Adapting 13G Runes into 13A Icon Relationships

When 13th Age Glorantha (13G) was released, Rob and Jonathan made a number of changes to the game’s mechanics to better reflect the world of Glorantha. One of those changes was how to handle rolling for Rune benefits. In one sense, rolling for a Rune is similar to rolling for an Icon Relationship in 13th Age (13A), but in Glorantha, Runes are more than just a person that is a mover and shaker. Runes are the cosmic forces and the core building blocks of the world, magic, and the gods of Glorantha. Having an attuned or empowered Rune is like having a 5 or a 6 with an Icon Relationship. And while it gives a player a similar narrative advantage as an Icon Relationship, it tends to be a bit more powerful in nature and leverages ‘agents’ less frequently; the effect is also a bit more direct instead of indirect.

There are a couple of differences in how 13G handles this narrative mechanic, and I’ll cover them briefly then present a couple of ideas on how to port this into 13A and why you might want to. Here’s a synopsis of how the 13G Rune system works:

You roll for Runes at every heal-up

Instead of rolling for runes at the start of every session the way you do for Icon Relationships in 13A, you roll for Runes at every heal-up. This will always result in you getting a rune you can use, even if it’s one that you weren’t expecting or one that might be very interesting for your character to have a connection to.
(You also get to roll for your Runes at the start of a Heroquest, but we’ll save that topic for another time.)

You roll a d6. If you get a 1-3, you get one of your runes. If it’s a 4-6, roll a d20 for a random rune. If this random rune is one you have, it’s not just attuned, it’s empowered!

During character creation, you will end up with three runes, and those are the ones that you will be attuned to when rolling a 1-3 on the d6. But when you roll a 4-6, you then roll on the random rune table (or this handy die sold by Q-Workshop) and are instead attuned to that rune. But if your random roll comes up with one of your three runes, it’s empowered! An Empowered Rune functions like an Attuned Rune, but you also get the equivalent of a permanent magic item when you narrate it.

Narrating a rune, and rolling for complications (d20. 1-5 a complication is presented)

Narrating a rune affects the story in much the same way that narrating an Icon Relationship does. You are able to find something you were looking for, travel long distances quickly, gather more information, or do something incredible.

In my 13G game, one of my players narrated an Empowered Water Rune to purify a creature they had captured that was infected by Chaos, and was thereby able to gather more information than they would have otherwise. In doing so, they also established a grateful NPC who may make future appearances in the campaign. The player also received a Runic Gift that will, for the rest of the game, give him an extra power and a bonus to one of his stats.

Once a player narrates a rune, the GM rolls a d20 to see if a complication arose. On a 6-20, no complication comes up, but it does on a 1-5! The GM gets to narrate what that is, and it could happen immediately or come into play in a later session.

Narrating a Rune is explicitly prohibited in combat

Narrating runes is only to affect the story, not the game. What I mean by that is that Runes are not to serve as a power, and they cannot be used to affect combat. If your idea for narrating a rune seems to be touching on the game mechanics at all, then it’s best to think of how you might tweak it a bit so it steers away from that.

Those are the basics of how Runes work in 13G, and I’m sure you can see the similarities and differences to how Icon Relationships operate in 13A. There are enough differences though that it’s worth considering porting them into your 13A game.

The main downside I see in porting the new rules over would be the Random Icon and how you’d narrate that. As in 13G, you’d roll a d6, and you’d get one of your Icons on a 1-3, but instead of rolling a d20 for the random rune, you’d roll a d12 (or use the Icon Die from Campaign Coins). But 13A Icon Relationships have two aspects to them – one is the Icon and the other is the Relationship (Positive, Conflicted, and Negative). Rolling a d6 and getting one of you selected Icons is simple enough, but how do you characterize your relationship with the one that comes up randomly on the d12? The two options I see are to randomize the relationship as well through an extra d6 roll (1-2 Negative, 3-4 Conflicted, 5-6 Positive) or chart out your relationship with all the Icons during character creation.

That latter option appeals to me, even if you don’t port the rest of the 13G Rune system over. The points you assign with the Icons is a reflection of how tangibly useful that relationship is, but it makes sense that your character would at least have an opinion on the rest of the Icons too. I can also see everyone giving their entire list to the GM being very helpful in crafting a campaign world! But if tasking your players to define their character’s opinion on all 13 Icons seems like too much, running a 7-Icon campaign would simplify things considerably. If you don’t chart this out in advance and the relationship is determined randomly, then it would create some very interesting story hooks if a particular Icon kept coming up but the relationship changed each time.

Alternatively, you could eliminate the Random Icon entirely and have your roll result in one of the Icons you have selected. For example, at Adventurer Tiers, you’d roll a d6 and have 1-2 be your first Icon, 2-3 be your second, and 3-4 be your third. At higher tiers when you gain additional Icon Relationships, you can simply increase your die size to accommodate the additional Icons; roll a d8 as you’d have 4 Icons and a d10 as you’d have 5.

The Random Icon and its relationship is really the only downside that I see to porting the 13G Rune system into 13A as a replacement for handling Icon Relationships. A couple of advantages to it is that everyone is guaranteed to have a Relationship to leverage each full heal-up, and because it’s determined at a full heal-up, you’ll be less likely to have to come up with something on the fly on how to use them. Guaranteeing that each person has one prevents those sessions where nobody rolls a 5 or a 6 as well as those sessions when everyone is rolling 5s or 6s; it can get wearisome whether you’re having to juggle too many Relationships or too few. The 13G method evens all that out.

You also won’t have to deal with complications nearly as frequently. With the 13A method, whenever a Relationship is available to leverage, there’s a 50/50 chance it’ll bring about a complication, and players frequently hesitate before using a 5 for fear of what the complication will be. The 13G method gives only a 25% chance of a complication, and the determination of whether or not one exists comes after the player has narrated the effect, not before.

There’s a thematic difference between the Dragon Empire and Glorantha, and each system’s unique mechanic does a good job handling that difference. But there is room for bringing the newer 13G method into core 13A. The longer my 13G campaign goes, the more I am liking the way the Runes work. When I pick up my next 13A game, I’ll be trying out some of these porting techniques. If you have any other suggestions or advice on this topic, leave a comment below!

Written by Nick

Playing Without a Cleric

Playing Without a Cleric

Most times, in F20 games, playing with a cleric is a forgone conclusion. It is one of the most, if not THE most, vital roles in the dungeon delving party. Few things will stress a party out as quickly as the cleric hitting 0 HP. And, as we know, 13th Age provides many great options for the cleric, not the least of which is allowing them to heal as quick actions, allowing them to play more than just a mobile bandaid box. All that being said, here is a secret. Come closer. Are you ready for this?

You don’t need one. That is right, you really do not NEED a cleric in 13th Age. I know what you are thinking. Iconic, I come to you for Epic Tier advice on 13th Age, and this seems like a quick way to turn my game into a 0-level funnel. But wait, hear us out. There are plenty of options for your groups if you want to leave the cleric behind in Santa Cora praying to the Priestess.

 

Option 1 – Other Choices

Dust off some of those classes from 13 True Ways! 13th Age is rife with alternative choices for healers besides the Cleric. Bards can heal. Commanders can heal. Druids can heal. That is not counting the fact other classes have spot healing (the Necromancer & Paladin come to mind) and that all characters can heal as an action at least once a fight. If you are going to adventure without a cleric, try to plan ahead and include some of these other classes. Additionally, give the group extra potions as a way for them to deal with their healing needs.

Option 2 – Go Mythic

13th Age Glorantha has less available healing classes than core 13th Age. To counter that, they include the Battle Healing rule (page 64). Steal this for your core 13th Age game to help offset the lack of power healing. Let everyone have the ability to trigger someone else’s recovery, possibly even before they hit 0 HP. An encouraging word, a slap upside the head, or a kick in the rear is all it could take to get someone back into the fight. Remember, hit points are an abstraction of luck, endurance, fighting spirit, and toughness. Theme Battle Healing however you like, but this option opens up a lot more flexibility in the party where healing is concerned.

Option 3 – Fudge the Rules

If nothing else feels like it works, you can make a couple of simple rules changes to increase the available healing. Perhaps you make drinking/administering a potion a quick action? You know your players already wish that was the case already. You could make the first use of Rally (each battle, each heal up) a quick action for characters, representing that first rush of adrenaline when the character realizes how dire the straights are. Or perhaps it goes to a quick action after the Escalation Die reaches 4, representing the surge of confidence as the party knows the battle is turning in their favor. Play around with these ideas to find a good feel for your table.

 

Last Words

Anyway you look at it, 13th Age provides a lot of options for non-standard party make-ups. As a GM, I would caution to you start off a bit friendlier than you normally would with a party like this. Use basic build math and no nastier specials, at least until you get used to the party dynamics. It gives your players time to figure out the ebb and flow of combat sans clerics.

Players, if you are going to play without a cleric remember that you need to be more on top of your own healing; instead of just yelling ‘cleric!!’ when your HP gets low. Keep an eye on the ebb and flow of the fight to figure out when to heal and when to flee. Keep these tips in mind and you should be able to survive without a cleric.

 

Are you playing in a group without a Cleric? Want to try out some of these ideas? Drop us a line and let us know how it goes.

Written by JM

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

S2-E23: Son of the Living Dungeon

This week Becca joins us again for another Random Encounter brainstorm session! The thought behind this week’s topic is how we might introduce a living dungeon to an Adventurer-Tier party. The theme? An Epic-Tier party botched slaying a Living Dungeon, and now your party is handling the cleanup.

Don’t forget that we’re currently running a 13th Age Contest, and it’d be great if you could participate! For more information, please visit the announcement post!


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.

S2-E20: ASH LAW’s Patreon

This week, we brought ASH LAW back into the studio to talk about his 13th Age-focused patreon. We talk about what sort of resources he’s created, what he’s working on now, and what we might expect in the future.

If you’re interested in supporting ASH’s work or gaining monthly access to new 13th Age resources, go to www.patreon.com/ashlaw

And if you’re curious about the articles ASH has done for the Escalation fanzine, you can download the free volumes here (http://13thage.org/index.php/escalation-zine)


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.

S2-E19: Adventure Site Creation: Sleigh Down!

This week Becca joins us again as we create another adventure site! This one is themed for the holiday as we build up the situation surrounding Santa’s sleigh crashing!

And like we mentioned, if you haven’t read the 13th Age novel written by Greg Stolze The Forgotten Monk, be sure to pick it up this holiday season. It’s great!

And for more 13th Age holiday festival ideas, check out Volume 3 of the Escalation Fanzine!


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.

S2-E15: Adventure Site Creation: Castle Ruins

This week we brainstorm another adventure site. Back in Episode 10, we crafted a Champion Tier Swamp, and this time we come up with some ideas for some Epic Tier Castle Ruins for you to use at your table.

 

 


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S2-E11: Go Berserk!

This week we take a close look at one of the new classes introduced in 13th Age Glorantha – the Berserker. This class is divided into two paths: the Storm Bull and the Zorak Zorani. While both come from the same core class, they play very differently from each other. Listen in as we talk about the differences, why you might want to play one, and some ways to bring them into the Dragon Empire!


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

S2-E10: Adventure Site Creation: Swamp

This week we’re trying something new for the show! We brainstorm encounter ideas centered around a location that you might find useful in your campaign. The location we chose this time is a champion-tier cursed swamp that’s consuming a nearby village.

Listen in, take notes, and be inspired to use it at your table. And if you do, we’d love to hear about it, and what you named the swamp and village.

And let us know how you liked this sort of encounter-creation brainstorming session!


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

S2-E07: Campaign Creation: The Diabolist

This week we focus our attention on one of the 13th Age Icons of the Dragon Empire: the Diabolist. We discuss various perspectives of who she might be, what might motivate her, and even toss around some ideas on a campaign arc with her as a primary feature.

If she is prominent in your campaign, leave a comment, and let us know what your take on her is!

The 7 Icon Campaign article discussed in the show is actually one of the 13th Age Monthly installments. You can find out more about that here.

And don’t forget that in the month of July, you can receive a 10% discount off your pre-orders of Loot Harder: A Book of Treasures and The Book of Ages by using the promo code POD#ICON18LHBA