The latest edition of See Page XX, the monthly Pelgrane Press newsletter, is out now!

This month, we offer you the Free RPG Day 2017 adventures to download, a new monster for Trail of Cthulhu, Ordo Veritatis safe houses, improvised Problems and Edges for Cthulhu Confidential, new play modes for Owl Hoot Trailand updates on the Yellow King RPG Kickstarter. Pre-order the paranoid, creepy, Mythos-flooded urban setting Cthulhu City, and the 13th Age Bestiary 2.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

A scenario seed for The King in Yellow Roleplaying Game

As heroes of the revolution that deposed the Castaigne regime you’ve been invited to take center stage at the first 4th of July celebration in 97 years. In 1920, backed by the King in Yellow, the Imperial Castaigne dynasty took over the US.

Six months ago, in the climactic moments of the great uprising, you helped take it back.

Today is no longer Empire Day; once more it is the good old Fourth of July.

Every fireworks display, every bandshell concert worthy of the name wants a squad boasting a rep like yours to stride up on stage under the red white and blue bunting. All you have to do is say a few words and accept the clamorous applause of the crowd.

Since the struggle ended, you’ve been trying to settle back into your civilian life.

Before the struggle started, who were you?

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When you arrived on site, you noticed that security wasn’t set up the way you would have done it. As a former insurgent, you can see four different ways regime holdovers might strike at the platform. If any of them are planning to do that. Which they’re probably not, you tell yourself.

Despite of, or maybe because of, that observation, your overall attitude to this event is:

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Suddenly you sense movement from the corner of your eye. A shadowy, inchoate shape skulks between two garbage bins.

Looks like the fight’s not over, and the party’s only getting started.

Aftermath is the third of the four interwoven settings that make up The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Arm patriots with the stretch goals needed to fully banish the Castaignes and their influence by supporting our Kickstarter today.

Since the first outbreak in 1905, the city of Great Arkham has struggled to contain the spread of an unusually virulent and dangerous form of typhoid. All vehicles leaving the city must be inspected by the transport police. These officers wear heavy gas masks and protective clothing to minimise their exposure to the toxic disinfectant sprays they use; they have the authority to detain anyone they deem to show symptoms of infection. Take a train to Boston, and you’ll see those masked figures swarming outside the carriage, spraying the underside and searching for vagrants who try to hop the train. Drive out of the city, and you’ll find every road blocked by transport police inspection points.

More and more, the transport police can be seen in the city proper, too. They appear suddenly, as if materialising, cordoning off buildings or neighbourhoods and marking them as infected by painting a yellow warning sign on a wall. They’re also used to put down riots and disturbances, spraying crowds with caustic chemicals to disperse gangs of troublemakers.

Obviously, all this is a transparent tissue of lies. Whatever the mysterious disease is (assuming it exists), it bears no resemblance to actual salmonella enterica infection, the ‘symptoms’ are justification for the police to arrest anyone they wish (like your investigators), and they use the excuse of ‘quarantine’ to section off parts of the city that the authorities wish to temporarily remove.

So, how best to use these sinister enforcers in your Cthulhu City games?

No Escape

The transport police aren’t the only way to stop the investigators leaving the city, but they’re the most blatant and mundane expression of the city’s desire to keep its prisoners trapped. The transport police can shut down railways (“sorry, madam, tonight’s express to Boston is cancelled. Come back tomorrow… or maybe the day after…”), block roads, arrest hitchhikers, and hunt runaways across the countryside with masked dog-things and flashlights if the investigators try fleeing through Billington’s Woods or the marshes south of the city.

Investigators trying to escape the city’s clutches need to find ways to evade the police. They must identify the neighbours and so-called friends who are informing on them to the authorities; they must find ways to move across the city without being spotted by transport police surveillance; they need to cultivate contacts and spies of their own who can warn them about police activity.

It’s possible to get past the transport police. They’re not infallible; they’re just the first set of jailers. Beyond them are other, stranger prison walls.

No Evidence

The transport police swoop in to erase evidence of the Mythos. If a mindless god-thing lazily reaches out a tentacle and scoops up a tenement block in the middle of the night, then the transport police will be there by dawn, telling people to stay away from the ‘typhoid outbreak’ and ordering journalists to report on the tragic gas main explosion. Investigators trying to plumb the mysteries of Cthulhu City and discover what’s really going on need to act quickly to find clues before the transport police disinfect them away.

Similarly, if they wait too long, the transport police intimidate (or disappear) vital witnesses. (The transport police rarely speak, but they loom very effectively in the background while a regular Arkham Police officer or other emissary of the authorities explains why it’s a bad idea to talk openly about what happened…)

No Place To Hide

Several powerful Mythos cults vie for control of the city; they have their agents and minions conspiring in the corridors of power, and have carved up Great Arkham between them. Other cults and factions are on the outside, and get suppressed and attacked by the transport police. The Armitage Inquiry was shut down when the transport police raided Miskatonic. Similarly, the Yithian-worshipping Pnakothic cult is treated as a criminal group. Transport police raid the homes and businesses of Yithian agents; they erase any Yithian technology or relics they find.

The transport police, therefore, are a very visible barometer of which cults are in the ascendance and which are losing influence in Great Arkham. When the Gilman House political machine collapsed, the transport police suddenly showed up in Innsmouth in huge numbers, impounding ships and quarantining buildings near the river. So, if the investigators see the transport police sweeping the wooded isle and the old Witch House, they might guess that the Witch Coven has fallen from grace. On the other hand, if the police raid Miskatonic’s medical department and St. Mary’s hospital, then they might discover that the city’s cracking down on the Halsey Fraternity.

Of course, if the investigators become powerful and influential enough to warrant it, they’ll be targeted by the city’s secret police too.

No Truth

What if there really is an epidemic? What if the transport police really are trying to contain a threat – not typhoid, but something far more bizarre and alien? If the investigators bring down the transport police (say, by blowing up the Chemical Works at Salamander Fields, or police headquarters in Fort Hutchison), what new horror might they set free? A mi-go fungal infestation that consumes the whole city in alien growths? Primal tissue of Ubbo-Sathla, swelling up from the sewers? The Black Blood of Yibb-Tstll?

Or maybe the disinfectant spray is actually a hallucinogen that creates visions of the ‘real’ world? Perhaps Boston and Salem and all the world outside Great Arkham is born of visions breathed into the nostrils of would-be travellers, who only dreamt they left the city…


Time for a shout-out of royal Carcosan gratitude to the backers of The King in Yellow Roleplaying Game Kickstarter. Their support has unlocked fifteen stretch goals, and now they’re bearing down on the sixteenth.

To keep the main Kickstarter page readable we’ve been noting achieved goals with a graphic that looks like this:

(Pay no heed to the sinister stamp of the Castaigne regime. The king and his daughters insist on it before processing any paperwork.)

Now that we have fifteen stretch goals in pocket we can replace the individual items with a graphic that looks like this:

But a graphic doesn’t tell the full story of this rich and some might say reality-shattering list of extras we’ve been able to add to the game so far.

We’ve posted a backer update through Kickstarter with a description of all the funded goals. But you can’t update an update. (Makes sense when you think about it. Might tear the time-space continuum.)

But you can update a blog post, which is what we’ll be doing here, providing a master list of funded stretch goals.

£37,000 – Full Color Interiors

Stunning visuals enhance the play experience, by conveying mood and tone and performing crucial worldbuilding duties. Most importantly, a gorgeous set of books makes it easier to sell your players on the game. Putting this stretch goal behind us will convince the magic spreadsheet to allow us interior color on every single page, making the most not only of the work of our fine illustrators, but allowing graphic designer Christian Knutsson to work his full and subtle magic on the core game.

£43,000: More Paris Life

Paris in the classic fin de siècle period of the Chambers stories buzzes with evocative detail to bring your game to life. Robin needs your help stuffing the cool stuff his research turned up into the first book. Let’s start with the intricate mores of the era, the social rules that will amaze and baffle American PCs in Paris, luring them toward the sweet smell of scandal.

£53,000 – More Weird War Machinery

Stalkers, dragonflies and weeping mines just scratch the surface of the bizarre vehicles and armaments that thunder across the haunted battlefields of the Continental War. Fill the air, land and sea with more terrifying equipment for your players to flee from.

£63,000: More Chits and Hits

During the Aftermath, the ex-partisan PCs, in between confrontations with lingering forces of Carcosa, struggle to rebuild their tattered nation. In the process, they gather Chits and Hits, markers measuring their progress in post-rebellion politics. Enrich the game by increasing the page count of this all-important section.

£73,000: Modern Menaces 

All the books need more foes and creatures. So let’s start with the subliminally present, mind-twisting beings preying among the glittering clubs, cutting-edge restaurants and board game cafes of This Is Normal Now.

£80,000: Belle Epoque Occultists

1895 Paris crawls with mystics, visionaries and hoaxsters. From early SF writer Camille Flammarion to synarchist Alexandre Saint-Yves, from pioneering troll Léo Taxil to Golden Dawn founders Moina and Samuel Liddell “MacGregor” Mathers, the city boasts more occultists than your players could possibly consult. Add them all to Paris by banishing this stretch goal to the Great Beyond.

£83,000: More Battle Hazards

Sure, we’ve covered the basics, from aerial strafing to mortar rounds. But as inventive GMs you won’t want to exhaust the many ways a squad from The Wars can march into a martial meatgrinder. Beef up the book’s selection of battle hazards by aiming your best artillery at this stretch goal.

£86,000: Secrets of the Castaignes

As the ex-partisans of Aftermath strive to build a better world, and to cap a remaining monster or three, the path to victory lies in the investigation of the old regime. Deepen the sinister backstory of the Castaigne regime by prying open the hidden filing cabinets of this stretch goal.

£90,000: Shocks of the New

Cursed images on social media. Reports of apocalyptic doom issuing from the pages of sober science journals. An army of trolls anxious to graduate from obscure online forums to the crushing reality of meatspace. No era feels madder than our own. Surpass this stretch goal and you can hold up the Shock cards to prove it, any of which can stick to your character in This is Normal Now.

£93,000: Monsters of Montmartre

From the ghostly, flame-bomb wielding petroleuses, hungering to avenge the slaughter of the Commune, to mad experimenters and soul moths, still more malign beings empowered by Carcosa’s touch demand to be included in Paris. Appease their wrath by puncturing the barrier between this stretch goal and our unwitting realm.

£97,000: Cannon Fodder

Having just wrapped a 14-session The Wars run with my in-house group, I can attest to a big, cordite-stained fact: it chews through fellow soldier Game Master characters like tomorrow isn’t coming. You’ll need more descriptions of oblivious officers, cowardly corporals and star-crossed sergeants than the alpha draft supplies. Buy The Wars bonds and tell this stretch goal to report to the conscription bureau!

£101,000: Wheeling and Dealing

GMs and players cry out for great examples but space for them can be hard to come by. I could really use the room for detailed case examples showing you how to connect Aftermath group objectives to the acquisition of Hits and Chits. Get us there with exemplary dedication to the goal of smashing through stretches.

104,000: The King Himself

Investigators in any of the settings can run into the King in Yellow, or the princesses of Carcosa, Cassilda and Camilla. So let’s put the section on meeting and dealing with them in This is Normal Now, which needs less space for setting than the other books. Whatever agenda GMs choose for these supernatural aliens, this new section shows how to deploy them for maximum menace. Genuflect to the tattered mantle by delivering this stretch goal unto the king.

£108,000: YKRPG Open Content

Here we go, our most requested stretch goal. On publication of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, we will add its new rules, including the player-facing combat system and Shock and Injury cards, to the GUMSHOE open source licenses. Buy Robin the time to wrangle the reference document and release these new approaches to the rules into the wild.

£110,000: Artists and Models 

As young American would-be artists and writers on the loose in Belle Epoque Paris, your players want nothing more than to mingle with the creative legends of the era. Populate your city with such figures as mystical pianist and future dreamhound Erik Satie, young gossip columnist on the make Marcel Proust, retiring fellow Yankee Mary Cassatt and legendary can-can dancer La Goulue. Make sure you never run out of worthies by pushing us past this vermilion- and Burgundy-spattered stretch goal.
And hey look, here’s the next fifteen stretch goals we passed since this post first went up.

£112,000: Warspawn

Our first quartet of creature features concludes with additional foes for The Wars. Meet the Carcosan beasties who have been changed by their contact with an earthly war zone—and the terrestrial inhabitants warped by the Hyades. Fund gravegrinders, walking memories of the fallen, your local duchess of death and of course the weeping mines by training your Loyalist-issue binoculars at this monstrous stretch goal.

£114,000: Government Lethal Chamber FAQ

If your players are anything like mine, your first Aftermath session will start with questions about the Government Lethal Chambers. Lots of questions. Established before the Castaignes took over in 1920 and still inexplicably in service after the revolution, they stand as a symbol of what still needs fixing. Arm yourself with all the answers by pushing the button on this bronze-bladed stretch goal.

£115,000: Carcosa Itself

The current text suggests that the heroes might wind up under the white sky of Carcosa, under the baleful glare of the Hyades. But it doesn’t yet have the space to detail the place or provide guidelines on how investigators from any of the four settings might survive there. Add material on this baleful setting to This Is Normal Now with a milestone that stretches before you like an ink-black lake.

£116,500: Cthulhu Crossover

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game conspicuously omits the Mythos elements that Lovecraft and Derleth layered onto the King in Yellow cycle. But let’s face it, gamers add Cthulhu to all sorts of games and genres and some of you might want to sneak in a shoggoth or two. If this stretch goal funds backers of all tiers above Dauber will receive a PDF featuring HPL’s public domain creatures, with foe profiles including associated Shock and Injury cards.

£117,500: At Ken’s Command

My partner in crime and podcast co-host Kenneth Hite has been strongly suggesting that I include certain of his favorite elements in the game. These range from the Belle Epoque photographer and balloonist Nadar to various creatures from Robert Chambers’ stories outside the Yellow King cycle. I’ve been telling Ken I don’t have the space, but if by surpassing this stretch goal you’ll rob me of that excuse, forcing me to accede to his imperious demands.

£119,000: 13th Age Crossover

Add some jaundiced reality horror to your 13th Age game with this crossover PDF depicting the King in Yellow as a Fallen Icon. Written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and developed by Rob Heinsoo, this slice of D20 Carcosa serves as an introduction for your fantasy RPG gamers into the infectious dread of the one whose mask is not a mask. Goes to all backers above the Dauber level.

£120,000: War Machine Schematics

As part of her preparatory process for the fabulous illustrations she’s creating for The Wars, artist Melissa Gay has created intriguing concept sketches depicting that setting’s weird war machinery. With a touch of added funding we can get her to develop these into visual schematics of such deadly devices as the Stalker and Dragonfly.

£121,000: Weapons of the Old Regime

You’ve seen the cambuk, brainstopper and mangler in the Aftermath preview. But these just skim the surface of the sinister armory assembled under a century of Carcosan influence by the Castaigne regime. Sure, as heroes of the revolution you overthrew the old tyrants. But more of their weird devices remain in circulation, and in the hands of people who don’t want their crimes uncovered by you. Fund this stretch goal for the full intel briefing, including relevant Shocks and Injuries.

£122,000: Story Arc Masterclass

We promised it and now we have it in the chute ready to deliver: expanded GM advice on weaving the investigators’ exploits across YKRPG’s four shattered, intertwined realities into one epic player-driven arc. Tie it all together with a bow and put it in This Is Normal Now by altering the current reality of this stretch goal.

£123,500: Music for the King

It’s not a Pelgrane Kickstarter without musical cues from arch composer James Semple. You can hear the sinister strain of his Yellow King Theme under our campaign video at the top of his page. It perfectly suits the bubbly yet ominous world of the Paris segment. Mob the studio for this stretch goal and he’ll compose a variation on the theme to introduce subsequent seasons of your game: martial for The Wars, majestic for Aftermath and electronic chill-out for This is Normal Now. Goes to all backers above the Dauber level.

£125,000: TimeWatch Crossover

At this funding level we will expose TimeWatch creator Kevin Kulp to the Yellow Sign, compelling him to write a campaign frame for his acclaimed, ENnie-nominated GUMSHOE RPG. This PDF goes to all backers above Dauber level.
The King in Yellow and his reality-warping minion spread their jaundiced fingers across the timestream, subverting and corrupting it. Agents are disappearing or worse, changing, reforged by paradox and disjunction, And now it’s spreading to the Citadel itself. The Agents must work alone to restore the timeline, defeat the King or just retain their own identities. But how will they know what’s real when the fabric of reality is changing around them?

£126,000: Cathedrals and Cemeteries

See that bit in the Paris preview file where the header labeled Cemeteries has nothing below it but the words Stretch Goal? Well, this is that goal—more space for the creepy and/or exalted corners of the city in which the art student investigators find clues, cadge cooperation from enigmatic informers, and perhaps get ambushed by a gargoyle or two. Escape from the catacombs of insufficient detail by placing this stretch goal in the collection plate.

£127,000: Terrifying Terrain

Making one chunk of battlefield memorably different than the last can be challenging when GMing off the cuff. This stretch goal adds 30 Battle Zones to The Wars. These quick snippets of narrative, like Establishing Shots from Trail of Cthulhu, give you just enough to paint a word picture of the environment and then get on with the horror. Fund this goal to hell up the heroes’ hellish landscape.

£128,500: Meet the New Cops

The investigators of Aftermath often find that their investigations into supernatural weirdness uncover the crimes both old and new. But with a tyrannical regime just six months in the rear view mirror, the law enforcement situation offers more questions than assurances. With new police forces divide equally between former guerrillas and the possible war criminals who used to hunt them, the Cop Talk ability has never been more vital. Pledges leading to the apprehension of this stretch goal will add more detail allowing you to portray PC interactions with local, state and federal police.

£130,500: Card Design Workshop

Go under the hood with this look at Shock and Injury card design, to appear in the expanded advice and notes section of This is Normal Now. Thinking of confronting your players with a creature or damaging situation not covered by the many cards supplied with the core game? Examine your options for creative status effect design, from penalties to narrative-forwarding discard conditions. Fund this level and your only Shocks will be shocks of delight!

£132,000: Dracula Dossier Crossover

In Paris, we discover that the reality-bending energies of Carcosa have awakened, strengthened or perhaps straight-up created vampires, releasing them from the pages of legend to stalk the world once more. Hey, come to think of it, you know what other beloved Pelgrane project features vampires of the 1890s? This stretch goal unleashes a Crossover PDF, available to all backers above the Dauber level, with foe profiles for all Dracula Dossier bloodsuckers who might conceivably show up in Paris in 1895. Also includes notes on treating a Dracula Dossier campaign you’ve already run as a previously unrevealed precursor to your Yellow King series. Sink your fangs into this stretch goal and make it your Renfield!

£134,000: Open License One-2-One

Although the systems differ in detail, the new features of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game owe their lineage to Robin’s design work on GUMSHOE One-2-One, as seen in Cthulhu Confidential. At Pelgrane we’re excited by the potential of our game for one GM and one player and want to share that as we have its sister branches of the GUMSHOE system. Fund this stretch goal to buy Robin the time to add the GUMSHOE One-2-One rules to the GUMSHOE open source reference document.

£135,000: Shadows of Brittany

In Chambers, and the work of other weird writers of the period, Brittany is the French region where the eerie happens. From its death-spirit, the Ankou, to its little people, the Korrigans, from haunted sorcerer skulls to the lost city of Ys, Breton folklore offers plenty of raw material for Carcosa to twist, and the art students of Paris to investigate. Fortify yourself on crêpes and galettes and take a run at this misty, coastal stretch goal.

£137,000: Naval Nightmares

Send your squad from The Wars to sea with this look at the Captain Nemo fever dreams plying the warlike seas of the Continental War. What could be scarier than tracking a series of murders on the deck of a cruiser surrounded by icebergs? Oh, I know what. How about being trapped on a submarine with something not quite human. Batten down the hatches and fire the torpedoes at this oceanic stretch goal.

£140,000: Ken’s Menagerie

After hitting the “At Ken’s Command” stretch goal, in which my podcast co-host and boon collaborator Kenneth Hite tells me a bunch of stuff he wants me to add and I have to include it, I discovered that he had way more ideas than my word budget for a single stretch goal permits. Specifically, he demands an entire zoo full of mutant animals for Aftermath, based on Robert W. Chambers’ cryptozoological stories. Pass the turnstile of this stretch goal and buy Ken and me a bigger boat. Or zoo, let’s say.

£143,000: Perfectly Normal Handouts

A band logo that incorporates the Yellow Sign. A disturbing infographic ripped from a corporate prospectus. A handbill for a club where the soultakers prowl. If we hit this stretch goal, document artiste extraordinaire Dean Engelhardt will take a break from his work on Absinthe in Carcosa to create 6 pages of modern handouts for This is Normal Now. NOTE TO ALL CAT TOBINS READING THIS: these will all appear in the book, and GMs will print them out from their PDFs, no actual physical document creation or tea-staining required.

£147,000: Esoterrorists Crossover

Import Outer Dark Entities from The Esoterrorists into your Yellow King Roleplaying Game series. This PDF presentS YRKPG-style foe profiles for the 12 appalling creatures found in the 2nd Edition rules for our original GUMSHOE horror game. From those feral kids, the Kooks, to the not-so-angelic Host, they’re all waiting to imperil your investigators, newly powered by the Yellow Sign. Goes to all backers above the Dauber level.

£151,000: Police and Thieves

Art students engaged in supernatural intrigue in Paris will want to steer well clear of the city’s criminal underworld, and the gendarmes who police it. Until they need assistance of either the underhanded or official variety, that is. Add such crooks and cops as the master heist artist Colonel Caoutchouc, tireless Alsatian magistrate Paul Dopffer, and forensic pioneer Alphonse Bertillon, inventor of the mug shot. Subject this stretch goal to the third degree until it gives up the goods!

£155,000: The Other Three Horsemen

The current list of Battle Hazards seen in The Wars leans heavily toward the explosive and obvious: land mines, artillery shells, and good old fashioned bullets. But many of the worst horrors of battle come at you inexorably: hunger, disease, and ebbing morale. In a world where these forces gain conscious volition from the reality-shattering intrusions of Carcosa, you’re going to need a raft of Shock and Injury cards to keep the squad restless in its foxhole. Blow the whistle, shout your commands, and send this stretch goal over the top!

£159,000: The Castaigne Files

The ex-partisan investigators of Aftermath find many of their crucial clues in the documents their toppled foes, the Hussars of the Castaigne regime, failed to burn in the final days of revolution. Fund this stretch goal to recruit document artist Dean Engelhardt to work his magic on 6 pages of handouts. His evocative pieces of Castaignabilia will appear in beautiful color in the book. Hit this goal and you’ll be able to print them out from your core game PDFs to add atmospheric exposition to your game.

£163,000: Contemporary Creeps

Does This is Normal Now have enough insidious creatures? Why, no, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Add such menaces as the insistent scratcher, the inescapable follower, and the implacable eraser to your rogues gallery of modern monsters. You don’t want any of them to follow you on social media, but if you hit this stretch goal you can trap them all between the pages of a beautiful game book.

£167,000: Gallic Grotesqueries

As we enter the waning days of this Kickstarter, it’s time we all admitted something to ourselves. We still want more monsters. Add another tranche of creatures to haunt the Belle Epoque pages of Paris, from the otherworldly egregore to the lethally ethereal dames blanche. Is that cat that keeps coming around for milk really a matagot? Find out by pushing on through to the other side of this très monstrueux stretch goal.

In 1895 Paris, young Erik Satie has already written his most haunting pieces and plays piano for seekers of mystical awareness.

The world’s most famous can-can dancer, Louise Weber, has decided to strike out on her own.

Painter Odilon Redon paints spiders with weeping human faces—like the one you saw in your studio.

Auguste Rodin rages at you if you ask him about statues and corpses.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec supplies info if you buy him his favorite cocktail, a devastating mix of cognac and absinthe called the Earthquake.

Gossip columnist on the make Marcel Proust wants to know what juicy secrets your investigations have uncovered.

And Émile Zola is about to throw himself headlong into the Dreyfus Affair.

Add all of them and more to The Yellow King Roleplaying Game by knocking down the rest of the Artists and Models stretch goal.

One of the great things about in-house playtesting is that an off-the-cuff improvisation can suddenly prove so apt that it goes immediately into the rules draft.

Or rather, the players can suddenly all at once cry, “That’s so cool! You’ve got to make that a rule!”

[Cue flashback music as image goes swirly]

Why, I remember it like it happened just last night, during the ongoing in-house test for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, Kickstarting now

The players have now entered the third segment of the game, Aftermath, in which they play ex-partisans who took part in the toppling of the Castaigne regime. Investigating the murder of a colleague, they entered his home, from which delicious cooking aromas wafted.

Now, the number of rodeos my players have been to greatly exceeds zero, so this detail elicited a terrible groan. The conclusion was obvious: they were about to find the rest of the victim, charred to an appallingly tantalizing-smelling crisp.

So terrible did they find this prospect that only two of the players were willing to send their characters in to brave the awful sight—and face the Shock cards they might wind up holding if they failed the Composure tests that would surely result.

Except that’s not what happened at all.

In that classic horrible-thing-turns-out-to-be-innocuous moment from horror films and literature, it transpired that the victim had a pork shoulder in the slow cooker.

Not thinking much of it, I rewarded the two courageous players with 2-point refreshes of their Composure pools. This reflected the positive benefit this moment of extreme relief would grant them.

That’s so cool, the room collectively cried. Is that in the rules?

Uh, I thought, surprised by their delight, it is now.

Rules that exert a palpable emotional impact on players are rare and golden. They get to go to the big show.

So this morning I added it to the YKRPG rules draft, where it goes something like this:


One type of partial refresh is the whew. It emulates the moment of relief in a narrative when the trepidation surrounding a daunting circumstance turns out to be nothing. Whew!

A whew provides a 2-point refresh.

The whew most often applies to Composure. Award one when players clearly dread an upcoming story turn which instead proves completely innocuous:

  • A tantalizing cooking aroma wafts from the apartment where the investigators expect to find the rest of a murder victim, horribly charred. Nope—he just had a pork shoulder slow cooking in the oven. Whew!
  • A thumping emanates from the attic above. The group steels itself to confront the scythe-wielding cannibal they’ve been hunting. But no, it’s just the cat. Whew!
  • Cassilda left the group a flask of absinthe she claimed will heal any wound. The students won’t get Ida out of the cavern with her leg broken like that. She’s halfway sure the potion will kill her on the spot, or eradicate what’s left of her free will. But when she swigs it down it her leg heals, as promised, to no further ill effect. Whew!

To maintain the emotional power of the whew, use it sparingly and only when it fits. Often the players will set up a whew for you, by showing genuine terror of an upcoming moment you never intended to play as anything other than innocuous.

Look particularly for situations where the group sends in only some of its members to confront the imagined awfulness. That way the brave get the reward and the cautious lose out.

Whews that refresh other general abilities don’t come easily to mind but if one that makes sense presents itself during play, rule it in.

Even if my players hadn’t explicitly demanded it, I like to think that I would have spotted their enthusiasm for this little fillip and written it into the rules.

So much of alpha playtesting consists of discovering that the ideas that worked on paper flop at the table. It’s always refreshing when you make something up on the spot and it immediately declares its place in your manuscript.

This rule works perfectly well with any existing GUMSHOE game that uses Stability. Just swap out the word Composure and replace it with Stability and you’re good to go.

As I write this, The Yellow King Roleplaying Game Kickstarter perches a mere £636 away from hitting the stretch goal that adds its new rules content to the GUMSHOE Open Source reference document.

Make the humble whew, born full-fledged from its own scrappy determination and propelled by a bootstrap attitude we can all admire, part of Open Source GUMSHOE, by helping us smash that stretch goal threshold today.

In the latest episode of their patriotic weekend celebrating podcast, Ken and Robin talk consequence design, leaker opsec, CanCon gaming and haunted Ebay.

The second week of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game Kickstarter doesn’t officially begin until 8 pm Eastern tonight.

But already you, our beloved, absinthe-sipping backers, have placed us way past our expectations, cracking the £100,000 barrier in the wee small hours of the night.

Also past our expectations: the number of stretch goals you’ve left in the dust.

Fortunately we still have a rich inventory of them in store.

Currently up for grabs is Wheelers & Dealers, expanded examples for meshing group goals and the acquisition of Chits and Hits in Aftermath.

Ready to step into the breach when that falls is When You Come at the King, a section on meeting, interacting with, and hopefully not being immediately killed by, the king and his equally alarming daughters.

After that, the most requested stretch goal of all: YKRPG Open Content. Hitting this goal will buy me the time to add the new rules systems, including the player-facing combat system and Shock and Injury cards, to the GUMSHOE Open License reference document.

And there’s much more in the hopper, including:

  • artists and models

  • weirdness in Brittany

  • yet more monsters

  • dread Carcosa itself

  • design notes

  • advanced GM tips

  • conversion documents

  • a very cool art feature from The Wars illustrator Melissa Gay

  • something involving Ken I haven’t told him about yet

  • and music, as always, is by James Semple

If there’s something you’d like to see added to the core books, now is the time to let me know.

Backers, thanks again for your support. You can continue to grow this project by signal boosting us in your social media hangouts of choice.

Prospective backers, there’s never been a better time to jump on board. You have nothing to lose but your hold on reality.

“But let us turn to the Tyrrhenians while they still remain; for under the maddening power of Dionysos the forms of dolphins are creeping over the Tyrrhenians — not at all the dolphins we know, however, nor yet those native to the sea. One of the men has dark sides, one a slippery breast, on the back of one a fin is growing, one is growing a tail, the head of one is gone but that of another is left, the hand of one is melting away, while another laments over his vanishing feet.”

— Philostratus of Lemnos (ca. 220 CE)

Philostratus purports to be describing a painting here, but read it through a Lovecraftian lens and wonder with me about the other big-brained mammal that washes up against Y’ha-nthlei. Note, by the way that the forms the Tyrrhenians metamorphose into are “not at all the dolphins we know” and also not “those native to the sea.” What could he be talking about? Why, the Deeper Ones, of course.

Kkkrrrkkkk-thulhu fhtagn!

The Deeper Ones are to dolphins what the Deep Ones are to humans: the result of a hybrid breeding program that produces a blend of the two phenotypes. Since dolphins are already aquatic, the changes mostly come inside it: gills emerge, pressure-resistant scales form beneath its blubber, the eyes distend, the flippers lengthen. The most visible difference is a thick bristly crest along the Deeper One’s spine, but it can lay that down voluntarily. The Deeper Ones behave more brutally and ruthlessly than regular dolphins, with a much stronger and more violent sexual appetite — one not limited to the delphinoid species. They are as intelligent as human-hybrid Deep Ones. If a Deeper One has not fully shifted into hybrid form, or is deliberately subduing its Deeper One “tells” then it requires a spend of Biology, Outdoorsman, or the equivalent to notice something uncanny about the beast.

Edward P. Berglund’s “The Sand Castle” names the Deeper Ones the Laniqua Lua’huan, who serve Tsur’lhn, a high priest of Cthulhu who resembles an enormous razor clam filled with tentacles and shadowy protrusions. James Wade’s wonderful Lilly-derived tale “The Deep Ones” goes still farther and indicts even regular dolphins as willing servants of Cthulhu and the telepathic amplifiers, coursing hounds, and sacred beasts of the Deep Ones. Dolphins as amplifiers of Deep One telepathy and/or Cthulhu’s dream sendings evoke the hypnotic songs associated with mermaids and Sirens. The concept also provides a wonderful opening for all manner of horrible stories — mass mind control, hypnotic suicide, dream attacks, cult frenzy — made still worse by the sunny refusal of everyone else to believe anything bad of the ocean’s perfect companion. I used this duality in my own game several years back, and I still cherish the players’ flinch when the sunny NPC docent announced “There has never been a recorded incident of a dolphin attacking a human.” As one of my players muttered in response: “Not recorded … because they kill all the witnesses.”

Trail of Cthulhu Keepers should look into Marine Studios (later Marineland) south of St. Augustine, Florida, which became the first public dolphin exhibit park in the world in June of 1938. It opened with one bottlenose dolphin, attracting tourists and literati. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed at Marineland in 1954, and the dolphinarium remained extremely popular well into the Fall of DELTA GREEN era. However Flipper, filmed between 1963 and 1967, drew crowds to Marineland’s rival, the Miami Seaquarium. Perhaps a failing marine park desperately promotes its particularly intelligent dolphin, and covers up the surely unrelated rash of deaths.

• In addition, Fall of DELTA GREEN Handlers might consider involving the Deeper Ones with the Navy Marine Mammal Program. The NMMP starts in 1962 at Point Mugu, California; in 1967 the program becomes classified, transfers to the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center at Point Loma near San Diego and adds a second facility at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. Dolphin teams deploy to Vietnam in 1965, tasked with minesweeping and anti-frogman security. The Navy prefers the more aggressive dolphins with Deep One genetics; DELTA GREEN differs.

Deeper One

“Though the ordinary Delphinus delphis is a cetacean mammal, unable to subsist without air, I watched one of the swimmers closely for two hours, and did not see him alter his submerged condition. … the peculiar dolphins were still about us, even at a depth where the existence of high organisms is considered impossible by most naturalists.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Temple”

Abilities: Athletics 16, Health 10, Scuffling 12

Magic: 7; spells connected with Cthulhu or the Deep Ones.

Hit Threshold: 4 (big but agile)

Alertness Modifier: +1 (+2 vs. moving objects underwater)

Stealth Modifier: +2

Attack: bite (-1), bash (+0 or more)

Armor: -1 vs. any (subdermal scales)

Stability Loss: +0

Charging Bash: If a Deeper One can charge its target, it can convert more of its 500 kg of momentum into impact damage. A Deeper One that attacks from Near or farther can spend 2 Athletics to add +1 to its damage (max. +3). It must spend at least one round swimming back out to Near distance to launch a charging bash attack the next round.

Fully Aquatic: Deeper Ones, unlike dolphins, don’t need to surface or breathe air.

Orca Hybrid: Orcas, or killer whales, are a very large and aggressive genus of dolphin, and may also interbreed with the Deep Ones. For an orca Deeper One template, increase Athletics, Health, and Scuffling by +6. Its bite does +4 damage; its bash starts at +2; its Armor is -3. The orca hybrid can also grab and hold with its bite: by paying 2 Scuffling points, the Deeper One clamps down on its foe and automatically hits with a free bite attack each round thereafter. It and its victim take -1 to their Hit Threshold against each other.

Regular Dolphin: A regular, non-hybrid dolphin has Athletics 9, Health 7, Scuffling 6, and no Armor. (Increase these abilities as above for a regular orca.) It may or may not have Magic, or a pod of dolphins may have a common Magic pool, depending on the Keeper’s view of dolphin intelligence.

Telepathy: A Deeper One can read the mind of, and send its thoughts to, any Deep One, Deeper One, dolphin, hybrid, or dreaming human within a mile. (Stability test against the Deeper One’s roll+spend (of Magic) total to resist; the Deeper One may add +1 to its result for every five telepaths assisting it.) Alcohol (drinking enough to cost 2 Health) may block the Deeper Ones’ telepathic abilities.


In the latest episode of their pallid podcast, Ken and Robin talk Yellow King RPG, Robert Graves, half-elves and Houdini’s ghostbusters.

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