Wednesday, June 20, 2018
This blog post serves as a record for "session -1"... basically talking about the stuff there is to talk about before session zero.
Yes, I'm launching a new D&D campaign next month. Why D&D? Well, it's awesome and... you've got to go where the fish are. Tons of people play D&D. Comparatively, 5 people play any of the lesser known, old school, retro-clones or OSR off-shoots like Crimson Dragon Slayer (even though d6 dice pools are way cooler than d20).
Three guys talking about D&D, movies, concepts, influences, and the kind of campaign we'd like to see - nay, live in! It went well; let's dive into the juicy stuff.
I've always had at least an inkling of science-fantasy post-apocalypse in my D&D games. However, this time I wanted to go all-in. Mutant Crawl Classics has been ordered from my FLGS (just found out the 1st printing is sold out, but the game store's distributors had a couple extra copies).
In creating the campaign setting/world called Cha'alt, I'm planning on drawing quite a bit of influence from MCC and Dark Sun, but also the following movies...
Mad Max: doesn't get any more post-apocalyptic inspired than that. I also want to use Cyborg and Water World as inspirations. A totally ruined civilization where survivors must scavenge to survive in a chaotic, untamed world!
But how? Well...
Zardoz: A trippy, 70's favorite of mine. Just like in Zardoz, there's two lands - one populated by the brutals where it's all savage and low-tech and the second populated by eternals - young and beautiful degenerate intellectuals who want for nothing and have elaborate social rituals. The eternals use the brutals by way of the vortex (seriously, if you're dying to see Sean Connery's chest hair - just go see Zardoz).
Why not have two main realms? One was shielded from the apocalypse, more or less, and is the dark near-future cyberpunk world we're familiar with. Possibly a domed city or one of several, like in Logan's Run. The other land (pretty much the rest of the world) got the full brunt of the apocalypse and are living in the devastated aftermath.
The PCs are opportunists, mercenaries, thrill-seekers, or one of the dregs of society who agree to travel between the two lands, carrying out various missions and/or independently seeking fame, glory, and treasure (gold, credits, magic, and tech).
How did the apocalypse occur? Instead of going the usual route of nuclear war, why not dive into the sword & sorcery lore of Thundarr the Barbarian? Yes, a mysterious comet passed too close to our moon, broke it in half, and shit went crazy! Ok, it's not really "our" moon. This is all happening on some fantasy world, which explains the elves, dwarves, magic, etc.
I was looking up my kids' Chinese zodiac signs last night and early this morning. There was something in the description for Year of the Dragon that caught my eye.
In ancient times, people thought that dragons could control everything in the world with their character traits of dominance and ambition.
That sparked something in my imagination! I started thinking about dragons as gods in Cha'alt. All-powerful monstrous beings who influenced the people of that world. Priests would pray to and worship dragons - fire dragons, water dragons, gold dragons, steel dragons, and so on. As dragons fought amongst themselves, so would great armies - leading to the Dragon Wars.
System-wise, I'm leaning towards the Basic Starter version of D&D 5e and adding bits and pieces from there, instead of saying everything in the Player's Handbook is legit and then having to go through it and take bits and pieces out.
It'll be old school. O5R, to be exact. And while the 1st session starts up in July, there's going to be an online version of the game people can play, too, via Roll20. At least, that's the hope. We'll see. I still have to complete my latest Alpha Blue kickstarter!
Have an opinion, let me know.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Yes, you can now buy Alpha Blue merch right over here!
I'm trying to promote my Kickstarter (only 11 days left to back) Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free! Please check it out, support my dirty hobby, and tell your friends / RPG acquaintances.
Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design (hire this glorious bastard, you fool!) did an outstanding job creating the pink tentacles and slime details, font, etc. I mean, is there anything worse than a t-shirt with rectangular image just hanging in space?
A couple more items may be added in the next few days, we'll see. The sad part is that I'm only making about 10% per item sold - should be able to pay Glynn back for his magnificent work in 2021. But at least Zazzle takes care of all the heavy lifting, of which I have neither the time nor energy to do.
Zazzle also does frequent sales. Sometimes site-wide sales (25% off right now), certain items, etc. They also have some interesting options. For instance, the posters come in a range of sizes and if you wanted a canvas print, you can also choose the thickness, as well as, the size. Be sure to play around with options before ordering to make sure you'll love it.
Any questions, just let me know!
p.s. Glynn just alerted me that you need to switch the content filter to "OFF" in order to see the images (I set them to PG-13). Thanks, hoss!
Sunday, June 10, 2018
I've been having an interesting conversation online about XP, leveling, and new mechanics / dice rolling conventions.
What I proposed a few days ago right over here, basically took the place of the math heavy calculations that went into doling out XP per character. I remember playing in the 80's and sometimes it would take the DM up to an hour after a session to get the final numbers (we were all about 12 at the time).
That seems like a lot - and it was - but that was the way it was, and I do not believe that's an exaggeration.
Anyways, the old school purist I was engaging with said something about all these newfangled rules and ways of doing things diluted the purity of the game, making it harder to find a game or made the available gaming pool for old school D&D more shallow.
To that, I suggested that game mechanics will always play second fiddle to the really important factors that go into an RPG campaign...
- The GM (is he GMing like a fucking boss or is he just an asshole who doesn't care and loves his precious NPCs way too much?)
- The Players (I want to game with people who love the game - they don't have to know a lot about it, just be enthusiastic and willing to immerse themselves in the fantasy world we're collectively making).
- The food/drink available (Sure, I can eat before and after the game, but sharing delicious food and beverages makes the experience that much better).
- Comfortable and quiet place to play (if your cat's dingle-berries are "x" amount of inches from my dice and I'm sitting in a metal grade school cafeteria chair, I'm out).
- Close to home
- Convenient day/time
- The game's setting, flavor, theme, mood, aesthetic, etc. (Several days ago, some awesome dude was talking about mixing Planet of the Apes with Carcosa... hell yeah!)
- Style of play (don't play my character for me and don't railroad me. I want some agency, bitch!)
I could think of others, I'm sure, if I sat here for another hour or two. But that's enough to get the idea across - who you play with and where is so much more important than 90% of the game's overall functionality.
Yes, I maintain that all of those things, individually, are more important than playing Moldvay vs. Holmes, or Mentzer vs. AD&D, or 2nd edition vs. 5th edition, or S&W vs. LL, or Crimson Dragon Slayer vs. DCC.
If I had the time, liked the people involved, and what the game was about, I wouldn't care if the GM used ascending AC, descending, or some weird random d12 mechanic he pulled out of his ass. Bring on the pizza, mountain dew, and let the good times roll!
p.s. Please check out and back my latest Alpha Blue kickstarter - Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free!
Sunday, June 3, 2018
This is the 2nd episode of our RPG talk show Inappropriate Characters, comprised of RPGpundit, James Desborough, and myself.
In this episode, we talk about Kickstarters, Anita Sarkeesian coming to GENCON, gaming as adults, and more! Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to subscribe, like, and comment. If you enjoy that kind of irreverent programming, consider supporting us through our Inappropriate Characters Patreon.
p.s. The Alpha Blue supplement Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free! is being Kickstarted right fucking now - go check out the sexy girls if nothing else.
Friday, June 1, 2018
Tonight is our second episode of the Inappropriate Characters RPG talk show. Please subscribe to our channel and get notified when there's something new to watch!
Also, here's our Patreon account. It'll help us keep the good times rolling!
One of the topics I'll be discussing tonight is RPG kickstarters. Specifically, tips to succeed at running your own. As it happens, I launched my 15th KS earlier today.
Check out Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, and Cosmic Ass... No One Warps For Free!
If you have questions about running an RPG kickstarter, let me know what they are so I can answer them on the show.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Today, we're talking about Armor Class... but first, let's discuss the lack of diversity among the straight, white, male, rape-culture, terrorist roleplayers.
Why?!? Why does this always fucking happen these days?
I'm referring to the interjection of racism, sexism, inclusiveness, forced community welcoming, protection from the threat of possible harassment, and a bunch of other stuff.
It's politics. Why are politics always worming their filthy way into our gaming? I want to be free of it.
A few years ago, "No politics" meant not overly praising or bashing the President or talking about gun control or immigration. Now, it's everywhere, affecting everything, and there seems to be no escape.
This seemingly innocuous post by James Raggi started off good and then got bogged down in the same bullshit that happens when more than 3 people are together.
At this point, I equally blame the Alt-Right (stop egging the SJWs on, baiting them, and calling them totalitarians) and Ctrl-Left for their mutual failure to leave their politics at the fucking door! It's gotten so bad that, like, 20% of all RPG discussion needs to be removed like a cancerous tumor.
From now on, unless I'm taking part in a political discussion, I'm going to ignore the stuff I can safely and easily ignore; everything else I'll respond with NP,P. Even if that's questioning why so many OSR people harass minorities or wear a Nazi armband or prefer ascending armor class.
Those who've seen the inaugural episode of our RPG talk show, Inappropriate Characters, know that I'm a centrist who prefers to keep gaming talk about gaming, when possible (new episode taping later this week)...
Thanks for listening and hope you all had a good Memorial Day,
Saturday, May 26, 2018
There's a divide between what most gamers consider "old school" and "modern" approaches to RPGs, specifically D&D, but those categories are general enough to be somewhat universal.
It's not just traditional versus story game or experienced veteran versus youthful noob. It's a matter of approach and perspective. Designing adventures seems to be one of those areas where those things matter now more than they ever have.
The latest conflict is around a scenario entitled Mines, Claws & Princesses. It's by some dude I've never heard of named Oswald.
While I'm not wild about the title and don't care at all for the cover art, renowned D&D adventure reviewer Bryce Lynch has said amazing things about it. Even though I haven't read the module in question, I trust his judgement and plan on purchasing it soon.
And that would be the end of it (and hardly worth a blog post) if not for a counter-point review from some guy named Chris Kelly over at Wizard's Laboratory. Chris takes points off for the adventure's unfinished nature, its mature themes (gratuitous violence, apparently), and lack of compelling story.
Pretty much everything that's wrong with scenarios put out from the 90's up to today's "adventure path" is placed on a pedestal by some of these gamers who see old school as a detriment and OSR as something that passed the RPG hobby by or a niche relegated to the back of the bus (standing room only). I'm talking about overly-long, tedious, hand-holding, uninspired railroad drivel that keeps diamonds in the rough from getting noticed.
As an aside, I glanced at this preview over at ENworld today. The author is talking about the upcoming Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells RPG. Angus seems to be explaining the nuts and bolts of old school roleplaying to an audience that's possibly unaware of gaming culture from the 70's and 80's.
I mean, it's just sad that so many people don't know what good Game Mastering is about, that so many players have to experience all those campaign worlds with blinders on... with fun on mute.
Personally, I view old school as the future of this hobby. There wouldn't be a 5th edition without the OSR. Those noob-friendly "training wheels" are actually GM straitjackets, preventing the proper flow. And what is the proper flow, you ask?
The adventure designer inspires the GM with awesome ideas. The GM takes those ideas, interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).
That's it. That's what's supposed to happen. Interrupting that sacred pattern with failed novelist backstory, tedious read-aloud text, and predetermined outcomes is ruining D&D!!!
Besides continuing to educate people, I'm not sure what else we can do. Sure, we can keep running games from an old school perspective, initiate new blood into the OSR fold. But what else? Hmm... write reviews?
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Over 48 hours ago, I received an email from some shadowy division of Amazon telling me that Battle Star: Trek Wars was being temporarily suspended (suppressed, they call it) because of confusing or misleading keywords.
When setting up the title for Amazon's print-on-demand service, CreateSpace, I was asked to put in keywords to help customers find my product in searches. Apparently, whatever I used (we can all guess, I'm sure) went too far.
But instead of merely removing my keywords or getting rid of them for Battle Star: Trek Wars altogether, they took the book off their virtual shelves. That seems like overkill. Could there be another motive?
I was told in that email that it would take 24 hours for them to review the matter after I sent in new keywords (which I immediately did). As I mentioned, more than 48 hours have passed. I've called CreateSpace's help # twice, but they could do little. Apparently this Amazon division cannot be directly contacted, they sit in judgement beyond our universe, maneuvering in dark and secret ways...
Since I've never encountered this problem before, all I can do is wait and hope with tentacles crossed.
In the meantime, I'm putting Battle Star: Trek Wars on sale over at DriveThruRPG. Get it here at 30% off until it's back on Amazon... whenever the fuck that might be.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
"If you're going to do something that is naughty, do it, and realize that you're doing something naughty and enjoy it."
~ Anton Szandor LaVey
It seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote one of the worst RPGs in existence (well, a few people kind of liked it).
Empire of Satanis was my self-publishing origin story. I wrote it over the course of a few months (with some help from The Forge) and put it out there for God and everyone to see (and be ashamed of) in 2005. Not sure why some of the product information shows a 2011 date - maybe that's when Lulu updated their site?
This being 2005 and 2006 (for the 2nd edition), right around the OSR's genesis, I cobbled together a traditional and what would later be known as a "story game" hybrid. And with games such as Alpha Blue, I'm still doing that. Neo-OSR, baby!
This is the free PDF. That is a link to the Lulu print-on-demand hardcover (why I thought this deserved a hardcover version is fucking beyond me). Both updated versions are a bit longer than the original. I doubled-down on the unnecessary quoting of inspirational luminaries such as H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, and Anton Szandor LaVey. The three L's!!!
I also did all my own layout using Lulu's templates. Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ! Now, you know why Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design does everything for Kort'thalis Publishing. So bad!
You can read this guy's Fatal & Friends detailed analysis of the game right over here! He updated the F&F EoS autopsy not too long ago.
Yes, it's an uncharitable view, but I can't say he's wrong. Empire of Satanis is an amateurish mess of terrible cliches and something even worse - running in the opposite direction of cliche... only to hit a brick wall at top speed. Indeed, the thing is weird for weirdness-sake, and tries too hard in the process.
However, taken from the standpoint of purposefully awful, perhaps... maybe... possibly there's something intriguing deep inside. I can barely imagine pairing it with Encounter Critical or Crimson Dragon Slayer. Irony only goes so far...
Is there a moral to this story, High Priest Satanis? Yes. Yes, there is. Even if what you're writing now is so bad it stinks on ice, there's hope for the future.
A couple years from now, you could be getting paid a few thousand dollars a year for writing whimsical exploitation trash. I did it, and so can you!
p.s. I took the name Satanis as part of my nom de plume to keep myself humble. Never forget!