13th Age icon symbolsGreyhawk. Golarion. Eberron. Mystara. The names of these settings ring out in the history of roleplaying games. It’s no surprise that many 13th Age fans want to run campaigns in them, or others that are equally beloved. And one question comes up all the time: how do I figure out who the icons are in that setting? 

That was the project I undertook when I turned 13 powerful NPCs from the Midgard Campaign Setting into icons for the Midgard Bestiary by Kobold Press. Here’s what I learned: When you’re identifying the icons in a setting, whether it’s an existing product or your own homebrew campaign, focus on Connections, Goals, Geography and Flavor.

Connections

There’s only one mechanic for icons: relationship dice. This is the most important thing to understand about icons. They are all social by nature. A powerful dragon who spends all of his time in the heart of a mountain, sleeping on a mound of treasure, is not an icon. But a dragon who rules a city-state could be an icon, because she has followers, factions, allies, enemies and a need to employ adventurers.

This is important on a practical level because someone has to provide the benefit of an icon relationship roll to a player character, whether it’s gold, a magic item, a map, a copy of a key, a crew of henchmen, or valuable information. Even if the benefit comes in the form of a flashback, it’s still a flashback to a past interaction with a follower or foe of the icon. (Or at high levels, the icon itself.)

Goals

Here’s another reason that greedy dragon I mentioned isn’t an icon: he doesn’t have goals. All icons want something, and they use their power and influence to chase after that thing. Usually what they want gets in the way of something another icon wants, and that’s when the fun really starts. Goals make icons more than just vending machines for benefits — it makes them compelling and exciting additions to your campaign. If a setting’s NPC isn’t driven to accomplish or prevent something, they won’t be a very interesting icon.

Geography

An icon’s influence can span the globe, but most of them have a center of power somewhere. A few, such as Midgard’s Baba Yaga, are nomads who might turn up anywhere; but such beings aren’t the rule. (And adventurers are still more likely to find that cunning Feywitch in the Old Margreve forest than they are in the Southlands.)

When choosing the icons for your campaign, consider the extent to which an NPC’s influence is determined by geography. In 13th Age‘s default setting, the icons are most powerful and influential on their home turf, but their actions can affect events setting-wide. But not every setting includes people whose influence could be felt anywhere, no matter how far.

Depending on your comfort level, you can take one of two approaches here:

  • Decide where you want your campaign to take place, and choose icons based on which powerful NPCs with goals and followers could reasonably influence events in that place. For example, if your campaign takes place in and around a single city, your icons could be the ruler of the city, the local crime lord, the dwarf clan chief up in the nearby mountains, the northern barbarian king whose mercenaries fill the army’s ranks, the elf queen of the woods surrounding the city, and the scheming undead lord of a neighboring principality. If the city is important enough, faraway icons (even ones on other planes) could take an active interest in what happens there.
  • Present your players with all the possible icons in the setting, and have them decide which ones they want to be involved with. Then apply the above process in reverse, identifying a place where all these powers could be in play.

You can also use the involvement of icons who are distant, and their influence limited, to foreshadow that something important is going to happen that makes them want to have agents on the ground. If a baron sends assassins to kill a high priest on the other side of a continent, there must be a good reason he went to all that trouble. Maybe the baron has a direct interest in the affairs of church and state halfway around the world; or maybe he’s allied with, or being blackmailed by, a faction closer to where the PCs are based.

Flavor

Your choice of icons influences the type of campaign you’ll run, and which your players will play. Ask yourself whether making a particular NPC an icon helps to create the kind of game you’ll enjoy playing.

If the PCs never venture far from their city, but a distant sultana bent on conquest is an icon, it probably means her agents are in (or very near) the city, and your campaign will have a flavor of international intrigue. If the decadent, demon-summoning ruler of a slaver kingdom is an icon, you’ll focus heavily on the criminal and occult underworld — particularly smuggling, drugs, slavery and black magic.

How many?

You might be wondering how many NPCs to elevate to icon status. Five? Thirteen? More? Less?

Again, let’s look at practicalities. Just because you have 13 icons in a setting doesn’t mean that all 13 are going to be active in your campaign. And an even smaller number will play a major role in your adventures through successful icon relationship rolls. But in my experience, knowing that there are other powers striving and clashing in the world gives a setting depth, and makes it more dynamic. Even if things are relatively quiet in your neck of the woods, a mighty necromancer’s army might be steadily marching on a distant trade city — where a siege could mean a hungry winter for the dwarves in the North.

Me, I like to go with 13. It’s traditional, you know?

 

 


13AgeLogoFull-Transparentby Martin Killmann

Many types of barbarians roam the wilderness of the Dragon Empire, drawing on the power of ancestral spirits, draconic pacts, and even the mountains themselves to strike terror into their enemies’ hearts. Here are four sets of talents to build a distinctive barbarian who brings something unique to the battle.

Mountainheart

The Mountainheart are an ancient dwarven clan who chose to live on the surface when their homeland was destroyed during the war with the dark elves. Any barbarian can choose the following talents, but they are most commonly used by dwarves.

Mountainheart Adventurer Talents

Mountainheart

While raging, you can end your rage as a free action to negate all damage from one attack or effect.

Adventurer Feat: When you negate an enemy’s damage with this talent, your next attack against that enemy deals half damage on a miss.

Champion Feat: When you negate an enemy’s damage with this talent, make a saving throw (11+). If you succeed, your rage doesn’t end. For each point of relationship you have with the Dwarf King, you gain a +1 bonus to the roll.

Epic Feat: In addition to damage, you also negate all other effects of the attack.

Avalanche of Steel

Once per battle while you’re wielding a shield, you can make a shield smash melee attack as a quick action. Treat the shield as a d6 melee weapon. If you are not engaged with an enemy, you can move to a nearby foe before making the attack as a free action.

Adventurer Feat: When you hit with shield smash, make a Strength check against the enemy using a DC set by the tier. If you succeed, you can push the enemy against a wall, over a ledge, or into an obstacle, depending on your surroundings.

Champion Feat: Before making a shield smash attack, you can pop free from an enemy you are engaged with as a free action.

Epic Feat: When you score a critical hit with a shield smash attack, the target is also stunned until the end of its next turn.

Ancestral Shield

You start the game with a shield that was blessed in an ancestral temple. It is an adventurer-level true magic item with one of the following enchantments: protection, resilience, or termination. Only members of your bloodline can benefit from its effects.

While wielding the shield, you gain a +2 bonus to AC instead of the standard +1.

Quirk: Your shield houses the spirit of one of your ancestors. Its quirk is whatever quirk they had in life.

Adventurer Feat: The shield does not count against your maximum number of magic items.

Champion Feat: The shield is upgraded to a champion-level item, and the maximum hit point bonus increases.

Epic Feat: The shield is upgraded to an epic-level item, and the maximum hit point bonus increases.

Mountainheart Champion Talents

Giantslayer

Against large and huge enemies, increase your damage dice with heavy weapons to d12.

Once per round when a large or huge enemy hits you with a melee attack, you can make a hard saving throw (16+) to dodge the attack and turn it into a miss.

Champion Feat: When you dodge an attack with this talent, you can also make a melee attack against the attacker as a free action. If you score a critical hit with this attack, that enemy is hampered (save ends).

Epic Feat: You gain a bonus to your giantslayer saving throw equal to the escalation die. For each point of relationship you have with the Dwarf King, you gain an additional +1 bonus to the roll.

Mountainheart Epic Talents

Whirling Wall of Axes

When you hit with an opportunity attack against an enemy making a ranged attack or casting an attack spell, that attack misses. Spells without a miss effect simply fail. Note than when you use this talent once or twice in a battle, the smarter creatures will figure out that they need to disengage with you before taking those actions. Of course, this gives you an opportunity attack against them if they fail the check.

Epic Feat: When an enemy makes a successful saving throw to disengage from you, it still draws an opportunity attack from you. Your opportunity attack deals half damage. It doesn’t stop the creature from moving away from you.

 

Wyrmfang

These talents can represent gifts from the draconic icons, either the Three or the Gold Wyrm. They can also be a manifestation of draconic ancestry.

Wyrmfang Adventurer Talents

Wyrmtooth

Choose a sorcerer dragon breath spell of your level or lower. You gain a +1 bonus to the recharge roll of your dragon breath spell for each point of relationship you have with a draconic icon.

Adventurer Feat: You can use Constitution instead of Charisma for attack and damage with the spell.

Champion Feat: While you’re raging, your dragon breath spell gains the same benefit as your melee attacks—Roll 2d20 for the spell’s attack rolls. If both natural rolls are 11+, you score a critical hit.

Epic Feat: When you score a critical hit with a melee attack, if the escalation die is 5+ and you have your dragon breath spell available, you can use it as a free action.

Wyrmscales

Choose one dragon color. You gain the elemental resistance of that color (12+) but also the vulnerability (listed in brackets).

White: Cold (Fire)
Black: Acid (Thunder)
Green: Poison (Psychic)
Blue: Lightning (Force)
Red: Fire (Cold)

For each point of relationship you have with a draconic icon, increase your resistance by +1.

Adventurer Feat: You do not suffer the vulnerability when raging.

Champion Feat: Increase the base resistance to 16+.

Epic Feat: When taking damage of the type you are resistant to from this talent, make a saving throw (11+). If you succeed, you can heal using a recovery.

Eye of the Wyrm

You have been blessed with true seeing. You are immune to invisibility or illusion effects created by enemies of your level or lower.

Adventurer Feat: You can see in the dark as well as a normal human can in full daylight.

Champion Feat: You gain a +1 bonus to ranged attacks.

Epic Feat: Your ability to see arcane auras allows you to defend against magic. You gain a +2 bonus to your defenses against spells, magical close quarter attacks, breath weapons and magic traps.

Wyrmfang Champion Talents

Gift of the Blue

You gain a counterspell ability similar to blue dragons. When an enemy targets you with a spell, you can roll a hard save (16+); success means the spell has no effect on you. If the level of the spell is lower than your level, reduce the difficulty to a normal save (11+).

Champion Feat: When you successfully counter a spell, you can make a melee or ranged attack against the caster as a free action. The attack deals half damage.

Epic Feat: The above attack deals full damage instead. For each point of relationship you have with a draconic icon, the target takes +1d6 damage.

Wyrmfang Epic Talents

Wyrm Ascension

When you activate your barbarian rage, you transform into a normal-sized dragon. Your hands and teeth become d12 claw and fang natural weapons. You grow wings that allow you to fly. Your skin changes to scales that are equal to Heavy Armor (base AC 13), but incur no attack penalty.

Everything you are wearing or carrying—including clothes, weapons, armor, shields and magic items—magically vanishes when you take dragon form. They reappear when you resume your normal form.

Epic Feat: You have earned the respect of dragons. Roll twice on Charisma-based skill checks when interacting with dragons. If you have a positive relationship with a draconic icon, you gain this feat for free.

 

Graceful Fury

Elves are known for a graceful, controlled combat style. These talents are practiced by wild elves who embrace the ferocity of a cornered animal.

Graceful Fury Adventurer Talents

Ferocious Dance

When an enemy misses you with an attack, your first hit with a melee attack against that enemy before the end of your next turn deals an additional 1d8 damage.

Adventurer Feat: You gain a +4 bonus to all defenses against the first attack made against you each battle.

Champion Feat: Increase the bonus damage to 2d10.

Epic Feat: Increase the bonus damage to 3d12. For each point of relationship you have with the Elf Queen, you can reroll one of these damage dice.

Deadly Blur

While wielding a light or small weapon, you can use Dexterity for attack and damage, and your crit range with that weapon expands by 1.

Adventurer Feat: Add your Wisdom or Charisma modifier to your damage with all melee and ranged attacks. Your crit range with small and light weapons expands by 2. In addition, while your off-hand is free and you are not wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Champion Feat: Double the damage bonus, expand the critical range by 3, and increase the AC bonus to +2.

Epic Feat: Triple the damage bonus, expand the critical range by 4, and increase the AC bonus to +3.

Venomous Sting

Once per day when you hit an enemy with a melee attack, the target also takes 10 ongoing poison damage.

Adventurer Feat: If the escalation die is 3+ when you use this talent, the target is also dazed (save ends both).

Champion Feat: Increase the ongoing poison damage to 30 if the escalation die is 3+. You can use the power one additional time per day for each point of relationship you have with the Elf Queen.

Epic Feat: Increase the ongoing poison damage to 50 if the escalation die is 5+.

Graceful Fury Champion Talents

Predator’s Gambit

As a standard action, you can allow one enemy engaged with you to make a melee attack against you as a free action. If the enemy chooses not to take the attack, you don’t benefit from the escalation die until the start of your next turn.

If the enemy’s attack misses, you can make a melee attack against that enemy as a free action. If your attack hits, you deal +1d10 extra damage for each point of the escalation die and the enemy is dazed until the end of its next turn.

Champion Feat: Add your Wisdom or Charisma modifier to all defenses against the attack. If the enemy’s attack hits, you take only half damage.

Epic Feat: When your Predator’s Gambit attack hits, you can choose to make the target confused instead of dazed until the end of its next turn.

Graceful Fury Epic Talents

Death is Swift and Beautiful

Once per day, when you start raging, your next melee attack that turn targets 1d4+1 nearby enemies. You pop free of each foe you attack and can move to the next one as a free action.

Epic Feat: You can also attack far away targets with the attack.

 

Tribal War Chief

These talents are found in barbarians who have been chosen to lead their people, be it by birth, merit, or the will of the gods.

Tribal War Chief Adventurer Talents

Heirloom Armor

You start the game with a set of heavy armor inherited from your ancestors, a true magic item. Choose between the heedlessness, splendor and warding adventurer-level enchantments. Only you can benefit from the item’s enchantment.

You do not take an attack penalty while wearing heavy armor.

Quirk: You tend to make dramatic speeches, and swear mighty oaths.

Adventurer Feat: The item does not count against your magic item limit.

Champion Feat: The item is upgraded to champion level.

Epic Feat: The item is upgraded to epic level.

Voice of the War Chief

Choose a Battle Cry of your level or lower from the bard’s list. You gain this Battle Cry as a class power.

Adventurer Feat: You gain a second Battle Cry.

Champion Feat: When using a Battle Cry, both you and one ally benefit from it.

Epic Feat: Once per day, you and each ally who can hear you can benefit from your Battle Cry.

Tribal War Chief  Champion Talents

The Pack Circles the Prey

When you score a critical hit against an enemy, the crit range of each of your allies attacks expands by 4 against that target until the start of your next turn.

Champion Feat: The target takes a cumulative –1 penalty to its next attack for each hit it takes before its next turn.

Epic Feat: The target is hampered until the start of your next turn; and, if they’re a creature that can normally use recoveries, cannot use recoveries until the start of your next turn.

Monks FightingBy Brian Slaby

Dicey Stunts is an expansion of the “Dicey Moves” section of the 13th Age core rule book, which allows for any character to exercise their narrative creativity during combat — much like a Rogue with the Swashbuckle talent. (If they succeed at an appropriate skill check, of course!)

Talents such as Swashbuckle, Vance’s Polysyllabic Verbalizations, and Terrain Stunt have gotten a lot of praise from fans of 13th Age.  These open-ended, player-driven abilities reflect the spirit of this system very well, just like Backgrounds, Icon Relationships, and the One Unique Thing.

The Dicey Stunts rule provides guidance for all players to use improvisational “stunts” — not just those who picked certain talents.  It also gives players of the simpler classes (barbarian, paladin, and ranger) an opportunity to spice up combat and play more tactically.

HOW DICEY STUNTS WORK

A Stunt is whatever the player would like to achieve.  The options below should cover a wide variety of possibilities, with the mechanics reflecting the intent of the action.  The intended effect can be described in whatever narrative way that the player sees fit.

Stunts are usually a quick action skill check, but some of the more impressive effects require a standard action.

Risks are consequences chosen by the GM.  If the skill check for the Stunt fails, then the Risk is triggered.

Any quick action Stunt can be used as a standard action to avoid a Risk.

The skill check DC is usually based on the standard difficulty for the environment. If the action directly opposes an opponent, use their PD or MD instead.  For simplicity, targeting PD or MD is equivalent to a Normal difficulty.  If the action would normally be a Hard difficulty, add 5 to PD/MD.

STUNTS

Combat Maneuver (quick action): Make a skill check (usually Str or Dex) against your opponent’s PD (usually).

Examples:

Trip - The target is Prone.  They can stand up as part of their move action, but must succeed at a Normal Save to reach their intended destination (Hard or Easy Saves can be used for relatively further or closer destinations).

Bull Rush - The target is pushed back a few feet, popping them free of any engagements except the bull rusher (and potentially pushing them into new engagements).  If pushing the target into dangerous terrain (fire, off of a cliff, etc.) then you must hit PD+5 (equivalent to a Hard DC).  If the target is Large or Huge, add an additional +5 to the DC (so it’s Very Hard to push a larger creature into dangerous terrain).

Grapple - The target takes a -2 penalty to disengage checks (you must have at least one hand free to initiate a Grapple).

Gain the Advantage (quick action):  Make a skill check against the target’s MD or PD, or use the Normal DC for the environment.  Choose 1 of the following effects (or similar), which lasts until the end of your next turn:

  1. The target is Vulnerable
  2. You or 1 ally gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls against the target
  3. You or 1 ally gains a bonus to damage against the target equal to your level.

Players that really like to gamble may want a stronger effect.  Feel free to give it to them, but with a Hard DC (or add +5 to PD/MD).  Instead, they may choose from these effects:

  1. The target is Dazed
  2. The target is Hampered
  3. Choose one of the Normal DC effects, and make it Save Ends.

Examples:  Taunting the opponent, throwing sand in his eyes, feinting, using footwork to improve your relative positioning, etc.  This is very much a catch-all category.

Attack the Masses (standard action):  First, make a skill check (Hard DC) with an ability appropriate to the action you’re describing.  If successful, you can make a basic attack against 1d3 nearby enemies in a group (whether it’s a melee or ranged attack depends on how you describe the action).

 Examples: Sweep attack, cutting/shooting the rope of a chandelier so it falls on your enemies, throwing a table at your enemies, etc.

Increase Momentum (standard action): Describe how you’re increasing the momentum of the battle and then roll a skill check with an appropriate ability (Normal DC).  Immediately raise the escalation die by 1 on a success.  This is limited to 1 attempt per battle.

RISKS

Counter-attack:  One enemy (usually the target, but a ranged enemy works well too) makes an immediate basic attack against the gambling character.  If it makes more sense that the action would endanger an ally, then an ally can suffer the counter-attack (this will usually only happen if the character that took the gamble is in a fairly safe position).

Vulnerable:  The character is Vulnerable (Hard Save Ends).

Backfired:  Something went wrong, and now the character is either Dazed or Stuck (Save Ends).

Lost Momentum:  Decrease the escalation die by 1.  This should usually be a pretty dramatic event, so you shouldn’t overuse it (in other words, don’t do it more than once per battle, but see Increase Momentum).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A previous version of this system was originally posted to my blog under the name The Mazarbul Gamble.  Much credit goes to quinn on the Thought Crime blog for his Gamble! stunt system, which provided the basic framework for failed skill checks triggering a Risk.  This idea is so important in keeping players from “spamming” stunts and bogging down combat, while still being forgiving enough that cool stunts are a viable option for anyone.

 

13th Age cleric detailBy Mark Craddock

13th Age and the Archmage Engine that drives it has become the clear frontrunner for most of my gaming needs since I got in on the Second Escalation Edition.  However, I run many games for both my kids and new players, and sometimes I want something leaner.  That’s how I came to mix Dan Porter’s excellent OSR product Labyrinth Lord with the sensibilities of the Archmage Engine.

In play, most things work as they do in 13th Age:  saves, the escalation die, backrounds, one unique things. (But see below for recoveries.) And for simplicity, weapon and armor selection are purely cosmetic: your class or race dictates your defenses and damage output, unless you get a cool magic item.  Most classes go to 10th level with some only going to 9th.

Spells, magic items and foes are used as they appear in Labyrinth Lord.

Cleric

Requirements: None

Hit Points per Level: 6 + Con mod per Level

Maximum Level: 10

Initiative: Dex mod + Level

Armor Class (no armor): 10 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level

Armor Class (armor): 14 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level

Armor Class (shield and armor): 15 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level

Physical Defense: 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex + Level

Mental Defense: 11 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + Level

Backgrounds: 8 points, max 5 in any one background

Melee Attack
Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC
Hit: 1D6 + Str Mod
Natural Hit of 16+: +2 to your next melee attack

Ranged Attack
Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: 1D4 + Dex Mod

Destroy Undead
Target: 1d4 nearby undead creatures
Attack: Wisdom + Charisma + Level vs. MD
Hit: 2D4
Natural Even Hit:  Target is dazed (-4 penalty to attacks) until the end of your next turn

Holy Light  (Optional, and assumes recovery rules are not being used)
Uses: 2 times per day
Target: All nearby allies
Effect: Heal 1d6+2 hit points

Divine Inspiration:  Worshiping their god allows a cleric to cast spells in their god’s name. A cleric my cast any spell on the cleric spell list as long as it is not higher than their current level.

Thaumaturgy: Because clerics’ spells are granted by their gods, they do not need to learn them. If their gods wish them to have access to a spell, they simply do. Clerics cannot cast a spell that is higher than their cleric level.

At 1st Level a cleric may cast level 1 spells

At 2nd Level a cleric may cast level 2 spells

At 3rd Level a cleric may cast level 3 spells

At 4th Level a cleric may cast level 4 spells

At 5th Level a cleric may cast level 5 spells

At 6th Level a cleric may cast level 6 spells

At 7th Level a cleric may cast level 7 spells

When clerics cast a spell, they make a hard (DC 16) save.  Note this DC can be adjust to 11 or even 6 if the GM feels that circumstances are particularly important to a cleric’s god.

If the cleric succeeds on her save, the spell is cast and she may recast that same spell again that day. When recasting a spell, she repeats the process above with the same two possible results.

If the cleric fails the save, the spell is cast, but that spell may not be cast again that day.

Example: If Sasha Bluth, a vicar of the Priestess, casts Light and rolls an 18 on his save, he may recast it as soon as the next round.  If the roll of his second save is a 20 when recasting Light he can recast it a third time that day.  However, if the roll of his third save to recast Light is a 14, the spell is cast but is no longer available to the cleric that day and requires Sasha to devote six hours of uninterrupted prayer to the Priestess before he may cast it–or any other spell he failed to save against while casting–again.

Devotion and spellcasting:  If a cleric ever falls from divine favor due to violating the precepts of her god or breaking the rules of her priestly vocation, her god may withdraw her ability to cast spells. Whenever a cleric who has displeased her god casts a spell, that spell is no longer available to her for the rest of the day as if she had failed her save. Additionally, she must spend six hours in prayer and meditation to give her full access to all of her spells.

See Labyrinth Lord for the 1st Age cleric’s spell list. For a more traditional Vancian system, use the Labyrinth Lord spell progression chart for the cleric.

Healing and recoveries in the 1st Age: By default, 1st Age treats the cleric’s healing abilities as they appear in Labyrinth LordCure spells are merely another resource open to the class, which has no special healing tools beyond that. This approach assumes that PCs in your campaign do not have access to recoveries — the self-healing mechanic in  13th Age.  The Holy Light ability is ideal for groups that enjoy a play style where the cleric is the party healer who often stands between the adventurers and death.

If a group does want to include recoveries in the game, one option is to give each character four recoveries per day. These recoveries heal each class for their hit points per level (without Con mod), and may be used once per battle or freely while out of combat. If one or more PC clerics are present during a battle, each party member in the battle gets a second in-combat use of a recovery.

Another option if you’re not using recoveries: allow the cleric to grant “fast healing” to her allies. During combat in which the cleric is present, any party member in the battle who is below half their hit point maximum heals two hit points per round until they return to half their maximum hit points. Outside of combat, a cleric’s presence in the party allows each member to heal 1d6+1 hit points per day of rest, instead of 1d3.

Citadel: At 6th level a cleric may establish or build a citadel.So long as the cleric is currently in favor with his god, he may buy or build a keep at half the normal price due to divine intervention. Once a citadel is established, the cleric’s reputation will spread and he will attract 1st and 2nd level followers of the fighter class (numbering 5d6 x10) that are completely loyal. The GM chooses which proportions of followers are bowman, infantry, etc.

You can find more 1st Age material at Mark Craddock’s Cross Planes blog.

The 1st Age Cleric text in this article is Open Game Content, as defined in the Open Gaming License version 1.0a Section 1(d).

by Paul Fanning

When Paul sent us this larger-than-life character class he said, “A Fighter can accomplish many great deeds, fighting more fearsome foes and saving villages then regions then the world. But the Fighter is also essentially an action movie hero: more skilled than the average warrior or soldier, a little luckier, with grit and resolve that carry him through. He relies on himself, his sword, and his allies and wins the day. But, if the stories are to be believed, he is no Hercules, Achilles, Beowulf… or Mordred. These are characters with explicitly superhuman capabilities, often with a direct connection to the Icons of their land. 13th Age also has a spot open for a tough character with caster-like resource management. So the Stalwart was born.”

What do you think of the stalwart? Join the discussion on the Pelgrane Forums.

Stalwart

OVERVIEW
Stories tell of some champions who serve or oppose the Icons—not through “borrowed” spells or magic; nor through mortal grit, training, or luck; but from a seemingly inherent supernatural strength, stamina, and force of arms. These stories (the mostly true ones, anyway) are talking about the Stalwart.

A Stalwart might be the blood relative of an Icon or fearsome monsters like giants . They may have been enchanted at infancy,  blessed after a unique initiation, or returned from seeming death with renewed purpose and power. Other stalwarts are brought by the Icons seemingly from nowhere, from across the sea or beyond the wastes, to join in their conflicts. And many say that the attention of an Icon can warp reality to create a Stalwart—that the belief that there exists a person who champions or threatens that Icon can empower a being to make it so.

Play Style:
The Stalwart is a bit of a challenge to play thanks to Greatness powers that depend heavily on whether you last hit an enemy or were hit yourself, as well as the management of the many Stalwart powers that are daily or recharge resources. The class can be very engaging for the player who wants a “tough” character with a lot of choices during play.

Ability Scores: You need Strength and Constitution for the deeds of might and endurance you can perform. Some Stalwart attacks also reward high Dexterity.

The Stalwart gain a +2 class bonus to Strength or Constitution, as long as it isn’t the same ability you increase with your +2 racial bonus.

Races: Humans are the most common race for a Stalwart, which is fitting for such a seemingly mundane (to some) race that seems to have an undue(to many) influence over Icons and the world… and human adventurers seem almost likely to bear the blood or influence of something other than strictly humanoid.  Dwarves also have their share of stalwarts: some of the songs and lore telling of the absurd deeds of Dwarven warriors battling giants are actually true. Perhaps due to their unusual origins, members of the optional races have a high proportion of Stalwarts allied with or opposed to the Icons that are their alleged progenitors.

Backgrounds: Child of giants, enchanted by the Sorceress that raised you, warrior from across the sea, raised as the child of a god, commander of an imperial legion, infamous killer.

Icons: Like any adventurer, a Stalwart may feel the influence of any Icon. Traditionally, however, it is the Archmage, the Crusader, the Dwarf King, the Emperor, the Lich King, the Priestess, and the Three that empower the Stalwart. The Archmage, and those before him,  has been said to deliberately create Stalwarts he believes will do his work on the battlefield, while the Archmage toils in magic and isolation. Seeing threats everywhere, the Crusader is likely responsible for his share of Stalwarts who oppose him — though the fact that there are Stalwarts devoted to and seemingly empowered by the peaceable Priestess makes as much of a case for Icons creating Stalwarts unwillingly. The Dwarf King and the Emperor have feelings on Stalwarts similar to each other, hoping that “their” Stalwarts have no aspirations to the respective Icons crowns and are content battling their enemies. Stalwarts connected to the Lich King are said to be terrible things, bringers of death who may be unable to die.

 

Stalwart Armor and AC

Type Base AC Atk Penalty

None      11               -

Light       13              -

Heavy      15           -2

Shield       +1             -

Weapons
Melee Weapons

One-Handed                                   Two-Handed

Small                     1d4 dagger                                      1d6 club

Light or Simple    1d6 hammer, shortsword             1d8 spear

Heavy or Martial 1d8 longsword, warhammer      1d10 greatsword, greataxe

Ranged Weapons

                           Thrown                 Crossbow                                      Bow

Small                  1d4 dagger           1d4 hand crossbow (-2 atk)      —

Light or Simple 1d6 javelin           1d6 light crossbow (-2 atk)        1d6 shortbow

Heavy Martial   —                          1d8 (–2 atk) heavy crossbow    1d8 longbow

STALWART LEVEL PROGRESSION

Stalwart Level Total Hit Points Total Feats Powers Known Pool Available Level Up Ability Bonuses Damage Bonus From Ability Score
Level 1 (8 + CON mod)x3 1 adventurer 4 1ST level ability modifier
Level 2 (8 + CON mod)x4 2 adventurer 5 1ST level ability modifier
Level 3 (8 + CON mod)x5 3 adventurer 5 3rd level ability modifier
Level 4 (8 + CON mod)x6 4 adventurer 6 3rd level  +1 to 3 abilities ability modifier
Level 5 (8 + CON mod)x8 4 adventurer, 1 champion 6 5TH level 2 x ability modifier
Level 6 (8 + CON mod)x10 4 adventurer, 2 champion 7 5TH level 2 x ability modifier
Level 7 (8 + CON mod)x12 4 adventurer, 3 champion 7 7TH level  +1 to 3 abilities 2 x ability modifier
Level 8 (8 + CON mod)x16 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 1 epic 8 7TH level 3 x ability modifier
Level 9 (8 + CON mod)x20 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 2 epic 8 9TH level 3 x ability modifier
Level 10 (8 + CON mod)x24 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 3 epic 9 9TH level  +1 to 3 abilities 3 x ability modifier

 

STALWART STATS

Initiative, AC, PD, MD, Hit Points, Recovery Dice, Feats, and some Talents are level dependent.

Ability Bonus +2 Strength or Constitution (different from racial bonus)
Initiative Dex mod + Level
Armor Class (light armor) 13 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Physical Defense 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex + Level
Mental Defense 10 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + Level
Hit Points (7 + Con mod) x Level modifier (see level progression chart)
Recoveries (probably) 8
Recovery Dice (1d10 x Level) + Con mod
Backgrounds 8 points, max 5 in any one background
Icon Relationships 3 points
Talents 3
Feats 1 per Level

Gear

At 1st level, stalwarts start with a melee weapon or three, a ranged weapon or two if they want them, possibly some armor, and standard nonmagical gear that is suggested by the character’s backgrounds.

Stalwarts in direct service or opposition to an icon start with 25 gp in savings. Those trying to make their own way start with 1d6 x 10 gp.

Melee attack

At-Will

Target: One enemy

Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC

Hit: WEAPON + Strength damage

Miss: Damage equal to your level

Ranged attack

At-Will

Target: One enemy

Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC

Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage

Miss: Damage equal to your level

CLASS FEATURES

Greatness
Greatness represents the belief in your power during the ups and downs of battle. Many of the stalwart’s powers function only when the stalwart has greatness. Greatness is either on or off– you either have greatness, or you don’t. The default is that you do not start a battle with greatness.

You gain greatness when you are hit by an enemy attack.

You lose greatness when you miss all enemies with an attack. You also lose greatness when you become unconscious, and when a battle ends.

The default is that you can use greatness powers without losing greatness, but a few powers specify that you must spend your greatness to use them. You don’t have to use attacks that require greatness against the foe you hit to gain that greatness.
Greatness powers that do not require you to spend your greatness are generally classified as interrupt actions. You can only use one interrupt action a round, which keeps your greatness powers from dominating the battle.

Empowered by Fate
You gain 1 relationship point with the Archmage, the Crusader, the Dwarf King, the Emperor, the Lich King, the Priestess, or the Three; you choose whether the point is positive, conflicted, or negative. This point can add to your normal relationship points but you can’t exceed the normal relationship maximums with it. (Remember that positive relationships with villainous icons like the Lich King or the Three are limited to 1 point).

When an ally rolls a 5 or a 6 on an icon relationship roll with the Icon(s) this feature gave you a relationship point with, start the next turn in battle with greatness.

Adventurer Feat: When you roll a 5 or a 6 on a relationship roll with the icon from this feature, start the next round in battle with greatness.
Champion Feat:
Gain another relationship point with one of the above icons. As above, you must follow the relationship maximums.
Epic Feat: Gain another relationship point with one of the above icons. This point can exceed the relationship maximums.

Strength of Many
You can lift twice and support about as much weight as two otherwise identical creatures normally can, and can move normally while carrying about your own weight (or twice your weight total). You also gain the use of power stunt.

Power stunt: At the start of each battle, roll a d6. Any time after the escalation die reaches that number, you’ll be able to use a quick action to spend your greatness and execute a power stunt. Normally you can only use power stunt once per battle, but circumstances, geography, or excellent planning may suggest that you can pull it off more than once.

Power stunts are improvisational effects that play off your preternatural strength. Things like muscling an enemy out of your may or leaping over the head of that enemy, knocking a stalactite onto your opponent, forcing a foe onto a soggy patch of ground that slows them down, wedging your enemy’s sword into a stone floor, busting open a barrel of lamp oil into the eyes or under the feet of incoming foes, shaking the tree that brings the sniper that thought he was out of reach crashing down to earth, etc. Power stunt effects are something any strong character might be able to accomplish, except you do not to make a check while using power stunt. Gaining increased strength by spending feats on this feature may allow you to describe more incredible effects for power stunt, affecting more or larger foes.

Adventurer Feat: You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of about five times the normal amount. Also, roll an additional d20 for power stunt (any time after the escalation die reaches that number, gain an additional use of power stunt this battle).
Champion Feat:
You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of about ten times the normal amount. Roll an additional d12 for power stunt instead of a d20.
Epic Feat:
You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of thirty or more times the normal amount.  Roll an additional d6 for power stunt instead of a d12.

Unarmed Attacks
Stalwart unarmed attacks are light/simple weapons that do 1d6 plus any applicable modifiers.

Champion Feat: 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.

CLASS TALENTS

COLOSSAL STAMINA
Your base hit points are now 8.
Adventurer Feat: Your recovery dice are d12s while you have greatness.
Champion Feat: Your recovery dice are always d12s.

CONFIDENCE
You are always affected by fear effects as if you were at full HP, and gain greatness when you successfully resist a fear effect.
Adventurer Feat: Gain a +2 to MD.

EMPOWERED BY THE EARTH
The relationship granted by Empowered by Fate may now be with the High Druid. You gain the Elementalist feature Elemental Bond and may improve it with feats up to your tier. In addition, you may select one Elementalist power of your level or lower instead of a Stalwart power. You may improve this power with feats normally.

Adventurer Feat: You may change any elements from the Elementalist class that you possess to use Constitution instead of Wisdom.
Champion Feat: You gain the Elemental Manipulation class feature, and may improve it with feats up to your tier.
Epic Feat: You gain an additional Elementalist power of your level or lower and may improve it.

GODSLAYER
When you hit an enemy that has more hit points than you with an attack, increase the damage of that attack by their level.

Champion Feat: Once per battle, instead increase the damage by twice their level.
Epic Feat:
Once per day, instead increase the damage by five times their level.

LEGION OF ONE
When you are hit by an attack from an enemy with fewer hit points than you, reduce that attacks damage by your level.

Champion Feat: Once per battle, instead reduce the damage by twice your level.
Epic Feat: Once per day, instead reduce the damage by five times your level.

LIMBS OF IRON
You use strength rather than dexterity when determining AC in no armor, when making ranged weapon attacks and when using stalwart powers.

STRIDE THE WORLD
You gain resistance 16+ to two of Cold, Fire, or Poison. You are vulnerable to the other type.

Adventurer Feat: You lose the vulnerability.

TITAN GRAPPLE
You can grab a creature using the normal grab rules, with a successful strength+level vs. PD attack as a standard action.

Adventurer Feat: If you wish, you move and are moved when grabbed or grabbing as if you were one size larger.
Champion Feat:  If you wish, instead you move and are moved when grabbed or grabbing as if you were two sizes larger.
Epic Feat: If you wish, you can move any creature when grabbing it, and cannot be moved by any creature grabbing you.

WEAPONS OF GIANTS
You wield, forge, or improvise oversized weapons. While you have greatness, increase your weapon and unarmed damage dice by one step.

Champion Feat: Instead, increase your weapon and unarmed damage dice by one step whether or not you have greatness.

POWERS

1ST LEVEL POWERS

HORIZON THROW
Ranged attack
At-will
Special: When the escalation die is even, you may use this power while unarmed (having picked up an appropriate rock etc.) using your unarmed damage. You may also use this attack at any time with a melee weapon you are holding… but it doesn’t return to you unless it would normally do so.
Target: One far away enemy
Attack:
Dexterity + level vs.  AC.
Hit:
Weapon + dexterity + constitution damage.
Miss: 
Damage equal to your level.

UNSTOPPABLE BOLT
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Free action, requires greatness
Trigger:
You reduce an enemy to zero hit points with a ranged weapon attack
Target:
One enemy that was in a group with, or farther away than, the triggering enemy
Attack:
Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: Weapon + Dexterity damage
Miss:
Damage equal to your level
Adventurer Feat: You may also use this power if the triggering attack staggers an enemy.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat: As long as your attack staggers an enemy or reduces them to zero hit points, you may keep making this powers attack against enemies in the same group, or who are farther away from you.

CATCHING MICE
Melee attack
At-will
Quick action, requires greatness
Target:
One creature
Attack:
Strength + Level vs. PD.
Hit:
You grab the target.
Special:
You may use this power as a free action when an enemy attempts to disengage from you, by spending your greatness.
Adventurer Feat:
You may use a standard action on your turn to deal one-half of unarmed + constitution damage to a target you have grabbed.

INDOMITABLE
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: You are subjected to a condition, or an effect a save can end.
Effect:
Roll a saving throw. On a success, you are not subjected to the condition, or you save against the effect.
Special: You may use this power when first subjected to a last-gasp effect, to make a free saving throw against it.
Champion Feat: You may use this power to save against an effect that lasts until the end of your or the triggering attacker’s next turn

TITAN SWING
Melee attack
At-will
Target:
Each enemy engaged with you
Attack:
Strength + Level – the number of targets vs. AC
Damage: WEAPON damage
Miss: -
Adventurer Feat:
Do damage equal to your level on a miss.
Champion Feat: Add your strength modifier to the damage on a hit.

GIANT STRIKE
Melee attack
At-will
Target:
One non-staggered non-mook enemy
Attack:
Strength +  targets Level vs. AC
Damage: WEAPON + Strength + Constitution Damage.
Miss
: Damage equal to your level.
Champion Feat: Instead of the targets level, you may add your level to the attack roll.

DIVINE STAMINA
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge:
11+ after the battle
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: You are damaged by an attack
Effect:
You heal using a recovery.
Adventurer Feat: You may use this power when you hit an enemy with an attack.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+

3RD LEVEL POWERS

ECLIPSE SHOT
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action, requires greatness
Special: You ordinarily use this power while holding a ranged weapon. When the escalation die is even, you may use this power while unarmed (having picked up an appropriate rock etc.) by spending  your  greatness. You may also use this attack at any time with a melee weapon you are holding… but it doesn’t return to you unless it would normally do so.
Trigger:
One nearby or far away enemy rolls for a ranged attack vs. ac that targets one creature.
Effect: Roll dexterity + level -2. If your roll equals or exceeds the triggering roll, the triggering attack has no effect. Otherwise, this power has no effect.
Champion Feat:
This power works against attacks that target PD.
Epic Feat:
This power works against attacks that can target one group of far away creatures, but you must equal or exceed the highest attack roll for this power to have any effect. If successful, this power complete negates the triggering attack.

INESCAPABLE DOOM
Daily
Recharge 11+ after the battle
Move Action
Special: You must not be engaged with any enemy
Effect: Place yourself next to one nearby enemy you can see, that you could have (eventually) reached normally—you move right where fate needs you to be, or you were there all along.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+
Epic Feat: You may place yourself next to any enemy you can see.

JUDGEMENT
Melee or ranged attack
Daily
Special:
This must be your first attack this battle
Target:
One enemy you are engaged with (melee) or one far away enemy (ranged)
Attack:
Strength (melee) or dexterity (ranged) + level vs. PD
Hit: 
Weapon + Weapon + constitution + strength (melee) or  dexterity (ranged) damage, and half as much ongoing damage. You gain greatness.
Miss:
Half damage, and you regain the power during your next quick rest. You lose greatness and cannot regain it until after your next turn.

UNFINISHED STORY
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge:
11+ after the battle
Interrupt action, requires greatness
Trigger: Your hit points are reduced below 1.
Effect:
You do not fall unconscious, but continue to track your hit points, and make death saving throws at the end of each turn. You die when you reach negative half your hit points, or when you fail your fourth death saving throw this battle. You do fall unconscious if you lose greatness, or at the end of the battle if you are still below one hit point.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+

BAT ASIDE
Greatness power
At-Will (once per round)
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: A melee attack that targets AC hits you.
Effect:
You take half damage from that attack.
Adventurer Feat: The power also triggers on an attack against PD.
Champion Feat:
The power also triggers on a ranged attack.
Epic Feat:
Once per day, you can use bat aside to take damage equal to the attacker’s level instead of half damage.

REND
Melee attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness.
Target: One enemy you have grabbed.
Attack:
Strength + Level vs. PD
Hit: Weapon + strength + constitution damage. On a natural even attack roll, the target takes ongoing damage equal to 1d3 times your level. On a natural roll of 16+, the target is weakened.
Miss: Damage equal to your level
Effect: The target is no longer grabbed by you, and gets a free disengage check.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat:
Once per day, you may reroll the attack roll for this power and choose either result.

5TH LEVEL POWERS

SUNDER
Melee or Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge: 16+ after the battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness
Attack:
Strength (melee) or dexterity(ranged) + level vs. PD
Hit:
Weapon + constitution +strength(melee) or dexterity(ranged). The target is also stuck (on an odd attack roll), dazed (on an even attack roll), or vulnerable (on a roll of 16+). One hard save ends all.
Miss:
 Half damage.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+.
Epic Feat: You may add or subtract 3 from the result of this powers attack roll.

BATTER
Melee attack
At-will
Special: You must have a creature grabbed, that you can move while grabbing; requires greatness
Target: 1d2+1 enemies engaged with you except for the creature you have grabbed.
Attack:
Strength + level  –number of targets vs. PD.
Hit:
Half of Unarmed + Constitution damage. The creature you have grabbed also takes this damage on each hit.
Miss:-
Champion Feat:
This power now targets 1d4+2 enemies engaged with you.
Epic Feat: Add your constitution modifier to the miss damage.

HEAVENS LEAP
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action, or a quick action on your turn; requires greatness
Effect:
If used as an interrupt, you fall safely to the ground. If used on your turn, you gain flight until the end of your turn.

SKY BLADE
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Target:
1d4+1 enemies
Special:
You must make this attack with a melee weapon you are holding. It returns to your hand after the attack is resolved.
Attack: Dexterity + level vs. AC
Hit:
Weapon + dexterity damage
Miss: Damage equal to your level.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+.

7TH LEVEL POWERS

CATAPULT THOW
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge: 16+ after the battle
Special:
You must have both hands free. Or if you have greatness, you must have a creature grabbed, that you can move while grabbing.
Target:
1d4+1 nearby enemies in a group.
Effect: If you made this attack with a grabbed, it is no longer grabbed by you and becomes an additional target in the targeted group.
Hit: Unarmed + strength damage, and the target loses its next move action. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Miss:
Half damage. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.

Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat:
This power can instead target 1d4+2 far away enemies in a group.

DEIFIC CHEAT
Close quarters power
Special: You may use this power only once per level.
Trigger: You die.
Effect: You return to life the morning after you died. You start the new day with one quarter of your hit points and recoveries, and all of your daily abilities expended. You cannot gain greatness until the turn after a non-mook enemy of your level or greater hits you with an attack.

Epic Feat: You may use this power to instead revive a dead ally.

9TH LEVEL POWERS

MOUNTAIN SPLITTER
Close quarters attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness
Target: 1d3 groups of 1d3+1 nearby enemies.
Attack: Strength + level vs. PD.
Hit:
Weapon + strength damage. The target also takes weapon + constitution ongoing damage and is stuck (save ends both). Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Miss:
Half damage, and the target loses its next move action. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Epic Feat: Recharge is now 11+

COMET SPLITTER
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge
:  11+ after battle
Interrupt action, you must spend your greatness
Trigger:
A creature attacks you or a nearby ally with an attack vs. PD or AC that can target more than one creature.
Target: The triggering creature.
Effect
: You move nearer to the triggering creature or targeted ally without provoking opportunity attacks. Roll constitution + level + the number of targets in the triggering attack. If your roll equals or beats the attacker’s highest roll, the  triggering attack misses you, misses the triggering enemy, and no longer targets any allies. If your roll is less than the highest attack roll, the triggering attack hits you and is a critical hit, and no longer targets any allies.
Epic Feat:
On a successful roll, the triggering enemy is instead hit by the triggering attack. On a failure, they are missed instead.

TALENTS FOR OTHER CLASSES

ELEMENTALIST
CHAMPION OF THE LAND
You gain the use of one stalwart power of your level or lower, and may improve it with feats up to your tier. Once per day when you end a battle with greatness, you may reroll the recharge roll for an Elementalist power.

Adventurer Feat: You may substitute wisdom for constitution when using stalwart powers.
Champion Feat: Gain greatness at the start of the next turn in battle when an ally rolls a 5 or 6 on an icon relationship roll with the High Druid.
Epic Feat:
Gain a second stalwart power.

FIGHTER
MAKE YOUR OWN FATE
You gain the use of one Stalwart power of your level or lower, and may improve it with feats up to your tier. You do not use the normal method of gaining or losing greatness.  Instead, you gain greatness when you hit with an even roll of 12+ on an attack and lose it when you miss with an odd roll of 11 or less on an attack. You may lose one fighter maneuver to gain one more stalwart power.

Adventurer Feat: Once per battle, you may spend greatness to reroll a flexible attack that hit.
Champion Feat:
 You gain the use of power stunt once per day.
Epic Feat: Gain another stalwart power.

PALADIN
HAND OF THE DIVINE
You gain the use of two stalwart powers of your level or lower, and may improve them with feats up to your tier.

Adventurer Feat: You may substitute Charisma for Constitution for any Stalwart power you possess.
Champion Feat: Gain an Icon Relationship point with the Crusader or the Priestess. You must stay within normal relationship maximums.
Epic Feat:
Gain another stalwart power.

SORCERER
ICONIC FIST
You gain the Stalwart’s unarmed attacks feature and may permanently gain one stalwart power slot of your level or lower in exchange for a sorcerer spell slot. You may improve stalwart powers with feats up to your tier. Once per day, you may spend greatness to instantly empower a sorcerer spell.

Adventurer Feat: Substitute Charisma for Strength while making unarmed attacks or using stalwart powers.
Champion Feat:  You may empower stalwart powers.
Epic Feat: You may permanently lose a second sorcerer spell slot to gain a stalwart power slot.

by Christopher Allen

Christopher describes his vanguard character class as “a warrior-type designed to have more active in-combat choices and resource management than the Fighter – a complex Fighter, if you will — with a dash of healing capability.”

What do you think of the vanguard? Join the discussion on the Pelgrane Forums.

Vanguard

To be a vanguard is to live and breathe battle, to be a master of the art of war. Vanguards stand above other warriors and fighters through their skill at arms and their iron resolve. They are first to enter the fray and the last to leave. They are war-masters, commanders, inspirational heroes or terrifying foes.

Overview:
Playstyle: Unlike the fighter, the vanguard isn’t reliant on the dice roll result to trigger powers. Instead you choose which of your techniques you wish to use and expend your Resolve to fuel them. Knowing when to spend Resolve, and how much, is key to managing the class. The Vanguard is both a heavy melee combatant and a leader of warriors: you can aid your allies and pitch in where the fighting is at its thickest.

Ability Scores: Strength and Constitution are the most important abilities for the vanguard as the former lets you hit harder and the latter keeps you alive. Charisma is also significant for some of the techniques available.

Vanguards gain a +2 class bonus to Strength, Constitution or Charisma, as long as it isn’t the same ability you increased with your +2 racial bonus.

Races: Any species can produce the mixture of fighting prowess and authority that makes a great vanguard, but half-orcs, humans and dwarves are most suited to the role. Half-elves also make fine vanguards when they focus on commanding and aiding others.

Backgrounds:
Battle captain, assault trooper, first-into-the-breach, rebel leader, bodyguard, standard bearer, monster-hunter, noble warrior, battle chieftain, veteran soldier, merciless reaver, weapons-master.

Icons: Vanguards are most commonly associated with the Emperor, Crusader and Dwarf King; those of a particularly dark bent serve the Orc Lord or the Lich.

Vanguard Level Progression

Level

Total Hit Points

Total Feats

Techniques

Resolve

Max Resolve per turn

Level-up Ability Bonuses

Damage Bonus From Ability Score

1

(8 + Con Mod) x3

1 adventurer

3

4

2

Ability modifier

2

(8 + Con Mod) x4

2 adventurer

4

5

2

Ability modifier

3

(8 + Con Mod) x5

3 adventurer

5

5

3

Ability modifier

4

(8 + Con Mod) x6

4 adventurer

5

6

3

+1 to 3 abilities

Ability modifier

5

(8 + Con Mod) x8

4 adventurer

1 champion

6

6

4

2 x ability modifier

6

(8 + Con Mod) x10

4 adventurer

2 champion

7

7

4

2 x ability modifier

7

(8 + Con Mod) x12

4 adventurer

3 champion

8

7

5

+1 to 3 abilities

2 x ability modifier

8

(8 + Con Mod) x16

4 adventurer

3 champion

1 epic

8

8

5

3 x ability modifier

9

(8 + Con Mod) x20

4 adventurer

3 champion

2 epic

9

8

6

3 x ability modifier

10

(8 + Con Mod) x24

4 adventurer

3 champion

3 epic

10

9

6

+1 to 3 abilities

3 x ability modifier

Vanguard Stats

Ability Bonus                            +2 Strength, Constitution or Charisma
Initiative                                               Dex mod + Level
Armour Class (Heavy)                15 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Armour Class (Heavy + Shield)   16 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Base PD                                                10 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex + Level
Base MD                                               10 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + Level
Hit Points                                             (8 + Con Mod) x level modifier (see chart)
Recoveries                                             (probably) 8
Recovery Dice
                           (1d10 x level) + Con Mod
Backgrounds                                         8 points, max 5 in any one background
Icon Relationships                                 3
Talents                                     3
Feats                                                     1 per Level

Gear
At 1st level, vanguards start with one or two melee weapons of their choice, armour that’s either shining and clean or battered and well-worn, and any standard non-magical gear suggested by their backgrounds. A vanguard may, if they desire, also start with a ranged weapon of some sort.

A vanguard who has carefully prepared for war starts with 25gp; those who have recently seen victory or defeat can begin with 1d6 x 10gp instead.

Armour
Vanguards usually rely on heavy armour of some kind to see them through the rigours of battle. Steel scale or plate is most common, but some cultures produce vanguards with stranger protection – carefully treated carapace or colourful lacquered armour, for example.

Vanguard Armour and AC

Armour Type Base AC Attack Penalty
None 10 -
Light 13 -
Heavy 15 -
Shield +1 -

Melee Weapons
Pretty much anything is lethal in the hands of a vanguard, but their chosen weapons are commonly possessed of particular significance or excellent craftsmanship. Most vanguards choose either the raw power of a hefty two-handed weapon such as a polearm or greatsword, or the defensive capacity of a single-hander and a shield; fighting with a weapon in each hand is generally eschewed for more practical options. Vanguards fight aggressively but with lethal efficiency.

Ranged Weapons
A vanguard is capable of using a myriad of ranged weapons to devastating effect, but they rarely focus on such armaments; only a few become master archers. A crossbow or bow is common enough for those situations that demand it, but plenty of vanguards prefer a heavy throwing axe or javelin that they can loose as they close on the foe.

Vanguard Melee Weapons

One-handed Two-Handed
Small
1d4 dagger 1d6 club
Light or Simple
1d6 hand-axe or short sword 1d8 spear
Heavy or Martial
1d8 broadsword or one-handed warspear 1d10 greatsword or greathammer

Vanguard Ranged Weapons

Thrown Crossbow Bow
Small
1d4 dagger 1d4 hand crossbow
Light or Simple
1d6 throwing axe, javelin 1d6 crossbow 1d6 shortbow
Heavy or Martial
1d8 heavy crossbow 1d8 longbow

Basic Attacks
Vanguards use basic attacks in battle, augmented with powerful Techniques that are fueled by their Resolve.

Melee Attack
At Will
Target: One Enemy
Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC
Hit: WEAPON + Strength damage
Miss: Damage equal to your level

Ranged Attack
At Will
Target: One Enemy
Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage
Miss:

Vanguard Class Features:
All vanguards have the Resolve, Technique and War-Tempered class features.

Resolve

Vanguards use Resolve to fuel their powerful combat techniques, representing the character’s determination, ability to resist fatigue and general will to fight. Through their iron willpower and inspiring presence, vanguards can shape the flow of battle.

Your Resolve is determined by your level, as is the amount of Resolve that you can spend each turn. Every time you use a technique, you expend a certain amount of Resolve. All expended Resolve is regained with a quick rest; you can also regain 1 Resolve through the following means:

  • By spending a standard action to regain your breath or assess the tide of battle
  • By rolling a natural 20 on an attack roll
  • The first time each battle that you become staggered

Additionally, whenever you expend Resolve on using one or more Techniques to augment an attack, 1 point of the expended Resolve is restored if the attack misses.

Adventurer Feat: You also regain 1 point of Resolve the first time you are reduced to 0 hit points or below in a battle.
Champion Feat: You may spend 1 point of Resolve as a Quick action to immediately end a Fear effect.
Epic Feat: Once per day as a Quick action, you may spend 1 Resolve point to immediately end any (save ends) Condition or ongoing damage that you are suffering.

Technique

You know a number of Techniques as defined by your level. Each Technique can be used in a specific way, usually a triggered counter-attack, quick action or attack augment. Techniques also cost Resolve to use.

Attack augments have to be declared and paid for with Resolve before you roll the dice for an attack. More than one attack augment can be applied to a single basic melee attack, and all the augments’ effects are applied on a hit.

Melee basic attacks generated by counter-attacks cannot have other attack augment Techniques used on them.

Adventurer Feat: You may now use attack augment Techniques on melee basic attacks generated by counter-attacks.
Champion Feat: Once per day, you may apply all of the non-damage effects of a Technique-augmented attack to a target even though you have missed.
Epic Feat: Once per day, when you make a melee basic attack in the same turn you’ve moved into engagement with an enemy, the entire Resolve cost for Techniques used on that attack is regained on a successful hit.

War-Tempered

Vanguards gain 2 bonus Background points, which must be spent on Backgrounds relating to war, battle, the military or combat training.

Adventurer Feat: Gain an additional 2 bonus Background points, which must be spent on Backgrounds relating to war, battle, the military or combat training.
Champion Feat: When attempting to draw on a relationship with an Icon in the context of military command, warfare or battle, you may roll 1 additional die.
Epic Feat: You are considered a master of warfare and battle; military followers flock to your side to form a warband. If you already have a warband, you gain an elite and loyal personal guard. Exactly how this works out is up to GM and player.

Talents

Choose three of the following class talents.

Break the Line
Once per turn, you may make a normal save to ignore an enemy who has intercepted you and continue on to your original target.
Adventurer Feat: Regardless of whether you make the save or not, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against the enemy intercepting you.
Champion Feat: Break the Line can now be used any number of times per turn.
Epic Feat: Once per day, every enemy who you successfully Break the Line against in this turn suffers the Fear condition for 1 round.

Canny Fighter
Once per battle, when you miss with an augmented attack, you regain all Resolve expended on the attack rather than just one.

Ebb and Flow of Battle
Once per day, you can pop free from one engaged enemy as a quick action.
Adventurer Feat: You may pop free from up to two engaged enemies with Ebb and Flow of Battle.
Champion Feat: You may use Ebb and Flow on a Nearby ally instead of yourself as a standard action.

Shielded Vanguard
As long as you are carrying a shield, you gain +1AC against ranged attacks.
Adventurer Feat: As long as you are carrying a shield, you also gain +1PD against ranged attacks.

Steelclad Vanguard
As long as you are wearing heavy armour, you gain +1AC against melee attacks.
Adventurer Feat: As long as you are wearing heavy armour, you also gain +1PD against melee attacks.

Stem the Tide
Enemies attempting to Disengage from you suffer a -5 penalty to the Disengage check.

Unshakeable Resolve
Whenever you are affected by the Weakness or Fear conditions, regain 1 expended Resolve.
Adventurer Feat: You also regain 1 expended Resolve when affected by the Hampered and Vulnerable conditions.

Voice of Authority
Choose a single Bardic Battle Cry as if you were a bard of equal level. You may now use this Battle Cry; remember that it is a flexible melee attack. Additionally, when you fail a Background roll relating to intimidating, giving orders or inspiring, and you roll an even number on the die, you may reroll it once.

Warmaster
Whenever you use the Stand Firm or Fight On Techniques, you may target two allies rather than one.
Adventurer Feat: Whenever you use Inspire, you also benefit from the attack bonus.
Champion Feat: Once per day, when you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points with a basic attack, one Nearby ally can spend a Recovery immediately.
Epic Feat: Once per day, one of your Techniques that targets allies also removes any Afraid and Weakened conditions from them.

Techniques
You may freely pick the Techniques that you know from the following list; they are not restricted by level. You can change the Techniques that you know every time you level up, or whenever you have an appropriate period of time for retraining or a chance for a montage.

Bash
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
You may make an immediate melee basic attack in retaliation; it deals no damage, but on a success the enemy is shoved back and forced to pop free, no longer engaging you. If you are wielding a shield, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: When you use Bash, you do not need to target the enemy who triggered the counter-attack.
Champion Feat: You deal half-damage on a hit, rather than no damage.
Epic Feat: Once per day, your Bash also stuns the enemy for 1 round on a hit.

Battle Order
1 Resolve
Standard Action
A single ally who can hear your command may immediately make a basic melee or ranged attack against a single enemy, gaining a bonus to the damage roll equal to your Charisma bonus.

Challenging Shout
1 Resolve
Quick Action
Choose one engaged enemy; if they attack one of your allies in the next round, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against them. If you are no longer engaged with them when they do so, you may make a move first to try to reach them, requiring disengagement or suffering opportunity attacks as normal.
Adventurer Feat: You may add your Charisma to the attack roll on the basic melee attack.
Champion Feat: You may target nearby enemies with Challenging Shout.

Cleaving Blow
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If you hit with your attack, deal half the damage inflicted to the target to another enemy who is engaged with you. The effects of additional Techniques applied to the attack are not carried over to the second enemy.
Adventurer Feat: If your attack reduces the first target to 0 hit points or below, you deal full rather than half damage to the additional target.
Champion Feat: You may deal half the damage inflicted to the target on two other engaged enemies rather than one.

Crippling Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If you hit with your attack, the enemy suffers weakness for one round.

Crushing Blow
2 Resolve
Attack Augment
You may only use Crushing Blow when the Escalation Die is an even number.  If you hit with your attack, you deal only half damage but the enemy is stunned for one round. If you are wielding a mace or hammer, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: You deal full damage with Crushing Blow.
Champion Feat: On an even attack roll that hits, the enemy is also vulnerable for one round.
Epic Feat: Any Resistance (Physical) the enemy may possess is reduced by 4 against Crushing Blow.

Defiance
1 Resolve
Move Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Constitution bonus (minimum 1).
You may immediately spend a Recovery.
Adventurer Feat: Gain +1 MD for a turn after using Defiance.

Defensive Stance
1 Resolve
Quick Action
You gain a +1 bonus to AC and PD for one round.
Adventurer Feat: While benefiting from Defensive Stance, any counter-attacks you make gain a +1 bonus to their attack roll.
Champion Feat: While benefiting from Defensive Stance, you may make a single counter-attack each turn for no cost in Resolve.

Drive Back
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If your attack hits, the targeted enemy is forced to pop free and is no longer engaging you or any other ally that they were engaging. If you are wielding a reach weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: If the enemy does not then move away from you in their following turn, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against them at the end of their turn.

Fight On
2 Resolve
Standard Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1)
With inspiring words, commanding authority or scolding anger, you target one nearby ally who is on 0 hit points or below. They may immediately spend a Recovery and regain consciousness.
Adventurer Feat: The targeted ally also gains a bonus to their AC equal to your Charisma modifier for one round.
Champion Feat: The targeted ally may make an immediate saving throw against a single ongoing condition still affecting them.

Heroic Effort
2 Resolve
Special
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Constitution bonus (minimum 1)
You can only use Heroic Effort when you are on 0 hit points or below at the beginning of your turn. You may immediately spend a Recovery and regain consciousness.

Heroic Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Against a foe that is Large or Huge, your critical range is extended by 2.

Inspire
1 Resolve
Quick Action
A number of nearby allies equal to your Charisma bonus gain a +1 to attack rolls for one round.

Parry
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
Your parry throws the enemy off-balance; the next attack against them within 1 round benefits from a +2 bonus. You also gain a +5 bonus to Disengage that enemy during your next turn.
Adventurer Feat: When you use Parry, you do not need to target the enemy who triggered the counter-attack.
Champion Feat: Once per round, if neither you nor the enemy are Engaged with any other characters, then when you Parry you may also make yourself and your enemy to make a single move in the direction of your choice.
Epic Feat: Once per round, an enemy who you Parry also gains the Vulnerable Condition until the end of their next turn.

Pierce
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Your attack targets PD rather than AC. If you are wielding a single-handed axe or sword, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: If you critically hit while using Pierce, the enemy is also hampered for one round.

Pin the Foe
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If your attack hits, the target becomes stuck for 1 round. If you are wielding a reach weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.

Riposte
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
You counter with a riposte; you may make a basic melee attack against your attacker, dealing half damage on a hit.
Adventurer Feat: Your riposte deals full damage on a hit and half damage on a miss.
Champion Feat: On an even attack roll that hits, your riposte also weakens the enemy for one round.
Epic Feat: You may use Riposte even if the enemy hits you with a melee attack.

Stand Firm
1 Resolve
Move Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1).
Your commanding shout inspires a single nearby ally on 1 or more hit points to stand firm against the foe. They may immediately spend a Recovery.

Sundering Blow
2 Resolve
Attack Augment
You may only use Sundering Blow when the Escalation Die is an even number. Choose a weapon or shield that the enemy is currently wielding. If your attack successfully hits, it deals only half damage but shatters or sunders the weapon or shield, rendering it useless. Magic weapons and shields can make a normal save to avoid being sundered, and are easily repaired with a quick rest; mundane armaments that are sundered require an appropriate background check or the use of a minor mending incantation to fix. If you are wielding a great-weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: Instead of sundering a weapon or shield, you may choose to disarm your foe by knocking the item out of their grasp. This does not damage the item, but also places it at most a move away from the enemy, where it can be retrieved and picked up again (magic items still get a normal save). Disarming offers a +1 to hit with any single-handed weapon rather than a great-weapon.
Champion Feat: Sundering Strike deals full damage on a hit.
Epic Feat: The save for magic items to resist being sundered becomes hard.

Toppling Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Whether with a hooking swing or a strike of overwhelming force, if you hit your target they are knocked down. A knocked down enemy must spend a move action standing up before they can undertake any other kind of movement. Being knocked down may cause other difficulties as well. If you are wielding a polearm, gain +1 on the attack roll.

Vanguard Assault
1 Resolve
Special
This Technique can only be used at the very beginning of a battle. The Vanguard is moved to the top of the Initiative chain, reaching an Initiative score equal to the highest rolled +1.

 

 

Back to the Old School…
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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…
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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The dungeon die works like the escalation die but works for a dungeon and against the players characters.
The dungeon die uses these rules:

  1. 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.
  2. Sneaking past a bunch of monsters or avoiding a trap entirely decreases the dungeon die by one.
  3. Using diplomacy to get past monsters or disarming a trap keeps the dungeon die at the same value.
  4. All monsters add the dungeon die to their attack rolls.
  5. All monsters that are escalators (like dragons) add both the escalation die and dungeon die to their attack rolls.
  6. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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…
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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.

One of the chiefest joys of roleplaying is the joy of taking an iconic hero or monster and re-skinning it in the light of your own campaign. I’ve put Frankenstein’s monster on stage in two or three games, recast Batman as a people’s antihero in an alternate Soviet Union, and made demigods of Aaron Burr and Daniel Boone. In published games, I’ve smuggled re-skins of BBC sci-fi, Polish spy fiction, and air-adventure comics (along with huge swaths of Robert E. Howard) into The Day After Ragnarok. In Shadows Over Filmland, Robin Laws and I recast twelve iconic Hollywood horrors in Lovecraftian light.

This month’s column goes that book one louder, re-skinning select deities and entities from the Cthulhu Mythos as the 13 Icons of the 13th Age. Lovecraftian cosmic horror  doesn’t really fit with the high-heroic, dungeon-fantasy style of 13th Age, but puritan critics notwithstanding, Lovecraft wrote in many modes besides nihilistic hard SF. Genre-shifting the Mythos goes back to fantastic Lovecraft stories like “The Doom That Came to Sarnath” and “Cats of Ulthar,” as well as outright Dreamlands fantasies such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and even the Theosophy-inflected world of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” The settings of Lovecraft’s revision tales – especially the worlds of Mu and K’n-Yan in “Out of the Aeons” and “The Mound” – invite fantastic comparisons. Clark Ashton Smith’s Hyperborea, Zothique, and Atlantis stories are arch, ironic high fantasy, while Robert E. Howard’s Mythos tales tie directly to his Hyborian cycle via “The Worms of the Earth” and the quasi-historical Bran Mak Morn. Other touchstones for heroic Lovecraftian fantasy (or “sword and Mythos” adventure) include Brian Lumley’s Borea and Primal Land series, Gary Myers’ Dreamlands tales, Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane series, Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean, Richard Tierney’s Simon Magus cycle, and Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Lords of Dûs, to start with. So you see, genre-drifting the Mythos into heroic fantasy has a long and distinguished pedigree. That said, the resulting world looks a good deal darker and less forgiving than the world of the 13th Age, as you can tell by looking at its Icon breakdown.

Heroic Icons

Usually: She Who Scratches

Possibly: Hunter of the Abyss

Ambiguous Icons

Usually: Black Goat of the Woods, Great Ghoul, Hunter of the Abyss, Snake Father, Spider Queen, Underworld Oracle, Veiled Ancient

Possibly:  She Who Scratches, Thousand-Faced Moon

Villainous Icons

Usually: Crawling Chaos, Dreamer in the Deep, Paralyzing Lord, Tattered King, Thousand-Faced Moon, Veiled Ancient

Possibly: Black Goat of the Woods, Great Ghoul, Snake Father, Spider Queen, Underworld Oracle

“Sword and Mythos” fantasy worlds feature empires and civilizations suffused with the power of the Great Old Ones, often worshiped in state cults or by resisters to them: Lovecraft’s Mu held Shub-Niggurath cults conspiring (possibly with Yig-followers) against the priesthood of Ghatanothoa. Other cities fall under the sway of powerful wizard-lords serving single gods, while the barbarians remain either blissfully unchurched or devotees of some founding abomination: Howard’s Picts, for example, are descended from reptilian folk obviously in retrospect spawned by Yig. You’re not necessarily stuck with the thirteen entities I selected: other promising choices include the other Old Ones from Lovecraft (Bokrug, Rhan-Tegoth), from the “Clark Ashton Smythos” (Rlim Shaikorth, Yhoundeh) or Robert E. Howard’s heroic fantasies (Crom, Gol-Goroth, Groth-Golka, Set). Beyond the original Weird Tales Three, I also think Ithaqua and Y’golonac, for example, are sufficiently local and individual Great Old Ones to make fine Icons if you’d like to swap them into my list. You can also use actual historical gods who inspired and appeared in Lovecraft (Artemis, Dagon, Hypnos, Pan).

Traditionally, the Mythos deities transcend even the Icons, at least as we know and suspect them. To bring them down to the scale of a normal 13th Age campaign, you have two choices. You can either euhemerize the Great Old Ones into super-monsters (Deities & Demigods style) or presume that each Great Old One has an Avatar representing its interests and guiding its cult on the material plane. Such Avatars might more closely resemble 13th Age Icons not just in scope and power but in their willingness to intervene in (and instigate) mortal squabbles, enterprises, and wars. An Avatar is also more likely to wander around the world seeking powerful artifacts or undermining her peers than she is to remain in one location. For simplicity’s sake, most cults of the Great Old One in question recognize the Avatar’s privileged status, but heresies, factions, and rebellions exist in Mythos cults perhaps even moreso than in human religions.

 The Black Goat of the Woods

Shub-Niggurath spreads her power through the oldest of forests and the most fecund of creatures. Her Thousand Young grow in marshes and fens across the world, their poisonous fruit finding its way onto the tables of idle rich and struggling poor alike. She stands for vines that choke buildings, and blood that swamps magic. She calls on the elves to return to her, their mother: the wood elves inevitably do so as they age. If they do not openly serve her, witches, herbalists, rangers, and druids know to keep on her good side. Her creatures include oozes, certain treants, and medusae; the stone giants recognize her power. She has bestowed her favors on the Snake King, the Tattered King, and the Hunter of the Abyss (a former king). She most despises the alien Paralyzing Lord, but her rivalry with her sisters the Thousand-Faced Moon and the Spider Queen is nearly as virulent. She dwells within the deepest reaches of the Wild Wood, but her fanes writhe in every great forest and in the holly-maze at the heart of Concord. Her emblem is the Upas tree, its eight trunks and endless branches crouched and heavy with poison. (Possible Avatars: Earth Mother, Empress, High Druid)

The Crawling Chaos

Nyarlathotep delights in confusion, trickery, and sadism. He shows visions of apocalyptic futures to the hopeful, instigates feverish dreams of war among the orcs, and dogs the dreams and nightmares of the brave. He spawns cults in a thousand forms, sometimes urging them (unknowing that they serve the same Icon) to war on each other. He teaches magic and heresy to promising pupils, creating monsters by such arts, and when he tires of their antics, he shrinks them to become familiars of the next century’s class. Some say the entire race of gnomes came about in this fashion; certainly he and they favor each other. He established the caste of ogre magi; his other favorites include various demons, most dragons, and the rakshasa. In idle moments, he builds great orc empire-clans, then betrays them to destruction. He deprecates his rival despair-monger the Tattered King, but rages against the Hunter of the Abyss and fumes over slights done him by She Who Scratches. He makes his home in the Red Wastes, having turned the Golden Citadel into his own temple, but often appears in Shadow Port before touring the Empire. His emblem is the three-lobed burning Eye. (Possible Avatars: Black Pharaoh, Charioteer, Prince of Shadows)

The Dreamer in the Deep

Cthulhu, priest and sorcerer from the stars, does not move among the surface dwellers. Some say he lies trapped in his undersea castle by a powerful spell, cast perhaps by a rival Icon — or by all his rival Icons. Others say he merely slumbers and only his dreams have infected the land so far; when he awakens, he shall end the Age and rule the world forever in freedom and madness. His dreams are quite bad enough: suicides, somnambulistic rituals, savage murders, cannibalistic orgies, and unwholesome artistic movements are only some of the effects his sendings have on mortal minds. His cult, as suits his aquatic nature, commands seas, fogs, and marine life, venerating his creations the sahuagin; those with sahuagin blood (intermingled in any other race) are his natural servants, as are green dragons and their kin. Sorcerers seek his guidance as first of their kind. His nightmare projections,  the psionic soul-flensers, serve him in dreams. His cult for some reason especially targets the Tattered King for reprisal, but also wars against the Underworld Oracle (who stole his subterranean cult of derro) and resents the Veiled Ancient for crimes unknown. His citadel lies far off in the Iron Sea, but fishing towns all along the Midland coast (and hamlets deep in the Fangs) hear his call, especially during its rare storms. His emblem is the emerald Kraken. (Possible Avatars: Drowned Sailor, Great Green Wyrm, Hermit)

The Great Ghoul

Mordiggian is the chief and father of ghouls, and the lord of death, destiny, and the future. He digs up secrets thought long locked in the grave, and converses with shades and spirits through his mighty necromantic arts. His tunnels undergird all man’s cities and the ruins of races from ages forgotten. His worst human servitors engage in ritual cannibalism; well worth it to gain the immortality he promises. His lesser promises, of rich grave goods in return for secret favors, are always kept: a guild of rogues wears his badge as a swagger. His favored children are the ghouls; the gnolls either worship him or despise him. He commands all undead, except those who rebel against the author of their power. Dwarves who serve Mordiggian are feared, and usually belong to lower castes. He, the Underworld Oracle, and the Spider Queen all claim to be the eldest child of their father, the wizard Klarkash-Ton, one of the Three Magi who built the world from divine words in the First Age. Their subterranean sibling rivalry becomes intense at times, but the Great Ghoul saves his truest enmity for the Veiled Ancient (who refuses to die) and the Paralyzing Lord (who refuses to rot). Mordiggian dwells in palaces built during earlier Ages beneath the cities of the world, moving his court from Glitterhaegen to Axis to Horizon for the most part, but always summering in Necropolis. His emblem is the canine Skull and human Bones. (Possible Avatars: Grim Reaper, Lich King, Vampire Lord)

The Hunter of the Abyss

Nodens was once a mighty king — some say, even the Emperor — before he lost his right hand in a day-long battle against the high king of the giants. From that time, he left Axis behind and has dwelt with his dire hounds in the wild spaces: the cold pine forests of Blood Wood, the rocky coasts of the Iron Sea, and now in his flying realm of Magonia. His allies similarly haunt such wastes: centaurs, fauns, griffins, tritons, storm giants, gargoyles, night-gaunts. Of civilized folk only the dwarves welcome him; the others fear the chaos of mind and emptiness of spirit his gaze leaves behind. The dwarves built him a silver hand, with which he wields his weapons: the net, the trident, and the sword. He spends his time hunting demons, dragons, minotaurs, and other fell horrors, mounting great quests into the Abyss to bring back trophies and power. He especially delights in thwarting the Crawling Chaos, but also sends his rangers and paladins to undo the works of the Paralyzing Lord and the Dreamer in the Deep. His magi are rivals of the Tattered King and the Veiled Ancient, seeking the same tomes and artifacts, even if he himself holds no particular enmity for those Icons. His emblem is the silver Hand, sometimes holding a Net. (Possible Avatars: Crusader, Huntsman, Wolf Tamer)

The Paralyzing Lord

Ghatanothoa came into the world from an inhuman dimension, or fell to it from beyond the stars — the Pnakotic Manuscripts are far from clear, and the scholars who consult them still less so. His true form can never be seen; those who behold his form are paralyzed forever. Thus he operates in the world through his priesthood of deadly clerics, and through tribes of orcs who crave the weapons forged in his volcanic lair beneath Balor. As well as weapons deadly and keen, he provides strange lensed jewels, weird apparatus of brass and obsidian, and other arcane treasures to his followers. They use them to gather secrets, blackmail princes, build fortunes, and kill their enemies. Only the horrific reputation of the Paralyzing Lord keeps some noble houses and dwarven strongholds from declaring for him openly and gaining his favor as the frost giants and fire giants have. He despises the Black Goat of the Woods and the Snake Father, whose venomous gifts he sees as arrogating his own royal paralysis. His servants also set stratagems and subversions against the cults of the Dreamer in the Deep, but few observers can say whether this is mortal rivalry over sorcerous secrets or something derived from the Icons themselves. His emblem is the Basilisk. (Possible Avatars: Devil, Mummy, Orc Lord)

She Who Scratches

Bast considers herself first and foremost the patron of cats. But, like them, she finds she must also patronize sunny buildings, pickled fish, combs, and other human labors necessary for cats’ continued indolence — in short, civilized living. However, those who believe that she cares for humanity as opposed to its emergent properties such as scratching posts, perfume, or catnip gardens mistake her motives at their peril. (She is, however, genuinely fond of halflings. Something about furry feet and plentiful leftovers, perhaps.) Those who wish her aid must deal for it, or prove themselves as devoted to feline prosperity as to their own. Her aid comes in the form of silent intelligences, magics of all sorts (including especially bardic magic), and swift death in the night: assassins and rogues are also her favored clients. She never aids (and often destroys) devotees of the Thousand-Faced Moon, her great enemy; followers (or at least conflicted associates) of her other rivals the Great Ghoul and the Underworld Oracle must merely pay a premium for her forbearance. Bast’s feline-filled palazzo in New Port is her best-known home, but there are quarters or blocks in all the Empire’s cities that Bast has claimed as hers, where she has forbidden any one to kill a cat. Her emblem is, unsurprisingly, the Cat. (Possible Avatars: Assassin, Courtesan, Priestess)

The Snake Father

Yig indwells within the sacred serpents of Santa Cora and the lizardmen of the Red Wastes, his hissing echoes in the caverns of the kobolds and the cloud towers of the couatl. Wherever a snake is, there is the tongue and eye of Yig, his intelligence stretched long and thin and sinuous across the world. He plans for a lizardman Empire built around Lake Hope and surpassing Axis, and for the rise of a Sea Serpent to tame the Iron Sea as the Emperor has tamed the Midland waters. Only when he focuses his attention in a strike do his assassins and sorcerers move in to poison a duke or steal an idol or suborn a hero. Dragons treat him respectfully, but stay at a distance — those few who ally with him do so out of desperate need or deep policy. He is a fractious Icon, at one point or another striking at the Dreamer in the Deep, She Who Scratches, the Underworld Oracle, the Paralyzing Lord, and the Spider Queen, but he saves his worst venom for the latter two. His brazen serpents decorate temples in every city, but Yig himself dwells in the living dungeon of Yoth beneath the Hell Marsh or the Red Wastes — or perhaps under both. His emblem is the Rattlesnake. (Possible Avatars: Culture Hero, Dahak (the Triple Dragon), Hierophant)

The Spider Queen

Atlach-Nacha, it should be noted, is not always a Spider Queen. At certain phases of the tide on significant days of the year, he is a Spider King, turning female and consuming himself as the hour changes. Only at such moments is she truly satiated; other times she runs back and forth from Anvil to the Abyss along her interdimensional web looking for new prey. Each quivering tendril guides her to a new target: a fat priest grown succulent with sin, a hollow tax collector to be filled with eggs, a much-loved child whose agonizing disappearance will send up diverting threnodies of despair. Her subjects (they prefer the term “kindred”) the dark elves, driders, and jorogumo carry out her wishes in matters of murder, spawning, and kidnapping, each act changing the balance and tension of the web. Her phase spiders take word to her other agents: prepare this town for conspiratorial looting, or set a trap for this over-bold barbarian. Her subterranean siblings the Underworld Oracle and Great Ghoul know her moods and methods and sometimes thwart her will, but she feels herself in true competition only with the Snake Father and only truly despises the Hunter of the Abyss. (That said, she is none too fond of her sisters the Black Goat of the Woods and the Thousand-Faced Moon.) Her emblem is the Spider, shown in royal purple. (Possible Avatars: Destiny, Merchant, Thief Master)

The Tattered King

Hastur wears patchwork robes of yellow and rust, but carries himself with sure and haughty demeanor. He seeks knowledge of the high places and flying realms, and patronizes artists, musicians, bards, lotus-growers, playwrights, and poets. Sorcerers of all races seek his aid and inspiration. He dwells on the slopes of Starport until the Emperor is soon to die. Then Hastur’s mirage city Carcosa appears across the channel from Axis, hovering against a white sky studded with black stars. Those who see it (not all at first) begin their campaigns of betrayal and back-stabbing to secure their place in the new reign; when Carcosa’s towers rise behind the moon for all to see then begin the orgies, proscriptions, purges, and settling of scores within the palace. Hastur holds great balls in Carcosa and attends them in the Imperial Palace, invited or not; at such times nobles promise him anything to preserve their places. He opposes the Dreamer in the Deep constantly, the Serpent King occasionally, and the Underworld Oracle erratically. His emblem is the Pallid Mask, as his Yellow Sign is forbidden by Imperial edict, perhaps the only imperial decree the orcs follow. (Possible Avatars: Artist, Fool, Stranger)

The Thousand-Faced Moon

Mormo is a seductress, a witch, and a dryad; she is a blind maiden, a mute matron, and a deaf crone. She waits at the crossroads to grant boons to those who swear to her, and sends her galleys seeking treasure and slaves. Her rangers capture rare monsters for her menagerie; her druids grow rare orchids and turgid mushrooms; her paladins fight the champions of other Icons to earn her twisted smile. She crushed the elves who disobeyed her in a previous Age, turning them into the goblin races. She remains most popular with the high elves, but enough of the other two elf-shards wear her badge to anger her rivals the Black Goat of the Woods and the Spider Queen. (The feeling is quite mutual.) She ferociously hates She Who Scratches, and her hounds (canine and human) fight those of the Hunter of the Abyss regularly. She dwells in the Court of the Moon, a sacred grove at the heart of the Queen’s Wood. Her emblem is the Triple Crescent. (Possible Avatars: Elf Queen, Three Ladies of Sorrow, Werewolf)

The Underworld Oracle

Tsathoggua once ruled in the north through a dynasty arcane; the Wizard King of an earlier Age was his greatest champion. When the Wizard King fell, Tsathoggua retreated underground, in all senses. His formal temples closed, he began to deal in magical lore, black blood of the earth, and in the secrets of creation. Slowly the world beat a number of cruel, stony paths to his cavern and his power on the surface grew. He has followers (even open ones) among all subterranean species (even the dwarves), but he most favors the troglodytes and the derro for their strength and cruelty. He keeps black puddings, purple worms, and bulettes as pets, and some of the latter wear his brand. He teases and chides his siblings the Great Ghoul and Spider Queen, which does not endear them to him. But his main concern is the Dreamer in the Deep, who bears him a dangerous grudge for suborning the derro. His living dungeon N’Kai most often bobs beneath the Owl Barrens, but he has a sizable retinue in Drakenhall among those who seek to hedge their bets after offending a dragon. His emblem is the Bat. (Possible Avatars: Bloated Sybarite, King Under the Mountain, Shadow Lord)

The Veiled Ancient

’Umr at-Tawil, the Prolonged of Life, wears a veil at all times. His school of wizardry in Horizon is the finest in the Empire, guarded by fearsome and luminous spheres and bubbles of eldritch puissance. His true name remains a mystery: some guess it to be Choronzon, or Aforgomon, or Ioxothoth. His devotees believe that his is the face on the Northern Colossus, and make dangerous pilgrimage there to behold his features. To hear them tell it, he created chimeras, owlbears, and gargoyles, and that was just warming up. He can build zombies out of grave earth or bone dust and golems out of anything. He is known to deploy chaos beasts against his enemies, and hagumemnon against more powerful foes, including paladins of the Hunter of the Abyss and scions of the Great Ghoul. Manticores generally seek the Veiled Ancient’s approval for their own magical activities, except those who wear the colors of the Emperor or conspire with the Underground Oracle. His emblem is the Key and the Gate. (Possible Avatars: Archmage, Hanged Man, Opener of the Way)

13th Age logo

by Wade Rockett

 

One of the most frequently-asked questions about 13th Age involves backgrounds; and overwhelmingly, it seems to come from people who have been playing d20 System games for a while.

The question takes different forms, but in essence it’s this:

What stops a player from putting the maximum number of points into a background called “Good at Everything”, breaking the game by giving themselves a +5 bonus every time they do anything that requires a skill check?

Taking the question at face value, the answer is that it’s up to the GM to stop the player from doing that if he or she wishes. The rules say that broad backgrounds are not as good as specific backgrounds for a variety of reasons. And they say that the GM is free to houserule the game as they see fit. But they don’t forbid broad backgrounds.

But as stated, it’s the wrong question. Let’s try it this way:

Is “Good at Everything” a legitimate background in 13th Age?

Taking the intent of backgrounds as read, no.

But if you want to roll up your sleeves and dig into the 13th Age-ness of this game by turning backgrounds into story, then yes.

Why “Good at Everything” is not a legitimate background in 13th Age

Looking at the examples of backgrounds in the 13th Age core book, we can see that they represent things that any normal person could realistically do given the time and opportunity:

Acrobat, alchemist, animal trainer, architect, aristocratic noble, assassin, Cathedral servitor, chef, conwoman, dinosaur hunter, goblin exterminator, hunted outlaw, knight errant, Legionnaire of the 17th [Legion], magecraft, priest, refugee, scout, shepherd, soldier, spy, temple acolyte, thief, torturer, transformed animal, traveling martial arts pupil, tribal healer, tunnel scout, wandering minstrel, warrior poet

No normal person, even a fantasy hero in 13th Age,has the time or opportunity to become good at every single conceivable skill in the world.

But hold on: what about “transformed animal”? Surely that opens the door to someone being supernaturally good at things?

Why yes. Yes, it does. Which leads us to…

Why “Good at Everything” is a legitimate background in 13th Age

If you want the background “animal transformed into a human by magic,” a 13th Age GM will ask you, “Who transformed you, and why? Was it a gift, or a curse? What advantages and disadvantages come from this transformation? Are there any other transformed animals out there? Are they your allies or your enemies? What’s your attitude toward the transformation — do you want to be more human, or would you just as soon go back to being a bear?”

Likewise, “good at everything” has a story behind it. Are you good at everything because an icon magically made you that way? Which one, and why? Were you created to be their instrument? If so, did you rebel and escape or are you still their agent? What kinds of things do they have you do? Are there other “good at everything” Übermenschen out there? Are they your allies or enemies? Is there a demonic ritual that requires sacrificing a “perfect man”, so that evil sorcerers are hunting you?

This is how we recommend you handle a “good at everything” power play. A player pays for their +5 bonus to every imaginable skill check by giving the GM free rein to make their character’s life extremely interesting.

If they’re up for it, the results can be some exciting adventures. If not…maybe they should change that background to something a little safer.

The ENnie Awards 2013 nominations have been announced. Congratulations to all!

The voting booth is here.

I’m pleased to say the Pelgrane Press has been nominated in eight categories. Gareth Hanrahan and Kenneth Hite gets the nod for The Zalozhniy Quartet  in the Best Adventure category, our very own Page XX has been nominated for Best Website. All We Have Forgotten (James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer and Yaiza Varona), music for Ashen Starts gets a well-deserved nomination for Best Aid / Accessory.

You can listen to a sample – the theme tune – here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Night’s Black Agents has been nominated for Best Rules (Ken and Robin), Best Interior Art (Chris Huth, Aleseandro Alaia, and Phil Reeves with art direction by Beth Lewis) , Best Game (Ken), Best Writing (Ken) and Product of the Year (everyone!)

Night’s Black Agents is my favourite game to run apart from my original AD&D campaign, and I’ll be doing another season of it later in the year, and it was the grabbiness and sustainability of the setting, the excitement of the writing and the quality of the mechanics which drew me in.

Here is a complete listing of all the nominations. It’s good to see so many entries from the British and Irish, or Team GMT, as we will be known.

Best Adventure

Best Aid/Accessory

Best Art, Cover

Best Art, Interior

Best Blog

Best Cartography

Best Electronic Book

Best Family Game

Best Free Game

Best Free Product

Best Game

Best Miniature

Best Monster/Adversary

Best Podcast

Best Production Values

Best RPG Related Product

Best Rules

Best Setting

Best Software

Best Supplement

Best Website

Best Writing

Product of the Year

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