Monday, February 24, 2014

Cats vs. Dogs in the 13th Age

Thomas, The Emperor

Did I mention that one of my players in my 13th Age game is playing a Gnoll Wizard? He is an "animal lover," dogs especially. And he's playing a Gnoll ... So, I had this idea to give him something special. More on that in a second. My last game play report mentioned a magic longsword for Karl the Paladin of the Gold. It was gifted to him by the Emperor's personal bodyguard (she is also an accomplished magicsmith,) Emelia (named for Emilia Clarke who plays Daenerys Targaryen ... I like to "cast" my NPC's.) The Emperor is named Thomas (for Thomas Sean Connery.)

Emilia the Emperor's Bodyguard

Karl's gift was a +1 longsword of Greater Striking (pg 293 of the 13th Age core rules) And Sunfar the Half-Elf Holy Archer (Ranger with Cleric options) got a bag of magical silver sleep powder which an orc shaman had used against him in the last game.

Sunfar's magic sleeping dust!
The amount of dust consumed by each dose isn't exact so I am going to use a "recharge" roll after each usage to determine when it runs out. 
The recharge is currently 6+ (on a d20) each time you use the dust, you roll the recharge (after using the dust.) If the recharge roll fails, the dust has been used up.
Using the dust changes the recharge roll for the next time. 
A pinch of the dust will put the target to sleep if they fail an easy (6+) save.
Roll to recharge, then increase the recharge difficulty permanently by +1. 
A half-hand of the dust will put the target to sleep if they fail an average (11+) save.
Roll to recharge, then increase the recharge difficulty permanently by +3. 
A handful of the dust will put the target to sleep if they fail a difficult (16+) save.
Roll to recharge, then increase the recharge difficulty permanently by +5. 
The dust does not use a magic item slot and does not have a quirk. 
To use the dust you must be engaged in melee contact with your target, but you do not need to roll to hit.

And that's the dust. On with the adventure!

The group had just defeated a cultist-like group made up of a bunch of goblins, one orc, and two bugbears. The monstrous assortment appeared to be worshiping or serving the Red (Dragon) in some way. The adventuring heroes are triumphant but, Karl's comrade Anson loses his life in the battle. This with Blessed Axeheart is the second casualty the party has suffered since beginning their quest.

The group lays to rest the body of Paladin Hero Anson Cole and continue on their journey overland towards Starport. I ask everyone to roll their Icon Relationships.

Sunfar (Half-Elf Holy Archer) rolled double 5's for his two point relationship with the Elf Queen ... double 5's hmmm. A 5 meant that the icon would play into the story in some positive way, but that they would be some sort of price to pay for the benefit. 
Karl (Human Paladin of the Gold) rolled nothing higher than a 4 for his Icon Relationships this game. 
Gar (Unnaturally Gifted with Intelligence Gnoll Wizard) rolled a 6 for his relationship with the Archmage and a 6 for his relationship with the Gold. (That's two more Icons brought into play in a positive way.)

I love this aspect of the game. I can look at what is rolled and try and think of how the Icons in question might be involved in the story. I let these roll results bubble in my subconscious and decide that the best thing to do to make our little quest more exciting is to raise the stakes.

Another day or two into their journey and the group finds themselves the epicenter of an unnatural meteorological occurrence. Thick black clouds roll in from every direction seemingly moving towards the adventuring party as its center. The sun is blotted out, the temperature drops and the winds pick up, and the ground shakes in a violent earthquake.

The unnatural stormquake lasts for several moments before subsiding, at which point the weather turns just as suddenly back to normal. Dravonis the draconic sentience living in Gar's head (and responsible for the heightened intelligence that has allowed the Gnoll to become a Wizard traveling in a world of civilized men) speaks out to Karl (who has the unique ability to hear the telepathic communications of dragons.)

Dravonis informs Karl that this weather is a clear indication that they must hasten their travel. They must reach Starport in the next 2 or 3 days or else all is lost. The group is still a good 500 miles from their destination. Reaching Starport in time seems impossible! Tah, Dah! Stakes raised.

The group has been traveling north along the edge of the Queens Wood and has the idea to turn east into the forest in the hopes of encountering some elves. Elves have a reputation as a magical people and it is hoped that some kind of magical transportation or teleportation might be found to enable them to reach their destination in time. I smile quietly to myself at this decision since Sunfar rolled two "5's" for his Icon relationship with the Elf Queen, the party's detour into the Queens Wood was perfect.

Into the forest they go and this gives me the opportunity to introduce my one "pre-planned" encounter for the night ... the "something special" that I mention above.

The party hears the sounds of dogs yipping and barking and whining and growling and crying ... and dying! The sounds of dogs in combat. The party rushes towards the commotion to see what might be happening and what they find is a pack of small to medium sized dogs of stout squarish build almost like miniature hyenas in appearance, but with thick green fur with brown spots. The dogs "bamph!" around the battle field disappearing from one location to appear at another in a blink of an eye ... blink dogs!

Despite the incredible advantage this method of ambulation affords them, the blink dogs' attackers clearly have the upper hand, as several blink dog bodies decorate the ground. Their enemies are more then twice their size, black jungle cat like monsters with long barbed tentacles protruding from their shoulder blades. The blink dog pack is under attack by displacer beasts!

The start of the dogs vs cats battle.

We found some minis to represent the monsters. One Hyena and three other dogs of some kind to represent the blink dogs. One actual displacer beast mini was located and was joined by a lion and what I think was a dire wolverine to represent the displacer beasts. The stage was set and as I hoped Gar was all gung-ho to leap into the fray on the side of the blink dogs.

Sunfar asked about what they might know about blink dogs. I prefer to play 13th Age without Alignments and say something other than, blink dogs are good and displacer beasts are evil or anything like that. Instead I had him roll a knowledge roll based on his elfin background trait (he rolled a natural 20) and I told him that he had heard many tales of blink dogs helping people. That like tales of dolphins rescuing sailors from sharks that there are tales of heroic deeds by blink dogs, and then went on to tell a story of a blink dog who teleported into a burning building to rescue a family's baby.

This was enough to motivate the group and battle commenced with the roll of initiative. There isn't any rules for Blink Dogs or Displacer Beasts in 13th Age. I had found some stuff on the internet, but didn't end up using it and made up the monsters stats in the moment. The Blink Dogs didn't matter ... their fates were sealed as part of the encounter and in the first round the players got free (although completely ineffective - more in a moment) attacks while the Displacer Beasts felled the Blink Dogs.

Now it was round two and I turned up the escalation die to show a 1.

Here's how I decided to handle the Displacer Beasts.

Displacer Beasts 
AC 16
PD 14
MD 12
3 Attacks at +7 each
Tentacle / Tentacle / Bite - 8 points of damage per hit
50 HP 
Displacement - When hit by an attack, roll a d6. If the roll is equal to or lesser than the escalation die then the attack hit and the displacer beast takes the damage from the attack, otherwise the attack misses.

So, the first round the players had no chance to effect the beasts, but by the 6th round they could hit every time. My thought being that it would take the players a number of rounds to learn the movements and patterns of the displacer beasts but that the longer the melee went on the better they would be at fighting them and at predicting the beasts true locations.

The combat lasted 8 rounds (so the escalation die was a 6 for 2 rounds.) The combat went pretty quickly. The battle was won by the PC's. Karl even managed an amazing critical hit for more than 40 points of damage. And Sunfar took out one of the beasts with a half-handful of silver sleep dust (recharge successful ... recharge difficulty now set at 9+ ) Gar took enough damage in a single round to force Sunfar to perform a clerical healing spell on him in the midst of the combat, so the sense of danger was present although ultimately, it seemed like a pretty easy victory.

After the battle, the PC's find all the adult blink dogs killed and a litter of blink dog puppies, all but one slain by the displacer beasts. Gar gathered up the lone surviving pup and took it with him.

Gar's Blink Dog 
Your Blink Dog Puppy is an animal companion, but treated as a Magic Item for purposes of the game rules. It is a puppy now but grows with time so as your character goes up through tiers so will your Blink Dog. Blink Dog uses one of your magic item slots.
Adventurer Tier (Puppy) 
Gain 1 free melee attack against any nearby enemy each round.
(Blink Dog does not have to target the same enemies as you.)
The attack bonus is equal to your character level.
Do NOT add the value of the escalation die to the attack.
If the attack hits it inflicts a flat 3 points of damage
or 6 points on a natural even hit
and 12 points with a natural 20.
Once per day (recharge) Blink Dog can blink with you to pop you free of an engagement and move you anywhere even far away. (Recharge on 14+)

Champion Tier (Young Dog)
Gain 2 free melee attacks against any nearby enemies each round.
(These attacks can be against different targets.)
The attack bonus is equal to your character level.
Do NOT add the value of the escalation die to the attacks.
If an attack hits it inflicts a flat 6 points of damage
or 12 points on a natural even hit
and 24 points with a natural 20.
Once per day (recharge) Blink Dog can blink with you to pop you free of an engagement and move you anywhere even far away. (Recharge on 7+)

Epic Tier (Adult Dog)
Gain 3 free melee attacks against any nearby enemies each round.
(These attacks can be against different targets.)
The attack bonus is equal to your character level.
Do NOT add the value of the escalation die to the attacks.
If an attack hits it inflicts a flat 12 points of damage
or 24 points on a natural even hit
and 48 points with a natural 20.
Once per battle Blink Dog can blink with you to pop you free of an engagement and move you anywhere even far away.

Quirk: Needy - Blink Dog demands all your attention in his care and feeding.

The party began contemplating skinning the displacer beasts. But, when they declared their intention to undertake this en-devour, I intervened by introducing a traveling band of elves who arrived to investigate the disturbance.

I am cool with them having the displacer beasts hides and using them to make something cool, but I just felt like skinning the monsters could take a bunch of time that they didn't really have. So, I dropped in a new distraction to move things along. This worked and the PC's travel with the elves to their village gathering up the displacer beast carcasses and taking them along.

In the elf village the party asks about teleportation magic and is brought before the village leader. I think about Gar's player who rolled a 6 on his Icon relationship with the Archmage and decide that this particular elf leader has a the unusual distinction of a human court mage / adviser on his right arm. I quickly cast the elf leader and his human mage as Matt Smith and Karen Gillan respectively. I will call the elf leader Trenzalore and the human mage Gillan.

Gillan Village Mage

Oh, and look ... here's a pic of Karen Gillan looking all mage-like as a soothsayer in Fires of Pompeii (pre Amy Pond.) And since I imagine the village leader of the elf village as a village elder ... here's Matt Smith all old and stuff.

Trenzalore the Elf Chieftain

You can even imagine he has pointy elf ears under the hair! Sunfar is a Holy Archer of the Queen's Guard and so he is pretty much treated as royalty. The group gains immediate audience with Trenzalore who offers the service of his court mage in casting a teleportation spell. Gillan takes an immediate interest in Gar. "Are you a Gnoll Wizard?" she asks, and upon confirmation states that she has something for him before kissing Gar full on the mouth!

This is how it looked to Sunfar and Karl ... they'll never forget it!

And then Gillan gave the Gnoll wizard Gar a silver ring. Gillan explains that when last she was in Horizon she met with the Archmage's fortune teller who prophesied to her that she would one day meet a Gnoll Wizard walking among men and that she should give the ring to the Wizard. (Archmage Icon, check! ... note to self, figure out what this ring is before next game!)

Gillan explains that she cannot open a portal to Starport as she has never been there, but that she could open a portal to the Queens Court (or rather to a special teleportation disembarkation chamber in the vicinity of the Court relegated specifically for mage travel.) Gillan suspects that certainly one or more of the mages at the Court will be able to teleport the party to Starport.

The party accepts and steps through the magical portal to the Queens Court. It should be mentioned here that 3 displacer beast carcasses were left behind in the village. Given that I have cast two Doctor Who actors in roles in this village, and created a potential side-story for Gar here. I want them to have a reason to come back. So, I will also go ahead and give this elf village a name ... Gamma Village ... there (another Doctor Who reference) ... good to go.

Upon arriving at the Court, Sunfar is instantly recognized and granted an audience with the Elf Queen (played, perhaps too obviously by Liv Tyler.) I really wasn't sure what to do with the two 5's for the Elf Queen that Sunfar rolled but now was my chance. Well certainly helping them get to Starport before it was too late could be one boon ... but for the other?

Arwen, the Elf Queen

Both benefits should carry a cost and I hadn't figured that out yet either. I decide to put the cost on the back burner. I will plan a way to collect later. Arwen pulls Sunfar into her bed chamber for a sojourn and we move on. Whether this action was Sunfar's second boon or the Queen's method of exacting a payment I haven't decided, but the very idea of such an encounter put a smile on Sunfar's face, so I let it be and move on. (Sunfar's Icon relationships, check, and check.)

Sunfar's back story is that he is the only half-elf to ever gain the prestigious honor of becoming a Holy Archer in the Queen's Guard. Sunfar says that he accomplished this because he has the uncanny ability to obtain "dirt" of the blackmail variety on nearly everyone he meets. I explain to Sunfar that indeed he knows a vital secret about the Elf Queen herself and asked him if he wanted to know what it was. As I suspected, the player said he would rather that I surprised him.

Sunfar's role in this Quest for the Gold is as the bearer of a golden orb. Originally he was tasked with taking this orb to the Gold. Then the Gold requested that Sunfar, Karl and Gar all three take the Orb to Starport. Arwen asks Sunfar if he had completed his mission to carry the Orb to the Gold. Sunfar confirmed this and told the queen that now he was to take the orb to Starport.

After Sunfar returns from his "meeting" with the Queen, the Court Wizards open a portal not just to Starport, but as Dravonis reveals to Karl telepathically, the exact place they need to be. Said place is a sort of giant obelisk outside of Starport. I describe the cityscape in the distance as a magnificent view of tall metal spires straight off the cover of a pulp science fiction novel.


As the party takes in the site before them, the storms kick up again reminding them of the urgency of their mission. Dravonis, the dragon who is hitching a ride in Gar's head takes possession of Gar. He speaks at the entrance to the obelisk but a single word, and the magic of the word is such that the PC's know instantly what it is ... Dravonis has spoken the Gold's true name. And upon speaking the name, the door to the obelisk opens. Dravonis steps aside and informs the party. Now it's the elf's turn.

It is at this point that I reveal to Sunfar's player that the piece of information that he has on the Elf Queen, is that he knows her true name. Sunfar then takes the lead and speaking the Elf Queen's true name he opens the second door inside the obelisk to reveal a small inner chamber of all black with a small pedestal the top of which was fashioned in a bowl like shape. Sunfar placed the gold orb on the pedestal activating the Obelisk.

I described an increase in the rumbling stormquake activity and then a sudden subsidence as everything becomes right in the world. Dravonis tells the party that his mission is over and that he can finally "move on." It seems that many generations ago when the Gold planted himself into the entrance to the underworld to prevent demons from overtaking the world, that the Elf Queen foresaw a time when the evil of the underworld would corrupt the Gold and he would be turned evil.

A magical trap was built that caused a gigantic meteor to constantly fall directly at the Gold. This meteor could be repelled earning the Gold a reprieve from most certain and absolute destruction but the device built to do this could only be activated so long as the Elf Queen's agents and the agents of the Gold continued to work in concert. This is what the party has just achieved, earning the Gold a reprieve for the next 200 years.
(During the game, I said 1000, but I have decided that I should have said 200 ... shouldn't make much difference now.)

Yeah, the whole Obelisk / Meteor thing was stolen from original Trek. But no one saw it coming ... they only recognized it after it had already happened so I call that a win.

Dravonis vacates Gar's mind but leaves him with a gift (once it was realized that a dragon lived in Gar's head, there was some concern regarding what should happen to Gar's intelligence should the dragon ever leave) not only did Gar keep his intelligence, he got to improve the INT ability score +1. (Gar's Icon relationship with the Gold ... check.)

The party having completed their mission and so close to Starport decide to visit the mysterious city. They arrive to find a city walled by a 100' high shiny chrome sliver wall. Walking around they eventually come to a road of gold bricks that leads to a city gate. The gate is open, just a huge doorway really, but it leads inside the wall where another smaller door blocks their passage. This door has glowing lights instead of a door knob but, Gar presses one of the lights and the door opens.

Raston of Starport

No sooner has the group stepped inside, then a featureless silver humanoid steps up to greet them. I am picturing the Raston Warrior Robot that destroyed all those Cybermen in the Five Doctors, so I'll call the greeter at the gate of Starport, Raston.

Raston says, "Hello, travelers ... Welcome to Starport."

And that's where we wrapped it up for the night. Once again, I believe that a good time was had by all.

(Oh, almost forgot! I told everyone to take an incremental advance before our next game.)




  1. WOW! I love the writeup. I died laughing when I got to the little girl and the dog pic. Wonderful stuff!

    -Gar the Gnoll Wizard

  2. Hilarious! Wonderfully done! I had a great time reading this. Thanks Jeff!

    -Karl Valerian