See P. XX a column about roleplaying by Robin D. Laws

Buffy’s hometown had one. You fall into one when you open a Hellraiser cube. The Stranger Things gang can’t seem to stay out of them. Like any basic horror trope, the sinister portal to another world fits any GUMSHOE game that journeys into fear.

The default gate we think of in this context exists somewhere else, already halfway to hell: out in the woods, in a basement lab, in the attic of a haunted house.

Your sinister gate could flip the script by appearing in the middle of a busy city, unnoticed as such by thousands of passersby every day. An illusion, or our collective desire not to see that which should not be seen, masks it. Forms it could take include a metal gate across an alleyway, the steel sidewalk hatchway memorably seen in Russian Doll, or a bricked-over old door in the side of a wall that opens… under the right conditions.

The mythology of The Esoterrorists rules out a simple gate between our world and the Outer Dark. When its denizens can move easily into this world, it’s game over: the game’s big threat, the tearing of the membrane, has occurred, and the demon apocalypse has begun. For this game you’d have to adjust the gate trope into more of a pocket dimension. It exists as a metaphysical carve-out, a piece of this world operating under the physics of the other one. The Outer Dark Entity inhabiting it still had to through membrane-thinning summoning magic to create the pocket world behind the gate or door. It can’t leave the pocket dimension, and so has to lure people to step into it before it can corrupt, eat, or otherwise mess with them. To get rid of the creature, the agents must learn how to destroy the gate, sending it back to the Outer Dark. Or maybe getting rid of the creature in some other way causes the gate to disappear.

In Trail of Cthulhu, the gate could take investigators into a non-Euclidean space, the Dreamlands, another time, another planet, or some combination thereof. The pocket dimension might be a minor manifestation of Yog-Sothoth itself. The clues the investigators discover might describe it as an an avatar, spawn or virtual replica of the full deity. It might lure in victims to destroy them, or to mentally dominate them so they can go out into the world to do its bidding. In the indifferent manner of Mythos foes, a sapient dimension beyond the gate could simply exist as an anomaly, minding its own cosmic business, harming humankind by proximity without care or intention. The Colour Out of Space, but in gate form. In that version, scientists and curiosity seekers enter it out of their own tragic desire to understand what should not be understood and experience what should not be experienced. The investigators realize that it’s the flame, and the victims destroyed by it—who share their own mission and personal qualities—are the moths. To end the menace, they must learn more about it, which once again confronts them with the terrible central paradox of Mythos-busting: too little knowledge and they can’t act. Too much, and their minds crumble, and they can’t act.

In three out of four of the Yellow King Roleplaying Game sequences, an innocuous-looking gate seen from a city street could indeed act as a portal to Carcosa. Perhaps people have to have read the play, or at least gained some dread second-hand awareness of it, to perceive and enter it. Or maybe it just sits there, a warp in the world’s logic, for any Belle Epoque boulevardier, Continental War soldier, or curious gig-economy worker to stumble into.

In the Aftermath sequence, set in an alternate present after the fall of the totalitarian Castaigne regime, all gates between worlds have been blasted shut. Your gate can’t go to Carcosa. But it could have come about as a partially successful attempt by fugitive parageometrists to create one. Maybe it has taken on consciousness of its own and must feast on people to survive. Having already snacked on the regime experimenters, it now attracts others to devour. Or it appears as a hell the ex-insurgents’s revanchist enemies try to pull them into.

Alternately, in any sequence, the realm behind the gate might the intangible fortress of a reality-warping Carcosan entity. It’s a lair, not made of rock or drywall or debris, but of changes to the prevailing metaphysic. Like most beasties, it can leave its nest, but is safer and tougher when within its confines. This gives you a monster that can head out into the broader environment to take victims. The Difficulty Adjustment for the creature goes down outside the lair, and up within it.

Or the pocket realm could represent its vulnerability, a sort of battery of impossibility energy it relies on to survive. To banish it to Carcosa, or cause its disintegration, the team must destroy the micro-dimension while the creature is elsewhere.

You could adapt this last idea to The Esoterrorists or Trail just as easily.

Like any GUMSHOE menace, the sort of mystery you choose to weave around your gate helps determine how it works and the information the investigators must gather to overcome the threat. The obvious scenario premise: victims are disappearing into the gate, and the PCs must figure out what’s going on and destroy it. In a forgiving game, like a Fear Itself outing starring feisty kids, previous victims might still be found deep in the weird realm. In typical horror modes, they’ve been long since consumed. Success means preventing others from meeting their fate.

If the gate moves around from place to place, the investigators could uncover about the nature of the threat in an early scene. The mystery shifts from “what is this thing?” to “where will it show up next, so we can banish it?”

Human antagonists might have constructed or conjured the dimension to accomplish some wider goal. There the investigators have to identify them and stop them from realizing their plan.

Finally, a weird pocket realm could appear as a side element. A magician or parageometrist creates it as a trap to lure nosy parkers.

A pocket realm that moves from place to place could even appear as an Antagonist Reaction, waiting on the other side of any door or gate to ensnare the investigators.

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Our line-up of new releases is no joke this month, with the release of Shards of the Broken Sky, the sandbox campaign from levels 1-7 and beyond! Alternatively, play one of Mutant City’s Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, using your own mutant powers for good, to hunt down Enhanced criminals in Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition. Our Night’s Black Agents selection is extensive, with the one player, one GM variant Solo Ops, and the Director’s Screen and Resource Guide, and we’ve also plenty of new releases for Mythos fans, with the Cthulhu Confidential adventure collection Even Death Can Die, and the Trail of Cthulhu bestiary, Hideous Creatures.

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NEW! Shards of the Broken Sky

I’m really delighted to reveal this month’s newest release – the sandbox adventure Shards of the Broken Sky, for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game. We originally commissioned this back in 2013, and since then, we’ve been hack and slashing the double-sized behemoth that was ASH LAW’s original manuscript. Rob Heinsoo’s put a significant amount of work into the final product, and we’re very grateful to Trisha DeFoggi, who stepped in at the last minute and brought some much-needed editorial support. With more than 100 brand new creatures, 3-dimensional mapping (!!!), and catering to player characters from level 1-7 (and a bit beyond), I think 13th Age fans will enjoy the result.

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

I’ve had the first drafts through from the printers, and I’m really impressed with the look and feel of the Night’s Black Agents Director’s Screen. It’s slick and solid, and the four-fold structure gives it a serious heft. It looks great in the printer proof stark white, but the artwork I’d originally commissioned for it isn’t holding up as well as I’d hoped on the printed version, so I’m speaking to another artist to redo this.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

We’ve received a fantastic volume of feedback for Swords of the Serpentine – it was the largest playtest of any game I’ve been involved with at Pelgrane, so if you took part in it, thank you! Kevin is currently working his way through the manuscript, clarifying and editing as he goes, based on your comments. Generous colleagues had flagged up to us that swords & sorcery is a genre that has historically had issues with exoticism, racism and sexism, so Misha Bushyager of Black Girl Gameworks has also gone through the manuscript, to make sure the final product reflects Kevin and Emily’s intent for the setting.

Playtesting, continued: The Borellus Connection

Last month, we released The Borellus Connection. which are for playtestingThis 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 The Fall of DELTA GREEN investigation. We’ve got some spaces open for more playtesters, so if you’re interested, drop us an email.

CALL FOR HELP!!

Are you going to Gen Con Indianapolis this year? Every year, the good Events People at Gen Con contact us to let us know our games are sold out, and ask if we can run more events, so if you’re able to run 13th Age, Night’s Black Agents, Trail of Cthulhu – or any other Pelgrane game! – at Gen Con 2019, please sign up here, so we can share our great games with even more people this year! You can see the full list of adventures available here.

 

Inspired by Ray Winninger’s seminal Underground RPG from Mayfair Games (which is sorely due a reboot), these parameters for Mutant City Blues let the players shape the future of their city, shepherding it into an era of prosperity or fighting against the tide as it’s engulfed in crime and corruption.

Each parameter’s measured from +3 to -3.

The 16 parameters are divided into four categories. Police HQ describes the internal state of Mutant City’s police force; Crime Rate measures four categories of high-profile crimes; Town Hall tracks the general state of the city, and Mutant Relations describes how the city’s mutant population relate to the police and the wider city.

Police HQ

  • Trust In Police
  • Police Corruption
  • Police Efficiency
  • Police Morale

Crime Rate

  • Major Crime
  • Antisocial Behaviour
  • Vice
  • Heightened Crime

Town Hall

  • Civic Pride
  • Local Economy
  • Mayor’s Popularity
  • Public Corruption

Mutant Relations

  • Criminal Influence
  • Social Cohesion
  • Mutant Rights
  • Mutant Pride

Setting Up Your City

Unless you want to emphasise a particular point (there’s a serial killer on the loose – Murder Rate starts at -3!), then start by randomly allocating values to parameters. Roll a d6 for each parameter:

  • 1: -2
  • 2: -1
  • 3-4: +0
  • 5-6: +1

Adjusting Parameters

A new case drops one or more parameters by a point or two each. So, if the case involves tension between mutants and non-mutants, reduce Social Integration by at least one point for the duration of the case. If the officers completely fail to solve the case, those parameters from by an extra point; if they succeed, reset the parameters to their previous levels.

Parameters might also drift due to larger events at the whim of the Gamemaster; often, an increase in one parameter (say, Local Economy) can affect others (more money in the city might also boost Vice and Corruption).

Between cases, players can spend suitable Investigative abilities to temporarily increase a parameter. It costs a number of points equal to the current value of the parameter to increase it by 1 (minimum 1). So, if you want to inspire trust in the police, but Trust in Police is currently at -2, you’d have to spend 2 points of Community Relationsto get it down to -1 for the next case only. Permanently increasing a parameter requires the players to make some sort of permanent change of circumstances – setting up a new group or institution, finding a non-player character who’ll champion a cause, or removing some malign influence that keeps pushing the parameter down.

Effects of Parameters

As a rule of thumb, the value of a parameter describes how often in a particular case that plot element comes into play. So, if Trust in Police is at +1, then once per case, the GM should engineer a scene where the police’s hard-won trust is rewarded with a particularly co-operative witness or unsolicited assistance from a citizen. If Trust in Police is at -3, then have three incidents where the breakdown in relations between police and public impedes the investigation. These incidents aren’t always related to the case at hand – coming back to find your patrol car has been tagged with graffiti, for example, or getting a free donut from a friendly street vendor. Players are encouraged to suggest possible benefits or penalties.

Police HQ

  • Trust In Police measures how average citizens think of the police. Low scores mean witnesses are less willing to come forward or co-operate; high scores garner increased co-operation.
  • A high Police Corruptionindicates how easy it is for criminals to bribe or subvert the police; especially high scores may mean that some cops are in the pay of criminal groups, and cannot be trusted.
  • Police Efficiency measures the effectiveness of the other cops and the rest of the justice system. A low score means no backup, slow processing of cases or forensics, and general malaise.
  • Police Morale determines how enthusiastic and cohesive the cops are. Low morale can bring down efficiency. Of course, an autocratic, hard-driving Commissioner might improve Efficiency at the cost of Morale.

Crime Rate

  • Major Crime: Murders, terrorist attacks and other high-profile incidents – all stuff the mayor wants off the front pages, quick! A high score indicates that not only is crime under control, but the officers have advance warning of possible threats.
  • Antisocial Behaviour:Broken windows, graffiti, minor burglaries.
  • Vice: Narcotics (including jolting), sex trafficking
  • Heightened Crime: Anything involving mutants; keeping this parameter under control is the primary goal of the Heightened Crimes division.

Town Hall

  • A low Civic Pride means public morale is low; a high score means people generally like and cherish their city.
  • Local Economy: High scores indicate prosperity and high employment; low means a downturn or recent job losses.
  • Mayor’s Popularity: Arguably, this one is the parameter the players need to keep the closest watch on; a high score means the Mayor’s likely to win re-election, low means he’s desperate to get his poll numbers up, which means City Hall’s looking for someone to blame…
  • Public Corruption measures the influence of criminal or dodgy corporate money in civic affairs.

Mutant Relations

  • Criminal Influence measures how much reach criminal gangs or groups have in the mutant community, and how likely it is that a given mutant will turn to a life of crime. A high score may indicate mutant vigilantism.
  • Social Cohesion tracks the degree to which mutants see themselves as part of a larger community; a low social cohesion means that extremist and separatist groups have greater sway.
  • Mutant Rights measures legal restrictions on mutants. A negative score indicates added limits or calls for mutant segregation; a positive score implies more acceptance and opportunities to use mutant powers in society.
  • Mutant Pride tracks the attitude of the public towards mutant powers. A negative score  implies added prejudice; a positive score shows that mutants are popular or trusted.

Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game originally written by Robin D. Laws, and developed and extended by Gareth-Ryder Hanrahan, where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Pre-order Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

See P. XX

a column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

A well-designed modular element for an RPG, whether we’re talking about a GMC, location, conspiracy, or occult tome, does more than extrapolate from an evocative premise. The text you write, explicitly or otherwise, indicates to the GM how it will be used in play.

Let’s look at roleplaying’s archetypal modular element, the one that has launched a thousand bestiaries, the creature. Or, if your core game prefers, monster, or foe, or alien life form.

In some cases the utility of a creature, or other modular element for that matter, goes without saying. That happens when the core activity of a game is so hard-wired to its modular elements that their function at the gaming table needs no further elaboration.

Take the venerable first mover and perennial market leader, Dungeons & Dragons. Its core activity is: fight monsters in fantastic environments.

(This greatly accounts for the enduring popularity of D&D and its stickiness as a concept. Not only does it have an exceptionally clear, easily enacted and highly repeatable core activity, it tells you this right in the brand name. Fantastic environment = Dungeon. Monsters = Dragon. It’s all right there.)

A well-wrought D&D creature design requires you to address its activity by showing the GM how it behaves in a fight, and how it interacts with its environment. In 5E, the stat block focuses on the former, and the descriptive text on the latter.

Different iterations of D&D have favored one over the other. The classic “Ecology of the X” magazine article format traditionally goes into way more extrapolative detail on a creature’s relationship to its environment than any DM can possibly put into play at the table. 4E, and its spiritual descendant 13th Age, focus much more on what the creature will do in a fight than in the broader world. A stat block might represent not a category of being, but a particular sort of orc or demon or pirate who attacks in a specific way, with its distinctive spell effect or weapon.

D&D casts such a shadow over trad RPG design that the very term “trad design” might mean “has a little D&D influence in it somewhere.”

It’s easy, then, to lose track of what you’re doing by applying D&D assumptions to the creation of creatures for other games. Making an adversary useful and easily playable in another rules set requires you to step back and consider the core activity you’re writing toward.

GUMSHOE games all have slightly different core activities, all of which can be expressed including the verb investigate.

  • Intrepid volunteers investigate the cosmic secrets of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • At the behest of a benevolent conspiracy, trained professionals investigate an occult conspiracy to tear apart the world.
  • Ordinary people investigate their way out of horrific situations.
  • Burned spies on the run investigate the vampire conspiracy intent on destroying them.
  • A freelance starship crew investigates interstellar mysteries.

To design a GUMSHOE creature requires not just a focus on the tropes and themes of the setting—an eldritch abomination, a psychically invasive modern horror, an alien life form—but the creature’s role in the investigative action.

GUMSHOE’s emphasis on structure helps you do this. If you look at the scenario format, you can see that a creature might be:

  1. central to the scenario’s key mystery
  2. a secondary obstacle adding challenge and suspense along the way

In case 1, the creature is either the source of the mystery, or adjacent to the source. The PCs have to interact with it in some way to bring the case to a close. That’s your:

  • salt vampire feeding on the crew of the mining outpost
  • resurrected sorcerer bumping off anyone who uncovers his secret
  • ghost taking vengeance on its killer’s descendants

Many instances of case 2 fall into the broader category GUMSHOE calls Antagonist Reactions. When the heroes start poking around, the primary villain sends some lesser creatures to harry them. Secondary creatures might also be keyed to specific investigative scenes, as guardians or obstacles the characters must overcome before gathering clues. Examples include:

  • the gargoyles the corrupt priest sends to trash your studio
  • the mutated dogs in the abandoned lab
  • the faceless homunculus hitman known only as Mrs. Blank

Your description of a GUMSHOE creature might suggest ways it can appear in either role. When writing up Mrs. Blank, you could indicate how she acts when the PCs are tracking her through her trail of victims, and then what she does when she shows up at the behest of the vamp conspiracy to treat the agents to some silencer music.

Accompanying any core activity is a game’s default identity, the description of a typical PC group: ordinary people, trained professionals, burned spies, starship crew, or whatever. Take that into account also as you design your creature. Show the GM how to get the characters into contact with your entity. In other words, your description needs at least one plot hook demonstrating its introduction into play.

Super easy, again, in D&D: unless you say otherwise, the creature occupies the fantastic environment, ready to defend itself when adventurers show up to fight it.

The more specialized the default identity, the more guidance GMs need getting your creature into their games.

Let’s say you’ve designed a ghost that materializes out of printer’s ink. What motivates the typical group for this game to confront it? The answer differs if the PCs are ordinary people (Fear Itself), burned spies (Night’s Black Agents) or security pros who respond to assignments from their handlers (The Esoterrorists, Fall of Delta Green.) The question in the first two examples is “Why do the PCs care?” In the last case, it’s “Why do their handlers care?”

Keep these essential questions in mind as you first envision your creature, and again as you revise your text. You’ll probably spot passages that explore a rabbit hole of iterative detail but don’t figure into a GM’s key concerns:

  1. What does it do in my scenario?
  2. What does that scenario look like?
  3. Why and how do the PCs encounter it?

NEW! Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

This month sees the release of the second edition of what I tend to think of as one of our hidden gems, which doesn’t feature in the spotlight glare of our social media, or release schedule, nearly half enough, but which I know has a really passionate following. If you’re not familiar with it, Mutant City Blues is a GUMSHOE police procedural game, set in a near-future where 1% of the world’s population has developed mutant abilities – including some of the police. Use the Quade Diagram out-of-game to create your mutant-powered characters, but also in-game as part of Mutant City’s Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit to identify perpetrators of enhanced crimes. Eisner Award-winning comics artist Gene Ha has done a stunningly modern new cover – we’ll cover that in more detail over the coming weeks.

We’re proud of Pelgrane’s comparatively long history in the RPG industry, but having been around for nearly twenty years also brings some issues with it. One is that the file format of books from ~2002 doesn’t necessarily hold up that well seventeen years later (more on the original The Dying Earth RPG files some other time). Another is that earlier books like Mutant City Blues were published in less socially conscious times, and looking at it afresh in 2019, we see ideas and forms of expression that we now realise are deeply problematic. Some first edition playtest groups were generous enough to get in touch with us and send us their thoughts on that, and with their help, the resulting second edition improves on both the playability and the decency of the first.

Coming soon! Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos

Long-term readers will no doubt have picked up on the epic war we constantly wage against our, and all publishers’, bitterest enemy: printers. Our foes won a major battle in October, ousting us from our familiar old haunts with a new weapon in the form of impossible price increases. Dashed from our comfort zone, we’ve been scouring the world for a replacement ever since. The reason I mention this is that the first print run of books from the NuPrinter are being set up as I type, and we’re hoping to have it with pre-orderers in a couple of months. I’m really excited to see the finished product, Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos. NuPrinter has been great to work with, with plenty of good-looking proofs at each stage of the process (really important, when working with a new printer), which has included proofs of the final book, too. So uncharacteristically, I’m the first person to see this! (Usually, I have to go to a convention to see our latest releases in physical format, which is why you might have seen pictures of me being very impressed while opening boxes at Gen Con. That Cthulhu Confidential limited edition is sooo gorgeous, though!).

But I digress – I was going to show you some photos of proof copies. I hadn’t anticipated them sending through a blank book as a sample first, which they did, so that was a novelty. I’m wondering what to do with it – it’s so pristine and shiny and white!

URGENT PLEA!!!

Are you going to Gen Con Indianapolis this year? The closing date for submitting events is this coming Sunday, March 10th, and we urgently need more games! Every year, the good Events people at Gen Con contact us to let us know our games are sold out, and ask if we can run more events, so if you’re able to run 13th Age, Night’s Black Agents, Trail of Cthulhu – or any other Pelgrane game! – at Gen Con 2019, please sign up here, so we can share our great games with even more people this year! You can see the full list of adventures available here.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

Despite having a new baby, Nimuë Ryder-Hanrahan, earlier this month (congratulations!), Gareth’s finished most of his adventures for The Borellus Connection. which are available for playtesting this monthThis 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 The Fall of DELTA GREEN investigation.

Work in progress update: Free RPG Day 2019

We’re happy to be taking part in Free RPG Day again in 2019, and this year, we’ve got a 13th Age adventure crowd-sourced from Twitter called Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer for 3rd level characters, and a new adventure for the Paris setting of The Yellow King RPG called The Doors to Heaven. Here’s some more details about each:

Behind Iron Doors, a Gateway to Doom!

Paris, 1895. A sensation-seeking band of art students confronts supernatural invasion from an alien realm. A play called The King in Yellow circulates in the city’s secret, decadent circles, twisting the ordinary and corrupting the sacred. In the students’ latest case, a fellow student’s disappearance draws them to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Legend claims that its iron doors were sculpted through a pact with the devil. Behind this tale the investigators uncover a stranger truth, replete with hooded figures, an unearthly plague, and the terrifying creatures that inspired the gargoyles.

Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer

The renegade dwarf wizard has returned from exile, and now his army of thralls lays siege to the fortress of his ancestors. Doom and kinstrife threaten the lands of the dwarves! There’s but one chance – if a small band of heroic adventurers can brave the passage of the Underworld, they could strike at the wizard’s secret sanctum where he plots with his mysterious allies from the depths!

Battle through the tunnels of the world below! Navigate weird perils! Face fiendish horrors! It’s a race against time – if you tarry, the dwarves on the surface will most certainly perish!

Above all, don’t get entangled – for the dungeon of the Pogonomancer is certainly one hairy situation…

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Mutations and superheroes are our jam this month, with the odd Umbrella Academy and brilliant Russian Doll playing on Netflix, and the release of the new and updated second edition of Mutant City BluesPlay one of Mutant City’s Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, using your own mutant powers for good, to hunt down Enhanced criminals. We’ve still got a cracking Night’s Black Agents selection available, with the one player, one GM variant Solo Ops, and the Director’s Screen and Resource Guide, and plenty of new releases for Mythos fans, with the Cthulhu Confidential adventure collection Even Death Can Die, and the Trail of Cthulhu bestiary, Hideous Creatures.

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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.

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