Stone Skin Press Shotguns v. Cthulhu

Pulse-pounding action meets cosmic horror in this exciting collection from the rising stars of the New Cthulhuiana.

Steel your nerves, reach into your weapons locker, and tie tight your running shoes as humanity takes up arms against the monsters and gods of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Grab your pistols, your knives, your gearpunk grenades. Confront deep ones, mi-go, and flying polyps. Fight in the past, present and future, from the birth of the shotgun to the end of the world. Escape by car, carriage, and hot air balloon.

Above all, remember to count your bullets…you may need the last one for yourself.

Relentlessly hurtling you into madness and danger are:

Natania BARRON • Steve DEMPSEY • Dennis DETWILLER
Larry DiTILLIO • Chad FIFER • A. Scott GLANCY
Dave GROSS • Dan HARMS • Rob HEINSOO
Kenneth HITE • Chris LACKEY • Robin D. LAWS
Nick MAMATAS • Ekaterina SEDIA • Kyla WARD

 
Cover & interior illustrations by Jason Morningstar.
 
ISBN-13:    9781908983015
Format:     B Format – 198x129mm
Binding:    Paperback
Extent:     282 pages
Ebook:    PDF, EPUB, MOBI included with print book

 
This title, and all other Stone Skin Press titles, are available together in the Stone Skin Press Complete Bundle. This is also available in the Lovecraft Fiction Bundle.
 
Buy print edition now
 
Buy PDF, EPUB, MOBI now

Stone Skin Press The Lion and The Aardvark

These confusing times of Internet trolls, one-percenters, toxic fame, and impending singularity cry out for clarity—the clarity found in Aesop’s 2,500 year old fables.

70 writers from across the creative spectrum bring their modern sensibilities to this classic format. Zombies, dog-men and robot wasps mingle with cats, coyotes and cockroaches. Parables ranging from the punchy to the evocative, the wry to the disturbing, explore eternal human foibles, as displaced onto lemmings, trout, and racing cars. But beware— in these terse explorations of desire, envy, and power, certitude isn’t always as clear as it looks.

The full and phenomenal extent of the writers:

Peter M. BALL * Robert Jackson BENNETT * Jason L. BLAIR

Emily Care BOSS * Nadia BULKIN * Jesse BULLINGTON * Susannah DAINOW

Richard DANSKY * Graeme DAVIS * Jim DEMONAKOS * Steve DEMPSEY

Dennis DETWILLER * Julia Bond ELLINGBOE * Ann EWAN * Ray FAWKES

Chad FIFER * Matt FORBECK * Peter FREEMAN * Katarina GLIGORIJEVIC * Ed GREENWOOD * Dave GROSS

Rob HEINSOO * Tania HERSHMAN * Will HINDMARCH * Jonathan L. HOWARD * Stephen Graham JONES

John KOVALIC * Kathryn KUITENBROUWER * Chris LACKEY * Livia LLEWELLYN * Laura LUSH * Nick MAMATAS

Adam MAREK * Julie McARTHUR * Janqui MEHTA * Silvia MORENO-GARCIA * Sarah NEWTON * Daniel PERRY

Sandy PETERSEN * JT PETTY * Ursula PFLUG * Wena POON * Epidiah RAVACHOL * Aaron ROSENBERG

Gareth RYDER-HANRAHAN * Richard SCARSBROOK * Ekaterina SEDIA * Greg STAFFORD * Greg STOLZE

Molly TANZER * Benj TENTT * Sue TRAIN * Genevieve VALENTINE * Monica VALENTINELLI * Halli VILLEGAS

Kyla WARD * Chuck WENDIG * Heather WOOD * Jim ZUB.

Cover & interior illustrations by Shel Kahn.

ISBN-13: 9781908983022
Format: B Format – 198x129mm
Binding: Hardback
Extent: 229 pages
Ebook: PDF, EPUB, MOBI included with print book

This title, and all other Stone Skin Press titles, are available together in the Stone Skin Press Complete Bundle.

Buy print edition now

Buy PDF, EPUB, MOBI now

While working on Book of the Underworld a couple weeks ago, I realized that our advice for leveling up monsters isn’t as direct as it could be. Some of you realized this right away, for others it could be a welcome clarification.

The simplest way to level up a creature is to bump it up by three levels.

We built the 13th Age math around the idea that power doubles every three levels. Therefore, the simplest way to level up a monster is also often the most useful way of leveling up a monster, effectively bumping it up a tier.

To add three levels to a monster, follow the following four steps.

First, add +3 to each of the monster’s attack bonuses and double the damage dealt by its attacks. (See the ongoing damage note below for the exception.)

Second, add +3 to each of its defenses.

Third, double the monster’s hit points.

Fourth, if the monster has abilities connected to healing, gaining hit points, or dealing damage to itself, double the points of those abilities. (For example, if you took the 5th level huge white dragon from page 219 of the 13th Age core rulebook and raised it to an 8th level huge white dragon, you’d increase the damage it deals to itself on a natural odd hit or miss with its ice breath attack from 2d8 to 4d8.)

Note on ongoing damage: Ongoing damage tends to increase by 5 points per tier rather than doubling every 3 levels, but especially at epic tier you could bump ongoing damage up by 10 instead of 5.

Most of the time, these quick adjustments will have handled everything you need to handle a three-level jump. Since the point of 13th Age monster design is to have a fun variety of unusual effects, you’ll probably encounter monster abilities that you want to tinker with slightly to reflect a higher tier. You usually won’t have to perform that type of adjustment, but if something feels off to you, adjusting it on the fly should be a lot simpler with the baseline handled by +3 and doubling.

Actually, that might turn out to be more of an issue if you’ve taken the opposite path. Dropping a monster three levels uses the same simple math in reverse, but higher level monsters might have abilities you’re not as comfortable inflicting on lower-tier player characters.

Of course, variations on this arithmetic work for other level-up shifts, as reflected in the DIY Monster Charts. We summarized the multipliers on the GM Screen, as shown below.

Leveling a Monster

+1 Level: Multiplier 1.25

+2 Levels: Multiplier 1.6

+3 Levels: Multiplier 2.0

+4 Levels: Multiplier 2.5

+5 Levels: Multiplier 3.2

+6 Levels: Multiplier 4.0


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. 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.

In a perfect world, I’d work up to revealing the final cover for Book of the Underworld, telling the step-by-step story of how it came to be and finally whipping the sheet off the easel.

But that’s now how the internet works. So here’s the cover as painted by Lee Moyer using some original pencil sketches by Rich Longmore.

How It Came to Be

Like Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s earlier Book of Ages, Book of Demons, and Eyes of the Stone Thief, the upcoming Book of the Underworld is a pinwheel of unforgettable ideas that are great for gaming. One of the high-class problems of working with material this good is that I feel responsible for finding ways of creating covers that live up to Gareth’s writing.

Last year, we handled this responsibility for Book of Ages by using a team-up. It was the same team-up we’d used previously on the core book and the 13th Age GM screen. Aaron McConnell created wonderful pencils (reprinted inside in the section featuring the Grandmaster of Flowers, page 91) and Lee Moyer handled the paints.

That team-up wasn’t available for Book of the Underworld, and at first it didn’t look like I had a way of getting Lee in on the project. Gareth, developer J-M DeFoggi, and I had some fairly standard art suggestion ideas for what we might do for the cover. But when I say “fairly standard” I also mean that I didn’t think our ideas were particularly good or entirely practical.

So eventually I called Lee, intending to tell him our problem and see if he had a suggestion for a better path. Lee listened and then suggested a better path that he was willing to carve himself.

Lee sent over a layout of an obsidian shard, hung in webs, the sketch just below. Lee asked whether Rich Longmore could provide pencils for a few characters that Lee would use to populate the obsidian mirrors. Lee had enjoyed painting over Rich’s pencils on the Timewatch GM Screen so this was another team-up that had worked before.

I sent Rich notes that went something like this:

The plan is to have a magical blade of obsidian (or something!) held up by spider webs. The obsidian will reflect several faces and scenes related to the underworld.

You will create four pencil sketches that will get slices taken out of them as shown in the blue shards cut out of the obsidian in Lee’s comp. The sketches don’t have to complete, but they need to be somewhat bigger than the spaces so Lee can move ’em a bit. They don’t have to be inked. They also aren’t part of something happening right in front of the shard, it’s more like a magic mirror effect, Lee will take what you draw and distort it in the slab.

Rich was into it and we agreed on the characters/creatures to be sketched: drow warrior; dwarf warrior; giant spider; and soul flenser.

Here are Rich’s sketches. I wasn’t entirely clear on how these were going into the painting, so I couldn’t have approved them without confirming that they were what Lee was hoping for. Yep, as usual Rich hit it on the first try.

And then came the blessed period when Lee goes away, spends three or four times as many hours as he said he would spend on the project, and comes back with something finished and wonderful. For a change, Lee handled the fonts and text for the cover, I think that may actually have taken him as much work as the painting. We’ll put the Pelgrane logo in the bottom right corner and we’re done with another cover that lives up to its book.

I just finished the final pass on the “page XX” references for Shards of the Broken Sky. Some designers dislike this type of finicky work, but I sort of love it. Partly it’s a great moment in the lifecycle of a book—it’s actually about to be finished! Partly you get to take a last look at things; and when you’re working with a great layout artist like Jen McCleary, it’s a calm look at things that are very much where they should be.

So a couple days later, I’m thinking about the finished adventure and asking myself: what isn’t in Shards that could have been? My first thought is that it would be interesting to think about how specific character classes could find special uses or unique stories in a Shards campaign. We generally don’t tailor elements of our adventures to individual classes; from a design perspective it’s usually better to avoid spending too much time on ideas that only apply to some characters. But a quick blog post is just about right!

Shards was first conceived of before 13 True Ways was released, so the default adventuring group at the time consisted of classes from the core book. Here are some ideas for how players whose characters’ classes come from 13TW might experience the adventure differently.

  • Chaos Mage: There is a whole lot of chaos in Shards of the Broken Sky. So much chaos that a chaos mage player character is either going to feel supremely at home OR feel a bit resentful that the world has barged in and taken over their party trick. Maybe this will be a chance for the chaos mage to develop in a new direction, towards taming some of the weirdness-from-on-high that fell to earth with Vantage.
  • Commander: For an early approach to the post-Fall chaos, a commander PC might be the imperial legionnaire who is ostensibly next in command after the disaster. But with no soldiers to command and a catastrophe in progress, maybe an adventuring party of misfits will do!
  • Druid: If I ever play in a Shards campaign, I’m going to play a druid with the Terrain Caster talent; and then I’m going to have SO MUCH FUN with the smashed and scattered terrain across Redfield Valley.
  • Monk: None of the big secrets in Shards directly relate to the monk class or its themes, so if I were running it with a monk character in the group, I’d start by changing that. In this campaign, the secret of the death/disappearance/status of the Grand Master of Flowers can be found in Redfields.
  • Necromancer: Unlike the monk, the necromancer gets LOTS of love in Shards. Indirect love, in the sense that the valley is full of ancient quasi-living battlefields, but that’s love a necromancer understands. 
  • The Occultist: Vantage falls, the Occultist rises from the wreckage. 

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.

Shards of the Broken Sky has more oozes than you can hold in just one dungeon. Stirring the ooze-pot, I realized that the original black pudding from page 240 of the 13th Age core rulebook is one of the worst-designed monsters in the game. Not if you’ve been playing 13th Age. No, if you’ve been a player, the black pudding has been your secret best friend, a huge 9th level wrecker that deals damage like a spilled pudding cup.

I didn’t add the revised black pudding into Shards, instead I put in a lower level version, saving the updated 9th level monster for today. Accompanying the stats, another great cardboard miniature from Rich Burlew’s A Monster for Every Season: Winter pack.

 

Black Pudding

Sadly, the curse the Archmage had inflicted on these creatures has just worn off.

 

9th level wrecker [ooze]

Initiative: +8

 

Acid-drenched pseudopod +14 v PD (up to 4 attacks, each against a different nearby enemy)—60 acid damage, and 15 ongoing acid damage.

Miss: 20 damage, and 5 ongoing acid damage

 

Climber: A black pudding sticks to ceilings and walls when it wishes, sliding along as easily as on the floor.

Slippery: The pudding has resist weapons 12+.

Flows where it likes: The ooze is immune to opportunity attacks.

Ooze: The ooze is immune to effects. When an attack applies a condition to an ooze (dazed, hampered, weakened, ongoing damage, etc.), that condition doesn’t affect it.

 

AC 23

PD 20      HP 470

MD 19


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.

Soldiers of the Emperor, happily unaware that they might soon be statted up as monsters. “We’re only NPCs!” they say to each other. “We’re safe!”

NPC followers of icons like the Priestess, Emperor, and Archmage aren’t usually monsters—but that doesn’t stop player characters from wanting to fight them!

Icon Followers will focus on playable monster-stats for human and humanoid NPCs of the Dragon Empire. Want stats for a city guard, gladiator, traveling priest, bardic college student, or Imperial Legionnaire? Icon Followers gives you options for many such NPCs, further distinguished by their chosen icon or their home environment. Less generic write-ups cover intriguing agents of the icons such as the Blue’s diplomatic envoys and the Priestess’ minotaur labyrinth-keepers.

Authors include Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Liz Argall, Lynne Hardy, Steven Warzeha, and Wade Rockett.

Icon Followers is currently in development. Stay tuned for a release date!

Only 100 copies of the faux-leatherbound limited edition the 13th Age Bestiary 2 exist. 50 are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada, and 50 are available to customers outside the U.S. and Canada. The books are faux leather with silver foil, and each one includes a sticky-backed bookplate signed by Rob Heinsoo which you can add to your book.

Limited edition with bookplate

Fallen icons, apocalyptic fire giants, and a purple dragon who throws the best parties: welcome to the 13th Age Bestiary 2!

More than 250 individual stat blocks appear in 51 entries, along with with story hooks, icon relationships, customizable campaign variants, and advice on creating exciting battles.

New monsters for your campaign include:

  • The Gold King and the Forest that Walks, fallen icons who must be defeated by a blend of swords, spells, and campaign victories.
  • A wizard bonded to their spellbook, a rogue bonded to their magic cloak, and other former heroes who took shortcuts to power by merging with their magic items.
  • The Lich King’s covert undead propaganda force: the Cult of the Silver Hand.
  • Fomorians, monstrous worshipers and children of the ancient chaos gods.
  • Malatyne, the purple dragon whose entertainments are legendary—and the player characters might be the main attraction…
  • Lions (temple); tigers (elemental and rakshasa); and owlbears (snowy and great horned).

Plus an appendix on using these monsters when playing 13th Age in Glorantha!

  • Lead Designers: Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW
  • Developer: Rob Heinsoo
  • Art Direction: Rob Heinsoo, Cathriona Tobin
  • Interior Art: Rich Longmore, Ania Kryczkowska, Aaron McConnell, Lee Moyer, Patricia Smith, Naomi VanDoren
  • Authors: Liz Argall, Paul Fanning, Jaym Gates, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Lynne Hardy, Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Carrie Rasmussen-Law, Wade Rockett, Aaron Roudabush, Michael E. Shea, Ruth Tillman, Jonathan Tweet, Steven Warzeha, Emily Westfall
  • Product code: PEL13A14L
  • Pages: 304 pages, hardback, full colour

Buy the limited edition

13th Sage: Speeding Combat

By Rob Heinsoo

My current 13th Age group are more interested in roleplaying than the details of combat. Maybe that’s not precisely true, but at this early stage of the campaign, the game sings when we’re roleplaying and drags if we have too many rounds of combat. Two rounds is fine. Three rounds is OK-ish. Four, not so much. So I’m experimenting with a couple ways of speeding things up, and I’m happy to hear other ideas in the comments.

More damage, less hit points: The first requires a tiny bit of math, possibly on the fly but easy to accomplish ahead of time. I’m reducing the monster’s hit points and increasing their damage output. My first experiment will reduce monster’s hit points by a third. A gnoll who normally has 75 hit points will only have 50. Meanwhile, I’m gonna experiment with increasing the monster’s damage output by a third to a half. The gnoll’s mace normally deals 18 damage, now it’s going to deal 24 minimum. That will probably be scary enough, no need to go to a 50% damage increase, but we’ll see.

Lunar escalation: In fights against particularly powerful enemies, I’m going to use the Lunar escalation die rules from page 309 of 13th Age Glorantha. The short version is that the escalation die increases by 2 each round, and the enemies share the escalation die when the GM rolls beneath the current escalation die on a d6 at the start of the round. When the escalation die reaches 5 or 6, it cycles down by 2 until it reaches the bottom and cycles back up. Check out the printed rules for the details, it definitely pushes the pace and heightens the tension, so I think I’ll use it when dramatically appropriate rather than tying it to a particular Dragon Empire faction.

Less dice-rolling: I’m finally going to give in and do it Jonathan’s way, figuring out average damage for most player character attacks. I’ll probably have people roll damage when it’s dramatically satisfying to see the roll. And I know this won’t work for the player who comes with a new set of amazing polyhedral dice every session! But several players in this group will be perfectly happy not rolling damage 90% of the time, and we’ll find ways to make their d20 rolls more interesting if they aren’t already more interesting thanks to their abilities.


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.

I’ve started running a new 13th Age campaign for my Fire Opal Games comrades and their families. The PCs are (apparently) questing to recover a goddess who most of the world has forgotten. The Elf Queen has several statues of the missing goddess in one of the halls she devotes to her friends, and she wants to know who it was and why the goddess is lost to her.

The quest took the PCs to a uniquely laid out halfling tavern in Concord. (Actually, I don’t think it’s unique, it’s how most halfling establishments should be organized; but that’s a story for another time!) Viv—the former adventurer who owned the bar—had the info the PCs needed, but asked for a service from the PCs: an exorcism of sorts, a cleansing of the bad spirits that had taken over her tavern’s original location. Not just bad spirits, bad alcohol spirits. They’d been weakened over time by the evaporation of the worst of the lot, the Grimtooth Ale. But Viv’s age and the death of her dwarf pal, Rak, meant she needed help. Adventurers who’d finagled heavy winnings out of her tavern’s mantis-fights seemed like people who might get the job done.

All of this prologue is to explain why this month’s installment of 13th Sage is a couple of spirits-related spirits. For the battle I used wibbles (13th Age Bestiary) recast as bad-champagne bubble mooks. A couple of natural 1s with spells cast during the battle probably should have created more wibble-bubbles, but it was more important to keep the game moving for the all-new players. Happily for the newcomers, they cruised through this battle without encountering the worst the spirits had to offer. Your PCs may not be so lucky.

Roll initiative!

 

Rockfist Ale Dreg

Hic.

1st level troop [spirit]

Initiative: +4

 

Thump go boom +6 vs. AC—6 damage

Natural 18+: PC is hampered (hard save ends, 16+, but PC receives a +8 bonus on save if they can tell a story worth hearing that involves beer—the save automatically fails if the story is longer than one minute)

Miss: 3 damage

 

Spirit body: For each attack against this spirit, a PC uses their best mental ability score (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma) instead of the ability score they normally use for attacks. Use the same mental ability score to determine damage.

 

AC   17

PD    15                 HP 32

MD  11

 

Bad Wine Spirit

Disgusting oozy ectoplasmic slime that won’t stop whining.

2nd level spoiler [spirit]

Initiative: +6

 

Wet slap +6 vs. AC—6 damage

Natural even hit: target slides somewhere the spirit thinks is funny; may require a second +6 attack vs. PD if the location is going to result in serious damage to the target.

 

R: Bubbly laughter +7 vs. MD (one nearby enemy)—4 ongoing psychic damage and confused (save ends both)

Limited use: Only on the turn after it scores a natural even hit with wet slap (but against any target, not just the one it slapped).

 

Spirit body: For each attack against this spirit, a PC uses their best mental ability score (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma) instead of the ability score they normally use for attacks. Use the same mental ability score to determine damage.

 

AC   16

PD    13                 HP 40

MD  15

 

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