Thursday, September 20, 2018

Alpha Blue Boycott


Thanks to a tip from the RPGpundit, I have screen-shots of David Black (of The Black Hack fame) trying to whip up some kind of anti-friend mob against me.

I wouldn't classify it as harassment, cyber bullying, or actual hate, but he's only getting started.  We've interacted before, and now it looks like David Black is trying to escalate things.

Those who know me, know that I'm not homophobic.  Alpha Blue isn't homophobic, either.  It may be from a straight male's point of view, but Alpha Blue can be used for any kind of sexual gratification between consenting adults.

While I was upset with Kiel Chenier for not wanting to review Alpha Blue because it wasn't gay enough, did I go on a boycott or unpersoning rampage, accusing him of heterophobia?  Nope.  He's free to do what he wants, review what he wants.

Zak S. just wrote a new blog post about sexual expression in RPGs, hoping for some kind of consensus via exhaustive argument.  And he assumed anyone coming down on sexual content would be from the right-wing.  Have you met the far-left, Zak?  Policing what everybody says, thinks, believes, votes, friends, likes, dislikes, and how they live their lives is job numero uno for the Ctrl-Left.

Me?  All I wanted to do was join some Facebook Roll20 groups so I could find players who wanted to try something other than D&D.

I'm just a middle of the road guy with a singular agenda - fun!  That's all I want, to have as much fun roleplaying with friends and strangers as possible.  I don't care if they're straight, gay, bisexual, male, woman, non-binary, black, yellow, green, blue, or white.  I don't care if they're communists, Muslims, Christians, Satanists, Jews, Libertarians, white nationalists, far-left, Alt-Right, farmers, programmers, doctors, or pornographers.

As long as they're not a disruptive asshole at the table, I'll put politics and everything else aside so we can game and see what happens.

But my allowing others to have differing points of view is part of the problem, part of my problem, and why I should be shunned by a certain segment of the hobby.  By not being an intolerant asshole, I'm considered "toxic" or whatever by a select few.

It's tragic that conformity is idealized, whereas individuality and freedom are looked down upon.

There's rumor of an Alpha Blue boycott happening, so let me say one thing regarding that - trying to influence the masses away from dangerous or forbidden content goes both ways... just like many of the characters in Alpha Blue.

VS

p.s. I somehow forgot to mention that David Black is either lying or totally misunderstood / took out of context any comment I made about an all-female development team.  Also, I have no idea what "tried to Kickstart DnDgate" means. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Why We Roll


I've been GMing quite a bit lately.  So, I've been thinking about rolling dice... why we do it, what kind of effect or meaning dice rolling has for us.

There's probably a variety of types/reasons, but for this post, I'm going to break it down into two separate camps: 1) want specifics and 2) want vague idea of how things should go.

The first is pretty easy to define.  We roll because we're looking for details.  How many magic missiles is the mage firing?  How much damage?  Where precisely is the randomly-shot fireball going?

Sometimes, we want answers and the dice are a way of getting those answers without too much bias (even if results are controlled or weighted, they're still random).

After all, it's freeing to let the dice decide for us, to let the rules interpret what those dice results mean, and remain unburdened so we can better describe what happens.

The second is probably used less often, but I think it's just as powerful as the first (more traditional) reason for rolling dice.  That dice rolling philosophy is found more often in my own VSd6 engine RPGs like Alpha Blue, Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Blood Dark Thirst (see right-hand sidebar for links).  Maybe it's also more of a story-game approach?  I can't be sure since I haven't played those types of RPGs.

If we're already roleplaying a scene, but a player wants to intimidate or get information across subtly or tries to use sexual innuendo to get into a woman's space pants, then I'm not rolling for a specific number.  A "3" or "14" isn't going to reveal exactly what happens.  I'll have to interpret what the dice are trying to tell me and weave that good, bad, or ugly knowledge into the scene. 

There's a couple things I like about this second type.  A) as Game Master, I get to decide (usually with the dice's help) exactly what happens as the scene unfolds.  B) I only have to roll once and that influences the entire interaction.  Until something drastically changes, that "vague idea of how things should go" is the only roll I need to make, and I'm able to focus on how the interaction unfolds.

I can recall several games where I and other GMs employed the first type.  It seemed like every tiny shift in the scene, we were rolling for answers - for specifics, only to roll again a minute later when a bit of new information revealed itself.  Generally, these were non-detail oriented actions/events, and it was only later that I realized the roll-reason wasn't congruent with the roll-type.

For instance, if some alien entity was trying to dominate a PC to do a specific task and I rolled somewhere in the middle, then maybe the PC is able to fend it off... but what about the next round or a couple minutes later?  If I'm rolling for details, maybe I come up with one for that moment, and then roll again in a little bit? 

To me, that doesn't seem satisfying.  What I prefer is rolling once to get an idea of how this domination is going to go down, and then use that information to color the scene.  Instead of multiple rolls in the near future, I can focus my GMing on possible results once the PC takes action against the entity or how nearby NPCs are going to react.

I'm not trying to say one type of rolling is better than another.  I definitely use both in my games.  But I will say that if you hardly ever use the second type, then give it a try and see how you like it.  Sometimes, a vague idea of how things should go is all the result you need.

VS

p.s.  That Doctor Who meme doesn't have much to do with this blog post, but I found it amusing and wanted to break up the text... so, yeah.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"All About That Sauce" - Alpha Blue play report


Today was my third attempt at getting a one-shot Alpha Blue game going on Roll20.  Must have rolled a 3 because my success was minimal.  A single player...

However, that was actually good news!  Because the scenario I wanted to playtest begins as a solo-adventure.

Below is the transcription from our session (I skipped a few bits).  Not too worried about spoilers because I tailored the game to Tim's character - Bob Forsythe, a pizza delivery boy - and it's a bit different than what will appear in the finished product.

Hope you enjoy it!  Didn't expect this NPC cameo, but crazy, unexpected shit happens during actual play.  ;)

VS:  Just as you're leaving planetary orbit, you remember your wife nagging you about taking out that space cardboard.  Delivering pizzas can wait, you suppose.  You make a u-turn back to your house only to find a rocket-cycle parked in your spot.

Tim:  I have a sneaking suspicion it's not an early birthday present.  I wanna see what's up and head around back, leaving my car parked in front of the rocket-cycle, blocking it from leaving.

VS:  Ok, you head to the back of the house, look into the bedroom window and see a blue alien porking your wife.

Tim:  What the Hell?  Time to burst in and tell her what's on my mind.  "Damn it, Tessa!  You said that was the last time."

VS:  "Sorry, Bob.  Ben-wa was going door to door selling space vacuum cleaners and our sex life isn't what it used to be.  I'm bored and need sparkling things in my life... like diamonds and shiny blue wieners."

You can see that Ben-wa is space French and doesn't stop fucking your wife while she tries to explain.

Tim:  "I don't mind spicing things up, but the point is 'I' really have to be involved."

"Seriously, dude... could you stop for 5 minutes?"

VS:  "You know she's not actually your wife, right?" Ben-wa says.  Tessa elbows him in the ribs and whispers that he wasn't supposed to say anything about that.

Tim:  "Wait... diamonds?"

"Wait, what?!?"  Bob waves the hand with his wedding band on it, as proof that they really are married.

VS:  "I suppose the jig is up, Bob.  I was assigned to spy on you by the Federation.  I'm a Federation agent within the pizza sauce task force.  My real name is Spectra.  Our marriage is a sham - just part of the job.  But now that you know all this... I'll have to terminate you.  Sorry, honey."

She looks for her laser pistol on the nightstand, but it must have gotten misplaced when Ben-wa brought out his dozen bottles of lube.

Tim:  Damn Feds.  They never did really get over the Calzone wars, even though they were on the winning side. 

Well, that pistol should be nearby.  I'm going to dive for the floor to where it probably fell. [rolls poorly, highest is a "3"]

VS:  Ok, you dive.  You grab hold of it, but Ben-wa already finished with your "wife" and has his blaster trained on you.  You notice his blue load dripping out of Tessa... oops, I mean Spectra.

Tim:  Maybe I can distract him for a moment...

"Well, Ben-wa, I have to say that what you lack in technique, you make up for in speed.  Perhaps after another 10 goes she would be done as well."

If he flinches or seems distrated by the comment, I'll blast him.  [rolls poorly again]

VS:  He seems momentarily distracted, so you fired.  Ben-wa was ready for your clever ruse and dodged out of the way.  Now, he fires!

Your shoulder is grazed by his blaster fire as you tuck and roll back onto your feet. 

Tim:  Well, discretion is the better part of valor.  I'll lay down a couple of shots to keep their heads down and beat a hasty retreat through the house to the garage.

VS:  You see her purse sitting on the mudroom counter on the way to the garage.

Tim:  Well, that's just asking to go with me... and so it does.  Maybe this whole secret agent thing is just some elaborate roleplay.  But that laser burn on my shoulder sure doesn't feel fake.

VS:  You grab the purse and go through it as you sit in your flying car.

Tim:  Ok, pull forward to knock the bike over.  I'll make me feel better.  Then back out and get into space.  When I can put it on cruise control, I'll rummage through her purse.

VS:  You see your wife's communicator, her access crystal with 2,300 credits digitally loaded onto it, and a Federation badge.

Tim:  With a heavy heart check the credentials for the badge to confirm the truth I so desperately want to deny.

VS:  Yep, it looks like Spectra was a Federation agent in charge of spying on pizza personnel the whole time she was fake married to you.

Tim:  So, racking my brain... what would the Feds want with me as a connection to the pizza sauce task force?  I'm just a delivery guy, so this has to be bigger than me.

VS:  Just then Spectra's communicator receives a call from someone in the Zero Rez space station, not too far from you.

Tim:  Well, the day can't get any worse.  I'll answer the call.

VS:  "Spectra, are you there?  This is Majess Du Kunth at Zero Rez.  Are you receiving me?"

Tim:  Damn, it can get worse.  What do I know about Zero Rez / Majess Du Kunth?

VS:  Only that it's full of offices, fairly nondescript.  Once while your "wife" was sleeping, she mentioned the name Majess Du Kunth.  You assumed it was an old boyfriend by the way she was moaning.

"I'm having trouble getting your signal.  Are you there, Spectra?"

Tim:  "Sorry, Spectra can't come to the comm right now, she's occupied with being the worse agent you've ever had!"

VS:  "I don't know, I've had a lot of agents over the years.  She can't have been any worse than Gerald... used his teeth far too much."

Tim:  Hmm, it would probably be suicide to go charging straight in.  Anyone I can call on for help?

VS:  You know of one man who might be able to help you.  He eats pizza at the place you deliver for about 6 out of 7 standard days.

Tim:  (Lie)  "This is Tonks Redridge of the Space Rangers.  I was running a deep undercover mission which YOUR agent completely bungled." 

(Drive to pizza place)

VS:  "I can't keep this secret any more... the sauce... it's people!  We've triple-checked the ingredients... the sauce is made out of people, space ranger Redridge.  It's PEEEOOOOPPLLLEEEE!!!"

You arrive at the pizza place.  Your buddy Venger Satanis is there eating his usual 1d4+1 slices of pepperoni pizza and drinking purple prizm.

Tim:  "What you mean like humans, or those 5 legged Alpha Zaronians?  Never thought of them much like people... more like intelligent potatoes. 

VS:  "Human being people!"

Tim:  "Venger... hey.  How good would you say the pie is at this place?"

VS:  "It's my favorite place to eat pizza, hoss!"

Tim:  I sure don't like the idea of serving folks, but I like the idea of getting shot at even less. 

"Someone wants to shut it down.  Shut it all down, man!"

VS:  Venger yells, "Nooo!"

Tim:  I know who's behind it.  The only question is how far would you go to save this sauce?"

VS:  "As far as it takes, hoss."

Tim:  "See this laser burn?  The Feds, man.  They're spouting lies and want to shut it down.  Shut all the pizza places down.  I've got to stop them.  The fate of the galaxy's junk food rests on my, and partly your, shoulders.  Are you with me?"

VS:  "You had me at 'pie', hoss."

Tim:  "We've got to break into Zero Rez and get to Majess Du Kunth's office.  I think our only chance is to destroy all their files.  Feds can't do anything without paperwork."

VS:  "Hop in."  Venger fires up the thrusters on his 18 space wheeler and punches in the coordinates for Zero Rez.  "Ain't no motherfucker going to shut my pizza down."

Tim:  On the way, I want to look up the offices of Majess at Zero Rez.  I expect it to have a cover (Fed investigation office would be a bit obvious, but the gov has done worse.)

VS:  Venger jumps out for a sec in order to get a refill on his purple prizm - then back in and off the two of you go.

You see a block of offices listed as "Sausage Specialists" over at Zero Rez.

Tim:  "So, I've got this badge.  It'll probably get us past a first glance but after that, man, it is really just up to our luck... and this here blaster."

VS:  "Yeehaw!"  Venger attempts to force-dock with the space station...

[I roll poorly, as well]

Large areas of both his truck and the space station's docking area are damaged, but you're safely in.  The office directory says that Sausage Specialists are just down the corridor.  You see a couple of low-level Feds guarding Majess' office. 

Tim:  Bob is going to grab something nearby (a box maybe) and do his best delivery man impression (he's trained for this) to get close to the door.

"Hi, guys.  HDS Delivering a package for Mr... eh, I can't make this out.  I'll just take this inside to have the secretary sign for it."

[actually rolls well this time]

VS:  Finally, luck is with you!  Your delivery training has paid off.  Everyone leaves you alone with your package.  Venger pretends to be your security guard side-kick.

You're inside.  You see a man at his desk with a name-plate that reads Majess Du Kunth.  There's a replica t-rex on his desk, alone with a uterus-shaped glass paperweight [FYI, there are absolutely no pictures of such a thing on the internet] and a box containing a half-eaten cherry pie.

Tim:  I saunter up to the desk, "Nice pie you've got there, Mr... Kunth.  Seems to be missing something though... like sauce?"

VS:  Venger takes a bite out of the cherry pie.

"The sauce," Majess says in horror.  "You know?!?"

Tim:  I throw the box at him and then pistol whip him while he catches the box.

[rolls poorly... again]

VS:  You throw the box, he tries to catch it, misses, and then you slap the barrel of your pistol across his face.  It leaves a mark, but he reaches inside his desk drawer and pulls out a double-edged whoopie cushion... vorpal.

Tim:  Shoot, that's what I get for being a nice guy and not trying to kill him.

VS:  Venger asks, "Is this the asshole trying to kill my pizza urge?"

Tim:  "This is the guy!"

VS:  Venger shoots him in the gut.

[I roll decent and wound Majess]  [I roll to randomly decide who Majess is going to attack - it's Bob.  I roll well.]

VS:  He cuts off Bob's right hand.  Now, he'll have to get proficient with his left.  Luckily, you were holding the gun in your left hand. 

[Since the game's almost over, I double Tim's dice pool but he still gets a shitty result]

You distract him just long enough for Venger to get a clean shot...

[I roll a critical success for my NPC]

Tim:  "Ha, you fell for the old cut off my hand while my friend shoots you trick!"

VS:  Venger puts a hole right through Majess' skull.  "Sauce that, hoss!"

Tim:  Well, let's check the computer to see if the information is true, and then delete all of it regardless of the results.  At least it might make for a good story worth a free beer or hand-job in the future.

VS:  You check the computer and see that the pizza sauce is actually made of peop'ple.  Peop'ple is a rare form of tomato shaped like a vagina. 

Meanwhile, Venger gets a hot nurse to make a house call.  The nurse comes in and bandages Bob's hand... to completion.

Tim:  Not the hand-job I was expecting, but a hand-job nonetheless.

_____________

That was the game.  Stay tuned to this blog so you know when Kobayashi Maroon by Zoltar Khan Delgado drops!


Enjoy,

VS

p.s.  That first picture?  It's what can happen when you google "Venger Satanis" - you've been warned!



Saturday, September 8, 2018

Not Safe For Space


Warning: What you are about to read contains raw, unfiltered awesomeness which some may find inappropriate or objectionable.

While I'm intrigued by next year's release of Your Best Game Ever, it was a pleasant surprise to live out one of my best games ever last night.

Alpha Blue with 5 players, no noobs, everyone was on board with the type of game Alpha Blue can degenerate into.  I mean, this session was fucking NSFS! 

Tying an NPC up during an orgy, finishing all over her face and then leaving her there until later when the PC was ready for seconds. Upon returning, he noticed a line forming in front of the girl.  However, the right to cut in line because his stuff ran down and dried on her face first was invoked.  Sorry, ma'am.  It's Federation law.

It was silly madness and gonzo ridiculous sleazy sci-fi cliche - every time I play that game it seems like we're living a familiar genre while simultaneously creating a new one. 

Yeah, I'm biased, but it was a great time.  Every scene there was something hilariously stupid going on, occasionally the entire session broke down because we were laughing so hard.

I can't give out major spoilers because this was a playtest session, as well as, a tribute to Jacqueline Pearce who played Servalan on Blake's 7.  There's a lot of B7 DNA in Alpha Blue, so it felt right to remember her with last night's one-shot.

Also, I hadn't gotten to use Battle Star: Trek Wars or No One Warps For Free before last night.  So, using those was a trip.  Even though it had only been months since writing them, it seemed as though someone else had written them... yet I still knew where certain tables were squirreled away.

We used the tattoo tables, the orgasm table, the exotic weapon table, and the upcoming table that determines what the NPCs are doing when you barge in on them (that's where the orgy came from).  Plus, a variety of old and familiar tables, such as narcotics, multiple tables for female NPCs (it makes me smile when I happen to roll the "voluptuous" result), and a saving throw at the end - never try to perform first aid using a familiar made of poop!

You know it's good when half the players message you the next day saying what fun they had.

The upcoming Alpha Blue adventure(s) aren't mine, but a trusted friend has taken up the reigns.  Zoltar Khan Delgado knows exactly what kind of slutty, low-brow, bad taste belongs in there.  It's going to drop at the end of September.  When it does, I'll announce the release here on Venger's old school gaming blog.

VS

p.s. Lately, there's been a puritanical vibe rippling through the RPG community, a strict political correctness and cultural over-sensitivity that almost made me re-write this actual play report because it might offend a couple of people.  Well, fuck that!  Alpha Blue is a game for freedom-loving individuals who live by their own rules... and d6 dice pools.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Where There's Life, There's Threat


Just one of the many phenomenal quotes from Supreme Commander Servalan.

Jacqueline Pearce played the formidable and relentless Blake's 7 antagonist and leader of the corrupt (dare I say fascist?) Terran Federation during it's 4-year run.

Servalan was an awesome character and Jacqueline Pearce brought her to merciless life!  She died yesterday at the age of 74.  That's all the encouragement I needed to run a special tribute session of Alpha Blue on Friday (had a scheduling conflict during Thursday's game).  Here's the listing on Roll20.

This will be a short 60-90 minute game, text only (cause I'll be at work), and 18+ due to extreme naughtiness.  Noobs are encouraged to join in and play.

Have a favorite outfit, quote, or episode of Blake's 7?  Please, comment below...

VS

p.s.  If there's unprecedented outcry of gamers wanting to join in, then I'll create a second session a bit later in the afternoon for those who wanting to play but weren't lucky enough to get in the first session right away.

p.p.s. Yes, Servalan will be wearing that red dress.  Meow!


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Blood in Translation


Nearly a dozen creators reached out to me about publishing their own Blood Dark Thirst material since announcing the open license last week.  Which is awesome...

But now The Hills is pre-selling their Spanish translation of Blood Dark Thirst right over here!

I've seen their PDF and it's top-notch, just like the original.  And what is Blood Dark Thirst, you ask?  The PCs are vampires... though, more demon than undead.  The system is quasi-neo-OSR and rules-light using the VSd6 engine, just like Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, and The Outer Presence.

So, if you haven't already downloaded the PDF or purchased the full-color softcover on Amazon.com, get on that.  Don't miss out on the other vampire RPG that's taking the night by storm!

VS

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Save vs Death


While listening to RPGpundit review one of my recent collections in his video (below), I felt compelled to set the record straight on something...




Pure luck is a dyed-in-the-wool old school concept.  You roll the dice and have x% chance of good, bad, or ugly.  Like anything else, relying solely on luck can be overused. 




Do you know why something like Save vs Death is old school?  Because the idea of initiation is ancient. 

Not everyone will make it.  Some things aren't about preparedness, skill, inborn talent, or - they come down to the luck of the draw... in other words, divine favor.  If characters roll well, that means the Gods have given their blessing and certain individuals may continue to prosper.  If a particular roll goes poorly, characters die. 

The world is cruel, Gods capricious, and fate makes its own choices.  That's just the way it goes!

VS

p.s. For comparison's sake, here's Endzeitgeist's review of Player's Handbook like a Fucking Boss and his review of Play Your Character like a Fucking Boss.

p.p.s. For the sake of completeness, here is RPGpundit's review of How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What's Dark, Thirsty, and Red All Over?


What's it like being a vampire in your campaign setting?

RPGpundit's review of Blood Dark Thirst (and resulting commentary on g+) has inspired me to announce something I should have done months ago...

I'm officially opening up my neo-quasi O5Rish rules-light vampire RPG to those interested in licensing that shit for FREE!!!

Yes, you can write, publish, and reap all the rewards for your very own Blood Dark Thirst supplement, sourcebook, or scenario from now until January 1st of 2020.  You can even bounce ideas off me and I'll take a look at what you're making and probably give you suggestions.  I've got lots of opinions!  ;)

That game is literally dying for content and I'm committed to a big project in 2019 and won't be able to publish more than a short adventure until next summer.  Too bad, since it's a great little game with lots of potential.

However, I have a feeling that ambitious gamers will gladly pick up the slack.

Any questions?  Feel free to comment below!

VS

p.s. After this licensing term ends, what you previously published in 2018 and 2019 won't be affected by new licensing terms in 2020.

p.p.s. My friend Egg Embry reminded me of something... it would be nice if mention was made that Blood Dark Thirst was created by Venger As'Nas Satanis and is published by Kort'thalis Publishing.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

James Gunn Gone For Good


I think it's safe to say that James Gunn will NOT be re-hired by Disney.

As I predicted in Inappropriate Characters episode #4, where there's smoke, there's usually fire.  You can't be that obsessed with talking (even if it's joking - sometimes, especially if you're joking) about a subject and not have that thing be a part of your life... even if it's a very small part.

And with a subject as abhorrent, taboo, and just plain morally fucking wrong as pedophilia, even dipping your toe in the water is the end of the road for your Disney career.

I'm not going to post the leaked photos of James Gunn attending a pedo-themed costume party because... gross!  However, I will link to the page where they appear.

A year ago, I never thought I'd be saying something about the far-left, rampant SJWs, or the liberal media, but Jesus Christ, what the Hell is going on?  Everything from silence on Jeremy Hambly's assault by some "punch Nazis" asshole to the James Gunn pedo-apologists who seemed a hair away from getting him re-hired.

Yes, I love diversity and inclusivity, too, but stop acting like a hive-mind propaganda machine whose chief objective is identity politics and having fun / playing games is only a secondary consideration... at best.

Thoroughly disenchanted,

VS

p.s.  If you want some tangentially-related Guardians of the Galaxy RPG stuff, here's a FREE adventure for Alpha Blue.  It's sleazy without having anything James Gunn might get off on.


Inappropriate Characters - episode #5




Are social justice warriors slowly but surely ruining the hobby?

Whole lot of good stuff in this episode of our RPG talk show Inappropriate Characters.  Join the RPGpundit, Grim Jim Desboroughs, and I as we hash out the RPG related topics of the day! 

Let us know what you think about our show, and if you're enjoying these episodes, consider checking out our Patreon - I definitely need a decent microphone!

Enjoy,

VS

p.s.  4d6 drop the lowest and place the scores wherever you want is for children.  ;)


Thursday, August 9, 2018

More Cha'alt on Roll20


I've since GMed two more sessions of 5e D&D on Roll20. 

This is my Cha'alt campaign which is slowly and organically (which is how I like it) taking shape. 

The first session was mostly about exploring the caves and tunnels beneath the desert wasteland.  The second started right at the entrance (one of the many entrances) to the Black Pyramid of Cha'alt.

I had a lot of peripheral information, such as brainstorm notes and odd bits/pieces on my phone.  Sadly, my phone was viciously dropped onto the wood floor by our 21 month old.  I lost all my contacts and text conversations where those notes were stored.  Luckily, I had transferred most of the good stuff into a word doc before the phone's destruction.

When online, a big group is like 5 or 6 players.  For me, a big group face-to-face is double that.  There's a lot of herding cats going on.  These sessions only being about 90 minutes long, I had to prompt them and move things along at regular intervals.  Not a problem if you know what's required and don't mind putting some stick about...

"Oh, you want to hang out by the pyramid's entrance (and waste 10 precious minutes looking for stalagmites that could be used as a door-jam or teaching the party's wizard how to make a trap with no supplies)?  Well, those hungry cannibals are closing in on you."

The second playtest featured factions.  Well... it was going to feature them.  The PCs kind of just started attacking the first big group they came across.  It ended in 3 NPCs being knocked unconscious and half the PCs getting fairly hurt, but no one died.  Disappointing, considering I spent a couple hours preparing for lots of interaction, but sometimes that's how D&D goes.

Maybe the next group will want to talk to everybody, you never can tell.  It's always different, which is part of the fun. 

I'll keep doing these weekly sessions as long as possible.  The next 4 hour face-to-face game will be a week from tomorrow.  Looking forward to it!

VS


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Justice for Jeremy!


You've probably seen text and/or videos I've posted about the man who was assaulted at GenCon this year, Jeremy Hambly aka The Quartering.

I've never met him.  In fact, I just started watching his YouTube channel when Jessica Price hit the fan about a month ago.  But he seems like a cool guy, maybe kind of an outspoken instigator at times and bit edgy, but a good dude, nonetheless.  He actually lives relatively nearby, too.  Maybe one day we'll grab a beer?

Here is the Go Fund Me that one of his supporters set up for him in order to cover legal fees and other expenses incurred because of the unwarranted "punch Nazis" SJW attack on his person when he was at a bar with friends after hours just a block or two away from the convention center.

There have been calls for political-motivated violence from the far-left since the attack, so my repeated mentioning of the situation was warranted. 

We really need to calm the fuck down, people, and realize that criticizing others, saying mean things, and having opposing view points does not make you Hitler, Satan (although in my case... perhaps), a member of the Nazi party, Trump, or the Boogie-Man.

Stay safe out there,

VS

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

GenCon Dumpster Fire



When a man can assault someone at GenCon and then go about his business like nothing happened... as a gaming culture, I think we have to draw a line. 

The historically disenfranchised shouldn't have more rights than anyone else living in America.  If the roles had been reversed, you can safely bet all your money that GenCon would have responded swiftly and with zero tolerance.  As it was, Matt Loter was allowed to roam the convention halls like nothing ever happened. 

As I've said before, I'm not part of either the Alt-Right or Ctrl-Left.  I think Trump is a terrible President.  I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and plan on voting for Joe Biden in 2020.  I'm a political moderate and centrist who doesn't want either extreme strangling this great country.

First, some male feminist "nazi punching" antifa SJW gets away with assault and battery.  Then you have right-wing escalation.  Finally, domestic terrorist threats start happening more and more frequently until the United States looks like fucking Baghdad. 

Let's see the same accountability as if a female cosplayer was cat-called or transgendered person was told they couldn't use the restroom of their choice.  A GenCon attendee got sucker-punched just a few blocks from the convention center by a GenCon exhibitor! 

This is fucking news... and I really don't think ENworld or RPG.net care enough to cover or even discuss the matter.  So disappointing...

VS

p.s. You have my support, Jeremy.  Stay strong, hoss.  Get Woke - Go Broke!


Monday, August 6, 2018

Glynn Seal Wins ENnie Gold


Just wanted to publicly congratulate my friend and layout / graphic design partner who's been helping make Kort'thalis Publishing stuff awesome for about the last 3 years. 

Want to see a little bit of what Glynn's been up to?  Most of this shit is his fault!

If anyone needs help with their gaming project, definitely seek Glynn Seal out.  Here's his MonkeyBlood Design website.

So thrilled with your victory and looking forward to what we create together in the future, hoss!

VS

The Other N-Word


I'll be brief.

Throwing the word "Nazi" around has become rather fashionable these days.  And that's bad for a variety of reasons...

1)  It's inaccurate.  The Alt-Right, if that's what we're calling that huge swath of people from present-day conservatives to Trump supporters to counter-cultural independent thinkers to anti-left/SJWs to white nationalists, are not equivalent to the German war machine in World War II.  When you describe someone with alternative views a Nazi - same goes for calling people fascists - you devalue what real Nazis did in the 1940's.  Pretty soon, actual Nazis may start to look like the good guys because of our twisting and turning linguistics.  We don't want that.

2)  It's dehumanizing.  Calling someone a Nazi immediately paints them as the enemy, the other, non-human, unworthy as the same rights as the rest of us.  Before you call someone a "Nazi," think about how that would sound coming out of your mouth if you called that person a "n@gger."  Because, to me, they're both not ok to casually throw around.

3)  Eventually, we're going to have to come together, find some sort of middle ground, and make peace.  The polarization and politicization of everything and everyone in this country - maybe this world - is frightening to behold.  We should all take a step back and look at ourselves, look at what kind of country - or world - we want to live in

That's all I'm going to say for now. 

VS


Sunday, August 5, 2018

WTF GenCon?!?


First, Anita Sarkeesian is invited to GenCon as a guest of honor.  This upset a lot of people because, as I've researched, she's not at all a gamer or game fan, but a professional feminist... and not even a very good one, from what I've heard.

Second, GenCon mismanages the way people get their tickets in order to participate in the games they signed up for.  I know it's super crowded, but no one on God's slimy green earth should have to wait three hours in a line to do anything.  Someone needs to be fired and hopefully GenCon runs more smoothly next year (there's a slight chance I might be able to attend).

Third, this youtube vlogger Jeremy Hambly from The Quartering gets assaulted by some SJW dude believing he was a Nazi and that alone seemed to give him the right to do so.  Jeremy is a fan of Magic the Gathering.  I've played MtG, and it's a lame reflection of actual roleplaying games, but hey, he's still a gamer and a human being.

Fourth, GenCon seems determined to hush up the attack by banning/blocking people on twitch who bring it up or talk about it on their channel.  And some jackass from The Nerdist (and many others, I presume) is happy the assault happened on social media.

What in the actual fuck is going on?

I remember the whole "punch a Nazi" thing after the Charleston protest over Confederate statues, memorials, and such.  The aftermath was increasingly polarized sides and anyone Alt-Right being deemed a Nazi, racist, fascist, etc.  And claiming someone was a Nazi became provocation to behave violently towards others of an opposing viewpoint.

Disagreement over politics should never devolve into physical harm to people.  So, I hope that Jeremy Hambly is alright, that GenCon addresses the incident instead of cowering from it like Matt Loter (who ran off with a bunch of Kickstarter money, I'm told).  And I sincerely hope this shit doesn't happen again anytime soon.

The Ctrl-Left doesn't get to feel self-righteous about fighting their ideological enemies in the streets.  That's some bullshit.  What's next... terrorist bombings?  That whole "punch a Nazi" meme, Antifa, and extreme politicization of the RPG hobby/industry has to stop now!

VS

p.s. Despite this unfortunate business, Liberation of the Demon Slayer is still FREE for the next couple weeks!  If your adult filter is on, turn it off!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Almost Like Being There


Sadly, I'm missing yet another non-Milwaukee GenCon, just like I've missed all the previous ones. 

However, I just found out that some guys were playing through Liberation of the Demon Slayer using AS&SH.  And that's awesome because now I get to feel like I'm part of the magic!

Details: the guy drinking diet Mountain Dew fell in a blue slime pit and died.  The dude drinking Irish whiskey lived to tell the tale.  Haha.  Good times!

To celebrate such awesomeness, LotDS shall be ZERO dollars until after H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (August 20th, if you didn't know).

Looking forward to hearing more fun gaming news - especially if it relates to me or anything Kort'thalis Publishing has put out!

VS


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Building a Better Dungeon


Since my last post, I've run the Cha'alt campaign twice, once on Roll20 and once in my face-to-face home game. 

The sessions have been fun, and it's been a learning experience (playtests always are, which is why we should do them whenever possible).  However, there have been times when I feel my creation is less than inspired.  That's not surprising since this is all a rough draft of sorts.  It's got all the quality and refinement of a Roger Corman picture.

As neat as that is, I've done the B-movie version of dungeons (and many other things) to death.  I've come to realize that there's a lot of stuff I don't know or haven't thought of when it comes to a fully realized dungeon.

Since I want this one to be the best it can be, I'm pulling out all the stops!

I'm not too awesome nor fucking boss to admit when I need help.  So, upon Endzeitgeist's recommendation right over here, I'm reading up on the subject.  Sure, I'm probably more or less aware of 85% of the material covered, but sometimes you've got to dig deep in order to reach that last 15%. 

And that's what I'm after!  So, while I digest that book, if anyone has a suggestion to make, I'm in the mood to buy and read PDFs on dungeon design.  Please feel free to comment with your own recommendation. 

VS


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cha'alt on Roll20: session 2


So, here's the listing if you want to play in session 2.

What happened in session 1?  Some exploration of a cave-system near the crimson rock of sacrifice, and the PCs were attacked by raiders and taken as slaves.

Dragged to the capstone of a shiny black pyramid, the PCs are forced to explore and loot the pyramid for their new masters.  The pyramid hasn't been seen in the wasteland for over a hundred years.  Does its reappearance bode well for the dome-city exiles and wasteland wanderers?  Hell no!

This is Cha'alt, campaign of sun-bleached death under magenta sky!!!

Elsewhere, I posted a little something about character classes.  Below, I'm providing information on available races... (BTW, this is a work-in-progress and subject to change.  A lot stuff I'm just throwing against the wall because I need to have something to show people.  Eventually, all will be integrated smoothly... but we're a long way off.)

Human The majority of city populations include humans.  Humans are ambitious, deceptive, and always seeking power.  Additional Hit-Points: 1d4

1st level... once per day, humans gain advantage on any roll they choose.

3rd level... once per day, humans can fight until they die - even if they'd normally be unconscious.

7th level... once per day, humans can take a secondary class that raises in level at the same time and rate as their original class.


Cockroach Men:  Also known as roach-men, these are smaller humanoid insects with impervious shells.  Unfortunately, they are frequently hunted for the natural shields growing out of their back. Additional Hit-Points: 2d4

1st level... roach-men are able to curl up into a defensive ball (roach-men cannot attack while in a defensive ball), which gives every opponent targeting them disadvantage on their attacks.

3rd level... roach-men get advantage on their saving throws where failure would lead to serious physical harm or death.

7th level... roach-men shells have matured to the point where they have damage resistance of 1d6 per attack.


V'symm:  Demons with dark red skin, an ancient race native to the desert.  They were tribal and sinister even before the apocalypse, splitting off from civilization to worship the Great Demons That Dwell Inside Cha'alt.  Additional Hit-Points: 1d6

1st level... once per day, v'symm are able to beguile one or more humanoids using their devilish charm.

3rd level... once per day, v'symm are able to cast a spell as if they were a sorcerer.  If they're already a sorcerer, this is an additional spell the character is able to cast per day.

7th level... once per day, v'symm gain advantage on a roll after they've shown favor or respect to the Great Demons That Dwell Inside Cha'alt.


Elf:  The majority of elves flocked to the cities after the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years ago.  However, pockets of feral and wild elves have always remained in the wilderness.  Now that everything beyond the dome-cities is wasteland, they survive by banding together in tribal communities.  Elves determine rank by pea-cocking around the tribe in an increasingly outlandish manner.  Additional Hit-Points: 1d6

1st level... once per day, elves can impress others with their garish appearance, brash demeanor, and outrageous behavior.

3rd level... once per day, elves gain advantage against an opponent when initiating ritual combat.

7th level...at this level, elves may call upon their tribe (or tribal ancestors if no other tribesman is around) to give assistance.


Dark Elf:  Exiled from their surface cousins for worshiping slimy tentacled gods instead of the dragons.  For a time, they were hunted by various humanoid races who saw their nonconformity as proof of degeneracy.  While not inherently evil, dark elves are naturally sneaky and have learned to disguise their presence whenever possible.

Their skin color is violet-black.  Additionally, dark elf skin contains more water than any other race because of their subterranean existence... and also not being reptilian or insectoid.  Unfortunately, that means dark elves are sometimes hunted purely for hydration (Mmm... flesh water).

1st level... in near or total darkness, you become invisible to the naked eye.

3rd level... dark elves can creep about with unnatural quiet.

7th level... in dim light, you become invisible to the naked eye.



Lizard-Men:  These humanoid reptiles arose out of the apocalypse, but claim to have always been here... underground.  The apocalypse forced them out of their subterranean home, deep inside Cha'alt.  Now, they live in the desert, generally keeping to themselves, occasionally joining elf, human, and halfling tribes.  Additional Hit-Points: 1d10

1st level... once per day, lizard-men have advantage on traveling the wasteland survival roll.

3rd level... once per day, lizard-men get advantage on hazards encountered while exploring.

7th level... once per day, lizard-men are able to fight in total or near darkness with advantage.


Sand-Grog Brutish and muscular desert constructs created via sorcery, sand-grogs are both savage and intelligent beings of intelligence and culture.  While most often found in the desert, the occasionally live in cities, using their massive strength to do the job of 7 men.  Additional Hit-Points: 2d6

1st level... for as many times per day as their level, sand-grogs can perform a feat of amazing strength (if used in combat, this is the equivalent of double damage).

3rd level... once per day, sand-grogs are able to "melt" into a pillar of sand for as many minutes as their level.

7th level... once per day, sand-grogs can decide to "sand" part of their bodies just before a successful attack lands, effectively negating damage.

_________

Enjoy,

VS

Friday, July 20, 2018

No One Warps For Free - PDF live!!!


Yes, at long fucking last... Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free! is finally available (softcover will take another couple weeks).

I'm excited about this release because ENnie-nominated Glynn Seal and I worked hard on this book and it turned out superb.  The production values are the highest Kort'thalis Publishing has ever attempted.  It really looks amazing!

What's in it?  A whole bunch of stuff.  I know it's only 74 pages, but the thing is dense with random tables, optional rules (like PC careers), and scenarios.  I'm waiting for the first few reviews to filter in, but I'm going out on a space limb right now to say that No One Warps For Free is one impressive sonofabitch!

Thanks to all my Kickstarter backers, supporters, contributors, artists, and everyone who paved the way.

VS

p.s. Incidentally, the RPGpundit just reviewed the previous Alpha Blue supplement Battle Star: Trek Wars right over here.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Cha'alt on Roll20


I'm opening up Cha'alt to the world, at least those who frequent Roll20.

So, if you're interested in a 5e D&D game that's part cyberpunk, part mutant wasteland, part dungeoncrawl, here's the link.

These weekly sessions will only be about an hour long (Thursdays, 11:30 - 12:30pm central standard time) and text only (I'll be sitting at my desk in a fairly public space).  So, we'll dive in ASAP. 

Come with a character concept ahead of time.  check out these character classes!  Races can be any standard fantasy thing you want to come up with... as long as it's not too immersion-breaking, I'm fine with it.  Half centaur, half stalk of celery, and half nuclear bomb?  Umm... no.

If this turns out well, I will most likely blog about it... perhaps even self-publish the campaign as an adventure or setting book down the road.  So, signing up to play means you're cool with that.

VS


Monday, July 16, 2018

MotBM an OSR Dead-End?


Ok, this deserves a blog post all its own...

So, I and many others read this review of Maze of the Blue Medusa right over here.  There's been a lot of feedback, as well as, quite a bit of push-back from the OSR.

Now, if the reviewer was railing against commonly accepted OSR staples, I would wholeheartedly agree with their rebuttal.  However, I got the sense that the reviewer is himself an OSR gamer and was judging MotBM on its own self-proclaimed old school merits... and found it lacking.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see the reviewer advocating for adventure paths.  He simply wants a megadungeon to have some logical cohesion along with something going on that relates to the PCs.  You know, an adventure!  That's not some newfangled modern 4th edition story-game nonsense.  On the contrary, it's the foundational bread and butter of RPG scenarios: there's something going on that draws the PCs in and makes some kind of sense as they involve themselves.

I don't know if this is quite right, not having read MotBM (though this is probably the 13th review I've read over the last year), but from the reviewer's perspective, it seems like a deconstructed megadungeon.  All the parts are there, but it tricks you into thinking it's fully assembled.

Just because an adventure (any adventure) says, "You can do what you want with it - make it your own!" that doesn't mean it's useful, what the customer wants, or is worth paying for.  Now, I think MotBM is worth buying and I intend on purchasing the 2nd edition yonder.  But my acquisition is not why the ordinary gamer wants it.  

I'm looking for inspiration, what worked, what didn't work, why it captured the 2017 imagination as hard as it did.  Why?  So I can surpass it, of course.  Hoping to publish my own megadungeon in 2019!

Anyways, when it comes down to it a gaming product should be gameable - especially when it's expensive, talked up to the nth degree, and was a work-in-progress by two accomplished gaming authors for 4 friggin' years (trying to verify that, but not finding a source - will keep trying)!

If the reviewer, and he's not alone - I've seen lots of feedback over the last 12 months - thinks it stops short of providing satisfactory gameable content, that's a flaw.  Thankfully, I don't believe MotBM's flaw is shared by the OSR.  If anything, MotBM strayed too far away from old school principles - and that's what bit it in the ass.  

But I'd love to read your thoughts, will gladly engage in discussion and hope to have my beliefs either verified or reduced to ash after I've read the damn thing (probably end of August).

VS

p.s.  Ever since I realized my interview with Patrick Stuart pictured not Patrick Stuart, I've felt a little bit bad about it (but not so bad that I actually did anything).  So, here he is pictured!  Also, here's a link to that post-MotBM interview.  For completion's sake, here's my post-MotBM interview with Zak S.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Cha'alt: Session One


Last night was the official start of my new post-apocalyptic D&D campaign Cha'alt: Sun-Bleached Death Under Magenta Sky.

4 players, specific classes I came up with last week, a few house-rules, handful of scenario notes, and... that's it.  Nothing else.  I didn't have any rulebooks, charts, screens, supplements, or full-fledged adventure.  No music, weird lighting, artwork, or any theatrics, pyrotechnics, special effects, etc.

I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive about going that route, but it felt very refreshing.

The only thing I'm going to say about the session as of now is that three PCs came from the wasteland (wasters) and one came from the dome-city (domer).  After conducting their initial business, they were attacked by raiders and ran for their lives.  While being pursued, they found a place to hide... and explore.

Oh yeah, I can also tell you the party's dragon priest was almost swallowed by a giant sandworm.

I want to keep the rest under wraps because I intend to open the Cha'alt campaign world up to everyone - details coming soon!

However, I also want to share some system / game mechanics that I came up with to make my O5R game feel like D&D without sacrificing the range I've cultivated with VSd6.

Difficulty


Easy:  10
Moderate: 15
Hard: 20
Near Impossible: 25
_____

For simplicity's sake, assume the difficulty is Moderate unless the GM says otherwise.

In addition to a d20 roll, players add their character's level if the attempted action is relevant to his class.  If the GM is using ability scores (personally, I find them too fiddly for online games), relevant ability modifiers give a bonus of +1 for 15 and above; -1 for 7 and below.

For example, Harold's techno-mancer tried to imbue a disused subway car with power and force it to run over his enemies.  He rolled his d20 and got a 14, then added his level (they all started at 1st level) +1, and finally his intelligence (let's say his Int was a 16) modifier of +1 for a total of 16.  That means he was able to get the subway car up and running and moving in the right direction, but couldn't put as much force or direction into it as he wanted.

Result: it struck and wounded one or two of the oncoming attackers (it was dark).

I'm using this for pretty much everything, except standard combat maneuvers.  So... spells, special attacks, perception checks, saving throws, initiative, etc.  However, all rolling comes after the all-important roleplaying.  You can't just roll to check for traps without describing what you're doing first.

VS

p.s. Almost forget to mention, if a player gets 5 or more points above the target, he generally gets a little bonus, like a critical success.  If he gets 5 or more points below the target number, he's bound to get some kind of penalty or further loss, like a critical failure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Shades of Amber


Patrick Stuart's False Machine review of Amber: Diceless Role-Playing brought up a lot of great memories.  I haven't played Amber since High School in the early 90's, and haven't read the core rulebook in over a decade, yet Wujcik's wisdom seems burned into my psyche.

I just re-read his review, and while I can't pinpoint the exact sentence getting to the heart of this blog post, it's in there somewhere.  Allow me to plunge my warlock hands into the primordial soup and see what I can yank out...

As a designer of RPGs myself, my foundation seems to be context.  In any interaction, there are a number of variables, each having their own weight, pushing and pulling the odds of success, failure, or something in-between hither and yon. 

For me personally, needing to hit a target number of 14, rolling a 15, and saying, "Yeah, you hit," or rolling a 13 and saying, "Nope, you miss," just doesn't satisfy me like it did when I started out playing Basic D&D in grade school. 

After years of gaming, I realized how much I preferred subtlety, nuance, interpretation, the dice as oracle and I, Game Master, as the one who speaks for them.  I want the dice to give me a range, a degree of good, bad, and ugly where I'm able to refine the raw material... shades of gray, rather than just rolling to see if the outcome is either black or white.

That's why I came up with VSd6, a system using d6 dice pools.  The result allowing GMs to know which way the wind is blowing so they can narrate the actual outcome... their outcome, rather than something hypothetical and polarized.  In this way, the dice results are like potential energy, awaiting the GM's ultimate determination.

Where Amber expects the GM to do all the factoring in his head, the RPGs of Kort'thalis Publishing (Alpha Blue, Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Blood Dark Thirst) provide tools cutting out much of the guesswork. 

The GM as final arbiter; rules merely a framework for GM and players to immerse themselves in virtual reality - is the very definition of old school.  That's why I believe both Amber: Diceless and my own RPGs are essentially OSR.

VS


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cha'alt: Character Classes


So, a couple weeks ago was session -1, and yesterday we finally got to session zero.  Although, to be completely honest, it's more about having lunch with friends than pre-planning D&D.

Regardless, some campaign discussion happened.  For instance, here are the available character classes in Cha'alt: Sun-bleached death!

Basically, it's Shadowrun within the domed cities and Mad Max / Gamma World / Dark Sun everywhere else.

  • Dragon Priest: Dragons rule the world of Cha'alt and they are perceived as Gods by the inhabitance.  However, there are priests who worship other god-like beings too... such as, worm priests (yes, giant sandworms burrowing in the wasteland).  Focus: non-offensive spells, such as healing, protection, divination, flight, creating water, etc.  HD: 1d6 [max HP at 1st level]
  • Sorcerer: They wield the magic; this was a land of fantasy and technology before the apocalypse.  Focus: offensive spells; destructive sorcery such as fireball, lightning, acid arrow, magic missiles, etc.  HD: 1d4 [max HP at 1st level]
  • Urban Ranger: They live in the domed cities, detectives, investigators, blade-runners, and bounty hunters.  Metropolitan killers in nice slacks.  Focus: tracking, locating weaknesses of their prey, and surviving in city environments.  HD: 1d8 [max HP at 1st level]
  • Brutalizer: If you're going to live in the wastes, you either have to be a hunter or gatherer.  These are the hunters - they tussle with big game out in the radioactive ruins.  Focus: killing!  HD: 1d12 [max HP at 1st level]
  • Scavenger: Thieves of the wasteland, scavengers who search for necessities, tech, magic, and anything that can be used to survive.  They know how to get in and out of the ruins and sewers beneath the domed cities.  Focus: detecting and disarming traps, skulking around silently, getting into hard-to-reach places, hiding in what little shadow there is and striking death-blows.  HD: 1d10 [max HP at 1st level]
  • Techno-mancer: They plug into cyberspace in order to access the network, repository for all the available knowledge.  Focus: creating, repairing, operating, and maintaining machines, electronic equipment, and any kind of high-tech gear.  HD: 1d4 [max HP at 1st level]

For the dragon priest, sorcerer, and techno-mancer, magic (even techno-magic) is rather free form -player describes what he wants his character's spell to do and rolls a d20 (adjusted by modifiers).  The GM describes what happens.

Spells / day = character's level.  For example, a 3rd level character can cast 3 spells per day).  Additional spells may be cast at a cost of 1d4 HP per spell.

Next time I blog about Cha'alt, I'll talk about PC races!

VS


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's The Adventures, Stupid


I've had this blog post on my mind for a while now...  It all started with a discussion on g+ about Labyrinth Lord.

How one of the first big retro-clones has been virtually eclipsed, why, and if it's possible for Labyrinth Lord to reclaim its former glory.

Well, what makes for a successful RPG?  I'm sure there are many factors that could and should be discussed by those interested in the answer.  But today, I'm going to focus on the primary reason: SUPPORT!!!

Support for that RPG keeps it going, makes it feel alive, engages players, and provides material for using that game now and in the future.  The ideal kind of support is adventures, the backbone of roleplaying.  Various supplements can't hurt, but a large number of scenarios is probably the best gauge for success when it comes to new RPGs.

Just look at your DCC, LotFP, and S&W.  They come out with adventures all the damn time.  If Labyrinth Lord wants to compete, it's got to have just as many high-profile scenarios coming out under the Labyrinth Lord name.  That's why it's so hard for the little guys to compete... any one-man shop is going to be hard-pressed to generate one adventure a month or more.  You need a team!

On that LL thread, I made the boastful statement that I could turn LL around if put on the payroll as brand manager, scenario connoisseur, or whatever to the tune of $50K a year.  Yeah, that seems like a lot, but the juice has to be worth the squeeze.

What's funny is that it's all compatible!  There's no earthly reason why you can't swap one system's adventure for another.  But perception matters with these kinds of things.  Brand awareness affects the market.  We're only human, after all.

I've tried to maintain a regular flow of adventures myself with the several RPGs for Kort'thalis Publishing, but in the end I only succeeded with Alpha Blue.  Crimson Dragon Slayer almost kept pace, but I think sci-fi more lenient than the over-saturated genre of fantasy.  Alas, I realized the full extent of this lesson too late.

Having said that, I'm going to make an announcement regarding Kort'thalis Publishing's RPG lines.  But first, I want to finish Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free!  It'll be released before the end of July.

I've already mentioned elsewhere that I'm taking a break from RPG publishing once this last adventure is completed.  There are juicier fruits out there that I have to find.

VS


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Return of the Blue Baron


Since I made a small contribution, just wanted to mention Return of the Blue Baron, volume 2.

It's a collaborative dungeon full of all kinds of crazy stuff!  It was a fun, easy experience and I think the OSR should do more of that kind of thing.

Cooperation makes this hobby possible. I'm always happy to share little tidbits with my fellow creators.  Just ask!

The PDF is free, so definitely check it out.

VS

p.s. Also, be sure to post feedback and reviews.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Describe Stuff


Originally, I had a different introduction for this blog post (see below).  But reading this post on Raging Owlbear, I'm just going to say that providing descriptions is, like, the GM's #1 job.  Take that away and why even bother having a GM.  Just do some wargaming skirmishes with miniatures, instead.

It is fortuitous that I was thinking about Clash of the Titans this past weekend - specifically the character Thallo. Because without those stray thoughts, you wouldn't have this blog post and I wouldn't have found out that Tim Pigott-Smith just died.  He played Captain of the Guard Thallo.

So, I was walking the twins and thinking about descriptions.  Going the extra mile, taking it to the next level, and just how important that is in RPGs.  Of course, keep in mind there's a world of difference between fully describing something the PCs experience in their virtual reality type of environment and the adventure writer's crappy novella about the town the PCs are visiting, all the townsfolk, and 1,000 years of history that nobody gives two shits about - just get on with it!

Anyway, it struck me that Thallo's description of flies when he's talking to Perseus is the perfect example!

Even back then, when I was about 8 and watching Clash of the Titans seemingly every day, I knew that Thallo's words were beyond mere mortal description.  As a wordsmith, he was like the Gods, and probably would have made a fucking boss GM, too.

Let's take a look at what he said...

Accursed, hell-sent swarms of blood-gutted marsh flies.

Any adventure writer or GM can come up with "marsh flies."  That's nothing.  Describing them as "blood-gutted marsh flies" is better, we can both see them clearer and get a better sense of their feeding habits.  It's visceral.  But "accursed, hell-sent swarms of blood-gutted marsh flies"?  Damn, that's awesome!  The players now know where they're from or where they seem to be from, that their evil, possibly demonic, that they come in swarms, probably plaguing that entire marshland area.

Great descriptions do more than convey information - they're symbolic, the programming language that literally makes the game.  Words are the tools we gamers use to create and interact with that virtual world.

Sure, you can go overboard.  After all, Lovecraft did that all the time and no one remembers him or his creations. That was sarcasm, yes.  When it's called for, go off the rails - describe stuff like there's no tomorrow.

So, be like Thallo and Lovecraft - do your job as either an adventure writer, GM, or both!

VS

p.s. Want more advice like this?  You can get Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss and Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss II.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Imagining Cha'alt


This blog post serves as a record for "session -1"... basically talking about the stuff there is to talk about before session zero.

Yes, I'm launching a new D&D campaign next month.  Why D&D?  Well, it's awesome and... you've got to go where the fish are.  Tons of people play D&D.  Comparatively, 5 people play any of the lesser known, old school, retro-clones or OSR off-shoots like Crimson Dragon Slayer (even though d6 dice pools are way cooler than d20).

Three guys talking about D&D, movies, concepts, influences, and the kind of campaign we'd like to see - nay, live in!  It went well; let's dive into the juicy stuff.

I've always had at least an inkling of science-fantasy post-apocalypse in my D&D games.  However, this time I wanted to go all-in.  Mutant Crawl Classics has been ordered from my FLGS (just found out the 1st printing is sold out, but the game store's distributors had a couple extra copies).

In creating the campaign setting/world called Cha'alt, I'm planning on drawing quite a bit of influence from MCC and Dark Sun, but also the following movies...

Mad Max: doesn't get any more post-apocalyptic inspired than that.  I also want to use Cyborg and Water World as inspirations.  A totally ruined civilization where survivors must scavenge to survive in a chaotic, untamed world!

Blade Runner and Split Second: not so easy to find the latter on DVD or blu-ray, but I keep trying.  Anyways, Shadowrun has always been mildly fascinating as a concept.  Fantasy + cyberpunk, so Cha'alt is going to incorporate that, too.

But how?  Well...

Zardoz:  A trippy, 70's favorite of mine.  Just like in Zardoz, there's two lands - one populated by the brutals where it's all savage and low-tech and the second populated by eternals - young and beautiful degenerate intellectuals who want for nothing and have elaborate social rituals.  The eternals use the brutals by way of the vortex (seriously, if you're dying to see Sean Connery's chest hair - just go see Zardoz).

Why not have two main realms?  One was shielded from the apocalypse, more or less, and is the dark near-future cyberpunk world we're familiar with.  Possibly a domed city or one of several, like in Logan's Run.  The other land (pretty much the rest of the world) got the full brunt of the apocalypse and are living in the devastated aftermath.

The PCs are opportunists, mercenaries, thrill-seekers, or one of the dregs of society who agree to travel between the two lands, carrying out various missions and/or independently seeking fame, glory, and treasure (gold, credits, magic, and tech).

How did the apocalypse occur?  Instead of going the usual route of nuclear war, why not dive into the sword & sorcery lore of Thundarr the Barbarian?  Yes, a mysterious comet passed too close to our moon, broke it in half, and shit went crazy!  Ok, it's not really "our" moon.  This is all happening on some fantasy world, which explains the elves, dwarves, magic, etc.

What about Gods?  Dragons.  Dragons?  Yes.  Dragons!!!

I was looking up my kids' Chinese zodiac signs last night and early this morning.  There was something in the description for Year of the Dragon that caught my eye.

In ancient times, people thought that dragons could control everything in the world with their character traits of dominance and ambition.

That sparked something in my imagination!  I started thinking about dragons as gods in Cha'alt.  All-powerful monstrous beings who influenced the people of that world.  Priests would pray to and worship dragons - fire dragons, water dragons, gold dragons, steel dragons, and so on.  As dragons fought amongst themselves, so would great armies - leading to the Dragon Wars.

Yeah, you could just keep going with that idea, from religions and cults to empires and customs - dragons are a huge part of everyday life in Cha'alt.  In fact, I'll most likely take another crack at writing a novel, one based on Cha'alt.

System-wise, I'm leaning towards the Basic Starter version of D&D 5e and adding bits and pieces from there, instead of saying everything in the Player's Handbook is legit and then having to go through it and take bits and pieces out.

It'll be old school.  O5R, to be exact.  And while the 1st session starts up in July, there's going to be an online version of the game people can play, too, via Roll20.  At least, that's the hope.  We'll see.  I still have to complete my latest Alpha Blue kickstarter!

Have an opinion, let me know.

VS