A Dreamhounds of Paris scenario seed by Adam Gauntlett

In which the Surrealists must decide whether a friend is worth going to the wall for.

This scenario, and the character of Achille Flamant, is inspired by stories that first appeared in Leonard Merrick’s A Chair on the Boulevard, published 1921, available via Project Gutenberg.

A Card Arrives

Each Surrealist receives a cabinet card, a photographic portrait card with personal information on the reverse, usually given to introduce someone. The photograph is an uninspired copy of Man Ray’s work, and the reverse has the following inscribed:

Monsieur Achille Flamant, Artist

Forewarns you of the

Death of His Career

The Internment will take place at the

Café of the Broken Heart

On December 31st.

Valedictory N.B. – A sympathetic costume. Victuals will be appreciated. 7 p.m.

The characters recognize the name. Achille Flamant is the son of a rentier, a bourgeoisie who lives on his investments, who has subsidized his son’s artistic adventures. The father’s patience has run out. Now the boy must go to work as a secretary for one of his father’s friends.

Flamant is not a strong talent, and never has been. Andre Breton expelled him from the movement some time ago, accusing him of sympathizing with capitalists and desiring material success, rather than artistic merit. This is true, as far as it goes; Flamant’s father insists on material success, and Achille is too weak-willed to resist. There were some who regretted it, as Achille is a pleasant young man, but no amount of pleasantry excuses lack of talent. There is no silk purse to be made out of this sow’s ear.

The Café of the Broken Heart, near the Cemetery of Montmartre, is a homely little place with an impressive collection of funerary art, photographs of funeral parades, and ephemera that (Cthulhu Mythos, 1 point clue) is reminiscent of ghoulish found object art. It is owned and operated by M. Pitou, a man of exceeding height and mournful expression, who is himself part ghoul – a fact known to very few.

Attendance Is Not Mandatory

Dreamhounds who do not attend move straight to the House of Suicides scene. Their lack of attendance drives Flamant to despair, and he relinquishes his artistic ambitions, and his life, altogether. This creates the dreamscape Rue Sombre, where Flamant’s dream finally dies. The next time they see him will be at the House of Suicides, now a permanent Dreamlands locale, with Flamant swinging from the rafters with the rest of the Putrefacto.

An Evening at the Broken Heart

A scattering of surrealists and fringe members show up, bearing food, mostly out of curiosity. Potential instability loss 3, fraternizing with an expelled surrealist. Salvador Dali is the only one of the core group who attends, mostly out of curiosity, and if the Dreamhounds weren’t there his attendance would be very brief – assuming Dali is not being played by one of the group.

Dali suspects that something’s up with Flamant. “He seems almost … inspired, tonight. I doubt he’ll ever be a talent, but this threat hanging over him fans the flame – such a little spark, it is.”

Flamant’s behavior at the gathering is serene, a new calmness having taken possession of him. He is dressed in his best, and spends much of the evening making presents of his possessions, giving away his favorite books, art, and other things. Those with Evidence Collection, Medicine or similar might guess that Flamant contemplates suicide, and is preparing for the end.

  1. Pitou has a secret. He can trace his bloodline to Nicholas Flamel, who guards the oneiric gate to the Dreamlands that exists in Paris’ catacombs. There is an entrance to the catacombs in the Café cellar, and for the last few weeks Flamant, who knows the secret, has been begging Pitou for an introduction. Tonight Pitou gives way, and guides Flamant through the catacombs to the gate. Flamant manages to persuade Flamel to let him through, and from there Flamant creates the Rue Sombre, and the House of Suicides.

The Dreamhounds might overhear Flamant talking to M. Pitou, see them sneaking down to the catacomb entrance, or know through Occult, Cthulhu Mythos, Dream Lore or similar that the connection exists. If so, they can follow the two as they go to see Flamel. Otherwise the next encounter with Flamant will be in dreams, at the Rue Sombre. They will be drawn to their friend’s last spark of genius, though they arrive as things are at their worst.

The Dreamhounds may be able to influence the situation, if they realize Flamant contemplates suicide. Card Reading, preferably with a rosy outcome for Flamant, helps his state of mind. Inflating his opinion of his art, Seduction, or similar, helps. He’ll still go to the Rue Sombre, but with a better frame of mind to resist temptation.

The Rue Sombre

At the end of the evening, Flamant goes with M. Pitou to Flamel’s oneiric gate. It’s Flamant’s first visit, and in his current state he has only one response to the sudden change in his circumstances: he creates a quiet, moonlit Parisian street, at one end of which is a house that is being rebuilt. There is no door, the roof is off, and the rafters have been exposed. This is the House of Suicides.

From each rafter hangs a corpse. They are similar to Putrefacto, in that it requires a Difficulty 4 Health rolls to go near them. Those who fail suffer +2 to all Difficulty checks thereafter in the scene. However unlike the usual type, they are not dressed like priests or authority figures, nor do they have donkeys. They are dressed exactly as Flamant is dressed, and they have his father’s voice. [Putrefacto N=P+2].

These represent Flamant’s current state of mind, and were accidentally created by him as part of the House of Suicides. Their role is to persuade Flamant to join them, swinging from the rafters, and there is a rope set aside for him as well as a chair to reach it. If successful, Flamant becomes a Putrefacto, and the House of Suicides becomes a permanent presence in the Dreamscape, perhaps threatening other artists.

This becomes a Dreamscaping battle between the Putrefacto and the Dreamhounds, with Flamant as the prize. Whenever the Dreamhounds try to prevent Flamant’s suicide, either through blatant Dreamscaping or by General abilities augmented with Dreamscaping, the Putrefacto use their Strangle ability, but this is an altered version from the norm: they use their hangman’s nooses, swinging them round a Dreamhound’s neck and dragging them up to hang.

Outside the House, ghasts gather, peeping in through the windows. They can’t believe their luck – so many edibles, just hanging there for the taking. As the Dreamhounds battle, the ghasts chatter among themselves in ghastly echo of the party at the Café only a short time before. One imitates Dali, or some other prominent party guest, making sarcastic comments about the Dreamhounds’ progress or lack thereof. The ghasts will not engage in combat; they’re far too cowardly for that.

If the House of Suicides becomes permanent, ghasts haunt it always, creeping from somber chamber to somber chamber, snacking every so often and commenting on the lackluster qualities of the lives prematurely snuffed out at the end of a rope.

If the Dreamhounds managed to raise Flamant’s spirits at the party at the Café, then the Difficulty of all tests in this scene is reduced by -2. Otherwise Difficulty is standard, unless the Dreamhound failed the Putrefacto test, in which case it is higher.

The Dreamhounds may decide to abandon Flamant to his fate. After all, it’s his lack of talent that got him here; whatever happens next is his own doing. In that event the House of Suicides becomes permanent, and adds to its collection of corpses whenever it can. Whenever it adds more corpses than the building can hold, the building expands. Given time, its many halls and rooms may spread over a vast distance. It is as capable of killing Dreamlands residents as artists, and a truly massive House might contain all manner of strangled curiosities.

If Flamant is saved, his artistic career is at an end and he suffers dream-death. A shadow of his artistic self is cast adrift, wandering the Dreamlands, and if that shadow ever dies in dream then it becomes a Putrefacto. His mortal form forgets the Dreamlands, and goes to work as a secretary. The Dreamhounds may be able to sponge the price of a meal off him now and again, in memory of former happiness.

Achille Flamant

Physical: slight, fair, perpetually strokes a bare lip in hope it will encourage his moustache.

General: Art-Making 4, Athletics 3, Fleeing 6, Health 5, Instability 2, Sanity 3. For purposes of this scenario only he has Dreamscaping 10, used involuntarily to create the House of Suicides, but he cannot spend that pool on any other dream-scape.

Rung Sat swampThe upcoming Borellus Connection is a gigantic, titanic, cyclopean campaign for Fall of DELTA GREEN. It’s so huge, in fact, that it could not (in its original form) be contained by any binding ritual that could be worked by our printers. It was just huge. Therefore, we’ve a got a wealth of cut material from the campaign that we’ll be presenting as Page XX articles in the months to come. As a taster, here’s a write-up of hazards from the swamps of Vietnam and Ken’s Operation ALONSO, where the Agents are sent to investigate the remnants of the Cthulhu cult that might be lurking in the Rung Sat…

Handlers may not feel the Rung Sat deadly enough with just the provided Encounters, or may wish to throw something more in for flavor or tension-building. Alternatively, Agents who operate carelessly (or roll a natural 1 on an Athletics or Stealth test, making noise and waves) may invite dramatic retribution.

Cobra

Abilities:Athletics 7, Fighting 9, Health 4

Hit Threshold:4 (quick)

Stealth Modifier:+2

Weapon:strike (Diff 6 Health test; minor:d+2, Hurt; major: L2; -2 Health and -1 Athletics every hour)

Armor:none

Deadly Strike:A cobra automatically spends 3 points of Fighting (if available) when it strikes.

Crocodile

Agents encounter d+2 crocodiles at a time.

Abilities:Athletics 8, Fighting 17, Health 13

Hit Threshold:4

Alertness Modifier:+0 (+1 for splashing targets)

Stealth Modifier:+1 (+2 mostly submerged)

Weapon:bite (d+4), tail swipe (d+2 to a foe in the rear, can be combined with another attack)

Armor:-5 vs any (thick scaly hide)

Aquatic:Crocodiles have contest advantage (FoDG,p. 086) in the water.

Primal Horror:Being attacked by a crocodile triggers a 4-point Stability test (Violence).

Flies

A swarm of flies (or other insects) cannot be effectively hit. As long as targets remain inside the cloud, each person suffers d-3 damage per round. In the normal course of things, a cloud of flies is only d-1 rounds “wide.” (Use this same damage for red ant bites, but ants only spend one round on a victim unless he’s tied down.)

Being inside a swarm of angry insects triggers a 3-point Stability (Helplessness) test; those who fail must attempt to leave the cloud, throwing down heavy equipment or leaving the trail to do so.

Flame weapons (white phosphorus grenades, flamethrowers) can briefly damage or disperse a cloud of flies. Only chemical fog permanently disperses an insect swarm.

Scorpion

Among other hideous things, the Rung Sat houses the giant forest scorpion. Any good hit on one of these six-inch monsters (Hit Threshold 3) kills it, but if the Agent fails a Sense Trouble test (Difficulty 5, or 4 if the Agent has Survival) it stings first.

Onset:d-2 hours (minimum 5 minutes); Health test Difficulty:4; Minor: d-1; Severe:Hurt (paralyzed), d+2 to both Health and Athletics

Sucking Mud

A layer of mud covers a sinkhole or fumarole, producing a sucking vacuum when an Agent steps through it. It takes a Difficulty 6 Sense Trouble to notice the slight depression in the middle of the mud flat (Difficulty 5 with Survival).

Anyone who fails becomes stuck in the mud, sinking rapidly as the low pressure below sucks him under. It requires an Athletics test (Difficulty 3) to avoid going under; +3 Difficulty to escape entirely. Reduce the Difficulty by -1 if they have a rope to cling to or climb up. Each round, the Difficulty increases by 1. Someone stuck in the mud can Cooperate on this test, but only with someone on firmer ground – and on a failed 1, both go into the mud.

Someone who goes under the mud begins drowning immediately, losing d+3 Athletics and Health (divided however they like) each round from inhaling mud.

VC Booby Trap

Punji stake traps (FoDG,p. 140) don’t work without soil to dig in, although the VC might booby trap a seemingly solid section of ground that way.

In the Rung Sat, the guerrillas prefer grenade traps triggered by tripwires around trees or in the shallow water near their bases. Spotting a tripwire requires a test of Conceal or Demolitions (Difficulty 4) or Sense Trouble (Difficulty 5). Not spotting a tripwire triggers a grenade (L1*). Disarming it takes a quick snip of the wire (Mechanics Difficulty 3 or Demolitions Difficulty 2); stepping over it just takes a round of otherwise undistracted movement.

Sebastian Münster’s sea monster chart (1544)

The Iron Sea: this is fine.

The Dragon Empire’s potential for rich stories and adventures isn’t even close to being exhausted—its various regions are left half-finished so GMs and players can have fun filling in the blanks, but we envision it being culturally, ethnically, economically, agriculturally, culinarily, and religiously diverse. Approaching a town on the sunny southern coast you might find gently-sloping green hills, olive groves, wheat fields, and vineyards bursting with grapes. Venture into town and you may come across a busy market with stalls selling food with complex spices, a temple to the sea gods, and an amphitheater that dates back to the age of the Wizard King. Head northwest to Foothold, and you might find tall forests, lumber camps, craggy mountains with dwarven mines, fur traders, rugged fortifications, offerings to placate the dark gods, and hearty stews.

Nevertheless! Some have asked us what lies beyond the map of the Dragon Empire. What place does it occupy in the larger world? For that, I’ll direct you to the Book of Ages and its description of the Age of Corsairs, when the Dragon Empire opened maritime trade routes with other lands beyond the Iron Sea, and the pirates who prayed on this shipping grew strong enough to challenge the Empire.

Here are some of the details of that age from the Book of Ages (which also includes new PC races, monsters, and magic items). Feel free to make the 13th Age an age of sail and trade in your campaign, or have the PCs be the first brave explorers who discover—or rediscover—lands beyond the Dragon Empire. If sail and trade with the outside world are common, the major change to the default setting will be that the Iron Sea’s storms and monsters either haven’t yet made the sea impassable, or have been subdued by one of more icons.

An Age of Sail and Trade

Adventurers and explorers have discovered new lands beyond the Empire, and trade ships now sail through the Koru Straits and out into the Iron Sea!

The wizards of Horizon have developed magical forms of navigation using celestial beacons that enable ships to cross the deeps. This is a marvelous time, especially for the merchants of Highrock and Glitterhaegen who benefit most from this growth in trade. However, dissatisfaction grows in other parts of the Empire, and would-be pirates—aided by ambitious black and green dragons—have built their own ships and begun raiding the trading vessels along the coast. 

Alternate Icons

The icons of the Age of Corsairs reflected the spirit of that age. If you wish, you can replace any of the default icons of the 13th Age with one of the icons below, or merge them. For example, you could replace the Prince of Shadows with the Captain of Corsairs; but you could also decide that the young Orc Lord felt the lure of the sea, and is now a pirate king!

The Captain of Corsairs is the great rival of the Emperor. There have been many different Captains—some were bloodthirsty, brutal thieves, but others were clever diplomats and wise rulers. The Captains rule from the great port city of the Harbor of Gulls.

The Explorer is a famed adventurer who travels the world. She will vanish from the Empire for many years at a time, then return with fabulous treasures and tales of distant lands. Sometimes, she travels by ship; on other occasions, she sets off on foot or through one of the Archmage’s experimental portals. (Other modes of transport employed by the Explorer on occasion: kidnapped by derro, tied to a roc, flung by a catapult, flung by a giant, flung by a giant catapult [along with her twenty companions and their horses], stowed away on a flying castle, eaten by the Stone Thief ).

The Merchant Princess‘ wealth is said to rival even that of the Dwarf King. Her trading fleets sail out of Glitterhaegen and Highrock, and return laden with gold and silver from distant lands. Money buys power, and the influence of the Princess easily eclipses that of the Archmage and the Great Gold Wyrm in the imperial court.

The Serpent is a green dragon whose power is second only to his ambition; he desires to become the new Green, upgrading the Three to the Four and obtaining the strength and respect (and treasure hoard) due to one of the great dragons. He has allied with the Captain of Corsairs to bring down his rivals, and some suspect he has bewitched the High Druid.

The King Below is the ruler of the sahuagin. Under the coral crown and bloody banner of the king, the freshwater sahuagin of the Fangs join with their salt-water cousins in a war against the surface. At times the Captain of Corsairs has been able to ally with the sea-folk, but for the most part, the sahuagin recognize no difference between one ship crammed with prospective slavemeat and another.

Lands Beyond

Book of Ages lists 13 lands that might exist beyond the storms and ship-eating monsters—though if you prefer, they could be reachable by land travel. Here are some samples:

Far Eld: A grim, rainy land of small, grim, damp villages and grimmer, damper fishermen. Lots of monks, hermits and druids. Eld’s not entirely in this world—parts of it phase in and out of some faerie realm, and only the locals know when these gates open and close.

The Edgelands: The atoll of the Edgelands surrounds a huge hellhole. It’s a barter town, a devil’s market where traders can buy goods from the infernal realms in exchange for coin and souls.

The Archipelago: Like the Dragon Empire, the lands of the Archipelago have their own icons. Here, there are a hundred minor icons, each one ruling a different island. Over time, the islands have come to reflect the nature and desires of their rulers, so each one is radically different to its neighbors across the straits.

Fortuna: In Fortuna, magic items rule. Humans are seen as soulless meat golems unless ensouled by the vibrant spirits of magic, and are only considered really alive when loaded down with enough items to have their ‘animal instincts’ overridden (in other words, more magic items than one’s level allows). Fortuna’s awash with magic items, but they’re not for sale—taking them is a crime tantamount to kidnapping.

Eiswyn: Eiswyn is a glacial realm of ice and snow, of barbarians and furry monsters. The ruins of an ancient civilization lie frozen in the glacier, so when the barbarians aren’t off raiding warmer lands in the summer, they spend their winters cutting into the ice to excavate treasures and dangers from a past age.

Get the Book of Ages by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan here.


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 Nest is aflurry this month with today’s news of the 2019 ENnie Award nominations. It is always an honour to be nominated by the hard-working judging team, and this year in particular we’re sharing the nomination field with an impressive breadth of games and industry colleagues. We’ve been nominated in four categories:

Beloved Pelgranistas Ken & Robin have also been nominated in the Best Podcast category, for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Voting for Fan Favourite Best Publisher is open now, and we’d be grateful if you would consider voting for us – click on this link to go to the voting page. Voting for the 2019 ENnies will open next Wednesday, July 10th.

NEW! Pelgrane Press merchandise

Over the years, a number of people have asked if they can get Pelgrane t-shirts and other merchandise, and it’s been in the works for a while. This month, we’re launching a pop-up merchandise store, with items from t-shirts, hoodies, and phone cases to mugs, wall art, and stickers. You can access the Pelgrane merchandise store here. It’s still in its infancy, and designer Will Hindmarch is individually hand-selecting what is available in each category. Our plan, if there’s sufficient demand, is to have a core range, with seasonal stock available for a few months at a time, so if there’s anything you’d love to see in there let us know in the comments!

Work in progress update: Night’s Black Agents: GM Screen & Resource Guide

These have been printed, and are on their way across the seas to our US & UK fulfilment centres. Our printers have told us it will arrive at both locations around July 15th, so we’ll be sending out an email to all pre-orderers in the next few weeks to confirm your shipping addresses, and check whether you’d like it shipped to you, or if you’d prefer to pick up your copy at Gen Con to save on shipping.

Work in progress update: Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops

Layout of this is now finished, and the final PDF is available to all pre-orderers – download it now from your Pelgrane Press bookshelf. We’re currently trying to find a printer who would be able to print and ship these this month – if we can, we’ll be sending out an email to all pre-orderers in the next few weeks to confirm your shipping addresses, and check whether you’d like it shipped to you, or if you’d prefer to pick up your copy at Gen Con to save on shipping.

Work in progress update: Shards of the Broken Sky

This is also at the mercy of the printers, who are claiming it will be shipping to our mail order distribution warehouses on July 15th. We’ll be emailing pre-orderers in the next few weeks to confirm your shipping addresses. The final PDF is available to all pre-orderers – download it now from your Pelgrane Press bookshelf.

Work in progress update: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

Jen McCleary, layout artist extraordinaire, has had to redo the layout of this, as the first version was unusable. She’s sent through a second draft now, which is very close to completion; we’re hoping to get this to the printers in mid-July, and to start shipping out to pre-orderers towards the end of August. We should have the final PDF ready for pre-orderers by mid-July.

Work in progress update: The Yellow King RPG

We’ve just posted an update for Kickstarter backers, the TL;DR of which was that our print liaison left the company suddenly for mental health reasons, and so we’ve had to rescue our (printed) Yellow King RPG books from the dusty corner of the warehouse they were abandoned to on his departure. The books are all printed, and we’ve made contact with the slipcase printer; they’re starting work on the slipcases & GM screens now, and estimate they’ll have them finished within a month, and they will then be able to ship out the completed books-in-slipcases to our US & UK fulfilment houses. So at the moment, we’re hoping to be able to start shipping everything to backers in early August, with the pre-orderer books shipping as soon as they’re finished.

In the meantime, anyone who pre-ordered the print books has the following new files on their bookshelf:

  • All Shock, Injury, Goal, Hit and Chit cards, from each of the four YKRPG books, in PNG format. Ideal for sharing with players electronically, for your online games, or pop a couple into a Word document for easy printing before a game.
  • Blank templates for creating your own Shock, Injury, Goal Hit and Chit cards. In GIMP and PSD format.
  • The official YKRPG Shock and Injury decks in PDF format. Robin has chosen 76 Shock cards, and 76 Injury cards, to form the official decks.
  • The 2019 Free RPG Day book
  • The YKRPG Suite – Official music for the Yellow King RPG

Pelgranes in the Wild!! part 3 – Gen Con, booth #1417

We’re less than a month (aaaaaaargh!) from Gen Con, and preparations for our biggest show of the year are frantically underway in the Nest. I’ll be on the Pelgrane booth for the weekend along with Simon, Ken, Robin, Rob Heinsoo, Sadhbh and (hopefully!) our as-yet-unnamed Admin Assistant. You can also spot Pelgranes in the wild at the ENnie Awards ceremony on Friday night, and at our seminars:

  • Gaming with the King in Yellow Robin D. Laws, Sarah Saltiel & John Harness bring the reality-bending horror of Robert W Chambers to your table. Our mavens of terror are here to tear off their pallid masks and reveal the shattering secrets of the Hyades. Thursday 1st August 16:00 -17:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 8
  • 13th Age Monster Workshop Join Rob Heinsoo and seasoned 13th Age designers to build a brand-new monster that takes advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver some nasty surprises at the table. Friday 2nd August 11:00 – 12:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 12
  • Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Robin D. Laws & Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies & whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast. Friday 2nd August 13:00-14:00 Stadium : Meeting Rm 8
  • Investigative Roleplaying MasterClass Mystery scenario masters Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws train their magnifying glasses on clue-gathering adventures to reveal the unlikely suspects behind your tabletop woes. Friday 2nd August 17:00-18:00 Westin : Grand Bllrm IV
  • Swords, Spies & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel Join Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin & others from the Pelgrane team for a behind-the-scenes look at what the award-winning UK publisher’s been up to this year, & what they’ve planned for the coming year. Saturday 3rd August 14:00-15:00 Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn A
  • Dramatic Interaction Masterclass Robin D. Laws, Kate Bullock, John Harness and Emily Reinhart teach structures & techniques to turn emotional confrontations between PCs frustrating roadblocks into rich moments of human drama. Saturday 3rd August 16:00-17:00 JW : 202

If you’re going (it’s on in the Indianapolis Convention Centre, from Thursday, August 1st to Sunday, August 5th), be sure to swing by booth #1417 and say hi. You might even be able to pick up a rare Pelgrane GM ribbon or button – if you volunteer to GM one of the games we’re still seeking GMs for (the list is here), you’re guaranteed one of each. Drop us an email at support@pelgranepress.com if you’re available!

Playtesting: The Borellus Connection, revised

We’ve had a number of dropouts for playtesting for the eight adventures in The Fall of DELTA GREEN adventure collection, The Borellus Connection, so we’re putting them back up for playtesting again this month. As a reminder, these adventures can serve as part of a connected campaign, or as stand-alone operations the Handler can drop into the course of an ongoing investigation. So if you’re interested, drop us an email.

 

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

It’s the Fourth of July, and to those readers celebrating the declaration of independence of the United States of America, we wish you a happy holiday. To everyone else, happy summer! We’re celebrating some special occasions here, too – as well as having been nominated for four ENnies, we’re launching a pop-up shop, featuring a (currently modest) selection of Pelgrane- and GUMSHOE-branded goodness, which we’ll be extending if it proves popular.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

Pelgrane Press has a new merchandise store, and soon you’ll be able to buy 13th Age merch there! Hurrah! To celebrate the store’s launch, we’re running a 13th Age t-shirt slogan competition:

  • Email your cleverest, funniest, and/or most badass 13th Age t-shirt slogan ideas to support@pelgranepress.com with the subject line “13th Age t-shirt competition”.
  • Only one entry per person: You can send us as many slogan ideas as you want, but they have to all be in one email.
  • Deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time (GMT -7) on July 21, 2019
  • Each slogan must be 50 characters or less (not counting spaces).
  • You can submit slogans related to the 13th Age RPG in general, any of the 13 icons in the core book, and the 13th Age Alliance organized play program. Slogans that could be used for any d20-rolling fantasy RPG, not just 13th Age, are much less likely to be chosen as winners. (For example, slogans about traditional character classes and races, classic mechanics such as rolling for initiative, non-living dungeons, the joys of looting treasure, etc.)
  • The actual t-shirt designs only have images and text on the front, but for this contest, you can feel free to send us front-and-back slogans.
  • All entries to this competition become the property of Pelgrane Press.
  • After the July 21st deadline, the judges will evaluate the entries and award prizes as follows:
    • GRAND PRIZE: A $20 credit at the Pelgrane Press merchandise store
    • SECOND PRIZE: A $10 credit at the Pelgrane Press merchandise store
    • THIRD PRIZE: A $5 credit at the Pelgrane Press merchandise store
  • Winners will be announced in the August See Page XX newsletter.

We look forward to seeing your ideas!

 


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 nominations for the 2019 ENnie Awards have been released, and we’re delighted to announce that Pelgrane Press has been nominated in four categories:

Beloved Pelgranistas Ken & Robin have also been nominated in the Best Podcast category, for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Congratulations to all the nominees! It really is a privilege to be recognised among such an outstanding – and this year in particular, wide variety – of games.

We’d be honoured if you would consider voting for us. Click on this link to vote for your favourites! Voting for the 2019 ENnies will be open until July 21st.

When I asked the 13th Age Facebook group what they’d like me to write about in this month’s column, the first response was, “Sword & Sorcery for 13th Age! Some ideas for tweaks, reductions and hacking.” My initial reaction was, “No freaking way can I turn a game specifically designed to emulate the heroic fantasy genre into a game that emulates the swords & sorcery genre without a LOT of work.” But my brain just wouldn’t let it go. How would I approach such a project if I limited myself purely to tweaks, reductions, and (minimal) hacking?

And so, that’s the topic of this month’s 13th Sage. These are some ideas on how I as a GM would approach such a campaign, based on my experience with the genre. Others might do it differently, and better.

Let’s go!

Wait, what’s swords & sorcery?

Not familiar with S&S? These design guidelines for Swords of the Serpentine do a good job of capturing the essence of the genre. The classic works of fiction you’ll want to refer to are the Conan and Kull stories by Robert E. Howard, the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber, and the Elric of Melnibone stories by Michael Moorcock.

Customize the Dragon Empire and its icons

Given the nature of the challenge, I think setting the campaign anywhere except the Dragon Empire is cheating. I went back to the Book of Ages for ideas on how to make it feel more like a setting for swords & sorcery adventures. Here are some versions of the Dragon Empire it inspired for me:

  • A single, powerful sorcerer-king reigns over a dark Empire composed of small kingdoms and a handful of city-states.
  • Long ago, a deathless sorcerer commanding an army of the living dead conquered half the Dragon Empire. Until they reach Champion tier, characters will go on adventures in the kingdoms of the living, outside of this realm. A lot of bad guys in this campaign would be necromancers, sorcerers seeking to live forever, death priests, and maybe a vampire or two.
  • Under a weak Emperor, the Seven Cities grow in power, splitting the Empire into seven squabbling city-states.
  • A highly cosmopolitan and powerful Dragon Empire opens maritime trade routes with other lands, and pirates band together to prey on this shipping—growing strong enough to challenge the Empire.

Speaking of which, one could create a decent array of swords & sorcery icons by picking and choosing icons from various ages in Book of Ages. I strongly suspect swords & sorcery doesn’t lend itself well to a setting populated by 13 demigodlike icons. I’d limit myself to seven, looking to the 7 Icon Campaign PDF for inspiration and ideas. I would also give them names instead of just titles.

If non-human sentient species are rare or non-existent in this campaign, you might reskin the non-human icons as humans that fill the same archetypal role. For example, the Orc Lord could become “Krahsh-Thukult, Warlord of the East” and the Elf Queen “Elidyr, Queen of Lost Lemuria”. A standard in swords & sorcery is that power, especially magical power, is innately dangerous and corrupting. As a result, only one or two icons might be heroic. Most will be ambiguous or villainous, and all of them are a hazard to adventurers’ health. (Just consider how much trouble allegedly friendly gods and wizards cause Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.)

There’s considerable cross-pollination between swords & sorcery and Weird Fiction, and two immensely talented designers have proposed a Dragon Empire where the icons are drawn from the writings of Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft. If you’re interested in taking 13th Age in a swords & sorcery direction, definitely read Kenneth Hite’s article “Call of Chicago: Re-skinning, Genre-Drifting, and Triskaidekasizing” and Ruth Kitchin Tillman’s Eldritch Icons project.

PCs are always, or almost always, humans

Demi-human player characters will probably be rare (or even non-existent), so I’d use the mechanic of human cultural traits found in 13th Age Glorantha to make human PCs more varied.

I might frame demi-humans as being from a certain land. For example, gnomes could be “the people of distant [NAME], who are small of stature and skilled at confounding their enemies in battle.” Elves might be reskinned to be the last remnant of an ancient, mighty civilization that sank beneath the waves, living in seclusion in small numbers and practically a myth now. (See also how Fritz Leiber handles the ghouls of Nehwon. They’re basically human, except for their invisible flesh.)

I’d like to say that there can only be one demi-human PC at most in a group, but I’m not sure how I’d enforce that without feeling like a jerk. So I might disallow them until we’ve been playing for a while, have a better feel for the setting, and want to try something different.

Eliminate or heavily restrict magic-using classes

The use of magic (“sorcery”) is rare in this setting. This is contrary to how most RPGs in the D&D family tree handle magic, so we should figure out an interesting reason for it. Whatever the reason, sorcery in such a campaign will be innately dangerous, unnatural, and corrupting. Here are a few reasons sorcery might be rare in a swords & sorcery 13th Age campaign, several of which could be combined:

  • Sorcery is forbidden by Imperial edict, for any number of very good reasons. (But also because it threatens Imperial power.)
  • Sorcery causes harm (physical, mental, and/or spiritual) to the sorcerer. See the bit about the price of magic below.
  • Sorcery somehow causes harm to the world in the sorcerer’s vicinity. Maybe it’s instantaneous, and one or more living things takes damage or sickens or becomes corrupted. Maybe it’s an effect over time, so that the area around a sorcerer’s lair gradually becomes a corrupted, diseased, underpopulated wasteland.
  • Sorcery is the creation of an ancient, malevolent, intelligent species and is thus taboo. Good candidates include evil dragons, rakshasas, serpent people
  • Sorcerous power comes from a mighty patron, who will require a terrible price. Dragon Empire icons in the 13th Age who would make good patrons include the Three, the Diabolist, a reskinned Elf Queen in villainous or ambiguous mode, and a reskinned Archmage in villainous or ambiguous mode. We might also include a revised, sinister, Prince of Shadows.

There are no clerics, paladins, or wizards. Rangers won’t cast spells, unless perhaps they have limited access to some kind of nature-themed sorcery (such as the ice magic known to the women in Fafhrd’s clan in The Snow Women.) Druids might work, but their magic would be, again, sinister and dangerous. See how Ken and Ruth handle druids and the deep woods in their articles linked above.

If there are any magic-using PC classes in this campaign, they’d probably be the necromancer from 13 True Ways, and the demonologist from  Book of Demons. These are deeply flawed and unpleasant people who are clearly meddling in things best left alone by mortals. It seems weird not to use a class literally named “sorcerer” in a swords & sorcery game, but the spells from that class honestly don’t feel like the type of magic I see in what’s commonly considered S&S fiction.

Magic: summoning, items, backgrounds, and rituals?

Sorcerers in this genre rarely cast what we think of as “spells” in fantasy RPGs. But summoning a giant serpent, or a fire elemental? Entirely appropriate. Summoning is central to the aforementioned demonologist and necromancer classes; but we could also say, “no magic-using classes, period” and make summoning available to any PC who’s willing to pay the price. You’ll want to use 13 True Ways, Book of Demons, Summoning Spells, and Sorcerer Summoning.

A lot of “sorcery” in this type of fiction relies on what we call “consumable magic items” in the game. I’d make potions, oils, and runes readily available to heroes who know where to find such things. Just…don’t ask who made them, or how.

Want to be able to close a door, blow out a candle, or perform some other normal, minor action using magic? Maybe spend points in a Background called something like “Minor magic” and make a skill roll using Int or Cha.

Want to create a fog that hides your fleet of warships? A storm that lashes your enemy’s forces? A fire that consumes a village? That sounds like ritual magic, something that takes time and costs you something significant. This might only be available to a magic-using class, or it could be available to any PC who has the right knowledge or resources (an ancient scroll, forbidden tome, enchanted amulet, etc.)

Set a terrible price for sorcery

I’ve been talking about prices and costs, so let’s address what that could look like. If it’s a mechanical cost, a PC might spend recoveries or take damage in order to perform minor sorcery—or maybe there’s a chance one of the other PC’s in the group will take the loss. Major workings might require the permanent loss of recoveries or hit points. We could instead impose a narrative cost. For example, the demon you petition for help will take something important from you sometime in the future. Maybe a PC doesn’t know what the price will be, only that it’s something unpleasant and cumulative. The GM could keep track of a PC’s use of sorcery, then at an opportune time, have something awful happen such as an attack hitting an ally  instead.

As mentioned earlier, this also lends itself to an externalized cost: using sorcery hurts other people, and the natural world. Perhaps sorcerers have the choice to either pay the cost themselves or have others pay it, and most of them prefer the second option. I recommend checking out the Corruption rules in Swords of the Serpentine for details on this approach. (That game includes a useful Effect of Corruption on Locations table.)

Another take on the cost of magic worth considering in an “all, or most, magic is summoning magic” approach is an increased likelihood that whatever they summon into the world will break free of their control and do something extremely bad. This could be handled mechanically by hacking the dismissal rules, or narratively by letting summoners know that the more they summon creatures, the more likely it becomes that I, the GM, will decide it’s time to pay the piper.

Make magic items dangerous

I’ve talked about consumable magic items, but what about true magic items, such as magical weapons, cloaks, amulets, and so on? My suggestion: they are all cursed. Every one of them. They’re quite powerful, more powerful than the non-cursed items presented in the books; but they will screw you over somehow. Just ask Elric. Cursed items are introduced to the game in 13 True Ways, and Loot Harder contains several (like the Wizard’s Skull) that would be fantastic for a swords & sorcery game.

I’d give  true magic items a major curse, and let the characters know about the curse along with the item’s powers. That way, they will have to make an interesting choice: take the item and become more powerful, but suffer the effects of the curse? Or reject cursed sorcery, and trust in steel and their wits?

Monsters: natural, unnatural, and aberrant

Who will out heroes fight? I’m thinking that they’ll most often be challenged by foes I’d categorize as “natural”, and less frequently by foes I’d call “unnatural”. Rarest of all are foes I’ll call “aberrant”. Here’s what that looks like:

Natural: “normal” creatures such as humans, apes, wolves, bears, and boars. Especially large and tough animals will usually fall into this category.

Unnatural: creatures such as degenerate beast-men, skeletons, zombies, ghouls, serpent people, and animals that are supernaturally large and deadly or strangely-behaved (see Leiber’s sword-wielding squid in “When the Sea-King’s Away”) due to sorcery or demonic influence. Also, most sorcerers, necromancers, evil priests, and frenzied cultists.

Aberrant: these will probably be the foes PCs face in the climactic battle of the adventure—the sorcerer, priest or necromancer whose power has made them inhuman; the tentacled horror in the forbidden ruins; the giant serpent in the temple’s inner sanctum; the mechanical warrior from a long-ago age. To ensure the element of surprise, I might use the 13th Age DIY rules to convert a lot of monsters from Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos into unnatural or aberrant foes.

For me, the battles in a typical swords & sorcery 13th Age adventure would probably progress in this order: the heroes fight natural foes first, then progress to unnatural foes, and finally face off against aberrant enemies.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head! I’m sure this column will lead to a lot of discussion in the various 13th Age groups, forums, and subreddits, and I look forward to seeing your ideas.


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.

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It’s convention season again, and we’re dashing around from place to place, delighted to catch up with customers and colleagues in such far-flung destinations as Birmingham, UK and Columbus, OH. If you can’t make it to your local convention, you can pick up our latest releases as they happen here on See Page XX, with the luxuriously tentacled Cthulhu City Limited Edition now available. Getting closer to print now are the pre-orders for the long-awaited 13th Age sandbox campaign Shards of the Broken Sky, and the simultaneously gritty and super-powered police procedural Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition, as well as the pre-orders for the four-panel Director’s Screen and Resource Guideand the solitary Night’s Black Agents: Solo Ops

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NEW! Cthulhu City limited edition

I spent a lot of time with Cthulhu City, and it’s still one of my favourite Trail of Cthulhu settings. Packed full of easter eggs for Lovecraft fans, with a depth of focus on the Lovecraft Country settings, Cthulhu City is a clever inversion of the usual mythos setting. Instead of being the ones with the moral right, and able to depend on support from the police and authorities with their adventuring, PCs trapped in these eldritch streets are underground agitators, resisting against the servitors of the Great Old Ones who entirely control the governmental, economic, and religious spheres.

This month sees the release of the faux-leatherbound limited edition, with Jen McCleary (The Fall of DELTA GREEN)‘s fantastic tentacled-wrapped cover, and a Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan signed bookplate, along with the same, sullen-eyed basalt cyclopean buildings raised by no human hands that riddled the standard edition.

Work in progress update: Shards of the Broken Sky

Jen McCleary has finished the layout of Shards of the Broken Sky, and Rob’s gone through it and added all the “see page XX” references, which are usually one of the last things to be done to a book. We’re doing one final review of the print files, and hoping to send it to the printers by the end of next week.

Work in progress update: Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

Mike, the new layout artist we’re working with, has sent through a first draft of the layout, which is a very rough sense of how the final book is going to look. It needs some revisions, so there’ll be a bit of back and forth over the next few weeks as we take it to a print-ready final file.

Other issues update: Free RPG Day

You may have noticed that Pelgrane is now longer on the Free RPG Day page. Sadly, this is because our regular US printer, Thomson-Shore, has gone into liquidation, and their assets have been bought out by another company, and as a result of the internal upheaval, they failed to ship our Free RPG Day books in time for the mass shipment, so we won’t be taking part in Free RPG Day 2019.

We’ve been big supporters of Free RPG Day for a few years, so it’s very disappointing to miss it. We’ve now received the print Free RPG Day books – three weeks too late – so if you have any suggestions for what we could do instead, let us know in the comments!

Team update: we’re hiring!

Mika Talley, who’s been running our Zendesk customer support system, as well as keeping our social media bubbling, left us at the end of last month, so wishing her the best in her new endeavours, we’re now looking for a new Administrative Assistant. As well as managing our customer relationships, our Admin Assistant will also administer our inventory and help with print buying. The full details are here. We appreciate your patience and forgiveness if our support queues run slower than we’d like during the recruitment process.

Convention update: UK Games Expo

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and I are just back from UK Games Expo, which must be the UK’s largest games convention now by a long shot. We had a great time! It’s considerably bigger than I remember it being – the last time I was there, in 2015, the whole convention took place in the Hilton, unlike the three halls it now occupies. We’re glad to see the convention has changed their mind about the necessity of an anti-harassment policy, and their very quick action, response, and apology to the players involved in an incident on Friday speaks volumes for their dedication to creating a safer space for attendees.

It was great to be able to showcase the mighty tome that is Hideous Creatures to people in person, and also to finally have the print books of The Persephone Extraction. I also brought along the proof copy of the Night’s Black Agents Director’s Screen to show pre-orderers. As well as being able to hang out with some of our core customers (thanks Andrew and Matthew!), I got to catch up with esteemed Pelgranistas Steve and Paula Dempsey, as well as Paul and Helen of Cthulhu, who kindly recorded Gareth and I on the Pelgrane booth, chatting about Cthulhu City and Hideous Creatures – you can watch the video here.

Pelgranes in the Wild!! part 2 – Origins Game Fair

And we’re off again, this time to the culinary delights of Columbus, Ohio for the Origins Game Fair. I’ll be on the Pelgrane booth for the weekend; Kenneth Hite and Will Hindmarch will also be in at the show. If you’re going (June 12th – 16th, 2019 in the Greater Columbus Convention Center), swing by the booth we’re sharing with our good buddies Indie Press Revolutions, Bully Pulpit, and Evil Hat (booth #931) and say hello!

Playtesting: The Borellus Connection, revised

We’ve had a number of dropouts for playtesting for the eight adventures in The Fall of DELTA GREEN adventure collection, The Borellus Connection, so we’re putting them back up for playtesting again this month. As a reminder, these adventures can serve as part of a connected campaign, or as stand-alone operations the Handler can drop into the course of an ongoing investigation. So if you’re interested, drop us an email.

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