Rob Heinsoo burrowed his way out of the ground, startling the Pelgrane staff tremendously, and delivered this 13 True Ways update.
13th Age is almost here! Quick – reserve your copy today at the Pelgrane Shop or your local game store and download the finished PDF!
Matt Nelson entered the Monster Art +13 contest for 13 True Ways with the following proposal:
The older fantasy art that stands out to me depicts the moment right before a losing battle. It doesn’t show what happens in the fight – the threat of doom can be more captivating than the violence itself. Instead, it focuses on that moment when the heroes realize they’re outclassed – seeing the dragon’s eye looking in through the window or dozens of undead crawling out of the ground around them.
I suggest a piece depicting a party trekking through the Frost Range. A gigantic Remorhaz bursts out of the snowy ground behind them, and the fur-clad heroes turn to face the monster, drawing their weapons and realizing that their luck has run out.
Want something smaller? Lose the snow and make it an Ankheg. (Any monster with a silent “h” works.”)
The remorhraz is getting loving attention in the 13th Age Bestiary and I didn’t want to double-cover it in 13 True Ways. The ankheg waved a pincer signifying “I would love to ambush some halflings and gnomes.”
Hence this great thumbnail from Aaron McConnell. Maybe it’s called “I’m Your Silent H.”
I feel a little awful about this illustration. Not because of the panic on the faces of the fleeing halflings. No. I feel something awful because the brave halfling woman standing her ground is NOT a Shaman. Another title of this rough sketch could be “This is not a chaos shaman.” Doesn’t matter what Aaron wrote up on top of the illustration. This woman is a druid.
We’ll show you the chaos guys quasi-soonish.
Rob Heinsoo crawled miraculously unharmed out of the massive footprint left by a Koru Behemoth to give us this sneak peek at more 13 True Ways monster art…
The Monster Art +13 contest we ran after the 13 True Ways Kickstarter had one entry that I discarded immediately. It was from Christoper Tatro and it read like so:
Ever see a dog in a stand-off against three larger animals it doesn’t quite know what to make of, like turkeys or goats or something outside its realm of experience? How it crouches its front end down and growls, its back end still raised and ready to spring or run? And the other animals just look on unphased and unimpressed?That, but with a tarrasque facing down three Koru Behemoths, in a clearing with a nearby forest coming up only to about belly-level for scale.
I laughed. Christopher wanted his tarrasque and he wanted it with Koru Behemoths on top! He’d only forgotten the part that said that one of the Koru Behemoths was swinging an aircraft carrier as a baseball bat.
My first reaction was because I’d decided to avoid illustrating any Behemoths for awhile, to let people’s imagination carry them wherever they wished . . . a plan that pays off with great fan art like the piece done by Temporalpyradox on the Impossible Forge tumblr. Also, Ken Hite was already going to run the tarrasque in the 13th Age Bestiary, and I didn’t want to horn in on that action.
But the more I thought about the image the more it appealed to me. And I remembered our guiding principle that showing off one flavor of Behemoth meant nothing about all the other flavors. So I asked Aaron McConnell what he thought of the illustration, implying that I thought it was crazy. And of course Aaron said, “Oh, I don’t know. It sounds kind of challenging. I could get into that.”
So here you are. I’m showing the rough draft of this two page spread though the final may be somewhat different. There are going to be more elements that show scale, there are going to be more features and carapaces and such on the behemoths, maybe small changes to the tarrasque. I think of this look for the Behemoth as moving forests, probably more connected to the High Druid than others.
And yes, the tarrasque will appear first in the Bestiary, with a great writeup from Ken. Jonathan and I will find some other Way of the Tarrasque in 13 True Ways.
Rob Heinsoo rode up in a demonic chariot pulled by fiery hounds and handed us this update on the 13th Age Bestiary, written in blood on a blink dog’s pelt.
Speaking of the Bestiary, writer Steve Townshend was on the Haste podcast this week and talked about how the monsters will give players cool story hooks. Check it out.
A couple months ago Ken Hite was putting together the monster list for the upcoming 13th Age Bestiary from Pelgrane Press. I’d been helping with suggestions and sample monster write-ups. Then I mentioned the monsters I wasn’t sure we should cover.
Any time D&D did a book of monsters in 3e and 3.5, you could count on a substantial portion of the contributions amounting to dogs. Go ahead, start paging through with the core Monster Manual, you’ll hit the hound archon, barghest (wolflike is doglike, man), blink dog, dire wolf, gnolls (because hyenas count), and so on, up through the warg, winter wolf, and yeth hound. The monsters just get barkier in the Fiend Folio and in the old Monster Manual II, sometimes when you don’t really expect it. Caniloth? That’s a dog-like not-demon/not-devil. Senmurv? That’s some kind of coyote humanoid with rainbow wings. As soon as you do a race sourcebook, that race has gotta have a dog. Or three. The parade of dog-like monsters keeps spooling out like a WTF multiversal dog show.
I became aware of our canine design tendency when I was choosing minis for the D&D Miniatures game. Like other powerful unconscious tendencies, dog-ness often took us by surprise. A gravehound, a werewolf, a Nessian warhound, a gnoll priestess, an iron defender and a goblin warg rider feel like different monsters. But if you squint, they’re all from Canine Kennels.
The ubiquity of dog monsters isn’t a surprise. We think with what’s familiar. Twisting the familiar into a monster creates scary and resonant monsters. And other creators have had weird dog-fixations. Shakespeare tended to link ‘fawning’ in the same sentence as candy (sweetmeats, candied jellies) along with a dog or hound or mastiff, there are upwards of seven plays that feature this precise association, something like a text analysis fingerprint. Us ‘d20-rolling designers? We’ve got an even more obvious thread: new monster concept = obvious (or just maybe stealthy) dog.
So Ken made the call to exclude dogs from the upcoming 13th Age Bestiary. It was a good call. 13th Age is aimed at imaginative GMs and players who are being encouraged to add their own cool ideas to each campaign and session. It’s clear that most of us gamers can design actually-interesting dog-monsters ourselves and we’ve covered a few of the obvious wolves and hellhounds in the core book. We’re trying to supply ideas and inspiration you might not have had immediately on your own, so throwing more dogs onto the pile just isn’t necessary.
And by the hoary breath of the winter wolf, my previous work cycle created enough pre-painted plastic dog-style miniatures that you should have no problem finding minis to suit your new creations.
- Rob Heinsoo
[Edit: If you are super-sad your favourite monster has been missed out, post in the comments - SJR]
Much to my surprise and delight, my last few weeks have been consumed neither by vampires nor by Elder Things, but rather by a whole horde of monsters. And like I need to tell you, dealing with a whole horde of monsters is a great way to get bloodied, and to get experience.
While I was in Pelgrane House in January (on my way to the lovely WarpCon festivities in Cork, Ireland), Simon suddenly announced that he was taking me to lunch at a Michelin-starred French restaurant, Gauthier, ostensibly to fulfill a pledge for a high-level Stoneskin Press Kickstarter patron. It was after that meal, while my higher faculties were dulled by wine and risotto, that he asked if I’d like to wrangle the 13th Age Bestiary.
I begin to see a method to his madness.
Upon awakening fully, I found myself up to my armpits in monsters. We’d already worked out the general notion of what each monster writeup needed to contain: not just the bare bones fighty stats, but also the monsters’ possible relationships to the Icons — and how changing those relationships changed the monsters. What do orcs in the service of the Three look and act like? (Besides kobolds.) Plus character and story hooks. Plus rumors and arguments and statements that might not be true. Plus new variant types of monsters, to keep things interesting. Interesting-er.
With our great banquet of possibility for each monster laid out, Simon left the specific notion of how many monsters, and which ones, up to me. Between the D20 SRD, all human legend and fiction, and the fecund imagination of our authors (Steve Townshend, Ryven Cedrylle, Kevin Kulp, Rob Wieland, and the capitalized-for-intensity ASH LAW) we had approximately eight zillion monsters to pick from. I decided that whatever the final number was, it should be divisible by 13. No sense establishing a leitmotif if you’re not going to let the brass section pick it up now and again, after all.
So I dove into the aforementioned sources and started up lists. Simon and I went back and forth and added some and removed others. We had to avoid monsters that get a big play in 13 True Ways, so there went the devils and the gnolls (my personal favorite humanoid race). We didn’t want to just reprint monsters from the corebook — but what’s a bestiary without orcs and dragons? Some monsters already had art available, the equivalent of showing up in a suit for their interview. And I wanted to add some monsters that would make the book feel more unique to 13th Age and less like, well something culled right from the D20 SRD. At the last minute I realized that the elementals were all in 13 True Ways, and found-slash-invented four more perfect monsters with elemental resonance to replace them. (Poor xuanwu. The world was never made for a tortoise-snake as elementally watery as you.) After much backing and forthing and sobbing openly at the realization that the mind flayer is still Product Identity and searching Monstropedia and going downstairs to the basement where I keep my actual bestiaries, I had a truly spectacular, balanced, intriguing list of 104 monsters that got approval from Simon and from Rob Heinsoo, who was nice enough to take one or three of them himself. Man, that was a good monster list.
And then I did the math and realized 104 monsters, treated in the kind of detail we insisted on providing, would make our book roughly 404 pages long, not counting the introduction and the part where we explain all that stuff about the Icons.
So back we went. Simon went through mean-girl style and slam-booked all the monsters he’d never liked in the first place and only agreed to if it would shut me up about the mind flayer, and then I went through again and selected for balance and style and between us we cut the list in half. 52 monsters. These are they:
Basilisk, Bugbear, Bulette, Centaur, Chaos Beast, Chuul, Couatl, Demon (Babau), Demon (Dybbuk), Dire Vampire Bat, Dragon (Black), Dragon (Red), Dragon (Shadow), Dragon (Skeletal), Dragon (White), Drow, Egregore, Ettercap, Fungus (Ambulatory), Genie, Ghoul, Giant (Frost), Golem (including Bronze and Marble variants), Griffin, Hag, Hagunemnon (spelled “Shoggoth” in other games), Intellect Devourer, Jorogumo, Kobold (my second-favorite humanoid race), Lammasu, Lich, Manticore (I’m doing this one), Naga, Ogre, Orc, Purple Worm, Remorhaz, Rust Monster (by special Simoniac request), Sahuagin, Screaming Skull, Skeleton, Soul Flenser (why whatever do you mean?), Stirge, Tarrasque (dibs also), Vorthr (Night’s Black Agents represent), Wendigo, Zorigami, and five monsters to be invented out of whole cloth by the writers.
So that should make a pretty good menagerie. And wait until you see the variants. There’s a kobold who … well, I shouldn’t say. It would spoil the surprise when you go around that turn in the corridor and don’t see anything.