Monday, November 30, 2015

Alpha Blue session report (part 2 of 2)

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?

The Plot

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.

Lead pilot Bloto took the Blue Flamingo and most of the PCs to a nearby asteroid that was at the center of the radiation.  There, they found alien technology and an unseen, malevolent presence.

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...

This is from Joshua Cooper Darlington:  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

Alpha Blue session report (part 1 of 2)

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.

Learned something from that experience.  I had "mutant" tucked away under a sub-table that was pretty much forgotten about as soon as I mentioned it.  Now, playing a mutant is just as prominent as playing an alien.

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

Crimson Dragon Slayer: the commercials

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

Game Hole Con III (part 2 of 2)

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!

Next, I told all the players not to worry about any limitations of rule-book or system.  Rather than playing DCC with the serial numbers filed off, we were playing a fantasy RPG that never had serial numbers, one that only lived in our imaginations, unfettered by arbitrary restrictions.
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.

A magic ring allowed one of West's characters to summon a demon.  The demon was summoned and the PC asked the demon to transport him to someplace in the dungeon that contained a really powerful weapon.  The demon did as he was told.

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.

It loomed in the sky like a slimy purple Rhode Island of mouths, tentacles, and foulness.   The wizard who had the yellowish-green vial of liquid drank it, started to glow and grew more and more unstable until he ran into the thing's tentacle.  The Thing That Rots From The Sky scooped him up and popped him in its mouth - just as he went nuclear - blowing the purple godlike thing back to its home dimension.

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

Game Hole Con III (part 1 of 2)

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!

Basically, it's like GMing with one hand tied behind your back.  Of course, it's also very exciting and gratifying to deliver a great gaming experience to people you've just met, who trust (or at least hope) that you're going to give them something enjoyable.

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.

For instance, a couple people (including the jokester) recognized the pre-generated character name Xeljanz from the rheumatoid arthritis commercials.  That ad came on TV not too long ago when I was scribbling notes down for the convention PCs and seemed the perfect name for a dark elf or half-demon character.  Well, Xeljanz became a lighting rod for comedy.  So, too, the jeweled, egotistical sword named Zirkik.  Throughout the session, we kept calling him Zurich, Xerox, Zeke, Zircon, etc.

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.

The adventurers did the only logical thing - experiment with the colored crystals until a portal opened.  They did, it did, and they escaped... to another universe that was far more Lovecraftian than even the one tenanted by the purple islands.  They had heard about a dream vision or prophecy of a man in black who would destroy the world.  The PCs thought they had met him earlier but were unsure, now there was this other dude cloaked in black and surrounded by glistening flesh full of eyes, tentacles, mouths, and leering mutant faces.

I knew I couldn't top that, so ended it right there.  Fade to black...

Liberation and Outer Presence went more as expected... but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow or the next day.

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

Alpha Blue maps

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

Reviews for How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss

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.

Thanks, guys!


p.s.  I'll be at Game Hole Con III this weekend.  Say "Hi" if you see me.