Midgard Icons presents some of the Midgard Campaign Setting’s major NPCs as icons for use in 13th Age, the new fantasy roleplaying game from Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. Bring them into your 13th Age campaign; run 13th Age in the world of Midgard; or port the icon relationship rules into your system of choice.
In our fifth installment we hoist anchor and set sail for Triolo, where we’ll find a mighty lord of the high seas and one of Midgard’s most colorful heroes…
First Duke-Admiral Cadua
The first minotaur to serve as First Duke-Admiral of Triolo, Cadua is a polarizing figure. Some consider the “Golden Horn” a promising sign of Kyprion’s and Triolo’s joint destiny. Others feel sure that he steers the Maritime Republic to ruin.
“My lord, I will accept your surrender or send you and your fleet to the hell of your choosing. I suggest you decide quickly.”
Feral hunter-scavengers, gnolls are demon-twisted humanoid hybrids. With the head of a hyena set upon a tall though hunched humanoid body, gnolls are covered in thick fur that ranges in color from brown to yellow, and their fur is usually matted with the filth they bathe in. With dull black eyes, amber nails, and a curled bushy tail, some subtypes have black spots, and others, thick bristled manes. Male gnolls are a few feet taller than most humans, and females tend to be slightly larger still, though are otherwise similar in appearance. Gnolls wear a hodge-podge of chain and plates for armor—a virtual chart of past kills, with each bit holding fond memories of carnage. Gnolls feed on warm flesh and rotting carrion with equal satisfaction, and their hunting parties, bands, and tribes are encountered in both desert and tundra. Breeding prolifically, they have huge nurseries in their Underdark or fortified surface lairs, and, when food is plentiful, they collect slaves to serve various needs. Most gnolls embrace their demonic heritage, making the majority of gnoll societies tribal and violent. That said, some “civilized” gnolls live in urban areas, where they control their animal instincts and even tolerate other races.
We’ve civilized, mutated, and mashed our classic monsters into a fantasy paradox; they’re familiar yet new. On the horizon I have at least three more monster templates ahead that may well breathe new life into your old favorites, but I must confess that sometimes the best way to surprise your players isn’t to change the monster at all.
The encounter is easy to hand wave. All too often I see GMs simply place their player characters and monsters in the same room, figuring the encounter will sort itself out. It works well in dungeons; mostly the monsters are traumatized or enclosed, and the PCs are likely a food source or a threat, so an immediate fight is a foregone conclusion. As soon as the PCs enter the room, you tell the players to roll initiative and go from there. More advanced GMs will have the monster hidden and have the players make a Perception check against the monster’s stealth to see who is surprised the first round. It all boils down to seeing monster/villain and then fighting.
The advantage to this type of casual GMing is minimal prep work. For some groups, minimizing the roleplaying in favor of getting to the combats is preferred. Also, it’s not uncommon for encounters to be speed bumps to the “boss fight,” so why give those encounters much thought? In video games, this way of handling things is referred to as a grind, and it’s considered lazy design. If you want otherwise mundane encounters to become exciting again—to the point of being something memorable instead of a mere grind—join me after the jump. I’ll discuss some different setups that are both easy to run and a twisted challenge for your players.
The party is gathering for the first time at a town square to witness the blessing of a baby prince, not aware that evil is about to crash in and ruin everything. They have never met before, but the following adventure is too important and too time-sensitive for ordinary introductions.
A fighter is resting against a building in the back, his eye blackened from a fight the night before. A nearby rogue is clearly distracted, smells of manure, and is keeping an eye on a group of thugs while attempting to keep hidden. Both of these characters have a story of what happened to them before they arrived at the town square. This moment before the action truly begins can flavor the first impression and help in building a character’s story. For those who typically don’t write backgrounds for their characters, this is a great way to set up a minimalist backstory that they can play off of.