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Using Slack to Electronically Serve Yellow King Cards

Nov 12 2018

During the Kickstarter for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, I laid out one method of serving Shock and Injury cards to players electronically, as image files sent to a mobile-enabled platform. At that time, I recommended using Google Photos for this purpose. Belatedly I realize that there was a better way to do it, using the workspace application Slack.

Here’s how to do that:

If you haven’t done so already, create a Slack workspace for your game group.

(I now find this an essential tool for my group, no matter what we’re playing. The Polly poll app, for example, gives you a handy way to conduct an advance roll call and make sure you have quorum before anyone grabs their dice and heads your way.)

Within the workspace, create a separate channel for each player character. Depending on how well you remember PC names, you may want to name it after the character, or place the player’s name before or after the investigator name. Slack doesn’t allow spaces or upper case letters in channel names so you’ll have to resort to underscores:

#ella_wharton

#noelle_ella_wharton

#ella_wharton_noelle

Alternately, you could serve cards into the private message inbox of each player. However, some players like to use that for banter, out of game arrangements and other side business. Creating a channel for each player keeps that clear for cards and in-game notes, and reminds other players of the cast of investigators.

Also, if a member of your group is without a mobile device, they can sit next to a player with a laptop or tablet. With a little looking over-the-shoulder, the obliging device owner can switch between channels as needed to allow the other person to check their cards in hand.

When a character receives a Shock or Injury card, you upload it to the appropriate channel. You can do this directly from a folder if using a laptop. On a tablet, you can put the card images in Dropbox and share them from that service’s mobile app into the Slack app.

Slack permits only the creator of a message line to delete that line, so when a player discards a card, you’ll have to delete it in order for it to disappear. Be sure your players let you know when they fulfill a discard condition.

We’re currently assembling materials for our YKRPG resources page, including image files for each card. If you need them before we get that done, you can check the books for the cards you think you’ll need and turn them into images. Accomplish this either by screenshotting the PDF or by opening the PDF in an image editing program such as GIMP. Then crop the cards into separate images, save with the card titles as file names, and you’re good to go.

Some GMs will still prefer the tactile quality of paper cards printed, cut up, and handed to players. But for those, like me, who consider immediate access to all the cards in the game the ideal, a Slack full of pallid masks and black stars should do the trick.

People Have Opinions about service platforms. If you come up with an even better way, let us know!

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: Bootlegger Reverse

Nov 9 2018

In the latest episode of their ineluctably sly podcast, Ken and Robin talk pulling switcheroos on players, the Chicago film fest, GUMSHOE 101, and the Easter Rising.

Icon Followers

Nov 6 2018

Soldiers of the Emperor, happily unaware that they might soon be statted up as monsters. “We’re only NPCs!” they say to each other. “We’re safe!”

NPC followers of icons like the Priestess, Emperor, and Archmage aren’t usually monsters—but that doesn’t stop player characters from wanting to fight them!

Icon Followers will focus on playable monster-stats for human and humanoid NPCs of the Dragon Empire. Want stats for a city guard, gladiator, traveling priest, bardic college student, or Imperial Legionnaire? Icon Followers gives you options for many such NPCs, further distinguished by their chosen icon or their home environment. Less generic write-ups cover intriguing agents of the icons such as the Blue’s diplomatic envoys and the Priestess’ minotaur labyrinth-keepers.

Authors include Rob Heinsoo, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Liz Argall, Lynne Hardy, Steven Warzeha, and Wade Rockett.

Icon Followers is currently in development. Stay tuned for a release date!

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: To Be Sure, the Romans

Nov 2 2018

In the latest episode of their unswervingly faithful podcast, Ken and Robin talk game fickleness, Steve Kenson, and this year’s raid on Powell’s Books Portland.

The Plain People of Gaming: Fear Yourself

Nov 1 2018

Roleplaying games are fascinatingly mediated. In almost every other storytelling medium, the audience perceives the action directly. They see the actors on the stage or screen, the characters in the computer game, the voices in the radio play. In prose, true, the author can play tricks with an unreliable narrator or writing in a very subjective fashion, giving an internal monologue – but that runs the risk of alienating the reader. If the audience can’t follow the plot, the story’s lost.

In a roleplaying game, everything goes through the GM. The player gets second-hand impressions of what’s happening (“you see the figure crawling out of the grave”) and then interrogates the GM to get the details the player is interested in (compare the questions “do I recognise the figure” versus “are there any exits? Anything I can use as a weapon”). This gives the GM immense influence over the player’s perceptions of what’s going on (I talked about this before in Spooky Significance).

In a one-on-one game like Cthulhu Confidential, you can go even further. Traditionally, it’s a terrible idea to take control of a character away from a player for long – if Bob’s mind-controlled by Dracula, then Bob ends up sitting there bored while Alice and Eve play on without him.  In a one-on-one game, though, you can skip ahead or around in time easily, and use your influence over the player’s perceptions to shape how they experience the transitions.

For example, you can have an abrupt transition…

Suddenly, someone jolts against you. Your hand burns – they’ve spilled coffee on you. You’re sitting in a coffee shop. Sunlight’s blazing through the window. You’ve no idea how you got there. The last twelve hours are a blank. What did you do in that time?

…a smooth transition…

You find yourself sitting in a coffee shop. It’s daylight. You have only hazy memories of the last few hours, full of gaps. It’s all a bit vague. Anyway, what are you doing?

Or even an unnoticed transition.

You go home to sleep. The next day, you what, grab coffee? Ok, you’re in a coffee shop, when…

The Horror Within

For a mechanical patina – assume the player character has some dark power within them. They’re a secret werewolf, intermittently possessed, channeling psychic forces, unstuck in time… When the player hits a Setback, give the player the option to reroll the dice – but the player suffers a period of missing time, during which they’re under the control of the dark forces. What did they do while their dark half had control?

In Cthulhu Confidential, there’s a host of ghastly horrors that might seize control of Dex. He might be possessed by a Shan or mind-swapped with a member of the Great Race of Yith. Or, like ill-fated Walter Gilman, he might find himself slipping in and out of dreams, waking in unfamiliar places with only hazy memories of his actions…


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.

See Page XX – November 2018

Nov 1 2018

Page XX logo (2015_04_01 16_53_09 UTC)

Late autumn is upon us, and it’s the season to curl up in front of a roaring fire with a good book. New books in autumnal green and brown are the limited edition versions of The Fall of DELTA GREEN and the 13th Age Bestiary 2, available in the webstore this month, alongside a compendium of mythos monsters and more in Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos, available to pre-order now.

New Releases

Articles

13th Age

View from the Pelgrane’s Nest – November 2018

Nov 1 2018

Hallowe’en is sadly over, but this month, it’s our printers who’ve been largely horrifying me, with tales of a 10% increase in paper prices. This has generated some hair-raising quotes for our upcoming books, specifically impacting the printing of The Yellow King RPG. Kickstarter backers will be unaffected, but it may make the final book collection more expensive than we’d originally anticipated. This seems to be an industry-wide development, so consider making any holiday book purchases sooner rather than later.

NEW! Limited editions of The Fall of DELTA GREEN and the 13th Age Bestiary 2

If you’ve ever listened to Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (and if you haven’t, you should!), you’ll know that Ken loves books. This is particularly true of lush and exclusive books, so we’re excited to be releasing the limited edition of The Fall of DELTA GREEN this month. Wrapped in a green faux leather cover, reminiscent of Indochine jungles, this luxury version of the GUMSHOE adaptation of Arc Dream’s Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game includes a bookplate straight from the pen of Ken himself.

Brown faux owlbear-skin wraps the limited edition of the 13th Age Bestiary 2. Rob Heinsoo didn’t capture the creatures for the binding himself, but he has hand-signed a bookplate for each copy. Rob was ably assisted in the writing of the Bestiary 2 by a Monstrous Legion of co-authors – too many to include on the bookplate, sadly, but maybe you can catch ’em all at conventions? If you do, we’d love to see photos of your bookplate!

The Persephone Extraction

I’m delighted to report that we’ve been able to add the final PDF of The Persephone Extraction to pre-orderers’ bookshelves. It’s eight pages longer, and £7/$8 cheaper, than we anticipated when we innocently released it on pre-order last year, but it’s done, and in the hands of the printers. Assuming we’ve broken the back of the Count (you know which one)’s curse on releasing Night’s Black Agents books, we’ll be shipping this out to pre-orderers in January.

Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos

And speaking of books being longer than anticipated, we’ve just added another eight pages of an index to Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos. We’re putting the final touches to this now, and will be updating pre-orderer PDFs later this month. Indexing something so information dense is a fascinating task, and it’s given me a new appreciate for the depth of research Ken puts into his work. Every page is rich with the accumulation of a lifetime’s study of esoteric lore, and the whole is a deep dive into the mystic and mythostic.

Cthulhu Confidential Problem and Edge card deck

Many of you have expressed interest in a printed copy of the Cthulhu Confidential Problem and Edge card deck, and we’ve been working with our partners at DriveThruRPG to make this happen. You can now print your own deck of Cthulhu Confidential cards on demand over on their website, along with our other card decks like the Hillfolk and Dracula Dossier card decks.

Conventions

If you’re out and about this month, you can catch up with us at a number of conventions. Ken and I will be doing panels and hanging out at Metatopia in New Jersey this weekend. Colleen will be holding down the fort at our first ever Gamehole Con booth in Madison, WI. Ken is a Guest of Honour at U-Con in Michigan. Colleen and I will be boothing at PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, but if you’re on the other side of the pond, Simon, Gareth, Ken, Robin and Rob Heinsoo will be propping up the Pelgrane booth at Dragonmeet in London, England.

 

 

13th Sage: Two Literary Takes on the Queen’s Wood

Nov 1 2018

Elf Queen SketchThe 13th Age core book tells us little about the Queen’s Wood, where the Elf Queen rules: it’s a sprawling elven wood, largely empty now, whose trees have leaves that are “a riot of silver and gold and green and indigo.” In the lengthy description of the elven Court of Stars in 13 True Ways, we learn a bit more:

The Queen’s Wood redounds with the magic of nature, to which the elves of all mortal races remain most bound. The Court of Stars moves in harmony with the other, inaccessible natural worlds hanging high in the heavens. It moves across the magical forest as the constellations proceed through the night sky above. As such it comprises the central vortex of the ever-growing, ever-breathing collection of living things that is the Queen’s Wood. Just as the plants of the forest floor can grow from seed to maturity in a few short hours, the forest transforms itself as the Court approaches. To try to map it is fruitless. It’s not that you can’t perceive it properly—all the details of the physical environment exist in literal reality. But by the time you’ve drawn up your map, the details have faded into obsolescence.

So, here we have a fairy wood, ever-changing under the Queen’s influence. This is more than enough to spark the imagination when it comes to adventures inside the Queen’s Wood: this place is magic, but of a vastly different kind than the Archmage’s in Horizon. Time and space behave differently here, not because someone harnessed the power of wizardry and, through force of will, made it that way. There’s no “because” here; things simply are, the way they simply are in a fairy tale.

How do you represent this in your game, should you decide to send your heroes on a quest within in the Queen’s Wood? Here’s how two of my favorite fantasy authors handled the matter of the deep, magical forest, and those who dwell within.

Little, Big: The Further In You Go, The Bigger It Gets

John Crowley’s novel Little, Big chronicles the lives of the Drinkwater family, whose destiny is mysteriously bound up with the fairies. In a flashback to the Victorian era, we hear an ancestor, Dr. Bramble, explain why he believes descriptions of the little folk vary so wildly—from tiny people with “spears of locust-thorns and their chariots made of nutshells” to fully-formed men and women three feet tall, all the way up to “fairy warriors on great steeds, banshees and pookahs and ogres who are huge, larger by far than men.”

His theory is that the universe consists of worlds or layers of reality in concentric circles. Our world is the outermost, largest ring; but paradoxically, the further in you go, the bigger those innermost worlds are. Passing through a “door” into the next circle brings one into contact with the smallest of the fey. Entering the next circle, you meet larger fey. At the center is the infinite realm of Faery.

Using this approach in an adventure within the Queen’s Wood makes the journey a multidimensional one that plays with the idea of perception vs. reality. The characters may perceive themselves to be traveling through a forest, but they’re actually transitioning between parallel worlds. Each world, zone, circle—however you want to frame it—is home to different types of fey creatures found in 13th Age. But perhaps in the Queen’s Wood, elves, pixies, sprites,  and so on only appear to be different types of creatures because the PCs encounter them in different places. Maybe the next time they glance over at the pixie NPC who agreed to be their guide, that tiny, winged creature has become a faun, or a tall elven warrior with a shining spear. (See the fey entry in the 13th Age Bestiary 2, particularly the power of a name mechanic which gives fey different powers depending on which name they’ve taken.)

Lavondyss: Old Forbidden Place

In Robert Holdstock’s book Lavondyss, Ryhope Wood is England’s last primeval forest, and the way into the Otherworld, or “Old Forbidden Place” as the book’s hero Tallis calls it. Here, “mythagos”—hero-forms from myth, legend, and folklore—take material form from the power of the forest and the often dark, violent subconscious of humanity. You could meet Guinevere, or Robin Hood, or olderheroes from humanity’s prehistoric past here. But the Robin Hood you meet might not be the version you’re familiar with, or want: a winking rogue in Lincoln Green, or a strange, silent predator. Arthur might look like Malory’s noble Once and Future King, or might be Artorius, a Latin-speaking military commander covered in mud and blood.

If you like the idea of ancient heroes and legends (or their phantoms) dwelling in the Queen’s Wood, here’s where you open your copy of The Book of Ages and dive in—because past icons make great mythagos. This version of your players’ journey through the forest has a dreamlike feeling where past and present are mingled, and turning a corner might lead them to the scene of the Barbarian King’s last battle, a tangled path where the Huntsman has laid his snares, or to the foot of the Hermit’s tower. These shadow forms of the icons might be friends, foes, or both. It’s likely that the elves will warn you away from them, but maybe there’s a piece of vital information you need, and only the Spelljack (or his memory) has it.

For this approach, I recommend checking out the chapter on Heroquesting in 13th Age Glorantha. The PCs might perform a ritual in the Queen’s Wood, where the barriers of time and space are flexible, to enter a timeless realm of heroes and participate in the significant events of past ages as they exist in myth and dream. Success there could provide mythic insights or special magic items, or even alter the world in the present day by setting right an ancient wrong.

About 13th Age

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.

See P. XX: What Happened in The Wars

Nov 1 2018

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

This is the second in a series of four columns demonstrating what a full arc of The Yellow King Roleplaying Game might look like, with events from my own game as an example.

In The Wars, the players leave behind the roles of Belle Epoque art students, becoming soldiers in the 1947 Continental War. As French soldiers, they fight on the Loyalist side, with the identity of the enemy, the Crowns, determined in part by the events they played out in Paris. In that game they worked with the German foreign office against the Yellow Sign conspiracy—so here, the French and Germans are democratic allies against the authoritarian English, Russians, and Nordic nations. Your Paris game will probably inspire in a different configuration of forces when you get to The Wars.

Characters were:

 

Player

Character

Civilian Occupation

Drive

Damn Peculiar Thing

Connection

to Previous PC

Chris

Sgt Cerf

Career Military

 

 

 

Duty

Recurring nightmares about the coming mission – fake tanks are filled with corpses whose faces he knows

Comes from family of longtime anti-Carcosan operatives, Gus was grizzled American friend

Justin

Pvt Jean Edouard

Writer

Curiosity

entered an empty plain and was surrounded by spectral horsemen

had Aaron’s old diaries

Paul

Pvt Marc Logres

Med Student

Heard grandpa’s stories about Carcosa

On three occasions, food in the mess tin look like topographical features – then you’ve gone on a mission to that place and found a mutilated corpse–face gone but the same person maybe?

Georges’ grandson

Shel

Pvt Ange Vanel

Photographer

Morbid Curiosity

ran into a woman who looked like one from the book of portraits

has a book of Ida’s portraits

Scott

Pvt Thomas Gerard

Merchant

Can-Do Attitude

Voices on the camo recordings are saying his name

supplied O’Brien’s architectural firm with building materials

Sue

Lt Rose Cheval

Career Military

Vindication

sky turned white and the rest of the platoon was killed

Jurie

Pvt Georges Renard

Accountant

Truth

saw that people were made of paper and tore apart a little girl

 

(This is the list of characters as of the end of the series, with replacement characters coming in after the deaths of original PCs. Hence, Lt. Cheval’s lack of a connection to a Paris character. Jurie joined us in progress, and so had no Paris PC to link up to.)

For this series I assigned my players the premise I figured they’d find the most fun and flexible: they became a Shadow Squadron, engaged in advanced camouflage activities, with the occasional foray into intelligence operations.

Sometimes my players like to squeeze every last drop of soup from the bones. When I ran the scenario from the book, “A Feast for Wolves,” they spent four sessions on it. I imagine that will remain something of a record. Again, I don’t want to spoil the contents of the published adventures, so let’s just say they took the option that required the most reactive improvisation from the GM. So it became much more of an epic than you see on the page.

Week five was a haunted house / constrained location scenario, with the wartime twist being that the squad couldn’t leave the scary place because they’d been ordered to hold it as a strategic location. This was the session in which the terrible cries of foxes became an ongoing horror motif that continued to echo through the rest of the arc. I’ve already described it in detail here.

Week six, “The Installation”, had the group investigating weird activity around a French research facility. They discovered a mad science experiment to imbue walkers—the many-legged equivalent of tanks in this reality—with the consciousnesses of unwilling experimental subjects. Addhema, their vampire Big Bad from Paris, made her return as the brigadier general in charge of the program. When your villain is immortal, her reappearance two generations later requires no additional explanation.

The next two sessions featured another reimagining of an opponent from Paris, as the group discovered that a town they’d been sent to spread disinformation in was under attack from animated statues, including a winged Salome. Deep in the woods, they found the studio of a now elderly Gus Morley, Chris’ character from the previous sequence. Now played as as GMC, I ensured that he was as truculent as a typical Chris character. So of course Chris’ current character grew impatient with him and shot him dead. I would never second-guess my players in public, and so won’t mention that the group hadn’t gotten the clues from him when the fatal point of annoyance was reached. GUMSHOE promises that you can get all the information if you look in the right place with the right ability, not that you won’t pull your sidearm and shoot the information dead when it mouths off to you.

Weeks nine and ten found the group on assassination prevention detail, as a supernatural killer sent by the Crowns attempted to take out the French high commander—Isaac Philipson, the baby from Carcosa introduced at the end of the Paris sequence, now an adult. Addhema made another appearance as a trusted ally of Philipson’s—again in a position where the group was unable to move against her.

Next came a classic murder mystery in a military setting, as the group tried to figure out which member of an infantry squadron killed their medic. They found their culprits, who had been driven to homicidal unreason by exposure to the terrible play, The King in Yellow.

The twelfth week foreshadowed the coming big battle sequence. The squadron was reassigned from camouflage duty to muster for an assault against enemy-occupied Marseilles. As Loyalist forces massed, the group learned that soldiers were falling prey to mysterious fratricidal urges. They traced this malign influence to a ghostly figure of vengeance luring the unwary to a woodside brothel.

A final two-parter culminated in a set-piece action sequence that sent the squad plunging through Marseilles as climactic battle raged all around them. When the characters took refuge in the sewers, I introduced the cross-reality motif by having them bump into weird scientists from our modern day.

In the end they captured Camilla and took her to Cassilda (or was it the other way around?), and one revealed the suicide vest that destroyed them both—along with several of the PCs.

Or did it destroy anyone but the mortals?

With a big finish to this sequence, but also more unanswered questions, we were ready to move on to Aftermath, which I’ll encapsulate next month.


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.

The Borellus Connection

Nov 1 2018

The sonofabitch is in here somewhere. I saw him — I’m gonna get him.” – The French Connection

In 1968, in response to sinister influences that threatened to corrupt America from within and without, the Federal Government established a new agency – one that quickly acquired a reputation for ambitious operations overseas, for covert action, and for doing what had to be done, no matter the cost.

This new agency was the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the BNDD.

And within it – the forces of DELTA GREEN.

Trail of the White Powder

Hunt the Unnatural across the world! From the opium fields of Laos to the skies above the Pacific, from Turkish smuggling routes to the secret heroin labs of Marseilles, follow the trade in misery and fight the horrors along the way. Expose the criminal underworld – and discover that it’s inextricably linked with other secret realms.

Eight Thrilling Operations!

Eight linked operations for The Fall of DELTA GREEN, each one playable as a standalone investigation or as part of an epic hunt for an infamous enemy! That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons, even death may die…

JADE PHOENIX * ALONSO * HORUS HOURS

DE PROFUNDIS * SECOND LOOK

PURITAN * MISTRAL

NEPENTHE

Sinister Alchemy

Discover the essential truths of life and death. Face sorcerers with strange powers, or plunge through realms beyond comprehension. Choose your allies carefully, and trust no-one – not even yourself.

 “I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use. Ask of the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to Answer, and shall commande more than you.”


Designed by Kenneth Hite, written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, the team that brought you the ZALOZHNIY QUARTET and the DRACULA DOSSIER are called up again to create a tale of sordid intrigue, cosmic horror, and desperate action against the Mythos!

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