In the latest episode of their scrappy but determined podcast, Ken and Robin talk underdog opponents, the Sandby Borg massacre, All Rolled Up’s Fil Baldowski, and lunar metal.

Just before Christmas, I finished off the first part of my home campaign of THE YELLOW KING. We’re running it at a fairly fast pace (we’re alternating sessions with Warhammer in deference to the sensibilities of players who want to hit things with swords), and with only a limited number of sessions, I based virtually all the adventures around the player’s Deuced Peculiar Things.

It’s useful to my mind to think of YELLOW KING scenario planning as a grid. Along the top, you’ve got the array of Carcosan characters and tropes – The King, his Daughters, the play, the Yellow Sign, Castaigne, Mr. Wilde, black stars, madness – and any elements from the current sequence (Parisian political and artistic intrigue, the Continental War, the overthrow of the Castaign regime etc). Along the side, you’ve got the prompts provided by your players as Deuced Peculiar Things. You dig for horror and mystery where those lines cross.

So, my players gave me:

  • Chester: I met an enchanting man in a bar, we shared a night of passion, but I woke up in bed to discover I was lying next to a woman, who left without a word.
  • Sillerton: I dreamed I was at a strange party in a chateau outside Paris; when I investigated, I learned that the chateau burned down many years ago.
  • Ada: My brother Theo has vanished and no-one else – not even my other brother Chester – remembers he ever existed.
  • Reggie: My cat had a litter of kittens, but they came out as this ghastly congealed mass of conjoined bodies and limbs, a sort of feline centipede.
  • Dorian: I saw L’Inconnue de la Seine, and chased her into an entrance to the catacombs.

While I could have started with any of these, I picked Reggie and his cat-monster for two reasons. First, it’s the most immediate problem – three of the others are weird encounters, and Theo’s been missing for some time (and felt more like a long-running plot than a trigger event), whereas Reggie’s catipede was right there (well, right there in a bag, as they hammered it to death very quickly). Second, cats give me a link right to Mr. Wilde from the Repairer of Reputations (the mania he had for keeping that cat and teasing her until she flew at his face like a demon, was certainly eccentric. I never could understand why he kept the creature, nor what pleasure he found in shutting himself up in his room with this surly, vicious beast.”)

Carcosan Hybrids

So, what’s the crossing point? What Carcosan element might Reggie’s cat intersect with. A flip through the Paris book gave me the matagot (p. 159), a supernatural Carcosan spy in the shape of a cat. Maybe Reggie’s pet cat mated with a Carcosan entity, and that spawned the malformed catipede?

That worked – and instantly gave me a horrible consequence to play with. If mating with a Carcosan entity creates some sort of hideous hybrid… and Chester slept with a mysterious shapeshifter…

But if I was going to make hybrids a big part of the plot, I needed a reason for them to exist. The cat might be a random encounter, but why would some Carcosan courtier take the time to sleep with Chester? I went with the concept of anchors in our reality, which let me bring in the dreadful play and foreshadow stuff that’ll come up in the Aftermath sequence. So, Carcosa needs to get its hooks into reality. It starts with the infiltration of a concept, a malign thought – the play. As the play corrupts reality, it allows the establishment of stronger anchors, allowing Carcosan entities to cross over physically. They then create even stronger anchors, bootstrapping an invasion.

Living Statues

Dorian’s encounter with the mysterious inconnue connected to this plot too. L’Inconnue died in the 1880s, so she must have been a ghost, an illusion or some other supernatural weirdness. I decided to loop in both the art world and another of Chamber’s tales, the Mask. If there’s a mysterious fluid that turns flesh to stone, then maybe the same fluid could turn stone to flesh. The girl with the familiar face was a statue brought to life using Carcosan chemistry. Why? Because these living statues were the middle-stage anchor – host bodies of pseudo-flesh used like space-suits by Carcosan nobles in the period before they could manifest in all their glory.

The Cult of the Yellow Sign

So, there was still a gap in my cosmology – if the existence of the play in a given reality corrupts it enough for Carcosan weirdness to filter in, and if Carcosan weirdness gets worse as the King’s court establishes stronger anchors and invades, where did the play come from in the first place? I still had two Deuced Peculiar Things to play with – the vanished brother, and the mysterious party.

I came up with a sketched-out occult society who experimented with telepathy, spiritualism and other weirdness, the Society Jaune, who accidentally made contact with the King and saw the Yellow Sign. Theo fell into the clutches of survivors of this cult, and wrote the play after exposure to the Sign. A twist of temporal weirdness through Carcosa let me shove Theo out of linear time and back to the burning of the cult chateau during the Siege of Paris.

The View From The Cheap Seats

Obviously, slotting Deuced Peculiar Thing A into Carcosan Motif Y is only part of the adventure-design. Just because I knew that, say, a crazed sculptor was creating statues and bringing them to life in the catacombs didn’t mean I had a full adventure ready to go. All this technique gave me was a set of Alien Truths to build adventures around. However, keeping everything strongly connected to the players’ Deuced Peculiar Things and the most significant bits of the Yellow King Mythos let me give the players a whistlestop tour of Dread Carcosa while giving satisfying answers to all their Deuced Peculiar prompts.

The Wars start next week. Check back in a few months to see how that turns out…

“They say much of blood and bloom, and of others which I comprehend not, though I guess what they mean; but nevertheless they tell us all things which we want to know.”

— Abraham Van Helsing, in Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Through the persons of writer-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the BBC (and its pals at Netflix) has vouchsafed to us in this year of our Lord 2020 yet another tilt at the Dracula windmill, this time in a three-episode limited series. (Hereafter, “D2020“. Also hereafter, spoilers.) The specific merits of this iteration aside (which include a rich, Hammer-inspired camera palette and a credibly terrifying Dracula when he shuts up) it also — as with every version of Dracula, or of Dracula — provides a fair few gameable spins on the myth, and on vampires. For example, the bite of D2020 Dracula creates revenants (they look like zombies, but probably use mostly Feral stats (NBA, p. 150)); only a few of his victims survive Infection with enough personality to become true self-willed vampires themselves. The many, many boxes and crates (and habitrails, and fridges) of ferals work very effectively on screen, and likely works well at the table — it makes those warehouse fights more interesting, that’s for sure.

So let’s settle in and dip our fingers in the BBC’s goblet, shall we?

Dracula, hungry for learning

New Power: Drain Knowledge

When Dracula drinks any blood from a human in D2020, he knows their name and something of their background almost immediately. When he drains them, he picks up their entire knowledge base, possibly even including physical skills. (In episode 3, he complains of the taste of a physicist and a professional tennis player.) His language patterns shift, and he even (briefly) picks up a meaningless exercise habit from modern Londoners. Even by smell, he can detect members of a familiar bloodline and something about them.

Vampires with Drain Knowledge gain immediate, surface knowledge of any human whose blood they taste. A big sip (at least 1 Health) gives them the equivalent of a 0-point spend, or a few minutes’ Google search: name, background, emotional state, family connections, etc. Bigger drinks burrow deeper, uncovering closely held secrets; when the amount of Health consumed equals the target’s Stability (or kills the target), the vampire knows every aspect of the target’s thoughts and memories, including buried traumas or brainwashed secrets. (An Agent can resist giving up a secret with a successful Stability test against a Difficulty equal to 4+ their lost Health.) Even a quick gulp (2+ Health drained) provides language and social skills that allow the vampire to briefly blend into the target’s society (the equivalent of 1 point in High Society or Reassurance or another relevant Interpersonal ability); completely draining a suitable target provides technical skills if needed (e.g., a Transylvanian warlord can suddenly use Skype). As a rule of thumb, each point of Health drained past the first provides the equivalent of 1 point in an ability.

In D2020, this seems like a free (almost unavoidable) power; if the vampire can control it, it costs 1 point of Aberrance per target or per scene.

Node: The Jonathan Harker Foundation

The third episode also shares a liter or two of DNA with The Dracula Dossier, not least its covert vampirological operation. In D2020, this secretive medical charity operates out of (and beneath) Cholmely House, a crumbling Victorian building in Whitby near the Abbey ruins. Named for the dead fiancée of Mina Murray, built on the infrastructure of the nuns’ order at the Hospital of St. Joseph and Ste. Mary (DH, p. 230), and backed by mysterious financiers, it conducts hematological research and searches for the body of Dracula, presumed lost at sea with the Demeter. Its staff includes doctors and mercenaries, and its facilities include a glass-walled prison with a remote-controlled sun roof.

EDOM: Obviously, this was the first version of the vampire prison, before EDOM built the holding facilities on HMS Proserpine. In some campaigns, this might be the only vampire prison, or a staging area for Proserpine transfers (DH, p. 178). This also fits a much smaller version of EDOM (even Dustier or more Mirrored than on EFM p. 58), one that has to contract out mercenaries (via a shell corporation) for security instead of depending on the SAS’ E Squadrons. Either way, its guards use the Special Operations Soldiers stats (NBA, p. 70).

CIA: Or the Russians, or the Chinese, or whomever. Some other agency runs the Harker Foundation, tasked to steal a march on EDOM by trawling the seas off Whitby for lost vampires — either prisoners escaping from Proserpine, or vampirized sailors from the Demeter crawling anoxically over the bottom of the North Sea. Or perhaps, as speculated on DH p. 178, Whitby is one of the magical gates to England, so anyone looking to snare a vampire does well to set up shop here. Either way, they have to keep things to one building and use deniable mercs to avoid MI5 or EDOM noticing.

Conspiracy: Boy, Dracula got ahold of a WiFi-enabled tablet pretty easily in that show, didn’t he? What looks like an idiot plot is actually the action of Dracula’s sleeper agents, left behind in Whitby to infiltrate just such a facility. He funds it through cut-outs, and allows it to operate on the “keep your enemies closer” school of thought, and as a way to release useful blood samples or lore into the British medical stream.

Connections: At one point, the Foundation canonically has a Vial of Blood (only a single tube rather than the jar on DH p. 284), and a Legacy (Zoë Helsing instead of Dr. Jacqueline Seward (DH, p. 47) but you can switch those out). Given the number of vampiric revenants lying around (nine in Highgate Cemetery alone), the Foundation may have synthesized any of the Seward Serum (DH, p. 51), Serum V (DH, p. 162), Blomberg Serum (DH, p. 282), or Luria Formula (DH, p. 114). If it’s EDOM, it’s part of Dr. Drawes’ operation (DH, p. 50); it may also employ the Pharmaceutical Researcher (DH, p. 128). Its charity work could overlap or partner with Heal the Children (DH, p. 150). Its mysterious backer might be the venture capital group (or government black budget) behind Nox Therapeutics (DH, p. 162), which might have memos or (apparently) even regular Skype session logs documenting their connection. Since we know it runs human trials on the surface, its tunnels potentially even hold Camp Midnight (DH, p. 252) or the British (or private-sector) equivalent. Given its connections to the Budapest hospital, the Hungarian (DH, p. 94) likely knows enough to set Agents (or the Journalist; DH, p. 120) on its trail.


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 the latest installment of their well-rounded and informative podcast, Ken and Robin talk resource refreshing, the espionage career of the inventor of the pie chart, Earthdawn, and Gustavus Aldophus.

“I could but tell them how I had just emerged from dungeon and jacket in the morning, and without rhyme or reason, so far as I could discover, had been put back in the dungeon after being out only several hours.”

— Jack London, The Star Rover

The only problem with dungeon crawls is there aren’t enough of them. I don’t mean that in a lived-experience sense, or even in a per-game sense. I mean, when you’re running a 13th Age game, as I have been for a good while now, there just aren’t enough dungeon crawls available that fit: a) your party’s level; and b) the general parameter of where the campaign sits at the moment. To say nothing of the paucity of dungeon crawls set in the Hellenistic-era Seleucid Empire, but I admit I’ve pretty much made my own bed in that particular case.

Don’t get me wrong: the dungeon crawls we do have are great! If your characters are ready for them, go right ahead and toss them into the maw of a living dungeon and wait for the chewing to commence! But any given dungeon, no matter how great, might not be right for your campaign, or at least not right now. For more impromptu encounters, I have put the Battle Scenes books to good use everywhere from a volcano in Sicily to Mt. Hermon in Coele-Syria to a dusty provincial capital in Parthia, but they’re necessarily somewhat open-ended and thus require a bit of chivvying the PCs that a good old “march down there and kill ’em” dungeon doesn’t.

A really great 13th Age dungeon. Everyone says so.

Fortunately, there are approximately eight billion other dungeon adventures available for Those Other F20 RPGs, and after a bit of skeptical poking I have become a total convert to totally converting them to 13th Age. And by “totally converting,” I mean, “doing just enough.” (If you want to see Whoa Plenty Converting the other direction, allow me to point you at Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s 5e conversion of Eyes of the Stone Thief.) Let me provide you guidance on such enough-ness, by way of three examples from my own campaign.

For the first dungeon, the characters were 4th level, in Ephesus in Asia Minor. I knew I wanted a drowned city, as Lysimachus drowned Old Ephesus by re-routing a river in 292 BC. (In my history, it was a siege; in our history, it was exuberant urban renewal.) On the advice of Will Hindmarch, I converted Dragons of Despair, an AD&D 2e adventure (Levels 4-6) by Tracy Hickman (the first of the Dragonlance series) to the city of Old Ephesus. For the second dungeon, I needed a fire temple, as my players (by now 6th level) were headed to the Zoroastrian shrine Adur Gushnasp to recover their occultist and the Ark of the Covenant, which the duplicitous Persian magus Gaspar had stolen with a dimension door. At Dark Side Comics & Games in Sarasota I thumbed through all the Pathfinder adventures (on the grounds that a fire temple should be jam packed with Stuff) until Legacy of the Impossible Eye (for 11th level PCs) fell into my hands. At ChupacabraCon in Austin, meanwhile, I had picked up a pretty cheap copy of the original AD&D 1e Against the Giants compilation, and I confess to planting the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (for Levels 8-12) deliberately in the (7th level) characters’ path on Mount Kaukasos. So, how did I do it, and how can you? Easy, that’s how.

Step One in dungeon conversion: Find a module that fits where your characters are already going. This might just be “a dungeon,” if they’re that kind of wandering monster-killers, but in my case it needed to be a drowned city and a fire temple. I just held on to the glacial rift until the PCs decided to go gather Prometheus’ blood from the top of Mount Kaukasos, and turned it into the “front door” of the mountain.

Step Two in dungeon conversion: Convert or replace the monsters. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. First, most dungeons only use a few monsters, and many of them already have direct 13th Age versions. Second, 13th Age monsters are very easy to shift up or down the scale if need be. As it was, for example, I took the Dragonmen and Gully Dwarves from Dragons of Despair and made them Drakonae (blackscale kroma dragonics) and Khudi (my Greekified name for c.h.u.d.s, but using kobold stats). Frost giants are pretty much frost giants, so no swapping required. I did swap Indian giants, or Daitvas (re-skinned ogre magi), in for the fire giant ambassadors in the original G2, mostly because we’d just had a lot of fire giants in Legacy. Swap (or stat) out as many as you think the players will encounter that session, or do it all at once if you’re fancy. I didn’t change numbers appearing, treasure (except to cut back on permanent items in favor of gold or healing etc. potions), or traps, because a dungeon is supposed to be pretty grueling. Well, I lie; I added a garrison to the fire temple in Legacy, since it was supposed to be active not abandoned, but I left everything else in place, just changing “former council chamber” to “council chamber” and the like.

Step Three in dungeon conversion: Find the “special thing” in the dungeon and replace it with whatever your PCs are looking for. In Dragons, it’s the Disks of Mishkal; they became the Tablets of Cadmus, the first writing. Also I put the mummified Queen Thalestris of the Amazons (and her Sword) in an otherwise empty chamber because the Amazon PC needed something special, and Ephesus has always been an Amazon city so an ancient queen mummy fits in. The temple in Legacy came with a prison (for the occultist) and a treasury (for the Ark instead of the Eye), so that was easy. The giants are just there to man the killing gauntlet in G2, and the exit is the special thing, so it became the passage to Prometheus’ cave.

And that, can you believe it, is literally it. If you’ve ever run dungeons before, you’ll find all the old reflexes coming back: add wandering monsters, tangle with the PCs like the inhabitants would under attack, use the terrain tactically, make the players work for those empty rooms where they can get a little rest. You don’t even have to sweat levels if you don’t want to: 13th Age characters are insanely robust compared to D&D hobos, so even twice the level isn’t really stretching it. Remember, monster conversion has already done most of the work up-gunning the dungeon, and traps aren’t supposed to be a thing in 13th Age. So delve into those used module bins, and escalate without fear.


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.

A previous article outlined an alternate campaign frame for Ashen Stars. Here’s a worked example. (The inspiration for this example, by the way, came from an episode of 99% Invisible about the Great Bitter Lake Association.)

In the Ashen Stars setting, ships travel fast-than-light along translight corridors. The largest starships – massive industrial supercarriers, mobile refineries, and bulk cargo freighters – are too large to pass through some corridors. At the height of the Combine’s reach, titanic tachyonic buttresses artificially widened the corridors, allowing these great ships to move through otherwise impassable routes.

Then came the war. The buttresses were prime targets for Mohilar raiders, and many were destroyed.

In the wild space of the Bleed, the destruction of the C97-Kraken buttress trapped a fleet of a dozen megaships in the Gallereid system. Rebuilding the buttress is definitely on the Combine’s to-do list, but it won’t happen for years. In the meantime, the fleet is stuck. It’s cheaper for the megacorps to pay for security and a skeleton crew to monitor the trapped ships than it is to transfer the cargos to smaller ships. So, the Gallereid fleet waits there in deep space, slowly succumbing to entropy, their hulls turning yellow as sulphur particles from the nearby volcanic moon accrete…

What’s The Scope?

The action’s centred on the ‘Yellow Fleet’ of stranded metaships
, with occasional jaunts to the moons of Gallerus. The ships include:

  • Kullervos: A severely damaged Combine warship, on her way back to be decommissioned and scrapped. A skeleton crew of loyal Cybes consider her their home.
  • Blue Haven: During the war, the Combine world of Azura was evacuated aboard the Blue Haven. Before they could reach the Combine, the ship got stuck here. The passengers have long since been decamped to other worlds, including the Gallereid moons, but the Blue Haven is still full of personal items and equipment salvaged from Azura.
  • Northwind: A mining ship, full of valuable ores and mining equipment.
  • Costaguana: Northwind’s sister ship – a mobile refinery.

 Key nearby locations include

  • Bitterness: The hellish volcano moon the fleet orbits.
  • New Azura: A mining world. Before the war, the Northwind and Costaguana chewed up most of New Azura, turning it into a wasteland; now, many of the refugees from the Blue Haven have been moved there, into the mining tunnels.
  • Gallereid Prime: The most habitable of the moons, home to a Bleedist settlement.

Why Here?

The Lasers are here to protect the Yellow Fleet from thieves, raiders, quarrelling crews and other threats.

Who Are The Factions?

Key factions:

  • BVS Incorporated: The corporation responsible for managing and maintaining the fleet, while they wait for the replacement Tachyon Buttress to be installed.
  • Scrubbers: The underpaid, bored, and increasingly troublesome crew of techs responsible for maintaining, effectively, 15 giant space cities.
  • Monks of the Yellow Oracle: Eccentric monastic nu-faith that many of the scrubbers have joined. They claim to be able to see the future in the sulphur clouds.
  • Cybes: The cyborg crew of the Kullervos, who object to their homeship being decommissioned. Some want to purchase the ship, and have become mercenaries to earn some extra credits.
  • Gallereid Bleedists: Denizens of Gallereid Prime, who don’t want the tachyon buttress built – they want to be mostly cut off from the Combine.
  • Azurans: Refugees settled on the blasted moon of New Azura; they claim ownership of the cargo of

Who Are The Criminals?

  • Gallereid Organised Crime: Gallereid Prime’s the home of the local crime syndicate, the Kch-Tkh-dominated Hive Lords. They don’t appreciate having a bunch of Lasers hanging around on the other side of the gas giant.
  • Cargo Ticks: Low-grade raiders who break into the hulls of the freighters using reconfigured mining ships and steal cargo. They work closely with criminal elements among the scrubbers.

Who Are The Faces?

  • BVS Incorporated: Mik Reiser, corporate executive. Ambitious, eager to get out of this dead-end assignment. Conceals slimy amoral core beneath a mask of earnest concern for the safety of those heroic scrubbers.
  • Scrubbers: Kima Adros, leader of the scrubber crew on the Costaguana. Torn by doubts about the Combine.
  • Monks of the Yellow Oracle: Abbot Zhar, cryptic robed figure, rumoured to be a Vas Mal.
  • Cybes: Commander Navzero, the leader of the Cybes who claim the warship. Navzero’s literally built itself into the ship, permanently wiring its core systems into the networks of the Kullervos.
  • Gallereid Bleedists: Alten Brase, the mayor of Gallereid Prime. In a relationship with Kima Adros. He’s also aided by Vogik, a shady Tavak enforcer who’s the law on Prime.
  • Azurans: Lady Io Sunwater, the representative of the exiles from Azura.
  • Gallereid Organised Crime: Run by the Durugh Ishuk – a long-time foe of Vogik.
  • Cargo Ticks: One notorious tick is “Lucky” Lar, who’s so incompetent a thief that he’s turned informant for the Lasers.

What’s New?

During the war, the convoy of megaships was in the process of entering the translight corridor when the Mohiliar blew up the Gallereid tachyon buttress. The lead ship, the mighty Thunderchild, was in transit when the buttress collapsed, and was assumed destroyed 10 years ago.

Well, the Thunderchild just dropped out of translight. No life signs, minimal power, lots of damage. It’s possible that she’s been bouncing around in translight for years, in the unstable hyperspace outside the corridor, and precipitated back into lowshift space by chance – but the odds against that are millions to one.

It looks like the Yellow Fleet’s about to gain a new and mysterious addition… once the lasers have confirmed there’s nothing dangerous on board that vast megafreighter…

What’s The Station?

A chunk of one of the Yellow Fleet ships, given over to the lasers. The players get to pick which wreck is home…

Possible Cases

  • Kima Adros warns that Thunderchild is going to fall into Gallerus’ gravity well unless secured – but she can’t get the ship’s engines restarted until the Lasers clear the engineering section of mysterious translight predators that feed on fear.
  • A smuggler is murdered on New Azura. He dealt in relics from the Blue Haven, selling personal items back to the Azurans. How did he steal that cargo – and why was it worth killing over? What ancient secret from Azura was hidden in those trinket?
  • A tip-off warns the Lasers that notorious Bleedist terrorist Azo Hoop is in-system, and is rumoured to be planning to obtain weapons from the warship Kullervos. Is Hoop working with the Bleedist sympathisers on Gallereid Prime, or the Cargo Ticks – or has he gone straight to the Cybes? Or is the rumour a plan to distract and discredit the Lasers in the eyes of the other residents of Gallerus?

Live at Dragonmeet, Ken and Robin talk Hindu mythology’s secret role in the Norman Invasion, crisis on infinite podcasts, drinks to write by, and the real reason Ken had to make Trump president.

In the latest episode of their visionary, extravagantly muscled podcast, Ken and Robin talk Blake at the Tate, Colby Elliott, and Ken’s latest London book raid—complete with record-scratching twist!

The holiday season is quickly approaching and we’re looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends. The Pelgrane office will be closed from December 25th through January 1st.

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The 2nd edition of the Esoterrorists includes the Station Duty campaign frame, in which a Esoterrorist team is placed on long-term assignment to a particular small town for an ongoing investigation instead of the usual mystery-of-the-week. That approach also works in Ashen Stars. (The obvious worked example: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine swapped out the ‘planet of the week’ structure of the original series and The Next Generation for an ongoing plot involving Bajor, the Cardassians, and the wormhole aliens.)

Key questions to be answered, either by the GM or collaboratively with the players:

What’s The Scope?

Is this a single planet? A single star system? A group of systems? You could do as small a single city, or as wide as a whole cluster or outzone – maybe the station’s located at a crossroads in space where multiple translight corridors intersect.

Why Here?

Why does this place justify a permanent Laser presence? Is it strategically important – a choke point, maybe, at the mouth of a wormhole, er, translight corridor? Is it especially lawless, a pirate haunt that must be patrolled? Is there some vital industry here that must be protected? Is it a new government outpost that’s trying to return Combine order to the chaotic Bleed? Maybe this was the site of a major battle in the Mohiliar war, and there’s a scrapyard of wrecked warships here – or researchers investigating the doomsday weapons used by the mysterious enemy.

Who Are The Factions?

You need at least four or five major groups. What alien races are present? (At least some should be the same species as some of your more unusual player characters.) What major corporations? Nufaiths? Planetary governments? What are their attitudes towards the player characters and towards each other? Ensure there’s at least one conflict between every faction, even if they’d normally be closely aligned.

Possible factions include all the major Combine people (Human, Cybe, Durugh, Balla, Kch-thk, Tavak, and maaaaybe Vas Mal), plus the new peoples from Accretion Disk (boisterous Cloddhucks, drifting Hydrossi, corpse-stealing Icti, radioactive Ndoalites, fiery Raconids or shapeshifting Verpids); the various Nufaiths and Synthcultures, and the various political ideologies (Bleedist, Atomist, Combinism, Mercantilism, Empiricism and Racial Separatism).

Who Are The Criminals?

It’s a game about space cops, so stick in some space criminals. Having at least one established organised crime outfit (smugglers, illegal cyber-dealers, etc) and one bunch of space pirates or thieves is an absolute minimum. Which factions have ties to crime?

Who Are The Faces?

For each faction, come up with at least individual representative to give the players someone to talk to. Texture these characters by giving them a point of disagreement (possibly hidden, to be discovered by later investigation) with their own faction, and a connection to one of the other factions.

Also create a major location or headquarters for that faction, if one isn’t obvious already.

What’s New?

In addition to the arrival of the lasers, include some recent disruption to the status quo. This disruption might be something that lasts for the whole campaign (“the Combine’s returned to this sector”) or a plot arc that lasts for a few adventures (“space plague!”). Disrupting the status quo from the start lets the player characters become part of whatever new equilibrium is eventually established.

What’s The Station?

Is it a custom-built station? A derelict ship? A surface building? A moon colony? An old Combine military outpost?

The player characters still need a spaceship, as per the regular rules.

 Wire Up The Arcs

The final step is to plug the player characters into the web of factions and plots. In a station duty campaign, there’s much more scope for long-running plots, so integrate player character arcs into the setting. If a player’s arc is “find my missing sister”, her disappearance must be closely connected to one of the factions or some location (maybe she vanished into that wormhole). If it’s “prove my worth”, then the character might become the leader or chosen, er, emissary of one of the factions.

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