In the latest episode of their tapas-strewn podcast, Ken and Robin talk vampires in Asturias, Slenderman, plot immunity and Glenn Miller.

THE SORCERER

By ASH LAW

Sorcerers are all about timing, forgoing attacks now to cast an empowered spell later. Last week we introduced the Arcane Sorcerer. Today, it’s a new build with a draconic spin.

DRAGON SORCERER

Download the Dragon Sorcerer character sheets here.

This sorcerer build is all about being as dragon-like as possible, and resisting energy attacks.

The build’s focus on breath weapons means that the sorcerer works best when close to the action (but not too close).

This sorcerer can resist energy attacks, so can move to the frontline against enemies whose damage it can shrug off. Otherwise it is best darting in and out of the battle, avoiding being pinned down and taking out multiple enemies with its breath weapon. Your metallic protector talent lets you resist energy as a quick action so do it as soon as you spot energy attacks being used (or you suspect that they might be), and use your resist energy spell to grant the same resistance to your allies. At epic tier you also gain once-per-day resistance to demon and dragon attacks—useful if you’ve gained dragon or infernal enemies.

Your talents make you optimized for breath weapons, so use them—even if you blow them on low-level mooks early in the adventuring day it you’ll have still saved the resources of the rest of the party. As a dragonic you get a once-per-battle breath weapon—if you run out of sorcerous breath you can still use your racial breath weapon.

When this sorcerer fails to recharge a breath weapon it is sometimes better to gather power and hope that the breath weapon recharges in time for it to be cast empowered on the following turn.

Your familiar is a small dragonette—make regular use of your familiar’s random abilities, it is your third talent and while not as useful in combat as other talents has lots of out of combat applications. At 4th level this sorcerer learns ritual casting, so keep imaginative non-combat uses of breath weapons in mind when playing this character.

 

Talents

Chromatic Destroyer

Keep multiple breath weapon spells active at the same time.

Metallic Protector

Improves chances of re-using breath weapons.

Sorcerer’s Familiar

A small dragonette with the flight ability, and one random ability that changes each day.

 

Race

Dragonic, obviously.

 

Attributes

Charisma and Constitution are important sorcerer attributes: Str 8, Con 16, Dex 12, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 20.

 

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 16 (+3) Dex 12 (+1) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 (0) Cha 20 (+5)

Racial Power: breath weapon

Talents: chromatic destroyer, metallic protector, spell sorcerer’s familiar

Feats: metallic protector

Spells: breath of the white, burning hands, chaos bolt, resist energy

 

2nd level

New spell (scorching ray), new feat (chromatic destroyer).

 

3rd level

New spell (breath of the green), level-up spells (breath of the white, resist energy), new feat (burning hands).

 

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), all spells now 3rd level, new feat (ritual casting).

 

5th level

New spell (breath of the black), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, resist energy), new feat (chromatic destroyer).

 

6th level

New spell (swap scorching ray for dragon’s leap), all spells now 5th level, new feat (breath weapon).

 

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Charisma, Dexterity, Constitution), new spell (breath of the blue), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, breath of the black, dragon’s leap), new feat (metallic protector).

 

8th level

All spells now 7th level, new feat (chromatic destroyer).

 

9th level

New spells (breath of the void), level-up spells (breath of the white, breath of the green, breath of the black, breath of the blue, dragon’s leap) new feat (metallic protector).

 

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom), all spells now 9th level, new feat (breath of the blue).

In the latest episode of their fourth wall shattering podcast, Ken and Robin talk metagaming, food crimes, and Ken’s Bay Area book haul.

Ripped from the history books, here’s a great choice the next time you’re asked to create a Trail of Cthulhu player character: Bessie Coleman, aka Queen Bess, pioneering African American aviator. An active protagonist if ever there was one, she taught herself to fly when neither women nor black people were supposed to do so. So she went to France to get her pilot’s license, dated two years before Amelia Earhart’s. Unable to get conventional piloting work back in the states, she returned to Europe to learn barrel rolls and other aerobatic techniques, then toured the US as a popular barnstormer. Coleman forced promoters to desegregate her audiences, and turned her back on a Hollywood career when asked to play a stereotypical role.

(In some of her publicity shots, she bears a striking resemblance to Janelle Monae. Somebody call somboedy’s agent.)

History tells us that she died in an air accident in 1926. Those of us steeped in horror adventure can see the flaws in that story, in which she allowed her mechanic to fly the plane, and it went out of control due to a literal wrench left in the engine case. A little too on the nose, surely—clearly she’s signaling to those in the know that she’s faking her own death. And if she’s doing that in ‘26, clearly she has to drop from sight to settle some business with Nyarlathotep.

That’s her backstory when it comes time to play her a few years later, in the Trail era.

Pilots can be a little hard to work into the action of a standard multiplayer game. As a GM you might build a Cthulhu Confidential series around her, with lots of aerial Challenges and problem solving. She speaks fluent French, so one of her globe-trotting Mythos-busting cases could take her to Paris to rub elbows with the Dreamhounds of the surrealist movement. Chauvinists like Andre Breton and Luis Buñuel might not know what to make of her, but a romp into Unknown Kadath with Gala Dalí and Kiki de Montparnasse might be just the thing. Perhaps she would also insist on taking Josephine Baker along, too. I’m sure she’ll be entirely careful while buzzing Mount Hatheg-Kla in the butterfly ornithopter Kiki has dreamed up for her.

In the latest episode of their melodic yet searching podcast, Ken and Robin talk riffed townie conspirators, theosophical composers, NPC party members and Wilhelm Reich.

 

The book has been written.

The book has been read.

Now it rewrites you.

Across time it spreads, creating dread new realities.

And you’re in all of them.

Pelgrane Press is terrified to announce that The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is coming soon to a Kickstarter near you.

Written and designed by GUMSHOE master Robin D. Laws, YKRPG takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines.

Inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ influential cycle of short stories, it pits the characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. This suppressed play, once read, invites madness or a visit from its titular character, an alien ruler intent on invading and remolding our world into a colony of their planet, Carcosa.

Four books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront your players with an epic journey into reality horror:

  • Belle Epoque Paris, where a printed version of the dread play is first published. Players portray American art students in its absinthe-soaked world, navigating the Parisian demimonde and investigating mysteries involving gargoyles, vampires, and decadent alien royalty.
  • The Wars, an alternate reality in which the players take on the role of soldiers bogged down in the great European conflict of 1947. While trying to stay alive on an eerie, shifting battlefield, they investigate supernatural mysteries generated by the occult machinations of the Yellow King and his rebellious daughters.
  • Aftermath, set later in the same reality, in 2017 North America. A bloody insurrection has toppled a dictatorial regime loyal to Carcosa. Players become former partisans adjusting to ordinary life, trying to build a just society from the ashes of civil war. But not all of the monsters have been thoroughly banished—and like it or not, they’re the ones with the skills to hunt them and finish them off.
  • This is Normal Now. In the 2017 we know, albeit one subtly permeated by supernatural beings and maddening reality shifts, ordinary people band together, slowly realizing that they are the key to ending a menace spanning eras and realities.

New GUMSHOE features include:

  • A completely new player-facing combat system.
  • A fresh, evocative approach to wounds, physical and psychic, inspired by the innovations of GUMSHOE One-2-One.
  • Linked character creation across multiple settings.

Crowdfunding in 2017 for a 2018 release.

In the latest episode of their swirly, psychedelic podcast, Ken and Robin talk Ditko landscapes, Nikolai Vavilov, climactic scenes and the occult secrets of the Denver airport.

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring Icons for Ashen Stars, our official Community Use policy, and mo’ Mythos problems for Cthulhu Confidential, as well as new releases The Valkyrie Gambit and GM Screen and Resource Book for TimeWatch.

Read it now!

If you could use Pelgrane Press artwork, settings, and original characters for original, fan-made materials, what would you create?

If you could create your own GUMSHOE game, 13th Age compatible supplement or game powered by the system which powers the 13th Age what would you do?

This article doesn’t answer those questions – but it does address how you can!

Create Non-Commercial Content

What Esoterror investigations would you have the Ordo Veritatis send player characters on? What crimes would challenge the mutant detectives in your webcomic about the Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit? What cool smartphone lock screen would you design for agents of TimeWatch, or the vampire hunters in Night’s Black Agents? What would your custom 13th Age Character class look like?

Let’s find out!

With the Pelgrane Press Ltd Community Use Policy, our community can use our artwork and game world elements in free, fan-created adventure campaigns, wikis, fan fiction, and so on.

A few important notes, though:

  • Professional publishers are not allowed to use this content.
  • This policy applies to every Pelgrane Press product except the 13th Age product line—that game has its own policy over at Fire Opal Media’s website.
  • If you want to design playable GUMSHOE-compatible materials, you’ll also need to follow the Open GUMSHOE terms in either the Open Game License or Creative Commons License. Read more here.

Make Your Own GUMSHOE, 13th Age and DramaSystem Games

You can create your own GUMSHOE game not based on Pelgrane Press intellectual property and sell them or give them away. In fact, it’s already been done.

For the GUMSHOE system there’s Bubblegumshoe – the game of teen detectives, Harlem Unbound, a Mythos RPG set in 1920s NYC and for Ars Magic Tales of the Quaesitors. For DramaSystem there’s Malandros in which you play characters in a tight-knit community in the final year of the Empire of Brazil. There are a whole bunch of supplements for 13th Age including the Kobold Press range such as the Midgard Bestiary.

  • GUMSHOE is available under two licenses – choose the one which suits you. There is a cut down rules summary (SRD) which you can use to form the basis of your game. More information and links to the SRD can be found here here.
  • DramaSystem is available under two licenses. There is a cut down rules summary (SRD) which you can use to form the basis of your game.More information and links to the SRD can be found here.
  • archmageengine-v3_RGB_22513th Age has two licenses, one stricter than the other. There is an overview here. The stricter 13th Age Compatibility license allows professional publishers to use our Open Content to create commercial products compatible with the 13th Age Roleplaying Game and to put our 13th Age Compatible logo on them.
  • The 13th Age Archmage Engine license allows professional publishers to use our Open Content to create commercial products and to put our “Archmage Engine” logo on them. The difference is that your product does not have to strictly rely on the 13th Age Roleplaying Game.

So now, go create!

“Do you realize that this project concerns human evolution, and that it’s one of the most important questions the human race has ever dealt with? And here these damned fools are thinking in terms of espionage and counter espionage and murder …”

— Colin Wilson, The Black Room (1971)

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the “Black Sorcerer” of the CIA. For real.

The 1970s are not the official decade of Fall of DELTA GREEN, but they are the decade that gave us the “modified limited hangout,” which is spy-speak for what the mystical-minded Masons call “Making Manifest That Which Should Be Hidden.” In other words: you reveal some of the truth, but as a distraction or cover for the real secrets behind everything. This, of course, is why Beyonce is always making the Illuminati gesture with her hands, and why MAJESTIC-12 greenlit Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and why everybody knows about MK-ULTRA, the CIA mind-control project so secret that CIA Director Richard Helms destroyed 138 boxes of MK-ULTRA records rather than turn them over to the Church Committee in 1975.

The “MK” digraph means that MK-ULTRA fell under the purview of the CIA’s Technical Services Staff (TSS), the Company’s “Q Branch.” In 1953, when MK-ULTRA spun up from the previous Project CHATTER (a Navy program begun in 1947) and Project ARTICHOKE (previously Project BLUEBIRD, a CIA program run under the Office of Scientific Intelligence, which by the 1970s was absolutely not building bionic astronauts), Director Allen Dulles put the TSS’ head chemist, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, in charge of it. Gottlieb, delightfully, was known as the “Black Sorcerer,” because of his expertise in poisons. Gottlieb rapidly expanded the remit of MK-ULTRA from brainwashing, LSD experiments, and hypnosis into some really weird stuff. (Delightfully, the “foreign deployment” sub-project of MK-ULTRA was called MK-DELTA. You cannot make this stuff up, or rather, you just never need to.) In 1964, MK-ULTRA became MK-SEARCH; in 1967, Gottlieb became head of the TSS and came up with even more wonderful toys including a microwave gun for planting voices in people’s heads. In 1972, Gottlieb retired; MK-ULTRA shut down (officially) the next year. Cue Congressional investigation, and Helms’ fun with shredders.

From ULTRA to OFTEN

So if MK-ULTRA is the modified limited hangout, what on Earth must the real deal have looked like? Well, according to researchers who quite frankly begin at “dodgy” and go down from there, the real deal is an MK-ULTRA spinoff called MK-OFTEN. In Congressional testimony, Director Helms claimed that MK-OFTEN was just another name for MK-CHICKWIT, a CIA-Defense Department program for testing “medical procedures” on prisoners at Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia from 1967 to 1973. MK-CHICKWIT, meanwhile, has also been associated with investigations into South American and Asian hallucinogens, tests of tropical disease prevention, or a research program to “identify new drug developments in Europe and Asia and to obtain information and samples.” Several intelligence historians believe that MK-OFTEN primarily researched pharmaceuticals for a wide variety of purposes, maintaining an enormous database of tens of thousands of chemicals and drugs. Congressional testimony indicated that MK-OFTEN experiments tried to “disturb a person’s psyche,” create “violent” or “irrational or irresponsible behavior” or “temporary psychotic states in subjects.” Like MK-ULTRA, MK-OFTEN was supposedly shut down in 1972 or 1973.

But we know better, thanks to pioneering (if that’s the word I want) research by Gordon Thomas, a pop-historian of intelligence. According to Thomas, MK-OFTEN’s task was to “explore the world of black magic” and “harness the forces of darkness and challenge the concept that the inner reaches of the mind are beyond reach.” Thomas posits Gottlieb really living up to his nickname, meeting with astrologers and fortune-tellers, “Chinese palmists,” voodooists, practitioners of Satanism, and who knows what else. (This is about when Army Intelligence officer Michael Aquino joins Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, by the way.) The CIA supposedly even approached the monsignor in charge of exorcisms for the Archdiocese of New York, with unknown results.

A different historian of the MK-ULTRA project, John Marks, claims that MK-OFTEN began in 1968 and not under Gottlieb but one Dr. Stephen Aldrich of the Office of Research and Development (which if true means it should just be Project OFTEN, not MK-OFTEN). He claims OFTEN sought “a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke in the targeted individual,” which sounds like the “zombie cucumber” powder in Haiti to me and perhaps also to Gottlieb or Aldrich or whomever. Aldrich was a veteran of ARTICHOKE, and a medical doctor as well, so it may be a distinction without a difference.

Conspiratologist Alex Constantine starts “OFTEN-CHICKWIT” in 1962, and makes sure to rope in the Scientific Engineering Institute (a Boston think tank that may have developed the film for the U-2 flights) and its 1972 “social laboratory” at the University of South Carolina: “a college class in black witchcraft, demonology and voodoo.” He also identifies Aldrich’s main asset in the magical community: neopagan witch and astrologer Sybil Leek. Miskatonic University, this wasn’t. But that said, OFTEN gets fingered as the hand behind the 1968 “Rockland Project,” an alleged repository of computerized personality tests and psychiatric records from all over New England (especially Vermont, hint hint) operating through a front group called Pyschological Assessment Associates in Washington, D.C.

Finally, scholar of the fringe (and take that how you will) Peter Levenda puts OFTEN in 1969, built by Gottlieb after the CIA black-bagged the lab of Canadian mind-control researcher Ewen Cameron, who if you Google him will take you down an endless rabbit hole leading to Rudolf Hess and the Montauk Project among other things. He also cites the human experimentation from CHICKWIT, basing it “out of Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland” but expanding its purview after 1969 into “everything from séances and witchcraft to remote viewing and exotic drugs,” which gets us to any number of places, all of them exciting.

In the final analysis, then, we don’t know what we know, much less what we don’t know. OFTEN might be the side program for Mythos research run by the CIA outside MAJESTIC’s supervision, or it might be an attempt to build a super-soldier (or a vampire, Night’s Black Agents Directors), or it might be a concealed cult preparing to sporulate into the People’s Temple, the Church of Set, the Process Church of the Final Judgement, and the rest of the poisoned fruit of the 1970s supernatural scene. All your agents know is they have a chance to stop it before it spreads — and that doesn’t happen very often.

Previous Entries