13th Age: Icon Relationship Roll Frequency

I just (literally a minute ago) realized one of my problems with the Icon Relationship Roll is its frequency.

Given how relatively short our sessions are, and how large a chunk of them has so far been eaten up by fights, the rolls are far too frequent. Three sessions in, the characters just had their first full heal-up; there have been three fights, though depending on how you count them they qualify as 4-6, really. All this has happened within less than 24h of game time.

During that time we’ve rolled Icon Relationships three times. If this frequency continues it means on average 5 Icon “interventions” per fight, and 15 of them per a day of in-game time. The current adventure will probably continue for at least 3 sessions more, which means I can expect a ballpark total of 30 Icon interventions for this single adventure! If all adventures occur at a similar pace, it will also mean that every Icon Relationship the characters have is exceedingly likely to feature in every single adventure.

Uh, yeah, that is wonky. Wonky in many ways. I wonder what frequency Tweet’s and Heinsoos’ games actually have?

I don’t have a solution yet (hey, it’s been now maybe 15 minutes since I realized this issue!), but I’m thinking about it. Some sort of cap seems in order. At most 1 roll per full heal-up? At most 1 roll per day/week/something?

Given the thinking behind my previous attempt to tweak the icon relationship roll rules, have the hunch that I may want to have different caps for different purposes. Maybe instead of splitting the results between boons and complications based on 5s and 6s I should ask for eg. boon rolls per full heal-up and complication rolls per scenario?

That doesn’t sound half bad, actually.

13th Age House Rules: Icon Relationships and Rolls, take 1

I’ve been thinking about how to use the icon relationships over the couple of past days. This is my first attempt at formulating a policy.

1) All icon relationships are tied to backgrounds characters have: for every icon relationship a character has, we’ll mark one or more of the backgrounds as representing that relationship.

This is essentially to just make sure the context of the relationship is known — and to highlight cases when a relationship isn’t represented elsewhere on the sheet. If that’s the case, we’ll add a zero-point background to account for the relationship. The nature of the relationship needs to be talked about a bit. Is the character actively seeking promotion from the icon? Is the character actively supporting the icon? Is there debt either way? Is the relationship through intermediaries or direct? What kind of intermediaries? Etc. This should all be copacetic with the background.

2) Rolling a 6 gives the player (not the character!) a boon they can cash at any time. They can suggest the form the boon takes. Some possibilities: supernatural help, helpful flashback, a single use item they’ve had all this time, information they have access to, a friendly face, etc. The boon must involve the icon in some way. The form the boon actually takes is still up to the GM, though. Alternatively, instead of spending the boon the player can invest it to get in deeper with the icon: this requires a corresponding action by the character, but it can be fairly minor: sending a report of something they’ve discovered to an appropriate agent of the icon, etc. These boons can be saved.

We’ll see show this goes… this is my attempt to separate out the player currency and plot-fodder aspects of the relationship rolls. I think boons can be reasonably potent, but not earthshakingly so: there’s an average 1 per session per two players available, and with 5 players in the table that’s more than 2 boons per session. I’m thinking “a bit less potent than a daily power” might be a good guideline, but given how each use should also be semi-unique, it doesn’t really need to be an exact match. Whatever seems apropos.

3) Rolling a 5 is story fodder for the GM. I will take them an you will know that icon will somehow complicate your life in near future.

Because there’s on average 1 of these per two players as well, I’ll probably sometimes save them up and combine them. If you’ve rolled several 5s for the Elf-Queen but she hasn’t been featured at all — worry.

I’ve now run one session like this. Doing the background connections seemed very worthwhile indeed, and though there wasn’t really a chance for me to spend the 5s yet as most of the session was a long combat, the 6s seemed to work fine, and the players seemed to like them as well.

Happy so far. Time will tell.