The following news items and diary entries originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in 2001 and 2002.

You can find the entries for 1998-2000 here.

You can find the entries for 2006-2009 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.

2001

7th March

Phil Masters has sent his final draft for his section of “Cugel’s Compendium of Indispensable Advantages“. Magic items include “The Ruby of Lucent Absorption” and “Peltaron’s Rapier of Plangent Glaciation”. Included is a section on costume, and Tweaks such as “The Balance of Fortune and Mischance” and “Dour Determination” Phil’s work did not require much editing, as he has grasped the spirit of Cugel-level adventures admirably.

Aaron Allston, who did the Quick Start rules has been commissioned to write the rest of this tome including
*How to negotiate with innkeepers, merchants, teamsters, and others intent on separating you from your terces.
*How to get your fellow players to take all the risks, without their noticing your skilful shirking.
*The fine art of seduction.
*Confidence tricks, as well as a bunch of other bits and pieces.

8th March

We received the final proof copies through – the book looks very attractive, although the spine is a little bigger than I expected. The printers will do the next batch as a free reprint with a slightly smaller spine – they really are admirable people with whom to work. We will be exhibiting at the GAMA trade show in Las Vegas later in the month with the 5 copies we have.

12th March

We received pre-orders for the DE RPG from retailers and distributors. Wizard’s Attic, store and ship all Pelgrane’s stock, arrange for invoicing, and then send us the money. For a small RPG company, it’s a good way of doing things. The pre-orders were pretty good, but we hope that the GAMA Trade Show will improve this.

16th March-25th March

With both my ProFantasy hat and Pelgrane press hat on, I am attending the GAMA Trade Show along with Sasha Bilton a fellow Pelgrane director, and Mark Fulford, the joint MD of ProFantasy Software. Mark has been travelling around the world for a year, and this is his first taste of work for some time. The game goes down well with retailers and distributors, and all promise to order copies. Those large distributors who initially ordered very small numbers I collared, and using techniques inspired by the Dying Earth, tried intimidation, glibness and shame until they agreed to order more. Mike Webb of Alliance Games is a great enthusiast, and I thank him for promoting the game so well.

2nd April

The books have arrived in the UK, including a few signed by Jack Vance, Robin Laws and other contributors. I am thrilled that so much work by so many contributors has finally come to fruition. Piles of attractive-looking books are stacked up in the offer, and I showed them off to everyone in ProFantasy and Hogshead, too. Esdevium Games (the UK’s largest games distributor) have placed a large order and will be collecting it shortly.

5th April

The books are now at Wizard’s Attic in the States and presumably are shipping out to distributors. We’ve had our first on-line orders direct from the website and shipped them out. What will people think of it?

12th April

Thanks to the work of Liz Fulda of Sphinx Group who is doing our publicity and presumably our efforts at GTS, our retailer pre-orders have doubled!

14th April

XPS 2 is ready to go to the printers. Gary Gygax has written a fascinating article about the influence of Vance on the D&D game, the origins of the magic system and his encounters with Vance. Robin has written a 6000-word Rhialto-level adventure, and Steve Long has added a gambling den. Artwork by Ralph, Hilary and newcomer Dave Bezzina is apropos.

As Jim Webster, the editor says “…after many years of good service you will pass it on to your grandchildren who will likewise treasure it as an irreplaceable resource.”

20th April

We are on the front cover of the French magazine Backstab along with an interview with Robin Laws. Next month they feature a review. Cassus Belli, another French magazine has a review, too, next month.

I can’t wait to see some reviews.

23rd April

Esdevium (the main UK distributor) have sold out, as have Alliance. The level of re-orders will tell us how successful we have been. Overall, I am very pleased with our progress.

May-September

The diary appears to have transmuted into a memoir. I am using hard evidence, combined with my infallible memory to reconstruct what has happened over the last few months.

May-July

Reviews! We have lots of reviews, now – all favourable.

Realms of Fantasy described it as “.. a joy to read” and “everything players and a GM need to create a successful Campaign in one of the seminal gaming fantasy worlds”. Yes, these quotes are selective, but no one said anything unpleasant. Backstab used French words that may or may not be bad, but they did give us the Golden Dagger and five stars. Kenneth Hite, industry guru, wrote one of the reviewers and has subsequently agreed to write an article for the XPS. He said he would write a sourcebook “If we agreed to fly him to the UK.”

The Excellent Prismatic Spray II was released in July. It’s bulkier (and more expensive) than XPS 1. It has an air of self-confident formality, with its thick cream cover and old-fashioned text and layout. We really need to do more to encourage subscribers – we are making very little margin on this issue, and need to sell 900 distributor copies just to break even. We are having a few problems with the perception of the XPS – it’s not a fanzine – the articles are of a similar quality to the main rules; it’s timeless – there are few if any time sensitive articles, and it is full of adventure material. I hope that word will spread. Initial orders are very good, but I underestimated the print costs, so we need to sell 800 to break even, unless we can increase the number of subscribers.

The Players’ Guide to White-Walled Kaiin

The manuscript for the Kaiin sourcebook arrived from Robin Laws. It is written from an original perspective and is designed to demonstrate the joys of long-term adventuring in Vance’s world. The book is designed to be perused by players during the game; it is assumed that your PCs are long term residents of Kaiin, and know how things go. You can visit contacts, pick adventure hooks, and share much more of the creativity with the GM. It is over 100,000 words long, and none of it is wasted. Play test response has been very good; we’ve received a few minor requests for additional material and one correction. Jim Webster, editor of the Excellent Prismatic Spray, is a beef farmer, and he pointed out that the fodder requirements for the animals described for the Kaiin supplement are ludicrously low. In the interest of satisfying the large Beef Farmer – Jack Vance fan crossover market, we have corrected these errors.

August

The efficient team of Jim Webster and Sarah Wroot have put XPS 3 together in record time (a record that is perhaps undermined the number of previous attempts.) It gets better each time. Peter Freeman’s exposition of the Valley of the Graven Tombs, illustrated by Sarah is sublime. It won’t be released for a while, but I’m very pleased it is ready to go. This should reassure our potential subscribers.

GenCon 2001 US

The morose David Thomas braved illness, and a woefully low profile (my fault) to represent Pelgrane Press alone at GenCon 2001. I am told by freelancers and other publishers that we did rather well, but we were not buried in terces, and hope to do better next year. A few demo games and suitable clothing might help next time! Strangely, only half of our customers are Americans – this is very unusual for a roleplaying game, particularly one based on a license from a US author. Maybe GenCon will help spread the word. For most companies, the US is 80% of the market. Still Ed Greenwood of Forgotten Realms notoriety took out a subscription, and both he and Jonathan Tweet praised the game.

Cugel’s Compendium update

Cugel’s Compendium is nearly ready to go – I am just awaiting a quote from the printer. Allen Varney has completed the layout in a similar style to the main rules, and Ralph’s artwork is better than ever. It’s Robin’s idea, written primarily by him, Aaron Allston and Phil Masters. However, the excellent Dying Earth Magazine mailing list contributed additional material. It is a book of goodies for players. It includes new items, both magical and mundane, new cantraps, confidence tricks, negotiation strategies, a costume generator, and Tweaks. Tweaks are powers that can be used to amusing effect at a small cost in points. Here are a couple more examples:

Volcanic Umbrage

Situation: You have just discovered that you have been cheated or conned. The individual responsible for doing this still stands within throttling range.
Description: You fly into a titanic, blustering rage, waving your arms about and spitting out barely coherent threats. Even if you are a mild-looking person not known for violence, your aspect temporarily becomes so alarming that even a hardened warrior will flee from you in instinctive fear .
Benefit: The person who cheated you must run away from you at his best possible speed, in the direction best calculated to put the maximum distance between himself and your raging, lunatic self. After one minute, he can stop his flight by making a successful Wherewithal or Persuasion (Intimidating) roll. If he wants to make that a Wallop instead of a roll, he compares his Wherewithal or Persuasion (Intimidating) rating to your Rebuff (Wary) rating.

“Please Forgive My Companion, Who Was Dropped At Birth”

Situation: A member of your group has just committed a terrible social faux pas. He may have offended the attendees at an elevated social function, insulted an influential potential patron, or annoyed a hot-tempered person who is even now reaching for his rapier.

Description: You can mollify the insulted party or parties by smoothly pointing out that your companion is either a halfwit or foreigner, and is therefore not fully responsible for his errors of etiquette. Given their source, you explain, the offended persons need not consider his words any kind of meaningful insult; they can safely ignore him without damage to their reputations or honor.

Benefit: You may spend 1 Etiquette point to eliminate the adverse consequences of another character’s Etiquette failure. Treat this as an automatic action, not requiring a roll.

The Scaum Valley Gazetteer

This supplement will describe the centre of civilization in the Dying Earth, the Scaum Valley. Jim Webster wrote the bulk of the material before the rules were even started. David Thomas and Steve Dempsey added more material. David Thomas and I have been slowly editing and re-writing this 90,000-word manuscript, adding more material than we remove. This supplement is less rigidly planned than Kaiin and the Compendium, so it will take more time to polish. It is full of adventure material and background information, and includes the manse of many of the major Arch-Magicians. We’ve had to deal with certain minor discrepancies in the novels; what is unimportant to the reader of a novel becomes very important in an RPG. For example, Iucounu’s manse is described as overlooking two different rivers in Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel’s Saga. We don’t want to get uptight about it – you should hardly notice such discrepancies.

6th September

We ran out of XPS 1 some time ago, and people are still asking for a copy free with the rules. We aren’t going to do another re-print; we can’t afford not to charge, and people would be upset if we did. I’ve decided to put a PDF up on the website. This will keep current players happy and, with luck, increase the number of subscribers.

1st December

Dragonmeet was fun – we sold out of the new releases, literally rather than metaphorically. We dsiplayed a marvelous four tiered hat created by Magot, and Matt Goodman of Heliograph modelled it splendid effect at one of the seminars. John Kovalic was swamped by hundred’s of fans, and nearly lost the use of his writing hand and voice. The estimable James Wallis of Hogshead Publishing presided over the auction, and we were treated to a glimpse of his games designer’s torso. Luckily, no one bid high enough to see his Doomstones.

10th December

The Player’s Guide to Kaiin is in the hands of Sarah Wroot, the XPS layout artist. However, she has also been working on XPS Online, a web-based supplement for subscribers to the Excellent Prismatic Spray. This has ballooned and now includes additional websites for the Scholasticarium, Wakdun the Panderer. Whilst this will provide new material of the highest caliber, it has delayed Kaiin.

2002

Kaiin and Kaiin map released. The Player’s Guide to Kaiin is on general release. A limited edition full-color map is available from our order page.

19th January

The Scaum Valley Gazetteer has gone out for play testing again. It has been substantially rewritten to provide a better balance between the adventures and source material. We’ve added more taglines, spells and items and toned down certain death for PCs to to likely humiliation.

23rd January

XPS 3 and Cugel’s Compendium were printed back in November, and we had 30 of each shipped by airmail to us to sell at Dragonmeet. Unfortunately, we were unable to get the rest out in time for Christmas. The delay was further compounded by a miscommunication betweeen the printers, their shippers and Wizard’s Attic which means that they only arrived in the States on 20th January. Still, they are here now.

25th January

The XPS 3 subscription copies have gone out worldwide, and Cugel’s Compendium and XPS 3 are available in the States. Wizard’s Attic are shipping copies of each supplement to the UK for distribution to the rest of the world. We should have them over here by mid-February. I think that Leisure Games, who purchased some stock at Dragonmeet might have some copies for those in the UK and rest of the world who are desperate to get them.


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 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.

NEW! Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

This month sees the release of the second edition of what I tend to think of as one of our hidden gems, which doesn’t feature in the spotlight glare of our social media, or release schedule, nearly half enough, but which I know has a really passionate following. If you’re not familiar with it, Mutant City Blues is a GUMSHOE police procedural game, set in a near-future where 1% of the world’s population has developed mutant abilities – including some of the police. Use the Quade Diagram out-of-game to create your mutant-powered characters, but also in-game as part of Mutant City’s Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit to identify perpetrators of enhanced crimes. Eisner Award-winning comics artist Gene Ha has done a stunningly modern new cover – we’ll cover that in more detail over the coming weeks.

We’re proud of Pelgrane’s comparatively long history in the RPG industry, but having been around for nearly twenty years also brings some issues with it. One is that the file format of books from ~2002 doesn’t necessarily hold up that well seventeen years later (more on the original The Dying Earth RPG files some other time). Another is that earlier books like Mutant City Blues were published in less socially conscious times, and looking at it afresh in 2019, we see ideas and forms of expression that we now realise are deeply problematic. Some first edition playtest groups were generous enough to get in touch with us and send us their thoughts on that, and with their help, the resulting second edition improves on both the playability and the decency of the first.

Coming soon! Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos

Long-term readers will no doubt have picked up on the epic war we constantly wage against our, and all publishers’, bitterest enemy: printers. Our foes won a major battle in October, ousting us from our familiar old haunts with a new weapon in the form of impossible price increases. Dashed from our comfort zone, we’ve been scouring the world for a replacement ever since. The reason I mention this is that the first print run of books from the NuPrinter are being set up as I type, and we’re hoping to have it with pre-orderers in a couple of months. I’m really excited to see the finished product, Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos. NuPrinter has been great to work with, with plenty of good-looking proofs at each stage of the process (really important, when working with a new printer), which has included proofs of the final book, too. So uncharacteristically, I’m the first person to see this! (Usually, I have to go to a convention to see our latest releases in physical format, which is why you might have seen pictures of me being very impressed while opening boxes at Gen Con. That Cthulhu Confidential limited edition is sooo gorgeous, though!).

But I digress – I was going to show you some photos of proof copies. I hadn’t anticipated them sending through a blank book as a sample first, which they did, so that was a novelty. I’m wondering what to do with it – it’s so pristine and shiny and white!

URGENT PLEA!!!

Are you going to Gen Con Indianapolis this year? The closing date for submitting events is this coming Sunday, March 10th, and we urgently need more games! Every year, the good Events people at Gen Con contact us to let us know our games are sold out, and ask if we can run more events, so if you’re able to run 13th Age, Night’s Black Agents, Trail of Cthulhu – or any other Pelgrane game! – at Gen Con 2019, please sign up here, so we can share our great games with even more people this year! You can see the full list of adventures available here.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

Despite having a new baby, Nimuë Ryder-Hanrahan, earlier this month (congratulations!), Gareth’s finished most of his adventures for The Borellus Connection. which are available for playtesting this monthThis collection of eight thematically linked operations can serve as a connected campaign, or as stand-alone operations the Handler can drop into the course of an ongoing The Fall of DELTA GREEN investigation.

Work in progress update: Free RPG Day 2019

We’re happy to be taking part in Free RPG Day again in 2019, and this year, we’ve got a 13th Age adventure crowd-sourced from Twitter called Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer for 3rd level characters, and a new adventure for the Paris setting of The Yellow King RPG called The Doors to Heaven. Here’s some more details about each:

Behind Iron Doors, a Gateway to Doom!

Paris, 1895. A sensation-seeking band of art students confronts supernatural invasion from an alien realm. A play called The King in Yellow circulates in the city’s secret, decadent circles, twisting the ordinary and corrupting the sacred. In the students’ latest case, a fellow student’s disappearance draws them to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Legend claims that its iron doors were sculpted through a pact with the devil. Behind this tale the investigators uncover a stranger truth, replete with hooded figures, an unearthly plague, and the terrifying creatures that inspired the gargoyles.

Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer

The renegade dwarf wizard has returned from exile, and now his army of thralls lays siege to the fortress of his ancestors. Doom and kinstrife threaten the lands of the dwarves! There’s but one chance – if a small band of heroic adventurers can brave the passage of the Underworld, they could strike at the wizard’s secret sanctum where he plots with his mysterious allies from the depths!

Battle through the tunnels of the world below! Navigate weird perils! Face fiendish horrors! It’s a race against time – if you tarry, the dwarves on the surface will most certainly perish!

Above all, don’t get entangled – for the dungeon of the Pogonomancer is certainly one hairy situation…

We’re looking for GMs to run our games at Gen Con 2019!

If you’re interested in joining the GM crew at Gen Con, check out the list of available game slots here.

GMs will get our new 2019 t-shirts, meet up with our game creators, and receive special Pelgrane swag! Here are the adventures available for each system:

Email support@pelgranepress.com (click to open in your email client) to join our GM team now!

We get a number of emails every month from conventions looking for GMs to run Pelgrane games, particularly 13th Age, Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents. If you’re interested in running a Pelgrane Press game at one of the conventions below, please email me with the following details:

  • Convention name
  • Your name
  • Number of 2-hour games you can run (13th Age only)
  • Number of 4-hour games you can run
  • Preferred days and times for your games to run
  • If you would like us to provide an adventure, or you’re running your own
  • T-shirt size

If your local convention needs Pelgrane GMs, tell them to get in touch.

***

Gen Con

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Dates: August 4th to 7th, 2016

GMs needed: All Pelgrane games. but particularly Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents and 13th Age – see high demand list here!

***

Dragon Con

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Dates: September 2nd to 5th, 2016

GMs needed: 13th Age,  all GUMSHOE games

***

AcadeCon

Location: Dayton, Ohio

Dates: November 11th-13th, 2016

GMs needed: 13th Age,  all GUMSHOE games

Check out their Kickstarter here!

***

 

GenCon logo_websiteComing to you live…

Well, obviously not live live – while I may be writing this from a hotel room in Indianapolis, it won’t be up on the Pelgrane site for a week. And for that matter, I’m hardly alive either, after the arguably best but very definitely longest four days in gaming.

Let us start again. That seems to be a wise move.

I ran two or three 13th Age demos each day of GenCon, using pregenerated characters that had basic mechanics but no Icon, backgrounds or OUTs, and a very simple intro scenario that can be summarised as “something bad is happening in Glitterhaegen that is neatly resolved in an hour with two quick fight scenes and a skill roll”. While all the demos (bar one) followed that basic story, bringing in elements from the players’ contributions meant every game felt radically different.

I’ll use the last demo I ran, late on the Sunday afternoon as an example. Even though five people had signed up, only one actually showed (every other demo had between three and six players) – a lovely chap named Edgar, and I hope he doesn’t mind being used in this article. With only one player, Edgar asked for a halfling rogue pregen, so after running through the basic mechanics, we started on what makes 13th Age different from other F20 games and such a joy to run.

I gave all the demo characters a 1-point Positive relationship with the Emperor, mainly so I could use “you’re all working for the Emperor” as a fallback story if nothing else suggested itself. I then showed Edgar the full list of Icons, and asked him to pick one more.

Negative with the Elf Queen, says he, picking an unexpected Icon relationship. I asked him to go into a little more detail on this, and he describes how he was the only thief to successfully steal from the Queen’s court, coming up with his One Unique Thing at the same time.

I told him to leave Backgrounds blank for now – in a one-shot demo, or even in a campaign for that matter, it’s often more fun to fill in backgrounds when they’re needed in play. As there was only one player, I added a GMPC, a half-elf paladin of the Crusader (OUT: On Fire).

I had three different variations of my simple little plot based around three different Icons – a soul-stealing merchant for the Diabolist, a grave-robbing necromancer for the Lich King, and a pirate plotting to take advantage of an impending Orc Lord attack. I could have just said “because you’re servants of the Emperor, you’re called upon to help Glitterhaegen” and introduced any of the three variations or used my GMPC paladin’s Crusader relationship to bring the PCs in to investigate the soul thief, but instead I changed ‘Orc Lord invasion’ to ‘demonic elves out of the Bitterwood’ and brought in Edgar’s antipathy towards the Elf Queen. I always try to tie plots to the player characters; even if the connection is a bit tenuous, it’s worth it to be able to go “because of this thing about you, in particular, you’re involved in this adventure.”

Next, we rolled Icon relationships; Edgar’s Emperor came up with a 6, and I gave him a belt of the city (from the Book of Loot) to help with the investigation.

Actual play time! I described how the city was under threat of invasion by dangerous, isolationist elves who considered humans to be usurpers. While the Imperial Legion manned the walls, there were rumours of elven commando units sneaking into the city, and traitors were said to be in league with the elves. The PCs had traced one such traitor to the grand bazaar, a huge, crowded open-air market in Glitterhaegen.

I planned to set my first fight scene in the market. My original notes called for an attack by a band of illusory orcs, but I could use disguised elves just as easily. I then asked Edgar a few questions about the market.

  • The grand bazaar’s dominated by a structure or monument of some sort. What is it?”
  • “Something’s happening in the market that’s going to make your investigation harder – what is it?”

By asking these questions after I’d set the initial parameters of the scene, I gave Edgar control over specific details of the scene while retaining overall control. No matter what he came up with, I could still use my attacking elves. It gave him a sense of engagement with the setting, which is great. It also forced me to stay awake and keep thinking on my feet – setting up situations where the GM gets surprised is super valuable, especially when you’re running a bunch of convention demos in a row. If there’s no challenge for the GM, it gets boring and the players pick up on that boredom. Finding tools to keep your own energy and enthusiasm up is a good habit for a GM to cultivate.

I deliberately didn’t ask open-ended questions, like “where do you find the traitor?” Some players freeze when given that much freedom of choice – for that matter, I wouldn’t be completely confident about my ability to improvise a scene that would still work within the constraints of a demo if the player came up with something completely unexpected (“I find the traitor in a dragon’s lair under the city!”).

Edgar proposed a giant statue of a former admiral, blowing a horn, and a street preacher, both of which worked perfectly with my intended plot. I decided that the street preacher was the traitor in disguise, trying to convince people to abandon Glitterhaegen and flee on the waiting ships – which his pirate fleet would then capture and despoil. The giant statue was a great image and focal point for the fight. (Previous demos gave answers like “a huge crystal gazebo”, “a temple to Mammon”, or “an elven graveyard” and “a children’s festival” or “a funeral procession”).

Edgar’s halfling went off to listen to the preacher, so I got to ambush him with my fake demon elves who attacked the gathered crowds. Cue a quick fight scene. I used the orc stats I’d prepared earlier for my elves instead, hastily reskinning them. If any of them had critted, I’d have described their expanded-crit-range ability as a blast of magical hellfire or something suitably infernal.

Afterwards, I didn’t bother to make him to roll to see if his rogue noticed that these elves were common wood elves, not the fabled demon elves that threatened to attack Glitterhaegen. Instead, GUMSHOE-style, I just told him that because of his experience in the elven court (his OUT of “I stole from the Elf Queen”), he recognised these elves for what they were, and he quickly deduced that they were deliberately trying to whip up terror and dismay in the city. The flipside of the ‘fail forward’ principle is that if failure is boring, don’t ask for a roll. He quickly deduced that the elves and the street preacher were in league, and scampered up the statue to confront the traitor.

Instead of attacking, he launched into his own speech, rebutting the traitor’s tales of gloom and doom. I asked Edgar to roll, and he decided to create a background on the spot to give him a bonus. He was, he announced, the former mayor of a Halfling town, and so was experienced in public speaking. Defining backgrounds in play often generates surprising juxtapositions like that – if I’d insisted that he fill in all his backgrounds during the brief character creation phase at the start of the demo instead of leaving them blank, he’d probably have gone for something like “burglar” or “forester” to fit in with his One Unique Thing of having stolen from the Elf Queen, not “ex-mayor”.

Between his not-bad Charisma, his belt of the city, his background and a good roll, Edgar’s Halfling convinced the people of Glitterhaegen to rally to the defence of the city instead of fleeing on board the waiting ships. The frustrated preacher revealed himself to be the treacherous pirate, dropping his act and acquiring an outrageous accent – YARR! – in the process. While my original notes called for the player characters to encounter the traitor on board a ship, a swashbuckling fight on the shoulders and head of a giant statue worked just as well.

Fight scene, players win, demo ends. Huzzah!

One could argue – and in certain moods, I’d agree with this – that 13th Age is a game of two halves. There’s the relatively detailed and balanced combat engine, and the considerably looser and fuzzier story-generating mash of backgrounds, Icons and OUTs. Certainly, in a simple 45-minute demo like this one, I was able to use that divide to my advantage by warping the mutable story-side elements around the player’s choices and answers, while leaving the mechanical side unchanged.

Interestingly, one of the take-aways from the 13th Age adventure design panel seminar was that people preferred using adventures for inspiration and pre-prepared encounters to use in their own games instead of running the adventures as written in the book. While we’re unlikely to go so far as to publish a book that’s half stats, half fuzzy ideas on how to put those stats into context, that flexibility is one strength of 13th Age that we’ll build on as we look towards GenCon 2015.

 

 

Gen Con is almost here, and we have some great seminars lined up. Pelgrane Press has also submitted a GUMSHOE panel as well as an overall Pelgrane Press panel, and we hope to see those go live soon.

13th Age Adventure Design
Date & Time: Thursday at 1:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn C
The freeform story rules in 13th Age require a different approach to adventure design. Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Philippe-Antoine Ménard and ASH LAW will talk about how to design with icons, backgrounds, uniques and more, and answer your questions.

13th Age GM Roundtable
Date & Time: Friday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Grand Central D
Rob Heinsoo, Mike Shea, Ruth Tillman and Wade Rockett share their advice on how to run 13th Age, from handling icon rolls to collaborative world building and beyond. Got questions? Bring ‘em!

13th Age: Year One
Date & Time: Saturday at 3:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Victoria Stn A/B
13th Age debuted one year ago at Gen Con! Join Rob Heinsoo, Simon Rogers and Wade Rockett as they talk about where the game is now, share what’s coming next and answer your burning questions.

13th Age Monster Workshop
Date & Time: Sunday at 2:00 PM
Duration: 1 hours
Location: Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Stn C
Join Rob Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and ASH LAW as they build a new monster that’ll take advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver all sorts of nasty surprises at the table.

GenCon logo_websiteAre you going to GenCon this year? Complete our GenCon questionnaire before February 28th, 2014 and be entered into a prize draw to win Pelgrane Press vouchers!

The questionnaire is available here: http://goo.gl/uRBrrt

UPDATE: All of our events but one (The Lost Tower of Suln in the VIG Lounge) are sold out! If you want to play 13th Age at Gen Con, find us at Booth #101 and sign up for the 2-hour demo with GM Rob Heinsoo. See you in Indy!

Want to play 13th Age at Gen Con? As of right now we still have a few openings in these games — anywhere from 1 seat to 4 seats. Grab your place at the table!

RPG1352025 – Danger At Deathless Gulch SOLD OUT
Start Date & Time: Thursday at 11:00 AM
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Marriott : Indiana Blrm D : 2
Journey to the badlands of Midgard’s magic-blasted Wasted West to recover a magical tome from a crashed dwarven airship. This adventure will use icons from the Midgard Campaign Setting.

RPG1351150 – The Lost Tower of Suln (VIG only)
Thursday at 2:00 PM
4 hours
ICC : VIG Lounge
The tower is back, and the Icons are moving to control an artifact of Achmos. Pre-gen characters provided. Generate Uniques, Backgrounds, and Icons then play the module. VIG and VIG Companion only.

RPG1352435 – Blood and Lightning (Fast and Furious Version) SOLD OUT
Thursday at 7:00 PM
2 hours
Marriott : Indiana Blrm D : 3
Boltstrike Pillar is under attack! Fight, fast-talk or sneak past squads of mooks and nightmare creatures as you ascend the pillar toward your ultimate foe. Every game will be different.

RPG1352023 – Blood & Lightning SOLD OUT
Friday at 1:00 PM
4 hours
Marriott Blrm 3 : 6
A hidden enemy threatens Boltstrike Pillar, one of the Dragon Empire’s magical nodes. Defend it at all costs! Your choices during character generation ensure that no two games will be the same.

RPG1352021 – Blood and Lightning (Fast and Furious Version) SOLD OUT
Saturday at 10:00 AM
2 hours
Marriott Blrm 7 : 4

RPG1352034 – Caverns & Cave-Creepers SOLD OUT
Saturday at 11:00 AM
2 hours
Marriott Blrm 7 : 3
A spider cave, and a wizard who will pay well for their eggs. But so will his sorceress rival. And someone else will pay to see the eggs destroyed. Wait, is this 13th Age or Fiasco?

RPG1352039 – Blood and Lightning (Fast and Furious Version) SOLD OUT
Saturday at 1:00 PM
2 hours
Marriott Blrm 7 : 3

RPG1352031 – Caverns & Cave-Creepers SOLD OUT
Saturday at 5:00 PM
2 hours
Marriott Blrm 7 : 6

RPG1352022 – Blood and Lightning (Fast and Furious Version) SOLD OUT
Sunday at 11:00 AM
2 hours
Marriott Blrm 7 : 5

Hail, raiders of the Gen Con high country!  To celebrate the launch of Hillfolk and its companion volume Blood on the Snow, we’ve arranged two signing events at the Pelgrane Press booth. We have so many contributors at the show that we’re going to be splitting our signers into two bunches.

On Thurs Aug 15th at 3 pm swing by to grab autographs from such tentatively scheduled luminaries as Jennifer Brozek, Steve Dempsey, Dave Gross, Rob Heinsoo, Ryan Macklin, Michelle Nephew and illustrator Rachel A. Kahn.

Then come back on Sun Aug 18th at 11 am for the cuneiform stylings of Keith Baker, Emily Care Boss, Steven S. Long, TS Luikart, Andy Peregrine, Wade Rockett and Pedro Ziviani.

The Pelgrane Booth has moved to bigger digs this year, and is now #101, across from our fine pals at Paizo.

I’ll be there for both events, and around the booth for much of the rest of the time. As always I’ll be happy to deface any of my books, new or old, for you.

Many other contributors are at the show but unable to make this event. This will not prevent you from suavely bushwhacking and/or waylaying them as they perform their duties at booths elsewhere on the exhibit hall floor.

Kickstarter backers will recall that they can arrange ahead of time to pick up their books at the show. And of course there will be copies on sale for those of you who did not join us for the campaign back in October.

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