Monday, December 28, 2015
I'll provide Kickstarter update links below, but here's the long and short of it: there was some weird layout stuff going on with the Alpha Blue PDF and print files. Glynn and I (with the help of a couple KS backers) found other things to correct as long as we were dealing with vanishing commas.
I'm glad that this found its way into the book, because the Interstellar Caliphate entry alone might have been interpreted as Islamophobic, which was not my intent. The Elvehjem Azahd came out of a conversation I had with a Muslim American soldier who wasn't exactly sure how to feel about Alpha Blue's treatment of "space Muslims". He vetted (and was pleased with) the Elvehjem Azahd splinter-group which now appears on page 89.
Here is the pre-correction KS update.
And this is the post-correction KS update.
If you already purchased your CreateSpace softcover of Alpha Blue, please let me know where I can send the corrected PDF. Also, I'd be happy to provide a reduced price softcover replacement once the print files have been approved.
p.s. The CreateSpace print version of Alpha Blue is already fixed and available for purchase. It also comes with a free PDF, just email me your receipt or order confirmation.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Here is the link to the softcover Alpha Blue on CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand service). It usually takes 2 or 3 days from approving the proof - which I just did - for books to show up on Amazon itself.
And the proof looks great. I love the subtle alien script and circuitry silhouettes in the background. CreateSpace also uses a slightly thicker, cream-colored paper, which I happen to like, as opposed to the ordinary stark white paper of DriveThruRPG (it usually takes an extra week or two for the softcover to show up there).
If you purchase the print version via CreateSpace, send me proof of purchase (forward your receipt, invoice, or something so I know you did it) and I'll email you the PDF for free.
p.s. I thought this was pretty cool.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
If it had just been one or two isolated incidents, I wouldn't have written this post - but there were a small handful of outspoken gamers who seemed to be offended by the initial $14 PDF for Alpha Blue.
The straw that broke this particular camel's back was a guy named Tom L. who gave the book a 2 star rating and a sentence fragment bitching about the expense. Scroll down this page if you'd like to admire Tom's work.
That seems strange to me for a variety of reasons... and here they are:
Both The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence and How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss were roughly around the same page count and both of them started at a higher price than $14 for the PDF.
1. As you can see by the visual aid in the top right corner of this post, I had lunch at Paisan's today. With tip (cause I'm not that much of an asshole), I paid a little over $14 for a sandwich and mountain dew (I also paid a dollar for parking in the ramp). That seems normal to me. Sure, I could have lunched for less, but I like nice mid-range places that aren't too low or high. Is a full-sized RPG book (even an electronic one) not worth the price for lunch? Maybe it depends on where one lives...
2. Most gamers actually prefer PDF. The sales bare that out (or is that "bear"?). I'm not sure if the vast majority of PDF customers are aware, but if the print version costs more than $5 than the PDF, that's the publisher (not the print-on-demand manufacturer/distributor) punishing those who want their product in print. They simply want more money. I usually price my softcovers at $4 more than the PDF and that's only to cover the extra printing costs of DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
But back to my original point, the PDFs are more popular. So, why would anyone ask how I can charge so much for "only a PDF". It's not like the Alpha Blue PDF is written on virtual toilet paper. It's the electronic version. That has real value and, in some cases, it's what customers would rather have.
3. I put in a lot of effort for that $14 PDF. I estimate about 4 months and 100 hours with the combined total of artist and layout hours coming in at about half that amount. That doesn't necessarily mean Alpha Blue is any good, but my creative sweat should count for something.
4. If I had priced the book at $12, would that have prevented the backlash? I don't know, probably. If I could go back in time and price it at that, I would. But if I now reduced the price by $2 after less than a week of the PDF's release, would the original buyers be pissed? I have no idea. I might, if it were me. I'd love some feedback on that front. Typically, I slightly reduce the price of my books after they've been "on the shelf" for 2 or 3 months.
5. Alpha Blue is an 8.5" x 11" book, rather than the typical 6" x 9". I think that makes a bit of difference. The PDF is bookmarked (a Kort'thalis Publishing first!), and there are awesome maps and character sheets that Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design created. Without buying the game, you can download them for FREE!!!
Hopefully, this doesn't come off as an angry rant or screed. I'm genuinely curious to know if I missed something, am out of touch with the times, or have a valid point. Perhaps the economy is worse off than I thought?
In any case, I'm extremely grateful for the original backers of this Kickstarter project, those who've already paid good money to acquire the PDF at DriveThruRPG, the ones waiting for a print version, and everyone who has supported me over the years. Thanks, y'all!
p.s. I threw a little Alpha Blue bonus content up on Draconic Magazine yesterday. Enjoy!
Friday, December 18, 2015
Obviously, there's big stuff happening in space opera news this month. From here to eternity, December 18th, 2015 shall be remembered as the day that Alpha Blue's PDF went live.
Seems like there was some other bit of space opera business going on... but I can't remember what it was. Oh well, probably wasn't important.
Reviews should be filtering in soon. If you've had a chance to look it over, let us know what you think of Alpha Blue! My wife asked me this morning how it scales with my previous books. It's really hard for me to tell. You guys will have to be the judge. However, I did tell her that I personally believe it to be one of my best.
This is the most sci-fi of all my works. So, it should benefit those who want to keep the science fantasy balanced (since most of my earlier stuff leans towards fantasy). For those Kort'thalis Publishing fans who always wanted tables for coming up with an alien species, mutations, and sexual positions. Your long wait is finally at an end. ;)
Here is the KS update where I provide links to the space station and starship plans.
Here is the KS update where I provide the Alpha Blue character sheets.
p.s. Print versions of the book should be available in early January.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Usually, +Kasimir Urbanski (aka TheRPGpundit) and I see eye-to-eye on things (RPGs, magic, entertainment, etc).
Recently, he blogged about the insidiousness of "narrative control"... or allowing the players to dictate what happens during the game. In my opinion, his argument became a bridge too far. Or, at least, it appeared as though he was throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I thought it worthwhile to point out my disagreement. Perhaps it's not really a disagreement at all, but a slightly different perspective.
At this point, some of you might be scratching your head, wondering what the hell he's going on about. Well, back in the 00's, a particular niche of the RPG community gained a certain amount of prominence. Enough to sustain an indie, albeit short lived RPG industry. Do people still buy Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, and My Life With Master? I have no idea. But only a decade ago, such games were considered moderately popular.
The basic idea was that players could GM just as well - if not better - than the GM himself, dipping their creative control oars in the water (either whenever they felt like it or when the game's rules gave them permission). Also, sessions and campaigns should focus on weaving a story, rather than the fun or strategy of treating RPGs like a game. Additionally, the emulation of a certain genre or format had to take a backseat. This new philosophy of roleplaying was closely aligned with The Forge, an online forum that propagated these ideas.
statements coming out of the narrativist / story-game movement was that D&D caused brain damage. By that, I believe, they meant that older (70's through 90's) RPGs were "badly designed" and did not fit in with the Creative Agenda of Narrativism, even going so far as to compare what we commonly understand to be the roleplaying game experience to child molestation. Really? WTF, guys!?!
Thankfully, that whole era of RPG design turned out to be a dead-end and pretty much petered out by 2010. There's still an understandable amount of hostility aimed at those still preaching player narrative control. Although, there must be so few storygame holdouts that I wonder why RPGpundit even bothers. Still, it does us well to remember our history, lest we are doomed to repeat it.
I think we can all agree on the following...
- Player agency is a good. Players continually forcing their ideas onto the GM and the game world is bad.
- There shouldn't be any kind of absolute law that binds the Game Master to a particular rule, play style, or game mechanic.
- Immersion is important for the roleplaying experience.
On the first point, I don't believe "the danger of player-agency over the [game] world" is as much a danger as RPGpundit supposes.
The GM should never be a slave to the players or any agreed-upon dramatic arc. He's the boss, benevolent dictator, or good king. One part entertainer, one part narrative coordinator, and one part referee. I'm of the opinion that players frequently have good ideas and that it doesn't do the game any harm to occasionally use their suggestions. Which brings me to...
Number three - immersion is not lessened by rolling dice to decide if such and such a thing exists, occurs, or reacts a certain way. The GM has a lot on his plate and he knows the game world better than anyone else at the table... and yet, how could he know for certain if a book on a particular subject is contained in a 1,000 book library (let alone a 10,000)? Shouldn't the gods decide such things more often than not? What about the oracular power of dice?
While RPGpundit isn't against rolling to see if a book on botany can be found in the library, my preference is to always roll when the outcome is a gray area. Just as I'm likely to roll (see my 33% solution in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss) every time a player brings up a question or suggests something that's not only possible but intriguing, as well.
To me, that's part of what makes it a "living world". The idea that a GM might lose his authority or ruin the immersion because of his flexibility and fluidity seems absurd to me.
As to the distinctions between a fictional world and virtual world, that will probably have to be its own blog post. Defining "reality" is not easy.
In conclusion, this is just a snapshot impression of the gigantic discussion issuing from his aforementioned blog post and my thoughts on the matter.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
I finished the text for Alpha Blue last week. Glynn is almost finished doing the layout. [Get your interview questions submitted now, before it's released!]
I had last Saturday free for roleplaying but didn't know what to run. These days I only get to GM about twice a month. So, it makes sense that I would come up with a little something and use my upcoming session as a sort of preliminary playtest.
There were so many different genres, products, systems, and worlds to choose from, but I ended up deciding on The Outer Presence. Partly due to a conversation I had with +Brandon Watkins months ago about reptile people within the hollow earth and my desire for a humorous ripoff of Delta Green.
Character creation was short and sweet, providing a balanced group of a-holes, wack-jobs, and addicts.
The scenario I concocted contains reptoids disguised as humans (did some research on David Icke and his conspiracy theories), time travel to the far future, shoggoth-like nastiness, and an agency that monitors all the crazy stuff influencing our world, its people and culture.
All I had was a couple dozen bullet points. So, it was short, and there was quite a bit of improvisation on my part. Some things didn't fit as neatly into the scenario box as I had anticipated. But the players were excellent, driving the play forward and occasionally making cool suggestions - like the translucent strands hanging from the ceiling - having them worm their way into the pilot's orifices was a stroke of genius. I believe my friend, +Tim Virnig came up with that one.
reviewed How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss. In my opinion, he was dead wrong about the d100 table of colors. That happened to be the only random table I rolled on all session. The non-human PC (I sort of pictured him looking like 70's David Bowie) was shot during the adventure and his blood turned out to be mauve. Mauve, damn it! That's an important detail.
All ended well. The PCs were even asked to join a secret organization who watches the watchers, none other than Theta Chartreuse!
When I'm finished with the scenario, it should have enough meat on its bones to support about 6 hours of play. If it's somewhere between 10 - 20 pages, it'll probably just be a PDF. If it spirals out of control into something larger, there will be a print version available this Spring.
Thanks for reading!
p.s. Almost forgot... here's my favorite quote of the session, "As you manhandle her through the portal, her heaving reptoid bosom is exposed."
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The prolific RPG reviewer, Dan Davenport, virtually sat down with me yesterday to ask me questions about stuff. Mostly about The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, but our discussion wasn't confined to just that.
I also fielded a few questions from others in the chat room.
Monday, December 7, 2015
What's up, guys? It's been awhile, hasn't it? Did you miss me? Is this blog post going to be nothing but questions? Hmmm?
Basically, all I want to do is shout my appreciation for an internet essay written in February of this year. It's about science fantasy and it's pretty awesome. About the only 80's science fantasy stuff they didn't reference was The Ice Pirates and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.
But that's ok because this article gives the former its day in space court.
Yeah, both of those are worth reading.
p.s. Regarding my upcoming sci-fi parody Alpha Blue, the art is done and the writing should be finished tonight. Next stop - layout city (it's like suffragette city and space city combined... except with less suffragettes, less space, and more layout).
Monday, November 30, 2015
Here is part 1 of my Alpha Blue playtest. Full disclosure: my brain is half-fried from putting the finishing touches on the book.
Here's the subject for one of my favorite new tables created since Saturday's session: Besides girls, drugs, and music... what's this party got going for it?
I randomly rolled to see what the adventure would be. Alpha Blue had stiff competition to see which was the best space brothel in the universe. The PCs were hired by AB to ensure their victory. If they won the contest, the space adventurers would make 25,000 blue bucks.
Everyone was on board with that. I let the players know ahead of time that this adventure would be rather silly and sleazy, ridiculous and raunchy. Mission accomplished.
Getting to Alpha Blue
The ship map that comes with the book is for Blue Flamingo. It's supposed to be a designated Alpha Blue spaceship, but made sense to re-purpose it for the PCs' use. There were two pilots and they co-owned the ship with borrowed money from an eccentric trillionaire who was going to break their kneecaps if they didn't make regular payments.
The following was a combination of rolling on tables and something else... Since it was my birthday last Wednesday, I got to watch an episode of Space: 1999 that I'd read about. Supposedly, one of the scariest episodes of anything on television. It was called Dragon's Domain, and while it didn't quite live up to the hype, I could see why that episode had such a reputation. It was Lovecraftian and very enjoyable.
While I didn't approach the cosmic dread of Dragon's Domain, I still thought it was cool (more like a better than average episode of Blake's 7). The PCs docked with a drifting cryo-ship that appeared on their ship's scanners and had their first encounter with an alien species and some tentacled horror.
Sugar D dealt the death blow with his ultra-glaive. Ambassador General Starburst put the moves on some aquatic humanoid honey and convinced her to stay with him while the rest of the aquatic aliens continued their journey to a new planet.
Master Humpty successfully negotiated a better exchange rate for the party at the Alpha Blue bank.
The first thing they saw was some guy in a gorilla costume being thrown out of an airlock by a security-bot. They decided to save him and he led the party to... a party!
Imagine a futuristic disco nightclub in Vegas, abiding by frontier law. That's pretty much what it was like. Mastery Humpty caught some guy cheating at smuggler's quarry. He and Taran, a human assassin technician, took his money and tossed him out of the space station.
Meanwhile, "Doc" encountered a hooker with some time to kill. He declined, but I think everyone had fun watching him decline the offer.
The station's captain was met and they moved discussion to his quarters where so many plans were made. Various schemes such as exhausting all the space-whores at other brothels, contracting really bad venereal diseases and then giving it to space-whores at other brothels, and messing with the food and beverage distribution channels of those competing brothels. There were more. Lots more! But I'll stop there.
Suddenly, the space station went to red alert because it drifted into some kind of alien radiation eating away at the hull.
Even though passing cards to a few players who rolled 1s with information about their possession didn't quite work the way I planned, the encounter was still pretty awesome. Han Zulu, a reptilian dog-sized pilot, and Mrvlka'l, a cat-sized pirate that could camouflage itself so well that no one really knew what he looked like (but most assumed he sort of resembled a cat), got blasted for a lot of damage.
In the end, they defeated the alien consciousness and flew back to AB. Almost forgot - its defeat wouldn't have been possible without the strangest member of the team. Ace Rimmer was a thought-form existing only in the minds of those he interacted with. Since he was also an unseen presence, he was able to weaken the alien force enough for others to destroy it.
Long story short, their plans had gone well. Alpha Blue won the best brothel in the universe competition and they split the money.
There's a lot of stuff I left out. Sorry if someone's favorite part got cut. Anyways, I'll leave you with a couple playtester testimonials...
Alpha Blue is a rockinroll Science Fiction/Transhumanist RPG filled with 80s inspired B movie psychotronic sleaze and tentacle porn. The character generation is brilliant and the game is fast and super fun. Playtesting was an honor. More please.
Here's something from +sean mcconkey: Early stages of Alpha Blue prove that it will not be a game that the entire family can sit down and enjoy, it might even prove a bit robust for many adults.
However, if you find humor in random sex jokes, insane tables that skew a game into madness, and a groovy 70's vibe then Alpha Blue will be a game you need to add to your library. It is probably best enjoyed while sipping on a Harvey Wallbanger or a Grasshopper as some Marvin Gaye or Blondie wraps you in shag-carpeted wonderfulness. A sense of humor, an admiration of vintage porn, a fetish for fetishes, and a nostalgic longing for the 70's are a must. So just chill and know everything will be copacetic as you experience... Alpha Blue.
Thanks for reading,
p.s. The book will be out in January and at that time I'll be releasing the ship and space station map files into cyberspace for general recreational (non-commercial) use.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Ok, let's dive right in because I still have ridiculous random tables to forge. As you can see, no less than Harrison Ford was present, guiding us on our way.
What can I say? It's always nice to have a celebrity at your game table.
Last Saturday was the first chance I've had to run Alpha Blue, an RPG and campaign setting with scenario seeds up the wazoo. The book is about 95% completed, so it was kind of a playtest while also being my chance to use the material I've been writing for the last few months.
At this point, I don't have a regular gaming group. However, I do have regular gaming buddies, a slew of great players that come to the table when they're able. We're all adults with busy lives, after all. These guys were so pumped to take a shot at Alpha Blue, they invited guests.
So, there were 9 players. I'm not going to go through each and every one, but picking out a couple here and there. Character creation went pretty well. There are quite a few tables, some big, others little. As I mentioned to the group, coming up with the color palette alone took me a couple hours.
A character sheet is still in the works. Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design is still conjuring it from the great beyond. However, he was able to get me the files for the space station mega-map and medium-sized transport ship. The station mega-map is composed of 4 separate maps. It's super big and detailed and exactly what I wanted... even though I didn't really know what I wanted until Glynn pointed the way. The ship, Blue Flamingo, is pretty much what I saw in my head. Thankfully, it's also what Glynn saw in his head, too.
Since I had the files a couple days in advance of the game, I submitted them to my local copy shop. The mega-map was so huge (177mb) that I couldn't even go through their online system for ordering. I had to email them the dropbox link so they could download it and get it printed... and then laminated. My wife is still shaking her head over the extravagance, the expense, the sheer superfluous frivolity of having such things designed, made, and paid for.
It was all worth it, says I. Just looking at my 17" x 22" map of the ship and 34" x 44" map of the space station was enough to make my fucking day. When I saw them there at the checkout counter... I almost wept. It was that beautiful.
Anyways... back to +Tim Virnig's character - Sugar D. Below is exactly what Tim wrote on his "character sheet".
Sugar Johnson, known to his friends as "Sugar D", a human bounty hunter [and diplomat] who wears a skin-tight gold velvet uniform with the company logo of CyberSnatch Ltd. He was hired to recover rogue cyber companions from hackers that are trying to turn hos into housewives. Also known around the universe for single-handedly bartering a peace accord in the great pimp wars of 2191. He wields an ultra-glaive!
I went around the room at each stage of character creation, having players roll for various things like occupation, weapon, and alien mannerisms / cultural differences. It took a full hour to get all 9 PCs ready to go.
Star Wars, to the best of my knowledge, is the closest I've come to Game Mastering a sci-fi RPG. Obviously, it's more space opera or even science-fantasy than hard sci-fi. So, running this session was really new. Instead of calling upon my vast GMing experience with dragons, wizards, and elves... I had to draw from all the awesomely cheesy sci-fi TV shows of a misspent youth and adulthood.
Tomorrow, I hope to have part 2 posted. Stay tuned!
Before I go, here's a quote from Tim: "Venger has done it again! Alpha Blue is another installment from the king of gonzo gaming. Equal parts 70's sci-fi exploitation flick and late night cable television. His simple game mechanics let the story shine with lots of random tables to take the gonzo to the next level. I can't wait to run this myself with my own discerning adult gamers!"
This is part 2.
Friday, November 20, 2015
I hope you get a little kick out of our promotional videos for the O5R, humorous, gonzo, science-fantasy RPG, Crimson Dragon Slayer. This weekend, the PDF is on sale!
Thanks to my fellow actors, +Forrest Aguirre and +Jacob Nelson. These productions wouldn't have been possible without Joshua Darlington.
Hope you enjoy them. Feel free to share. Go viral, my pretties. Fly... be free!
Friday, November 13, 2015
Ok, we're back! This is part one.
Liberation of the Demon Slayer, I've found, makes for a good convention game. There's an abrupt beginning that gets PCs where they need to go with a definite objective - retrieve the legendary demon-slaying sword Kalthalax or see your beloved homeland ripped apart by demons.
Because it's fairly deadly, the adventure is perfect for a funnel / meat-grinder type situation. Pre-generated characters was the obvious way to go, but there were two things working against that idea. One, my wife and children. Two, players will form more of an attachment to their characters if created there at the table, by their own hands.
Since the adventure has several tables at the beginning for fleshing out backgrounds, we dived right in. That morning I quickly scribbled out a quadrant character sheet so all four zero-level characters could be seen at a glance. But, since this was a convention game, I wanted every character to be able to do some cool stuff. So, 1st level for all!
Forget all the fiddly bits about your characters, I told them. If they wanted to play a half-orc, lizardman, demonic humanoid, dark elf, or whatever, that was just fine. If they wanted to play some weird class like bard, monk, or anything else, that was cool. I didn't care if they wanted to pick an old school alignment like Chaos or chaotic neutral. All that was fuel for their imaginations and wouldn't be a focus for today's session.
Before I forget, one player had played in my The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence game at the last Game Hole Con. So, it was nice to see a satisfied customer. Although, I had my doubts about that particular session.
There was some quick thinking as PCs got tossed out of bed and marched to the caverns below Clear Meadows without dilly-dallying for supplies. One character snapped the leg off a wooden table on his way out. After hearing that, a few players attempted to do something similar. I let player descriptions and luck rolls determine their success or failure.
The first death came quickly. A skeletal wizard at the bottom of a pit trap.
West's character suddenly appeared in a white room containing a pedestal, upon which rested an innocent looking orange. A few seconds later, the orange killed him. Such is the life of an adventurer - especially since it was a convention game, he had three other characters, every player except West laughed, and West actually wasn't even scheduled to play, but we're friends and I let him in the game as a favor.
Instead of revealing Kalthalax at the very end, after a big boss fight, I decided to offer it up early so someone had the chance to actually use it! The demon slayer laid upon a black altar, guarded by a gelatinous green slime. I was expecting a harrowing fight, but the party's thief (one of them) made his roll to tumble past the creature (both times!).
The party wizard (one of them) discovered and pocketed a yellowish green vial of liquid that would become useful later.
Basically, the adventurers fought the Devil. It was a 30' demon lord just coming out of some gigantic gateway to Hell. Kalthalax did a lot of damage, but so did a character with a shovel!
A portal opened after defeating the demon lord. Out stumbled an American family - the Sterlings - from some "other world".
There was also some necrophilia going on. A couple PCs rolled that for their dark secret. One woman in particular named Angela Nekro (played by +Julian Bernick) kept staying behind to play with the corpses. Awesomely gross! If this had been more than a con game or one-shot, her creepiness could have been explored in depth.
I was using the DCC mercurial magic table for spells cast. If the percentile dice fell into the middle range (yielding no strange effect), I rolled on the weird magic side-effect table in Purple. Just as the adventurers were leaving the caverns, a wizard cast a spell and rolled something close to a 50. So, I rolled on the other table only to discover that his spell had inadvertently brought the Purple Putrescence itself to Clear Meadows.
Clear Meadows was saved!
The Outer Presence
Unfortunately, I don't have time to go into detail about this game. Character creation was fun. I just used the random tables and players made their own connections based on available data and intuition.
Everyone had a good time. The world was narrowly saved, yet it cost all the characters their lives - with the possible exception of those who rolled the "hard to kill" distinction. If there's a sequel, I'll allow those PCs to survive the fistful of dynamite shot point-blank in Nafu Aata's inner sanctum.
Thanks again to everyone who played in my games at Game Hole Con III. I'm looking forward to next year's games!
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
This blog post is going to be my experience at Game Hole Con III.
I felt the post-convention blues yesterday - everything just seemed kind of lame and I didn't care about the ordinary world much. Basically, business as usual, except intensified a bit. However, I'm my usual self today.
Running games at a convention is the equivalent of playing music live. Everything is faster; smaller details fall by the wayside, and you're probably less inclined to go off-script and improvise because you're not GMing (performing) in front of your usual gaming group in your home, friend's basement, local library or game store. No, you're doing it live in front of a bunch of people you don't know. It's a bit nerve wracking and the pressure's on.
Plus the noise and distractions! Subtlety is usually lost. Forget about speaking quietly, hushed tones, whispering, or even delicate gestures. You either speak loud and clear so the whole table can hear or you've lost a couple people along the way. This goes for movements, too. Either grand and sweeping or not at all!
If you're +Frank Mentzer or James Ward you get to have a slightly more private room. Even though this is my third time attending and running games at +Gamehole Con (and I've self-published about 10 well-received RPG books), I'm still fighting at the front lines. It'll probably be awhile before I can watch the battle (with lake view) from a cushy office back at HQ.
So, all my games ended earlier than planned - because I couldn't help but speed things along. Except for the impromptu "off the books" session on Friday night, they all ended on a high note, mysterious cliff-hanger, or with the utter destruction of that corner of the world. Friday night's game came up against the lateness of the hour (about 10:30pm - I'm old and lame) so I cut their dungeon exploration a bit short... plus I had a big day of gaming ahead of me.
I got extremely lucky with a few things. First, the weekend before the con, I had completely lost my voice. I can't remember the last time that has happened, but it did. While I was voiceless, I kept thinking, "Thank Cthulhu this didn't happen a week later." But then on Monday I still couldn't talk, Tuesday I was extremely horse, Wednesday wasn't much better... I was starting to panic. My voice was noticeably better on Thursday, and by Friday I was pretty much out of the woods (though still coughing).
Second, each and every session saw at least one friend at the table. Even though I consider myself a non-paid professional Game Master who doesn't need such comforts, it's still really nice to have a familiar face amongst all the strange ones. So, that was really cool and I appreciate having +Tim Virnig, +Brandon Watkins, +Jacob Nelson, +Forrest Aguirre, and West there. Little did I know that a few others knew of me, but I'm terrible with names and so few people have their actual selves as avatars.
I'm not going to do a detailed session report for each and every game. Just certain details that stood out or illustrate a particular point.
I ran my one-page zine, "The Sanctuary of the Scarlet Sorcerer", on Friday night; Liberation of the Demon Slayer and The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence on Saturday (back to back); along with The Outer Presence on Sunday. By the end, I was ready to be done. Although, by Monday night I was wishing I had another at GMing sometime mid-week.
I set up Liberation and Purple to be run with Dungeon Crawl Classics. Now, I do love that system and the whole DCC vibe. But when I've run it in the past, I hack it or dumb it down or Basic-D&D-it into oblivion... only keeping the mercurial magic and a few other bells and whistles, while drastically altering the rest.
Recently, all the games I've been running this summer and early fall have been based on a d6 dicepool system. I suddenly found myself looking awkwardly at the d20 and thinking... I'm not ready to go back. Luckily, I had been turning over my d6 dicepool ideas over and over in my mind. Trying to come up with something that's even lighter, easier, and noob/one-shot/convention friendly than Crimson Dragon Slayer.
Just before Friday night's game, I came up with something workable and tried it out then and there. It worked really well and use that for every session, except for Outer Presence. I can attest that no player complained, balked, or criticized the core game mechanic I used throughout the convention. That right there was a great opportunity to playtest the system.
Just as Purple was getting underway, +Doug Kovacs sat down and watched for a few minutes. He even jokingly said that he was there to make sure I was "running the game right". Some nervous laughter followed along with my admission that the game was going to be unorthodox, but still adhering to the Heavy Metal aesthetic from which practically all over-the-top, science-fantasy exploitation flows.
I dressed up! Weeks before the convention, I bought a renaissance / LARP / pirate / Cosplay shirt (black) from ebay. I wore that, the black velvet cloak I've had since college, a gothic halloween medallion, the fanciest black jeans I own (and was married in), and my black dress shoes. It's exactly the type of thing I would wear to a Satanic ritual. So, that felt appropriately inappropriate (which is right where I like to be).
Also, a couple months ago I decided to grow out my "wizard beard". So, I probably looked like an extra from some Game of Thrones knockoff. The facial hair still in phase 1, but just wait until Game Hole Con IV. By then, my beard shall have taken over half the known realm!
I also brought in a lot of props. Some fantasy calendars that had big, colorful pictures that I could show the entire table. And a realistic foam sword (my wife: you paid how much for a fake sword?!?), plus a bunch of other illustrations, Terminator mask, glow stick, etc.
Taking the temperature of the room is important for a GM. More so in a convention setting. One table contained a jokester - one of those guys who has everyone laughing, like, every 10 or 15 minutes for the entire session. He was seriously hilarious. Now, it would have been a mistake for me to set myself up as his opposition, trying to "play it straight" and keep things serious. So, I took his lead and upped the gonzo, humor, running jokes.
Also, plenty of premium Nyborg (space cocaine) was lying around the violet-black sand surrounding the islands. I gave everyone a bonus to attack if their characters were coked out of their minds. GMing at a convention is all about adapting to expectations, desires, and game table "texture" - those unexpected events that create myriad ripples and wrinkles in the pattern.
Rule #37: It should be easier to die in a convention game, but also easier to be resurrected.
Purple had the weirdest ending. I kind of painted myself into a corner, but it was super-cool. Like my choices were silently being stolen away by Salvatore Dali. So, I didn't mind and just went with it. The party hid from the Purple Putrescence overhead. Normally, a black pylon is the safest place to hide when The Thing That Rots From The Sky comes around. But one of the players asked an innocent question to no one in particular: "Do you think we're safe in here?" I took it upon myself to roll my 33% rule. If the percentile dice came 01 to 33, they would not be safe at all. The dice came up 27 or something. So, one of those gargantuan, veined, purple tentacles wrapped itself around the pylon and uprooted the thing.
I knew I couldn't top that, so ended it right there. Fade to black...
If you have a question, comment, or anything else. Please leave a comment below!
p.s. Special thanks to +Meredith Spearman for taking notes and then a picture of those notes. Zirkik loved the attention but couldn't understand how his name got so mangled. I'm pretty sure he blames Glarg or whatever that half-orcs name was...
p.p.s. Thanks to +Tim Virnig and +Glenn Holmer for taking pictures.
Friday, November 6, 2015
Now, even though I just posed this question to Alpha Blue kickstarter backers (as they are my primary audience - having already pre-paid for the book), I'd still be interested to know what other gamers think.
Here is the update regarding maps.
p.s. The color may vary slightly on the left side (more blue and less grey), but the right side is pretty much the way it'll look at the end.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
I discovered some recent reviews of my GM tips, tricks, and techniques book. Here is one; there is another. And a third!
How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss hasn't been universally well-received, so I'm glad these readers took some time to reflect on the book before reviewing it.
p.s. I'll be at Game Hole Con III this weekend. Say "Hi" if you see me.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
And by RPGs, I mean paper and pencil roleplaying games.
For a product, hobby, art form, sport, game, or whatever you want to call it that can't be immediately purchased and played - even conceptualized - without help, such videos might just be the savior or even first-wave evolution of RPGs.
Keep this in mind, if it's not something people would ever watch on TV, it's probably not something that people will play. Showing what RPGs are and how they're played is the initial step to getting more gamers. In my opinion, the older cousin model of RPG introduction just isn't going to cut it in the 21st century.
- Awesome place to play? Check.
- At least one celebrity (or at least professional in the creative/performance/entertainment field)? Check.
- Gamers willing to go the extra mile? Check.
You're welcome to praise or criticize the video, players, Vin Diesel, GM, 5th edition D&D... anything having to do with this video. Though, critiquing this particular video is not as important (to me) as critiquing the medium itself, a vehicle for getting RPGs noticed.
Assuming that RPG proliferation into the cultural mainstream is the goal, that can't happen without getting it in front of people's faces. So, I ask you - what better way than this?
p.s. Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a similar high-end demonstration but with more explanation on how RPGs work.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
I really wanted to introduce Crimson Dragon Slayer to a group I'd never roleplayed with before... just to make sure my love for the game wasn't solely dependent upon the people I was constantly gaming with. I got my wish earlier today, playing with +Forrest Aguirre, his two friends Tony and Julius, and veteran of the Ultra Zone, Daniel (who made up for Forrest's other friend who was sick and couldn't make it).
Not having time to prepare much beforehand, I decided to use The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. I've done both 'getting to the purple islands' and 'having been on the islands for awhile' one-shots, so decided to go with the latter.
Here are the characters...
Shade Ivory, a halfling ranger/shaman was played by Julius.
Great Mega Dread, a crystalline wizard was played by Tony.
Little Plasma Bane, a robot wizard was played by Forrest.
Rex Slaughter, a dwarf warrior was played by Daniel.
Everyone rolled 3d6 in order. Daniel rolled an actual "3" for Rex Slaughter's intelligence. He had the option to re-roll in exchange for rolling on the dark secrets table in Liberation of the Demon Slayer. He took advantage of that option... but to raise one of his other ability scores. Daniel is one of the weird ones (which is probably why he feels at home at my table).
Let me see if I can get the backstory we hashed out for his character correct: he started off as the CEO of a successful company, like Christian Grey from 50 Shades of Grey. So, in the real world (before he was sucked into the Crimson Dragon Slayer text-based RPG for the Commodore 64 by Infravision, circa 1983) he was really smart. But then he communicated with Yogsoggoth in the public restroom of his office building. In the stall next to his, there was a demon lord who asked for some spare toilet paper... and was denied. Instead, he got a face full of Yogsoggoth!
"You ask for extra toilet paper, you get a Great Old One!"
The sanity-crush was too much. Rex Slaughter went from CEO to "I like candy corn!" and I think in that moment was ushered into the Crimson Dragon Slayer game. Thule suddenly had a new village idiot.
I won't go into too much detail, but there were several encounters. Some cavemen inside a cave. The savages became a cult under the leadership of Faashko, the Practitioners of the Black Path High Priest (the PCs found a wallet inside his robes). They were sacrificing none other than Kalthalax, the legendary demon slaying sword! Because... why not. I had rolled on the "what are they sacrificing?" table and got relic/artifact (found in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss). Just so happens that I had brought my newest acquisition, a foam LARP sword that looks like it was corrupted in Hell. So, I slapped that down on the table once the PCs had possession of it. The players were impressed with that bit of visual aid - the kind you can take a few practice swings with.
"I like candy corn!"
Purple also has a personality table for magic swords. It's like the dice new what the Hell they were doing... Kalthalax demanded to be worshiped. So, that led to some interesting roleplaying between the blade and its wielder. "Announcing my presence before I wade into the blood of your enemies would be nice."
Midway through, the PCs fought space invaders... like the video game. As damage was done, their chartreuse neon pixels went out until all three were eventually de-rezed. The fight was only half over before the 8' tall robot went offline for repairs.
More cultists happened by while the adventurers were sleeping. Luckily Great Mega Dread was on watch. Trying to ward them off himself, he cast mesmerizing magenta mist. It worked, but the purple islands can have a strange affect on magic. His spell also conjured 3 small sub-species imps that served him for five rounds. In that time, the little demonic critters offed two of the cultists.
One of the strangest moments was after the new cultists' bodies had been looted. They found a singular gemstone. I rolled on the colors table (also in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss) and got "color changes based on mood", #82 or something like that. For the robot, it stayed grey, for Shade Ivory's happiness it turned yellow. For Great Mega Dread's frustration I wanted another random color. Believe it or not, I rolled the exact same result!
After a few seconds of thought, voicing my curiosity aloud, and a little back and forth from the players, we determined that the gemstone changed color based upon the mood of the holder, as well as, its own mood determined by how it felt about the person holding it. Weird...
Rex Slaughter wanted to smash it, but being crystalline, Great Mega Dread was determined to keep it safe.
"Dumb is not an emotion."
That's when a damaged tank was found with a working laser cannon. Also, a small, thin rectangle communicator that put the adventurers in touch with Navigator Jones First Class. He was on a space station called Alpha Blue and would pick them up in about 25 parsecs.
Before their rendezvous, the guys felt a tremor along the ground. Seconds later, a giant purple worm erupted from the crater's center. That's when Rex Slaughter slashed at the worm eleven times in a row (my own misinterpretation of badly worded rules regarding fighters being able to attack until they miss). He did 64 points of damage. Little Plasma Bane was back at the laser-tank and shot the thing for about 35 damage. Kalthalax and a spell from the crystalline wizard finished it off after the worm had just about eaten the magic-user.
Alpha Blue descended and beamed the travelers aboard with a soft cerulean light. They were greeted with a bevy of blonde bombshells in sparkly-silver bikinis.
From what I could tell, everyone had a great time. There was some post-session discussion about that warrior's special ability.
In my mind, when I wrote those words, I think I meant that only new targets could be hit, if they were within range - not that a warrior can attack and just keep attacking until he misses. Because if he's going to roll 3d6 for his dice pool, it could be a dozen rolls before his turn ends. That's too much for everyone else to sit through.
Daniel came up with an intriguing alternative. For every extra attack, a warrior loses a point of constitution temporarily. I think I like that better than mine.
Well, that about does it. Thanks for a great game, guys!
p.s. Forrest did his own write-up here.
p.p.s. I came home from the game to find this review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. So, thanks for that, +Bill Adcock!
This morning, I stumbled upon a slew of reviews from +Timothy Brannan of The Other Side blog fame. I'll post links below, but first I wanted to approach my RPG catalog with an analogy...
There are some books of mine that are more like The Evil Dead, an old school horror movie containing subtle moments of whimsy and humor, but plays it straight faced. I'd categorize Liberation of the Demon Slayer, Revelry in Torth, and The Outer Presence as Evil Dead. Precious little "monkey business".
There are other books which are more like Evil Dead II, a nice mix between horror and comedy. Like the film, these books don't take themselves too seriously. Plenty of scares and laughs throughout. I'm thinking of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, No Escape from New York, and my upcoming Alpha Blue.
It wasn't until this summer that I just let go and went total Army of Darkness with Crimson Dragon Slayer and Descent into the Candy Crypts (No Escape from New York is sort of a hybrid between II and III, I guess).
Now, when I first went to go see Army of Darkness in the theater, I was in High School. For whatever reason, I didn't get it at the time. I thought it was cheesy, stupid, and not particularly funny. It wasn't until I watched The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II and then saw Army of Darkness for a second time that I "got it". The cheesy stupidity was on purpose! It was a parody of the genre and also a self-parody of itself. It tried so hard to be ridiculously awesome that it became awesomely ridiculous.
I assure those willing to try Crimson Dragon Slayer that playing it can be a richer experience than merely reading the rules, just as a comedy script won't be nearly as much fun as watching the movie itself.
Anyway, without further ado, Here is Tim's review of How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss (doesn't really fit any of the categories). There is his review of Crimson Dragon Slayer. This is his review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. That is his review of Liberation of the Demon Slayer.
I appreciate your spilling the virtual ink, hoss. Much appreciated!
Monday, October 12, 2015
Just taking a break from writing Alpha Blue. Kickstarter campaign ending in just over a week!
These are all second tier cheese, the kind of movie you should see at least once to see if you like it. None of these are award winning films. They're B-grade fare that's not on everyone's Must Watch, Top Ten, or Best of the Best list. I liked these enough to watch them more than once. That's good enough for me.
Let's get started (in no particular order)...
1. Simon King of the Witches - This is the film that inspired me to create this blog post. It's a little known film about 70's real world sorcery and witchcraft.
2. Burial Ground - A weird little zombie film. There's some creepy atmosphere, cool deaths, and unintentional humor - which just makes it funnier, in my opinion.
3. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things - I remember seeing the VHS box for this in a number of video rental places in the 80's. The title and artwork alone horrified and fascinated me as a kid. Though it's "badly" filmed, acted, scripted, and everything else, I can't help but love this film. Things don't really get going until the end, but there's plenty of entertaining shenanigans and awful (well, I think it's kind of awesome) dialog.
4. Class of 1984 - A high school in the mid-eighties... cranked up to 11. Gangs, punk rock, drugs, sex, Michael J. Fox, and Roddy McDowall. It's a dark film. Perfect to watch before enjoying a night of No Escape From New York (available here).
5. Humanoids from the Deep - Roger Corman and Deep Ones. What more can I say? The pacing could be better, I think. I remember a couple moments being bored or, at least, not thrilled. But then a half-naked woman gets raped on the beach by a fish-man and you're like... Wow! Didn't expect that.
6. Maniac - This is a great exploitation film with an insane protagonist who is actually the antagonist. If it had more of a plot besides guy-being-creepy-at-night-and-killing-women, this would be first-tier slasher trash! As it is, Maniac has a great look, vibe, and practical effects... but it lacks something.
7. Stage Fright - The only reason this is here and not on some better list is because it's a cheesy Italian film from the 80's that takes place in a musical, during rehearsal. It's part giallo, part slasher film that's a bit too colorful and lacking in suspense. Still a good watch, though. If you love Demons and Demons II, you'll probably also get a kick out of Stage Fright.
8. Planet Terror - I think most people were disappointed with the Rodriguez/Tarantino grindhouse double-feature that came out back in 2007. This one was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and is the better of the two (the other being Death Proof). It feels more like an extend short film than a feature-length production, but it packs a decent punch. Interesting characters, some nice humor, well shot, good acting, etc. The running time is only half of what makes it feel "less than enough" - the rest might be character goals. I think "getting the Hell out of dodge" is the primary motivation for everyone in the film. While that should be plenty for a zombie film, Planet Terror still seems to come up a bit short.
10. My Science Project - Compared to the rest of these films, My Science Project is straight-laced and clean-cut. It looks like an ordinary film - but it's about time warps, weird dimensional anomalies, and area 51 type stuff. If this had been directed by Steven Spielberg, this film would rank right up there with ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park. But as it is, My Science Project is kind of a sleeper. Low-key, but big on cool ideas.
11. Prisoners of the Lost Universe - This almost belongs on the "C list" of films to watch after you've seen everything good. It's a film I really enjoyed back when I was ten. Imagine a session of Crimson Dragon Slayer (available here) but without the super-gonzo encounters and humor.
I know it's almost Halloween, but this isn't a scary movie list... even though some of them qualify as "horror". To reiterate, these are just some pretty cool movies that I like - and think you might like, too.
Thanks for reading!
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Oliver Shead of Infected RPG kickstarter fame (over $26,000 in pledges!) interviewed me a few days back. Here is the result!
Joel from Nemo's Lounge has graced me with another review, this time No Escape from New York is under the microscope. Oh, and a last minute session report!
In other news, a few Madison, WI gamers helped out with the first Crimson Dragon Slayer commercial. The video shoot only took two and a half hours of our time... but nine-tenths of our soul!
The astonishingly terrible footage is now in the capable hands of director/cameraman/editor Joshua Darlington. It'll take him a couple weeks of sifting and winnowing before it's ready for youtube.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Here's a little sneak preview content from my upcoming O5R project, Alpha Blue.
This is where I was recently interviewed by Shane Ward.
The Outer Presence received another favorable review. As did Revelry in Torth and The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. He also reviewed Descent into the Candy Crypts quite unfavorably, but that might be because he's never read Crimson Dragon Slayer, where awesomeness to the point of stupidity takes precedence over serious dungeoncrawling.
Anyway, that's the news! Thanks for reading, folks.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
It's been an exciting week here at Kort'thalis Publishing! Primarily because of my latest Kickstarter campaign (a wee bit NSFW) Alpha Blue.
So, I totally forgot to announce my latest mini-module / micro-campaign / short, stream of consciousness scenario called No Escape from New York (for use with Crimson Dragon Slayer or your OSR system of choice). It's available here.
I wanted something a bit meatier and darker than Descent into the Candy Crypts. You'll still get plenty of laughs and homage / parody / in-jokes, but there's an undercurrent of misanthropic sleaze as adventurers enter a parallel dimension of New York, circa 1983.
p.s. Great work from Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design and illustrator Bojan Sucevic!