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 Rob Heinsoo

Apologies from the garage-sanctum, but I’m pushing on three 13th Age deadlines for the end of the month so today’s column is another scoop from the archives.

Before 13th Age was published, Jonathan ran a campaign in which the PCs gained a level between every session. Actually it was a campaign I started as a regular campaign, and after a couple sessions Jonathan took over, renamed it, and pushed the pace.

Jonathan called it the Lethal Damage campaign. As a file of old notes and quotes indicates, we players were fond of starting sessions by asking “When does this Lethal Damage campaign begin?” Goading the GM is the way we roll. This was the campaign that created many of the examples and illustrations in the core book. So today I’m mining for one-liners I’d forgotten, notes that were interesting enough to bring back for a second look.

 

“Beware, there ees no such think as ‘elf.’ So no is ‘Elf Queen,’ best to call her Light-Elf-Gray-Elf-Silver-Folk-All-Hatink-Each-Other-Queen. The only think that two elf race agree on ees how to keel third race. Thees I remember.”

—opening quote from Paul Hughes’ PC, a fallen hero of an earlier age named Ferrek

 

Don’t bring a knife to a gargoyle fight.

–other PCs, to Honeybottom the rogue

 

“When a troll and a derro like each other very much . . .”

“It’s a droll.”

 

The Archmage salute is a glowing silver flame flaring above a raised index finger!

I really like this throwaway line from a campaign in which the Archmage’s lieutenants turned out to be the major villains. I’m using it in my next game, especially with the idea that the equivalent of a macho-handshake is making your flame flare eye-numbingly bright.

THE BARD

By ASH LAW

In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.

This time, we look at two different takes on the Bard.

INCANTER BARD

Download the Incanter Bard character sheets here.

This bard plays to their ability to learn a little bit of everything magical—it’s ideal for smaller 2-3 person parties who need to cover their bases.

As befits a wandering ‘incanter’ your bardic magic includes bits you’ve learned here and there: you’ll start with a wizard’s utility spell, at champion tier you get access to a cleric’s mighty healing, and at epic tier you pick up a sorcerer’s stolen faces spell. Rather than use melee attacks to trigger your battle cries, you use your battle chant spell instead.

At lower levels you benefit from having access to cantrips and utility spells, but rely on your battle cries for healing party members. Once you hit champion tier you get a some powerful daily cleric healing to aid the party.

Your bard is more flexible than a wizard or cleric, but is not as an effective artillery piece as the wizard nor quite as good at healing as a dedicated healer cleric. What you are good at is pivoting from one role to another.

You aren’t a front-line fighter, stand at the back and befuddle and battle chant your enemies from a distance.

Talents

Jack of Spells

Pick up spells from other classes, and use Intelligence to cast those spells.

Loremaster

Use Intelligence for elements of the bardic class rather than Charisma, and have an extra two points to put in backgrounds related to magic.

Storyteller

Tell a story to reroll icon dice.

Race

Humans get an extra feat, which we’ll use to enhance the healing from our pull it together battle cry. The war-like humans also get quick to fight, letting us roll twice for initiative.

Attributes

For this scholarly bard being smart is very important—other attributes make way for Intelligence: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 12 (+1) Int 20 (+5) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 12 (+1).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 12 (+1) Int 20 (+5) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 12 (+1)

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: jack of spells, loremaster, storyteller

Feats: jack of spells, pull it together

Spells & Songs: battle chant, song of heroes, utility spell (disguise self, featherfall, hold portal), cantrips (arcane mark ghost sound, mage hand)

Battle cries: move it! pull it together!

2nd level

New spell (befuddle), new feat (battle chant).

3rd level

New spell (charm person), new utility spells (levitate, message, speak with item), new battle cry (we need you!), level-up spells (battle chant, befuddle, utility spell), new feat (befuddle).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence), new spell (soundburst), all spells now 3rd level, new feat (soundburst).

5th level

New spells (discombobulate, mighty healing), new utility spell (water breathing), level-up spells (utility spell, battle chant), new feat (jack of spells).

6th level

New battle cry (victory is ours!), all spells now 5th level, new feat (victory is ours!).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence), new spell (overworld two-step), new utility spell (scrying), level-up spells (utility spell, mighty healing, battle chant, befuddle), new feat (battlechant).

8th level

New spell (stolen faces, dancing lights cantrip), new battle cry (they fall before us!), all spells now 7th level, new feat (jack of spells).

9th level

New spell (inspire legends), level-up spells (utility spell, mighty healing, stolen faces, battle chant, befuddle), new feat (battlechant).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Wisdom, Charisma), new battle cry (the time is now!), all spells now 9th level, new feat (the time is now!).

 

Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons is the final volume in the Battle Scenes Series.

The Battle Scenes books are independent collections of icon-themed encounters for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game  at all levels of play, packed with dangerous hand-picked foes on terrifying terrain.

Less Prep, More Play!

Chase the Diabolist’s Circus of Hell cross the Dragon Empire! Fight your way through the nightmare dreamscape of a sleeping gold dragon! Ride with the Crusader to assault a hellhole! Ascend the Cathedral to battle cosmic foes amidst its mind-bending geometry!

Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons has 36 challenging and memorable icon-themed battles against enemies connected to the Crusader, Priestess, Great Gold Wyrm, and Diabolist. Drop these fights into your game at every tier of play, from adventurer to epic, and bring them to life with gorgeous maps by our expert cartographers.

Fire & Faith gives you:

  • New NPCs and monsters whose icon connections make them meaningful opponents for your PCs
  • Traps and terrain to provide deadly hazards and opportunities for clever tactics
  • Adventure hooks that offer a variety of entry points for each set of battles
  • Storylines that link each battle to the ones that come after, taking the PCs from one full heal-up to the next – with room to expand on these stories to fill multiple sessions of gameplay.

With Fire & Faith, your players will find themselves on an unforgettable journey to adventure.

The enemy awaits. Are your heroes ready?

 

Stock #: TBC Author: Cal Moore
Artwork: Rich Longmore, Alicia Vogel Developer: Rob Heinsoo
Cartographers: Gill Pearce. Ralf Schemmann, Christina Trani Type: Monochrome perfect bound book

Forthcoming  Estimated August 2017

Fallen Icons – the Gold King

Three of our new epic-tier monsters in the 13th Age Bestiary 2 were once icons. The Gold King, Forest that Walks, and the Great Ghoul have new game mechanics that model the fact that even fallen icons are much harder to dislodge from reality that normal monsters.  The defeat of a fallen icon is a campaign in itself – and what a final battle! The Gold King in the Bestiary 2 has an array of followers and a selection of origin stories. In this excerpt, we get straight to the meat – the Gold King his almighty self, and the campaign victories you need to have a chance of defeating him.

The Gold King

The Dwarf King of a previous age led every man, woman, and child from Underhome to a promised greater fortune, deep in the underworld. All perished, but the fallen icon and undead remnants of its greed survived.

Triple-strength 13th level spoiler [aberration] Initiative: +18

Hammer of golden sovereignty +18 vs. AC (up to 3 enemies)
—90 damage

  Natural Even Hit: The target pops free and takes extra damage equal to the attack roll
  First natural even miss each round if targeting one or two enemies: The Gold King makes another   hammer of  golden sovereignty attack against the enemy it missed.

C: Behind the mask +18 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—160 psychic damage and the target is
weakened (save ends).
Miss: 80 psychic damage and the target is weakened until the end of it’s next turn.

[Special trigger] C: Golden greed +18 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—The target is confused (save ends)
Limited use: When a nearby enemy uses the magic item power of an epic tier item, the Gold
King may make a golden greed attack against 1d4 other nearby enemies as a free action. (It’s possible the PCs should have some warning, for example, a magic item might be too-eagerly wheedling to be used. Or maybe you’d rather teach lessons the hard way.)
The mask slips: When first staggered, the Gold King makes a behind the mask attack against the   enemy that caused the triggering damage as a free action.
The wandering king: The Gold King can deal 4d6 damage to itself and teleport someplace it can see nearby as a move action.

Sticks and rags: The Gold King has resist 16+ to attacks not made with epic-tier magical   weapons, implements, or bracers. Enemies not wearing epic-tier magical armor are vulnerable to its hammer of golden sovereignty attacks (that’s right—eschewing magic items makes it easier to defeat the minions of the Gold King, but harder to beat the King itself).

Even worse:  When the escalation die is even, the Gold King rolls 2d20 instead of 1d20 and uses the higher result whenever it attacks or rolls a save.

Fallen icon: The Gold King is no longer an icon, but it still possesses magical bonds with reality that make it difficult to destroy. See the Campaign Impact section immediately following the Gold King’s stat block for ways in which significant campaign victories can make the Gold King easier to defeat. (To be clear: if the PCs don’t achieve any of these campaign victories, the Gold King will be difficult or perhaps even impossible to destroy.)

Compel fealty:  An epic-tier dwarf, forgeborn, or human slain by the Gold King will arise at the end of the battle as a bronze kingsguard, loyal gatherer, or royal bearer—whichever seems most appropriate.

Eternal kingdom:  If the Gold King is slain, the GM secretly rolls a normal save (11+) at the end of each session, including this one. If the save succeeds, the Gold King returns to life in one of its secret treasure rooms deep in the underworld. If the campaign somehow ends while the Gold King is still dead, it’s the GM’s call whether the Gold King stays dead or rises after the events of the campaign.
Nastier Specials
Fealty owed: Human, dwarf, and forgeborn characters may not use their racial power until the escalation die reaches 4 or higher, and not when engaged with the Gold King (so standard humans are simply out of luck).

Fealty shown: The first time each round an attack would reduce the Gold King to zero hit points   or less, it instead damages the closest nearby loyal gatherer. If these have all been destroyed,   the attack damages the closest nearby royal bearer, then finally the closest bronze kingsguard. If these have all been destroyed, the Gold King is reduced to zero hit points—but see long live the king below.

Long Live the King: When the Gold King is finally defeated, nothing remains but a featureless   gold mask that wants to be picked up.  This mask makes a golden greed attack against each enemy in the battle as a free action. The save to end the confusion from this attack is a hard save, with confused targets violently fighting over the mask. When no targets are confused, the mask crumbles into dust. (If one PC slays the others while confused, they’re probably going to put on the mask.)

AC 30
PD 27           HP 1200
MD 27

Campaign Impact

The wrong way to defeat the Gold King is to treat it as just another monster—one-fight-and-we-got-this is not likely to work against a fallen icon. The right way to defeat the Gold King is to dedicate yourself to destroying the pieces of reality that help it sustain its power.

The list that follows details a number of campaign victories that the PCs might achieve before confronting the Gold King itself. Alternatively, they may fight the Gold King once before achieving any of these wins, only to realize that they’re going to need to destroy the Gold King’s heritage before they can complete the fallen icon’s destruction.

His Armor Clatters About Him

The player characters can achieve the campaign victories listed in the next section in any order, but successive victories remove the Gold King’s abilities one at a time, in the following order:

First PC campaign victory: Remove the Gold King’s eternal kingdom ability.

Second PC campaign victory: Remove even worse, and ignore any nastier specials even if you are a nasty GM.

Third PC campaign victory: Reduce the Gold King’s defenses by 2.

Fourth PC campaign victory: Remove the wandering king.

Campaign Victories Vs. The Gold King

The possible victories below could be modified or added-to to suit your campaign. If your campaign has heavily featured the Dwarf King, the PCs may have been delving for one or more of these victories in previous tiers.

Reclaim Underhome: The dwarves return to Underhome, probably led by the PCs, because the NPCs of the world aren’t going to manage it, not even the Dwarf King himself. This goal need not require long-term success, but if the dwarves have already been kicked out again, well, the victory isn’t valid anymore, is it?

The Extremely Generous Dwarf King: To prove that the Dwarf King is not like his terrible golden predecessor, the PCs must have lived their lives well enough that the Dwarf King has willingly gifted an epic tier true magic item to each PC that is a half-orc, elf, forgeborn, or that has at least one positive or conflicted icon relationship point with the Orc Lord or the Prince of Shadows. A character with some peculiarly anti-dwarf One Unique Thing would also qualify as requiring a gift. If there’s only PC who qualifies for such a gift, it needs to be a Really Big Deal. Obviously if there are no PCs who qualify as recipients of extreme generosity, this campaign victory isn’t available.

Artifact Side Quest: Find the legendary trapped treasure room of the Gold King that all those other seekers have been after and liberate its chief treasure, an artifact belonging to an icon that the PCs are probably friendly with and the Dwarf King may not be. This is a mission that can fail, since the consequences aren’t necessarily lethal, so the odds should be against the heroes.

Iconic Altruism: Several allies or loved ones of an icon have fallen to the Gold King. This icon wants the bodies of their friends returned for a proper ceremony, or maybe even dicey resurrection, depending on the icon. Can the PCs find and defeat the icon’s allies, now transformed into the Gold King’s servitors? Can they do it in a way that preserves enough of the bodies to convince the icon that these really are their friends? Will they have to quest farther to find the friends’ identifying treasures? Just how many quests is this going to take? Can the PCs stay true and return these awesome magic items to the icon, instead of giving in to greed themselves?

Two Time Winners: Drop the Gold King to 0 hit points in two different battles. Eventually, piling the hurt on the fallen icon has an impact.

by Rob Heinsoo

When we wrote the 13th Age core book, Jonathan and I traded off writing Chapter 8: The Dragon Empire. I got the chapter rolling with a big rush of ideas I’d always wanted to use in a fantasy campaign. Jonathan added many sections, then I rolled back through to finish the chapter off.

All of that is to explain why I don’t know which of us wrote the following section, which got cut during layout because of space. The phrasing makes me think that it was Jonathan, with me revising; but that may just be a case of how we mimic each other’s style when we write together.

Not only do I not know which one of us wrote it, for years I didn’t remember that we’d cut this piece out of the book! I would have put it into 13 True Ways if I’d realized it had been knocked out of the core book during construction. I’ve told multiple groups the story, thinking that I was just repeating stuff they’d already read.

Touching up the entry for this post, I noticed that “Builder’s Dreams” apparently misplaces its possessive apostrophe—the highway had multiple builders, so why the singular? But I think that was originally intentional: a hint that there may have been a singular builder, one whose dreams are not dreams you want to share.

Builder’s Dreams

Part of the magic of the great Imperial Highways is that no one feels comfortable living too close to them. Inns, towns, and buildings of all sorts (other than temporary shelters from the weather) are almost always constructed at least 100 yards or more from the road.

Travelers who sleep too close to the highways often have problems with dreams. The dreams of the original road builders haunt the highway stones. The dreams won’t touch you if you’re awake. But anyone who sleeps too near the road can count on nightmares, terrible sleep, and a gradual degradation of their faculties.

Such dreams and disrupted sleep isn’t something that has game mechanics effects after a night or a week, but the effects could be a problem after two weeks. People say that the Lich King has no power over these dreams. It might even be true.

The innkeepers near Horizon and Santa Cora show off the strength of their warding spells by setting up closer to the road than inns built in less magically skilled areas.

THE BARBARIAN

By ASH LAW

In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.

This time, we look at two different takes on the Barbarian. The Furious Barbarian is here.

UNSTOPPABLE BARBARIAN

Download the Unstoppable Barbarian character sheets here.

 

This barbarian build focuses on staying power in a battle, staying upright when other barbarians would fall. Mid-battle self-healing and improved recovery dice together with the toughness feat mean that this barbarian keeps on ticking while butt-kicking.

This barbarian’s focus in battle is on single foes, toe-to-toe combat against the tougher foes while leaving mobs of mooks to be cleared by any magic-users in the group. The slayer attack triggers when you charge into battle with a staggered enemy that you were not previously engaged with, so you will best serve your allies by swooping in and finishing off tough enemies that they are bogged down with (in other words this build is a ‘kill stealer’).

While not exactly fragile, barbarians always benefit from the attentions of allies who can either increase their ability to harm enemies, or to shrug off damage. Remind your fellow players that you are their front-line fighter, and that it is in their interests to heal you so that they don’t have to go toe-to-toe with the big-bads themselves.

Of course this build is less fragile than the ‘frenzy barbarian’ build, as it benefits from its unstoppable mid-battle healing. Stack unstoppable’s hit-to-heal with slayer’s bonus to attack and barbaric rage’s roll-twice-to-hit for maximum damage attacks with healing on the side.

This barbarian uses a shield and a battleaxe, losing a bit of damage output in exchange for an increase in AC (hopefully this barbarian will find a magical shield and get an increase in hit points).

Talents

Slayer

Slayer increases your damage against staggered enemies.

Strongheart

Strongheart improves your recovery dice.

Unstoppable

Unstoppable lets you heal mid-combat, provided you hit with an attack (preferably yelling “I’m unstoppable!” before making the roll).

Race

Dwarf, short and angry, and with the is that your best shot? racial power it makes for a surprisingly persistent barbarian—which is exactly what we are looking for with this build.

Attributes

Constitution is the most important attribute for this barbarian, followed by Strength. Str 18 (+4) Con 20 (+5) Dex 10 (+0) Int 8 (-1) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 8 (-1)

1st level

Attributes: Str 18 (+4) Con 20 (+5) Dex 10 (+0) Int 8 (-1) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 8 (-1)

Racial Power: is that your best shot?

Talents: slayer, strongheart, unstoppable

Feats: toughness

2nd level

New feat (slayer).

3rd level

New feat (barbarian rage).

4th level

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

5th level

New talent (violence), new feat (slayer).

6th level

New feat (barbarian rage).

7th level

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

8th level

New talent (ancestral warband), new feat (slayer).

9th level

New feat (barbarian rage).

10th level

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

THE BARBARIAN

By ASH LAW

In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.

This time, we look at two different takes on the Barbarian. The Unstoppable Barbarian is here.

FURIOUS BARBARIAN

Download the Furious Barbarian character sheets here.

This barbarian risks everything, heedlessly attacking in a frenzy of blows. This build works best against multiple foes.

If your primary, indeed only concern, is damage output and killing everything in your path then this barbarian build is for you. Get stuck into knots of mooks as soon as you can, kill them, and move on to the next set of enemies. As you decimate weaker enemies it frees other characters to focus on tougher boss foes—and once you’ve cleared the battlefield of weaker enemies that could endanger your allies you should join them in taking down the big bads.

However, this build is best used in groups which focus on ending fights early with high damage output and devastating cooperative tactics. If every character focuses on slaying enemies with massive attacks then enemies don’t stick around long enough to endanger you.

If your group prefers to be less focused or your teamwork isn’t as tight as it could be then you’ll find yourself running ahead of the group and taking more than your fair share of damage—not to worry, just let players whose characters can heal know that you need constant healing to stay effective if battles run long.

This barbarian prefers to swing the biggest two-handed weapon that can be found, leaving shields to those who care about defense—this barbarian is all about going on the offense.

Talents

Barbaric Cleave

Barbaric cleave gives you an extra attack after you drop a foe.

Building Fury

It sucks to miss, but this talent takes the sting out of missing by making later attacks deadlier.

Whirlwind

Whirlwind drops your defenses but lets you attack everything engaged with you—risky but satisfying.

Race

The forgeborn’s never say die power doesn’t require much thought, and that works well with the barbarian class ethos—especially as this build is the one most likely to take a lot of damage.

Attributes

Strength and Constitution are paramount for a barbarian—thinking about things is for characters who are weak. Str 19 (+4) Con 19 (+4) Dex 10 (+0) Int 8 (-1) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 8 (-1)

1st level

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

Racial Power: never say die

Talents: barbaric cleave, building frenzy, whirlwind

Feats: barbarian rage

2nd level

New feat (barbaric cleave).

3rd level

New feat (building frenzy).

4th level

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

5th level

New talent (violence), new feat (building frenzy).

6th level

New feat (barbarian rage).

7th level

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

8th level

New talent (relentless), new feat (barbarian rage).

9th level

New feat (barbaric cleave).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Wisdom), new feat (building frenzy).

 

More details about our Free RPG Day 2017 offering – a 13th Age/TimeWatch double adventure!

13th Age – Swords Against Owlbears

Where do Owlbears come from? A wizard did it.

Still does it, in fact. Her name is the Maker of Many. Her experiments push the boundaries of life and death, of madness and reason, of art and hideous biological abomination – and the player characters are trapped in her dungeon, the Twisting Gardens.

Swords Against Owlbears is a quick-start adventure for 13th Age, the d20 fantasy game of battle, treasure and epic story telling. Grab a pregenerated 6th character, decide your One Unique Thing, and get ready to fight for your life!

TimeWatch – Font of Knowledge

Time-traveling saboteurs just snuffed out all human life with – Comic Sans? You’re a member of TimeWatch, an elite organization of time cops who keep history safe. Find out what happened, track clues forwards and backwards in time, and save true history from those who try to erase it – like the hyperintelligent AI BREEN, which has distributed itself throughout time. Good luck, Agent. Everyone – and we mean everyone – is counting on you.

This scenario for up to six players is an introduction to TimeWatch – the GUMSHOE game of investigative time travel. Pregenerated Agents and handouts are included to launch the players into the mystery.

Stock #: PEL13AT01
Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Kevin Kulp
Artist: Rich Longmore, Gillian Pearce Pages: 48-page PDF

 

The upcoming Book of Ages includes the Engine of the Ages, a Microscope-like tool for collaboratively generating your own history of the Dragon Empire. Each player tells the tale of one faction (usually, one associated with their player character), while the GM mixes in other groups that may play a part in the campaign. The group then steps through the history of the Empire, Age by Age, with the occasional roll on the Random Catastrophe Table. So, here’s one possible history (we only played through the 4th, 8th, and 12th Ages, and the player characters are an Elf Wizard, a Barbarian with a 2-point negative relationship with the Lich King, and a Draconic Rogue).

Our 4th Age

13th Age icon symbolsAs you know, the Wizard King was overthrown by the first Emperor and his allies, kicking off the 1st Age. Conflicts between the Empire and the undead forces of the Lich King dominated the first three Ages, but history doesn’t get really interesting until the 4th Age, the Age of Elvendom. Elves, my players decided, are a species of planar nomads, plunging from world to world. The Elf Queen is their anchor to the physical world. She appeared in the Dragon Empire as an infant, born from the sacred Birth Tree in the heart of the Queen’s Wood. The other elves phased into existence, along with their dimension-hopping forests and cities. Suddenly, half the Empire was occupied by a vast and otherworldly forest; the Elves were worshipped as demigods by the folk of the Empire.

The arrival of the Elves at the height of their power forced other groups onto the defensive. The Lich King fled the Empire as a bodiless spirit, and discovered the barbarian tribes of the west. The barbarians worshipped their ancestors, but the Lich King was able to conquer their afterlife and imprisoned the ancestors who would not serve him. He whispered in the dreams of the shamans and priests of the barbarians, pretending to be their beloved ancestors, and so was able to warp their culture into a death-cult that worshipped him.

The Three also retreated from the Empire, fearful of the arrows and spells of the mighty elves. They allied with suspicious dwarves to create the first Forgeborn, creatures made of dwarven steel and fuelled by dragonfire, to guard their abandoned lairs. These first Forgeborn were essentially golems, unthinking machines that obeyed only their masters’ commands.

The arrival of the Elves disrupted the balance of the elements. The air elemental king declared war on the elven race, and to this day if an elf tries to fly too high, or if the High Elves build their towers above the treetops, then it draws the wrath of the winds. The fire elemental queen was even more furious, and sacrificed herself to put out the sun. For years, the sun guttered like a dying ember, and without sunlight, most of the elven forests died (the Queen’s Wood and parts of the Wild Wood are the only places where the alien elf-trees still grow).

Our 8th Age

In the chaos, the Prince of Shadows stole a silver apple from the elven birth tree. This scheme would come to (pardon the pun) fruition four Ages later in the 8th Age (the Rising of the Bad Moon), when he threw the apple into the night sky and it created the moon. To this day, the moon is an unwholesome and pernicious influence over the Empire – bad things happen by moonlight, and nights of the full moon are considered unlucky. The moon does favour the elves, though, which accounts for the elves’ reputation as thieves and tricksters.

The Elves also warred with druidic guerrillas (or gorillas, I can’t read my own handwritten notes from the session), who objected to their wizards’ continued disruption of the balance of the elements.

Under the new moon, the Lich King’s barbarians contacted the Empire. The barbarian tribes of the west traded and paid tribute to the Emperor, and fought as mercenaries under the banner of the Empire, but kept their traditional ancestor-cult religion, so the Lich King was able to infiltrate his clerics and agents across the Seven Cities. In Santa Cora, the Priestess grew suspicious of this new cult, and through her divinations discovered the Lich King’s imprisonment of the barbarian ancestors. She created two secret orders of Paladins – one dedicated to unmasking and defeating the Lich King’s spies, and another sworn to travel into the afterworld to break down the Lich King’s spiritual internment camps and free the ancestors. The barbarian cult schismed into two groups – one who worshipped the ‘true’ spirits of the dead, and one that was still in the thrall of the Lich King. Most of the barbarians in the Empire were part of the former cult, but the Lich King maintained his hold on the barbarians beyond the borders.

(The 8th Age, by the way, ended in a zombie plague, as upheavals in the afterworld briefly disrupted the natural order of death.)

Our 12th Age

The 12th Age was the Age of War, when the Empire was invaded almost simultaneously from west and east. From the west came the Lich King’s forces – the death-worshipping barbarian hordes he’d been cultivating for eight Ages. Vampire berserkers, selected for size and strength. A massive army of zombies and skeletons, enslaved ancestor-spirits chained into bone-golems, and thousands of death priests. Added to this force came a host of liches and skeletons out of the Necropolis.

13th Age - The ThreeFrom the east came the dragons under the Three. Long ago, the dragons established a manufactory on a secret island in the Iron Sea, and this automated dungeon-factory had built a whole army of forgeborn. To the dragons’ surprise, these forgeborn had grown increasingly complex and intelligent; with each generation, the manufactory had refined the design. This iron army, led by dragons, invaded the Empire from the east.

Captured humans were taken back to the manufactory and subjected to bizarre sorcerous experiments under the direction of the Blue; these experiments created the first draconics. These experiments also had an unlikely side effect – the Blue used forgeborn to assist in her work, and the forgeborn somehow isolated and stole the essence of humanity. The manufactory used this to create the final generation of forgeborn – truly alive metallic creatures, with free will and souls and absolutely no desire to be ruled by dragons.

Faced with rebellion from their own army when both draconics and forgeborn turned on them, the Three sued for peace. In exchange for dragon aid against the invading forces of the Lich King, the Emperor ceded the ruins of Highrock to the Blue, and recognised the draconics as imperial citizens.

So, in our take on 13th Age…

Elves are a declining race, greatly diminished from the days when they were worshipped as living gods. Still, they have the sacred Birth Tree that brings forth new fruit and hence new wonders in every Age, and they remember that one day, the Elf Queen will perish in this plane and be reborn in another dimension, and they will follow her en masse to their new home.

Foes of the Lich King know that while he was recently defeated, he still has two major power bases – his fortress on Necropolis, and his barbarian death-cult to the east. He continues his attempts to subvert the Imperial-aligned barbarians by kidnapping their ancestors in the afterworld, so the cult has evolved a complex system of passwords and signs – don’t trust a ghost until it gives you the correct password!

Draconics are a new-born species, the product of experiments carried out in the war. They have a complex relationship with the Forgeborn – the Forgeborn are fuelled by dragonbreath, and now that most of the dragons have again fled the Empire, the forgeborn are dependent on the draconics for survival. At the same time, the forgeborn aren’t trusted by most of the Empire, and no-one knows for sure what they’re doing out on the mysterious island of the Manufactory. (Some fear that they have a plan…)

What histories will your players create?

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to be eaten by it.

The game is called 13th Age—so what’s in those 12 previous Ages? What fantastic treasures, brooding monsters, perilous dungeons, or ancient secrets survive from past centuries? What now-vanished icons shaped history, and what legacies did they leave behind?

Designed by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (Eyes of the Stone Thief), The Book of Ages includes:

  • The Engine of the Ages, a collaborative method for designing the ancient history of your campaign, producing a chronology of past Ages, plus a wealth of legacies, legends, and lairs to trouble the present day
  • Prompts, suggestions and random tables to spur creativity
  • More than a dozen sample Ages with new icons, monsters, treasures and powers: Explore the wolf-haunted Age of the Silver Moon, preserve civilization in the Age of Walled Cities, or fight for freedom in the Age of the Terrible Emperor
  • Six ways PCs can travel into the past in search of adventure!

Status: In development

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