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Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Jack the Riffer

Jul 20 2018

In the latest episode of their highly secure podcast, Ken and Robin talk same foe/different games, China’s Sea Dragon data heist, protagonists, and Witold Pilecki.

Rogue Paleontologist Rewrites Planetary Ecosystem

Jul 16 2018


A scenario seed for Ashen Stars

The lasers pick up a contract from an independent scientific consortium to investigate the fate of one of their Sherlock-class survey vessels. It sent out a distress call several days ago and has not been heard from since. The Linnaeus was orbiting a supposedly barren planet in the backwater Samian system when its call went out.

Arriving at Samian-III, the team finds the wreckage of the downed ship planetside, with no survivors. They also locate its shuttle, drifting in the supposedly dead world’s now teeming ocean. The murdered bodies of its crew members have been stashed in their biomatter collection pods—as if to prevent the corpses from contaminating planetary life.

Contrary to past surveys, a rich ecosystem of aquatic animals exists on Samian III. More bizarrely, they are not just similar to, but exactly the same as, species from Earth’s PreCambrian period. The team’s Xenobiology expert identifies specific organisms, until now known only from fossils. Included are the disc-shaped sea floor dweller Obamus coronatus and the grooved ovoid Attenborites janeae, With so little to go on, paleontologists were never able to reliably assign them to family groups. But here they swim about in abundance, ready to give up the secrets of their DNA.

The crew’s investigation leads to missing biologist Kan Kanfar and an underwater biodome. Before serving in the Mohilar War, he studied these creatures, known collectively as the Ediacara Biota. Slowly dying from toxin exposure sustained during the conflict, he has thrown moral qualms aside, employing an ancient alien technology to finally crack the secrets of his field. After irreparably altering a planet by setting it on the path to an Earth-like ecosystem, a few murders of pesky scientists meant little to him.

He has leagued himself with pirates, who downed the Linnaeus in exchange for a promise of priceless treasure. Does the team deal with him by informing his murder-happy confederates that the loot he has promised is actually only biological data on soft-shelled fauna? Or do they recognize that his judgment has been impaired as a consequence of his service to the Combine, and try to remand him for treatment?

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Thank You For Knowing We Were Right

Jul 13 2018

In the latest episode of their well-stocked podcast, Ken and Robin talk dungeons, carbon reclamation, Jonathan Tweet and Julius Evola.

13% Off the 13th Age On #FridayThe13thAge

Jul 12 2018

Friday the 13th Age is upon us once again! From Friday the 13th through Sunday the 15th, selected 13th Age Roleplaying Game products are on sale for 13% off at the Pelgrane store store, through this special link or using voucher code FRI@13THAGE in the store.

The discount applies to our full range of products, including Battle Scenes bundles, but excluding other bundles, products on pre-order and 13th Age Glorantha and Campaign Coins (which aren’t Pelgrane products).

If you’re looking to fill the missing gaps in your own 13th Age collection, this is a great opportunity. And feel free to forward this email to anyone you know who might enjoy 13th Age—now’s a good time for them to buy the essentials.

Want to participate in the event on Twitter? Use and follow the hashtag #fridaythe13thage

Useful 13th Age links:

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: LIGHTNING RO-O-O-O-O-O-OUND!!!

Jul 6 2018

Rapid fire Qs include arm-wrestling, aftershave and the game we’d bargain our lives for in post-zombie hell as Ken and Robin Talks About Stuff reaches its landmark 300th ep. LIGHTNING RO-O-O-O-O-O-OUND!!!

See Page XX – July 2018

Jul 2 2018

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

Regular readers will notice it’s a much shorter See Page XX this month, as we try to dig our way out of the book production trenches. This is our busiest time of the year, and so we appreciate your patience and understanding if we’re not as quick to respond as usual.

It’s a great time to be a 13th Age fan, with a host of new products available. As well as the 13th Age dice tray and Book of Demons, plus the 13th Age Glorantha pre-order, this month sees the release of the pre-order of Loot Harder: A Book of TreasuresA sequel to the Book of Loot, Loot Harder features adventure hooks, new item types, lair items, linked thematic item sets, and iconic artifacts alongside hundreds of new magic items. Pre-order this, or the Book of Ages (which includes the Engine of the Ages and more than a dozen sample Ages you can borrow from), and get the pre-layout PDFs immediately.

In other releases news, if you bought The Fall of DELTA GREEN from us, the Free RPG Day 2018 PDF is now available to download from your bookshelf. If you bought your copy from a physical, bricks and mortar game store, please email Support with your proof of purchase, and we’ll add it to your bookshelf. Plus, we’ve asked our colleagues at Arc Dream to add a grab code to Backerkit for their Kickstarter backers, so if you backed the DG Kickstarter, you can enter that grab code on the “Pledges” tab of your bookshelf to access the download.

New Releases


13th Age

      • 13th Sage: Speeding Combat – Rob Heinsoo on his experiments with speeding up combat
      • First Contact: The Eyecloud – Clouds of floating eyes by ASH LAW, developed by Rob Heinsoo
      • The Iconic podcast is going strong! You can listen to the latest episodes here:
      • 13th Age Character Builds. In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements

See Page XX Poll

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

View from the Pelgrane’s Nest July 2018

Jul 2 2018

We are in the all-too-narrow gap between Origins and Gen Con, and the Nest is a hive of frenzied activity (if you’d forgive the mixed metaphor). Some new releases will make Gen Con, others won’t.  Origins is a little like a relaxed dress rehearsal for Gen Con. It has shorter exhibition hours, and while it’s busy, the aisles never get blocked with throngs of people. I had the pleasure of meeting Colleen Riley, our Administrative Assistant, and we mingled as always with game designers and fellow publishers new and old. By contrast, Gen Con will be at maximum capacity – hotel booking has become even more fraught this year as they play Tetris with the Pelgrane Crew. We’ll be having a GUMSHOE workshop and annual summit pre-convention to ease us into the mayhem.

This month’s new releases and pre-orders include, for 13th AgeLoot Harder: A Book of Treasures and the Book of Ages. The Fall of DELTA GREEN is now on general sale.

The Fall of Delta Green

The Fall of DELTA GREEN is in stores, its launch coinciding with Free RPG Day. Kickstarter backers and pre-orderers were shipped their copies some time ago. For pre-orderers, the Free RPG Day release PDF is now available as a download on your bookshelf, and Kickstarter backers will also receive a grabcode. Geek and Sundry has written a detailed review of Fall – describing it as:

“… a game you need to try because it is one of the greatest settings of all-time, uses a system that perfectly matches the investigative genre, is produced by a team of publishers, designers, and artists all working at the height of their powers to produce what may prove to be an iconic product of this current golden age of role-playing.”

They also added Fall to their list of best Table Top Games this year to date. You could also check out this interview with Kenneth Hite on Geek Nation.

Cthulhu Confidential

If you bought a physical copy from Pelgrane, the Free RPG Day release is now available for download from your bookshelf.

Trail of Cthulhu

13th Age

Loot Harder: A Book of Treasures is now available for pre-order.

The Book of Ages layout is nearly complete, and includes in it tools for your to chronicle your own Ages, unique to your campaign. If you need an Age-ending cataclysm, try these:


Roll a d6.

1. Dimensional barriers failed, allowing demons, elementals and entities from other worlds to rampage across the Empire.

Reality collapsed and had to be rebuilt. The barriers fell because (roll a d6)

1. Magic stopped working

2. An evil cult completed a ritual

3. Fools opened an ancient ward

4. Invaders from the far side broke through

5. The stars were right

6. No-one knows, and it might happen again at any time.

2. Plague stalked the land, killing 5d20% of the population. Victims of the plague (roll a d6)

1. Rose as zombies

2. Exploded into flames

3. Became brain-slaves of the Overmind

4. Ascended bodily into the divine realms

5. Became hosts for the killer insects

6. Marched into the Midland Sea and drowned

3. A gigantic beast marauded across the land and destroyed the Empire. It was… (roll a d6)

1. The Red

2. A Koru Behemoth

3. A Living Dungeon

4. A monster from the Iron Sea

5. An extradimensional invader with lots of tentacles

6. An icon gone insane

4. Something fell from the sky. What was it? (roll a d6)

1. Giant flaming meteors of doom

2. Spears of ice

3. Monstrous alien eggs

4. Murderous insane angels

5. Face-eating jaguars

6. Chunks of the sky

5. Volcanoes erupted, vomiting gouts of hellfire and demonbile, and smoke darkened the sky creating a year without light. What horrors followed? (roll a d6)

1. Crops failed and famine stalked the land.

2. Fire elementals everywhere.

3. The volcanoes became hellholes and demons reigned.

4. The survivors were forced to hide underground in caves and dungeons for a century.

5. The survivors evacuated to flying islands and could not return to the surface for many years.

6. Attempts by the Archmage to tame the volcanoes broke the foundations of magic.

6. The Empire was destroyed by civil war (roll a d6)

1. Between rival heirs to the throne

2. Between the various races of Elves, Dwarves and Humans

3. When the Emperor went mad and had to be overthrown

4. Because evil cults had taken over the Empress’s court and poisoned her mind against the people

5. Triggered by economic collapse

6. Between rival religions

Mutant City Blues

Mutant City Blues second edition is underway. Gareth has made a pass through updating the text, he’s added a Private Detective option for Luke Cage / Jessica Jones style action, and Robin is tweaking the rules to update the blast rules. It will have all new art, to reflect a more modern sensibility.

See P. XX: How Playtesting Changed The Yellow King

Jul 2 2018


A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is now out of my hands and progressing through the next stages of production on its way to actuality.

Thanks to the eagle efforts of our dauntless playtesters, I received lots of extremely useful feedback on game play, resulting in a number of changes to the final version.

Kickstarter backers have a preview version representing the state of the manuscript as of mid-summer last year. Playtesters saw and played intermediate versions from the fall and then the end of last year.

The most consistent message from testers was that the game was deadlier than I thought, cycling through PCs at a higher than expected rate.

And here I was worrying, based on the foe-smashing exploits of my own in-house group, that the combat system was too lenient!

If you have a previous draft, then, you’ll see a number of changes to lengthen investigator lifespan.

Foe Difficulties have been scaled down.

More of the foes at the higher end of the Relative Challenge scale now appear with additional ways to lower their Difficulty numbers by gaining information about them before you fight them.

Starting general ability build points have been nudged upwards, to give you more points to spend on key survival abilities.

Perhaps most effectively, the text now explicitly gives players guidelines for the number of points the system expects them to invest in such character-preserving abilities as Fighting, Composure, Athletics and (in The Wars) Battlefield.

Also in The Wars, Scrounging, a theme for an ability in search of a vital game purpose, can now be used to refresh other characters’ Battlefield ability. That’s what you use to avoid bombs, barrages and other means of mass death on the front lines of the Continental War. Scrounging now mirrors the way Morale can be used to boost Composure for PCs in that sequence and in Aftermath.

To complete the adjustment, GMs can now choose between two toughness settings, Horror and Occult Adventure modes. In Horror, your character leaves play after accumulating 3 Injury cards or 3 shock cards. The more forgiving Occult Adventure mode takes you out after 4 Injury or 4 Shock cards.

Another common theme in playtest reports: players hated paying Tolls. These mandatory point spends, which you can make from any combo of Athletics, Fighting and Health, model the low-grade wear and tear you suffer even when you win a fight. Weaker foes now have Tolls of 0, so you don’t start to deal with Tolls until you’re fighting someone big and bad. Also, Tolls dropped across the board.

I didn’t dump them entirely. Experience with past systems has shown that players also resist a combat system that lets them emerge from a victory totally unscathed. The final rule strikes a balance between two opposing flavors of cognitive dissonance.

On my final design pass I eliminated a number of rules that went unmentioned by playtesters and unused in my own group. They hit the cutting room floor for not generating enough engagement to justify their presence.

In Aftermath I removed War Footing, a state of high alert players used to be able to declare for their characters. It gave them a bonus to Fighting and a penalty to Composure—the idea that they were risking their hard-won adjustment to civilian life by falling back into their insurgent mindset. War Footing didn’t get used because players had to remember to invoke it, and already had plenty of other stuff to think about. Also it has to be a hard tradeoff to achieve its thematic end, and brains don’t like those. As one of those ideas that shows a certain logic on paper but never pays off in practice, War Footing hit the bricks.

Another rule that added complexity for a thematic payoff that paid off was a distinction, in This is Normal Now, between sapient and non-sapient Foes. My original thought was that it ought to be harder for the ordinary people of that final sequence to kill intelligent beings. In the end I dropped it in favor of a simpler set of foe difficulties. If the distinction had factored into player decisions in an interesting way it could have justified its existence. But in an investigative game a Difficulty bonus doesn’t much change who the PCs choose to attack and who to run from. So out it went.

The greatest number of revision waves happened in the Shock and Injury card sections. Familiarity with play honed my feel for the sorts of effects and discards that made a splash, and which ones fell flat, were hard to implement, or rarely applied.

So for example The Tremors, a workhorse, low-intensity Shock card, started its life looking like this:

Your next Interpersonal Push costs 2 Pushes.

Discard after it applies, or at end of scenario.

But in the final version has become more overtly interactive:

-1 to Presence.

Discard by going to a scary location. Discard by initiating an encounter with a scary person, creature or entity.

The updated version prompts action, where the original makes a particular, not terribly common action less likely or impossible.

While remaining true to its core idea that failing to gain information is never entertaining, GUMSHOE has continued to evolve since its debut more than a decade ago.

Someday I may well find myself creating a bunch of new sub-systems for some genre or setting we haven’t tackled before, tossing about half of them before the book goes to layout.

All with the help of our indispensable playtesters, who we can’t thank enough for making our games better.

Collage illustration for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game by Dean Engelhardt

The Yellow King Roleplaying Game is Pelgrane’s mind-shattering, era-spanning game of reality horror based on the classic stories of Robert W. Chambers. Coming in December 2018.

First Contact: The Eyecloud

Jul 2 2018


By ASH LAW, development by Rob Heinsoo

From the moment we entered the tomb, we felt like we were being watched. We all felt it, even Sigurd. I admit I was almost grateful to watch him squirm, for a change.

—Mamoru the Justly Paranoid

Heralds of warped magic

Clouds of floating eyes appear near rifts in time and space, in areas where old magic has turned in on itself, and near the graves of wizards who died horrible deaths due to magical misadventure.

Some wizards say that these eyeclouds are reality’s way of checking in on where things have gone wrong—a bit like wibbles (13th Age Bestiary), but more proactive. Even if true, this has the advantage of not ruling out other possibilities. Maybe eyeclouds are forward scouts, or heralds of a strange pantheon from elsewhere. Maybe they’re related to the fomori from 13th Age Bestiary 2 (page 80)Or maybe eyeclouds are associated with creatures forbidden to enter official 13th Age products, though there’d be no keeping them out of your home games if you chose.

Eyeclouds are sometimes ‘tamed’ through magical rituals and set as guardians over tombs, or used by some of the darker icons as watchdogs. Some rituals allow a sort of twisted attunement to the monster, allowing its master to see what the floating eyes see.

Interpreting the warp: The reality warp attack below has a trigger that asks the GM or the player to figure out which ally the targeted PC happens to look at next. It’s a fun ability to determine by roleplay, but a truly determined PC could try to use their willpower to look at no one, or at the ally who can best take the hit. GMs, if you feel like a PC is trying to control their vision better than you think they could, make them pass a hard skill check (DC 20) using Wisdom or Intelligence to handle the warp without an unwary or unconscious glance at an ally they’d been trying to avoid: “Mustn’t look at Kevitch, he’s nearly dead! . . .Whoops.” .


This monster looks like trouble.

Double-strength 4th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +9


Reality warp +9 vs. PD—16 force damage and 4 ongoing force damage

Natural even hit or miss: The target deals 8 force damage to the next ally that they look at (or deals the damage to themselves at the end of their next turn if they haven’t looked at an ally).


R: Wearying gaze +9 vs. MD—Target is hampered, easy save ends (if the target rolls a natural 16+ to save, this attack recharges!)

Limited use: 1/battle as a quick action


Flight: This eyecloud moves like a swarm of bees.


Nastier specials

Hard to hit: This eyecloud takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks on turns when the escalation die is odd.


AC  20

PD  18           HP 112

MD 15


Dread Eyecloud

You’re guessing most of the eyes in the cloud aren’t human eyes, but if you spend any time really looking at it, you’re going to be in trouble.

Double-strength 10th level spoiler [aberration]

Initiative: +15


Flesh warp +15 vs. PD (two attacks)—40 damage and 20 ongoing damage

Hit against an enemy taking ongoing damage from this attack already: The target grows an extra eye, through which enemies can see. Until the eye is cut out (standard action, 20 damage) the target has a -2 penalty to all defenses against ranged and close attacks.


R: Dread gaze +15 vs. MD—Target is confused, save ends but recharges the power.

Limited use: 1/battle as a quick action


Flight: This monster moves like a mid-migration colony of bats.


Nastier specials

Even harder to hit: This eyecloud takes half damage from melee and ranged attacks, unless it has been hit by a close attack since its previous turn.

See the opening: The flesh warp’s power to cause an enemy to grow an extra eye now works on any enemy taking ongoing damage, regardless of the source of the damage.


AC  24

PD  26           HP 380

MD 25


Unfamiliar familiars

A lone floating eyeball, somehow separated from its cloud, makes for an interesting familiar for magic-users who are used to dealing with the outer realms of reality. A weird wizard might have one, sure. But what about a necromancer, or a chaos mage? True, these classes don’t normally get familiars—but a GM could make an exception for a player who is willing to invest a talent.

Getting a floating eye: A floating eye familiar could be the last eye from a swarm of floating eyeballs, or could be the magically enchanted eye of another slain monster. Imagine a ranger walking around with the magically preserved eye of a dragon as a pet. The occultist could even decide to ‘free’ one of their own eyes and imbue it with a demi-life of its own.

Familiar abilities: Floating eyeballs miss out on some familiar abilities from page 150 of the 13th Age core rulebook (no counter-bite, mimic, poisonous, tough, or talkative). Floating eyes always get the alert ability as one of their two starting abilities, and get the option of some new abilities too:

Sight beyond sight: You can see what your familiar sees, as though it were your own eye

Insightful vision: When you are in the presence of something invisible your familiar rolls a save (11+) to see it anyway

Keen eye: Once per battle when you would normally miss with a ranged attack, add 1d3 to the attack roll (the natural roll is unaffected)

Flying?: FYI, a floating eye without the flight ability just hovers about near your head, and must have the flight ability before it gains the scout ability.

Adventure Hooks

Delve complications—The adventurers are dungeon-delving, and whoever or whatever is at the heart of the dungeon knows their every move. Soon the cause becomes apparent: floating eyes spying on them. Do the adventurers chase after and fight the eyes, or would they be heading into a trap?

The eyes of the cabal—A cabal of wizards have died, and their eyes have returned to life as a monster. The adventurers must find the cabal’s bodies and properly inter them, or face eyecloud monsters that resurrect each nightfall.

Watchful eyes—The adventurers are offered a ‘tame’ cloud of eyeballs to act as a watchdog for their base of operations. The cost? One of them must give up an eye to become the new owner of the watchful eyes. The twist is that whoever gives up an eye gains a secret relationship die with an unexpected icon who is now able to spy on the party.

Warped vision—The adventures encounter an area of warped wild magic, and one of their eyeballs detaches and floats away. Later the party encounters a cloud of floating eyes. Can the party somehow subdue the eyecloud and ‘rescue’ the lost eye?

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The Plain People of Gaming: Mutant City Black Ops

Jul 2 2018

In the setting of Mutant City Blues, approximately one in a hundred people developed a mutant ability in the wake of the still-mysterious Sudden Mutation Event. Some powers had obvious social or commercial benefits, and mutants with these powers could easily find a place. Mutant healers transformed parts of healthcare, telepaths and dream-peepers revolutionised psychology, transmuters made new wonders possible in chemistry and material science.

Other people were gifted with more dangerous powers – they could shoot blasts of fire from their fingertips, or spit venom, or drain all the oxygen from a room with a touch.

They, too, could easily find a place.

In the course of their duties as part of the Heightened Crime Investigative Unit, Mutant City Blues characters might bump up against mutant-related military activity or espionage. They might have to liaise with military police to arrest a mutant recruit who fled the Army’s GXI section, or discover that the disease-spreading criminal has powerful friends in Washington thanks to her connections to a secret mutant bioweapons group.

Select Operations Support Group

Part of the USSOCOM Special Operations Command, the Select Operations Support Group brings together the most powerful mutants from the US military and trains them to take part in special operations missions. The Select Operations Support Group’s primary purpose is support for conventional SOCOM tasks – they’re more interested in having teleporters carry supplies to units behind enemy lines, or water manipulators who can disable underwater drones without being detected. Still, anyone in the SOSG has passed the supremely demanding Q Course used to vet all special forces recruits.


The 1stGenetically Expressive Infantry Brigade is a newly-formed US Army unit made up entirely of mutants. Ostensibly, the 1stGXI’s purpose is to group mutant Army personnel together to develop methodology and tactics using heightened abilities, similar to the Heightened Crimes Investigative Unit. The GXI program has been troubled since its conception; initially it was seen as an exercise in PR, and mutant soldiers tried to avoid a transfer to the unit to avoid damaging their careers. Since then, it’s been rocked by a scandal involving a cell of mutant separatists who were caught stealing explosives and ammunition from the army. The GXI still has a tarnished reputation.


The CIA reactivated their old STARGATE program within days of the first mutant manifestation, and quickly identified and recruited mutants who might be useful either for intelligence gathering or for their black-ops section. The program isn’t called GRIDFIRE any more – its current codename is classified, but the GRIDFIRE name was used in a tranche of documents leaked by a whistleblower who revealed details of the program’s use of mutant mind controllers and telepathic interrogation techniques.

Of particular interest to police was a subprogram called SPEEDRUN, which monitored the prison population for mutants with useful abilities, and offered them reduced sentences or special treatment in exchange for the use of their abilities.

FBI Talent Resource Office

FBITRO is a section within the Bureau’s Human Resources division that recruits and trains mutants who might be useful to agents in the field. If an FBI agent needs a Tracker, or someone who can command birds, or bulletproof backup, the TRO can find the nearest reliable and thoroughly vetted mutant. TRO prefers, where possible, to use law enforcement personnel, so HCIU mutants might be temporarily seconded to FBITRO and assigned to a federal investigation.

FBI Mutant Screening Centre

The Mutant Screening Centre’s primary role is to identify and monitor mutants with Article 18 powers. It also functions as the federal equivalent of the HCIU, taking on investigations that involve considerable use of mutant powers. MSR hands off most of its cases to local law enforcement when possible; it’ll inform local authorities when a registered A18 subject moves into their jurisdiction – or when a rogue A18 needs to be apprehended.

Brightlane Services

Brightlane’s a private military contractor that provides “security consultancy” across the world, especially in war-torn and unstable regions. Brightlane employs a considerable number of mutants; they’re especially interested in recruiting mutants with combat abilities. Brightlane’s been accused of pressuring mutants into working for them; allegedly, if they need a particular talent, they’ll use blackmail or other threats to ensure compliance – or so the rumours go, anyway…

Mutant City Blues is an investigative science fiction roleplaying game by Robin D. Laws where members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. Purchase Mutant City Blues in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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