Dice imagePlease email support@pelgranepress.com for instructions on how to take part in this month’s playtest!

 

Title: The Borellus Connection

System: The Fall of DELTA GREEN

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Kenneth Hite

Deadline: July 31st 2019

Number of sessions: 2-3 per adventure

Description:

The Borellus Connection is a campaign for Fall of Delta Green, using the heroin trade and the United States Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as a narrative spine. The campaign runs from South-East Asia to the Middle East to Europe, as the Agents uncover the sinister machinations of a necromantic cult.

  • Operation JADE PHOENIX (North-Eastern Burma): The CIA wants the Chinese-backed Shan warlord Li Bao Lung assassinated, and the Agents are tasked to escort a Marine sniper, Sergeant Adolph Lepus, to Li’s headquarters in the Wa state of northeast Burma, with orders to eliminate Li and return with proof of Li’s (and therefore Peking’s involvement in the opium trade. DELTA GREEN has identified one of Li’s advisers, Ming Yuan, as a Kuen-Yuin sorcerer; Li’s compound is a target-rich environment. The team must travel into Burma, avoiding detection en route, and penetrate the defences around Li’s compound to ensure Lepus has a clear shot on both targets.
  • Operation HORUS HOURS (Hong Kong to Los Angeles, by air): Clues uncovered during ALONSO point to the existence of a heroin smuggling route running from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. The Agents have to hastily follow the couriers on the trans-Pacific flight via numerous stops and layovers, watching for the critical moment of the handover.
  • Operation DE PROFUNDIS (Bozuktepe, Turkey): Using a BNDD investigation into opium smuggling as cover, DELTA GREEN sends the Agents to investigate the suicide and disappearance of archaeologist Charles Whiteman. He was excavating a ceremonial site at Bozuktepe before mysteriously killing himself; his body vanished en route back to England. What did he bring up from the depths before he died?
  • Operation SECOND LOOK (Beirut, Lebanon): The Agents are sent in to surveil another drug deal and gather evidence; this time, an unreliable DELTA GREEN informant, Francois Genoud, is in the mix, and the Agents are ordered to remind him where his loyalties lie – but there’s more at stake here than they know, as sinister powers make a second attempt to uncover secrets of the Mythos…
  • Operation PURITAN (Munich, Germany to Prague, Czechoslovakia): The Agents follow Unione Corse heroin shipments into Munich, but while there, another DELTA GREEN case officer tasks them to investigate unnatural contamination of the CIA’s QK-ACTIVE propaganda broadcasts into the Soviet Union. Who is broadcasting elements of the Necronomicon from a CIA-backed radio station? Finding the truth sends the Agents on a desperate race into Prague.
  • Operation MISTRAL (Marseille, France): During the May ’68 riots, the Agents are sent to Marseille to investigate gang conflicts – and possible Unnatural activity in the troubled city.
  • Operation ALONSO (Saigon, Vietnam): The NBDD assigns the Agents to surveil a drug summit at the Continental Palace hotel between Unione Corse bosses and emissaries from Marseille. While there, DELTA GREEN wants them to ascertain the status of the Cthulhu cult in the Rung Sat region south-east of the city.
  • Operation NEPENTHE (Baltimore, Maryland):  Orne intends to use Baltimore as his stepping stone towards his ultimate goal – transcending humanity and becoming one with Yog-Sothoth. He uses the occult resources he’s assembled over the course of the campaign to warp the city, piggybacking on the minds of the drug users to cast a vast necromantic ritual, opening the door between our reality and the Unnatural. He can step through – but what approaches from the other side?

Dice imagePlease email support@pelgranepress.com for instructions on how to take part in this month’s playtest!

 

Title: The Borellus Connection

System: The Fall of DELTA GREEN

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Kenneth Hite

Deadline: May 31st 2019

Number of sessions: 2-3 per adventure

Description:

The Borellus Connection is a campaign for Fall of Delta Green, using the heroin trade and the United States Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as a narrative spine. The campaign runs from South-East Asia to the Middle East to Europe, as the Agents uncover the sinister machinations of a necromantic cult.

  • Operation ALONSO (Saigon, Vietnam): The NBDD assigns the Agents to surveil a drug summit at the Continental Palace hotel between Unione Corse bosses and emissaries from Marseille. While there, DELTA GREEN wants them to ascertain the status of the Cthulhu cult in the Rung Sat region south-east of the city.
  • Operation NEPENTHE (Baltimore, Maryland):  Orne intends to use Baltimore as his stepping stone towards his ultimate goal – transcending humanity and becoming one with Yog-Sothoth. He uses the occult resources he’s assembled over the course of the campaign to warp the city, piggybacking on the minds of the drug users to cast a vast necromantic ritual, opening the door between our reality and the Unnatural. He can step through – but what approaches from the other side?

Social Combat in Swords of the Serpentine

When words cut as sharply as a knife, you don’t actually need to carry a knife.

 Whenever Smaug’s roving eye, seeking for him in the shadows, flashed across him, he trembled, and an unaccountable desire seized hold of him to rush out and reveal himself and tell all the truth to Smaug. In fact he was in grievous danger of coming under the dragon-spell…

…That is the effect that dragon-talk has on the inexperienced. Bilbo of course ought to have been on his guard; but Smaug had rather an overwhelming personality.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

You know what you don’t see too often? Robust and fun social combat systems that lets you defeat a foe without laying a finger on them. You know what we really wanted for this game?

Yeah, that.

Classic fantasy is full of examples of morale-based social combat. In Tolkien alone you’ll see Smaug trying to intimidate an invisible Bilbo (above), Frodo and Gollum’s riddle game, the One Ring trying to corrupt mortal hearts and minds, terrified orcs breaking ranks before the charge of the Rohirrim, and the paralyzing fear caused by Nazgul. Other fantasy and Swords & Sorcery novels carry on that tradition; Stormbringer used Morale combat to try and manipulate Elric. Most of Terry Pratchett’s characters use intimidation, groveling or clever wit to get what they want without ever lifting a weapon. Cugel the Clever in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels lives on his wits alone, confident that he can talk his way out of any situation. Robin D. Laws’ Dying Earth Roleplaying Game, also published by Pelgrane, is one of the few RPG systems that makes social combat a joy.

So our design goal was to let you play a Hero who’s completely viable and effective without ever needing to pick up a weapon. How do you make that feel amazing in a game where epic and cinematic combat is one of the whole points of the game? The answer is a five-piece puzzle: Morale, Sway, Social investigative abilities, Maneuvers, and Teamwork. Let’s take a look.

Morale

In most GUMSHOE games, you have one defense pool (usually Stability) which measures how well you can keep it together when everything around you is going to Hell. Swords of the Serpentine has Morale; a high Morale usually means you’re stubborn, confident, and relatively self-assured. Overcoming someone’s Morale is handy because it defeats them without leaving a corpse, and you’re not going to get tried for murder if you just clashed with someone socially important.

As long as your Morale is above 0, your willpower and courage won’t break. If it drops below 0 and continues downwards towards -12 you become first Unstable, then Panicking, and finally Broken. Your foes may try to defeat you by using Sway attacks to reduce your Morale, and lots of other things might reduce your Morale: terror, curses, Sorcerous Corruption, ghostly possession, poison, and more.

Sway

Sway is the General ability you’ll use to socially attack someone’s Morale, just like Warfare is the General ability you’d use to physically attack someone’s Health. A Hero with a high Sway is incredibly good at manipulating the people around them. Whether they beguile foes, terrify them, or taunt and belittle them, they’re probably capable of getting enemies to surrender or flee without ever causing physically harm.

You can describe and roleplay your Sway attack however you want – witty repartee, terrifying intimidation, subtle terror, veiled threats, social blackmail, whatever seems like the most fun. If you successfully hit your foe’s Morale Threshold, you inflict damage that comes off their Morale. You can score a critical hit that does an extra die of damage, and there are rules for affecting more than one foe at once with your Sway attack.

Reduce your foe’s Morale to 0 (or -12, depending on the importance of the enemy) and you defeat them. You’ll also get to describe the consequence, whether that’s surrender, swooning, fleeing, or just giving you what you want. Mind you, a defeated and humiliated foe probably has a long and bitter memory for revenge, and repeated rivals or enemies make for fun games.

Social Investigative Abilities

Want to do more damage with your Sway attack? After you hit, you can spend points from an Investigative ability to inflict extra dice of damage on your Sway attack.

For instance, mock someone with a Sway attack and then spend two points of the Investigative ability Taunt, and you’ll deal two more dice of Morale damage by making them incoherently furious at you. It’s up to you to describe or roleplay the extra damage. You’ll refresh these spent points in your next adventure, but it gives you tremendous flexibility when you really need to succeed.

As in other GUMSHOE games, you can also spend Social Investigative abilities to manipulate the supporting characters around you. Want people to trust you so you run a scam? Spend a point of Trustworthy. Want people to ignore you while you slip into their mansion? Spend a point of Servility.  You get the idea.

Sometimes, though, you want to manipulate people socially without spending an Investigative point – and that brings us to Maneuvers.

Maneuvers

In the quote from The Hobbit that opens this article, Smaug is using a Morale-based Maneuver to convince Bilbo to show himself.

Morale-based Maneuvers are what you’d use when you want to manipulate people socially but spending Investigative points would be overkill. Maybe you want to avoid a government bureaucrat, or convince a passer-by to lend you his boat, or simply lie about something fun. Make a Sway attack, and instead of taking damage, your opponent needs to then match your result on a d6 roll or accept what you’ve told them. The higher you roll, the more likely they are to fail.

Your opponent can spend their Morale points to add to that die roll before they roll it, effectively inflicting Morale damage on themselves in order to resist your suggestion. There’s a chance your Maneuver will fail, sure – but if it does, your opponent still paid a price.

Teamwork

Hang on, what if you’re the only person in your group with a high Sway and everyone else wants to stab your enemies in the face? Does it do any good for you to attack your foe’s Morale, since their Health is likely to hit 0 first?

In these situations, use a Teamwork attack to give your damage to any other Hero to inflict, as long as their attack lands successfully. If you’ve spent Investigative points for extra Morale damage, that bonus damage goes too. You’re effectively distracting a foe long enough for an ally to get a more effective physical attack in. Teamwork attacks work both ways, so a Hero specializing in Warfare could also use Teamwork (and the threat of physical violence) to make your successful Sway attack do more damage than normal.

Playtesters really liked Teamwork attacks; they involve other players in your own success, and they ensure that no one gets left out of a conflict.

Putting It All Together

You’ve decided your Hero is an incredibly popular thief and con-artist (well, popular in the bad parts of town among the Commoners, at least) with a strong aversion to violence. You don’t carry weapons, but all your combat skills are focused only on Sway. With a heavy focus on social Investigative abilities, you figure you can use Maneuvers or Sway attacks to convince just about anyone of anything. If you run across an inhuman foe (or heavens forfend, one who can’t hear you), you’ll use Teamwork attacks to assign your Sway damage to your friend the Mercenary. Time for adventure!

It’s worth noting that I have a secret plan to run a SotS game where physical violence is either impossible or is strongly discouraged, and so all of the real combat is done through subterfuge or through social, Morale-based combat. I probably wouldn’t want that for every game, but I can’t wait to see how it goes.


Kevin Kulp is the Boston-based co-author of Swords of the Serpentine, and helped create TimeWatch and Owl Hoot Trail for Pelgrane Press. When he’s not writing games he’s either smoking BBQ or helping 24-hour companies with shiftwork, sleep, and alertness.

Dice imagePlease email support@pelgranepress.com for instructions on how to take part in this month’s playtest!

 

Title: The Borellus Connection

System: The Fall of DELTA GREEN

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Deadline: April 30th 2019

Number of sessions: 2-3 per adventure

Description:

 

The Borellus Connection is a campaign for Fall of Delta Green, using the heroin trade and the United States Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as a narrative spine. The campaign runs from South-East Asia to the Middle East to Europe, as the Agents uncover the sinister machinations of a necromantic cult.

  • Operation JADE PHOENIX (North-Eastern Burma): The CIA wants the Chinese-backed Shan warlord Li Bao Lung assassinated, and the Agents are tasked to escort a Marine sniper, Sergeant Adolph Lepus, to Li’s headquarters in the Wa state of northeast Burma, with orders to eliminate Li and return with proof of Li’s (and therefore Peking’s involvement in the opium trade. DELTA GREEN has identified one of Li’s advisers, Ming Yuan, as a Kuen-Yuin sorcerer; Li’s compound is a target-rich environment. The team must travel into Burma, avoiding detection en route, and penetrate the defences around Li’s compound to ensure Lepus has a clear shot on both targets.
  • Operation HORUS HOURS (Hong Kong to Los Angeles, by air): Clues uncovered during ALONSO point to the existence of a heroin smuggling route running from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. The Agents have to hastily follow the couriers on the trans-Pacific flight via numerous stops and layovers, watching for the critical moment of the handover.
  • Operation DE PROFUNDIS (Bozuktepe, Turkey): Using a BNDD investigation into opium smuggling as cover, DELTA GREEN sends the Agents to investigate the suicide and disappearance of archaeologist Charles Whiteman. He was excavating a ceremonial site at Bozuktepe before mysteriously killing himself; his body vanished en route back to England. What did he bring up from the depths before he died?
  • Operation SECOND LOOK (Beirut, Lebanon): The Agents are sent in to surveil another drug deal and gather evidence; this time, an unreliable DELTA GREEN informant, Francois Genoud, is in the mix, and the Agents are ordered to remind him where his loyalties lie – but there’s more at stake here than they know, as sinister powers make a second attempt to uncover secrets of the Mythos…
  • Operation PURITAN (Munich, Germany to Prague, Czechoslovakia): The Agents follow Unione Corse heroin shipments into Munich, but while there, another DELTA GREEN case officer tasks them to investigate unnatural contamination of the CIA’s QK-ACTIVE propaganda broadcasts into the Soviet Union. Who is broadcasting elements of the Necronomicon from a CIA-backed radio station? Finding the truth sends the Agents on a desperate race into Prague.
  • Operation MISTRAL (Marseille, France): During the May ’68 riots, the Agents are sent to Marseille to investigate gang conflicts – and possible Unnatural activity in the troubled city.

Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: Swords of the Serpentine

System: GUMSHOE

Author: Kevin Kulp, Emily Dresner

Deadline: February 28th

Number of sessions: 2-8

Description:

Swords of the Serpentine is a sword & sorcery game of investigation, heroism, sly politics and bloody savagery, set in a fantasy city rife with skullduggery and death. The rules adapt the GUMSHOE investigative roleplaying system to create a fantasy RPG with a focus on high-action roleplaying and investigation inspired by the stories of Fritz Leiber, Terry Pratchett, Robert E. Howard, and others.

Your characters will discover leads that, if followed, propel them headlong into danger and forbidden knowledge. A lead might point the way to sunken treasure, jungle ruins, the missing key to a sorcerous trap, or the true identity of a notorious murderer. The GUMSHOE game mechanics ensure that you’ll always notice leads if you look for them. It’s up to you to choose which one you’ll follow into whatever perils lie ahead, in hopes of fortune, glory, justice, or just staying alive another day.

If you want to track down foul sorcerers in a corrupt and decadent city, clamber through underground ruins to sneak into an enemy’s home and rob them, or wage a secret war against a rival political faction, you’re in the right place.

Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

System: GUMSHOE

Author: Robin D. Laws, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Deadline: October 31st

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description:

An expanded and revised version of Mutant City Blues.

Ever since the Sudden Mutation Event, people have been able to fly. Phase through walls. Read minds. Shoot bolts of energy from their fingertips. Walk into dreams.

As members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, you and your fellow detectives solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. When a mutant power is used to kill, you catch the case. When it’s a mutant victim in the chalk outline, you get the call. And when it comes time for a fight, you deploy your own extraordinary abilities to even the odds.

Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops

System: GUMSHOE One-2-One

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Deadline: July 29th 2018

Number of sessions: 3-6

Description:

Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops is a stand-alone RPG which applies the GUMSHOE One-2-One rules to the award-winning Night’s Black Agents setting of spies vs. vampires.

One GM, one player – an explosive mix for a high-octane combat, or a cold-blooded chess game between a lone hero and the forces of darkness. Together, you plunge into an occult thriller that pits the gadgets and skills of a clandestine operative against the ancient horror of the vampires.

NBA: Solo Ops adds stunts, Mastery Edges, Shadow Problems and more to the One-2-One system.

Create your own Agent, or play as Leyla Khan – ex-MI6, ex-thrall of the vampires, now committed to hunting down and destroying her former masters before they recapture her. Sift through the ashes of Khan’s former life to find the clues you need to map the vampire conspiracy, then hunt down and slay the Undead.

Three explosive operations:

  • NEVER SAY DEAD
  • NO GRAVE FOR TRAITORS
  • CURRENTLY UNNAMED BUT IT’S GOING TO BE SOMETHING COOL

After nearly a century of supernatural tyranny, the Castaigne regime has fallen. Your player characters fought in the underground Struggle, then emerged from the shadows with grenades and rocket launchers to bring about the Overthrow. The gates to Carcosa have been closed. But not all the horrors that kept the Empire in place have been banished. As your hardbitten band of ex-partisans adjusts to civilian life, they discover that their very special skills are still needed—both to rebuild the nation, and to protect nascent democracy from the monsters left behind.

Pelgrane Press and designer Robin D. Laws need you to jump aboard the playtest for the Aftermath sequence of the Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Drop a line to colleen@pelgranepress.com to participate!

Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: The Yellow King RPG

System: GUMSHOE

Author: Robin Laws

Deadline: February 28th

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description: Join phase 2 of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game playtest to help us hone one of the three following sequences: The Wars, Aftermath or This is Normal Now. Whether you took part in phase 1 (Paris) or have the time to jump in now, drop us a line and we’ll hook you up with all the Shocks, Injuries and reality-shifting Carcosan dread you need!

Dice imageIf you are interested in playtesting any of these games, please email us with the adventure you wish to playtest in the subject line.

 

 

Title: Drone

System: Standalone

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanarhan

Deadline: 13th November 2017

Number of sessions: 2-4

Description:

In drone, one player plays the drone – a cybernetically reanimated corpse, memory erased, designed for the mission at hand.

Three other players are the operators – remote console jockeys, there to guide the drone through its assignment, and keep it under control. Both sets of players draw their actions from the same pool of dice, forcing them to work together – and as the game progresses, the dice pool gets tighter and the hostile Gamemaster gets more firepower to throw at them.  It’s a collaborative cyberpunk dystopian psychodrama – with lots of guns.

 

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