The sky has turned white; the stars pulse with inky blackness. This unexpected Carcosan weather pattern has trapped company principals Cat and Simon in the wilds of Ohio. Yet the commands of the pallid mask may not be delayed!

The Kickstarter for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, by Robin D. Laws, launches this Wednesday, June 21st, at 8 pm Eastern.

by Graham Walmsley

For further information about Cthulhu Dark, please visit the publisher’s page

When people ask where I got my ideas for Cthulhu Dark – that’s my rules-light Lovecraftian roleplaying game, which is currently on Kickstarter – I tell them one of three stories.

Story One: It’s our gaming night. Simon Rogers from Pelgrane and I are talking, before our 13th Age game starts. Specifically, we’re talking about a GUMSHOE hack we’ve found on the Internet, in which you roll dice rather than spending points. I joke about this: why would you want to replace points with dice? Isn’t the point-spend system one of the best things about GUMSHOE?

Now, I should never joke about games, because I end up designing them. (Don’t ask about the time I joked about an Apocalypse World hack for disco).

True to form, I start thinking how GUMSHOE might work with dice. Maybe, I think, the dice don’t tell you whether you succeed, but how well you succeed and what you find out. Then I let that idea sit in my subconscious for a few years.

Story Two: I’m selling my Trail of Cthulhu scenarios at a UK convention. They are special editions, with nail polish dripped on them to look like blood (for Dance in the Blood) or ichor (for Watchers in the Sky). And I think: I’d like to put some rules into these special editions, so people can just pick them up and play.

As I stand there, I start inventing a short Cthulhu system, which I could put in the back of my scenarios. Maybe, I think, I could call it Cthulhu Light. But, wait, you can’t call a Lovecraftian horror game “light”. It would have to be…

And so I design Cthulhu Dark. I’m inspired by the simple-but-beautiful die mechanics of Ron Edwards’ Sorcerer. When you want to do something in Cthulhu Dark, you roll one die if what you’re doing is within human capabilities, one die if your occupation is relevant and one die if you risk your mind to succeed. The highest die tells you how well you do.

Then I playtest endlessly, running all my scenarios with Cthulhu Dark. I tweak the rules obsessively. I calculate probabilities, with vast spreadsheets and long die-rolling sessions.

Everything I’d wanted from a Cthulhu system goes into Cthulhu Dark. You can roll for anything, not just something you have a skill in: if you want to control your dreams, remember a childhood memory or decipher mystical carvings, you can roll for it.

And the higher you roll, the more you find out. But, if you roll a 6, you find out more than you wanted to know and glimpse the horror.

As I write, I’m inspired by my work on Trail of Cthulhu. In Cthulhu Dark, just like in Trail of Cthulhu, you can’t fail to find information if you need it to proceed with the scenario.

And I use the bleak horror I developed in my Trail of Cthulhu scenarios, but this time I write it into the rules: in Cthulhu Dark, you can’t beat any Mythos creature in a fight. You must find another way instead: run, hide or watch helplessly and await your fate.

That’s how I wrote the original two-page Cthulhu Dark, which you can still read and play. Since then, the rules have had years of play. They are as solid as they’ll ever be.

Sometimes, people ask why we need another Cthulhu system. Aren’t there enough in the world already?

But, to me, every Cthulhu system gives a new way to look at Lovecraftian horror. Call of Cthulhu was the original, focussing on sanity, with a side order of combat. Trail of Cthulhu focussed on investigation. And Cthulhu Dark is engineered for bleak, cosmic horror.

Whatever your favourite Cthulhu system, you’ll learn something from trying another one. If you love Call of Cthulhu, you’ll discover new tricks from the GMless style of Lovecraftesque. If you love the way the dice work in Nemesis, you’ll learn something from the very different die mechanics of Unspeakable. If you love Trail of Cthulhu, you’ll learn from Cthulhu Dark’s advice on playing and writing horror.

You don’t need to abandon your current system. You don’t need to commit to Cthulhu Dark exclusively. It won’t get jealous. Steal all the best bits from the Cthulhu Dark rulebook and use them in Trail of Cthulhu. I won’t mind.

Story Three: I’ve just played my original version of Cthulhu Dark with experienced players of Lovecraftian horror. We have a great and horrifying game. Afterwards, they ask whether I’m going to publish it as a big rulebook.

Oh, sure, I joke, that’s the plan. I’ll expand my two-page system into a two-hundred page rulebook with a glossy cover. But I should never joke about games, because I end up designing them.

On the way home, I start thinking about that Cthulhu Dark rulebook. How would it work? It would start with the Cthulhu Dark rules, simple and effective. Then I’d delve into those rules, explaining all the tips and tricks I’ve learned in six years of running the game.

There’d be a full guide to writing a Cthulhu Dark mystery, starting from the things you fear and ending with a mystery you can play. I’d add a guide to playing a Cthulhu Dark game, too, with techniques for running horror at the gaming table.

Finally, there would be settings, taking Cthulhu Dark into different places in time and space. The first setting would be dirty Victorian London, in which you’d play thieves and beggars from the slums. There’d be a cyberpunk setting, too. And I’d work with up-and-coming authors to help them write their own Cthulhu Dark settings.

Over the next few years, all of this became the Cthulhu Dark rulebook. I worked with other authors, Kathryn Jenkins and Helen Gould, to create the settings, which are London 1851, Arkham 1692, Jaiwo 2017 and Mumbai 2037.

It’s taken five years, but my two-page game has become my dream Cthulhu system. You’ll get it all when you back the Kickstarter. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it creeps you out.

You can get 20% off all the standard edition and PDFs of Cthulhu Apocalypse and The Final Revelation in the store with the code BKS#GRAHAM17 while the Cthulhu Dark Kickstarter is running.

by Paul Butler

Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff, one of the largest gaming stores on the East coast of the United States. A familiar face at trade shows around North America, in recent years he has spent a great deal of time and energy helping other retailers improve their RPG business. He writes a blog about the retail side of the role-playing industry at
He has been role-playing since 1979, and usually plays Bards.

Strap yourselves in. Today we’re gonna talk about crowdfunding.

For many retailers, it’s a dirty word. For some, it’s the dirtiest. At the very least, retailers have strong opinions on the topic, and I’m certainly no exception. It’s a complicated and multi-faceted issue, and this little missive of mine can’t begin to delve into all of it.

Today though, we’re going to talk specifically about crowdfunding roleplaying games, and why I think it’s an important part of this hobby gaming ecosystem that we are all a part of.kickstarter-logo1

Whether you realize it or not, we’re in a bit of a new Golden Age for roleplaying games. The brands I currently consider the “Big Four”* are showing increasingly strong sales numbers, which only means there’s more people out there roleplaying on a regular basis, and more people interesting in checking out what else our hobby has to offer. In the last year alone, my store has seen at least 10-15 new RPG releases that have sold in excess of 20 copies within a few weeks of release. And that’s not counting anything from the aforementioned big guns.

What crowdfunding has done is allowed many RPG projects to get off the ground in a way that would have been near impossible given the cautious way that many game publishers and distributors have approached RPGs in recent years. Crowdfunding has contributed in no small way to the wealth of gorgeous RPGs that currently line the shelves at my store.

“So how to retailers fit in here, Paul?” I hear you saying.

Well, in a couple of ways. First of all, many of the complaints levelled at crowdfunding from certain corners of the retail tier have to do with publishers bypassing retail and going straight to consumer. While this is not without merit, there are plenty of publishers (Pelgrane Press included) who have made an effort to include stores with *retailer only* pledges during these campaigns. If you think the game is a good fit for your store, you should support these efforts, and the publishers making them.
In the years that I’ve been talking to other retailers about RPGs through my seminars, one of the strongest points I have continually tried to make is that in order to be seen as a legitimate source for RPGs to your customers, and as a store that really cares about the hobby, one must stock roleplaying games. Seems simple enough right? Stock more than just the obvious choices, and you’ll be seen as a hub for the hobby, a source of information and a place to discover the hot new thing. There’s nothing quite as gratifying as being a retailer, and just as the buzz on a product is starting to grow, a customer finds the item in your store and is blown away by the fact that you have it already. Every time I hear “I can’t believe you guys carry this!” in these instances warms my heart like the velvety embrace of Crown Royal bag around a D20.

Which brings me back to crowdfunding. Buzz on a crowdfunded game tends to spike three times. Right around the time the campaign is launched, again when it funds, and then one last time when the product starts shipping to backers. When you choose to back a campaign, it’s that last spike that you’ll be taking advantage of. Just as backers are getting their rewards, (and you might be seeing them in your store) is when a new crop of gamers may take interest. If your store backed the project as well, you’ll be getting stuff around the same time as other backers and you’re perfectly positioned to ride that wave of enthusiasm.

Not only that, but by having the product before distribution gets it (if they get it at all) you’ll be seen as on the cutting edge of RPGs. And it doesn’t hurt that you’ll have the stuff before most other retailers or e-commerce sites.

It’s hard to measure the impact a couple little indie RPGs can have on the bottom line of your RPG department. Or what having the hot new thing a few weeks early can do. In fact, in many cases, the few books that I get as part of a backer kit are doing a valuable job gauging interest in a new product line so that I know whether or not I should reorder if and when the game becomes available through more traditional means.

(Pro Tip: If you’re worried about whether or not the potential customer base for the game is already depleted because of your customers backing the crowdfunding campaign directly, if the game is being crowdfunded through Kickstarter, I have a solution. You can click on “Community” tab and see how many backers your city has, if it even got enough to rank as a top location.)

As a store, I’ve backed about fifteen or so RPG campaigns in the last few years, and I’ve never regretted it. Like anything else, you have to take the time to evaluate any given campaign to decide if it’s a right fit for your store, but crowdfunding can provide some unique opportunities to set yourself apart and carve yourself a niche as  an RPG destination.

The Kickstarter supported TimeWatch RPG will be out next month.

* Pauls’s  Big Four are D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars and Shadowrun

campaigncoins_400Telling Stories with 13th Age Icons

Mark Morrison is one-half of Campaign Coins, who have a Kickstarter for official 13th Age Coins & Icon Tokens in May 2016. He has also written scenarios for Call of Cthulhu and Elric!

I’ve been helping my friend Andre Bishop run Campaign Coins since 2011, and it’s all Rob Heinsoo’s fault. Rob’s card game Three Dragon Ante stopped our Pathfinder campaign dead for two months because we got so hooked on gambling with fake coins (I used to call it nerd poker). In time I offered to help Andre run the business, and the rest is history and counterfeit gold.

I kept an eye on Rob’s designs after that, so after my 4E group finished Gardmore Abbey it was the perfect time for us to try 13th Age, as it promised the sweet spot between 4E’s ease of play and 3E’s flexibility, all streamlined into a beautiful and at times hilarious indie-DnD package.

The group was totally hooked, and it’s been our house campaign ever since.wyrm

The Dragon Empire is a great setting, but I have two loves: heroic fantasy and westerns. So, I used the new campaign as the opportunity to mashup my own sort-of original setting, inspired in large part by Joe Abercrombie’s dusty and bloody novel Red Country:

I’m running a Spaghetti Tolkien campaign.

It’s 1876, train tracks are crossing the United States, the Plains Wars are raging, and there are humans and elves and dwarves all armoured up and killing each other with swords. There are stagecoaches and dragons and dwarf prospectors and chain gangs and haunted mines, but no six-guns. In other words, the best of both worlds.

I love the icons, they’re my favourite part of 13th Age. They are Jungian and universal and heroic, and offer all the themes you need to build a self-sustaining story engine.

In my fantasy-western the Emperor is the President (I do a half-arsed impersonation of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln). The Priestess is in Utah, the Dwarf King is building tracks from San Francisco, the Archmage is building them the other way from the East Coast, the Prince of Shadows is running the gangs of New York, the Diabolist is doing nefarious things out of New Orleans, and the Crusader With No Name turns up when he is least wanted, which is quite often the way my players make icon rolls.

Instead of the Lich King we have the Serpent King, a bloody Mesoamerican deity who the player characters have awakened from a pre-human time when the 13 icons were all reptilian. My living dungeons are serpent mounds and tunnels which criss-cross America. Last session the adventurers learned that the reptile icons are waking from centuries of hiberation, and one of the 12 human icons is now a reptoid. I seriously can’t wait until the players burst in and see [REDACTED] open wide and swallow a baby rat.

Icons fuel the campaign. When I sit down behind the GM screen the only thing I’m certain of is where the session will start, rarely where it will end. I try to let the icon rolls shape the story. It keeps me on my toes, and also keeps giving narrative surprises. I’m also a big believer in the subconscious storyteller, and so many times the elements we threw into the campaign at random last week are the sudden key to a huge plot revelation this week.

dwarf-zigguratThe Dwarven Tower coin description in 13th Age got me convinced that these would make great metal coins, and it was so easy working with Rob and Jay to get the license up and running. In my videogame days I worked with Drew Morrow, a fantastic concept artist at THQ, and he was the perfect man to get his head around the 3D planning required to make them sort and stack. They’re also ridiculously beautiful. I love using metal coins in RPGs, it’s so satisfying when the player physically hands you a stack of gold for a Potion of Healing. Plus, I can’t wait to go full circle and play Three Dragon Ante with them.

Falling in love with the icons also made me really pine for a set of beautiful icon tokens which could sit in front of the players. A bloke at GenCon gave me the idea; he carefully looked over all of our fantasy coins and trade bars and picked out 13 coins that could represent the icons. If he comes back to see us, I’ll gladly give him a proper set.

The icon tokens were easy to design, because Lee Moyer had already done the art on page 12 of the 13th Age core rulebook. “Let’s just make these!” I said to Rob. Drew designed them from there, and our 3D team got the sculpts just right. We put green transparent enamel on one side and red on the other, so that any token could be flipped over for a 5+ roll or a 6+ roll.

They have already made my game better: now that the players have a physical reminder, they have been coming up with top new ideas for their icon relationships. I’m excited to think that the tokens will help players all over the world tell great new stories. Preferably with slightly better Daniel Day Lewis impressions.


  • Players can only put a maximum of 1 point into any icon

I found that when the players double up on their relationships, then that icon figures too much in the story. All 13 icons are important in my world, so I’ve asked the players to spread their allegiances and enmities. The story is richer, but we see a lot less of Clint Eastwood I mean the Crusader.

  • If the player does not roll a 5 or a 6, but rolls Snake Eyes with two other dice, they get a random icon relationship

It’s always a bummer if you don’t get an icon, even though statistically 5 and 6 should deliver one result across three rolls. So, if the player can roll two ones on their three dice, I give them a random surprise icon. I use the icon d12 I got from the 13 True Ways Kickstarter, although any d12 can do. We’ve had some great surprise plot twists this way.

  • If a player still gets nothing, they get a D20 reroll this session

Everyone deserves to shine, and the game is just better if the players hit rather than miss, so now I give a free D20 reroll as a consolation prize. Plus, it’s a way to use our D20 coins. Lynda Mills designed those for us, and in the campaign she plays a paladin who is going straight to hell. I can’t wait to see what happens when she gets there.



Check out the 13th Age Coins & Icon Tokens campaign on Kickstarter!



Greg’s Stolze’s 13th Age novel, The Forgotten Monk, is punching through Kickstarter goals for another 7 days. That’s Pat Loboyko’s wonderful cover art above.

The earliest stretch goal summoned stat write-ups for several of the characters and monsters in the novel. My advice will be that the protagonist, a monk who acquires the name Cipher because he has misplaced his true name, should not be one of the characters getting stats! Yet. . . . .

Part of the fun of the 13th Age novel-creation process is that authors are free to play with the world in surprising ways. We’re asking writers to stick to the core story of the thirteen icons, but details of the icons’ personalities, the military fate of cities, speech patterns of elves, and the details of how a specific monster fights are all up for adjustment, just as they’re open to creative changes in every 13th Age campaign,

This also applies to character class mechanics. Cipher is a kick-ass monk. His fighting style will seem perfectly monk-like to anyone reading the book. But not, perhaps, to someone whose only exposure to how monks fight are the character class rules in 13 True Ways!

We hadn’t written 13 True Ways when Greg did the most work on the novel. I knew early on that our monk was going to play with unique mechanics and I told Greg not to worry about it. Because yes, there’s room in fantasy gaming and in 13th Age for many different types of monks and martial artists.

We got some playtest feedback asking us to create a more straightforward martial artist. We designed a couple steps in that direction, and someday I bet we’ll bring that class out, and when we do it’s going to look a lot more like how Cipher fights in The Forgotten Monk.




Drunken Style

Introducing what’s effectively a new class is beyond me in a 13th Sage column. But I can introduce a new monk fighting style that didn’t make it into 13 True Ways.

Those of you who were part of 13 True Ways playtests may remember that there was originally a Drunken Style option as one of the Deadly Secrets. The mechanics didn’t work out happily. They had math problems and play dynamic problems. But after some revision, the talent that follows is worth playtesting. If you try it, let me know how it goes with feedback emailed to If this works out we’ll publish it eventually with more support and accompanied by a few other monk talents and forms.

New Adventurer-Tier Talent: Drunken Style is a new talent. It is not one of the Seven Deadly Secrets, so if you want to combine it with Flurry or Greeting Fist, go right ahead. As you’ll see, drunken monks tend to be tough rather than wise, but if you don’t like that angle on the story you can stick to being wise but drunken.


Drunken Style

You can’t choose Drunken Style if you have chosen the Diamond Focus talent, and vice versa . . . and if you wonder why, reread Diamond Focus and you’ll see that its mechanics just don’t apply to fighting Drunken Style.

You can combine Drunken Style with Overworld Lineage . . . but if you do you’ll have to decide whether you use Constitution or Charisma in place of Wisdom.

If you wish, any time an element of the monk class refers to Wisdom, you can replace that element with a reference to Constitution. You can skip this aspect of the talent if you choose.

Giving up control: Playing a Drunken Style monk is a somewhat different experience than playing a regular monk. You still know the same number of forms, but the normal sequence of monk attacks doesn’t apply to you.

If the escalation die is 0, you must use an opening attack. When the escalation die is 1+, each time you want to use an element of one of your monk forms during your turn, at the start of your turn you must first roll a d6 to determine which element you can use. Roll a d6:

1: You must use an opening attack this turn.

2–5: You must use a flow attack this turn.

6: You must use a finishing attack this turn.

Combat as drinking game: But wait! Maybe you don’t like rolling a 1 and having to use an opening attack. So you’re fighting with a drink in your hand, or tucked into your belt, right? Sure you are! You can spend one quick action on each of your turns to take a quick drink and reroll the d6. Not only do you have to live with the reroll, you also take damage equal to what you rolled on the reroll plus the number of drinks you’ve had during this battle.

For example, you have taken one drink earlier in the fight and you’ve rolled a 1 on the d6 at the start of your turn. You knock back another quick shot and reroll the die. This time you roll a 4. This is your second drink, so you’ll take 6 points of damage, and you get to use a flow attack this turn instead of an opening attack.

The drinking stops now: If your reroll is a 1, that ends the drink-rerolls of your drunken style die this battle. You’re not handling your liquor well and you can keep drinking if you wish, but it won’t let you reroll the die.

And to be clear, we’re aware that the casual style of 13th Age that uses ‘you’ to refer to both player and player character might turn drunken style into an actual drinking game, but that is not the intent. The the hit point damage is meant for your player character!

Corner cases: You always have the option of saying that you aren’t going to use a monk attack on your turn, in which case you don’t roll at the start of your turn and do something else like rally. But you can’t roll and then decide to do something else because you don’t like the option you get.

If you gain an extra standard action in the same turn (like from elven grace, for example), your second (and subsequent!) attacks in the same turn must be opening attacks.

If obstinacy or odd circumstances prevent you from having a legal way to use any of the elements you’re allowed to use on your turn, clearly you couldn’t handle your wine: you burn your standard action to no effect this turn. (This is only possible if you choose multiple forms that have odd targeting limitations, and even then you’d sort of have to work to screw yourself, but drunken monks aren’t known for their caution, so the rule is here.)

Fighting more-or-less-sober: No alcohol to hand? You still fight drunken style, but you don’t have access to your rerolls. On the bright side you’re not drinking away your own hit points.


Ki Power (Drunken Lurch): When an enemy attacks and rolls a natural odd roll against your AC, you can spend 1 point of ki as an interrupt action to gain resist damage 12+ against that attack.

Adventurer Feat: The ki power now affects attacks against both your AC and PD.

Champion Feat: The resistance you gain from the ki power is now 16+.

Epic Feat: If you use the ki power against an enemy engaged with you and the natural attack roll was a 1 or a 3, you can make a JAB attack against that enemy as a free action after the attack.

Dr BreenTimeWatch pledging is now closed. The TimeWatch RPG will be available for pre-order from the Pelgrane Store in a few months.


 Bile roachAvoiding the Gimmick

by Kevin Kulp

TimeWatch, Pelgrane Press’s recently Kickstarted game of investigative time travel, falls into the same category of games that play quite differently as a one-shot than they do as a continuing campaign. Feng Shui, Trail of Cthulhu, and Night’s Black Agents fall into this category as well, as does Paranoia… okay, who am I kidding? I’m having a little trouble imagining a game of Paranoia that isn’t a one-shot. I’ve played several games where the character death count was 35 out of 36.

But I digress.

In these games, the assumption and goals for a one-shot game may be very different than for a campaign. Loot and (most) character development doesn’t matter, and neither do the long-term consequences of the characters’ actions. It doesn’t matter if five of your six Lovecraftian investigators die or are driven screamingly insane, so long as the hideous evil is thwarted. It’s okay if your secret agents blow up Cartagena; law enforcement heat doesn’t carry over into the next one-shot. And your Feng Shui everyman hero probably isn’t going to be all that different at the end of a one-shot adventure than he was at the beginning of play.

If you’re in a long-term campaign, however, these things matter. Your investigator will probably prefer to keep her sanity and a portion of her health. Those agents discover that any massive assault that makes international news has consequences. Your everyman hero may fall in love, develop allies, and decide there are things in this world he’d give his life for.

That brings us to TimeWatch. I designed the game to provide an intuitive and self-contained one-shot adventure. That’s evident in the default mission structure: get a mission, time travel, investigate the time disturbance, try to fix history, and take down the bad guys before they use time travel to detect and assault you first. It’s fun, allows huge amounts of flexibility, and (surprisingly for a time travel game) like any one-shot has a minimum of real consequences. Each mission is self-contained, and there’s not necessarily much character development in the process. History is restored, but have the characters fundamentally changed? You had to replace Abraham Lincoln with a cyborg after accidentally getting him killed early, but will anyone notice before Ford’s Theater?

That’s where the concept of a TimeWatch continuing campaign comes in. Here are three rules to remember as you settle into a TimeWatch campaign:

  • Relationships and secrets matter
  • Enemies remember and multiply
  • Small changes add up

Relationships and Secrets Matter. If you’re playing more than a game or two, pay attention to whom your character meets, trusts, and loves. Maybe you live embedded in the normal time stream while not working, with a normal job, boss, family and set of friends who care for you, and from whom you need to keep secrets. Perhaps you have relationships with TimeWatch coworkers, never quite knowing who in the vast organization is on your side and who may be subtly working against you. Do hidden secrets turn allies to enemies — and are you the one to blame? This is why characters have secrets, and GMs are encouraged to exploit and draw on them for adventure ideas.

Your GM may include factions, secret organizations or cabals within both TimeWatch and history as a whole, giving you and your group secret and personal missions to accomplish alongside your normal history-saving work. When you aren’t quite sure why you’ve been asked to accomplish something, the long-term ramifications of your actions become a lot more interesting.

Enemies Remember and Multiply. You may have to fight an arch-nemesis long before you’ve ever met her for the first time. You may have the allies of an enemy come calling at the time when you’re the most vulnerable. Any history you let be known might conceivably be exploited by your foes, and don’t be surprised if unexplained and mysterious enemies show up at exceptionally inconvenient moments. They’ll strike to eliminate you from TimeWatch if you let them, and that may mean a tactic as insidious as ensuring that you have an incredibly happy childhood, just so you’re never tempted to lead a life of adventure.

You can use this same game feature against your enemies. Try to discover the earliest point when they might be vulnerable. Strike against their friends, relatives, or history. Harass them at a half dozen different places in their life, in the hopes of stopping their ultimate plans. Just be cautious not to be the cause of their hostility in the first place.

Ultimately, continuing play becomes personal. It becomes more about the agents and what they experience during their missions, than it does about solving the mission itself and saving history. The best games are a combination of the two.

Small Changes Add Up. If you end up with some sloppy solutions to alternate history, enemies may try to leverage and exploit these for their own gain. Say, for instance, that you teach some jolly Austrian children baseball while on a mission in the 19th century. That’s the sort of thing that history usually takes care of on its own, reabsorbing the knowledge back into the river of time until Abner Doubleday reads about the Austrian game and decides to re-invent it. A clever GM might have your enemies try to pry that small shift into a much larger breach, changing the timestream in unexpected ways just to try to open some weaknesses in the flow of history. Continuity in multiple missions is a joy, mostly because you may find yourself dodging and hiding from your younger selves from three missions ago, just to reduce the chance of paradox.

Work to avoid the gimmick. That’s really what time travel is —  a fabulous gimmick, but it’s a means to an end just as much as it is an integral part of your everyday adventures. Once you get used to the flexibility and problem-solving that a time machine gives you, you should break the pattern and experience a mission or an adventure that might be solved almost completely without your time machine. As your missions transition to become more personal, and you find your character changing in both power and attitude as a result, you’ll be well settled in for long-term campaign play.

Just remember, unlike Paranoia, every TimeWatch character doesn’t start the game with six disposable and identical clones. Your character development may benefit as a result.

TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.


The TimeWatch RPG  is backed – more than backed! Thank you to everyone who pledged, encouraged others to back and upgrade their pledges – everyone has benefitted with a full colour hardback.

You can see the list of available pledge levels and add-ons here.

Until 1st April, new backers can still pledge at any available level, and get add-ons via paypal. Email us and Paypal funds to

Until further notice existing backers can add add-ons and  increase their pledges via paypal. Email us and Paypal funds to

TimeWatch cover 300Scenes from TimeWatch:

An adversary flees across the pristine diamond-bearing beaches of South Africa, ocean on his left and TimeWatch agents far behind. “It’s a shame that I’ll be going back to last week and covering that area with stun mines,” says an agent. roll roll The sound of an explosion echoes across the beach, ending the easiest chase ever.

— o —

“You!” taunts agent Mace Hunter, screaming up at a rogue T-Rex summoned by Nazi scientists into 1940s Berlin. “Stop eating my teammate!” The massive dinosaur swallows what’s left of Dr. Breen, swings its ponderous head towards Mace, and lurches forward like the predator it is. Its roar shakes the building. Mace raises his high-tech elephant gun, squints his eyes, and smiles.

— o —

“You can not trust these people!” claims a rogue time traveler from the future, hoping to influence the Great Khan. “They are unnatural witches who you barely know!”

“These people?” growls the Khan. He slaps a grizzled TimeWatch agent on the back. “They have been my friends, commanders, and bodyguards for almost 20 years. It is YOU who can not be trusted. Guards, kill him.”

“Best long con ever,” mutters one of the agents to the others. They palm their PaciFists and move in.

— o —

A TimeWatch agent arrives in ancient Egypt, only to see the Sphinx bearing her own face. “Why does the sphinx look like you?” asks the rest of the team.

“I don’t know?” she hazards. “I look pretty good up there. But we better go see what my future self has gotten up to. Something, I think, has gone horribly wrong.”

“Guys? There’s a 27th century starship hovering over that pyramid,” says their scout. “That might be an understatement.”

— o —

“Stay away from that — kzkt! — body!” The Russian soldier starts to move, but is held back by Altani, a TimeWatch agent with a drawn pistol and a bad attitude.

“This body?” asks Dr. Breen innocently, and she rips off another hunk of the psi-active bile that coats the unconscious form. The Russian soldier’s face bulges as a giant mandible swells and pops through the skin, mottled brown chitin reflecting dully in the overhead fluorescents. An extra arm bursts through the front of the soldier’s chest, followed by several more. Flesh splatters. Now the soldier’s flesh-mask is hanging loosely from its head, and the ezeru’s true eyes can be seen behind the disguise. They are entirely inhuman.

“Poor choice,” buzzes the insectoid ezeru, and its limbs move faster than a human eye can follow. Altani screams.

— o —

TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.


TimeWatch cover 300The Future Us Knew TimeWatch WOULD Be Successful…

…but apparently to avoid any paradox or chronal instability, we failed to tell our current selves exactly the extent to which that would be true. The GUMSHOE game of investigative time travel has had a great start on Kickstarter, raising close to $28K in funding over the first 48 hours. That’s unlocked ten stretch goals, including three mission hooks, with one from Kenneth Hite. Two campaign style expansions have been unlocked, Pulp Action TimeWatch and a Quantum Leap-style solo campaign, but there’s still lots to go.

What’s The Pitch?

You’re an elite TimeWatch agent from somewhere across time, working to prevent alternate histories and chronal disaster. You’ve got a time machine, high-powered weaponry, and a whole lot of history to save. Better get started.

That makes for a fun premise, but one of the things we’ve been surprised about is how flexible the concept is. Want to emulate your favorite TV show or time travel movie? The game should be able to handle it. That’s true from killer future cyborgs like the T-1000, to parallel universe jumping in the style of Sliders, to touring the future and past of alien planets as a tourist in a larger-than-expected time machine. Of particular note are the possibility of a Conspiracy campaign, where you never know who to trust and your own team could be infiltrated by aliens or the people who work for them, and the Horror Campaign, where time travel itself releases chronal monstrosities across time that you may have to deal with… even if it makes the problem worse in the process.

Want To See It?

We’ve added a $1 pledge level to the Kickstarter under the theory that some people will want to see the playtest rules before deciding whether the game is right for them. That will get you access to the Jurassic Edition, a 260-odd-page PDF copy of TimeWatch’s playtest documents. Grab it, argue about it, and play it if you’re at all curious.

What’s Next?

Revealed stretch goals include:

  • A specially-commissioned TimeWatch theme from composer James Semple
  • The above-mentioned Tourist-style campaign that captures the joy and the themes from your favorite time traveling TV show—jelly babies and robotic dog optional
  • A Rebellion-style campaign where you’re the people trying to change history and make it a better place, while TimeWatch is cast in the role of the evil empire trying to stop you
  • Hardcover rulebooks!
  • Building an actual time machine (mind you, the amount to hit this stretch goal is a bit high)

Swing by, take a look, and say hi. Unless you already did last week. Sometimes, it’s a bit difficult to be sure.

Previous Entries Next Entries