View from the Pelgrane’s Nest: April 2012

What an eventful month! 13th Age has received the most attention, and Night’s Black Agents is getting a lot of actual play love and resources. Flying Coffins, Adam Gauntlett’s World War One Trail adventure featuring Sopwith Camels against the Mythos is out now, and we release Titanic: The Millionaire’s Special, also by Adam in support of charity Heroes in the Dark from the store. More below. The long-awaited second volume of Robin’s wry webcomic The Birds is out now, with additional strips by John Kovalic and an intro by 13th Age designer Jonathan Tweet.

13th Age

There has been a flurry of interest in 13th Age, and from quarters where Pelgrane Press is unknown. I’ve been amused by the conspiracy theories; for example, that Pelgrane Press is secretly owned by Wizards of the Coast (I wish), that we cobbled this together as a result of the 5e announcement (rather than planning it since August 2010) and that tweets from the 5e design team were prompted by secret emails rather than as a result of them reading the press release. It’s been really enjoyable working closely with Fire Opal Media; it’s not something I’m used to from a Pelgrane perspective, but their team is excellent. They have the final say over the creative content, but we put our tuppence worth in, too. They even have a proper PR person, Wade Rockett who is providing me with an education.


The playtest was mammoth with over 200 people applying, and the first round ends on 30th April. Feedback has been almost entirely positive, but the negatives have been educational.  Watch the Pelgrane website for the announcement to join the next playtest.

Speed of Production

One slightly over-enthusiastic post suggested we would have the full version out by August, and this led to not unreasonable comments that this was unrealistic. Our intention is to have something out for GenCon, but what that is we don’t know yet.

We do want to the game much more quickly than our usual leisurely schedule. What does that mean?

What it doesn’t mean is that we will rush or compromise in any way on the quality of the project. It won’t affect our choice of printer, the speed of writing, the time spent to write edit or proofreading the document, or the quality of the art or design.

It means that we are allocating more hours to the project and working as efficiently as possible – in parallel rather than in series. So, the art direction is already done and the art and layout is in production while the manuscript is still in progress. When the ms is properly finished, edited and proofread, we’ll be ready to roll it into the completed layout template for indexing, proofing and printing. Indexing can happen on the same time as layout. Finally, any pushing we can do to get our print run moved up the schedule we will do.

Our pre-pre-order offer enables us to add another layer of proofing, quality control and sometimes additional material. Pre-orderers have been known to spot typos, suggest additional tables or references, or even contribute useful resources themselves. The pre-pre-order will almost certainly be out before GenCon.

We can do this because together Fire Opal and Pelgrane Press have more time, staff and resources than we would do individually; we all know what we are doing in our niches, and we are working together more smoothly than I expected. I want to do this because I can, because of the level of interest and because GenCon concentrates the mind.

As August approaches, we’ll see where we are in the process to decide exactly what pre-release version we’ll have at GenCon. In the past, usually at Dragonmeet, we’ve issued limited edition pre-release versions (for Trail, Mutant City Blues and Night’s Black Agents). There’ll be something there, but whatever it is will not compromise the quality of the final release.

Night’s Black Agents

Ken has submitted the final version of Night’s Black Agents, and Gareth of The Zalozhniy Quartet. Beth has been working with the artists to finish the art by the end of next week, and Fred Hicks will do the layout.

We’ve seen excellent actual play reports on EnWorld, and I’ve run nine sessions with my own group, which you can see here.

We are planning a limited edition of Night’s Black Agents, and contemplating what we might include. The first item is an annotated and unredacted version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula – treat it as a Book of the Smoke for Night’s Black Agents. Combined with the Dracula Dossier, this is just the ticket for a primarily improvised version of Night’s Black Agents, using the same document-led approach as the Armitage Files.

I’m considering a Director’s Screen and Resource Book like the one which worked so well for Trail, and if you like this Agent’s Tradecraft article, we could do something based on that.

Trail of Cthulhu

Flying Coffins – Out Now

Flying Coffins, Adam Guantlett’s Trail of Cthulhu adventure set in the skies over the Western Front is out today. I could tell you the irresistible pitch, but it would be a spoiler. It includes carefully honed GUMSHOE rules for aerial combat, and is out now in PDF from the Pelgrane Store.

Titanic: The Millionaire’s Special – Out Now

You thought contending with a sinking liner was bad? Mix in mythos on the rocks, too! Titanic: The Millionaire’s Special is a first class Trail adventure commerates the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage.

Thanks to Adam, 95% of the cover price will be going to Heroes in the Dark, a non-profit organistation set up to bring Lovecraft and comics to the blind and visually impaired. It’s only $2.50, and worth every penny even without the funds going to charity. Get it on from the Pelgrane store.

Eternal Lies

Will Hindmarch and new writer Jeremy Keller will have the final pre-edited manuscript to this epic adventure in early May. Then, we will work with Will to do art direction, and as artists become available from Night’s Black Agents they will start work. It’s likely Will will do the layout, as he knows the whole thing better than anyone else.  In another exciting sneak preview, we’ll be updating the Eternal Lies Suite with a voice over from, well, let’s say it will take a while won’t it before I announce it.

Mythos Expeditions

Ken Hite’s next task is to write an introduction to Mythos Expeditions, and write a sample adventure so that our writers can get started.

Pen and Ink

Adam Gauntlett has delivered Pen and Ink, and adventure set in Spanish civil war. The PCs are shooting a documentary, when one of their team go missing in Madrid and even investigating is dangerous.  It’s up for playtesting.

Dreamhounds of Paris

Robin Laws has written the outline of Dreamhounds of Paris and francophone Steve Dempsey is researching background material and Ken is contributing. We are discussing the possibility of creating a Book of the Smoke style supplement for a limited edition. We have also sought the advice of Valerie Laproye of 7eme cercle, our French licensee.

The Rest

  • We are getting low on Keeper’s Screens, and I am paralysed with indecision as to my course of action.
  • Further episodes of Cthulhu Apocalypse are currently 0n hold – I’ll report when I have more information on release dates.
  • The Black Book (our GUMSHOE character generator) is 95% complete and useable for most purposes. I am sorry that it isn’t finished after all this time, and I’m still not able to give you a concrete absolute completion date.
  • She is also working on her follow up to the Book of the Smoke, the Book of the New Jerusalem.

The Birds

We are fortunate enough to have John Kovalic, creator Dork Tower, Munchkin Illustrator and all round good egg to demonstrate his wicked side in his guest strips for Robin D Laws’ The Birds. This celebrates release of the 2nd volume of The Birds collection, available from the store.

Ashe Stars, Gaean Reach and Our Other Games

  • Robin has delivered the Gaean Reach, his revenge-focused mixture of GUMSHOE and Skulduggery in Jack Vance’s SF setting. It’s much more improvisational than I thought it would be, and all the better for it. It’s up for playtesting.
  • Kevin Kulp will deliver the completed adventure manuscript for Owl Hoot Trail on 7th May.
  • New World is in playtest, and we could do with some more playtesters for it.
  • Paula Dempsey has written the first draft of Salem, which is a story game based on Monsegur 1244, where you play folks involved in the witchcraft trials.
  • For Ashen Stars, we are planning a series of deckplans for the most popular standard ship classes. You can see an example of the work here.
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