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.

An opening scene for Trail of Cthulhu

Dr. Ellis Brock, a medical doctor acquainted with one of the PCs, asks them to consult on a curious case. A young patient, Rudolf Esper, presented himself to Brock exhibiting the telltale symptoms associated with ocular syphilis: damage to the retina, nerves and blood vessels at the back of the eye. Yet Esper, a student at a nearby Lutheran seminary, denies ever having any sexual contact whatsoever. As Brock says and Forensics confirms, it is possible but very unlikely that Esper’s symptoms came about as the result of inherited syphilis. Brock would simply have written off the boy as a liar but for the intensity of his belief in his odd story.

When the investigators speak to him, the sweating, trembling Esper says he was cleaning out the attic of the seminary’s manse prior to the arrival of its new dean. “I found what had to be an old painting or picture, wrapped in cloth. It was covered in dust so I took the cloth off of it to clean it, and to see if maybe it was of interest to the dean. The previous dean had decorated the place with his own pictures, so the walls were kind of bare, you see. Well, I unwrapped the painting and there was this… I can’t describe it… this awful portrait… human and not human. Next thing I remember, I woke up in my bed, covered with sores, and with my eyes looking like this. Already the world blurs. I don’t want to go blind. And I never want to see that terrible painting again.”

Brock takes the investigators aside: he asked the dean, John Mann, about this, and he had his caretaker search the attic. No such painting turned up. Did the boy perhaps hide it somewhere during the period of time he has forgotten?

A Difficulty 4 Sense Trouble test reveals that Esper has a glinting object hidden up his sleeve—one of the doctor’s scalpels. The next time anything spooks him—and trying to take the scalpel away counts—he tries to stab Brock in the neck and then leap through his office’s large window. This scene takes place on the third floor of the hospital. The character who spots the blade can automatically save the doc from injury; Difficulty 4 Athletics otherwise. A separate Difficulty 4 Athletics test grabs Esper before he can jump out the window. Without it, he falls to a bone-shattering death below.

The rest is up to you, and your players…


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

In the Gaean Reach, almost every world capable of supporting life gave rise to creatures of an insect-like body configuration. Though biologists assign each planet’s evolutionary tree its own taxonomic categories, in both lay and scientific circles the term “insect” is used to describe them all. The so-called insects of Achernar, for example, bear no genetic connection to those of Zonk’s Star. Yet the operation of parallel evolution assures that similar environments on quite separate planets gave rise to similar animal forms, insects included. Thus mosquito-like insects can be found on most planets in places where stagnant waters coexist next to warm-blooded beings.

Some planets run by nature conservancies have managed to largely screen out invasive lifeforms. But few worlds were settled with such care. All manner of plant, animal and fungal species have spread throughout the universe in the wake of that destructive beast, homo sapiens. Initially the invasiveness ran along one vector, from Old Earth outwards to other stars. Over the centuries, spillover from biospheres has run in all directions. Earth’s cockroaches, once considered invulnerable, have been all but replaced by even tougher and more tenacious equivalents first encountered by penal colony residents on the planet Boniface.

These factors complicate the work of forensic entomologists, yet also give them a topic to endlessly drone about. Always determine the loquacity of an entomologist before agreeing to go on a long star voyage with him!

One religious faith-slash-gambling syndicate, the Thorax Cacophony, deliberately introduces the insect species of different worlds to new planetary environments. They seek out planets with nitrogen-rich atmospheres, which allow arthropod species to hyper-evolve to gigantic sizes. Once nature has achieved this, Thorax Cacophony priestesses train the giant insects for gladiatorial combat, to the disgust and delight of spectators, adherents and well-financed nonbelievers alike. Needless to say, one must wear breathing apparatus in order to witness the bouts first hand. Many bettors prefer to observe the battles from the comfort of orbiting space yachts, via video feed.

Yet a recent rash of incidents has raised concerns of match-fixing, and you and your crew suspect that the mastermind behind them is Quandos Vorn, against whom all of you have sworn deadly vengeance. Is it time to infiltrate the Thorax Cacophony?

Death to Quandos Vorn!

A Trail of Cthulhu scenario hook

When Georgian-era occultist Samuel Chasable first set about assembling his library, he could not help but think of the fate of John Dee’s book collection. Notoriously, the brother-in-law of the Elizabethan seer and statesman let Dee’s volumes fall into the hands of rivals while the great man journeyed to the continent. Chasable resolved that this would never happen to him. He learned, as his very first spell, a mere cantrip, a trifle, that would alert him should any unauthorized person lay a pilfering hand on any of his precious books.

As did many who went before him, Chasable soon understood that more momentous magics required pacts with otherworldly entities. Tipped into his copy of the Testament of Carnamagos, he found a spell to contact the Crawling Man. Assuming this to be a demon, he strode to a suitably wooded portion of his estate to perform the summoning. The Crawling Man turned out to be a figure of sticks and leaves that moved about in a disquieting quadrupedal fashion. In a flash of insight, Chasable saw that this being was far more than a demon, but was rather a god capable of taking a thousand forms. So he asked the being to make him physically immortal: impervious to all harm, including the effects of aging. The Crawling Man agreed; he would have need of Chasable in a future he considered imminent, but a mortal might not.

After many sinister exploits, in which Chasable shrugged off assassins’ bullets (pictured) and walked unharmed across the floor of the Mediterranean, the Crawling Man came to him and said it was time for him to enter a period of quiet repose. Though reluctant to withdraw from mortal affairs, Chasable could hardly refuse. The Crawling Man gave him time to sort his affairs. Wishing to retain access to his books when he returned from indefinite slumber, Chasable had a lead vault constructed and buried beneath his London manor. He made a similar underground chamber built for his physical form, which would fall into suspended animation at his Somerset estate.

That’s the past…

In 1936, extension of the London Underground’s Northern line leads workers straight to Chasable’s book vault. Perhaps fortunately, the diggers do not turn over the contents over to the British Library. Instead money changes hands and the books make their way to a specialist dealer for profitable disposal.

If you’re playing a Bookhounds of London game, that bookseller might be a PC.

Regardless of who starts to sell the books, the cantrip against book theft wakes Chasable ahead of schedule. He busts from his vault and resolves to take sorcerous vengeance on anyone interfering with his books. Then, assuming the Crawling Man takes a while to catch on, he reckons he might as well see what further mischief he might get up to in this new era…


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

An Ashen Stars scenario hook

Interstellar commodities magnate Agnes Moro wakes up in an unfamiliar, disabled ship floating in space near the planet Bifrost. Its primary holo screen plays an audio-only recording on loop. The electronically distorted voice says:

“Search your recollections and you will find that you have none. We have confiscated your memories. Using a viroware treatment, we have suppressed the areas of your brain that allow you to access your episodic memory. Although you will remember basic facts about yourself, retaining language and background knowledge, including tasks you are trained for, until you comply with our demands you will be unable to look back on incidents of your life and bring them fully to life inside your head. You still know who you are, Agnes Moro, but we have kidnapped your capacity to feel who you are. Your childhood, your early wild years on Focus 6, your rise to power as a business titan: all of these will remain but shadows to you until you pay up. A data file located on the home screen of this ship’s navigational console contains instructions for the handover. For four bigcreds worth of powdered tantalum, we will give you the antidote allowing you to once more access your life’s store of anecdotes. This treatment is DNA-coded to our original brain-suppressing formulation. Without its coding, no lab will be able to synthesize a version that will work for you—not in time, that is. Because if you don’t meet our demands in the within 72 hours, the neurological changes become permanent, and no antidote can ever help you. You may hire a laser crew to effectuate the handover but be warned—if you try anything funny, you’ll never see your past again.”

Agnes hires the team to make the exchange. Just as her instructions say, she warns them to play it as the memory thieves demand, avoiding anything that would mess up the deal. But when she takes the antidote and the incidents of her life come flooding back to her, she transforms back into the real Agnes Moro. The implacable, vengeful Agnes Moro who would never take a violation like this in stride. Now she instructs the PCs find out who did this and deliver them to justice on Bifrost—the planet she owns.


Ashen Stars is a gritty space opera game where freelance troubleshooters solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — all on a contract basis. The game includes streamlined rules for space combat, 14 different types of ship, a rogues’ gallery of NPC threats and hostile species, and a short adventure to get you started. Purchase Ashen Stars in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

A Trail of Cthulhu scenario hook

A man of means acquainted with your group’s dilettante character, or a likewise well-connected investigator, seeks help with his son. Widowed as a young man when his wife Cora died of pneumonia, Adrian Heppel has become listless, distracted, and barely able to fulfill his duties at the State Department. His father, Abraham, insists that he recovered from his loss, even becoming affianced to another woman. But about six months ago he relapsed into grief. Abraham found a box with occult symbols on it in his son’s room and fears that he has gotten into the sort of monkey business the PCs have proven themselves adept at smashing.

Investigation at first suggests that Adrian has begun to dabble in drugs. As the group peels back the layers of the mystery, they find him hooked on a peculiarly potent form of tobacco associated with the serpent mounds of Yig in Oklahoma. It has been infused with a substance allowing Adrian to commune with the spirit of his dear dead Cora. When he smokes it, she appears from the smoke, to speak soothing words from beyond the veil of death.

Adrian won’t identify his source, but as they look into the affair more deeply the group finds other highly-placed men in the government likewise hooked on the adulterated cigarettes’ spiritual balm. One uses it to vividly imagine himself in the garden he played in as a child, before his mother died. Another convinces himself that the brother whose death he caused in a drunken automobile accident now forgives him. All willingly risk ruination to keep the smoky visitations coming.

What sorcerer is behind this, and what grander scheme leads him to seek influence over young men occupying key positions in the federal government?

When the investigators draw too close, the smoky manifestations transform into threatening entities.

Another threat: the culprit exposes a PC to the smoke. Which team member stands to be beguiled by a phantom from a better past?


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

A Fear Itself Scenario Premise

Start by designing high school age characters. Confine the Worst Thing You Ever Did to the sorts of transgressions ordinary teenagers might get up to. You all hang out together, regarding yourselves as semi-outsiders. You aren’t bullied, nor are you bullies. But neither are you the insider kids.

A random PC notices one of her class’ high achieving students, a withdrawn, New Age-y kid named Lauren Andrews, staring at graffiti scrawled with a marker on the mirror of a school washroom. Lauren turns pale, staggers back into a stall door, then rushes for the exit. The PC catches the inscription even as it begins to inexplicably fade away:

Over the next few days Lauren visibly falls apart. Each PC has an interaction with her in which she seems faded, drawn, and increasingly listless. The last encounter sees her wandering, eyes glassy, into a busy street. The PCs can maybe rescue her, but the Difficulty of the Athletics test is pitched high, so they’re more likely to see her splattered gruesomely across the roadway.

Her death makes surprisingly modest waves among teachers and other students. The group realizes that her detachment from the world has spread to others. One member catches another student looking at a piece of graffiti declaring the futility of his own personal concerns. It too fades moments later. Each inscription tailors itself to the individual target:

You are a failure and will never be anything else.

Like your father’s, your future holds only the stink of alcohol.

You won’t make it in the big leagues. You will be injured and wind up working in an Arby’s.

Who is writing the graffiti? The weird new transfer student who never talks to anyone, but seems forever accompanied by the cries of unseen gulls? The ghost of the honors student who killed herself after an online bullying incident last year?

The mystery complicates itself when those infected by the apathy plague don’t die like Lauren probably did. Instead, one by one at first but later in small groups, you see them herded onto unmarked trucks by men in white jumpsuits, their gaits peculiar and faces oddly impassive.

And then one of the PCs sees her own grim notice scrawled on a mirror…


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the creatures of the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

A scenario premise for Ashen Stars

The lasers take a contract to stop an isolated planetary despot from starting a disastrous, self-destructive war. The mystery: how to do that.

Since the Mohilar War the the planet Endemia has retreated from the rest of the Bleed. Their economy locked into a failed policy of self-determination, its people suffer utter deprivation. As far as anyone can tell, given the way the end of that war scrambled memories of its key events, Endemia, like the Durugh, allied with the foes of the Combine, the now forcibly forgotten Mohilar. It split away from Democir, a culturally similar twin planet in the same system that remained loyal to their mutual Terran heritage. Endemian leaders have rewritten history to argue that their former brothers were in fact the betrayers, whose slanders have unfairly blackened the reputation of an entire world.

Years of isolation have left Endemia’s already ragtag armaments and ships in a shocking state of disrepair. But no one wants to tell that to their paranoid, perpetually enemy-hunting Global Emperor Xongta III. Omnipresent propaganda machine has told a generation of starving citizens that they still field a mighty space navy. Now, spurred on by internal politics no outsiders have the inside info to parse, the Endemian politburo prepares to launch a massive assault against the hated Democirs. As soon as the Endemian fleet meets the resistance posed by their wealthy and well-equipped targets, hundreds of thousands of its ill-trained conscripts will die. “Like balls of paper hitting a wall of flame,” as one military analyst puts it.

An Endemian ex-pat puts out a laser contract looking for a team to stop this doomed assault from ever leaving the launch pads. before it begins. Can your lasers penetrate this fear-driven, closed society and stop its leader from bringing disaster upon his people? Once on the ground, do they limit their actions to the terms of the contract, or try to do more and topple Xongta II from his precarious perch?

Ripped from this headline.


Ashen Stars is a gritty space opera game where freelance troubleshooters solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — all on a contract basis. The game includes streamlined rules for space combat, 14 different types of ship, a rogues’ gallery of NPC threats and hostile species, and a short adventure to get you started. Purchase Ashen Stars in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

When the stunning photographs taken by Harry Burton of the Carter expedition’s discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922 were recently exhibited at Oxford’s Ashmolean museum, one print was conspicuously not considered for display.

Those of you with high Cthulhu Mythos ratings know that Nitocris, possible last pharaoh of the 6th dynasty, became a ghoul after her death. So perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that Burton, a Metropolitan Museum of Art photographer on loan to Carter, took an image of in which her blurry outline can clearly be seen. She intruded into Burton’s picture of guardian statues in an outer funerary chamber. Burton, engrossed in his composition, saw her only after he developed the picture. His lack of alarm likely saved him from a gruesome fate.

Why was Nitocris prowling around in Tutankhamun’s tomb, you ask. Who do you think administers the ancient curses of the pharaohs against the plunderers of their grave, anyway?

The photograph, the first ever taken of this particularly numinous ghoul, captured a sliver of her spirit essence. Those who gaze too long on the image form an unwitting bond with Nitocris. No matter where they are in the world, the ghoul queen sends her minions. Individuals judged to be valuable to the ghoul community are devoured and excreted as freshly reborn ghouls. (Yes, that’s how the process works. Your other Lovecraftian sources have been too genteel to tell you this.) The rest are marked for later consumption, after they die.

Flash back to the time of your series, in the 1930s. Renegade NYU Egyptology professor Nathaniel Stonebridge has stumbled onto the secret of the photograph. Driven by a heedless thirst for knowledge, he wants to be the first mortal to witness and document the hideous rebirthing ceremony by which Nitocris brings new ghouls into her flock. To this end he gained access to the suppressed Burton image, normally housed in the Metropolitan’s securest vault. By threatening Metropolitan archivist Norman Lanning with the revelation of certain details of his unsavory private life, Stonebridge got him to strike new prints of the negative. These Stonebridge has been circulating to his many enemies in occult academia, in hopes that Nitocris will choose one of them, and he can watch it all happen.

Since letting Stonebridge strike new prints from the negative, Lanning has vanished. His superiors, afraid that the Nitocris image has fallen into the wrong hands, approach the investigators to find out just what has happened to him.


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.