Monday, March 11, 2013

Campaign Settings: Neverwinter in 13th Age

Recently, I became involved in a conversation regarding converting the Forgotten Realms to 13th Age. Specifically, the discussion centered on Icons in that setting. The Icon system is an important part of 13th Age because it shifts some of the narrative control over to players, making their choice of relationships become part of the overall campaign story. I became interested in the conversation because I run a Neverwinter/Waterdeep D&D 4E campaign and I continue to think about how I would shift it over to 13th Age if the situation ever presented itself.

Keith Baker addressed the use of Icons in Eberron back in October. He makes the good point that Eberron, as a setting, does not lend itself well to a simple transition to 13th Age. Instead, he suggests that icons should be determined based on the focus of the campaign. Who the important players are in the game will determine what icons are relevant. If the campaign focuses on the power of the Dragonmarked Houses, than they would fit nicely as icons. However, if the campaign has some other focus, other icons would be more appropriate. This seemed especially important to me in determining how Icons would be developed for a campaign similar to my own.

Considering my own Neverwinter campaign and the material presented in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, I thought I would lay out a potential list of Icons for a 13th Age game set in post-Spellplague Neverwinter. In doing so, I have tried to present them less as specific people and more as icons, referring to them by general terms. In general, I associate each Icon with a specific character presented in the campaign setting, but as is true with the Icons, its less important who they are but rather what they organization, faction, or even ideology they represent in the greater setting.

The Lord Protector

This is the current ruler of Neverwinter, a powerful man from another place that seeks to rebuild Neverwinter in his own image. The Lord Protector is a force of order in the city, but it is foreign. Some view the Lord Protector as a great boon to the city, helping to rebuild the Jewel of the North to its greater glory. Others view the Lord Protector as an usurper, come to take away Neverwinter's liberty. As written in the campaign setting, this would be Lord Neverember, Open Lord of Waterdeep. However, as with all of the icons, the specific person is less important than the ideology that they represent.

The Lord Protector is the Icon of ORDER in Neverwinter.
The Rebel

The Rebel is a direct political contrast to the Lord Protector. As an Icon, he opposes the Lord Protector's designs for Neverwinter. Ideologically, the Rebel represents an opposition to the Lord Protector's authoritarian role rather than opposition to order. Officially, they claim that true rulers of Neverwinter must descend from the line established by Nasher Alagondar. Some view the Rebel as a force of chaos, attempting to tear down everything that the Lord Protector attempts to build. Others see the Rebel as a hero of the people of Neverwinter, doing his (or her) best to stop the Lord Protector from seizing what last bit of freedom the people still have. Arlon Bladeshaper, the leader of the Sons of Alagondar, or the Lost Heir of Neverwinter (Selda Tylmarande) could both be potential Rebels taken from the campaign setting.

The Lich King
Valindra, the "regional" Lich King

Thay's influence in Neverwinter is important to the region. The Lich King represents that force encroaching upon the city. Like many Icons, the Lich King's interest is directly opposed to the Lord Protector. Quite frankly, the Lich King is directly opposed to most of the Icons as nobody much cares for a city of the dead. Szass Tam is the obvious choice for the Lich King, but a campaign that is more locally focused could adopt Valindra, Szass Tam's agent on the Sword Coast, as the "regional" Lich King.

The Dead Rat

The Dead Rat is the leader of the most significant criminal community within Neverwinter. The Dead Rat primarily works to garner himself power and profit and embolden his position as the most powerful person in Luskan. This is typically against the interests of the more civilizing Icons of Neverwinter, but the Dead Rat is not opposed to working with another Icon in the short term if it brings him more power. King Toytere of Luskan would be the best example of the Dead Rat as written in the campaign setting.

The Lords of Waterdeep

Using the Lords of Waterdeep as an Icon is, perhaps, a bit sketchy given the content of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting sourcebook. However, their influence is still extremely important in the city, especially if you assume that the Lord Protector, one of the Lords of Waterdeep, began the expedition into Waterdeep without their approval or consent. Having an Icon relationship with the Lords of Waterdeep could be a very interesting way to add some uncertainty to the game, especially when you consider that the Lords of Waterdeep are never of a single mind. Ostensibly, they support Neverember's mission to Neverwinter, but it is just as likely that they do not and work against his interests.

The Prophet

The Abolethic Sovereignty is a major player in Neverwinter, even if most people do not realize that they are. The Prophet, as an Icon, takes the character of Rohini the Healer and makes her, more directly, the leader of the Abolethic Sovereignty. The Prophet seeks to spread the abolethic corruption throughout the rest of Neverwinter, using it as a base to corrupt the whole of Faerûn. Like the Lich King, most people view the Prophet as a danger to Neverwinter. However, it may very well be that an Icon like the Lord Protector could ally with the Prophet under the old adage that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

The Infernal Prince
The Infernal Prince of Neverwinter.

The Infernal Prince, leader of the Cult of Asmodeus, has great plans for the Neverwinter region. From their plans to free the primordial Magera to aspirations to seize control of Neverwinter, the Infernal Prince is an important Icon to consider. Mordai Vell is an obvious choice for the Infernal Prince, but as with all of the Icons, it is not the specific person that matters but more the role. The Infernal Prince is interesting because, as with all devil related matters, he opposes chaos in the city. This could bring him in line with other Icons, such as the Lord Protector, that would normally not be expected.

The Shadow Lord

The Netherese only recently returned to Faerûn, but under the rule of the Shadow Lord, their ambition has already struck fear into the hearts of many. Although the Shadow Lord seeks to conquer the entire continent, Neverwinter is of great importance. This puts him in conflict with the Lich King, the Lord Protector, and many of the other greater powers of the region. That being said, as with all of the iconic enemies of Neverwinter, a relationship with the Shadow Lord could be useful where the Lich King or the Infernal Prince are major villains. Clariburnus is the natural fit for the Shadow Lord in the default Neverwinter setting.

The Gray Alpha

The Gray Alpha is the leader of the Gray Wolf Uthgardt. Unlike most of the Icons presented here, the Gray Alpha is a slight deviation from the material presented in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. As the Gray Wolf tribes have generally allied themselves with the forces of the Shadow Lord, the Gray Alpha likely sees their alliance as a source of power for himself and the tribes. However, just as some of the Gray Wolf tribes are divided over their alliance, the Gray Alpha himself could be conflicted. Perhaps, akin to the Forsworn tribes, the Gray Alpha could be persuaded to turn against their allies and join some sort of organized resistance.

Other Icons
Want Harpers? Make them an Icon!

There are numerous other major characters within the Neverwinter setting that could be easily adapted into important Icons. The leader of Bregan D'aerthe could easily fit a role similar to that of the Prince of Shadows. The Warchief of the Many-Arrow Orcs could be fit in to a similar role as the Orc Lord. The various factions residing in Gauntlgrym could be made into major players sufficient to warrant an Icon. In that capacity, it is important for a group to determine what factions on the Sword Coast are relevant to the game they want to play. Does the group not want to involve the Shadowfell and its associated Netherese incursion? Remove the Shadow Lord. Want to make the Harpers a major player? Make them more present in the affairs of Neverwinter and make the Harper Council (or something similar) as an Icon within the setting.

The 13th Age Icon system is a way to allow players narrative control over the story arc. It lets them, as players, define which organizations and personalities they want to have as major players in the game. The Icons presented hear, as based on the background, character themes, and other content presented in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, is the simplest way to bring that sort of structure to a 13th Age based game set in post-Spellplague Neverwinter.


  1. Great article :) you even lead me to the 13th Age with I have now pre-order. Thankyou

  2. You're welcome! I just recently played through a Neverwinter inspired 13th Age session. Expect my impressions to follow shortly.

    Well, shortly-ish.