In the latest episode of their terrifyingly festive podcast, Ken and Robin talk mummers, Hellenistika icons, silent movie horror, and the Lead Mask case.

When Kanye West commissioned a hologram of her late father as a birthday present for his wife Kim Kardashian, he was giving a gift to her, no doubt about it. But wasn’t he also giving a gift to us, as Game Moderators looking for perfect scenario seeds for the This is Normal Now sequence of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game?

West reportedly programmed this holo-tulpa-revenant to describe him as “The Most, Most Most, Most, Most Genius Man in the Whole World.” Gosh, how are we going to make this entirely regular spousal behavior into something creepy?

The simplest option is to simply have the hologram of a celebrity relative go berserk and start attacking people.

Alternately, a player character receives the gift of a hologram as a misguided gesture of affection, and must cope with the consequences.

In a baroque option, the hologram might come to the investigators, having somehow learned of their expertise in Carcosan-related problems. It suspects that it will be used as a murder weapon, or has already been. Invested with the conscience and personality of its deceased template, it wants to reveal the unknown culprits and then return to oblivion. It needs the player characters’ help in doing that.

Later the group might stumble across a covert community of sapient holograms. They fear exposure and wish to continue living among humans. The investigators might be tempted to sympathize with them, until they realize that the holograms have been protecting their privacy by murdering not only their original creators, but anyone else who stumbles onto their secret.

In all the above cases, the hologram gains the power to interact with its physical environment from a passage from The Yellow King embedded as comments in its code. An upgrade to a new software version, without the passage, deactivates them for good—if the team can figure out how to administer it. Until then, Kill results in combat merely dissipate them for a few days.

Numbers: 1 (or as many as the group)

Difficulty: Superior (Escape 5, Other 4, Kill 5)

Difficulty Adjustments: -1 if you know what it is; -2 if you have the Computers ability and have read its code; -1 if another investigator in the fight gets the previous bonus

Toll: 2

Tags: Construct

Injuries, Minor and Major: Holo Swipe/ Holo Strike


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

by Julian Kay

As penned by Viriel Pyrolea, formerly an esteemed seer of Lightwood, newly appointed as Imperial Astrologer as penance service for spurring theft and piracy along the Spray.

During my time in Axis, I have seen Thronehold’s glistening mounts, the clouds of Wyrmblessed, the liminal spaces between the palace portals, and more. But for all the wonders of the city, many are blind to the wonders that whirl endlessly overhead. Perhaps the cursed destinies of the Astrologer still haunt the empire, echoed in a wariness of skyborne wisdom. Knowing one’s fate can be a curse, but that fate remains all the same. I leave to the reader to judge how best to deal with knowledge that dwarfs our existence.

The imperial vizier has tasked me to share my knowledge of the stars with readers, for the benefit of your education. This is of particular use to courtiers, as I served as a servant of the Elf Queen for many years. It’s true that I relocated rapidly for personal reasons, and experienced misadventures before my royal appointment. Of course, you may idly muse, as many have, how much that relates to my own awareness of my fate. You can kindly keep musing on that mystery; I will not elucidate further.

Additionally, any suggestions that I’m penning this work to square some grudge against the Queen is a common notion I won’t humor.

And so, we begin with the simplest of matters: the thirteen major constellations. I have shared my knowledge of elven starseeking, melding it with official imperial dictum. We only find the truth of the skies through multiple perspectives.

The Three Significant Registers: To place the skies in perspective, there are currently three registers of constellations that those pondering upon the stars must consider. The first is main subject of today’s essay: the imperial register, consisting of those constellations the empire holds as favorable. You will find this distinction insignificant on the fringes of civilization, but here at the very center of our world you’ll find these constellations used everywhere, including imperial livery. Overuse, however, is a clear and tiresome form of bootlicking.

The second register, which we will consider on a subsequent date, is the capricious register, constellations that are neither loyal to imperial fortunes nor hostile.

The final register, as you no doubt have surmised, is the foreboding register, constellations of hostile stars. We will say no more of them today.

Our Subject, Our Strength: The imperial constellations are important for interpreting conditions favorable to the empire. When they cross Axis or the Road (see the Register of Capricious Constellations, to be penned shortly), times of glory are upon us. However, when they whirl closer to the barbarian lands, one should take precautions.

The Anvil: These seven stars represent the surface on which some dwarves claim the gods forged the world, and the ancient practice of their smiths taking their blades to great heights to be “sharpened by the sky” likely comes from this tale. Many forges seek mountains not only for their ores, but to clearly see the finest times for forging.

Similarly, the pre-battle tradition of raising one’s sword likely comes from the spread of dwarven battle traditions far beyond the mountains. Thankfully, the tradition of some crusading warriors to pile demonic and cultist bodies high to stand upon before brandishing one’s blade is a tradition still restricted to that grim lot.

The Crown: Claimed simultaneously to be an omen for the Dragon Emperor, Dwarf King, and Elf Queen. Though this is astrologically contradictory, I must officially state the Emperor is the crown-bearer. Still, this author makes no attempt to disabuse the King or Queen of their claims. I would also suggest that any reader take up a similar notion of neutrality.

Past records claim the crown once held a thirteenth star, but presently, we only see twelve. Is its disappearance symbolic of the fall of a ruler, like the Terrible Emperor? Or was it somehow stolen from the sky, as some have claimed?

The Dragon: But which one? The Black claim it’s the progenitor of dragonkind, a shadowy ur-drake born of the stars. Holy warriors see its proximity to the White Star to be symbolic of the Gold Wyrm, sealing the pale void in the sky just as it seals the abyss in the earth. Of course, likening a silver dragon’s shine to the stars is a traditional compliment for the Emperor’s winged allies. As with the Crown, I would advise neutrality in such debates, as there are as many tales across the world as scales in a dragon’s hide.

The Gauntlet: Sealing, protecting, crushing—the gauntlet is a symbol of divinely inspired warriors regardless of the god they cleave to. Having it point in the direction of one’s quest or crusade is a good omen for the endeavor, if not always for its participants. The gods never fail to appreciate an effective self-sacrifice.

 

In the latest episode of their nimbly arboreal podcast, Ken and Robin talk conspiracies for your horror game, Dracula’s tree poaching, streaming structure, and the Israel Regardie library heist.

One of the most horrible aspects of this whole pandemic – at least, from where I’m sitting – is that roleplaying conventions will be one of the last events to return safely. Your typical convention is also ideal for spreading coronavirus: a bunch of people talking loudly at short range? In rooms that are famously poorly ventilated? Alas – no conventions this year, and conventions next year will depend on suppression and vaccines.

So, as a substitute, we’ve got virtual cons, run over discord or zoom or other platforms. Some tips I’ve picked up running GUMSHOE games at virtual cons:

  • Don’t waste time
  • Set expectations immediately
  • Break the character sheet down by region
  • Do a sample test early
  • Have your assets ready to go
  • Use multiple channels

Don’t waste time

You definitely don’t need to fill the whole convention timeslot – if it’s a four-hour slot, that’s basically a three hour game plus setup, bathroom breaks, and an early finish if the game goes on track. It helps to keep the initial rules explanation to a minimum – the quicker you get from introducing the game to actually playing, the better. No-one wants to sit through a lengthy breakdown of rules.

Set expectations immediately

Give the players a variation of the elevator pitch so everyone knows what sort of game they’re playing. “You’re all burned spies hunting vampires,”, “you’re all paranormal investigators working for a mysterious Ordo, battling the evils of the Esoterrorists and their extradimensional allies”, “you’re all city watch in fantasy Venice”. Having media references works (“Jason Bourne vs Dracula!”), but make sure you do it as “X meets Y” or “It’s a bit like X or Y” – if you only give a player one touchstone, they’ll assume the game is just like that show.

Break the character sheet down by region

GUMSHOE’s a pretty simple system, and most of the abilities are nicely self-explanatory. Drive home that there are two sorts of abilities – Investigative (NO ROLLING! JUST INFO! SPEND FOR BENEFITS!) and General (SPEND POINTS AND ROLL A D6! BEAT A DIFFICULTY THAT’S USUALLY AROUND 4!) and you’re 90% of the way there.

Do a sample test early

It’s good advice for any convention game, virtual or otherwise, to run a simple demonstration of the resolution system early on, so the players have a handle on how many points they should spend on a typical test, how forgiving the damage system is and so forth. Refreshes are especially important in GUMSHOE, too, so show how they work.

Have your assets ready to go

If you’re using maps, images or other handouts, make sure they’re to hand, electronically speaking. I stick everything I’ll need (or might need) in one Dropbox folder so I can grab them quickly. You don’t need to fill every moment with action, but few things are duller than the GM googling for the right image. (If you do need to grab something, do it while the players are discussing strategy or roleplaying amongst themselves.)


Use multiple channels

Obviously, you can send notes to players as private messages, but the general chat channel’s also very useful for sending material to the players. If there’s a set of facts they need to reference through the scenario – a list of locations, a set of suspects, a timeline –  drop that in the chat channel so the players can easily look it up.

In the latest episode of their monumental podcast, Ken and Robin talk worldbuilding without Machiavellians, the mammoth bone temple, Mythos Detroit and the First Sino-Japanese War.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and we’re looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends. The Pelgrane office will be closed from December 23rd through January 4th.

Holiday Shipping Dates for the US and Canada

Orders placed by December 3rd should be received by December 24th, but this cannot be guaranteed. Because we ship via media mail from Nevada, orders to the west coast will arrive sooner than orders to the east coast.

If using USPS Priority or UPS/FedEx Ground (heavy orders over around 30lbs), place orders by Thursday, December 10th to arrive by the 24th.

Our US shipping point will be closed on December 24th and 25th.

Holiday Shipping Dates for Europe and the Rest of the World

  • Within the UK and Europe, most orders under 2kg will ship post. Orders heavier than 2kg, e.g. two hardback rulebooks, will generally ship by parcel carrier.
  • Outside Europe, post generally works best up to 5kg, and then parcel carriers take over.
  • Our non-US shipping point will be closed from December 23rd through January 4th.
Last Posting Dates
Post
Parcel carrier
UK Thursday, 17th December As for post
Australia and New Zealand Tuesday, 1st December As for post
Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Central and South America, Far and Middle East Sunday, 6th December As for post
Canada, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) and Turkey Tuesday, 8th December As for post
Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA Thursday, 10th December As for post
Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland,
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland
Sunday, 13th December As for post
Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg Tuesday, 15th December As for post

Please note that these dates are estimates. We cannot guarantee delivery by a particular date, and we suggesting ordering as early as possible. If you have any questions or need more information, please contact us at support@pelgranepress.com.

In the latest episode of their well-fortified podcast, Ken and Robin talk playing Mutant City Blues now, Fort Cumberland, the Maryhill Museum, and the Unicorn Killer.

Spooky maskWhen running a most improvised scenario (either something as ambitious as the Dracula Dossier or just riffing off a paragraph or two of notes), One Useful Trick is to have a copy of the investigative ability list for your game to hand, and check off abilities as you call for them or the players use them. That lets you see at a glance which abilities you haven’t yet used in play.

Then, look for opportunities to bring in other abilities. Treat it as a prompt, a challenge – “what’s the easiest narrative route in the game from this moment to the action hinging on Art History or Pharmacy or Flirting?”

Often, in improv play, you fall back on the sort of scenes that you’re most comfortable with; I can riff mysterious murders, spooky locations and sieges off the top of my head, but need to remind myself to do interpersonal scenes, crowds, or car chases.

Prompting yourself to bring in abilities you don’t instinctively default to is a great way to vary the scenes in your game. The players in my current Night’s Black Agents game, for example, are much more comfortable hanging back and observing, either by blending into the crowd, perching on rooftops, or getting full value out of all those points invested in Data Retrieval, Electronic Surveillance and Digital Intrusion. Tracking the abilities used reminds me in the heat of play to put in more interpersonal scenes, forcing them to use messy touch-feely abilities like Reassurance or Intimidation.

A neglected ability doesn’t have to be central to the game, of course. If you’re trying to bring in, say, Astronomy, you could just mention that the characters knows offhand that tonight will be a moonless and especially dark night; often, reminding players that they have a particular ability will start them thinking about ways to use those assets.

Don’t neglect General Abilities, either. If no-one’s used Cover or Disguise in a while, try to drop in some obstacles that require those abilities.

In the latest episode of their well-structured podcast, Ken and Robin talk narrative payoffs, the US election, QAnon, and game designer / paranormalist James "Herbie" Brennan.

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