Rumors and mysteries shroud the history of The Dragon Empire, instilling a ravenous hunger for information in all who read about it. Twelve ages of the world have passed, many of their events forgotten. As adventurers it is your duty to dig and find the lost relics, find the truth of legend and even create your own history of this world. Strap on your creative caps, because you’re going for a ride with this campaign setting!
The Dragon Empire is masterfully created by the people over at Pelgrane Press. In many ways, it reminds me very much of Tolkien’s work in Middle Earth; A rich history with many things to discover and explore, but just enough to keep you interested. Both settings encourage creating your own stories to fill in the gaps. It goes without saying that these two settings are insanely different, but as we all know they’re inherently related by gebre. Thanks again, Tolkien; for creating fantasy as we know it.
But enough praise for him and back onto the subject. The structure of the Dragon Empire’s history in the 13th Age core rules is amazingly done by listing almost every nugget of information as a rumor or legend rather than cold hard fact. There are some, yes, but for every one fact there are ten rumors. The Dragon Empire is a game master’s gold mine, whether you run the actual setting or not. You can pick this setting apart and build your own Frankenstein campaign setting, meshing it with any other enjoyable fantasy tropes of your choice. That said, 13th Age plays heavily on fantasy tropes, particularly apparent in the Icon system. Even better, the book includes three maps throughout and if you buy the GM’s Screen and Guidebook, you get a stand alone version of the map, inflated to 10″ x 17″ in all of it’s amazing and colorful glory. Pretty sweet, huh?
Truth be told, it’s very hard to find a frame for. Map aside, this world has more integrated into it than some pretty imagery. The setting itself is deeply tied to the idea of Icons, though only in the lore talking about three Icons that aren’t major forces in the 13th Age: The Wizard King, The White Dragon and The Green Dragon. However, they do go into some small amount of detail as to how those Icons fell from power; and it is (again) done through rumors and legends. Except for the Wizard King, we know what happened to that creepy bastard. Much to my disdain, most of the parts of the map that I find most interesting actually aren’t covered in the book (i.e Creel, the Stalking Trees, Torin’s Glory, Bitterwood). I really want to know more about them, but perhaps that’s due to the lack of explanation. It almost seems like it was done intentionally. Simply for the purpose of giving you some names to imagine your own definitions and history as to why the said areas hold those names.
In and of itself, that is an amazing stroke of brilliance, whether the areas have history or not. Things like this add to the arsenal of a GM for an open world sort of setting. As for points that they cover in the book, almost nothing is set in stone. Details for notable points on the map are nothing more than ambiguous musings of NPC cartographers and historians, speculating the historical significance of any given point. Pretty much, the descriptions are there to serve as adventure hooks and plot seeds for people to utilize in creating their game within the Dragon Empire. I can’t praise it enough; beautifully done, gang.
Expanded greatly in 13 True Ways, the major cities of Axis, Horizon, The Cathedral and Drakkenhall are amazing places to perhaps even hold a whole campaign. Start to finish. 13 True Ways takes the descriptions provided in the original rule book and zooms in ten fold on them to really paint a beautiful picture of what these cities are like. Hint: They’re vastly different and all have something to offer. Axis, being the domain of The Emperor, captures a Rome-esque feel, Colosseum and all, carved out of a hollowed out volcano. Segments in the book hold true to the original writing style of 13th Age and play masterfully on rumors and speculation, making the possibilities open and endless for any campaign.
Stay Metal \m/