Sunday, July 5, 2020

Interviews With The Za'akier


I've been fortunate enough to be interviewed TWICE this past week.

I'm linking to both here on my blog.  This is the first and here is the second.

As for Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise, the PDF release has been slightly delayed.  We're trying to get the layout just right and there's some reinventing the wheel since Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design and I are no longer working together.

Obviously, the whole pandemic / lockdown didn't help the schedule.  My writing slowed a bit with having to stay at home.  5 kids isn't the same as a nice quiet office.

But it's not all setbacks, I think this second book will be easier to read (less going on in the background behind the text and slightly larger text).  Plus, new little flourishes that should delight readers.  David Guyll and his wife Melissa have made tremendous progress over the last few weeks.

Anyways, I'm hoping the PDF will be ready by next weekend.  We're trying to get it as close to perfect as we can, so that deadline is not set in stone.

VS

p.s. I have less than 100 luxury hardcover Cha'alt books left to sell.  Ordering details here!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Welcome To My Process (part 5)


New here?  This is where you begin.

Before I forget, the blog has a new heading.  Jon Mollison did the last one based on The Outer Presence, and he created this one for Cha'alt.  Let's give him a round of applause.  Yes, slap those slimy tentacles together in appreciation.  Huzzah!

Ok, everything is taking shape and we're close to the "finished" stage.  Once the writing's done, I'll start handing things off to professionals who can take the rather rough material and make it look awesome.

Specifically, I'll need to find one or more artists.  The cover image is key, but this could do with a couple additional pieces of interior art, as well.

As I mentioned before, the map should be re-imagined by someone who draws maps every day and is head and shoulders beyond my passable skills.  So, find a suitable cartographer.

What else?  Oh yeah, layout.  I don't do my own layout.  That, too, gets farmed out to someone who'll do a great job.  Obviously, if you're creating an adventure for home use, you don't have to do any of this.  And if you're just starting out or really want it to be a DIY project, feel free to go it alone.  That's up to you.

As I reach out to those individuals, I will refine what we already have, embellishing the good, pruning the bad, and turning what's ugly into beauty.  Basically, it only needs a bit of TLC from this point until we're ready for the tedious but necessary writing-it-all-out phase.

Let's work on that random table for those touching the green slime dripping down the curving crimson-brown walls.

  1. It stings a bit, but nothing serious.
  2. You get a nasty chemical burn (take 1d3 points of damage).
  3. Whatever touched the slime and the surrounding flesh pulses with an eldritch green glow (save or die in the next 10 minutes).
  4. You're mutated into a screeching, hot-to-the-touch, green and hairy primordial man-wolf [props if you get that reference].
  5. You get a psionic ability.
  6. The flesh that touched the slime is forever stained with Old One ichor - the next time you're knocked unconscious, a ghastly visitation of horrors beyond time and space take you on a little tour of your own past, present, and future.  Each stop contains gratuitous and unwanted groping by one or more tentacles. 
I might change things later, but that's a good start.  Want my generic advice on creating a random table with various effects?  Here we go...

  • One result where nothing much happens.
  • One result where something bad (minor) happens.
  • One result where something bad (major) happens.
  • One result where something weird happens that could be either beneficial or detrimental.
  • One result that's clearly a benefit.
  • One result that's just plain weird.

Ok, what now... the dimensional toxic waste?

I'm thinking a pile of sludge on the floor that's a melange of strange, constantly changing colors.  Touching it won't do anything, but lengthy handling of the waste will transport one to another dimension... maybe through time, as well.

Now, onto Queen Tresillda's personal magic item!

What about an anklet of youth?  Wearing it makes one look and feel like they're 25 years old.  I may decide to give her another one, something with offensive power... or possibly her sorcerer Xa'algex.

Last but not least, there should be some kind of twist or revelation at the end.  Something to make the adventure pop, taking it to the next level... 

What if the PCs eventually (either before the Queen is killed or just after) learn that Queen Tresillda was right all along?  The priesthood disavowed and banished her because of their idiotic hypocrisy and cowardice, and the Queen's revenge was not only justified but thoroughly righteous.  Perhaps the PCs would even be willing to help her, or finish her task if they killed her off before realizing the truth?

Now, that we have a strong foundation, we write it out, revising little details as we go, making improvements.  That's how adventures get finished.  Before too long, you just have to get in there and get to it.  Remember to feel the flow, ride the snake, and make it awesome!

Good luck,

VS


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BLM Trojan Horse


Today, I'm interrupting the adventure writing workshop for a different kind of blog post...

If you're interested in RPGs and pay attention to social media (or watch the news), you'll have heard of Black Lives Matter [BLM].  I've seen several individual gamers, game companies, and gaming conventions come out in support of BLM and the BLM movement.

Seems straight forward enough, black lives matter just as much as white, brown, and green lives.  All lives matter, which is a phrase that has become in itself racist thanks to the radical left.

However, BLM isn't just about recognizing the importance of African-Americans or black people all over the world.  Really, it's a political ideology that goes way further than civil rights, democracy, or Joe Biden.

Foremost, BLM is about tearing down the supposedly racist systems of America until there is no America and replacing it with Marxism.

Here is the BLM wikipedia page.  Scroll down a bit to see their platform and demands.

If you support BLM, be aware that you're aligning yourself with BLM advocates and protesters... some of whom are rioters, looters, vandals, those destroying property and tearing down historical statues and Christian churches, violence against people of all colors, and domestic terrorists.

Reparations, releasing criminals serving time in prison, terrorism against Israel, etc.  But you'll have to talk to a BLM representative in order to get to the real Socialist/Communist agenda of Karl Marx.




This next video really shatters the facade of BLM.  I feel sorry for those who've suffered and lost their lives due to racism and unnecessary police brutality.  It is not systemic, but isolated incidents. If you're throwing in with BLM, don't be surprised when the black box is opened at the end of the episode.




Thanks for reading and watching.  Stay safe out there!

Sincerely,

VS

p.s. If you're unfamiliar with the evils of Marxism, Socialism, and Communism, do a little research.  If you think those ideologies are harmless or that the end justifies the means, you've no idea the horrors those political philosophies have inflicted upon humanity.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Welcome To My Process (part 4)


Thanks for coming back.  I hope you're enjoying this little adventure writing workshop blog series.  If you're not sure where to start, it's here.

If we delved any deeper into the backstory of Slime Green Concubines of the Blood-Spattered Queen, we'd be in danger of authoring fan-fiction rather than an adventure.  In case it wasn't obvious, I'm an old school type of fellow who eschews long-winded history and exhaustive backstory.  Let's get to the action, already!

On that note, I'm going to start outlining the rooms of our 9-room dungeon...

Room #1 (Entrance & Guardian): The PCs find their way into Tsuma'al.  Since this temple is outside their plane of existence, I assume they'll just appear in a certain spot (possibly a random spot)... most likely the lower-right tentacle/foot thing.

Far too early to introduce the concubines and queen directly, though seeds should be sown.

Maybe some kind of twisted flesh spawn that's been tortured by Tresillda?  Such a creature could be a warning, but decides not to warn the Queen if the PCs seem formidable enough to slay her.  If the PCs seem weak or ineffectual, the creature would probably warn her in order to avoid further bouts of torture.

Room #2 (Puzzle or Roleplaying Challenge): Hmm, maybe several priests rest, awaiting their use by Tresillda and her wizard, Xa'algex.  The Queen has been searching for the relic she needs to resurrect Tsuma'al.  She needs willing priests to sacrifice their willpower and sanity in order to teleport the relic through time and space.

Room #3 (Empty Room): It doesn't look like there's anything here, but the PCs can see green slime oozing down the scabrous walls of this place.  Touching it yields one or more rolls on a custom random table.

Perhaps some other clue to what's going on should be embedded in this area.  No idea what at this point, though.

Room #4 (Trick or Setback): By now, the PCs may be thinking that everyone around Queen Tresillda hates her and wishes her dead.  However, her put-upon servants went mad long ago and believe she's the chosen one - the only person who can awaken the Great Old Ones (or at least Tsuma'al).

Perhaps the PCs encounter Xa'algex himself in his arcane study.  He acts sympathetic, but then turns the tables on the PCs when they're vulnerable.

Room #5 (Trap): I'll come back to that one.

Room #6... for right now, I think I'm just going to convey the ideas I have for each room without labeling them.  Too much artifice may constrict the organic creative flow I'm after.  I do like to have a framework in place, but I also dislike being forced to follow rules.  In my humble opinion, that push/pull is useful to an adventure writer and helps propel me hitherto heights undreamt. 

The concubines covered in green slime should be an encounter.  They'll both convey information and be a menace to defeat or avoid.

There's the Queen, too, of course.  She'll have the relic by the time the PCs find her (unless they really drag their feet) - maybe include some kind of time-table to add pressure on the PCs.  Maybe her sorcerer Xa'algex reappears if he was destroyed in a previous encounter... in a ghoulish undead sort of way, to fight by her side?

And I like the idea of there being a buildup of magical force that needs to be put somewhere, a byproduct of the sorcery the Queen and Xa'algex are using to obtain the relic.  It would be like extra-dimensional toxic waste.  Is this the green slime that's mutating the concubines?  Where does the zoth come in?

I do like the idea of a post-climax room that's reward, revelation, or plot twist... the Queen probably has something valuable besides the relic.  If the relic can awaken Tsuma'al or another Great Old One, then Tresillda's own personal magic item could be...

I've no idea and my brain is tired.  I'll have part 5 ready in a day or two, so check back!

VS

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Welcome To My Process (part 3)


Ok, based on the title alone... this dungeon should focus on the queen and her slimy green concubines.

Hello.  Confused?  Start here.

FYI, I'm about to go off on a tangent.  At any point, we should feel ok about abandoning a certain aspect of our project if it moves us towards the end goal.  And what's that pray-tell? 

When this is all said and done, we going to have a finished dungeon that excites us to run, and will be fun to play.

So, if during the middle of this project, I decide to change the adventure's title to Mauve Something Or Other, that's ok.  If I feel the need to make it an 8 or 10-room dungeon, that's also fine.  However, I'm going to try my best not to alter what I've already come up with.  If I have to work a little harder to make ideas cohesive, so be it.

Alright, where were we?  Ah yes, the queen and her concubines!

What's the queen's name?  How about Tresillda until I come up with something better?  What's she the queen of?  Probably just this little dungeon inside a Great Old One.  Although, she could have been queen of some other place, too, before she was banished.  Banished?  Yes, banished.

Banished along with her concubines that are perpetually bathed in green slime because... it's sexy to those who both A) worship the Old Ones, and B) are quite mad.

Maybe the slime does other stuff, too.  Perhaps it's zoth or some kind of zoth / green slime hybrid that's transforming the concubines into... creatures?  No.  A gestalt entity that could be a conduit or lifeline for the Great Old One Tsuma'al, in order to reawaken it so Queen Tresillda can extend her rule to various realms, such as Cha'alt?  Yes, perhaps...

Why is Queen Tresillda splattered with blood?  Is she just some kind of sadist, are people trying to kill her, both?  I'm thinking some freaky Hellraiser shit, but don't have anything pinned down yet.  Let's keep that on the back-burner. 

PRO TIP: Sometimes when I'm trying to get a handle on who an NPC is, I use a familiar character or combination of characters to help visualize what that new NPC is all about.  

In this case, I'm going with "the mad queen" Daenerys after she snapped.  Queen Tresillda's thoughts are consumed with revenge against... uh, the priests who exiled her to the dead husk of Tsuma'al.  Maybe they were her own priests?  She's some kind of High Priestess with royal blood (also blood-splattered high priestess is too much of a mouthful).  They turned against her once the priesthood realized she was power mad in a narcissistic and destructive way... and maybe her brother's a more legitimate heir and beat her to the throne while she was off torturing and killing infidels in the wasteland.

When the PCs arrive, what's going on?  What's about to happen that makes interfering or intervening fun, exciting, or at least interesting and entertaining for the players and their characters?

  • The Queen has just acquired the missing ingredient to shape her concubines into that aforementioned entity.
  • It's some kind of artifact or relic (a reason for the PCs to venture into the dungeon) of great power... manifested by the Queen's sorcerer Xa'algex.
  • Some dude (is he an alien priest; another species who worships a foreign god?) was brought back along with the magic item.  The PCs can overhear him and the Queen discussing the whole thing.
  • Before she can use it, the PCs are able to interrupt her.
  • If the PCs fail, she will awaken Tsuma'al and wreak havoc on countless worlds.

Ok, there's lots that I'm still missing; half the puzzle pieces are still scattered before me, waiting to be fit into place.  That's perfectly fine, normal even.  Who has a finished draft of an adventure sitting inside their head, ready to spill out?  

Not me.  Steps must be taken.  These are the steps.  Incremental progress!

VS

p.s.  Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Welcome To My Process (part 2)


Hello again!  We continue on the path of adventure writing.  If you're confused, start here.

The beauty, and perhaps frustration, is that there's no right answer as to where we go next.  So many things may be clamoring for our attention.  You just have to pick something and move forward in that direction.

Personally, I wanted to get a better handle on the look and feel of the dungeon. What is it?  Where is it?  Why is it?  That sort of thing.

This is going to be some kind of extra-planar temple between dimensions.  Therefore, it needs to have a special appearance.  In my opinion, standard square and rectangular rooms separated by corridors just won't do.

Since this will relate to the scenario Dead God Excavation, why not the interior of a deceased Old One?  I started sketching out the shell of a rather amorphous creature with tentacles.  Eventually, I'll send this out to a professional cartographer as a reference so he knows the kind of thing I'm after.  And one day, I hope, my original drawing inspiring the final version will be worth thousands of dollars in 20+ years.  That means keep your originals!

I'm not the best cartographer, but there are literally dozens of useful map drawing tutorials all over the internet.  Or just study the map makers you love.  I've picked up a few tricks from my friend and former collaborator Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design.

As I drew, I tried to think of a few adventure details.  Such as, what was this particular dead god called?  And how does any of what I'm drawing relate to the title which was my last piece of the puzzle? 

In fact, that's a good way of looking at my process.  I'm just putting puzzle pieces together until I have a whole.  It's difficult at first, with so many blank spots needing to be filled in.  It gets easier as the puzzle nears completion.

As you can see from the picture, the Old One is (or was) named Tsuma'al.  That word Tsuma'al was just something I came up with.  The root may have come from Tsalal from Thomas Ligotti's weird short stories.

So, is Tsuma'al just a dead shell and nothing more... still alive but asleep, waiting to rise?  I'll have to think about it.  At the end of the day, whatever makes the adventure more fun and interesting is the right answer.

The darker bits are obstructions, perhaps fossilized organs or skeletal fragments that haven't disintegrated yet.  The last bits I added were zoth pools and streams that PCs will have to cross or wade through. 

What is zoth?  It's the blood of Great Old Ones.  Zoth is a glowing chartreuse ichor that enhances sorcery, magic items, and can be used as alchemist's fire.  It's powerful, but also hazardous to the touch. Yes, the Cha'alt connection grows...

Next, I'll probably detail what kind of encounters this dungeon will contain, what's currently going on in this weird planar temple and how will the PCs' involvement introduce complications.  I shall let ideas from the title, Slime Green Concubines of the Blood-Splattered Queen, percolate.

Stay tuned for part 3 either tomorrow or the next day!

VS

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Welcome To My Process (part 1)


Ok, we have lots to get to today.  Let's get started.  Before we begin, however, I'll link to yesterday's post.

At this stage in my RPG career (at any stage, really), it's really important to work on stuff that gets me excited.  If the project ahead, thinking about it, crafting it, visualizing it sitting on virtual shelves, being read by GMs, and field-tested by players... if that doesn't get my juices flowing, then why bother?  Simply wait until inspiration leads me (or you) to something that gives you that feeling!

So, what's got me excited?  I came up with a title.  Actually, I came up with a few variations.  After a couple days of tumbling it around my mind, I think I've stumbled upon the right one - Slime Green Concubines of the Blood-Splattered Queen.

Next, I like to have a reason why creating this is necessary.  Obviously, the world will keep on spinning if I don't write another word.  Not that kind of need.  But rather, what niche will this fill?

One of my personal favorites (aside from Cha'alt and Alpha Blue) is a little known scenario called Dead God Excavation.  That was written during my deconstructionist phase.  It doesn't really have a satisfactory ending (according to some).  In fact, I accidentally stumbled upon this open play-by-email group that was going through Dead God Excavation.  At the end, the GM apologizes to the players because he didn't read through the entire 13 pages and discovered to his horror that Dead God Excavation doesn't have a conclusion.

The PCs happen upon the excavation of this Old One tomb, they eventually enter, explore, stuff happens, and that's it. 

Well, a few people have wondered aloud what might happen at the end, if I had kept going.  So, Slime Green Concubines of the Blood-Spattered Queen will rectify that.  It'll be an unofficial sequel or last chapter to the Dead God Excavation, but could also be used on its own.  Since, after all, it's my attempt to codify the 9-room dungeon.

And since my type of fantasy is eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, and post-apocalyptic... Slime Green Concubines of the Blood-Spattered Queen could easily fit in Cha'alt, as well.

Alright, in a day or two I'll post part 2 of this series.  Stay tuned!  Thoughts so far?

VS

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Something To Do


They say a person needs three things in order to be happy... something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.  I believe there's a hidden fourth need, as well.  Something to struggle against.

But that's for another time.  This blog post is about the first need - something to do.

I'm currently waiting on various stages of layout for Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise.  The book has been more or less finished for about a month.  The last few weeks were fine-tuning, revising, making small improvements, etc.

Deep inside my creative core, I've been pacing back and forth like a caged tiger... unsettled, anxious.  Today, I realized, it was time to get back to work.

My wife won't like the fact that I'm continuing to "waste time" on frivolities.  However, she'll enjoy a more positive, upbeat me.  :)

I have an idea for a small "dungeon".  It's sort of based on the 5-room dungeon concept, but I want a little more room to work with (pun intended).  At first, I thought 7 was the ticket... now, I'm leaning towards 9.  Yes, I'm certain that 9 is key!

So, if the first 5 are... Entrance, Puzzle, Setback, Boss Fight, and Reward... what about the other 4.

Here's what I'm thinking... 1 room should be empty but flavorful.  1 room should be mysterious.  Perhaps 1 should be a trap or hazard of some kind.  What about the 9th (I'm not listing these in order, by the way)?

Ah yes, there needs to be a room with social interaction.  You know, good old roleplaying!

Ok, I have my 9.  Time to get to work.

I asked if people were interested in reading blog posts about my process... turns out you were!  Start with Part One.  And now there's Part Two.  Here's Part Three.  Speeding right along with Part Four.

Thanks,

VS

p.s. Almost forgot, I do have a few more Cha'alt books to sell.  Ordering details here!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Cover Art for Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise


In a couple weeks, I hope to have Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise uploaded onto DriveThruRPG.  Then you'll see what I've been working on for nearly an entire year.

Here's the cover art by Monstark.  He does outstanding work!

Briefly, Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise goes deeper into the campaign setting of Cha'alt.  It provides GM tools for running the game (so many random tables!), exploring cities like A'agrybah, the desert wasteland, and various "dungeons" throughout the world... such as the offworlder complex Elysium.

If you enjoyed Cha'alt, you'll enjoy this.  If you preferred the rest of the setting outside The Black Pyramid, then you'll really love Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise.

Stay tuned,

VS