"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

13th Age: A Chronicle of the Ages

WHEN D&D 4e FIRST APPEARED, I decided to give it a go.  This was despite the fact that I hadn't played D&D seriously since TSR's "Basic" Dungeons & Dragons, the game that eventually coalesced as the "Rules Cyclopedia."  I had played a bit of AD&D, but had given 2e a pass.  3e and 3.5 held no interest for me at all.  I tried them, but felt they had sucked out everything I had ever liked about D&D in the process of turning it into a heavily regimented miniatures battle game.  4e still had the focus on miniatures, but I decided to give it a try.  I liked a few things about it, but my players and I abandoned it about fifteen sessions in.

For that game, however, I had constructed a campaign based on Babylon V.  Humanity had just come out of a war with the Elves, and a new city was built, a "City of Peace," to promote dialogue between the races.  I had the whole thing sketched out, but never got to run it.  A couple years ago when The 13th Age appeared, I thought "this would be the perfect system for it."

The following then is my version of the 13 Ages, drawing a bit on what is already in the books.  The first dozen Ages could easily fit any campaign; it is really just the 12th and 13th that are Babylon V specific.


The number of the Ages is Thirteen.  Each arises from the ashes of the War that ended the Age before it.

The First Age
The Infinite Void, timeless and perfect, trembles and begins to divide.  The Overworld—embodying Order and inhabited by gods—and the Underworld—embodying Chaos and infested with demons—form.  The inhabitants of the two realms immediately begin trying to annihilate the other.  Between their two worlds, a battleground forms, a neutral territory known as the Land.  The Gods and the Demons cease open conflict and begin to use the Land as a chessboard instead.

The Second Age
In the newly formed Land, two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Branch and Leaf and the Kingdom of Bone and Blood arise.  The first is the realm of Plants, governed by the mighty Treants.  The second is the realm of Beasts, ruled by the great Dragons.  Tensions flare between these Kingdoms, and war breaks out.  In the end, the Plant Kingdom is conquered, and from that day forward it is decreed that plants shall be rooted to the soil like serfs, feeding the hunger of their conquerers.

The Third Age
The Overworld dispatches a race of demigods to the Land to act as Watchers and Sentinels, vigilant for any demonic incursions.  These godlings become seduced by the earthly pleasures of the world, however, and many abandon their mission.  Cut off from the Overworld they become mortal, but still possessing the stature and strength of gods.  These are the first Giants.  They declare war on the Dragon Kingdom for rulership of the Land. Over the course of this war, the Giants forge a slave race, the Dwarves, to mine metal and jewels, forge weapons, and build their citadels for them.  Victorious, the Giants proclaim the Two Legged Law…for the rest of time the Land will belong to those who walk upright.    

The Fourth Age
The War between the Giants and the Dragons had unforeseen consequences.  During one of their battles, in the distant East, the Sky was cracked.  During the Fourth Age the glass ships of the Fae came sailing through this rift.  Led by the first Elf Queen, the Fair Armada landed, and lay claim to the forests of the world.  The Giants challenged this claim, of course, and the Elvish enchanters cursed them.  From that time forward, the Giants living in the lowland regions began to dwindle, shrinking slowly into the races of Men.  To escape this curse, many Giants fled to the highlands, close to the Overworld.  They would return only periodically to pillage and raid.  Their Masters gone, the Dwarves declared themselves free.

The Fifth Age
The Kingdom of Branch and Leaf, seeing its chance to escape the cruel rule of the Beast Kingdom, swears allegiance to the new Elf Queen, who establishes her Court in the Woods.  The Dragons will have none of this, and the Wyrms declare war on the Fae.  The conflict is long and bloody, brought to an end when the Queen herself takes the Green Dragon hostage.  As terms of the truce she gives part of the world’s forests to the Dragons, but claims the Queenswood and all within it for herself and the Leafblooded.  

The Sixth Age
The human descendants of the Frost Giants spread across the North.  These Northlanders are barbarian peoples, organised in clans and tribes and worshipping the spirits of the Land.  In the South, the descendants of the Fire Giants build splendid city-states, worshipping the gods of the Overworld.  Forming trade pacts with the Dwarf Kingdoms, the Southlanders learn engineering, metallurgy, and writing from the Dwarves.  A powerful kingdom, the Black Land, arises along the banks of the Great River.  One by one it conquers all its neighbouring city-states, uniting the entire south under the Priest King.  At the end of the Age it turns its eyes to the North.

The Seventh Age
The Legions of the Priest King march into the North, initiating centuries of bitter struggle.  The barbarian Northlanders resist fiercely, but are outmatched against the superior arms and tactics of the disciplined southern Legions.  Worse still, the Black Land supplements its martial prowess with the necromancy of its priests, often causing the Northlander’s own dead to rise and fight against them.  The Druids of the North respond with their own magics, first with lycanthropic shock troops and later with a dangerous curse.  The fiercest and most savage Northland berserkers willingly undergo transformation into killing machines.  These come to be known as “Orcs.”  Bloody guerrilla warfare and orcish shock tactics bring the Southern invasion to a halt, but the orcish curse will never be lifted from the Land.

The Eighth Age
Over two long Ages, the Dark Elves slipped further and further from the Elf Queen’s grasp.  They began to build their own kingdoms in the bowels of the Earth.  In the Eighth Age they rebelled openly, invading Dwarvish citadels without the permission of their monarch.  Thus began the wars of the Underdark, as the Drow slowly conquered and enslaved the Dwarf race.  The survivors fled to the surface, and build the new fortress of Forge under a new Dwarf King.  Beneath the Land, however, the Dark Elves reigned supreme.

The Ninth Age
The Black Land was the mightiest empire of Men throughout the Seventh and Eighth Ages, but at the dawn of the Ninth Age, a previously unknown human nation exploded from the East.  These were the Men of Dawn, an archipelago in the Iron Sea.  Descended from the Storm Giants, the Dawnish were masters of Wizardry, and their Mage Lords commanded terrible power.  Their fleets sailed into the Midland Sea and city by city conquered the entire coastline, North and South.  Only the Black Land was able to resist, and in response the Mage Lords revealed their greatest weapon.  The Wizards had made a pact with the Four—the Red, White, Black, and Blue Dragons.  The Red flew across the Black Land and laid it to waste, boiling even the Great River away.  What was left was the Red Waste and the Lost River, and in exchange the Dragons were given their own city-state, Drakkenhall, to command.

The Tenth Age
The new Midland Empire rose, called the “Dragon Empire” due to its alliance with the Great Wyrms.  From the capital at Axis, it commanded the entire Midland Sea.  Bu tensions grew between the Mage Lords of the Dragon Empire, and those of its parent nation, Dawn.  Eventually, these tensions erupted in all-out war.  The War of the Mages shook the earth, and was plagued by terrible arcane calamities.  The greatest of these was the Drowning.  The mightiest of the Midland Sea Mage Lords unleashed this terrible spell against Dawn, shattering the archipelago and plunging it beneath the waves.  Worse, it cursed the entire Iron Sea, transforming it into a storm-wracked nightmare plagued by monsters.  Victorious, this Mage Lord proclaimed himself the Wizard King, and called the entire Dragon Kingdom his own.

The Eleventh Age
The Wizard King was a bloodthirsty tyrant, with power so great none could challenge him.  Over time he pillaged the necromantic secrets of the buried temples and pyramids of the Red Waste, using them to extend his own lifespan at the cost of others dying in his place.  Adding to his power, he opened the first Hellholes, binding the powers of the Underworld to his will.  Arrogant and almighty, he betrayed even the Dragons, luring the White to the North where he slaughtered the Wyrm as an alchemical experiment, creating the first Dracolich.  Something had to be done. It took an uneasy conspiracy—the Hero General of the Imperial Army, the Dwarf King of Forge, the Archmage of the College of Enchanters, even the remaining Three Great Wyrms—to bring him down.  In a terrible struggle the Wizard King was slain, and the Hero General became the first Dragon Emperor.  Something resembling the Dragon Empire we know today was born.

The Twelfth Age
One power noticeably absent from the Alliance was the Elf Queen, who had struggles of her own.  Isolationist, she sealed off the Queenswood during the 11th Age and spent her time in a civil war, bringing the Dark Elves back under her power.  Many of the citadels they stole from the Dwarves were liberated, and the Dwarves finally set free.  But as the Age drew on, and the Dragon Empire consolidated its hold over the entire Midland Sea, the Emperor turned his eyes to the Elven woods.  It was the 13th Emperor, whom some call the Mad, who declared war against the Queenswood and sent his legions in to burn it down.  This attack provoked a terrible response.  For the first time in eight Ages the Glass Ships of the Elves sailed, laying waste to city after city along the coast.  The mighty Imperial legions fell before them.  Slowly, irrevocably, they closed in on Axis, the entire human empire on its knees.  The Emperor summoned his Dragon allies…but they did not come.  The Elf Queen still held their sister, the Green Wyrm, hostage and they dared not provoke the Fae monarch.  The Elf Armada closed on Axis, and the curtain was about to fall upon humanity.  

When suddenly, inexplicably, the Elf Queen surrendered.

The Thirteenth Age
Now; it is the dawn of the Thirteenth Age – ten years after the Human-Leafblood War. The city of Concord, the City of Peace, is a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war, by creating a place where humans and other races can work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call – home away from home – for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers.

It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last best hope for peace.


Descended from Giants, and through them the Gods, there are three basic “races” of mankind.  

The Northlanders descend from the Frost Giants and are largely barbarian peoples.  They are organised into tribes and Clans, and occasionally into kingdoms under a particularly powerful or charismatic chieftain.  They are a fair-skinned people, tending to tan, freckle, or burn when exposed to too much sun.  Their eyes range in colour from brown to green and blue, their hair from brown to red or blonde.  They tend to be taller, heavier, and more muscled than other human races.  Their magic is primarily Druidic, and they honour the spirits of their ancestors and nature.  Think of the ancient Germanic, Norse, or Celtic peoples of Europe and you have the general idea.

The distribution of human races in the 13th Age.  Blue is Northlander, Red is Southlander, and Yellow shows Dawnish ancestry.  Click to enlarge.

The Southlanders descend from the Fire Giants.  They are a sophisticated and highly civilised people, having learned metallurgy, engineering, and writing from the Dwarves in very ancient times.  They invented the city-state, governed by a Senate made up of the heads of the most powerful families and presided over by an elected Speaker.  Later, they became more Imperial in nature.  They are a darker skinned people, ranging from olive or bronze tones to deep black.  Their eyes and hair are generally brown or black.  From the ancient days they have worshipped the gods of the Overworld, and have elaborate clerical priesthoods.  Their greatest civilisation was the Black Land, modelled heavily on ancient Egypt, but their are shades of Persia, Ethiopia, and India in them as well.  

The Dawners descend from the Storm Giants.  They are inspired mainly by mythical Atlantis, an island nation of powerful magic.  Their skin tends towards golden hues, with narrow eyes brown or black in colour and straight black hair.  They had no form of worship in ancient Ages, relying on Wizardry instead, but tend to revere Dragons as embodiments of power and awe.  Their culture was formal and hierarchal, with shades of Rome and China.