STONECOVER

Eyes of the Stone Thief, the megadungeon campaign for 13th Age Roleplaying Game, is now available to pre-order! Order your copy here and you can download the PDF immediately.

Some of the many monsters trapped in the living dungeon are the Custodians – a group of earth elementals forced to serve the animating spirit of the dungeon. Ever since the Stone Thief was blinded when the Prince of Shadows stole its eyes, the Custodians have maintained and monitored the upper levels. They manifest as gigantic stone heads that emerge from the walls of the dungeon.

Eyes of the Stone Thief describes seven of these Custodians – the Doorkeeper, the Butcher, the Gravekeeper, the Pearlkeeper, the Architect, the Vizier and the Curator. However, there might be more Custodians in the dungeon that aren’t tied to specific levels.

The same rules apply to these Custodians as to the others. They can appear anywhere in the upper parts of the dungeon. They can restructure the rooms around them, moving traps or monsters into the path of the adventurers. They can be killed, but will usually flee by sinking back into the wall rather than risk destruction – unless the Stone Thief forces them to stand and fight, because the Custodians fear the hunger of the living dungeon more than annihilation at the hands of adventurers.

 

The Dungeon Master

Four brave adventurers… and a bard! Welcome, one and all. Please proceed down the corridor to your right, where an owlbear pack will disembowel you. Oh… oh, you’re going left. Well, you can go left if you want. I’m sure left is perfectly nice.

Now that I think of it, I always have trouble telling left from right. I don’t have hands, you see, so it’s hard for me to remember. Look, one of these corridors leads to horrible hungry owlbears… why don’t you use the bard as bait?”

Part tour guide, part running commentator, the Dungeon Master follows the adventures through the dungeon, offering “helpful” suggestions and the occasional warning of certain doom. It’s the flightiest of the Custodians, so it was never trusted with a level of its own to manage. Instead, it’s sent to guide and protect pilgrims from the dungeon-worshipping Cult of the Devourer through the upper levels, by showing them the right path to take and sliding especially dangerous areas out of their path, until they reach the Maddening Stair that leads to the temples in the depths. The Dungeon Master is also dispatched to keep track of the most troublesome intruders, and is expected to move more hazards towards them if they get too deep into the dungeon.

The trouble is that the Dungeon Master has a soft spot for successful adventurers. It would never actually help intruders who win its admiration– if it did, the Stone Thief would destroy it – but it can nudge them with a hint or let slip a little too much information when taunting them.

 

The Dungeon Master

Oooh. Nasty.

Double-strength 5th level caster [Construct]

Initiative: +8

C: Wall Spikes +9 vs. PD (all engaged foes) – 25 damage

R: Trapsmith + 9 vs. PD (1 nearby or far away enemy) – 20 damage, and choose one of the following:

Natural roll higher than target’s Strength: A portcullis slams down, pinning the target. The target is stuck and takes 10 ongoing damage (save ends)

Natural roll higher than target’s Dexterity: The target falls into a pit trap, taking another 15 damage. Climbing out requires a DC20 skill check.

Natural 14+: 5 ongoing poison damage (save ends)

Think Fast, Adventurer: As a free action once per encounter, increase the escalation die by 1. For the rest of this round, monsters may add the value of the escalation die to their attacks.

Load Bearing Boss: Increase the submergence die by 1 if the Dungeon Master is destroyed.

AC 20

PD 17 HP 144

MD 17

The Turnkey

No food, you can last a ten-day. No water, maybe three or four days. How will you fare, though, with no air?”

When the Stone Thief submerges back into the ground, sinking into the Underworld like a whale dives into the ocean, the dungeon contracts and collapses, folding in on itself. Those trapped within the dungeon are crushed to death by the closing walls – unless they are denizens of the dungeon, or unless they find a Sanctuary.

Denizens are part of the dungeon, monsters who slumber cocooned in stone. The dungeon adds to its menagerie over time, turning creatures from outside the Stone Thief into denizens. The Custodian called the Turnkey is the master of this process. It acts like a grumbling jailor, or perhaps a zookeeper, muttering about how hard it is to convince manticores or hunched giants to accept their new roles as soul-bound extensions of the living dungeon. Sometimes, if an adventuring party becomes trapped in the dungeon, the Turnkey offers them a chance to become part of the dungeon instead of being crushed or starving to death.

The Turnkey is rarely encountered when the dungeon at the surface, unless it is called up by its brethren to secure a particular dangerous monster and turn it into a denizen. (See Giant Monster, on page 345 of Eyes of the Stone Thief.)

 

The Turnkey

Dungeon means a prison, you know.

Double-strength 5th level caster [Construct]

Initiative: +8

C: Word of Deprivation +9 vs PD (1d3 nearby enemies) – 25 damage

Natural roll higher than target’s Constitution: Lose a recovery. If the target has no recoveries remaining, deal 3d6 damage instead.

R: Word of Torture +9 vs. MD (1 nearby or far away enemy) – 20 damage

Natural roll higher than target’s Wisdom: Either take 20 extra damage, or allow the Stone Thief to steal the benefit of your next successful relationship roll

Load Bearing Boss: Increase the submergence die by 1 if the Turnkey is destroyed.

AC 20

PD 17 HP 144

MD 17

 

The Earthsprite

We are creatures of wild earth and unhewn rock – to be shaped and named like this is torture for us. Free me, and I will free you from the curse of the Stone Thief!”

Before the dungeon half-consumed and enslaved them, the Custodians were nameless earth elementals. The Earthsprite yearns to return to that primal state, and has managed to avoid being instantly destroyed by the dungeon by allying itself with one of the Icons. Perhaps:

  • It made contact with the High Druid through the stolen druid circle in the Grove (p. 150). The High Druid can restore the Earthsprite to its original elemental form – but only if the dungeon is lured deep into the Wild Wood, to where the druid is strong enough to wrench the elemental from the Stone Thief’s maw.
  • The Dwarf King and the elementals are ancient foes – but the thought of recovering the stolen Treasury of the Dwarves (p. 216) would be enough to convince the King that aiding one foe against the Living Dungeon is worth the gamble.
  • The Archmage is a master of manipulating elemental forces, so if anyone can rescue the Earthsprite and restore its original form, he can. Once liberated from the Stone Thief, the Earthsprite could provide vital information about ways to destroy the living dungeon before it endangers the whole Empire.
  • The Lich King is an even more accomplished spellcaster than the Archmage, and has his own sinister plans for the dungeon. As for the Earthsprite, a body made of grave dirt and tombstones is better than nothing…

 

13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Eyes of the Stone Thief, the megadungeon campaign for 13th Age Roleplaying Game, is now available to pre-order! Order your copy here and you can download the PDF immediately.

Trapped InGodTick_project_1 The Stone Thief

To the Stone Thief, people are the irritating meaty grist in the delicious cities it consumes. Most of the unlucky souls swallowed by the dungeon are crushed to death, or fall victim to one of the many monsters that lurk in the depths. Some survivors, though, still wander the endlessly shifting corridors within the living dungeon. Here are seven NPCs that your players might meet in the Stone Thief. Use them to foreshadow future perils, or to give the players an informed choice about which parts of the dungeon to tackle next.

Beka Salander

She’s human, about eight years old, and she’s survived longer in the dungeon than most adventurers. The Stone Thief ate her village – she doesn’t know what happened to her parents, but they’re probably dead. Everyone dies down here, sooner or later. If the monsters don’t get them, the walls do.

The adventurers encounter Beka close to wherever she’s been hiding all these long, horrific months. Maybe she’s taken refuge in the Chapel in the Ossuary (p. 133), or in the pig caves outside Deep Keep (p. 174), or in the ruined monastery in the Grove (p. 151). If the adventurers show her any kindness – and, more importantly, show her that they can slay the monsters – then she adopts one of them as a foster parent of sorts. She knows how to survive in the dungeon, about the important of Sanctuaries (p. 21) and can describe the biggest threats near her hiding place.

Three-fingered Arix

If you’re desperate and greedy enough, then willingly entering a living dungeon in search of treasure might seem like a good idea. Arix is a former lieutenant of the Prince of Shadows, and he’s heard that the Prince is somehow able to smuggle consumed treasures out of the Stone Thief and back t the surface. Arix hoped to grab a share of the action for himself; now, he’d be happy to escape with his remaining fingers intact.

Arix turns up early in the dungeon, maybe in the Gizzard (p. 80) as a prisoner of the orcs, or slumped at the bottom of the Well of Blades (p. 52). He can tell the players what little he knows of the smugglers in Dungeon Town (p. 98) and that the Prince has an agent among the Orcs of Deep Keep (p. 176). He’s also heard stories about the Stone Thief’s treasure room (p. 277).

Ashbless, the Talking Tree

Ashbless is a magical talking tree – a previous High Druid (or Elf Queen) woke him up long ago. Now, unfortunately, he’s stuck in the dungeon and can never leave. His roots have sunk deep into the tainted mortar and stone, and it’s having a deleterious effect on his mind. About half the time, he’s sane enough to welcome and aid the player characters; at other times, the hatred of the Stone Thief rises through him like hot sap, and he’ll trick or mislead them. Thanks to his root network of spies, he can tell the player characters about nearby parts of the dungeon in great detail. He’ll aid fellow servants of the High Druid freely; other adventurers may have to prove their worth by carrying a cutting of Ashbless back to the surface.

The obvious place to plant Ashbless is in the Grove (p. 137), but he might equally have been shunted to some small lightless room in the Gauntlet (maybe the harpies on page 60 nest in his branches) or transplanted to the Pit of Undigested Ages as a curiosity to be toyed with later (p. 208).

Kalaya the Philosopher

Kalaya seeks to brew a potion of enlightenment, a consciousness-expanding draft of concentrated wisdom. Her experiments in esoteric alchemy proved dangerous, so she left her home city of Horizon and built a laboratory on a small island in the Midland Sea. The Stone Thief swallowed the island, laboratory and all, and she barely escaped with her life. She’s not an adventurer – when encountered, she’s being chased by some dangerous monster that the player characters must slay.

Kalaya can be a useful ally for the player characters, if they set her up with a suitable laboratory. Her old lab is at the bottom of the Sunken Sea now (p. 102, although the players could drain the sea from the control panel at the bottom of the Cascade on p. 121). Possible replacements include Myrdin’s Snail (p. 99), the Blind Spire (p. 145), the Ritual Chamber (p. 236) or the Serpent Temple (p. 210). Once set up in a place where she can work, Kalaya could make healing potions and oils for the adventurers, or set them on the quest for way to poison the dungeon (p. 354, probably involving a Koru Orchid, p. 152, and some Koru Ichor, p. 321).

Facecleaver the Orc

Even monsters aren’t safe in the Stone Thief. Facecleaver’s an Orc from the fortress of Deep Keep who got cut off from the rest of his warband and is now lost and alone. He’s wounded, exhausted, and willing to make a deal with the player characters when they find him. He should be encountered above Deep Keep, perhaps trapped in the Ossuary (p. 123) or the Sunken Sea (p. 102).

Facecleaver’s a follow of Greyface (p. 179), and in his grumblings about Fangrot’s laziness, Grimtusk’s greed and the growing belligerence of the Stoneborn Orcs, the player characters can piece together the complex politics of Deep Keep (p. 160) in time to come up with a plan. For an orc, Facecleaver’s an honourable sort – he’ll murder the player characters once he’s sure he can survive without them, but he’ll tell them that he’s going to kill them first instead of cutting their throats while they sleep.

Crossbow Ben

Like Alix, Crossbow Ben’s another former associate of the Prince of Shadows. In fact, Ben was one of the original gang of thieves who stole the Eyes of the Stole Thief (p. 313) and blinded the dungeon. Unfortunately for Ben, he got left behind when the furious dungeon slammed all the exits shut, and he’s been stuck in the depths ever since. After many years of torment, all he craves is sunlight on his face and maybe a little bit of cheese. Maybe he made it to Dungeon Town (p. 98), but more likely he’s trapped in the Pit of Undigested Ages (p. 208) or even lost in the Labyrinth of Darkness (p. 247).

If rescued, he tells the player characters all about the Prince (as filtered through Ben’s not-especially-lucid recollections) and the powers of the Eyes. He’s also managed to squirrel away a cache of magic items that might be useful to the adventurers.

Rani Silverhair

Rani is a diplomat from the court of the Dwarf King. She was part of the retinue of Lord Sunhammer (p. 235) on his visit to the Artalins of Marblehall (p. 227). Fortunately for her, she stepped outside to take a breath of fresh air during the feast, so she wasn’t placed under a curse by the Witch of Marblehall. She knows she’s trapped in a living dungeon, but has no way to escape it.

The adventurers might meet her in the Pit of Undigested Ages (p. 208), where she can tell them of the importance of the Lost Treasury (p. 216), or maybe she’s making her way up the Maddening Stair (p. 189) in which case she warns the PCs about the duplicitous Maeglor (p. 204) and the dangers of the Shifting Stairs (p. 200). Either way, she begs the PCs to rescue Lord Sunhammer in the name of the Dwarf King, and to slay the perfidous witch who dragged both the dwarves and her family down into this hellish dungeon!

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13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The Eyes of the Stone Thief is now available on pre-order in our webstore, and to celebrate this, Will Hindmarch has done a fantastic video trailer for it.

You can watch Will’s trailer below:

castleonedgecolortestloresEyes of the Stone Thief, the megadungeon campaign for 13th Age Roleplaying Game, is now available to pre-order! Order your copy here and you can download the PDF immediately.

If your ongoing 13th Age campaign doesn’t have a place for a gigantic megadungeon like the Stone Thief (listen! Can you hear its plaintive earthquake-like whimpering as it begs you to let it rampage through your game?), then the thing to do is get out your shiny +3 Axe of Book Dismemberment and chop the dungeon into its constituent parts. With a few choice hacks and a little sewing of plot threads, the Stone Thief’s thirteen interconnected levels become thirteen regular dungeons suitable for an evening’s delving.

 

The Maw

The Maw, together with the Gizzard, are actually the two hardest levels to convert – they’re both tied to the Stone Thief’s schtick of eating bits of the surface world, which doesn’t translate neatly to a stand-alone dungeon.

For the Maw, drop the Chasm encounter entirely, so the players have to enter via the Front Door. They make their way down past the Ghouls and Spear-Fishing Bridge as normal (optionally, sub in a standard fight scene for the Goblins). Leave the Stolen Palace as a cryptic side quest, then have the Doorkeeper’s door open onto the Gates of the Stone Thief, so the PCs have to surf down a landslide of rubble (that runs under the Spear-Fishing Bridge) to get to a final encounter of your design. Maybe…

  • it’s the lair of an orc shaman with elemental earth powers (explaining the churning landslide, and the orcs)
  • A natural gate to the plane of elemental earth has opened, and must be sealed before it turns half the world to stone
  • A swarm of monstrous subterranean beetles are digging their way to the surface, and the hive queen must be slain before they undermine the city. The orcs and ghouls are opportunistic scavengers, drawn by the anticipation of carnage.

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet’s easy to convert. Drop the Giant’s Causeway and the Belfry encounters, and you’re left with a killer dungeon in the ruins of an ancient dwarven temple to the gods of the forge. The objective of the dungeon is to recover Grommar’s sword from the body of the fearsome minotaur who killed the dwarf master-smith. The party enter by the Falling Stairs… and well, if they survive the traps and trials of the Gauntlet, they deserve a death-slaying sword. You can reskin the Mad Butcher as Grommar’s vengeful & insane ghost if you want to make the place even more dangerous.

Alternatively:

  • Grommar’s buried library contains some fabulous treasure, or lost secret of the dwarven smiths that must be recovered
  • It’s a race against another party of rival adventurers to get through the Gauntlet and recover the sword
  • The Gauntlet is a prison used by the Dwarf King to punish those who have really offended him
  • It’s a competitive dungeon-arena under Axis where teams of adventurers race to complete the course as swiftly as they can

The Gizzard

The Gizzard best pulled apart for parts. You can use Jawgate and the Slaver Camp as part of some other orc-themed saga. The Halls of Ruins and the Gizzard chamber itself could be presented as a weird dungeon where a crazed wizard, the Architect, tries to build a patchwork city out of the ruins of past Ages – the Stone Thief writ small, effectively.

The Ossuary

The Ossuary’s a self-contained crypt dungeon, and requires next to no changes. You might wish to rewrite the imprisoned Gravekeeper as another undead – maybe the Gravekeeper is an emissary of the Lich King, charged with protecting this ancient tomb complex, and the Flesh Tailor is an arrogant, upstart necromancer who’s taken over and is endangering the balance between the living and the dead.

  • The Flesh Tailor can be a recurring villain in your campaign – start off with the PCs encountering his masked undead spies, then they track the necromancer down to his lair and slay him – and only then does he come back in his augmented undead form.
  • Move the Ossuary to Necropolis, and you’ve got a tale of intrigue and body-snatching among the nobles of the Undying Peerage, where the Flesh Tailor stole the palace of the Gravekeeper.

Dungeon Town

Dungeon Town is best pulled out of the dungeon entirely. Reimagine it as a settlement of castaways and survivors – maybe they’re shipwrecked on a monster-haunted island, or trapped on a flying realm, or on the back of a Koru Behemoth, or stuck in some extradimensional plane. The Wild Caves become the perilous landscape just outside this little fortified community of survivors.

If you’re making Dungeon Town the centre of an adventure, then you may wish to make the Provost into more of a villain – perhaps recast him as the Jailor, who deliberately trapped the other survivors here for some mysterious purpose.

  • You can drop Dungeon Town into some other dungeon of your design. Maybe the people aren’t trapped – they’re drawn to the dungeon by the promise of wealth (the dungeon’s a gold mine) or power (it’s a well-spring of magical energy, or youth, or it boosts spellcasting ability) or devotion (it’s a temple taken over by monsters, or a holy site).
  • Alternatively, rework Dungeon Town as a criminal stronghold – a thieves’ city underneath Glitterhaegen, perhaps, or a pirate port out in the Spray.

Sunken Sea

Drop the “sunken” part, and you’ve got a perilous archipelago of mystery instead of a flooded cave network. Swordapus, the sahuagin and their demonic temple don’t need to be changed at all; neither does the wreck of the White Dragon. The Lonely Tower gets teleported here by accident instead of being eaten by the dungeon. The biggest change is to the Cascade – obviously, it doesn’t lead to an exit from the dungeon or to a control room, so you’ll want to put something else at the bottom of that slippery staircase. Maybe:

  • It’s an arcane version of the Bermuda Triangle, and the magical relic at the bottom of the Cascade is what draws all those ships to their doom.
  • It’s a magical lighthouse, built by a former Archmage, and it needs to be relit to re-establish his spells to tame the Middle Sea (or, if the PCs are allies of the High Druid or some villanous icon, it needs to be quenched to free the wild waters).

The Grove

There are two obvious ways to approach this dungeon – make the Elf Tree the centre of events, or put the Breeding Ground as the core encounter. (Or make it into two separate adventures!) If you make the Elf Tree the main encounter, then clearly the High Elves tampered with Things Men (And Elves Too) Were Not Meant To Know, and the Breeding Ground is a hideous magical accident that can only be stopped by closing the magical portal in the observatory. In this set-up, move the Elf Tree so it’s in the centre of the Grove.

If you want to make the Breeding Ground central, then obviously it’s the rest of some evil druid’s machinations, or demonic perversion of natural magic, or the Crusader trying to turn druid magic against demons – whatever works for your campaign. The monsters from the Breeding Ground drove the Elves out of their tree.

When converting the Grove to a stand-alone dungeon, drop The Castle With Your Name On It encounter, and make the Herbarium less of a mysterious ruin – turn it into a ruined Elf stronghold, or a druidic temple. Hag Pheig can be left unchanged, or cast as the villain of the dungeon. Maybe she’s trying to gain control of the Druid Circle, and the horrors of the Breeding Ground are her sins made manifest.

Deep Keep

Drop the Secret Sanctum encounter, and describe Deep Keep as a captured fortress instead of a weird patchwork castle, and you’ve got the front lines of the Orc Lord’s armies. They’ve taken an Imperial fortress and enslaved the population – now you’ve got to take out their leaders and organise an uprising against the invaders!

Take the Giant’s Causeway from the Gauntlet, and Jawgate and the Slaver’s Camp from the Gizzard, and use them as encounters on the way to the castle. Replace the Vizier with some other evil advisor – who’s the Orc Lord working with in your campaign?

  • If you want to keep the deep, so to speak, then make it a subterranean dwarf fortress
  • Introduce a different divide between the orc factions – maybe Grimtusk’s followers want more loot, while Greyface’s are all about honourable conflict. Alternatively, perhaps Greyface is secretly possessed by the ghost of the former lord of the castle, and that’s why he’s willing to rebel against his warlord.

Maddening Stairs

In the Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, the Maddening Stairs sets up lots of plots related to the Cult of the Devourer and the ultimate fate of the dungeon. If you’re using it as a standalone adventure, then you’ll need to give Chryaxas and Ajura the Dreamer and Maeglor the Apostate something else to pontificate about. Perhaps the Alabaster Sentinel is an Icon from a previous age, an avatar of justice that once brought unyielding, merciless law to the lands until it fell into this pit and became trapped. Maeglor seeks to restore order to the Dragon Empire by resurrecting the sentinel – Chryaxas argues the case for fruitful chaos and freedom, while Ajura might want to trick the PCs into stopping Maeglor, or perhaps she believes that the resurrected Sentinel will bring about the end of the Age when it decides that the Archmage is too unpredictable to be tolerated.

  • You can also use the Maddening Stairs as a perilous journey – maybe it’s the stairs into Hell, or up to a flying realm in the Overworld

Pit of Undigested Ages

The Pit really doesn’t lend itself to conversion into a stand-alone dungeon. By its very nature, it’s an eclectic collection of weird places from across history. Don’t even try to come up with a linking story – instead, use each encounter on its own. That gives you a buried dwarven treasury, a lost temple of the serpent folk, the ruins of a magical library and a gnoll death cult. The First Master is probably too closely tied to the Cult of the Devourer to make sense on his own, so take him out and drop him into the Onyx Catacombs instead.

  • The dwarven treasury fell into the Underworld during an Age-ending cataclysm. Finding it requires descending into the lightless tunnels and battling past hordes of eyeless monsters.
  • The temple of the serpent folk is somewhere within the jungles of the Fangs; the Black seeks it, with the intent of stealing the primordial magic of the serpents and adding it to her own arsenal.
  • Quillgate was protected by magical wards; when the quake struck, it vanished from this world. It’s out there, somewhere, in the planes of existence. Step into the Archmage’s Faultless And Unerring Dimensional Projector – it’s sure to work this time…
  • And it’s well known that only the Hellpike can slay certain powerful demons. If one of those infernal lords rises to threaten the Empire, then the Hellpike must be found, and found soon

Marblehall

Marblehall’s best used as the result of a magical experiment gone wrong. Instead of getting embedded in the Stone Thief, it’s…

  • Adrift in the skies as the newest flying realm
  • Turning into a Hellhole
  • Spouting elementals
  • About to become a Living Dungeon in its own right

Whatever happened, the Witch and her weird experiments are too blame. Can the adventures save the Artalin family from their own wayward daughter?

Onyx Catacombs

If you take the cult out of the dungeon, then you should also take the dungeon out of the cult. Instead of being a bunch of dungeon-worshipping apocalyptic lunatics, make the Cult of the Devourer into a bunch of <insert-dire-noun>-worshipping apocalyptic lunatics, and redecorate their hidden city to match. Maybe they’re demon cultists, or shadow cultists, or wolf cultists, or poison cultists, or tentacled alien god cultists, or discordant-music-that-ends-the-world cultists. Turn their dungeon level into a mysterious lost temple in the depths of the jungle, or in a dimensional fold, or across the wastes of the Moonwreck, and you’re good to go.

Heart of the Stone Thief

Like the Pit, this level’s too tied to the concept of the Living Dungeon to make sense as a stand-alone adventure, so it’s best stripped for parts. I’m sure your campaign can find a loving home for a volcano, a crypt of undead adventurers, or a fabulous treasury of epic-level wonders…

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13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The Eyes of the Stone Thief, like the eponymous beast, is a monster. It’s on a par with the Ennie-Award winning Trial of Cthulhu campaign, Eternal Lies, and may well be the largest book we’ve ever published. I was intending for it to be monochrome, as Eternal Lies is, but then I saw the beautiful maps, and the idea of full colour grew on me. By this stage, the art, all monochrome, was pretty much in.

 the_grove_04

So I broached the subject, gingerly, with my colleagues.

I want colour, I said. Surely the artists could just colour the pictures in? You know, get the crayons out and stay within lines? My ten-year-old can do that.

Gareth Hanrahan was all flappy-handed about it on Skype, though full of “Can Do” as always. I interpreted the flappy hands as “No”. Cat Tobin fixed me with a steely glare and said “this book is ready to lay out.” She also pointed out that “colouring in” is not a technical term artists recognise and I should not mention my ten-year-old’s artistic endeavours in this context. Robin D Laws, in a spirit of compromise suggested we do colour plates. Rob Heinsoo laughed with pleasure at the sheer foolishness of it.

Gar approached each artist and asked them to colour one piece each. The colour art in 13th Age uses washes of colour, which mades colouration slightly less problematic. This is what we got.

Rich Longmore

richmaw richmaw colourPat Loboyko

castleonedgefinal

castleonedgecolortestlores Anna Kryczkowska

Godtick

GodTick_project_1

Juha Makkon

http://raide4.com/commissions/pelgranepress/10_1_gamblingskeletons_inks_lores.jpg

http://raide4.com/commissions/pelgranepress/10_1_gamblingskeletons_colors_lores.jpg

This is working, I thought.

All the artists stepped up and promised to colourize their art for the difference in cost between colour and monochrome, and do it by the end of September.  To keep us on schedule, Chris Huth is doing the layout in colour and using the monochrome pieces as placeholders, to drop in the colour when we have them. This plan was enough to gain acceptance.

I hope the scope, ambition and pure fun of this epic adventure is enough to interest our audience. I have no idea if, commercially, colour is the right choice – the book wil certainly be more expensive. In this case, I’m really doing this just because I want to and because I can, and because it made Rob Heinsoo laugh.

 

The Flesh TailorIn his April View from the Pelgrane’s Nest column, Simon provided updates on all of Pelgrane’s current projects. Here’s the latest news on 13th Age:

The 13th Age Bestiary is with the printers, on target for a mid-June delivery date. Pre-order your copy now from the Pelgrane store. It’s available on Bits and Mortar, too, so you can pre-order it from your local retailer and get the PDF now.

The Bestiary limited edition is in the changing rooms at the boutique, trying out new outfits of faux leather colours and gold foil. The limited B is currently available for pre-order, with Hatchling edition customers geting first dibs.

13 True Ways is finally in layout. We apologize for the extreme delay in getting this Kickstarted product out to you – we think it’s worth the wait. We’ll put in on pre-order this month. It’s touch and go if we’ll have it out in time for GenCon and Kickstarter backers come first. A non-laid out PDF version should be out with backers in the next couple of weeks.

For FreeRPGDay , Saturday 21st June, we’ll be releasing a new retail-exclusive adventure Make Your Own Luck. 3500 of these adventures will be distributed free in up to 700 hobby stores. Stores can sign up here  and you can find your nearest participating retailer here.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is nursing the great whale that is The Eyes of the Stone Thief into the the deep waters of art direction; Rich Longmore, Anna Kryczkowska, Juha Makkonen and Pat Loboyko are doing the interior work, and Ben Wootten the cover.

Cartographer Pär Lindstrom is producing maps for Shadows of Eldolan, and we have a first colour draft of the cover by Joshua Calloway here.

ASH LAW has delivered a draft of Shards of the Broken Sky, which Rob will look at when 13 True Ways is laid out.

The Book of Loot, a delicious collection of potent and quirky Icon-featured items is in first draft, also awaiting Rob’s seal of approval.

DominionLast month, I compared the 13th Age rulebook to my beloved Rules Cyclopedia, and talked about how cool strongholds were and how they’d work in the looser, more narrative Archmage Engine style. This month, it’s Dominions.

There comes a time in every adventurers’ career – sometime between slaying that first dragon, and well before going toe-to-toe with demon kings – that a hero’s thoughts turn to ruling a dominion. Having your own fiefdom has its appeal. Conan had his throne, after all. It’s good to be the king.

Dominions don’t have to be fiefdoms or landholdings, of course. A wizard might prefer a pocket dimension filled with weird experiments, or a private flying realm in the Overworld. A thief might have a merchant shipping fleet that conceals a spy network, or run the thieves’ guild in a prosperous city. A druid’s dominion might be a wild forest where no man dares trespass. In each case, the player character is the acknowledged ruler of that territory, and has to defend it from external threats.

 

Acquiring a Dominion

Only Champion or Epic-tier characters can have dominions. It’s a matter of tradition, like ghouls with paralyzing touch or clerics with blunt weapons. Ideally, the would-be ruler should also have a stronghold.

There are three routes to a dominion.

First, your character can inherit a dominion. Just take the One Unique Thing ‘Heir to the Duchy of Fullcatch’ and wait for anyone else in the line of succession to drop dead.

Second, a character can carve their own dominion out of the wilderness. There’s plenty of wilderness to be carved, but said wilderness is full of things that may also need carving. There’s gold under the Giantwalk Mountains, but to get it, you’ll need to drive off the giants who live there.

Third, you can beseech the most appropriate Icon for a dominion. Usually, this is the Emperor, unless you have your heart set on a territory within the demesne of Drakenhall, Horizon or Santa Cora, or you’re an Elf in the Queen’s Wood or a Dwarf in the dwarflands (or a Lich in the Lich King’s realm, or planning to live in the Wild Wood, or…). Doing so requires a triple-strength Icon benefit – rolling three fives or sixes on your Friendly or Conflicted relationship with that Icon.

What’s that you say? You don’t have a 3-point relationship with that Icon? Well, you can curry favour by going on quests and performing needful services, or battling that Icon’s enemies. (Or hiring a bard with Balladeer and Storyteller, because they’re favour-currying machines!)

 

Noble Background

Ruling a dominion has fringe benefits, in the form of a bonus Background. As lord of a small dominion, you’ve got a +1 Background (usually “Baron of such-and-such”); a medium dominion gives a +2 Background, large +3 and huge +4. Normally, this background comes into play when making Charisma checks to represent influence and wealth.

 

Designing A Dominion

Once you’ve got your dominion, the next step is assigning Resource Dice. Different dominions offer different sorts of resources. A resource can be almost anything – farmland, a gold mine, a market, a seaport, a guild of weavers, a wizard’s school, a magical font of wisdom, a nest of tame dragons, a well of arcane energy, a hellhole (assuming the ‘resource’ you’re interested in is demons), a Imperial Legion camp, tribes of barbaric half-orc mercenaries, the relics of a dead saint, a trade route, Koru Behemoth dung-enriched soil.

A small dominion (Barony) has 3 Resource Dice to allocate. A medium dominion (County) has 4; a really big dominion (Dukedom) has 5 and an Imperial governorship or princedom has 6. You can double up on a resource if you wish; for example, a dwarven barony might have an Iron Mine (1 dice) and a Smith’s Guild (2 dice).

Under normal circumstances, the dominion provides enough income to pay for its own upkeep and running costs, as well as keeping its ruler in a suitable manner in the suitable manor. There are good years and bad, but by and large things even out. Exceptionally good or problematic years are represented by resource benefits.

 

Resource Benefits

When the GM allows it (usually between adventures, or once per game year), the player rolls any available Resource Dice for their dominion. These dice work like Icon Relationship dice – a 6 means the player gets a benefit without any problems and a 5 means there’s a benefit with a drawback or cost. For example, in the case of our dwarven barony, rolling a 6 for the Iron Mine means the miners hit an especially rich vein of iron, and produce more raw metal for trade than expected. A 5 means that especially rich vein runs through a monster-infested cave network, or the iron was cursed by a witch and will make cursed weapons. Or maybe the best market for iron right now is all the way across the Midland Sea in Newport, and to get the benefit, the ruler has to find a way to transport the goods safely.

Rolling a 1 means the Resource is imperilled in some way, and unless the local ruler takes action, that Resource becomes unavailable for 1-5 years (roll a d6; on a 6, the Resource is lost for good). A 1 for the Iron Mine might mean the miners were attacked by monsters, and can’t go back down there until the monsters are slain. A 1 for the Smith’s Guild might indicate that a thief stole their secrets, and all the current guildmasters consider themselves dishonoured and fit only for stoking fires until those secrets are recovered.

A resource benefit can be:

  • Cashed out as gold: one benefit gives around 500 gold pieces on average; more if the resource is especially fungible (it’s a lot easier to cash out ‘Gold Mine’ than it is to cash out ‘Sacred Wilderness of the Druid’).
  • Expended to temporarily increase your noble background by +2 until the next time you roll for Resource Benefits.
  • Spent to restore another Resource that was imperilled by rolling a 1, assuming the player can justify it with narration.
  • Traded to another ruler.
  • Used to pay the cost/drawback when rolling a 5 on an Icon benefit roll
  • Used by a creative player to overcome some other challenge in the game. Instead of slaying the army of ogres that threaten your western border, spend your Rich Farmland benefits together with a really good Charisma check and hire them as mercenaries. Instead of using that Meteor Storm spell to power a ritual, use your Arcane Wellspring benefit and keep the spell for blowing up bad guys.

An example from my campaign: Findel’s the representative of the Elf Queen in the Priestess’ court in Santa Cora, and through recent political machinations he’s also the spokesman for the elven clergy and the owner of an estate just outside the city. He’s got the Resources Tower of the Stars +1, Wizard’s Guild +1 and Country Estate +1. He’s also got the +1 background Elven Ambassador in addition to his regular backgrounds.

At the start of the next adventure, he rolls his resource dice. He gets a 1 for Tower of the Stars, a 3 for Wizard’s Guide and a 5 for his Country Estate. The 1 means that his control of the high elven temple in town is under threat; he’s been controlling it through a proxy cleric called Aritu, and it looks like Aritu’s no longer loyal. The wizard’s guild is quiet this year, and his Estate is threatened by a pesky flock of owlbears.

Findel calls his adventuring buddies together to go owlbear hunting to secure the resource benefit from his estate. He then uses that to temporarily increase his Elven Ambassador background to +3 – he justifies this in the story by inviting various dignitaries from the Priestess’ court to his country manor, where they admire his fine owlbearskin rugs, and listen to his concerns that the cleric Aritu is working far too hard, and would benefit from a less stressful assignment – say, a temple in peaceful Concord. Why, Findel can run the temple of the stars until they appoint a replacement cleric…

 Of course, rolling a 1 might also mean that resource has just been stolen by an ancient, vindictive Living Dungeon – in which case, the only way the ruler is ever going to get that resource back is by hunting down the Stone Thief. Now there is a real test of leadership.

BoltstrikeAttackThe upcoming Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign pits the player characters against a vengeful Living Dungeon that steals things from the surface. Castles, mostly, but also wizard’s towers, druid circles, enchanted waterfalls, dragon’s lairs, unholy temples, kobold-infested gold mines or unattended oceans. One of the amusing consequences of this is that the GM can throw in almost any sort of encounter in the dungeon; the player characters turn a corner in the dungeon, and find themselves clambering through the branches of a mile-tall oak tree stolen from the heart of the Elf Queen’s lands.

On one of the deeper levels, the Pit of Undigested Ages, the PCs may come across one of the Dwarf King’s treasure vaults, stolen long ago by the dungeon. We’re going to do that particular section as a homage to classic dungeons of yore, complete with compressed monster write-ups (7th level wrecker [Hm]; Init +10, Hammer +12 vs. AC, 30 dmg; nat even hit gain esc. die next round, n/s gain extra att when at ½ hp; AC24 PD20 MD18 HP 110). So when it came time to actually stick some treasure in the treasure vault, I reached for my trusty D&D Rules Cyclopedia (purchased, according to the annotation on the flyleaf, on the 23rd of November, 1991) and rolled up a pile of Treasure Type H.

Looking through the Cyclopedia, I was struck by how it resembled the 13th Age rulebook.

Both are single-volume tomes, covering character creation and class abilities, combat, gear, adventuring, magic, monsters and setting details. (13th Age has a starting adventure, but the Cyclopedia has rules on time-travelling forward to ensure your descendants stay on the throne of the giant empire you create in order to become a god, so we’ll call that a draw.) Parts of the two games are so similar that it’s easy to convert material back and forth – I rolled a Staff of Striking in that Treasure Type H, so there’s a 13th Age version of the staff in there.

Other elements of the game, though, have fallen by the wayside. Dungeon crawls rarely involve hiring dozens of porters, henchmen and hirelings, and it’s no longer common practice for player characters to build strongholds and rule domains.

This makes me sad: I love political games, intrigue, and domain management. More to the point, if the player characters don’t have strongholds and domains, I can’t have the Living Dungeon steal them. This month, let’s look at strongholds in 13th Age.

 

Stronghold Costs

Barbarian Ring Fort– 2,500 gp

Shrine to the Ancestors in a mountain shaped like a skull – 25,000 gp

(Bards don’t usually build strongholds, but 3,000gp should buy you a luxurious townhouse in Axis or Concord, and 30,000gp gets a palace that’s both sybaritic and acoustically perfect)

Cleric’s Shrine – 5,000 gp

Cathedral to the Gods that attracts pilgrims from across the Empire – 50,000gp

Fighter’s Castle (small keep and wall) –  4,000 gp

Mighty Fortress against whose walls the armies of the Orc Lord might contend in vain – 40,000 gp

Paladin’s Temple – 4,000gp

Great Temple-Fortress of the Order – 40,000gp

Ranger’s Hidden Sanctum – 2,500 gp

Secret Valley in the Mountains blessed by the spirits of nature – 25,000 gp, and it probably has dinosaurs.

Thieves’ (Rogues’) Guildhall – 4,000 gp

Network of secret passages linking half the cellars in a city to the underground kingdom of thieves – 40,000 gp.

Sorcerer’s Tower – 5,000 gp

Tower that channels the fury of the elements through your wild soul – 50,000 gp

Wizard’s Tower – 6,000 gp

Wizard’s Academy – 60,000 gp

Optional Extras

Barracks – 500gp

Cellars, fully stocked for a siege – 1,000gp

Chapel  – 500gp

Gatehouse & Drawbridge – 500gp

Library – 500gp

Luxurious Furnishings – 500gp

Moat – 200gp

Ornamental Gardens -200gp

Servant’s Quarters – 200gp

Smithy -200gp

Stables -200gp

 

Interesting Extras

Arcane laboratory – 5,000 gp

Barracks of elite Crusader-trained warriors – 2,500gp

Dungeon full of interesting monsters – 5,000gp

Chapel blessed by the Priestess – 1,500 gp

Flying Fortress – 25,000gp

Magical wards and spell-guards – 2,500 gp

Library of Blasphemous and Forbidden Lore – one soul, payable to the Diabolist

Library of Arcane Secrets and Erudite Tomes – 5,000 gp, more if you get into a bidding war with the Archmage.

The finest luxuries in the Empire – 10,000gp, and you owe the Prince a favour.

Skymoat – 2,500gp

Ornamental and Carnivorous Gardens – 1,000gp or a favour for the High Druid

Hunting Forest That Wasn’t There Yesterday – 2,000gp, payable in elven triunes only

Servants Quarter’s, Unseen – 1,000gp

Smithy, Dwarven Masters – 2,000gp

Stables, Dragon – 2,000gp (riding dragon not included)

In addition to these costs, assume annual running costs of between 5% and 20% of the building price, depending on circumstances and numbers of staff. That’s a lot of money – in fact, more than most adventures can afford. If you want the prestige of having a stronghold, then you’ll need to either rob richer tombs, or have another source of income…

 

Benefits of a Stronghold

Lording it over your neighbours and living in luxury isn’t enough? Depending on the campaign…:

  • Your stronghold is a place of refuge. If you take a quick rest there, you get to recharge all expended powers automatically, and your companions get to automatically succeed on one recharge roll each. The stronghold also absorbs one campaign loss per level – you can take a full heal-up there when you need it, regardless of circumstances.
  • When you’re at home in your stronghold, you get an extra ‘wild’ relationship die. Each time you roll your relationships, choose which Icon that die is for. You can only choose Icons you have a normal relationship with, unless you can come up with a good reason why agents of another Icon might visit your stronghold.
  • Your stronghold has a bevy of servants and guards. They’re too low-level to go adventuring on your tier, but they can run errands and gather information for you. They’re also generally loyal and trustworthy, which is more than you can say for a mercenary off the streets of Shadowport.

Next month – domains!

gallery29Call me Bargle.

Eyes of the Stone Thief started out under the working title of Moby Dungeon, which rather gives the game away. It’s inspired by Moby Dick, with the whale swapped for a dungeon full of traps and monsters. The characters must hunt the living dungeon as it swims through the Underworld. When it surfaces to feed, they’ve a limited time to delve into it and find a way to destroy it.

They won’t succeed the first time they try. It’s a campaign, not an adventure, so the player characters will return to the dungeon several times. Each expedition brings them deeper into the Stone Thief. The dungeon can rearrange its layout, so the player characters won’t often find themselves going through familiar areas – and when they do, it’s probably because the dungeon has restocked those levels with new traps and dangers. The shifting labyrinth fits with the 13th Age ethos, too – it’s not a dungeon crawl, it’s a dungeon stride boldly forward and don’t worry about mapping every 20′ x 20′ room.

The campaign also takes place outside the dungeon. Factions within the Stone Thief have agents on the surface, clues found in the dungeon point to other adventures, and of course, the Icons have their own schemes and agendas involving the Stone Thief. Also, the dungeon can eat places and turn them into new levels. That wizard’s tower you just visited? That city where you grew up? That castle the Emperor just granted you as a reward? They’re all targets for the Stone Thief. Think of it as a rampaging, power-hungry, city-eating monster that happens to be shaped like a dungeon.

Currently, I’m working my way down through the levels, cramming each one full of the nastiest traps and fights I can manage, while preparing notes on the surface side of the campaign. I’ve got my list of inspirations and aspirations beside me as I write, covering everything from Piranesi’s drawings of Carceri to House of Leaves and Gormenghast to photographs of abandoned buildings in Detroit to classic dungeons like Undermountain and the Tomb of Horrors to Knightmare.

And back again to Moby Dick. If the dungeon’s the White Whale, then the player characters risk becoming a band of crazed, vengeance-seeking Ahabs…

13a_stcover_oct2_v2Can you kill the dungeon before it kills you?

In 13th Age, living dungeons slither up through the underworld and invade the surface lands. The Stone Thief is the most ancient and cunning of its kind; a vast monster that preys on the cities and structures you love, swallows them, and remakes them into more deathtrap-filled levels inside itself. Now, it’s hunting YOU.

For players:

  • Embark on a saga of madness, revenge and giant monsters
  • Aid or thwart the schemes of the Icons as they battle for control of the dungeon
  • Slay, loot and survive deep in the bowels of the earth
  • Destroy this age-old threat forever

For GMs:

  • A monstrous campaign covering the entire Champion tier (4th to 8th level)
  • Thirteen levels of peril from the dungeon’s opening Maw to the orc hordes of the Deep Keep, the terrors of the Pit of Undigested Ages, and the nightmare city beyond the Onyx Catacombs
  • New monsters, new treasures, new traps, and new factions for your 13th Age campaign

The Stone Thief rises. Enter it, find its secrets and defeat it – or die trying.

Stock #: PEL13A07 Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artist: Anna Kryczkowska, Pat Loboyko, Rich Longmore, Juha Makkonen, Russ Nicholson, Ben Wooten Pages: 360 page hardback

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