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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by Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy

For all their seeming simplicity, Icon relationships can be tricky to use in a game, as some GMs, myself included, occasionally struggle to offer a satisfying use for them. Icons are just too abstract, too detached, too far away from the daily life of a low-level adventurer. They need intermediaries, something to connect the dungeons to the floating towers, the blood to the idea, the PCs to Icons. They need factions.

At their most basic, factions are NPC organizations who serve one or more Icons. In this article you’ll find advice on preparing factions and their use, as well as optional mechanics for tracking the changing influence of factions.

Making and using factions

Like any organization, factions form in order to achieve a goal. It can be something specific, like “return the Lich King to his rightful place as the ruler of the Dragon Empire”, or abstract like “keep the citizens of Axis safe”. That’s where we start: for each faction you have in mind, figure out its agenda. You’re not writing the faction’s manifesto, a single sentence will do.

Not every faction declares its agenda outright – a decadent high society faction dedicated to opening a new Hellmouth probably doesn’t advertise the fact to outsiders. But it’s this true purpose you’re interested in. Leave lies to your NPCs.

Speaking of NPCs, a faction needs a face (or three), someone the party will interact with when they deal with the faction. It can be the faction leader, but it can just as easily be an approachable rank-and-file member.

Similarly to PCs, factions have relationships with Icons, though these relationships are never rolled, and are purely indicative of the faction’s allegiances. As a rule of thumb, a faction should have at least one positive and one negative relationship, and no more than three relationships overall. The faction’s agenda should make it clear which Icons a given faction supports and opposes. And just as with PCs and their relationships with Icons, thinking of the relationships your factions have may reveal unexpected facets of their “personality”.

Ideally, your factions will cover every Icon with which the PCs have a relationship with both positive and negative relationships of their own. For the frequently referenced Icons, you may wish to have multiple factions that are interested in them. Ties to other Icons are nice, but less essential. In this way, the Icons your players pick will impact your worldbuilding, helping you to further focus on the aspects of the world your players find interesting.

If you use the “Icon relations story-guide results” table from the core book, you may wish to amend it with names of factions supporting or opposing the Icons.

Armed with this information, the next time your players want to use a relationship roll, you’ll have a faction or two with the same Icon relationship that fits the bill. Maybe one of its “face” NPCs shows up to offer assistance, or you suggest the PCs visit them to ask for help.

If the relationship die was a 5, you have a starting point for what the faction may ask for in return for its help – its agenda. Alternatively, a 5 on a positive relationship could indicate the involvement of a faction with a negative relationship to that Icon, and vice versa.

Note that this doesn’t rule out any other use of Icon relationship rolls the books suggest or you come up with. Indeed, factions merely offer a framework for some of these suggestions.

Faction influence level

In case you’re looking for some extra granularity in distinguishing between factions, you can assign levels to them. A faction’s level determines the average level of its significant assets and personnel. To put it another way, kicking down the door to the faction’s headquarters and taking them on would constitute an adventure of the faction’s level.

A level 1 faction is not much more than a group of local thugs, a level 5 faction can run a town, while a level 9 faction is a continent-spanning organization.

A faction’s level indicates the resources they have access to, helping determine what kind of assistance or opposition they offer to the PCs. An adventurer-tier faction can’t hand out champion-tier magic items, for instance. Additionally, faction levels provide some ideas for the likely outcome of a faction-vs-faction conflict.

Faction levels aren’t set in stone. At the end of every adventure, as well as whenever some significant change happens, ask yourself: did any faction get more powerful or otherwise achieve a major victory? Did any faction lose major holdings or important allies? Adjust their level by 1 in either direction. Where appropriate, campaign loss caused by PCs fleeing may also result in a faction losing a level.

As a rule of thumb, PCs can’t affect the level of a faction that is three or more levels above theirs without major plot upheaval to assist them. However, large and high-level factions are rarely monolithic. Consider introducing local chapters or sub-factions of a level closer to the level of PCs so they can more easily influence each other.

The changes to faction influence levels represent tangible consequences to the PCs’ efforts, making it easier to see how their adventures affect the world around them.

Example – factions of the Sea Wall

Let’s say your group has decided upon the Sea Wall as the starting location for the campaign. Sea breeze and giant monsters, what can be better. The player characters have positive relationships with the Archmage, the Dwarf King, and the Prince of Shadows; they have conflicted relationship with the High Druid and the Diabolist; and a negative relationship with the Three.

Looking at the map, we see a slight problem: there’s the Iron Sea on the one side, the Blood Wood on the other, and not much else. With the chosen Icons in mind, let’s start with the obvious options and expand to accommodate the more esoteric choices.

Sea Wall Maintenance Crew

Level 5 faction

Agenda: keep the wall standing. Currently occupied with repairing a massive breach that occurred last month. Nominally subordinate to the Sea Wall Guard (a faction with positive relationship to the Emperor, in which we’re not as interested).

Relationships: positive with the Archmage and the Dwarf King, ambiguous with the High Druid.

Faces: Prince Azbarn Stonebeard, fifteenth in line to the Dwarven Throne (dwarf, naturally), and magister Ariel Thornfist (high elf) are in joint command. Both are highly ambitious and competitive, with views of distinguishing themselves and leaving this backwater post behind.

Leviathan Hunters

Level 3 faction

Agenda: to safeguard the Blood Wood (and the Empire, as a secondary consideration) from the sea monsters.

Relationships: positive with the High Druid, ambiguous with the Orc Lord, negative with the Diabolist.

Face: Uzg (orc) left his clan and his clan name behind to serve High Druid. An unlikely but enthusiastic guardian of Blood Wood, he’s assembled a warband of other renegade orcs, wood elves and beasts of the forest. Currently weakened from their continued skirmishes with the sea monsters that got through last month, Leviathan Hunters would love to live up to their name and take the fight to the enemy – if their level reaches 5, Uzg will lead an expedition beyond the Sea Wall.

Red Right Pincer

Level 4 faction

Agenda: to bring down the Sea Wall by summoning a mighty leviathan from the depths.

Relationships: positive with the Diabolist, negative with the High Druid, the Emperor, and the Archmage.

Face: Deep priest Kashtarak (sahuagin). The designated bad guy for the first few levels of the campaign. Red Right Pincer currently hunts for mystic beasts to slaughter in the Blood Wood, in order to use their hearts for an unholy ritual that would weaken the magic protection of the Sea Wall. Should the Pincer’s level exceed that of the Sea Wall Maintenance Crew, a new massive breach is all but guaranteed.

Storm’s Bane

Level 2 faction

Agenda: recover the treasure that has cursed them to undeath.

Relationships: positive with Prince of Shadows, negative with the Three.

Face: Captain Sam Kellock (human) was a daring pirate, his ship Storm’s Bane feared by all. That is, until he robbed one too many ships that belonged to the Three, fled from their pursuit into the Iron Sea, and met his end in the jaws of a leviathan. That would have been bad enough, but unbeknownst to him the treasure he carried was cursed. Now ghostly remains of his crew plague the shore, looking for fools to help them recover the gold and break the curse. After a century of torment, Kellock is desperate and sees the PCs as his last best hope. Should their relationship go awry, he would even help sahuagin bring the leviathan that swallowed his treasure to the shore, in hopes of someone killing it for him.

 


Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy is a game designer and a writer. He’s currently looking for a publisher for his board game, Passages & Plunder; writing a blog, PonderingsOnGames.com; and planning on resuming his YA horror serial at newvalenar.wordpress.com. He lives in Sydney, Australia and has given up on teaching the locals how to pronounce his name.

This month’s column introduces a new monster that will be useful for people playing with the two newest 13th Age books, Fire & Faith and Book of Demons (as of now, both available for pre-order). The mini-adventures collected in Fire & Faith feature the same icons who are most prominent in Book of Demons: the Diabolist, Crusader, and Great Gold Wyrm, icons who are tangled with demons, one way or another.

Book of Demons includes monster stats for a number of demons, including hellhole denizens and the creatures summoned by demonologists. But as I compared the two books, I realized there’s a specific demon that appears more often than I expected: the despoiler from page 210 of the 13th Age core rulebook. Fire & Faith includes a named despoiler, Fastulii, who has a couple of special abilities and is less of a wimp in melee; but in lots of other places, Fire & Faith refers to normal despoilers and the higher-level despoiler mages.

Despoilers are an interesting monster, but why do they appear so often? I suspect it’s because they’re the only normal-sized demon spellcaster that’s presented as a generic demon. Maybe there’s room for another demon caster that might appear anywhere in your campaign rather than in a specific adventure or hellhole.

The demon caster below should also be useful when you’re running the hellhole adventures in Book of Demons. As we did for the despoiler, I’ve also provided a higher level version, since building battles is a lot easier when you have normal monsters to work with as well as large and huge creatures.

As the flavor text suggests, you should make them look like anything you wish! I think it might be more fun to have demonic spellcasters occupying a variety of forms, instead of putting them into a single mold.

Abyssal Mage

Sometimes they’re stocky and twisted little creatures, easy to overlook until they’ve set you on fire. Other times they’re tall hooded demons in flamboyant robes that mock the Empire’s arcane traditions.

5th level caster [demon]

Initiative: +8

 

Warp rod +10 vs. PD—14 damage, and teleport the abyssal blaster to a nearby location it can see

   Natural 1-5: Deal 2d6 damage to both the abyssal mage and the target, and this warp rod attack no longer teleports the mage when it hits.

 

R: Abyssal blast +10 vs. PD—14 fire damage

   Natural even hit: 1d6 ongoing fire damage per point on the escalation die when the attack hits.

   Natural 18+: The abyssal mage can make another abyssal blast as a quick action.

 

Nastier Special

Fed by fire: Add +2 to the abyssal mage’s defenses for each enemy taking ongoing fire damage.

 

AC   21

PD    19                 HP 68

MD  17

 

Greater Abyssal Mage

By now you know they’re going to look like whatever worries you most.

8th level caster [demon]

Initiative: +13

 

Warp staff +13 vs. PD—30 damage, and teleport the greater abyssal mage to a nearby location it can see

   Natural 1-5: Deal 2d12 damage to both the greater abyssal mage and the target, and this warp staff attack no longer teleports the mage when it hits.

 

R: Abyssal blast +13 vs. PD—30 fire OR negative energy damage (greater abyssal mage chooses)

   Natural even hit: 1d12 ongoing fire or ongoing negative energy damage per point on the escalation die when the attack hits.

   Natural 18+: The greater abyssal mage can make another abyssal blast as a quick action.

 

Nastier Special

Fed by calamity: Add +2 to the greater abyssal mage’s defenses for each enemy taking ongoing fire and/or negative energy damage.

Unholy pyres: Also add +1 to the defenses of other demons in the battle for each enemy taking ongoing fire and/or negative energy damage.

 

AC   24

PD    22                 HP 136

MD  20

 

The ranger is one of the simplest classes to build and play, but your choices of talents will determine what kind of ranger you are. Rangers can vary from animal-companion assisted trackers, deadly archers, to frighteningly efficient melee characters.

The ranger is a simple class, nothing flashy. Basic attacks, modified with expanding crit ranges or increasing the number of attacks possible. The first build focuses on multiple attacks, the second here on expanded crit ranges.

A third build possible involves magic (fey queen’s enchantments and ranger ex cathedra), animal companions, and ranger’s pets. This has the ranger as a magic user who supports their animal companion with spells. I’ve seen such builds work very well in the past, with a panther as the front line fighter and the ranger staying in cover and picking off enemies that try to hurt the beast.

Ranger talent clarifications

You should note two important things about the ranger’s talents. The first is that the ranger’s animal companion talent is superseded by the druid’s version found in 13 True Ways. If you only have the core book don’t worry about it, if you have both books use the updated version of the talent.

The second note about talents is a tiny wrinkle in favored enemy. Favored enemy lets us pick a race type (aberration, beast, construct, dragon, etc…) against which our attacks have an expanded crit range. Picking the humanoid type as your favored enemy is worth two talent slots instead of just one. The wrinkle comes in the adventurer-tier feat which lets us switch favored enemies during a full heal-up. What happens if you spend two talents on favored enemy to get humanoid but then switch to a non-humanoid favored enemy? The answer is that if you spend two talent slots and a feat you can get humanoid as your favored enemy and switch to two non-humanoid monster types simultaneously (dragon and ooze, beast and plant, devil and demon, etc).

Multi-attack ranger

Download the Multi-Attack Ranger character sheets here.

This ranger focuses on making as many attacks in a round as possible. It’s simple to play—attack and see if you can keep attacking.

Tactically your best bet in a fight is to get stuck in to melee, withdrawing and switching to ranged attacks when you get hurt, and returning to the fray once you’ve received some healing.

At champion tier you get access to a tiny bit of healing magic (a once per battle heal and a daily cure wounds), which you should use wisely to keep yourself and your allies in the fight. Being a ranger we’ll rename heal ‘Verdant Vitality’ and cure wounds ‘Wild Restoration’ on our character sheet.

Talents

Double Melee Attack

This talent drops damage dice down one die type (d8s become d6s, d6s become d4s), but when a melee attack roll is a natural even (hit or miss) a second melee attack is possible.

Double Ranged Attack

This is the same as double melee attack, but for ranged weapons.

Two-Weapon Mastery

This gives a +1 bonus when fighting with two melee weapons, with feats that increase miss damage and give extra attacks when enemies fumble.

Race

Wood elves’ elven grace grant extra standard actions, increasing the potential number of attacks.

Attributes

For this ranger, Dexterity is most vital, with Strength important for melee damage: Str 17 (+3) Con 12 (+1) Dex 19 (+4) Int 9 (-1) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

1st level

Attributes: Str 17 (+3) Con 12 (+1) Dex 19 (+4) Int 9 (-1) Wis 10 (+0) Cha 8 (-1)

Racial Power: elven grace

Talents: double ranged attack, double melee attack, two-weapon mastery

Feats: heritage of the sword

2nd level

New feat (two-weapon mastery).

3rd level

New feat (double melee attack).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (double ranged attack).

5th level

New talent (ranger ex cathedral: cure wounds as 5th level spell), new feat (ranger ex cathedral: heal).

6th level

New feat (double melee attack).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (elven grace), level-up spells (cure wounds).

8th level

New talent (favored enemy), new feat (double melee attack).

9th level

New feat (favored enemy), level-up spells (cure wounds).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence), new feat (favored enemy).

The ranger is one of the simplest classes to build and play, but your choices of talents will determine what kind of ranger you are. Rangers can vary from animal-companion assisted trackers, deadly archers, to frighteningly efficient melee characters.

The ranger is a simple class, nothing flashy. Basic attacks, modified with expanding crit ranges or increasing the number of attacks possible. The first build focuses on multiple attacks, the second here on expanded crit ranges.

A third build possible involves magic (fey queen’s enchantments and ranger ex cathedra), animal companions, and ranger’s pets. This has the ranger as a magic user who supports their animal companion with spells. I’ve seen such builds work very well in the past, with a panther as the front line fighter and the ranger staying in cover and picking off enemies that try to hurt the beast.

Ranger talent clarifications

You should note two important things about the ranger’s talents. The first is that the ranger’s animal companion talent is superseded by the druid’s version found in 13 True Ways. If you only have the core book don’t worry about it, if you have both books use the updated version of the talent.

The second note about talents is a tiny wrinkle in favored enemy. Favored enemy lets us pick a race type (aberration, beast, construct, dragon, etc…) against which our attacks have an expanded crit range. Picking the humanoid type as your favored enemy is worth two talent slots instead of just one. The wrinkle comes in the adventurer-tier feat which lets us switch favored enemies during a full heal-up. What happens if you spend two talents on favored enemy to get humanoid but then switch to a non-humanoid favored enemy? The answer is that if you spend two talent slots and a feat you can get humanoid as your favored enemy and switch to two non-humanoid monster types simultaneously (dragon and ooze, beast and plant, devil and demon, etc).

Easy-crit ranger

Download the Easy Crit Ranger character sheets here.

This ranger build is focused on tracking down enemies and ending them, with a crit range that can be as low as 10+, and dealing triple damage!

This tough little ranger doesn’t care what they fight with—they are equally at home with a bow or with a two-handed great-axe. No subtlety here—just devastatingly accurate attacks.

Tactics with this ranger involve looking for ways to maximize the expanded crit rang—marking favored enemies and first striking them. Keep in mind how and when the crit range expands for this ranger; critting over 50% of the time, if the right confluence of factors comes into play, rocks—the key with this character is hitting the right enemies at the right time to get the maximum crit range possible.

Talents

First Strike

Expanded crit range with opening attacks.

Lethal Hunter

Mark enemies to gain an expanded crit range.

Favored Enemy

Pick a creature type that you have an expanded crit range against. The adventurer feat lets the creature type picked to be changed, and spending a second talent lets us pick ‘humanoid’ as a monster type.

Race

The halfling’s evasive and small racial powers gives this ranger extra survivability in combat.

Attributes

For this ranger, Strength is vital for our melee attacks, with Dexterity needed for ranged attacks and Constitution for much-needed hit points.

1st level

Attributes: Str 17 (+3) Con 17 (+3) Dex 15 (+2) Int 10 (0) Wis 10 (0) Cha 8 (-1)

Racial Powers: evasive, small

Talents: first strike, lethal hunter, favored enemy

Feats: favored enemy

2nd level

New feat (lethal hunter).

3rd level

New feat (first strike).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (toughness).

5th level

New talent (favored enemy), new feat (favored enemy).

6th level

New feat (lethal hunter).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (first strike).

8th level

New talent (archery), new feat (archery).

9th level

New feat (lethal hunter).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (first strike).

THE WIZARD

By ASH LAW

Wizard Overview

The wizard is in many ways the most complex of the classes from the 13th Age core rule book. At the start of each new day you can memorize a different set of spells, so the only real things that permanently change as a wizard levels up are their feats. Wizards however do tend to have a standard set of most-likely spells, so for these builds I’m laying those out for these builds.

The wizard’s class features are cantrips (minor yet useful magic), cyclic magic (powerful magic that can be used repeatedly in battle), overworld advantage (daily spells become recharge when in the overworld), and ritual casting (cast spells as hour-long rituals for more unusual effects).

Also of note are utility spells, which are stand-ins for a host of useful effects from saving wizards from falls to talking to magic items.

Explorer Wizard

Download the Explorer Wizard character sheets here.

This wizard is built to be all about having as much utility as possible-with a spell for every occasion. Play this wizard if you like solving problems with magic, and enjoy improvising new uses for spells.

Memorizing two acid arrows a day gives this wizard a powerful attack, and magic missile grants the wizard a reliable offence, giving the explorer wizard a good core of combat spells for when things go bad.

Talents

Cantrip Mastery

Use cantrips at-will, and do unusual things with them.

High Arcana

Memorize daily spells twice, and use counter-magic to resist unfriendly spellcasters. With the feat for utility spell this gives you four uses of the spell per day if memorized using two spell slots.

Vance’s Polysyllabic Verbalizations

Change the names of spells to get extra effects from them.

Race

High elves can perform a highblood teleport, very useful to a wizard exploring dangerous places.

Attributes

Intelligence is the single most important attribute for this character, but not to the exclusion of all else: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 18 (+4) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 12 (+1).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 18 (+4) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 12 (+1).

Racial Power: highblood teleport

Talents: cantrip mastery, high arcana, vance’s polysyllabic verbalizations

Feats: utility spell

Most likely memorized spells: counter-magic 1st level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow, charm person, magic missile

2nd level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2), charm person, magic missile), new feat (magic missile).

3rd level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur, charm person, magic missile / 3rd level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2)), new feat (precise shot).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur, charm person / 3rd level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, sleep), new feat (linguist).

5th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 1st level: blur / 3rd level: hold monster, sleep, charm person, magic missile / 5th level: utility spell (x4), acid arrow (x2)), new feat (magic missile).

6th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 3rd level: hold monster, sleep / 5th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, invisibility, dimension door), new feat (utility spell).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 3rd level: sleep / 5th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility, charm person / 7th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile), new feat (linguist).

8th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 5th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility / 7th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, blink, flight), new feat (magic missile).

9th level

Most likely spells (counter-magic 5th level: invisibility / 7th level: blink, flight, haste, fireball, dimension door / 9th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person), new feat (further backgrounding).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (counter-magic 7th level: dimension door, fireball, invisibility / 9th level: utility spell (x6), acid arrow (x2), magic missile, charm person, teleport (x2), blink), new feat (further backgrounding).

THE WIZARD

by ASH LAW

Wizard Overview

The wizard is in many ways the most complicated of the classes from the 13th Age core rule book. At the start of each new day you can memorize a different set of spells, so the only real things that permanently change as a wizard levels up are their feats. Wizards however do tend to have a standard set of most-likely spells, so for these builds I’m laying those out for these builds.

The wizard’s class features are cantrips (minor yet useful magic), cyclic magic (powerful magic that can be used repeatedly in battle), overworld advantage (daily spells become recharge when in the overworld), and ritual casting (cast spells as hour-long rituals for more unusual effects).

Also of note are utility spells, which are stand-ins for a host of useful effects from saving wizards from falls to talking to magic items.

War Wizard

Download the War Wizard character sheets here.

This wizard makes things go boom!

OK, this wizard also has many options for how to make something go boom, but the build is focused solely on high damage output and showy spells. No utility spells here, just lots of daily damage-dealing power (of course with the wizard’s ability to swap out spells a player who finds their wizard regularly going down can swap out attack spells for more defensive ones).

On the downside, this build sacrifices protection and durability for aw firepower (though taking the toughness feat and the abjuration talent helps somewhat), making teamwork vital if you want to last long in a fight with this ‘glass canon’… though with the amount of damage you deal, fights tend to end quickly!

Talents

Abjuration

When you cast a daily spell, you gain a bonus to your defenses.

Evocation

Once per battle max out the damage on a spell that targets PD.

Wizard’s Familiar

A raven (with the abilities scout and flight)

Race

Humans with their quick to fight racial power and extra feat make great battle wizards.

Attributes

This glass canon has a focus on intelligence: Str 10 (0) Con 14 (+2) Dex 10 (0) Int 20 (+5) Wis 10 (0) Cha 10 (0).

1st level

Attributes: Str 10 (0) Con 14 (+2) Dex 10 (0) Int 20 (+5) Wis 10 (0) Cha 10 (0).

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: abjuration, evocation, wizard’s familiar

Feats: abjuration, ray of frost

Most likely memorized spells: 1st level: acid arrow, ray of frost, color spray, shocking grasp, shield

2nd level

Most likely spells (1st level: acid arrow, ray of frost, color spray, shocking grasp, shield, magic missile), new feat (toughness).

3rd level

Most likely spells (1st level: blur, color spray, magic missile / 3rd level: ray of frost, force salvo, crescendo, lightning bolt), new feat (force salvo).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (1st level: blur, magic missile / 3rd level: teleport shield, ray of frost, force salvo, crescendo, lightning bolt, confusion), new feat (linguist).

5th level

Most likely spells (1st level: magic missile / 3rd level: crescendo, lightning bolt, teleport shield, confusion / 5th level: fireball, acid arrow, ray of frost, force salvo), new feat (fireball).

6th level

Most likely spells (3rd level: blur, magic missile / 5th level: crescendo, lightning bolt, teleport shield, confusion, fireball, acid arrow, ray of frost, force salvo), new feat (evocation).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (3rd level: magic missile / 5th level: crescendo, lightning bolt, acid arrow, force salvo / 7th level: fireball, ray of frost, overcome resistance, teleport shield, confusion), new feat (abjuration).

8th level

Most likely spells (5th level: magic missile, crescendo, lightning bolt / 7th level: flight, overcome resistance, acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, teleport shield, confusion), new feat (fireball).

9th level

Most likely spells (5th level: magic missile, / 7th level: lightning bolt, flight, overcome resistance, teleport shield, confusion / 9th level: acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, disintegrate, meteor swarm), new feat (abjuration).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence), most likely spells (7th level: blur, teleport shield, confusion / 9th level: lightning bolt, flight, overcome resistance, acid arrow, force salvo, fireball, ray of frost, disintegrate, meteor swarm), new feat (ray of frost).

[Author Roland Rogers is a 13-year-old 13th Age player whose One Unique Thing is that he Knows All the Monsters. ]

Do you want to annoy your GM?

Do you want to never be hit by any attack?

Do you want to always get the most out of your most useful spells?

Do you want your teammates to always get the most out of their attacks?

Do you want to never miss?

Look no further.

Use these abilities that cause or force rerolls or allow another attack. The page references are in brackets.

Core Book

Lethal – Half-orc racial power (65)

Once per battle, reroll a melee attack and choose the preferred roll

 

Evasive – Halfling racial power (70)

Once per battle, force an enemy that hits you with an attack to reroll the attack with a -2 penalty

 

Justice or Vengeance – Cleric domain (95)

When an enemy scores a critical hit on you or one of your allies, you gain an attack reroll blessing to give to a nearby ally. They can use it to reroll an attack this battle.

 

Trickery or Illusion – Cleric domain (97)

Once per battle as a quick action roll a d20. This is your trick die. You can change an ally or enemy’s natural attack roll to the result of the trick die

 

Hammer of faith – Cleric spell (98)

Once during the battle when this spell is active, reroll a basic melee attack and keep the result

 

Prayer for readiness – Cleric spell (101)

5 nearby allies gain a blessing. Later during the battle, any targeted ally can use the blessing to reroll a missed attack

 

Comeback strike – Fighter talent (105)

Once per battle when you miss a fighter attack, make another attack with a -2 penalty

 

Hack & Slash – Fighter Maneuver (108)

When you get a natural even roll, and the escalation die is 2+, make a second melee weapon attack against a second target.

 

Spinning charge – Fighter Maneuver (109)

When you move before you attack and roll a natural even hit, then after dealing damage you can pop free from the target, move to a different enemy and make a basic melee attack against that enemy

 

Swift dodge – Rogue power (130)

Requires momentum – if you are hit by an attack against AC you can make the attacker reroll the attack

 

Assassin’s gambit – Rogue power (131)

Make a melee attack dealing half damage, and if you kill the enemy then you can make another attack

 

13 True Ways

Try again – Commander command (36)

Let an ally reroll an attack, but they must keep the reroll

Timely mistake – Occultist spell (108)

When an enemy hits you or one of your allies with a natural roll, you can make them reroll the attack and take the lower result

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The soon-to-arrive 13th Age Glorantha (13G) book from Moon Design is more than 6/8ths of the way through layout. I’ll share some monster conversion notes from Glorantha to the Dragon Empire when the layout is complete and the book is available to order on BackerKit.

For now, let’s look at a couple of mechanical elements in 13G that could have a place in core 13A games. We’ll start with a small mechanical wrinkle, and finish with a new play-style.

Battle healing

Compared to the core 13A environment, there’s a lot less healing available mid-fight at most 13G tables. Characters can still rally, and many classes have abilities that let them recover hit points once or twice, but there aren’t any focused healing classes. There’s no cleric, and even the earth priestess is more likely to occasionally heal heroes who are fighting well rather than getting themselves badly cut up.

Instead of mid-combat healing spells (which is how some other Gloranthan RPGs have handled it), we opted to let an action called ‘battle healing’ give characters a chance to help fallen allies get back into the fight. Depending on your character, the action can represent anything from performing minor magic to kicking your ‘friend’ until they get up and fight!

If you end up playing a 13A campaign with no cleric, no druid, no healer-identified-healer, you should consider borrowing the 13G battle healing rules as an alternative to loading the PCs down with healing potions.

At present, I suspect that combining battle healing rules with the type of ready healing that comes from having a cleric in the party may be too much of a good-healing thing. However, as a one-time dramatic event, particularly in combination with icon relationship advantages, it could be a good way to balance a ridiculously nasty-special battle.

Myth-crawling

Heroquesting is a powerful element in the lives of Gloranthan characters, who enter the otherworld to defend the cosmos and gain personal power by recreating the mythic actions of their gods. Chapter 7 of 13G has detailed rules for creating new heroquests—including heroquests for lost and broken myths where things didn’t go so well for your gods, and you need to do better!

The Dragon Empire isn’t usually about the gods. But it is all about the icons! And given that the Dragon Empire has had 12 previous ages, each of which has presumably had its own ascendant and teetering icons, well, it’s easy enough to adapt the mechanics of heroquesting as ritual adventures that quest back into previous ages. In the Dragon Empire, I’d call this style of adventuring mythcrawling, keeping it distinct from heroquesting.

The book I’m developing now, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of Ages, has many examples of ascendant and teetering icons, spread through example ages that GMs are meant to adapt and blend as they choose. I’m not going to add mythcrawl notes everywhere in the book, but I’ll  have a couple of examples in sidebars to complement Gareth’s notes on time travel and resurgent histories.

For a more detailed introduction of this idea, and a Dragon Empire example that I wrote back in 2014, see Heroquesting the Dragon Empire. It has taken awhile, but it’s nice to see that most of what I wrote about heroquesting/mythcrawling as 13G was starting still plays true.

by Mike Shea

We live in a marvelous time for tabletop roleplaying games. Over the past ten years we’ve seen an explosion of wonderful game systems, each bringing a unique take to this hobby we love. We gamemasters can learn a lot by reading, and even playing, as many different RPGs as we can. We can find all sorts of ideas to bring back to our RPG of choice and—who knows—might even find ourselves regularly playing a variety of systems instead of just one. While most RPG players are familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, these other systems bring a unique take on the worlds they help us create.

13th Age is one such system. Its designers took their own vast experience building previous versions of D&D, and refined them into a system they thought would bring the most fun to the game.

Their philosophy diverged from the philosophy of the designers of the fifth edition of D&D, which carries the torch of a 40-year history. 13th Age is not bound by any such history, and thus Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo were free to build the d20 system of their dreams: their love letter to D&D.

With the increasing popularity of 5th edition, more new players and GMs are entering the hobby. This article delves into the ways 13th Age differs from 5e, and the distinctive features that 13th Age brings to the table. These features include:

  • A focus on superheroic fantasy
  • Character relationships with the Icons—the great powers of the world
  • Open backgrounds and “one unique things” that tie characters to the world
  • Escalating power across 10 levels of play
  • Two-dimensional monster design
  • Abstract combat mechanics which are perfect for narrative battles

As GMs, we grow by taking in new experiences and adding them to our previous knowledge. Trying out new game systems is one way to engage in these new experiences. We have no edition wars here: We play no favorites. With such a wide and rich variety of RPGs, we can try many of them out, learn from each of them, steal features we like, and focus on the one that best fits our needs.

So what can 5th edition DMs and players expect from 13th Age? Let’s have a look.

Superheroic Fantasy

At lower levels, D&D 5e focuses on the gritty and realistic feeling of local heroes growing up. Adventurers begin as careful explorers of a large and dangerous world. As they gain experience, their power grows—but not until the highest levels do they begin to change the world around them.

In 13th Age, the characters are powerful and unique beings at the moment of their creation. They aren’t just heroes, they’re superheroes. We can see this both in the mechanics of the game (such as a character’s high initial hit points) and in the flavor of the game (such as defining each character by their One Unique Thing that defines them in the world). As 13th Age characters gain levels, their power grows steeply. They become even more superheroic, roaring across the lands and venturing into the depths of living dungeons.

The world in 13th Age, the Dragon Empire, is as superheroic as the characters. The world is a flat disk, with the overworld of flying cities above and the Abyss below. The lands are scarred by hellholes, and trod by beasts as big as cities.

From the very beginning, 13th Age dives into the deep end of high adventure.

The Icons

Most fantasy RPG settings have higher powers, whose agendas and conflicts provide the background for adventures. In D&D, this usually takes the form of a pantheon of gods and demigods, either good or evil (or a bit of both). 13th Age focuses instead on the icons.

These powerful beings, such as the Prince of Shadows, the Elf Queen, the Orc Lord, and the Crusader, rule over the Dragon Empire. They are the movers and shakers in the world. Though mortal, they are rarely threatened in battle. They’re not boss monsters: they’re the moving pillars of the world. The web that lies between the Icons (there are 13 of them in the Dragon Empire) binds the world and weaves the player characters into it, for good and ill.

During character creation, the players decide which icons their character is connected to and whether those connections are positive, negative, or conflicted. The characters may not be powerful at 1st level, but they are important. They are are significant players in, and help define, the larger power struggles of the world.

In addition to signaling to the GM what the players want from the campaign (Lots of magic? Battles with orcs? Heists and intrigue?), the icon mechanics help drive the improvisational aspects of 13th Age, something that the game heavily embraces. At the beginning of each session, the players roll 1d6 for each icon relationship. 1 to 4 mean nothing. 6s offer some advantage to the character based on that relationship. 5s also give an advantage but with some complication.

Backgrounds and the One Unique Thing

In the 5th edition of D&D, characters are defined by their race, class, background, traits, and skills. Race and class selections in 13th Age will feel familiar, but 13th Age combines the aspects of skills and backgrounds into a larger character background feature.

Players create their characters’ backgrounds themselves: there is no pre-existing list of backgrounds to choose from. These backgrounds further define and refine the character and their place in the world. A player invents a number of relevant backgrounds for their character (usually two or three) and assigns eight points among them, with no more than five in any one background.

Whenever a character in 13th Age attempts something that would require a skill check, the player rolls and adds their attribute bonus. If they have a background relevant to the situation, they can add the points they have allocated to that background.

The open-ended nature of these backgrounds help players define their characters’ role in the world. Instead of “Sage”, a player may define part of the world with a background like “former sage of the Crusader’s inquisition, now on the run”.

Example: A paladin with the +3 background “Student in the Hidden Monastery of the Great Gold Wyrm” has to cross a tightrope across a pit. The paladin’s player says to the GM, “The monastery I trained in as a youth sits on a mountain cliffside, and all the buildings are only connected by tightropes. So I’m really good at walking tightropes.” The GM agrees that the +3 bonus applies to this skill check, and quietly writes a note to herself, “Future adventure: party goes to the hidden monastery, has awesome battle on tightropes.”

13th Age characters are further defined by their “one unique thing”. This trait sets their character apart from everyone else in the world. This can be something relatively personal like, “is guided by three ghost witches only she can see” or something larger in scope like, “is the only person in the world who can hear the laments of the Koru”. Like backgrounds, these unique features help the player define parts of the world beyond the bounds of the character sheet.

Abstract Combat

Though we can play the fifth edition of D&D without a map or miniatures, the distances, ranges, and areas of effect in D&D are defined in five foot increments. For this reason, many players and GMs choose to play D&D on a gridded battle map, with each square accounting for five feet of distance.

13th Age ignores fixed distances and instead talks about distances in abstract terms such as “nearby”, “far away”, “grouped”, and “engaged”. While we can play 13th Age with physical maps and miniatures, these abstract distances let us ignore individual squares and focus on the big movements and motions of the characters. These abstract distances still have mechanical effects in the game, such as a fireball being able to hit 1d3 nearby enemies in a group (or 2d3 enemies if you’re willing to hit your friends!).

Because of these abstracted distances, it’s as easy to run a 13th Age battle completely in the “theater of the mind” as it is with miniatures and a map. It also means we don’t have to worry about the small details of things like positioning and specific movement, and can focus on the high fantasy and superheroic action that’s central to 13th Age. Players and GMs who enjoy a map and miniatures can still use them with 13th Age, but we are no longer bound to the squares on those maps. Only relative distances matter.

For players and GMs used to running games on a gridded battle map, this can take some getting used to but it’s worth the effort. Battles in 13th Age feel less like chess and more like an explosive action movie.

Flat Versus Escalating Math

13th Age embraces the drive of superheroic fantasy in the game’s mechanics as well as its story. Those familiar with D&D 5e’s character growth recognize that the statistics of characters grow on a shallow curve (often called “flat math”). Armor classes are set by the armor of the character and don’t increase with the character’s level. A character’s attack bonus does go up with level, but slowly.

In 13th Age, a character’s power grows steeply from level to level. 13th Age only has ten levels but each level feels like two levels of growth in D&D. A 10th level character in 13th Age is roughly equivalent to a 20th level character in D&D 5e.

Not only do attack bonuses, saving throws, and armor classes go up as a character levels but the amount of damage dice a character uses on attacks also increases. Fifth level fighters roll five dice worth of damage on each attack. High level characters roll huge handfuls of dice on attacks, dishing out triple digits of damage. (Although at higher levels of play, to speed things up the rulebook recommends averaging some or all of the damage dice instead of rolling all of them.)

This steep curve once again reinforces the superheroic feeling of 13th Age.

Two Dimensional Monster Design

The monster design in 13th Age follows a design similar to the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons (but don’t let that scare you away if you weren’t a fan of 4e). Monsters not only have levels, but also sizes or strengths independent of level. These sizes and strengths include mooks, normal monsters, double strength (or large monsters), and triple strength (or huge monsters). These sizes and strengths mean that a level 4 triple strength monster is roughly equivalent to three level 4 characters. This two-dimensional monster design makes it much easier to build “balanced” encounters to challenge a group. A simple chart gives us a gauge of how many monsters of what types will balance well for a party at a given level.

Monsters in 13th Age use static damage instead of rolling dice, which may seem odd at first but becomes totally natural. Like characters, they also scale significantly in power as they level. The balor, for example, dishes out a whopping 160 damage on a single hit with its lightning sword.

Nearly all monsters also have attacks or powers that are triggered by dice results and other circumstances in the battle. For example, here are the balor’s attacks:

Abyssal blade +18 vs. AC—160 damage

Natural even hit: The balor deals +1d20 lightning damage to the target and to one other nearby enemy of the balor’s choice. Then repeat that damage roll against the targets once for each point on the escalation die (so if it’s 4, that’s four more d20 rolls)

Natural even miss: 80 damage.

C: Flaming whip +18 vs. PD (one nearby enemy)—50 fire damage, and the target is pulled to the balor, who engages it.

Natural even miss: 25 fire damage.

Limited use: 1/round, as a quick action.

Because each monster is “scripted” to take action on random die results, they’re capable of surprising both the players and the GM.

A Differentiated Game of High Fantasy

Unbound from the need to embrace the elements of traditional fantasy RPGs, 13th Age gives us an RPG that thrusts us deep into high fantasy. Our characters are big and bold. They’re unique actors in a unique world torn by the forces who rule over it. 13th Age is a world of hellholes and living dungeons. It is a world of floating cities and underground labyrinths. The game system itself embraces this superheroic fantasy with bold mechanics that handwave common wargaming details and thrusts its players into the actions of our limitless imaginations.

I love 13th Age. I also love 5th edition D&D. These games are not mutually exclusive. We can love many roleplaying game systems and each one gives us things we can use in the others. In a single volume, 13th Age gives us a beautiful system of high fantasy roleplaying that every GM should try. Whatever system you prefer, you’re sure to find ideas in 13th Age you can use in any system. And who knows? It just might become your system of choice.

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 The Lazy Dungeon Master and Sly Flourish’s Fantastic Locations. Mike lives in Vienna, Virginia with his gamer wife Michelle and their dire worg Jebu.

by Rob Heinsoo

One of the great touches that Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan added to the unique hellholes he created for the upcoming Book of Demons is a customized random demon ability table for each hellhole. While developing the book, I realized that Gareth’s work was pointing to something that has bothered me for a while: I’m not fond of the way I designed the original Random Demon Abilities Table (13th Age core rulebook, page 209). My problem with the table I wrote for the core book is that several of the abilities it generates don’t often make the game more fun. A couple of the abilities (true seeing, resist fire) are irrelevant in many battles. Another ability, gating in a lower level demon, is interesting (and highly traditional!), but adding another lower level enemy to a fight interferes with pacing and may not warrant the trouble.

There are still times I’ll use the original table, but I’m more likely to use one of Gar’s customized tables or the new table I’ve added to the monster-stats section of Book of Demons. Here’s the new table.

There’s a bit more commentary on sources of random demon abilities and using the new table in the book. As you’ll see, the point of these new abilities is that they’re most always capable of having some form of impact on a battle. In one case, that impact could even be on future sessions.

New Random Demon Abilities (d6 or d8)

1: Deathwish—The demon takes a –2 penalty to all defenses and gains a +3 attack bonus.

2: Entropic warp—When an enemy deals miss damage to the demon, that enemy also takes half that amount of damage.

3: Bad ending—While staggered, the demon gains a +2 bonus with its attacks.

4: Big hate: Each battle, the demon gains a +4 attack bonus until the end of the battle against the first enemy that hits it with an attack.

5: Loophole—When the demon starts its turn with 10 hit points or fewer, it can teleport out of the battle as a move action. If it does it will return to face the PCs soon. Add the full-strength demon to an upcoming battle as a nasty complication to an upcoming battle, having it teleport in during the first or second round of combat. (Champion tier: 25 hp or fewer; epic tier: 50 hp or fewer).

6: Teleport 1d3 times each battle—As a move action, the demon can teleport anywhere it can see nearby.

7: Demonic speed—The demon can take an extra action each turn while the escalation die is 4+.                                                                                                                                                             

8: Theft of fate—At the start of each round, the demon rolls a hard save. If the save succeeds, it steals the escalation die that round, adding the escalation die to its own attacks but preventing the PCs from adding the die to their attacks.

 

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