Friday, December 27, 2013

Alternate Icon - The Puritan

The blood I spill consecrates the ground for a new age.

The Puritan protects the common people of the world from the devils, demons and monsters that roam the Empire. Unless you're an elf. Or a dwarf. Or a wingling. Then, he'll tell you that the Gods help those who help themselves as you get eaten.

Usual Location

The Puritan built up a fortress now known as First Triumph, where the majority of his army is amassing. Or out crusading.

Common Knowledge

Luxor Urelius was a commander in the Dragon Empire's guard that was also a rising star. His bracing honesty and immunity to the politics and intrigue of Axis garnered him the attention of the puppetmasters. They did what they usually do - send the solider on a fool's crusade like purifying a hellhole and use him as a martyr and symbol as needed.

And then he won.

He believed that his human heritage was what kept him from succumbing to the temptations and terrors he found in the hellhole. The men who survived were all also human. These men formed the first companies of the Puritan and they believe that humanity will save the Dragon Empire. Humans will be the kings and queens of a brand new age, bringing all the races of the Empire to heel, not just the dragons.

Adventurers & the Icon

Adventurers looking for experience in slaying monsters without the vagary of mysterious tavern-based quest dispensers might sign on to one of the Puritan's companies.  If you're willing to fight, if you're willing to die, the Puritan will have you slaying monsters in no time. Despite his rhetoric about the purity of human, other races are accepted into his companies. Of course, those units are often the most poorly equipped and the first in to a hellhole, but that's mere coincidence.


So long as The Puritan bends his knee to the Emperor, the Emperor turns a blind eye to the Puritan's discrimination. The Lich King views him as a potential tool to cast down the Dragon Empire, and often sends anonymous tips on demon whereabouts. The Great Gold Wyrm wishes he would shut up and fight, but notes that more and more of his paladins fight alongside the white tunics of the Puritan.


The Diabolist can't stand the Puritan, especially since the stories she's told about the nights they've spent together don't seem to stick. Both the Elf Queen and Dwarf King dislike him, but have written him off as the Dragon Emperor's problem for now. The Priestess thinks his means do not justify his means, since whereveer his companies go they rattle the harmony of peaceful communities.


Throughout the ages, there have been racist enclaves of mercenaries that have siexes an enclave or terrorized a fiefdom. The Puritan is the first to do it on a global scale. His mix of populism and human supremacy

The True Danger

Cleaning up all the monsters in the world will take time. Maybe even an age or two. But what happens once the Puritan turns his troops on those blood he views as unclean.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Agents of An Icon - Abbadon Company

For the next level of our campaign, the heroes face a piece of the Crusader's army. The army protects the area from the gnoll raiders that moved in to terrorize the locals, but the price for that protection is quickly becoming apparent. After they defeat Abbadon Company, the heroes will discover why the Crusader in this Age is known as The Puritan.

After the victory of First Triumph, the Puritan set about organizing the massive army he raised as a more permanent concern. Each company he organized was named about one of the portals he passed through to secure his new base. The companies are rotated throughout the lands of the Dragon Empire. In most cases, the companies away from the hellhole are tasked with securing resources to send back home. The commanders are given leeway in how they provide their resources. Funding the War of White is more important than the details of how it gets done.

Abbadon was the first of these rings, so the troops are new to the cause. The line between "believer in the destiny of human ascension" and "hiding behind a uniform to beat people up" is very thing. Most of these virtues, as the Crusader's soldiers are called, have seen no action against demons. Their cruelty to the non-human subjects of the barony is on display, though truth be told, their treatment of the humans outside the Puritan's company is not much better,

Industus Nazim Rojaspina leads Abbadon Company. The company arrived at the behest of Baron Jonn Harker. When Harker went missing, the troops moved into the keep to maintain order while they searched for the missing lord. Nazim vows that once Harker is found and the gnolls are finally defeated, the company will leave. He appreciates the sacrifices the barony makes in the meantime to keep the company fighting fit.

The Dragon Emperor is unhappy with large, organized military companies roaming the countryside, but the Puritan's actions at First Triumph kept his armies from being overrun by demons. Supplicants to the Throne were sent months ago and have yet to return. Anything that makes the Dragon Emperor uncomfortable, of course, makes the Three hiss with delight. Rumors of a Blue Dragon Sorceress have been enough to keep any organized resistance against Abbadon Company to a minimum.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Icon Relationships: It's Complicated

The icon rules are one of the big selling points of 13th Age. They connect characters to the setting and give first level characters some stake in the way the world works. The relationship roll at the beginning of each session offers an interesting challenge in plotting sessions. The GM needs to leave in some space to play with. If there's a magic item to be found, or a potential foil for the heroes, its best to leave the specifics of one element up to the opening roll.

I wanted some clear difference between a complicated relationship and a complicated connection roll. It is far too easy to make a six on a complicated relationship feel like a five on a positive relationship roll. A simple fix? Rolling a five allows for a benefit from the icon, but one that complicates a relationship with another player. That buddy of yours allied to the Prince of Shadows? Turns out he's on the Crusader's most wanted list. Or the High Druid gives you a magical item originally dedicated to the Priestess.

Using a relationship roll like this also keeps players who whiff on their opening roll from disappointment. Everyone likes plot candy, so no fives or sixes feels like opening an empty wrapper. Whatever players that don't pull anything on the opening roll come into conflict with the ones who roll fives and stay engaged with the icons even if this session started out on an empty tank.

For those cases where a player makes it through a session without cashing in a five or six, they can roll it forward to a later session. In the later session, they can use it to make a fresh full relationship roll at that time. The certainty of help now becomes the uncertainty of more help later. Sometimes the narrative of the episode doesn't quite get to a place where it makes sense for the icon to show up. The GM can still use a banked roll to weave into the story - that icon's true machinations just didn't become apparent until the right moment. How did the Lich King and the Archmage conspire to make the Elf Queen help out the party's wizard? That sounds like a fun exercise for the GM.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Skyharbor Abbey

Courtesy of
Much of the Dragon Emperor's power comes from the Dragon Knights that fight in his name. Knights are made at Skyharbor Abbey, a floating castle that drifts along the winds in the Overworld. By the time it makes a cycle of the Overworld, the squires have either been hardened into the emperor's instruments or washed out like the melting ice from the frost dragon who protects the castle.

The current dragon in residence calls itself Glacius. Glacius bonded with the Dragon Lord Gabriel Sunswerd. When the last abbot retired, Gabriel and Glacius took over duties of training the next generation of Dragon Knights. Squires are accepted from all parts of the Empire, regardless of their connections with icons. The politics usually balance themselves out, since the icons find having a Dragon Knight or two at their beck and call to be quite useful.

The process begins with learning to fearlessly fly. Each squire is taught how to fly on a wyvern, a small, winged creature roughly the side of a horse. The castle's mobility allows it to moved to troubled areas and dispatch a squadron of wyvern riders. The Lord of the Abbey rarely gets involved directly, though it is up to him or her what pleas of help to answer and which to leave alone.

Dragon knights appear from time to time, using the Abbey as a mobile keep and place to recover between adventures.These stays are short due to the territorial nature of dragon's lairs. So long as the Lord of the Abbey is there, so to does the Lord's dragon. A dragon may have multiple lairs, but they only truly call one home.

Rarely do other Dragon Lords visit. Doing so is considered a breach of protocol and a vote of no confidence in the Lord of the Abbey. Since the Lords wish to have Dragon Knights to do their bidding, keeping things friendly with the Lord of the Abbey is a good idea.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Masks of the Elf Queen's Court

Wood, high and dark elf masks
It is said that the Elf Queen is the most beautiful elf in existence. To ensure this legend go unchallenged, The Courts of the Shard are conducted with all participants fully masked. Only the Queen stays unmasked, the center of a whirling pool of intrigue, beauty and danger. Every elf has a mask ready to wear, just in case they receive a summons from her majesty or encounter her on one of her rare trips outside The Eternal Wood. Every elf grew up on tales of previous Elf Queens dressing as a commoner to see how her subjects lived.

Each mask starts from the same basic construction. A full-face porcelain mask in the shape of a face.  That's one reason proper elocution is important in court. Expensive masks can afford enchantments to allow the wearer to be heard. New masks must require the wearer to speak up over the crowd. Removing a mask in the presence of the Elf Queen definitely means expulsion from the Court. The length of the term depends on the severity of the offense. An accident usually means the end of the night. Removing a mask to do violence results in an exile of at least a decade.

Wood elf masks feature nature elements, of course. Some elves prefer animalistic patterns, predatory stripes, or colors that compliment the bright floral colors of wood elf hair. Many masks look to encorporate a type of anaimal as a theme. Bright birds and striped fur are common looks. Those elves who truck with the High Druid disdain using pelts and other animal pieces, preferring face paints and natural construction from renewable sources.

High elves spare no expense on their masks. Gold inlays, jeweled brows, and bright, bold colors that turn the mask into a beautiful, alien, androgynous face. These masks often incorporate sun motifs for those elves who wish to show their devotion to Luxana, the High Sky Goddess. There are those who would argue Luxana is the one elf more beautiful than the queen are often kept from the Elf Queen's sight, lest political favor clash with religious fanaticism.

Dark elves masks  are studies in contrast, with the white of the mask balanced by charcoal greys and dark blacks. Often, these masks feature intricate skull and death patterns drawn outward from the eyes. These patterns can only truly appreciated when seeing the mask from a very short distance, which allows the dark elf to whisper advice, rather than shout. Spider motifs are common, but have fallen out of favor thanks to rumors of a hidden cult devoted to She Who Spins In Darkness.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Taking the Stone

by +Brad Davies 

Except for the one or two rare instances, Clerics of Yrd are almost exclusively dwarves due to the extreme demands of faith Yrd places on his followers. A dwarf must freely choose to become a cleric, usually after years of service apprenticed to an older cleric of the order. The older cleric acts as a mentor and teaches their ward knowledge they will need as a full-fledged cleric. Most importantly, they prepare their ward to Take the Stone, an ancient ritual given to the dwarves from Yrd himself.

After a dwarf declares his intent to Take the Stone, he is giving 10 days to settle his affairs. On the 10th day, a great funeral feast is laid out before the ward and his kindred. During the feast, great deeds of the wards life are recounted. He is toasted and congratulated through tearful smiles as his family say their farewells to him. Just before midnight, the ward gives his final speech to a quiet mournful crowd. This are to be his final words of this life. After he is done, the crowd raises their cups and drain them silently. They place their closed fist over their hearts in last solomn salute to the ward and then turn their backs to him.

The ward is then taken by his mentor and the other clerics out of the hall. His is then lead down a series of tunnels deep under the Forge to tunnels said to have been mined by the First Dwarves themselves. There, they carve a hole into the side of the tunnel. The ward strips, climbs into the hole and lays down. The clerics say a prayer to Yrd and collapse the enterance to the hole. The ward remains there for 3 days. During that time, the ward is tested by Yrd. His heart and mind are judged. His intentions and aspirations are weighed.Some say Yrd himself talks to the ward. If he is deemed unworthy, he is turned to stone and crumbles into dust, never to live again. If Yrd embraces him, the stones part a pathway out to his new life. He has Taken the Stone.

The new Cleric of Yrd seems to look much like he did in his previous life. It’s subtle differences that prove he is not the same person.. His demeanor takes on a gravitas of someone with a great responsibility. Physically, his eyes have taken on a slate grey color and have a depth to them. He is cooler to the touch than most dwarves. His body is unnaturally still and all his movements seem to convey a purpose. Mentally, he remembers his cleric training vividly but not the person he learned it from. His past personal life is like a half remembered dream. He has no feelings towards his life before he became a Cleric, only an inkling that he had lived before.

Friday, August 30, 2013

One Unique Things

Here are the One Unique Things from my players.

"I am the last Holy One. I am a being of energy that possesses vessels to do my holy work."

"The Elf Queen gave me a Court Mask that blends the styles of the Three Shards into one."

"I am the first Draconic. I was born in a battle between the Great Gold Wyrm and The Three."

"I possess the memories of 1001 dead wizards."

"The Prince of Shadows stole my heart, but I took something even greater from him."

"I am the last living Dwarf Cleric of Yrd. All the rest were turned to stone by my god at the Battle of Standing Stones."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


A Wingling Barbarian stands his ground.
How they are the same as Halflings: Winglings gain the same racial bonuses, Small and Evasive abilities as Halflings. Therefore, they also prefer the same classes.

How they are different from Halflings: Winglings are roughly a foot tall.  They have translucent wings reminiscent of dragonflies attached to their back. What their weapons lack in bulk and power they make up for in the ability to pierce weak points in armor, wedge into soft underbellies, and slice open squishy exposed bits.

Did you say wings?: Winglings were built to flit from branch to branch, not hover safely over a battlefield and rain down arrows. Though they can fly, they still must engage targets like every other character. The winglings also punctuate their speech with the buzzing of their wings. The louder the buzz, the bigger the curseword.

Shouldn't there be additional rules because of their size? I've never met a set of scaling rules that I liked. Any abuse will be policed by the fact that winglings have antlike strength for their size and the adjustment of DCs when their size comes into play in the fiction. Hiding amongst the junk in a curio shop? Lower DC. Lifting the barbarian's broadsword as a weapon? Higher DC, and hope you don't roll a 1.

Cultural information: While not as pronounced as the split between the elves, Wingling culture does differ between those who live in the forests and those who live in the cities. Treetop winglings think their city cousins are stuck up sell-outs. They make their way living (and stealing) off the land. Tower winglings wonder why their backwater relatives still live in mud and eat bark. Civilized winglings are in demand as servants and spies.

The others think: Elves treat winglings like the pesky little brother they never wanted. Gnomes get along with winglings as fellow travelers in a Tall Man's world. Half-orcs must resist their natural tendency to swat them down.