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Building Bombs Into Your DramaSystem Relationships

Mar 18 2019


When seeking structural inspiration for DramaSystem play, you’ll find the purest sources in literary fiction and realistic drama. With no genre conventions to process, the bones of relationship-based storytelling clearly show through.

The satirical literary novel Startup, by Doree Shafrir, features an interconnected group struggling to stay afloat in NYC’s tech world. You could easily use it as the inspiration for a DramaSystem Series Pitch skewering the same scene. (To which about 20% of you are currently thinking “Oh no, that’s what I roleplay to get away from!”)

I bring it up here, though, for its foregrounding of a key dramatic storytelling technique, the explosive secret. Dramas often hinge on a terrible revelation that instigates the climax, changing everything for the cast of characters. Here Shafrir plants a bomb in pretty much all of the key relationships. Vaguely, to avoid spoilers:

  • a reporter has gained information in a way that will hurt her boyfriend’s career
  • a character has accrued giant credit card debt without telling her husband
  • another character makes his marital unhappiness clear to a colleague, who then gets to know his wife
  • a casual office affair has crossed the line into sexual harassment

These metaphorical bombs build suspense the way a literal bomb would in a thriller. As readers, we know they’re there, and we know they’ll alter or destroy relationships when revealed. In Beat Analysis terms, we fear that they’ll come out, and hope that the people we care about can either keep their secrets or will emerge all right on the other side of their revelation. (Having read more than one novel, we instinctively understand that they will come out, but want our viewpoint characters to avoid that all the same.)

When creating DramaSystem characters, you might add a step where each player describes a bomb that will change their relationship to another PC or PCs when revealed:

  • your husband, Big Axe, doesn’t know that Flowerleaf isn’t his son, but is instead Horse Talker’s
  • you didn’t really have the vision you claimed, so Horse Talker, not you, should be chieftain
  • you didn’t just fail to poison the snake priestess, as Big Axe demanded, but actually struck a deal with her
  • you know exactly where the lost scepter is, but keep it hidden to stop Sharpbrow from launching her peace plan

As a player, you can always set a bomb for your character regardless of whether the GM adds this step. You can do it during character creation, perhaps as an explanation for why you can’t meet another character’s need. Or you can introduce the bomb during the action, calling a scene in which you strike a deal with the snake priestess, check on the spot where you’ve hidden the scepter, or drop a line of dialogue suggesting Flowerleaf’s true parentage.

Players know more than their characters, allowing everyone to enjoy the delightful agony of knowledge, waiting for the bomb you’ve planted to go off.

Finally, as with many DramaSystem techniques, you can use this move in any other RPG game where relationships between the player characters matter.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Any Smart Gundamologist

Mar 15 2019

In the latest episode of their high mimetic podcast, Ken and Robin talk options vs core experience, Northrop Frye, bugbears, and J. F. C. Fuller.

Free RPG Day 2019

Mar 14 2019

We’re happy to announce we’re once again taking part in Free RPG Day 2019 on Saturday, June 15th, and this year’s free Pelgrane giveaway features adventures for the forthcoming The Yellow King RPG and 13th Age.

The Yellow King RPG – The Doors to Heaven

Behind Iron Doors, a Gateway to Doom!

Paris, 1895. A sensation-seeking band of art students confronts supernatural invasion from an alien realm. A play called The King in Yellow circulates in the city’s secret, decadent circles, twisting the ordinary and corrupting the sacred. In the students’ latest case, a fellow student’s disappearance draws them to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Legend claims that its iron doors were sculpted through a pact with the devil. Behind this tale the investigators uncover a stranger truth, replete with hooded figures, an unearthly plague, and the terrifying creatures that inspired the gargoyles.

 

13th Age RPG – Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer

The renegade dwarf wizard has returned from exile, and now his army of thralls lays siege to the fortress of his ancestors. Doom and kinstrife threaten the lands of the dwarves! There’s but one chance – if a small band of heroic adventurers can brave the passage of the Underworld, they could strike at the wizard’s secret sanctum where he plots with his mysterious allies from the depths!

Battle through the tunnels of the world below! Navigate weird perils! Face fiendish horrors! It’s a race against time – if you tarry, the dwarves on the surface will most certainly perish!

Above all, don’t get entangled – for the dungeon of the Pogonomancer is certainly one hairy situation…

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: The Number One Mistake of Smart People

Mar 8 2019

In the latest episode of their restlessly exploratory podcast, Ken and Robin talk installation horror GMCs, Richard Francis Burton, rewatching movies, and Aaron Burr’s Upper Canada coup.

See P. XX: Using a Game’s Core Activity to Sharpen Your Creature Design

Mar 6 2019

See P. XX

a column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

A well-designed modular element for an RPG, whether we’re talking about a GMC, location, conspiracy, or occult tome, does more than extrapolate from an evocative premise. The text you write, explicitly or otherwise, indicates to the GM how it will be used in play.

Let’s look at roleplaying’s archetypal modular element, the one that has launched a thousand bestiaries, the creature. Or, if your core game prefers, monster, or foe, or alien life form.

In some cases the utility of a creature, or other modular element for that matter, goes without saying. That happens when the core activity of a game is so hard-wired to its modular elements that their function at the gaming table needs no further elaboration.

Take the venerable first mover and perennial market leader, Dungeons & Dragons. Its core activity is: fight monsters in fantastic environments.

(This greatly accounts for the enduring popularity of D&D and its stickiness as a concept. Not only does it have an exceptionally clear, easily enacted and highly repeatable core activity, it tells you this right in the brand name. Fantastic environment = Dungeon. Monsters = Dragon. It’s all right there.)

A well-wrought D&D creature design requires you to address its activity by showing the GM how it behaves in a fight, and how it interacts with its environment. In 5E, the stat block focuses on the former, and the descriptive text on the latter.

Different iterations of D&D have favored one over the other. The classic “Ecology of the X” magazine article format traditionally goes into way more extrapolative detail on a creature’s relationship to its environment than any DM can possibly put into play at the table. 4E, and its spiritual descendant 13th Age, focus much more on what the creature will do in a fight than in the broader world. A stat block might represent not a category of being, but a particular sort of orc or demon or pirate who attacks in a specific way, with its distinctive spell effect or weapon.

D&D casts such a shadow over trad RPG design that the very term “trad design” might mean “has a little D&D influence in it somewhere.”

It’s easy, then, to lose track of what you’re doing by applying D&D assumptions to the creation of creatures for other games. Making an adversary useful and easily playable in another rules set requires you to step back and consider the core activity you’re writing toward.

GUMSHOE games all have slightly different core activities, all of which can be expressed including the verb investigate.

  • Intrepid volunteers investigate the cosmic secrets of the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • At the behest of a benevolent conspiracy, trained professionals investigate an occult conspiracy to tear apart the world.
  • Ordinary people investigate their way out of horrific situations.
  • Burned spies on the run investigate the vampire conspiracy intent on destroying them.
  • A freelance starship crew investigates interstellar mysteries.

To design a GUMSHOE creature requires not just a focus on the tropes and themes of the setting—an eldritch abomination, a psychically invasive modern horror, an alien life form—but the creature’s role in the investigative action.

GUMSHOE’s emphasis on structure helps you do this. If you look at the scenario format, you can see that a creature might be:

  1. central to the scenario’s key mystery
  2. a secondary obstacle adding challenge and suspense along the way

In case 1, the creature is either the source of the mystery, or adjacent to the source. The PCs have to interact with it in some way to bring the case to a close. That’s your:

  • salt vampire feeding on the crew of the mining outpost
  • resurrected sorcerer bumping off anyone who uncovers his secret
  • ghost taking vengeance on its killer’s descendants

Many instances of case 2 fall into the broader category GUMSHOE calls Antagonist Reactions. When the heroes start poking around, the primary villain sends some lesser creatures to harry them. Secondary creatures might also be keyed to specific investigative scenes, as guardians or obstacles the characters must overcome before gathering clues. Examples include:

  • the gargoyles the corrupt priest sends to trash your studio
  • the mutated dogs in the abandoned lab
  • the faceless homunculus hitman known only as Mrs. Blank

Your description of a GUMSHOE creature might suggest ways it can appear in either role. When writing up Mrs. Blank, you could indicate how she acts when the PCs are tracking her through her trail of victims, and then what she does when she shows up at the behest of the vamp conspiracy to treat the agents to some silencer music.

Accompanying any core activity is a game’s default identity, the description of a typical PC group: ordinary people, trained professionals, burned spies, starship crew, or whatever. Take that into account also as you design your creature. Show the GM how to get the characters into contact with your entity. In other words, your description needs at least one plot hook demonstrating its introduction into play.

Super easy, again, in D&D: unless you say otherwise, the creature occupies the fantastic environment, ready to defend itself when adventurers show up to fight it.

The more specialized the default identity, the more guidance GMs need getting your creature into their games.

Let’s say you’ve designed a ghost that materializes out of printer’s ink. What motivates the typical group for this game to confront it? The answer differs if the PCs are ordinary people (Fear Itself), burned spies (Night’s Black Agents) or security pros who respond to assignments from their handlers (The Esoterrorists, Fall of Delta Green.) The question in the first two examples is “Why do the PCs care?” In the last case, it’s “Why do their handlers care?”

Keep these essential questions in mind as you first envision your creature, and again as you revise your text. You’ll probably spot passages that explore a rabbit hole of iterative detail but don’t figure into a GM’s key concerns:

  1. What does it do in my scenario?
  2. What does that scenario look like?
  3. Why and how do the PCs encounter it?

View From the Pelgrane’s Nest – March 2019

Mar 6 2019

NEW! Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition

This month sees the release of the second edition of what I tend to think of as one of our hidden gems, which doesn’t feature in the spotlight glare of our social media, or release schedule, nearly half enough, but which I know has a really passionate following. If you’re not familiar with it, Mutant City Blues is a GUMSHOE police procedural game, set in a near-future where 1% of the world’s population has developed mutant abilities – including some of the police. Use the Quade Diagram out-of-game to create your mutant-powered characters, but also in-game as part of Mutant City’s Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit to identify perpetrators of enhanced crimes. Eisner Award-winning comics artist Gene Ha has done a stunningly modern new cover – we’ll cover that in more detail over the coming weeks.

We’re proud of Pelgrane’s comparatively long history in the RPG industry, but having been around for nearly twenty years also brings some issues with it. One is that the file format of books from ~2002 doesn’t necessarily hold up that well seventeen years later (more on the original The Dying Earth RPG files some other time). Another is that earlier books like Mutant City Blues were published in less socially conscious times, and looking at it afresh in 2019, we see ideas and forms of expression that we now realise are deeply problematic. Some first edition playtest groups were generous enough to get in touch with us and send us their thoughts on that, and with their help, the resulting second edition improves on both the playability and the decency of the first.

Coming soon! Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos

Long-term readers will no doubt have picked up on the epic war we constantly wage against our, and all publishers’, bitterest enemy: printers. Our foes won a major battle in October, ousting us from our familiar old haunts with a new weapon in the form of impossible price increases. Dashed from our comfort zone, we’ve been scouring the world for a replacement ever since. The reason I mention this is that the first print run of books from the NuPrinter are being set up as I type, and we’re hoping to have it with pre-orderers in a couple of months. I’m really excited to see the finished product, Hideous Creatures – A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos. NuPrinter has been great to work with, with plenty of good-looking proofs at each stage of the process (really important, when working with a new printer), which has included proofs of the final book, too. So uncharacteristically, I’m the first person to see this! (Usually, I have to go to a convention to see our latest releases in physical format, which is why you might have seen pictures of me being very impressed while opening boxes at Gen Con. That Cthulhu Confidential limited edition is sooo gorgeous, though!).

But I digress – I was going to show you some photos of proof copies. I hadn’t anticipated them sending through a blank book as a sample first, which they did, so that was a novelty. I’m wondering what to do with it – it’s so pristine and shiny and white!

URGENT PLEA!!!

Are you going to Gen Con Indianapolis this year? The closing date for submitting events is this coming Sunday, March 10th, and we urgently need more games! Every year, the good Events people at Gen Con contact us to let us know our games are sold out, and ask if we can run more events, so if you’re able to run 13th Age, Night’s Black Agents, Trail of Cthulhu – or any other Pelgrane game! – at Gen Con 2019, please sign up here, so we can share our great games with even more people this year! You can see the full list of adventures available here.

Work in progress update: The Borellus Connection

Despite having a new baby, Nimuë Ryder-Hanrahan, earlier this month (congratulations!), Gareth’s finished most of his adventures for The Borellus Connection. which are available for playtesting this monthThis collection of eight thematically linked operations can serve as a connected campaign, or as stand-alone operations the Handler can drop into the course of an ongoing The Fall of DELTA GREEN investigation.

Work in progress update: Free RPG Day 2019

We’re happy to be taking part in Free RPG Day again in 2019, and this year, we’ve got a 13th Age adventure crowd-sourced from Twitter called Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer for 3rd level characters, and a new adventure for the Paris setting of The Yellow King RPG called The Doors to Heaven. Here’s some more details about each:

Behind Iron Doors, a Gateway to Doom!

Paris, 1895. A sensation-seeking band of art students confronts supernatural invasion from an alien realm. A play called The King in Yellow circulates in the city’s secret, decadent circles, twisting the ordinary and corrupting the sacred. In the students’ latest case, a fellow student’s disappearance draws them to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Legend claims that its iron doors were sculpted through a pact with the devil. Behind this tale the investigators uncover a stranger truth, replete with hooded figures, an unearthly plague, and the terrifying creatures that inspired the gargoyles.

Assault on the Dungeon of the Pogonomancer

The renegade dwarf wizard has returned from exile, and now his army of thralls lays siege to the fortress of his ancestors. Doom and kinstrife threaten the lands of the dwarves! There’s but one chance – if a small band of heroic adventurers can brave the passage of the Underworld, they could strike at the wizard’s secret sanctum where he plots with his mysterious allies from the depths!

Battle through the tunnels of the world below! Navigate weird perils! Face fiendish horrors! It’s a race against time – if you tarry, the dwarves on the surface will most certainly perish!

Above all, don’t get entangled – for the dungeon of the Pogonomancer is certainly one hairy situation…

See Page XX – March 2019

Mar 6 2019

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

Mutations and superheroes are our jam this month, with the odd Umbrella Academy and brilliant Russian Doll playing on Netflix, and the release of the new and updated second edition of Mutant City BluesPlay one of Mutant City’s Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, using your own mutant powers for good, to hunt down Enhanced criminals. We’ve still got a cracking Night’s Black Agents selection available, with the one player, one GM variant Solo Ops, and the Director’s Screen and Resource Guide, and plenty of new releases for Mythos fans, with the Cthulhu Confidential adventure collection Even Death Can Die, and the Trail of Cthulhu bestiary, Hideous Creatures.

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Nothing Is Forever

Mar 6 2019

by Adam Gauntlett

This Thrilling Chase scenario comes courtesy of Ian Fleming’s Octopussy, in which a dead body found frozen in the mountains near Kitzbühel leads to death for a former wartime hero.

Location: Kitzbühel

Demographics: 3,200 (1890s), 5,500 (1939-45), 8,000 (1970s), 8,200 (2014). The majority are Austrians, often with Italian connections; in the modern day about 24% are foreign born, with Germans, Turks, Bosnians, Serbs and Romanians being the largest foreign born demographic groups. Standard Austrian German is the common language; English is uncommon.

Type: small mountainside medieval tourist town, heavily dependent on winter sports and skiing. In the summer there are mountain bike paths and hiking trails. There are over 10,000 guest beds, which means in season the tourists outnumber the locals, probably at a 2:1 ratio at least. The World Wars largely bypassed it, so its medieval heritage is intact. A river runs through it, the Kitzbüheler Ache, and there are rail connections. Before skiing and tourism took over, Kitzbühel was a mining town – silver and copper. Its ski season is mid-October to early May, and most of the tourists who go there are High Society 1 or more. The city centre is car-free. The crime show SOKO Kitzbühel, a modern police procedural, has run for 17 seasons since 2001. Recurring characters include a Michelin-star chef turned amateur detective, and a Countess.

Landmarks: Museum Kitzbühel located in former granary & medieval tower, comprehensive history of Kitzbühel from Bronze Age to present. Town Fountain designed in 1971 to celebrate 700th anniversary, with statues of town founder and famous Tyroleans. Death Lantern chapel in a cemetery, designed in the shape of a square death lantern, similar to wayside shrines. Built 1450. Lebenberg Castle hotel built in 14th century, has been a guest house since 1885.

Chase Scene elements: Road. Cows. Kitzbühel is still a farming community; cows outnumber permanent residents by 3:1. Horse-drawn carriages. Narrow, cobbled medieval streets with gaily decorated gabled houses either side. High-end classic cars, unblemished, as if they’d just rolled off the production line. Ski. Cable cars and ski lifts, over 57 of them. Snowcats, massive enclosed fully tracked vehicles designed for group tours. Treat as Speed 0 Manoeuvre -2. Over 32 km established ski routes, plenty of off-country opportunities and deep powder. Trails (summer). Gentle Alpine slopes. Hiker Huts and shelters. Adventure realms with dinosaurs, witches & spirits, perfect for driving through at high speed.

Inciting Incident

A corpse was discovered out on the mountainside, and best forensic evidence suggests the body’s been there at least ten years. The identity is going to depend on the era; 1890s, a Vatican exorcist and vampire-hunter. 1939-45, a German Communist and anti-Fascist suspected of having stolen information from the German vampire program. 1970s, a British pilot involved in flights in and out of Kitzbühel during the War. 2014, a Russian former KGB agent and fixer to the great and powerful. Whoever the person was, they had information on them when they went missing, and the question is, where is that package now? Was the McGuffin stuffed under a rock, hidden somewhere in Kitzbühel itself, something else? How did the dead man come to be there, and what killed him? The tip to the inciting incident can come from Tradecraft, Cop Talk, High Society.

OPFOR

The dead man was killed by a Conspiracy Node that is now non-functional or under new management. The reconstituted Node, or its replacement, is suspicious of this discovery, particularly since it comes at a time of crisis; one of its competitors is challenging its authority. The timing is too perfect to be a coincidence. It activates the Yojimbo option, sending an unaffiliated team to scarf up any information it can, and hopefully trigger any traps or ambushes. The Node also sends an agent of its own to monitor the situation, and step in if the Yojimbo team gets trounced.

Yojimbo Team: (N=agents+4) Thugs, all gym rats (expert skiiers/mountain bikers). Civilian High Society fixer with Athletics 6, Driving 6, effective Flirting 1, posing as a VIP. Led by former Soldier, Shooting 9, inhabited by an Adzeh who hates the cold and really wishes it were somewhere warmer. Armament will vary depending on era, but assume the Thugs have at least rifles and pistols, or the equivalent. The Soldier uses a crossbow, with the Sniping option.

Node Agent: Vampire, with Civilian High Society fixer, Athletics 4, Driving 4, Hand-to-Hand 4, effective Cop Talk 1, posing as a Michelin inspector and amateur detective working for a client who ‘prefers discretion over publicity.’ Equipment will depend on era, but their job is primarily surveillance, so they’ll have the best era-appropriate surveillance equipment. The Michelin Guide doesn’t exist prior to 1900, so in an 1890s scenario the Civilian is a travelling epicure.

It All Goes Boom Variation: Of course this wasn’t a coincidence. The rival Node placed Class 3 explosives at the target site, hoping to catch someone important. The Director may or may not use this variation, as required.

Arrival

Kitzbühel is, as always, full of life, but now it seems frenetic, frenzied, like something out of Poe’s Red Death. Mountains glower down on the little medieval outpost, and the shadows grow longer each night. The Ork, a Tyrolean ogre or demon, is supposed to live in those mountains, ever the enemy of man; on cold, dark nights like these, it seems plausible. The tourists seem happy enough, but the locals go home as early as they can, lock their doors, and refuse to come out till morning’s light. Tradecraft or Surveillance notices the Yojimbo team immediately; even with their fixer doing the best she can, they stand out. However they don’t seem to have realized the agents have arrived. A point spend sees that the Yojimbo team are being watched, by the Vampire’s Civilian fixer.

The Body

Cop Talk, Law, or Bureaucracy spends needed to get access to the body, or see the things found with it. Infiltration Difficulty 4 to get into the police morgue. The police station in Kitzbühel is close to the river and rail lines, far from anything glitzy or touristy. Autopsy notes can be found on computer (Digital Intrusion Difficulty 4) or the forensic medical examiner’s notes can be found at the station, in the doctor’s office. In any scenario at or prior to 1939 there are no notes; the body hasn’t been examined, and awaits an expert’s visit.

The dead man was knifed in a manner that strongly indicates military experience, possibly special forces. Medical report or Forensic Pathology study of the body needed to realize this. Some effort was taken to conceal its identity – face bashed, fingers cut off. However sufficient evidence remains (DNA analysis, giveaway tattoo, tailor’s marks, as needed) to tentatively identify the body.

Among the possessions is an Idaite fragment containing copper, iron and sulphur. Given the location of the shallow grave where the body was found, the likely source is a mine – Röhrerbüchel, one of the deepest medieval mining operations. It hasn’t been used in over 150 years. It isn’t a tourist site, though it is occasionally visited by geologists and rockhounds.

Chase #1: Yojimbo Rabbits

The Yojimbo team either interrupts or arrives ahead of the agents. It wants everything it can get its hands on, and will try to get away with something that seems valuable – the body, the autopsy report. However the real prize is the Idaite, which the Director should ensure ends up with the agents. How Yojimbo gets in depends on circumstances; Infiltration, or determined bluffing from the Civilian fixer, as she tries to smuggle Thugs through the front door. Road conditions: cramped, if the chase goes into historic Kitzbühel. The Thugs use an SUV, the Civilian fixer a sports car. The Soldier oversees this operation from a distance, and does not appear in the scene.

Röhrerbüchel

The abandoned mine shafts stretch on for miles, but agents spending Notice or Outdoor Survival find trail marks left behind by the dead man. Depending on the era this can be Latin tags (1890s), German (1939-45), old RAF marks (1970s), KGB symbols (2014). Not spending means the agents will have to follow the Yojimbo team.

The McGuffin is hidden deep in the mine, and may be booby-trapped with explosives that cause a cave-in. If the booby-trap option is used, an extra point spend of Notice or Outdoor Survival sees that the trail marks are too fresh to have been made by the dead man, warning the agents that the McGuffin is a trap.

Chase #2: Roger Moore

The surviving Yojimbo team pursues the agents down the mountain, either on skis or by mountain bike. The mountain is steep, with potential avalanche if the booby-trap went off. The chase ends in Kitzbühel, where the Vampire steps in to claim the prize. The Vampire will want either the McGuffin or a kidnapped agent to tell it what happened. If an agent is kidnapped, the Vampire can be traced via its Civilian fixer, allowing an escape attempt.

 


Night’s Black Agents by Kenneth Hite puts you in the role of a skilled intelligence operative fighting a shadow war against vampires in post-Cold War Europe. Play a dangerous human weapon, a sly charmer, an unstoppable transporter, a precise demolitions expert, or whatever fictional spy you’ve always dreamed of being — and start putting those bloodsuckers in the ground where they belong. Purchase Night’s Black Agents in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

March playtesting

Mar 6 2019

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

 

Title: The Borellus Connection

System: The Fall of DELTA GREEN

Author: Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

Deadline: April 30th 2019

Number of sessions: 2-3 per adventure

Description:

 

The Borellus Connection is a campaign for Fall of Delta Green, using the heroin trade and the United States Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs as a narrative spine. The campaign runs from South-East Asia to the Middle East to Europe, as the Agents uncover the sinister machinations of a necromantic cult.

  • Operation JADE PHOENIX (North-Eastern Burma): The CIA wants the Chinese-backed Shan warlord Li Bao Lung assassinated, and the Agents are tasked to escort a Marine sniper, Sergeant Adolph Lepus, to Li’s headquarters in the Wa state of northeast Burma, with orders to eliminate Li and return with proof of Li’s (and therefore Peking’s involvement in the opium trade. DELTA GREEN has identified one of Li’s advisers, Ming Yuan, as a Kuen-Yuin sorcerer; Li’s compound is a target-rich environment. The team must travel into Burma, avoiding detection en route, and penetrate the defences around Li’s compound to ensure Lepus has a clear shot on both targets.
  • Operation HORUS HOURS (Hong Kong to Los Angeles, by air): Clues uncovered during ALONSO point to the existence of a heroin smuggling route running from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. The Agents have to hastily follow the couriers on the trans-Pacific flight via numerous stops and layovers, watching for the critical moment of the handover.
  • Operation DE PROFUNDIS (Bozuktepe, Turkey): Using a BNDD investigation into opium smuggling as cover, DELTA GREEN sends the Agents to investigate the suicide and disappearance of archaeologist Charles Whiteman. He was excavating a ceremonial site at Bozuktepe before mysteriously killing himself; his body vanished en route back to England. What did he bring up from the depths before he died?
  • Operation SECOND LOOK (Beirut, Lebanon): The Agents are sent in to surveil another drug deal and gather evidence; this time, an unreliable DELTA GREEN informant, Francois Genoud, is in the mix, and the Agents are ordered to remind him where his loyalties lie – but there’s more at stake here than they know, as sinister powers make a second attempt to uncover secrets of the Mythos…
  • Operation PURITAN (Munich, Germany to Prague, Czechoslovakia): The Agents follow Unione Corse heroin shipments into Munich, but while there, another DELTA GREEN case officer tasks them to investigate unnatural contamination of the CIA’s QK-ACTIVE propaganda broadcasts into the Soviet Union. Who is broadcasting elements of the Necronomicon from a CIA-backed radio station? Finding the truth sends the Agents on a desperate race into Prague.
  • Operation MISTRAL (Marseille, France): During the May ’68 riots, the Agents are sent to Marseille to investigate gang conflicts – and possible Unnatural activity in the troubled city.

13th Sage: Magma in Winter

Mar 1 2019

If you’ve ever played a 13th Age demo with me, it might be obvious that I love miniatures. It’s less obvious that I like miniatures so much that I also love cardboard miniatures, the kind you print out and glue onto cardboard or have sold to you in helpful cardboard packs.

These days my favorite cardboard miniatures are made by my favorite fantasy cartoonist, Rich Burlew. In an art style you’ll recognize from his Order of the Stick comics, Burlew has published four sets of wonderful cardboard minis. The sets are called A Monster for Every Season and they’re for sale at Gumroad. Autumn is probably my favorite. They’re all great.

Earlier today, while working on 13th Age design, I realized I could draft one of Rich’s critters for this column. From the Summer set, here’s the front of what Rich called a magma para-elemental, used with his permission. (Of course all his monsters and heroes have both a front and a back, but for that, buy the set.)

In 13th-Age-world, I’m in the midst of creating adversary groups for an upcoming book. One group is a mix of demons and elementals surfacing from a magically suppressed volcano. Here are stats for one of the critters who embodies a self-destructive collision of demon and elemental.

Twisted Magma Elemental

Fire elementals weren’t meant to spend centuries trapped in a demonic volcano.

4th level archer [ELEMENTAL]

Initiative: +7

Fiery smash +8 vs. AC—10 damage

Natural even hit: 5 ongoing fire damage.

R: Flying magma +8 vs. PD (one nearby or far away enemy)—8 damage to a far away target, or 12 damage to a nearby target

Natural even hit: 5 ongoing fire damage.

C: Local eruption +8 vs. PD (1d4 + 1 nearby enemies)—15 fire damage

Limited use: 1/battle when the escalation die is even. Magma elemental deals 4d6 damage to itself when it uses this ability, and won’t hesitate to blow itself up!

Conditional escalator: The magma elemental adds the escalation die to its attacks when it attacks an enemy that did not move on its previous turn or is delaying or holding a readied action.

Resist fire 16+: When a fire attack targets this creature, the attacker must roll a natural 16+ on the attack roll or it only deals half damage.

AC   21

PD    17                 HP 50

MD  14

 

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