13th Age: Characters from Metatopia

The High Druid, one of the Icons in 13th AgeI ran a whole lot of 13th Age at Metatopia last weekend. It was insane. I plan to try to unpack that experience over a series of blog posts. The good, the bad, the ugly. This first post is about the One Unique Things (which I call Hallmarks), backgrounds, and Icon relationships the players invented.


This is basically just a list. At the end, I will talk about the process of creating these in a convention environment with a limited time to play.

The Epics

I ran one Epic-tier game with 8th level characters. All of the players had played or GMed 13th Age before and some are in ongoing campaigns.

Klurg, half-orc barbarian 8. Backgrounds: Refugee leader in the swamps of Keck. Slaughter-bard of the Emperor’s Elite. Relationships: Orc Lord (positive), Emperor (negative). Hallmark: When I fight, spilled blood turns into music.

Cervante, dark elf sorcerer 8. Backgrounds: Diabolist spy service. Queen’s Guard. Relationships: Diabolist (conflicted), Elf Queen (conflicted). Hallmark: I turn into an undead at night.

Danar, high elf wizard 8. Backgrounds: Former apprentice of the Blue. Lived on a Koru Behemoth. Relationships: Archmage (conflicted). The Three (negative). Hallmark: Addicted to magic; needs to cast bigger and bigger spells to get his fix.

Finias, halfling rogue 8. Backgrounds: Master Fool of the Imperial court, former. Spy master of the Elf Queen, former. Relationships: Prince of Shadows (positive), Emperor (negative), Elf Queen (positive). Hallmark: Shapeshifter, can change to any face or body type–as long as it’s still a halfling.

Tierin, wood elf ranger 8. Backgrounds: Freelance courier of the Elf Queen. Failed druid apprentice, never initiated. Relationships: Elf Queen (positive), High Druid (negative). Hallmark: “Pass without trace” through any terrain due to a brush with death that turned him occasionally slightly incorporeal.

The Champions

I also ran one Champion-tier game with 5th level characters. I didn’t write down which pre-gens they played, unfortunately.

Navernicus. Backgrounds: Hand in Claw. Abyssal Whisperers. Brothers of Night. Relationships: Diabolist (complicated), Crusader (complicated). Hallmark: Demonic retinue (a host of troublesome imps that try to “help” Navernicus).

Krew, gnome bard 5. Backgrounds: Booktaker’s spy. Second violin of the Imperial Orchestra. Relationships: Archmage (positive), The Three (Blue) (complicated). Hallmark: Can walk (teleport) between libraries.

Ephestal. Backgrounds: Embittered academy initiate. Leader of the Golden Dream cult. Relationships: Archmage (negative), Great Gold Wyrm (positive). Hallmark: Know the Archmage’s thoughts.

The Silent One, human fighter 5. Backgrounds: Demonforger (knowledge of demonic steel-forging techniques). Seducer of the Prince of Shadows’ woman. Relationships: Diabolist (positive), Prince of Shadows (negative). Hallmark: Perfectly silent, when desired.

The Adventurers

I ran four other games, all with 2nd level characters. I didn’t always write down the character identities for these, either. For one of the games, I apparently didn’t even write down backgrounds and hallmarks. Apparently, the shorter, two-hour games were more hectic than I remember. Nonetheless, shout-outs to: Garfolemeow, Vrock, Bran Basalt, Harvick, Mîm, Tanin, Wynn, Xora, Slocum, Tebrius, Reynaldo, Song, and Holden.

Note that Dwarf Queen (mentioned in Mayson’s write-up) is a new Icon in my campaign world. She’s trying to overthrow her father, the Dwarf King, to ensure dwarven supremacy in the Empire.

Damiano, high elf wizard 2. Backgrounds: Elf Queen’s tutor. Green Dragon cultist. Relationships: Elf Queen (complicated), The Three (positive). Hallmark: Host of the Green Dragon spirit.

Rafaelo, dark elf sorcerer 2. Backgrounds: Courtier at the Elf Queen’s court. Diabolist’s apprentice. Relationships: Elf Queen (complicated), The Three (positive). Hallmark: Can speak to people with a telepathic voice they hear in their mind.

Mayson, dwarf cleric 2. Backgrounds: Rebel soldier. Archivist. Relationships: Dwarf King (complicated), Crusader (positive). Hallmark: Dwarf Queen’s lover.

Marcus, human fighter 2. Backgrounds: Gladiator. Priest. Relationships: Archmage (complicated), High Druid (negative). Hallmark: Has crazy, drug-addled, prophetic visions.

Syras, wood elf ranger 2. Backgrounds: Deserted a ranger guild. Orc hunter. Elf Queen’s bodyguard. Relationships: Elf Queen (positive). Orc Lord (negative). Hallmark: ???.


Creating characters in a convention setting

I supplied a “roster” of ten pre-gens. It was a simple list of the characters (race and class, mainly). The players selected the character they wanted to play, and I gave them their sheet.

The characters were not finished. Each was missing three key ingredients:

  • Backgrounds
  • Icon relationships
  • One Unique Thing (hallmarks)

I explained these concepts to the players and let them finish their characters. I gave them the advice I use in my blog post about backgrounds: think of a skill you want, imagine what kind of person might have that skill, then invent an organization that person might belong to, and write that organization down.

For their hallmarks, I encouraged them to go crazy with it. They often seemed stunned when I didn’t veto their idea. “Turns into an undead at night? Great!”

My favorite was, “Host of the Green Dragon.” I knew he meant The Green (one of the primordial dragons, now imprisoned by the Elf Queen). I had no idea what his hallmark implied. I asked him, “What does that mean exactly?” Him: “I have no idea.” Me: “Awesome! Maybe we’ll figure it out in play!” And off we went.

Overall, each player grokked his or her task and had fun with it. A few players needed to be nudged a little. Tierin’s player, who came up with the “Pass without Trace” idea, just wanted to be able to move through vegetation. I wanted to know how he did that and why he was unique in all the world. I suggested that he’d had a brush with death and turned into a ghost for a few seconds before his friends brought him back from the dead, and now he could turn partially incorporeal. He liked that a lot, so he went with it. The player of The Silent One had originally just written down “blacksmith” as a background, and I pushed her a little to do something special with it. Since her character had positive ties to the Diabolist, I suggested she had the ability to “demonforge” items using mysterious, diabolic techniques she’d learned from the Icon. She liked that and went with it.

Of course, two hours isn’t much time to explore a character. In many games, we never touched on the hallmarks at all. I find that it takes a few full-length game sessions to evoke them and work them into a campaign. The advice in the rules not to worry about them at character creation time makes total sense in that light. You’ll have plenty of time to make up your hallmark if you don’t have a cool idea when play starts.

Icon relationships did affect play a good deal, since we used the new “Rolling Relationships at the Start of Play” rules (EE5, p190). I’d like a little more advice on how to use these rolls for improvisation, but I managed through it. Basically, I tried to pick the strongest 5 and 6 results and turn them into plot hooks in my own home campaign of Tenrook, explain the hooks to the players, and let them pick the direction of play. Usually one or two of the more charismatic players (not characters) would seize an idea and run with it and adventure ensued.

I think nearly everyone had a great time, even when some things didn’t work out well.

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  1. Updated: Krew was a gnome bard.

    Posted November 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink | Reply
  2. john

    Klurg the slaughterbard is such a cool idea. Can’t wait to hear more about the games!

    Posted November 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

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