Monday, June 29, 2015

[KS] The Outer Presence

Yep, doing the kickstarter thing for The Outer Presence, my investigative horror scenario I wrote and playtested a couple months ago and have been slowly refining ever since.

But it's not just a scenario!  In addition, the PDF contains the barest bones of a "complete" RPG system *.  The core mechanic is very similar to Crimson Dragon Slayer, except even more simple than that game.  Definitely has an old school feel (both the adventure and rules).

Also, the rules can easily be discarded.  So, if you'd prefer to use The Outer Presence with another RPG, that's easy to do with a little conversion.  Conversely, you might fall in love with the system, using it with your next investigative horror campaign.

If you're into that kind of gaming, I hope you support this endeavor.  If you have questions, most likely they'll be answered on the KS page.  If you have more questions, comment below!


* As complete as a 5 page RPG can be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

7/11 is international Crimson Dragon Slayer day

Yeah, I'm making it official.  I'll be running Crimson Dragon Slayer at my local library via Meetup (a great way to find players, by the way) on Saturday, July 11th.

You guys should run or ask your GM to run Crimson Dragon Slayer on that day, too.  Try your FLGS, assuming there's one nearby that'll let you run games.

Alright, share this and let's get as many people into a Crimson Dragon Slayer game on 7/11 as we possibly can!


p.s.  Thanks for suggestion, +Tim Virnig.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

How to Run review

Almost a year ago, I picked up How to Run, Alexis D. Smolensk's book on Game Mastering, specifically DMing a long-running fantasy campaign.

This 350 page "Advanced Guide to Managing Role-Playing Games" was one of the things that inspired me to write my own book on the art of Game Mastery.  Not because I wanted to write a book just like it or that such a topic appeared oh-so-glamorous, but because I realized that an author could share his experiences knowing that his will not be like another's.

In some ways, How to Run is the opposite of what I did with How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  It's well-organized, methodical, artless (even the cover is black and white), and champions the idea that GMing is and should be a lot of work.  Yes, some love to grind, toiling early in the morning, late at night, on weekends, crossing t's, dotting i's, vacuuming the curtains, and dusting the blinds.  They name an NPC who once talked to another NPC who is the brother of someone sitting in the tavern having a cold one... a tavern that the PCs might not actually enter, depending on how thirsty they are at the time.

I realized that if Alexis could write a teaching guide for Game Masters that didn't resemble anything I would say, then the door was open for me.  His (like mine) is a personal work.  The author takes the time to immerse you in his particular protocols and fancies.  His advice might start out general but in short order it moves past that well-trodden path.  The GM guides I've read (and I'm sure the author has, too) speak of handling certain situations and give readers a few paragraphs on the most obvious course of action.  How to Run does more than that.  It gets beneath the surface and ventures into uncharted territory.  That's an awesome thing, even if his teaching flies in the face of my own ideas on the subject.

The author's initial forays into DMing were fraught with peril, insecurity, and abject failure.  That's what he tells us.  Through hard work and determination, he began to conquer whatever it is that needs to be conquered regarding Game Mastery.  Below is a quote from page 13...

Make no mistake.  To improve, the reader will be asked to work.  No change can be obtained without working towards change.  This book will ask its readers to strain their imagination.  I will show how to structurally design a unique and meaningful world from the ground up - not with a set of checklists for what the world ought to contain, but by discussing how entities function and evoke player behavior.  Directions will be given that will require months of dedicated work in order to present ideas to players, so that the reader can settle on the content of their world and bring it to fruition.

It's funny that I found that paragraph while skimming the book just now, because "a set of checklists for what the world ought to contain" takes up quite a bit of space in my book.  I'm not sure if I unconsciously did the opposite of Alexis or saw a niche that needed to be filled.

It's obvious that Alexis takes his game, as well as, his role within it, very seriously.  His petition to work and work hard is admirable but, in my opinion, unnecessary.  While I value the effort it takes to do this, I would stop if it became tedious.  Yes, if it was a grind, I'd quit.  Maybe I'd go back to that other grind (no limit Texas Hold'em), or simply find a new way.  Luckily, there are other methods, less tedious ones that come naturally to me and thousands of Game Masters out there.  To clarify, I don't feel that paying attention and working on oneself a little bit at a time is tedious.  That's just self-improvement... just life.

I'm not saying my way is better, just that my way is better for me.  Conversely, Alexis' way is better for him and those who want to transform their inner-being can always go and do GM push-ups every morning at 5:30am.  And yet, we're all trying to reach the same place, that destination taking us to another world of sword, sorcery, and adventure!

That's not to say that How to Run is devoid of objectively good advice.  For instance, I wholeheartedly agree with the following on page 127...

I feel it is important to make friends with everyone who plays in my world.  This includes new players, those who I am meeting for the first time.  I want to put them at their ease as quickly as possible.  They should feel free to speak about what they wish without fear of reprisal.  At the same time, I want to explain my own perspective, in terms that can be grasped at once.  It's easy to be positive about my world, but it's just as important to be complimentary and congratulatory when meeting a new player.  

At other times, the author is able to breakdown the fundamental differences between roleplaying games and other forms of entertainment...

Therefore, we must dispense with prediction.  The DM must manage in the here and now.  The party enters a town.  The town reacts to the presence of the party.  People meet one another.  Things are said.  The party reacts to what the townspeople say.  The townspeople react to the party.  The gears and parts of the game work as conflicts build organically.  The party judges whether to exacerbate the conflict.  I judge, in turn, if the townspeople wish to exacerbate the conflict.  So it goes.  Throughout the process, I act as a 'regulator,' adjusting the attitudes and flow of the world, making faster or slower in keeping with the ongoing mood of the party.

That organic building seems to favor improvisation and I even think Alexis would agree with me on that point, yet several times in the book he mentions a reliance on months and years of drudgery in order to simulate what cannot be experienced, unless one decides to let go, feel the force flowing through you... and simply wing it.

Suffice it to say, there's a lot of material covered in the book.  A lot of it's good and, in my opinion, well written, even if the style or "voice" might be different than my own.  It's also virtually free of errors, such as typos, grammatical mistakes, etc.  I think I only found a couple.  For a book this size, that's an incredible achievement on its own!

Maybe How to Run is the other side of the coin?  I don't believe it's the antithesis, though a few readers may believe so.  It's all very subjective.  Even if you don't agree with everything the author says, it opens up lines of communication, creating a dialog so that these issues can be discussed.  It pushed me to write my own book, after all.

If you're looking for some summer reading on the subject of Game Mastery, give it a whirl... check out the sample pages if you need more convincing.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Crimson Dragon Slayer reviewed by The Escapist

Another review, this time by The Escapist magazine.  Very cool.  Here it is.

I'll be coming out with a followup book to CDS soon.  It will contain a little more of everything... and a character sheet.  ;)


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Simulation One-Eleven

My friend +Oli Palmer is running his weird-as-fucking-hell The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence campaign with session reports on his blog.  As a special favor, he asked me if I would do a short video for when the PCs get to the end and find a room with a large screen where the creator personally congratulates, curses, or confuses them.

It seemed just the kind of surreal, over-the-top, meta thing that the purple islands call out for.  I purposely made it brief and open-ended so that individual Game Masters could tailor the experience to their liking.  If you ever use this, GMs, I definitely want to read about it.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!


Geek Native review of HtGMlaFB

Geek Native was kind enough to review How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss over here.  

TL;DR: Venger comes across as an old school, myopic sexist but also seems to know how to run a fantasy roleplaying game.  So, take that for what it's worth...


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It's yet another girl!

Another Satanis was born in the first few minutes of today, June 10th.  That makes three girls.  Trinity Amethyst arrived weighing 7 lbs. 3 oz. and  measuring 20 inches long.

I'm tired, my wife's exhausted, and we're both extremely happy.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gorgonmilk reviews Crimson Dragon Slayer

+Greg Gorgonmilk graciously took the time to read and review Crimson Dragon Slayer right over here on his blog.  Thanks, man.  I appreciate it.


p.s.  Yeah, this guy's definitely going to slay a crimson dragon.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Nemo's Lounge reviews Crimson Dragon Slayer

I was very pleased to read this review of Crimson Dragon Slayer!!! 

Thanks, +Joel Bethell.

Anyone who has an active gaming blog and wants to write a full-on playtest review of CDS, let me know and I'll hook you up with a complimentary PDF or half-price softcover.


p.s.  Character sheet coming soon (multiple versions, I hope)!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to roll your dice: a dice rolling tutorial

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's a selection of direct quotes from Crimson Dragon Slayer fans...

"Yeah, it was OK."


"Better than all the editions of D&D combined, except 4th edition... 4th edition was the best!"


"Not as terrible as I thought it would be."

"Could you repeat the question?"

"Rolling inside a box is for pussies."

"You got your stupid scifi all over my fantasy.  I hate you.  Arrrrggghhh!"


Yeehaw!  There you have it, folks.  Just doesn't get any better than that!  Buy it on Amazon via CreateSpace (send me confirmation of your purchase for a free PDF) or DriveThruRPG.

It's single-handedly the newest and fastest selling RPG on the market (less than 12 parsecs).  Don't be a fucking moron, pick up the neo-vintage RPG that's sweeping the nation... Crimson Dragon Slayer!!!


p.s.  Yes, I am available for interviews - but not for podcasts or skype/video.  Not that desperate.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

True Roleplaying requires emotional connection

Awhile ago, I posted this.  Basically, my definition of a roleplaying game.  I got a bit of constructive criticism at the time... and rightly so.  It was lacking.

Sure, casual roleplaying could be defined by taking on a role.  And doing it solely for the noble purpose of having fun qualified it as a game... yet many of us know deep down that something's missing from that equation.  That's not "true roleplaying" or truly what a roleplaying game is. *

I read a post from this thread last night about Necrozius' review of How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss:

So I started reading the book and I love it so far. I even screencapped a paragraph or two and sent it to my friends because it resonated with me so much. Some of the tips were pretty good, like making three traits for each element of a scene, and I already find myself reflexively thinking "now I need three traits for this" every time I introduce something into the game. It also inspired me to make this thread since it talked about the nature of roleplaying.
Haven't finished it yet, but it was enough for me to go and order all of the other books on a whim.  ~  mAcular Chaotic

And it took me to a thread where I ended up posting the following...

I've seen roleplaying defined as a few things, and as the key to having fun and being immersed. 
There's the common trope of acting; you disappear yourself inside another character. 
Then there's simply playing out how you'd act if it was basically you with a few differences.
I feel like most people just say "roleplaying" when they mean one or the other, which can create some misunderstandings. Which one are you supposed to be doing? When a new player asks "how do I play?" what are you supposed to say?  ~  mAcular Chaotic

First off, that's really cool that How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss got you thinking and posting about this subject. 

Second, for someone just starting out and asking that particular question, I'd go with option #2. They should try to play a character roughly similar to themselves. 

The more experienced the roleplayer, I think they can make their own decision on how much to act, disappearing inside a role, etc. Also, if it's only going to be a one-shot, acting could be a fun diversion. Committing to a particular role - a character that isn't a bit like you - can be exhausting and tedious session after session after session.

At the end of the day, it's a personal choice. However, there must be an emotional connection between the player and the character for "true roleplaying" to take place. What do I mean by emotional connection? If something emotionally charged happens to the character, the player has to be able to feel something: anger, joy, fear, love, blood lust, empathy, sympathy, a vibration, resonance, understanding... something. If that emotional connection isn't there, then one's roleplaying is no different than pretending to be Ms. Pac-Man, eating pellets and evading ghosts.  BTW, getting excited about your high score doesn't count.  ~  VS

That's it.  Feel free to comment, critique, or congratulate.  ;)

Thanks for reading,


*  Admittedly, the phrase "true roleplaying" leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some gamers.  Totally understandable.  "Actual roleplaying" might have been a better term, because I'm not trying to tell anyone how to roleplay or that such-and-such a method if superior to any other method.  Discovering its essence - the thing that makes tabletop RPGs different than playing a video or board game - is my goal.