In my left hand, the 13th Age SRD. Or rulebook if you’ve got it. Big, weighty, gorgeous, full-colour, tome of everything you need to run an RPG in the Dragon Empire and beyond. It’s my go-to game for fantasy gaming. Or it was…
In my right hand, The Black Hack. 19 pages long, including the obligatory license page. Simple. Streamlined. Sweet. Pares everything down to bare bones and makes gaming on the fly an absolute joy. Grab the dungeon dice or cards, grab an old module that’s been collecting dust on the shelf, convert as you go along.
It seems somehow logical that left and right should meet…
13th Age is, if approached from a certain direction, the ultimate gaming condiment set, full of tasty morsels that can season and spice whatever game you happen to play. You don’t have to use all the rules, just the bits and pieces you want to.
The Escalation Die
Get the biggest damn D6 you can comfortably lift. Round 2 of combat, it goes on the table, 1-up. Given that TBH is a roll-under system, you subtract that from your d20 rolls in combat. Criticals now occur on 0 or 1. 20 is still a fumble and if you roll your stat bang-on you trigger a GM Intrusion. (Okay, so I’m stealing that from Monte Cook’s Cypher system games, basically it’s carte blanche for the GM to introduce something into the game – reinforcements for one side or the other, your weapon breaks, something interesting happens. And it’s got to keep the story moving forward).
Round 3 the Escalation Die shifts to 2. Criticals now occur on -1, 0 or 1. Fumble on 20, GMI on rolling your stat exactly before modifying.
Round 4… You’re clever, you get the idea.
Go nuts with this. Base monster powers off the die. Is it odd? Is it even? Can a nasty special monster also use the Escalation die?
Damage on Miss
Simple. You fail to hit, you deal your level in damage to the creature you were attacking. Point is, you’re the Big Damn Heroes and you’re there to kick arse and take names. Even if you can’t write the names down, don’t have a pen, and couldn’t read them even if you did manage to write them down. Yes, Barbarians, I’m looking at you here.
You can also play with the attack rolls. Natural Even Hit, Odd Miss, exact hit… Base powers off and around things like that. A magical sword that deals double damage if you roll the exact number you need to hit. A pair of gloves that grants you an extra action if you miss on a natural even roll. Index cards come in handy, or post-it notes.
An idea I’ve already seen suggested as a skill system option in TBH elsewhere. Characters in 13th Age don’t have skills, they’ve got Backgrounds. Maybe you were the Chief Gardener for the Chef of Ulambril. Roll with Advantage whenever you can blag a use for that Background. Oh, and you’ve also introduced the Chef of Ulambril into the game world – what made you leave her service, what did she cook, what did you grow? Where or what is Ulambril? Interesting enrichment to the game world in a single sentence. Every Background should add almost as much to the game canon as “The Doctor’s Wife” did.
These are the movers and shakers of the world. Not gods, but rulers of kingdoms, of guilds, the powers behind the throne perhaps. 13th Age gives you 13 laid out and beautifully illustrated, the SRD gives you 13 more. And you can find more online or make up your own.
Each player gets to have a relationship with 1 icon at 1st level, gaining another relationship every 4 levels – so 1st (1), 5th (2), 9th (3). Relationships can be Positive – the icon likes you and wishes to help. Conflicted – the icon is like a cat, it doesn’t really care if you live or die, it may help you, it may wind itself around your legs when you start to walk down the stairs. Negative – the icon hates you and will do everything in it’s power to ensure you fail. Wait, that’s more like a cat.
At the beginning of the session, roll a d6 for each relationship. On a 1, your icon will exert some influence to assist you (positive or conflicted) or hinder you (negative). On a 6, the opposite happens and you could find yourself working alongside crack troopers of the Skeleton Lord to steal a rare ingredient from the gardens of Ulambril (no, I still don’t know where they are or what’s growing there).
The 13th Age Icon mechanics are different. Use them if you like.
Next Time on the 13th Hack…
Character classes! Monsters! Powers! Levelling up!