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:


  1. All and all I'd say things went well, despite some connection issues. The Stress Dice were a cool addition, but I'm thinking that, and the Confessional should be "optional rules" rather than baked in. CDS d20 doesn't want to get too bloated, I think.
    The confessional was something I was looking for, opportunity-wise, to try out. But it's only really going to shine from particular moments that need commentary, rather than randomly hopping in the booth.
    I think my only pet peeve with these games would be folks going in expecting D&D 5E and getting blind-sided by the simpler rules of CDS d20. Maybe we can accept their pre-made characters and just use the "name-race-class" as Cha'alt counterparts. That or include the whole character as Cha'alt itself does have rules for ability scores, bonuses, etc..
    Loving the TWERPS acronym. I still have nearly all the actual TWERPS books and one day hope to swipe the IP trademark to bring it back alive again. This also points towards changing class names from Cleric & Wizard to Preist & Sorcerer.
    Looking forward to the next game and maybe even settling on a character instead of using a different one each game (I like to experiment).

    1. I'm not sure how many of these experimental mechanics will show up in CDS or Chartreuse Shadows. Most things will be optional.

      I'll need more playtesting with stress and confessions to know their true worth. But I greatly enjoyed yesterday's results.

      As for player expectations, I specifically listed this game as "Other" for the system being used. No idea why he thought his Pathfinder PC would fly. Assumptions are part of life, so I don't mind setting players straight.

      Thanks for playing, hoss, and hope to see you on the next one!

  2. I didn't understand the mechanism for restoring divine favor until Meat demonstrated it, and now I get it. If Shiraz manages to escape his present circumstances, I intend to do his as Paul Hollywood from the Great British Baking Show.

    1. I think my parents watch that show. I'll have to google who that is.

      Yeah, a lot of foreign concepts thrown at you simultaneously. It'll be fun to see you guys mount a rescue.

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