Trump won! #NuclearMAGA
You know what makes a great gift?
Eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse with a side of humor, sleaze, and pop-culture references!
It seems like every day I'm hearing about someone's Cha'alt campaign, how much they love an adventure, random table, or optional rule... one of the Cha'alt books, or the entire trilogy.
Before I forget, have you acquired your FREE gift of Cha'alt Criterion?
Cha'alt is the anti-WotC D&D. The thing defies conventional everything!
It's never going to be as popular as what you can find on the shelves of your local game store. It's never going to have the appeal of authentic medieval whatever. It's never going to satisfy the gamers who need a thousand pages of rules, nor gamers who prefer slick Scandinavian death-metal graphics and 5 sentences per page.
However, Cha'alt is perfect for mixing, matching, and blending with your favorite OSR thing! How else are you going to achieve that perfect Carcosa Dark Sun Star Wars Dune ripoff you wish was on late-night skinemax vibe?
Here's the latest YouTube review to whet your appetite!
Cha'alt exists for an exclusive and discerning clientele who want something weird and fun and awesome! Without further ado, let's get to the crazy insane holiday deals, shall we?
Between now and Xma'as (December 25th), I'm selling...
Take a look at the kind of trash you find in the exhibition hall sewer! Wow, the things you see when you leave your xxxtra flush porta-potty at home [shaking my tentacle].
Just before leaving Game Hole Con, I chatted a bit with Bad Mike and Jeffery Talanian. Just catching up after a long weekend of gaming. Jeffery mentioned a panel with Ed Greenwood and how he's been working on his Forgotten Realms campaign setting since he was 5 or something.
The strong desire, bordering on need, came to me awhile ago, but hearing that only solidified another layer... I'm never leaving Cha'alt. Cha'alt is my RPG home, and I want to keep creating in that eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse sandbox for the rest of my days.
If 5 years of running games in the same world gets you this far [pretend I'm showing you a tentacle and measuring about halfway up], just imagine what 20 years would be like? Now, I'm imagining it [no, I don't actually have a tentacle in front of me... nor do I know what it's like to GM in the same campaign setting for more than 5 years].
My guess is that the answer would be... awesomeness that's commensurate with the wild, untamed joy of PSYCHOCOSM !!! That's what I intend to do, and if you'll stick with me, you can both share in the strange and wonderful awesomeness that is Cha'a'lt, as well as, discover whatever insights I might glean from that particular struggle.
Because make no mistake, it's not all fun and games. Well, yeah, it is... but also no. It is fun, and we are talking about games, but there's work that goes into it, too. And discipline. The mind wanders, attention wavers, we get pulled here and there, sidetracked, distracted; always something fresh to pursue. It takes a certain amount of dedication and focus to stay put and work within the boundaries set out for you, that you set out for yourself years (perhaps decades) ago.
I want to use the phrase "conscious suffering", but again, it's not suffering in the usual sense of the word. If you add up all the hours of imagining, planning, writing, revising, proofreading, finding artwork, and running games, we're talking about a thousand hours of work. And it hasn't all been a cakewalk. Hence the suffering. But I do it intentionally, consciously. In fact, I welcome it.
A man has to have a special plan, a calling, something that gives his life meaning (aside from the usual suspects, of course... family, survival, religion, etc.) If you run from every kind of suffering, you won't be inconvenienced as much, but what will you have to show for yourself when it's all said and done?
Alright, enough philosophizing, how was the Game Hole convention, hoss?
Pretty fucking awesome! Yeah, no real complaints. I gave myself an ideal schedule... a 4-hour game Friday at 10 - 2pm, two 3-hour games on Saturday with a couple hours for lunch in-between, and a 4-hour game to close things off on Sunday, same time slot as Friday.
And what were the games like? Pretty magical... spectacular, you might say! In fact, I was surprised how "game" everyone was. I couldn't be sure if it was me or Cha'alt or the players themselves (probably a combination of all three), but there was humor, pop-culture references, sleaze, and the kind of scary, gross-out horror movie exploitation shit that you don't get to see very often.
So, I was running another Encounter Critical III playtest in the RPG's home world of Cha'alt. Not going to bother linking the Kickstarter campaign because it's ending in about 30 minutes (as I type this first draft).
A little over $2,600... not too bad. Should be able to afford some cool artwork for that much, plus pay my layout guy.
As per usual, when I'm not running sessions over the weekend or at night, I only managed to get 2 players. But that's ok. 2 players gets the job done. One was a returning dude (whose game I respect), the other was a relative noob.
Got to introduce new character classes this playtest, so that was exciting. The choices I offered were: warrior, pioneer, criminal, warlock, doxy, and psi-witch (or psi-knight). Now, it's starting to feel a little bit more like Encounter Critical!
Still has a way to go, obviously. I'd say I'm about 65% finished with it. Next playtest will involve new races!
Anyways, one player took on the role of warlock, and the other a pioneer. Both chose human as the race to make things easier, and for the extra hit-points.
I'm really glad someone played a warlock because the magic system was an area that needed playtesting. I had this whole d6 dice pool thing going, kind of a riff on earlier versions of Crimson Dragon Slayer. But then decided against it. Too much fiddling around.
Instead, magic works like any other class ability - it's a skill check with a 15 target number, but you also get to add your level. Still pretty tough to do anything at lower level, which is why PCs need to accumulate Divine Favor... and you get that from roleplaying your character, primarily.
Speaking of which, I eased up a bit on backgrounds. That's a lot of coming up with stuff and writing for such a short game. While I mentioned that they might want to think about a drive, look, flaw, obsession, relationship, and other noteworthy things + personality quirks, I didn't mandate it. I also took the time (twice) to tell players that they'd be rewarded with Divine Favor for roleplaying their backgrounds, and that Divine Favor could be spent to re-roll any die (has to be their own die, though).
The returning player made great use of what he was told / given, bringing details about his character to life with social interaction, personal thoughts, and action. It may not seem like much, but stuff like that is one of the more rewarding things about RPGs in my opinion. That's why I made it a design goal up-front.
So what happened? Damn, it was a wild time! The PCs were prisoners, abandoned with a dead cellmate because the city of A'agrybah was engaged in a bloody civil war - blue versus green (if you've seen The Tomorrow People, then you know what that's about).
But something found in the dead man's pocket made it just that much more special. Recently, our twin boys have been watching Fairly Odd Parents on netflix, which means that I've also been watching Fairly Odd Parents. Could have been much worse, BTW. And those pink and green fairies gave me an idea...
What if I incorporated them into my game, but Cha'altified, of course? Inside a small leather pouch were two smooth, shiny stones... one fuchsia, the other chartreuse. Tapping them together released wisps of vapor those same hues. They coalesced into a pair of tentacled entities - chartreuse and fuchsia. They didn't speak the common tongue, but the party's warlock, Shernoz, cast a spell that made them intelligible.
But not before the PCs asked the vaporous entities to open the cell door and deactivate the anti-magic sphere preventing Shernoz from casting spells. Two wishes gone, it turned out. Only one wish left today. But why would their third cellmate, who recently died, not have summoned these colorful, tentacled genies when he was alive?
Because they're psychotic cenobites, of course... probably from some Quor'toth-like dimension. Officially, I'll be referring to them as zenobites or quorta'athians. They are extradimensional demons who get off on pushing humanoids to the extremes of pain and pleasure. When they're not granting wishes, they orchestrate mass murder, torture, rape, slavery, and other wickedness.
These entities could also talk to each other, as well as the PCs, so they added to the roleplaying immersion.
There was another whole subplot when a demon (traditional, this time) clawed his way out of Hell to make a deal with the warlock who failed his spell-check and was about to get killed by civil war guerillas. The demon wanted those mystical fuchsia and chartreuse stones for himself. I really thought the warlock would have gone along with the demon's offer since the true nature of their guardian demon genies had already been revealed.
But nope, the demon got nothing and when he unfroze time, Shernoz wished the chartreuse and fuchsia entities to send them far away. Seconds from being stabbed in the abdomen by a "green", Shernoz and Snare suddenly appeared in the open desert.
By then, we'd gone over our 90-minute allotment by about 6 or 7 minutes, so we said our goodbyes. Both players told me how much they enjoyed the game, which made my day.
Rest assured, I'll be using those colorful tentacled entities again. Oh yeah, I came up with names for them... Yazka'an and Dvorek. Maybe I can get one of those A.I. art making programs to illustrate them?
Ok, that's the end. Thanks for reading! Hopefully, I'll see some of you next weekend at Game Hole Con. I'm sure Yazka'an and Dvorek will show up eventually.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing!
p.s. I now have a paid subscription to Midjourney, that program creating A.I. works of art based on user prompts. The 3 images below the first one (Odd Parents) are my first results. Pretty cool so far...
Some recent reviews coming out now (and more on the way) for the Cha'alt trilogy. Here's a video review for Cha'alt. Here's the one for Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise. The third book is coming soon from that reviewer and RPG Pundit.
Not everybody loves it, but everyone has an opinion! If forced to make a comparison, I'd say Cha'alt is similar in tone to Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Maze of the Blue Medusa.
BTW, you can also get the gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt books via my latest Kickstarter campaign for Encounter Critical III. If you'd rather get them that way, cool. If you're not into crowdfunding and all that, buy them direct from me (I also have a retailer special running the month of October).
Here are the prices...
I recommend CHARTREUSE SHADOWS. I admire the quality of the book. The artwork, photos, & writing are entertaining, sexy, horrific. Hunter S. Thompson meets H.P. Lovecraft. A variety of adventures for heroes & scoundrels. Some exciting, some hilarious, some repulsive.
How do you actually purchase one or more of these eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic campaign setting tomes? Paypal me at Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com
If paypal doesn't work for you, email me for an alternative. Thanks!
p.s. Plenty of time to grab a ticket for July 2023's Madison, WI old-school, OSR, and traditional RPG convention - VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo (limited to 100 attendees).
Got to run another playtest session of Encounter Critical III this morning [wrote this yesterday afternoon].
Fantastic game and fantastically weird! I tried to incorporate as many of my proposed ideas as possible. This contains the various concepts and mechanics I wanted to test out.
There was some combat, but not much, and no one rolled a critical-success or failure. So, Obsidian Escalation didn't really come up. Which is fine, I tried it out last session, and will include that in subsequent sessions.
I don't know if the stars aligned or what, but I had SIX players. Normally, it's two; occasionally three. Text only, I feel, is easier with bigger groups than voice & camera, but still challenging.
Before I dive-in, let me give you an overall impression: I feel like the playtest was a success because the ideas seemed to fuel an immersive, fun-filled game. And one of the highlights was having Jeff Rients as a player! Achievement unlocked, bitches. ;)
All the information gathering prior to the session's start had a specific purpose - to give players a better idea of their characters, so they actually had backgrounds to roleplay off of. Any RPG can encourage backgrounds, but what I'm trying to accomplish with the new rules is in-game incentives.
The scenario was to search the interior of a dimension traveling space-worm and find an unknown artifact.
Here's a window into my playtesting soul... good, bad, and ugly. Instead of a carefully crafted scenario providing a curated experience, I like to playtest by the seat of my pants. Given enough time and creative juice [Venger juice], I feel like the GM can turn a shitty system with dumb mechanics into something pretty cool. I don't want to do that because engineering a fool-proof experience isn't going to help me figure out if I'm doing something right or headed in the wrong direction.
Instead, I prefer to attune myself to the world in the campaign setting, rules, vibe, and whatever else... becoming an integral part of the game.. Having a few ideas in the form of loose notes and winging the rest will show me what I need to see.
Every designer eventually hands-off his ideas to another GM in hopes that he'll get it and be able to run a great game. So, the improv also helps put me in the perspective of the GM who most likely has a vague notion of what I said in the rules, or was trying to get across.
Can this anonymous GM take what I give him and make gold? That's the question.
The players did great with coming up with background stuff. I didn't need to break out the random tables that I had ready to go just in case.
Since this was just a one-shot, I didn't meticulously write every flaw and obsession and drive down in my GMing notes. Everything exists in the chat log on Roll20, though, which is another good reason for running games as text-only.
But I realized the PCs had plenty of material to riff, and riff they did. I told them about the point of Divine Favor they'd receive for roleplaying their backgrounds. If this was several adventures into a campaign, I can only imagine the heights of roleplaying and social interaction we'd reach. As it was, there was enough to prove my theory - an "old-school" RPG focused on social interaction (as opposed to combat and exploration) is not only needed, but totally awesome.
And I asked them to take part in a flashback scene. I neglected to mention that relationships should include another PC, my bad, so the first thing that came to my mind was a tavern where they hear the proposed mission. That went well. For instance, without even realizing it, one of the players, Judd, came up with an identity for the "quest giver"... a wizard.
The free exchange of ideas before solidifying what's going on is exactly the sort of Fiasco-like scene creation I was hoping for. The vibe was assuredly set because a little later, when I was describing the immediate, present-day environment, one of the players provided some bonus description all on his own. "Reeks of bile, but then again, what doesn't?" Excellent!
So, the PCs are wandering around the inside of a space-worm traveling through dimensions... and PSYCHOCOSM was had by all. Well, certainly me. Staring into the psychedelic depths of the Kort'thalis meta-sigil didn't hurt.
They follow a trail of popsicle sticks (a subtle nod to Cremza'amirikza'am that one player picked-up on) to find something pretty weird, dark, and gross. I'll save that for another time, or perhaps a future adventure that you'll be apart of.
The PCs fought some toadlike humanoids who desired tasty flesh. Combat ensued, but the adventuring party was so large that 4 toad dudes didn't last too long. It was pretty much over before the spellcaster could do anything.
After a bit, and learning of Xedra'as, an evil sorceress currently residing within the space-worm, the PCs came face-to-face with Xedra'as and her demon minions.
The PC sorcerer who didn't get a chance to act wanted to go first. Since combat hadn't even begun, I said Hell yeah, go for it. He cast a spell, and I had him roll a couple of six-siders (because I'm also workshopping an alternative system of magic for EC3 - check back here in a couple days). He rolled really well, a critical-success, in fact. Xedra'as and the demons were caught in the sorcerer's ectoplasmic webbing.
The session was coming to a close, all too quickly. Some of the PCs were wondering if they should keep searching for the mysterious artifact the tavern wizard told them to recover. They had found a magic item (and a powerful one at that), but was this what they'd been seeking? Others wanted to leave as the space-worm seemed to be blinking out of existence as we know it. Since we had about 6 or 7 minutes remaining and there wasn't enough time for another encounter, I decided we should do another scene. This time a flash-forward.
The "kid" who'd been traipsing through the space-worm with the adventurers was all grown-up. Another player volunteered to be part of the scene but only if he could roleplay an NPC who was also present during the scene. I was all for it.
The young man who had grown since that adventure taking place several years ago was accompanied by his butler Gerhart. The wizard from the tavern addressed him, asking what he found in the worm.
Sadly, there wasn't much interaction between the young man and the wizard, so the wizard said his peace and promptly vanished... again!
"That pain was necessary for this world to grow, to change, to become what it must. There is no stopping the evolution of Cha'alt. Freeing the Duke allowed it to evolve. That's what was needed."
It was an extremely bizarre adventure (even for me), but it was equally awesome. And just as the camera faded to black, there was a little bit of not-quite-necrophilia, thanks to one of my favorite recurring players. Why have an online game tagged "sleazy" without a cherry on top?
Below are a few choice lines copy/pasted from the chat log...
Months ago, years even, I was hesitantly perched upon a dozen different fences about what to do with Encounter Critical. I'm Kickstarting the 3rd edition, if you didn't know!
Part of the problem was knowing that whatever direction I went, some people would be disappointed. But the whole making an omelet thing reminds me that I've got to please myself at the end of the day... which is fitting, because I was (still am, to some degree) a huge fan of Encounter Critical after discovering it - with no small help from the imagination and blog of Jeff Rients.
At any rate, I'm trying to find a yin-yang sort of balance between traditional and what we now call "story-games". The black (yin) has a little bit of white in it. Basically, I'm trying to take "modern" and "innovative" RPG design and adapt it to OSR sensibilities.
I did make a video about fiction-first, Obsidian Escalation, and several other things.
The following is what's on the playtest menu for the moment. Anything can change at any moment. I don't expect it to, but I am expecting tweaks, fine-tuning, and possibly weird organic growth that I didn't realize was part of this project's evolutionary journey.
Without further ado, here we go...
This cheat-sheet is 1) based off changes or amendments to Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, and 2) written down in a sort of shorthand that's explained just enough so I know what's going on.
If YOU would be interested in running your OSR ruleset with the above modifications, I'd love to hear your story. Please share it with us. Better yet, email me your feedback: Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com
After a few playtests of this stuff, I'm going to go back to the proverbial drawing-board with other fundamental concepts, such as magic. I've been doing magic the same way for a few years, and want to try something radically different than my comfortable go-to system.
Feel free to comment, ask questions, throw tomatoes, or whatever. ;)
What's up? I've got news...
I finally have a new Kickstarter campaign, and it's for Encounter Critical III.
Let's get down to brass tacks, hoss. The original EC is great and all, but many find it virtually unplayable because of its OMG WTF?!? system (game mechanics). I want to take my version of EC into a smooth, easy, and light OSR ruleset while making the things outside the system OMG, WTF?!?
The very first playtest was earlier today, and I think that went well. It's going to take a lot more, and each time I hope to learn new things.
Obviously, I'm building on what came before... the original EC, Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, and Cha'alt. The concept is there, now I just need to refine it and come up with awesome stuff to make it really fly.
I'll post more about the playtest session in a couple days. For now, I'll just say thanks for supporting me, and feel free to ask questions or volunteer to playtest Encounter Critical III as we go into fall.
I was able to squeeze two virtual sessions in this week.
Both were on Roll20 (I gave a couple other platforms a shot, but quickly got confused and abandoned my quest for an alternative), 90 minutes, text only, 18+ (even though we never got to explore anything sexual or erotic... hey, it happens!).
The 90 minute structure is something I'm extraordinarily familiar with. A lot of people don't like it. I receive a decent amount of criticism for running shorter sessions. All I can say is that if you have 5 kids and a day job, then you know how difficult it is to carve out 4 hours on a weekly or even bi-weekly schedule.
Both sessions involved exploring a network of tunnels and caves. Another similarity is that both sessions had two players by the end. I accept random drop-ins, so that's to be expected. People are flaky on the internet.
For those curious, I usually don't have anything specific in mind when constructing these maps. I just start drawing. Automatic drawing is a technique invented by Austin Osman Spare. I've forgotten more than I remember about him, and don't think scribbling lines via my mouse counts as a magical act, but it is part of the greater whole. And I do view my current roleplaying sessions as magic rituals.
As usual, I gazed upon the Kort'thalis meta-sigil as I prepared for my sessions.
Before I get into more detail, here's a list of guidelines that have appeared out of play...