13th Age Monthly: Children of the Icons (13th Age)
This installment of 13th Age Monthly clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The most common (and imho boring) unique thing imaginable – you’re a child of an icon! Congrats! Bet you’ve never seen that one before, right? Sorry, but when the icons themselves are basically archetypes, being kin to one is an archetype of its own. The fluff-only write-ups of the respective icon-parentages are pretty solid, with different pieces of advice each: A child of the archmage may be grow in a vat or a living seal of an elemental pact…or he may have this picturesque cottage where he’s just “dad” in the middle of nowhere – so yes, there is variety here regarding the suggestions and narrative options to be explored. Unfortunately, much like the cardboard cutout themes of the icons, so do their children fall into the default narrative structures: Kill the bad parent/dead-beat icon/travel the lands incognito to gain strength – you name the cliché and it’s here.
Now mind you, I did not expect this pdf to bubble with imaginative potential, but I at least expected more variation – a bunch of the write-ups boil down to “mystic union,” some others to “begin filling foot-steps/gain approval of parent” etc. -whether positive or conflicted, the relationships overall felt pretty bland and stale to me, with perhaps one exception: The idea of the lich king providing a classic, lich-powered education for a living child is pretty hilarious and the one suggestion herein I liked. Btw.: Do not expect any mechanical ramifications for being an icon’s child – no exclusive talents, no racial abilities, nothing. Not even a bonus on relationship die rolls or interesting modification thereof.
The tropes quoted herein are OLD and boring, at least to me, and this pdf only manages to avoid a really bad thrashing due to the inclusion of two cool sample children of an iconic, both with plentiful unique abilities, both oozing with awesomeness. The Three’s prodigy is an engine of destruction and the bone princess is brilliant: In Necropolis, sheltered, there is a walled garden of dead things, all hollow and subject to the ministrations of the princess, who walks the desolation of her home alone…and, with her mask of porcelain, unaware of her undead state, carefully kept ignorant by her father. This NPC is BRILLIANT and adds an interesting dynamic not only to Necropolis, but also to the Lich King. Oh, and if you can’t tell her a good story, you may well die from the failure to do so…
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to 13th Age’s 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s writings usually score pretty high on my scale, and indeed, this is not a badly-written book. It still falls by a mile short of what it could have been. Perhaps my hopes were too high – but I expected something beyond the confines of what just about anybody could have come up with. The Prince of Shadows may have stolen you (or your love) at a young age? Pray, do tell! I would have never… The Gold Wyrm, while stuck in the abyss, can’t really have fathered you by conventional means? No, seriously?! Mind blown. You want to kill your evil, extremely powerful parent who may want to recruit you into the dark side of the force…äh…alignment spectrum? (Preferably with a blade of light, perhaps?) The innovation! The archmage may have grown you in a vat? Wow, never saw that one before. */sarcasm*
I’m really sorry, but absolutely EVERY GM can come up with those. That’s, quite literally, tired and old fantasy tropes 101. If we’re honest, not even the Lich King’s classical education-angle I mentioned above is that new. I’d comment on the mechanics that offset this clichéd, boring enumeration…but there is nothing going on there. To me, this is the definition of a promising concept, squandered hopelessly. To the point where I found nothing of value within these pages…apart from the 2 new NPCs. These tow rock and single-handedly drag this pdf up by a whole star for me – they’re inspiring and cool. To me, this is a 1.5 star-pdf, +1 star for the NPCs, meaning that my final rating will clock in at 2.5 stars. Seeing how the two NPCs only amount to ~1 page, I’d carefully wager whether or not to get this. If the NPCs sound awesome to you, you may round up. If not, stay the hell away from this pdf and get one of the other, more inspired 13th Age supplements instead! (Unless you literally have never read any fantasy/played any fantasy RPG and are not familiar with any of its most common tropes.)
You can get this installment of 13th Age Monthly here on OBS.
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