Leveraging Your Relationships: Active Icon Relationship Rolls in 13th Age

It seems as if one of the most brilliant and also stupefying mechanics in 13th Age seems to be the relationship roll.  The mechanic is a great way to tie your character to the larger figures in the campaign setting, and its a great tool to remind you to inject some random improvisational elements to a game session, but it can be daunting.

Might it not be possible for a PC to actually leverage their relationship with one of the Icons?  Maybe proactively use the relationship dice in their favor, or at least attempt to do so?  I’m going to posit here a couple a ways to proactively utilize the relationship dice in a session.  I also suggest a few ground rules when it comes to proactive relation ship rolls.

  • Each type of proactive relationship roll can only be used one in a game session, and only if the GM agrees that it makes sense to use in a given situation.
  • Before making the roll, if a proactive relationship roll is attempted, the player must chose what Icon Relationship will be used, if the PC has more than one Icon Relationship.  
  • You don’t need to invoke the same Icon for both proactive relationship rolls if you do use both forms in one game session, but once you attempt one type of proactive Icon Relationship roll, you cannot attempt the same proactive roll with a different Icon.
Name Dropping

Whenever a character would make a social skill check of some sort, whether attempting to persuade a guard to let you pass or intimidate bandits to avoid a fight, you can invoke the name of your patron and discuss why you are important to that Icon, their organization, or their plans.
If you fail a your social skill check, you may immediately attempt a Name Dropping to recover from that failure, but if you fail both the social skill check and the Name Dropping check, consequences could be very dire.
A positive successful Name Dropping check for a positive Icon relationship is going to directly connect you to the Icon or their important agents, and why you are important or valuable to that Icon.  A positive successful Name Dropping check for a negative Icon relationship will convince your target audience that you have been a significant thorn in the side of your Icon or their organization, and that if you can challenge that Icon, you must be a force to be respected.  Characters that have a conflicted relationship may chose to decide if they are attaching themselves to their Icon or distancing themselves from the Icon.
Rolling a 5 on the Icon relationship roll does all that a 6 does, but with the added setback of an agent of the Icon being aware that someone is invoking the Icon’s name in the general location of the PC that has made the check.
Securing Aid

Whenever you are in a location where your Icon would have a least a few agents that are active, you can attempt to Secure Aid from your Icon.  The GM will determine what form the aid takes, but it should be in line with what the characters actually need.  For example, a badly wounded character, aid is most likely going to come in the form of healing.  If characters are having a difficult time finding a lost ruin, aid may come in the form of a guide or a map.
Failing a Securing Aid check means that the character simply cannot find an agent of the Icon to whom they have a relationship.  Rolling a 5 on the relationship check will bring the PC to an agent that can help them, but that agent will immediately expect to be able to call on the PCs for a mission to directly benefit  (or hinder) the Icon.  Rolling a 6 on the relationship check indicates that the PC is well regarded enough that the agent is willing to extend aid to the PC without immediately expecting a favor in return.
A successful Securing Aid check on the dice with a positive Icon relationship means that the PC has found an agent of their Icon that is well disposed towards them.  A successful Securing Aid check on the dice with a negative Icon relationship means that the PC has actually found agents that actively work against the Icon and the Icon’s goals.  If a character has a conflicted relationship, it is up to the player to decide if they are seeking an agent of their Icon or an agent working against their Icon.

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