Sunday, August 23, 2020

Optimized PDF - Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise


I'm pleased to report the Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise PDF has been updated with bookmarks and hyperlinks.  

Additionally, a few typos, layout inconsistencies, and various errors have been fixed.  Oh yeah, and the index has been added, too.

If you see anything amiss, please let me know.  The print files are going to be finalized soon, and I want the upcoming luxury hardcovers to be as close to perfect as possible (coming in October).

There's been a lot of great feedback, but I could always use a little more.  Definitely review Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise and talk it up on social media.



p.s. I still have about 40 Cha'alt books available before they're sold out.  Ordering details here.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Interview with the Prince of Nothing


Prince of Nothing is a colleague, collaborator, and friend of mine.  Upon hearing of his OSR Kickstarter The Palace of Unquiet Repose, I suggested an interview... and he agreed.  

His blog is called Age of Dusk.  Without further ado, let us begin!

What misfortune led you into this racket?  Another way of saying it, how did you get your start in roleplaying games?

I started playing when I was about 14. Me and my friends were all addicted to Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2, and one day I read it was based on D&D so we bought a 2e DMG and player handbook and just dove into it headfirst. I stopped when I went to college, then picked it up again after a few years and got into the OSR again via blogs. My entryway was Grognardia and then nothing but YDIS for the first two years. My first review was a scatching takedown of ya boi's RPGPundit's Arrows of Indra and that's where I sort of got the taste for what I do. I figured I wanted to do something like that, only (marginally) more constructive. The rest is legend, wreathed in obscurity. 

Do you prefer to GM or play?  Why?

GM. I have a short time preference and my knowledge of RPGs is beyond that of mortal man. It's too easy for me to see the man behind the curtain, and there's only a few master GM's that I genuinely enjoy playing under for prolonged periods of time. When I GM I am constantly engaged, I do weird voices for all my NPCs. I get a kick out of entertaining people and I get a rush from challenging them. There's a sort of paternal pride you get when you run some noobies through a lethal OSR game and by the end they are sly, cautious, meticulous and precise. "My fighting force," I say in my best Captain Lorca voice during the session end.

How do you currently feel about the OSR?

Everyone is very keen on declaring that the OSR is dead for the umpteenth time but I suspect that's mostly wishful thinking. "The OSR was mostly Google Plus hangouts and conversations." Self-congratulatory revisionist nonsense. Look at all the fucking kickstarters for pete's sake! DCC is still going strong, Lotfp pulled out of its nosedive, B/X Essentials is the new hip thing and its a dog-fight on who gets to be the next trendy hipster arthaus emmy-magnet game, with a toss-up between Mörk Börg, Troika! and even less palatable alternatives. The ethos of the OSR, modules not stories, actual play, emergent gameplay, simple character creation and high lethality have risen and we shall not see an end to them in our lifetimes.

OSE 100k kickstarter ffs!

Tell me about the adventure you've written, what's it like, what was your inspiration, goals, and how did that come about?

Red Prophet Rises? I wrote a fairly positive review about a submitted adventure for a man called Malrex with a little-known publisher called the Merciless Merchants. We talked and I gave him some tips on the use of language and he asked me whether I wanted to collaborate on a little module called Khazra's Unending Blöt. I was in between jobs so I said fuck it, why not? I fell in love with it immediately. It was rough, uneven and some of the parts didn't quite gell. I rewrote it from the ground up, magnified all the good parts and turned them up to eleven. The result is a motherfucking masterpiece of Sword & Sorcery. It's a term that gets tossed around left and right but few people actually get what it's about. It's Conan the Barbarian (the movie!) meets Mad Max on peyote. Brutal Violence in a stark environment. An Evil High Priest presiding over Sacrificial Duels to the Death. Naked Berserkers covered in ritual scarring, their battle cries transformed into metallic roars by their bronze bull-masks. Prisoners you can free, procedures in case you are discovered, places to hide. 

Since I read religiously I combined that with an insane focus on usability so everything is legible, easy to use during play, there's helpful patrol schedules, effective layout etc. etc. My inspiration was my love of Sword and Sorcery, R.E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, Fritz Leiber and definitely some Warhammer Fantasy. It's included in the higher reward tiers so if you sign up you can check it out alongside my new adventure.

You've been reviewing OSR adventures for awhile now, what are your top five and a brief reason why for each?

Obviously I would include Cha'alt in there but since it can only be rated in Zulkiers it stands on its own as an entirely separate category. I'd put some TSR classics like Tomb of Horrors in there no problem. But you wanted OSR: 

5  - Better then Any Man by James Raggi - It's what you get when Raggi actually gives a shit. Historical fantasy, apocalyptic scale, brutality, an insect cult, a city under siege and its all a fucking sandbox, the madman. By far the best thing he has ever done.

4 - Slumbering Ursine Dunes by Chris Kutalik - A pointcrawl that feels like a slyly homo-erotic version of Jack Vance doing his best Eastern-European fantasy impression. I can't do it justice, it's just so charming and weird and it can only exist in the OSR.

3 - Thulian Echoes by Zzarchov Kowolski - Genius take on a time-travel adventure. You play a bunch of idiots dying in a dungeon, and then your actual players find their diary and get to play the dungeon again, but their actions in the past change the dungeon in the present. Genius. 

2 - Mines, Claws & Princesses by Steven Oswalt - I am a sucker for the classics and this nails it on all fronts. Oswalt channels Patrick Stuart in creating a Wagnerian Epic where our heroes must beat the shit out of a dragon. Everything is infused with a teutonic splendor. Pig-faced orcs, crow spies, talking animals it's EXACTLY what I want from my games. 

1 - Many Gates of the Gann by Guy Fullerton - It's deep. The environment can be manipulated and flows together in a way that other modules simply do not accomplish. The way the dungeon flows, the different factions, the hints, the easter eggs. It just betrays such a deep comprehension of the fundamentals of dungeon design. That's what I wanna be when I grow up, I say to myself, when I read that. On the level with the old TSR greats. 

You've been working on something new and just launched a Kickstarter to fund it, give us the scoop on that.

FINALLY. Okay, so after Red Prophet Rises elevated Merciless Merchants to greatness Marlex was like WE GOTTA DO ANOTHER ONE. I'd made some setting posts here and there about my own S&S setting, the Age of Dusk, set in the Lands of Autumn in a time aeons in the future, when the gods are dead, horrors of ages past prowl the arid wastes howling for blood and man has but little time left until the Final Night. I on occasion will write hooks or adventure seeds for it but there is a huge difference between a blog post and a publication. To get me to actually do anything you need to either A) hide my stash of goverment heroin which you very cleverly did when I collaborated on Cha'alt (no really I am not even mad, I am impressed!) or B) be some sort of cross between Mother Theresa and the Furies and that's what Malrex did when he became my producer in chief. 

For two fucking years we collaborated on PALACE OF UNQUIET REPOSE, a batshit insane grimdark S&S meatgrinder where our heroes will descend into the depths of the earth to raid the vaults of Uyu-Yadmogh, long-dead (or is he?) Archmage and Devourer of Children. The end result is finally done. Now we need money for art. Because there are gods watching over me granting my every prayer in my bid for dominance of the OSR we managed to snag James Vail (author/artist of Xas Irkalla, google it) and Chris Cold, two brilliant artists, to do the art for palace. It's been 2 days and we are at 3k, we funded in 13 hours. People know its going to be genius. Malrex keeps fainting and having to be re-animated when he considers how many module writers will have to burn their laptops, knowing they can never eclipse a masterpiece of such terrible splendor. I haven't stopped screaming since we launched the kickstarter, summerian death-chants and Celtic Frost Lyrics. Throw away your Death Frost Doom little Timmy, Uncle Prince has got you something spiffier.

Tell me about your work on that thing you called... Cha'alt, was it?

Cha'alt you say? This all started with a skirmish in the comments section of Bryce's tenfootpole blog where you felt you were poorly treated [He's talking about Dead God Excavation, which has a 4.5 star rating on DriveThru] and I took it upon myself to give your work the treatment it deserved. I also ended up shooting it in the face, but it was the beginning of a spree of VS reviews, some of them very nice. 

One day I woke up, ready to take my much needed insulin shot, and it was gone, and you'd left a piece of paper with purple letters cut from magazines, spelling out what I needed to do to get it back. Classic Venger. I think you were in a bit of a rut but if anything Cha'alt showed everyone that you still had the chops. I was on the team to get you back in shape, hell, I was the team. That meant no more breakfast, lunch AND dinner at Wendy's. Exchange that purple truck for a purple bicycle. We tried to do the Empire Strikes back thing with the Yoda training montage but I don't know how a grown man is supposed to climb in a backpack and that somersault over a tree ended up just pitching us both in the swamp. I don't think we made it very far into that obstacle course. Sometimes I still wake up with nightmares of inhaling bog water.

In all seriousness. I think the best thing I did was reinforce the notion of adding an extra layer of interactivity to all of the encounters in Cha'alt. A lot of your stuff is creative but it would just appear and sit there. With my sage advice, everything in Cha'alt is doing something, interacting, or has something going on beyond combat. That's what allows it to work even if you run it Arcade style. Those playtesting sessions were a blast! Nomad made it all the way to the end.

If RPGs were outlawed, what creative thing would you be doing instead?

Probably some combination of level-design for Doom or Thief, wargaming and writing. Also I would be starting up forlornly at the night sky, yearning for elfgames, dreaming dreams that I know are undoubleplusgood. 

What RPG thing do you see yourself working on in the future, 2 or 3 years from now?

I have a trilogy planned out for this one, all focused on the evil deceiving Tzyanese. The whole thing is that they know they are damned and are searching for a way to escape that. The first is Palace of Unquiet Repose, where you follow a wizard who has looked for a personal method of salvation (and failed horribly). The second is a project called Vaults of Oblivion, where you go into an extraplanar stronghold where a group of renegade Tzyanese have been breeding for evil and magical ability to countless aeons until they are no longer human. The third will tackle the biggest thing yet, a hexcrawl leading up to the Weapon, the gnostic WMD that killed the gods and is killing the world. Pretty excited. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Karen Tenkar Gets Offended


What in the world?

So, I'm checking in on Tenkar's... sorry, I mean Karen's Tavern when I see this post about a DriveThru product with a dumb pseudo-political message at the bottom of the product description.

Apparently, Erik was offended enough by "All Cops Are Bastards" to email DriveThru with a complaint.  Later that day, the product was nuked from orbit.

Now, I'm not a fan of ACAB or much of anything coming from the Antifa, BLM, and rioting leftist area of the culture.  But I'm not going to complain, I'm not going to say it shouldn't be there, I'm not going to suggest that products with offensive slogans (political or not) should be removed from shelves (virtual or not).

Last time I checked, this was a free fucking country.  The category of "offensive speech" like "hate speech" doesn't exist.  It's made-up.  But you know what's not make-believe?  Cancel culture.  It's as real as a heart attack, and people like you and me are living on its edge.  We're just one bad tweet away from disintegration, my friend.  And the pathetic pearl-clutching authoritarians and losers who believe in such things are only doing it for control.  

Part of the reason why I wouldn't want "All Cops Are Bastards" to be censored, other than the fact that it's none of my god damned business, is because it's a slippery slope.  

I also wouldn't want products or product descriptions with "Jeffery Epstein Didn't Kill Himself" taken down... or "Black Lives Matter" or "Blue Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter" or "Social Justice Warriors Need Not Apply" or "Jesus Saves" or "Hail Cthulhu" or "Vote In November" or  "Don't Tread On Me" or "I Love The USA" or "Babies Are People, Too.  Don't Murder Them."

It's 2020.  I don't have to tell you that things are pretty crazy.  Let's not make things worse intentionally by calling out every little thing that might not fit the status-quo or our own personal views of what might be safe or proper or appropriate.  Who knows, maybe we need to get a little problematic in order to right the ship?

While Karen is asking the clerk if she can speak to the manager, I hope the rest of us can go about our daily lives without succumbing to the desire to crush everything that isn't exactly tailored specifically to us.

We're individuals without the need for safe spaces.  Our sensibilities aren't that delicate.


p.s. Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise is out, and I hope you grab the PDF... especially if it offends you (and it probably will).

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Cha'alt Play Report


I took time off from virtual gaming, like the entire lockdown.  That's 5 months.  

Partly, this was because I was finishing up Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise.  The rest was due to my being mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted... I've been running my very own in-home daycare (ages 3-9).

Flush with excitement from updating my transparent aluminum (so light weight and durable) O5R house-rules / hack of D&D known as Crimson Dragon Slayer (arcade-mode, bitches!), I ran a 90-minute one-shot of Cha'alt on Roll20.

A couple people dropped out because my way of running 5e isn't RAW enough for them, but we still had a decent party of 4 1/2 players (one guy was late and didn't quite get the hang of the chat until the very end).

The reason I like fast and dirty character creation is because I want to get playing.  And if you get killed, go ahead and think of a new guy and jump back in the next scene.  Everyone's time is valuable.  If I know you're playing a chaotic elf fighter named Gera'ald with a penchant for tentacle cow-tipping, that basically tells me all the mechanical and flavor junk I need to know as the GM.

The PCs had been wandering for a few hours before coming to a well-known landmark in the desert wasteland known as S'kbah.  The adventurers stood on the edge of a sarla'ak pit, it's gaping mouth wide and sun-burnt tentacles writhing hungrily.

20' above floated a hover-skiff containing a prisoner, two Federation guards, and a man wearing all-black.  It appeared that the prisoner was going to be executed very soon.

After some chit-chat with the Federation people, a PC (pixie-fairy thief) flew up and helped the prisoner get his hands free.  Fighting soon commenced.  Weirdly, two of the players chose clerics as characters but only a single healing spell was cast the entire game.  Hand-crossbows versus blasters, the PCs were taking heavy losses.  Feeling cocky, the man in black ignited a purple laser-sword and jumped down to engage the party's only fighter - a reptilian named Drak'thiss.

I missed every single attack with the man in black, so he eventually fell after the PCs flanking him both rolled a critical hit.  In the meantime, the prisoner had run off.  

The survivors looted the bodies and started walking as night approached.  Replacement characters met up with the party and shortly after discovered the prisoner crawling on the sand, dehydrated and near death.

One PC helped him up and gave him water.  Everyone listened to the prisoner's promise of wealth and power if they kept him alive long enough to get off-world.  He mentioned the infamous black pyramid...

Two seconds later, another PC attempted to brain him with a mace.  He missed and the other PCs brushed it off with uncomfortable laughter, somehow unable to see the giant red flag being waved in front of their faces.  Next round, that same PC shot him point-blank in the head.  

A couple of the other PCs complained about their comrade's rash action, but they didn't take up arms against him.  And then we were out of time.

While I'm running the game, I try not to judge.  I may slightly nudge adventurers in a certain direction from time to time, but ultimately it's their choice.  

Now, that the game is over... well, let's just say mistakes were made.  Nothing was set in stone.  The scenario could have gone in one of a dozen different directions.  Next time I run the same scenario, it'll go a different way.  Always does.  

If you choose to GM your own introduction to Cha'alt, feel free to use that (completely and utterly original start-point), and ask me for further information on the NPCs, possible future plans, etc.


p.s. I still have 40-something luxury Cha'alt hardcovers left.  Want one before they're gone?  Here ya go, hoss!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Infinite Healing

 I considered titling this blog post "Whiny Baby Edition" but then who would be the whiny baby?  Me... or the few reviewers who incessantly complained about Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 having way too much clerical healing?  "Infinite healing" you might say, wrongly, of course, as I've discussed many, many times.

Let me cut to the chase - it's never happened to me in the dozens of games I've run, but it's possible for an adventuring party to abuse the lack of healing limitations imposed on clerics.  Well, I just fixed that.  Yep, re-wrote a whole entire god damned paragraph.  It's all for you, Damien!  Shemhamforash!!!

What's the rule change?  Similar to something I came up with in a prior edition of Crimson Dragon Slayer.  If the healing die comes up 1, the cleric is temporarily exhausted (in the spiritual sense) and unable to heal anyone for the next 10 - 40 minutes (1d4 turns).  That's it.  Not much, but it's enough of a speed-bump to pacify those 2 or 3 dudes still shouting their disapproval.

See?  I do occasionally listen to critics, and happen to think this is a fair compromise for everybody.  Now, I fully expect Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 to soar past D&D 5e in popularity, as it's less crunchy, more old school, and extremely flavorful with a sword & sorcery vibe you don't get with mainstream rule-sets.  It was, after all, made with the Cha'alt campaign setting in mind.

And this change will be carried over into Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise... as soon as the layout team have finished making all the other little tweaks I've compiled over the last week (3 or 4 more days?).  

Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise became a "Best SILVER Seller" just a couple days ago, so thank you all for continuing to support my warped, pop-culture infused, eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic vision!

Oh yeah, there are a couple standout reviews I should link to... here and here.

I actually ran a Cha'alt / Crimson Dragon Slayer one-shot on Roll20 last night (first time in about 5 months).  I'll blog a play report in the next day or two.


p.s. I still have about 40 luxurious hardcover Cha'alt books available.  Ordering details here!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Fuchsia Lives Matter

Want to know who's actually oppressed and faces systemic racism in 2020? 

Look no further than the citizens of Cha'alt.  Yes, real slavery and genocide while their planet's zoth is stolen.

Off-worlders think nothing of shooting a sky-elf in the face.  It's legal, so why not?  The desert is silent, but you don't have to be.

Do your part by posting a fuchsia square on your social media with the hashtag #FuchsiaLivesMatter

We need change now!  Do some good for the people of Cha'alt... even if their skin color is fuchsia.  Their lives matter just as much as citizens of the Federation.

Thank you,


p.s. Download the just released Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise PDF.  Eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse campaign setting for any D&D like system.

Dungeon Punks RPG

Full disclosure, I was offered a free PDF of this game for the purposes of review.  It's here on DriveThruRPG.

So, what's it like?  Black and white, lots of artwork ranging from awesome to mildly interesting.  72 pages.  Not the fanciest layout, but definitely serviceable. 

It feels like a semi-professional collection of house-rules, breaking away from traditional D&D just enough so it feels like a different game, while not really being all that different. 

I'll list a few things that stood out to me...

  • Qualities are like skills or some kind of natural affinity.  They give you a +2 when attempting an action relates to one of your character's qualities.  You could just as easily award advantage, instead of the +2 if you wanted to go the O5R route.
  • Scott Malthouse has a short essay called "How To Make Magic Weird Again".  In it, I very much enjoyed the following quote... mechanics are the bane of magic.  Such an OSR concept because it's fundamental to old school gaming.
  • Other OSR essays worth reading, such as "Bigger Swords, Better Sorcery" by James S. George.
  • A fun little introductory adventure titled "Loss of Time".

It seems that people are branching out, away from WotC/Hasbro D&D, so this is as good a place to start (after downloading your free Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 PDF, of course).

Grab it and let me know what you think!