Monday, September 29, 2014

[13th Age] Goodbye, Half-Orcs; Hello, Beast Folk?



Just a little thought-experiment here, something I'm contemplating for my own version of the Dragon Empire after reading some online discussion of half-orc origins:

13th Age gets away from the problematic origins of the traditional D&D half-orc by explaining the species not as the product of sexual violence but as a High Druid-initiated immune response to the return of the Orc Lord and the concomitant rise in orc populations. Walking, talking lymphocytes, if you all.

As a way of avoiding the inscription of rape into the game setting, this certainly works. But it does raise a new question: why use a breeding-related term for the resulting species of pseudo-orcs? Obviously the answer is "because 13th Age tries to preserve the sacred cows of D&D tradition whenever possible," but that meta-explanation doesn't make much sense within the fictional context of the Empire.

What I'm thinking then (and I suspect a Google search would demonstrate that I'm in no way original here) is to recast the half-orcs as an entirely different species: beast folk. The precise appearance of the beast folk is still up for grabs: they could just look like brutish humans with excessive body hair and pronounced canines, or they could have many more animal features, features that might be tied to specific subpopulations (a wolf group, a deer group, etc.).

But the advantage of either approach is that the existing half-orc stat block (bonuses to either STR or DEX and the Lethal racial power) can apply to the beast folk concept without any changes needed. The beast folk backstory also nicely maps onto the existing half-orc one: the beast folk of the frozen north have frequently been enemies of the Empire, but with the resurgence of both the Orc Lord and the High Druid, the Emperor has seen fit to make peace with his former foes and to support them against the hordes on their borders. (Especially since the Dwarf King's attention to the orcs frequently wavers based on whatever is bubbling up beneath his delvings that week.)

Thoughts?

Friday, September 26, 2014

[13th Age] One Unique Thing, Rat Queens Style



I can't be the only person in the world who thought "One Unique Thing" when reading this panel of Hannah and Orc Dave in Kurtis Wiebe and Rob Upchurch's Rat Queens #5, can I?

[13th Age] 13 Pregens



As I recently mentioned, I'm in the process of producing thirteen pregenerated first-level characters for use with 13th Age. This series is partially intended to be a resource for other 13th Age players: the characters can be used as springboards for other characters, as NPCs for GMs in need of a contact or some such, or even as characters in their own right. But it's also meant for me to get outside of my ranger-shaped comfort zone and try my hand at some concepts I don't normally explore.

At present, 13th Age has fourteen races (aasimar, dark elves, dragonics, dwarves, forgeborn, gnomes, half-elves, halflings, half-orcs, high elves, humans, tieflings, and wood elves in the main rulebook; tywyzogs in the Bestiary) and fourteen classes (barbarians, bards, clerics, fighters, paladins, rangers, rogues, sorcerers, and wizards in the main book; chaos mages, commanders, druids, necromancers, and occultists in 13 True Ways) in print. I'm going to ignore the tywyzog and the occultist for the purposes of this experiment, giving me a nice round thirteen by thirteen grid of options.

Here are the thirteen characters in order of their creation:

1. Sergeant Kesek, 1st Level Dragonic Commander

2. Red Nose Roger, 1st Level Human Ranger

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

Feedback is of course welcome, and I'd love to hear if anyone ends up making use of the characters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

[13th Age] Red Nose Roger, 1st Level Human Ranger



Something I've been toying around with in my head for the last month or so is a series of thirteen first-level 13th Age characters—partially as a means of really familiarizing myself with all of the classes and races in the game, but also as a way to provide starting pre-gen characters for the larger 13th Age community. Putting together the stats for Sergeant Kesek, the dragonic commander, convinced me that I needed to follow through on this idea, and this post is thus the second in the series.

I'm a big fan of rangers as a class, especially when they're given access to pets. (My time playing a dwarf hunter in World of Warcraft is a big factor here.) Since I've already created a fourth-level ranger with the Animal Companion talent (Mim the gnome and her woolly rhino Loth), I thought I'd opt for something smaller this time round and go with Ranger's Pet as the core of the character. At which point I realized that I could generate a rat-catcher, everyone's favorite career from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and give 13th Age fans game stats for the notorious "small but vicious dog."

A vermin hunter isn't the typical ranger hunter archetype, but then again the sewers of the Dragon Empire are nowhere near as tame as our more mundane sewers—albino alligators would be the least of a sewer-dweller's problems! So the Empire needs brave (desperate) heroes (losers) to journey below and protect its cities from drainage-dwelling monsters.

Red Nose Roger, Human Ranger

Level 1

STR 12 (+1), CON 16 (+3), DEX 18 (+4), INT 10 (0), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 8 (-1)

AC 18, PD 15, MD 11

HP 30, Recoveries 8 @ 1d8+3 per recovery

One Unique Thing: After my nose was bitten off while cleansing the Horizon sewers, the Archmage gave me a orichalcum replacement. Now I smell things that aren't there.

Icon Relationships: Archmage +1, Emperor +1, Prince of Shadows +1

Backgrounds: Born a beggar on the streets of Axis +4, kitchen drudge for the Imperial Court +4, licensed as one of His Imperial Majesty's Rat-Catchers +5

Racial Power: Quick to Fight

Class Talents: Favored Enemy (defaults to beasts), Ranger's Pet, Tracker

Feats: Favored Enemy (Adventurer), Ranger's Pet (Adventurer)

Basic Melee Attack: +5 vs. AC, 1d18+1 damage, 1 miss damage (iron-bound cudgel) or +5 attack, 1d6+1 damage, 1 miss damage (excessive knife)

Basic Ranged Attack: +5 attack vs. AC, 1d6+4 damage (sling)

Gear: Leather armor, iron-bound cudgel, excessive knife, sling, 25 gp

Roger's backgrounds give him ins with the urban poor and the servants dwelling downstairs in the houses of the nobility. His efforts to stop a particularly bad infestation in one of the Emperor's palaces led to his appointment as an Imperial Rat-Catcher—a license that has taken him to the sewers of all the cities on the Midland Sea. It's this third background that was picked up with Roger's urban variant of the Tracker talent: as suggested by the folks on the 13th Age Google+ page, the text of Roger's Tracker talent reads "urban" where the book says "wilderness" and vice versa. To gain facility in tracking beyond the city walls, Roger will need to acquire the relevant feats (now inverted to cover wilderness environments). Roger's backgrounds account for his positive Icon relationship with both the Archmage and the Emperor—but a man can't spend as much time in the sewers as Roger has without developing a working relationship with the Prince of Shadows as well. Roger just never mentions this to his superiors in the Imperial Household.

Snapper, Small but Vicious Dog

Abilities: Counter-bite, Tough

Snapper was obviously destined to take the Counter-bite ability, but I also wanted him to have that irrepressible mutt quality. I therefore used Crooked Roger's second feat choice (the one he got from being human) to purchase the Adventurer feat for Ranger's Pet and cover the two ability slots needed for Tough. The result is a nasty little bastard who will nip anyone getting too close to his master.

Monday, September 15, 2014

[13th Age] Sergeant Kesek, 1st Level Dragonic Commander


William O'Connor kicking it.

One of my favorite aspects of Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons was the game's inclusion of the dragonborn as a player character race. Humanoid dragons are a logical extrapolation of the typical D&D universe—that they weren't core before 2008 has always surprised me. (Does it have something to do with the perception that a breath weapon ability is overpowered? I can't say.) Anyway, I loved everything about the race and made my first Fourth Edition character a dragonborn warlord named Sergeant Kesek.

When I picked up 13th Age, I was pleased to see that dragonborn had made it into the game in the form of "dragonics" or "dragonspawn." But the game did not yet have a warlord class analog ... until the commander came along in 13 True Ways. I've got my PDF copy of the book at last (waiting on the hardcopy), and I thought that I could test-drive the class by putting together a 13th Age version of Sergeant Kesek. Here goes ...

Sergeant Kesek, Dragonic Commander

Level 1

STR 17 (+3), CON 14 (+2), DEX 10 (+0), INT 10 (0), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 16 (+3)

AC 16 (17 w/shield), PD 13, MD 14

HP 27, Recoveries 8 @ 1d8+2 per recovery

One Unique Thing: I'm the sole survivor of the Crusader's Brimstone Falls campaign ... and the Diabolist is the one who saved me.

Icon Relationships: Emperor +1, Diabolist +1/-1, Crusader -1

Backgrounds: Hard-bitten mercenary sergeant +4, carouser extraordinaire +2, specialist in dragon lore +2

Racial Power: Breath Weapon (quick action, close quarters, +5 vs. PD, 1d6 fire damage)

Class Features: Command Points, Fight from the Front, Weigh the Odds

Class Talents: Armor Skills, Combat Maneuver (Carve an Opening), Martial Training

Commands: Rally Now!, Save Now!, Try Again

Tactics: Basic Tactical Strike

Feats: Fight from the Front (Adventurer)

Basic Melee Attack: +4 vs. AC, 1d10+3 damage, 1 miss damage (2-handed glaive) or +4 attack, 1d8+3 damage, 1 miss damage (1-handed longsword)

Basic Ranged Attack: +1 attack vs. AC, 1d6 damage (short bow)

Gear: Half-plate armor, shield, glaive, scimitar, short bow

If I've done my build right, Kesek is a lead-from-the-front Sergeant Striker figure—John Wayne with scales. His OUT is based on the vestigial backstory I developed for his original Fourth Edition incarnation: he and his fellow PC Cynfael (human rogue) were the only survivors of the massacre of Sulech's Heartbiters. Here I tied it into the Crusader's conflict with the Diabolist: Kesek hates the Crusader for the debacle at Brimstone Falls, but is not sure why the Diabolist saved his life. Was it just a whim of hers, or is he somehow part of her long-range plan to unleash Hell on the Empire? Either way, he owes her a life-debt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Klarkash-Ton Is Up in Your Canon



Just discovered today that S. T. Joshi has edited a collection of Clark Ashton Smith's stories and poems for PENGUIN FRICKIN' CLASSICS. What a great 45th birthday present! Say "hello" to my next ENGL 1119 "Literature of Fantasy" syllabus, Mr. Smith!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

[13th Age] Gnome Ranger Mim and Her Woolly Rhino Loth



Back when I played World of Warcraft, my character was a dwarf hunter—primarily because of my penchant for woodsy characters. I soon discovered the charms of pets, though, an enchantment that has reached the point of RPG evaluation criterion. (Seriously! I find myself judging games based on how easily they integrate pets among other companion NPCs.) Although my character had many pets, including a six-legged alligator named Crocostimpy, his favorite was the woolly white rhino he picked up from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Said rhino was named Alexei (after Marvel Comic's Rhino), and his most charming feature was the nearly subsonic thundering sound made by his feet as he charged around Azeroth.

So I was thrilled to realize, while making a Ranger for a 13th Age game at my FLGS, that I could reskin the Boar Animal Companion as a Woolly Rhino. (All Animal Companions in 13th Age share the same base stats, being differentiated only by a single trait; this makes diversifying one's pet beyond the six book options extremely simple.) Because the only thing cooler than having a rhino as a pet is riding one's rhino pet, I opted to make my character a gnome. Here are the current stats for Mim the ranger and her rhino Loth:

MIM, GNOME RANGER

Level 4

STR 13 (+1), CON 15 (+2), DEX 18 (+4), INT 10 (+0), WIS 15 (+2), CHA 10 (+0)

AC 20 (22 vs. OA b/c Small), PD 17, MD 14

HP 72, Recoveries 10 @ 4d8+2 per recovery

One Unique Thing: I know what the North Wind is saying

Icon Relationships: Archmage +/–1, Dwarf King +1, Orc Lord –1

Backgrounds: Woolly rhino wrangler +4, Frost Range guide +4, Flunked out of illusionist school in Horizon +2

Racial Powers: Confounding, Minor Illusions, Small

Class Talents: Animal Companion x2 (woolly rhino), Lethal Hunter, Two-Weapon Mastery

Feats: Animal Companion x3 (rhino adds Escalation Die to attacks, rhino can attack 2x in a round 1x per day, rhino has +1 to PD and MD), Extra Backgrounding (increases to "Woolly rhino wrangler" and "Frost Range guide") Two-Weapon Mastery (adds level to miss damage)

Basic Melee Attack: +9 attack, 4d6+2 damage, 8 miss damage (2 hand axes)

Basic Ranged Attack: +8 attack, 4d6+4 damage, 4 miss damage (thrown hand axe)

LOTH, MIM'S WOOLLY RHINO

Level 3

AC 19, PD 18, MD 14

HP 45

Companion Power: +1 attack when Loth moves before attacking

Basic Melee Attack: +9 attack, 3d6 damage

Mim has had three Incremental Advances since she began play, adding both a feat and a talent as well as increasing her hit points. She also has a few magic items she's never really used in play (they're objects the other players/characters didn't want, and they don't fit Mim's theme); I didn't bother including them as a result.

I'm really happy with the combined effect of Mim's One Unique Thing and her Backgrounds: they give her the wintry effect I was after as well as defining how she differs from the stereotypical gnome. Finally, it's quite clear to me that animal companions are one area where 13th Age has it all over Dungeons & Dragons: the latter game's CR 1/4 limit on a Beastmaster Ranger's companion choices has really undermined what's cool about animal companions in what appears to be the name of game balance.