The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring Fire and Faiththe last Battle Scenes collection for 13th Age; One For the Money, the first Langston Wright PDF adventure for Cthulhu Confidential, Ravensrodd horrors, choosing 5th ed vs 13th Age, plus drone playtesting.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

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In big news this month, our Production Assistant Alex Roberts is leaving Pelgrane to focus on applying to grad school, as well as the sundry other plates she magnificently keeps spinning. It’s been wonderful having her around, and we’ll miss her! We’re currently recruiting for an Administrative Assistant to replace her, and we’ve had a fantastic response, with more than 50 applications so far. Applications are open until October 11th, and all the details are here.

In other big news, Steven Hammond from Northland Creative is taking on the task of revamping our Black Book character generator. We use this a lot for our convention adventure and one-shot PCs, and we’re very excited about the improvements he’s got planned. But first, he needs your help to understand how you use our character sheets – check out his article for more details, and the chance to win a $15 voucher for our webstore.

With all the excitement, our production line has slowed down slightly. Fire and Faith, the final volume in the Battle Scenes series, is out on pre-order this month; pre-order it with the accompanying Map Folio as a bundle, and we’ll add the text file to your bookshelves on Wednesday, October 4th. The latest PDF for Cthulhu Confidential, the Langston Wright adventure One For the Money, is also available now, with the final PDF also being available on your bookshelves on Wednesday.

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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: Drone

System: Standalone

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanarhan

Deadline: 13th November 2017

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description:

In drone, one player plays the drone – a cybernetically reanimated corpse, memory erased, designed for the mission at hand.

Three other players are the operators – remote console jockeys, there to guide the drone through its assignment, and keep it under control. Both sets of players draw their actions from the same pool of dice, forcing them to work together – and as the game progresses, the dice pool gets tighter and the hostile Gamemaster gets more firepower to throw at them.  It’s a collaborative cyberpunk dystopian psychodrama – with lots of guns.

 

by Steven Hammond

Back in 2011, Pelgrane ran its first crowdfunding campaign and the Black Book, a GUMSHOE character creation tool, was born. Since its release the original code has been maintained on a voluntary basis by the very busy Pelgrane webmaster John Clayton. The Black Book has done its job, but it’s now time for a new implementation, which incorporates innovations such as Shock and Injury cards, which are begging for a digital implementation to really shine.

I am excited to announce that Northland Creative Wonders has reached an agreement with Pelgrane Press to take over the Black Book character tool, modernize it and turn it into a product that can sustain its own ongoing maintenance and development. All of the current Black Book features will continue to be freely available to all, with a new look and better support for phones and other small screens. More advanced features, like GM character matrices and Shock and Injury cards, will be available with a nominally priced subscription.

I will talk about some of those advanced features in a future post; right now, I want to talk about our design process and how you can help.

Understanding Users

In order to make good software to solve a problem, you need to understand how users solve that same problem without your software. Asking users how they solve that problem often doesn’t provide the information you need; sometimes users aren’t aware of all of the steps in some activity, they might accidentally exaggerate or deprecate the extent of an issue, and they tend to ask for specific solutions rather than identify problems. And those solutions are frequently limited by the user’s current process or their understanding of what is possible.

So what does a designer do? Certainly not ignore users and assume you know better. Instead, you look for evidence of what they actually do and scour that evidence for ways you can make things better.

If you have the resources you can do focus groups and user testing. With fewer resources, you can do user interviews. But even then, you are hoping to see demonstrations or artifacts, anything to give you more insight than the user can verbalize.

How You Can Help

Fortunately in gaming we have a ready artifact to study — character sheets. We want to see your GUMSHOE character sheets. What we want most to see is pictures or scans of used paper sheets; with all of your marks, erasures, and doodles. We think we can learn the most from those. We also want to see your digital sheets, and your custom sheet designs.

To share these with us you will want to go to https://shammond42.typeform.com/to/gQ3L7s. That form will ask for your e-mail address, any comments you have on the sheet you are submitting and a button to upload the sheet. E-mail address is optional, we will only use it if we have questions about your sheet, send you a prize (see below) or to send you an invite to the new app when it is ready.

Once we have reviewed the sheet submissions, we will contact people with the most interesting sheets to discuss them further.

What’s in it for You

We have a pair of $15 gift vouchers to the Pelgrane Press online store. Every sheet uploaded with an email address will be an entry in the draw. You have to provide your email address to enter – otherwise, we can’t contact you if you win.

The upload site will stay open until October 15, 2017.

What Happens Next?

We will go through all of those sheets and user discussions to see what we can learn. That learning will lead into the design of the new character sheet in the Black Book. We will also share the sheets and our findings with Pelgrane as they think about redesigning their print character sheets.

From there, we will begin the process of building the rest of the app. It is too early to talk specific schedules now, but I hope to be sharing more progress and insight with you as this project moves forward.

  • September ended with ThawCon, my annual 13th Age fest, so this is a 13th-Age-heavy issue. I’ve also been playtesting GUMTHEWS, Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresner’s GUMSHOE fantasy game, and an indie game we are publishing (more on that another time). This month, we release the second adventure for Langston Wright, the veteran investigator first featured in Cthulhu Confidential, and two TimeWatch releases are available in PDF form, and you can pre-order the final Battle Scenes, Fire and Faith, too.

Finally, we say goodbye to Alex Roberts, our Production Assistant, podcaster, gamer, game writer and well of exuberance. It was a great pleasure to work with her – she has an amazing future. We are looking for an Administrative Assistant to take over some of her duties. The details are here.

One For the Money – A Langston Wright PDF adventure for GUMSHOE One-2-One

The Valkyrie Gambit – a showcase of TimeWatch adventures PDF

The TimeWatch GM Screen and Resource Book PDF

 

Fire and Faith – Battle Scenes for Four Icons pre-order- The final volume in the Battle Scenes series features battles themed for the Crusader, Priestess, Great Gold Wyrm, and Diabolist – with maps

ThawCon X and the 13th Age

I’ve just returned from ThawCon X, my annual game with my original group of 38 years. We switched from AD&D to 13th Age four years ago, and we’ve not looked back. We start on the Friday afternoon and the game runs until 1:00, with a long break to eat and catch up. After a full day on Saturday, we feasted on roast pork and fine wine, then returned to the game table. While some of the game was an urban adventure, most of it was set in the Stone Thief, the vindictive living dungeon which Gareth created. It bursts with ideas, sparkling copy and malicious encounters, it made my job very easy.  Some highlights of the game:

  • A smithy which features golems which create swords of slaying during combat to use against the PCs
  • Orcs in coracles with bill hooks, traversing a lake of magma
  • A slave rebellions led by gladiators against their orcish captives
  • A derro ambush amongst the ruins featuring trained bullettes
  • A medusa in a maze of force walls with arrows which ignore said force walls
  • An ice ape bridge guardian which threw one PC at another, damaging both

I’d like to shout out to :

  • Our necromancer, who lit up the well of the Maddening Stairs by ordering his skeletal minion Renwick to immolate himself then jump into the void
  • Our paladin/barbarian who is ever so polite until the rage kicks in
  • Our commander player who roleplayed a high intelligence rather than high charisma character with just the right degree of pedantry and disapproval
  • Our magic user who evoked a reckless fireball – fireball then ask forgiveness
  • Our thief whose absolute insistence he was only looting the corpse rather examining it meant they missed an intellect devourer
  • Our fighter who rolled a natural 1 and two natural 20s, but not fighting, repointing walls!

The Bestiary 2: Lions and Tigers and Owlbears

ThawCon was also an opportunity to put the Bestiary 2 through its paces.  It was the last weekend for our youngest player, a keen 13th Age GM playing the commander, before he went to university. Just before he and his father left, he asked for a combat featuring a creature which pushes the rules to the limit, and had a decent chance of killing his character (takes all sorts). So I threw and Eidolon at him – a creature which represents a concept, can switch PCs into parallel realities, and swap them both temporally (changing their initiative) and physically (changing their positions). It also dishes out vast quantities of damage. The eidolon swapped the commander out to its own timeline, while the other PCs flipped in and out each round, facing other foes, until the combat was done. They also met, and were intimidated by the briar elves, creatures of thorn and sorcery, which took out three members of the party before finally succumbing.

Battle Scenes: Fire and Faith

ThawCon has featured encounters from the Battle Scenes series throughout. This year I had only one battle scene of a suitable level left – a drow ambush in the woods. Next year, I’ll be able to use some of the higher level encounters. The final Battle Scenes book Fire and Faith is nearing completion. The art and text are done and I’m just putting the finishing touches to the maps. It’s on pre-order.

The Book of Ages, Shards of the Broken Sky and The Book of Demons are in development.

Everything Else

  • Now that the text of The Fall of Delta Green has been approved we’ve been working on cover treatments for approval by the Arc Dream Team – “Team” likes its capital letter there.
  • We are adding new content to Hideous Creatures, our Trail of Cthulhu Bestiary.
  • #Feminism purchasers now get additional exclusive games not in the first edition. Existing purchasers have received an email, new purchasers get them automatically.
  • The Persephone Extraction for Night’s Black Agents is being illustrated, and Night’s Black Agents One-2-One is still in development. Get it on pre-order.

 

rainbow-pelgrane_150We’re currently recruiting for an Administrative Assistant to provide support to our customers and manage our channels to market.. The position is intended for a remote worker, and may involve travel to conventions, some overnight stays and weekend work where necessary.

Pelgrane Press is committed to building a culturally diverse company and strongly encourages applications from women and minority candidates.

Our Administrative Assistant will be responsible for ensuring a prompt, friendly and professional response to all queries from our customers, over email, on social media, and in person.

They will manage and develop our supply chain, monitoring and maintaining inventories of products in our mail order and distribution warehouses to maximize efficiency, liaise with key fulfilment and print partners to ensure high service levels and stock quality, and work with the Managing Directors on print quotes and print buying.

They will also assist the Managing Directors with ad-hoc administrative and marketing tasks where necessary.

This is an ideal opportunity for someone who is looking for a permanent position in publishing within the roleplaying industry. As a small, growing company, there will be opportunities in the future to expand the role for candidates with drive and initiative. Game writing and design work are not part of this position, nor will they be in the future.

The successful candidate will have a passion for roleplaying games, excellent organisational and communication skills, thoroughness and attention to detail, and the ability to set priorities under pressure. A solid grasp of Word and Excel are essential. Experience with stock management is useful, though not necessary.

The position is permanent, with an initial three-month evaluation period. The position is 25 hours per week, and the salary is US$1500 per month. The position doesn’t include health insurance, so if your country of residence doesn’t have universal health care, you will need to have your own health care provision.

The full job spec is here.

To apply, please send a covering letter via email with your CV attached as a PDF to Cat Tobin before Wednesday, October 11th 2017. No agencies, please.

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring The Persephone Extraction, a new adventure collection for Night’s Black Agents; The Howling Fog, the first Vivian Sinclair PDF adventure for Cthulhu Confidential, plus The Yellow King RPG playtesting, Mythos themed cocktails, and how to choose the best flavour of GUMSHOE for your preferences.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

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Gen Con is over, and we’re catching our breath after our biggest event of the year. We had a great Gen Con 50, and a big shout-out to the team involved in pulling together such a cracking anniversary event.

We had a super productive Pelgranista get-together in Indianapolis in advance, and have big plans for the rest of the year. Other highlights were winning the Indie Game Developer Network’s Indie Groundbreaker Award for Game of the Year for Seven Wonders, our story game anthology (get 15% off with this month’s bookshelf offer), and two runner-up awards for Best Art and Game of the Year for #Feminism. We had a bit of a rest during this year’s ENnie Awards, and were happy to sit and watch Ken and Robin pick up their fourth win for KARTAS, Bubblegumshoe picking up Best Family Game, and of course, Chaosium’s well-deserved ten awards. Congratulations to all the winners in both awards!

New this month, we have the pre-order draft of The Persephone Extraction, a five-adventure collection for Night’s Black Agents. We’ve also got the first Vivian Sinclair adventure for Cthulhu Confidential; called The Howling Fog, it sees our tenacious reporter go undercover in the sleazy clip joints of New York City, investigating some mysterious mob deaths. We’ve also got Cthulhu City and Out of the Woods

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a column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

When characters in DramaSystem want to accomplish something practical, external to their emotional goals, the full procedural system seen in Hillfolk allows you to narrate a detailed scene around that. It determines not only what ultimately happens, but lays down a series of suspense beats along the way.

The system’s default assumption is that you will use this only rarely. Mostly when you want something practical to happen, the scene caller just describes it happening:

“The village is on fire and the Horseneck tribe are riding through, pillaging! I go to Tallbeard to urge him to renounce his vow of non-violence and lead the charge to drive them off!”

“Ann has altered the library into a vast black labyrinth and locked out all the students. Doc, who she did not see over by the study carrels when she wove the spell, comes over to complain.”

“Chessboard, Asim’s horse, wins the third race by a nose. Asim approaches Percival, hoping for congratulations.”

Only in two cases would you bother to treat these changes to the ongoing situation as anything other than a fait accompli:

  1. Not everyone in the group agrees that this should happen
  2. The caller wants to be surprised by the outcome (a rare case I’ll deal with in a later post)

The original procedural system as seen in Hillfolk serves as something of a Rorschach test for player group culture. Of the groups who’d rather use an alternate, some want the procedural system to behave even more like a traditional RPG resolution system. Others want to set aside the suspense of the current system in favor of the quickest possible answer to the question at hand.

Here are two options for those belonging to that second camp: one simpler, one way simpler. They let you dispense with the red, yellow and green procedural tokens entirely, stripping the game down to two resource types: drama tokens and bennies.

They also assume that there is no such thing as a scene consisting only of a procedural action. Here, the procedural only serves as a prelude changing the conditions before the real meat of the scene, a dramatic interaction.

This removes the option of calling a procedural as a way of ducking the commitment of placing your character in yet another emotional situation. As with so much else in the highly personal play experience DramaSystem provides, this might be a plus or minus, depending on the tastes of your particular players.

The GM checks to see how many players care about the outcome, and what they want to happen. The caller draws two cards from a freshly shuffled playing card deck; each other player who cares one way or the other draws a single card. The GM does not take part. Players may spend bennies to draw additional cards. Each card costs one bennie. After everyone has had a chance to draw as many cards as they wish to pay bennies for, the players begin turning them over.

You could:

  1. have all players whose characters are taking part in the action flip over all cards at once. The player with the highest card describes what happens.
  2. narrate the ups and downs of each card outcome.

The first choice, Quick Narration, cuts to the chase, giving you a speedy outcome so you can get right back to the drama.

The second, Suspense Narration, draws out the suspense, getting you a little closer to the set-piece action/thriller sequence feeling the established procedural system permits.

Ties between cards of the same value, as always, resolve using this suit order, from best to worst: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.

In either case, the outcome a player wants might be the opposite of their character’s desires. This happens when your plans as author and the motivations of the character contradict each other. Ava the player might want to see the situation shaken up by a successful enemy raid on the village, even though her character, Ashwind, doesn’t want any such thing. When you’re rooting for the group to get into more trouble, you might well narrate bad stuff happening that your character either fails to stop or is not directly involved in.

In both of the following examples, Ava, Bob and Carla think it’s more interesting to let the Horsenecks successfully raid the village, with Darius, Emily and Fran hoping to see them driven off. Ava is the caller.

Quick Narration Example

Ava draws two cards. Darius, who plays Tallbeard and doesn’t want to be put in this position, pays a bennie to draw an extra card. Everyone turns their cards over at once. The highest card is the King of Spades, drawn by Emily. She narrates:

“The village may be on fire, but we rally and send the Horsenecks packing without Tallbeard’s having to draw his sword. His vow remains intact.”

This requires Ava, who is still the caller, to revise her intention of the scene. Her character, Ashwind, still goes to Tallbeard. Now, however, she uses a bit of tribal reverse psychology, congratulating him on training the others so that his own hands don’t get bloody any more.

Suspense Narration Steps and Example

In Suspense narration, the caller reveals the first card and describes a step in the action that goes her way. Then you go around the room from the caller’s left with each other player who wants to influence the outcome revealing his cards in turn. With each card reveal the player turning a card over describes:

  • a step toward his desired outcome (if this card is the highest so far, or if the highest card so far has already been drawn by a player driving the story toward the same outcome)
  • a step away from the desired outcome (if this card does not beat the highest so far, which is held by the other side)

Keep going around the room until you get back to the caller, who reveals her remaining card(s).

With all cards drawn and narrated, the player with the high card concludes the description by describing the final outcome.

(As the King of Spades is the highest card and can’t be beaten, its appearance prompts an exception to the rules. A player revealing it narrates an immediate end to the action sequence, in her favor.)

Example: Ava, the caller, reveals a 4 of Diamonds. The first card is always the high card when drawn, so she says: “The village is on fire! The Horseheads come riding in.”

Darius, on her left, wants the village to repel the attack and has paid a bennie for an extra card. He reveals the 8 of Clubs. That’s better than Ava’s card, so he describes events turning the village’s way: “Using Tallbeard’s training, the people spring into action, flinging sling bullets at the hated foe.” He turns over his second card, an 8 of Diamonds: “The Horsenecks break formation, and the people cheer!” (Suit order tells us that this is the new high card.)

Bob, on his left, reveals the 6 of Clubs, worse than the highest card so far. He has to describe events going against his desires, which favor of the invasion: “Even our smallest children join in the defense, pelting the invaders with well-aimed stones.”

Carla, on his left, reveals the 9 of Clubs, the best card so far. She favors the invasion: “Then their mightiest warriors regroup, sending our hurlers fleeing with terrifying swings of their great bronze war clubs.”

Emily turns over the Jack of Spades, now the best card. Opposing the invasion, she says: “Our best fighters, Tallbeard excepted, clash with theirs, sending them toppling from their mounts.”

Fran shows her card, the 7 of Diamonds. That’s not the best card but she’s with Emily in wanting the invasion to fail, so she gets to describe a positive result. “Seeing this, the Horseneck auxiliaries flee.”

That takes us around the room back to the caller, Ava. If she draws a Queen or King, she can turn this back to her original intent. But she only gets a 10 of Clubs, and must describe an opposite step: “Still on horseback, our war leaders herd the downed Horsenecks past our fortifications.”

As owner of the high card, Emily gets the final narrative touch: “We jeer them, hurling dung and insults, as they limp back toward their dry and wretched lands.”

As in the quick narration example, Ava, the caller, then revises her intention of the ensuing scene. Her character, Ashwind, still goes to Tallbeard. Now, however, she uses a bit of tribal reverse psychology, congratulating him on training the others so that his own hands don’t get bloody any more.

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: The Yellow King RPG

System: GUMSHOE core

Author: Robin D. Laws

Deadline: 31st October 2017

Number of sessions: 6-8

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

The playtest materials contain the revised PDF of the Paris chapter, which includes the rules, the adventure “Ghost of the Garnier”, plus image files for all of the Shock and Injury cards appearing in this first book.

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