Elf Queen SketchThe 13th Age core book tells us little about the Queen’s Wood, where the Elf Queen rules: it’s a sprawling elven wood, largely empty now, whose trees have leaves that are “a riot of silver and gold and green and indigo.” In the lengthy description of the elven Court of Stars in 13 True Ways, we learn a bit more:

The Queen’s Wood redounds with the magic of nature, to which the elves of all mortal races remain most bound. The Court of Stars moves in harmony with the other, inaccessible natural worlds hanging high in the heavens. It moves across the magical forest as the constellations proceed through the night sky above. As such it comprises the central vortex of the ever-growing, ever-breathing collection of living things that is the Queen’s Wood. Just as the plants of the forest floor can grow from seed to maturity in a few short hours, the forest transforms itself as the Court approaches. To try to map it is fruitless. It’s not that you can’t perceive it properly—all the details of the physical environment exist in literal reality. But by the time you’ve drawn up your map, the details have faded into obsolescence.

So, here we have a fairy wood, ever-changing under the Queen’s influence. This is more than enough to spark the imagination when it comes to adventures inside the Queen’s Wood: this place is magic, but of a vastly different kind than the Archmage’s in Horizon. Time and space behave differently here, not because someone harnessed the power of wizardry and, through force of will, made it that way. There’s no “because” here; things simply are, the way they simply are in a fairy tale.

How do you represent this in your game, should you decide to send your heroes on a quest within in the Queen’s Wood? Here’s how two of my favorite fantasy authors handled the matter of the deep, magical forest, and those who dwell within.

Little, Big: The Further In You Go, The Bigger It Gets

John Crowley’s novel Little, Big chronicles the lives of the Drinkwater family, whose destiny is mysteriously bound up with the fairies. In a flashback to the Victorian era, we hear an ancestor, Dr. Bramble, explain why he believes descriptions of the little folk vary so wildly—from tiny people with “spears of locust-thorns and their chariots made of nutshells” to fully-formed men and women three feet tall, all the way up to “fairy warriors on great steeds, banshees and pookahs and ogres who are huge, larger by far than men.”

His theory is that the universe consists of worlds or layers of reality in concentric circles. Our world is the outermost, largest ring; but paradoxically, the further in you go, the bigger those innermost worlds are. Passing through a “door” into the next circle brings one into contact with the smallest of the fey. Entering the next circle, you meet larger fey. At the center is the infinite realm of Faery.

Using this approach in an adventure within the Queen’s Wood makes the journey a multidimensional one that plays with the idea of perception vs. reality. The characters may perceive themselves to be traveling through a forest, but they’re actually transitioning between parallel worlds. Each world, zone, circle—however you want to frame it—is home to different types of fey creatures found in 13th Age. But perhaps in the Queen’s Wood, elves, pixies, sprites,  and so on only appear to be different types of creatures because the PCs encounter them in different places. Maybe the next time they glance over at the pixie NPC who agreed to be their guide, that tiny, winged creature has become a faun, or a tall elven warrior with a shining spear. (See the fey entry in the 13th Age Bestiary 2, particularly the power of a name mechanic which gives fey different powers depending on which name they’ve taken.)

Lavondyss: Old Forbidden Place

In Robert Holdstock’s book Lavondyss, Ryhope Wood is England’s last primeval forest, and the way into the Otherworld, or “Old Forbidden Place” as the book’s hero Tallis calls it. Here, “mythagos”—hero-forms from myth, legend, and folklore—take material form from the power of the forest and the often dark, violent subconscious of humanity. You could meet Guinevere, or Robin Hood, or olderheroes from humanity’s prehistoric past here. But the Robin Hood you meet might not be the version you’re familiar with, or want: a winking rogue in Lincoln Green, or a strange, silent predator. Arthur might look like Malory’s noble Once and Future King, or might be Artorius, a Latin-speaking military commander covered in mud and blood.

If you like the idea of ancient heroes and legends (or their phantoms) dwelling in the Queen’s Wood, here’s where you open your copy of The Book of Ages and dive in—because past icons make great mythagos. This version of your players’ journey through the forest has a dreamlike feeling where past and present are mingled, and turning a corner might lead them to the scene of the Barbarian King’s last battle, a tangled path where the Huntsman has laid his snares, or to the foot of the Hermit’s tower. These shadow forms of the icons might be friends, foes, or both. It’s likely that the elves will warn you away from them, but maybe there’s a piece of vital information you need, and only the Spelljack (or his memory) has it.

For this approach, I recommend checking out the chapter on Heroquesting in 13th Age Glorantha. The PCs might perform a ritual in the Queen’s Wood, where the barriers of time and space are flexible, to enter a timeless realm of heroes and participate in the significant events of past ages as they exist in myth and dream. Success there could provide mythic insights or special magic items, or even alter the world in the present day by setting right an ancient wrong.

About 13th Age

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

13th Age in Glorantha Coverby Rob Heinsoo

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

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

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

Humakti, aka Sword master

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

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

Mechanics

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

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

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

Honorable Histories

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

Earth Priestess

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

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

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

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

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

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

Across Campaign Worlds

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

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

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

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

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

A Guide to the Mythic Fantasy World of Glorantha for your 13th Age Glorantha campaign

The Glorantha Sourcebook is an essential resource for Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha, one of the most extensively developed and renowned fantasy settings of all time. A world of mythology, gods, and heroes, Glorantha has inspired roleplaying games, board games, computer games, comics, fiction, and more, a setting beloved and revered worldwide.

An invaluable resource for gamemasters, players, and readers of fantasy worlds, this sourcebook is gorgeously illustrated and filled with informative maps and diagrams. Drawn from a variety of out-of-print and rare sources, this material has been dramatically revised, updated, and expanded. Alongside this foundational material are new essays, insights, and extrapolations on the world and its incredible denizens.

Inside this sourcebook, you’ll learn about the creation of the world; the main ages of its past; the history of Dragon Pass and its people; the pantheons of the gods, including the Lightbringer and Lunar pantheons; the Coming of Argrath; Elder Races such as the Elves, Dragonewts, Dwarves, and Trolls; genealogies of the major royal dynasties; legends and lore of the various tribes and peoples inhabiting Glorantha; the fundaments of Gloranthan magic and the Runes that shape the world; the history and gods of the mighty Lunar Empire; and finally, the Hero Wars!

This systemless sourcebook can be used to enhance and support your 13th Age Glorantha campaign.

The Glorantha Sourcebook covers the following subjects:

  • Geography: A basic overview of the geography of Glorantha.
  • History of Dragon Pass: A history of the central crossroads of Glorantha.
  • The Elder Races: A short overview of the main non-human species that predate humanity and once dominated the world.
  • Theogony: The story of the gods of Glorantha, primarily arranged by element (Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire, and Air).
  • Time: A history of Glorantha since the first Dawn.
  • Gods of the Lunar Way: The new gods of the Lunar religion.
  • Redline History of the Lunar Empire: A comprehensive history of the Lunar Empire since its founding and going until the early Hero Wars.
  • Gloranthan Magic: A short essay on the Gloranthan Runes, types of magic, and some theories about what is magic.
  • Gods and Mortals: An overview of gods, mortals, and those who straddle both worlds.
  • Sartar Magical Union: A list of the magical units that served Prince Argrath in his war against the Lunar Empire.

 

 

Stock #: MDP002 Authors: Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, Michael O’Brien, Sandy Petersen
Artists: Dan Barker, Bernard Bittler, Simon Bray, Antonia Doncheva, Jed Dougherty, Colin Driver, Rich Fleider, Lisa Free,
Jon Hodgson, Merle Insinga, Kalin Kadiev, Lawrence Keogh, Jennifer Lange, Michelle Lockamy, Darya Makarava, Jan Pospíšil, Jakob Rebelka, John Snyder, Tom Sullivan, Eric Vanel
Pages: 226 pages, full colour