A column about roleplaying
by Robin D. Laws
Last time we started laying out a loose episode structure for your Yellow King Roleplaying Game Paris sequence. Start there for episodes 1 through 7.
Episode 8: Visit from Home
Follow a time-honored serialized storytelling convention, bringing in a relative who drops into Paris to complicate an art student’s life, illuminating their backstory.
The relative’s personality contrasts with the characters’, sparking entertaining conflict. A stern investigator has a flighty, extroverted mother. The flibbertigibbet Poet has to squire around the forbidding father who wants him to set prose aside for the family insurance firm.
After a light comic opening, reveal that the relative arrives pre-enmeshed in Carcosan trouble. Mom has invested in a skin cream that owes its remarkable properties to black star magic. Father wishes to procure an antique at the behest of a masked blackmailer capable of ignoring the constraints of time and space.
A player may have already laid seeds for this by connecting their Drive to a relative. If someone’s looking for a missing sister or hoping to clear the name of a falsely accused brother, or came to Paris to escape a scandal involving a wastrel father, that story now surfaces, with a decadent, supernatural hook.
Episode 9: Police and Thieves
Dispatch the art students into the Parisian demimonde to solve a mystery with a criminal element. See pages 133-137 of the Paris book.
- Oddly chosen targets of the latest anarchist bombing wave suggest a connection with Carcosa.
- Prisoners released from Le Sante Prison commit murders they can’t remember. The art students must identify the inmate distributing smuggled excerpts from the play and untangle his vengeful scheme.
- Sûreté head turned private eye Marie-François Goron enlists the art students in his inquiry into a hypnosis-related murder that echoes the old case that haunts him, the slaying of high profile courtesan Régine de Montille.
Episode 10: Psychogeography
Create a scenario that draws the art students to an iconic Paris location.
- A ritual to feed souls to the king must naturally take place at the city’s axis mundi, also known as the Eiffel Tower.
- How did strange yellow flowers come to overrun the botanical exhibits at Jardin des Plantes?
- Are the lights seen at night at the Picpus Cemetery connected to victims of the revolutionary guillotine, or something older?
- The Catacombs—portal to the shores of Hali?
Episode 11: Ripples from Brittany
Bring in haunted Brittany, site of Robert W. Chambers’ better supernatural stories outside his King in Yellow cycle. Either have the weird beings of its folklore show up in Paris, or send the art students on a road trip to the sea-swept coastal town of Brest. In this latter case, disturbances inland and out on the sea could presage the rising of Carcosan island, the model for the legendary city of Ys.
If you want to keep the students in the city, the mystery might revolve around:
- the hulking, demonic church guardians called the Nain.
- the troublingly self-willed and mobile skull of a Breton sorcerer.
- a rash of improbable deaths, each heralded by the sound of an unearthly locomotive—a sign that the long-tressed Breton herald of death, the Ankou, has come to town.
Episode 12: Royal Return
A new mystery leads once more to the member of the Carcosan royal court you introduced in Episode 6. The plot the art students uncover is meant to further the royal’s previously established agenda. Build in opportunities for:
- the player character most connected to the royal to pull away—or draw closer.
- the other characters to interact with your big bad.
- Foreshadowing an even bigger plot, which comes to fruition in episode 17.
Episode 13: Family Obligation
A message arrives from back home, urging one of the art students to attend to a matter concerning the family business empire. This leads to business or political intrigue instigated by a conspiracy bound together by the Yellow Sign. Depending on how the player describes the source of Papa’s wealth, this might involve:
- sabotage of a ship or factory.
- embezzlement to fund the conspiracy’s activities.
- a smokescreen that falsely implicates the company in assassination or massive graft.
Episode 14: Weird Science
An experiment gone awry, no doubt after someone in the lab read the play, sends the art students on the trail of Patchworks, radium ghosts, or a device that sees past events—and then alters them.
Episode 15: Secondary Villain Returns
The recurring antagonist first seen in episode 3 returns, seeking revenge on the art students or running a new scheme for domination only they can unravel. This time, give them a solid opportunity to finish off this foe for good.
Episode 16: Political Entanglement
When scandal threatens a prominent politician, the art students can’t help but see a Carcosan modus operandi behind it. Investigation draws them into the halls of power, as they determine which of France’s factions have been suborned by the pallid mask. Is it the Legitimists, aka Monarchists, desperate to reverse their vanishing influence? The Bonapartists, believing themselves to be in communication with the spirit of Napoleon? Or those normal-seeming Moderates, who currently hold power and thus have the most of what Carcosa seeks?
Episode 17: A Glimpse of Hali
A climactic mystery brings back your chosen Carcosan royal and gives your players the chance to wrap up various sub-plots of this first sequence. The scenario allows the art students the chance to behold Carcosa, perhaps to travel there briefly. Whether they achieve a victory that feels suspiciously like a happy ending, or are drawn into a doom that will bedevil later counterparts depends on how well they do during the closing confrontation.
In the next installment of See P. XX, the series outlines continue, with the front half of a similar episode guide for The Wars.
The Yellow King Roleplaying Game takes you on a brain-bending spiral through multiple selves and timelines, pitting characters against the reality-altering horror of The King in Yellow. When read, this suppressed play invites madness, and remolds our world into a colony of the alien planet Carcosa. Four core books, served up together in a beautiful slipcase, confront layers with an epic journey into horror in four alternate-reality settings: Belle Epoque Paris, The Wars, Aftermath, and This Is Normal Now. Purchase The Yellow King Roleplaying Game in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.