Eyes of the Stone Thief, the megadungeon campaign for 13th Age Roleplaying Game, is now available to pre-order! Order your copy here and you can download the PDF immediately.
If your ongoing 13th Age campaign doesn’t have a place for a gigantic megadungeon like the Stone Thief (listen! Can you hear its plaintive earthquake-like whimpering as it begs you to let it rampage through your game?), then the thing to do is get out your shiny +3 Axe of Book Dismemberment and chop the dungeon into its constituent parts. With a few choice hacks and a little sewing of plot threads, the Stone Thief’s thirteen interconnected levels become thirteen regular dungeons suitable for an evening’s delving.
The Maw, together with the Gizzard, are actually the two hardest levels to convert – they’re both tied to the Stone Thief’s schtick of eating bits of the surface world, which doesn’t translate neatly to a stand-alone dungeon.
For the Maw, drop the Chasm encounter entirely, so the players have to enter via the Front Door. They make their way down past the Ghouls and Spear-Fishing Bridge as normal (optionally, sub in a standard fight scene for the Goblins). Leave the Stolen Palace as a cryptic side quest, then have the Doorkeeper’s door open onto the Gates of the Stone Thief, so the PCs have to surf down a landslide of rubble (that runs under the Spear-Fishing Bridge) to get to a final encounter of your design. Maybe…
- it’s the lair of an orc shaman with elemental earth powers (explaining the churning landslide, and the orcs)
- A natural gate to the plane of elemental earth has opened, and must be sealed before it turns half the world to stone
- A swarm of monstrous subterranean beetles are digging their way to the surface, and the hive queen must be slain before they undermine the city. The orcs and ghouls are opportunistic scavengers, drawn by the anticipation of carnage.
The Gauntlet’s easy to convert. Drop the Giant’s Causeway and the Belfry encounters, and you’re left with a killer dungeon in the ruins of an ancient dwarven temple to the gods of the forge. The objective of the dungeon is to recover Grommar’s sword from the body of the fearsome minotaur who killed the dwarf master-smith. The party enter by the Falling Stairs… and well, if they survive the traps and trials of the Gauntlet, they deserve a death-slaying sword. You can reskin the Mad Butcher as Grommar’s vengeful & insane ghost if you want to make the place even more dangerous.
- Grommar’s buried library contains some fabulous treasure, or lost secret of the dwarven smiths that must be recovered
- It’s a race against another party of rival adventurers to get through the Gauntlet and recover the sword
- The Gauntlet is a prison used by the Dwarf King to punish those who have really offended him
- It’s a competitive dungeon-arena under Axis where teams of adventurers race to complete the course as swiftly as they can
The Gizzard best pulled apart for parts. You can use Jawgate and the Slaver Camp as part of some other orc-themed saga. The Halls of Ruins and the Gizzard chamber itself could be presented as a weird dungeon where a crazed wizard, the Architect, tries to build a patchwork city out of the ruins of past Ages – the Stone Thief writ small, effectively.
The Ossuary’s a self-contained crypt dungeon, and requires next to no changes. You might wish to rewrite the imprisoned Gravekeeper as another undead – maybe the Gravekeeper is an emissary of the Lich King, charged with protecting this ancient tomb complex, and the Flesh Tailor is an arrogant, upstart necromancer who’s taken over and is endangering the balance between the living and the dead.
- The Flesh Tailor can be a recurring villain in your campaign – start off with the PCs encountering his masked undead spies, then they track the necromancer down to his lair and slay him – and only then does he come back in his augmented undead form.
- Move the Ossuary to Necropolis, and you’ve got a tale of intrigue and body-snatching among the nobles of the Undying Peerage, where the Flesh Tailor stole the palace of the Gravekeeper.
Dungeon Town is best pulled out of the dungeon entirely. Reimagine it as a settlement of castaways and survivors – maybe they’re shipwrecked on a monster-haunted island, or trapped on a flying realm, or on the back of a Koru Behemoth, or stuck in some extradimensional plane. The Wild Caves become the perilous landscape just outside this little fortified community of survivors.
If you’re making Dungeon Town the centre of an adventure, then you may wish to make the Provost into more of a villain – perhaps recast him as the Jailor, who deliberately trapped the other survivors here for some mysterious purpose.
- You can drop Dungeon Town into some other dungeon of your design. Maybe the people aren’t trapped – they’re drawn to the dungeon by the promise of wealth (the dungeon’s a gold mine) or power (it’s a well-spring of magical energy, or youth, or it boosts spellcasting ability) or devotion (it’s a temple taken over by monsters, or a holy site).
- Alternatively, rework Dungeon Town as a criminal stronghold – a thieves’ city underneath Glitterhaegen, perhaps, or a pirate port out in the Spray.
Drop the “sunken” part, and you’ve got a perilous archipelago of mystery instead of a flooded cave network. Swordapus, the sahuagin and their demonic temple don’t need to be changed at all; neither does the wreck of the White Dragon. The Lonely Tower gets teleported here by accident instead of being eaten by the dungeon. The biggest change is to the Cascade – obviously, it doesn’t lead to an exit from the dungeon or to a control room, so you’ll want to put something else at the bottom of that slippery staircase. Maybe:
- It’s an arcane version of the Bermuda Triangle, and the magical relic at the bottom of the Cascade is what draws all those ships to their doom.
- It’s a magical lighthouse, built by a former Archmage, and it needs to be relit to re-establish his spells to tame the Middle Sea (or, if the PCs are allies of the High Druid or some villanous icon, it needs to be quenched to free the wild waters).
There are two obvious ways to approach this dungeon – make the Elf Tree the centre of events, or put the Breeding Ground as the core encounter. (Or make it into two separate adventures!) If you make the Elf Tree the main encounter, then clearly the High Elves tampered with Things Men (And Elves Too) Were Not Meant To Know, and the Breeding Ground is a hideous magical accident that can only be stopped by closing the magical portal in the observatory. In this set-up, move the Elf Tree so it’s in the centre of the Grove.
If you want to make the Breeding Ground central, then obviously it’s the rest of some evil druid’s machinations, or demonic perversion of natural magic, or the Crusader trying to turn druid magic against demons – whatever works for your campaign. The monsters from the Breeding Ground drove the Elves out of their tree.
When converting the Grove to a stand-alone dungeon, drop The Castle With Your Name On It encounter, and make the Herbarium less of a mysterious ruin – turn it into a ruined Elf stronghold, or a druidic temple. Hag Pheig can be left unchanged, or cast as the villain of the dungeon. Maybe she’s trying to gain control of the Druid Circle, and the horrors of the Breeding Ground are her sins made manifest.
Drop the Secret Sanctum encounter, and describe Deep Keep as a captured fortress instead of a weird patchwork castle, and you’ve got the front lines of the Orc Lord’s armies. They’ve taken an Imperial fortress and enslaved the population – now you’ve got to take out their leaders and organise an uprising against the invaders!
Take the Giant’s Causeway from the Gauntlet, and Jawgate and the Slaver’s Camp from the Gizzard, and use them as encounters on the way to the castle. Replace the Vizier with some other evil advisor – who’s the Orc Lord working with in your campaign?
- If you want to keep the deep, so to speak, then make it a subterranean dwarf fortress
- Introduce a different divide between the orc factions – maybe Grimtusk’s followers want more loot, while Greyface’s are all about honourable conflict. Alternatively, perhaps Greyface is secretly possessed by the ghost of the former lord of the castle, and that’s why he’s willing to rebel against his warlord.
In the Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, the Maddening Stairs sets up lots of plots related to the Cult of the Devourer and the ultimate fate of the dungeon. If you’re using it as a standalone adventure, then you’ll need to give Chryaxas and Ajura the Dreamer and Maeglor the Apostate something else to pontificate about. Perhaps the Alabaster Sentinel is an Icon from a previous age, an avatar of justice that once brought unyielding, merciless law to the lands until it fell into this pit and became trapped. Maeglor seeks to restore order to the Dragon Empire by resurrecting the sentinel – Chryaxas argues the case for fruitful chaos and freedom, while Ajura might want to trick the PCs into stopping Maeglor, or perhaps she believes that the resurrected Sentinel will bring about the end of the Age when it decides that the Archmage is too unpredictable to be tolerated.
- You can also use the Maddening Stairs as a perilous journey – maybe it’s the stairs into Hell, or up to a flying realm in the Overworld
Pit of Undigested Ages
The Pit really doesn’t lend itself to conversion into a stand-alone dungeon. By its very nature, it’s an eclectic collection of weird places from across history. Don’t even try to come up with a linking story – instead, use each encounter on its own. That gives you a buried dwarven treasury, a lost temple of the serpent folk, the ruins of a magical library and a gnoll death cult. The First Master is probably too closely tied to the Cult of the Devourer to make sense on his own, so take him out and drop him into the Onyx Catacombs instead.
- The dwarven treasury fell into the Underworld during an Age-ending cataclysm. Finding it requires descending into the lightless tunnels and battling past hordes of eyeless monsters.
- The temple of the serpent folk is somewhere within the jungles of the Fangs; the Black seeks it, with the intent of stealing the primordial magic of the serpents and adding it to her own arsenal.
- Quillgate was protected by magical wards; when the quake struck, it vanished from this world. It’s out there, somewhere, in the planes of existence. Step into the Archmage’s Faultless And Unerring Dimensional Projector – it’s sure to work this time…
- And it’s well known that only the Hellpike can slay certain powerful demons. If one of those infernal lords rises to threaten the Empire, then the Hellpike must be found, and found soon
Marblehall’s best used as the result of a magical experiment gone wrong. Instead of getting embedded in the Stone Thief, it’s…
- Adrift in the skies as the newest flying realm
- Turning into a Hellhole
- Spouting elementals
- About to become a Living Dungeon in its own right
Whatever happened, the Witch and her weird experiments are too blame. Can the adventures save the Artalin family from their own wayward daughter?
If you take the cult out of the dungeon, then you should also take the dungeon out of the cult. Instead of being a bunch of dungeon-worshipping apocalyptic lunatics, make the Cult of the Devourer into a bunch of <insert-dire-noun>-worshipping apocalyptic lunatics, and redecorate their hidden city to match. Maybe they’re demon cultists, or shadow cultists, or wolf cultists, or poison cultists, or tentacled alien god cultists, or discordant-music-that-ends-the-world cultists. Turn their dungeon level into a mysterious lost temple in the depths of the jungle, or in a dimensional fold, or across the wastes of the Moonwreck, and you’re good to go.
Heart of the Stone Thief
Like the Pit, this level’s too tied to the concept of the Living Dungeon to make sense as a stand-alone adventure, so it’s best stripped for parts. I’m sure your campaign can find a loving home for a volcano, a crypt of undead adventurers, or a fabulous treasury of epic-level wonders…
13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.
The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring a pre-order for Eyes of the Stone Thief, and PDFs of The Gaean Reach, The Gaean Reach Gazetteer and Mythos Expeditions. KWAS subscribers will get the December edition, Vendetta Run, on their order page this month, and meanwhile, non-subscribers can now buy Hideous Creatures: Byakhee as a stand-alone product in the shop. There’s also the usual round-up of articles, and more details about the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter.
Pelgrane Press, ProFantasy Software‘s sister company makes tabletop RPGs, and as such has a burning need for cartographic resources, so of course we take advantage of the connection. We’ve collaborated on a number of projects in a number of styles – styles we’ve then bought to our users. The latest such collaboration will be The Dracula Dossier – a Kickstarted project featuring spies versus the greatest vampire of the them all, for which Ralf will be creating maps. Back it here.
So, here are some of the other projects we’ve worked on together.
Created by Pär Lindström and designed for the the Pelgrane Trail of Cthulhu adventure collection Mythos Expedition the style lets you depict the itinerary and visited locations for journeys or expeditions as would be found in horror or pulp adventures.
The September issue of the Annual 2012 contains a new overland style based on the gorgeous world map of the upcoming role-playing game 13th Age by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. The style was developed by Lee Moyer.
The December Annual 2011 brings you a companion style to April’s 1930s floorplans: city maps in the same Baedeker travel guide style for your modern horror and pulp-style games. Pelgrane Press used this in Arkham Detective Tales Extended Edition.“>
Ralf Schemmann recreated the 13th Age map in the Mike Schley overland style included with the forthcoming cc3+.
Pär Lindström created a city map and floorplans for the 13th Age city adventure Shadows of Eldolan using CC3, City Designer 3 and the Symbol Set 4: Dungeons of Schley style. He did some post work on the city map in Photoshop
As December approaches our thoughts turn to the Dragonmeet convention here in London and the gathering of the Pelgranistas. We will be discussing next year’s releases, International PelgraneCon 2015 and celebrating the outcome of the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter. Money will change hands—whose hands give and take depend on the outcome. There will be tears, laughter, drunkeness and stupor, and that’s just Ken. Rob Heinsoo will be running the legendary Friday night game – thie time allegedly a mash up of Feng Shui and Day After Ragnarok.
This month sees the release of Eyes of the Stone Thief for 13th Age in glorious full colour and PDF releasees of Mythos Expeditions for Trail of Cthulhu, The Gaean Reach and The Gaean Reach Gazetteer together with the latest Ken Writes About Stuff. Hideous Creatures: Byakhee.
Night’s Black Agents
The Dracula Dossier Kickstarter, as of the writing, sits at £60K, with a host of stretch goals still left. Thank you backers! I’ve seen others (including Dracula Unredacted in colour, Trail and Eso tie-ins and others I am not permitted to mention) which I’d love to see, but I do not know if we’ll get there. But that’s the excitement of Kickstarter!
But the 13th Age has not been forgotten – on the contrary – welcome to Eyes of the Stone Thief! Welcome to the vastest colour book we have ever done. Delve deep into the Living Dungeon, come back to the surface barely alive and delve again, until you or your indomitable foe sucks in their last breath.
- Three issues of the 13th Age Subscription have been approved by Rob Heinsoo for layout.
- Cal Moore has delivered a polished first draft of Battle Scenes – a huge collection of loosely linked adventures and encounters to plug into your 13th Age game. We’ll set the scene, you add the story. It’s available for playtesting here. I’ve played it myself.
- James Semple’s amazing music for 13th Age has been mastered, and there will be a world premiere video in the Pelgrane seminar at Dragonmeet.
- Gareth has began work on Demonology, which includes a new class of his devising.
Trail of Cthulhu
- Until the physical releases, Dreamhounds of Paris, a campaign of the Parisian surrealists’ adventures in the Dreamlands, and its diaristic companion volume The Book of Ants, are available as a bundle – a choice almost every purchaser to date has quite sensibly made.
- Explore the globe and go mad with Mythos Expeditions – now available as a PDF.
- Gareth Hanrahan has delivered the extra material for the Cthulhu Apocalypse print collection – existing purchasers of the PDFs will get a discount. I expect to see it out in February.
Esoterrorists and Fear Itself
- It’s the Esoterrorists turn to get a campaign, with the first draft of the horrifying Worldbreaker ready for playetesting. It’s not for the fainthearted or coulrophobics.
- We play tested Matthew Sanderson’s follow up to Seventh Circle for Fear Itself at IndieCon, featuring his usual highly developed characters, props and solid research. I’m looking forward to the manuscript.
a column on roleplaying
by Robin D. Laws
Trail of Cthulhu maven Tony Williams asks, regarding Dreamhounds of Paris:
I would be interested in Robin’s opinions of surrealist art. Does he enjoy it? What does he think of the major surrealists movers and shakers as people, having researched them so thoroughly? Are they all insufferable poseurs or do some transcend that with what they produce?
I’m glad you so ably set up a column topic for me, Tony.
First of all, I feel a deep connection to the art, film, decorative art, and fiction of the surrealist movement. This fascination started in an eighth grade classroom, when our teacher, improbably and no doubt improvidently, screened a copy of Un Chien Andalou for us. Young teenage mind blown!
I first got the idea that eventually turned into Dreamhounds of Paris visiting an exhibition of surrealist decorative art at the Art Gallery of Ontario a bunch of years back. Looking at the paintings, so many of them struck me as entrancing nerd culture fodder sealed behind the wall of high culture awareness. The works’ horror and dark fantasy imagery in particular seemed like an obvious vein to mine as a gaming influence. Looking at the imaginary landscapes of Max Ernst or Yves Tanguy, they jumped out to me as a mutant evolution of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands.
As far as I’m concerned the word poser doesn’t apply to any of the surrealists. They all believed intensely in what they were doing. They didn’t earn anything resembling widespread praise for making work that freaked people out, confronted them with disturbing images, and challenged ideas of what art was for. There was certainly no money in it for them during this period of their greatest innovation. A few became popular later, but not at this point. Posers appear when creative efforts become fashionable, lucrative, or both. Somebody today who follows in Marcel Duchamp’s footsteps by making art installations might or might not be a poser. But these guys (and a select few gals) were the real thing, on which later posers would model themselves.
If poser simply means an intellectual interested in ideas and art, well, that describes me, too.
Many argue that Dalí wound up bastardizing his art by milking his celebrity. That starts at the end of the Dreamhounds period but becomes truly egregious decades afterwards. Even at that, by making his own persona more important than his art, and the media his canvas, Dalí was doing something that summed up contemporary life way more than any abstract expressionist ever did. When he did it, it wasn’t a cliché, it was a thing he invented. To work his magic the trickster must also be a charlatan.
That said, other surrealists, like the movement’s autocratic “pope” André Breton, would be the first to deny him that slack. Breton called Dalí by the anagram Avida Dollars, and decried the chattering Spaniard’s commercialization of his psychic revolution. Breton genuinely thought his movement would change the world, literally altering human psychology.
It’s the utmost seriousness with which Breton regarded himself that sets him up as an inviting target for satire. Other members of his circle certainly mocked him when they fell out of favor with him, Dalí most effectively of all. (See the book for his famous night of many sweaters.)
His bullying makes Breton the hardest of the bunch to like. The book treats him as an antagonist figure, and tweaks him by describing him as lacking the imagination to enter the Dreamlands. I certainly can’t admire Breton’s habit of launching physical attacks against his aesthetic adversaries. On the redeeming side, however, Breton earns props for being the first major French leftist intellectual to see through on Stalinism, at the time of the 1936 show trials. With the benefit of historical hindsight that might not seem like a perceptive breakthrough but in the context of the era and milieu it’s a big deal. By contrast, many top names in the French art scene remained hardcore Stalinists well into the 40s and 50s.
As far as the rest of the Dreamhounds cast goes, I view them as richly complicated people. They led messy, interwoven lives, over which a year or so of research makes me no kind of judge. They’re certainly realer, as you would expect, than the fictional characters we’re used to playing in RPGs, most of whom bend toward wish fulfillment. I’d even stick up for the figures art historians vilify.
Many accounts treat Gala Dalí, previously Gala Éluard, as a lascivious, money-hungry monster. Yes, she absolutely was hunting for a meal ticket, which she found in Dalí. But then her brother died of starvation during the Russian revolution, so it doesn’t take deep Jungian analysis to see what was going on there. And Dalí, a brilliant man-child barely capable of crossing the Paris street on his own, benefited from her hardheadedness. Slut-shaming pervades so much of the writing about her, but she treated men the way figures like Picasso and Ernst treated women. Granted, she didn’t paint Guernica, but neither do most of us.
Likewise Jean Cocteau gets a lot of stick in the various biographies as a preening climber. For a climber he left behind a crazy large legacy of creative work in forms from theater to illustration to film to the novel. When he made a fool of himself seeking acceptance he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. We need a new biography for him that doesn’t feel the need to treat his sexuality as a matter for nudging and winking. He was the original out gay icon, a heroic role to adopt at the time.
The Dreamhounds PC most like me would be René Magritte: quiet, composed, happily married, uninterested in the drama Breton constantly generated. Players may gravitate to him for that reason, as he makes for a solid contrast with the others. But if the surrealist circle was made up only of unassuming, reasonable people, there would be no point writing a sourcebook about them. Or playing them when they go off to surreally transform Celephaïs and later deal with the repercussions.
Happy Hallowe’en! I didn’t have to go too far for a scary Hallowe’en See Page XX logo, as I happen to have a number of stake- and blood-related art pieces on my computer at the moment, because of the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter, live now!
The build-up for the Kickstarter hasn’t stopped production, though, and we’ve got a massive Hallowe’en harvest of terrifying new products. We’ve got Dreamhounds of Paris and its companion book, The Book of Ants, up for pre-order this month; can anything be as terrifying as rules for Sex Hitler? We’ll let you decide…
Master of Mythos Adam Gauntlett’s Great War Trail of Cthulhu adventure collection, Dulce et Decorum Est, and his Spanish Civil War campaign Soldiers of Pen and Ink, are now available to download as PDFs in the webstore, as is Matthew Sanderson’s scary haunted house adventure, The Seventh Circle – written for Fear Itself, but with conversion notes for running as a Trail of Cthulhu adventure. KWAS subscribers will get the November edition, Hideous Creatures: Byakhee this month; meanwhile, non-subscribers can now buy The School of Night as a stand-alone product in the shop.
Other Resource page updates
See Page XX Poll
Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action – at least, according to the apocryphal Moscow Rules.
Our kickstarter for the Dracula Dossier was due to launch on October 17th. That target was, perhaps, overly ambitious. While we’d completed the draft of the Director’s Handbook – the mammoth compendium of conspiracies, connections, criminals and, um, carotid-craving critters – by then, it took longer than we planned to put together all the other assets.
Like the gorgeous draft layout.
Like the mock-up of the still-in-progress Dracula Unredacted novel, complete with its annotations by three generations of MI6 analysts.
The pitch videos.
The second, considerably more relaxed takes for the pitch videos. (There are reasons why writers rarely crave the spotlight!)
The draft covers for both books, by Dennis Detwiller and Jerome Hugenin.
The map of Europe, so we can track the progress of Mina Harker and Van Helsing in our little game within the kickstarter.
And, of course, all the behind-the-scenes juggling of numbers and stretch goals and pledge levels, so we can deliver the best possible books at the most affordable price while not diving the Pelgrane off a financial cliff. A well-executed kickstarter is a wondrous thing; a badly-planned or unlucky one can become a hellish millstone.
So, the 17th didn’t happen. But the 31st of October! All Hallow’s Eve, a night to conjure with! A night, no doubt when blue flames blaze above hidden graves and treasure troves in Transyvania, a night when spies skulk down alleyways in London and Bucharest, a night of terror and magic and…
… a night when the Pelgrane internet connection went mysteriously offline.
(Actually, it was the day before, but this makes for a better story).
Co-incidence, you say. A mere glitch. You may be right.
Our new official launch date for the Dracula Dossier kickstarter is
If it doesn’t launch on that day, we must discard both accident and co-incidence as possibilities, leaving only enemy action as the only explanation – and if that’s the case, then run, because we’ll already be dead and you know too much already, so HE will be on your trail too.
So pray, gentle reader, that the kickstarter launches on Monday. Tell your friends. Better yet, tell your enemies – maybe they’ll slow Dracula down when he goes hunting.
Continuing Ken’s theme of looting 13th Age for GUMSHOE twists, let’s talk about monsters. In 13th Age, monsters have a sort of rudimentary AI – instead of the GM deciding to use their special abilities in advance, they’re triggered by the result of the attack roll. So, for example, if a ghoul gets a natural even hit, it gets to make its target vulnerable. If a frost giant rolls a 16 or higher when attacking, it also gets to freeze its foe.
For example, here’s a basic human thug:
13th Age Human Thug
1st Level troop [Humanoid]
Heavy Mace +5 vs AC – 4 damage
Natural even hit or miss: The thug deals +6 damage with its next attack this battle. (GM, be sure to let the PCs know this is coming; it’s not a secret.)
PD14 HP 27
Automating monsters like that makes the GM’s life easier. Instead of having to make decisions before rolling the dice, the GM can just attack and let the triggered abilities make the fight more interesting and complex. The thugs, for example, encourage the player characters to focus their fire or dodge away from the ones who have extra damage lined up for next round. Some of the work of making the monster cool gets shifted from the actual play part of the game to pre-game preparation, leaving the GM free to concentrate on evocative descriptions. tactics and other immediate concerns. (Triggered powers can also surprise the GM, which is always fun.)
GUMSHOE monsters and foes have a limited number of points to spend on their attacks, possibly mediated by an attack pattern. While the attack pattern does take some of the heavy lifting away, the GM still has to make decisions about when to spend the bad guy’s ability pools. Let’s try taking away as much resource management as possible from the GM. For general abilities, for every 4 points a creature has in its pool, give it a +1 bonus, to a maximum of +3, and modelling special abilities as special-case rules or powers triggered by a dice roll instead of the GM having to make a choice. Health, obviously, is unchanged.
Obviously, GUMSHOE’s smaller range of random results means that you’ll have to be a little more restrained when it comes to special powers – there’s a big difference between a power that triggers on a natural 20 in 13th Age and a natural 6 in GUMSHOE. Possible triggers for powers include:
- Natural even or odd rolls – good for alternate attacks or special effects
- Natural 1s or 6s
- 5s & 6s – generically ‘good rolls’, useful for foes that have a chance of doing extra damage or inflicting some special condition, like stunning or knocking prone
- Health reaches a certain threshold – perfect for countdown mechanics, where the fie gets nastier towards the end of the fight
- The attacking player character has no points left in a pool – if you’re out of Shooting, the alien monster breaks from cover and rushes towards yo
You can also have a power be limited to a certain number of uses – a ghoul in Night’s Black Agents might get an extra attack on the first three times it rolls a natural 6, but no more.
All these rules are just for monsters and NPCs – player characters still get to juggle points and manage their resources as per the standard GUMSHOE rules.
Esoterrorist Security Guard
General Abilities: Scuffling +1, Shooting +2,
Hit Threshold: 3
Alertness Modifier: +1
Stealth Modifier: +0
Damage Modifier: +0 (Pistol), -1 (nightstick)
Freeze!: +2 bonus to Shooting in the first round of combat if the security guard isn’t surprised.
Natural 1: The guard calls for backup. If help’s available, it’ll arrive in the next few minutes. The guard misses his next attack. Treat further natural 1s as simple misses.
Night’s Black Agents Thug (pg. 70)
General abilities: Athletics +2, Driving +1, Hand to Hand +2, Shooting +1, Weapons +2
Hit Threshold: 3
Alertness Modifier: +0
Stealth Modifier: -1
Damage Modifier: -2 (fist), +0 (club), +1 (9mm pistol)
Wall of Fire: If three or more thugs shoot at the same target, the last thug gets +1 Shooting
Gang Assault: If three or more thugs attack the same target with Hand to Hand or Weapons, they all get +1 damage.
Night’s Black Agents Bodyguard (pg. 69)
General abilities: Athletics +3, Driving +2, Hand to Hand +3, Medic +1, Shooting +2, Weapons +2
Hit Threshold: 3
Alertness Modifier: +2
Stealth Modifier: -0
Damage Modifier: -2 (fist), -1 (flexible baton), +1 (9mm pistol)
Armor: -1 vs bullets
Protect the Principal: On a natural 5 or 6 when making an Athletics, Driving or Shooting test, the Hit Threshold of whoever the bodyguard’s guarding increases by +2 for the rest of the round.
Stunning Blow: On a natural 6 when making a Hand to Hand attack, the target loses their next action unless they spend 3 Health or Athletics.
Ashen Stars All-Shredder Klorn
General abilities: Athletics +3, Scuffling +3
Hit Threshold: 3
Alertness Modifier: +2
Stealth Modifier: -3
Damage Modifier: +6
Natural Even Roll: +2 bonus to Scuffling
Natural Odd Roll: Smash! The klorn destroys some obstacle or object nearby – it breaks through a wall, kicks over a computer console, smashes its spiked tail through the engine coolant tanks, knocks over a nearby ground car or something equally cinematic.
Natural 6: The klorn’s target is impaled on its spear-teeth; +4 bonus damage
Frenzy: When the klorn’s reduced to 10 or less Health, it immediately makes a free Scuffling attack on the nearest foe.
Special: Refreshes health pool when struck by non-lethal disruption fire
The latest edition of See Page XX is out now, featuring new products Soldiers of Pen and Ink and The Seventh Circle, Hideous Creatures: Lloigor for KWAS non-subscribers (and The School of Night for subscribers) the final Series Pitch of the Month – Campus Desk, by John Kovalic – and a Stone Skin Press pre-order, Letters to Lovecraft.
Articles from Adam Gauntlett and Kevin Kulp join regular columns from Simon Rogers, Jesse Bullington, Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, with new resources for 13th Age and the Gaean Reach rounding out this issue.
[Ed: I like the 13th Age fighter. In combat, you make a roll, and depending on the result, you are able to chose between a set of options – these are called flexible attacks. Your fighter moves, sees an opening then makes a choice. A better roll reflects better maneuvering and usually offers more choices. There are, however, some people who don’t like the idea of deciding after a roll what happens, or otherwise object to the class. It’s possible of course to build rangers or paladins which work as fighters, but some non-fighter flavour is inevitable.
So, I asked ASH LAW to create two fighters using the dual class system from 13 True Ways – strictly they are paladin / rangers hybrids, but they play just like a different kind of fighter, and all the mechanics are there on the sheets.
He’s done one for every level from 1st to 10th. They are easy to customise, particularly if you have 13 True Ways. Over to ASH…]
Download the light fighter and the heavy fighter
The Dual-wielder and the Slayer
By ASH LAW
Fighters, eh? Those stalwarts of sword-and board, at the front laying down the pain and keeping the squishier characters safe from danger. Well, here we present two new fighters (that are not actually fighters at all), as pregens from level 1 to 10! They are both built as multi-class paladin/rangers, and have identical attributes— the difference is in feat and talent selection.
There is also a clarification on a ranger talent coming up in this article, so ranger players read on…
The Dual-wielder: Two Swords are Better than One
We’ll start with the dual-wielder. This human character wears light armor and carries two longswords. At first level we start strong with the dual-wielding concept with the double melee attack and two-weapon mastery talents from the ranger’s class. For the paladin talent we start with bastion, giving us a boost to AC and letting us help out the party in emergencies by pushing allies out of the way of dragon fire (and taking damage ourselves in the process). For feats we get two-weapon mastery so that our miss damage is raised, and for our bonus human feat we get the multi-class ranger feat that lets us apply all our lovely two-weapon mastery bonuses to paladin attacks too.
Our fighting style with this character at 1st level is probably going to involve engaging multiple foes with the double melee attack and reserving the mighty blow for tougher opponents or to finish up stubborn mook groups to open up the battlefield.
At second level we pick up the paladin’s smite feat to give us a +4 bonus to attack with the smite attack, which we are calling here ‘Mighty Blow’. After all our dual-wielder really isn’t a paladin… but he is somebody who has perhaps trained in their fighting styles.
Our dual-wielder gains the double melee attack feat, giving him a bonus on his second melee attack if he’s targeting a second enemy. I picture him standing in a field with a load of scarecrows and pumpkins, slashing and practicing stances, simultaneously attacking multiple scarecrows while his companion the slayer rolls her eyes.
All that exercise is staring to pay off as our dual-wielder gains an extra recovery thanks to the bastion feat.
As we enter champion tier we pick up the two-weapon mastery champion feat. Now when enemies roll a 1 the dual-wielder pounces and strikes.
Now is the time to pick some new talents. First up is implacable, allowing us to roll saves at the start of each turn. I picture our lightly armored dual-wielder practicing kick-flips to get up quickly from getting knocked down. Yeah he’s not as heavily protected as his slayer companion, but he can quickly shake off things that would rattle her.
From the ranger side of things we pick up tracker with associated the adventurer tier feat. These two are obviously monster-hunters or bounty-hunters of some sort. He is the one who bends over to stare at footprints while the slayer watches out for rustling in the bushes. All that practicing with scarecrows and pumpkins is paying off, as the dual-wielder is able to perform terrain stunts now. Once per battle the dual-wielder can make use of the terrain around him to disadvantage and disorient opponents.
7th & 8th Level
At 7th level the dual-wielder starts learning a few moves from the slayer, as we picks up the smite champion feat for his mighty attack. At 8th level we get the epic feat for the smite class feature. Our dual-wielder is learning that sometimes you just have to hit a foe once, if you hit hard enough.
At 9th level we get a couple of new talents. Way of evil bastards lets us keep using our mighty when we drop an enemy. First strike increases the dual-wielder’s crit ranges for the first hit against enemies. Our tactics at this point in most fights is to open with a double melee attack against two enemies (with an increased crit range), and then use mighty attacks when the enemies have taken a couple of big hits.
For the feat we’re going to go ahead and get improved initiative. Hit fast, hit hard, hit often… and hit first!
By 10th level the dual-wielder has a super-powerful mighty blow attack that he can potentially use many times per battle, can perform terrain stunts, attacks when enemies roll 1s, rolls saves at the start of his turn, and on his first hit with his double-melee attack crits on 17+.
For the 10th level feat we’re going to get the two weapon mastery epic feat. For one battle each day we can add 10 to all our miss damage. With the blades whirling around in the dual-wielder’s hand it’s impossible for enemies to avoid getting sliced by a passing blade.
At the end of 10th level, after an epic career this character will probably settle down for a well-deserved rest, retiring to spend more time with his huge pile of gold.
The Slayer: Deadly Accuracy with Heavy Armour
The slayer is in many ways the mirror of the dual-wielder. The slayer wears heavy armor and carries a shield, though they can instead choose to drop that shield and pull out a two-handed greatsword in order to roll d10s for damage. The first thing we do is pick up the Favored Enemy (Humanoid) ranger talent; this means that whenever making a basic (ranger) melee attack against a humanoid enemy we crit on an 18+! Yes, this costs us two of our starting talents, but it is well worth it. Orcs, trolls, bandits, evil wizards, minotaurs… most of the things our slayer will face are humanoids. As this character levels up we’ll concentrate on expanding that crit range, with the aim of eventually critting half of the time we attack.
With our remaining talent we get the paladin talent way of evil bastards. This character may or may not be evil, but they do fight dirty… ahem I mean ‘they fight to win’. When the slayer’s mighty blow (actually a paladin’s smite) drops a non-mook enemy it is not expended.
Our tactics with this character are probably going to be opening with a mighty blow on any non-humanoid enemies then switching to attacking humanoids and trying for multiple crits.
At second level we pick up the feat for favored enemy. This allows us, during a full heal-up, to switch our favored enemy from humanoid to TWO other monster types.
Favored Enemy – A clarification
So how does it work when you use the two-talent version of Favored Enemy and switch from humanoid as a favored foe to another type of monster? The answer is that since you spent two talents on it, and the regular version costs only one talent, you can switch out humanoid for two monsters.
Here’s what 13th Age designer Rob Heinsoo and Editor Cal Moore have to say:
ROB: Changing away from humanoid looks like it could go ahead and let you have two favored enemies. Because why not? Really, no reason. Which either reads like errata, a clarification or GM choice, depending on how you squint.
CAL: It’s probably a clarification more than errata.
So a character with Favored Enemy (Humanoid) who is headed into a dungeon full of oozes and undead could spend some time meditating, researching, or otherwise preparing for the upcoming dungeon… and after their next full heal-up can use Favored Enemy (Ooze) and Favored Enemy (Undead). After their next full heal-up they can switch back to Favored Enemy (Humanoid), keep their current favored enemies, or switch to something new like Favored Enemy (Dragon) and Favored Enemy (Plant).
Cool. Now our slayer can go from preparing to slay humanoids to a full-on monster hunting role. I can picture her rolling into a village, having defeated kobold bandits on the road. She sits down in the tavern and as she’s taking off her boots a villager comes up to her and offers to pay her to deal with the dragon that the kobolds were worshiping. She looks at the dual-wielder and sighs; later that night she hauls her books out of her packs and starts researching dragons. “Aha,” she says “they have a weak spot under their wishbone. Fascinating.”, and lights another candle. The dual-wielder grunts from his side of the room and pulls the covers up over his head, trying to get some rest before their quest tomorrow.
At 3rd level we pick up toughness. The slayer goes toe-to-toe with too many monsters to scrimp on hit points.
At 4th level we take the way of evil bastards adventurer feat. Wither or not this character is evil, dark forces have certainly noticed her.
This is our first opportunity to get a champion feat and it goes straight away on increasing the damage on our smite attack, which is becoming this character’s signature finishing move.
At 6th level we get some new talents. Tis character has been fighting scary monsters, and winning— sounds like the fearless talent to me. Now not only is she immune to fear but she is an expert in fighting alone and exploiting the over-confidence of her enemies (especially those who expect her to be afraid).
Our ranger talent is lethal hunter. When the slayer sets her sights upon an enemy, they had best run! Her crit range against her lethal hunter target is 18+, and due to the favored enemy champion feat that we’re getting this level if she’s had a chance to hit the books the night beforehand then her crit range is 15+ against her lethal hunter target!
Maybe she’s inherited new books on monster hunting, or maybe she’s just got really good at extrapolating from her past experiences to guess how best to defeat her enemies.
At 7th level we gain the way of evil bastards champion feat. Her signature Mighty Attack (paladin’s smite) is now really useful against mobs of mooks. When the slayer gets up and going she can really clear rooms.
At 8th level the epic smite feat comes into play, giving us even more damage with her signature finishing move.
At 9th level we get the first strike talent and the adventurer feat for it. Our crit range for basic ranger attacks is anywhere between 18+ and 12+ when our favored enemy, first strike, and lethal hunter talents come into play. Our slayer is probably only using her mighty attack against enemies that she is solo against. Her bonus to attacks with her basic attacks is +12 with a potential crit range of 12+, but her mighty attack has a potential +20 to attack with a huge amount of damage and half damage on a miss.
At 10th level we finish our crit expansion project with a lethal hunter feat, now we potentially crit on an 11+. Our slayer’s once-(or-more)-per-battle melee attack is ultra-powerful, and our at-will attack has a chance of critting half of the time.
After one last grand world-changing adventure our slayer decides to retire to a small village in the mountains, where she will doubtlessly be sought out by young fighters who want to learn the techniques of her legendary fighting style. Eventually she’ll write of her experiences, and some lucky adventurer will inherit her book.
And because I can’t resist magic items…
Book of the Slayer (Recharge 16+)
This heavy book bound in dragon hide has been added to by many monster-hunters. The tome is full of illustrations, anatomical diagrams, and tips for monster hunting. Pick a monster (Green Dragons, Gnolls, Herzou, Fungaloids, etc) and research it in the book; the next time you face that monster your crit range against that specific monster expands by 1 until the end of the battle. You may only have one monster researched at a time, and you cannot perform research mid-battle.
Quirk: Can’t resist showing off scars from monster hunting.