Wade Rockett 13th Age designer logoHow do you keep an empire together? One obvious answer is the ability to move people and things quickly and easily from one place to another: trade goods, armies, officials, citizens. Perhaps just as important is the ability to move information across long distances. Are the forces of the Orc Lord mustering to attack from the north? Has a spy in Drakkenhall discovered an assassination plot in Horizon? Is one of the Archmage’s wards failing? If you can’t get word to the right people, the consequences could be disastrous. Information is also used to unify people across great distances and throughout the ages: to say, “this is who we are”, “this is where we came from”, “these people and events are important to understanding the world”.

Here are 7 ideas for long-distance communication in your 13th Age campaign:

The Mockingbirds: Members of this secret society of bards can be found all over the Dragon Empire, and have developed sophisticated ways of transmitting information to each other through coded messages hidden in poems, tales, and musical compositions. Mockingbirds have trained their entire lives in the art of listening to a piece once and then flawlessly reproducing it.

Swift Wind: Emerging during the rebellion against the Terrible Emperor, these monks have trained to run overland for days without resting. Legends say they can run across water as if it were solid ground, and over the tops of trees, carrying messages between monasteries. One legendary Swift Wind monk is said to have fearlessly delivered a message to the heart of the Abyss itself.

Song of Stone: That sound of clattering and sliding rock you hear faintly in the blackness of the Underworld? It might be natural, or it might be a dwarf using a handful of stones and their knowledge of how echoes travel in the deep to send a coded message across the miles.

Whispering Spirits: Wizards, druids, and elves often employ magical spirits to send messages to allies, friends, and lovers—once they have delivered the message, or returned with an answer, they are free to depart. Because they are more idea than flesh their minds don’t quite work the same as ours, so the message must take the form of a riddle or poem.

Magic Mirrors: One of the oldest forms of long-distance magical communication, reflective surfaces—such as mirrored glass, pools of water, polished shields—are highly suitable for enchanting because they present a view of the world that appears real, but is not. Because they’re so common, magic mirrors have become increasingly risky to use these days: you might find yourself speaking with the magical reflection of a long-dead wizard who used the same mirror in a previous age, or discover too late that a rakshasa was a silent third party listening in on your plans via its own magic mirror.

Nonsense: Thieves, beggars, and traveling peddlers use an “anti-language” which they commonly call Nonsense to talk openly among themselves without being understood by outsiders. Nonsense borrows words and phrases from languages throughout the Dragon Empire (and even beyond its borders), and processes them through backward-speak, rhyming slang, and wordplay to produce a fast-paced patter that sounds like you should understand it, but you can’t seem to hear it quite right. In this way, everything from gossip to military intelligence can travel from one city to another along the trade routes.

Work Songs: Sea shanties, marching cadences, and other songs and chants which take their rhythm from the work being performed, are an important way that culture is learned, preserved, and spread across the Empire. Lines in some of these songs go back to the Empire’s founding, and a careful listener might glean valuable information about places, monsters, and magic items from them. They also can contain valuable common-sense advice, such as:

I don’t know but I’ve been told

Ray of Frost is mighty cold


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.

pencils by Aaron McConnell

text by Julian Kuleck

Why let spellcasters have all the fun? This variant rule for the 13th Age RPG expands the ritual rules to those don’t wield magic, giving them an option to use their backgrounds in fantastical fashion.

Pushing a castle gate with strength alone, deducing a culprit from a footprint, foiling a massive army with a brilliant gambit—these are mighty deeds. This variant mechanic allows PCs to take on a more grandiose role than in many F20 games, allowing them to perform the feats of mythological heroes. Exactly how far you want to take this variant rule is up to your group, and it’s best to establish what you’re aiming for. While pulling up a castle portcullis with strength alone is one thing, it’ll be up to you if redirecting a river is over the line.

Mighty deeds work similarly to rituals (13A pgs. 192-193). But where rituals draw flavor from the spell sacrificed to cast them, deeds are influenced by the backgrounds of the character performing them. “Ascendant of the Seventh Mountain” could fit mighty deeds relating to climbing or awareness of the Seventh Mountain’s region, for example. “The Forbidden Librarian” would relate to knowing things that should never be known. A character needs to take an adventurer-tier feat to perform mighty deeds, and they cost recoveries to perform.

Exactly what constitutes a mighty deed can be vague, but if it seems outside of the realm of mildly exaggerated (i.e. action movie) human capability, it’s probably a mighty deed rather than a normal background check. There isn’t a precise line, and individual GMs will have to assess what requires a mighty deed and what doesn’t. But to take our Ascendant of the Seventh Mountain, free climbing a mountain or being aware of likely ambush points would just be a normal skill check. However, ascending at the pace of a run, leaping across a massive gorge, or being aware of enemy presences on your mountain (sight unseen) would be a mighty deed.

Mighty deeds aren’t as open-ended as rituals. They’re tied more tightly to backgrounds, serving as exaggerations of a character’s existing abilities and skill. In turn, they tend to have lesser requirements than rituals, as the Ascendant isn’t going to have to collect the eyelash of a medusa to make their way up a mountain. But they still often require groundwork. A tactician’s trick to hold off a skeletal army could require time to devise a plan, plant traps, etc. Even leaping up a mountain might take a moment to focus or warm up.

To perform a mighty deed:

  • Declare the background relating to your mighty deed.
  • Tell the GM what you’re trying to accomplish. If a deed requires groundwork, this can become a mini-adventure or an encounter if the GM or players wish. The GM should declare how many recoveries it should take. This is typically just 1 recovery, but it may take 2 or even 3 if the feat is particularly amazing. In most cases, a deed that simply advances the heroes on the adventure would require a single recovery. Deeds that could change the course of a story or plot would take two recoveries. Finally, deeds that impact the setting (like the aforementioned river redirection) would be three recoveries.
  • Spend 1d4 rounds / minutes / quarter-hours performing the deed. Like with rituals, the PC must be wholly focused and can’t perform other attacks without aborting the deed. (But some deeds may count as attacks; see below.) Similarly, falling unconscious and some status effects may raise the DC or negate the attempt. For example, being on fire would probably it more difficult to complete a song to sway the heart of a vengeful ghost. But maybe not; it depends on the ghost!
  • Make a skill check using the declared background and an ability score determined by the GM, using standard DC targets based on the tier and effect.

Determining results: The outcome is guided by the background chosen, though elements like class or the One Unique Thing might play in as well. A commander could stop an army with a clever ploy, while a barbarian might shout an army into stopping. Like rituals, mighty deeds don’t need to be repeatable in every circumstance—they’re supposed to be the exception to normal skill checks, not the routine. The “rule of cool” applies here, and if a mighty deed stops being interesting, gamemasters should encourage players to innovate with more grandiose effects.

Failing forward: Just like with normal skill checks, mighty deeds fail forward. However, unlike normal skill checks, mighty deeds tend to function by default but create consequences. The Ascendant leaping across a gorge might send rocks tumbling down, alerting creatures or enemies to the party’s presence. The Forbidden Librarian might discover a tidbit of lore in a dream, but the mental strain gives them a temporary quirk. However, recoveries remain expended even on a failure.

Deeds during battles: Mighty deeds are typically used outside of combat, but there are circumstances where it’s necessary conceptually. For example, it’s hard to imagine knocking over a wall on a group of goblins would be harmless! Such deeds are adjudicated like the rogue’s Swashbuckling talent (13A pg. 128), though less comparatively reliable due to the time, cost, and roll involved. Some might even count as attacks, inflict a status effect, or both. Gamemasters should consider the time and cost involved in a deed to determine their effect.

Summary: Mighty deeds exist to expand a PC’s skill checks in a free-form and dramatic fashion, and provide new creative avenues for players. Don’t ever use them to punish characters with time and costs simply for trying difficult things—if a skill check seems on the verge of being a mighty deed, it’s better to be cautious and let them perform a normal skill check instead.

 

General Feats

These feats are available to any character, but are mainly meant for classes that lack access to the Ritual Caster (13A pg. 44) adventurer-tier feat.

Mighty Deeds

Adventurer Tier: You can perform mighty deeds by expending recoveries.

Champion Feat: You gain an additional 2 recoveries that may only be expended to perform mighty deeds.

Epic Feat: Gain +5 to any skill check used to perform a mighty deed.

Deeds by Class

The following are additional options for certain classes that have purchased the Mighty Deeds adventurer-tier feat.

Commander Deeds

You may expend a tactic to perform a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries. Just like a spellcaster that expends a spell for a ritual, the tactic should be related to the deed in question.

Barbarian Deeds

When performing a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries, you may expend your daily use of rage to waive its recovery cost. This must be related to your rage thematically, being likely related to anger or destruction. After the deed is complete, you may roll to recover your rage as if you had used it in battle.

Fighter Deeds

Fighters already benefit from an extra recovery by default, letting them perform mighty deeds more often.

Monk Deeds

You may expend 2 points of ki to replace 1 recovery when performing a mighty deed. Mighty deeds fueled by ki should be related to your martial prowess and self-control.

Paladin Deeds

You may expend 2 uses of smite to replace 1 recovery when performing a mighty deed. Mighty deeds fueled by smite uses will likely have some miracle associated with them, blurring the line between divine magic and personal skill.

Ranger Deeds

Rangers with the Tracker talent may expend their terrain stunt to waive the cost of a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries that relates to terrain or wilderness.

Rogue Deeds

Rogues with the Swashbuckling talent can expend Momentum to waive the cost of a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries that relates to being tricky or flamboyant.

 

Everybody’s Special

Or at least all PCs can be! Personally, I give all characters the choice of taking the Mighty Deeds or Ritual Caster (13A pg. 44) adventurer-tier feats in my games for free. Retaining the feat cost could be more appropriate for games where mighty deeds are very unusual or related to grandiose One Unique Things.

 

 

Our virtual panel series cleans ichor from its blades as very special guest Sandy Petersen joins Swords of the Serpentine designers Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner, along with Kenneth Hite, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and moderator Robin D. Laws to provide tips and hooks for mixing swords and eldtrichery.

Wade Rockett 13th Age designer logo“The world blew up in a thousand atomic fireballs.” – Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards (1977)

“Books (including tomes, librams and manuals), artifacts, and relics are of ancient manufacture, possibly from superior human or demi-human technology, perhaps of divine origin; thus books, artifacts, and relics cannot be made by players and come only from the Dungeon Master.” – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979)

“Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn. A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery!”Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)

There’s a campaign I’d love to run someday that dives joyfully into the implications of an idea that’s been around since the beginning of the tabletop fantasy roleplaying hobby: that the characters explore and have adventures in a post-apocalyptic world built atop the ruins of long dead, highly advanced civilizations. The idea originated long before Gary Gygax, of course—his inspirations included M.A.R Barker’s world of Tékumel and Jack Vance’s Dying Earth—and is expressed today in RPGs such as Numenera from Monte Cook Games.

Post-apocalyptic adventure is already baked into 13th Age: the default setting has 12 previous ages, after all. But the default vibe is fantasy with bits of science fiction here and there, rather than the science fantasy campaign I’m imagining. So, how would I give 13th Age a strong “swords, super-science, and sorcery” feeling?

Here’s how I’d think about a post-apocalyptic science fantasy campaign, one that I’ll refer to in this post as Gamma Draconis.

The World

  • The world is old, and haunted by the ruins, relics, and memory of long-dead “Ancients”.
  • Many of the civilizations of the Ancients were incredibly advanced technologically, even by our standards.
  • The people of this world live amid the devastation of a global catastrophe that ended the most recent of the great civilizations hundreds or thousands of years ago.
  • The world feels weird: the sky is a strange color, the weather is dangerous and wildly unpredictable, and a lot of things are trying to kill you.
  • Monsters and humanoids are the result of genetic engineering, interplanetary travel, mutation, and extraterrestrial invasion.
  • The player characters are heroes who represent hope amid the tragedy and horror of this world.
  • Technology ranges from Stone Age (isolated wildlands dwellers, nomads of the irradiated wastes) to Iron Age (the largest and most prosperous cities).
  • People also make use of technology and magic which was created long ago, but which they no longer understand.
  • No distinction is made between science and magic; the two are ultimately indistinguishable.

The Icons

There are many options for icons in my imagined Gamma Draconis campaign. I’m drawn to the idea of using the icons in the 7 Icon Campaign from 13th Age Monthly adjusted to reflect a post-apocalyptic tone, and the mix of magic and far-future technology:

The Deathless Queen: A combination of the Diabolist and the Lich King, she rules a subterranean realm of the undead: once-living humanoids animated by technology and dark wizardry She has allied herself with malevolent beings known as demons, whose catastrophic arrival via portals (“hellholes”) from the dimension known as the Abyss destroyed the last great human civilization. The living in her realm endure her reign in terror and numb despair, or hope for the immortality that she alone can grant.

The Engineer: A combination of the Dwarf King and the Crusader, the Engineer sends his people out all over the world to slay demons and undead, and bring the ancient technology they guard back to the citadel of Forge to be studied and mastered.

I might give dwarf PCs, and/or PCs who have a relationship with the Engineer, the option to spend Background points on “Engineer”. This Background adds a bonus to figuring out relics, and a 5-point Engineer can try to repair or recharge broken or depleted relics.

The Invincible Emperor: A villainous merger of the Emperor and the Great Gold Wyrm, this cruel, decadent tyrant—an immortal being once human, now almost completely dragonic—rules the Dragon Empire from his throne in the Golden Citadel. His dragon-riding paladins enforce his will and crush his enemies.

The Hierophant: A combination of the Priestess and the Archmage, she is actually an ancient artificial intelligence that resides within the Cathedral—a massive structure that towers over Horizon, City of Wonders—where she is tended by her arcanite servants. She grants heroic clerics and wizards a portion of her power to help aid and protect the helpless. Her wards prevent demons and undead from ravaging across the land, for now.

The Three in Shadow: The slithering reptilian powers known as the Sorcerer Queen (the Blue), the Prince of Shadows (the Black), and the Great Beast (the Red) each prey on civilization in their own way, but are united in a powerful bond. For the desperate and downtrodden, their aid can be welcome—though it always comes with a hidden agenda.

The Warlord: Replacing the Orc Lord, the Warlord unites the creatures of the savage wastelands under his banner, and dreams of sitting on the Emperor’s golden throne. He might be a heroic rebel, or a Mad Max: Fury Road style villain—or something more abbiguous.

The Wild Queen: This combination of the Elf Queen and the High Druid is the soul of those wild, green places where beasts, trees, and elves dwell. Her elves embody three sorts of wild things: wildlife (wood elves), the wild cosmos (high elves), and the inner wild (drow).

Available PC Races

Any race could be in this campaign, either explained as mutations or genetic engineering, or simply allowed to be with no reason given—like everything else in this world they began sometime in the distant and mysterious past, and survive into the present. But here are the ones that feel right to me:

Human: unchanged.

Arcanite: Taken from the Book of Ages, these post-human servants of the Hierophant have been transformed by ongoing exposure to her arcane power. They look mostly human, but have odd cosmetic changes that mark them as something unusual—skin like polished silver, gemstones embedded in the face, glowing runes instead of eyes, and so on.

Beastblooded: Also from the Book of Ages, this race fills the role of part-human, part-beast people found in so many works of this genre.

Dwarf: The Engineer’s people. They might have originated in a long-ago age as an offshoot of humanity genetically engineered to operate in harsh environmental conditions.

Elf: Make them strange, and a little scary.

Forgeborn: The dwarves have figured out how to cobble together and reactivate ancient constructs from the parts they’ve found. Some are mindless machines; but others turn out to be, well, people.

Half-Elf: I might call them “elf-touched” or “Wild-touched” and have them be born to human parents in proximity to the Wild.

Lizardman: From Book of Ages. Monstrous characters who are extremely good at fighting are an excellent fit for this campaign! Dragonics and half-orcs definitely work, but I see a lot of potential in lizardfolk as the descendants of reptilian alien conquerors. Plus, I like their frenzy power—and the Epic tier feat that lets them move across water, up walls, and on ceilings makes them extra weird.

Space Fleet Explorer: From Book of Ages, these are stranded travelers from another universe who live in the hidden village of Commandule near Stardock. I would permit them as PCs very, very rarely because they actually understand the world they’re trapped in, and the items they encounter. I can see how it could be fun to have a character in the group who can say, “I think this is some kind of supercomputer,” but you miss out on the fun of Iron Age heroes trying to figure out a teleporter through trial and error.

Available PC Classes

I see no problem with including all of the classes from the 13th Age books published by Pelgrane Press, with any magic powers being the result of incredibly advanced technology or mutation (see below). I’m sure a lot of third-party classes also fit—some maybe exceptionally well.

Magic Items: Relics of the Forgotten Past

Long, long ago, the Ancients created wondrous items that can still be scavenged from ruins and wastelands. The knowledge of how to create these items—or even maintain and repair those that survived—is now lost, perhaps forever. It’s possible that people today use them in ways they were never intended: maybe the metal staff that fires a beam of killing light was originally some kind of cutting tool.

True Magic Items

In Gamma Draconis, “true magic items” are incredibly sophisticated relics that are virtually indestructible, and house powerful AIs capable of interfacing telepathically with those who are attuned to them. These relics form a network with other relics attuned to the same person. Perhaps the Ancients knew how to wield an unlimited number of relics, but in this post-apocalyptic world PCs are limited to a number of relics equal to their level. Go above that number and the telepathic AI network becomes so powerful they override the wielder’s own will and take control. Once a sufficient number of relics have been disconnected from the network, the user returns to normal. (Yes, this is identical to the game’s chakra system, just worded differently!)

One-Use Items

Other relics of past ages can only be used once, whether by design, degradation, or because nobody really understands how to properly use them. Potions, oils, and runes become wholly mysterious substances that take effect when ingested or applied to armor or weapons. Items such as the Mask of Face-swapping, Lighting Quagmire, and Featherlight Skirt become ancient devices activated by voice or touch. I would take a lot of these from the lists of consumable items in Book of Loot and Loot Harder for these relics.

Limited-Use Items

Depending on the kind of campaign you want to run, there could be a third type of relic between the (almost) indestructible true magic items, and one-use consumables. These relics degrade with use until they become junk—though the heroes might be able to find a powerful wizard/technologist who’s capable of repairing or recharging them, or scavenge a new power source from a ruin.

Here are three options to handle relic degradation mechanically:

Charges: When the heroes find a relic, a player rolls to see how many uses it has left. The GM assigns a die to the relic based on how well it’s been preserved, from 1d4 to 1d20. The relic has a number of uses equal to the result of the roll, and the player using it keeps track.

Escalation Roll: The method comes from the Book of Ages for 13th Age. After each battle, roll a d20; if the result is equal to or lower than the value of the escalation die at the end of the battle, the relic is broken, burned out, or otherwise permanently rendered useless.

Durability Roll: This method is adapted from Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, published by Gallant Knight Games. The GM assigns the relic a Durability score from 1 to 5, with 5 representing a fully charged and functional relic. When the GM calls for a Durability Roll, the player rolls a d6 and compares the result to that score. On a result of less than or equal to that number, the item doesn’t deteriorate with use. A result higher than the Durability score means the relic’s Durability is reduced by 1. Once a relic’s Durability score reaches zero, it is unusable. How often the GM calls for Durability Rolls depends on how unforgiving they want their setting to be, ranging from once per use to once per adventure.

Spellcasting

If “magic” items are actually advanced technology, how do you account for spellcasting? Any or all of these might be sources of spellcasting power in a science fantasy campaign:

Icons: Elevate the icons to near-godlike beings enhanced by ancient technology, mutation, or both, and have them bestow a portion of their power on certain followers, allies, and agents.

Alien gods and demons: Spellcasters are in contact with immensely powerful, inscrutable being from other dimensions of reality, which this benighted age calls gods and demons. Invoking the names of these beings enables you to wrap reality to your will.

Mutation: Some are born with special abilities which they can learn to channel to wondrous and devastating effect. There might be remote villages that consist entirely of such people, or they might be born seemingly at random from otherwise unremarkable parents.

Technology: The ancients left behind relics that can permanently change those who use them: substances that rewrite DNA, scrolls that reconfigure the brain, and microscopic nanotechnology that can be controlled and commanded by those who have learned the secret.

Invisible servitors: “Spells” are effects produced by near-omnipotent invisible beings whom the caster has learned to command or persuade. They could be other-dimensional creatures, energy constructs created by the ancients, powerful machines buried deep within the earth that can turn thought into reality (see the machines of the Krell in the movie Forbidden Planet), or something entirely different and surprising.

Monsters

Honestly, pretty much anything goes here. I would probably reskin monsters from mythology to feel more alien—reptilian centaurs, redcaps that are murderous psionic mutants, ogre magi reinterpreted as other-dimensional aliens (which they pretty much already are), and so on.

What Else?

If you’ve run anything like this, or have other ideas, I hope you’ll share them in the 13th Age Facebook group or on the Pelgrane Press Discord. (If you aren’t on the Discord, you can get an Invite link by dropping us a line at support@pelgranepress.com and asking for one.)

“Wade Says” designer symbol by Regina Legaspi

Art from The Dying Earth Revivification Folio by Ralph Horsley and Jérôme Huguenin


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 designer Rob Heinsoo takes you on a tour of the monsters he has known and loved throughout his gaming career, before finally naming on a particularly powerful and clever adversary as his favorite monster.


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

13th Age permits players to take negative relationships with Icons, to define their characters in opposition to these mighty foes. Sometimes, though, it’s tricky to reconcile that opposition with the mechanical benefits of icons. It’s easy to justify getting a benefit from a positive or conflicted relationship – I’m a loyal follower of the Crusader, so sometimes I get help from the Crusader and his allies. It’s easy, too, to come up ways to involve enemies of the evil icons – I’m a foe of the Crusader – so sometimes I get help from the Priestess or the Great Gold Wyrm.

However, it can be a bit harder to come up with foes of the good or neutral Icons on the fly – especially if your players don’t want to ally with evil forces. Who stands against the Archmage, the Priestess, or the Great Gold Wyrm, but isn’t in league with darkness?

Archmage

Non-evil Iconic Enemies: High Druid, Elf Queen

  • Champions of nature, who object to the Archmage’s cavalier manipulation of the cosmic order.
  • Survivors of magical experiments gone awry.
  • Renegade spellcasters, who chafe under the Archmage’s strangehold on magical research.
  • Rival powers like the Elf Queen or the Diabolist, who have their own claims on magical authority that clashes with the Archmage’s domain.
  • Thieves or spies investigating the Archmage’s operations.
  • Magic-hating dwarves.
  • Spirits trying to escape magical bindings or wards.
  • Wizard King loyalists insulted by this pretender to the title

Dwarf King

Non-evil Iconic Enemies: Elf Queen, Prince of Shadows

  • Miners or adventurers objecting to the Dwarf King’s claim on all underground riches
  • Elves pressing the ancient rivalry with the dwarves
  • Robin Hood-esque brigands fighting dwarven mercantilist hegemony
  • Ambitious dwarven nobles or oppressed dwarven commoners plotting against the king

Elf Queen

Iconic Enemies: Dwarf King

  • Folk of Drakkenhall, who want to expand into territory claimed by the Queen
  • Dwarves pressing the ancient rivalry with the elves
  • Foes of the Dark Elves
  • Common folk who’ve been bewitched/abducted/enchanted by wayward fae
  • Agents of the Archmage, who seek magical powers forbidden by the Queen

Emperor

Non-evil Iconic Enemies:-

  • Revolutionaries and the unjustly accused, fighting against the oppressive state
  • True allies of the Emperor, conspiring against the evil nobles and advisors who’ve led the Emperor astray, or who use the Emperor’s name to further their own selfish ends
  • Enemies of corrupt officials
  • Separatists from the Empire’s remote provinces who plot to secede from Axis
  • Champions of some higher cause or calling than mere mortal law

Great Gold Wyrm

Non-evil Iconic Enemies: –

  • Well-meaning monks who believe it’s time for the Great Gold Wyrm to finally move on to the afterlife.
  • Unwilling heroes tormented by maddening dreams sent by the Wyrm.
  • Foes of corrupt or crazed paladins.
  • Heroic dragons who seek to replace the Wyrm; as long as the Wyrm remains trapped in the mouth of the Abyss, there’s no-one to counterbalance the threat of the Three

High Druid

Non-evil Iconic Enemies: Archmage, Emperor

  • Civilisation in all its forms – wood-cutters and farmers, scholars and city-builders, road-makers and hunters
  • Alchemists seeking curative ingrediants in the woods
  • Foes of the former High Druid, who fear the new Druid will prove as monstrous as her predecessor
  • Rival druids who seek to challenge the High Druid, and must weaken her first
  • Sages and spellcasters who fear the High Druid will endanger the Empire by breaking protective magical wards.

Priestess

Iconic Enemies: –

  • Servants of the Dark Gods, who believe the Priestess threatens cosmic balance by favouring the Light.
  • Servants of certain Light Gods, who believe the Priestess threatens cosmic balance by secretly favouring the Dark
  • People who just think anyone that nice must be up to something.
  • Those who feel that whatever divine penance or punishment they suffered was too harsh.
  • Merchants and nobles who aren’t evil, per se, but who’d like a little moral flexibility
  • Hard-as-nails adventurers who know that, sometimes, you have to be do cruel things for the greater good, and so are at odds with the Priestess and her followers

Prince of Shadows

Non-evil Iconic Enemies: Archmage, Dwarf King

  • The authorities in any city, cracking down on the Prince’s criminal empire
  • Victims of the Prince’s schemes
  • Rival criminals, taking their shot at the Prince.
  • Thief-takers and agents sent to recover stolen goods.

by Noah Lloyd

Just because you’re physically distancing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be social, and what better way to stay social than by finding ways to play some of your favorite games? Pelgrane Press is on all the major virtual tabletops – and then some! I’ve collated some of our products, specially designed for your internet-based play, below:

Roll20

Roll20 is the virtual tabletop with the largest userbase out there at the moment, with both free and premium account options. Roll20 has official character sheets for both GUMSHOE (optimized for Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents) and 13th Age. Additionally, we’ve got three modules for 13th Age all available for download on Roll20 right now, one of which is absolutely free, and the other two of which have 20% off until September:

In the coming days we’ll also be releasing a free Trail of Cthulhu scenario, “Midnight Sub Rosa,” which was originally collected in Out of the Woods. Watch our twitter (and this space!) for when it goes live.

And, if you didn’t know, you can also grab the Hillfolk Card Deck as an add on in Roll20, which will add some inspiration to your Hillfolk and DramaSystem games.

Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds is a premium-only service that offers expanded virtual tabletop services. We’ve got two officially licensed 13th Age products available for all you Fantasy Grounders:

We’re working on building more modules on this VTT, so if you’re a Fantasy Grounds developer, let us know!

Astral Tabletop

Astral Tabletop is a newcomer in VTT-land, but that doesn’t mean that their services aren’t top-notch and unique – and, they’ve made all their paid services free through the end of May. They have a particularly robust dice rolling syntax that they’re consistently expanding, and I was impressed by their animated maps (though this can be tough on folks with poor internet connections).

I have been hard at work making official character sheets for use with your Pelgrane games; while these, unfortunately, aren’t quite ready as of this See Page XX, they should be ready very soon. We’ll be providing templates for 13th Age, Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents, TimeWatch, and (drumroll) the Yellow King RPG. What other Pelgrane games would you like to see support for? Help me prioritize!

That said, don’t think that just because our official sheets aren’t quite ready yet, that you can’t get a lot out of Astral. I encourage you to play through their tutorial, see what it has to offer, and get a group together!

And don’t be dissuaded by my failure to finish the character sheets! There are plenty of other ways to play online.

Discord, Slack, and Zoom

If you aren’t interested in specially designed virtual tabletops for your roleplaying games, don’t overlook the ease and usefulness of simplified chat and networking applications like Discord, Slack, and Zoom. Games like Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents (indeed, all our GUMSHOE games) don’t usually need maps for their scenarios, and they’re well-suited to playing in the “theater of the mind.” However, Slack’s free version only supports two-person video calls (perfect for a One-2-One game!), and Zoom’s free version restricts calls to 40 minutes. For those reasons, my personal favorite app to roleplay on is Discord, which supports multi-person video calls, simple voice channels folks can jump in and out of, and the creation of dedicated servers for each of your games, if that’s how you want to roll.

(When you sign up for Discord, they provide you with your own private server, and there are bots you can add which will even serve as simple dice rollers! I really like Sidekick, who I’ve happily nicknamed “Roll Buddy.”)

Speaking of which, did you know that we have a Discord server? If you’ve got a Discord account set up, you can find us here: https://discord.gg/xKfgxVm

On our Discord you’ll find two channels that are particularly relevant to this discussion. If you’re a GM and you want to find some folks to fill those slots in a Nights Black Agents roster, go ahead and post in “looking for players.” Similarly, if you want to find a game to join, you can either post in “looking for games” or keep an eye out in “looking for players” the next time a GM puts out a suitable invite.

If you’re not gaming but still want to talk about all things Pelgrane, we’ve got dedicated channels in the Discord for each of our game systems, and we’d love it if you came to say hello.

If Discord, Slack, or Zoom are more your speed than an official VTT, remember that you can find hundreds of digital products—adventures, core rulebooks, supplements, even music—over on the Pelgrane webstore.

In a virtual version of their popular 13th Age Monster Design Workshop, Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW and Wade Rockett explore principles of F20 monster design and, based on audience suggestions, spitball a joy-eating fungal threat.


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

Over the years, we’ve released a number of one-shot adventures for our systems during Free RPG Day, and we often get messages asking us for the PDFs. As we know everyone’s looking for more gaming opportunities at the moment, we’ve collected them all here, now.

All we ask is that if you download, run and enjoy these adventures, you consider making a donation to Doctors Without Borders, to assist in their efforts to fight the coronavirus COVID-19.

Donate to Doctors Without Borders

 

Wade Rockett 13th Age designer logoAlso, check out Robin D. Laws’ “9 Tips for Remote Tabletop RPG Play”.

Greetings, fellow dungeon dwellers! Today, I wanted to talk about playing 13th Age on the Roll20 virtual tabletop. However! Because I’m a Roll20 noob, I asked Aaron Roudabush, the master of 13th Age online play, to share some tips.

You can purchase three 13th Age adventures on Roll20—as of today Pelgrane Press has made one free to purchase (forever!), and the others 20% off through September 2020.

Make Your Own Luck (free forever): a stand-alone adventure which also works as a prequel to the megadungeon campaign Eyes of the Stone Thief. Includes 3 full color maps, 20 unique character tokens, 12 pregenerated characters using the official 13th Age character sheet, and a PDF of the adventure, as well as handouts within Roll20 to help both players and GMs who are new to Roll20 or 13th Age.

Shadows of Eldolan (20% off through September): an introductory 13th Age adventure for 1st level heroes that provides a GM with a partially fleshed-out town setting full of intrigue. Includes 11 full color maps, 38 unique character tokens, 12 pregenerated characters, and 19 handouts written and organized specifically for the Roll20 edition. A PDF of the adventure is also included.

Swords Against the Dead (also 20% off through September): a quick-start zombie-fighting adventure with multiple possible paths. Includes 6 maps complete with Dynamic Lighting and support for Advanced Fog of War, macros for all combat NPCs, for instant automatic rolls, statted token art for every character and monster, 6 pre-gen characters with variants, the full adventure broken out into easy handouts and folders for whatever direction the players go.

Aaron’s Roll20 13th Age GM Tips:

If you’re using maps, you don’t need to use the grid Roll20 defaults to. You can turn it off in the settings for each individual page. However, keeping the grid on helps you size tokens equally, so take advantage of that. Turning it off and on again only takes a moment so use what best suits your immediate need. I turn the grid on to place tokens, but then turn it off for gameplay.

Macros help! You can learn more about them here: https://roll20.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360037256794-Macros. You can use macros as part of your character sheets, but they can also be useful on their own. Sometimes you just need to roll a d20 or d6 or any other dice, such as when you take impromptu damage from skill challenges or when you are simulating gambling in-game. Especially helpful is the Rolling a Macro with a Variable section, which is great for GMs to do their attack rolls. Additional bonus: any macro you make as a GM can be shared with the players, so they can use it too—just scroll down on the macro creation popup. Just don’t forget to show the macro quick bar, and check each macro you want to use.

You can place maps or tokens on multiple visible levels. Take advantage of this. Do you need to put a token to represent a torch on the map but don’t want to accidentally move it around? Put it on the map level and not the token level. Have monsters waiting to ambush the characters, but don’t want to spend time dragging the tokens onto the map from your library or journal? Just set them up ahead of time and put them on the GM-only level. If you’re using fog of war, you can also hide these monsters in there until they need to be used. Do you need to have a “before” and “after” map, such as when you need to show the aftermath of an explosion or rockslide? Put the after map on the GM-only level and right click to change its layer.

You might know that you can designate a token to represent a particular character in the Journal—but did you know you can set that token up so you can immediately show its HP and recoveries as well as other attributes? To do this, set up the token on the play space. Drag your image onto the page, then double click it to bring up the Edit Token page. Use the drop down on the left to select the character it represent. On the right, you can then pick things for the bars to represent. If you’re using the official 13th Age character sheet, you can easily set the bars to show HP and Recoveries (listed as “rec” in the dropdown). But you can use the bars for more as well, such as rogue’s momentum, commander’s command points, and so on. Once you’ve set up the token to your liking, save the changes and close the Edit Token page. Then open up the associated character’s page. Select the Edit button at the top right. On the left, you’ll see an area called “Default Token (optional)”. Select the token, then click the “Use Selected Token” button. Now, you can drag the character from the Journal page onto a page and it will have all the correct information you’ve set up every time. It sounds like a lot of work for not much reward, but it saves time and effort for me every game.

To roll initiative using the official 13th Age sheet select your token, then click the Initiative button on the character sheet. You will save yourself a lot of errors if you remember this.

As a GM you can drag the views of all the players to a specific point by using shift + long left click. Extremely useful if you have a big map or need to draw attention to something on an area players might not be looking at.

I almost always make a setting or world map page for my campaigns, then use an abstract token to show players where they are in the grand scheme of things. I take players back to this page if they’re not anywhere specific or if they’re traveling, much like the map scenes in an Indiana Jones movie. This page is also useful if players need to test out tokens or if you, as the GM, need to do the same. If you don’t need a map, put down something else! A landscape or piece of action packed art can set the scene for everybody and get them in the right mood.

Even if you don’t use maps, you don’t have to use a blank page, either. Get a landscape or picture which represents the location your players are in. A blank white screen is very likely to make people’s attention wander away from the screen to check email or social media or whatnot. Something visually stimulating they can focus on helps alleviate that issue.

Watch Aaron run 13th Age at Roll20con 2016:

“Wade Says” designer symbol by Regina Legaspi


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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