Monday, December 10, 2018

Another Look At Dead God Excavation

Another review of Dead God Excavation over here inspired this blog post...

Sometimes, I provide tools, raw materials from which GMs can forge their own adventures.  Stuff like The S'rulyan Vault or Totally Random Tables.  I liken this to cookie dough.  Inverting the formula, I've provided roughly 15% and the GM has to provide the additional 85% of the work.

Sometimes, I do pretty much all the heavy lifting, the adventure is more or less turnkey for the GM, allowing him to add the final details, that last 15%.  These are fresh baked cookies.

Every once in awhile, and perhaps Dead God Excavation is the epitome of this style, I write something that's mostly cooked but still kind of gooey in the center.  Perhaps a medium-rare steak is a better analogy.  Rather than providing 85% of what's needed to run the session (taking into account GM improvisation), it's more like 75%.

This can be unsettling for those who're used to 85% - 100% of the work provided for them by the adventure writer.  I can understand that, and sympathize with those who feel cheated by the empty holes waiting to be filled.

While I enjoyed Prince of Nothing's review (I can respect his over-the-top presentation), I'd like to touch on a few key concepts that many gamers, even the OSR, occasionally miss.

Stereotypes, cliches, and all-too-familiar tropes are usually a bad thing in fiction, tv shows, movies, etc.  However, I believe they are sorely needed in RPGs, the ability to embody the themes, characters, motivations, and weird tales of the Lovecraft circle (and other Mythos contributors) makes for a greater roleplaying experience.  It delivers the goods.

Why should this be?  Well, roleplaying is specifically geared towards immersion - simulating a familiar world and breathing life into it so that we can pretend that we are Detective Legrasse, Old Castro, or Randolph Carter... feeling our way through the dark, slimy caves of impenetrable nightmare - awaiting the tentacle's cold embrace.

I wish I could live (for a short while) inside a Cthulhu Mythos story.  That's why I roleplay, so I can immerse myself in that world. And why I identify as za'akier.

Admittedly, some aspects might be too vague and/or subtle.  I could have been more specific about NPC motivations and that first encounter could have tied into the dead god's tomb even more.  However, I did that by design rather than sheer sloth.

My stuff being OSR, I assume most GMs will mix and match a wide variety of gaming books together.  I do that, and I've read thousands of blog posts that corroborate my preference.  Dead God Excavation on its own may seem a little too minimalistic, a degree too hollow... but what if you planned on combining it with The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, Carcosa, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, D30 Sandbox Companion, and Expedition To The Barrier Peaks?

If that's the case, the GM needs a little room to operate.  Detail things too much and it becomes harder to incorporate other books.  The lack of specificity actually helps GMs marry concepts, bounce ideas off a variety of designers, and answer questions they'd never thought of. What are the business interests of that NPC?  Crystal smuggling from the purple islands?  Did he (or one of his ancestors) pilot that old wreck of a starship half-buried in the mountains a half-mile away?  Is this tomb his chance to navigate the stars again?

I also disagree with the reviewer's opinion that the NPC temporarily leaving the Al Azif book in the PCs' hands is a bad or stupid thing.  The PCs are helping him (one assumes).  Can you imagine a benevolent character in a Doctor Who episode trusting the Doctor to take care of a rare and powerful device in his absence?  Yeah, probably.

Sorry, I don't do gold piece value for 90% of the treasure provided.  It varies wildly from system to system and campaign to campaign.  However, if that kind of thing is something GMs are interested in knowing, I could create a random table.  Seriously, let me know in a comment if that would be useful to you.

Generally speaking, non-combatant NPCs don't have stats in my books.  If the PCs want to kill something that can't really defend itself and can't effectively harm any of the PCs, then it can be dispatched with a sword thrust.  Simply roleplay it without rolling dice.

This is the way I GM and I'm sure a lot of GMs do things differently.  But that's why most characters/creatures without combat ability are stat-less.

I again see the reviewer's point that the sorcerer NPC isn't detailed enough for many GMs.  But then I don't know what the GM has planned for the rest of his campaign.  Perhaps the sorcerer plans to lead the PCs to the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer... perhaps he is the bone sorcerer?

In conclusion, Dead God Excavation is your chance to collaborate with the author, Venger As'Nas Satanis.  It's like we're working on your campaign together.  I provide the premise, NPCs, location, complications, and ideas for continuing... you make the thing your own, inspired by my initial designs.

I can't blame those not wanting to pay for such an opportunity, but that's why Dead God Excavation is one of my least expensive titles.  Currently priced on DTRPG at $2.50

In my mind, session zero means things should not be set in stone.  On the contrary, they must be malleable so that possibilities may flow.

Also, I created an entirely new weapon / magic item from scratch!  With pictures!!!  You don't see that every day.

Personally, I prefer to see Gods crawling, makes them strange and fascinating, primordial rather than fashionable... and that's what old school gaming needs more of.  Ah, well. To each their own.


p.s. But if you do prefer lots of detail and specificity, Cha'alt will have your back. It's going to be a huge campaign, and I plan on spending nearly a year writing the damned thing.  Kickstarter launching just before Christmas.  Here's my KS profile (I think you can follow me from there).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Star Trek Discovery: Season One Review

So, there was a lot of polarizing chatter about Star Trek Discovery.  I heard some good things, and a lot of bad things.  Not sure what to believe and wanting to make up my own mind, I ordered season one on DVD.

Speaking of which, it seems like it's fashionable to hate on neat stuff.  There's this, The Predator movie which so many people say is a bad movie when it's actually fantastic, Solo: a Star Wars Story bombed in the theater - and that was a cool flick, and so on. Not sure if it's a sign of the times or something else...

TL;DR: I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Some was great, the rest was pretty good.  Would recommend this to casual scifi fans.

Diving deeper and attempting to make this spoiler-free - but still stream of consciousness random - I liked the strange way the series started.  It was unusual, but easy to understand. 

The pacing was excellent.  I never felt bored, like I was wading through a "filler episode" in order to get to the next good part of the story.

The acting was top-notch.  They really had some great people.  That girl from the walking dead, the older dude from Event Horizon, the awkward redhead, and the really tall alien.  Great job!

The special effects unobtrusive, realistic, and visually fantastic!  The klingons were really cool looking, in my opinion.  I know they don't look like the old school klingons (but wasn't that kind of racist by today's standards?), but now they're like... space orcs, a la Tolkien.  Really big and alien and mean!

And the klingon ship interiors were amazing!  The set design work blew me away...

The story - compelling with a variety of twists.  Some were expected, others surprising!  Discovery turned some predictable Star Trek staples into fascinating story opportunities.

I also enjoyed the lighter bits, unexpected humor. It didn't always work.  Stamets, you're just not funny.  Sorry, dude.  But overall, the brief glimmer of comedy was welcome.  Actually, The Orville isn't that much more of a comedy show than Discovery.  The Orville probably only had 3 or 4 more jokes per episode than this series.

In fact, my biggest gripe is that they didn't show off-ship / non-space environments until the last episode (except that planet with all the trees and swirling fairy dust).  Guess what?  Qo'noS totally reminded me of Alpha Blue - it was low-down, sleazy, and a darkly lived-in locale... which is my favorite type of scifi.

The finale was probably my favorite episode and after seeing how well that went, I regret not having that awesomeness sprinkled throughout season one.  That's a pretty small criticism. 

Before I go, I'd be remiss not to mention politics.  Honestly, I saw the cultural and political reflection in the show's writing, but it didn't bother me.  Those might have been initial inspirations for characters, cultures, and regimes, but at the end of the day, there's only a vague resemblance to what we're going through now.

Yeah, mine might be a minority report, but I'm happy to say that I loved Star Trek Discovery... and in the end, that's the only opinion that matters.  Hmm... perhaps I'm from the mirror universe?


p.s. This little Alpha Blue article over at Draconic Magazine contains at least one little spoiler, but your going to want to use this in your next one-shot or campaign.

Monday, December 3, 2018

She Bled Out

So, I just heard about this story on Geek Native.

Books of She Bleeds for Lamentations of the Flame Princess destroyed at the warehouse because it disgusted and offended one or more people who didn't even bother to read it!

To paraphrase the teacher from that Twisted Sister video, why would anyone destroy a defenseless sourcebook?  If you don't like it, don't buy it.  It's just that simple.

THIS is what the free-speech advocates, the Jordan Peterson fans, the anti-SJWs, the normal folks, and OSR Shit-lord RPG Pundit have been warning us about for years now.  Cultural and political upheaval is manifesting war, and it's high time the average gamer got his hands dirty!

These people are mentally ill, trying to stifle creative freedom in order to preserve their conformity... or perhaps their own miserable and fragile sense of self?

I hope the individuals responsible get fired, author Elizabeth Chaipraditkul (that name just begs for an apostrophe or two) gets an apology, and LotFP gets reimbursed for the damages.  You can get the PDF here.

I can easily imagine this shit happening to Alpha Blue, so we all need to keep our guard up and call bullshit out when we see it!


p.s. Does this post make me a feminist?  Yeah, it probably does.  So be it!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Last Alpha Blue Supplement (softcover walk-through)

I'm in full-Dad mode, but the twins are sleeping and my other dozen and a half children are having their swimming lessons and whatnot.  So, here's a peek at what's inside The Last Alpha Blue Supplement...

You can only get this little baby on!



p.s. Here's some bonus content just in case you're one of those spacers who likes free stuff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Search Begins!

I just posted a few discrete "want ads" around the internet, but then thought I might as well open this up as far and wide as possible.

I'm looking for a new graphic designer, layout, and cartography person. 

An individual who is...

  • Passionate about old school D&D (and similar vintage RPGs).
  • Innovative, who wants their creativity to continually evolve.
  • Comfortable working for a controversial publisher who gets under people's skin.
  • Interested in a long-term partnership; years of working together, where a half-dozen products might come out every few months or so.
  • Professional and easy to work with.
Please send your "demo reel" (by that I mean highlights of your work over the last couple years) along with your rates to:



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Kort'thalis Publishing Reviews

Yeah, some really neat ones have cropped up here and there in 2018.

Let's start with my favorite - Prince of Nothing reviews The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  I quoted a paragraph in our last episode of Inappropriate Characters, but really the whole thing is a fascinating, pleasurable read.

Almost as awesome is his review of Liberation of the Demon Slayer.  He's not wrong - it's a hot mess (in places).  Hey, it was my first attempt and some wires got crossed.  Still, my philosophy hasn't changed - published adventures are meant to do 85% of the work.  The remaining 15% is left for the GM to handle on his own.

This is the latest review of Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free by Endzeitgeist.  He also reviewed Dead God Excavation...

Speaking of which, the prolific and potty-mouthed Bryce Lynch also reviewed that very same scenario!  He didn't love it.  Not only did he brutalize Dead God Excavation, the man added insult to injury.

As per usual, I give as good as I get (better in some cases).  So, you can read my pithy little riposte in the comments below his review.  It's followed by occasional "witticisms" from the peanut gallery.

Last but not least, we have a brief review of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II.  I think that speaks for itself. 

I encourage more reviews, even sucky ones... like the turd that Bryce Lynch excreted from his analysis-hole.  The more, the merrier!


p.s. As someone in that cavalcade of crappy comments noticed, I'm no longer fucking around.  This outspoken iconoclast has become the boss behind the boss of internet shitlords.  It's take no prisoners time, ladies, gentlemen, and za'akier!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Honorable, Senile, and Incontinent

So, there's a new g+ community calling itself The Honorable OSR.

Let's take a look, shall we?

This is their list of demands... uh, I mean community guidelines.  Such winners as...

  • "Opposing the presence of aggressors anywhere in the hobby and urging audiences away from venues that accomodate them."
  • "No glorious individuality unto assholery."  (Wow, get out your pulitzer prize nominations, everyone!)
  • "Every profile applying for membership in this community first gets skimmed for any red flags indicating they aren't compatible with the above expectations.

And in another post on there, the rest of the OSR (or at least the more problematic elements) are labeled "regressive bigots."  Really?  Just because we want to be free to do as we damn well please (assuming we're not doing anything illegal, of course)? 

It's the OSR for SJWs then, is it?  Yeah, that's what the world needs now.  Let's punish the individual, drive people out of the hobby, de-platform, de-monetize, harass, spread lies, and just generally gatekeep the shit out of old school D&D.

Yeah, it looks like the fractional OSR is even more divided than it was last month.  For what it's worth, I'm happy to have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

While it would be nice to have unity, I'm ok just letting whatever cancerous parts of the OSR - or any RPG niche - or any group no matter what they're into - just die off already. 

The post about what to do or not do about Stuart's old OSR logo and future OSR logos is telling.  There are no leaders among the honorable OSR.  Everyone is asking questions, looking around for someone to tell them what's what.  Here's some advice - do what you think is best without worrying how it's going to look to some other person out in cyberspace.  Be an individual!  Think for yourself!

"Yes, we must be individuals; we must think for ourselves," all the gray-faced NPCs say in unison!

You guys leaving or telling us "dishonorable OSR" or perhaps "inglorious OSR" sounds better... to leave won't affect me or my work.  If anything, it'll just fan the flames of hatred towards the true fascists, totalitarians, authoritarians, SJWs, and poop-heads who are certain they know better than the rest of us.


Venger As'Nas Satanis
High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing

p.s. Just in case the subtext is lost on some readers - the non "honorable" OSR (you know, the rest of us normal folks), are the ones fighting actual fascism... just like the Inglorious Bastards!

Sunday, November 25, 2018


It's my birthday today. 

There's a lot I'm grateful for, a lot of things I'm exited about, a lot of things I've accomplished, and there's still a lot more to do. 

If you want to help me celebrate turning 44, please consider writing/posting a review of one or more of my RPG titles.  For a complete list of PDFs, here's Kort'thalis Publishing on DriveThruRPG.  And if you want to review anything on Amazon, just search for Venger As'Nas Satanis.

Your constructive criticism and appreciation is not only helpful feedback, it keeps me going.  It's one of the reasons I'm able to endure.

Thanks for all the love and support, my dudes!



p.s. Sorry for being incommunicado the last few days, these long holiday weekends are all about family. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

Like Looking Into Creation Itself

Today, I want to talk about that little detail which elevates a description.  The kind of detail which can only come from the guy writing the damn thing.

Not just his pen, but his life.  His worldview.  His soul.

The following tidbit from season 9, episode 7 of The Walking Dead. No spoilers, in case you're worried about that.  This doesn't have anything to do with the plot, just a throwaway line for a secondary character, an NPC, if you will...

Luke:  He used to wear this absolutely horrid shirt.

Yumiko:  It was like looking into creation itself.

Luke:  In paisley.  God, it was horrendous. 

I mean, the paisley shirt by itself is a nice touch.  Makes the character they're talking about memorable.  Specifically, though, I'm keying into "It was like looking into creation itself."

That's not tone, mood, theme, atmosphere, or the like.  It doesn't move the story along.  It's not even character development, really.  Sure, it comes out of a character's mouth, but by itself we don't have any better understanding of that character than before she said it. 

It's only when that line is spoken between the other two lines that we see an underlying meaning, hidden in plain sight - that creation itself is somehow "absolutely horrid" and "horrendous." 

It's a little bit of the author's voice shining through.  Some people might not like that.  They disapprovingly say that a room (NPC, monster, etc.) description should be just the facts, nothing extraneous.  2d4 Giant Rats, 1,000 copper pieces, and a horridly colorful paisley shirt.

Well, I'm here to say that a personal touch is what's sorely lacking in adventures, both past and present.  It's what differentiates one author's work from another - his voice.  Use it not only to set yourself apart from conventional, clinical writers, but to deepen the prose... juicing it with gravitas or je ne sais quoi!

The next time you write something for your own game or publication, remember to intersperse descriptions with something surprisingly personal and maybe even poignant, if you can manage it.  The end result should be superior to the more pedestrian version.