skulBamboozle! Betray! Backstab!

Why go all the way to the dungeon for enemies, when the other players are sitting right next to you?

Skulduggery, the Roleplaying Game Of Verbal Fireworks & Sudden Reversals, brings fast and funny innovation to the exciting world of inter-player conflict!

  • Super-speedy character generation gets your group skeeving and conniving in minutes. Just distribute component cards, trade, and you’re done.
  • Simple, and simply hilarious, rules convert the eternal playground chant of “No you don’t!” “Oh, yes I do!” into a zingy action resolution system.
  • Turns your power-gamers into witticism machines by rewarding the strategic use of pre-supplied punchlines.
  • Exploit others’ weaknesses, while weaseling away from your own, as you grapple with an uproarious array of self-defeating temptations.
  • Unleashes the updated rules of the acclaimed Dying Earth Roleplaying Game, bringing elegant finagling and oneupsmanship to any genre.
  • Revel in the dark art of Machiavellian Game Mastering with copious guidance and devious advice.

Comes pre-loaded with four side-splitting, ready-to-play scenarios:

  • If Space Permits: Amid a crazy bacchanal, interstellar traders compete to corner the market on hallucinogenic jumpwine.
  • Yes, Wing: Hose your fellow cabinet secretaries in the most betray-o-riffic place on Earth: Washington, D.C.
  • Casting Call: Sign-up sheets have gone up for this year’s high school musical. Let the viciousness commence!
  • Skulduggery & Crossbones: You’re pirates. You’re trapped on a becalmed ship. Your captain just got his head bitten off by a shark. Go!

Download the cards and appendices for Skulduggery here.

Three new settings from Gareth Hanrahan are available to download as PDFs now – Black Smoke, Pacific’s Six and The Wedding.

Status: Out Now

Stock #: PELK01 Author: Robin D Laws
Artist: Jerome Huguenin Format: 120-page letter-size


In the fourteenth episode of their above-named podcast, Ken and Robin talk Chicago film fest, DramaSystem vs. Skulduggery, gangland mapping and the burnings of the libraries of Alexandria.

I’ll be typing a storm at you on #RPG.NET chat at 8 PM Eastern tonight (Tuesday Oct 23rd.) I’m sure that Hillfolk and its ongoing Kickstarter will be the topic du jour. But feel free to ask me anything within my remit, from GUMSHOE to Skulduggery, from GM advice to podcasting.

To join #rpgnet chat: go to, select your nick, log in, and type "/join #rpgnet".

Thanks to Dan Davenport for the invitation.

During character generation, after determining why they want vengeance against the common enemy called Quandos Vorn, Gaean Reach players specify why catching up with him will prove a task of epic difficulty. Each supplies a reason of particular relevance to his own motivations and backstory. In the in-house playtest, it was determined that Quandos Vorn:

  • maintains a troop of elite cloned bodyguards

  • constantly disguises himself and is constantly on the move

  • controls, through corruption, resources even within the IPCC (interstellar police force)

  • can track one of the PCs’ movements and can’t be surprised

  • constructs elaborate schemes which repeatedly ensnare another of the PCs

This not only further defines their nemesis, but again proves that, given a measure of narrative control, players will screw themselves over in ways they would never permit were a mere GM doing it.

With Hillfolk in outside playtest and on the brink of a crowdfunding campaign, I’m now in the early stages of The Gaean Reach, Pelgrane’s game of interstellar vengeance, based on the classic cycle of SF novels by Jack Vance. While I originally thought this would be a Skulduggery variant with some GUMSHOE grafted on, it turns out to be the other way around: GUMSHOE with a touch of Skulduggery.

The game’s default campaign frame pits the characters against a nemesis, who they hunt by increments over the course of the series. Every group defines its own nemesis, usually called Quandos Vorn. During character creation, each player indicates what Quandos Vorn did to incur his or her PC’s wrath. This delineates both the nemesis and the player character.

In the in-house game, this is why the protagonists plot revenge against Quandos Vorn:

“After I critiqued his academic paper, he saw to it that I lost everything—my tenure, even my family.”

“I used to be a corrupt interstellar cop on his payroll, until he killed my partner and framed me for a series of crimes I didn’t commit.”

“When my casino would not accommodate his obscene requests, Quandos Vorn shut it down.”

“His ponzi scheme collapsed the star-spanning financial empire I was supposed to one day inherit.”

“To keep himself sharp, Quandos Vorn hunts, battles, and kills clones of himself. The only clone to ever survive one of these pursuits, I seek to avenge the humiliating defeat that left me hideously disfigured.”

From those five statements, we know much about Quandos Vorn’s behavior and capabilities—and even more about the people who seek him.

The Virtual Play podcast has been busy with Pelgrane products. First is a actual play report of Bill White’s Trail of Cthulhu scenario, Castle Bravo, you can listen here. The second is Skulduggery, Robin D Laws’ game of backstabbing and verbal fireworks. You can listen to the full report here.

“You lost a good opportunity to shut up.”

Upon hearing that Nicholas Sarkozy recently said this to David Cameron, the obvious became evident: the current Euro rescue talks are a Skulduggery play pack waiting to happen.

You play leaders of European nations attempting to prevent an implosion of the continental and/or global economy while at the same time pursuing your localized political goals. Sadly, that font of comedy inspiration, Silvio Burlesconi, has decamped for the moment, but there’s no shortage of potential PCs. Where the restructuring effort is concerned, the Sarkozy player aims to divert the burden to Germany and the credit to France. Straight-laced Angela Merkel must ensure that everyone but the German banks pays for their irresponsible loans. Cameron plays to Euro-Skeptics back home. Whoever’s running Greece this week complains about taxes he has no intention of paying.

European readers whose leaders have not been mentioned above are invited to characterize their underlying goals for the scenario.

It’s a natural for your holiday pick-up gaming!

Commenter Carl, over at my See P. XX intro to DramaSystem, asks about the role deceit plays in the game. Is there a mechanism to ensure that characters who are deceived act accordingly?

It depends on whether the interaction is procedural or dramatic. In the first instance, it occurs in pursuit of a pragmatic goal, free of emotional content, with a minor, GM-run character we don’t much care about. In this case you can con the character and he’ll act as if conned.

In general deceit occurs in DramaSystem because the core interactions mimic drama in fiction, which in turn is a condensed version of the way we behave toward one another in real life. One person seeks an emotional payoff from another, and in the process may choose to lie, dissemble, or hoodwink. If you’re playing a dramatic scene, you can make the choice to act as if the character is deceived, or not. Unlike Skulduggery / Dying Earth, the system does not force you to be fooled. This is because the character who acts on false information belongs more to the melodrama than the drama. Drama is about choices; deceit robs characters of true choices. Deceived characters work in drama when they are, perhaps subconsciously, choosing to be lied to. When Lear buys Regan and Goneril’s flattery and rejects Cordelia’s frankness, he is, on one level, fooled. But really he’s allowing himself to be gulled, because he’s petitioning them for ego gratification and wants to get it. In the DramaSystem version of this scene, Lear’s player decides to act as if fooled—he isn’t required to do it by a die roll.

If deception belongs to melodrama, its equivalent in drama is self-deception.

I am once again looking to augment the ranks of my Thursday night playtest group—hence this open call for one new recruit.

To join the group, you’ll need to be reliably free on Thursday nights and able to get to the Bloor-Bathurst area in downtown Toronto. We meet from 7 pm to 10 pm.

You will also need a saintly tolerance for my playtesting needs. I run games I’m either designing or need to familiarize myself in order to do freelance work for. In the early going a new game may crash and burn, mandating a return to the drawing board. Often I’ll have to suddenly abandon a successful series in midstream to go on to the next thing. We usually play RPGs but there’s always the chance you may be asked to test-drive a card or board game along the way.

At present we have just entered our second season of Hillfolk, the first game using the new DramaSystem engine. It works within the storygame tradition, focusing on narrative and character development, setting traditional butt-kicking and problem-solving by the wayside. This game will continue until at least spring. Next up will be Gaean Reach, a game of interstellar mystery and vengeance using the GUMSHOE system, with touches of Skulduggery thrown in for good measure.

Please put yourself forward only if you can realistically make a long-term commitment to showing up every Thursday night.

If you’re interested, get in touch by leaving a comment on this blog, or via private message on Facebook or G+, or DM on Twitter.


Wedded bliss is only a few relatives away…

The Wedding is the brand new setting for Skulduggery, the roleplaying game of verbal fireworks and sudden reversals!

You are guests at the wedding of Emma Blunt and Martin Sharpe, held at the moderately-swanky Elysian Country Club. Emma’s father, Gerald Blunt, owns a processed-cheese empire, Martin’s one of his star biochemists, and an unmistakably cheesy odor hangs over the festivities. When Emma calls the whole thing off in a fit of pique, it’s up to the player characters to ensure the couple are forced back onto the path of happiness.

With unforgettable (and unforgivable) player characters such as Jean-Philippe Cabot, heir to a French goat-cheese empire and ex of the bride, hell-bent on winning her back; Tom Sharpe, the regulation drunken uncle. He rambles. He drones. He drinks. He bores you to tears. And an eccentric, snobbish food critic eying a high-paid consultancy in the father-of-the-bride’s company. Amongst these figures you must find a way to bring the happy couple back together or destroy them completely, it’s up to you.

Stock #: PELK04D Author: Gareth Hanrahan
Artist:Hilary Wade & Jerome Huguenin Pages: 16 pg PDF


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