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?