Have I published this on the blog before? No idea....but since we're kicking off a new campaign in 13th Age this week, seems like a good idea for a review....
The Age of Strife in One Paragraph
The world of Lingusia is defined by the events of a central domain known as the Middle-Kingdoms, a swathe of territory which grew up in ancient times around a fabled City of the Gods. The gods had a terrible war and slew their mortal forms two thousand years ago, and out of the ashes of this time grew Hyrkania, a great empire. Around Hyrkania lie many lesser polities vying for survival. In the modern era, the year 2,090 Hyrkania has just survived a civil war which nearly tore it apart. The adventurers of this era are largely survivors of that war, soldiers or refugees who witnessed terrifying atrocities as an age-old conflict between Order and Chaos flared up. Into this world stride men and women willing to sieze the chance for power, glory and riches.
The Icons of the Middle Kingdoms in the Age of Strife
The Archmage – Lord Warenis (Heroic – LG)
The immortal champion of order, Lord Warenis works behind the scenes in this era to thwart the machinations of Xauraun, the Crusader. Warenis recruits from the likely heroes of the land to send them out against the diabolical forces of his nemesis. Warenis’s aims are singular: stop the Crusdaer, save the empire.
If you serve the Archmage: You are likely a scholar, mage or dedicate to lore who understands the true nature of the eternal conflict and why it is so important that the gods of chaos do not win. You may belong to the Esoteric Order of Hodon Systalien, one of the most dedicated servants to the archmage, or you may be an independent operator.
The Emperor – Anton Patraeus (Heroic – LN)
Anton Patraeus is a great leader of men who has struggled against the civil war that the War of Strife became, as well as the army of demons his enemies conjured up. He holds the empire together against great adversity and needs agents abroad to do his bidding.
If you serve the Emperor: You are either a vigilant solarian knight, a member of the Shadow Watch, an envoy or agent of the emperor who seeks out trouble in the land to quell it, or to hunt down the enemies of the empire.
The Crusader – Xauraun Vestillios (Villanous – CE)
Xauraun Vestillios is the immortal champion of chaos, who seeks to bring down the era of man and disembowel the worship of the pantheon of order. He commands ferocious armies of monsters and demons to this end, as well as the loyalty of the human subjects who seek to gain power in his era of rule. The Crusader is always interested in new agents and minions to sew strife.
If you serve the Crusader: You are one who is comfortable in the company of fiends, possible one of the Order of the Ten Circles (the Divinate, in its public guise) or even one of the league of assassins that seek out those who would oppose the Crusader to lay them low. You could be of orcish or demonic descent, feeling the compulsion to serve the immortal chaos lord, or you are a man or elf who desires power at any cost.
The Lich King – Laikhanamen (Ambiguous– TN)
The Lich King was once the greatest wizard of the realm but fell to the passions of the Unseelie Queen centuries ago, such that he was driven to seek out immortality that he would be “alive” for the time of her mortal return to the world. That time is now, and the Lich King is as much a pawn to the Unseelie Queen as he is an agent of his own necromantic self interest in the current era. The lich king has little interest in the current field of politics, but craves power and the expansion of his personal empire of undeath.
If you serve the Lich King: you are either obsessed with death or the darker passions of the soul and admire the Lich King for what he offers….or you are a poduct of necromancy, doomed to obey him forever more.
The High Druid – Zama (Ambiguous TN)
Zama was an elder druid who became hierophant during the last great war against the Crusader a century earlier. The war devastated his homeland in the Niras Forest, and motivated the druids of Niras to grow wary of outsiders and the threats they pose. Today, Zama’s influence as grand hierophant of his order is to create a sense of seclusion and remoteness in the forestlands of his dominion, and he relies on his agents to insure that any threat to the wellspring of the forest, which is the very embodiment of the god Niras’s spirit, be protected from outsiders.
If you serve the High Druid: you are a druid yourself, or a simple elf, gnome or other denizen of the Niras Forest, who has felt the calling of the High Druid or the spirit of the woods and felt a need to protect the land from those who would ravage it. You might be a ranger or other agent of the Knights of Kom’Huandyr, a dedicated order of rangers in the woods who seek to defend the realm of the empire and specifically the province of Niras which encompasses all of the woods from outside invaders.
The Diabolist – Tyriandras Gonn Holivarnen (Villanous – LE)
The dark sorceress of Hyrkania is a shadowy entity, known by name only to her inner cabal. She has an obsessive and seemingly one-sided alliance with the Crusader Xauraun, and works her own schemes to bring Hyrkania to its knees. She believes that conquering the empire will be sufficient to catch Xauraun’s attention.
If you serve the Diabolist: you are a cutting edge agent of evil and you can see the opportunity to both gain power in the Diabolist’s imagined future empire as well as ready yourself for the embrace of chaos.
The Unseelie Queen – Corrigan (Ambiguous – CN)
Corrigan was believed to be destined for resurrection by her elite cabal of unseelie elven knights, but it was in fact the schemes of her paramour, the Lich King, that allowed her to be reborn. Corrigan walks the land again, a dangerous threat as she weaves her enchantments to lure dark elves and vile feykin into her web of control. She is barred from entry into the heart of the Weirding by the Court of Titania, and her unseelie agents are left deep in the mirelands and the briars of the outer Arboreal darkness, where the feywild touches the shadowfell.
If you serve the Unseelie Queen: you felt the call and your fey blood could not resist. If you are no fey, then you are attracted to what she stands for, the liberation of the spirit from the rules of the world. The unseelie queen is a mysterious force in the age of strife but she stands against both order and chaos.
The Elf Queen – Mithrielle (Ambiguous – NG)
Mithrielle rules Sylvias in the south and seeks to make her empire strong against the many forces of evil and chaos in the world. She is half-sister to the empress Phyxillus, but feels an unreasonable level of rivalry for her successful half-sister in the north. Under Mithrielle the elves have attained great power, but their enmity toward other lesser races is at an all time high. Actions in the name of the Elf Queen are to secure of the elven empire and its many outlying tribes and cities in the world, even at the expense of the lesser races.
If you serve the Elf Queen: you stand not only against the enemies of the elvish kingdom, but against those who would seek to destroy the venerable lineage of the world itself in the name of power. You are likely either a selenic knight in the elven courts, a preservationist working in secret in foreign lands against the enemies of elvenkind, or a huntsman knight on the frontiers of Sylvias defending the outlying cities and tribes of all elves, both silver and wood.
The Betrayer King (Orc King) – King Makhorven (Villainous – NE)
Rumors that Makhorven has orcish blood in his lineage are true, and it explains his grim, bestial visage and complexion. Makhorven is a power even while imprisoned in the vast dungeon complex between the city of Hyrendan, for the Order of the Red Robes insures he remains carefully protected and fed, and his network of spies and agents functions throughout the land. The Emperor’s unwillingness to execute Makhorven is still a mystery to many (though there is an ugly rumor of some sort of familial relation) though just as many suspect that Makhorven’s followers would never allow his death to pass. Makhorven is allied with the cults of the chaos gods, but he plays by his own rules and for his own gain.
If you serve the Betrayer King: you work from the shadows, relying on physical force or magic as necessary to undo the empire from within. Though your liege suffered a great defeat, support is as strong as ever, just fluid like water so that the anvil of the empire cannot find you. You serve either the Black Circle, the Order of the Red Robes or the Divinate as an agent of chaos and change.
The Serpent – Saurpikan (Villanous – LE)
The Grant Imperator of the serpent men empire of Hazer-Phennis serves exclusively the will of the dark god Set and his devilish minions, who spread like a cancer throughout the underworld. The rumors that the serpent men walk among humans and elves in magical disguise to sew discord are likely entirely true.
If you serve The Serpent: few who do not have serpent blood serve The Serpent, but they exist. The Serpent is the emobodiment of his people and his vile god, who seeks to subjugate the world to his rule. Following the Serpent means betraying your people for a piece of that pie, or it means being one of the pureblooded, the humanoids who have a trace of ancient serpent ancestry within their veins.
The Great Gold Wyrm – Drakon Shaikor (Ambiguous – CG)
The great gold wyrm of this era is Drakon Shaikor, the most powerful of the gold dragons of the eastern clans. His influence is deep among dragonkind, and many say he has the ear of the Council of Wyrms itself, a secret society of the eldest dragons in the world who still remain free of the controlling machinations of the Wyrmlords. As may be expected, Shaikor and his allies revere Bahamut first and foremost.
If you serve the Great Gold Wyrm: dragons alone do not serve the Great Gold Wyrm. Wizened sages, sorcerers who envy the gold’s power, dragonborn who wish to ally themselves with the agents of Bahamut and others will readily offer fealty to the Great Gold Wyrm.
The Wyrmlords (The Three) – the elder dragons lords of the Dragon Mother’s Brood (Villanous – CE)
The Wyrmlords of the brood follow the Green Mother as they refer to her, a great chromatic beast to the north who dwells in the heart of the Northern Wilderness, giving birth to a new generation of the great dragonflight. The Green Mother’s Brood consists of her hand-picked finest brothers, sisters and those males who court the Green Mother. She sends them out to do her bidding. Rumors are that the Green Mother has determined to awaken the sleeping Tiamat to restore dragonkind to greatness once more.
If you serve the Wyrmlords: there are many dragonborn who ally themselves with the Wyrmlords, and as many other races who envy the power of the dragons who know how to use it. The Wyrlmords are crafty manipulators and they seed their dark interests throughout the Middle Kingdoms and beyond, but they need even craftier agents to carry out their agenda of dragon superiority.
The Prince of Shadows – Wormie Vellsoth (Ambiguous – CG)
The enigmatic guild master of the Black Lotus gang and avatar of the the god Hermes is the undisputed shadow prince of the Age of Strife era. Wormie as his friends call him (because his enemies are all dead, as he says) is a wood elf of roughly two centuries in age who has become the master of secret lore and information in the land, and his agents are tasked with gathering such esoteric knowledge to greater purpose. Despite his nature as a thief and grafter, Wormie uses his agents to further the interests of the pantheons of order and death over chaos; there is no profit in chaos.
If you serve the Prince of Shadows: you are one of the thieves, burglars, scoundrels and grifters of the world with a heart of gold, looking to your local thieve’s guild or possibly even THE thieve’s guild of the Prince of Shadows himself, the legendary Black Lotus Guild. From there you have earned enough trust and cred to find your services as a gatherer of information and protector of the civilized world to be useful to your liege.
The Assassin - Celiobantes Astiriate (Ambiguous – NE)
In many ways Celiobantes Astiriate is like Wormie, though the two are unrelated. Clawing his way up through the ranks of the Fire Knives, Celiobantes is a master of assassins and chief high priest of the assassin god Haro. Like the Black Lotus, the Fire Knives still commit to a dedication to order, albeit through murder as a tool of conflict resolution. The Fire Knives are usually regarded as agents of chaos by most…and they have been known to side with cultists of chaos, which their dark god is ostensibly one of, but true scholars of Haro know that the god considers himself above the petty cliques of the pantheons.
If you serve the Assassin: a few independent operators exist who worship Haro, but universally if you serve the Assassin then you belong to the Fire Knives. The Fire Knives are expansive, with tendrils stretching across two continents and even into the Planar Realms, conducting murder in the name of their vile god. So if you hold this icon as your liege, then you must of necessity be proficient at murder most foul.
The Priestess – The Sacrimori Setianne (Heroic – LG)
Setianne is the young, new high priestess of the Temple of Naril and the voice of all faith in the empire of Hyrkania. Setianne carries a great influence on the land, and is noted for her caring nature but her willingness to use the force of her two dedicated paladin orders (the Solarians and the Ebon Ankh) to enforce the will of Naril. She is singularly dedicated to stamping out all worship of the chaos gods.
If you serve the Priestess: you are a true champion of Naril and the empire, seeking to better humankind and his allies against the tide of chaos. You likely are a priest, scholar or advocate for the church, or a paladin or fighter who has taken up arms and joined the solarian knights. Inquisitors wield magic to root out evil and destroy the demons of chaos at the behest of the Priestess as well.
The Dwarf King – King Madragor, Iron King of the South (Heroic – LN)
Madragor is also a young king a dwarves go, for his father was slain during the War of Strife when the forces of the Black Tower invaded the Iron Mountain strongholds. Madragor has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Emperor, and there are stories of how Madragor adventured with the emperor many years ago. He also seems to be especially fond of the Elf Queen, though the favor is not returned. Madragor’s interests are in eliminating all threats to his people, though the Iron Dwarves of his land are friendlier to the human empire.
If you serve the Dwarf King: you look out for your sovereign allies, but the dwarves come first. From the Deep Company, dwarves who stand against the terrors of the lower depths, to the army of the Iron Fist, the greatest general in the mountains to serve the king you are all about dwarven superiority and the destruction of those races and faiths which stand against your people. If you are not a dwarf, you are a sympathizer or one who has become enamored with the dedicated passion of dwarvenkind and seek to aid them in any way you can.
More about the Icons
The world of Lingusia is too large to have just a baker ’s dozen icons…and as such, while some icons may cast a wide net of influence, many of them are localized to their region of the world. The icons of the east are another set entirely, and the icons of the north are an enigmatic lot who greatly dislike the icons of the Middle Kingdoms. Only a few tend to be universal….the Archmage and the Crusader are known across the world for their endless conflict, for example, as is the Great Gold Wyrm who seeks the unification of dragonkind against the machinations of the Wyrmlords, who manipulate the elder brood queen to produce more chromatic spawn.
Some icons of cosmic note are not present in this era. There is no orc king, for example, and the orcs are but beastly tribes serving whatever lord of chaos happens their way in this era; but the Betrayer King fits the role nicely, and happens to be a half-orc, too. The Prince of Shadows is the avatar Wormie Vellsoth, who has taken on the mantle unwittingly from the former icon Tanis of an older era. Wormie has much to contend with in the form of The Assassin, the Fire Knife Celiobantes Astiriate, who has risen to great power as the lord of the most formidable guild of assassins in the Middle Kingdoms, one which will one day come to be feared even by the gods themselves.