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


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lavondyss: Old Forbidden Place

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

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

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

About 13th Age

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

Only 100 copies of the faux-leatherbound limited edition the 13th Age Bestiary 2 exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The books are faux leather with silver foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by Rob Heinsoo which you can add to your book.

Limited edition with bookplate

Fallen icons, apocalyptic fire giants, and a purple dragon who throws the best parties: welcome to the 13th Age Bestiary 2!

More than 250 individual stat blocks appear in 51 entries, along with with story hooks, icon relationships, customizable campaign variants, and advice on creating exciting battles.

New monsters for your campaign include:

  • The Gold King and the Forest that Walks, fallen icons who must be defeated by a blend of swords, spells, and campaign victories.
  • A wizard bonded to their spellbook, a rogue bonded to their magic cloak, and other former heroes who took shortcuts to power by merging with their magic items.
  • The Lich King’s covert undead propaganda force: the Cult of the Silver Hand.
  • Fomorians, monstrous worshipers and children of the ancient chaos gods.
  • Malatyne, the purple dragon whose entertainments are legendary—and the player characters might be the main attraction…
  • Lions (temple); tigers (elemental and rakshasa); and owlbears (snowy and great horned).

Plus an appendix on using these monsters when playing 13th Age in Glorantha!

  • Lead Designers: Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW
  • Developer: Rob Heinsoo
  • Art Direction: Rob Heinsoo, Cathriona Tobin
  • Interior Art: Rich Longmore, Ania Kryczkowska, Aaron McConnell, Lee Moyer, Patricia Smith, Naomi VanDoren
  • Authors: Liz Argall, Paul Fanning, Jaym Gates, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Lynne Hardy, Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Carrie Rasmussen-Law, Wade Rockett, Aaron Roudabush, Michael E. Shea, Ruth Tillman, Jonathan Tweet, Steven Warzeha, Emily Westfall
  • Product code: PEL13A14L
  • Pages: 304 pages, hardback, full colour

Buy the limited edition

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

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

Common Features:

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

The Good Fellows

Nickname: The Hellhole Club

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

Associated icon: The Diabolist.

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

Badge or token: Two hands clasped in friendship.

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

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

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

Society for the Advancement and Promotion of the Defensive Magical Arts

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

Membership: All spellcasters, but primarily sorcerers.

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

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

Badge or token: Two wands, crossed.

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

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

Scroll and Staff

Nickname: The Page-Shufflers

Membership: Wizards

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

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

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

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

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

The Cacophonous Society

Nickname: The Bleating Herd

Membership: Primarily bards and chaos mages.

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

Motto: “Wit, Harmony, and Friendship.”

Badge or token: A lyre within a laurel wreath

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

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

Hand and Eye

Nickname: Rag and Bone

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

Associated icon: The Lich King

Motto: “Silence.”

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

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

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


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.

Download the free 13th Age Bestiary 2 preview pack, with the Great Ghoul, chaos hydra, and rakshasa!

It’s Adopt-a-Monster month, when we urge you to take home some of the adorable beasties in our 13th Age product line. (Whose heart wouldn’t melt at the sight of a little intellect devourer scampering up when they come home in the evening?) This year’s Adopt-a-Monster mascot is this cuddly rakshasa kitten by artist Rich Longmore.

The rakshasa is featured in the first 13th Age Bestiary, and really comes into its own in Lions, Tigers & Owlbears: The 13th Age Bestiary 2. There it receives an expansive 7-page treatment, with entries that include the rakshasa sybarite, devourer of wizards, delver, mastermind, saint, and magician. There’s also a section on rakshasas and the icons, building battles, lairs and treasures, adventure hooks, and more!

You can pick up a print copy of the 13th Age Bestiary 2 in the Pelgrane Store.

Here’s just one of the many monsters you can adopt today—and it’s a great example of 13th Age monster design for a more complex creature…

Rakshasa Sybarite

A keen interest in alchemy and an understanding of the physiology and psychology of humanoids makes this hedonistic monster mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Double strength 6th level caster [humanoid]

Initiative: +11

Silver-shod claws +11 vs. AC (2 attacks)—12 damage

Attack also beats the target’s PD: 12 ongoing poison damage.

C: Powders, potions, and lotions +11 vs. PD (1d3 nearby enemies in a group)—20 poison damage

Natural 2 or 12 hit: Target is weakened until they next take damage.

Natural 3 or 13 hit: Target is vulnerable to poison attacks until the end of the battle.

Natural 4 or 14 hit: Target is hampered until they next heal or gain temporary hp.

Natural 5 or 15 hit: Target is hampered until they next hit with an attack.

Natural 6 or 16 hit: Target is stuck, save ends.

Natural 7 or 17 hit: Target is dazed, easy save ends.

Natural 8 or 18 hit: Target is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Natural 9 or 19 hit: Target is confused, easy save ends.

Miss: 7 poison damage.

[once per battle] C: Psychic seduction +11 vs. MD (1d3+1 nearby or far away enemies in a group, group must contain at least two targets)—20 psychic damage, and the target is confused (hard save ends).

Miss, but another target in the group was hit: Target is confused until the end of its next turn.

All targets missed: The psychic seduction attack is not expended can be used again this battle.

Shapechange: As a standard action, the rakshasa can change its form to that of any humanoid, or back to its own shape. Seeing through the shapechange requires a DC 20 skill check.

Nastier Specials

Contrabando: The rakshasa has a stash of illicit substances—once per battle as a quick action, it can either deal 20 ongoing poison damage to one enemy that it has just left engagement with OR become dazed but heal 30 hit points at the end of each of its turns (save ends).

Shapechanger’s surprise: Once per battle as a quick action the rakshasa changes forms to something that causes consternation and misunderstanding among its enemies— causing each enemy to become dazed until the enemy with the lowest MD saves.

AC 20

PD 20     HP 230

MD 19


While ebooks have their benefits, we at Pelgrane Press love physical books. But with all the advantages of ebooks, we understand that to be a bit more than printed paper stuck in a binding. They have to be beautiful, useable and durable. We use Huron Gloss premium paper in almost every case, manufactured in Ken Hite’s beloved Chicago. It is 95% opaque, and just the right shade of white not to blind you when you are reading in bright light. It feels smooth and weighty, and takes colour and monochrome equally well. We use thick card covers and quality lamination to complement the work of our writers, designers and artists.

For our hardback books (known as case bound in the trade), we print on an offset press with Thomson Shore, who have been a reliable print partner for ten years. When we’ve submitted the print-ready PDFs, Thomson Shore tweak it using their special alchemy to ensure the print colours are vibrant and match the PDF.

Click on any image for a high resolution version.


Books are printed 8 leaves to a sheet – so 16 pages, which are then cut into quarters and arranged in little booklets of 16 pages called signatures. So, for the publisher, it’s an advantage to ensure the page number is divisible by 16, or you end up with the dreaded half signature – an eight-page version.


The signatures are stitched together using a a binder thread then joined with the other signatures to form a book block.

The finished book blocks are then trimmed. Here is an untrimmed book block.

The covers are printed and stuck to card, and then the book block is glued inside. This 2013 video from Taylor Publishing, which still does some colour work for us, describes that binding process for the 13th Age core book, through to the finish.

And here is the final Bestiary 2, both standard and limited editions in their natural environment:

And our treat for those of you who bought the Snowcub Edition? Adorbs!

Fallen Icons – the Gold King

Three of our new epic-tier monsters in the 13th Age Bestiary 2 were once icons. The Gold King, Forest that Walks, and the Great Ghoul have new game mechanics that model the fact that even fallen icons are much harder to dislodge from reality that normal monsters.  The defeat of a fallen icon is a campaign in itself – and what a final battle! The Gold King in the Bestiary 2 has an array of followers and a selection of origin stories. In this excerpt, we get straight to the meat – the Gold King his almighty self, and the campaign victories you need to have a chance of defeating him.

The Gold King

The Dwarf King of a previous age led every man, woman, and child from Underhome to a promised greater fortune, deep in the underworld. All perished, but the fallen icon and undead remnants of its greed survived.

Triple-strength 13th level spoiler [aberration] Initiative: +18

Hammer of golden sovereignty +18 vs. AC (up to 3 enemies)
—90 damage

  Natural Even Hit: The target pops free and takes extra damage equal to the attack roll
  First natural even miss each round if targeting one or two enemies: The Gold King makes another   hammer of  golden sovereignty attack against the enemy it missed.

C: Behind the mask +18 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—160 psychic damage and the target is
weakened (save ends).
Miss: 80 psychic damage and the target is weakened until the end of it’s next turn.

[Special trigger] C: Golden greed +18 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—The target is confused (save ends)
Limited use: When a nearby enemy uses the magic item power of an epic tier item, the Gold
King may make a golden greed attack against 1d4 other nearby enemies as a free action. (It’s possible the PCs should have some warning, for example, a magic item might be too-eagerly wheedling to be used. Or maybe you’d rather teach lessons the hard way.)
The mask slips: When first staggered, the Gold King makes a behind the mask attack against the   enemy that caused the triggering damage as a free action.
The wandering king: The Gold King can deal 4d6 damage to itself and teleport someplace it can see nearby as a move action.

Sticks and rags: The Gold King has resist 16+ to attacks not made with epic-tier magical   weapons, implements, or bracers. Enemies not wearing epic-tier magical armor are vulnerable to its hammer of golden sovereignty attacks (that’s right—eschewing magic items makes it easier to defeat the minions of the Gold King, but harder to beat the King itself).

Even worse:  When the escalation die is even, the Gold King rolls 2d20 instead of 1d20 and uses the higher result whenever it attacks or rolls a save.

Fallen icon: The Gold King is no longer an icon, but it still possesses magical bonds with reality that make it difficult to destroy. See the Campaign Impact section immediately following the Gold King’s stat block for ways in which significant campaign victories can make the Gold King easier to defeat. (To be clear: if the PCs don’t achieve any of these campaign victories, the Gold King will be difficult or perhaps even impossible to destroy.)

Compel fealty:  An epic-tier dwarf, forgeborn, or human slain by the Gold King will arise at the end of the battle as a bronze kingsguard, loyal gatherer, or royal bearer—whichever seems most appropriate.

Eternal kingdom:  If the Gold King is slain, the GM secretly rolls a normal save (11+) at the end of each session, including this one. If the save succeeds, the Gold King returns to life in one of its secret treasure rooms deep in the underworld. If the campaign somehow ends while the Gold King is still dead, it’s the GM’s call whether the Gold King stays dead or rises after the events of the campaign.
Nastier Specials
Fealty owed: Human, dwarf, and forgeborn characters may not use their racial power until the escalation die reaches 4 or higher, and not when engaged with the Gold King (so standard humans are simply out of luck).

Fealty shown: The first time each round an attack would reduce the Gold King to zero hit points   or less, it instead damages the closest nearby loyal gatherer. If these have all been destroyed,   the attack damages the closest nearby royal bearer, then finally the closest bronze kingsguard. If these have all been destroyed, the Gold King is reduced to zero hit points—but see long live the king below.

Long Live the King: When the Gold King is finally defeated, nothing remains but a featureless   gold mask that wants to be picked up.  This mask makes a golden greed attack against each enemy in the battle as a free action. The save to end the confusion from this attack is a hard save, with confused targets violently fighting over the mask. When no targets are confused, the mask crumbles into dust. (If one PC slays the others while confused, they’re probably going to put on the mask.)

AC 30
PD 27           HP 1200
MD 27

Campaign Impact

The wrong way to defeat the Gold King is to treat it as just another monster—one-fight-and-we-got-this is not likely to work against a fallen icon. The right way to defeat the Gold King is to dedicate yourself to destroying the pieces of reality that help it sustain its power.

The list that follows details a number of campaign victories that the PCs might achieve before confronting the Gold King itself. Alternatively, they may fight the Gold King once before achieving any of these wins, only to realize that they’re going to need to destroy the Gold King’s heritage before they can complete the fallen icon’s destruction.

His Armor Clatters About Him

The player characters can achieve the campaign victories listed in the next section in any order, but successive victories remove the Gold King’s abilities one at a time, in the following order:

First PC campaign victory: Remove the Gold King’s eternal kingdom ability.

Second PC campaign victory: Remove even worse, and ignore any nastier specials even if you are a nasty GM.

Third PC campaign victory: Reduce the Gold King’s defenses by 2.

Fourth PC campaign victory: Remove the wandering king.

Campaign Victories Vs. The Gold King

The possible victories below could be modified or added-to to suit your campaign. If your campaign has heavily featured the Dwarf King, the PCs may have been delving for one or more of these victories in previous tiers.

Reclaim Underhome: The dwarves return to Underhome, probably led by the PCs, because the NPCs of the world aren’t going to manage it, not even the Dwarf King himself. This goal need not require long-term success, but if the dwarves have already been kicked out again, well, the victory isn’t valid anymore, is it?

The Extremely Generous Dwarf King: To prove that the Dwarf King is not like his terrible golden predecessor, the PCs must have lived their lives well enough that the Dwarf King has willingly gifted an epic tier true magic item to each PC that is a half-orc, elf, forgeborn, or that has at least one positive or conflicted icon relationship point with the Orc Lord or the Prince of Shadows. A character with some peculiarly anti-dwarf One Unique Thing would also qualify as requiring a gift. If there’s only PC who qualifies for such a gift, it needs to be a Really Big Deal. Obviously if there are no PCs who qualify as recipients of extreme generosity, this campaign victory isn’t available.

Artifact Side Quest: Find the legendary trapped treasure room of the Gold King that all those other seekers have been after and liberate its chief treasure, an artifact belonging to an icon that the PCs are probably friendly with and the Dwarf King may not be. This is a mission that can fail, since the consequences aren’t necessarily lethal, so the odds should be against the heroes.

Iconic Altruism: Several allies or loved ones of an icon have fallen to the Gold King. This icon wants the bodies of their friends returned for a proper ceremony, or maybe even dicey resurrection, depending on the icon. Can the PCs find and defeat the icon’s allies, now transformed into the Gold King’s servitors? Can they do it in a way that preserves enough of the bodies to convince the icon that these really are their friends? Will they have to quest farther to find the friends’ identifying treasures? Just how many quests is this going to take? Can the PCs stay true and return these awesome magic items to the icon, instead of giving in to greed themselves?

Two Time Winners: Drop the Gold King to 0 hit points in two different battles. Eventually, piling the hurt on the fallen icon has an impact.