So I said I had solidified my icons for that 13th Age game after a test-run.
…yeah. That was probably the wrong thing to say. It means they’re sure to change.
In a conversation with Aileen, she revealed that she was disappointed that the Ascending Flame, those wizards conspiring to turn the land into a magocracy, were ambiguous. She had rather thought of them as villainous, and upon reflection, they do kind of work better that way. The distinctive robes of an Ascendant are interesting if they provoke an “oh crap!” reaction in players, although that doesn’t mean they can’t still be civilized and diplomatic and appearing in friendly courts.
Making that change of course breaks the pattern of 4 heroic, 5 ambiguous and 4 villainous — and to balance that, either I would have to shift an icon from villainous to ambiguous (the Brotherhood of Vipers or possibly the Ogre Khan), or add in more icons.
Well, much as I miss the symbolic number of 13, I took the latter option. Part of this is because I’d talked about establishing Fate as an icon, and Aileen was strongly for that idea. Not Fate as in an individual, or even a deity — the force of Fate, anthropomorphized mostly in the heads of those affected by her vicissitudes. Ambiguous as the day is long, obviously — a “positive” or “negative” relationship would just represent being particularly lucky or unlucky, as it were. There isn’t really an associated organization with Fate, because anything could be its agent.
(Here I pause for a minute and note that I seem to do some non-standard things with the icons all the time. I am clearly fond of organizations and loosely affiliated forces in the world rather than everyone being A Very Powerful Guy. It feels pretty organic to me to have some of each. Designer commentary makes it clear that the icons were influenced by things like Vampire clans anyway, so I feel like I’m not losing any functionality.)
That puts me at 4/5/5. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the idea of a setting where villainy has a numbers edge on heroism, but again, the icons are a game device. It makes sense to add a heroic one for the sake of having another potential ally for PCs. I muse about it for a while, and think that I could use something more explicitly martial. The idea of a martial brotherhood scattered and broken, like Jedi or something, appeals. An old tradition of guardianship, there to help out PCs who are trying to preserve civilization. With some kicking around, I think I get it.
The Sentinels of the Broken Wall: The scattered descendants of the royal guard of a fallen city, the Sentinels dedicate their skills to ensuring no more cities meet their homeland’s fate. They are few in numbers, but strong and dedicated champions who possess many secret martial techniques. To call them “Sentinels on the Broken Wall” is an insult, for it implies they hold to a useless vigil. Far from it.
That seems to work. Ascending Flame to villainous, Fate to replace it, and the Sentinels to add to heroic. Balanced again. And as one more note, Aileen noted that I should probably change the City of Brass to something that reflects all the genies. If you’re playing a water genasi, for instance, it might be nice to have relationship dice with the marids. It pains me not to have “City of Brass” as an icon, but it does fix that redundancy with City of Thieves…
So! Here’s the set as it probably will be once it’s time to fire up the game again:
- The Enlightened Caliph: Wise and pious ruler of a grand city.
- The Immortal Sage: Reclusive archmage who keeps the keys to a thousand bindings.
- The Prophetess: Enigmatic seer who guides the land to a peaceful vision.
- The Serpent Emirs: Benevolent fey lords who favor the honest and kind.
- The Sentinels of the Broken Wall: A scattered clan of champions holding to an ancient oath.
- Fate: The force of coincidence and happenstance that governs all.
- The Beasts of Stone: Primal beast-spirits tied to ancient idols.
- The City of Thieves: Secretive and eccentric criminal organization.
- The Queen of Birds: Fey monarch of talking birds and things of the air.
- The Sultanates of the Jinn: The City of Brass and its three counterparts.
- The Ascending Flame: Ambitious wizards who wish to bring Khavayin under mages’ rule.
- The Brotherhood of Vipers: Snake-blooded assassin cult.
- The Ghul Queen: Horrible cannibalistic calipha of the undead.
- The Ogre Khan: Monstrous warlord from the borders with a hundred offspring.
- The Slumbering King: Buried shaitan and the cult who venerates him and his court.
Boom. That should do just fine.
Of course, I’m also looking at a 13th Age game set in a Russian-inspired setting, and these icons just won’t do at all for that. Nor will the out-of-box ones. Hope you’re not sick of all this icon talk, because I think I’m gonna lay into that batch next time.