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Skill Check DCs, Trap Obstacle Attacks & Impromptu Damage by Environment Baseline Stats for Monsters Chart

Baseline Stats for Monsters Chart Item Chakras and Default Bonuses Consumables Costs
Degree of Skill Trap or Obstacle Attack Impromptu Damage Impromptu Damage All Normal Monster Mooks Large/Double Str. Huge/Triple Str. All Default Bonus Tier Cost Effect HP Cap
Tier Challenge Check DC Roll vs. AC/PD/MD (Single Target) (Multiple Targets)
Type of Magic Item, aka
(often +1 adventurer, Pg. Healing Potion Costs
Attack Strike Strike HP Strike
HP
Strike
HP AC
Better Lesser Fear Chakra Adventurer 50 gp Recovery +1d8 hp 30
Adventurer Normal 15 +5 2d6 or 3d6 1d10 or 1d12 Level HP +2 champion, +3 epic)
Bonus Damage Damage Each Damage Damage Defense Defense (HP) Champion 100 gp Recovery +2d8 hp 60
Adventurer Hard 20 +10 3d6 1d12 Armor, robe, shirt, tunic Armor Class 287
0 +5 4 20 3 5 9 41 12 60 16 14 10 7 Epic 200 gp Recovery +3d8 hp 100
Adventurer Ridiculously Hard 25 +15 3d6 or 4d6 1d12 or 2d8 No default bonus. The most
1 +6 5 27 4 7 10 54 15 81 17 15 11 9 Arrow, crossbow bolt, Iconic 300 gp Recovery +4d8 hp 130
Champion Normal 20 +10 4d6 or 4d8 2d10 or 2d12 common type of magic ammunition 287
2 +7 7 36 5 9 14 72 21 108 18 16 12 12 slingstone Resistance Potion Costs
Champion Hard 25 +15 4d8 2d12 expands crit range by 1
3 +8 10 45 6 11 21 90 30 135 19 17 13 15 Adventurer 100 gp Resist 16+
Champion Ridiculously Hard 30 +20 4d8 or 2d20 2d12 or 3d10 Belt, swordbelt, kilt, girdle Recoveries per day 288
4 +9 14 54 7 14 28 108 42 162 20 18 14 18 Champion 200 gp Resist 16+
Epic Normal 25 +15 2d20 or 3d20 3d12 or 4d10 No default bonus. These items
5 +10 18 72 9 18 36 144 54 216 21 19 15 24 Book, scroll, manual, Epic 400 gp Resist 16+
Epic Hard 30 +20 3d20 4d10 commonly confer knowledge or 288
6 +11 21 90 12 23 42 180 63 270 22 20 16 30 grimoire Oil Costs
Epic Ridiculously Hard 35 +25 3d20 or 4d20 4d10 or 4d12 skill
7 +12 28 108 18 27 56 216 84 324 23 21 17 36 Adventurer 100 gp +1 Oil
Boots, sandals, slippers, shoes Disengage checks and other footwork 289
Conditions Chum the Adventure 8 +13 38 144 23 36 76 288 114 432 24 22 18 48 Champion 200 gp +2 Oil
Cloak, mantle, cape Physical Defense 289
Confused: You can’t make opportunity attacks or use your (d20 roll when you wish to be entertained) 9 +14 50 180 31 45 100 360 150 540 25 23 19 60 Epic 400 gp +3 Oil
Glove, gauntlet, mitt No default bonus 289
limited powers. Your next attack action will be a basic or at- 1–3: A situation the PCs solved recently has repercussions: 10 +15 58 216 37 54 116 432 174 648 26 24 20 72 Rune Costs
Helmet, circlet, crown, cap Mental Defense 290
will attack against at least one of your nearby allies, usually survivors, vengeful witnesses, etc. 11 +16 70 288 46 72 140 576 210 864 27 25 21 96 Adventurer 150 gp +1 Rune
Necklace, pendant Save bonus 290
determined randomly. If you don’t have any nearby allies, you 4–5: Cue the ominous music! Use nastier specials for all 12 +17 90 360 60 90 180 720 270 1080 28 26 22 120 Champion 300 gp +2 Rune
Ring x 2 No default bonus. Anything goes 291
either do nothing much or, at the GM’s option, act in a strange monsters next battle. 13 +18 110 432 74 108 220 864 330 1296 29 27 23 144 Epic 600 gp +3 Rune
Shield Hit points 291
confused manner that suits the story. 6–7: A PC’s wound deprives them of a significant spell or 14 +19 135 576 90 144 270 1152 405 1728 30 28 24 192
Dazed: You take a –4 penalty to attacks. power in the next battle. Let the character feel heroic Staff (implement)
Operates as both a wand and a symbol;
291 GM Stuff to Remember
Fear: Fear dazes you and prevents you from using the escalation die. for fighting while at a disadvantage.
Monster Equivalents champion and epic tier only Start of Session
Attack and damage (divine • Players make icon rolls. (pg. 179)
Hampered: You can only make basic attacks, no frills. You can 8: Ask the players for the weirdest, most dangerous thing Normal Mook Large Huge Symbol, holy relic, sacred
Adventurer Champion spell or attack); adventurer and 292 • Based on the icons in play, determine story points, give out
still move normally. (Fighters and bards, that also means no that might be happening in the adventure without Epic Battle counts counts counts counts sickle (implement)
Battle Battle champion tier only icon rewards, or leave to players. (pg. 179–182)
flexible attacks. Monsters, that means no triggering special their PCs’ knowledge. Reward the best idea with an as… as… as… as… Attack and damage (arcane spell or During the Session
abilities for specific attack rolls.) immediate incremental advance for that player’s PC. 2 levels lower 1 level lower Same level 0.5 0.1 1 1.5 Wand (implement) attack); adventurer and champion 292 • Have players roll icon dice for in-game dramatic events.
Helpless: If you’re unconscious or asleep, you’re helpless and a Don’t tell them whether or not you plan to use the idea.

13th Age Game Master’s Screen ©2015 Pelgrane Press Ltd. All rights reserved. Published by Pelgrane Press Ltd. under license from Fire Opal Media, Inc.
1 level lower Same level 1 level higher 0.7 0.15 1.5 2 tier only

Monster Level
(pg. 179–183)
lot easier to hit. While helpless, you take a –4 penalty to all 9–11: The balance of power shifts: One PC with an unused

compared to
same level 1 level higher 2 levels higher 1 .2 2 3 Weapon, melee Attack and damage (using the weapon) 292 • Have players roll icon dice for discovery & surprise.

party level
defenses and you can be the target of a coup de grace. icon relationship result of 6 now has a 5 instead. Weapon, ranged Attack and damage (using the weapon) 292
1 level higher 2 levels higher 3 levels higher 1.5 .3 3 4 (pg. 179–183)
Stuck: You can’t move, disengage, pop free, change your position, 12–13: Sudden magical surge! One PC has a choice: roleplay Wondrous item No default. Anything goes 293
2 levels higher 3 levels higher 4 levels higher 2 .4 4 6 • Advance the escalation die (pg. 162)
or let anyone else move you without teleporting. You’re not their favorite magic item’s quirk and treat its default
3 levels higher 4 levels higher 5 levels higher 3 .6 6 8 • Quick rest and full heal-up. (pg. 170–171)
otherwise penalized, necessarily. bonus as one tier higher the rest of the day, or don’t and
Stunned: You take a –4 penalty to defenses and can’t take any actions. it becomes nonmagical for the rest of the day. 4 levels higher 5 levels higher 6 levels higher 4 .8 8 Rule Recaps After the Session
Ambush & Surprise: Ambushers choose one attacker and • Have players choose recurring elements of the session.
Vulnerable: Attacks against you have their crit range expanded 14–15: One PC who failed to roll any icon relationship
by 2 (normally 18+). advantages flips a coin. Heads = a 6 with one of their
Customizing a Monster GP Per Full Heal-Up highest initiative ally to attack, then roll initiative for everyone (pg. 189–190)
Scrapper Sharp but thin +1 to +3 atk –10 to –30% hp 1st Lvl PCs: 100 gp per PC 6th Lvl PCs: 325 gp per PC else. (pg. 164) • Optional: Players roll icon dice for the next session for story
Weakened: You take a –4 penalty to attacks and to defenses. icons; tails = a 5 with one of their icons.
Offensive Soft but strong –1 to –3 defenses +1 to +3 atk 2nd Lvl PCs: 125 gp per PC 7th Lvl PCs: 425 gp per PC Death & Dying: A PC is down at 0 hp, and dead at negative setup instead of at beginning. (pg. 182)
16–17: An icon noticed you! Grant a PC who did something
Defensive 3rd Lvl PCs: 175 gp per PC 8th Lvl PCs: 500 gp per PC half hp. Make death saves (16+) each round to heal using a
Intercepting memorable a complicated advantage (5) with an icon Tough but weak +1 to +3 AC –10 to –30% hp
recovery. Four failures is death. Start at 0 hp when healed. DC
You intercept a creature when you move to stop an enemy they don’t have a relationship with. Lunk Big and squishy +15% to +40% hp –1 to –3 defenses 4th Lvl PCs: 210 gp per PC 9th Lvl PCs: 650 gp per PC
Brittle Tough but thin +1 to +3 AC –10 to –30% hp 5th Lvl PCs: 250 gp per PC 10th Lvl PCs: 850 gp per PC 10 Wisdom check to stabilize. Nat 20 = full action. (pg. 169) No Recoveries: You get half healing and take a –1 penalty
attempting to rush past you to attack someone else. You must be 18–19: Cue the heroic music! The next battle starts with the
Fight in Spirit: A +1 to +2 bonus a PC who’s out of the battle can (cumulative) to attacks and all defenses until full heal-up. (pg. 169)
near the enemy and the person that enemy is trying to reach. The escalation die one point higher than normal.
GM rules on what counts as moving “past” a defending character 20: Tell the players that after the next battle or other
Leveling a Monster Optional No Math System give to another PC, provided they narrate. (pg. 166) Ongoing Damage: Damage stacks. Also, take damage at the end
Levels Added Multiplier Levels Added Multiplier 1–2: Useless stuff, fake potions, costume jewelry, nothing gained. Flee: The PCs can flee a battle if all players agree and GM allows of your turn, right before you roll the save. (pg. 173)
or enemy. The standard consequence of being intercepted is that significant portion of the adventure, they’ll vote
+1 level x 1.25 +4 levels x 2.5 3–4: One healing potion, lower tier. it. It brings a campaign loss. (pg. 166) Rally: As a standard action, a PC can heal using a recovery. The
you use your attack against the creature that intercepted you. On on which PC was the most awesome. That PC gets
+2 levels x 1.6 +5 levels x 3.2 5–10: One healing potion from PC’s tier. Grabbed: See page 172 of the core rulebook for the old grab first time is free; thereafter it requires a normal save. (pg. 166)
your next turn, if you’re willing to provoke an opportunity attack something at least as cool as a bonus incremental
+3 levels x 2.0 +6 levels x 4.0 11–15: Two potions, oils, runes of PC’s choice from PC’s tier. rules. A simpler rule from Rob is: While grabbed, the creature Resistance: Attack roll using that type of damage must equal or
or succeed on a disengage check, you can move to where you advance. The player in second place gets whatever
16–20: Three potions/oils/runes of PC’s choice from PC’s tier. grabbing you automatically deals half the damage of the exceed the resistance number or it’s only half damage. (pg. 173)
were headed in the first place. change is in the GM’s pocket.
1: Raise its attack bonuses and defenses by 1 per added level. original attack as a free action at the start of its turn. No +4 Shooting into Melee: When you fumble, reroll the attack against
2: For damage and hit points (and special abilities like healing), bonus on its other attack(s). It’s best to disengage (but no –5 an ally engaged with target, if any. (pg. 172)
Disengaging multiply the original stats by the number listed on the table above. penalty) or pop free from creatures grabbing you! See the GM Temporary Hit Points: They don’t stack, and they end after a
You can use a move action to move away from the foes that engage the first that you are disengaging from. If the disengage check
Screen Guide, page 58. battle or when you roll initiative. (pg. 175)
you, but you draw an opportunity attack from each of those enemies succeeds, you can move normally without drawing opportunity
Invisibility: Yields a 50% miss chance before attack roll, and +5 Unarmed Attacks: Strength attack with a –2 penalty vs. AC. On
when you do. To disengage without drawing an opportunity attack, attacks from the foes you were engaged with. If you fail the
bonus to stealth checks. (pg. 172) a hit, deal 1d6/two levels + Str mod damage. Add 1d3 damage
roll a normal save (11+). You can disengage from more than one foe disengage check, you don’t move, you lose your move action for that
Modifiers: Use a +2 bonus when a creature has some sort of at odd levels. (pg. 168)
with a single successful check: take a –1 penalty for each foe beyond turn, you remain engaged, and you don’t take opportunity attacks.
advantage. (pg. 171)
CREDITS
Publishers Editing & Development Interior Art
Simon Rogers, Cathriona Tobin Rob Heinsoo Aaron McConnell, Rich
Longmore, and Lee Moyer
Designers Screen Artists
Cal Moore, Wade Rockett Lee Moyer, Aaron McConnell Layout
Chris Huth

Special Thanks
Thanks to Jon Spengler of Dorkadia for suggestions on how the players can drive the stories, Martin Killman
and Ryven Cedrylle for making every icon roll count, Philippe-Antoine Menard for a great strategy for
crafting backgrounds, and Sean Swanwick for wise words on backgrounds.

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table of contents

TABLE OF

CONTENTS
Introduction4 The Mechanics of Using Terrain 42 Lich King 54
Terrain and Environments 44 Peacock54
Design Aesthetic5 Example Terrain Skeli Mord 54
Writers: We Are Not
Across Environments 45 Ailwyn Grieve 54
Telling the Story! 5
Orc Lord 54
13th Age Monster Design 6 Handling Backgrounds46 Thurash Many Rocks,
Helping Players Write
13 Age Adventure Toolkit
th
8
Effective Backgrounds 46
Smasher of Elves 54
What is an Adventure Toolkit? 8 Althea Wainwright 55
Dealing With the +5 “I’m Good at
Building Your Adventure 8 Priestess55
Everything” Background 46
Step One: Choose Two Themes 8 The Lady of the Steps 55
Step Two: Generate a Plot 8 Creating Nutripher Fantastikon,
Step Three: Run the Adventure 9 Memorable NPCs48 King of Wrongway 55
NPC Stats 48 Prince of Shadows 56
Montages11 Bringing NPCs to Life 48 Lady Nightwhisper 56
Example 1: Shipping to New Port 11
Archmage49 Oleg “The Owlbear”
Example 2: Glitterhaegen to Anvil 12
The Chakta Ren 49 Stonegrinder56
Example 3: Lost Tower 13
Frogknob49 The Three 56
Using Icon Crusader49 Agrabath Flameskull 56
Relationship Dice14 Quartermaster Viga 49 Rabenna Queal 56
When to Roll Icon Dice? 14 Inquisitor Noj 49 Ahn Kyung-Jae 57
What Do the Connections Mean? 15 Diabolist50
Tips on Using Icon Advantages 16 Brother Simeon (Magus Astra) 50
Six Things
Who’s Responsible? 17 Kuljani Proost 50
Rob Does Now58
Taking Advantage of Advantages 18 Dwarf King 50 13 Bits of GM Advice
Mechanical Benefits Maxim Goldfinder, Slava’s Son, From Other Books59
for Advantages 18 Yelena’s Husband 50 Combat Crunch 59
Examples of Using Yelena Spearfighter, Rufina’s Cursed Items 59
Advantages and Complications 20 Daughter, Maxim’s Wife 51 Disengaging59
Alternative Icon Systems 21 Nikolai Treefeller, Ivan’s Son, Evil PCs 59
Yelena’s Brother 51 Fleeing59
Building Better Battles23 Elf Queen 51 Icons59
Choose a Theme 23
Aiken Crow 51 Killing Player Characters 59
Choose the Difficulty 24
Skara of the Green Hills 51 One Unique Things 59
Choose the Enemies 24
Emperor52 Rallying59
Adjustments During Battle 28
Count Garrett 52 Recoveries59
GM Battle Strategies 29
Countess Landina 52 Re-Rolls59
Examples of Building Battles 32
Other Members of the Count Roll Multiple Saves? 59
Incorporating and Countess’s Household 52 Three Most Dangerous Dungeons
Terrain into Battles36 Great Gold Wyrm 52 59
What is Terrain? 36 Kyffin Lews 53
The “Stand and Mingxia, Scourge
Advice Reminder Index61
Hack It Apart” Problem 38 of Demons (Deceased) 53 Iconic Allies, Enemies,
Using the Best Terrain High Druid 53 and Follower Goals
for the Scene 38 Nigesa of the River 53 Cheatsheet 62
Classes and Terrain 39 Lord Osa 53

3
13 th age - game master’s screen and resource book

INTRODUCTION
“We have targeted the game toward experienced gamemasters Backgrounds are one of the game’s more free-form
and players at all levels of roleplaying experience.” mechanics, and can require some negotiation between players
and GMs. We go into the key components of what makes a good
That’s the very first line of rules text in the 13th Age core
background and why those stories are important, as well as how
book, and it’s there for an important reason. The game was
to adjust for generalists who might try to take advantage of the
envisioned as an opportunity for Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan
system.
Tweet to share with other GMs how they run d20-rolling fantasy
For players, the GM’s world usually truly comes to life
roleplaying games with their own friends. It’s based on their
through the NPCs they interact with. In this section, we offer
hacks, house rules, GM styles, and personal philosophies about
advice on how to make your NPCs more interesting, and
how such games can be designed and run so they offer everyone
provide you with some icon-related NPCs that you can easily
involved the most opportunities for fun. As a result of this
insert into your adventures.
approach, 13th Age sometimes demands more improvisation and
A GM guide wouldn’t be complete without a section from
rules adjudication from GMs than games which are designed for
Rob or Jonathan, and here Rob provides some new ideas that
GMs who are complete beginners.
they’ve had since the release of the core book. We’re sure you’ll
We like to support our GMs by answering questions and
find something fun to try.
supplying them with resources and guidance, and have long felt
Finally, we included an index of valuable advice sections
that a completely GM-focused product would be a great addition
from a range of sources for easy reference. We also included a
to the 13th Age line. We hope the tools included with the Game
template sheet for GMs to track PC and icon relationships.
Master’s Screen and Resource Book serve you well.
Whether you use only a few of these ideas or many, we hope
Our goal for the screen is to provide useful tables, charts,
they make it easier for you to run your games and make those
and reminders to keep your game running smoothly by providing
games more fun for both you and your players. Game on!
the information you need, without having to open a book. For
this Resource Book, we want to offer GMs ideas to help them run
better games, and make it easier to handle the improvisational
parts. We cover subjects that generate a lot of questions on
forums, at conference panels, and even in our own games. Where
it makes sense, we’ve also incorporated existing material into
the guide that is useful to any GM, such as montages from the
organized play program, along with a simple index of valuable
advice from the rest of the “core” sources.
The guide starts with Rob and Jonathan’s advice to 13th Age
designers, adapted for GMs, and covers their goals for the system.
The adventure toolkit provides a step-by-step process
designed to help GMs who need to run a quick adventure on the
fly, such as a demo or convention pick-up game.
The montage system, which ASH Law uses in the organized
play adventures, provides GMs with a player-driven method of
creating action in between encounters and battles.
Next, we dig into how to best use the icon relationship
dice, a core idea of the 13th Age rules. The advice covers a range
of ideas and examples for incorporating those 5s and 6s.
As with any F20 system, battles are a key component to 13th
Age play, and we discuss strategies for building fun, balanced (or
not), and exciting battles for your game.
Although 13th Age is a gridless system that uses streamlined
rules for combat, incorporating terrain into your battles can
make your fights more dynamic and fun. This section provides
ideas on how to do that.

4
13 th age - game master’s screen and resource book

13 TH
AGE ADVENTURE
TOOLKIT
WHAT IS AN
Or you could offer hints while letting all themes emerge during
the game.

ADVENTURE TOOLKIT? Have your players


choose two themes from this list:
Sometimes a GM is asked to run a 13th Age game with little or no
Ambition Gold Progress
preparation. Icon relationships, backgrounds, and One Unique
Ancestral Sins Guilt Rebirth
Things provide a great foundation for an improvised adventure,
Betrayal Heartache Reckonings
giving the GM a way to draw out story hooks from the players.
Blood Ties Heating Up Redemption
But if you aren’t comfortable with a lot of improvising (or you’re
Buzzards Circle Home Ritual
just feeling brain-dead at the moment), a pre-made structure can
Cages Justice Secrets
help you turn those hooks into a satisfying and fun adventure.
Change Is Hard Knowing Too Small Details
That’s where the Adventure Toolkit comes in. It provides
Charity Much Thresholds
a basic framework for an adventure, and distributes the task of
Choosing Sides Lion’s Den Ties that Bind
improvisational adventure-building storytelling around the table.
Condemned to Losing Truth
Freedom Losing Control Trust

BUILDING YOUR Creation


Destruction
Loyalty
Masks
Two Wrongs
Don’t Make

ADVENTURE Divinity
Dying Well
The Morning
After
a Right
Unity
False Smiles New Beginnings Vengeance
Here’s how to create an improvised 13th Age adventure using
Fear Old Memories What Price
this toolkit:
Fear of the Outsiders Victory?
1: Decide what the adventure will be about: Have your players
Unknown Predator and Prey
choose two themes from the list provided, or create their own.
Forgiveness Preservation
2: Decide what will happen during the adventure: Using the
adventure plot template, work with your players to create a
plotline that will bring those themes to life.
Step Two:
3: Run the resulting adventure: Use the simple framework we Generate a Plot
provide, which consists of a montage, skill challenges, and
Read the following sentence aloud to the players:
battles. Plan for two scenes focused on skill challenges and
two battles per two-hour session. “In this adventure, the characters must [ACTION]
[OBJECT] in order to [GOAL] for [ICON].

Step One: But [COMPLICATION]!”

Choose Two Themes This is your adventure plot template. Ask the players to fill in the
blanks with an action, an object the characters act on, a goal, and
As the first building block to create adventures, we’re borrowing a complication.
the concept of themes from Robin D. Laws’ excellent RPG Hillfolk. Here are some general ideas—but the more specific your
A theme is a broad, simple, abstract concept that evokes some group can get, the better:
aspect of the human condition. Your plot will describe what happens Sample actions: Guard, recover, save, destroy, help, foil,
in the adventure; themes describe what the adventure is about. plunder, find, hide, kill, heal, journey to, escape from, summon,
For example, an adventure in which the PCs get involved with banish, exorcise, overthrow, restore, explore, identify, smuggle,
a feud between two barbarian tribes could be about Ancestral protect, kidnap, defend, solve, claim.
Sins, Blood Ties, Change Is Hard, Choosing Sides, Loyalty, New Sample objects: Monster, magic item, large sum of money,
Beginnings, Old Memories, Reckonings, Two Wrongs Don’t valuable object, royalty/aristocrat, wealthy merchant, struggling
Make a Right, or Vengeance. merchant, caravan, treasure ship, prison, prison ship, flying
If you like, you can get this started by choosing one theme prison, vault, husband/wife/daughter/son, temple, sacred spot,
yourself and turning the other over to the players. It also works castle, keep, city, village, tribe, tomb, pass, river, mountain, true
to choose one theme and wait for others to emerge during play. heir, pretender, ancient secret, political intrigue, mystery.

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adventure toolkit

Sample goals: Get paid, bring peace, defeat evil, achieve Scene 2: First Challenge
justice, liberate the oppressed, protect the innocent, unify In this scene, the characters must overcome a major obstacle
that which is divided, heal old wounds, fulfill a debt, placate a that stands between them and their goal, using roleplaying, skill
supernatural being, settle a disagreement, reveal a hidden truth. checks, or a combination of each.
Sample complications: The hunter becomes the hunted, Offer the players multiple ways to get past the obstacle,
the true enemy reveals itself, the true mission is deadlier than each one with its own benefits and potential downsides. Each
they imagined, the price of victory might be too high, they might challenge also requires something different from the PCs in
be on the wrong side, getting there won’t be easy, a different icon order to succeed:
has other plans. • Skill checks using different backgrounds, where failure either
does damage to the PCs, results in the loss of a useful item, or

Step Three: Run the delays them so their enemies have time to prepare for their arrival.
• Icon relationship checks, either made on the spot or rolled
Adventure before play began and held in reserve. A 6 with one or more
relevant icons gets the party past the obstacle. A 5 also gets the
A roleplaying game adventure consists of several connected
party past the obstacle, but at a cost of HP, recoveries, a minor
scenes in which the players try to achieve a practical, external
side quest, or a meaningful limitation such as, “You may pass,
goal using their characters’ powers and their own wits. Because
as long as you do not shed the blood of a goblin this day.” (And
you’re making this adventure up on the spot, we’re going to keep
of course, there’s a battle coming up with goblins in it. . . .)
the structure simple and linear:
Scene 1: Montage Scene 3: First Battle
Scene 2: First Challenge At last, the PCs get to hit someone! Create an opposing force
Scene 3: First Battle using the Building Battles chart from the GM screen (or on page
Scene 4: Second Challenge
Scene 5: Second (Final) Battle, and Resolution

Using the completed adventure plot template as a guide, decide


where the adventure begins: a remote fishing village, the outskirts
of an orc-infested forest, the foothills of a haunted mountain, the
right eye socket of a dead god’s massive skull, or another suitable
starting point.

Scene 1: Montage
Movies about fantasy heroics don’t linger on every battle fought,
and every obstacle overcome. Instead, they use a montage
of scenes that tell the story of all sorts of exciting things that
happened on the way to the real adventure, and that the heroes
emerged victorious from each encounter. Use montages to kick
off the session.
Tell the players that their characters just undertook a long
and difficult journey to get to the spot where the adventure begins.
Turn to the player on your left and ask them to describe one
threat or obstacle that the party faced on their journey toward
the location where the adventure begins. The obstacle could be
large (a dangerous ambush, or an avalanche) or small (someone
stole the cleric’s trousers).
Turn to the next player clockwise and tell them that their
character did something impressive to overcome that threat
or obstacle. Ask them to describe what they did. Don’t make
them roll dice at this point—this event happened in the past,
and they succeeded.
Continue around the group until every player has had a
chance to invent an obstacle and describe how their characters
overcame an obstacle. If some players aren’t comfortable with
making something up on the spot, feel free to coach them, or
turn their one- or two-word answer into something bigger.
See the next section beginning on page 11 for more
discussion of montages along with extended examples.

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13 th age - game master’s screen and resource book

TIPS ON
you know that the advantages from that icon probably come from
inside knowledge, or from enemies of the icon who are helping

USING ICON
the cleric take revenge on the cult. But complicated advantages
probably mean she is still in contact with active cultists from her

ADVANTAGES
past who have their own agendas, or with former members who
are willing to betray the others for a price.
As GM, you should also review the icon relationships with
other icons in chapter 1 of the core rulebook if you’re playing in Since this is a GM’s guide, we’ll first cover some strategies for
the Dragon Empire as written, or think about the connections using icon advantages in different ways, including how to let the
you’ve created in a home game with tailored icons. Which icons players do half the work. Later, we’ll provide some examples of
did the players choose, and who are the enemies and allies of advantages and complications actually used during games that
those icons? For example, a ranger with a 2-point positive might be enlightening to either GMs or players. But first, a
relationship with the Elf Queen tends to face complications reminder from the core rules.
involving the Orc Lord’s servants and receives help not only from If you’re not sure what enemies and obstacles the PCs will
the Elf Queen, but also from the High Druid’s followers and the face next, or you want to flavor some generic opposition you’ve
Emperor’s servants. Keeping those allies and enemies in mind created for the PCs, use their icon rolls to push the story toward
helps when you decide to have some faction provide assistance an icon (or two). The easy way to do this is to see what advantages
as an advantage or complicated advantage. Even better, have a the PCs rolled, tally up which icon got the most (5s and 6s both),
sheet at hand during the game with a chart listing each icon in and flavor the enemies and that session’s story toward that icon.
the group and their allies and enemies, plus a few possible goals In addition, any allies that show up to help thanks to advantages
the followers of those icons might have in the game world that should also be linked to the icon—whether servants of the icon
relate to the PCs. Then you have some ready-made complication or those of an allied icon—or enemies wishing to do that icon
hooks you can flesh out more as needed. (See page 62 for one harm and who are willing to help the PCs, depending on the
version of such a sheet.) disposition of the PCs toward the icon.

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22
building better battles

BUILDING
BETTER BATTLES
CHOOSE A THEME
The 13th Age core rulebook gives GMs the basics for building
battles, including the Monster Equivalents chart for handling the
math side of things, and some advice on building “unfair” battles.
In this section, we’ll expand on those ideas and provide a deeper For a home campaign, you know the players and their PCs best, so
look into how to craft fun, memorable battles. you should understand what types of enemies the players like to
Battles are only a part of the 13th Age roleplaying experience, face, how tactical they are in combat, and—most importantly—
but it is an F20 game, and fights are part of its DNA. Sometimes what icon relationships and uniques the PCs have that will best
the players’ actions or the direction of the story (too many 5s on link to the battles and enemies they’ll face. Of course, that doesn’t
icon rolls!) will lead to an unexpected battle that can’t be avoided mean you can’t occasionally throw curveballs at them to take
through stealth, negotiation, or other means. Because the GM them out of their comfort zones, but you need to gain their trust
has to construct them on the fly, and simpler is usually easier, before hitting them with a battle they think they won’t enjoy. So
these battles are often not especially memorable, and end up as it helps to decide what a battle’s theme will be, which helps you
filler in between more important scenes. But when a GM has time then choose enemies, terrain, and how tough the battle should be.
to plan, knowing where the heroes’ path will most likely lead, and The 13th Age icon relationships and rolls are great for setting
who’s going to be in their way looking for fight—that’s when they a theme, since player icon choices should help you generate
can give their players a battle to truly remember, perhaps even ideas about what types of monsters to use. If the battle is the
one that will define a PC or take the campaign in a new direction. result of icon interactions (including direct representatives or
So what makes a 13th Age battle memorable? The obvious enemies who fall under an icon’s sphere of influence) and/or
answer is how the fight applies to the characters’ stories. complications from icon dice, the theme is probably obvious. For
Some battles will just involve the PCs doing normal hero stuff: example, the PCs have a necromancer who’s out to stop the Lich
Exploring, finding trouble, and trying to stay alive when they King, and they defeat a lesser vampire who bargains for its (un)
encounter enemies that want to eat them or kill them. However, life by telling the party about a hidden vault of death priests. You
when you personalize a battle for one or more of the PCs by now have your theme: the PCs will be involved in one or more
challenging them with enemies linked to them through their battles with Lich King death priests and their undead minions.
iconic connections, backgrounds, or uniques, you immediately Once you have a direction to go, you can find existing resources
gain the players’ attention. that fit that theme, or create the battles yourself.
A battle against a group of generic gnolls, for example, But maybe the PCs’ current course doesn’t have any icon
is a lot less interesting to the players than a fight against the involvement. What then? Well, most likely the group is pursuing
Demonfiends, the Diabolist-worshiping gnoll pack who are sworn a storyline that involves one of their uniques. You know the
enemies of the wood elf ranger PC with a negative relationship stories they want to tell based on those uniques, and you should
with that icon, and who has a background called “Demonfiend have some idea about the elements you want to weave into the
hunter” but left it up to the GM to figure out what that means. campaign, which should inform your choice of theme and what
That battle has personal impact for the ranger’s player. It sort of battle the PCs will face to achieve what they want. If one of
probably also opens up new adventure options, either from the the PCs has a unique story involving retrieving a family heirloom
ranger wanting to know where the gnoll pack came from and how from the drow raiders who killed his family, and the PCs are
it found the party, or for you to expand upon if you see that the following a sub-group of those raiders, your theme for the next
battle caught the ranger player’s interest. battle might be any of the following: the PCs encounter a drow
So what goes into building those memorable battles? raiding party that has broken off from the main group to attack
Outlined below are key ideas to keep in mind while creating a small settlement; the PCs must face a group of underworld
fights for the PCs, including choice of theme, battle difficulty, monsters that pick up their scent and attack as the heroes
monster type, level, and strength, and what tactics they might descend into the depths; or perhaps the PCs encounter a band of
employ. While a lot of this advice is directed at the battles you deep forest denizens who won’t let them pass through their lands
can plan ahead of time, you can still draw upon these strategies to pursue the drow that recently passed through. At that point,
when you’re slapping together a battle-on-the-fly or running a you know the story and the enemies, and you’ll just need to do
one-shot adventure. some stat work for the enemies you choose and pick the terrain.
In a similar vein, your theme choice might revolve around a
background of one or more of the PCs. While backgrounds aren’t
as strong as uniques thematically, they still tell stories about the PCs
and can be mined for drama the same way. For example, a PC rogue

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13 th age - game master’s screen and resource book

INCORPORATING
TERRAIN INTO BATTLES
As GMs, we’ve all seen it. We set the stage for a fight, describing Of course, when you include terrain that helps the monsters
in detail the location with the gaping chasm over here and the in some manner, know that the players will most likely figure out
hanging ropes over there, the low wall or hedge that offers a way to turn the tables on the bad guys, using the terrain against
concealment close to the bad guys standing guard, or the pool of them in the same way. For example, a group of goblins are on top
swirling silver liquid right there, with the stone ramp that would of a short stone tower throwing flasks of burning oil down on
give a PC the perfect opportunity to run up it and knock the the PCs, damaging them fairly heavily to start a battle. But then
bad guy in just to see what happens. Then the battle starts, and one or more of the PCs manages to climb the tower, kill or drive
everyone, monsters and PCs, all end up in the middle of the area off the goblin hurlers, and discovers a bucket full of flasks just
slogging it out until one side wins. Sure, it works. But is that what waiting to be thrown. And the rest of the goblin horde is on the
being a hero is all about? Perhaps not. far side of the tower, just waiting to be incinerated. But that’s fine.
Using interactive terrain in battles, especially weird or In fact, it’s what you should want—the players interacting with
interesting terrain, can make your 13th Age battles more fun for the world you present them. And if they get to dispatch some
both you and your players. The great thing about including terrain annoying monsters in a cool new way, it makes the game better
that has some thought behind it is that the terrain can benefit overall for everyone involved.
both the GM and the PCs simultaneously, or at different points

WHAT IS TERRAIN?
in a battle. Interesting terrain options should encourage your
players’ curiosity, and that usually makes a battle more dynamic
(and thus more memorable). Everyone remembers the time that
Rosco the halfling pulled the pin on the vat of molten iron and As far as setting a scene for a battle is concerned, terrain is any
totally fried Golt, the ogre jailor. Not so much the time that sort of feature besides monsters you as GM add to a battle to
Rosco stabbed the ogre jailor for 14 damage, killing it by 3 points. help make it come alive. It’s the tumbled pillar providing cover
Using terrain benefits the GM because it sets the scene, or giving access to a high point, the hidden pit (perhaps with
bringing life and flavor to the enemies and the world, and it a monster waiting below), the clinging thorns where characters
often gives those enemies some sort of advantage at the start get stuck, the chandelier just across from the balcony that would
of a battle, or even all battle long. The goblins know about the make a great swing, the hanging wooden cage with the captive
thermal vents, so they use their shiftiness to lure their enemies in it, the frozen pool of purple ice glowing with magic, the
into the area then use their shifty ability to run when they hear unholy flame of purification burning in the center of the temple
the telltale sounds of hot steam coming. The hobgoblin chieftain that can be manipulated, and the giant mirror in the wizard’s
keeps a pair of archers in the balcony of the ruined audience hall laboratory that shows images of another place and crackles with
accessed via simple wooden ladders those archers will attempt teleportation magic, to name just a few possibilities.
to kick over during the battle if anyone tries to get to them. His Terrain also includes natural and environmental factors that
troops (mooks) delay the PCs while the archers pick them apart. can hinder the PCs or creates a challenge they must deal with to
In fact, the addition of different terrain types, and especially progress. For example, a room filled with poison gas that slowly
interactive terrain (things either the monsters or the PCs can use drains recoveries from the PCs, a water-filled chamber where
during a battle), can make two battles against the same types of the PCs have to swim to move (and possibly drown), a muddy
enemies completely different for both the GM and the players. bog with deep holes or quicksand, or a lava chamber filled with
Including interesting terrain in battles also benefits the PCs. molten rock and hot, poisonous gasses that deal fire and poison
In addition to keeping battle scenes from getting stale or feeling damage every round.
like “the same old fight against another squad of orcs,” you’re The important idea is that it’s something the PCs can (or
presenting opportunities and options for players who like to do must) interact with as part of a battle to obtain their goal or
more than just declare an attack and roll a d20. Players playing defeat the enemy. Terrain challenges also occur outside of battle
classes like the rogue, ranger, and monk will especially appreciate during exploration, of course, but we’re talking about how to use
your efforts, since having terrain to interact with plays to many of it in battles.
their talents and powers (Swashbuckle, Leaf on Wind, and terrain
stunt to name a few), while not having any terrain detracts from
their options. But any class can benefit from having terrain to use
or that the enemies have to account for.

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13 th age - game master’s screen and resource book

HANDLING
BACKGROUNDS
When working with players to develop their PC backgrounds, • Escaped crew member of a pirate ship cursed by the Diabolist
remember that in the 13th Age RPG, backgrounds serve three to sail the Iron Sea for eternity (Icon, Place)
main functions: character development, world building, and • Organizer of the legendary 35th birthday celebration for the
resolving skill checks. Emperor (Event, Icon)
As a character development tool, backgrounds are one of the • Trained by the Black Knives, the halfling assassins’ guild of
ways players tell the GM what sort of adventures they want to Glitterhaegen (Organization, Place)
have. A player whose ranger PC has the backgrounds “Mountain
These backgrounds also tie nicely into icon relationships and
trapper,” “Exiled child of the frost barbarian king,” and “Served
One Unique Things. Maybe the Diabolist wants to capture the
in the Dwarf King’s army during the Ice Troll War” is probably
escaped PC and imprison them on the cursed pirate ship for good.
looking to fight trolls and similar monsters, hang out with
Perhaps the character is the only person who clearly remembers
dwarves, and participate in (or try to stay out of ) political intrigue.
what happened during the Emperor’s 35th birthday party. Maybe
As a world building tool, backgrounds help shift a significant
they are the only human ever trained by the halfling assassin’s
portion of the GM’s work to the opposite side of the table. By
guild. Every background is an opportunity for the player to
choosing those backgrounds, that player told the GM that ice
present a story they would like to see unfold during the game.
trolls exist, and are a big enough problem that the Dwarf King
raised an army to fight them; and that frost barbarians exist, are
ruled by a king, and certain crimes warrant exile under their
system of justice—even the child of the king is not immune.
DEALING WITH
As a mechanic for resolving skill checks, well-written
backgrounds are useful in a variety of situations, and give the
THE +5 “I’M GOOD
character’s actions a larger context by tying into the setting and
the icons. When the ranger is able to find shelter in a blizzard,
AT EVERYTHING”
impress a minor noble, and track a troll to its lair, it’s not because
they had Outdoor Survival, Diplomacy, and Tracking on their
BACKGROUND
character sheet—it’s because they have a backstory that’s rooted
What stops a player from putting the maximum number of points
in a specific place and time, that links them to the Dwarf King,
into a background called “I’m Good at Everything,” allowing their
and that has made them the adventurer they are today.
PC to use a +5 bonus any time they roll a skill check?
Okay, maybe it’s not quite as blatant as that. Maybe the

HELPING PLAYERS player gave her character a +5 background called, “Elite Assassin
of the Morning Star Guild” and insists on applying that bonus to

WRITE EFFECTIVE every action, explaining that the Morning Star Guild trains its
members to handle all possible situations.

BACKGROUNDS Here’s what distinguishes 13th Age backgrounds from a list


of specific skills: they’re designed to create situations at the table
in which the players have to exercise their creativity to solve a
Sometimes, players create backgrounds for their characters that
problem. Players tell the GM why their background applies to a
don’t serve one or more of these purposes. Such backgrounds
skill check, if it’s not obvious.
might have limited use as skills, fail to say anything about the
From this perspective, both the PC with the +5 background
world, or don’t help the character stand out. The core book doesn’t
“Billionaire philanthropist crime fighter” and the PC with the
offer much guidance, providing generic sample backgrounds such
+5 background “Five-time winner of the Archmage’s annual
as “animal trainer” and “soldier”. (Don’t tell Rob and Jonathan we
snorkeling contest” have the same chance of applying that bonus
said that, though.)
to any given skill check. It depends on whether those players can
To help players get the most out of their backgrounds,
make an entertaining and persuasive case for it. Having a “good at
we’re suggesting a play strategy first offered by Philippe-Antoine
everything” background means the player will have to do that a lot.
Menard. Ask your players to create backgrounds that each
We believe backgrounds are a matter of perspective, and
include at least two of the following elements: a place, a historical
some GMs may need to adjust the way they think about them.
event, an organization, or an icon.
The fun they bring to the game is less about the actual bonus that
Here are a few sample backgrounds created using this template:
helps a player’s PC overcome some obstacle with a skill check,
and much more about the stories that player tells over the course

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