by Rob Heinsoo
I’ve known editors who agonize over the placement of a comma in a card game rulebook ten years after the game released . . . and other editors who nodded knowingly when I told the stories as what I thought was an example of caring way too much! My own nibbling regrets, years after a book is published, often have something to do with the way I wasn’t able to make final text live up to the art.
Unlike my comma-troubled editor friends, I’m able to follow-up! So today’s column has monster stats meant to capture the spirit of the nasty centaur lancer devoted to the Lich King pictured on page 36 of the first 13th Age Bestiary. That’s him below, in war paint blessed by necromancers.
When I commissioned this art from Rich Longmore, I intended to have a number of centaur champions devoted to different icons in the centaur entry. The lancer with the Lich King’s symbol on his shield was going to be one of four or five icon-focused warriors. But then the story and the mechanical design went in a different direction. I used text about devotion to nasty icons to account for Rich’s illustration, but I had the lingering feeling that I’d let the art down by providing generic stats.
Well no longer. The nigh-dead lancer that follows counts as an elite monster, half-again as tough as a normal monster (see page 7 in Bestiary 2 for a discussion of elite creatures and page 303 for a Building Battles table that accounts for them.)
About these elite stats: If you look carefully at the lancer’s stats, it won’t look tougher than most other 5th level monsters. It counts as elite because when it dies, the Lich King’s power transforms it into another undead creature, ready to fight on against the enemies that ended its life.
The math here is interesting. Both the living and undead versions are normal-strength monsters. They shouldn’t count as double-strength because you only fight one at a time. They also shouldn’t count as only a single monster because you’ll have to fight two, one after the other. I’m guessing that splitting the difference is right, hence the designation as elite.
Level choice: I put the new creature at 5th level instead of 4th for a few reasons. First, I wanted to team the nigh-dead lancer up with 5th level wraiths (13th Age core book, page 250). Second, I figured I might as well give you a centaur one level higher than the existing lancer instead of duplicating stats. So I rewrote several mechanics. If you want to use it as a regular 5th level creature instead of elite, just skip the death unmasked ability. Likewise you can use both the zombie centaur and the wraith lancer as standard 5th level monsters.
Punishing option: If your game table is anything like mine, you may want to pronounce this creature’s name as ‘neigh-dead’ lancer. It’s neigh-dead. Until it is.
Your death or its, both work.
Elite 5th level troop [humanoid]
Terrible lance +11 vs. AC—17 damage, and the target pops free from the centaur
Hit ’em hard: The crit range of the attack expands by 2 and instead deals 22 damage on a hit if the centaur first moves before attacking an enemy it wasn’t engaged with at the start of its turn.
Natural 18+: The nigh-dead lancer gains the ability to make a single kick attack as a quick action later this battle; these uses can accumulate.
Kick +11 vs. PD—7 damage, and the target pops free from the nigh-dead lancer.
R: Horse bow +10 vs AC (1 nearby or faraway enemy)—14 damage
Death unmasked: When the nigh-dead lancer drops to 0 hit points, even if the PCs say they’re only trying to knock it unconscious, it dies. Roll a d6, add the escalation die, and replace the nigh-dead lancer with the indicated creature. 1-5: zombie centaur; 6+: wraith lancer. The new creature keeps the same initiative as the now-dead lancer.
Harnessed speed: The nigh-dead lancer gains a +4 AC bonus against opportunity attacks.
PD 18 HP 64
Faith isn’t always fully rewarded.
5th level wrecker [undead]
Initiative: +7 (but uses nigh-dead lancer’s initiative if that’s how it entered the battle)
Flailing hooves +10 vs. AC (2 attacks)—8 damage
Natural even hit or miss: Both the zombie centaur and its target take 2d6 damage!
Headshot: A critical hit against a zombie drops it to 0-hit points.
PD 18 HP 100
Destroy this creature utterly, or it’s bound for the marshalling grounds of the Necropolis.
5th level spoiler [undead]
Initiative: +11 (but uses nigh-dead lancer’s initiative if that’s how it entered the battle)
Wraith-lance +11 vs. PD—13 negative energy damage
Natural 2-5: Target is weakened until the end of its next turn.
C: Spiral charge +11 vs. PD (1d4 nearby enemies)—13 negative energy damage, and after the attack the wraith lancer teleports to and engages with one target it hit
Limited use: The wraith lancer can use spiral charge only when the escalation die is even.
Flight: The wraith lancer hovers, zooms, and stampedes mid-air.
Ghostly: This creature has resist damage 16+ to all damage except force damage, which damages it normally. It can move through solid objects, but it can’t ends its movement inside them.
PD 15 HP 70