Cursed Myth 1.1.1

[Between last session and this one, I shared this “story interlude” game fiction with players. We started this session resolving the cliffhanger it ended on. Aso’s player was absent.]

Rill’s Rebellion!

“You all are blasphemers,” Mard declared, gesturing to Rill, Sung, and the rest of the village’s Fighter faction, “ and this has gone on long enough!”

Mard had just called for them to ritually repent, after Rill attacked her while she prayed to the village’s god, Providence of the Sea. Sung, leader of the Fighters (of whom Rill was one), had restrained Rill and apologized to Mard. But holding Sung’s gaze, Mard called out: “Most Honored Speaker Oramir! Surely you will preside over the ritual, will you not?”

The whole village of 40 or 50 lizardpeople was gathered around, waiting to hear Oramir’s response and to see what Rill, Sung, and Mard would do. As Oramir hesitated, Revan grumbled, “What do we care about this village?” Duncan agreed. But Oramir ignored them.

“I have led many such rituals,” Oramir responded. “I will lead one now only with willing participants.”

“Are you willing?” Mard pressed the still-kneeling Sung. Sung was speechless.

“You know, Mard,” Rill called out. “You’re right. This has gone on long enough.” And suddenly, Rill and five other Fighters (who had separated from their faction’s huddle) produced weapons. Rill raised a spear and took aim at Mard.

Stink broke first to intervene and stop the spear, but Oramir was closer. Oramir lunged at Rill, knocking the spear away and was wounded.


Duncan cast a blur sigil on Rill and moved to collect his fallen spear. He found it was a true magic item, surprisingly beyond the capacity of what they’d yet seen in this village. Then Revan cast terror on Rill, who fled from the battle. Duncan expressed dismay that he used such powerful magic now, but Revan only shrugged.

Then Stink approached the five knife-wielding Fighters. “You don’t have to do this,” he commanded. Stink had won admiration especially from the village’s Fighter faction for his triumph over the ogre. And after watching their boss chased so easily from the field, they backed down.

[Stink’s player succeeded on a charisma-based background check.]

One rebellious lizardperson even fell on their knees in surrender. Rill, meanwhile, shook off the terror magic and stood in the distance, looking back on the scene, angry and ashamed.

Guanyin & Glaurung

But Oramir was angry too. He reached out to his god, Guanyin, as he did when he compelled a confession from David Fillion [his background].

[Rather than make a wisdom-based background check, Oramir’s player chose to narrate a random icon benefit he rolled with Glaurung the Dread Savior. Glaurung is the greatest of gold dragons--terrifying in majesty, unattainably pure, instrument of condemnation, judgment, purgation, and fire. Then Oramir’s player rolled a complication: it would be a complicated benefit.]

Oramir’s gods-blinded right eye glowed not with divine light alone but also with a blaze of dragonfire. His voice became terrifying and irresistible. He commanded Rill to return, and Rill obeyed. He pronounced judgment on the whole assembled village. Oramir condemned Rill’s violence, the small rebellion he had led, and the Fighter faction for feeding their contempt. But Oramir also called the Faithful faction to repent. He said, “I am a man of faith and a fighter. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. There’s no reason for you to be at odds with each other. You all must find a future together.”

And the whole village fell together in apologetic grief and relief. Sung and Herk embraced with tears. Mard held Rill as Rill blubbered out a confession. Rill and his crew had been exhuming corpses from an ancient mausoleum in the valley and trading them to a Merchant for weapons.

Oramir, meanwhile, slumped with momentary exhaustion as the god’s and Glaurung’s power left him. But before it left completely, Oramir saw a vision. His god, Guanyin stood, wounded, in a graveyard of the gods. She showed him enough to understand that in this region, gods were dying. Godlings, or small gods, especially. And that, at this moment, somewhere nearby Oramir, a harpy had tried to sacrifice a godling, Whale Bone God. Guanyin herself had given of herself to keep this godling alive. She charged Oramir with saving Whale Bone God.

[Here was the complication.]

The Harpy strikes back

Then Sung sought her husband and infant child, Firl and JeeJee. Firl left, a villager told her, slipped away to pick berries when Rill attacked Mard. At that same time, a lizardman cried in the distance. Then a harpy screamed. And to the west, a lone harpy climbed into the air and began flying northward across the valley, carrying a lizardman.

The party quickly readied themselves and pursued, along with Sung, a repentant Rill, and two other lizardpeople. They rushed down the terraces, across the river, and toward the wilderness mountains on the other side. A sudden tremor rolled through the valley. Undaunted, they followed the harpy screams and lizardperson yells into a narrow, winding ravine. The cry of infant JeeJee echoed off the rock walls.

Revan went up along the upper ridge of the ravine. He invited them, but the lizardpeople refused to be alone with him. The rest of the group wound through the ravine.

Harpy’s lair!

Soon the harpy came into view. It was far away, perched on a chunk of crystal from the obelisks where the party had first awoken in the valley. The crystal hovered a foot or two off the ground. Beneath the harpy, sprawled on the crystal, was Firl and beside him, JeeJee.


With a scream, the harpy gouged Firl’s face with its claws and crushed his skull. As life left him, the ravine was convulsed by an earthquake. Revan just avoided falling into the ravine with falling rock. Stink barely avoided being swallowed by a fissure that opened at his feet. When the quake ceased, a large 20-foot diameter rift had opened behind the harpy. A distinct briney, fishy odor began to fill the ravine.

But Duncan had already cast a vengeance sigil on the harpy, and when it attacked Firl, he teleported to it and attacked it, but missed. Oramir moved closer and blasted the harpy with javelin of faith. Wielding the magic spear he recovered from Rill earlier, Duncan attacked and missed again. Revan hit with death’s gauntlet. Stink moved to engage the harpy. And the lizardpeople approached, much slower than the PCs despite Sung’s fear for her family.

Just then, a pungent chaos beast slorped out of the rift beyond the harpy and its makeshift altar. And Duncan smelled an odor he recognized but was far out of place: the Iron Sea--it’s hot saltwater smell.

[I asked Duncan’s player, “What is distinctive about the smell of the Iron Sea, compared to the Midland Sea?” Because seafaring is part of Duncan’s background. He said, “Heat. It’s hot.”]

Then the harpy dispelled the spectral death’s gauntlet arms. Hurting, it spread its wings, took hold of JeeJee, and began to rise into the air. Stink lunged for JeeJee, but was too slow. Oramir, bent on saving the infant, ran at the harpy and slammed it with a double-strength javelin of faith. [Crit!] It dropped from the sky, as JeeJee fell from its grasp. Oramir dove, injured himself, but saved JeeJee from harm!

With the harpy down, Duncan marked the chaos beast with a sigil and charged it. But he missed with a barrier strike. Perhaps he was distracted. He had begun to hear a rising chorus of whisperings, low and overlapping. He couldn’t make out the words, and no one else could hear anything.

From the top of the ravine, Revan hit the beast with death’s gauntlet. He also saw into the rift beyond the beast: chaos glorps! In moments, three glorps emerged. Then Stink attacked a glorp. Meanwhile, Sung rushed forward to Oramir and took JeeJee. Two of her companions joined her in mourning and relief. But repentant Rill plunged into battle next to Stink. He drove a knife deep into the same glorp! [Rill critted!]

The chaos beast ignored the spectral hands raking it and instead lashed out at Duncan. It missed but popped free and engaged Stink. Then Oramir hit it with a javelin of faith. Duncan missed the beast again, this time with a keen blade! Revan hit the damaged glorp with death’s gauntlet, which immediately freed itself from the magic’s grip. The other two attacked Stink. Stink slashed at the first glorp again, knifing it twice. And Rill slashed it and killed it! [Another crit!]

Now hurting, the chaos beast swept away the spectral hands. Oramir hit a glorp with another javelin of faith. Duncan, out of spell attacks, stabbed with the spear and missed again. But in missing, wounded it badly. Revan missed the glorp with a ray of frost. Then a glorp scored a deadly hit against Rill. [It critted!] The other hit Stink. Rill, fuzzy-headed after being walloped, missed badly. [Fumble!]

The chaos beast attacked Duncan again and missed. Oramir blasted the last glorp. And Duncan at last hit, taking down the chaos beast. Revan used deathknell to finish off the last glorp--thereby confirming to his companions that he had indeed, most likely, killed Sung and Herk’s dog.

Whale Bone God

When the fight was over, the group rested and searched the harpy’s lair. They found many shredded baskets that presumably had once held the village’s grain offerings. They also found a couple handfuls of gold scattered among bones, rusted pieces of armor, and bent and twisted weapons. Stink managed to find two useable swords and piece together a whole suit of light armor.

Under Firl’s body, on the obelisk-crystal altar, Revan found a large bone. “I pick it up,” his player said. “Revan is drawn to bones.” “It’s heavier than you’d expect.” I responded. “It’s freshly scarred with burns and scored and chipped.” “Whale Bone God!” said Oramir. “Revan, you are drawn to this bone more than any other bone.” Reluctantly, he handed it to Oramir, and as a whisper on the wind, Oramir heard the words, “Thank you.”

Harpy Interrogation

Oramir found the harpy alive. It was in rough shape: laying on a crushed wing, taking shallow breaths through gritted teeth. But it answered questions.

[Before the battle, Oramir told the group he wanted to take the harpy alive. I obliged.]

Oramir wanted to know about Whale Bone God and the harpy’s role in the death of the other godlings. Gasping and wheezing, the harpy said it tried to sacrifice the godling to bring the sea monsters, but it couldn’t kill it. It had never tried to kill a god before. And the harpy didn’t know anything about this one. But many gods had moved through the area, fleeing from the north and east.

Stink asked, “Why did you terrorize the lizardpeople?” “This is our valley!” the harpy asserted.

“Why did you bring the sea monsters?” “To kill you!” it spat.

“Why did you want to kill us?” Stink didn’t come out and ask it, but he seemed to suspect the harpy was part of the plot that had kidnapped the group and left them here. Bitterly the harpy answered, “You killed my sisters!” “Well, I guess that makes sense,” Stink said, seeming satisfied it was unconnected to the mysterious wizard who stole the Orb of Leafblood from them.

The lizardpeople departed. Rill shouldered Firl’s body and returned to the village with Sung, JeeJee, and the others.

When they were done questioning it, Revan killed the harpy. Then Oramir performed a cleansing ritual to purge the harpy’s defilement from the obelisk crystal. Stink wanted to return the crystal to the obelisks but agreed to wait. Duncan wanted to explore the rift.

into the rift

The chorus of whispers grew louder as Duncan approached it. Standing and peering into the utter darkness, he heard the whispers resolve into words: “The sea beneath your feet welcomes you home, Eärendur, Servant of the Sea.” And Duncan remembered a latter stage of their ill-fated elven mythquest, when he and his companions fought and killed Gûlrymsúl. Each fought as one of the Astaldalim, mythic elven heroes. Duncan fought as Eärendur.

Revan cast sickly darklight into the rift. It revealed little. A cave-like tunnel of rock. But as they stood at the opening, they could feel air moving, like breath, in and out, in and out. The smell of the sea was strongest here. They hesitated, because they wanted to visit the obelisks and the mausoleum before night fell. It was mid-afternoon now. Agreeing not to spend too much time, they began their descent.

The way was rough over newly broken rock. In some sections, the downward slope was gradual. In others, it plunged in sharp, short cliffs. After 30 minutes, they saw no end in sight and no change in the rock. The movement of the air was more pronounced, however; so also the smell of the sea. Since his sword was stolen, Duncan carried blue flame in himself, his hands. As they descended, he noticed that flame intensifying, becoming brighter and larger. The whispering became louder in his ear only but since speaking clearly--“The sea beneath your feet welcomes you home, Eärendur, Servant of the Sea”--he heard nothing distinct. The group considered turning back, but curiosity got the better of them.

They did not stop after 60 minutes either. At 90 minutes, they guessed they had descended some 1,500 feet below the surface. Hearing water below, they pressed on. After about two hours total, they came to the end of the rocky tunnel.

They found the sea. It was rough, with 10-foot swells despite a lack of wind, and it was hot.

The whole length of it, though it was freshly sundered rock, the rift tunnel’s diameter did not deviate from roughly 20 feet across. At the bottom, it flared outward only slightly. The sea was only five feet below the group. Some 25 or 30 feet out, the rocky ceiling almost met the water but not quite. Instead, it formed a ceiling, worn smooth by the rough sea--except where the rock was newly broken.

questioning a god

And as they puzzled over it, Duncan told the others he had no doubt this was the Iron Sea. It seemed impossible! They didn’t know exactly where they were, but the lizardpeople had told them the shore of the Iron Sea was a four-day journey away. They wondered: Have we passed through some kind of portal? Have we gone to another world? But all their senses, magical and otherwise, told them no.

The sea beneath them was dark, hiding unknown depths and answering none of their questions. So Revan laid Whale Bone God on the rocky floor. “We might as well try to find out what this thing is,” he said. Revan and Stink asked the godling questions. Oramir--a Speaker [holy one cleric]--cast and interpreted divination tokens. Duncan looked on, mostly in silence.

“Where are you from?” North.

“Why did you come here?” To escape.

“To escape the gods dying?” Yes.

“Who is killing them?” The answer was hard to interpret. Undeceived? Unblinking?  Seeing? No, the first was best. Undeceived.

“How did you get here?” Birds. Animals. YOU.

“What do you want?” Resurrection.

“Resurrection?” To resurrect resurrection.

“Can you transport us to the coast of the Iron Sea?” Weak.

“Can you calm the water here?” Weak.

“What will make you stronger?” Prayers and offerings.

“How can we help?” Prayers and offerings.

Then Oramir suggested he could perform a ritual to honor--and hopefully strengthen--Whale Bone God. But it would take 15 or 20 minutes. Revan and Stink were in favor. They looked to Duncan, who shrugged and nodded. As Oramir completed the ritual, Revan noticed the very edge of the water. In an arc closest to where they were, the sea was utterly still. Beyond the arc, it was as choppy as it always was.

“We should go back up,” Duncan said. The others agreed. Stink produced from his pocket a handful of the grain the lizardpeople had given him. He burned it and reverenced Whale Bone God. “Thank you,” Stink said. Revan tied a strap around Whale Bone God and slung it over his shoulder. And talking with each other about wanting to visit the crystal obelisks where they first awoke in the valley and the mausoleum where Rill’s crew had been exhuming ancient corpses, they began their ascent.

A Day of Rest

[I shared this “story interlude” with players after session 1.0.1 and before session 1.1.1 last night. Characters were taking a full heal-up in the village, and I wanted to provide PCs with context, clearly show them the divide in the village, and pull them into it. I wanted to see: what will they do with this? This piece of writing did achieve those goals.]

In the late afternoon sun, Mard kneeled and reverenced the fish swimming in the paddy. She was stiff on old joints but uncomplaining.

Just after dawn, it was Mard who burst first into the hut where you slept. Forty or fifty lizardpeople--the whole village--followed her, all cheering, rejoicing, beating drums, and shaking bean-filled gourds.

It was Mard who presented Stink with the three grain-filled baskets originally intended for the harpies--in gratitude for his brave and (many said) miraculous fight with the ogre last night. Of course, they were eager to thank all of you. But as Herk told it, only Stink glowed with an inner light, light that guided his knives. Sung told of how deft, strong, and honorable Stink was, how the whimpering ogre fell before him.

It was also Mard who then whisked Stink and all of you outside. A feast was spread, modest compared to the recent death-feast for the elf Queen, but clearly a feast. Before she allowed anyone to eat, Mard orchestrated a lesson in how a family would work together to prepare the grain, chook (pronounced “chuuk” like mook). Mard insisted you all imitate them--soaking the chook in salt water, packing it into small cakes, and cooking it on a rock in an open fire.

But now, it was Mard who prayed alone. (Herk and some dozen or two others, excluding Sung, had prayed there earlier.) Mard began to chant, “Thank you, Provider, for sending us victory. Thank--”


Mard tensed at the brazen interruption. A tall, muscular lizardperson shouted again from some yards behind her. Rill, was his name. “The fish had nothing to do with this!”

Mard inhaled, exhaled, slowly and stiffly took her feet, and turned. But Rill, shockingly, was already upon her. He moved in a flash. No one had time to react.

“We have to fight!” Rill cried, as he landed a blow that sent Mard sprawling.

In heartbeats, others rushed toward both of them.

Just moments before, the village seemed united in celebration, but the violence shattered the facade. The same strange tension you observed last night between Herk and Sung, mother and daughter, was suddenly obvious in the whole village. Around you, two groups formed subtly, dividing the village. You heard grumbles, whispers, accusations against each other. The “Faithful” and the “Fighters.” Those--mostly older lizardpeople--who wanted to let the gods lead them to a new, safer home and those--mostly younger--who wanted to fight for their honor and for this home they already had. Herk leading one faction; Sung, the other.

As Mard rolled onto her side, Sung wrapped Rill up from behind, pinning his arms. Two other of her Fighters helped pull Rill away a safe distance, all three of them scolding Rill angrily, demanding an answer for what he was thinking. Rill just laughed, taunting Mard.

At the same time, Herk tended to Mard, gently helping her sit up. Then she motioned calm to her Faithful. “Just some water,” said Herk. “She’ll be fine.”

A hushed but vigorous argument broke out around Rill. Sung and many of her Fighters insisting Rill apologize. Rill refusing, vehemently.

“What did the gods have to do with last night?” Rill bellowed. “Nothing! It was those warriors with their muscle and knives and magic. We should arm ourselves and train like them! What good are prayers?”

The argument continued, even after Sung left the Fighters’ huddle. She approached Mard slowly, eyes down, palms out. “My deepest apologies, Elder Mard,” Sung said, kneeling, head bowed. “Rill acted dishonorably. His shame is on me.”

Mard stood, wincing but resolute. “I want to hear him say it,” she spat. Then raising her voice above the argument with Rill. “I want you all to say it!” Mard gestured to Sung, Rill, and all of Sung’s Fighters. “To the Provider! A ritual of repentance! You all are blasphemers, and this has gone on long enough.”

A murmur went through the group of Faithful. Agreement. Maybe “blasphemers” was harsh, some said. But yes, repentance! “Who knows?” one said aloud. “Maybe Providence of the Sea will be merciful.”

Rill went silent. The Fighters looked around at each other, many with looks of shock. Some hesitated or took half steps away from Rill. Others straightened, stood their ground.

Still kneeling, Sung looked up, incredulous, and locked eyes with Mard. Sung seemed about to protest, but Mard cut her off. Keeping her eyes on Sung, Mard called out:

“Most Honored Speaker Oramir! Surely you will preside over the ritual, will you not?”

controlling the mail, or Tommy Tutone’s Rule of Game Mastery

In two consecutive weeks, in two separate campaigns, players were frustrated with the flow of information—NPCs who, in response to PC queries, didn’t give enough or the right kind of information or give it quickly enough. In the first, I was the GM. In the second, I was the player.

So I wonder: What can I as a GM learn? What can I as a player learn?

GM lessons

In the first session in question, I was GM. It was the second session of gameplay in a new campaign. The heroes, still relative strangers to each other, were lost and exposed. A job that was supposed to be ceremonial and not difficult went sideways. A wizard much more powerful than them put them to sleep, stole the item they were chosen to retrieve, and teleported the whole party to an unknown place. There, while they were still asleep, all the heroes’ weapons, armor, gold, and other supplies were stolen. Then, after waking and fighting off a small harpy, they made their way to a lone hut in the distance. Rice-farming lizardpeople lived there.

“I hate these lizardpeople!” one player muttered with a laugh, after a few minutes of roleplaying. This was the first sign the players were frustrated, and it surprised me.

It told me they weren’t picking up what I was laying down. In response to specific PC questions, NPCs hesitated and gave each other tense and meaningful looks.

In hindsight, I could’ve added other details. What I was going for was: this is a night of fear:

They were on edge because tonight was the night the harpies would come to take the villager’s monthly offering of food.

It was also a night of bitter argument:

This family—as indeed the whole village—was being torn apart by this question: do we leave this place for a new home because it’s too dangerous here, or do we stay and fight?

I wanted to avoid saying, “You get the feeling you walked in on an argument” or “They seem on edge or tense.” I hoped to describe it so they came to the conclusion themselves.

I think I needed more and various kinds of details to paint a picture of an interrupted argument. The italics are ones I in hindsight wish I’d added:

  • hesitation in answering

  • sharp-eyed glances

  • bitter remarks from one NPC to another

  • put downs, spoken as if the other wasn’t there

  • brooding silence

  • folded arms

  • derisive huffs and snorts

Or of fear:

  • “Go home! You know what night it is!”

  • Panicked: “You took the incense stick! Go put it back between the grain baskets!”

  • “You killed a harpy?! You’ve doomed us all!”

  • nervous fidgeting and glancing out the window

  • huddled in a corner

  • muffled crying

  • too insistent that “everything’s fine!”

You get the idea.

Possibly, I set too great a challenge for myself. Just one of those—argument or fear—might’ve been enough, but both at once? Definitely I overestimated how clear a picture I was painting. Perhaps I underestimated how anxious the players would be to re-equip and figure out where they were—they just weren’t in a chatty, attend to the emotional state of NPCs mood. There was also the crosswind of the anti-hero PC speculating about killing these NPCs and asserting he didn’t care about them.

There was a lot going on. And I didn’t provide the context my players needed to understand the NPC’s actions. Live and learn.

Player lessons

The very next week, the shoe was on the other foot. I was a player wanting more/faster information out of an NPC.

Obnoxiously, I said in character, “Well, you’re not a very good spy, are you?” (In my defense, it was true to my character, who is an impeached former mayor. Impeached for a reason, including imperiousness.)

But in short, I as a player failed to practice the very thing I as a GM hoped the players would’ve done a week earlier:

stop and wonder, “What’s going on with this NPC? Am I putting them out? What would happen if I got curious about them instead of simply pumped them for the information I need?”

Emotional intelligence. Empathy. Humanity.

Yeah, when I was a player, my character was just a big “give me what I want!” jerk too. In fact, I might’ve been a bit of a jerk toward the GM.

Here was the scene:

Colville: information

Cursed Myth: icon benefit rules

[These are the icon benefit rules we’re using in this campaign.

TL;DR: its an adaptation of 13th Age Glorantha “narrating icon benefits” rules. I also quote below from the 13th Age GM’s Resource Book.

My great hope is that players get comfortable and have fun using icon benefits to add to the story.]

Benefits, even from Random Icons

Roll 1d6 after assigning each relationship point to a number on the die. For example, your character has two positive points with Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng and one negative with King Battlehammer. You gain a benefit with the Emperox on a 1 or 2 and with the King on a 3.

If you miss (rolling 4-6 in this case), then roll 1d12 and gain a benefit with a random icon. If you roll a random icon you have a relationship with (in this example, the Emperox or the King), your benefit is empowered. It's like an old 6, a powerful benefit with no complication.

When you “narrate a benefit,” roll a normal “complication” save. On an 11+, there's no complication. Otherwise, there is.

After gaining a fourth icon relationship point, roll for another benefit when your complication save is a 20. At 5 points, roll for another benefit at  16+. At 6 points, 11+.

[This last paragraph is my addition to 13G rules. It keeps the probability and overall number of benefits roughly equivalent to the standard Core Rulebook rules. It also ensures that gaining relationship points means something.]

Narrating Benefits

We’ll also use this other 13th Age Glorantha (13G) rule: Icon benefits allow players to shape the story, not gain powers or combat bonuses.

Narrating [icon benefits] is the player’s choice; it’s one of the ways...players co-create the story of the game (13G).

Narrate a benefit by adding people, places, things, mystic powers, plots, organizations, and events to the scene or situation. Create new ones on the spot, or call on old ones.

Story Events, not Combat Powers

13G uses the word “narrate” intentionally, because narrated icon benefits are “usually more like story events.”

Your [icon benefit] indicates a direction that the story can take. It doesn’t indicate that your character is full of mystic power to be unleashed in battle (13G).

This point of view is implicit in the Core Rulebook.

The core rulebook generally discusses iconic advantages as things that help PCs overcome story obstacles, provide information, or perhaps avoid fights before they start. They weren’t necessarily designed to provide mechanical benefits to a PC. But sometimes a player wants to use an advantage during battle to help overcome an enemy, to survive the battle, or to help an ally in some way. Unless both the players and GM agree to this type of usage as standard, it’s probably best to limit it to special story  circumstances (13th Age GM's Resource Book).

Narrate benefits as cool, mystic power, as in the examples below. But let that power generally work outside of combat.

Icons as Benefactors

Icons are your benefactors. Though formidable, they need help that only you can give. In return, you may draw on icons’ resources—their servants, secrets, items, and mystic power—to achieve your goals. Or maybe an icon’s agents or organization are a little bit trying to kill you. Then you draw aid from their enemies. When it’s complicated, resources and resistance come from both directions.

  • Find someone or something

  • Discover information

  • Overcome an obstacle

  • Gain help defeating a powerful enemy

  • Avoid combat or start a battle with an advantage

“I Know a Guy.”*

An icon’s secrets, items, or power will most often come to you via their servants: NPCs. So narrate an icon benefit by declaring, “I know a guy!” and sketch that NPC and the relationship. (A few quick points are enough.) It can create moments like Obi Wan finding Han Solo or Han finding Lando, depending on your complication save.

You can also narrate icon benefits as:

  • Flashbacks

  • Magical aid

  • Magical spirits

  • Sentient or semi-sentient magic items

  • Iconic tattoos or symbol


Leverage your character’s One Unique Thing, icon relationships, and backgrounds. Draw on your campaign notes and your character’s factions and NPC relationships.

A robust Creation Night will, I trust, create lots of building blocks for you to narrate icon benefits. The following examples are adapted from 13G.

it's my party, I'll anti-hero if I want to

[In which, while this week I play in my buddy’s 13th Age campaign, I reflect on GMing with anti-heroic Revan in a party of heroes.]


Maybe you read about the last session of my “Cursed Myth” campaign: the roleplaying got intense.

Revan considered killing NPCs who gave the lost, unarmed, and unarmored party food, shelter, and key clues about where they were. One threw Revan out of their house. While Revan was outside, he killed their dog with necromancy.

Revan’s player and I have an open line of communication, since before dice hit the table. He ran his idea past me. Then, at my invitation, he discussed his plan with the group at Creation Night. His bottom line: I want everyone to have fun. As we play, let me know if how I’m playing Revan becomes a problem. After the last session, he reaffirmed this. He also asked me for feedback.

creating Revan

Before the campaign started, Revan’s player asked how I felt about him playing an evil character. I wasn’t against it. I mostly asked questions to clarify how he saw his character.

I also shared this: Matt Colville's "On Being an Evil Character."

He found it helpful. Revan, he said, would be an anti-hero. As Colville described it:

An anti-hero, by contrast, is someone who literally does not want to be a hero. They do not embody the traditional virtues of heroism. They reject them and often openly ridicule them.: But they can be trusted to the right thing because it furthers some necessary goal. You can’t rely on them to be on your side in the grand scheme of things, but for this one mission, you will know they will help, because they have to.

Like Max in Mad Max.

So last session,, Revan was an anti-hero. His player did what he said he would do. In the moment, I was not thinking about this. But afterward, I saw it. Revan killed their dog and helped protect the lizardpeople from the harpies and ogre. The latter, not because Revan wanted to save them, but because he wanted to save himself and his mission.

In the bigger picture of this campaign, I share some of the burden of making Revan fit in this campaign. For one, I didn’t say no but encouraged him. I’d be an ass of a GM to leave him hanging. But also, as GM, that’s the job. Make room for the characters. Make it fun for the players. It’s what I’ll do for each character. It’s just more obvious with Revan.

For the duration of the campaign, I must pull all the strings of the world to make sure Revan’s goals align with the rest of the party’s goals. I have to arrange the pieces so Revan will do the right thing and help them because he has to.

Revan the Bonehook

Cave Elf Necromancer


I lived after a beheading at the hands of the Emperox’s Halos. I have no head, only a haze-filled cowl with a pair of glowing gray eyes.


+2 Wraith Lord
-1 Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng


Former emissary for Necropolis, during the War of Night’s End against the King and Emperox.

I ran the corpse smuggling ring known simply as the Defilement to fuel the Lich King’s army.

Raised by my grandmother who was head of the Drakkenhall interrogation station of the Ministry of Order, Queen Moro-Līanae's spy organization.

the Cursed Skull (Revan’s Faction)


Revive necromancy, bring an end to the ‘Unholy Dawn’ [bring down the Emperox] and initiate the cleansing of Necropolis, and create communities where necromancers can safely live and practice their faith

Icon Relationships

Positive Wraith Lord
Negative Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng
Negative King Battlehammer

creating a campaign that includes Revan

When Revan’s player first asked what I thought about evil characters, I knew almost nothing about the rest of the party. But I did know I’d leave it up to the players which icons were heroes, villains, or ambigiously both.

This is a must for 13th Age, and it’s the first—but not only—step toward a campaign where the characters fit together.

The Rest

+2 Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng

-1 Wraith Lord


-1 Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng

+2 Wraith Lord

I’m glad Revan and his player are part of the campaign. Revan’s OUT and backgrounds add a great deal to the world—things I never would have considered. But for a minute, consider a campaign without him:

  • The main heroic icon would’ve been the Divine Emperox.

  • The Wraith Lord would’ve been a secondary villainous icon.

But as it is, I gotta let Revan shift the icon dynamics of the campaign. What I expected or what his or any other players expected must give way to this truth:

The Divine Emperox and the Wraith Lord are equally ambiguous—about two-thirds heroic and one-third villainous.

Isn’t that a more interesting campaign, anyway?


spoilers follow

I get to have some fun more than one player.

  • The Revan I’ve seen so far doesn’t seem to know about the Wraith Lord’s strong heroic streak.

  • The Oramir and Aso I’ve seen so far doesn’t seem to know about the Divine Emperox’s significant villainous streak.

Add to this, three of five players have negative relationships with Daevos the Cursed Merchant. There’s the main villainous icon. Now I gotta give Revan and Aso reasons to hate a servant of the Cursed Merchant!

Which, I have to say, creating factions alongside characters was a big help. Revan’s character, for example, fully identifies with the Cursed Skull’s agenda. So when Daevos messes with that….well, he better find a bodyguard for his dog.

Now a lot of this is still fairly abstract. What about specific NPCs and encounters? Obviously, there’s more to work out. Or improvise. But getting clear on the bones of the campaign makes the rest easier.

For me, Revan’s player, and the whole group.

Cursed Myth 1.0.1

[Stink’s player was late for this session, joining at the start of the first round of combat. Oramir’s player was very late. Here is the previous (and first) session.]

Harpy and vultures!

As the sun set, the harpy [CRB 234, modded] flew from the north. It circled the adventurers on the small hill and landed atop the northernmost obelisk, taunting them. “You’re tresspassing in our valley. What a tasty treat you will make.”

Unarmed and unarmored, Aso, Duncan, and Revan did not hesitate to join the fight. But strangely, Stink and Oramir stayed hidden in the tall prairie grass. Aso the dwarf abomination made a spit attack but missed. The gloating harpy sang a fiendish song, targetting Aso and Duncan. They took psychic damage, and Duncan was hampered. Revan the necromancer cast ray of frost, dealing cold damage. Then the harpy called to the vultures and they stopped their circling and plunged downward: one each on Duncan and Revan, two on Aso. They pecked and clawed, dealing minor damage. Duncan punched at a vulture and shook off the hampered effect.

Suddenly, Stink lept up from hiding and with two fists attacked the vulture on Revan and killed it. Aso swiped at one vulture with his claw. The harpy exclaimed, “Oh, a fight! This will be fun!” It sang its fiendish song again, damaging Aso and Duncan. Revan frosted the harpy again, staggering it. The two remaining vultures pecked and clawed at Duncan and Aso. This time it hurt. Duncan swung and hit the vulture on him.

Then Stink attacked the vulture on Aso, and Aso finished it off with another claw attack. The harpy screeched in rage and, goaded by Duncan’s sigil, attacked him with its talons, ripping at him painfully. Revan hit the harpy again. Duncan killed the vulture on him.

At last, Stink and Aso swarmed the harpy and killed it. Not much of a threat despite its taunts.

During a quick heal up, the adventurers found Oramir passed out, a large chunk of crumbled crystalline obelisk nearby. They could not rouse him. They also could not discern their location, the west-to-east flowing river was not enough of a clue.

the lone farm hut

Aso shouldered Oramir, and they all started south. Crossing the lively but shallow river, Aso twisted his ankle. Then they climbed many levels of densely overgrown rice paddies, toward what they presumed was a farmers hut up the mountainside. By the time they reached the edge of the cultivated paddies, they stood in shadow. Only the peak of the mountain glowed in failing sunlight. They noticed coy-like fish in these paddies. They heard a dog barking from a kennel behind the hut. Revan wondered about killing the dog. A pungent incense log burned between three bushel-baskets of a rice-like grain.

They saw a flash of movement from the hut’s window and decided on a direct approach. Stink knocked.

“Go away!” a voice called from within. Stink knocked again. “Go away! You know what day it is. Go back to your hut.”

“No,” Stink answered. “We are lost travelers seeking shelter.”

The door opened a crack, and the large yellow eye of a lizardperson came into view. “Close your eyes,” the lizardperson demanded.

“What? Why?”

“Just blink hard like this” and the lizardperson showed them. Stink and Aso complied. Duncan hesitated but finally did too. Revan defied the request, but the lizardperson didn’t notice. “Now drop your weapons.”

“We don’t have any.”

“Okay, then come in quickly! You’re putting us in danger coming here tonight!” They all entered. Revan, last, found a corner to lurk in, holding the insense log from outside. “Hey! Put that back! What are you trying to do?” Revan complied.

The hut was one large room, except for a single closed door leading to another room. In one corner lay mattresses. On a mattress sat a lizardperson holding an infant. Near the center of the room, a table and four chairs. Another lizardperson sat there (later identified as Sung), wary of them. Herk, the lizardperson who invited them in, quickly fetched drinking water. She also brought out some prepared grain for them to eat.

rising tension

Herk gave short answers to the adventurers’s questions. And even though they percieved the lizardfolk as tight-lipped and obstructionist, nonetheless, thanks to Herk, they soon guessed their approximate location. The river in the valley was the Green Star River and the wilderness to the north, the Dragon Wood, they decided. Herk told them the nearest large settlement was a four days journey to the east. It was called Valor, and it was a port on what the adventurers guessed was the Iron Sea. A lizardfolk village was on the other side of the mountain ridge, to the south. Still, the adventurers became impatient. Revan wondered about killing the lizardpeople, starting with the baby.

[In hindsight, I wonder if I should've said, "You get the feeling you interrupted a bitter argument between mother and daughter, an argument about some of the very things you're asking about." Instead, the way I played it was to drop breadcrumbs and wait for players to pick up the trail. Was it too subtle? Did I underestimate players' anxiety to discover their location and resupply? Would being perfectly opaque have sacrificed the dramatic tension between the PCs and NPCs? Or would it have simply given players clearer choices and a better understanding of possible consequences? TBH, it never crossed my mind to say, “You get the feeling…” So how could I play this misunderstanding/conflict of needs next session? Pondering.]

Then they asked about the obelisks. Herk said she didn’t know anything, but maybe Nani Raan did. Nani Raan was sleeping in the other room. Stink went to open the door, but Herk blocked him, as graciously as she could. “It’s late. Nani Raan is sleeping.” Stink and his companions agreed to wait until morning.

Stink asked how long they had lived here. Three years, Herk said with grief in her voice, glancing at Sung and hesitating to say more. Stink cheerfully guessed a tale of woe was involved. Confused, Herk confirmed this and said, the village was considering relocating again, glancing again at Sung. Brigands with eyes painted on their eyelids chased them from their original home and now had found them here.

Oramir suddenly woke up, no worse for the wear.

[Oramir’s player arrived at this point. I didn’t want to break the flow of what I thought was a fun, dramatic roleplay. But I do have a little twist to reveal later, explaining Oramir’s blackout.]

The adventurers asked about the incense and grain outside. “They’re for the harpies,” Herk said. “We killed a harpy,” they said.

Herk’s eyes went wide with fear, clutching the carved wooden fish hanging from her necklace. “You doomed us all!” Sung cried. There were two other harpies, Herk said. And they commanded an ogre.

Revan said something that insulted Sung. She lept up from the table. “Who the hell are you?!” she shouted. “You come into our home, and insult us?! Get out! GET OUT!!” Revan complied, saying he didn’t care about these lizardpeople, he only cared about the mission, maybe he should just kill them.

[I took this as Revan’s inner monologue, nonetheless evident in his outward manner.]

Just then a harpy screech echoed across the valley. Then another. The dog outside began barking. Stink asked if they had any weapons. And Herk quickly produced two knives, which Stink took. An ogre-ish roar sounded outside. The dog barked more. But suddenly squeeled and stopped—Revan killed it with necromancy. “Come out! Come out, wherever you are!” sang the harpies.

The rest of the adventurers went outside to confront them, Sung following…

two harpies and the ogre!

The dark figure of the ogre [CRB 240] began charging up the terraces. As it did, Revan cast terror, and one harpy flew screaming from the fight. The second harpy sang a fiendish song, and Aso answered with a spit attack. Stink charged the ogre and scored a critical hit with his borrowed knife. With his second melee attack, he scored a second critical! The ogre bellowed. Duncan and Oramir attacked the ogre too.

Despite Duncan’s sigil, the ogre swung its big club at Stink, dealing significant miss damage. Revan frosted the remaining harpy. It answered with another fiendish song, weakening Duncan and Stink. The other harpy kept fleeing. Stink landed another blow against the ogre, and then another critical!

[Stink, a ranger, has the double melee talent. In four attacks against the ogre, he rolled a 20, 20, 18, and 20! Amazing!]

Aso, Duncan, and Oramir also kept up the attack.

Staggered, the ogre gave Stink, Duncan, and Oramir a big shove, then partially hit Stink again. Stink was hurting. But Revan and Aso felled the harpy, and the ogre soon fell too.

A distant harpy screech sounded across the valley. It did not return.


As the party congratulated each other and caught their breath, Sung—who had hung back during the battle—went to check on the dog. Finding it dead, she spun and pointed at Revan. “You killed him!”

{Revan’s player immediately said, “I’m going to kill these lizardpeople.” I said, “Okay. I’m going to slow the action down.” To the other players I said, “You see what’s happening. Are you going to intervene?” They hesitated. Revan’s player decided to try to convince her it wasn’t him.]

She might have struck him, if his “who, me?” patter was not so earnest.

[Revan’s player succeeded on a “hard” charisma-based background check. I could’ve realistically ruled it “ridiculously hard,” in which case he would have failed (forward?), but this was maybe for the best.]

Regardless, Revan’s companions grumbled against him, siding with Sung. Just then, Herk came outside, further defusing the situation. Clutching her fish necklace, she shared her grateful amazement with the party, especially Stink. She invited them back inside.

Sung, however, grumbled about the remaining harpy. Stink suggested they hunt it down, and his companions agreed. They asked Herk where the harpy lair was. She said, “We don’t cross the river.”

[I offered the players a choice: pursue the harpy in the morning, or spend a full day on a full heal up. They opted for a full heal up. Which sets the stage perfectly for more fun lizardfolk roleplay in the next session! But before you read that, read this “story interlude” game fiction I shared with players before the next session.]

Cursed Myth 1.0.0

[This and future campaign diaries will be titled with level.full-heal-ups.incrementals. Hence, 1.0.0 for the very first session…level 1, no full heal ups or incrementals taken.]

Ritual Preparation

It was an early spring night. A new moon hung over the sacred Great Tree. Nearby, a lone and extremely rare Lothlúrien lily grew from the dark earth covering the new grave of elf Queen Moro-Līanae.

Less than a week earlier, elves sang laments for this great leader. For half an age, she kept the peace while maintaining the elves’ fierce independence from the world’s feuding superpowers, led by dwarf King Battlehammer and human Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng. But on this night, they gathered for another purpose. To perform the ritual to initiate Othlonnôl, the mythquest that would identify the late Queen’s successor and grant the Orb of Leafblood needed for that successor’s coronation.

[Read the full player- and GM-created backstory.]

The elves’ honored guests—

  • Oramir the Seer, a Speaker (holy one cleric) of the Gold Spear Covenant

  • Duncan Flametorn, human swordmage of the Defenders

  • Stink, goblin ranger of the Goblin Liberation Front

  • Aso, dwarf abomination of the O Men

  • Lord Belderone, human diplomat (bard) of the Divine Emperox’s Halos (who had, in fact, been kidnapped and replaced by Revan the Bonehook, cave elf necromancer of the Cursed Skull)

[Read full descriptions of characters and their factions.]

—gathered in a large tent-pavilion and met for the very first time. Elven poets and artists bore witness. Attendants adorned the guests with garlands of flowers, butterflies, and oversized blades of grass.

The Ritual Master, Anu Indorim, greeted them and began to explain the Othlonnôl:

“You will not be traveling in time, only in myth itself. You will become Esselda the First Elf and Beraldăron Treesaver and the Astaldalim. You will save the root cutting of the Minya Galadhon, First Tree, commune with Aearanna, defeat Gûlrymsúl.”

Then a commotion outside the tent interrupted her. She sighed heavily, excused herself, and went outside to investigate.

Inside, the poets leaned closer to spy, but the adventurers stayed still and quiet. They heard raised voices. At least two individuals seemed arguing with each other and raising objections with the Ritual Master. They felt the guests were unprepared for or unworthy of—the details were unclear—the Othlonnôl. The clearest bits they heard were, “…that disfigured dwarf…” and “King Battlehammer’s only concern is peace and safety.”

Meanwhile, in one corner of the pavilion, a male elf attendant quietly encouraged a nervous female elf attendant. She steadied herself, then approached Aso. Blushing and gushing, she finally said, “Here, this is from the Lothlúrien,” and suddenly reached out and dabbed a cool fragrant substance behind Aso’s ears. Surprised and awkward, he thanked her. Then she retreated quickly as the Ritual Master returned.

The Ritual Master Anu Indorim apologized and continued:

“Aearanna will tell you who she has chosen to succeed the late Queen. And only after you defeat Gûlrymsúl will you find the Lassercë, or Orb of Leafblood. And the Othlonnôl will end. And you will return here. To yourselves and to great honor.”

She then introduced a young servant, the very same who approached Aso, and said, “Lyana will teach you the epic poem.” Which she did.

The poem told the myth of the birth and rebirth of the elves. It also outlined for the adventurers the stages of the Othlonnôl mythquest, which they would either witness or enact.

  1. Esselda the First Elf is awoken by the world.

  2. Gûlrymsúl rises. Esselda is betrayed beneath wounded Minya Galadhon, First Tree. Beraldăron, aided by the world itself, saves a root cutting of Minya Galadhon and escapes across the western sea.

  3. Cîr Galadhon, Second Tree, thrives in new land. Aearanna blesses elves by sea.

  4. Gûlrymsúl and his spider army find Cîr Galadhon. The Astaldalim kill him, but not before he grievously wounds Cîr Galadhon.

  5. Aearanna heals Cîr Galadhon with a drop of her blood, the Leafblood.

At last, near midnight, the adventurers were led in solemn procession, surrounded by elven singers, to the ritual location. They recited the epic poem, and reality faded away…

Othlonnôl mythquest

[13th Age Glorantha, heroquest rules]

1. Esselda

[skill challenge]

Aso became the star/tinwë, falling and piercing a great leaf. Duncan became the leaf/las, bleading much blood which ran down to the root of the tree. Oramir became the root/thond, pushing into the earth. Stink became the rain/thalos, which carved a cave beneath the roots of the tree. Revan became the cave/feleg, gathering the blood into a pool. Despite a few failures, together, they became Esselda the First Elf, naming the Star, the Tree, and the Cave.

Then they became themselves, and Esselda drew near to Oramir, whispering: “Kill me kill me kill me end it help me.” Oramir tried to talk to Esselda but the First Elf became more insistent in begging. The adventurers wondered, “Was this part of the poem? No?” and they began to worry about this broken myth. Meanwhile, the muttering Esselda suddenly drew Oramir’s sword and and slew herself. Esselda collapsed into Oramir’s arms, they both began to fall and with them the rest of the adventurers, falling and falling into darkness…

2. Beraldăron must survive and escape with the root cutting

As if in a dream, the adventurers suddenly saw a beastly giant—Gûlrymsúl, they knew. He was exallting over a dead Esselda under.Minya Galadhon, First Tree—its majestic trunk an interweaving of many trunks, its roots spread wide across the surface of the ground, a delicate sprout growing up from a root not far from this scene. Feleg, Esselda’s son who betrayed her to Gûlrymsúl, stood nearby. Then with violent joy, Gûlrymsúl began pummelling the tree with his massive fists.

Then suddenly, the adventurers were far away from this scene and on the opposite side of the First Tree. They could see it shaking with Gûlrymsúl’s blows, but Gûlrymsúl, Feleg, and the sprout were hidden from view by the great tree’s woven trunk. Stink became Beraldăron, who had to save the sprout and survive the coming battle. The others became the will of the world around, aiding Beraldăron.

[I told players their victory conditions for the battle, and gave them +1 to background checks for each success from the previous scene.]

Battle began, and Aso and Revan stayed back as Stink/Beraldăron snuck closer and Oramir and Duncan shielded him. But Feleg [Gnoll War Leader, CRB 229] was alerted, and running across the roots, he attacked Oramir with a heavy flail. As Oramir counterattacked Feleg, Duncan rushed forward and cut the sprout free. Stink/Beraldăron followed and took the root cutting from him. Aso approached and made a spit attack against Feleg. Revan approached too and threw a spell at Feleg.

Then Gûlrymsúl joined the battle. With a terrifying stride closed the distance to Oramir, Gûlrymsúl [Fire Giant Warlord, CRB 227] and swung at him with a deadly greatsword. Stink/Beraldăron let loose an arrow at Feleg, then turned and ran with the root cutting. Duncan pinned Feleg down. Aso rushed in to attack Gûlrymsúl but ineffectively. Revan threw another spell at Feleg.

Stink/Beraldăron kept running. Duncan held his own against Feleg. But suddenly Esselda rose as a ghoul, another sign of a broken myth. She fought Duncan alongside Feleg. Oramir swung at Gûlrymsúl, and Aso landed a fierce claw attack on the giant. But Gûlrymsúl repaid Aso with a smiting blow, killing him. And looking up, Gûlrymsúl locked eyes with Revan, grinning.

Gûlrymsúl strode forward, grasped a struggling Revan and lifted him to his face, sniffing. “Yes, yes,” Gûlrymsúl said, and then he licked Revan’s face with his giant tongue. Revan’s Lord Belderone disguise fell away. And Gûlrymsúl placed him back on the ground, opposite the other adventurers and said, “Kill them.”

Revan hesitated, indecisive. And just then, Stink/Beraldăron escaped from the field of battle and the scene dissolved like smoke in the wind…

3. Communing with Aearanna

The adventurers, rejoined by Aso, witnessed another dreamlike scene: Beraldăron’s journey west, crossing the sea, replanting the Second Tree, then dying of old age and being buried beneath it while it was still quite young but thriving. All of it matching the epic poem.

But where the poem said the party would commune with Aearanna as she blessed elves by the sea, they found no Aearanna, no blessing, no sign of which aspirant to the elven throne she had chosen. Instead, they found three elven children, between 10 and 12 years of age. One, a wood elf boy, was crying. Another, a high elf girl, was yelling in anger. The last, a cave elf boy, sat catatonic on the ground, staring at nothing.

The adventurers were at a loss. Then, the wood elf boy cried, “Don’t leave us here alone!” And the high elf girl yelled, “We’re all alone! We’re on our own!” Stink moved forward and led the group in picking up the children and carrying them as they walked through emptiness.

Suddenly, the children were gone. The great Second Tree, much grown, appeared behind them. To their left and right stretched a host of elven warriors. Before them, Gûlrymsúl, flanked by a great spider army…

4.Kill Gûlrymsúl before he kills the Tree

Aso became Ulmellon; Stink, Thû Eruvao; Oramir, Domwë; Duncan, Eärendur, Servant of the Sea; and Revan, Núro Firn-i-Guinar. Together, these mightly elven heroes battled Gûlrymsúl as the elf and spider armies clashed all around them.

[In this battle, players received a bonus equal to 10 minus the ending escalation die value from the previous battle, or 7. So they received a +7 attack bonus and a x7 multiplier for the damage they delt. The damage.Gûlrymsúl delt was divided by 7.]

As the battle started, Revan/Núro Firn-i-Guinar declined to attack Gûlrymsúl But Duncan/Eärendur cast blurring sigil on Gûlrymsúl, and thereby drew all the giant’s attacks.

The first blow Duncan/Eärendur landed against the giant brought Gûlrymsúl to a knee. But the giant took hold of Duncan/Eärendur’s hand which wielded the flaming blue sword. Gûlrymsúl plunged it deeper into his great body, closed his eyes breathed deep, and seemed to draw his dtrength again. He pulled Duncan/Eärendur’s blade free. The blue flame was gone from the sword, and when Gûlrymsúl opened his eyes again, blue flame flickered in them! Duncan/Eärendur was stunned. Gûlrymsúl roared with rage and delight and charged the Tree.

Nonetheless, the combined strength of the heroes soon overwhelmed Gûlrymsúl. He did little damage to the Tree, before they killed him dead. The scene shifted…

5. Retrieve the Orb of Leafblood

The injured tree was repaired, and the adventurers approached to retreive the Orb of Leafblood. They found it, but it was wrong—more a limp and discolored sac of fluid than the proper orb they expected. Stink stepped forward and took it.

As soon as he did, a voice from behind the adventurers said, “Give me the orb.” They turned to find a masked figure, dressed in bands of tight-fitting cloth, with a quicksilver staff. The figure was unlike the rest of the people they had encountered in the mythquest. While everyone from Esselda to Gûlrymsúl appeared fuzzy and dreamlike, the figure appeared as they appeared to each other: sharp and real.

“Who are you?” Duncan demanded, as Stink stepped behind his companions.

“Give me the orb,” the figure repeated.

“Who are you?” they demanded again.

“I’m sorry,” the figure said and, with a flick of the quicksilver staff, cast sleep on the party. One by one, they fell unconscious…

Aso alone

All except Aso. Instead, he was overwhelmed by the powerful fragrance of the Lothlúrien lily as the skin where Lyana had touched him tingled. The figure gaped in shock.

[In a separate room from the rest, Aso’s player and I finished this scene.]

The figure recovered and quickly moved to the sleeping Stink and—eyes on Aso—bent down and took the orb.

“What are you doing?” Aso asked. “What is this about?”

“I’m sorry,” the figure said a second time and flicked the quicksilver staff again.

Aso saw the mythquest dissolve and the real world resolve. He was in a place he’d never seen before, but he wasn’t alone. His companions—still sleeping—were with him. And the mysterious wizard who held the Orb of Leafblood. And a waiting troop of goblins.

“Do not kill him,” the wizard ordered. Then, stepping closer to Aso, he said in a low voice, “This was the only way.” He stepped back.

Aso declined to fight, and the goblins clubbed him and the world went dark….


Everyone but Aso woke up.

It was near-dusk. They were in a valley, on a small hill or large mound surrounded by eight 30-foot-tall dark purpleish crystal obelisks—ancient, some broken, one toppled outward onto the ground. The hill was covered in prairie grass, some two or three feet tall. They heard the sound of a lively river nearby.

They scared a couple of large vultures away from Aso. A few more vultures circled overhead.. They roused Aso and tended his wounds,. He told them what he saw before being knocked out.

They puzzled over the trampled grass where the goblins apparently waited, but found no trail marking the goblins’ or wizard’s departure. They decided they needed shelter.

While they got their bearings—noticing rice paddy terraces on the slopes across the river and a lone hut above them—they heard a screeching scream in the distance. Then, closer, the same screeching scream again.

A harpy!

The party prepared for battle, realizing that all their weapons, armor, gold, and other supplies were gone…

{Here is the next session.]

Cursed Myth: the History

[The players and I created this history for the Holy Dragon Empire at Session Zero: Creation Night, using Book of Age’s “Engine of Ages.” It took a round or two before the players warmed up and caught on.

This post includes the history I shared in the campaign document. Others describe the characters and their factions.]

History of the 13th Age

As recorded at Creation Night, etc.

9th Age: Age of Omen

the O Men: silvertongued saviors

With silver tongues and moral suasion, natives of Omen interrupted the Lich King’s Omega Ritual that threw the Midland Sea into turmoil. Called the Big Stop, peoples across the world sent grateful tribute, including the Black Pearl of Charlemaigne and Black Diamonds of the Red Wastes. Giants sent a wondrous material called Snuwu.
Legacy: the O Men: O Men, the faction, endure.

Gold Spear Covenant mind-meld with O Men

Narut Vilika of the Gold Spear Covenant and Jules (yoo-less) Pradlove of the O Men were the first to forge a mystical connection of shared memories and feelings. Soon greater numbers shared the connection, bringing the factions together. Though the mystic bond faded, a kinship  already developed, creating tension with their allies, including between the Covenant and their icon, Orn the Misbegotten.
Legacy: Order of the Diamond:There remains an order of mystic clerics within the Covenant, called The Diamond. To this day, Diamond masters pass on the practice of mystical connection with O Men to their apprentices. Considered fools by the rest of the faction, they seek The Deep Bridge, which they believe is the powerful source of this mystic connection and likely a manifestation of some much earlier alliance or treaty.

9th Age ended

Massive storms and tidal waves across the Midland Sea destroyed trade routes and ushered in an age of isolationism and fear of the sea.

10th Age: Age of Blood

the Old Imperial House expelled the Defenders

The Defenders served the Old Imperial House. But when the Defenders wanted to do something about Flying Castle, Emperor Bruffington VIII laughed at this and expelled the Defenders from imperial service. The Defenders constructed a small catacombs in this age, called The Reminder. Bruffington VIII is kept locked inside.
Legacy: Sigil Mastery: The Defenders mastered Sigil magic in this age, and built the North Tower Sigil Academy alongside The Reminder.

Goblin Liberation Front learned “family” from the Defenders

Toejam the Wise learned the concept of the family as alternative to the horde when he witnessed The Wedding between Defenders. Defender’s tutored goblins to organize as families. But it all went wrong when this transformation led the Defenders to sell goblins as slaves to icons all across the land. The Big Sell is remembered as a Goblin Diaspora.
Legacy: Mad Potato God: The Defenders sent each goblin away with one potato, and the Cult of the Mad Potato God endures to this day.

War between the Cursed Skull and the Gold Spear Covenant

When the Gold Spear Covenant tried to evangelize and convert the people of the Necropolis, Orin the Corpseslasher disemboweled the leader of the evangelists, Thaddeus the Lighthorn. Orin and the Cursed Skull sent them back as zombies. When zombie Thaddeus and his zombie evangelists returned to the Cathedral, and the High Priest of the Sacredest Days mobilized a Gold Spear Covenant army in response. The war ended after grinding to a stalemate at the six-day-long Battle of Demon Coast. Thaddeus' uncle, Thanos Lighthorn, the supreme general of Gold Spear Covenant forces was slain at that battle. A peace accord was soon  signed.
Lair: the Nightmare Marsh: The blasted and body-strewn field of the Battle of Demon Coast became the Nightmare Marsh. It remains a cursed and dangerous place, filled with spirits, remains of the dead, and detritus of battle.

Dwarf civil war & the scandalous rise of Battlehammer the Half-Blood Bastard

When Dragon Emperor Bruffington VII’s eldest daughter, Kyara the Sharp wed, dwarven Queen Stonewall was in attendance. Nurin Lightfoot--a commoner, an imperial footman, and an elf--caught her eye. Battlehammer was born nine months later. When Queen Stonewall died suddenly, her heirs took up arms, and Battlehammer won the civil war, a time called the Shattered Gem.
Legend: Blood Succession: Succession of all kinds and at nearly all levels of dwarven society is determined by a fight to the death. The victor is the Blood Successor.

10th Age ended

The dwarven civil war spilled across the land and embroiled the whole world.

11th Age: Age of Betrayal

the Defender’s Icon Disgraced & Defamed

Daevos the Cursed Merchant out-witched the Lightning Witch. Lightning Witch and Daevos had an agreement: he protected the northern Iron Sea coast. But Daevos betrayed her, pillaging the coast and turned lands against her. Daevos’ Pirate Captain Red Eye was especially hated. Everyone thought he served the Lightning Witch. All remember her as cruel and mad, but the Defenders know the truth and even now are trying to win back their trust.
Legacy: the Witch’s Gift: The Lightning Witch enchanted the northern Iron Sea coast to protect villages there from spirits and wraiths. It’s called the Witch's Gift.

11th Age ended

Volcanoes erupted, with gouts of hellfire and demon-bile. Crops failed and famine stalked the land.

12th Age: Age of Night,
Age of Dawn

One emperor falls in folly & another rises in faith

At the start of the age, when Axis the great city sitting in the belly of a volcano was not destroyed, hubris seized the Old Imperial House. And lo, though the Lich King laid siege to Axis, Emperor Blad the Foolhardy led the Charge of Ronallon Fields astride his great gold dragon mount, Xoldex. They and the whole imperial army were slaughtered and soon rose as undead. Panic seized Axis. But one nun, Ani Xìnyǎng, brought calm in the chaos. She and her sisters gathered all the people they could into Axis’ temples of light. These and the Dragon Throne itself were miraculously transported to Santa Cora in the Exodus of the Faithful. Ani Xìnyǎng was soon coronated Divine Emperox.
Legacy: Gods’ Rescue: And thus it is said that in times of great requirement, one of true faith or desperate need can travel in gods’ time from any holy imperial church, shrine, or temple to the Emperox’s Cathedral.

the Goblin Liberation Front lost “family” but found God

Much was lost in this age, including countless goblins killed in the Great War. With them died the dream that goblins could be anything but a horde. But surviving goblins took refuge with Daevos the Cursed Merchant and were welcomed by his lieutenant Choadington. Through it all, the Goblin Liberation Front held onto potatoes and faith, especially potato growing rituals. Each potato patch has its own potato god. The Blessed Red Potato!
Legend: Gobtopia: A story endures from this age of a mysterious group of goblins called the Lost Family who refused the hospitality of the Cursed Merchant. Staying true the vision of goblin families, they settled in Gobtopia.

an Alliance of O Men and Dwarves

After the Lich King corrupted the island of Omen, natives hailed the dwarves, led by General Osmi the Bearded, as liberators. The Colasi was created at this time, a guerrilla unit of Omen-native resistance fighters and dwarf special ops, who landed in advance of the invasion. Once the O Men relied on their silver tongues, but in this age had to become militaristic, pick up weapons and use actions, not words. The scythe became the weapon symbolic of this transformation.
Lair: Chamber of Ba'lor: O Men and dwarves digging and using undermining as an weapon against the Lich King stumbled upon the Chamber of Ba'lor. Many dwarves died, and their special section of the Cemetery of Heroes is called the Great Tunnelers of Thalu.

Elves are brought to faith by the Gold Spear Covenant

Wartime cooperation between elves and the Gold Spear Covenant sparked a revolution in elven faith called The Great Covenanting. The gift that sealed the relationship came from the Gold Spear Covenant, who built hundreds of small shrines called Elven Ancestor Fanes across the elven wood that claimed traditional elven religion as part of the human pantheon. It all went wrong, however, because it lacked Queen Moro-Līanae’s blessing. The shadowy AntiFanists led by a cave elf crypticly named Grey Rune were widely thought to be supported by her.
Legend: Saint Sybileth and Astarwë: Elves still sing the heartbreaking Ballad of Saint Sybileth and Astarwë, a tale of star-crossed love between a Gold Spear Covenant evangelist and a young traditionalist elf and the enchanted Rings of Lost Love they exchanged.

Gold Spear Covenant fails to reconcile with Elves

While the vast majority of the Covenant refused even to acknowledge the divide with elves, Covenanter Sylvia Traegen assembled a shadowy task force to work with them. Her goal, collaboratively to rebuild Ancestor Fanes in ways that would be more pleasing to them. But she soon learned these AntiFantists just want to watch the world burn. Meanwhile, elves and Covenanters alike remember Tumin the cunning Gold Spear warrior who, at the Battle of Five Seasons in the Giant Walk, turned the tide of battle against Lich King forces.
Legacy: the Parchment Circle: Sylvia herself continues to lead a group of Gold Spear Covenanters and elves who, to this day, gather to read scriptures together.

the Cursed Skull all but destroyed

In their time of weakness and disarray after the Lich King was destroyed, the Cursed Skull were preyed upon by the Divine Emperox’s necromancer-hunting Halos, led by the Godhand. But the foundation for the Cursed Skull's return was laid when Drogo Rottmaw took the reigns. Aware of the danger to the whole organization when Revan was beheaded, Rottmaw took the Cursed Skull underground. And seeds of doubt were planted between dwarves and humans.
Lair: The Lich King's Tomb: The Cursed Skull carried the remains of their fallen lord to Drakkenhall, where they created The Lich King's Tomb. It became rallying point for the faction.

12th Age ended

The Lich King and his Necropolis was destroyed.

13th Age: Age of ???

Written by the GM

A long night of undeath ended and a new age began when Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng’s holy warriors and sacred white dragons and King Battlehammer’s stouthearted armies and Stonehearted Knights conquered the Necropolis and cleansed Omen.

But the alliance of humans and dwarves soon broke. Instead of drowning the Necropolis in the sea, as the King insisted, the Emperox raised the Lux Aeterna over its ruins and gave the island to the Children of the White. The King consolidated his hold on Omen and declared a protectorate in Glitterhaegen. What she rebuilt, he undermined. Where he sent his Stonehearted, she gave her Graces.

Half an age later, King Battlehammer rules the proudest, most prosperous, and most powerful dwarven kingdom in six ages. Forswearing his forebears’ isolationism, he seeks a lasting peace through strength and curses Xìnyǎng's weakness as boding another cataclysm.

From her Santa Cora Cathedral, Divine Emperox Xìnyǎng presides over a resurrected Holy Dragon Empire. She evangelizes trust in the gods and an unarmored peace and fears that, in fighting the monster, Battlehammer became the monster.

Both vie for lands and souls across the world, including Queen Moro-Līanae's, who until her death fiercely maintained elves’ independence while avoiding war. Now the world awaits news from the Great Tree…