GUMSHOE Community Content Guidelines

Jeff Montgomery -


What is this?

The GUMSHOE Community content program is a way to publish and distribute Ashen Stars 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 template here 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 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

We’re only accepting content for the Ashen Stars setting. 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 Ashen Stars. 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:


  • 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 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

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?



  • 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 setting from Pelgrane Press” with a link to the Ashen Stars 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, 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.


It’s called the GUMSHOE Community content program, but it’s just Ashen Stars 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.

Can I copy information from Ashen Stars 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, like Ereb Glendon or Judy Coyle, 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 setting from Pelgrane Press”, with a link to the Ashen Stars 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


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.


  • 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. 


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!


If you want to lay out your Digital PDF from scratch...

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.


You've already created your PDF and just need to see if it is all set to upload.


You've already created your PDF and want to add enhancements.


Once your print files are ready to upload...

UPLOAD - Will show you where and how to upload your files for digital download.

Your DriveThruRPG listing must inclulde the text "Requires the use of the Ashen Stars setting from Pelgrane Press” with a link to the Ashen Stars listing on DriveThruRPG.


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


  • 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
  • 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.

Writing & editing


Have more questions? Submit a request


Please sign in to leave a comment.