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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.

The following news items and diary entries originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in 2000.

You can find the entries for 2001-2002 here.

You can find the entries for 2006-2009 here.

Editor’s note: A few of these news items were not categorized by month or year – I have done my best to approximate their chronology, and have marked them with a small sun symbol.

1998 to 1999

In early 1998 last year, we began discussions with Jack Vance’s agent in New York about the possibility of creating a game based on the Dying Earth Tales. In early June, we started a mail list for interested parties. What could such a game be like? Would it even be possible? We consulted RPG industry professionals, looked at the finest rules systems and adventures and established that such a game was possible given the treatment that Vance’s work deserves.

After long and drawn out negotiations, we established a price and gained extensive licensing rights. We were ready to commence work on the game. Next came the difficult task of deciding who should write the game. We decided at the outset that it should be more than one writer, as we soon discovered that everyone has their own interpretation of Vance’s tales and we didn’t want to impose a single vision.

See the press release for more details.

In December 1999 after perusing the CV´s of many admirable writers, we chose Robin D. Laws to be the senior designer. His name had been put forward very early on, and we were very pleased to get him. John Snead we chose to write the magic system, primarily because of some as-yet-unpublished material he sent us as a sample, but also because of his broad RPG experience and knowledge of effective rules for magic systems. Both these writers demonstrated their ability to add a light Vancian touch to their writing, without creating a pastische.

The novelist Peter Freeman sent samples of his work, and that was sufficient to persuade us that we should make room for him on the project writing flavour text and making other contributions.

10th October 1999

Allen Varney, a well known RPG writer, novelist and games writer volunteers his services; he little knows what we have in store for him.

20th December 1999

Allen sends through final Dying Earth logo and Pelgrane Press graphics – they are accepted.

2000

Integral Edition gathers pace. This ambitious project hopes to print all of Jack Vance’s work in sixty leather bound volumes.

The Dying Earth Gallery was added to the website.

10th January

Hilary Wade, an artist introduced to us by Peter Freeman produced some sample illustrations of creatures for us. They are deemed suitable and original.

24th January

Allen sends the first draft layout. This two-color affair captures the mood of the background very well. Can we afford two color though?

26th January

I spoke to Jack for an hour or so yesterday. He is a quietly spoken and thoughtful man. I found him very helpful and friendly and where he remembered details or concepts from the books, he enlarged upon them. He tries not to re-read work, as much of the earlier work he finds disappointing. He likes all his Dying Earth stories, although he refers to the ending of the Museum of Man as “slightly sophomoric”. His other least favourite DE story is the Grey and the Green. He emphasised that he like these stories. He has a great affection for Cugel (pronounced Coo-gul (Coo like a dove, gul as in prodigal.) and Rhialto. He would be happy for someone to fly to visit him, but unfortunately that’s not in the budget! A few snippets of our discussion follow. He let me know what was in his thoughts when he pictured the map (somewhere on the Earth, although I’m not saying where) He describeds Sandestins as “the executive performers of acts of magic.” People in the Dying Earth are not warlike en masse. There are dangerous areas, but war is a pastime for younger nations. He conjured a great image of archmagicians working on magical problems, likening it to a “a shed full of junk and old paperwork and a couple of old guys trying to build a lawnmower out of odds and ends. They experiment until they find something that works, then they perhaps write down the recipe. Mainly, they are using old knowledge, intuition and years of experience. It doesn’t really matter what the solution is.”

1st February

Robin produces his first draft of the basic engine. Amusing and well-written – the Robin D. Laws TM comes with a built in proof-reader and editor; no RPG company should be without one. This is distributed to the other developers and is greeted by virtual cries of admiration.

2nd February

Ralph Horsley supplied the illustration of the Deodand you see on our home page.

15th February

John Snead produces a very early draft of the magic rules.

Second conversation with Jack Vance. He answered some useful game-relevant questions. He suggested why bows and other projectile weapons are rare (magicians don’t like them), detailed the political structure (people are too difficult and egotistical to be ruled, magicians don’t like rulers) and described why the half-humans and humans hate each other (the usual human reasons.)

3rd March

Allen supplies us with another layout proposal, this time one color. Either layout would be suitable, although we’d like to be able to do two-color if we can.

17th March

Peter Freeman, our sidebar author has finished “The Daybook of Geomalacus” to illuminate the embryonic magic system. An example:

At Azenomei, on the junction of the rivers Scaum and Xzan, word had come that the Arch-Mage Phaeton was seeking an apprentice. On my arrival the town was already full of bursting lights and all manner of reports, odours and fluxions as every jack-leg magician of the district attempted to display his skill, along with many lacking all reasonable pretension to command of the art. Phaeton himself was not present, and so I took myself to an arbour pleasantly shaded beneath a single great pall-willow and sipped yellow wine. I watched in quiet amusement as the various tyros and dabblers argued among themselves, none showing more than a fleeting ability, yet each more vociferous than the last in his claims. All but the most cloddish and ill-refined citizens seemed intent on the contest, even those conversant with but a dozen phases of the Laganetic cycle or possessed of erotic amulets of dubious efficacy.

Eventually Phaeton arrived, a personage of stately height and demeanour, whose sagacity was evident in the length of his beard. As the crowd began to press on him with claims and counter claims he responded with increasing distaste, until finally he was forced to evoke the Omnipotent Sphere in order to protect himself.

He immediately began to dismiss those ill-bred, lacking in adequate style or innate competence, along with singers of popular songs, lallators, groatmen, those unable to deflect the Spell of Internal Effervescence. At length only a half-dozen remained, all minor mages of greater or lesser worth. At that point I drained the last of my wine, rose and walked to the group, addressing Phaeton with a sweeping bow and ignoring the others. Phaeton returned my greeting with a cool glance, at which I, with a carefully judged flourish, evoked the Liberation of Warp, thus simultaneously impressing him and causing great inconvenience to my competitors. With a second flourish I produced from the folds of my robe that libram I had secured from the tomb of Yasbane the Obviator. Phaeton’s eyebrows, previously immobile, rose perhaps the half-breadth of a finger.
´You overcame the demon Orsadran?´
I responded with a modest inclination of my head.
´Your name?´
´Geomalacus, ´ I replied.
He gave a nod of acceptance, turned and began to stride from the square. I followed, keeping close behind him to avoid the malice of my disappointed rivals. Having gained my goal it seemed superfluous to comment on my agreement with Orsadran.

19th March

Hilary Wade, one of our artist has produced some amusing and characterful illustrations for the game’s Persuasion and Rebuff abilites. Here is an example of a Pelgrane unsuccesfully using its charm techniques on a very wary opponent.

21st March

The Dying Earth RPG play test begins.
Over 50 playtest teams have begun the two-month long process of testing the fledgling core rules for the game. We´ve included two Cugel-level test adventures, one by Robin Laws, the other by David Thomas. We are working on some higher-level example adventures. The play testers range from complete novices who are avid Vance fans, to highly experienced GM´s with no knowledge of the Dying Earth books at all.

April

Millennium to publish Tales Of The Dying Earth in the United Kingdom. All four of the original books are to be printed in one volume under the Fantasy Masterworks series. Fantasy Masterworks is a library of some of the greatest, most original, and most influential fantasy ever written. These are books which, along with Tolkien, Peake and others, shaped modern fantasy. The book, number four in the series, has the ISBN number 1-85798-994-5, is due for release in April 2000 and will cost £6.99. Pelgrane Press intend to sell the book from this website.

2nd June

As might be expected, the play test has taken a lot longer than expected – we are now on the second round of playtesting. Robin fixed a few play tester’s niggles and all the developers are hammering away at John Snead´s Rhiato-level rules to try to break them.

6th June

JS has incorporated some changes to reflect certain loopholes in the Rhialto-level rules that were discovered. They are now more robust. This includes a fix by Robin to the main rules section that caps abilities, preventing powerful characters from hosing everyone in sight with magic.

21st June

The highly-experienced Aaron Allston (industry credits include GURPS, D&D Cycolpedia, and three novels) begins work on the Quick Start rules. He adds some amusing flourishes to the examples he gives.

14th July

Ralph Horsley begins work on illustrating the DE source book.

20th July

David Thomas, who has already supplied us with two example adventures, posts an article to the Guild Companion about the progress of the game. Apart from some slights to Tolkien, it generates some positive comments. (The url is now dead, unfortunately.)

2nd August

The artist Greg Staples (Dragon magazine, Green Lantern, 2000AD) has agreed to do the front cover of the DE RPG. His work really has the atmosphere and professionalism we are looking for. The initial idea:

“Cugel stands on Shanglestone Strand with the sun setting in the background. (Possibly, across the sky or in the clouds is an image of the face of the laughing Iocounu) Cugel is shaking his fist at the sky an cursing I´s name. The Agent of Far Despatch (a winged demon) can be seen as a silhouette in the sky. The friendly glow of Twango´s manse is visible further up the beach, but strange white shapes are can be made out dimly in the woods. Perhaps the distant glimmering of the light of Saskervoy can be seen.”

8th August

Jim Webster, a massive contributor to the Dying Earth mail list, and adventure writer, foolishly gives his consent to editing a quarterly magazine devoted to the Dying Earth. He starts soliciting articles.

9th September

We have had more rules revisions and typo corrections in the main rules and an initial layout for the DE Quick Start rules. David Thomas is combining Jim Webster´s, Steve Dempsey´s and his own work into the Scaum Valley Gazetteer, to be our first supplement. It will be aimed primarily at Cugel-level characters. We are using a CC2 map created by Peter Freeman as the basis of the river course.

15th September

More revisions to the magic rules covering area of effect spells and spell wallops (very powerful magicians against weak defense)

18th September

The Origin of Species, which began as a flip remark on the mail list, and became an amusing Vancian digression, draws to an end. Jim Webster, a major participant posts a listing of proper names, included here. It is full of sources of pedantry, personages and adventure seeds. It can be downloaded from here.

21st September

Aaron Rosenberg agrees to put some polish on the magic chapter. It´s over 41,000 words – we were expecting around 25,000, so some chopping is needed.

28th September

Allen posts an attractive first chapter layout in PDF format with rough illos. This is a two-color version. It’s looking less likely that we can do this. Ralph has excelled himself with headers and footers such as this:

Ombalique

3rd October

I attempt to get printer quotes. Following James Wallis´ advice, I contact a number of printers, and learn strange printer terms, such as offset, coated, lpi, 2/2, smyth sewn and bizzare American paper weights measured in pounds (instead of good old simple gsm)
Can we afford two colors? Hardback? Nice paper?

5th October

Phil Master (GURPS Diskworld, etc.) agrees to write a few thousand words for a project initiated by Robin – “Cugel´s Compendium of Indispensable Advantages” These contain tweaks – an example of which follows:

“Is That Your Spear, or Do You Hide Behind it from Small Children?”
Situation: You are confronted by one or more opponents, and physical violence is clearly unavoidable. You are confident enough of your chances, but would feel better if you could be sure that your opponents would remain innocent of much tactical subtlety.

Description: You a fix your leading opponent with a glance, and issue a remark of brutal contempt. Hopefully, this provokes him to anger, which the wise warrior avoids.

Benefit: For the expenditure of 1 Persuasion (Forthright) point, you may engage your intended victim in a contest of Persuade against Rebuff, with no rerolls permitted on either side. If you win the contest, your opponent is enraged, and will charge you at maximum speed. If he has Ferocity as a style of attack (preferred or secondary), he must use it; otherwise, he suffers a levy of 2 to all his defense rolls for the first three attacks you make. You would be well advised to win the ensuing combat, as you are unlikely ever to make a friend of this person.”

6th October

Allen Varney sends through the laid-out Quick Start rules. Greg Staples cover art arrives. It is a striking an attractive image, with only one fault, Greg has added two moons! In the Dying Earth, the moon has long since departed (some say in the Great Tumble). I send the art back to Greg.

10th October

Jim sends through some articles for the as-yet-unnamed magazine, some 14,600 words. Jim a gregarious and amenable character compensates for his total lack of layout ability by finding an experienced designer and zoologist, Sarah Wroot. She agrees to set the magazine.

11th October

Greg’s final artwork for the front cover is scanned and finished. Here’s a glimpse:

17th October

The Scaum Valley Gazetteer cover is underway. We asked all the contributors to make suggestions (artwork by committee, I suppose) This is what Greg Staples had to work with:

Ideas:

The Valley of Graven Tombs, with a barge and an exhumation. The Sun should probably be present in the picture.

The barger could be something like a big, over-ornate punt, with a little cabin aft (like the tent things that workmen hide under) and stuff (retrieved items, say) being loaded on board. Dying Earth fashions are wild and frequently bizarre; strange hats and costumes.

A deodand ready to pounce would be good, but might be a bit too busy, or even a deodand on a chain.

(The deodand is largely human in appearance. It stands seven feet tall and is extremely broad-shouldered. Its skin is pitch-black in color, offering a dramatic contrast with its large, dripping fangs, which may be yellowed or gleaming white. The surface of a deodand’s skin is well-oiled, reflecting light and highlighting the extraordinary definition of its musculature. It might be considered quite beautiful, were it not for its cruelly bestial facial features and aforementioned incisors.
Deodands eat flesh, craving that of mankind most of all. They speak our language and are often skillful, if wheedling, negotiators. They may pretend that they devour humans only reluctantly, as if driven by uncontrollable instinct. They dwell in forests and jungles. Sometimes they are sighted singly, sometimes in small packs.
If faced with some impediment to the immediate dispatch of human prey, the deodand will plead, bargain, cajole, imprecate, and sweet-talk, seeking to persuade his interlocutor into removing the barriers which stand between them.)

Comments from the writers:

Somehow the picture should look placid without anyone making any real effort, even the barge should drift.

The Valley is natural, with natural tombs on the north side, but artificial on the south.

My mental picture of the Valley. The Scaum runs basically East to West so the sun should be to the south side of the river. Travelling down stream you have the sun on your left hand side. The south side of the valley is the one with the artifical accretion of tombs , the North side is the natural hill side,.probably running up to a plateau which will inevitably be forested. On the north bank there is a village which provides the homes etc of those who work among the vines. Near the river where streamlets draining the plateau run down the north face they have eroded some graves and have washed the contents down onto the river margin forming the “bone fields” where the locals grow some grain for their own consumption.

The valley is long, so you needn’t pick out all these features. Many of the tombs are covered in ancient grape vines which yield a harvest of fine wines.

This is what Greg came back with first as a rough idea:

Scaum Valley cover

We mentioned a few coloration problems, and he came back with this:

Scaum Valley cover - final

The final cover is now at the A3 scanning bureau, so we can’t show it to you. But my, is it impressive!

18th October

A discussion over the name of the magazine continues. I shortlist three:

The Primer of Practical Magic AKA the Primer (mentioned in Rhialto)
The Excellent Prismatic Spray
The Compendium of Universal Knowledge (Duke Orbal’s exposition)

After debate, I choose the latter.

19th October

I change my mind; The Excellent Prismatic Spray it is.

20th October

Printer quotes come in. We take the rather brave step of using a Thai printer; the quality of their samples is excellent, and their pricing is such that we can do hardback (although not two colours) Their salesman seems to be knowledgeable and cooperative. (Please don’t quote this paragraph if it all goes wrong!)

21st October

Ralph has spent a week doing additional artwork for the magazine and some extras for the main rule book. His usual high quality is in evidence.

Ossip Wax

7th November

Tor Books to publish United States omnibus edition. The book is expected to be released in November 2000.

The Scaum Valley Gazetteer reaches 92,069 words. David Thomas chases his contributors with a danny-stick to ensure prompt completion of their contributions. Words derived from Dutch, French and other inappropriate foreign languages are banned. The Dying Earth master map is in CC2 form, and we have made some adjustments to it to reflect certain inconsistencies between different writers´ versions.

10th November

Sarah Wroot sends us the first version of her layout for The Excellent Prismatic Spray (XPS). It has a suitably classical style. Allen Varney, with Aaron Rosenberg has cut down extraneous material and re-worded the magic chapters to bring them down to 25000 words. I read through and can´t find anything missing. An amazing job. With a few minor changes, John Snead expresses his satisfaction at the new version.

15th November

Allen Varney´s front cover draft comes through. Eye-catching.

21st November

Quick Start rules are printed! The Excellent Prismatic Spray is at the printers! Hooray! Sorry about the exclamation marks.

25th November

Pelgrane Press launches the Quick Start Rules and The Excellent Prismatic Spray at Dragonmeet 2000. We sold lots of copies of the Dying Earth Tales, even more copies of The Quick Start Rules, and some magazines. We generated a good buzz. Steve Dempsey demonstrated the game to an entirely unfamiliar audience. Most of the playtesters enjoyed the game to the extent that they would purchase the rules.

Playtesters

December

☀ XPS 1 now available to download.


The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio 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.

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

The last edition of See Page XX was filled with so much excitement around the launch of the GUMSHOE Community Content program (ICYMI, find all the details here), but that pales into insignificance compared to this month, and the launch of the Yellow King RPG! We’re proud of how slick and elegantly it’s turned out – thanks in large part to Christian Knutsson’s effortless design – and we’re so glad to be finally able to share it with the world. Pick it up on its own, or in a discounted bundle with city sourcebook Absinthe in Carcosa and Robin’s latest novel, The Missing and the Lost.

New Releases

      • The Yellow King RPG – Four full-colour 6″ x 9″ hardback books in a slipcase, with accompanying GM screen. The dread horror of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow stories take RPG form, confronting your players with an epic journey across four Carcosan-drenched time periods.
      • Absinthe in Carcosa – An 8.5″ x 11″, full-colour hardback, this indispensable city guide for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is yoked together from travelogues, newspapers, and the disquieting ephemera of the occult tradition.
      • The Missing and the Lost – A thrilling, thought-provoking novel, which can be read as a mystery of a dread-drenched alternate reality, or use it as a model for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game when you play its Aftermath setting.
      • The GUMSHOE Community program – Create your own adventures, ships, planets, and much more for the Ashen Stars setting!
      • 5e conversion – Eyes of the Stone Thief – Two levels of Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s 13th Age megadungeon Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, converted to D&D 5th edition rules
      • Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition – Pre-order the updated and expanded mutant-powered police procedural GUMSHOE game, and get the final PDF now.
      • Even Death Can Die – Pre-order this adventure collection for Cthulhu Confidential and get the pre-edit draft PDF now.

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Long-term readers will understand how I am equal parts excited and relieved to be able to FINALLY say this…

***NEW*** The Yellow King RPG!!

If you missed out on the multi-phased and many-pronged cursing of the Nest that was The Yellow King RPG printing and fulfillment, you can now corrupt your own existence with the four-book, slipcase & GM screen extravaganza that is Robin D. Laws’s The Yellow King RPG – if you dare.

In case you haven’t spent the last two years chasing printers on it and don’t know what it’s about…inspired by the reality-twisting The King in Yellow stories by Robert W. Chambers, the boxed set contains four different settings:

  • Belle Époque Paris, where a printed version of the dread play is first published. Players portray American art students in its absinthe-soaked world, navigating the Parisian demimonde and investigating mysteries involving gargoyles, vampires, and decadent alien royalty.
  • The Wars, an alternate reality in which the players take on the role of soldiers bogged down in the great European conflict of 1947. While trying to stay alive on an eerie, shifting battlefield, they investigate supernatural mysteries generated by the occult machinations of the Yellow King and his rebellious daughters.
  • Aftermath, set later in the same reality, in present day North America. A bloody insurrection has toppled a dictatorial regime loyal to Carcosa. Players become former partisans adjusting to ordinary life, trying to build a just society from the ashes of civil war. But not all of the monsters have been thoroughly banished—and like it or not, they’re the ones with the skills to hunt them and finish them off.
  • This is Normal Now. In the present day we know, albeit one subtly permeated by supernatural beings and maddening reality shifts, ordinary people band together, slowly realizing that they are the key to ending a menace spanning eras and realities.

***NEW*** Absinthe in Carcosa

Accompanying your Yellow King RPG spiral into the distorted degeneracy of the Carcosans is Absinthe in Carcosa, an indispensable city guide to Belle Époque Paris. As an absinthe-drenched American art student explored Paris in search of the decadent influence of the King in Yellow, he created a scrapbook – a guide both for himself, and those who would follow. Yoked together from existing travelogues, newspapers, and the disquieting ephemera of the occult tradition, it laid out a skewed portrait of a haunted city. Dean Engelhardt (The Hawkins Papers, Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos) has worked his usual dazzling magic on this evocative full-colour handbook to Yellow Paris. Mine it for YKRPG adventure hooks, handouts, absinthe trips and period flavour – or just to show your players how far they have to fall…

***NEW*** The Missing and the Lost

In his creepy and unnerving short story collection New Tales of the Yellow Sign, Robin first explored the “spread through global culture, and history itself, like a virus” of the King in Yellow. And now, his own “contagion bears hideous fruit” in the Yellow King RPG, and the meta novelisation-of-a-novel that is The Missing and the Lost. Set in the “post-Carcosan” Aftermath setting of the Yellow King RPG, the protagonist Technician, responsible for repairing the suicide machines known as the Government Lethal Chambers, is determined to decommission those instruments of death, but instead he finds himself investigating a murder – all the while trying to restore democracy and order to a USA crippled by the Carcosan-supported for Castaigne former regime. While the Kickstarter backers have been waiting for their copies, I’ve been very good and not read it – now that it’s out, I’ve got it stacked up on my Kindle (the print book comes with the PDF, EPUB and MOBI files), and I can’t wait to dive into it as prep for Aftermath games.

Work in progress update: Black Star Magic

This month, we’re got the book of magic for The Yellow King RPG, Black Star Magic, available for playtesting. Featuring background material for Carcosan magic in all four YKRPG settings, and GM guidance showing you how to incorporate player-facing occult powers into your game, as well as a brand-new magical adventure for each of the four YKRPG settings. You’ll need the core YKRPG set to playtest this – if you’re interested, contact us in the usual way.

Other news – GUMSHOE SRD update

I don’t want this to be an all-YKRPG View, but there’s a lot happening with it. Thanks to the generosity of the YKRPG backers (have I mentioned that you’re great? You’re great!), Robin’s been able to update the existing GUMSHOE SRD to include the rules for both QuickShock GUMSHOE, and also GUMSHOE One-2-One. As always, we’d love to hear what you do with those, so do tag us on social media if you’ve got any GUMSHOE projects on the go!

Other other news – social media updates

We’ve been talking a lot internally about video content, and I’d really like to be able to demonstrate how awesome our games are to more video-native players. To that end, I’ve transferred over all our videos from our old Google+(sob!)-connected Google account to a new YouTube account, and also discovered there are some really fabulous Actual Plays and other Pelgrane-related videos out there. I’ve pulled them together into some playlists, focusing on game lines, interviews (how does Rob Heinsoo still look the exact same, 13 years later?!), and GMing advice. Did I miss anything you’d love to see? Let me know in the comments below!

It would be remiss of me not to mention that I’m braving the waters of Reddit on r/RPGdesign from 9th February. AMA about Pelgrane, publishing, or your favourite Pelgrane games!

And while we’re on the social media, a reminder of where you can get all the latest Pelgrane news:

Until next time…

^^ Cat

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