A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Previously in See Page XX, I laid out a two part sample outline for a Yellow King RPG: Paris series. By popular demand, I’m now going to do the same for the next of the game’s four sequences, The Wars. As before, this is a starter framework to show you how it might be done, not the only way to do it or a pattern to lock yourself into. Even if you start out following it in detail you’ll discover better ideas for your group when the players get involved and surprise you with their contributions to the emerging storyline.

This outline contains more episode ideas than you’ll likely need, allowing you to pick the hooks your players will most enjoy. Some make sense only if you already ran a Paris sequence for the same group. Others can be collapsed into one another, by mixing and matching subplots.

Village

Start with an episode that leaves the squad to their own devices as they encounter a mystery that allows them to interact with other people. The village scenario, in which the soldiers protect, and then come to suspect, a tiny community on their side of the lines, fits this bill perfectly. Which is why “A Feast for Wolves,” the introductory scenario in the book, uses this pattern. Use that if your players haven’t run through it before, which they probably haven’t. When creating your own variation, start with the squad traveling to the site of the scenario, so that along the way you can introduce the hazards, technology, and background weirdness of the alternate world weird war.

Damned Peculiar

Devise the second scenario around one of the squad members’ Damned Peculiar Thing. The boredom of a routine mission turns to terror when one of these old fears comes roaring back to confront the group.

Does the photographer find ghosts in his recon photos? Time to track down some ghosts.

Does the lieutenant dream of walkers driven by corpses? Your scenario is about encountering undead enemies and learning how to deactivate them.

Does the former med student dream of a dead forest where the other PCs all lie blown to bits? The scenario starts with an awakening from that dream and then leads into that exact forest.

Creature Callback

The squad’s assignment to bring back photographs of an installation not far behind enemy lines escalates in difficulty when the players confront a monster their predecessors encountered in Paris, now repurposed as a weapon of war:

  • Murderous automatons recall the animated sculpture that escaped from the art students’ garret.
  • A unit of korrigan spies trains to use their hypnotic powers to lure enemy soldiers to their deaths.
  • Gargoyles have signed on as enemy shock troops.

Masterminding the creature cadre is a new secondary villain. You might bring back an ageless secondary villain from Paris, such as a vampire or Carcosan noble. Or introduce a new big bad who features in this sequence only. Like any recurring villain introduction, the squad learns about the new antagonist but has to execute flawlessly to permanently deal with them right off the bat. In which case, they deserve to win. Because how, oh how, will you ever think of another bad guy for them to fight instead?

Bunkered and/or Hunkered

The squad humps it to an isolated outpost to find out why the soldiers who are supposed to be holding it aren’t answering their boîtenoire. The site might be a pillbox, the remains of a medieval tower, or a literal bunker. When they get there they find blood spattered all around and plenty of signs of a hideous struggle. Rear echelon orders them to hold this eerie location. And then night falls, and the horrors of the dark woods come creeping out to do to them what it did to the last squad. It’s a haunted house scenario in camo gear, with the perfect reason not to flee the house—the squad has been ordered to stay. (In my own playtest game this was the scariest scenario of the sequence, hands down.)

Sinister Experiment

By this time the squad has pieced together enough of the events behind the events to realize that that strange squiggle against a yellow background signals bad news, and that anyone wearing a pallid mask may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. In this scenario they spot those marks of damnation around a friendly complex they’ve been assigned to protect. The sinister military experiment might be:

  • human brains transplanted into walkers
  • a super soldier serum synthesized from Carcosan blood
  • reality grenades that warp time, space, and reality.

Perhaps your secondary villain runs the experiment. Or maybe it’s time to reintroduce the king or one of his daughters, looking suave indeed in a medal-festooned general’s uniform.

How does the squad protect its own side from the moral and metaphysical doom that will surely result if this experiment reaches the battlefield?

Installation Attack

Follow up that moral quandary with a straightforward military mission to enter enemy territory and, as per the plot of countless war movies, take out a radio tower, munitions cache, or bridge. To get there they must fight or evade their way through enemy soldiers and creatures. Once there, a mystery surrounds the installation. Something unearthly is happening there. Maybe the target has gone missing entirely.

In another twist, the squad encounters a septuagenarian American, perhaps a once-famous artist or writer who pulled an Ambrose Bierce-style disappearance decades ago. Yes, it’s a PC from the first sequence, turned GMC, who is either incidentally present and in need of rescue, or has given in to Carcosa’s blandishments and now works to further global reality breakdown. Use the latter option only if you trust that the player will enjoy it. If the former PC has broken bad, allow a path that allows the present characters to redeem him. (In my game, the player’s new character shot the previous one summarily dead, and he wasn’t even up to anything. And much fun was had by all.}

Next month, the back half of this sequence outline for The Wars.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

During the Paris sequence of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, the art student characters may while a decadent evening at Montmartre’s Cabaret du Néant—or as they may know it, the Cabaret of Nothingness. Seated at the coffin-like tables of its Salle de Intoxication, they order from servers dressed as monks and morticians. Overhead dangle skeletal chandeliers. The drinks come in skull-shaped cups and are named after diseases: Consumption Germ, Leg of Lively Cancer, Cholera From the Last Corpse. The first is crème de menthe.

We can’t bear to name this delicious drink after an illness so instead will pay tribute by calling after the establishment itself. Don’t forget to tip your undertaker!

Cabaret du Néant

1 ½ shot dark spiced rum

½ shot red vermouth

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ can coke

Stir, serve on the rocks.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

To discard most Shock cards, characters in The Yellow King Roleplaying Game pay a price or take a risk. There’s an easier way to make this Shock Card disappear.

Shock Card

2 shots bourbon

½ shot cherry brandy

1 shot red vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

½ can limonata

Stir, serve on the rocks.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the reality horror world of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, a redmedic is a parasitic humanoid guised as a doctor or nurse.

In our reality, it is a refreshing cocktail starring muddled fresh strawberries.

Redmedic

2 shots gin

¼ shot gum syrup (or simple syrup)

3 dashes rhubarb bitters

3 – 5 strawberries

½ can club soda

Muddle strawberries and syrup with extreme prejudice, add other ingredients, stir. Serve on the rocks.


The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their green but not envious podcast, Ken and Robin talk premise subversion, the Bert & Ernie theory of creative production (with Jeff Tidball), Poe in the Yellow King, and TikTok moldavite curses.

Today’s cocktail brings lightless deliciousness from the Lake of Hali.

Black Lake

2 shots Cachaça

2 shots chilled espresso, incl 2 tsp sugar or sweetener

6 shots water

2 dashes mole bitters

½ tsp vanilla extract

Stir. Serve on the rocks.

Requires the advance prep of making and chilling the espresso, but more than worth it.

Both Paris and The Wars feature General Kits: prepackaged sets of General Ability scores, so a player can just grab a General Kit, pair it with an Investigative Kit, and quickly come up with a character’s ability ratings. The other two settings, Aftermath and This Is Normal Now don’t include General Kits, on the assumption that by the time the average Yellow King campaign reaches the third or fourth sequence, the players are familiar enough with the rules to dispense with them.

However, if you’re running a one-shot in either setting, or you need an extra character in a hurry, or (and I speak from deep personal experience) your players are astoundingly lazy, here are some quick General Kits for Aftermath and This Is Normal Now.

In both cases, they’re designed for Horror, not Occult Adventure.

Aftermath

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Composure, Fighting and Insurgency in each kit.

Agitator

You inspired people to rise up against the Castaigne regime with speeches, essays, and acts of public defiance.

Athletics 1

Composure 6

Driving 1

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 6

Morale 6

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 0

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Bruiser

You took the fighting to the streets, battling the Castaignes and their monsters and lackeys up close.

Athletics 4

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 6

First Aid 2

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 2

 

Cell Leader

You were an organiser and co-ordinator during the insurgency, planning attacks to destabilise the regime.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 2

Health 2

Insurgency 6

Mechanics 2

Morale 4

Network 6

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Fixer

You knew how to get things done, how to find necessities on the black market, how to scrounge and survive long enough to bring the regime down.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 6

Health 4

Insurgency 3

Mechanics 6

Morale 0

Network 2

Politics 3

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble 1

Sneaking 1

 

Ghost

They never caught you. They never even suspected you, until it was too late. You struck from the shadows, terrorising the monsters like they terrorised ordinary people.

Athletics 4

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 6

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 2

Morale 0

Network 0

Politics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 6

Sneaking 6

 

Mask-Wearer

You concealed your true intentions beneath a mask of flesh, and hid your support for the insurgency from your superiors in the regime. You held a position of influence or importance in the Castaigne apparatus – until you finally revealed yourself to be an insurgent.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 0

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 4

Sneaking 4

 

Saboteur

You struck against the regime with carefully targeted acts of sabotage and destruction.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 2

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 8

Mechanics 6

Morale 2

Network 2

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

Smuggler

You ran the ratlines and the underground supply chain, smuggling weapons or vital information or even people past the regime’s security checkpoints.

Athletics 6

Composure 6

Driving 4

Fighting 2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 4

Mechanics 4

Morale 0

Network 4

Politics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 4

 

Wheelman

You were a getaway driver, escaping Castaigne pursuers on the highways of America.

Athletics 2

Composure 6

Driving 8

Fighting 4

First Aid 0

Health 4

Insurgency 2

Mechanics 4

Morale 2

Network 4

Politics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble 2

Sneaking 2

 

This Is Normal Now

If you’re playing in Occult Adventure style, then add 2 points to Fighting and Health in each kit.

 

Gym Enthusiast

You have capital-O Opinions about Crossfit.

Athletics 6

Composure 8

Driving 2

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 6

Mechanics 4

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Haunter of the Coffee Shop

Or the bar. You like to chat and make connections.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 4

Sense Trouble  5

Sneaking 4

 

Handy with a Drill

You’ve got a toolbox full of bits and pieces, and a workspace full of unfinished projects.

Athletics 4

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 6

Sense Trouble  0

Sneaking 0

 

Gets Into Trouble

Maybe you don’t mean to get into scraps. Maybe you go looking for fights. Either way, you’ve seen more than your share of trouble.

Athletics 6

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  6

First Aid 0

Health 5

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  1

Sneaking 5

 

Petrol Head

You’ve got a car, and are very enthusiastic about this. You probably make some extra cash on the side using a rideshare app.

Athletics 2

Composure 8

Driving 8

Fighting  2

First Aid 0

Health 4

Mechanics 6

Preparedness 2

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 2

 

Way Too Online

Distressing Notification: Your screentime exceeded 24 hours/day for most of the last week.

Athletics 2

Composure 7

Driving 2

Fighting  2

First Aid 4

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  4

Sneaking 3

 

Good In A Crisis

When someone has a breakdown or a breakup, you’re the one they call.

Athletics 2

Composure 9

Driving 2

Fighting  3

First Aid 7

Health 4

Mechanics 2

Preparedness 5

Sense Trouble  2

Sneaking 0

 

Runner-Up All Rounder

You’re pretty ok at most things, but don’t stand out in any field. Quiet competence, it’s the way to go.

Athletics 4

Composure 7

Driving 3

Fighting  4

First Aid 2

Health 4

Mechanics 3

Preparedness 3

Sense Trouble  3

Sneaking 3

 

 

If you have a question regarding The Yellow King RPG please contact support@pelgranepress.com.

Q: Why is it harder to do an (other) challenge against a tough opponent than a weak opponent?

A: The difficulties highlighted follow narrative conventions by rewarding players for dealing head-on with weaker opponents and finding unconventional ways to overcome stronger ones. These expectations vary by sequence, some of which encourage victory by fighting more than others. The logic is of genre and sub-genre convention rather than simulation.

Q: What happens when the investigators choose to flee from something that wants to kill them and then fail?

A: They either get away but are harmed in the process, receiving an Injury card, or are stuck in a situation they must find some non-Fighting way out of (the creature drags them back to its lair for later snacking, they get away from the monster but are stuck in a subterranean cavern, they are rescued by the revanchists, who then take them prisoner…)

Q: Why don’t Aftermath and This is Normal Now have General Kits?

A: The kits don’t lend themselves as well to those settings, especially TINN. It was also though that players know the score by the third and fourth sequences and will want to build from scratch by that point. You can find some quick General Kits for Aftermath and This is Normal Now here

Q: I’m having trouble reading the handwritten notes in Absinthe in Carcosa, do you have a typed copy of these?

A: Please contact support@pelgranepress.com for a copy.

Q: Why do the Shock and Injury decks not include all of the cards?

A: The decks provide a highlight set of frequently occurring cards. This limit allows us to meet the size limitations of a print-on-demand card set.

Summer weather has made a surprise appearance up here in the land of the silverbirch. And that means it’s time once again for the feature that really draws you to a site for a publisher of tabletop roleplaying games—cocktail recipes.

Let’s return to the favorite color of our favorite grim-visaged, reality-bending monarch with…

The Yellow Thing

2 shots dark rum

½ shot hazelnut liqueur

Juice of 2 Key limes

½ shot simple syrup

5 dashes angostura bitters

½ can club soda

Stir and serve on the rocks.

As always, erode the bounds between normality and decadence responsibly.

In the latest episode of their pig befriending podcast, Ken and Robin talk proactively playing your Deucedly Peculiar Thing, top ten films of 2020, and the case of the disappearing magician.

Previous Entries