Today we take a look at one of the most useful resources to any 13th Age GM: The Game Master’s Screen and Resource Book. Join us as we crack the cover and talk about what you can expect to find inside and whether or not we think it’s worth picking up.
In this week’s episode, we take a peek inside of the newly released 13th Age Glorantha book then spend some time chatting with its creators Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet about it.
To listen to our prior discussion with ASH Law and Rob Heinsoo about 13th Age Glorantha when it was still a kickstarter, check out S1 Episode 5!
And if you want to pick up a copy of 13th Age Glorantha, you can wait until it’s available in print at your local gaming store (like Petrie’s Family Games), or you can purchase the PDF online at either Chaosium or DriveThruRPG.
It’s wonderful to be back in the studio again! When we first started the Iconic Podcast, we did a short segment on who the hosts are (you can listen to the original Session 0 here). And as we’re starting again with Season 2, we thought it’d be good to do the same thing to give an update before we dive back into all things 13th Age!
Almost two years ago, we published one last interview (with John Marvin). And today, we have an exciting announcement! This month, the three of us (J-M, Nick, and Mark) are headed back into the studio to begin recording Season Two of Iconic!
The stars have aligned, schedules have cleared, and there is a ton of new 13th Age products.
Starting in April, expect new episodes of Iconic goodness twice a month! We have great guests lined up, a solid schedule of episodes and reviews, and are looking forward to getting back into the show.
We look forward to hearing from all of you on show topics, interests, and gaming in general.
Greetings Long Time Iconic Fans! In case you did not know, John Marvin, of Dread Unicorn Games, has a new 13th Age Kickstarter going on called Gods and Icons. J-M loves John’s adventures for Numenera. So we came out of retirement to do a quick interview with him, to give you a bit more insight into this project (which is already funded and working on stretch goals)!
- John, thank you for taking time out to do this interview; we have heard that managing a Kickstarter is a full time job.
Thank you! And yes, it’s more like 2 full time jobs. I like to thank each backer, and I’m always coming up with new stretch goal and achievements graphics, talking with people, answering questions. Kind of like this interview.
- Your previous endeavors have been for Numenera, although there were clearly some 13th Age influences. What precipitated this new product for 13th Age?
I love both games, and I’ll go back to Numenera in a few months, but 13th Age is so much fun and I kept hearing people complaining about Icon Relationship rolls. I think icon relationships are one of the great storytelling aspects of 13th Age, and really help tie the player characters to the world.
Have you ever played a D&D campaign where you never heard about anyone important besides the guy giving you a quest at that moment? Or one where there are all these cool kings and queens, or at least your GM think they’re cool, but they really have zero to do with your player characters and their adventures?
Icon relationships fix that, by tying PCs to some of the great powers of your world. Powers players choose, so that helps steer your campaign in a direction they are most interested in. I get sad when I hear of 13th Age games where they don’t use icon relationships because they are too hard.
So, Gods and Icons to the rescue!
- For those who have not yet checked out the Kickstarter page, can you explain how this will be a useful tool for GMs and players?
While Gods and Icons is a GM tool, there is a Gods and Icons Player’s Companion that has information a character would know.
For GMs, Gods and Icons has pages and pages of suggestions on icon relationship roll results. We have sections on how to pick the perfect result for your story at the moment, and we have old school tables where you can just roll.
This is for when you, as the GM, get stuck. I’m running a fantastic 13th Age campaign at the moment, and I like to think I’m a master at improvisation, but when my players all roll lots of 5s and 6s, I can have 10 icon relationships to deal with.
So you can pick up your copy of Gods and Icons and quickly jump to a cool result.
I think we’ve pretty well covered boons (5s and 6s) and complications (5s) for dungeon crawls, but I like to mix in a lot of urban intrigue, so some of the in-town results you might have to re-roll if you roll, for example, a faction working for an opposed icon that wants to insinuate a spy NPC into your party. Maybe that’s not what you want. Pick the next result or roll again.
And then there’s the gods. These three pantheons offer a lot of story hooks, especially for clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers. But any character might want to give thanks to the gods, or curse them.
The Player’s Companion has what a typical adventurer knows about the gods, which pantheons are on the rise, and which have been pushed back to the hinterlands. Plus advice on how players (not GMs) can spend icon relationship results.
- As written, 13th Age has steered away from playing with a pantheon of gods, instead focusing on the Icons. What made you decide to include them and provide three pantheons?
I love world building, and in a game with clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers, there is a lot of implied religion. The core book suggests you pick any gods you like from other sources and use them. Gods and Icons has gods that fit a 13th Age campaign. We’ve got religious backgrounds, icons that worship particular gods, and so on.
I was going with two pantheons, kind of a “by the old gods and the new,” thing, but Vanessa Rose Phin, suggested that three pushing against each other make for more interesting storytelling opportunities. Vanessa has a degree in history, and really pulled out all the stops. These are not just another retread of the Greco-Roman deities.
We’ve got the Old Gods, who used to be supreme, and even in places they have faded away from, there are lingering elements of their worship that affect people who would never admit to following them. They work well with druids.
The Thirsty Gods were more warlike and pushed the Old Gods aside. They too have been pushed from the top dog position, but not everyone has moved on. A great choice for those who want to play outsiders with a bone to pick with the current dominant religion.
The Bright Gods came in with the latest wave of colonizers. The ruling class is (at least publicly) behind the Bright Gods, and most of the people have fallen in line. Great for clerics and paladins.
- You’ve indicated this book has been in playtesting for quite some time. How have you seen it improve the gameplay and story creation at your table?
Variety. It helps keep me from falling into a rut. “Oh here, your icon sent you these healing potions.” Or “You are short of magic items, your icon sends you one.” Or “Your icon has enemies, and here they are.”
Those are all great icon relationship results, but it’s easy for all the results to be the same. You’re the GM, you’ve got an adventure to run, you’ve got “go to” icon results, and so you use them again and again and again.
Since working with Gods and Icons, so many of my results deal with information. Even if the end result is to equip the wizard with a new magic staff, often they receive information on that staff. It might be told to them in game, or in flashback, where a clockwork owl came visiting the wizard back when she was in town. The staff might be sitting in a treasure trove, or it might be in the fist of an evil wizard that will need to be overcome. The complication of a 5 might be that the staff needs a ritual to cleanse its demonic taint or that a rival wizard seeks the staff for themselves.
Lots of choices, so it’s not the same every time.
- How much of the content is aimed at GMs compared to players? Why did you balance it that way?
70% GM, 30% Player? I haven’t done a word count. It’ll be easy to see once I pull out the information for the Player’s Companion.
The core idea was help with icon relationship rolls. Which is often, but not always, in the hands of the GM. Our first stretch goal, which was hit, was to include a whole section of advice for PCs spending icon relationship rolls, often in the heat of battle.
For PCs who care about the gods, especially clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers, there is a lot.
By word count, the icon relationship results aimed at the GM is probably 50% or more of the book.
- I (J-M) have always been a fan of the Dhampir as a playable race. What can you share about your take on the half-vampire?
Me too! I was in a Pathfinder campaign and the restriction on healing for that take on the Dhampir felt like punishment to my friend who played it. So, none of that.
I see dhampirs as tough to kill, so I gave them an in battle recovery about as powerful as the dwarves’ That’s Your Best Shot? using different mechanics. I call it Dhampiric Regeneration. The champion feat to improve it works off being engaged with a staggered opponent, which make it feel like a type of life draining ability. You’re going down, and I’m going up.
They have a second racial power, Identify Vampire. Quite useful in the right situation.
- Can you share what sort of stretch goals do you have in mind if this Kickstarter continues to do incredibly well? (perhaps a clearer idea of what you mean by ‘more sections of text and more art’ – more playable races, magic items, etc?)
Well, they’re supposed to be secret. But since it’s you guys…
Yes, more magic items. As I’m writing this, we’re $5 from the Holy Swords stretch goal. Not just a collection of holy swords, but a framework to build them to match your PC, campaign, and/or gods. So by the time this is read, that’ll be in the bag.
Next up is a big magic upgrade with 17+ new true magic items and 6 new potions.
After that we have plans for short fiction. With so much crunch, we need some fluff. Two stories, one by me, one by Vanessa, that tie in with our gods and our icons.
We want more art, and to upgrade our black and white art to full color. What do typical churches look like? How about more of the gods?
We have a lot of suggestions for consequences when you roll 5s, but we’d love to double them. Lots of GMs find 5s harder to deal with than 6s, so let’s go big with consequences.
There’s more stretch goals planned, but we want to keep some secrets.
I’m intrigued by the question of more player races. If anyone has suggestions, please put them in the comments section of our kickstarter.
- Do you have any thoughts about future products similar to Gods and Icons?
How about The Gods Have Spoken: Deities and Domains for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons? http://dreadunicorngames.com/games/the-gods-have-spoken/
And I’ve always thought of Gods and Icons as a test case for 13th Age. Now that I see a 13th Age supplement is successful, I have a ton of ideas I can go forward with. Adventures, an adventure path, a new world (which is hinted at in Gods and Icons), and on and on.
- You’ve produced some fantastic adventures for Numenera, do you envision converting these adventures for 13th Age? Or writing new adventures for 13th Age?
The Sun Below the 13th Age? :) I hadn’t thought of that, but you could do a Barrier Peaks thing. 13th Age players really need to meet slithiks…
But new adventures, yes. You know the quick ten session campaign where each session you go up a level? That could be fun, and each 1 session adventure could be used by people doing normal campaigns as well.
- Thanks again for doing this interview. Anything else you would like to share?
I miss the Iconic Podcast!
Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. Here’s the short URL for my kickstarter: http://kck.st/1plSFLO
If you’d like to find out more about John Marvin or Dread Unicorn Games, you can go to:
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads & Icons of Parsantium
Disclaimer: these pdfs were graciously given to Iconic by Richard Green for review. All opinions within the review are our own.
Although Iconic is on hiatus, we still love looking at 13th Age products. Richard Green contacted us about reviewing his products, and we jumped at the chance to check out the Parsantium books: Parsantium: City at the Crossroads and Icons of Parsantium.
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads
Parsantium: City at the Crossroads is a setting created with Pathfinder stats in mind, but ended up being mostly system neutral. But whereas many other authors expand and explore an entire world or region when creating a new setting, Richard takes an in-depth look at one large, Byzantium-esque city.
The book itself is 178 pages of double-columned text with a spattering of images that do a decent job of invoking the setting and spurring the imagination. It’s laid out into six main sections: City at the Crossroads, Life in the City, Running a Campaign, Gazetteer, Organizations, and Religions.
City at the Crossroads
This introductory section gives a high-level overview of what the city of Parsantium is about. It explains the history of the city, including a well-rounded timeline of events, introduces the thirteen races that are present in the city, and provides a number of possible player backgrounds. Each of the races and backgrounds are explored just enough to lay a good foundation for GMs and players to craft a memorable story at the table. Personally, I liked the inclusion of gnolls as a we’re-not-evil-just-misunderstood race and the fun-loving, mischievous race of simian humanoids, the Vanara.
The backgrounds each have a stat bonus which is designed for the Pathfinder RPG, but it would be easy enough to adapt this mechanic to most other d20-based systems.
Life in the City
This section provides the overarching framework upon which the rest of the city is built. Here you also find out about the ruling and political systems, laws and punishments, customs, superstitions, trade and currency, entertainment, festivals, etc. Most of what is introduced in this section is flushed out more thoroughly in the Gazetteer section, but I can see this chapter being a useful tool to provide to players to help them be immersed into the setting.
Running a Campaign
If I had to decide which section sold me on this product, this would probably be it. One of the key concepts covered in this chapter is that Parsantium is a living, breathing city that will continue to function with or without any PC involvement. Once that idea took root in my mind, the rest of the book really came to life for me. This chapter also suggests a number of campaign themes you could use, the locations in Parsantium to which PCs are likely to frequent, and the main features of the city. The descriptions and themes explored here are very evocative and give just enough information for one’s imagination to springboard off of.
At 70 pages, this one section definitely carries the bulk of the product, and is a prime example of the incredible thought Richard put into this setting. He takes us through each of the three Quarters in the city (and the immediate area outside the city) and provides an in-depth look at each of the eleven Wards within those Quarters. Each Ward is almost a smaller city within Parsantium as each has its own unique aspects and interests. Adventure hooks abound in each of these Quarters and Wards as there’s usually two or three people passing by that could use some help. The concept of Parsantium being a living location is really felt in the details and descriptions of this section.
There are a myriad of forces and powers (some hidden and others not) that vie and fight for control of Parsantium, while other groups are content to simply help better each other’s lives. Each of these groups and organizations are dissected in this section, and you are left with a good understanding of how they all interact and many adventure hooks to engage the PCs. A couple of organizations that stood out to me in particular were the Brotherhood of Spite (a group of toy-making gnomes and goblins who secretly compete with each other on how creatively and covertly they can kill or maim with their toys and pranks) and the Raksashas (a group of raksashas who have infiltrated positions of leadership within the city awaiting the return of their master). It’s doubtful a group of PCs will encounter all of the organizations listed here, but if you were to ever sense attention waning, you have plenty of exciting options to choose from here.
What setting would be complete without taking a look at the major religions and beliefs of its denizens? More than thirty gods of the different cultures and races are revealed in this section. Included are things like alignment, iconography, temple location, high priests, and the like. The segment for each god follows the pattern of the rest of the book in that it gives enough information to latch on to but isn’t all-inclusive, allowing each GM to tweak the setting to best fit their table. One religion/god in particular amuses me in that the followers (mostly aristocratic women who find this the current fad) think they’re worshipping one god but are unknowingly following a different, bloodthirsty god instead. This information is only revealed to those in the highest circles of that religion.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Included with your purchase is a full-color map (which clearly depicts the different Wards). This map can also be found within the book, spread across two pages, but having it as a separate image is a handy tool.
If you have been looking for a more civilized area for your gaming table to explore, or if you want a high-fantasy version of Byzantium or Rome, we highly recommend checking this book out. You won’t want for ideas and hooks, and the next story arc will always be just around the corner. This product is well worth the cover price of $19.99, and you can get it from a number of online vendors and have the options of getting the PDF and/or a softcover print version.
Icons of Parsantium
Icons of Parsantium is a 45-page PDF available from Drivethrurpg or Paizo for $3.99. While not exactly a standalone product, as it is designed to adapt Parsantium: City at the Crossroads to 13th Age, there is a lot of material in here that is worth it for any 13th Age GM or anyone running a Parsantium campaign.
The book opens with an introduction by Rob Heinsoo, which lends a lot of 13th Age gaming cred to this supplement. From there, Richard jumps right into an overview of the 15 icons of Parsantium, as well as giving you a bit of advice on how to tweak them to suit the needs of your campaign.
The main part of the book is, as you would expect, the icons. You can expect the same type of information you are used to from the 13th Age core book as they are laid out similarly. I feel Parsantium’s icons are tied more strongly into the setting material, which makes sense as this covers one city, while 13th Age covers the whole of the Dragon Empire.
You also get a series of suggestions for relationship rolls by icon. They can serve as inspiration, theming, or even just get a GM out of a jam for the session. The suggestions laid out here are helpful even when resolving any Icon Relationship Roll.
The book finishes up with a glossary and some secrets just for the GM about the icons. This allows you to print out the icon sheets for your players and not worry about spoiling anything story-wise for them.
Icons of Parsantium is a must-have if you plan to run a 13th Age game in the rich environment of the City at the Crossroads. But it is also very useful for non-Parsantium GMs. Just having access to 15 additional, fleshed out Icons makes this product worth the price. Switch out the standard 13 or mix and match to create a flavor unique to your campaign.
Also, as noted earlier, suggestions on relationship dice are broadly applicable and serve as a great format for GMs to create their own cheat sheets.
In summation, Iconic loved these products. If you are looking for a city to drop into your campaign, just icons, or a complete setting to sell your group on, check out the Parsantium products.
You can get a taste for what’s covered in the books by visiting parsantium.com, which is also where you can find links for purchasing the books.
Join us as we wrap up Season One of the Iconic Podcast by reminiscing over our favorite episodes and where we are all at just over a year later. We would love to hear feedback on what was your favorite episode or part of this season, so send us an email or leave a comment! And a huge thank you goes out to all our listeners!
This week we take a look at Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System. We explore how the mechanics of the previous books (Numenera and The Strange) are built upon and modified in this newest addition to MCG’s product lineup. We also discuss our favorite new mechanics that are introduced.
We did a review of the Numenera Rulebook in Bonus Episode 9, so be sure to go back and listen to that for an overview of why we like the mechanics of Cypher and how it works.
You can purchase the Cypher System Rulebook online or at your friendly local gaming store!
As always, a special thanks to Petrie’s Family Games for sponsoring our podcast. If you ever find yourself in the Colorado Springs area, stop on by!
We give an overview of the gaming system and give our perspectives as why we like it so much!
As always, a special thanks to Petrie’s Family Games for sponsoring our podcast. If you ever find yourself in the Colorado Springs area, stop on by!