Monday, May 29, 2017

Three New Adventures!!!

Writing three books at once - even small ones - isn't easy.  There are a lot of details to keep track of.  Focusing, scattering that focus, and then undividing it again can give one either creative or logistic whiplash (sometimes both)!

There was a time, just before taking a break to surprise people with Guarding Galaxy XXX, where I considered the rough drafts of Stairway of V'dreenHigh Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar, and His Flesh Becomes My Key to be a hot mess.

Thankfully, a little patient effort and infernal inspiration honed each one into a many-faceted gem.  I'm biased, of course... my RPG books eventually feel like my babies.  Not that I need anymore of those!

Also, I'd be remiss for not mentioning the superior layout and graphic work of +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) and the various artists who illustrated each PDF.  Glynn will soon be working on a print-on-demand compilation of all three scenarios out this Fall.

These are OSR-ish adventures that are quite adaptable.  Really, the systems they were made for replaces the d20 with d6 dice pools.  That's the main difference.  So, customize away!

I love hearing feedback and war stories, so don't be shy.  Thanks!

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

p.s.  I forgot to talk about all the little extras - like the Q'uay-Q'uar board and rules that you can download/print yourself and start playing.  Then, there's the official Outer Presence character sheet... and the Alpha Blue campaign manager!

p.p.s.  This is a link to Zarono's original arachnosaur artwork.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

O5R Dwimmermount Campaign

I finally started a new fantasy RPG camapign - old school D&D; although, I'll be using modified Sword & Wizardry rules and the mercurial magic random table from Dungeon Crawl Classics.

One of the players was reading an extra S&W book on hand and was shocked to see that it was just like Dungeons & Dragons from the 80's.  How could they do that, he asked?  I told him about the open gaming license of WotC D&D, the OSR, etc.

Despite the hefty price tag $75, I've decided to run Dwimmermount based on everything I've read about it on Grognardia by +James Maliszewski.  But it will most assuredly be my Dwimmermount - I'm changing things up here and there.

My table had 5 players, all of them opting to begin play with 4 zero level characters.  That means 20 PCs began in Muntberg, chatted with some possible hirelings, one hedonistic cleric making plans for a debauched celebration upon his return, and then made their way - with "crank master" Karn, Muntberg's drawbridge operator, along for the ride.  One of the PCs actually convinced Karn to pay him 2 gold pieces in order to join the adventuring party.

They met some orcs with a metal detector, disabled a laser eye above the double iron door entrance to Dwimmermount, and many were burned in a second altercation with even more orcs who used alchemist's fire .  Oh yeah, one thief was dissolved from the inside by a green slime that fell from the ceiling.  And another's life was drained from him at the touch of a shrieking phantom coming through the wall.

Out of 20 PCs and 3 NPCs who set out on this journey, the party ended the session with 9 PCs and 2 NPCs.  So, pretty much 50%.  Here is the list of survivors...

  1. Nopers, Fighter, Dwarf
  2. Daycy, Fighter, Human
  3. Iron Fist, Fighter, Dwarf
  4. Cheye, Magic-User, Human
  5. Mabnezer, Druid, Half-Elf
  6. Dormud, Cleric, Dwarf
  7. Sir-Yut, Ranger, Human
  8. Kalbana, Cleric, Human
  9. George, Druid, Human
  1. Sage, Magic-User, Human
  2. Poncenbee, Figher, Human

It was fun to get back to old school D&D again and I enjoyed running something that I've never ran before.  I haven't used experience points to track levels in years, so that's a conscious decision I wanted to make.

I also wanted to keep advantage/disadvantage and inspiration (with modifications) from 5e.  Whenever a spell is cast for the first time, I have the player roll on Dungeon Crawl Classics' mercurial magic table to see how that spell will affect the world whenever it's cast by that particular magic-user.

Here's my favorite line of the session, in regards to interrogation:  "Nothing good in orc is ever said."

Someone picked up a magic sword that not only yielded a +1 bonus to hit and damage foes, but also protected its wielder from harm once per day (up to 5 points of non-magical damage). I intend all magic swords to be sentient with a personality all their own.  I'm rolling now (as I type this) on the tables in The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence... 

(22) Foreign Speaking and (5) A sorcerer named Zar'toro created the sword; he wove spells into its steel, making sure it would be able to face the coming war between Law and Chaos.  Which makes sense, because after the sword was picked up I rolled its alignment as Neutral.  Now, should it speak French, Latin, or something else...

I plan to follow-up with session #2 in June.  I honestly can't wait - wish like Hell I could swing a weekly game, but with a sleep-deprived wife and 5 kids... it just ain't in the cards.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Design Goals

I'm seeking out reviewers because I like to see my RPG stuff talked about and critiqued.

I don't write because I was bored or to make money, and even though I use the material I come up with, that's not why I self-publish everything.  The real reason I design RPG systems, campaign settings, and scenarios is because I want to share what's in my head with others who might like and want to use them.

So, if you're a blogger of minor renown or semi-professional reviewer, get in touch.  When I send out complimentary PDFs all I expect in return is an honest opinion (and for you to spell my name right).

What does this have to do with design goals?  Well, a prospective reviewer just asked if I had any specific goals written down anywhere because he intended to base his review upon what I was trying to achieve.  I can't remember ever hearing that before... but it's fucking brilliant!

Unfortunately, I didn't have specific criteria written down.  Sure, stray ideas and concepts of a nebulous fashion are strewn over hundreds of posts throughout the internet, but nothing codified, nothing in one place, nothing that can be periodically examined in order to determine if my work serves those goals.

Below is my attempt to summarize Kort'thalis Publishing's design goals.

1.  To provide enough information (setup, characters, action, etc.) so the GM can take the scene, room, or encounter and run with it.  That is, make it their own and propel the adventure forward in an interesting way.  I create the initial 85% and the GM (along with the players, to a lesser extent) supplies the last 15%.  Foundation + inspiration = the rest is up to you.

2.  To create a vibe, theme, mood, atmosphere, or aesthetic that includes the weird, dark, gonzo, sleazy, humorous and/or awesome.  Awesome is probably the most difficult to define, but let me put it this way - whatever I thought was really cool when I was 12... that's what I'm attempting to capture and present to the GM and players.

3.  To use a style of writing, artwork, and layout that presents the work in a clear, pleasing, and awesome way.  I want ideas to be understood by the GM so he can effectively use them.  Even though this is a part-time hobby, I want it to look professional.  And I also want the presentation to grab them by the balls and say, "look at this crazy shit over here!"

Many gamers will read the above and realize the obvious - Venger isn't making RPG stuff for me, he's got a different audience in mind.  If I could make everyone fall in love with everything I write, I would.  But I can't.  So, instead, I try to please myself.  Not because I'm an egotistical ass, but because I need to imagine what readers want and the best way to gauge what these theoretical gamers want is to find out what I want and extrapolate from there.

Those designing their own stuff?  I recommend you write down your goals.  Putting things down on paper will help.  And if it doesn't, then you should probably get out of the writing business.  ;)


Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Sound They Make

I frequently go back to the OSR well of wisdom that is Grognardia.  Sure, there are posts about stuff that means nothing to me and a few posts where I very much disagree with +James Maliszewski (to be expected as individuals and individualists vary), but more often than not I'm rewarded with a look back at vintage OSR.

In this blog post, I wanted to highlight a Grognardia blog post from October 30th, 2012 that I just discovered.  About halfway down, James describes an account from someone who attended Games Fair '83...

It's also reported that Gygax "horrified a few of the purists with one remark," namely that "a good referee only rolls the dice for the sound they make. He just decides what happens!" While that comment might have been surprising in 1983, it's pretty well known nowadays that Gary had a lot more of the "storytelling" style as a referee than many old schoolers would themselves countenance in their own games.

If you'll remember my fairly recent post about rule zero, Gygax's statement is about as zero-ish as it gets.  His advice does not hail from the halls of traditional play-styles nor story-gaming, in my view.  It is old school itself - that indefinable quality of roleplaying that's as primordial as it is inspirational, where the game runs on pure imagination and flows of its own accord, influenced by the player-characters and directed by the Game Master.

Dice are awesome and they have many uses - no one is disputing that.  However, it is the GM who ultimately makes the call, navigating the current, and slyly exercising his will.  As with dice rolled, players should have their input, too - just not at the expense of the singular presence in charge of the game.

While many still disagree, I believe the evidence suggests what master Game Masters have known all along - trust your instincts; don't be badgered into making an "authorized" ruling.  You are the rule of law!  To put it another way, use the force...

After all, 40 years ago today the original Star Wars debuted in theaters across the country.  Happy Birthday Episode IV: A New Hope, and many happy returns!


p.s.  I ran a quick one-shot of Alpha Blue today and will try to get a play report up in a day or two.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

O5R Player's Guide

It's been awhile since I've posted anything.  Sorry about that, I've been busy finishing up my trio of adventures for the Trinity of Awesome Returns Kickstarter.

Just got to look at the Crimson Dragon Slayer scenario, and I'm quite pleased with it.

Anyways, this post is for posing a question, specifically to the OSR crowd, though I'm more than happy to hear from D&D 5th edition gamers, as well as, those who enjoy fantasy roleplaying games without relying too much on bloated rules, complicated mechanical fiddly-bits, and anything that takes authority away from the Game Master.

While still adhering to the Old School Renaissance aesthetic/philosophy, what sorts of things would you want to see in a player's guide or player's handbook?  I'm talking about options, tools, features, anything that might improve the experience for a player.

Thanks in advance for answering!


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

50 Shades of Vorpal review

"No one knows what offense the Taurian Empire gave to the Lich King, perhaps he was just being a dick."

I was not a part of the 50 sHAdes of VORpal kickstarter by Arthas Soulgazer (cool name), though I checked it after reading Tenkar's non-review last week.

Based on the kickstarter page and free preview on DriveThruRPG, I decided to give it a whirl.  Even if the whole thing is a pile of humorous excrement - at least it's funny!

Last night, I purchased the PDF for $5 and here is my impression...

Comparisons have been made with Encounter Critical.  While both games are comedic pranks on gamers, allowing readers to peek inside the fantasy heartbreaker minds of the authors, there are several differences.  Encounter Critical is a sophisticated, innovative, old school, labor of love by one or more slightly confused yet well-meaning amateurs.  It's meant to be a product of the mid-70's that reaches for the stars.

50 Shades of Vorpal comes from the mind of one or more contemporary dudes who purposefully set out to emulate something like old school Dungeons & Dragons, but way more juvenile, idiotic, and single-minded in its love of hack and slash.  It's like if HackMaster 4th edition were re-imagined by Beavis and Butthead.

While Encounter Critical and 50 Shades of Vorpal have similarities, they are completely different games with night and day approaches to the ultimate goal - making the awesomest parody game possible!  Although, this being 2016/2017, the latter not only wants to set down their idealized dreams of dark magic, deadly swords, and touching boobies in concrete, effectively cementing their glory in the halls of RPG fame and infamy - this is also clearly a way to make some cash.

Is there an actual system here, an actual RPG?  No, not really.  There's a bit of setting, a few monsters, loads of character classes and several races, but combat consists of adding a silly list of bonuses to a couple d30 rolls and comparing that with an opponent's ARMOR RANK.  If you hit, you do damage.  That's the core of the engine... pretty much the entire engine.  The rest is badly spelled window dressing like deth magic, preoccupation with loot, and sexism.

And that's part of the joke.  So many aspects of 50 Shades is phoned in that the game feels incomplete.  Various sections are blank, many earmarked with notations for adding future content - content that never actually made it into the book.  While that, too, is funny, after the first couple times, it loses something.

However, it is the attitude on display that provides the most humor.  Laser-focus on what makes an awesome character class and race shines a light on the worst gamer stereotypes.  But unlike the negative stereotypes which we, hopefully, don't embody, like living in our mom's basement well into our thirties and not showering regularly, 50 Shades brings up traits that are present, albeit in small quantities, in almost every gamer...

Awkward phrasing, typos, and combining tired fantasy cliches with not-well-thought-out flashes of inspiration all in the pursuit of that ever elusive awesomeness.  I've chased that particular crimson dragon myself on a thousand occasions.  The only difference is that my unsightly excretions get edited over and over again, or should I say flushed down the toilet of bad ideas implemented poorly.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading these 64 pages - including several blank pages - and got my money's worth.  Before I go, let me showcase a few of my favorite things from 50 Shades of Vorpal...

  • It uses a d30 because that's 10 more than a d20, reminding me of the amp that goes all the way up to 11 in This is Spinal Tap.
  • It has weapon coolness ratings based on how awesome someone looks when wielding a certain weapon.  
  • The illustrations - right out of high school study hall.  Most are decent in a youthful amateur hand-made kind of way, though some are actually fairly badass!
  • The never-solved divide between warriors and wizards.  Both sides feel they need to escalate the cold war and so each struggles to become even more ridiculously awesome.
  • Going further than explaining the rules or giving helpful advice, the text pretty much tells you what to think and occasionally comes up with raw truthisms such as, "Bosses get to boss."
  • Diving into the dark recesses of this male-dominated hobby with both feet.  Here's an over-the-top offering, "Female characters retire after making babies, so don't get pregnant.  This is a fantasy game, so you can't just go making stuff up that you didn't get pregnant when you really did."

Well, that's all for my review.  While neither version of Crimson Dragon Slayer goes anywhere near this level of awesome/awful, I was inspired to create a d30 random table for only the most "deth knight" kind of fantasy roleplaying!  Also, this!!!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: Don't Take Candy From Spacers

A few sessions have transpired since the last time I blogged about my weekly Alpha Blue campaign on Roll20.

So, this is going to be a quick and dirty, bullet-point wrap-up of everything that's transpired thus far...

  • The PCs, Katya and Miles Artemis, found themselves back on Alpha Blue.  They wandered into a melee combat arena and decided to pass on the guy selling his hot nuts in favor of sitting down and watching a man get beaten by some alien thing with tentacles.
  • Miles was not content to merely watch - there was money being offered to the man who could hold his own versus the best melee combatant in the galaxy - Syresh Vos!
  • A series of lucky rolls, plus the crafty use of his telepathy gave Miles the upper hand.  He knocked Syresh Vos out.  He won a bunch of credits and a sexy, green-skinned arena girl named Kiwi congratulated Miles by fellating him in front of the entire crowd.
  • While all that was going on, Katya was talking to a black-robed human who wanted both the PCs to come with him to see Grabba the butt - the reason was not revealed.
  • On the way out of the arena, a drunk spacer thought it would be a good idea to challenge the exhausted Miles to a laser duel.  Drunk guy got his trigger-hand blasted.
  • The PCs met up with the mysterious employee of Grabba the butt, a human named Fructis New Zaelyn. Miles and Katya were passengers on Fructis' ship as he took them to Grabba's pleasure palace on the desert planet P'oon.
  • When questioned, Fructis New Zaelyn told Miles and Ace VanHendrix, a zedi technician, (this was the start of the next session - lost Katya's player and gained Ricky's) and Fructis told them that Grabba the butt had a long-standing feud with Syresh Vos.
  • Just before reaching planetary orbit, a droid enters the cockpit and offers everyone a drink.  Miles takes a can of Purple Prizm, opens it, and it fizzes all over his space khakis.  A beautiful, blue-skinned female takes Miles' pants so they can be washed.  
  • Upon landing on P'oon, some revolutionary forces attack the ship with lasers.  Fructis gets out with the intention of fighting them off, then realizes there's, like, a dozen of them.  He uses his jetback to get the fuck out of there, leaving the PCs on their own.
  • Miles and Ace surrender rather than face a dozen armed rebels.  The desert revolutionaries take the PCs to their base and offer them a deal - give this blue-colored elixir to Grabba and be free or refuse and die.
  • Obviously, they agree to present Grabba the butt with the elixir. Miles still doesn't have any pants on.
  • A pale, tentacled humanoid comes to the door when Miles and Ace knock on the pleasure palace door.  He shows them to Grabba's secretary who then takes them to Grabba's main audience chamber where a full-scale feast is going on.
  • Grabba the butt is pleased with the PCs.  They made Syresh Vos look the fool and seem capable of handling some illicit jobs that Grabba needs done.  Miles still isn't wearing any pants.
  • Ace pretends to take a swig from the elixir and then offers it to Grabba.  Cliffhanger!
  • New session with Ace VanHendrix, Katya is back, and total Alpha Blue noob Badger who is playing an evangelical robot who can't pass up vice.  The robot's name is Reverend Screw-Loose, but that seems like a lot of work, so I called him Mr. Robot for most of the session.
  • Ace rolled decent in trying to convince Grabba that it was perfectly safe to drink the elixir, so Grabba gave it to his royal taster before taking a drink himself.
  • Suddenly, the entire complex shook with the force of an earthquake - someone was shooting their laser cannons at Grabba's pleasure palace.  Luckily the defensive shields diminished the blast.
  • Syresh Vos came down in an attack ship, attempting to take out his crime lord rival.  It wasn't long before Vos and several of his underlings were inside the palace shooting people and looking for Grabba.
  • One of the PCs looked outside the window to see if there was a way out, but all they could see was a sarlacc moat encircling the entire palace.
  • There was a massive laser-fight between team Vos and team Grabba, since both had similar forces.  The PCs were in the middle - Mr. Robot hid, Ace was determined to take out Grabba, and Katya was shooting at Vos.  It was a glorious clusterfuck!
  • Grabba made his escape in a secret starship at the back of his pleasure palace.  The PCs jumped into the back of that ship just before the door closed.
  • There were two guards and no sign of Grabba (he was moved to a safer section of the ship).  
  • From a window, everyone watched as Grabba's palace went up in a huge explosion!
  • Then a couple of sexy alien girls came in and Ace decided to take out the guards single-handed.  He killed one and the second guard got him, knocking him unconscious and bleeding out.  That last guard was about to throw Ace's body out of the airlock when Mr. Robot intervened - throwing the guard out and saving Ace from certain death.  
  • Katya, being a medic, patched Ace up while Mr. Robot charmed the alien women.
  • The strange women took Mr. Robot to their cabin, offered him a seat on their translucent blue beanbags, and then asked if he wanted to have sex... but that's where we had to end the session.
These bullet-points get the job done of telling the story, but they leave out all the little details like Mr. Robot flirting with Katya and various side-jokes.  Oh well, for the full effect, you've really got to be there - and therein lies the entire point of roleplaying.  It's a personal, deep, intimate kind of game with layers and subtly that board, card, and computer games just can't match.

Before I go, just want to remind everyone that Guarding Galaxy XXX was just released.  This FREE scenario will introduce gamers to my sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue.  Just read all the stellar reviews... oh wait, there aren't any.  Hey, review that shit, hoss!  Much obliged.  ;)


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Guarding Galaxy XXX

Mmm mm - look at that sexy cover for Guarding Galaxy XXX!

Remember this?  Seems like only yesterday.  Consider the updated PDF a "volume 2" to what I erringly called Guardians of Galaxy XXX.

Guarding Galaxy XXX is better because this time I won't be locked in a Disney jail cell underneath Space Mountain.  So, buy it... wait, this thing is free.  Free, you say?  What the fuck?!?  And after I paid all that money for artwork... my wife is going to kill me.

Anyway, take a chance on this raunchy scifi adventure for Alpha Blue, though easily adaptable to the RPG system of your choice.

If you've never tried sleazy, 70's scifi that's about as funny as a thermal detonator to the balls (hang about, that doesn't sound funny at all!) this will give you an idea of what it's about.


p.s.  I'd like to take a moment to thank Steve Wieck for his assistance in getting this better and less incarceration-y version of the PDF back onto DriveThruRPG.  If I was too harsh on One Book Shelf and/or Steve Wieck, let this post-script build space bridges and mend star fences.  I appreciate everyone's understanding and professionalism.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Guardians of Galaxy XXX

EDIT:  Guardians of Galaxy XXX is no longer available on DriveThruRPG.  Apparently, my faith in One Book Shelf was misplaced.  I emailed Steve Wieck to confirm that everything was OK, only to discover that he has no interest in protecting my rights as an artist, comedian, and peddler of RPG filth.

RE-EDIT:  Steve Wieck and I have worked out a compromise.  I'm drastically altering the cover and slightly changing the name to Guarding Galaxy XXX.  Should be back up on DriveThruRPG tomorrow.  

I wanted to do something special to celebrate the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 movie while also promoting my independent sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue.

Guardians of Galaxy XXX does both!  It's an homage to several established space opera franchises while also being a porn parody.  People have been making art directly inspired by popular media since the beginning of time, so I'm confident with the precedent that has been set.

Having said that, this title is suspiciously difficult to find on DriveThru.  There's nothing on the main page and even typing the full title into the search bar yields no results.  So, just in case I'm wrong - download your FREE Guardians of Galaxy XXX PDF before it gets expunged from the internets!

And here it is on Dropbox... cause you never know.

So, what is Guardians of Galaxy XXX?  It's a 10 page Alpha Blue adventure of high risk and high reward that lampoons quite a few recognizable scifi films - it's funny, dangerous, sexy, weird, and in bad taste.  What's not to love?

This is a freebie, so if you enjoy Guardians of Galaxy XXX, please do one or more of the following... review it, blog about it, chat about it, share it with friends, run games with it, and purchase other books from Kort'thalis Publishing.

Thank you,

Venger As'Nas Satanis
(Space) High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing