Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gary Con IX

I left Friday mid-morning and returned Sunday late-afternoon.  I really shouldn't have gotten so much convention time, but plans changed and I got lucky.

Overall, it was a great time.  I ran into, met, gamed with, or became reacquainted with many awesome individuals during those three days. Such as... +Erik Tenkar +Clint Bohaty +Jeff Bernstein +Timothy Brannan +Follow Me, And Die! +Julian Bernick +Harley Stroh +Forrest Aguirre +Del Teigeler +Jeff Talanian +Bill Webb +Satine Phoenix and many others (I'm terrible with names... and sometimes faces).

It surprises me to hear someone say they're a fan of my work, and I was pleasantly surprised quite a few times.  So, that was really cool.

Volunteering to GM is one of the things I love about RPG conventions.  Although, I'm never sure what's going on 4 - 6 months in advance.  I might have a new product out, I might want to playtest something I'm currently working on, or I might feel like running something completely different.

Over the last year, I've become increasingly comfortable with and excited by Alpha Blue, my sleazy scifi RPG.  Every half-dozen times I describe Alpha Blue to people who don't know what it is, I find myself coming up with new ways to characterize it.  Over the weekend I came up with this - it's like Star Wars... with a money shot.

I signed up to run The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence using Crimson Dragon Slayer on Friday afternoon, Alpha Blue Saturday night, and Alpha Blue again on Sunday afternoon.  I was able to sneak in an off-the-books session of Alpha Blue on Friday night.  That's a lot of sex, sleaze, and exploitation in space!

So much happened this weekend!  It's probably a fool's errand to try and document it all.  Instead of going through each day, I'm just going to bullet-point some random highlights.  That way, if I suddenly remember a detail (or someone who was there reminds me) I can just add it to the list...

  • For whatever reason, I decided to start the session by using The Outer Presence character creation.  Everyone was a "normal" human in the real world.  It made the purple islands seem more like Lost and Land of the Lost rather than D&Desque science-fantasy gonzo.
  • There's usually at least one "table captain" in each game.  This is the kind of player I talk about in my latest book - Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
  • The Doctor-without-borders character (Dr. Haywood) who crashed onto the beach of a purple island was the most devious PC in recent memory, and when he stranded his former guide and now prisoner of the lizardfolk (Enik-type Sleestaks) while capturing a lizardman to bring home for showbiz riches before closing the pylon's gateway, we all thought the adventure was over.  And then the Purple Putrescence ripped its terrible way into our world...
  • I really love the movie StarChaser: The Legend of Orin.  I had the PCs start as subterranean mind-wiped slaves mining for blue crystal.  It was a good setup which I'll be using again in the future.  And from there, it went off the rails - in a good way.  
  • An ooze with bio-luminescence when turned on rubbing up against a lamppost in the red hologram district while various other PCs were having sex on the street.  
  • The telepathic pimp kept me laughing throughout Saturday night's session, but everyone was in rare form - both getting their sleaze on and doing a deal with one of Grabba the Butt's girls.
  • Another space pimp was looking to further his business by stealing one of the most popular Satisfiers of Alpha Blue - Jessica 3.  After the indigo haze roofie, he was having sex with her (while she was unconscious) while a laser shootout was going on in their hotel room.  
  • Arra was played by a woman who'd been in one of my Crimson Dragon Slayer games from last Gary Con.  Her character was a really interesting alien - humanoid with slimy with translucent seaglass skin.  She rolled "lesbian" for Arra's sexual fantasy/fetish, and that led to some interesting moments.  
  • There was a player who randomly rolled "pirate" as his profession and "noble" on the something special table.  Confused with the juxtaposition at first, we discussed it for a couple minutes and decided that he was a pirate king, so well-versed at pirating that he became lord of the seven space seas aka The Pink Diver because of his pink, magenta, and pink pirate outfit.
  • Finally getting to play Alpha Blue with girls was a nice treat.  Despite close-minded and just plain wrong "conventional wisdom," women can be and often are just as dirty, depraved, and wild as men... if not more so!  Anyway, the ladies impressed me by being just as sleazy as the guys.  
  • There was so much sex in that session that I should have had PCs roll for acquiring a venereal disease, but forgot all about such things in the heat of all those moments.
  • Speaking of which, I got a big reaction from debuting the desert planet Akockiss, commonly known as P'oon.  The players came up with a great new villain - Acock'n'lips (or Acock'n'licks... season to taste).
  • Had a wonderful dinner at the Grand Geneva Resort hotel Friday night.  The prime rim, mashed potatoes, and shrimp were fantastic.  I also was in great company with Peter Tiso (who played in the purple islands game).
  • Had a very satisfying breakfast with Erik Tenkar on Saturday morning.  We demolished our omelettes like a pair of fucking bosses!
  • Only a single game was in one of those big rooms full of tables and gamers - the first.  All my other games, I made sure they were in quieter and less distracting areas of the convention.
  • Speaking of places to game, my favorite was on Sunday afternoon.  I asked the con staff if any of the fancy private gaming rooms were going to be free as of noon.  One of them was, and I got to run the last Alpha Blue game of the weekend in the Geneva Room (or something like that).  It was so peaceful and awesome that I almost wept for joy!
  • Brought a dozen books with me to use and possibly sell if people wanted and came back with only one!
  • Got to try out my latest dice rolling tray - scifi themed.  Lots of compliments.  
  • Had a chance to talk about the philosophy of Game Mastering with a purple island player named Jeff.
  • Bought a bunch of gaming stuff - most notably (and expensively) books at the DCC booth.  Finally took the Metamorphosis Alpha plunge, got a nicely illustrated hardcover book on adventure design (cause even old Venger runs into writer's block), and had a 20% off ticket for the mammoth leatherbound tome on Traps.  I don't do enough with traps, so this should open up a whole new universe for me!

That's about it, though I'm well aware that I'm leaving many terrific moments out.  Oh well, those are for my fellow gamers to document!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lowbrow & Inappropriate

I'll be posting about my awesome Gary Con IX experience later today (or tonight), but this just happened, so it takes precedence.

Yesterday, I was sent an email from One Book Shelf.  OBS includes DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, DMs Guild, etc.

Just before leaving for the Lake Geneva RPG convention, I released a new title via PDF on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.  It's called Play your Character like a Fucking Boss, which is sort of a companion piece to How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss, except its advice is for those on the other side of the screen.

Cutting to the chase, OBS has received complaints about the title.  The majority of Kort'thalis Publishing's titles are behind the "adults only" wall because I click the box for mature content.  That's what I did for the GMing book.  However, I did not designate the Player book "adult" because there's nothing besides course language that might be offensive or inappropriate for children.

Below is the email I received from OBS...


Over the weekend we received two complaints about your title "Play Your Character Like a Fucking Boss". The first complaint said that they felt the use of profanity in the title cheapened the presentation and made it seem "low brow". The second complaint was that the title was inappropriate for children and that children might be browsing the site.

I would like to make it 100% clear that we at OBS/Drivethru/RPGNow do not consider your title to be inappropriate for our site. In general, people don't get into role-playing or browsing our site till about 12 and so we consider anything PG-13 to be appropriate for our general audience and that does not have to be filtered out for people. I have already responded to the people complaining that we felt your product is appropriate under our current standards.

That being said, I also told them I would pass along their complaints to you the publisher. If I was in your position I would not want to be ignorant that complaints of this nature exist if they do exist. If you have any questions about his please let me know.

Thank you,

Chris Tang
RPG Publisher Services

While I take those complaints seriously and it is not my intention to offend anyone, I do not plan on clicking the adult content box for Play your Character like a Fucking Boss because that would have a negative impact on visibility.  Adult products, in my experience, are the second class citizens of OBS.  Obviously, less visibility means less sales.

Regarding the "low brow" complaint, I think I'm going to take that as a compliment.  As a "low brow" fan, that's the kind of aesthetic I'm going for.  Understandably, it limits my audience, but then going against the grain with a provocative title expands my audience.  Maybe it's a wash, but I need to stay true to myself.

I'm interested in reading your opinion.  Feel free to comment with anything you have to say on the matter.

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

p.s.  My latest Kickstarter Trinity of Awesome Returns has about two days left to back it.

p.p.s.  I put X's over the letters of my name because he didn't use my pseudonym.  Everything else was copy/pasted without editing.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss

I had the idea awhile ago and periodically took notes.  My upcoming trip 90 minutes south to Gary Con this weekend was all the prompting I needed.

Since I've been GMing for about 32 years, I've learned a few things about players... what makes them not so good, great, and like a fucking boss.

Play Your Character like a Fucking Boss is the flip-side to How To Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  They both contain valuable information, and will give readers an edge in their roleplaying games.

So, this weekend, the PDF is half off!  Hopefully, you'll get as much out of it as I put in.



p.s.  There's less than a week to back my current Kickstarter - Trinity of Awesome Returns!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: Third Time's the Charm

This Friday's Alpha Blue game on Roll20, we had a recurring character Katya Vosdil and a new character Kanan Singe.

Kanan is a bright orange feathered humanoid who despises all forms of slavery and prefers to lip read and use non-verbal communication, but will speak when he has to.  He's a con man and wields a sonic shotgun.  His sexual fantasy/fetish is feet, legs, shoes, boots, stockings, etc.

Third Time's the Charm

GM:  Katya finds herself in the restroom of the Blue Oyster Lounge with that androgynous, green-skinned, tentacled alien.  The two of you have sex for about an hour in one of the booths.  Katya gets a 1d4 bonus to her Health [I rolled a 4].

Meanwhile, Kanan is also on the Alpha Blue space station.  Any idea what you're doing there?

Kanan:  Looking for long-legged partners or some con job opportunity.

GM:  You wander into the Blue Oyster to check out the action.  A small group of humanoid women are in there, completely nude.  You also see a few spacers at the bar, and several humans and aliens spread out across a few tables towards the back.

Kanan:  Ok, I flirt with the females to get some rumors.

Katya:  After my hour of fun, I stumble out of the bathroom more disheveled than before.  "Opa, I haven't enjoyed myself that much since I switched out all water for vodka in academy for day!"

GM:  One of them flirts back with Kanan.  You find out these women are against wearing clothes as they fight against the oppression of fabric.

"Buy me a drink?" She asks Kanan.

Kanan:  I like their attitude against oppression and I buy her a drink.

GM:  Katya comes out of the ladies room to find Miles no longer in the lounge.  However, the little insect dude is still there, drinking at the bar.

Kanan, you buy the girl a drink at the bar.  She's cute and has fur all over her body.

Kanan:  Ok, cool.

GM:  She asks, "Have you ever heard of Grabba the Butt?"

Kanan:  I say something dirty in sign language, caressing her fur.  Can she understand my species' sign language?  "I have only vaguely heard the name."

GM:  She understands your basic intent.  "He's a notorious gangster who lords over this system and several others.  I work for him and have to do a job in an hour, but until then I'm free."

[I roll twice on the Peculiarities, Hang-Ups, and Assets of the Female table on page 22 of Girls Gone Rogue... drug smuggler and doesn't know (or care) right from wrong.]

Katya:  I drag myself over to the little insect man, the only familiar face in a sea of strangers.  "Hey, little bug man, what happened to the murderer?"

GM:  The little insect says, "He's out killing some people for me.  Nice guy.  I have a name, you know, it's Xyap'stee.  By the way, did you have fun?"

Kanan:  To the girl, "You work alone?  Maybe you need a partner...?"

GM:  "My name is Cherry, and you'll find that I have zero inhibitions.  I want you to fuck me right here on this bar.  Then, we'll talk business."

Katya:  "Oy blin, it was lots of fun.  The feeling of many tentacles over skin is so... erotic."

Kanan:  I caress Cherry's legs and then I suddenly lift her on the bar and things get more serious.

GM:  Katya, you see what's going on.  There's a naked furry woman right in front of you.

The human bartender says, "What the fuck?"

Kanan:  Hehe.

GM:  Xyap'stee says, "Yaaz!  This is a banner day for droom'bsh."

Katya:  "Ooooo, looks like fun time all around," I say while stepping closer to watch.

GM:  Cherry puts her feet in your face while you're pumping her full of your feathered penis.  It doesn't take you long to climax and her, too.  [I roll 1d4 for Kanan's Health bonus and get a 3, giving him a temporary Health total of 28]

Katya gets the best view in the house.

Cherry whispers, "Good thing you didn't put it in my butt - that's where I'm hiding the drugs."  Katya is close enough to hear that, as well.

Kanan:  I whisper back: where do you have to deliver it?

GM:  "Grabba the Butt wanted me to smuggle drugs aboard Alpha Blue.  I'm supposed to meet a dealer named Axle in a half-hour from now.  You can come with, just in case he's dangerous.

Kanan:  I grab her butt [GM: she's plenty used to that considering who she works for - haha].  "Come on, lets find a quiet place to sample it a little.  You don't want to deliver low-grade stuff by accident."

GM:  "Ok," she says.

Kanan:  I look at Katya and smile.

GM:  Xyap'stee says, "Did you hear that, Katya?  Maybe we should follow them?"

Cherry brings Kanan over to a dark alleyway where a prostitute is giving some spacer head while a nearby alien is lying down on the floor, shooting up.

Katya:  I give a quick nod and smile to Kanan before turning to Xyap'stee.  "I hear you on that.  Maybe we find something interesting... or more murder."

GM:  "Wait up, my friend," the insect says to Kanan.  "I'm handy with a laser."

[The entire "adventuring party" assembles in the dark alley]  Cherry puts her fingers in her butt, eventually removing a clear plastic bag full of blue powder.

Kanan:  Do I know this stuff?

GM:  [I roll 1d6 for his knowledge of illicit substances and get a "3"]  You've heard of it before but don't know its properties.

"It's called Blue Sunshine," Cherry says.

Kanan:  Ok, I subtly make it so that Cherry tries it first to see the effect.  If she doesn't get a bad reaction, I'll also try it.

GM:  She sniffs the blue powder.  After a couple of minutes, you see that she's feeling tranquil and euphoric.  "This is good shit."

Kanan:  I take a small dose like her and offer some to Katya and Xyap'stee.

GM:  You take a little up your feathered nose as Cherry did.  It gets you high, like you're full of positive energy.

Katya:  Mulling the idea over for a few moments, I take a small dose before handing it over to bug man.

GM:  Xyap'stee takes a small dose, as well.  When he's finished, says "I can't wait until we get to the homicidal maniac stage.  That's always been my favorite part of Blue Sunshine."

Kanan:  I caress Cherry's butt and say (while using my suave sign language), "Let's make this sweet delivery."

GM:  Cherry replies, "Yeah, I guess we should meet up with Axle.  Otherwise, Grabba might get mad at me and throw me into his tentacled vagina pit."

Katya:  "Blyat, tell me you're joking about homicidal maniac stage."

Kanan:  "Homicidal maniac stage..." I absently smile like it's no big deal.

GM:  "You guys didn't know?"  Xyap'stee says.  "Oops."

Cherry leads all of you to room 22 on C-deck.  "This is it," she says, knocking on the door.  "Axle's suite."

The door opens.  You see a human sitting in a chair that looks like a scooped out hard-boiled egg.  Presumably, this is Axle.  He stands and takes a few steps towards all of you.  "I wasn't expecting an entourage."

Kanan:  "Don't worry," I smile.

GM:  "Fine, come in.  Let's not do this out in the corridor."

Katya:  I proceed to worry under the joyous buzz of the Blue Sunshine.

Kanan:  Quietly, I ask Xyap'stee how long before the HM stage?

GM:  Axle points to a silver suitcase on the table.  "There's 10,000 credits in there.  Show me the drugs."

Xyap'stee says, "Should be hitting us pretty soon..."

Kanan:  I smile.

GM:  Cherry tosses Axle the baggie full of blue powder.  "You're kind of cute," she says to the drug dealer.

Kanan:  "He could have nicer legs."

GM:  Cherry slinks over to him and starts massaging him over his pants.  "I took some ecstasy a couple hours ago, before my friends and I got to the Blue Oyster."

Katya:  "Eh... not really my type."

Kanan:  I look around to see if there is anyone else, guards or some lootable stuff.  Also, secondary exits.

GM:  You don't see any guards.  Might be something lootable in the bedroom.  Just then, you hear a voice from outside the room.  "Federation security!  You have 5 seconds to open the door before we blast our way in."

Kanan:  I go for the bedroom to see if I can grab something in the confusion.

GM:  Ok, you run into the bedroom and find a thermal detonator, an old map, and a flask full of some unknown liquid.

Katya:  I scurry to find something to take cover behind.

GM:  Katya can either hide in the closet or behind the couch.

Meanwhile, Cherry isn't wasting any time.  She's sucking Axle's dick and he's just standing there, enjoying it.

Kanan:  I grab all the stuff, if I have the time.

Katya:  I toss myself behind the couch because I was already out of the closet.

GM:  Haha.

[The Federation trooper has almost reached 5]  The door starts turning orange, then white.  The PCs figure they have a few more seconds before the Federation are inside.

Kanan:  I get ready to throw the detonator at the door (except if I know that the blast would vaporize us, too).

GM:  "That's it, suckers.  We're coming in!"

Kanan:  I thermal detonate the door.

GM:  Axle says, "Did you just do what I think you did?"

Katya:  Scrambling for laser rifle, Katya silently prays she isn't found.  Or that the murder stage of the buzz doesn't kick in.

GM:  The door melts just before the thermal detonator goes off.  [I make to-hit and damage rolls for everyone present.  Unfortunately, the Federation troops are barely touched by the explosion and most of it affects Axle, Cherry, and Kanan Singe.

Kanan:  I scream, "Don't shoot!  There was a terrorist attack!"  Con man thing, maybe.

GM:  [Out of 2d6, his highest result was a "3," so no dice]  "We're not stupid, spacer.  Put your hands up, come quietly, and you may just live to see the surface of Cygnus Beta."

Katya:  I clutch my rifle before hopping up from behind the couch as her haze turns to rage.  "A nu chiki-briki i v damki!"  She shouts before opening fire.

GM:  Cygnus Beta is a well-known penal planet.

Kanan:  Do we really feel a murder rage or is it just a placebo effect that we imagine?  :D

GM:  Katya, I'll give you two "steal the spotlight" bonuses this session because I forgot about your character's luck last time.

Kanan, you feel like killing someone with your bare hands... or whatever you've got handy.

Cherry finally finishes Axle off and grabs her blaster.  She starts firing on the troopers.

[At this point, it's an all-out firefight.  Many dice are rolled.  Our heroes eventually whittle the Federation troops down, but not without taking a casualty.  With one trooper left, Kanan fires, misses, and takes one too many to the chest.  Yellow gore gushes out of him.  Kanan Singe is dead.  Finally, it's Cherry's turn and I roll unbelievably great for her - she somersaults behind the trooper and shoots him in the back of the head, ending the battle.]

Final Thoughts

  • We finally got to some sex!  About goddamn time, too.  
  • I was looking for an orange bird-man, and the closest thing I found was those alien guys from Earth Girls Are Easy which, if you think about it, is kind of Alpha Blue.
  • I had to invent a name for the little insectoid post-game because it bugged me (pun intended) that we kept referring to him as bug man or that insect dude.  Xyap'stee has a name... and feelings!
  • The penal planet Cygnus Beta was based on Cygnus Alpha from Blake's 7.  
  • Drugs are bad, yo!
  • I'm sad that Kanan Singe died, but roughly a third of all 1st level characters seem to die in Alpha Blue and that's by design.  One of the many things that, in my opinion, makes this game seem old school.
  • I also wasn't thrilled that an NPC pounded the last nail in the coffin of that battle, but the dice decided - another old school trait.
  • It never fails that when a shitload of dice get rolled at once on Roll20 (like 6d6), the numbers turn up low.  It's happened so often that I'm thinking it must be something in the site's algorithm.  
  • I keep forgetting to think about sound.  It's easier face-to-face, but I could work something out ahead of time.  Life is hectic with 5 kids.  FYI, our oldest turned 6 yesterday.  Happy Birthday, Briella!
  • Katya Vosdil reached 2nd level.  For these 90 minute games, I feel that leveling every other session is appropriate.  


No game next Friday because I'll be attending Gary Con!  If you see me walking around or whatever, definitely say hi or just give me the sleazy eye.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Focusing on the players

I'm writing a new thing about RPG players.  Specifically...

  • What kinds of players and PCs are hard for GMs to deal with?
  • What sort of things players and PCs do that irritates/annoys GMs?
  • What sort of things players and PCs do that make the GM's job easier and the game better?
  • As a player, can you think of a time that you played your character badly, ineffectively, or you just weren't getting enough out of the experience?
  • Is there any kind of game aid or advice that would help players play their characters better, more effectively, or would lead to more fun?
  • Can you think of issues that keep the players and GM from being on the same page?
  • Is being an OSR player better, worse, or different than being another kind of player (story-game, contemporary, etc.)?
  • Do you know any player tips, tricks, or techniques for getting the GM to do what you want?
  • Aside from Paranoia, does anyone get anything out of player versus player?
  • As a player, is there anything you'd like to get off your chest?
  • Playing in convention games versus regular home games versus one-shots?

Anything that could help players out, I'd like to include.  If you want to relate an entire story, that would be awesome.  Hooray for crowd-sourcing!


p.s.  I'll give credit in the article to those who helped improved it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: Second Time Only Costs You Credits

Continuing Friday's one-hour game (that invariably takes 90 minutes to complete) from last week, I've got a whole new actual play to report on.  There were two new players, neither of which had ever played Alpha Blue before...

Patrick H's character was Miles Artemis, a human space pirate with telepathic abilities wearing an outre denim ensemble with over-sized collar in orange sunburst and pink.  He wielded laser nun-chucks and throwing stars.  His sexual fantasy/fetish is amputees.

SirSPT's character was Katya Vosdil, a human (female) medic from one of those Slavic countries on old Earth, though she used to be a slave on Arrakis, who's also incredibly lucky (re-roll any dice pool once per session, which, now that I think about it, I forgot to tell the player.  Oops!  I'll give him two re-rolls next session), wearing a leather acid wash uniform in flesh tone (Caucasian), beige, and silver.  She wielded a laser rifle.  Her sexual fantasy/fetish was tentacles, monsters, creatures, aliens, etc... and she's also bi-sexual.

The player mentioned up front that he was modeling Katya on a previous player-character from one of his Warhammer 40K sessions, possibly influenced by Babylon 5's Susan Ivanova.  No problem there, Alpha Blue's rules are extremely light and flexible, most of the game is in the roleplaying.

GM:  A shuttle is taking you both to Alpha Blue, one of the largest and most notorious pleasure stations in the galaxy.  You notice various space phenomena on the way and make idle small talk with your fellow passengers.

Miles Artemis and Katya Vosdil are seated next to each other and so the two of you have been talking most of the way.

A service-bot is scooting around the shuttle, asking anyone if they want a purple prizm to drink.

Katya:  I shift somewhat uncomfortably next to Miles, really hoping to not get captured and sold off again.  "So... what brings you to Alpha Blue?"

GM:  Both of you notice an inordinate amount of "rough types," aboard the shuttle, spacers criminals, degenerates - human and alien.

Miles: I reach into an inside pocket, grab my personal flash, swallow a mouthful of sour whiskey, and offer it to Katya before responding to her question.  "I'm looking for some work - heard this was the place to go, ya know?  Also, I'm mighty curious to see Alpha Blue, my adventurous spirit demanded it."  I let out a small laugh.

GM:  The service-bot rolls up to where the two of you are seated, "Would the lady and gentelman care for a purple prizm?

Miles:  I ponder for a moment, "Aye, I'll take a purple prizm."

Katya:  I shrug and try to play along.  "I'll take some purple prizm, too."

GM:  It hands Miles a purple-colored can of sparkling grape soda.  You crack open the top, about to drink in the delicious carbonated burn... when an alien grabs the prizm out of your hand.  He takes a long drink, finishes it, and throws the empty can in your lap.  "Now get yourself one, space chump."

The service-bot uses its robotic hand to offer a purple prizm to Katya.

The alien has a large, bulbous and veiny head, wearing purple robes.

Miles:  I let out a booming laugh at the alien, "Well, that's mighty polite of you, ain't it?" resting my hand on my weapon, "I'm sure you only meant to take a sip."

Katya:  I look the can over, then the alien over with a mixed reaction before watching Miles to see what he does.

GM:  The alien replies, "Put that thing away, human.  You don't want to mess with me.  I'm wanted in 12 systems for mindless violence and piracy in high space!"

Miles:  "Well, ain't that something, a fellow pirate, is it?"  I laugh a bit more before offering my own flask to him.  "Why didn'tcha mention that in the first place?"

GM:  The alien smiles and takes a couple steps back, as if he's decided to terminate the interaction before things escalate.  Miles senses that this alien jerk is going to fire on him as soon as you go back to whatever you were doing.

The alien winks one of his many black-within-black eyes at Katya before leaving.

Miles:  Just so I read clear, he left but will eventually shoot at me?

GM:  He's slowly leaving, but still within sight, maybe 20' away, leaning against the shuttle's inner door.

You look into the alien's mind and see that he plans on shooting you before the shuttle gets to Alpha Blue.

Just then, an automated female voice announces, "Two minutes before this shuttle reaches its intended destination."

Katya:  I fan myself at the alien's gesture.  "He's nice..."  I mutter as I hand my can of purple prizm to Miles.

Miles:  Probably will regret this, but I fake a movement of bringing the flask to my lips and whisper the words "He's about to shoot, you might want to duck," to Katya before taking one of my hidden ninja stars and throwing it toward the alien's head and throat in a quick, sudden motion.

Katya:  I look over with some confusion before watching Miles throw some sort of projectile.  With a quickly explaimed, "Cyka!" she hits the deck.

GM:  Your laser throwing stars slash the alien's face and body [13 points of damage].  Bright green blood gushes over the floor as he raises his blaster to fire... [I end up rolling a total of 21 damage]

Miles gets shot right in the chest.  There's a large energy burn in the center of your outfit, ruining it.  You have 4 Health left.  Your move, Miles.  Also, once per session, you can double your dice pool.

Miles:  Do I have more of those stars?

GM:  You have unlimited stars.

Miles:  I'm going to throw more at him and double my dice pool.

GM:  Ok, roll 6d6, and good luck!

What's Katya doing besides trying not to get shot?

Miles, your highest result was a "5," unfortunately.  So, I'm going to roll 2d6 damage (exploding) for you.  [I roll a 5 + 6 + 6 for a total of 16]

Katya:  I fumble for my old laser rifle and glance around in case anyone else starts shooting or throwing stars around.

GM:  Several of your laser stars embed themselves in the alien's head, neck, and torso.  More green blood oozes out and he slumps down in front of the inner door, dead.

Katya doesn't see anything besides people cowering and also trying not to get shot.

Miles:  I walk over to the body, checking to make sure the alien is dead, taking the gun from its hand and my thrown stars before walking back to my seat, "Well, now that hurt a bit," I grunt in pain.

GM:  The automated female voice over the shuttle's speaker says, "This shuttle will arrive at its intended destination in 10 seconds.  Please stay seated until the vehicle is completely still.  Have a wonderful day, and thank you for traveling Federation Space."

Does Miles also search the alien's dead body?

Miles:  Yes.

Katya:  I rise to my feet, now pointing the rifle at Miles.  "Debil!  What are you thinking?  You cannot just murder aliens!"

GM:  You retrieve your laser stars, take his blaster, as well as, find a black pouch and three drink tickets for the Blue Oyster Lounge (an Alpha Blue bar).

Miles:  "Listen, sweetheart, I'm a telepath.  He was about to shoot me; I managed to strike before he fired his first shot."  I grunt again in pain.

I open the black pouch to see what's inside.

GM:  You find 32 greenish-blue marbles with pink sparkles.  At least, they look like marbles.

Katya:  Pressing the laser rifle against Miles' head, "You have no right to call me 'sweetheart,' cyka.  I'm going to need more reason beyond telepathic bull."

GM:  While Miles examines the contents of the black pouch, taking a few of the small, colorful spheres out and putting them back in, a 3' tall insect humanoid with cybernetic enhancements walks up to you and makes you an offer.  "I'll give you 100 credits for those things."

Miles:  "Shall I read your mind to prove that I can do it?  Also, the way he moved said he was about to attack.  I seen it many times from pirates to hired killers."  I put my hands up to show no weapons to Katya.

I say to the insectoid, "Sure.  Sold, buddy," and hold out my hand for the credits while I give him the pouch.

GM:  The little insect alien hands Miles 100 credits and pockets the black pouch containing those marbles.  "Thanks.  By the way, I like the way you handled that scum, you really draxed him the sklonst."  Then the insectoid turns to Katya and says, "This human's a real droom'bsh.  I'd hang on to him if I were you."

Katya:  I think for a moment before lowering my rifle.  "Zayebis.  Fine, but if I find you going off and throwing more stars around at people, I will come down on you like blizzard on invading army."

Miles:  I let out a small chuckle and bow my head to the insectoid, "Why thank yah for the compliment," holding up the drink tickets toward Katya and the insect, "When we get in, first round's on me."

GM:  "Yaaz!" The insectoid exclaims.

Katya:  I mull the idea over for a moment before shrugging.  "Sure, would be a waste to turn down free drink."

GM:  The three of you go through the usual decontamination screening before reaching Alpha Blue's central terminal.  You easily find directions to the Blue Oyster Lounge.

Moment's later, you walk into the lounge.  It has dim, midnight-blue lighting.  You hear soft but eccentric alien jazz played by an exotic looking trio of blue-skinned humanoids.  Drinks are being poured by a human bartender.  Several patrons are sitting at the bar at various tables.  Most are alien.

Miles:  Nodding his head appreciatively, "I can dig this place, shall we grab a table or sit right up at the bar?"

GM:  Katya immediately notices an alien humanoid of ambiguous gender with pale green tentacles.  It's sitting at the bar.

Katya:  "Bar," I say without hesitation.

Miles:  I let out a booming laugh, "Bar it is!"

GM:  The three of you sit at the bar.  Katya maneuvers herself to sit next to the tentacled lifeform.  The bartender asks if ya'll want to order the special.

Miles:  "What's the special?" I ask the bartender.

GM:  "It's today's drink.  You wouldn't know it by its name, pal."  The bartender chuckles.  "Ever heard of a flaugyn'naar?"

Miles:  I laugh a bit.  "Don't think I have, but I'll give it a try!"

Katya:  I hold up two fingers.  "One for me and one for my tentacled friend next to me."

GM:  The bartender pours 4 drinks in clear, rectangular glasses.  The liquid is thick, red, and bubbly.

"Thanks for the drink," the tentacled humanoid replies.  "A pleasure to meet you.  My name is Jayna."

Miles:  I put down the three drink tickets, "This is to cover me," points to Katya, "her," points to the insectoid, "and him."

GM:  The insectoid asks Miles, "So, are you working with anyone... like a crew?"

Miles:  I shake my head, "Nah, I actually came here to see what work I can find, see what this huge place has to offer."

GM:  "That'll be 10 credits for the 4th drink," the bartender says.

The insectoid says, "Well, I might have some work for a droom'bsh like yourself.  Pays real well, too."

Katya:  I nod at Jayna while setting 10 credits on the bar.  "Pleasure is all mine.  Katya Vosdil, MD at your service."

Miles:  I grin wide.  "I'm all ears.  What kinda work we talking about?"

GM:  The weird drink is cold and tastes like a mix between strawberries and raw shrimp.  It doesn't do much for Miles, but Katya feels especially in the mood for love...


Unfortunately, work duties in the real world abruptly halted our game.  Both players said they had fun, so I plan to pick things up where we left off next Friday.

And then the Friday after that, I'll be at GaryCon running Crimson Dragon Slayer and more Alpha Blue!

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed this actual play report of "Second Time Only Costs You Credits."


Friday, March 10, 2017

Setting List: Influence/Details

An idea suddenly came to me this morning - a simplistic idea, easy to implement, and awesome in its usefulness (or so I believe).

Specifically, I was imagining my sleazy sci-fi RPG Alpha Blue and how it's a mash-up of so many TV shows and movies.  It can be difficult to keep a wide variety of influences in your head while running a game.  Eventually, it becomes just one more thing to juggle.  However, instead of trying to keep another ball in the air, why not write it down?

Here's what I came up with - list all the influential titles (books, movies, series, comics, music) you want to include in your campaign setting.  You could organize them by medium, chronology, most influential to least, etc.  Once you have all your categories, write down between one and three details for each influence you want to include in your campaign setting.

Coming up with a single detail for each influence should be a no-brainer.  Obviously, if your campaign is being influenced by... say, Ice Pirates, you can at least write down "hijacking starships hauling ice across the galaxy."  As your setting starts taking shape, incrementally add details as they come to you.

Now, you have a record of it.  Something you can look at while you're GMing.  You can also show this list to your players in order to give them a better idea about the setting (just remember to redact any secret information you don't want them to know about).

This influence/details list can be used over and over again, and slight alterations are a breeze.  Simply erase or cross out what you no longer want to use and if you want to make an addition, add it to the list.

Let's look at an example.  I'm going to list seven influences with at least one detail per influence.

Setting List

Star Trek: Photon torpedoes and starship on a diplomatic mission to discover new alien civilizations and negotiate peaceful co-habitation in the universe.

Blake's 7:  The Federation and Orac.

Star Wars:  Mos Eisley Cantina, the rebellion, and dark zedi (force users).

Dune:  The desert planet Arrakis, the spice melange, the Bene Gesserit (school of psi-witches), and Guild Navigators.

Total Recall:  Three-boobed hooker and domes shielding radiation on Mars colony.

Blade Runner:  Replicant who doesn't know she's a replicant and giant electronic billboards advertising coke, geisha women, and purple prizm.

Logan's Run:  Humans have to compete in "carousel" game when they turn 30, runners, and sandmen.

And then next week I could add... Space 1999:  the handheld weapon they use on that show.

With this visual reference at hand, I can quickly glance at it during sessions - see what setting notes I've already hit and others I missed.

Seeing everything laid out in front of me, my subconscious will hopefully make connections that my conscious mind fails to come up with (are there hookers with three boobs intentionally distracting runners or trying to aid them?  That's my kind of sanctuary!)

With a game like Alpha Blue, that relies on combining established sci-fi franchises because its own vague, nebulous setting is similarly cobbled together, this list is going to help immensely!

I'll include this information and a lot more in my upcoming Alpha Blue scenario, "High Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar" available via the Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarter happening right smegging now!

Thanks for reading, and if this idea helps you out, I'd love to hear about it.  So, stay in touch!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

O5R Virtual Tabletop RPG Platform

Off and on, I've been using Roll20 to run brief one-shot games for Alpha Blue and write post-game session reports for them... like this.  I limp along with Roll20, mildly dissatisfied with the format/platform because of the counter-intuitive stuff that bothers me and their refusal to expand the drop-down menu of available RPGs to choose from.  In my opinion, the infrastructure is better than nothing at all, but just barely.

I have a tech/gamer friend who's helping me create a website with Alpha Blue character generator and text-based solo adventuring.  But since Roll20 isn't really doing it for me, I've been talking to him about creating a new virtual tabletop platform... especially one geared towards the O5R movement.

This is all just talk at the moment - and early stages of that, even.  However, I'd be quite interested to know how you feel about virtual tabletop sites/systems, what do you currently use and why, what do you like, what would you like to see in the future, and what irritates you?  Any feedback you can share is appreciated.



p.s.  Check out my latest Kickstarter

Friday, March 3, 2017

Alpha Blue session report - First Time's Free

I do love the chance to run Alpha Blue, and a virtual 60 minute game (that invariably lasts 90 minutes) with a couple of enthusiastic players is just what the space doctor ordered.

In Alpha Blue, all that cheesy awesome sci-fi from the 60's to the 80's (no reason why you can't go all the way to 2017, though) is alive and well - a melting pot of TV shows, films, literature, RPGs, video games, and even cosplay photos on the internet.

I only had one player, who goes by Niven81, but he more than held his own.

First, we went through character creation...

Name: Akier

Species: Human

Gender: Male (straight and likes women in uniform and red-heads)

Profession: Bounty Hunter (just under the Federation's radar)

Something Special: Noble (rich, connected, and has some nifty gadgets)

Prior Experiences: Akier's native dome was bombarded by heavy artillery as ooze marauders attacked, but thanks to his animal cunning, he managed to survive the Kur-gash incursion.

Attire: Outre (weird space pajamas) in sky blue, magenta, and tan hues made out of alligator with elbow patches.

Weapon: Vorpal chainsword

The Adventure: First Time's Free

GM:  You've been living on Alpha Blue several weeks.  Not many individuals could afford that (except prostitutes and successful high-stakes gamblers), but you can.  Wealth has its privileges.

Moments ago, a little red light on your communicator blipped.  It only does that when someone is searching the Alpha Blue computer registry for your name, specifically.  Even though you've been keeping a fairly low profile, someone has found you.  But you have no idea who they are or what they want.

Akier:  Well, being that I'm wealthy, I am sitting at a private table entertaining one of the contractors of this fine establishment with grand tales of my adventurers over some rather cheap scotch.

"Then I used his own grav-booster to propel him and me - hanging onto his third leg - through the glass ceiling and into the vacuum of space..."

GM:  The contractor seems impressed.  You casually look around, seeing that more and more lifeforms have filtered into the club.  It must be happy hour.  Your private table gives you a good view of the establishment.  There are plenty of humans, aliens, working girls, spacers, and even a few robots.

Akier:  I take a sip of my scotch, looking at all the newcomers and keeping my eyes open for any that might pique my discerning interests... especially redheads.

GM:  You see one or two pretty redheads among the crowd.  Just as you're considering making some kind of move, a female alien approaches your table.  There's a laser velvet rope barring her way.  The alien whispers something to one of the club's bouncers and he deactivates the laser, allowing her to pass.

She stands in front of your table, waiting to see your reaction.

Akier:  I cock an eyebrow at the bouncer's actions, take a larger pull on my whiskey and turn to the contractor.  "It would appear that I've some business to attend to, my dear.  Sorry to say we must part company... for now."

I then offer the newcomer a seat and motion toward the whiskey, inviting her to partake.

GM:  She sits down and begins to speak.  The sound coming out of her mouth doesn't sound anything like what you're used to.  However, you have one of those expensive little translators attached to your lapel.

She says, "My name is Akoona Lata.  I seek an alliance with you to bring down House Draconis.  In exchange, I will give you anything that is within my power to grant.  I am not rich, but am a good warrior and skilled in the many arts of pleasure."

Akier:  Do I know anything about House Draconis, or can I find anything out easily?

GM:  They are a distant and occasionally rival noble family.  They deal in everything unsavory, from drugs to arms to slaves.

Akier:  "House Draconis... hmmm."  I say thoughtfully and take a drink.  "They are powerful and I have returned some of their lost property in the past.  Tell me, Miss Lata, why would I want to make such powerful enemies?  Well, I would... so the better question is why would you, my dear?  And why should I trust you not to stab me in the gibblies?"

GM:  She replies, "Most noble Akier, House Draconis has taken nearly a hundred of my people from our home planet only hours ago.  The Draconis ship is docked here at Alpha Blue.  Very soon, they will leave to go back to the Draconis system and it will be too late for me to save my family and friends."

Akier:  I swish the scotch around and stare at it for a moment, thinking it over.  After a few moments, I down the rest and look at Akoona.  "We should get to work... but first, what do you know about the traditional uniforms of 20th century human high schools?"

GM:  "I know nothing, my lord.  But I am also a fast learner."

Akier:  "Excellent, my dear.  Research it while I figure out what to do and consider it your armor.  I would recommend the Finnish or Danish routes of study myself."

GM:  She nods in compliance.

Akier:  Looking at the rest of the bottle of scotch, I decide to pocket it and stand to leave.  Is there a central computer terminal I could use in my private quarters?

GM:  Yes, there is.

Akier:  I will head there then with the intention of finding out what I can about where the House Draconis ship is docked.

Oh, I would like to look around first to see if I can spot anyone who looks dependable from that batch of people who came in earlier.

GM:  You notice a short, silver robot who looks quite dependable.

Akier:  I approach the robot with a lot more swagger than I would normally have, and introduce myself as Octavious Septimus Sextimus the Fifth.

GM:  "They call me X19-8B.  What can I do you for?"

Akier:  I give a nod as if the robots's name is of grave importance.  "Nice to meet you, X19-8B.  May I call you X19?

GM:  "Yes.  May I reciprocate by referring to you as 5?"

Akier:  I smile at the small robot.  "All my friends do, X19."  I give a quick look around and whisper in a conspiratorial tone, "Is there anywhere we can speak man to... er... robot?"

GM:  The robot walks with you out into the corridor.  No one is around.

Akier:  I give another look and then ask.  "Tell me, are you aware of the underground sex-bot slave trade?  No, probably not.  You see, there are folks about who kidnap poor, honest female robots and forcibly reprogram them into sex-bots."  Putting my hands up, I continue.  "Now, that's not me.  I wouldn't think of doing that to another sentient in a heartbeat, but... some would.  Some on this very station."

GM:  "That's terrible," the robot replies.  "Where can I find one of these underground sex-bot slave traders in order to bargain with him?"

Just then, Akier hears a voice behind him.  A voice from the recent past...

"You shouldn't have run out on us back on Nebulon Minor, Akier.  Especially not after you slept with my sister."

Akier:  One of these days, I need to stop trying to play a hustler.

GM:  You remember your ex-partner's redheaded sister as he fires his blaster at your torso.

BTW, you are 1st level and have 25 Health.

[I roll 2d6.  Would have been 3d6, but I took one off because of Akier's personal shielding unit.  My results are a 2 and a 6.  That critical success (the 6) means 3d6 damage.  I roll embarrassingly bad, lucky for Akier.  He takes a mere 5 points of damage.

Akier:  "You know I don't have time for this today, old chum."  I pull my vorpal chainsword and point it at his head.  "I would rather things not go snicker-snacker, but they will if you don't kindly back off."

GM:  Your ex-partner, Greely, backs off.  Lowering his blaster, he takes a step back and turns as if to leave.  "You should have killed me when you had the chance, Akier."

He swiftly turns around and shoots at you again.

[I roll another 2d6 and the highest result is a 5.  I roll another 2d6 to determine damage and it's not looking good for the nobleman.  I roll a 5 and 6, then another 6, then a 2... totalling 19 damage.  Akier has 1 point of Health remaining.]

Holy shit!  He caps you right in the face!  By the way, once per session you can double your dice pool.  I strongly suggest you take advantage of that now before it's too late.  If you survive this encounter, you're sure to acquire a badass facial scar.

Akier:  As I attack with the chainsword, I say to the silver robot, "X19 old bean, I tell you what.  4 days VIP treatment on my credit if you help me kill this wanker."

[He rolls 6d6 and gets two 6's, good for 4d6 damage.  Unfortunately, he ends up with an uninspiring 11 points of damage.  X19 isn't made for combat and he only does 3.]

GM:  Your ex-partner fires again.

[I roll 2d6 again and my highest result is a 6, so I roll another 3d6 for damage.  Since Akier only had 1 point left, I probably didn't need to even roll, but I was curious about the results.  Sometimes, you just can't look away from the car crash.  I ended up with a total of 20 points of damage.]

Akier:  Is there an Alpha Blue version of a Doc Wagon?

GM:  Assuming you want to be stitched back together, yeah, it can be done, but not cheaply.  Akier's available funds are siphoned into the account of the cyber-surgeon on duty.

Akier receives "I can't believe it's not organic" synthetic flesh.  There's no tissue rejection, but he will have horrendous scarring and an electronic eye.  It'll be 5 weeks of rest before he will fully recuperate.


Niven81 told me it was a great game and that he'd like to keep playing.

So, that's it.  Not as much sex as I was hoping for, but you can't always get into every aspect of a game in 90 minutes.

Going forward, I'd like to keep scheduling Alpha Blue sessions online.  Until a better platform comes along, I'll keep using Roll20.


p.s.  I've got a Kickstarter running throughout March.  It includes an Alpha Blue scenario, among other things...