I’ve been running impromptu games for my two boys since they were four or five (they’re now seven), and I’ve been thinking about a GUMSHOE Kids framework that I’m going to develop as a priority now. In the meantime, though, I’m aware that there are suddenly a lot of people working from home with kids who can’t go to school, so here’s the benefit of my experience.

Use A Focus

Especially for younger kids, it’s good to have something physical they can focus their attention on and remind them that they’re actually playing a game with rules and structure as opposed to “let’s pretend”. When I ran No Thank You Evil, I hardly used the rules, but I more than got my money out of the cloth map. A sketch map, a wargame using toys – any bit of ritual to catch their attention and remind them to concentrate.

A character sheet isn’t as important as a physical representation (“this is my guy”) on the map.

Run Short Games

Young kids have short attention spans. Most games won’t last more than 30-45 minutes at most. Look to tell simple stories, and try to work the kids’ ideas and discoveries into the conclusion as much as possible. If the kid decides that they befriend a random frog you mentioned as set dressing, then – lo! – the bad guy’s secret weakness is frogs! How did you know!

Take Turns

Especially if you’ve got multiple kids playing, you’ll need to enforce turn order very strictly. Once kids get excited, they’ll start shouting and demanding attention. Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and act – and, where possible, make sure everyone has an equal impact on the story, especially its conclusion.

Oh – one kids get going, they tend to seize control of the narration. (“I punch the bad guy, and his head explodes, and then and then and then”). You’ll need to balance wonderful exuberance with keeping the game from descending into chaos.

You’re In Their World Now

Kids don’t have the same set of cultural touchstones that adult gamers do. Expect to see a lot of elements crossing over from whatever cartoons, computer games or other entertainment they’re into. Creepers and Pigmen from Minecraft mean more than orcs and goblins to them, and all pop culture is one big shared universe – I’ve run a bunch of dungeon crawls where the player characters are youtubers and characters from computer games. Work with whatever they throw at you, even if that means Batman and Buzz Lightyear fighting Sauron.

Give Clear Options

Provide a bit more guidance to new players than you would to experienced gamers. Present them with a clear menu of options – you can go down the corridor, or try the door. You can talk to the goblin, or try to scare him. GUMSHOE really comes into its own here – the investigative abilities work as a clear list of ‘questions I can ask’. Then, ask them to describe how they take that action. You have to give a clear structure for the shared imaginative space, or things will spiral out of control.

Sneaky Teaching

The content of your adventure can have some educational elements, without going overboard – just running a game set in, say, ancient Egypt lets you talk about mummies and pyramids and hieroglyphics or the importance of irrigation. Running a game in space lets you drop in a little science. Mechanics, too, teach basic math – if you spent four points from that general ability, and you rolled a 3, does that beat the Difficulty of 6? Rolling dice is always fun; for younger kids, it may be useful to give them tokens to track ability pools.

Have Fun!

The most important thing of all, of course. Think of it as a chance to spend quality time with the kids, while also ensuring you’ll have a gaming group on tap in the months to come…

One stretch goal we didn’t get to in the DRACULA DOSSIER Kickstarter was the Plague capstone, where Dracula weaponises a new virus and takes over the world. I rather wish we’d hit that one – all that research and preparation would have been handy right about now.

Anyway.

Like the rest of the world, the Pelgranes are hunkering down and hiding in our respective nests while we weather this strange time. We’re switching our games online, we’re obsessively washing our claws, and we’re hugging our loved ones (or waving at them from a suitably safe distance). We’re mostly old-school gamers – virtually all of my gaming is face-to-face – so it’s something of a learning curve. But there’s no alternative, as we stare into this year of social distancing and probably-no-cons. No doubt many of you are in similar situations.

So – what can we do for you? What sort of resources, articles or products would be most useful to you in the days to come? Do you want more One-2-One scenarios to play at home? More content for virtual tabletops? Essays on running games for kids? Online panels? Let us know in the comments.

And stay safe out there. A world-wide threat that we can fight by staying home and gaming? This is the time we’ve been training for all our lives!

St. Patrick St. Patrick. Your only man, really. Taken as a slave to Ireland, escaped, then went back to bring Christianity to the heathens of Ireland. A grasp of both theology and vegetation, by all accounts. Got rid of the snakes, so he did, so he did. Best known now for being a really effective marketing campaign for Irish tourism, but put that aside for now – and grapple with seven shamrock-flavoured GUMSHOE scenario seeds. Most of these are best taken with a pinch of salt… or a generous portion of Writer’s Tears whiskey…

Trail of Cthulhu

St. Patrick banished snakes from Ireland, and we all know what snakes are a metaphor for, right? Tentacles. The pagans of Ireland had associations with underwater prehuman civilisations and monstrous gods – clearly, an outpost of the Deep Ones. The only question is, who was Saint Patrick working for? He’s said to have been inspired by a dream – which might be the mocking meddling of Nyarlathotep. Another tale speaks of his staff sprouting into a tree, which smacks of the Black Goat’s work. Or maybe his abduction wasn’t to Ireland, but to Yuggoth – was St. Patrick a tool dispatched by the Mi-Go to rid Ireland of the Deep Ones (or Serpent People)?

In 1937, your investigators are about to find out, when the draining of a bog reveals an ancient ruin…

Night’s Black Agents

A parade’s always a good place for a fight scene. It’s usually Chinese New Year or Carnivale, but there’s no reason you can’t have a cinematic chase sequence with the participants dodging through brass bands, Irish dancers and leprechauns. (Of possible use – plenty of police offices and priests, just what you need when hunting vampires). Bonus points if you set it in Ireland, maybe while pursuing clues from the Dracula Dossier – Irish Patrick’s day parades tend to be rather shabby and dull compared to American extravaganzas, so you’ll have heroic life-and-death battles on the back of a float advertising some local insurance company…

Mutant City Blues

The victim’s a mutant, so the case landed on your desk. How do they know she’s a mutant? Her skin’s bright green, shifted as part of the celebration using the Alter Form ability. It’s fading, though, which gives you time of death – about three hours after the parade. Alter Form’s correlated with Impersonate – and there was an incident during the parade where a firework went off right in front of the mayor’s stand, clouding the whole area in smoke. Could that have been cover for a switch-out? Was this mystery mutant mimicking the mayor? And if so, why? And who killed her?  

The Esoterrorists

The Irish are, in general, relatively easy-going. Cultural stereotypes of drunken brawlers with a dozen kids and a pig under one arm? Sure, ‘tis all in good fun. 800 years of oppression? Well, aren’t we all Europeans now?

Calling it “St. Patty’s Day?” War to the knife.

Why? Why does that error trigger blind rage? Why do other countries insist on doing it, when “Paddy” is right there? I mean, that’s not great either. And “St. Pat’s” is fine – what strange, esoteric sorcery is there to implant such horror in two little letters?

And once the Esoterrorists have refined this sigil, what else might they attach it to? The Illuminati had their fnords – what if the Esoterrorists successfully create a magical rune that can cause outbreaks of fury in anyone who unwittingly sees it?

Ashen Stars

The synth-culture planet of the Old Country was created to appeal to Human nostalgia for some vanished past that never was – it’s a planet of scenic little cottages, dreary bogs, dancing at the crossroads, and lively village pubs. During the Mohilar War, however, a Durugh warfleet occupied the peaceful Old Country. These Durugh refused to believe the war was over, have rejected the Durugh king’s command to switch sides, and have dug in, constructing underground shelters accessible only by phasing. Down there, they’re experimenting with last-ditch doomsday weapons including time-manipulation technology obtained from the Mohilar…

So, you’ve got an idealised fiction of mid-19th-century Ireland, occupied by heavily armed fairies. The Lasers get called in to find a way to convince the Durugh to lay down their weapons and accept that the war is over.

TimeWatch

No St. Patrick, no Christianity in Ireland. No Christianity, no monasteries. No monasteries, no preservation of knowledge during the Dark Ages. No preservation of knowledge during the Dark Ages, VICTORY OF THE SOPHOSAURS! The TimeWatch team need to guard young Patricus and ensure he meets his destiny…

EXCITING BONUS CONTENT!

Here in Ireland, and across much of the rest of the world, St. Patrick’s Day parades have been cancelled due to the, er, world-wide pandemic. There are plans afoot for virtual or roleplayed parades – kids will be sticking appropriately green-themed artwork in the windows across cities – and moving real-world events into imaginary or virtual spaces is a skill we’ll all have to master very quickly in the weeks to come. So, join us in our festive St. Patrick’s lockdown, and stick a shamrock in the window.

One of the Things I Always Say is that a GUMSHOE investigative list is basically a list of questions the players can ask the GM – but it’s also a useful list of questions to ask yourself when writing an adventure. Certainly, when I initially conceive of an adventure, I’ll come up with three or four cool scenes or concepts, and I’ll link them together with a few clues.

For example, if I’m writing a Mutant City Blues case about a scheme to harvest mutant organs for transplant in the hopes of transferring mutant powers to criminals, I might go vanished mutant -> seedy fixer -> secret lab in hospital -> criminal mastermind, and then link the scenes with a core clue each. So, Data Retrieval connects the vanished mutant to the seedy fixer, Interrogation gets him to flip on the organ harvesters and point the agents at the hospital, and forensic accounting lets them connect the hospital lab to the main criminal. That’s a perfectly workable spine.

Now, with that central chain of clues in place, I need to flesh out the scenes, and one way to do that is to look at the list of investigative abilities and consider what information that can be gleaned by each of them. Some are obvious – what can Streetwise reveal about the seedy fixer? What about Fingerprinting? If the players look around the vanished mutant’s apartment with Art History, what do they find? What about Chemistry?

Obviously, only a fraction of the abilities are going to yield any information at all, and there’s no guarantee any of this information is going to be useful, but it’s still a useful prompt to fill out a scene.

This technique really comes into its own in occult investigation, as it’s deliciously weird to explore the side effects of the supernatural. A Deep One attack in Trail of Cthulhu obviously leaves clues to be discovered with Evidence Collection or Reassurance, but what about Theology? Might the traumatised victim couch their description in biblical terms, and babble about Leviathan abd Behemoth? What about Astronomy or Geology? Might the Deep One have dragged up a carved stone that’s millions of years old, or maybe they only rise when Fomalhaut is in the sky…


GUMSHOE is the groundbreaking investigative roleplaying system by Robin D. Laws that shifts the focus of play away from finding clues (or worse, not finding them), and toward interpreting clues, solving mysteries and moving the action forward. GUMSHOE powers many Pelgrane Press games, including Trail of Cthulhu, Night’s Black Agents, Esoterrorists, Ashen Stars, Mutant City Blues and Fear Itself. Learn more about how to run GUMSHOE games, and download the GUMSHOE System Reference Document to make your own GUMSHOE products under the Open Gaming License or the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Unported License.

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We’ve been so relieved and excited that the Yellow King RPG is finally available to non-Kickstarter backers that it’s still dominating our thinking here in the Pelgrane’s Nest, even to the extent of adding a new YKRPG product (the basic Shock & Injury decks) to our webstore. However, don’t let that distract you from the big news this month, which is the Book of the Underworld, our latest release to cover a fascinating part of the 13th Age‘s Dragon Empire.

New Releases

      • Book of the Underworld – A campaign setting for 13th Age, revealing the secrets of the Dragon Empire’s Underworld
      • The Yellow King RPG – Four full-colour 6″ x 9″ hardback books in a slipcase, with accompanying GM screen. The dread horror of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow stories take RPG form, confronting your players with an epic journey across four Carcosan-drenched time periods.
      • The Yellow King RPG Basic Shock & Injury decks – These optional accessories allow The Yellow King Roleplaying Game GMs to quickly grab and dish out Shock and Injury cards during face-to-face play.
      • Absinthe in Carcosa – An 8.5″ x 11″, full-colour hardback, this indispensable city guide for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is yoked together from travelogues, newspapers, and the disquieting ephemera of the occult tradition.
      • The Missing and the Lost – A thrilling, thought-provoking novel, which can be read as a mystery of a dread-drenched alternate reality, or use it as a model for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game when you play its Aftermath setting.
      • Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition – Pre-order the updated and expanded mutant-powered police procedural GUMSHOE game, and get the final PDF now.
      • Even Death Can Die – Pre-order this adventure collection for Cthulhu Confidential and get the pre-edit draft PDF now.

Articles

13th Age

      • 13th Sage: How to Customize Monsters – The Human Thug – Wade Rockett shows how to turn an existing  13th Age monster—the human thug—into a variety of guards from across the Dragon Empire by adding a single, distinctive special ability.
      • Crown of Axis Cover – Rob Heinsoo on the evolution of Wade Rockett’s upcoming adventure’s cover
      • The Iconic podcast has made it into their third season! You can listen to the most recent episodes here:
        • S3-E23: Interview with Martin Killmann
        • S3-E24: Dark Alleys & Twisted Paths Review

March is a big month for birthdays here in the Pelgrane’s Nest, with Gareth, Noah, me, and Rob all celebrating this month. March also feels like spring is finally here; winter is past, and the world begins anew, tf.

***NEW*** The Book of the Underworld

This month’s latest release is the campaign setting Book of the Underworld for 13th Age, written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and lovingly hand-developed in the artisanal word-workshop of Rob Heinsoo, John-Matthew DeFoggi and Trisha DeFoggi.

I asked Rob previously what he thought the coolest things about Book of the Underworld were, and he replied “A short list would include the Four Kingdoms of the Mechanical Sun (underworld nation-states warring to keep an ancient dwarven solar artifact borne by golems circulating in their caverns instead of the oppositions), Gar’s bizarre takes on alternate drow, the two drow deities manifest in the deep underworld that complement/rival the Elf Queen, and the rival demon cults within Gorogan’s Maw.” So there you have it – the short version is that there’s a long list of cool stuff for DMs to play with in this setting book. Pre-order now and get the pre-layout PDF straight away.

***STILL NEW, but two important updates*** The Yellow King RPG

Those of you outside the USA and Canada may have noticed that we’ve sold out of The Yellow King RPG in our webstore. 😲 While in some ways, that’s a good problem to have – it’s always nice when there’s high demand for a new book – in other ways, it’s bad, as we’ll have to reprint it sooner than I expected, and if you followed the Kickstarter printing saga, you’ll have a sense of why that fills me with dread. In the meantime, Becky’s working furiously on finding a way to get some of the US copies over our UK warehouse, so we’re hoping to have it back in stock in a couple of weeks. If you’d like us to let you know when it’s back in stock, drop Becky an email at support@pelgranepress.com.

The second important update is that, due to popular demand, we’ve set up a post for people who didn’t back the Kickstarter, explaining how to pick up the Basic Shock & Injury decks from the YKRPG. While not essential for play, many gamers have told us they prefer the tactile experience of having printed cards. All the cards from all four books of the YKRPG are available as a digital download with all purchases of the YKRPG, whether from us or through your game store. With the Basic Shock & Injury decks, Robin has carefully curated two decks focused on the varieties of injury, fear and emotional disequilibrium most likely to afflict investigators into any reality-altering Carcosan mystery, helping GMs to run scenarios on-the-fly. If you’re in the USA or Canada, pick up your cards via DriveThru RPG’s Print on Demand service; if you’re outside the USA or Canada, pick them up directly from our webstore.

Work in progress update: Swords of the Serpentine

We’re steaming ahead through production of Swords of the Serpentine at the moment, which makes me happy, as Kevin and I would love to be able to show it to you all at Gen Con at the end of July. I’m hoping we’ll be able to release the pre-order in the next edition of See Page XX, too. I’m about to go through the copyedits, and our layout artist Jen is working on a draft layout design for it. Kevin’s writing up art notes, and Jerome has posted a little video of the amazing map he’s done for Eversink’s Temple Market – you can watch that here.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

We’ve got the edits back from Arc Dream now, and Gareth’s made the necessary changes they asked for. Noah is working on the art notes, it’s just about to go into copyediting, and we’re hoping to release it on pre-order in the summer.

Work in progress update: Elven Towers

John-Matthew and Trisha DeFoggi are powering through 13th Age projects, vastly improving how quickly we’re able to release new titles. J-M’s finishing up development of Elven Towers, a champion tier adventure by Cal Moore, at the moment, and will then hand it over to Trisha for copyediting. Meanwhile, Rob’s liaising with the cartographers and artists, working on finishing off the artwork, so expect to see a pre-order for this in the next few months. Hot off the email press tonight is the lush and eminently regal final cover, by Lee Moyer (using sketches from Rich Longmore), which Rob’s kindly sent over for your sneak preview delectation.

<– Here it is. Isn’t it lovely?!

 

Work in progress update: Honey & Hot Wax

We’ve got in the final collection of games for Honey & Hot Wax, an Anthology of Erotic Art Games from editors Sharang Biswas and Lucian Kahn, who were able to win a grant from the Effing Foundation for Sex Positivity, and they really take what an RPG can be in a stimulating new direction! We’re working on the final layout of this at the moment, and we’re having fun collaborating with artist Jana Heidersdorf on the front cover. She’s come up with some really interesting concepts, including this honeycomb design which really captures what we’re going for with it:

–> That one’s over here!

Work in progress update: A Poison Tree

I playtested a couple of chapters of A Poison Tree, an epic Trail of Cthulhu campaign, and it’s creepy and twisted and wonderful. We’ve been fortunate that we’re working alongside some of the best Mythos RPG designers – Scott Dorward, Paul Fricker & Matthew Sanderson – on it. Unfortunately, that’s meant that we’ve been competing with loads of other companies for their bandwidth, which has slowed down development. We’re kicking this into high gear this year and hoping to get it playtested shortly. We’ve spoken to the authors about Kickstarting this, but nothing’s been set in stone on that front yet – watch this space for more developments as they happen.

By Jason Morgan

In GUMSHOE One-2-One, the player is alone against the Elder Gods in Cthulhu Confidential or the Vampire Conspiracy in Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops. Previously, we provided advice for how GMs can convert any scenario to the GUMSHOE One-2-One system. Here, long-time One-2-One player, Nick Keller, (a.k.a. Langston Montgomery Wright from a year-and-a-half Cthulhu Confidential campaign that included a scenario from Pelgrane’s Mythos Expeditions and Chaosium’s legendary Mask of Nyarlathotep, and currently playing Jans Whorlman, an ex MI-6 vampire hunter in a Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops campaign), provides a player’s perspective of the One-2-One table.

The pacing of GUMSHOE One-2-One is much different than playing with a larger group. In my experience, groups spend an awful lot of time deciding and debating the next course of action, but events can happen much quicker in One-2-One. I follow my gut and act. I might follow three, four, five threads in a session. Paradoxically, with One-2-One, I also feel freer to take my time, explore, and dig into the setting.

For example, I remember stirring up some trouble on a side quest when I decided, out of the blue, that my character really, really needed a tranquilizer gun. My GM was willing to roll with that, so off I went to meet an arms dealer living on a ranch a half-day’s drive from all actual objectives. This wound up being a fun encounter that I most definitely would not have pushed on a larger group.

What I enjoy most about tabletop RPGs is collaboratively building a story. From a player’s perspective, I only ask that the GM maintains the illusion that the world exists and has some order to it. I know we are making up much of it together as we go, and I want that. I don’t need to see the sausage factory. It doesn’t matter to me whether charming Suspect A or mugging Suspect B will yield the same intel because narratively, they are very different experiences and are likely to have different repercussions for my character going forward.

I find that a good game will strike a fun balance between 1) your character is seeking something, and 2) something is seeking your character. For example, you heard that a cult leader works at the docks, and at the same time a shadowy organization wants you dead. As a player, you feel like you probably won’t get stuck in an investigation because, at some point, you’re going to fight a goon, and then you’ll be tied to a chair or looting clues off a corpse.

Speaking of dice-rolling encounters–use your Edge cards and Pushes. Remember that they exist to spend, and there will be more. If you are prone to resource hoarding, spending Edges and Pushes can take some getting used to, but over time, you start to develop a sense of the Push/Edge/Problem economy, and it becomes more natural.

Lastly, I think the biggest advantage of a single player campaign is that we are able to sustain a long-running campaign. Regularly gathering a group of four or five is tricky business for some folks, often impossible for others. I’ve watched fun games fall apart after a session or two when it becomes clear that players’ schedules are never going to line up. The option to hop online with one other person for a couple hours on a random Tuesday night is largely how I am able to continue tabletop gaming.

 


Jason Morgan is a writer and default gamemaster for his groups. You can follow him on Twitter @jmarshallmorgan where he shares his game prep and hopes his players aren’t reading.

chaos symbolWhen you need a new monster in 13th Age, customizing an existing monster is a great option. For this post, we’ll turn an existing monster—the human thug—into a variety of guards from across the Dragon Empire by adding a single, distinctive special ability.

Player characters in 13th Age (and almost every other RPG) tend to go places someone else doesn’t want them to be in. As a result, they often encounter guards. Guards are monsters whose job is to keep watch in a certain area, determine whether or not Waldo the Wizard belongs there, and if not, eliminate Waldo as a problem.

As a city adventure, Crown of Axis—which I’m currently writing—needs more than the usual number of guards. They’re everywhere, from the Palaces to Rabbleward and every neighborhood in between. However, populating the city with only one kind of guard doesn’t feel fun or interesting. My solution was to create baseline humanoid stats for different roles that guards might have in a battle (bumbling mooks, competent leaders, and terrifying brutes), and create special abilities that give them the flavor of whichever part of Axis they’re in. Rabbleward cops fight dirty. Goldring and Upside security forces deliver savage beatdowns that send a message to would-be trespassers. Palace guards know exactly when something’s not quite right along their well-traveled patrol routes.

Normally in adventures we provide icon-themed options for reskinning monsters, and I do that with other monsters in Crown of Axis. But because I see all guard-type monsters in Axis as linked to the Emperor, I decided that the major differences between them would be rooted in their location and function.

For the show-and-tell portion of this blog post, I’ll have a go at reskinning the human thug from the 13th Age core book. Here’s the original writeup:

Human Thug

1st level troop [humanoid]

Initiative: +3

Heavy mace +5 vs. AC—4 damage

Natural even hit or miss: The thug deals +6 damage with its next attack this battle. (GM, be sure to let the PCs know this is coming, it’s not a secret.)

AC 17

PD 14    HP 27

MD 12

Getting Started: What’s Your Deal?

The first thing I do when I’m creating or customizing a monster is to figure out what their deal is. Knowing this helps me design abilities that create a distinctive experience for the players when their PCs fight that monster. I’ll ask questions like:

  • What word or short phrase best describes its nature? Loyal? Cowardly? Honorable? Cunning? Cruel? A vessel for a greater power?
  • What’s its purpose? Defend its territory? Protect someone, something, or some place? Keep the peace? Accumulate treasure? Feed?
  • How does it fulfill that purpose successfully?
  • Does it do this for itself, or for someone/something else? Who or what is that?

For example, in my version of Axis:

  • Upside security forces are reliable professionals, tasked by their clients with protecting the property of the upper classes in Axis. They succeed by working as a team to beat the crap out of unwanted outsiders before handing them over to the Imperial Home Guard.
  • Rabbleward cops are corrupt bullies, tasked by the government with keeping the poor and marginalized in the district under control. They succeed through terror, by inflicting horrible pain and injury on their enemies.

This process applies to other kinds of monsters. If I were designing a Martian spider, I might decide it’s a ferocious beast whose purpose is to capture and eat prey, and to protect its hundreds of eggs from predators. It does this by spinning multidimensional webs that can entangle and daze creatures, which it then kills with its mandibles.

Sample guards

Let’s pick a few major spots around the Dragon Empire, and give our human thug special abilities to reflect their location and role. I’ll include my answers to the who, what, why, etc. of the monster, and some notes on how I turned that into an ability. In almost every case I used an existing monster ability, reskinned for the guard.

Shadow Port Thieves’ Guild Sentry

WADE THINKS: “This is a cunning rogue tasked by the Guild to defend its headquarters from intruders. It accomplishes this through stealth and surprise. When I search the core book for the word ‘surprise’, I find the gargoyle’s statues, statues, everywhere ability. Yoinked!”

Softly, softly: Think those guards stationed at the door are the Guild’s first line of defense? Nah, mate. The real guards wait in the shadows to ambush you before you even get close. PCs must make a Wis skill check (DC 20) to avoid being surprised (see 13th Age core book page 164).

Glitterhaegen Bodyguard

WADE THINKS: “This is a grim professional tasked by a client to keep someone safe. It does this by putting its body between whoever it’s protecting and whatever’s attacking. Hmm, maybe I can adapt the skeletal hound’s skilled intercept.”

Protect the client: Once per round as a free action, an engaged bodyguard can automatically pop free from one enemy without taking an attack of opportunity and intercept an enemy who is moving to attack one nearby ally. Other enemies engaged with the bodyguard can take attacks of opportunity.

Frost Range Shrine Guardian

WADE THINKS: “This is a spiritual warrior tasked by the priesthood to protect a sacred place from desecration. It does this by making itself a vessel for the power of the gods of the frozen North. I imagine this power growing like a blizzard or encroaching ice, and the escalation die makes a great timer. If I were doing this for a book, I’d definitely ask a developer to check the math and make sure I haven’t made this monster too fearsome, or not fearsome enough.”

Spirits of the ice: The Frost Range shrine guardian adds cold damage equal to the escalation die to the damage from heavy mace. (This ability replaces the +6 damage that follows a natural even hit or miss.)

Guardian of the Golden Citadel

WADE THINKS: “This is a penitent knight tasked by the Great Gold Wyrm to keep vigil in the ruins of the Golden Citadel, slaying monsters and testing pilgrims in battle. It does this through self-sacrifice. If it’s paying a penalty to access an attack, that attack should be pretty good. Maybe I’ll give this attack an automatic success, like the despoiler mage’s magic missile attack, but keep the amount of damage the same as heavy mace.”

Penitent: The first time the guardian becomes staggered, the guardian can make a Penitenziagite attack on their next turn.

[special trigger] R: Penitenziagite (one nearby or far away enemy)—both the target and the guardian take 4 automatic damage
Limited use: 1/battle

Highdock Ranger

“This is a courageous wilderness fighter tasked by a fellowship of rangers to roam far and wide across the Highdock mountain range—a place that attracts and sometimes spawns flying realms—keeping the peace and repelling invaders. It does this using weapons it’s found while exploring crashed flying realms. Highdock, and flying realms in general, call for weirdness; so I’ll create an ability that uses a random table to generates bonuses, penalties, and special effects.”

Sky realm weapon: Highdock rangers’ weapons are strange items they’ve found in flying realms. In addition to the +6 heavy mace damage that follows a natural even hit or miss, the attack does something unusual. Roll a d6 on the following table:

  1. At the beginning of its next turn, the ranger disappears with a faint pop and the weapon falls to the ground. If the PCs ever journey to Moonwreck, they find the ranger’s skeleton lying on the tundra.
  2. The ranger is surrounded by a glittering halo. Ranged attacks against the ranger get a +1 bonus until the end of the ranger’s next turn.
  3. The air is filled with butterflies made of rainbow light. They have no substance and disappear at the end of the battle.
  4. Dark clouds form in the sky overhead. Participants hear ominous peals of thunder, and see weird lights moving within the clouds. The effects disappear at the end of the battle.
  5. The target is surrounded by a glittering halo. Ranged attacks against the target get a +1 bonus (normal save ends).
  6. The ranger’s weapon emits a deafening chime. All nearby enemies must make a normal save or take a -1 to their attacks until the end of their next turn.

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 core concept of GUMSHOE can be simply stated (or shouted from the rooftops) as “it’s always more fun when the players get the clue”. One could argue, though, that it’s sometimes more accurate to say that the players always get the lead.

A lead is a clue that leads in to another scene. Leads are usually (but not always) core clues, and core clues are usually (but not always) leads, so it’s easy to get the two confused. It’s worth disambiguating the two in your thinking.

So – a lead is a clue that points to another scene. It can be something that the players uncover (Evidence Collection: you find a matchbook with the name of a bar written on it), or something the characters know (Bureaucracy: the victim was a student at the local university; it might be worth checking college records, interviewing his associates and lecturers there). Follow the lead, and you get to another scene.

A core clue is something the players must find for the scenario to progress. While most core clues are leads pointing to the next core scene, you can also have core clues that foreshadow weirdness or lay pipe for future plot developments. (Biology: My god, it’s like this student is growing gills! That doesn’t immediately lead anywhere, but it’s important for the players to later discover the mad ichthyologist in the university).

You could even disambiguate further, splitting things-gained-through-investigative-abilities into four buckets:

Core Leads: points to a core scene. The players must find this lead for the scenario to work.

Leads: points to a non-core scene (alternate, hazard, subplot, etc)

Core Clues: a piece of vital information needed for the scenario to make sense. The players must get this clue.

Clues: Any other piece of information.

Note #1:  In general, every scene should have a lead (or multiple leads) that lead-in to it. The exceptions are scenes like antagonist reactions, which are triggered by the GM, or fuzzy “stuff to do in town” catch-all scenes that usually occur when the players are gathering information early in the game.

Note #2: There’s a subtle distinction between a core clue and an important clue. A core clue might tell you that the bad guy is a vampire and that he’s hiding in that castle over there, because that information is vital to your progress through the mystery. A clue that says “oh, this particular sort of vampire can only be slain by a silver bullet” isn’t core, as you don’t need it to make progress. You do need it to survive, but GUMSHOE is agnostic about whether the player characters live or die – as we said, getting the clues is always more interesting, which isn’t the same thing as safe…

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The last edition of See Page XX was filled with so much excitement around the launch of the GUMSHOE Community Content program (ICYMI, find all the details here), but that pales into insignificance compared to this month, and the launch of the Yellow King RPG! We’re proud of how slick and elegantly it’s turned out – thanks in large part to Christian Knutsson’s effortless design – and we’re so glad to be finally able to share it with the world. Pick it up on its own, or in a discounted bundle with city sourcebook Absinthe in Carcosa and Robin’s latest novel, The Missing and the Lost.

New Releases

      • The Yellow King RPG – Four full-colour 6″ x 9″ hardback books in a slipcase, with accompanying GM screen. The dread horror of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow stories take RPG form, confronting your players with an epic journey across four Carcosan-drenched time periods.
      • Absinthe in Carcosa – An 8.5″ x 11″, full-colour hardback, this indispensable city guide for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is yoked together from travelogues, newspapers, and the disquieting ephemera of the occult tradition.
      • The Missing and the Lost – A thrilling, thought-provoking novel, which can be read as a mystery of a dread-drenched alternate reality, or use it as a model for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game when you play its Aftermath setting.
      • The GUMSHOE Community program – Create your own adventures, ships, planets, and much more for the Ashen Stars setting!
      • 5e conversion – Eyes of the Stone Thief – Two levels of Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s 13th Age megadungeon Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, converted to D&D 5th edition rules
      • Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition – Pre-order the updated and expanded mutant-powered police procedural GUMSHOE game, and get the final PDF now.
      • Even Death Can Die – Pre-order this adventure collection for Cthulhu Confidential and get the pre-edit draft PDF now.

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