13th Sage: Bestiary Background – Cat, Ghoul, Hydra

Publishing Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 feels like a celebration! As part of the fun, we’re offering sample monsters from the book to a few gaming and geek culture sites, and I’m taking a sage moment here to tease out the origin stories.

Rakshasa: The rakshasa entry started with art. Lee Moyer created a couple wonderful rakshasa illustrations and asked me if I liked them. I loved them enough to write them up as part of a 13th Age Monthly installment, but didn’t think to create the rakshasa saint who surely appears in at least one of the pictures. ASH LAW wrote adventure hooks, added stats for the rakshasa saint and the rakshasa delver, and then I drafted a rakshasa into service as the tigerish-mastermind creating the conflict on the Bestiary 2 cover, with pencils by Aaron McConnell and paints by Lee.

Rakshasas are complex creatures. They can be handled so many different ways in fantasy games, and even in different 13th Age campaigns. We’ve made them tough in combat, with new ideas in the descriptive text to suggest that combat could be the least of your worries when rakshasas are involved. In fact, part of the reason we keep shapechanging rare in 13th Age is to make it a scary part of the arsenal of rakshasas and other evil masterminds. . . .

Great Ghoul: Did you read Ruth Tillman’s Eldritch Icons columns on the Illuminerdy website? If not, do so now!

When ASH came up with the concept of fallen icons, I thought immediately about the ghoul king that Ruth had started to write up, and its jackal priests. I didn’t want to introduce a whole new ecology of icons (proper term: an icology) in the Dragon Empire, but a single eldritch icon, left over from a previous dark era, lingering as a fallen icon? Yes! And wow, did Ruth deliver. Along with Paul Fanning’s Gold King (a part of which was previously excerpted here on the Pelgrane website), the Great Ghoul is a fallen icon that can have story consequences through an entire campaign.

Hydra: The second page of the Bestiary 2 hydra entry explains why I needed to include the hydra in this book. In an issue of 13th Age Monthly, and in offhand remarks in a video, I mistakenly said that the math on the hydra was off in the core book. Yes, it’s true that there are monsters in the core book whose stats are too forgiving to the PCs—and that will make a good 13th Sage column someday. But as I explain in the new hydra entry, the core book hydra only seemed to fall into that category because of an unfortunate special ability.

Anyway, enough about mistakes! The chaos hydra was something I knew I wanted to design and Ania Kryczkowska provided the perfect illustration. It’s probably going to be the most fun when the players have no idea what’s about to happen, but foreknowledge won’t actually help them.

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