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Handling 13th Icons in a virgin territory

Lanius

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I have a couple of campaign ideas I'm pondering using 13th Age for. Icons end up being a sticking point for both of them. In both campaigns the PCs are going out into a world without any prior connections to the larger forces in the region. In one case it's explorers stranded far from home, a la Star Trek: Voyager. In the other it's survivors emerging from their small community into a post-apocalyptic world, a la Earthdawn.

I could just drop the icons & relationships and ignore any feats/talents that reference them. But perhaps there's a better way?

Has anyone tried starting with no relationships and adding them over the first few levels? But perhaps that would end up with all the PCs having similar relationships based on the icons encountered so far.

Or maybe let the players pick relationships normally at the start? The PCs wouldn't have the relationships established in fiction at the start, but they'd be a narrative cue to the DM of which factions the PCs would like to see in play.
 

ESkemp

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The narrative cue aspect of the latter choice is so, so valuable to a GM that it's what I would pick. When multiple players take the same antagonist icon, they're telling you that a plurality within the group is interested in fighting this specific type of enemies. If there are no dice with a particular icon, you know that the players probably won't be interested in a long arc concerning that icon. And even if the PCs aren't yet specifically known to the factions (or known opposition to the factions), you still basically have storyguide results on the dice.
 
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ezekiel

Follower of the Way
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Yeah I agree with ESkemp. If you want to avoid having specific Icons to start, you could potentially have the group brainstorm the ideals they want to see in Icons, and then try to allow something that fits those ideals to naturally arise through play....but honestly that seems like a lot of extra work for only getting a shadow of the first thing in the second.

One of the main reasons for having several Icons is to allow for both positive and negative Icon relationship dice...but another is simply to give the Icons enough internal political dynamics to be interesting. The GGW (my favorite, surprise surprise) may be close friends with the Priestess...or they may get on each other's nerves for doing the same overall thing in very different ways. Likewise, the Dwarf King and the Emperor. Having at least 2-3 icons that are relevant to any particular issue allows for meaningful interplay between them, even when all three should be nominal "allies." Trying to let these sorts of things arise purely through play, and asking players to invest, or wait to invest until they learn more? I don't think it will work out well.
 

Dromio

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I've played where no one started with Icon relationships and those relationships were developed over the first couple levels. It worked fine. It kind of let us get established a little bit in the world before "committing" to relationships. In your second situation that might be more appropriate; it would be difficult to pick Icons if your character legitimately has no idea who the Icons are.

Any way you slice it the Icon choices are indications from the players of what they're interested in.
 

ezekiel

Follower of the Way
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In your second situation that might be more appropriate; it would be difficult to pick Icons if your character legitimately has no idea who the Icons are.
I had thought (assumed, I guess) that both situations involved not knowing who the region's Icons are.
 

Lanius

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I had thought (assumed, I guess) that both situations involved not knowing who the region's Icons are.
In both cases, the idea was that the PCs don't know the region's Icons at the start of the game. Either because they're entirely separated from their home environment or because their home was incredibly isolated before.

I'm coming around to the idea of treating icon relationships as a purely meta-level stat at the start. The characters don't have the relationships, but they're flags from the players about what icons they'd like to see in play. I don't know if all my players would be excited about it - some don't like more narrative style games/stats. But I can see the value to the DM and how it might help focus the game on the players' preferences.
 

ESkemp

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If it bugs players, yeah, that's a drawback (though they could always delay choosing their dice until later while others pick at the start). But in some cases, you could potentially compromise by having the players take dice in relation to, say, their One Unique Thing. So say you have a player who chooses the One Unique Thing of "I received a heart transplant from a demon", maybe using the tiefling (or hellborn or whatever they're called in 13th Age) rules to represent that. An option would be for the player to take dice representing the sort of conflicts they expect to get into: 2 conflicted dice in "nominally friendly faction of demon-hunters"? A die in "hostile demonic or demonic-allied faction"? Something like that. In such a case, it's putting a mechanical nudge on the same sorts of conflicts the player wanted to get into when they picked their One Unique Thing, but doesn't necessarily tell the player the details in advance.
 

Nate_MI

Hail Tzeentch!
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If there's some other kind of cosmic-level power at work, you could steal the runes from 13th Glorantha. In that game you're not tied to the god Orlanth, but if you're tied to Sky and Fire runes then you're pretty damn close to him; but not quite the same as a Relationship die.
 

Aesthete

A for Aeffort
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Could you build the opening few sessions about an introduction to the icons, and let players choose the icons as part of early gameplay?
 

tobygrandjean

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Honestly, I'd still use Icons- but I'd treat them as extinct.
That is, they might recieve clues and such but not direct aid.
I'd use the narrative clues from the players picks to determine what sort of ruins and places of interest are found.
 
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