“The children of the night… what music they make!”

We’ve prowled around the topic of werewolves in Night’s Black Agents once in a blue moon. The ghoul stats in the core rulebook (p. 150) include a quick-and-dirty conversion to wolfman mode; a pack of terrorist werewolves shows up in The Edom Files. Some say Ken chains himself up in his basement on certain nights, but that’s probably a scurrilous rumour. It’s a pity, because werewolves work almost as well as vampires for occult espionage thriller games. You’ve got dark secrets, you’ve got secret identities, you’ve got distinctive means of dispatch, and a whole host of meaty metaphors to chew on. Werewolf as cursed soul, dragged in for one last job. Werewolf as terrorist, the monster hiding in plain sight. Werewolf as plague, as super soldier, as secret weapon.

This article presents a somewhat tougher and more developed werewolf than the hairy ghoul variant, but it’s still only a taste, and we don’t go into a deep dive on werewolf mythology here. Consider this article to be the moment when the big dog burst out of the woods at the side of the roads and bites you. Think nothing of it, it’s just a scratch…

Supernatural: Werewolves are skin-changers; humans able to adopt the form of a beast through sorcery, magic salves or some other supernatural gift. The power of lycanthropy might be inherited through a bloodline, or bestowed by a magical ritual, or maybe you need to put on an enchanted wolf-skin to become the beast (so, if you want to become a werewolf, you’ve got to hunt down and skin a werewolf). Supernatural werewolves have a measure of control over their transformations, and may willingly embrace their skin-changing talents. Possible examples: the devil-hunting Benandanti, viking berserkers, were-witches of Livonia

Damned: Werewolves are humans cursed to become beasts. The modern conception is that the curse is spread through being bitten, but it might equally be punishment for misdeeds (or the physical manifestation of spiritual corruption). Other traditions suggest that one can become a werewolf after death if buried in the wrong spot, or that drinking from the footprint of a wolf makes you become a wolf. In any case, the Damned werewolf is a victim suffering from a magical affliction – although the people it devours may not see it as a fellow victim.

Alien: Lunar associations and spiritual projections aside, werewolves are earthy creatures, things of meat and hair and bone and blood. Presumably, then, the alien werewolf is a byproduct or adaptation of some alien entity coming into contact with earthly fauna. Maybe weird dimension-shifting warp drives cause some sort of quantum overlap, entangling beast and man. Maybe werewolves are guardian monsters engineered using a mix of earthly DNA and alien science. Lycanthropic chest-busters, anyone?

Mutant: Lycanthropy was created in a bio-weapons laboratory, or as the result of experiments in creating super-soldiers. Obviously, there’s the last stand of the Third Reich in Operation WERWOLF (where the stated goal of creating a stay-behind network of partisans and guerrilla fighters was clearly cover for Nazi werebeasts), but you could also look at Stalin’s experiments in creating ape-human hybrids, modern genetic engineering experiments – or look back in time, and wonder if there’s something alchemical to the salves and enchanted potions of mythology.


Setting the parameters for a werewolf’s shapeshifting is as big a deal as deciding how stakes and mirrors work in a vampire-centric game. Here are four possible options.

Voluntary Shapeshifting (Any): Drawing on their inner beast, the werewolf can shapeshift into a wolf-man form. Or into a wolf. Or maybe they can take on either form. In every case, the werewolf must make an Aberrance test to change (Difficulty 4 if the transformation takes 1-6 rounds; Difficulty 6 to change instantly.) The Difficulty’s adjusted by circumstances:

-2 at night

-2 in moonlight

-1 if the werewolf’s already angry

-1 if the werewolf’s already injured

-1 if there’s fresh meat or the smell of blood

+2 on consecrated ground (Da, Su)

+2 in the presence of wolfsbane flowers (Su, Mu)

Triggered Shapeshifting (Su, Mu): The werewolf has to take some action involving an external trigger to transform – inject a shot of adrenaline, put on a belt of wolfskin, rub on a salve, eat a human heart. If unrestrained, the werewolf can use the trigger freely; doing it in combat requires an Athletics or Filch test (Difficulty 4). Spend 3 points of Health to change instantly; otherwise, it takes 1-6 rounds.

Projection (Su, Da, Al): The werewolf doesn’t physically transform at all – it’s a psychic effect, projected from the werewolf’s human body. Maybe the werewolf sends out her spirit, maybe it’s a tulpa or a distillation of the werewolf’s animal impulses. Maybe the lycanthrope possesses a nearby animal of the appropriate type.

Compulsive Shapeshifting (Da, Mu): This sort of werewolf has to transform in certain circumstances – the full moon being an obvious example. Resisting the transformation requires a Stability test (Difficulty 4, modified by the inverse of the modifiers listed above under Voluntary Shapeshifting). A successful Stability test buys the werewolf 1-6 combat rounds, but it counts as Shaken while caught mid-change.

When shapeshifted, add a suitable bonus (+6 at least) to the werewolf’s Athletics, Stealth, Hand-to-Hand and Health.

Other Powers


Immunity (Su, Al): Werewolves can’t be injured by bullets and other projectiles; weapon attacks do minimum damage. Fire and explosions do half damage and cannot kill the beast.

Regeneration (Da, Mu): Werewolves regenerate health when transformed at a supernatural rate (regaining almost full health every round for a super-tough werewolf, 3-4 points per round for something slightly more manageable). However, it can’t heal completely using this supernatural gift; the last point of damage inflicted by each injury must heal naturally. So, if you shoot a werewolf three times for five damage with each shot, it’ll be down by 3 Health when next encountered (in any form).

Savagery: In any round in which the werewolf is attacked or impeded, it gains 1-6 points of Aberrance. In any combat round in which the werewolf’s enemies all hide, flee or do something else non-threatening, it loses one Aberrance.

Werewolf Heart: In any form, werewolves possess animal magnetism and dangerous charisma. The werewolf can spend Aberrance to mimic the effects of spending Flirting or Intimidation.

Infection: Anyone bitten by a werewolf might:

  • Become a Damned or Mutant werewolf
  • Become a werewolf subject only to Compulsive Transformation
  • Have to make a Health test to avoid infection
  • Contract an especially damaging variant of rabies (onset 10-60 minutes, Difficulty 6 Health; Minor +2 damage and Hurt; Severe +6 damage, -4 Athletics, and -2 Health and -2 Athletics until cured).

Also, obviously: Animal Senses (p. 128), Darkvision (p. 128), Vampiric Speed (p. 133), maybe serial-killer-esque “It’s behind you” Apportation (p. 133), Strength (p. 137), Summoning (p. 137).


Silver, in all its forms.

Wolf’s bane, aka aconite.

(Da): Holy items.


Hunt on nights of the full moon.

Werewolf Assassin

General Abilities: Aberrance 4, Firearms 9, Hand-to-Hand 14, Health 14

Hit Threshold: 5

Alertness Modifier: +2

Stealth Modifier: +1

Damage Modifier: +1 (claw or bite). The werewolf can only make one bite attack, but can make any number of claw attacks using Werewolf Speed as long as it has the points to spend.

Free Powers: Voluntary Transformation, Regeneration (in wolf form only), Savagery, Animal Senses (only when shape-shifted)

Other Powers: Werewolf Speed, Werewolf Strength, Infection

Banes: Silver


In January, Cat and I take stock of our previous year and look ahead to the next one in our Annual Partnership Meeting. We hold this on the dry Friday before WarpCon, a games convention based in Cork, Ireland, primarily in the student union bar, which means good minutes are essential. The Book of Demons is ready to print, and Cthulhu City is available as a PDF.

Fun With Data

2017 was our second best year in terms of USD sales. The first best year was 2014, but that included two Kickstarters.


To give you an idea of how things compare through each channel, we have this.


Sales through distribution (and hence retail) continue to decline, but they are still at historically high levels, and unit sales though distribution of print books continue to be much higher than through mail order. Now on to something stranger!

Unclaimed Digital Rewards

This shows the digital rewards for various Bundles of Holding and Kickstarters which remain unclaimed.

For Bundles of Holding I understand, because we send out a single email, and most backers have already claimed their rewards on DriveThruRPG. For Kickstarters, some we provided downloads with direct links, then followed up with Bookshelf – so you’ll see Hillfolk and 13 True Ways are mainly unclaimed, but that’s just because they already have their books. But for TimeWatch, a large proportion of people have simply not snagged what they pledged for.  Likewise, in 2016 and 2017, more than 1000 people placed orders (mainly print orders) and didn’t claimed their free PDFs. This just involves registering for a free bookshelf.

Don’t go rushing to support – we’ll send follow-up emails in the next month or so.

Production Schedule

For a long time, we’ve aimed our production schedule at Page XX  – ensuring that we have something new out each month to coincide with its release. Likewise, we’ve concentrated heavily on getting books out for Gen Con. This has turned into a grind, and held up production of larger books. In addition, the fixed costs and sales of smaller PDFs makes them less worthwhile, unless we’ve got non-commercial reasons for doing it.

So, you’ll see releases coming out less regularly, but with greater frequency. 13th Age is its own thing, with Rob Heinsoo running that line in parallel to the other books.

Fall of Delta Green

The PDF is in the hands of Arc Dream, and we hope to have it out to backers next week. The final layout will go to the printers at the end of next week, too. If takes a couple of months to print and ship at least.

It will go on general preorder in the Pelgrane store at the end of February, to be shipped out after the backers have been sent theirs.

Swords of the Serpentine

Kevin Kulp and Emily Dresners’s GUMSHOE game of cities, secrets, and sorcery has now hit 150000 words, and is being polished ready for external playtesting.  Kevin has run it himself for more than 100 playtesters. When designers run their game, it helps them hone their design fixing weaknesses and flaws, but it’s very hard to know if the text does the job of transmitting the game they want the players to experience without sending it out for external playtesting. Playtesting also shows flaws in the design, gives us an idea of the market for the game, but making sure people are playing the game we intended is pretty high on the list.

13th Age

The Book of Demons is uploaded to bookshelves, and is on its way to the printers.

Rob Heinsoo is concentrating on Book of Ages, and the thorny problem which is Shards of the Broken Sky cartography.

A Final Word

I’ll leave you with this snippet – the most popular article in the last year is What’s Your GUMSHOE Size? a guide to which GUMSHOE system might suit you.

by Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy

For all their seeming simplicity, Icon relationships can be tricky to use in a game, as some GMs, myself included, occasionally struggle to offer a satisfying use for them. Icons are just too abstract, too detached, too far away from the daily life of a low-level adventurer. They need intermediaries, something to connect the dungeons to the floating towers, the blood to the idea, the PCs to Icons. They need factions.

At their most basic, factions are NPC organizations who serve one or more Icons. In this article you’ll find advice on preparing factions and their use, as well as optional mechanics for tracking the changing influence of factions.

Making and using factions

Like any organization, factions form in order to achieve a goal. It can be something specific, like “return the Lich King to his rightful place as the ruler of the Dragon Empire”, or abstract like “keep the citizens of Axis safe”. That’s where we start: for each faction you have in mind, figure out its agenda. You’re not writing the faction’s manifesto, a single sentence will do.

Not every faction declares its agenda outright – a decadent high society faction dedicated to opening a new Hellmouth probably doesn’t advertise the fact to outsiders. But it’s this true purpose you’re interested in. Leave lies to your NPCs.

Speaking of NPCs, a faction needs a face (or three), someone the party will interact with when they deal with the faction. It can be the faction leader, but it can just as easily be an approachable rank-and-file member.

Similarly to PCs, factions have relationships with Icons, though these relationships are never rolled, and are purely indicative of the faction’s allegiances. As a rule of thumb, a faction should have at least one positive and one negative relationship, and no more than three relationships overall. The faction’s agenda should make it clear which Icons a given faction supports and opposes. And just as with PCs and their relationships with Icons, thinking of the relationships your factions have may reveal unexpected facets of their “personality”.

Ideally, your factions will cover every Icon with which the PCs have a relationship with both positive and negative relationships of their own. For the frequently referenced Icons, you may wish to have multiple factions that are interested in them. Ties to other Icons are nice, but less essential. In this way, the Icons your players pick will impact your worldbuilding, helping you to further focus on the aspects of the world your players find interesting.

If you use the “Icon relations story-guide results” table from the core book, you may wish to amend it with names of factions supporting or opposing the Icons.

Armed with this information, the next time your players want to use a relationship roll, you’ll have a faction or two with the same Icon relationship that fits the bill. Maybe one of its “face” NPCs shows up to offer assistance, or you suggest the PCs visit them to ask for help.

If the relationship die was a 5, you have a starting point for what the faction may ask for in return for its help – its agenda. Alternatively, a 5 on a positive relationship could indicate the involvement of a faction with a negative relationship to that Icon, and vice versa.

Note that this doesn’t rule out any other use of Icon relationship rolls the books suggest or you come up with. Indeed, factions merely offer a framework for some of these suggestions.

Faction influence level

In case you’re looking for some extra granularity in distinguishing between factions, you can assign levels to them. A faction’s level determines the average level of its significant assets and personnel. To put it another way, kicking down the door to the faction’s headquarters and taking them on would constitute an adventure of the faction’s level.

A level 1 faction is not much more than a group of local thugs, a level 5 faction can run a town, while a level 9 faction is a continent-spanning organization.

A faction’s level indicates the resources they have access to, helping determine what kind of assistance or opposition they offer to the PCs. An adventurer-tier faction can’t hand out champion-tier magic items, for instance. Additionally, faction levels provide some ideas for the likely outcome of a faction-vs-faction conflict.

Faction levels aren’t set in stone. At the end of every adventure, as well as whenever some significant change happens, ask yourself: did any faction get more powerful or otherwise achieve a major victory? Did any faction lose major holdings or important allies? Adjust their level by 1 in either direction. Where appropriate, campaign loss caused by PCs fleeing may also result in a faction losing a level.

As a rule of thumb, PCs can’t affect the level of a faction that is three or more levels above theirs without major plot upheaval to assist them. However, large and high-level factions are rarely monolithic. Consider introducing local chapters or sub-factions of a level closer to the level of PCs so they can more easily influence each other.

The changes to faction influence levels represent tangible consequences to the PCs’ efforts, making it easier to see how their adventures affect the world around them.

Example – factions of the Sea Wall

Let’s say your group has decided upon the Sea Wall as the starting location for the campaign. Sea breeze and giant monsters, what can be better. The player characters have positive relationships with the Archmage, the Dwarf King, and the Prince of Shadows; they have conflicted relationship with the High Druid and the Diabolist; and a negative relationship with the Three.

Looking at the map, we see a slight problem: there’s the Iron Sea on the one side, the Blood Wood on the other, and not much else. With the chosen Icons in mind, let’s start with the obvious options and expand to accommodate the more esoteric choices.

Sea Wall Maintenance Crew

Level 5 faction

Agenda: keep the wall standing. Currently occupied with repairing a massive breach that occurred last month. Nominally subordinate to the Sea Wall Guard (a faction with positive relationship to the Emperor, in which we’re not as interested).

Relationships: positive with the Archmage and the Dwarf King, ambiguous with the High Druid.

Faces: Prince Azbarn Stonebeard, fifteenth in line to the Dwarven Throne (dwarf, naturally), and magister Ariel Thornfist (high elf) are in joint command. Both are highly ambitious and competitive, with views of distinguishing themselves and leaving this backwater post behind.

Leviathan Hunters

Level 3 faction

Agenda: to safeguard the Blood Wood (and the Empire, as a secondary consideration) from the sea monsters.

Relationships: positive with the High Druid, ambiguous with the Orc Lord, negative with the Diabolist.

Face: Uzg (orc) left his clan and his clan name behind to serve High Druid. An unlikely but enthusiastic guardian of Blood Wood, he’s assembled a warband of other renegade orcs, wood elves and beasts of the forest. Currently weakened from their continued skirmishes with the sea monsters that got through last month, Leviathan Hunters would love to live up to their name and take the fight to the enemy – if their level reaches 5, Uzg will lead an expedition beyond the Sea Wall.

Red Right Pincer

Level 4 faction

Agenda: to bring down the Sea Wall by summoning a mighty leviathan from the depths.

Relationships: positive with the Diabolist, negative with the High Druid, the Emperor, and the Archmage.

Face: Deep priest Kashtarak (sahuagin). The designated bad guy for the first few levels of the campaign. Red Right Pincer currently hunts for mystic beasts to slaughter in the Blood Wood, in order to use their hearts for an unholy ritual that would weaken the magic protection of the Sea Wall. Should the Pincer’s level exceed that of the Sea Wall Maintenance Crew, a new massive breach is all but guaranteed.

Storm’s Bane

Level 2 faction

Agenda: recover the treasure that has cursed them to undeath.

Relationships: positive with Prince of Shadows, negative with the Three.

Face: Captain Sam Kellock (human) was a daring pirate, his ship Storm’s Bane feared by all. That is, until he robbed one too many ships that belonged to the Three, fled from their pursuit into the Iron Sea, and met his end in the jaws of a leviathan. That would have been bad enough, but unbeknownst to him the treasure he carried was cursed. Now ghostly remains of his crew plague the shore, looking for fools to help them recover the gold and break the curse. After a century of torment, Kellock is desperate and sees the PCs as his last best hope. Should their relationship go awry, he would even help sahuagin bring the leviathan that swallowed his treasure to the shore, in hopes of someone killing it for him.


Mikhail Bonch-Osmolovskiy is a game designer and a writer. He’s currently looking for a publisher for his board game, Passages & Plunder; writing a blog, PonderingsOnGames.com; and planning on resuming his YA horror serial at newvalenar.wordpress.com. He lives in Sydney, Australia and has given up on teaching the locals how to pronounce his name.

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring everything you need to know about running your first GUMSHOE game from Robin D. Laws, Kenneth Hite, and Simon Rogers, along with a number of bonus items for Hillfolk and Dracula Dossier Kickstarter backers, and Cthulhu Confidential purchasers. Plus, pick up the 13th Age Demonologist class among other hellish goodies in the Book of Demons, and get the latest Langston Wright adventure for Cthulhu Confidential, The Shadow Over Washington.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)Happy new year! If your 2018 resolutions involve learning how to run games – or improving your existing GM skills – we’ve joined up with our good friends at Monte Cook Games and Atlas Games for New Gamemaster Month. Starting Tuesday, January 9th, we’ll run a month-long seminar in the form of twice-weekly posts, teaching you everything you need to know to run your first game of Trail of Cthulhu. (And if it is your first time running Trail, check out the resources page specifically for new Trail of Cthulhu players and GMs).

To celebrate the holiday season, we’ve added some bonus items to the Pelgrane Press bookshelf (you’ll need to register here if you haven’t already!)

If you didn’t back these Kickstarters, you can pick up the PDFs of these card decks in our webstore, or print your own copy on demand through DriveThruRPG. Other things you can pick up on our webstore now include the PDF of Cthulhu City, the Demonologist class for 13th Age in the form of the Book of Demons pre-order – buy it now and get the plain-text PDF straight away – and the latest GUMSHOE One-2-One adventure for Langston Wright, The Shadow Over Washington.

New Releases


13th Age

      • 13th Sage: Abyssal Mage – Rob Heinsoo introduces a new monster useful for playing Fire and Faith and the Book of Demons
      • 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.

See Page XX Poll

When I run GUMSHOE, I:

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It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten.

– The Festival

Of course, they celebrate Christmas in Great Arkham. It’s a normal city, a god-fearing city, and they have more reason to chase away the midwinter gloom than most. Every year, the city council raises a great tree in Independence Square, and decorate the streets with electric lights. Bands play down in the Wooded Island, and there are fabulous balls and parties in Kingsport and the Hotel Miskatonic. For a little while, maybe, it seems as if the oppressive darkness of the city retreats.

Look closer.

Sentinel Hill: The Church of the Conciliator, Great Arkham’s dominant religious sect, celebrates Christmas. It’s the birth of our Lord, a time of joy and hope! On this day, long long ago, God filtered down from the stars and took on human (well, material) form, to bring the good news of the Old Ones to the world.

  • Theology: The nativity readings in the Arkham City Cathedral are oddly sympathetic to Herod, of all people. There’s the unsettling implication that the birth of the saviour somehow required the sacrifice of many, many other children.
  • Streetwise: Attendance at mass over Christmas is obligatory, even if one doesn’t regularity visit church. The priests take note of those who refuse to celebrate this holiest of days. Why, ungrateful people who can’t even go to mass at Christmas don’t deserve to see the New Year…

Old Arkham: The wealthy families of Old Arkham host elabourate banquets and feasts, bringing the whole family back together for one night at least. Christmas is a time for renewing old vows and bonds of loyalty, and for bringing wayward scions back home.

  • Bargain: There’s a little shop on Go-by Street that sells the most marvellous Christmas decorations, handmade twists of glass and silver in the shape of stars and branches. Hang them from your tree, and your home will be protected for the season at least. They’re expensive, though, and there’s a waiting list as certain wealthy families buy a new one of these… charms every year. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can still get one – or borrow one with Filch…
  • Medicine: No-one dies in St. Mary’s Hospital at Christmas. It’s not some seasonal miracle, though – it’s something older and darker. Those who succumb to illness or injury on the 25th of December linger on in defiance of all medical science, and mutter in strange tongues as if some other force speaks through them.

University District: The university closes for the holidays, of course, so the storied halls and lecture theatres of Miskatonic are deserted. Most staff and students go home, leaving only a few lonely souls or bachelor professors to haunt the campus.

  • Library Use: There’s a book related to Ithaqua the Wind-Walker in the Orne Collection. Well, there’s sometimes a book on Ithaqua there. The tome only manifests on the coldest of nights around Midwinter. Read it if you dare, but each page you turn drops your internal body temperature by a degree or so.
  • Oral History: All the students go skating on the frozen Crane Pond during the water. There’s a campus tradition that if you’re on track to fail your exams, the ice will crack and break beneath you when you step on it, as if the Pond weeds out unworthy students.

Westheath: It’s hard for Christmas cheer to penetrate the grey skies and tomblike tenements of this district, but it’s here that the most honest celebrations of the season may be found. The people here light candles and place them in the windows of their apartments as a sign of defiance against the Mythos. Each morning, the elders of the community rise before dawn and walk the dark streets, checking every window. If a candle’s missing, does that mean that a family has succumbed to despair? Have they been taken by the Transport Police or some other dark force?

  • Biology: Christmas is obviously a busy time for Gardner Industrial Farms, where they churn out truckloads of obscenely large turkeys. They don’t have time to fatten the birds through conventional means, so they give the birds triple doses of the vitalising light from the patent Whipple lamps. Workers then enter the building and weed out the mutant birds, the ones whose cells… reacted to the Whipple lamps in an unwholesome fashion.
  • Streetwise: Christmas is hard for many families in this poor district; loan sharks working for the Malatesta family are always eager to help out. Nothing’s more useful to the criminal gang than an honest man without a prior record who’s unknown to the authorities. Want to give your kids a Christmas they’ll remember? The Malatestas can help…

Dunwich: Snow blankets the backroads and thickets of Dunwich, making travel difficult. Most people bunker down for the season, staying close to home. They have stories here – brought from the old world, they say – about Father Christmas and his elves. Things creeping through the woods, lithe and pale and leaving no tracks. A huge figure, white-bearded, his coat splashed with red, astride (or one with) his horned mount, following after his hunting beasts. No, it’s best to stay close to home at Yule in Dunwich, and leave offerings on your doorstep so nothing slithers down your chimney.

  • Oral History: Snowed in at the White Stone roadhouse, the investigators spend Christmas stuck with a bunch of strangers. Tongues loosened with port and mulled wine, each stranger relates a tale of horror and mystery… (aka, a one-shot flashback using pregenerated player characters).
  • Electrical Repair: The mighty turbines of the Olmstead Dam provide electricity for all the lights and amusements in the city. From the top of the dam, one can see the city blazing with seasonal illuminations… and when the turbines skip, the whole city flickers for an instant. It’s as though the dam’s transmitting messages to the streets, subliminal signals articulated in patterns of darkness and light.

Northside: Northside’s thronged with shoppers and revellers at this time of year. Plunge into those anonymous crowds, cast off your individuality, and join the dance of consumption!

  • Forensics: These bones recovered from Christchurch graveyard have toothmarks, suggesting that someone ate the corpse. What’s really disturbing, beyond the mere fact of the cannibalism, is that there are several different sets of toothmarks, implying that a whole family feasted on the deceased…
  • Physics: A misfiring Yithian machine buried deep under Northside triggers around midwinter, projecting its victims into the past, present and future for brief jaunts before returning them to their point of origin. The investigators are hired by an old and miserly businessman who’s experienced two such time-jumps already, and wants them to find a way to stop the machine before he’s forced to confront the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Salamander Fields: Here in the oldest, darkest heart of Arkham, they do not speak of Christmas. It is the Yuletide, and it is celebrated by descending into wet, dark tunnels that glisten with green flame. There are lights in the deserted houses, and strange spiked growths that might resemble Christmas trees at a distance, but do not mistake them for anything safe or festive…

  • Occult: A curious custom practised by an ancient Lodge in Old Arkham – each year, the wealthy members of the Lodge find some poor beggar or hobo and crown him King. They bring him back to their hall, dress him in fine clothes, feed him a meal fit for a king, and then… well, the king returns to the gutter, but is never quite the same afterwards.
  • Bureaucracy: The city’s determined to finish the infamous and long-delayed Dig as soon as possible, and work on the massive engineering project is due to continue through the festive season. Enterprising investigators could infiltrate the Dig site by taking temporary employment over the holidays.

Innsmouth Docks: Swim down, and you’ll soon find there are no seasons in the deep. Winter and summer are things of the surface; the deeps are timeless. So, the Yuletide is of less importance in Innsmouth than in other parts of the city. There are no brightly lit streets down here, and what hangs from windows is limp and damp and weedy instead of glittering tinsel.

  • Credit Rating: The Gilman House committee does host an expensive Christmas charity dinner every year. Since the raid on the House itself, the dinner’s moved to the more upscale function rooms at the Devil’s Reef restaurant. Those cultivating political connections in this part of town are advised to give generously. Especially promising donors may be introduced to certain… elderly individuals who are of great influence in Innsmouth.
  • Craft: Some unlucky children find strange pale dolls under the Christmas tree. The parents mutter to one another in wonder, trying to work out where the gift came from, and how it was placed under the tree in secret. They would be better off keeping a closer eye on their children; the dolls are lures dispatched by the Moon-Beasts of the Black Ships, and if the children are not watched, the dolls lead them off down to the docks to board the waiting ships…

Kingsport: Kingsport is Arkham’s pleasure-garden. It’s more associated with lazy summers and yachting than the dim midwinter, but there are still amusements to be found here. Walk along the promenade, fortified by hot cocoa and roasted chestnuts, and look out at the snowy harbour before visiting a gallery or a Christmas movie. It’s festival time, and strange pleasures might be found down some unexpected alleyway or winding stairs that only appears in moonlight.

  • Oral History: Everyone agrees that the best department store Santa Claus in the city is in Hartman’s Department Store in Kingsport. The jolly old fellow is positively magical in how he enchants the children, and always has the right gift to hand. Who knows what he whispers in their ears, though – and strange to say, in some lights, his face looks as artificial as his fake beard…
  • Art History: A script for a Christmas movie has floated around the various movie studies in Kingsport’s film district for the last few months. It’s called The Snowglobe, and it’s a seasonal tale of weird horror about a man who discovers that his quaint little village is actually a model trapped inside a globe, and he must fight to escape from this picturesque prison. The identity of the screenwriter is a mystery, and it’s rumoured he was visited by the transport police shortly after submitting a draft to AKLO pictures.

Chinatown: This district is a merciful refuge from the Yuletide spirit. Be of good cheer – there’s a place to escape Christmas, even in Cthulhu City…



A Bookhounds of London rare tome by Mike Drew

Keepers of Bookhounds of London may find themselves growing tired of the same old mythos tomes. How many copies of the Necronomicon can be discovered in mouldy crypts before they become rote? Here then is a real world tome along with possible ways for it to torment your players. An extravagant Edwardian binding, haunted by a terrible curse and linked to the world’s most famous sinking. Unlike Stead and Murray’s Priestess this cursed artefact was actually onboard Titanic when she sailed. This is a tale of high ambition, elaborate bindings and the international book trade. This is the tale of the ‘Great Omar’.

Possibly the most ambitious binding of the modern world (or ever) the Great Omar was a ludicrously fine binding executed by Sangorski and Sutcliffe for John Stonehouse. Stonehouse was then manager of the Piccadilly branch of storied antiquarian bookseller’s Sotheran’s (my own trade alma mater and notably missing from the trade list in Bookhounds). Sangorski was consumed with binding the Elihu Vedder illustrated Rubáiyát. In 1909 he finally convinced Stonehouse who said “charge what you like for it”. ( I am indebted here to Vic Gray’s excellent Sotheran’s history, Bookmen: London, produced for our 250th anniversary. It is highly recommended to the student of the book trade and everyone else as well.)

It took two years for Sangorski and assistants – forwarder Sylvester Byrnes, gold-finisher George Lovett and an (as-usual) unheralded sewing lady – to finish. Perhaps a little gauche for modern (or any) tastes there is no denying the craftmanship, passion, and quality of materials. 5000 pieces of coloured leather were pressed into underlying green morocco along with 1,050 jewels (topazes, turquoises, rubies, amethysts, garnets and olivines). The front cover featured three peacocks with spread tail feathers, the back a lute of mahogany. The front doublure (an ornamental lining on the reverse of the cover) had a writhing snake in an apple tree and the back one a skull (with ivory teeth) with a poppy growing from an eye socket. The work was unveiled for the Coronation of George V; even incomplete it was a wondrous sight. Just as well – there was no buyer. It was marked up at a staggering £1,000 (more than three times the cost of any single volume in the shop) and Stonehouse hadn’t consulted Mr Sotheran before proceeding. The book had to sell.

The book didn’t sell.

In early 1912 trade legend Gabriel Wells offered £900 but was rebuffed. Stonehouse travelled to New York to try other options. The volume was packed and dispatched ready to collect. Unfortunately American customs demanded 40% duty. Books over 20 years old (as the Vedder was) were duty free, but the text was undated. This was seized upon to argue the new binding overrode the text within, making it a new book. It took the Board of the United States General Appraisers to overturn the decision. Meanwhile Mr Sotheran, perhaps upset Stonehouse had failed to consult him before commissioning the piece, refused the duty and the book returned.

Mr Sotheran was tiring of the whole affair. Gabriel Wells would now only offer £650 in light of the customs issues. There was an argument with Sangorski over payment for two years’ work. In a fit of pique Omar was dispatched to the rooms. The prevailing attitude may be judged by the biting order that Sotheby’s offer it without reserve. It was finally knocked down for a tragic £405. To Gabriel Wells. Stonehouse maintained the sale was blighted by a coal strike. Wells had the book prepared for shipping on the next liner to New York. It should have shipped on the 6th April but the coal strike disrupted shipping. It left instead on the 10th on the next ship, the RMS Titanic. The ‘Great Omar’ still resides 400 miles off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Legend holds the book was cursed – perhaps because of the peacock feathers, unlucky in some cultures. Certainly it seemed for Sotheran’s at the time, and for curse proponents the death of Sangorski by drowning 7 weeks after the sinking is apposite. Twenty years later Stanley Bray (Sutcliffe’s nephew) recreated the binding in his spare time from original drawings. The war interrupted him and the uncompleted work was stored in a metal-lined case in a bank vault on Fore Street…where it was bombed. The first bomb of the Blitz fell on Fore Street. The building above burnt to the ground. The recovered metal case was intact but the book was cooked to a congealed mass. Inevitably Sangorski’s bindery was untouched for the duration of the war. Bray retrieved the jewels from the ruined binding and finally completed a third effort in 1989, which was presented to the British Library. To date the BL has resolutely refused to hit an iceberg. John Stonehouse died young at 72 surrounded by family. George Sutcliffe died in 1943, 30-odd years after the iceberg. Cecil Sotheran was run down crossing Constitution Hill…16 years later.

But away with mere fact!

This is not merely a cursed tome written by an Arabian mathematician. It is a fabulously-bound cursed tome produced by one of the greatest binderies in London at the behest of one of the greatest antiquarian booksellers. It is writ large in book trade lore and would still be a legend for any 30s Bookhound.

So if cursed, who cursed it? The peacock recalls Tawûsê Melek , Peacock Angel of the similarly-Persian Yazidis. Better though to avoid Lovecraft’s racist characterisation of them as “Persian devil-worshippers”. Perhaps start from the premise of sea-born disaster and assume the Cthulhu cult is behind this. The binding acts as focus for a Summon Watery Doom spell. Who was the target? Gabriel Wells? Harry Widener (probably carrying it for Wells with his own books)? Stead? How many cursed items can one man be associated with before we call enemy action? The Titanic was a target-rich environment for those seeking historical conspiracy. More on possible targets could be mined from the Suppressed Transmission “A Night to Embroider” by some fellow named Ken Hite.

The Bookhounds then are lucky enough to get a great deal: fine peacock bindings in a seeming job lot – all-too-conveniently they have buyers for some already. All of the names on their list are high-powered (at least in the occult world) and they start turning up dead. The Constabulary may not always be the most imaginative, but they are notoriously thorough. So many deaths in one field (and linked to one shop) will turn the head of even the most staid copper. Can the shop get out from under their watchful gaze? How did the cult get their client list? How long can they keep the books before the shop is hit by disaster? What will they do to make a profit on the remaining works? The curse might be lifted by damaging the bindings – but what will that do to the price?

Of course the book should never have been onboard in the first place. Is it more terrible that so many perished to kill one person or that it was all a great screw-up? Was this just the equivalent of a terrorist bomb, producing souls for harvesting? Perhaps it is a hungry entity we seek, dwelling in the shrine created for it. This might explain the way peacocks became a “fetish” in Sangorski’s binding work. Stonehouse recalled this in the 1929 Piccadilly Notes (Sotheran’s part-catalogue, part-magazine). He thought Sangorski’s “dreams must have been of oriental lands and colours which he had never seen” – maybe they could only be called colours at all by analogy? Evidently Sangorski became similarly obsessed with Kismet, then playing at the Garrick. He went several times and it had an “almost intoxicating effect”. He made copious notes in the margins of his programme for future bindings – finding these might reveal information about other book shrines.

Could a certain (un-dying) blasphemous Arab writer lurks behind the mask of Omar? Khayyam was an astronomer and mathematician after all, solving cubic equations with geometry. Lovecraft uses Fitzgerald’s metre and rhyme-pattern for his ‘That is not dead…’ couplet. Perhaps a specific translation was needed to unlock the poem’s secrets? Dr John Potter, according to The Times a translator of the Rubáiyát, vanished from Castletown on the Isle of Man in 1923. His body washed ashore at Auchencairn on the Solway Firth one month later. Taken by Deep Ones to produce a new translation? It may be the translation reveals truths in the illustrations. Vedder was interested in occult imagery but claimed he was not learned in “occult matters” instead “I take short flights or wade out into the sea of mystery which surrounds us” (The Digressions of V). That sounds horribly close to those “black seas of infinity” – was the thing inspiring Sangorski at Vedder’s shoulder years earlier? If the two elements are combined in a peacock binding the reader can open dimensions through cubic geometry. The Titanic was not sunk to kill a person, it was sunk to destroy this book.

If this is the case the likely suspects are the true face behind The Church of the Cult of Omar. Founded in The Pas, Manitoba in 1921, during the province’s 7-year flirtation with prohibition, it was inevitably suppressed by a humourless government only a few months later. A new convert testified that the church was only founded to claim liquor permits to obtain wine for “sacramental purposes”. There are perhaps echoes of the suppression of the Starry Wisdom in America only a few years later, although in a somewhat more low-key Canadian manner. No doubt a new chapel could be found in the home of some Bright Young Thing with protruding eyes.

Who sank the ship though? There is one organisation capable of such a dramatic act. According to Amin Maalouf’s novel Samarkand the only manuscript copy of the Rubáiyát also went down with the ship. American scholar Benjamin Lesage retrieved it from Tehran in 1896. It had made its way there after being saved from the inferno of texts after the fall of Alamut. Because of course the Assassins are involved. For this the Bookhounds might accidentally come by a copy of Potter’s manuscript in an auction lot, or an obsessed binder might offer them the chance to back his recreation using the secret text of that lost book. At that point the binder, shop and any client interested become clear targets for the Assassins. This might offer some delightful cognitive dissonance for players who would expect the Order to be the bad guys.

If you want to use the book itself the fact that it lies full fathom five shouldn’t stop you. A seller is hawking the real thing round London. Sure, it’s spent the better part of two decades underwater, fair copy at best, but a legendary piece nonetheless – find another one. Sub rosa sale, linked to a shop specialising in oceanography, the history of oceans (especially lore and mysteries), and a less well-known sideline supplying lost art treasures. Rather than the usual tome as mythos artefact this is a shop using the mythos. The owners have a deal with, maybe are, Deep Ones. They use the access to shipwrecks to supply lost treasures to well-heeled, snobbish and ghoulish collectors. The shop could be rivals, a worrying presence, or (for more pulpy games) a target. If the owners simply use their connections to sell to a specialised market what do the players do about it?

The Bookhounds are approached by a strange client to get him the Omar. He doesn’t care how but he does care price. Do they get into the auction or try more underhanded methods (lifting it from the shop or from the ultimate buyer)? Troublesome auction clients might include agents of the Hsieh-Tzu Fan or the Cthulhu cult, both of whom have an interest in oceanography. If the book was the home of a devouring entity then being trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic has made it very hungry. What will they do when they learn of the curse? Their is still their rival’s batrachian methodology to consider. What do Deep One book runners demand as payment?


Mike Drew was lucky enough to learn the book trade at perhaps the oldest still-trading antiquarian booksellers in the world, Henry Sotheran’s. He has since catalogued books (and occasionally antique fishing reels) for a now-defunct auction house, and escapes from the kids by volunteering at the local museum library. The happiest moment in his almost 30-years of roleplaying came when Pelgrane made his job a roleplaying game.

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



Title: The Yellow King RPG


Author: Robin Laws

Deadline: February 28th

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description: Join phase 2 of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game playtest to help us hone one of the three following sequences: The Wars, Aftermath or This is Normal Now. Whether you took part in phase 1 (Paris) or have the time to jump in now, drop us a line and we’ll hook you up with all the Shocks, Injuries and reality-shifting Carcosan dread you need!

The latest edition of See Page XX is out now! Featuring the 13th Age Demonologist class among other hellish goodies in the Book of Demons, along with Ex Astoria, the next Vivian Sinclair PDF adventure; meet Colleen Riley, the newest Pelgranista; hand something out to your players, and find out how the character generator is progressing.

It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!

I must confess that I love handouts in roleplaying games. I love them a little too much. In the upcoming expanded Hideous Creatures, we’re doing player-facing documents for each monster, hinting at some aspect of the creature in an oblique way. Some tips on their creation and use…

Handouts are Artefacts

Handouts must feel real. You can spend many enjoyable* hours aging paper and carefully selecting the right font, but you also have to take care when writing the handout to make it a plausible document. It needs to be short enough to be read at the table, contain enough information to make it useful, but also drip with verisimilitude. Short reports obliquely hinting at strange events, newspaper articles, diary entries and the like are ideal.

You can also have handouts that are extracts from larger documents – a single page of a longer book or one section of a report – by including trailing text and references to other parts of the fictional document. (Group a bunch of short newspaper clippings in a scrapbook to create a handout that hints at but never states an awful truth – leave it up to the players to connect a death notice, a report about dead dogs, a mysterious classified advertisement, and a clipping from the catalogue of a rare book store that’s selling a copy of Cultes des Ghoules.)

The diary entry found by Dr. Armitage in The Dunwich Horror is an ideal example of this sort of extract – it’s short, atmospheric, suggests it’s part of a larger document with its throwaway references to other Dunwich natives and ongoing studies, and – most important of all – has an actionable clue for the players: “That upstairs looks like it will have the right cast. I can see it a little when I make the Voorish sign or blow the powder of Ibn-Ghazi at it”.


Everyone knows that boxed text is awful. It’s painful to sit there listening to a Keeper read prose aloud. It’s stilted, often hard to follow, and at odds with the inherently conversational nature of roleplaying games. Handouts, though, are much closer to traditional prose. You can tell a little story, or go to town on descriptive elements that a Keeper would struggle to convey in a bloc of text.

A handout that just conveys information isn’t necessarily a waste of them – all handouts have their uses – but if you just want to, say, give the players the name of the victim, writing up a police report is probably overkill. Use the space afforded by the handout to hint at horrors to come. Diaries, in particular, let you extend a scenario’s scope back in time by letting you do the Lovecraftian trope of listing a whole series of past incidents and weirdnesses that culminate in the present horror.


In any group of players, there are usually degrees of engagement. Some players are really, really interested in the mystery, or the Cthulhu Mythos, or fighting monsters; others become more or less engaged depending on the action in the game, and others are just there to hang out with their friends. In general, it’s a bad idea to pay too much attention on the overly enthusiastic players – they’re going to have fun and be involved no matter what, so the Keeper’s efforts are best spent drawing the more reticent players into the action. Handouts, however, are a place where you can reward engagement, giving those players a little more to chew on. Use handouts to hint at connections to the wider Mythos, to imply deeper and wider conspiracies, or to flesh out the backstory. Handouts are one place in the game where you can be as obscure and wilfully misleading as you like, as the players can take time – even between sessions – to chew over the clues.

The Clue Isn’t Necessary In The Text

While you can include clues in a handout that you expect the players to spot, you can also have clues that can be discovered with investigative abilities. A player might be able to use History to recognise a name in a diary as the site of a famous murder, or Cryptography to decode the weird runes in the margin as an enciphered message, or even Cthulhu Mythos (“after reading the diary, you start dreaming of that same strange house on the clifftop, and feel this weird urge to go east, towards the ocean. Something’s drawing you to a spot on the coastline overlooking the grey Atlantic. You suspect that if you follow that unnatural tugging, you’ll find that house.”)

You can also use investigative abilities to push the players towards the correct interpretation – “from your expertise in Cop Talk, you’re pretty sure this report was written under protest – whoever wrote it was told to provide a ‘reasonable’ explanation for the weird events. Maybe if you find the original author, they’ll tell you what really happened.”

Handouts Are An Anchor

Handouts feel significant. Even a tiny handout, like a business card, implies the players are on the right track in the adventure, (“If this musician wasn’t important, the Keeper wouldn’t have printed up a business card”) and you can use that feeling to reward the players. Successfully traversing a difficult challenge or solving a section of the mystery yields a handout.

Handouts are also useful for organising information. If you’ve a long list of similar leads – say, all the guests at a party, or all the victims of a serial murderer, or a set of addresses – it’s good practise to give the players the list in the form of a handout. It avoids transcription errors and miscommunications, and keeps the game running more smoothly. Similarly, handouts are a good way of conveying complex timelines or spatial relationships to the players – a map or a diary can become the frame of the investigation that the players then fill in with clues.

*: Hours may not be enjoyable if they turn into weeks, nay months…

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