Tuesday, October 27, 2015

D&Diesel: The Future of RPGs

And by RPGs, I mean paper and pencil roleplaying games.

For a product, hobby, art form, sport, game, or whatever you want to call it that can't be immediately purchased and played - even conceptualized - without help, such videos might just be the savior or even first-wave evolution of RPGs.

Keep this in mind, if it's not something people would ever watch on TV, it's probably not something that people will play.  Showing what RPGs are and how they're played is the initial step to getting more gamers.  In my opinion, the older cousin model of RPG introduction just isn't going to cut it in the 21st century.

  • Awesome place to play?  Check.  
  • At least one celebrity (or at least professional in the creative/performance/entertainment field)?  Check.  
  • Gamers willing to go the extra mile?  Check.

You're welcome to praise or criticize the video, players, Vin Diesel, GM, 5th edition D&D... anything having to do with this video.  Though, critiquing this particular video is not as important (to me) as critiquing the medium itself, a vehicle for getting RPGs noticed.

Assuming that RPG proliferation into the cultural mainstream is the goal, that can't happen without getting it in front of people's faces.  So, I ask you - what better way than this?


p.s.  Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is a similar high-end demonstration but with more explanation on how RPGs work.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Purple Islands run Crimson

I really wanted to introduce Crimson Dragon Slayer to a group I'd never roleplayed with before... just to make sure my love for the game wasn't solely dependent upon the people I was constantly gaming with.  I got my wish earlier today, playing with +Forrest Aguirre, his two friends Tony and Julius, and veteran of the Ultra Zone, Daniel (who made up for Forrest's other friend who was sick and couldn't make it).

Not having time to prepare much beforehand, I decided to use The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  I've done both 'getting to the purple islands' and 'having been on the islands for awhile' one-shots, so decided to go with the latter.

Here are the characters...

Shade Ivory, a halfling ranger/shaman was played by Julius.

Great Mega Dread, a crystalline wizard was played by Tony.

Little Plasma Bane, a robot wizard was played by Forrest.

Rex Slaughter, a dwarf warrior was played by Daniel.

Everyone rolled 3d6 in order.  Daniel rolled an actual "3" for Rex Slaughter's intelligence.  He had the option to re-roll in exchange for rolling on the dark secrets table in Liberation of the Demon Slayer.  He took advantage of that option... but to raise one of his other ability scores.  Daniel is one of the weird ones (which is probably why he feels at home at my table).

Let me see if I can get the backstory we hashed out for his character correct: he started off as the CEO of a successful company, like Christian Grey from 50 Shades of Grey.  So, in the real world (before he was sucked into the Crimson Dragon Slayer text-based RPG for the Commodore 64 by Infravision, circa 1983) he was really smart.  But then he communicated with Yogsoggoth in the public restroom of his office building.  In the stall next to his, there was a demon lord who asked for some spare toilet paper... and was denied.  Instead, he got a face full of Yogsoggoth!

"You ask for extra toilet paper, you get a Great Old One!"

The sanity-crush was too much.  Rex Slaughter went from CEO to "I like candy corn!" and I think in that moment was ushered into the Crimson Dragon Slayer game.  Thule suddenly had a new village idiot.

I won't go into too much detail, but there were several encounters.  Some cavemen inside a cave.  The savages became a cult under the leadership of Faashko, the Practitioners of the Black Path High Priest (the PCs found a wallet inside his robes).  They were sacrificing none other than Kalthalax, the legendary demon slaying sword!  Because... why not.  I had rolled on the "what are they sacrificing?" table and got relic/artifact (found in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss).  Just so happens that I had brought my newest acquisition, a foam LARP sword that looks like it was corrupted in Hell.  So, I slapped that down on the table once the PCs had possession of it.  The players were impressed with that bit of visual aid - the kind you can take a few practice swings with.

"I like candy corn!"

Purple also has a personality table for magic swords.  It's like the dice new what the Hell they were doing... Kalthalax demanded to be worshiped.  So, that led to some interesting roleplaying between the blade and its wielder.  "Announcing my presence before I wade into the blood of your enemies would be nice."

Midway through, the PCs fought space invaders... like the video game.  As damage was done, their chartreuse neon pixels went out until all three were eventually de-rezed.  The fight was only half over before the 8' tall robot went offline for repairs.

More cultists happened by while the adventurers were sleeping.  Luckily Great Mega Dread was on watch.  Trying to ward them off himself, he cast mesmerizing magenta mist.  It worked, but the purple islands can have a strange affect on magic.  His spell also conjured 3 small sub-species imps that served him for five rounds.  In that time, the little demonic critters offed two of the cultists.

Then a purple lighting backlash electrocuted the wizard.  His scream woke up Rex Slaughter... who went back to sleep, annoyed at the interruption.

One of the strangest moments was after the new cultists' bodies had been looted.  They found a singular gemstone.  I rolled on the colors table (also in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss) and got "color changes based on mood", #82 or something like that.  For the robot, it stayed grey, for Shade Ivory's happiness it turned yellow.  For Great Mega Dread's frustration I wanted another random color.  Believe it or not, I rolled the exact same result!

After a few seconds of thought, voicing my curiosity aloud, and a little back and forth from the players, we determined that the gemstone changed color based upon the mood of the holder, as well as, its own mood determined by how it felt about the person holding it.  Weird...

Rex Slaughter wanted to smash it, but being crystalline, Great Mega Dread was determined to keep it safe.

"Dumb is not an emotion."

Back to sleep... and that's when I rolled on Purple's "while they were sleeping" table.  I got the sleepwalking result and wondered if that mood-gem wasn't somehow responsible.  Great Mega Dread sleepwalked for a couple hours, until he came to the edge of an enormous crater filled with a hideous violet mist.

That's when a damaged tank was found with a working laser cannon.  Also, a small, thin rectangle communicator that put the adventurers in touch with Navigator Jones First Class.  He was on a space station called Alpha Blue and would pick them up in about 25 parsecs.

Before their rendezvous, the guys felt a tremor along the ground.  Seconds later, a giant purple worm erupted from the crater's center.  That's when Rex Slaughter slashed at the worm eleven times in a row (my own misinterpretation of badly worded rules regarding fighters being able to attack until they miss).  He did 64 points of damage.  Little Plasma Bane was back at the laser-tank and shot the thing for about 35 damage.  Kalthalax and a spell from the crystalline wizard finished it off after the worm had just about eaten the magic-user.

Just in time for the session to conclude, Alpha Blue descended and beamed the travelers aboard with a soft cerulean light.  They were greeted with a bevy of blonde bombshells in sparkly-silver bikinis.

From what I could tell, everyone had a great time.  There was some post-session discussion about that warrior's special ability.

In my mind, when I wrote those words, I think I meant that only new targets could be hit, if they were within range - not that a warrior can attack and just keep attacking until he misses.  Because if he's going to roll 3d6 for his dice pool, it could be a dozen rolls before his turn ends.  That's too much for everyone else to sit through.

Daniel came up with an intriguing alternative.  For every extra attack, a warrior loses a point of constitution temporarily.  I think I like that better than mine.

Well, that about does it.  Thanks for a great game, guys!


p.s.  Forrest did his own write-up here.

p.p.s.  I came home from the game to find this review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  So, thanks for that, +Bill Adcock!

The Evil Dead analogy!

This morning, I stumbled upon a slew of reviews from +Timothy Brannan of The Other Side blog fame.  I'll post links below, but first I wanted to approach my RPG catalog with an analogy...

There are some books of mine that are more like The Evil Dead, an old school horror movie containing subtle moments of whimsy and humor, but plays it straight faced.  I'd categorize Liberation of the Demon Slayer, Revelry in Torth, and The Outer Presence as Evil Dead.  Precious little "monkey business".

There are other books which are more like Evil Dead II, a nice mix between horror and comedy.  Like the film, these books don't take themselves too seriously.  Plenty of scares and laughs throughout.  I'm thinking of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, No Escape from New York, and my upcoming Alpha Blue.

It wasn't until this summer that I just let go and went total Army of Darkness with Crimson Dragon Slayer and Descent into the Candy Crypts (No Escape from New York is sort of a hybrid between II and III, I guess).

Now, when I first went to go see Army of Darkness in the theater, I was in High School.  For whatever reason, I didn't get it at the time.  I thought it was cheesy, stupid, and not particularly funny.  It wasn't until I watched The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II and then saw Army of Darkness for a second time that I "got it".  The cheesy stupidity was on purpose!  It was a parody of the genre and also a self-parody of itself.  It tried so hard to be ridiculously awesome that it became awesomely ridiculous.

I assure those willing to try Crimson Dragon Slayer that playing it can be a richer experience than merely reading the rules, just as a comedy script won't be nearly as much fun as watching the movie itself.

Anyway, without further ado, Here is Tim's review of How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss (doesn't really fit any of the categories).  There is his review of Crimson Dragon Slayer.  This is his review of The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  That is his review of Liberation of the Demon Slayer.

I appreciate your spilling the virtual ink, hoss.  Much appreciated!


Monday, October 12, 2015

More Guilty Pleasure Films!

Just taking a break from writing Alpha Blue.  Kickstarter campaign ending in just over a week!

These are all second tier cheese, the kind of movie you should see at least once to see if you like it.  None of these are award winning films.  They're B-grade fare that's not on everyone's Must Watch, Top Ten, or Best of the Best list.  I liked these enough to watch them more than once.  That's good enough for me.

Let's get started (in no particular order)...

1.  Simon King of the Witches - This is the film that inspired me to create this blog post.  It's a little known film about 70's real world sorcery and witchcraft.

2.  Burial Ground - A weird little zombie film.  There's some creepy atmosphere, cool deaths, and unintentional humor - which just makes it funnier, in my opinion.

3.  Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things - I remember seeing the VHS box for this in a number of video rental places in the 80's.  The title and artwork alone horrified and fascinated me as a kid.  Though it's "badly" filmed, acted, scripted, and everything else, I can't help but love this film.  Things don't really get going until the end, but there's plenty of entertaining shenanigans and awful (well, I think it's kind of awesome) dialog.

4.  Class of 1984 - A high school in the mid-eighties... cranked up to 11.  Gangs, punk rock, drugs, sex, Michael J. Fox, and Roddy McDowall.  It's a dark film.  Perfect to watch before enjoying a night of No Escape From New York (available here).

5.  Humanoids from the Deep - Roger Corman and Deep Ones.  What more can I say?  The pacing could be better, I think.  I remember a couple moments being bored or, at least, not thrilled.  But then a half-naked woman gets raped on the beach by a fish-man and you're like... Wow!  Didn't expect that.

6.  Maniac - This is a great exploitation film with an insane protagonist who is actually the antagonist.  If it had more of a plot besides guy-being-creepy-at-night-and-killing-women, this would be first-tier slasher trash!  As it is, Maniac has a great look, vibe, and practical effects... but it lacks something.

7.  Stage Fright - The only reason this is here and not on some better list is because it's a cheesy Italian film from the 80's that takes place in a musical, during rehearsal.  It's part giallo, part slasher film that's a bit too colorful and lacking in suspense.  Still a good watch, though.  If you love Demons and Demons II, you'll probably also get a kick out of Stage Fright.

8.  Planet Terror - I think most people were disappointed with the Rodriguez/Tarantino grindhouse double-feature that came out back in 2007.  This one was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and is the better of the two (the other being Death Proof).  It feels more like an extend short film than a feature-length production, but it packs a decent punch.  Interesting characters, some nice humor, well shot, good acting, etc.  The running time is only half of what makes it feel "less than enough" - the rest might be character goals.  I think "getting the Hell out of dodge" is the primary motivation for everyone in the film.  While that should be plenty for a zombie film, Planet Terror still seems to come up a bit short.

9.  Terror Firmer -  Yeah, Troma!  Whereas Planet Terror left you wanting more, Terror Firmer will leave you screaming, "Enough, that's enough already!"  I haven't seen this in many years, but looking over my massive DVD collection this morning reminded me that I should put it on real soon.  It's funny, stupid, gratuitous, and there's something interesting happening all the time.  The plot doesn't really matter, does it?  It's Troma!  And one of Troma's better films (but still not as good as Blood Sucking Freaks and Redneck Zombies).

10.  My Science Project - Compared to the rest of these films, My Science Project is straight-laced and clean-cut.  It looks like an ordinary film - but it's about time warps, weird dimensional anomalies, and area 51 type stuff.  If this had been directed by Steven Spielberg, this film would rank right up there with ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park.  But as it is, My Science Project is kind of a sleeper.  Low-key, but big on cool ideas.

11.  Prisoners of the Lost Universe - This almost belongs on the "C list" of films to watch after you've seen everything good.  It's a film I really enjoyed back when I was ten. Imagine a session of Crimson Dragon Slayer (available here) but without the super-gonzo encounters and humor.

I bought it on DVD a few years ago and watched it with my extremely pregnant girlfriend, thinking it was going to be as awesome as I remembered.  It wasn't.  Halfway through the movie, her water broke.  We watched the remaining 40 minutes a couple days later... with a brand-new baby girl!

I know it's almost Halloween, but this isn't a scary movie list... even though some of them qualify as "horror".  To reiterate, these are just some pretty cool movies that I like - and think you might like, too.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, October 10, 2015

More Kort'thalis Publishing news!

Oliver Shead of Infected RPG kickstarter fame (over $26,000 in pledges!) interviewed me a few days back.  Here is the result!

Joel from Nemo's Lounge has graced me with another review, this time No Escape from New York is under the microscope.  Oh, and a last minute session report!

In other news, a few Madison, WI gamers helped out with the first Crimson Dragon Slayer commercial.  The video shoot only took two and a half hours of our time... but nine-tenths of our soul!

The astonishingly terrible footage is now in the capable hands of director/cameraman/editor Joshua Darlington.  It'll take him a couple weeks of sifting and winnowing before it's ready for youtube.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recent Recognition

Here's a little sneak preview content from my upcoming O5R project, Alpha Blue.

This is where I was recently interviewed by Shane Ward.

The Outer Presence received another favorable review.  As did Revelry in Torth and The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  He also reviewed Descent into the Candy Crypts quite unfavorably, but that might be because he's never read Crimson Dragon Slayer, where awesomeness to the point of stupidity takes precedence over serious dungeoncrawling.

Anyway, that's the news!  Thanks for reading, folks.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

No Escape From New York

It's been an exciting week here at Kort'thalis Publishing!  Primarily because of my latest Kickstarter campaign (a wee bit NSFW) Alpha Blue.

So, I totally forgot to announce my latest mini-module / micro-campaign / short, stream of consciousness scenario called No Escape from New York (for use with Crimson Dragon Slayer or your OSR system of choice).  It's available here.

I wanted something a bit meatier and darker than Descent into the Candy Crypts.  You'll still get plenty of laughs and homage / parody / in-jokes, but there's an undercurrent of misanthropic sleaze as adventurers enter a parallel dimension of New York, circa 1983.


p.s.  Great work from Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design and illustrator Bojan Sucevic!