In the latest episode of their eponymous podcast, Ken and Robin talk character agency, palimpsest recovery, Hillfolk Kickstarter logistics, and saving Vinland. Featuring special Pelgrane guests Simon Rogers and Cat Tobin!


A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

I designed DramaSystem to allow groups to impose their own dynamic on play. It gives you a framework and lets you decide what to do with it. So when it turns out that one-shot games tend to take on a cutthroat edge, that’s not because I installed structures to make that happen. In fact, I pulled back from a structure that encouraged that, when I moved from suggesting that a single session game move toward a definite resolution to a preference for a game that feels like the first episode of a serialized drama. I used to recommend that PCs be able to kill each other in the final round of single session play, as you might expect at the end of a Fiasco or Skulduggery game. Allowing that forces the group into a PVP mold and distorts what DramaSystem feels like when you run it in the ongoing format it’s tuned for.

When a more openly PVP feel emerges, it happens because that’s what’s natural and organic to that group that night, not because a clock ticks steadily to a kill-or-be-killed end-state.

Not all groups gravitate toward this. Demo groups encountering the rules for the first time tend to be more cautious as they orient themselves to the system. Conveniently, this feels more like the first episode of an ongoing game than a quickly escalating one-shot, suiting demo purposes perfectly.

In an ongoing game you naturally pace out your character’s emotional arc to give lots of room for growth over the course of many episodes, rather than quickly transforming over the course of a few scenes. You change your relationships with other cast members incrementally, not through successive emotional leapfrogs. Big betrayals don’t happen right away, because you’re reluctant to burn your bridges with characters you’ll be interacting with for a long time.

If as a GM you want your one-shot to feel more like a pilot episode, look for a Series Pitch that dials back the external stakes. Seek out premises where the characters aren’t arrayed in a power structure. If there’s a king, or a chieftain, or a chief of station, a one-shot left to its devices defaults toward a struggle to displace him. Tighten the focus of the main cast to make them all peers. To play with themes of power without going cutthroat, establish a NPC as the authority figure, and give the players something to do other than scheme to get rid of him. Call the first scene to give the group an external threat to cooperate against.

Published Series Pitches with subtler stakes include Andrew Peregrine’s “Vice and Virtue”, Jesse Bullington’s “The White Dog Runs at Night”, and Rob Wieland’s “Encore,” last month’s Series Pitch of the Month Club pitch.

On the other hand, cutthroat play may be exactly what the group wants. A group that only gets together intermittently but knows each other well enough to enjoy putting each other into tight spots will have a blast with a pitch that lets them gleefully go at it.

You may have an idea ahead of time whether a DramaSystem one-shot will go cutthroat. If so, you can take some measures to increase your chance of coming out on top during the final round.

(Assuming that triumph is even your objective—it can be at least as much fun to spectacularly flame out as the tragic or comic center of attention.)

If you start out as the cast’s heavy hitter, you’ve got nowhere to go but down. Well, there’s down and then back up again, if you want to aim for a bankshot. But in general if the game is king of the hill, start off some distance from the slope. In a cutthroat game a little misdirection always helps. Express your desire in a way that doesn’t obviously require you to sweep the table to get it. A desire like Power, classic though it is, establishes your character as a threat. Alternate expressions like Respect, Order, or Safety might also give you a reason to pursue a victory over the other cast members without clanging an alarm bell to that effect.

Just as in a LARP or game of Diplomacy, gathering allies in the early going serves you well in cutthroat DramaSystem. Offer resistance to other PCs at the top of a scene, make them work to petition you, but then relent. By making petitioners feel that they overcame real reluctance, they’ll declare that they got what they wanted—giving you the drama token you seek.

Be ready to sacrifice a drama token or two early on by digging in your heels on a petition or two. A big lead in drama tokens marks you out as a potential threat. Seeming non-threatening goes only so far as you amass a big pile of them for all to see. In an episode of an ongoing game, players may hoard tokens for conversion to bennies, or simply for bragging rights. In a single session game, especially if it takes on a free-for-all cast, everyone expects a fat token pile to turn into a big spending spree at the end.

An early force might sound like a sure way to paint yourself as a target, but it also reduces your token pile. If you seem like you’ve shot your bolt, you take the heat off, allowing you to advance your chosen victory conditions under the radar. Naturally, when another player builds a big token pile, a little carefully executed table talk can set her up as the threat, and yourself as a defender to rally behind.

Finally, you might discover that the rest of the group intends a more internal drama, and that your groundwork for backstabbing doesn’t fit the overall direction. Embrace the challenge of setting aside your plans, which never last long in DramaSystem, and find a way to support the story as it heads into another space.

A column about roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

 

Hillfolk and Blood on the Show present a couple of series pitches that cross the streams with our flagship GUMSHOE games. Chris Lackey’s “The Whateleys” lets you play in Lovecraft territory from the cultists’ point of view. My own “Mutant City: HCIU” flips the police procedural of Mutant City Blues into police drama where the cases matter less than the personal lives of the anamorphically altered detectives.

This mini-pitch pulls a similar trick in the world of Night’s Black Agents.

Nutshell

A nest of vampire operatives finds that its tangle of undying desires interferes with its mission to keep the modern world’s human spies from blowing the lid off the inhuman power structure.

Characters

The main cast plays mid-tier operatives of the international vampire conspiracy. Other, more powerful bloodsuckers stand in the shadows to destroy you if you fail them.

Is one of them the Big D, whose real name none dare whisper? Would you even know if he was?

From a careful distance, you control a network of renfields, human dupes and perhaps a low-ranking vampire or two.

What kind of vampires are you? Select from the array of choices given in Night’s Black Agents.

You comprise a command station—maybe linked to a single headquarters, maybe a notional HQ always on the move. Toward the goal of managing the activities of top human threats—or as you have come to call them, bloodbags—each of you performs a particular role.

  • Gray-faced bureaucrat, afraid an old mistake is about to bite you
  • Demoted former team leader, burning for redemption
  • Weasel, reporting through a back channel to the big bosses
  • Mole, a vampire doubled into the service of some competing supernatural power. Put off deciding who for as long as you can.
  • Frustrated hothead, thirsting for direct action
  • Recent recruit, sought by all as a balance-shifting ally
  • Furtive comm jockey, secretly monitoring the lives of the human family she’s supposed to have left behind
  • Passionate reformer, determined to change the way the command keeps the bloodbags in line.
  • Burn-out, obsessed by a personal issue that overrides all but the most desultory interest in command business.
  • Underestimated grotesque, shunned by the other cast members because he belongs to a stigmatized vampire subtype.
  • Control freak obsessed with maintaining normality, whatever that is in this context.
  • The heir apparent, recently turned by the boss and recipient of blatant favoritism and seething resentment
  • Brilliant amnesiac, whose skill set makes her irreplaceable to the team, and whose incuriosity over the loss of all memories more than a few months old hints at mental programming.
  • Token human, a toadying Renfield who fears that his masters will never turn him—and that he doesn’t deserve such a magnificent honor, even if they finally make good on their promises.

Setting

If Night’s Black Agents is the Bourne Trilogy if Treadstone were vampires, you’re the undead Brian Coxes, David Strathairns and Joan Allens. Raid the core book for world information.

Themes

The GM calls the opening episode as Red Alert, in which a new team of bloodbag operatives appears on the cast’s radar. Do they seem at first to be just another threat, or is their series-defining menace apparent from the start.

If you’ve played straight-up Night’s Black Agents (and if not, why haven’t you?), a nod or two to the human agents that made up the PC group will surely occur…

  • Power is a Cage: Though among the world’s most terrifying beings, you’re stuck doing paperwork, peering at laptops, and ordering unseen minions to pursue troublesome bloodbags. Maybe it’s time you cut loose and let others worry about the humans for once.
  • Buried Secrets; You thought you’d dealt with it as thoroughly as a stake driven through a heart, but an old operational blunder gains new, awful life.
  • Articles of Faith: The ancient code governing all vampires collides with the exigencies of a crucial operation. Which do you sacrifice?
  • Return of the Repressed: All vampires suppress their old human impulses, no more so than the steely operatives of Bloodbag Command. This week some of them start seeping out.
  • Dead Drop: The ennui of undead existence is never more acute than in the drab, LeCarre-like offices of Bloodbag Command.
  • Hellhound on your Trail: The bloodbags couldn’t possibly win, could they?

Tightening the Screws

  • Office Party: One of you brings some live food into the command center to play with on a quiet night. It can’t possibly escape. What could go wrong?
  • The Con Eternal: Your bloodbag subjects target a convention for horror fans, thinking its LARP rooms conceal real vampiric activity. Can you stop their sally against the fake thing from casting light on the real one?
  • The Big Stake: A CIA drone destroys a vampire nest in Peshawar. You’re trained to rule out coincidence. Who knows what, and how do you shut them down?
  • Chatter: Communications intercepts suggest a wave of anti-vampire actions from a group you’ve never encountered before and can’t immediately identify. To switch to this new target you’ll have to loosen vigilance over your existing ones.
  • Crypt of Decryption: Bloodbags kill one of your best renfields and grab a key hard drive. You scramble to have it retrieved before they can decrypt it.
  • Downturn: Vampire spy agencies run on black money. A global economic crisis turns off the spigot when you can least afford it. Do you resolve your budget problems by intervening to stop the financial panic?

Many themes and screw tightenings from Ken’s “Moscow Station” pitch could be adapted to a “Bloodbag Command” series.

See P. XX

A column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

Roleplaying offers a pleasure we don’t much mention or, for that matter, particularly think about. When you play with a group, you get to see how each of its members thinks. Here I’m speaking not so much of the content of their thought—about resource management or politics or last week’s Doctor Who episode—as of the way each player puts ideas together and comes to decisions. Our brains process choices differently, and you get to see that in action, each play group providing its own unique mix of contrasts.

One common way to think through a roleplaying dilemma is the internal monologue, in which the player verbally reviews the situation from the character’s point of view. This may happen in the first person, the third, or a fluid mix of the two:

“Okay, Michaela’s thinking the chupacabra sighting has really pushed the whole deal into an entirely new territory. She’s not worried any more about disbelieving any of the crazy stuff they’ve seen since the truck went off the road. So what she’s going to do is approach Raj about it and take him aside and see if he’s willing to accept the mantle of leadership, and if he agrees, I [meaning Michaela] will have to eat some crow.”

The thinker-in-monologues breaks down a problem into steps and works his way through them in a sort of verbal previsualization sequence. The upsides of this technique include its methodical process, its clarity, and its promise of forward movement. Unlike a ditherer, who goes in circles, the monologist does get somewhere. The presentation of the PC’s thought process can often be extremely entertaining. However, it does present the GM with a couple of challenges. First, as a solo process, it shuts out the participation of others. Second, it moves too far into the future tense, revealing stuff that should happen instead of letting events play out. By tipping so much in advance, the player who thinks too much through out loud ensures that what does finally occur is either repetitive, or must be a reversal of expectations.

The DramaSystem dynamic invites monologing, particularly during scene calling. It asks each player in turn to create or invoke a situation, and to name a scene partner or partners to interact with. Events in a DramaSystem session can move so quickly that even a player who has been thinking ahead can find all of his prepared ideas have lost their relevance when his turn to call comes up. When stumped, thinking your way through the available options becomes not just understandable but actively useful.

The GM must then lean a bit on the monologist to make sure that the list of possible scenes doesn’t turn into a rehearsal for the scene itself. It must be a gentle lean, though: you don’t want to cut off the player’s thought before the framing coalesces. Some bits of character thought process are too much fun to cut off. If everyone at the table is clearly rapt, don’t step on the monologist out of general principle. You don’t want to lapse into hyper-vigilance, rattling your players by barking at them the second they start to venture down Future Tense Lane.

This then requires an instinct and sensitivity, to spot the right moment to jump in and say, “Great! Now play the scene!”

As a player, you should be as attentive to the other players at the table as the GM is. In reality, though, we of the nerd tribe aren’t always attuned to the demands we’re making on others’ attention. When you’re groping toward a scene call, remember that each other person at the table has been put on tenterhooks, wondering if they’re the ones who are going to be called on to take part in the scene. The tipping point between fun suspense and frustrated waiting can be a matter of a sentence over the line. Frustration goes up by another notch when you know you’re the scene partner, but the caller is still struggling to refine what’s going on, or is essentially playing the scene without you in it.

“I suppose Raj might be reluctant but never mind, yes I’ll go to Raj because I’m thinking he’s my guy, despite our past disagreements.”

As a soliloquizing player, or as the GM listening to this waiting to nudge matters along, this is the edit point, when the character is saying stuff in his own head (or the player is explaining to the other players) that the character could be saying to the other character. Roleplaying is drama, not prose. What registers is not what a protagonist thinks might happen, but what we “see” happen.

If that’s what’s going on, the GM should then definitely step in to say, “Okay, play the scene!”

As the player on tenterhooks waiting for the caller to shift from framing to playing the scene, you can also move things along. Break in with a line of dialogue that kicks off the scene proper:

“Hey Michaela, you look freaked! What’s on your mind?”

Even if the scene hasn’t been fully framed yet, the GM can later sidle in to fill in needed details. Maybe the caller hasn’t specified where it’s taking place. This often occurs, with or without extended internal monologue introductions. The astute GM lets the scene gather momentum and then asks for setting details. Sometimes precise location never matters, and each person at the table can imagine the scene taking place in a slightly different place, with no harm done to the dynamic.

Players can instinctively over-explain their characters’ thinking because they’re used to games that don’t promote dramatic interaction with other PCs. In DramaSystem the GM can help them jump from thinking about the scene to being in it:

“Excellent—now say that to Raj!”

If you recognize yourself as a pre-thinker, don’t beat yourself up. This is a matter of fine-tuning, not a grievous sin against game style. Train yourself to make the shift from framing to playing before anyone has to nudge you. Give yourself permission to discover what the scene is about by jumping into it. As soon as you know who you want something from, and have an opening idea of how you might try to approach them, get it rolling. Often the scene takes a surprise turn, as your petitioning character learns that the granter’s attitude is not what you expected. DramaSystem is meant to do that. So take a deep breath and let it happen.

Narcocorrido“I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger.”

—Walter White, Breaking Bad

Every month the DramaSystem Series Pitch of the Month Club brings you a new and unique series pitch for the Hillfolk RPG. For December, Jesse Scoble draws you into the dark and violent world of border drug trafficking with Narcocorrido.

Here, narcotraficantes and the Border Patrol circle each other on the imaginary line that separates North and South, probing for weakness under the merciless sun. Assassins are made the heroes of pop ballad narcocorridos, and most fame and fortune ends with a buzzard circling a shallow grave.

Mi trabajo y valor me ha costado
Manejar los contactos que tengo
Muchos quieren escalar mi altura
Nomas miro que se van callendo
Han querido arañar mi corona
Los que intentan se han ido muriendo.

—Los Tigres Del Norte, “Jefe De Jefes”

Narcocorrido’s main cast centers around one of the principal groups tied up with the border:

  • A law enforcement group such as Border Patrol or Mexican Federales
  • A criminal element such as La EME (the Mexican Mafia), Los Zetas, or the Sinaloa Cartel
  • Coyote smugglers
  • An independent operator such as Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg
  • A “Light Up the Border” citizens’ militia

Subscribe today and download Narcocorrido along with November’s pitch No Crowns, where the struggles of democracy and free market capitalism erupt in a high fantasy world of magic and steel.

 

No Crowns coverThanks to the overwhelming generosity of our Hillfolk Kickstarter backers, we are able to bring you the DramaSystem Series Pitch of the Month Club – 2000+ words of setting material written by a stellar cast including John Wick, John Kovalic and Hal Mangold.

Each month from November through to November you will get a new pitch – new subscribers will get all pitches to date.

If you are a backer, you should have received a voucher for your free subscription. Email support if not.

1. No Crowns

Sean Patrick Fannon (Shaintar, Star Wars: Edge of Darkness) unleashes the struggles of democracy and free market capitalism in a high fantasy world. Discover the answer amid the greed, passion, and power plays of No Crowns.

2. Narcocorrido

Jesse Scoble (Wizard101, Game of Thrones d20) sings a narcocorrido for you on The Devil’s Highway: narco traficantes and border patrol circle each other in the canyons and deserts between North and South.

3. Honor Among Thieves

John Wick (Legend of the Five Rings, Seventh Sea, Houses of the Blooded) steps into a world of sorcerers, crowded cities, corrupt nobles, eldritch assassins and big payoffs in Honor Among Thieves. In a world where everything is illegal, everything is a crime, and it only pays to be a thief.

4. Hold the Chain

By Matthew McFarland. You are the entertainment in the gladiatorial arena of a steam-powered flying city on the brink of revolution.

5. Encore

Rob Wieland (Shadowrun, Star Wars Saga Edition) shows you his jazz hands in Encore, following the dreamers, has-beens and never-will-be’s who make up the cast of a touring jukebox musical.

6. Iron Tsar

ASH LAW (The Reliquary) cranks up Iron Tsar: engineers battle zombies in the Imperial court of a magical 1920s Russia.

7. Sheep’s Clothing

Jerome Larre (Qin, Tenga) takes you inside the Sheep’s Clothing of a tranquil bedroom community for cops—as a massive Internal Affairs bust threatens dozens of its key citizens.

8. Art and Murder

By Robin D. Laws. In a post-scarcity economy, there remain only two routes to status: Art and Murder. As guardians of the Great Museum, you struggle to protect the world’s cultural patrimony from outside marauders—and your own ambitions.

9. Niflgap

Raven Daegmorgan (Orx) sails the black tides of the cosmos in Niflgap. As the universe dies, you, the fractious Norse gods, set forth in starships from lonesome Midgaard, hoping to find salvation in the void where armies of the hungry dead writhe endless beneath black suns.

10. Promised Land

By Caias Ward (Strike Force 7, Noumenon) In a far-future religion based on enlightenment through genetic engineering and organic technology, a squad of young cadets struggles with their commanders, their fellow cadets, the outside universe and crises of faith.

11. Terminal X

Hal Mangold (Atomic Overmind, Green Ronin) loses your luggage in Terminal X: A fractious circle of modern sorcerers wage a subtle turf war within one of the world’s busiest airports, while fending off  occult forces threatening to erode the very source of their power.

12. Campus Desk

John Kovalic (Dork Tower, Munchkin) returns to ink-spattered halcyon days with Campus Desk:  students behind the Daily Forward, newspaper of Wisconsin State University, figure out life, love, and burying the lede.

 

See P. XX

A column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

 

In DramaSystem, the group takes turns selecting themes for each episode. At the end of each session, players explain how they brought this theme into play, and related it to their Dramatic Poles, the internal contradictions that lend dramatic characters coherence and motivation.

Certain basic themes recur again and again—as well they should, since they represent the classic emotional conflicts that underlie all drama. Altruism vs. Selfishness. Loyalty. Betrayal. Vengeance. Star-crossed Love.

Hillfolk lists a number of these classic themes; when you’re the episode caller responsible for choosing the night’s theme, you can’t go wrong by simply picking the most appropriate item on the list. Assuming no one has beaten you to it…

The Series Pitches in both Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow all come with their own lists of suggested themes.

Using these ideas hardly counts as stealing. That’s what they’re there for. But if you’re feeling larcenous, lots of lists of DramaSystem episode themes out there don’t even know they are lists of DramaSystem episode themes.

Scan an episode guide for any serialized drama and you’ll see that many of the episode titles can be appropriated wholesale for your use.

Not all episode titles work as themes. Set aside those that simply refer to the overt action of the episode, or mention specific characters or situations. Look instead for abstract episode titles, or ones that read like epigrams. Always pick titles that resonate emotionally. Unsurprisingly, dramatic shows like “The Sopranos” or “The Good Wife” tend to work better for this than procedurals like “Star Trek” or “Doctor Who.”

To start with a show high on gamer radar systems, let’s look at “Game of Thrones.” Episode titles that would also make great DramaSystem themes include:

Winter is Coming

Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things

You Win or You Die

The Pointy End

Fire and Blood

Old Gods and New

Any of these could work for Hillfolk or nearly any other DramaSystem series. Even the arid southern badlands suffer when winter comes. You do face one problem with appropriating directly from “Game of Thrones”, though—it’s so imprinted in geek consciousness that the obviousness of the references may become too glaring.

Instead, you might step a little outside the fields of genre, to a show where players are less likely to have the episode titles committed to memory.

“Mad Men”

Red in the Face

Indian Summer

For Those Who Think Young

A Night to Remember

Love Among the Ruins

Wee Small Hours

The Rejected

Commissions and Fees

The biker gang crime drama “Sons of Anarchy” offers up a particularly high ratio of immediately filchable episode themes:

Seeds

Fun Town

Giving Back

Old Bones

Hell Followed

Better Half

The Sleep of Babies

The Revelator

Small Tears

Balm

Service

The Culling

Turning and Turning

Fruit for the Crows

Family Recipe

Call of Duty

Burnt and Purged Away

Certain TV shows adopt a standard theme for their episode titles. A group could easily do the same for a DramaSystem series.

“True Blood” uses song titles, which then play under the closing credits. Occasionally they’ll cheat a bit by commissioning a song titled after an element in the show, like the great Iggy Pop track “Let’s Boot and Rally.” Mostly titles derive from existing songs, which we hear either in classic versions or as a cover. (The show occasionally breaks from the formula, playing the title song as source music within the episode, but let’s not get bogged down in technicalities.)

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Save Yourself

Hopeless

Authority Always Wins

Frenzy

Everything is Broken

She’s Not There

At Last

When launching a new series, the group could agree on a similar theme. To stick with the song title idea, you might ask the group to pick songs that encapsulate the period. A series set in the late sixties might give you themes like:

Won’t Get Fooled Again

So You Say You Want a Revolution

19th Nervous Breakdown

You Really Got Me

Are You Experienced?

Tears of a Clown

Ball of Confusion

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The corpus of blues songs drips with the emotions that drive a great DramaSystem episode, letting you give your character’s dramatic opposition a fitting workout. Their folkloric imagery dovetails superbly with modern supernatural settings, like Jason L. Blair’s “Inhuman Desires.”

Hellhound on My Trail

Mannish Boy

Fattening Frogs for Snakes

Crossroads Blues

Evil (Is Goin’ On)

I Ain’t Superstitious

Dead Presidents

The Sky is Crying

Empower yourself to nick song titles whether or not everyone has agreed to use them all the time. When you’re stumped for a theme on the way to game, grab your portable music device and scroll through your playlist until something lands with you as appropriate to the current narrative.

Shakespearean phrases have been plundered for titles for generations. You might make them a consistent theme in series like Dave Gross’ “Shakespeare VA” or Ed Greenwood’s Elizabethan faerie intriguer “Queen or Country.” Like song titles, they also function well as standalones. The main challenge you meet here is that so many of them have already been memorably stolen. Shakespearean references so pervade English idiom that you may be using one without even realizing it—”Sea Change,” anyone? “Foregone Conclusion?” “Salad Days?”

Hawk and a Handsaw

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mewed

Signifying Nothing

Too Much in the Sun

What’s In a Name?

The Dark Backward

Let Slip the Dogs of War

The most recondite recent use of the themed title in television is “Hannibal,” which names each episode for a high-end cooking technique. That might be a little ambitious for DramaSystem.

You don’t want to pick a reference so clever that everyone has trouble relating it to their Dramatic Poles during the post-session wrap-up. If the rest of the group looks at you blankly when you announce a theme, you’ve gone too far.

But with a little advance preparation, you’ll already have another brilliantly stolen idea on your list to immediately replace it with.

Hail, raiders of the Gen Con high country!  To celebrate the launch of Hillfolk and its companion volume Blood on the Snow, we’ve arranged two signing events at the Pelgrane Press booth. We have so many contributors at the show that we’re going to be splitting our signers into two bunches.

On Thurs Aug 15th at 3 pm swing by to grab autographs from such tentatively scheduled luminaries as Jennifer Brozek, Steve Dempsey, Dave Gross, Rob Heinsoo, Ryan Macklin, Michelle Nephew and illustrator Rachel A. Kahn.

Then come back on Sun Aug 18th at 11 am for the cuneiform stylings of Keith Baker, Emily Care Boss, Steven S. Long, TS Luikart, Andy Peregrine, Wade Rockett and Pedro Ziviani.

The Pelgrane Booth has moved to bigger digs this year, and is now #101, across from our fine pals at Paizo.

I’ll be there for both events, and around the booth for much of the rest of the time. As always I’ll be happy to deface any of my books, new or old, for you.

Many other contributors are at the show but unable to make this event. This will not prevent you from suavely bushwhacking and/or waylaying them as they perform their duties at booths elsewhere on the exhibit hall floor.

Kickstarter backers will recall that they can arrange ahead of time to pick up their books at the show. And of course there will be copies on sale for those of you who did not join us for the campaign back in October.

Hillfolk_Cover_reducedIn the shadow of empires, an epic saga of ambition and desire!

In an arid badlands, the hill people hunger. Your neighbors have grain, cattle, gold. You have horses and spears, courage and ambition. Together with those you love and hate, you will remake history—or die.

With the Hillfolk roleplaying game, you and your group weave an epic, ongoing saga of high-stakes interpersonal conflict that grows richer with every session. Its DramaSystem rules engine, from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, takes the basic structure of interpersonal conflict underlying fiction, movies and television and brings it to the world of roleplaying. This simple framework brings your creativity to the fore and keep a surprising, emotionally compelling narrative constantly on the move.

As you build your story, you mold and shape the Hillfolk setting to fit its needs. Do you entangle yourself with the seductions of your wealthy cousins to the north? Do you do battle with the fearsome sea people to the west? Or do you conquer the scattered badlands tribes to forge a new empire of your own?

SP14-The Whateleys

Detailed play style notes show you how to make the most of DramaSystem’s new tools. Once you’ve mastered DramaSystem’s nuances, you’ll hunger to take them to new vistas. A stunning talent roster brings you 30 additional series settings. From Cthulhu cult family drama to ninjas, pirates, and steampunk cowboys, Hillfolk offers years of play value.

Contributors from every corner of the gaming scene and beyond include Ed Greenwood, Gene Ha & Art Lyon, Jason Morningstar, Kenneth Hite, Rob Heinsoo, Meg Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Jesse Bullington, John Scott Tynes, and Keith Baker.

Authors: Robin D. Laws, Jason Morningstar, Michelle Nephew, Kenneth Hite, Matt Forbeck, T.S. Luikart, Jason L. Blair, Chris Pramas, Emily Care Boss, Rob Wieland, Steven S. Long, Eddy Webb, Jesse Bullington, Gene Ha & Art Lyon, James Wallis, Chris Lackey, John Scott Tynes, Ryan Macklin, Graeme Davis, Dave Gross, Allen Varney, Meguey Baker, Sarah Newton, Kevin Kulp, Mac Sample, Jason Pitre, Wolfgang Baur, Keith Baker, Will Hindmarch, Rob Heinsoo, Ed Greenwood Artists: Aaron Acevedo, Andrew Gustafson, Gene Ha, Jon Hodgson, Rachel A. Kahn, Jason Morningstar, Scott Neil, Jan Pospíšil, Hilary Wade, Jonathan Wyke
Pages: 240pg A4 Hardcover Stock #: PELD01

Buy

BloodOnTheSnow_Cover_reducedA DramaSystem Companion

Kick your mastery of Robin D. Laws’ DramaSystem, the roleplaying game of epic interpersonal conflict, into high gear, with this essential companion volume. A fervent crowd of backers demanded it, and here it is — an imagination-stretching compendium of DramaSystem insights and ideas.

Blood on the Snow contains:

  • LARP rules from Emily Care Boss. Take the drama off the couch and up onto its feet with two live action applications. Play richer and bolder live characters than ever before.
  • DramaSystem MasterClass. A fierce vanguard of early adopters expands the margins of the game. Unlock its prequel potential. Free your scene calling. Tune to single session play.

Also by popular demand, we present a veritable deluge of character, setting and genre from 33 top gaming talents, from the gurus of today to the shapers of tomorrow.

BSP23-Transcend

  • Dive with dolphins, flee genetic persecution, or rule a fantasy city.
  • Explore histories alternate and accurate.
  • Find out how DramaSystem provides the ideal vehicle for science fiction’s idea-driven tradition.

Series Pitch creators include John Rogers, Mark Rein•Hagen, John Kovalic, David L. Pulver, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Lester Smith, Greg Stolze, Paula Dempsey, and James L. Sutter.

You’ll need Hillfolk, the original book of DramaSystem roleplaying, to enjoy Blood on the Snow.

Authors: Angus Abranson, Kevin Allen Jr., Scott Bennie, Jennifer Brozek, Ken Burnside, Emily Care Boss, Jon Creffield, Marcos Dacosta, Steven Darlington, Paula Dempsey, Steve Dempsey, Cédric Ferrand, Ian “Lizard” Harac, Chris Huth, Richard Iorio II, John Kovalic, ASH LAW, Robin D. Laws, Antti Lax, Phil Nicholls, Jack Norris, Andrew Peregrine, Mike Pohjola, Sean Preston, David L. Pulver, Mark Rein•Hagen, Jeff Richard, Josh Roby, Wade Rockett, Mark Ryan, John Rogers, Aaron Rosenberg, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Ralf Schemmann, Lester Smith, Greg Stolze, CA Suleiman, James L. Sutter, Mark Diaz Truman, Nick Wedig, Pedro Ziviani Artists: Aaron Acevedo, Andrew Gustafson, Rachel A. Kahn, Jon Hodgson, Jérôme Huguenin, John Kovalic, Pierre Legay, Jan Pospíšil, Mikko Vihervaara, Hilary Wade, Jonathan Wyke,
Stock #: PELD02 Pages: 208pg A4 Hardcover

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