Monday, December 27, 2021

Last One-Shot of 2021


Earlier today was the very last one-shot of the year.  2021 has been... interesting.  Better than 2020 isn't saying much, but yeah... I might do an end of the year wrap-up next week.

Unexpectedly, I cut my hand on one of our plastic childproof locking mechanisms after logging into Roll20, but before the session actually started.  Not letting spilled blood go to waste, I ordained it a ritual sacrifice while concentrating on the Kort'thalis meta-sigil.

Anyway, I had 3 stalwart players in this session...

  • Warren of the Wasteland - a Mad Max style human warrior.
  • Omar Nasr - a sorcerer from Carcosa who worships The Yellow King and occasionally talks to a little skull tied to his belt.
  • Tief - a demon sorcerer played by a guy who's never played in one of my games.  Predictably, there's a bit of a disconnect between my "home game" and whatever official D&D stuff is normally presented.  

Since these were new characters (started at 3rd level with max HP) but 2 of the 3 were veterans of Cremza'amirikza'am, I told them they had only been in the ancient megadungeon a few hours, but that was enough time to get acclimated.

They followed a couple stained popsicle sticks to a demon playing around with a high-tech device.  The PCs believed it might be a popsicle maker, but alas, it was only a portable, electronic chess game.

After some small talk, there was a "cremquake" which just means earthquake mixed with Cremza'amirikza'am because these caves and tunnels are so ancient that instability is its middle name.  During the cremquake, several chunks of stalactite fell from above and a section of rock wall collapsed, revealing several humanoid skeletons entombed within.  One of them wore a turquoise necklace.

Now, Tief had something to trade for the chess device.  Admiring the necklace, the demon said, "I'll probably give this to my girlfriend.  She lives in Ca'anada."

The exchange was made as the PCs wandered down the tunnel, listening to a half-demon explain a bizarre game to several humanoids who were interested in playing to win a magical ring.

A bit later, the PCs fought 5 demon berserkers, dispatching them easily because of sorcery.  Specifically, Omar cast sleep which took out 4 of them.  Tief wounded the last with eldritch blast (I did some conversion work in my head, since there's no "eldritch blast" in Crimson Dragon Slayer D20.  Warren landed the final killing blow.

Looting the bodies, they found a decent amount of gold and platinum pieces.

Just beyond, they spotted a slumbering, green draconic-worm blocking the southern tunnel with its massive bulk (20' long and about 5' wide).  

Before dealing with the dragon-worm, I suggested... or rather, a producer on the show suggested that at least one of the PCs say a few words in the confessional booth.  Warren nominated Tief, and his player did his level best to both understand what the fuck was happening and to play along.

Basically, Tief told everyone about his carnal knowledge regarding a girl in some village or settlement who looked like Kiera Knightly.  

Then Omar hopped on and talked about his companions, specifically Warren, and how he might be converted to the worship of Hastur.  

So, not only is the confessional concept weirdly gonzo and hilarious, it can also introduce new threads of characterization and gameable ideas.

Finally, the party snuck-up to the draconic-worm and attacked.  Warren used the first stress die (communal and first come, first served) to up his damage.  Everyone else let loose on the dragon-worm, as well.  The creature got one attack in before it was burned to a smoldering crisp, nearly killing the sorcerers who were drained of vitality from casting spells.  

That's what happens when you don't have a cleric.  Every time, the new initiative system has been successful.  Everybody loves the new name... TWERPS, which means (in order of who gets to act) thieves, warriors, enemies, retainers, priests, and sorcerers.

I told the players they needed to read the blog in order to find out what was in the pile of treasure behind the dragon-worm's burned corpse.

7 orange and green Easter eggs, a magical battle-axe, 437 gold pieces, 111 platinum pieces, and a huge chunk of shiny green calcite.

Not bad...  Overall, I'm pleased with the adventure.  I know the veteran players enjoyed themselves, but wasn't too sure how the new guy felt about things.  My games are probably night and day different from the usual D&D Roll20 session.

Aside from getting to play at all (which is always fun), and playtesting several new mechanics, I reached a place of comfort with Cremza'amirikza'am that I can improvise encounters without much thought.  I know the place so well that ideas will just come to me and I rarely have to check my notes.  That tells me it's real enough to exist without me.  The next few weeks will be making sure everything is clear enough for GMs who aren't me.  I want them to be able to run it without unnecessary trouble.

Want to be kept up-to-date on when I'm running one-shots?  Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, and this blog.


p.s. Want to attend a gaming convention that's exclusively about old-school tabletop RPGs?  VENGER CON is taking place in Madison, WI this July (2022).  No masks; no mandates!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Confessions, Stress, and Sigils in Cremza'amirikza'am


Ok, this was a wild one.

Not only did I need to playtest game mechanics that were totally new to me, but I reveal an occult method I've been using to up the immersion factor.  Let's get into it.

I had 4 players... 2 veterans returning and 2 noobs (1 of which had to leave early because of some emergency).  They were...

  • Shiraz, a reptilian cleric of Dagon specializing in the combat fork.
  • Meat, a pin-headed, axe wielding human fighter (but flavored like a barbarian) looking to make enough gold to keep him in wine and wenches.
  • Hiraeth, a human fighter seeking knowledge (this is the player who left early).
  • Grrber, a human fighter (this player came prepared with a Paizo-approved character, but then quickly learned we don't do that here).

Disoriented from eating weird fruit, the PCs found themselves at a crossroads, unsure where they came from or what might be down the next tunnel.  The magenta illumination was faint, but ever present.

I don't normally share the "open crawl" portion that starts off the adventure because I basically just ad-lib a paragraph or two that makes sense for the potential encounters the PCs might face.  But today, I'm copy/pasting it...

Whether you've lived on Cha'alt all your lives or only a few short years, it feels like forever. You grew tired of poverty, hot sand, and even hotter twin suns nestled in the fuchsia sky. The irradiated desert wasteland was giving you headaches, anyway. Why not try your luck in a network of caves and tunnels so ancient and subterranean that even the Gods can't see what's going on down there? You've been exploring Cremza'amirikza'am for a few days now... possibly weeks. Choose a motivation. Maybe it's treasure or becoming a formidable opponent or knowledge of the long-dead snake-men empire?

Ok, what's next?  Oh yeah, Shiraz wanted use his sense of smell to detect humanoids nearby.  His faculties picked-up on something.  The scent of sex was in the stale air, and the foursome followed it west, where they encountered several demons running train on a brunette woman.

There was some debate on whether the PCs should leave them be, since the woman didn't seem to be in distress, but ultimately they decided to take advantage of the situation and surprise the demons.

Meat got Advantage for his sneak-attack, killing the first demon.  We used the easier initiative system that Shiraz' player named TWERPS... Thieves, Warriors, Enemies, Retainers, Priests, and Sorcerers.  

Later that round, Meat went for his standard attack after the surprise thrust.  He rolled mediocre damage, but I asked him if he wanted to take the first of three stress dice.  He did, and rolled well enough to lop off the demon's head.

The cleric of Dagon blasted a demon with an eldritch ray, realizing afterwards that using such supernatural powers drained his own health, just like sorcerers.  The sudden cost comes from the idea that Cremza'amirikza'am is shielded from the prying eyes of the Gods.  What they cannot see, they cannot do.  So, a priest's powers must be fueled by himself.

By the end of the battle, everyone got some good hits in, easily defeating the demons who rolled poorly (thanks to my virtual dice).

Afterwards, the brunette was still in the mood and was all over Grrber.  He roleplayed the character well, not wanting to dilute his seed amongst all the demon jizz.  But this was Cremza'amirikza'am and the magenta intensified.  I had him roll a skill-check (something I rarely do in these games) to see if he could hold back.  One failed roll later and the brunette coaxed it out of him.  

Meat said "Weak pull-out game," and we all laughed. 

While that was happening, I tried out the confessional mechanic.  This is something my friend Judd talked about on MeWe, explaining an aspect of the RPG InSpectres which I hadn't heard about.  Basically, you treat it like a reality TV show where characters occasionally break off, go to a booth just off-camera, and speak directly to the viewing audience.  My spin on it is a little different than InSpectres, but I wanted to give credit where credit was due.

I had a feeling this would add a whole other layer of meta gonzo to proceedings, and I wasn't disappointed.  Meat did a great job, earning himself another point of Divine Favor.  After history was made, the characters continued on... post-looting, of course.

We only had about 20 minutes left of the 90 so I came up with a weird encounter on the spot.  The other two stress dice were used, as well as, additional Divine Favors.  At the end, the PCs prevailed but found a curious object... which caused Shiraz a bit of consternation.  

So, another playtest with the initiative system was most welcome.  Still enjoying that.  The stress dice seemed to go well.  I don't want to go into too much detail about that, but am looking forward to hearing player feedback.  As for the confessional, this feels like something I've been searching for a long while but just couldn't put my finger on it until my conversation with Judd.

But now it's all falling into place and it seems perfect for the masterpiece of stupid gonzo that is Cha'alt.  Hopefully, Matthew (Meat's player) enjoyed his very brief stint in the confessional booth.  We've just taken our first steps in a whole new world.

Last but not least, the Kort'thalis sigil.  I've been interested in the occult and magic since I was young.  Post-college I really began studying things like chaos magic, which is big with sigils.  Kort'thalis is something I designed long ago, and decided to use it to increase the immersion of my games.  It was originally designed to be a meta-sigil, so I knew Kort'thalis had the capacity to help.

Before each game, I meditate on the sigil for a minute (sometimes longer).  My intention is to make the shared world we imagine as real as possible, as if the characters were actually in Cha'alt, and events were actually taking place in this alternate universe we've manifested as a group.  

Might sound strange or stupid to some, but after a dozen or so sessions, I think it's working.  The games I run have turned a corner in some ways, and the immersion on my end feels noticeably heightened.  You can only do so much with virtual, text-only, and 90 minutes, but we do what we can, right?

If anyone is unconvinced yet still open-minded, I encourage you join one of my Roll20 games.  I'll be running another one-shot sometime after Xma'as.  Follow me on Twitter @VengerSatanis to be kept up to date.

Also, HERE is my latest video that explains a few things.  Please comment, like, subscribe, and share!  I'd like to hit 1,000 subscribers by the new year.

Thanks for reading,


p.s. The holiday sale is almost over - $90 for both luxury hardcover books, signed, numbered, and personalized by yours truly.  That price includes shipping within the USA (outside, add $40).  Paypal me at:

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Cinema Verite


Ok, I've been talking about this a bit on my YouTube channel.  Now, it's time to blog.

What is cinema verite and how does it apply to roleplaying games?

Basically, it's presenting life in a truthful or realistic way.  Instead of focusing on story, plot, or points of interest (like sandboxes do), verite or "truth" creates a space for characters to just be themselves, hanging out, wandering around, interacting with who or what's out there, etc.  Maybe the characters get into trouble, maybe they learn about where they are, or maybe they're curious about what's over the next sand dune?

It's experimental / documentary style filmmaking or gaming that allows for stylized setups and interaction between subjects.  The GM is encouraged to provoke the various elements or ingredients, including the PCs.  Story is minimal or limited, but it doesn't come from the GM.  Whatever flimsy excuse for a story there is springs directly from the PCs and what they make of things.

With cinema verite or whatever you apply verite to, you try to capture the reality of life without any artificial drama or artistic embellishments.  It focuses on the everyday lives of characters and relatable situations.  Obviously, this is a stretch with the RPG genres we know and love (fantasy, scifi, horror, etc.), but it can still be done.

Many sessions are unscripted, but how many feel like a slice of life or fly on the wall, akin to the reality tv format?  Has anyone codified a style of gaming that, like Seinfeld, was essentially about nothing?  Even Seinfeld questioned itself, if you remember the pitch meeting with George and Jerry.  George maintained that it should be a show about nothing.  Nothing happens!  However, Jerry hedged that it wasn't absolutely nothing, you still have some dramatic elements to keep people interested and entertained.  

Personally, I think that interplay is fascinating and provides food for thought.  How much nothing can a session have before it's not the least bit entertaining or worth playing?  If it has too little nothing, can it still be called verite?  I'm sure there's a balance that comes with those actually engaging in it.  Certain individuals will want less while others want more.  So it goes...

I've seen plenty of hybrids where there's some kind of story happening, but also a hands-off GMing style that lets PCs goof off, follow their nose, or do whatever - without shuttling them to the next location or NPC or monster.  I've run a lot of games like that.

And this style doesn't mean the characters are without goals.  They should be motivated by something.  We're not talking about using lifeless mannequins as our roleplaying avatars.  But maybe their goal is so far removed from the present that it's not a consideration, such as wanting to meet a leprechaun, or it is a consideration but more of an internal struggle, like trying to be a good person or live up to his family's expectations, rather than storm a castle to save the princess.  

What about hooks?  Keeping the borderlands safe because of one reason or another would constitute a hook, but not a story or plot.  I'm sure my thinking on all this will evolve over time and I'll be better able to codify it down the road.  

At the moment, I'm most interested in diving into pure (or more distilled) verite sesssions which I've dabbled with several times over the past few years, without realizing what I was doing.  I just never thought of it in those terms.  But it seems to me like a style that's different enough to be recognized and have its own name.  

And before anyone asks, there's no inherently right or wrong way to do RPGs.  This verite style isn't better or worse, just like impressionism isn't better or worse than expressionism.  They're two different categories of art.

I've got a poll up on Twitter right now for what this category or style of gaming should be called... verite, adventures about nothing, anti-story (perhaps minimal story is closer, actually), or slice of life.  I'm going to settle on a name in a couple days and blog / vlog about this more.

In the meantime, here is a video of me explaining cinema verite in this context.  This is a video where I explain the difference between verite and sandbox style gaming.

Your feedback is appreciated, so comment away!


p.s. The Xma'as special for gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt books is still happening!  $90 for both Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise books and PDFs (that includes shipping inside the USA; outside add $40).  Hardcovers are numbered, signed, and personalized by me.  

Monday, December 13, 2021

Keep It Simple, Stupid


If you'll remember my last blog post, I advertised another playtest session for the megadungeon I'm currently working on and a couple different initiative systems.

As for the latter, long story short, I prefer the super-simple rules-lighter-than-light version.  Thieves, then Fighters, Opponents, Clerics, and finally Sorcerers.  Every time; no rolling needed.  

We tried both versions and when it came to Roll20's virtual table, rolling for round segments to act on had me scrolling back up the chat box to see who rolled what and where we were at.  It would probably be better in a live game, but who knows when I'll have one of those?

So, from now on, I'm going to stick to TFOCS.

As for the session, I had six players.  That's a lot.  One of the advantages of text only is that everyone can feel rather uninhibited.  Even I occasionally get self-conscious talking to people face-to-face, but typing with the veneer of anonymity behind a computer screen, I'm free to pretty much say whatever the fuck I want... which is nice.

The downside; however, is that players feel emboldened to do whatever they want.  There's little group cohesion.  That's not all bad.  Lack of cohesion is actually pretty realistic.  On the other hand, you've got a couple PCs trying to be quiet and stealth their way through a situation, a couple PCs who just want to walk up to people and start talking, and then a PC or two who may decide they want to go north when the rest of the party tries making their way southwest.  

There's no right or wrong here; just me trying to make sense of what is.

As for the session, it was good, I think, but not stellar.  I was mainly focused on getting into as many combats as we could in 90 minutes.  Apparently, that number was two.

Aside from the combat, the PCs encountered a couple aficionados of bird law (I didn't even ask the players if they got that Always Sunny reference), a really strange scar-like zipper running across a rock wall, and they investigated some memory crystals growing near exotic fruit. 

The party's sorcerer and priest of Asta'aroth, Dal Chat, used a demon survivor to fuel his magic, saving up enough energy to cast a few different spells throughout the session, which was fun to see.  I'd like to come up with something, an energy echo or vengeful spirit of the person being used as a wizard's battery.  Hmm...

Six players kept my hands full, and this was a playtest so I had to keep flipping from Roll20 to my word doc to the map image and back to Roll20 so I could draw the caves and tunnels.  

Regarding my GM mindset, it felt more like a normal Cha'alt session.  Once or twice, I tried to dig a little deeper into my inner darkness, but yeah my tentacles were full.  Next time!

Almost forgot about the pha'at loot the PCs acquired.  They already know about the 618 pieces of gold, the jellybeans (got to use the jellybean flavor random table), but what did they get from the last deluge of demons trying to kill them?  

More gold... 236 pieces, in fact.  The big score was an ivory ring (magical) that removes the wearer's shadow in favor of a chalk outline appearing on the ground where the shadow would normally fall.  And also a small book titled Crimes of Love, a collection of short stories by the Marquis de Sade.  

I'm happy we got to try both initiative systems and there was a clear winner in TFOCS.  This coming week will be focused on finishing and fine-tuning Cremza'amirikza'am.  I'll probably run one more session before Xma'as break and then a couple sessions before the kids go back to school.

That's it, thanks for reading!


p.s. Tickets still available for attending VENGER CON... old-school, OSR, and traditional roleplaying games.  Join us in Madison, WI this summer!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Crimson Initiative


Before I get any further, I want to run a Cha'alt session tomorrow with enough players to test out this new initiative system I'm working on.  

It's nothing fancy, complicated, or revolutionary, but more players is better than fewer in this instance.  Here is the Roll20 link.

I don't dislike the initiative system I've been using for years, but just looking for a small change of pace.  

In some areas of RPGs, such as mechanics, perfection is an illusion.  There's no ultimate end-state where everything will always be rainbows, unicorns, and lesbian cheerleader porn forever.  

Even things I love, stuff that feels perfect in the moment, must evolve for them to keep being enjoyable.  In this case, evolve might be the wrong word because things aren't always getting better and better.  Sometimes, they're just different... and that difference makes things better than keeping things the same.  Variety is the spice of life, as the cliché goes. 

Ok, without further ado, here are the basics...

  • A round is one minute, broken into six 10-second segments.
  • Each player rolls a die, and that initiative order lasts for the entire combat... thieves roll a d4, fighters and clerics a d6, and sorcerers roll a d8.
  • Similarly, the GM rolls a d6 per group or faction and that initiative order lasts for the entire combat.
  • Lowest result goes first.  Rolling a 1 means you can re-roll in hopes of getting another 1, which gives you a surprise-attack before the first round.  If a 7 or 8 is rolled, the sorcerer attacks first on the following round (spells take longer to cast + combat hesitancy for scholarly types).
  • Instead of an initiative tracker, the GM will call for 1s to go first, then 2s, followed by 3s, etc.  All a player has to remember is what number he rolled.
  • Those doing stuff in the same segment are considered simultaneous actions.

If that's too crunchy for the average Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 player (which is entirely possible), here's another...

Initiative order goes as follows: thief, fighter, monsters/NPCs, clerics, and sorcerers.  Doesn't get much more rules-light than that!  :)

Ok, that's it for now.  Thanks for your feedback and hope to see you at the virtual table, hoss!  BTW, Misha Burnett assisted me with both methods when we discussed initiative via email.


p.s. I'm running a holiday special on Cha'alt books... $90 for both luxury hardcovers of Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise; signed, numbered, and personalized by me (PDFs included).  That price includes shipping within the USA (outside, add another $40).

Thursday, December 9, 2021

When The Setting Comes To Life


I have an addictive personality.  Luckily, I also have a short attention span.  

Binge watching Rick and Morty put me in the Rick Sanchez vibe.  It worked, not because the role of Rick Sanchez was assumed by me, but Rick Sanchez happened to be an appropriate form for the God running my game.

Aside from stray affectations, I didn't get much from the Game Master persona today, except for this... the GM persona is mostly just a personification of the campaign world.  Being or pretending to be Rick Sanchez, Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley, John Malkovich, or even Mister Rodgers doesn't change things enough for the players to notice.  If you want to enter that mindset, cool.  But if the game's setting is to take center stage, whatever persona the GM inhabits must first serve the world, it's themes, tropes, aesthetics, and vibe.  

The right frame of mind allows the GM to spontaneously create when the world is personified through him.  As the GM is god of the game, fashioning that god into something that fits the campaign setting should be the goal.  Personification might be the wrong word... deification is probably more accurate.

Anyway, let's get down to the play report business.  I had 2 players in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, which was fine by me.  Sometimes, the less the merrier.   3rd level, max HP... let's go!   

These are returning players, but only one was familiar with Cremza'amirikza'am (which I didn't remember until after the game when I got his feedback - see below).  

If this was a Netflix show, the three tags you'd probably find would be "Depraved", "Sleazy", and "Infernal".  I've talked about the usefulness of tags before.  It helps to have reminders about what the world is about, how the adventure feels, the way it tastes on the players' lips.

  • Shiraz - reptilian cleric of Dagon
  • Za'aren - half-demon thief
That's all the detail we needed for a 90-minute session.  The duo began their adventure in the subterranean demon city known as Lex Talionis.  They saw a few weird, sick things on their way to ask beggars for information.  After that, a trip to demon sorcerers in a cave.  The sorcerers were creating a flesh shell for this infernal shadow entity.

Going back a bit, asking beggars if they know of any work to be had wasn't part of the adventure I had planned.  One of the players mentioned that would be a good place to look for tips, hearsay, and whatnot.  I didn't disagree.  But I didn't have anything compelling to add to the encounter... until I decided to do a bit of worldbuilding. 

"Safe passage through suffering on all sides," the beggar said.  I told him it's something he's heard before from demons in Cremza'amirikza'am, basically meaning "have a good trip".  

That player asked if there was a typical response.  You've heard other demons respond with "Cha'alt", I said.  To them, it means more than just the name of this planet.  And if you, dear reader, know the meaning of the word Cha'alt, then I don't have to tell you why that's an appropriate reply.

The demon sorcerers needed more flesh (don't they all?), so the PCs looked for humanoids they could ambush.  Another frequent saying down here is "Don't make long-term plans in Cremza'amirikza'am."  Turns out, there's a reason for that.  No sooner did the adventurers make it up to level 4 when they were ambushed by night clowns looking for fresh prey.

While I love the initiative system I've been using over the last couple years with Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, I decided to try out something new.  I won't go into detail because otherwise this blog post would get too long.  Besides, I need more than a single play-test session under my belt to see if it's seaworthy.  

Combat with the night clowns went well.  It was the thief player's first time with Crimson Escalation.  Shiraz started things off with a natural 20, killing one of four clown attackers with a BBQ fork while Za'aren missed.  

The clowns wielded these massive purple jelly double-headed dongs with nails driven through them.  Two of the three survivors hit the PCs, one rolled a natural 20 for a crit.  Since the PCs were 3rd level, the damage wasn't life threatening.  

Za'aren decides to grab the double-headed dong away from the clown who hit him and "go for the eyes".  He rolled a 19, which was a crit on round 2.  So, he rolled double damage.  That, plus Shiraz connecting again meant there were only two clowns left standing.  I rolled for morale and the night clowns fled deeper into the network of caves.

The PCs decided to follow, which led them into an enormous cavern containing multiple demon factions, more clowns, and some sort of sleeping Old One at the center.  Realizing they were on the precipice of an angry hornet's nest, Shiraz and Za'aren slinked away back to their previous victims.  Two corpses in hand is better than a TPK in the bush... or something like that.

Apparently, you can't even leave dead bodies lying around in Cremza'amirikza'am.  Magenta intensifies!  As the PCs approached, they saw an elf having sex with one of the dead clowns.  Trying to get his necrophilia on, the elf was easy pickings for Shiraz, who smashed the purple dildo full of nails into the elf's skull... killing him.

Now, with three bodies ready for skinning, the duo head back down to the demon sorcerers to get paid.  And get paid they did.  But not before rifling through clothing for treasure, after a little reminder from me.  Something fell out of a clown's pocket...

As an aside, it sometimes surprises me how often players forget to have their characters loot the bodies after the battle is over and the smoke has cleared.  Personally, I like to think that's it not mere forgetfulness, but that the players feel truly immersed in the game world to the point that going through the pockets of a dead guy is the last thing on their minds.  They're too busy wondering... WTF was that?  Wow, we could have gotten killed back there.  Did you hear that noise?  Will I survive the next 24 hours?  What does this thing do?  Why are clowns attacking us outside a city of demons?  Where is that magenta light coming from?

So, the PCs heard a violet, metallic key-card fall out as the bodies were being hefted over shoulders.  Aside from that, they picked up some gold, platinum, embers, and a rainbow hued rabbit-lizard's foot.

After collecting the bounty for skins, Shiraz and Za'aren called it a win and we had to stop there.  

Interestingly, I talked with one of the players after the game and he provided some great feedback, so I'm going to copy/paste what he said...

Hi, Venger, I thought I would give you more feedback while I still had today's game in my head. I've only played in your games twice, but I definitely noticed a slightly different tone and choice of language as we played. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it exactly, but you didn't feel like the same GM. In the first session I played with you you cracked a lot more jokes, and things were much more quickly paced. This time, the game felt more structured, like you had some hook for us to discover or adventure for us to have. I think there was a definite mismatch going on between the agenda of the players. [The other player] clearly wanted to carry on with the character he's already played and expand that PC's influence on the campaign world. Proselytizing, making contacts, etc. I was in it to play a one shot with a throwaway character and help you test mechanics. So, I was looking for the quickest way to get into trouble. Even if it was dumb trouble, like picking a fight with an evil cultist like a standard-issue D&D mook. It meant that we were pushing for very very different outcomes. In the end, I didn't want to step on the toes of the player who wanted to play his character a second time. I couldn't tell if it was the player dynamics or your gming voice experiment that changed the tone and experience for me.

In response, I told him that Cremza'amirikza'am had a completely different vibe, which called for a GM voice distinct from the usual Cha'alt stuff, even The Black Pyramid; although that's in the same ballpark.  

When running Cremza'amirikza'am, I go out of my way to establish the right tone - shades of nihilism.  I've been trying to personify that vibe when running this particular megadungeon.  Looks like my work is paying off.

If you want to read my previous blog post where I get into the GM persona concept, it's right here.  Ok, that's it for now.  Thanks for reading, everyone!


p.s.  If you want non-stop old-school, OSR, and traditional gaming experiences in Madison, WI - July 2022, consider attending VENGER CON.  Get your badge today!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

GMing as Rick Sanchez


Last night, I ran yet another 90-minute one-shot within the Cremza'amirikza'am megadungeon on Roll20.  That's nothing new.  I'm probably up to a Devil's dozen by now.

It was a night game.  So, that was new.  I borrowed my daughter's magenta lamp, turned the lights off, put on some dark ambient music and did my thing.

The way I introduced the session was also new.  I thought it would be funny if the "meet and get plot hook in a tavern" trope was tweaked a little.  So, the PCs were summoned to a strip club.  And it was so loud and distracting that the PCs didn't really hear or remember what they were supposed to do, other than get something from someone in Cremza'amirikza'am.

The last bit of newness came from the weird state of consciousness I was in (not totally baked).  Unconsciously, I probably take on aspects of other people when I'm GMing (as if I'm also roleplaying right along with the players), but last night was on a whole other level.  

I consciously became a hybrid of myself and Rick from Rick and Morty while I was GMing.  And I had a quick conversation with myself, asking me if I was being Rick in a joking ironic way, or if I was committing to the bit and was pretending, acting as if I really was Rick, except in my body with my knowledge of the game.

Yeah, it was trippy.  But the session was fun, at least from my perspective.  The players said they had a good time, too, but let's be honest here.  Can we ever truly know how players feel about the games we run?  If they stop attending, that's a dead giveaway.  But sometimes I wonder if I know the full story.  And then, sometimes, when I'm feeling deeply cynical and jaded, I ask myself if it matters... if I really care what they think.  

After all, am I not above everyone else?  Literally, the messiah?  The One?  The magus to end all magi!

There I go again, or maybe residual Rick fluid, chartreuse or fuchsia (?) hasn't been flushed clean just yet?  Or perhaps I've contracted some awful GM disease from that Alexis dude's blog.  Gross!

Anyway, I was showcasing a new part of Cremza'amirikza'am - the predominantly demon city called Lex Talionis.  Think of Escape From New York mixed with A Clockwork Orange, except with a lot more demons walking around.

I've got some more work to do on it, but what I presented had a real impact, I think.  A lot of flavor.  Maybe it was the lighting and music and drugs, but it felt kind of real.

One way of determining immersion, in my view, is to gauge how many missed opportunities there were in a session.  Mostly from the players perspective, but there's a case to be made for the GM, too.  If the world is vast and rich, there will be dozens of avenues, alternative ways where things can go.  Realizing missed opportunities makes us feel slightly annoyed, like we missed out on something.  But that's the way life is.  That's reality.  It's weird to think that lessening a certain amount of enjoyment in one area can increase the amount of enjoyment we feel in another, but I think that's the way it works.

Feel free to weigh in on that... or anything else, by the way.

Eventually, the PCs march up to the Big Bad of that particular level.  Realizing, I hope, that they were severely under-prepared, the adventurers tricked the Demon Lord Null into hiring them to assassinate the dude who sent them to Cremza'amirikza'am in the first place.  

One sack of gold later, the PCs were looking for a way out of the megadungeon.

There was a really brief combat at the session's beginning and another right before the end.  The second combat began with a surprise attack, but the first full round I let the PCs crit on a 19 because two of the players rolled 19s and time was running out.  

Was it a fudge?  Maybe, who cares?  I'm the GM, the god of all gods.  I do what the fuck I want, bitch!  Yeah, some Rick is still lodged inside me somewhere.  

As you can tell, I'm trying to keep the length of this blog post manageable, as well as, avoiding spoilers.  If you really want to smell the inside of Cha'alt adventure, play in one of my games.

Have a great weekend!  I'll announce another Roll20 session sometime next week.  Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, and YouTube [speaking of which, here's a related video entitled Game Master Persona] for notifications.  Also, keep visiting my blog.


p.s. I'm running a sale on luxury hardcover Cha'alt books (limited edition, signed and numbered).  $50 for one or $90 for both Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise within the USA (foreign shipping is an extra $30 for one book and $50 for two).  

Physical book purchases get you free PDFs, as well.  Paypal me at: 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving!


A lot of changes while so many things stay the same... time is a flat circle.  But what if we could perceive the myriad dimensions we know, deep down, are there?  What if we could change things for the better?

Today's Thanksgiving here in America [USA USA, USA], and it also happens to be my birthday.  I'm 47 now.

What have I been up to lately?  Besides the usual... work, family, holidays, and just living life, I've been working on the Cremza'amirikza'am megadungeon that'll be the centerpiece and main attraction for book three of the Cha'alt trilogy - Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows (available early summer).

Cremza'amirikza'am is soaking up 93% of my creative juices, but it's a fun project that I'm passionately engaged in.

Part of me, over the last few weeks, was focused on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.  So glad he was acquitted... but now my heart has been ripped out by the tragic wounding, maiming, and deaths in Waukesha [pronounced walk-a-shaw] at their Christmas parade.  

I don't know if it's big tech, the media, and law enforcement, but it seems like we're supposed to blame a red SUV and not the arrested lone suspect (social media presence all but scrubbed from the internet - thank God for Andy Ngo), an anti-white BLM supporter who, by all appearances, engaged in a terrorist attack just an hour away from my home... probably fueled by the hateful rhetoric of Democratic propaganda such as MSNBC, CNN, etc.

Thoughts, prayers, and justice [fundraising details here] for all those families in Waukesha who've suffered!  That may seem a strange sentiment from a self-described Satanist, but we're living in strange times, aren't we?  

As I see society, possibly civilization itself, crumbling before our eyes, I'm constantly reminded that human beings need a stabilizing, reconciling force such as Christianity to grease the wheels, keep the machine running as it should.  No system is perfect, but something is better than nothing... apparently.  I mean, just look around!

Thanks for your patience during my rant.  Alright, new business!


Due to the shitty economy... Let's Go Brandon!  I'm running a sale on those luxury hardcover Cha'alt books.  $50 per book or $90 for both Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise.  These limited edition books are signed, numbered, and personalized by me.  Those prices include the PDF(s) and shipping within the USA - outside the USA add $30 for one book or $50 for two... I know, shipping overseas sucks!

Paypal me the money:

Also, if you want to get me something for my birthday, I'd love to read your review of one or more of my titles.  

I'll be running more Roll20 one-shots starting next week, so follow me on Twitter @VengerSatanis, the Kort'thalis Publishing group on MeWe, and the Conservative OSR group on Facebook for notification of upcoming games and more!  Plus, keep tuning into my blog.

I believe certain individuals have the capacity to evolve in such a way that they're capable of improving everyone's lives.  We don't have to continue as broken machines... but that's a blog post for another day.

Hope you all have a great rest of the year and awesome 2022.  Speaking of which, if you want to attend an RPG focused convention in WI this coming summer, buy a ticket to VENGER CON!!!



Saturday, October 30, 2021

Never Again!


Just before bed last night, I opened an email with this statement.  It outlines Gary Con's mask requirements for next year's convention in March.

Having just suffered under Dane county's mask mandate with GameHole Con last weekend, my series of Gamehole blog posts starts here, I'm not about to put myself in a similar situation.  From experience, I can tell you that masked gaming conventions are a bad idea.  Especially, if the convention already forces attendees to be fully vaccinated!

Aside from the discomfort, hassle, and increased noise, we human beings use our faces to communicate with each other.  While it's vital for Game Masters to be heard, emote, and comfortably breathe during games, it's just as important for our PLAYERS to do the same - we need their full participation, which can't happen if their faces are covered.

Covid-19, thanks to the Chinese Communist Party and their gain-of-function research, stole many gaming opportunities from us over the last 18 months.  If it wasn't virtual, it probably wasn't happening.  This past summer, there were a few bright spots I was looking forward to, that kept me going when times got tough.  Those were GameHole Con and Gary Con.

I wanted to "sleep on it" before making a decision.  Well, it's the morning and I've made my decision.  I can't go through that again.  What I experienced with masking at GameHole has soured me on masked conventions for all time.  The frustration outweighs my love for running games publicly for friends old and new.  So, I'm forced to say never again!

If Gary Con continues its current mask policy, then please cancel my games.  I'm out.  It's just not worth it.  To anyone reading this, the decision is yours, but my recommendation would be to NOT attend any tabletop gaming convention requiring masks.

If we don't fight back, this won't end.  It'll continue to happen under the guise of "the new normal" as we, yet again, keep lowering our expectations.  Our freedom will dwindle away a little bit at a time until we have nothing left, except for impotent compliance.  The time to start fighting back was months ago.  15 days to flatten the curve is turning into 2 years of authoritarian control.  

Individuals who feel the same are welcome to join me as we collectively oppose these draconian mask mandates.  Stay strong, hoss!


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

p.s.  I'd be remiss for not mentioning my own old-school, OSR, and traditional RPG convention happening in Madison, WI next Summer (July 2022).  Details right here.  Gamers have asked and I've told them straight-up that I will do everything in my power to prevent both proof of vaccination and mask requirements at VENGER CON, even if that means civil disobedience!

Friday, October 29, 2021

GameHole Con 2021 [part 5]


Ok, this is the final installment of my Gamehole Con blog post series.  And hopefully, it's also the best.  Buckle up, hoss!  If you're not sure where to start, this is it.

So, this session was the last of the six games I ran at Gamehole Con.  Our second time into The Black Pyramid of Cha'alt.

Being so close to Halloween, I had been thinking of different ways I could make my sessions more festive and spooky.  I'd been dragging my creative feet all week, but had a few hours between the purple islands game and this one.  That left me enough time to write up a d12 table of literal Halloween decorations to dress up The Black Pyramid.

Now, The Black Pyramid doesn't really need any dressing up.  It's already weird and nightmarish - the whole structure is made of impossibly smooth black stone, indestructible and capable of collecting, harnessing, and transmitting evil.  And the contents of its non-Euclidean rooms are straight out of a carnival funhouse.

And yet... I couldn't resist bedazzling the black lily with tiny obsidian jewels.

Before I go any further, I slowly sipped a bottle of water the entire session in order to not wear a mask, which made the session about 15% better right off the bat.  It being Saturday night, the convention was very loud.  I also felt bad for all the players who were masked the entire game. I'm not sure how I would have GMed if hampered with a mask, too.

Let's talk about the players.  I really have nothing against them.  They were fine [edit: but I did feel like I, as the GM, was giving more than what I was getting in return].  In fact, I had a nice conversation with a young woman who arrived at the table early.  She happened to have a water bottle, sans wrapper, full of vodka and Mellow Yellow.  It was as chartreuse as you could get - the same hue as the dice I brought (with fuchsia numbering) -  maybe a little on the yellow side, but it had a weird glow to it that made the thing just about perfect.  The prophecy?  Again, I wondered.

A returning player NOLAbert (and my friend on Twitter) was also in attendance. Quiet, but handled himself well.  I do need to work on prompting specific players when they seem to be taking a backseat to the extroverts.  It's all about personal attention.

A few of the other players seemed jaded or too cool for gonzo, but really a nice group who seemed game for just about anything.

As you know, when inspiration strikes, I like to give the PCs a different sort of beginning.  I had just finished my d12 Halloween décor table and it was nighttime (perhaps a full moon outside?), the table alone conjured up imagery of The Twilight Zone, Heavy Metal, and H.P. Lovecraft (is there a more awesome combination?), so I was primed for something really out there.

A meteor streaked across the deep-purple night sky of Cha'alt.  The elders from the PCs' settlement, Vega Corso, relayed the prophecy - every 111 years, a meteorite crashes into Cha'alt, either signaling good or ill.  The elders wanted the PCs to check out the meteorite, especially since it landed only a couple hours away.

The PCs trekked through the cold desert, noticing The Black Pyramid on their left.  Eventually, they came to the meteorite.  Its chartreuse glow was pulsating as a pool of molten zoth surrounded it, growing outward, consuming everything in its path as the PCs stood alone on the precipice of the ichor-dimmed tide.  

Remembering my own game mastering advice, I quickly corrected myself.  No, the PCs weren't the only ones present.  A couple of humanoids were coming from another direction to see the meteorite for themselves.  The PCs predictably kept their distance as one of the interlopers touched the effulgent yellow-green substance himself.  He lit up like an eldritch jack-o-lantern before melting into the sand.

The PCs backed up.  The chartreuse stuff continued to spread.  The PCs kept retreating until they saw The Black Pyramid again, remembering rumors of dark strangeness inside.  "Maybe something in there could help us?" they pondered.

Entering the demonic sepulchre, they noticed a Spirit Halloween banner crumpled in the corner of a circular room - yeah, a couple of the players teased me about that.  I just ran with it, though.  Transdimensional engineering and all that.  Nevertheless, that crumpled Spirit Halloween banner set the tone.  The idea came to me while watching this video during my between games late lunch.

I love using "found things", incorporating them into what I'm writing or running whenever it feels appropriate.  For one, it makes the world seem more spontaneous, personal, and alive.  Another reason is... why not?  It's there waiting to be used, wouldn't it be wasteful not to include something like the following in a game?

A flyer was taped to one of the hatches (see nearby picture).  Everyone was amused and many took a number for lessons.  My single regret of the session is that I never did a callback to the ninja master or his karate school.  Oh well, next time!

Anyways, the PCs began exploring as usual.  They encountered a few of the same rooms as the last GameHole expedition, but some were different.  

I finally... FINALLY!!! got to use that deja vu room.  And it worked great, just like I planned nearly 3 years ago.  Only took them 10-15 minutes to figure it out, which is the perfect length for a singular mind-bending puzzle / trap.

Periodically, I rolled on the Halloween random table to spice up the rooms.  The decorations started out rather harmless, but eventually I got to some of the hardcore ones, like the corn maze with the little demon boy.  He sent one of the PCs into the cornfield where he was never seen again.  After strings of little glowing skulls hung across the nigrescent walls, the corn maze seemed a nasty escalation, surprising everyone around the table.

Combat went in the PCs' favor because there were 7 players each with multiple characters at the ready... just in case.  There was a creature the PCs didn't want to fight, so they ran from one hatch to another.  One PC, the slowest or unluckiest, was attacked and maybe killed, I don't recall.  

Eventually, the PCs reached the museum and a member of the party controlled by the friendly young woman I was talking to before the game began was able to locate something that could possibly help them.  A meteorite that fell to Cha'alt exactly 111 years ago.  It was mostly intact with a little bit of fuchsia liquid dribbling out of the sides.

Elated at having found a solution to the problem, they carried the meteorite outside.  Just before they made it out, though, a scarecrow was in the first room.  One of the PCs set the scarecrow on fire; as the others climbed out, the scarecrow stabbed another unlucky PC, almost killing him.

The glowing chartreuse liquid had almost reached The Black Pyramid as the PCs hurled the fuchsia meteorite into the opposing hue.  Now, at this point I usually give the PCs the benefit of the doubt, regarding them as capable, successful, even heroes in some cases.  Normally, I would describe the primordial zoth receding and tell the PCs they won.

But that's not what happened this session.  Still inspired by The Twilight Zone, Heavy Metal, H.P. Lovecraft, Halloween, and whatever demons dwell inside me, I described the chartreuse and fuchsia becoming agitated and rising up like sentient ooze struggling against each other.  Thinking about it now, I can't remember if the fuchsia overtook the chartreuse or if slime of both colors continued to malevolently grow.  But I do remember the young woman's character reaching down to touch the fuchsia ooze and she glowed brightly fuchsia for a few seconds before melting away.

Whether I suggested it or the players lamented that the planet was doomed, I don't recall.  But it was one of those rare downbeat, indeed apocalyptic, endings that surprises the fuck out of everyone playing.  This is a good place to end the session, I said.  And that was it.  

My Twitter friend stayed behind to talk a bit after the session.  He said he enjoyed it.  The player on my immediate right said that he liked the bizarre funhouse style of the dungeon and that it felt really old school - "You don't really see that kind of thing anymore."  But everyone else got up and quickly left without saying much at all, including the young woman.  I have a feeling that some were still in shock and others were just pissed-off that the conclusion was so bleak.  

On the way home, I didn't bother listening to a podcast or even music, as was my normal routine.  Instead, I thought about that session and how strange it was, I could still feel this palpable darkness.  My mind wandered in various directions.  Is this what Lamentations of the Flame Princess is supposed to be like?  

I could see the appeal.  The Game Master can be an innocent bystander, saint, or serial killer... depending on his whims.  A spurious God casting his merciless gaze upon mortal animals, man... playthings tortured for sheer amusement, broken upon the wheel of cruel, capricious fate.  

After all, this is a fallen world, born under a bad sign.  Why not put things in motion, sit back, and enjoy the screaming?  How terrible would it be to wander around an actual funhouse with all sorts of people and entities trying to kill you - or worse!  And then, when you finally escape, the world finds a different way to end.  Yes, I could make a career delivering such horrors to players, either unsuspecting or in on the cosmic joke.  But should I willingly give myself, along with my divine gifts, over to darkness?

Only time will tell.

The night drive back home gave me a few unsettling ideas for Cremza'amirikza'am, so now that I'm done blogging about GameHole Con, I can get back to finishing the new megadungeon for Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows.  If you have any interest in eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse gaming, I urge you to back the Kickstarter so we can get the biggest and most lavish Cha'alt book possible!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, October 28, 2021

GameHole Con 2021 [part 4]


Check out the previous blog posts if you want to read what led up to today's.  

The Alpha Blue session was good and fun, but my head's definitely in another place.  That helps, actually, because if I have Alpha Blue on my mind, then it's going to distract me from Cha'alt... which is my primary focus right now.  Especially, as I'm working on book three of the trilogy Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows.

And the Encounter Critical session was really just Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 tooling around Cha'alt.  When telling Gamehole Con what games I wanted to run, I thought I'd be diving into the next edition of Encounter Critical.  Instead, I decided to shelve that until I was finished with Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows.

Since Encounter Critical inspired both Crimson Dragon Slayer and Cha'alt, I didn't feel too bad about it.  I broke out Beneath Kra'adumek because that's a fun little one-shot scenario.  For an extra bit of strangeness and because it was almost Halloween, I offered the players monster races instead of traditional, elves, dwarves, etc.

I'll share what I came up with here, just in case you want to use it in your own Halloween inspired sessions...

  • Vampire - Hypnotism (save to resist).
  • Wolfman - Transform into wolf and/or wolfman (Advantage from savage attacks).
  • Mummy - Resurrection, unless completely incinerated, vaporized, or annihilated.
  • Creature From The Black Lagoon - Swim, breathe under water, and fast healing.
  • Ghost - Incorporeal at will.
  • Demon - Can force humanoids to make a deal; the Devil's bargain.
  • Frankenstein - Super strength (extra d6 damage).

It was a fun session, and I finally got to use the d100 weird magic table included in Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise (I've used it before the book was printed during playtest sessions).  Unfortunately for the party, one of the PC sorcerers turned the Ipsissimus of the temple into an invulnerable pillar of green flame.

But one of the highlights of the weekend was my running The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  There's a reason why so many gamers love this one.  You can see the primordial roots of Cha'alt in the purple islands.

This being a one-shot, I almost had too much material to choose from.  For some of the session, I used whatever was written down for the hexes the PCs traveled.  The rest I cherry picked because I was excited to see the players' reactions.  A decent chunk of the session was spent on something I just made up - a sleestak temple containing a pit housing their god - a gigantic purple worm.

After killing the worm, they looted its lair of amethyst crystals that radiated with magical energy.  It was night and the PCs bedded down with their crystals.  One of my favorite things about the purple islands is the "while you were sleeping" random table.

So, I rolled on that and a totem had been driven into the ground, just outside the sleestak temple.  It was a warning or curse from a competing faction, the Sect of the Crimson Tongue.  Someone casted a spell during the night, as well.  So, I rolled on the weird magic table again and, I kid you not, the result specifically says that all crystals within 50' of the sorcerer explode.

All of the PCs took heavy damage.  One guy was left with 1 HP.  

When something accidentally turns out to fit exactly in the random chaos of what's going on, I'm sometimes in the habit of shouting "THE PROPHECY!!!" at the top of my lungs.  These guys got to experience that twice.  ;)

A couple players were returning guests from previous games, which was nice to see.  

The PCs were moving through the violet cloud of radiation and picked up some nice mutations, as well as a magic sword.  Instead of metal, its blade was forged of concentrated willpower.  

I rolled on the d30 table from Cha'alt since that was easily at hand.  One woman rolled 30 and so got two mutations - acidic sweat and her lower half became serpentine.  Seriously, watching her face throughout the session was a trip.  She went from incredulous to pleased to concerned to laughter to defeated to triumphant.  It was quite the rollercoaster of emotions for her.

One-shots don't give you a lot of time to work in PC motivations and overarching stories.  But if everyone has a sense of who their character is and the agency afforded them to explore an eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic island, that's all you can ask for.  

At the session's end, I got a lot of praise for running the game.  I could tell the players really enjoyed it and that made my day.

The purple islands session was the first one on Saturday.  I decided that I'd had enough of trying to run a game muzzled, and so I either ate a banana or drank a sip of bottled water throughout the three-hour session so that I didn't have to wear my mask.  That definitely helped improve my experience, though it was still plenty loud in there.

Tomorrow's blog post should be the last of this series.  Thanks for joining me on this insane journey!


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

GameHole Con 2021 [part 3]


I'm not going to do a blog post for each and every game I ran at GameHole Con this year, but this one was really cool.  If you want to see part 1 or part 2, check 'em out.

On day two (Friday), I got a chance to run players through my latest creation, and one that I'm still working on.  It's the subterranean cave and tunnel megadungeon known as Cremza'amirikza'am.

This session was billed as a little spicy, but still very much a dungeoncrawl... maybe that's why I had seven dudes at the table (the only game where there wasn't at least one woman).

I do have openings written down ahead of time, but am always tempted to create something new in the moment, when inspiration strikes.  For whatever reason, I decided to start this session with the PCs overhearing the discovery of that demon-fabled system of caves in the tavern, just before the lizardman who spilled the beans had his intestines spilled out from a dagger in the gut.

And then a princess-witch was sunbathing on top of the platform in the lost city.  That set the tone.  As usual, a few players didn't know what to make of these odd and mildly sexually charged encounters.  But enough players were ready to roll with the punches, so it's ok if some are hesitant or don't know how to feel about encounters like a redhead with banana-men bodyguards who just inherited a chicken shack and bordello down here in Cremza'amirikza'am.

Soon after, the prospect of combat and treasure seemed to invigorate the players.  Monks, security droids, and a stockpile of loot owned by Pizza the Ha'at (if you've seen Space Balls, then you know who I'm talking about), using Monsieur Froma'aj as an alias on Cha'alt. 

The PCs did well for themselves, taking pretty much all of it - including a circuit board that seemed really valuable for no discernible reason.  Maybe just because Pizza the Ha'at wanted it?

After that, there were crests and troughs of high weirdness and standard sword & sorcery tropes.

One of the funniest parts, for me and I think a few of the players, was the replicant film crew who decided to film the PCs' exploits as a documentary with their camcorder.  So, the second half of the session was expertly documented for posterity.  I wish we, the gamers, could actually see the footage they captured.

The PCs cleared the entire first floor and then a cave or two on level 2.  I had maps of Cremza'amirikza'am (the first three levels) printed and laminated for the event.  Those looked good, and the players appreciated the visual aid.  All combat was theater of the mind, though.

Also, I should mention, for every game, except for Alpha Blue, I used my laminated Crimson Escalation visual-aid tracker for extra crits.  As usual, Crimson Escalation favored the players, which they greatly enjoyed.

I've been running playtests of Cremza'amirikza'am on Roll20 for the last couple months prior to my Kickstarting Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows right now - please back it!  But what I came up with only a week ago in terms of puzzles had never been playtested.  

Turns out, what I wrote worked like a charm.  And led the player who successfully pulled a sword out of an effulgent indigo crack in reality to say that in all his life, he's never had a character wield a blade that powerful and awesome.

I won't go into any more detail other than to mention the nudist colony, empress trapped in ice, and Ta'arna on a mission of revenge.  All in all, Cremza'amirikza'am is coming along nicely.  I feel it's a solid mix of eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, and post-apocalypse... along with my trademark humor, sleaze, and pop-cultural references. 

Everyone said they had a good time, and I even got an email after the convention thanking me again for running that session.  I'll copy/paste it below...

Dear Vengar,

Thank you for running Cha’alt for us at GameHole Con, it was a great introduction to you as a person and what you value as a designer.

You’re absolutely right about the masks, issues of speaking volume, and noise. The noise got so bad by the end of the convention I was asking people to pull down their masks to speak (shockingly, nobody had a problem with this).

Things I loved
  • Crimson Escalation was a great idea! Some kind of large red d20 that changes between rounds with the number you crit on would have been a good addition.
  • I like how you brought up erotic things, but did it as a matter of genre, and kept the narrative moving along.
  • You kept the story moving. I think we got more done in your game than any other con game I’ve ever been at.
  • Giant Maps! Who doesn't love a giant map?

I don’t have a google account, so I couldn’t post this on your blog, but I thought it would be worth sending you anyway.


That getting more done is a testament to my laser-focus on one-shots over the last 5 years.  When these blog posts are done, I'll be turning my attention to One-Shots Like A Fucking Boss, as well as finishing up the megadungeon for Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows.

Thanks to Colin, the Cremza'amirikza'am players, and GameHole Con.  I'll try to get the next blog post out tomorrow.


Monday, October 25, 2021

GameHole Con 2021 [part 2]


My first game was around noon on Thursday.  First blog post of this series was yesterday.

Six players including an acquaintance from Milwaukee, Glenn, who I've run games for multiple times previously, either at conventions or when I was running Cha'alt at my FLGS in Madison, WI.

It was an exploration through The Black Pyramid of Cha'alt. Not sure if I did it intentionally, but the very last game of the convention was pretty much the exact same scenario - except it had a totally different vibe (will get to that in a couple days).

There are a few ways I like to start out a Black Pyramid adventure.  I never begin such scenarios inside.  The PCs are always trekking through the desert trying to arrive there for one reason or another.  Why?  A little something I learned in college called processional access.  Partly, the journey is an important part of the destination.  But it's also about the build up of emotion, anticipation, expectation, and gravitas that comes with getting to the good stuff.  

Like in a porno, it's more enjoyable to watch the process leading to sex than to just immediately watch people fucking for no discernable reason.

Anyway, the PCs saw a sandworm near the pyramid and decided to run when it came towards them.  This part of the scenario is important for setting the right tone, as well.  If the PCs, at first level, were Hell bent on slaying the sandworm, this would have been their wakeup call.  PCs would have died, telling players A) don't get cocky and B) I'm not fucking around.

Scattering was the right move, so they all survived.

It had been a long time since I've run The Black Pyramid and I was a little rusty.  I almost forgot about the message in that glass case.  Just like I almost forgot to have them roll for rumors about this nigrescent wonder of the world.

The first few rooms gave them a taste of gonzo.  It's the "we're not in Kansas anymore" effect.  There always seems to be a couple players who engage with the weirdness in order to move forward, while the rest of the party are either still acclimating, not yet able to interact because they're on edge or taken aback by how strange everything is.

And some people enjoy the silly and bizarre aspects of the megadungeon while others aren't quite sure how to take it.

That's all part of its charm.  If you're going to run The Black Pyramid yourself, that unevenness and uncertainty is a feature, not a bug.  At least, I hope you come to see it that way.  It's a form of initiation, separating the wheat from the chaff.

Was it also weird running a session face-to-face after nearly two years of virtual?  Yes, it was.  There are cues I wasn't used to receiving because all my Roll20 games are text only.  So, I don't know how someone feels about the game we're playing unless they physically type it out, which usually comes at the end when they say they had fun or "awesome game" or "thanks for running", etc.

Anyway, there were a lot of cool and interesting rooms they encountered... the floating colorful shapes entity, under a microscope, the frozen giant peach, the barrels of monkeys, the museum (where a PC stole a disintegrator rifle that didn't have an energy cell, but then returned it for the reward), the kabuki theater, the gonzo statue, democratic republic of Y'gk, etc.  

A lot of stuff they interacted with minimally.  The driving force for some PCs was to acquire treasure, and if there were odd people walking around without any noticeable loot, they were quickly bypassed.  

There's no right or wrong way to explore this megadungeon.  Some groups or individuals will want to really get in there and experience it all.  Others will breeze through the more esoteric rooms in order to accomplish their personal goals.  And the interplay between PCs is interesting, to me at least.  

Combat happened sporadically.  I don't remember them taking significant losses.

There wasn't a big finish or climatic resolution.  If memory serves, the PCs came to a good stopping point just before our game was set to terminate and we ended things there.

All in all, it was a solid group and good game.  The players were enthusiastic about what I had to offer, even if they didn't always make the most of their opportunities.  I thanked them for playing and they thanked me for creating this unusual experience for them.

If I could go back and do one thing differently (I try to come up with some area for improvement each session), it would be giving the PCs a stronger motivation to explore the pyramid's interior than what I provided.  I honestly don't even remember what I told them, something about inconceivable opportunities awaiting them inside or some vague bullshit like that.  Strong motivations help players direct their characters.  I didn't make that mistake the 2nd time running The Black Pyramid, though.  

Oh yeah, I used the dice that remind me the most of Cha'alt, a gorgeous mix of chartreuse and fuchsia.  See this old blog post for a visual.

That's it for now.  Tune in for another blog post tomorrow!


p.s. My Kickstarter campaign for Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows continues.  Please, check it out and back that sucker if you're into eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic gaming awesomeness!