Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, first published in 2007, is an RPG written by sci-fi & dark fantasy author David J Rodger – it blends the Cthulhu Mythos and cyberpunk genres in a post-apocalyptic setting. Learn more…
Bringing old-skool RPG to a new audience
Up until a few days ago Simon Edwards had no idea what it meant to try and roll a critical on 1d100; or how the bounce and tumble of three dice could determine how he visualised the strength, appearance, constitution, dexterity, and other attributes of a character – his creation – that is to live and breathe within the consensual hallucination that is called Role-Playing. And yet now, this fresh-faced, if rather hairy 20-something year old is delving deep into a new and utterly unchartered world of imagination and spoken narrative; where infinite interactions and permutations – consequences of such actions – are determined by the outcome of dice.
It’s not a computer game. There’s no passive absorption of quickly rendered graphics through a hard-screen. There’s no joystick to clutch, no device responding to Pavlovian urges to react to explosions and other visceral stimuli.
There’s just a small group of people in a room: one game-master (GM) and some players. And even the physical reality of the room fades out of awareness as the imagination takes control and weaves the most incredible visuals from the spoken words. It’s magic, living and breathing magic.
But if you’re an experienced role-player I don’t need to tell you this. You already know. As does Adam Lee, the other player in the new Yellow Dawn group that’s just started up in Bath: a historic and ancient Roman Spa town in the South West of England.
So there’s two threads to this story. One is about a newbie getting into tabletop RPGs for the first time, and the other is about an existing RPG-head getting into the world of Yellow Dawn for the first time.
What’s unusual about this group is that I’m the GM.
It’s unusual because I’ve got a long-standing player group (1995 onwards) who get together every 3 weeks or so to spend an entire Saturday in the world of Yellow Dawn; and because any other spare time I have I’m normally working on new material, either for the RPG or the novels I write. So to get involved in a new group is a significant investment for me; but, I’ve just spent the past 5 years working like there’s no tomorrow and I’ve decided I need to ease off and free-wheel a little. Have some fun.
And I am. Having fun. I hadn’t really thought-through what I was starting when I agreed to run a new group. First session: one player, Simon Edwards, has never touched an RPG – has no experience of the terminology or concept; these aren’t hard things to grasp, you just have to have a desire to learn new things and it was great to see Simon grinning broadly as the lights switched on behind his eyes. I think he’s rapidly seeing the vast potential for fun (and intense thrills and horror) that role-playing can provide.
Likewise with Adam Lee. He knows RPGs but neither he or Simon know the world of Yellow Dawn. I couldn’t rest on my laurels and just start laying out a scenario knowing the minds of the players (and spirit of the characters) are already meshed with the fabricated universe. I had to start from scratch, build-up the world in their minds, sell-the-idea, and ultimately achieve a suspension of disbelief. It was actually quite nerve-wracking. What if I failed? What if they wrinkled their noses and went: that’s a dumb idea, this sucks!
I’m pretty confident I’ve succeeded. The chaps are coming back for more and they’ve now started recording the sessions so that they can create podcasts: it’s a novel experience for me rolling dice and keeping all my papers and notes squeezed between big fat table microphones, bundled cables and diffusers. Not sure I’ll listen to them. I don’t think I could stand to hear myself waffling-on and making bad attempts at NPC accents, but I’m really chuffed that Simon and Adam are taking the time and making the effort to put them together. Not just because I hope it’ll expose Yellow Dawn to a wider audience and ultimately drive up sales; but because I genuinely hope there’s a chance, however small, of seeing a new generation of young, brilliant minds, hungry for “new things” and jaded with two decades of computer generated visuals and restricted story arcs, turning their attention to the limitless excitement (and social real-space interaction) of RPG.
None of the podcasts are ready yet; we only started this week, but I’ll post up a link when there’s something to listen to.
Interestingly, Adam Lee is the keyboard player in the UK indi band Birds of Ares. Check out their official video below. Kind of stuff I listen to when racing around in my Rocket.
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YELLOW DAWN – THE AGE OF HASTUR: The Earth has been ravaged by viral pathogens, the death of billions observed by the orbital colonies and deep-space habitats that were largely unaffected by the Outbreak. Terrified of infection, nobody came to help. Less than 30 percent survived the first few weeks. Then came the 2nd Wave of infection, spreading steadily outwards from the impact points, and that was when the horror really began…
This book is crammed with everything you will need to create characters, run scenarios and experience horror and adventure in the fictional world of David J Rodger.
FEATURES: Narrative examples of key themes • The Influence of Hastur • Medical theories on the Infection • Zombie surges • Dead Cities • Wilderness survival • Comprehensive scavenging system and how to repair or build things with resources • Backgrounds and motivations of government bodies and corporations • Computer hacking and drug abuse • High-tech immortality options • Non-human characters • Enhancements through cyberware and bioware • Weaponry, equipment and armour • Complete character generation and development system • Complex political, corporate and quasi-religious tensions • Schools of Elemental Magick, occultism, demonology, and the alien horrors of the Outer Chaos – the Cthulhu Mythos. Purchase or Preview via LULU.