The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in February 2008. 


Find James Semple’s stings for Trail of Cthulhu here, and you can also find the soundtracks James composed for Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents.

A column on roleplaying by Robin D. Laws

Sting, Sting, Sting

A GUMSHOE issue we’ve talked about before is the challenge of smoothly ending investigative scenes, especially interactions with witnesses and experts. In the fictional source materials on which the game is based, authors and scriptwriters deftly and invisibly handle scene endings. A mystery novelist need merely end a scene on a pivotal line and then cut to the next one. Shows like Law & Order make a science out of finding interestingly varied reasons for witnesses to scoot offstage as soon as they deliver their core clues. Whether they have classes to attend, clients to see, or children to look after, minor characters on procedural shows are always halfway out the door. Scenes in the interrogation room are usually cut conveniently short by the appearance of the defendant?s lawyer, or the squad lieutenant, appearing to bring yet another piece of crucial intelligence.

Although you can sometimes give your NPCs reason to cut off interview scenes after the clues have been dispensed, continually coming up with these organic scene-enders can be taxing. So in the core GUMSHOE rules, as per The Esoterrorists, p. 55 (of the first edition), we offer this suggestion for an out-of-character signal that a scene has ended.

Before play, take an index card and write on it, in big block letters, the word SCENE. As soon as the players have gleaned the core clue and most or all of the secondary clues in a scene, and the action begins to drag, hold up the card. When the players see this, they know to move on.

Since then I’ve found a better technique which seems more organic still. (It requires the use of a laptop, which some groups find disruptive.) In place of the SCENE card, use brief music snippets. In soundtrack parlance, quick clusters of notes signaling a jolt or transition are known as stings. That’s the music you hear in a horror movie when something jumps out of the closet, but turns out to only be the house cat. Although they’re grouped together for jarring effect, the most famous movie stings of all are the piercing violin glissandos accompanying the shower murder sequence in Psycho.

Music works differently on the brain than a visual cue like a card with text on it. We’re used to having music appear under our entertainment to subliminally direct our emotional responses. Text jars us from one mental state to another, forcing us to more consciously decode the contents into meaning. The card is disruptive, breaking us from the imaginative state required for roleplaying, where music enhances that state. Oddly enough, the appearance of the music cue begins to seem like a reward for a job well done than a strange intrusion from another mode of cognition. It feels more like permission to move on than a jarring shove forward.

I started using the stings at a player’s suggestion, borrowing the most ubiquitous sting in television, Mike Post’s cha-chungggg scene transition sound from the various Law & Order shows, as a scene closer for internal playtests of Mutant City Blues.

When it came time to playtest Trail Of Cthulhu scenarios I opted for the three-note threnody that is the monster’s motif in Franz Waxman’s seminal score for The Bride Of Frankenstein . The use of a score from the 1930s period greatly enhanced the period atmosphere.

Now, courtesy of longtime gamer and media scorer James Semple, we have four custom stings for your GUMSHOE pleasure. They evoke the classic horror scores of Waxman and Max Steiner but, because the scary music grammar they laid down seventy years ago persists to this day, work just as well for Fear Itself or The Esoterrorists as for Trail Of Cthulhu.

Another musical enhancement worth considering is the introduction of a theme song. You’ll be expecting your players to sit through this every week, without the visual accompaniment that comes with a TV title sequence, so trim your chosen theme music to twenty to thirty seconds. The main purpose of a theme song is to produce a cognitive marker separating the preliminary chat phase of your session from the meat of the game. Again, this is a much more pleasant and subtle mood shifter than the old, ‘OK guys! Are we ready to start? OK, good!’

A theme song also provides thematic indicators to any campaign, GUMSHOE or otherwise. Want to emphasize sleek futuristic action? Pick a chunk of your favorite techno track. Is your emphasis more on psychological destabilization? A spiky work of classical modernism may prove suitably unnerving.

To help players think of their characters as part of a fictional reality, I also often kick off a first session by having them describe the pose they strike during an imaginary credit sequence.

Of course, this just scratches the surface of the uses to which cued-up audio can be put during a game session. When the heroes walk into a smoky bar, you can signal the kind of establishment they’ve entered by playing the music pounding from its PA system. Sound effects are all over the Internet, from amateur freebies to expensive cues created for professional productions. Once you get used to using your laptop’s audio program as a game aid, you’ll never have to describe a wolf howl again. Instead you can cue up real wolves to do the howling for you.

As technology becomes cheaper, multimedia game aids will become increasingly prevalent. When digital projectors hit impulse-purchase pricing levels, look out.

Related Links


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 print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in February 2008. 

News from Pelgrane Press

Short and sweet. The blog has more Pelgrane details and a caption competition. This month we’ve released Fields of Silver, Lynne Hardy’s Turjan-level adventure, and Ian Sturrock’s Esoterrorist adventure Albion’s Ransom.

Playtesting

The Mutant City Blues and Stunning Eldritch Tales playtests continue apace, and I’ve had the pleasure of doing some in-house testing of MCB with players are members of the Met Police Heightened Crime Investigation Unit.

Trail of Cthulhu

Trail of Cthulhu is due out mid-February. Pre-orders have been fantastic, and you can get yours as a pre-order from Indie Press Revolution. You can also get it from the Pelgrane Press Store.

Out Now

Available from the Pelgrane Store and IPR.

Laid Out and Ready to Print

In Playtesting

Stunning Eldritch Tales, a set of four Trail of Cthulhu adventures is in playtest, as is Mutant City Blues.

The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in December 2007. 

News from Pelgrane Press

This month we’ve released GUMSHOE Unremitting Horror, Robin’s The Birds webcomic and The Compendium of Universal Knowledge. This is the month that we pre-released a limited edition Trail of Cthulhu and the general release version went to the printers. Finally Indie Press Revolution now stocks the full range of Pelgrane games.

Trail of Cthulhu

Trail of Cthulhu is now available as a pre-order from Indie Press Revolution. You can also get it from the Pelgrane Press Store.

Dragonmeet

Dragonmeet is a London-based games convention which happens the first weekend in December. It’s great fun. We sold all forty of the limited edition Trails of Cthulhu we brought, six before the trade hall was even open, and Jerome was kind enough to draw a picture in every one – a real collectible. It was by far our best Dragonmeet in terms of sales overall.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Yog-Sothoth crowd, although I found Paul of Cthulhu’s interview a little disconcerting, purely because it was all “lights, camera, action” rather than a podcast. Steve Dempsey has his Esoterrorists and Fear Itself demo technique honed, and the Trail of Cthulhu session he ran went well, the GUMSHOE investigative system sitting neatly in the background. If you want the demo adventure, let us know.

New Releases

GUMSHOE Unremitting Horror and Compendium of Universal Knowledge are now available through retail. Robin D Laws’ webcomic The Birds is available through retail, from IPR, or from our online store. I’ve set up a website for The Birds – check it out here.

Laid Out and Ready to Go

Now ready to print are:

In Playtesting

Stunning Eldritch Tales, a set of four Trail of Cthulhu adventures is in playtest, as is Mutant City Blues.

The following news items and diary entries originally appeared on DyingEarth.com between 2006 and 2009.

You can find the entries for 1998-2000 here.

You can find the entries for 2001-2002 here.

Editor’s note: A few of these news items were not categorized by month or year – I have done my best to approximate their chronology, and have marked them with a small sun symbol.

2006

The ‘Footsteps of Fools’ series – An interlocking series of Cugel-Level adventures. The first ones are for sale via the products page and at RPG NOW. These are “The Day of the Quelo” (a Cugel-Level adventure that can stand alone or be incorporated into the second FoF release – “Strangers in Saskervoy“), and “All’s Fair At Azenomei” (the first adventure in the new FoF series).

News for June 2006 – The Pelgrane is flapping forward with so much vigor this month that we’ve had to create a separate page for all the details.

2007

News for February 2007 – The GUMSHOE system has been launched with The Esoterrorists, a game of investigation and occult horror. You can get it at the webstore. The Forum (ed. – now defunct) now has GUMSHOE and Esoterrorist areas.

Forthcoming GUMSHOE releases include:

Fear Itself, the GUMSHOE Horror game. (Already written and in layout.)
Trail of Cthulhu, by Kenneth Hite, licensed from Chaosium, Inc. (Underway)
The Book of Unremitting Horror, based on Dave Allsop and Adrian Bott’s excellent d20 version with a new adventure and new material for The Esoterrorists. (Due to be completed mid-March.)
Little Girl Lost – an epic Esoterrorist campaign by Ian Sturrock.

News for April 2007 – More PDF versions of our products are available from our webstore, including the Esoterrorists. If you’ve bought the print version, you can download the PDF from your existing order page. Robin gives us part II of his article on structure in GUMSHOE adventures. Finally, more Dying Earth goodness from Ian Thomson with spells and cantraps of forest and field in Violet Cusps.

News for July 2007
Fear Itself , the next GUMSHOE publication, is now at the printers. It should be out next week.
I received proof copies of The Compendium of Universal Knowledge, but I’m not happy with the hardback, so that will be delayed a little until I have seen further samples.

GUMSHOE Unremitting Horror is awaiting an index.  Albion’s Ransom (fomerly Little Girl Lost), the first big Esoterrorist adventure has been playtested and is receiving its final edit.

We’ve done a reprint of XPS 4/5 available from the webstore. If you have purchased a PDF, please email me and I’ll send you a voucher for the difference.

News for August 2007
Fear Itself is released. Fear Itself plunges ordinary people into a disturbing contemporary world of madness and violence. Players take the roles of regular folks much like themselves, who are inexorably drawn into confrontation with the creatures of the Outer Black, an unearthly realm of alien menace. With or without its distinctive mythology, GMs can use it to replicate the shudders and shocks of the horror genre in both film and literature.

The limited edition Compendium of Universal Knowledge for the Dying Earth is being printed this week.

There are fifty copies in total, and about twenty remain unreserved. If you’d like to reserve a copy, please email me. It will be $49.95.

The GUMSHOE book of Unremitting Horror is being printed, and includes everything from the d20 Book of Unremitting Horror, as well as new creatures, Esoterrorist background material, and lots of adventures.
All these books will be available at GenCon Indy, where there will also be demos of Esoterrorists and Fear Itself. We’ll also be producing a limited edition of Robin’s comic The Birds. Robin will be on the stand for signings.
The Lords of Cil” is the third pdf release in Ian Thomson’s epic Cugel-Level campaign for DERPG.

2008

News for January 2008

We’ve released The Fields of Silver – a new Turjan-level campaign from Lynne Hardy.  Read more in this article.

2009

News for April 2009

We will no longer be selling the Dying Earth as of 1st May 2009. Print products and PDFs are available from the Pelgrane store and Indie Press Revolution.


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 originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in October 2007. 


A column on roleplaying by Robin D. Laws

Mixing and Matching With GUMSHOE

In addition to its primary goal of rethinking the way we run investigative scenarios, GUMSHOE is also an ongoing experiment in rules modularity. Along with whatever plain, ordinary rules are needed to evoke a particular setting or sub-genre, each new iteration of the game introduces new tools and techniques which can be mixed and matched to create your own investigative games. Many can also be applied to other roleplaying games and genres.

The Esoterrorists presents a simple, introductory version of the core GUMSHOE rules. It sets forth a simple, accessible setting, along with the very basic components you need to run occult investigation: Stability rules, a stripped-down approach to weapons, and so on.

Fear Itself reproduces horror stories in which ordinary people come face to face with things that go bump in the night. It removes a few of the complexities of The Esoterrorists, which assumes that all of the players are professional investigators. For example, the many technical abilities of the first game are collapsed into a catch-all, as are many of its academic skills. To preserve the ordinariness of the characters, it encourages a maximum of one PC from any sort of law enforcement or military background.

These are rare examples of modular adjustments to GUMSHOE rules that can’t be fed back into an Esoterrorists game. It is not so much a rules addition as a necessary rules subtraction, again to evoke a specific sub-genre. These changes can, however, suit another game concept featuring non-specialist investigators.

Other new facets of Fear Itself can be added to The Esoterrorists, or used in elements in other investigative settings. To start with a small example, Fear Itself introduces a new general ability, Fleeing. This is a necessary component of any undiluted horror game, reflecting that genre’s many characters who are not all-around athletes but nonetheless turn out to be highly capable at screaming and running away. This narrow ability can be imported to The Esoterrorists or other settings.

When you depart from the horror genre, Fleeing remains useful when giving game statistics to supporting characters that the PCs might be trying to either chase or rescue. They may not be able to perform feats of strength or put up a struggle when caught, but they can get away from pursuers, at least for a while.

Fear Itself includes a number of psychic abilities, including Aura Reading, Remote Viewing, and Premonitions, granting PCs access to minor occult powers. These could easily be made available to Esoterrorists characters. Most GMs will want to do as Fear Itself does, and allow only one character per group to have a psychic ability. Add too many psychics into the mix, and you start to drift from the realm of horror into contemporary fantasy.

On the other hand, you could embrace this tendency, creating an all-psychic detachment of the Ordo Veritatis to which the PCs belong. This might be a sort of suicide squad within the organization, sent in to tackle tough, psi-oriented assignments that ordinary agents can’t handle. If so, they’re probably followed by a monitoring team composed entirely of supporting characters, who keep them under surveillance and watch for signs that they’ve lost their already-tentative hold on sanity. As the psychic Ordo members go crazy, their minders swoop in, spiriting them off to permanent incarceration in a Veritatis-approved mental institution. In extreme cases, they may need to efficiently take out freshly-crazed psychic operatives with well-placed sniper bullets.

Be cautious when populating your world with psychics. Superhuman powers which work in unpredictable or undocumented ways throw a wrench into players’ efforts to reconstruct the events they’re investigating. They have to be able to incorporate the existence of such abilities into their theories of the case. Let’s say they find out that a supporting character lets slip a fact she could only know if she was present at the crime scene. If she is capable of Remote Viewing, that’s a second possibility, which the investigators must now be able to take into account. This difficulty is in large part the subject matter of Mutant City Blues, the upcoming GUMSHOE game of police procedural investigation in a world of widespread super-powers. There, the operations of the various superhuman powers are well-known and incorporated into forensic science. The investigators must take them into account, but unquestionably know how they work, and what their various limitations are.

Also appearing in Fear Itself are a number of techniques to flesh out characterization. They belong in a pure horror version of the game because, by enabling us to relate more acutely to these ordinary people before they’re plunged into deadly jeopardy, they intensify the terror. They include the directed scenes, in which the players are given personal goals for their characters, as they would be in a scene of improvised theater. Directed scenes prove especially useful to play out flashbacks. These scenes from the past bring the character’s backstory, which usually languishes unrevealed in each player’s personal notes, vividly onstage, for the entire group to see. They also enable the players to sharpen their character-portrayal skills, as they’re called on to act out minor roles in each others’ directed scenes and flashbacks.

Though initially designed for horror, these techniques work in any genre. You could employ them to introduce dramatic elements to the otherwise highly mission-focused Esoterrorists structure. For that matter, as they’re unconnected to GUMSHOE’s other rules structures, you could just as easily insert them in nearly any other RPG, from D&D to Vampire. With the exception of certain rigidly constructed indie-style games, or comedy games that require relatively facile characters, like Dying Earth or Og, they fit almost any gaming experience.

Mutant City Blues offers a different, but related, mechanism. It creates a structure resembling many police procedural TV shows, giving the players partial control of it. Players are encouraged to submit possible Sub-Plots, story threads of personal drama involving their characters when they’re not solving the main cases. This technique could equally well be added to any ongoing Esoterrorists or Fear Itself series, or any other GUMSHOE game of your own devising, so long as it features continuing characters and cares about their personal development. Like directed scenes and flashbacks, this element can be completely uncoupled from GUMSHOE and welded onto most other normative RPG games.

Another feature of Fear Itself requires players to select Risk Factors for their characters, explaining why they head toward trouble when other ordinary people would flee from it. This is a necessary component of any horror game, answering the question: why do they go down into that basement? Given the risk-aversion characteristic of some players, it’s also one requiring some reinforcement in play. Risk Factors include Gung Ho, Skeptical, Horny, and Oblivious. Though the descriptions of the various factors are keyed to horror, they could easily be adapted to any other genre requiring selfless, proactive protagonists.

We’ll continue to search for similarly useful modular elements for future GUMSHOE products. If we’re really lucky, we’ll start to see GUMSHOE gamers designing their own add-ons, and sharing them with the rest of us, via their blogs or on the Pelgrane forums.


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.

The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in October 2007. 

News from Pelgrane Press

Since the last missive, we’ve attended GenCon, released three new books and playtested the first pass of Trail of Cthulhu. Three new manuscripts have been laid out and are queued for printing, one awaits layout and another is queued for playtesting. Jérome Huguenin has been doing amazing work, illustrating and laying books out. New products have been added to the store, and they’ll soon be available for sale in retailers. Finally, the collected wisdom of Robin D Laws first twenty-four columns are available from rpgnow.com. (Ed. – These articles are now being released into the main Pelgrane Press blog feed.)

GenCon

I haven’t been to GenCon since the first Indy, and it was a real pleasure to see all the people I haven’t seen for years, and meet for the first time fellow industry professionals and players I’ve got to know online. Robin Laws spent a decent amount of time behind the stand, and Ken Hite did a Trail of Cthulhu Q&A. It was great to see so many excellent games rewarded at the Ennie Awards, in particular Qin, published by French publishers 7ème Cercle. They have done a great  job translating Esoterrorists and Fear Itself, and they are aiming to publish Trail of Cthulhu in French simultanously with us.

New Releases

The Book of Unremitting Horror a crossover book for Fear Itself and The Esoterrorists is now out. For the first time, it is released simultaneously as a PDF and print book. For the Dying Earth RPG, the paperback version of the Compendium of Universal Knowledge is also out. The hardback has been delayed due to printing issues.

Printing Problems

Problems with the printer mean that there has been a delay in publishing GUMSHOE Unremitting Horror and The Compendium of Universal Knowledge. A few were delivered to GenCon, and these are the ones available from our store . I do hope that the others will delivered to Impressions, our fulfilment agent so we can get retailers stocked soon.

Reviews

A review (and mini-review) of all of our GUMSHOE releases here. Fear Itself has been reviewed here on rpg.net.

Laid Out and Ready to Go

Now ready to print are:

Ready to Lay Out

Leonard Balsera has completed Profane Miracles, a short Esoterrorists adventure, which is being illustrated and laid out now.

In Playtesting

Trail of Cthulhu has completed its first round of playtesting, and is waiting on Kenneth Hite’s next draft to enter the second round. In addition, I’ll be soliciting for Mutant City Blues playtesters shortly.

The following article originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in September 2006.

Updates

Gomoshan’s Tomb
QuickStart Rules
GUMSHOE and Esoterrorists
Rhialto Update
Corrections and Clarifications

Gomoshan’s Tomb
This month brings the release of Gomoshan’s Tomb, a scenario in the well respected tradition of exploring and looting ancient ruins – though with suitably distinctive Dying Earth twist to this hoary old genre. Designed for characters in the mould of Turjan, it gives. Available as a PDF from our webstore.

The DERPG QuickStart Rules
After a few thoughtful email exchanges with people interested in the Dying Earth RPG Quick Start Rules, I’ve decided to reintroduce the QSR as a free PDF download. I had made the QSR free with any purchase, making it possible to get the rules plus decent adventure materials for under $3.00. The reason for the change was this – the QSR are very, very good, and we have lots of free adventures on the website. Download patterns suggested people were grabbing the QSR, plus an adventure, then coming back a few weeks later for more free adventures. This implies that the QSR alone are enough to play a decent version of the game. Obviously, we feel that the complete rules are much better, and offer superior play possibilities, but this potential is not obvious to people who have a good game in their hands already. That said, the last thing I want to do is irritate potential customers, or stop people sampling the game without risk, so we’ve restored the Quick Start Rules page.

GUMSHOE and Esoterrorists
Robin has finished work on his new GUMSHOE rules and the Esoterrorist background. The playtest went better than anything we’ve run before, and I’m very happy with the game. It fits with our new games design brief. It’s much more mainstream than the Dying Earth RPG, and can be used with any mystery-based background. Next, Robin is working on a GUMSHOE version of the Book of Unremitting Horror, and Adrian Bott will be creating a new adventure for this setting. The Esoterror background and the Unremitting Horror background can be run separately, or together depending on the style of game you and your players enjoy. I’ll be writing at more length about Esoterrorists next time.

Rhialto Update
Trevis Martin and Jérôme Huguenin have completed their illustrations for Rhialto’s Book of Marvels, and Jérôme has began work on the layout.

Corrections and Clarifications
In the last Page XX we published an article, generally well received, called “Is the RPG Industry Screwed?” – a mischievous title, I agree. I’d like to make it clear that the article was compiled by me (Simon Rogers) and not Robin D Laws. This clarification is more to prevent harm to his reputation than to benefit mine! I’d also like to state (and this should hardly be necessary) that the opinions I quote are those of the people I quote, and not necessarily my own. I was very careful not to make predictions, and my own comments are full of cowardly cavills and hedging. I do not predict a riot.

Finally, I ignored the elephant in the room, Hasbro, the big fish that the little fish all circle around. It’s Dungeons and Dragons, the grand daddy of the industry that we rely on to bring in new customers, while we smaller fry pick around the edges. I hope to rectify this grevious error in a future article. One person who emailed me took from my article that I don’t like Dungeons and Dragons. Looking at the article I am at a loss to see where he got that impression. On the contrary; I ran a 1st Ed D&D campaign for 18 years, we’ve published Dying Earth d20 conversions, the Primer of Practical Magic and the Book of Unremitting Horror. I am still very fond of the game, in fact I ran it at SteveCon earlier this year, although I don’t get as much chance to play as I might like due to variations in taste amongst my game group. I generally run 1st Edition because I had the time to completely absorb it when I was twelve, and I can’t give the same attention to later editions, good though they may be. I’ve played 3rd Edition, but I would be a little nervous running it with players who know the rules well.


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 originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in June 2006.

June brings us to the completion of work on our webstore. Substantial progress has also been made on all of our outstanding manuscripts, and what’s more, new roleplaying games in the pipeline – yes, that’s plural. And remember at the store, you may obtain a free copy of the Quickstart Rules with any other DERPG purchase.

Dying Earth E-Books
All of our Dying Earth books and magazines except Demons of the Dying Earth are now available for purchase in PDF form from the webstore at a substantial discount from the print price. All of our print versions now include the PDF, sent straight away by email when you complete your order, so you can get started. Anyone who has ordered since 2nd November last year will find that they have a PDF version of any Dying Earth book they have bought to download from their order page. By popular request, we have also added the ability to accept PayPal.

Keep Page XX Going
It is the moment for a little unbecoming begging. Page XX is time consuming and expensive to produce. It’s great fun to do, and I’d like to release it more regularly. If you enjoy Page XX, please buy something from our webstore  to help us keep it going. The new PDF products mean that your support won’t break the bank.

Dying Earth in the Pipeline
A flurry of activity this month means we have three artists and three layout people working away on “Rhialto’s Book of Marvels“, the “Compendium of Universal Knowledge” and Fields of Silver.
Rhialto’s Book of Marvels is the long-awaited source book for Arch-Magicians. Created by Robin D Laws, designer-in-Chief of the Dying Earth RPG, it features a totally new mechanics with which you can actually win the game. Expect fraught discussions, drunken magical brawls between manses, feeble attempts at seduction and childish one-upmanship. Combined with world-shattering magic, of course. One of the artists has a blog where you can see some of the illustrations for Rhialto (ed: this blog no longer seems to be active).

The Compendium of Universal Knowledge is a gazetteer, a bestiary and an encyclopedia of the Dying Earth. It includes entries by almost all our writers, and is being compiled and edited with additional material by David Thomas. It includes entries long and short, creatures, locations, spells, and people. We use the simple conceit that the book is sentient – the book wrote itself. Observe if you will a sample article from the Compendium, and a first cut of the layout style.

New Times Demand New Games
Pelgrane Press will also be producing new games with the following qualities:

  • Easy to learn
  • Easy to teach
  • Easy to play
  • Innovative
  • Approachable

A GM should be able to learn each game in half an hour, nuances in a hour or so. It should be easy to teach the basics of the game to a novice in fifteen minutes. The design should take account of developments in gaming over the last ten years and offer something genuinely original. GMs will want to take the game out time and time again.

The Esoterrorists and Gumshoe core rules – The first of these new games will be created by Robin D Laws. We asked him to make a rule set which supports investigative roleplaying and a default background to go with him. I’ve seen and playtested the first draft, and the game is entering full play test on 12th June. Adrian Bott will be reworking the Book of Unremitting Horror for the new system, and we’ll be creating other adventures and rules supplements with an investigative theme. Robin says:
“Unlike other investigative roleplaying games, the Esoterrorist’s GUMSHOE rules system ensures that the plot never grinds to a halt due to a failed die roll. As the top paranormal detectives, you never fail in your areas of expertise. When necessary, you can expend extra effort to glean more from the evidence than any plodding journeyman could hope to find.”

Unreality – Something weird happened to you. Maybe you woke up one morning and found you were married with three kids, perhaps a bus tried to eat or maybe dogs no longer exist. You’ve been unborn. You can manipulate unreality, but it will slowly eat away at everything that is real about you – what anchors you to your humanity. It’s your job to prevent causality violation using your new-found abilities while avoiding the backlash. The system peculiarly makes it easier to do things with unreality the more improbable they are.
Steve Dempsey, long time Dying Earth contributor is creating this new game for us. We’ve run internal play tests and will be ready for a full playtest in a couple of weeks.


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.

We want your ideas as part of the GUMSHOE Community on DriveThruRPG! The GUMSHOE Community is a home for independent creators to upload products like adventures, rules supplements, monsters, and whatever else you can dream up. If you’ve got a wild idea, whether it’s a new planet you homebrewed for Ashen Stars, or a creature of unremitting horror for Fear Itself, or if you’ve written up scenario notes that really terrified your Esoterrorist investigators, consider writing up any of these for the GUMSHOE Community Contest.

How it works

The GUMSHOE Community program is a place where you can upload your homebrew content for various GUMSHOE systems and sell them straight through DriveThruRPG. For this contest, write up any of your wild and/or successful ideas for one of the supported GUMSHOE systems (see “What can I submit?” below), submit them through the form at the bottom of this post, and Robin D. Laws will select one winner, whose piece will get a professional cover illustration and be professionally laid out (see “What do I get?” below).

The best part about all this is that, even for those of us who don’t win, at the end we’ll have put in the work and have a finished written product that we can still upload to the GUMSHOE Community. If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at publishing an RPG product, this is a great way to dip your toes.

What can I submit?

Anything that fits with the GUMSHOE rulesets currently supported in the GUMSHOE Community program: that’s Ashen Stars, The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, and TimeWatch.

As to the style of submission, nearly anything goes. Full-fledged scenario? Groovy. Collection of scenario hooks? Rad. A single new monster? Sure, why not? You don’t need to write a 10,000-word manifesto (though you could), and you don’t need a 5,000-word write-up for a new planet. Give us your short, pithy ideas, alongside your longer masterpieces. Give us your best.

Multiple submissions are fine.

We’ll ask that you only submit text files, unless you have illustrative examples you think are completely necessary, and these should be incorporated into a text file. The way that Google Forms works, you’ll need to submit either a Google Doc or a PDF saved to Google Drive.

It doesn’t need to be PG, but nothing rated NC-17, please. See the GUMSHOE Community Content Guidelines for more resources about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

What are the judges looking for?

First of all, we won’t be judging based on things like art or professional layout (though that doesn’t mean your writing shouldn’t be organized).

Here’s what Robin says he’ll be looking for in a winning entry:

  • engaging prose,
  • original and inspiring mysteries (or support material that inspires them),
  • apt use of GUMSHOE mechanics,
  • material presented for use in play,
  • evocation of your chosen game line’s themes and tone.

What do I get?

Anyone who submits will get an 8.5″ x 11″ art print of the cover art for the line they submit to (submitting for Ashen Stars? That’s the cover you’ll receive). Additionally, Robin D. Laws will be judging the entries, and one winner will have their product professionally laid out by Jen McCleary, of The Fall of DELTA GREEN and Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, with cover art by Jérôme Huguenin, who’s done the covers for Trail of CthulhuCthulhu Confidential, and more.

The “prize,” in other words, is custom cover art and custom layout for your product before you upload it to the GUMSHOE Community program on DriveThruRPG.

Deadline – Updated

The deadline for your entries will be Monday, September 14th, 2020.

Submit your entries… HERE

 

“Nobody wants to see that, smell that…”

When a news story starts with the phrase “In what sounds like a scene from a horror film,” the media monitors at the Ordo Veritatis sit up and take notice.

When a basement floods with gore and bone, as happened in Bagley, Iowa in mid-October, they send a team of investigators, alert to possible Esoterrorist activity.

It might just be that the neighboring meat locker shares a drain with the unfortunate homeowner’s basement. That will certainly be the story the agents spread when they later conduct their Veil-Out.

Or it could be a blutkeller, an Outer Dark manifestation that forms around abattoirs and meat-packing facilities. A spell propagated by Esoterror operatives conjures it into this reality. The working requires the dumping of a human corpse amid animal waste products at the facility. An entity enters the mixture of blood and flesh, either remaining in the facility or slurping down the nearest drain or sluice. It then periodically surfaces to opportunistically attack lone victims, pulling them down into itself and devouring them, ooze-style. When it disappears into a partially clogged drain after an attack, it leaves a portion of itself behind. The blutkeller can come up through any connected pipe, or through demonic multilocation, phase into another nearby underground room. It can only phase into buildings visited by persons who have come into skin contact with its liquid residue. During the mission briefing, the team’s Mr. Verity strongly advises the use of hazmat suits when examining any potential blutkeller effluvia.

The demonic entity lacks solid substance and cannot be fought by normal means. An ingenious team might manage to contain or slow its rampage by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. To permanently banish it from the world, they must place the person who summoned it in its presence. Compelled to attack and devour its benefactor, it shrieks with thwarted rage before a red vortex sucks it back into the Outer Dark.

Until that happens, the summoner gains an infusion of psychic energy each time the blutkeller kills. This attracts luck, positive attention, and physical vitality. Agents may concentrate their search on local individuals gaining sudden wealth, popularity, or fame. To prove their case, they seek evidence that the target researched the ritual and had its corresponding, distinct sigil tattooed somewhere on the body.

It is not possible to cast the spell without expecting an ensuing series of horrible deaths. While agents may regret the necessity of feeding the summoner to the entity, they can assure themselves that the target made its bargain with the Outer Dark knowingly and

[sunglasses off]

…in cold blood.


The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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