The nominations for the 2019 ENnie Awards have been released, and we’re delighted to announce that Pelgrane Press has been nominated in four categories:

Beloved Pelgranistas Ken & Robin have also been nominated in the Best Podcast category, for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Congratulations to all the nominees! It really is a privilege to be recognised among such an outstanding – and this year in particular, wide variety – of games.

We’d be honoured if you would consider voting for us. Click on this link to vote for your favourites! Voting for the 2019 ENnies will be open until July 21st.

My usual advice for handling iconic benefits in 13th Age is to push as much of the work as possible onto the players. The GM has enough to do running the game and playing all the monsters and non-player characters without adding the burden of working a random number of iconic associations into the storyline. After all, players want a clear link between their icon relationship rolls and the events of the game – if I get a 6 on my Positive relationship with the Archmage, then I want that to have a tangible effect on the game. I want to find a lost ruin of the Archmage where the party can rest safely, or I want one of the Archmage’s magical servants to show up with a magic item on a silver tray, or I want some NPC to say “ah, you too are a servant of the Archmage – I will aid you.” That also means that iconic benefits need to be roughly comparable – if Bob gets a magic item from the Archmage, then Liz’s roll of a 6 with the Orc Lord should yield roughly the same degree of advantage, right?

Of course, if you’ve got a half-dozen iconic benefits to resolve in a given session, that gets tricky, hence the advice to push the work onto the players. Tell me how the Archmage benefits you – ask for an autosuccess on that skill check, or describe how you overcome some obstacle through your Archmageness. This also satisfies the clear causal link criteria – the player can see how their roll of a 6 translates to an in-game benefit.

Another approach – bring everything back to the Gamesmaster. Roll icon relationship dice behind the screen. The players still know what their icon relationships are, they know they’ve got a 2-point positive relationship with the Archmage and a 1-point Conflicted with the Three and so forth, but they don’t know which icons showed up behind the screen this session.

The virtue of this method is that the Gamemaster can be more subtle with iconic influences. As the players don’t know for sure what’s been changed by the influence of the icons, you don’t need to aim for parity between benefits. It also lets the GM ignore icon rolls that are really awkward to fit into a given session (if the party are in the middle of a desert far from civilisation, it can be tricky to explain how one character’s relationship with the Emperor pays off).

If you do go for this way of handling icons, then it’s worth subtly highlighting when one of those unseen iconic benefits manifests. Instead of telling them directly (“oh, that dragon had a lower armour class because of your negative relationship with the Three”), play up the symbols and thematic associations of the various icons. Have the environment grow chilly or musty, or note that a statue’s missing an eye when the Lich King bends his will upon the party; play up symbols of craft, tradition, beards and beer when the party are until the aegis of the Dwarf King. In this interpretation, the icons become the embodiment of invisible forces clashing behind the world – civilisation against anarchy, life against death, magic against corruption, elfness vs dwarfitude – and the characters are alternately lifted or buffeted by these unseen tides.

Personally, I really enjoy playing 13th Age as an improv-heavy dialogue with the players, and have lots of fun taking their wild ideas for iconic benefits and weaving it into the game, but that does favour a gonzo, anything-goes form of fantasy. If I had a more low-key, intrigue-heavy or mystical campaign in mind, though, unseen icons might be the way to go…


13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

 

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

It’s been a while, but we’re keeping on keeping on over here in the Pelgrane’s Nest, and hope you’re all keeping safe and well. We’ve been beavering away on the new website, as well as new releases like this month’s Find FOREVER to keep you entertained until life returns to normal.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

As a company with tentacles in many countries, we’re taking comfort from the fact that the vaccines are, indeed, finally rolling out around the world. Our USAian Pelgranistas were the first to be vaccinated, followed by our some of our UKians. Us Irish Pelgranes are about to get our second shots, but the new Delta variant is causing enough concern that we’re continuing to stay indoors, and not travelling outside our home country, meaning we’re likely to miss you all at conventions again this year :(

However, while we’re not attending events in-person, or running events at in-person conventions, we are looking for GMs to run online events at Gen Con and Origins. If you’re interested, drop us an email at support@pelgranepress.com with the usual details.

NEW RELEASE: Find FOREVER

Find FOREVER is a new one-shot PDF adventure by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan for the Night’s Black Agents RPG. It mixes elements of UFO lore with classic American conspiracy as the Agents investigate something called FOREVER. From the intel they have, FOREVER is some sort of vampire-connected program run by shadowy elements within the United States intelligence community. Some claim FOREVER’s an ultrablack operation, a dozen levels higher and deeper than anything at Groom Lake. Others say that FOREVER was officially shut down decades ago. The truth is somewhere in between.

CURRENT OFFER: THE YELLOW KING RPG in the Bundle of Holding

For a limited time only, get the complete four-volume The Yellow King Roleplaying Game PDFs (retail price $55), along with MP3s of the six atmospheric music tracks in James Semple’s haunting The Yellow King Suite, for just US$17.95 at the Bundle of Holding.

And if you pay more than the current threshold price, you also get Absinthe in Carcosa, an indispensable city guide for The Yellow King RPG and a stunning, full-color visual artifact in its own right, as well as Robin’s novel The Missing and the Lost, an enchanting tale about one man’s mission to end things with his Government Lethal Chamber. Plus, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Arc Dream Publishing to include their chilling edition of The King in Yellow, with annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and Robin D. Laws’ New Tales of the Yellow Sign, a short story anthology which expands the classic horror mythos of weird tales pioneer and Lovecraft precursor Robert W. Chambers into new vistas of unease and imagination.

Check out the Bundle of Holding here!

COMING SOON: NEW WEBSITE

Dan the website man is putting the finishing touches to our brand-new website, and we’re hoping to launch next week! I can’t tell you how excited I am (you should’ve seen me geeking out when our Google Search Console first populated) at the prospect of releasing this elegant and modern website out into the world, watching it effortlessly load on mobile devices, and letting you all loose on your new, improved bookshelves. For GDPR reasons, when you first log in you’ll need to consent to us transferring your old downloads onto the new website, but it’s going to be worth it. We’ll be sending out an email after launch with full details of what you need to do to activate your account on the new website.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Our Swords of the Serpentine artists continue to struggle and so we’re missing a few final pieces, but we’re close to the finish line now. Jen’s completed the first draft of the layout, which is available to download for pre-orderers now. We’re working on the index, appendices, and internal links/bookmarks/table of contents at the moment, and hoping to have a final PDF ready for printing and pre-orderers at the end of July.

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

Speaking of struggling, we’ve hit a major roadblock with this one. We listened to feedback from customers about issues with the editing of the One-2-One books, and so we recruited Trisha DeFoggi to do one final post-layout copyedit of Even Death Can Die. And copyedit it she did, returning a document that had 5847 comments, ranging from adding or removing single characters such as a comma or period, to more advanced paragraph switching. Unfortunately, the layout artist Christian Knutsson is busy with other projects, and estimated it would take him about ten to twelve weeks to make these edits, so I’m now looking for a layout artist to make these changes.

Work in progress update: 13th Age projects

I asked Rob Heinsoo what was happening in the wonderful world of the Dragon Empire. Here’s what he said:

Drakkenhall: City of Monsters has shifted into its final phase. The city sourcebook’s final chapter (Gnomarchy madness!) is written and midway through development. Rob finished his development comments on the rest of the manuscript and has finished the first half of the monster/magic/math dev revisions with J-M. Trisha is already editing the chapters that are entirely done. We expect to be finished with editing and have the book into layout by the end of July.

Rob’s work on Icon Followers is more than halfway done and picking up speed.

DRAGONSAGA is a new codename (or maybe it’s the real name?) for Gareth’s post-Stone Thief mega-adventure that takes characters from first level to tenth level. Gar is presently working on the book’s 6th and 7th level adventures, which may indicate that he’s more than half done with his first pass. Given that DRAGONSAGA is already up to 84K words, Cat is praying that yes, Gareth is more than half-done. The team is determined that Cat won’t have to touch the project except to publish it, since she’s correctly wary of giant projects that somehow end up in her hands.

Since we’re used the word ‘mega-adventure’ word, we should mention that Eyes of the Stone Thief weighed in at around 234K words. DRAGONSAGA should be around 2/3rds that size.

Behemoths: Paths of the Koru has been on development hold while the DeFoggis tackle Drakkenhall. When Drakkenhall goes on pre-sale with its pre-layout edition, that will be the sign that art for the Behemoths sourcebook is being commissioned.

Futures: The other things in production are too far away to be talked about in anything other than a “other books exist on spreadsheets” grace note.

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Previously in See Page XX, I laid out a two part sample outline for a Yellow King RPG: Paris series. By popular demand, I’m now going to do the same for the next of the game’s four sequences, The Wars. As before, this is a starter framework to show you how it might be done, not the only way to do it or a pattern to lock yourself into. Even if you start out following it in detail you’ll discover better ideas for your group when the players get involved and surprise you with their contributions to the emerging storyline.

This outline contains more episode ideas than you’ll likely need, allowing you to pick the hooks your players will most enjoy. Some make sense only if you already ran a Paris sequence for the same group. Others can be collapsed into one another, by mixing and matching subplots.

Village

Start with an episode that leaves the squad to their own devices as they encounter a mystery that allows them to interact with other people. The village scenario, in which the soldiers protect, and then come to suspect, a tiny community on their side of the lines, fits this bill perfectly. Which is why “A Feast for Wolves,” the introductory scenario in the book, uses this pattern. Use that if your players haven’t run through it before, which they probably haven’t. When creating your own variation, start with the squad traveling to the site of the scenario, so that along the way you can introduce the hazards, technology, and background weirdness of the alternate world weird war.

Damned Peculiar

Devise the second scenario around one of the squad members’ Damned Peculiar Thing. The boredom of a routine mission turns to terror when one of these old fears comes roaring back to confront the group.

Does the photographer find ghosts in his recon photos? Time to track down some ghosts.

Does the lieutenant dream of walkers driven by corpses? Your scenario is about encountering undead enemies and learning how to deactivate them.

Does the former med student dream of a dead forest where the other PCs all lie blown to bits? The scenario starts with an awakening from that dream and then leads into that exact forest.

Creature Callback

The squad’s assignment to bring back photographs of an installation not far behind enemy lines escalates in difficulty when the players confront a monster their predecessors encountered in Paris, now repurposed as a weapon of war:

  • Murderous automatons recall the animated sculpture that escaped from the art students’ garret.
  • A unit of korrigan spies trains to use their hypnotic powers to lure enemy soldiers to their deaths.
  • Gargoyles have signed on as enemy shock troops.

Masterminding the creature cadre is a new secondary villain. You might bring back an ageless secondary villain from Paris, such as a vampire or Carcosan noble. Or introduce a new big bad who features in this sequence only. Like any recurring villain introduction, the squad learns about the new antagonist but has to execute flawlessly to permanently deal with them right off the bat. In which case, they deserve to win. Because how, oh how, will you ever think of another bad guy for them to fight instead?

Bunkered and/or Hunkered

The squad humps it to an isolated outpost to find out why the soldiers who are supposed to be holding it aren’t answering their boîtenoire. The site might be a pillbox, the remains of a medieval tower, or a literal bunker. When they get there they find blood spattered all around and plenty of signs of a hideous struggle. Rear echelon orders them to hold this eerie location. And then night falls, and the horrors of the dark woods come creeping out to do to them what it did to the last squad. It’s a haunted house scenario in camo gear, with the perfect reason not to flee the house—the squad has been ordered to stay. (In my own playtest game this was the scariest scenario of the sequence, hands down.)

Sinister Experiment

By this time the squad has pieced together enough of the events behind the events to realize that that strange squiggle against a yellow background signals bad news, and that anyone wearing a pallid mask may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. In this scenario they spot those marks of damnation around a friendly complex they’ve been assigned to protect. The sinister military experiment might be:

  • human brains transplanted into walkers
  • a super soldier serum synthesized from Carcosan blood
  • reality grenades that warp time, space, and reality.

Perhaps your secondary villain runs the experiment. Or maybe it’s time to reintroduce the king or one of his daughters, looking suave indeed in a medal-festooned general’s uniform.

How does the squad protect its own side from the moral and metaphysical doom that will surely result if this experiment reaches the battlefield?

Installation Attack

Follow up that moral quandary with a straightforward military mission to enter enemy territory and, as per the plot of countless war movies, take out a radio tower, munitions cache, or bridge. To get there they must fight or evade their way through enemy soldiers and creatures. Once there, a mystery surrounds the installation. Something unearthly is happening there. Maybe the target has gone missing entirely.

In another twist, the squad encounters a septuagenarian American, perhaps a once-famous artist or writer who pulled an Ambrose Bierce-style disappearance decades ago. Yes, it’s a PC from the first sequence, turned GMC, who is either incidentally present and in need of rescue, or has given in to Carcosa’s blandishments and now works to further global reality breakdown. Use the latter option only if you trust that the player will enjoy it. If the former PC has broken bad, allow a path that allows the present characters to redeem him. (In my game, the player’s new character shot the previous one summarily dead, and he wasn’t even up to anything. And much fun was had by all.}

Next month, the back half of this sequence outline for The Wars.


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 Kevin Kulp

Combining focused ambition with poor judgment is a great basis for an adventure. When you want to run a last-minute Swords of the Serpentine game and aren’t sure where to begin, start with one or more of the factions. You’ll see an example of this in the two free adventures here at See Page XX, The Dripping Throne (which starts with Commoners and Mercanti) and Sin-drinker (which starts with the City Watch and Thieves’ Guilds).

The following supporting characters and plot hooks, one for each of the twelve factions, focus on rebels: people who aren’t afraid to stand up to the status quo, even when it may be dangerous or foolhardy. Grab these, change them, and make them your own as you populate your own game.

Read part 1 here.

Mercenaries

Concept: A rogue Mercenary company, funded by one of Eversink’s rivals, hopes to undermine and destabilize the city – and will work (almost) free for anyone with those goals.

Description: The Company of the Golden Coin is a mercenary company with a patriotic and trustworthy name, a charismatic leader, and a rebellious plan to undermine and destroy the city’s church and government.

Funded by a rival trading city in nearby Capria, Commander Lielle presents herself as a stunningly straightforward, competent, and trustworthy leader. It’s this skill that has allowed her to avoid prosecution for two drunken murders, a mutiny, and three separate acts of possible terrorism. Lielle and her soldiers are in Eversink to spy and surreptitiously make its defenses and stability worse, and they’ll charge less for any job they think might help accomplish that. They only work for clients, though; that way if it all goes sideways, they can heroically and patriotically kill their client and claim it was that person’s fault all along.

Plot Hook: The Heroes stumble into the Company of the Golden Coin time and time again as they face off against foreign or subversive enemies, and soldiers in the company seem to have legal protection against prosecution or arrest. Research shows that’s due to poorly written pro-mercenary laws Lielle managed to influence, laws that say only the client who hires a mercenary company can be held liable for their actions. The problem is, the Company of the Golden Coin now consider the Heroes a personal threat, and volunteer their service to any of the Heroes’ enemies who want to hire them.

Alternatively, the Heroes find a dire threat to Eversink’s security or stability, and it’s the Company of the Golden Coin who are responsible for making sure the Heroes can’t do anything about it.

 

Monstrosities

Concept: Important civic leaders are making oddly kind decisions, declaring new out-of-character – and generous? – policies and laws for several days before disappearing and dropping out of sight. The Watch assumes they’ve been assassinated for their boldness, and they have.. but not in the way anyone expects.

Description: Ilgazar is a facestealer, a doppelganger who literally steals someone’s face and identity when he takes their form. He has a bold new theory: monstrosities in Eversink tend to feed on the poor, sometimes including their emotions. Right now many people are sad, beaten down, and hopeless. What if, Ilgazar reasons, he could help make the poor healthier, happier, and more welcome in their own city? Then Commoners would thrive… and so would monstrosities who feed on them.

As a result, Ilgazar is targeting church elders, political officials, committee leaders, and judges – anyone with the authority to make life less miserable for the lower classes. He steals their identity, spends several days setting new selfless policies, then kills the victim and moves on to his next target. Ilgazar is no mastermind, his tactics are going to become predictable, and the Heroes are going to be able to catch him. The question is, once they do, will they want to stop him?

Plot Hook: After rumors of five other church and political leaders acting generously before disappearing, Swanmother Gabriella’s assistant in the Church of Denari fears the worst when she orders coins and food distributed for free to the poor of Sag Harbor. Not wanting to look stupid in the church hierarchy if he’s wrong, Gabriella’s assistant hires the Heroes to investigate. Why has her personality apparently changed, and what is she up to? Finding the actual Swanmother’s body in an unsealed crypt, unconscious with no face, may lead the Heroes to confronting Ilgazar. When they do, Ilgazar is more likely to confess than run. Can he recruit the Heroes into helping improve life for people instead of confronting him?

 

Outlanders

Concept: An exiled princess from the Borderland kingdoms arrives in Eversink to recruit help winning back her stolen kingdom – and a surprising number of people want to kill her, cheat her, or take advantage of her. The Heroes get to pick a side, whether that’s to leave Eversink and help win back a kingdom – or to just help the princess navigate the politics and perils of Eversink.

Description: Princess Kayleth was raised in the saddle with a sword and a bow within easy reach. When her kingdom was overthrown she swore to take it back from the usurper who slew her father and stole the throne, but she’s going to need help (and money) to do so. So far she has neither. But rumors travel quickly, and there is plenty of opportunities to win a fortune working with her – or to win a fortune assassinating her for the warlord who stole her kingdom.

To complicate the matter, decide her backstory. Is she the legitimate ruler? Is she loved or hated? Was her father a bandit who stole the kingdom from the man who then stole it back and currently rules it? Are her enemies fully human? What makes the kingdom so important? Does she have more secrets that even she isn’t telling?

The answer to that last one is “yes”.

Plot Hook: Rumor reaches Princess Kayleth’s advisor that the Heroes are a good and trustworthy local contact in Eversink. Her enemies hear the same thing and try to hire the Heroes first.. and if they can’t, they might try to remove the Heroes from the picture instead. This plot hook is particularly good if you want a longer adventure where the Heroes are traveling, forced to work alongside a newly-hired mercenary company to defeat the Princess’s foes.

 

Sorcerous Cabals

Concept: Charismatic devotees of a foreign demon come to Eversink. Instead of keeping their presence secret, they stay strictly within the law and make themselves incredibly well-known – as they work to undermine the church’s authority simply by being more popular, more interesting, and more stylish than Church officials.

Description: The Valiant Order describe themselves as worshipers of a foreign god, and that’s debatable; every single one of their elite membership can wield sorcery, and they promised their souls to a demon for power. Their “god” gives them easy access to sorcery that helps them manipulate others. None of them would dare externalize Corruption in the city of Eversink, however, because far too much is at stake.

The goal of the Valiant Order is to find the bright ones, the people who shine, the naturally charming and beautiful and charismatic in Eversink – preferably amongst Commoners, but they’re not too picky. Then they seek to induct these people into the mysteries of their order, and prepare them to bring about the overthrow of the Triskadane.. not by sorcery, but by creating natural leaders with political power who are sympathetic to their cause.

Plot Hook: The Valiant Order works hard to convey that they are far too prestigious and well-known to touch politically, but the Inquisitors have their suspicions… and as they explain to the Heroes, if this is a cult, the longer they wait the more difficult it will become. Their hands are tied, however, probably due to cult interference with their superiors. They ask the Heroes to infiltrate the Valiant Order or otherwise find out what they’re really up to, and to acquire proof that will let the Inquisition sweep in legally. What the Heroes find is far worse than anyone expected, however, and the most expedient way to destroy the cult might also kill everyone in it. Is the risk (and the ensuing power struggle) worth it?

 

Thieves’ Guilds

Concept: In a plot hook partially inspired by Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora, a new thieves’ guild sponsored by a Mercanti family makes it their mission to steal from all the other thieves’ guilds – and then blame the thefts on an entirely innocent Mercanti rival, hoping that they are crushed in the process.

Description: The Guild of Feathers (formally “By appointment by Her Munificent Mother, the Right and Official Guild of Feather-plucking and Waterfowl”) is a small and rapidly declining guild headquartered near the slaughterhouses of Sag Harbor ever since they were unable to pay their rent on their old guildhouse in Temple Market. Their bailiwick is the use and resale of feathers from any poultry or seabirds slaughtered within the city. In truth, however, most of their business has been blatantly stolen by richer and more prominent guilds such as the Guild of Goose-keepers. The Guild of Feathers can’t afford the legal fees required to fight their rivals in court, and so they are destined to be run entirely into the ground within the next decade, their remaining contracts bought up for loose change by their former rivals.

Their guildmaster Orlando di Penna has decided that he prefers to go out fighting. He is using his remaining funds to finance a group of exceptionally talented thieves and con artists who have little loyalty to Eversink’s traditional structure. These thieves, led by Orlando’s sister-in-law (and possibly the Heroes themselves, if that’s fun for your group), are to rob and anger as many of Eversink’s thieves’ guilds as they possibly can. Ideally she will work them into a frenzy of paranoia and suspicion. Then, at the right time, she will pin the thefts on the Guild of Goose-keepers. Orlando expected the Goose-Keepers to go down in blood and flame, and he’ll be there to step in and pick up the pieces. The best defense, he reasons, is one dramatically out of proportion to the offense that inspired it.

Plot Hook: The Heroes could approach this plot as the thieves themselves, agents of the Guild of Feathers, agents of the Guild of Goose-keepers, agents of the thieves’ guilds who have been robbed, or even City Watch assigned to investigate the thefts. As they learn details it’s up to them to decide what to do; whatever their choice, it’s certain that some other group will object, and that’s when the blades come out. In addition, what happens to all those ill-gotten gains that were stolen from the thieves’ guilds? That’s an adventure in itself!

 

Triskadane

Concept: At the height of summer in the middle of a heat wave, a sorcerous cabal offers a fortune for a Triskadane coin – and the resulting chaos, theft, forgery, scams, and murder throw the city into chaos.

Description: The Triskadane are  secret members of Eversink’s ruling council, selected by the goddess by way of a divinely-infused golden coin. Whether it’s true or not (that’s up to you), popular belief is that if you steal a council member’s coin you also steal their role as a secret lord of the city. The Children of Ytt are a sorcerous cabal that loves creating chaos, and they decide to seize the opportunity during a brutal heat wave that is already causing dissent. They announce that they’ll give 100 Wealth (which is basically a lifetime of wealth, especially if people start trying to murder you for it) in exchange for a real coin. They also claim enemies of theirs are the cult members who will make the exchange. Virtually every faction erupts in anger or greed, and a whole series of dangerous adventures might result.

Plot Hook: Whichever allied faction you find most interesting asks the Heroes for help in securing a coin, researching who might have a coin, protecting a real Triskadane member, or taking a coin away from a cult member (real or imagined). Meanwhile, it’s likely this much chaos is a smoke screen. What are the Children of Ytt really up to, and how is it worse than what they’ve already accomplished?

 


Kevin Kulp (@kevinkulp) and Emily Dresner (@multiplexer) are the co-authors of Swords of the Serpentine, currently available for pre-order. Kevin previously helped create TimeWatch and Owl Hoot Trail for Pelgrane Press. When he’s not writing games he’s either smoking BBQ or helping 24-hour companies with shiftwork, sleep, and alertness.

 

Both Paris and The Wars feature General Kits: prepackaged sets of General Ability scores, so a player can just grab a General Kit, pair it with an Investigative Kit, and quickly come up with a character’s ability ratings. The other two settings, Aftermath and This Is Normal Now don’t include General Kits, on the assumption that by the time the average Yellow King campaign reaches the third or fourth sequence, the players are familiar enough with the rules to dispense with them.

However, if you’re running a one-shot in either setting, or you need an extra character in a hurry, or (and I speak from deep personal experience) your players are astoundingly lazy, here are some quick General Kits for Aftermath and This Is Normal Now.

In both cases, they’re designed for Horror, not Occult Adventure.

Aftermath

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Composure, Fighting and Insurgency in each kit.

Agitator

You inspired people to rise up against the Castaigne regime with speeches, essays, and acts of public defiance.

Athletics 1

Composure 6

Driving 1

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 6

Morale 6

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 0

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Bruiser

You took the fighting to the streets, battling the Castaignes and their monsters and lackeys up close.

Athletics 4

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 6

First Aid 2

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 2

 

Cell Leader

You were an organiser and co-ordinator during the insurgency, planning attacks to destabilise the regime.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 2

Health 2

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 2

Morale 4

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Fixer

You knew how to get things done, how to find necessities on the black market, how to scrounge and survive long enough to bring the regime down.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 6

Health 4

Insurgency 3

Mechanics 6

Morale 0

Network 2

Politics 3

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Ghost

They never caught you. They never even suspected you, until it was too late. You struck from the shadows, terrorising the monsters like they terrorised ordinary people.

Athletics 4

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 2

Morale 0

Network 0

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 6

Sneaking 6

 

Mask-Wearer

You concealed your true intentions beneath a mask of flesh, and hid your support for the insurgency from your superiors in the regime. You held a position of influence or importance in the Castaigne apparatus – until you finally revealed yourself to be an insurgent.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 4

 

Saboteur

You struck against the regime with carefully targeted acts of sabotage and destruction.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 8

Mechanics 6

Morale 2

Network 2

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

Smuggler

You ran the ratlines and the underground supply chain, smuggling weapons or vital information or even people past the regime’s security checkpoints.

Athletics 6

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 4

Morale 0

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 4

 

Wheelman

You were a getaway driver, escaping Castaigne pursuers on the highways of America.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 8

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 2

Mechanics 4

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

This Is Normal Now

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Fighting and Health in each kit.

 

Gym Enthusiast

You have capital-O Opinions about Crossfit.

Athletics 6

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 6

Mechanics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Haunter of the Coffee Shop

Or the bar. You like to chat and make connections.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble  5

Sneaking 4

 

Handy with a Drill

You’ve got a toolbox full of bits and pieces, and a workspace full of unfinished projects.

Athletics 4

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble  0

Sneaking 0

 

Gets Into Trouble

Maybe you don’t mean to get into scraps. Maybe you go looking for fights. Either way, you’ve seen more than your share of trouble.

Athletics 6

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  6

First Aid 0

Health 5

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  1

Sneaking 5

 

Petrol Head

You’ve got a car, and are very enthusiastic about this. You probably make some extra cash on the side using a rideshare app.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 8

Fighting  2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 2

 

Way Too Online

Distressing Notification: Your screentime exceeded 24 hours/day for most of the last week.

Athletics 2

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 4

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  4

Sneaking 3

 

Good In A Crisis

When someone has a breakdown or a breakup, you’re the one they call.

Athletics 2

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 7

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Runner-Up All Rounder

You’re pretty ok at most things, but don’t stand out in any field. Quiet competence, it’s the way to go.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 3

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 3

Sense Trouble  3

Sneaking 3

 

 

“I told you to keep to the paths. You wandered into the Yellow Zone.”

— No. 6 to Nadia, “The Chimes of Big Ben,” The Prisoner

Robert W. Chambers may have invented reality horror, combining Poe’s fragility of self with Bierce’s arbitrary universe and his own artistic flair, but it arguably reached its peak, ironically in a theatrical form, seventy years after Chambers opened The King in Yellow. More specifically, it peaked in seventeen plays – teleplays – that changed up Poe by leaving the narrator-protagonist as the only fixed point in a slipstream world. I speak, of course, of the greatest television series ever filmed, Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner.

Tell me, have you seen the Yellow Pennyfarthing?

If you haven’t watched The Prisoner, go do it right now. The constant threat to McGoohan’s Prisoner (designated No. 6 by his jailer, No. 2) is precisely the personality disintegration that follows exposure to the Play, weaponized and scientized by the Warders of the surreal Village. The Warders plant doubles, sleepers, and moles within the Village, so No. 6 never knows whom to trust. No. 2 arbitrarily manipulates and alters the Prisoner’s environment to catch him off guard or in a dilemma, forcing him to act without reliable outside information, hoping to grind down his resolve to resist. In short, No. 2 is a GM.

“The result is bad. (That the prisoner has escaped without betraying a single word of information useful to us.)”

— Robert W. Chambers, In Secret

In our brainstorming during the GUMSHOE Scenario Workshop, Robin, Gar, and I came up with the notion of a castaway on the shores of the Lake of Hali. This idea further inspired me with the notion of a Carcosan Village, and the unknown No. 6 immured therein. So how might you introduce a suitable No. 6 into your own Yellow King RPG campaign? The basic challenge is this: the more the Prisoner might know, the less he trusts the PCs to hear – and the less they should believe what he does tell them.

Perhaps the simplest version of the story involves a prisoner of The Wars, escaped from a mysterious prison camp on the northwest coast of Morocco (or was it Wales, or Lithuania?) who reaches the PCs, ostensibly his allies and fellow-countrymen. He tells them about this reality-shifting prison, and his miraculous escape – at which time, the players most likely start interrogating him as avidly as his former Warders did. How did you escape? Why did they focus their attention on you? Did you desert? Were you on a mission? What was it? A roaring, inflatable Pallid Sphere hunting their new comrade down could be proof of what he says – or proof that he’s its master, covertly using it to break their discipline. As a new enemy offensive weapon? As a test of loyalty by their superiors?

In Aftermath, the PCs uncover evidence of a Castaigne psychological prison-village in Harmony, Colorado, where Carcosan magic and arcane technology fuse to control every aspect of the inmates’ perceptions and beliefs. The PCs’ preferred faction wangles the authority to investigate it, assigning the PCs to oversee the cleanup as temporary liberation coordinators. But sadly, the prison records have been sabotaged or forged or both by the time they get there. Before they know it, the PCs have become the new Warders, and have to sort out which of the prisoners are genuine resisters, and which were the original Castaigne Warders – and who was the Carcosan representative who ran the prison-village from behind the scenes? One suspect seems very likely – if only the PCs could break him …

“Break down his sense of reality, No. 12. Once he begins to doubt his own identity, he’ll crack.”

— No. 2 to No. 6, “The Schizoid Man,” The Prisoner

Rather than set the PCs as the structural Warders, what about making them the Prisoners? On paper, it couldn’t be simpler: they go to sleep, and wake up in the Village just like No. 6 did, gassed and kidnapped and transported to a brightly-colored gulag. You could theoretically run a setup like this in any of the sequences, from a Carcosan outpost in 1895 that uses eerily futuristic 1960s technology to a weirdly retro facility in the modern day that seems to have been built by mad scientists in 1966. (In any version, you might think about having a beautiful female No. 13, as a tip of the hat to Chambers’ heroine.) The PCs might not even know the secret they must keep – that they are player characters, especially real thanks to their accidental linkage between realities. Hopefully they can distract their jailers during the community theater performance …

It probably works best of all in Aftermath or This is Normal Now. In the latter setting, they awaken in the former setting, perhaps even in their old PCs’ bodies again but with eerie knowledge of their “normal now” lives. Someone (A Castaigne holdout? An unscrupulous Guardian cell? An old villain from The Wars, somehow still alive?) has re-built or re-purposed the old Castaigne prison-village in Harmony to trawl for reality shifting life-lines and caught the PCs. They have to figure out who’s running this place, and how to get themselves sent (or send themselves) back to their proper timeline. But do their old PCs want them to succeed? Any unfinished business from the previous sequence should definitely come back to haunt them.

In Aftermath, the PCs wake up in a Castaigne-run Resort, an Beaux-Arts no-place reminiscent both of the TV series and of the Belle Epoque. Dr. 2 (“names are just labels”) informs them that the Castaigne empire never ended; they are here in the Resort to recover, so they can return to the valuable security work they were doing before their breakdown, hunting down malcontents and rebels like their PC selves. Come up with Castaigne regime figure identities eerily reminiscent of the PCs’ Aftermath selves, which the Resort attempts to fit the PCs into. Dr. 2 might be the sort of holdout or revanchist mentioned earlier, attempting to forcibly shift the whole world back onto a new Castaigne-victorious track just as Hildred and Wilde did in 1895/1920.

In either of these versions, of course, the GM could be working with one or more of the players. Especially if their PC has proven to be unreliable in previous adventures or sequences, their identity in Harmony or the Resort is fake – they are actually doubles impersonating their actual self, working with the Warders and Carcosa. Depending on the group’s appetite for suspicion and paranoia, this might comprise a series of scenarios each revealing a new double and culminating in the one true PC’s decision/breaking point, or it might just be one big adventure playing with very plastic identity that leaves just enough loose ends to justify the occasional weird callback later on in the game. Be seeing you! 


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 players 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, newly appointed Imperial Astrologer, formerly an esteemed seer of Lightwood, now doing penance service for spurring theft and piracy along the Spray.

The foreboding register consists of stars seen as hostile to imperial interests. Those that adorn themselves in raiment or accessories showing the foreboding constellations make a show of disloyalty, though it is said that imperial spies may use these marks as shams to deceive barbarians and criminals.

While the imperial dictum imposes distinctions between the registers (as opposed to a distinction clear in the stars themselves), I would have open concerns about placing any of these in the official imperial register. One should not need to be an astrologer to anticipate the dark times to follow.

The Dagger: It’s marked by the “Drop”, a reddish star that helps novices locate its tip. I find it best to speak little of this skullduggerous constellation. For those that fear visitors in the night, look to the sky, and when the dagger whorls closest to the center so that it opposes the moon, the symbology is not subtle. Knowing the position of the dagger and its implications can net one many wealthy clients, though the length of one’s employment is dependent on one’s accuracy.

The Owlbear: Let’s settle the tiresome debates; yes, in the past, both owl and bear stood as separate constellations. Such an interpretation is still popular in the Court of Stars, after all. But popular thought on the matter has shifted my own opinion. The resulting constellation is one everybody can recognize without wondering if they’re looking at a pair of spoons.

We live in a world with magical beasts, and the meddling of mages combined with druidic practices lets one more properly predict when a flight of griffins or other unnatural creatures will descend; it’s a practical solution for people likely to be eaten by griffins.

The Skull: Oh, so you need a simple, ill omen even a babe can interpret? Here it is. No tiresome arguments over its meaning. It signifies orcs at the gates and skeletons marching over the hill. No one can miss the simple line of stars that forms its spiteful smile.

The Veil: Where bright stars shine, hiding a cluster of dim pinpricks, one finds the veil. It is a sign of hidden things and shocking revelations. Unlike the Dagger, the hidden is not inherently dangerous, but its revelation carries implications. A lost noble scion. A stolen valuable hidden away. A traitorous notion kept in one’s mind. The Veil an omen of secrets kept, either good or ill.

Lastly, I will mention the White Star, the sky-void; “Star” is a misnomer, but one too persistent to deny. Do not think to place the White Star in any constellation, major or minor. If the Abyss is a hole in the world below, the White Star is the hole in the sky above. Legends tell of a demon that tore a star free to forge a blade. What lies beyond might be hell, or the realm of elder things or star-masks. Or, to tell those of the Cult of the White Star tell it, a wise creator-god beyond any of Santa Cora. I am not wise enough to tell you what lies beyond, other than to not meddle with it. There have been those who have tried to mark it as part of a constellation. This has been an egregious mistake I will not speak of further.

There are some that claim the shifting of the stars—or the meddling of the past Astrologer—swapped the White Star with a star in a major constellation, hiding it away. This is folly, and need not be seriously considered. But if you do hear any such claims, report them to me. While such notions are patently false, it is important to track them so we may quash such notions before they take root.

[Earlier in the lecture series, the merely Capricious Register can be seen here . . .

. . . and the fully-approved Imperial Register can be found here.]

[[art by Aaron McConnell & Lee Moyer]]

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

We’re halfway through April, and showers of vaccines are falling into arms all around. And to add to those good showers, a bad shower – of Yellow King RPG monsters, that is, in Legions of Carcosa – The Yellow King RPG Bestiary. Pre-order this collection of nearly one hundred new Foes, themed to each of the four YKRPG settings, and get the pre-layout PDF now,

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

As a company with tentacles in many countries, we’re taking comfort from the fact that the vaccines are, indeed, finally rolling out around the world. Our USAian Pelgranistas were the first to be vaccinated, followed by our some of our UKians. It’s looking like it’ll take a while for us Irish Pelgranes to get our shots, so we’re continuing to stay indoors, and not travelling outside our home county, meaning we likely to miss you all at conventions again this year :(

GUMSHOE Scenario Workshop

ICYMI, Robin, Ken and Gareth did a Scenario Design Workshop over on our Twitch channel late last week. Prompted by ideas from our excellent Discord community, over the course of their talk they come up with a full outline for a This Is Normal Now adventure for The Yellow King RPG. If Twitch isn’t your thing, you can now check out the seminar on our YouTube channel as well.

NEW RELEASE: Legions of Carcosa – The Yellow King Bestiary

This 8.5″ x 11″ bestiary for The Yellow King RPG features nearly a hundred new Foes. Each of the four settings gets its own custom Foes – 27 for Paris, 24 for The Wars, 20 for Aftermath and 23 for This Is Normal Now – and each one includes story hooks allowing you to repurpose it for each of the other three settings. Monica Valentinelli, an experienced game designer who’s no stranger to horror writing, has described working on Legions of Carcosa: The Yellow King Bestiary thusly:

As Monica’s mentioned, It’s not a book for the faint-hearted! Legions of Carcosa features heavy horror themes, with a number of monsters flagged up as requiring GMs to handle them with particular care. If you’re confident this is the book for your table, you can pre-order it and download the pre-layout PDF now. But please remember, with this and with any YKRPG book – the dream clown can strike at any time.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

It’s been a bad month for our Swords of the Serpentine artists, with two having had deaths in their close family, and the work from another two needing to be recommissioned. This has delayed Jen finishing off the layout, and added another month to our delivery estimate. She’s back on it full time now, and we’re hoping to get a final PDF to pre-orderers in the next See Page XX.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

While SotS has been on hold, Jen’s been forging ahead with the interior art and layout of The Borellus Connection. Unlike most of our books, she’ll be the only artist working on Borellus, which will give it a cohesive look and feel, not to mention Jen’s usual high standard of visuals. She’s got all the double-page spreads for each adventure finished, and was just starting the interior art before she moved back onto SotS.

Work in progress update: The Paragon Blade

Gareth is finishing off some final tweaks to the text, and making some minor rules changes. He’s also working on writing up art notes, which I’m going to trial a new art direction process on, by handing it over to an independent third party to art direct. This is similar to what we did with Jen McCleary and The Fall of DELTA GREEN (and now Borellus). I’m hoping the experiment works well, meaning not only will the visual art in our books improve, but we can also work on multiple books in parallel, reducing the waiting time for new releases.

Work in progress update: 13th Age projects

Drakkenhall: City of Monsters is flowing through production sharply. J-M DeFoggi is still working with authors on a final couple of chapters, and Rob Heinsoo is going over the rest of the manuscript as the final development pass. Once that’s all done, it’s over to Trisha DeFoggi for copyediting, likely in early May. We should have this on pre-order in July.

Behemoths: Paths of the Koru will enter J-M’s development queue after Drakkenhall has gone over to editing.

Gareth is chugging along on his Officially As Yet Unnamed project, codenamed “DRAGON”. I think I’m allowed say it’s a campaign, and there may be dragons in it, but my clearance isn’t high enough for any more.

Rob’s most recent work on Icon Followers covers what passes for monastic traditions among the elves and a couple of the notable NPCs from 13 True Ways. The book is probably on track for the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

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