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…

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

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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Long-term readers will understand how I am equal parts excited and relieved to be able to FINALLY say this…

***NEW*** The Yellow King RPG!!

If you missed out on the multi-phased and many-pronged cursing of the Nest that was The Yellow King RPG printing and fulfillment, you can now corrupt your own existence with the four-book, slipcase & GM screen extravaganza that is Robin D. Laws’s The Yellow King RPG – if you dare.

In case you haven’t spent the last two years chasing printers on it and don’t know what it’s about…inspired by the reality-twisting The King in Yellow stories by Robert W. Chambers, the boxed set contains four different settings:

  • Belle Époque Paris, where a printed version of the dread play is first published. Players portray American art students in its absinthe-soaked world, navigating the Parisian demimonde and investigating mysteries involving gargoyles, vampires, and decadent alien royalty.
  • The Wars, an alternate reality in which the players take on the role of soldiers bogged down in the great European conflict of 1947. While trying to stay alive on an eerie, shifting battlefield, they investigate supernatural mysteries generated by the occult machinations of the Yellow King and his rebellious daughters.
  • Aftermath, set later in the same reality, in present day North America. A bloody insurrection has toppled a dictatorial regime loyal to Carcosa. Players become former partisans adjusting to ordinary life, trying to build a just society from the ashes of civil war. But not all of the monsters have been thoroughly banished—and like it or not, they’re the ones with the skills to hunt them and finish them off.
  • This is Normal Now. In the present day we know, albeit one subtly permeated by supernatural beings and maddening reality shifts, ordinary people band together, slowly realizing that they are the key to ending a menace spanning eras and realities.

***NEW*** Absinthe in Carcosa

Accompanying your Yellow King RPG spiral into the distorted degeneracy of the Carcosans is Absinthe in Carcosa, an indispensable city guide to Belle Époque Paris. As an absinthe-drenched American art student explored Paris in search of the decadent influence of the King in Yellow, he created a scrapbook – a guide both for himself, and those who would follow. Yoked together from existing travelogues, newspapers, and the disquieting ephemera of the occult tradition, it laid out a skewed portrait of a haunted city. Dean Engelhardt (The Hawkins Papers, Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos) has worked his usual dazzling magic on this evocative full-colour handbook to Yellow Paris. Mine it for YKRPG adventure hooks, handouts, absinthe trips and period flavour – or just to show your players how far they have to fall…

***NEW*** The Missing and the Lost

In his creepy and unnerving short story collection New Tales of the Yellow Sign, Robin first explored the “spread through global culture, and history itself, like a virus” of the King in Yellow. And now, his own “contagion bears hideous fruit” in the Yellow King RPG, and the meta novelisation-of-a-novel that is The Missing and the Lost. Set in the “post-Carcosan” Aftermath setting of the Yellow King RPG, the protagonist Technician, responsible for repairing the suicide machines known as the Government Lethal Chambers, is determined to decommission those instruments of death, but instead he finds himself investigating a murder – all the while trying to restore democracy and order to a USA crippled by the Carcosan-supported for Castaigne former regime. While the Kickstarter backers have been waiting for their copies, I’ve been very good and not read it – now that it’s out, I’ve got it stacked up on my Kindle (the print book comes with the PDF, EPUB and MOBI files), and I can’t wait to dive into it as prep for Aftermath games.

Work in progress update: Black Star Magic

This month, we’re got the book of magic for The Yellow King RPG, Black Star Magic, available for playtesting. Featuring background material for Carcosan magic in all four YKRPG settings, and GM guidance showing you how to incorporate player-facing occult powers into your game, as well as a brand-new magical adventure for each of the four YKRPG settings. You’ll need the core YKRPG set to playtest this – if you’re interested, contact us in the usual way.

Other news – GUMSHOE SRD update

I don’t want this to be an all-YKRPG View, but there’s a lot happening with it. Thanks to the generosity of the YKRPG backers (have I mentioned that you’re great? You’re great!), Robin’s been able to update the existing GUMSHOE SRD to include the rules for both QuickShock GUMSHOE, and also GUMSHOE One-2-One. As always, we’d love to hear what you do with those, so do tag us on social media if you’ve got any GUMSHOE projects on the go!

Other other news – social media updates

We’ve been talking a lot internally about video content, and I’d really like to be able to demonstrate how awesome our games are to more video-native players. To that end, I’ve transferred over all our videos from our old Google+(sob!)-connected Google account to a new YouTube account, and also discovered there are some really fabulous Actual Plays and other Pelgrane-related videos out there. I’ve pulled them together into some playlists, focusing on game lines, interviews (how does Rob Heinsoo still look the exact same, 13 years later?!), and GMing advice. Did I miss anything you’d love to see? Let me know in the comments below!

It would be remiss of me not to mention that I’m braving the waters of Reddit on r/RPGdesign from 9th February. AMA about Pelgrane, publishing, or your favourite Pelgrane games!

And while we’re on the social media, a reminder of where you can get all the latest Pelgrane news:

Until next time…

^^ Cat

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

Title: Black Star Magic

System: The Yellow King RPG

Author: Robin D. Laws, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Sarah Saltiel, and Ruth Tillman

Deadline: Monday, March 2nd 2020

Number of sessions: 1-2 per adventure

Description:

Ritual magic of the Belle Époque! The desperate Science Jaune of a war-torn continent! Parageometrical horrors perfected in the labs of the tyrannical, overthrown Castaigne regime! Signing, the latest way to turn social media dysfunction into sorcerous reality!

Your players can master them all—at perilous risk!

Each spell is a Shock card with effects both useful and sinister. Do they hold onto that that spell they need to do that thing, even as their inner realities start to break apart? Or do they take the safe route, and cast out the buzzing, insistent power of the Yellow Sign?

New magic rules include 144 startling spells, background material on Carcosan magic in all four YKRPG settings, and GM guidance showing you how to incorporate player-facing occult powers into your game.

Plus, a quartet of scenarios, allowing the characters of each sequence to make double-edged deals with the world of sorcery:

  • Dancer at the Bone Cabaret pits the art students of Paris against a force that lures their Bohemian friends to the latest, hottest nightspot. But are they the patrons, or items on the menu?
  • A Coffin at Le Thil sends the supernatural-quashing soldiers of The Wars into a village haunted by subterranean enemy activity.
  • Memories of a Dream Clown confronts the victorious revolutionaries of Aftermath with a treasured but tarnished memory of childhood—and murder!
  • Love Wears No Mask finds This Is Normal Now’s ordinary heroes battling an intrusive yet enthralling phone app, and the dramatic goings-on of the subtly destabilizing dating reality show it promotes.

Hi everyone! My name is Noah Lloyd, and I’m joining Pelgrane as a Production Apprentice. Cat has me trying my hand at a lot of different tasks, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to jump around across projects. Currently I’m a Ph.D. candidate in eighteenth-century English literature, so I’ll be balancing my responsibilities at Pelgrane with both teaching and dissertating (which, yes, is actually a verb, though maybe only in academia). I spend what very little of my remaining time is left rock climbing and contemplating the inevitable overthrow of capitalism, occasionally at the same time.

I only started roleplaying regularly six or seven years ago (one of my favorite stories to tell is how the first time I played D&D I was eight, and my father ran me through a simple dungeon where he killed my character—twice; I didn’t play again till I was in my twenties), but immediately realized that it took all of the things I loved and brought them together into a single medium: narrative, community, books! I’m constantly astounded by the diversity of stories that RPGs can tell, from the genre fiction I’m so in love with (horror and sci-fi) to stories about romance and sad mechs.

At this point I’ve done freelance copyediting, developmental editing for independent creators, written scenarios, and have even designed the occasional layout for my own projects. The absolutely coolest thing is hearing about people I’ve never met playing a game I’ve worked on (or even watching people play them on YouTube!). I can’t wait to hear the stories that emerge from folks playing through the products I help Pelgrane bring to life.

I feel like I’m just at the beginning of my journey with RPGs—on the one hand, there’s so much I need to catch up on, so many classic games I still haven’t played, and on the other, I’m so thrilled to help create new games, scenarios, and books for people to experience.

 

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Belle Époque Paris boasted more occultists than you can shake a stick at. Or, in my case, more than I could fit into The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Here’s one who, due to his association with other, more renowned figures, warranted a mention but not a full write-up. Yet he might lead the group into interesting trouble, as he represents that most heedless and danger-seeking breed of creatures—the publisher!

Lucien Chamuel

Alchemical Supply Vendor and Occult Publisher

28, 1867-1936

Lucien Chamuel, or Mauchel, if you want to go by his mere birth certificate, runs the Librairie du Merveilleux in the 9th arrondissement. Despite its name, the Libraire is more an alchemical equipment shop, meeting space and publishing office than a bookstore. For a fuller selection of texts, the art student heroes of your game should seek Edmond Bailly’s Librairie de L’Art Indépendant, in the same occult-ridden neighborhood.

Already a seasoned publisher in his late twenties, Chamuel acts as a sidekick to the better known Papus. Like his mentor, Chamuel practices Martinist mysticism, which reconciles arch-Catholicism and the working of esoteric magic.

With Papus, he founds the journal L’Initiation. It contains not only mystical, quasi-scholarly articles on the occult, but for those who read between the lines, the latest gossip on city’s ever-feuding questers. In 1895 it has already been running for eight years; it will eventually rack up a total of twenty-five.

When the art students need Chamuel to plant a story immediately, he might include it in L’Initiation’s weekly sister publication, Le Voile d’Isis.

Effusive and friendly, Chamuel welcomes new visitors to his shop. Art students shaking his hand may notice the dampness of his palm. He answers the investigators’ questions without their having to resort to anything so gauche as the use of an interpersonal ability. He shows reluctance only when their inquiries portend trouble for him or his esoteric allies. In that case he may quote the title of a famous essay he published: “the supernatural does not exist!” Of course the real point of the article is that it does exist, but is science, not superstition. Arch-Catholic, ritual science, that is.

Two years ago, Papus declared his friend Chamuel the Gnostic Bishop of La Rochelle and Saintes. Like all church leaders the regular bishop of that diocese, once a fortress of the Huguenots, neither knows about nor would approve of this distinction. Papus hands out imaginary distinctions like this on a regular basis. Chamuel accepts them as flattery but would never himself announce them to customers or acquaintances.

Chamuel may take a particular shine to the belle-lettrist in the group. His offerings extend beyond the occult, and he’s always looking for an interesting publication to add to his catalogue. Among his offerings includes a book on the Paris catacombs. In your version of history, it might be the belle-lettrist character who writes it for him, perhaps under a pseudonym.

When they meet him, he might be poring over the texts of a book he is about to publish, by another occult stalwart, Joséphin Péladan. The uninitiated might assume that The Complete Theater of Wagner simply surveys the controversial German composer’s opera works. It does this only to advance a much more important revelation. Parsifal, the book contends, fosters mystical enlightenment in favored listeners, as it did to Péladan during an 1888 performance at Bayreuth. This thread might provide color to an unrelated scenario. Alternately, it brings the art students into contact with Carcosan forces plotting to cloak their activities in the guise of Norse mythology and/or thundering timpanis.

Chamuel’s best seller, one he asks prospective authors to emulate, is Péladan’s How to Become a Magus, part one in a projected seven-volume series, The Amphitheater of Dead Sciences.

In 1895, the shop has only just moved to a new spot, 79 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière. A mere year later it moves again, to 5 rue du Savoie in the 6th. Do the art students trigger a weird event requiring its relocation?

No occultist chooses an anagram for only one reason. Chamuel is not only a reordered version of Mauchel, but one of many spellings for an archangel, Camael. Naming himself for an angel of strength and courage constitutes a Martinist act of sympathetic magic, meant to bind those qualities into himself. His angelic predilections might get him in trouble if a winged, masked Carcosan comes calling, professing to be a projection of his esoteric desires.

Every fashionable man in 1895 Paris looks somewhat like a wizard, due to the current vogue for lavishly full beards. The occultists must therefore work harder to achieve grandiloquent facial hair. Chamuel’s prodigious beard differs from that of his colleagues by billowing out on each side, with his chin more closely trimmed. Unfortunately for our purposes, the one blurry surviving photograph of Chamuel depicts him in late middle age.

As a patron: Sinister forces might have presented Chamuel with the opportunity to publish The King in Yellow. Surely he rejected the text as insufficiently Christian, Wagnerian, or both. Perhaps he recommended the author to Bailly, whose interest in the Symbolist and Decadent movements exceeds his own. Luckily he gave up reading the play long before reaching its mind-shattering second act. Already the details of those who brought it to him have grown jumbled in his mind, like a dream. Realizing in retrospect that the flavor of occultism unleashed by the book contradicts every holy instinct of a good Martinist, he seizes on the art students’ interest in the mystery, urging them to track down the unknown rival publisher who committed it to print.

Amateur investigators of This Is Normal Now visiting contemporary Paris may have reason to discover that the 1895 location of the Library of Marvels has become a Franpix, an upscale groceteria. Occultism suggests that its logo, an apple, means something fraught in this context. Who placed the forbidden fruit at this location, and does it seal something in, or summon it? Likewise, a trip to the shop’s prior location finds the sleek offices of a renovation firm, with a similarly numinous logo of a pyramid folding in on itself.

 


 

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 at the Pelgrane Shop.

By Jason Morgan

So you’ve played GUMSHOE One-2-One’s Cthulhu Confidential or Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops, and now every time you look at your gaming shelf those campaigns and scenarios you’ve always wanted to run but couldn’t pull a group together regularly enough to do it catch your eye. One-2-One makes gaming easy. It’s just you and a friend–one GM and one player. But how do you convert a scenario from Stunning Eldritch Tales or tackle the globe-spanning Eternal Lies?

GM Jason here, along with my player Nick (a.k.a. Langston Montgomery Wright from our year-and-a-half Cthulhu Confidential campaign that included a scenario from Pelgrane’s Mythos Expeditions and Chaosium’s legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep, and currently playing Jans Whorlman, an ex-MI-6 vampire hunter in our Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops campaign) with tips for how to convert adventures to the GUMSHOE One-2-One system. (If you want to hear how Nick found it, his perspective is here).

The Investigation

Luckily, GUMSHOE investigation ports over nicely to One-2-One. The biggest difference is substituting a Push for a point spend. Note that it’s not a one-to-one conversion (pun intended). GMs should use their judgement asking for Pushes when the standard GUMSHOE scenario asks for a point spend. Remember the core tenet of GUMSHOE: The player always gets the Core Clues. As a One-2-One GM, it’s your job to help get your Player to the next clue.

Which brings us to our first tip:

Sources/Contacts

Both Cthulhu Confidential Sources and Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops Contacts provide friendly NPCs for the Player to lean on. And lean on them they will. While there are nuances between Cthulhu’s Sources and Night’s Contacts, it’s imperative that you make them helpful. Use them to talk like another player without giving more away than necessary.

In a GUMSHOE One-2-One game, the player will internalize most of the information. To expand on the core books’ advice: Sources allow the player to open up, discuss possibilities, and collaborate on next steps. It also provides you, as the GM, a window into your player’s headspace. Is she frustrated? Confused? Unsure of the next step? Sources can help alleviate the stress of being the only player.

Make the Sources relevant to the Scenario’s setting. For example, in a globe trotting campaign like Eternal Lies, have local Sources available to the player when she reaches a new city. My player started in New York with four Sources. He traveled with two of them to Africa where he met a local tour guide and newspaper editor Sources who could give him the lay of the land and provide setting context.

Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops Contacts are shiftier than Sources, but remember: how contacts respond can either ratchet up the tension or provide a much needed pressure release valve. The same judgment you used in how the Contacts responded to the player in the core book scenarios will be how you handle them in your converted campaign as well.

Prepping and improvising challenges

You’ll want to try to stay one session ahead of your player when prepping challenges. At the end of a session, ask you player what direction she’ll take the investigation in the next session. This will give you some direction.

Of course, players love to spoil even the best laid plans. You don’t want to railroad your player into your prepped Challenges, so be flexible.

For me, prepping Challenges for upcoming scenes helped me understand how the scene related to the current investigation, the motives of the NPCs, and the opportunities or challenges that would arise if the die fell one way or another. Sometimes I’d get lucky and be able to use the Challenges I prepped as I prepped them, but more often than not, I’d modify them to fit my player’s actions, repurposing Edge and Problem cards as needed.

One thing that didn’t usually change, regardless of the General Skill called for, were the Setback, Hold and Advanced numbers. It’s important to continue to be transparent with these numbers even when you’re making them up on the fly. The Tables in Cthulhu Confidential (p. 291) Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops (p. 96) do a great job of giving you an idea of where to set these numbers. If you’ve ran through the adventures within the core books, you should also have a good idea of Challenge difficulties.

The Golden Rule when improvising Challenges: Your player will not know what was prepped and what wasn’t. Take comfort in that, and by all means never tell your player what was prepped and what was improvised. The game always according to plan even when you’re making up that plan as you go.

In addition to the designing Edges and Problem advice in Cthulhu Confidential (p. 46) and NBA: Solo Ops (p. 99), here’s a great resource for coming up with Edge and Problem cards on fly:

https://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php/cards-on-the-fly-in-one-2-one/

Most importantly–be creative! Have fun coming up with unique cards. You can even get your player involved. Ask her to come up with the Edge or Problem if you’re stumped.

List of improvised Edges
List of improvised Problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which leads me to…

Work with your player.

GUMSHOE One-2-One requires more openness with the PC than other systems because it’s just the two of you. It’s important to maintain the narrative mystery but be open to working together to create the story. To echo both core books: It’s okay to have meta-game discussions. If you sense your player feels lost or frustrated, you should be asking your player meta questions like:

  • “What’s holding you back?”
  • “What are you confused about?”
  • “What’s frustrating?”

As a GM that might be a good time to get a Source or Contact involved to help the player along. Or maybe the player needs to stop the session to take some time to mull over the information.

Here’s what my player, Nick, had to say about investigation obstacles:

“It’s implicit in the genre that there will be times when you don’t have much to go on, particularly in the beginning of new investigation or setting. I think this is okay and fun because it means that you aren’t just riding the rails. As a player, you trust that the GM isn’t going to leave you swinging in the wind forever, that you will find something if you keep looking. If you have a clue or two… follow them.”

GMs, take Nick’s advice–don’t leave your player floundering for long. Give them the time to work through the information, but provide resources like helpful Sources/Contacts to get them to the next scene and clue.

Working together is imperative to running a successful session and a telling a collaborative story.


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.

Vikings tradingA while back I asked members of the 13th Age Facebook group what they’d like to see from a future 13th Sage column. Longtime community member Antonio Eleuteri asked for suggestions on running a “mythic Viking campaign”, and I’ve been giving that a lot of thought ever since. Today I’m going to take a stab at that topic.

Disclaimers: this is just how I, personally, would start to think about  running a mythic Viking game of 13th Age. It’s not 13th Age: The Viking Supplement! Also, I suspect Antonio is actually more qualified than I am to write about this particular topic, so I apologize in advance if this is a terrible disappointment to him. Not only are there folks out there who know a lot more than I do about the Viking age and Norse mythology, there are those for whom this is their living religion.

Resources

The first thing I’d do, naturally is educate myself about the Viking era and the various forms a mythic Viking 13th Age game could take. Here are a few books I’d check out:

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2e

Northlands for Pathfinder 1e

Mythic Iceland for Basic Role Playing

GURPS Vikings

The Mythic North

To me the word “mythic” says that my game will draw upon the folklore, culture, and history of the North Germanic and/or Icelandic peoples of the Early Middle Ages, but it should feel to the players as though their characters live within that culture’s myths—their stories about gods, demigods, monsters, and supernatural heroes. Everything the heroes do should feel larger than life, and part of a larger cosmos where all paths lead eventually to Ragnarok.

The mythic nature of the setting, characters, and events means I’m going to use 13th Age Glorantha heavily, and loosely base the campaign world on the actual historical Viking era. A character might stride into a mead-hall in Sweden and end up arm wrestling a mysterious one-eyed stranger who later reveals himself to be Odin.

Icons, Runes, and Rune Magic

One obvious approach to icons would be to use allegiance to one or more gods as icon relationships. However, instead of icons I think I’d use the rune mechanics from 13th Age Glorantha, perhaps with the 24 Elder Fúþark runes in Mythic Iceland.

During character creation, each player chooses three runes for their character that are deeply significant to them—perhaps related to the god their character is devoted to, an important background, or their One Unique Thing. These three runes, magically embodying concepts such as fire, death, truth, and wealth, aren’t just resources the characters are connected to: they are, in a cosmic sense, the essence of the character.

Whenever heroes take a full heal-up, each of them becomes attuned to one of their runes. To see which rune their character is attuned to that day, they roll a d6. On a 1, 2, or 3, they’re attuned to their first, second, or third rune, respectively. On a 4–6, roll they randomly on a table to see which of the full list of existing runes they’re attuned to, even if it’s not one of their personal three.

Runes are used by narrating them during the game to affect the story in a way that benefits the heroes. For a mythic Viking game,  I might interpret this as heroes using rune magic as described in Mythic Iceland—thus highlighting the fact that these are mythic characters in a mythic world. In that book, each rune has a “narrative magic use” section that can provide inspiration for what the use of that rune looks like in this game.

Rune magic would probably take place outside of combat and its effects would look more like a cantrip or a ritual than a spell. For example:

  • A rogue using the Kaun rune (associated with fire) might cause a spark from a woodfire to set a hall ablaze.
  • A barbarian using the Þurs rune magic to gain protection from enemies might slow the advance of an oncoming army, or diminish their forces by causing them to be attacked by wild creatures along the way.
  • A commander could use the magic of their Yr rune, associated with death, by delivering a thundering speech before a battle against mighty foes, describing how their bodies will lie strewn upon the ground to be food for wolves and ravens. The GM might decide that fulfilling this curse and slaying every enemy on the battlefield grants the heroes an incremental advance at the end of the battle.

The GM rolls a d20 when the character uses rune magic, and on a result of 1-5 adds a complication.

Available PC Races

  • Humans
  • Beastblooded (Book of Ages, p. 77)
  • High elves (known as Ljósálfar or “light elves”) who dwell in Álfheim
  • Dwarves, who dwell deep in the Earth
  • Half-elves and half-orcs, both reskinned as “trollkin”—a term I’m borrowing from Northlands that encompasses the offspring of ogres, trolls, elves, and other fey creatures who’ve taken humans as husbands or wives.

Available PC Classes

  • Any class from 13th Age Glorantha (Troll Warrior becomes Trollkin Warrior)
  • Barbarian
  • Bard (the Battle Skald talent is encouraged!)
  • Commander
  • Fighter
  • Ranger
  • Rogue

The World

Midgard, one of the Nine Worlds, is the realm of mortals, and where most of your adventures will take place. It’s surrounded by a huge, impassable ocean, and encircled by the titanic World Serpent.

Travel to other worlds is possible via Yggsrasil, the World Tree—but travel on the tree is an adventure in itself, due to the monsters and other mythic beings that dwell in it. How one gets onto the path can be the object of a quest in itself: maybe through sacrifices to the proper gods, the acquisition of certain magic rings, or tricking the guardian of a portal.

Magic Items

I would give all true magic items names and a lineage. Who made them (almost always the dwarves), and for whom? What heroes and villains have wielded them in the past? What fate befell them?

I might consider making them all cursed somehow, so that most people avoid them out of fear. But our heroes, who fear nothing, gladly take them up—even though one day, something bad will happen as a result. It’s just a matter of when.

Foes

The giants will fight against the gods at the end of all things, so I suspect they’re recurring and climactic villains. Other foes include dragons, troll raiders, human clans and kingdoms, hostile elves and dwarves, the restless dead, and ravening Grendel-type monsters who emerge from the world’s dark places to prey upon the innocent.

Ben Naylor’s Mythic Viking Campaign

13th Age fan Ben Naylor is currently running a mythic Viking campaign, and has shared some of his notes in the 13th Age Facebook group. Here are a few glimpses he’s provided over time.

Ben’s reskinned classes include:

  • Paladin (Doomsayer of Tyr)
  • Bard  (Galdr, using the mythkenner feat to morph into a runecaster. No songs, just rune casting.)
  • Barbarian (Berserkir, with a bit of Fire Jotun blood, so it has a fire-related talent)
  • Ranger (Fardrengir, a wandering Norse hunter)

The icons are based on gods and monsters: Aesir, Vanir, Fenris, Gorgamund, etc. Characters earn their icon rolls by roleplaying as heroic Vikings performing mighty, courageous deeds as they explore North Norway during the coming of Fimbulwinter.

To make the game more deadly, Ben swapped the recovery mechanic with a rune point economy, where physical runes enable a recovery. It’s so deadly, in fact, that one of the character aims is a heroic death in battle, giving the character a place in Valhalla (or other desired destination in the afterlife). If a player gives their character a good death fighting heroically in battle, their next character will be more favored by the gods. In Ben’s game this means unlocking special backgrounds and PC races.

A player who chooses to give their character a heroic death activates a Heroic Death ability which gives them special powers as they make their last stand: things like refreshing some of their daily powers and granting their allies a bonus by inspiring them to fight harder. If the character somehow fails to die, there’s a cost: maiming, a wound which doesn’t heal, or some advantage given to the kin of their foe.

Image: Calling of Vikings,’ by Viktor Vasnetsov, early 1900s – Credit: WikiPaintings


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 Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook (DH) covers the present-day Legacies of the main members of the Crew of Light – Billie Harker, Tabitha Holmwood, Thad Morris and the rest, the descendants of the original group who battled Dracula. However, Dracula Unredacted reveals the existence of several other members of this fellowship who, for reasons sinister or editorial, were excised from the narrative. Once the players discover the existence of Kate Reed or Inspector Cotford, might they not try to track down their present-day heirs?

Here’s the first in a short series covering some other Legacies…

 

Anna Marshall

She’s in her early 40s, but looks and dresses younger; she lives in departure lounges and hotel lobbies. Her accent is transatlantic; her personality buried with her conscience. If you ask, Anna says she works in public relations, but she won’t give you her card. She’s employed by a small firm, ReVu, that specializes in crisis management public relations. They’re the people you call when you’re a celebrity who was just caught with a dead prostitute, or a tech company who just broke democracy. ReVu has a portfolio of special assets – they’ve got private detectives and hackers to dig up dirt on your detractors, botnets and troll farms to spread disinformation, and lots of blackmail material. The firm exists in the same space as companies like Black Cube or Cambridge Analytica; it’s headquartered in London, and definitely wasn’t founded by any ex-spies.

Marshall’s role is handling the traditional press (she has lunch with the Tabloid Journalist, DH, p. 134) regularly, and trades barbs on twitter with the Journalist (DH, p. 120), but she usually stays under the radar. She tells herself that any day now, she’s going to leave all this behind her, maybe move into the charity sector (maybe Heal The Children, DH p. 150), but she knows she’s made too many enemies to just walk away. Also, damningly, she’s good at this.

She has no idea of her ancestry, although she might recall seeing a photograph of her great-great-grandmother Kate Reed in her parents’ place. Optionally, she inherited a brooch like the Westenra Brooch (DH, p. 284). She sleepwalks, especially around mid-March.

Innocent: For certain values of ‘innocent’, obviously. ReVu might get hired by any well-connected Character or Node to deal with trouble caused by the Agents. Likely clients for Kate include either Holmwood (DH, p. 43/44), the Hungarian (DH, p. 94), maaaaaybe the Psychic (DH, p. 96), the Art Forecaster (DH, p. 103), the Drug Boss (DH, p. 113), the Petroleum Executive (DH, p. 127) and a bunch of Nodes like Nox Therapeutics (DH, p. 163).

Anna’s conscience isn’t completely dead; if reminded that objective truth and genuine goodness still exist, she might be motivated to assist the Agents. Getting her to read Kate Reed’s Diary (DH, p. 272), showing her the true extent of Dracula’s evil, or just a hefty Interpersonal spend might convince her to help the Agents.

Another possibility: Marshall hires the Agents as freelancers to track down dirt on some political foe; if the Agents need ready cash, a simple little breaking-and-entering side job might appeal. From there, they can discover the truth about their employer.

Asset: ReVu is an Edom cut-out, possibly founded by a retired ex-Duke (a previous Timnah, DH, p. 53) or the MI5 Deputy (DH, p. 95). The company handles cover-ups and media monitoring, and occasionally employs vampiric mind control to flip a witness or guarantee a story gets buried. Marshall’s too junior to know much about ReVu’s connections to the Secret Service, although she does know the higher-ups sometimes have urgent meetings at Ring (DH, p. 173) or Exeter (DH, p. 167). If she knew about the Reed file that marks her as a Legacy, she might flip on her employer.

Minion: Marshall’s family have been part of the Satanic Cult of Dracula (DH, p. 55) for generations; she was initiated as a priestess of Dracula at the age of 13, left alone in the Red Room (DH, p. 187) overnight to bathe in the psychic influence. ReVu covers up the cult’s excesses; once Dracula makes his move, the company may be ordered to expose or discredit Edom, distracting “D” with political pressure and scandals while the vampire breaks free. This version of Marshall is likely irredeemable (assuming she’s not a full-on vampire); she expects to be an immortal handmaiden of the Count once he takes over the world.

Defining Quirks: (1) Carries an antique umbrella (2) At least three phones (3) Sleeps with the lights on

Investigative Abilities: High Society, Traffic Analysis, Negotiation

General Abilities: Network 15


The Dracula Dossier reveals that Dracula is not a novel. It’s the censored version of Bram Stoker’s after-action report of the failed British Intelligence attempt to recruit a vampire in 1894. Kenneth Hite and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan have restored the deleted sections, inserting annotations and clues left by three generations of MI6 analysts. This is Dracula UnredactedFollow those clues to the Director’s Handbook, containing hundreds of encounters: shady NPCs, dangerous locations, conspiratorial nodes, and mysterious objects. Together they comprise The Dracula Dossier — an epic improvised, collaborative campaign for Night’s Black Agents, our award-winning vampire spy thriller RPG. Purchase the Dracula Dossier starter kit bundle in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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A belated happy new year to all our readers! This double-feature Page XX is packed with the usual wealth of articles you’ve come to expect from this erudite publication, and exciting news with the official launch of the GUMSHOE Community program. If you’re not familiar with the Community Content programs, you can find all the details here. We’re excited to see what new Ashen Stars gems you create! Alongside that, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s converted two sections of his megadungeon campaign Eyes of the Stone Thief to D&D 5e rules, and also new this month is the PDF of Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos, crammed full of mythos monsters, some of whom have never taken stat block form in an RPG before!

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