When a friend asked me to run an RPG for their group of friends—all of whom were queer, and most of whom had never played an RPG before—I gave her some options to choose from. Horror? D&D-style fantasy adventure? When I mentioned DramaSystem, her eyes lit up. The rules are very light, there are no weird-shaped dice, and everyone’s familiar with emotional conflict and interpersonal drama.

I told her that DramaSystem can be played in any genre where there’s a small, tight-knit group of people in conflict. What setting would be best for this group? Again, she didn’t hesitate to answer: one of their favorite pastimes as friends is to talk about who they’d most want with them in the event of a massive global calamity, and how they’d all survive together. I should run a post-apocalyptic game.

With that simple prompt, I was off and running. I couldn’t find a generic post-apocalyptic scenario in either the Hillfolk core book or the Blood on the Snow supplement. However, the core book does contain John Scott Tynes’ “Horns in the Hill”, a zombie apocalypse set in an anthill. The idea of your enemies becoming both victims and carriers of a terrifying contagion appealed to me immensely, and I decided that the major external threat to our heroes’ Seattle-based community of survivors would come from former Amazon  employees who were part of a hive mind controlled by a massively evolved Alexa AI.

A map of post-apocalyptic Seattle proved incredibly easy to find. Local artist Tony Dowler had already created a Seattle Doomsday Map and accompanying survival guide I could cherry-pick ideas from. Hurrah!

While I was working on the pregens, I had another stroke of luck when my Kickstarter backer copy of Avery Alder’s magnificent RPG Dream Askew arrived. Here I was, about to run a game about queer strife amid the collapse, when a game where that’s the literal tagline showed up in my mailbox. I still wanted to use DramaSystem for the session, but Dream Askew was invaluable in giving me templates for characters and opportunities for my players to build the world in whose ruins they lived.

In fact, the way Dream Askew‘s character playbooks were so great that I decided to use them for my game. I replaced the PbtA system elements (such as Moves) with DramaSystem mechanics, but kept all the wonderfully creative player options for appearance, roles, gender, and more. You can download the “DramaSystem Askew” pregens at the DramaSystem Resources Page.

That’s how I assembled my post-apocalyptic Hillfolk one-shot. The session itself was a wild and exhilarating improvised story of violent gang warfare, fierce battles over water justice,  and internal power struggles. In the end it culminated in the revelation of extraterrestrial influence over human affairs and a near-repeat of the disaster that almost destroyed humanity. Just another day in the apocalypse…

Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

confidential2Cthulhu Confidential, the flagship title for GUMSHOE One-2-One, is now available for pre-order! GUMSHOE One-2-One is designed for two players: a GM and a player who takes the role of a solo investigator, solving Mythos mysteries. In Cthulhu Confidential our PCs are hard-boiled shamus Dex Raymond, investigative journalist Vivian Sinclair, and private eye Langston Montgomery Wright.

We asked the Pelgranistas—as well as some friends of Pelgrane—which fictional characters they’d most like to have a GUMSHOE One-2-One mystery adventure with. We’ll share their answers over the next 12 days, starting with Wade Rockett’s choice:

Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley

Running CTHULHU CONFIDENTIAL for RipleyWhen the starship Nostromo received what appeared to be a distress signal from a nearby planetoid, it set in motion a nightmarish series of deep space encounters between humans and a mysterious, predatory alien race. Through them all, Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley is a formidable investigator and fighter—whether she’s making life-and-death command decisions, interrogating a homicidal android, or lighting up aliens with a flamethrower.

In his essay arguing that Ellen Ripley is the best female character in SF film, author John Scalzi describes her as “pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself.”

Alien mixed noir and Lovecraftian themes remarkably well, so it’s not an stretch to imagine how great a PC Ripley would make in similar adventures: investigating alien artifacts on strange worlds, navigating sinister corporate machinations, and desperately fighting to survive in the dark between the stars.

Preorder Cthulhu Confidential at the Pelgrane webstore, and get the PDF plus a preview of the first Dex Raymond adventure, straight away!


GUMSHOE One-2-One retunes, rebuilds and re-envisions the acclaimed GUMSHOE investigative rules set for one player, and one GM. Together, the two of you create a story that evokes the classic solo protagonist mystery format of classic detective fiction. Can’t find a group who can play when you can? Want an intense head-to-head gaming experience? Play face to face with GUMSHOE One-2-One—or take advantage of its superb fit with virtual tabletops and play online. Purchase Cthulhu Confidential and future GUMSHOE One-2-One products in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Temple of the Sun Cabal cover_350To save the world, sometimes you gotta save a vampire—especially when they have information you need, but they’ve been captured by the not-so-friendly neighborhood sun cult. Getting to their island temple won’t be easy, though. Will you choose the Path of Battle, the Path of Cunning, or the (suspiciously named) Path of Welcome?

This adventure for four to six 5th level characters can be run as a standalone session, or as a way to introduce the Wild Garden dungeon from 13 True Ways into your campaign. It includes an improved version of the hydra from the 13th Age core book, a different take on harpies, a wild and watery skill challenge, and some potential recurring villains for your campaign. By Wade Rockett.

Temple of the Sun Cabal is the sixth installment of the second 13th Age Monthly subscription. You can buy it as a stand-alone PDF, or purchase the collected Volume 2 to get all 12 issues plus the 2016 Free RPG Day adventure Swords Against the Dead!

Stock #: PEL13AM20D Author: Wade Rockett
Artist: Rich Longmore Type: 17-page PDF

Buy now