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This month, we are delighted to announce that we will be publishing the nano-game anthology, #Feminism. Originally crowdfunded and published by Fëa Livia, a Swedish non-profit organisation which has published roleplay- and larp-related books and magazines since 1993, we hope to expand its presence into RPG stores through our arm of pelgrane deliverers, and mainstream book stores through our Stone Skin Press imprint. You can pre-order a print copy (which includes the PDF, as always), or download the PDF copy, in our webstore this month. We’ve also got the beautiful limited edition copies of Cthulhu Apocalypse available for sale; you can find this alongside the last few remaining other limited edition copies in the new limited edition section in our webstore.

New Releases

      • #Feminism – print version – Pre-order the second print edition of the nano-game anthology, and get the PDF immediately
      • #Feminism – PDF version – Get the PDF-only version of this nano-game anthology
      • Cthulhu Apocalypse Limited Edition – Get one of only 100 copies which are gold-foiled, and beautifully bound in a green faux leather cover, with a signed bookplate from both authors

Articles

13th Age

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This month sees the release of the pre-order of #Feminism, available in both pre-order print and PDF format. We’re also releasing the signed limited edition of Cthulhu Apocalypse, and eagle-eyed observers will spot a new section in our webstore, where we’ve added all our limited editions, which will be available while stocks last in each shipping location. Cthulhu Confidential is printed, and was shipped to all UK & RoW pre-orderers on April 26th, and shipped to all US & Canadian customers on May 1st- check the FAQ page to see when it will arrive with you.

I’ve been working on 13th Age development, finalising TimeWatch printing ready to fulfil the final elements of the kickstarter, and the 13th Age Bestiary 2: Lions and Tigers and Owlbears. I’ve also had the pleasure of playtesting Gareth’s Night’s Black Agents One-2-One game.

#Feminism

Pelgrane Press is honoured to be publishing #Feminism – A Nanogame Anthology, a collection of bite-sized games, which range from the silly to serious, but what they all have in common is that they require minimal preparation and play in less than an hour. Originally crowdfunded, we are putting this beautifully designed and thought-provoking book out through hobby stores and mainstream books shops.

13th Age

Rob Heinsoo has delivered the Bestiary 2 manuscript and art. We are doing a copy editing pass, then it’s ready to go.  I’ve been using the creatures in my home game to great effect, and you can see a sample – an icon from a past age – just here.

Fire and Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons is being illustrated and cartographed (that is a thing), Rob has moved on to the Demonologist class from the The Book of Demons, and Gareth is working on converting a section of Eyes of the Stone Thief to 5th Edition, just to give 5e players a taste of it.

Night’s Black Agents GUMSHOE One-2-One

I playtested Gareth’s Night’s Black Agents One-2-One game over Google Hangouts this week. When you are washed ashore with clawmarks and the last thing you can remember is emptying your clip into a vampire’s head while the tide rises in a sea cave, well, count yourself lucky you don’t remember.

Some issues arose – for example – Night’s Black Agents is pretty fighty, and the agent needs to either win, be wounded but alive or be captured, and there are way, way more options when approaching someone from whom you want information, so it’s harder to structure. For a very first game, it went much better than I expected.

The Yellow King RPG Kickstarter

Artists are lined up, design is underway and we are designing a new Yellow Sign symbol based on Chamber’s vague description.

GUMSHOE Da’Zoon

This month I’ve been playing a new weird fantasy game written by Steve Dempsey – Da’Zoon. It features a lite version of GUMSHOE, and distributes some elements of world creation to the players. So, you can spend investigative points to make stuff up as well of discover stuff. It’s fast, fun and slimline.

There is another big GUMSHOE project in the pipeline, which we’ll announce soon.

 

 

by Brian Dalrymple

Crowd-funding has solidified its acceptance as a necessary step in the creation of games in the minds of small and mid-sized publishers and the player base at large, but the idea still meets resistance from retail game shops, and there are valid reasons.

While many crowd-funding efforts over years have included well-intended gestures designed to enlist support of stores, some recurring challenges for retailers have not been addressed comprehensively until recently.

Fair warning: I’m a game store owner and a supporter of crowd-funding from the retail perspective. I’m also a graphic designer and publisher (our first Kickstarter is in its final days as I’m writing this). The positives of a successful crowd-funding campaign have long been apparent to me, but I’ll mention them briefly:

  1. Most important – the thing actually has the money to happen.
  2. Access to capital without going into one’s own savings.
  3. You have a much clearer idea of your budget.
  4. The ability to pay writers, editors, artists (and yes, graphic designers), etc… up front, or earlier in the process.

5a. Awareness of your product to players, creating excitement and a market of consumers ready for your game.

5b. Awareness of your product to distributors and at the retail level – proof of demand.

Ultimately, this should lead to higher production values for your game, better sales, etc…

The problem is, even highly successful crowd-funding projects create problems for retail stores – even when the creators want their support, and would like to see their games on store shelves. The reasons for this often boil down to lack of knowledge of the challenges stores face. The most cited, most valid issues stores mention when complaining about crowd-funding can be solved by better-constructed campaigns that seek to include the retailer in the crowd-funding process in more advantageous ways.

Among the complaints are:

Tying up operating capital for extended periods of time, or, “Why retailer backer dollars are worth more”:

When a player backs a game, that money comes from their entertainment budget. Whether it comes out of their available cash now, or a year from now, it’s still the same set amount. When a retailer backs a game they intend to sell, that money could have been spent on product for that week, which could have sold, generating more money to pay bills and order more product the following week, which could generate even more money, etc… Now, multiply that by every week until the game is in their hands.

Why not just wait until the game comes out and get it from distribution? What’s the incentive not to?

We feel like we’re tacked on. We don’t get any of the special rewards at the retailer backer levels.

You’re circumventing us, going directly to our customers. They don’t even have a reason to come into the shop.

All of these problems are fixable, and it’s not hard to do. Let’s take them one at a time:

Tying up capital

Offer a low cost pledge level for retail stores. Consider it a placeholder, or a deposit. This allows stores be part of the project, receive updates, comment, and participate in any post-campaign things like Backer Kit, late pledges, etc… Tell them you’ll contact them when the game is ready to ship, to find out how many they want. Make this pledge amount small, but not so small they’d dismiss or forget about it when the time comes. Use the expected wholesale price of one unit as a guide. Or the cost of a meal. Credit this amount toward the initial order – “You already have enough credit for one core game. How many more would you like, and how many of the expansions?”

Incentives to back instead of waiting for distribution

Send all your backer rewards out near the same time – the retailers’ with the other backers, if you can – so they are received close enough together, and ahead of when the product goes to distributors. Build in a meaningful timeframe during which backer retailers can sell your game exclusively – 30 days if possible. You can offer a slightly better price than what you expect the wholesale pricing to be, but don’t go crazy here – just a few (2-3) percentage points. You want the distributors to carry you, too.

All the good feels

Let your retailer backers have access to extra stretch goals and special rewards. Go further than this. Offer stores something special just for them. This could be a retailer-exclusive item, or something digital, an event, or special recognition in the product somewhere. Make this a higher pledge level. Perhaps include the small price break mentioned above, here, with a commitment to a higher product quantity. For many stores, 2 or 3 copies is a good place to start.

Give customers a reason to go to the store

The special thing mentioned above can be a good reason for a gamer to come to a shop. So is early release. If you offered an event, this would be a good time for stores to run it. You could also try to more directly facilitate a connection between your player and retailer backers by having the option of shipping customer rewards to stores of their choice, and letting them pick up their games at the shop. You can pass along the savings on shipping to your player backers as an extra incentive. Some people would rather have their packages delivered to a secure location. Enterprising store owners will realize this is an opportunity to upsell. More enterprising retailers will try to get any regular customers considering backing your project to pre-order it through them instead. Don’t worry about “losing backers” like this, any more than stores do about “losing customers”.  In a system as large as a crowd-funding effort, there will be enough dollars to go around. Very few campaigns reach only their funding goal and no more. Ultimately, they’re your players, whether they pledged early, or through a shop. One could argue a purchase made through a shop has a even better chance to create more players, but that a subject for another article.

Brian Dalrymple owns The Adventure Game Store & Dragon’s Lair in South Florida, and is a partner in Alligator Alley Entertainment, publisher of The Esper Genesis Heroic Sci-Fi RPG (on Kickstarter right now), and Witch Hunter: The Invisible World. He has worked at every level in the games industry, and has been actively involved in the Game Manufacturers Association for more than 20 years. Find him on Twitter @AdvGameStore

 

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It’s a busy time for travel, with both Simon and Cat away at a remote Polish castle being wizards, and Cat now off to Edinburgh to be a guest at Conpulsion Battlegrounds. Alex has coped admirably with being dropped into managing everything, and she’s settling in impressively well. She’s currently working on the art direction of Out of the Woods, our new adventure collection for Trail of Cthulhu. You can get the pre-layout version when you pre-order it this month – and for the first time, we’re trialling a simultaneous release of the PDF and the print version.

 

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13th Age

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The upcoming Book of Ages includes the Engine of the Ages, a Microscope-like tool for collaboratively generating your own history of the Dragon Empire. Each player tells the tale of one faction (usually, one associated with their player character), while the GM mixes in other groups that may play a part in the campaign. The group then steps through the history of the Empire, Age by Age, with the occasional roll on the Random Catastrophe Table. So, here’s one possible history (we only played through the 4th, 8th, and 12th Ages, and the player characters are an Elf Wizard, a Barbarian with a 2-point negative relationship with the Lich King, and a Draconic Rogue).

Our 4th Age

13th Age icon symbolsAs you know, the Wizard King was overthrown by the first Emperor and his allies, kicking off the 1st Age. Conflicts between the Empire and the undead forces of the Lich King dominated the first three Ages, but history doesn’t get really interesting until the 4th Age, the Age of Elvendom. Elves, my players decided, are a species of planar nomads, plunging from world to world. The Elf Queen is their anchor to the physical world. She appeared in the Dragon Empire as an infant, born from the sacred Birth Tree in the heart of the Queen’s Wood. The other elves phased into existence, along with their dimension-hopping forests and cities. Suddenly, half the Empire was occupied by a vast and otherworldly forest; the Elves were worshipped as demigods by the folk of the Empire.

The arrival of the Elves at the height of their power forced other groups onto the defensive. The Lich King fled the Empire as a bodiless spirit, and discovered the barbarian tribes of the west. The barbarians worshipped their ancestors, but the Lich King was able to conquer their afterlife and imprisoned the ancestors who would not serve him. He whispered in the dreams of the shamans and priests of the barbarians, pretending to be their beloved ancestors, and so was able to warp their culture into a death-cult that worshipped him.

The Three also retreated from the Empire, fearful of the arrows and spells of the mighty elves. They allied with suspicious dwarves to create the first Forgeborn, creatures made of dwarven steel and fuelled by dragonfire, to guard their abandoned lairs. These first Forgeborn were essentially golems, unthinking machines that obeyed only their masters’ commands.

The arrival of the Elves disrupted the balance of the elements. The air elemental king declared war on the elven race, and to this day if an elf tries to fly too high, or if the High Elves build their towers above the treetops, then it draws the wrath of the winds. The fire elemental queen was even more furious, and sacrificed herself to put out the sun. For years, the sun guttered like a dying ember, and without sunlight, most of the elven forests died (the Queen’s Wood and parts of the Wild Wood are the only places where the alien elf-trees still grow).

Our 8th Age

In the chaos, the Prince of Shadows stole a silver apple from the elven birth tree. This scheme would come to (pardon the pun) fruition four Ages later in the 8th Age (the Rising of the Bad Moon), when he threw the apple into the night sky and it created the moon. To this day, the moon is an unwholesome and pernicious influence over the Empire – bad things happen by moonlight, and nights of the full moon are considered unlucky. The moon does favour the elves, though, which accounts for the elves’ reputation as thieves and tricksters.

The Elves also warred with druidic guerrillas (or gorillas, I can’t read my own handwritten notes from the session), who objected to their wizards’ continued disruption of the balance of the elements.

Under the new moon, the Lich King’s barbarians contacted the Empire. The barbarian tribes of the west traded and paid tribute to the Emperor, and fought as mercenaries under the banner of the Empire, but kept their traditional ancestor-cult religion, so the Lich King was able to infiltrate his clerics and agents across the Seven Cities. In Santa Cora, the Priestess grew suspicious of this new cult, and through her divinations discovered the Lich King’s imprisonment of the barbarian ancestors. She created two secret orders of Paladins – one dedicated to unmasking and defeating the Lich King’s spies, and another sworn to travel into the afterworld to break down the Lich King’s spiritual internment camps and free the ancestors. The barbarian cult schismed into two groups – one who worshipped the ‘true’ spirits of the dead, and one that was still in the thrall of the Lich King. Most of the barbarians in the Empire were part of the former cult, but the Lich King maintained his hold on the barbarians beyond the borders.

(The 8th Age, by the way, ended in a zombie plague, as upheavals in the afterworld briefly disrupted the natural order of death.)

Our 12th Age

The 12th Age was the Age of War, when the Empire was invaded almost simultaneously from west and east. From the west came the Lich King’s forces – the death-worshipping barbarian hordes he’d been cultivating for eight Ages. Vampire berserkers, selected for size and strength. A massive army of zombies and skeletons, enslaved ancestor-spirits chained into bone-golems, and thousands of death priests. Added to this force came a host of liches and skeletons out of the Necropolis.

13th Age - The ThreeFrom the east came the dragons under the Three. Long ago, the dragons established a manufactory on a secret island in the Iron Sea, and this automated dungeon-factory had built a whole army of forgeborn. To the dragons’ surprise, these forgeborn had grown increasingly complex and intelligent; with each generation, the manufactory had refined the design. This iron army, led by dragons, invaded the Empire from the east.

Captured humans were taken back to the manufactory and subjected to bizarre sorcerous experiments under the direction of the Blue; these experiments created the first draconics. These experiments also had an unlikely side effect – the Blue used forgeborn to assist in her work, and the forgeborn somehow isolated and stole the essence of humanity. The manufactory used this to create the final generation of forgeborn – truly alive metallic creatures, with free will and souls and absolutely no desire to be ruled by dragons.

Faced with rebellion from their own army when both draconics and forgeborn turned on them, the Three sued for peace. In exchange for dragon aid against the invading forces of the Lich King, the Emperor ceded the ruins of Highrock to the Blue, and recognised the draconics as imperial citizens.

So, in our take on 13th Age…

Elves are a declining race, greatly diminished from the days when they were worshipped as living gods. Still, they have the sacred Birth Tree that brings forth new fruit and hence new wonders in every Age, and they remember that one day, the Elf Queen will perish in this plane and be reborn in another dimension, and they will follow her en masse to their new home.

Foes of the Lich King know that while he was recently defeated, he still has two major power bases – his fortress on Necropolis, and his barbarian death-cult to the east. He continues his attempts to subvert the Imperial-aligned barbarians by kidnapping their ancestors in the afterworld, so the cult has evolved a complex system of passwords and signs – don’t trust a ghost until it gives you the correct password!

Draconics are a new-born species, the product of experiments carried out in the war. They have a complex relationship with the Forgeborn – the Forgeborn are fuelled by dragonbreath, and now that most of the dragons have again fled the Empire, the forgeborn are dependent on the draconics for survival. At the same time, the forgeborn aren’t trusted by most of the Empire, and no-one knows for sure what they’re doing out on the mysterious island of the Manufactory. (Some fear that they have a plan…)

What histories will your players create?

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

 

 

Title: One For the Money

System: GUMSHOE One-2-One

Author: Chris Spivey

Deadline: 30th April

Number of sessions: 1-2

Description:

Rhino Jones needs a solid. Has hell frozen over? Can Langston Wright get to the bottom of this before he and his new partner are devoured by what man was not meant to know? The clock is running and dozens of lives and sanity are at stake as America’s new superweapon is in the hands of its enemies.

 

Title: The Persephone Extraction

System: Night’s Black Agents

Author: See individual entries

Deadline: 30th April

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description:

THE PERSEPHONE EXTRACTION is a campaign for Night’s Black Agents. Each of the adventures below should take 2-4 sessions to play through, and is largely standalone. Please let us know which one you would like to playtest – once you  have submitted your playtest feedback, you can playtest a second adventure. THE PERSEPHONE EXTRACTION is the first adventure in the sequence and THE PEOPLE OF ASH is the last; the other three can be played in any order. The adventures are:

  • SLEEPING GIANTS (Will Plant): The trail leads through Moscow to a sealed city, where forbidden plagues slumber in a concrete tomb buried deep beneath the tundra. The Conspiracy are on their way here, to obtain more of the pathogen they need to implement their cryptic Pale Agenda. The Agents are all that stands between the vampires and the plague…
  • CLEAN-HEELED ACHILLES (Heather Albano): Mysterious disappearances and archaeological traces bring the Agents to Istanbul, where they must uncover the secrets of an ancient monastery – and descend into the Underworld to confront the living dead.
  • THE PALE AGENDA (Bill White): The Conspiracy intends to recruit an international drug smuggler as part of their plan to end the world – but that initiation gives the Agents a vitally needed entry vector into the vampires’ most cherished tool. Corporate intrigue meets occult rituals in Madrid…

One of the suggested campaign frames in Cthulhu City casts the investigators as journalists on Newspaper Row, working for one of Great Arkham’s competing newspapers. Let’s borrow a page (yellowed, and a little stained) from Bookhounds of London and look at the mechanics of playing a journalist.

Newspaper Credit Rating

Each newspaper has a Credit Rating of its own, reflecting both its financial status and its reputation in the city. Investigators working for a newspaper can draw on that Credit Rating by showing the proper credentials – but if they abuse this power by staining the newspaper’s reputation, they’ll face the editor’s wrath. Saying you’re from the Advertiser might get you past the police cordon into the murder scene, but that doesn’t mean you can start poking at the corpse without permission or stealing evidence.

Arkham Advertiser – 10

Arkham Gazette – 8

Arkham Cryer -5

Worker’s Voice – 3  

Dunwich Chronicle – 3

Kingsport Messenger – 4

This Credit Rating is a shared pool among all the investigators. It refreshes at the start of a new investigation, minus the cost of any ongoing investigations (see below).

Research Resources

A newspaper’s Credit Rating pool can also be spent as any of the following investigative abilities, or on Preparedness, reflecting access to the newspaper morgue, regular sources, on-staff experts and expense accounts.

Accounting, Art History, History, Law, Library Use, Cop Talk, Art, Forensics, Photography.

I’m Working On A Story

At the start of the game, and at the start of any investigation, the players can roll a number of d6. Each die represents a story that the newspaper’s working on. These stories aren’t necessarily related to the Mythos – the vast majority are going to be the usual political scandals, news reports, human-interest stories and so on. The players can leave these stories as abstract bundles of points, or describe them as they wish (“I’m working on a piece about survivors of the city orphanage”).

Each die costs 1 point of Newspaper Credit Rating, and this point doesn’t refresh until the story’s published or killed.

The roll of the die determines the size of the story – that’s how many investigative ability points need to be spent to finish the story. So, if a player rolls a 5, then the players as a group need to spend five Investigative points from their pools to finish that story.

These points are spent during downtime between investigations, but before investigative pools refresh. Therefore, the players only get to spent the points that are left over after the adventurous, Mythos-fighting part of the game. (The one exception, of course, is where a Mythos investigation crosses over with a newspaper story. In this case, any points spent in the course of the Mythos investigation count towards completing the story, but the story is now Tainted).

The standard journalistic abilities are: Cop Talk, Evidence Collection, Languages, Oral History, Photography, Assess Honesty, Reassurance and any one District Knowledge related to the story.

Other investigative abilities might work, as long as the player can justify the more obscure choices with a plausible story. (“This is a story about politics in the University District, but of course that’ll spill over into City Hall, so I’ll spend some points of Sentinel Hill Knowledge.)

At any point during the game, a player may convert two points from an ongoing story into a pool of any Investigative Ability (including District Knowledges), representing a contact or fact discovered in the course of a journalistic investigation becoming suddenly relevant to a different Mythos mystery (“I’ve been writing an expose about tenements in Westheath, so I’ll trade two points of that story into a point of Streetwise so we can track down the thief who stole that grimoire.”).

Publish or Be Damned

During downtime between adventures, the players may look to publish any story they’ve completed (i.e. they’ve allocated as many leftover Investigative Ability points to that story as the story’s size).

For each unfinished story, roll a d6. On a 1, it’s Scooped and the story’s lost.

For each possibly-ready story, roll a d6.

1: Scooped! Some rival newspaper got there first! The story’s lost!

2-5: More investigation is needed. Add the value of the roll to the story’s size.

6: Print it!

Players may spend investigative abilities to boost the roll (Art to improve the prose of the piece; Flattery to convince a suspicious editor etc). However, a natural roll of a 1 is always a Scoop by a rival, regardless of point spends.

If a story is Tainted by the Mythos, apply a penalty of the Keeper’s choice to the roll. (-1 or -2 for a vague hint of the supernatural, -3 or -4 if there’s no rational explanation, -5 or -6 if publishing the story as is would anger the city authorities. If this penalty drops the result to 0 or less, the publisher kills the story.

The players may also choose to drop a story – remember, each active story costs a point of Newspaper Credit Rating to maintain. Players may also hold a story back, but if they do so, the chance of being Scooped rises by 2 per downtime (so, Scooped on a 1-3, then Scooped on a 1-5, then automatically Scooped after three downtimes.)

Feed The Beast

A newspaper needs to publish stories of a total size equal to at least half its Credit Rating to maintain that rating. So, if a newspaper has a Credit Rating of 10, it needs to publish at least 5 points worth of news each downtime. If it fails to do so, drop its Credit Rating by 1.

If a newspaper published a single story with a size greater than its Credit Rating, its Credit Rating increases by 1. A newspaper’s Credit Rating can only rise or fall by 1 point per downtime. So, the investigators need to have a mix of stories: short, easily-publishable pieces that pay the bills and feed the beast, and maybe one or two big, prestigious stories to build the paper’s reputation.

Just pray they don’t get Scooped before you’re ready to go to print…

An Example

The players are all working for the Arkham Herald (Credit Rating 5). At the start of the game, they agree they’ll have 3 ongoing stories, leaving them with 2 points of Newspaper Credit Rating to spend during the game on research resources or as actual Credit Rating.

They roll a d6 for each story, and get a 6, a 4 and a 2.

After their Mythos investigation, they can work on these stories with left-over investigative points. Between them, they’ve got 10 points of suitable points to spend, so they fill up the Size-6 and Size-2 stories, and put the remaining 2 points into the Size-5 piece.

Now, they roll to publish. For the Size 2, the Keeper rolls a 1 – it’s been Scooped! The points are lost.

For the Size 6, they roll a 5 – to get that story over the line, they’ll need to double-check everything and make it a huge Size 11 piece. That level of journalistic diligence might fly over at the more prestigious Advertiser, but this is the Cryer, and they’ve got bills to pay! The players spend a point of Flattery on their editor, turning the 5 into a 6 – they convince him that even if they can’t back everything up, there’s still enough there for a front page piece. The harried editor relents, and the Size-6 story gets published. As its Size is bigger than the Cryer’s Credit Rating, it enhances the newspaper’s reputation, bringing its Credit Rating to a respectable 6.

The Keeper also rolls for the unfinished story. He doesn’t get a 1, so it’s not Scooped.
At the start of the next investigation, they’ve still got that size-5 story with 2 points allocated to it. They can keep following this story, or maybe spend those 2 points in the course of their next Mythos investigation.

 

 

 

 

Czocha Castle By Rafał Konieczny – Own work, GFDL, Link

Both Cat and I attended the College of Wizardry LARP, which was pretty all-embracing. Luckily we have Alex ensuring that the company ran in our mental and physical absence. This month, Cthulhu Confidential, Valkyrie Gambit and the TimeWatch GM Screen and Resource Book  has gone to the printers. Out of the Woods, our first Trail of Cthulhu collection is available for pre-order – text version now. We are pushing throught the 13th Age backlog. Rob Heinsoo is making excellent progress with the Bestiary 2 and The Book of Demons, and Gareth has turned in the Book of Ages.

The College of Wizardry LARP

Cat and I travelled to Poland to participate in College of Wizardry – Harry Potter with the serial numbers off The location was incredible. The rules for magic were deceptively simple. You indicated what you wanted to achieve either through spell names, or with a note (on potions, curses and the like). Then it was entirely in the hands of the recipient to decide how to react. It’s a pretty solid system. There were some conflicting agendas – some people wanted a public school feel, while others wanted world shattering rituals, and everyone appeared to have an implausible back story. But it all hung together pretty well.

There are a couple of good LARP rules I pulled from that game which also work for tabletop. The first is “Isn’t it awful?” which is where you see other characters having a dramatic or dangerous interaction and you just talk about how awful it is rather than intervene. The tabletop equivalent would be to let other character have their spotlight scene, without jumping in to rescue them. until it’s needed. And by that I mean by the player. It’s also a decent GM rule to leave characters in peril a while before allowing for intervention from others.

In LARPs people often go around looking wistful or angry, and they are often signalling they want to be questioned, often to tell you a little of their back story. Ideally you can offer advice in character, or even get involved in their plots. In tabletop I call this “Tell me about your character.” Ask questions in character to elicit their back story, or even encourage them to make stuff up, then reincorporate that into the game. While this is often a GM tool built into a game, it’s a great thing for players to do, too.

13th Age

Rob Heinsoo is making excellent progress with the Bestiary 2: Lions and Tigers and Owlbears. There are 17 contributors, and the original art team of Aaron McConnell and Lee Moyer have worked together to create a stupendous cover. The Bestiary 2 has plenty of creatures with tricks up their sleeves to bring unexpected challenges to blasé players who have met your other monsters. Some of them phase in and out of combat such as reavers; others such as the flux elemental can change their powers from round to round, while the laughing demon uses your laughter to summon mooks to fight you. Not so funny now!

The Book of Ages is a grab bag of cool stuff from previous Ages monsters, magic, feats, legends, adventure seeds. It’s ready for copy editing. You can read a sample here.

The Book of Demons is ready apart from the Demonologist character class. Rob is looking at it while working on the Bestiary 2.

Cartography is underway for the final Battle Scenes book, Fire and Faith.

The Free RPG Day release Swords Against Owlbears is in layout, and it’s back to back with a TimeWatch release.

Trail of Cthulhu

Out of the Woods – a collection of arboreal adventures – is on pre-order with the text version now.

Fearful Symmetries is on the cusp of completion, almost ready for additional playtesting.

TimeWatch

A set of three adventures for TimeWatch, The Valkyrie Gambit and The TimeWatch GM Screen and Resource Book are on pre-order this month. They are now at the printers.

One-2-One

Now that Cthulhu Confidential is out, we are sketching out the future of One-2-One, and our next endeavour will be in the Night’s Black Agents setting.

 

The Armitage Files is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking adventure of improvised Mythos investigation.

Cthulhu Confidential is Robin D Laws’ groundbreaking game of solo Mythos investigation.

Putting two groundbreaking products together is hazardous for Gamemasters. You run the risk of collapsing the ground beneath you.

However, the risk can be worth it: improvised play supports the deep investigative dives of one-on-one play.

Improvising On The Run

In a Trail of Cthulhu game using the Armitage Files, the Keeper can take advantage of the times when the players are arguing or speculating amongst themselves to plan ahead and decide on what the players might find when they follow the next clue. While the players argue whether or not they can trust Austin Kittrell, the Keeper feverishly reads over the Sinister and Stalwart versions of the Kingsport Yacht Club that Kittrell mentioned and decides which incarnation the players will encounter.

There are few such downtimes in one-on-one play. You can stall the player by giving them a handout such as a new Armitage Letter, but mostly the game will be relentless investigation and action. (There’s a reason that Cthulhu Confidential scenarios tend to be longer and more intricate than regular Trail games.) The best approach is to study the Armitage Files material thoroughly in advance, internalising it as much as possible so you can decide on the fly to connect the Yacht Club to the Nophru-Ka Panel, which of course means a visit to the Anthropologist and he can see invisible horrors clinging to the investigator which means you’ll need to set up an invisible horror encounter before the player gets there…

Sketch out potential plots and connections in advance. Identify (or ask your player) which clues are most likely to come up in the next session, work out two or three follow-ons from each clue and then pick the most appropriate one in response to player decisions. It’s a gamemastering high-wire act.

Where possible, bend the plot around the protagonist. The Armitage Files includes several handouts that reference player characters by name (Document 3, Document 4, Document 6, Document 9) – but is otherwise light on personal connections to the investigators. After all, in a regular Trail of Cthulhu campaign, there’s every chance that one or more investigators will perish before the end. That’s not the case in Cthulhu Confidential, so take advantage of the protagonist’s privileged status to ensure that the mystery revolves around them. (For those fill-in-an-investigator’s-name gaps in the handouts, put the investigator’s name in one of them and fill the others with Sources and compelling GMCs.)

Look For Solid Ground

Cthulhu Confidential uses cards to track Problems and Edges and to give detail and texture to the character’s experiences. Instead of just losing four Health, the investigator might have been Clawed by a Deep One or Punched by Butcher Brown or Fell Down A Hole – each of which causes an injury, but has different consequences and solutions. In a regular scenario, these cards can be designed in advance because the GM knows the likely encounters lying ahead. In an improvised campaign, this approach is reversed –  design the cards, and then improvise encounters that lead to those cards. For example, if you’ve prepared the Fell Down A Hole problem or the Mob Tie edges, then look for ways to push the protagonist into a pit or get a favour from a mobster. Prepare a stack of Problems and Edges in advance and look for ways to bring them in (start with the Mythos Problems articles by Robin, as well as the Generic Edges and Problems in the Cthulhu Confidential appendix and build from there.)

Of course, improvised games always include unexpected events, so have a stack of blank cards to hand that you can fill in when warranted. Mark important plot twists and consequences by turning them into Problems and Edges.

For Problem cards, include specific ways to remove each Problem. For Edge cards, note exactly what benefit it gives and when it can be cashed in. Be as concrete as possible – if that Mob Ties edge gives you a bonus when dealing with mobsters, then that’s a prompt for the Gamemaster to include some mobsters to justify the Edge’s existence. (Improv thrives on constraints and prompts.)

Problems and Edges usually arise as a result of challenges; have a copy of the Challenge Difficulty table on p. 45 of Cthulhu Confidential to hand while running the game.

The Armitage Sources

The various academics and scholars in the Armitage Inquiry make excellent sources for most topics. Between them, they cover virtually every academic investigative ability imaginable, with non-academic assistance provided by the redoubtable Mrs. Pickman and Dr. Sprague. With so many professional abilities available through sources, the obvious route for the protagonist is to concentrate on practical investigative abilities like Streetwise and Evidence (although any of the usual Cthulhu Confidential protagonists could be used in an Armitage Files campaign by transplanting them to Arkham country.)

Dreadful Correlation

To reiterate – running an improvised One-2-One game isn’t easy. Don’t pick up the Armitage Files and assume that you’re good to go. In a conventional improvised campaign with multiple players, the Keeper has a whole group to riff off and steal ideas from. Here, it’s just you and one player, alone in a whirlwind of possibilities. Running this sort of game will be tough and exhausting – but it will also be a genuinely terrifying experience for one lucky player.

 

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring Icons for Ashen Stars, our official Community Use policy, and mo’ Mythos problems for Cthulhu Confidential, as well as new releases The Valkyrie Gambit and GM Screen and Resource Book for TimeWatch.

Read it now!

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