The Free RPG Day adventure Make Your Own Luck was the first published 13th Age adventure I ever ran. (Well, not counting The Wreck of Volund’s Glory, which I wrote!) I love how much it does within the confined space of a city under siege, and I come back to it again and again—incorporating it into my ongoing campaign, customizing it for various one-shots, creating siege mechanics for it, and using it for ideas and inspiration.
Recently I was asked to run 13th Age for two players, one of whom wasn’t familiar with the game. I knew the player loved the Mechwarrior videogame series, and pictured their heroes searching a forbidding mountain range in the Dragon Empire for a long-lost war machine from a bygone age. Why? To help defend the besieged town of Harrowdale, of course!
See, it hit me that there’s a lot going on around the events of MYOL that could provide the seed for an adventure: heroes of a previous age acquire a powerful artifact and hide it in Harrowdale; Marrowbreath rises to become a powerful general; a villain raises a troll army under Marrowbreath’s command to lay siege to the town; the troll army marches through an inhabited area, leaving devastation in its wake; riders or runners must get word of the siege to the Emperor; the Imperial Legion must get there before the town is overrun.
For this adventure I borrowed the format of Swords Against Hell, a convention adventure by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan:
- The heroes know that the machine was located near one of a handful of interesting places
- The players decide which locations they wanted to search
- Their search reveals clues about where the war machine is
- The actual location of the machine depends on how the players respond to the information they learn, and the amount of time we have left to play
For enemies, I used the monsters from the free 13th Age 2-Hour Demo on the Resources page.
For the Dragon Walker war machine, I hacked rules from the Dragon Riding and Mounted Combat PDFs to make a dragon-like vehicle. (I threw it together so quickly that I’m not confident enough in its design to post now, but I might after I’ve tinkered with it more.) The Dragon Walker’s pilot moves and attacks using the machine’s powers rather than their own abilities, and makes DC 20 Control checks when they:
- become dazed, hampered, or stunned
- become staggered or drop to 0 hit points
- are hit by an attack against Mental Defense (MD)
The gunner/navigator makes normal attacks from their seat in the vehicle.
Here’s the framework I used to improvise a fun one-shot for my friends:
Make Your Own Luck: Siege Breaker
A thunderstorm lashes the towering peaks and forbidding cliffs of the Frost Range, in the northlands of the Dragon Empire. Travelers wind their way through the crags and valleys amid the driving rain. A flash of lightning reveals they are [YOUR HEROES].
The area has been rocked by terrible news: an army of trolls, goblins, and worse is laying siege to the town of Harrowdale, where a powerful artifact was hidden by the heroes of a long-ago age. A small band of defenders holds the walls, but just barely—and reinforcements are still days away. Local legend says that an ancient war machine lies somewhere in the area. You are on a mission to find it; and if it still functions, bring it to Harrowdale to aid its defense.
Each of you has a deeply personal reason for taking this dangerous mission. What is it?
The few scraps of information you’ve gleaned suggest the war machine is in one of four places:
North on Frost Giant Glacier, where the icy tower of Avius the Frost Wizard stands. He is said to be fond of turning visitors into ice zombie minions.
East on the volcanic slopes of Mount Whiteplume, where dragonfolk make their home.
West near the Shrine of Evil Elementals, where none venture.
South near the Chaotic Caves, where the castellan of the nearby keep is said to have been behaving erratically lately.
- The war machine is a Dragon Walker—one of many built by followers of the [ICON WITH WHOM AT LEAST ONE PLAYER HAS A RELATIONSHIP] to wreak devastation on the armies of [OTHER ICON]. None survived the conflict, and the secrets of its construction have been lost.
- My great-great-grandmother told me she saw the Dragon Walker once as a child. She said a [SHAPE OF SOME SORT THAT LATER TURNS OUT TO BE A DISTINCTIVE FEATURE OF THE LANDSCAPE] pointed the way to it, but I do not know what she meant by that.
- You are not the only ones who seek the war machine. A band of [SOME ENEMIES] came through two days ago asking after it. They had an ill look about them and we told them nothing.
- Many years ago I traveled in a merchant caravan, and I saw the machine of which you speak. It was a lifeless hulk that seemed like a dragon made of iron with seats for riding. A [DWARF, CLERIC, WIZARD, OR SORCERER] traveling with us tried to revive it but could not. They said that one wise in the ways of the [AFOREMENTIONED ICON] might be able to bring it to life and command it in battle.
- The war machine is to the [DIRECTION] near [PLACE], but I don’t know know precisely where.
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.