Vikings tradingA while back I asked members of the 13th Age Facebook group what they’d like to see from a future 13th Sage column. Longtime community member Antonio Eleuteri asked for suggestions on running a “mythic Viking campaign”, and I’ve been giving that a lot of thought ever since. Today I’m going to take a stab at that topic.

Disclaimers: this is just how I, personally, would start to think about  running a mythic Viking game of 13th Age. It’s not 13th Age: The Viking Supplement! Also, I suspect Antonio is actually more qualified than I am to write about this particular topic, so I apologize in advance if this is a terrible disappointment to him. Not only are there folks out there who know a lot more than I do about the Viking age and Norse mythology, there are those for whom this is their living religion.

Resources

The first thing I’d do, naturally is educate myself about the Viking era and the various forms a mythic Viking 13th Age game could take. Here are a few books I’d check out:

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2e

Northlands for Pathfinder 1e

Mythic Iceland for Basic Role Playing

GURPS Vikings

The Mythic North

To me the word “mythic” says that my game will draw upon the folklore, culture, and history of the North Germanic and/or Icelandic peoples of the Early Middle Ages, but it should feel to the players as though their characters live within that culture’s myths—their stories about gods, demigods, monsters, and supernatural heroes. Everything the heroes do should feel larger than life, and part of a larger cosmos where all paths lead eventually to Ragnarok.

The mythic nature of the setting, characters, and events means I’m going to use 13th Age Glorantha heavily, and loosely base the campaign world on the actual historical Viking era. A character might stride into a mead-hall in Sweden and end up arm wrestling a mysterious one-eyed stranger who later reveals himself to be Odin.

Icons, Runes, and Rune Magic

One obvious approach to icons would be to use allegiance to one or more gods as icon relationships. However, instead of icons I think I’d use the rune mechanics from 13th Age Glorantha, perhaps with the 24 Elder Fúþark runes in Mythic Iceland.

During character creation, each player chooses three runes for their character that are deeply significant to them—perhaps related to the god their character is devoted to, an important background, or their One Unique Thing. These three runes, magically embodying concepts such as fire, death, truth, and wealth, aren’t just resources the characters are connected to: they are, in a cosmic sense, the essence of the character.

Whenever heroes take a full heal-up, each of them becomes attuned to one of their runes. To see which rune their character is attuned to that day, they roll a d6. On a 1, 2, or 3, they’re attuned to their first, second, or third rune, respectively. On a 4–6, roll they randomly on a table to see which of the full list of existing runes they’re attuned to, even if it’s not one of their personal three.

Runes are used by narrating them during the game to affect the story in a way that benefits the heroes. For a mythic Viking game,  I might interpret this as heroes using rune magic as described in Mythic Iceland—thus highlighting the fact that these are mythic characters in a mythic world. In that book, each rune has a “narrative magic use” section that can provide inspiration for what the use of that rune looks like in this game.

Rune magic would probably take place outside of combat and its effects would look more like a cantrip or a ritual than a spell. For example:

  • A rogue using the Kaun rune (associated with fire) might cause a spark from a woodfire to set a hall ablaze.
  • A barbarian using the Þurs rune magic to gain protection from enemies might slow the advance of an oncoming army, or diminish their forces by causing them to be attacked by wild creatures along the way.
  • A commander could use the magic of their Yr rune, associated with death, by delivering a thundering speech before a battle against mighty foes, describing how their bodies will lie strewn upon the ground to be food for wolves and ravens. The GM might decide that fulfilling this curse and slaying every enemy on the battlefield grants the heroes an incremental advance at the end of the battle.

The GM rolls a d20 when the character uses rune magic, and on a result of 1-5 adds a complication.

Available PC Races

  • Humans
  • Beastblooded (Book of Ages, p. 77)
  • High elves (known as Ljósálfar or “light elves”) who dwell in Álfheim
  • Dwarves, who dwell deep in the Earth
  • Half-elves and half-orcs, both reskinned as “trollkin”—a term I’m borrowing from Northlands that encompasses the offspring of ogres, trolls, elves, and other fey creatures who’ve taken humans as husbands or wives.

Available PC Classes

  • Any class from 13th Age Glorantha (Troll Warrior becomes Trollkin Warrior)
  • Barbarian
  • Bard (the Battle Skald talent is encouraged!)
  • Commander
  • Fighter
  • Ranger
  • Rogue

The World

Midgard, one of the Nine Worlds, is the realm of mortals, and where most of your adventures will take place. It’s surrounded by a huge, impassable ocean, and encircled by the titanic World Serpent.

Travel to other worlds is possible via Yggsrasil, the World Tree—but travel on the tree is an adventure in itself, due to the monsters and other mythic beings that dwell in it. How one gets onto the path can be the object of a quest in itself: maybe through sacrifices to the proper gods, the acquisition of certain magic rings, or tricking the guardian of a portal.

Magic Items

I would give all true magic items names and a lineage. Who made them (almost always the dwarves), and for whom? What heroes and villains have wielded them in the past? What fate befell them?

I might consider making them all cursed somehow, so that most people avoid them out of fear. But our heroes, who fear nothing, gladly take them up—even though one day, something bad will happen as a result. It’s just a matter of when.

Foes

The giants will fight against the gods at the end of all things, so I suspect they’re recurring and climactic villains. Other foes include dragons, troll raiders, human clans and kingdoms, hostile elves and dwarves, the restless dead, and ravening Grendel-type monsters who emerge from the world’s dark places to prey upon the innocent.

Ben Naylor’s Mythic Viking Campaign

13th Age fan Ben Naylor is currently running a mythic Viking campaign, and has shared some of his notes in the 13th Age Facebook group. Here are a few glimpses he’s provided over time.

Ben’s reskinned classes include:

  • Paladin (Doomsayer of Tyr)
  • Bard  (Galdr, using the mythkenner feat to morph into a runecaster. No songs, just rune casting.)
  • Barbarian (Berserkir, with a bit of Fire Jotun blood, so it has a fire-related talent)
  • Ranger (Fardrengir, a wandering Norse hunter)

The icons are based on gods and monsters: Aesir, Vanir, Fenris, Gorgamund, etc. Characters earn their icon rolls by roleplaying as heroic Vikings performing mighty, courageous deeds as they explore North Norway during the coming of Fimbulwinter.

To make the game more deadly, Ben swapped the recovery mechanic with a rune point economy, where physical runes enable a recovery. It’s so deadly, in fact, that one of the character aims is a heroic death in battle, giving the character a place in Valhalla (or other desired destination in the afterlife). If a player gives their character a good death fighting heroically in battle, their next character will be more favored by the gods. In Ben’s game this means unlocking special backgrounds and PC races.

A player who chooses to give their character a heroic death activates a Heroic Death ability which gives them special powers as they make their last stand: things like refreshing some of their daily powers and granting their allies a bonus by inspiring them to fight harder. If the character somehow fails to die, there’s a cost: maiming, a wound which doesn’t heal, or some advantage given to the kin of their foe.

Image: Calling of Vikings,’ by Viktor Vasnetsov, early 1900s – Credit: WikiPaintings


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The massive living dungeon known as the Stone Thief is so epic it cannot be confined to just one system! Designer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has turned the first two levels of his megadungeon masterpiece into a PDF that’s compatible with the 5th Edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game.

Eyes of the Stone Thief (5E Compatible) is a two-level dungeon like your players have never seen before: a living creature of stone that rises to the surface, devours structures and places, then incorporates them into itself as dungeon levels. The Stone Thief is a cunning foe that seeks to destroy those who dare set foot inside…

The 39-page adventure brings nearly 30 new monsters to your 5E table, including the hobgoblin warmage, filth hydra, undead spider, and ghoul fleshripper. Run the adventure as-is, plunder it for ideas and inspiration, or use it as a starting point to convert the rest of the Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign to 5th Edition.

The Stone Thief rises. Enter it, find its secrets and defeat it – or die trying.

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artists: Anna Kryczkowska, Pat Loboyko, Rich Longmore, Juha Makkonen, Russ Nicholson, Ben Wooten Pages: 39 page PDF

Buy for a set price in our webstore

Buy as a Pay-What-You-Want PDF on DriveThruRPG

While working on Book of the Underworld a couple weeks ago, I realized that our advice for leveling up monsters isn’t as direct as it could be. Some of you realized this right away, for others it could be a welcome clarification.

The simplest way to level up a creature is to bump it up by three levels.

We built the 13th Age math around the idea that power doubles every three levels. Therefore, the simplest way to level up a monster is also often the most useful way of leveling up a monster, effectively bumping it up a tier.

To add three levels to a monster, follow the following four steps.

First, add +3 to each of the monster’s attack bonuses and double the damage dealt by its attacks. (See the ongoing damage note below for the exception.)

Second, add +3 to each of its defenses.

Third, double the monster’s hit points.

Fourth, if the monster has abilities connected to healing, gaining hit points, or dealing damage to itself, double the points of those abilities. (For example, if you took the 5th level huge white dragon from page 219 of the 13th Age core rulebook and raised it to an 8th level huge white dragon, you’d increase the damage it deals to itself on a natural odd hit or miss with its ice breath attack from 2d8 to 4d8.)

Note on ongoing damage: Ongoing damage tends to increase by 5 points per tier rather than doubling every 3 levels, but especially at epic tier you could bump ongoing damage up by 10 instead of 5.

Most of the time, these quick adjustments will have handled everything you need to handle a three-level jump. Since the point of 13th Age monster design is to have a fun variety of unusual effects, you’ll probably encounter monster abilities that you want to tinker with slightly to reflect a higher tier. You usually won’t have to perform that type of adjustment, but if something feels off to you, adjusting it on the fly should be a lot simpler with the baseline handled by +3 and doubling.

Actually, that might turn out to be more of an issue if you’ve taken the opposite path. Dropping a monster three levels uses the same simple math in reverse, but higher level monsters might have abilities you’re not as comfortable inflicting on lower-tier player characters.

Of course, variations on this arithmetic work for other level-up shifts, as reflected in the DIY Monster Charts. We summarized the multipliers on the GM Screen, as shown below.

Leveling a Monster

+1 Level: Multiplier 1.25

+2 Levels: Multiplier 1.6

+3 Levels: Multiplier 2.0

+4 Levels: Multiplier 2.5

+5 Levels: Multiplier 3.2

+6 Levels: Multiplier 4.0


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

“I could but tell them how I had just emerged from dungeon and jacket in the morning, and without rhyme or reason, so far as I could discover, had been put back in the dungeon after being out only several hours.”

— Jack London, The Star Rover

The only problem with dungeon crawls is there aren’t enough of them. I don’t mean that in a lived-experience sense, or even in a per-game sense. I mean, when you’re running a 13th Age game, as I have been for a good while now, there just aren’t enough dungeon crawls available that fit: a) your party’s level; and b) the general parameter of where the campaign sits at the moment. To say nothing of the paucity of dungeon crawls set in the Hellenistic-era Seleucid Empire, but I admit I’ve pretty much made my own bed in that particular case.

Don’t get me wrong: the dungeon crawls we do have are great! If your characters are ready for them, go right ahead and toss them into the maw of a living dungeon and wait for the chewing to commence! But any given dungeon, no matter how great, might not be right for your campaign, or at least not right now. For more impromptu encounters, I have put the Battle Scenes books to good use everywhere from a volcano in Sicily to Mt. Hermon in Coele-Syria to a dusty provincial capital in Parthia, but they’re necessarily somewhat open-ended and thus require a bit of chivvying the PCs that a good old “march down there and kill ’em” dungeon doesn’t.

A really great 13th Age dungeon. Everyone says so.

Fortunately, there are approximately eight billion other dungeon adventures available for Those Other F20 RPGs, and after a bit of skeptical poking I have become a total convert to totally converting them to 13th Age. And by “totally converting,” I mean, “doing just enough.” (If you want to see Whoa Plenty Converting the other direction, allow me to point you at Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s 5e conversion of Eyes of the Stone Thief.) Let me provide you guidance on such enough-ness, by way of three examples from my own campaign.

For the first dungeon, the characters were 4th level, in Ephesus in Asia Minor. I knew I wanted a drowned city, as Lysimachus drowned Old Ephesus by re-routing a river in 292 BC. (In my history, it was a siege; in our history, it was exuberant urban renewal.) On the advice of Will Hindmarch, I converted Dragons of Despair, an AD&D 2e adventure (Levels 4-6) by Tracy Hickman (the first of the Dragonlance series) to the city of Old Ephesus. For the second dungeon, I needed a fire temple, as my players (by now 6th level) were headed to the Zoroastrian shrine Adur Gushnasp to recover their occultist and the Ark of the Covenant, which the duplicitous Persian magus Gaspar had stolen with a dimension door. At Dark Side Comics & Games in Sarasota I thumbed through all the Pathfinder adventures (on the grounds that a fire temple should be jam packed with Stuff) until Legacy of the Impossible Eye (for 11th level PCs) fell into my hands. At ChupacabraCon in Austin, meanwhile, I had picked up a pretty cheap copy of the original AD&D 1e Against the Giants compilation, and I confess to planting the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (for Levels 8-12) deliberately in the (7th level) characters’ path on Mount Kaukasos. So, how did I do it, and how can you? Easy, that’s how.

Step One in dungeon conversion: Find a module that fits where your characters are already going. This might just be “a dungeon,” if they’re that kind of wandering monster-killers, but in my case it needed to be a drowned city and a fire temple. I just held on to the glacial rift until the PCs decided to go gather Prometheus’ blood from the top of Mount Kaukasos, and turned it into the “front door” of the mountain.

Step Two in dungeon conversion: Convert or replace the monsters. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. First, most dungeons only use a few monsters, and many of them already have direct 13th Age versions. Second, 13th Age monsters are very easy to shift up or down the scale if need be. As it was, for example, I took the Dragonmen and Gully Dwarves from Dragons of Despair and made them Drakonae (blackscale kroma dragonics) and Khudi (my Greekified name for c.h.u.d.s, but using kobold stats). Frost giants are pretty much frost giants, so no swapping required. I did swap Indian giants, or Daitvas (re-skinned ogre magi), in for the fire giant ambassadors in the original G2, mostly because we’d just had a lot of fire giants in Legacy. Swap (or stat) out as many as you think the players will encounter that session, or do it all at once if you’re fancy. I didn’t change numbers appearing, treasure (except to cut back on permanent items in favor of gold or healing etc. potions), or traps, because a dungeon is supposed to be pretty grueling. Well, I lie; I added a garrison to the fire temple in Legacy, since it was supposed to be active not abandoned, but I left everything else in place, just changing “former council chamber” to “council chamber” and the like.

Step Three in dungeon conversion: Find the “special thing” in the dungeon and replace it with whatever your PCs are looking for. In Dragons, it’s the Disks of Mishkal; they became the Tablets of Cadmus, the first writing. Also I put the mummified Queen Thalestris of the Amazons (and her Sword) in an otherwise empty chamber because the Amazon PC needed something special, and Ephesus has always been an Amazon city so an ancient queen mummy fits in. The temple in Legacy came with a prison (for the occultist) and a treasury (for the Ark instead of the Eye), so that was easy. The giants are just there to man the killing gauntlet in G2, and the exit is the special thing, so it became the passage to Prometheus’ cave.

And that, can you believe it, is literally it. If you’ve ever run dungeons before, you’ll find all the old reflexes coming back: add wandering monsters, tangle with the PCs like the inhabitants would under attack, use the terrain tactically, make the players work for those empty rooms where they can get a little rest. You don’t even have to sweat levels if you don’t want to: 13th Age characters are insanely robust compared to D&D hobos, so even twice the level isn’t really stretching it. Remember, monster conversion has already done most of the work up-gunning the dungeon, and traps aren’t supposed to be a thing in 13th Age. So delve into those used module bins, and escalate without fear.


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In my home campaign, our heroes found themselves transported back in time to the rebellion against the Wizard King—though as they discovered later, they were actually trapped in a living dungeon’s memories of that era. These were some of the foes they encountered: brutal enforcers of the Wizard King’s rule.

It’s possible these miscreants will show up in a future 13th Age supplement. If so, I’ll be interested to see what turn into after a proper development pass. But when I ran them they were fun and challenging to fight!

Note that the Wizard King knight’s defense against non-spell attacks is a hack of the Pearl Legion’s destined not to die ability from Book of Ages. I liked the idea of the Wizard King’s elite knights being nearly unbeatable except by magic. Destined not to die lent itself well to that idea.

Building battles: As befits troops in service to the world’s most powerful wizard, a squad operating in a hostile area typically includes a coursing manticore (from the 13th Age Bestiary) or some other fearsome magical monster for extra intimidation and firepower.

 

Wizard King Grunt

If it weren’t obvious already, the poor equipment issued to these wretches makes it clear that their primary function in battle is to get in the way of attacks.

7th level mook [humanoid]

Initiative: +7

Government issue spear +12 vs. AC18 damage

Natural 1-5: The spear breaks and is unusable for the rest of the battle. Replace with fists, I guess?.

Fists, I guess? +12 vs. AC6 damage

R: Government issue crossbow +12 vs. AC18 damage

Natural 1-5: The crossbow breaks and is unusable for the rest of the battle

AC 23

PD 21                HP 27 (mook)

MD 17

 

Wizard King Stormtrooper

They aren’t too bright, and they aren’t very good shots, but their loyalty to the Wizard King is absolute.

7th level troop [humanoid]

Initiative: +9

Standard issue broadsword +12 vs. AC28 damage

R: Standard issue wand +10 vs. AC20 damage

R: Suppressing fire +12 vs. PD (1d4 nearby or far away targets)target is stuck until the beginning of the Wizard King stormtrooper’s next turn.

Limited use: Only usable when not engaged with an enemy.

Weak-minded: Wizard King stormtroopers are trained to obey those in authority without question, leaving them with a lower than normal Mental Defense.

AC 20

PD 21                HP 100

MD 10

 

Wizard King Captain

Drawn from the ranks of the lesser nobility, the Wizard King gives them access to a fragment of arcane power that makes them and the troops they lead more deadly as the battle rages on.

7th level leader [humanoid]

Initiative: +12

Officer’s longsword +12 vs. AC28 damage, and each nearby Wizard King stormtrooper deals +5 damage with its next attack this battle that hits.

R: Officer’s wand +12 vs. AC28 damage

Defend me! Once per battle when an attack reduces the Wizard King captain to half its hit points or fewer, any Wizard King grunts and Wizard King stormtroopers in the battle may move toward the Wizard King captain as a free action, popping free if they are engaged.

For the Wizard King! The Wizard King captain adds the Escalation Die to their attacks up to a maximum bonus of +3. In addition, Wizard King stormtroopers in the battle add the Escalation Die to their attacks to a maximum bonus of +2.

AC 23

PD 17                HP 108

MD 21

 

Wizard King Knight

In return for their eternal loyalty, the Wizard King made his paladins almost impossible to kill by normal means. They roam the kingdom on their warhorses, performing great and terrible deeds that all may know and fear his name.

8th level wrecker [humanoid]

Initiative: +13

Foe-scattering sword +13 vs. AC—38 damage

Natural even hit: If the Wizard King knight is mounted, its warhorse makes a foe-scattering strike attack as a free action.

[special trigger] Foe-scattering strike +13 vs. AC (all enemies engaged with the Wizard King knight)18 damage, and the target pops free

R: King-given wand +13 vs. AC38 damage of a random energy type (1d4):

  1. Cold
  2. Fire
  3. Lightning
  4. Thunder

For the Wizard King! The Wizard King knight adds the Escalation Die to their attacks.

No earthly weapon can kill me: If a non-spell attack that hits the Wizard King knight would reduce it to 0 hit points, that attack misses instead. The knight still takes non-spell miss damage, and can be killed by non-spell miss damage. Spell attacks kill the knight normally.

AC 24

PD 22                HP 144

MD 18

 

Countess Magdalena the Duelist

The countess is the most feared swordfighter in the kingdom. “The Duelist” is what they call her to her face—behind her back, in whispers, they call her “the Decapitator”. She hears them whisper, and she smiles.

8th level spoiler [humanoid]

Initiative: +15

Unerring blade +14 vs. AC40 damage

Natural 16+: The target is also vulnerable (crit range expands by 2, to 18+)

R: Fire opal ring +12 vs. PD (1d3 + 1 nearby creatures in a group)—30 fire damage, and 10 ongoing fire damage

Natural even hit: The target takes 20 ongoing fire damage instead of 10

Miss: 15 fire damage, and 5 ongoing fire damage

Limited use: 2/battle

R: Sapphire ring +12 vs. PD (2 attacks)—30 cold damage

Natural 16+: The target is stuck and takes 10 ongoing cold damage

Limited use: 2/battle.

C: Terrifying demonstration +13 vs. MD—The countess gains a fear aura against the target until the end of the battle

[special trigger] Fear aura: While engaged with the countess, if the target has 48 hp or fewer, it’s dazed (–4 attack) and does not add the escalation die to its attacks.

The more foes, the merrier: Enemies engaged with the countess at the end of their turn take damage equal to 5 times the escalation die (0-5-10-15-25-30) if they have not taken damage since the end of their last turn.

You’re too easily distracted: The countess has a +2 bonus to disengage checks.

The secret of the ring: When the countess drops to 0 hp, her body dies but her life force lives on inside the gemstone in her fire opal ring. There, she awaits the day when the Wizard King calls her forth and grants her a new, undying body.

AC 24

PD 18      HP 144

MD 22

 

Lunar wand icon by  under CC BY 3.0


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

One of the easiest ways to quickly add iconic flavour to an adventure is to rework the monsters. If one of your players rolls a 6 on their Negative relationship with the Dwarf King, you can just hastily glue some beards to those ghosts in room 7 and call them the Spectres of the Tombless Dead. Need to work out how the Emperor plays into an adventure set deep underground? Turn those xorn into, er, Imperial Xorn. This trick is especially useful in the Underworld, which is (a) far from the regular haunts of the Icons and (b) already brimming with weirdness.

For the abilities listed below, use the attack bonuses and damages for creatures of the appropriate toughness and level on pgs. 254-255 of 13th Age. +X is the creature’s attack bonus, +XX is the creature’s damage.

A character with the appropriate Iconic relationships might know something about the powers and weaknesses of an Icon-warped entity.

Archmage

Magical Spirit: The creature is only partially manifest in our reality; it’s got Resist Non-Magic Damage 16+ in any round it doesn’t attack. Quirk: see-through.
Erudite: The creature can cast at least one spell (+X vs. MD, XX/2 damage, plus the target is Confused or Weakened, save ends). Quirk: long sagely beard.
Illusory: The creature isn’t really real; all attacks target MD. At the end of the battle, all participant regain one Recovery. Quirk: ham actor
Bound: The creature is magically anchored to an object or place; it’s got +1 to all defences while near the spot, but cannot move more than a short distance away. Quirk: little arcs of magical lightning link creature to its cage.

 Crusader

Spiky: -2 to disengage attempts; characters who try and fail to disengage take 3 damage (Champion: 6; Epic: 15). Quirk: Irritable
Blazing: Fire aura deals damage equal to the Escalation Die to any foes who start their turn engaged with this monster (Champion: x2; Epic: x3). Quirk: On fire. If already on fire, complains about it.
Relentless: The creature gets an additional saving throw at the start of its turn. Quirk: Rants and  raves about demons.
Bound: The creature is magically anchored to an object or place; it’s got +1 to all defences while near the spot, but cannot move more than a short distance away. Quirk: little arcs of magical lightning link creature to its cage.

 

 Diabolist

Demonic: The creature gains resist fire 12+ and Quirk: Little bat wings, reddish skin.
Beguiling: It’s hard to bring yourself to attack the creature; anyone attempting to do so must make a normal save. Fail, and pick another target for the attack. Add the escalation die’s value to the save roll. Quirk: cute, in a sinister way.
Summoner: When first staggered, the creature can summon a demon guardian as a free action. (Adventurer: dretch, Champion: Despoiler; Epic: 1d4 hooked demons)
Soul-Stealer: A character knocked unconscious by this creature has their soul stolen. A soul-less character rolls one fewer die for all recoveries, and may be vulnerable to other supernatural attacks or possession. Get that soul back before it’s sold! Quirk: Keeps other captured souls in jars, talks to them.

Dwarf King

Stone: Initiative bonus halved, -25%HP +2AC, +2PD. Quirk: Contains a relic or valuable item inside its hollow chest.
Begrudging: May add the escalation die to its attacks against the first foe to damage it. Quirk: If it survives the encounter, it continues to stalk the PCs.
Rune-Inscribed: Gains Resist Energy 12+ against the first type of energy-based damage it suffers. Quirk: Magic rune serves as key to some ancient dwarven door or treasure chest.
Armoured: -2 to attacks, +2 AC. Quirk: Grizzled grognard.

 

 

Elf Queen

Immortal: This creature has been around for many Ages, giving it great wisdom. It can talk, and is much clever and wiser than others of its kind. Oh, and it can’t due through physical damage – it can be reduced to 0 hit points only by a suitably thematic attack. Quirk: irritatingly long-winded.
Fae: Vulnerable to iron, but elusive – it cannot be intercepted and doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks by moving Speaks in dodgy Shakespearian verse.
Stargazer: At the start of the battle, roll a d6. While the escalation die matches that value, the creature gains +2 to all defences and may add the escalation die to its attack rolls. Quirk: Claims to have foreseen the future of the PCs.
Elven Grace: At the start of each round, roll a d6. If the roll is equal to or lower than the value of the escalation die, the creature gains an extra action and the die rolled increased by one step (d6 to d8, d8 to d10 etc). Quirk: Snooty

 Emperor

Disciplined: If there are two or more creatures with this trait all fighting side by side, they all gain +1AC.
Quirk: Martial martinet – snaps to attention, marches up and down, calls out attacks like a drill instructor.
Royal: The pride of this creature cannot be diminished by mere damage.
If it’s not staggered, reduce all damage taken by 5 (Champion: 10; Epic: 15).
Quirk: Lazy and condescending to the commoners.
Gladiator: If this creature is engaged with a lone foe, it may add the escalation die to its attacks.
Quirk: Can you smeeeelllllllll what sort of pop-culture trope this creature is cooking?
Glorious: Gains a fear Quirk: Speaks with solemn gravity and authority.

 

Great Gold Wyrm

Dream-creature: The creature isn’t really real; all attacks target MD. At the end of the battle, all participant regain one Recovery. Quirk: Speaks with the voice of someone important to the player characters.
Fire-Breathing: Once per battle, the creature may make a free fire breath attack (C: +X to hit (1d3 nearby foes in a group), XX/2 fire damage). Quirk: Hot-headed and quick to charge.
Glorious: Gains a fear Quirk: Seeks to inspire everyone, even foes. (“You can hit me better than that! Keep trying!”)
Smiter: Once per battle, the creature make a smite attack, gaining +4 to hit and dealing an extra d12 holy damage (Champion: 2d12; Epic: 4d12). Quirk: Hunts down evil with extreme prejudice.

High Druid

Elemental: Roll a d4. 1: Earth – gains +1AC while in contact with the ground; 2: Air – can fly; 3 – Fire: Anyone engaged with the creature at the start of their turn takes fire damage equal to the value of the escalation die (Champion: x2; Epic: x3); 4: Water – any critical hits have a 50% chance of turning into normal hits. Quirk: Seeks balance between elemental forces.
Plant: -5 penalty to attempts to disengage from this creature; also, it can hide in forests and other overgrown environments, attacking from ambush. Quirk: Speaks slooooooooooooowly.
Regenerating: Heals 5 points of damage at the start of its turn, up to five times per battle. Healing back up to full doesn’t count towards its total; fire and acid damage turn off regeneration. Troll stuff, right? (Champion: Heals 10; Epic: Heals 25). Quirk: Unrelenting in all aspects of its life.
Savage: If the creature’s attack roll is equal to or lower than the escalation die, and it’s a miss, reroll. Quirk: Pick some absolutely trivial aspect of the PCs’ appearance or background, and complain about it constantly. (“I’ll kill you! And your hat! I’ll especially kill your hat!”)

Lich King

Skeletal: Resist weapons 16+. Quirk: Philosophical and detached; mordantly humourous.
Zombie: On a natural 16+, both zombie and target take +1d6 damage (champion: 3d6; epic: 4d10). Quirk: Eats brains.
Spectral: Resist Damage 12+, except force or holy damage. Walks through walls. Quirk: Gets confused and forgets it’s not the (roll 1d12)th Age.
Alive But Creepy and Spooky: If slain, comes back to life with 10% of its starting hit points. Well, comes back to undead. It only self-resurrects once. Quirk: Fired from a Hammer Horror movie for over-acting.

 Orc Lord

Brutal: Increase the creature’s crit threshold by 3 if it’s not staggered. Quirk: Loudly proclaims impending triumph of orc lord.
Overwhelming Assault: Every time the creature misses, increase its damage by +1d6. Quirk: Sadistic and willing to use dirty tricks against PCs.
Savage: If the creature’s attack roll is equal to or lower than the escalation die, and it’s a miss, reroll. Quirk: Superstitious, laden down with amulets, performs rituals before battle.
Furious: Every time the creature makes a successful save against a condition or ongoing damage, increase its damage by +1d6. Quirk: Mocks weakness of PCs.

Priestess

Radiant: The creature’s surrounded by a holy aura; any nearby allies get a +5 bonus to saves. Quirk: Annoyingly serene.
Winged: It flies. Quirk: Annoyingly serene.
Redeemed: The creature’s usually associated with evil; this one serves the Light – and has a spear of light attack to boot (R: +X to hit, +XX holy damage). Quirk: Annoyingly serene.
Divine Emissary: The creature bears the symbols of a god associated with one of the player characters; that character is weakened in combat with the creature. Quirk: Annoyingly serene and knows all your embarrassing childhood secrets.

Prince of Shadows

Pickpocket: On a natural 1-5, the creature steals an item from the target. Quirk: Talks like a used car salesman.
Backstabber: If at least one other ally is engaged with the same target as this creature, it deals an extra 2d6 damage (Champion: 4d6; Epic: 8d6). Quirk: Whispers threats in your ear as it stabs you.
Whisperer: Every time this creature inflicts a critical hit, move one of the target’s Icon relationships one step towards Negative. The relationship die resets to normal after it’s next rolled. Quirk: Malicious gossip.
Elusive: When hit, the creature may make a normal save (11+) to turn that attack into a miss. Limited Use: 1/battle. Quirk: Shadowy and wears a dark cloak, regardless of the nature of the creature. So, yeah, it’s a dire bear in a dark cloak, a hydra in a dark cloak, a koru behemoth in a dark cloak.

The Three

Three-Headed: If the creature has a bite attack, then add “Natural 16+: Make another bite attack on a different target as a free action”). If it doesn’t have a bite attack, +2MD. Quirk: Argues with itself.
Fire-Breathing: Fire-Breathing: Once per battle, the creature may make a free fire breath attack (C: +X to hit (1d3 nearby foes in a group), XX/2 fire damage). Quirk: Apocalyptic prophet.
Sorcerer: Gain a spell attack (C: +X to hit, XX/2 damage, and the target is Confused or Weakened, save ends). Quirk: Talks in arcane mumbles.
Poisonous: The creature’s attack now deals 5 ongoing poison damage, save ends (Champion: 10 ongoing; Epic: 15 ongoing). Quirk: Communicates only in gestures.

staring eyeA lot of us with a long history of d20 fantasy gaming have shiver-inducing memories of the first time a certain grinning, many-eyed monster absolutely demolished our group of adventurers. Sadly, that iconic monster isn’t available under the OGL; but the concept is so compelling that a lot of fantasy RPGs have taken it in interesting, non-copyright-violating directions.

When designing the overseer of the Eye Mother, my guiding principles were:

  • It’s a monster players love to hate and fear
  • Like a sadistic GM it sees everything the PCs do, and punishes them for their actions in highly specific ways designed to neutralize their strengths.
  • It prevents magic from working properly

In a stroke of luck, there were already horrifying eye-themed blasphemies in 13th Age: the fomori Daughters Of Dehothu, the Eye-Mother from the 13th Age Bestiary 2. This monster wouldn’t be powerful enough to be a true-fomori like the Daughters, but could be an intermediary between them and their servants—which fit nicely with the “punishing” concept.

I hope you enjoy the overseer of the Eye-Mother! Thanks to Rob Heinsoo for his feedback on the various drafts, and to the folks who playtested it: Tim Baker, J-M DeFoggi, Kenneth Hite, and the players in my home campaign.

(For his Poikila Hellenistika campaign, Ken reskinned it as as the animated eye and beak of a bas-relief of Ashur, tutelary god of the Assyrian Empire, and came up with the wonderfully evil spell theft nastier special.)

Overseer of the Eye Mother

Overseers of the Eye Mother are lesser true-fomori associated with Dehothu. These monstrous high priests and taskmasters ensure that cultists, unclean-ones, and fomorians do the fomori’s will, and they sadistically punish those who fail. Overseers are highly intelligent, and unlike other true-fomori, do not require a host.

Although the overseer is a large monster for the purposes of stats, there is never more than one overseer present in a battle—unless it’s an apocalyptic, campaign-ending climax where the skies are filled with squadrons of them, which would be frankly terrifying.

Overseer of the Eye-Mother

You hear the creature’s mocking laughter over your companions’ screams, as rays from the giant, glistening eyeballs that orbit its writhing, shapeless body strike them down one after another.

Large 9th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +16

C: Punishing gaze +15 vs. PD75 damage

Eye ray: After an enemy takes all its actions during their turn, they make a normal save (11+). If it fails, the overseer makes an eye ray attack against that enemy as a free action. The overseer can’t use the same eye ray effect twice in a single round. (See example at the end of the writeup.)

[special trigger] R: Eye ray +17 vs. PD (one nearby or far away enemy)

Hit: Choose the eye ray effect from the table below based on the actions of the target during that turn. For example, the overseer might use charm person on an enemy (such as a cleric or commander) that uses powers and spells to benefit their allies. It might use stun against an enemy with strong defenses, and disintegration or petrification against an enemy that’s really pissed it off.

  1. Charm person: the target is confused. It can’t make opportunity attacks or use limited powers, and its next attack action will be a basic or at-will attack against any nearby ally, determined randomly (11+ save ends).
  2. Slow: starting next round, the target goes last in initiative order, and can’t delay or ready an action. On a successful save (11+) the target returns to the previous initiative order.
  3. Fear: the target takes a –4 penalty to attacks and can’t use the escalation die (11+ save ends)
  4. Petrification: the target must start making last gasp saves as it turns to stone. See the 13th Age core book for detailed rules on last gasp saves. (Limited use: once per battle.)
  5. Stun: The target takes a –4 penalty to defenses and can’t take any actions (11+ save ends)
  6. Invisibility purge: If the target is invisible, it turns visible and cannot become invisible again this battle
  7. Transfer enchantment: If the overseer or a nearby ally is suffering from a condition caused by an enemy spell (or spell-like power or ability), the overseer can transfer one condition to the target. If timing is required, interpret the transferred condition as if the overseer had caused it with this attack.
  8. Disintegration: 75 damage, and attacks against the target have their crit range expanded by 2 (save ends). If the attack reduces the target to negative hit points equal to half its maximum hit points, the target is disintegrated along with everything on their person except true magic items. A merciful GM may decide that the target was actually teleported to a “phantom zone” type prison, and might still be rescued by the group—either by killing the overseer, convincing it to release the character, or going wherever the overseer sent that character.
    • Miss: 35 damage

Anti-magic aura: When a nearby or far-away enemy uses a spell attack against the overseer, they must roll twice to attack and use the lower result unless one of the rolls is a critical hit. Anti-magic aura and the sorcerer’s spell frenzy cancel each other out: sorcerers roll a single die to attack.

Hovering flight: The overseer drifts through the air like an enormous soap bubble.

Go for the eyes!: When an enemy makes a critical hit against the overseer, one of its eyes is destroyed and the overseer loses a random eye ray effect. If an enemy declares it is aiming for an eye, a successful hit does not decrease the overseer’s hit point total—instead it destroys the eye, causing the overseer to lose a randomly-chosen eye ray effect. If all its eyes are destroyed, the overseer cannot use eye ray again until it has regrown them after a month or two.

Made of eyes: The overseer can’t be surprised or ambushed, and it has true sight (spells like blur, invisibility, etc. don’t work on it).

Uncanny willpower: If the confused condition is applied to the overseer, the overseer rolls a save at the end of each turn in which it acts, including when it makes an eye rays attack. In addition, the hampered condition does not prevent the overseer from using eye rays.

Nastier Specials

Eye theft: When a nearby or far-away creature (enemy, ally, or bystander) is staggered, it begins to feel as if its eyes are being pulled out by an invisible force. It takes a –1 penalty to hit and damage. Enemies that die in the presence of the overseer do indeed have their eyes sucked out as it absorbs the eyeballs.

Spell theft: As a standard action during its turn, the overseer can cast any failed spell attack made against it as a steal spell attack.

[special trigger] R: Steal spell +15 vs. the defense in the original spell—if the spell does damage, the target takes 75 damage of the type described. If the original spell does ongoing damage, the target takes 10 ongoing damage of the type described. The target suffers any conditions described in the spell description.

 

AC 25

PD 23    HP 360

MD 23

Tactics

The oveseer has zero interest in mixing it up in melee combat with heroes, whom it views as scurrying insects to be tormented for its amusement. It hovers at a distance, letting fomori cultists (unclean-ones, kobolds, troglodytes, orcs, and so forth) to fight and die while it uses punishing gaze and eye ray. The overseer has a strong sense of self-preservation and attempts to leave the battle as soon as it looks like there’s a real chance it might be killed. If possible, it takes an enemy confused by the charm person ray with it as a hostage.

An example of the overseer in combat:

  1. A cleric, a rogue, and a wizard face off against an overseer in a temple ruin. The rogue goes first in order of initiative, and makes a ranged attack against the overseer for 20 damage. At the end of the rogue’s turn, the player rolls a saving throw and fails. The overseer makes a successful eye ray attack against the rogue as a free action. The overseer wants to slow the rogue down, so it uses the slow ray.
  2. The cleric goes next in initiative order and invokes the domain of strength. The cleric then casts javelin of faith and hits the overseer for 30 damage. At the end of the cleric’s turn, that player rolls a saving throw, and fails. The overseer makes an eye ray attack against the cleric (only one, even though the cleric took multiple actions during their turn). The overseer uses its petrification ray to gradually turn the cleric into stone.
  3. The wizard goes next, and casts acid arrow at the overseer. Due to the overseer’s anti-magic aura the wizard rolls twice and uses the lower result. The wizard’s attack misses. At the end of the wizard’s turn the player rolls a saving throw and succeeds. The overseer does not make an eye ray attack against the wizard on that turn.
  4. The overseer goes next. Because this overseer has the nastier special magic theft, it casts the wizard’s failed acid arrow at the rogue. The rogue takes 75 points of damage, and will take 10 ongoing damage on their next turn.
  5. A new round begins. Because of the slow ray’s effect, the rogue goes last instead of first this round.
  6. The cleric moves to engage the overseer and makes a successful hammer of faith attack. It’s a critical hit, and does significant damage. The overseer makes an eye ray attack and, enraged at this affront, chooses disintegration.
  7. The cleric, now staggered and vulnerable, fails their last gasp save and continues to turn into stone.
  8. The players announce that they wish to flee the battle.

Image by Anna Langova.


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Recover the hidden power of the Elf Queen!

Ages ago, when the elves were still united as one, the Elf Queen locked away a portion of her power in a magical vault. In hindsight, this may not have been a good idea; in the chaotic 13th Age, it has turned out to be a terrible idea.

Over time, the original elven guardians of the vault’s keys have been stealthily defeated or corrupted; and now the keys to the Elf Queen’s power are hidden in three magical towers—one for each of the three elven peoples—and the elves themselves cannot pierce their defenses.

What to do? Summon heroes, of course! Glory, riches, and power will surely flow to those who answer the Elf Queen’s call . . . or perhaps to those who want her power for their own icons.

Elven Towers is a champion tier 13th Age adventure for 3 to 6 adventurers by Cal Moore (High Magic & Low Cunning, The Crown Commands; Fire and Faith). It includes plotlines and options for adventures throughout the Queen’s Wood, with multiple elven-themed encounters you can use in any campaign.

Format: Print and PDF
Author: Cal Moore
Developers: John-Matthew DeFoggi, Rob Heinsoo
Status: In development

Adventure in the City of Swords!

Axis, mighty capital of the Dragon Empire! Here, the markets flow with goods and gold, ambitious nobles rise and fall within the Emperor’s court, knives flash in reeking alleys, and gladiators’ weapons clash to the roar of crowds—while the metallic dragons who guard the Empire watch over it all.

Your band of heroes has come here seeking opportunity, a chance to make a name for yourselves and earn some coin. Axis has work for your kind: armed, dangerous, and willing to enter the tunnels beneath an old gladiatorial arena to confront whatever’s been killing the workers there. But any blade drawn, spell cast, or gold piece stolen in Axis might cause ripples that spread in unexpected ways—maybe even as far as the palaces of the Emperor.

Crown of Axis is an upcoming introductory 13th Age adventure for 1st level heroes by Wade Rockett (Temple of the Sun Cabal, 13th Age Game Master’s Screen and Resource Book). It can be played as a one-shot or as the start of a campaign, and is customizable based on characters’ icon relationships.

Format: PDF
Author: Wade Rockett
Developers: Rob Heinsoo, John-Matthew DeFoggi
Cover: Aaron McConnell
Status: In development

Halloween is nigh, so I’m going to stat up some spooky monsters—in this case, pirate ghosts! These restless undead might haunt the Iron Sea coast, the rivers of the Fangs, or the Midland Sea around Necropolis and Omen.

You can find all sorts of ghosts in the 13th Age Bestiary, from the Petulant Never-Was to an Epic Haunting. The monsters below are based on the disgraced legionnaire and major haunting. The dead men tell no tales ability is a modified version of the death marker’s marked for death ability.

Abilities for Most Ghosts

Most ghosts have several or all of the following abilities:

Bound hauntings: Most ghosts are bound to an area, usually the area of their death. This ability won’t come up much in play, but it does make it seem likely that ghosts can be easier to get away from than other monsters. Move far enough fast enough and the ghost returns to the area it’s bound to. Occasionally festivals for the dead or other rituals can call bound ghosts from their hauntings, but those are unusual and temporary circumstances.

Exceptions: There may be ghosts that are bound to people, or events, or phenomena that travel. There might even be ghosts that aren’t bound to anything, but at that stage there are several other questions that surface and odd magical, iconic, or unique intervention seems likely.

Flight: Most ghosts fly, though some may be quite slow, seeming to drift or walking on air. Ghosts that fly in unusual ways will be flagged with their own abilities.

Exceptions: Not all ghosts fly. Some seem constrained to act much like they acted when they were alive, and flying wasn’t part of their life package.

Unnatural touch: Many ghosts can alter the temperature of their environment to more closely match the underworld or afterlife that they’ve so far evaded. Sometimes that’s icy cold, sometimes that’s burning hot, and sometimes it’s just kind of normal, which would go unnoticed unless the ghost is somewhere abnormal!

Exceptions: This is more of a special effect of ghost stories than part of a creature’s combat abilities, and you can safely ignore it unless you find telling moments when it adds to the game.

The Black Spot: A New Ability for Pirate Ghosts

The black spot: If someone has wronged a pirate ghost, either in life or after their death, a ghostly pirate crew member appears before them 1-6 months later (ideally on a dark and stormy night) and presents them with a scrap of paper marked with a black smudge. To resist the magical compulsion to accept the black spot, the target must succeed at a 16+ save. If the save is failed, the target takes the black spot. From then on, the offended pirate ghosts can teleport to the target’s location at will to attack them, and will keep coming until the target is dead.

Pirate Ghost Captain

Come now, surely ye haven’t forgotten yer old shipmates? Why, it feels like it were only yesterday we dangled at at the end of a hangman’s rope, while you went on to live all respectable and proper-like.

Double-strength 6th level wrecker [undead]

Initiative: +12

Vulnerability: holy

Phantom cutlass +13 vs. PD—40 negative energy damage

Natural even hit or miss: The ghost pirate captain can make a dead men tell no tales attack as a free action against a nearby staggered enemy.

C: Dead men tell no tales +11 vs. MD (nearby staggered enemy)—5 ongoing psychic damage (11+ save ends).

Target is hit by a dead men tell no tales attack for the second time this battle: Until the end of the battle, when the target tries to spend a recovery they have to succeed at a save (11+) first. If they fail, they haven’t used their action but can’t spend recoveries that turn.

Target is hit by a dead men tell no tales attack for the third time this battle:The save to spend a recovery is now a hard save (16+).

Target is hit for the fourth time this battle: Until the end of the battle the target cannot spend recoveries.

Ghostly: This creature has resist damage 12+ to all damage except holy damage. A ghost can move through solid objects, but can’t end its turn inside them.

Mark of the Jonah: Each enemy that has a background or One Unique Thing related to sailing or the sea that misses an attack with a natural odd roll takes a -2 penalty to all its defenses until the end of the battle.

Nastier Specials

Fear aura: While engaged with this ghost, if the target has 30 hp or fewer, it’s dazed (–4 to attack) and does not add the escalation die to its attacks.

Swarm of pirates: If there are three or more ghost pirate crew member mooks in a battle, the pirate ghost captain’s fear aura ability affects enemies with 60 hp or fewer.

AC 22

PD 19     HP 140

MD 16

 

Pirate Ghost Crew Member

Arrrrr!

6th level mook [undead]

Initiative: +9

Phantom cutlass +10 vs. PD—8 negative energy damage

Mob-based: For every separate mob of ghost pirate crew member mooks in the battle (mobs start with at least four mooks), add a +1 bonus to the ghost pirate crew member’s attacks and +2 to its damage.

Ghostly: This creature has resist damage 14+ to all damage except holy damage. A ghost can move through solid objects, but can’t end its turn inside them.

AC 21

PD 19 .      HP 18 (mook)

MD 16

Mook: Kill one ghost pirate crew member mook for every 18 damage you deal to the mob.


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. 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. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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