Sunday, May 21, 2017

O5R Player's Guide

It's been awhile since I've posted anything.  Sorry about that, I've been busy finishing up my trio of adventures for the Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarter.

Just got to look at the Crimson Dragon Slayer scenario, and I'm quite pleased with it.

Anyways, this post is for posing a question, specifically to the OSR crowd, though I'm more than happy to hear from D&D 5th edition gamers, as well as, those who enjoy fantasy roleplaying games without relying too much on bloated rules, complicated mechanical fiddly-bits, and anything that takes authority away from the Game Master.

While still adhering to the Old School Renaissance aesthetic/philosophy, what sorts of things would you want to see in a player's guide or player's handbook?  I'm talking about options, tools, features, anything that might improve the experience for a player.

Thanks in advance for answering!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

50 Shades of Vorpal review

"No one knows what offense the Taurian Empire gave to the Lich King, perhaps he was just being a dick."

I was not a part of the 50 sHAdes of VORpal kickstarter by Arthas Soulgazer (cool name), though I checked it after reading Tenkar's non-review last week.

Based on the kickstarter page and free preview on DriveThruRPG, I decided to give it a whirl.  Even if the whole thing is a pile of humorous excrement - at least it's funny!

Last night, I purchased the PDF for $5 and here is my impression...

Comparisons have been made with Encounter Critical.  While both games are comedic pranks on gamers, allowing readers to peek inside the fantasy heartbreaker minds of the authors, there are several differences.  Encounter Critical is a sophisticated, innovative, old school, labor of love by one or more slightly confused yet well-meaning amateurs.  It's meant to be a product of the mid-70's that reaches for the stars.

50 Shades of Vorpal comes from the mind of one or more contemporary dudes who purposefully set out to emulate something like old school Dungeons & Dragons, but way more juvenile, idiotic, and single-minded in its love of hack and slash.  It's like if HackMaster 4th edition were re-imagined by Beavis and Butthead.

While Encounter Critical and 50 Shades of Vorpal have similarities, they are completely different games with night and day approaches to the ultimate goal - making the awesomest parody game possible!  Although, this being 2016/2017, the latter not only wants to set down their idealized dreams of dark magic, deadly swords, and touching boobies in concrete, effectively cementing their glory in the halls of RPG fame and infamy - this is also clearly a way to make some cash.

Is there an actual system here, an actual RPG?  No, not really.  There's a bit of setting, a few monsters, loads of character classes and several races, but combat consists of adding a silly list of bonuses to a couple d30 rolls and comparing that with an opponent's ARMOR RANK.  If you hit, you do damage.  That's the core of the engine... pretty much the entire engine.  The rest is badly spelled window dressing like deth magic, preoccupation with loot, and sexism.

And that's part of the joke.  So many aspects of 50 Shades is phoned in that the game feels incomplete.  Various sections are blank, many earmarked with notations for adding future content - content that never actually made it into the book.  While that, too, is funny, after the first couple times, it loses something.

However, it is the attitude on display that provides the most humor.  Laser-focus on what makes an awesome character class and race shines a light on the worst gamer stereotypes.  But unlike the negative stereotypes which we, hopefully, don't embody, like living in our mom's basement well into our thirties and not showering regularly, 50 Shades brings up traits that are present, albeit in small quantities, in almost every gamer...

Awkward phrasing, typos, and combining tired fantasy cliches with not-well-thought-out flashes of inspiration all in the pursuit of that ever elusive awesomeness.  I've chased that particular crimson dragon myself on a thousand occasions.  The only difference is that my unsightly excretions get edited over and over again, or should I say flushed down the toilet of bad ideas implemented poorly.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading these 64 pages - including several blank pages - and got my money's worth.  Before I go, let me showcase a few of my favorite things from 50 Shades of Vorpal...

  • It uses a d30 because that's 10 more than a d20, reminding me of the amp that goes all the way up to 11 in This is Spinal Tap.
  • It has weapon coolness ratings based on how awesome someone looks when wielding a certain weapon.  
  • The illustrations - right out of high school study hall.  Most are decent in a youthful amateur hand-made kind of way, though some are actually fairly badass!
  • The never-solved divide between warriors and wizards.  Both sides feel they need to escalate the cold war and so each struggles to become even more ridiculously awesome.
  • Going further than explaining the rules or giving helpful advice, the text pretty much tells you what to think and occasionally comes up with raw truthisms such as, "Bosses get to boss."
  • Diving into the dark recesses of this male-dominated hobby with both feet.  Here's an over-the-top offering, "Female characters retire after making babies, so don't get pregnant.  This is a fantasy game, so you can't just go making stuff up that you didn't get pregnant when you really did."

Well, that's all for my review.  While neither version of Crimson Dragon Slayer goes anywhere near this level of awesome/awful, I was inspired to create a d30 random table for only the most "deth knight" kind of fantasy roleplaying!  Also, this!!!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: Don't Take Candy From Spacers

A few sessions have transpired since the last time I blogged about my weekly Alpha Blue campaign on Roll20.

So, this is going to be a quick and dirty, bullet-point wrap-up of everything that's transpired thus far...

  • The PCs, Katya and Miles Artemis, found themselves back on Alpha Blue.  They wandered into a melee combat arena and decided to pass on the guy selling his hot nuts in favor of sitting down and watching a man get beaten by some alien thing with tentacles.
  • Miles was not content to merely watch - there was money being offered to the man who could hold his own versus the best melee combatant in the galaxy - Syresh Vos!
  • A series of lucky rolls, plus the crafty use of his telepathy gave Miles the upper hand.  He knocked Syresh Vos out.  He won a bunch of credits and a sexy, green-skinned arena girl named Kiwi congratulated Miles by fellating him in front of the entire crowd.
  • While all that was going on, Katya was talking to a black-robed human who wanted both the PCs to come with him to see Grabba the butt - the reason was not revealed.
  • On the way out of the arena, a drunk spacer thought it would be a good idea to challenge the exhausted Miles to a laser duel.  Drunk guy got his trigger-hand blasted.
  • The PCs met up with the mysterious employee of Grabba the butt, a human named Fructis New Zaelyn. Miles and Katya were passengers on Fructis' ship as he took them to Grabba's pleasure palace on the desert planet P'oon.
  • When questioned, Fructis New Zaelyn told Miles and Ace VanHendrix, a zedi technician, (this was the start of the next session - lost Katya's player and gained Ricky's) and Fructis told them that Grabba the butt had a long-standing feud with Syresh Vos.
  • Just before reaching planetary orbit, a droid enters the cockpit and offers everyone a drink.  Miles takes a can of Purple Prizm, opens it, and it fizzes all over his space khakis.  A beautiful, blue-skinned female takes Miles' pants so they can be washed.  
  • Upon landing on P'oon, some revolutionary forces attack the ship with lasers.  Fructis gets out with the intention of fighting them off, then realizes there's, like, a dozen of them.  He uses his jetback to get the fuck out of there, leaving the PCs on their own.
  • Miles and Ace surrender rather than face a dozen armed rebels.  The desert revolutionaries take the PCs to their base and offer them a deal - give this blue-colored elixir to Grabba and be free or refuse and die.
  • Obviously, they agree to present Grabba the butt with the elixir. Miles still doesn't have any pants on.
  • A pale, tentacled humanoid comes to the door when Miles and Ace knock on the pleasure palace door.  He shows them to Grabba's secretary who then takes them to Grabba's main audience chamber where a full-scale feast is going on.
  • Grabba the butt is pleased with the PCs.  They made Syresh Vos look the fool and seem capable of handling some illicit jobs that Grabba needs done.  Miles still isn't wearing any pants.
  • Ace pretends to take a swig from the elixir and then offers it to Grabba.  Cliffhanger!
  • New session with Ace VanHendrix, Katya is back, and total Alpha Blue noob Badger who is playing an evangelical robot who can't pass up vice.  The robot's name is Reverend Screw-Loose, but that seems like a lot of work, so I called him Mr. Robot for most of the session.
  • Ace rolled decent in trying to convince Grabba that it was perfectly safe to drink the elixir, so Grabba gave it to his royal taster before taking a drink himself.
  • Suddenly, the entire complex shook with the force of an earthquake - someone was shooting their laser cannons at Grabba's pleasure palace.  Luckily the defensive shields diminished the blast.
  • Syresh Vos came down in an attack ship, attempting to take out his crime lord rival.  It wasn't long before Vos and several of his underlings were inside the palace shooting people and looking for Grabba.
  • One of the PCs looked outside the window to see if there was a way out, but all they could see was a sarlacc moat encircling the entire palace.
  • There was a massive laser-fight between team Vos and team Grabba, since both had similar forces.  The PCs were in the middle - Mr. Robot hid, Ace was determined to take out Grabba, and Katya was shooting at Vos.  It was a glorious clusterfuck!
  • Grabba made his escape in a secret starship at the back of his pleasure palace.  The PCs jumped into the back of that ship just before the door closed.
  • There were two guards and no sign of Grabba (he was moved to a safer section of the ship).  
  • From a window, everyone watched as Grabba's palace went up in a huge explosion!
  • Then a couple of sexy alien girls came in and Ace decided to take out the guards single-handed.  He killed one and the second guard got him, knocking him unconscious and bleeding out.  That last guard was about to throw Ace's body out of the airlock when Mr. Robot intervened - throwing the guard out and saving Ace from certain death.  
  • Katya, being a medic, patched Ace up while Mr. Robot charmed the alien women.
  • The strange women took Mr. Robot to their cabin, offered him a seat on their translucent blue beanbags, and then asked if he wanted to have sex... but that's where we had to end the session.
These bullet-points get the job done of telling the story, but they leave out all the little details like Mr. Robot flirting with Katya and various side-jokes.  Oh well, for the full effect, you've really got to be there - and therein lies the entire point of roleplaying.  It's a personal, deep, intimate kind of game with layers and subtly that board, card, and computer games just can't match.

Before I go, just want to remind everyone that Guarding Galaxy XXX was just released.  This FREE scenario will introduce gamers to my sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue.  Just read all the stellar reviews... oh wait, there aren't any.  Hey, review that shit, hoss!  Much obliged.  ;)


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Guarding Galaxy XXX

Mmm mm - look at that sexy cover for Guarding Galaxy XXX!

Remember this?  Seems like only yesterday.  Consider the updated PDF a "volume 2" to what I erringly called Guardians of Galaxy XXX.

Guarding Galaxy XXX is better because this time I won't be locked in a Disney jail cell underneath Space Mountain.  So, buy it... wait, this thing is free.  Free, you say?  What the fuck?!?  And after I paid all that money for artwork... my wife is going to kill me.

Anyway, take a chance on this raunchy scifi adventure for Alpha Blue, though easily adaptable to the RPG system of your choice.

If you've never tried sleazy, 70's scifi that's about as funny as a thermal detonator to the balls (hang about, that doesn't sound funny at all!) this will give you an idea of what it's about.


p.s.  I'd like to take a moment to thank Steve Wieck for his assistance in getting this better and less incarceration-y version of the PDF back onto DriveThruRPG.  If I was too harsh on One Book Shelf and/or Steve Wieck, let this post-script build space bridges and mend star fences.  I appreciate everyone's understanding and professionalism.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Guardians of Galaxy XXX

EDIT:  Guardians of Galaxy XXX is no longer available on DriveThruRPG.  Apparently, my faith in One Book Shelf was misplaced.  I emailed Steve Wieck to confirm that everything was OK, only to discover that he has no interest in protecting my rights as an artist, comedian, and peddler of RPG filth.

RE-EDIT:  Steve Wieck and I have worked out a compromise.  I'm drastically altering the cover and slightly changing the name to Guarding Galaxy XXX.  Should be back up on DriveThruRPG tomorrow.  

I wanted to do something special to celebrate the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 movie while also promoting my independent sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue.

Guardians of Galaxy XXX does both!  It's an homage to several established space opera franchises while also being a porn parody.  People have been making art directly inspired by popular media since the beginning of time, so I'm confident with the precedent that has been set.

Having said that, this title is suspiciously difficult to find on DriveThru.  There's nothing on the main page and even typing the full title into the search bar yields no results.  So, just in case I'm wrong - download your FREE Guardians of Galaxy XXX PDF before it gets expunged from the internets!

And here it is on Dropbox... cause you never know.

So, what is Guardians of Galaxy XXX?  It's a 10 page Alpha Blue adventure of high risk and high reward that lampoons quite a few recognizable scifi films - it's funny, dangerous, sexy, weird, and in bad taste.  What's not to love?

This is a freebie, so if you enjoy Guardians of Galaxy XXX, please do one or more of the following... review it, blog about it, chat about it, share it with friends, run games with it, and purchase other books from Kort'thalis Publishing.

Thank you,

Venger As'Nas Satanis
(Space) High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Let's play some Q'uay-Q'uar!

What started as a passing thought - wouldn't it be cool to have a totally made-up "space casino" game for gamblers in my sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue - has now become a reality.

It's called Q'uay-Q'uar; translated, it means "purple and yellow" in the Q'tari language.  Some play for fun, others for cold hard credits, and for a rare few... it's the difference between life and death.

Not totally happy with how it played (or looked) in the prototype stage, I asked +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) to create an awesome looking board, and then I made up the rules to go with what he put in front of me.  It was a bit of a challenge, but I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

Q'uay-Q'uar will be available with the upcoming Alpha Blue scenario High Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar landing June 1st.

Below is a video of my eldest daughter and I playing a quick game.  We played quite a bit over the last couple days - my next eldest daughter, as well.  There's a surprising amount of latitude for such a simplistic diversion.

Thanks for reading and watching,


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rule Zero: Final Arbiter

I stirred up quite a bit of dust... and some mud, apparently, in last week's blog post about fudging.  That's ok, just means there was something there and some of it was wet.

Rule zero is related to "fudging," or occasionally nudging reality in certain directions (also known as magic).  If the ability to question and interpret results as the GM sees fit is the gun, then rule zero is the ammunition.

The dice are my co-pilots.  I like to have them around - I find them useful.  However, they don't own me.  Similarly, I can't GM without players; they are necessary.  But I won't be their bitch because I'm the fucking boss!  At the same time, players shouldn't be expected to bend the knee every time the GM opens his mouth.

Before we get into this article, what is rule zero?  From scouring the internet and being involved in the roleplaying hobby for 32 years, I believe it's a combination of the following three principles...

  • The Game Master is the final and absolute authority when it comes to running the game.
  • Roleplaying games are entertainment.  Your goal as a group is to make sure you have as much fun as possible.
  • The rules of any roleplaying game are simply the best guidelines the author(s) could come up with.  You bought the book, so it's your game now.  If you don't like a particular rule, change it.

Now, a few people don't cotton to the above.  They find it to be an affront to player liberties, fair play, game designer accountability, the concreteness of in-game reality, and probably a bunch of other stuff.

As you probably guessed, I'm with the majority on rule zero.  It's not only a good thing, it's required if one desires to consistently run good sessions.

Let's look at the first one.  The boss has to be given the opportunity to be the boss.  Whoever's in charge, he's got to have the authority to do what needs to be done, and is considered to be "the final arbiter of the rules," as Gary Gygax wrote.

To me, it would be like managing a store with the store's employees on equal footing, dictating store policy to the manager.  That's about as helpful to the manager as having the store's owner constantly over his shoulder, telling the manager what he can and can't do with his store.

Game Mastering is a lot of work.  It takes time, energy, and skill.  Granted, not everyone is awesome at it, but that doesn't mean that all GMs must submit to a particular style, constant debate, or decisions brought before some kind of player council and possibly overruled.  Personally, I will not run the game if I'm forced to GM a certain way - unless you're paying me, and even then, I can't say for sure.

Obviously, if the GM is either a total asshole or on a massive power trip, he doesn't deserve great players.  Flagrant abuse should not be tolerated.  You'll know it when you see it - the GM has to invoke rule zero several times per session, every session either because there's no consistency whatsoever or he has absolutely no interest in allowing the game to evolve organically.  Plus, you know, ego-maniacal jerk wad.

When it comes to house-rules, rule zero is not an excuse for game designers to be lazy or for a game's audience to accept a faulty system.  On the other hand, no RPG book is ever perfect enough to accommodate 100% of those using it to play the game.  Altered rules aren't an admission that a game is broken or the table isn't capable of understanding the designer's intent.

In fact, RPGs were made to change over time, to suit the idiosyncrasies and whims of those playing them.  The way an RPG is played depends on a dozen factors, and their open-ended nature is the best feature.  As a frequent GM, I like to be surprised, too.  And I like to surprise myself, the players, and those fucking dice.  That's why I allow myself the possibility for ignoring the dice.  Nothing is off the table.

Don't like how your GM is running the game?  Run your own game.  That's how many of us got started.  If you want to be hamstrung with red tape, bureaucracy, demanding players, and a lot of armchair theorizing on what constitutes acceptable GMing protocol, then by all means.  Have at it, hoss!

If you've got something more to say about "fudging," do it on the other blog post.  If you want to discuss rule zero, go right ahead.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Alpha Blue Campaign Manager

Remember when I was talking about keeping track of all those scifi references?

This here is a sheet of incredibly fancy paper that you can print out and take notes on.

Collect data regarding your campaign's name, key locations, prominent NPCs, influences and details... all that fun stuff!

It's FREE, so go ahead and download it from DriveThruRPG / RPGNow.

The "Alpha Blue Campaign Manager" will also be included in the upcoming scenario High Stakes Q'uay Q'uar, but now's your chance to get it early.

Have a good week,


Thursday, April 13, 2017

There's No Such Thing as Fudging

From time to time, I read articles, blog posts, and forum discussions on the topic of "fudging."

In RPGs, fudging is when you alter an outcome that has already been determined by the dice rolled.

Just yesterday, I read another post about this particular practice.  Not only did the "feel bad about yourself" thing make me wince (don't ever feel bad about yourself when gaming), but I disagreed with the basic premise behind fudging.

I mean, fudge is supposed to be delicious.  You can combine it with nuts (as shown), peanut butter, and all kinds of yummy stuff.  So, if you want to keep referring to it as "fudging," then let it a positive thing, a force for good in the universe.

If I actually bothered to put people into circles, I'd put +Zak Sabbath in the same circle as RPGpundit aka +Kasimir Urbanski - people who I respect for their many contributions in the RPG industry, but radically diverge from their opinions on various subjects.  I have a lot in common with both, yet in many ways we're extremely different.

Anyways, this article is my own interpretation of fudging - that there's actually no such thing.  FYI, you can dive even deeper into my philosophy with How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss and Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  Enjoy!

Nudge, Not Fudge

Like most gamers, I frequently use the result of dice rolls to gauge what occurs in a session that I'm running.  Dice are a very useful and obvious way to find out what's happening.  It's expected.  The players look to the GM and the GM looks to the dice.  Everyone wants to know - does that guy hit, does the other guy miss, will the trap take your character's hand off?

The dice are like an oracle.  They know things.  They even have the benefit of know things that I don't.  The dice reveal, inspire, obscure, and resolve.  In some ways, they are the Game Master's greatest assistant.  And yet, the dice occasionally fall short.  After all, even oracles make mistakes... usually, because they don't know the full story.

If I choose to, I'm perfectly happy allowing the dice to determine pretty much all the randomness within a game.  I liken it to putting a ship on autopilot.  Autopilot is capable of handling the normal procedures of take-off, landing, and getting from here to there.  Unless there's an issue, autopilot - or the dice, in this analogy - are just fine adjudicating all the important decisions.

If there's an asteroid field in the way, I'm not just going to sit idly by and let the ship's autopilot muddle through as best it can.  No, I'm going to grab the wheel and steer, maneuvering in whatever manner I see fit.  I believe that's what Game Mastering is all about.

Similarly, issues crops up throughout a campaign.  Maybe it's a problem with continuity, realism, story, pacing, etc.  The last three encounters all turned into fights for various reasons, and I roll the dice, coming up with a negative reaction roll.  Is it going to be yet another battle to the death?  Well, that's for me to decide, ultimately.  Same goes with little things in combat - when the dice are supposed to matter most... and they do.  Nevertheless, I have the final say.  The ogre may have too many hit points, those orcs might have too few, Percival misses his saving throw by one, and so on...

That's when I decide to intervene, putting my oar in the water... to shape the game's reality because it's going to make the game better or more in-tune with my personal vision.  Let me be clear, my unorthodox interpretation or undue influence (depending on your view) is not always to the players' advantage.  Sometimes, it goes against them.  I strike a balance between the two, when possible, nudging the narrative in certain directions.  Again, that's my prerogative as Game Master.

Amidst the aftermath, if the game was ho-hum and the players didn't have fun, I'm not going to sit there behind the screen and blame the dice.  Nope, if the game sucks, it's the Game Master's fault.  Even if it's not really his fault, that's the impression.  The buck stops here!