For no reason that I can think of offhand, you may be wondering how to stay fit now that you’ve been sent home from work.

(In this scenario you are lucky enough to have a job that can send you home, and also fortunate enough to be able to contemplate an exercise routine.)

I swore I wouldn’t become the guy who talks about his workout but as someone who already works where he lives, I do have this one weird trick some of you may find useful.

If you don’t have the room or dough for a full-sized exercise bike, head to your online retailer of choice and type in “mini exercise bike” or “portable exercise bike” in order to own a cheap piece of plastic junk like the one pictured here.

As you can see, durability is not its strong point. The onboard timer on this one crapped out about a year in. The straps that keep your feet in the pedals have long since been replaced by generations of duct tape.

But if you pull up a chair, slide your feet in, and are ready for a bit of annoying wiggling around to keep it in position, bingo, you’ve got all the benefits of a fancy schmancy exercise bike.

I use the interval training system, the stop-start method of one minute fast and strenuous, alternated with one minute slow and leisurely. Over the last few years I’ve had bizarrely great results with it. As I am not a doctor or a fitness coach, I’ll leave you to research the details of interval training from people who are.

My whole routine, timed to songs, goes like this. For warm-up and warm-down, I pick songs between 3:30 – 4:30 long, except for the fast songs to cycle to, which can be any length as long as they add up to eight minutes.

One arm warm-up

One leg warm-up

One song of vigorous arm exercise

Eight minutes of interval on the bike, alternating fast and slow in one minute intervals

One medium tempo warm-down

One slow tempo warm-down

I use a phone app to time the shifts between intervals. There are a bunch of them out there. The one I use is the aptly named Interval Timer.

If you can stand my taste in music, I have a whole bunch of Interval training playlists on my Spotify account. Because I am a game designer, I have numbered them so I can pick one at random each morning. Here’s an example:

I find it much easier to talk myself into doing this routine than general aerobics. Yes, that’s what I’m saying, it is easier and gets better results than anything I’ve tried before. The biking even somehow gives markedly better results on the arm stuff. And while this paragraph makes it sound like I have purchased an interest in a mini-bike manufacturer. I assure you that I have not.

In particular I find this routine easier than calisthenics because, once the arm exercises are done, I can look at my phone the rest of the time, countering the WELL-DOCUMENTED MIND-NUMBING BOREDOM OF EXERCISE.

With interval training you are supposed to rotate days of not doing it. I am a non-stickler on this bit, usually knocking off on the weekends.

If you are anything like me you may also be happy, as we hunker down in our enclosed spaces for the coming rough patch, to have a way of offloading useless stress adrenaline. There are only so many beers. Or so many beers you should drink in a given period, at least.

And that’s the end of me breaking character. After this is over, remember, I never told you any of this.

In the latest episode of their crispy-in-a-good-way podcast, Ken and Robin talk agency in the sandbox, air frying, Alphonse Bertillon, and numbers stations.

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

While developing collaborators’ scenarios for Black Star Magic, I found myself puzzling out a design style question arising from a particular feature of QuickShock.

In previous iterations of GUMSHOE, and most other games with hit points or a hit point-like function, characters can theoretically leave play at any time. In all GUMSHOE games characters can die physically, ending their stories and requiring players to create replacements. In our various horror games, characters can also exit after cracking under intolerable mental strain.

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game follows that pattern: your character can shuffle off in both ways. Unlike games with traditional hit points (Health points in GUMSHOE) or Sanity / Stability points, YKRPG characters take their final curtains after receiving a predetermined number of Injury or Shock cards. After 3 or 4 cards, depending on how forgiving the GM has chosen to make her game, they’re outta there.

My scenarios provide ample opportunities to take Injury and Shock cards. In fact, one of the key requests made by playtesters was STOP MURDERING US SO HARD.

One or two of my more forgiving colleagues, on the other hand, just might have submitted scenarios including a less-than-fatal number of Injuries and/or Shocks.

This raised the question: is that poor form?

A scenario for standard GUMSHOE might make the prospect of death unlikely, by going light on scenes featuring fights or physical hazards. Likewise it might feature only a handful of Stability or Composure tests. But depending on how many points players have invested in key pools, you can’t say for certain that the scenario won’t dispatch a PC or two.

In QuickShock you can count the number of times the characters might take cards, and see that it doesn’t equal the Final Card threshold.

That’s before taking edge cases into account, though.

In an ongoing game, one or more characters may already have Continuity Shock or Injury cards carried over from previous play. This drops their effective thresholds for receiving new cards. If you have the Injury card Circulatory Damage, you start every scenario being able to receive one less Injury additional card than you did when you began play. A scenario that deals out a maximum of two Injuries could, if you get both of them, end you.

Also, the GM, responding to surprise player choices, may wind up improvising additional fights, hazards, and disturbing events. When these go wrong they hand out cards over and above those listed in the scenario. “You can’t die from the cards listed in the scenario” must always be read as “You can’t die from the cards listed in the scenario, if you only do what the scenario predicts you might do.” Those of us who have ever run a game know how big an if that is.

In yet another also, the GM never tells the players that a scenario includes few Shock or Injury cards. It’s not the actual likelihood of investigator demise that creates suspense in play, but the threat of it as perceived by the players, that delivers the emotional freight. When you get the last card listed in the scenario, you have no way of knowing that there aren’t a boatload more of them still potentially to come. Unless you read the scenario afterwards, you’ll never see that you were actually safe.

For those reasons, I decided that it should not be a requirement that every published scenario hand out enough cards to potentially kill off a character.

Also, with rare exceptions, Shock and Injury cards impose other penalties on the characters who receive them. That’s why they exist. Unlike a quantity of lost hit points, they create lingering effects that impact the story. They sit in front of the players, reminding them that something has gone wrong. Something that must be addressed. The anxious desire to get rid of these awful, nagging cards mimics the fear and unease of the characters. Even if you can only get one card of a given type in a scenario, when you get it, you generally really want to get rid of it. One card you remember getting, or struggling to discard, exerts a greater impact than some Health points you lost and then refreshed.

Even if that weren’t the case, a philosophical design question remains: is it somehow cheating, or poor form, to introduce the possibility of character demise when it can’t actually happen? A D&D or 13th Age game assumes you’ll be fighting up a storm over most evenings of play. But if a particular adventure has you intriguing your way through a trade dispute with little chance of taking an ax to the face, you likely consider that a refreshing change of pace. After a while you’re going to want to get back to the core activity of battling and looting, jotting down hit point losses as you go. But the adventure where the stakes aren’t the characters’ survival doesn’t register as a cheat.

For a scenario to engage the players, they have to care about something. They must want for X to happen and fear that it will not. The prospect of character death exists in games as a default set of stakes: do you live or die?

In the mystery scenario that GUMSHOE offers, you always have another measure of success, other than “am I still breathing at the end?” When you figure out what’s going on in time to prevent disaster, see justice done, or simply slake your curiosity, you’ve won.

As long as your choices lead to either good or bad consequences, those consequences don’t have to be Shock or Injury cards in order for players to walk away from the table remembering a gripping narrative.


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.

In the latest episode of their multi-layered podcast, Ken and Robin talk narrative voices in RPG play, Whitey Bulger & MK-ULTRA, curse tablets, and Oswald Wirth & Stanislas de Guaita.

For the long cases they seized proved upon opening to contain some exceedingly gruesome things; so gruesome, in fact, that the matter could not be kept quiet amongst the denizens of the underworld.

— H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

Although DELTA GREEN keeps most of its attention focused north of Boston during the ripples following Operation RIPTIDE in 1963 (FoDG, p. 179), the area south of Boston attracts plenty of attention from its cousins in overt law enforcement. During the 1960s, Providence, Rhode Island served as the headquarters for the New England Mafia, running operations as far north as Maine. Where better to focus a few DELTA GREEN eyes in (or around) the FBI? Other federal fingers can poke in from the Naval War College in Newport and the Quonset Point Naval Air Station (ONI, DIA), or even the Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center (DARPA, AEC). Even if the Executive Committee doesn’t know why Providence should be a priority, your players might guess.

That’s Mister Patriarca to you, pal

Whoever’s looking at Providence, they’re going to be looking at Raymond “The Man” L.S. Patriarca, Sr. (b. 1908), the godfather of the New England mob. A former gambler, drunk-roller, and pimp, Patriarca graduated to burglary, safecracking, and armed robbery as Prohibition cemented the power of organized crime. After two brief stints in prison (a year and a day on Mann Act charges in 1933, and four months in 1938), he emerged as a savvy hood, “just the toughest guy you ever saw,” and rose through the ranks of the New England Mafia to become underboss in 1947. In 1952, Boston godfather Filippo Buccola retired, moving to Sicily to start a chicken farm. Patriarca took over and moved headquarters to his home town of Providence in 1956, leaving Gennaro Angiulo (b. 1919) in charge as underboss in Boston. Angiulo plays a divide-and-conquer strategy with the Irish gangs, sending hitter “Cadillac Frank” Salemme (b. 1933) to kill the last two members of the McLaughlin gang in 1966 to put the Winter Hill Gang tenuously on top.

Patriarca runs his empire from “the Office,” a two-story building on Atwells Avenue in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence. The National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors based there somehow get their machines everywhere in New England, but earn only a fraction of the revenue Patriarca commands. He runs race tracks, including the Berkshire Downs and Hancock Park in Massachusetts and Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island. He has a large stake in the Dunes and Desert Inn in Las Vegas; after 1967 he controls almost all the fresh seafood shipments out of New England to the rest of the country. In addition to gambling, the Office oversees prostitution, pornography, robberies, and truck hijacking, and runs union rackets through Arthur Coia Sr. (b. 1914) of the Laborers International Union. About a dozen top soldiers run these operations and oversee others in Rhode Island: strip club racketeer Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio (b. 1927), strong-arm man Giovanni “Candy” Candelmo (b. 1905), the “Swiss watch” mastermind and hit man John “Red” Kelley (b. 1914), and others. Frank Forti (b. 1916) taps carnivals, fairs, and similar attractions all over the state, while the fence Alfredo “The Blind Pig” Rossi (b. 1920) manages gangs of shoplifters and “boosters” all over the country.

Patriarca’s rules include keeping a low profile, paying all his men generously, and ruthless enforcement of his will. Rule three takes precedence: among other challengers, he has John F. “Jack” Nazarian, one of his own killers, whacked in a Providence restaurant in 1962 in front of 22 witnesses. The Office has ample pull in Rhode Island politics, including Governor Notte, Providence Mayor Joe Doorley, North Providence police chief Jack de Stafno, U.S. Senator John O. Pastore,  state legislators including majority leader (1966-1976) Joseph Bevilacqua, along with numerous judges, state’s attorneys, and lesser figures. Patriarca has a national reputation, to boot. He sits on the governing council of La Cosa Nostra, and even gets recruited by the CIA for Operation MONGOOSE in 1960: he contributes minor league second baseman turned hit man Maurice “Pro” Lerner (b. 1935) to the Castro kill squad.

The FBI begins its full-court press on Patriarca in 1961, as the losing Irish mobs call in the Kennedys on their oppressor, and wiretaps “the Office” starting in 1962. In 1964, Patriarca funds a gun-running depot disguised as a seminary in Maine, to be run by the American Nazi Party through his enforcer Louis “the Fox” Taglianetti (b. 1903). In 1965, his gambling chief and underboss Frank “Butsey” Morelli (b. 1896) dies of throat cancer; thinking “The Man” weakened, burglar Raymond “Baby” Curcio tries robbing Patriarca’s brother Joseph’s house and meets a fatal comeuppance. In 1968, Patriarca’s soldiers kill at least three more rivals and possible informants.

FBI pressure eventually shows results. Patriarca cuts out Joseph “the Animal” Barboza (b. 1931), a former light-heavyweight boxer and contract killer, from the Office for his flamboyant excesses in 1966. From prison, Barboza cuts a deal with the Feds, and the FBI indicts Patriarca in June 1967 for the 1966 murder of Providence bookie Willie Marfeo, trying and convicting him in 1969. The Bureau also flips “Red” Kelley, whose testimony indicts and convicts Enrico “the Referee” Tameleo (b. 1901), Patriarca’s underboss, for the 1965 murder of Teddy Deegan in Boston. (Courts later overturn Tameleo’s conviction, when evidence surfaces that FBI agent H. Paul Rico (b. 1925) perjured himself and suborned witnesses including Kelley.) Patriarca goes to Atlanta Federal Prison for five years, then serves two years in prison in Rhode Island (his parole letter is signed by Joseph Bevilacqua), running “the Office” from behind bars with his son Ray Jr. (b. 1945) as nominal figurehead.

Two Offices, One Fate

While Patriarca reigns in Providence, the Fate climbs to power in New York (FoDG, p. 288). So how does Patriarca’s reign fit into the shadowy world of sorcery and the Unnatural? Depending on whose undependable testimony you buy, Patriarca either deals narcotics through cut-outs or not at all, a pair of possible models for his dealings with the Fate. He deals with the New York families mostly through Tameleo (a Bonanno), and through his made man Nicholas “Nicky” Bianco (b. 1932), a Colombo associate. It’s possible that Patriarca keeps the Fate at arm’s length inadvertently, by keeping New York at arm’s length from his turf.

Regardless of Patriarca’s sensitivities, the Fate and Stephen Alzis want things in Providence, and in New England in general. But Alzis has the other Five Families to overawe; he may be slightly overextended reaching out to Providence. Does Patriarca use the Unnatural to fight the Fate? Was he one of the “hi-jackers” who opened alchemical coffins meant for Charles Dexter Ward in January 1928? Did he find another passage into the Pawtuxet cellar, and clear it out? Did he hear stories on the Providence docks, or run rum with weirdly bulging-eyed sailors? Perhaps he has some use for mind-switching witchcraft – he did, after all, get out of prison in Massachusetts in 1938 (for possession of stolen jewelry – an Innsmouth tiara perhaps?) after only four months by sending “an unknown girl” to bribe Massachusetts Governor Hurley.

Or does Patriarca hate and fear the Mythos’ poison even more than he hates and fears Alzis’ Lords? Possibly as a kid he got a bad scare playing in the abandoned Starry Wisdom Church on Federal Hill, just down Atwells Avenue from his own Spirito Santo Church. Maybe he was one of the Italians holding candles to hold back the Haunter of the Dark that August night in 1935. And now he’s holding more than candles, and his connections might let him pull in DELTA GREEN to help him light them up.


The Fall of DELTA GREEN adapts DELTA GREEN: THE ROLE-PLAYING GAME to the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system, opening the files on a lost decade of anti-Mythos operations: the 1960s. Players take on the role of DELTA GREEN operatives, assets, and friendlies. Hunt Deep Ones beneath the Atlantic, shut down dangerous artists in San Francisco, and delve into the heart of Vietnam’s darkness. Purchase The Fall of DELTA GREEN in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their starry starry podcast, Ken and Robin talk alternate reality tech levels, Sarah Saltiel, emergent continuity and Belle Epoque astrologer Ely Star.

In the latest episode of their pageant-like podcast, Ken and Robin talk where to start with Earth, your conspiracy bookshelf, Moina and Samuel Mathers, and The Rise of Skywalker.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Crown of Axis arena. Wade’s request for a cover image featuring two powerful female gladiators had been executed in style by Aaron McConnell:

original sketch

For a change, Aaron decided to hand-paint the piece, old school instead of digital. That turned out to create a delivery problem. At first, the paints wouldn’t dry. Well, they dried a bit, but the yellow was taking a loooooong time. Then Aaron’s scanner tech couldn’t pick up the colors he’d painted with properly. Neither could Aaron’s photos.

drying on the easel

So Aaron went over to Lee Moyer’s house, since they were working together on a different project and Lee has a Serious Scanner. And if you know Lee, you know Lee’s super-power—he had suggestions. They got the piece scanned and then worked together on the paints, turning a high-noon situation into an evening showdown. Aaron held onto the piece for another couple weeks, but he has overcome separation anxiety and is calling it done!

Crown of Axis cover by Aaron McConnell, with paints assist by Lee Moyer

 

 

As addressed in an earlier piece, you may want to deploy a nastier set of Shock and Injury cards when playing The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in one-shot format.

The cards mentioned there give you a steeper doom spiral. But some con games may tick along safely until the very last moment, where dramatic necessity demands less of a spiral than a precipitous drop from unharmed to smeared across the streets of Paris. (Or the battlefield, or post-revolutionary New York, or in your neighborhood.)

This will most often happen when you as GM do your subtle and not-so-subtle best to steer the investigators from final annihilation, but the players follow their hearts and charge in headlong, warnings be damned.

When this happened in a con run I GMed last spring, I improvised my way to a result that provided the 50% party kill story logic decreed.

(Long story short: half the group decided to attack the Carcosan doppelgangers who had engineered their participation in the publication of the play. The other half decided to abstain. I pointed out what a big disadvantage this would put the fighting characters in. They remained undeterred. Not because they were foolish, but because it was the fun and fitting thing to do.)

Imposing an enormous Challenge rating to compensate for their unspent Fighting points was the easy part.

When you find yourself in this situation, you can improvise the requisite sudden deaths. But you might want cards to prove that you’re doing it within the rules. Which is what you’ll be doing, when you deal out the cards below.

BRINK OF DOOM

Injury

-2 to all tests.

The next Shock or Injury card you receive becomes your Final Card.

CLIMACTIC DOOM

Injury

Counts as your Final Card.

You are dead. Surviving PCs might take advantage of shattered reality to restore your the ability to speak and move. Even so, you’re still dead and leave play at end of scenario.


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.

Sex is…

…exploring your partner’s body like an adventurer in a surreal landscape

…experimenting at a BDSM party in search of your perfect kink match

…helping your lover reach new heights of pleasure…with your vampire bite

…a confusing yet exciting gossip topic for slumber parties

…masturbating with balloons and talking about it in a chat room

…not gay if it’s with your bro

…almost everything you do, if you’re hosting an alien symbiote

…difficult to describe using only a plate of sandwiches

 

Honey & Hot Wax is an anthology of games about sex by a diverse group of 10 designers, edited by Lucian Kahn and Sharang Biswas. From games that merely talk about sex, to larps that feature sex acts, these games will challenge how you think about roleplaying, sexuality, and human relationships. The anthology includes a foreword by game designer Naomi Clark of Consentacle and a chapter on safety and consent by Maury Brown.
 
Pre-order PDF now
 
Honey & Hot Wax includes the following live action roleplaying games:

In the Clefts of the Rock

by Lucian Kahn (Twitter: @oh_theogony)

You are a sentient, otherworldly landscape, and an explorer of landscapes. A surrealist game about touching each others’ bodies while imagining them to be other worlds.

 

Follow My Lead

By Susanne

An exploration of kink and kink negotiation where you play dominants and submissives searching for your ideal partners by leading or being led blindfolded through space.

 

Feeding Lucy

By Jonaya Kemper (Twitter: @VioletRiotGames)

A sex larp based on Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. Play the Lucy (a person whose body and desires are policed by society to be “pure”) or the Dracula (a vampire who in feeding off Lucy’s latent desires seeks to help her free herself to join the ranks of the beautiful creatures of the night).

 

The Sleepover

By Julia B. Ellingboe (Twitter: @QueenOvPirates) & Kat Jones

Play as adolescents learning and sharing knowledge about sex, sexuality, and gender identity. Explore how you take what you’ve heard from others and figure out what is true for you. 

 

Pop!

By Alex Roberts (Twitter: @muscularpikachu)

Play as people who love and have sex with balloons. Build community and culture in cyberspace!

 

The Echo of the Unsaid

By Sharang Biswas (Twitter: @SharangBiswas)

Two ostensibly straight college boys explore unresolved sexual tension, and quite possibly, romantic attraction. You tell the story of sex by not talking about it, letting silence speak volumes.

 

You Inside Us

By Kat Jones & Will Morningstar (Twitter: @RiverOfInk)

A romance for two people in one body. You play as a human host and the alien symbiote living inside them, sharing their senses. You’ll learn new ways to touch and feel, letting yourselves blur together until it’s hard to say where one ends and the other begins.

 

Pass the Sugar, Please

By Clio Yun-Su Davis (Twitter: @cysdavis)

Friends and strangers meet for afternoon tea only to realize that they already hooked up with someone there at a secret BDSM sex party. Can you convey messages about your intimate experiences using only descriptions of the food?

 

This collection was made possible in part by a grant from the Effing Foundation for Sex-Positivity. (Website: effing.org)

Stock #: PELSW03D Author: Sharang Biswas, Lucian Kahn, Clio Yun-Su Dvis, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Kat Jones, Jonaya Kemper, Will Morningstar, Alex Roberts, Susanne
Artists: Jana Heidersdorf Format: PDF, EPUB & MOBI

 
Pre-order PDF now

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