The Treasury of Zheng Yi Sao

by Jay Godden, edited by Isaac Rolfe and Rob Heinsoo, art by Dagmara Matuszak

Read the introductory post here.

Anyone who has read any of my stuff knows that I’m a big fan of pirate adventures in 13th Age. With that said, if you’ll indulge me, here are some cool pirate items. I guess you could say these items help turn your Gloranthan Rebels into true swashbucklers, but really the tools to build pirate PCs are already in the 13th Age system; these items are just gravy.

This set is from from the personal treasury of an infamous pirate who commanded an entire fleet at the height of her career. The character is inspired by the awesome real world Pirate Queen of the same name, whose 19th century conquests and achievements were innumerable and suitably epic for fantasy RPG fodder. Fragments of myths and legends about the pirate and her armoury are passed around seedy port bars and up and down the trade canals throughout the Dragon Empire, inflating the already larger than life persona. Pretty much any act of piracy or nautical combat supremacy has been attributed to her and her fleets. Warring with the East Highrock Company, ransoming the Emperor’s favourite son, slaying the Kraken, defeating an invasion of Giantish Bergship Raiders, and besting mutant Sahuagin in single combat. In truth, many of these are only slightly exaggerated. 

Of all the magic item sets I’ll be presenting in the next few months, this is the one with the most fakes and posers around. Tens of aspiring captains, dread lords, and egoistic Imperial admirals claim to hold the true Pirate Code or have the real Hilt of Jeshi in their personal strongbox. It’s hard to find a pirate captain who doesn’t claim to be wearing her Feathered Hat. 

“Well, maybe not the whole hat… but lots of the feathers are originals… Yes, they do mostly look very new… but this feather here, the orange one, I’m pretty sure that’s from the real thing, I’ll trade it for a hundred crowns?” – Switch Halfmoon, boatswain and unenthusiastic con-artist

Set bonus: +X to skill checks to coerce, intimidate, seduce, strongarm, blackmail, persuade, manipulate, or otherwise socially and politically manoeuvre among port officials, fences, pirates, privateers, sailors, and even particularly reasonable Sahuagin.


Adventurer Tier

The Pirate Code, Book Chakra:  With your permission, any character can sign their name on the bottom of this sprawling ledger covered in stapled-on extra parchment space and the faded signatures of pirates from centuries past. In exchange for being legally bound to the tenets of the Code, signatories can have more control over initiative order amongst themselves.

Ability (1/day): Before initiative is rolled, state that you are using this item’s power. Everyone rolls initiative as usual but the results that were rolled by signatories are left blank, without that PCs name attached. The group determines who they want to go first among the signatories, if they can’t come to a consensus then the GM will choose based on what makes sense for the story. After their turn, this player chooses which signatory they wish to pass the initiative to next. The next time that a signatory’s initiative value comes up, the chosen PC acts, and so on.

PCs can still only act once per round, and the order is not fixed after the first round, as the signatory who acts last can now choose from all signatories for the first turn of the new round, including themselves. Using this initiative system helps encourage teamwork between the players as they can set up combos much more easily and control the flow of the fight. Quirk: Tortured by inconsistencies and tiny loopholes and contradictions in the code, often write amendments to previous owners amendments in your downtime.


GM Sidebar:

It’s probably best to keep the exact wording and all the articles of The Pirate Code ambiguous unless your players are really into that sort of thing. Instead, they can be invented on the fly as and when they’re needed, as long as they don’t overly contradict the general spirit of a pirates’ code of conduct or what’s already been established. Check out Wikipedia for some historical examples of pirate codes. In general they emphasise equitable pay, democratic decision making, not bearing arms against other folk on your ship, not cheating or stealing, and sometimes not gambling for money. You can decide whether to lean into this or subvert it for your code.


Zheng Yi Sao’s Feathered Hat

Helmet chakra. +1 MD

Ability (Recharge 11+, Quick Action): You can grow the feathers in the hat to absurdly ostentatious proportions. If you successfully complete a stunt, either using the Dicey Stunts mechanics found on Pelgrane Press’ website, making a stunt skill check, or using a talent like Swashbuckle in the same turn as activating this power, you can choose an effect from below. A, you are so flashy and attention-demanding that all nearby enemies will try to prioritise attacking you until the end of your next turn instead of your allies where safe to do so. Or B, you appear so dangerously skilled and intimidating that all nearby enemies will try to avoid attacking you if they can do so safely, and find less impressive targets instead. Quirk: Obsessed with ensuring your own awesome legacy.


Sic Bo Dice

Wondrous item

These three dice are carved out of jade and inlaid with golden pips.

Ability (Recharge 6+, Quick Action): Roll 3d6. Before the roll, choose a number between 1 and 6 that you predict will appear on the dice. If that number does not appear, nothing happens. If it appears once, you or an ally can “take 11” for a d20 roll during the rest of the battle instead of rolling, counting their following d20 roll as a natural 11. If it appears twice, you or an ally can “take 16” for a d20 roll before the end of the battle instead of rolling. If it appears three times, you or an ally can “take 20” for a d20 roll before the end of the battle instead of rolling. Quirk: Never gambles for money, only secrets, souls, favours, and anything else you or your competitors can’t afford to lose.


Champion Tier

The Hilt of Jeshi

Weapon chakra, +2 attacks and damage

The blade of the sword of Jeshi was destroyed during a daring raid. The Pirate Queen’s fury and determination caused a blade of pure will to form out of the shattered hilt.

Ability (Passive): This weapon deals force damage, and can morph into any type of melee or thrown weapon that you can wield proficiently as a quick action. In situations where having a bladed tool that can be any shape you need would benefit you, you can add a +2 to skill checks from using the hilt. Quirk: Documents and categorises swords and other bladed weapons, and will furiously defend the differences between a messer and a falchion (it’s all in the hilt pins).


Epic Tier

Boots of Everywhere

Boot chakra, +3 to disengage checks and other fancy footwork

Ability (1/day, Quick Action): You create a faint illusory duplicate of yourself that lasts until the end of the scene. This duplicate is incorporeal and cannot interact with or be interacted with by anything in the physical world. Spells or effects that deal force damage can target it; it uses your defences and is dispelled by any hit. Your duplicate has a move action that they can use any time during your turn. The duplicate can hover around a foot off the ground, and pass through solid objects, but must end its movement on the ground and not in a solid object or it is destroyed. As a free action once per round, you can switch places with the duplicate. 

Once per campaign, you can use the Boots to be present in up to 13 locations at once, though your focus is so divided that you can’t participate directly in combat. The effect lasts for up to an hour. Zheng Yi Sao used this power to personally command multiple ships at once in a battle against the Imperial Navy, a battle that was won, but cost her life. Quirk: Believe that you might not be real and are just a duplicate that’s programmed to think it’s real. Can’t decide whether this is important, but it is disconcerting.

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.

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