text by Julian Kay
Why let spellcasters have all the fun? This variant rule for the 13th Age RPG expands the ritual rules to those don’t wield magic, giving them an option to use their backgrounds in fantastical fashion.
Pushing a castle gate with strength alone, deducing a culprit from a footprint, foiling a massive army with a brilliant gambit—these are mighty deeds. This variant mechanic allows PCs to take on a more grandiose role than in many F20 games, allowing them to perform the feats of mythological heroes. Exactly how far you want to take this variant rule is up to your group, and it’s best to establish what you’re aiming for. While pulling up a castle portcullis with strength alone is one thing, it’ll be up to you if redirecting a river is over the line.
Mighty deeds work similarly to rituals (13A pgs. 192-193). But where rituals draw flavor from the spell sacrificed to cast them, deeds are influenced by the backgrounds of the character performing them. “Ascendant of the Seventh Mountain” could fit mighty deeds relating to climbing or awareness of the Seventh Mountain’s region, for example. “The Forbidden Librarian” would relate to knowing things that should never be known. A character needs to take an adventurer-tier feat to perform mighty deeds, and they cost recoveries to perform.
Exactly what constitutes a mighty deed can be vague, but if it seems outside of the realm of mildly exaggerated (i.e. action movie) human capability, it’s probably a mighty deed rather than a normal background check. There isn’t a precise line, and individual GMs will have to assess what requires a mighty deed and what doesn’t. But to take our Ascendant of the Seventh Mountain, free climbing a mountain or being aware of likely ambush points would just be a normal skill check. However, ascending at the pace of a run, leaping across a massive gorge, or being aware of enemy presences on your mountain (sight unseen) would be a mighty deed.
Mighty deeds aren’t as open-ended as rituals. They’re tied more tightly to backgrounds, serving as exaggerations of a character’s existing abilities and skill. In turn, they tend to have lesser requirements than rituals, as the Ascendant isn’t going to have to collect the eyelash of a medusa to make their way up a mountain. But they still often require groundwork. A tactician’s trick to hold off a skeletal army could require time to devise a plan, plant traps, etc. Even leaping up a mountain might take a moment to focus or warm up.
To perform a mighty deed:
- Declare the background relating to your mighty deed.
- Tell the GM what you’re trying to accomplish. If a deed requires groundwork, this can become a mini-adventure or an encounter if the GM or players wish. The GM should declare how many recoveries it should take. This is typically just 1 recovery, but it may take 2 or even 3 if the feat is particularly amazing. In most cases, a deed that simply advances the heroes on the adventure would require a single recovery. Deeds that could change the course of a story or plot would take two recoveries. Finally, deeds that impact the setting (like the aforementioned river redirection) would be three recoveries.
- Spend 1d4 rounds / minutes / quarter-hours performing the deed. Like with rituals, the PC must be wholly focused and can’t perform other attacks without aborting the deed. (But some deeds may count as attacks; see below.) Similarly, falling unconscious and some status effects may raise the DC or negate the attempt. For example, being on fire would probably it more difficult to complete a song to sway the heart of a vengeful ghost. But maybe not; it depends on the ghost!
- Make a skill check using the declared background and an ability score determined by the GM, using standard DC targets based on the tier and effect.
Determining results: The outcome is guided by the background chosen, though elements like class or the One Unique Thing might play in as well. A commander could stop an army with a clever ploy, while a barbarian might shout an army into stopping. Like rituals, mighty deeds don’t need to be repeatable in every circumstance—they’re supposed to be the exception to normal skill checks, not the routine. The “rule of cool” applies here, and if a mighty deed stops being interesting, gamemasters should encourage players to innovate with more grandiose effects.
Failing forward: Just like with normal skill checks, mighty deeds fail forward. However, unlike normal skill checks, mighty deeds tend to function by default but create consequences. The Ascendant leaping across a gorge might send rocks tumbling down, alerting creatures or enemies to the party’s presence. The Forbidden Librarian might discover a tidbit of lore in a dream, but the mental strain gives them a temporary quirk. However, recoveries remain expended even on a failure.
Deeds during battles: Mighty deeds are typically used outside of combat, but there are circumstances where it’s necessary conceptually. For example, it’s hard to imagine knocking over a wall on a group of goblins would be harmless! Such deeds are adjudicated like the rogue’s Swashbuckling talent (13A pg. 128), though less comparatively reliable due to the time, cost, and roll involved. Some might even count as attacks, inflict a status effect, or both. Gamemasters should consider the time and cost involved in a deed to determine their effect.
Summary: Mighty deeds exist to expand a PC’s skill checks in a free-form and dramatic fashion, and provide new creative avenues for players. Don’t ever use them to punish characters with time and costs simply for trying difficult things—if a skill check seems on the verge of being a mighty deed, it’s better to be cautious and let them perform a normal skill check instead.
These feats are available to any character, but are mainly meant for classes that lack access to the Ritual Caster (13A pg. 44) adventurer-tier feat.
Adventurer Tier: You can perform mighty deeds by expending recoveries.
Champion Feat: You gain an additional 2 recoveries that may only be expended to perform mighty deeds.
Epic Feat: Gain +5 to any skill check used to perform a mighty deed.
Deeds by Class
The following are additional options for certain classes that have purchased the Mighty Deeds adventurer-tier feat.
You may expend a tactic to perform a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries. Just like a spellcaster that expends a spell for a ritual, the tactic should be related to the deed in question.
When performing a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries, you may expend your daily use of rage to waive its recovery cost. This must be related to your rage thematically, being likely related to anger or destruction. After the deed is complete, you may roll to recover your rage as if you had used it in battle.
Fighters already benefit from an extra recovery by default, letting them perform mighty deeds more often.
You may expend 2 points of ki to replace 1 recovery when performing a mighty deed. Mighty deeds fueled by ki should be related to your martial prowess and self-control.
You may expend 2 uses of smite to replace 1 recovery when performing a mighty deed. Mighty deeds fueled by smite uses will likely have some miracle associated with them, blurring the line between divine magic and personal skill.
Rangers with the Tracker talent may expend their terrain stunt to waive the cost of a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries that relates to terrain or wilderness.
Rogues with the Swashbuckling talent can expend Momentum to waive the cost of a mighty deed with a cost of 1 or 2 recoveries that relates to being tricky or flamboyant.
Or at least all PCs can be! Personally, I give all characters the choice of taking the Mighty Deeds or Ritual Caster (13A pg. 44) adventurer-tier feats in my games for free. Retaining the feat cost could be more appropriate for games where mighty deeds are very unusual or related to grandiose One Unique Things.