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

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

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

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

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

New Releases


13th Age

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

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When do you prefer to play games at conventions?

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



Title: Fearful Symmetries

System: Trail of Cthulhu

Author: Steve Dempsey

Deadline: 30th July 2017

Number of sessions: 6-8


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

A column on Roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

A recent test session of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game (Kickstarting later this year, plug plug) shone a spotlight on a conundrum that can crop up in any GUMSHOE horror game:

How much should the GM intervene when the players have fallen all too desperately into a terror spiral?

As a game of investigation, GUMSHOE assumes that the PCs can investigate their way out of whatever trouble they find themselves in. In a horror game, that includes situations that in a scary movie could easily end up with everyone, or nearly everyone, dead.

In a baseline terror tale, a haunted house might exist only to destroy the protagonists.

A GUMSHOE haunted house, by contrast, presents a puzzle. Find the clues that unravel its mystery, and you learn how to reverse onrushing doom and defeat that haunted house.

But what happens when the haunted house works too well on the players, and they forget to look for those clues?

This session took place within the second of the four Yellow King Roleplaying Game sequences, The Wars. In this setting the players portray soldiers in an alternate reality battle zone. In this scenario the role of haunted house was played by an old hunting lodge the squad had been ordered to clear and hold.

Before play began, my conception of the improvised scenario was that the players would encounter ghostly manifestations of the people they had killed and seen killed over the course of the war. These would be caused by a being from the Yellow King’s world of Carcosa, which anchored itself to our reality through an object associated with myths of fear and terror. In this case, borrowing an image from a lesser Robert W. Chambers horror story, it would be the skull of a medieval sorcerer.

For starters, the squad showed up at the lodge to find it occupied by an enemy force, which they killed in a firefight. I then had each player describe a flashback about a key death their characters witnessed before the conflict had hardened them. Sue, playing a soldier conscripted from the peasantry, described an assault on her farm while she was fox hunting.

Flashbacks dealt with, we returned to the main action. On the bodies of the slain enemies the group naturally found the first indications that something supernatural was afoot. However, this did not immediately set them on a clue-finding path.

(This was only the second scenario featuring these PCs, so most players were still having big fun portraying their characters as unwilling to believe in the supernatural. Never mind that wolf monster they established a psychic link with last time. That had to have been a one-off.)

When it came time for Sue’s character, Jeanne, to meet her personal ghostly manifestation, why naturally that had to come in the form of a creepy fox.

Other manifestations occurred, but the foxes grew into the evening’s most terrifying element. For this we had YouTube to thank, because a search for “fox sounds” reveals that the noises they make are extraordinarily freaking creepy.

As escalating manifestations continued to eat away at the character’s Stability reserves, and the foxes kept coming in ever greater numbers and screaming screaming screaming, the session evolved into a particularly effective haunted house story. Not only that, the protagonists had a novel, unusually solid reason to stay in the house: they were soldiers, ordered to hold it.

But was it too effective? The session became all about the hunkering, as opposed to the information gathering that could have led to a means of ending the haunting.

Unlike some hunkering situations, I had a way for the outside world to communicate with the characters: the text-based black box that substitutes for radio in this alternate reality. The team had decided they were under attack by an enemy psy-ops unit and used the black box to inform HQ of that.

This gave me the chance to hint them into active mode: HQ ordered them to go out and hunt down the psy-ops squad. Of course, they’d find something else once they explored the surrounding area—I was thinking an old graveyard with an inscription that would trigger a telltale use of the History ability.

Although I repeated this hint a couple of times, the team stayed hunkered and running ever lower on Stability*.

At that point, I could have doubled down on the hinting, breaking the fictional wall to remind them that GUMSHOE is about investigating and maybe they should do some of that. I am not at all averse to wall-breaking when necessary. But was it?

I decided not, as the group was clearly gripped by the way the session had spontaneously developed, even though:

  • it wasn’t a representative GUMSHOE game
  • it didn’t match my initial plan

The so-called wrong thing was actually the right thing, because it was working.

Ultimately the lieutenant irrevocably lost her mind, Jeanne fragged her with a grenade, and the rest of the group escaped being eaten by a newly swapped-in cause for the manifestations: a predatory toad-like creature surrounded by the white sky and black stars of Carcosa.

In the post-session review, the players seemed happy with the way it all went south, observing that this episode felt more King in Yellow than the one previous.

I didn’t want them to feel that they’d played wrong, and so didn’t mention that some investigation might have turned things around. Good thing none of them have access to the Internet and thus will never read this column.

Joking aside, they of course didn’t play wrong. They leaned into what the session became, and that was playing right.

If I’d tried even harder to yank them toward my preconceptions, that would have been GMing wrong.

*Well, to quibble with myself, the YKRPG equivalent of Stability. The system works differently than past GUMSHOE horror iterations.

by Clinton Dreisbach

“The Box” is an adventure for Owl Hoot Trail meant to be run over one session. It is a good introduction to the game and is suitable for one-shots, but can work as the beginning of a campaign.

The structure is a little unusual in that the adventure is about two groups of humans, one ostensibly on the side of the law and the other a gang of criminals, and the players can play either group of individuals. The criminals are fully generated characters, and so they work well in a situation where you want pre-generated characters. There are stats and information for the guards, as the GM will need them if the players are playing the criminals, but if the players are playing the guards, it’s recommended they make their own characters.

The characters are available in two forms: one at first level and the other at second or third level. When being played as PCs, the characters should be first level. If they are GM characters, played as antagonists, they should be at the higher level, in order to make it challenging for the players. The criminals are mostly 2nd level as antagonists; the guards are all 3rd level as antagonists. It’s hard to be the bad guys.

The Setup

Our guards have been hired by Mr. Eliza C. Althouse to guard a package from Ten Sleeps to Sweetwater, via the train. This package is a long black trunk with metal straps over it and a lock. There are very small holes drilled around the sides of the trunk. It weighs at least 200 pounds, probably 300. It is being delivered to a Mr. John Chisum, who owns a travelling circus. It contains an owlbear cub and is ensorcelled to keep said cub tranquil.

The safe car on the train, the Night Queen, contains a safe with thousands of dollars worth of jewels and coins, as well as the deed to 20,000 acres of land outside Inferno Falls in the Northern Territories. The safe car has two railway guards assigned to it, and Althouse’s guards have been allowed by Red Nails Railways to accompany them.

The Night Queen will stop at a small town, Eden, to take on water and passengers. This is where the adventure begins. Only one of the Red Nails guards will return from the stop; the other’s been paid off.

Smiley Browne’s gang of criminals are waiting at Eden for the Night Queen. Baron Horn, who is probably a vampire and is definitely a powerful frightening man, has employed them to steal that deed to 20,000 acres of underground oil lakes outside Inferno Falls. His definition of employment is unpleasant. Browne’s gang will get money for sure if they do it; they will be hunted and killed for sport by Horn’s servants if they fail. To be clear, they don’t know what’s in Althouse’s package and they ain’t there for it, although they are likely to take whatever they can get.

Browne’s plan, which you can ignore if the players are playing his gang, is to get what they want and then take over the locomotive, unhooking it to escape. If cornered, Tallaluh will jam the boiler’s safety valve or someone will shoot the water tank, causing the firebox to overheat, which will send the train into a frenzied pace, either making it eventually explode or go off the rails. Horn’s told them to get to Stop Over, a town with no law to speak of, where he will send a servant for the deed.

If the guards do make it to Sweetwater with Althouse’s package and it is unopened, Chisum will give them $1000 to split. If it has been opened, they’ll be lucky to make it off the train alive.

Cast of Characters

Smiley’s Gang

“Smiley” Addison Browne, human scoundrel

“Why, hello there, missus. Smiley at your service.”


Level 1

Wile +5, others +3

HP 10, Melee +1/1d6 (bowie knife), Missile +2/1d6 (pistol, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 13

Backstab for +5 damage

Level 3

Wile +7, others +5

HP 18, Melee +3/1d6 (bowie knife), Missile +4/1d6 (pistol, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 14, MDef 15

Backstab for +7 damage

Tallulah Warren, human gadgeteer

“Cover your ears, boys. It’s about to get loud.”


Level 1

Learning +5, others +2

HP 10, Melee +1/d3 (punch/kick), Missile +1/1d6+2 (rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +4, Def 11, MDef 14

Powers: Sonic Shield (+4 Def/1 hour), Ear Bleeder (1d4+1 damage), Floating Wave (float 100 pounds)

Level 2

Learning +6, others +3

HP 14, Melee +2/d3 (punch/kick), Missile +2/1d6+2 (rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +5, Def 12, MDef 15

Powers: Sonic Shield (+4 Def/2 hours), Ear Bleeder (1d4+1 damage), Fatal Vibrations (touch/2d6 damage), Floating Wave (float 200 pounds)

Black Barrow, dwarf ruffian



Level 1

Toughness +5, others +1

HP 14, Melee +5/d8+4 (axe), Missile +2/3d6/2d4/1d6 (shotgun, 1 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 10

Dirty fighting (d6+4 damage), enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 1 round)

Level 2

Toughness +6, others +2

HP 18, Melee +6/d8+4 (axe), Missile +3/3d6/2d4/1d6 (shotgun, 1 shot, range 0-1), Def 13, MDef 11

Dirty fighting (d6+4 damage), enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 2 rounds)

Wolf LaRue, walking wolf scout

“…​” Smiley: “Wolf here, she doesn’t talk much.”


Level 1

Wilderness +5, others +1

HP 12, Bowie knife +3/1d6+2, Missile +2/1d6+1 (pistol, 5 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 12

+1 to missile attacks at range >= 1, +3 to hear/smell

Level 2

Wilderness 6, others +2

HP 16, Bowie knife +4/1d6+2, Missile +3/1d6+1 (pistol, 5 shot, range 0-1), Def 13, MDef 13

+1 to missile attacks at range 1, +3 to hear/smell

Seven Clever Serpents, shee gunslinger

“I didn’t pay for a first class ticket to be ignored, human.”


Level 1

Wilderness +2, Toughness +3, Wile +2, others +1

HP 11, Melee +2/1d4 (knife), Missile +3/1d6+2 (2 x .38-cal, range 0-1, 5 shot), Def 13, MDef 12

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

Level 2

Wilderness +3, Toughness +4, Wile +3, others +2

HP 15, Melee +3/1d8 (sword), Missile +4/2d6+1 (2 x .45-cal, mithril inlay, range 0-2, 5 shot), Def 14, MDef 13

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

The Guards

Rex Whatley, human ruffian

“I ain’t afraid to get my hands dirty if I got to.”


Level 1

Toughness +5, others +2

HP 12, Melee +3/d6+2 (anything), Missile +2/2d4 (.41-cal, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 12, MDef 11

Enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 1 round)

Level 3

Toughness +7, others +4

HP 20, Melee +5/d8+2 (anything), Missile +4/2d4 (.41-cal, 6 shot, range 0-1), Def 14, MDef 13

Enrage (+3 GRIT/-3 WITS, 3 rounds)

Whisper Grey, human gunslinger

“iprefertoletmyshotgundothetalking.” “What’s that?” BOOM


Level 1

Toughness +4, Wile +3, others +2

HP 10, Melee +1/d3 (punch), Missile +3/see below, Def 13, MDef 12

Shoot twice at -2 each, +1 damage with all guns

Shotgun: 3d6+1/2d4+1/1d6+1 damage at range 0/1/2, range 0-1, single shot

.38-cal revolver: 1d6+2 damage, range 0-1, 5 shot

Level 3

Toughness +6, Wile +5, others +4

HP 18, Melee +3/d6 (bowie knife), Missile +5/see below, Def 15, MDef 14

Shoot twice at -2 each, +2 damage with all guns

Hellhound Shotgun: 3d6+2/2d6+2/1d6+2 damage at range 0/1/2, range 0-1, double-barrelled, can fire both for +1d6 damage

Twin .38-cal revolvers, blued finish: 1d6+3 damage, range 0-1, 5 shot

Cecil “Goblin” Steele, half’in mentalist

“Cecil Steele, sir! They call me the Goblin, but as you can see, I’ve a pleasant face and becoming air.”


-2 to all damage from performing tricks

Level 1

Amity +2, Wile +4, others +1

HP 9, Melee +0/d3 (punch), Missile +3/d4+1 (.22-cal, range 0, 7 shot), Power +4, Def 14, MDef 14

Common Tricks: Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Prestidigitation

1st Rank Tricks: Hypnotism, Silent Illusion, Disguise Self

Level 3

Amity +4, Wile +6, others +3 \ HP 17, Melee +2/d4 (knife), Missile +5/d4+1 (.22-cal, range 0, 7 shot), Power +6, Def 16, MDef 16

Common Tricks: Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Prestidigitation

1st Rank Tricks: Hypnotism, Silent Illusion, Disguise Self, Sleep

2nd Rank Tricks: Mirror Image

“Ugly” Francis Swordsmith, orc marshal

“What town’s going to have an orc marshal? Lawman for hire’s the life for me.”


Hardy 1

Level 1

Toughness +3, Amity +3, Wile -1, others +1

HP 12, Melee +3/d8+2 (longsword), Missile +2/d6 (.32-cal, range 0-1, 6 shot, explodes on a 1), Def 12, MDef 14

Detect if a soul’s up to no good within range 1 at will

Heal a body up to 2 HP per day by sharing a drink

Level 3

Toughness +5, Amity +5, Wile +1, others +3

HP 20, Melee +5/d10+2 (widowmaker), Missile +4/2d6+2 (.50-cal, range 0-2, 5 shot), Def 15, MDef 17

Detect if a soul’s up to no good within range 1 at will

Heal a body up to 6 HP per day by sharing a drink

Smokey Fearslayer, hill folk preacher

“By the names of the Lords of Light, we will pierce this darkness!”


+3 to spot underground traps and dangers

-2 to all damage from performing prayers

Level 1

Toughness +2, Amity +4, others +1

HP 12, Melee +3/d6+2 (axe handle), Missile +1/d6+3 (.38-cal rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +3, Def 11, MDef 13

Rebuke (+3 vs MDef, d6 damage, range 0-1, no cover)

1st Rank Prayers: Armor of God, Inspire

Level 3

Toughness +4, Amity +6, others +3

HP 20, Melee +5/d6+2 (axe handle), Missile +3/d6+3 (.38-cal rifle, range 2-3, 15 shot), Power +5, Def 13, MDef 15

Rebuke (+5 vs MDef, d6 damage, range 0-1, no cover)

1st Rank Prayers: Armor of God, Inspire, Divine Favor

2nd Rank Prayers: Choose Me


Owlbear Cub

Lvl 4, GRIT 3, DRAW 2, WITS 2, HP 28, Def 16, MDef 16. Claw +7 (d6+3) with followup claw +7, or Howl of Lament +6 (all intelligent creatures within earshot are saddened and trailin’ for two rounds. All wild creatures who hear it come to see.)

Red Nails Railway Guard

Lvl 1, GRIT 2, DRAW 1, WITS 0, HP 12, Def 12, MDef 11. Shoot +2/d6+1 (pistol, range 0-1), club +3/d6+2.


Lvl 3, GRIT 1, DRAW 1, WITS 1, HP 21, Def 14, MDef 14. Shoot +4/3d6 (shotgun, range 0-1), knife +4/d6+1.

The Train

The Night Queen is a steam-powered express passenger train. It is the jewel in the Red Nails Railways fleet. It rides the railway between The Old Towers back East and Silver City in the West, a 75-hour trip. The fare is $8 for coach class and $35 for first class. The portion of the trip in this adventure, Ten Sleeps to Sweetwater, is 28 hours.

Cars in Order

  1. Locomotive
  2. Tender
  • The Night Queen has a 90-ton locomotive with a 6-foot-diameter boiler, the biggest one ever built. It is a Grand Dweomer Class locomotive designed under the direction of Thelonious Steelfire and built by the Steelfire Clan. It is too heavy for many rail bridges unassisted, so it has a levitation system designed by C. M. Archon, which reduces its effective weight to 60 tons. (Note that the train does not levitate: its weight is reduced by the upward pressure of the levitation system.) The tender generally carries 10 tons of coal and 30 tons (about 7200 gallons) of water.
  • The locomotive has a crew of three: the _engineer_, who controls the locomotive’s stopping, starting, and speed; the _fireman_, who maintains the fire and regulates steam pressure; and the porter, who assists the fireman in monitoring water levels and managing the fire. A second crew rides onboard (the engineer and fireman in first class and the porter in coach) and they switch out in 12-hour shifts.
  1. Mail Car
  • The mail car is what it sounds like: a car full of mail. It has no assigned crew and is normally locked, but the fireman or porter unlock it, deliver mail to the post office, and take new mail at each stop.
  1. The Box
  • “The Box” is the Night Queen’s luggage car, but it’s not like most luggage cars that you might see. Prospectors, adventurers, and other folks with valuables travel on the Night Queen and the Red Nails Railway Company wants to make sure their valuables arrive safely. This car has reinforced steel walls with a lead lace built in to make scrying harder. The doors on each end lock from the inside and the rear door (passenger-facing) has two slots, one at eye-level, and one at waist-level with a built-in table to transfer goods. There is a side door for loading and unloading at railway stations, but it is locked from the outside and the engineer has the key. There is also a small roof vent.
  • Inside the Box, there is a large combination safe, as well as racks for luggage. Two double-barrelled shotguns are kept loaded for use by the Box crew. Normally, the Box is staffed by two railway guards, but on this journey, the guards will be joined by Althouse’s hires.
  1. Coach (absolute rabble)
  2. Coach
  3. Coach
  • There are three coach cars behind the Box. These cars have benches and no beds. There is a walkway down the middle of the car with benches on both sides, and a washroom with an outhouse-style toilet at the end of each car. This washroom is shared between men and women, although the second and third coach cars tend to segregate themselves by sex. People do sleep on the benches.
  • The first coach car is full of absolute rabble. Being so close to the front of the train, it is sooty, dirty, and loud, and not much sleeping happens there. Pickup games of poker and drinking are the most common pursuits in the first coach car.
  1. Tavern Lounge Car
  2. Dome Buffet Car
  • The lounge car and buffet car are where the coach passengers and first class passengers meet. The lounge car has dark walls and curtains and keeps the light low. There is a bar in this car, and tables and booths to relax in. The railway company has paid employees working as poker dealers. The games aboard the Night Queen have become so famous that decks of cards are sometimes referred to as “railroad Bibles.”
  • The buffet car isn’t a buffet in the modern sense of the term. It’s a brighter car with a counter that you can buy sandwiches and snacks at. There’s no warm food; passengers are expected to get off at stops to buy hot meals. The buffet car has a dome on top with a second story you can access via stairs. The dome has large glass windows to look out on the views.
  1. First Class Sleeper
  2. First Class Sleeper
  • These are your classic sleeper cars with beds that fold-down from the walls. The car is broken up into compartments with thick curtains to close off each compartment. There are shared washrooms at the end of the car, one for women and one for men.
  1. Observation Car
  • The observation car is the analog of the first coach for the first-class set. This car has chairs and tables to relax at and you can often find people relaxing, debating, or reading here. The walls have large class windows on both sides and along the back wall, providing the best views on the train.

New Rules

New Race: Walking Wolf

Every once in a while, a wolf ends up in a two-legs body, normally human. Sometimes, that wolf was cursed; sometimes, they were just born that way. There’s even stories that say if a wolf looks it its killer’s eyes right before it passes, it can switch bodies. Whatever happens, you end up with a wild creature walking around.

Walking wolves are usually scouts, ruffians, or shamans, but they look like members of other races and can be whatever they want.

Walking wolves gain a +1 to DRAW, and a +1 to Wilderness. Their noses and ears are way more sensitive than humans, and they gain a +3 bonus to hear or smell something, usually danger.

We are pleased to announce the winners of the Cthulhu Confidential Competition.  We asked:

So, tell us who you’d One-2-One with and why in under 100 words (or 140 characters on Twitter), and our judges will choose winners to receive a signed, numbered, leatherbound, limited edition copy of Cthulhu Confidential.

Our winners are: Yohann Delalande, Tim Isakson and Darren Miguez. Congratulations! Please contact us at with your shipping address.

Chris Spivey, creator of Langston Wright, selected Yohann Delalande’s entry.

“I would love to play with Takeshi Kovacs from the Altered Carbon novels. The whole resleeving dimension of this setting would sure help create and give some interesting Edges and Drawbacks, but more importantly, the line between friends and foes would be really blurred because of the regular changes of bodies and the digitized memories. Besides, that could give way to some interesting emotionally charged scenes where all the signals could be misleading.

Ruth Tillman, creator of ace reporter Vivian Sinclair said “I was most intrigued by Tim Isakson’s suggestion of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. He’s a fantastic character in a really fun space opera universe and because he’s got a disability, he has to do a lot of different kinds of thinking and investigation. I could immediately see playing with him or playing as him!”

Robin D Laws, who wrote Cthuhlu Confidential and hardboiled detective Dex Raymond, selected Darren Miguez’s entry – Le Compte de St. Germain

Le Compte de St. Germain – an immortal investigator in a set of 3+ connected smaller mysteries that span centuries would be cool. Enigmatic St. Germain has his own secrets to deal with, reflected as Edge/Problem cards, plus alchemical/theosophical/weird science skills chosen when you “build your St. Germain”. I’d enjoy starting off investigating a Mythos case in the court of Louis XV, then moving ahead to a new case in the tail end of the French Revolution, concluding in WWI or II. What might bind these cases together into one larger adventure, impacted by prior choices of St. Germain?

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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


13th Age

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What's the most common investigative spend made by players in your GUMSHOE game?

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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.


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.


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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