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Domains in 13th Age


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Has anyone who plays/runs 13th Age tried giving the Icons their own domains, Ravenloft style? The Nocturne 3rd party setting does it, and I think it's a really interesting idea that could be applied to the default Icons too.

It isn't really the horror element of Ravenloft that appeals to me for 13th Age, although I do like horror in gaming. There are two things about the condition of Darklords in Ravenloft that I think are great for Icons: they can't leave their Domains, and they desperately want something they can't get on their own. Both give them more reasons to want help from adventurers. If the thing the Icon wants exists beyond their domain, or they just have a problem they think can be solved beyond their domain, both of their limitations combine: the Icons have strong goals, and no matter how powerful they are, they need other people to pursue those goals for them.

Icons confined to domains need adventurer go-betweens to deal with their Allies, too, which present even more game opportunities. If the Elf Queen wants to tell the Priestess something, she can't just go see her, she has to write a message and find somebody (like low-level PCs) willing to go all the way from the Queen's Wood to Santa Cora to deliver it. What's in the message? How many people are willing to ambush the messenger to find out?

Most Icons aren't really Darklord material, so I'd need to either change the Icons, change the reason lords are bound to domains, or both. These aren't great ideas, but just as examples:

The ARCHMAGE directs a carefully ordered and scheduled domain from his capital in Horizon. Everything is coordinated by his nodes, but his nodes rely on ley lines for power, and they're calibrated for a natural world, not the patchwork he finds himself in now. His precisely-laid wards fail with maddening frequency as the membrane between domains shifts and warps, and he sends his agents into other domains regularly to take vital readings that he can't take himself. What he wants more than anything is stability, but after spending a lifetime ordering his home country to his liking, he now has to start over from square one.

The CRUSADER reigns over a domain ringed by garrisoned hellholes where ruthless troops and their bound demons watch visitors suspiciously, starved for action and begging for an excuse to enforce order. In the center of the ring is First Triumph, a mighty fortress city. But the Crusader is bitter and restless, because there are no more great challenges to conquer within his domain and, without himself leading the assault, his attacks on the other domains have all been repelled. A horrible thought sometimes gnaws at him: could his Dark Gods have abandoned him to this place? Have they decided he has no further value? The Crusader desires glory, for himself and his gods, and most of all he wants the kind of glory that will make his gods acknowledge him again.

The DIABOLIST's domain is a place of madness where demons bubble up out of the earth. The nature of their summoning leaves safe places along ley lines where human settlements can survive, but the humans who make this domain their home are almost as crazy as the demons. On most days the Diabolist is as capricious and mad as any of her demons, but in rare moments of lucidity, she realizes she is doomed: one day the demons will break her control and destroy her, and her entire domain, and maybe more. In these moments she desperately searches for a loophole in the pacts that bind her, and this is the Diabolist that sends adventurers out to do things that will preserve her hold over the demons. Even on her best days, the Diabolist is not exactly sane, so her quests don't always make a lot of sense.

The DWARF KING is rich and powerful, but never rich and powerful enough. Every failure of reality to live up to his ambitions, he blames on a figure he calls the Prince of Shadows. He is haunted by belief in a figure he calls the Prince of Shadows. There's no real evidence the Prince of Shadows is really undermining him, or stealing from him, or exists at all, but the Dwarf King still dispatches agents across the world to search for him. The pay is good enough that many adventurers don't mind chasing shadows.

The ELF QUEEN affects an air of untroubled confidence, but her domain is at the mercy of a disease called the orc plague, which turns elves into monsters. Within the Queen's Wood her people are safe, but when they leave the protection of the trees they put themselves at risk. Her domain extends beyond the wood, but the outskirts of it belong to the orcs, and every time she sends agents out of the Wood they have to sneak through hostile territory to reach other domains. Having to rely on outsiders rankles the Queen's pride, but she'll do whatever she must to find a cure for the plague.

The HIGH DRUID is like a caged animal. Being confined to a domain infuriates her more than any other Icon, and it shows in the storms that rage almost constantly. The villagers on the edge of the Wild Wood know to keep their distance, but the simplicity of the High Druid's desires makes other Icons think they can use her to further their own ends. She wants freedom, pure and simple, and every other Icon can relate to that at least a little.

The LICH KING rules a grim kingdom from his throne in the Necropolis, with a labor force of mindless undead and a noble class made up of the liches of his Undying Peerage. But his kingdom lacks the most important thing: subjects. Living citizens in the Undying Kingdom are few, and his great cities lie silent and empty as if to mock his sham of a nation. The Lich King wants to be a legitimate king again, with living subjects, and he sends out his agents to bring them to him. Usually this only means escorting the poor and destitute from other domains, people who don't mind living under a lich if they can live well. Sometimes it means kidnapping, or worse. The Lich King doesn't take no for an answer.

The PRIESTESS tends to her Cathedral, a wonder of the world. Countless visitors pass through it every day, but anyone who stays overnight suffers from disturbing, half-remembered dreams of fire and darkness. Santa Cora sits on a gigantic fissure into the abyss, blocked by the body of a half-dead dragon god. Every night the Priestess prays for his survival as he struggles against the demon army, and every day she works to fulfill the terms the gods demand for their support. The tasks they require often make no sense, even to her, and sometimes they trouble her morality, but the alternative is for her entire domain to be consumed in unholy fire, so she enlists everyone she can to help her.

The WYRM QUEEN is a great three-headed dragon whose domain is best known for Drakkenhall, the city of monsters. The monsters of the city look down on the humans in the surrounding towns and the wild monsters in the hills as equally backwards and crude, but the humans at least pay taxes. The Wyrm Queen's body has no scars or stumps, but she insists that she should have five heads, not three. She can feel her other two heads calling to her, somewhere beyond her domain, and she wants them returned to her at any cost. In the meantime, when the Wyrm Queen needs to make important decisions she summons two advisors to her lair and has them take part in the discussion while her three heads argue with each other. In the same way that lesser dragons can take human form, the Wyrm Queen can create humanoid avatars for each of her heads. In this way they can do business without her other heads knowing it, and the Wyrm Queen plots against herself as much as she plots against anyone else.

I have trouble imagining the Orc Lord, the Prince of Shadows, and the Great Gold Wyrm ruling stable domains of their own, so I folded them into the problems of other Icons. With every domain separate from every other one, nobody rules a large enough realm to really be called an Emperor.


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The Orc Lord is exiled to the barren lands and frozen steppes beyond the Dragon Empire. His War Host is always in the move, pillaging and plundering whatever settlements they come across, fighthing mighty and terrible beasts and rival hordes of would-be challengers to has position.

He hates this. He yearns for the warm lands of the Empire, the lush forests of the Elves, the rich caverns of the Dwarves. He would set their lands on fire, force them to bend the knee. But he is personally cursed to march forever, unable to find the way, or perhaps his doom has been foretold if he sets foot on civilized land. He sends his agents in an attempt to change his fate.

(The irony is that if he ever managed to reach civilization and raze it all, he would still be trapped in an even bigger wasteland)
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