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In the latest episode of their scratchy-voiced podcast, Ken and Robin review the hustle, bustle & lobsters of Gen Con 2018 and talk to Emily Reinhart.

In the latest episode of their chronologically correct podcast, Ken and Robin talk Innmsouthing your scenario ending, Cagots, gaming David Lynch, and the Phantom Time Hypothesis.

In the latest episode of their highly secure podcast, Ken and Robin talk same foe/different games, China’s Sea Dragon data heist, protagonists, and Witold Pilecki.

Replication

A scenario seed for Ashen Stars

The lasers pick up a contract from an independent scientific consortium to investigate the fate of one of their Sherlock-class survey vessels. It sent out a distress call several days ago and has not been heard from since. The Linnaeus was orbiting a supposedly barren planet in the backwater Samian system when its call went out.

Arriving at Samian-III, the team finds the wreckage of the downed ship planetside, with no survivors. They also locate its shuttle, drifting in the supposedly dead world’s now teeming ocean. The murdered bodies of its crew members have been stashed in their biomatter collection pods—as if to prevent the corpses from contaminating planetary life.

Contrary to past surveys, a rich ecosystem of aquatic animals exists on Samian III. More bizarrely, they are not just similar to, but exactly the same as, species from Earth’s PreCambrian period. The team’s Xenobiology expert identifies specific organisms, until now known only from fossils. Included are the disc-shaped sea floor dweller Obamus coronatus and the grooved ovoid Attenborites janeae, With so little to go on, paleontologists were never able to reliably assign them to family groups. But here they swim about in abundance, ready to give up the secrets of their DNA.

The crew’s investigation leads to missing biologist Kan Kanfar and an underwater biodome. Before serving in the Mohilar War, he studied these creatures, known collectively as the Ediacara Biota. Slowly dying from toxin exposure sustained during the conflict, he has thrown moral qualms aside, employing an ancient alien technology to finally crack the secrets of his field. After irreparably altering a planet by setting it on the path to an Earth-like ecosystem, a few murders of pesky scientists meant little to him.

He has leagued himself with pirates, who downed the Linnaeus in exchange for a promise of priceless treasure. Does the team deal with him by informing his murder-happy confederates that the loot he has promised is actually only biological data on soft-shelled fauna? Or do they recognize that his judgment has been impaired as a consequence of his service to the Combine, and try to remand him for treatment?

In the latest episode of their well-stocked podcast, Ken and Robin talk dungeons, carbon reclamation, Jonathan Tweet and Julius Evola.

Friday the 13th Age is upon us once again! From Friday the 13th through Sunday the 15th, selected 13th Age Roleplaying Game products are on sale for 13% off at the Pelgrane store store, through this special link or using voucher code FRI@13THAGE in the store.

The discount applies to our full range of products, including Battle Scenes bundles, but excluding other bundles, products on pre-order and 13th Age Glorantha and Campaign Coins (which aren’t Pelgrane products).

If you’re looking to fill the missing gaps in your own 13th Age collection, this is a great opportunity. And feel free to forward this email to anyone you know who might enjoy 13th Age—now’s a good time for them to buy the essentials.

Want to participate in the event on Twitter? Use and follow the hashtag #fridaythe13thage

Useful 13th Age links:

Rapid fire Qs include arm-wrestling, aftershave and the game we’d bargain our lives for in post-zombie hell as Ken and Robin Talks About Stuff reaches its landmark 300th ep. LIGHTNING RO-O-O-O-O-O-OUND!!!

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Regular readers will notice it’s a much shorter See Page XX this month, as we try to dig our way out of the book production trenches. This is our busiest time of the year, and so we appreciate your patience and understanding if we’re not as quick to respond as usual.

It’s a great time to be a 13th Age fan, with a host of new products available. As well as the 13th Age dice tray and Book of Demons, plus the 13th Age Glorantha pre-order, this month sees the release of the pre-order of Loot Harder: A Book of TreasuresA sequel to the Book of Loot, Loot Harder features adventure hooks, new item types, lair items, linked thematic item sets, and iconic artifacts alongside hundreds of new magic items. Pre-order this, or the Book of Ages (which includes the Engine of the Ages and more than a dozen sample Ages you can borrow from), and get the pre-layout PDFs immediately.

In other releases news, if you bought The Fall of DELTA GREEN from us, the Free RPG Day 2018 PDF is now available to download from your bookshelf. If you bought your copy from a physical, bricks and mortar game store, please email Support with your proof of purchase, and we’ll add it to your bookshelf. Plus, we’ve asked our colleagues at Arc Dream to add a grab code to Backerkit for their Kickstarter backers, so if you backed the DG Kickstarter, you can enter that grab code on the “Pledges” tab of your bookshelf to access the download.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

      • 13th Sage: Speeding Combat – Rob Heinsoo on his experiments with speeding up combat
      • First Contact: The Eyecloud – Clouds of floating eyes by ASH LAW, developed by Rob Heinsoo
      • The Iconic podcast is going strong! You can listen to the latest episodes here:
      • 13th Age Character Builds. In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements

See Page XX Poll

The new Black Book GUMSHOE character generator launches July 5th for Trail and NBA. What do you want to see it add functionality for next?

View Results

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We are in the all-too-narrow gap between Origins and Gen Con, and the Nest is a hive of frenzied activity (if you’d forgive the mixed metaphor). Some new releases will make Gen Con, others won’t.  Origins is a little like a relaxed dress rehearsal for Gen Con. It has shorter exhibition hours, and while it’s busy, the aisles never get blocked with throngs of people. I had the pleasure of meeting Colleen Riley, our Administrative Assistant, and we mingled as always with game designers and fellow publishers new and old. By contrast, Gen Con will be at maximum capacity – hotel booking has become even more fraught this year as they play Tetris with the Pelgrane Crew. We’ll be having a GUMSHOE workshop and annual summit pre-convention to ease us into the mayhem.

This month’s new releases and pre-orders include, for 13th AgeLoot Harder: A Book of Treasures and the Book of Ages. The Fall of DELTA GREEN is now on general sale.

The Fall of Delta Green

The Fall of DELTA GREEN is in stores, its launch coinciding with Free RPG Day. Kickstarter backers and pre-orderers were shipped their copies some time ago. For pre-orderers, the Free RPG Day release PDF is now available as a download on your bookshelf, and Kickstarter backers will also receive a grabcode. Geek and Sundry has written a detailed review of Fall – describing it as:

“… a game you need to try because it is one of the greatest settings of all-time, uses a system that perfectly matches the investigative genre, is produced by a team of publishers, designers, and artists all working at the height of their powers to produce what may prove to be an iconic product of this current golden age of role-playing.”

They also added Fall to their list of best Table Top Games this year to date. You could also check out this interview with Kenneth Hite on Geek Nation.

Cthulhu Confidential

If you bought a physical copy from Pelgrane, the Free RPG Day release is now available for download from your bookshelf.

Trail of Cthulhu

13th Age

Loot Harder: A Book of Treasures is now available for pre-order.

The Book of Ages layout is nearly complete, and includes in it tools for your to chronicle your own Ages, unique to your campaign. If you need an Age-ending cataclysm, try these:

RANDOM WORLDSHATTERING CATACLYSM TABLE

Roll a d6.

1. Dimensional barriers failed, allowing demons, elementals and entities from other worlds to rampage across the Empire.

Reality collapsed and had to be rebuilt. The barriers fell because (roll a d6)

1. Magic stopped working

2. An evil cult completed a ritual

3. Fools opened an ancient ward

4. Invaders from the far side broke through

5. The stars were right

6. No-one knows, and it might happen again at any time.

2. Plague stalked the land, killing 5d20% of the population. Victims of the plague (roll a d6)

1. Rose as zombies

2. Exploded into flames

3. Became brain-slaves of the Overmind

4. Ascended bodily into the divine realms

5. Became hosts for the killer insects

6. Marched into the Midland Sea and drowned

3. A gigantic beast marauded across the land and destroyed the Empire. It was… (roll a d6)

1. The Red

2. A Koru Behemoth

3. A Living Dungeon

4. A monster from the Iron Sea

5. An extradimensional invader with lots of tentacles

6. An icon gone insane

4. Something fell from the sky. What was it? (roll a d6)

1. Giant flaming meteors of doom

2. Spears of ice

3. Monstrous alien eggs

4. Murderous insane angels

5. Face-eating jaguars

6. Chunks of the sky

5. Volcanoes erupted, vomiting gouts of hellfire and demonbile, and smoke darkened the sky creating a year without light. What horrors followed? (roll a d6)

1. Crops failed and famine stalked the land.

2. Fire elementals everywhere.

3. The volcanoes became hellholes and demons reigned.

4. The survivors were forced to hide underground in caves and dungeons for a century.

5. The survivors evacuated to flying islands and could not return to the surface for many years.

6. Attempts by the Archmage to tame the volcanoes broke the foundations of magic.

6. The Empire was destroyed by civil war (roll a d6)

1. Between rival heirs to the throne

2. Between the various races of Elves, Dwarves and Humans

3. When the Emperor went mad and had to be overthrown

4. Because evil cults had taken over the Empress’s court and poisoned her mind against the people

5. Triggered by economic collapse

6. Between rival religions

Mutant City Blues

Mutant City Blues second edition is underway. Gareth has made a pass through updating the text, he’s added a Private Detective option for Luke Cage / Jessica Jones style action, and Robin is tweaking the rules to update the blast rules. It will have all new art, to reflect a more modern sensibility.

 

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is now out of my hands and progressing through the next stages of production on its way to actuality.

Thanks to the eagle efforts of our dauntless playtesters, I received lots of extremely useful feedback on game play, resulting in a number of changes to the final version.

Kickstarter backers have a preview version representing the state of the manuscript as of mid-summer last year. Playtesters saw and played intermediate versions from the fall and then the end of last year.

The most consistent message from testers was that the game was deadlier than I thought, cycling through PCs at a higher than expected rate.

And here I was worrying, based on the foe-smashing exploits of my own in-house group, that the combat system was too lenient!

If you have a previous draft, then, you’ll see a number of changes to lengthen investigator lifespan.

Foe Difficulties have been scaled down.

More of the foes at the higher end of the Relative Challenge scale now appear with additional ways to lower their Difficulty numbers by gaining information about them before you fight them.

Starting general ability build points have been nudged upwards, to give you more points to spend on key survival abilities.

Perhaps most effectively, the text now explicitly gives players guidelines for the number of points the system expects them to invest in such character-preserving abilities as Fighting, Composure, Athletics and (in The Wars) Battlefield.

Also in The Wars, Scrounging, a theme for an ability in search of a vital game purpose, can now be used to refresh other characters’ Battlefield ability. That’s what you use to avoid bombs, barrages and other means of mass death on the front lines of the Continental War. Scrounging now mirrors the way Morale can be used to boost Composure for PCs in that sequence and in Aftermath.

To complete the adjustment, GMs can now choose between two toughness settings, Horror and Occult Adventure modes. In Horror, your character leaves play after accumulating 3 Injury cards or 3 shock cards. The more forgiving Occult Adventure mode takes you out after 4 Injury or 4 Shock cards.

Another common theme in playtest reports: players hated paying Tolls. These mandatory point spends, which you can make from any combo of Athletics, Fighting and Health, model the low-grade wear and tear you suffer even when you win a fight. Weaker foes now have Tolls of 0, so you don’t start to deal with Tolls until you’re fighting someone big and bad. Also, Tolls dropped across the board.

I didn’t dump them entirely. Experience with past systems has shown that players also resist a combat system that lets them emerge from a victory totally unscathed. The final rule strikes a balance between two opposing flavors of cognitive dissonance.

On my final design pass I eliminated a number of rules that went unmentioned by playtesters and unused in my own group. They hit the cutting room floor for not generating enough engagement to justify their presence.

In Aftermath I removed War Footing, a state of high alert players used to be able to declare for their characters. It gave them a bonus to Fighting and a penalty to Composure—the idea that they were risking their hard-won adjustment to civilian life by falling back into their insurgent mindset. War Footing didn’t get used because players had to remember to invoke it, and already had plenty of other stuff to think about. Also it has to be a hard tradeoff to achieve its thematic end, and brains don’t like those. As one of those ideas that shows a certain logic on paper but never pays off in practice, War Footing hit the bricks.

Another rule that added complexity for a thematic payoff that paid off was a distinction, in This is Normal Now, between sapient and non-sapient Foes. My original thought was that it ought to be harder for the ordinary people of that final sequence to kill intelligent beings. In the end I dropped it in favor of a simpler set of foe difficulties. If the distinction had factored into player decisions in an interesting way it could have justified its existence. But in an investigative game a Difficulty bonus doesn’t much change who the PCs choose to attack and who to run from. So out it went.

The greatest number of revision waves happened in the Shock and Injury card sections. Familiarity with play honed my feel for the sorts of effects and discards that made a splash, and which ones fell flat, were hard to implement, or rarely applied.

So for example The Tremors, a workhorse, low-intensity Shock card, started its life looking like this:

Your next Interpersonal Push costs 2 Pushes.

Discard after it applies, or at end of scenario.

But in the final version has become more overtly interactive:

-1 to Presence.

Discard by going to a scary location. Discard by initiating an encounter with a scary person, creature or entity.

The updated version prompts action, where the original makes a particular, not terribly common action less likely or impossible.

While remaining true to its core idea that failing to gain information is never entertaining, GUMSHOE has continued to evolve since its debut more than a decade ago.

Someday I may well find myself creating a bunch of new sub-systems for some genre or setting we haven’t tackled before, tossing about half of them before the book goes to layout.

All with the help of our indispensable playtesters, who we can’t thank enough for making our games better.

Collage illustration for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game by Dean Engelhardt


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is Pelgrane’s mind-shattering, era-spanning game of reality horror based on the classic stories of Robert W. Chambers. Coming in December 2018.

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