Cursed Myth: the Characters

{After receiving the campaign document with custom icons, players created their characters and factions. Nobody could wait until Creation Night, so it was done individually and with online conversation.]

Oramir the Seer

a Speaker (holy one cleric) of the Gold Spear Covenant

OUT

My right eye was blinded when I was touched by the bright gods. Now that eye sees visions of the gods’ realm.

Icons

+1 Divine Emperox Xìnyang
+1 Orn the Misbegotten
-1 Daevos the Cursed Merchant

Backgrounds

Successfully defended Guanyin’s Kruko Temple in Glitterhagen from a Cursed Merchant attack on the 1,000th year festival

Compelled confession from David Fillion, the Halos’ bookkeeper, for the Divine Emperox

Revan the Bonehook

cave elf necromancer of the Cursed Skull

OUT

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

Icons

+2 Wraith Lord
-1 Divine Emperox Xìnyang

Backgrounds

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.

Duncan Flametorn

human swordmage of the Defenders

OUT

I slayed the Pirate Captain Crookshanks. When I wrenched my sword from its lifeless corpse, the flame on my sword had turned blue.

Icons

+1 Vallankumous, Lightning Witch
+1 Varda Starkindler
-1 Daevos the Cursed Merchant

Backgrounds

Youngest Defender to learn Sigil Mastery at Academy in the Northern Tower.

Defeated Obran to win the Defender’s Gauntlet in the recent summer games on The Isle of Champions.

With Ragnus & Estrid, discovered ‘The Floating Plateau’ while editing the Lightning Witch’s 27th Quinquagenary Map of All Known Threats to the Midland Sea.

Stink

goblin ranger of the Goblin Liberation Front

OUT

Somewhere in a forgotten sub-basement of the Emperox's Cathedral is a dusty, cobwebbed, all-but-ignored little shrine... to Stink.

Icons

-2 Daevos the Cursed Merchant
+1 the Silver Master

Backgrounds

Escaped from Daevos the Cursed Merchant’s goblin horde to sanctuary on the kitchen staff of the Silver Grotto (which is pretty much just a different kind of goblin horde).

As a deacon in the Cult of the Mad Potato God (a minor cult in the reformed branch of the goblin religion), has served in the Victorious Worship on the 1st of Jubilation.

Aso

dwarf abomination of the O Men

OUT

I was touched by the Lich King, and I lived (sorta).

Icons

+1 Children of the White
+1 Divine Emperox Xìnyang
-1 Wraith Lord

Backgrounds

Historian of magic items at the Vault of Antiquities in Forge when the Heist of Ogdor occurred.

After being captured at the Battle of Twin Bridges during the War of the Cimmerian Night, I endured a Lich King POW camp in Omen.

Worked at the Cemetery of Heroes after the cleansing of Omen.

Cursed Myth: Campaign Document with Custom Icons

the Elf Queen is Dead!

Now an Orb of Leafblood is needed to choose her successor. You, the adventurers, are a group of delegates from around the world assembled at the elven Great Tree to retrieve that Orb. It’s a cere- monial task, a diplomatic mission, a great honor and not difficult.

a Contested Age

What will secure the future: the grace of the gods of light or the might of dwarves? Faith or fortresses?

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…

Character/World Creation Night

The first session, we’ll fill in the world and your characters’ OUTs, backgrounds, and icon relationships with juicy story possibilities. This will inspire your roleplaying and my NPCs and their plots.

  • What has your character chosen: faith or fortresses?

  • What faction and NPCs sent your character on this mission? Why did your character go?

  • How has that faction shaped previous ages?

Feel free to work on your character in advance. Or do nothing to prepare. We’ll work on the rest together.

Races

Feel free to pick any of the races below.

Humans, Dwarves, and Elves have prejudices about each other, to say the least.

Forgeborn: Dwarves know the Stonehearted Knights won the war and now ensure peace.

Holy Ones: Humans know Speakers are rare but when they “speak” for the Gods of Light, they also heal.

White Dragonics: Humans know Graces, gifted from the Children of the White after the war ended, are apostles of pure compassion.

Halflings: Elves know sneaky little hobbitses are spies!

Alleykin (cat people), Arcanites (humans warped, augmented, transformed by or just exposed to way too much arcane power), Beastblooded (descendants of werewolves and other lycanthropes), Fauns, Fairies, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Lizardpeople, Spiritborn (half mortal, half elemental), Tiefling, Trolls, Twyzyog (fungus people), Unholy Ones.

How is your character’s race perceived? Come to Creation Night with ideas.

Classes

Dark Pacts & Ancient Secrets classes are available, as is the Demonologist class from the 13th Age Book of Demons.

Icons of the Holy Dragon Empire

Feel free to choose any icons. Bring ideas about their goals and relationships to Creation Night. Why did elves invite that icon to send an emissary? What did that icon send you to do?

the King & the Divine Emperox

rule superpowers, rivaled only by the other. They divide the world: faith or fortresses? All other powers have chosen a side—or no side, with its own costs.

Oromë the Huntsman

is the ferocious wood elf protector of the Elven Wood, vying to succeed Queen Moro-Līanae. He aims to forge an alliance with Battlehammer, ready elves for war, and expand their lands.

the Silver Master

is the charismatic cave elf holy man, vying to unite high, wood, and cave elves under his teaching. He satiates the brutal gods, purifies elven rivers, forests, and caves, and inspires his people to strict righteousness. Often more esoteric than sinister, he is favored by Santa Cora.

Varda, Star Kindler

claims astral power not known among elves since the mystic-kings built the now-ruined Grey Towers. An outsider and a high elf, she vows to chart a course for elves by the stars, beholden to neither dwarf nor human.

Children of the White

are the white dragon stewards of balance and paradox. Liberated from the Lich King by Xìnyǎng and revered as sacred by holy doctrine, they gifted her with white dragonic Graces. Others respect them as bringers of inspiration or fear them as sources of madness. Now they gather their lost siblings, but for what purpose?

Wraith Lord

is master of ghosts and spirits but just a shadow of his late liege. Whether lauding Battlehammer or Xìnyǎng, all agree that liches, zombies, and all corporeal undead—and yes, even necromancy itself!—are extinguished forever.

Father of Shadows

is a mystery. Parents tell stories of him to scare their children to obey. Respectable, hard-working people blame him as mendacious inspirer of all wastrel poets, bards, and actors. (Many of whom defiantly claim him.) Spies and assassins invoke him as patron. All with something to hoard or hide fear him. But who is he and what does he want?

Glaurung the Dread Savior

is the greatest and most terrible of all gold dragons. Unattainably pure, mercilessly just, and unreachably distant, he leads orders of blameless to slay demons and sinners alike.

Orn the Misbegotten

is the bastard of bastards and the only hope of the untimely born and disfigured, Orcs, failures, miscreants, and heretics. Many call him a noble brute, protecting outcasts and mocking the arrogant and powerful. Others, just a sadistic fool.

Vallankumous, Lightning Witch

is the grandmother of sorcerers and eldest sister of blue dragons. For a searing millennium, she was a catalyst of transformation, both magical and political. But the churn and chaos of the long night of undeath all but undid her. Sequestered now in her tower in Drakkenhall, she herself must evolve or fall.

Talhuik, Mother Druid

nurtures life, heals creations’ wounds, and stewards an abundant and fertile earth. The Grandmother, her great river, carries the water of life to Santa Cora, and its delta blossoms with more grandeur, some say, than the Cathedral. Those who say so also warn that the underworld waters Battlehammer depends on are also Talhuik’s.

Daevos the Cursed Merchant

and his itinerant brethren will sell you anything your heart desires. Sometimes they accept payment in gold. The most ruthless bandit deals respectfully with a lone man on the road with a laden mule. To rob him is to tempt fate. To refuse an exchange? Oh, but certainly you need something, my child! Dried meats, a knife, a length of magical thread, a promotion, a blood curse on your enemies? For you, I make a deal.

campaign preview & Session Zero plan

My gaming group includes veterans of other systems and relative roleplaying newbies. All of us are still learning to lean into 13th Age's narrative foci--icons, one unique things, and backgrounds.

I ran our first 13th Age campaign. which grew out of a one-shot adventure. When it started, I gave players no guidance.

Throughout the campaign, I felt like I was struggling with character cohesion. For example, their icon relationships were all over the place. The players gelled and have been having fun throughout our 2+ years of campaigning. But I always felt the characters' connections to each other and the setting were weak. That in turn seemed to make everything harder: creating memorable NPCs, creating interesting icon benefits and complications, exploring OUTs.

Part of the challenge was simply me being a brand new GM. Another part of it, I've been telling myself, could be improved with a better start.

One of the hardest parts about dungeon mastering is...letting go of the story.
— Mike Shea, aka Slyflourish, "Random Creativity in Dungeons & Dragons"

Letting go of the story to make room for players to contribute... this was the most important thing I learned while creating this preview.

Originally I identified demons as the main threat. But I eliminated all those references, so the players could decide. In the first draft, I pinpointed the location of the Goldenfields on the Dragon Empire map. I ditched that too.

I included brief descriptions of a handful of NPC residents of Riverborough. I took them out, so they wouldn't take up narrative space the players might want their characters to occupy. I replaced it with a generic list of Riverborough backgrounds to inspire players for creating their own NPCs. Then I took that out too.

CW's  Supernatural . Artist unknown.

CW's Supernatural. Artist unknown.

I also described in more detail the "vestiges of ancient magic," the racial make-up of Riverborough, and pika. But I took that out, so the truth could be determined by the players' character-creation choices.

In other words, the map image above and the pentagram at right...they both have nothing to do with this campaign.

I'm excited for session zero! I'm eager to be surprised by where the players take it!

Slyflourish's Lazy Dungeon Master helped give me confidence to start GMing 13th Age. My campaign preview is indebted to his "Session Zero of Tomb of Annihilation."

The 13th Age G+ community gave great feedback on the first draft.

Mother Wyrm: Icon of the Radiant Empire

I never appreciated more what 13th Age designers created in the Dragon Empire icons than when I tried to write up my own custom set. This is my favorite of what I've created.

It's unfinished. For example, I'm considering "Wyrmskald," instead of "Mother Wyrm."

And I wonder: does it work to combine singer of the song of creation with the fool? What works about it is this ambiguity--does Mother Wyrm really sing the song of creation? And why would she want you to think she does? A secret search for fragments of creation opens interesting possibilities--the real deal (or a real threat) hiding behind a mask of theatrics or an impostor desperate for legitimacy? Then again, maybe creation's song is a distraction while she pulls the rug of mass public support out from under the serious icons.

Let me know what you think.

Mother Wyrm

Mother Wyrm is the white dragon songmaster with a cunning intuition for captivating the masses. Her laudators claim she sings the very song of creation. That she sang kobolds and draconic peoples into being and even now prepares to sing a new song. But does she?

Quote

“The truth? I always sing truth—the truth they will remember.”

Usual Location

Wyrmsong, an island in the Noxious Sea.

What Everyone Knows

Songs are sung with resonance and dissonance. So also, Mother Wyrm’s song.

Take for example, her dragons. Many dragons respect and freely follow Mother Wyrm—white dragons, of course; but also, other chromatic dragons: blues who turn from the Lightning Witch, greens independent of the Stewardship, blacks undominated by the Queen of the Deep; and those metallic dragons who want to participate more deeply in the world than the detached Noble Eyrie. Among these dragons are what many would call “good” and others they’d call “evil.”

Mother Wyrm’s bardic academies are no different. Vivacity, for one, has no less than 31 academies. Some large and well-respected, producing composers and playwrights noble houses compete to sponsor. Others are no more than one half-drunk “songmaster” with two or three orphaned “apprentices.” Academies split and reunite. Great poets feud in public. It’s all quite entertaining. And somehow, it all serves Mother Wyrm’s ageless song.

Of course, there are those who claim she is a charlatan, a liar and manipulator. Creation's song is lost, or is what the Stewardship stewards, or is not a thing mortals can master, only surrender to. When the subject comes up, some of Mother Wyrm's own followers flash a wink and a grin. Is it a joke? And if so, who is it on?

Adventurers

Many bards have a relationship with Mother Wyrm, for or against. They need not be trained in one of her academies. In fact, she often favors the street busker over the classically-trained.

Adventurers who serve Mother Wyrm and her song gain celebrity, whether they want it or not. Or infamy if not fame. Sometimes her agents masquerade as agents of other icons. After the mission goes dramatically off-script might adventurers suspect Mother Wyrm. Or maybe only when they hear tell of their own exploits from her bards. Especially when her factions clash, they hire hapless adventurers.

When Mother Wyrm’s agents properly hire adventurers, the task tends toward theatrics. Recovering lost fragments of creation may be her only quests that don’t involve playing to an audience. Otherwise, it’s whatever makes for better stories.

For

Once, Mother Wyrm and the Lightning Witch competed like the sisters they are. But now some say Mother Wyrm sings her sister’s comeback..

No one seems to know whether Mother Wyrm and the Sister of Secrets are allies, rivals, or enemies. Perhaps all three.

And it’s said, Valkyrie laughs at none but Mother Wyrm’s jokes.

Against

When it comes to Mother Wyrm, the usually-affable King Hammerhelm loses his sense of humor and the serene Silver Master loses his cool. The Noble Eyrie distains Mother Wyrm’s chaotic, undisciplined interference in the world, while the Stewardship resents her claim on creation. The Divine Empress' theologians also take issue, but some say their clash is about power, not doctrine.

Every tale needs a good villain, which is why Mother Wyrm loves the Vampiress.

The Real Threat

What would happen if Mother Wyrm began the song of creation’s grand finale? Or if the fool became king?

Why 13th Age

13thagecompatible.png

"You guys play D&D?" A friend asked me and another friend. He was new to town, still playing a 4e game online with the group he moved away from, but interested in gathering a new group to play in person.

"I'm in," I said. When I was in middle school, the satanism scare led my parents to forbid D&D. But I loved the art, the imagination, the chance to be with my friends in the kind of stories in the books and movies I loved. I played anyway: a handful of sessions. In high school, another handful of sessions. We spent more time creating characters than playing. I wanted more.

"D&D is out. Pathfinder is in!" said the owner of our local game store, the very next day. My friend and I were convinced. We left with a Pathfinder starter box, and started a campaign. He GMed. I played an elven cleric. It was a blast, except for all the time we wasted looking up rules and modifiers and shuffling 10 pages of character sheets.

"There's gotta be a better way," I thought. I started researching other systems. I discovered Mike Shea. He was running his 13th Age "Moonwreck" campaign and blogging about it. I bought Lazy Dungeon Master and the 13th Age Core Rulebook. I listened to 13th Age co-designer, Rob Heinsoo GM. The 13 True Ways Kickstarter had just concluded: the community was energized. I was hooked.

What I love about 13th Age is the balance of story and math--icons, one unique things, backgrounds, and d20 mechanics with just enough crunch.

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What was hard about 13th Age is that it was designed for experienced GMs. When I started GMing 13th Age:

  • I didn't know when a background check should be based on Intelligence vs Wisdom. 
  • I was not ready to improvise (and neither were my players).
  • I didn't know how to use icon relationship dice.

I played through the awkward and relied on Mike Shea, Rob Donahue, Wade Rockett, and the G+ 13th Age Community. It was worth it.

Now the characters built for a 2015 St. Patrick's Day 13th Age one-shot are just about to ascend to 9th level. One of those players is GMing a level-five 13th Age campaign, the first I've ever played in. Running a session is now easier than the logistics of keeping a gaming group going over time--a pretty good gauge of GM competence and confidence.

It's a great way to waste time with your friends. And if I can give anything back to the community or help someone else get into it, that's icing on the cake.

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.

Chasm: dwarf underworld city

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A special offer for blog visitors.

Four pages of adventure-inspiring fun!

archmageengine-v3_RGB.png
  • a description of the dwarf underworld city of Chasm
  • reasons your player characters might go there
  • a couple of icon-influenced adventure seeds
  • a few NPC sketches
  • a handful of tavern names
  • options for travel scenes
  • three magical items
  • a wondrous item, and
  • a unique potion.

The true nature of the Chasm adventure(s) is up to you, dear GM, and what suits your campaign. You also get to build your own battles!

The dwarf underworld city of Chasm is compatible with The 13th Age Roleplaying Game and is easily ported to any other fantasy RPG system.