“The Orc Lord is a figure of legend. The last time he walked the land the Lich King fell, in part because of the Orc Lord’s attack. Who will fall before his hordes this time? Who won’t?”  –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.

The images in this post should give you a pretty clear picture of the way we developed the illustrations of the Icon characters for 13th Age.  The striking Orc Lord that you see before you, again masterfully painted by Lee Moyer, came a long way from my original thumbnail.  Once I was reminded that this wasn’t your typical “Joe Orc,” I quadrupled his body mass and covered him in the finest armor, at least the finest by orc standards.  Lee altered my sketch to improve his proportions.  It is very helpful to have someone who can see the image with fresh eyes and not only describe the revision ideas, but actually present them visually.  I stayed true to Lee’s alterations with the pencils and then he let fly with the digital paints.  Looking at the full color version I can almost smell the smoke and orc sweat lingering heavily in the air.

Email from Lee Moyer:  “SO – Interesting discussion with Rob (Heinsoo), and it’s led to THIS version of the Orc Lord.  Rob’s point is that the Orc Lord should never be mistaken for ‘just some Orc’ so the extra beefiness is great!  Basically, he LOVED the width of the figure, so I’ve added some significant width to the torso and arms.”

You’ve come a long way, Joe Orc!

The Trail of Cthulhu Discussions


  • Interviews with Simon Rogers (publisher) and Jerome Huguenin (art and layout).
  • Interview with Kenneth Hite, author of Trail of Cthulhu.

Your enemies

Fear Itself includes fearsome new opponents for your PCs. More creatures and two great Fear Itself adventures can be found in the Ennie-award nominated GUMSHOE Book of Unremitting Horror.


Mystery Man

Mystery Men drive people mad for pleasure. A
Mystery Man seeks out individuals, often in a group,
who he deems susceptible to psychological breakdown,
yet of sufficient depth and interest to make the effort
entertaining. Once he targets a victim or victims, he
loses (or perhaps only willingly abandons) the ability
to interfere directly with their minds.

The Ovvashi

Ovvashi are humanoid demons who prey on society’s
refuse: drug addicts, the homeless, and the down-and-
out. Shuffling through places where the homeless congregate, they quickly
find new friends, ensuring a warm welcome with their
dirty plastic bags laden with cheap booze and smokes.
Having won their confidence, they draw tales of woe
from their newfound mates. To seal their allegiance,
they withdraw from their bags the objects their victims
most desire. The ovvashi are also capable of materializing
very specific items, like an exact replica of a longlost
memento, or even a particular photograph of an
abandoned loved one. But this is is just a tool of enslavement.


Fear Itself is a stand-alone game, based on the GUMSHOE system first introduced in Esoterrorists. GUMSHOE is modular, and Fear Itself offers new options for the GUMSHOE system which can also be used in Esoterrorists or other GUMSHOE games.

Fear Itself Characters

Characters in Fear Itself have numerous hooks which make them perfect for horror adventures.

  • Risk Factors determine why your character goes down into the dark basement. If you don’t follow your risk factor, your sanity can suffer.
  • The CSI-style skill set of PCs in Esoterrorists are simplified to reflect the background.
  • The useful Fleeing ability can get you away from the fearsome creatures which pursue you.
  • Stability – your resistance to insanity – has been more thoroughly detailed, and linked to your sources of stability, friends, family, beliefs and pastimes.
  • Optionally, you can include psychics with powerful but sanity threatening abilities such as Premonition, Remote Viewing and Synchronicty.
  • Each player defines The Worst Thing they Ever Did, which the GM and players can use to inform the characters behaviour and fears.
  • Each character describes their initial attitude to the other PCs, including who they like or dislike. This can be based on initial impressions or intimate knowledge.


Creating and Running Adventures

The looser structure of a Fear Itself scenario still consists of an investigative line, in which the characters pursue a series of core clues until they achieve a resolution of some sort. The GM or players can introduce flashbacks or directed scenes usually to address a character issue (for example The Worst Thing They Ever Did) or relationship with a source of stability or PC. Additional Unremitting Horror creatures including the fearsome Mystery Man are offered as foils.

Fear Itself includes masses of advice for the GM and players on how to run a horror game, and a detailed adventure The Ocean in the Forest.

Your city


Although you could set your Mutant City Blues series in a fictional metropolis, as you see in certain comic books, we instead recommend placing it in an actual city you and your players are very familiar with.

Doing so reinforces the game’s sense of social realism, underlining the idea that this is the real world after ten years of adjustment to widespread super powers. With that in mind, the setting chapter is presented not as a conventional gazetteer, but as a series of people, organizations and institutions to slot into the city of your choice. Entries for locations begin with suggestions on which sorts of neighborhoods to place them in.

Your existing knowledge about the laws, geography, police organisation and social background also gives you less to learn and makes it much easier to get into the game.

quade (1)In the world of Mutant City Blues, super powers come from a single source, and are well-documented enough to be understood with forensic science and to have been incorporated into legal proceedings. The Quade Diagram, devised by Dr Lucius Quade, maps them all out, and shows their associated defects. It’s this diagram which makes the forensic investigation possible. It also doubles up as a central source of character generation. In MCB, the names your character uses for their powers are the same name you use a player.

Design Notes

The Quade Diagram, and its role in character generation, exists primarily to evoke the particular setting of Mutant City Blues. It conveys the idea that the setting’s mutant powers conform to unvarying, if not yet fully understood, laws of science. The diagram reinforces the concept that all powers share the same origin. It has some game balance effects, making it difficult for a single player to cherry-pick all of the most dramatic abilities, but these are not its primary point. GMs may wish to warn players ahead of time that Mutant City Blues discards the standard super-powered RPG design goal of allowing you to replicate any hero you find in comic books. You’ll find that you can create knock-offs of certain iconic characters but that others are impossible to reproduce.

The driving convention in a default comic book universe is that every character embodies a unique theme and distinctive set of powers. In the Mutant City Blues world, enhanced characters conform to a number of recognizable types, with slight variations in detail. MCB includes the option to create characters without the Quade diagram if you wish.




The Esoterrorists comprise a fast-growing international conspiracy drawing from all walks of life. Conspirators range from Washington power brokers to backwoods cannibals. When they started out, they were able to influence people only through suggestion. They practiced rituals but their evocations were limited to persuasive parlor tricks.

Esoterror today

Their generation-spanning plans for global control only began to come to fruition in the 1990s, at the end of the cold war. As old power arrangements shattered, Esoterrorist agents stepped in to fill the gap. Their ritualists feed off the growing globalization of electronic media and the accelerating pace of islocating social change. Whenever the world appears more disturbing or surreal than it is already, the veil between the ordinary material world, bounded by the laws of science, becomes permeable.
Illogic becomes its own logic. The surreal gains physical form.


Unremitting Horrors

Esoterrorist rituals seek to harness fleeting elements of subjectivity and use it to poke holes in the membrane. When they weaken it enough, they can bring forth creatures which they claim come from their own imagination, unremitting horrors. In a world where vampires are a pop culture staple and the dread elder gods are available as plush toys, traditional monsters have lost their power to terrify and appall. Esoterrorist creatures may recall demons, ghosts or the undead, but always with an unexpected twist. Additional creatures and information on the Esoterrorists can be found in the GUMSHOE Book of Unremitting Horror

Ordo Veritatis



The exact origins of the Ordo Veritatis are unknown to all but its most senior members. Field agents know
that it arose in response to the nascent Esoterror movement, and that its
activities have on several occasions prevented them from decisively piercing
the protective barrier between the natural and the supernatural.


The OV, as insiders call it, is organized in a cell structure, to limit the potential damage of Esoterrorist infiltration. Members typically perform investigations under assumed identities, which last for only the duration of a single case. Mistakes in maintaining cover can lead to disaster: Esoterrorists love nothing better than to send assassins and creatures to torture and kill investigators’ families and friends.
Teams stick together and rarely meet their peers. New teammates are shuffled in as old ones are killed. Rookies may be entirely new to the OV, or transferred out of defunct teams.
Briefings are conducted on site by high-ranking operatives, many of them ex-investigators. They invariably introduce themselves as Mr. (or Ms.) Verity.

Sweeper Teams

Investigators are fact-finders first and enforcers of the unwritten
laws of civilization second. Once they’ve determined the dimensions of an
Esoterror plot, identifying its principals and their bases of operation, they
can step aside and call for back up. When the perpetrators are easily taken
down, the team may perform mop-up duties on its own. In the case of large
concentrations of enemies or supernatural creatures, they instead call in Ordo
Veritatis sweeper teams. These heavily armed paramilitary units perform the
necessary killing, destroying, and burning, while the team heads back to a
rendezvous point for debriefing. Efficient and overwhelming force is a hallmark
of a Sweeper Team operation.

Trailer of Cthulhu

The Trailer of Cthulhu

Courtesy of 7eme Cercle, who have produced the French version of Trail of Cthulhu under license.

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