Chatty’s 13th Age: The Lich King’s Curse and Reactive Bosses

I miss RPG design work, but I haven’t stopped having ideas. So I do the second best thing: I design for my campaign!

The following design concepts came up while doing prep work, enjoy!

The Lich King’s Curse

The Lich King’s iconography plays a significant role in our current campaign. One PC was an old servant of his and the current arc’s threat is a flying fortress that spews endless skeletons and zombies. In the last few days I’ve been toying with a  curse the Lich King could inflict on PCs, a variation of the Cursed with Awesome trope.

What if a character granted the curse of the Lich King could no longer die?

Cursed characters:

  • Record each death save they make.
  • They fall into a coma that lasts a few hours (GM’s call) whenever they miss the 4th death save of an encounter.
  • They can’t be healed during that time. Their bodies and souls are under the Lich King’s protection.
  • No amount of damage or mundane magic can further degrade a body in that coma state.
  • When characters wake up, they are at 0 hp.

But that’s not all…

For each death save a character fails, one part of his or her body becomes animated by necrotic energies. The character slowly turns into an undead creature. Upon the 10th failed save, the character becomes fully undead and (probably) leaves play as a thrall of the Lich King.

Lifting the curse should be a significant campaign’s plot that requires performing great services to one or more Icons. A generous GM could allow some form of purification ritual that may reduces the number of failed Death saves, but there should be a significant cost to it.

Reactive Elements as Nastier Specials

In my last game, I needed a construct boss monster. However, I wanted the fight to be a real challenge to my players and feel more dynamic than the usual “Kick the monster dead before he attacks more than twice.”

So I asked myself:  What if the monster had powers that triggered on the players’ rolls or special attacks?

I started tweaking the Ogre Champion from the 13th Age Bestiary, and I got this:

Shadowborn Champion

Concept: A shadow-corrupted construct of rough-hewn stone with shards of black crystals jutting out. Protected by four crystal orbs orbiting around it.

Large 5th level wrecker [Construct]

Initiative: +10

 Battle Scythes +10 vs. AC—30 damage

Natural 5, 10, 15, or 20: The Champion can take another standard action this turn.

Miss: Half damage.

 R: Shadowbolts +10 vs. AC (1d3 nearby or far away enemies)—20 damage

Miss: 7 damage.

Nastier Special: Defensive Orbs (4)

All defensive orbs trigger on the PCs attack rolls unless described otherwise. A PC can target an Orb (same defense as Champion, 15 hp)

Shielding Orb

On an even hit: All defenses are increased by one until the orb is destroyed. Cumulative. Doesn’t apply to orbs.

Repulsion Orb

On a odd hit: 15 damage, pop out, save 12+ or knocked prone.

Mana Battery Orb

When the Champion is targeted by an attack spell. Hit or Miss: Champion gains 1d8 temp HP per caster level.

Incinerator Orb

On a natural roll of 1-5: Attacker takes 15 fire damage, nearby allies take 5.

AC 21, PD 19, MD 18, HP 140

I used it against a party of three level 3 PCs (Bard, Fighter and Sorcerer) and it gave them a solid run for their money. I’m going to use reactive “Nastier Specials” again, it delivered exactly what I needed.

Let me know if those ideas inspire you, or ways you’ve been hacking 13th Age to fit your group’s needs.


  1. The only hard part about that would be tracking your players’ natural rolls. I’m used to just having the total reported.

  2. I always glance at the player’s rolls, but yeah, it’s an extra step for sure. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I love the idea of Death Saves leading to necrotic contamination. Would make unhallowed spaces even more daunting.

  4. I noticed one of the things all the monsters in 13th Age have in common is I only need to reference their powers when their turn comes up. I think this is a great design from a GM standpoint because it means I have less to worry about during the fights.

    I do like this idea, and I’d probably going to borrow it, but I might alter it a bit as follows:

    Shielding Orb: +X vs. AC
    HIT: If the target’s next melee attack against the Shadowborn Champion is an even hit, all of the target’s defenses are decreased by one.

    Repulsion Orb: +X vs. PD
    HIT: If the target’s next melee attack against the Shadowborn Champion is an odd hit, the target takes 15 force damage and is popped free from the Shadowborn Champion.

    Mana Battery Orb: +X vs. MD
    HIT: If the target targets the Shadowborn Champion with a spell, hit or miss, the target suffers 2d8 damage from mana backlash.

    and so on…

    This way you can have each of the orbs attack in a turn in addition to the Champion’s other attacks and when they land, you tell the player exactly what will happen on their next turn depending on their die roll and leave it to them to track that rather than you having to manage everything.

    What do you think?

  5. @Jeb: Thanks, it does make sites dominated by the Lich King more dangerous.

    @Andre: Seeing how well it worked at the table, it was the only monster I was running, so I had a low workload to manage, I see how your approach is a good way to remain coherent with the “only worry about your own rolls” philosophy of 13th Age. I like it.


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