[Author Roland Rogers is a 14-year-old 13th Age player whose One Unique Thing is that he Knows All the Monsters. ]

In my opinion, there aren’t enough races in 13th Age that can cause the fun kind of trouble with NPCs in adventuring parties, though the half-orc and the tiefling are good candidates. The possibility of using creatures such as goblins and kobolds as part of your team might cause interesting tensions, and opens a lot of doors for exceptional Backgrounds and One Unique Things.

So here are some optional and very unofficial races for you to consider.


+2 Dex or +2 Int

Bonus Feat: Goblinoids gain a +2 on rolls to filch things.

Filch (Racial Power)

Once per day, you can ‘take 19’ on a roll to steal an inanimate object (money, magic items) off a person, or out of a trap, etc. this means you don’t roll, instead taking a natural roll of 19, meaning you will almost always succeed.

Goblinoids are generally part Human, Halfling or Gnome. Very rarely will Goblinoids be part Elf, Dwarf, or Half-Orc.

Overall, Goblinoids are seen by most as scum, whether fairly or not. It is odd for Goblinoids to be in a group with other races, so the reason you are working in a group could be part of your backgrounds or one unique things.



+2 Str or +2 Con

Bonus Feat: Ogrespawn gain a +2 on rolls to lift things or force things to move.

Fortitude (Racial Power)

Twice per day as a standard action you can heal using a free recovery, but the hit points are temporary hit points, that last until you gain more temporary hit points. (You can use this ability out of battle.)

Adventurer Feat: Add your strength modifier to the temporary hit points. At Champion tier you add twice your Strength modifier; at epic tier: three times your Strength modifier).

Champion Feat: You gain an extra recovery per day.

Epic Feat: You can use this ability three times a day instead of two.

Ogres are not noted for their intelligence, and where they are not fighting, they often work as labourers. Ogrespawn can be more intelligent because they can take after their non-Ogre parent, but they are often expected to do the heavy lifting in adventuring parties.


+2 Dex or +2 Int

Alchemical Knowledge (Racial Power)

Twice per day as a quick action, the Kobold can throw a potion. Roll a D3 on the potion chart below.

1: Poison potion: Level + Dex or Str vs PD – 5 ongoing poison damage.

Level 3: 10 ongoing damage.

Level 5: 15 ongoing damage.

Level 7: 20 ongoing damage.

Level 9: 28 ongoing damage.

2: Flight potion: you can fly for the next 1d3 turns, but you have to land before the end of the final turn.

3: Life draining potion: Level + Dex or Str vs PD – the target is Weakened (save ends) and you heal half of a recovery.

Champion Feat: Once per level, you can, instead of rolling, use a Confusion potion. Make a Level + Dex or Str vs PD – the target is Confused (save ends).

Epic Feat: the Poison potion deals 10 more damage, the flight potion lasts for 1d3 +1 rounds instead of 1d3, and you heal extra hit points equal to triple your Dex modifier when you use the life draining potion.

The kobolds most likely to be found amongst the more numerous PC races are often talented alchemists

Kobolds often work for dragons, or powerful lizardfolk . They are viewed as weaker, or as lower creatures. This might affect how they slot into an adventuring party.


+2 Dex or +2 Con.

Regeneration (Racial Power)

Every round, at the end of your turn, you heal hit points equal to half your Constitution modifier (Champion tier: your Constitution modifier, Epic tier: twice your Constitution modifier). You don’t regenerate when you are below 0 hit points.

On a round when you are hit by an attack that deals acid or fire damage, or if you are Stunned you do not heal.

Adventurer Feat: Heal one more hit point whenever you heal.

Champion Feat: You heal an extra one more hit point whenever you heal.

Trolls are devious tricksters, who also excel in physical combat. Their regeneration ability makes them hard to kill, unless you have acid or fire handy. As a Trollspawn, you are only half troll, which makes your regeneration less potent. You are viewed kindly upon by trolls, who value your intelligence, and welcomed amongst them.

Trollish regeneration has been speculated upon by wizards, sorcerers and the like for many ages. Is it the Trollish flesh, infused with magic? Is it a spell cast on every troll at birth? Or could it be a gift from an Icon, given at the start of the First Age?






Paladins are among the simplest class to play—high hp, high AC, and hitting the unrighteous with a big weapon. They have no special powers, and are in some ways even simpler than barbarians.

The first paladin build of these two plays to those strengths—focused on smiting others as hard as they can.

The second paladin build (this one) is a holy warrior, optimized for smiting and using cleric-style powers that work alongside the paladin’s smite ability.

Divine Paladin

Download the Divine Paladin character sheets here.

Paladins are holy warriors, with shared access to features found in the cleric class. This paladin is focused on melee combat (as paladins should be) but aids their allies too, shining good’s light upon evil to banish it… or you could play this character as a servant of evil, granted strength by dark gods to further their malign agenda.

This paladin uses a longsword and shield, valuing defense over offence. Your job with this paladin build is to get out in front of the squishier members of the party and take the attacks that would otherwise be targeting them, while providing your allies with healing and buffs. Tactically you are a mix of front-line fighter and support/healer—ideal for smaller parties who need both roles covered. This character is a bit more complex to play than other paladins, as you’ll need to monitor the rest of your party to make best use of your healing and other support abilities.

Divine-domain wise this character’s story probably revolves around a sun god who sends mirages and warm healing light to protect the faithful (domains of sun, illusion, and healing).


Cleric Training

You can cast one cleric spell of your level or lower, which you can switch out each day for a different spell. Bless, cure wounds, shield of faith, turn undead, etc… are all available to you from the start, but you choose ahead of time which one you’ll pick so think ahead. If in doubt pick cure wounds, you can’t go wrong with a bit of extra healing to hand out when the going gets tough.

Divine Domain (Sun)

Your attacks deal HOLY damage.

Lay on Hands

Additional healing for your party.


It’s aasimar for this character—the halo ability fits perfectly with the build concept of a warrior with a link to divine power.


This character keeps things balanced: Str 16 (+3) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 10 (0) Wis 10 (0) Cha 16 (+3).

1st level

Attributes: Str 16 (+3) Con 14 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Int 10 (0) Wis 10 (0) Cha 16 (+3).

Racial Power: halo

Talents: cleric training, divine domain (sun), lay on hands

Feat: toughness

Spells: One 1st level cleric spell, can change each day

2nd level

New feat (smite evil).

3rd level

New feat (cleric training).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (lay on hands).

5th level

New talent (divine domain: illusion), new feat (smite evil).

6th level

New feat (cleric training).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity), new feat (lay on hands).

8th level

New talent (divine domain: healing), new feat (lay on hands).

9th level

New feat (cleric training).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Dexterity, Charisma), new feat (smite evil).

You’ve defeated the monsters, now it’s time to loot the lair!

By ENnie award-winning author ASH LAW, Loot Harder: A Book of Treasures brings you hundreds of new magic items for your 13th Age game, including true magic items, consumables, and items for new classes.

Brave adventurers (and GMs) will also find game-changing, campaign-defining iconic relics; “minor” magical treasures that require no attunement; and of course (or should we say, “of curse”), those rare riches that exact a price. Plus: adventure hooks, new item types (scepters, chalices, orbs), lair items, linked thematic item sets, and iconic artifacts!

Think you’ve looted as hard as you can? Get ready to LOOT HARDER!

Status: In development


Montages—first introduced in our organized play adventures and later expanded on in the 13th Age Game Master’s Resource Book—can quickly advance a story while co-creating events and interactions that might contribute in surprising ways later in the session or the campaign.

Here are the basics of running a montage:

  1. Start with a player who is comfortable improvising, and ask them to describe a problem that the party faces as they travel or undertake an activity, without offering a solution.
  2. Turn to the player to the left of the starting player, and ask them how their PC does something clever or awesome to solve the problem. After they narrate a solution, ask that same player to describe the next obstacle that the group must deal with.
  3. The next player clockwise gets to solve the new problem, then offer up a new obstacle.
  4. Keep going around the table until everyone has both invented, and solved, a problem.

Typically you won’t call for any die rolls, even when the solution to a challenge involves combat. These events occur in quick narrative time, and allow the players to invent stories to reinforce their characters’ defining qualities. (They also won’t actually use any resources, even if they describe doing so.)

For GMs who’ve run games where the PCs take long journeys over land or sea to get to the “real” adventure, the usefulness of the montage is clear: you can make the journey eventful without spending a ton of time, or eating up the PCs’ recoveries, powers, and spells. It’s also a great opportunity for players to warm up for the session with some low-consequence, fast-paced play; and it gives players an opportunity to do two of their favorite things—make trouble for other players’ characters, and make their own character look cool (or entertainingly uncool).

But there are plenty of other uses for montages besides travel. You can apply the technique to any extended activity that the RPG you’re playing doesn’t have mechanics for, or which might be more interesting to resolve with round-robin narration than dice rolls. Here are some ideas and examples of montages from games that we’ve run here at Pelgrane:

  • Two sides—individual champions, groups, or even armies—face off in combat as the PCs watch as spectators. Using the montage technique, the players describe how each side attacks and defends against their foe, with the GM providing colorful descriptions where appropriate. If the battle is uninterrupted, so one side wins and the other loses, you could determine the outcome through narration (deciding as a group who would likely win given what they’ve described). You could also rack up +1 bonuses for each side whenever a player came up with an especially good narration for an attack or defensive move, then roll a d20 for each side against a normal DC.
  • If there’s a battle you want to treat as a cutscene rather than run as combat, use a montage to narrate the fight. This is a handy option when you’re running a prologue to the adventure, a flashback to a fight from the group’s past, or a flashback to a long-ago historic battle that’s relevant to the present-day campaign.
  • Casting a massive ritual often requires special items and ingredients, sometimes hard to obtain. One option is to build an entire adventure or even a campaign arc around this quest, or series of quests. However, you can also run it as a montage. Give the players the list of items, then go around the circle, introducing problems and solutions. (“The first item on the list is the Prince of Shadows’ lucky coin. Jim, where is it located? And if it’s guarded, who or what is guarding it?”)
  • If you’re a fan of police procedurals, you might have seen scenes that compress part of the investigation into a montage. You can use the montage technique in your game to show the PCs interrogating multiple sources of information, and/or canvassing an area to find clues. In each case, there should be a player-narrated obstacle, and a player-narrated way to overcome the obstacle. Upon each solution to a challenge, give the character a clue, or a resource to help the group solve the mystery. (You’ll see this  approach in my adventure Temple of the Sun Cabal when the group is searching for the vampire Eleodra Malfador)
  • Sometimes the PCs might need a small army of their own—for example, when repelling the troll siege in Make Your Own Luck. Let them narrate a Magnificent Seven style montage to describe how each PC gradually trains a group of townspeople to be a formidable fighting force, and cleverly prepares the terrain for the upcoming battle.

Have you used a montage in other ways in your game, or added your own twist to the mechanic? Share it in the 13th Age Facebook group or Google+ community!



On the Google+ 13th Age community, Stefano Gaburri posted a question about the casting sequence of the 13th Age chaos mage class:

A while ago I asked about “daily” spells for Chaos Mages, namely: since they’re limited, can a mage cast the same spell multiple times, since he’s gonna cast the same maximum number of dailies anyway?

General response was, it’s possible to cast the same “daily” spell more than once, which was also my opinion (but not my GM’s… oh well).

Now I noticed that there’s another column, cryptically labeled “Once-per-battle spells”, that goes from 1 to 2. Now, this cannot possibly be a pool—the number must refer to each single spell, meaning that it becomes possible to cast the same “once per battle” (these names keep losing meaning!) spell twice per battle.

In conclusion (and that’s what bugs me), it seems we have different semantics in the two columns, without any explanation in the text. The number of dailies is a pool of “slots” you get to consume, 5th ed warlock-like, while the other column simply states that once-per-battle spells become twice-per-battle at some point (ie 6th level).

Did I get it right?

Here’s the level progression chart Stefano refers to. As you can see, at 1st level a chaos mage has access to two daily spells, and one once-per-battle spell. By 6th level, a chaos mage has access to four daily spells, and two once-per-battle spells.



Chaos mage level progression chart

Here’s where some of the confusion around this class comes from: The chaos mage class has its own spells, and it has talents which give it access to spells from other classes. Both types of spells are accessed randomly; and on a given turn, a chaos mage might or might not be able to cast the daily or once-per-battle spells it has access to. Such is the nature of randomness!

How Chaos Mage Spellcasting Works (It’s Weird)

The chaos mage’s spell list has three types of spells: attack (one at-will spell, one once-per-battle spell, and one daily spell), defense (same), and iconic (a mix of at-will and daily spells). These spells are the spells those numbers in the chart above refer to.

The chaos mage’s class talents include ones that give it access to a randomly-chosen spell from another class: cleric, necromancer, sorcerer, or wizard. The spell they randomly choose is categorized as either an attack spell, or a defense spell. These spells do not count against the number of daily and once-per-battle spells in the level progression chart.

The chaos mage’s player has a bag of colored stones (or other tokens) representing three types of spells: attack, defense, and iconic. During a battle, the player draws a stone to see what type of spell the chaos mage can cast on their turn. The player then looks at the appropriate spell list to see what’s available:

  • If they drew an iconic spell stone, they look at the chaos mage’s iconic spell list
  • If they drew an attack spell stone, they look at the chaos mage’s attack spell list. If one of their class talents gave them access to a randomly-chosen spell from another class that happened to be an attack spell, that’s one of the options as well.
  • If they drew a defense spell stone, they look at the chaos mage’s defense spell list. If one of their class talents gave them access to a randomly-chosen spell from another class that happened to be an defense spell, that’s one of the options as well.

The chaos mage cannot cast any listed daily spells that they’ve already cast that day, or any once-per-battle spells that they’ve already cast that battle.

Clear as mud? Here’s an example of how it looks in play.

A 6th Level Chaos Mage in Action

Anna Blossom is a 6th level chaos mage.* She can access up to four chaos mage daily spells, and up to two chaos mage once-per-battle spells.

Anna has the Trace of the Divine class talent. This talent lets her randomly choose a cleric spell of the highest level she can cast. For the rest of the day, Anna knows this cleric spell and can cast it according to its normal usage pattern—at-will, cyclic, once per battle, recharge, or daily—when that option comes up during Anna’s chaos mage spellcasting sequence.

Using the Trace of the Divine talent, Anna’s player randomly chooses the spell spirits of the righteous (once per battle). This spell does not count against Anna’s maximum of two once-per-battle spells, because that maximum only applies to chaos mage class spells—not spells from other classes accessed through a talent.

Suddenly, Anna’s band of adventurers is attacked by redcaps! Battle is joined!

Anna’s player pulls an iconic stone from the bag, and rolls to see which icon she can cast a spell from. The die result is the Archmage. Looking at the Archmage iconic spell list, Anna could cast silver arrows (at-will) or cascading power (daily).

Anna casts cascading power.

On Anna’s next turn, the player pulls a second iconic stone from the bag, and rolls Archmage again. She cannot cast cascading power again, because it’s a daily spell and she already cast it. Yes, Anna has access to four daily spells; but this one has already been used, so it’s not available to her anymore until after her next full heal-up. This means the only spell that’s available to Anna in the Archmage iconic spell list during that round is silver arrows (at-will).

On Anna’s next turn, the player pulls an attack stone from the bag. Anna’s options from the chaos mage spell list are: force tentacle (at-will), chaos ray (once per battle), or Blarrrrgh! (daily). Thanks to Trace of the Divine, she can also cast spirits of the righteous (once per battle) because it’s an attack spell.

Anna casts spirits of the righteous.

On Anna’s next turn, the player pulls another attack stone from the bag. Anna’s options from the chaos mage spell list are: force tentacle (at-will), chaos ray (once per battle), or Blarrrrgh! (daily). Anna cannot cast spirits of the righteous again, because it’s a once-per-battle spell and she’s already cast it this battle.

Anna casts chaos ray.

Here’s where Anna is now at this point:

Anna, at 6th level, has access to four daily spells in the chaos mage spell list.

  • She’s cast one of those four (cascading power). She can’t cast it again for the rest of the day, even if her player keeps drawing the iconic spell stone and rolling Archmage over and over again. It’s just gone until Anna’s next full heal-up.
  • Anna has access to three more daily spells, but she’ll only have the opportunity to use them if her player either draws an attack stone (because she hasn’t yet cast Blarrrrrrgh! today), or draws an iconic stone and rolls one of the icons that has a daily spell Anna hasn’t cast yet.

Anna also has access to two once-per-battle spells in the chaos mage spell list.

  • In this battle, Anna’s cast one of her two once-per-battle spells (chaos ray).
  • Anna also cast spirits of the righteous, the once-per-battle spell she got via Trace of the Divine.
  • Even if the player keeps drawing an attack stone from the bag during this battle, Anna doesn’t get to cast spirits of the righteous again, because it’s her one and only cleric spell, and it’s a once-per-battle spell, and she already cast it this battle.
  • Anna also doesn’t get to cast chaos ray again, because she only has access to two chaos mage once-per-battle spells, and she already cast it this battle.
  • However! If the player drew a defense stone, Anna could cast warped healing (the other chaos mage once-per-battle spell) because she hasn’t cast it yet during this battle.
  • Once Anna casts spirits of the righteous, chaos ray, and warped healing, she is all out of once-per-battle spells for the rest of this battle.

I hope this helps clear up the chaos mage’s use of various spell types. If you’re the kind of player who likes the challenge of making choices based on randomly-generated circumstances, maybe you’ll want to give this class a try!

*One Unique Thing: Has wheels.

Art by Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell

By Rob Heinsoo, with Jonathan Tweet

Another 13th Age campaign, another experiment with the icon relationship dice!

My previous campaign was using a riff on the way that 13th Age Glorantha handles rune narrations. This time, in a campaign I’m referring to as 13th Arduin*, I’m using an idea from Jonathan that he hasn’t gotten around to trying yet because he’s been busy testing the new version of Over the Edge.

In this new campaign, icon relationships aren’t a once per session thing. Instead, you can roll your icon relationships (at least) once per day. (As a reminder, a “day” in 13th Age consists of approximately 4 regular battles, or 3 hard battles, or 2 regular battles and 1 very hard battle.)

Instead of rolling your icon relationships at the start of the day, roll your icon relationship dice at a dramatic moment during play when you’re hoping that an icon relationship might come up and give you a chance to narrate an advantage. The choice of when to roll is up to you, the player, as is the choice of which dice to roll. A player might, for example, roll the die associated with one icon but not another, depending on the situation.

If at least one die is a 5 or a 6, all the 5s and 6s apply to the current situation. At the GM’s option, the player can instead choose one 5/6 result to be the active die. (This gives the GM the right to be merciful when a player has come up with a great story for one icon relationship and isn’t sure about another.)

Like rune narration in 13G, it’s up to the player to tell the story of how their character’s icon relationship gives them an advantage in that situation. At minimum, the player starts the story and the GM can step in and help finish it up. Some players can be trusted to handle their own complications; others require help. Using this system means that complications generally can’t be avoided unless the GM allows it, since all 5s and 6s that are rolled must be narrated.

Using up dice: If the icon roll resulted in at least one 5 or 6, then all the icon dice you rolled are used up for the rest of the day. If there are other icon dice that you didn’t roll, you still have the option of rolling them later in the day. I like to break out Campaign Coins icon tokens to show which dice players can still use, removing an icon token when a specific relationship’s die is done for the day.

Keeping dice: If the icon dice you chose to roll don’t generate any 5s or 6s, you don’t get to narrate any icon relationship advantages at this point. Connections with the icons aren’t in play, so you’re going to have to deal with whatever’s going on in the game with your own powers and ingenuity and hit points.

But you haven’t lost out completely on your icon relationships. Because all the dice you rolled whiffed, you can roll them again later in the day in some other situation. That holds true even for your reroll. You may end up running out of time in the adventuring day, but as a rule, every PC should end up with some advantage from their icon dice. You can’t be sure exactly when your icon relationships will make a difference, but if you get a couple of chances to roll, you should get roughly one successful relationship roll per day.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how David Hargrave’s mid-1970s Arduin Grimoire provided inspiration for 13th Age, check out this 2012 EN World interview with Jonathan Tweet.

by Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy

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

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

Making and using factions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faction influence level

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example – factions of the Sea Wall

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

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

Sea Wall Maintenance Crew

Level 5 faction

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

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

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

Leviathan Hunters

Level 3 faction

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

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

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

Red Right Pincer

Level 4 faction

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

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

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

Storm’s Bane

Level 2 faction

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

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

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


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



Wizard Overview

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

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

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

War Wizard

Download the War Wizard character sheets here.

This wizard makes things go boom!

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

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



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


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

Wizard’s Familiar

A raven (with the abilities scout and flight)


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


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

1st level

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

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: abjuration, evocation, wizard’s familiar

Feats: abjuration, ray of frost

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

2nd level

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

3rd level

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

4th level

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

5th level

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

6th level

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

7th level

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

8th level

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

9th level

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

10th level

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

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

Do you want to annoy your GM?

Do you want to never be hit by any attack?

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

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

Do you want to never miss?

Look no further.

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

Core Book

Lethal – Half-orc racial power (65)

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


Evasive – Halfling racial power (70)

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


Justice or Vengeance – Cleric domain (95)

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


Trickery or Illusion – Cleric domain (97)

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


Hammer of faith – Cleric spell (98)

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


Prayer for readiness – Cleric spell (101)

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


Comeback strike – Fighter talent (105)

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


Hack & Slash – Fighter Maneuver (108)

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


Spinning charge – Fighter Maneuver (109)

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


Swift dodge – Rogue power (130)

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


Assassin’s gambit – Rogue power (131)

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


13 True Ways

Try again – Commander command (36)

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

Timely mistake – Occultist spell (108)

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











by Mike Shea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superheroic Fantasy

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

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

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

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

The Icons

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

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

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

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

Backgrounds and the One Unique Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract Combat

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

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

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

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

Flat Versus Escalating Math

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

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

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

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

Two Dimensional Monster Design

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

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

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

Abyssal blade +18 vs. AC—160 damage

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

Natural even miss: 80 damage.

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

Natural even miss: 25 fire damage.

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

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

A Differentiated Game of High Fantasy

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

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

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

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