The Opal Empire
Open Game Content on this page is designated with a green box like the one this sentence is in.
Since the Opal Empire has an Eastern flair rather than a Western medieval one, the standard classes aren’t going to work without a little fudging. This page describes changes to classes for characters in the Opal Empire.
Remember, what separates PCs from most NPCs is that a player character possesses at least one fighting spirit. This spirit is magical, powerful, and it probably has (or had) an agenda. When the spirit merged with the character, the character was able to overpower the spirit’s will and take its power. However, that merger can cause personality changes. A barbarian PC isn’t just a character who rages. She’s a character who is possessed by a raging spirit, perhaps the angry spirits of her ancestors. As she gains more levels, she is collecting more spirits, all of whom are angry.
The barbarian class is marked by its rage ability and its tie to “uncivilized,” outland cultures. As such, you won’t find elven or dwarven barbarians in the Opal Empire. However, there is plenty of room for barbarian humans, half elves, and half dwarves. Their rage usually stems from centuries of imperial oppression and slavery.
Actual “barbarians” in the cultural sense are, by definition, not part of society within the Empire. They come from human tribes outside the Empire, some enslaved inside the Empire. You can play a barbarian “in spirit” (pun intended) as a raging fighter. However, elves and dwarves with anger issues are rare in this culture, and somewhat shunned.
Barbarian spirits are sometimes destructive and chaotic. Consider having an angry spirit with a dark agenda that you may not subscribe to yourself, and struggle to control.
Rules: A barbarian has a -4 penalty to Status checks in the Court, but a +4 bonus in the Chains or Farmlands (player chooses, depending on the character’s origins).
Foppish, dandyish bards are rare. They’re almost always gay, too; however, not all gay bards are dandies. Most, in fact, are the usual reserved type of bard. Typical bards are quiet and thoughtful, artistic and cultured, friendly but socially cautious. They commonly express their magic through poetry or calligraphy (air-writing).
Bard spirits are closely associated with music, poetry, dance, and calligraphy.
In a world with no gods, a cleric may seem out of place. However, priests are a vital part of the Opal Empire. Viewpoints and theology differ widely between the races and cultures, but every cleric is marked by her ability to wield divine magic. This magic is collected from the prayers and sacrifices of the faithful at temples and shrines and invested in clerics through special rituals. Always found attached to a temple, clerics exist among all the races. All get their power directly from their temples or shrines, and must recharge regularly, or have no spells.
Roaming clerics without a temple do not exist, as they would have no spells (thus wouldn’t technically be a “cleric” class).
Cleric spirits can be any kind of ghost from the faith. An interesting twist is having a possessed spirit that is not a believer, or who adheres to a different philosophy or religion, creating internal conflict.
Rules: A cleric cut off from her temple is unable to refresh her daily powers. A cleric in good graces with her temple adds her level twice to all Status checks instead of once like other classes.
Fighters are people who are singly dedicated to the combat side of the martial arts, often eschewing the deeper concerns of the spiritual world. All other classes focus to some extent on fighting, but no other class is wholly directed at pure martial ability. Fighters appear everywhere there is need for muscle or law enforcement. The standard rules are perfect for the Opal Empire, with a couple exceptions.
In the Opal Empire, these are usually Imperial military, retired veterans, deserters, and mercenaries. To a lesser extent, you will find assassins and private guards. Occasionally, a fighter might be someone who practices combat as a form of art, regardless of its killing purpose.
Fighting spirits can come from sites of great battles and even ancient magical weapons.
Rules: Fighters do not typically wear heavy armor. See the Armor Rules. They still have high armor class values.
Monks are fighters who seek balance between the body and mind and spirit, using martial arts as a focus for their life. Some abilities are clerical in nature and may require mana imbuement from a temple. Most monks associate with a temple, in any case, as the secrets they want to learn are difficult to discover without a master’s help.
Monk spirits can come from absolutely anywhere. Since a monk is trying to find the perfect harmony, she might collect a variety of different spirits on her journey to enlightenment.
(The monk class appears in 13 True Ways, which is not yet available. The designers released a preview of the monk class. It is playable as-is in the Opal Empire.)
Rules: A monk must train with a monk of a level higher than hers to gain a level. Every monk is affiliated with a temple. The temple mistress trains all of its monks. An unaffiliated monk can gain advancements but cannot gain a level. This means that she will gain advancements until there are no more advancements available to earn, and then she will be stuck at that level until she finds a temple to accept her as a member. If a monk’s level reaches the level of her temple mistress, she must go seek out a new temple that has a monk of sufficient level to teach her.
The paladin class is marked by a combination of duty to an icon and martial ability. Paladins are warriors with a larger mission, using force — or at least threat of force — to accomplish their agendas. Their Mission and Code is what separates paladins from mundane fighters. In the Opal Empire, paladins are like samurai or ninja. They are unswervingly loyal to a cause, willing to die for their masters. They do not fear death in pursuit of a cause.
The typical paladin is a holy warrior, but “holy” has several interpretations in the Opal Empire. Usually, a paladin joins a temple and champion their causes. There are also paladins who align with the causes of the Icons, treating the viewpoints of their Icons as a sort of holy scripture. Each paladin is sworn to one of the Icons. Through their magical oath, they gain their powers. A paladin who fails her oath loses all of her daily powers until she has atoned to her Icon’s satisfaction.
Paladin spirits are single-minded about their Mission and Code. There is no room in a paladin’s soul for dissent. This makes paladins dangerous and a bit spooky.
Rules: A paladin must take a strong (2-die) relationship to the Icon to which she has sworn allegiance. Paladins wear distinctive armor and uniforms. They are proud of their oaths. A paladin gains a +5 bonus to Status checks involving their Icon and a +2 bonus to Status checks involving Icons allied to their own Icon. A paladin has a -5 penalty to Status checks involving Icons that oppose their own Icon.
The ranger class is marked by its connection to the wilderness. The Opal Empire is a vast network of roads connecting villages, towns, and cities with little left unmapped and unexplored. Thus, these rules redefine the role of rangers for this game.
Rangers in the Opal Empire are not usually the heavily-armored “Strider” types found in settings based on Western culture (or Tolkien). In this setting, rangers are scouts and weird hermits. They like living in the woods in little wood or mud huts they built themselves. They like nature and animals and trees. They find beauty and harmony in nature and feel that “civilization” is a move in the wrong direction. They often live off the land rather than in villages and cities. Rangers who dwell in cities live on the street (usually homeless), hiding in allies and sleeping on rooftops. They’re generally not armored at all.
Ranger spirits tend to be animals and trees and the like, though you might find one or more “champions of the forest” or “raging barbarian ancestor” among them.
Rules: A ranger’s animal companion is a normal animal that is possessed by a spirit. Rangers have a -4 penalty to Status checks in the Court, but a +4 bonus in the Farmlands or Streets (player chooses, depending on his origin).
A rogue in this world is much like a rogue in any other. The Opal Empire is full of tricksters, thieves, con artists, schemers, and rakes. The rogue class is perfect for all sorts of characters from all walks of life, from the mean streets of Opal City to the city’s finer courts, all across the lands of the Empire.
It doesn’t take much skill to be a thief in the Empire. It’s very easy to get into buildings (keyed locks are rare, paper often covers windows, and walls are thin and easily broken if you really need to get into a place). There are few empty places, as cheap labor (and slaves) means there are servants everywhere.
If you just want to play a thief type, you don’t have to choose the rogue class. Other strong choices include barbarians, fighters, rangers, wizards, and sorcerers. Monks, clerics, and paladins are unlikely to steal due to their spiritual backgrounds, but with the right back-story, anything is possible.
Rogue spirits are slippery, untrustworthy sorts. Certain animal spirits are interesting, too: consider a rogue with a monkey spirit.
Rules: Rogues have a -4 penalty to Status checks in the Court, but a +4 bonus in the Streets.
Sorcerers in the Opal Empire are practitioners of chaotic, elemental magic. Sorcery is command of raw, elemental power without the shaping and refinement that wizardry offers. Sorcerers are often considered crazed and dangerous madmen bent on everyone’s destruction. Their magic often has unpredictable side-effects, catching things on fire and such. It’s dangerous and wild, and the populace looks upon sorcerers with fear (and occasionally respect).
Sorcerer spirits tend to be elemental wisps and the spirits of other elemental creatures. That doesn’t mean you can’t borrow other spirits from time to time. Sorcerers don’t like boundaries and limits.
Rules: Elemental Magic
13th Age sorcerer magic is based on ties to certain dragons. Opal Empire sorcerer magic is based on the Four Forms: earth or solid, air or vapor, water or liquid, fire or energy. “Re-flavor” all of your sorcerer spells to reflect the Four Forms.
In general, the Four Forms incorporate 13th Age energy types and effects in the following way:
- air includes cold, thunder, and flying
- earth includes petrification, psychic, and polymorph/glamour
- fire includes fire and lightning
- water includes poison and acid
Here’s how I’d categorize sorcerer spells according to the Four Forms. Note that some high level spells mix more than one element and a couple mix elemental magic with spirit magic.
|1||Breath of the White||air|
|1||Chaos Bolt||random elemental|
|1||Resist Energy||selected elemental|
|3||Breath of the Green||water|
|3||Chaos Pulse||random elemental|
|5||Breath of the Black||water|
|5||The Elven Shadows*||earth|
|5||Three Dooms||random elemental|
|7||Breath of the Blue||fire|
|7||Stolen Faces||earth + spirit|
|7||Touch of Evil||earth + spirit|
|9||Breath of the Void||air + water + spirit|
|9||Calling the Blood||water + spirit|
Breath weapons and dragons
The Dragons of the Opal Empire are not frightening. The iconic dragons of the 13th Age rules are replaced here with The Four, iconic elemental beings. As such, you won’t find magical spells named “Breath of the Blue.” Instead, those spells will have names reflecting the elemental lords.
- Breath of the Master of Winds (1st, air) replaces Breath of the White (1st, cold). It’s a gust of freezing wind that buffets the target.
- Sorrow of the Lord of Lakes (3rd, water) replaces Breath of the Green (3rd, poison). It’s a torrent of rain that engulfs the target, causing them to cough and drown.
- Petrifaction of the Earth Prince (5th, earth) replaces Breath of the Black (5th, acid). It’s a fog of sand and dirt that slowly turns the target to stone.
- Crown of the Fire King (7th, fire) replaces Breath of the Blue (7th, lightning). It’s a mantle of fire that surrounds the target, burning him alive.
The spell Silver Flame (9th) requires a relationship to another Icon (to be determined).
Whenever a sorcerer casts a spell that calls upon the elements, roll dice and count 5s. Each 5 is trouble (nothing good happens on a 6). Roll 1d6 for an at-will spell. Roll 2d6 for an encounter spell. Roll 3d6 for a daily power.
If one 5 appears, the GM describes a minor effect of the power spilling out into the nearby environment. If two 5s appear, the GM describes a major effect of the power spilling out in the surrounding area (say, a hundred yards). If three 5s appear, the GM describes a catastrophic effect of the power spilling out into the region (say, a mile or two). The effects should reflect the original power that the sorcerer used, and reflect the level of the spell. High level spells cause far more damaging effects.
Society differentiates the every-day magician who casts spells for a living from the true wizard. Frankly, the work of magicians is repetitive and often boring, involving memorization and rote learning, and not very difficult compared to the think-on-your-feet challenge of being a wizard. Real wizards create the formulas used to mend clothing and build stone walls and fertilize wheat crops. Magicians memorize them and cast them repeatedly, making life easier for people for a price. Magicians learn their trade in apprenticeships and start doing useful work within a few months.
To become a real wizard, one must study the magical arts for a decade. Real prodigies might surface after six or seven years. Because the schooling is expensive, generally wizardry is the domain of the elite. The very rare (read: One Unique Thing) exceptions occur only when well-established (and usually elderly) wizards stop caring what society thinks and take on a “charity case” and apprentice a young, prodigal wizard. These so-called “porridge mages” are disdained by most other wizards and they are beholden to their masters for any kind of training (new Talents).
Wizards are masters of the Four Forms and Four Forces, bending and breaking the laws of nature. A wizard’s spells are not words and symbols and hand gestures. They are living magical energy that the wizard must find and trap in her head. A wizard binds magical effects to enslave these magical spirits. As she becomes more powerful, a wizard can control more living spells.
Ritual magic is the manipulation of not only trapped spells, but also the free-roaming magical spells in the world. These can be quite dangerous, but also quite powerful. The magical backlash of a failed ritual can bring down a torrent of enraged magic-spirits upon the caster. Since the world is teeming with roaming spirits, a wizard is rarely unable to find a nearby spirit to do her bidding. Of course, powerful spirits feel wizards violate the right order of the universe and resent their existence. They seek out wizards and kill them.
Wizard spirits come from all kinds of places, but all have an interest in controlling magical energy.
Rules: Replace any mention of “overworld” with spirit world. A wizard has an overworld advantage when she has stepped out of the physical world into the plane of spirits (including the Plane of Mirrors). Spells are actually spirits that wizards have trapped inside their bodies, somehow without going insane. Players of wizards are encouraged to play up a bit of eccentricity and madness.