Silver ENnie award winner for Best Rules; nominee for Best Game and Product of the Year. 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: Icon relationships and One Unique Things offer exciting storytelling possibilities Backgrounds provide a simple, flexible skill system drawn from characters’ personal histories Escalation dice enable fun, fast-moving d20 combat. Owlbears will rip PC’s limbs off to feed their young. Get your copy of 13th Age today at the Pelgrane Shop or your local game store. “13th Age RPG delivers an incredible fantasy storytelling experience.” – io9 “13th Age is, perhaps, the first d20 game that I’ve ever played that treats the game inside of combat and the game outside of combat with equal love, attention, and innovation.” – Dorkadia Learn more about 13th […]

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Soldiers of the Emperor, happily unaware that they might soon be statted up as monsters. “We’re only NPCs!” they say to each other. “We’re safe!”

NPC followers of icons like the Priestess, Emperor, and Archmage aren’t usually monsters—but that doesn’t stop player characters from wanting to fight them!

Icon Followers will focus on playable monster-stats for human and humanoid NPCs of the Dragon Empire. Want stats for a city guard, gladiator, traveling priest, bardic college student, or Imperial Legionnaire? Icon Followers gives you options for many such NPCs, further distinguished by their chosen icon or their home environment. Less generic write-ups cover intriguing agents of the icons such as the Blue’s diplomatic envoys and the Priestess’ minotaur labyrinth-keepers.

Authors include Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Liz Argall, Lynne Hardy, Steven Warzeha, and Wade Rockett.

Icon Followers is currently in development. Stay tuned for a release date!

Elf Queen SketchThe 13th Age core book tells us little about the Queen’s Wood, where the Elf Queen rules: it’s a sprawling elven wood, largely empty now, whose trees have leaves that are “a riot of silver and gold and green and indigo.” In the lengthy description of the elven Court of Stars in 13 True Ways, we learn a bit more:

The Queen’s Wood redounds with the magic of nature, to which the elves of all mortal races remain most bound. The Court of Stars moves in harmony with the other, inaccessible natural worlds hanging high in the heavens. It moves across the magical forest as the constellations proceed through the night sky above. As such it comprises the central vortex of the ever-growing, ever-breathing collection of living things that is the Queen’s Wood. Just as the plants of the forest floor can grow from seed to maturity in a few short hours, the forest transforms itself as the Court approaches. To try to map it is fruitless. It’s not that you can’t perceive it properly—all the details of the physical environment exist in literal reality. But by the time you’ve drawn up your map, the details have faded into obsolescence.

So, here we have a fairy wood, ever-changing under the Queen’s influence. This is more than enough to spark the imagination when it comes to adventures inside the Queen’s Wood: this place is magic, but of a vastly different kind than the Archmage’s in Horizon. Time and space behave differently here, not because someone harnessed the power of wizardry and, through force of will, made it that way. There’s no “because” here; things simply are, the way they simply are in a fairy tale.

How do you represent this in your game, should you decide to send your heroes on a quest within in the Queen’s Wood? Here’s how two of my favorite fantasy authors handled the matter of the deep, magical forest, and those who dwell within.

Little, Big: The Further In You Go, The Bigger It Gets

John Crowley’s novel Little, Big chronicles the lives of the Drinkwater family, whose destiny is mysteriously bound up with the fairies. In a flashback to the Victorian era, we hear an ancestor, Dr. Bramble, explain why he believes descriptions of the little folk vary so wildly—from tiny people with “spears of locust-thorns and their chariots made of nutshells” to fully-formed men and women three feet tall, all the way up to “fairy warriors on great steeds, banshees and pookahs and ogres who are huge, larger by far than men.”

His theory is that the universe consists of worlds or layers of reality in concentric circles. Our world is the outermost, largest ring; but paradoxically, the further in you go, the bigger those innermost worlds are. Passing through a “door” into the next circle brings one into contact with the smallest of the fey. Entering the next circle, you meet larger fey. At the center is the infinite realm of Faery.

Using this approach in an adventure within the Queen’s Wood makes the journey a multidimensional one that plays with the idea of perception vs. reality. The characters may perceive themselves to be traveling through a forest, but they’re actually transitioning between parallel worlds. Each world, zone, circle—however you want to frame it—is home to different types of fey creatures found in 13th Age. But perhaps in the Queen’s Wood, elves, pixies, sprites,  and so on only appear to be different types of creatures because the PCs encounter them in different places. Maybe the next time they glance over at the pixie NPC who agreed to be their guide, that tiny, winged creature has become a faun, or a tall elven warrior with a shining spear. (See the fey entry in the 13th Age Bestiary 2, particularly the power of a name mechanic which gives fey different powers depending on which name they’ve taken.)

Lavondyss: Old Forbidden Place

In Robert Holdstock’s book Lavondyss, Ryhope Wood is England’s last primeval forest, and the way into the Otherworld, or “Old Forbidden Place” as the book’s hero Tallis calls it. Here, “mythagos”—hero-forms from myth, legend, and folklore—take material form from the power of the forest and the often dark, violent subconscious of humanity. You could meet Guinevere, or Robin Hood, or olderheroes from humanity’s prehistoric past here. But the Robin Hood you meet might not be the version you’re familiar with, or want: a winking rogue in Lincoln Green, or a strange, silent predator. Arthur might look like Malory’s noble Once and Future King, or might be Artorius, a Latin-speaking military commander covered in mud and blood.

If you like the idea of ancient heroes and legends (or their phantoms) dwelling in the Queen’s Wood, here’s where you open your copy of The Book of Ages and dive in—because past icons make great mythagos. This version of your players’ journey through the forest has a dreamlike feeling where past and present are mingled, and turning a corner might lead them to the scene of the Barbarian King’s last battle, a tangled path where the Huntsman has laid his snares, or to the foot of the Hermit’s tower. These shadow forms of the icons might be friends, foes, or both. It’s likely that the elves will warn you away from them, but maybe there’s a piece of vital information you need, and only the Spelljack (or his memory) has it.

For this approach, I recommend checking out the chapter on Heroquesting in 13th Age Glorantha. The PCs might perform a ritual in the Queen’s Wood, where the barriers of time and space are flexible, to enter a timeless realm of heroes and participate in the significant events of past ages as they exist in myth and dream. Success there could provide mythic insights or special magic items, or even alter the world in the present day by setting right an ancient wrong.

About 13th Age

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.

Chaos Mage

By ASH LAW

The chaos mage is my second favorite class, right behind the wizard. It is certainly, in my opinion, the most fun class to play. The fun for me with this class is not in being effective in combat, but from being weird in combat and discovering what happens—because that is what the chaos mage is about: unleashing the weirdness. The good news is that as you unleash the weirdness, you are effective in combat as a side-effect of that.

Play this class if you want to bring strangeness into your game. Avoid this class if you like a character who can be relied upon—some games you’ll find that the chaos mage rocks, sometimes it rocks less (though if you can think on your feet you can turn that around), but it is always interesting. If you like the idea of accidentally switching gender mid-combat, or twisting space about as a side-effect of your magic, or getting to fight in spirit alongside yourself then this is the class for you. I wrote the ‘high weirdness’ table for this class, and though Rob trimmed out the stranger entries it makes each battle that involves a chaos mage unexpectedly odd. High weirdnesses are beneficial 50% of the time, bad (but not too bad) for you or your allies 10% of the time, and the rest of the time is either purely cosmetic or is strange in a way that is exploitable by clever players.

As a chaos mage you can’t quite control what magic you’ll get each turn. At that start of each of your turns you draw a bead or tile from a bag and that determines what sort of spell you’ll be casting. You don’t learn or memorize spells like other caster classes—you can potentially cast anything that a chaos mage of your level can cast. For you, life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get, and often it will be a nutty surprise. A tentacle of force, silver arrows, a bone-shattering sound, burning claws—you can only guess at what sort of magic you will unleash from one moment to the next. You know how many daily and per-battle spells you can cast, but outside of that you rely on luck to determine what you get to cast each turn.

Because your spells are random, you don’t select new spells when leveling up. Really the only choices you make after character creation are what feats to take, and what attributes to increase. In some ways this is the simplest class to create, and one of the most challenging (and stimulating) to play.

Highly Weird Chaos mage

Download Highly Weird Chaos Mage character sheets here.

This chaos mage build maximizes your chances each turn of rolling on the warp tables and high weirdness tables. With this build any spell you cast will introduce a new high weirdness thanks to the adventurer tier high weirdness feat and the talent selection.

My advice with this character is to embrace the strange! This build is never dull, with an ever-changing strangeness triggering at the start of each of your turns. Hang back in a fight (but not too far back) and try to use ranged spells whenever possible. Stick in the middle—let your allies protect you but give cover to those that need to fight at a range.

Talents

Attacking Warp

Whenever you pull a bead/tile that means you can roll an attack spell, you get to roll on the attacking warp random element warp table—and roll a new high weirdness.

Defensive Warp

As per attacking warp, but for defensive spells.

Iconic Warp

As per attacking warp, but for iconic spells.

Race

The human’s extra feat is worthwhile, and the ability to roll twice for initiative and take the better roll is nothing to be sniffed at either.

Attributes

Charisma helps you hit with your spells, and Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence help your warps: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 14 (+2) Int 14 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 18 (+4).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 14 (+2) Int 14 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 18 (+4).

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: attacking warp, defensive warp, iconic warp

Spells: 1st level (Daily: 2, Once-Per-Battle: 1)

Feats: high weirdness, toughness

2nd level

Spells 1st level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (attacking warp).

3rd level

Spells 3rd level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (defensive warp).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 3rd level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (iconic warp).

5th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (high weirdness).

6th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attacking warp).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma), spells 7th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (iconic warp).

8th level

Spells 7th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (high weirdness).

9th level

Spells 9th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (defensive warp).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 9th level (Daily: 6, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (iconic warp).

Chaos Mage

by ASH LAW

The chaos mage is my second favorite class, right behind the wizard. It is certainly, in my opinion, the most fun class to play. The fun for me with this class is not in being effective in combat, but from being weird in combat and discovering what happens—because that is what the chaos mage is about: unleashing the weirdness. The good news is that as you unleash the weirdness, you are effective in combat as a side-effect of that.

Play this class if you want to bring strangeness into your game. Avoid this class if you like a character who can be relied upon—some games you’ll find that the chaos mage rocks, sometimes it rocks less (though if you can think on your feet you can turn that around), but it is always interesting. If you like the idea of accidentally switching gender mid-combat, or twisting space about as a side-effect of your magic, or getting to fight in spirit alongside yourself then this is the class for you. I wrote the ‘high weirdness’ table for this class, and though Rob trimmed out the stranger entries it makes each battle that involves a chaos mage unexpectedly odd. High weirdnesses are beneficial 50% of the time, bad (but not too bad) for you or your allies 10% of the time, and the rest of the time is either purely cosmetic or is strange in a way that is exploitable by clever players.

As a chaos mage you can’t quite control what magic you’ll get each turn. At that start of each of your turns you draw a bead or tile from a bag and that determines what sort of spell you’ll be casting. You don’t learn or memorize spells like other caster classes—you can potentially cast anything that a chaos mage of your level can cast. For you, life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get, and often it will be a nutty surprise. A tentacle of force, silver arrows, a bone-shattering sound, burning claws—you can only guess at what sort of magic you will unleash from one moment to the next. You know how many daily and per-battle spells you can cast, but outside of that you rely on luck to determine what you get to cast each turn.

Because your spells are random, you don’t select new spells when leveling up. Really the only choices you make after character creation are what feats to take, and what attributes to increase. In some ways this is the simplest class to create, and one of the most challenging (and stimulating) to play.

Space Oddity Chaos Mage

Download Space Oddity Chaos Mage character sheets here.

This Chaos Mage build is designed to give you the maximum chance of teleporting—and thanks to the separate existence talent and feats you needn’t worry as much about damage from opportunity attacks against you nor taking damage when a monster misses you.

The separate existence talent is our first choice, leaving us with two talents to pick. There are seven remaining talents, of which four give us spells from other non-chaotic caster classes. Yes, we could choose one of these non-warp talents, but where’s the fun in that? So attacking warp and defensive warp it is then: the former gives us a chance to fly and teleport, and the latter warp gives us chances to heal. We’re missing out on iconic warp, but it is worth it for the separate existence talent.

With this character getting stuck into melee combat is a good idea, or in any case not an entirely terrible one—letting you roll with the chaotic nature of your magic instead of having to keep your distance. You are not a front-line fighter, but when space warps at least you will be comfortable ending up beside one.

This build doesn’t trigger high weirdness as often as the ‘highly weird’ chaos mage build, but makes up for that with a slightly higher chance to hit in combat and an improved force tentacle spell.

Talents

Attacking Warp

Whenever you pull a bead/tile that means you can roll an attack spell, you get to roll on the attacking warp random element warp table—and roll a new high weirdness.

Defensive Warp

As per attacking warp, but for defensive spells.

Separate Existence

Make ranged attacks while engaged without provoking, and most of the time you take no damage from missed attacks against you.

Race

High elves with their highblood teleport pair well with the champion feat for separate existence to give guaranteed once-per-battle self-healing.

Attributes

Charisma helps you hit, and Dexterity, Wisdom, are useful for our warps. Constitution is useful to keep you up and running when the going gets tough: Str 8 (-1) Con 12 (+1) Dex 12 (+1) Int 10 (0) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 20 (+5).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 12 (+1) Dex 12 (+1) Int 10 (0) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 20 (+5).

Racial Power: highblood teleport

Talents: attacking warp, defensive warp, separate existence

Spells: 1st level (Daily: 2, Once-Per-Battle: 1)

Feats: separate existence

2nd level

Spells 1st level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (high weirdness).

3rd level

Spells 3rd level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (attack warp).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 3rd level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (force tentacle).

5th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (separate existence).

6th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (highblood teleport).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma), spells 7th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attack warp).

8th level

Spells 7th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attack warp).

9th level

Spells 9th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (force tentacle).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 9th level (Daily: 6, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (force tentacle).

Only 100 copies of the faux-leatherbound limited edition the 13th Age Bestiary 2 exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The books are faux leather with silver foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by Rob Heinsoo which you can add to your book.

Limited edition with bookplate

Fallen icons, apocalyptic fire giants, and a purple dragon who throws the best parties: welcome to the 13th Age Bestiary 2!

More than 250 individual stat blocks appear in 51 entries, along with with story hooks, icon relationships, customizable campaign variants, and advice on creating exciting battles.

New monsters for your campaign include:

  • The Gold King and the Forest that Walks, fallen icons who must be defeated by a blend of swords, spells, and campaign victories.
  • A wizard bonded to their spellbook, a rogue bonded to their magic cloak, and other former heroes who took shortcuts to power by merging with their magic items.
  • The Lich King’s covert undead propaganda force: the Cult of the Silver Hand.
  • Fomorians, monstrous worshipers and children of the ancient chaos gods.
  • Malatyne, the purple dragon whose entertainments are legendary—and the player characters might be the main attraction…
  • Lions (temple); tigers (elemental and rakshasa); and owlbears (snowy and great horned).

Plus an appendix on using these monsters when playing 13th Age in Glorantha!

  • Lead Designers: Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW
  • Developer: Rob Heinsoo
  • Art Direction: Rob Heinsoo, Cathriona Tobin
  • Interior Art: Rich Longmore, Ania Kryczkowska, Aaron McConnell, Lee Moyer, Patricia Smith, Naomi VanDoren
  • Authors: Liz Argall, Paul Fanning, Jaym Gates, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Lynne Hardy, Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Carrie Rasmussen-Law, Wade Rockett, Aaron Roudabush, Michael E. Shea, Ruth Tillman, Jonathan Tweet, Steven Warzeha, Emily Westfall
  • Product code: PEL13A14L
  • Pages: 304 pages, hardback, full colour

Buy the limited edition

At the Imperial College of the Arcane, students struggle to master the art of magic, both theoretical and applied. And wherever there are students laboring under intense pressure—both academic and social—there will always be student societies. Most tend to be small, informal groups of close friends. However, some are powerful secret societies whose histories span the ages, and whose rituals remain forever hidden from outsiders.

This article provides a brief overview of five secret societies of the College Arcane, located in the Archmage’s city of Horizon (which you can read about in 13 True Ways). These aren’t official additions to Dragon Empire lore, but players and GMs might find them useful for adventure seeds, character backgrounds, NPC opponents, and even One Unique Things.

Common Features:

  • 15-30 current, active members, usually chosen from specific areas of magical study or types of spellcasters. First-year students are almost never invited to become members of a secret society—society members keep an eye on promising first-year students to see if they’d be suitable candidates in the future. Belonging to multiple secret societies is forbidden, and anyone found doing so will be cast out and shunned. However, some societies are friendly with one another, and may collaborate on joint activities.
  • An official name, and sometimes a nickname that’s more commonly used to refer to the society
  • An associated icon, who might be symbolic of the society’s focus, an inspiration to its members, or even its official head
  • An enchanted badge or token which, when worn, signals membership in the society to other members who are nearby—perhaps by changing temperature, tingling, or whispering in the wearer’s ear
  • A motto
  • An initiation rite that includes a challenging ordeal and an oath of secrecy
  • A clubhouse, which at the College Arcane is called a “lair”. A secret society’s lair might take any form, whether mundane or fantastical. The key thing is that outsiders cannot see or hear what goes on inside a lair, and members can enter and exit without being seen.
  • Society activities, such as the discussion of academic topics, formal debate, carousing, public service, or tasks performed on behalf of the society’s patron icon. Depending on the nature of the society, some of these may be done publicly while others are private and subject to the oath of secrecy.

The Good Fellows

Nickname: The Hellhole Club

Membership: Primarily wizards and demonologists (from Book of Demons), if your campaign’s version of the College Arcane accepts demonologists as students.

Associated icon: The Diabolist.

Motto: “From Shadows, Light. From Light, Understanding.”

Badge or token: Two hands clasped in friendship.

Initiation includes: The candidate’s courage and will is tested by branding the society’s badge on their exposed skin. The brand (and associated pain) vanishes within seconds.

Principal activities: Discussion of magic related to demons, devils, and the Abyss; the pursuit of power and influence.

In reality, the Good Fellows are a recruiting funnel for the cult of the Diabolist. As part of the society’s fun and games, members are required to carry out “secret missions” in the Diabolists’ name. These tasks are harmless pranks at first, but gradually become more sinister. Any member who refuses is reminded that the society now has quite a long record of that member’s diabolical acts. It would be such a shame if it ever became public… (For more on the Diabolist’s cult in Horizon, see “The Diabolist’s ‘Moderates’” in 13 True Ways, p. 148; and the Hell Marsh Cult monster entry in 13th Age Bestiary 2, p. 134.)

Society for the Advancement and Promotion of the Defensive Magical Arts

Nickname: B.B.F. (Blast, Burn, and Freeze)

Membership: All spellcasters, but primarily sorcerers.

Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as defender of the Empire and caster of some wicked destructive spells.

Motto: “Courage Under (And Possibly While On) Fire.”

Badge or token: Two wands, crossed.

Initiation includes: On “Dueling Day”, candidates—dressed in ridiculous costumes—must fight public “duels of honor” on college grounds using absurd weapons chosen by society members.

Principal activities: Discussion of magic as it relates to warfare and battle; re-enacting historical battles using magical miniature landscapes and animated figurines (some dating back to the society’s founding).

Scroll and Staff

Nickname: The Page-Shufflers

Membership: Wizards

Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as the Empire’s greatest master of magical learning.

Motto: “Read Thrice, Speak Once.” (Often paraphrased as, “Know your sh*t before you open your mouth.”)

Badge or token: An open book with the flame of the Archmage rising from its pages.

Initiation includes: The retrieval and reading of a scroll—the society’s founding document—hidden within the College Arcane’s vast library. The member must never speak of its contents to anyone, not even other society members.

Principal activities: Debate, study, and the discussion of magical texts from past ages. After final exams, truly legendary carousing.

The Cacophonous Society

Nickname: The Bleating Herd

Membership: Primarily bards and chaos mages.

Associated icons: Elf Queen, Spelljack (See “The Age of Founding”, Book of Ages)

Motto: “Wit, Harmony, and Friendship.”

Badge or token: A lyre within a laurel wreath

Initiation includes: Candidates are given music and lyrics for the society’s anthem (an almost impossibly difficult song) and must perform it in public while the current members heap good-natured ridicule on them.

Principal activities: Discussion of the intersection of magic and the performing arts; musical, dramatic, and comedic composition and performance (both public and private); carousing.

Hand and Eye

Nickname: Rag and Bone

Membership: Primarily necromancers, wizards, and clerics of death gods.

Associated icon: The Lich King

Motto: “Silence.”

Badge or token: A skull with a skeletal hand covering its right eye.

Initiation includes: Candidates are abducted from their rooms in the dead of night and led blindfolded to a certain cemetery on College grounds. There, they experience a ceremonial death and resurrection in which they are buried alive and then dug up again an hour later. The new members are welcomed joyfully with a lavish feast.

Principal activities: Discussion of necromantic magic, philosophy, and ethics; charitable works related to death, dying, and grieving, always performed anonymously—for example, providing a poor family with funds for the proper burial of a deceased loved one.

 

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.

A funny thing happens over time with an RPG that you’ve designed: your opinions can change. As you play it, and as new designers bring fresh perspectives and approaches to the table, you discover some unexpected things that work really well, and some things that…could be better.

With that in mind, here are  two do’s and a don’t for 13th Age that I’ve learned recently—two from playing the game with my home group, and one that surfaced during the design stage for Book of Ages.

Do. . .

. . . use the improvement to the incremental advance rules that we came up with while working on 13th Age Glorantha (page 74), limiting the choice of a new class power or spell to one per level when choosing incremental advances.

The new rule is simpler and avoids a couple thorny corner-cases I’d rather not go into. It’s also fun and dramatically proper to save some of the new-power goodness for when your character levels up.

Don’t . . . .

. . . pay attention to the way that Jonathan and I actually chose our own characters’ backgrounds in our home campaign. Please don’t. I beg you.

We wrote some good advice in Chapter 2 of 13th Age about avoiding overly broad backgrounds that demonstrate your desire to control . . . . well . . . . everything. But in the most recent session of our group’s current Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, Jonathan’s cleric/spirit-talker and my monk both ended up making skill checks using lesser backgrounds that hadn’t surfaced much before. Our problem was that we hadn’t phrased them as ‘lesser,’ and when we had to say them out loud, side-by-side, we made quite a pair. Jonathan’s spirit-talker’s background is physical agent and my monk’s 2-point background is as a metaphysical artist. Oh dear. That about covers reality, then. Cue hooting and hollering and laughter as we faced our sin together.

Do . . . .

. . . look to Book of Ages for hints on how we’ll be handling races in the future.

I’ve often been a stick-in-the-mud about adding new races. But Paul Fanning has been doing more and more development work on the 13th Age line, and when I talked with him about my plans to cut most of the races out of Gareth’s wonderful book, Paul made a persuasive case for keeping many of the races in. We developed the mechanics together, and I wrote a paragraph on the option of using new ‘races’ as interesting One Unique Things (page 24). Book of Ages is one of my favorite 13th Age creations, mostly thanks to Gareth, of course, but Paul’s help with the new races also makes me happy. There’ll be more such shifts in approach in future books.

by Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy

It is the dream of many an adventurer to have a place they can call their own. A fort, a manor, a tower – something to build, customize, protect. The problem, of course, is that they inevitably have to leave it behind to go on adventures. And the more world-spanning the adventures get, the less time the heroes have to enjoy home comforts. Unless, that is, their home is a living dungeon.

Meet Your New Home

This chance encounter can occur in pretty much any dungeon. A side wall in a room is broken, revealing a strange looking brief passage down into two small linked chambers. It looks entirely out of place – it makes no sense for these rooms to be here, the stonework is different, as are the monsters within. Undead or oozes or beasts, pick some creatures that are dumb, dangerous, and have no business being in this dungeon.

Whatever these creatures are, they’ve wrecked the place – barely identifiable remnants of furniture litter the floor. As the PCs engage them, a disembodied voice begins to shout encouragements. This is Archibald, a mischievous spirit of this living dungeon. He’s eager to get rid of the current tenants, and may even fling a brick or two at the monsters if he gets worked up.

Once the fighting is done, Archibald will introduce himself properly, do his best to explain the situation, and beg the adventurers to take residence. Trouble is, he has very little idea of how the outside world works, or that it’s not typical for dungeons to wander about. With some interpretation and perhaps background checks, the PCs can learn they’re standing within a juvenile living dungeon. It is its own creature, distinct from Archibald. He may be it’s guardian spirit, he’s not sure, but he has some measure of control over where it goes. And anyway, he’ll be a god one day, and needs a suitable home and faithful minions, that is, friends and allies.

Archibald is a trickster and a braggart, but ultimately harmless. Devious and naive in equal measure, he’s starved for any kind of contact. As long as the PCs are willing to endure his company, he’ll happily guide the dungeon wherever they wish.

Alternatively, they could banish this irksome spirit, and try and establish a direct contact with the living dungeon, perhaps turning it into something like a subterranean vehicle dressed in a harness, with periscope, steering wheel attached to giant spurs, etc. – constructing and outfitting these would be a quest in its own right.

As things stand, this dungeon consists of two barren rooms connected by a short tunnel made of smooth elongated stones warm to the touch, not unlike cobblestones on a sunny day. These stones are the “flesh” of the living dungeon, shifting as it travels. It is also ticklish, and stones clink against one another when it laughs, and vibrate with a deep rumble when it purrs.

While exploring them for the first time, an Icon relationship result can be used to find something useful in these rooms, as well as discover where they come from. A 5 likely means their erstwhile owners are still looking for their armory that up and disappeared.

Why “Archibald”?

How does a spirit of a living dungeon pick its name, anyway? Here’s one possible explanation: it is the name of an unlucky man who perished in the very first room the dungeon swallowed. There may even be a bone or two of his still lying around – a ritual to speak with dead would help shed some light on the matter. Did the nascent guardian spirit of the dungeon take on his name, or did his soul somehow transfer to the dungeon? Either way, Archibald-the-spirit becomes defensive when Archibald-the-man is brought up and refuses to answer any questions.

The man’s family are still searching for him. There’s no telling what kind of trouble they could get into on this quest, or how Archibald would react to seeing them when PCs come to the rescue.

Customizing the Dungeon

The dungeon can grow and change. Bring a suitably impressive item, Archibald will explain, and he’ll do his best to match this centerpiece, suitably furnishing the room it’s placed in by extrapolating on its psychic residue. Drag a cauldron in and you’ll get a kitchen; alchemical equipment and it’ll be a lab; stuffed bookshelf and you get a library. This extra furniture is part of the dungeon and quickly dissolves if taken out. Likewise, you won’t get new books in your library, or actual food in your kitchen – these rooms still have to be stocked.

Normally it would take years for the dungeon to accumulate scraps of magic it finds in order to get strong enough to swallow another room. Fortunately, it now has the PCs to speed things along. It is a symbiotic relationship: the dungeon attaches to a larger prey, injects digestive enzymes (adventurers), and waits for them to bring sustenance back. It is up to scientifically minded characters whether they’re fascinated or grossed out.

The PCs can prepare any room they like for consumption – doesn’t matter if they had it made specifically for this, or simply stumbled upon one they liked. It’s not a very complicated process mainly involving smearing magic-infused paste onto all the walls.

The main source of this paste are magic items: melt one down, mix it with tasty minerals (tasty for a living dungeon, that is), and you’re good to go. PCs will quickly discover that paste produced from magic items transfers the items’ quirks to Archibald, at least for a while.

An adventurer-tier item is enough to cover a relatively small room – enough space for beds for the entire party, for instance, but not much else. A sacrificed champion-tier item covers a significantly larger area, like an entire watchtower or a living room of an opulent mansion. Finally, an epic-tier item lets your pet dungeon swallow something truly massive, like a castle hall or a whole mansion.

Other possible sources of magic paste include essences of slain elementals, hags boiled in their own cauldrons, dragon hearts baked in the gold they used to sleep on, and anything else the GM deems suitable – Icon relationship results would come in handy in distilling whatever the PCs find.

As the party advances in tiers, so does their dungeon. When they transition to the champion tier, and again at epic tier, it gains the ability to eat a “free” room of corresponding size.

To start with, the dungeon rooms are arranged in a line, as the living dungeon resembles a python swallowing and slowly digesting its prey. As it grows larger, side rooms become possible.

Riding the Dungeon

The dungeon moves through earth at a pace comparable to walking. While not the fastest way to get around, and hardly offering a scenic view, it allows the PCs to journey while enjoying the comforts of their home. The experience itself is not unlike sailing a train – the rooms sway, the tunnels between them stretch and turn as the dungeon digs forth.

This lets the PCs approach another dungeon from an unexpected angle – they break into it in some room in the middle instead of having to fight through whatever defences are positioned at the entrance. Likewise, they can retreat into the safety of their home from anywhere on the outside of a dungeon – all they have to do is call their own to come pick them up.

Unless prearranged, a 6 on an Icon relationship roll with Prince of Shadows (Archibald’s role model), Priestess (she’ll recognize him as a god one day soon, he’s sure of it), or High Druid (he is a nature spirit) will get the call out. On a 5, the dungeon might have swallowed a hitchhiker along the way, or couldn’t quite zero in on the PCs’ location.

To Rob a Thief

Of course, there’s another much more famous living dungeon plaguing the Dragon Empire – Stone Thief. If you’re playing through the Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, having a pet living dungeon of your own opens up a number of opportunities both for the players and the GM.

PCs get a safe haven, a place to retreat to when the Stone Thief submerges. As the Stone Thief travels, they can remain attached to it, riding along. Eventually, however, a Custodian may come around to check in on the uninvited guest.

Not only that, perhaps this friendly dungeon could play a part in the Stone Thief’s demise. What powers would it gain if gifted with an Eye of the Stone Thief? Does it take a living dungeon to kill a living dungeon? Or is it the Thief’s offspring and are PCs participating in a bizarre living dungeon reproductive cycle?

Many 13th Sage columns come from moments when I realize that I’m playing the game slightly differently than I was playing it before. Today’s column features two small wrinkles that have been working well in our games.

New Alternative Array Ability Scores: The first bit comes more from Jonathan than me. It’s something we put together while working on 13th Age Glorantha and appears on page 24 of that book.

Instead of using the ability score line-ups or the point-buy system in 13th Age, we’re often using the following six ability scores, arranged as the player likes: 17, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10.

As Jonathan said in 13G: “Compared to the point-buy arrays on page 309 of 13th Age that let you spend 28 points, this alternative array is better. But it’s better on the bottom end, which people nearly always ignore when they’re using point-buy systems, and that actually works well for our system.”

Very Interesting Things: Playing with people who are new to roleplaying, or uncomfortable with being put on the spot, I’ve been saying that people who are having trouble with One Unique Thing for their character can start with One-Very-Interesting-Thing. Newcomers may feel pressure when they’re trying to come up with something unique, but have less trouble coming up with something ‘very interesting.’ It’s sometimes a matter of phrasing. Consider that one of the most-used uniques in the game—“I’m the bastard child of the Emperor”—may not be entirely unique later on in the campaign if the GM plays the soap opera/Game of Thrones card of locating other bastards!

With a few moments of GM advice and guiding questions, you might be able to turn a Very Interesting Thing into a true unique. For example, after a few moments, a player who had decided that their Very Interesting Thing was that they were a werewolf realized there were probably other werewolves in the world. They made themselves more interesting by saying that they’d been a perfectly happy alpha wolf that had been bitten and turned into a human/werewolf, and that worked into a great One Unique Thing.

If the player hadn’t been comfortable pushing the envelope, it could have stayed as “I’m a werewolf,” even if the world had other werewolves. As GM, I would have had fun bending the story around that. We would have been able to find story developments later in the campaign that would make the character’s werewolf-situation just as compelling as other character’s uniques. I usually approach One Unique Things that way in any case, gradually unfolding complexities and conflicts the player may or may not have expected when the unique first struck them.

Eyecloud

By ASH LAW, development by Rob Heinsoo

From the moment we entered the tomb, we felt like we were being watched. We all felt it, even Sigurd. I admit I was almost grateful to watch him squirm, for a change.

—Mamoru the Justly Paranoid

Heralds of warped magic

Clouds of floating eyes appear near rifts in time and space, in areas where old magic has turned in on itself, and near the graves of wizards who died horrible deaths due to magical misadventure.

Some wizards say that these eyeclouds are reality’s way of checking in on where things have gone wrong—a bit like wibbles (13th Age Bestiary), but more proactive. Even if true, this has the advantage of not ruling out other possibilities. Maybe eyeclouds are forward scouts, or heralds of a strange pantheon from elsewhere. Maybe they’re related to the fomori from 13th Age Bestiary 2 (page 80)Or maybe eyeclouds are associated with creatures forbidden to enter official 13th Age products, though there’d be no keeping them out of your home games if you chose.

Eyeclouds are sometimes ‘tamed’ through magical rituals and set as guardians over tombs, or used by some of the darker icons as watchdogs. Some rituals allow a sort of twisted attunement to the monster, allowing its master to see what the floating eyes see.

Interpreting the warp: The reality warp attack below has a trigger that asks the GM or the player to figure out which ally the targeted PC happens to look at next. It’s a fun ability to determine by roleplay, but a truly determined PC could try to use their willpower to look at no one, or at the ally who can best take the hit. GMs, if you feel like a PC is trying to control their vision better than you think they could, make them pass a hard skill check (DC 20) using Wisdom or Intelligence to handle the warp without an unwary or unconscious glance at an ally they’d been trying to avoid: “Mustn’t look at Kevitch, he’s nearly dead! . . .Whoops.” .

Eyecloud

This monster looks like trouble.

Double-strength 4th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +9

 

Reality warp +9 vs. PD—16 force damage and 4 ongoing force damage

Natural even hit or miss: The target deals 8 force damage to the next ally that they look at (or deals the damage to themselves at the end of their next turn if they haven’t looked at an ally).

 

R: Wearying gaze +9 vs. MD—Target is hampered, easy save ends (if the target rolls a natural 16+ to save, this attack recharges!)

Limited use: 1/battle as a quick action

 

Flight: This eyecloud moves like a swarm of bees.

 

Nastier specials

Hard to hit: This eyecloud takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks on turns when the escalation die is odd.

 

AC  20

PD  18           HP 112

MD 15

 

Dread Eyecloud

You’re guessing most of the eyes in the cloud aren’t human eyes, but if you spend any time really looking at it, you’re going to be in trouble.

Double-strength 10th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +15

 

Flesh warp +15 vs. PD (two attacks)—40 damage and 20 ongoing damage

Hit against an enemy taking ongoing damage from this attack already: The target grows an extra eye, through which enemies can see. Until the eye is cut out (standard action, 20 damage) the target has a -2 penalty to all defenses against ranged and close attacks.

 

R: Dread gaze +15 vs. MD—Target is confused, save ends but recharges the power.

Limited use: 1/battle as a quick action

 

Flight: This monster moves like a mid-migration colony of bats.

 

Nastier specials

Even harder to hit: This eyecloud takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks, unless it has been hit by a close attack since its previous turn.

See the opening: The flesh warp’s power to cause an enemy to grow an extra eye now works on any enemy taking ongoing damage, regardless of the source of the damage.

 

AC  24

PD  26           HP 380

MD 25

 

Unfamiliar familiars

A lone floating eyeball, somehow separated from its cloud, makes for an interesting familiar for magic-users who are used to dealing with the outer realms of reality. A weird wizard might have one, sure. But what about a necromancer, or a chaos mage? True, these classes don’t normally get familiars—but a GM could make an exception for a player who is willing to invest a talent.

Getting a floating eye: A floating eye familiar could be the last eye from a swarm of floating eyeballs, or could be the magically enchanted eye of another slain monster. Imagine a ranger walking around with the magically preserved eye of a dragon as a pet. The occultist could even decide to ‘free’ one of their own eyes and imbue it with a demi-life of its own.

Familiar abilities: Floating eyeballs miss out on some familiar abilities from page 150 of the 13th Age core rulebook (no counter-bite, mimic, poisonous, tough, or talkative). Floating eyes always get the alert ability as one of their two starting abilities, and get the option of some new abilities too:

Sight beyond sight: You can see what your familiar sees, as though it were your own eye

Insightful vision: When you are in the presence of something invisible your familiar rolls a save (11+) to see it anyway

Keen eye: Once per battle when you would normally miss with a ranged attack, add 1d3 to the attack roll (the natural roll is unaffected)

Flying?: FYI, a floating eye without the flight ability just hovers about near your head, and must have the flight ability before it gains the scout ability.

Adventure Hooks

Delve complications—The adventurers are dungeon-delving, and whoever or whatever is at the heart of the dungeon knows their every move. Soon the cause becomes apparent: floating eyes spying on them. Do the adventurers chase after and fight the eyes, or would they be heading into a trap?

The eyes of the cabal—A cabal of wizards have died, and their eyes have returned to life as a monster. The adventurers must find the cabal’s bodies and properly inter them, or face eyecloud monsters that resurrect each nightfall.

Watchful eyes—The adventurers are offered a ‘tame’ cloud of eyeballs to act as a watchdog for their base of operations. The cost? One of them must give up an eye to become the new owner of the watchful eyes. The twist is that whoever gives up an eye gains a secret relationship die with an unexpected icon who is now able to spy on the party.

Warped vision—The adventures encounter an area of warped wild magic, and one of their eyeballs detaches and floats away. Later the party encounters a cloud of floating eyes. Can the party somehow subdue the eyecloud and ‘rescue’ the lost eye?


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.

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