Thursday, February 22, 2018

D&D Adaptation

I was chatting with my friend +Alexander Macris earlier today and we got on the subject of the OSR and why that gargantuan resource seems to be relatively untapped by the greater 5e community.

From an outsider (and 43 year old dude) perspective, stumbling upon all the OSR has to offer would be like shooting at muskrat on your property and accidentally striking oil in your backyard!  Yes, I'm referencing The Beverly Hillbillies.  Old School!!!

But that just doesn't seem to be the case.  The O5R phenomenon I anticipated never really materialized, sadly.

As far as I know, 5e players either aren't aware of the OSR or don't care about it.  Do you guys think it's because D&D players aren't willing or don't know how to adapt similar-but-not-official material to their own games?  Lack of representation in retail outlets?  Aesthetic dissonance?  Something else?

I really want to hear from people - all walks of gamers - so definitely comment with your thoughts, please.



Monday, February 19, 2018

No Gary Con For Me

It hasn't rained for quite a while in Venger land, but now it's pouring!

It is with much regret that I informed Gary Con that I will not be attending.  My family needs me and I have to put them first, no matter how much I was looking forward to going, meeting new people, seeing old friends, and running games.

The anticipation of this year's Gary Con kept me going when things were shitty - on more than one occasion.

This is certainly a dark time of the soul of me personally and professionally, but I shall endure.  Cthulhu willing, I'll work my way free soon enough.

Tentacles crossed,


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Suck on that, IRS!

I'm meeting with our accountant next week and wanted to get my financial ducks in a row beforehand. 

Not counting all the legitimate deductions he's going to hook me up with, Kort'thalis Publishing's profit for 2017 was $7,764.48 (give or take a couple hundred dollars, wasn't exactly sure on a couple write-offs).

Haha!  Jokes on you, IRS.  That's peanuts.  Peanuts!  Looks like I'll be paying 40% of suck my balls come April!!!

Ok, ok, I jest.  7 grand ain't bad after 5 years.  But it's pretty far from the big time and those taxes inevitably take a huge bite.  Oh well, I don't do it for the money - writing, designing, playing, GMing, and self-publishing RPGs is my passion.

The potential downside - if my career that actually pays the bills significantly under-performs, as it's currently trending (won't know for sure until mid-Summer), this RPG self-publishing gig is not sustainable and I'll be forced into (possibly semi) retirement starting July 1st.

Cthulhu willing, my real job/paycheck will sail through these troubled waters unscathed.  Tentacles crossed!

Thanks to everyone who supported me in one way or another last year,

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

p.s.  No matter what happens, I'm going to complete my Battle Star: Trek Wars kickstarter obligations and will try to sneak a few smaller releases in before July.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Obsidian Sphere Gaming Group

I made this... yeah. 

It's something I've been thinking about for awhile.  Now, it exists.  Let me know what you think. 

Obviously, if people want to see more, I'll step up the production values - that means colored pencils, y'all!

Also, probably NSFW.  Obsidian Sphere Gaming Group was created by me, after all. 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lasers are Red; Harlots are Blue

Running Alpha Blue isn't like running any other RPG.

The Bold Dungeon Space Master has to initiate handjobs and move combat along without it getting all tactical and strategic.  He's got to remember which PC likes to be whipped, which one has X-ray vision, and who's the drug addict.

Earlier this afternoon, I ran a one-hour (90 minutes, as usual) demo game of Alpha Blue on Roll20.

Just like last time, I had all the players list 7 words or phrases to describe themselves.  Actually, some of the players were having a difficult time coming up with 7.  Since this was a quick one-shot, I told them 5 would be plenty.

Lube McFly: a charming and well-connected lizard man private eye drug addict.

Holly Hardbody: a beautiful human pilot sharp-shooter and brawler ex-military.

Trigger: a cyborg techie hacker pilot who wears a cloaking device cloak and has an X-ray eye.

Grodor: a gigantic alien who's loyal, quiet, and likes animals.

The crew of Lady Luck has been hanging out at The Blue Oyster on Alpha Blue for the last few evenings.  Tonight is no different.  The spacers walk into a scene right out of Mos Eisley's Cantina.  Life forms everywhere - drinking, talking, flirting, and doing god knows what in the azure shadows!

Lube McFly heads straight for what interests him - a blue-skinned humanoid female.  For anyone taking notes, this makes the BDSM's life easier and the game is usually more fun for that player because he's pursuing his own agenda.

Holly Hardbody just sits at the bar looking around, having a drink.

Trigger gets insulted by a trio of assholes sitting at the bar.

Grodor either stands there doing nothing or sits at the bar waiting for something to happen.  As I've mentioned in Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss, being proactive helps everyone (the GM, the player, and the other players, too).  There's nothing wrong with being a wallflower, but you probably won't get much "screen-time."

Trigger uses his cloak to... cloak himself and tricks the assholes into fighting some big badass alien.  A barroom brawl ensues!

Lube wanders off with the blue girl (we never came up with a name for her, so I'm going to call her Zura) where they smoke a hookah.  The hookah comes in three different varieties: mild, medium, and "fuck you up."  They choose the last one, obviously.

Holly gets hit on by some slimy green bug-eyed alien.  She brushes him off.  She gets hit on by a shiny dark insectoid droid.  She brushes him off, too, content to sit at the bar and finish her drink.  So, she doesn't get much "screen-time," either.

Meanwhile, Lube gets a handjob from Zura as she tells him she's looking for a pilot with a ship.  She's supposed to deliver something to the planet Verrada.  Lube tells her that won't be a problem, promising to introduce her to Holly after she finishes.

Zura asks one of her girlfriends to help out.  The human woman leans in.  Zura asks Lube if he wants to give her a facial, jizz on her tits, in her mouth, or wherever.  Lube asks for her to wear glasses and cane him while chastising him for being a "naughty newt."

Trigger uses his X-ray eye to see beneath the clothing of everyone in the bar.  Seeing an opportunity for roleplaying and getting into the Alpha Blue spirit, I (the BDSM) tell Trigger that he sees a hot, gray-skinned, humanoid female with head tentacles who looks like she's enjoying his penetrating gaze.  The two flirt with each other.  She starts massaging him with her boobs.  He decides they should do it right there on the bar.

Lube attempts to shoot his load 20 meters away at a singer onstage.  I rolled; he failed.  His jizz hits a robed dwarf in the back of the head.  The dwarf notices, but doesn't know who did the deed.  Lube and Zura walk up to Holly and talk to her about going to Verrada to exchange blue crystal for credits.

Trigger finishes inside the gray girl he was screwing for an additional 6 temporary Health.

Zura flirts with Grodor, and Holly flirts back with Zura - but before they can go back to Lady Luck, three Federation troopers enter The Blue Oyster.  They're looking for Zura.  Once they spot her, the troopers start firing.

Everyone dives for cover.  That's a smart move, and normally it would give the attackers disadvantage.  But we were running out of time and this combat was coming late in the day.  I improvised, saying the bar was made of cheap plastic and their laser fire was incinerating everyone's cover.

By the end, all the PCs and Zura took a bit of damage.  The troopers were dealt with.  The PCs headed back to their ship.

The funniest bit was Lube ordering a creamy white drink from the bartender (now that The Blue Oyster was in shambles) and telling him to send it over to the robed dwarf.  "Enjoy another!"

Once aboard, Zura opened up a pouch and spilled its contents on the console - several large crystals.  Zura was going to cut them in for 10% of the take, but Lube negotiated 15%... as long as they provided her with armed support during the exchange.

Ending the session, Lube McFly purred, "Blue girl, I think you're going to lead me into all kinds of naughtiness."

Everyone had fun, as did I.  BDSMs shouldn't expect his players to grok Alpha Blue straight away.  There's a learning curve.  The focus is interaction (as opposed to exploration and combat), so players who prefer that mode of play are rewarded while those preferring the other two might enjoy the game less than they would a RPG geared towards exploring and fighting.

There's a chance we could pick up where we left off... never can tell.


p.s.  BTW, there's 17 hours left to back Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Balance Finds A Way

Yes, this essay purposefully matches that line from Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way."  And there's a reason for that.

The following idea came out of a discussion about racial balance in RPGs like D&D.  My thesis is this: Balancing elements of the game (not to be confused with game balance) is extremely important; however, one shouldn't rely on game mechanics in order to balance things out.

It's as simple as every cloud has a silver lining and every silver lining has a cloud.  Precious little is always best, always the right way, always superior to its competition.  And when that does happen, it becomes the rule, the way things are.  Now, let me stray from the point a bit...

There are rules (later, I'm going to refer to this as the Rule of Life), exceptions to rules, and arguments.  Here's are examples of each.

  • You don't kill people without a good reason, and on a sunny day the sky is blue.  Those are rules.
  • Thieves are not honorable, and it's more advantageous to be a citizen of the Roman Empire than a poverty-stricken villager somewhere in Africa.  By and large, those generally true.  However, there are notable exceptions to these rules.
  • Green is one of the best colors.  You shouldn't kill an enemy when he's unarmed.  Those are arguments waiting to happen.

When it comes to things like balance between fantasy races, even when it's clearly a better choice due to bonuses and whatnot, there are surely non-mechanical downsides to playing an elf.  If elves have certain advantages that aren't offset by disadvantages, there's going to be something in the game world that we can put in the "con" side.

Maybe elves are naturally arrogant?  Arrogance can lead to laziness or overconfidence and it can also make other races dislike you.  Perhaps elf culture has developed a disdain for heavy armor or anything other than "light" weapons?  Maybe, because they're adept with magic, they always radiate magic and can easily be detected by wizards and tracked by certain aberrations?

Now, just because negatives exist that doesn't mean they affect the PCs.  A potential downside might not be apparent, it might not trip them up right away, or it might not be a problem at all for them (water-breathing races can't stay on dry land for more than an hour at a time, but Galiant has a mysterious aquatic ring that erases that drawback).

Life creates its own balance sheet with debits and credits. They don't have to arise from pluses and minuses to Strength or Dexterity.  They don't have to be artificially restricted to a certain level in order to make things fair. I'm not saying everything eventually evens out - one side will usually be greater than the other, but some kind of balance eventually works its way in.

Going back to the Rule of Life, if a choice is clearly and objectively better than other choices, for instance playing a humanoid is superior to playing a squirrel, then it's not a matter of finding an opposing argument for squirrel PCs.  Just play a humanoid and focus on the millions of possible exceptions to rules and arguments in more contested areas!

Actually, playing a squirrel might be cool - which is in itself an upside.  That just goes to show the Rule of Life gets assaulted by arguments all the time and occasionally it breaks with time, pressure, and creativity.

In conclusion, there are always reasons to do something or not do something.  Virtually, everything in existence has good and bad, positive and negative qualities.  Potentially, at least.  That's a universal law worth contemplating.  All you have to do in your game world is figure out where the balancing factors are hiding.

Henceforth, hidden balance factors will be called shadow balance.  Because it sounds cool.


p.s. My Kickstarter Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars has only 3 days left to fund, so please check it out and back these sleazy Alpha Blue scenarios!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

LBGTQ in Alpha Blue

LBGTQ stuff happens all the time in Alpha Blue.  As the creator and frequent Bold Dungeon Space Master of the game, I know what goes on in that universe.  Gay stuff, bi-sexual stuff, transgender and non-binary stuff, even stuff there isn't a name for yet.  I've taken part in lots of homosexual encounters (men, women, and other) within the game.  Doesn't bother me.

Including all that stuff and creating a setting/RPG that demands such things, I can hardly be called a "homophobe."  And yet, here we are in 2018.  I bring up something unpleasant, impolite, potentially offensive, or unfair in a game's galaxy and the outrage brigade thinks all this is happening in real life.

I was recently informed that +Christopher Helton started a Facebook thread on his wall (scroll down to where he talks about Venger's old school gaming blog).

I like to think of myself as a neo-progressive.  I treat people the same.  Until I've actually interacted with them or experienced something they've created, all human beings are blank slates... some are white, black, gray, gay, straight, male, female.  I'm aware of stereotypes, biases, statistics, my own personal history, etc. But at the end of the day, everyone is at a zero-point, unless I know them or know something about them... at which point they go up or down in my "cool book."

That means I rip/bust on people for all sorts of reasons.  If there's a substantive difference in someone, I might call it out.  Just as I might mention a redhead being a redhead.  Doesn't mean I have some underlying hatred or fear of any group of people. 

Bad things sometimes happen in RPGs.  Good guys die, corrupt bureaucracies thrive, some vaginas have thorns... the point is that as a writer/designer/creative, I describe all sorts of things.  I don't condone all the things that happen in the games I make, the adventures I GM, etc. 

Was I really going to have gamers call each other "faggot" in one of the Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars scenarios?  Fuck no!  That part was just to get a rise out of SJWs and the Ctrl-Left that dominate a certain segment of our hobby/industry. 

However, am I still running with Snadq'ua: The Penis Showing Game?  Fuck yes!  The universe of Alpha Blue is a lot like our universe.  It's full of prejudice, virtue, vice, assholes, cool dudes/chicks, diverse cultures, and all sorts of individuals doing their own thing. 

As a spectator, you won't always high-five every aspect of the game.  Nor should you.  The Federation certainly doesn't deserve it, just as the haters in this universe can suck my balls every day of the week (and twice on S'yakwenz).

If it was up to them, I'm sure they'd try to ban Waiting..., Still Waiting..., The Police Academy movies, and pretty much anything awesome to ever come out of the 70's and 80's. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dead God Excavation

I very recently re-watched one of my favorite weird scifi-horror... things.  Quatermass and The Pit (duh duh duh duh duuuuuhhhhhh!)

It was originally broadcast in the late 50's as a six-part miniseries, each episode being around 45 minutes.  So, it plays like a really long movie if you watch it all at once.  Quatermass and The Pit is as close to a televised H.P. Lovecraft story as you'll ever find.  Except, HPL didn't write it.  His Cthulhu Mythos only influenced Quatermass and The Pit.

Long story short, Quatermass and The Pit influenced Dead God Excavation.  What if a medieval sword and sorcery type world discovered an immense tomb long buried underneath them.  Suppose that baleful sepulcher contained the remains of a monstrous, alien, Devil-God...?

You'll have to run or play the adventure to find out what happens.  The PDF is right over here!  It could be a "session zero" introduction for new beginnings, a quick convention game or one-shot, maybe even the apocalyptic end to a short-lived campaign.

It's O5R compatible, easily convertible to Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords & Wizardry, Astonishing Swords & Sorcery of Hyperborea, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Labyrinth Lord, Adventurer Conqueror King, OSRIC, Basic D&D, AD&D, 5e, etc.

As always, thanks to the artists like +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) and Zarono for their unique vision.  Thanks to the texture artist Sirius-SDZ for making his wild insanity free for creative use.  And a big tentacled thank you to +Martin Teply for not only proofing the manuscript, but providing valuable insight, as well.


Monday, January 22, 2018

The Penis Showing Game

At first, I was just going to post this on Draconic Magazine straight-up (you should excuse the expression) because that's where I post all my free/bonus content.

However, this may be a subject that's too touchy even for me... and Alpha Blue.  That's why I'm opening it up for discussion.  Not just to those who play the game and back my Kickstarters (such as Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars), but gamers from all walks of life.

Re-watching the raunchy comedy Waiting... last night, it dawned on me that Alpha Blue, or at least one of its many scenarios, could use something like The Penis Showing Game to keep things interesting.

Basically, you try to catch others unawares, making them inadvertently look at your junk.  Then you ridicule them for being a homosexual and get to kick them in the ass (the number of times depends on how complicated the "exposure move" is).

Instead of free ass-kicks, characters would get something else.  Maybe temporary Health or a chance to Steal the Spotlight or something completely different.  I'll need to work on the details and playtest it before putting it one of the Battle Star Trilogy: Trek Wars adventures.

Perhaps, this is a popular game on a particular planet.  Maybe this is something the Federation has instituted in order to keep up morale or distract from lackluster policies?  In the end, the reason doesn't really matter.  Fun is the most important thing - and the dumb, inappropriate, gross-out humor of The Game is what will generate this particular fun... one hopes.

I'm 43 years old, so old school comes naturally for me.  I like things vintage, for the most part, and the discrepancy between what's acceptable today and some bygone era fascinates me.  Now, you wouldn't normally think of a 2005 movie as old fashioned or out-of-date, but that's probably how it looks to us in 2018.

Yes, terms like fag, faggot, meat gazer, etc. are potentially offensive and frowned-upon in our over-sensitive and politically correct world.  I don't have anything against any sexual proclivity or lifestyle choice that happens between consenting adults.  Neither do I have anything against ripping on people for liking a certain thing or being a certain way.

I don't want to offend anyone.  I don't go out of my way to offend anyone, either.  However, sometimes I say or do things that are "offensive."  People don't have a right protecting them from potential offense, and yet, in this day and age, claiming a state of offendedness can be politically expedient. Victims seem to have more power at the moment, but I'm sure the pendulum will swing the other way sooner or later.

Can't please everybody. That's part of our world, part of being human.  It's a catch-22 wrapped in a mobius strip that flows like a snake we ride through the velvet goldmine.

In any case, if you have a comment to make, I'm listening!