The following article on the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in December 2004.

By Steve Dempsey

Tolstoy had it that there were only two possible plots: a man goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. And so it is with the Dying Earth. Cugel, as the main protagonist is usually up to one of two things. Either spreading his brand of mayhem to a new town, somewhere they haven’t yet had the misfortune of his endeavours, or fleeing from said town’s enraged inhabitants; Cugel doesn’t often visit the same place twice. Jack Vance uses this itinerant lifestyle to create ever more fanciful locations from the mud pits of Flutic to the “other cosmos” in a bag.

The Dying Earth game was written to recreate this kind of existence….

Download The road goes ever on here

 


Get an embarrassment of Dying Earth treasures in the Compleat Dying Earth Bundle of Holding until July 18th!

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The following article appeared on DyingEarth.com in December 2004.

Paula Dempsey, alias Mystic Moo, predicts your gaming future.

Whether Shoggoth, Cugel or Orc, we roleplayers are born under different stars to normal folk – discover you RPG star sign and learn your fate.

Orcs 21 March – 20 April
Your pathetic attempt to convince the rest of your gaming group that you are the hard man of the zodiac falls flat this month as Mars, your ruling planet, enters the constellation of Throw Rug Major. Guess it will take more than rolling a critical on the dragon killing table and nabbing that last bit of pizza when no-one’s looking. Lucky gem dice color for this month: hot pink.

Gurps 21 April – 21 May
Your essentially mutable nature is especially active this month, and you may feel the need to experiment with different identities. This could involve dabbling with Vampire: The Masquerade but if you carry out the appropriate occult rituals (or just roll 3D6) you might be OK. Either way, avoid muskrats. Lucky gem dice color for this month: anything but black.

Shoggoth 22 May – 21 June
Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped being squamous and issuing vague and eldritch threats? Everyone’s well bored with you and you’re not going to get a date that way – let’s be honest, slime smells. Jupiter, bringer of jollity, enters your sign this month and gives you permission to lighten up. The stars are right for bowling or maybe inviting your friends round for tea and scones. Lucky gem dice color for this month: slime green, but sparkly slime green.

Frodo 22 June – 22 July
Having the Moon as your ruling planet can cause periods of vagueness and you spend much of this month searching for something. If you don’t know what it is, don’t ask me. What do you think I am, bleedin’ psychic? Wear furry slippers for extra luck on the 25th. Lucky gem dice color for this month: gold.

Werewolf 23 July – 22 August
You should be reassured that while the Moon does not appear in your horoscope this month, Mercury, the planet of intelligence and communication, does. This encourages you to be more outgoing. Why don’t you use your toothbrush, dog-breath, then call in to your local games store and buy something. That is, if you aren’t still barred for biting that tasty new assistant on your last visit. Lucky gem dice color for this month: tawny.

Cugel 23 August – 23 September [Dates edited to ensure that the Editor is a Cugel]
Well, aren’t you just the charmer of the zodiac? You’re a silver-tongued rogue at the best of times, but with Venus in your house of partnerships you’re unstoppable. Take care, though, or your flirtatious nature could lead to a nasty run in with a jealous rival on the 4th. Probably best to avoid sexually frustrated doxies, but consider giving your mobile number to any lonely astrologers. Lucky gem dice color for this month: what else but red, tiger?

Ninja 24 September – 23 October What are you doing here? That’s the trouble with you Ninjas, always hiding your light under a bushel. With Jupiter entering your sign this month, you need to be big bold and brash. So drop the little black number and go for stilettos and lamé. Beware of rival clans on the 12th, a sharpened kitten heel can do a lot of damage to your new hairdo. Lucky gem dice colour for this month: be proud, be loud, be bold, go gold!

Vampire 24 October – 22 November
Halloween falls into your sign and you love all that spooky stuff, don’t you? Unfortunately Uranus, the planet of surprise and change, enters your sign this month and wreaks havoc. You feel the need to wear a Burberry check shell suit and skip your regular goth club night in favour of taking your nan to bingo. Lucky gem dice color for this month: black, to remind you what you’re missing.

Dork 23 November – 21 December
Born in the depths of winter and with Saturn, the planet of discipline and restraint, in your house of public life it’s no wonder you don’t get out much. In fact, it’s just as well as everyone hates you. So indulge yourself this month. Buy a packet of Rich Tea from the Co-op on your way home from the laundrette on the 16th. Lucky gem dice color for this month: pale blue, then at least you’ll have one thing that looks cool.

Ranger – 22 December – 20 January
Yours is the sign of spiritual growth and deep intellect. Many rangers express themselves by wandering in wild countryside and indulging in rural pursuits such as hunting and not washing. This month is a good time to do that, but ensure that disruption caused by the Sun, that mischievous planet of vitality and personality, doesn’t cause you to go completely over the top. Consider eschewing blood sports in favor of more sedate activities. Maybe you could take an evening class in vegetarian cookery? And put that elf down… I said, put that ****in’ elf down… Lucky gem dice color for this month: green. You could use the camouflage.

Traveller – 20 January – 19 February
Neptune brings the gift of intuition and fantasy into your sign this month. Time to visualize what you want and use the power of positive thinking to make it yours. Your imagination is so keen on the 17th that you are able to design a whole new set of deck plans for a Starcruiser Series 20 without breaking into a sweat. And your intuition is strong enough for you to know exactly when to accidentally on purpose drop your dice on the floor and have another go. Lucky gem dice color for this month: cosmic purple.

Cthulhu 20 February – 20 March
You think the stars are right? Oh no, this is bad. This is very bad. OK, don’t go out, don’t even attempt to surface from the deep and please, please don’t listen to any rituals, even if they are elegantly worded by erudite chaos wizards. Most importantly, stay away from me and my hamster. I mean it… Lucky gem dice color for this month: that yellow one in the corner has an elder sign on it. Suggest you pick it up.

In the latest installment of their play-by-clip game, Gar’s character rescues the Thing in the River and Robin, remembering that Gar considers gambling a useless ability, sends him to a notorious casino.


GUMSHOE is the groundbreaking investigative roleplaying system by Robin D. Laws that shifts the focus of play away from finding clues (or worse, not finding them), and toward interpreting clues, solving mysteries and moving the action forward. GUMSHOE powers many Pelgrane Press games, including The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents, Esoterrorists, Ashen Stars, and Mutant City Blues. Learn more about how to run GUMSHOE games, and download the GUMSHOE System Reference Document to make your own GUMSHOE products under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported License.

In the latest episode of their inescapable podcast, Ken and Robin talk forecasting player behavior, cats, the creative importance of napping, Loie Fuller, and saving Houdini.

The following article for Fear Itself originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in November 2004.

 


 

AP Morton-Blunkett (1899-1921)

“A man, mortal, looks to the world to come…”

A little-known poet who may have become a great talent.. He was born in Forrest Court, Berwick, Scotland in 1899, the son of the Lochbridge Toll watchman. He was educated in the Public School, and frequented the library, where I fondly imagine he read the romantics and composed his first clumsy stanzas.

His best early work was a series of short love poems to Naomi, possibly Naomi Hay, daughter of the local policeman, although there is no record of an engagement or marriage.

In September 1921 he received a commission from a local landowner, possibly Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple? to write a laudatory ode in praise of the Burgh Golf Club, to be engraved on the clubhouse plaque. He was offered the princely sum of one guinea, which must have been a cause of great excitement to him.

He took himself to the Isle of Islay, perhaps to seek inspiration, where he was found hanged in his room, having penned the poem below – a strange verse, greatly out of character. We know of no motive for his suicide. Perhaps Naomi rejected him, or perhaps there was a more sinister reason. The local waters are said to be infested with strange grey creatures, named after a dialect term for Satan – the Clooties.

The Sea Speaks Not and Yet…

I cannot sleep.  I hide my face
From surf and swell and blow
Since I have seen the queer grey men
That nightly come and go.

The village squats in sodden dusk
With sea-mist draped, and drear.
And aye the waves, and aye the waves
Come rushing far and near.

When every door is locked and barred
And every curtain drawn
‘Tis then they come, unseen, but heard.
Forsook.  Forgot.  Forlorn.

The old know better than to look.
The young are fast abed.
But I, with lonely cynic’s pride
And science in my head,

I looked.  I shall not look again.
For yet I see them pass,
The hollow faces of the drowned
In mist beyond the glass.

 


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the Creatures of Unremitting Horror from the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

When Ken selects his favorite monster, he goes for creepy crawlies with a viewpoint. Plus special bonus F20 monster!


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

The following PDF article originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in November 2004.

A discussion of Dying Earth RPG rules by Steve Dempsey.

Imagine the scene: after spending a night on the town, our hero is chased by irate husbands and is forced to sleep in a hollow out on the moors. In the morning, much to his chagrin, he notices that the entrance to his sleeping quarters is being watched by a hungry looking pelgrane. “Kind sir”, entreats the creature, “I am almost fainting for the lack of food. In such inhospitable circumstances as we find ourselves I am the most likely to survive. It is only logical that you should be my food.” A spate of dice rolling ensues and the pelgrane triumphs on an illustrious success. The character’s fate is sealed and he happily feeds the expectant bird, “You poor hungry creature, …”

It may not seem obvious, and even though such a end is droll, this is not how a Dying Earth character should perish…

Download You poor hungry creature, allow me to step into your maw here

 


Get an embarrassment of Dying Earth treasures in the Compleat Dying Earth Bundle of Holding until July 18th!

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

This short adventure for the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in October 2004.

This adventure by Steve Dempsey is for use as a diversion in your regular campaign and can be slotted in as the characters are travelling between locations. It’s suitable for Cugel-level characters, who encounter a small pool by the roadside containing some rather large tadpoles. Standing near the pool is an old man, Zafouc , with a sharp stick. He has a small fire going and has obviously been trying to catch some of the tadpoles, to no avail. Pedantry will reveal that these
are Polliwolls, delicious if grilled over the wood of the tattervine. It is probably time for the PCs to test their Gourmandism…

Download Doodle all the Day here

 


Get an embarrassment of Dying Earth treasures in the Compleat Dying Earth Bundle of Holding until July 18th!

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

One of the strange joys of a Yellow King campaign, with its quadripartite structure, is that you certain for months in advance what’s going to happen. That’s a rare gamemastering luxury; in other games, you can roughly guess where the campaign is going, but you can’t be sure. Maybe your Night’s Black Agents agents will be in the Carpathian mountains on the trail of Dracula in six month’s time, but knowing player characters, it’s equally likely they’ll be trying to organise a coup in a small South American country or something equally absurd. In The Yellow King, you know that your Parisian artists are going to become soldiers in a surreal European war, then traumatised freedom fighters trying to rebuild the country, then parallel-universe ordinary people about to come in contact with alien forces for the first time.

The bigger the gap between prophecy and payoff, the greater the chance that the chaotic nature of roleplaying games will ruin your planned set-piece. Key player characters might get killed, the campaign might do in another direction entirely, or the mood of the campaign might no longer fit the vision. In most games, the only solutions are to use heavy-handed railroading or make the visions so vague they apply in any situation. The Yellow King makes things much easier; you can tailor the starting situation of a new sequence so it leads naturally into the prophesy. That means you can drop hints – visions, prophecies, flash-forwards – into one sequence that pay off in another, and be sure of executing them successfully.

Visions Of That Rugose Thing Really Tied The Campaign Together, Man

Foreshadowing and prophecy works like call-backs and echoes; just as having a Wars character find a piece of artwork made by a Paris character links the two sequences, a flashforward from The Wars to This Is Normal Now connects those two parts of the campaign. The connections don’t have to be especially significant or meaningful in themselves – the point is to amp up the weirdness and claustrophobia, and make the players feel like the campaign sequences are all part of a single alien experience. Foreshadowing just for the sake of being strange and shadowy is a perfectly acceptable technique in this campaign.

Some Suggestions

  • In Paris, the artists come into possession of a painting called The Ambush that depicts a fantastical future battlefield, where giant walking war machines rain death upon footsoldiers. The painting shows a small squad about to be attacked by an unseen foe; the squad are all distracted by the stalker in front of them, so they don’t notice the foe behind them. When you create characters for The Wars, you specify that the player characters are close to the front lines; it’s easy then to find ways to get them onto the battlefield, in the same situation depicted in the painting.
  • Also in Paris, one of the characters comes into contact with Carcosa and is saved from madness by a mysterious explosion that destroys part of the alien city. Later, in Aftermath, the characters there plant a bomb atop a Carcosan gate; the explosion blasts through the portal to the far side.
  • During The Wars, the player characters run into a traveller who insists the war is over – it ended two years ago, in 1945. Europe’s at peace now, at least until the Soviets and the Americans start fighting. The traveller’s clearly from the timeline of This Is Normal Now. Later, when you move onto that sequence, the slacker player characters find the traveller’s diary, and read of a previous brush with strangeness.
  • Also during The Wars, the characters recover surveillance photographs from an enemy dragonfly. Mixed in with the photos of troop detachments and supply lines are a set of images of a strange futuristic city (the present-day setting of This Is Normal Now). The surveillance flights seem to focus on a coffee shop. Later, when you create characters for This Is Normal Now, you declare that the characters all favour a particular local coffee place,
  • In Aftermath, while going through surveillance reports recovered from the ruins of the Castaigne regime’s secret police, the characters find a bizarre transcript of a telephone call. One of the participants is clearly a Carcosan agent of some sort; the other participant’s speech is transcribed only as [INCOMPREHENSIBLE BUZZING]. Later, during This Is Normal Now, one of the player characters gets a phone call – you use the Carcosan agent transcript as your script, and let the player respond to the Carcosan’s rantings and ravings as they wish.
  • Alternatively, during Aftermath, the characters find a corpse in a disused suicide booth – but the victim wasn’t killed by the booth. During This Is Normal Now, one of the player characters’ friends vanishes, and their body is never found…

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.

This short adventure for the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in September 2004.

Part two of an adventure by Steve Dempsey.

This part of the adventure is very unstructured and is an opportunity to use Robin’s “Yes, But …” See Page XX columns.

The adventure takes place in the PCs’ collective memory so it is essentially up to the players to construct the backdrop to the adventure. The film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has sequences that illustrate this kind of thing, and it’s well worth seeing too!

Wiping the Slate Clean (Part 2)

Wiping the Slate Clean (Part 1) is here.

 


Get an embarrassment of Dying Earth treasures in the Compleat Dying Earth Bundle of Holding until July 18th!

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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