May 18 2018
In the latest episode of their XP-grubbing podcast, Ken and Robin talk in-game reward, how Ken picks games, persuasive maps and Hobby Lobby’s Sumerian incantations.
May 16 2018
A creature for The Esoterrorists
The Outer Dark Entities known as sheeple slip through thin spots in the membrane caused by the belief that a dangerous contaminant or source of disease exists nearby. They enter our reality only in rural areas where domestic livestock roam. Sheeple feed on the fatal terror of farm animals. Cows, pigs, sheep and horses all instinctively fear these quadrupedal, pseudo-mammalian creatures. When a sheeple fixes its terrible gaze on its animal target, the poor dumb beast suffers an immediate, fatal heart attack. The psychic energy released by this sudden death nourishes a sheeple for weeks.
Though sheeple vary in appearance, investigating agents of the Ordo Veritatis can generally expect a demonic entity with the body of a sheep and the distorted face of a bat, snapping turtle, or ogre-like human.
Sheeple exude a psychic residue exerting a mind-control effect on humans exposed to it over a period of months or years. They employ this to command locals to defend against external threats. With glassy eyes, upturned pitchforks and outraged cries against outsiders messing in their affairs, these peasants, farmers and shepherds chase away anyone getting too close to a sheeple lair. Those who don’t take the hint get stabbed or shot.
Mostly interested in feeding and with no great boons to offer Esoterrorists, sheeple rarely take part in overarching conspiracies. When they do, they’re forced into it by more powerful ODEs. They hate to be rousted from a fruitful earthly habitat. Hikers, real estate developers and property surveyors stumbling into a sheeple lair may be killed by the entities or their human defenders. This can trigger a wider search, another influx of visitors, more killings, and a monstrous cycle of bloodletting that eventually leads to a briefing from Mr. Verity.
One area recently overrun by sheeple surrounds a US-sponsored disease research facility near Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. Efforts of Russian propagandists to use the installation to fan anti-American sentiment are certainly paying off for the sheeple, who find it easier to come through the membrane with each passing month.
Abilities: Athletics 6, Health 7, Scuffling 8
Hit Threshold: 3
Alertness Modifier: 0
Stealth Modifier: +2
Weapon: +1 (Jaws)
Armor: +1 vs. Scuffling
May 14 2018
Sometimes a class is a bit more than a single class! The new demonologist class in Book of Demons is a bit like the druid in 13 True Ways in that it uses talent choices to define its class features and spell lists. The three demonologist paths—corruption, flame, and slaughter—have features in common, including resist abilities to specific types of damage and demon summoning. However, two demonologists with talent choices in different paths can play extremely differently.
As with the druid, you can mix demonologist talents from the different paths to create the character you want to play. With a single talent in a path, you’re said to be an initiate. You’ll have access to the path’s spells and its summoned demon, but not as much access as a demonologist who has become a devotee of a path with two of its talents. Use all three talents in the same path and you’re a fanatic—which may be a worthwhile choice for raw power, but will cut down on your versatility.
If you’re curious about the mechanical feel of the characters you can create using the different paths, here are the arguments for why each path might be the most interesting.
Corruption is the best path because you already know your enemies are weak, and your spells and talents will ensure it.
Talents from the path of corruption tend to power-up the effects and conditions your spells (and sometimes your allies’ spells) place on enemies. Examples include Contagion, a talent that transfers a condition to a different enemy when an enemy suffering from one of your spells drops; and Inimical, a talent which raises the saves required against all your spells. These bonuses apply to any spells you cast, not just corruption spells. For example, if you take Inimical as your one corruption talent and choose two talents from the flame path, all the ongoing fire damage your flame path spells deal will be harder to save against.
The demons summoned by corruption path demonologists are spoilers, oozing creatures that somehow daze or weaken enemies, creating conditions your corruption path talents may be able to manipulate.
Flame is the best path because everyone burns when you say so.
A demonologist heavily invested in the flame path might play something like a summoning-capable sorcerer who specializes in fire spells. Unlike the hypothetical sorcerer, however, the flame path demonologist gets better at overcoming resist fire abilities the more talents they invest in the path. In playtesting, that made the difference between a path that no one could see themselves playing, and a path that could handle descending into a hellhole.
The path’s spell selection is more than just fiery offense. Spells like flaming teleport and flame shroud and golden claw (pictured at right!) interpret fire control as a source of improved mobility, so that demonologists on the flame path are a bit more survivable than similar brittle spellcasters.
Slaughter is the best path because you get to wear heavy armor, chop enemies up with swords and melee spells, and still summon demons.
I admit that it’s hard to dispute the slaughter path argument. Previously you could multiclass into a character who wirlds both swords and sorceries in 13th Age, but this is the first class implementation that deliberately invokes at least three Elric-tropes.
I’m not sure that the slaughter path is better, per se; but I know it’s popular, whether mixed with one of the other paths or followed to a full-fanatic three talents.
The demons summoned by slaughter path demonologists include two of the new demons added in this book, the claw demon and the hungry maw.
Art by Rich Longmore
May 11 2018
In the latest episode of their lightly resined podcast, Ken and Robin talk CIA boardgames, game fiction, fantasy world wine and the Roanoke colony.
May 4 2018
In the latest episode of their expose-filled podcast, Ken and Robin talk Counterspy, con man films, Alex Roberts and the geomancy of the L.A. Times.
May 2 2018
The latest edition of See Page XX is out now!
Featuring the release of a 13th Age dice tray and the 13th Age Battle Scenes bundle, as well as the first three episodes of the returned Iconic 13th Age podcast, we also look at Cthulhu culture and tabletop in China, the QuickShock iteration of GUMSHOE, and demons in 13th Age (both demonic boons and higher level summonings).
It’s all in this month’s See Page XX!
May 2 2018
Recently we’ve gotten some feedback from players on the summoning mechanics for champion and epic tier druids and necromancers that coincides with how we handle summoning in new books like 13th Age Glorantha and Book of Demons. In this column, I’m going to take the opportunity to extend one of our summoning improvements to the classes in 13 True Ways.
The change is simple. Use the following rules adapted from 13G and Book of Demons to help summoned creatures contribute to higher level battles.
Attack bonuses: Summoned creatures use the default bonuses of their summoner’s magic weapon or implement, if any. In other words, if you have an attack and damage bonus from a magic weapon or implement, so do any creatures you summon.
Defense bonuses: Similarly, summoned creatures use the default bonuses of their summoner’s armor, cloak, and head items, if any. In other words, default bonuses to AC, PD, and MD from magic items also apply to your summoned creatures. As with the attack bonuses covered above, this only applies to default bonuses. Bonuses and abilities that come along with an item that are not default bonuses only apply to summoned creatures if they specify that. At present, not many do.
This is the only change. Stick with the current rule that druidic and necromantic summonings don’t automatically add the escalation die to their attacks—both classes have feats that get around that, or you can spend a quick action to add the escalation die to the druidic/necromantic summoned creature’s attack (see 13TW page 11).
May 2 2018
It was International Tabletop Day over the weekend, and we hope you had a great day, whatever you ended up playing! We’re gearing up for another Big Day in the gaming calendar – namely, Free RPG Day 2018 – and our bumper-sized offering for this year, an adventure for both The Fall of DELTA GREEN and Cthulhu Confidential, is shuffling its way off the printing presses as we speak. We’ve also been busy with other work; we were so impressed with a 13th Age dice tray produced by one of our foreign language licensees that we decided to get some made ourselves. We’re releasing the PDFs of the final Battle Scenes book, Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons, and the accompanying full-colour Map Folio, and with those, a collection of all six Battle Scenes books & map folios in print or PDF only format. 13th Age Glorantha is still on pre-order, as is The Fall of DELTA GREEN; the Book of Demons for 13th Age is now available, and all pre-orders have been shipped.
- 13th Age dice tray – Roll your successes in a custom dice tray for 13th Age
- The Battle Scenes Complete Bundle – Get High Magic & Low Cunning, The Crown Commands, and Fire & Faith – plus the Map Folios – in print or PDF format
- Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons and Fire & Faith Map Folio PDF Bundle – 36 illustrated and mapped battle scenes for the Crusader, Priestess, Great Gold Wyrm, and Diabolist: one set of battles for each of the three tiers of play.
- 13th Age Glorantha pre-order – Pre-order the full-colour new Glorantha setting for 13th Age, from our good friends at Chaosium
- The Fall of DELTA GREEN pre-order – Pre-order the full-colour GUMSHOE adaptation of Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game and get the PDF now
- Book of Demons – Get the new Demonologist class for 13th Age
- View from the Pelgrane’s Nest – Simon Rogers on what’s new in the Nest
- See P XX: QuickShock 101 – Robin D. Laws goes through QuickShock GUMSHOE, a new iteration of GUMSHOE being used in The Yellow King RPG
- The Black Book — Marginalia – Steven Hammond with the latest update on the Black Book character generator
- A Tale of Two Secret Cults – A brief introduction to RPGs and Cthulhu culture in China, by Hao Zhang, our Chinese licensee for Trail of Cthulhu
- My Latest Experience with Experience – Robin D. Laws on designing Improvement systems in GUMSHOE when there’s no intellectual or structural justification for them
- Development Diary: The Fall of DELTA GREEN – Kenneth Hite talks through the double translation of the Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game system to GUMSHOE, and from the modern day to the 1960s
- Eternal Lies Campaign Play Pacing and Management Suggestions – Author Will Hindmarch responds to Eternal Lies pacing questions on Google+ (***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ETERNAL LIES***)
- The Plain People of Gaming: Demonic Boons – To celebrate the release of the Book of Demons, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan presents ways to bring more demons into your 13th Age campaign
- Player-Facing Combat in GUMSHOE – Simon Rogers looks at a way of reversing traditional GUMSHOE GMC attacks to make them more player-facing
- Pelgrane GMs needed for Origins and Gen Con 2018 – There’s only two weeks left to register events for Gen Con – please get in touch if you’d like to run games!
Resource page updates
- 13th Sage: Updating Druidic & Necromantic Summonings – Rob Heinsoo adapts rules from 13G and Book of Demons to help summoned creatures contribute to higher level battles
- The Iconic podcast is back! In April, they launched their first three episodes. You can listen to them 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 PollNote: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
May 2 2018
Here in London, it appears that an enthusiastic eight-year-old has taken over the weather control panel and is twiddling all the dials.
I often forget the weather when running games. When I do remember to highlight it, it really draws the players in, even if there is no mechanical effect. Picture a meeting between spy and handler with collars turned up in driving sleet, a high-speed pursuit through the streets of Lyon in the torrential rain, or a battle with a white dragon set in deep drifts with fat flakes of snow ambling down. You can mirror or exaggerate the real weather, or go for something very different. Huddled up in your basement in a cold snap, making the in-game weather balmy sun helps your group escape. Some settings feature the weather such as the threat of Fimbulwinter in the Albion’s Ransom campaign for The Esoterrorists.
This brings me like a mall security guard segue to the Book of Demons, this month’s new release in print. It features six hellholes, which have ripped or crept through the gaps in reality to puncture the Dragon Empire. And there, unlike the London weather, it’s not subtle or restrained.
- Flocks of flying teeth and burning fog face travellers on the High Heath of Unending Woe.
- On Claw Peak, the raindrops are as sharp as spears—storms create a bloody mess of the unprepared.
- Hellgout is afflicted with rains of fire, rocks tumbling from other realms and spontaneous magical storms.
The 13th Age Dice Tray
Envy of the dice tray produced by our excellent Korean licensees Dayspring Games was the inspiration for our own 13th Age Dice Tray. As well as its handy dice-constraining properties, it can also be used as a convenient protection against the rain, a mouse mat, and a fruit bowl. I look forward to your 101 uses for a 13th Age Dice Tray.
We’ve produced limited quantities, which are available from the store.
The Fall of DELTA GREEN
The Fall of DELTA GREEN is on the presses. Ken and Robin feature it in two episodes of their podcast; We Are Mutants reviews The Fall of DELTA GREEN and interviews FoDG designer Kenneth Kite, in-depth. It’s a great read. Ken will be outlining the adventure collection, and Gar will write it. They’ve collaborated on the The Zalozhniy Quartet and The Dracula Dossier, so it will be a sweet, sweet collection. Get The Fall of DELTA GREEN pre-order from the store.
GUMSHOE One-2-One – Cthulhu Confidential and Night’s Black Agents
With the launch of the Han Solo movie, we’ve given up on the excellent title SOLO for our Night’s Black Agents One-2-One game, but the manuscript is almost ready for playtesting.
The Cthulhu Confidential adventure collection Even Death Must Die is coming together with one adventure left to be written.
And the Rest
- The manuscript for Emily Dresner and Kevin Kulp’s game of Swords of the Serpentine is halfway through the pre-playtest draft.
- Fearful Symmetries is being rewritten to improve its structure. It features a group of magicians facing a terrible threat to England, rooted in folklore and the mythos. Writer Steve’s own campaign has run for more than 60 sessions.
- The Poison Tree is an enormous history-spanning project, and requires many moving pieces working together. Currently, Scott, Paul, and Matthew are collaborating in Google Docs to produce the first of the adventures for internal Pelgrane playtesting.
May 2 2018
Demons are always scratching at the walls of their prison, looking for a way out into the world. There are magical rifts and hellholes and summoning spells, of course, but demons can’t be choosers. Sometimes, the only way out is to squeeze through the narrowest of cracks—like, through a soul in a moment of pain or terror. A demonic boon is a special form of iconic benefit that a cruel GM might offer a vulnerable player. Say you’re in a dangerous pickle, and you really wish that you’d rolled a 5 or 6 on your relationship die. The GM might offer you a demonic boon—the chance to retroactively turn that relationship roll into a success.
You called for help, and someone answered. Just not who you were expecting. The benefit’s not coming from the icon directly—it’s coming from the forces of the Abyss.
If you accept a demonic boon, treat it as though you’d rolled a 5 on your relationship die—a benefit with strings attached, and the demons are the ones holding those strings. Don’t worry, it’ll only be a small favour to repay.
And demons never (hardly ever) charge interest…
Spoor of the Abyss
Boons only happen in places where demons already have a toe-hold in the world. They happen near hellholes (or near places where hellholes are about to form), in places haunted by demons, sorcerers, or Diabolist-cultists, or in areas where the barrier between dimensions is naturally thin.
While demons are naturally drawn to the mighty, blazing, juicy souls of heroic player characters, they’re not that picky. Ordinary mortals and non-player characters might get demonic boons if the conditions are right. If you run into a little girl who really wanted a kitten and got one that talks (and teaches her to throw fireballs), or meet a farmer who’s gone from drought to bountiful harvest overnight, there may be a demon nearby.
Demonic boons might be delivered by imps and other obviously demonic entities or by demons masquerading as spirits or servants of the icons. A wary adventurer can usually spot some demonic tell—glowing eyes, sharp teeth, or the smell of sulphur.
Archmage: Demons are creatures of magic, and more than a few wizards and sorcerers have ended up in the Abyss out of hubris, damned by their pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Such spellcasters could be let out of the Abyss (briefly) to pass on some tidbit of arcane lore or juice up a spell.
Crusader: The Crusader’s servants don’t get demonic boons—they take them by force instead. The Crusader binds and enslaves demons to do his bidding, and is well aware of the seductive tricks and traps that demons might employ. Servants of the Crusader are never offered boons. Well, hardly ever—for all their oaths to the Dark Gods, for all their demon-binding magic, for all their fanatic hatred, there are times when even a Crusader feels fear…
Diabolist: If you had the demonological equivalent of a tunnelling electronic microscope, an arcane machine that could detect the most infinitesimal of supernatural influences, you might be able to tell the difference between a regular Diabolist relationship benefit and a demonic boon. Maybe.
Dwarf King: Dwarves are generally too solid and down-to-the-primordial-roots-of-the-earth to be tempted by demonic influences. Demonic dwarf-boons tend to work using existing grudges and hatreds—the demons won’t try to trick you or seduce you, they’ll just offer you that little boost of magical power or physical might to smash those ancestral enemies.
Elf Queen: Demonic boons from the Elf Queen cluster around the dark elves. There are old and deep connections between the dark elves and the demon realm, and it’s easy to demons to sneak in that way…
Emperor: The Emperor stands for law and justice, the antithesis of demons. Demons trying to sneak in demonic boons for this icon, therefore, always show up in disguise. Armoured knights with their faces hidden behind visored helms, legal documents warped and rewritten by demonic sorcery, malicious trickery disguised as moments of good fortune or justice.
Great Gold Wyrm: Like the followers of the Crusader, those who serve the Great Gold Wyrm are on guard against demonic boons. Clever demons, therefore, offer their boons as tribute, playing on the hero’s pride. Oh mighty paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm, we could not hope to defeat you, so take these offerings as your rightful due…
High Druid: Shapeshifting demons can take the form of animals. Talking cats, talking birds, talking trees—are these kindly servants of the High Druid, or demons in disguise?
Lich King: The power of the lord of graves is centred on the isle of the Necropolis, so he aids his servants through ghostly emissaries, chilly omens, and secretive servants. It’s easy for demons to mimic any of these, especially for nalfeshnee and hezrou, both of whom have the rotting stench down pat.
Orc Lord: Those who follow the path of the Orc Lord tend to stab first and ask questions later. Even questions like, “Hey, why am I suddenly blessed with this demonic fury, and why does my blood catch fire on contact with the air?” get glossed over.
Priestess: Demons convince followers of the Priestess to accept their boons by offering them in times when other people are in need. Out of healing spells and your companion’s at death’s door? A village wracked with disease? That kitten climbed a tree into the overworld and is now stuck beyond space and time? Do you want others to suffer or are you good and holy enough to accept a little compromise?
Prince of Shadows: If there’s one thing about the Prince, it’s that he’s honest. The Prince knows the value of a good deal, a bargain fairly made. His agents will take a boon when the time and the price are right.
The Three: Demons typically use the Red as cover. The Red Dragon’s barred from the Empire so he works through emissaries (check), he fosters random destruction (check), and he’s got a whole fire-and-brimstone shtick (check). Hey—are we completely sure the Red isn’t a demon?