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Novice tier (3pp)

Novice Tier

The rules in this chapter add a new tier to 13th Age, the novice tier, which takes place before the adventurer tier that characters start at in the Core Book.

Novice Tier

In novice tier, there are three novice levels, from zero (N0) to two (N2).

At novice level zero (N0), a character is in their teenage years, and they haven’t completed their training. N0 characters only have their backgrounds, one unique thing, and their smarts to fall back on, and none of the abilities that would be granted by a class.

The step to level N1 is where the Wizard becomes a Wizard, the Fighter a Fighter and so on. The stats such as hit points and defenses are now determined by your chosen class. You gain your armor and weapon proficiencies as well as the class features. Choose your first talent, and your first spells, maneuvers and powers (if your class has them).

Level N2 grants you the second talent and a few more spells and powers. From there, you advance to first (adventurer tier) level.

Novice level character stats

Novice LevelN0N1N2
Class chosenNoYesYes
Ability score reduction-1-1-1
Ability bonusRace onlyRace + ClassRace + Class
Level bonus000
Background points467
One Unique ThingOptionalYesYes
Armor Class (no armor)10 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wisby classby class
Physical Defense10 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dexby classby class
Mental Defense10 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Chaby classby class
Hit points5 + Con mod(class + Con mod) x 1.5(class + Con mod) x2
Recovery dice1d4 + Con modby classby class
Recoveries24 (*)6 (*)
Icon relationships / Runes (Glorantha)None12
Class featuresNoneAll, by classAll, by class
TalentsNone12
FeatsNoneNoneNone
Magic items000

(*) Fighters gain a bonus recovery thanks to their Extra Tough class feature.

Choosing a Class

At level N0, PCs have not chosen a class yet. You receive no ability score bonus from a class, and don’t consult a class table for any of your stats. Choose a class when you advance to level N1.

Ability Scores

Create ability scores as you would for an adventurer tier first level character in your campaign, such as the standard 28-point buy, and then reduce all scores by 1 (the score itself, not the modifier).

At level N0, add a +2 ability score bonus for your race. When you advance to level N1, add the +2 ability score bonus for your class.

When the PC advances to the first level of adventurer tier, increase all stats by 1 to bring them back to standard.

Level Bonus

Novice level characters are treated as level 0 (zero) for everything that is calculated using level modifiers, such as attack rolls, defenses and skill checks. Any miss damage that is equal to your level is also zero.

The exception to this is the “count your level as 1 if an ability would otherwise do nothing” rule, with the major examples listed below.

  • Novice-tier PCs have one WEAPON damage die.
  • Novice-tier PCs have one recovery die.
  • Dark elves deal 5 ongoing damage with their Cruel class feature.

Backgrounds

Level N0 characters have 4 background points. At level N1, increase to 6, and at level N2 to 7.

One Unique Thing

If the player already has a great One Unique Thing idea for  their character, they can choose it immediately when creating a novice character.

If not, it’s also fine to leave the OUT open, and come up with it spontaneously during play. Novice tier flashback stories are a great way to flesh out One Unique Things like “the only bard to bring the Diabolist to tears”. Just be prepared to reinterpret or even rewrite the OUT if required. Maybe those tears were meant to be tears of regret instead of tears of laughter. Maybe your OUT will become a tale of failure, but what can be a better driver for the narrative than a story of redemption?

Hit Points

Zero level novice characters start with 5 base hp, to which they add their Constitution modifier, and no multiplier. At level N1, the base hp are replaced by the class base hp, and you get a 1.5 multiplier. At level N2, increase the multiplier to 2.

Recoveries

At level N0, PCs start with 2 recoveries and a 1d4 + CON recovery roll. Gain two recoveries when you level up, and replace the d4 with the recovery die from your class.

Since novice characters have limited access to healing spells, remind them that they can rally as a standard action to use a recovery. Also remind them that if they run out of recoveries, they can still heal for half hit points. They take a stacking –1 penalty to all defenses and attack rolls until their next full heal-up, but that might just be enough to get out alive.

Death and Death Saves

Novice tier PCs use the standard death and dying rules as per page 169 of the Core Rulebook.

However, some GMs may want to run their campaign in old school meat grinder mode. In that case, feel free to remove death saves as a house rule, and declare that PCs are dead as soon as they hit zero hit points or below. Make sure to communicate this clearly to players before the session. If you use this rule, you may want to have players start with multiple PCs, and the first session is a test to see which one is meant for an adventurer career.

Icon Relationships / Runes (Glorantha)

The icons only start paying attention from novice level N1, when the PC gains their first icon relationship point. Of course, a PC can have ties to an icon from the very start, the bond just isn’t reflected in a point yet. Gain a second point at level N2.

In the same way, Glorantha PCs choose their first personal rune at level N1, and a second at N2.

Class Features

Novice characters gain all class features of their chosen class at novice level N1.

Talents

When you choose your class at level N1, also gain one talent. You gain a second talent at level N2.

Feats

Novice level characters don’t get feats. 

The only exception is the human bonus feat. As a human, you can choose a general feat at level N0. You can retrain it to a feat related to your class later, at N1.

Magic Items

Novice level characters can use magic items, but they are always subject to an item’s quirks. Remember that quirks can allow other players to “remote control” your PC.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies

As a zero-level novice, you haven’t received much weapon or armor training yet. You can use small weapons like daggers and staffs without penalties, but you take an attack penalty with any other weapon. Light and heavy armors also incur a penalty. See the table below for details.

When you advance to level N1, switch the weapon and armor proficiencies to those of your chosen class. Note that this can actually increase a penalty in some cases.

Level N0 Armor

Armor TypeBase ACAtk Penalty
None10
Light11-1
Heavy12-2
Shield+1-1

Level N0 Melee Weapons

Weapon typeOne-HandedTwo-Handed
Small1d4 dagger1d6 club, staff
Light or Simple1d6 (-1 atk) hand-axe, club1d8 (-1 atk) spear
Heavy or Martial1d8 (-2 atk) longsword, battleaxe1d10 (-2 atk) greatsword, greataxe

Level N0 Level Ranged Weapons

Weapon typeThrownCrossbowBow
Small1d4 dagger1d4 hand crossbow1d4 sling
Light or Simple1d6 (-1 atk) javelin, axe, spear1d6 (–1 atk) light crossbow1d6 (-1 atk) shortbow
Heavy or Martial1d8 (–2 atk) heavy crossbow1d8 (-2 atk) longbow

Spells, Maneuvers and Powers

See the table below for the number of spells, maneuvers, battle cries, powers etc. you get at novice levels N1 and N2. Spells/powers gained are level 1.

Novice level class progression

Novice LevelN1N2
AbominationLimit maneuver + 1 maneuverLimit maneuver + 2 maneuvers
Bard1 battle cry, 1 spell & song1 battle cry, 2 spells & songs
Barbarian / Orlanthi Warrior (G) / Troll Warrior (G)
Berserker (Storm Bull) (G)2 berserker die powers3 berserker die powers
Berserker (Zorak Zoran) (G)1 special power1 special power
Chaos MageAt-will spells only1 once-per-battle spell
Cleric2 spells3 spells
Commander2 commands & tactics3 commands & tactics
Demonologist (BD)1st-level initiate spells and powers of the chosen talent1st-level initiate/adept spells and powers of the chosen talent(s)
Druid1st-level initiate spells and powers of the chosen talent1st-level initiate/adept spells and powers of the chosen talent(s)
Earth Priestess1 deep spell; 1 favor per battle1 deep spell; 1 favor per battle;
1 daily summoning spell
Fateweaver (DP)2 spells1 meditation, 3 spells
Fighter1 maneuver2 maneuvers
Hell Mother1 bound spirit; 1 at-will spell1 bound spirit; 1 at-will spell;
1 daily spell OR daily summoning spell
Humakti1 power2 powers
Monk1 adventurer form, Wis ki points2 adventurer forms, Wis ki points
Necromancer2 spells3 spells
Occultist2 spells3 spells
Paladin
Psion (DP)2 minor powers, 2 powers, 2 PP4 minor powers, 4 powers, 4 PP
Ranger
Rebel (G)1d6 Opening Strike, 2 powers1d6 Opening Strike, 3 powers
Rogue1d3 Sneak attack, 2 powers1d3 Sneak Attack, 3 powers
Savage (DP)1d3 frenzy die, 1 power1d3 frenzy die, 2 powers
Sorcerer / Storm Voice (G)2 spells3 spells
Swordmage (DP)1 aegis, 1 spell1 aegis, 3 spells
Trickster (G)1 power1 power
Warlock (DP)2 spells3 spells
Wind Lord (G)1 maneuver, 1 exploit2 maneuvers, 1 exploit
Wizard2 cantrips, 2 spells4 cantrips, 4 spells

(G) – 13th Age in Glorantha; (DP) – Dark Pacts and Ancient Secrets; (BD) – Book of Demons

Leveling Up

The easiest way to handle leveling up in novice tier is to let the PCs gain all abilities of the next level at once, without incremental advances. This is especially recommended if you plan to fast forward a few in-game years between each level. It’s also the best way to handle the step from N0 to N1, where the PCs gain a lot of abilities at once from choosing a class.

Of course, GMs who wish to spread out the step from N0 to N1 a bit are invited to work out a process for their campaign. Some classes, like the ranger, have no class features and don’t gain powers or spells in addition to their first talent at that point, while others, like the Abomination, have an entire laundry list of features that change a lot about the PC. Therefore, it is best to look at each PC in the party individually, and give them advances that match the in-story progress of the PC’s training. Some upgrades, like the two extra background points, the two additional recoveries and the icon relationship point, can easily be separated from everything gained by choosing a class, and can be handed out as incremental advances.

From level N1 to N2, and from N2 to adventurer tier first level, the progress is smoother, and the upgrades can be split into incremental advances without much hassle. Unless there is a story reason to do it differently, the most straightforward way is to give all PCs in the party the same incremental advance at the end of a session. For example, after the session, each PC could get their second talent, or their second icon relationship point.

Note that in novice tier, you cannot take the feat, magic item, or +1 to all skill checks incremental advances, since these only become available when you advance from first to second level in adventurer tier.

Novice Environments

While some GMs tend to throw all PCs into the deep end, others might want to give novice PCs a bit of breathing space before turning up the difficulty. The latter can start the group off in a novice environment.

Novice environments are for characters level N0 to N2. They include sleepy villages, lush green forests, and meadows of blooming flowers and butterflies. The worst you’ll encounter is a cellar filled with rats and the occasional goblin warren.

 Novice Tier DC
Normal task10
Hard task15
Ridiculously hard task20

Encounter Design for Novice Characters

Novice-level characters, especially at level N0, aren’t heroes yet. For them, the key to survival is using their smarts to achieve their goals while avoiding combat. A first-level mook is already a potentially deadly threat. The focus of the game should be exploring the nearby environment, puzzle-solving, and interaction with everyday NPCs like the local butcher or the town witch. Combat encounters should be sparse, and reward creative solutions over mechanical application of PC powers.

Even at level N1, the PCs are noticeably more fragile than 13th Age first level characters, with slightly less than half the hit points. First-level monsters can knock them out in 1-2 hits. They can take on single monsters of level two or three, but this will drain their limited resources, like daily spells, and there is always the risk of bad rolls leading to a TPK.

At N2, the PCs are now closer to standard first level, and you can build encounters as per the standard guidelines outlined in the Core Book on page 186, with the PCs counted as level zero.

At novice tier, GMs should be lenient with PCs fleeing from combat, or taking a full heal-up before the normally expected four combat encounters. Compared to epic level, where a “campaign loss” could mean that Tiamat breaks loose to rain death all over the Empire, at novice tier it could mean that the PCs didn’t rescue farmer Pete’s prize pig before the goblins roasted it. Not their proudest moment, but not the literal end of the world either.

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