using icons

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.

Creating NPCs in 13th Age

I've been playing with ideas for creating NPCs from 13th Age characters' one unique things, backgrounds, and icon relationships.

I created a chart, inspired by the "Icon Relationship Master Chart" on page 36 of the 13th Age Core Rulebook (or pages 13-14 in the SRD version 3.0). It's a nine block grid--heroic, ambiguous, and villanous icons crossed with positive, conflicted, and negative relationships. Each block offers a handful of seeds for growing NPCs, starting with a character's icon relationships. That seed really comes to life when added to character OUTs and backgrounds.

You can download the chart here. Examples are included.

I wonder, what if NPC creation was part of a "Session Zero" or "Character Creation Session"? Players could be involved in the process too. A chart like this could be really useful.

I haven't playtested this, so I'm open to feedback.