If you attended the 13th Age Monster Workshop at Gen Con Online this past weekend, you were treated to some odd and creepy fun with gnomes. It reminded me that way back in 2013, when 13th Age was still brand new, I ran this weird little adventure at Gen Con. It was a lot of fun so I’ve shared it here with some updates. The linkling and the clockwork automaton are both by ASH LAW—the former is from Into the Underworld, the latter from Shards of the Broken Sky.
DEEP GNOME RISING
A small adventure for level 2 characters
A representative of the PCs’ patron icon (choose one from their icon relationships) asks the group to investigate strange goings-on in a town within their region. Outgoing trade, travel, and communication has ceased; people who attempt to visit the town report seeing from a distance that it’s been bizarrely transformed by the presence of weird machines and mechanized structures such as gates, bridges, and automated watchtowers that fire crossbow bolts at anyone who gets too close. At the same time, a rough gang of drow bandits have been raiding nearby villages and robbing merchant caravans at night.
When the PCs arrive (run a travel montage in which you dole out snippets of information about recent activity in and around the town over the past few months) they discover that the town is under the control of deep gnomes: a branch of gnomekind that dwells deep in the underworld, where its weirdness has made them become profoundly erratic and obsessed with “improving” things through science. The city is now ruled by the gnomarch Azbqiplth; its non-gnomish citizens live in fear of the new overlords and their well-meaning but profoundly dangerous civic efforts. The gnomes are accompanied by a contingent of surly drow who report directly to Azbqiplth’s majordomo Gaspard, a drider cyborg.
The horrible truth: Azbqiplth is actually controlled by a science-minded intellect devourer named (as is custom) for its greatest achievement, which unfortunately is Escaped Execution by the Dwarf King for Blowing Up His Favorite Steam Chariot While Fixing It. After fleeing the Dwarf King’s realm in its automaton body, E.E. stumbled across a deep gnome settlement and was struck by inspiration: “Is an intellect devourer not entitled to the sweat of its brain?” it thought. E.E. envisioned a city dedicated to technological advancement far above the underworld, free from meddlers and naysayers. It killed Azbqiplth while the gnomarch was in a drunken stupor, took over his body, rallied its new subjects to support its scheme, and hired Gaspard’s gang of drow mercenaries as muscle. Gaspard convinced E.E. that simply taking over the town that happened to be directly above them would be easier than building one. Gaspard now uses the town as a base for looting and pillaging; he plans to disappear with his gang back into the underworld when the inevitable army shows up, leaving the gnomes to face the consequences.
Monsters encountered in town:
Deep Gnome Apprentice
1st level mook [humanoid]
Truncheon +6 vs. AC—4 damage
C: Grappling hook +6 vs. AC—3 damage
Natural 16+ hit: Target is hampered (basic attacks only, normal save ends.)
PD 14 HP 5 (mook)
Mook: Kill one mook for every 5 damage you deal to the mob.
Deep Gnome Journeyman
1st level troop [humanoid]
Truncheon +6 vs. AC—6 damage if the gnomes and their allies outnumber their enemies; 4 damage if they don’t.
R: Repeating crossbow +6 vs. AC—4 damage
Confounding: Once per battle, when the deep gnome journeyman rolls a natural 16+ with an attack, it can also daze the target until the end of its next turn.
PD 13 HP 22
Deep Gnome Master
4th level leader [humanoid]
Sword +10 vs. AC—14 damage, and willing–underling triggers
R: Throwing axe +8 vs. AC—10 damage
Protect me, you dolts!: Until the start of its next turn, the first time an attack would hit the deep gnome master, it can partially avoid that attack if deep gnome journeyman or apprentice is nearby: It only takes half damage from the attack, and that ally takes the rest.
Confounding: Once per battle, when the deep gnome master rolls a natural 11+ with an attack, it can also daze the target until the end of its next turn.
PD 17 HP 50
A tiny mechanical golem, linklings are spherical assemblages of cogs, chains, and clockwork.
1st level mook [construct]
Gear teeth +7 vs. AC—5 damage
Natural even hit or miss: Disengaging from the linkling has a -5 penalty as it wraps tiny chains around its target’s feet.
Limited golem immunity: Non-organic golems are immune to effects. They can’t be dazed, weakened, confused, made vulnerable, or touched by ongoing damage. You can damage a golem, but that’s about it. Linklings are fragile, and lose their golem immunity when the escalation die is even.
PD 15. HP 7 (mook)
Mook: Kill one linkling mook for every 7 damage you deal to the mob.
Gears grind and the thing moves forward on a pair of spoked, iron wheels. Each of its metal arms ends in a sharp point.
2nd level troop [construct]
Spear-hands +6 vs. AC—6 damage
Natural even hit: The automaton can make a second spear-hands attack as a free action (but not a third).
Made of gears and cables: When an attack crits against it or when it’s staggered, the automaton must roll an easy save (6+). On a failure, the construct’s internal workings fail, and it breaks apart in a small explosion of metal and gears. Drop the automaton to 0 hp and make an exploding gears attack.
C: Exploding gears +6 vs. PD (each creature engaged with or next to the automaton)—2d12 damage
PD 14 HP 40
Monsters encountered in the Mayoral Hall
An elegant, polite dark elf who acts as the majordomo of the Deep Gnome gnomarch. His lower body is a mechanical spider constructed by deep gnomes and powered by harnessed lightning.
Large 4th level caster [wrecker]
Sword-wielding mechanical arms +9 vs. AC—14 damage
Natural even hit: Gaspard can make a lightning bolt attack as a free action.
R: Lightning bolt +11 vs. PD—20 lightning damage
Natural even hit: Gaspard can make a lightning bolt attack against a second nearby enemy, followed by a third and final different nearby enemy if the second attack is also a natural even hit.
C: Lightning web +11 vs. PD (up to 2 nearby enemies in a group)— the target is hampered (basic attacks only, save ends)
Limited use: 1/round as a quick action, if the escalation die is even.
Clockwork spider: Gaspard can climb walls as easily as running across the floor.
Summon Lightning Ghosts: Once per battle when staggered, Gaspard can summon 1d6 lightning ghosts to attack his foes. They act on the following turn and remain till killed or the battle ends, whichever comes first.
PD 18 HP 54
1st level spoiler [elemental]
Shocking claws +6 vs. AC—3 damage, and 5 ongoing damage
Electrical aura: Whenever a creature attacks the lightning ghost and rolls a natural 1–5, that creature takes 1d10 lightning damage.
Flight: Lightning ghosts are hard to pin down because they fly. Not that fast or well, but you don’t have to fly well to fly better than humans and elves.
PD 11 HP 27
Dark Elf Mercenary
1st level spoiler [humanoid]
Fancy sword +5 vs. AC—4 damage
Natural even hit: The drow deals an additional 5 ongoing bleeding damage (6+ save ends)
PD 14 HP 27
Azbqiplth, Gnomarch of the Deep Gnomes
Azbqiplth has become more machine than gnome. Madness!
5th level wrecker [construct]
Fists of iron +10 vs. AC—15 damage
Miss: 5 damage.
Limited golem immunity: Due to his part-mechanical nature, Azbqiplth can only be dazed, weakened, confused, made vulnerable, or touched by ongoing damage when the escalation die is even
Poison gas: The first time Azbqiplth is staggered, poison gas leaks from his mechanical body into the area. He can make a poison gas cloud attack as a free action.
[Special trigger] C: Poison gas cloud +10 vs. PD (all nearby foes)—5 ongoing poison damage
Confounding: Once per battle, when Azbqiplth rolls a natural 11+ with an attack, he can also daze the target until the end of his next turn.
PD 19 HP 72
Escaped Execution by the Dwarf King for Blowing Up His Favorite Steam Chariot While Fixing It (aka E.E.), Intellect Devourer
3rd level spoiler [aberration]
C: Recall trauma +8 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—16 psychic damage
Natural even hit: The target can’t add the escalation die bonus to its attacks (save ends).
C: Ego scourge +8 vs MD (one enemy)—10 psychic damage, and the target must choose one: take 10 extra damage; OR lose two points (cumulative) from its highest current background until the next full heal-up.
C: Mind wipe +9 vs MD (nearby enemies equal to escalation die)—The target can neither detect the intellect devourer’s presence nor remember it was ever there to begin with. If no enemy remembers the devourer is there, remove it from play. All nearby enemies immediately detect the devourer’s presence if it makes an attack or if it hasn’t left the battle by the end of its next turn.
Limited use: 1/battle.
Exploit trauma: An intellect devourer’s crit range with attacks against MD expands by 2.
Psychovore: An intellect devourer remembers the current escalation die value the first time it becomes unhosted in a battle and gains a bonus equal to that value to all attacks and defenses.
Increased trauma: Add the following extra effect trigger to the intellect devourer’s recall trauma attack.
Natural 5, 10, 15, 20: The target can’t cast spells until the end of its next turn.
PD 15 HP 56
13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.