In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin talk Stranger Things’ El as a PC, Nosferatu, kids games with Michelle Nephew, and the Gunpowder Plot.

When organizing an RPG corebook a tension typically arises between its two roles as a tutorial document and a reference guide. The perfect organization remains an impossible ideal, perhaps humming along on some Platonic plane but not in this reality. Learning and playing an RPG isn’t nonlinear, in that you start doing it and eventually wind up having done it. But the line you and your group follow winds up being different from anyone else’s.

With that in mind I broadly structure GUMSHOE core sets to follow the players’ experience of the game, then move on to material both players and GMs need, and finally to GM-only sections, including setting, GM tips, and the intro scenario. Within each section, however, I follow reference guide principles. So you get all of the combat rules together, in an order roughly patterned on the way a fight plays out. But within that, sections are also ordered in conceptual order. This means that if subsystem H requires the use of core rule 3, that core rule has to appear before the subsystem. (Sometimes I’ll tuck a needed but infrequently used subsystem in an appendix, where it isn’t looking all complicated and confusing in the main body of the rules.)

Whatever the book structure, it’s not what happens when a GM teaches the game to others.

If I got to choose how everyone does it, I’d recommend keeping rules explanation to an absolute minimum until needed in play, with the following stages:

1. general intro to the setting, core activity, and, if unfamiliar to the group, the basic style and ethos of the rules set. (“You play ultra-competent occult investigators who fight an occult conspiracy on behalf of an international secret agency. It uses GUMSHOE, rules tuned specifically for investigative storytelling.”)

2. character generation, focusing on player choices, with only the rules details needed to understand the choices before them. (“These are your investigative abilities, which you use to reliably get information when you look in the right place. The numbers next to them provide special benefits beyond that, which I’ll explain in play.”)

3. the first scenario, with rules explanations supplied when they come up. (“Okay, this is one of the general abilities we talked about earlier. You’re rolling a six-sided die, hoping to hit a target number, usually 4. You can spend any number of points from your pool to increase the chances of success.”)

When players ask questions during character generation, answer until they’re satisfied. They’re probably not looking for the whole spiel. In most cases you’ll find they’re focused on imagining their characters and aren’t primed to also fully absorb even the comparatively simple rules found in GUMSHOE.

This way they don’t feel overwhelmed with information, and get to reserve their attention to the creative side of character generation. When the time comes to use a rule in play, it’s more likely to stick. You’re demonstrating it by example, with an attached emotional resonance from the story situation.

This method also allows learning in short bursts, also a key to memorizing abstractions.

Friday the 13th Age is upon us once again! From Friday the 13th September through Sunday the 15th September, 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 13th Age products, including the Battle Scenes bundles, but excluding other bundles, 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:

In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin talk time as a resource, occult Blues Brothers, the Gen Con auction with Jim Kitchen, and extending Habsburg Spain.

by Steven Hammond

Gen Con was a blast this year. I played a few games, talked to people I only see at Gen Con, and spent several hours helping out in the Pelgrane Booth. I had fun chatting with all the GUMSHOE and Black Book fans that stopped by. If you picked up a flyer in Indy, the discount codes on it will work until October 1. If you missed Gen Con, we love you too. The discount code WeDontAllFitInIndy will give you 20% off a 1-year Player subscription and it’s also good until October 1, 2019.

Summer wasn’t all play though. A couple of interns joined us and we cranked through the GM tools to get them ready for beta testing, which launched this week.

What are the GM Tools? They are a set of tools designed to help the GM offer a more immersive experience. Modeled after the GM matrices in the back of most GUMSHOE games, they

  • Help the GM keep track of characters’ ability ratings and pools, updating in real time as points are spent.
  • Remind the GM of character connections like Sources of Stability, Bonds and Network contacts.
  • Show the GM who’s been getting spotlight time recently, helping to keep the fun moving around the table.

Below is a short video that shows how the GM tools work in play.

 

The Tools currently support Trail of Cthulhu (and Bookhounds of London), Night’s Black Agents (and the Dracula Dossier), and The Fall of DELTA GREEN. The Yellow King RPG is coming soon with support for Shock and Injury Cards — we still have a couple tricky things to work out there.

Participating in the beta is easy. All Player level subscribers have access to the GM Tools via the “Campaigns” link on the left. Click that, then click “New Campaign” at the top menu to get started. Now you can invite anybody you want to play with. Anybody with a Free account can use the Play mode features when connected to a campaign.

Anybody who provides helpful feedback during the beta will get a free 1-year upgrade to the GM level. You can use our contact form to submit feedback. We are not only looking for bugs and usability issues, we are also looking for feedback on parts you like and new features you’d like to see added.

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think in the comments below.

In a very special episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, recorded before a live Gen Con audience, Ken and Robin talk interstellar Habsburgs, balloonist danger, a trilogy of rebellions and donut hot takes.

In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin look back at the whirlwind of Gen Con, from awards to tiki gods.

Hi everyone!

My name is Becky and I’m the new Admin Assistant for Pelgrane Press. I’m relatively new to the world of RPGs, having been a board gamer for about 10 years now (favourites include A Feast for Odin, Food Chain Magnate & Great Western Trail) but RPGs are a big part of my life as my partner’s house is partially held up by his collection!  I am often at UK RPG conventions, so some of you may have already met me.  At the moment I’m busy helping CJ organise the Grand Tribunal convention, and this week we have role players flying in from all over the world.

By background I’m a Parapsychologist; if you haven’t come across that term before it’s the psychology of the paranormal, and my personal specialism is researching ghosts and poltergeists. I’m working on a book containing the results of my PhD looking at ghost experiences and I’m also the Treasurer of ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena).

I was a dancer for around 20 years in Modern and Latin American and I now work as a Supporting Artist in music videos, TV and film. You might have seen me (without realising of course) in music videos for Ed Sheeran and Rixton, in British TV shows Call the Midwife and No Offence and in the films The Theory of Everything and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I also enjoy making things with fabric, most notably puppets used in a Freeform at Consequences.

Gaming wise I have met the Elder Things and Giant Albino Penguins in Antarctica, played Vivian Sinclair in Cthulhu Confidential and have a Dwarf PC in 13th Age whose one unique thing is that he is a World Famous Ballroom Dancer! We are about to embark on The Persephone Extraction for Night’s Black Agents.

Look forward to meeting you all at future conventions!

In the latest episode of their ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and Robin talk lone wolf PCs, cooking shows, alien symbiotes in Night’s Black Agents, and the Somerton Man mystery.

We’ll be based at booth #1417 in the Exhibit Hall of the Indiana Convention Centre at Gen Con:

And here’s a list of where to find us at large around the convention:

  • Gaming with the King in Yellow Robin D. Laws, Sarah Saltiel & John Harness bring the reality-bending horror of Robert W Chambers to your table. Our mavens of terror are here to tear off their pallid masks and reveal the shattering secrets of the Hyades. Thursday 1st August 16:00 -17:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 8
  • 13th Age Monster Workshop Join Rob Heinsoo and seasoned 13th Age designers to build a brand-new monster that takes advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver some nasty surprises at the table. Friday 2nd August 11:00 – 12:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 12
  • Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Robin D. Laws & Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies & whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast. Friday 2nd August 13:00-14:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 8
  • Investigative Roleplaying MasterClass Mystery scenario masters Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws train their magnifying glasses on clue-gathering adventures to reveal the unlikely suspects behind your tabletop woes. Friday 2nd August 17:00-18:00 Westin : Grand Bllrm IV
  • Swords, Spies & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel Join Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin & others from the Pelgrane team for a behind-the-scenes look at what the award-winning UK publisher’s been up to this year, & what they’ve planned for the coming year. Saturday 3rd August 14:00-15:00 Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn A
  • Dramatic Interaction Masterclass Robin D. Laws, Kate Bullock, John Harness and Emily Reinhart teach structures & techniques to turn emotional confrontations between PCs frustrating roadblocks into rich moments of human drama. Saturday 3rd August 16:00-17:00 JW : 202
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