For New Years Eve, I got together with some old friends from high school to play a Christmas-themed 13th Age game in which they are tasked with killing Santa. The players, however, decided to design their characters as an homage to 2016/political caricatures. Below is my summary of the session.

Player Characters:

Arnold Rump – Half-Orc Barbarian.
Notable features: Intends to make the orc horde great again! Weapon: A grate. Backgrounds: Small Loan of a Million Gold, The Greatest

Hillary Clefttongue – Snake Cleric.
Notable features: Domain of Life/Death reskinned as Domain: Obamacare. +1 to Death Saves. Thanks Obama! OUT: Whatever it takes for me to get elected.

Birdie Sanders – Duck Trickster.
Notable features: has a -10 to attacks. Backgrounds include Goodwill Worker, Social Worker, Political Science

Twenty Sixteen – Tiefling Rogue.
Notable features: Harambe Animal Companion; Backgrounds: Celebrity Deathknell, Memes

“The Election Year: The only thing that can keep the Koru Behemoths away.”

Hillary Clefttongue and Arnold Rump are on the campaign trail to become the next Orc Lord! To do so, they must travel the Dragon Empire and hunt down those Electors – and kill them! (Electors are 538 political enemies designated by the orc horde to be killed. The campaign trail to hunt them down may or may not follow the Koru Behemoth paths: “The Election Year: The only thing that can keep the Koru Behemoths away.”) Our adventure opens with Arnold Rump narrowly leading Hillary Clefttongue in number of Electors slain. Birdie Sanders still thinks he’s running; he has not managed to kill any Electors. Twenty Sixteen is tagging along because – hey! Killing famous people! That’s his kind of fun!

The campaign (“The Most Intense Game of ‘Hide and Seek'”) has led Hillary, Arnold, Twenty, and Birdie to their next Elector – a baker in Glitterhaegen! But alas, in the quiet snowy streets the party is ambushed by… children? They scream “FOR SANTA!” and launch a barrage of attacks and traps. (Reskinned kobolds with trapster abilities) Arnold Rump is surrounded by three puppy-riding children! In a whirlwind attack, the first kid ducks, the second receives a bloody nose from the grate, and the third is hit so far, he goes flying off into the distance. Arnold Rump takes out the remaining children bit by bit. Birdie Sanders is pushed into a spiked pit hidden in the snow by one child. Twenty Sixteen and Harambe engage with a child, but due to one of the child’s ruthless traps, ends up with a beehive to the face. While hiding in the spiked trap from the first child, Birdie turns his attention to the child Harambe is attacking. The child charges at Birdie but slips on the ice and slides head-first into a spike. A child hiding in a snowdrift chucks ornaments at Hillary, but one of them was accidentally one of the beehive traps (thanks to our tiefling, Twenty Sixteen). Twenty Sixteen turns his attention on the child attacking Birdie and hurls a dagger at him. This attack is amplified by a well-timed distraction by Birdie (thanks to Feckless Strike) that ends with a knife through the head of the child (taking 50 damage when he only had 5 hp remaining to begin with). Blood splatter!

“Who here carries knives? Not me!” – Twenty Sixteen
“No! My pantsuit!” – Hillary Clefttongue
Arnold Rump turns some of the children into a salad. Yum!

Birdie Sanders skates on the ice to the bakery in order to kill his first Elector – crashes into the storefront window with a comedic “SPLAT!”. Arnold Rump breaks the door entering and finds their target – the Elector. The Elector realizes what they are there for and tries to escape out the back exit. Arnold Rump and Hillary Clefttongue follow, while Twenty Sixteen opts to check the expiration dates on food – after all, if it says ‘2016’, then it’s his! Arnold Rump catches up to the Elector: “It’s grate to see you!” He uses his Grate of Ruin (see “Book of Loot” – basically, results in ruin falling upon things associated with the target; ie: a king killed by a weapon of ruin would find his kingdom cursed to crumble.) Arnold Rump is happy to know that his grate will ensure that the bakery fails now that the Elector is dead. The GM points out that the bakery probably was going to experience setbacks anyway without its head baker. Regardless, 1 point for Arnold Rump!

The commotion with the Elector has drawn the attention of the towns people. They pour out into the streets to meet with the candidates. Many heads are shook. Many babies are kissed. Arnold Rump, of course, decides to change it up and shake the baby and kiss the hands. Birdie Sanders tries to take this opportunity to explain his message, but instead keeps getting handed babies. One may walks up to Birdie Sanders and asks for him to save his baby from Santa. The children of Glitterhaegen (from ages 4-12) have run away from home and formed gangs in the streets to rumors of a “Santa Claus.” He wants Birdie Sanders to look into it before his baby falls prey to whatever arcana is to blame for this! Birdie Sanders turns to Hillary and Arnold and says: “Santa’s an Elector.” He turns back to the man and says “Everything will be under control!”

“Feel the Bird!” – GM
“…Is that like Pat the Bunny?” – Twenty Sixteen

“Grip the podium, hope for the best” – Hillary Clefttongue, on how she’s handling the crowds of people

The party hunts down a lead for a child that used to be under the sway of Santa Claus – Bobby Jingle. Arnold Rump decides that interrogation is the way to get information out of this 13-year old. Twenty Sixteen decides to engage Arnold in a Twitter war to distract him while Hillary and Birdie question the child in a less threatening manner. Birdie Sanders offers a pastry from the Elector’s bakery as a bribery: “That’s not blood on the pastry. That’s raspberry filling!” They learn that Bobby Jingle left because he was on the Naughty List. Why? Because he refused to kill someone Santa told him to kill. Birdie Sanders pulls out a calculator out of his magical bag of random loot and gives it to Bobby as a gift. Naturally, as a 13 year old, Bobby immediately proceeds to spell BOOBS on the calculator. They learn that Santa seems to be magically controlling the children and that the children are based out of the STEAM TUNNELS!

Cut to the Steam Tunnels: What’s your light source? Light reflecting off of Arnold Rump’s bald spot! After killing a wandering child, the party finds their secret lair with Christmas tree. They are all sound asleep. Arnold Rump carefully steals a set of silver bells from one child and retreats a safe distance to the party. He rings them near his ear and instantly knows where Santa’s Workshop is. (Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, Arnold Rump is now under the influence of Santa! Arnold pockets the silver bells for himself and leads the party onwards.)

“All I want for Christmas is your two front teeth!”

Santa’s Workshop is in the clouds above the Giantwalk Mountains. Arnold Rump calls upon his commercial dragon transportation company acquires a three-headed (green, white, and red, naturally!) dragon. His friends board. He takes first class. As they near Santa’s Workshop, Jack Frostlings (reskinned pixies) start attacking the noses of the party, but they quickly manage to fight them back.

The party approaches Santa’s Workshop, but finds two Cloud Giants standing guard. Arnold, Hillary, and Twenty Sixteen sneak past the cloud giants legs and reach the door while Birdie decides to approach this situation by going down the chimney (that very clearly has smoke coming out of it). One cloud giant notices and tries to attack the duck, but accidentally hits his friend. This initiates a brawl between the cloud giants, giving the party time to get into Santa’s Workshop. Don’t worry, though – the duck still plans on going down the chimney!

As Twenty Sixteen picks the lock and opens the door, Birdie Sanders lands in a pot of soup and – cartoon style – leaps out of it and runs right past his friends and out the door into the snow to cool his rear-end off. This, of course, has drawn the attention of the elves at work. One elf demands to know who they are. Arnold Rump introduces himself and finds that he’s on the Nice List (see: the silver bells magical effect). He tries to figure out what he wants for Christmas: His brand steaks: “Rump Roast”? Nah. No, he wants to kill Santa for Christmas because Santa is an Elector (or so Birdie Sanders has led him to believe!). The elf departs to find Santa.

The remaining elves determine that Birdie, Hillary, and Twenty Sixteen are on the Naughty List and attack. Arnold Rump breaks free of the silver bells effect.

“I don’t hear those sleigh bells jingling in a ring ting tingling tune.” – Arnold Rump
“All I want for Christmas are your two front teeth!” – Arnold Rump

The elves (reskinned hell imps) attack by kicking the players in the chestnuts. They wind up large toys with clock faces to attack (reskinned zorigami). Birdie Sanders, in an effort to stop more toys from being wound up, knocks them down like dominoes.

All too soon, however, Santa (reskinned weretiger) arrives: “HO! HO! HO!” Immediately, he knocks down Hillary Clefttongue down in two hits. The following round he kills Twenty Sixteen with one blow. (“We still have Harambe!” “Santa Claus is going to town on 2016.”) Birdie Sanders calls upon his Icon Relationship with the Crusader to procure a pentagram of a dark god to combat Santa. He embeds the iron pentagram into a cookie and prepares a glass of milk for his plan (Santa = fey; iron + fey = sad fey). Of course, by this point, we have the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on loop. Right at midnight (in real life), after toasting with champagne, Twenty Seventeen dives through the window and stabs Santa in the back! It’s worth mentioning, of course, that Twenty Seventeen looks just like Twenty Sixteen but all the 6s have been crossed out with 7s; Twenty Sixteen is still dead on the ground.

Hillary Clefttongue – standing once more – announces: “I’m going to invoke Obamacare!” (Domain Life/Death). Birdie Sanders, dressed as an elf, delivers the pentagram infused cookies with milk to Santa, Scooby-Doo style. Santa eats the cookie and screams as the Crusader’s power strikes him. He overcomes it, but is very displeased with the elf. (Mechanical benefits: -4 attack and defenses for Santa, but Santa does gain a damage bonus). In anger, Santa Claus crits Twenty Seventeen, knocking him down. “Well, 2017 isn’t going to kill Santa.” With one mighty swing of a grate, along with points from the trickster’s abilities, Arnold Rump strikes and kills Santa unexpectedly. Remember though that this is the Grate of Ruin. He has killed Santa, but the things most associated with Santa will now also crumble: “I JUST KILLED CHRISTMAS” – Arnold Rump.

“I’m going to skedaddle before he realizes Santa’s not an Elector.” – Birdie Sanders. He takes Santa’s hat, gets in the sleigh and flies away with some now-unemployed elves.

Disappointed that Santa’s not an Elector, Arnold Rump sits for a second. He then turns and kills Harambe. Hillary stabilizes Twenty Seventeen.


Post one-shot wrap-up: “I’d like to us my icon relationship with the Prince of Shadows – I mean Putin – I mean the Prince of Shadows – to have ravens bring Hillary’s hacked mail.”


Happy New Year!

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Dramatic Escalation Die

Last week’s session ended with the death of the paladin-cleric, Ravakain, who had been one of the only stable and consistently good characters in the party. From what I’d seen before (and especially what came after), I believe that Ravakain may have been one of the two major PCs keeping the group from completely falling apart. The other force is Theatris, Ravakain’s best friend. Unfortunately, because of this relationship and other matters at play in the campaign, this drove Theatris to go on an enraged hunt for the rogue, Cal. Cal had already betrayed the party last semester and was being kept under the eye of the party. Cal had fled when Ravakain died, leaving Throg, the dwarf chaos mage, on the floor, bleeding out. Bizshnips, the wizard, was busy reverse-engineering magical technologies they had stolen from the Archmage in a cavern, a three day’s journey from the town.

Everyone was scattered everywhere and no one was together. And I had to reincorporate a character who hadn’t been around for a few weeks and the Ravakain’s player’s new character – Tret. My solution was to treat the entire session as one big, dramatic session.

I started by setting the DCs for any checks a little higher than normal. I also gave the player’s a session-long escalation die. They could add it to skill checks in addition to attack rolls. I went from character to character as we roleplayed how they were dealing with the problems they’d been left with from previous sessions. After each character had had their time in the spotlight, the escalation die would increase by 1.

The result was probably one of the most dramatic sessions I’ve run. We would end each character’s scene right at a moment when things were ramping up (one player compared this to the Star Wars prequel movies; always creating tension). Throg was about to have his neck snapped by a Great Old One when we’d cut to Theatris taking a chainsaw to Cal’s head and just when that happened, we’d cut to Elim, a ranger, who had his eagle reporting to him on events.

The escalation die worked as I expected it to. Early on in the session, the players were having slightly more trouble making their saves/checks/attacks due to the slightly increased DCs. With the ‘fail forward’ philosophy, this created more complications. As the session progressed, they succeeded more and more, which kept things moving forward, eventually culminating in a moment when Throg arrives at the battle where Elim and Tret are trying to stop Theatris from killing Cal. Throg finally knocked some sense into Theatris by explaining that the Great Old One they were having problems with was in the very town they were in and they needed to stop fighting! (The final total for the roll, with the escalation die, was in excess of 30)

I also was able to use the escalation die to have events trigger on different rounds. I spent the week preparing for the session simply coming up with things that I could use to make the situation worse. (It was already clear that the characters’ conflicting motivations and alliances, distrust for each other, and the death of a friend were going to be driving the majority of the session) When the escalation die reached 3, the Archmage unleashed his army upon the city of Forge (the characters ignited a war between the Dwarf King and the Archmage a week before in game time and this seemed like the perfect session for this to be very inconvenient). When the escalation die reached 5, the cultists of the Great Old One had succeeded in their ritual and the earthquakes started again as the underkrakens restarted their journey to the surface.

This usage of the escalation die gave a structure to the entire session, which was greatly needed since they had split the party as much as they could. Using the escalation die outside of combat is something that should probably be saved for sessions where you might have “rounds of roleplaying”, lots of PvP going on, and a very split party.

-Michael M

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Why Letting Players Describe Monsters Might Not Be a Good Idea

In a sentence: giving control of how to describe monsters to the players leads to enhanced and monstrous genitalia.

Let me begin by saying that Make Your Own Luck is a brilliant adventure. It is simple enough that new players can pick up the game easily enough, and challenging enough for more experienced ones. The first combat was certainly easy, and they only got harder from there.

At the beginning we started before MYOL took place. The players started from where their last session had left off… in the office of an advisor to the emperor who just happened to also be a silver dragon in human form. They accepted the quests from him, one of which was MYOL, and went on their merry way to the market. There, two new players joined them having also been hired by the advisor. The rogue, who’s One Unique Thing happened to be “I am the most beautiful man in the world and must wear a paper bag on my head as to not cause chaos amongst the people” bought over one thousand throwing knives having rolled a 20 on his persuasion check for the merchant. Now he is running around covered in Bandoliers of Throwing knives. The other bought many insane things as well (mostly being the necromancer bought two large tabby cats that were not guaranteed free of fleas or demonic possession) and the fighter bough magic dust for the forging of a magic weapon later.

From there with their NPC healer they left for Harrowdale in the north. Where upon arriving (with a mercenary company they convinced to hire on to the defense of the town back at the market) were immediately attacked by the impeding troll army. They came to describe what they did to defend the town for the months they were defending the city as is part of the adventure, and they came to describe the trolls’ private parts as previously stated. Not to mention that the necromancer walked around town at night scarring children with his skeletal minion which was a floating skull that played the trumpet that spit out fire.

On a dark and starting to storm night, they saw an invading troll force, and a secret one that was coming in through a hole in the town’s wall. So they went and fought, which was the first time the rogue nearly died that battle, only being saved by the healer (and being forced on by the troll). They slaughtered the Two Siege Trolls (and the rogue made the troll’s massive weapon his own weapon) shortly after and then they saw a retreating band of Goblin messengers that had the hand of diabolist on their armor and skin.

At which point we took a break and I made a pizza run.

When we came back the goblins were retreating down the roves out of sight of the party. The rogue immediately threw a knife at the goblins… and crit hit them, killing the weaker of them. At which point the goblins all tag teamed the rogue and he had yet another close call, but not as close as the previous troll fight.

They found the letter on the goblin captain that informed them of the nightcandle and the traitor. While the majority of the party leaves to question the town about the woman who is the traitor, the necromancer covers his eyes in goblin/troll blood so he can see the candle. After a long walk (and some questioning by the other members of the party) they all eventually arrive at the decrepit slaughterhouse.

There most of the party talks to the farmer and his wife about where the traitor is while the Fighter talks to the mercenary that is leaning against the slaughter house. At the mention of the traitor’s name by the other members of the party, the mercenary gets up and begins to walk into the slaughter house, only to be stopped and outbid by the fighter to have the mercenary fight with them against the traitor. So to my dismay I must make yet another NPC for them to take with them on their adventures.

They ambush the traitor, who happens to go first and slit the throat of a certain farmer boy. Slimes fall from the ceiling to intercept the adventurers. The fighter and the Rogue conclude that the best course of action would be for the former to throw the latter over the slimes and at the traitor. At which point the fighter roles a 1 and throws the rogue DIRECTLY into a slime, which then begins to eat the rogue.

All in all they killed the traitor in a fight that nearly killed the rogue yet again. As she dies the Stone Thief opens up and they run out of the slaughter house before it eats them.

Outside many things happen, but they see the leader of the trolls, Marrowbreath, which is another such character they get to describe. Of which they said “He is twice as tall as us and at first glance it looks like he has a massive tail.” And for the rest of the night he was described as having “URRRRR!!!”

The fight nearly killed the rogue again. And only by defeating Marrowbreath in a long fight they managed to get the magic item they were sent to protect out of the city and to the approaching Imperial army before they leave onto their next quest.

How to sum up this session in a few words? Massive troll phalluses.

-Sam L. The other GM. 

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