One of the many cool things about 13th Age is the modularity. Some of the mechanics are very suited for ripping out and layering onto your own game. Prompted by a recent comment, here’s some ideas for using the Icon rules.
They work like this. There are a bunch of movers and shakers in the 13A world, called icons, which the PCs can have relationships with. They can call on those relationships in game to have certain effects. Mechanically it’s super easy. You roll a D6 for each point in the relationship you have (usually between 1 and 3). For every 6 you roll you get a benefit. For every 5 you roll, you still get the benefit but with a twist.
What’s so good about this is they way it makes the setting interact with the scenario. We’ve all got huge 300+ page world books full of cool things, but so often it all sits in the background and rarely has an impact on the adventure at hand.
So imagine some popular settings out there and what would happen by introducing this simple Icon mechanic.
White Wolf games. Every single one is all about factions, and yet the games tend towards the personal with all the really good backstory staying firmly behind the scenes. You could simply allocate the factions to the Icon roles, or actually get personal and take an important NPC from each and have them take a more direct role.
Deadlands. The Deadlands universe is soaked through with meta plot. The Icons would pretty much write themselves. This is also a great example of how this mechanic would overlay any rules set without spoiling the flow. They are important roles, so why not use an in game unique mechanic?
Eberron. I’ve written about this before, but it’s a classic example of a game with too much background for any one campaign. Is it a Cold War game, espionage, pulp adventure, or a mix of all the above? If you work through the Icons you and your group want in the campaign, probably during group chargen, then not only will your campaign have some agreed structure, but a mechanical consequence too.
Runequest. Cults. Job done.
An important note, this rule does not mean the game is any less about the PCs. This doesn’t give the NPCs the run of the campaign. It simply allows for the setting to join in the groups activities. The chances are that the PCs wouldn’t even directly interact with an Icon, let alone kill one (leave that til late in the campaign). More likely it will be a question of flu keys, minions, key advisors or just resources.
What game do you play that could use these?