The Trail of Cthulhu Keeper’s bundle is a quick and affordable way to get into our award-winning Mythos RPG. It features the core book, an adventure collection and a Keeper’s screen and resource book: everything you need to run the game at a tasty 15% discount from the retail price.

Buy the Keeper’s Bundle in print

 

Trail CoverTrail of Cthulhu is an award-winning roleplaying game of investigative horror, powered by the GUMSHOE system and produced under license from Chaosium. Acclaimed expert on the eldritch Kenneth Hite weds his encyclopedic knowledge of vivid historical detail to his mastery of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic horror tales to bring their cosmic malignity forward into the 1930s—a time when the creeping madness of the Great Old Ones intermingles with the sweeping cruelty of global totalitarianism.

Two modes of play: Pulp (for the “desperate action” feel of Robert E. Howard or Indiana Jones) and Purist (full of philosophical horror and cosmic dread)

  • A new take on Mythos creatures and cults that makes even the most familiar Mythos elements surprising and scary at the gaming table
  • A Drives mechanic that addresses the perennial horror RPG question, “Why don’t we just forget we saw anything, and go home where it’s safe?”
  • GM advice on how to run a horror adventure
  • Detailed notes on designing an enthralling, cohesive investigative adventure using the GUMSHOE system’s clue structure.

KeeperThe Keeper’s Screen gives you the most important tables, rules and references for GUMSHOE. Combat, contests, tests and the mind-shattering Stability tables are there at your fingertips, giving you more time for GMing, and less fumbling through rule books. And, on the players’ side, Jérôme Huguenin’s breathtaking artwork will add to your game’s eldritch atmosphere.

  • With the screen is the Keeper’s Resource Book;  a carefully researched collection of clues, special benefits, game-relevant historical data, 1930s equipment, NPCs and occupational information for use in play.
  • Occupations have detailed backgrounds you can use to flesh out character backgrounds and NPC contacts; discover their techniques, weaknesses and foibles.
  • Select from a range of NPCs,contacts with forbidden knowledge, patrician academics, antique book dealers and professional rivals.
  • Finally, there is handy Sanity and Stability summary, with page references to the main book. With amazing artwork, and superb resources, forbidden knowledge has never been so much fun!

Stunning Stunning Eldritch Tales a collection of four heart-pounding pulp adventures, specially designed for Keepers new to Trail.

  • Devourers In the Mist: A rugged adventure tale in which the survival of island castaways is tested not only by the elements — but by the twisted shapes of half-seen, sadistic entities who haunt the atoll’s jungled interior!
  • Shanghai Bullets: Guns-blazing danger portends and international intrigue unfurls in the city of conspiracy, the licentious, opium-infused Berlin of the East. In the shadow struggle between nations, no weapon is more fiercely coveted than the star mirror. It brings blood-draining death from beyond the stars!
  • Death Laughs Last : When philanthropist and gadabout Addison Bright is found bizarrely murdered in his own New York mansion, only a team of doughty investigators can protect his reputation—and the sanity of mankind—from the awful truths lurking in his tragically colorful past.
  • Dimension Y : A scientific experiment yields the promise of a glimpse into an adjoining reality. But when the heroes peer through this window… they find cosmic horror peering back at them!

Praise for Trail of Cthulhu:

There is no Lovecraftian mystery game as engrossing, as well-crafted, or as much sheer fun as Pelgrane’s roleplaying game, Trail of Cthulhu. Shut Up and Sit Down

GUMSHOE is a perfect fit for investigating the supernatural mysteries and horrors associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. – Wired

Overall, Trail of Cthulhu was a blast to play, and it offers a more dramatic, less procedural look at Cthulhu-esque investigative horror than the mighty Call of Cthulhu. – Geek Native.

Praise for the Keeper’s Screen:

...a detailed product that really aids the GM in running a TOC campaign. I thought the material was well presented and evocative. This is simply a product that I think every TOC GM needs to own. Go buy it already! rppgeek

Praise for Stunning Eldritch Tales:

There are lots of great RPGs, but many fewer great books of adventures. This is one of those great books of adventures, and it deserves some of your shelf space.Ogre Cave

 

Buy the Keeper’s Bundle in print

 

Dragonmeet 2018

Pelgrane Press and ProFantasy Software been attending Dragonmeet since 2001. It’s changed venue, organisers, and increased in size over the years, and it’s become the UK’s premier one day table top game convention.Only Gen Con provides more sales in a single day, and it has by far the highest spend per attendee. As an exhibitor, especially one with home advantage, it’s a must. This year was an excellent year for sales, even with no new releases, though our efforts to display our entire range of books means a pretty cramped display. With the exception of the last couple of hours, the stand had a constant flow of visitors, and it’s always a great pleasure to catch up with our customers, reviewers and freelancers in person.

This year, we split the party. CEO Cat Tobin was at PAX Unplugged, which has a very different audience – not as well versed in RPGs, but keen and eager to acquire them. We sell core books at Dragonmeet – but PAX had a much greater proportion of such sales. Our convention 4 for 3 offer means that many UK gamers get their annual Pelgrane fix at the Dragonmeet stand, and as one customer said “Not so much 4 for 3, as 8 for 6!”

The other thing which makes Dragonmeet so special is that every year, I host a bunch of Pelgranistas and we talk shop, industry gossip, eat, drink play games and make merry. This year’s Friday game I had hoped for an escape from the current state of politics, but the mischievous Robin Laws ran a game set in the world of the Yellow King RPG, which was set on March 29th 2019 and featured a wicker man. You can already guess who the sacrifices were, and perhaps the name of the adventure.

On Saturday, following Dragonmeet and a meal, we retired to the pub to commemorate Greg Stafford. Sunday was a day of rest, a greasy spoon, a short gathering at the venue, and then the annual Pelgrane summit. Cat, who is quite capable of expressing herself even on mute, looked on with what I think was great joy as we munched cake and drank Riesling, while she Skyped in from behind a hectic PAX Unplugged stand. Topics discussed included Robot Dreams (a new GUMSHOE setting), other forthcoming projects, the state of the industry and new roles within Pelgrane. Monday, Ken Hite takes his annual trip to Treadwell’s and Foyles to acquire esoteric research material for his game design. Today, an unscheduled extra, Robin and I lunched with artist John Kovalic who discussed Munchkin WH40K and Dork Tower plans.

I need a few days off to recover, I think.

Chaos Mage

By ASH LAW

The chaos mage is my second favorite class, right behind the wizard. It is certainly, in my opinion, the most fun class to play. The fun for me with this class is not in being effective in combat, but from being weird in combat and discovering what happens—because that is what the chaos mage is about: unleashing the weirdness. The good news is that as you unleash the weirdness, you are effective in combat as a side-effect of that.

Play this class if you want to bring strangeness into your game. Avoid this class if you like a character who can be relied upon—some games you’ll find that the chaos mage rocks, sometimes it rocks less (though if you can think on your feet you can turn that around), but it is always interesting. If you like the idea of accidentally switching gender mid-combat, or twisting space about as a side-effect of your magic, or getting to fight in spirit alongside yourself then this is the class for you. I wrote the ‘high weirdness’ table for this class, and though Rob trimmed out the stranger entries it makes each battle that involves a chaos mage unexpectedly odd. High weirdnesses are beneficial 50% of the time, bad (but not too bad) for you or your allies 10% of the time, and the rest of the time is either purely cosmetic or is strange in a way that is exploitable by clever players.

As a chaos mage you can’t quite control what magic you’ll get each turn. At that start of each of your turns you draw a bead or tile from a bag and that determines what sort of spell you’ll be casting. You don’t learn or memorize spells like other caster classes—you can potentially cast anything that a chaos mage of your level can cast. For you, life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get, and often it will be a nutty surprise. A tentacle of force, silver arrows, a bone-shattering sound, burning claws—you can only guess at what sort of magic you will unleash from one moment to the next. You know how many daily and per-battle spells you can cast, but outside of that you rely on luck to determine what you get to cast each turn.

Because your spells are random, you don’t select new spells when leveling up. Really the only choices you make after character creation are what feats to take, and what attributes to increase. In some ways this is the simplest class to create, and one of the most challenging (and stimulating) to play.

Highly Weird Chaos mage

Download Highly Weird Chaos Mage character sheets here.

This chaos mage build maximizes your chances each turn of rolling on the warp tables and high weirdness tables. With this build any spell you cast will introduce a new high weirdness thanks to the adventurer tier high weirdness feat and the talent selection.

My advice with this character is to embrace the strange! This build is never dull, with an ever-changing strangeness triggering at the start of each of your turns. Hang back in a fight (but not too far back) and try to use ranged spells whenever possible. Stick in the middle—let your allies protect you but give cover to those that need to fight at a range.

Talents

Attacking Warp

Whenever you pull a bead/tile that means you can roll an attack spell, you get to roll on the attacking warp random element warp table—and roll a new high weirdness.

Defensive Warp

As per attacking warp, but for defensive spells.

Iconic Warp

As per attacking warp, but for iconic spells.

Race

The human’s extra feat is worthwhile, and the ability to roll twice for initiative and take the better roll is nothing to be sniffed at either.

Attributes

Charisma helps you hit with your spells, and Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence help your warps: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 14 (+2) Int 14 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 18 (+4).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 14 (+2) Int 14 (+2) Wis 14 (+2) Cha 18 (+4).

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: attacking warp, defensive warp, iconic warp

Spells: 1st level (Daily: 2, Once-Per-Battle: 1)

Feats: high weirdness, toughness

2nd level

Spells 1st level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (attacking warp).

3rd level

Spells 3rd level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (defensive warp).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 3rd level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (iconic warp).

5th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (high weirdness).

6th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attacking warp).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma), spells 7th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (iconic warp).

8th level

Spells 7th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (high weirdness).

9th level

Spells 9th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (defensive warp).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 9th level (Daily: 6, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (iconic warp).

Chaos Mage

by ASH LAW

The chaos mage is my second favorite class, right behind the wizard. It is certainly, in my opinion, the most fun class to play. The fun for me with this class is not in being effective in combat, but from being weird in combat and discovering what happens—because that is what the chaos mage is about: unleashing the weirdness. The good news is that as you unleash the weirdness, you are effective in combat as a side-effect of that.

Play this class if you want to bring strangeness into your game. Avoid this class if you like a character who can be relied upon—some games you’ll find that the chaos mage rocks, sometimes it rocks less (though if you can think on your feet you can turn that around), but it is always interesting. If you like the idea of accidentally switching gender mid-combat, or twisting space about as a side-effect of your magic, or getting to fight in spirit alongside yourself then this is the class for you. I wrote the ‘high weirdness’ table for this class, and though Rob trimmed out the stranger entries it makes each battle that involves a chaos mage unexpectedly odd. High weirdnesses are beneficial 50% of the time, bad (but not too bad) for you or your allies 10% of the time, and the rest of the time is either purely cosmetic or is strange in a way that is exploitable by clever players.

As a chaos mage you can’t quite control what magic you’ll get each turn. At that start of each of your turns you draw a bead or tile from a bag and that determines what sort of spell you’ll be casting. You don’t learn or memorize spells like other caster classes—you can potentially cast anything that a chaos mage of your level can cast. For you, life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get, and often it will be a nutty surprise. A tentacle of force, silver arrows, a bone-shattering sound, burning claws—you can only guess at what sort of magic you will unleash from one moment to the next. You know how many daily and per-battle spells you can cast, but outside of that you rely on luck to determine what you get to cast each turn.

Because your spells are random, you don’t select new spells when leveling up. Really the only choices you make after character creation are what feats to take, and what attributes to increase. In some ways this is the simplest class to create, and one of the most challenging (and stimulating) to play.

Space Oddity Chaos Mage

Download Space Oddity Chaos Mage character sheets here.

This Chaos Mage build is designed to give you the maximum chance of teleporting—and thanks to the separate existence talent and feats you needn’t worry as much about damage from opportunity attacks against you nor taking damage when a monster misses you.

The separate existence talent is our first choice, leaving us with two talents to pick. There are seven remaining talents, of which four give us spells from other non-chaotic caster classes. Yes, we could choose one of these non-warp talents, but where’s the fun in that? So attacking warp and defensive warp it is then: the former gives us a chance to fly and teleport, and the latter warp gives us chances to heal. We’re missing out on iconic warp, but it is worth it for the separate existence talent.

With this character getting stuck into melee combat is a good idea, or in any case not an entirely terrible one—letting you roll with the chaotic nature of your magic instead of having to keep your distance. You are not a front-line fighter, but when space warps at least you will be comfortable ending up beside one.

This build doesn’t trigger high weirdness as often as the ‘highly weird’ chaos mage build, but makes up for that with a slightly higher chance to hit in combat and an improved force tentacle spell.

Talents

Attacking Warp

Whenever you pull a bead/tile that means you can roll an attack spell, you get to roll on the attacking warp random element warp table—and roll a new high weirdness.

Defensive Warp

As per attacking warp, but for defensive spells.

Separate Existence

Make ranged attacks while engaged without provoking, and most of the time you take no damage from missed attacks against you.

Race

High elves with their highblood teleport pair well with the champion feat for separate existence to give guaranteed once-per-battle self-healing.

Attributes

Charisma helps you hit, and Dexterity, Wisdom, are useful for our warps. Constitution is useful to keep you up and running when the going gets tough: Str 8 (-1) Con 12 (+1) Dex 12 (+1) Int 10 (0) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 20 (+5).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 12 (+1) Dex 12 (+1) Int 10 (0) Wis 12 (+1) Cha 20 (+5).

Racial Power: highblood teleport

Talents: attacking warp, defensive warp, separate existence

Spells: 1st level (Daily: 2, Once-Per-Battle: 1)

Feats: separate existence

2nd level

Spells 1st level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (high weirdness).

3rd level

Spells 3rd level (Daily: 3, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (attack warp).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 3rd level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (force tentacle).

5th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 1), new feat (separate existence).

6th level

Spells 5th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (highblood teleport).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma), spells 7th level (Daily: 4, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attack warp).

8th level

Spells 7th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (attack warp).

9th level

Spells 9th level (Daily: 5, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (force tentacle).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Wisdom, Charisma), spells 9th level (Daily: 6, Once-Per-Battle: 2), new feat (force tentacle).

This is my last View article for a while. Pelgrane Press’s managing director Cat Tobin will be taking over this column, and I’ll be stepping back into an advisory role as I take a year-long sabbatical.

Cat asked me recently – what exactly is a pelgrane anyway? And I thought back to my own introduction to this quirky creature.

When I was twelve, my parents bought me the AD&D DMs Guide and Players Handbook in advance of my birthday. I’d played D&D at school once, which was frustrating but intriguing, and heard older kids from the local boy’s grammar school taking about “casting spells” in a game. I was an SF and fantasy fan, and this was electrifying.

My mother hid the books inadequately in a cupboard, and each night I read them under the covers in bed, absorbing Gary Gygax’s unique prose, and trying to imagine the game that would come out of it. I read every word, including the reading list in the DM”s Guide- some of which I had sampled – but not Jack Vance’s Eyes of the Overworld and the Dying Earth.

Alongside fire-and-forget magic, extravagant gourmandism and peculiar cultural practices were a menagerie of bizzare creatures unique to Vance – often fearsome, sometimes erudite and with a penchant for human flesh.  The one which fired my imagination was the pelgrane, a word both singular and plural, a creature with wings which sounded like rusty hinges, a hatchet beak and learing eyes. There original appearance in the Dying Earth was as an ever-present threat but distant threat, rather than a character, looming in the sky, discouraging travel which was inconvenient to the narrative. The Eyes of the Overworld introduced me to Cugel – the fox-faced vagabond whose presence upends delicately balance social structures – inevitably leading to his swift exit, pursued by a mob.

 It was in Cugel’s Saga that the pelgrane demonstrated the capacity for language and mordant humour. A wizard imprisons Cugel the Clever in a bedroom. Cugel escapes by applying ossip wax his bed to negate its gravity. On the bed he drifts high into the sky and, as night descends, falls into slumber.

“A black shadow fluttered across the sun; a heavy black object swooped down to alight at the foot of Cugel’s bed; a pelgrane of middle years, to judge by the silky gray hair of its globular abdomen. Its head, two feet long, was carved of black horn, like that of a stag-beetle and white fangs curled up past its snout. Perching on the bedstead it regarded Cugel with both avidity and amusement.”

“Today I shall breakfast in bed,” says the pelgrane. “Not often do I so indulge myself.”

Twenty years and hundreds of games later, I’ve acquired a license to publish a roleplaying game based on the Dying Earth and I am speaking to Jack Vance on the phone, hearing the same mordant humour, a child-like chuckle as he shared more of Cugel’s tales. We turned to the pelgrane. It was his suggestion which lead to us not pinning down in the text exactly what a pelgrane looks like, or how it behaves, and leaving much of it to the reader, or in our case, the GM and players. The pelgrane can be a source of horror, a threat, a swooping nuisance, a foil for the proud, or the name of a nascent RPG company.

The pelgrane featured widely in our Dying Earth series, illustrated by Hilary Wade, and developed a stronger personality. We imagined it nesting high in the mountains swooping on unwary freelancers, and even delivering parcels.

To some extent I was always the pelgrane, but “pelgranistas” gradually became the word for our inner circle of freelancers – we talked about people being “pelgrane-y” – an ineffable quality in people which Roald Dahl described as “spark” – we nurtured these people, always trying to expand our circle. They are talented, skilled, creative and fun to be with. And Cat Tobin, when she took over from Beth Lewis, fitted the pelgrane mold perfectly, but with the hint of steel needed to be a publisher and not just some fly-by-night freelancer. (Pelgranes fly night and day.)

Since co-owner Cat Tobin took over as managing director I’ve been trying to de-Simon-ify the company.  But while I am working for the company that’s pretty tough. I’ve been doing stuff, but I get credit where it’s not due – unavoidably. As an entrepreneur I’ve been adequate at most things, but not great at anything, expect perhaps finding good people. It’s tough to remove legacy processes for example, if there is no need. Cat is a pelgrane through and through, dedicated, through and more experienced at publishing than me. Cat has changed what a pelgrane is.

Pelgrane Press is a collaborative effort, with Cat now the driving force, and its full-time leader. I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff in my personal life, and not been able to give the company the attention it deserves. I am stepping back into an advisory role, giving Cat the freedom to run the company as she sees fit, and offering my tuppence-worth to the Pelgrane slack channel. You may see me at conventions, looking relaxed, as others do actual work. I want Pelgrane Press to be pelgrane without pelgrane being me.

And you, if you are reading this and playing our games, are a pelgrane too.

 

Friday the 13th Age is upon us once again! From Friday the 13th through Sunday the 15th, selected 13th Age Roleplaying Game products are on sale for 13% off at the Pelgrane store store, through this special link or using voucher code FRI@13THAGE in the store.

The discount applies to our full range of products, including Battle Scenes bundles, but excluding other bundles, products on pre-order and 13th Age Glorantha and Campaign Coins (which aren’t Pelgrane products).

If you’re looking to fill the missing gaps in your own 13th Age collection, this is a great opportunity. And feel free to forward this email to anyone you know who might enjoy 13th Age—now’s a good time for them to buy the essentials.

Want to participate in the event on Twitter? Use and follow the hashtag #fridaythe13thage

Useful 13th Age links:

We are in the all-too-narrow gap between Origins and Gen Con, and the Nest is a hive of frenzied activity (if you’d forgive the mixed metaphor). Some new releases will make Gen Con, others won’t.  Origins is a little like a relaxed dress rehearsal for Gen Con. It has shorter exhibition hours, and while it’s busy, the aisles never get blocked with throngs of people. I had the pleasure of meeting Colleen Riley, our Administrative Assistant, and we mingled as always with game designers and fellow publishers new and old. By contrast, Gen Con will be at maximum capacity – hotel booking has become even more fraught this year as they play Tetris with the Pelgrane Crew. We’ll be having a GUMSHOE workshop and annual summit pre-convention to ease us into the mayhem.

This month’s new releases and pre-orders include, for 13th AgeLoot Harder: A Book of Treasures and the Book of Ages. The Fall of DELTA GREEN is now on general sale.

The Fall of Delta Green

The Fall of DELTA GREEN is in stores, its launch coinciding with Free RPG Day. Kickstarter backers and pre-orderers were shipped their copies some time ago. For pre-orderers, the Free RPG Day release PDF is now available as a download on your bookshelf, and Kickstarter backers will also receive a grabcode. Geek and Sundry has written a detailed review of Fall – describing it as:

“… a game you need to try because it is one of the greatest settings of all-time, uses a system that perfectly matches the investigative genre, is produced by a team of publishers, designers, and artists all working at the height of their powers to produce what may prove to be an iconic product of this current golden age of role-playing.”

They also added Fall to their list of best Table Top Games this year to date. You could also check out this interview with Kenneth Hite on Geek Nation.

Cthulhu Confidential

If you bought a physical copy from Pelgrane, the Free RPG Day release is now available for download from your bookshelf.

Trail of Cthulhu

13th Age

Loot Harder: A Book of Treasures is now available for pre-order.

The Book of Ages layout is nearly complete, and includes in it tools for your to chronicle your own Ages, unique to your campaign. If you need an Age-ending cataclysm, try these:

RANDOM WORLDSHATTERING CATACLYSM TABLE

Roll a d6.

1. Dimensional barriers failed, allowing demons, elementals and entities from other worlds to rampage across the Empire.

Reality collapsed and had to be rebuilt. The barriers fell because (roll a d6)

1. Magic stopped working

2. An evil cult completed a ritual

3. Fools opened an ancient ward

4. Invaders from the far side broke through

5. The stars were right

6. No-one knows, and it might happen again at any time.

2. Plague stalked the land, killing 5d20% of the population. Victims of the plague (roll a d6)

1. Rose as zombies

2. Exploded into flames

3. Became brain-slaves of the Overmind

4. Ascended bodily into the divine realms

5. Became hosts for the killer insects

6. Marched into the Midland Sea and drowned

3. A gigantic beast marauded across the land and destroyed the Empire. It was… (roll a d6)

1. The Red

2. A Koru Behemoth

3. A Living Dungeon

4. A monster from the Iron Sea

5. An extradimensional invader with lots of tentacles

6. An icon gone insane

4. Something fell from the sky. What was it? (roll a d6)

1. Giant flaming meteors of doom

2. Spears of ice

3. Monstrous alien eggs

4. Murderous insane angels

5. Face-eating jaguars

6. Chunks of the sky

5. Volcanoes erupted, vomiting gouts of hellfire and demonbile, and smoke darkened the sky creating a year without light. What horrors followed? (roll a d6)

1. Crops failed and famine stalked the land.

2. Fire elementals everywhere.

3. The volcanoes became hellholes and demons reigned.

4. The survivors were forced to hide underground in caves and dungeons for a century.

5. The survivors evacuated to flying islands and could not return to the surface for many years.

6. Attempts by the Archmage to tame the volcanoes broke the foundations of magic.

6. The Empire was destroyed by civil war (roll a d6)

1. Between rival heirs to the throne

2. Between the various races of Elves, Dwarves and Humans

3. When the Emperor went mad and had to be overthrown

4. Because evil cults had taken over the Empress’s court and poisoned her mind against the people

5. Triggered by economic collapse

6. Between rival religions

Mutant City Blues

Mutant City Blues second edition is underway. Gareth has made a pass through updating the text, he’s added a Private Detective option for Luke Cage / Jessica Jones style action, and Robin is tweaking the rules to update the blast rules. It will have all new art, to reflect a more modern sensibility.

Occultist

by ASH LAW

The occultist is an odd class—there is only ever one occultist in any campaign. The occultist is The occultist, singular.

As the occultist you’ll need to pay careful attention to what is happening at the table. Most of the occultists powers involve rewinding time, nudging reality, and so forth. Your powers all interact with and are triggered by the actions of others, so you’ll be keeping a constant eye on what is going on at the game table.

As an occultist you get more talents than just about any other class: six compared to the usual three. Your choice of talents is far more important than your spell selection to what your character can do—after all your spell selection can be chosen anew at the start of each day. In addition, your flexible recharge feature lets you pick a new spell when one recharges instead of recharging the same spell (in effect you roll to recharge spell slots rather than spells). So with the spells listed in occultist builds I’m listing the spells that you are most likely to pick at the start of each day, rather than the totality of occultist spells that you might use throughout the day.

Focused-Rebuke Occultist

Download Focused-Rebuke Occultist character sheets here.

This build is intended to maximize your potential damage output by making enemies vulnerable to you, increasing your chances of karmically rebuking them, and enabling you to target the lowest of MD or PD.

In battle whenever you start a turn with focus you should immediately use a quick action to cast karmic rebuke, then use your standard action to regain focus. As soon as you cast an interrupt spell and lose focus you should use your superior rebuke talent to attempt a free karmic rebuke. The rest of the tactics for this character involve staying out of melee combat, but close enough to the fight that you can be effective with your interrupt-action spells.

Oh, and by using unwinding the soul we increase the chance of critting (paired with superior rebuke that gives us a lot of potential crits).

Talents

Brain-Melting Secrets

When you hit an enemy with a psychic attack they can’t attack you on their next turn unless you are the only nearby enemy. As we are going to try for the maximum rebukes possible that means we’ll also shut down potential attackers from targeting the occultist. The adventurer feat makes this talent play nicely with warp flesh.

Superior Rebuke

With the feat that we’ll take at 1st level this talent gives a 30% chance of casting karmic rebuke whenever you lose focus. At champion tier rebukes also happen 20% of the time when you roll initiative (but see the racial choice for how we’ll get that number higher).

Unwinding the Soul

On a natural 11+ spell attack make the target vulnerable to your attacks until the end of the battle.

Warp Flesh

Twist your spells to target PD instead of MD if that would work better for you, and get bonus temporary hit points with that feat.

Icon Channeler (gained at 5th level)

You lose three icon dice (giving you only one at champion tier and two at epic tier) but you always get a ‘free’ 5 result which you can apply to any icon when you roll your icon dice.

Otherworld Shadow (gained at 8th level)

Your shadow is a companion to you, taking attacks on your behalf.

Race

Humans with their quick to fight racial power tend to act first—meaning that you’ll be able to get focus early in the battle. That extra human feat is going on improved initiative to further improve the chances of getting initiative early and to make up for the low Dexterity of this build. At champion tier, the human racial power meshes nicely with the champion feat for superior rebuke—increasing the chances of an early rebuke to 40%!

Attributes

Intelligence is sovereign for this character, with and Wisdom it’s equal consort: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 8 (-1) Int 19 (+4) Wis 19 (+4) Cha 8 (-1).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 10 (0) Dex 8 (-1) Int 19 (+4) Wis 19 (+4) Cha 8 (-1).

Racial Power: quick to fight

Talents: brain-melting secrets, superior rebuke, unwinding the soul, warp flesh

Spells: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, brilliant comeback, inevitable fall

Feats: improved initiative, superior rebuke

2nd level

Spells (1st level: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, brilliant comeback, inevitable fall, timely mistake), new feat (brain-melting secrets).

3rd level

Spells (1st level: better yet-here, moment of karma 3rd level: karmic rebuke (class feature), blood for blood, fortune smiles, strike of the last breath), new feat (warp flesh).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), spells (3rd level: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, blood for blood, fortune smiles, strike of the last breath, brilliant comeback), new feat (unwinding the soul).

5th level

New talent (icon channeler), spells (3rd level: better yet-here, moment of karma, blood for blood, 5th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), crooked step, stifle, fortune smiles), new feat (superior rebuke).

6th level

Spells (5th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, crooked step, stifle, blood for blood, fortune smiles, strike of the last breath), new feat (brain-melting secrets).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), Spells (5th level: better yet-here, moment of karma, blood for blood, fortune smiles, 7th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), crooked step, stifle, arcane loop, liberating blow), new feat (unwinding the soul).

8th level

New talent (otherworld shadow), spells (7th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, crooked step, stifle, blood for blood, fortune smiles, strike of the last breath, arcane loop, liberating blow), new feat (superior rebuke).

9th level

Spells (7th level: better yet-here, moment of karma, crooked step, stifle, 9th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), blood for blood, arcane loop, liberating blow, hasten fate, rewind the skeins), new feat (brain-melting secrets).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), Spells (9th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), better yet-here, moment of karma, crooked step, stifle, blood for blood, fortune smiles, arcane loop, liberating blow, hasten fate, rewind the skeins), new feat (unwinding the soul).

Ocultist

By ASH LAW

The occultist is an odd class—there is only ever one occultist in any campaign. The occultist is The occultist, singular.

As the occultist you’ll need to pay careful attention to what is happening at the table. Most of the occultists powers involve rewinding time, nudging reality, and so forth. Your powers all interact with and are triggered by the actions of others, so you’ll be keeping a constant eye on what is going on at the game table.

As an occultist you get more talents than just about any other class: six compared to the usual three. Your choice of talents is far more important than your spell selection to what your character can do—after all your spell selection can be chosen anew at the start of each day. In addition, your flexible recharge feature lets you pick a new spell when one recharges instead of recharging the same spell (in effect you roll to recharge spell slots rather than spells). So with the spells listed in occultist builds I’m listing the spells that you are most likely to pick at the start of each day, rather than the totality of occultist spells that you might use throughout the day.

Shadow-Blade Occultist

Download Shadow Blade Occultist character sheets here.

This build is all about survivability—increasing defenses, avoiding damage, and preventing enemies from attacking you. Meanwhile the build gives you the flexibility to either cast spells or use an edged weapon in melee combat.

Your hewer of truth talent lets you use edged melee weapons without penalty, and an epic feat for your implements will let you use a magic weapon you find as a spellcasting implement. However, keep in mind that you’ll want to gain focus to cast spells, and that requires a standard action. If you choose to attack with a melee weapon, you’ll not be using that action to gain focus. The otherworld shadow and stance of necessity talents give you the ability to either negate damage against you, or to boost your defenses. The fourth starting talent is brain-melting secrets which prevents enemies that you attack from attacking you back.

At champion tier the icon envoy talent gets you the ability to mess with icon rolls to the party’s benefit. At epic tier superior rebuke gives the ability to cast karmic rebuke when you lose focus.

Talents

Brain-Melting Secrets

When you hit an enemy with a psychic attack they can’t attack you on their next turn unless you are the only nearby enemy. This means our usual spell choices are going to focus on psychic damage whenever possible.

Hewer of Truth

Use edged melee weapons without penalty, using Intelligence to attack and Wisdom for damage. When you hit an enemy engaged with you with a spell, you deal twice your miss damage to that enemy.

Otherworld Shadow

Your shadow is a companion to you, taking attacks on your behalf and giving you extra recoveries.

Stance of Necessity

Boost your defenses for a whole battle, and with the right feats aid your allies too.

Icon Envoy (gained at 5th level)

Improve the icon rolls of the party.

Superior Rebuke (gained at 8th level)

A 15% chance of casting karmic rebuke whenever you lose focus.

Race

For this odd class, why not an odd race? The twygzog (13th Age Bestiary page 87) is a rare plant rather than humanoid race. Their fungal biology power gives a once-per-battle save reroll (including death saves), and the fungal survivor feat gives mid-battle healing when you miss with a melee attack—pairing nicely with your higher likelihood of making melee attacks with this occultist build and ensuring the no melee attack you make is ever wasted.

Attributes

Intelligence and Wisdom are key attributes, with Constitution is also useful for higher hit points: Str 8 (-1) Con 16 (+3) Dex 10 (0) Int 18 (+4) Wis 15 (+2) Cha 10 (0).

1st level

Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 16 (+3) Dex 10 (0) Int 18 (+4) Wis 15 (+2) Cha 10 (0).

Racial Power: fungal biology

Talents: brain-melting secrets, hewer of truth, otherworld shadow, stance of necessity

Spells: karmic rebuke (class feature), bitter lessons, inevitable fall, moment of karma, timely mistake

Feats: otherworld shadow

2nd level

Spells (1st level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, brilliant comeback), new feat (retain focus).

3rd level

Spells (1st level: inevitable fall, brilliant comeback 3rd level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, bitter lessons, diversion of pain), new feat (hewer of truth).

4th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), spells (3rd level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, timely mistake, bitter lessons, inevitable fall, brilliant comeback, diversion of pain), new feat (delayed magical healing).

5th level

New talent (icon envoy), spells (3rd level: bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, 5th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, fateful confrontation, call of doom), new feat (fungal survivor).

6th level

Spells (5th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, fateful confrontation, call of doom, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, brilliant comeback), new feat (retain focus).

7th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), Spells (5th level: fateful confrontation, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, 7th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, liberating blow, call of doom, brilliant comeback), new feat (otherworld shadow).

8th level

New talent (superior rebuke), spells (7th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, liberating blow, fateful confrontation, call of doom, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, brilliant comeback, diversion of pain), new feat (arcane implements).

9th level

Spells (7th level: fateful confrontation, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, 9th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, rewind the skeins, liberating blow, call of doom, brilliant comeback), new feat (retain focus).

10th level

+1 to three attributes (Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom), Spells (9th level: karmic rebuke (class feature), moment of karma, rewind the skeins, liberating blow, fateful confrontation, call of doom, bitter lessons, timely mistake, inevitable fall, brilliant comeback, diversion of pain), new feat (hewer of truth).

Game Masters. Most RPGs require them. Even the ones that don’t often have a facilitator or organizer. When it comes to selling RPGs, Game Masters are your bread and butter. A glance of the RPG products on my shelves shows me well over half them are GM-focused. While it is true player-focused books sell higher quantities per title, those intended primarily for the Game Master surpass them by the dollar (or pound). While many players might own a core rulebook or splatbook (and sometimes share these with each other), GMs tend to own most of the books for systems they run, and are among my best regular customers. To carry and sell RPGs profitably, I need Game Masters.

The GM is a different stripe of RPG gamer. There is no equivalent role in most board, card or miniatures games (though certainly there are games in these categories that need a facilitator or referee, there are rarely products published with that role in mind). Not every player wants to GM, and in many cases aspirant or prospective GMs are hesitant to try. The sad reality is there will always be more players than Game Masters. This can make finding them challenging.

The most obvious place to look is in existing RPG groups, where there will always be at least one. If you already have groups in your shop you’re in good shape. Game Masters are often the best evangelists for their hobby, and can enthusiastically help bring new players into their ranks. That’s where most GMs come from – players. Many times, the best GMs excel at kindling the spark of new GM-ship in people in their gaming group. Having great, memorable game moments naturally leads people to want to share that experience with others.

The truism for RPGs, that the best way to learn to play is to join a game and pick up the rules as you go also applies to the abilities required of GMs. In a similar way that online streamed play gives interested players a virtual seat at the table from which to pick up the ins and outs of an RPG system, so do many interested GMs gain insight into the skill set required to run a game by listening to asides and tips from online GMs. So, streamed games have been instrumental in growing both the number of players and Game Masters. And even as there are numerous great books about becoming a better GM, there’s not a class you can take to learn to become a Game Master.

Unless, of course, you create one.

Once a year in my shop, we host an event we call RPG Escape, where we invite designers, Game Masters, and authors to give panels and workshops on the unique art of creating worlds and experiences in RPGs. It used to be called the Gamemaster Symposium. We changed the name because we wanted people who were curious, but maybe felt a little too intimidated to call themselves GMs yet, to attend. People get ask questions about game and scenario design, and work through exercises in collaborative world-building, storytelling, and a little RPG psychology.

This event connects people together, forming new gaming groups and potential support structures among people with shared interests and varying levels of expertise. It breaks past barriers like fear of putting yourself out there, or not being ready, through a welcoming encouraging group activity. It’s one of the best things we do in the shop.

During the rest of the year, we also host GM Roundtables and Game Master Classes. At the Roundtables we invite experienced and new GMs to an evening in our private room. This is usually a small group. We put out snacks and shut the door. There’s a suggested topic, maybe “scenario building”, “game balance”, or “when player personalities clash”, but there’s no requirement to stick to one subject. Everyone has a chance to vent, listen, and offer up advice if asked for. It’s private and confidential, and feedback has been positive. The Game Master Class fits neatly between the GM Roundtables and RPG Escape in terms of size, and more closely follows the format of the latter, with a short panel featuring local GMs, followed by breakout sessions of tabletop play, accentuated with tips and explanations of the processes of running a game. The Master Class is more aspiring GM-focused, while the Roundtables better serve GMs who have recently taken the plunge.

For the RPG campaigns that routinely take place in the shop that tend to run for shorter durations (eight or fewer sessions), we try to encourage taking turns running for the group. Often times this will result in the next GM trying a different game or game system where they are more comfortable with their relative level of expertise or ownership. From what we’ve witnessed over time, a good way to start this practice is to suggest keeping a backup game in reserve to run when the regular game experiences a hiccup or off night. As more players in a group try their hand at running, it increases the likelihood that others in the group will want to take their turn, and before long there may be a game group that started by playing 13th Age under one GM, moved to a session or three of Little Things (from the Seven Wonders story-games anthology) with another, with yet another jazzed to run The Fall of DELTA GREEN in a few weeks.

These are just some ideas we have tried. Maybe you’ve had success creating GMs in other ways? My friends Paul and George do RPG Labs to demo new systems at their shop, Games & Stuff. My friend Dawn streams games from a studio in her store, The Game Annex (something we will be doing in the Adventure Game Society as well). Try some of these, or come up with ideas that better fit your store (and share them in the comments), and let’s foster healthier RPG play and business for all our shops!

Brian Dalrymple owns The Adventure Game Store & Dragon’s Lair  in South Florida, USA.He is a founder of The Adventure Game Society. Find him on Twitter @AdvGameStore

Previous Entries