13th Age combatby Mike Shea

For many of us, the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was an excellent refinement of the tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) we’ve enjoyed for 30 years. For some of us, it was our first exposure to D&D in any form. If 4th Edition wasn’t your bag, there are probably other reviews of 13th Age that will serve you better. Today we’re going to talk in particular about what 13th Age means for a 4th Edition D&D player and dungeon master.

Like 4th Editon, 13th Age is a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game by Rob Heinsoo, one of the developers of 4th Edition D&D, and Jonathan Tweet, one of the developers of the 3rd Edition of D&D. 13th Age is their love letter to the game they (and many of us) love dearly.

The world of tabletop RPGs has changed greatly over the past couple of years. With D&D Next on the horizon and Kickstarter giving birth to loads of new high quality RPGs, we have a whole new landscape of game systems and worlds to explore. For a 4th Edition player, however, 13th Age brings the most familiar elements of the game we love while smoothing out the rough edges. If you loved 4th Edition, you’ll definitely want to take a look at 13th Age.

Here are a few reasons why a 4th edition player might enjoy 13th Age.

13th Age KasarakEmpowered Characters with Lots of Options

As a 4e player or GM, much of 13th Age will feel familiar to you. As in 4e, characters in 13th Age begin as empowered heroes, even at level 1. Level 1 characters are tough. They represent the heroes of the world, not just farmers with swords. Level 1 characters have a good amount of choices to make, many of which feel like your traditional 4th edition character powers. Unlike the core set of 4th Edition classes, character classes in 13th Age won’t feel similar. The classes in 13th Age follow a track of complexity from the simple and straightforward barbarian to the detailed and complicated bard. The complexity of your preferred play style will dictate which classes you’re likely to want to play.

Like 4th Edition, 13th Age includes a robust list of feats which will feel familiar to you —with one exception. Many of your feat choices focus directly on specific powers so you can improve the parts of your character you use and enjoy the most.

The level spread in 13th Age will seem quite different from what you’re used to seeing in 4th Edition. There are only ten levels in 13th Age, but these levels span the full range of power you’d expect in a PC. A level 10 13th Age character will feel a lot like a mid-epic character in 4th Edition. This has the effect of matching spell levels to character levels and ensures that characters get a lot of interesting new things every time they level.

Backgrounds, Not Skills

4e players will find 13th Age’s background system to be a bit different from the rigid skill lists we’re used to in D&D. In 13th Age, skills are abstracted into large pools that form a character’s background. For example, the “Advisor of the Royal Court of the Dragon Emperor” background would bundle up a bunch of potential skills such as history and diplomacy while also tying the PC closer to the game world. These backgrounds serve both to define your character and as an open-ended skill system. It’s a refreshing difference.

13th Age Noteboard combatTactical Combat and Distance Abstraction

With 4e’s focus on combat, 13th Age’s combat system will be one of the biggest aspects on which 4e players will focus. The basic mechanics of combat in 13th Age will be very familiar to 4e players: Roll a 20, add a modifier, check it against a defense. The defenses in 13th Age are simplified to AC, Physical Defense, and Mental Defense but act the same as AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will defenses. Attack and defense modifiers go up every level instead of every other level, which fits the power growth of PCs in 13th Age across its ten character levels.

You’ll notice that damage scales up quite a bit in 13th Age as well. Melee attacks add an additional die of damage every level and lower level spells can be memorized at higher levels to increase their damage and effectiveness. This spell progression will look odd to many D&D players since you lose lower level spell slots as you gain higher level ones. It makes sense as soon as you see that Magic Missile can be memorized at level 9 for a whopping 10d6 damage.

Unlike 4e’s focus on gridded tabletop combat, 13th Age is designed to be played with or without maps and miniatures. 13th Age abstracts distances instead of using squares or feet for movement and ranges. Instead of “5 squares,” 13th age uses terms like “nearby,” “far away,” “grouped,” and “engaged” to describe distance. Spells and effects use these same terms. Effects that hit more than one creature usually use a term such as “1d3 nearby enemies” so you don’t have to worry about exact positioning.

On the surface, one might think that 13th Age’s distance abstraction would make it a poor choice for maps and miniatures. It turns out that’s not true at all. 13th Age is a fantastic system for playing with maps, minis, and terrain. One could certainly not use the adjective “tactical” to describe such combat but the freeform abstract nature of 13th Age combat ends up opening up a lot of fun possibilities. If a player wants to use a large miniature to represent “the largest woman in the world,” doing so doesn’t hose up combat. Who cares how big a miniature is when squares aren’t important? Want to use that gargantuan black dragon “miniature” to represent the dragon who’s only “large?” Go for it!

There’s one other mechanical component of 13th Age combat worth noting — the escalation die. 4e battles can take 60 to 90 minutes to run, and this was well known by Rob and Jonathan when they wrote 13th Age. The escalation die helps ensure that battles speed up the more rounds go by. Every round after the first, all PCs get +1 to attack on all attacks. This is represented by a six-sided die on the one position. Every additional round, the die and the bonus increases by one. This increase ends up ensuring PCs begin to hit more and more as the battle goes on. It’s a built in system for speeding up fights the longer they go on. Some PC powers and even powerful monsters trigger interesting effects based on the escalation die as well.

All of these refinements to the tactical combat we found and loved in 4th edition end up making 13th Age combat fast, furious, and fun.

13th Age - The ThreeIcon Relationships and the One Unique Thing

13th Age adds quite a few other features to catch our eye including icon relationships and each PC’s one-unique-thing. There really isn’t a similar construct in 4th edition to compare these to. Rather than describe these features here, take a look at Rob Donohue’s 13th Age review and my own 13th Age review on Critical Hits to learn more about them.

For the Game Master

So far we’ve covered much of what a 4e player will find interesting in 13th Age but there is a lot of love for game masters as well. 13th Age follows 4th Edition’s approach of treating monsters completely differently from PCs. 13th Age monsters have simple stat blocks designed to make them easy to run at the table. 13th Age also includes easy-to-use tables for improvised damage and quick monster math, something those of us who fell in love with page 42 of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide are sure to use.

Because 13th Age abstracts many of the game elements we’re used to seeing well refined in 4th Edition D&D, a GM running 13th Age is given much more authority and responsibility to make rulings instead of following codified rules. How far is “far away?” Can a PC use that particular background for that particular scene? How will an icon relationship manifest in tonight’s adventure? The GM must adjudicate each of these questions directly and must wield that responsibility well to ensure the game is fun for everyone.

Using 13th Age to Houserule 4e

Beyond being a full game system, 13th Age can also act as a set of well-designed house rules you can drop right into your 4th edition game. Want battles to go a little faster? Add the escalation die. Want to abstract the skill system? Add in 13th Age’s backgrounds. Want to tie PCs closer to the main NPC drivers of your campaign? Add in the icon system. Any of these components plug right into 4e with hardly any core changes to 4e.

Rob Heinsoo demos 13th Age at Gen Con 2013A Refinement of the Game We Love

It’s clear that Rob and Jonathan love D&D as much as we do. They poured that love into a game that showcases the parts of 4th edition D&D we loved the most and helps polish down the rough edges. While 4e’s combat encounters ended up monopolizing much of the time we played, 13th Age slims combat down without removing PC empowerment and adds in story elements sure to entertain us for years to come.

Even if you have no intent of leaving your 4e games behind, 13th Age has a lot to offer. Give it a try.

About The Author

Mike Shea is a writer, gamer, technologist, and webmaster for the D&D website Sly Flourish. Mike has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and wrote the books Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips and The Lazy Dungeon Master. Mike lives in Vienna, Virginia with his gamer wife Michelle and their gamer dog Jebu.

Next, glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, at stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honorable.
— Homeric Hymn to Hermes
The Twelve Olympians receive Psyche, by Raphael. Pictured: Twenty Olympians

The Twelve Olympians Receive Psyche, by Raphael. Pictured: Twenty Olympians

That, you will be gobsmacked (or perhaps even godsmacked) to know, is the earliest reference known to the Twelve Olympians, and it’s not that early: the “Homeric” hymns are usually dated to around 600 BCE, which is about 75 years before the tyrant Peisistratos sets up the first known altar to the Twelve, in Athens. (A cult of the Twelve in Olympia, appropriately enough, likely dates to about the same time.) Where the Greeks got the idea remains mysterious: from the twelve Babylonian months, perhaps via a grouping of 12 gods found in Hittite rituals (and in a 13th-century BCE hall of statuary at Yazilikaya) and from thence to the Greek coasts of Asia Minor.

Why, you may well ask, am I improving our minds with Classical study at this late juncture? Because in my home game, my newest campaign is a 13th Age campaign I call Poikila Hellenistika, or “The Brightly-Colored Hellenistic Age.” It’s set in a big-eyes-and-archaic-smile anime-influenced version of the Hellenistic era, specifically in Syracuse in Sicily (for now) in 273 BCE. (More information here, should you wish it.) And that means I needed to redefine the 13 Icons as, of course, the 12 Olympian gods, because hey, Alexander the Great won. And indeed, erected “altars to the Twelve Gods” on the banks of the Hyphasis River, the eastern edge of his empire.

So my Icons are Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaistos, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysos. So who’s the Thirteenth God, then? Who isn’t? Dionysos famously replaced Hestia (goddess of the hearth) on Olympus; by the Hellenistic era, Heracles was much more worshipped than Ares. Hades is often considered the (unlucky) Thirteenth God, and Alexander the Great allegedly demanded the Greek cities recognize him as the Thirteenth Olympian. Olympia itself doesn’t help: its Twelve Gods swap in the Three Graces (as a unit), the River Alpheios, and the fallen gods Kronos and Rhea. Other common Hellenistic interlopers include Hekate, Asklepios, Pan, and Persephone. Given that one of my player characters is the Occultist from 13 True Ways, that means the Three Fates are likely an Icon, too. In practice, I’m letting the players pick their Icons and (much like the Greeks) not sweating the specific membership list.

The 13 Olympikons In Play

So leaving aside the question of “Who?” we get to the question of “What?” What do the Olympikons do in my game that the Icons don’t, and vice versa? Let’s start with the common factors: like the Dragon-Imperial Icons, the Olympian Ikons have a wide network of worshipers, priests, and other agents from the Seleukid dynasty claiming descent from Apollo to the various cults, mysteries, and temples all over the Mediterranean and points east. Most cities have at least one patron god (Syracuse’s are Athena and Apollo, plus there’s a big temple of Zeus just south of the city), so the Ikons have even more helpers in the shape of city governments and armies. It’s even more fun than it sounds, because the Olympians wound up with so many weird responsibilities in their portfolio: Poseidon is not just the god of the sea, but of horses, earthquakes, epilepsy, watchfulness, and even (as Poseidon Phytalmios) gardening. (For everything you could ever want to know about any figure of Greek myth, hie thee to theoi.com.)

Another thing that’s cropped up in play is the very Greek notion of the gods speaking and working through the players: we’ve already had Apollo justify a player’s 6 on the relationship die by inspiring his tongue to talk down a Spaniard. Greek gods loved to appear in dreams and oracles, so I can always drop one in if I like. Even then, given the sheer number of Ikonic interventions needed with six players (even on an average roll, that’s two or three interventions in one session, and my players do not roll average dice) we’re also adopting a house rule: if the player or the GM can’t think of something cool (or hasn’t yet) for your 6 to do during the game, you can take a +2 to something your Ikon plausibly might help you with. For clerics, that’s likely just casting a spell, but the Amazon might turn her 6 on the Artemis relationship die into a +2 to hit with a spear or bow. So far, a 5 likely gives you a +1 in similar fashion, although I’ll probably put a twist in the tail of a roll like that.

Some potential Ikons just flow together: Asklepios is the son of Apollo, so he becomes a major agent of the Ikon Apollo; Pan and Dionysos have that wild-man feel and patronage of satyrs in common, so they’re both aspects of the same Ikon. The campaign world is pretty human-centric, so the explicitly inhuman Icons like the Orc Lord wind up as aspects of godly humanist Olympians (the Orc Lord sounds pretty Ares-ish to me, although the Romans did explicitly identify Hades with their deity Orcus). Again, we’re letting that stuff emerge in play — we’ve decided that the Apollonian royalty of Hyperborea make pretty good elves, for example, at least on a mechanical basis, so the Elf Queen is likely an aspect of either Apollo or his woodsy sister Artemis.

In my game, if Alexander conquered you, your gods got subsumed into Olympian Ikon-hood: Melqart of Tyre becomes Heracles, for example, and Isis becomes Demeter. (Herodotos identified her as such; he also equated Osiris with Dionysos, Horus with Apollo, Amon with Zeus, and Bast with Artemis, among others.) That does leave a number of grumbly foreign gods: so far, I can reveal that Moloch (aka Baal-Hammon) of Carthage and Saturnus in Rome have not at all accepted their demotion. In our history, Zeus and his ilk eventually collaborated with the Romans and got subsumed in their turn into Jupiter, etc., but that’s 150 years away in my game and may not happen, depending on just how epic our epic tier gets. But that, as they say, is in the lap of the Ikons.

Return to Screamhaunt Castle

Screamhaunt Castle disappeared years ago. Tonight, it returned to its birthplace of Gravenstein. Now the adventurers must contend with ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night to investigate the cursed place. To add to their worries, Madame Vex the seer has given the adventurers a very disturbing card reading. Has she read their fate…or sealed their doom?

Return to Screamhaunt Castle is the upcoming 13th Age Alliance organized play adventure, designed for characters of 2nd level to be played in four two-hour sessions. If you’re a 13th Age Monthly subscriber, you can download organized play adventures from your Bookshelf. RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OneBookshelf subscriptions to 13th Age Monthly also include  organized play adventures.

Become a 13th Age Volunteer GM

There’s so much demand for 13th Age play at conventions that we can always use more help from GMs. If you want to join our crew as a volunteer GM, fill out this form!

Let’s Play: Shadows of Eldolan, Roll20 Edition

For International Pelgrane Day, GM Aaron Roudabush ran the new Roll20 edition of Shadows of Eldolan for Rob Heinsoo, Justin “The Rev. En Fuego” Robinson, Sean “The Heavy Metal GM” Clark, and Philip Pepin. Get the adventure here, and watch the sessions below:

 

Return to Screamhaunt Castle Monster Preview: The Guardian

Return to Screamhaunt CastleThis thing of reanimated bones really wants to add to its collection.

Double-strength 4th level caster [UNDEAD]

Initiative: +9

Vulnerability: holy

Bone storm +9 vs. PD—14 damage

Natural even hit: 14 negative energy damage to the enemy with the most hit points.

Natural odd hit: 14 ongoing thunder damage.

R: Bone shield +9 vs. PD—14 ongoing lightning damage, and the target is weakened (save ends both)

Frightening Thirteen: If the ghost rolls a natural 13, then for the rest of the battle the enemy with the most hit points at the start of the round (GM chooses on ties) must roll a save in order to take a move action. Failure to save indicates the character is too busy trying to stop their own skeleton from crawling out of their mouth to move.

Strength from pain: The ghost heals 4d6 hp every time an enemy rolls a death save.

Fear: While engaged with this creature, enemies that have 18 hp or fewer are dazed (–4 attack) and do not add the escalation die to their attacks.

AC 20

PD 16      HP 100

MD 16

 

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of GUMSHOE we invited fans and Pelgrane pros all over the world to play their favorite Pelgrane Press games today! Here’s a sampling of the day’s goings-on and shenanigans thus far.

Games were streamed:

Upcoming books were playtested:

Upcoming campaign settings were playtested.

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Designers shared their work:

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Monstrous Dramaturgy: Kostroma

Adventures were had:

Existing gaming plans were quickly changed.

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Campaigns launched:

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Heroes made (and their horrible deaths predicted):

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There are still quite a few hours left, and we look forward to seeing what else Pelgrane fans are up to in other time zones! If you want a social media banner or icon you can get them here.

mounted-combat-cover-350Rules for riding horses, war rhinos, giant lizards, bison, giant spiders, sable antelopes, and other critters into 13th Age battles. If you recognized some of these as Gloranthan creatures, that’s because this issue of the Monthly will include content aimed at 13th Age in Glorantha that will be perfectly at home in other fantasy campaign worlds. By Rob Heinsoo.

Mounted Combat is the ninth installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2016 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!


Stock #: PEL13AM23D Author: Rob Heinsoo
Artist: Rich Longmore Type: 10-page PDF

Buy now

 

 

ROB_tile I’ve been looking through old design files, finding interesting mechanics that we never got around to exploiting, and passages of writing that dropped through the cracks through no faults of their own. Here’s one such passage, an introductory paragraph that Jonathan must have written back when the druid was going to appear in the core book instead of waiting for its star turn in 13 True Ways. It’s often hard to tell whether Jonathan or I have written a section, even for us, but I’m pretty sure this was written by Jonathan because of the passage’s ironic parallelism, because I never highlight words using underlines, and because I would have used the word ‘rumors’ at the end instead of ‘fable.’ Three clues!

If you compare this passage to what we eventually published in 13 True Ways, you’ll see that our thinking progressed towards a storyline in which the resurgence of the High Druid was making druidical magic and the power of nature something that even folks in “more civilized lands” would have to think about very soon, if not yesterday.

 

Druid

The world isn’t just ruled by the forces of nature, the world _is_ the forces of nature. Druids devote themselves to these forces. On one hand, the forces compel the druids, pushing or drawing them along unknown paths. On the other, the druids use these forces to compel, heal, or destroy others. For druids, this means giving up mere individuality for a truer selfhood, tied flesh and bone to the natural world. In some places, especially in forgotten valleys far from the imperial highways, druids are the priests rather than clerics. In more civilized lands, druids are rarities, subjects of curiosity and fable.

 

Dungeon Moon

The epic conclusion of the battle against the star-masks is here! Board the legendary flying ship the Ostulti and ascend into the starlit sky, where you’ll attempt to kill the living dungeon that spawns the star-masks, and end their menace once and for all.

Dungeon Moon is the latest 13th Age Alliance organized play adventure, designed for characters of 9th and 10 level to be played in four two-hour sessions. If you’re a 13th Age Monthly subscriber, you can download organized play adventures from your Bookshelf. RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OneBookshelf subscriptions to 13th Age Monthly also include  organized play adventures.

Become a 13th Age Volunteer GM

There’s so much demand for 13th Age play at conventions that we can always use more help from GMs. If you want to join our crew as a volunteer GM, fill out this form!

Dungeon Moon Monster Preview: Ghost Rider

13th-age-dungeon-moon-coverTheir faces are gaunt, their eyes are haunted, and their horses snort fire.

10th level wrecker [SPIRIT]

Initiative: +15

Burning hooves +15 vs. AC (1d3 engaged enemies)—20 thunder damage and 10 ongoing fire damage

Hit against an enemy taking ongoing fire damage from this attack already: The target becomes a valid target for burning whip.

[Only against valid targets (see burning hooves)] C: Burning whip +15 vs. AC (one nearby valid target)—60 fire damage.

Horse and rider: The riders can’t be separated from their steeds, nor vise-versa. They are as one, for better or worse.

Fear: While engaged with this creature, enemies that have 72 hp or fewer are dazed (-4 attack) and do not add the escalation die to their attacks.

Flight: Well, more of a running on air, really. They can gain altitude, but only by running forward.

Nastier specials

Endless skies: Adventurers who die in a fight that involves a ghost rider are doomed to join the great range in the sky. That means no resurrection, unless their friends can somehow rescue their soul.

Really scary: The fear threshold is now 120 hp.

AC 26

PD 20        HP 210

MD 24

Make Your Own Luck on Roll20We’ve joined forces with Roll20 to HARNESS THE MIGHTY POWER OF THE INTERNET on behalf of the 13th Age fan whose gaming group is scattered across the continent—perhaps even THE VERY GLOBE. With Make Your Own Luck on Roll20 , you can play online with official 13th Age digital content!

Make Your Own Luck: Roll20 Edition is a) absolutely FREE, and b) really cool. You get:

  • A full 13th Age adventure by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan for a GM and 3-6 players, with a quick summary of the game’s rules
  • 3 full color maps
  • 20 unique character tokens
  • 12 pregenerated characters using the official 13th Age character sheet
  • Handouts within Roll20 to help players and GMs who are new to Roll20, or to 13th Age.

PC tokens for Make Your Own LuckMake Your Own Luck is a stand-alone adventure which also works as a prequel to the megadungeon campaign Eyes of the Stone Thief. This introduction to the game  features art by Hillary Esdaile, Lynn Hogan, and Nick Curtiss.

13th Age Online Play Czar Aaron Roudabush has worked tirelessly with Roll20 to bring the 13th Age experience to the virtual tabletop. Invite your friends to fight the Siege of Harrowdale, wherever they are!

Silver ENnie Winner 2016The Dragon Empire faces a terrifying threat from the skies in this FREE ENnie award winning 13th Age adventure by ASH LAW.

Fantasy adventure meets cosmic horror in the 13th Age Roleplaying Game, as the adventurers face strange beings banished to the stars in a previous age! Can they stop the creation of a portal that will bring more monsters from the stars into the Dragon Empire?

Race to Starport consists of six two-hour sessions (12 hours total run time) for characters of levels 1 to 4. There are two ways to get this free adventure:

star-thingMonster Preview: Star Things

 

Deviant, malevolent, octopus-like flying monsters from a dimension where space obeys different geometry. No one understands their language, but everyone can understand their squeals of glee when they kill and feed.

3rd level wrecker [ABERRATION]

Initiative: +8

Ripping tentacles +8 vs. AC—10 damage

Natural even hit: If the target is taking ongoing psychic damage, the attack deals +2d6 damage.

[Group ability] R: Warp-pulse +8 vs. PD (1d3 enemies in a group)—5 ongoing psychic damage

Natural 16–18: While the target is taking the ongoing psychic damage, it is dazed (–4 attacks).

Natural 19–20: While the target is taking the ongoing psychic damage, it is confused instead of dazed.

Group ability: For every two star things in the battle (round up), one of them can use warp-pulse once during the battle.

Limited flight: Star things flap and glide and hover, always within seven or eight feet of the ground. No one knows how that works.

AC 16

PD 12         HP 54

MD 15

[by Sean Clark – orginally published on his Heavy Metal GM blog.]

 

As stated many times before, 13th Age is designed to make your characters feel awesome and immensely powerful without making it a ridiculous cake-walk. It seems like in the past, the genre had started to move in that direction with the minions from D&D 4e, monsters with just one hit point but otherwise normal stats. It helped a well placed spell take out multiple stormtroopers, I mean minions, in one go. It truly was a good feeling!

Problem is, even with a bunch of minions it could take a while to chug through them all if the dice aren’t in your favor on that particular night. Perhaps 13th Age’s mook rule is not the perfect solution, or even a solution at all, but a totally different take on the badass action sequence idea.

So this takes use to the question: What the hell is a mook?! Why, O glorious reader, I am so pleased you asked me. Or maybe you didn’t, and I’m just being a jerk and reaping the benefits of an over used cliche (more likely the latter). A mook is a single monster that shares a collective hit point value with other monsters of the same time, creating what they call a “mook mob” in the core rules. So to further elaborate, in the book, a mook will have normal stats all around but tend to have a weaker damage output and lower hit points. This makes a mook mob not necessarily as deadly as a normal monster. If you take a mook, and give him fifteen other mook friends, their hit points add up into a pool.

For all you clever guys and gals out there, yes this means more than one can be killed in a single go. Even when it doesn’t necessarily make sense. This is where my personal rulings come into play. Now, before I unleash this totally awesome house rule unto you, let me start by saying I didn’t invent this one. A player in my gaming veterans’ group made this one up to avoid people completely abusing the mook ruling and make the narrative supremely interesting. So my golden rule:

“Great! You kill (x number) mooks! Only if you describe to me how this happens.”

Yep. If the player doesn’t describe how they kill more than one enemy, then you just get the single kill and all the extra damage vanishes. Ever since imposing this rule, I’ve actually never had to do that! This helps people come out of their shell, I think, and really get into the “Theater of the Mind” aspect of tabletop role playing. Plus, it’s just darn fun! Without this sort of narration, mooks become just another type of monster to smash through rather than a chance to really hammer the badassery home.

With that out of the way, the actual practical application of mooks can be challenging at times. Pair them with only your big baddie and it could make the fight too easy, pair them with too many normal monsters and it can prove too challenging. The Encounter table in 13th Age can prove to help a bit here, but I think that even the table makes combats too easy. Beef it up, use some common sense and don’t be afraid to fudge it a bit. One downside to having mooks in combat, especially if you use miniatures, it can be a little difficult keeping track of the actual math within it. Sure, they share collective hit points but I try to keep track of which ones have partial damage and so on. This is probably just me torturing myself, but hey.

A nasty trick I love to use mooks for is to spook the players until the combat really gets going. I’ll beef up the HP threshold of the base mook stat block but a couple points, throw an ungodly amount of them at the players, and when one attack doesn’t kill multiple, they think they’re all normal monsters. The faces are priceless, until they finally figure out they’re mooks. The combat still functions the same, as far as damage output and pacing, but it creates some amount of tension, though for a small time.

Another fantastic use of mooks is simply to be a thorn in your players’ sides. If they are focusing on the big baddie of the fight, the next time the escalation die goes up, throw a big ol’ mob of mooks at them to distract them. This way it gives your baddie some time to strut their stuff, makes the players sweat, and overall makes the battle really interesting. There’s some really great mooks that also can take on the roles of blockers and spoilers too, such as the Newly Risen Ghoul and Dretch from the monster section of the core rules. Pile them up with some damage doling tough-guys and it makes for an interesting dynamic. Especially if there’s a lot of mooks!

In summary!

  • Mooks are singular monsters that form a mob and share a collective HP value
  • They’re best used in fights you want players to feel powerful in
  • Double up and use mooks that fulfill other monster roles to mix it up
  • Make your players describe their actions when taking more than one mook off the table to make some memorable moments!

Stay Metal \m/

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