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.

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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

Pathfinder: Orc Skeletal Champion

Image by Eric Quigley

We’re bringing you our Pathfinder blog this week on Monday instead of Friday like usual since last week was the GM’s Day Sale that occupied us. This week we are bringing you an orc skeletal champion. To make this one, we had to write a skeletal champion graft. We will be sure to include it in a future Pathfinder 1e monster book we create. We are after all first and foremost monster designers and making new monster books is something we can hardly stop ourselves from doing. We move creating these baddies so much that we just have to share them with you. Anyways, we hop you enjoy this monster in your game.

Be sure to check out all our Pathfinder books at the JBE Shop, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, the Open Gaming Store, Amazon, and Noble Knight Games.

Orc Skeletal Champion CR/HD 4

Init +7; Perception +12 (darkvision 60 ft.)
Size Medium; Speed 30 ft.


Defenses


AC 19 (touch 13, flat-footed 16); Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +5; CMD 20
hp 44; DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead immunities
Weakness light sensitivity
Defensive Options channel resistance +4


Attacks


Melee +1 scimitar +8 (1d6+13/18–20)
Ranged composite (+4) longbow +6 (1d8+9/x3)
Attack Options combat reflexes, create spawn, power attack; CMB +8


Statistics


Str +4, Dex +3, Con —, Wis +1; Climb +12, Intimidate +9, Perception +12
XP 1,200; CE undead (orc) fighter


Special Abilities


Combat Reflexes (Ex) Orc skeletal champion can make up to 5 attacks of opportunity each round and can make attacks of opportunity when flat-footed,
Create Spawn (Su) Any creature killed by the orc skeletal champion rises as a skeleton in 1d4 days and is under the command of the orc skeletal champion. The orc skeletal champion can have up to 10 skeletons under its command at once.
Power Attack (Ex) Orc skeletal champion’s scimitar attack changes to +6 (1d6+22/18–20)

GM’s Day Sale 2019 Is Here!

The GM’s Day Sale is here and it is better than ever. Get 20-40% off of our Pathfinder, Fifth Edition, 13th Age, and Traveller 1e books you have been wanting for a while now. Grab these books now while they are available at a great price. Which books you ask? Here are some highlights.

Fifth Edition

Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Forbidden Woods
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 (For Fantasy Grounds)
Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 2
Book of Magic: 10 Warlock Invocations
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider (2019 Edition)
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence

13th Age Compatible

13 Fighter Talents and Maneuvers
13 Rogue Talents and Powers
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 1
Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races 2
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin

Pathfinder

Book of Heroic Races CompendiumBook of Beasts: Legendary Foes
Book of Bests: Monsters of the River Nations
Book of Bests: Monsters of the Shadow Plane
Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Compendium
Book of Heroic Races Compendium
Book of Heroic Races: Occult Intrigue in the Wilderness
Book of Magic: Dragon Spells and Archetypes
Book of Magic: Gemhancements
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer
Book of Magic: Patron Hexes
Book of the River Nations Complete
Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider
Deadly Delves: Doom of the Sky Sword
Deadly Delves: Nine Lives for Petane
Deadly Delves: Quests of the Sands
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin
Deadly Delves: Rescue from Tyrkaven
Deadly Delves: Temple of Luminescence
Deadly Delves: The Chaosfire Incursion
Deadly Delves: The Guilded Gauntlet
Deadly Delves: To Claw the Surface
Treasury of the Sands
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion

Traveller 1e

Creatures of Distant Worlds Compendium
d66 Compendium
Foreven Worlds: Vehicles of the Frontier
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Fighters and Small Ships
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Mech Squadrons
Mech Tech ‘n’ bot: Warp Ships 1

Download these and other titles now at DriveThruRPG.

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