Planescape 13th Age: Bariaur

A while back, I did a Planescape conversion for D&D4E. Since I’m on a 13th Age kick right now, I thought I’d see if I could re-port those races over to 13th Age. Now, I considered taking my 4E incarnation as the base, but I decided against that. Instead, I went back to the source material and ported from there.

Today, I present the Bariaur. Once again, I am avoiding the sexual dimorphism because we’ve progressed beyond that, honestly. I like the results thus far, and I’d love to see someone try them out at their table. I’ll definitely give them a whirl once I get the chance.

Side note: it’s pretty easy (and lots of fun) to come up with 13th Age races.



Physically resembling the crossing of a human with a ram or ewe, the bariaur are a carefree people. Freedom, laughter, the joy of victory: these are to be valued above honor, duty, or gold. They tend to have a wanderlust that some view as irresponsibility, but this isn’t the case. They tend to be sociable and friendly without being overly trusting. Due to their planar nature, some of them possess a magical resistance. Others – whether because of horns or just because it’s fun – take pleasure in beating their heads against their opponents.

+2 STR or +2 INT

Choose one of the following racial powers:


Once per battle, when you make a melee attack, you may make an additional 1d4 weapon attack.

Champion Tier: On a 16+, you also daze the opponent.

Mystic Resistance

Once per battle, you may add a +d6 to your defense against one magic-based attack.

Champion Tier: If the attack hits you, you may use Mystic Resistance again this battle.

I’m Hardheaded (Pre-req: Bariaur, Headbutt): Add the Escalation die to your Headbutt damage.

Adaptive Resistance (Pre-req: Bariaur, Mystic Resistance): You may add the die after the roll.


I’m terrible with names, but let’s go with Planefate for now. I’m a backer of Fate Core on Kickstarter (you should be too, if you’re able), and I can’t help but try and hack Planescape into Fate Core (it’s a sickness, one that apparently other designers share).

I’ve done a little bit of work with this in the past, although at the time, I hadn’t played either Fate or Cortex+, so I was a bit confused by the similarities between the two systems. Fast forward to now, and I’ve been able to play a few sessions of different implementations of Fate (Bulldogs!, Atomic Robo, Dresden Files) and some Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (a Cortex+ implementation). I’ve also several conversations about Alignment in various places around the Internet (the most recent one on G+ here).

This post serves as a jumping-off point, a place to jot some quick thoughts down so they don’t get lost.

Everything’s a Character

Still one of my favorite things about Fate, and a concept that the designers carried forward into Fate Core. Each plane must have its own Aspects (I talked about something similar here).


Planar Influence

Each plane should have an influence on the adventurers. This is similar to some of the work I did in the post in the last link (involving stress), but I really need to make this a major part of this conversion.


I know a major part of this is going to be what skills the characters have. I’m still thinking about what the skills should be, although I kind of want to use something similar to Dungeon World’s moves. I’m not sure if this would work, but it seems reasonable, as it covers a lot of the things a D&D character would need to do. On the other hand, that may not fit really well with Fate. I’ll probably have to try it out and see what happens.


One of the tenets of Fate Core is scalability. Personal and epic conflict should both be viable parts of the campaign. In fact, I’d argue both should occur, but that’s a discussion for another time. For the purposes of this, I mean that it should be just as possible to play Planefate without the protagonists ever leaving Sigil or a Gatetown. An epic, plane-hopping campaign should also be doable.


Let me know your thoughts here, on G+, or Twitter. I know I’m crossing the streams here, but good design pulls ideas from wherever.

Initial Thoughts on Planescape Icons

Rob Donoghue has been doing a very thought-provoking series of articles on Icons in 13th Age. In case you didn’t know, Rob’s one of the best designers I’ve come across because his thought process is meticulous and yet easy to follow. Before reading this post, go and read his posts here and here.

Done with his? Good. Rob commented on one of those posts that it’d be easy to do this with the Lady of Pain and the factions in Sigil. I responded that it would be even more awesome to personify the planes themselves and have the powers be these new Planar Icons’ most powerful representatives.

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The Lady of Pain, Mythender

If you’ve been following me at all here or on Twitter, you should be aware of two things. One is that I love Planescape, and two is that I love Mythender. Today I’m going to talk about the two of them together.

Mythender is an awesome game that’s about to come out. It’s the brainchild of Ryan Macklin, and it’s all about deicide. He was kind and generous enough to let me (and others) get a sneak peek at it before he releases it into the wild, and I have to say it’s been fun reading it.

As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about Planescape. The marriage of these two things that I love just seemed natural.

Today, I’m going to make the Lady of Pain a Mythender. Let me cover some ground rules first.

  • This is my own take on her, so I may play with the canon somewhat. Deal with it if that’s a problem for you. The Lady of Pain is a Mythender, and this is what allowed her to enter Sigil and slay Aoskar. I’ll probably stat her up as a Myth in a later post, but it’s also fun to think of her remaining a Mythender even as ruler of Sigil.
  • I’m not going to delve too much into the mechanics (turns out creating a Mythender doesn’t require system knowledge, just knowledge of character creation). Regular readers might recall my post here where I did this before.
  • Planescape and the Lady of Pain are the property of Wizards of the Coast. I can’t take credit for them or allow you to use them in any context.

The Lady of Pain

Crusader Apostate of Portals

The Dream of Portals

A floating sea of mortals writhes within a grey void. They scream as some of them have their bodies ripped apart by the random opening and closing of portals. Others disappear into portals only to be vomited out seconds later as unrecognizable masses.


What belief or ideal do you fight for?

The magic of portals should be free and available to all, and there should be a place free from all Myths.

What happened to make you so angry with the world?

I saw the tyranny created by a so-called “god” and his ability to control portals by mere whim.

What reward do you expect?

The oblivion of non-existence

What Myth did you devote yourself to?

Aoskar, god of Portals

What was done to make you flee your oaths and bonds?

I saw the havoc wreaked when Aoskar refused a band of refugees safe passage back to their land through one of his precious portals. The pursuing band of yugoloths spared none of them, myself included.

What did you give that can never be replaced?

I gave up my emotions. Never again will I feel joy, or sadness, or anger.


  • My shadow of razors … is my weapon. (Intrinsic)
  • My army of dabus … is my weapon. (Companion)
  • My ability to project thought without speech … is my weapon. (Intrinsic)

Mortal Form

A beautiful woman with porcelain skin, wearing robes.

Mythic Forms

Personal Blight

Mortals begin to doubt their faith … in my presence.

Paragon Form

I appear as… a robed woman with glowing eyes.

Supernatural Form

I appear as… a robed woman with glowing eyes and no facial expression that hovers above the ground.

Godly Form

I appear as… a robed woman with glowing eyes and no facial expression, with a crown of razors, that hovers above the ground.

Fate’s Powers

My fate allows me to… imprison mortals’ bodies and minds, and open and close portals.


  • Bloodlust

Comments? Questions? Leave a comment, email me, or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Intelligence as an Attribute

I had a thought the other day. It might be because I’m now getting to play in @MilwaukeeJoe‘s Revenge of the Iron Lich play-by-blog game (you can catch up on the antics at his Grind4E blog) or that the Crucible of the Gods charity run redux is coming up in a little over a week.

Fourthcore is very much about pitting the players against the DM. To that end, I started thinking about the role of Intelligence as an attribute in D&D. I remembered this post along the way. If Intelligence represents knowledge that your character has that you don’t, can’t that be represented with skills better than an attribute? I don’t think people are honestly roleplaying characters smarter than themselves (unless they are truly gifted individuals), so why not just dispense with it entirely?

This brings the number of attributes down to five, and my brain then transitioned to thinking about Cortex+ with its increasing die traits (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12). There are five die-types there! I could get the characters to map each of the remaining attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma) to a die type. How cool is that?

Remember this post where I talked about using Distinctions (not Aspects as I mistakenly said in that post) to simulate the influence of the planes on the characters? Couple that with this attribute as die type and we start to get an interesting dynamic for playing Planescape without using D&D. (How dare I suggest such a thing!)

This isn’t a fully fleshed-out idea but I think I’ve got something interesting cooking here. What do you think? Leave a comment or tweet at me.

Don’t Neglect Your Update

Thought I’d give a small update on what’s happening around here recently. I haven’t lost steam on the Planescape 4E stuff, I’m just taking a slight break and exercising other parts of my designer brain (also, editor brain is coming online, in case you missed it).

The thing I’m currently hip-deep in is Don’t Rest Your Head, an awesome RPG put out by Evil Hat (I’ve talked about them before). I’m thinking on whether to take a run at this.

The other thing is that one of my submissions to Wizards of the Coast is in a tentative state. I’ve got to put together an outline to show them something more, as my initial pitch intrigued them (Aside: I love the word intrigued).

That’s what I’m currently working on. I know some of you are clamoring for how in the world I would approach the factions in Planescape, but I’m still early on in my thought process there.

The Planes, Fate, and Cortex+, Or, The One Where I Apologize and We Move On

Lady of Pain CrestIt finally happened. I screwed up. I mistakenly talked about Aspects in Cortex+. The problem with that is Aspects are a thing in FATE, not Cortex+. Color me embarassed.

The concept stands though. I got a good bit of feedback from some amazing people that I’ll list at the end. Credit where credit is due. First, let me give you some insight into my thought process. There were two blog posts that led me to this recent series of blog posts.

The Planes are Characters

The first was one from Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions found here, in which he talks about Gumshoe (which I almost nothing about). The part that struck was actually in relation to Fate, and I’ve replicated it below.

Designer’s note: Folks familiar with my blather about how — in Fate — “everything is a character” might notice a similar principle at work in both of these long term themes. Each takes the notion that Gumshoe is a mystery game and decides to locate some of that mystery in the characters themselves, directly or indirectly.

Everything is a character? Light bulb! The planes are a character! They have “motivations” (really there is a dominant philosophy at work while there). Let’s run with that.

The Planes Impose Stresses

Next was a post from Ryan Macklin (from the Internet) about hacking stress in Cortex+. I took that general concept and added to my the planes are characters. Light bulb! The planes have motivations / philosophies that they impose on visitors (our brave adventurers).

Characters Have the Power

Both Adam Minnie (Twitter, Google+) , Cam Banks (Twitter, Google+), et. al. weighed in on Google+ to ask questions and help me clarify my thoughts on it. Big thanks to them and Fred and Ryan for the inspirations.

Cam in particular led me to the following mechanic which I will steal shamelessly for use. The quote is below:

In general, I prefer situations where the player gets to choose whether or not they do something bad for their character without the GM pushing that button mechanically. Distinctions for example earn you a d8 for your roll OR you get a d4 (still technically a bonus, but more likely to roll a 1) AND a Plot Point. Because the game revolves around the PP economy, this is an interesting choice to make and not only affects the narrative, it puts it all in the player’s hands.

For now, I’ll put the power in the character’s hands by allowing them to add a d4 + Action Point or d8 for any roll in which they let me “push the stress button.” That may not give me the incentive I want, but we’ll use it for now.

This presupposes that I’ve made the characters use motivations instead of alignments, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I think the motivations (which I might call a worldview) have a better feel than the old alignment system. It will also help take care of Lawful stupid and Chaotic stupid hopefully.


So I’ve think we’ve made some progress and given you insight into my thought process. I’ve been accused of making weird connections before, but I think this is all pretty reasonable. Leave a comment or ask me a question below. Think I’m on to something here? Something you might use in your own game? You can fire off a tweet to me on Twitter or a post on G+.

Also, be sure to check out the Planescape 4E page for links to all the pages.

Hacking the Planes with Cortex+ Distinctions

Lady of Pain CrestSo last time I talked about belief and the planes. I wanted to lay some groundwork before diving into these posts. Let me be clear that I am not entirely sure what will come of this. This might peter out in one more post. This might turn into a wonderful, long run of posts on the topic. We’ll have to see.

Before I get to concept of stress, I had a thought about using Distinctions from Cortex+ for the planes. It will be easier to use an example plane than to talk in generalities, so let’s pick one that lends itself well to this sort of thing. How about Carceri?

Welcome to Prison

Carceri is the prison plane (you might recognize it better as its alias, Tarterus). Six layers are arranged in concentric shells (like matryoshka dolls). The alignment of choice here ranges from neutral evil to chaotic evil, and exiles and other outcasts call this plane home. The Red Prison is the native home of the gehreleths, strange treacherous creatures raised from those who die here.

Carceri’s Aspects

So this plane is fairly simple. We could word things several ways, but for point of discussion, let’s assume there are the following:

  • Treachery is the path to power.
  • Power is the only goal worth pursuing.
  • Lies are truth.

How’s that for conflict instigation?


I know I said I was going to cover this in another post, but let’s go ahead and take a crack at it, shall we? Let’s take an example party.

  • Thief (of the Honor Among Thieves variety)
  • Paladin
  • Mage (primarily concerned with arcane knowledge)
  • Cleric (of some flavor of good deity)

Now, let’s see what stresses we can cause in Carceri. The paladin and the cleric are going to be uncomfortable here. The thief will likely be okay some of the time and none too happy other times. The mage may be indifferent to all of it.

So, the paladin and the cleric will gain the suspicious or angry stress, for example. If they’re normally calm and reasonable, suspicious makes the most sense. If they’re emotional, go for anger. The thief could gain the suspicious or overconfident  stress, depending on whether he thought he could “game the system” or just wanted to be careful. The mage might gain distracted stress, because they’re not paying enough attention.


So I’ve think we’ve made an interesting start here. We still need to translate those stresses into mechanics, but I think we’ve got an interesting system working here. Leave a comment or ask me a question below. You can fire off to a tweet to me on Twitter, too.

Also, be sure to check out the Planescape 4E page for links to all the pages.

The Planes and Belief

Lady of Pain CrestThis one will be short and more of a conceptual post, but I must write my thoughts down before they disappear into the recesses of my mind.

Note: Updates have been non-existent due to a personal matter that I might find the time to blog about later. For now, I’m going to keep it close to the vest, as I’m not sure how to express all of it in words.

The planes are belief-made-reality. This is the conceit that Planescape runs with. It is the literary theme underneath the entire latticework of weird people and places. Beliefs are important – they matter – because they determine reality. Take a minute and reread that last sentence. I would conjecture that a lot of us live our lives this way. We talk about changing paradigms, shifting our perspective or point of view. We even say things like, “Well, that’s all well and good, but this is the real world.”

I’ve been talking about how to represent the planes mechanically, but let’s take a step back and unpack what I just wrote. Conceptually, the plane is a belief (or belief system) made manifest. Shouldn’t this concept impose itself on its visitors somehow? Part of the danger with the Gray Waste was its effect on the soul of the visitor. It slowly sapped their will to leave. We can mechanize that (as I showed in several posts found here, here, here, and here). We can even craft mechanics for Limbo (here). What about Acheron or Ysgard? How do we mechanize their effects?

I wanted to think about how to craft something robust and yet more consistent. For context, take a look at this post by Ryan Macklin. That’s what I want to strive for. Something that looks like this. I bet you’re thinking, “What does Cortex+ have to do with D&D?” Everything. If there is a way to bolt that on to D&D 4E to get the effect I want, I’ll use it.

I’m not sure how to do this yet, but I’m wanting each plane to impose a stress on a player character. At the very least, it could be a mood influencer with a minor mechanical effect. I want to shoot for something more robust. I want the player characters to feel and react differently when they’re on a particular plane.

Leave a comment and let me know if you think there’s some value here. I’ll probably be thinking about it anyway, and that may or may not work itself into more blog posts.

Maybe I’ve just completely confused you. Ask me a question below or fire one off to me on Twitter.

Also, be sure to check out the Planescape 4E page for links to all the pages.