Love is in the air this month, and if you’re looking to spend alone time with a loved one, we have a delectable choice of date night activities for you, with the release of the second GUMSHOE One-2-One game Night’s Black Agents: Solo Opsand the massive Cthulhu Confidential nine-adventure collection, Even Death Can Die. Or if you’d prefer to be let alone, Garbo-style, hide behind the 4-panel Director’s Screen and Resource Guide for Night’s Black Agents.

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The Quade Diagram in Mutant City Blues is a wonderful thing – it’s a structure for mysteries, an investigative method, an in-world document and a tool for character creation. One thing it doesn’t handle, though, is helping pick a random mutant power for random mutant passers-by or indecisive players.

The hack below is visually ugly, but lets the GM quickly obtain a random power.

11 – C0 31 – D2 51 – D4
12 – D0 32 – E2 52 – E4
13 – E0 33 – F2 53 – A5
14 – F0 34 – A3 54 – B5
15 – B1 35 – B3 55 – C5
16 – C1 35 – C3 56 – D5
21 – D1 41 – D3 61 – E5
22- E1 42 – E3 62 – F5
23-  F1 43 – F3 63 – B6
24 – A2 44 – A4 64 – C6
25 – B2 45- B4 65 – D6
26 – C2 46 – C4 66 – E6

Just roll to determine which square of the Quade Diagram you’re starting in, and then pick one of the powers there. For non-player characters, roll another d6 to determine how many extra powers the citizen possesses. Genetic Risk Factors don’t count as powers.

1-2 – No more powers

3 – one linked power

4 – two linked powers

5 – three linked powers

6 – Another power, but it’s not directly linked.

1-4 – skip one adjacent power, grab the next power after that

5-6 – skip two adjacent powers, grab the next power after that

 

What might someone do with that combination of powers?

  • As A Bystander: The guy running the ice cream stand in the park never has to worry about electricity costs, and the birds that flock around the benches actually tidy up the trash for him.
  • As A Witness: Only one guy was out walking in that heatwave – and a little bird told him who broke into the bank.
  • As A Victim: Our guess at time of death was way off, sir – lab reports say that the vic was a cooler, and he tried to freeze himself after he got shot. Probably prolonged his life by up to 48 hours, but we still didn’t find him in time. Question is, did he use that borrowed time to leave any other messages for us?
  • As A Perp: The victim fled to her car when she was attacked by a flock of crows, and was so scared she crashed into a tree, dying on impact. Only…we found traces of ice on the wheels, too. Someone made it look like an accident.

Mutant City Blues is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game by Robin D. Laws where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. The updated 2nd Edition is coming soon.

NEW! Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops and Even Death Can Die

As everyone knows, the best way to dodge the hassle of trying to book a restaurant on a busy night is to stay in. And we’re on hand to help provide some SFW activities for any scheduled one-on-one time this month. New out this month is the pre-order for the second GUMSHOE One-2-One game, Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops. Get your pulses racing with some high-octane NBA action as burned MI6 agent Leyla Khan escapes from the vampiric conspiracy who’ve trapped her in their thrall, and tracks down and destroys her former masters before they recapture her.

Or, play WW2 vet Langston Wright, who fought for his country, but can’t battle the Jim Crow laws of 1942 DC, in three new adventures. Maybe Vivian Sinclair, incisive journalist at the The New York Herald, who goes undercover in sleazy clip joints and gets caught between the union and scab laborers in new adventures, is more up your street. Or noir detective Dex Raymond, facing Hollywood and the mob in the LA night; all of whom are in the nine-adventure collection Even Death Can Die for Cthulhu Confidential.

Other companies’ games

Those of you looking for a more thematically traditional way to game on the 14th should check out Emily Care Boss’s genre-defining Romance Trilogy of games (Breaking the Ice, Shooting the Moon, and Under My Skin) published by Black and Green Games; having recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, this classic collection has been revised and reedited for more current tastes, and is available in PDF direct from the Black and Green Games website, or in print from our good friends at Indie Press Revolution. And February 14th sees the release of Star Crossed, the two-player game of characters-powerfully-attracted-to-each-other-who-have-a-compelling-reason-not-to-act-on-their-feelings tension by Alex Roberts, formerly of this parish. Check out publisher Bully Pulpit’s website for more details!

Work in progress update: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

Gareth’s finished the post-playtest feedback edits on the second edition of Mutant City Blues.

For those of you who haven’t come across this lesser-known gem of the Pelgrane library, ten years before the time of this GUMSHOE police procedural, a Sudden Mutant Event caused 1% of the world to develop mutant powers. You play the Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, charged with scrutinising crime scenes and the Quade diagram to uncover the criminals behind your hometown’s mutant cases. We’ve now handed it over into the care of the copyeditor, and started work on the art direction – including this first-rate first draft cover by Eisner Award-winning comics artist Gene Ha, featuring the in-world fiction stars Chu and Lomax.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

Having finished MCB2, Gareth’s now fully focused on The Borellus Connection for The Fall of DELTA GREEN. This collection of eight thematically linked operations can serve as a connected campaign, or as stand-alone operations the Handler can drop into the course of an ongoing investigation. Gareth and Ken are on track to have some highly classified samples ready for appropriately cleared playtesters at the end of this month.

Work in progress update: Night’s Black Agents Director’s Screen & Resource Guide

The final layout for these is now finished. Pre-orderers, you can find the updated files available for download on your bookshelf now. Unlike our previous 13th Age and Trail of Cthulhu GM screens, this will be a thicker, 4-panel screen. We’ve sent the files through to the printer, and we’re waiting for the print proofs to be shipped.

See P. XX

a column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Should you decide to play The Yellow King Roleplaying Game using the baseline version of GUMSHOE found in previous games, such as Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents, or The Esoterrorists, you’ll want to translate its Foe stats.

You might also decide to snag YKRPG creatures to mess with investigators from another game, and need to perform the same maneuver.

Here’s a guide to doing that, but first, standard disclaimers apply.

In no version of GUMSHOE are creatures designed according to a formula or template. They always require eyeballing and adjustment as you move from initial conception to finished set of game statistics.

Never let the rough number ranges here take precedence over what you think makes sense for a creature.

Also remember that you can always increase the threat represented by a particular monster up or down by creating situational factors that confer advantage or disadvantage on the PCs in the particular fight you want to stage.

Difficulty Modifiers in QuickShock make this explicit, also highlighting ways that information gathered by the PCs can assist them when the story gets to the fighty bit. This is a concept you can easily steal for baseline GUMSHOE, as Difficulty modifiers exist in that game, even though they don’t appear directly in the foe descriptions.


When converting, use the foe’s Relative Challenge as a rough benchmark for the range of stats it might have in baseline GUMSHOE.

Some games split use more combat abilities than the other. For this purpose we’ll use “Main Fighting” and “Secondary Fighting” as placeholders for Scuffling, Shooting, Weapons and the like. Assign them as needed for the theme of your creature and your game’s genre.

You’ll have to assign Stealth and Alertness modifiers to QuickShock creatures, which do not include those numbers. Use the theme of the creature to decide how easy it is to sneak up on the creature, and how easily it sneaks up on others.

Glance at the Injury cards a creature dishes out, as sometimes an otherwise unimpressive enemy comes with cards nastier than you’d expect, which you’ll want to take into account when assigning Weapon damages. In the case of exotic attacks with lingering effects, use the card text as inspiration for special attack details. You may wish to steal these from existing standard GUMSHOE creatures, finding one that plays the same sort of trick.

Hit Threshold is as much a factor of creature size or other descriptive qualities as a matter of strict progression up a ladder of menace. A gigantic but formidable creature might have a Hit Threshold of 2; a small and weak one, like Lovecraft’s Brown Jenkin, might be hard to hit.

Once you’ve finished, eyeball the results and fix any number that seems oddly high or low given the concept of the creature.

Anyone with sufficient time on their hands to backwards-engineer the conversion kits from standard to QuickShock GUMSHOE will spot instances where I moved a creature into a different Challenge ranking for YKRPG than a literal reading of its standard stats would call for. When it comes to creature conversions between any two systems, theme should always win.

Weak

Athletics 4-9, Health 2-4, Main Fighting 5-7, Secondary Fighting 3-5

Hit Threshold 3

Weapon -2 to -2

Armor 0-1

Tough but Outmatched

Athletics 6-8, Health 6-10, Main Fighting 7-16, Secondary Fighting 6-10

Hit Threshold 4

Weapon -1 to 1

Armor 1-2

Evenly Matched

Athletics 9-12, Health 7-9, Main Fighting 9-12, Secondary Fighting 5-7

Hit Threshold 4-5

Weapon -1 to 3

Armor 1-3

Superior

Athletics 7-12, Health 8-18, Main Fighting 13-20, Secondary Fighting 7-9

Hit Threshold 3-4

Weapon 2-5

Armor 2-5

Vastly Superior

Athletics 10-30, Health 14-21, Main Fighting 18-28, Secondary Fighting 13-23

Hit Threshold 3- 4

Weapon 2-4

Armor 3-5

Overwhelming

Athletics 18-36, Health 32-40, Main Fighting 23-27, Secondary Fighting 18-22

Hit Threshold 2-4

Weapon 4-12

Armor 4-12

Too Awful to Contemplate

Athletics 30-50, Health 30-50, Main Fighting 28-32, Secondary Fighting 22-27

Hit Threshold 2-6

Weapon 5-12

Armor 4-12


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring the much-anticipated Swords of the Serpentine playtest, The Yellow King RPG articles, team changes, a quick Trail of Cthulhu adventure, occult tomes, and a shout-out for GMs for Origins and Gen Con 2019, it’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

 

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

This column concludes a four-part series illustrating what might happen in your grand Yellow King Roleplaying Game arc with a precis of what happened in mine.

It’s the present day. Not in a weird, post-revolutionary New York City, but in Toronto. Where everything is safe and ordinary. Where the characters we saw in the previous sequence of YKRPG lead quotidian lives, as drifted versions of their formerly hard-nosed, war-damaged selves.

In our sequence of This is Normal Now, the PCs looked like this:

 

Player

Character

Job

Drive

Freaking Weird Moment

Familiar Face

Chris

Alex Chavez

Barista

Greed

boss was murdered by an invisible stalker

na

Justin

Walter van Sickle

Technical Writer

Adventure

went to a Fringe play and doesn’t remember anything from intermission on & usher said play hadn’t happened that night

Lester Steele – (former silver cartel) boss

Paul

Georges Dubois

Landscape Painter

Thirst for Inspiration

aced his med school exam but exam he submitted was not what he wrote

Jordan von Sommer – (former preppy cop) – university pal

Rachel

Judith Dortmuth

Photographer

Malleable

at her friend’s photo opening, with playfully occult portrait – one of the portraits winked at her

Neera – TTC bus driver

Scott

Gavin Byrne

PKD Lecture organizer

Wants a Weirder World

woke up on the slab in the Process building

Tami Akana – his boss in this world, People’S Deputy

Sue

Sara Delaney

Barista – / Aspiring Actress

The Munchie Zone, next door to Cannabis Connection

Learn Real Magic To Make Herself a Star

tried to cast a spell and actually succeeded in levitating an object

Jeff Gill aka Creepy Carcoscan Guy – boyfriend and fellow barista — a not so successful classical musician

Jurie

Jack

Vanderbos

Marketing Coordinator

Escape from Mundanity

Checking Tweetdeck for his clients’ social media & led to weird meme / bot campaign about #foxes — all trace then vanished

Edmund Dawson – (former dissident) – hangs out in the park wearing tweed and being wise & playing chess

 

The Familiar Face entry notes the counterpart of a GMC from the previous sequence, drifted to the mundane reality of this one.

Chris went through a record number of characters in this final installment. The above entry notes his character as of the conclusion. His first character, Jerry Jean-Leon, appeared in this reality as a security guard, working at the weed dispensary owned by Scott’s original PC, Ben Rodriguez—who in Aftermath had been the Government Lethal Chamber technician.

What can I say? The mind-bending swirl of our 2018 had the Shock cards coming thick and fast, and, well, emotional casualties occurred.

The introductory scenario from the book, “Entanglement,” took two sessions, bringing the group together and showing them that they were all somehow connected by a supernatural conspiracy.

The following two sessions led them to investigate an up-and-coming local politician with unsavory links to Carcosa and associated atavistic philosophies. Through Jack’s marketing agency several members of the group were outfitted with wristband style personal assistant devices called Urchins. Though otherwise eager-to-please, these mobile devices could not be removed by ordinary means. When they started to rewrite Jerry’s past recollections, he fatally shot himself. (This was the player’s choice rather than an exit caused by taking too many Shock cards.)

In the next scenario, Jerry’s rugged counterpart from Aftermath showed up in this reality as the group probed a murder connected to their coffee shop hangout. The players obligingly embraced dramatic irony, treating this previous player character (now played by me) as the obvious villain. The real bad guy, who Other Jerry eventually helped them take out, was the Carcosan assassin from the prior sequence, a dead ringer for Sara’s boyfriend.

The following week, Jack’s assignment to set up a marketing event at one of the city’s haunted locations led the group to the Don Jail, a prison turned historical tourist site. They identified an eerie manifestation on the cell walls as an incipient new gate from Carcosa. In a returning motif, a maquette of a winged Salome from an exhibit of Gus Morley statues at the jail vanished during their ghost-busting. Meanwhile, a person Chris’ first replacement character, Clark, recognized as a character from a Philip K. Dick novel, came around the dispensary looking for the right prescription to shield his mind from an alien satellite beaming Gnostic philosophy at him. Finally a sighting of the animated statue flapping around outside the coffee shop cost Ben his grip on reality, for the second PC loss of the sequence.

Week seven dealt with the consequences of that departure and developed ongoing plot lines. The group learned more about the Urchin and the company behind it, pointing to the existence of a schism within the Carcosan conspiracy.

The following scenario tangled Judith up in the murder of a portrait client, a Russian oligarch with ties to arms dealing and one of the two conspiracies. The killer? His daughter’s Pretty Polly doll, armed with a butcher knife. This led the group to a cliffhanger at the victim’s warehouse full of C4.

After the explosion, the group discovered that a villain from previous sequences, Addhema the vampire, was back in play, allied with the animated doll. This sent them to a library in cottage company that held a collection of books once owned by the American poet Aaron Ravenwood (a Paris PC), which held a tome containing the means of killing Addhema. The players did the GM a solid by declaring that one of their aunts owned a cottage nearby, allowing for haunted events in the deep lakeside woods at night. This plunge into bloodcurdling Canadiana claimed Chris’ second character.

When dawn came but darkness remained, the group realized that events had taken on a global scale. Putting to rest the ghosts they’d raised at the cottage restored the sun’s progress through the sky—but not before Chris’ third character, a rustic local Eliptony expert, also lost his grip for good.

Returning to the city, the group engineered a confrontation with Addhema and Pretty Polly. This did not go well, requiring their last-minute rescue by their pal, the Philip K. Dick character.

Now knowing the story of how the Paris characters originally unleashed Carcosa on the world, they realized they would have to travel back in time to stop them. Further research into Addhema’s backstory led the group to her native stomping grounds in Poland. There they found a haunted tree containing a gateway to Carcosa.

After various horrors exploring that alien realm, including a meeting with the PKD character in which he revealed himself to be the King in Yellow, they found the portal they needed. It took them to Paris in 1894, before the events of the first sequence. When the American art students arrived in the city, the This is Normal Now characters invited them to a picnic and efficiently murdered them.

They returned to our 2018 forever altered. Unlike them, it was now truly, genuinely, unironically normal, with all of the shocks of their last few months remembered but undone.

After more than a year and a half of epic play, the forces of Carcosa had been defeated for good.

But in that was in my game. In yours, they’re just getting started…


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

It’s a new year and a new Pelgrane, with a lot of changes around our virtual office. Simon has now started his one-year sabbatical, and to cover the skills gap left by his absence, we’re welcoming Sadhbh Warren to the team. She’s joining us on a temporary contract as a Project Manager, and will be continuing Simon’s work on the website upgrade, as well as starting off some projects I’ve wanted to get off the ground for ages, like developing our GM and community hubs, looking into a range of Pelgrane-themed merchandise, and providing a decent support package to bricks-and-mortar game stores. I’ve worked with Sadhbh on a number of events, and she’s always impressed me with her capability and initiative. I’m excited to see what she can bring to the company.

We’re also working on a job spec for a new part-time temporary position. This will be community-focused, and very involved in our social media, providing better communication for everyone interested in what we’re up to, as well as improving our existing resources, and developing a new suite of video resources for Twitch and YouTube. This role will also manage our customer support, taking over from Colleen Riley, who left Pelgrane at the end of December.

NEW! Even Death Can Die – an adventure collection for Cthulhu Confidential

I think this is the first time we’ve done an adventure collection that’s bigger than the core book! Even Death Can Die features three adventures for each of the three Cthulhu Confidential protagonists – Langston Wright, Vivian Sinclair, and Dex Raymond. Making ensure GMs have everything they need means a lot of text, and so this is weighing in at a whopping 360 pages. Pre-order this month, and get the pre-edited PDF straight away.

Work in progress update: Shards of the Broken Sky

Rob Heinsoo has been working his fingers to the bone this month on the final text of Shards of the Broken Sky. He’ll be posting an update himself during the month, going through the time-consuming and labour-intensive process involved in 13th Age development. We originally commissioned this from ASH LAW in 2015, but while we’ve been cutting it down from double the original word count, 13th Age tech and best practices have changed, meaning that a lot of the actual text has needed to be updated along the way. The art and cartography is now finished apart from one or two pieces, and I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made on getting the text to the standard Rob wants it to be. We’re hoping to release this on pre-order at the end of January.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Kevin and Emily have also been hard at work, finishing the first draft of Swords of the Serpentine, which we’re delighted to be releasing for public playtesting this month. You can find out more about what’s in the playtest in this post.

Other news: New Gamemaster Month

Last year, we joined our good colleagues at Monte Cook Games and Atlas Games for the first ever New Gamemaster Month. Designed to inspire “maybe…”GMs and “…sometime” GMs to pick up and run their first ever game, we provided all you needed to run your first Trail of Cthulhu game. We had such great feedback from it, with a number of newbie GMs taking the plunge, that we’ve decided to do it again this year, with Chaosium joining the initiative. This will be kicking off on the website tomorrow, Tuesday January 8th; you can also follow it along on Facebook and Twitter. Even if you’re an experienced GM, we’d love you to get involved on the social media, to offer advice and cheerleading to those taking their first steps into Trail of Cthulhu GMing.

Other other news: The Black Book character generator update

As well as The Fall of DELTA GREEN, Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, the GUMSHOE character generator, the Black Book, will soon support The Yellow King RPG. Steven Hammond has shared some some preview screen shots over on the Facebook GUMSHOE Roleplaying Games Community.

The first image shows edit mode with the new “poolless” Investigative Skills. The second shows play mode with Push tracking instead of Health. Finally, the third image shows the new game picker. This new version is more mobile friendly (without the cover image) and makes it easier to games that are variations on another game (like the Dracula Dossier or Bookhounds). The scroll icon, shows a game with an unanswered campaign invite from a GM.

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January is a month for new beginnings, and we’ve got a lot of changes going on in the company at the moment which you can read more about in this month’s View From the Pelgrane’s Nest article. In terms of new releases, as well as the Director’s Screen and Resource Guide for Night’s Black Agents, we’re also releasing the massive nine-adventure Cthulhu Confidential nine-adventure collection, Even Death Can Die.

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This quick Trail of Cthulhu adventure first appeared in the Dragonmeet 2018 program book, and is based on genuine historical events that took place within a few minute’s walk of the convention centre. 

The Window on Standish Road

  1. What was reputed to be the appearance of the mischievous person?
  2. In white sometimes, and sometimes in the skin of a beast; a calf skin, or something of that sort.

In 1804, Francis Smith was convicted of the murder of a bricklayer named Thomas Millwood, having shot him on Black Lion Lane in Hammersmith, only a few minute’s walk from this very convention centre.

Smith offered a novel defence, arguing that he had not intended to kill Millwood, but that his real target was the ‘Hammersmith Ghost’, a phantom that haunted the churchyard. He mistook Millwood for the supposed ghost and shot him in the face.

Several accounts describe the ghost, which was said to be the spectre of a butcher who committed suicide several years earlier. For example, Thomas Grove testified that: “I was going through the church yard between eight and nine o’clock, with my jacket under my arm, and my hands in my pocket, when some person came from behind a tomb-stone, which there are four square in the yard, behind me, and caught me fast by the throat with both hands, and held me fast.” Some described the ghost as a figure in white; others claimed it had eyes of glass and an animal’s head.

Two days after the shooting, a local shoemaker, John Graham, came forward and admitted that he was the ghost; he’d dressed up as the phantom to scare his apprentice. Smith was initially declared guilty of murder and sentenced to hang, but in light of the intense public interest in the affair, the case was referred to King George III, who mercifully spared Smith’s life and sentenced him instead to a year’s hard labour.

The Hammersmith Ghost was consigned to the history books and to the legal texts, where it remained as a precedent regarding the consequences of mistaken action for 180 years. Case closed… or is it? For Gamemasters who want to bring the horror out of the past and into their game, we present this quick scenario for Trail of Cthulhu.

The Horrible Truth

Sorcerer and necromancer Jerominus Cornel still haunts London, more than a hundred years after his death in 1802. He hid himself away into a mirror dimension using a magical lens, emerging infrequently to steal occult knowledge from other scholars, using books and intimidation to drag them into the mirror world.

The Hook

Scene Type: Intro

Leads-Out: The Graveyard, Background Research

1937. In an obscure second-hand bookstore, the investigators find an incredible prize – a battered copy of Balfour’s Cultes de Goules, a 1703 work describing the ghoul cult throughout Europe. Such a rare occult book is worth a considerable sum to the right collector.

Tucked in the back of the book are a handful of loose pages, covered with almost illegible handwriting. Close examination with Languages reveals that it’s the confession of one John Graham of Hammersmith, written in 1810.

  • Graham talks about his neighbour, an eccentric chemist called Jerominus Cornel, who lived on Standish Street. He often saw Cornel visiting a nearby butcher’s shop, buying jars of blood from freshly slaughtered cattle.
    • Library Use/History/Occult: It might be worth looking into any records of this ‘Cornel’. See Background Research.
  • Cornel complained bitterly that there was too much to learn, that one lifetime was not enough to encompass the knowledge of the universe.
  • The butcher committed suicide in 1802; Cornel vanished the same year.
  • The tales of ghosts and spectral figures began after that. People saw pale figures at night, out of the corner of their eyes. One coachman nearly killed himself and his passengers when the ghost attacked him as he drove past the Black Lion inn.
  • In 1804, after the murder of Thomas Grove, Graham himself encountered the ghost of Cornel. The spectre appeared in his window and told Graham that if he did not allay suspicion, Cornel would devour Graham’s children. Terrified, Graham went to the magistrates and confessed; soon afterwards, the King interceded and put the whole matter to rest. Everyone thinks that Graham was the ghost; but it was Cornel. Cornel haunted Standish Street.
  • Graham dares not tell anyone, except this confession, but he’s buried proof of his claims in St. Paul’s churchyard. He gives the location – twelve paces south, forty east of the main gate. See The Churchyard.

There’s one other clue – Flattery or Bargain (for a small bribe) gets the bookseller to recall who sold him the copy of Cultes de Goules. He recalls the seller was a young man, very pale and sickly, who seemed nervous – he kept looking over his shoulder, as if someone was watching him through the glass window of the bookshop.

 

Background Research

Scene Type:Alternate

Leads-In: The Book

Leads-Out: The Churchyard

History or Oral History gets accounts of the Hammersmith Ghost.

Library Use digs up a few scant records on Cornel:

  • He was originally Dutch, but lived in Paris for some time before fleeing to England in 1784.
  • He was a chemist and glassblower; he made tools and equipment for chemists and doctors.
  • Oddly, one diary by the physician Francis Willis describes how Cornel offered to treat King George III’s madness in 1788; as a price, Cornel demanded access to “certain books in the possession of the King’s Library that were previously owned by Doctor John Dee”.
  • A later entry in the same diary talks about how Willis was called to the King’s Library to treat one of the clerks, who fell out of a window in Buckingham Palace.
  • The next page of the diary is missing, as if erased.

 

The Churchyard

Scene Type: Core

Leads-In: The Book, Background Research

Leads-Out: The Survivor, the Face in the Glass, Image of the Sorcerer

The old churchyard isn’t the same graveyard where the Hammersmith ghost was seen all those years ago – that graveyard is long since gone. The gardens of St. Paul’s, though, are still much as they were in King George’s day. Searching, the investigators quickly discover the right spot.

  • Archaeology:This is odd – there’s something buried here, all right, but it was recently This ground was dug up in the last few months.

As the investigators dig, they hear a disturbance on the road nearby. Shouting, and the breaking of glass – and then a gunshot rings out across. There’s a man, his features hidden by a white sheet, shouting wildly at the investigators. He’s got a gun in his hand – and he’s aiming it at them! “Don’t look at it!” he shrieks, “don’t let him see you!”

If they pursue, the man runs, firing wildly in the air. He never shoots directly at the investigators, just in their direction. A bigger danger, though, is the risk of being run-over by a car that swerves to avoid the gunshots (just like the coachman spooked by the Hammersmith ghost). If the investigators chase down the attacker, see The Survivor.

The Buried Cache

Buried in the churchyard is a bundle of pale, rotten leather attached to a mask made from the skull of a calf. Embedded in one of the calf’s eye-sockets is a curious glass sphere.

  • Chemistry:It’s not glass at all, but something much harder. It’s indestructible according to any test or tool available.
  • Astronomy:There are tiny symbols carved into the sphere – although how they were made is a mystery, given the sphere’s apparently harder than diamond. They include Arabic symbols for various stars, most prominently the Hyades.
  • Evidence Collection: The sphere seems to have some sort of image embedded in it, too small and faint to be discerned with the naked eye. Some sort of strange optical phenomenon, no doubt.
    • Craft orPhotography (Core Clue): Maybe a sufficiently bright light and the right arrangement of lens could project the image. If the investigators try this, see The Image of the Sorcerer.
  • Underneath the bundle are several more occult tomes, of roughly the same age and condition as Cultes de Goules, and likely from the same collection. They mostly deal with optics and alchemy.

After exposure to the sphere, the investigators are in danger from The Face in the Glass.

The Survivor

Scene Type: Alternate

Leads-In: The Churchyard

Leads-Out: The Face in the Glass, The Image of the Sorcerer

The attacker flees through a maze of alleyways. En route, he drops the white sheet he was using as a disguise. Finally, the investigators corner him in the yard behind a furniture shop. He raises the gun and attempts to shoot himself in the face. The nearest investigator can make a Scuffling test (Difficulty 5) to grab the gun before the man kills himself.

If successful, the investigators can Interrogate their prisoner.

  • The attacker is Edgar Smith, formerly a student at Imperial College.
  • He had a friend, Philip Black, who dabbled in the occult. Philip found an old book with a weird diary tucked in the back, and convinced Edgar to help him break into this very churchyard by night.
  • They found that awful mask – and when exposed to starlight, the eyes glowed and Philip vanished.
  • Terrified and confused, Edgar fled. He feared he’d be blamed for Philip’s disappearance, so he hid, renting a room nearby.
  • Since then, he’s seen a strange man watching him from the windows. Sometimes, he saw Philip in the windows, too.
  • A few weeks ago, he saw Philip on Kensington High Street, posting a parcel. His former friend looked bloodless and old, as though years had passed for him. When Edgar tried to speak to Philip, his friend vanished again in broad daylight, like an image from a movie projector that was suddenly switched off.
  • He has no idea what’s happening, but it all started with that damned mask with eyes of glass. Philip must have reburied the mask afterwards.

 

The Face in the Glass

Scene Type: Antagonist Reaction

Leads-In: The Churchyard

After exposure to the glass-eyed mask, the investigators start seeing the face of an old man reflected in windows, mirrors and other glassy surfaces. He might be watching them from an upstairs window or leering at them from a bathroom mirror.

If any of the investigators are ever alonenear a glass, then Cornel acts.

  • If the investigator has a high rating in any Academic ability, then Cornel might attempt to abduct the investigator, emerging from his mirror-lair to abduct the investigator by dragging him back through the mirror. (Scuffling or Fleeing contest against Cornel’s Scuffling). Captured investigators can be seen in The Image of the Sorcerer.
  • If the investigator is no use to Cornel’s studies, then Cornel threatens the investigator, saying that he must bring “men of learning” and show them the sphere so Cornel can devour them (or, if Cornel’s predations have attracted too much attention, that the investigator must bury the mask in St. Paul’s Churchyard again, to await the next generation of scholars).

Cornel

Abilities: Athletics 6, Health 12, Scuffling 10

Hit Threshold: 3

Alertness Modifier: +2

Stealth Modifier: +2

Weapon: Ghoulish claws +1

Armour: -2 vs. any (skin)

Stability Loss: +0

 

The Image of the Sorcerer

Scene Type: Core

Leads-In: The Churchyard

With Craft, Physics and Photography, the investigators can assemble a contraption that magnifies and projects the image in the sphere. Impossibly, it’s moving –it’s like watching a film recording of an old, old man in a small room. There’s no door, just a single flickering window that seems to look out over all of London, the viewpoint jumping from place to place as if the room were flickering across the city. The room’s crammed with books, occult paraphernalia and pages of crabbed notes; there’s also a large stack of human bones, licked clean and cracked open for marrow, in one corner. Hanging upside down from hooks is the corpse of Philip Black; the old man’s drained Black of blood and is slowly, slowly eating the man’s flesh.

  • If any of the investigators were captured by Cornel in The Face in the Glass, they’re visible in the image, hanging from hooks next to Black, but still alive.

As the investigators watch, the window behind him changes, becoming a window or glass surface in whatever room the investigators are in. The man looks up at them and smiles.

Cornel knows they’re watching.

And he’s coming for them.

  • Physics: There’s a clock on the wall behind the old man, but it’s moving incredibly slowly. If this is a window or image of some pocket dimension, time moves differently there. Maybe that’s why Cornel used Philip Black to run errands in our world – if he stays outside his room for too long, maybe Cornel will age to death.
  • Anthropology:Some of the notes on the table look like interview transcripts – the old man’s abducting scholars, questioning them, and then eating them.
  • Cryptography:The sorcerer’s notes can be read through the projection, although they’re reversed mirror-writing. They include a list of names of prominent scientists and occultists – did Cornel make Black send other lures to them? Does Cornel intend to abduct, interrogate and devour them too?

Defeating Cornel

The finale is a cat-and-mouse contest between the investigators and Cornel. The sorcerer is immortal, inhumanly patient, and can emerge from any mirror or glass. The investigators can spy on him, and know what he wants – knowledge. Can they set a trap for him? Might illuminating the mask with starlight from the Hyades create a physical portal? Or should the investigators bury the sphere somewhere it can never be found, stay away from all windows and mirrors, and pray that the Hammersmith Ghost never finds them again?

 

 

Here’s what I love about the giant shark bowl ooze from Tome of Beasts 2: Creature Codex by Kobold Press: it’s a perfect over-the-top addition to a master villain’s lair in 13th Age. Spy movie masterminds often have tanks full of sharks, alligators, piranhas, and other menaces in their headquarters. These remind everyone who they’re dealing with, and are also handy ways to dispose of intruding heroes and unlucky henchmen.

The giant shark bowl ooze does them one better—not only is the shark deadly, the aquarium itself is a monster.

The original is designed for 5th Edition under the OGL, and as soon as I saw it, I sat down and statted it for 13th Age. (Many thanks to Rob Heinsoo for giving it a development pass before posting.) Whereas the original is treated as one monster, my version treats it as two. The ooze is a variant of the gelatinous dodecahedron, and the shark is a non-mook version of the Iron Sea shark, both from the 13th Age Bestiary.

Giant Shark Bowl Ooze

A giant shark swims within a huge fishbowl, circling above a sandy floor strewn with seashells, a small castle, and a treasure chest. While you’re figuring out how to kill the shark and get the treasure, the bowl lashes out with a gelatinous pseudopod and engulfs you.

Huge 7th level blocker [ooze]

Initiative: +7

Shlup’n’schlorp +13 vs. PD—30 damage, and the giant shark bowl ooze engulfs the target if it’s smaller than the ooze.

Miss: The ooze can make a spasms attack as a free action.

[Special trigger] C: Spasms +13 vs. AC (up to 2 attacks, each against a different nearby enemy)—20 damage

Engulf and suffocate: Engulfed targets automatically take 20 damage at the start of the ooze’s turn, and are consider nearby to (and soon to be engaged with!) the giant shark swimming inside the ooze. The shark acts after the ooze’s turn, and can engage any engulfed targets. The shark cannot attack targets outside the ooze (unless it moves out of the ooze, see its stats below). Engulfed targets can escape the ooze with a successful disengage check at a -5 penalty.

Instinctive actions: Gelatinous creatures have no brains, sometimes they just do things. When the escalation die is odd, instead of making an attack or moving, roll a d8 to see what the giant shark bowl ooze does. If an option is not available (you roll a 1 but there are no nearby enemies), reroll until you get a valid option.

  1. The giant shark bowl ooze makes a squash attack against 1d4 nearby enemies as it rolls and shlorps around the area. Any enemies already engulfed by the giant shark bowl ooze take 10 thunder damage.

C: Squash +10 vs. PD (1d4 nearby enemies)—20 damage, and the target is stunned (easy save ends, 6+)

  1. The giant shark bowl ooze throws out whip-like tendrils and makes a sudden orifice attack against each enemy engaged with it. Then it pulls each nearby enemy next to it and engages that creature.

Sudden orifice +15 vs. PD (each enemy engaged with it)—The giant shark bowl ooze engulfs the target if it’s smaller than the giant shark bowl ooze

  1. Hundreds of finger-size slimes slither out from the interior of the giant shark bowl ooze and begin worming their way across the bodies of each of its enemies in the battle. Until the end of the battle, when a non-ooze creature takes any damage besides ongoing acid damage, it also takes 10 acid damage.
  2. The giant shark bowl ooze produces spikes. It gains a +4 bonus to all defenses until the end of the battle.
  3. The giant shark bowl ooze makes a spasms attack. If it misses with either attack roll, after the attacks, it can make a stretch and engulf attack as a free action.C: Stretch and engulf +13 vs. PD (one nearby or far away enemy)—30 thunder damage, and the giant shark bowl ooze engulfs the target if it’s smaller than the ooze
  4. C: Pseudopod slaps +13 vs. AC (one nearby enemy)—40 thunder damage

    Natural odd hit: The target pops free from the giant shark bowl ooze and is knocked far away, and the ooze makes the attack again against a different nearby enemy as a free action.

    Natural even hit: The giant shark bowl ooze engulfs the target if it’s smaller than the giant shark bowl ooze.

AC 21

PD 19     HP 400

MD 16

 

Giant Shark

Double-strength 5th level wrecker [beast]

Initiative: +7 (but don’t roll for the giant shark, it acts immediately after the giant shark bowl ooze)

Massive jaws +10 vs. AC—36 damage

Miss: 18 damage.

Frenzy: While staggered, if the giant shark is unengaged at the start of its turn, it must roll an easy save (6+). On a failure, the giant shark must move and attack a random nearby enemy that’s staggered, or a random nearby non-ooze creature if there are no staggered enemies. Yes, this means the giant shark might propel itself torpedo-like out of the ooze at a target.

Shredder: When an enemy misses with a melee attack against the giant shark and rolls a natural 1–5, the attacker takes 18 damage.

In a bowl, yo: As mentioned above in the its ooze bowl’s stats, the giant shark can’t attack enemies unless they’re in the ooze with it; the ooze was reduced to 0 hp and has dissolved; a PC thought that getting the shark out of its bowl would somehow be a good idea; or the shark has erupted from the ooze during frenzy. Likewise, thanks to the ooze’s protection, very few attacks from outside the bowl can affect the giant shark. If you decide that a particularly powerful or clever attack from outside the bowl can choose the shark as a target, the shark gets a +5 to all its defenses against that attack.

Last, dying thrash: If the giant shark is outside of its bowl, the shark takes 25 damage at the end of its turns. When it reaches 0 hit points and dies, roll this attack against all nearby non-ooze creatures: +12 vs. PD—18 damage

AC 22

PD 19     HP 140

MD 14

 

About 13th Age

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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