Sunday, January 15, 2017

Get paid for your play reports!


This post explains the recent hubbub over Girls Gone Rogue.  There's also a thread over at TheRPGsite where someone wonders if people actually play Alpha Blue.

I realize there are precious few Alpha Blue play reports on the internet.  Actual play reports are important - especially for Alpha Blue - because it shows how and why the game is played.

So, I'm looking for more play reports, and I thought it was about time someone incentivized that shit...

In the month of February, anyone who posts their own Alpha Blue play report on an RPG blog will be eligible to win $25 (sent via paypal).  The winning play report will be judged February 28th on the following criteria...


  • Length - don't write a novella, but it should be long enough for readers to get into it while learning about your session, players, approach to GMing Alpha Blue, etc.
  • Genre - your play report should showcase what Alpha Blue does best - scifi, sex, and comedy.
  • Highlight the game - also, don't be afraid to showcase various material from the books (Girls Gone Rogue, Universal Exploits, and Slippery When Wet), such as random tables you've rolled on, technology used, NPCs met, etc.
  • Grammar - if your post reads like an 8th grader threw it together the night before it was due and never bothered to proof read it, I'm taking points off.
  • Enthusiasm - readers want to feel that you're having a good time, enjoying yoruself and loving the game.
  • Entertainment - the adventure itself should be fun to read; posts should capture those little details that make readers feel like they were there, participating.
  • Response - even the best blog post - if no one reads or comments - isn't going to be as useful as one that gets a lot of attention.  Marketing is key.  Get the word out.  I'll be helping with that, but I can't do it all.

Let me know if you have any questions about this contest.  Good luck and may the best actual play report win!

VS


Friday, January 13, 2017

Girls Gone Rogue reviewed and on sale


Alpha Blue was an experiment in bad taste.  I wanted to create something for a sub-genre of sci-fi that gets very little attention... the kind of sleazy, raunchy, ridiculous, gonzo, porn parody kind of sci-fi that only existed on late night pay-cable back in the 80's.

Girls Gone Rogue was the follow-up supplement.  It's one part what I wanted in an Alpha Blue sourcebook, one part what I thought Alpha Blue GMs, players, and fans wanted, and one part middle finger to all the uptight, repressed, censorship-happy motherfuckers out in RPG land who would cast me into the pit of darkness and fire for daring to create such sordid filth.

While I could have gone even farther with GGR, I'm happy with the level of juvenile naughtiness and mad-cap space panty raid type shenanigans I achieved.

Without further ado, +Kasimir Urbanski (The RPGpundit) himself recently reviewed GGR.  And he even got some flack for it.

To celebrate, I've drastically reduced the PDF price of Girls Gone Rogue.  Thanks for everyone's support!

VS


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kort'thalis Publishing Day 1/11


For the longest time, 111 has been my number.  It has tons of associations for me and I consider it to be the numerical representation of myself.

Anyways, I'm having a sale today!  Below are three PDFs by Kort'thalis Publishing that have been drastically reduced in price (for a very limited time)...

Liberation of the Demon Slayer

How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss

Universal Exploits

If you'd like to leave a review of one or more of my books, I'd greatly appreciate it.  Have a wondrous January 11th, everyone!

VS


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personalized D&D


At some point, I'm going to run D&D again.  It's going to be old school and awesome!

This here blog post will stand as a record for all the stuff I'm thinking, the stuff I want in it and want out of it.

Why can't one play a certain edition or version straight out of the box?  Well, in this day and age, a GM can pick and choose the things he likes.  This is 2017, after all.

We don't need another retro-clone, just a list of preferences.  Here we go...

My Personalized D&D


  • I shouldn't have to mention this; it should be common knowledge... the foundation upon which all traditional RPGs are built, but these are strange times.  Rulings over rules.  The GM is a benevolent king who may do as he pleases.  Whatever the book says is merely a guideline for me to follow, discard, or warp to my own godlike will.
  • I want races and classes - quite a few of them, like assassin, illusionist, monk, etc. but nothing too "out there" or silly.
  • I want level limits for demi-humans and who knows what else (gotta love stereotyping!).
  • I want those flavorful names PCs get at each level.
  • I want 3d6 in order (one re-roll in exchange for some kind of drawback - like a dark secret).
  • I want ability score prerequisites in order to qualify for certain classes.
  • I want players to start with multiple 1st level characters, the majority of which most likely get slaughtered within the first couple sessions.
  • I want to go back to the Law, Neutral, and Chaos alignments.
  • I want individual Experience Point charts by class and XP bonuses based on higher, class-relevant ability scores.
  • I want XP to come from monsters defeated, challenges overcome, suffering endured, and treasure spent/used.
  • I want decent ability score modifiers that make a difference in play.
  • I want some kind of Honor score or rating, borrowing the concept from Hackmaster and twisting it to my liking.
  • I want those funky individual saving throws like wands and death-rays and shit... just cause they're a ridiculously nostalgic throwback.
  • I want to encourage the use of hirelings, henchman, and retainers.
  • I'm pretty sure I want to use the advantage/disadvantage mechanic in 5th edition.
  • I want ascending AC, naturally.
  • Rather than use feats and skills, I'd rather have a few basic class-based abilities and everything else described / roleplayed as it comes up in play.  If it's ability score dependent, then roll under to succeed (2d6 for easy, 3d6 for average, and 4d6 for the really hard stuff).
  • I want to use my critical hit random table in The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
  • I want the players to either choose or roll for their characters' adventuring motivation (found in Liberation of the Demon Slayer).  Any background besides that is up to the player to provide at any point - before, during, or after the first few sessions.
  • I want to focus on exploring a (mega)dungeon with occasional wilderness and urban dalliances.
  • I want this to be a long-term campaign that goes from awkward, fumbling peasant to noble lord holding a vast domain.
  • I want the campaign to begin fairly medieval-ish, becoming increasingly non-standard, weird pulp science-fantasy as it continues.
  • I want the campaign world to get fleshed out as need be, rather than writing everything out ahead of time.  Many things will be improvised!
  • I want the campaign to be a sandbox instead of linear scenarios.
  • Not sure what I want to do with magic, but I'm considering using the mercurial table for spells in the DCC rulebook.
  • I want to go "middle of the road" with magic items - not too stingy, yet not overly generous [see below].
  • I want this to be a weekly game, around 4 hours per session.
  • I need it to be face-to-face.  Virtual roleplaying is for one-shots!
  • This campaign is going to have a name.  I'll come up with something later...
  • As mentioned previously, I've decided to go pro.  So, I'll be GMing for cash.
_____

Magic Items


If it's magical, then chances are that it only exists below ground - with all the monsters, traps, and strangeness.  

Magic items are either kept or taken into subterranean depths because of their inherently chaotic nature.  All sorcery is tainted with darkness, as taught to wizards by demons, devils, and foul abominations too blasphemous to name.  Magic items, everything from a +1 sword to the wand of Orcus, has been either forged by infernal beings or touched by them.

Magic items found in dungeons and such places are subtly cursed and likely to exert a Hellish influence.  In fact, I'd like to cultivate a medieval Hellraiser kind of eldritch bloodbath aesthetic the farther one goes into the dungeon.

This is as much thinking as I've done for the setting.  Below is the sort of random table I might roll upon when a new magic item is discovered.


Magic Items (Forged by Demons)
  1. Allows the one possessing the magic item to communicate with all infernal races.
  2. The one possessing the magic item shifts alignment one step closer to Chaos.
  3. The magic item requires the shedding of blood to function (innocent blood increases the item's potency by half again as much.
  4. The magic item is intelligent and speaks - continually advising the item's possessor on "the best course of action."
  5. Cumulative 1% chance per day the magic item's creator takes control of the one who possesses it.  This domination lasts 24 hours and the cumulative chance resets after demonic possession.
  6. This magic item allows its creator to see and hear what's happening around the item.

______________

This is all subject to change, of course.  I've got oodles of time before anything like this can actually take place.  Reading Grognardia has had a powerful affect on my mind.  

Anyway, thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your preferences, or tell me what you think about my own.

VS



Saturday, January 7, 2017

Like a Pro


So, I was thinking more about the whole GMing for $$$ thing.  Eventually, it's going to be mainstream.  The GMs who have their shit together will eventually have to "Tony Robbins the fuck up" or get off the pot.  Evolve or die.

Once I get back to regular gaming (hopefully, autumn of 2017), I'll make some moves to monetize.

But for now, all I've got is talk... and plans.  But mostly talk.  Someone brought up the "unethical" word a couple of days ago.  Not that they thought charging players was unethical, but they wondered if I thought it might be.  I don't.  However, that got me thinking.

What are some borderline unethical situations or "gimmicks" as I like to call them, involving the professional GM trade?

Venger's Professional GM Gimmicks


  • Make your RPG have to do with some kind of cult.  That would make the players either cultists or unwitting (semi-witting?) pawns of the cult.
  • Similar to the cult idea, root your campaign in one or more prevailing religious mythologies - like the party has been chosen by Jesus Christ to destroy demons laying waste to The Holy Land.
  • Let everyone think you're dying of cancer (my apologies to anyone currently dying of cancer - seriously, that sucks).
  • Involve politics - yeah, you thought the whole Jesus and cancer stuff was dirtying your soul.  Nope, political pandering is even worse.  My lawful evil, half-orc paladin/illusionist does not believe in gun control, motherfuckers!  [Starts shooting]
  • Advertise your game as "better than therapy," because it's illegal to claim that gaming is actual therapy or that you are a real therapist (unless you are one).  Hey, it probably is better than therapy and a hell of a lot cheaper.  I might actually use this one down the road.
  • Ever heard of men's rights?  Yeah, your game could be a gender thing.  Although, I'm not sure why you'd want to deprive yourself of female company.  Since it's 2017, why not an all-girl gaming group?
  • Further players' continued education with High Gygaxian, simple math, and amateur dramatics!  Not for actual college credits - but players can still put it on their resumes.
  • Hook all the players onto the crystal meth (preferably the blue kind) that you cook in your desert-bound mobile home.
  • Pass yourself off as some kind of celebrity.  Not an RPG celebrity... cause that's just pathetic.  You've got to be famous for being famous, like you regularly update some stupid blog or make terrible videos.

I'm sure that you guys could add to the list.  So, go ahead.  Let's get unethical together, borderline or otherwise.  And then let's get paid!

VS


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Child's Play


About a year ago, I read little bits of this fantasy Choose Your Own Adventure book to my eldest daughter, Briella.  Though we both found it mildly intriguing, that particular book - though it came highly recommended - didn't really trip our triggers.

Over the last few weeks, I dropped hints that I was thinking about ordering another CYOA book.  One that I remember fondly from my youth - Zork.  I also was able to talk Briella and her sister into watching The Hobbit (animated version) - which they both enjoyed.

Briella is 5 and 1/2 now and really wanted me to find the CYOA book we already have.  I couldn't find it, but I told her that we could still make characters and play Dungeons & Dragons.  We looked over a few entries in the AD&D Monster Manual to get things going.

Eventually, Briella said yes and a bit later, so did her sister, Illyria, who is 4.  Hey, if I could teach them to play poker - which I did last week - then I could guide their imaginations to a sword & sorcery dungeoncrawl!

While the twin boys slept, our 18 month old, Trinity, needed to be watched (very closely).  So, we enlisted her help, too.

It seemed obvious to me that I'd have to simplify the rules.  More on that later...

Briella's character was named Nyla.  She's a human who can turn into a mermaid or fairy.  A magic-user wielding a wand named Lyra; the wand can turn into a sword with a poison blade.  Nyla can also become invisible and be very fast when she wants (I talked her down from "every power in the galaxy").  She wears a rainbow sparkly dress and her familiar is a pet ghost bunny who wears a little bell named Skippy.

Trinity played a pixie-fairy thief named Madison who carried a dagger.

Illyria's character was named Starry, a mermaid princess with diamond wings.  She had the magical power of transformation, and wore a short pink dress decorated with snow flakes.

Briella wanted me to explore the dungeon with her, so I not only DMed but played a human fighter named Jorr.  He wore all black and wielded a two-handed sword.

I told Briella that our characters were traveling through the forest.  I asked her why we might be traveling and she said to kill monsters.  Fair enough.

Just then we noticed a steel door barely noticeable through all the branches.  The door had ancient writing upon it - runes.  Jorr suggested we have the thief check the door for traps.  I rolled for Trinity and got a 1.  She didn't detect any traps, which was a pity because I had already decided that the door's runes were trapped.

Nyla volunteered Madison to open the door.  The pixie-fairy was blasted back 10' and took a point of damage.  Ok, time to share some rules...

Anytime a PC wants to do something within his power, he rolls a d6.  If the result is a 3 or higher, he succeeds.  If the result is a 1 or 2, he fails.  Enemies, NPCs, and monsters usually require a 5 or 6 to succeed - unless they are quite powerful.  Each successful hit is a point of damage and most low-level monsters and such only have a single hit point.  The PCs each have 3.

Jorr attempted to open the door and luckily the steel door was no longer full of juice.  Before our adventuring party lay the dungeon!

To the east and then south, there was a triangular room containing a green slime blocking the way to three alcoves in the far wall.  Perched upon the middle alcove was a demonic idol with ruby eyes.

Nyla used her wand / magic poisonous blade to destroy the green slime, and then we took the idol.  There was some talk of not taking it, just in case it was cursed.  But our party's greed won out.

Further to the east was a grand, hexagonal chamber where 6 priests in robes stood in front of a tremendous black hole in the far wall.  One of the priests blew into a horn.  I used the cardboard paper-towel roll to make the sound... and it was impressive.

Not knowing what was going on, Nyla asked one of the priests what they were doing.  Summoning Demogorgon, of course!  Since Demogorgon was one of the things we read about in the Monster Manual, Briella realized he was bad news - especially when the cultists (!) went on about using him to destroy the world.

Jorr and Starry missed the first round.  With 6 opponents and a few lucky rolls, it didn't take long for them to whittle Nyla's hit points down to zero.  She died, and the cultists soon followed.  It looked like Briella might cry, but she didn't.

The survivors looted their bodies, finding 32 gold pieces and that magical horn of demon summoning.

The adventurers decided to leave the dungeon and go back to town in order to find a temple so that Nyla could be revived.  It only cost us 32 gold.

Upon our return to the dungeon, we explored west.  Unfortunately, Briella suddenly decided that she didn't want to continue.  Nyla's leaving was a sad loss to our band of adventurers, but we wished her farewell.

Our party came upon a circular room with a pool in its center.  The pool was filled with an iridescent water which Starry decided to fill in a glass container and take with us.

Walking south, we encountered a square room with 3 goblins guarding a treasure chest.  They were easily dispatched.  Our thief checked for traps on the chest and found it to be trapped indeed.  She disarmed it and we pocketed 930 pieces of gold.

A door to the east led to a long, rectangular room containing 4 skeletons with swords.  Jorr and Starry each took a point of damage before dispatching the undead.

The room seemed to be a dead-end... until our thief checked for secret doors and discovered a triangular room to the north.  It contained a marble statue of a beautiful woman - possibly Athena.

Starry wanted a closer look.  Examining the statue, she found a button at the statue's base.  She pushed it and the statue slid across the floor, revealing a spiral staircase leading downward.

We walked down and entered an octagonal chamber with a door at each cardinal direction.  Starry opened the door to the south only to discover the hallway led to a dead-end, and tripped a trap as she did. A red laser blast shot down the hall, striking Starry.  She was now down to 1 hit point.

At that point we had to call it a day and get on with our Christmas Eve activities.  It was a fun-filled hour of D&D (though, more like Crimson Dragon Slayer for children).

Though Briella frequently gets discouraged when things get hard, I find that she eventually gathers her willpower to fight another day, struggling against opposition until she's successful.  I'm confident that she'll be interested in playing again soon.

Thanks for reading,

VS

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remembering Grognardia


I try to remember that ideas are cheap, but player interest is often priceless.  For some, it can be a hard lesson to learn, but once understood, it more than repays the time and effort spent acquiring it.

~ James Maliszewski

I was going to title this blog post, "Looking Back," but it's really going to focus on the OSR blog of OSR blogs, back when the OSR was just becoming a thing - Grognardia!

I was tuning in a little later than most of the original OSR folks - early 2013.  That's just after Grognardia "went dark."  I probably read about a dozen of +James Maliszewski's posts.  They were good, but by then James was mostly reviewing products or talking about the Gygax foundation / memorial / statue or whatever it is (was).

Grognardia was a bit intimidating and maybe it was my assumption that James and similar folks into the old school ways were "fundamentalists" when it came to D&D.  Perhaps I had heard some negative things about the Dwimmermount Kickstarter or "OSR Taliban" from +Kasimir Urbanski (RPGpundit).

I'm not sure what it was exactly, but I never went that deep into Grognardia... until recently.  Everything from his unsure trials with old school mechanics, DM style, and campaign setting (a megadungeon) to his love of "pulp fantasy" to theorizing about what made D&D so awesome back in the day.  Some of our experiences are eerily similar, others are just really interesting (like his assumptions about 4th edition D&D based on pre-release announcements).  But there's real knowledge, experience, and understanding in many of those older posts.

Here are just a few favorites of mine:  Pulp FantasyGary Gygax 1979, Dice as Oracle, Rough Edges,  Old School Culture, and My Megadungeon: Dwimmermount.

Speaking of Dwimmermount, I'm very interested in buying / reading / running this campaign in the near future... when I start GMing again, of course.

Dwimmermount was James' rejection of "modern" D&D for some kind of primordial version - to see if he could implement the old ways and capture that nostalgic vibe from the 70s and early 80s.  Not merely because he wanted to re-create the past, but he was seeking a return to the much-more-satisfying roots of our beloved hobby.

I started blogging about old school gaming stuff shortly after James stopped.  Here's my first post from March 14th, 2013.  It was shortly after that that I self-published my own crash course in old school fantasy roleplaying experimentation with Liberation of the Demon Slayer.

VS


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Possible Pivot


I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and what this blog post contains is just that - thoughts.  I'm thinking out loud, except that it's actually silent and in writing.  Nothing set in stone.

The Idea:  Instead of placing the vast majority of my attention on designing, writing, and publishing, I'd rather Game Master.

There are several good reasons for a change of focus.  Originally, I made Liberation of the Demon Slayer just to say that I had done it.  A small self-challenge before I turned 40.

The adventure was a way for me to prove to myself that D&D, and roleplaying games in general, were still worth pursuing.  After 3rd edition, 4th edition, and Pathfinder, I was pretty much ready to quit the hobby.

That's when I found the OSR and everything seemed to fall into place.  But I also made that adventure and the ones to follow because I thought it would be neat to see my creations in a professional-looking book, hold them in my hands and run them properly - instead of two dozen scraps of lore spread out over several notebooks, the back of envelopes, and post-its.

Even in those early days, the act of publishing and getting a manuscript ready for publication, was in aid of running a great game.  I haven't forgotten that.  Game Mastering is the key.  If there's no GM, it doesn't matter how many thousands of RPG books one has on the shelves - or how many one has produced - they are practically worthless until actually used; played.

I'd like to GM more because it's fun and I'm good at it.  But there's more to it than that.  The Game Master has a calling.  He answers the call.  He's needed to run the game.  I wrote How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss because there was a sense of urgency.  The art of GMing is essential to creation born out of shared imagination.

Assuming one is on the right track, the more you GM, the better GM you'll be.  I want to improve and keep improving - to the point where I can make some small living running games.  Yes, I'm talking about the ever-elusive dream of becoming a GM for hire.  You get paid (in one form or another) for running games.  But it's not just about the money... I'm in it for the glory, too, of course!

As I type this, I'm wondering something about myself.  Would I rather be known as a fantastic author or GM.  Both, obviously.  But if I had to choose one over the other... I don't know.  GMing is where the action is.  When you're at the table and behind the screen (so to speak, I usually don't use a GM screen), you're on the front lines.  That's where the war is being fought.  Our collective imagination versus reality.

As a side benefit, I'll be able to run all kinds of adventures and campaigns that I've been neglecting the last few years.  When you're writing and self-publishing your own RPG stuff, most of the time you're either play-testing stuff before it comes out or running the stuff you already published.  After all, those scenarios and game aids are like your children and if you have the chance to take your kid to Disney World or some other kid named Dwimmermount, Stonehell, Dark Albion, Maze of the Blue Medusa, and Anomalous Subsurface Environment, who are you going to choose?

Pivoting to professional Game Mastering (or even regular old GMing for fun, should the pro thng not turn out) will allow me to focus on presenting an awesome experience.  Making that a priority over showcasing stuff I came up with all on my own.

VS


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My hiatus begins


As I mentioned on g+ a few days ago, we had the twins. 

Identical boys.  One born on November 22nd, the other born on the 23rd.  Eight hours apart.  Yeah, it was a rough labor.  My wife is still recovering and I'm doing as much as I can to take care of everyone. 

The first and eldest is named Kanan Ezra Satanis.  I wanted it to be Zirnakanan, after a dark elf city in some half-remembered D&D adventure or campaign guide, but that didn't happen.  She fell in love with the name Kanan.  Oh well, he'll always be Zirnakanan to me.

The second and youngest is named Kylo Phoenix Satanis.  Yeah, I'm kind of surprised the wife went for that.  I'm also 74% certain that he's going to be the evil one.  ;)

They're both healthy and happy (albeit continually fussing/crying when they aren't sucking down booby milk).  I can't ask for more than that.  Will produce pictures when they're out of that unflattering newborn stage in a few weeks.

These are the last kids I'll have, unless there's an act of god out there brewing.  Five is a good number for an adventuring party.  We'll have to see how that goes in about a decade from now, maybe less.

Anyways, that means I'm on permanent vacation for awhile (yep, an oxymoron).  But I'll still try to post something once a week or so, here and on Draconic Magazine, just to keep the creative fires burning.  I expect the RPG projects will reemerge this Spring... hopefully.

I was able to accomplish quite a bit in 3 years.  I'm proud of my prolific ways and means.

A few projects were squeezed in before a birth or vacation or self-imposed Kickstarter deadline.  These things needed to get out there.  So, I wrote my ass off in a blur of psychedelic hues, splattered gore, flashing blade, laser blast, the crunching of bones, obscene gestures to tentacled idols, and whispered ululation for those dark forces of the earth... until those manuscripts were finally conjured before my warlock hands.  Obviously, +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) worked his magic to make them look fantastic. 

Here's a list for those keeping track.  Well, that's it.  So long and thanks for all the awesomeness!

VS

p.s.  No, their birth certificates don't say "Satanis."  But there's always a chance my kids will take up that moniker one day, when they're older.