A column about roleplaying
by Robin D. Laws
Early phases of Yellow King scenarios often find the investigators looking into subtle symptoms of Carcosan reality shifting. While they talk to initial witnesses and hit the books to orient themselves in some research, not much in an overtly horrific or supernatural vein might be happening onstage. Story logic may prevent you from bringing in the main Carcsosan menaces of your scenario.
Your players may successfully creep themselves out as they speculate on what’s behind whatever they’re poking their noses into. Sometimes, though, you as GM you may want to increase the stakes and horror atmosphere by throwing a creature at them.
That’s when it’s time to send in the feeders, Foes designed as all-purpose Antagonist Reactions you can drop into any YKRPG mystery at any time.
The quasi-corporeal Carcosan entities serve no one but themselves. They leach through the gates between the king’s realm and our own and then go hunting for nourishment. Though they can derive some sustenance from any Carcosan energy, they yearn for one particular residue: the psychic radiation given off by mortals confused and dismayed by the mysteries of the Hyades. Feeders cluster in areas of high Carcosan activity: Paris in 1895, the battlefields of the 1947 Continental War, New York City in today’s Aftermath reality, and the city where the investigators live in This is Normal Now.
People haunted by Deuced Peculiar Business draw feeders to them like flies zeroing in on rotting steak. Feeders detect the presence of investigators as they contemplate the Hyades or research the lost kingdom of Ys. They may follow from a distance as yellow, floaty beings on the periphery of perception. Or they might reveal themselves, jacking up the anxieties of their targets, extracting more intense waves of terror and dismay.
When they do this, they taunt their victims using facts plucked from their minds. Feeders rarely know anything about the specific mystery at hand, apart from what they glean from investigators’ thoughts. They pretend however to have useful clues for those willing to grovel for them. Amid a torrent of mockery, the feeders questioners with obvious deductions, baseless hints, and educated guesses.
Depending on your story needs, these might be useful but limited, for example reminding the group of a perfectly good and correct theory it considered and has forgotten. The feeders might lead them into a trap, or present the investigators with a full-on red herring. (As usual, red herrings in GUMSHOE just happen to lead somewhere useful, but that’s no thanks to the feeders.)
In Paris, feeders monitor occult circles. When not vexing investigators they may make prankish appearances at seances. They can gain a measure of sustenance from ordinary believers in Theosophy or Martinism, though not as much as from investigators.
In The Wars, they grow fat on the psychic backwash from the many soldiers exposed to overtly unreal combatants and battlefield conditions.
Feeders learned circumspection under the Castaigne regime of the Aftermath setting. Regime parageometrists figured out how to capture and drain them of their energies. Now freed by the fall of their old tormentors, they may use the ex-insurgents to help them take vengeance. In this sequence, feeders can be useful sources of real information, privy as they were to the secrets of Huss sorcerers.
In This Is Normal Now, they return to their old tricks, now versed in the lingo of social media and ready to pepper their mockery with tidbits of the latest discourse.
Feeders appear as swirls of yellow mist and ectoplasm, their ever-shifting visages running the gamut from distorted human face to groaning skull. Those who encounter them hear their shrieking voices in their heads.
Able to vanish in an instant, they most often avoid combat. They appear as Mental Hazards, their energy-draining presence requiring Composure tests to avoid Shock—Minor: Feeder Contact; Major: Feeder Drain. Typical Difficulty is 4, but tougher feeder gangs exist.
Investigators can fight them only by finding an in-plot way to force them fully into material existence. This may require the expenditure of a Push or one or more general ability successes.
Players may develop an ongoing antagonistic relationship with a particular gaggle of feeders over time. Where repeat appearances are concerned, watch for the line between doing and overdoing.
Numbers: as many as the party
Difficulty: Tough but Outmatched (Escape 2, Other 3, Kill 4)
Difficulty Adjustments: -1 if you’ve met these feeders before; +1 each previous time you’ve used this particular method of materializing them
Injuries, Minor and Major: Choked/Throttled
Lose 2 points of Health and 2 points of Sense Trouble.
Discard after looking into one of the feeders’ assertions.
Lose 2 points from each Presence ability.
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, s erved 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.