Coming to you live…
Well, obviously not live live – while I may be writing this from a hotel room in Indianapolis, it won’t be up on the Pelgrane site for a week. And for that matter, I’m hardly alive either, after the arguably best but very definitely longest four days in gaming.
Let us start again. That seems to be a wise move.
I ran two or three 13th Age demos each day of GenCon, using pregenerated characters that had basic mechanics but no Icon, backgrounds or OUTs, and a very simple intro scenario that can be summarised as “something bad is happening in Glitterhaegen that is neatly resolved in an hour with two quick fight scenes and a skill roll”. While all the demos (bar one) followed that basic story, bringing in elements from the players’ contributions meant every game felt radically different.
I’ll use the last demo I ran, late on the Sunday afternoon as an example. Even though five people had signed up, only one actually showed (every other demo had between three and six players) – a lovely chap named Edgar, and I hope he doesn’t mind being used in this article. With only one player, Edgar asked for a halfling rogue pregen, so after running through the basic mechanics, we started on what makes 13th Age different from other F20 games and such a joy to run.
I gave all the demo characters a 1-point Positive relationship with the Emperor, mainly so I could use “you’re all working for the Emperor” as a fallback story if nothing else suggested itself. I then showed Edgar the full list of Icons, and asked him to pick one more.
Negative with the Elf Queen, says he, picking an unexpected Icon relationship. I asked him to go into a little more detail on this, and he describes how he was the only thief to successfully steal from the Queen’s court, coming up with his One Unique Thing at the same time.
I told him to leave Backgrounds blank for now – in a one-shot demo, or even in a campaign for that matter, it’s often more fun to fill in backgrounds when they’re needed in play. As there was only one player, I added a GMPC, a half-elf paladin of the Crusader (OUT: On Fire).
I had three different variations of my simple little plot based around three different Icons – a soul-stealing merchant for the Diabolist, a grave-robbing necromancer for the Lich King, and a pirate plotting to take advantage of an impending Orc Lord attack. I could have just said “because you’re servants of the Emperor, you’re called upon to help Glitterhaegen” and introduced any of the three variations or used my GMPC paladin’s Crusader relationship to bring the PCs in to investigate the soul thief, but instead I changed ‘Orc Lord invasion’ to ‘demonic elves out of the Bitterwood’ and brought in Edgar’s antipathy towards the Elf Queen. I always try to tie plots to the player characters; even if the connection is a bit tenuous, it’s worth it to be able to go “because of this thing about you, in particular, you’re involved in this adventure.”
Next, we rolled Icon relationships; Edgar’s Emperor came up with a 6, and I gave him a belt of the city (from the Book of Loot) to help with the investigation.
Actual play time! I described how the city was under threat of invasion by dangerous, isolationist elves who considered humans to be usurpers. While the Imperial Legion manned the walls, there were rumours of elven commando units sneaking into the city, and traitors were said to be in league with the elves. The PCs had traced one such traitor to the grand bazaar, a huge, crowded open-air market in Glitterhaegen.
I planned to set my first fight scene in the market. My original notes called for an attack by a band of illusory orcs, but I could use disguised elves just as easily. I then asked Edgar a few questions about the market.
- “The grand bazaar’s dominated by a structure or monument of some sort. What is it?”
- “Something’s happening in the market that’s going to make your investigation harder – what is it?”
By asking these questions after I’d set the initial parameters of the scene, I gave Edgar control over specific details of the scene while retaining overall control. No matter what he came up with, I could still use my attacking elves. It gave him a sense of engagement with the setting, which is great. It also forced me to stay awake and keep thinking on my feet – setting up situations where the GM gets surprised is super valuable, especially when you’re running a bunch of convention demos in a row. If there’s no challenge for the GM, it gets boring and the players pick up on that boredom. Finding tools to keep your own energy and enthusiasm up is a good habit for a GM to cultivate.
I deliberately didn’t ask open-ended questions, like “where do you find the traitor?” Some players freeze when given that much freedom of choice – for that matter, I wouldn’t be completely confident about my ability to improvise a scene that would still work within the constraints of a demo if the player came up with something completely unexpected (“I find the traitor in a dragon’s lair under the city!”).
Edgar proposed a giant statue of a former admiral, blowing a horn, and a street preacher, both of which worked perfectly with my intended plot. I decided that the street preacher was the traitor in disguise, trying to convince people to abandon Glitterhaegen and flee on the waiting ships – which his pirate fleet would then capture and despoil. The giant statue was a great image and focal point for the fight. (Previous demos gave answers like “a huge crystal gazebo”, “a temple to Mammon”, or “an elven graveyard” and “a children’s festival” or “a funeral procession”).
Edgar’s halfling went off to listen to the preacher, so I got to ambush him with my fake demon elves who attacked the gathered crowds. Cue a quick fight scene. I used the orc stats I’d prepared earlier for my elves instead, hastily reskinning them. If any of them had critted, I’d have described their expanded-crit-range ability as a blast of magical hellfire or something suitably infernal.
Afterwards, I didn’t bother to make him to roll to see if his rogue noticed that these elves were common wood elves, not the fabled demon elves that threatened to attack Glitterhaegen. Instead, GUMSHOE-style, I just told him that because of his experience in the elven court (his OUT of “I stole from the Elf Queen”), he recognised these elves for what they were, and he quickly deduced that they were deliberately trying to whip up terror and dismay in the city. The flipside of the ‘fail forward’ principle is that if failure is boring, don’t ask for a roll. He quickly deduced that the elves and the street preacher were in league, and scampered up the statue to confront the traitor.
Instead of attacking, he launched into his own speech, rebutting the traitor’s tales of gloom and doom. I asked Edgar to roll, and he decided to create a background on the spot to give him a bonus. He was, he announced, the former mayor of a Halfling town, and so was experienced in public speaking. Defining backgrounds in play often generates surprising juxtapositions like that – if I’d insisted that he fill in all his backgrounds during the brief character creation phase at the start of the demo instead of leaving them blank, he’d probably have gone for something like “burglar” or “forester” to fit in with his One Unique Thing of having stolen from the Elf Queen, not “ex-mayor”.
Between his not-bad Charisma, his belt of the city, his background and a good roll, Edgar’s Halfling convinced the people of Glitterhaegen to rally to the defence of the city instead of fleeing on board the waiting ships. The frustrated preacher revealed himself to be the treacherous pirate, dropping his act and acquiring an outrageous accent – YARR! – in the process. While my original notes called for the player characters to encounter the traitor on board a ship, a swashbuckling fight on the shoulders and head of a giant statue worked just as well.
Fight scene, players win, demo ends. Huzzah!
One could argue – and in certain moods, I’d agree with this – that 13th Age is a game of two halves. There’s the relatively detailed and balanced combat engine, and the considerably looser and fuzzier story-generating mash of backgrounds, Icons and OUTs. Certainly, in a simple 45-minute demo like this one, I was able to use that divide to my advantage by warping the mutable story-side elements around the player’s choices and answers, while leaving the mechanical side unchanged.
Interestingly, one of the take-aways from the 13th Age adventure design panel seminar was that people preferred using adventures for inspiration and pre-prepared encounters to use in their own games instead of running the adventures as written in the book. While we’re unlikely to go so far as to publish a book that’s half stats, half fuzzy ideas on how to put those stats into context, that flexibility is one strength of 13th Age that we’ll build on as we look towards GenCon 2015.
The latest edition of See Page XX is out now, featuring new products Mythos Expeditions available to pre-order, Xeno-archaeology!, the Series Pitch of the Month – a sideways view of DEN in Terminal X, by Hal Mangold – and a new Stone Skin Press pre-order, Letters to Lovecraft.
There’s also a Gen Con review from Simon Rogers in the View from the Pelgrane’s Nest, notes, recordings and video of some of our Gen Con seminars, as well as a host of inspiring articles.
Earlier this month, Phoenix Online Studios invited us to co-sponsor a short-short-short fiction competition to promote The Last Door Collector’s Edition. We’re all for creepy 8-bit Lovecraftian horror, and gladly joined in. Five prize winners got a Pelgrane PDF of their choice (and all of them chose either Trail of Cthulhu or Bookhounds of London); and 5 winners got a free copy of The Last Door.
Here are the winning entries for your enjoyment:
The 5 Pelgrane Press PDF winners:
She didn’t give me her name. I gave her mine. When she left the bar, she took it with her. - Paul Kirsch
Napping in a crowded metro, a whisper in my ear: don’t wake up. - Victor Ribeiro
“The ‘virus’ is an idea,” she said, “spread via sentence. It commands me to obey.” Chuckling, the doctor replied, “The ‘virus’ is an idea…” - Steven Marsh
As her hand slipped from my grasp, I marveled at its rate of descent compared to the other parts of her body. - Philip Gonzales
A step, drip, cold, door, dark. A step, twist, claw, fur, flare. It’s ok, you can’t see anything wrong. Or anything at all. A step. - Linda Evans
The 5 winners of copies of The Last Door:
I woke before dawn & warmed my shivering wife before returning to slumber. I woke again with a scream when I realized she died a year ago. - Brian Webb
He told me to get a bottle of wine from the cellar. I suppose that’s what he told the rest of these women to do, too. - Kyle Williams
Frightening was hungry eyes, watching me from the gloom. Terrifying was knowing I’d seen them before, every time I’d gazed into a mirror. - Noah Baxter
A bump, a creak, a faint rustle; all from me. I wait till you feel safe with these sounds. Then, as you sleep, I emerge from the shadows. - Gerry Bibaud
Slowly the words formed. We are legion it said. He stared at the readout from the quantum correlation encryption experiment. - Christian Mintert
An amazing GenCon, new releases, awards and shipping issues. Out this month on pre-order is Mythos Expeditions for Trail of Cthulhu and the Letters to Lovecraft fiction anthology from Stone Skin Press. Released is this month’s KWAS episiode Xeno-Archeology, and the DramaSystem Series Pitch of the Month Terminal X, by Hal Mangold. Dulce et Decorum Est and the Gaean Reach and the Gaean Reach Gazetteer are also out now.
US and Canada
- All pre-orders up to August 1st and Kickstarter reward copies of 13 True Ways have now been shipped, but as I mentioned in this post, there have been some issues with damaged copies. I’m very sorry about this – if you have been impacted, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you out a replacement.
- All pre-orders for Dulce et Decorum Est, the Gaean Reach and the Gaean Reach Gazetteer have also been shipped.
- Pre-orders for the Book of Loot and Shadows of Eldolan will be shipped in the next week, if we can sneak get books out past the Burning Man guards.
- New pre-orders for Mythos Expeditions will be shipped in mid-September.
- We are still waiting on components for the Limited Edition 13th Age Bestiary; we hope to have these print-outs and be able to ship these out at the end of September.
Rest of World
- The physical copies of Dulce et Decorum Est, the Gaean Reach and the Gaean Reach Gazetteer have arrived in the UK, and all pre-orders for these titles will be shipped early next week.
- The physical copies of 13 True Ways are currently at sea, and due to dock in the UK on September 9th. We’ll have our UK shipper prepped and ready to pack them up when they get here , and so pre-orders and Kickstarter reward copies should be on their way in mid-September.
- Pre-orders for the Book of Loot, Shadows of Eldolan and Mythos Expeditions will be shipped out in the second week of September, as these books will also be arriving in the UK on September 9th.
- We are still waiting on components for the Limited Edition 13th Age Bestiary; we hope to have these print-outs and be able to ship these out at the end of September.
Wow, what a GenCon! The entire Pelgrane team gathered in Indianapolis, in a throng of 56K attendees. The team ran seminars such as this one, games pitched new ideas and planned the year ahead. Cat Tobin was assisted in the assembly of the booth by a team of excellent 13th Age volunteers magicked up by Rob Heinsoo, who ran them a game as a reward. We sold out of most core books and new releases, even including Trail of Cthulhu.
There was a truly positive vibe from all the industry professionals I spoke to, and it’s clear that the quality of games has reached a new, high standard. This was reflected in the ENnie awards – we received two gold and two silver awards for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, Eternal Lies (twice) and 13th Age. The hosts were excellent and speeches were short and entertaining, and the competition included such industry giants as Paizo, Evil Hat and Monte Cook.
I had more conversations with other publishers about GUMSHOE cross-over products than ever before. I think the license has helped here. I exchanged shoes with Jeff Richard of Moon Design to seal the 13th Age in Glorantha deal (more below).
For the first time Pelgrane had two rooms full of GMs, who received swag, and we received quality feedback from participants, which we will use to improve next year’s experience. We are building a library of convention and OP adventures for all our games which will help us at future cons.
Indianapolis is stretched to the seams, and next year’s hotel booking is likely to be hell. The closure of the Canterbury hotel doesn’t bode well – I hope they magic up some extra capacity somehow.
One more thing. Indianopolis, gamers eat and gamers drink. You run out every year like it’s a big surprise, and Omni – don’t you want our money? (The irony of us selling out of many products is not lost on me).
- Rob Heinsoo, Jonathn Tweet and ASH LAW are working on 13th Age Glorantha. You can read the draft outline here. As a gamer, the main takeaway for me initially will be the new character classes, and as a publisher an influx of new discerning 13th Age players. The Kickstarter has been delayed until September 4th to give the team time to recover from the post-Gen Con lurgy; you can sign up for more information about the Kickstarter here.
- Pre-orders for the Book of Loot and Shadows of Eldolan will be shipping to customers in the US and Canada next week – the rest are on ship to the UK and will be with us 9th September. Get them in the store now under the new dedicated 13th Age section of the webstore.
- Eyes of the Stone Thief is in layout. I’ve gone with my heart rather than my wallet, and it will be a 400-page full colour book rather than a monochrome one.
- Rob is working on the 13th Age monthly subscription product, similar to Ken Writes About Stuff. We want to build up a three-month lead before committing to a launch date.
- Shards of the Broken Sky is in internal playtest. We are discussing an array of other potential 13th Age products, including Demons and an Icon Organisation book.
Trail of Cthulhu
Mythos Expeditions has been printed and is shipping out in the US and Canada; it will be in the UK 9th September for distribution to the rest of the world. Not only is each expedition perilous – the denoument is likely to feature not rest and study, but a horrible encounter with the Mythos.
Dulce et Decorum Est, Adam Gauntlett’s Great War collection has shipped to US & Canada and will ship to the UK in mid-September. Soldiers of Pen and Ink and The Seventh Circle (for both Fear Itself and Trail of Cthulhu) will be out next month.
Gaean Reach and the Gaean Reach Gazetteer are out now. It seems Quandos Vorn was doing everything to stop this book from being published and I apologise to our loyal customers for the delay. Now I can consider what else to do in Vance’s playground.
Accretion Disk is being illustrated, by the marvelous Jerome Hugeunin and Chris Huth.
Night’s Black Agents
We are gearing up for the Dracula Dossier and Dracula Unredacted Kickstarter in October. Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is channeling Ken as he views the world through Ken’s red-tinted spectacles. There are vampires everywhere!
Unfortunately, the season is over for another year; the supermarkets in desperation filling their shelves with inferior small oranges. Mournfully, we remember the citrus unshiu that were.
With the release of Robin’s wonderful new story-explorer The Gaean Reach RPG, GUMSHOE extends its tendrils into one of the oldest and most reliable of dramatic forms: the revenge story. In that game, the player characters unite to destroy the indescribably vile Quandos Vorn in revenge for his prior cruelties to them. And just beforehand, the players (this is the really great bit) collaboratively describe Quandos Vorn’s vileness and determine his prior cruelties. The result? A fresh, involving take on a tale as old as Orestes, if not always quite so damp and naked. From Dumas’ Gothy Edmond Dantes to TV’s dreamy Oliver Queen, doughty heroes have sought revenge on Him (or Her, for Orestes) Who Done Them Wrong for millennia — and if Jack Vance’s SF is anything to go by (and indeed it should be) will continue to do so for millennia hence. So what about our own millennium right here? Why not adapt the brilliant story focus of The Gaean Reach RPG to another of your already beloved if not-quite-so-brilliantly-focused GUMSHOE RPGs? Why not, indeed?
Each possibility here introduces your game’s Quandos Vorn and gives a possible reason you want to get him, although the GM should begin with the good old “Why do you hate …?” and only prime the pump if player creativity seems temporarily throttled. Further possible Terrible Deeds appear, followed by the Quarry’s Masks (how he hides from you, possibly in plain sight) and Obstacles (what he can put between you and him) and then the game’s potential Taglines (things you do or say in play to get Tokens which you spend to pierce Masks and overcome Obstacles).
Night’s Black Agents: Chandler Vaughn
Chandler Vaughn is the guy who burned you. Or that’s one of his cover names. You aren’t actually sure he’s with the Agency any more. If he ever was. Maybe he was a double agent. You’re not even sure what he looks like now. Or looked like, then. But you know one thing: he burned you, and you’re going to bring him down.
Terrible Deeds: killed your partner, aided al-Qaeda in a (lot of) terrorist action, smuggled nukes, killed your family, perverted the Agency’s once-proud ideals into the Orwellian sham they are today, released the vampire virus, vampirized your partner, betrayed your country
Masks: cover identities, plastic surgery, can shapeshift, deniable dead drops, is a hive parasite that lives in many minds, cut-outs, brain-hacking, literal masks you know neat face-mask technology like in Mission: Impossible
Obstacles: billions of embezzled drug dollars for bribes, Russian mobsters, Iranian snipers, North Korean mentats with telekinesis, lots of pull with the corrupt helicopter-gunship-and-SWAT-team parts of the Agency, Renfields, secure immunity in isolated country, total surveillance of all computers
Taglines: Use the Night’s Black Agents Achievements, which are ideal for this sort of thing, as the source of Tokens, not of refreshes (except refreshes with Tokens, of course).
Mutant City Blues: “Quantum Born”
Not the least of “Quantum Born”‘s sins is to have a really lame pseudonym on the Internet. But he’s a mutant (“born of the quantum apocalypse that is ending your corrupt world system so-called”) and a terrorist and a murderer. At least.
Terrible Deeds: set off a bomb in the subway, killed your partner, leaked your case files all over the Internet and got a jillion hardened criminals set free on technicalities, killed your family, bio-engineered a worse version of the Quade virus for the most destructive possible power combos, provides foolproof schemes to other criminals and terrorists, hacked into a candy company’s mainframe and poisoned several thousand kids by altering its ingredient ordering software, is a serial killer among his other hangups
Masks: anonymous Internet existence with the Tor and the onion and such, hoodie and sunglasses, army of easily-gulled hipster anarchist wannabes to claim his identity, is blackmailing members of the force to cover his trail and feed him clues, shape-changing mutant power, is actually an AI given a computer analog of the Quade virus, surveillance-obscuring software, could literally be anyone at all
Obstacles: insanely devoted online love cult, not actually in your home country to say nothing of your actual jurisdiction, police red tape that says “it’s too personal with you and him,” super-powered goons paid big Bitcoin to hit you a lot, your own online history/credit report/everything ever, previous criminals you put away broken out (or legally freed!) by him, is protected from on high by government or corporations or a big seemingly cool charitable or progressive foundation, army of computer-controlled drones and makerbots
Taglines: Use Achievements, as above, or Taglines, as in Gaean Reach, or both, but sourced from either “gritty” comics dialogue or from police procedural TV shows.
Trail of Cthulhu: Kwan-Ho Wong
Or, sure, if you’d rather be torn apart by peculiarly intelligent wolves than poisoned by enormous purple centipedes, Gennadiy Voronin. He is a dealer in antiquities of a repellent aspect, and the lord of a criminal empire extending from Limehouse to Leningrad to Lhassa. He possesses perhaps the finest mind you’ve ever encountered, all the more terrifying because it is his brilliance that has led him to the Mythos …
Terrible Deeds: unleashed a shoggoth, killed your mentor horribly, stole your research and left you floundering and bankrupt, drove you mad and had you institutionalized in some charming colonial hellhole, denounced you to Stalin/Hitler, assassinated FDR, found the Ark of the Covenant first, raised a god or titan once and didn’t have the courtesy to die or go mad
Masks: master of an ancient serpent-man cannibal shapeshifting technique, is an identical twin, has never been photographed, wears an all-enveloping hooded robe at all times, mind-swapped or drug-enslaved pawns, plastic surgery, is (or commands) an ambulatory shoggoth, yellow mask
Obstacles: hideous and hideously-strong enforcer, Ahnenerbe or Black Ocean or NKVD favors, lives in an immense ruined temple to a Mythos entity, hyperspace gates for escapes, bribed or addicted officials in all countries, byakhee flocks, fanatical cultist followers, cannot die
Taglines: Gain a Token by suitable, effective, in character use of a properly Lovecraftian adjective.
With Gencon upon us like an amorous gorilla of fun, here are six precepts that have served me well when running games at conventions.
1. Know The Player Characters
The PCs are the players’ interface with your adventure. If there’s one bit of preparation you can never skimp on, it’s the player characters. You don’t need to memorise everything, but you need to remember any key plot hooks or powers that you can use to bring that character into the action. Point out places where a particular PC might use one of their abilities (“hey, your spy has Traffic Analysis, so you can intercept the bad guys’ radio communications and work out their movements”) and things they need to know (“as a Paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm, you probably know someone in the Imperial Legion. You could try tapping them for information”). You can’t rely on the players to volunteer information like they might in a regular campaign game.
2.Go Around The Table
At a table of six, you’re going to have a mix of players – loud ones, quiet ones, shy ones, dominant ones, rules-lovers and people who don’t care what dice they’re rolling, combat monsters and character actors, hardcore fans of the game, and people who wandered in because there was a free spot at your table. It’s easy to fall into the trap of catering to the really enthusiastic, engaged players at the expense of others. So, always go around the table and make sure all the players have the opportunity to get involved in the action. Suggest ways for them to contribute if necessary.
Also, go physically around the table, especially if it’s a noisy room. If you need to have a one-on-one conversation with a player, don’t shout across the table. Get up and walk around to that player if you can.
3. Observe The Rules
Don’t necessarily obey them, mind, but don’t completely ignore them. Many people play convention games to see how a particular rules system plays. They want to see how the game works, especially the elements that are especially thematic or distinctive. For example, you can run an Aliens-inspired bug hunt mission in any science-fiction rpg, and it’s always a good model for a convention game – but show off the distinctive elements of your game of choice in the bug hunt. An Ashen Stars bug hunt might highlight the use of investigative abilities to find a way to escape the remorseless aliens, while a Gaean Reach bug hunt might spend more time talking about how this is a trap set by the hated Quandos Vorn.
4. Beware of Time Dilation
In a four-hour convention slot, you can assume that the first 30-45 minutes are lost to late arrivals, reading character sheets, introductions, trips to the bathroom and/or snack bar and other administrivia, and you should aim to finish up half an hour before the end of the slot, to give yourself a buffer in case scenes overrun, players need to leave early, and to handle any post-game debriefings. That leaves you with a shade under three hours of actual game time. Expect your first few scenes to take much longer than planned, as players struggle to find their character’s voice and role in the group, and to get to grips with the setting. Expect later scenes to go much more quickly than you’d expect, as convention players take bigger risks and make grander gestures than they might in campaign play.
5. Be Prepared!
Character sheets, dice, pencils, scratch paper (enough for you and the players), copy of your scenario, enthusiasm, quick-reference sheets, a rulebook, bottle of water, more dice because the first lot are going to roll under tables and get lost, more enthusiasm. Phone, set to silent. Throat lozenges, because you’re going to be hoarse after running a few games. Get some sleep and eat some real food if you can manage it.
In extremis, enthusiasm may be simulated with sufficient sugar and caffeine.
6. Let the Game Breathe
Part of your role as a convention GM is to make sure that everyone has a good time at your table. Sometimes that means giving the players things to do by throwing interesting NPCs and mysterious and action scenes at them, but it also involves stepping back when the players are having fun just roleplaying their characters or planning their next move. If everyone’s talking animatedly about events in the game, just step back for a moment. This can be hard to do in the heat of the moment, especially with that remorseless clock ticking down towards the end of the slot, but it’ll pay dividends with a good table players.
We’ve been nominated for 15 ENnies including one for Page XX! Voting ends tomorrow, so we would appreciate your votes. You can find out more about our ENnie nominations, and a link on how to vote, here.
However, we’re not just resting on our nomination laurels. With less than three weeks to go until Gen Con, we’re beavering away to get a giant stack of new products out for the show. The first of these is now available to pre-order; Shadows of Eldolan, the first published adventure for 13th Age and The Book of Loot, featuring a raft of magic items for your 13th Age game. And of course, 13 True Ways is still available for pre-order, too. KWAS subscribers will get the August edition, Xeno-archaeology!, this month; meanwhile, non-subscribers can now buy Hideous Creatures: Serpent Folk as a stand-alone product in the shop.
- 13 True Ways – the long-awaited expansion book for 13th Age features six new classes, the lore of devils, the keys to Horizon, the Great Gold Worm’s secret assassin, and much more.
- Shadows of Eldolan – this first level adventure for 13th Age pits players against the problems brewing in the port town of Eldolan
- The Book of Loot – a collection of magic items for 13th Age to be found, stolen, given as rewards or otherwise looted by the player characters.
- Hideous Creatures: Serpent Folk – the new subscription of Ken Writes about Stuff showcases the Children of Yig
- Series Pitch of the Month – This month’s edition is Promised Land by Caias Ward
13th Age Resource page updates
- 13th Age Monsters List – Sean Dunstan and our man Detective Clayton have created a list of all the monsters in the 13th Age Core rulebook, Bestiary and 13 True Ways
- 13th Age character sheet – Ieuane has done a new version of the character sheet
See Page XX Poll
Our best intentions lay in ruins as we scramble, once again, to get all the books out for GenCon Indy. But our pain is your unalloyed pleasure, as we provide you with a slew of preorders and new releases for 13th Age, Trail and others. In addition, we have been nominated for a host of ENnie awards. Hideous Creatures: Serpent Folk is out now, and KWAS subscribers get Xeno-Archeology.
The ENnie Awards are an annual celebration of RPGs. Pelgrane has been nominated for a record 15 in all – and we would really appreciate you considering us in your rankings. Eternal Lies, 13th Age, Hillfolk Pelgrane Press, music and Owl Hoot Trail have all been nominated – a full list is here, along with a sampler.
The voting booth is here. You can rank as many or as few products as you like. Search for “Pelgrane” on the voting page to find all the noms.
ENnie awards mean so much more to publishers and creators than they do to customers. The recognition by carefully selected judges in the form of nominations against such a strong field is gratifying, and there are few greater pleasures than seeing shiney-faced writers and artists clutching their well deserved awards in their clammy hands. However, the journey from critical recogntion is tough, because it is a popularity contest, and this year the competition is partcularly strong – the armies of FATE and Numenara compete with Hillfolk and 13th Age, for example. We are honoured to be in their company.
Skip this if you aren’t going to GenCon.
This will be our biggest GenCon ever in terms of events, with more than 80 games booked in and more to follow, a big 13th Age announcement, seminars and at least nine new releases. Gareth Hanrahan and Steve Dempsey have written convention adventures and we’ll have a constellation of guests including Robin D Laws, Ken Hite, Gareth Hanrahan and Rob Heinsoo.
We are emailing all Shadows and Book of Loot pre-orderers to offer GenCon collection.
Scheduled Games and Games on Demand
You can see a list of scheduled games and seminars at GenCon here. New ones are being added all the time, but they fill up quickly.
If you are a GM it would be great if you could sign up for Games on Demand – a fantastic and growing initiative which allows people to sample a wide variety of RPGs for the first time. If you want to run Pelgrane games, then you can contact us to get convention scenarios for GUMSHOE, or ASH LAW for 13th Age games. Games on Demand encourage diversity (both in games and people), so it’s best if you are able to run a variety of games – if you only submit one game system you are liable to be rejected. If you are accepted, please let us know.
Printer willing, 13 True Ways will be shipping out in early August. All US Kickstarter backer books and pre-orderers will be shipped before GenCon and we think most of them will arrive before GenCon. Kickstarter Backers and pre-orderers will be given the chance to collect at GenCon. Kickstarter backers will hear through the Kickstarter interface, preorderers will get an email.
Rest of the World backers and pre-orderers will be shipped across the Atlantic to be on shipped from the UK. To make up for the fact that some GenCon attendees will get copies before Rest of World backers, Rob Heinsoo is putting a little something exclusive together for Kickstarter.
I thought you might also like to see the cover for the forthcoming The Eyes of the Stone Thief by Ben Wootten.
The Gaean Reach
The Gaean Reach and Gaean Reach Gazeteer are set in Jack Vance’s sprawling, idiosyncractic SF milieu, and feature Vengeance In Space!
It feels like the Gaean Reach has been travelling at sublight speeds across interstellar distances, but it has finally arrived. Both books are available on pre-order.
Trail of Cthulhu and Fear Itself
Dulce et Decorum Est, adventures set in the Great War is out now and Soldiers of Pen and Ink and Mythos Expeditions will be on sale next month.
Dreamhounds is in art direction.
Seventh Circle, Matthew Sanderson’s creepy haunted house adventure for Fear Itself will on pre-order next month. It’s compatible with Trail of Cthulhu, too.
Esoterrorists, Ashen Stars and Night’s Black Agents
- Robin Laws has started work on Worldbreaker, a globe-trotting set of linked Esoterrorists adventures. It has a very gruesome and disturbing prologue and gets worse from there.
- Accretion Disk for Ashen Starts is being illustrated.
- Ken and Gar are working on Dracula Dossier and Unredacted Dracula for Night’s Black Agents for a Kickstarter later in the year. Ken discusses it here.
- John Adamus has submitted a Night’s Black Agents adventure, The Dubai Reckoning for playtesting.
- Steve Dempsey and Gareth Hanrahan have written convention adventures for all our GUMSHOE settings.
As summer envelopes us in its muggy embrace, I, the Enigmatic Icon, come to deliver you auspicious news. What’s that? No, I haven’t finally hunted down the interlopers to my island who stole the crown of golden vines from off my stony brow. Or gotten to the bottom of who’s been spreading rumors about my love life, but that’s a whole other deposit of igneous material, if you catch my drift. No, today I bring you tidings of my employer, Stone Skin Press–they have been busy since last time I checked in here.
- The “Stone Skin on the Rocks” column has proven popular, with new authors guest-blogging each week to recommend a particular beverage to pair with their fiction. The heat does make a person (or golem-like construct) thirsty:
- Ed Greenwood and Maurice Broaddus contributed drinks that were both a little sweet and a little sour for their column that paired drinks with stories from The New Hero Volume 1.
- Jesse Bullington talked rum, in particular it’s link to Vodou and his story in The New Hero Volume 2.
- Dmetri Kakmi took out the sour but kept the sweet for his story in The New Gothic.
- Finally, S.J. Chambers provided a suggestion that is every bit as terrifying as her story in the same anthology.
- Speaking of The New Gothic, our anthology of all things dark and creepy, the book continues to earn rave reviews:
- In a write-up at his blog, J.T. Glover says, in part, “If you like Gothic, if you like horror, or if you like the Weird, there’s something for you in this well-edited collection of stories. Kudos to the editor for putting together such a good book, and kudos to Stone Skin Press for making it an attractive book. So many paperbacks are cheaply made, and it’s a pleasure to hold something in your hand that feels durable, looks good, and will stand up to the rereading it deserve.”
- And over at Innsmouth Free Press, K.L. Pereira also gives it a glowing review, saying in part, “What marks this anthology as one to watch is indeed its focus on fear and how each plays with this and other very human emotions to highlight the concept of Gothic as pervasive, regardless of creepy mansion or madwoman in the attic.”
Cold drinks and hot reviews–it doesn’t get much better than that. We’ve got some brand new stuff coming out in the days to come, so be sure to follow our Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ pages for up to the minute updates, and of course there’s also the main Stone Skin site.
I’ll be back in August, and until then do as I do, and watch out for chisels.
Even as I write this, the indefatigable Chris Huth toils into the Canadian night, putting the finishing touches to The Book of Loot, our upcoming compendium of new magic items for 13th Age. The book’s crammed full of wonderful treasures and potent creations of sorcery, along with several items that we ourselves call out as utterly unforgivable puns.
Not every item written made it into the book for one reason or another. Some were cut for thematic reasons, others for balance. Here’s one that fell early on, on grounds of complexity. It’s an Epic-tier item associated primarily with the Emperor icon.
Chessboard of the Ages: There is no mistaking this item; the board of onyx and marble, and the gold and ruby playing pieces are described in songs and sagas from previous ages. However, the pieces are subtly different each time – the pawns change to resemble the allies and enemies of the chessboard’s bearer, while the features of the Icons of the Age appear on the other pieces.
When you first take possession of the chessboard, the GM gives the role of your opponent to some rival, ongoing villain or even an enemy Icon (GM: roll relationship dice if you want). Usually, it’s the Lich King or Orc Lord. You have the opening move. Once per battle, you may ‘move’ by activating one of the chess pieces as a free action. Each piece has a different ability. You may use each ability once per piece (so, you can use the pawn power eight times total in your life, most of the other powers twice ever, and the king and queen powers once each). A piece disappears when used.
Unlike most magic items, the chessboard doesn’t have a recharge value. Once you use a power, you can’t activate any of the chess pieces again until your opponent takes a move (or until your opponent voluntarily forfeits the chance to use a power – see the King, below, for why that might be a good option)
The powers possessed by the chess pieces are:
- Pawn: One nearby ally may take an extra standard action in their next turn or heal using a recovery as a free action.
- Rook: Cast teleport (as the wizard spell) to travel to any stronghold or flee from a battle without incurring a campaign loss
- Knight: Gain three paladin talents with all associated feats until the end of a battle or call a legendary hero to aid you for one battle
- Bishop: Cast any one Divine spell of up to ninth level or automatically succeed at any one skill check, no matter the difficulty
- Queen: Either copy the powers of any other chess piece remaining on your board (other than the king) or sacrifice the queen to remove any one piece possessed by your opponent, other than the king.
- King: You may only use the king’s power if you have at least twice as many pieces left as your opponent, and your opponent has suffered a significant defeat in the real world outside the chess game. When you use it, the chess game ends and the chessboard vanishes. However, your opponent is magically compelled to perform one task for you as a forfeit for losing the game. You may specify the task as you wish, and the opponent must obey.
Quirk: You share your opponent’s dreams while playing.
I may be mad – no, I am mad – but I can count. Eight pieces for good, eight for evil, that makes sixteen. But they say there are but thirteen Icons in the Empire. Who are the other three? Or do some play both sides, like the treacherous harlots they are?
- Erach, crazed preacher
13th Age answers the question, “What if Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, lead designers of the 3rd and 4th editions of the World’s Oldest RPG, had free rein to make the d20-rolling game they most wanted to play?” Create truly unique characters with rich backgrounds, prepare adventures in minutes, easily build your own custom monsters, and enjoy fast, freewheeling battles full of unexpected twists. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.