To keep things simple, I decided to run Blood and Lightning, the adventure from the rulebook, and to let the PCs choose from the 2nd level pregen PCs on the Pelgrane website a couple of weeks before the game. I sent them some information through about the icons, one unique things and backgrounds so they could customise their characters. At the start of last night’s session, further tweaks were made before we got into the game.
The PCs were
Doc Doone, dwarf cleric, who had served the Lich King as undead before being brought back to life. Thrown out of the dwarven hold for studying the undead.
Dare Adornis, dark elf sorcerer & stage magician, once a favourite pet of the Diabolist, now estranged.
Starbright, wood elf ranger, brought up by servants of the Priestess after surviving a massacre as a child before returning to the woods. Able to speak to woodland animals.
Sir Pelham de Grenville, human paladin, born of a virgin, aristocratic witch-finder and servant of the Crusader.
As you can see, the players came up with some interesting characters and I was able to weave these elements into the story, using the icon relationship dice to determine some of the details of the adventure. Fortunately I’ve a fair bit of experience of winging it while DMing so found this pretty easy to do.
WARNING: Spoilers for Blood & Lightning follow
Boltstrike Pillar, the setting of the adventure was under the control of the High Druid (who Starbright has a positive relationship with) and Dare Adornis was given a magical symbol by the Archmage to take to the tower to exchange for the sword Glaezentorg the Bloody. Doc Doone and Sir Pelham were eager to come along when they heard that goblins in the service of the Lich King had been seen in the area. Rumours of an impending attack by the Three were also rife.
We leapt quickly into the action with a battle with said sinister goblins en route to Boltstrike Pillar – they were led by a shaman with a skull tattooed on his face and many of them had withered or mummified limbs. We used minis and WotC poster maps and tiles for the encounters, but ignored the grid – minis look cool, I have a lot of them and they help with positioning. Combat felt fast and fun after five years of playing and DMing 4e with everyone’s turn coming round quickly, and it was liberating not to be counting squares for movement. Interception was cool too – I put the goblin shaman at the back on a ridge, defended by his grunts and scum (mooks) and these guys blocked the PCs when they tried to attack the spellcaster. Adornis’ burning hands blasted a couple of mooks, before damaging another one some distance away – we decided the wind had carried the flames in his direction. One of the goblins came back as a zombie when killed by Starbright, only to be finished off a second time.
After the battle one of the goblins was found to be wearing a magical helm bearing the mark of the Crusader (5 rolled for that icon in the relationship rolls). Sir Pelham claimed this and seemed to enjoy the item wanting him to sing rousing hymns as he went into battle. Doc Doone tried to see if any of the goblins’ withered limbs could be salvaged for his research, and Starbright spoke to a squirrel, learning that more goblins and “bigger ones” were in the area.
At Boltstrike Pillar, the PCs met Torrent, the female captain of the guard, and her lieutenant, Sun. After some patronising remarks by the sexist Sir Pelham, the PCs agreed to go to the ruins of Greenstand and attack the hobgoblins and goblins there, triggering the magical booby traps planted by the High Druid’s shamans. They were given a couple of magic items and some healing potions to help them on their quest. When they arrived at the ruins, though, it was clear that something else had dealt with the humanoids first. Two goblins fled in panic towards the PCs, only to be stopped by the party. They killed one, then interrogated the other and learned that a “hooded man” was responsible for their withered limbs and that a dragon and lizardmen had attacked. Sir Pelham then lopped off the poor thing’s “unnatural” leg and he died from shock after Adornis attempted to cauterise the wound with burning hands.
At Greenstand there were dead goblinoids everywhere slain by fire, lightning and primitive lizard man spears, and there were several dragon footprints After blundering into an untriggered booby trap the PCs decided to hurry back to Boltstrike Pillar – lightning coming from that direction made them realise the tower was now under attack.
At the base of the tower, a large but crippled blue dragon blocked their way. After it breathed lightning on the party, Sir Pelham challenged it to single combat while the other PCs attacked from range. Doone’s javelin of faith finished it off after arrows from Starbright, Adornis’ breath of the white dragon and the paladin’s sword had wounded it.
The PCs rushed into the tower through the broken door and up the stairs to the top. As they neared the top floor two lizardmen blocked their way. Once these had been dealt with, Sir Pelham ran onto the roof top where the traitorous Sun was performing a magic ritual in the name of the Three, brandishing Glaezentorg above his head. Two more lizardmen were with him, and Torrent and several shaman lay tied up and unconscious on the stone floor.
The PCs concentrated their attacks on Sun who was soon reduced to 0 hp by a lightning spell from Adornis. This triggered a transformation – the traitor turned into a large dragon-man mutant with vicious claws and fangs able to use his dragonblood to ignore Doone’s first crushing swing with his hammer of faith. Surrounded by the PCs, the dragon-thing tried to escape as his hit points dwindled, but he couldn’t disengage. The dwarf finished him off with his hammer and the other PCs killed the lizardmen.
The PCs healed themselves and then freed Torrent and the shamans. As a reward for their efforts, they were allowed to keep the magical items they’d been loaned.
We all really enjoyed the game. The icon relationships, uniques and backgrounds helped define each character, and the way the game and the adventure are set up mean these come into play much more readily than they would in a regular D&D game. Combat was fast and fun – I'd really hoped it would be and it was. I've been playing a fair bit of D&D Next in the last 18 months, and 13th Age's rules system compares very favourably. It's a great rules set for those people that like some of 4e's innovations but don't like the time it takes to play out an encounter, and encourages cool character concepts and roleplaying.
I’d like to run 13th Age again but I’m not sure I have time to write adventures for it on top of the Parsantium adventure I’m meant to be writing for our ongoing campaign. If there are any adventures out there online, I’d love to hear about them! I'll be keeping an eye out for Shards of the Broken Sky too.
I also plan to come up with my own icons for Parsantium as I think it would be great fun to run an adventure set in the city using 13th Age.