Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Old School 13th Age: Magic Items

Old School Magic Items in 13th Age

As I continue to work on the megadungeon I find myself wanting to redesign the old school magic items to be more in line with how 13th Age treats it's magic items, but I still want that OSR flavor to them. The mystery of picking up a new sword and swinging it around to see if it's magical. So that means I have to figure out how I am going to cover identifying magic items, as well as the effects of some of the more powerful items and cursed magical items.

Identifying Items

I am going to allow items to be identified with a ritual cast spell accessible by wizards as a level 1 utility spell. Alternatively, PCs can use their 5's on icon rolls in town to identify items (figuring them out with some advice) or 6's inside the dungeon (So that's why the archmage told me that story!). A character could use a 6 in town to guarantee that there is a wizard with a traveling caravan capable of identifying their magic items for them. This would cost 1d6+1 x 100gp per item.

Cursed Items

Curses are a big part of the old school feel, when you put on that girdle and your gender swaps or the sword you found turns out to bite you on the ass when you swing it, is all part of what makes exploring the dungeon a challenge. +Matt Maranda suggested having cursed items negatively impact the escalation die, and I think that is in the right direction. Below are some example magic items from Rappan Athuk that have been 13th Age-ified.

How will we remove curses? Still thinking on that. Zelkor's Ferry doesn't offer any easy way to remove curses, and Rappan Athuk is full of them.

Accursed Platemail of Magic Resistance

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: Any magical attack or spell against the wearer must score a natural 12+ or be absorbed by the armor having no effect.
Curse: Any magic spell or effect not stopped by the armors magic has any randomized properties maximized against the wearer, and the damage is increased by 5 x the escalation die.
Quirk: Feels compelled to boast their superiority to wizards and sorcerers.

Betraying Blade

Bonus per tier: -3 all tiers.
Curse: This blade steals the user's chakra when picked up, refusing to be put down or allowing other weapons to be wielded. On a miss, the wielder resets the escalation die to 1.

Cursed Blade of Life Draining

Bonus per tier: +2 / +3 / +4
Power: Once per battle, recharge 11+ - This blade can leave a nasty, bleeding wound. The victim suffers bleeding ongoing damage equal to five times the sword's plus.
Curse: Every round of battle the sword steals life from the wielder equal to the current escalation die's rating. This drain is not noticed by the wielder thanks to the swords overpowering quirk.
Quirk: The wielder of the blade feels invincible and fully refreshed.

Cursed Healing Potion (Champion Tier)

Power and curse: This potion functions like a champion tier potion of healing, except the hit points gained actually fade away 1d10 minutes after being consumed.

Stronger Magical Items

These are a few magic items that are usually game changers in OSR style games, where magic items have a major impact on your PC. I want to avoid having them completely unbalanced, but these items should feel stronger than basic magic items. To compensate, I think the quirks should come into play even stronger for these potent items.

Belt of Giant Strength

Bonus recoveries per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: At-Will: The wearer of a Belt of Giant Strength rolls twice when making strength ability checks and strength skills, taking the better result.
Power: Battle, recharge 16+: On even hit: Deal double damage with a melee or thrown attack.
Quirk: Constantly flexes, prone to challenge others to contests of strength.

Staff of Power (Epic)

Bonus: +3
Powers: The staff of power has many abilities it can access.
Continual Flame: Once per day. Create a heat-less flame that burns as bright as a torch.
Magic Missile: Once per battle, recharge 6+, Magic Missile as wielder's level.
Fireball: Once per day, Fireball as wielder's level. Escalation die must be at 3+ to use.
Levitate: Once per battle, recharge 11+, Levitate as wielder's level.
Lightning Bolt: Once per battle, recharge 11+, Lightning Bolt as wielder's level.
Hold Monster: Once per day, Hold Monster as wielder's level. Escalation die must be at 3+ to use.

Special: A staff of Power can be broken to perform a retributive strike. This deals 300 points of damage to everyone close, 200 damage to everyone nearby. Everyone is allowed to make a save to take half damage. This damage is force damage. The wielder has a chance of being teleported to a random plane instead of taking damage. They must succeed on a 11+ save to be teleported, failure means they are instantly destroyed by the power escaping the broken staff.

Quirk: The wielder of the staff of power feels all powerful, laughing at his enemies and bragging about his unstoppable power.

Vorpal Blade

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: On a natural 20, the Vorpal blade severs the head of the target from the neck killing them instantly. This does not work on all creatures, such as ghosts, golems, slimes and oozes. The GM is the final authority on what can die from having it's head cut off.
Quirk: Bloodthirsty, and a desire to eat raw meat.

Weapon of Speed

Bonus per tier: +1 / +2 / +3
Power: On a natural even hit, once per round, you gain an extra standard action.
Quirk: Jittery and amped up, needing to constantly move. To stand still is to die.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Old School: 13th Age and a Megadungeon

13th Age OSR?

Recently I picked up 13th Age, and have been playing a lot of it. Like most of the games I have been playing lately, it is very light on the rules and lends itself to some good gonzo action. There are numerous reviews of 13th Age out there, so I wont reiterate what has already been said better by others, I will just state that the game has a very dear place in my heart now.

So of course I want to see what it can do with it. Thus far my games have been in the Dragon Empire (the default setting for 13th Age) with very little customization other than adventure locations. I think it's time to take it a step further and try to bend it.

I'd like to make it more OSR-like. I'm not proposing some major system overhauls, just a few house rules and mainly a change in the way magic items work in order to get that old school adventure feel. I'd also like to throw the characters into a Megadungeon so Rappan Athuk will be serving as the setting for this experiment.

OSR Houserules

The following are a list of house rules I am working on to make 13th Age more OSR-like.

Delving Deeper

Leveling in 13th Age is usually based on DM fiat, but I want to encourage risk vs reward which is a classic archetype of OSR games. I am looking at advancement as a combination of treasure recovered and returned to town, as well as depth the troupe has reached. An idea:

  • X amount of treasure returned grants an incremental advancement.
  • Major encounters defeated grant an incremental advancements.
  • New level delved grants an incremental advancement. This only works for "true levels" not sub-levels.
  • Thoroughly exploring a level grants an incremental advancement. (maybe for sub-levels)
  • Every 4th incremental is a level.
  • Replacement PCs will come in at a level based on depth attained by the party. (2nd level PCs come in on level 3, 3rd level PCs come in on level 6, etc.)
I may have to slow this as they continue to descend, and will be tweaking it probably before we run the adventure. Right now I'm figuring every 3rd true level would be worth a level. Possibly quicker at the top, and slower at the bottom.

Magic Items

In OSR type games, magic items tend to be rare, consumables a little more powerful. 13th Age magic items are potent but not campaign altering. 

  • Scrolls will function with 13th age versions of spells.
  • Not all magic items are created equal. Though I will stick to the 13th Age magical "pluses" some magic items will be stronger than others - A sword of speed might give an additional attack on an even roll, once per round. A vorpal could sever a head on a natural 20.
  • Wands will most likely function once per battle, no recharge roll required, and run out after x charges.
  • Wands, Scrolls will not count toward major item limit, unless the wand is a true implement.
  • Cursed items - need to be nasty.

Danger Level / Sandbox

Rapp Athuk is a dangerous place and I will have the danger levels of the encounters be set based on the dungeon level / challenge of the room. Characters may very well run into things they cannot handle and will need to flee.

Full Rest

A full rest will only be available in town, unless they find a truly safe area that allows them to rest in the dungeon. They will want to return to the town with major money hauls for their incremental advancements, anyway.


Icons play an important role in 13th Age and I'd like them to take a role in the megadungeon, however the story of the megadungeon is exploration and danger, not so much one icon opposing another. So, I am thinking of the following house rules:

Icon benefits (5's or 6's) can be exchanged for a few different things during the course of a session. It will be up to the player to make sure they get use out of their benefits.
  • 5's: Must be used in town. 6's can be used anywhere.
  • Identify: Your relationship with an icon allows you to identify a magical item you find, and figure out it's command words. Maybe a strange piece of lore or a poem you were told.
  • Clues: The GM can give you clues to solve a riddle, a trap, or locate a secret door.
  • Escape: You can spend an icon relationship benefit to escape from a dangerous situation. 5's can be used to escape, but will cost you 2 recoveries to do so.
  • Healing potion: In town you can gain a healing potion, magic oil or rune.
  • Monster Info: Some monsters require special conditions to harm or have dangerous abilities, an icon relationship can give you that bit of info you need.