A column about roleplaying
by Robin D. Laws
This wraps up the series outline from the previous installment of See P. XX.
A friend or loved one joins the Temple of Hali, willingly embracing the new unreality as more vivid and exciting than boring old regular life. Can the team dig up a sinister truth that will release this person from their psychic grip?
Consumer Product Horror
Take a safe and beloved item everybody wants and turn it to horror. Smartphone horror is your obvious choice. I featured it both in New Tales of the Yellow Sign, the short story collection that inspires the game, and in my campaign, where it took the form of Urchin, a wearable with a strong objection to not being worn.
If you’re planning a Normalcy Shift, drop it in mid-series, introducing Rampagers and the Reintegration Complex as if they’ve been there all along—although the investigators don’t remember them from yesterday, like everyone else seems to. Then introduce a mystery in which Rampagers play a secondary role. This might be:
- a murder where the killer lures the victim into the path of the creatures, using them as a murder weapon
- a corporation negligently rounding up rampagers, resulting in the deaths of workers or bystanders
- or simply a good old fashioned survival horror escape from the monsters, perhaps concluding by discovering the way to neutralize one of the major sub-species.
Bring in the possibility that all of the shattering realities are headed for cosmic-scale disaster with a worldwide event the players somehow cause or otherwise find themselves at the center of. In my game, their flight to cottage country to avoid supernatural menace led to an unending night, which they had to reverse. This sets up the idea that they are not as ordinary as they believe themselves to be, and aren’t meant to simply endure the threat of Carcosa, but to deal with it conclusively.
Other possible manifestations include:
- the Lake of Hali suffusing the nearest major body of water, complete with predatory fish folk
- a neighborhood merging with part of Carcosa
- the sky turning white and the stars going black, provoking people to mass violence
The characters discover that the political world has been infiltrated by fanatical believers in the Yellow Sign. They must get the dirt on them and send them regrouping into the shadows. Do the conspirators follow a mysterious fellow named Castaigne, who claims to descend from the stars themselves? Or is it an already well known political figure who scares you all in real life?
Big Bad Callback
A weird and deadly mystery turns out to be a lure to draw in the investigators so that the Big Bad can safely pitch them a deal. If it’s the King himself, he needs help stopping his daughters from ending the universe to replace it with one he can no longer rewrite and rule. If it’s anyone else, they want to stop the king from rewriting them out of the world. Do the investigators take the bait and make the deal, or take advantage of a rare chance to finally dispose of the evil at hand?
Road to Carcosa
The investigators discover that final victory over Carcosa requires them to travel to that shifting, inhospitable land. They research ways to travel there, fighting off agents of the Yellow Sign who want to stop them, and third-party conspirators who intend to mine its secrets for themselves. Once there, their explorations might lead them to an ally needed for the final act, a method of surviving the hostile supernatural environment, or both.
The group learns that they are indeed intertwined not only with one another, but with two sets of precursors and one team of alternate selves. They head through Carcosa to find a gate that leads to them, hoping to find a way to end the rewriting of realities and shut all the gates—or prevent them from opening in the first place.
When they find their past selves, they might end the campaign by teaming up with them. My own players gamely took the true reality horror route, bumping off their Paris characters before the action of the first sequence began, preventing them from ever having conspired to bring the play into this reality in the first place.
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.