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Forge heroes. Shape the world. Be legendary.

13th Age is a d20-based fantasy game written by Jonathan Tweet (who worked on third edition Dungeons & Dragons) and Rob Heinsoo (who worked on fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons). It combines a D&D heritage with a more narrativist sensibility: skills are freeform, for example, and it's designed to encourage spur-of-the-moment improvisation, with monsters being fairly easy to create quickly and several mechanics encouraging spontaneity from both the player and the GM.

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The core setting, the Dragon Empire, is defined by the interplay of thirteen icons, powerful NPCs with whom your character starts out with a connection, although it's up to you to define what exactly and how.

It has a corebook and two expansions. 13 True Ways, with classes and a bit of overflow, and the Bestiary. The Glorantha, Dragon Kings and Primeval Thule settings have had 13th Age rule adaptations.

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The 13th Age contains the following tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Not so much unluck as uncomfortable - 13 was chosen to be a little discomforting, but there's no actual downside to rolling a 13 or anything.
  • An Adventurer Is You: As you would expect, given a look at its D&DNA.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Demons are naturally malicious and cruel. They are inherently evil, existing purely to sow chaos, suffering and ultimately destruction. Every other major monster type has an arguable degree of ambiguity, but everyone, including the Diabolist, beats up demons with clear conscience.
  • Animal Mecha: Forge wolves are iron constructs filled with fire created by the fire giants.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Cult of the Devourer worships the Stone Thief as a god and a doomsday weapon. The cult wants the dungeon to destroy the Dragon Empire so it can rule over the remains; the dungeon wants to consume the world and make everything part of one vast eternal nightmare prison.
  • Arch-Enemy:
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    • Back when the dwarves still lived deep underground, derro frequently counted as their arch-enemy. When they had to move toward the surface, the derro followed suit, but the dwarves have so many enemies now that the derro get counted as a screaming afterthought.
    • Troglodytes really hate dwarves. If a dwarf is killed in battle, that counts as a trog victory, even if the trogs had to ally with other creatures they loathe to kill the dwarf.
  • The Archmage: The Archmage and the Blue are both masters of all things magical. The Lich King also used to be one in his mortal life as the Wizard King. During the Age of the Wild Woods, the power of various sub-par Archmages was eclipsed by the Hermit, the most powerful arcane spellcaster in the age.
  • Arc Number: Thirteen.
  • Balkanize Me: During the Age of Towers, under a weak Emperor, the Seven Cities grew in power, splitting the Empire into seven squabbling city-states.
  • Bare Your Midriff: The High Druid's and the Diabolist's outfits leave their bellies exposed (partially for the High Druid, fully for the Diabolist).
  • Basilisk and Cockatrice: Basilisks are horrid serpentine creatures that kill everything around them. There is a type aligned with each element; black basilisks, which petrify victims, are the most common.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Most of the goods for sale in the Bazaar Infernal came up from hell, so it's the place to buy demon-forged armour, weird arcane supplies, bottled demons and other weird curios, as well as traffic with demons and make unholy deals. More souls are sold and more dark bargains struck in the coffeeshops of the bazaar than anywhere else in the Empire.
  • Beard of Evil: All bearded devils have a long, filthy, undulating beard.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: The Archmage is this to Horizon, although beyond its borders he has no actual authority beyond that of any other icon. The truest example, though, is probably the Elf Queen, who has a variety of mysterious powers that nobody really knows a lot about.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The ankheg is a loathsome blend of ant and beetle with a size no insect ought to have.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Red Crag Castle rises like a scar from the flat lands around, commanding a view over all the approaches, and can be seen from miles around.
  • Big Good: The Great Gold Wyrm is probably the most benevolent yet inaccessible of the icons, since his primary focus is on plugging a hole into hell large enough that it could swallow cities.
  • Black Knight: The Crusader is an Anti-Villain version who is actually fighting to defend the world-in the name of the Dark Gods, and he has no scruples in how to protect it from demons.
  • Blob Monster: All oozes have amorphous, mutable bodies and can flow where they like to.
  • Bloody Murder: The red basilisk's gaze causes the victim's blood to boil under their skin and spray outward in gouts of liquid fire.
  • Born-Again Immortality: The Tyrant Lizard cannot be defeated by force of arms. When slain, she'd reincarnate in an egg in one of her cities, and return to full power after a decade.
  • Breath Weapon: Sorcerers have a special class of spells with the breath weapon rule, which gives them a chance of recurring during the combat in which you cast them. It doesn't necessarily have to be a breath weapon - you can also choose to use your hands, a la the Magic: The Gathering card Banefire - but they're descended from the dragons of the Three, so it's entirely acceptable to take a deep breath and spout lightning or poison.
  • Brown Note: Just looking at a basilisk is enough to kill someone who isn't accustomed to dealing with deadly magic.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Thunder lizards, otherwise known as dinosaurs. Individual thunder lizard species are called dainty lizards (Compsognathus), clubtails (Ankylosaurus), spiketails (Stegosaurus), trihorns (Triceratops), earthshakers (Brontosaurus), stalkers (Allosaurus) and tyrant lizards (Tyrannosaurus).
  • Cast from Hit Points: Each time the manticore uses its volley of tail spikes attack, it takes damage.
  • Cast from Lifespan: The wisest medusas believe that petrifying too many living creatures inevitably shortens their own lives.
  • Character Alignment: It's optional and doesn't really affect anything, but just in case you want to include it, they put in a helpful image showing where each of the icons falls on the alignment grid.
  • Charm Person: The wizard and bard share the spell charm person. If it hits, the target believes the caster is their friend until they or their allies take hostile action against them.
  • Citadel City: First Triumph is both fortress and city: every building is built to be as strong as the strongest keep, whole districts are indoors, and the city is as self-sufficient as the Crusader could make it. First Triumph was designed to endure a siege of demons: if the Great Gold Wyrm fails and the hordes come rushing out of the Abyss, they might conquer Axis, Horizon, Santa Cora and even the Necropolis, but not First Triumph. This fortress will outlast the rest of the Empire.
  • City on the Water: The Floating Market is a huge raft of weed-bound mud, woven reeds, small boats, salvaged junk and demonic flowstone floating on the Hell Marsh.
  • Class and Level System: The level curve is compressed down to ten levels, but otherwise it's one of the standard D&D-isms. Most of the things you'd expect to see in either third or fourth edition D&D - fighters, paladins, clerics, druids, chaos mages, rogues, bards, sorcerers - can be found in either the corebook or 13 True Ways.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The iconic patrons of the chromatic dragons are simply called after their colour: the Black, the Blue, the Red (who collectively make up the Three), the Green (imprisoned by the Elf Queen) and the White (killed by the Wizard King).
  • Complete Immortality: Eidolons can't be killed, not by conventional means nor by unconventional means. They are mystically embedded in reality, part of the fabric of the universe itself.
  • Composite Character: The 7 Icons Campaign consolidates the 13 icons of the core setting into 7. Except for the unchanged Orc Lord, six of the new icons combine two original icons from the core setting, even if the name appears familiar:
    • The Dwarf King (Dwarf King + Crusader) has taken the extreme step of donning the Breastplate of Crusade in response to how his wife was abducted by the Queen of Hell, and now leads dwarven forces in the underworld and human forces in the surface world in his crusade. It's up to the GM whether taking up the crusade has pushed the Dwarf King over the edge into the end-justifies-the-means mentality of the original Crusader.
    • The Golden One (Emperor + Great Gold Wyrm) rules the Empire from Axis, but he is merely a human-shaped shadow of the Great Gold Wyrm, whose physical body is holding back the demons at the Abyss.
    • The Hierophant (Archmage + Priestess) draws power from the Other World and uses it to bless the Empire, both physically and spiritually, and protects it with miraculous wards from the Queen of Hell and the Orc Lord.
    • The Queen of Hell (Diabolist + Lich King) is a demonic necromancer that has destroyed civilisation a few times before, and seems to be at it again.
    • The Three (Prince of Shadows + The Three) are more in the habit of preying on than destroying civilisation; specifically, 'Prince of Shadows' is now the title of the Black, who has seemingly undergone a Gender Flip as well.
    • The Wild Queen (Elf Queen + High Druid) is the soul of the wild, specifically the beasts, trees and elves. Her elves embody three wild things: wildlife (wood elves), the wild cosmos (high elves), and the inner wild (drow).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Talents tied to evil icons - the paladin's Way of Evil Bastards, or the sorcerer's Chromatic Destroyer, Undead Remnant, and Infernal Heritage talents, for example - are available to anyone, and you can even start with a positive relationship to the Diabolist or the Lich King as long as you can explain why the others would want to work with you.
  • Dem Bones: The various types of skeletal undead as well as the bone imp and bone devil, which have a distinctly skeletal appearance.
  • Demonic Possession: Ever twitched for no reason? Ever had an inexplicable stabbing pain at the back of your eye? Ever murdered your family without cause? Maybe a possessor demon passed through you.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: The Demon King led the demonic invasion of the world in the Age of Balefire. His power was so great that he inspired demon- worshipping cults and spawned infernal-heritage sorcerers by his mere presence. The Great Gold Wyrm battled the Demon King in the Abyss; the paladins of the Golden Order claim that the Wyrm killed him, but demonologists whisper that such a powerful demon can never truly die.
  • Determinator: Smoke devils carry out their assigned tasks with an inhuman determination and only abandon them when countermanded by the devil who originally commissioned it or by an accepted superior in the hierarchy.
  • Deus Est Machina: As Fellers of the Druid, devils attend and follow the commands of a massive furnace of gears and steam pipes called the Machine.
  • Dracolich: White dragons can be turned into undead servants by the Lich King, as he once killed their iconic patron, the White, when he was still alive.
  • Dragon Rider: The reason they call it the "Dragon Empire" is that its elites are this. The Emperor is not a dragon.
  • The Dragonslayer: The name of an icon active in the Age of Claw and Wing. He hunted the spawn of the Four and was eventually driven to believe that the Great Gold Wyrm was responsible for the existence of evil dragons, leading to his disappearance in the overworld during an attempt to hunt the Wyrm.
  • Dual Wield: Weaker than most D20 games - it has a one in twenty chance of granting a reroll - but rangers and some fighters can make use of it.
  • Elite Mooks: The various kinds of elite monsters (which are counted as 1.5 normal monsters of the same level when a GM builds an encounter), double-strength or large monsters (counted as 2) and triple-strength or huge monsters (counted as 3).
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: They mostly get along now, although the dwarves and the drow really don't like each other all that much.
  • Enemy Mine: The Wyrm’s principal enemies are the Diabolist and the Three. There are moments when the great enemies have worked together, such as when the Red eliminated the demons that had escaped the Abyss.
  • Enemy Summoner: A void dragon's ensorcelling breath coalesces into two void beasts when it hits (or one if it misses), although it can only do this once per battle.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Vocnort family, former rulers of Red Crag Castle before it became a hellhole, were possessed of unusual tastes and questionable loyalties. They were said to be allies of the Diabolist, suggesting that the hellhole is the result of some arcane accident or divine justice. However it happened, the castle was overrun with demons when the hellhole opened, and virtually all the Vocnorts were slain.
  • Evil Laugh: Hungry stars utter squeals of glee when they kill and feed.
  • Evil Overlord: Baron Steel considers himself to be the ruler of Red Crag Castle. He has crowned himself with a steel circlet adorned with the eyes of every Vocnort he could catch as a token of his authority. He's disciplined, militaristic and commands a cadre of like-minded demonic shock troops.
  • Evil vs. Evil:
    • The foremost enemy of demons is the Crusader, a servant of the Dark Gods who turns his wrath against the demons that would destroy the world that his gods want to rule. If the enemy of your enemy is your friend, then the Crusader is everybody's friend because demons are everybody's enemy. The Crusader, however, is the sort of friend who will burn your house to the ground if he finds it tactically necessary.
    • No one would betray life to ally with death; the Lich King's list of enemies include the Priestess, the Orc Lord, the Elf Queen, the Dwarf King, the Three, the Great Gold Wyrm and everyone else. In particular, the Orc Lord helped bring down the Wizard King (as the Lich King was known when he was still alive) before, so there's bad blood between them.
  • Exact Words: The monks say that the Terrible Emperor used magic to make himself immune to both weapons and spells. He fell because of a magical loophole: the bare-handed fighting techniques of the greatest monks could defeat him.
  • Expy: The Great Gold Wyrm for Bahamut. Most of the other Icons have similar histories, although the characters they descend from have received so many variations that they've become archetypes, but the Great Gold Wyrm is probably the most overt.
    • The Lich King, missing as he is a hand and an eye, could easily be considered an Expy for Vecna.
    • Mind flayers are not OGL content, and as such 13 True Ways contains a creature known as a "soul flenser" instead.
  • Extra Eyes: The current captain of the hellhole High Hearth of Unending Woe is named Thousand-Eyed Azoole.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Gorge dragons have developed an appetite for magic as if it were a seasoning and have learned to digest whatever the magic happens to be attached to. A gorge dragon will eat almost anything that will fit in its mouth, often including metal.
  • Fat Bastard: Honey devils appear as corpulent, anaemic members of the common mortal races.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The trio that make up the Three. The Red (Fighter) is a living engine of destruction. The Blue (Mage) is a sorceress, perhaps even the original mother of all sorcery. The Black (Thief) is queen of shadows and assassins.
  • Fish People: Sahuagin are ocean-dwelling humanoids with scaly skin, fish-eyes, webbed hands and feet.
  • Flaming Sword: Flaming greatswords are the preferred weapon of fire giants.
  • Flesh Golem: The weakest type of golems, flesh golems are made from bone, muscle and sinew combined into a humanlike form with little heart or brain.
  • Floating Continent: Clouds can support weight, and various creatures live in the overworld. Floating amid the clouds are flying mountains, storm and cloud giants, dragons and cloud cities.
  • Food Chain of Evil: The Marrow-Eater was no friend of the Empire, but he also laughed at the sight of skulls and ate the dry, dusty marrow from the bones of liches.
  • Future Primitive: According to some, gnolls ruled the land before the Wizard King established human civilisation but they forgot their noble past and now live as bloodthirsty barbarians and bandits.
  • Fusion Dance: A chaos brute is formed by the merger of two lesser chaos beasts, and two chaos brutes can in turn merge into a chaos behemoth.
  • Geas: The Blue is serving as the Imperial Governor of Drakkenhall under geas from the Emperor and the Archmage which prevents her from uniting with the Red and the Black to destroy the Empire.
  • Genius Loci:
    • Living dungeons rise spontaneously from beneath the underworld, moving upward steadily toward the surface as they spiral across the map. If a living dungeon survives to break onto the surface of the world, it can become a permanent feature of the landscape until killed by heroes. The Stone Thief is one that can easily resubmerge and has developed a kleptomaniac streak.
    • Koru behemoths are enormous eight-legged creatures that are so large that they can support entire towns and semi-autonomous ecosystems on their backs and are considered world features rather than monsters. So long as their passengers don't practice too much annoying magic, the behemoths generally tolerate them.
  • Giant Mook: Various kinds of huge monsters, which have triple the hit points, deal triple damage, and count as three normal-sized monsters when a GM puts together a battle.
  • Giant Spider: Phase spiders reportedly hail from some parallel dimension of giants where they are merely little pests. In the Dragon Empire, everyone is bite-sized to them.
  • A God Am I: Throughout the Empire's history, many Emperors have considered themselves gods and demanded to be worshipped. Their cults never last.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: In the normal course of events in the Dragon Empire, the gods are distant and uninvolved. Clerics venerate them, cults sacrifice to them, and desperate people pray to them, but the gods do not answer directly. Except during the Age of Gods, during which the gods manifested in bodily form across the Dragon Empire. The age ended in a divine conflict so devastating that all the survivors agreed that they must never again bring war to the mortal world, and therefore forever retreated to the heavens.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Derro are dwarves who lose their minds when they come into contact with something horrific deep underground.
  • The Good King: The Emperor is the benevolent ruler of the Dragon Empire and the champion of his subjects' safety and prosperity.
  • The Good Kingdom: The Dragon Empire is a particularly large version.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Half-elves are often the result of a union between an elven and a human parent. Half-orcs, however, are not orc-human hybrids, but rather are a supernatural response to the existence of orcs.
  • Healing Factor: Trolls have amazing healing abilities, which allow their flesh to knit back together as fast as their enemies can cut it.
  • The Hedonist: Rakshasas are hedonists of the highest order that put their own desires over the good of others.
  • Hell Gate: At the dead centre of most hellholes is a gate to the hells or to the Abyss. There aren't any binding circles or containment pentagrams around that gate, so the chaotic energies of the demon realm leech through into our reality, warping space and time. Hosts of demons swarm out of the hole to lay waste to the lands around; vile pestilences and chaotic storms of magic boil out of the hole to bring ruin and suffering. Fortunately for the rest of existence, demons cannot survive for long outside the hellhole's magical zone of chaos.
  • Hell Hound: Hell hounds are intelligent creatures fully capable of appreciating the misery of their lives that slink out of hellholes to make everyone else's lives miserable as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Great Gold Wyrm has not benefited in any real way from sealing the Abyss with his body, but at least there are fewer demons around.
  • Hit Points: Involving a mixture of actual health and fighting spirit, as has become standard.
  • Hive Mind: Scarabs communicate with one another through a shared consciousness, so what one scarab knows, most all of them know. And they know hate most of all.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Scarabs are giant insects that pillaged the southern Empire in the Age of Long Beards until the Great Gold Wyrm and his paladins defeated them. Even the High Druid wants any survivors destroyed, as they don't co-exist with anyone else.
  • Human Aliens: Space Fleet members are human (probably!), but they come from another planet.
  • Hydra Problem: Hydras are massive serpents with at least five heads that can sprout more when wounded.
  • Immortality Inducer: Arcanites do not age as long as they remain inside the Wizard King's lost sanctums, as their cells are attuned to the magic of these places and can renew themselves. Once they leave, the attunement is broken and difficult to restore.
  • Impossible Thief: The Prince of Shadows. High-level rogues with the Thievery talent can pull off similar tricks occasionally.
  • Insanity Immunity: Derro are considered immune to confusion effects, given that they are already insane...unless they deep down want to murder their compatriots, which isn't exactly uncommon.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: The Green Bandit was a celebrated heroine of the Age of Long Beards, robbing from the wealthy and giving to the poor.
  • Kaiju:
    • For mostly peaceful versions, there are the Koru behemoths, largely invincible creatures that wander a set migration track and have cultures dwelling on their backs. Some of them have quirks such as killing any dragon that comes too close or taking a dip in the Iron Sea for the fun of crushing a bunch of sea monsters.
    • For less peaceful versions, there are the greater fomori, which are world-destroying horrors as large as Koru behemoths and can warp reality to create horrors in a grand scale. If they returned to the world, even if for such a brief time as an hour, they could destroy civilisation and usher the world into a 14th Age.
  • King in the Mountain: The giants claim that the Chieftain of the Giants, their iconic leader during the 1st Age who sacked Axis, grew so old and strong that his flesh has turned into stone, but he still lives and will one day return.
  • King of the Homeless: Lord Claw, ruler of the hellhole Claw Peak, was once the lowliest of dretchesin the Abyss, but gained stature when he crawled into the mortal world and took on his new form. As the hellhole shrank, Claw's rivals retreated to the Abyss, leaving him in control of the mountain. Desperate and stranded, he's taken to bullying the few remaining demons to force them to stay in his ragged, withering kingdom.
  • Last of His Kind: The Devil of the Fangs is a singular creature, at least after it sacrificed or killed all other river demons.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Inverted; the Iron Sea, which is impassable for the moment due to many, many rampaging monsters - is on the right side of the map. (This is because the map of the Dragon Empire is based on a map of the Mediterranean turned so south is up.)
  • The Legions of Hell: Hellholes break through regularly. The Crusader's job, and/or that of the players, is to go and get rid of them.
  • Lemony Narrator: Heinsoo and Tweet occasionally interject into the mechanics to discuss how they use the rules in question. Sometimes, this increases clarity; other times, such as with the recharge mechanic, it makes it a bit messy and hard to figure out. And it's not just in their interjections; on occasion the writing itself can be surprisingly informal for an RPG source book. For just one example, an ogre's basic attack is called "Big honkin' club".
  • Let's Play: There are a number of 13th Age campaigns being run online either livestreamed or with recordings put for download. This includes LP 13th Age and Forgotten Sagas of the 13th Age
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: There's not a whole lot of difference in damage output, and fighter classes are better brawlers, but spellcasting classes tend to be more flexible and have access to rituals, allowing them to expend combat spells for plot effects.
  • Light 'em Up: The gorge dragon's breath manifests as a blast of multicolored light.
  • Living Statue: The Northern Colossus is a great marble and granite statue of a warrior ten times larger than the biggest giant. The magic that animates the Colossus is still at least partially active: a few decades ago it moved to a different ridgeline of a different valley and sat down again.
  • Lizard Folk: Available in dragonspawn, lizardfolk and troglodyte flavours. Bearded devils also look reptilian, with a human face.
  • A Load of Bull: Minotaurs are unholy monstrosities driven by bestial bloodlust. At their best, they prowl the underworld, seeking fresh blood. At their worst, they enter the service of unholy cults devoted to human sacrifice.
  • Lord British Postulate: Greater fomori are Lovecraftian cosmic horrors, world-ending menaces to be prevented rather than monsters to be fought. If they returned, even for an hour, it would mean the end of an age, and civilisation must be rebuilt while dealing with unleashed horrors. Because of this, they are not statted up as monsters to fight, defying this trope.
  • Losing Your Head: Boark Godheaded removed his own head as part of a cult ceremony, and now carries it around under his arm.
  • The Lost Woods: The Ratwood was once the Wood of Hungry Thorns, a terrible hellhole ruled by a demon king. Heroes came up from Axis and slew the demon, but the hellhole was imperfectly sealed, allowing some demons to return. So far, they haven't accomplished much. They can ruin harvests, spread disease, terrify the occasional passer-by, and lure a lost child or two into the woods.
  • Lovable Rogue: The ideal of many rogues.
  • Lowest Cosmic Denominator: It's implied that compared to powerful mortal icons, gods aren't terribly important to the world, most people just talk about "the gods" and leave the worship to the clerics.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: A lot of mechanics involve specific dice rolls, such as the fighter's flexible attacks or the sorcerer's chain spells. The half-elf racial power is to modify a die roll down by 1 once per battle to gain more control over these, making them very good fighters, bards, and sorcerers.
  • Made of Evil: Demons are nothing but entropy and malice and hate. They can't resist the urge to smash things and inflict pain, even when that's clearly not in their best interest.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The bumoorah uses sonic vibrations to blast rock and soil apart.
  • Master of None: Bards are sort of fighter-mages with a focus on buffing.
  • Master Poisoner: The Poison Sage was a dark elf alchemist whose studies of poisons led her to breed all sorts of monsters and explore the underworld for ingredients for her creations.
  • Mechanically Unusual Class: Most of them have some sort of gimmick that only they have - rogues have momentum, barbarians have rage and ascending talent tiers, sorcerers have the ability to gather power and so on - but the weirdest are probably the Druid, whose list of Talents means no two druids need be the same, and the Occultist, who is supposed to be unique and whose power is mostly focused on charging up an arcane focus, then expending it in response to specific actions.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • All chimeras mingle the scales, hair, hooves, claws and other portions of beasts in a chaotic, distorted form.
    • The ankheg is a blend of ant and beetle; the owlbear is a chimaeric hybrid between owl and bear.
  • Mordor: The Red Wastes are testament to the awesome destructive power of the Red at the height of his powers. Monsters that live in the Red Wastes thrive thanks to magic spilling into the area from the Abyss, but it's a terrible place for civilised folk.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Demonic flesh-carvers have six arms, so they can cut you open, remove a few unnecessary organs, and sew you back up again all at the same time.
  • Multiple Head Case:
    • The two-headed ettins are smarter than most giants, but the heads always disagree. Hampering each other in everything they set out to do, the two duelling personalities ensure that no ettin ever comes out 'ahead'.
    • Each individual empyrean dragon has three heads. Unlike ettins, the heads are agreeable to one another and work in concert. They don't have distinct personalities.
  • Murder Water: The Iron Sea is such an impassible monster-infested mess because the Wizard King pissed off the ocean itself to the point where it spawns monsters to vent its ire at the Empire. This is one of the many reasons why he was killed and later became the Lich King.
  • No Name Given: The non-draconic icons are only known by their titles and their real names are never revealed.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Ochre jellies are neither ochre nor jelly-like. Statistically, people that point out this fact are not coming back from a dungeon raid.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Demons want to destroy the world. That puts them at odds with everyone who lives in the world—which is everyone.
  • Our Ancestors Are Superheroes: Most black dragons have lost their blood connection to their unique, pre-elemental creative roots. Only a few (the catacomb, gorge, void and empyrean dragons) have maintained those blood connections through selective mating and ritual, and so exhibit thematic qualities specific to their origins.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Come in two flavours: demons and devils.
    • Demons are creatures of pure chaos that emerge from the Abyss and seek to destroy the entire universe. One of the possible origins of the dybbuk (which the GM is free to choose) is that they're demons who seek physical bodies to do evil deeds.
    • Devils come from some place called the Pit, embody evil, act through stealth, calculation and guile, and respect power and hierarchy. The game leaves the process of defining devils up to the individual GM and presents 13 different versions of their backstory.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They're mostly D&D standard, but they justify white dragons being the weakest by the death of their patron, the White, at the hands of the Lich King. Wyverns, on the other hand, are not considered dragons at all (they have the Beast type instead of the Dragon type), although many of them work for the Three.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: As ever, they are short types who live underground, and the Dwarf King claims ultimate moral authority over all magical items (although adventurers who treat their equipment well have little to fear most of the time). They do, however, state that the dress sense and relative beardiness of dwarves is up to the player to determine.
  • Our Elves Are Better: They come in the standard high, wood and dark flavours, and all of them have nifty racial powers - high elves teleport, wood elves can occasionally gain an extra standard action, and dark elves can inflict ongoing damage.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: Gargoyles are either monstrous statues or creatures summoned from stone.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Wraiths are incorporeal undead creatures that recall their former life just enough to scream questions about places they used to know.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Ghouls are undead cannibals that only hunger for what they used to be and can infect victims to rise as ghouls as well.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Giants are the original people, and the common races are their unworthy descendants, according to their version of history anyway.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Goblins do the most of the labour and battle undertaken by evil slaves and minions and form the foundation of many evil organisations. They are able to work, willing to fight and prone to breeding at a bracing pace.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Liches are arcane spellcasters who turn themselves into undead creatures to continue their pursuits after a lifelong study of magic. The new lich creates a phylactery—a relic imbued with its essential life force. If the lich's body is destroyed, it slowly reforms near the phylactery over a period of days. To truly kill a lich, the phylactery must be destroyed first.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: Every Iron Sea monster is unique. Some resemble grotesquely enlarged and malformed sea creatures, others are alien conglomerations of limbs and organs, and still others are partially elemental creatures, whose flesh melds into flowing water or cracking ice as they move.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier:
    • Ogres serve as brute enforcers for orcs or expendable minions for giants. They are stupid enough to work for just about any villain.
    • Ogre magi are the descendants of ogres who, several ages past, was brought by the elves to a Dragon Emperor but that things went sour thanks to the dark elves.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: They can't breed with humans in the standard setting (half-orcs arise spontaneously), and sometimes just spawn from the ground. Orcs can be green-skinned, big, pig-snouted, snake-eyed, bandy-legged, leather-faced or cinder-skinned, but only the orcs themselves care about the different varieties. They're also becoming steadily more united as the new Orc Lord rises to prominence.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires are blood-drinking undead that possess a deathly touch, can regenerate and must be killed in an appropriate manner so they would not turn into mist and escape. Otherwise, according to Rob Heinsoo's instructions each campaign should choose the elements of vampire lore that suit its purposes.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies are the result of a contagious disease released into the world by a Diabolist of a past age.
  • Pet the Dog: The Diabolist is explicitly capable of kindness, as long as it comes as a surprise, to set her apart from the less sadistic but more consistent Crusader.
  • Physical God: During the Age of Gods, the gods appeared across the Empire in the form of physical avatars.
  • Pig Man: Nalfeshnees, also known as boar demons, are ridiculous looking puff-bosomed hairy pig-snouted tuskers with tiny little wings on their backs.
  • Raising the Steaks:
    • Wraith bats are bat ghosts that serve undead vampires.
    • Hog-ghouls are undead boars bred by the Ghoul King's servants who snuffled out buried corpses in graveyards like truffles in a forest.
  • The Remnant: The Lich King is the former ruler of the Dragon Empire before it became the Dragon Empire. He wants it back, and he's willing to kill and reanimate everyone so that the throne is uncontested forever.
  • Resurrection Sickness: The more often you get resurrected, the closer you get to the point where you can't. On top of this, the more often you resurrect others, the closer you get to dying yourself.
  • Saintly Church: The Priestess of the Gods of Light cares about almost everyone, somehow managing to convert that emotion into action and organisation that helps the world.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: It's several miles long, known as the Abyss, and the "seal" is the Great Gold Wyrm.
  • Semi-Divine: Cambions are the offspring between mortals and demons.
  • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: The good or neutral female Icons - Priestess, High Druid, Elf Queen - show at most a bit of cleavage or midriff. The evil Diabolist wears a ragged-looking bikini to show off her arcane tattoos.
  • Single Specimen Species: Each greater fomori is a unique creature in itself.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The Wizard King used to rule the world as a tyrant, and would like another try at it now that he's become the Lich King.
  • Special Snowflake Syndrome: The entire point of the One Unique Thing feature is to come up with something unique and story-worthy about your character. Parodied with the "You Are A Special Snowflake" Commander ability, which gives a bonus only to nonhuman allies.
  • Spider People: A drider is a drow transformed into a centaur-like combination of elf and giant spider.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Barbed devils have these, as their name would indicate.
  • The Spook: Nothing definitive is known about the Prince of Shadows. None can tell you about his motives or ultimate goals, not everyone believes that he even exists, and this works out well for him: he doesn't care about getting credits for his world-changing exploits.
  • Squishy Wizard: Spellcasters usually don't have a lot of Constitution, but this is enforced for the necromancer, who must subtract their Constitution modifier (if positive) from all necromancer spell attacks (how can you know death if you're not wasting away yourself).
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Although to be fair, that's pretty much the point.
  • Starfish Aliens: Hungry stars are octopus-like flying monsters from a dimension where space obeys different geometry.
  • Stationary Boss: The Thorn King, ruler of the Ratwood hellhole, takes the form of a hawthorn tree and cannot move.
  • Sand Worm: The Stone Thief is a living dungeon that takes this form when traveling to its next target.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: The dretch's black-hearted fear is so great that it's virtually contagious.
  • The Symbiote: Denizens of the Stone Thief are creatures who are in a symbiotic relationship with it. When the dungeon submerges, the walls close around them in a stone cocoon that keeps them in suspended animation; the dungeon can heal their wounds and keep them alive indefinitely. The trade-off is that they're forever tied to the dungeon and cannot leave it.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • A Medusa would stare you to turn you into a large-scale lawn ornament.
    • Looking at a black basilisk causes one's skin to coagulate and harden, and dust to puff out of their lungs through their mouth until the victim's entire body turns into stone.
    • Outside the overworld, lammasu who wish to rest can transform themselves into solid stone. A lammasu can see and hear as if it were still made of flesh. It can change back to flesh as a free action, but must wait a day before returning to stone.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Wizards (technician) versus sorcerer (performer). Wizard spells do standard damage rolls and don't rely on stat bonuses, but they don't have the potentially huge number of hits a sorcerer chain spell can dish out on a lucky string of dice rolls.
  • Token Evil Teammate: The Crusader is a servant of the Dark Gods and a totalitarian tyrant, but he's also an agent of the Emperor and mostly focuses on killing demons. The Blue may or may not be, depending on the scheme her stewardship of Drakkenhall is setting up. The other three villainous icons - Lich King, Diabolist and Orc Lord - are generally closer to problem than solution.
  • Training from Hell: The Crusader's training tends to cause PTSD in its rejects and mild to moderate sociopathic traits in those who succeed.
  • Troll: Imps have a taste for torture where other demons would choose to kill.
  • The Unfettered: If it stops demons from destroying the world, the Crusader will do it.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The barbarian class is straightforward, easy to play and fitting for players that are new or just want to beat enemies up without worrying too much about rules.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Barbarians, some monsters. Sorcerers with the Infernal Heritage Talent can also drop into a "spell frenzy", enabling them to cast more accurately at the expense of a significant amount of pain if they mess up.
  • Vancian Magic: Spellcasting classes have access to a mixture of at-will spells that can be used as often as they like, once-per-combat spells, and once-per-day spells a la 4th edition D&D, although sometimes they get a recharge roll after the fight.
  • Vestigial Empire: The dwarves say that the golden age of their empire was the Age of Long Beards, when Underhome still existed. This age ended when some foe poisoned Underhome during their war against the elves, killing or mutating many dwarves and forcing the survivors to migrate upwards toward Forge.
  • Was Once a Man: The Forest that Walks is a monster that used to be the High Druid of an age past.
  • Wretched Hive: Drakkenhall is a dangerous place. The denizens are questionable, law enforcement is unreliable, hygiene is minimal, and much of the city is in ruins.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Demon rats are everywhere in the Ratwood—underfoot in the underbrush, dropping from branches overhead to gnaw on an unguarded eyeball, creeping into your bedroll at night to slit your throat.
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