New 13th Age Classes: A Swordmaster and an Earth Priestess Walk into the Dragon Empire

13th Age in Glorantha Coverby Rob Heinsoo

Several years after releasing our 13th Age grab-bag 13 True Ways, Jonathan Tweet and I have teamed up to create a new, 464-page 13th Age supplement that contains a mix of new classes, monsters, magic powers, adventures, and narrative tricks.

13th Age Glorantha (13G), published by Chaosium, and now available in PDF and print pre-order from both Chaosium and Pelgrane Press, functions as both an introduction to roleplaying in Greg Stafford’s classic world of Bronze Age myth AND as a giant supplement useful in any 13th Age campaign. 13G is entirely 13th Age compatible. In fact, it’s so compatible that it doesn’t reprint the mechanics from the core 13th Age rulebook—you need the 13A rules to play

If you’re running or playing in a 13th Age campaign, you can make immediate use of 13G’s 90 pages of new monsters (compared to 58 pages in the core 13th Age book) and 187 pages of classes (compared to 83 in the core book). The 13G classes chapter includes detailed rules for 12 different styles of characters. That’s a lot, and too many for detailed treatment in a single short preview article. Today I’ll focus on two of the entirely new classes from 13G: the deadly Humakti warrior and the spellcasting earth priestess.

Humakti, aka Sword master

In Glorantha, Humakt is the god of Death, and Death is shaped like a sword. Because several of the Humakti’s class features and talents focus on the sword, a simple way to use the Humakti class in a Dragon Empire or other non-Glorantha game is to refer to the class as the sword master and use its sword-oriented talents and attacks as written.

If you have a compelling non-Glorantha character concept that focuses on a different melee weapon, you could reskin the sword master as an axe master or perhaps as a spear master—though the flexible and quick-moving sword makes more sense to me personally for this class than other weapons do. For example, many of the Humakti’s sword form attacks emphasize quick-moving attacks, which doesn’t make quite as much sense for axe and hammer users.

Mechanics

The mechanical core of the class comes from our discussions about making alternate versions of the fighter class. Jonathan was never entirely satisfied with the 13th Age fighter’s flexible attacks. I’m happier with flexible attacks, but have always agreed that there’s room for several versions of something that felt like a skilled fighter class. Jonathan designed the core mechanics of the Humakti as a skilled fighter with more predictable attack powers, and a focus on killing enemies instead of protecting friends!

As a Humakti/sword master you can ignore conditions that slow other warriors down, so long as you attack with the sword that is an extension of your soul. You can make multiple well-drilled attacks once or twice a battle, and occasionally—in thematically appropriate situations—you reroll misses. These are all fun and straightforward ways of playing a deadly fighter-type.

Talents like Warleader and Who’s Laughing Now need no translation across worlds, but as a fanatic devotee of the god of Death, the Gloranthan Humakti has some magical powers that may not fit 13A character concepts that are all skill and no mysticism. If that is a problem for you, ignore powers like sever spirit (a ‘melee’ attack against the spirit/MD of low hit point enemies.) In most high fantasy 13th Age campaigns, translating such powers into Dragon Empire terms as your character rises in power should be a fun way to play off other elements of the campaign, including icons and magic items.

Honorable Histories

In Glorantha, Humakt is the god of Truth as well as Death. (Yes, that is usually as grim as it sounds.) The Humakti’s Utter Truth class feature (once a day you can swear an oath and everyone knows it’s true, there is no doubt), hatred of undead (your Undead Foe class feature makes all undead vulnerable to your attacks!), and other Death-before-dishonor features seem like a perfect match for a follower of the Great Gold Wyrm who wants a more sophisticated set of martial abilities than what the 13th Age paladin class offers. Humakt’s hatred of the undead isn’t an essential part of game balance—if your GM agrees and you have the blessing of the Great Gold Wyrm, perhaps the Undead Foe feature could become something more appropriate for a GGW paladin, such as Demon Foe.

Earth Priestess

The Gloranthan earth priestess is usually devoted to Ernalda, the queen of the gods and the pre-eminent Earth goddess. Ernalda’s myths are rich in stories of her power over the living earth, her powerful retinue of loyal spirits and warriors, and her eclectic collection of husbands, companions, and lovers.

In game mechanics terms, earth priestesses share Ernalda’s powers by casting deep magic spells, summoning spirits and warriors into combat, and dispensing favors to their allies. Your choice of talents determine which style of magic you’ll focus on. However you choose your talents, you aim to be a backrow spellcaster rather than a front-row fighter—the earth priestess needs allies for her powers to be fully effective.

Deep magic spells range from Ernalda the peacemaker, a spell that can temporarily prevent anyone from attacking, giving you and your allies a chance to catch your breath and survive a round that looked fatal, to dance of blood, a spell that wrecks enemies one turn and heals your allies the next.

Summoning is your steady contribution to each fight, because you’re the only character in the game so far who has at-will summoning spells! At-will summoning costs you some hit points and it costs you your standard action to control the creature you’ve summoned, but your creatures do enough damage or possess defensive advantages so that the action to control the creature feels worthwhile.

Favor of the earth are blessings that you offer to the next ally who can accomplish a worthwhile action—usually things like hitting with a natural even attack roll, or dropping a non-mook enemy to 0 hit points! You can’t be sure which ally will win your favor, but you know you’ll be helping someone when it’s not your turn, and every battle plays differently depending on which triggers you choose to reward and how well your blessings turn out.

If your allies want to forge a stronger link with you, they can take the Husband/Protector/Lover/Friend/Champion of the Earth feat, which gives bonuses to them (and to you) when they win your favor. It’s worth noting that some of the bonuses characters receive when they win the earth priestess’ favor depend on their character class—for example, the bard receives better bonuses than the Humakti. Pages 130 and 131 of 13G work through the list of all our 13A character classes, not just the classes in 13G, so that the earth priestess can fit into any 13A campaign.

Across Campaign Worlds

13th Age icon symbolsIn the Dragon Empire, the earth priestess class offers wonderful options for characters involved with the High Druid, Priestess, Elf Queen, and even the Dwarf King. Unlike the Humakti, who is named after a god who doesn’t belong in the Dragon Empire, the earth priestess doesn’t necessarily require a name change, though in the Dragon Empire, the convoluted reasons we used the name ‘priestess’ could equally well swing towards earth priests alongside the priestesses.

High Druid: 13 True Ways offers many ways of playing druids! The earth priestess is another, equally attuned to their human/humanoid allies instead of focused only on nature.

Priestess: Well this is a natural! With a lot of work, the deep magic spells might be replaced with other elemental powers and the summonings replaced with other elements to create a more generic priestess class. The model might work. For now, enjoy the favors of the earth!

Elf Queen: As written, the earth priestess feels  . . . well, too earthy for the sophisticated Elf Queen. But maybe earth priestesses represent a wood elf approach to magic? Or maybe the Elf Queen in your campaign is more in touch with the earth? Or maybe a cross-pollination with the powers and influence of the Green dragon is creating something new in the Queen’s world?

Dwarf King: As a new model of a possible dwarven approach to worshiping the powers of the earth, the earth priestess may contribute to my next 13A campaign!

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