Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dungeons & Delvers: Red Book


For those who don't already know, David Guyll restarted his Kickstarter campaign.  It looks better than ever!

Basically, this is an OSR re-imagining of classic D&D.  My favorite part is probably the artwork.  David and his wife Melissa have their own unique aesthetic which looks weird and old school... while still being contemporary and fresh.

  • Control complexity without sacrificing competency
  • Multiple magic systems with mechanics backed by distinct flavor
  • Simple, useful, and robust crafting mechanics
  • Fresh takes on classic monsters

Full disclosure, David has been doing layout work for me these last few months.  He's a friend, but that also means I know his work.  It's not only awesome, but he gets shit done on time.  That alone should give backers comfort.

So, check it out and back this sucker!

VS

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Running It More Than Once


I recently re-watched Escape From L.A. and it dawned on me that it's the perfect example of running an adventure more than once.

The original, Escape From New York, focuses a lot of time on atmosphere.  It luxuriates in the dark, nihilistic tone, giving us a feel for the characters, the place.

The 2nd time doesn't fuck around.  It gets straight to the point.  It keeps things moving.  Very little screen time is lost between encounters.  As soon as one scene ends, the next setup begins.

But maybe the story moves too fast.  We get the essentials and then onto the next.  That keeps people engaged, but then you lose out on the world building.  The characters seem to be there for a specific scenario-required reason, not because they actually exist.

Escape From L.A. is also played tongue in cheek.  It's campy and ironic and cheesy on purpose.  I suppose the difference between Evil Dead and Evil Dead II is the same way.  The former is horror and the latter is more horror-comedy.

Now, I love humor.  Whenever I write or GM, there's always a little bit of the comedian in me.  However, not everything should be played for laughs or so gonzo that it's borderline ridiculous.  You've got to know when to pull back and get deadly serious, too.

Did it ever feel like Snake was in real danger in L.A.?  Not really.  Back in New York it seemed like there was no way Plissken could survive... but he did.  And that likelihood of imminent death made the story stronger, more realistic.

In both L.A. and Evil Dead II, the ending is better.  That's definitely an advantage to the remake.

So, which is better?  Well, I happen to think the first time around is more satisfying, even though the remake is more fun.

[Last Minute Edit: Holy crap, I just found out that Hollywood is rebooting Escape From New York... What?!?]

What does that say about the RPG experience?  What if "fun" isn't how we should be gauging our gaming enjoyment?  That's a blog post for another time.

How often do you run the same scenario multiple times?  The setup, pacing, mood, ending... how much does it change?  Did you change it on purpose or did it kind of organically shift because you were using another system, had different players, or the characters chose to go at it from a different angle?

VS

p.s. Also, there's an excellent lesson from Escape From L.A... when you state the rules of the game, don't go back on them without a good reason.  Otherwise, Utopia will mess up your shot!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Cha'alt Pre-Sales


The big project I've been working on for over 6 months is nearing completion.

What is it?  Well, it's a campaign setting and megadungeon called Cha'alt.  It's gonzo, eldritch, post-apocalyptic science-fantasy, and about 174 pages geared to both the OSR and 5e D&D audience.

The files get sent off to the printers in 2 or 3 weeks.  Until then, last minute revision, tweaking, and proofing continues.

Between now and when the shipment of 1,000 high-quality, full-color, hardcover, signed and numbered books reach my slimy green tentacles, I'm opening up sales for this limited edition.

Approximately 100 of them are already spoken for... thanks to KS backers.

The original Kickstarter price was $50 + $10 shipping.  That was the sweet, sweet deal for those who believed in me and actually made this project possible.

The current pre-sale price is $55 + $10 shipping (within the contiguous United States), which is a sweet deal compared to what it's going to cost when the books are ready to ship out.

Want a taste of what Cha'alt will be like?  Ok, right over here is about 5% of the book, an introductory dungeon to get things going before the PCs are ready to tackle the funhouse mindfuck that is The Black Pyramid.

The PDF is free (subject to small changes before print files are finalized), so go check it out and see if you're ready for Cha'alt.

I accept paypal at Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

Thanks,

VS

p.s. Please send me an email first if you have any questions!

p.p.s Shipping doubles outside the US ($20, which is still fairly decent).

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Map of Cha'alt


Last but not least, Glynn completed the Cha'alt map.

This right here is the official KS update.  I'll be showing you more soon enough...

Enjoy,

VS

Monday, June 10, 2019

Billions Is Better Than Game of Thrones


I know fantasy is kickass.  I love elves and dragons and magic just as much as the next D&D geek.

But there's something to be said for consistently strong characters and a story of revolving alliances, rivalries, betrayals, and sworn enemies.

If you want to watch a modern day Game of Thrones that never drops the ball, I wholeheartedly recommend the Showtime tv show Billions.

Like GoT, an episode can turn on a dime.  Events that most series would milk for an entire season, Billions deals with in an episode or two.  Which means there's always something compelling just around the corner.  It feels like an immersive sandbox.  I guess that's my OSR connection.

Anyways, watched the season 4 finale, and it was superbly awesome!  The series has been picked up for another season next year.  I'm just excited and wanted to share my love for Billions.  Watch it!

Enjoy,

VS

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Game of Thrones finale


Well, I finally got to watch the very last episode of the Game of Thrones tv series... [spoilers ahead!]

If there's one thing we hate, it's this - the subverting of our expectations. 

We expect Luke Skywalker to be hopeful.  Instead, he's a bitter misanthropic hermit who's given up on the jedi.

We expect protagonist Jon Snow to have some kind of agency and the courage of his convictions, but instead he broods about how Dani did some unjustifiable things and Tyrion has to talk our bro into doing what must be done.

And then the dragon melts the iron throne and Snow is kept a prisoner for weeks until he's eventually banished.  Oh, and then Bran the broken (god, that's a horrible name) becomes King of Westeros?  WTF?

I actually like Ben Shapiro's speculative take that Bran is actually like a deep-cover sith lord who knew what was going to happen and just let things take their course so he could be the one to rule over it all.

Anyway, this finale was mildly satisfying - Daenerys got what she deserved.  If you're going to go all genocidal tyrannical dictator, then bitches gots to go down.

Of course, the writers could have stayed the course, allowing Daenerys to be a benevolent and merciful ruler, but the seeds were sown long ago and I'm sure George Martin knew where he wanted things to end.

The whole thing with a Targaryen being born and the Gods flip a coin as the world holds its breath, waiting to see how it will land - that's just fucking awesome!  You really can't have a line as poetic as that in a story as dark, gritty, and betrayal-happy as Game of Thrones without Daenerys eventually going psycho.

There's this dumb twitter handle called "Daenerys deserved better."  Nope.  She deserved worse, actually.  In fact, the show robbed us of catharsis by not telling her to her face exactly why she should be murdered, instead of being allowed to carry out her "liberation" - (read: indiscriminately slaughtering innocent men, women, and children).

Maybe it's because the writers, like most of the Hollywood elites, don't actually believe that a social justice tyrant would be a bad thing.  Perhaps they think that would be beneficial to humanity, being ruled over by a person who thinks that anything - including the mass murder of innocents - is perfectly fine if it means that everyone will be equally squashed under the leader's heel. Yay, egalitarianism, socialism, and communism!

Back when the series began, my wife and I had thought about naming one of our daughters Daenerys (actually, she preferred Khaleesi).  Wow, I'm glad that didn't happen!

I'm hoping the character of Kylo Ren stays villainous and doesn't become some kind of myopic SJW crybaby that feels his own conception of "good" is the only possible objective good for everybody.

Anyways, just wanted to get some stuff off my chest.  End of rant...

VS

p.s. That picture is Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) dressed as Morticia Addams for Halloween a couple years ago.  Wow!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Credit For Your THOTs


This is the final installment of the THOT trilogy.  You can get the PDF here.

It's got all the usual awesomeness.  If you love sleazy scifi, random tables, and modular systems that are fun and easy to use, then grab yourself a squirming fistful of xenophilia!

Have a question, just ask...

VS

p.s. Cha'alt is about 2 or 3 weeks from completion.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Sect of the Gleaming Polyhedrons


I'm thinking about starting a new religion, one based around roleplaying games.

Why a religion?  Because gaming to me is more than just a pastime, hobby, or side-hustle.  It gives me purpose.  It defines me.  And it's a whole lot bigger than I am, greater than I am.  Outside of family, RPGs are what's most important to me.

Why not crystallize that into a spiritual movement, an organization that'll take it as seriously as it deserves... without taking ourselves too seriously. 

This is the first and only commandment...

1. Enjoy roleplaying games as much as possible... at least once a week, preferably.  

Anyone interested in joining?

More details when I get back from vacation.  Have a good one, y'all.

VS


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

3 Types of Game Masters


As I mentioned towards the end of last week's Inappropriate Characters episode, I've broken GM differences into 3 basic types...

The first I'll describe is the Dungeon Master from beloved Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons.

The Dungeon Master presents the facts, sets things in motion, and then pretty much disappears into the background until his presence is required down the road.  The RPG Pundit mentioned the "clock-maker God" as an example of this sort of GM.  Once he creates a world, his hands are off the wheel and things take their own course, according to the rules or the scenario or the GM's notes.

He's impartial, objective, and about as neutral as a GM can get.  Total free market... no matter what the outcome.  Is it discipline or ambivalence that keeps the Dungeon Master type GM from subtly nudging reality here or there?

The second GM type is Zeus from the 1981 sword & sandals film Clash of the Titans.

Zeus is more subjective, the campaign world filters through him, his perspective.  His hands aren't always on, but also never far from the wheel.  Yet, he still believes in letting go, allowing fate or free will decide which path is taken.  Zeus doesn't have a specific outcome in mind, but tries to maintain a fairness or equality of opportunity, according to his personal standards of ethics, morality, and aesthetics.

If you remember, Zeus has a few tricks up his sleeve.  While balancing the campaign world and all the characters in it, he feels justified tweaking the chances of a result or two in the name of either fair play or compelling story.  Occasionally fudging a die roll for the greater good.

However, Zeus is not a story-gamer.  He doesn't know how things will end up.  He hopes things will turn out well for those proving themselves worthy, occasionally exerting a bit of influence behind the scenes, but stopping short of pre-determining adventure's conclusion.

The third and last type of GM is the Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz is a showman and a conman.  He uses slight of hand, misdirection and railroading in order to get the end result he's looking for.  His GMing creates the illusion of free will and randomness, when in reality, he pulls all the strings.

The Wizard of Oz is the most likely to be a story-gamer, since that style of GMing is directly opposed to the traditional, old school approach (though many GMs in the 70's and 80's aspired to that standard).

Another aspect of this 3rd type is bluster, pomp, and pageantry.  Anything to build himself up, to make the all-powerful GM appear greater, wiser, and stronger than he really is.  His will is mighty and players should not test it, or else face his wrath.  Also, be prepared to confront several self-important NPCs (stand-ins for the GM himself) who shall not be fucked with.  You'd have better luck wrassling an ancient black dragon.

Please feel free to comment with your experiences, your opinion of the 3 types, etc.  Where do you fit in all this?

VS