S3-E13: Starting a Campaign

This week we do a bit of a follow-up episode to the one we did on Ending a Campaign and talk about various things to keep in mind when starting one. But it’s not just about what to do with the setting or story, but we also dive into what Session 0 might look like.


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S3-E12: Random Encounters: Monster Fight!

For this week’s episode, we get together to brainstorm our first adventure of the season!  It’s an Adventurer-Tier encounter about stumbling into some Monster Fights in the town of Karrax.

Who’s organizing the Fights? To what end? What are the PCs going to do about it? We discuss various options on how to handle these sorts of questions and more!

And while we placed this in our world of Ta’nar, we also provide some insight on how or where you could alternatively use this in the Dragon Empire.


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Similar Classes, Unique Characters

As long as TTRPGs have been around, it’s been the accepted practice to have varying classes in the party. Wizard, Rogue, Cleric, and Fighter are the four original classes and it was believed that you shouldn’t double up on classes until you have at least one of each four.

This is not the case any more. Games have expanded many classes to allow for the same class to be played by multiple people, yet still have flavor and make sure each character is unique. 13th Age is no different. In fact, 13th Age has mechanics built in to the system to allow for class repeats and still feel fresh.

Any character you create will be different solely based on background and your One Unique Thing. Collaborate with the other player on your characters. Together, you can decide how dissimilar or similar your characters will be. If you collaborate on your background, perhaps even coming from the same Order, you will be instantly invested in each other’s stories.

Moving beyond that, it’s the Icons, talents, and feats that make a character mechanically different. Let’s take a look at the Paladin Class. The first question you could have for any character that you build is the question about Icons. If you are going to follow a typically good Icon, like the Great Gold Wyrm, you will probably take the Path of Universal Righteous Endeavor, or PURE talent. If you decide to follow the Crusader, an Icon that is dubious at best, you may take the Way of Evil Bastards talent. From this one choice, you have given flavor to your Paladin that can be polar opposite to any other Paladin in your group. In the Paladin class, there are nine talents and you choose three to begin with, presenting the opportunity for two paladins to play mechanically different characters. While there may not be more options within the Paladin’s feats (Paladin is a class that doesn’t have feats beyond Smite Evil) there are still feats to choose from the extensive list of general feats.

We, at Iconic Production, recently talked to Ben Feehan, who presented the campaign idea of Gygaxian Rock Opera. A party of bards setting out to make their name in the Dragon Empire or your own world, encounter monsters and dungeons and towns that just need their help. Ben discussed how his groups have multi-classed as bards as well as found unique ways to distinguish their characters from each other. You can listen to that podcast episode at iconicpodcast.com.

On the surface, it may seem redundant to play a similar class to another person in your party. Yet, as any player digs deeper into the classes, you will find the options and opportunities give you the ability to play wildly different characters. And remember, detecting someone’s alignment is infringement on their privacy.

Written by Becca

 

S3-E11: Antagonists and Villains

This week we discuss antagonists and how they’re different from villains. Antagonists aren’t just the ‘Big Bad Evil Guys;’ they’re the NPCs who are set alongside or against the PCs to add depth to the campaign and bring more out of the characters and your campaign world.

Why you should put effort into creating them? What makes a good antagonist? What are some things to avoid? Listen in as we give our perspective on these questions and more!


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S3-E10: Gygaxian Rock Opera

This week we welcome Benjamin Feehan onto the show to talk about his experience with the campaign idea of “‘What if there was a party of just bards that put on performances and delved dungeons to pay their bills?”

In addition to covering the ramifications of running an all-bard party, we talk about things like wrapping a campaign around a central idea or theme, necessary mechanics for doing Performances, and how one could best make use of the 13th Age system to further explore this idea.

A few of the other things Ben has worked on are the Grapple Gun Universe books, Jadepunk, and Shadowcraft: The Glamour Wars.


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And a special thank you to all of our awesome Patrons!

Narrating Icon Relationships

Last month Mark wrote about Icon Relationships and how to use them as a GM, but as they are really tools in the hands of the players, I thought it’d also be helpful to talk about them from a player’s perspective.

As you know, mechanically, if you roll a 5 or a 6 on your Icon Relationships, you get an advantage during that session. And generally, you get to decide what that advantage is. It could be receiving a magic item, or auto-succeeding on a skill check, or bypassing a puzzle, or convincing a neutral NPC to swing to your side, or…well, you get the idea. (And to be clear, spending a 5 will also generate a complication, but that’s for your GM to figure out, though if you have something in mind, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it!)

But 13th Age isn’t really about the mechanics; it’s about the story. That’s why there are so many story-generating tools in the hands of the players. So how do you bridge the gap between the mechanics of getting a boon and weaving together a story, especially when it doesn’t make in-story sense for an Agent of the Icon to simply show up and give the boon to you? For example, let’s imagine you and your cohorts have delved deep into a cave and encountered a lake of lava. You want to use your Icon Relationship with the Emperor to get past it, but how would the Emperor provide aid to your character within the story?

The easy answer is to either handwave it aside or force the GM to figure it out. But the better-player answer is to tell the story of how it happens. Take it upon yourself to come up with a reason for how the Emperor’s reach is still felt that deep in the cave. Perhaps you find his seal embedded in a nearby wall that raises a stone pathway (a complication could arise from what also happens when this dormant magic is newly activated). Or perhaps he had previously given you a magic wand that could be used to create a rope-bridge once (a complication could be that the bridge is teleported from another location, causing havoc elsewhere). 

Reaching back in time and placing something into your character’s inventory for an Icon Relationship boon is a perfectly acceptable way to come up with an in-story explanation. And being tasked with providing a brief story for it provides additional benefits of crafting backstory pieces about your character as well as more details about the world. In doing so, you’re leveraging the same concepts that make Backgrounds such an integral part of 13th Age.  

But if you don’t want to always be coming up with the answer on the spot, during Character Creation, jot down a few items that your Icon(s) had given you which reflect the relationship you have with them. Have a positive relationship with the Diabolist? Maybe, for whatever influenced that positive relationship, she (or more likely one of her agents) presented you with a broach. It will sit ‘useless’ on your character sheet until that one time you rolled a 6 and wanted to get a magic item or needed a way to relay a message to/from her. You’d be getting the mechanical boon in that moment, but you’d also be linking it to an in-story reason that shines some spotlight onto your character and their backstory. But if you’re already in a campaign or you’ve run out of those items, you can continue to be proactive in this regard by asking the GM when you search for loot, “What sort of useless or random items do I find?” Those useless items are fodder for future boons!

Pulling items out of your pack or suddenly finding something that had been overlooked aren’t the only ways Icons can exert their influence over distances or in secluded areas. What are some other ways? Again, instead of putting yourself on the spot to explain it, you can make things easier on yourself as a player by proactively thinking of the ways the Icons could exert their influence you, regardless of where you are. To help with this, think about the nature of your Relationships. Why do you have that Relationship with that Icon?

For example, perhaps your conflicted Relationship with the Archmage is because you fear he is abusing his power. That belief could be suddenly reinforced when you use a 5 to get past a guard. When you hear a bodiless voice whisper in your ear precisely what to say to the guard about his family to prompt him to let you by, you’ve received your boon, and now you and everyone else is even more convinced that the Archmage is spying on people Big Brother like (plus, you’ve given the GM a hook to use for that complication if she needs it!)

Icon Relationships are for you, the player, to not only get boons but to influence the story, and while Rules As Written it simply provides a boon, you don’t always have to use them for just that benefit. Many times, the boon you ask for could do nothing but influence the story. I remember one session where several of us players spent our pool of 5s and 6s to simply get word to our various Icons about what was going on. Mechanically, it gave us nothing in the moment, but it was a way for us, as players, to influence the world and story.

When you sit down to play 13th Age, remember that there is a lot of narrative power at your fingertips, and even more so when you roll a 5 or a 6 at the beginning of the session. What are some of the ways you’ve used Icon Relationships to influence your story? And for those GMs reading this, what are your favorite moments when the players leveraged those rolls?

Written by Nick

S3-E09: Iconic World

This week we give you an overview of the world of Ta’nar, which is a Gygaxian fantasy setting that, while being the brainchild of JM, we’ve all had a hand in creating. It’s also the setting we’ll be placing all our Random Encounters that we brainstorm together, as well as any other published materials we may come up with.

We are currently in the process of putting together the past Random Encounters into PDF form in anticipation of reaching our first Patron Goal. We are so close!


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And a special thank you to all of our awesome Patrons!

S3-E08: Overworld and Beyond Review

This week we take an in-depth look at Overworld and Beyond: Adventures in the Planes! We give our usual high-level overview of all the content you can find between the covers, and spoilers: there is a LOT in this book!

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can get it in Print or PDF at DreadUnicornGames.com

 

 


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And a special thank you to all of our awesome Patrons!

Icon Relationships

Icon Relationships

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

S3-E07: Interview with John Marvin

This week we welcome back to the show John Marvin of Dread Unicorn Games! He joined us to talk about some of the things he’s been working on and give an update on the “Gods and Icons” and “The Overworld and Beyond” products for 13th Age. 
If you’re interested in finding out more about the great products he’s been producing, head on over to dreadunicorngames.com!

If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron!

And a special thank you to all of our awesome Patrons!