This month for me featured online games – a playtest of a Yellow King RPG adventure, new releases from virtual tabletop providers, and Steve Dempsey ran his 60th Fearful Symmetries session. It’s not quite the same as playing in person, but I find that aside from the convenience of online play, players spend more time actually playing than in the flesh. I am still too much of a fearful Luddite to run an online game myself, but that day will come. This month we are attending the Origins Game Fair, where will will be showcasing The Fall of DELTA GREEN to convention goers. I love Origins because of its more relaxed opening hours, and its more modest size allows us to connect with our fellow industry professionals and gamers much better. That, and Cthulhu Confidental has been nominated for an Origins Award for Roleplaying!

This month’s new releases and pre-orders include, for 13th Age, The Book of Ages, the 13th Age Dice Tray, Book of Demons and The Battle Scenes Complete Bundle. The Fall of DELTA GREEN has been landing with Kickstarter backers in the States, and will soon be shipped to the Rest of the World, so if you want to be included in the first wave of pre-orders, now is the time to order from the store.

The Fall of Delta Green

A few brave Kickstarter backers now have their copies of our blockbuster GUMSHOE release. I am unable to restrain myself from repeating what Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes emailed us. It’s unsolicited, I swear.

I received my copy of Fall of Delta Green today and it’s marvelous. Even setting aside its obvious utility as an improvised cudgel, it is an inspiring and engaging tome that meets and exceeds the standards we have always tried to achieve with Delta Green. Thank you for devoting such time and passion to exploring and expanding our shared world and for introducing a new generation of gamers to such a rich and turbulent historical period. Great work, all of you, and please accept my very best wishes for the project’s success.

Ken Hite has a copy in a his squamous hands, and he sent an image of his favourite spread:

 

13th Age on Fantasy Grounds and Roll20

The two major virtual tabletop platforms now feature 13th Age content, so you can play online with your friends. Aside from an online character sheet, Roll20 has three adventures available including the newly released Swords Against the Dead.

Fantasy Grounds has released the 13th Age ruleset and the 13th Age Bestiary allowing you to create and run your own adventures on that platform.

The GUMSHOE Bundles of Holding

Over on Bundle of Holding, they are running two GUMSHOE bundles – collections of our PDFs at a modest price. It’s an effective way to introduce yourself to our GUMSHOE lines or with the second,bundlem fill out your collections. We’ll add the PDFs to your bookshelf when the bundles are complete. Those of you with DriveThruRPG accounts can find them there, too.

The Yellow King RPG

The Yellow King RPG and its associated books are moving along nicely. I had the pleasure of being involved in a an online game in which Robin Laws ran the game he wrote for this year’s Gen Con GMs. Colleen and Cat were my co-students in Belle Epoque Paris, where we tracked down a copy of the forbidden play by following the destruction it left in the wake of its passage. The last time I experienced the game was in an early playtest Robin ran at Dragonmeet, and it was interesting to contrast this final, polished experience. The conflict resolution allows players to select their intended outcomes, and then each makes a test to meet a margin of difficulty. So, you can choose to flee, to restrain or to kill. With creatures from Carcosa, fleeing is a good option unless you are thoroughly prepared. The players in turn narrate the outcome of their roll, and the GM summarises the outcome. The level of detail in conflict narration was just right, and felt satisfying. The system (like Cthulhu Confidential) also uses pushes instead of spends – so instead of spending points from Investigative pools, you have a list of Investigative abilities, and a number of pushes you can use with any of those abilities. I don’t think it would be a great deal of work to convert any GUMSHOE game to using this approach, which I’ve found sits better with people used to Fate tokens and similar mechanics. It’s still possible to snag Yellow King kickstarter packages from the store.

Forthcoming Releases

You can see almost all of our forthcoming products on this tag.

GDPR Compliance

On 25th May 2018 the European Union General Data Protection Regulations came into force. They are designed to ensure that companies respect the wishes of their customers and other contacts when it comes to privacy and communication, and express their policy in clear language. All of us have received a plethora of emails informing us of updated privacy policies, offers to re-opt in to mail lists, or statements that you will remain opted in unless you opt out. It’s been a bit of a headache for some companies, but my own view it’s quite healthy. It doesn’t just protect company’s contacts. it encourages good data hygiene by companies, and makes them consider why they need certain information.

Where companies have been compliant with GDPR rules before it was introduced, there was no need for them to contact their customers. We are in that fortunate position. There were a handful of members on our mail list who were not customers, but subscribers acquired over many years, and because we were doubtful of their provenance, we contacted them so they could opt back in if they want. I’ll unsubscribe those would didn’t respond.

We make use of what is called the “soft opt-in” which allows companies to contact their customers with information about their products, as long as they give a simple way of opting out.

You can control your marketing options from your bookshelf, or opt out of all emails in single click from any email we send, and our privacy settings are here.

Aside from our legal responsibilities, the best measure to me of whether we are bugging our customers too much are the unsubscribe rate, open rates and abuse reports. Abuse reports are close to zero, and unsubscribes less than 0.25% and about 40% of those we email open our Page XX emails on average. I am quite happy with that.

 

To accompany my Dreamhounds of Paris game sessions, I created a playlist on Rdio. (Search for “Dreamhounds of Paris” should the link betray us.) If that happens to be your streaming music service of choice, you can use it as is. Otherwise, these notes can help you recreate it elsewhere.

The playlist contains:

Kiki de Montparnasse, Kiki Chanté: You can choose to play Kiki, free-spirited chanteuse, artist’s model, and embodiment of the Bohemian life in 20s and 30s Paris, as a player character. If you do, this is what you would sound like, singing at the Jockey-Club.

Josephine Baker, The Very Best Of: The music of expatriate African-American songstress, actress and dancer Baker typifies the swank and style of the period. The surrealists admire her embodiment of superior non-Western values, not to mention her overtly sexual persona. They’re likely too skint to afford admission to her shows.

Mistinguett, Du Caf’ Conc’ au Music Hall: Another example of popular music the surrealists might hear in the backgrounds of their waking adventures. By the Dreamhounds period this singer and actress is already a huge star. Follow this embed-disabled YouTube link to see her in a movie musical from 1936. Note the suspiciously surrealist design of the staircase she comes down. Does it imply an undiscovered non-Euclidean connection between her and your PC surrealists?

Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Le Jazz Hot! Nightclub music from the band co-helmed by guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli. They fused the rhythms of Reinhardt’s Roma heritage to the African-American music of New Orleans and beyond to create so-called “gypsy jazz”, the period’s distinguishing popular sound. (The G-word is the standard term at this time, many decades before the effort to treat it as a slur.)

Erik Satie, Piano Works. The most surreal of the French classical composers of the time, you’ll recognize his haunting piano melodies from use in countless movie soundtracks. He helped Man Ray make the famous anti-sculpture Cadeau, an iron with nails protruding from it.

Francis Poulenc, Les mamelles de Tirésias. A comic opera version of a play by surrealist precursor Guillaime Apollinaire. The word “surrealism” first appears in Apollinaire’s preface to his play, and is later appropriated by movement leader Andrė Breton.

Le Groupe des Six: Selected Works 1915-1945. The Groupe des Six, or Les Six, reigned as Paris’ main avant garde classical composers during the Dreamhounds period. The surrealists included Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, George Auric, Germaine Tailleferre and Louis Durey. Because Les Six were heavily promoted by their arch-nemesis Jean Cocteau, the surrealists mostly disdained them. Some potential PCs, like Tristan Tzara, brave Breton’s heckling to collaborate with them anyway.


Dreamhounds of Paris and its companion The Book of Ants are now available for preorder. Print copies will debut at Dragonmeet in London, on December 6th.

The Hillfolk Kickstarter has been an unprecedented success, we never thought it would reach $25,000, let alone the $85,000 it’s currently on (13 hours to go), with over 2000 backers, so thank you all for your support. The kickstarter has some fantastic deals, from just $10 for the PDF version, $25 for the print and PDF bundle, and $55 for the book, the pdf, the companion book, playing cards, and semi-precious stones. A lot of these deals won’t be available after the Kickstarter ends so get in on it while you can.

 

 

This month sees the release of a new album from James Semple for Ashen Stars, Sisters of Sorrow, an adventure for Trail of Cthulhu and the long-awaited ebook version of Night’s Black Agents. The Dying Earth Revivification Folio is available in print and the 13th Age  RPG PDF has been updated.

So as not to swamp other games and yet all space to highlight 13th Age now has its own news feature Through the Scrying Glass.

Hillfolk

The big news this month is the Hillfolk RPG Kickstarter. With Hillfolk and DramaSystem, Robin D Laws does for dramatic character interaction what GUMSHOE did for investigative gaming. It’s already reached 17 stretch goals, giving you a plethera of new settings for your game, play a Cthulhu cultist, bootlegger, minion of a failed supervillain or even an Aztec. Pelgrane gets 50% of all the margin on physical items; Robin gets everything else. See what rewards are available here, and get the PDF within a few hours. (After backing the project, see Update #4 for instructions for PDF access.)
Hillfolk: DramaSystem roleplaying by Robin D. Laws -- Kicktraq Mini

 

Night’s Black Agents

This gorgeous book is out now – all pre-orders shipped and both the physical and eBook version are available from the store, as well as from your FLGS. The Dracula Dossier, Agent’s Companion and Dracula Unredacted are underway.

Trail of Cthulhu

  • Sisters of Sorrow is Adam Gauntlett’s new Great War adventure for Trail of Cthulhu, set on the claustrophobic confines of a German minelaying submarine, and it’s out now. His follow up, A Better Hole, also set in the WWI is in playtest.
  • Gareth is writing the second part of the ENnie-award winning Cthulhu Apocalypse, Green Unpleasant Land to which you can read the introduction, here.
  • Will Hindmarch has promised us the final finished copy for Eternal Lies by Friday, Jerome has began producing art for this massive supplement.
  • Scott Dorward is producing a framing adventure to go around Graham Walmsley’s Purist adventures, which will then be produced in print.
  • Another print collection Out of Space will include Repairer of Reputations, Flying Coffins, Many Fires and Hell Fire, with addtional material by JasonMorningstar, Adam Gauntlett and Robin D Laws.
  • Work continues on Dreamhounds of Paris, and its companion volume Livre de Fourmis  – Book of Ant and Mythos Expeditions.

Ashen Stars

With the new Tartarus, Ashen Stars has seen a resurgeance of interest, and we’ve released some more amazing music from James Semple and his team – All We Have Forgotten – ten tracks and four stings. If you bought Tartarus – redownload your zip and you’ll be able to listen to an extra track free of charge.

Listen to the theme music:

[audio:http://site.pelgranepress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Ashen%20Stars.mp3]

Owl Hoot Trail

Kevin Kulp will have the finished draft to me next month, and Rich Longmore who produced this image, will be illustrating and laying out.

Esoterrorists 2nd Edition

Phil Reeves, who provided much of the art for Night’s Black Agents, is working on art for Esoterrorists 2e. Esoterrorists 2e, as well as incorporating years of advice based on actual play experience, creatures and additional background material also includes Station Duty –  a setting for small-town horror, where OV investigators work with the locals to face threats in community.

Gaean Reach

Chris Huth is illustrating and laying out this game of Vancean revenge in space. You can see a sample of text and layout here.

 

Our October See Page XX is chock-full of goodies, from layout samples to Orcs, from Ravenloft to Robin D Laws, we’ve got it all. Darren Pearce of Fun Tyrant Games presents an alternative Icon for the 13th Age compatible, Nightfall. Robin D Laws sets the scene for his Depression era-Texan-circus DramaSystem setting. Jessica Hammer talks about innovation in play techniques. Ryven Cedrylle explores a new breed of Orc springing up across the 13th Age. Chris Huth, designer of the Night’s Black Agents layout, has done a stellar job of The Gaean Reach layout, check out sample pages. Jonathan Tweet talks about fixed monster damage for 13th Age. There is an extract from the introduction of the forthcoming installment of Cthulhu Apocalypse (Green Unpleasant Land), by Gareth Hanrahan. Simon Rogers gives us a roung up of all things Pelgrane, plus an update on all the news surrounding 13th Age. We also have two new playtesting opportunities, brand new releases, and the traditional See Page XX Poll.

Articles

New Releases

The Page XX Poll

Would you buy a set of 13th Age dice, priced around $15? (7 standard dice, d4 to d20 plus a d12 Icon die, 8 dice total)

View Results

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The Hillfolk Kickstarter is flying along, smashing through stretch goals.
This post is for you graph and stats afficianados from the delightful Kicktraq.

Hillfolk: DramaSystem roleplaying by Robin D. Laws -- Kicktraq Mini

After much preparation and furrowing of brows on the badlands, the clan council has decreed it: the Kickstarter campaign for Hillfolk has now gone live! Throw in with the Lion clan or the Wolf clan and help bring this labor of love from the manuscript stage to finished product. Backers of the project receive a complete draft text of the game, so you can get started right away. For much more on the game, the book, and the goodies, hop on over to the freshly activated Kickstarter page.

Update: The first stretch goal is funded!

Continuing a basic GUMSHOE motif, Ashen Stars encourages GMs to find inspirations for scenarios in the news of the day. In so doing, it follows in the issue-oriented footsteps of the Star Trek franchise, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and the general observation that all science fiction is really about the present.

For example, you might springboard from the recent spate of scientific studies exploring the connection between genetics and political beliefs. The PC team of freelance troubleshooters takes a contract to return the supposedly brainwashed daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate to her homeworld. They find her on a planet resettled by members of a reactionary nufaith. Investigation leads them to the colony’s water system, which turns out to be dosed by chemicals that activate the complex genetic response predisposing people to loyalty, obedience, and conformism. Do they concentrate only on spiriting away their target, hoping she’ll return to form when the substance clears her system? Or do they take it on themselves to restore the population’s free will by destroying the chemical mechanisms of social control? And if they do this, will the people they’re saving thank them for it?

A hurdle any SF RPG faces is the lack of default setting assumptions. From the earliest days of D&D, we have been accustomed to a portmanteau fantasy world. This hybrid creature sprang from the experimental vats of the wizards Gygax and Arneson, combining the Howard sword and sorcery and Tolkien epic literary fantasy modes into a new fusion. For gaming purposes, it seemed perfectly natural that it would then go on to blend in tropes from mythology and the works of later writers in both of the big two fantasy traditions. The resulting fairy tale medievalism combo platter would then go on, through gaming-inspired fiction, to feed back into prose fantasy. While some fantasy games set themselves in very distinct worlds like Glorantha or Harn, a variation on this blenderized world remains one’s starting assumption when you hear of a new fantasy game.

Because it encompasses so many sub-genres and formats, and because audiences valued authors who  built their own unique speculative futures, the blenderizing trick never quite worked on SF. Even in movie and TV space opera, the vibes of Star Trek and Star Wars are sufficiently different that a satisfying mash-up seems impossible.

So while a new SF RPG can (and ought to) key players into the setting’s core assumptions by reference to familiar tropes, its setting will be more distinct than the default fantasy setting.

That leaves two choices before the game creator: to go generic, providing separable, modular rules chunks GMs can assemble into settings of their own choice, or to go specific, presenting a distinctive galaxy that best fits the overall objectives of the game design. Each option is desirable to a subset of buyers. But when it comes to the decision-making process that gets people to buy games, the specific beats the general. As much as they might want to scratch-built or customize their own settings, that impulse is an abstract and intellectual one. It does not answer the key question fueling any RPG: what do we do? A distinctive setting appeals to the emotions, with narrative hooks and visual imagery. In short, it fires the imagination. Even if a game can be presented in generic fashion, a specific iteration that shows how to use it will grab more attention than a toolkit.

(After your rules gain traction through a vivid setting, you might then be able to repackage them in a successful toolkit format. That’s the product history of Hero Wars / HeroQuest in a nutshell.)

The specific design goal of Ashen Stars is to take the investigative play model of the GUMSHOE system and apply it to the space opera genre. Thus it also makes sense to build the setting around the needs of the roleplaying experience in general, and of investigative play flow in particular.

Watch this space for further elaboration…

How could I have missed this? Robin Laws is interviewed in depth over on Flames Rising. He discusses GUMSHOE, Stone Skin Press and other projects.

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