This is going to be both a writeup of our first Yellow King RPG scenario (played over two sessions) and some notes on prepping for the game. I wanted to use the ad lib skills I’d picked up while running Blades in the more structured GUMSHOE environment. Spoilers for the game follow; players please do not read.
Let’s start with the notes I wrote up before our character creation session.
These are very free form. I had this idea about a bunch of thrill seekers with living masks, and I just spun a bunch of ideas out from there. I was pretty sure there was a sinister figure behind them, but I wasn’t sure of the details. During Yellow King RPG character creation, everyone decides on a recent inexplicable event that happened to their characters, and I figured someone would come up with something I could link into the general idea.
And so it was! Jeremy decided that his character Herbert had been seeing this weird person following him for months, both in his home country America and in Paris. That was perfect so I noted it down. His family were industrialists, which I didn’t work into the plot immediately but which proved useful later on.
(The other PCs: Alix, an architecture student and rationalist; Maxine, a muse to the artistic who’ll try anything once; Lou, a landscape painter who just wants to keep the world safe; and Clarence, a poet who wants to prove that he’s not less of a man just because he won’t join the army.)
I also did a forced creativity exercise before character creation, because I can get stuck in ruts. That’s the text at the bottom left of the notes. It’s just a copy/paste of the skill list, and a possible clue relating to… well, I got through about half of them. This was enough to get my mind flexible, though! In practice I used the clues for Architecture, Fashion, and Sculpture. I sort of used the Culture clue but I forgot it was supposed to be a clue so I didn’t hand it to Maxine, and I let Art History stand in for Sculpture on the clay clue.
I totally didn’t work in the whole subplot about a forged Vermeer! Too bad, I liked that one. I also didn’t manage to get the weird cat-faced dog animal in there, alas. The group of thrill-seekers turned into a single menacing guy; that was mostly because it fit better with Herbert’s weird stalker and during play I just couldn’t figure out a way to bring in a group of thugs in a way that didn’t seem forced to me.
Finally, the overall arc of the campaign involves Camilla forcibly moving the Carolingian dynasty into the modern era in order to convince her father that she’s the best daughter. Her sister Cassilda objects. See also Heribert Illig’s phantom time hypothesis.
So our first session went like this:
The blue highlights are places where I vamped and had to fill in details/names later. I’m using an Apple Pencil and Good Notes for these, and the ability to edit has been really excellent. I usually lose momentum on session notes about three sessions in, so we’ll see.
As you can see, we have basically three scenes there — the initial cafe, following the stalker to The Pious Son, and trailing him back to his flat. This took about an hour. In retrospect I’m not sure why the theoretical thrill-seekers didn’t jump the PCs while they were trailing the stalker.
“Removes his coat… his hat… and then??” He was peeling off a Carcosan flesh mask, of course.
After this session, I figured out that Herbert’s industrialist parents were distantly related to a French industrialist family who owned Carolingian Steel. This made everything fall nicely into place and I wound up with much more structured notes for the next session.
The players gave me some indication of their follow-up investigations at the end of the previous session, thus the first set of bullet points. The check marks are from play — I checked off clues as the players found them. The arrow is also from in play; they spooked Sinclair (the stalker), and he hid his diary someplace safer.
It went awesome. I need to get into the habit of calling for more Composure checks, but this session was an improvement. Also, have multiple fights! If you don’t have more than one per scenario, Yellow King RPG PCs will steamroller everything. My players are used to me being combat-light, so Jeremy burned all his Fighting points in the first fight scene and we came really close to the PCs all getting nice new flesh masks. Very satisfying for me as a GM.
I am now turning the GMing reigns over to Sal. We’re alternating scenarios, to enhance the appropriate fractured reality feeling we think the campaign should have.