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

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

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

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

 

Wizard King Grunt

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

7th level mook [humanoid]

Initiative: +7

Government issue spear +12 vs. AC18 damage

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

Fists, I guess? +12 vs. AC6 damage

R: Government issue crossbow +12 vs. AC18 damage

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

AC 23

PD 21                HP 27 (mook)

MD 17

 

Wizard King Stormtrooper

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

7th level troop [humanoid]

Initiative: +9

Standard issue broadsword +12 vs. AC28 damage

R: Standard issue wand +10 vs. AC20 damage

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

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

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

AC 20

PD 21                HP 100

MD 10

 

Wizard King Captain

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

7th level leader [humanoid]

Initiative: +12

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

R: Officer’s wand +12 vs. AC28 damage

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

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

AC 23

PD 17                HP 108

MD 21

 

Wizard King Knight

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

8th level wrecker [humanoid]

Initiative: +13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AC 24

PD 22                HP 144

MD 18

 

Countess Magdalena the Duelist

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

8th level spoiler [humanoid]

Initiative: +15

Unerring blade +14 vs. AC40 damage

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

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

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

Miss: 15 fire damage, and 5 ongoing fire damage

Limited use: 2/battle

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

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

Limited use: 2/battle.

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

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

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

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

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

AC 24

PD 18      HP 144

MD 22

 

Lunar wand icon by  under CC BY 3.0


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

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

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

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

Archmage

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

 Crusader

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

 

 Diabolist

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

Dwarf King

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

 

 

Elf Queen

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

 Emperor

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

 

Great Gold Wyrm

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

High Druid

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

Lich King

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

 Orc Lord

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

Priestess

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

Prince of Shadows

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

The Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overseer of the Eye Mother

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

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

Overseer of the Eye-Mother

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

Large 9th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +16

C: Punishing gaze +15 vs. PD75 damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nastier Specials

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

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

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

 

AC 25

PD 23    HP 360

MD 23

Tactics

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

An example of the overseer in combat:

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

Image by Anna Langova.


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

Recover the hidden power of the Elf Queen!

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

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

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

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

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

Adventure in the City of Swords!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abilities for Most Ghosts

Most ghosts have several or all of the following abilities:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Black Spot: A New Ability for Pirate Ghosts

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

Pirate Ghost Captain

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

Double-strength 6th level wrecker [undead]

Initiative: +12

Vulnerability: holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nastier Specials

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

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

AC 22

PD 19     HP 140

MD 16

 

Pirate Ghost Crew Member

Arrrrr!

6th level mook [undead]

Initiative: +9

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

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

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

AC 21

PD 19 .      HP 18 (mook)

MD 16

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


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

A 13th Age GM recently asked for advice on using Backgrounds in a modern setting. At first I didn’t see the problem—”Former circus performer” should work the same in the modern world as it does in the Dragon Empire, right?

But when I really gave it some thought, I saw the difficulty. “Former circus performer” in the Dragon Empire lets the player do loads of world-building, unconstrained by real-world facts and enhanced by the magic of the setting. Likewise, the GM has complete freedom to use that Background to create adventure and campaign hooks relevant to that character.

However, if your game is set in the modern wold it becomes more difficult, especially if you care about some degree of accuracy, and real-world believability. It’s can be even harder if that Background is connected to a region or a culture you aren’t very familiar with. What, realistically, could a modern-day character with the Background “subsistence farmer” do with it? What if they were a subsistence farmer in New England? Rural Japan? A tiny island near Madagascar? What compelling and believable adventure and campaign hooks could the GM create?

Here’s how I’d handle this.

First, remember that a GM needs to know just enough about a thing to make it believable and entertaining at the table, and no more.

Also, remember that Backgrounds, like other character creation mechanics, exist to generate fun.

Third, recall that 13th Age players and GMs work together to build out the world, and create adventures that are relevant to the characters.

Let’s say I’m running a modern-day campaign set in the United States, where the player characters are a ragtag band of wandering misfits who roam the country, get involved in some local troubles, resolve them, and then head off into the sunset. One player decides that her character, who is Chinese-American, has the Background, “Former circus performer in China”.

For the purposes of gaming at our table we could leave it at that, in which case the player occasionally says something like, “I squeeze through the bars of this jail cell using a trick I learned from the contortionist at the circus.” That’s fine!

However, if that player made the circus Background a +5, that player is telling me she wants this part of her character’s life to be an important element of the game. If it’s connected to a One Unique Thing and/or icon relationships, she might want it to be one of the things that defines the campaign.

In order to find ways to incorporate this Background into the campaign story arc. I’d ask questions like:

  • How did you come to join the circus?
  • What made that circus different from others?
  • Was it successful? Struggling?
  • How long were you in it?
  • What was your role—your job, but also your place in the society within the circus?
  • What was your relationship with the owners? The performers? Other employees?
  • When did you leave, and how?
  • Why did you leave? Was it on good terms, or bad terms? Were you able to leave freely, or did you escape?

Guided by these answers, I would do some research on circuses, especially ones in China—just enough to create compelling story hooks relevant to that character, ones that would feel believable in play.

Hmm. Wikipedia* has very little on circuses in China. Here’s what I found just now:

  • In the 1800s, a Frenchman named Louis Soullier was one of three early circus owners who introduced the circus to China. He was the first circus owner to introduce Chinese acrobatics to the European circus.
  • “Chinese variety art” is the English translation of a Chinese term which covers a wide range of acrobatic acts and other demonstrations of physical skill traditionally performed by a troupe in China. These include plate-spinning, Shaolin monks who resist projectiles thrown or fired at them, kung fu demonstrations, unicycling, balancing on balls, and contorting.
  • “Circus” refers to a Western-style circus, which may include Chinese variety art. The Chinese State Circus is a touring circus presenting these arts to European audiences.
  • Both Eastern and Western circuses have undergone a revival and transformation since the 1970s, with elaborate themed productions, often telling a story through characters which reappear throughout the show. In the Chinese State Circus, this is the figure of the legendary Monkey King.

Whoa. Wait a second. As described in the Ming dynasty novel Journey to the West, the Monkey King rebelled against the divine Jade Emperor and was imprisoned by the Buddha in a mountain. He was released 500 years later, and atoned for his crimes by protecting the monk Tang Sanzang. The Monkey King does all kinds of amazing feats—the kind you’d see in…a circus featuring Chinese variety art.

Not only do I now have some background information to work with in handling skill checks, I’ve made an important thematic connection in my head. I’m reminded that “circus performer” is more than a set of skills: it’s an archetype, an iconic outsider figure who uses skill, cleverness, unpredictability, and humor to overcome obstacles and enemies (often the forces of law and order).

Here’s what I might challenge this player character with:

  • Physical obstacles that put these skills and qualities to the test, and which resemble the sorts of challenges overcome in Chinese variety arts and circuses.
  • Enemies who are their opposite number: solid, straightforward, and serious.
  • Enemies who are their distorted mirror image: skillful, clever, and unpredictable outsiders. Maybe this includes a recurring villain, someone who’s very much like the PC but with an important difference that puts them at odds.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s fine for circuses, which are fun and interesting. What about the boring Background, ‘I am a former page in the United States Congress’? How do I give that depth, and find story hooks for it?”

Just as we did in the example above, you learn a bit about how it works, ask questions, and find the fun. You might find out he got the highly-coveted job of page because his late father blackmailed a senator who had ties to a powerful Mob boss. If that’s the case, you could run an adventure where the group arrives in a town to discover that the character’s father, who vanished recently, now lives there as part of a witness protection program. And guess who else just figured this out, and sent a car full of hit men?

This works for auto salvage yard owners, tax preparers, homemakers, and every sort of life path.

If a character’s Backgrounds are really just bundles of skills, summarized in a sentence, that’s okay. But if inspiration strikes, your players might be incredibly entertained when a shadowy conspiracy comes after the former tax preparer because the client he helped five years ago was a time traveler from the future, changing history one tax return at a time.

*Wikipedia is sufficient if all I’m doing is running a game for my friends. If I’m turning this into a published adventure or campaign, I’m going to do a lot of thorough research, and take steps to ensure I’m representing real-world cultures accurately and respectfully.


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

13th Age logo t-shirtThanks to everyone who sent in their fun 13th Age t-shirt slogan ideas! Rob Heinsoo and I read and discussed them, and together we chose our three favorites.

Grand Prize goes to Tim Baker: “Well, that escalated quickly.”

Second and Third Place go to Michael Keon:
“Ask me how 3 + 4 equals 13”
“I got eaten by the Stone Thief, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”

Tim, Michael, keep an eye on your email inboxes—we’ll be sending you credit to use at the Pelgrane Press merch store!

The Underworld calls! Can you resist its dark lure?

The expanse of the Dragon Empire is as nothing compared to the vast and mysterious realms that lie beneath it. Deep within the Underworld lie adventure and treasure—as well as madness and death. But what is reward without risk?

With The Book of the Underworld, designer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (Eyes of the Stone Thief, Book of Demons, Book of Ages), reveals the Underworld’s secrets for 13th Age, including:

  • The lands of the Underworld: the Underland, the kingdoms of the Hollow Realms, and what lies within the Deeps
  • The mighty dwarven city of Forge, rallying point for the inevitable war to reclaim Underhome
  • The domains of the Silver Folk elves, and their underground icons: She Who Spins in Darkness, and He Who Weaves with Joy
  • The threats of Malice, the Drowfort, and the four kingdoms of the Mechanical Sun
  • New Icons, forgotten gods, spells, feats, magic items, monsters, and more!

You’ll also find rules for traveling in the Underworld—including ways to make travel montages more interesting (and hazardous!)—and advice for GMs who want to create adventures and campaigns set in the Underworld.

The passage downward lies ahead. Cold air chills your bones, and you can hear the echoes of something huge and ancient stirring far below. Mutter one last prayer to the Gods of Light, set your torches ablaze, and prepare to enter the Underworld!

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Developers: Rob Heinsoo, John-Matthew DeFoggi

Cover: Lee Moyer, with Rich Longmore

Status: In development

Sebastian Münster’s sea monster chart (1544)

The Iron Sea: this is fine.

The Dragon Empire’s potential for rich stories and adventures isn’t even close to being exhausted—its various regions are left half-finished so GMs and players can have fun filling in the blanks, but we envision it being culturally, ethnically, economically, agriculturally, culinarily, and religiously diverse. Approaching a town on the sunny southern coast you might find gently-sloping green hills, olive groves, wheat fields, and vineyards bursting with grapes. Venture into town and you may come across a busy market with stalls selling food with complex spices, a temple to the sea gods, and an amphitheater that dates back to the age of the Wizard King. Head northwest to Foothold, and you might find tall forests, lumber camps, craggy mountains with dwarven mines, fur traders, rugged fortifications, offerings to placate the dark gods, and hearty stews.

Nevertheless! Some have asked us what lies beyond the map of the Dragon Empire. What place does it occupy in the larger world? For that, I’ll direct you to the Book of Ages and its description of the Age of Corsairs, when the Dragon Empire opened maritime trade routes with other lands beyond the Iron Sea, and the pirates who prayed on this shipping grew strong enough to challenge the Empire.

Here are some of the details of that age from the Book of Ages (which also includes new PC races, monsters, and magic items). Feel free to make the 13th Age an age of sail and trade in your campaign, or have the PCs be the first brave explorers who discover—or rediscover—lands beyond the Dragon Empire. If sail and trade with the outside world are common, the major change to the default setting will be that the Iron Sea’s storms and monsters either haven’t yet made the sea impassable, or have been subdued by one of more icons.

An Age of Sail and Trade

Adventurers and explorers have discovered new lands beyond the Empire, and trade ships now sail through the Koru Straits and out into the Iron Sea!

The wizards of Horizon have developed magical forms of navigation using celestial beacons that enable ships to cross the deeps. This is a marvelous time, especially for the merchants of Highrock and Glitterhaegen who benefit most from this growth in trade. However, dissatisfaction grows in other parts of the Empire, and would-be pirates—aided by ambitious black and green dragons—have built their own ships and begun raiding the trading vessels along the coast. 

Alternate Icons

The icons of the Age of Corsairs reflected the spirit of that age. If you wish, you can replace any of the default icons of the 13th Age with one of the icons below, or merge them. For example, you could replace the Prince of Shadows with the Captain of Corsairs; but you could also decide that the young Orc Lord felt the lure of the sea, and is now a pirate king!

The Captain of Corsairs is the great rival of the Emperor. There have been many different Captains—some were bloodthirsty, brutal thieves, but others were clever diplomats and wise rulers. The Captains rule from the great port city of the Harbor of Gulls.

The Explorer is a famed adventurer who travels the world. She will vanish from the Empire for many years at a time, then return with fabulous treasures and tales of distant lands. Sometimes, she travels by ship; on other occasions, she sets off on foot or through one of the Archmage’s experimental portals. (Other modes of transport employed by the Explorer on occasion: kidnapped by derro, tied to a roc, flung by a catapult, flung by a giant, flung by a giant catapult [along with her twenty companions and their horses], stowed away on a flying castle, eaten by the Stone Thief ).

The Merchant Princess‘ wealth is said to rival even that of the Dwarf King. Her trading fleets sail out of Glitterhaegen and Highrock, and return laden with gold and silver from distant lands. Money buys power, and the influence of the Princess easily eclipses that of the Archmage and the Great Gold Wyrm in the imperial court.

The Serpent is a green dragon whose power is second only to his ambition; he desires to become the new Green, upgrading the Three to the Four and obtaining the strength and respect (and treasure hoard) due to one of the great dragons. He has allied with the Captain of Corsairs to bring down his rivals, and some suspect he has bewitched the High Druid.

The King Below is the ruler of the sahuagin. Under the coral crown and bloody banner of the king, the freshwater sahuagin of the Fangs join with their salt-water cousins in a war against the surface. At times the Captain of Corsairs has been able to ally with the sea-folk, but for the most part, the sahuagin recognize no difference between one ship crammed with prospective slavemeat and another.

Lands Beyond

Book of Ages lists 13 lands that might exist beyond the storms and ship-eating monsters—though if you prefer, they could be reachable by land travel. Here are some samples:

Far Eld: A grim, rainy land of small, grim, damp villages and grimmer, damper fishermen. Lots of monks, hermits and druids. Eld’s not entirely in this world—parts of it phase in and out of some faerie realm, and only the locals know when these gates open and close.

The Edgelands: The atoll of the Edgelands surrounds a huge hellhole. It’s a barter town, a devil’s market where traders can buy goods from the infernal realms in exchange for coin and souls.

The Archipelago: Like the Dragon Empire, the lands of the Archipelago have their own icons. Here, there are a hundred minor icons, each one ruling a different island. Over time, the islands have come to reflect the nature and desires of their rulers, so each one is radically different to its neighbors across the straits.

Fortuna: In Fortuna, magic items rule. Humans are seen as soulless meat golems unless ensouled by the vibrant spirits of magic, and are only considered really alive when loaded down with enough items to have their ‘animal instincts’ overridden (in other words, more magic items than one’s level allows). Fortuna’s awash with magic items, but they’re not for sale—taking them is a crime tantamount to kidnapping.

Eiswyn: Eiswyn is a glacial realm of ice and snow, of barbarians and furry monsters. The ruins of an ancient civilization lie frozen in the glacier, so when the barbarians aren’t off raiding warmer lands in the summer, they spend their winters cutting into the ice to excavate treasures and dangers from a past age.

Get the Book of Ages by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan here.


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

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