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My 13th Age game was prepped, and my old AD&D group were ready for 22 hours of gaming. My prime concern was getting combat to run as quickly and smoothly as possible. I knew the rest would be straightforward.
Mark had printed and laminated a bunch of Status cards from the resource page – these were very useful. I put him in charge of giving them out, so if anyone was stunned, paralysed, or frit, Mark would hand them a card.
I used index cards (per ASH LAW’s suggestion) and wrote the names of the PCs and a few pertinent details about their characters on them – AC, unique things and backgrounds, for example. When it came to initiative, I just wrote the PC initiative rolls on the top right of the card, sorted them into order and added in monsters (usually one card for each type of monster), to make sure everyone acted in at the right time.
So, I ran the ambush scene. It was perhaps a bit ambitious for a first combat and unsual in that breaking through and fleeing the scene was the wise move; but I wanted them filled with adrenaline, on the run but motived for revenge. It took a little longer than a standard AD&D combat, but that was because each player was learning what their character could do. For me though, it was dead easy. The monsters had triggers which caused them to act in certain ways, which alongside GM choice gave an illusion of real choices by their opponents.
Eventually they fled, though the paladin had to be dragged away from a heavily armoured and mounted mercenary’s lance. They were pursued by orcs, and the sage guided them to a nearby abandoned keep. Cleverly (and unexpectedly) they searched for found the secret tunnel which lead to the keep’s cellar (I’d planned this as an exit for them). They even managed to restrain themselves from attacking a sleeping bear which was using the tunnel as a lair.
The keep was inhabited by undead brought to life by a necromancer. The necromancer, acting under secret order, had poisoned his fellow King’s Marshalls, but the dying curse of one means he is holding the Keep against allcomers.
This second combat was very smooth indeed, with the players get a handle on what they were capable of. The PC necromancer repopulated upper level of the keep with minions to make it look as if the Keep was still guarded by undead.
The PCs found information and a map. I gave them a number of options (I’d keyed battle scenes to each location) and I was pleased they decided to sneak out of the keep and divide and conquer the orcs. So, avoiding the orcs who were hunting them down, they took a raft down river to the orcs’ camp to slay those orcs left behind. This was the first adventure of from The first Battle Scenes book, High Magic and Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons. The set pieces were great, with each location offering opportunities to use the terrain, and the GM options to combine the many different roles that Bestiary and 13th Age orcs offer. When they asked what was in an orc’s pocket – I quoted from the Bestiary “Half-eaten greenish meat (might be cheese, hard to say), broken parts of a silver statue looted from a temple, unidentified greasy mass, fleas, disease.”
From that I got a tie-in to another Battle Scene adventure set in a looted temple, a potentially unpleasant condition to be treated by an uncooperative NPC, and an ingredient. The Bestiary is great like that.
Then we came to the ritual.
The PCs decided they wanted to disguise themselves as orcs to slip through the cordon without being attacked. The idea is a user of magic who can enact rituals (in this case the wizard) picks a spell as a basis for the ritual (she chose Disguise Self). This is a simple skill check against a DC set by the GM, with an atrribute bonus and suitable background.
The necromancer reanimated some dead orcs; they smeared the “unidentified greasy mass” over themselves and wore some orcish cloaks and helms and enacted the ritual. I added bonuses to their roll for a particularly good job.
So, they cruised past the potentially abseiling orcs with only a face-off with the leader. The orc leader head-butted the paladin, but they realised that this was just a display of dominance and greeting, so the paladin head-butted him right back.
Then we came to the largest and most complex combat bar one I ran – an attack on the half-occupied orcish village. They had surprise, and the ability to add backgrounds meant that the paladin was able to sneak into position behind the leader along with the rogue before it kicked off. By this stage, they’d really got the hang of their characters and had started working together; the Necromancer using his necrotic flunkies to absorb the mooks; the paladin dealing megadamage, the cleric of Justice enabled a vital reroll and the rogue sabotaging the orcs zip line. A few lucky crits helped, too.
Icon Relationship Rolls
As I mentioned in the previous article, I used major NPCs and the players’ own major characters as icons. I made icon rolls at the beginning of the first session, noted the icon results on their index cards, and gave a red Hillfolk token for rolls of 5s and a black one for rolls of 6. They players could throw in a token whenever they wanted to get a bonus on a roll, or invoke the (indirect) help of the icon.
For example, one character took the hat off a crime boss with him they were negotiating and put in on. The heavies pinned her against the wall by her neck. The player through in a red token (a relationship with a slave-taking icon) and suggested that she’d revealed a slave collar mark on her neck, and the crime boss had one too. “You’ve earned that hat, girl,” he said.
As the Battle Scene adventures were all icon themed, this approach worked pretty well.