I signed up for one of the 13th Age playtests. I don’t remember which. I caught wind of it fairly early on and wanted to see what was up. Icons intrigued me.

But I have a lot of problems with the 13th Age Icons.

First, there are too many. Thirteen PTBs is hard to reconcile, let alone remember, and is only a perk for players who have achieved system mastery.

Once I had a couple years to reflect on it (how long has it been?) I can see the wisdom in having so many — it enables you to create multiple scenarios without ever reusing an Icon. But that’s a designer thing. Not a player thing.

And the problem comes from the Icons supposed of being a player thing. Players want choices but not that many choices. Not for what are essentially the gods of the world. I think that’s the part of a player’s guide that most people skip.

Even twelve would have been better. The one in the SRD has fourteen.

I noticed the 13th Age SRD doesn’t include information about the “core” Icons. There are some Third Party Icons, which sounds like the wrong move to me.

Since I couldn’t find information about the core Icons, I did my own research and came up with my own. Since I’ve gone and done that, what do I need from 13th Age? Imagine me slowly shaking my head. Oops.

Then, there’s the problem of using Icons in play.

You’re supposed to roll your relationship dice at the beginning of each session to see whether or not the Icon will grant the PCs some advantage during play — plus or minus some complications on the side? That sounds like “roll to pray.”

Whether or not that “advantage” (and maybe complication) actually benefits the players is still in the hands of the GM and his improvisation talents.

It’s a dramatic system, not a mechanic. It’s D&D for Vampire players.

Which admittedly, is where I see it appealing to people — maybe even the crowd who got into Pathfinder as a reaction to the release of 4e D&D.

Now here’s where I think Icons can be used to develop a mechanical system but “Icons” can be the quest-givers — literally or via agents — in my Rumor system. That’s my bridge from Heroic to Paragon to Epic tier — spanning thirty levels.

Icons can be abstract or they can be finite — better when they’re finite and can be used as the face of a conglomerate, a la Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2.

As the “face” of Hyperion, he’s always getting into your business.

Even when he’s only talking to you for most of the game. See also GLaDOS of Aperture Science — she’s a face (voice?) for the entire facility.

So there we have it — the face of quests. The clear opportunity for benefit comes from where the connection is made, and who with. Also, an order of priorities is given before the Rumor is rolled-up: “who does it benefit?”

Then the players can decide whether or not to take the quest.