Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cha'alt Play Report on Roll20

Earlier today, I ran yet another one-hour session of Cha'alt using my own O5R hack / houserules Crimson Dragon Slayer.

More and more I enjoy the quick start, fast paced action and reliance on old school techniques like actually describing what you're character is doing, rather than rolling a die to determine ordinary things, such as exploring a room or talking your way past a guard.

Let me introduce the PCs...

  • Ta Daar; half-orc fighter, chaos, goofball.
  • Axel; half-orc fighter, chaos, tall and intimidating.
  • Flint Deadlock; human, thief, neutral, he didn't really have a backstory or noteworthy detail, but this was a one-shot, so no big deal.
  • Nanof Stylen; elf, sorcerer, chaos, obsessed with the dead.
  • Q'ira; sky-elf, sorceress, chaos, sold into slavery but then killed her evil master.

Incidentally, Q'ira was the only returning character.  She started the session at level 2 (the rest at 1st level) because of her previous exploits - hey, she survived The Black Pyramid once... that's a feat few can call their own.

Due to her past, I had Q'ira working under the warlord Ka'an Dar.  The rest of the PCs were slaves.  Q'ira was to lead the other adventurers into The Black Pyramid in order to find valuables and split them with Ka'an Dar.

As the party approached the nigrescent shard rising from the sand like a beacon of dread, they realized another party was already waiting.  The Very Powerful Wizard, a rival of Ka'an Dar, had 4 mercenaries with him.  The VPW had a similar plan - send in the mercs to retrieve artifacts and relics.

There was some inter-party talk of attacking the warlord and VPW, but they soon thought better of it.  I squashed their metagaming out-of-character chatter by saying that they can do anything that's physically possible - no railroad!

I've been noticing that new players are hesitant to act or make the first move.  This is understandable for a variety of reasons.  No one knows each other (for the most part), and also noobs don't want to do something stupid.  Similarly, veterans don't want to die right away.

Since this was a one-hour game, I let the mercs make the first move in order to speed things along.  

After entering and exploring the first room of The Black Pyramid, the PCs followed one of the mercs into an adjacent room.  

Having run this introduction to the pyramid countless times, I decided ahead of time to assign rooms randomly.  That way I can actually see what deeper rooms are like when explored by those outside my home group.

The PCs entered a large facility full of technicians working on computers, 3 gigantic vats full of bright-green stuff, and a yellow robed priest looking on, watchfully.  

The mercs pulled out automatic weapons, but the PCs wanted to get in a surprise attack, which I allowed.  After all, they are the protagonists.

They killed one outright.  Q'ira wanted to cast a fireball spell.  Which allowed for another opportunity to use this handy little table.  Perfect for theater of the mind scenarios such as this.

She rolled a 5 and the sky-elf's opponents burned to a crisp... moments before the yellow robed priest called a tentacled abomination from the depths of Hell!

The players kept asking what the mercs were doing, aside from ignoring the PCs... so, I eventually slipped in something juicy.  One of them muttered "B-team rejects" under his breath.  Well, that was enough to get the PCs into a murderhobo kind of mood.  They immediately turned on the mercs, using clever tactics to get the upper hand.

But then one merc ran up ahead and surprised Axel.  Luckily, he took minor damage before rolling a critical hit - skewering the mercenary.  

One of the mercs had stayed behind in the first room, so Flint Deadlock went back to sneak attack the poor bastard.  After a poor roll (even with advantage), the merc fired and wounded the thief.  A second attack by Flint landed and he rolled max damage, killing his heavily armed foe.

So, a 100% survival rate has maybe happened once in all the times I've run Cha'alt.  Kudos to this group for their skill and luck!

Here are some comments discovered after I exited the chat (but still recorded by Roll20).  I fought hard against my natural inclination to edit punctuation and the like...

"I want to play more of this"

"That was amazing"

"I have never felt that epic playing D&D"

"Thanks Venger Satanis"

"I might buy Cha'alt and run it / very simple system to DM"

It was gratifying to read such praise.  If you're available, join me sometime!

If you're interested in grabbing the PDF of Cha'alt for yourself, it's currently on sale due to DriveThru's Thanksgiving sale.  But if you really want to Cha'alt like a fucking boss, you'll pick up the fancy hardcover and get the PDF for free!



Monday, November 25, 2019

Back From Vacation

It feels good to be home again.  Also, I turned 45 today.  Seems kind of crazy, but then most people probably get that feeling on their birthday.

I know the first thing you may be thinking... what can I get Venger for his birthday this year? 

Well, it's the same thing I want every year - reviews!  Although, technically doesn't have to be a review.  All the following would be acceptable: blog post analysis, play report, fan art, Q&A, or just your thoughts posted on an RPG forum somewhere.  I take what I can get.  ;)

What else?  Well, I'm wrapping up Kickstarter fulfillment and post-KS orders that have been coming in.  Want your hardcover Cha'alt?  Look no further.

Speaking of Kickstarter, I'm starting to think about the next one - the first official Cha'alt adventure.  Still groggy from 10 days away, so nothing is set in stone, except that it'll be just as awesome as Cha'alt itself... if that's even possible.  Maybe I can do one of those wild "break Kickstarter" ideas?

What content do you want to see?  I'm sure you have suggestions.  Let me hear 'em!


p.s. Yes, in all seriousness, please post a review or something today, November 25th.  And let me know so I can gaze at your generosity whilst basking in the chartreuse glow of our Lord drowning in the radioactive wasteland of S'kbah's desert.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

50% off Cha'alt

I'm going on vacation in a bit, and my birthday is coming up (November 25th)... so, why not give a little to get a little?

Slashing prices while thrusting deep into the bowels of magenta slimed terrors from beyond time and space.  Who wouldn't want to adventure in a mutant wasteland of alien weirdness and ultra-telluric monstrosities?

Yes, my eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic campaign setting + megadungeon Cha'alt is only $10, now through 11/25!!!

Or, if you prefer to buy the hardcover and get the PDF for free... that's also a wise choice.

If I don't get back to you right away, it's because I'm on vacation.

Cha'alt is 218 pages of O5R sandbox lollipop-flavored doom and irreverent exploitation gloom.  You'll love it, especially The Black Pyramid.  ;)

This just in - Grim Jim Desborough just uploaded a review of Cha'alt.  I haven't watched it yet, but will later this afternoon.  Here it is...

Let him know you enjoyed his video with a like, comment, and subscription!


p.s. Please leave a review and talk about Cha'alt on social media if you want to keep seeing more from Kort'thalis Publishing.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Why OSR Leans Conservative

Now, this is, of course, a generalization.  Old school D&D play-styles tend towards a more conservative perspective. 

But why, some of you are asking?  Well, I've had trouble putting my finger on it... always dancing around the issue and never quite getting to the core, the essence.  That is, until today when I watched Ben Shapiro's Sunday Special with George Will. 

It's around the 6:45 mark that things became clear to me: either the exhilaration of an open world or planning things from above.  Those are the two options, or perhaps a mix of both.

Those who prefer old school D&D (and other games) like the inherent uncontrolled chaos, spontaneity, and vast opportunity available with a sandbox style campaign.  It's exciting because anything could happen.  You could get killed in the first encounter... or eventually wind up as King!

Those preferring newer RPGs and play-styles want everything decided ahead of time, equitable, balanced, fair, and more or less predictable.  It's safe, but everyone should get more or less what they expect. 

As in games, so in life.  No wonder there's a culture war going on within the RPG hobby, industry, and community. 

Later, Mr. Will talks about some of the founding fathers of America and framers of he U.S. Constitution, describing them as deists.  I haven't thought about deism for some time, but have always seen the wisdom in that concept. 

"The Deist God is like a rich aunt in Australia... benevolent, but rarely heard from."

Who thinks that GMing is a bit like Deism?  He sets the scene and then just floats away until maybe towards the end, adjudicating from afar.

It's The Dungeon Master style of GMing that I talked about here.

Anyway, I found the entire discussion to be worth listening to.  Perhaps you will, too.


p.s. I still have Cha'alt hardcovers.  Click this link for details!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Cha'alt Event (part II)

If you want to start at the beginning, this is part 1.

Five players was a decent turnout.  I was hoping for something ridiculous, like 12... with spectators standing nearby, hoping someone would unceremoniously die so they could jump in, taking the dead PC's place.  Alas, I'm not there yet.  Soon!

The PCs

  • Kalovi: female blood-elf fighter, quick to draw first blood.
  • Dome Clo-Kar: human fighter, sturdy and tough, his right arm blackened and cursed.
  • Ultimus Van Huka'a: moon-elf, thief, came to Cha'alt for the rich zoth deposits.
  • Sasha: female sun-elf cleric whose family lost their name because of some disgrace, but still carries herself with pride.  Also, has a demon that she must appease.
  • Bandalorr: midnight-elf wizard.  Absorbed in the dark arts, he shocked his own people and was captured by slavers.

The Setup

I wanted something really simple, direct, and flavorful to begin with as the PCs were ushered into The Black Pyramid, which was the meat and potatoes of this session.

Marched through the desert wastes for a couple hours by slave master Kell, the PC slaves finally reach the shining black capstone to the pyramid of wondrous mysteries and unutterable doom.

In three days, Tyra'ak the prolonged of life will turn one-hundred-and-eleven.  Kell took the 5 most able-bodied slaves to The Black Pyramid in order to obtain a magic item for the birth-festival of Tyra'ak.

If a magic item is retrieved from the weird depths of that nigrescent sepulcher, a slave shall win his freedom.  

Incidentally, the players interpreted this as 'they find one magic item and bring it out, then all the survivors go free'.  What Kell had in mind was that freedom must be bought with one magic item per slave.  As you'll read, in the end, it didn't matter.

As per usual, the PCs entered the pyramid and began to explore.  I'll present the highlights as bullet-points to keep things moving and to avoid spoilers.

The Highlights

  • Dome Clo-Kar did something which no one else has tried, and I didn't really anticipate (that's just one of the many things I love about roleplaying games).  He exited the conduit between rooms and was able to walk upon the outside surface of a room.  The hardened fighter stood there, surrounded by the inky void of blackness... before coming back inside.
  • Exploring the movie theater playing Escape From New York, I feel the players really got a sense of The Black Pyramid.  It's not just a tomb of horrors waiting to crush PC bones into dust.  Rather, it's a strange environment with people looking for not just survival but entertainment, power, and looting the room that contains god's shadow.
  • There were a number of great lines heard from the in-character banter back and forth between PCs.  My favorites were, "All men are free when the slave masters aren't around," from Dome Clo-Kar.  And the gloomy Bandalorr, "We'll be free when we're dead."
  • Bandalorr acquired himself a magic item via Logan's Run.  After he identified and attuned it, he went up a level.  I decided that for this one-shot, it made sense to incentivize the acquisition of magic items above all else.  
  • It's not a dungeoncrawl until a PC goes all murderhobo on some poor unsuspecting NPC.  Kalovi decided to slit a priest's throat for no reason in particular.  That led to interrogation of the dead priest's companions and eventually bartering with amicable psionicists.  
  • The last room explored contained a gigantic devil-toad slumbering next to a pile of treasure.  Amongst the treasure was a magical sword.  Dome Clo-Kar really, really wanted that sword.  So, he stole it, waking the devil-toad, failing to correctly answer a riddle, and then the rest of the party tried to kill the infernal, tentacled godling because... it's D&D, I guess.  Well, that proved to be a fatal mistake for all but one party member.  Bandalorr used his fireball spell (thanks to my little fireball hack d6 table) and rolled a 1.  He used divine favor to re-roll... and got another 1.  Then no one made their saving throw and all the PCs were either burned to a crisp right then and there or died in the next round of combat against the devil-toad.
  • Using his newfound magic item to escape harm, Bandalorr walked, between universes, out of The Black Pyramid and back to slave master Kell.  In exchange for the sanctuary medallion of renewal, Kell rewarded the sorcerer with not only freedom, but a spot in the highly coveted sorcerer's training program that Tyra'ak instituted not long ago.

The Aftermath

While I was routing for the players and their characters to not only survive but flourish, I realized that glory was not to be there's as they willfully engaged in battle with such a creature.  

There were many chances to avoid the fight, but apparently that was not the adventuring party's destiny.  

Still, a sole survivor is pretty badass and the legendary lethality of The Black Pyramid remains.

Any questions?  Feel free to ask!  I really wish I had the time to run Cha'alt 5 days a week because it's both very much like, as well as distinctly unlike, anything I've ever created.  Cha'alt has a life of its own.  

If you're looking for the Cha'alt PDF, it's here.  If you prefer the fancy hardcover (the PDF is a FREE bonus), it's there.


p.s. I also want to thank Misty Mountain Games for allowing me to hold the Cha'alt book release party at their store.  Also, the Dominos pizza was pretty good!

The Cha'alt Event (part I)

I realized I could make videos with my phone, rather than the crappy flip camcorder I've had for years.  Probably with better quality.

Anyway, I ran Cha'alt for the first time since receiving the hardcovers (face-to-face, that is).  Had the interior map of The Black Pyramid printed out and laminated.  That was cool.  Also gave away some Kraken dice I had laying around.  Plus, pizza and mountain dew... and of course, books on hand to sell, sign, and draw tentacles upon.

Part II includes the actual play report.  This post contains the videos I made right before and just after the session.

Some wisdom for those who traffic in such things...

  • Nothing about a campaign setting (including Cha'alt) is so precious that it can't be altered to conform with the GM's desires.  
  • While I, as GM, and Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, my O5R hack/house-rules, may be forgiving... Cha'alt is not.  Cha'alt is a merciless son of a bitch that'll kill your character in the blink of an eye.  PC death is the norm.
  • Cha'alt is not deadly because I'm a dick.  Yes, there is that, of course, but that's not the whole story.  Decades of "modern" D&D design and play have either softened us or forced us into linear thinking.  How do I win in this encounter?  Attack!

Check out the PDF before you buy the hardcover.



Monday, November 4, 2019

Alpha Blue 50% Off

This week, for no reason whatsoever, I'm offering the original and core Alpha Blue roleplaying game PDF at 50% off!!!

The impetus was to create a rules-light space opera kind of game that delved into sleaze and smut, just like the vintage sci-fi movies of my youth - but willing to go even further, if necessary.  After all, there's no ratings board in space.

It was a bold move (many would say foolhardy or just downright idiotic) to pair cheesy sci-fi camp with sex.  But the risk was worth the reward - a new and different kind of game that I really wanted to play with my like-minded pervy friends.  Your star-mileage will vary...

The Alpha Blue line has more supplementary support than any of my other RPGs.  Take a peek!  That's probably because it's my favorite.  Also, there isn't much like it.  Machinations of the Space Princess comes close, but the two are quite different.

Yes, I borrowed the title from 1980 porno The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue. 

Yes, I consider Alpha Blue to be OSR.  Not because it uses a d20 mechanic (d6 dice pools, actually) but it's a traditional RPG that champions rulings over rules, immersion over PC optimization, and the very real possibility of death.  So, watch your ass!

Any other questions?  Please ask, I'd love to chat about it.


p.s. If you want the softcover (and why wouldn't you?), I recommend purchasing it from Amazon.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Seven Little Wonders

I was thinking about my newly acquired dice.  Not just the sets I picked up at Game Hole Con, but the ultra cool polyhedrons I use for Cha'alt.

And one thing kept coming back to me... the fancier and more exclusive these boutique dice are, the less chance you get more than the standard 7.

Over the years, gamers have been spoiled with additional d6s, sometimes an extra d20, and similar "bonus dice".  But alas, my favorite dice don't have that.

I think the extra d6s add the most value.  Mostly for character creation and fireball spells.  Well, there's no rolling for ability scores in Crimson Dragon Slayer D20.  That's the former solved.  The latter I've sussed with the following random table.  Simply roll 1d6...

D6 Fireball Hack
  1. Uncontrolled Blaze: Sorcerer's fireball spreads to both friend and foe.  Everyone within 50' of the sorcerer takes 10 damage (save for half).
  2. Burn Out: Sorcerer's spell fizzles; no one takes damage.
  3. Flurry of Flame:  Minimal damage to enemies - 10 damage (save for half).
  4. Scorching Blast:  Moderate damage to enemies - 20 damage (save for half).
  5. Raging Inferno:  Max damage to enemies - 40 damage (save for half).
  6. Incinerated:  All enemies incinerated (no save)... however, if this targets a godlike being, then it does 12d6 or 60 points of damage, instead of outright killing him.

Not only is it a damn sight better than rolling a single d6 several times and adding the numbers up in your head, but I think the table presents a fun spectrum of the good, bad, and ugly that can happen when using area-of-effect magic.



p.s. The 2,000 print-run of Cha'alt hardcovers is still available - order yours today!

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Game That Never Was

Ah, yes [sigh]... another missed opportunity.  But at least I tried.

A surprising hole (no pun intended) in my schedule at work allowed me to run Cha'alt at Game Hole Con this year. 

Unfortunately, only a week out meant that everyone had already scheduled games, events, and whatnot.  Although, I did promote the shit out of it.

Ordinarily, I would have scheduled games far in advance with the hope that I'd be able to make it.  I did that two years ago, but had to cancel my entire run of games last minute because our twins were about to be born prematurely and I couldn't leave my extremely pregnant wife who was ready to burst at any moment.

So, it was just me at the table surrounded by 8 empty chairs.  This was going to be the first time I ran Cha'alt at a non-virtual table, face-to-face with players since obtaining the book.  I had the giant triptych map of The Black Pyramid all printed-out and laminated, as well.  I'll put a description of the session in the post-script for the sake of posterity.

The very first in-person session of Cha'alt will have to be next Saturday at Misty Mountain Games.  Details over here.

I did drop some books off at booth #13 in the Dealer's Room of the convention, though.  Seven signed copies of Cha'alt that will hopefully sell out before Sunday afternoon.  Want your own fancy hardcover? Look no further!

On my way out of the Dealer's Room, I spied RPG veteran, legend, and creator of Traveller Marc Miller.  We talked a bit about Kickstarter, printing, shipping, self-publishing, and the rest.  I gave him a copy of Cha'alt for his long service in the industry after getting a picture with him. 

I also chatted with a cool dude named Andy Hand at the Limitless Adventures booth.  He was nice enough to listen to my sob story and commiserate as I mentioned my lack of players.

Lastly, I have a little gaming convention tradition.  Even though I don't need any more dice, I always try to pick up at least one new set. 

These two (pictured) tickled my fancy.  If I was going to play a dark elf, these are the dice I would want to roll.

I traded them for my last copy of Cha'alt.  The couple tending that booth needed a present for their friend (niece?) who was getting married and she loved both D&D and eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, and post-apocalypse type stuff.

On the way back to the office, I drowned my sorrows in an obscene amount of Chinese food and mountain dew. 

Hopefully, next year will be better. 

Game on!


Cha'alt is an eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic world.  Adventurers will be exploring The Black Pyramid - a bizarre, trans-dimensional, lunatic asylum of a megadungeon containing both malign entities and wondrous treasure.  I'll be running it with my own basic, minimalist, old school O5R (OSR + 5e) house-rules called Crimson Dragon Slayer D20. 
Venger Satanis is the best-selling author of not only Cha'alt and Crimson Dragon Slayer, but such titles as Alpha Blue, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, and How To Game Master Like A F#@king Boss.