Come for the nerdtrope cards, come for the incisive questions from an ever-alert audience. Ken and Robin talk about stuff live at Gen Con!

We can say relatively little for certain about the life of Robert W. Chambers, but it is clear from his work that knew France and its history. For this reason it is tempting to believe that the name Hildred Castaigne, unreliable narrator and protagonist of the classic Yellow King story “The Repairer of Reputations,” took its inspiration from the early 19th century murderer Edme Castaing.

Castaing, a young and impecunious doctor, befriended a pair of wealthy patients, the brothers Auguste and Hippolyte Ballet. In 1822, the consumptive Hippolyte died while in Castaing’s care. His fortune went to Auguste, who made Castaing his heir. Half a year later, after drinking wine and then milk given to him by Castaing, Auguste also died after a prolonged fit of vomiting.

Both victims had been in their early twenties. This fact, added to Castaing’s financial activities, triggered official suspicion. Investigation focused on his purchase of a then-new medicine, morphine, before the deaths. Castaing was arrested and tried for murder. The jury found him innocent of Hippolyte’s death but guilty of destroying his will, and of murdering Auguste. He went to the guillotine on December 6, 1823.

In the entangled realities of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, the mere difference of a few letters in a surname doesn’t stop us from identifying Castaing as an unlucky link in the dynastic chain running from the Pallid King to Hildred Castaigne. He had all the sinister predilections of his family without a Mr. Wilde to fully usher him to his destiny.

Ghosts feature heavily in Chambers’ other, lesser horror tales. In keeping with those, the characters from your Paris sequence could meet up with this earlier, slightly misspelled member of the bloodline in phantom form. Perhaps they encounter Castaing’s shade at the Place de Greve, the site of his guillotining. Or in Saint-Cloud, the bucolic Parisian suburb where he poisoned Auguste, during their stay at the Tête Noire Hotel.

Like other Chambers ghosts, Edme might not look or sound dead at all. He could seal his friendship with the occult-busting art students with much-needed medical treatment. His unearthly healing powers might allow the discarding of Injury cards that aren’t normally gotten rid of with a First Aid success. Over time Edme might abuse his friendly GMC status to mislead the group into spreading the influence of the Yellow King, increasing his own powers. Only by researching the seventy-year-old story of Edme Castaing can the group discover that their apparent benefactor is neither alive nor on their side.

Naturally, if he suspects they’re onto him, he’ll reach for the syringe full of phantasmal morphine he keeps in that little black bag of his.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their prescient podcast, Ken and Robin talk GMing prophecies, heisted Chinese art, lampreys and magic circles that trap self-driving cars.

In the latest episode of their deeply intuitive podcast, Ken and Robin talk incompetence in GUMSHOE, updating Nephilim, smart emotional writing, and Lincoln Park time travel.

Ever since the Sudden Mutation Event, people have been able to fly. Phase through walls. Read minds. Shoot bolts of energy from their fingertips. Walk into dreams.

As members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, you and your fellow detectives solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. When a mutant power is used to kill, you catch the case. When it’s a mutant victim in the chalk outline, you get the call. And when it comes time for a fight, you deploy your own extraordinary abilities to even the odds.

With new human capacity has come new science. Your squad brings forensic science to bear on the solution of mutant crimes. Need to know if a suspect is the victim of mind control or dream observation? Perform an EMAT protocol to detect the telltale signs of external influence. Was your victim killed by a light blast? Use Energy Residue Analysis to match the unique wound pattern to the murderer, as surely as ballistic science links a bullet to a gun.

Does your crime scene yield trace evidence of two separate powers? Use your trusty copy of the Quade Diagram, the infallible map of genetic relationships between mutant powers, to tell if one suspect could have used both – or if you have two perps on your hands.

If chases, interrogations and mutant battles weren’t enough to handle, you also serve as a bridge between the authorities and your mutant brethren. To successfully close cases, you must navigate the difficult new politics of post-mutation society, and deal with your own personal issues and mutation-caused defects.

Police work will never be the same.

Upgraded In 2nd Edition!

  • Push rules make GUMSHOE investigation even faster and more flexible
  • New modes of play help GMs tailor the game to their players
  • Personal crisis rules bring the stress of the job into play
  • Character templates to help players build their officers
  • Expanded chase rules for superpowered action
  • Rules for superpowered private investigators
  • A thrilling new scenario, Blue on Blue, delves into buried secrets of Mutant City and the early days of the Sudden Mutation Event

We are delighted to announce that, following discussions at this year’s Gen Con, the French design studio STUDIO DEADCROWS will be publishing the French language translations of Cthulhu Confidential, The Fall of DELTA GREEN, and The Yellow King RPG.

Studio Deadcrows have extensive experience in producing top-quality French translations of RPG, having previously translated Mindjammer and Monster of the WeekTheir dedication to producing excellent quality RPGs with high production values is evident in their games Capharnaüm and Venzia, and we’re excited to see what our collaboration can bring!

You can see more of Studio Deadcrows’ work at their website.

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Welcome to the latest edition of See Page XX! We’re back in the office after Gen Con and Tabletop Scotland, and cranking the book-making machines back up to full operational speed.

New this month is the PDF of The Fall of DELTA GREEN. Pick up the PDF in September to get a bonus PDF of Las Vegas: 1968, Kenneth Hite’s Sin City in the heyday of Howard Hughes and the Rat Pack. (We’ve also added it to your bookshelf if you’ve picked up the print book).

In 13th Age news, the PDF of the Book of Demons is available now. The Loot Harder and Book of Ages books are being printed, and we’ll be shipping these out to pre-orderers later this month, and we’re waiting to hear back from our colleagues at Chaosium when we can start shipping pre-orders of 13th Age GloranthaAnd after some layout difficulties, The Persephone Extraction is close to completion. We’ll have the final PDF for pre-orderers later this month.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

Oh, great was the sin of my spirit,
And great is the reach of its doom;
Not the pity of Heaven can cheer it,
Nor can respite be found in the tomb:
Down the infinite aeons come beating the wings of unmerciful gloom.

— H.P. Lovecraft, “Nemesis”

The ancient Greek goddess Nemesis existed to “give what is due” (nemein, in Greek) especially to those guilty of the sin of hubris: arrogance, specifically challenging the gods or shaming others for personal glory or gratification.

Nemesis, perhaps pointing out the Ridgway Report

Nemesis personifies not merely justice but payback, wielding a whip as well as holding the scales. In a fun mythic-Mythos crossover, Nemesis appears to have been the daughter of Night and Ocean, depending on which ancient source you read, possibly explaining her parentage of the Telchines, flippered “fish children” with the heads of dogs. (In another Lovecraftian touch avant la lettre, Nemesis was also known as Adrasteia, “the Inescapable.”) According to the lost epic poem Cypria, Nemesis’ daughter was Helen of Troy – who, of course, brought destruction on a powerful kingdom after a ten-year war.

All arrogance will reap a harvest rich in tears. God calls men to a heavy reckoning for overweening pride.

— Aeschylus, The Persians (underlined by Robert F. Kennedy in his copy of Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way)

In the Sixties, hubris characterized both the counter-culture, which attempted to throw aside laws and morals (to coin a phrase), and even moreso the United States government and its belief that a planning document and a billion dollars could solve any problem — when guided by the golden hand of the elect(ed) of course. Kennedy and Johnson tried to simultaneously fight a war on poverty and on the Viet Cong, with very little understanding of either opponent, and with even less humility. Time and again, federal agencies confidently planned the end of one problem and spawned ten worse ones. One might also cast all manner of “tampering with the natural order” from Agent Orange to the CIA’s weather-controlling Operation POPEYE — even firing rockets at the face of the Moon — as hubristic, if one were in the mood to do so.

Thus, I incorporated hubris into The Fall of DELTA GREEN as a leitmotif and occasional theme. The clearest example is that of the DELTA GREEN program itself, which comes to believe that it can harness the unnatural to fight the unnatural and pays the ultimate price in Cambodia. The original Delta Green source material hinted at the horrid blowback against the reckless “cowboy” operation OBSIDIAN; later works revealed that the rot had set in earlier thanks to careless overconfidence. In my redaction, the disaster of OBSIDIAN springs from Col. Satchel Wade’s ambition, Robert McNamara’s reorganization, and even from the program’s “destroy the town to save us” tradition going back to Innsmouth – it’s hubris all the way down, in other words. But throughout the book other examples surface, not least DELTA GREEN’s polarized opposite, MAJESTIC – by 1970 not yet fallen, but clearly reaching farther than the gods or Nemesis allow.

The Handler can leave Nemesis in the background, of course, trusting to the players’ sense of historical irony to notice the parallels between fighting the Deep Ones and fighting Ho Chi Minh. Or she can translate it from theme to plot, hand-crafting the Agents’ fate just like Nemesis herself might have, with the occasional special squeeze from the mechanics. The Agents’ final fate depends on the Agents’ specific style of hubris.

Just a Lot of Talk and a Badge

The Agents surely aren’t the first or last law enforcement officers to succumb to the heady brew of legal cover for their outrageous actions. Players who rely on flashing a badge (or delivering an extra-judicial beating) to steamroll the opposition set themselves up not just for Internal Affairs investigations but for the poetic justice of an MJ-3 NRO DELTA team doing the same (or worse) to them. More subtly, they earn the contempt of those they claim to be protecting: one illegal search or unlawful beating looks like all the other ones, even if the perp in this case was harboring a necromancer. Perhaps they shed Bond points with other decent cops, or have to spend points for Reassurance responses they used to get for free. Even worse, they find themselves praised and “assisted” by corrupt and brutal Feds and cops – and maybe get invited to join the “Friends of Dom” (FoDG, p. 300).

The Sin of Faust

The classic fate of Cthulhu’s querents since time immemorial has been to destroy themselves with the knowledge they sought. When Agents feel confident that they know a Deep One from a shoggoth, it’s time to pull back a little and show more of the “skull beneath the skin.” The Handler can shuffle the signifiers around as the book suggests, introduce an educationally toxic contradiction, or just feed the Agents more tomes and bas-reliefs to batten upon. (Ritual Addiction (FoDG, p. 201) exemplifies the opportunity here perfectly.) Simply learning the truth about the universe’s malign un-nature corrodes Stability and Sanity, and in The Fall of DELTA GREEN your quest also ablates away those you most care about as Bonds break and burn. With the tight Stability economy of the game (which starts out generous but turns mean, speaking of policy echoes) the mechanics already drive home this punishment.

Literally, Overkill

It’s very possible that DELTA GREEN Agents can “summon fire from the sky” in the words of Colonel Kurtz, calling in B-52 airstrikes on targets in Indochina (and lesser strikes outside overt war zones). The Bureaucracy test Difficulty for an ARC LIGHT (or BARREL ROLL in Laos or Cambodia) mission might be as low as 3 if the Agents have a legitimate tasking for heavy air support, or as high as 7 if they have to pull some strings. That’s not actually very hard. But as Lovecraft might have pointed out, “there’s always a bigger fish.” Perhaps someone, or Something, in that jungle can call in their own apocalypse now, and has no incentive to hold back.

In the latest episode of their satisfyingly escalating podcast, Ken and Robin talk climactic sessions, Stoker translations, fantasy films 101, and Sumerian stargates.

In the latest episodeof their Elder-signed podcast, Ken and Robin talk narrative dungeons, Christoph Sapinsky, tattooing Cthulhu and Rosaleen Norton.

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