Gods and Icons Interview

GodsAndIcons

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)!

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  • 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

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If you’d like to find out more about John Marvin or Dread Unicorn Games, you can go to:

Gods and Icons Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1plSFLODread Unicorn Logo
Dread Unicorn Games on Facebook:
On Twitter: Follow @dread_unicorn
Dread Unicorn Newsletter: Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/bIMtRL
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E19: Encounter Creation

13thAgeMonstersMarchingWe’ve had a number of listeners put in a request for an episode on encounter creation, and we were happy to oblige! In this episode, we start at the beginning and talk about what an encounter is.

13thAgeMonsterIcons

A great tool that is at your fingertips to use in your 13th Age encounter creation is the monster page on Pelgrane’s website and the Monster SRD.

We also discuss how 13th Age balances the encounters mechanically and create three encounters you can use at your table!

[expand title=”Adventurer Tier“]
Level 2 Encounter

Use in any underground, moist environment (sewers, cavern at bottom of well, crypt, marsh cave, etc)

Hooks:
Need to gather Fungaloid spore (for ritual, etc)
Troglodyte has something an Icon wants back (it killed/ate a courier and stole the item, etc)
Something/someone is in cave(rn) and is well guarded

DC15 to notice trap
On failure, Trog Chanter ambushes them (gets a free attack before initiative is rolled)
On success, you expose Trog Chanter

When escalation die is even, roll a DC15 Dex check. On a failure, the character slips on the slimy, underwater surface and is vulnerable. It is a move action to stand up (and is no longer vulnerable). Does not provoke opportunity attacks.

Players

Trog Chanter

Aerial Spore

Sporrior

3

1

5

0

4

1

8

0

5

1

8

1

6

1

8

2

Trog Chanter (13th Age Core Rulebook p247)
The stories say that trogs developed their hideous stench to escape from being a slave race of the dark elves. Certainly the trogs hate dark elves, the way any cold-blooded predator hates a former tormentor. But trogs really hate dwarves. If a dwarf is slain in battle, that counts as a trog victory, even if the trogs had to ally with other creatures they loathe to kill the dwarf.

For All troglodytes
Trog stench: Trogs spray scents that stink so badly that other humanoids take penalties to all attacks, defenses, and saves when engaged with a troglodyte or when nearby three or more troglodytes. Non-humanoids usually aren’t affected.

Humanoids affected by trog stench can make a normal save at the end of each of their turns (though they’ll be taking a penalty…). If the save succeeds, the humanoid can ignore all trog stench for the rest of the battle.

Trog stench penalties vary for different humanoid races:
-4 Elves, gnolls, gnomes
-3 Humans, halflings, half-elves, holy ones, tieflings, most everyone else
-2 Half-orcs, dragonics
-1 Dwarves
-0 Forgeborn

3rd level leader [HUMANOID]
Initiative +5

Spear +8 vs. AC -12 damage
Miss: Damage equal to the penalty the trog’s stench currently imposes on the target.

R: Hissing curse +10 vs MD (one nearby enemy, or a faraway enemy at -2 atk) – 10 damage, and the target is again affected by trog stench if it had saved against the effect.

Natural 20: All nearby humanoids who saved against trog stench earlier in the battle are again affected by it.

Chameleon: Underground, or in swamps and rives, attacks against troglodytes by enemies who aren’t engaged with them take a -4 penalty.

AC 19
PD 16
MD 18
HP 44

Aerial Spore (13th Age Bestiary p83)
It floats serene, red and deadly. The long tendrils push it spasmodically as it crawl-drifts closer, flicers of bioluminescence pulsing through its small, languid body.

2nd level mook [PLANT]
Initiative +1

C: Stinging tendrils +6 vs PD (one nearby enemy) – 4 poison damage, and the target is weakened until the end of its next turn

Puffball exploder: The first time each round an aerial spore in the battle drops to 0 hp, it explodes and 1d3 nearby non-fungus non-construct creatures are covered in spores and begin to choke. Until the end of the battle, when a choking creature8 rolls a natural 1-5 on an attack roll, it takes damage equal to the natural roll. If a creature is affected twice by this attack, the damage it takes on a natural 1-5 doubles; if affected three times, it triples, etc.

Spores: A creature choking from puffball exploder can use a standard action to wash the spores off itself and/or cough them up, preventing further choking effects until it’s affected by puffball exploder again.

Weightless: The aerial spore floats upon air currents, but it prefers to stay within 5 to 7 feet of the ground so it can use its tendrils to keep it in place or propel it. A free-floating spore too far away from the ground to use its tendrils can easily be blow about from strong winds or similar magical effects

AC 15
PD 9
MD 13
HP 7 (mook; puffball exploder)
Mook: Kill one aerial spore mook for every 7 damage you deal to the mob.

Sporrior (13th Age Bestiary p84)
Fungo are not known for being fast, but this one is. A strange pale ape-dog thing, with a head that hinges open to unleash a high=speed spore attack. Clouds of choking fungus accompany chitinous darts launched by compressed air.

2nd level wrecker [PLANT]
Initiative +10

Chitinous bite +7 vs. AC – 5 damage
Natural even hit or miss: The sporrior can make a spore cloud attack this turn as a quick action
R: Parasitic darts +6 vs. AC (1d3 nearby or far away enemies in a group) – 5 poison damage
Natural even hit or miss: The sporrior can make a spore cloud attack this turn as a quick action.
C: Spore cloud +6 vs. PD (1d3 nearby enemies) – 4 poison damage

Sprinter: A sporrior gains an extra move action when the escalation die is odd.

Wall-crawler: A sporrior can climb on ceilings and walls as easily as it moves on the ground.

AC 18
PD 16
MD 12
HP 36

[/expand]

[expand title=”Champion Tier“]
Random encounter to be used as a “Red Herring” that has no direct connection to the current story. I love it when the group gets sidetracked on a useless trail. Of course it can be used to foreshadow another adventure.

Party has something that is wanted/needed by someone very powerful. – The Master (Pit Fiend) who wants to become an ICON??

I am using Devils out of 13 True Ways

Fury Devil (Erinyes) 8th Level Wrecker p 175
Lemure 3rd Level Mook p 169

An Erinyes (Fury Devil) is sent to punish the mortal and retrieve the item.

Erinyes brings along a mob of Lemures to distract/impede group.

– remember encounter math p186. Mooks count as 0.2 so bring plenty(tailor to group size and composition)

– Hellbent When the first Erinyes is defeated, three more rise up to finish the mission. (Hero who killed first Erinyes is now on hit list)When they are defeated five more rise up to finish the mission. (and the hero who killed an Erinyes is added to the list)This makes the fairly easy battle of one powerful devil and a mob of mooks something to talk about at the ol’ alehouse….if you live.

– Lots of special abilities to remember for devils. Should not be an easy fight. Remember devils work well together!

– Outdoor encounter since it will less likely attract help for the group. Town always have do gooders hanging around.
– Lemure’s Nastier Special – Too dumb to die

If the group is smart and tries to bargain with the devil over the item, the PC with the item must still be punished for having the item. (The hubris of mortals!) Of course this leaves a lot open for the GM for future hurt and humiliation. The group might live through this encounter without having to fight, but it will cost them later.
[/expand]

[expand title=”Epic Tier“]
Volcanic Lair of the Flame Wreathed Dragon [Almost Double Strength]

Reasons: This can be dropped into any campaign where you need to give the players a macguffin
– The Dragon has an item in the horde.
– The volcano was a dumping pit in a previous age where an older archmage deposited magics that were too dangerous to be out in the open but could not be destroyed.
– The Players need a wish granted by an efreet in order to complete a quest.

The Lair
The Caldera of an active volcano. The spirit of the volcano as tortured by the magic items lodged in its belly as its rage is placated by the magics of Volinaosk. There are two ways in. The first is through the halls of a Fire Giant enclave. The second is through a maze of volcanic vents that lead to the main Caldera chamber.

Pyroclastic Spirit Manipulation:
Players who want to attempt to anger, sooth, or control the mountain spirit can do so. The boundaries between the real world and the plane of fire is thin here. The spirit can be contacted with an appropriate background check, power, or icon relationship roll.

If the players want to anger the mountain spirit (DC25), they can increase the Escalation die by +1 (1x per round).
If the players want to soothe the mountain spirit (DC35), they can prevent the Escalation die from increasing (The second time this is done in the same round decreases the die by one).
If the players want to control the mountain spirit (DC3-), they can cause the mountain spirit to lash out at their enemies
Choose 1 of the following:
On a natural 1-5 – The presumption angers the spirit and the caller suffers the same effect.
– Lava Psuedopod Attack:
– Background vs PD:
□ 4D20 + (Ability mod used in the background check x3) Fire or Crushing Damage
– Entangling Grasp:
– Background vs PD:
□ 2D20 + Hampered and Stuck

Creatures:
Volinaosk – Flamewreathed Dragon x1 [B170]
– Both nastier specials
– Smoke Elementals
Effreet x2 [B93]
Epic Fire Elementals x4 [13TW p193]

Volcanic Escalation
1 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– Eruptive Rumblings
§ The stress from the fight is causing the spirit of the mountain to begin to awaken. The walls shake a bit and the magma bubbles faster.
2 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– Cracks in Stone
§ The floor begins to break apart. Non-flight movement requires a D25 roll. On a failure the creature takes 2D20 fire damage
3 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– Eruptive Rumblings – Level 2
§ The stress from the fight is causing the spirit of the mountain to begin to awaken. The walls shake a bit and the magma bubbles faster. 1D4 chunks from the wall fall to the floor. Odds will strike Volinaosk or the Efreets, evens target the PC’s.
□ Giant Effing Wall Attack: +20 vs PD to hit, 4D10
4 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– The Cracks Spread
§ You have about 50% lava and floor at this point. Disengage attempts are done a -3 due to the need for situational awareness. Non-flight movement requires a DC30 roll. On a failure the creature takes 2D20 fire damage
5 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– It can’t get much worse
§ Nothing happens now, but the rumblings get more intense.
6 – [Check for Wildfire. Roll For Smoke Minions]
– Pyroclastic Explosion.
§ Fed up with the disturbing of its slumber, the mountain spirit attempts to expunge all with a fountain of lava. Fire resistance [even the monsters] is worthless against the hate filled attack.
□ Pyroclastic Explosion – +25 vs PD. 4D12+6 Fire Damage

Things to Remember
– Chaotic Damage
– Whipping Flames Jump
– Blade of the perfect warrior jumps
– If the PC’s roll an odd, they take damage
– Lots of Ongoing Damage
– Fear threshold is 120hp
[/expand]

E18: The Fighter

13thAgeFighterIn this episode, are covering another 13th Age Class: the fighter. Joining us this week is Iconic Contest winner, Evan Franke. He has a quite a bit of gaming experience and adds a great element to our discussion.

We go over the history of the Fighter class, how 13th Age ‘got it right,’ and a number of the feats and talents available.

Here are some links for more ideas on various Fighter builds:
ASH’s Dual Wielder and Slayer
Amechra’s Arcane Knight
Martin Killmann’s Classic Fighter

EvanFranke

Be sure to  check out Evan’s blog or follow him on Google+ or Twitter!

E17: Eyes of the Stone Thief Review

Join us as we take an in-depth look at the 13th Age adventure, Eyes of the Stone Thief. We explore the different levels, rooms, and monsters, and talk about how to insert it into your campaign or build your campaign around it.

13thAgeEyesOfTheStoneThief

Here, Gareth gives some good advice on how to split up the dungeon or insert it into your own world. If you’d like to get a copy of Eyes of the Stone Thief, head over to Pelgrane Press’ website!

 

E15: The Wreck of Volund’s Glory

13thAgeVolundsGloryThe Wreck of Volund’s Glory is a great 13th Age adventure you can pick up from DriveThruRPG and run at your table. In this episode, we review the adventure, and talk about what we like and what we don’t like. It’s set in Kobold Press’ world of Midgard, but Wade Rockett gives some advice on reskinning it for the Dragon Empire here.

And be sure to submit your entries to the Get Out and Run 13th Age contest!

E14: Organized Play and the Crusader’s Fist

13thAgeCrusadersFistWant to run a 13th Age game but don’t have anyone who will play? Or do you want to play but cannot get anyone to run a game regularly? If so, take a look at the 13th Age Organized Play, Tales of the 13th Age. In this episode, we discuss the format of the Tales of the 13th Age as well as doing a review of one of their recent Tales, The Crusader’s Fist.

For more information on the 13th Age organized play, check out their website.

To access the 15+ adventures that are already out, you’ll need to sign up here.

And to find a game near you, check out the sticky thread on the forums!

We’d love to hear what you think of the Tales of the 13th Age or any of the adventures you may have run or participated in. Leave us a comment!