» Book of Ages

The upcoming Book of Ages describes dozens of potential ancient Icons, the heroes and villains of past Ages of the Dragon Empire, from the Enchantress to the Explorer to the Steel Colossus and the Zealot. These Icons once bestrode the world. Some vanished when the wheel of history turned and their power faded; some endured or changed, becoming the Icons of the present Age we know. Others may return in Ages to come.

And some fell.

The 13thAge Bestiary 2 presents the concept of the Fallen Icon, a once-great icon now diminished and ruined, but still a campaign-ending threat. Each Fallen Icon lists a bunch of campaign victories that the player characters can pursue to weaken their foe before facing the Icon in a final battle. As guided by the Sagely Wisdom of Twitter, here’s one of the Book of Ages Icons in all her fallen glory.

 

The Princess of Cogs and Wheels

When all that’s left is the plan. No meaning, no choice, no life, just cold design.

In Ages past, before the fall of the Dwarven Underhome, the Princess of Cogs and Wheels was the Dwarf King’s ambassador to the surface world. As a diplomat, she pitted factions and armies against one another, using the fabulous wealth and influence at her command to put intricate schemes into motion. As an inventor and patron of the arts, she built machines of astonishing complexity, especially clocks and automata. Wild rumours spun around her – that she could foresee the future or even travel through time, that she was the head of various secret societies and conspiracies, that she had a hand in every catastrophe or unexpected victor.

 

Origin Stories

What became of the Princess? How might she return to trouble the heroes of the 13thAge?

  • Dwarven Civil War: The Princess was cast down by the Dwarf King when he moved his throne to Forge. Did the Princess try to stop the Dwarf King from claiming his kingdom near the surface? Was she involved in the destruction of Underhome by the dark elves? (Maybe she deliberately betrayed Underhome to its enemies, believing that the Dwarf King would be killed and she would become Queen.) In this interpretation, the Princess has survived as a secret conspirator in Forge, plotting against the Dwarf King – a mistress and patron of derro and evil dwarves.
  • Time Traveller: One Age was not enough to contain the ambition of the Princess. She built a machine of cogs and sorcery that could travel forwards in time, leaping from one Age to the next. She intended to use this machine to shepherd the Dragon Empire through history, interceding when necessary to keep events on course. However, travelling through time is perilous, and long exposure to the howling chaos-winds in the spaces between has corroded the Princess, body and soul.
  • Preserved by Machinery: Determined to ward off the ravages of time, the Princess turned to various bizarre methods of preserving her youth. When alchemy, sorcery and necromancy failed, she began to replace failing organs and limbs with clockwork, until only the machine remained.
  • The Secret Icon: The Princess has never gone away. She’s been the secret icon behind the scenes, more elusive than the Prince of Shadows, manipulating the Empire. Oh, the original Princess died many Ages ago, but another took on her mask and mantle, and another and another and another. Individuals may perish, but the conspiracy is eternal.

 

Wheel Knight Defender

The sworn defenders of the Princess, implacable and unyielding in their devotion.

10thlevel defender [HUMANOID]

Initiative: +18

Whirling Sword +15 vs. AC – 40 damage

Whirlwind of Steel +16 vs. AC (two attacks) – 40 damage, usable only if at least one other Wheel Knight Defender is engaged with the same enemy.

R: Deadly Archery +16 vs. AC (one nearby enemy, or one far away enemy at a -2 penalty) – 50 damage

Perfect Timing:  Wheel Knight Defenders gain a +4 bonus to opportunity attacks. A moving foe struck by a Wheel Knight Defender’s opportunity attack must stop moving.

Perfect Defenders: A Wheel Knight may automatically pop free of an engaged foes to intercept an enemy who is moving to attack the Princess.

(1/battle) Perfect Devotion: If an attack would reduce the Princess to 50 hit points or less, and the Wheel Knight Defender is nearby, the Wheel Knight Defender may throw itself in the path of the blow. The Defender takes the damage itself and is destroyed.

Fanatic: Immune to fear and confusion.

AC 26

PD 20   HP 250

MD 24

 

The Princess of Cogs and Wheels

You’re one microscopic cog in her catastrophic plan…

Triple-strength 10thlevel leader [HUMANOID]

Initiative: +20

 Axe of Necessity +15 vs. AC – 175 damage

Natural 18+: The target is also Weakened (hard save, 16+ ends)

C: Spinning Buzzsaw +15 vs. AC (up to four attacks, no more than one attack on any single target) –100 damage

Natural even hit: If the target remains engaged with the Princess until the start of her next turn, she automatically hits with a free Spinning Buzzsaw attack on that target.

Critical Hit: The victim’s hand, limb or head gets severed.

Machinations of the Princess: At the end of any turn in which the Princess is not hit by an attack, she steals the escalation die until the end of the next turn. She and her allies gain the benefits of the escalation die in the next turn.

Timeshift: As a free action, the Princess of Cogs and Wheels vanishes from the battlefield. At the start of her next turn, she may reappear anywhere on the battlefield. She gains a +2 bonus to her attack rolls on the round she reappears. Alternatively, she may choose to retreat from the battle entirely. Limited use:2/battle

Now, Spring The Trap! Add a number of Wheel Knight Defenders to the battle equal to the value of the Escalation Die. Limited Use: 1/battle

Interfere and you shall suffer: If an attack would stagger or kill the Princess, she may threaten to inflict a campaign loss on the player characters, even if they are victorious in this battle. The players must describe the nature of the campaign loss, and it should be a painful one. The attacking character may choose to accept this campaign loss and strike the Princess, or voluntarily miss instead.

You Are Divided! As a quick action, pick a player character. For each Conflicted Relationship Die that player character possesses, the player must choose: either turn that die Negative, or the Princess gains 250hp or adds another Wheel Knight Defender Limited use: 1/battle. A character may only be targeted with this ability once per campaign.

You Shall Be Betrayed! As a quick action, pick a player character. That player must choose one Positive Icon Relationship they possess. That relationship becomes Negative instead. Limited use: 1/battle. A character may only be targeted with this ability once per campaign.

 All Your Foes, Arrayed Against You! At the start of the battle, All player characters roll their Negative Relationship Die. For each die that rolls a 5 or 6, add a monster or give the Princess an advantage of some sort connected to that icon. Limited Use: 1/campaign

AC 27

PD 20   HP 750

MD 24

 

Campaign Impact

Even Fallen, the Princess is a relatively subtle Icon. Unlike the shambling Forest that Walks or Great Ghoul (Bestiary II), she operates behind the scenes, plotting and conspiring. An epic-level group can defeat her – if they can find her.

A returned Princess might try to:

  • Overthrow the Emperor and install a puppet in his place
  • Become the secret vizier manipulating the Blue
  • Foment conflict between the High Druid and the Empire
  • Conspire against the Archmage so he stops interfering with her time travel experiments
  • Frame rival Icons (say, the Elf Queen) as demon-worshippers so the Crusader attacks them

Countering the Princess

For each campaign victory the player characters achieve, they cancel one of the Princess’ abilities in the following order.

First PC Campaign Victory: Remove her Machinations of the Princess ability

Second PC Campaign Victory: Player’s choice  -remove either Interfere and You Shall Sufferor All Your Foes, Arrayed Against You!

Third PC Campaign Victory: Remove Timeshift

Campaign Victories

A few possible campaign victories against the Princess:

  • Discovering the location of her ancient fortress and learning her secrets
  • Finding a way to foresee the future
  • Gaining the blessing of the Dwarf King
  • Finding relics connected to the Princess in Underhome
  • Infiltrating the Princess’ cult

SaveSave

The upcoming Book of Ages includes the Engine of the Ages, a Microscope-like tool for collaboratively generating your own history of the Dragon Empire. Each player tells the tale of one faction (usually, one associated with their player character), while the GM mixes in other groups that may play a part in the campaign. The group then steps through the history of the Empire, Age by Age, with the occasional roll on the Random Catastrophe Table. So, here’s one possible history (we only played through the 4th, 8th, and 12th Ages, and the player characters are an Elf Wizard, a Barbarian with a 2-point negative relationship with the Lich King, and a Draconic Rogue).

Our 4th Age

13th Age icon symbolsAs you know, the Wizard King was overthrown by the first Emperor and his allies, kicking off the 1st Age. Conflicts between the Empire and the undead forces of the Lich King dominated the first three Ages, but history doesn’t get really interesting until the 4th Age, the Age of Elvendom. Elves, my players decided, are a species of planar nomads, plunging from world to world. The Elf Queen is their anchor to the physical world. She appeared in the Dragon Empire as an infant, born from the sacred Birth Tree in the heart of the Queen’s Wood. The other elves phased into existence, along with their dimension-hopping forests and cities. Suddenly, half the Empire was occupied by a vast and otherworldly forest; the Elves were worshipped as demigods by the folk of the Empire.

The arrival of the Elves at the height of their power forced other groups onto the defensive. The Lich King fled the Empire as a bodiless spirit, and discovered the barbarian tribes of the west. The barbarians worshipped their ancestors, but the Lich King was able to conquer their afterlife and imprisoned the ancestors who would not serve him. He whispered in the dreams of the shamans and priests of the barbarians, pretending to be their beloved ancestors, and so was able to warp their culture into a death-cult that worshipped him.

The Three also retreated from the Empire, fearful of the arrows and spells of the mighty elves. They allied with suspicious dwarves to create the first Forgeborn, creatures made of dwarven steel and fuelled by dragonfire, to guard their abandoned lairs. These first Forgeborn were essentially golems, unthinking machines that obeyed only their masters’ commands.

The arrival of the Elves disrupted the balance of the elements. The air elemental king declared war on the elven race, and to this day if an elf tries to fly too high, or if the High Elves build their towers above the treetops, then it draws the wrath of the winds. The fire elemental queen was even more furious, and sacrificed herself to put out the sun. For years, the sun guttered like a dying ember, and without sunlight, most of the elven forests died (the Queen’s Wood and parts of the Wild Wood are the only places where the alien elf-trees still grow).

Our 8th Age

In the chaos, the Prince of Shadows stole a silver apple from the elven birth tree. This scheme would come to (pardon the pun) fruition four Ages later in the 8th Age (the Rising of the Bad Moon), when he threw the apple into the night sky and it created the moon. To this day, the moon is an unwholesome and pernicious influence over the Empire – bad things happen by moonlight, and nights of the full moon are considered unlucky. The moon does favour the elves, though, which accounts for the elves’ reputation as thieves and tricksters.

The Elves also warred with druidic guerrillas (or gorillas, I can’t read my own handwritten notes from the session), who objected to their wizards’ continued disruption of the balance of the elements.

Under the new moon, the Lich King’s barbarians contacted the Empire. The barbarian tribes of the west traded and paid tribute to the Emperor, and fought as mercenaries under the banner of the Empire, but kept their traditional ancestor-cult religion, so the Lich King was able to infiltrate his clerics and agents across the Seven Cities. In Santa Cora, the Priestess grew suspicious of this new cult, and through her divinations discovered the Lich King’s imprisonment of the barbarian ancestors. She created two secret orders of Paladins – one dedicated to unmasking and defeating the Lich King’s spies, and another sworn to travel into the afterworld to break down the Lich King’s spiritual internment camps and free the ancestors. The barbarian cult schismed into two groups – one who worshipped the ‘true’ spirits of the dead, and one that was still in the thrall of the Lich King. Most of the barbarians in the Empire were part of the former cult, but the Lich King maintained his hold on the barbarians beyond the borders.

(The 8th Age, by the way, ended in a zombie plague, as upheavals in the afterworld briefly disrupted the natural order of death.)

Our 12th Age

The 12th Age was the Age of War, when the Empire was invaded almost simultaneously from west and east. From the west came the Lich King’s forces – the death-worshipping barbarian hordes he’d been cultivating for eight Ages. Vampire berserkers, selected for size and strength. A massive army of zombies and skeletons, enslaved ancestor-spirits chained into bone-golems, and thousands of death priests. Added to this force came a host of liches and skeletons out of the Necropolis.

13th Age - The ThreeFrom the east came the dragons under the Three. Long ago, the dragons established a manufactory on a secret island in the Iron Sea, and this automated dungeon-factory had built a whole army of forgeborn. To the dragons’ surprise, these forgeborn had grown increasingly complex and intelligent; with each generation, the manufactory had refined the design. This iron army, led by dragons, invaded the Empire from the east.

Captured humans were taken back to the manufactory and subjected to bizarre sorcerous experiments under the direction of the Blue; these experiments created the first draconics. These experiments also had an unlikely side effect – the Blue used forgeborn to assist in her work, and the forgeborn somehow isolated and stole the essence of humanity. The manufactory used this to create the final generation of forgeborn – truly alive metallic creatures, with free will and souls and absolutely no desire to be ruled by dragons.

Faced with rebellion from their own army when both draconics and forgeborn turned on them, the Three sued for peace. In exchange for dragon aid against the invading forces of the Lich King, the Emperor ceded the ruins of Highrock to the Blue, and recognised the draconics as imperial citizens.

So, in our take on 13th Age…

Elves are a declining race, greatly diminished from the days when they were worshipped as living gods. Still, they have the sacred Birth Tree that brings forth new fruit and hence new wonders in every Age, and they remember that one day, the Elf Queen will perish in this plane and be reborn in another dimension, and they will follow her en masse to their new home.

Foes of the Lich King know that while he was recently defeated, he still has two major power bases – his fortress on Necropolis, and his barbarian death-cult to the east. He continues his attempts to subvert the Imperial-aligned barbarians by kidnapping their ancestors in the afterworld, so the cult has evolved a complex system of passwords and signs – don’t trust a ghost until it gives you the correct password!

Draconics are a new-born species, the product of experiments carried out in the war. They have a complex relationship with the Forgeborn – the Forgeborn are fuelled by dragonbreath, and now that most of the dragons have again fled the Empire, the forgeborn are dependent on the draconics for survival. At the same time, the forgeborn aren’t trusted by most of the Empire, and no-one knows for sure what they’re doing out on the mysterious island of the Manufactory. (Some fear that they have a plan…)

What histories will your players create?

My current project (ONE of my current projects, so many current projects) is the (provisionally-titled) Book of Ages, for 13th Age. It’s mostly a grab bag of “cool stuff from previous Ages” – monsters, magic, feats, legends, adventure seeds – but here’s one of the early sections, discussing persnickety world-building questions and assumptions. 

* * *

Twelve Ages have passed since the foundation of the Empire and the reign of the Wizard King… but what’s an Age? And how long is that exactly? These questions are of comparatively little importance in a regular 13th Age campaign compared to “what’s that scaly firebreathing monster-snake over there” and “how long is it, roughly, because if it’s a Huge monster we’re screwed”, but in a book all about Ages we must at least briefly define our terms.

What is an Age?

An Age is a period of history that, in retrospect, has a discernible arc or overriding influence. Ages are book-ended by catastrophes. So, the First Age was dominated by the founding of the Empire in the aftermath of the Wizard King’s defeat, and ended when the giants razed Axis. The Sixth Age’s defining influence was the spread of lycanthropy among the aristocracy; like other Ages, it began and ended in catastrophe.

That isn’t to say, of course, that there isn’t tumult and catastrophe at times other than the start and end of Ages. Every peril that threatens the Empire is hailed by doom-sayers as the turning of the 13th Age. You don’t know that the world is falling apart when you’re trying to survive in the middle of it.

Who Defines An Age?

The historians and chroniclers in the court of the Archmage in Horizon are responsible for declaring the beginning of a new Age. This usually happens retrospectively – “clearly”, they might say, “the defeat of the Sea Raiders a generation ago marked a great change in the affairs of the Empire, so we have decided that the 11th Age ended at the Battle of the Redwater and we are now in the first century of the 12th Age”. At times, ambitious Emperors have pressured the sages into prematurely declaring the start of a new Age, but such hubris is punished by history – and anyway, only sages, historians, dungeon-crawling adventurous archaeologists and long-lived elves really care that much about when precisely an Age begins.

How Long Is An Age?

It varies. Recent Ages are all a few hundred years long. Earlier Ages might have been much longer, for the further back you go in the history of the Dragon Empire, the more uncertain things become. (All those catastrophes play havoc with proper record-keeping, after all.) So, Ages last as long as the Gamemaster needs. If you like an absurdly ancient Empire, then maybe the first Age lasted ten thousand years. If you want something faster and more chaotic, then Ages might last scarcely a century, and some of the earlier Ages might be entirely fraudulent. (“Historians!”, shouts the barbarian king who’s just claimed the throne, “insert another Age, and relate to me tales from that era about how my ancestors ruled the Empire, and how I am therefore reclaiming my rightful inheritance from a usurper and now, as it might appear, a bloody-handed mass murderer.”)

Do Ages Mean Anything?

Now that’s an interesting question. How much mystical significance does an Age have? The catastrophe that ends an Age usually results in the death, diminishment or transformation of one or more Icons; it’s unheard-of for two Ages to have exactly the same roster of Icons.

Of course, that implies other questions, like: is an Icon simply a powerful or influential individual, or are they somehow an embodiment/reflection/wellspring of mystical power? Does the appearance of the Priestess in the 13th Age mean that divine magic will become more powerful?  Does the loss of the Oracle mean that it’s now harder – or even impossible – to see the future? If an Age is defined by its Icons, then are there a limited number of Iconic “slots” available? If there are always 13 Icons, no more and no less, and the existence of an Icon has mystical significance, then the goal of every sinister conspiracy and cult might be to eliminate an existing Icon to elevate their own champion. If the Orc Lord dies in battle, and the Lizard Queen takes his place, then will orcs become weak and fearful, and lizard-folk become stronger and fiercer in their stead?

An interesting variant assumes that the number of an Age determines how many Iconic ‘slots’ there are. So, in the First Age there was only one Icon, two in the Second, three in the Third and so forth. The Great Gold Wyrm was the first Icon; in the Second Age, the dwarves defeat the giants and the Dwarf King ascends to Iconic status. In the third, the Four Dragons arrive, drawn by the wealth of the underground kingdom. In the fourth, the Elf Queen binds the Green, making the Four into the Three and marking her as an Icon…

Alternatively, Icons might be purely a measure of  local praxis – the Emperor’s an icon in the Empire, but has no reach beyond it, and if you follow the Koru trail up north, then local potentates like the Frostjack, the Living Glacier or the Hobgoblin Chieftain take on Iconic roles. In that interpretation, a player could even take Icon-style relationships with these smaller-scale Icons that would only work when in that Icon’s zone of influence. There still might be a Grandmaster of Flowers in some hidden monastery where she trains monks, and she works as an Icon when you’re adventuring near that holy mountain, but she doesn’t have the Empire-wide reach of her forebears.

Another possibility is that some forms of magic might be possible in one Age, but not in others. There might be Ages when all arcane magic just stopped working for centuries, until the world turned again. There might be Ages when other forms of magical power (psionics, maybe) worked, but they stopped when the Age changed, leaving behind only a few impossible relics and the memories of wonder.

Some astoundingly potent rituals and spells might be restricted to once-per-Age, just as resurrection is once-per-lifetime, more or less.

Does Everyone Agree on the Ages?

No.

Even if you assume that the turning of an Age is marked with completely obvious and unambiguous signs and portents, even if giant letters of fire appear in the sky saying ‘NOW TURN TO THE NEXT AGE’ when the time is at hand, some people are going to argue. The Elves might refuse to acknowledge that the 12th Age ever ended; historians might argue over whether Horizon was built in the 3rd or the 4th Age, or if it was actually built in the 18th and is moving backwards in time (because the Archmage, that’s why.) Not only will the ordering of the Ages vary from campaign to campaign, but there can be plenty of disagreement and ambiguity within a campaign too. After all, an Age is just the high-fantasy way of saying “once upon a time…”