Easily my favorite mechanic in 13th Age is called the One Unique Thing. The line in the book pertaining to this idea is as follows:

“Each character should have one unique feature you invent for him or her when you create the character. Your one unique thing is an unusual trait that sets your character apart from every other hero. The moment when all the players sit down together with the GM to create their characters’ one unique thing is often the moment when a campaign comes to life.”

-13th age, Page 31

Now what does this mean? This is a random thing that is not mechanically beneficial but can help develop the story or simply just make your character interesting. Wow, isn’t that nice? RPG gamers have been doing this thing for decades but FINALLY there’s a system that makes it part of the rules! Holy cow! From my experience, since I game with a lot of rather creative people, the one unique thing is a huge part of the story line of a campaign. The rulebook itself provides some quick examples such as “I’m a deathless pirate whose soul is trapped in a gem controlled by The Blue” but most of the ones in the book seem a little one dimensional to me. Don’t get me wrong, though, there’s definitely some good ones in there.

The best one unique thing I have ever seen was actually used in a 4e game (boo, hiss, I know. Get over it, we liked it for a while). At the time, 13th Age was still in the playtest stages and we liked what we saw, it just wasn’t complete enough to run a spanning game with it. But, regardless we liked the idea and translated it to 4e temporarily to spice things up along with the Icon Relationship mechanic, which will be covered later. We had a character that was playing the Warlord class, he was a dwarf, and his name was Incendius. His one unique thing was “I was once a part of a mining expedition that dug a little too deep and ended up in the Diabolists living room. She enslaved my crew and sent me into the world with this two handed maul. She said to send people to her with it.” So that alone is pretty freaking cool! But it gets better: Whenever he killed somebody with a melee attack using that maul, he would roll a d4. On a one, the body was sucked into the ground and delivered to the Diabolist, in return she released a dwarf from her custody. One could argue that it was a mechanical one unique thing, but I believe it was more for story flavor. The guy running the game liked the idea, and I’m sure if he had a recurring villain in mind, he wouldn’t have allowed this idea to work for that specific character for whatever reason he deemed to explain it as. That’s what an RPG is though, no matter what system your running: a push and pull, a compromise between story and rules.

What a damn good idea that was. Everybody’s character in the party had this astounding fear of Incendius, with the idea that if we didn’t keep fighting, he would turn on us just to have something to send to the Diabolist. Not all one unique things have to be so in depth though. I’ve seen both sides of the coin, now that I’ve dedicated a large part of my gaming career to introducing people to this wonderful system. In my ongoing campaign, (which has been running for almost 3 years now, holy crap) we have a blend of player experience levels.  We have a dwarf paladin that’s one unique thing is as simple as “My armor is a family heirloom and it changes color from blue to red with my emotions, hiding them is harder than I would like.” Bam. Simple, interesting, plenty of room for role play and character interaction. Our intermediate player has an elf cleric whose baby sister was murdered by the forces of the Orc Lord, so her mission in life is to foil his plans. Our more experienced player has basically fleshed out a whole story with his OUT (which is the acronym i use more often than not for the One Unique Thing). Sometimes I’m a little sour about it simply because it forces me to focus on his character. I’m not sour because I don’t want to focus on his character, don’t get me wrong, but maybe sometimes the players wouldn’t like to. That subject is for a different post though in the GM advice section, managing the spot light can be tricky.

Here are some one unique things I’ve played games with for your character if you’re somewhat stumped on an idea:

  • Forgeborn character: I am actually an animated suit of armor. My wearer is still inside of me and sometimes the magic that animates me leaks into his body to make him wake up a little.
  • Any Magic user: I carry around late master’s encoded journal, I’m convinced it holds an arcane secret of the Age.
  • Twygzog character (fungaloid race): People think I have dandruff but that’s actually just spores.
  • Any character with a literature related background: One of my peoms was read by the Archmage. Before I knew it, the patron in it came to life as an ink golem and lives his life thinking he’s an actual person.
  • Any race: I am actually convinced that I am a(n) (insert race).
  • Necromancer class (13 True Ways book): My summoned creatures are actually my ancestors
What are some of your best One Unique Things? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!
Stay metal \m/