Icon Relationships is one of the things that sets 13th Age apart from other D&D games. It sets it apart from all other F20 games truth be told. So what is an Icon Relationship, and how do you use it your game?
Icons are the movers and shakers of your world; they are not the gods but are actual people who rule or influence those that do rule. Players start the game with three Icon Relationship dice to “spend” on which Icon they would like to have a connection. It could be a positive, negative, or conflicted relationship. Which type of relationship dictates what kind of help or hindrance the Icon will be during the game. On page 35, the 13th Age Core Rulebook states,
Inventing your character’s relationship to the mighty icons who rule or shape the world is key to engaging your character with the game world. RPGs about vampires have clans, RPGs about pagan highlanders have cults, and 13th Age has icons.
If you haven’t already, scan over the icons in Chapter 1 and read the full entry on any icon that intrigues you. As you decide on the relationship to the icons that suits your player character, remember that it’s the nature of this magical world that even the most powerful figures need a lot of help to accomplish their goals. The icons have risen to power levels where they balance each other in an uneasy equilibrium. To advance their agendas further, the icons need heroes and champions to tip the balance in their favor. You should feel free to make your character central to big plot lines, if that’s what suits you.
The fate of the icons is written in the stars. Your character’s fate, however, is in your own hands.
At the start of each session, players roll a d6 for every Icon Relationship they have, noting if they get a “5” or “6” on the roll. These 5s or 6s represent a meaningful advantage you can expect from your Icon that session. A 6 will get you something good, and a 5, well, you get something good too, but a consequence or complication is attached. In addition to the core book, you can find some great advice on how to interpret Icon Relationship rolls in Gods and Icons produced by Dread Unicorn Games.
But what do you do if a player NEVER rolls a 5 or 6? I know it’s rare, but it does happen. Should that player be “punished” by never getting that extra something that everyone else is getting? 13th Age Glorantha use a different method; they use Runes, aspects of their gods, instead of Icon Relationships. They players still roll a d6, but every result is meaningful. A roll of 1-3 corresponds to one of their personal Runes, and with a 4-6, they roll on a random rune table to see which rune gets attuned to the player. This method could easily be converted to 13th Age core; assign 1-3 to each of your Icon relationships and on a 4-6, roll randomly to see which Icon is influencing your day. Handling Icon Relationship rolls this way ensures that no player gets left out, and it also reminds the players of Icons that are might not be prominent in your game. It also just might influence the choice the player will make later when they get another relationship die.
These are just some of my thoughts on the subject. Please let us know how you use Icon Relationships in your game.
As always, roll perception and initiative!
Written by Mark
I like that the core rules provide the possibility of players receiving multiple icon advantages in a single session. But I also noticed how disappointing it was for players to lack any icon advantages in a session due to bad rolls. To solve this, years ago I introduced a house rule.
Players roll for their icon relationships as usual, noting any 5’s or 6’s. If they roll no 5’s or 6’s, I let them roll randomly on the special icon die that came with the 13 True Ways Kickstarter. This is similar to the approach in 13th Age Glorantha, but in that system, a player will always have precisely one rune in a session. My house rule offers a chance for more, particularly at higher tiers of play.
To clarify, the player receives a 5 with whichever icon they randomly rolled on the d12. So they’re guaranteed at least one icon advantage/complication, and possibly more if they’re lucky.
My house rule is that if a player rolls no 5 or 6 at the start of the session, they get to choose one “5” from their relationships. I don’t like it if luck shuts a player completely out from a cool game aspect.
I like that rule. I think that is one of the improvements in 13th Age Glorantha, that everyone always gets a rune.
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