ASH LAW at Emerald City Comic ConASH LAW designed some of our favorite monsters in the 13th Age Bestiary (which you can pre-order here.) His latest project is the Midgard Bestiary for Kobold Press, converting 100 monsters designed for D&D 4th edition to 13th Age.

We asked ASH to share his process for converting 4e monsters to 13th Age, and we’ve included some sample monsters at the end.  

Also: from now through April 1, you can take $5 off the Midgard Bestiary, 13th Age Compatible Edition at the Kobold Store with the promo code P3LGR4N3. (You can actually use it for any Kobold Press product with a minimum $5 purchase.)

How to convert a 4e monster to 13th Age in 13 steps

I did most of the mechanical conversion for Kobold Press’ Midgard Bestiary: 13th Age Compatible Edition by hand, in red pen and highlighter, in a car, during a daily commute and lunch breaks. (Though not while driving!) The 13th Age core book was on one knee, non-13th Age material on my left knee.

  1. Highlight anything that 13th Age does not have: Prone, push, that sort of thing. If it was integral to something that is thematically central for the monster I found a way to deal with it. If it was just an extra effect then I’d cross it out and ignore it. I generally didn’t cross it out straight away, because sometimes it wasn’t immediately obvious and I wanted to section it off with highlighter.
  2. Group similar attacks together. If something has a ‘basic axe attack’, a ‘mighty axe charge’, and a ‘great axe sweep’ – yeah, cross all those out and make a note “Axe”.
    1. If great axe sweep and so forth are actually different things that the axe does (instead of just a slightly better axe attack) I’ll make them conditional riders for the axe attack.
    2. Give the axe attack a decent name:
      Mighty Axe +X vs AC –  Y damage
      Natural even hit: Z damage or effect
  3. Determine the creature’s level. Generally that is (4e level/2)-1and round up or down to taste. So a 15th level 4e monster might be a (15/2)-1 = 6.5 level monster… so 6th or 7th. I then might bump up or down a level depending on if it feels right depending on its 4e ‘fiction’ (its place in the world).
  4. Fill in numbers for attack bonuses based on level. If something is thematically supposed to be good at something (an archer monster making ranged attacks) I’ll give attacks that fit the theme +1 and those that don’t fit a -1.
  5. Write in the total damage an attack is supposed to do beside the attack. If the attack has a conditional rider I’ll divide the damage between the two, and either frontload it slightly or bump up the damage on the rider part. So if a creature is supposed to do 12 damage (say a 6th level mook) and it has a conditional rider that happens half the time it might look like this:Mighty Axe +11 vs AC - 10 damage
    Natural even hit: 4 damageor like this:Mighty Axe +11 vs AC - 4 damage
    Natural even hit: 10 damageThe idea is that over the course of 2 hits it should average out as the ‘correct’ 12 damage.The first example is fine. On average it does 12 damage. The second example on average does 9 damage, but feels more impressive when it hits… so to balance that out I’d give it a little (+1) boost to its to-hit.Mighty Axe +12 vs AC - 4 damage
    Natural even hit: 10 damageThere! Now that mook does damage as though it was one level lower, but is hitting like it is one level higher (and its hits feel really impressive half the time). Generally I’d go with the first example unless the monster’s fiction had it be weak but with a powerful secondary attack.

    Goblin Scorpionataur’s Axe +12 vs AC - 4 damage
    Natural even hit: 10 poison damage from the striking tail of the half-scorpion goblin.

  6. Pop the defenses and HP in.
  7. Loop back for any powers or attacks with multiple targets, and adjust so that the monster’s damage output over several rounds roughly matches what the strike damage should be. In general if something is attacking 1d3 targets it should only do 1/3rd damage to each target. I actually aim for something closer to 2/5ths to each target.
  8. Loop back for anything still in highlighter (prones, pushes, etc). If they are relevant to the monster I’ll add them in as a special power triggered by an attack or something. Pushes and prones can generally become pops-free-then-must-save-or-X, but mostly they can be dumped when converting to 13th Age without losing the theme and feel of a creature.
  9. Shake my head. Tut loudly. Stare at traffic.
  10. I’ve made a mistake, this monster should be one level higher because…
    a) It feels like it should be tougher.
    b) It feels like it should hit more often.
    c) I’ve just converted an X and there is no way a Y mook is weaker than an X but I can’t bump the X down because it needs to be stronger than the Z.
    d) I’ve changed my mind.
  11.  Use Jonathan’s advice on how to bump monsters up in power (+X to hit, or +X% HP, or +X to defences). Adjust the monster until it feels right, and the numbers are not incomparable to other similar creatures in the core book.
  12. Use the level of the original 4e monster as its initiative modifier, but adjust for feel based on what kind of monster it is.
  13. Have a cup of tea.

Beyond the mechanics

Exploring the monsters in both Bestiaries by giving them things to have, adventure hooks, and treasure was a bunch of fun. It was challenging in a different way – after the 20th stat-block conversion you kind of get into the swing of it, but every monster presents fresh narrative challenges when giving hooks and things in its pockets.

Designing from scratch

If I had been approaching the Midgard Bestiary monsters fresh rather than doing a conversion of existing material, some of them would have been very different mechanically, because the underlying fiction would have been different. Mechanics flow from the fiction, and sometimes feed back into it too. For an example of how to start from a blank slate look at the chapter I wrote at the end of the 13th Age Bestiary on how to create monsters which goes step-by-step through the design choices in creating a ‘Lyznakian Fire Wizard’.

13th Age Bestiary Preview: Orcs

Download ASH LAW’s take on orcs for the 13th Age Bestiary in a glorious laid-out PDF.

Midgard Bestiary Preview: Goblins of the Wasted West

(Shared here with the kind permission of Kobold Press and its Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur.)

Midgard Ghost Goblin by Chris McFannThe Old Ones did it. They changed the buggers. It wasn’t the heat, or lack of food, or just not being civilized. These goblins live in the shadow of another world and can’t be compared to anything natural in all of Midgard. No one creature better represents the corruption and variety of the dangers in the Wasted West than the goblin. Nowhere else in Midgard will you find a race so different from tribe to tribe.

The goblins below are but a small selection of the unique goblin cultures found throughout this unforgiving land…

Ghost Goblin Tribe

The Ghost Goblins have strong ties to their dead in more than just a spiritual sense. When their warriors die, tribal necromancers create unliving soldiers to fill the ranks. So devoted are they to this practice that the undead obey all members of the tribe instinctively, even from those with no talent for spells.

Some warriors among the Ghost Goblins hold the undead in higher esteem than the living. They strive to honor the zombies through their actions, and through prayers to strange gods. Soon a ghost goblin horror is born, too intelligent to be considered a zombie but too unnatural to be called a living creature.

As its flesh slowly begins to rot away, a horror begins to develop a talent for tugging at the souls of others. The horror exists halfway between life and death, suffering vulnerabilities of both the living and unliving. This place between worlds grants it power, however. The ghost goblin horror can implant the suggestion of death in an enemy’s mind, paralyzing its body with the rigor of the dead before attacking relentlessly. The ghost goblin horror does not fear death and will retreat from battle only if ordered by a necromancer or priest.

Dust Digger Tribe

The Dust Diggers scour the waste in search of long abandoned artifacts. These strange goblins seem supernaturally talented in getting vril technology working again. Most members have an odd vril trinket in their arsenal. Some of them have even modified their bodies, seeming more construct than flesh.

The dust digger watchmen are charged with protecting the excavations of the tribe. They take up a positions that grants cover and makes them difficult to see, whenever possible, but do not sacrifice proximity to the excavation site. When enemies come too near, the watchman opens fire and shouts for reinforcements.  Watchmen typically fight alongside other warriors, they support mobile skirmishers well. Dust Diggers are also found with strange constructs and war machines excavated from vril ruins.

Bonewraith Tribe

The cannibalistic bonewraith tribe are speakers with spirits, and some say with the Old Ones themselves. Ceremonial leaders among the bonewraith tribe, the spirit callers are masters of ritual and can commune with large numbers of spirits. Their bone weapons and tools are carved with beautiful—if disturbing—images, and their hide armor bears the grisly, weathered faces of former enemies.

Spirit callers generally partake of goblin flesh more than other tribesmen. They can be recognized by their twitching hands and over-dilated pupils. In combat they can connect to an enemy’s soul and then use this connection to force their target’s limbs to move against the victim’s will.

The Bonewraith tribe generally doesn’t work with non-goblins, but they may make temporary alliances and do on occasion tame beasts as mounts or combatants.

Things You Might Find On A Ghost Goblin Horror…

Tiny bone disks carved with goblin prayers. Metal helm, exhortations to strange gods scratched into it. Maggots fat from the flesh of the decaying goblin. Mismatched pieces of armor, scavenged or taken from the bodies of slain enemies.

Things You Might Find On A Dust Digger Tribe Goblin…

Large bone knife. Chest containing broken artifacts. Goggles. Pliers. Tarnished coins with holes drilled into them, and star-charts scratched into their faces. Map of the wastes. Warm rock which glows slightly in the dark. Tea pot. Necklace of steel teeth. Dowsing rod. String of sand-glass beads. Jar containing a twisting bit of frozen time—if unfrozen over a fire it reveals the last words of a dying wizard. A chest containing 49 smaller chests, one inside the other, until the final chest which contains a tiny cloth doll.

Things You Might Find On A Bonewraith Goblin…

Armor made from the faces of victims. Bone sword, made out of the bones of victims. Pouch, made out of the skin of victims. Trousers, made out of the flesh of victims. Vile totem made out of soulstuff and bones.

Magic Items

Vril Power Bow (bow). A priceless artifact from a lost time, but sadly not as reliable as it was when it was new. At the start of each of your turns, roll a d8. If you roll over the escalation die value, on a successful hit with this weapon add the die result to your damage and the target briefly glows. If you roll under the escalation die, you take the die result in damage and you briefly glow. Rolling equal to the escalation die applies no damage from the roll, but you can make another attack with the bow on this turn as a quick action.

Quirk: Dream of lost ages, seek to restore that which was lost.

 

Goblin Totem (holy or unholy symbol). The artifact is unmistakably goblin in design, but started life as a holy symbol for a different god. Gain +1 to hit for every goblin ally in the battle, including yourself if you are a goblin, to a maximum of +6.

Recharge 16+ (Ghost Goblin tribal totem): On a successful hit with a single-target melee attack, the target is seized with rigor mortis (stuck, save ends).

Recharge 16+ (Bonewraith tribal totem): On a successful hit with a single-target melee attack against a foe with half your total hit points or fewer, the target is terrified by a vision of goblin ancestral spirits (fear, save ends).

Recharge 16+ (Dust Digger tribal totem): On a successful hit with a single-target ranged attack, the target is dazed by powerful vril energy (save ends).

Quirk: Sing traditional goblin songs such as “Three Dirty Goblins”, “The Goblin’s Eyes” and “Goblin’s Lament”. If you sing the songs for long enough they may drift into unholy hymns to the Old Ones without you noticing.

Adventure Hooks

The Goblin Market: A shiver of goblin sharks have come to town, far from their home, to meet and trade with representatives of the bonewraith tribe. The situation is potentially explosive—especially as the items the bonewraiths are trading belong to the ghost goblins, and the shark goblin’s items were stolen from dust diggers.

 

Ghost Goblin Horror

The ghost goblin horror fights alongside other living and undead tribe members. Sometimes the tribe will take in undead discovered in travels and raids. These creatures were often not goblins in life, so there is no end to the variety of undead they might command.

Level 2 troop [Undead]

Initiative: +5

Vulnerable: holy

Short sword +6 vs. AC—5 damage

Natural even hit or miss: The goblin may use curse of rigor as a quick action.

R: Curse of rigor +6 vs. MD—5 damage and the target is stuck (save ends).

Ghost life: When the ghost goblin horror is reduced to 0 hit points it makes a save. If it succeeds it gains 5 hit points and regenerates 5 hit points per turn until the end of the battle or it is next reduced to 0 hit points.

Fear aura: Enemies engaged with the goblin and who have 12 hit points or less are dazed and can’t use the escalation die.

 

AC 17

PD 11          HP 27

MD 15

 

Dust Digger Watchman

Dust digger watchmen guard major excavation sites against looters. Surprisingly disciplined, these goblins know the power of the artifacts they seek. They have mastered the strange vril bows whose bolts are charged with the power of the sun. When they open fire, reinforcements are never far behind.

Level 2 archer [Humanoid]

Initiative: +8

War pick +7 vs. AC—7 damage

R: Vril powerbow +7 vs. AC—7 holy damage

            Natural 16+ hit: Target glows and is vulnerable to all attacks until the end of its next turn.

AC 18

PD 16        HP 36

MD 12

 

Bonewraith Spirit Caller

The Bonewraith goblins are known for eating both their enemies and the weak and fallen of their own tribe. They fashion the resulting bones into weapons, totems, and armor, to imbue themselves with the power of the fallen. Most who encounter these fearsome creatures flee rather than find out the truth of these claims.

Level 2 caster [Humanoid]

Initiative: +6

Bone sword +7 vs. AC—7 damage

R: Soul grasp +7 vs. MD—7 damage and the target pops free

R: Summon ancestors +7 vs. PD—7 damage

            Natural 18+ hit or miss: Causes fear in 1d3 nearby enemies (save ends).

[Triggered action] Spirit guardian: When the spirit caller becomes staggered it gains +2 to all its defenses until it is next hit.

 

AC 18

PD 16       HP 36

MD 12


Kobold Press' mascot JiroFrom now through April 1, you can take $5 off the Midgard Bestiary, 13th Age Compatible Edition at the Kobold Store with the promo code P3LGR4N3. (You can actually use it for any Kobold Press product with a minimum $5 purchase.)

It’s a fine complement to our own 13th Age Bestiary, with monsters from the Midgard Campaign Setting including dire weasels, exiled elves, mad wizards and more – plus 9 monstrous PC races and 13 icons of Midgard.

If you want to learn more, check out ASH LAW’s article in See Page XX.

“The Midgard Bestiary combines Kobold Press’s dedication to quality and originality with ASH LAWS’ enthusiastic and accomplished take on the 13th Age to serve you a gallimaufry of ghouls and golems.” – Simon Rogers

This editorial originally appeared in the January issue of See Page XX as Trail of Cthulhu and 13th Age, and we want to make sure everyone who follows 13th Age news has a chance to see it. In it, Pelgrane Press publisher Simon Rogers makes a commitment to support for 13th Age that will match the support for its best-selling game line to date — Trail of Cthulhu. 

If you’re deciding on your next fantasy RPG and publisher support is a factor, you can be confident that 13th Age is a strong product line with many adventures and supplements to come. Here are just a few.

Trail of Cthulhu was a game-changer for Pelgrane. I was very excited when Chaosium agreed to the license, and when I added Kenneth Hite to Robin Laws’ GUMSHOE system I was pretty sure we had horror gamer catnip.

The analogy with 13th Age is plain. Take the two developers of the previous versions of D&D, free them to do exactly as they wish, and we get something fresh, original and idiosyncratic for fantasy gamers. If you look at my business post – you can see what happened in 2008 when Trail was released, and in 2011 when 13th Age was placed on pre-order.

For both projects, the look and art was a given – it had to be Jérome Huguenin for Trail, and Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell for 13th Age. Ken’s interactions with Jérome’s art influenced the final Trail manuscript, and Rob riffed off Aaron and Lee’s take on the 13th Age. These weren’t artists called into illustrate a finished project – their art influenced the writers and designers, and vice versa.

The two lines have another similarity. They are both commercial and critical successes. 13th Age is rapidly catching up with Trail in terms of core book sales, and reviews of both lines are stellar. So why am I banging on about this?

Well, 13th Age is at the stage where Trail of Cthulhu was in 2008, and I want to give 13th Age players an idea of  the extent of support we will give 13th Age; so that if you mount the 13th Age dragon, you have some idea where the ride might take you.

Trail of Cthulhu

Since Trail launched in 2008, we’ve released 33 supplements, including music and compilations, racking up 13 ENnie awards, nominations and honourable http://www.pelgranepress.com/trail/images/cover/shadowsoverfilmland.pngmentions. Our most widely acknowledged contribution to Mythos gaming is in the breadth and innovation of our adventure design and 21 of these releases were adventures. The first supplement for Trail of Cthulhu was Stunning Eldritch Tales – Robin Laws establishing a benchmark for Trail adventures, which Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan followed up with Arkham Detective Tales. Here are a few more highlights:

Shadows over Filmland: this set of adventures mixes up the Mythos with the horror films of the 1930s, and includes the Backlot Gothic , the gloomy and torch-wieldling festooned setting for thos films. Each chapter has a frontispiece illustrated by Jérome in the style of a film still. So, meet the Lord of the Apes, Dracula, the invisible man, zombies and Dr Frankenstein – who has Herbert West’s lab notes.

Rough Magicks – Ken’s more detailed take of mythos spells and rituals was followed by Robin’s Armitage Files, a new take on GUMSHOE which encouraged improvised play, showing the versatility of the system (and the creator).

Graham Walmsley’s Purist adventures: featuring the sad and the soul-sapping, Graham brought a new aesthetic to Trail, where hope is lost, characters have no good choices and the Mythos is victorious. They have since been collected together in Final Revelation.

http://www.pelgranepress.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Eternal_Lies_cover_mockup.jpgA series of PDF adventures: by authors including Jason Morningstar, Bill White and  Adam Guantlett allowed those authors to play their own games in our playground of despond, giving us scenarios set in Georgian times, in the Great War, at the dawn of the Nuclear Age and in a 1930s apocalypse, now collected in Out of Time and Out of Space.

Bookhounds of London is Ken’s bravura take on a Mythos city book, which with its companion volume Paulas Dempsey’s Book of the Smoke formed part of the amazing Bookhounds of London limited edition.

Finally, I’ll mention the culmination of years of work from Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball, with help from many others: Eternal Lies, the world-spanning adventure inspired by Chaosium’s seminal campaigns. Combined with James Semple and his team’s music this is truly epic and the most ambitious book we have created to date.

We will continue to support Trail with vigour – it is evergreen. Coming up are Mythos Expeditions, Dreamhounds of Paris  and Fearful Symmetry. Many more are in the pipeline.

13th Age

Its clear that 13th Age will be bigger than Trail. We will support 13th Age just as solidly and vigourously as we have Trail of Cthulhu, bring in top writers and artists, and our own uninhibited take on fantasy roleplaying.

Fire Opal Media are producing some books in-house for Pelgrane to publish (13 True Ways) – with others we are working with various degrees of collaboration mainly with Rob Heinsoo on the Fire Opal side. So what should you expect?

We will work with the best people we can find who are inspired by 13th Age. Whether that’s our staff, freelancers we respect, or third-parties taking our open game license engine and having their own take on the Archmage Engine, we are happy.

So what’s to come?

  • The 13th Age Bestiary is in layout, and it combines everything we’ve learnt from monster creation in the Dying Earth, the Book of Unremitting Horror and Trail itself – that is, monsters should be entertaining and carefully constructed opponents, but also adventures in their own right with life and background – but they should not be set in stone. We want GMs to have the material they need to reimagine their creatures to fit their version of the 13th Age.WoodElves
  • 13 True Ways is a labour of love by the original designers at Fire Opal, and features the elements 13th Age fans have said are missing from their games – in particular a wider range of classes and creatures. Progress report here.
  • Shadows in Eldolan brings an urban mystery for 1st level adventurers featuring rival wizard schools and the undead – a benchmark adventure.
  • The Lair of the Stone Thief is Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s dungeon campaign featuring a living dungeon, malevolent and viscious with a similarity to a certain white whale.
  • Shards of the Broken Sky is a  sandbox adventure for 13th Age centering on the crash of one of the Archmage’s flying realms. As threats multiply, the flying land turns out to have been the control point for magical wards neutralizing three ancient evils. With the cone of secrecy shattered, each of the thirteen icons offers rival opportunities for glory, plunder, or heroic sacrifice.
  • The Strangling Sea is Robin D Laws introductory adventure. In this 13th Age adventure for a party of 4-6 1st-level adventurers, our heroes attempt to retrieve the enigmatic engineer Inigo Sharpe from his unfortunate imprisonment in the Stranglesea. This fantastical equivalent of our world’s Sargasso Sea traps wrecked ships, strands castaways, and supports an array of dangerous animal life.

These are still at the pitch stage – let us have your comments:

A 13th Age GM’s screen which is based on The Noteboard, and a Noteboard based battlemat with the 13th Age map on one side and a whiteboard on the other.

All for Love: (1st to 10th level campaign) Every generation, the rich, beautiful, politically powerful Orlando family introduces its sons and daughters into Imperial court life in a series of balls, jousts, tournaments, and increasingly perilous quests.

Every generation, the Orlandos’ rivals (human and otherwise) try to destroy them in a series of vendettas, assassinations, and increasingly unhinged proposals of marriage. You and your fellow heroes have fallen in love with the newest generation of Orlandos — or at least with their wealth, beauty, and political power. What will you do to win their attentions, to protect the things — and perhaps even the people — you love? Everything it takes, of course.

A book on Icons and their organisations.

Kenneth Hite’s Swords and Mythos – either a straight Earth port, or set in an earlier age: both of Ken’s pitches follow:

Swords and Mythos – Terran Version

From Sarnath to Mu to Hyperborea to Cimmeria, the ancient Earth swarms with dark cults, eldritch horrors, and foul magics — and with mighty heroes who drive them back into nightmare or master inhuman lore for human gain. This sourcebook reframes 13th Age for the primal Earth of heroic dark fantasists like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, and Richard Tierney — and for a surprising amount of Lovecraft! Gods and monsters of the antediluvian Earth appear, ready to topple civilization or sink a continent. Magic, Icons, Relationships, and One Unique Things get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got the steel to meet them in the shadows.frostgiant

Swords and Mythos – 13th Age Version

Before the Dragon Empire, before the storms calmed in the Midland Sea, before the Elf Queen took her oaken throne, before the Orcs were formed from the corpse-meat of a forgotten species, there was an age of terror and wonder — the Zeroth Age. The oldest Icons ruled, then: the Tattered King, the Dreamer in the Deep, and the Crawling Chaos, Icons that walked the world as Avatars and selected heroes to carry steel and shape sorcery in the names of those Great Old Ones. In this “swords and Mythos” setting, the familiar 13th Age rules and Relationships get their own spin for a world where attracting something more powerful than you isn’t always the best idea … but you’ve got what it takes to meet them in the shadows.

The OGL and Third Party Publishers

We’ve presented a clear and complete SRD, and in the next week or two, expect to see compatibilty licenses for publishers similar to those used for Pathfinder (we thank Paizo for the use of their license). The following creators have added 13th Age to their project.

  • Dragon Kings project: Timothy Brown, creator of Dark Sun setting is providing a PDF rules supplement, funded through his Kickstarter.
  •  Sasquatch Game Studio: Features Richard Baker (3rd edition, Pathfinder), Stephen Schubert (3e, 4e, D&D Miniatures), and David Noonan (3e, 4e, Pathfinder) and their Primeval Thule offers 13th Age rules alongside D&D and Pathfinder
  • Vorpal Games: Brian R. James (3e, 4e, Pathfinder), Matt James (4e, Pathfinder) in their Red Aegis RPG.
  • RKDN Studios: artist Chris McFann, whose work with publishers helps him bring designers such as Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur and Ed Greenwood to projects such as the Bestiary of the Curiously Odd .

Watch out for a big announcement in the next couple of months, featuring a big RPG name.

 

 

hatchlingThe 13th Age Bestiary Hatchling Edition is on its last legs!

 

Buy the 13th Age Bestiary before 12:00 UTC Friday and get your name in the credits.

 

Buy

 

AnimalTileby Ryven Cedrylle

The Uchawa (taken from the Old Gnomish Uczaáła “sand-borer”) is a gigantic crustacean found beneath the sands of many of the world’s deserts. Uchawa have a yellow-orange carapace, a dozen short reddish legs protruding from the underside and four forward-facing arms, each ending in a three-pincered claw. The claws are capable of grasping even mostly rounded objects and can close tightly to create a sort of shovel or chisel. The arms are stacked two to a side, one above the other. The uchawa’s carapace is light and sturdy. It contains no nerve endings so the creature is not hurt if the carapace is damaged.

The strangest thing about the uchawa is its dietary habits. It surfaces by day and basks in the sunlight, which provides enough energy for normal activity. Small herds of uchawa can regularly be seen lounging around in the heat. At night it burrows back underground to seek water. About twice a year, however, an uchawa needs to molt as its carapace becomes too small for the rest of its body. During this time it becomes strictly and abundantly carnivorous, devouring whatever animals or humanoids it can to build up reserves from which to build the next carapace.

Wild uchawa are nearly impossible to tame, but those raised in captivity can be used as mounts and tunnelers. There is a thriving business around raising and loaning out uchawa to travelers who must traverse desert for a long period of time. The skin and carapace are also useful for a small number of rituals and are highly prized by cults to various sun gods and goddesses.

 

Uchawa Juvenile (4th molt)

2rd level wrecker [BEAST]

Initiative +1

M: Claw Cutter  +7 vs. AC—10 damage

16+: Deal 5 damage to an engaged enemy.

M: Claw Clamper +6 vs PD—8 damage

  Natural even hit: The target is grabbed (save ends).

Special: An uchawa can spend its standard action to deal 10 damage to a grabbed enemy.

C: Heat Burst +5 vs PD (1d4 nearby enemies)—8 fire damage to characters in light or no armor, 14 damage to characters in heavy armor

Limited use: 1/battle.

Burrowing: An uchawa juvenile can burrow through the ground, but not fast enough to be helpful in combat.

Retract: An uchawa that has pulled back in its shell is effectively impervious to direct damage from either normal weapons or spells. It can still be affected by mind-altering spells or ongoing damage from poisons and acids. Special weapons or rituals are required to break this defense.

Lumbering: The uchawa can not make opportunity attacks or intercept an enemy.

Nastier Specials

Improved Coordination: The uchawa can make two melee attacks each turn.

AC 19

PD 17                HP 38

MD 12

 

Uchawa Adult (17th molt)

5th level wrecker [BEAST]

Initiative +4

M: Claw Cutter  +10 vs. AC—20 damage

16+: Deal 10 damage to an engaged enemy.

M: Claw Clamper +9 vs PD—18 damage

  Natural even hit: The target is grabbed (save ends).

Special: An uchawa can spend its standard action to deal 20 damage to a grabbed enemy.

C: Heat Burst +8 vs PD (1d4 nearby enemies)—18 fire damage to characters in light or no armor, 28 damage to characters in heavy armor.

Limited use: 1/battle.

Four Arms: The uchawa can make two melee attacks each turn.

Burrowing: An uchawa adult can burrow through the ground, but not fast enough to be helpful in combat.

Retract: An uchawa that has pulled back in its shell is effectively impervious to direct damage from either normal weapons or spells. It can still be affected by mind-altering spells or ongoing damage from poisons and acids. Special weapons or rituals are required to break this defense.

Lumbering: The uchawa can not make opportunity attacks or intercept an enemy.

Nastier Specials

Burning Up: Any enemy engaged with the uchawa takes 6 fire damage at the start of its turn.

AC 23

PD 21                HP 88

MD 15

 

Building Battles

Uchawa make excellent war mounts for large creatures or groups of small ones. WIld uchawa are generally only dangerous during molting season, though when that is exactly is unique to each individual. An uchawa who has turned on its master or riders also makes for a surprising and fearsome encounter.

Uchawa and the Icons

The Diabolist loves uchawa. They dig caves and pits quickly, they dispose of dead flesh thoroughly and those insulated shells are just ideal for hatching demon larvae. What’s not to like? If you see an unattended uchawa somewhere bizarre, there’s a good chance the Diabolist’s associates are nearby.

The Orc Lord also has a solid appreciation for uchawa. Rather, he appreciates discarded uchawa shells. The smaller abandoned carapaces are decent instant platemail when supplies run low, but they don’t fit well and eventually become brittle. The better thing to do is load the carapaces into catapults; the bigger the better. Old uchawa shells shatter and fragment on impact, making them excellent anti-personnel pieces against organized waves of the Emperor’s troops.

The Dwarf King has tried on previous occasions to put uchawa to work in his mines. Unfortunately for him, the lack of sunlight drives them to needing meat and that just never ends well for anyone.

The Archmage has sponsored research into isolating the components of uchawa skin that make them gather energy from the sun. So far he has not succeeded.

 

Things Uchawa Carry

Most of the time, uchawa aren’t carrying anything. Domesticated uchawa might be obviously carrying a rider or some gear, but that’s about it. A few brave individuals will try to hide their valuables inside the uchawa’s carapace. Even an uchawa you raised from an egg won’t take well to its shell being invaded. The odds of finding random useful items in a wild uchawa shell are almost zero. The odds of finding something useful in a domesticated uchawa shell depend on how desperate or insane the owner happened to be.

Adventure Hooks

1) A famous crafter wants to incorporate uchawa carapace into a special set of armor. It would be easier to find a molted carapace than trying to get the material from the live creature but sometimes you have to take what you can get.

2) From time to time, desert settlements just disappear – people, structures, the whole shebang – lost into a sinkhole created by active uchawa. Relatives come themselves or send others to seek out the lost. Treasure hunters and explorers soon follow behind to see what can be salvaged and what new finds might be unearthed.

3) No one’s quite sure how you steal a herd of uchawa out from the stables of the Glittergeld Golden Dune Company, but apparently it’s possible because it’s been done. Time to round up some crab rustlers.

 

13th Age white dragonWe’ve provided the fine folks at RPG.net with an exclusive preview of the white dragon from the upcoming 13th Age Bestiary. This full-colour PDF includes the white dragon hatchling, cenotaph dragon, mausoleum dragon, blizzard dragon and moon dragon. You’ll also find adventure hooks, advice on building battles with these monsters, and their relationship to the icons.

The window for pre-ordering the 13th Age Bestiary Hatchling Edition is closing soon! If you want your name listed in the credits and right of first refusal to the Limited Edition, order before Dec. 6! After that it turns into a regular pre-order with no additional perks.

Order Now

By Rob Heinsoo

This week’s playtest of the new commander and the half-revised monk went well.

Commander

In the commander’s case I didn’t make any changes after the playtest. Partly that’s because the design is in OK shape for now. Partly it’s because Thorinn, the 5th level dwarf commander who used to be a bard, was hapless. He had no hap. When you’re rolling d20s, playtesting every so often devolves into “Wow, so this is what the character class looks like when you suck.” The dybbuks who had possessed the party’s erstwhile paladin friend turned out to have Mental Defenses that deviated from the monstrous norm and even the commander’s last-ditch outmaneuver attempt came to naught. The class design mission is to somehow make even these sucky moments potentially worthwhile.

The potential doesn’t always get realized. Thorinn has had a slightly rocky road since he transitioned out of being a bard. Weird things happen when your story-oriented 13th Age campaign is also the campaign that’s being used to test all the new classes. Thorinn who was once a bard became a bardmander and is now a full-on commander who is likely to shift even more when we adjust for results of public playtesting.

Monk  

There will be a new playtest document some time next week. The talent half of the monk is revised, the forms half is still underway. Some of the early monk talents worked so well that the rest of the talents were somewhat irrelevant. The monk could vary from hugely powerful to utterly feeble because the talents and forms were so uneven. That’s not entirely surprising, given that the class hasn’t had an official development pass, but I’m trying to avoid it on this pass. The next version of the monk design aims to make all the talents worthwhile, eliminates one of the pieces of the class that wasn’t working (daily options for finishing attacks), makes ki powers a more integral part of the class (instead of only appearing as feats), and opens up some of the unnecessary restrictions on icon relationships and weapon choice and flavor that were getting in the way of character design. Those of you who sent playtest comments? Your comments helped a lot.

Playtest Distribution Plan

As before, we’ll be sharing the monk & commander playtest files with people who bought the 13th Age Escalation Edition and people who supported 13 True Ways. We’re also planning to go one step further. The publication of 13th Age has brought in many new players and GMs. People are writing us every week asking to help playtest, particularly people who seem to be converting over from other systems and want to know how we’re handling classes that aren’t in the core book. We’ve settled on a cunning plan that seems fair. People who pre-order the 13th Age Bestiary by ordering the Hatchling Edition will also get the 13 True Ways playtest files. If you’ve supported us by buying the Bestiary in advance, you’ll see the playtest versions of the new classes and whatever else we decide to send out for wide playtesting on 13 True Ways.

 Dragon Kings Kickstarter

There’s another Kickstarter with 13th Age connections surging towards the finish line this week. Timothy Brown’s Dragon Kings project is a campaign world and rock and roll project in the spirit of Dark Sun. The project is funded and is presently a few thousand dollars away from a stretch goal that would create a 13th Age-compatible rules PDF as part of the package. Darren Pearce is the designer slated to tackle the 13th Age aspect of the project and I’d love to see what he comes up with. Give the project a push if you can.

And elsewhere in video…

Mike Shea interviewed me about 13th Age for Critical Hits earlier this week. The first half hour or forty minutes is a discussion of icon relationship rolls, including verbal notes on advice Jonathan and I will be formalizing in the GM chapter of 13 True Ways. The video amounts to working notes on the topic. Other topics include the formats of upcoming adventures and Heisenberg’s Monster, Mike’s wonderful term for the sense in which 13th Age frees GMs up by allowing them to be surprised by what comes out of the box.

13th Age dybbukby 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.

Dybbuk

Possessing ghosts, demonic intruders, or alien visitors. Who can say for sure?

Dybbuk Legends

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.

Dybbuk Possession

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.

hatchlingRob 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!

hatchlingThe 13th Age Bestiary – Hatchling Edition is now available to pre-order in the webstore.

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