Intrepid Histories: Disease of the Heart

Gazing on such wonderful sights, we did not know what to say, or whether what appeared before us was real, for on one side, on the land, there were great cities, and in the lake ever so many more, and the lake itself was crowded with canoes, and in the Causeway were many bridges at intervals, and in front of us stood the great City of Mexico, and we – we did not number four hundred soldiers!

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Conquistador

John Keyworth’s game Intrepid Histories is in external playtesting and it’s easy, graceful and rewarding to play.

First we created Divergences for the world in which our version of the Conquest of Mexico (1519-21) was set:-

  1. Animals have the gift of language.
  2. Aliens have previously visited the Aztecs.
  3. Birdpeople of the Mexican isthmus use the thermals of nearby volcanoes to fly.

We chose to add two characters each to the base characters of Hernán Cortés, Doña Marina and Montezuma – this is many more characters than a game of Intrepid Histories really needs, but we were going for the grand sweep of history and a large supporting cast – and narrated a vignette for each of the characters we introduced.

I added the historical character of Pedro de Alvarado – called ‘Tonatio’ or ‘He Who Brings the Day’ by the Mexica (Aztecs) for his shock of red hair – to the ranks of the Conquistadors and Tlillancalqui or ‘The Keeper of the House of Darkness’ to the notables of Tenochtitlan, a bird-priest with whom it very quickly emerged that Cortés had been exchanging secret messages. Simon introduced Geromino de Aguilar, a Conquistador from a previous expedition kept as a slave by local Maya since 1511, and “Il Dottore”, an alcoholic veterinarian from the Spanish colonies in the Italian peninsula. Space Monkey went for Father Sebastio de Huscalia, a pyromaniac priest who was Confessor to Cortés, and Antatechapachtli or “He Who Speaks with Ants”, a Mexican with enormous ears who acted as diplomat for Montezuma.

The game proceeded from here with hardly a break in the flow over about two hours for the three of us. Father Sebastio burned mutineers, heretics and passers-by with equal abandon, Doña Marina stabbed Geromino de Aguilar in the back for trying to warn the Tlaxcalans of Cortés’ forthcoming betrayal at a wedding feast and Antatechapachtli sent pictographic processions of ants back and forth in such a way as to cause the animals to intercede in the Conquest of Mexico. We were both enlivened by the history and utterly surprised by the outcome of the game. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Previous Drafts

I added four historical events to John’s four-act structure and, much as I’m emotionally attached to the events at Tlaxcala and Cholula during the real-world Conquest, I’ll very likely do away with those and bookend the scenario with the first and last events: Cortés burning his ships to put down a mutiny and the Siege of Tenochtitlan itself. Our siege ended with Aztecs and Conquistadors fighting back-to-back in a losing battle against the insurgency of the animals.

Next, onto the surreal vistas of Itras By.

Society Intact

The guys enjoyed Dream Askew. Once we’d accepted we were going to allude to rather than demonstrate some of the game’s deeper themes – one of us is bi, two of us are straight and we all identify our genders with our sex – and that the clear demarcation between “Situations” was a formality rather than a practice of play, we really got into the freeform nature of the game. Next time we play we’ll spend more time during set-up working up some strong motivations for our Characters.

Next, a playtest for John Keyworth’s Intrepid Histories.



Black Dog Dérive is a 32-page collaborative scenario produced as fan material for STALKER: The SciFi Roleplaying Game by Ville Vuorela.

Seven double-page spreads designed to be used as prompts for improvisation, creative inspiration or random tables provide the spine of the story: pre-generated characters, maps and guidance for play form the scenario’s second half.

Right now, the scenario is freely available only as a desktop PDF but other formats may soon become available:-

Black Dog Dérive



Itras By: The Menagerie

Itras By is one of the most enchanting and innovative roleplaying games ever made.

Eight Resolution cards link to a deck of Chance cards designed to communicate the disjunctive elisions and dreamlike combinations of surrealist narrative. In the case of the former, players draw cards and resolve actions on one another’s behalf; in the case of the latter, each player (including the GM) draws a Chance card once per session: something as wild as it is suitable is sure to occur.

The larger part of the game describes the City that is inspired by these creative implications: Itras By is a game that is as rewarding to read as it is fun to play.

Now some of the world’s best game designers – plus one or two opportunistic hangers-on – have gathered to form a new dérive into Itra’s City and beyond.

From Carsten Damm at Vagrant Workshop:-

Somewhere in early 2015, I reached out to Ole Peder Giæver to hear if we and Martin Bull Gudmundsen were interested in writing an adventure or two as follow-up to their surreal roleplaying game Itras By. Itras By is one of our best-selling books, so making more of that would satisfy a certain demand.

A few months later, Ole came back to me with a different vision–a sourcebook containing a variety of contributions from several authors. A wild mix of material: varied, eclectic, slightly subversive, and useful or inspiring to readers, players, and gamemasters of Itras By. How could I say no?

Now, over a year later, our company inbox is overflowing with contributions. Ole and his team of collaborators–dozens of writers and illustrators–have worked hard to create Itras By: The Menagerie. We have no idea of what the final page count will turn out to be, but since the ball is now in our court, we will make sure this book gets all the love it needs and the looks it deserves.

Look for it in early 2017.

And this from Ole Peder Giæver, who lives with the elves of Dunsimore:-

Itras By: The Menagerie

  • Foreword by Emily Care Boss
  • Using the Menagerie by Ole Peder

The Diorama (Back to the By)

  • Imperia Manila by Tobie Abad, illustrations Trond Ivar Hansen
  • Capybaras with Hats by February Keeney, illustrations by Clarissa Baut Stetson
  • The Salon and the Darkness by Edward “Sabe” Jones, illustrations Thomas Novosel
  • The Fringe Zones by Terje Nordin, illustrations by Tor Gustad
  • Radio by Philipp Neitzel
  • LUNACY by Caitlynn Belle, illustrations by Thomas Novosel

The Laboratory (Method)

  • Costuming Itras By by Kat Jones
  • Oneshot Guide by Keith Stetson
  • A Cartography of the Surreal by Steve Hickey, illustration by Gino Moretto
  • Saying No by Ole Peder, illustrated by Anders Nygaard
  • Itras By without Itras By by Jason Morningstar

The Dream Résumé (Elements of Character)

  • Character Generator by Keith and Clarissa Baut Stetson
  • Character Seeds by Willow Palecek
  • Character Name Lists edited by Ole Peder
  • Curious Characters by Niels Ladefoged
  • Character Sheets by Karina Graj

The Hall of Mirrors (Games & Scenarios)

  • Grimasques, freeform by Banana Chan
  • Surrealist Games by Kamil Wu, illustrated by Li Xin
  • Neighbourhood by Aleksandra Sontowska
  • The Hyacinth in the Bureaucracy by Matthijs Holter and Jackson Tegu, illustrations by Jeremy Duncan
  • The Scientific Order of Itra-Troll by Abstract Machine, illustrations by Judith Clute
  • The Shadow Carnival by Evan Torner
  • Edgar by Oliver Vulliamy, scenario from the Swiss-French edition, translated by Sanne Stijve with illustrations by David Cochard

Post Scriptum

  • When life doesn’t make sense by Martin Bull Gudmundsen
  • Outsiders by Martin and Ole Peder
  • The Dream Team by Ole Peder


  • 32 new cards (+ optional extras for new deck)

There are rumours too of one or two very special surprises…

Pandora’s Tears


There’s a warm and joyful atmosphere at Concrete Cow and I’m glad I found time to attend: I encourage anyone able to do so to do the same.


The CARD DROP maps the shared dreamspace of Itra-Troll
Piers draws the card INRUPTION and uses a puddle of water to depict the dream-tears of his character, Pandora

aurora itralis

for Mathew mk 8
Art by Judith Clute

Itra-Troll is nearly ready for playtesting – I just need to mock-up a new version of the Card Drop and iron out one or two details of the gameplay.

This is the pitch for the RPG convention Concrete Cow in Milton Keynes on September 10th:-

Itra-Troll (a supplement for Itras by)

“We are the dreamers who dream and then live in the dream.”

Nothing has been heard from the scientific personnel at the research station Itra-Troll since they reported seeing the face of Itra in the lights of the aurora itralis. This is a story about their rescue party.

You’ll learn more about the innermost desires of your character on entering Itra-Troll than you might ever have suspected: you’ll draw cards to represent the hopes and fears of your character, watch as they come to life as dreams made flesh, despair as the other members of the collective make an unholy mess of them.

Will you dare to turn on the dreaming machines?

GM: Abstract Machine
Players: 3 to 5
Slot: Morning

Playstyle: Norwegian Surreal; player narration, card-based resolution.

Warning, Will Robinson: this is a playtest.