At the Imperial College of the Arcane, students struggle to master the art of magic, both theoretical and applied. And wherever there are students laboring under intense pressure—both academic and social—there will always be student societies. Most tend to be small, informal groups of close friends. However, some are powerful secret societies whose histories span the ages, and whose rituals remain forever hidden from outsiders.

This article provides a brief overview of five secret societies of the College Arcane, located in the Archmage’s city of Horizon (which you can read about in 13 True Ways). These aren’t official additions to Dragon Empire lore, but players and GMs might find them useful for adventure seeds, character backgrounds, NPC opponents, and even One Unique Things.

Common Features:

  • 15-30 current, active members, usually chosen from specific areas of magical study or types of spellcasters. First-year students are almost never invited to become members of a secret society—society members keep an eye on promising first-year students to see if they’d be suitable candidates in the future. Belonging to multiple secret societies is forbidden, and anyone found doing so will be cast out and shunned. However, some societies are friendly with one another, and may collaborate on joint activities.
  • An official name, and sometimes a nickname that’s more commonly used to refer to the society
  • An associated icon, who might be symbolic of the society’s focus, an inspiration to its members, or even its official head
  • An enchanted badge or token which, when worn, signals membership in the society to other members who are nearby—perhaps by changing temperature, tingling, or whispering in the wearer’s ear
  • A motto
  • An initiation rite that includes a challenging ordeal and an oath of secrecy
  • A clubhouse, which at the College Arcane is called a “lair”. A secret society’s lair might take any form, whether mundane or fantastical. The key thing is that outsiders cannot see or hear what goes on inside a lair, and members can enter and exit without being seen.
  • Society activities, such as the discussion of academic topics, formal debate, carousing, public service, or tasks performed on behalf of the society’s patron icon. Depending on the nature of the society, some of these may be done publicly while others are private and subject to the oath of secrecy.

The Good Fellows

Nickname: The Hellhole Club

Membership: Primarily wizards and demonologists (from Book of Demons), if your campaign’s version of the College Arcane accepts demonologists as students.

Associated icon: The Diabolist.

Motto: “From Shadows, Light. From Light, Understanding.”

Badge or token: Two hands clasped in friendship.

Initiation includes: The candidate’s courage and will is tested by branding the society’s badge on their exposed skin. The brand (and associated pain) vanishes within seconds.

Principal activities: Discussion of magic related to demons, devils, and the Abyss; the pursuit of power and influence.

In reality, the Good Fellows are a recruiting funnel for the cult of the Diabolist. As part of the society’s fun and games, members are required to carry out “secret missions” in the Diabolists’ name. These tasks are harmless pranks at first, but gradually become more sinister. Any member who refuses is reminded that the society now has quite a long record of that member’s diabolical acts. It would be such a shame if it ever became public… (For more on the Diabolist’s cult in Horizon, see “The Diabolist’s ‘Moderates’” in 13 True Ways, p. 148; and the Hell Marsh Cult monster entry in 13th Age Bestiary 2, p. 134.)

Society for the Advancement and Promotion of the Defensive Magical Arts

Nickname: B.B.F. (Blast, Burn, and Freeze)

Membership: All spellcasters, but primarily sorcerers.

Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as defender of the Empire and caster of some wicked destructive spells.

Motto: “Courage Under (And Possibly While On) Fire.”

Badge or token: Two wands, crossed.

Initiation includes: On “Dueling Day”, candidates—dressed in ridiculous costumes—must fight public “duels of honor” on college grounds using absurd weapons chosen by society members.

Principal activities: Discussion of magic as it relates to warfare and battle; re-enacting historical battles using magical miniature landscapes and animated figurines (some dating back to the society’s founding).

Scroll and Staff

Nickname: The Page-Shufflers

Membership: Wizards

Associated icon: The Archmage, in his capacity as the Empire’s greatest master of magical learning.

Motto: “Read Thrice, Speak Once.” (Often paraphrased as, “Know your sh*t before you open your mouth.”)

Badge or token: An open book with the flame of the Archmage rising from its pages.

Initiation includes: The retrieval and reading of a scroll—the society’s founding document—hidden within the College Arcane’s vast library. The member must never speak of its contents to anyone, not even other society members.

Principal activities: Debate, study, and the discussion of magical texts from past ages. After final exams, truly legendary carousing.

The Cacophonous Society

Nickname: The Bleating Herd

Membership: Primarily bards and chaos mages.

Associated icons: Elf Queen, Spelljack (See “The Age of Founding”, Book of Ages)

Motto: “Wit, Harmony, and Friendship.”

Badge or token: A lyre within a laurel wreath

Initiation includes: Candidates are given music and lyrics for the society’s anthem (an almost impossibly difficult song) and must perform it in public while the current members heap good-natured ridicule on them.

Principal activities: Discussion of the intersection of magic and the performing arts; musical, dramatic, and comedic composition and performance (both public and private); carousing.

Hand and Eye

Nickname: Rag and Bone

Membership: Primarily necromancers, wizards, and clerics of death gods.

Associated icon: The Lich King

Motto: “Silence.”

Badge or token: A skull with a skeletal hand covering its right eye.

Initiation includes: Candidates are abducted from their rooms in the dead of night and led blindfolded to a certain cemetery on College grounds. There, they experience a ceremonial death and resurrection in which they are buried alive and then dug up again an hour later. The new members are welcomed joyfully with a lavish feast.

Principal activities: Discussion of necromantic magic, philosophy, and ethics; charitable works related to death, dying, and grieving, always performed anonymously—for example, providing a poor family with funds for the proper burial of a deceased loved one.

 

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Sometimes a class is a bit more than a single class! The new demonologist class in Book of Demons is a bit like the druid in 13 True Ways in that it uses talent choices to define its class features and spell lists. The three demonologist paths—corruption, flame, and slaughter—have features in common, including resist abilities to specific types of damage and demon summoning. However, two demonologists with talent choices in different paths can play extremely differently.

As with the druid, you can mix demonologist talents from the different paths to create the character you want to play. With a single talent in a path, you’re said to be an initiate. You’ll have access to the path’s spells and its summoned demon, but not as much access as a demonologist who has become a devotee of a path with two of its talents. Use all three talents in the same path and you’re a fanatic—which may be a worthwhile choice for raw power, but will cut down on your versatility.

If you’re curious about the mechanical feel of the characters you can create using the different paths, here are the arguments for why each path might be the most interesting.

Corruption is the best path because you already know your enemies are weak, and your spells and talents will ensure it.

Talents from the path of corruption tend to power-up the effects and conditions your spells (and sometimes your allies’ spells) place on enemies. Examples include Contagion, a talent that transfers a condition to a different enemy when an enemy suffering from one of your spells drops; and Inimical, a talent which raises the saves required against all your spells. These bonuses apply to any spells you cast, not just corruption spells. For example, if you take Inimical as your one corruption talent and choose two talents from the flame path, all the ongoing fire damage your flame path spells deal will be harder to save against.

The demons summoned by corruption path demonologists are spoilers, oozing creatures that somehow daze or weaken enemies, creating conditions your corruption path talents may be able to manipulate.

Flame is the best path because everyone burns when you say so. 

A demonologist heavily invested in the flame path might play something like a summoning-capable sorcerer who specializes in fire spells. Unlike the hypothetical sorcerer, however, the flame path demonologist gets better at overcoming resist fire abilities the more talents they invest in the path. In playtesting, that made the difference between a path that no one could see themselves playing, and a path that could handle descending into a hellhole.

The path’s spell selection is more than just fiery offense. Spells like flaming teleport and flame shroud and golden claw (pictured at right!) interpret fire control as a source of improved mobility, so that demonologists on the flame path are a bit more survivable than similar brittle spellcasters.

Slaughter is the best path because you get to wear heavy armor, chop enemies up with swords and melee spells, and still summon demons.

I admit that it’s hard to dispute the slaughter path argument. Previously you could multiclass into a character who wirlds both swords and sorceries in 13th Age, but this is the first class implementation that deliberately invokes at least three Elric-tropes.

I’m not sure that the slaughter path is better, per se; but I know it’s popular, whether mixed with one of the other paths or followed to a full-fanatic three talents.

The demons summoned by slaughter path demonologists include two of the new demons added in this book, the claw demon and the hungry maw.

Art by Rich Longmore

Recently we’ve gotten some feedback from players on the summoning mechanics for champion and epic tier druids and necromancers that  coincides with how we handle summoning in new books like 13th Age Glorantha and Book of Demons. In this column, I’m going to take the opportunity to extend one of our summoning improvements to the classes in 13 True Ways.

The change is simple. Use the following rules adapted from 13G and Book of Demons to help summoned creatures contribute to higher level battles.

Attack bonuses: Summoned creatures use the default bonuses of their summoner’s magic weapon or implement, if any. In other words, if you have an attack and damage bonus from a magic weapon or implement, so do any creatures you summon.

Defense bonuses: Similarly, summoned creatures use the default bonuses of their summoner’s armor, cloak, and head items, if any. In other words, default bonuses to AC, PD, and MD from magic items also apply to your summoned creatures. As with the attack bonuses covered above, this only applies to default bonuses. Bonuses and abilities that come along with an item that are not default bonuses only apply to summoned creatures if they specify that. At present, not many do.

This is the only change. Stick with the current rule that druidic and necromantic summonings don’t automatically add the escalation die to their attacks—both classes have feats that get around that, or you can spend a quick action to add the escalation die to the druidic/necromantic summoned creature’s attack (see 13TW page 11).

The Book of Demons is out in print this month, so in celebration (unholy, raucous, and malignant) of that fact, we present a way to bring demons into your 13th Age campaign a little more.

Demons are always scratching at the walls of their prison, looking for a way out into the world. There are magical rifts and hellholes and summoning spells, of course, but demons can’t be choosers. Sometimes, the only way out is to squeeze through the narrowest of cracks—like, through a soul in a moment of pain or terror. A demonic boon is a special form of iconic benefit that a cruel GM might offer a vulnerable player. Say you’re in a dangerous pickle, and you really wish that you’d rolled a 5 or 6 on your relationship die. The GM might offer you a demonic boon—the chance to retroactively turn that relationship roll into a success.

You called for help, and someone answered. Just not who you were expecting. The benefit’s not coming from the icon directly—it’s coming from the forces of the Abyss.

If you accept a demonic boon, treat it as though you’d rolled a 5 on your relationship die—a benefit with strings attached, and the demons are the ones holding those strings. Don’t worry, it’ll only be a small favour to repay.

Probably.

And demons never (hardly ever) charge interest…

Spoor of the Abyss

Boons only happen in places where demons already have a toe-hold in the world. They happen near hellholes (or near places where hellholes are about to form), in places haunted by demons, sorcerers, or Diabolist-cultists, or in areas where the barrier between dimensions is naturally thin.

While demons are naturally drawn to the mighty, blazing, juicy souls of heroic player characters, they’re not that picky. Ordinary mortals and non-player characters might get demonic boons if the conditions are right. If you run into a little girl who really wanted a kitten and got one that talks (and teaches her to throw fireballs), or meet a farmer who’s gone from drought to bountiful harvest overnight, there may be a demon nearby.

Demonic boons might be delivered by imps and other obviously demonic entities or by demons masquerading as spirits or servants of the icons. A wary adventurer can usually spot some demonic tell—glowing eyes, sharp teeth, or the smell of sulphur.

Archmage: Demons are creatures of magic, and more than a few wizards and sorcerers have ended up in the Abyss out of hubris, damned by their pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Such spellcasters could be let out of the Abyss (briefly) to pass on some tidbit of arcane lore or juice up a spell.

Crusader: The Crusader’s servants don’t get demonic boons—they take them by force instead. The Crusader binds and enslaves demons to do his bidding, and is well aware of the seductive tricks and traps that demons might employ. Servants of the Crusader are never offered boons. Well, hardly ever—for all their oaths to the Dark Gods, for all their demon-binding magic, for all their fanatic hatred, there are times when even a Crusader feels fear…

Diabolist: If you had the demonological equivalent of a tunnelling electronic microscope, an arcane machine that could detect the most infinitesimal of supernatural influences, you might be able to tell the difference between a regular Diabolist relationship benefit and a demonic boon. Maybe.

Dwarf King: Dwarves are generally too solid and down-to-the-primordial-roots-of-the-earth to be tempted by demonic influences. Demonic dwarf-boons tend to work using existing grudges and hatreds—the demons won’t try to trick you or seduce you, they’ll just offer you that little boost of magical power or physical might to smash those ancestral enemies.

Elf Queen: Demonic boons from the Elf Queen cluster around the dark elves. There are old and deep connections between the dark elves and the demon realm, and it’s easy to demons to sneak in that way…

Emperor: The Emperor stands for law and justice, the antithesis of demons. Demons trying to sneak in demonic boons for this icon, therefore, always show up in disguise. Armoured knights with their faces hidden behind visored helms, legal documents warped and rewritten by demonic sorcery, malicious trickery disguised as moments of good fortune or justice.

Great Gold Wyrm: Like the followers of the Crusader, those who serve the Great Gold Wyrm are on guard against demonic boons. Clever demons, therefore, offer their boons as tribute, playing on the hero’s pride. Oh mighty paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm, we could not hope to defeat you, so take these offerings as your rightful due…

High Druid: Shapeshifting demons can take the form of animals. Talking cats, talking birds, talking trees—are these kindly servants of the High Druid, or demons in disguise?

Lich King: The power of the lord of graves is centred on the isle of the Necropolis, so he aids his servants through ghostly emissaries, chilly omens, and secretive servants. It’s easy for demons to mimic any of these, especially for nalfeshnee and hezrou, both of whom have the rotting stench down pat.

Orc Lord: Those who follow the path of the Orc Lord tend to stab first and ask questions later. Even questions like, “Hey, why am I suddenly blessed with this demonic fury, and why does my blood catch fire on contact with the air?” get glossed over.

Priestess: Demons convince followers of the Priestess to accept their boons by offering them in times when other people are in need. Out of healing spells and your companion’s at death’s door? A village wracked with disease? That kitten climbed a tree into the overworld and is now stuck beyond space and time? Do you want others to suffer or are you good and holy enough to accept a little compromise?

Prince of Shadows: If there’s one thing about the Prince, it’s that he’s honest. The Prince knows the value of a good deal, a bargain fairly made. His agents will take a boon when the time and the price are right.

The Three: Demons typically use the Red as cover. The Red Dragon’s barred from the Empire so he works through emissaries (check), he fosters random destruction (check), and he’s got a whole fire-and-brimstone shtick (check). Hey—are we completely sure the Red isn’t a demon?

 

claw demonIn The Book of Demons, we introduce the idea of hellhole-specific demon powers. Instead of using the standard random demon power table, the book provides tailored tables of random powers, so demons from the Ratwood are more likely to have, well, ratty-woody themed powers, and demons from the Floating Market have a chance of powers reflecting the anything-goes-as-long-as-The-Diabolist-approves laws of the place.

Now, why should the Hellholes from the 13th Age core rulebook be left out of the fun? This article gives site-specific power tables for those hellholes on p. 271…

 

Random Hum Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Bug Eyes. The demon is immune to invisibility and ignores any illusions.
  2. Carapace. +1 AC
  3. Bug Wings. The demon can buzz into the air on furiously beating insect wings. If the demon can already fly, reroll.
  4. Blind Instinct. At the start of the encounter, pick a target for this demon. The demon gets a +1 bonus to all attacks on that target, but may not attack other enemies as long as that target is still in the battle. (The demon can use attacks that hit multiple foes, as long as the chosen target is one of those foes.)
  5. Egg of Doom. When this demon is slain, it lays a demonic egg. If the egg is not destroyed, the reborn demon hatches from this egg at the start of the next round at half its starting hit points. The egg can be destroyed before it hatches; treat it as having the defences and hit points of a basic mook of level equal to the demon.
  6. Stinger. On a natural 16+ with a melee attack, the demon also inflicts 5 ongoing poison damage (save ends). Champion-tier demons: 10 ongoing poison damage; epic-tier, 15 ongoing damage.
  7. Swarm. Once per battle, when the escalation die is 4+, this demon may grant all nearby demon allies an extra action this round.
  8. Protect The Queen! Once per turn, when an attack hits this demon, the demon may attempt a save. If successful, the attack is redirected to a nearby demon ally.

 

Random Blackfort Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Implements of Torture. The demon gets a bonus to damage equal to its level when attacking staggered foes.
  2. To The Barricades! The demon gets a +2 bonus to AC and PD against ranged attacks thanks to its mastery of the terrain.
  3. Hold The Line! If fighting alongside two other demons, this demon gets a +1 bonus to attack rolls.
  4. The demon starts the battle invisible. It becomes visible when it attacks.
  5. Terrain Stunt. The demon may pull of a terrain stunt, as per the ranger power (13th Age, 120).
  6. Strength of the Earth. The demon has a +5 bonus to saves as long as it’s in contact with the ground.
  7. Master Torturer. Whenever the demon inflicts a critical hit, it heals a number of hit points equal to its level x 3.
  8. Once per battle, the demon may summon up a fortress from the earth, changing the terrain of the battlefield. The fortress comes with a garrison of mook reinforcements.

 

Random Bubble Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Smoke shroud. If the demon doesn’t attack this round, it gains a smoky shroud that gives attacks against it a 25% miss chance. The shroud vanishes when the demon attacks.
  2. Resist Fire 18+.
  3. When the demon dies, it inflicts fire damage equal to its level x 2 to all nearby enemies.
  4. Resist Fire 18+.
  5. Demonic Flame. The demon’s got a fiery aura; any foes engaged with the demon at the start of the demon’s turn take 1d10 damage (Champion-tier: 2d10; Epic: 4d10).
  6. Demonic Hatred. If the escalation die is 3+, the demon gets an extra action each round. This extra action may only be used to attack a foe it’s already attacked this round.
  7. Demonic Aristocrat. The first time this demon is staggered, it vanishes, and a demon bodyguard two levels lower appears on the battlefield. When the bodyguard’s defeated, the original demon reappears.
  8. Once per battle as a standard action, if the demon is staggered, the demon may trigger a localised volcanic eruption. Treat this as a ridiculously hard impromptu challenge (13th Age, p. 186).

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