Bring Mind-Bending Spellcasting to The Yellow King Roleplaying Game

Ritual magic of the Belle Époque! The desperate Science Jaune of a war-torn continent! Parageometrical horrors perfected in the labs of the tyrannical, overthrown Castaigne regime! Signing, the latest way to turn social media dysfunction into sorcerous reality!

Your players can master them all—at perilous risk!

Each spell is a Shock card with effects both useful and sinister. Do they hold onto that that spell they need to do that thing, even as their inner realities start to break apart? Or do they take the safe route, and cast out the buzzing, insistent power of the Yellow Sign?

 

Black Star Magic features new magic rules for The Yellow King RPG, including 144 startling spells, background material on Carcosan magic in all four YKRPG settings, and GM guidance showing you how to incorporate player-facing occult powers into your game.

Plus, a quartet of scenarios, allowing the characters of each sequence to make double-edged deals with the world of sorcery:

  • Dancer at the Bone Cabaret pits the art students of Paris against a force that lures their Bohemian friends to the latest, hottest nightspot. But are they the patrons, or items on the menu?
  • A Casket at Le Thil sends the supernatural-quashing soldiers of The Wars into a village haunted by subterranean enemy activity.
  • Memories of a Dream Clown confronts the victorious revolutionaries of Aftermath with a treasured but tarnished memory of childhood—and murder!
  • Love Wears No Mask finds This Is Normal Now’s ordinary heroes battling an intrusive yet enthralling phone app, and the dramatic goings-on of the subtly destabilizing dating reality show it promotes.

Play them separately, or chill your players with all of them. All they have to lose is their grip on reality…

Stock #: PELGY11 Author: Robin D. Laws, Sarah Saltiel, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Ruth Tillman
Cover Art: TBD Format: Black and white perfect-bound book, ~176 pages

Pre-order Black Star Magic now

The Zalozhniy Quartet for Night’s Black Agents sends the Agents on a desperate search for… wait. Spoiler warning. Don’t read this article if you’re likely to play in a ZQ game anytime soon. It’s a desperate search for, ah, something fuzzy and friendly and totally does not involve unkillable time-locked zombie monsters.

Now that we’ve cleared the room of non-Directors without clearance, let’s get into it. The Quartet involves a search for two mysterious substances, the nigredo (vampiric essence) and the albedo (a control substance of some sort). Combined, these create the rubedo, a marvellous compound sought by the vampires – and that, incidentally, gives control over the House of Saud and Saudi Arabia. (I note in passing that not only have world events overwritten the opening sequence of The Zalozhniy Sanction, set in Crimea, but current events in Riyadh may soon make the description in Treason in the Blood obsolete…)

If all goes according to plan, the Agents pick up the Albedo in The Boxmen and find the nigredo in Treason in the Blood.

The terms albedo, nigredo and rubedo are borrowed from alchemy. They’re three of the steps towards the Great Work to make the philosopher’s stone and achieve immortality, which makes them obviously pertinent to vampiric weirdness. You start with nigredo, with putrefaction and death (or, if you’re going with a Jungian know-thyself interpretation, the dark night of the soul). You’re wash it clean with (or in) the albedo (the Whiteness, Cleansing). You transmute it through citrinitas, the Yellow, the solar light, the dawn. Finally, you achieve the rubedo, the Red, perfection and victory and immortality (and access to Saudi oil reserves.)

So, there’s a whole alchemical step in the Magnum Opus right there – citrinas – that’s missing in the Zalozhniy Quartet. If that offends your sense of alchemical symmetry, here are some options for adding it in:

  • The citrinas is the human element in the vampire. CITRINE was St. John Philby’s codename for King Ibn Saud; the Conspiracy still use the Citrine codename to refer to the Saudi royal family (“we can draw down funds from the citrines”)
  • Citrinas is the essence of solar heroism – it’s vampire slaying. To create the rubedo, you need the blood of a hero. The Conspiracy needs to capture one of the Agents alive to complete their plan.
  • The citrinas refers to the ritual needed to combine the albedo and The Agents can obtain it from the Russian defector Arkady Shevlenko, or from Kim Philby’s safety deposit box, or St. John’s grave, or Dorjiev’s notes. Alternatively, the citrinas might be a potion that awakens the imbiber’s consciousness, enabling them to combine the albedo and nigredo safely. This also implies that the Conspiracy may end up needing to snatch one of the Agents.
  • The citrinas refers to a magical lens (maybe one of the glass fulminates retrieved from the desert, suitably polished) that transmutes the solar magic of daylight into the alchemical heat needed to achieve the rubedo. The Kingdom Centre in Riyadh is, of course, made using windows of citrinas; the Agents can delay the ritual by blowing up the Conspiracy’s lenses, or hike into the desert to find their own lenses.
  • Citrinas, the moment of self-realisation after death and cleansing, refers to the death-moment of a zalozhniy. Dr. Dorjiev wears citrine stones to anchor his life to that death-moment, as per p. 9 – if the Agents destroy or remove those stones, he’ll have to create a new zalozhniy post-haste to hide his death away again. (Kim Philby also created a citrinas token to sustain him through the Great Work, which is why he was so damned hard to kill – his citrine-stone ensured he survived the shell explosion in December 1937 in Spain, when he emerged unharmed from a blast that killed everyone else in the car he was travelling in. The citrine may be stored in his deposit box in the Kornersbank, or in some KGB storeroom in Moscow.)

For lots more alchemical fun, check out GUMSHOE Zoom: Alchemy

[Editor’s Note: Like the creatures in the Dying Earth, and those in Trail, each Night’s Black Agents campaign has a different vampire. This excerpt introduces you to vampire design.]

Vampires

Now, it’s the opposition’s turn.

This chapter presents a series of questions to answer and decisions to make for the Director. Why do vampires exist? Where do they come from? What are their powers? How do humans stop them? When did they begin to corrupt Europe – or mankind as a whole? Who do they control? This chapter also presents a wide variety of answers to those questions, and options for those decisions. The Director builds her vampires, and their conspiracy, from those answers and choices, and from her imagination and creativity. Thus, no two games of Night’s Black Agents will have exactly the same vampires, so the players won’t know what to expect even if they expect vampires.

Parameters

As a starting point for design, consider the following four general types of vampires: Supernatural, Damned, Alien, and Mutant.

These are not mutually exclusive by any means: a mutant vampire virus could have come from outer space or from Hell; all supernatural phenomena might be fundamentally demonic or, following Lovecraft, fundamentally misunderstood alien science. Is the “astral vampire” a supernatural being, or a paraphysical one? Especially in modern fiction, vampires can partake of all four types: evil infected humans who follow alien physical laws that eerily resemble vampire folklore. Much of the fun of postmodern horror comes from blurring these boundaries, and the Director should feel free to do so. Nevertheless, much of the thrill of Gothic horror comes from playing into the tropes and stereotypes of the genre, so the Director shouldn’t necessarily discard the default version or traditional answer for a given vampire.

The symbols in front of each type recur through this section, providing just such a default answer, or general guidelines for vampire creation within each type.

Supernatural

Vampires are the result of magical or other supernatural activities on Earth: spirits, ghosts, necromancy, witchcraft, and the like. Their markers are strange superstitions, often surrounding childbirth and burial customs; their emphasis is hunger. Most folkloric vampires are supernatural: a person born with a caul on a Saturday, or one whose family allows a cat in the room with his corpse, might rise as a vampire.

Damned

Vampires are the work of Satan or other explicitly demonic entities opposed to mankind and God. They may be demons who possess corpses, revenant suicides or heretics, or humans who made a specific pact with the Devil before death. Their markers are holy symbols and symbolism; their emphasis is seduction. Starting in the 17th century, most literary and legendary vampires are damned.

Alien

Vampires are alien beings, or earthly beings who nevertheless follow different laws of physics. Such “paraphysical” vampires might be alien invaders, psychic phenomena, corpses animated by alien science, or just “humans” from another dimension. Their markers are various uncanny effects; their emphasis is invasion. The alien vampire begins with H.G. Wells and the birth of science fiction in the late 19th century.

Mutant

Vampires are earthly beings infected or changed by (or into) some freak of nature. Such “parabiological” vampires may be mutants, constructs of some black program, humans adapted to future conditions of plague or global cooling, insane humans obsessed with blood, or sentient diseases that possess their hosts. Their markers are medical symptoms; their emphasis is infection. The mutant vampire begins with Enlightenment skeptics connecting vampirism and tuberculosis, and flourishes in science fiction and addiction horror.

Campaign Modes and Vampire Types

Although any vampire type works with any campaign mode, and vice versa, some symbolic and thematic alignments exist. The general considerations below also apply to the various modes in significant ways. [The modes of play were discussed in a previous article]

Burn: In games focusing on emotional damage and cost, agents face the agony of staking their own friends and loved ones. This works best if vampires actually come back from the dead, if vampirism can “infect” civilians, and if they retain some aspects of their old humanity: part and parcel of supernatural and damned vampires, and some mutant vampires.

Burn, Dust: In Burn mode and Dust mode games, vampirism should probably be incurable to emphasize those modes’ characteristic themes of loss and powerlessness, respectively.

Dust: Realistic, low-fi games fit the tone of either “realistic” mutant vampires or the grimier sort of supernatural vampires. Some alien vampires play well in “realistic” campaigns, also. That said, the sharp contrast between gray realism and crimson Hammer horror makes damned vampires a vivid contender in Dust mode games. Realistically, other observers would likely have spotted a large vampire population before the agents uncover them. In Dust mode games, either keep the number of vampires minimal, or add at least one underfunded vampire-hunting group or agency.

Mirror: Damned vampires foreground questions of allegiance and seduction, just as Mirror mode games do. The invasion themes of alien vampires also fit well, as do vampires who choose their own fate: necromancers, unorthodox epidemiologists, and psionic vampires. Vampires in Mirror mode games should definitely be able to pass for human, raising the “who do I trust?” question every time an agent gets briefly separated from the party after sundown. Factions of vampires can betray each other, or hire the agents under false flags to stake their foes; a very helpful option for Mirror mode games.

Stakes: Games of belief and motivation work well when the vampires themselves are motivated by an ideology (as with damned vampires) or are simply existential threats (as with alien and infectious-disease vampires).

Sanguinary Considerations

Even before you begin to build your vampires mechanically, take some time to consider the phenomenon of vampirism in your campaign. What kinds of stories do vampires highlight? What do they make possible, or impossible? Your campaign vastly alters if there is only one true vampire in the world working through a horde of Renfields, instead of six enormous vampire clans tracing their descent back to ancient Dacia wrangling over their own internal politics.

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)As we enter our ninety-sixth year of lockdown, we’ve lost all concept of space, time, and externality. Luckily, we’re still in contact with our friends on the inside at the Bundle of Holding and so we’re excited to offer the Dracula Dossier Bundle, featuring the Night’s Black Agents rulebook and the ENTIRE Dracula Dossier line, available until Tuesday, November 3rd. And if you’re looking for an introductory session to get your group into the Dossier, pick up this month’s PDF release The Dracula Vector.

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A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

A colleague currently running The Yellow King Roleplaying Game recently asked me what happens when one of your players determines to seek out “The King in Yellow,” the fictional play that brings mental dissolution and reality shattering supernatural effects to all who read it.

The answer is: why, you credit the genius of the game designer for expertly luring this player into this elegant and entertaining trap.

The player has just given the teacher an apple, and the teacher is you.

A protagonist of your story has chosen to act exactly like the protagonists of Robert W. Chambers’ four original stories. Like the protagonists of stories others of us have written in filling out the boundaries of Carcosa.

In all four cases, Chambers presents the acquisition and reading of the play as part of the antecedent action. Their doomed antiheroes have already absorbed its decadent terrors. One of them swore never to read it, yet discovers it on his shelves, its contents already burning in his brain.

When I run YKRPG: Paris, I generally start laying hints suggesting that as part of antecedent action the characters no longer recall, they did more than merely read it. Somehow they took a key role in bringing it to publication.

In my one-shot con runs, the book makes an appearance more often than not. The online game I ran for Kickstarter backers ended with a showdown at the printing firm about to flood the streets with fresh copies.

Unlike the Necronomicon, The King in Yellow is no rare, antiquarian tome. It is a recently published book suppressed by authorities in England and France. While Lovecraftian volumes seem to want to remain arcane, the play wants to propagate. Like many a government action, the banning of the book may have been indifferently executed, leaving plenty of copies still in circulation.

In my home series, the Parisian characters acquired and burned several copies. Having them confiscate and destroy the book made for a fine button marking the conclusion to a particular mystery. Sometimes rumors of a copy kicked off the scenario. On other occasions it appeared incidentally, after they were drawn into the mystery by other means.

Of my groups’ many fine qualities, the one that stands out here is their ability to portray their characters as truly afraid of horrific eventualities. They handled the captured books with appropriate care, handing them over to an efficient Teutonic agency for disposal. Still, they couldn’t help but crack a copy open and see that the frontispiece illustration resembled the work of the Landscape Artist. The Poet read enough of it to note unnerving similarities in vocabulary and meter.

If one of your characters wants nothing more than to read the whole play from cover to cover, you’ll find the Shock card pairing on page 69 of the Paris book: The Self Crumbles and Moral Vertigo. Both impose discard conditions that will motivate a character who reads the play to destroy the copy he read.

What’s that you say? More than one character read it? Oh goodness! Well now they’ll have to find one copy per afflicted investigator!

Even if only one character scanned the decadent pages, what’s to say that the book remains on hand waiting to be destroyed? This slender volume sometimes acts as if possessed of a sinister will, coming and going on its own recognizance.

YKRPG is a game about recurrence. When characters over its four-sequence arc continue to not only find but read the book, you might create variants of “Moral Vertigo.” The original card tempts the reader of the play to commit murder.

Another might bend them toward political insurrection, as it does Mr. Wilde in “Repairer of Reputations.”

Other possible effects for alternate cards:

  • The character sees ghosts.
  • In stressful situations, on a failed Sense Trouble test, the character hallucinates Carcosan threats where none exist.
  • When the character discards any other Shock card, roll a die. Odd: card is not discarded.
  • When players mention that a particular action would be foolhardy or heedless, the reader of the play makes a Composure test. On a failure, you flash the action forward to the moment after she has gone and made exactly that mistake.

You may sense that players expect a hunt fraught with obstacles. In that case, oblige them. The hunt first leads to an illicit bookstore that sold its last copy hours before their arrival. Then the group finds a forgery. After that they hear that a book collector owns one—but when they arrive at his villa, blood pools around his corpse, the book is gone, and evidence at the scene points to them as primary suspects in his murder.

As with any player-driven quest, you want to extend it just until it reaches the point of frustration, then satisfy the goal just as it is starting to feel impossible. Since this is a horror game, you’ll want to follow that up with a twist, in which finally gaining the long-sought item ushers in a new set of problems.

As seen in the story “The Yellow Sign,” reading the play can summon the king himself. There he shows up inside a corpse he has animated, delivering immediate and fatal punishment. In your game he could appear as a murderous art critic, sadistic general, former regime official, or venture capitalist. He toys with the character for an entire sequence, slowly escalating his menace until a final showdown that may result in the character’s freedom—or destruction.

After a sustained effort to acquire the book, you might throw the player for a loop by revealing it as something altogether different than the rumors suggest.

It might be:

  • an elaborate cryptogram teaching one or more spells, taken from the upcoming Black Star Magic.
  • a gateway that pulls the reader literally into Carcosa.
  • a devouring entity that feasts on the consciousness of its readers.
  • a completely blank book, whose destructive power over febrile minds derives entirely from the reader’s own imaginings.

Players who swear to track down the book have embraced the premise and are asking you for surprise and trouble. Satisfy them, doling it out in exquisite doses.


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

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)As we enter the fifth month of lockdown, gaming continues to develop online. We recently attended (the first?) Gen Con Online, and were surprised by how busy it was – our panels will be appearing on our YouTube channel shortly. We’ve also reconnected with our friends at the Bundle of Holding to offer the Compleat Dying Earth RPG, which is available until Monday, 17th August, and we’ve recreated a profusion of Dying Earth RPG-related content from our archives to whet your appetite for witty, persuasive banter. And new in the store is the pre-order for the champion tier 13th Age adventure Elven Towers.

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Revisit’d in honour of the Compleat Dying Earth in the Bundle of Holding:

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Current News: The Dying Earth RPG in the Bundle of Holding

I sometimes joke that it should be actually be called The Un-Dying Earth RPG, because it’s still going strong since it became the game that spawned not just our company, but also, our company name.

The celebrated fantasy novels by Jack Vance on which this game is based—The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel’s Saga, and Rhialto the Marvellous—portray the exploits of characters ranging from vat-grown beauties to wandering scoundrels to vainglorious magicians, who eat, drink, gamble, explore, and cheat their way through what is widely presumed to be the final era of history.

Vance writes for intelligent readers. His fiction displays consummate style, wit, imagination, and an unmatched ability to conjure vivid, exotic, yet convincing societies, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words, and a fine sense of fashion. A Vance character seldom resorts to violence, preferring cunning or persuasion—or, in the Dying Earth stories, the occasional magic spell.

The Dying Earth Roleplaying Game captures the badinage of the books with the tagline, a line of dialogue that you are rewarded for delivering during play, with more advancement points being awarded depending on the appropriateness of the line to the situation – and, of course, the more entertaining your use of the line.

So if persiflage is your meat and drink, take thyself to the Bundle of Holding, where until two days’ hence, the Compleat Dying Earth collection is available to all wise enough to recognise a singular bargain when they see one.

Recent News: Gen Con Online

Although cancelled in its physical format, the best four days in gaming went ahead virtually as Gen Con Online. We attended a number of e-conventions as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through 2020, but this was by far the most ambitious in scope and numbers. We upped our game to match, with Noah spearheading a range of Pelgrane panels on our new Twitch channel. We’ll be uploading and releasing all of these to our YouTube channel over the coming days, so be sure to subscribe and smash that Like button to stay up to date.

And we’re excited to have won the Gold ENnie for Best RPG Related Product, for Dean Englehardt & Robin Laws’ stunning city guide to 1895 Paris, Absinthe in Carcosa for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, there’s a preview of it here (and another one for the YKRPG here). Thanks to everyone who voted for us, and our warmest congratulations to all the other winners!

It wasn’t the same as being together in real life, but it’s always great to hang out and talk about our games and what we’re up to, so thanks to everyone who stopped by one of our panels, and as always, we couldn’t do what we do at any Gen Con – IRL or VR – without our wonderful GMs. A massive shout-out to them all, as they braved scant info and a whole new level of player wrangling to run a host of Pelgrane RPGs at Gen Con Online, introducing a new audience both to Pelgrane games and to our Discord server, where we’ve been welcoming new players and GMs to the Pelgrane community.

New to pre-order: Elven Towers

During a long-ago war between the elves and the dwarves, the Elf Queen drew forth and bound the wild magic of the elves and fey in a single location in the Queen’s Wood, so she could draw on it more easily. When its original guardian became corrupted, the Elf Queen resealed the location with three keys, one for each of the three elven peoples. The keys to unlocking the Elf Queen’s power are hidden in three magical towers, and the elves themselves cannot pierce their defenses.

Available now to pre-order, Elven Towers is a champion tier 13th Age adventure for 3 to 6 adventurers by Cal Moore (High Magic & Low CunningThe Crown Commands, Fire and Faith). It includes plotlines and options for adventures throughout the Queen’s Wood, with multiple elven-themed encounters you can use in any campaign.

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

Christian is back at work on this, and is finishing off the art and layout now. He’s a draft final PDF ready for review, and we’re hoping to get the final Even Death Can Die PDF to pre-orderers in the next See Page XX.

Work in progress update: Book of the Underworld

The print pre-orders of the Book of the Underworld have now been shipped, and should be arriving with pre-orderers shortly if they aren’t there already! Friendly local game stores can expect to get this in September.

Books you may’ve heard rumours of during Gen Con update:

Untitled Lunar Society Project

Phil Masters, who we worked with previously on the Dying Earth RPG, joined us on the Swords, Spies & Shoggoths panel at Gen Con to announce that he’s working on a Georgian-era setting book for Trail of Cthulhu based on the historical Lunar Society, a learned society in the British midlands. He’s now submitted the manuscript, which is in copyediting. We’ve commissioned Sarah Saltiel (Black Star Magic, The Doors to Heaven) to work on a parallel setting based on the Blue Stockings Society, a literary discussion group roughly contemporaneous to the Lunar Society. Both will be combined in the final book.

Untitled GUMSHOE One-2-One Fantasy book

Gareth is very close to finishing the writing on this. He’s just finished the last of three adventures, so next week he’ll be writing cards and filling in gaps. We’re hoping to have this available for playtesting in the next edition of See Page XX.

Untitled adaptation of GUMSHOE for younger players

We’ve got a load of really insightful feedback on this from the recent playtests (as well as comments on Discord), so once Gareth’s finished with GUMSHOE One-2-One Fantasy, he’ll start to edit GUMSHOE Kids.

 

 

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)We should be deep in the middle of convention season right now, but instead we’re nervously watching as more and more countries open back up, and excitedly preparing for the first ever Gen Con Online. We hope to see you there – and at the (presumably virtual) ENnies ceremony, as we’ve been nominated for three awards. We’d greatly appreciate if you could vote for us here!

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In any other year, at this time we’d be rushing around the Pelgrane’s Nest prepping for Gen Con. Although cancelled in its physical format, it’s still going ahead as Gen Con Online. The Pelgrane team is running more than fifty events at it so far, but we’ve got plenty of space left for more games, so if you’d like to run games at Gen Con, please get in touch with us, either by filling in the form here (the list of adventures available is here), or pinging us on the Discord server.

Other News: The 2020 ENnie Awards

We are deeply honoured to have been nominated three times in the 2020 ENnies. Being nominated for an ENnie Award is an acknowledgement of the hard work that happens behind the scenes to create our books, and it means a lot to us to be recognised. Voting is open until 11:45 PM EST on July 12th we’d really appreciate if you’d consider voting for us in the following categories:

We’d be delighted to get a nod as Fan Favourite Publisher too, of course!

If you’d like to see previews of the ENnie-nominated products, you can download those here:

New to pre-order: Black Star Magic

This month sees the release of the pre-order of the very first Yellow King RPG supplement not included as part of the Kickstarter, Black Star Magic contains all you need to add player-facing Carcosan magic to your YKRPG campaign. Black Star Magic features thematic magic rules for all four YKRPG settings, as well as a gross number of starting spells, and a brand-new adventure for Paris (“Dancer at the Bone Cabaret”), The Wars (“A Casket at Le Thil”), Aftermath (“Memories of a Dream Clown”) and This is Normal Now (Love Wears No Mask). Written by YKRPG designer Robin D. Laws, alongside experts such as writer of The Doors to Heaven, Sarah Saltiel; Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Ruth Tillman.

New to order: Honey & Hot Wax

Jen McCleary’s layout for Honey & Hot Wax, our brand-new anthology of erotic art games, is a work of elegant, sensuous brilliance (as you can see in the example on the right, from Friend of the Pelgrane Alex Roberts’ game of balloon love, Pop!). The layout is finished and the PDF is now available to purchase and, for those who’ve already pre-ordered it, to download. We’ll be launching it on DriveThruRPG next week.

New to order: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

All pre-orders for Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition have now been shipped out, and this should be available in retail stores from the start of July.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Thanks to everyone who’s had a look at their pre-layout PDF, and spotted some typos in it! We’re collecting all of those using this form, so let us know if you spot a typo, or there’s anything that isn’t clear. Layout has been paused while we review the final file, but we’re still getting art in.

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

Christian is on holidays at the moment, unfortunately, which has put paid to my plan to have the PDF finalised and to pre-orderers at the end of June, unfortunately. I’m still waiting to hear back from him on his July availability, as he has a lot of family commitments over the coming weeks.

Works in progress update: 13th Age

I checked in with Rob Heinsoo to get an update on 13th Age production, and it’s steaming ahead! Book of the Underworld is on its way, and Rob, J-M and Trisha are hard at work on a total of four announced books (and one that we agreed wasn’t quite ready to be announced yet) at the moment. Here’s a short update on each, with sneak peeks at some art, too:

We’ve approved the final Book of the Underworld print proofs, and this is currently being printed. We’re hoping to start shipping this out to pre-orderers at the end of August.

Rob’s said that Elven Towers is through with design and development and art and about 75% through editing. It’s going to move into layout in the next couple weeks. He shared this illustration by Roena I. Rosenberger, showing the pit that leads down into the dark elves’ Tower of Dreams (actually a stalactite hanging in the underworld).

Drakkenhall: City of Monsters is our latest announced book. Rob’s mentioned that it’s about 75% written and is in the middle of development, and its art order is drafted, but not yet commissioned. This is the first in what Rob’s calling our “mosaic” 13th Age books, so-called because they’re constructed of a mosaic of complementary – and sometimes even contradictory! – perspectives on the subject matter, which allows GMs and players to pick and choose the bits that best describe the Dragon Empire as it exists at their own table.

Wade Rockett’s 1st level adventure, Crown of Axis, is more than 50% designed, Rob says. He has a cunning art plan, but nothing commissioned yet.

Icon Followers is what Rob’s currently spending most of his time on, and it’s about 33% designed. Unlike most of our books, Rob’s handling the art alongside design, to speed things up at the end. Here’s a Rich Longmore illustration of the war bell, a construct used for underground communication and magical thunder. You can see which icon it’s following by the etching!

Hey, Pelgranes. There’s a whole lot of change happening all at once, and it’s a stressful time. Here in my hometown, local businesses are closing down by the dozen due to the restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19. Around the world, people are out on the streets, protesting against institutional racism and police brutality. Meanwhile, climate change (remember that?!) continues to make our planet less inhabitable every day. Give yourselves a break, take care of yourselves, and stay safe out there.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Pre-orderers can now download the pre-layout PDF of Swords of the Serpentine, along with Jérôme Huguenin’s stunning Eversink map and a WIP of the world map. The book has been copyedited, but eagle-eyed readers over on the Facebook GUMSHOE RPG Community are spotting remaining typos in it – if you’ve found one, please let us know using this form. We’ll be sending the final files to Jen McCleary (The Fall of DELTA GREEN, Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops) to start layout in the next week.

As well as working on the maps, Jérôme’s also starting to work on some of the iconic heroes from the game – here’s a preview of what he’s working on:

Work in progress update: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition has now arrived with our US fulfilment house, and we’ll start shipping US & Canadian pre-orders out this week. They still haven’t arrived in the UK, but the tracking details suggest they should be arriving in the next two weeks, so we’re hoping to start shipping all non-US & Canadian pre-orders before the end of the month. (ICYMI, last month I showed off some of the proofs of the physical book, which are looking great!)

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

We’ve finished the revisions to the final The Borellus Connection manuscript and it’s now been copyedited, and we’re handing this adventure collection for The Fall of DELTA GREEN over to the sensitivity reader this week. We’ll commence the art for this shortly, and hope to release it on pre-order later in the summer.

Work in progress update: Honey & Hot Wax

Jen’s finished a first draft of the final layout of Honey & Hot Wax, and this is with the editors, Sharang Biswas & Lucian Kahn, for review. We should be able to get the final PDF to pre-orderers by the end of June. If you’d like to hear more about the games in this erotic art games anthology, check out this video from last month).

Work in progress update: Black Star Magic

Robin, Sam, Ruth & Gareth have finished the final Black Star Magic manuscript now, and this Yellow King RPG magic supplement, including a brand-new adventure for each of the four core YKRPG settings, is currently being copyedited. Expect the pre-order in the next couple of months!

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

Even Death Can Die has been stalled for some time, largely due to juggling priorities on my part, but is being restarted now. We’re aiming to have the final PDF to pre-orderers by the end of June, and send it to print at the same time – this means it should start shipping out to pre-orderers in September.

Work in progress update: GUMSHOE Kids

Thanks to everyone who playtested this junior-friendly adaptation of our most popular system! I had a lot of fun running this for my eldest nephew and niece, and they took to roleplaying like it was in their blood. :D We’ve now sent through all of your playtest feedback to Gareth, who’s going through it at the moment for a subsequent edition.

Work in progress update: Elven Towers

Art and maps are flooding in for champion tier 13th Age adventure Elven Towers, by author Cal Moore (Shadows of Eldolan, Sharpe Initiatives: Earthgouger), and only a few pieces are outstanding. This image of the Elf Queen’s Hunt Master, by Roena I. Rosenberger, wonderfully evokes the otherworldly personalities populating the Elf Queen’s Court of Stars at Thronewood. Work on the final text is nearly finished, and this should move into layout in early July.

Convention updates: Origins Online/IRL, and Gen Con

You may have already heard by now that Origins Online, scheduled for this weekend, and Origins Game Fair, which had been rescheduled for October 2020, have now both been cancelled. We are disappointed to hear this, as we had a great variety of games and panels scheduled, but we believe it’s the right decision in both cases.

Gen Con has recently announced that they are postponing an in-person event until 2021, but their online event is running the same weekend as originally scheduled (July 30 – August 2, 2020). As it’s an online event, GMs from all around the world can be part of our GM team this year, so if you’re available to run games as part of Gen Con Online that weekend, please do get in touch with us, either by filling in the form here (the list of adventures available is here) or pinging us on the Discord server.

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