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GUMSHOE Community Content Guidelines

GUMSHOE Community Content Guidelines

What is this?

The GUMSHOE Community content program is a way to publish and distribute Ashen Stars, The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition, and TimeWatch content you have written, including original adventures, locations, NPCs and more. 

You create content, using our design templates, and then upload the PDF to DriveThruRPG. You can then make it available for free, or make it available for sale as a pay-what-you-want or fixed price title. As creator, you get 50% of the sales, and we divide the rest between us and OneBookShelf. 

Pelgrane Press has released style templates (in both Adobe InDesign and MS Word) and art assets to the GUMSHOE Community to help you create your own content. You are encouraged (but not required!) to use the templates found at the bottom of this article when creating your work.

What can I use in my GUMSHOE Community titles?

Your work can use any rules and setting materials from the following Ashen Stars, The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition, and TimeWatch books published by Pelgrane Press:

Pelgrane Press will make additional GUMSHOE titles, art and templates available through OneBookShelf, and you’re welcome to use these in your GUMSHOE Community titles as they become available.

The GUMSHOE Community is a shared resource. This means that you’re also welcome to expand on and adapt work that other authors have created here. You can write a sequel to an adventure you enjoyed, use another author’s NPCs, or repurpose community-created ship deckplans. If someone’s work inspired you, and you’d like to build on their characters, stories, or settings, please do credit their original work! It helps the entire community grow.

What can’t I use in my GUMSHOE Community titles?

You can’t use All We Have Forgotten: Music for Ashen Stars, or Dissonance: Music For Esoterrorists.

We’re only accepting content for the Ashen Stars, The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, Mutant City Blues 2nd Edition, and TimeWatch settings. All other GUMSHOE titles are not available under this program, unless we explicitly include them in later iterations.

You can’t use material that infringes on someone else’s copyright, whether that’s a conversion from another medium, or other Pelgrane Press materials not explicitly included in the GUMSHOE Community program.

No other GUMSHOE art can be used for the Community Content products, but you can commission new art for use in your product. You are responsible for sourcing art that is available for commercial use.

Where can I use GUMSHOE Community content?

GUMSHOE Community assets are published under the Community Content Agreement for the GUMSHOE Community program, and are licensed for use in content published on the GUMSHOE Community on DriveThruRPG only. The layout templates and art assets are not licensed to be used for any other purpose.

I’d like to write in a way that matches the tone of GUMSHOE. Any advice?

Check out the GUMSHOE Tone and Presentation section at the end of this document.

What types of content are allowed?

There’s a wealth of content you can create – here’s a small sample:

For Ashen Stars:

  • Adventures
  • Pre-generated characters
  • NPCs, e.g. Conferees, Sub-Practitioners
  • Existing Ashen Stars locations (e.g. GovPrime or Ossa One)
  • Existing species (e.g. chanovar, orma, illud, jalen, threevix, madaraka, clen)
  • New Ashen Stars locations, e.g.:
    • New world descriptions, hooks, names
    • New space stations
    • New synthcultures
  • Pre-generated Contracts and Side Deals
  • Rules tweaks
  • New ships or shuttles
  • New nufaiths
  • New crew packages or assignments
  • New PC elements e.g. new abilities, new Drives
  • New lifeforms, e.g. predatory quasi-sentient species, or Class-K entities
  • New Combine species
  • New technology or ship bolt-ons
  • Maps of Combine space or the Bleed
  • Art assets for other creators
  • Music inspired by Ashen Stars

For The Esoterrorists and Fear Itself:

  • Adventures
  • Pre-generated characters
  • NPCs or Esoterror cells
  • Existing Esoterror locations
  • Existing Outer Dark Entities (e.g. Torture Dog, Dementia Larva)
  • Existing artifacts (e.g. the First Altar, the Voynich Tape)
  • Rules tweaks
  • New Outer Dark Entities
  • New artifacts
  • New PC elements e.g. new abilities, new Drives, new Risk Factors
  • Maps or floorplans for encounters
  • Art assets for other creators
  • Music inspired by The Esoterrorists and Fear Itself

For Mutant City Blues:

  • Adventures
  • Pre-generated characters
  • NPCs, organizations, or institutions
  • Existing Mutant City Blues locations (e.g. Birch Towers, HCIU HQ)
  • Rules tweaks
  • New or existing antagonist write-ups
  • New artifacts
  • New PC elements e.g. new abilities, new Drives, new mutant powers
  • Maps or floorplans for encounters
  • Art assets for other creators
  • Music inspired by Mutant City Blues

For TimeWatch:

  • Adventures
  • Pre-generated characters
  • NPCs or antagonists
  • Existing locations (e.g. the Citadel)
  • Existing species & constructs (e.g. androids, sophosaurs)
  • Existing weapons, gear and technology (e.g. autochrons, neural disruptors)
  • Rules tweaks
  • New locations or time periods
  • New weapons, gear and technology
  • New PC elements, e.g. new character competencies, new abilities, new Drives
  • Maps or floorplans for encounters
  • Art assets for other creators
  • Music inspired by TimeWatch

What types of content are prohibited?

  • Material that a reasonable person would consider libellous, defamatory, constituting hate speech, misrepresentative, or discriminatory.
  • Conversions of content from other roleplaying games or other copyrighted media.
  • Comics
  • Fiction (unless short vignettes in roleplaying game materials)
  • Software or apps
  • Products that infringe on the intellectual property of others, or that violates the law.
  • Any crowd-funded content.

Are there rules to follow?

Yes.

  • The GUMSHOE Community logo must appear on the cover of your work. It must be discernible and legible at normal full-screen viewing size, but does not need to be large and should not be the primary logo or title on the cover.
  • Your DriveThruRPG listing must include the text "Requires the use of the [[Ashen Stars/The Esoterrorists/Fear Itself/Mutant City Blues/TimeWatch]] setting from Pelgrane Press” with a link to the appropriate core book listing on DriveThruRPG.
  • You may not use the GUMSHOE logo or the Pelgrane Press logo.
  • You may not claim that your content, or any advertising, promotions, press releases, or other documents connected with your content, has been sanctioned or approved by Pelgrane Press, or is affiliated with Pelgrane Press in any way, other than to acknowledge that the content is produced and distributed as part of the GUMSHOE Community program
  • Neither your content nor any advertising, promotions, press releases, or other documents affiliated with the content may contain sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist, or other discriminatory depictions; rape or other acts of criminal perversion; or other obscene material without the express written permission of Pelgrane Press prior to publication.

AI Art

This Community Content Program follows the DTRPG Guidelines with AI Art.

AI-Generated Images

All product listings that feature art created automatically by an AI-generation tool meant to bypass or replace human artistry, such as ArtBreeder, MidJourney, NightCafe, etc. are required to utilize the Format > Creation Method > AI-Generated title filter, except in the following instances:

the art has undergone significant processing/modification post-generation; or
the product is expressly approved by OneBookShelf.

Note for AI-Generated Stock Art

Titles containing any art rendered by AI-generated tools that are sold as "Stock Art" (under the Product Type > Publisher Resources filter) must also display the following statement in their product description:

This product contains assets that were, wholly or in part, procedurally generated with the aid of creative software(s) powered by machine learning.

Titles that do not comply are subject to removal from the marketplace. Repeat offenders may have their publishing permissions revoked.

It’s called the GUMSHOE Community content program, but it’s not all GUMSHOE games at the moment, why?

We love seeing your creative content in our worlds, and our aim is - if this proves to be something that people enjoy and are using - to make more of our GUMSHOE settings available to you under the GUMSHOE Community content program. For licensing reasons, we aren’t at liberty to make all of our GUMSHOE games available under this program.

Can I copy information from GUMSHOE rulebooks into my GUMSHOE Community content?

You’re free to reference the text of official Pelgrane Press products, but please don’t copy things outright. Your text should be your original work.

Can I use canonical characters in my GUMSHOE Community content?

Yes, of course – you can include these as NPCs, or even PCs, in your content.

How do credits and copyright work?

  • The GUMSHOE Community logo in the GUMSHOE Community content files must appear on the cover of your work. It must be discernible and legible at normal full-screen viewing size, but doesn’t need to be massive, and shouldn’t be the primary logo or title on the cover.
  • Your DriveThruRPG listing must include the text "Requires the use of the [[Ashen Stars/The Esoterrorists/Fear Itself/Mutant City Blues/TimeWatch]] setting from Pelgrane Press” with a link to the appropriate core book listing on DriveThruRPG.
  • You may not use the GUMSHOE logo or the Pelgrane Press logo.
  • You must include the following text on the Credits Page of your work:
    • This work contains material that is copyright of Pelgrane Press. Such material is used with their permission under the GUMSHOE Community Content Program.
    • All other original material in this work is [©date] by [your name] and published under the GUMSHOE Community Content Program.
  • If you intend to use art from elsewhere, ensure that you have clear permission to do so and credit the artist or source.

GUMSHOE Tone and Presentation

Omniscience

The GUMSHOE ethos favors not only the provision of information to players during play, but to the GM when reading setting material. Some games present an overarching mystery that the GM may choose to allow the players to solve: the Bogey Conundrum in Ashen Stars, the Sudden Mutation Event in Mutant City Blues. Aside from these, do not withhold information from the GM or fail to answer questions you present.

For example, in a monster description, avoid the commonplace RPG writer cop-out that goes like this:

No one knows why sandworms like sand, but they certainly do.

The characters in your world can be ignorant of something, but you are not, because you’re confidently making it up. As omniscient narrator writing out-of-character, it is your job to either definitively decide what the reality is in the world, or present to the GM several possible answers.

Instead, present it more like this, so the GM can see the merits of each choice, explicitly or implicitly:

Competing theories explain the notorious sandworm fondness for sand:

  • It helps them to slough off dried scales (in which case they will leave the sand plains but not stray far from them.)
  • It allows them to burrow faster than they can in other soil types (in which case they might be found elsewhere, though hampered by lower mobility.)
  • A curse laid by the Entekar forbid them from leaving (in which case they are only found on the sand plains.)

“No one knows” is often a hand-wavy excuse to avoid generating further detail about the creature, group or place you’re describing. In GUMSHOE, characters are experts who either know things or can figure it out. Create details that reward investigation.

(An exception might pertain for games set in the real world, referring to a genuine unknown: “The root cause of MS remains a matter of medical controversy.” This won’t come up much, though.)

When presenting information that is not commonly known to experts, indicate what the PCs might do to uncover it in the course of a scenario. Cite the abilities they can use as they do so, in boldface:

  • Xenobiology, coupled with a bio-scan, allows a crew member to establish that the scale abrasion factor does in fact account for the sandworm preference.

Do not solve the game’s overarching mystery. The GM may have her own ideas about that, which may be to introduce her own solution, or leave it as a question that will always be more entertaining than any answer could be.

Tone

  • GUMSHOE games use an omniscient, out-of-character voice with word and phrase choices evoking their settings and genres.
  • Rules sections pull back on this, favoring clarity over genre evocation.
  • Write player-facing rules (like ability descriptions) in the second person, addressed to the player: “You can use this ability to find valuable rocks.”
  • Write GM-facing rules with the GM as “you,” but employing the terms “GM” (or its fancy equivalent like Keeper or Director where we use that) and “player” for clarity.
  • Write GM-facing setting or advice material in the second person, addressed to the GM: “For pacing reasons you may instead prefer to expedite this sequence as a montage.”
  • Strike a balance between the informative and the approachable, perhaps with a wry aside every so often. Find a midpoint on the continuum between “dry instruction manual” and “purely conversational.”
  • Inclusive language is our standard. However, certain in-character and in-world material may reflect the sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, persecution on the basis of gender identity or religion, or transphobia (casual or overt) of the location or time period. The text should always be written in a way that makes it clear that that this is in-game only. All instructional/GM-facing text should be free of bigotry of any kind, and players should be given an option to opt-out of engaging with this material.

Most GUMSHOE games have an 18+ rating in terms of violence and sexual content. Darker themes can be explored, and the content can be written for a more mature audience. If your GUMSHOE Community content is going to deal with mature themes, please read our guidelines for what limitations there are on how mature themes can be represented. We recommend you also flag that content in the product description and include content warnings in the text.

Within the broad strokes above, the text of each game slips in language and imagery that evokes its genre and setting.

Ashen Stars

  • Mood: once hopeful, now gritty and world-weary, with notes of cynicism sneaking in.
  • Sub-genre: a gritty spin on beloved space opera tropes
  • Voice: though addressed to a contemporary GM, it drops in bits of futuristic techno-babble. Though specific to the tech and background of this setting, it evokes the dialogue of space opera shows where people solve problems with complex, incomprehensible-to-us technology.
  • Refer to the characters as: lasers, the crew, the team.

The central theme of Ashen Stars is the conflict between altruism and selfishness. This is reflected in its setting - pitting the idealism of a fallen utopian order against the harsh realities of a post-war environment - and the PCs, who are trying to bring justice while also turning a profit.

The adventure structure is found on pages 216-221 of the core Ashen Stars rulebook, and consists of:

  • The Contract
  • The Twist - a new set of facts they uncover midway through the investigation, which changes its focus and possibly introduces a difficult choice.
  • The Backstory - what happened before the crew arrives.
  • The Investigation - the scenario spine, referring to the scenes and providing the basic plotline
  • Complications – either abstract and impersonal, or in the form of antagonist characters
  • The Choice - between altruism and self-interest.

You can also include recommendations for Personal Arcs that would work well with the adventure.

The Esoterrorists

  • Mood: impersonal, urban horror, ripped from today’s headlines, professional, detatched
  • Sub-genre: ultracompetent operatives foil plots by Esoterrorist cells to breach the Membrane protecting our world from the horrific Outer Dark.
  • Voice: Fast-paced, succinct, allowing the GM to improvise around key adventure scenes & clues. The writing evokes the feel of a military briefing.
  • Refer to the characters as: the investigators, the agents, the team.

The adventure structure is found on pages 66-73:

  • Backstory - what happened before the investigators arrive.
  • Investigation Trigger – what prompted the Ordo Veritatis to send investigators in.
  • Sinister Conspiracy – what’s secretly going on behind the scenes; the Esoterror cell’s intent and plans.
  • Trail of Clues – the scenario spine, referring to the scenes and providing the basic plotline.
  • Antagonist Reactions– what the Esoterrorists do in response to the PCs’ investigation.
  • Veil-Out – how the PCs cover up the breach.

Fear Itself

  • Mood: personal horror, ordinary people plunged into a disturbing contemporary world of madness and violence.
  • Sub-genre: regular people encounter Creatures of Unremitting Horror which have breached the Membrane protecting our world from their home, the horrific Outer Dark.
  • Voice: Hidden horror and mundane life in the early stages, leading to jarring scenes of extreme horror with familiar locations or people.
  • Refer to the characters as: the investigators, the team.

The adventure structure is found on pages 53-60:

  • The Setup - what happened before the investigators arrive.
  • Investigative Trigger – how the investigators become involved in the mystery.
  • The Spine – the adventure structure, referring to the scenes and providing the basic plotline.
  • The Twist – the plot twist halfway through the adventure, to throw the players off balance and heighten the horror

Mutant City Blues

  • Mood: hopeful and optimistic with the villains tied up in a neat bow (Brooklyn Nine-Nine style), or world-weary and gritty, with an often unsatisfying or morally ambiguous ending (Law & Order or Jessica Jones style).
  • Sub-genre: police procedural in which super-powered police squad battle fellow supers who use their powers for criminal ends in a near-future big city.
  • Voice: Fact-focused, militaristic, succinct, using TLAs and police jargon to evoke the feel of a squad room briefing.
  • Refer to the characters as: the detectives, the HCIU.

The adventure structure is found on pages 154-156:

  • Backstory – a brief account of the case at hand. If this was a TV show, this would be the description in the TV listings.
  • The Crime – the initial crime that causes HCIU to be assigned to the case.
  • The Suspects – a bullet-pointed rundown of the various innocent parties who might feature on the PCs’ suspect list.
  • The Twist – (optional) – identifying the perpetrator sets up an additional obstacle (e.g. a hostage situation, a new crime, or a difficult courtroom situation) for the detectives to overcome.
  • The Culprit – who committed the crime, why, and how.

TimeWatch

  • Mood: multiple, depending on campaign frame; default is upstanding, costumed superhero positivity.
  • Sub-genre: time cops from past and future save humanity from time-travelling pests creating historical sabotage.
  • Voice: Irreverent, unauthoritative invitating improvisation and response to player actions.
  • Refer to the characters as: the investigators, the agents, the team.

The adventure structure is found on pages 208-209 and 359:

  • Overview
  • Background – includes the plot, supporting characters, and a timeline
    • Instigating Event – the change to the timeline that cascades forward through the river of time.
    • Mission Trigger – the chronal anomaly event that attracts the attention of TimeWatch.
    • The Antagonist – those responsible for the chronal anomaly. They have already won by altering time – what have they succeeded in doing?
  • The Mission - What the PCs will need to do to thwart the Antagonist
    • Mission Briefing: What the PCs are told by TimeWatch
    • Trail of Clues/Likely Adventure Path – how the adventure will likely play out. Gives the scenario spine, referring to the scenes and trail of clues, and providing the basic plotline.
  • Antagonist Reactions– what the opponents do in response to the PCs’ investigation.

How do I prepare the PDF of my title for sale?

There are many different programs to lay out and prepare your book for digital download. Here are some things to help you make sure your PDF will download properly and look great!

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Microsoft Word Tutorial and templates

Download MS Word Tutorial - Advice on how to use Microsoft Word, and a few other programs to prepare a DIGITAL ONLY title. POD titles can not be created in Word
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InDesign Tutorial and templates

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Scribus Tutorial and templates

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EPUB & MOBI EXPORT TUTORIAL - FROM MICROSOFT WORD (PDF) - To show you how to prepare your Microsoft Word file for export to the ePub format, and how to use Calibre to convert your ePub file to the Mobi format.

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Your DriveThruRPG listing must inclulde the text "Requires the use of the [[Ashen Stars/The Esoterrorists/Fear Itself/TimeWatch]] setting from Pelgrane Press” with a link to the appropriate core book listing on DriveThruRPG.

SHOUT

Congratulations on getting your content out there! We recommend you post about it on our blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media you use.

Please do tag us in to let us know about it, too!

Additional resources

Art

  • Creative Commons– You can search through photographs by keyword, and a beta tool allows for one-click attribution information.
  • Unsplash- Photos available for free, for both personal and commercial use.
  • Google’s Advanced Image Search – This allows you to search images by keyword and use rights.
  • NASA image library – NASA content - images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format - generally are not copyrighted, but confirm the specifics of the content you’re interested in.

Writing & editing

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