Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frank Mentzer Scapegoat

For those who haven't heard, some woman on twitter called-out Frank "red box" Mentzer because of his politely flirtatious comments, continuing a conversation amidst the threat of being blocked, and because she didn't agree with him about some stuff.

It's easy to examine someone's social media statements and judge them.  It's even easier to single an individual out in an industry plagued by assholes on all sides (but especially the SJW / Ctrl-Left crowd who did their best to blacklist my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue) and make him out to be the Harvey Weinstein of the tabletop roleplaying game industry.

In fact, that would so simple!  All we have to do is point to this one guy whose unorthodox behavior is a bit suspect and project every problem we have (real or imagined) onto him... and then crucify the bastard!  Yeah, why not?  After all, we're not individuals anymore - we're part of the masses now.  Hey, it's almost Halloween - so why not throw out imagery about angry torch and pitchfork-wielding mobs trudging up to Frankenstein's castle?  Plus, the whole Weinstein / Frankenstein thing.  Yeah, it works.

I get that we want to stop predators, sexual harassment, and abuse.  But shouldn't we also be guarding the internet from self-appointed social media police, self-promoting victims, and everyone who jumps on the controversy-of-the-day bandwagon because it gives them a chance to spit-shine their good guy badge?

It's gotten so bad that even I thought twice about sticking up for what I believe in.  I'm sure this post is going to draw some heat, but Venger Satanis doesn't stay silent when innocent people are being destroyed.  Fuck that!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Papa Murphy's Analogy

Actually, this isn't just for writing adventures - this goes for core RPGs, as well...

What I've been doing for the last couple years, and increasingly the last few months, is something I'm calling the Papa Murphy's analogy.  If you're not familiar with Papa Murphy's, this analogy sucks... but by the end of this post you'll understand what I'm getting at.

There are thousands of pizza places where you go in, they make the pizza, and you either sit down and eat it or take it home and eat it.  That's the way it is with the overwhelming majority of RPG products.  Everything is done for you.  There are no decisions left for the GM to make.

Considering all the grocery stores nearby, there are thousands of possible ingredients for you to purchase and make your own pizza at home.  Lots of people do this, but established pizza places are more popular.  You can find many examples of tool-based RPG products on DriveThru where everything is in pieces and it's all GM assembly prior to game time (or rolling and dealing with results in the moment).

What I'm currently into is something that almost no one does.  Like Papa Murphy's, I pre-make your pizza up to a certain degree (no pun intended... well, maybe), then you take it home and put the finishing touches on.

Ok, so the last step with a Papa Murphy's pizza is just cook it in your oven.  I give you practically everything you need to run the game.  All that's missing is your own creative juices and the overall performance.  You see, I purposefully leave gaps for you to fill in.

Not only do I believe in my gaming friends and customers (which means I know they can do it if they try), I don't want to rob them of those opportunities to create at the table... something that used to happen pretty much every session with old school RPGs like early Dungeons & Dragons, but not so much anymore.  Now, it's more popular (read: profitable) to do everything for the GM and his players (even if the designers are doing it wrong) and hold the GM's hands every step of the way.

Many gamers don't have the time, energy, or imagination to create an entire adventure, let alone a campaign, from scratch.  However, if you have the ability to run a scenario for a few hours, you should also have 30 minutes of prep time to put the finishing touches on yourself.  Let's face it, running my stuff might take an extra half-hour (assuming you don't want to improv everything in the moment), but other systems will keep you looking up unnecessary rules or digging for crucial details among endless paragraphs of pointless filler.  So, it's a wash.

Admittedly, my process may not be the best way to do things (while I can't remember the last time I made a pizza from scratch, I certainly order fully pre-made and pre-cooked pizzas far more often than take-and-bake from Papa Murphy's - but still love it when I get the chance); however, I choose to walk the path less traveled.  In a niche hobby/industry like this one, that's probably a wise move - especially since I love providing that 85% and watching gamers make up the remaining 15% on their own.

Just in case anybody thought I was pulling this out of my ass today, here's an old blog post about the 85/15 split.

Speaking of adventure writing, the end is nigh!  However, I believe there's still plenty of time to get cracking on your Adventure Writing Contest submissions!  Having trouble wrapping your head around it?  Let's take a look...

You've got approximately two weeks to write a 5 -7 page scenario...

  • Come up with your idea - hopefully, you already have one - and it's awesome!  If not, spend 24 hours coming up with an idea.
  • Spend a day drafting a workable outline that contains the necessary pieces and makes sense.  
  • Write it out!  This will probably take a full week.
  • Finalizing your adventure over the next few days before submitting it.
  • Rub as many of Dread Cthulhu's tentacles as possible, you know... for luck.

Considering the chance to win $500 and publication, I think it's worth busting your creative ass for the next couple weeks.  Can't wait to read what you guys send me!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst PDF is live!

Jesus Christ, that took awhile!

Rarely have I felt the need to put down something I was working on (several times, in fact!) in order to clear my head and hopefully glean a different perspective that would allow me to finish.  Blood Dark Thirst was such a project.

It started out as d10 dice pools just like V:tM.  I thought that's how it was going to end, but no - several fans of my work suggested I switch to the d6 dice pools I love so much.  And then there were many versions of the VSd6 version.

Suffice it to say, the shadow of V:tM loomed large over this project.  I was clearly inspired by the original and most popular be-the-vampire RPG, but didn't want to ape what they had done.  I wanted a game that had less meta-plot, less blood-tears because of inner-anguish, and less rule/setting bloat that went so far past their 1st edition, that it was like an entirely different game.

Blood Dark Thirst is my answer to the question:  Venger, if you were making your own vampire RPG in the vein of Alpha Blue, Crimson Dragon Slayer, and The Outer Presence, what would you come up with?

You can put a lot of yourself into the game.  It's pretty wide open in terms of setting and style.  While I furnish many small details, the big picture is only hinted at.  The rest is up to the GM and his players.

Anyway, I got it done by Halloween, and that's all I wanted (besides the fact that it also had to be awesome, or why the fuck publish it?).  +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) did his best work yet pimping out the lavish and blood-spattered interior of the PDF.  Along with many pieces of color artwork, the layout is truly amazing!

I'm going to be working on a character sheet and probably another adventure, too.  If Blood Dark Thirst is well-received, I'd love to give this the full-color treatment and get it in peoples' hands sometime in early 2018.

Hope you like it and can't wait to hear your opinions!  Thanks goes out to all those who took a look, tried it out, write their experiences, gave me advice, purchase the final product, and review Blood Dark Thirst.  You guys are awesome!!!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Galaxy Laser Team for Alpha Blue

So, a couple weeks ago I stumbled upon a picture of some brightly colored plastic space dudes, circa 1979.

I fondly remember owning a set or two of these as a kid.  Apparently, they're called "Galaxy Laser Team."

I bought a vintage set on ebay after realizing that this team could represent a starting crew of adventurers for my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue.  That is, until we get official miniatures!

My package has already arrived, I'm just waiting for a quiet moment where I can unbox them with my two oldest kids.

I'm going to come up with some basic concepts for each one, such as...

  • Female humanoid technician 
  • Alien bounty hunter
  • Human pilot and smuggler
  • Human mercenary
  • Droid pimp
  • Mutant con artist
  • Humanoid zedi
  • Human scientist and mutant

Does anyone else recall owning these?


p.s.  I'll definitely have these guys on hand during my Alpha Blue demo games at both Game Hole Con and Gary Con.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An Unholy and Sleazy Alliance

Yesterday, John Popson from Effin Cool Miniatures swung by my office in downtown Madison, WI.

It was a pleasant visit, but we did more than just talk about RPGs and miniatures - the two of us signed a contract so Effin Cool Miniatures could make a line of miniatures for my scifi smut RPG Alpha Blue!

Eventually, there will be a Kickstarter run by John and he expects to have the actual miniatures at Gary Con this Spring.  I'll be there, too, hanging out and running games.

Very cool stuff.  I'm excited, and hope that you guys are, too.  When I have more details, I'll blog about them here.



p.s.  Speaking of Kickstarters - yeah, Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport is still running!  Let's knock out a few of those stretch goals and make +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) earn his wretched keep!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Orville is a Retro-Clone

This isn't going to be a long blog post.

I've watched the first 3 episodes of the Seth MacFarlane created Star Trek homage (still haven't seen Discovery yet).  And that's just what The Orville is - an homage.  It's not a parody or spoof or comedic send-up of Star Trek.  It's a re-imagining, except a bit more lighthearted with occasional jokes.

In that way, The Orville is like a retro-clone.  Created to basically do what the original did, but in a slightly different way - some things are updated, sensibilities are tweaked, new adventures, etc.

I guess Star Trek has been around so long and has been so influential to televised scifi that they don't need an Open Game License.

It's not what I was expecting, but I think it's a good show and will continue to watch it.  I was hoping to see something silly, outrageous, and nostalgic with epic fail proportions.  Since this is 2017, I kind of thought American audiences were ready for scifi and sex, but we might have to wait another decade for that (at least we have pot brownies, tequila, and inter-species boxing).

So, I can't in good faith compare The Orville to Alpha Blue - which is what I was expecting to do just before the first episode aired.  They're totally different.  And that's cool.  Disappointing, but cool.  Whatever.

Until the world gets the episodic sleazy space opera comedy circa 1980 that it deserves, I'll leave you with some artwork that's much better than the actual movies.

Also, I launched a brand new Kickstarter for a post-apocalypse adventure / toolkit called Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport, and there's a stellar deal on all the Alpha Blue PDFs currently available!

In the meantime, enjoy what you enjoy and I'll see you in the outer limits of the erogenous zone!


p.s.  I keep forgetting to mention my little automated demonstration of Alpha Blue online - create a character and go on a quick mission or two!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest (even more!!!)

Someone wrote to me about the upcoming Adventure Writing Contest I'm organizing to help promote my recent guidebook - Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.

Curious about my judging criteria for this $500 contest?  Here you go!

If you have a question about writing and submitting a scenario, please ask.  Same address as the one for submissions:

Hello Venger,

I'm definitely interested in your adventure writing contest.  I've several scenarios in mind, and I've bought and read through your adventure writing pdf.  I do like and appreciate the story DNA approaching the text but I think I'm missing out on something that makes me hesitate before I begin.  That being is that I'm unsure as to the structure.  What should a 5-7 page entry to you look like?  Should this be more of an outline looking document, or 7 pages of flavor text?  Should I include any unique game mechanics to the adventure besides narrative? 

I guess I'm asking about industry standards as well as your contest criteria.  I've always wanted to be a published GM and just don;t know how to start getting it out of my head and onto the page.

Much thanks,

-- Dungeon Dude

I know what's in my head when I think of a 5-7 page scenario.  However, that's not necessarily what I want.  I definitely like being pleasantly surprised.  In a way, the adventure will resemble the author/GM.  Roleplaying is a personal art form.  The ingredients are there, but everything comes from the people involved, the creators... the designer who wrote the scenario, the GM, and the players.  If you're writing and running an adventure you made, then two-thirds of that puzzle is coming from you.  If you only write the adventure, then one-third of it is yours.

But to answer your question of what is in my head, here's a basic outline that I'd start with if I were writing my own...

  • A single paragraph introducing yourself and/or the adventure you've written.  Give us a taste of what's in store...
  • No more than three paragraphs of story, background, and adventure set-up.
  • At least three scenes (each scene should take up between a half and a full page).
  • At least one moment that happens between scenes (this shouldn't take more than half a page to describe).
  • Provide anything special that goes along with the adventure wherever you think it should go (in order to help the GM).  I'm referring to a new race, new profession, starship details, random table, NPC write-up, magic item description, new spell, hover-tank movement rules, etc.
  • A paragraph or two that either provides an ending or concluding remarks containing ideas for what might come next.

In other words, it should not be 5-7 pages of "flavor text," unless flavor text includes compelling conflicts.  But I don't want to see many mechanics or lengthy stat blocks.  This is not an extended math problem, but an adventure!  

Nor should it resemble an outline.  An outline is basically giving the GM homework.  You want to do the GM's homework for him (that's why he's shelling out $ in the first place).  Don't constrict him with a railroad situation (anything where the text states that the players must do this or this definitely happens to the players no matter what they do).  You should also provide blank spaces for the GM (and occasionally the players) to fill in their own ideas.

Sometimes, you've got to write crappy stuff before you can write good stuff.  I had to get it out of my system, so maybe you do, too.  Start writing and keep writing!  Submit what turns out great and burn those bastards that will only embarrass you down the road (hello there, Empire of Satanis).

Good luck,


Friday, September 15, 2017

Save Yourself From Hell

This blog post serves two purposes (ok, three).

The first is to tell you about my new Alpha Blue scenario Save Yourself From Hell.  Check out this totally awesome illustration by +Denis McCarthy.

The second is to inform y'all that I'm going on a family vacation starting tomorrow.  So, it'll be awhile before I'm in contact with anyone.

I had planned to launch a Kickstarter just before leaving, but sick kids and packing and trying to get SYFH out the door stymied me.  Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport will happen upon my return!  Along with a ton of other projects...

Thanks for everything,


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Open Rebellion

I've been struggling against shit that chafes against my very being since I was a small child.

Today, there was a post on Tenkar's Tavern about +Frank Mentzer getting booted from the Dragonfoot forum.  You can read about it here.

My assessment?  Ideally, we would live in a meritocracy where the merits of creative effort would outweigh all other considerations.  That means artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc. would essentially be running the world.  That might sound insane to some, but oh well.  I've been called a madman many times over.

A popular RPG reviewer, Endzeitgeist, has been taking my titles to task for over a year.  I not only submit to it, but keep sending him PDFs to pick over like the masochist I appear to be.

It's not just a love of pain, though.  Often, feedback helps improve the work.  Normally, I'm grateful for his critique, even though his particular feedback rarely helps (we have differing design goals).  But I really can't beat the signal boost he provides.  However, today's review of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss was simply too much for me to bear.

I've copy/pasted it here for posterity (here is the forum thread - with a response from Endzeitgeist - which I've also replied to)...

First, I'd like to get this out of the way - Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is also a primer for those looking to self-publish their scenarios.  Gamers love to share their work (and occasionally get paid for it).  This guide will help such enterprising adventure writers.  Is this the only book they need in the world to succeed in their goal?  Probably not, but I see published scenario after scenario after scenario that fails to live up to the baseline standards we should all strive for. 
My book serves a definite purpose.  It's needed.  Hundreds of scenarios a year would be improved by adhering to my advice.  Just because it leaves out things that might benefit those looking to get published by Pathfinder... I don't take that as a knock against my book.  If anything, Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is a manifesto against that kind of RPG corporatization.  The revolution starts now! 
Now, onto my primary grievance... 
I have to object to the "wasted my money" part of your review's number system (4/1), Endzeitgeist.   
Sure, if told about the basics of adventure writing, you might say "Yeah, I know all that."  However, that doesn't mean the material is totally redundant or useless or obvious to everyone but noobs.  Having everything in one place is valuable.  So is the material's presentation (examples, illustrations, way things are communicated, personal insight, and motivation).
Additionally, things that are important to you and your gaming style are not a priority for me.  For instance, a PDF filled with intricate Pathfinder-esque rules about spells having to do with wheat fields or feats related to a bard/shaman/canteen-boy would have no value to me (other than possible amusement/ridicule), though you might favor them with 5 stars.  That's almost inconceivable to me, but you can't argue about taste.  On the other hand, a guidebook about adventure writing is more or less universally valuable to gamers - GMs especially.  If any of the advice (regardless of whether the information was previously known to the reviewer) has merit, then I can't understand a "1" rating. 
Anyone plunking down $3, checking to see the page-count of 14, or reading the product's description should not be surprised that Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is not an exhaustive treatise on every aspect of writing, designing, and self-publishing RPG adventures.  So, I'm not clear on why this title is being penalized for having a limited scope.   
Your review of Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss received higher marks in both categories, even though the titles are similar (though one is a guide for players and the other is a guide for writing adventures). 
And what about this line at the review's conclusion?  4 and 1 averaged together makes 2.5, unless my math is ever worse than I thought.   
[QUOTE]In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars[/QUOTE] 
Our stylistic, aesthetic, and philosophical differences keep us from seeing eye to eye on many things, Endzeitgeist, but I just don't understand what happened here.


While I'm not part of the establishment, I also get short-changed by the flamboyant, self-aggrandizing RPG counter-culture that either ignores me, blatantly tries to tear my work down, or minimizes my contributions.

That's ok.  I have the third side.  Neither the empire nor rebellion (though if I had to pick a side, it would obviously be the rebels), but a man on his own - yeah, I'm the Boba Fett of the RPG universe.

Just as in my youth, I'm still struggling.  Down with RPG corporatization!  Hail the OSR!  Long live the revolution!

Thanks to all those who've been supporting, encouraging, and contributing to The Work.

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Delving Deeper Into Old School

Prompted by the possible acquisition of Star Frontier trademark(s) and/or intellectual property, there was a discussion on g+.  Particularly, I want to focus on the exchange between myself and +Pierre Savoie.

What this blog post is about is the slippery notion of "old school" which fits right in with the "old school renaissance" or OSR.  Indeed, we've all thought about, read about, or talked about what defines the OSR.  I've done it myself.

But if we go back to the origins of the OSR - old school itself... what do we find?  Clearly, there's a division.  Two separate camps that occasionally believe themselves one and the same.  The first I'll define as primordial; the second complex (I tried not to use any language bias, either praising or putting down the respective sides).

For examples, I'll go with Basic D&D for primordial and AD&D for complexity.  In the above linked Star Frontiers g+ thread, falling damage was mentioned as a possible litmus test for old school.  Ah, yes... but which old school are we talking about?

Ironically, the falling damage that seems the most "narrative" or "story-game" appears more old school to my eyes.  Is that because we've come full circle?  Have RPGs evolved so far into the future that we're nearly back at the beginning?

Yet, many gamers believe that sophisticated mechanisms and extensive rules make old school what it is.   There are certainly more examples of complex RPGs than AD&D.  Not being as familiar (I'll plainly admit, I'm not a fan of complexity in my RPGs), what other advantages does this style of old school have over simpler systems?

I liken this division (having a number of striking similarities) as the difference between old and new testament in the Bible.  We call early RPGs - such as 80's D&D - old school as if it's all the same.  However, in some ways, those two camps - primordial and complex - couldn't be further from each other.

Do they get at the same things but with different approaches?  Or do they each have completely separate goals?


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst D6

I believe my unconscious mind deliberately held off on publishing Blood Dark Thirst because it knew something wasn't quite right.  I just realized it yesterday, which is why I'm making this official announcement.

Blood Dark Thirst (my upcoming vampire RPG) will use the VSd6 system just like Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, and The Outer Presence.  I'm going to start working on it soon, but until then... here are the basics.

  • Pick two things you do well, and one thing you suck at.  That takes the place of class, race, profession, ability scores, skills, etc.  I'm talking about defining characteristics like "tough" and "clever."  Let's say my character's weakness is "getting along with others."
  • The stuff you're good at, you'll roll 3d6.  The thing you're bad at gets 1d6.  All things being equal, everything else is 2d6.  However, if the GM decides a challenge is particularly difficult you subtract a d6 from your dice pool; and you add a d6 if it's easier than usual or you have some sort of edge.
  • Other characteristics will be addressed in the form of a questionnaire, such as "What is your character's look, sense of style, or visual aesthetic?" There's no formula for coming up with an answer, it's purposefully open-ended.
  • The following will be rated between 1 - 6 (instead of 1 - 10): Health, Willpower, Blood/Ichor, and Humanity.

I've got one or two things to finish up before I really dive into the revision, so expect a professional looking Blood Dark Thirst PDF available just before Halloween.


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!

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.  ;)


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!


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?


#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.


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?,, 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.


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!


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:

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!


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,


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!


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...


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.



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!


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:



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:

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!


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.