In the new Community Content Spotlight, each month I’ll be writing up a short review of a community content title, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG. See this page if you’re interested in creating something for our Community Program!
——————————————

Read to the end (or, you know, just cheat and scroll down) for a special sale associated with this first Community Content Spotlight.

Rogues' Galaxy Cover
With Rogues’ Galaxy, Chris Sellers turns the standard Ashen Stars setup on its head. Rather than playing official Lasers in the mode of Star Trek or Babylon 5, Rogues’ Galaxy gives you all the rules modifications and additions you need to play the lovable (or despicable) crooks the Lasers normally hunt.

In Rogues’ Galaxy you’re playing Firefly or Cowboy Bebop, and you’re striking a tone that, depending on what appeals to you and the other players, might fall anywhere along the spectrum from gritty noir to goofy heist flick. Sellers has put a unique spin on the Ashen Stars setting that tonally complements the shift from law officer to rascal, and I found myself imagining campaigns based around his new Class-K entities, the hierophants (which cause “irreversible psychosis in intelligent creatures” and reminded me of something out of the novel Blindsight) and the shroud (which have an ability to blink into star systems without warning, and thence onto non-shroud starships: “the ensuing mortality rate on those ships is total”).

This supplement includes new Groundside roles, variations on the original Warpside roles, and a list of all-new drives for your criminal player characters. There are new or modified Investigative and General abilities (while some remain the same as those in Ashen Stars), and write-ups of 13 icons (inspired by the 13th Age system) for your criminal Ashen Stars campaign.

Sellers’ text is canny about its audience: “If you’re reading this, you’re already hacking Ashen Stars, so you may want to customize your setting further,” and Rogues’ Galaxy provides folks with short sections providing guidance on customizing faster-than-light travel, rival gangs, and your own galaxy, before introducing Sellers’ own setting information.Rogues Planning

Sellers has tied each new aspect of this new (totally optional) setting material “into the inequitable power structures of the galaxy.” For instance, in the Rogues’ Galaxy version of hyperspace, the “augur drives” used for FTL travel only function at particular sites of spatial instability called “boreholes,” and because the mathematics of FTL travel are so complex, every augur drive comes equipped with its own computational artificial intelligence. But, because you’re in the Bleed, your AI has its own neuroses and psychopathologies (think HAL 9000). The AI becomes an in-built NPC the GM can immediately make use of, whether to help the PCs out or as a wrench to gracefully lob into their well-considered plans.

Sellers has expanded on ideas we’ve seen in See Page XX articles and in Accretion Disk (for instance, the porting of 13th Age’s icons into Ashen Stars was originally proposed by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan), making Rogues’ Galaxy an excellent addition to your collection of Ashen Stars options.

***

The introduction of Rogues’ Galaxy lets us know right away the kind of universe we’re playing in:

Let’s assume that in real life, you and your friends are law-abiding citizens of a just, equitable government. But what if we imagine the government is not just? Or the economic playing field not level? “Revolution”? That’s easy to say but hard to do. So what then?

A crime is just a revolution on a personal scale.

The tone of the book is something I can absolutely get behind, with the art (all by Sellers) vacillating between comedic, serious, and shameless callouts to Star Wars. The supplement also comes with a new character sheet for your roguish characters, a new galaxy map (including territory owned by those Class-K baddies), and a thirteen-page adventure to cap things off.

Perhaps the best praise I can give Chris Sellers’ Rogues’ Galaxy is that, reading it, I wanted to play. I just wanted to build a character and get going (former Laser who’d been ousted after refusing to keep cover for another officer in a scandal… who now works as consigliere for a thief ring à la Ocean’s Eleven… only survivor from a shroud encounter who’s emotionally scarred…?). I think that you’ll find lots of inspiration for your own Ashen Stars games here, even if you don’t decide to go the full criminal direction.

Title: Rogues’ Galaxy
Author: Chris Sellers
Price: $8.95 PDF, also available as a softcover color book for $11.95

Ashen Stars Sale!

And now, for this first Community Content Spotlight, we’re offering a flash sale on DriveThruRPG from 9 a.m. CST on June 8th to 9 a.m. CST on June 13th, 2020, where you can get 50% off of the Ashen Stars core rulebook PDF. Now’s the perfect time to pick up both Ashen Stars and Rogues’ Galaxy, and you’ll have all the options you need to explore the galaxy… on either side of the law.
——————————————
The Pelgrane Press Community Program brings you into the fold with other GUMSHOE game designers, affording creators (whatever that means to you!) the opportunity to post and sell their own products on DriveThruRPG. Currently Ashen Stars, Esoterrorists, Fear Itself, and TimeWatch are the only game systems we’re accepting material for, but keep an eye out for expansions into others! Have a kooky idea you’d like to write up and get out there? A flushed out scenario you think others would enjoy? The Community Program is the place to showcase these ideas. If you’re interested in creating something for the Community Program, read more about it here.

Screenshot 2015-08-25 at 9.20.28 AMAllen Stroud from the British Fantasy Society reviewed Letters to Lovecraft. Thanks Allen! You can read the full review here. Allen says,

“Reading ‘Letters’ is a good exercise in identifying and understanding the influence of H. P. Lovecraft on modern horror and in looking at a collection of stories you can see the techniques he pioneered. It is also a good demonstration of how much a writer can still learn from the 1925 essay, ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’. It also highlights how Lovecraft’s legacy needs to be taken as a whole; both his personal prejudice and ability to project depth; allowing us to glimpse a universe we cannot truly comprehend and through the stories, learn to fear.”

“‘Past Reno’ by Brian Evenson is the first story of the collection and mixes personal character scars with a wider impression of the ritualised rules of our world. Through Bernt, we get an idea that the world functions on a clear set of guidelines, but Bernt’s ignorance of them, the assumption of others that he knows them, and ultimately his rejection of them, leaves us with the idea that they exist. Evenson replicates Lovecraft’s trick of reversing humanity’s quest for knowledge. Instead of journeying to find understanding, a glimpse of understanding is so strange and beyond what we expect that we are terrified by it and flee. This leaves the reader with the glimpse, not with the character or to some extent, the plot.”

“The stories that use Lovecraft’s mythos and style to make a hybrid work are of significant interest and it is here that the collection transcends the pastiche. ‘Allochthon’ by Livia Llewellyn blends macro and microplot, using the signifiers of mental depression to create a truncated narrative that depicts a surreal world of perception. In this, we have the internal and external explanations as expressed by Donaldson and we never know whether Ruth’s end is driven by a glimpse of the true nature of the world, by her own personal trauma or both.”

“There are some prevalent themes; the lingering images and intentional intangibility of Lovecraft features widely, but there are other stories that look to explore his racism, his Cthulhu mythos and more.  As you explore the collection, it is clear a lot of thought has gone into the placement of each story and how it relates to the others.”

Endzeitgeist reviewed the Book of Loot on their website, giving it 5 stars, the Seal of Approval, and nominating it for the Top Ten of 2015! You can read the full review here. Thanks Endzeitgeist! Endzeitgeist says,

Book_of_Loot_cover“This book, much like the superb Bestiary of 13th Age, is more inspired than I ever believed it to be possible – the 
Book of Loot was NOT a book I looked forward to reading and when I did, I was continuously and constantly blown away – so much so, that I have used A LOT of the items herein – in 13th Age, PFRPG, DCC – their playfulness and imaginative potential is downright genius and they bring back a sense of the unpredictable, of the MAGICAL.”

“Author Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan delivers an absolutely stunning assortment of items that breathe narrative potential, that inspire, that actually feel like they could spring straight from the pages of your favorite fantasy novels, with the vast majority of them being able to support a story all on their own – or even a campaign. Add to that the novice-friendly advice in the beginning and we have a book that is a little masterpiece – it constitutes one of the best magic item books I’ve read since 2nd edition and brings back defining characteristics of what magic items can be – more than a sum of endlessly recombined numbers, bonuses and parts, more than just a mathematical bonus-machinery. And yes, there are such items herein, but ultimately, even these have some sort of component that makes them transcend their system-dependency. I consider this book an excellent buy for all d20-based systems and as such, this book receives 5 stars + my seal of approval and status as a candidate of my Top Ten of 2015 – a capable GM who understands the mechanics of 13th Age and another system can easily convert them. GLORIOUS!”

 

Endzeitgeist reviewed the 13th Age Bestiary, and even gave it the Seal of Approval! Thanks Endzeitgeist! You can read the full review here. Endzeitgeist says,
Screenshot 2015-08-13 at 3.59.12 PM
“From modifications of escalation or relationship dice to truly unique options, some of the abilities herein are, no hyperbole, GENIUS. Take the redcap. Tried and true delightfully evil fey – we all know and love the iron-shodded menaces. Well, herein, they have taboo-words – even if you *think* them, they get power from it and may teleport et al., gaining potentially a nasty array of additional actions. Now how is this represented? When a PLAYER says the taboo word, the ability kicks in. Yes. This is pretty much brilliant and can provide quite a mind-blowing experience when handled with care. This is just ONE example out of a bunch of them. This book’s abilities OOZE creativity and will enrich ANY d20-based game I run for years to come.”

“Rob Heinsoo, Ryven Cedrylle, Kenneth Hite, Kevin Kulp, Ash Law, Cal Moore, Steve Townshend, Rob Watkins, Rob Wieland – congratulations. You have actually managed to craft the first “Bestiary I” since the days of second edition I liked to *read*, the first that inspired me. This book manages what neither monster manuals of 3rd or 4th edition or PFRPG’s bestiary-line has succeeded in doing – actually inspire me to use creatures, to craft adventures around them, to use them to make the world feel more alive. While a rare few 3pp bestiaries over the years manage this sense of wonder, it usually stems from clever mechanics or uncommon concepts, only rarely from actual narrative potential. Ultimately, this book, in spite of its “1st bestiary”-handicap, did all of that and more and makes me giddy with anticipation and hopeful we’ll see more far-out creatures in the level of detail as provided herein.”

Ruth, over on the Illuminerdy, reviewed the Doomsday Edition of Cthulhu Apocalypse. Thanks Ruth! You can find the entire review on the Illuminerdy. Ruth says,
ca
“I found the Apocalypse Machine engaging in its versatility. It allows for an immense variety of apocalypses with even more resulting situations. A lot of post-apocalyptic writing, even in gaming, locks you into a very specific vision of the apocalypse. I think when it comes to horror gaming, the effectiveness depends in part on what people find personally horrifying. The machine allows a GM to tinker to her and/or her players’ fears about the end of the world and provides ample support for creating whatever world they end up in.”

“That part of the book fascinated me more because it had potentials I haven’t seen in most other post-apocalyptic games. What I appreciated most about the scenarios was that the path they followed was one which again diverges from the “standard” post-apocalyptic game settings.”

“Ultimately, if you want to play Trail of Cthulhu but you’re tired of stopping the apocalypse and want to try something different, this is the book for you. I found it thorough in imagining how things might play out, throwing off suggestions while leaving room for your improvisation. The character-building section was a strong Trail hack. And whether or not you play the scenarios as written, reading them will help any GM who’s trying to figure out how to run post-apocalyptic Investigations vs. post-apocalyptic shoot-em-ups.”

Pick up Cthulhu Apocalypse at the Pelgrane booth at GenCon, or pre-order in the store (PDF included).

Dracula Unredacted Cover_400Karloff reviewed the backer-PDF copy of the Dracula Dossier. You can find the full review here. Thanks, Karloff!

Karloff says,
“This improvisational Night’s Black Agents campaign setting, complete with the unredacted print copy of Stoker’s first edition Dracula and a massive Director’s Handbook, is beyond huge. It’s one thing to write up Stoker’s Dracula with little ‘Dracula’s a great big meanie’ notes in the margins; after all, Stoker’s done the heavy lifting there. It’s something else altogether to take that text, all those marginal notes, and a hundred other things besides, turning it all into a 364-page document complete with supporting characters, locations, rival agencies, and Dracula’s many possible conspyramids and plots. I’ll give you my conclusion right up front: if you have any interest in the Night’s Black Agents setting whatsoever, this is a must-buy.”

“Meanwhile, let me offer my personal thanks, not to the authors – though they deserve every plaudit – but to my fellow Kickstarter backers. Thanks to your funding, something wonderful has been created.”

Karloff goes on,
“If you’re any kind of student of Stoker, you’ll find layer upon layer of meaning here, and each layer translates to yet another node, or character, location, item, plot thread. Imagine trying to put all that together, yourself. Then be grateful someone else did it for you.”

“Should you go to Carfax, for example, there are several different ways the Director could play it, many different items or supporting characters you might find there, and many different consequences. What this means in play is that the characters can never be sure what they’re going to discover, nor can they take anything for granted. It also means that the Director can play this several times, maybe with the same group, and it will never play out the same way twice.”

Finally,
“I’d recommend a new Director buy this even if that Director never plays it as written. It’s a masterclass in how the game is constructed, and how it can be played.”

Dulce_Et_Decorum_Est_cover_400Pookie reviewed Dulce et Decorum Est on Reviews from R’lyeh. You can check out the full review here. Thanks Pookie!

“Dulce et Decorum Est gives the tools for the Keeper to run scenarios set during the war, plus numerous good ideas…Physically, Dulce et Decorum Est is solidly presented. The art is excellent”

On the Vaterland scenario:

A relatively short, straightforward and confined affair, ‘Vaterland’ is a primarily interesting because of its setting, one that plays against our anti-German notions of the period. The inclusion of Hearst as an NPC adds an interesting wrinkle and a certain impetus to the scenario.

On the Dead Horse Corner scenario:

“it nicely builds on a strong sense of isolation and of the three scenarios in the book, is probably best suited to add to an ongoing campaign set during the Great War.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

13a_soundtrack_cover_editedJonathan Hicks reviewed the 13th Age Soundtrack on rpg.net. Thanks Jonathan! Jonathan says,

“First off, let me be blunt – if, like me, you’re a lover of music in your game then this soundtrack is fantastic whether you intend to use it in a 13th Age game or not. The themes stand out and once the group hears them during their first few games then they’ll forever associate the music with the sessions, up to a point where an evening’s play will feel peculiar without having the music playing in the background.”

“It’s an amazing selection of music and I can’t see any gaming group not getting something out of it. More than anything, it’s unique; there are no movies, shows or games that have this music so the player’s will not have heard any of it before and will always equate it with their 13th Age games, or whatever ongoing RPG setting they’re gaming in. If that’s not perfect for a gaming group then I don’t know what is.”

“And that, at the end of the day, is what this soundtrack does – it delivers iconic music that not only suits the epic atmosphere of 13th Age but is so varied it contains a style of music that will suit most games in pretty much any fantasy setting. Left on loop in the background it’s perfect for any gaming session and has enough variety to help enhance the atmosphere of many playing styles.

The team of composers and performers on this album have done a sterling job on this soundtrack and they should be commended; I’ve got a few game-centric soundtracks and this is, by far, the best one yet. If you’re looking for an album that’ll help to take your games up a notch, or if you feel that your games are missing that little something that’ll take it to the next level, then this album is an absolute must.”

“A great album filled with solid, wonderfully crafted music. It’s a soundtrack waiting for a movie to be put to it.”


 

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

 

Jay Draper over at The Mad Adventurers Society reviewed Trail of Cthulhu. Full review here, thanks Jay!

trailofcthulhu300wide“Overall, I really enjoyed playing Trail of Cthulhu. Despite it sharing the same setting as Call of Cthulhu, it is a far simpler game that is definitely more suited to the narrative, roleplay-focused style of gameplay that is popular at the moment. There’s also a more cerebral element to the game, through the resource management of skills and the fragility of the characters, though not to the extent of Call of Cthulhu. The more cerebral element also comes through in the  shift in focus towards players working together to solve the clues as opposed to turning clues into abstract dice rolls to succeed or fail at, as so many roleplaying games try to do when they attempt mystery elements. With an array of optional rules and the purist/pulp dials, there are plenty of ways to customise your Trail of Cthulhu experience, and the rules are lightweight enough to not intrude as you craft a thrilling story of Lovecraftian strangeness for your players to investigate. If you like mystery investigation or cosmic horror, there is no reason why this book shouldn’t be on your shelf.”

“I’ve got to say it was great to return to the Cthulhu setting with Trail of Cthulhu. The Cthulhu Mythos offers such a rich tapestry of foes and lore to tap into, and combined with the social issues that go hand-in-hand with Depression-era America, you’ve got a great start to any game. The way the Mythos is addressed in Trail of Cthulhu makes it very approachable for those without a lot of experience in using or playing within the Cthulhu Mythos.”

“One thing I particularly liked about the point-spending nature of the tests is that for stability, the skill that represents the ability to withstand mental trauma, is that in order to pass the frequent tests against stability loss, players must spend stability points to avoid losing more. It seems futile at first, but once you get a feel for the nature of the setting, it suddenly makes sense that whilst you might be resisting being pushed over the edge towards insanity, you’re still cracking and undergoing a slow descent into madness, even if it feels like you’re winning for the moment.”

 

“I particularly liked the use of the purist and pulp rules throughout the book, they definitely expand the options the game offers and its re-playability by essentially presenting two very different games within one book. Purist is more well-suited for old school Call of Cthulhu fans and folks who prefer gritty, challenging realism, with investigators being far more fragile and less able to weather physical and mental trauma, as well as being less able to defend themselves. Pulp suits the more adventurous players, who want to play something more heroic and that suggests a higher rate of survival.”


Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost coverkafka’s shining review of Albion’s Ransom: Little Girl Lost & Albion’s Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters is available in full at rpg.net

10/10: “this is British horror at its best.” 

“The Esoterrorists picks up where Cthulhu games sometimes leave off in creating a truly horrific experience without getting into gore and staying true to the cosmic horror that we are truly insignificant against the banal and malevolent forces that look at our speck of a dirt that we call the Earth as nothing. Yet, aptly keeps things local and contextualized it by bringing a local yet alien world in the form of the United Kingdom feeling the winds of a cozy catastrophe blow-in from the Outer Dark. Solid writing, art and editing will guarantee that this adventure will be enjoyed for many years.”

“It is the strength of the writing that the descriptions of the NPCs are so powerful that they might pass for fact. The adventure moves from a modern police procedural and descends/ascends to almost Fleming-Bond adventure without any of the silliness inspired by the films of that genre.”

Sixty-Winters-Cover_reduced1“It is a rollercoaster of an adventure that will really test adventures investigative abilities, in which, players will be thankful for the GUMSHOE rules that does not leave these things to chance. That said, players are no way conscripted into meeting their doom, say, in the way, that Return to the Tomb of Horrors. Rather, it is the grand tradition of the British Cozy Catastrophe. Whereby, the actions of the players do lead to the world going mad, but, they have every chance to set events back on track – preferably before the tea gets cold.”

“Solid writing, art and editing will guarantee that this adventure will be enjoyed for many years. Pelgrane Press continues to hit the ball out of the park with ease, nowhere is more evident than in the phenomenal adventures they produce – the extra features flesh out what dry rules cannot. This adventure is meaty enough that it will be enjoyed time and time again; and like the before mentioned, Return to the Tomb of Horrors creates a familiarity but also dread. So, if you are a Gamemaster, in need of an adventure that may or may not result in a TPK, but, provide lots of thought-provoking role-playing opportunities – you must check this one out!”

Thanks, kafka!

Previous Entries