13th Age: The Fleshcrafter, An Alternate Icon

All year long we are releasing alternate icons for 13th Age. We started this series off with the Usurper and continued it with the Deposed Heir. This month we continue the series with the Fleshcrafter, the equal and opposite of the Archmage.

In some ways the Fleshcrafter is just like the Archmage: they both seek knowledge and arcane power and want their followers to learn and educate themselves. That is where the similarities end, however. Where the Archmage wants lift many up with magic, the Fleshcrafter wants to suppress the masses with magic. The Archmage’s power comes from the living mastering eldritch power, while the Fleshcrafter’s power comes from a few crafting an unthinking army of the dead and various constructs. Where the Archmage thinks of the good of the many, the Fleshcrafter thinks only of the desires of the few.

Quote

“You displease me. Run fast or my hoard will devour you.”

Frequent Location

Bone Hill, a city that built around the Fleshcrafter’s tower.

Common Knowledge

The Fleshcrafter’s source of power centers around his mounds of dead bodies that he turns into his undead hoard. Such creations unerringly and unquestionably follow his orders.

The Icon and Adventurers

New adventurers seeking missions from the Fleshcrafter receive missions frequently involving disruptions in the flow of dead bodies to Bone Hill. He has also been known to hire adventurers to retrieve some new type of undead creature so he can study it. He may disguise these for those with a conflicting relationship as helping the people bringing corpses to the tower or by helping the local population by ridding them of some uncontrolled undead and bring it back to study.

Adventurers that the Fleshcrafter knows better and has more experience with are sent to find unique and exotic components to craft new golems and undead.

Allies

The Usurper supports the Fleshcrafter’s experiments like no other. In return, his undead armies keep the masses from rising up against the unlawful successor to the throne.

Enemies

The Lich Queen sees the Fleshcrafter as competition, stealing bodies that she can use to create for her undead army.

While the Dwarf King respects the Fleshcrafter’s skill in golem crafting, he finds the use of dead bodies, especially dwarven bodies, to form his creations as utterly repugnant.

History

Few considered the Fleshcrafter a person of consequence until his army of undead and golems marched upon the land. Before then, he was an overlooked wizard that the Archmage ignored. He was chased from town to town when the locals discovered what his creations involved. Now he is looking for payback for perceived wrongs.

The Reason to Fear

The Fleshcrafter believes that anyone not subservient to him is against him. He sends his creations after them.

The icon that opposed the Fleshcrafter more than anyone is the Herald, the one that knows how to call upon the power of Heaven and even bring angels into a fight in desperate times. Read all about this alternate icon next month.

Support the series by sharing it on social media and by downloading 13 Wizard Cantrips and Spells at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Pathfinder 1e: What Kinds of Products Do You Want For Your Game?

We’re hard at work here at JBE on the upcoming Book of Beasts: Character Codex. While we have a number of our own ideas, we want to hear from you: what kinds of products do you want in your game? Vote in the poll below. If you have something specific in mind or if you can’t see the poll, leave a comment below.

Before we talk more about the poll, check out our existing Pathfinder 1e products at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store while they are up to 40% off their regular price. This sale won’t last much longer, so grab these titles now.

Options include:

  • Low-level adventures (levels 1-5)
  • Mid-level adventures (levels 6-10)
  • High-level adventures (levels 11-15)
  • Game-ender adventures (levels 16-20)
  • Long adventures (cover 10+ levels, able to make a full campaign out of them)
  • Options for existing Paizo classes (includes archetypes, classes produced by Paizo only)
  • Options for existing Pathfinder Compatible classes (share which ones below, there’s quite a few)
  • New classes (something totally new, yes, we do have ideas)
  • New monster / NPC books
  • New feats or spells
  • New / expanded races
  • Small settings (cities, towns, etc that can be incorporated into any setting)
  • Large campaign setting (able to play several campaigns here)
  • Other (describe in the comments below)

EDIT: Because we can’t seem to allow multiple option voting (to many options, I guess), I allowed repeat voting. So you can vote in the poll as many times as you want. I ask that you don’t vote for the same option more than once; it will make the results less accurate. So let us know all the options you want.

Vote in the poll now:

13th Age: The Deposed Heir, An Alternate Icon

All year long we are releasing alternate icons for 13th Age. Last month we started this series off with the Usurper. This time we bring you the rightful heir to the throne. The Deposed Heir is a true force in the world and a worthy part of your game.

The Deposed Heir is the equal and opposite of the Crusadress. Where she is highly organized and fights for herself when she is not battling the Diabloist and their demonic forces, the Deposed Heir fights to for the good of all people. While his ultimate goal is to retake the throne, he worked in the interim to prevent the good people of his empire to not fall at the hands of monsters and those willing to inflict harm for their own personal gain.

Quote

“For the good of one. For the good of all. We stand together, or we fall together.”

Frequent Location

Hurstshire, a small village hidden in the Fangtree Forest. This location serves as a hideout and base of operations to conduct hit and fade operations in the Usurper’s forces.

Common Knowledge

The Deposed Heir is a symbol of hope throughout the Empire. When monsters and the Usurper’s thugs attack, the people hope the Deposed Heir’s band of heroes will rescue them from their grim fate.

The Icon and Adventurers

The Deposed Heir has little ability to pay adventurers. As such few that rally to his cause stay when their bellies grow hungry. Those that do believe in justice and honor. His rewards tend to be in things unrelated to material wealth.

Allies

The Deposed Heir has no official allies. Those that would side with him protect their own. Unofficially, the Archmage and High Priestess send those loyal to them on missions that will help the Deposed Heir, under the guise that they are helping the people and unaware of how their actions thwarted the Usurper’s plans. Trade missions from the Dwarf King and the High Elf get raided with mysterious frequency and en up in the Deposed Heir’s hands.

Enemies

Unfortunately, the list of the Deposed Heir’s enemies is not so short. While the Usurper is the icon that pursues this icon with the most gusto, the Orc Warlord is not far behind in being well motivated. The forces of the Deposed Heir’s now deceased parent gave chase to the Warlord’s troops and now the Orc and those forces are eager to return the favor.

Less of an enemy and more of opportunists attempting to seize some power are the Diabloist and the Lich Queen. Should the Deposed Heir fall, these two will have one less symbol of good being a perpetual thorn in their figurative sides.

History

The heir to the Empire’s throne was taught both statesmanship and military tactics. Instead of taking an easy assignment with the military, he served as a battlefield officer, fighting, eating, and sleeping alongside those he commanded. That was where he was when the capital was attacked. The assassin sent to kill him did not count on the loyalty of his comrads choosing to die in his stead. Now he uses that same training to survive and strike at those that would do the people harm.

The Reason to Fear

Attack the weak and powerless and the Deposed Heir will hunt you down and make you regret your cruelty, at least for a short while.

All this leads us to the equal and opposite of the Archmage, the Fleshcrafter.

Support the series by sharing it on social media and by downloading our 13th Age titles at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

13th Age: The Usurper, An Alternate Icon

Something I’ve thought about for years is a number of alternate icons for 13th Age games. Some are radical changes from the standard icons. Others are an equal and opposites from the norm. For too long I have kept them to myself. Today I am sharing the first of them with you.

The Usurper is the equal and opposite of the Emperor. Where the Emperor tries to be a unifying force for the good of all, the Usurper cares only for himself. He may have ousted the Emperor from power, but he does not have complete control over the land. He has the support of orcs, hobgoblins, and many other monstrous races that helped him attain power. The nobility are not entirely convinced supporting the Usurper is a great idea, but those that want to live pay lip service and taxes required of them.

The Usurper does not care for those that do not support him and is more than willing to let them succumb to the ravening hungers of his supporters. He wants to prove to everyone, especially himself and his long since dead and unloving parents, that he is just as important than those that came before him.

Quote

“Those disloyal to me shall not live to see the dawn.”

Frequent Location

Farenia, his makeshift capital and the center of his support.

Common Knowledge

The Usurper is the symbol of uncertainty throughout the Empire. No one knows which of his whims will win the day, law and order or pettiness and revenge.

The Icon and Adventurers

The Usurper frequently hires adventurers to keep peace throughout the Empire, but the best paying jobs go to those with a positive relationship towards him. Those higher paying jobs range from disposing of guards still loyal to the former monarch to rounding up villagers that spit at mention of the new ruler and bring them to the Usurper for reeducation.

Allies

The Usurper is supposed by the Orc Warlord. Without his armies, the Usurper would not have had the strength to sieze control. The Orc Warlord is allowed to terrorize a part of the Empire he has wanted for some time. The Three Dragons also supported the Usurper as they provided air support during the fight for control for the Empire. They were paid a considerable amount of gold from the Empire’s coffers for their assistance. Rumor has it they send a messenger with “requests” that the Usurper dare not refuse.

Enemies

Where the Emperor and the Great Druid held an uneasy truce, the Usurper blatently ignores That long held truce in an effort to prop up his government. The Great Druid sees the clear-cutting of forests and wholesale slaughter of animals as a declaration of war and is responding in kind. Both the Dwarf King and the High Elf have met with Usurper and have found him wanting; both have told their people to not support him. The Usurper takes such a stance as proof of hostility from these icons.

History

A former well-funded noble, the Usurper rose to power through a mix of cult of personality and paying others to support him. Few thought him truly dangerous until after he seized control and began executing detractors.

The Reason to Fear

All will be fine with the Usurper in charge until he decides that you are the enemy.

All of this leads us to the next in the series of Alternate Icons, The Deposed Heir, as a replacement for the Crusadress. But that is for next time.

Download all of JBE’s 13th Age products at JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

Running an Epic Con Game: Adventure Preparation

If you want to run a game at a convention, you want it to be epic and for people to remember both you and your game. Much of that has to do with what you do before you get to the table as much as what you do during the game. Previously, we talked about how you make pregen characters and set up the character sheets. Today we are looking at preparation for your adventure.

1) Decide What to Show Off

When you are running a game, the most important thing is showing how is this game different. If you are running what would otherwise be a Pathfinder and D&D adventure just in a different system, the gamers leaving the table will think they might as well have been playing one of those games. You need to show them what is different with this game to make them want to give up their regular game and play the game you are running.

Take Traveller for example. Unlike D&D/Pathfinder, the combat and skills are the same system and skills can switch their “attributes” depending on the situation so any introduction convention game should show these off. So firing a gun uses See Dex and the Gun Combat skill. However, if a player wants to perform a ballistics test on the weapon, that would use Intellect or Education. So I would make sure to show off how those skills can switch attributes. If your game lets magic users cast unlimited spells but have to make a roll, make the adventure that requires magical solution.

This does not have to be exclusively about system. Setting is just as important a difference to communicate. If your game makes dragons far more approachable and not be a bag of fire-breathing hit points, show that off in your game. If your setting has a major city made of giant mushrooms and pixies are in charge of construction, show that off. D&D and Pathfinder tend to take themselves seriously so an adventure and setting that was more light-hearted would be a welcome change. Show that off.

And with that we move to our second point.

2) Aim to Use 75% Of the Time

If you have a two-hour time slot, make a 90-minute adventures. Four hours? Make a three-hour adventure? If you run over your time, players are going to be unhappy with you and remember your game in a negative light. Players will be players and will screw around. Good. They should. If they do, that means they are enjoying your game. But that uses time you would otherwise use for your game. Leave time for them for sheer enjoyment. 75% is a good aim. If you finish with an hour to spare, they have extra time to wander the dealer’s hall; they won’t be upset. They will be unhappy if you are cutting into their lunch break or missing the start of their next game. Build in time for that.

My final point involves the adventure itself.

3) Structure a 4 Act Adventure

When you make a four-hour adventure, divide the adventure into four parts:

  1. Character Evaluation / Introduction
  2. The Hook
  3. The Twist
  4. The Finale

Character evaluation begins the moment you and a player get to the table. The players present get to start looking at the character sheets right away and pick what they want to play. Reward the early arrivers with being able to get the character they want.

Introduction is where you tell the players what the adventure is. This is when the wounded guard stumbles into the tavern reporting that the prince is taken before dying. Here is where the players get the mission before the message self destructs. Try to keep this part to no more than half hour.

Second part is the hook. Here is where the players go, “This is fun!” Show off what makes this game fun. The twist is pure plot, where something is revealed or discovered. These two parts should take 30 minutes to an hour in a typical four-hour game.

One of these two sections should be combat. The other should be problem solving. If both of these are problem solving, the players will get tired and worn out. If both are combat, it will be a slog and get to be boring. Making each different keeps them interesting and lively.

The final section is the climax. The finale should be a surprise to you let alone everyone else at the table. Sure you should have an idea of how it goes, but players should be allowed to do whatever they want. If the big bad is guarding a MacGuffin and you figure they are going to fight the big bad in a climatic battle and they instead decide to sneak past and steal it, don’t put unreasonable impediments in their way; let them do it their way. Forcing them to do it your way will make them think their choices have no impact on the game, and it will spoil their fun. Let them do what they want.

If you are looking for an excellent adventure to run for a convention game for Pathfinder or D&D 5e, grab yourself the adventure Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider. Download now at the JonBrazer.com, DriveThruRPG, and the Open Gaming Store.

5e/Pathfinder/13th Age: Guide to Minions

In a previous post, I wrote up a guide to mini-bosses. The thing about mini-bosses, they’re nothing without those to boss around. Today we are following that post up with the group that makes the last group possible: minions.

Minions come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of willingness. While fantasy and science fiction races that are weak, selfish, and not particularly clever are typically seen as the normal minion groups, always remember the Empire in Star Wars treated Wookiees as minions and that species is anything but weak or selfish and Chewbacca proved they are quite clever. So what makes a minion a minion?

1) Minions are Controlled in Some Fashion

Whether it is a psychic link that takes over a mind or a security of a regular pay check, the mini-boss gives orders and the minion follows. That at the end of the day that is what makes a minion a minion. Does that make most of the civilized world someone’s minion? Yes actually it does. However, I am not advocating you overthrow your boss. Remember it is both the organization treats those minions as well as those outside the organization that determines whether the company is evil or not. A lumber company that hires orcs and hill giants as a way to give them honest work as opposed to raiding human villages, gets all the appropriate permits in an above board fashion, works with the local fey to remove select trees with their permission, and hires orcs to guard the logs on their way to the mill still uses minion even if those minions are working for a good company. Compare that with the human only lumber company that bribed officials to work a section of forest right next to the good company. They attack the fey and fight the hill giants and ogres whenever they leave the human permitted area and enter the other company’s territory prompting both to defend themselves and possibly attack back. Not only does the human company fail to plant new trees but they also try to steal the felled trees from the other lumber company. This company as well uses minions. The first one controls their people with a regular pay check and a desire to be law-abiding citizens; the second controls their minions through a desire for violence and quick cash.

While the word minion has negative connotations, it covers employee, freelance contractor, slave, indentured servant, thrall, and many others just to name a few. Use the full breadth of the term to give real variation to your organizations, evil or otherwise.

2) Minions Fill a Variety of Roles and Can Be Found at Every Level

Frequently, I hear the question, “Why doesn’t [insert name of ultra high level NPC in the setting] just take care of this minor problem?” The answer is simple: they can’t handle everything. Take a modern world variation of that problem: if you have a question on your taxes, do you go to the best accountant in the world or do you go to the local accounting firm and ask someone there (an accounting minion to use a gamified term)? The best in the world is busy handling other cases that can pay more. Instead, we get it handled by an accounting minion. Now if you start a business and it becomes rather sizable, you’ll need higher level accounting minions. You wouldn’t ask them to do plumbing work because they do not fill that role. You would need a minion that is trained in plumbing.

Same is true for fantasy games. Kobolds are the go-to minions when mining, gnolls when taking slaves, hobgoblins when needing military like precision, goblins for random violence, and orcs when slaughtering people indiscriminately. Each of these has their own role. So why not just have a higher level one handle this? Well the higher level hobgoblin is training the next group of recruits, the higher level gnolls are working their connections to sell their slaves, higher level kobolds are scouting out potential caves to mine, and on and on. The higher level ones have better uses for their time than to do the same thing as their lower level compatriots.

So when you get to a higher level, you need new minions to fight. Demons, devil’s, undead, and giants are the classics. Unless you are playing a convention/organized play-style game where one session has nothing to do with the other, these higher level minions are working towards the same end (if a different aspect of the overall plan) as those same low level minions. Why would the giants and devils be working towards the same ends as the kobolds and gnolls? The simple answer is ‘because the big boss of the whole campaign is all having them work towards a single goal.’ While you could train up a bunch of orcs to do your bidding instead of working with a number of different groups, it would be much simpler to take advantage of some other group of minions’ natural strengths when they lend themselves to solving a particular problem. Just like you don’t ask an accountant to do plumbing, you don’t ask a goblin to solve a problem that a requires patience and planning, things devils excel at. So change up the monsters you are using as minions to fulfill a different aspect of your big bad’s overall plan.

3) Minions Have Similar Stats, Despite Being Individuals

Minions are a collection of individuals. Each one has different stats if you wanted to take the time to create unique stats for each. However, minions can instead be represented by a single stat block. Sure, that single stat block is not going to catch the nuance of one loving to solve true crime mysteries while another appreciates listening to music, but if all you are having them do is fight the PCs, then those abilities don’t really matter. Making a minion stat block that presents average stats for a group saves considerable time.

Back to that accounting example for a second. All those accountants at the tax firm can be represented by a single stat block. You don’t need to assign stats for their individual hobbies and other life events unless it is somehow relevant. You’ll need their ability to crunch numbers and use their stapler offensively. Maybe wield a letter opener if you want to be cute about it. Remember these are supposed to be average stats for the group, not specific stats for everyone. Making a single stat block for the whole group doesn’t prevent you from making a single stat block for a specific accountant. So you can have a stat block for the NPC that discovered the company’s fraud and became the whistle blower. Had that NPC not done that and just stayed another face in the crowd, they would still be just another minion with the same minion stats. As always, the Order of the Stick has a great comic that exemplifies what it is like going from a minion to a named NPC.

Quick tangent here: feel free to change the stats of any monster in the monster books. If the book says a lizardfolk has 5 hit dice (as an example), feel free to make it 3 if it fits your needs that way. Five is just an average. Maybe this tribe is composed of young lizardfolk. Maybe they’ve been starved or are sickly. The book has average stats. Raise or lower them as your game needs. This goes doubly true for specific NPCs instead of minions. Individuals can vary widely from the average of their kind. Just remember to change its level of difficulty to match the new stats.

Speaking of monster books, be sure to download our monster books for Pathfinder 1e, DnD 5e, and Mongoose Traveller 2e.

5e: Unbroken Hero

With the Book of Heroes: Heroic Fighter Archetypes coming out next week, we wanted to give you a taste of what is inside. This one is one of my favorites. This is the “you saw Cthulhu and critted your Sanity check” archetype. This archetype pairs well with the soldier background. It is designed for a character that fought in a war and returned home and having the horror of seeing your friends slain upon the battlefield play out over and over again in your mind. While it does not fully portray those that have survived a true war zone, I hope it provides enough flavor to express that type of character for those looking to play one.

Download all of JBE’s Fifth Edition PDFs at the JBE Shop. Our adventure Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin is coming out in game stores this month. Tell your local game store that you want to pick up this 7th-level adventure today. And now, to the archetype.

Unbroken Hero

You have seen things. Whether it was someone being torn apart, whole villages destroyed, loved ones dragged into the Abyss, or something even worse, you witnessed it with your own eyes. What you have seen would break many. The memory of that day fuels your drive to continue forward, never yielding or surrendering.

Take the Attack

When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you can use your reaction to make an attack targeting an ally within 5 feet of you target you instead. You must say you are using this before the attack is rolled. This cannot be used with area attacks or on spells that do not require attack rolls.

Haunting Eyes

At 7th level, your gaze can piece the mind, heart and soul, making you far more persuasive, to the point of terrifying. You gain proficiency with Intimidation and Persuasion. If you are already proficient with these skills, you add double your proficiency bonus when using these skills.

Fight Through the Pain

Starting at 10th level, you can use your Second Wind ability a second time before needing to finish a short or long rest.

Undeterred by Fear

Upon reaching 15th level, nothing can frighten you. You are immune to the frightened condition. Additionally, you can use a bonus action to remove the frightened condition from an ally within 10 feet.

Avatar of Terror

At 18th level, your very presence is terrifying. As an action, you can give a loud shout, requiring all of your enemies within 30 feet to make a Charisma saving throw (the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or become paralyzed with fear for the next minute. A successful save means the creature is frightened until the end of your next turn. Once used, you cannot use this again until you complete a short or long rest.

Traveller: Psirat

If you thought rats were difficult to kill without of a rat trap, imagine one that can talk to others of its kind telepathically. It can be a look out, warn others of impending danger, call for help, and much more. Larger, more powerful psirats can even detect the thoughts of other creatures, warning them to active dangers instead of merely potential threats. Nuisance does not even begin to cover these creatures. This is just one creature in the upcoming Traveller RPG book Foreven Worlds: Creatures of Distant Worlds.

Before the share with you the weakest of the psirats, let me just mention that you can find all of Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Traveller books and PDFs at DriveThruRPG, including the D66 Compendium 2, available now at 25% off the regular price. Download it now while this sale is going on.

Image by Ryan Sumo
Animal Hits Speed
Psirat 2 3 m
Skills Athletics (dexterity) 2, Melee 0, Stealth 4, Telepathy 0
Attacks Bite (1)
Traits Fast Metabolism (+4), Psionic (3), Small (–4)
Behaviour Scavenger, Reducer

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