The BORELLUS CONNECTION manuscript was too nightmarish and vast to be constrained by any binding our printer could conceive; therefore, we were obliged to remove some material from the book. It’s preserved here as a series of Page XX articles. As Orne’s mysterious correspondent in Philadelphia warned us, “no Part must be missing if the finest Effects are to be had”; therefore, we have categorised these cuttings as FINEST EFFECTS.

All materials tagged FINEST EFFECTS are Handler’s Eyes Only – prospective players of the Borellus Connection campaign are instructed not to read these articles.

Over the course of the Borellus Connection, the players come into contact with the outer fringes of Orne’s criminal network, and follow the connections until they reach Orne himself. If the players follow the clues in individual missions without realising the wider context, they’ll get to that terrible confrontation at the end of the campaign. However, ambitious players may wish to investigate the network between operations. Orne’s paranoia about detection means that digging up clues is extremely difficult – witnesses disappear, safehouses vanish overnight, arrested crooks either keep silent or die mysteriously in prison – but you can use these background investigations to foreshadow upcoming elements of the campaign (“you pick up a rumour about some German gunman called de Kleist who shot up a Turkish smuggling ring a few years ago – he may be connected to Orne”) or give the players alternate entry vectors to operations.

Another possible line of inquiry is the mostly-defunct Order of Almousin-Metraton, the occult secret society of necromancers.

Investigating the Network

Accounting: The French Connection launders its profits in Nassau, then deposits them in accounts in Switzerland and Lebanon. When Orne needs to spend his drug money to further his occult research or bodysnatching schemes, he either gets an advance from local drug lords (“give my servant two thousand dollars now, and I’ll ensure you get an added heroin shipment straight from Marseile next month”), or taps his funds in the Lebanese banks. Accounting can follow the money.

Criminology identifies the various gangs and criminal syndicates with their fingers in the opium trade, giving clues about local groups who might be involved in Orne’s schemes. Combined with Streetwise, it’s good for gathering rumours about shadowy players and sinister, occult-tinged enforcers like Charrière.

Pharmacy can be used to test heroin purity. Most heroin, even before it’s cut for sale, reaches only 70% purity; the French Connection’s old chemist, Joseph Cesari, was known as ‘Mr. 98%’ for his exceedingly good product. Orne, if he put his mind to it, could do even better, but he often experiments with his product (see Essential Smack, p. XX), so a purity of around 90% indicates Orne-made junk.

Traffic Analysis lets the Agents track drug shipments; they can guess how often shipments are made, trace legitimate chemical purchasers, work out when local jugglers will run out of product and have to obtain more from distributors, or correlate international arrivals with sudden activity in the distribution network, giving clues about the smuggling methods used by the network.

Investigating the Order

Art or Archaeology spots old signs of the Order in places. Portraits of scholars or great thinkers might have the distinctive A/M sigil hidden somewhere in the painting, or scratched on their tombs. (If the ascending node is slightly larger, that indicates that the subject was once an initiate of the Order. If the descending node is larger, the subject’s saltes were taken by a Brother and are available for trade.)

Architecture can identify common traits that recur, regardless of the local style of building or the age of the structure – extensive underground cellars, drains for disposal of failed experiments, secret doors, star-windows in high attic rooms.

Occult recalls rumours of a secret society that’s supposed to include every famous mind in history as members.

  • The society’s ultimate goal is, depending on the writer, to uncover the secrets of the past, to achieve union with God, or to bring about future enlightenment

Traffic Analysis orCriminology applied to the above clues concludes that the Order of Almousin-Metatron consists of at least two groups – low-ranking hangers-on and associates who operate on a purely local level, but copy the symbols and rituals of the Order to proclaim how connected they are, and an inner higher-ranking cabal that doesn’t need to show off as much.

 

 

a Night’s Black Agents adventure seed, by Adam Gauntlett

The Sacred Temple of the Paparo, founded in Naples, 1579, by three noble daughters of Giovanni Paparo, has been abandoned by those supposed to care for it. Once bedecked with ornaments and liberally endowed with treasures, it has been ransacked in recent years, down to the last candlestick. Now it is an empty shell, four walls and a waterlogged roof.

If only the dead stayed quiet …

The Director should pick and choose which elements she feels are useful.

Ways in:

  • The Paparo Foundation shares responsibility for the Sacred Temple with the Municipality of Naples. One of the trustees of the Foundation, Emiliano Paparo, has recently been caught in an antiquities smuggling sting in France. The odd thing is, when arrested he had several vampire blocks on him, and according to the arresting officers he became very agitated when they were taken away.
  • An English firm, Canter Antiques and Salvage, has been caught with several artefacts belonging to the church, and the Carabinieri are pressing for the extradition of the head of the firm, Maggie Canter, to answer charges of theft and antiquity smuggling.
  • An important figure with connections either to the Church, historical study or spiritualism (the Psychic, Online Mystic, Medievalist, Enigmatic Monsignor), goes missing and is found, dazed and confused, several days later at the church. This person has no idea how they got there, or where they were during the missing time.

History of the Sacred Temple

The conservatory with attached church is dedicated to the liturgical celebration of the Presentation of Mary at the temple, as depicted in the Protoevangelium of James. The feast day celebrates the birth of Mary, destined to become the mother of Jesus. It was home to many wonders, including rich furnishings, tapestries, mosaic flooring, a Caravaggio painting, and over seven hundred altars.

All of these have been stolen. The worst damage came from a 1993 smash-and-grab raid, but there have been plenty of robberies since. A fire in 2012 and a ceiling collapse due to water damage in 2014 sealed the deal. Now there’s nothing left but the four walls and façade. Even the mosaic floor has been dug up and stolen, to decorate some mafia boss’ mansion.

  • Archaeology, Architecture, Law and Streetwise, Core: This is nothing new. Naples’ proud history and at least a third of its magnificent churches have been ransacked, particularly over the last two decades.
  • Architecture, Law, Streetwise, Cop Talk 1 point: the Sottosulolo tunnels run under the Temple, and there’s supposed to be an access point somewhere in the crypt. One of the raids on the church came from underground, Camorra thugs stealing altars and statues of the Virgin, only to be murdered as they emerged from the tunnels two streets away, presumably by rivals.
  • Archaeology, Architecture, 1 point: The layout of the main hall is distinctive, and among its peculiar signature points is a whispering gallery, with two parabolic dishes used to create the effect. Anything said in that church can be heard by anyone in the church. Nobody knows why the church was designed this way, except that it was at the specific instruction of the church’s three noble founders.
  • Vampirology, 1 point: After the 2012 fire, when damage assessors tried to work out whether the building could be saved, three so-called vampire skulls were found in the damaged crypt. Each had a brick stuffed in their mouths, to prevent them biting others. Preliminary study suggested all three were female. The skulls were stolen soon afterward, and have never resurfaced.

What Do They Want?

Supernatural

The Temple was once, and still is, home to three Strix, linked to the Paparo family by blood and custom. The Temple was built to honor them, and in exchange the Strix promoted and protected the Paparo. Time passed, rituals and honors were forgotten, and the Strix became angrier by the decade. The Temple’s recent misfortunes are a direct result of this fit of supernatural pique. The Strix want the Paparo destroyed.

Damned

The three Paparo noblewomen became damned vampires, and built the Temple in their own honor. They perverted the honors due to Mary, directing it to their own glory. However they were put down in the 1600s, their remains hidden in the crypts below the temple. Without their protection, the Temple faded, collapsing altogether in recent years. One of the Paparo has been resurrected, and is looking for her sisters. She wants her sisters back, and her Temple restored.

Alien

The Paparo women intended the Temple as a vampire/Renfield detection and imprisonment system, which is why those Architectural anomalies exist. They wanted to protect Naples, and encouraged their descendants to do the same. Edom has an architectural study of the Temple in its archives, for that reason. It featured in several Gladio operations, before its unofficial decommission in 1980.  The vampires want to completely deactivate the Temple, and discourage any further study.

Mutant

One of the Paparo family became afflicted, and the Temple was built as a home for that dissident family member. There are hidden secrets in the crypt that throw further light on that family history. The vampire abandoned the temple shortly after the War, but still considers it part of her territory and will be annoyed at any incursion.

Telluric

The worst of the damage can be traced to a 1980 start point: the Iripina Earthquake, November 23rd. It undermined the structure of the building, and caused a dispute between the Paparo Foundation and Naples Municipality over who had to pay to repair the Temple. It also awoke the vampire, possibly a Bride or a by-blow, imprisoned in the crypt. Since then it’s spent its time creating the Temple it wants to live in, and extending its control over the Neapolitan underworld by selling its antiquities (it considers the Temple its property).

Conflict: The Detti War

The Detti clan, part of the sprawling Camorra network that controls significant parts of Naples, has been part of the Conspiracy ever since that unfortunate raid via the Sottosulolo tunnels. The raiders fell foul of the vampires, which is why they were massacred shortly after exiting the tunnels. Their capitulation has, over the years, given the Detti new honors and success.

The Detti have become so successful, in fact, that they have tried to expand by incorporating a Nigerian drug gang, an offshoot of the Neo Black Movement. This brand new alliance fractured as soon as the Nigerians realized the Detti were in bed with vampires, as the Nigerians hate vampires like poison. Blood soon flowed, and many of the street battles center on the Temple. That’s where the Detti meet their vampire paymasters, and that’s what the Nigerians want to destroy once and for all. Streetwise or Network spends forges a relationship with the Nigerians, that can get the agents in on the ground floor on the next raid on the Detti.


Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In a perfect world, I’d work up to revealing the final cover for Book of the Underworld, telling the step-by-step story of how it came to be and finally whipping the sheet off the easel.

But that’s now how the internet works. So here’s the cover as painted by Lee Moyer using some original pencil sketches by Rich Longmore.

How It Came to Be

Like Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s earlier Book of Ages, Book of Demons, and Eyes of the Stone Thief, the upcoming Book of the Underworld is a pinwheel of unforgettable ideas that are great for gaming. One of the high-class problems of working with material this good is that I feel responsible for finding ways of creating covers that live up to Gareth’s writing.

Last year, we handled this responsibility for Book of Ages by using a team-up. It was the same team-up we’d used previously on the core book and the 13th Age GM screen. Aaron McConnell created wonderful pencils (reprinted inside in the section featuring the Grandmaster of Flowers, page 91) and Lee Moyer handled the paints.

That team-up wasn’t available for Book of the Underworld, and at first it didn’t look like I had a way of getting Lee in on the project. Gareth, developer J-M DeFoggi, and I had some fairly standard art suggestion ideas for what we might do for the cover. But when I say “fairly standard” I also mean that I didn’t think our ideas were particularly good or entirely practical.

So eventually I called Lee, intending to tell him our problem and see if he had a suggestion for a better path. Lee listened and then suggested a better path that he was willing to carve himself.

Lee sent over a layout of an obsidian shard, hung in webs, the sketch just below. Lee asked whether Rich Longmore could provide pencils for a few characters that Lee would use to populate the obsidian mirrors. Lee had enjoyed painting over Rich’s pencils on the Timewatch GM Screen so this was another team-up that had worked before.

I sent Rich notes that went something like this:

The plan is to have a magical blade of obsidian (or something!) held up by spider webs. The obsidian will reflect several faces and scenes related to the underworld.

You will create four pencil sketches that will get slices taken out of them as shown in the blue shards cut out of the obsidian in Lee’s comp. The sketches don’t have to complete, but they need to be somewhat bigger than the spaces so Lee can move ’em a bit. They don’t have to be inked. They also aren’t part of something happening right in front of the shard, it’s more like a magic mirror effect, Lee will take what you draw and distort it in the slab.

Rich was into it and we agreed on the characters/creatures to be sketched: drow warrior; dwarf warrior; giant spider; and soul flenser.

Here are Rich’s sketches. I wasn’t entirely clear on how these were going into the painting, so I couldn’t have approved them without confirming that they were what Lee was hoping for. Yep, as usual Rich hit it on the first try.

And then came the blessed period when Lee goes away, spends three or four times as many hours as he said he would spend on the project, and comes back with something finished and wonderful. For a change, Lee handled the fonts and text for the cover, I think that may actually have taken him as much work as the painting. We’ll put the Pelgrane logo in the bottom right corner and we’re done with another cover that lives up to its book.

The number one critique of GUMSHOE among those who have little or no experience of the system is that the investigative rules turn the scenario into a railroad, where the players blindly follow a predetermined series of clues – which, being an erudite regular reader of Page XX, you know is not true. Hot on its heels, though, is another complaint you may encounter with new players – that the point-spending aspect of general abilities means that there’s little difference between a supremely skilled character and an amateur over an extended fight.

If I’m a super-lethal spy, the best sniper in the world with a mighty 15 in Firearms, then that probably gives me at most five guaranteed hits (spending 3 points per attack, plus my die roll against a Hit Threshold of 4) – possibly fewer if the bad guys have cover or other advantages. After I spend all my points, I’m rolling a plain d6 for my attacks, just like the schlub next to me who has only a single point of Firearms.

Three arguments for the current rules:

  • You Don’t Need That Many Successes: In most general abilities, you rarely need to succeed multiple times in an adventure. One or two guaranteed successes in Stealth, Mechanics, Preparedness or Driving is often more than enough to overcome any challenge. Most General Abilities only get called once per session at most. This argument does fall down a little when it comes to combat abilities, but for most abilities, a higher pool does model the effect of higher competence.
  • You Can Refresh: Especially in games that allow refreshes in the middle of the action (Night’s Black Agents and moves like Technothriller Monologue, Timewatch and Stitches), a player can take action to get points back. Having the sniper have to spend a round describing how they move to get to a better firing position is more fun than yet another round of “I shoot, I hit”. Forcing the characters to rest and refresh to get their abilities back pushes the game towards a nice rhythm and gives a sense of time passing.
  • It’s More Interesting: Players tend to have higher pools than most of their opponents, so switching to a different ability is often an option. Out of Firearms? Grab a knife and start swinging with Weapons. Out of Driving in a chase scene? Then ditch the car and start parkouring with Athletics. Out of Preparedness? Start improvising with Mechanics.

However, if a prospective player remains obstinate, one compromise is to give a flat +1 bonus to all tests involving a general ability if a character has a rating of 8 or more in that ability. So, if you’ve got Firearms 8 or more, you get a +1 bonus to all Firearms rolls. That gives the super-experienced, super-competent gunman a permanent edge over the barely trained goon, but doesn’t distort the regular GUMSHOE point-spending mechanic too much, so the characters will still need to make spends, seek out refreshes and so on.

This added rule can be added straight into most GUMSHOE games; for games that already offer 8-rating cherries like Night’s Black Agents, offer the flat bonus as an alternative cherry.

In the latest episode of their double-double podcast, Ken and Robin talk regional word magic, Eco vs. Superman, the bane of werewolf movies, and the Dyatlov Pass Incident.

staring eyeA lot of us with a long history of d20 fantasy gaming have shiver-inducing memories of the first time a certain grinning, many-eyed monster absolutely demolished our group of adventurers. Sadly, that iconic monster isn’t available under the OGL; but the concept is so compelling that a lot of fantasy RPGs have taken it in interesting, non-copyright-violating directions.

When designing the overseer of the Eye Mother, my guiding principles were:

  • It’s a monster players love to hate and fear
  • Like a sadistic GM it sees everything the PCs do, and punishes them for their actions in highly specific ways designed to neutralize their strengths.
  • It prevents magic from working properly

In a stroke of luck, there were already horrifying eye-themed blasphemies in 13th Age: the fomori Daughters Of Dehothu, the Eye-Mother from the 13th Age Bestiary 2. This monster wouldn’t be powerful enough to be a true-fomori like the Daughters, but could be an intermediary between them and their servants—which fit nicely with the “punishing” concept.

I hope you enjoy the overseer of the Eye-Mother! Thanks to Rob Heinsoo for his feedback on the various drafts, and to the folks who playtested it: Tim Baker, J-M DeFoggi, Kenneth Hite, and the players in my home campaign.

(For his Poikila Hellenistika campaign, Ken reskinned it as as the animated eye and beak of a bas-relief of Ashur, tutelary god of the Assyrian Empire, and came up with the wonderfully evil spell theft nastier special.)

Overseer of the Eye Mother

Overseers of the Eye Mother are lesser true-fomori associated with Dehothu. These monstrous high priests and taskmasters ensure that cultists, unclean-ones, and fomorians do the fomori’s will, and they sadistically punish those who fail. Overseers are highly intelligent, and unlike other true-fomori, do not require a host.

Although the overseer is a large monster for the purposes of stats, there is never more than one overseer present in a battle—unless it’s an apocalyptic, campaign-ending climax where the skies are filled with squadrons of them, which would be frankly terrifying.

Overseer of the Eye-Mother

You hear the creature’s mocking laughter over your companions’ screams, as rays from the giant, glistening eyeballs that orbit its writhing, shapeless body strike them down one after another.

Large 9th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +16

C: Punishing gaze +15 vs. PD75 damage

Eye ray: After an enemy takes all its actions during their turn, they make a normal save (11+). If it fails, the overseer makes an eye ray attack against that enemy as a free action. The overseer can’t use the same eye ray effect twice in a single round. (See example at the end of the writeup.)

[special trigger] R: Eye ray +17 vs. PD (one nearby or far away enemy)

Hit: Choose the eye ray effect from the table below based on the actions of the target during that turn. For example, the overseer might use charm person on an enemy (such as a cleric or commander) that uses powers and spells to benefit their allies. It might use stun against an enemy with strong defenses, and disintegration or petrification against an enemy that’s really pissed it off.

  1. Charm person: the target is confused. It can’t make opportunity attacks or use limited powers, and its next attack action will be a basic or at-will attack against any nearby ally, determined randomly (11+ save ends).
  2. Slow: starting next round, the target goes last in initiative order, and can’t delay or ready an action. On a successful save (11+) the target returns to the previous initiative order.
  3. Fear: the target takes a –4 penalty to attacks and can’t use the escalation die (11+ save ends)
  4. Petrification: the target must start making last gasp saves as it turns to stone. See the 13th Age core book for detailed rules on last gasp saves. (Limited use: once per battle.)
  5. Stun: The target takes a –4 penalty to defenses and can’t take any actions (11+ save ends)
  6. Invisibility purge: If the target is invisible, it turns visible and cannot become invisible again this battle
  7. Transfer enchantment: If the overseer or a nearby ally is suffering from a condition caused by an enemy spell (or spell-like power or ability), the overseer can transfer one condition to the target. If timing is required, interpret the transferred condition as if the overseer had caused it with this attack.
  8. Disintegration: 75 damage, and attacks against the target have their crit range expanded by 2 (save ends). If the attack reduces the target to negative hit points equal to half its maximum hit points, the target is disintegrated along with everything on their person except true magic items. A merciful GM may decide that the target was actually teleported to a “phantom zone” type prison, and might still be rescued by the group—either by killing the overseer, convincing it to release the character, or going wherever the overseer sent that character.
    • Miss: 35 damage

Anti-magic aura: When a nearby or far-away enemy uses a spell attack against the overseer, they must roll twice to attack and use the lower result unless one of the rolls is a critical hit. Anti-magic aura and the sorcerer’s spell frenzy cancel each other out: sorcerers roll a single die to attack.

Hovering flight: The overseer drifts through the air like an enormous soap bubble.

Go for the eyes!: When an enemy makes a critical hit against the overseer, one of its eyes is destroyed and the overseer loses a random eye ray effect. If an enemy declares it is aiming for an eye, a successful hit does not decrease the overseer’s hit point total—instead it destroys the eye, causing the overseer to lose a randomly-chosen eye ray effect. If all its eyes are destroyed, the overseer cannot use eye ray again until it has regrown them after a month or two.

Made of eyes: The overseer can’t be surprised or ambushed, and it has true sight (spells like blur, invisibility, etc. don’t work on it).

Uncanny willpower: If the confused condition is applied to the overseer, the overseer rolls a save at the end of each turn in which it acts, including when it makes an eye rays attack. In addition, the hampered condition does not prevent the overseer from using eye rays.

Nastier Specials

Eye theft: When a nearby or far-away creature (enemy, ally, or bystander) is staggered, it begins to feel as if its eyes are being pulled out by an invisible force. It takes a –1 penalty to hit and damage. Enemies that die in the presence of the overseer do indeed have their eyes sucked out as it absorbs the eyeballs.

Spell theft: As a standard action during its turn, the overseer can cast any failed spell attack made against it as a steal spell attack.

[special trigger] R: Steal spell +15 vs. the defense in the original spell—if the spell does damage, the target takes 75 damage of the type described. If the original spell does ongoing damage, the target takes 10 ongoing damage of the type described. The target suffers any conditions described in the spell description.

 

AC 25

PD 23    HP 360

MD 23

Tactics

The oveseer has zero interest in mixing it up in melee combat with heroes, whom it views as scurrying insects to be tormented for its amusement. It hovers at a distance, letting fomori cultists (unclean-ones, kobolds, troglodytes, orcs, and so forth) to fight and die while it uses punishing gaze and eye ray. The overseer has a strong sense of self-preservation and attempts to leave the battle as soon as it looks like there’s a real chance it might be killed. If possible, it takes an enemy confused by the charm person ray with it as a hostage.

An example of the overseer in combat:

  1. A cleric, a rogue, and a wizard face off against an overseer in a temple ruin. The rogue goes first in order of initiative, and makes a ranged attack against the overseer for 20 damage. At the end of the rogue’s turn, the player rolls a saving throw and fails. The overseer makes a successful eye ray attack against the rogue as a free action. The overseer wants to slow the rogue down, so it uses the slow ray.
  2. The cleric goes next in initiative order and invokes the domain of strength. The cleric then casts javelin of faith and hits the overseer for 30 damage. At the end of the cleric’s turn, that player rolls a saving throw, and fails. The overseer makes an eye ray attack against the cleric (only one, even though the cleric took multiple actions during their turn). The overseer uses its petrification ray to gradually turn the cleric into stone.
  3. The wizard goes next, and casts acid arrow at the overseer. Due to the overseer’s anti-magic aura the wizard rolls twice and uses the lower result. The wizard’s attack misses. At the end of the wizard’s turn the player rolls a saving throw and succeeds. The overseer does not make an eye ray attack against the wizard on that turn.
  4. The overseer goes next. Because this overseer has the nastier special magic theft, it casts the wizard’s failed acid arrow at the rogue. The rogue takes 75 points of damage, and will take 10 ongoing damage on their next turn.
  5. A new round begins. Because of the slow ray’s effect, the rogue goes last instead of first this round.
  6. The cleric moves to engage the overseer and makes a successful hammer of faith attack. It’s a critical hit, and does significant damage. The overseer makes an eye ray attack and, enraged at this affront, chooses disintegration.
  7. The cleric, now staggered and vulnerable, fails their last gasp save and continues to turn into stone.
  8. The players announce that they wish to flee the battle.

Image by Anna Langova.


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.

In the latest episode of their sleek-maned podcast, Ken and Robin talk the exasperated GM trope, everyday historical lives, Ellie Akers, and Brother XII.

Elven Towers

Recover the hidden power of the Elf Queen!

Ages ago, when the elves were still united as one, the Elf Queen locked away a portion of her power in a magical vault. In hindsight, this may not have been a good idea; in the chaotic 13th Age, it has turned out to be a terrible idea.

Over time, the original elven guardians of the vault’s keys have been stealthily defeated or corrupted; and now the keys to the Elf Queen’s power are hidden in three magical towers—one for each of the three elven peoples—and the elves themselves cannot pierce their defenses.

What to do? Summon heroes, of course! Glory, riches, and power will surely flow to those who answer the Elf Queen’s call . . . or perhaps to those who want her power for their own icons.

Elven Towers is a champion tier 13th Age adventure for 3 to 6 adventurers by Cal Moore (High Magic & Low Cunning, The Crown Commands; Fire and Faith). It includes plotlines and options for adventures throughout the Queen’s Wood, with multiple elven-themed encounters you can use in any campaign.

Format: Print and PDF
Author: Cal Moore
Developers: John-Matthew DeFoggi, Rob Heinsoo
Status: In development

Adventure in the City of Swords!

Axis, mighty capital of the Dragon Empire! Here, the markets flow with goods and gold, ambitious nobles rise and fall within the Emperor’s court, knives flash in reeking alleys, and gladiators’ weapons clash to the roar of crowds—while the metallic dragons who guard the Empire watch over it all.

Your band of heroes has come here seeking opportunity, a chance to make a name for yourselves and earn some coin. Axis has work for your kind: armed, dangerous, and willing to enter the tunnels beneath an old gladiatorial arena to confront whatever’s been killing the workers there. But any blade drawn, spell cast, or gold piece stolen in Axis might cause ripples that spread in unexpected ways—maybe even as far as the palaces of the Emperor.

Crown of Axis is an upcoming introductory 13th Age adventure for 1st level heroes by Wade Rockett (Temple of the Sun Cabal, 13th Age Game Master’s Screen and Resource Book). It can be played as a one-shot or as the start of a campaign, and is customizable based on characters’ icon relationships.

Format: PDF
Author: Wade Rockett
Developers: Rob Heinsoo, John-Matthew DeFoggi
Cover: Aaron McConnell
Status: In development

Revising your writing requires acute concentration. The first draft may be an act of pure creation, but when you start to patch it up, any tool that can assist your weary brain warrants consideration, no matter how mechanical it may seem.

Almost every writer’s first draft includes stylistic bugaboos that need to be hunted down and eliminated.

For example, you may know that you occasionally:

  • confuse “their” and “there”

  • overuse dashes or quotation marks

  • use “affect” when you mean “effect”

Nearly any manuscript can use a scrub for unnecessary uses of the word “that.” Half the time you need it to retain sense or rhythm. The other half, it’s just sitting there, killing the rhythm of your sentence. Scrutinize each appearance.

In roleplaying writing, when describing hypothetical actions of characters or objects in a game session, you can almost always strike the word “will” and then tighten further:

The truck will come barreling out of the alley at the investigators.

Becomes…

The truck barrels out of the alley at the investigators.

To mention another issue I always go on about, you may know that you use too many inactive verbs: “is”, “are”, and “be.”

Either through an editor or with the aid of a word cloud generator, you may have discovered that you over-rely on certain words or phrases. (Which words pass muster and which you ought to trim is a bigger subject, so for the sake of this discussion let’s stipulate that you’ve identified the words and phrases you want to ration.)

Bugaboos of whatever sort easily slip past the eye when revising. You place them in your document unconsciously. They can remain equally invisible to you when reviewing . Force yourself to see them by using the formatting feature of your word processor’s search and replace feature to highlight each instance of the word or phrase you’re looking for. Search and replace in both Word and LibreOffice* allows you not only to find instances of formatting, but also to add it where none exists. So if you’re looking for all instances of “that”, search for “that” (no formatting) and replace with “that” (highlighted.) Before beginning the revision in earnest, repeat the process for each bugaboo you want to spot.

As you comb through your text, your selected errors and problems jump out at you in blazing yellow. This makes it harder to mentally screen out the stuff you’re looking for.

Is this annoying? Yes, and that’s a plus. After a while you’ll have cut or un-highlighted so many instances of your target word or phrase that you might just rewire your brain so you make that mistake less frequently during the initial draft phrase.

Editors love writers who show progress by overcoming their familiar bugaboos. Using a trick to get there doesn’t count as cheating. And even if it did, they’d love you all the same.


*Google Docs, deliberately feature-light, does not provide for this. Yet another reason why nothing you write for professional publication should be composed exclusively on Google Docs. It’s fine for first draft, if you find it convenient, but when readying for submission you need the formatting capabilities of an actual word processor.

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