Limiting 13th Age Icons for Short Campaigns

by Mike Shea on 10 February 2014

The long transition between D&D 4th Edition and D&D Next has given rise to a number of independent roleplaying games such as Fate Core, Dungeon World, Numenera, and 13th Age. Many consider 13th Age, in particular, to be the spiritual successor to 4th Edition D&D.

You won't find a full review 13th Age here, but you can read my review of 13th Age on Critical Hits or my article on a 4th Edition D&D Player's Guide to 13th Age.

In today's article we're going to look at limiting the list of available 13th Age icons to help focus your story, make life easier for you to run your game, and develop a clear theme for your short-run 13th Age mini-campaign.

Like many of the components of 13th Age, the icon system can be pulled out and plugged in to any D&D style game. All of the ideas in this article can work for any D&D game that uses icon-like NPCs to drive the story.

Limiting icons is an easy process. Before players even begin to think about their characters you should have a list of the icons you plan to use for your campaign. The number of icons you choose should be based on the perceived length of the campaign you plan to run. Use more icons for a longer campaign with more variables. Use fewer icons for a more focused campaign.

Choosing Icons as a Group

Modern RPGs like 13th Age push more of the storytelling to the players than we might be used to. One way to embrace this idea is to work with your group to choose the icons available for your short-run campaign rather than selecting them ahead of time. You might offer recommendations based on a particular theme you have but give players a chance to add in their ideas.

Primary and Secondary Icons

For some variety between characters you might add a small number of secondary icons. These icons don't have a direct hand in the general theme or story of the adventure but can still aid PCs when their dice roll right. Your selected primary icons drive the main threads and themes of the game while the secondary act as background characters.

An Example

Here's an example set of icons actually chosen for my next 13th Age mini-campaign. While the details aren't yet filled out, you can already get an idea how things might go:

Good Guys

Neutral Guys

Bad Guys

With just these six icons to guide the game, figuring out how to incorporate icon rolls becomes easier and the focus of the game won't drastically shift from session to session. With the icons above, we can already see some interesting ties and struggles. We can also use the descriptions of the icons in the core book and build off the connections between them.

A Variety of Themes from a Single Book

Limiting your game to a set of specific icons in 13th Age lets you build a whole variety of different campaigns each with their own feel and focus. It gives you the best opportunity to stretch the material in 13th Age out across many games that each feel different from one another.

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