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It’s been a while, but we’re keeping on keeping on over here in the Pelgrane’s Nest, and hope you’re all keeping safe and well. We’ve been beavering away on the new website, as well as new releases like this month’s Find FOREVER to keep you entertained until life returns to normal.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

As a company with tentacles in many countries, we’re taking comfort from the fact that the vaccines are, indeed, finally rolling out around the world. Our USAian Pelgranistas were the first to be vaccinated, followed by our some of our UKians. Us Irish Pelgranes are about to get our second shots, but the new Delta variant is causing enough concern that we’re continuing to stay indoors, and not travelling outside our home country, meaning we’re likely to miss you all at conventions again this year :(

However, while we’re not attending events in-person, or running events at in-person conventions, we are looking for GMs to run online events at Gen Con and Origins. If you’re interested, drop us an email at support@pelgranepress.com with the usual details.

NEW RELEASE: Find FOREVER

Find FOREVER is a new one-shot PDF adventure by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan for the Night’s Black Agents RPG. It mixes elements of UFO lore with classic American conspiracy as the Agents investigate something called FOREVER. From the intel they have, FOREVER is some sort of vampire-connected program run by shadowy elements within the United States intelligence community. Some claim FOREVER’s an ultrablack operation, a dozen levels higher and deeper than anything at Groom Lake. Others say that FOREVER was officially shut down decades ago. The truth is somewhere in between.

CURRENT OFFER: THE YELLOW KING RPG in the Bundle of Holding

For a limited time only, get the complete four-volume The Yellow King Roleplaying Game PDFs (retail price $55), along with MP3s of the six atmospheric music tracks in James Semple’s haunting The Yellow King Suite, for just US$17.95 at the Bundle of Holding.

And if you pay more than the current threshold price, you also get Absinthe in Carcosa, an indispensable city guide for The Yellow King RPG and a stunning, full-color visual artifact in its own right, as well as Robin’s novel The Missing and the Lost, an enchanting tale about one man’s mission to end things with his Government Lethal Chamber. Plus, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Arc Dream Publishing to include their chilling edition of The King in Yellow, with annotations by our own Kenneth Hite, and Robin D. Laws’ New Tales of the Yellow Sign, a short story anthology which expands the classic horror mythos of weird tales pioneer and Lovecraft precursor Robert W. Chambers into new vistas of unease and imagination.

Check out the Bundle of Holding here!

COMING SOON: NEW WEBSITE

Dan the website man is putting the finishing touches to our brand-new website, and we’re hoping to launch next week! I can’t tell you how excited I am (you should’ve seen me geeking out when our Google Search Console first populated) at the prospect of releasing this elegant and modern website out into the world, watching it effortlessly load on mobile devices, and letting you all loose on your new, improved bookshelves. For GDPR reasons, when you first log in you’ll need to consent to us transferring your old downloads onto the new website, but it’s going to be worth it. We’ll be sending out an email after launch with full details of what you need to do to activate your account on the new website.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

Our Swords of the Serpentine artists continue to struggle and so we’re missing a few final pieces, but we’re close to the finish line now. Jen’s completed the first draft of the layout, which is available to download for pre-orderers now. We’re working on the index, appendices, and internal links/bookmarks/table of contents at the moment, and hoping to have a final PDF ready for printing and pre-orderers at the end of July.

Work in progress update: Even Death Can Die

Speaking of struggling, we’ve hit a major roadblock with this one. We listened to feedback from customers about issues with the editing of the One-2-One books, and so we recruited Trisha DeFoggi to do one final post-layout copyedit of Even Death Can Die. And copyedit it she did, returning a document that had 5847 comments, ranging from adding or removing single characters such as a comma or period, to more advanced paragraph switching. Unfortunately, the layout artist Christian Knutsson is busy with other projects, and estimated it would take him about ten to twelve weeks to make these edits, so I’m now looking for a layout artist to make these changes.

Work in progress update: 13th Age projects

I asked Rob Heinsoo what was happening in the wonderful world of the Dragon Empire. Here’s what he said:

Drakkenhall: City of Monsters has shifted into its final phase. The city sourcebook’s final chapter (Gnomarchy madness!) is written and midway through development. Rob finished his development comments on the rest of the manuscript and has finished the first half of the monster/magic/math dev revisions with J-M. Trisha is already editing the chapters that are entirely done. We expect to be finished with editing and have the book into layout by the end of July.

Rob’s work on Icon Followers is more than halfway done and picking up speed.

DRAGONSAGA is a new codename (or maybe it’s the real name?) for Gareth’s post-Stone Thief mega-adventure that takes characters from first level to tenth level. Gar is presently working on the book’s 6th and 7th level adventures, which may indicate that he’s more than half done with his first pass. Given that DRAGONSAGA is already up to 84K words, Cat is praying that yes, Gareth is more than half-done. The team is determined that Cat won’t have to touch the project except to publish it, since she’s correctly wary of giant projects that somehow end up in her hands.

Since we’re used the word ‘mega-adventure’ word, we should mention that Eyes of the Stone Thief weighed in at around 234K words. DRAGONSAGA should be around 2/3rds that size.

Behemoths: Paths of the Koru has been on development hold while the DeFoggis tackle Drakkenhall. When Drakkenhall goes on pre-sale with its pre-layout edition, that will be the sign that art for the Behemoths sourcebook is being commissioned.

Futures: The other things in production are too far away to be talked about in anything other than a “other books exist on spreadsheets” grace note.

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Previously in See Page XX, I laid out a two part sample outline for a Yellow King RPG: Paris series. By popular demand, I’m now going to do the same for the next of the game’s four sequences, The Wars. As before, this is a starter framework to show you how it might be done, not the only way to do it or a pattern to lock yourself into. Even if you start out following it in detail you’ll discover better ideas for your group when the players get involved and surprise you with their contributions to the emerging storyline.

This outline contains more episode ideas than you’ll likely need, allowing you to pick the hooks your players will most enjoy. Some make sense only if you already ran a Paris sequence for the same group. Others can be collapsed into one another, by mixing and matching subplots.

Village

Start with an episode that leaves the squad to their own devices as they encounter a mystery that allows them to interact with other people. The village scenario, in which the soldiers protect, and then come to suspect, a tiny community on their side of the lines, fits this bill perfectly. Which is why “A Feast for Wolves,” the introductory scenario in the book, uses this pattern. Use that if your players haven’t run through it before, which they probably haven’t. When creating your own variation, start with the squad traveling to the site of the scenario, so that along the way you can introduce the hazards, technology, and background weirdness of the alternate world weird war.

Damned Peculiar

Devise the second scenario around one of the squad members’ Damned Peculiar Thing. The boredom of a routine mission turns to terror when one of these old fears comes roaring back to confront the group.

Does the photographer find ghosts in his recon photos? Time to track down some ghosts.

Does the lieutenant dream of walkers driven by corpses? Your scenario is about encountering undead enemies and learning how to deactivate them.

Does the former med student dream of a dead forest where the other PCs all lie blown to bits? The scenario starts with an awakening from that dream and then leads into that exact forest.

Creature Callback

The squad’s assignment to bring back photographs of an installation not far behind enemy lines escalates in difficulty when the players confront a monster their predecessors encountered in Paris, now repurposed as a weapon of war:

  • Murderous automatons recall the animated sculpture that escaped from the art students’ garret.
  • A unit of korrigan spies trains to use their hypnotic powers to lure enemy soldiers to their deaths.
  • Gargoyles have signed on as enemy shock troops.

Masterminding the creature cadre is a new secondary villain. You might bring back an ageless secondary villain from Paris, such as a vampire or Carcosan noble. Or introduce a new big bad who features in this sequence only. Like any recurring villain introduction, the squad learns about the new antagonist but has to execute flawlessly to permanently deal with them right off the bat. In which case, they deserve to win. Because how, oh how, will you ever think of another bad guy for them to fight instead?

Bunkered and/or Hunkered

The squad humps it to an isolated outpost to find out why the soldiers who are supposed to be holding it aren’t answering their boîtenoire. The site might be a pillbox, the remains of a medieval tower, or a literal bunker. When they get there they find blood spattered all around and plenty of signs of a hideous struggle. Rear echelon orders them to hold this eerie location. And then night falls, and the horrors of the dark woods come creeping out to do to them what it did to the last squad. It’s a haunted house scenario in camo gear, with the perfect reason not to flee the house—the squad has been ordered to stay. (In my own playtest game this was the scariest scenario of the sequence, hands down.)

Sinister Experiment

By this time the squad has pieced together enough of the events behind the events to realize that that strange squiggle against a yellow background signals bad news, and that anyone wearing a pallid mask may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. In this scenario they spot those marks of damnation around a friendly complex they’ve been assigned to protect. The sinister military experiment might be:

  • human brains transplanted into walkers
  • a super soldier serum synthesized from Carcosan blood
  • reality grenades that warp time, space, and reality.

Perhaps your secondary villain runs the experiment. Or maybe it’s time to reintroduce the king or one of his daughters, looking suave indeed in a medal-festooned general’s uniform.

How does the squad protect its own side from the moral and metaphysical doom that will surely result if this experiment reaches the battlefield?

Installation Attack

Follow up that moral quandary with a straightforward military mission to enter enemy territory and, as per the plot of countless war movies, take out a radio tower, munitions cache, or bridge. To get there they must fight or evade their way through enemy soldiers and creatures. Once there, a mystery surrounds the installation. Something unearthly is happening there. Maybe the target has gone missing entirely.

In another twist, the squad encounters a septuagenarian American, perhaps a once-famous artist or writer who pulled an Ambrose Bierce-style disappearance decades ago. Yes, it’s a PC from the first sequence, turned GMC, who is either incidentally present and in need of rescue, or has given in to Carcosa’s blandishments and now works to further global reality breakdown. Use the latter option only if you trust that the player will enjoy it. If the former PC has broken bad, allow a path that allows the present characters to redeem him. (In my game, the player’s new character shot the previous one summarily dead, and he wasn’t even up to anything. And much fun was had by all.}

Next month, the back half of this sequence outline for The Wars.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

District Knowledges, used in the Station Duty campaign frame in The Esoterrorists and in Cthulhu City, are a special set of investigative abilities designed for use in games where a particular city is of paramount importance – and the city’s right there in the title in Mutant City Blues!

The districts in your Mutant City will vary, but you’re going to end up with something similar to the list below. Allocate the suggested elements from Building Mutant City (p. 138) to different districts.

  • The University: Including the Quade Institute
  • Financial District: Including Birch Towers
  • City Centre: City Hall, the Precinct
  • Historic Downtown, including the Bulwark of God Church
  • The Strip, lots of clubs and bars.
  • Helixtown, the mutant district, including Capecon Enterprises, the Heightened Information Alliance, New Heliopolis and the other mutant-related groups.
  • Industrial Zone
  • The Docks/Airport
  • Wealthy Enclave
  • Suburbia
  • Poverty-Stricken District

Don’t stick with the dull technical names – use the actual names of districts and areas in your city. If you’re basing your Mutant City off an existing city, then use areas from that city (“I’m taking Soho, you take Clapham”). If you’re making your Mutant City up, then take the opportunity to create a real sense of place; proper names really help ground a campaign.

Using District Knowledges

With a District Knowledge, you can obtain clues through:

  • Your knowledge of the streets, buildings and other features of the area
  • Your expertise in local history and current events
  • Your relationships with local leaders, influencers, experts and figures in the community.
  • Picking up rumours and efficiently gathering information about that district

You can

  • Tell when crowds or passersby are acting strangely
  • Tell whether a passerby or bystander is native to a particular neighbourhood
  • Navigate unfamiliar street layouts and locate buildings without marking yourself out as a stranger

A District Knowledge push can:

  • Create a useful contact or ally living in that district
  • Call in a favour related to that district
  • Allow you to declare some fact about that district

District Knowledges and other investigative abilities often overlap with one another. A character with a District Knowledge could certainly substitute it for Architecture or Community Relations. However, such substitutions are only permissible when the investigator is in the district they are familiar with.

Gaining District Knowledges

Each character starts with one free District Knowledge. A player taking any template that includes Streetwise can swap that ability for a more focused District Knowledge. More District Knowledges can be purchased with build points or experience as desired.


Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game originally written by Robin D. Laws, and developed and extended by Gareth-Ryder Hanrahan, where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Purchase Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The advent of some mutant abilities has created whole new categories of criminality, while other powers are covered by existing laws. It’s still aggravated assault with a deadly weapon if you threaten someone with a sharp blade, even if you grew that blade yourself using your Natural Weapons ability. Some of the more obscure legal interactions that might crop up in your Mutant City Blues campaign…

The use of the Cognition power is treated as card-counting in Mutant City casinos; it’s not technically illegal, but those known to possess the power are banned by the casino owners and forcibly ejected if found to be gambling.

Of all the Command powers, Command Insects is the most likely to cause serious property damage or degrade the ecology of the local area. A common use of the power is the so-called ‘Pied Piper’ effect – instead of spraying a structure for termites or other insects, a mutant can just compel the insects to leave. Practising this form of extermination commercially requires a licence, and proof that the mutant has somewhere to safely dispose of the insects.

Using Earth Control’s earthquake ability is a legal nightmare, exposing the user to endless suits for damage to property. Earthquake-hit structures must be thoroughly examined by a qualified engineer to ensure they are still sound.

Illusion is a tricky power when it comes to the law. Many uses of illusion fall under existing laws covering fraud, deception, intimidation and so forth – there’s no difference, legally, between conjuring an illusion of a monster, and putting on a monster costume to scare someone. However, as illusions leave no traces or physical evidence, it makes proving a crime considerably harder. Attempts to have non-consensual, non-declared illusions deemed illegal have foundered in the courts, and there’s a growing number of professional illusionists who use their abilities for quasi-legal activities like providing alibis (‘six witnesses saw my client drinking in the bar when the prosecution claims he was robbing the house’).

Plants under Plant Control count as tools or weapons, so using a plant to entangle someone counts as assault even if you never lay a finger on them. That said, it can difficult to conclusively prove that a particular plant controller was commanding a particular plant, leading to the trope of the ‘Mad Gardener’, a hypothetical plant controller who wanders around Mutant City controlling plants at random, and who just happened to be passing when the defendant was alleged to have used the same power.

Reduce Temperature can result in reckless endangerment charges if the mutant uses the ability in an enclosed space with others present.

Speed limits do not apply to runners or cyclists, so the Speed power is not restricted. However, using Speed in highly trafficked areas may result in charges for jaywalking.

Webbing counts as littering.


Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game originally written by Robin D. Laws, and developed and extended by Gareth-Ryder Hanrahan, where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Purchase Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

By Kevin Kulp

Combining focused ambition with poor judgment is a great basis for an adventure. When you want to run a last-minute Swords of the Serpentine game and aren’t sure where to begin, start with one or more of the factions. You’ll see an example of this in the two free adventures here at See Page XX, The Dripping Throne (which starts with Commoners and Mercanti) and Sin-drinker (which starts with the City Watch and Thieves’ Guilds).

The following supporting characters and plot hooks, one for each of the twelve factions, focus on rebels: people who aren’t afraid to stand up to the status quo, even when it may be dangerous or foolhardy. Grab these, change them, and make them your own as you populate your own game.

Read part 1 here.

Mercenaries

Concept: A rogue Mercenary company, funded by one of Eversink’s rivals, hopes to undermine and destabilize the city – and will work (almost) free for anyone with those goals.

Description: The Company of the Golden Coin is a mercenary company with a patriotic and trustworthy name, a charismatic leader, and a rebellious plan to undermine and destroy the city’s church and government.

Funded by a rival trading city in nearby Capria, Commander Lielle presents herself as a stunningly straightforward, competent, and trustworthy leader. It’s this skill that has allowed her to avoid prosecution for two drunken murders, a mutiny, and three separate acts of possible terrorism. Lielle and her soldiers are in Eversink to spy and surreptitiously make its defenses and stability worse, and they’ll charge less for any job they think might help accomplish that. They only work for clients, though; that way if it all goes sideways, they can heroically and patriotically kill their client and claim it was that person’s fault all along.

Plot Hook: The Heroes stumble into the Company of the Golden Coin time and time again as they face off against foreign or subversive enemies, and soldiers in the company seem to have legal protection against prosecution or arrest. Research shows that’s due to poorly written pro-mercenary laws Lielle managed to influence, laws that say only the client who hires a mercenary company can be held liable for their actions. The problem is, the Company of the Golden Coin now consider the Heroes a personal threat, and volunteer their service to any of the Heroes’ enemies who want to hire them.

Alternatively, the Heroes find a dire threat to Eversink’s security or stability, and it’s the Company of the Golden Coin who are responsible for making sure the Heroes can’t do anything about it.

 

Monstrosities

Concept: Important civic leaders are making oddly kind decisions, declaring new out-of-character – and generous? – policies and laws for several days before disappearing and dropping out of sight. The Watch assumes they’ve been assassinated for their boldness, and they have.. but not in the way anyone expects.

Description: Ilgazar is a facestealer, a doppelganger who literally steals someone’s face and identity when he takes their form. He has a bold new theory: monstrosities in Eversink tend to feed on the poor, sometimes including their emotions. Right now many people are sad, beaten down, and hopeless. What if, Ilgazar reasons, he could help make the poor healthier, happier, and more welcome in their own city? Then Commoners would thrive… and so would monstrosities who feed on them.

As a result, Ilgazar is targeting church elders, political officials, committee leaders, and judges – anyone with the authority to make life less miserable for the lower classes. He steals their identity, spends several days setting new selfless policies, then kills the victim and moves on to his next target. Ilgazar is no mastermind, his tactics are going to become predictable, and the Heroes are going to be able to catch him. The question is, once they do, will they want to stop him?

Plot Hook: After rumors of five other church and political leaders acting generously before disappearing, Swanmother Gabriella’s assistant in the Church of Denari fears the worst when she orders coins and food distributed for free to the poor of Sag Harbor. Not wanting to look stupid in the church hierarchy if he’s wrong, Gabriella’s assistant hires the Heroes to investigate. Why has her personality apparently changed, and what is she up to? Finding the actual Swanmother’s body in an unsealed crypt, unconscious with no face, may lead the Heroes to confronting Ilgazar. When they do, Ilgazar is more likely to confess than run. Can he recruit the Heroes into helping improve life for people instead of confronting him?

 

Outlanders

Concept: An exiled princess from the Borderland kingdoms arrives in Eversink to recruit help winning back her stolen kingdom – and a surprising number of people want to kill her, cheat her, or take advantage of her. The Heroes get to pick a side, whether that’s to leave Eversink and help win back a kingdom – or to just help the princess navigate the politics and perils of Eversink.

Description: Princess Kayleth was raised in the saddle with a sword and a bow within easy reach. When her kingdom was overthrown she swore to take it back from the usurper who slew her father and stole the throne, but she’s going to need help (and money) to do so. So far she has neither. But rumors travel quickly, and there is plenty of opportunities to win a fortune working with her – or to win a fortune assassinating her for the warlord who stole her kingdom.

To complicate the matter, decide her backstory. Is she the legitimate ruler? Is she loved or hated? Was her father a bandit who stole the kingdom from the man who then stole it back and currently rules it? Are her enemies fully human? What makes the kingdom so important? Does she have more secrets that even she isn’t telling?

The answer to that last one is “yes”.

Plot Hook: Rumor reaches Princess Kayleth’s advisor that the Heroes are a good and trustworthy local contact in Eversink. Her enemies hear the same thing and try to hire the Heroes first.. and if they can’t, they might try to remove the Heroes from the picture instead. This plot hook is particularly good if you want a longer adventure where the Heroes are traveling, forced to work alongside a newly-hired mercenary company to defeat the Princess’s foes.

 

Sorcerous Cabals

Concept: Charismatic devotees of a foreign demon come to Eversink. Instead of keeping their presence secret, they stay strictly within the law and make themselves incredibly well-known – as they work to undermine the church’s authority simply by being more popular, more interesting, and more stylish than Church officials.

Description: The Valiant Order describe themselves as worshipers of a foreign god, and that’s debatable; every single one of their elite membership can wield sorcery, and they promised their souls to a demon for power. Their “god” gives them easy access to sorcery that helps them manipulate others. None of them would dare externalize Corruption in the city of Eversink, however, because far too much is at stake.

The goal of the Valiant Order is to find the bright ones, the people who shine, the naturally charming and beautiful and charismatic in Eversink – preferably amongst Commoners, but they’re not too picky. Then they seek to induct these people into the mysteries of their order, and prepare them to bring about the overthrow of the Triskadane.. not by sorcery, but by creating natural leaders with political power who are sympathetic to their cause.

Plot Hook: The Valiant Order works hard to convey that they are far too prestigious and well-known to touch politically, but the Inquisitors have their suspicions… and as they explain to the Heroes, if this is a cult, the longer they wait the more difficult it will become. Their hands are tied, however, probably due to cult interference with their superiors. They ask the Heroes to infiltrate the Valiant Order or otherwise find out what they’re really up to, and to acquire proof that will let the Inquisition sweep in legally. What the Heroes find is far worse than anyone expected, however, and the most expedient way to destroy the cult might also kill everyone in it. Is the risk (and the ensuing power struggle) worth it?

 

Thieves’ Guilds

Concept: In a plot hook partially inspired by Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora, a new thieves’ guild sponsored by a Mercanti family makes it their mission to steal from all the other thieves’ guilds – and then blame the thefts on an entirely innocent Mercanti rival, hoping that they are crushed in the process.

Description: The Guild of Feathers (formally “By appointment by Her Munificent Mother, the Right and Official Guild of Feather-plucking and Waterfowl”) is a small and rapidly declining guild headquartered near the slaughterhouses of Sag Harbor ever since they were unable to pay their rent on their old guildhouse in Temple Market. Their bailiwick is the use and resale of feathers from any poultry or seabirds slaughtered within the city. In truth, however, most of their business has been blatantly stolen by richer and more prominent guilds such as the Guild of Goose-keepers. The Guild of Feathers can’t afford the legal fees required to fight their rivals in court, and so they are destined to be run entirely into the ground within the next decade, their remaining contracts bought up for loose change by their former rivals.

Their guildmaster Orlando di Penna has decided that he prefers to go out fighting. He is using his remaining funds to finance a group of exceptionally talented thieves and con artists who have little loyalty to Eversink’s traditional structure. These thieves, led by Orlando’s sister-in-law (and possibly the Heroes themselves, if that’s fun for your group), are to rob and anger as many of Eversink’s thieves’ guilds as they possibly can. Ideally she will work them into a frenzy of paranoia and suspicion. Then, at the right time, she will pin the thefts on the Guild of Goose-keepers. Orlando expected the Goose-Keepers to go down in blood and flame, and he’ll be there to step in and pick up the pieces. The best defense, he reasons, is one dramatically out of proportion to the offense that inspired it.

Plot Hook: The Heroes could approach this plot as the thieves themselves, agents of the Guild of Feathers, agents of the Guild of Goose-keepers, agents of the thieves’ guilds who have been robbed, or even City Watch assigned to investigate the thefts. As they learn details it’s up to them to decide what to do; whatever their choice, it’s certain that some other group will object, and that’s when the blades come out. In addition, what happens to all those ill-gotten gains that were stolen from the thieves’ guilds? That’s an adventure in itself!

 

Triskadane

Concept: At the height of summer in the middle of a heat wave, a sorcerous cabal offers a fortune for a Triskadane coin – and the resulting chaos, theft, forgery, scams, and murder throw the city into chaos.

Description: The Triskadane are  secret members of Eversink’s ruling council, selected by the goddess by way of a divinely-infused golden coin. Whether it’s true or not (that’s up to you), popular belief is that if you steal a council member’s coin you also steal their role as a secret lord of the city. The Children of Ytt are a sorcerous cabal that loves creating chaos, and they decide to seize the opportunity during a brutal heat wave that is already causing dissent. They announce that they’ll give 100 Wealth (which is basically a lifetime of wealth, especially if people start trying to murder you for it) in exchange for a real coin. They also claim enemies of theirs are the cult members who will make the exchange. Virtually every faction erupts in anger or greed, and a whole series of dangerous adventures might result.

Plot Hook: Whichever allied faction you find most interesting asks the Heroes for help in securing a coin, researching who might have a coin, protecting a real Triskadane member, or taking a coin away from a cult member (real or imagined). Meanwhile, it’s likely this much chaos is a smoke screen. What are the Children of Ytt really up to, and how is it worse than what they’ve already accomplished?

 


Kevin Kulp (@kevinkulp) and Emily Dresner (@multiplexer) are the co-authors of Swords of the Serpentine, currently available for pre-order. Kevin previously 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.

 

Both Paris and The Wars feature General Kits: prepackaged sets of General Ability scores, so a player can just grab a General Kit, pair it with an Investigative Kit, and quickly come up with a character’s ability ratings. The other two settings, Aftermath and This Is Normal Now don’t include General Kits, on the assumption that by the time the average Yellow King campaign reaches the third or fourth sequence, the players are familiar enough with the rules to dispense with them.

However, if you’re running a one-shot in either setting, or you need an extra character in a hurry, or (and I speak from deep personal experience) your players are astoundingly lazy, here are some quick General Kits for Aftermath and This Is Normal Now.

In both cases, they’re designed for Horror, not Occult Adventure.

Aftermath

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Composure, Fighting and Insurgency in each kit.

Agitator

You inspired people to rise up against the Castaigne regime with speeches, essays, and acts of public defiance.

Athletics 1

Composure 6

Driving 1

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 6

Morale 6

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 0

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Bruiser

You took the fighting to the streets, battling the Castaignes and their monsters and lackeys up close.

Athletics 4

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 6

First Aid 2

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 2

 

Cell Leader

You were an organiser and co-ordinator during the insurgency, planning attacks to destabilise the regime.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 2

Health 2

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 2

Morale 4

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Fixer

You knew how to get things done, how to find necessities on the black market, how to scrounge and survive long enough to bring the regime down.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 6

Health 4

Insurgency 3

Mechanics 6

Morale 0

Network 2

Politics 3

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Ghost

They never caught you. They never even suspected you, until it was too late. You struck from the shadows, terrorising the monsters like they terrorised ordinary people.

Athletics 4

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 2

Morale 0

Network 0

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 6

Sneaking 6

 

Mask-Wearer

You concealed your true intentions beneath a mask of flesh, and hid your support for the insurgency from your superiors in the regime. You held a position of influence or importance in the Castaigne apparatus – until you finally revealed yourself to be an insurgent.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 4

 

Saboteur

You struck against the regime with carefully targeted acts of sabotage and destruction.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 8

Mechanics 6

Morale 2

Network 2

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

Smuggler

You ran the ratlines and the underground supply chain, smuggling weapons or vital information or even people past the regime’s security checkpoints.

Athletics 6

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 4

Morale 0

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 4

 

Wheelman

You were a getaway driver, escaping Castaigne pursuers on the highways of America.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 8

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 2

Mechanics 4

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

This Is Normal Now

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Fighting and Health in each kit.

 

Gym Enthusiast

You have capital-O Opinions about Crossfit.

Athletics 6

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 6

Mechanics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Haunter of the Coffee Shop

Or the bar. You like to chat and make connections.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble  5

Sneaking 4

 

Handy with a Drill

You’ve got a toolbox full of bits and pieces, and a workspace full of unfinished projects.

Athletics 4

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble  0

Sneaking 0

 

Gets Into Trouble

Maybe you don’t mean to get into scraps. Maybe you go looking for fights. Either way, you’ve seen more than your share of trouble.

Athletics 6

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  6

First Aid 0

Health 5

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  1

Sneaking 5

 

Petrol Head

You’ve got a car, and are very enthusiastic about this. You probably make some extra cash on the side using a rideshare app.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 8

Fighting  2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 2

 

Way Too Online

Distressing Notification: Your screentime exceeded 24 hours/day for most of the last week.

Athletics 2

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 4

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  4

Sneaking 3

 

Good In A Crisis

When someone has a breakdown or a breakup, you’re the one they call.

Athletics 2

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 7

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Runner-Up All Rounder

You’re pretty ok at most things, but don’t stand out in any field. Quiet competence, it’s the way to go.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 3

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 3

Sense Trouble  3

Sneaking 3

 

 

So ye seek the lost treasure of Karrag Voraldo, do ye? There’s a tale about Voraldo told in the taverns of Shadow Port that ye should know, then. They say that during the Age of Corsairs he was a trusted lieutenant of the King of Corsairs himself, until greed overcame him. He began lying to the King about the loot he’d won while sailing under the King’s patronage, so he could keep a larger share for himself. When the King discovered this treachery, he laid a curse upon Voraldo: from that moment on, only cursed treasure would find its way to him. If the tales are true, such items are powerful—but they carry a cost. . . .

Cursed Item Rules (from 13 True Ways)

If the magic item’s curse is minor, its default bonus is standard (e.g., +1 at adventurer tier). These cursed weapons and armor are just plain worse than a basic magic item of the same type. A hero might use one if they can’t get their hands on a decent item, or if something terrible happens to their normal weapon and they have to scrounge in the middle of a battle.

If the curse is major, the item has a default bonus as if it were a higher-tier item (e.g., an adventurer-tier sword with a +2 bonus instead of +1). A hero might be interested in using one of these weapons because they see that benefit as being so good.

Wade Says: If I introduced a cursed magic item into my campaign, there’s no way it would simply be worse than a basic item! To me, cursed magic is an opportunity to give players an interesting choice. Is the benefit enticing enough to accept the downside of owning such an item?

Three Cursed Pirate Items

The Cursed Compass: Once per full heal-up, this battered compass points unerringly toward whatever location you wish to travel to—for example, the Dwarf King’s treasure chamber, the Stone Thief’s exit, the lair of the evil wizard you’re supposed to kill. When you use this item, roll 1d20. On a 1-5, sometime in the near future the needle spins wildly with enough speed to make the compass vibrate, and then it comes to a stop. You must go at once in the direction the needle points toward and perform whatever task awaits you there. The task will be obvious due to its strangeness or urgency. It might be dangerous, or completely safe; you might complete it with a single action, or the task might span several game sessions. The task will not be relevant in any way to your current situation: whatever supernatural force controls the compass, these tasks are vitally important to it but not to you. Quirk: Highly suggestible.

Shipmate in a Bottle (wondrous item): A corked glass bottle containing a small piece of lead suspended pendulum-wise from a string. Anyone adjacent to the item hears a guttural voice speaking in a hollow whisper. The voice belongs to “Old Sam”, the ghost of a widely-traveled sailor from a long-ago age. When you attune this item, you gain a bonus +5 background “Shipmate in a bottle” that can be used for skill checks appropriate to a sailor or pirate. Each time you use this background, roll 1d20. On a 1, the bottle shatters and Old Sam emerges as a dybbuk (13th Age Bestiary, p. 63). He will pursue and attack you until either you die or he is destroyed while in his ethereal form. Quirk: You find yourself singing strange sea shanties that cause seasoned sailors to look at you in fear and quickly leave.

Driftwood Cutlass (+2 adventurer, +3 champion, +4 epic): This gnarled wooden blade has a crit range of 18+ when fighting on or within a body of water, and against aquatic monsters in any environment. However, you take a -1 penalty to AC and PD. Quirk: You feel an urge to brag about your exploits, especially in situations where bragging about your exploits would be a bad idea.

Adventure hooks

Topsy Turvy—An icon comes into possession of a cursed magic item from Voraldo’s hoard. It could be an icon the heroes have a relationship with, or one that’s not normally involved in the events of the campaign. When the item is used, a heroic icon temporarily becomes villainous, a villainous icon becomes heroic, and an ambiguous icon swings wildly between both extremes. How much damage they do before they recover their senses depends on the tier and the tone of the campaign. It could be as dire as the Emperor declaring war on the Elf Queen and Dwarf King; or it might be relatively harmless but chaotic, like the Lich King cheerfully showing up in Rabbleward with a legion of zombies and skeletons to help poor families.

Voraldo’s Ghost—The scroll that marks the location of the cursed treasure also says the King of Corsairs gave Voraldo a way to free himself—and his treasure—from the curse. What the King required was so intolerable to Voraldo that he couldn’t bring himself to do it in life. If the heroes can find Voraldo’s bones and summon his ghost, maybe they can persuade him to do it in undeath. Possible complications include:

  • Voraldo tells the heroes that to lift the curse he has to apologize to the King. Now the heroes have to find the King’s bones and summon his ghost in Voraldo’s presence. If they succeed, how does that conversation go?
  • If the group lacks a necromancer, does the one they enlist to help have an agenda of their own?
  • Once he’s freed from the curse, will Voraldo let the heroes keep his newly non-cursed treasure? Or will his greed once again overcome his sense of honor?
  • Multiple icons might consider Voraldo’s treasure rightfully theirs. Can the heroes prevent a diplomatic incident, or even war? More importantly, can they figure out how to make the icons happy while keeping the treasure for themselves?
  • Once summoned, can Voraldo’s ghost be put down again? Maybe he feel like exploring the world and raising hell on the high seas again!
  • Is this whole thing a trick? Is that really Voraldo they’re summoning, or someone much more dangerous?

 


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.

 

The Zone Jaune is a region in north-eastern Europe that was deemed “inhospitable to human life” in the wake of the Continental War. The widespread deployment of Carcosan ‘yellow science’, not to mention conventional artillery and chemical weapons, rendered the region – some 2,000 square kilometres of forest and former farmland – utterly hostile and unable. “Damage to properties: 100%. Damage to agriculture: 100%. Damage to reality: unmeasurable. Impossible to endure,” reads one report, written shortly after the end of the war.

The French government established the cordon around the Zone Jaune within a month of the ceasefire. In the years that followed, several nations bordering the zone unofficially began using the area as a dumping ground for left-over munitions and Carcosan technologies. Whole battalions of stalkers were driven into the woods and abandoned, their legs broken on steel hedgehogs (some accounts use the term ‘herded’, implying that there may be some truth to the tales of some stalkers developing a degree of self-awareness and independent action). Dragonflies and other aerial vehicles were packed with Carcosan technology and crashed deep in the zone. Darker stories tell of convoys of trucks and special trains loaded with ‘livestock’ that were driven into the Zone Jaune and left there.

Today, the Zone’s surrounded by many miles of barbed-wire fences and ditches. Entry into the Zone is forbidden; nature has been allowed to reclaim the land within, although it’s debatable which nature holds sway in that yellow wood – the French government insists that any unusual plant species are the result of toxic chemicals and not invasion from Carcosa. Farmers bordering the Zone often dig up munitions and other remains, including ‘biological matter’; these are collected by a special division of the French military, CEOM, for safe disposal. CEOM also monitors the ‘deep zone’ – there are observation towers within the forest, accessible by long roads that cut through the haunted woods.

Encounters in the Zone Jaune

  • Sacrifice Villages: Abandoned rural villages, now ruined. Some were abandoned before the war; others were evacuated when the Zone Jaune was established. Full exorcisms were carried out where feasible, but many hauntings have been logged by CEOM patrols.
  • Unexploded Munitions: The landscape of the Zone is littered with millions of tons of artillery shells, mines, dumped tanks of chemical weapons, toxic occult waste and other hazards – all hidden beneath the undergrowth. One false step can prove instantly lethal.
  • Damaged Places: Reality has suffered considerable damage here. The Zone Jaune is riddled with natural portals to other worlds – primarily Carcosa, but it’s possible to slip from one version of Earth to another if you know the right path through the woods.
  • Hunters: Nature has reclaimed the zone – it’s full of wild animals, including bears, deer, wolves and gravegrinders. Hunters and poachers slip past CEOM patrols to bag a trophy  – and Carcosan entities hunt the hunters and steal faces so they can escape the Zone undetected.
  • CEOM Patrols: On the borders, CEOM turns trespassers away with little more than a slap on the wrist. A foolish tourist or would-be hunter gets arrested, dragged off to a holding facility, and then given a fine and a lecture by a very angry officer before being released. Deeper in the woods, away from cameras and prying eyes, CEOM shoots intruders on sight.  
  • Scavengers: There’s a brisk trade in what’s euphemistically called ‘scrap metal’ from the Zone. Intact Carcosan relics and the remnants of Science Jaune grimoires are especially sought after. Scavenger teams enter the Zone disguised as hunters – or bribe CEOM guards for priority access.
  • Mustard Fog: The most infamous of the Zone’s hazards, mustard fog is a toxic stew of poison gas leeched from rotting artillery shells, mixed with lingering magic. Survivors speak of hearing hauntingly beautiful music and seeing strange lights in the fog, as if there was some enchanted ball going on just on the other side of the fog bank – just before they vomited up their liquified lungs and died. Other accounts claim to have seen huge animals like flying whales moving through the yellow mist.
  • Active Machines: Abandoned stalkers, dragonflies and other machines of war sometimes spark into life within the zone, dragging their broken metal bodies through the underbrush until whatever surge of occult energy that activated them passes once more.
  • Zone Natives:  Warspawn and other Carcosan entities can survive within the Zone, even as the influence of Carcosa fades outside.

Using the Zone Jaune

  • In The Wars: While the official Zone was only established after the war, the region that became the Zone was blasted by occult weapons when the fighting was still ongoing – and had already acquired a reputation as a lethal assignment. Units sent to the Zone never return.
    In Aftermath: Castaigne survivors in search of Carcosan energies flee overseas to France, bringing matters of international diplomacy and extradimensional extradition to the table in post-regime politics.
    Alternate Aftermaths: Instead of playing revolutionaries in a post-Castaigne New York, you’re playing the leaders of a small town on the edge of the Zone. Some of you are veterans, some are the next generation, growing up in a world where the horrors of Carcosa and the Continental War are fading memories. The town strives towards normality and a new beginning, but the scars of the war still linger – and the council must balance mundane municipal duties with supporting the needs of the local CEOM garrison.
  • The Wood Between The Worlds: The war blew holes in reality in the Zone; characters trying to slip from one reality to another – like, say, This Is Normal Now investigators trying to loop back to Paris – might travel to France and enter the woods. Just keep walking until the fog turns yellow…

 


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

April 30th rolls ‘round again, season of doors and frightful manifestations. You may know it as Walpurgisnacht, the Witches’ Sabbath – at least according to poor Walter Gilman, the ill-fated protagonist of Dreams in the Witch House.

Now he was praying because the Witches’ Sabbath was drawing near. May-Eve was Walpurgis-Night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad time in Arkham, even though the fine folks up in Miskatonic Avenue and High and Saltonstall Streets pretended to know nothing about it. There would be bad doings—and a child or two would probably be missing. Joe knew about such things, for his grandmother in the old country had heard tales from her grandmother. It was wise to pray and count one’s beads at this season.

It’s certainly a potent date in Mythos terms, a time when the Old Ones are uncomfortably close at hand, a night for rituals and bonfires. In Germany, for example, it’s Hexennacht, and one’s supposed to dress as a witch and make noises to keep real witches and evil spirits away. Old Keziah Mason isn’t the only one abroad that night – Wilbur Whateley and his brother were conceived on the night of April 30th, and it’s also one of the two nights when the folk of Innsmouth were obliged to offer sacrifices to their Deep One allies, or so Zadok Allen tells us. Perhaps other entities can also use the doors of Walpurgnisnacht to move between the spheres – it’s in May that Professor Peaslee is taken by the Great Race of Yith, and he begins to have cogent dreams about his abduction in the same month a few years later.

A few other Lovecraftian dates:

  • February 2nd – The Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas, “which the folk of Dunwich observe by another name”. It’s the date of Wilbur Whateley’s birth; also the Roman feast of Lupercalia, with its associations of fertility and beasts.
  • February 28th – The anniversary of the rise of R’lyeh in 1925. Presumably, as the orbit of the Earth around the sun brings our world back to roughly the same star-configuration, it might be possible for Great Cthulhu’s call to be heard more clearly on this auspicious date.
  • August 1st – Lammas Night, a festival celebrating the harvest. Also the night on which old Wizard Whateley passed away. Did he linger long enough to find some door into the outer sphere, where the whippoorwills couldn’t catch him?
  • October 31st – All Hallows’ Eve: Obviously, lots of spooky connections here. Notably in the Mythos, it’s the other date that the Innsmouth sacrifices are made. Wilbur Whateley makes cryptic expeditions into the hills on this date, too.
  • December 21st – Yuletide, “Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind,” as The Festival puts it.

 

Festivals in Your Games

Tying events to a particular anniversary can be a handy trick in a Trail of Cthulhu scenario. The classic is “the cult’s summoning ritual can only be performed on Lammas Night” or whatever seasonally appropriate date you prefer, giving the investigators a hard deadline – if they don’t thwart the cult before then, the world is doomed. Another option is to use a festival as the inciting event for the scenario – if the killings start on May 2nd, then maybe something crept through into our reality when the veil was thin on Walpurgnisnacht, and now it’s up to the investigators to track it down. You can also use a seasonal ‘window’ for a survival-horror game, where the challenge is simply escaping the monster until the date changes and the stars are no longer right. Maybe a bunch of investigators in the wilderness run into Ithaqua on the Yuletide, and need to survive until dawn on December 22nd. Astronomy or Occult Studies can clue investigators in to the celestial connotations of a date.

Finally, don’t neglect obscure festivals and feast-days as inspiration. The Wikipedia page for a particular day is a great tool for bisociation – for example, a quick scroll of the April 30th page gives us both Operation MINCEMEAT and St. Adjutor, the patron saint of boaters and the drowned. What else did the Seraph dump in the sea on Walpurgisnacht? In whose name did she make offerings?


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 print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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