Recently, I bought a number of Planescape products. These books and box sets were thoroughly scoured and have been sitting in the back of my mind. I have been slowly churning them around with the various other gaming products I have been reading, which have been mostly 13th Age related (as I have been working on the Iconic Podcast). It seemed pretty clear to me that the Factions of Sigil would be a great place to start looking for Icons within the setting, and with the recent posts on the G+ community on alternative uses for relationship rolls coupled with the fact that we are looking at doing an entire show on these rolls, the following idea hit me.
The ideas laid out here will be fleshed out and revised through use, but this seems like a solid first pass. Or at least enough of an idea to share. The GM can (and probably should) limit the Icons for which these rules apply on a campaign basis. While any of the following ideas could be simply used as a variety of options for Icon Relationship Rolls (IRRs), my goal was to provide a loose framework for a GM to use within their games to allow for factions and Icon organizations. I tend to be an improvisational GM, so loose frameworks like this provide me a lot of aid at the table.
Faction Status revolves around the idea that the Icons (whether they are true factions or not) have a power structure that they influence and control. The Icon Organization paragraph from page 38 of the 13th Age Rule Book shows this to be true for the Icons of the Dragon Empire, “Most of the time that you’re interacting with an icon, you’re actually interacting with his or her lower-level functionaries, acolytes, disciples, bureaucrats, lieutenants, barons, or priests. Functionaries are the GM’s best friends, and they can be your worst enemies.”
The PCs, therefore, can interact with these organizations (which for our purposes will be referred to as factions) during the course of play as their Icon dice show 5s and 6s. What if these successful IRRs represent moments where the PCs stand out and gain status with the Icon’s organization?
The GM would keep track of the total of 5s and 6s the players rolled with their Icons over the course of the game. The total would represent the PC’s current status within the faction. PCs, as they triggered interactions with their Icon, would climb in status with their Icon’s organization and as they crossed certain thresholds, gain benefits from their status. This would be in addition to any session bonuses the players & GM used the IRRs for.
False Heights & Sudden Crashes
Before I get into the tiers of rewards for faction status, let’s talk about those pesky 5s. 5s on an IRR represent a complication to the interaction with the Icon. In terms of Faction status, this represents an inflated standing in the organization. Perhaps it was exaggerated in the telling or was secretly a plot by the Prince of Shadows that turns out to hurt the faction in the long run. The next time a PC takes a campaign loss, the bubble bursts, and they lose all the points they had with the faction that were generated from 5s. Harsh, but a faction’s love is fickle, and rising stars can come crashing down.
Tiers and Rewards
Ideally, each Icon would have a tailored list of faction rewards by tier, and if this idea takes off, I may further flesh out this idea on the blog. Rewards are static bonuses as well as additional ways to spend IRRs(e.g. ways for PCs to use their 5s and 6s during a session). But for the purposes of this post, I am going to give some general ideas as well as some themed examples. These would be in addition to any faction specific story bonuses that the GM would want to exploit.
“Who Are You?” Rank 0 – (0-5 Status)
The PC is defined solely by their Icon dice. The Icon reaches out to them or they can draw on the connection for knowledge, but no real benefit is gained beyond the basic IRR.
“Initiate” Rank 1 – (6-15 Status)
At this level, the Icon’s faction become aware that the PC exists. The faction can be sought out, and basic aid will be rendered.
Static bonuses include:
Faction Safe House – The PC is able to find the faction’s base of operations and procure safe lodging or passage for the group. A 5 could represent that the term ‘safe’ is relative.
Faction Goods – The PC has a sure source of replacement or new gear, as well as access to 1d6+1 potions or oils. For a reasonable price, of course.
IRR bonuses include:
Power of the Icon Rewards (e.g. Emperor, Dwarf King, Orc Lord) – Short term tactical knowledge gives the PC a +1 to hit or damage with weapon attacks (+2 at Champion, +3 at Epic) for the session.
Wisdom of the Icon Rewards (e.g. Archmage, Diabolist, Prince of Shadows) – Using the wealth of information available to such Icons, the PC gains a +2 to background rolls on a specific subject for the session. Like how to pick the locks within the Stone Thief, or riddles in the dark.
“Up and Coming” Rank 2 – (16-25 Status)
By this point the PC has established himself by word and deed. The Faction is willing to take some risks in dealing with them, as they have proven that their relationship with the Icon is not just a passing craze.
Static bonuses include:
Faction-Specific Ability – The PC is granted an ability that is iconic for the faction. Such as the Dustmen’s ability to be ignored by undead until they take a hostile action in Planescape.
Faction Background – The PC gains a +2 background that is faction based.
Sure Source of Aid – The PC at this point counts on the faction to provide aid beyond just shelter. The resources and manpower of the faction may be put to use for short-term gains.
IRR bonuses include:
Specific Gear Loans – Need a flaming sword to clear out a troll den? Or perhaps the crystalized soul of a dead god of light for a ritual?
Power of the Icon Rewards (e.g. Emperor, Dwarf King, Orc Lord) – The PC is granted a martial bonus appropriate to the Icon for the rest of the session. Perhaps the Orc Lord grants Dangerous to his followers or the Emperor provides a buffer of ‘fake’ HP that exists only for the purposes of resisting fear, shoring up the PC’s defenses with righteous fervor.
Wisdom of the Icon Rewards (e.g. Archmage, Diabolist, Prince of Shadows) – The PC is granted, through research or interaction with the great minds of his faction, the answer to a question he seeks. Perhaps a campaign goal is now understood, a riddle is solved, or a word of binding sends the rampaging demon back to the Abyss.
“Face of the Faction” Rank 3 – (26 – 35 Status)
The PCs are the movers and shakers of the faction. While there are those higher up in the organization, the PCs have become powers in their own right within their Icon’s faction.
Static bonuses include:
Faction Background – The Faction background increases to +4.
IRR bonuses include:
Henchmen – The faction sends out a junior member with the PC to accomplish a specific task. The Henchmen provides a bonus to hit = to ¼ of the PC’s level (rounded up) and a bonus to damage of 1d6x ¼ the PC’s level. It has an appropriate background of 6+¼ the PC’s level (round up). The Henchman only has 20 HP per tier, and if he dies, the PC loses 1d6 faction points (x2 at champion, x3 at epic).
Faction Assault (1x per tier, subject to GM approval) – The power of the faction is at the PCs disposal. Rather than deal with an encounter, the PC can have his faction handle it. Narrate how the PC sent this aid, and do not count this towards the group’s four-battle counter. Also, make sure to let the Faction grab what it can for itself in the way of gold or treasure from the encounter. After all, this kind of aid is never cheap.
Resurrection (1x per tier. Costs 10 status points) – The faction protects its own at this level. They have invested a lot in the PC and don’t want to see all that effort go to waste. But getting killed is a huge drain on their resources, so expect it to burn some bridges.
Gift of the Icons – Whether a piece of sacred knowledge, magic token, or insightful training, the PC gains the use of a daily power from a class, or may cause a power the currently possess to recharge as a save one step easier (hard becomes normal, normal becomes easy).
Note: This list of powers and Ranks is not supposed to be exhaustive. It is but a sample to be expanded and built upon.
In my Ta’nar game, I have a nice web of how the Icons interact with each other. This is important, because as the PCs gain status with their faction, opposing factions begin to align against them. Also, no one rises high in an organization without stepping on some toes. PCs’ rise to status can be seen as happening at the expense of others. This framework provides some interesting interpretations for 5s on IRRs. Are the PCs’ plans opposed by a rival faction or sabotaged from within by rivals jealous of their status?
It would also be possible for this status to represent a more nebulous “enemy of my enemy” rank. PCs could be calling on these favors from factions opposed to the Icon in question. For example, if you are gaining ranks in Opposition to the Lich King, the faction benefits could represent aid from the servant of other factions. The PCs status would be representative of their resistance status in opposing a Negative Icon.
Hope this provides a basis for an interesting use for IRRs as well as some great story fodder for your campaigns. Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated. Let me know what you think. Would you use this system? If so, how?