The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring the Cthulhu Confidential PDF and an adventure, 13th Age Book of Demons playtesting, masked vigilantes in Cthulhu City, the 13th Age Bestiary 2 printing videos and monster origin stories, a Trail of Cthulhu quick reference rules guide, and more.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. 

– Nyarlathotep

The lurid heightened reality of Cthulhu City, with its gasmasked police, impossible skyscrapers, mad scientists and hordes of cultists works perfectly for a masked-vigilantes vs the Mythos campaign. In this setup, each of the player characters is a pulp hero, possessed of either astounding physical and mental fortitude or some supernatural talent that gives them an edge in the battle against the city’s horrors. Choose one of the following options:

  • Action Hero: +15 build points for general abilities
  • Expert: +5 investigative ability points
  • Supernatural Gift: Either convert the psychic abilities over from Fear Itself 2nd Edition, or work with your Keeper to come up with a suitable weird talent like invisibility, precognition, the power to pierce supernatural disguises, a telepathic bond with a deity, a stolen Yithian gadget or two…

Each character has a lair or hideout of some sort, located in a district you’re familiar with. Players can pool together for more elaborate secret hideouts, like stately mansions or fathomless caves with magical defences against discovery or the Mythos. Players are also encouraged to use the Organising Resistance rules (p. 48) to build networks of informants and allies. (A generous Keeper might even let a player invest some build points in such a network at the start of the campaign.)

Some of the existing characters in Cthulhu City already work perfectly in this paradigm:

  • Renegade Transport Policeman Miles Grieg (p. 66) retains his human sanity – if not, entirely, his human form – and fights against his former colleagues using their own sinister weapons against them. He is… The Watchman!
  • Elizabeth Venner (p. 80) might turn her gifts of ophidian hypnosis and witchcraft towards fighting crime and the Mythos. By night, she wears the mask of… the Serpent Woman!
  • Professor Armitage (p. 92), exiled from the university he loved, might seek his revenge from the sewers and ghoul-tunnels where he keeps his laboratory. Armed with occult lore and stolen sorcery, he is… Ibn-Ghazi!
  • Thomas Kearney (p. 163), his soul set afire by the Colour, could wield this alien radiation as a weapon. He may glow with the nameless Colour Out Of Space, but he calls himself… the Green Flash!
  • Tallis Martin (p. 177) needs only a few more points in Athletics and Scuffling to go full-on two-fisted archaeologist. She’s the Adventuress!
  • Charlie Zhang (p. 198) is already called out as a possible vigilante hero battling the forces of darkness – and his own destiny as architect of the Cruel Empire to come. He is the Master of Tsan Chan!

The Suspicion rules adapt neatly to a masked-hero campaign. Suspicion accrues to the group of masked heroes, not to their civilian secret identities. The city police have no idea that the Serpent Woman is secretly the alter ego of society heiress Elizabeth Venner, or that Thomas Kearney puts aside his overalls and dons the mask of the Green Flash – but the Serpent Woman and the Green Flash have a high Suspicion score, with all the penalties and problems that entails (p. 23). At the start of each adventure, the Keeper rolls a d6; if the result is equal to or lower than the group’s Suspicion score, then there’s a risk in this adventure that one of the investigators will be unmasked, or there’ll be a perilous cross-over between their secret identity and their actions as a Mythos-fighting hero (“oh no, my aunt Gertrude’s about to be sacrificed by the Cthulhu cult! If I rush up and free her from the altar, she might recognize me!”)

Little else needs to be changed – the monsters, cults, sinister masters and malignant forces of the city work as foils for a group of vigilantes. After all, a city ruled by monsters needs whatever heroes it can get…

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The big news from the last month is the successful funding of The Yellow King RPG Kickstarter, which raised a whopping £167,341 in pledges. Thanks to everyone who backed it! If you missed it, you can still pre-order at the Kickstarter pledge levels through our dedicated pre-order store page, here.

We’re hoping to release The Yellow King RPG in 2018, but while you wait, we’ve got some GUMSHOE One-2-One goodness available this month, in the form of The House Up in the Hills, the first PDF adventure for Cthulhu Confidential. And, we’ve got the Cthulhu Confidential core book available in PDF format this month, too. The pre-order for Cthulhu City, our paranoid, creepy, Mythos-flooded urban setting for Trail of Cthulhu, is also still available, as is the the pre-order for the 13th Age Bestiary 2. And we’ve still got a few remaining copies of the limited edition versions of Eyes of the Stone Thief. Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has individually hand-signed each one, in his own inimitable style.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

      • 13th Sage: Bestiary Background – Cat, Ghoul, Hydra – Rob Heinsoo on the origin stories of some 13th Age Bestiary 2  monsters
      • The Terroir of the Demons – Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan gives site-specific power tables for 13th Age hellholes
      • Manufacturing a Monster: Printing the Bestiary 2 – Videos and images from our printers as they capture the monsters of the 13th Age Bestiary 2 on paper
      • 13th Age Character Builds. In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.

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claw demonIn The Book of Demons, we introduce the idea of hellhole-specific demon powers. Instead of using the standard random demon power table, the book provides tailored tables of random powers, so demons from the Ratwood are more likely to have, well, ratty-woody themed powers, and demons from the Floating Market have a chance of powers reflecting the anything-goes-as-long-as-The-Diabolist-approves laws of the place.

Now, why should the Hellholes from the 13th Age core rulebook be left out of the fun? This article gives site-specific power tables for those hellholes on p. 271…

 

Random Hum Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Bug Eyes. The demon is immune to invisibility and ignores any illusions.
  2. Carapace. +1 AC
  3. Bug Wings. The demon can buzz into the air on furiously beating insect wings. If the demon can already fly, reroll.
  4. Blind Instinct. At the start of the encounter, pick a target for this demon. The demon gets a +1 bonus to all attacks on that target, but may not attack other enemies as long as that target is still in the battle. (The demon can use attacks that hit multiple foes, as long as the chosen target is one of those foes.)
  5. Egg of Doom. When this demon is slain, it lays a demonic egg. If the egg is not destroyed, the reborn demon hatches from this egg at the start of the next round at half its starting hit points. The egg can be destroyed before it hatches; treat it as having the defences and hit points of a basic mook of level equal to the demon.
  6. Stinger. On a natural 16+ with a melee attack, the demon also inflicts 5 ongoing poison damage (save ends). Champion-tier demons: 10 ongoing poison damage; epic-tier, 15 ongoing damage.
  7. Swarm. Once per battle, when the escalation die is 4+, this demon may grant all nearby demon allies an extra action this round.
  8. Protect The Queen! Once per turn, when an attack hits this demon, the demon may attempt a save. If successful, the attack is redirected to a nearby demon ally.

 

Random Blackfort Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Implements of Torture. The demon gets a bonus to damage equal to its level when attacking staggered foes.
  2. To The Barricades! The demon gets a +2 bonus to AC and PD against ranged attacks thanks to its mastery of the terrain.
  3. Hold The Line! If fighting alongside two other demons, this demon gets a +1 bonus to attack rolls.
  4. The demon starts the battle invisible. It becomes visible when it attacks.
  5. Terrain Stunt. The demon may pull of a terrain stunt, as per the ranger power (13th Age, 120).
  6. Strength of the Earth. The demon has a +5 bonus to saves as long as it’s in contact with the ground.
  7. Master Torturer. Whenever the demon inflicts a critical hit, it heals a number of hit points equal to its level x 3.
  8. Once per battle, the demon may summon up a fortress from the earth, changing the terrain of the battlefield. The fortress comes with a garrison of mook reinforcements.

 

Random Bubble Demon Powers (d4 for lesser demons, d8 for bigger ones)

  1. Smoke shroud. If the demon doesn’t attack this round, it gains a smoky shroud that gives attacks against it a 25% miss chance. The shroud vanishes when the demon attacks.
  2. Resist Fire 18+.
  3. When the demon dies, it inflicts fire damage equal to its level x 2 to all nearby enemies.
  4. Resist Fire 18+.
  5. Demonic Flame. The demon’s got a fiery aura; any foes engaged with the demon at the start of the demon’s turn take 1d10 damage (Champion-tier: 2d10; Epic: 4d10).
  6. Demonic Hatred. If the escalation die is 3+, the demon gets an extra action each round. This extra action may only be used to attack a foe it’s already attacked this round.
  7. Demonic Aristocrat. The first time this demon is staggered, it vanishes, and a demon bodyguard two levels lower appears on the battlefield. When the bodyguard’s defeated, the original demon reappears.
  8. Once per battle as a standard action, if the demon is staggered, the demon may trigger a localised volcanic eruption. Treat this as a ridiculously hard impromptu challenge (13th Age, p. 186).

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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!

By Kevin Kulp

Owl Hoot Trail is a fantasy steampunk Western game (reviewed here and here) published by Pelgrane in 2013. Clinton R. Nixon wrote the core of the game that Matt Breen and I developed. Our aim wasn’t to make a Western-flavored fantasy game that felt like D&D with spurs; it was to make a game just as deadly and cinematic as your favorite Clint Eastwood movie, except with giant steampunk monstrosities, gun-slinging Orcs, Dwarvish prospectors, and blandly smiling grifters who demolish you in a hand of poker while they chat secretly with each other in Elvish. If we ended up with female halfling marshals gunning down owlbear rustlers at high noon, we were hitting our design goals.

We hit our design goals.

It’s been a while since we’ve revisited the game here at See Page XX, so here’s a few alternate ways to play alongside some great game hooks for doing so.

Low Magic, High Grit

Someone says “fantasy heroes” and you squint suspiciously; you want your western game stripped down and all human, maybe with some supernatural weirdness to confound the players. Can do!

Keep the Mechanics, Change Out the Appearance

Keep the game mechanics for all the character races, but toss the appearances and cultural hooks (if any.) Pick a half’in, for instance, and you still get +1 to DRAW, Amity and Defense – without having to be small or have hairy feet. The players can describe their character’s appearance however they wish, and use the mechanics from any race that fits their character concept.

Think Twice About Supernatural Character Classes

If you want to cleave closer to classic Western tales, limit how much steampunk, spirits, mind control and word of the Almighty makes it into your game. You’ll want to keep the classes Gunslinger, Marshal, Ruffian, and Scout. Take a close look at Gadgeteer, Mentalist, Preacher, and Shaman. I love those classes and consider them incredibly fun to play, but they break the mold of the traditional Old West.

You might pick and choose as well, keeping some classes and eliminating others – or keeping the abilities in a class while describing them differently. Perhaps a Mentalist is a huckster or incredibly persuasive singing cowboy. Perhaps a Preacher’s abilities (some of them, at least) have incredibly mundane and non-supernatural explanations. Keep what you love, jettison the rest.

Make the Foes Match Your Tone

You probably don’t want the characters attacked by a chupacabra or giant ants if you want a classic western! Or maybe you do. Hey, I’m not judging. What we recommend is that you save time by using pre-written monster stats and just reskin them to look like whatever or whoever you want. Instead of goblins, you have feral children. Instead of a hellhound, you have a vicious trained attack dog.

Or better yet, introduce a small amount of horror or fantasy into your game by carefully picking and choosing non-human foes. The Marshal’s going to get a huge and unpleasant surprise the first time she tries to arrest a graverobber who turns out to be an honest-to-goodness ghoul…

Steampunk and Sorcery Extravaganza

Serious and conservative games are for weenies, you declare, and you plan to make your game sing by turning the “wahoo!” volume up as far as it can go.

Over-the Top Villains

No one likes a boring villain. No one. So make them memorable, clever, infuriating, and multi-faceted – even most of those facets just makes them more dangerous and conniving.

To do this, don’t ever have a villain with one driving goal. In the real world, few people are mono-maniacal. Sure, they may have a particular life goal (or two, or three), but they also may have families, loves, hates, and hobbies that help make them unique. Your villains can follow the same pattern. Perhaps the notoriously lethal gunslinger paints portraits of the men and women she kills, and delivers them to her victims’ families – and it’s nothing but a rumor that late at night those portraits can be heard sobbing. Or maybe the crazed steampunk inventor of clockwork monstrosities loves to knit, and sends all of his mechanical terrors out into the world with a nice little knitted shawl or bonnet. Why? Because he finds it hilarious, most likely. If there’s another reason, the characters will have to find it out.

It’s also fine to make great villains fallible, with visible weaknesses and flaws. That’s usually a much better choice than making a “perfect” villain; your players are going to want a handle on the bad guys to manipulate or goad them, and that’s most fun when they can detect a villain’s ego, pomposity, pride, or fear. Players feel justifiably clever when they spot their enemy’s obsession and then lure that enemy into a trap by preying on the knowledge.

Embrace the Weirdness

Cackling inventors drive giant clockwork spiders across the llano, stalking intelligent prey; a punchcard-driven sheriff metes out clockwork justice in a small town where even the worst ruffians call themselves his friend; and some miscreant is adding robotics to the local livestock, turning bison into steam-powered weapons platforms. Those cows and sheep aren’t actually going to combine into one hideous robotic cow-sheep amalgam that’s a 30’ tall baaing, mooing, clanking menace, are they? Well, yes, they probably are. Somebody should probably get right on stopping that. And by “somebody,” I mean “your players.”

If you love the idea of the weird west and want to differentiate this game from a traditional western, turn the knob up to 11 and embrace the unusual nature of the setting. Look at the four more unusual character classes and consider basing something interesting around them. To focus on Shamans, create a town (or even the entire Old West) where spirits are known by everyone to walk the earth and can be summoned, manipulated, allied with.. and feared. Not only are there nature spirits, the Rotting Marshal commands undead vampires and zombies from her corpse ranch out in the blasted deserts. If you’re going to carve out a space for civilization, you may want to start by eliminating the threat of your own dead kin betraying you.

For Preachers, consider a setting where there’s an apocalyptic battle going on between heaven and hell, and it’s being played out through the unknowing inhabitants of a small corner of the Old West, with only a few Preachers in on the secret. Hidden angels and demons walk amongst us, and every conflict symbolizes the fate for a portion of humanity. In this setting, when the Preacher tells you she’s a servant of the Almighty, there’s a damn good chance she’s speaking literally.

For Mentalists, think about mind control, con men, and controlling people through their information and emotions. You may picture a vast Shee conspiracy of mind-controlled lawmen across the Old West, an autocratic secret government just begging to be shattered by brave and independent heroes… unless, of course, the shee buy them off or kill them off first. Or you might imagine newsprint that quite literally changes the emotions of anyone who reads it, allowing a secret manipulator to turn whole towns into spies and secret soldiers, without the locals ever guessing how they’re being manipulated.

And for Gadgeteers, grab every steampunk trope you can think of and don’t limit yourself only to powers and inventions that are available to the player characters. Perhaps a massive metal, steam-powered spire is rising out of the prairie, and its only when the supernatural drill pierces a hidden cave system that the heroes decide to intervene. Perhaps clockwork knights are riding mechanical bison across the land, spreading word of the coming of a terrible new Iron Warlord. You can even mix genres: cowboys versus Far East robots or battle-suits in a roving, glorious battle to control the West.

Tying It Together

Whatever approach you decide to take, ask your players what they like best about the setting, and focus on that. Some people might love the clothing, inventions and trappings of steampunk. Others might be in love with the stark brutality and heroism of a classic western. There’s no wrong answers here, but you want to make sure you’re giving your players the mix of roleplaying, action and danger they crave.

That brings up a good point. We’re not going to say that Owl Hoot Trail has a high mortality rate among heroes, but you can fill up Boot Hill nice and quickly if you’re incautious. That’s not a bad thing. Just let your players know so that they set their expectations accordingly, and use the rules for Hardened characters on page 9.

We recommend you use Owl Hoot Trail for short series of 3-5 games, just like an arc in your favorite television show. The game runs beautifully with this structure, allowing you to end sessions on cliff-hangers and raise the tension until the heroes are able to resolve the dilemma (or die trying) in the final session.

And however you use the game? Don’t pull punches. Make your villains worthy of the title. Have an amazing time. And give the players hell.

 

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…

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

This month, we offer you a one-shot Owl Hoot Trail adventure, previews of The Yellow King RPG, a playtest of the Blakeian magic setting Fearful Symmetries,and the Cthulhu Confidential limited edition competition results. Plus, pre-order the 13th Age Bestiary 2, and get lions & tigers & owlbears AND an exclusive snowcub print.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

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It’s holiday month in the Nest, with Cat just back from a week of Regency dancing and romancing in Sweden, and Simon currently enjoying the sunshine in Spain. Luckily, the other Pelgranistas are furiously pedalling away to keep the production motors turning, and so this month sees the special snowcub edition of the 13th Age Bestiary 2: Lions & Tigers & Owlbears. Pre-order before June 21st and get the plain text PDF, plus an exclusive snowcub print, and your name in the book’s credits. #Feminism is being printed, and should be shipping to pre-orderers shortly – we’ll be adding a bonus PDF with six new games to pre-orderer’s bookshelves later this month. We’re also releasing the beautiful limited edition of the 13th Age living dungeon campaign, Eyes of the Stone Thief, with a bookplate signed by Gareth.

In other news this month, we’re looking forward to the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio – come and see us at booth #913 if you’re going!

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

      • 13th Sage: Lethal Damage One-Liners – Rob Heinsoo shares some gems from their home 13th Age game
      • 13th Age Character Builds. In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.

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Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: Fearful Symmetries

System: Trail of Cthulhu

Author: Steve Dempsey

Deadline: 30th July 2017

Number of sessions: 6-8

Description:

Fearful Symmetries reveals the secret history of England between the World Wars, a magical reawakening and the people who fought in the shadows for the newly discovered power. It is the story of how Albion was split asunder and how clues in the poetry of William Blake lead groups of magicians to attempt to reunite it. And it is the story of the singular squamous truth buried in these hideous myths.

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