Fear in 13th Age

As GMs and as players, we want to immerse ourselves into the story that’s being told. Many games ask the GM to craft an elaborate world for the PCs to learn about. While the imagination can certainly take hold while describing that world, one of the best ways to get a player invested in it is to get their emotions invested. As a GM, you can’t expect your players to fall in love with all the NPCs you portray or want to prove their loyalty to the guild you’ve slaved over creating. But you could probably get them to fear the monsters they encounter. Yes, describing the demon in all its slavering glory could get the players trembling, but 13th Age has a mechanic built in to create fear within the character. This fear effect seems simple enough, but it comes with dire consequences.

Fear, at its very basic mechanic, forces the PC to be dazed and prevents them from using the escalation die. While not obviously dire, when the PCs are facing a Large Red Dragon with an AC of 25, (who does get to use that escalation die) the bonus from the escalation die goes a long way to helping the party land a hit. If the fighter has a -4 penalty due to being dazed and cannot use the escalation die from being afraid, the player is going experience some frustration as well as fear for their character’s life.

Typical monsters who have this effect are demons, devils, dragons, and really nasty minotaurs. Usually these monsters are the bigger, badder, out-to-wreck-the-party monsters. They will have a fear aura, which is based on the amount of hit points the character has. For example, a large red dragon is a level 10 monster. Any enemy engaged with this monster who has less than 72 hit points will succumb to fear. This penalty is intense as between the -4 Attack and lack of Escalation Die bonus, it’s doubling down on the PCs’ ability to fight the monster.

Players have a couple of different avenues for combating fear. The paladin class has a talent called Fearless, which allows them to be immune to fear. It has a few other sweet perks such as actually giving the player a bonus against enemies who have that fear aura and abilities. An Occultist can also choose a talent that has a feat which negates fear, but because that’s a champion feat; it’ll take some time to get that ability. Since all of the characters probably won’t be Paladins or Occultists that take those Talents, the other way to beat that fear aura is to either remove themselves from being engaged with that particular monster or to heal themselves above the fear threshold. There are very few monsters who allow the PCs to roll saving throws and shake off that fear.

As you run your next 13th Age game, we at Iconic hope that you will consider how to use this fear mechanic to further invest the players into the game, and we look forward to hearing your creative uses of it. Is there a room in the castle that has a fear threshold? Or will the characters inch closer to the unseen monster who lurks, waiting to devour all will and bravery? Would you let your players roll a wisdom check to see if they can withstand the horror?

Written by Becca

S3-E03: Being a Better GM

Not that long ago, we did an episode on Being a Better Player, and we wanted to do a followup to that with a discussion about how to be a Better GM, especially when running 13th Age.

As a part of this episode, we briefly talk about the Wangrod Defense as discussed by Matt Colville, which you can watch here.

If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.

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

S3-E02: Why 13th Age?

This week we answer a question that we should have answered back in Season 1: Why do we love 13th Age so much? Join us as we talk about the various aspects of the game that make it one of our favorites, and leave a comment as to why you love it!


If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.

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


S3-E01: Shards of the Broken Sky Review

For our first episode of Season 3, we take a look at the soon-to-be-released Shards of the Broken Sky. It’s a great sandbox setting that you can run through multiple times or pull bits and pieces out for your own campaign. Listen in as we give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what’s in the book!

The long-anticipated book is now available for pre-order at Pelgrane Press’ website, and for the fantastic listeners of the Iconic Podcast, you can use this voucher code to receive a 10% discount off your pre-order!


If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.

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

S2-E26: The Occultist

This week, in another Class Acts segment, we take an in-depth look at The Occultist. This class is based on the idea of someone being able to bend reality to their will, and we talk about how that’s handled mechanically, as well as a number of ways to bring that in through One Unique Things and Backgrounds. And remember, there’s only ever one in the game at a time! This is truly an Unique class!

This topic was selected by our patrons, and one had commented that he doesn’t allow the Occultist to be played at his table. When asked for clarification, this is what he responded:

I think it is related to my take on the Occultist as a “world-breaker.” I don’t mind the class if it was a one-on-one game where the Occultist plays a solo campaign with a GM. But around a table I think it would risk being a spot-light-hogging machine. Every Hero is “unique” in some way, but the Occultist is doubly so, and it’s hard to NOT build the whole campaign around that one person and make everyone else feel like side-kicks.

And the caution to not let this become a ‘spotlight-hogging machine’ is excellent advice. If you have had a player play an Occultist or have played on yourself, leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts on it!

If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.

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

S2-E25: Dark Pacts and Ancient Secrets Review

This week we open the covers of Martin Killmann’s book Dark Pacts & Ancient Secrets. Listen in as we discuss the six, new 13th Age classes that are introduced, what the highlights of each are, and what they bring to 13th Age that wasn’t there before.

If you want a copy of the book, you can purchase either the PDF or print-on-demand at DriveThruRPG. The classes are also available on 13thagesrd.com and if you like the classes there, we encourage you to buy the book as well!


To find out more information on the next book Martin is working on, join the 13th Age Discord server and check out the #dark_alleys_playtest channel!

If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.

And a special thank you to all our awesome Patrons!

Awesome 13th Age GMs

In our last session, we put a call-out to players to publicly give their GMs some kudos on GM’s Day. If you would like to add your GM to this list of “Awesome 13th Age GMs” send an email to iconicpodcast@gmail.com!

And if you’re not aware of it, there’s a great GM’s Day Sale going on over at DriveThruRPG this week!

Alex’s GM

I would like to show some appreciation for my 13th age GM. The campaign has been running for 4 years now and we meet almost every week.

My GM has drawn artwork of each of the players characters and many of the predominant NPCs. Along with this he’s done detailed maps of continents and countries and it really helps to visualize and understand the world.

My GM is awesome!

Clark’s GM

Chris is an awesome GM. When our group lost one of our GM’s to another state, Chris stepped up to run his first ever 13th Age campaign. We’re a handful of sessions into 1st level. I really appreciate his generosity, giving us his time and creativity, and I’m excited to see where this campaign of ancient mysteries and iconic intrigue will take us.

Hans’ GM

My GM Clark has put in a lot of time on our latest campaign including tent cards for some temporary characters that we portrayed during a fantasy scene. we have also done some really interesting background story creation with intertwined experiences in past ages of factions that we are apart of. Long live the elf queen.


S2 Iconic Contest Winners

We had some great submissions to the Iconic Contest, where we asked you to run a game with a few ‘new to 13th Age’ players and tell us about it. Our winners are:

  • Jeff Hewartson
  • Jordi C
  • Patrick Joynt

Kudos to them for running some great sessions and introducing some new players to the wonderful world of 13th Age! Here are some of their recaps:

Jeff’s Session

Hello Iconic Podcast, here is a (hopefully) brief summary of a game I got to run with a group of people new to 13th age. It was meant to be a short adventure, but due to scheduling errors we have not had a chance to finish it yet, but even the single session seemed to go quite well.

Here are the characters and their OUTs (I don’t have their sheets on me, so unfortunately I cannot provide much more)

  • An Aasimar Cleric who is the only child begotten by a god of light
  • A Forgeborn Fighter who has a soul of someone who died at the exact moment of his creation inside of him
  • A Half-Elf Demonologist who was the first female saint from a prior age brought back to life for some unknown purpose
  • A Halfling Rogue of poor upbringing who knows he is destined for something greater
  • A Wood Elf Wizard who seeks to destroy a cursed tree that she knows will kill her
  • A Dark Elf Sorcerer who believes himself to be immortal

Character creation took up a good portion of the session so we were not able to fully flesh out the characters as they ought to be for a long game. for backgrounds I would give them +3 to a roll when they could give a brief explanation to how their characters story helps in the situation. for Icons I planned to use the 7 Icon variant, but we only quickly glossed over what they were. Mostly I used them to determine what magical gear their characters would begin with (1-3 nothing, 4 = Magical potion, 5 = random magical item based on characters icons, 6 = specific magic item type based on character icon).

as for the adventure itself: the players were level 3, and each found their way to a small settlement on the outskirts of civilization. The towns lord believes this to be the site where a member of his family once settled to begin a new domain but was driven out by a group of druids who cursed them for trying to move into their sacred grove. this new town is being built on and with the ruins of a previous ruined town.
Now though, people have been going missing and loggers working in the nearby forest have claimed to see a hag walking the woods…
The players, each with their own reason, have found themselves in this burgeoning town and after making their impressions on the towns folk and lord agree to take up the quest of finding the hag that has been stealing away people. they receive blessings from the priestess of the towns small chapel ( in the form of healing potions and home brewed holy water that can act as a resistance potion against demons/undead or as an oil to align a weapon as holy for a battle).
The players struck out into the woods which quickly turned into a swamp. the marsh began to give way to palpable sensations of evil and corruption. they passed a great stone with carvings that seemed to have been cleanly split in too. the players recognized the symbols as being druidic in origin but could not discern their meaning.
Further on, a hut could be seen in a marshy clearing with some sort of spell around it formed by human bones hung ritualistically in the trees outlining the hut perimeter.
Unable to determine the exact nature of the hag magic (a grizzly form of the alarm spell), the party proceed cautiously and snuck up to the hut where they saw a women and child bound on the floor while a cauldron bubbled with what looked like human appendages sticking from it.
Some of the characters moved in to rescue the captives while the other kept watch for the hag. the captives try to warn the characters about the animated skills on the hags shelves set to guard them. the players begin to turn as the skulls all jitter towards them, when some of the players felt the dropping of an illusion and realize in the nick of time that the woman and child were actually the hag and its familiar under an illusion!
The players got into a fight against a Hag, a Hellhound (reflavored as a brown jenkins-ish familiar) and 5 guard skull mooks (homemade monsters).
the players managed to win the day, though the hag hexes did a number on them. in its death throes the hag cursed the sorcerer who killed it and erased his name from all memory.
The players explore the hag hut and found an enchanted shield of the first knight sent by the towns lord prior to the players arrival, and many gruesome witch objects.
The session ended with the players finding an odd wooden door in the center floor of the hut, the idea of a basement being odd in the swampy environment…

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for giving us fans a quality podcast. Perhaps sometime I can include some of the notes / maps I had drawn up and other things or expand on the other aspects of the adventure.

Thanks again, Jeff + crew.

Jordi’s session:

Hi, I’m Jordi, the guy taking the table selfie. I’ve got a few co-workers and my younger brother Willie playing our first romp in the Dragon Empire!

I’ve been getting my new home ready for hosting for a while now, and finally knocked out some characters. Left to right, we’ve got Duncan as a half orc rogue; Kira as a dragon born sorcerer; Patrick as a Praxian necromancer; Clint as a dragon born ranger with Nike sneakers; and Willie as a Praxian commander/Humakti fighter. Not pictured is Chad, our human barbarian/monk.

I waited for relationships and backgrounds and unique things before I really settled in a campaign direction. Looks like we’re going for the Three and the Lich King, with some Orc Lord thrown in. The core adventure provided a great starting point! I’ve run a few one shots for free RPG day, so I was loosely ready, and we slowed down to really understand how to play this game.

Duncan and Kira helped me with our maps and tokens, we all enjoyed seeing the nose picking gobbo. I’m gonna draw the boss monster for our next session, but these monster pogs are keepers.

We only got through the first encounter in a three hour session, but everybody was so enthusiastic that we can’t wait for the next session. I love presenting an awesome map, and I’m really gonna elevate it for the final encounter at Boltstrike Pillar!

Patrick’s session:

My game (which you’ve probably seen me mentioning in the various groups) is set in New Port, running alongside another Instance of another game set in Drakkenhall. Of the two tables and eight players, only two players have played 13th Age before.

Here are the links to the player background packets everyone gets for each game:

And here are the latest write-ups from the GM (me) for the first New Port session (Char gen and about an hour of gameplay) and heck, here’s a link to the shared Engine of Ages (which the New Port game just finished filling in):

New Port:

Most of our heroes met up, some of them being long-term residents of and some being recent adventuring residents of a small town. One just came to investigate some cult or something, some “devourer” cult, seems unlikely to amount to anything.

Anyways, some sort of horrible underground thing ate the whole town, with perhaps 500 of the 1,100 who were living there (1,000 residents and 100 refugees from the attacks of the High Druids creatures) fled towards New Port, our heroes leading the bedraggled many …



S2-E24: Being a Better Player

We frequently see advice on how to be a better GM or run a better game, but we rarely see advice for the other side of the screen. Namely, how can you be a better player?

This week we ask that question and talk through the core concepts of Knowing, Being, and Seeking as ways you can improve as a player.

One of the resources we referenced was Satine Phoenix’s advice on player engagement, which you can watch here. It’s full of great tips for players and GMs to keeping the game moving.

If you want to show appreciation for your 13th Age GM, send a story of how cool they are to iconicpodcast@gmail.com, and we’ll give them a shout out on March 4th for GM Appreciation Day!

If you enjoy listening to the Iconic Podcast, please consider supporting us by becoming a patron or by using our Amazon referral link to do your online shopping.