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!

Sincerely,

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 d├ęcor 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,

VS


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!

VS

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.

Sincerely,
—Colin


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.

VS


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!

VS

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!


Sunday, October 24, 2021

GameHole Con 2021 [part 1]

 

This is going to be a series because there's just too much material for one blog post.  Today's post will focus on my first impressions.

I ran SIX (6) freakin' games over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Today is Sunday and I'm at home with the wife and kids.  I've also broken my experiences into part 2part 3part 4, and part 5.

Before I get to anything else, let's talk about the mask issue.  Dane county is progressive as fuck (unfortunately), so I knew they were going to keep extending the mask mandate.  The mandate lasts for a few weeks and then right before it expires, they renew it.  15 days to slow the spread!

Personally, I strongly believe masks should be optional - especially when you're attending a convention where vaccines are mandatory.  I know that getting a covid-19 vaccine means you can still spread it and transmit the virus, but that's just life now.  We're never getting to zero covid.  Take whatever precautions you want based on individual risk assessment and let other people live their own lives.

Didn't know how religious people would be about masks when I got there, some places in the country, even mandates seem optional.  Well, everyone was wearing them pretty much all the time, except for eating and drinking.  Not wanting to cause a scene or get kicked out, I wore mine, as well.  Even during the majority of Game Mastering for the first two days (more on that tomorrow or the next day).

Putting it succinctly, it sucked.  I had a feeling it would, and I was right.  Not only is it slightly uncomfortable and annoying, it's difficult to communicate when everyone is masked.  I had to ask people to repeat themselves probably 15-20 times per three-hour session.  And I wasn't the only one.

You'd think all the masks would have kept the noise down.  Nope.  Everyone had to speak louder to be heard while wearing their nose/mouth hijab, so there was just as much noise (if not more) than an ordinary convention game room.

Regarding the Dealer's Room, I didn't see anything I had to have... except for dice, but I'll save that for later.  I saw some neat Call of Cthulhu books, rules and adventures, but thumbing through multi-volume sets and 300+ page books just reminded me of the precious time and energy I have leftover for gaming.  Seeing all those words, all those pages that I now consciously know I have no intention of ever reading made my wallet sigh with relief.

A couple decades ago?  Yeah, I probably would have gotten some CoC books, spent the time to read and absorb the content and try to run some sessions or even a campaign.  But that's so far from where I am currently, another lifetime.  At the moment, only the lightest of rules-light and most awesome of ideas packed into a tight place (like the back of a volkswagon) will do.

I remember seeing a poster for Skullcano Island.  That's something I would pick up and run.  Short, sweet, to the point, high intensity, great concept, I already know the mechanics (it's OSR, right?), and go.  But I didn't actually see the adventure being sold anywhere, just noticed the poster with that artwork a couple times.

What else was in the Dealer's Room?  Miniatures, legos (not sure what that was about), computer / virtual / app / tech stuff, and a whole bunch of fancy lifestyle extras that I have no interest in - like custom tables, dice made out of precious stones, leatherwork stuff, foam weapons, LARP costumes, etc.

GameHole Con isn't the place to debut your new RPG, which is understandable.  Both major and indie RPG companies probably wait for GenCon or Origins.

I did take a look at a couple smaller bite-sized gaming books.  One was Mothership because half of everyone into RPGs talks about that online.  The second was a Mork Borg supplement because the other half of everyone into RPGs talks about that online.  

Mothership didn't look too impressive as I flipped through it, but the panic mechanic is probably worth borrowing and tweaking for the right adventure.  The Mork Borg supplement came with some neat looking artwork and cards that could be combined to create an assortment of creatures.  While that really appealed to me (I still fondly remember the 1979 Monster Maker toy), Mork Borg itself turns me off because it's the new hotness and I get the impression the makers are woke SJWs (though I could be wrong about that).

The games I ran over those three days were just as weird and wild as you'd expect.  Maybe not the best sessions I've ever run, but definitely solid and emblematic of my particular eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic style with humor, sleaze, and pop-culture references galore!

That particular vibe isn't to everyone's liking, of course, but that's why there are game descriptions and sign-up sheets.  ;)

Ok, part 2 should be up by tomorrow afternoon.  Thanks for reading!

VS

p.s. I've got another Kickstarter, hoss.  I'm trying to fund book three of the Cha'alt trilogy.  So, check out Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Kickstarting Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows

 

It's been a long time coming, but the wait if finally over...

Today, I launched my Kickstarter campaign for book 3 of the Cha'alt trilogy.  Here's the link.

If you're interested in eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic campaign setting, adventures, and a brand-new megadungeon, back Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows (and get the previous two luxurious hardcover books while you're at it).

As the last two installments, this cover art is also by Monstark.

I'm putting my nose to the grindstone for the next few months, attempting to squeeze every last bit of non-standard genius juice out my brain.  This might be my coolest project yet... we'll see.

Thanks,

VS

p.s. Hope to see some of you at Game Hole Con next weekend!


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Waning Sexy Cremza'amirikza'am

 

This play report didn't have much sleaze, but there were a couple of nice battles.

7 players.  Three veterans, a couple people familiar with what was going on, and a couple noobs.  Interestingly, no sorcerers... just fighters, thieves, and clerics.  Everyone started the session at 3rd level with max HP.

I gave my usual intro - trekking through the hot desert; above, the fuchsia sky containing twin suns.  Those who'd discovered the fabled and forbidden Cremza'amirikza'am below the lost city found others to join their adventuring party.

It's always important to cut to the meat of the scenario after the introduction is over.  For this megadungeon, the entree is exploration. 

Stepping onto the cave system of level 3, the PCs noticed a decrease in the magenta-violet illumination from the machine on the previous level.

They saw some weird looking plants creeping along the rock walls, as well as animal and human remains strewn along the ground.  

Misha, the player whose character was a pixie-fairy asked an important question that I had no answer for.  How tall was the ceiling?  So, I made one up on the spot, as GMs must do when faced with such a predicament.  It varies, I said, ranging from 7' to 9'.  I might change that as time goes by.  Good thing he asked it, though.  Future players will undoubtedly want to know.

Another PC, Splits, a demon and thief by trade, took a bone and began to sharpen it on the rough cavern wall.  Unfortunately, he ripped open a few spore-pods that emitted a yellow gas.  Mirdon, a human fighter, decided to "take one for the team" and breathe in the gas.  Not sure why, maybe he thought there was a chance it would be good for him?

In any case, I asked him to make a saving throw.  Lucky for Mirdon he rolled a 19.  The wave of nausea dissipated as soon as it began.

Then, all of a sudden, an arrow hits Alizon, the dwarf thief.  It came from the west and more arrows followed.  The archers were well hid and the PCs had difficulty hitting them.  So, a couple of them charged to engage the archers in melee combat.

Attacks of opportunity were rolled.  They missed Grimda'ark the human fighter, but hit Yarra the half-orc cleric.  But at least the two heavy-hitting PCs were in the archers' faces and swinging wildly.  Grimda'ark using his legendary, pastel, crystal encrusted Ga'ay Blade.  Sadly, the glittering power of his ga'ay blade kept missing the mark.  

Thankfully, Yarra picked-up the slack.  She was rolling solid hits and doing more than her share of damage.  The archers dropped their bows and stabbed with poisoned daggers.  Yarra was hit, but she also made her save, and was unaffected.  Then she killed one of the former archers.

Alizon took out her throwing dagger and with a natural 20 sent it straight into her opponent's eye.  That was the end of that encounter.

The PCs found a vial of black liquid, strange silver hexagonal coins with a square shape cut out of the middle, their weapons, and an orange-stained popsicle stick laying on the ground nearby.

Speculation mounted, but they soon moved along, investigating as they went. They saw cave paintings that showed humans being imprisoned and tortured by demons and a godlike demon sitting upon a throne of skulls.  Sorcerous glyphs were also scrawled upon the rock walls, but without a magic-user, they couldn't translate them.

A purple-stained popsicle stick wasn't too far away, and next to that was an old rusty grate, leading to a ventilator shaft or perhaps a sewer.  The pixie-fairy peeked into it, considering if he should go all the way in (assuming someone smashed a hole through) since coins were visible down there.  But they decided against it.


Lathander, the human cleric, attempted to sense evil in one direction or another since there were several avenues open to them.  They followed what evil Lathander could detect - walking up to a teal-tongued demon chained to a massive rock.

The demon offered a single wish to the party in exchange for his release.  The party freed him, but soon after they were attacked by some monster that was preparing to feed upon the demon.

That was a longer battle, and almost saw the demise of Alizon.  It took 4 lengthy rounds to kill the beast, Mirdon critted twice (thanks to Crimson Escalation) and everyone else got some good hits, too.  Lathander kept healing Alizon who took the most hits and damage.  

After their kill, they followed its tracks to the monster's lair and claimed several gemstones as big as an elf's fist.  Nothing super impressive, but enough for every party member to retire on (or at least take a good 3 or 4 years off from adventuring).  

VS

p.s. If you want your gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt and Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise books before the Kickstarter for book 3 later in the month, Order them now!


Friday, October 1, 2021

The Best Disinfectant

 


Sunlight, sure... I was hoping for a flamethrower, but I'll take sunlight.  ;)

Let's take a look at some more screenshots I've been sent, shall we?

It seems the greatest offenders are the Exalted Funeral and OSR discords.  Apparently, it's like fucking blue-checkmark, dumpster fire Twitter over there, or so I've heard.  

So much self-satisfied indignation!  Just because you claim to be the good guys, that's no reason to pat yourselves on the back, let alone shoot civilians and neutral parties who haven't drunk your leftoid kool-aid.

I would like to see Exalted Funeral change their ways.  Whoever's running that discord and/or company, they've got a problem on their hands.  Banning someone for liking me or my work is not only asinine and overreach of abusive power, but it's dangerous.  Where does it end?

Again, I've got nothing against the actual Old-School Essentials ruleset or gamers who use it (I've heard it's not as bad as we originally thought).  I just want some accountability for social media owners, admins, moderators, and users who harass and ban those associated with or supporting creators they find offensive - especially when regular gamers aren't offended in the slightest.

Sometimes I make jokes and express my own opinions on games, philosophy, religion, society, and politics - what actual harm am I doing?  Is my non-conformity the problem?  Is my love of freedom the problem?  My sense of humor?

As friends have mentioned to me in various comments over the last 24 hours, what's happening now is the same thing that happened in the 80s with the Satanic panic.  This time, religious zealots from the Church of Secular Progressivism are telling us what to think, what to believe, what to do, what to play, and whom to associate with.  It's sickening!

The worst part is, these unhinged leftoids not only think they're doing the right thing, they think everyone around them thinks the same way (unless they're also "nazis").

That could actually help us in our fight against harassment and cancellation.  Since they're not ashamed of their warped view of the world, they won't hide it.  They'll publicly tell everyone how they feel, unless it's in an open forum that isn't dominated by the left - then they'll keep to themselves, working together in the shadows until they've returned to their safe spaces - the hive-mind!

If at any time you've experienced (or know someone who has) this kind of actual intolerance and bigotry online, definitely let me know and I will highlight it on my blog.  Provide screenshots whenever possible.

I'm not going to let these people get away with poisoning our hobby.  Their toxic behavior has no place in civil society.  Gamers can play whatever they want, read what they want, create what they want.  If someone tries to force you to do it their way, realize their authoritarian perspective and decide for yourself.

Thanks for the continued support!

VS

p.s. Want to meet and game with folks who aren't authoritarian assholes?  You should attend VENGER CON!!!  Nothing but old-school gaming.  Let's get back to Basic(s) with Armor Class - not activism!