Rob Heinsoo: 13th Age at ZOEcon

The Escalation Die at ZOEconThis post originally appeared on Rob’s blog.

I ran a two hour demo session of 13th Age at ZOEcon last week for five players. I was deadline -rushed working on 13th Age so I didn’t otherwise partake of the convention, but I did catch up with a couple friends I hadn’t talked to in years.

The player who’d traveled the furthest was visiting from Peru on business. Perhaps not coincidentally, he played a character with a bit of business in her background: Arian was a halfling heiress, the exiled heir to the largest halfling corporation in the world. It had an assimilation-style name, something to fit in among the taller barons of Glitterhaegen, so I can’t remember what the corp was called. Arian was a rogue who was inordinately fond of all-things-elven but she took her main cues from the Prince of Shadows.

Unlike most sessions, where I actively try to find connections between all the PCs, this session ended up feeling a lot more like a game of Fiasco. Somewhat at a loss for a unifying plotline, I fell back on the notion that the High Druid’s resurgence had reactivated ancient dwarven mines and that some mines were now sending out powerful metals that had been lost for centuries.

The player of the elf wizard had been reading a lot of Tolkien. He glibly dubbed our miracle metal quindilar. Quindalar flowed and shimmied and did its best impression of the stuff in the briefcase at the end of Pulp Fiction. All the PCs ended up wanting quindilar, or having an interest in its future, and after off-screen travail and the deaths of their other traveling companions, they faced off at the entrance of a former dwarven copper mine, now pulsing with quindilar veins.

Talian the elf wizard and Court historian was friends with the halfling heiress. The elf wizard had been exceptionally good friends with the Elf Queen, since he was the father of her upcoming child. It was expedient for him to leave the Court while still breathing and he hoped that quindilar might offer him an avenue to a life where he could have more to do with his family.

The dwarf cleric, Ollen, had been blessed with the Great Gold Wyrm with the ability to eat most anything, a survival blessing that had allowed Ollen and other heroes to survive a fearsome siege. Ollen preferred minerals. That’s probably where I started conceiving the quindilar plan.

Raven the half-orc barbarian was a foundling and a champion of the forest, devoted to the High Druid at a level that went beyond words.

Trixie…. Well, Trixie was a mess unless she was fighting. A two-weapon fighter and a one-woman hybrid of a Great Gold Wyrm champion and a camp follower. The details are now buried.

I can’t claim there was a great deal I added to the session. I started the action with an orc-fake. As the PCs faced each other at the mine entrance, swords drawn and wands ready, an orc arrow hissed out of the darkness of the mine and clattered off the fighter’s armor. A fight with minions of the Orc Lord made the most sense given the PCs’ enemies. I reached into my minis bags for the orcs. Undead, gnolls, goblins, lizard men. No orcs. Whoops.

Aided by the players, I came up with the following: “The gnolls have been fighting their way here too. They ran out of arrows. They’re down to using orc arrows. That’s why that attack missed so badly [natural 1].”

So the orc fight turned into a gnoll’n’demon fight. The PCs got over their initial mistrust and didn’t start interfering with each other until the moment that the gnolls had given up (Trixie’s sword, blessed by the GGW in preparation for combat with demon-lovers, was putting the fear into them, literally) and the Diabolist’s messenger imp that was trying to escape with a glowing golden tube was tumbling from the sky suffering from acid arrow damage that was going to kill it. Trixie made a play for the tube before Ariana (the halfling heiress) put her swashbuckle talent to perfect use and somersaulted away with the goods.

At that point the action could really have gone all-Fiasco, but Ollen the dwarf and Raven the barbarian calmed people down. We ended with a round-the-table tell-me-the-end-of-your-character’s story, that went something like this…

  • Ariana used quindilar to build a company that competed with her father’s organization while embracing halfling culture instead of pretending to be Big Folk.
  • Talian wisely kept away from the Court of Stars but used quindilar to further his researches and to create beautiful gifts for his lover the Queen and toys for the child.
  • Ollen discovered that quindilar was just about the tastiest thing he’d ever experienced. I didn’t give him much of a chance to expand on his character beyond this broadly mimed discovery.
  • Raven made all the other characters’ plans possible by NOT working with the High Druid and the powers of nature to shut the mine down. “As long as they use quindilar in moderation and do not harm the earth,” he said.
  • Trixie died alone of an unmentionable disease.

Photo credit: Ash Law

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