Jonathan and I usually agree on the mechanics of 13th Age, but our memories don’t always agree when it comes to how key mechanics were created.* The escalation die is a prime example.
I remember using the escalation die in a bizarro 4e game, fighting minions of Torog, back before we started work on 13th Age. Jonathan remembers coming up with the mechanic on his own, as part of a system he ran for a couple of months that I…er…never showed up for. Both those memories may be accurate; but recently I discovered that the true origins of the escalation die lay elsewhere.
During a period when Jonathan and I weren’t GMing, Mike Fehlauer manned the captain’s/GM’s chair and took us on a 4e cruise through the Savage Tide. Mike’s excellent campaign benefited from a lot of mechanical experiments, and here’s one that he recently unearthed from an ancient email thread:
Another idea I had for speedy play was to put a card for “end of round” into the initiative deck. Each time that card comes up, all combatants (including monsters) add +1 to all their attacks. Second time it comes up, everyone starts adding +2 to all their attacks. And so on.
The pacing isn’t right, but the general idea is that as time goes on, the combat’s pace toward resolution increases. Sort of like how the blind keeps increasing in poker.
Maybe a better pace is “when a monster or character is bloodied, the ‘combat blind’ goes up by 1. All monsters and characters add the ‘combat blind’ to all their attacks.”
Hmm. Instead of “combat blind”, let’s call it “Savage Tide”. That way, as the Tide rises, things get more deadly. I like the sound of that. :)
Jonathan said that the idea was interesting, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to track it. Paul Hughes commented that you could just use a die to keep track.
Jonathan and I both went off and used our own versions of the escalation mechanic in our games, giving the escalating bonus to the player characters but not the monsters. As a result, by the time we decided to design 13th Age together, we were both locked in with using something like the escalation die at the table.
Turns out that it’s really important to have a good gaming group!
*To be honest, Jonathan and I don’t particularly care which of us created specific mechanics, or how—the topic only comes up when other people ask.
13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.
Earlier this month, Phoenix Online Studios invited us to co-sponsor a short-short-short fiction competition to promote The Last Door Collector’s Edition. We’re all for creepy 8-bit Lovecraftian horror, and gladly joined in. Five prize winners got a Pelgrane PDF of their choice (and all of them chose either Trail of Cthulhu or Bookhounds of London); and 5 winners got a free copy of The Last Door.
Here are the winning entries for your enjoyment:
The 5 Pelgrane Press PDF winners:
She didn’t give me her name. I gave her mine. When she left the bar, she took it with her. – Paul Kirsch
Napping in a crowded metro, a whisper in my ear: don’t wake up. – Victor Ribeiro
“The ‘virus’ is an idea,” she said, “spread via sentence. It commands me to obey.” Chuckling, the doctor replied, “The ‘virus’ is an idea…” – Steven Marsh
As her hand slipped from my grasp, I marveled at its rate of descent compared to the other parts of her body. – Philip Gonzales
A step, drip, cold, door, dark. A step, twist, claw, fur, flare. It’s ok, you can’t see anything wrong. Or anything at all. A step. – Linda Evans
The 5 winners of copies of The Last Door:
I woke before dawn & warmed my shivering wife before returning to slumber. I woke again with a scream when I realized she died a year ago. – Brian Webb
He told me to get a bottle of wine from the cellar. I suppose that’s what he told the rest of these women to do, too. – Kyle Williams
Frightening was hungry eyes, watching me from the gloom. Terrifying was knowing I’d seen them before, every time I’d gazed into a mirror. – Noah Baxter
A bump, a creak, a faint rustle; all from me. I wait till you feel safe with these sounds. Then, as you sleep, I emerge from the shadows. – Gerry Bibaud
Slowly the words formed. We are legion it said. He stared at the readout from the quantum correlation encryption experiment. – Christian Mintert
Many thanks to our GM team and all the players who attended our games at Origins this year. We sold out of all of our games, and even squeezed in some walk-ups in the scheduled games. Kendall Jung did an amazing job of managing our play events at the show. Onward to Gen Con!
Free RPG Day
Make Your Own Luck, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s prequel to the upcoming Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, is our contribution to this year’s Free RPG Day — you can get it on Saturday, June 21 at your nearest participating game retailer. We’ve heard that some stores are giving GMs their copies in advance so they can run the adventure on the day of release, so you might want to ring up your local store and see if they’ve scheduled a play event.
(Because some folks have asked: Free RPG Day is a retailer-sponsored event created to support game stores, so we’re not giving away PDF copies of the game.)
Make Your Own Luck: Live Play Crossover Event!
In much the same way that Nick Fury assembled the Avengers, for Free RPG Day we’ve assembled a team of players to play Make Your Own Luck via Google Hangout and Roll20 on Saturday, June 21st at 3:00 PM EST / noon Pacific:
Join us live on Aaron’s YouTube channel on Saturday, and watch the mayhem unfold.
Domain of the Dwarf King will go live soon. At Rob Heinsoo’s request it features a dwarf centipede. (I guess I know what Dutch horror movie Rob watched last night.)
Domain of the Dwarf King concludes the Orc War trilogy, and will see the final defeat of General Gul. Or not — that’s up to the adventurers.
The next big Organized Play installment after Domain of the Dwarf King is the first of our champion-tier games: Escape from the Diabolist’s Dungeon!
State of Play
We’e now up to 1186 GMs running Tales of the 13th Age worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. If you know anybody in an Antarctic research station who wants a copy of 13th Age let us know!
by Wade Rockett
I’ll start this update by sharing a graph that ASH made, showing what almost a year of 13th Age Organized Play looks like in terms of GMs and sign-ups — click the image on the right to see it more clearly. The initial bump and flatish-line represents our pre-launch OP announcement. Once we went live we saw the numbers really start to go up.
I was going to use the rest of this post to list all 21 Gen Con games we’d scheduled, but THEY ALL SOLD OUT IN A HALF HOUR. Which is wonderful and amazing, because there was always the terrifying possibility that we’d underestimated demand for play and would end up struggling to fill our events. But the enthusiasm and support for 13th Age is greater than ever.
The good news for you is that we received a lot of GM applications after the deadline, so expect to see a second wave of 13th Age games added to the schedule. We’ll let you know as soon as they go live.
13th Age Seminars at Gen Con: GM advice, design workshops & more
But maybe you’re interested in becoming a better 13th Age GM, or learning how to design adventures and monsters for the game? You’re in luck! We’re offering four seminars at Gen Con:
13th Age Adventure Design
Date & Time: Thursday at 1:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn C
The freeform story rules in 13th Age require a different approach to adventure design. We’ll talk about how to design with icons, backgrounds, uniques and more, and answer your questions.
13th Age GM Roundtable
Date & Time: Friday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Grand Central D
Rob Heinsoo, Mike Shea, Ruth Tillman and Wade Rockett share their advice on how to run 13th Age, from handling icon rolls to collaborative world building and beyond. Got questions? Bring ‘em!
13th Age: Year One
Date & Time: Saturday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Victoria Stn A/B
13th Age debuted one year ago at Gen Con! Join Rob Heinsoo, Simon Rogers and Wade Rockett as they talk about where the game is now, share what’s coming next and answer your burning questions.
13th Age Monster Workshop
Date & Time: Sunday at 2:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn C
Join 13th Age designers as they build a new monster that’ll take advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver all sorts of nasty surprises at the table.
…also, check out Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Live on Friday at 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM at the Crowne Plaza : Victoria Stn C/D
13th Age at Origins
We’re also running games at Origins Game Fair June 11-15 — download the Origins event grid.
A 13 True Ways Preview
Chapter five of 13 True Ways is all about devils—those malevolent creatures from the Pit who delight in corrupting, binding and tormenting mortals. Where demons rage, devils persuade; where demons destroy, devils subvert and dominate.
Typically their role in your campaign depends on which icon you associate them with. If devils are most closely identified with the Archmage in your campaign, they are the servants and betrayers of wizards. If you prefer to tie them to the Elf Queen, they are haters and despoilers of beauty. If you choose to tie them to the High Druid, they work to transform the Wild into a desolate, industrial wasteland.
And then there are ideas that don’t follow the standard format tying the devils to icons. Some of these apply better to monstrous devils, and others work with the new covert devils you’ll find described for the first time in 13 True Ways.
Continue reading »
By ASH LAW
Our latest adventure is out: The Elf Queen’s Enchantment.
In this adventure the elves answer the call of the Dwarf King, marching west to aid in defeating the renegade orc warlord General Gul. The adventurers are called upon to act as wayfinders for the elven forces, being dropped ahead of the army by eagle riders to clear the way.
GMs: If you’re a Tales of the 13th Age GM, check your email to download The Elf Queen’s Enchantment. If you’re not in the program, sign up here!
Players: This 4th level adventure takes place simultaneously with Wrath of the Orc Lord and Domain of the Dwarf King, and intersects with those. Unless you have a character who has a compelling One Unique Thing that lets them be in more than one place at once you should play a different 4th level character than the one you used for Wrath of the Orc Lord.
As you have probably heard, 13th Age has been nominated for an Origins Award for best RPG!
The maps from the current adventure and a lot of maps from the previous adventures can be found here.
GM of the Month
We asked our organized play GMs who deserves to win GM of the Month for the 2nd level adventures…
Who deserves to win GM of the Month for Wyrd of the Wild Wood?
You answered: Aaron Roudabush
Who deserves to win GM of the Month for Quest in the Cathedral?
You answered: Aaron Roudabush
Who deserves to win GM of the Month for Shadow Port Shuffle?
You answered: Ben Roby and Sarah Miller
This will be the 2nd win for team Roby-Miller, as they also won for Crown of the Lich King. You can read about it on their blog.
Until next time, stay awesome!
Tales of the 13th Age is the free ongoing organized play program for the 13th Age roleplaying game. You can play it anywhere you like: at home, your local game store, the neighborhood tavern…wherever. Sign up here to join.
by Wade Rockett
Greyhawk. 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
by 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
By 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.
Combat Maneuver (quick action): Make a skill check (usually Str or Dex) against your opponent’s PD (usually).
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:
- The target is Vulnerable
- You or 1 ally gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls against the target
- 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:
- The target is Dazed
- The target is Hampered
- 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.
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).
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.
By 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.
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
Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC
Hit: 1D6 + Str Mod
Natural Hit of 16+: +2 to your next melee attack
Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: 1D4 + Dex Mod
Target: 1d4 nearby undead creatures
Attack: Wisdom + Charisma + Level vs. MD
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 Lord. Cure 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).