New Page XX Out Now

The last Page XX of the year is out now.

As the song goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like fishfolk, and we’ve got a big haul of seasonal freebies for you, including new music from James Semple for The Esoterrorists, great resources for the DramaSystem by Jon Cole, bonus characters for Bill White’s adventure The Big Hoodoo, a new blank agent dossier and a German translation of Matt Breen’s awesome Night’s Black Agents character sheet. As well as this, we’ve got all the 13th Age PDFs you’ve been waiting for – 13 True WaysShadows of Eldolan and The Book of Loot. KWAS subscribers will get the properly awful Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things, and the Fear Itself/Owl Hoot Trail Weird West edition, Vendetta Run, is now available in the webstore.  Happy holidays!

Sword-Mages!

by ASH LAW

When Simon offered me a chance to create a pair of fighting wizards I jumped at the chance. Swords and magic, what’s not to love? Sword-Mages, the Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly of the fantasy genre (or if you are British, the Custard-and-Bananas… I’ve no idea what the French would combine, maybe Croissants and Chocolate). Anyway… two great things combined into one.

Combining wizards with a close-up combat class is tricky. When multi-classing casters and hack-n-slashing ‘martial’ classes together weapon damage dice drop, which means that you’ve got to find a way to make the magic work harder and smarter.

My first concern was to up the damage slightly, so that the drop in damage dice would not be felt as keenly at lower levels. The elven racial feat Heritage of the Sword adds +2 damage. Normally a straight fighter or ranger would wield a long-sword and do 1d8 damage at 1st level (an average of 4.5 points of damage)… but a multi-classed caster-sword-wielder with heritage of the sword does 1d6+2 damage (an average of 5.5 points of damage). At 1st level we’re a bit ahead of the curve on something like a straight human fighter.

My next concern was to get a reliable ranged attack. I’m concentrating on sword-play, so I’m heading to the wizard part of the multi-classes for this. Magic Missile! An auto-hit ranged attack that our multi-class characters can use. I’m picturing this attack to be something like a dagger of force thrown out by the sword-mage, striking true at the most vulnerable spots on enemies. Maybe they are actually arrows of force. It all depends on the character, I suppose. It could even be reflavored as some sort of force-damage telekinetic choke or shove.

We know that these characters are elven sword-wielding wizards who create daggers of force and use a combination of wizardly magic and martial prowess to win the day. What sort of elf though? The drow seem like a good fit, and their racial cruelty power could easily be the result of cuts to tendons or quick thrusts to open arteries and blind foes. The wood elves might work well too, with their ability to gain a second attack in some rounds giving the option of casting and swordplay happening at the same time. However, I’m drawn to the high elves. The high-blood teleport gives them a way to close in quickly for the kill, or to withdraw to a safe distance to use spells; there is something as well, thematically, about high elves with swords and spells that appeals. High elves it is then.

So story-wise these two characters are part of a long tradition of high elf sword-mages. They fight with a wand in one hand and a sword in the other, dancing across the battlefield and surprising foes by teleporting in behind them when it is least expected. I might ask the GM to allow me some sort of special effect on my sword, like a blade-less hilt that grows a glowing blade of energy and makes a cool ‘Vrooosh’ sound when activated and goes ‘WhuuumWhuuuum’ when I whirl it around. I’m going to make one character ‘light’ with a strong focus on sword-play and arcane archery and one ‘dark’ with lots of telekinetic choking, mind-control, and lightning shooting from finger-tips.

Now on to the specifics of each character…

Malehea the Guardian, Sword-Mage Consular

I’m picturing this first character as a sort of protector of elves who are far from the Queen’s Wood. She wanders the highways and byways of the Dragon Empire protecting groups of travelling elves. Her motivation for adventuring is protecting her people from threats in a proactive way, killing monsters before they attack travelers. I want to focus on the blending of magic and fighting so a fighter/wizard is where I’m going with this character. She carries a bow and a sword. I’m going to flavor her spells as being mystical arrows that she conjures up. She also wears a large grey cloak that she swirls dramatically when she teleports. This character is our ‘light’ character, a fighter who uses magic to enhance her combat abilities with blade and bow.

For talents I’m she starting her out with High Arcana, which lets her shut down enemy magic via counter-magic, and lets her double up on her daily spells. The doubling-up means that she can have a smaller and more focused list of spells.

The next talent is Evocation. This lets her maximize the damage dice of one spell once per battle.

The third talent is Counter-Attack. This means that enemies need to be careful near me… if they attack me and miss I might attack them back.

As a multi-class wizard Malehea starts with four spells. While wizards can pick and choose their spells each day, I’m going to list her usual load-out of spells. Just remember that this is not a set list, and that we could change it up during play if we wanted to do so. My first choice is a utility spell slot, a general purpose spell that we can use for anything from disguising via illusion to casting feather-fall during an emergency.

The next spell is Acid Arrow. As this character levels up we’re going to keep that spell around with ever-higher level versions of it. As she’s armed with a bow I figure that Malehea creates the magical arrows by pulling back the string and conjuring them up… a sort of arcane archery.

The final spell is Magic Missile. Because Magic Missile. As I said before, it’s a never-miss at-will spell. What’s not to love about that? In situations where she needs to lay the hurt on something that can’t otherwise be harmed, or needs to strike true from a distance, then Magic Missile it is. Her ranged spells are all mystic arrows; these aren’t force daggers or orbs of energy, these are force arrows! If I ever get a magic bow I might ask the GM if it can be used as an implement for her ranged magical attacks too.

For her 1st level fighter maneuvers we are picking Grim Intent and Carve an Opening. These give us a maneuver to call upon every time this character misses with an attack, and half of the time that she hits too. My intent with this character is to build up a set of maneuvers where hitting is its own reward, and missing just increases the deadliness of the character.

At 2nd level we pick up shield to increase our survivability in combat. Shield is going to remain a staple, until we get to high enough level to get Teleport Shield. Heavy blows adds another miss-activated maneuver that increases the deadliness of the character. Grim Intent is the maneuver to use early in battles, and later I’d switch to Heavy Blows. Our 2nd level feat bumps Counter-Attack to full damage.

At 3rd level we add Blur to the roster of keeping-us-safe spells. Brace For It is added to the triggers-on-a-miss maneuvers, and we take the feat that improves the maneuver.

By 4th level we get our 3rd level spells (remember, multi-class characters lag one level behind in certain things). We use that to bump things like Acid Arrow and Magic Missile to their maximum. We use a feat to allow us to split Magic Missile between two targets.

At 5th level we get the Brace For It feat that lets us turn any crit against Malehea into just a hit, provided we triggered the maneuver by missing with a melee attack. We also get Punish Them, allowing us to daze enemies that are hit with Malehea’s sword. Teleport Shield joins the regular roster of spells. As we continue to level this character up this will become an important part of our teleporting-fighting-casting tactics.

At 6th level we boost Magic Missile with the champion feat—allowing us to crit with a spell that has no attack roll. Malehea’s tactics involve rushing in with the sword, then teleporting off to attack with her arcane archery, and if anybody gets too close she stabs them and with a swirl of her cloak sends them away from her (Teleport Shield). We also get Fireball, which I picture as Malehea conjuring dozens of burning arrows for her bow.

At 7th level we get the new talent Power-Attack, and the adventurer feat for it. This new fighter talent lets us make a once-per-battle all-out melee attack with bonus damage (+7d4 hit or miss at 7th level). We also get Hold Monster as a spell, finally dropping Shield. Hold Monster probably looks like an energy arrow that wraps bands of force around the limbs of enemies that it hits. Hero’s Skill, our newest maneuver, turns the occasional miss into a hit.

At 8th level we get a boost to HP and PD due to stat increases, and get a touch more damage based on our key attribute. We use our first epic tier feat to boost the damage dice of our magic missile (which also gets a boost to 7th level).

At 9th level we get Never Surrender, a maneuver that lets us save against effects that keep us from our full combat potential. We gain two new spells in our regular roster: Flight and Dimension Door. Dimension Door is obviousy an extension of Malehea’s cloak-swirling teleportation. The new spell Flight is probably a combination of gliding using her cloak and magically-enhanced jumps, at least that’s how I’ll describe it during play. The champion-tier feat for Fireball increases the number of targets.

At 10th level we level most of our spells that do damage to 9th level, and pick up a new spell Teleport, staying with the theme of battlefield maneuverability. The epic tier feat for Fireball further increases its number of targets. A boost to our attributes increases all our attack rolls.

Praxar the Dark, Exiled Sword-Mage

Praxar is a sword-mage that has been exiled from elven lands. He has been forced to become self-reliant and is much more focused on magic than the sword-and-arcane-archery Malehea. I picture this character enchanting his sword with mystical energy rather than relying on fighter manuvers, so I’m creating this character as a ranger/wizard. Why ranger? Well, for the talents Fey Queen’s Enchantments and Ranger ex Cathedra: access to cleric and sorcery spells. This character is our dark sword-mage, a cackling wizard with a glowing sword and a love of shooting lightning from his finger-tips.

For the Ranger ex Cathedra talent I’m choosing Hammer of Faith but calling it “Sword of Light”. Once per day Praxar can charge his sword up with burning light, increasing his damage dice to d12s! The Fey Queen’s Enchantments’ sorcerer spell gets us access to breath weapons, which I’m picturing as arcs of energy that fly from Praxar’s sword as he swings it. See, for this character these are not ‘spells’, but the fusion of swordplay and arcane power. OK, yes, they are still spells, but we’re going to describe them differently.

The remaining talent is Abjuration. Abjurers gain a +4 bonus to their AC whenever they cast a daily wizard spell. This talent is going to shape Praxar’s tactics: cast a daily spell at range, then close in for melee, then back off for a new daily spell, then back in for another round of slicing enemies apart with his enchanted sword.

Our 1st level spell picks are Magic Missile, Blur, Acid Arrow, and Shocking Grasp. Magic Missile here is more of a force-damage throat-choke that Praxar can perform at a distance… I picture Praxar as a character with a definite dark side, as it were. Shocking Grasp is lightning that shoots from Praxar’s outstretched hand. Blur represents Praxar’s ability to muddle the weaker minds of his opponents. Acid Arrow? Hmm… well I guess Praxar is from the same tradition of sword-mages as Malehea, so it is an arrow made of sizzling acid that he conjures up and launches from his bow. Shocking Grasp will see a lot of use with this character, as any time we are engaged with an enemy and want to not be engaged we can just whip it out and blast the foe away with lightning.

At 2nd level we get the spell Shield, which I’m going to describe during play as a forceful telekinetic shove that he applies to enemies that get too close (and will eventually become Teleport Shield). We’re also going to get the feat for Shocking Grasp that turns it into a quick action to use it… allowing us to blast enemies away from us so that we can use daily ranged attack spells with impunity. Shocking Grasp, however, does potentially damage the caster with lightning feedback, so we might not want to use it every single round.

At 3rd level our two daily ‘sword’ spells that Ranger ex Cathedra gives us boost to 3rd level. This means that Sword of Light (a renamed Hammer of Faith) becomes a quick action to use. We’re also going to get the feat for that talent that allows us to heal like a cleric. Given the dark nature of Praxar, he’s probably not going to share and will end up using this on himself (especially is he takes lots of lightning damage from shocking grasp). A utility spell slot is added to our roster of spells to give us added flexibility. Remember, though we’re listing the ‘usual’ spells that Praxar prepares, they can be changed out each day for a different set of spells.

At 4th level we’re adding three new spells to our roster: Confusion, Force Salvo, and Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt is obviously an outgrowth of Shocking Grasp… now Praxar can cackle and attack enemies with lightning shooting from his outstretched hand from across the battlefield. Confusion links to Blur, both forcing the weaker minds of his opponents to his stronger will. Force Salvo I’m going to go ahead and say is Praxar throwing his glowing sword and telekinetically whipping it around the battlefield before recalling it to his hand. We pause to pick up the adventurer feat for Abjuration, applying its bonus to defenses to PD as well as AC.

At 5th level we swap Sword of Ice (actually Breath of the White) for Sword of Darkness (actually Breath of the Black). I like the thematic element of Praxar having a sword that burns with light and darkness. The feat for the Fey Queen’s Enchantments talent means that we can use our key attribute for our attack bonus with Sword of Darkness. Teleport Shield Is added to the roster of spells that Praxar has, though in play I’ll probably describe it more as a huge telekinetic shove against enemies that throw them across the battlefield.

At 6th level we gain the ranger’s Archery talent and the multi-class feat for it that allows us to apply it to ranged wizard attacks; now, once per battle, Praxar can re-roll a missed ranged attack. We also pick up a load of 5th level spells. Denial and Invisibility are extensions of Praxar’s ability to bend lesser minds to his will. Dimension Door is Praxar’s (super-)natural elven ability to teleport, expanded through the use of magic. Fireball is just like Malehea’s Fireball: a volley of burning arrows.

At 7th level our attributes go up enough to give us a boost to all our attack rolls, HP, AC, PD, ad so on. Score! The adventurer-tier feat gives us a bonus to re-rolled attack rolls, and an expanded crit range. The sword spells (Sword of Light and Sword of Darkness, actually a reflavored Hammer of Faith and Breath of the Black) increase to 7th level. The improved Sword of Light lets us re-roll a missed melee attack once per battle.

At 8th level we get the champion feat for Abjuration, which gives us temporary hit points every time we cast a daily wizard spell… and apart from Shocking Grasp and Magic Missile all our spells are daily spells. The spell Blink combines Praxar’s love of teleportation with his ability to force the minds of others to his dark will.

At 9th level we get the last of our ranger talents: Animal Companion. Though it says ‘Animal’, I’m going to pick ‘Bear’ and say that in this case the animal is in fact an elf who has become Praxar’s dark apprentice or sword-mage squire. The epic Abjuration feat means that any time Praxar uses a daily spell he gains +2d12 HP and gains +4 to all defenses until the end of his next turn. The new spell Haste lets Praxar hold back to survey his foes, then burst into a blur of action for the rest of the battle.

At 10th level we’re going to invest in the feat Further Backgrounding. These new background points represent Praxar’s squire/apprentice aiding him. If I were playing Praxar, when it comes time to retire Praxar at the end of 10th level and start a new game of 13th Age I might play the apprentice of Praxar! The apprentice would probably be a sword-mage too, but with backgrounds and an outlook shaped by the epic-tier adventures of Praxar and whatever the stunning conclusion to the previous campaign was. The new spells Disintegrate and Meteor Swarm join the roster. Disintigrate is Praxar using his command of telekinetic force to tear apart a foe at the atomic level, and Meteor Swarm is Praxar grabbing scenery and hurling it about in a storm of destruction.

Other Sword-Mages

Of course that is just two ways to deal with wizards who fight. Using Kobold Press’s Deep Magic (written by me) I could create a fighter with a small roster of spells, including weapon-enhancing spells and arcane archery, yet still firmly a fighter. Picking a class combo from the core book, a Bard/Wizard who concentrates on bardic battle cries would make an interesting Sword-Mage, though I feel the yelling-casting-fighting multiclass might be better described as a dwarven Axe-Wizard. Those interested in heavy-armor wizards might want to look into a Paladin/Wizard with the paladin’s Armored in Life multi-class feats; such a character would benefit from a mix of healing-focused talents for the paladin’s side of things, and Abjuration on the wizard’s side to create a character that is hard to hit and heals itself… a spell-casting tank that wears enemies down through attrition and then blasts them apart with daily spells. A rogue/wizard with the rogue’s multi-class talents and access to Magic Missile can gain momentum when they decide to, and is a fighting character who has access to tumbling, teleportation, blurring, shadow-walking, and so on… the ultimate in battlefield sneaking and mobility. Of course you probably have 13 True Ways if you are multi-classing. Using 13 True Ways I could create a commander/wizard who focuses on reaching into the minds of their allies and offering mystic power-boosts and timely sage advice. Also using 13 True Ways I could make a Warrior Adept Druid/Wizard, a caster who either uses wizard spells or makes melee attacks that trigger mystical effects. The possibilities for multi-classing are near-endless.

Character Sheets

You can download two character sheets from levels 1-10 – one for a skilled swordswoman who uses arcane archery and a load of magically-enhanced leaps and teleports, and a force-choking glowing-sword-wielding lightning-shooting adventurer, with an apprentice – here.

The Eyes of the Stone Thief is now available on pre-order in our webstore, and to celebrate this, Will Hindmarch has done a fantastic video trailer for it.

You can watch Will’s trailer below:


by Scott Dorward

A Poison Tree, which was announced late last year, is an epic campaign for Trail of Cthulhu. This takes the form of a generational saga that spans the globe and 350 years of history. Matthew Sanderson, Paul Fricker and I have been developing it for the last 18 months, and we are now well into internal playtesting. While this isn’t the first campaign we have co-authored, it is the most ambitious in size, scope and structure.

The campaign is made up of seven chapters and eight vignettes, beginning in rural Wales in the seventeenth century, passing through settings as diverse as revolutionary-era Massachusetts, the Welsh settlement of Patagonia, France at the tail end of World War I and Berkeley in the full psychedelic throes of the 1960s, and culminating in world-changing events in the present day. If our playtesting is any indication, this will take around 50 three-hour sessions to play through.

The varied time periods and the strange abilities of the family whose tainted bloodline drives the story have demanded some minor tailoring of the GUMSHOE mechanics. These new options should provide some entertaining twists, even for experienced Trail of Cthulhu players.

A Poison Tree is the fifth book that Paul, Matt and I have worked on together. The fact that we all live within ten miles of each other helps greatly with our collaborations. This allows us to meet in person for regular planning meetings, usually at Buskers, our favourite café in Wolverton.

We divide the writing between us by each of us taking ownership of individual chapters and vignettes. We brainstorm these chapters at our planning meetings, but the owner of each is ultimately responsible for its content.

We also meet weekly to record our podcast (The Good Friends of Jackson Elias) and use this opportunity to discuss how playtesting is going.

Playtesting is the foundation of our development process. We all run the entire campaign for our own groups, making copious notes. This gives each of us a second chance to shape the content of each others’ chapters, based on what we have learned in play. Some of our best ideas come from moments of improvisation at the gaming table. This proves especially useful when one of us discovers a new way to link parts of the campaign together in an unexpected manner. This process means that every part of the campaign is a collaboration between all three of us.

Based on previous experience, by the time the campaign has been through all this planning, testing and honing, actually writing it up will be straightforward, although time-consuming simply because of the sheer size of the project. Once we have done this, it will be ready for third-party playtesting, followed by rewrites based on this feedback.

Growing this Poison Tree is not a fast process. It will be at least another year before we finish our own playtesting, and then another few months to write it all up. The feedback from our internal playtesters has been encouragingly positive so far, and we believe that we are creating something quite unique. We can’t wait to share the fruits with you.

 

by James Semple

Having recently completed the 13th Age Suite I was interested in writing something more contemporary again. While music for the Night’s Black Agents Dracula Dossier is on the horizon, I felt it had been far, far too long since I’d last written anything for The Esoterrorists. I remember that ever since I’d read The Esoterror Fact Book I’d had an idea for some music which I never got around to writing. Now I had a moment of spare time I thought it was time to revisit this idea!

[audio:http://site.pelgranepress.com/files/Music/Irrawaddy_Landing_v2_24_bit_master.mp3]

The first thing I realised was that it was important to differentiate the music of The Esoterrorists from the music of Night’s Black Agents. After all they’re both contemporary action dramas with strong elements of the occult. It would be easy to end up with fairly interchangeable music between the two. With that in mind I reviewed the music I’d written for both and then drew out a list of elements that were specific to Esoterrorists and distinct from NBA.

Stylistically I felt that The Esoterrorists has a heavier focus on action and less on tension. The music is a little more muscular with overt nods to military snares and heavy rock guitar. Perhaps almost a sense of New World confidence in contrast to the more world-weary European quality of NBA. There’s definitely an action movie quality there. This is particularly emphasised on tracks focusing on the Special Suppression Forces.

Another important aspect is the usage of musique concrete and reversed sound design to represent the Membrane, particularly highlighted in the track The Membrane. This felt like a very useful colour to again help differentiate the Esoterrorist sound.

Finally I have also been wanting to write music for the Ordo Veritatis itself. I have many ideas for this going around but there’s likely to be something in the style of brass chorale and perhaps something with choirs as well. Maybe a hymn or even a march. There is a definite sense of noble duty I’d like to capture.

Anyway having suitably established my Esoterrorists sound I decided to crack on and write the track itself. It’s called Irrawaddy Landing and is the first scene in Operation Whirlwind Reaper, the scenario in The Esoterror Fact Book. As soon as I read this scene I wanted to write music for it.

Imagine rice fields in Myanmar at night … peaceful and calm. Suddenly a military plane comes into view. We see the Special Suppression Forces getting ready. There’s a brief quiet moment of noble duty and then they jump. Cue the hero music! Finally they land and the music gets more creepy as they begin sneaking into dangerous territory. I’ve written the music as though I was scoring this scene but of course you don’t have to use it in this way.

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

 

 

Battle Scenes

System: 13th Age

Author: Cal Moore

Deadline: January 31st

Description:

Iconic Battles Scenes consistent of 39 sets of themed encounters, one Adventure, one Champion and one Epic level for each icon. Go white water rafting with orcs, face a demonic circus and clean out a crime lord’s HQ. You add the story elements and slot them into your campaign.

Each adventure takes around two hours to play out, more if you play every scene and include a lot of linking story elements.

Worldbreaker

System: Esoterrorists 2nd Edition

Author: Robin D. Laws

Deadline: January 31st

Description:

As they investigate what appear to be disparate mysteries, the team slowly uncovers a conspiracy to rip open the membrane in a single global panic event. We’ve had separate adventures, and a two-parter, for The Esoterrorists, but never a linked series of scenarios, or a globe-spanning campaign book that tips the hat to Masks of Nyarlathotep. This book fills that gap.

Except for the last installment, these scenarios take place in any order. Appendices show you how to link them. Additional scenario hooks show GMs how to expand the campaign with even more related episodes, if desired.

The Mysteries of Interpretative Dance

System: The Gaean Reach

Author: Jim Webster

Duration: One to two sessions

Deadline: January 31st

Description:

For reasons entirely of his own Quandos Vorn does occasionally need to be contacted. He also wishes to keep open lines of communication to his past. Thus and so, chance has placed at his disposal Tris; performance artist, poet, and artist. Could Tris be the way of getting to Vorn the players have been looking for?

Shards of the Broken Sky

System: 13th Age

Author: ASH LAW

Deadline: January 31st

Description:

Imagine YOU are the Archmage. A big part of your job is eliminating terrible threats that could destroy the Empire, or at least severely damage big chunks of it. But some of those threats can’t be destroyed, only suppressed. So what do you choose?

Option A) Stash the suppressed threats in hiding places all over the map, each protected by smaller wards.

Option B) Create one super-powerful warded area and dump a steady pile of the threats you can’t quite deal with under that ward, damping them down and keeping them hidden from everyone else.

If you answered Option A, you are not this campaign’s Archmage, good luck in all your future endeavors!

If you answered Option B, welcome to Shards of the Broken Sky!

This sandbox adventure for characters of all levels dumps the player characters into the mess left by the destruction of the Archmage’s super-ward. What was a peaceful valley is now a conglomeration of resummoned monster armies! What’s left of the Archmage’s wards falls upon the valley as half-ruined magical dungeons! Are you going to clean up the mess, or just loot it? And will the plots of the evil icons give you enough time to decide?

Shards of the Broken Sky contains multiple adventures and dungeons for every tier. Depending on how much of the material you decide to use, and when, you should be able to use it twice in separate campaigns and face all-new adventures.

Playtest note: Playtesting in a straight shot through every adventure probably isn’t possible during a normal campaign because some of the choices are meant to lead away from each other. Choose your path, play as you like, use as much as you can and tell us about the path you chose.

 

 

 

Coming to an audio delivery device near you (very near you) in January 2015

Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things

“Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its paws were like tiny human hands.” Witch become rat, or thing become hyper-physicist? Familiar-ize yourself with Lovecraft’s creepiest creation.

Rat-things resemble ordinary rats, and are easily mistaken for them at a distance. Their heads are nonetheless evil caricatures of human heads, and their paws are like tiny human hands. They have extremely strong, sharp teeth, canines grown forward to resemble incisors. They nuzzle and nurse on human blood from their witch companions or from convenient sleepers. Though they do not die naturally, they are now very rare. Attacking rat-things climb the legs or clothes of human opponents, or drop down from ceilings, or climb plumbing into their delicate areas at delicate moments, or tunnel up from the insides of their chests.

Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things includes,

  • Two unique scenario seeds, The Rats in the Trenches, and The Dream House in the Witch
  • Keeper clues for every GUMSHOE investigative ability
  • Five mythic echoes from across the world
  • Thirteen Rat-Thing variations
  • And new powers, like Internal Attack and Dream Initiation, with GUMSHOE statistics.

In this series, Kenneth Hite looks at the creatures, species, and monsters of the Cthulhu Mythos from every non-Euclidean angle. Alternate versions and new explanations provide the same jolt of mythic bisociation that the gods and titans receive in the TRAIL OF CTHULHU corebook. Hite traces these foul things through their legendary history, and provides further clues for any Investigator to follow. Horrific scenario seeds burst and bloom, story spines protrude and deform, in a blasphemous garden any Keeper can harvest.

Praise for Hideous Creatures,

a brief injection of Hite-ian awesome … they’re just about the right length to digest in a single sitting, and full of amazing ideas that will make anyone’s game into a flavourful occult gumbo.” – High Trust, High Drama Blog

I consider this series a wake-up call to the lacklustre, to remind them tales of the Mythos, using whatever system, should instill uneasiness, upset and fear. Grasp the potential of the unearthly and inhuman…” – Paul Baldowski

Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things is the tenth installment of the second Ken Writes About Stuff subscription available to subscribers now – it will be available to buy in the webstore in January. If you have subscribed to the second KWAS subscription, Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things is now on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).

Stock #: PELH24D Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Gennifer Bone
Pages: 11pg PDF

See P. XX

A column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

 

The surrealist films your player characters help to create as the Dreamhounds of Paris one day wind up on YouTube. The ones fit for human observation, at any rate.

In 1928, expat American photographer and painter Man Ray and French poet Robert Desnos collaborate on the film L’Étoile de mer, or Starfish. They film portions of it in the Dreamlands, thereby initiating its lead actress, Ray’s lover, as a dreamer. Getting camera equipment there means going in waking form, not as dreamers. That requires the filmmakers to haul it through Paris’ portal to the Dreamlands, the Catacombs. Fortunately Desnos is on good terms with the ghouls who dwell there and guard the gateway. He and the former human alchemist Nicolas Flamel go way back. Although our veiled senses want to assume that the entity shown in the film is an ordinary starfish in an aquarium, true seers immediately grasp that it is a multi-tentacled avatar of the Old Ones. The creature also manifests the dreamstuff of cabaret singer Yvonne George, for whom Desnos suffers terrible pangs of unrequited love. But that’s a long story, best described in the pages of Dreamhounds of Paris



Five years prior, Ray’s first short film, Retour A La Raison (Return to Reason) debuts in circumstances that for decades eclipse its innovation as a purely abstract piece of cinema. André Breton, the surrealist movement’s oddly doctrinaire leader, is feuding with Tristan Tzara, self-proclaimed impresario of Dada. Tzara stages a night of avant garde performances, including a screening of Retour A La Raison. Breton has no beef with Ray, but considers various other program items, including the participation of surrealist arch-nemesis Jean Cocteau, outrageous. So midway through he leaps onto the stage and breaks the arm of a writer named Pierre de Massot with his cane. In the ensuing mayhem, the innovations of Retour a la Raison go by the wayside.

 

 

In 1926 Ray makes Emak Bakia (Leave Me Alone), a longer exercise in abstraction, including stop motion animated sequences and another glimpse of the glamorous Kiki. Breton dislikes this one, too, because it also features the poet Jacques Rigaut, who he has excommunicated from the group. Through a true dreamer’s eyes the elements of filmed sculpture, the departure from narrative, can only be seen as a filmed incantation. The English title gives it away: just what entity is the filmmaker trying to keep at bay? After talking about it for years, Rigaut shoots himself in the heart on November 9, 1929, measuring with a ruler to make sure he hits the organ squarely. Does Ray’s filmed conjuration backfire on Rigaut? Or is his suicide its final, necessary component?

 

 

Cinema history does not look kindly on Ray’s last film, 1929’s Les Mystères du Château du Dé, which is hard to regard as anything other than him filming his rich friends and patrons farting around at a manor. However, since the main rich friend is surrealist patron Charles de Noailles, this gives you a great visual of what your characters might see when invited to hobnob with the well-heeled at a villa outside town. However, it can’t entirely be a coincidence that it prominently features d6s, the patron die of GUMSHOE.

More about de Noailles in a moment.

 

 

The most notorious surrealist film of all remains Un Chien Andalou, a collaboration between longtime friends Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, both at the very beginning of their long careers. Its central image of a razor slicing across an eyeball freaks out film students even today. On the night of its 1929 debut, a nervous Buñuel hides in the wings, his pockets full of rocks. He expects to have to hurl them at angry audience members when they attack him. Instead, the film receives a stunned but rapturous welcome from Paris’ avant garde. It exerts enough power to convert a resistant Breton, who declares them true surrealists. In Dalí’s case, this is an embrace he’ll later come to regret. What they don’t tell him is that they saw many of its key images while exploring the Dreamlands. If you play either Dalí or Buñuel, you may see the eye slicing image again, in the early moments of the introductory scenario.

 

 

The Buñuel-Dalí collaboration hits the rocks—rocks populated by skeletal priests—as they try to follow it up with L’Âge d’or. Dalí wants to further emphasize imagery from their Dreamlands explorations. Buñuel, drunk on the works of the Marquis de Sade, prefers an anti-clerical theme. They clash further when Dalí becomes obsessed with Gala, voracious wife of the poet Paul Éluard, who Buñuel can’t stand and at one point nearly strangles to death. When they show the finished film in Paris in 1930, scandal erupts. The city’s rightist police chief demands that all copies of the blasphemous film be destroyed. Its funder, aristocrat Charles de Noailles, has to distance himself from the surrealists, or face social ostracism. But he does squirrel away the negative, allowing for its rediscovery in 1971.

During their waking adventures, the surrealists discover links between rightist forces and the Parisian occult underground. What magic were they trying to stop by ordering the destruction of L’Âge d’or?

 

 

Ray, Desnos, Kiki, Tzara, Buñuel and Dalí all appear as playable PCs in Dreamhounds.

The holidays and emergency present shopping beckon, so I will be relatively brief, and promise a full update including biz stuff in the next issue. Remind me to tell you about International Pelgrane Day, then, too.

Out this month: 13 True WaysThe Book of Loot and Shadows of Eldolan in pdf; and Vendetta Run – A survival-horror frame for Fear Itself and Owl Hoot Trail set in the worst and weirdest West is out as a stand-alone PDF or as part of Ken Writes About Stuff.

13th Age

I’d like to start with an apology for the delay in getting the 13 True Ways PDF out to you – a rather convoluted set of circumstances combined to make it a December release – but it is at least in your hands a month after it was in stores. 13 True Ways Kickstarter backers can expect to see their dice rewards going out in January.

We’ve made up for the delay be releasing The Book of Loot PDF and the Shadows of Eldolan PDF at the same time – and The Eyes of the Stone Thief video, a taste of what’s to come if you pre-order now.

Next Year

  • You can look forward to the 13th Age Album by James Semple and team (you can get a taste of the music the Making of video and on SoundCloud) next month
  • The 13th Age Monthy subscription kicks off early next year with Dragon Riding.
  • Iconic Battles Scenes (working title) consists of 39 sets of four themed encounters, one Adventure, one Champion and one Epic level for each icon is in playtesting, as is Shards of the Broken Sky and Strangling Sea – both adventures for 13th Age.
  • The Organized Play program now has hundreds of GMs running 13th Age in stores, at conventions and for their game groups. It’s free to join and you get free adventures to run. Sign up here.
  • Demonology by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Iconic Organisations by Rob Heinsoo and ASH LAW.

Night’s Black Agents

Ken Hite and Gareth Hanrahan are writing and wrangling to create content for the Dracula Dossier kickstarter – and you can still pledge for a while longer – go here.  The Kickstarter has been a shot in the arm for Night’s Black Agents, and I’m happy to welcome hundreds of new players to the fold.

All the stretch goals and other items for NBA constitute what we’ll be releasing next year, but there may be a surprise in the pipeline, too.

Trail of Cthulhu

Coming in the New Year

2014 will see the release of Fearful Symmetries and the Book of the New Jerusalem – Paula and Steve Dempsey’s setting for Trail of Cthulhu in which you play an occult group facing a terrible evil you must fight with magic. But will magic take your humanity from you?

Scott, Paul and Matthew continue work on The Poison Tree – there will be some visible playtesting and demos from the team next year.

More GUMSHOE

  • Robin D Laws has gone back to GUMSHOE design for an entirely new version codename GUMSHOE121
  • TimeWatch is on track – we are pushing for a first draft at the end of February – and it will be our core book release for GUMSHOE next year.
  • Accretion Disk for Ashen Stars – we will get this out before the end of March.
  • There has been a heated  and one sided internal discussion over the merits of a GUMSHOE compendium. Do let us know what you think.
  • Fear Itself 2nd Edition, with adventures.
  • Another GUMSHOE core book, which we’ll announce next time…

More Everything Else

An indie book, more gaming advice and Gareth’s Drone Game at the very least.

Until Next Time…

Thank you everyone for making this company a viable concern. Buying and playing our stuff makes it possible for us to make more amazing stuff. So, please keep doing that

Now, I hear the call of a mince pie, so until the New Year … keep gaming!

 

Previous Entries