13th Sage: A New Icon Relationship Variant from the 13th Arduin Campaign

By Rob Heinsoo, with Jonathan Tweet

Another 13th Age campaign, another experiment with the icon relationship dice!

My previous campaign was using a riff on the way that 13th Age Glorantha handles rune narrations. This time, in a campaign I’m referring to as 13th Arduin*, I’m using an idea from Jonathan that he hasn’t gotten around to trying yet because he’s been busy testing the new version of Over the Edge.

In this new campaign, icon relationships aren’t a once per session thing. Instead, you can roll your icon relationships (at least) once per day. (As a reminder, a “day” in 13th Age consists of approximately 4 regular battles, or 3 hard battles, or 2 regular battles and 1 very hard battle.)

Instead of rolling your icon relationships at the start of the day, roll your icon relationship dice at a dramatic moment during play when you’re hoping that an icon relationship might come up and give you a chance to narrate an advantage. The choice of when to roll is up to you, the player, as is the choice of which dice to roll. A player might, for example, roll the die associated with one icon but not another, depending on the situation.

If at least one die is a 5 or a 6, all the 5s and 6s apply to the current situation. At the GM’s option, the player can instead choose one 5/6 result to be the active die. (This gives the GM the right to be merciful when a player has come up with a great story for one icon relationship and isn’t sure about another.)

Like rune narration in 13G, it’s up to the player to tell the story of how their character’s icon relationship gives them an advantage in that situation. At minimum, the player starts the story and the GM can step in and help finish it up. Some players can be trusted to handle their own complications; others require help. Using this system means that complications generally can’t be avoided unless the GM allows it, since all 5s and 6s that are rolled must be narrated.

Using up dice: If the icon roll resulted in at least one 5 or 6, then all the icon dice you rolled are used up for the rest of the day. If there are other icon dice that you didn’t roll, you still have the option of rolling them later in the day. I like to break out Campaign Coins icon tokens to show which dice players can still use, removing an icon token when a specific relationship’s die is done for the day.

Keeping dice: If the icon dice you chose to roll don’t generate any 5s or 6s, you don’t get to narrate any icon relationship advantages at this point. Connections with the icons aren’t in play, so you’re going to have to deal with whatever’s going on in the game with your own powers and ingenuity and hit points.

But you haven’t lost out completely on your icon relationships. Because all the dice you rolled whiffed, you can roll them again later in the day in some other situation. That holds true even for your reroll. You may end up running out of time in the adventuring day, but as a rule, every PC should end up with some advantage from their icon dice. You can’t be sure exactly when your icon relationships will make a difference, but if you get a couple of chances to roll, you should get roughly one successful relationship roll per day.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how David Hargrave’s mid-1970s Arduin Grimoire provided inspiration for 13th Age, check out this 2012 EN World interview with Jonathan Tweet.

One Response to “13th Sage: A New Icon Relationship Variant from the 13th Arduin Campaign”

  1. Michael Ruth says:

    Ooh, a new version of ‘Over the Edge’? Interesting!

    I also like this variant for icon relationship rolls:
    The original rule of every player rolling at the start of each session was pretty hard to implement, imho. It’s usually just a bit too much to cram into one session.

    Once per day should be easier, especially since the players decide when to roll and suggest an immediate effect.

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