In this article I’m going to talk about a new playable race for 13th Age, but before I get there let me meander for a bit.
As some of you might know I’m currently working with Rob and a handful of talented writers on the bestiary for 13th Age. At the beginning of the project I submitted a monster on spec, naturally it was a hound, and naturally the answer was ‘no’. Apparently Rob fawning candy blink dogs make Rob twitch.
The next stage after being told ‘no dogs’ was being assigned monsters. I got some good solid standard monsters to riff on: Orcs, Bulettes, Kobolds, Ogres. I also got handed some odd stuff. The deadly chuul. The vexing shadow dragon. Chuuls. Oh that chuulishly chuulish chuul – maybe one day I’ll write about that.
In each monster I tried to find a new take on the classic. Chameleonic kobold ninjas. Psychic orcs with pulsing brains down their spines. New types of bulette that catch you with their frog-like tongues. The chuul… ah the chuul.
Then there was the Ambulatory Fungus…
What do you do with a walking mushroom? I started with a basic monster, a slow-moving cave fungus that could attack adventurers. I called this beast the Fellshroom. It was a simple wall-crawling toxic fungus that gives off a loud shriek. Then I started designing outwards from there. What hangs out with fellshrooms? Obviously some sort of floating man-o-war aerial spore monster. What else? Ah, maybe a simple farmer-type fungus that acts as a fungal gardner (killing adventurers to feed its fungal buddies). Then it struck me… the fungal kingdom! Of course. Not just a collection of biological specimens but an actual kingdom made of and populated by funguses. Or fungi. Or fungaloids.
Sometimes it takes me a while to see the obvious… I wrote up fungal wizards and soldiers and kings and finally the gargantuan fungal empress.
You’ll be pleased to hear that Rob found better names and toned down the size and level of some of these. Part of the process of writing the bestiary has been the swift sword of Cal Moore. Cal is our editor and his job is to splash cold water in our faces, get us to cut down entries to a reasonable size, and spot what we might have missed. Without Cal’s cuts the book would be twice as long and half as legible. Rob and Cal together cut a lot out, but they were pruning a bonsai tree rather than attacking a zombie with a chainsaw. Ideas shift, stuff is sent back for cutting or modification, and names are changed (ambulatory funguses became mycotics became fungals became fungoids became fungaloids).
That night I dreamed of pallid palaces hidden in dank sunless marshes and deepest dungeons… pale figures moving under moss-covered branches… alien and other… and I woke up with the tywyzog fresh in my mind.
So what is a tywyzog? At first I wanted a type of fungus that adventurers could meet in a tavern. Sure multi-lobed fungal brains and toadstool men are all well and good, but can they enter a tavern to give a map to the adventurers? Can they sneak into town to assassinate the person who ordered the draining of the marsh? Can they be employed as torturers by The Three? Nope. I needed something that under a cloak could move and talk like one of the playable races.
After noodling around with mechanics and names like “Mycotic Emissary” and “Fungal Sneak” and “Knight of Fungi” it occurred to me that a ‘zog could be any of those things. If the fungal kingdoms had kings and empresses and so forth why not make these minor nobility and let players play them. (The name is from a welsh word meaning ‘prince’, though with a Z instead of an S.)
So I slipped it in …
Here is a new race with an interesting background. A lone spore finds fertile land and starts producing fungal terrain. Once the terrain has spread far enough simple fungal creatures begin to sprout, then fungus farmers, then soldiers and so on. Eventually a form of higher-functioning royalty is produced to lead the fungaloid kingdom, acting as the decision making node, allowing for the kingdom to go from simple instinctive grow-and-defend to more complex strategies. Eventually the fungaloid kingdom will encounter a problem that requires an agent who can act in the wider world with independent thought and volition, and pass among humanoids relatively unnoticed.
However, no matter how humanoid they might look they are still alien. They weren’t born, they sprouted fully formed. They come from a ‘perfect society’ where every creature has a role and a purpose and work in union, and communication is via thought-carrying spore-clouds. They are not even an animal, humanoids to them are walking sacks of fertilizer that talk.
… and Rob said yes.
So there we have it. The first new playable race for 13th Age. If you pre-ordered you have a link to the bestiary playtest document and can find the playtest version of the tywyzog race in there.
Like most of 13th Age we’ve left room for you as a player or GM to define your game-world. Here are some questions to which you should supply the answers. Just want are ‘zogs like in your game?
Do fungus pray to gods? If so, why?
Can a tywyzog experience love or hate?
Do fungus have art or literature, and if so would we recognize it?
What happens to a dead tywyzog? Do they decompose, sprout a new kingdom and eventually reincarnate? Do they simply turn to mush? Are they edible?
Tywyzog have no gender, what do they think of gender in humanoids?
What weapons would a tywyzog prefer to use, and why?
Can tywyzog rebel? What would a rebel tywyzog look like?
What do tywyzog eat and drink? What do they wear if they wear clothes?
- Do fungaloid kingdoms resemble humanoid kingdoms, are they full of alien spires and twisted tunnels, or are they devoid of solid structures at all?
As a taster, here is a fungaloid monster that didn’t quite survive to the final version. The deadly fellshroom, the monster that was the genesis of the fungaloid kingdoms idea.
The luminescent five-legged toadstool hop-slides around the cavern leaving a trail of glowing liquid behind it. They may look cute, but most of these are far from edible . . . some would like to eat YOU.
1st level spoiler [plant]
C: Poison tentacles 6 vs. PD (1d3 nearby enemies)—4 poison damage, and the target is vulnerable to piercing shriek (save ends)
C: Piercing shriek 6 vs. PD (1d3 nearby enemies)—4 psychic damage
Slow: A fellshroom doesn’t get a move action when the escalation die is odd.
Wall-crawler: A fellshroom can climb on ceilings and walls as easily as it moves on the ground.
PD 11 HP 27
As a bonus, have a new template to add to undead. If animals can be dire, undead can certainly be fungal hosts!
Undead that exist in or near to a fungal kingdom can become infested with fungi, giving them new and unusual features.
Fungal Host features (d4)
1: Fungal bounty—The host is more fungus than undead now, its body is twisted and evil-looking. Add 30-40% to the fungal host’s HP, but it gains vulnerability to fire and cold in addition to any existing vulnerabilities.
2: Fungal spores—Plate-like fungi sprout from the body of the undead. Whenever an enemy hits the fungal host undead with a melee attack the attacker takes ongoing poison damage equal to the undead’s level.
3: Parasitic mycelium—The undead is covered with white hair-like structures that seek to infest new hosts. When the escalation die is even, any nearby staggered or dying enemies take twice their own level in poison damage. If this kills them, in the following round they rise as a new undead identical to the one that killed them.
4: Psychic screech—This hybrid undead’s skull is home to a bulging mass of fungaloid brain tissue. The undead’s main attack also deals ongoing psychic damage (5 ongoing psychic at levels 1–4, 10 at 5–7, 15 at 8-10).