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 […]More...
By ASH LAW
Sorcerers are all about timing, forgoing attacks now to cast an empowered spell later. Last week we introduced the Arcane Sorcerer. Today, it’s a new build with a draconic spin.
Download the Dragon Sorcerer character sheets here.
This sorcerer build is all about being as dragon-like as possible, and resisting energy attacks.
The build’s focus on breath weapons means that the sorcerer works best when close to the action (but not too close).
This sorcerer can resist energy attacks, so can move to the frontline against enemies whose damage it can shrug off. Otherwise it is best darting in and out of the battle, avoiding being pinned down and taking out multiple enemies with its breath weapon. Your metallic protector talent lets you resist energy as a quick action so do it as soon as you spot energy attacks being used (or you suspect that they might be), and use your resist energy spell to grant the same resistance to your allies. At epic tier you also gain once-per-day resistance to demon and dragon attacks—useful if you’ve gained dragon or infernal enemies.
Your talents make you optimized for breath weapons, so use them—even if you blow them on low-level mooks early in the adventuring day it you’ll have still saved the resources of the rest of the party. As a dragonic you get a once-per-battle breath weapon—if you run out of sorcerous breath you can still use your racial breath weapon.
When this sorcerer fails to recharge a breath weapon it is sometimes better to gather power and hope that the breath weapon recharges in time for it to be cast empowered on the following turn.
Your familiar is a small dragonette—make regular use of your familiar’s random abilities, it is your third talent and while not as useful in combat as other talents has lots of out of combat applications. At 4th level this sorcerer learns ritual casting, so keep imaginative non-combat uses of breath weapons in mind when playing this character.
Keep multiple breath weapon spells active at the same time.
Improves chances of re-using breath weapons.
A small dragonette with the flight ability, and one random ability that changes each day.
Charisma and Constitution are important sorcerer attributes: Str 8, Con 16, Dex 12, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 20.
Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 16 (+3) Dex 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 (0) Cha 20 (+5)
Racial Power: breath weapon
Talents: chromatic destroyer, metallic protector, spell sorcerer’s familiar
Feats: metallic protector
Spells: breath of the white, burning hands, chaos bolt, resist energy
New spell (scorching ray), new feat (chromatic destroyer).
New spell (breath of the green), level-up spells (breath of the white, resist energy), new feat (burning hands).
+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), all spells now 3rd level, new feat (ritual casting).
New spell (breath of the black), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, resist energy), new feat (chromatic destroyer).
New spell (swap scorching ray for dragon’s leap), all spells now 5th level, new feat (breath weapon).
+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), new spell (breath of the blue), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, breath of the black, dragon’s leap), new feat (metallic protector).
All spells now 7th level, new feat (chromatic destroyer).
New spells (breath of the void), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, breath of the black, breath of the blue, dragon’s leap) new feat (metallic protector).
+1 to three attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom), all spells now 9th level, new feat (breath of the blue).
By ASH LAW
Sorcerers are all about timing, forgoing attacks now to cast an empowered spell later. Today we’ll be presenting a sorcerer with a touch of wizardry, the Arcane Sorcerer. Next week, we’ll share one inspired by and infused with the power of dragons.
Sorcerers can be ‘swingy’—they are for players who like sudden unexpected surges of power that turn the tide of battle in their favor.
Download the Arcane Sorcerer character sheets here.
This sorcerer build focuses on close-up dependable magic, a ‘semi-melee caster’ that evolves into a flying teleporting menace as it levels up through higher tiers of play.
This sorcerer is an all-rounder, able to go toe-to-toe when needed or switch to ranged combat to support tougher warriors. As this sorcerer relies upon mobility and deterrence to avoid damage, if there are tougher warriors in the party let them handle melee while you hang back. Your sorcerer isn’t as tough as a fighter or paladin, so make wise use of spells that encourage enemies to keep their distance.
At 1st level this character has simple blast-away spells (burning hands and magic missile), and two more involved spells (the chaining lightning fork and the random chaos bolt)—at higher levels the spells become more complex.
The addition of the auto-hits wizard spell balances ‘swinginess’ from the wood elf racial and infernal heritage talent—so on a bad dice day use magic missile often (at champion tier it can be empowered).
Gather power is a worthwhile action in a fight—do it early and often so that when you let fly with empowered spells the following round the chances of hitting will be higher due to the escalation die. The wood elf’s racial power gives you extra actions—use these when they come up to gather power and cast on the same turn.
A +2 magical background, and a wizard spell as an equal-level alternative to a sorcerer spell.
This adds daily barbarian-rage-like ‘spell frenzy’, and damage resistance.
A +2 AC bonus and you don’t provoke opportunity attacks when casting spells.
Wood elves’ elven grace nets us extra standard actions to gather power.
For this sorcerer, Charisma and Constitution are important attributes: Str 8, Con 16, Dex 16, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 16.
Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 16 (+3) Dex 16 (+3) Int 12 (+1) Wis 10 (0) Cha 16 (+3)
Racial Power: elven grace
Talents: arcane heritage, infernal heritage, spell fist
Feats: infernal heritage
Spells: magic missile, burning hands, chaos bolt, lightning fork
New spell (breath of the white), new feat (spell fist).
New spell (echoing thunder), level-up spells (lightning fork, chaos bolt), new feat (lightning fork).
+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), all spells now 3rd level, new feat (arcane heritage).
New spell (queen’s shadows), level-up spells (lightning fork, echoing thunder, magic missile), new feat (arcane heritage).
New spell (swap breath of the white for dragon’s leap), all spells now 5th level, new feat (elven grace).
+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), new spell (touch of evil), level-up spells (magic missile, lightning fork, echoing thunder, queen’s shadows), new feat (spell fist).
All spells now 7th level, new feat (spell fist).
New spells (resist energy, swap burning hands for three dooms), level-up spells (magic missile, chaos bolt, lightning fork, echoing thunder, queen’s shadows) new feat (infernal heritage).
+1 to three attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom), all spells now 9th level, new feat (echoing thunder).
The Archmage BANISHES them.
The Crusader CONQUERS them.
The Great Gold Wyrm DEFIES them.
The Diabolist SUMMONS them.
When the world cracks open and the demons attack, what will YOU do?
The Book of Demons takes an in-depth look at the Abyssal enemies of the 13th Age – the demonic hordes whose eternal struggle to shatter reality causes hellholes, dimensional breaches, and other, even weirder assaults on the world.
- Master the forbidden arts of the demonologist class
- Claim demon-tainted magic items (or be claimed by them…)
- Discover how to seal a hellhole and save the world
For Game Masters:
- Five detailed hellholes, and advice on making your own
- Secrets of the Crusader and the Diabolist
- Demons! Demons! Demons!
Status: In development
(Cover art by Melissa Gay)
Fallen icons, apocalyptic fire giants, and a purple dragon who throws the best parties: welcome to 13th Age Bestiary 2!
We had so much fun with the first 13th Age Bestiary that we’re making an even bigger monster book! More than 250 individual stat blocks appear in 40+ all-new entries, plus a dozen revised and expanded monsters that first appeared in 13th Age Monthly. Each monster comes with story hooks, icon relationships, customizable campaign variants, and advice on creating exciting battles.
New monsters for your campaign include:
- Fallen icons like the Gold King and the Forest that Walks, powerful beings 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 (fomorian art by Ania Kryczkowska).
- Rattletales, dangerous spirits who will probably leave you alone if you can tell them a truly scary story (ideally, one about rattletales).
- Malatyne, the purple dragon whose entertainments are legendary—and the player characters might be the main attraction…
- Lions (temple); tigers (elemental & rakshasa); and owlbears (plumed).
Coming in the fall of 2017.
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
My current project (ONE of my current projects, so many current projects) is the (provisionally-titled) Book of Ages, for 13th Age. It’s mostly a grab bag of “cool stuff from previous Ages” – monsters, magic, feats, legends, adventure seeds – but here’s one of the early sections, discussing persnickety world-building questions and assumptions.
* * *
Twelve Ages have passed since the foundation of the Empire and the reign of the Wizard King… but what’s an Age? And how long is that exactly? These questions are of comparatively little importance in a regular 13th Age campaign compared to “what’s that scaly firebreathing monster-snake over there” and “how long is it, roughly, because if it’s a Huge monster we’re screwed”, but in a book all about Ages we must at least briefly define our terms.
What is an Age?
An Age is a period of history that, in retrospect, has a discernible arc or overriding influence. Ages are book-ended by catastrophes. So, the First Age was dominated by the founding of the Empire in the aftermath of the Wizard King’s defeat, and ended when the giants razed Axis. The Sixth Age’s defining influence was the spread of lycanthropy among the aristocracy; like other Ages, it began and ended in catastrophe.
That isn’t to say, of course, that there isn’t tumult and catastrophe at times other than the start and end of Ages. Every peril that threatens the Empire is hailed by doom-sayers as the turning of the 13th Age. You don’t know that the world is falling apart when you’re trying to survive in the middle of it.
Who Defines An Age?
The historians and chroniclers in the court of the Archmage in Horizon are responsible for declaring the beginning of a new Age. This usually happens retrospectively – “clearly”, they might say, “the defeat of the Sea Raiders a generation ago marked a great change in the affairs of the Empire, so we have decided that the 11th Age ended at the Battle of the Redwater and we are now in the first century of the 12th Age”. At times, ambitious Emperors have pressured the sages into prematurely declaring the start of a new Age, but such hubris is punished by history – and anyway, only sages, historians, dungeon-crawling adventurous archaeologists and long-lived elves really care that much about when precisely an Age begins.
How Long Is An Age?
It varies. Recent Ages are all a few hundred years long. Earlier Ages might have been much longer, for the further back you go in the history of the Dragon Empire, the more uncertain things become. (All those catastrophes play havoc with proper record-keeping, after all.) So, Ages last as long as the Gamemaster needs. If you like an absurdly ancient Empire, then maybe the first Age lasted ten thousand years. If you want something faster and more chaotic, then Ages might last scarcely a century, and some of the earlier Ages might be entirely fraudulent. (“Historians!”, shouts the barbarian king who’s just claimed the throne, “insert another Age, and relate to me tales from that era about how my ancestors ruled the Empire, and how I am therefore reclaiming my rightful inheritance from a usurper and now, as it might appear, a bloody-handed mass murderer.”)
Do Ages Mean Anything?
Now that’s an interesting question. How much mystical significance does an Age have? The catastrophe that ends an Age usually results in the death, diminishment or transformation of one or more Icons; it’s unheard-of for two Ages to have exactly the same roster of Icons.
Of course, that implies other questions, like: is an Icon simply a powerful or influential individual, or are they somehow an embodiment/reflection/wellspring of mystical power? Does the appearance of the Priestess in the 13th Age mean that divine magic will become more powerful? Does the loss of the Oracle mean that it’s now harder – or even impossible – to see the future? If an Age is defined by its Icons, then are there a limited number of Iconic “slots” available? If there are always 13 Icons, no more and no less, and the existence of an Icon has mystical significance, then the goal of every sinister conspiracy and cult might be to eliminate an existing Icon to elevate their own champion. If the Orc Lord dies in battle, and the Lizard Queen takes his place, then will orcs become weak and fearful, and lizard-folk become stronger and fiercer in their stead?
An interesting variant assumes that the number of an Age determines how many Iconic ‘slots’ there are. So, in the First Age there was only one Icon, two in the Second, three in the Third and so forth. The Great Gold Wyrm was the first Icon; in the Second Age, the dwarves defeat the giants and the Dwarf King ascends to Iconic status. In the third, the Four Dragons arrive, drawn by the wealth of the underground kingdom. In the fourth, the Elf Queen binds the Green, making the Four into the Three and marking her as an Icon…
Alternatively, Icons might be purely a measure of local praxis – the Emperor’s an icon in the Empire, but has no reach beyond it, and if you follow the Koru trail up north, then local potentates like the Frostjack, the Living Glacier or the Hobgoblin Chieftain take on Iconic roles. In that interpretation, a player could even take Icon-style relationships with these smaller-scale Icons that would only work when in that Icon’s zone of influence. There still might be a Grandmaster of Flowers in some hidden monastery where she trains monks, and she works as an Icon when you’re adventuring near that holy mountain, but she doesn’t have the Empire-wide reach of her forebears.
Another possibility is that some forms of magic might be possible in one Age, but not in others. There might be Ages when all arcane magic just stopped working for centuries, until the world turned again. There might be Ages when other forms of magical power (psionics, maybe) worked, but they stopped when the Age changed, leaving behind only a few impossible relics and the memories of wonder.
Some astoundingly potent rituals and spells might be restricted to once-per-Age, just as resurrection is once-per-lifetime, more or less.
Does Everyone Agree on the Ages?
Even if you assume that the turning of an Age is marked with completely obvious and unambiguous signs and portents, even if giant letters of fire appear in the sky saying ‘NOW TURN TO THE NEXT AGE’ when the time is at hand, some people are going to argue. The Elves might refuse to acknowledge that the 12th Age ever ended; historians might argue over whether Horizon was built in the 3rd or the 4th Age, or if it was actually built in the 18th and is moving backwards in time (because the Archmage, that’s why.) Not only will the ordering of the Ages vary from campaign to campaign, but there can be plenty of disagreement and ambiguity within a campaign too. After all, an Age is just the high-fantasy way of saying “once upon a time…”
Recently, a member of the 13th Age community who’s trying their hand at spell design asked if we had any resources to help with the math. We’ve written a lot about monster design, but haven’t really delved into classes; so for this month’s column, I’ll share the basic math behind figuring out how much damage characters should deal, for those of you who are creating your own character classes or variants.
Below, you’ll see the table we use when we’re figuring out roughly how much damage a spell, or an attack of a specific level, should deal. Three of the columns cover the target numbers for at-will, once per battle, and daily attacks. The last column indicates the amount of that damage that’s likely to come from the character’s ability score modifier—most attacks and spells add the ability score modifier, with a few exceptions. If it’s a normal attack that uses the ability score as a damage modifier, subtract the ability score modifier bonus from the target number to find out roughly how much damage needs to come from the dice.
A truly efficient designer would probably have created other columns, ones that show the target numbers that you’re aiming for, with just the average dice results. But I’ve always enjoyed doing the math on the fly, so today you get the columns the way I use them. No coddling!
|Character level||Target At-will damage||Target 1/battle damage||Target Daily damage||Likely ability score modifier bonus|
Multiple target math
There’s another significant piece of damage math related to attacks that have multiple targets.
If a character can make two (or three, or however many) separate attacks against any target they wish, it’s okay to simply split the damage in two (or three, or whatever)—because if the character wishes, they can focus all the damage on a single target.
But an attack that can’t be focused on a single target is different. Lots of attacks target 2, 3, 1d3, or 1d4 separate enemies. If we halved the damage of an attack that has two separate monsters as targets, that would be terrible for the player character, because what’s most important in combat is making attacks that take out enemies before they can attack you. Multiple attack rolls against separate targets do reduce the damage, but by less than you might imagine if you were spitballing. The same adjustments generally apply to damage dealt by monsters.
Here’s the math:
2 different targets (also 1d3 targets, since that averages 2): 80% normal damage
2.5 different targets (i.e., 1d4 targets, use it all the time): 75% normal damage
3 different targets: 70% normal damage
3.5 different targets (i.e.,. 1d6 targets): 65% normal damage
4 different targets: 60% normal damage
5 different targets: 50% normal damage
…And so on, though I can’t remember many cases of “and so on” coming up!
I hope this is helpful as you design new powers for 13th Age heroes. With another Bestiary on the way, they’ll need them!
by Mike Shea
For many of us, the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was an excellent refinement of the tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) we’ve enjoyed for 30 years. For some of us, it was our first exposure to D&D in any form. If 4th Edition wasn’t your bag, there are probably other reviews of 13th Age that will serve you better. Today we’re going to talk in particular about what 13th Age means for a 4th Edition D&D player and dungeon master.
Like 4th Editon, 13th Age is a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game by Rob Heinsoo, one of the developers of 4th Edition D&D, and Jonathan Tweet, one of the developers of the 3rd Edition of D&D. 13th Age is their love letter to the game they (and many of us) love dearly.
The world of tabletop RPGs has changed greatly over the past couple of years. With D&D Next on the horizon and Kickstarter giving birth to loads of new high quality RPGs, we have a whole new landscape of game systems and worlds to explore. For a 4th Edition player, however, 13th Age brings the most familiar elements of the game we love while smoothing out the rough edges. If you loved 4th Edition, you’ll definitely want to take a look at 13th Age.
Here are a few reasons why a 4th edition player might enjoy 13th Age.
Empowered Characters with Lots of Options
As a 4e player or GM, much of 13th Age will feel familiar to you. As in 4e, characters in 13th Age begin as empowered heroes, even at level 1. Level 1 characters are tough. They represent the heroes of the world, not just farmers with swords. Level 1 characters have a good amount of choices to make, many of which feel like your traditional 4th edition character powers. Unlike the core set of 4th Edition classes, character classes in 13th Age won’t feel similar. The classes in 13th Age follow a track of complexity from the simple and straightforward barbarian to the detailed and complicated bard. The complexity of your preferred play style will dictate which classes you’re likely to want to play.
Like 4th Edition, 13th Age includes a robust list of feats which will feel familiar to you —with one exception. Many of your feat choices focus directly on specific powers so you can improve the parts of your character you use and enjoy the most.
The level spread in 13th Age will seem quite different from what you’re used to seeing in 4th Edition. There are only ten levels in 13th Age, but these levels span the full range of power you’d expect in a PC. A level 10 13th Age character will feel a lot like a mid-epic character in 4th Edition. This has the effect of matching spell levels to character levels and ensures that characters get a lot of interesting new things every time they level.
Backgrounds, Not Skills
4e players will find 13th Age’s background system to be a bit different from the rigid skill lists we’re used to in D&D. In 13th Age, skills are abstracted into large pools that form a character’s background. For example, the “Advisor of the Royal Court of the Dragon Emperor” background would bundle up a bunch of potential skills such as history and diplomacy while also tying the PC closer to the game world. These backgrounds serve both to define your character and as an open-ended skill system. It’s a refreshing difference.
Tactical Combat and Distance Abstraction
With 4e’s focus on combat, 13th Age’s combat system will be one of the biggest aspects on which 4e players will focus. The basic mechanics of combat in 13th Age will be very familiar to 4e players: Roll a 20, add a modifier, check it against a defense. The defenses in 13th Age are simplified to AC, Physical Defense, and Mental Defense but act the same as AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses. Attack and defense modifiers go up every level instead of every other level, which fits the power growth of PCs in 13th Age across its ten character levels.
You’ll notice that damage scales up quite a bit in 13th Age as well. Melee attacks add an additional die of damage every level and lower level spells can be memorized at higher levels to increase their damage and effectiveness. This spell progression will look odd to many D&D players since you lose lower level spell slots as you gain higher level ones. It makes sense as soon as you see that Magic Missile can be memorized at level 9 for a whopping 10d6 damage.
Unlike 4e’s focus on gridded tabletop combat, 13th Age is designed to be played with or without maps and miniatures. 13th Age abstracts distances instead of using squares or feet for movement and ranges. Instead of “5 squares,” 13th age uses terms like “nearby,” “far away,” “grouped,” and “engaged” to describe distance. Spells and effects use these same terms. Effects that hit more than one creature usually use a term such as “1d3 nearby enemies” so you don’t have to worry about exact positioning.
On the surface, one might think that 13th Age’s distance abstraction would make it a poor choice for maps and miniatures. It turns out that’s not true at all. 13th Age is a fantastic system for playing with maps, minis, and terrain. One could certainly not use the adjective “tactical” to describe such combat but the freeform abstract nature of 13th Age combat ends up opening up a lot of fun possibilities. If a player wants to use a large miniature to represent “the largest woman in the world,” doing so doesn’t hose up combat. Who cares how big a miniature is when squares aren’t important? Want to use that gargantuan black dragon “miniature” to represent the dragon who’s only “large?” Go for it!
There’s one other mechanical component of 13th Age combat worth noting — the escalation die. 4e battles can take 60 to 90 minutes to run, and this was well known by Rob and Jonathan when they wrote 13th Age. The escalation die helps ensure that battles speed up the more rounds go by. Every round after the first, all PCs get +1 to attack on all attacks. This is represented by a six-sided die on the one position. Every additional round, the die and the bonus increases by one. This increase ends up ensuring PCs begin to hit more and more as the battle goes on. It’s a built in system for speeding up fights the longer they go on. Some PC powers and even powerful monsters trigger interesting effects based on the escalation die as well.
All of these refinements to the tactical combat we found and loved in 4th edition end up making 13th Age combat fast, furious, and fun.
Icon Relationships and the One Unique Thing
13th Age adds quite a few other features to catch our eye including icon relationships and each PC’s one-unique-thing. There really isn’t a similar construct in 4th edition to compare these to. Rather than describe these features here, take a look at Rob Donohue’s 13th Age review and my own 13th Age review on Critical Hits to learn more about them.
For the Game Master
So far we’ve covered much of what a 4e player will find interesting in 13th Age but there is a lot of love for game masters as well. 13th Age follows 4th Edition’s approach of treating monsters completely differently from PCs. 13th Age monsters have simple stat blocks designed to make them easy to run at the table. 13th Age also includes easy-to-use tables for improvised damage and quick monster math, something those of us who fell in love with page 42 of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide are sure to use.
Because 13th Age abstracts many of the game elements we’re used to seeing well refined in 4th Edition D&D, a GM running 13th Age is given much more authority and responsibility to make rulings instead of following codified rules. How far is “far away?” Can a PC use that particular background for that particular scene? How will an icon relationship manifest in tonight’s adventure? The GM must adjudicate each of these questions directly and must wield that responsibility well to ensure the game is fun for everyone.
Using 13th Age to Houserule 4e
Beyond being a full game system, 13th Age can also act as a set of well-designed house rules you can drop right into your 4th edition game. Want battles to go a little faster? Add the escalation die. Want to abstract the skill system? Add in 13th Age’s backgrounds. Want to tie PCs closer to the main NPC drivers of your campaign? Add in the icon system. Any of these components plug right into 4e with hardly any core changes to 4e.
A Refinement of the Game We Love
It’s clear that Rob and Jonathan love D&D as much as we do. They poured that love into a game that showcases the parts of 4th edition D&D we loved the most and helps polish down the rough edges. While 4e’s combat encounters ended up monopolizing much of the time we played, 13th Age slims combat down without removing PC empowerment and adds in story elements sure to entertain us for years to come.
Even if you have no intent of leaving your 4e games behind, 13th Age has a lot to offer. Give it a try.
About The Author
Mike Shea is a writer, gamer, technologist, and webmaster for the D&D website Sly Flourish. Mike has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and wrote the books Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips and The Lazy Dungeon Master. Mike lives in Vienna, Virginia with his gamer wife Michelle and their gamer dog Jebu.
That, you will be gobsmacked (or perhaps even godsmacked) to know, is the earliest reference known to the Twelve Olympians, and it’s not that early: the “Homeric” hymns are usually dated to around 600 BCE, which is about 75 years before the tyrant Peisistratos sets up the first known altar to the Twelve, in Athens. (A cult of the Twelve in Olympia, appropriately enough, likely dates to about the same time.) Where the Greeks got the idea remains mysterious: from the twelve Babylonian months, perhaps via a grouping of 12 gods found in Hittite rituals (and in a 13th-century BCE hall of statuary at Yazilikaya) and from thence to the Greek coasts of Asia Minor.
Why, you may well ask, am I improving our minds with Classical study at this late juncture? Because in my home game, my newest campaign is a 13th Age campaign I call Poikila Hellenistika, or “The Brightly-Colored Hellenistic Age.” It’s set in a big-eyes-and-archaic-smile anime-influenced version of the Hellenistic era, specifically in Syracuse in Sicily (for now) in 273 BCE. (More information here, should you wish it.) And that means I needed to redefine the 13 Icons as, of course, the 12 Olympian gods, because hey, Alexander the Great won. And indeed, erected “altars to the Twelve Gods” on the banks of the Hyphasis River, the eastern edge of his empire.
The 13 Olympikons In Play
So leaving aside the question of “Who?” we get to the question of “What?” What do the Olympikons do in my game that the Icons don’t, and vice versa? Let’s start with the common factors: like the Dragon-Imperial Icons, the Olympian Ikons have a wide network of worshipers, priests, and other agents from the Seleukid dynasty claiming descent from Apollo to the various cults, mysteries, and temples all over the Mediterranean and points east. Most cities have at least one patron god (Syracuse’s are Athena and Apollo, plus there’s a big temple of Zeus just south of the city), so the Ikons have even more helpers in the shape of city governments and armies. It’s even more fun than it sounds, because the Olympians wound up with so many weird responsibilities in their portfolio: Poseidon is not just the god of the sea, but of horses, earthquakes, epilepsy, watchfulness, and even (as Poseidon Phytalmios) gardening. (For everything you could ever want to know about any figure of Greek myth, hie thee to theoi.com.)
Another thing that’s cropped up in play is the very Greek notion of the gods speaking and working through the players: we’ve already had Apollo justify a player’s 6 on the relationship die by inspiring his tongue to talk down a Spaniard. Greek gods loved to appear in dreams and oracles, so I can always drop one in if I like. Even then, given the sheer number of Ikonic interventions needed with six players (even on an average roll, that’s two or three interventions in one session, and my players do not roll average dice) we’re also adopting a house rule: if the player or the GM can’t think of something cool (or hasn’t yet) for your 6 to do during the game, you can take a +2 to something your Ikon plausibly might help you with. For clerics, that’s likely just casting a spell, but the Amazon might turn her 6 on the Artemis relationship die into a +2 to hit with a spear or bow. So far, a 5 likely gives you a +1 in similar fashion, although I’ll probably put a twist in the tail of a roll like that.
Some potential Ikons just flow together: Asklepios is the son of Apollo, so he becomes a major agent of the Ikon Apollo; Pan and Dionysos have that wild-man feel and patronage of satyrs in common, so they’re both aspects of the same Ikon. The campaign world is pretty human-centric, so the explicitly inhuman Icons like the Orc Lord wind up as aspects of godly humanist Olympians (the Orc Lord sounds pretty Ares-ish to me, although the Romans did explicitly identify Hades with their deity Orcus). Again, we’re letting that stuff emerge in play — we’ve decided that the Apollonian royalty of Hyperborea make pretty good elves, for example, at least on a mechanical basis, so the Elf Queen is likely an aspect of either Apollo or his woodsy sister Artemis.
In my game, if Alexander conquered you, your gods got subsumed into Olympian Ikon-hood: Melqart of Tyre becomes Heracles, for example, and Isis becomes Demeter. (Herodotos identified her as such; he also equated Osiris with Dionysos, Horus with Apollo, Amon with Zeus, and Bast with Artemis, among others.) That does leave a number of grumbly foreign gods: so far, I can reveal that Moloch (aka Baal-Hammon) of Carthage and Saturnus in Rome have not at all accepted their demotion. In our history, Zeus and his ilk eventually collaborated with the Romans and got subsumed in their turn into Jupiter, etc., but that’s 150 years away in my game and may not happen, depending on just how epic our epic tier gets. But that, as they say, is in the lap of the Ikons.
by Rob Heinsoo
Today’s column introduces a critter that was originally going to be part of the High Druid’s World issue of 13th Age Monthly. But High Druid’s World is full of stats for powerful druids and druidic dragons and the dire raccoon kinda rolled out of contention. Unlike most of our monster stats, these stats have not been blessed by an editor.
For those of you who have no interest in adding a dire raccoon to your game, these stats could easily be adapted for use for some other type of tricksy woodland creature with semi-opposable thumbs.
Death by dire raccoon? Ignominious and regrettable, but at least your remains will be thoroughly washed.
1st level double-strength mook [beast]
Raspy teeth and claws +7 vs. AC—6 damage
[Special trigger] Suspiciously well-placed debris +7 vs. PD (1 random enemy)—7 damage
Natural even hit: Target is dazed (save ends)
Group ability: For every three dire racoons in the battle (round up), one of them can use suspiciously well-placed debris as a quick action once during the battle.
Suspiciously well-placed debris: So long as the battle is occurring in a natural setting the dire raccoons are familiar with, they can use the suspiciously well-placed debris attack, representing traps they’ve placed in the trees, pits they’ve dug in the groud, or piles of stuff that just happens to fall over at the wrong/right moment.
Run away: When a dire raccoon drops to 0 hit points, roll an easy save (6+). If the save fails, all dire raccoons spend all their actions trying to escape the fight, and get a +3 bonus to AC and PD until the end of the battle.
More suspicious debris: More traps and weird coincidental accidents occur later in the adventuring day to PCs who have angered the dire raccoons! If it feels at all appropriate, make one suspiciously well-placed debris attack later in the day per two dire raccoons that survive a battle with the PCs. Choose moments when such attacks are either very funny or very inconvenient. If you’re a merciful GM, allow a skilled ranger or other woodsy character to put a stop to the harassment by succeeding with a difficult skill check (DC 20). If you’re not a merciful GM, make a couple such attacks even if the PCs slew all the raccoons, since there were probably more hiding in the bushes.
PD 14 HP 13 (mook)
Mook: Kill one dire racoon mook for every 13 damage you deal to the mob.
A collection of playable monster stats for NPC druids and powerful druidic dragons. Creatures from level 3 to level 11 show how player-character style spells can be adapted to ‘monstrous’ applications. It also includes ideas on the philosophy of the High Druid, and notes on what’s hidden by the green canopies of the forests on our cityfolk map of the Dragon Empire. By Rob Heinsoo.
High Druid’s World is the twelfth installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription, You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2016 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!
|Stock #: PEL13AM26D||Author: Rob Heinsoo|
|Artist: Naomi VanDoren||Type: 11-page PDF|
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