on the fun mechanical twist to this monster. If you hit it with holy attacks, there is a chance of blasting the dybbuk out of the body it is possessing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the dybbuk becomes an undamaged higher level ethereal dybbuk that will wreck your souls. Fortunately for some PCs, the ethereal dybbuk can’t maintain its presence in the world without its host, and fades round by round, so just . . . hold . . . . on . . .
We’ll let you find the current mechanics for yourself when you buy the finished book or pre-order the Hatchling Edition from the Pelgrane Press online store.
Possessing ghosts, demonic intruders, or alien visitors. Who can say for sure?
The stories surrounding dybbuks are often contradictory, probably muddied by the dybbuk themselves. For your game decide which one or more of the following ideas are true:
- Dybbuks are demons who seek physical bodies to do evil deeds. They imitate the recently departed to confuse demon-hunters who hear about them. [demon]
- Dybbuks are the souls of the dead who wish to continue living in warm bodies. [undead]
- Dybbuks are strange visitors from another realm who use the memories of the dead as their guides and the bodies of the living as their vessels. [aberration]
- Dybbuks are possibility-echoes of those who never were, people who could have existed if not for the birth of another. [aberration]
- Dybbuks are the souls of those who were rewritten out of existence by magic. [undead]
The monster entries for the dybbuk show their type as “demon,” but that dybbuk origin might not apply in your game. Feel free to change their type to suit your story.
Dybbuks are blown about by spectral winds no one else can see and must cling to people and objects. Spellcasters and others who have more spirit vision than most occasionally see dybbuks clinging to the sides of buildings like fluttering flags or desperately clinging to the shoulders of animals and people like shadowy capes. Characters who can see the other-world will mistake the translucent shade of a dybbuk for a trick of the light unless they make a DC 30 check.
Once a dybbuk finds a host it wishes to possess, it anchors itself to the victim’s body. Thereafter it lives inside its host’s physical shadow and is no longer buffeted by other-world storms. Over time the dybbuk warps the mind and body of its host, and eventually inhabits it entirely.
I Cast Thee Out!
Using holy damage on a dybbuk possessing a corpse (a corpse dybbuk) or a living victim (a parasitic dybbuk) can force the dybbuk to leave that body, but it produces a new, slightly tougher monster. Thankfully, the ethereal dybbuk fades away after a short time, because it can’t maintain a physical presence in the world for long without a host. Exposing a dybbuk to holy water or dragging it onto holy ground might have a similar effect, or not—that is the GM’s call.
by Rob Heinsoo
Jonathan and I have moved into a new work phase on 13 True Ways, meeting every afternoon in my garage studio. Long periods of separate work punctuated by discussion. Yesterday Jonathan finished up a big section on icon relations in Drakkenhall and moved on to monster design. Our debate on metallic dragons roamed over the history of D&D and eventually clambered onto our standard 13th-Agey approach of handling the familiar with twists that suit us. We’re more or less agreed, but expect designer sidebars in that section.
That monster tile? That’s the silver dragon tile by 13 True Ways artist Lee Moyer. See the Great Gold Wyrm tile in the core book for the ur-tile that set the pattern for the silver.
Meanwhile I finished a draft of the commander class that’s ready for internal playtesting but I’m not going to say more about it than I said in yesterday’s post until I’m happy with the tests. I’ve moved on to the druid, which somehow immediately generated new insights on handling multiclassing and racial feats, so yeah, enough of the blogging, back to the big picture druid mechanics and the new category of feats that turned out to be hidden in the underbrush surrounding the druid’s woods.
Wow! There are over 500 GMs playing through Tales of the 13th Age organized play program right now, and an average of 5 new GMs joining us every day! At 5 players per group that is 3000 people. GMs are running games in every corner of the globe, from France to Russia, from the Philippines to Australia, in small American towns to big cities. In Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain. Everywhere! Nobody is playing it in the Antarctic, but that is only a matter of time.
As games are run in stores and more people learn about 13th Age through playing it, more groups will join us. It is very exciting!
So far our intrepid characters have braved the Necropolis to steal a crown from out under the nose of the Lich King, and are currently trying to escape a rapidly mutating Wild Wood.
Each 6-week adventure takes place at a certain level, and all other adventures at that level occur simultaneously. So even as the brave survivors of Darkskye fight off monsters and dire beasts in the Wild Wood so there are a group of heroes in the labyrinths under the Necropolis, and a set of pilgrims on a quest in the cathedral, and yet another group of shadowy reprobates lurking around Shadow Port.
Naturally we’ve written the adventures in such a way that players can join at any week. At any point a new player can join a Tales of the 13th Age game and be able to join in the action without having to be caught up on reams of backstory. This means that certain things (like NPCs that last from week to week) we’ve not written in. We felt that the focus of the story should be the player characters and their adventures. Of course if you want to have a reoccurring NPC for your home group, go for it.
You are also going to start noticing that adventures intertwine. Events that happen in one adventure will be reflected in events that occur elsewhere at the same time (for example as your pilgrims climb the cathedral in Santa Cora they will witness Darkskye crashing into the Wild Wood).
Any character who took part in a prior level’s adventures can be leveled up to join in an adventure at the next level. A character who helped to steal the Lich King’s Crown at later levels can delve beneath the dwarf city of Forge, march with the crusader, fight epic monsters at the side of the Archmage’s elite wizards, and finally take part in the 10th level adventure. The adventures that your character takes part in are important, as you can take one item of treasure from that adventure and bring it forward as you level up – or forgo that treasure and gain a story-related benefit.
The 10th level adventure we plan to make something special – an epic 13 week long end-of-age adventure. And I have no idea what it will be like! The decisions you make in the adventures you play and GM will impact the adventures at all higher levels – so the 10th level adventure will be shaped by what you did and the feedback you gave for earlier adventures. I’m keen to see where you take the story!
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Rob Heinsoo had a few minutes to spare before it was time to feed the miniature koru behemoths who migrate ceaselessly through his back yard, and shared some insights on the new 13th Age Bestiary and 13 True Ways:
The 13th Age Bestiary is now available for pre-order and pre-publication playtesting! Like the Escalation Edition for the original 13th Age book, purchase of this Hatchling Edition of the Bestiary from the Pelgrane Press store gets you a PDF, updates whenever they’re available, and then the final printed book and PDF. Unlike the Escalation Edition’s many long moons, this pre-order Bestiary is already nearly finished and publishing is going to be a quick process. Simon expects to have the final book out early in 2014.
Now that the Bestiary is on its way, I’m switching back to full work on 13 True Ways with Jonathan. One of the curious effects of the Bestiary is that it’s going to change the way we approach monsters in 13 True Ways. Originally we were sticking to the just-the-facts approach of the core book, very short stat-based entries. But the Bestiary shows how we can present full entries on monsters and stick with the game’s half-designed-world that leaves important decisions up to each campaign. So the monster entries in 13 True Ways are going to use the full approach from the Bestiary wherever it’s warranted.
But enough about the future. Check out the Pelgrane Press Hatchling Edition announcement page that charmingly lists the names of all the monsters in the book. You might have to buy the PDF to figure out what some of the base entries are, others will be clear. We’ve chosen not to call out which authors were principally responsible for individual entries, so I figured for this introduction blog post I’d go ahead and list one monster that made a special impression on me from each of the other authors. Let’s take it in alphabetical order by designer’s first name.
ASH LAW did a lot of great work in the book. His chuul entry gets the CREEPY INNOVATOR prize for adding something to an existing monster that makes a lot of sense and opens up all manner of story ideas.
Cal Moore improved every monster as an editor, many monsters as a developer, and Kevin Kulp’s whispering prophet and others as a mechanical designer.
Ken Hite made the original monster selection and assignments. Ordinarily I’d have to credit his catastrophic (to PCs) tarrasque, but I *love* the arch tone and precise language of Ken’s entry for the manticore, so sorry tarrasque, you just got beat by a manticore.
You may have already seen Kevin Kulp’s redcap’s first appearance on EN World. I’m also pretty fond of the lammasu as epic tier creatures that may be a touch too overworldly for the PC’s good.
Rich Longmore didn’t design any monsters but he’s doing all the art and gave us the wonderful little hatchling above so hey, he gets thanked and mentioned.
Rob Watkins wrote a psychologically insightful story for some new white dragons who are entangled with the Lich King and then did some great mechanics to back the story up.
Rob Wieland did something elegant with the story of the lich that seems likely to get a lot of use in 13th Age games and storylines. He’s also got the monster that ends with z, the zorigami, and I think they’re cool enough that I broke the rules again and mentioned two of his critters.
Ryven Cedrylle got a tough assignment, the intellect devourer, and, well, yikes. There are a couple surprising wrinkles in this one. Campaign impact entirely possible.
Steve Townshend has a 5th level warp beast wedged within the madness of rather larger elder beasts; I love the warp beast’s shifting impact on each battle and the fact that it makes sense for all sorts of warpage.
Have fun with the Hatchling Edition and send us playtest comments as indicated in the file!