Saturday, August 19, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest Criteria


Before August ends, I wanted to set down my own personal criteria for judging the Adventure Writing Contest - submissions due November 1st!

The following is what I came up with (in no particular order)...


  • Genre emulation:  If I'm playing or running a sci-fi game, then I want to see, interact, and experience sci-fi type stuff.  Successfully emulating the genre you're writing for will surely deepen immersion - which is the primary goal of roleplaying games.
  • Non-standardization:  I don't want to see any +1 swords!  Show me something different, something special.  Attention to detail and a desire to make things weird will go along way towards giving your adventure the impression that it's not like any other.
  • Conflict:  As you've learned from Adventure Writing like a Fucking Boss, compelling conflicts are the building blocks of every scenario.  I want to see something juicy that draws PCs in and forces them to act - not because they feel they have to, but because they really, really want to!
  • Easy to use:  Make the GM's job fun and simple by providing what's needed.  Anything you can do to help the GM out - even if that's just you - will improve the scenario's performance once it hits the table.
  • Encounter variety:  You find monsters, they immediately attack.  You find bad guys, they immediately attack.  You explore an ancient tomb covered in green slime (cool), and immediately a lich-mummy attacks!  Nope.  I want all three pillars.  Not only that, but nuance and subtlety, as well.  This is a short scenario - no two combat-based encounters should be alike.  Same goes for exploration and character interaction.
  • Originality:  While it would be great to read something so strange that I've never seen it before, I'm not expecting that.  I merely want to see familiar things arranged in a new way so that there's some kind of surprise.  If you can't remember ever seeing a story element in an adventure, then it counts as original - even if you essentially ripped it off from a cult TV show or movie and combined it with something else familiar but slightly different.
  • Testing the limits:  We all know how these adventures are supposed to go.  The format is predictable.  That's generally a good thing.  However, every once in awhile, I want to read something that breaks the rules, that exceeds or confounds my expectations.  Testing the limits is always a risk, so use caution... but also don't be afraid to shock your audience from time to time.

Those are the seven things I'll be looking for in order to determine whose adventure is the best.  

Imagine that $500 in your hands.  Sure, it'll be sent via paypal, but you could always cash it out and flutter the green paper before you - make it rain!

Plus, think of the bragging rights - and eventual RPG writing opportunities that may open up before you...

Bring us infamy with your creative genius!  Help out your old pal Venger Satanis.  Kort'thalis Publishing needs gamers like yourself to keep the dread gates open!

I hope to read your submission this fall.  Start conceptualizing your adventure now!  Bring your A-game and wow the fuck out of me!  I know you can do it.  Good luck.  ;)

VS


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Battle For The Purple Islands PDF is live


Well in time for H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (he's in the adventure, after all), I proudly present the latest work in the Purple Islands franchise.  Oh yeah, this purple shit is getting real!

It's O5R compatible and fully illustrated - the art and layout is expensive, but so worth it.

Additionally, I planned on this scenario and jungle hexcrawl sandbox to combine The Planet of the Apes, The Dream Lands, Thundarr the Barbarian, Heavy Metal, Land of the Lost, and so many other things that inspire me.

Get your Battle For The Purple Islands PDF here from DriveThruRPG.

Thanks to everyone for supporting me here, on Kickstarter, and other places in the universe.  I'm grateful for your continued awesomeness!

VS


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part III of III)


This is the final installment of my RPGaDay answers.  Hope you find them enlightening!

Here's part I and part II.


#18:  Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

That's got to be D&D because I ran and played so many weekly campaigns years ago.


#19:  Which RPG features the best writing?

I like Gary Gygax's writing style in some of those old D&D modules.


#20:  What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

Ebay.


#21:  Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I'm trying to think of the shortest and best RPG.  Whatever that is will probably have to be my answer, because it does the most with the least words.  Hmm, maybe WEG Star Wars D6?  Of course, it's easier to convey a lot when you have a trilogy of movies behind the work.


#22:  Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Generic D&D because it's "whatever fantasy."  That means it borrows from everything and doesn't need to limit itself - aside from including a few basics, like magic, swords, monsters, etc.

With D&D, you don't need any kind of plot, story, or even a scenario.  Just go from tavern to dungeon and start exploring, interacting, and hacking/slashing away until you've found the loot.


#23:  Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I'm not really impressed with a game's layout.  Good layout is important, but I can't point to any book where I was just in awe of how the thing was laid out.


#24:  Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

I've no idea, sorry.


#25:  What is the best way to thank your GM?

I mention several things in Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  How about words of praise like "Fire & Fury?"  If our country gets nuked by North Korea, then I apologize in advance.


#26:  Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I like later editions to old school games because they usually include vital supplements and essential sourcebooks that improve upon the core text by itself.  I'm thinking of Toon: the Cartoon RPG, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, etc.


#27:  What are your essential tools for good gaming?

If I was to go to an RPG convention and asked to run some kind of sleazy pulp science-fantasy RPG (which happens from time to time), I'd take the following 7 books with me: How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss, Alpha Blue, Universal Exploits, Girls Gone Rogue, Swords & Wizardry, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and whatever Monster Manual was nearest to me.


#28:  What film/series is the biggest source of quotes for your group?

That's a great question, but I can't come up with anything.  Which is weird because I feel like we joke around and laugh quite a bit during our sessions.  Awesome and funny lines are said, but sometimes they're original and other times they're from disparate sources.


#29:  What has been the best-run Kickstarter you have backed?

I haven't backed that many.  Maximum Mayhem and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea are two that I've been pleased with.

Surprisingly, my very first Kickstarter campaign, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence actually made the most money, but only a few dollars.


#30:  What is an RPG genre mash-up you would most like to see?

Late 60's / 70's gothic exploitation vampire camp, The Vampire Happening meets Dracula: 1972 A.D.  That's a genre mash-up I haven't seen yet.  If not that, then maybe Shadowrun meets some kind of post-apocalyptic after-the-bomb mutant wasteland.


#31:  What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

Self-publishing some weird and wild stuff!  I've got lots of ideas.  Things I've already talked about and some things that will be a complete surprise (to me, as well).

______

Well, that's it.  Thanks for joining me during this 3 part Q&A.

VS

p.s.  I had that exact Dracula poster on my bedroom wall after college. Mmm...


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part II of III)


Here's part I of my RPGaDay answers.  Let's get to some more questions, shall we?

#7:  What was your most impactful RPG session?

I've had RPG sessions that were so bad that it forever changed how I approached the hobby.  Some games were too boring, others too difficult, many too complex, a few that were too stingy.  I've talked about many of these experiences before.

One that I've never mentioned happened just 2 or 3 years ago.  Not sure why, but I was interested in joining a D&D game as a player.  There was one I had heard about in my home town and even knew one of the players.  Looking back, I can't remember if it was D&D or Pathfinder.  I was coming into the middle of this "adventure path" type campaign.  The entire session was getting from A to B and encountering a few things along the way.  Most of it was combat and everyone had this specific role, including my character - a wizard.  We were mid to high level and I just kept lobbing fireballs.  While it was mildly exciting being in combat, the entire thing just left me wanting.  So, I never went back.

Also, the game took place in this guy's cold, unfinished basement that smelled weird with boxes of kitty-litter everywhere and cats with dried dingleberries on their bottoms constantly roaming around. Oh, and we were seated on metal folding chairs that were super uncomfortable.  Are you surprised I never returned?

These days, I've got to play somewhere decent and always try to give players something for their characters to do besides these ubiquitous robo-battles that could easily be handled with some kind of RPG autopilot or computer program.

#8:  What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

Personally, I think both dungeoncrawl fantasy and investigative sessions are best when there's at least 3 hours to play.

What works best for shorter sessions, in my opinion, are RPGs that focus on interaction.  These also take the most out of a GM, so it's probably a good thing that they're usually shorter.

Over the past year, I've run about a dozen 60 - 90 minute sessions of Alpha Blue on Roll20 and while they felt short, it seemed like quite a bit was accomplished.  You go somewhere new, talk to some people, get in some trouble, have a short combat encounter, and get laid.  Boom!  Done.  In, out, and put the kettle on.

#9:  What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Pretty much anything.  If you're not doing a one-shot, I think somewhere around 10 sessions is just about ideal for any campaign.  But then I prefer shorter campaigns.

#10:  Where do you go for RPG reviews?

RPG.net, TheRPGsite.com, Endzeitgeist, Ten-Foot Pole, Tenkar's Tavern, and Swords & Stitchery.

#11:  Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn?

Encounter Critical or 1st edition Vampire: the Masquerade.  Basically, all I would be interested in are adventures.  The former just needs more official content while the latter quickly jumped into meta-plot and option bloat.

Although, if the game exists, it's not dead.  Sometimes, a company can kill an RPG by over-supplementing it.  Like a really great movie, sometimes sequel after sequel dilutes its awesomeness.

#12:  Which RPG has the most inspiring interior artwork?

Dungeon Crawl Classics is probably the best black and white interior artwork RPG I can think of.  I was going to also pick out one with color artwork, but I'm drawing a complete fucking blank!

#13:  Describe a game experience that changed how you play?

I'm trying to remember the first time (or just a vivid early memory) of using random tables during an adventure to improvise some detail about the adventure.  I must have been exposed to random tables early on and loved them because that's the thing I'm probably best known for.

Hmm, besides rumors and wandering monsters, I can't come up with a damned thing.  Too bad, that would have made for an interesting anecdote.  [Edit: ok, I took a short walk before posting this and came up with something.]

I used one of the introductory adventures in the back of Call of Cthulhu 4th edition multiple times - especially when I wanted to introduce new people to the game.  I dimly recall a d6 table for what happens when someone touches or activates this strange cube found below the house.  Back then, it struck me that rolling on the table would send the rest of that adventure into entirely divergent narrative threads.  And it did... forcing me, as Keeper of Arcane Lore, to go with the flow.  Controlled chaos!

#14:  Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Most campaign play should be open-ended.  The only type of RPG campaign I can think of that isn't open-ended is an investigation that keeps going and going, leading deeper and deeper into the heart of a singular mystery.

#15:  Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

If by adapting, you mean "changing," then I'd have to say D&D.  There are so many rules and so many editions and partial editions or versions of the rules, plus all the retro-clones and retro-compatible RPGs that it begs to be adapted... molded to suit each individual table.  In 2017, no two D&D games are exactly alike.

#16:  Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

The RPG I've adapted/changed/house-ruled the least might be Call of Cthulhu.  Turning everything into a percentage role is so easy to use that it's almost a shame.  I'm a firm believer that house-rules should organically occur during play - it means you're group is interacting with game instead of merely adhering to its rules.

#17:  Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

There are a few RPGs I acquired in the late 80's / early 90's that looked promising but for one reason or another, we never ended up actually playing.  Here's a brief list...

  • DC Heroes RPG - too complex.
  • Kult - lack of accessible entry point, but love the vibe.  
  • Skyrealms of Jorune - what are you supposed to do in the game - try to become a citizen?  Uh, no thanks.
  • Cyberspace - I'm not sure why I never tried to run this.  From what I remember, it wasn't overly complex, though it did have a lot of numbers.  Maybe lack of an introductory scenario?

________

Ok, I'll try to get the final installment of my #RPGaDay Q&A posted tomorrow.

VS


Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part I of III)


Whether or not these lists have value in today's RPG blog-o-sphere, I'm going to answer as many as I can over the course of three days.

Why three days?  I don't want to tie up my precious blogging space with random questions for each day of this month (and I'm a bit late to the party).

#1:  What published RPG do I wish I was playing right now?

Assuming this is going to be a one-shot and assuming that I'll be playing as a player (rather than my usual position as GM), I'd love to play one of my own RPGs (Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, or The Outer Presence).  To this day, I've never been a player in the aforementioned RPGs.  I'm sure it'll happen soon, though.

But if that wasn't a possibility, then something fun, oddball, and awesomely ridiculous like Encounter Critical.

#2:  What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Hasn't everything been published already?  Just to see how far I could get (didn't really expect much), I contacted ABC to see what they wanted for the license to make an official RPG for Lost.  They never emailed me back, unfortunately.  So, I guess Lost might be my answer.

#3:  How do you find out about new RPGs?

Through blogs and the occasional forum thread.  DriveThruRPG makes it easy to see what's new or what one might like based on similar purchases.

#4:  Which RPG have you played the most since August, 2016?

I think that would have to be Alpha Blue.  I've been running a lot of demos on Roll20 and ran 3 or 4 sessions at Gary Con IX.  Plus, the odd home game.

#5:  Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Which game?  My favorite cover is the Tom Moldvay magenta box with Erol Otus art.  A close second is the AD&D Player's Handbook.  I've seen a lot of cool answers that other people have given, and agree with many of them - 2nd edition Paranoia, 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition...

#6:  You can game everyday for a week.  Describe what you'd do!

I'd either have to envision this as the mother of all RPG conventions or traveling back in time - before a career, wife, and 5 kids.

While I like hopping from one game to another, sampling this and that, there's something deeply satisfying about sticking to a particular game for consecutive days/nights.  I have fond memories playing Vampire: the Masquerade, D&D, WEG D6 Star Wars, and Call of Cthulhu day after day or night after night in the summer with friends in the early 90's.

So, I'd probably run something simple and spontaneous where I never seem to lack for ideas - Alpha Blue.  It's my sleazy go-to baby for when I don't have anything prepared.

If I had to choose something that I didn't write, it would probably be Masks of Nyarlathotep.  If I worked at it, I think we could get through the whole thing in 7 days, assuming 5 - 6 hours per day.

BTW, just saw the PDF for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion.  Awesome cover!  Sure, it's over 700 pages (hmm... they can't all be winners with that much content, am I right?) but $47.50 for the PDF?  Damn, that's expensive.  I mean, it's more than double the cost of the actual Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign!  Doesn't that kind of price gouging encourage gamers to pirate the digital content?
_______

Ok, the next 9 or 10 questions tomorrow and the final installment on Wednesday!

VS

p.s.  Only 3 days left to back the Battle For The Purple Islands Kickstarter.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Start Writing Your Adventure!


This blog post will serve 3 purposes - 1) a reminder that this adventure writing contest exists, 2) provide more details on what's expected, and 3) suggest a schedule to help you get started.

The adventure writing contest is happening! Ok, first one's out of the way.

I've received some great questions, let me try to answer them...

Q:  Should my adventure be written for any specific system?
A:  No, don't worry about system. Just write an awesome adventure and let me worry about the mechanics.

Q:  Can I submit the adventure early or late?
A:  Nope, I need it on November 1st.  Otherwise... chaos!?!

Q:  Can I submit more than one adventure?
A:  Sure.

Q:  Where should I submit it?
A:  To my email address:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

Q:  Which file types are acceptable?
A:  Word Document, Google Drive, PDF, and anything I can easily read on my PC.

Q:  Who owns the intellectual property contained within the adventure if my adventure wins?
A:  We share it.  That means you can go off and use stuff in the future based on your adventure and so can I.
______

Now, for purpose #3... I'm going to share my noob-friendly three-month process for writing adventures like a fucking boss (this info will eventually appear in part II).  Here's the process in brief: concept, write it out, revision.

Month One (August) - This is where you do the bulk of your brainstorming.  At this point, you're just thinking about stuff, turning things over in your mind, gathering ideas, throwing concepts at the wall and seeing what sticks.  Also, create an outline.

Month Two (September) - You start organizing your ideas into a cohesive structure.  Refine all the stuff you came up with - subtract some things, add others, tweak what doesn't quite fit - until you have a rough draft.

Month Three (October) - Take that rough draft and smooth out the rough edges, polish it until is shines like a diamond.  Everything should have some kind of purpose - take out all of the railroading, don't skimp on the details (but don't go into such detail that it's tedious) and customized monsters, treasure, etc. so that they're non-standard.  Fine tune your adventure so it's ready to submit.
______

Since your contest submission is due November 1st, that means the month we're in right now, August, is the perfect time to start conceptualizing your adventure.

I'll post another reminder around the middle of September, but take the initiative without delay.  Use the direction provided in Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss to craft a scenario worthy of winning the $500 grand prize!

VS

p.s.  Only a week left to back Battle For The Purple Islands via Kickstarter!


Monday, July 31, 2017

What Would You Like To Know (like a fucking boss)?


Sure, Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is awesome, but it doesn't tell the full story.  How could it in only 14 pages?

I've been giving it some thought over the last couple weeks, and today I started outlining part II.  I probably won't have time to actually dig into the writing until this fall.  However, it won't hurt to beef up my outline right now.

So, what topics would you like me to touch on?  Where are you struggling?  Why is it difficult for you to start writing adventures?  What are the obstacles you need help removing?  Help me help you!

Thanks in advance for your valuable feedback,

VS

p.s.  In a couple days, I'll be posting more details about the Adventure Writing Contest!!!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Battle For The Purple Islands


I've come full circle.  My very first Kickstarter campaign was for The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  I've covered a lot of ground since then, and now it's time to return to those dreaded islands purple.

This project wasn't on my mind at all.  I didn't plan for it.  In fact, I made quite a few plans going into 2018 that had nothing to do with the purple islands.  But inspiration struck when I noticed a new exhibit in an art museum near my work.

I went in, looked around, saw some cool stuff and then found this little room - an entrance covered with a black velvet curtain showing this weird art film.  Strange words, bizarre imagery, and dark ambient tones reverberating in the void.

But it was that first moment walking into the room, before I knew what was ahead.  For a couple seconds I was completely enveloped in blackness.  The fear and thrilling joy of anticipation awakened my senses.  What would I encounter beyond?

Upon leaving the art museum, I knew that I wasn't done with those islands - not by a long shot.

So, if you're down for some more purple action, back this project.  It's going to be fucking awesome!
And it will include stats for both conventional OSR/O5R and the OSR outsider 4th Wave type stuff that I've been doing with Crimson Dragon Slayer and Alpha Blue.

Got a question?  Please ask!

VS


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Khan's Wrath is Back!


I just found out the news - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is returning to theaters in September!

That's awesome, since it's my favorite of the Star Trek films and was a big part of my scifi movie watching in the early 80's.

Some of you may remember the free Alpha Blue scenario I put out just as Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 was released.

It's called Guarding Galaxy XXX and there's some amusing references to Wrath of Khan in there, along with several other pokes at beloved scifi franchises.  After all, it's part scifi parody; part scifi porn parody.

In order to further celebrate this fine film, I might try to slip another short freebie into the busy Kort'thalis Publishing release schedule.  Perhaps Obi-Wan'k will make a surprise visit.  You never know...

VS

p.s.  If you're into Star Trek or Star Wars RPGs and you want it to have a sleazy edge, grab Alpha Blue while it's still on sale (and there's a softcover).


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Thing + Frozen




This is literally the coolest fucking thing I've seen so far this month.  It's a dramatization of the classic "blood test scene" from John Carpenter's The Thing, but with the characters from Disney animated film Frozen using Play-Doh.

I would love to show this to my girls, but they're at an impressionable age and they come to me in the middle of the night when they wake up with nightmares.  But soon...

This reminds me of that G.I. Joe version of The Thing that came out several years ago.  I'll post the video below so you don't have to hunt around for it.




Enjoy,

VS



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The S'rulyan Vault II


It's here!  ;)

I had a lot of fun with this one.  It was nice having a template and then doing things a bit different to both add to and diverge from what Glynn and I did with the original S'rulyan Vault.

+MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) has done another amazing job!

Basically, the dungeon is bigger (there are more areas within the space) and the PDF has a lot of cool stuff in it.

My favorite is the d100 table for faction quirks.  This table alone makes it fast and easy to come up with a unique faction on the fly.  Just roll on the table 3 times and the results will inspire you to fill in the rest of the details.

Thanks for all the Kickstarter backing and support - and thanks to everyone who purchases this!

VS


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest like a Fucking Boss


My latest guide in the "like a fucking boss" series, Adventure Writing like a Fucking Boss is still #1 on DriveThruRPG.  I'm equally blown away and grateful to the entire RPG community (especially my OSR brothers and sisters) for the success of this book.

In order to facilitate the magic contained therein, I'm organizing an adventure writing contest.  The details are below...

  • 5 - 7 pages of one-shot scenario text showcasing the fundamentals you learned from reading Adventure Writing like a Fucking Boss.
  • Anything in the following genres: scifi, space opera, science fantasy, fantasy, post-apocalypse, investigative horror, action/adventure pulp, supernatural horror.
  • Submit the adventure on November 1st, 2017.
  • The winner will be declared on November 25th and will receive $500 via paypal.
  • Kort'thalis Publishing will supply the art, editing, and layout required to make the winning adventure PDF as awesome as possible.
  • Kort'thalis Publishing will publish the adventure for FREE on OBS on January 11th, 2018.

Let me know if you have any questions.  And good luck!

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



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst - playtest "B" simplified


A lot of people signed up (approximately 50) and for that I'm grateful, but that also means at least a half-hour of non-stop emailing, assuming yahoo is working that day.

After a couple people responded to the playtest packet "B" that I just dispersed last night, I decided it would be much easier to include a Dropbox link here instead of re-emailing everyone.

Some sort of google document open to playtesters might be better, so I fiddled around with it until I got this.  Formatting seems even worse that what I had in the word doc, but oh well.  It'll serve its purpose.

The newest version has some rules for grappling and feeding during combat and something to cover the vampire trope of victims who seem to enjoy having their blood sucked out.

Emailing me is still the best way for me to receive feedback, so please continue to use my personal email address:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

Enjoy,

VS

p.s.  Meanwhile, I'm a couple days away from finishing The S'rulyan Vault II.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst - playtest packet "B"


My vampire RPG Blood Dark Thirst, a sort of splatter-punk gothic heartbreaker, is still in the beta phase!

Tonight I'm sending out the second round of playtest documents to those interested in giving me feedback after reading and/or running one or more demo sessions with a group of players.

If you've already contacted me, there's nothing more you have to do.  Just sit back and wait for the playtest "B" to be sent around midnight tonight.  If you haven't emailed me yet but would like to receive this document, send me an email this weekend with "BDT - B" in the subject line.

My email:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

What's new?  A lot of little things.  I've been taking inspiration from the Subspecies films (I've re-watched the first three).  So, the vampires of Blood Dark Thirst have a little bit of Radu Vladislas in them.  ;)

I'm starting to think that "points" is preferable to "ranks" because the former is more neutral and innocuous, whereas the latter just seems more noticeable.  So, little things like that.

But also big things!  Setting-wise, concepts that will influence the play-style - rather than all cautious and brooding, I've got a few ideas that will speed up the action and get vampires involved.

Those looking for alternatives to playing a vampire, keep waiting for playtest packet "C" - that's where I'm introducing guidelines for playing werewolves, demons, and sorcerers.

That's it for now.  Thanks for your participation and valuable feedback!

VS

p.s.  Gerardo Tasistro found an error in the combat example.  Obviously, the 1 would take away from the single success.  The target would lose two points of Health.  Thanks, hoss!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Setting ideas for Blood Dark Thirst


To those who have the Blood Dark Thirst - playtest "A" document, thanks again for participating!  I look forward to reading your feedback.

I've already received several surveys and even a review of sorts.

As I'm just about finished with my duties for The S'rulyan Vault II kickstarter, I've given more thought to the world of Blood Dark Thirst - the default campaign setting.  Even though I want this vampire RPG to support multiple styles of play, I do want to focus on what makes this game special.

I need to ask myself, "How is this vampire RPG different than others?"

The following is a drop zone of things I want to explore and investigate.  Some of these I've touched on in the playtest, others are new but still rooted in my growing list of influences.



  • I've started watching the Subspecies films again (only the first one so far).  I love Radu's belief that attachment to the feelings of mortals is a weakness that vampires can't afford to have.  Also, his preoccupation with consorts and fledglings.  
  • I want character creation and the introductory adventure to focus on what it would be like to awaken as a vampire just after being turned - especially, under less than ideal circumstances.
  • The existence of vampires is somewhere between an open secret and common knowledge.  Maybe it's something that most people don't like to talk about, but is an ever-growing threat on the edges of popular culture.  While I don't want to go anywhere as far as that Daybreakers (which I did not care for), the masquerade is certainly over.  If you remember that Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode from season 3 "The Wish," that's kind of what I'm going for.  Vampires have effectively taken over the bad parts of town - the inner cities, but the affluent areas and suburbs are more or less bloodsucker free... for now.
  • Because mortals know about vampires, a fair number of them retaliate.  The hunters become the hunted.  So, that means the PCs will have to watch out.  It won't always be easy pickings out there, they'll have to watch their backs.  That's a good reason for vampires to form packs.
  • This also means that vampire competition can be brutal.  Remain in your usual hunting ground and eventually hunters will come after you.  Stray too far from your usual hunting ground and other vampires might try to kill you because you're on their turf, indulging in their limited resources.
  • Since the secret's out, it's hard to casually insert oneself into a gathering of mortals and drink their precious blood without causing a panic.  That means vampires will have to be stealthier and smarter in order to feed.  Some pale dude with a Eurotrash accent pulls up in his black porsche and asks a couple of females to get in because he's in the mood to party - that's going to work approximately 1% of the time.  This forces vampires to be more creative.
  • There's no strict hierarchy, political squabbles, or "vampire government."  Vampires tend towards the animalistic, feral, demonic, impulsive, and predatory.  They are more instinctual than contemplative.  I can't imagine vampires in Blood Dark Thirst sitting in a fancy room of green marble, subtly manipulating other vampires like chess pieces in order to get what they want.  Sure, you can plan, coerce, intimidate and even manipulate humans and vampires alike, but with this game it's more immediate.  "GTFO or I'll kill you where you stand."
  • Because of the nightly struggle for survival, there's no ennui or malaise - you fight to stay alive, night after night, enjoying small pleasures where you can.  Achieving lofty goals is on the horizon, but that's tomorrow's problem.

Feel free to comment, share, ask a question, or whatever.  Even if you just want to talk about vampires - go ahead and post something!

I'll let you guys know when the playtest "B" document is ready, possibly this weekend.

VS


Friday, July 7, 2017

The Midderlands


I'm keeping a close eye on The Midderlands Kickstarter because it looks to be quite awesome.  An OSR mini-setting and bestiary by Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) that should do for the color green what The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence did for purple.

I've worked closely with Glynn Seal for a couple years now, and there's nobody I trust more to fulfill a Kickstarter than him.  It's obvious that a lot of care and planning went into this project.  The Midderlands is his first solo Kickstarter project, so I can understand wanting to get it right.

Check out the sample pages, art, maps, and evocative descriptions!

VS


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to write awesome RPG scenarios


A few weeks ago, I reviewed a big, fancy hardcover book full of lots of familiar and well-respected names in the RPG adventure writing field.

Personally, I was underwhelmed by it, for a variety of reasons.  But what really struck me was the lack of practical adventure writing advice.

So, the need for guidance, coupled with the fact that many fans of How to Game Master Like A Fucking Boss and Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss suggested I write a similar book on crafting really great scenarios, fueled my drive to create Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.

Little by little, in between my other writing deadlines and design work, I set down what I believe are the essentials.  Without further ado, here's Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss on DriveThruRPG.

Before I go, let me quote a gamer who had this to say about How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss...

"I've bought something like seven copies of your How to GM book, and I have enormous respect for your work. 

I got one for myself +PDF, then for my girlfriend at the time, then for my friend who runs a game, then like three more for my other friends who also run games, and then a couple more in case I ever made more friends. I give them as Christmas and birthday gifts. I call it The Bible. All of my friends with copies call it that too. It's good stuff."  ~  Jeff Tatum

Reading stuff like that, as well as, reviews all over the internet (keep 'em coming!) gives me enormous satisfaction and hope for the future of our beloved hobby.

Thanks,

VS


Monday, July 3, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst - open playtest


You play a blood-drinking demon, commonly referred to as a vampire, yet vestiges of your humanity remain.  Struggling for survival and dominion, your vampiric nature makes you an extremely dangerous and desperate predator in a pre-apocalyptic world on the precipice of another inquisition.  This night is for the taking! 


At midnight tonight, I'll be emailing word documents with the bare bones beta-version of my vampire RPG, Blood Dark Thirst.

If you'd like to be a playtester, please send me an email with "BDT playtest" in the subject line:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

I greatly appreciate your support and hope that you will enjoy your first taste of Blood Dark Thirst!

Thank you,

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


Friday, June 30, 2017

4th Wave OSR


I was slumming over at TheRPGpundit's blog and saw him writing about three distinct waves of the OSR here.

  • The first wave is devoted to retro-cloning original material from the 70's, 80's, and early 90's.  An example would be Swords & Wizardry.
  • The second wave is devoted to new RPG systems that incorporate large amounts of the original 70's, 80's, and early 90's material but take them in slightly new directions.  An example would be Dungeon Crawl Classics.
  • The third wave is devoted to taking that original 70's, 80's, and early 90's material (specifically the rules and game mechanics) into new settings, genres, and milieus.  Examples would be Raiders! of the Lost Artifacts, White Star, Apes Victorious, etc.

Well, I'm here to tell you about the OSR's 4th wave...

4th wave OSR incorporates the spirit, tone, objectives, aesthetics, play-style, rules philosophy, mechanical principles, and hobbyist attitude from the 70's, 80's, and early 90's into RPG material that does it's own thing.  Many consider these products neo-OSR, OSRish, OSR adjacent, or quasi-OSR because they've taken the next logical, evolutionary step away from original D&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, Ghostbusters, Toon, Vampire: the Masquerade, etc.

While Kort'thalis Publishing started out with third wave adventures and campaign settings like Liberation of the Demon Slayer, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, and Revelry in Torth, it soon went 4th wave with such titles as Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Alpha Blue.  

Mechanically speaking, they feel old school (rules-light old school, not giant tomes with a rule for everything and everything having a rule without streamlined congruency old school), but they do not slavishly adhere to the d20 or systems that came before.  

While I doubt that 4th wave OSR will ever replace the first 3 waves, it is my belief that the 4th wave is necessary for continued innovation.  Even though I won't be basking in the popularity of core OSR, I have my place just outside where there's more room to breathe.

VS


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Blood - Blood Dark Thirst playtest


I had a "working lunch" with a couple of my friends and gaming buddies today.  I'm so strapped for face-to-face roleplaying time that I decided to combine roleplaying with having an extra long lunch at a nearby restaurant.

TL;DR:  Still early nights (see what I did there?), but in general the playtest went well and we all had an awesome time!

Though the Vampire: the Masquerade bones are evident, it takes many twists and turns, ultimately going in a totally different direction.

A few people have mentioned, including one of today's players, that my d6 system (used in Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Alpha Blue) might be the way to go.  After all, it's an established, awesome system that has worked perfectly thus far.

While I wholeheartedly agree, there's something about the d6 that works for those genres / games, but I've got a kind of mental block when it comes to transferring d6s to a game about vampires.  I'm going to suggest something that probably sounds like pseudoscience - the d10 has formed neural pathways in my brain from years and years of playing V:tM in the 90's.  It just feels more right than any other die type.

Where d6 has a fun, free-wheeling, super rules-lite, pulpy gonzo feel, the d10 seems a bit more sophisticated, intricate, mysterious, and... dark, for lack of a better word.  That probably sounds crazy to non-gamers, but hopefully you guys in the gaming community understand where I'm coming from.

So, regardless of the sense it would make, I'm going to stick with the d10 system (VSd10?).

Keeping track of blood and willpower with glass beads worked great.  I was worried about all the bookkeeping.  As you many know about my design goals/aesthetics, I'm not a fan of crunch or accounting.  Blood Dark Thirst has a little bit of both, but not too much.  And I think having markers/tokens makes things easier - the playtesters agreed.  Plus, the GM can see at a glance how much blood and willpower a vampire has remaining.

In no particular order, let me list some of the things that came up during the session...

  • The spicy cheesebread was amazing!  Actually, the entire meal was great.  And the gaming space was better than average.
  • While driving to the restaurant I thought of something - a way to emulate that scene in several vampire movies where the vamp sees blood spilled and has to resist his instincts taking over.  Didn't get to use that in the playtest, but wrote it down once I was at the table.
  • Explaining the origin of vampires to the players, +Tim Virnig and +Jacob Nelson, felt satisfying.  It could probably use some flair, but it got the message across (you'll have to wait to find out).
  • I came up with 20 skills, but think I can reduce those down to 10 or 12.
  • Since this was a 90 minute playtest, we left a few details blank.
  • Attaching blood lust dice to a vampire's blood supply worked out well.  Though, it wouldn't make sense for mental actions to trigger frenzy.  Hmm, let me do an occular pat-down on this guy coming into the bar [rolls dice, gets a red 1] DEAR GOD THE BEAST!!!  So, I'm going to reserve blood lust dice for physical and social actions only, at the GM's discretion, of course.
  • The mental ability score deals with noticing things, as well as, knowledge.  Pretty much anything that's not squarely physical or social will be mental, I suppose.
  • Combat seemed to work well.  Didn't notice any glaring deficiencies.  That's one of the downfalls of V:tM, in my view.
  • The red glass beads represent vampire blood and the larger black beads represent willpower. They worked better than expected.  It made both of those stats more... tangible, more real.  I can't remember doing that back in the day with V:tM, but it seems like a no-brainer.  Shading circles, erasing circles, and shading them in again was tedious and lacked immersion.
  • The adventure?  Not a lot happened - the PCs interrupted a bar fight and things got ugly.  Then another vampire appeared while the PCs were making their way back to their apartment with a couple of soon-to-be victims.  This new vampire watched them for awhile and attempted to intimidate them.
  • Overall, it felt like I was playing a vampire RPG in the early 90's, but in some alternate dimension or surreal dreamland where the rules were vaguely reminiscent of what I'd known but completely different.  
  • By the end of our session, even the waiter had to ask what we were doing and told us he wished he could have joined in.  

I'll be posting details about open playtesting of the beta this Friday.

VS

p.s.  Both Tim and Jacob were vampire RPG virgins, so popping that particular cherry (twice!) was an unexpected treat.  ;)


Saturday, June 24, 2017

New Vampire RPG survey


I'm developing my own vampire RPG called Blood Dark Thirst. I'll be self-publishing it through Kort'thalis Publishing.

I've got some of the basics down and recently re-watched my primary influences - The Lost Boys, Near Dark, and Fright Night.

While I consider myself part of the game's audience, I don't want to be the only one.  So, this seems like a good time to engage the rest of you, getting valuable feedback while the concept is still malleable.  If you'll oblige me, I've got questions and would love to read your responses...

  1. Single purpose or general purpose?  By that I mean, would you prefer a game that focuses on one mode or playstyle or something open-ended that was more of a sandbox of design goals?
  2. Beta version first for people to try / playtest or would you prefer I release the game once it's more or less "done?"
  3. I've shared my big 3 vampire movies above, what are your top 3?
  4. Vampire origins?  Would you prefer an origin story that describes how/why vampires exist?  The downside to that is it demystifies the setting.  Or no origin setting?  Vampire: the Requiem tried to do multiple vampire origins, but I'm not sure how satisfying that was.
  5. What's something you'd like to see a new vampire RPG emphasize (one more than the others)- A) hunting, feeding, and dealing with mortals; B) squaring off against competing vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, demons, etc.  C) politics, backroom deals, manipulation, influence, etc.?
  6. Theme?  A) sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll - party it up; vampires as rebellious teenagers; B) angst, brooding, self-conscious, oh the curse of being undead! C) darkness, horror, eldritch Hellraiser shit.  Basically, edgelord without the child molestation and infanticide of 5th edition V:tM.
  7. Is there any familiar RPG mechanic, system, or sub-system that you'd like to see here, perhaps with a fresh coat of paint or tweaked for a vampire game?
  8. Presentation - color vs. b/w, softcover vs. hardcover, PDF vs. print?  Along with that... aesthetics?  What kind of overall look do you want?
  9. What are some characters, conflicts, settings, and stories that excite and inspire you when you think vampire RPG?
  10. Anything I've left out?  If I forgot to ask something, feel free to comment.

Thanks for taking the time to answer this questionnaire!  Expect an official announcement post next week.  Playtesting information will be included.

VS


Thursday, June 22, 2017

SleazyScifi.com


I've been working with my friend / gaming buddy on a character generator and choose your own sexy space [text] adventure.  Here it is!

This is only the beta, but I think it's pretty swanky so far.  Go ahead and try it!

If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to comment.  We want to know what you think of the site.  ;)

Thanks,

VS

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Last Straw


That's a fairly dramatic blog post title, I'll admit, but today I'm talking about the recently released Vampire: the Masquerade 5th edition pre-alpha open playtest packet scenario "The Last Night."  Yeah, that was a mouthful.

Up until this morning, I was focused on the rules portion of the open playtest.  Then I stumbled upon +Erik Tenkar's blog post here.

Besides being really long and Vampire: the Masquerade meets Zero Dark Thirty, it includes some pretty awful stuff.  Hey, this is Venger you're talking to.  I get it.  I'm all for edgy and pushing boundaries, but I personally find this objectionable in a way that just makes me not want to play.

There's a woman with a baby, a pregnant woman, dead teenagers, and a whole building full of refugee orphans.  All of them provided with notes for vampires to feed upon.

One of the pre-generated characters loves to feed off of and have sex with "the young," meaning young vampires.  Followed by, "Ventrue feeding restrictions: you only feed off children and very young teenagers."  Yeah, those are instructions on how to run the player-character, not just some debased NPC villain.

Wow, gross!  And this is an introductory playtest scenario... WTF?!?  Where do they go from here?  The PCs are expected to run a child sex trafficking operation in order to fund terrorism?  Dear God!

As Tenkar asserted, this might appeal to pedophiles and fucked up individuals who have no issues whatsoever with child endangerment and infanticide, but I'm definitely out.

This means that going forward, my vampire RPG design will have nothing to do with White Wolf, Vampire: the Masquerade, Vampire: the Requiem, and any and all World of Darkness products.  I want to differentiate what I'm doing with what they're doing in the strongest possible terms.

I currently have a couple items still on my plate, but come August I should have something to show you guys.

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


Sunday, June 18, 2017

O5R Dwimmermount session #2


June is a busy month, so I lost two players from last session and gained a new player (with whom I've gamed a lot over the years).

The PCs:  Sir-Yut the human ranger (female), Iron Fist the dwarven fighter, George the human druid, and Bel-Vadren the elven magic-user.

So much stuff happened that I'm going to give the highlights (in no particular order)...


  • Finally got to use The S'rulyan Vault map from last year's Kickstarter.  It really made the game come alive - without using a terrain map and miniatures that could disrupt our theater of the mind approach.
  • Before returning to Dwimmermount, the party acquired a new hireling in town - a 1st level human thief named Barret.  He mostly keeps to himself, usually stays out of battle, and charges 5 gold pieces per day.
  • I remembered to whip out the massive DCC tome in order to get the mercurial magic table for all spells cast.  There were a lot of interesting results!  The rat-like demons who crawl out of the wizard's sleeves to fight alongside him was possibly the best.
  • The PCs discovered several steel cylinders containing azoth - a rare and potent sorcerous liquid that can be used to enhance magical properties.  Instead of black, as Dwimmermount describes it, I went with a luminous yellowish-green, like Predator blood... and Mountain Dew (seemed appropriate).
  • I realize that more than ever, I should be rolling for the amount of noise being made in the next room, especially when characters are actively listening for it.  This is what I came up with.
  • They fought gnolls, goblins, humanoids wearing dead spider parts, crab-men, a hollow-man from the DCC bestiary, and a gelatinous green troll based on a normal troll but given a little gin-sequoia via the Monster-Palooza random table in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss. The only death was at the end with the green slime troll - Barret was hit, failed his save, and melted into a pool of slime.
  • The PCs ransacked a forbidden library - all the books, save one, fell apart in their hands just like that scene in the original The Time Machine film.  The remaining book was magical and contained the spell Flaming Claw of the Demon!
  • A wand was discovered hidden under a lip of some marble altar the crab-men were using to sacrifice one of the spider-worshiping dudes.  "Tastes like crab, talks like people."  Wands are interesting because they expend charges in order to make magic.  This particular wand had three spell-like abilities and each one used up a different amount of charges.  The wand was almost dry, but Bel-Vadren had the idea of soaking it in the azoth - turns out he was right!  The wand was fully charged again.
  • One wooden door was carved with a triangle within a circle and that symbol had been glazed with azoth recently.  It was also trapped, as it happens.  Barret doesn't do so well with magical traps.  Luckily, George got in the habit of knocking on each door with his ten-foot pole after Barret's check.  It went from a ten-foot pole to a nine-foot and nine-inch pole as a sorcerous scythe swiped down and took three inches off it.
  • I used a really old homebrew gemstone random table.  Wanted to use my translucent green Kort'thalis Publishing dice with the demon/dragon logo in pace of the "6."  First time I rolled the percentile dice, it came up "100," that made one of the found gemstones a star stone (aka sorcerer's crystal) which effectively doubled the potency of a wizard's spell once per day.
  • Another time I rolled on the gem table one of the diamonds came up cursed.  To differentiate that diamond from the others, I had Harold roll on the color random table also from How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  The diamond had eggplant coloring with amethyst veins.  The cursed gem was simply bad luck.  Using the wand to remove its curse, the purple diamond became good luck, giving the owner a +1 to any roll he wished, once per day.
  • They also picked up a magic weapon - a short sword +1, +3 vs. wizards; it detects the presence of undead with a sparkling black jewel in the hilt's crosspiece - it glows unnaturally when undead are within 30'.
  • There was a dimly lit room where several robed cultists, chanting, sat around a feebly glowing shape set into a stone presentation area in the middle of the chamber.  It was faceted and semi-translucent, it's glow was faint because of all the caked-on dirt, grime, dust, and cobwebs covering it.  One of the cultists was about to pour a decanter of azoth upon the weird glass object.  The cultists were killed, with the pourer dying first.
  • Bel-Vadren attempted the same trick as the cultist pouring azoth.  The azoth trickled upon an ordinary spider which turned it monstrously large and mutated.  It bit the magic-user's face which made him nauseous (with vomiting), but also gave him 4 arms.  After the spider was killed, George decided to smash one of the facets with his nine-foot and nine-inch pole.  I rolled a saving throw for the ancient vessel of magic and rolled a "1."  Bye bye, demon containment unit!  Luminous steam rose from the glass-like object and a malevolent presence entered George.  They now share possession of George's body and soul.
  • In a circular chamber sat a large, hairy, corpulent demon upon a throne, attended by a variety of demonic humanoids.  There was wine and Iron Fist rolled a natural 20 to sneak up to the cask of wine and drink himself silly.  In exchange for a piece of jade found earlier, he let the adventurers pass through, after George negotiated with him in private, allowing them to head down the stairs to the next level of the dungeon, if they so wished (they did not).

If you're saying to yourself, "Hmm, this doesn't sound like the Dwimmermount I know," well... I've definitely made it my own.  There's a passing resemblance, but no other GM will mistake his Dwimmermount for mine.  It's been Vengerized!

We're all looking forward to next month's session #3.  Until then, I've got a bunch of exciting new content for this blog and Draconic Magazine.  Stay tuned.

VS

p.s.  Want your own (possibly) giant old school dungeon map?  The S'rulyan Vault II kickstarter is still happening.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Vampire 5e preview


This is going to be a brief first impression of the new pre-alpha Vampire: the Masquerade 5th edition playtest rules which I downloaded this morning.

For the record, the original 1991 edition of Vampire: the Masquerade was a much-loved RPG for me and my friends.  I ran it a lot in the early 90's and played a fair amount, too.  The VSd6 engine that makes Kort'thalis Publishing games go is a hybrid of V:tM and Star Wars D6.

Right from the start, the text is readable which is good.  The opening defines this game as a storytelling game of personal and political horror.  I would not have chosen that word to describe the game.  Especially right now, that word "political" is so super-charged with a lot of things going on that you may as well throw in "Trump," "Obamacare," and "radical Muslim jihadist" as well.

There are some things I like, such as breaking down the 9 attributes into three: physical, social, and mental... with specialties.  Honorable mention - succeeding at a cost.

There are some things I dislike, such as removing the special properties of 1's and 10's, as well as, making all successes 6+.  I suppose it helps with "taking half" because it's 50/50 per die rolled, but scaling the difficulty higher or lower depending on circumstances was something I really loved about the original Vampire: the Masquerade.

There are some things I love, but already know I'm going to house-rule because I don't care for how they're presented - hunger, specifically "hunger dice."  Note to game designers: call it "The Hunger," whenever possible.  Not just "hunger."  Like anyone else that's human, I get hungry.  It happens.  I eat and it goes away.  What you're trying to convey is similar, but something altogether different.  A supernatural hunger - The Hunger!  Also, it's the name of a classic and evocative 80's vampire movie.

What's my beef with the presentation?  Too much bookkeeping.  When I get time, I'll outline how I would use those red hunger dice (yes, I agree... they must be red).

And there are things I'm not yet sure about, like combat, for instance.  I need to actually run a few encounters before getting a handle on how the mechanics shake out.  Also, no one loves random tables more than I do, but I'm just not sure Vampire is a random table sort of game.  The vibe seems wrong.

In conclusion, I've got to study this more and actually play the game.  If I had time, I'd love to run a Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle (if some RPG company was throwing money at me, I might be able to convince my wife that spending time/energy on RPG stuff was worthwhile).

But this version, even in its infancy, does feel like a later edition of V:tM.  And it's piqued my curiosity enough to delve deeper, so by that standard alone, I think it has accomplished one of its goals.

VS



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Printed out the first S'rulyan Vault map


I shall be buried with this giant bastard of an old school dungeon map.  Let this blog post serve as my final will and testament.

For those curious, after my 25% off coupon from FedEx Office, this 46" x 36" color printed and laminated sheet cost me about $90.  Yeah, I didn't have to go that big (see that diminutive blue thing on the right - that's a full-size set of Chessex dice).  No, I didn't have to laminate it.  Sure, it's a pretty penny, but this is my "forever dungeon."

The thing I love most about it?  The little cracks drawn into the dungeon floor.

It'll take up the majority of damn near any gaming table you set it on.  The thing is beautiful!  +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) did an amazing job.  This Saturday afternoon, I finally get a chance to try it out.

You see, my lame hand-drawn map of Dwimmermount sucked and even though the rooms and corridors are different shapes and configurations, I'll make it work for the monthly old school D&D dungeoncrawl.

I'm putting the whip to Glynn in order to make The S'rulyan Vault II even more badass, so definitely swing on by and back this Kickstarter.

Thanks,

VS


Reviewing How To Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck (part 2)


This blog post is a continuation from here.

Having gone through the book at some length, I realize that there's actually 3 different goals going on under the purview of How To Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck.  And these goals or avenues of advice aren't necessarily working in concert...

The book tries to advise 1) the GM who wants to write his own adventures, 2) the amateur module writer who wants to get published and/or hired as a freelancer, and 3) fans and casual readers who want to read stories from fantasy authors and adventure writing professionals with a history in the RPG industry.

I have a feeling that most readers will be interested in only one or two advice avenues - not all three.

Thankfully, there were a few redeeming features once I got further into the book.  The essay by Harley Stroh being one of them.  He talks about his GM failures which are more enlightening than almost anything else I've read in the book.  He goes on to talk about the advantages of not rolling the dice, but doesn't touch on the practice of "fudging."

I also enjoyed reading James M. Ward's essay on PC death.  The risk of dying needs to be there for a variety of reasons, but then he softens the blow by suggesting a dozen different ways of having your PC come back to life.  Not sure how I feel about that... it's like having a pet scorpion but taking the sting out of its tail.

This part in particular was cool, "When I played in Gary's game I didn't roll dice to see if I picked a lock or found a trap.  I role-played what I was doing to uncover that trap or open that difficult lock."  Yep, that's old school!

But there was still a load of crap I just didn't care about, like an essay on building a Lego dungeon.

There's an essay by Lester Smith that literally uses train-cars as a metaphor for adventure module construction.  He suggests that experienced GMs may add or remove cars, but still.  He goes further to say that improv-heavy GMs grow predictable over time.  I guess because they want to weave the disparate events into a cohesive story and you can rely on the GM to have things make sense?  While I understand his argument, he draws an odd conclusion and one that I disagree with.  There's a big difference between improvising moments (along with the occasional scene) and just making everything up on the fly without anything prepared.

Jim Wampler's essay amounts to don't make things too hard or too easy - also, don't mind a little natural selection... and play villains intelligently, borrowing epic things from books and movies that inspire you, and having players provide details through their own crowd-sourced speculation (an idea I've written about in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss).

I find a grab-bag of unconnected ideas works fine in a book about adventure writing or GMing, but in the space of an essay, it seems too scattered.  And a lot of these essays are comprised of grab-bags of ideas that never really satisfy.

This may seem like nitpicking, but there are places where the layout is terrible.  One word - all by itself - appears at the top of the second column and after that word is a heading for a new section.  I'm looking at a heading at the very bottom of the first column on page 142.  That's all there is of that section, just the heading.  The actual body of the text starts at the top of the second column.  As a reader, publisher, and human being who looks at stuff... that kind of thing bothers me.

Overall, I'd give this 2 out of 5 stars.

VS

p.s.  Yep, The S'rulyan Vault kickstarter is still going for a few more days.  Please consider backing this project and sharing it with others!