The following articles originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in September 2008.

Robin D Laws discusses the nature of believability in RPGs, and we present not one, but three interviews from Luke Crane. This month also sees the launch of a flurry of new products, including a Keeper’s Screen, and James Semple’s first Pelgrane release – music for Trail of Cthulhu. The sleeve notes are here for your edification. Finally, Jason Durrall has provided a summary of character creation guidelines for Trail of Cthulhu. Perhaps this is gilding the lily, but who I am to begrudge our customers golden petals?


The following articles originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in June 2008.

In this issue Robin D Laws discusses the use of genre conceits in Mutant City Blues, we have more music from James Semple, and a second interview by Luke Crane. This issue sees the return of Mystic Moo – learn how to get your fondest wishes, with cosmic ordering. I was very pleased with the results of the last poll – our readership is higher than I expected – so I’ve included another one, with a peculiar question. Your feedback really helps.

The following articles originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in April 2008. 

This month we step beyond the limitations of the pixel and into the glorious world of sound. James Semple introduces us to the new theme for Esoterrorists, Luke Crane shares air with Vincent Baker, and Paul MacClean advises us on how to record our gaming sessions. Juila Ellingboe discusses how her game Steal Away Jordan, and points us at recorded actual play. Mystic Moo will appear shortly with her Moocast. Please answer our poll. I know lots of people read our webzine, but I don’t get much feedback. Your response will help me improve content.


The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in October 2007. 

Interview conducted by Simon Rogers

Brennan Taylor is the co-founder of Indie Press Revolution (an online rpg retailer) and creator of such games as Mortal Coil and Bulldogs! I was so impressed with IPR’s business model, and the quality of games they offer that I became a shareholder in IPR. Pretty soon Pelgrane Press’s games will be available through IPR, too. I’m also a big fan of one of the games Brennan created, Mortal Coil. The rules allow participants as a group to come up with amazing, rich settings in a way that is unmatched by any other game I’ve played.

I started by asking a few questions about IPR, and then I moved on to Brennan’s games.

Why did you and Ed Cha set up IPR?

Both Ed and I were small publishers, and we were having trouble earning enough through the existing distribution system. We looked around for the service we wanted and found that no one was doing it. That’s when we decided it would be a good idea to set it up ourselves.

What criteria do you use to select games for IPR? Do you a certain type of Forge-influenced game is given preference? Do they have to be creator-owned?

I look for games that have strong writing and good design. This can run the gamut, I don’t prefer Forge-influenced games per se. I am impressed by a lot of the games that came out of the Forge, and that probably has an influence on my taste, but I give all games the benefit of the doubt.

The games don’t have to be creator-owned, I’m not as strict as some about that criterion. I do want to see a strong influence from the game designer, and I generally am not interested in games designed by marketing teams or committees. I want to see some personality, some innovation, and a love of the hobby in the game. I do know that some authors simply aren’t interested in printing and marketing their own stuff, and I am open to companies that do that for game designers.

Do you include games which are well received, but that aren’t personally to your taste?

If a game has gotten a lot of positive buzz, it does affect my review.

I may not be interested in playing a particular game, but if it is clearly a quality, well-written product, I will ask the publisher to join IPR.

Why don’t you stock more d20 games?

There are a couple of reasons. First, not many d20 publishers have contacted me over the years, and more than half of the publishers on IPR reached out to me initially. Because we don’t have a lot of d20, what we do have doesn’t sell as well on IPR as many of the non-d20 games, so d20 publishers don’t have as much incentive to join as many other publishers do. I myself have a d20 product, Bulldogs!, which was one of the first games on IPR, and we also carry Blue Devil Games and Bad Axe Games titles, both d20 publishers. I’d be happy to carry more if there were publishers out there interested in having their games up on IPR.

IPR is expanding into the retail market. Does this mean you think selling rpgs through retail has a future?

Absolutely. I don’t think a retailer can sustain itself solely on RPGs, but retailers can definitely create a strong portion of their sales by selling them. It’s a challenge for a retailer, but creating an environment welcoming to play in their area will build sales for their store. RPGs won’t sell themselves, it takes a bit of work, but retailers who put the effort in will see results. Retail stores are still a big part of how the hobby expands, and are essential to keeping it alive.

What are your plans for the future of IPR?

I plan to continue to grow the business. It has already become so large that I was no longer able to do all of the work myself. Fred Hicks from Evil Hat has been a big supporter, and is actually working for IPR now in customer service and web development. IPR is providing a service that is obviously valuable to small publishers, so I want to expand our ability to deliver what these publishers need: a way to sell directly to customers, and a way onto the shelves of retailers that is still profitable.

What new products and publishers are coming up at IPR?

We just signed on Mob United Media, publishers of Aeternal Legends, a modern fantasy game. Gamewick is also coming aboard with WEGS 101, a tongue-in-cheek dungeon crawl game that looks like lots of fun.

How do you think 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons will affect IPR, if at all?

I don’t see a big impact on IPR. We have a few publishers who use the d20 OGL, but most of our publishers are using their own systems for games. The impact on the whole hobby is going to be less than 3.0, I think, because the smaller publishers putting out support books for D&D are a lot fewer in number these days.

What games most influenced your own game design?

Vincent Baker is a big inspiration to me. Dogs in the Vineyard is probably the most influential game I have read, and it is still a big influence on my design. Matt Snyder of Chimera Creations is another influence, with his game Dust Devils. These games really expanded my horizons as far as what a role-playing game can do.

Are you ever going to do a second edition of Mortal Coil, or publish a supplement?

I probably won’t ever produce a supplement for Mortal Coil, because the world-building component is such a big part of the game and that is something each group needs to do for themselves. I will probably put out a second edition, but I am not going to revise the basic rules.

I’ve received feedback that the game is a bit unclear as presented for for some people, and I want to expand the examples of play and explain a few concepts better. That probably won’t happen for a while, though, because I have several other projects in the works at the moment and no time to do revisions.

What are you playing at the moment?

I’m playing Primetime Adventures on Fridays. We just started a series based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, centered around the Kingdom of Dale by the Lonely Mountain. I’ve also been playing Spirit of the Century with another group on Saturdays, but we are switching next week to Bulldogs! for a while in that group.

What advice would you give to budding games designers about getting their game to market?

There are a lot of resources available to game designers online now.

Take some time to look around and do some research, and the whole process will be much easier. There’s a lot of wisdom easily available from the internet community, and it will pay to look into it before finishing your design. There’s no reason for anyone to design and publish in a vacuum any more. Sites such as the Forge or Story Games have a lot of helpful advice, and we talked extensively about self publishing on The Voice of the Revolution podcast. Also, organizations like the Game Publishers Association can be very helpful for people starting out.

Tell me about your latest project.

I’m working on a new game called How We Came to Live Here, which is an adventure role-playing game based on the American Southwest. Players will take the roles of heroes of the People, who have recently emerged in the Fifth World from a hole in the ground. They find themselves in a land populated by monsters, and must carve out a place for humans to live.

The game explores the conflict between tradition and innovation, and community versus the individual. I am doing some final playtesting myself, and should have a version posted online for outside playtesting sometime this fall.

Related Links

The following article originally appeared on in May 2006.

Game Designers’ Favorite Games

Every games designer has an inner games geek (sometimes not so inner) who spent hours playing the RPGs you know and love. We’ve all played D&D, GURPs and other big names, but what about the slightly obscure? Perhaps they are games you’ve heard mentioned, or seen online, but maybe you’ve never got around to trying them. The Pelgrane asked games designers, “What’s your favourite lesser-known game, and why do you like it?” and we got some surprising answers, and a year’s supply of potential gaming sessions to plan. How did I persuade them? Well, games designers and not noted for their agility, and none are prepared for a lightning aerial swoop. Most of the designers mentioned how hard it was to choose a game, but I dangled them above a squawking nest of pelgrane chicks, and they rapidly complied. I ripped out various soul-searching quotes, as seen below.

This is a long article, and I’d like to give the attention- (and time-) challenged the opportunity to jump to their favourite designers first.

Ron Edwards
Andy Peregrine, Pie Shop
Mike Williams, Earthdawn, President of Living Room Games
Matt Forbeck, freelance game designer and novelist.
Chris Helton, Battlefield Press
Aaron Rosenberg

We’ll start with Ron Edwards (Sorceror), who unasked my question with a Zen-like MU. Here was I expecting (and hoping) he’d list a bunch of his favourite indie games over at the Forge, but instead he thoughtfully undermined my assumptions. When he wouldn’t answer directly, I listed a bunch of Indies games I thought he’d have mention. Ron said:

“…Yeah but, see, to me, those aren’t ‘lesser known.’ I see them as well-known, well-played, highly-discussed, influential games. In order to answer your question the way you hoped, I have to pretend I’m someone I’m not, then look over at where I really am and say I like those games ‘over there’.”

“I’m really not trying to be argumentative. I simply cannot see answering the question from an “industry” point of view. Maybe if I just say, ‘Sorcerer, Primetime Adventures, Inspectres, The Mountain Witch, Dogs in the Vineyard, [quoting me back]’ and let the reader say ‘oh, those are little-known’… would that do? If so, those are my answers.”

At the very least, this will make me more thoughtful when wording my next question!

Naughty Andy Peregrine, creator of Pie Shop,couldn’t make his mind up and gave me four RPGs Amber, Nobilis, Maelstrom, and James Bond. Rather than choose between them (which puppy not to kill?) I’ve left them all here. After all, bytes are cheap.

“While just about every game tries to tell you it is ‘a totally new rpg experience’ Amber (1991 – Phage Press) actually is. It does itself an injustice by calling itself diceless, as it doesn’t just remove dice but uses a rules system that relies purely on storytelling. In one sense this is what all rpgs should aspire to be, although the system is hard to apply to just anything. With Amber characters being ‘lesser Gods’ they can get away with more than your average pc. This game is hard to get used to as you must ‘unlearn’ many rpg habits, but the experience is more than worth it.”

“Maelstrom (1984 – Puffin books) is the cheapest RPG ever written [hmm – this excludes a number of free games, and a number that can’t be given away]. Alexander Scott gave us a detailed 16th century historical rpg, with a magic system well ahead of its time for just £1.95! Everything about this game is simple and very clever. For instance, you note your wounds separately, and they heal separately, one point a day. So if you take 8/8 damage for a total of 16, and someone else takes 2/2/2/2/4/4 for the same damage the second guy is up in 2 days with 2/2 wounds and the first is still in bed nursing 6/6. Simple and brilliant. The magic system is basically the same as Mage, but written 9 nine years beforehand. On top of all that you get some excellent detail on the 16th Century as well as a solo adventure and an introductory adventure. Most companies have trouble getting that much into two rulebooks these days.”

“James Bond 007 (1983 – Victory Games) is of the earliest licensed products, and such a big license too. The system captured the flavour of Bond very well but sadly the license didn’t allow the company to use Blofeld and SPECTRE. The system is simple and inventive. You have a skill chance from 1-20 and it is multiplied by the difficulty (10 being easy and 1 being hard) to give a percentage chance for success. As long as you know your times tables this is a doddle (and it is printed on the character sheet just in case you don’t). The adventure supplements were based on all the movies. However they cleverly changed the details so you got into all the same situations Bond did, but if you assume you know the plan because you’ve seen the movie you will go way off track.”

“By the same token Nobilis [1999 (Pharos Press) 2002 (Hogshead)] is one of my favourites, everything I love about Amber with a stunning world background as well. It is sadly the most under-supplemented game available. One supplement promised in the original edition is still yet to appear. However, if you are looking for a work of art as well as a game, Nobilis is for you.”

Andrew Kenrick also enthuses about Nobilis –

“…for sheer blows-out-your-mind concept and execution, this is one of the finest books ever written, let along rpgs.”

“Playing Nobilis is such a unique experience in almost every way. You play a god who can do damned near anything, which rather widens the options available to the player, and means that the challenges you face are on a whole different level. No other game I’ve ever played in has involved such fantastical and epic foes, or challenged me so much. Oh, plus it’s completely diceless, and with good reason, which takes a certain amount of the frustration of failing to accomplish something out of the game.”

Diceless mechanics confuse pelgranes, who likes shiny things such as gem dice, so I lowered him nearer the chicks, asking “is it GM fiat – and the social contract with the players – which resolves conflict or is there an explicit mechanic which overrides the GM?” He expounded: “Each of the PCs has certain attribute scores, and depending on these determines what they can do and how many miracle points a miracle costs. A PC will automatically succeed at anything they try to do (they are gods, after all) unless another entity tries to stop them, in which case there are conflict mechanics for resolving this.”

Andrew mentioned two more games:
“Unknown Armies – following closely behind Nobilis, UA has the best magic system ever devised and hardwires so much coolness into one small book that it’s impossible to not have a good time when playing it.”

“Delta Green – technically a supplement, but DG packs in so much and changes the dynamic and style of Call of Cthulhu to such a degree that it really is an rpg in its own right. Another damned well written game.”

Staying with the British contingent, Marcus Rowland also suggested Unknown Armies, and added Ghostbusters: “Wonderfully simple rules that really worked well and designed with real humour by Chaosium and good production values from West End Games. Then WEG rewrote it for 2nd edition, dumped a lot of the stuff that made it a fun game, and it sucked.” Finally he offered Space 1889 – not a glowing endorsement, but still. “Wonderful background, shame the actual rules are a little clunky. Still in print from Heliograph Inc.”

Kate Flack was short and to the point with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles , Kult “for creature concepts,” In Nomine “for those great archetype descriptions: If <insert character class> was confronted with a drinks machine, it would…” and HOL “got to love the anguish factor, and the mad scratchy writing.”

Mike Williams gave me Teenagers from Outer Space, one of the few about which I know nothing.
“There are lots of lesser known games that I’m fond of for one mechanic or another, but if I had to pick a favorite I’ve got to go with Teenagers From Outer Space. Nothing is better after a bunch of “serious gaming” than unwinding than playing a teenager in a setting influenced by comedy anime turned up to eleven. It’s high school – you’ve all been there, and they’re all pretty much alike. But the alien kids have landed. A typical group of characters might include an average earth kid, a space princess, the football team’s new linebacker that turns into something that looks like godzilla’s big brother, a whatsit that’s easily confused for the stuff the cafeteria ladies claim is tapioca, a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater, and the obligatory cosmic catgirl. The game’s exhausting, and more often than not a game session has tickled my funny bone enough that I’ve laughed so hard it hurts. Yeah, the game’s getting close to twenty years old now, but it’s hard to find a more fun time at the game table.”

Matt Forbeck plugs White Wolf’s Adventure! Whilst WW is responsible for a number of mainstream games, Adventure! is sadly not as well known. He says: “I’m a sucker for pulps of any kind, and the mechanic that allows players to back up and rewrite a scene is brilliant.”

Chris Helton (Battlefield Press developer of the Open Core System) nominates Lords of Creation from Avalon Hill.

“Despite some wonkiness that can really only be found in the best of old school games, it was really the first multi-genre game that I imprinted upon. And its special place wasn’t usurped until GURPS came along a couple of years later.”

“… [I]t promoted that wild and wooly style of wahoo gaming of by-gone days. I loved the fact that it not only had NPC stats for Billy the Kid and Morgan Le Fay but it also had illustrations featuring all the “historical” NPCs interacting. It was a fun gaming experience.”

Utterly without shame, Aaron Rosenberg discusses his own baby: Asylum.

“…first game I produced myself, Clockworks’ first product, and still one of the most fun to play. I’ve played in it and run it many times, including at cons, and it’s always a hoot. Despite being written with allowances for both serious and silly play, it always winds up being very silly and very funny.”

For form’s sake, he also adds the SAGA version of Wizard of the Coast’s Marvel RPG.

“The book itself is a bit of a mess–no real character creation, no explanation of things like initiative–but the powers and the card-based game mechanic (and the deck itself) make up for it.”

Steve Kenson (Talon Studio) is also a fan of SAGA, a sadly unrated system. He also contributed to it.

“[SAGA is] a lot of fun to play and to run. SAGA first showed up as the rules-light story-driven engine for the Dragonlance: Fifth Age game from TSR. Later, after Wizards acquired TSR, a streamlined and updated version of SAGA became the engine for the Marvel Super-Heroes Adventure Game, still one of the best superhero RPGs ever, in my opinion.”

“I was such a fan of SAGA at the time-writing SAGA articles for Dragon and Wizards’ website-that my group got to playtest the Marvel game and we had a blast! It was fast-paced, easy, fun, and the card-play offered some cool mechanics, like damage forcing “discards,” reducing the size of your hand and neatly reflecting “damage penalties” without any additional mechanics. I even wrote a couple things for Marvel, namely the “Avengers: Masters of Evil” Adventure Book and some stuff for “Reed Richards’ Guide to Everything”.”

“Unfortunately, the card-play element turned many people off, particularly when they associated “cards” with Wizards’ “Magic: the Gathering” (which was, after all, annoying many old-time RPGers).”

“Sales were modest, especially by Wizards’ standards. Once D&D 3e got rolling, it was all d20, all the time, and SAGA was no more: the Marvel and Dragonlance games were canceled, with Dragonlance eventually updating to the d20-based D&D rules. Still, I had a lot of fun with the game while it lasted!”

Eddy Webb of Spectrum Games suggested another game I have a soft spot for – Over the Edge (Atlas Games).

“I picked the game up on a lark in 1994, and the lovely blend of surreal conspiracy and modern occult weirdness has been a fond part of my gaming memories for over a decade. I still have a number of the supplements for the line, and hope to one day get another group together to play it again.”

Keith Baker (Eberron, Dying Earth) has no doubt that Over the Edge is his favourite, too.

“I’m just starting up a new campaign myself, after a two or three year dry spell… and despite the fact that I make my living writing for D&D.”

“The relatively simple rules and (more or less) modern setting make it an easy game to spring on non-gamers. The setting allows for a wealth of story opportunities and styles of play, and I find that the rules help focus attention on roleplaying instead of number-crunching… in particular, Robin Laws’ Cut-Ups Method is my favorite all-time game mechanic. “

Elizabeth McCoy, In Nomine Line Editor suggests – In Nomine.

“I like the characterization most — the way that the game can be done silly, straight, gray, black-and-white, bright or dark… As a GM, I really, really adore the Intervention mechanic. It’s not just a critical failure or success, it’s an actual Divine or Infernal Intervention and just about anything can happen so long as it connects reasonably.”

“I’m a sucker for redemption stories, too. And playing the cute little proto-angel reliever NPCs is also fun. Death by cute!” To atone for the self-aggrandizing nature of her choice she says “I’m especially happy about the entirely free “lite” adventure, with all the rules needed to play.”

Caias Ward (Uncommon Character) suggested Run Out The Guns.

“Forget 7th Sea. This was the Pirate Game of all Pirate Games. It encouraged large groups of players (one convention session had 14 players around the table). You got to use the Rolemaster savage critical hit tables. No noble causes for you; you spent entire sessions stealing the sword and pants of the Governor of Puerto Rico after you drugged him on ether at a state party, seizing spanish ships and ransoming their crews, and trying to cure your dose of the clap you got due to the Vice table (well, that was one session).”

“Yes, the vice table. Every time you hit port, you had to roll to see if something bad happened while drinking, gambling, or carousing. That in and of itself meant you often didn’t need a story; just getting out of your latest problem with the law or outraged husband or father was enough to motivate the crew.”

“Although mathematically complex at time and requiring charts, it also was a true example of the Golden Age of Piracy and much fun to play.”

Fond though the Pelgrane is of viscera, Larry D. Hols’ first choice might offer a little too much information for some. Ouch!

“Sword’s Path: Glory by Leading Edge Games. SP:G breaks combat down into increments of 12ths of a second, details exactly which organs or bones get struck, and so forth. LEG used a watered-down version of the SP:G rules in its Phoenix Command line and other games.”

“Powers & Perils_ by Avalon Hill. A very raw game from a design point of view–some really interesting bits surrounded by a lot of ill-conceived and/or -developed dross. The separation of experience and expertise is likely the most interesting aspect.”

“I found the detail in the character definition to be most enjoyable in P&P. There are ten characteristics and generating them involves both random luck and player choice. The background event tables allow for a whole host of good or bad things to have happened to the character before play–from special teachers to special items to crimes accused of to special abilities. The player can choose to have more experience or more expertise or more wealth for the starting character. The game explicitly supports a great deal of variety.”

I lowered Ed Stark (Game Designer and Special Projects Manager, RPG R&D WotC) particularly close to the my offspring’s snapping maws, and that had a salutary effect. He couldn’t stop talking – he suggested seven games, modestly suggesting only three that he worked on himself.

“I worked on TORG, MasterBook, and Shatterzone for West End Games. They all used the same basic system, and I liked them a lot. They certainly had balance issues, but they were just darn fun to play. Very pulp-action oriented, very fun.”

“I also enjoyed WEG’s Ghostbusters game. It had a “brownie points” mechanic and a general whacky fun.”

“Outside of WEG, there was a game called Psychosis I enjoyed playing … once. It had a tarot-card mechanic that was very interesting, but the game was incredibly structured. It would be nearly impossible for a GM to create his or her own adventure; the story-based system was too complex.”

“I don’t know if it’s obscure or not (maybe to our new audience), but I loved playing Rolemaster, particularly in its simpler form: MERP (Middle-earth Roleplaying). I liked the attack roll system and its wild critical hits. The magic system was also interesting, and allowed you to play a character in Middle-earth who could “cast spells” but didn’t feel like he was totally breaking from the Tolkien-style world (not a fantasy world rife with high-powered spellcasters).”

The polymathic Alex Stewart (Warhammer, etc), offers Forgotten Futures.

“[It’s] been far and away the most popular game with my regular group ever since I introduced it to them, and it’s become my system of choice for running pretty much everything regardless of genre or setting. Quick simple mechanisms, easily tweakable if necessary, and more GM resources than you can shake the proverbial stick at.”

“I’m also hugely enthused by 2nd edition WFRP at the moment; the design team have done a brilliant job of streamlining the mechanisms to make it far more playable, while keeping the feel of the original and bringing the background into line with the current Warhammer continuity. From the GM’s point of view it’s felt like trading in a Cortina for a Porsche.”

“And I’d have to put in a vote for Classic Traveller: I cut my gaming teeth on it a couple of decades ago, and still find it fun.”

Finally, I was very pleased to get a thoughtful response from Paul Czege of Half Meme Press. The Pelgrane has played a number of versions of his estimable My Life with Master, including My Life with Santa, My Life with Jesus, and My Life with Tony. And what’s best – this game is free.

“My favorite lesser-known game is James V. West’s The Pool. Playing it in 2001 changed the way I think about roleplaying games. It remains my absolute favorite system for unplanned roleplaying, and always a contender when I get caught up with setting ideas and need a system. In so many ways it just suits me as a GM. NPCs have no stats, so I can improvise them at will. And I never have to set target numbers, because adversity is instead modulated by how many bonus dice I give the player. Every game I’ve designed since The Pool betrays its influence.”

So, go out and try these games! Some are just a mouse click away, others you’ve bought and are rotting in cupboards or on shelves, still more lurk on Ebay. Seek them out. SAGA, In Nomine, Ghostbusters, and Over the Edge get special mention for being nominated multiple times. It would be an interesting exercise (one for the student) to see how this list differs from a similar one compiled from the preferences of the average punter.

The following article for the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on in December 2005.

At last – a new Dying Earth release – All’s Fair in Azenomei! It’s available as a downloadable PDF exclusively from Pelgrane. This professionally produced scenario gives your PCs the chance to explore Azenomei in depth, enjoy all the fun of the fair, and take part in a series of contests on behalf of a local sponsor of dubious repute. The PCs will have to use their full repertoire of chicaneries and wiles to triumph over the predicaments in which they find themselves.

While we wait for a full review of the Book of Unremitting Horror, I recommend you pop over to the Ogre’s Cave to see their Christmas recommendations .

This month, we’ve finally sorted out what is going in XPS 7/8 (ed: now collected as the Excellent Prismatic Spray) and what is going in the Compendium of Universal Knowledge – our next major release. A sample entry can be seen here.

The Compendium is a gazetteer, a bestiary and an encyclopedia of the Dying Earth. It includes entries by almost all our writers, and is being compiled and edited with additional material by David Thomas. At the moment, I am tending towards a thick hardback volume with color plates, probably a limited edition, with a paperback version later.

The Rhialto supplement is being edited by John Kahane, but Robin will be adding a new chapter on Sandestins and offering some simplified rules in Mid-February.

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The following press release for the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on around 2004.

Stories of the Earth’s demise are premature.

Press Release
Pelgrane Press

LONDON, ENGLAND – Dying Earth RPG released.

After two years of development, design and playtesting, Pelgrane Press has released its role playing game based on novelist Jack Vance´s seminal Dying Earth series. Written by Robin D. Laws (Feng Shui, Hero Wars) John Snead (Nephilim, Star Trek) and genre writer Peter Freeman, the game features robust, fast-playing rules that encourage creativity and interaction.

Simon Rogers, Managing Director of Pelgrane Press said “The Dying Earth RPG has exceeded all our expectations. Jack Vance and Robin D Laws are a killer combination – great rules and a superb and atmospheric background. The artwork and layout are of the highest quality, and the book itself is glossy and attractive. We intend to support this game with new releases throughout the year and beyond.”

In the game you enter a world where the sun is in its dotage, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words, and a fine sense of fashion. Choose from three levels of play, a lowly rogue such as Cugel the Clever, surviving by wits and cunning, an ambitious and deadly mage searching for lost lore, like Turjan of Miir or finally a supreme magician to rank with Rhialto the Marvellous, commanding the omnipotent but quarrelsome Sandestins. The Dying Earth is available through good RPG stores and on line at Pelgrane Press.


Jack Vance is the world’s greatest living Fantasy author. Jack Vance wrote the DYING EARTH series of books over many years; the original volume “The Dying Earth” was released before Lord of the Rings. Other volumes include “Eyes of the Overworld”, “Cugel’s Saga” and “Rhialto the Marvellous.” He is said to be “tolerant” of the idea of a roleplaying game based on his work.

Principal designer Robin D.Laws has inveigled such game publishers as Wizards of the Coast, Last Unicorn, Pinnacle, FASA, and Steve Jackson Games into compensating him for his efforts. His works include the roleplaying games Feng Shui (Atlas), Glorantha: Hero Wars (Issaries, Inc.), and Pantheon (Hogshead), and the novels Pierced Heart and The Rough and the Smooth (Atlas).

Magic rules designer John Snead has, to his astonishment, designed no fewer than six magic systems for roleplaying games. He has also written for the Trinity, Aberrant, and Star Trek: The Next Generation RPGs.

An established genre author, contributed the illustrative “Daybook of Geomalacus,” “Journal of Xolon the Hide Merchant,” and “Disavowal of Jhail” sidebar texts. He holds a degree in Ecological Genetics, which offers an interesting perspective on the creatures of the Dying Earth.

Pelgrane Press Ltd
18-20 Bromell’s Road

Pelgrane Press acquire the rights to publish an RPG based on the Dying Earth Books By Jack Vance.

LONDON, ENGLAND: Pelgrane Press Ltd, a UK-based company is pleased to announce that it has acquired the rights to produce games based on Jack Vance’s seminal Dying Earth novels.

Pelgrane Press is jointly owned by ProFantasy Software Ltd, which produces the renowned Campaign Cartographer map-making software, Simon Rogers, co-founder of ProFantasy Software and Sasha Bilton, a long-time Vance fan, role-player and top Java programmer.

“We are very excited by this property,” says Simon Rogers. “We intend to do justice to the license. In a world of genre fiction, vanilla fantasy, Vance’s voice is unique. We are brimming with idea to bring Vance’s world to life. In the game, your choice of menu will say more about your character than whether you know the business end of a Bohemian ear-spoon.”

Sasha Bilton said, “The Dying Earth has been such an inspiration to fantasy roleplaying games designers and now, finally, we’ll get to play at the source. The chance to work with the highly professional team who run ProFantasy Software Limited is the icing on the cake. ProFantasy has the distribution channels, industry knowledge and business savvy that will set Pelgrane Press apart from most game company start-ups. I can’t wait to get playtesting.”

Vance’s style is humorous and vivid, yet melancholic. His characters, petty or powerful, are well drawn and credible. They have weaknesses and vices combined with a redeeming humanity. Vance’s creations range from Cugel the Clever (an incorrigible rogue whose fortunes fluctuate with his pride) to Rhialto the Marvellous (a dashing, vain mage who commands elemental spirits called sandestins). In between are less talented wizards, doomed brigands, vat-grown beauties and wandering innocents. All overestimate their abilities and the stories delight in describing their misadventures.

Pelgrane Press will begin work on its roleplaying game in January. Submission guidelines will be available soon.


Jack Vance is the world’s greatest living Fantasy author. He wrote the DYING EARTH series of books over many years; the original volume “The Dying Earth” was released before Lord of the Rings. Other volumes include “Eyes of the Overworld”, “Cugel’s Saga and Rhialto the Marvellous.” He is said to be “tolerant” of the idea of a roleplaying game based on his work.

PROFANTASY SOFTWARE LTD was formed in 1993 and publishes critically acclaimed PC software for gamers including Campaign Cartographer, Dungeon Designer and the Forgotten Realms Interactive Atlas for Wizards of the Coast.

SASHA BILTON is the Managing Director of Ends of Invention and is one of the few expert Java programmers in the UK.

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Our best intentions lay in ruins as we scramble, once again, to get all the books out for GenCon Indy. But our pain is your unalloyed pleasure, as we provide you with a slew of preorders and new releases for 13th Age, Trail and others. In addition, we have been nominated for a host of ENnie awards. Hideous Creatures: Serpent Folk is out now, and KWAS subscribers get Xeno-Archeology.

ENnie Awards

The ENnie Awards are an annual celebration of RPGs. Pelgrane has been nominated for a record 15 in all – and we would really appreciate you considering us in your rankings. Eternal Lies, 13th Age, Hillfolk Pelgrane Press, music  and Owl Hoot Trail have all been nominated – a full list is here, along with a sampler.

The voting booth is here.  You can rank as many or as few products as you like. Search for “Pelgrane” on the voting page to find all the noms.

ENnie awards mean so much more to publishers and creators than they do to customers. The recognition by carefully selected judges in the form of nominations against such a strong field is gratifying, and there are few greater pleasures than seeing shiney-faced writers and artists clutching their well deserved awards in their clammy hands. However, the journey from critical recogntion is tough, because it is a popularity contest, and this year the competition is partcularly strong – the armies of FATE and Numenara compete with Hillfolk and 13th Age, for example. We are honoured to be in their company.


Skip this if you aren’t going to GenCon.

This will be our biggest GenCon ever in terms of events, with more than 80 games booked in and more to follow, a big 13th Age announcement, seminars and at least nine new releases. Gareth Hanrahan and Steve Dempsey have written convention adventures and we’ll have a constellation of guests including Robin D Laws, Ken Hite, Gareth Hanrahan and Rob Heinsoo.

We are emailing all Shadows and Book of Loot pre-orderers to offer GenCon collection.

Scheduled Games and Games on Demand

You can see a list of scheduled games and seminars at GenCon here. New ones are being added all the time, but they fill up quickly.

If you are a GM it would be great if you could sign up for Games on Demand – a fantastic and growing initiative which allows people to sample a wide variety of RPGs for the first time. If you want to run Pelgrane games, then you can contact us to get convention scenarios for GUMSHOE, or ASH LAW for 13th Age games. Games on Demand encourage diversity (both in games and people), so it’s best if you are able to run a variety of games – if you only submit one game system you are liable to be rejected. If you are accepted, please let us know.

13th Age

Printer willing, 13 True Ways will be shipping out in early August.  All US Kickstarter backer books and pre-orderers will be shipped before GenCon and we think most of them will arrive before GenCon.  Kickstarter Backers and pre-orderers will be given the chance to collect at GenCon. Kickstarter backers will hear through the Kickstarter interface, preorderers will get an email.

Rest of the World backers and pre-orderers will be shipped across the Atlantic to be on shipped from the UK. To make up for the fact that some GenCon attendees will get copies before Rest of World backers, Rob Heinsoo is putting a little something exclusive together for Kickstarter.

I thought you might also like to see the cover for the forthcoming The Eyes of the Stone Thief by Ben Wootten.


The Gaean Reach

The Gaean Reach and Gaean Reach Gazeteer are set in Jack Vance’s sprawling, idiosyncractic SF milieu, and feature Vengeance In Space!

It feels like the Gaean Reach has been travelling at sublight speeds across interstellar distances, but it has finally arrived. Both books are available on pre-order.

Trail of Cthulhu and Fear ItselfSoldiers_of_Pen_and_Ink_Cover_400

Dulce et Decorum Est, adventures set in the Great War is out now and Soldiers of Pen and Ink and Mythos Expeditions will be on sale next month.

Dreamhounds is in art direction.

Seventh Circle, Matthew Sanderson’s creepy haunted house adventure for Fear Itself will on pre-order next month. It’s compatible with Trail of Cthulhu, too.

Esoterrorists, Ashen Stars and Night’s Black Agents

  • Robin Laws has started work on Worldbreaker, a globe-trotting set of linked Esoterrorists adventures. It has a very gruesome and disturbing prologue and gets worse  from there.
  • Accretion Disk for Ashen Starts is being illustrated.
  • Ken and Gar are working on Dracula Dossier and Unredacted Dracula for Night’s Black Agents for a Kickstarter later in the year. Ken discusses it here.
  • John Adamus has submitted a Night’s Black Agents adventure, The Dubai Reckoning for playtesting.
  • Steve Dempsey and Gareth Hanrahan have written convention adventures for all our GUMSHOE settings.



So much to talk about! In short – subscribe to KWAS 2, join up with 13th Age Organized Play and read about our array of forthcoming gaming goodness.

Ken Writes About Stuff AgainHC Dark Young_cover

The first year of Ken Writes About Stuff draws to a close. As an end-of-year treat, all KWAS issues are also available as eBooks, there is a free bonus issue and subscribers have been sent an email with a discount code for KWAS 2. Next month, KWAS 1 will be available as a bundle to non-subscribers.

The second annual KWAS is now available – opening up with Hideous Creatures: Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath.

We were a bit lax in getting KWAS and your KWAS emails out in the first year, and we didn’t want to repeat this, so Ken is producing two issues this month, so we always have an issue in hand. Starting from June 1st, we’ll aim get you your latest issue on the first working day of the month.

Organised Play

The 13th Age Organised Play run by ASH LAW, Wade Rockett and Jay Schneider has hit the amazing 1000-GM mark. To participate in the growing 13th Age community and get access to the free adventures, sign up here.

Inspired by this, and the result of our poll of 13th Age GMs which show a big cross-over between 13th Agers and GUMSHOE, we are looking at expanding this program to include other Pelgrane games. Step one is to produce a solid set of convention adventures, the first of which for Trail is in first draft. I’ll provide more details next month.

13th Age

The 13th Age Bestiary is with the printers, on target for a May / early June delivery date. Pre-order your copy now from the Pelgrane store. It’s available on Bits and Mortar, too, so you can pre-order it from your local retailer and get the PDF now.

The Bestiary limited edition is in the changing rooms at the boutique, trying out new outfits of faux leather colours and gold foil. The limited B will be up for preorder next month with Hatchling edition customers geting first dibs.

13 True Ways is finally in layout. We apologize for the extreme delay in getting this Kickstarted product out to you – we think it’s worth the wait. We’ll put in on pre-order this month. It’s touch and go if we’ll have it out in time for GenCon and Kickstarter backers come first. A non-laid out PDF version should be out with backers in the next couple of weeks.

For FreeRPGDay , Saturday 21st June, we’ll be releasing a new retail-exclusive adventure Make Your Own Luck. 3500 of these adventures will be distributed free in up to 700 hobby stores. Stores can sign up here  and you can find your nearest participating retailer here.freerpg

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is nursing the great whale that is The Eyes of the Stone Thief into the the deep waters of art direction; Rich Longmore, Anna Kryczkowska, Juha Makkonen and Pat Loboyko are doing the interior work, and Ben Wootten the cover.The Flesh Tailor

Cartographer Pär Lindstrom is producing maps for Shadows of Eldolan, and we have a first colour draft of the cover by Joshua Calloway here.

ASH LAW has delivered a draft of Shards of the Broken Sky, which Rob will look at when 13 True Ways is laid out.

The Book of Loot, a delicious collection of potent and quirky Icon-featured items is in first draft, also awaiting Rob’s seal of approval.

Ashen Stars, Night’s Black Agents, Fear Itself

Accretion Disk, the Ashen Stars expansion book is awaiting a little more content from Kevin Kulp. To keep the space juices flowing, here is Jerome’s cover.


With four episodes of KWAS and an HP Lovecraft Film Festival to attend as Guest of Honor, Ken has not had much chance to work on Night’s Black Agents material, but I’m expecting a solid update at the end of May.

Art is being done for Matthew Sanderson’s ghost-busting Fear Itself adventure The Seventh Circle by Martin Pikkaart.

P 52

Robin’s The Tabletop RPG Starter Guide or some other such title

Robin is writing an introductory to guide to Tabletop RPGs – his first stand-alone advice since the seminal Robin’s Laws of Gaming. I gather he knows what he is doing and it will be aces.

We are tossing around other ideas for Robin’s next project – a world-spanning Esoterrorist adventure and a Mutant City Blues expansion book are both possibilities. If you’ve read this far, let us know what you’d like to see.

Gaean Reach and The Dying Earth

The quotes for printing The Gaean Reach and The Gaean Reach Gazetteer have been stratospheric; we aren’t really sure why. I am sorry about the delay in getting it to you. We are looking at some other printers and arm-twisting our existing one and we’ll get it printed soon even if it hurts.

Thanks to the success of the Dying Earth Bundle of Holding, I’m looking at renewing my Vancean licenses.

Trail of Cthulhu

Dulce et Decorum Est: Great War Trail of Cthulhu is nearly ready for prerelease.

Melissa Gay is finishing up the art for Soldiers of Pen and Ink, and has been discovering a love of propaganda posters.

The final pieces of Mythos Expeditions art are being revised and then all that will be left are the expedition maps. Pär will be working on those after he has finished with Shadows over Eldolan for 13th Age. It’s much more art-heavy than usual, with images of pretty much every NPC.

Dreamhounds of Paris has received a once-over from 7éme Cercle, and is in art direction.