Saturday, December 31, 2022

Cha'alt Game Jam


Yeah, we have a motherfucking banner!

If you'd like one for your blog or website, just let me know.  I'd love to share it with you.

So, the Cha'alt Game Jam... I pretty much covered everything in my previous blog post, but here are the highlights.

  • The Cha'alt Game Jam 6-week open game license runs from January 1st to February 14th.
  • Whatever you make should be shared on either DriveThruRPG, Big Geek Emporium, or both.
  • As long as it's released within that window, it can be monetized in perpetuity.
  • The Game Jam covers Cha'alt, Alpha Blue, Encounter Critical (original and 3rd edition), Revelry in Torth, Liberation of the Demon Slayer, and The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  If you want to create something affiliated with something by Kort'thalis Publishing that's not already listed, feel free to ask me about it.
  • Somewhere in the product, you'll need to include the following text... "Licensed with permission from Venger As'Nas Satanis, High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing and Archduke of the OSR, in the year of our Dark Lord 2023, whether you like it or not."
  • Use your common sense, have fun, feel free to reach out if you need something, no guarantees in life, good luck, and go with God.

My email is:

Thanks for reading and participating,


p.s. I've got a new Kickstarter launching on January 11th.  So, if you aren't already subscribed to my KS page or whatever, do that.  I'll post an actual link when the thing is ready to go.  Oh yeah, you should seriously consider attending VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo this July in Madison, WI.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Cha'alt Game Jam in January


This announcement is in preparation for when the stars are right... January 1st.

I'm organizing one of those game jam things for Cha'alt

In case you don't know, Cha'alt is my very own eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic OSR campaign setting that frequently includes humor, grindhouse / exploitation sleaze, and pop-culture references.  It now encompasses three books with a fourth volume of the weird-ass trilogy hopefully coming in 2024.

Not using ichio; only DriveThruRPG and Big Geek Emporium to host releases.  

Between January 1st and February 14th (Valentine's Day), I'm creating a six-week open license window for gamers to create stuff and sell it using my Cha'alt intellectual property, and I'm extending that to include Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, and Encounter Critical (both the original and new edition that'll come out at the end of December).

Everything made within that window will be allowed without a separate license between the two parties, and may continue to be sold or distributed freely by the creator.  Anything made outside of that January 1st 2023 - February 14th 2023 timeframe will require a licensing agreement between the creator and myself.  

Post the following somewhere in the product, "Licensed with permission from Venger As'Nas Satanis, High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing and Archduke of the OSR, in the year of our Dark Lord 2023, whether you like it or not."

I look forward to seeing what you make of this golden opportunity, hoss.  Share this news, and let your creative juices flow!

If you have questions, or you'd like my advice, suggestions, or feedback on anything, just ask...



p.s. Here's an update blog post now that the Cha'alt Game Jam has officially started! 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Cha'alt for the Holidays



Eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse with a side of humor, sleaze, and pop-culture references!

It seems like every day I'm hearing about someone's Cha'alt campaign, how much they love an adventure, random table, or optional rule... one of the Cha'alt books, or the entire trilogy.

Before I forget, have you acquired your FREE gift of Cha'alt Criterion?

Cha'alt is the anti-WotC D&D.  The thing defies conventional everything!  

It's never going to be as popular as what you can find on the shelves of your local game store.  It's never going to have the appeal of authentic medieval whatever.  It's never going to satisfy the gamers who need a thousand pages of rules, nor gamers who prefer slick Scandinavian death-metal graphics and 5 sentences per page.

However, Cha'alt is perfect for mixing, matching, and blending with your favorite OSR thing!  How else are you going to achieve that perfect Carcosa Dark Sun Star Wars Dune ripoff you wish was on late-night skinemax vibe?

Here's the latest YouTube review to whet your appetite!

Cha'alt exists for an exclusive and discerning clientele who want something weird and fun and awesome!  Without further ado, let's get to the crazy insane holiday deals, shall we?

Between now and Xma'as (December 25th), I'm selling...

  • The original Cha'alt hardcover for $30 + $5 shipping ($35 shipping outside the USA)
  • Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise hardcover for $30 + $5 shipping ($35 shipping outside the USA)
  • Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows hardcover for $60 + $5 shipping ($35 shipping outside the USA)
  • The Cha'alt trilogy for $110 + $10 shipping ($60 shipping outside the USA)

How to send funds?  The easiest way is via PayPal (yeah, I know... but still).  My email is:

I would also accept Stripe, check, or well-hidden cash.  Send me an email for those alternatives.  Order today!



p.s. Every gorgeous Cha'alt hardcover is a limited edition, signed and numbered by yours truly (and you get the PDF for FREE).  The production values are second to none - no WotC book has ever come close to these quality tomes!

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Never Leaving Cha'alt


Take a look at the kind of trash you find in the exhibition hall sewer!  Wow, the things you see when you leave your xxxtra flush porta-potty at home [shaking my tentacle].

Just before leaving Game Hole Con, I chatted a bit with Bad Mike and Jeffery Talanian.  Just catching up after a long weekend of gaming.  Jeffery mentioned a panel with Ed Greenwood and how he's been working on his Forgotten Realms campaign setting since he was 5 or something.

The strong desire, bordering on need, came to me awhile ago, but hearing that only solidified another layer... I'm never leaving Cha'altCha'alt is my RPG home, and I want to keep creating in that eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse sandbox for the rest of my days.  

If 5 years of running games in the same world gets you this far [pretend I'm showing you a tentacle and measuring about halfway up], just imagine what 20 years would be like?  Now, I'm imagining it [no, I don't actually have a tentacle in front of me... nor do I know what it's like to GM in the same campaign setting for more than 5 years].

My guess is that the answer would be... awesomeness that's commensurate with the wild, untamed joy of PSYCHOCOSM !!!  That's what I intend to do, and if you'll stick with me, you can both share in the strange and wonderful awesomeness that is Cha'a'lt, as well as, discover whatever insights I might glean from that particular struggle.

Because make no mistake, it's not all fun and games.  Well, yeah, it is... but also no.  It is fun, and we are talking about games, but there's work that goes into it, too.  And discipline.  The mind wanders, attention wavers, we get pulled here and there, sidetracked, distracted; always something fresh to pursue.  It takes a certain amount of dedication and focus to stay put and work within the boundaries set out for you, that you set out for yourself years (perhaps decades) ago.

I want to use the phrase "conscious suffering", but again, it's not suffering in the usual sense of the word.  If you add up all the hours of imagining, planning, writing, revising, proofreading, finding artwork, and running games, we're talking about a thousand hours of work.  And it hasn't all been a cakewalk.  Hence the suffering.  But I do it intentionally, consciously.  In fact, I welcome it.

A man has to have a special plan, a calling, something that gives his life meaning (aside from the usual suspects, of course... family, survival, religion, etc.)  If you run from every kind of suffering, you won't be inconvenienced as much, but what will you have to show for yourself when it's all said and done?

Alright, enough philosophizing, how was the Game Hole convention, hoss?

Pretty fucking awesome!  Yeah, no real complaints.  I gave myself an ideal schedule... a 4-hour game Friday at 10 - 2pm, two 3-hour games on Saturday with a couple hours for lunch in-between, and a 4-hour game to close things off on Sunday, same time slot as Friday.

And what were the games like?  Pretty magical... spectacular, you might say!  In fact, I was surprised how "game" everyone was.  I couldn't be sure if it was me or Cha'alt or the players themselves (probably a combination of all three), but there was humor, pop-culture references, sleaze, and the kind of scary, gross-out horror movie exploitation shit that you don't get to see very often.

Some highlights...

  • The racial stereotyping of dark-elves having poison on them at all times.  Collaboratively, we decided that one dark-elf PC regularly imbibed poison so that he would be immune, while also having poisonous saliva.  As ingenious as it is fucked up!
  • Taking "murder hobo" to the furthest reaches of sorcerous insanity!  The party's wizard: "Is the skinned man eviscerated?"  [me: no]  Him: "Then let's correct that oversight.  I cut him open to see if I can discover signs and portents with his entrails."  Along with a pixie-fairy warrior who could be summoned by saying "Tinker-Stab" three times, and loved to skewer eyeballs and drink their juices.
  • Care bear and mogwai doxies seducing NPCs at the Palace gala.
  • My friend Jacob who has been a player in a number of my games, played in two of my sessions this con.  But since it was the same basic scenario (with a number of changes), we decided he was having Groundhog's day visions that led him to believe that he was living the same day over and over again. The analogy was even more layered because a central plot-point was this Shadow Void ceremony where the King's sorcerer stood in front of a yawing black void to see if he could see his shadow.  If he did, that meant the next 3 years of Cha'alt would be filled with suffering and doom.
  • The demon priestess who single-handedly instigated an insurrection.
  • The old fart who used ritual magic to "internal organ implode" the King of A'agrybah (no one respects a weak King).
  • Got to try Obsidian Escalation twice.  The first time, it didn't come up because no one rolled a crit.  The second time, it worked almost too well.  Combat was over in 2 rounds, and the results were described in epic gory detail by the player!
  • My Friday morning game only had 2 players, so I played an NPC to round out the party.  I played a dark-elf (not the one mentioned above) and got to have sex with a damsel about to be devoured by a slimy tentacled abomination (I waited until after the battle was over, obviously... I'm not a monster).  Inserting myself into the game like that hasn't happened in awhile.  
  • BEST WISCONSIN WEATHER EVER!!!!!!!  Seriously, it was sunny and warm the entire weekend.  This almost never happens here.

I'm leaving out a dozen other moments that will hopefully be with me forever.  Just know that it was a blast, and I can't wait to come back and GM the shit out of Game Hole Con next year.  

Of course, VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo will come first in July (also in Madison, WI).  Grab your ticket here.

Usually, I run at least one of my megadungeons for the sake of variety and never running out of content... but this time I ran the introductory adventure for Encounter Critical III (also playtested the upcoming EC3 classes and races).  Those sessions included this little gem, which was a big hit... and I got to reconceptualize and tweak the fuchsia and chartreuse tentacled entities organically during play, which is the best way of doing it.

I have a post-con video, as well.  I'll include it here so there's little to no overlap in my con report.

Thanks to everyone who helped put this convention together, and everyone who played in my games!


p.s. Gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt books for sale?  Why, yes... knock yourself out, hoss!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Fairly Odd Entities


So, I was running another Encounter Critical III playtest in the RPG's home world of Cha'alt.  Not going to bother linking the Kickstarter campaign because it's ending in about 30 minutes (as I type this first draft).

A little over $2,600... not too bad.  Should be able to afford some cool artwork for that much, plus pay my layout guy.

As per usual, when I'm not running sessions over the weekend or at night, I only managed to get 2 players.  But that's ok.  2 players gets the job done.  One was a returning dude (whose game I respect), the other was a relative noob.

Got to introduce new character classes this playtest, so that was exciting.  The choices I offered were: warrior, pioneer, criminal, warlock, doxy, and psi-witch (or psi-knight).  Now, it's starting to feel a little bit more like Encounter Critical!

Still has a way to go, obviously.  I'd say I'm about 65% finished with it.  Next playtest will involve new races!

Anyways, one player took on the role of warlock, and the other a pioneer.  Both chose human as the race to make things easier, and for the extra hit-points.

I'm really glad someone played a warlock because the magic system was an area that needed playtesting.  I had this whole d6 dice pool thing going, kind of a riff on earlier versions of Crimson Dragon Slayer.  But then decided against it.  Too much fiddling around.  

Instead, magic works like any other class ability - it's a skill check with a 15 target number, but you also get to add your level.  Still pretty tough to do anything at lower level, which is why PCs need to accumulate Divine Favor... and you get that from roleplaying your character, primarily.

Speaking of which, I eased up a bit on backgrounds.  That's a lot of coming up with stuff and writing for such a short game.  While I mentioned that they might want to think about a drive, look, flaw, obsession, relationship, and other noteworthy things + personality quirks, I didn't mandate it.  I also took the time (twice) to tell players that they'd be rewarded with Divine Favor for roleplaying their backgrounds, and that Divine Favor could be spent to re-roll any die (has to be their own die, though).

The returning player made great use of what he was told / given, bringing details about his character to life with social interaction, personal thoughts, and action.  It may not seem like much, but stuff like that is one of the more rewarding things about RPGs in my opinion.  That's why I made it a design goal up-front.

So what happened?  Damn, it was a wild time!  The PCs were prisoners, abandoned with a dead cellmate because the city of A'agrybah was engaged in a bloody civil war - blue versus green (if you've seen The Tomorrow People, then you know what that's about).

But something found in the dead man's pocket made it just that much more special.  Recently, our twin boys have been watching Fairly Odd Parents on netflix, which means that I've also been watching Fairly Odd Parents.  Could have been much worse, BTW.  And those pink and green fairies gave me an idea...

What if I incorporated them into my game, but Cha'altified, of course?  Inside a small leather pouch were two smooth, shiny stones... one fuchsia, the other chartreuse. Tapping them together released wisps of vapor those same hues.  They coalesced into a pair of tentacled entities - chartreuse and fuchsia.  They didn't speak the common tongue, but the party's warlock, Shernoz, cast a spell that made them intelligible.  

But not before the PCs asked the vaporous entities to open the cell door and deactivate the anti-magic sphere preventing Shernoz from casting spells.  Two wishes gone, it turned out.  Only one wish left today.  But why would their third cellmate, who recently died, not have summoned these colorful, tentacled genies when he was alive?

Because they're psychotic cenobites, of course... probably from some Quor'toth-like dimension.  Officially, I'll be referring to them as zenobites or quorta'athians.  They are extradimensional demons who get off on pushing humanoids to the extremes of pain and pleasure.  When they're not granting wishes, they orchestrate mass murder, torture, rape, slavery, and other wickedness.

These entities could also talk to each other, as well as the PCs, so they added to the roleplaying immersion.

There was another whole subplot when a demon (traditional, this time) clawed his way out of Hell to make a deal with the warlock who failed his spell-check and was about to get killed by civil war guerillas.  The demon wanted those mystical fuchsia and chartreuse stones for himself.  I really thought the warlock would have gone along with the demon's offer since the true nature of their guardian demon genies had already been revealed.  

But nope, the demon got nothing and when he unfroze time, Shernoz wished the chartreuse and fuchsia entities to send them far away.  Seconds from being stabbed in the abdomen by a "green", Shernoz and Snare suddenly appeared in the open desert.

By then, we'd gone over our 90-minute allotment by about 6 or 7 minutes, so we said our goodbyes.  Both players told me how much they enjoyed the game, which made my day.

Rest assured, I'll be using those colorful tentacled entities again.  Oh yeah, I came up with names for them... Yazka'an and Dvorek.  Maybe I can get one of those A.I. art making programs to illustrate them?

Ok, that's the end.  Thanks for reading!  Hopefully, I'll see some of you next weekend at Game Hole Con.  I'm sure Yazka'an and Dvorek will show up eventually.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing!


p.s. I now have a paid subscription to Midjourney, that program creating A.I. works of art based on user prompts.  The 3 images below the first one (Odd Parents) are my first results.  Pretty cool so far...

Friday, October 7, 2022

CHA'ALT Books For Sale


Some recent reviews coming out now (and more on the way) for the Cha'alt trilogy.  Here's a video review for Cha'alt.  Here's the one for Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise.  The third book is coming soon from that reviewer and RPG Pundit.

Not everybody loves it, but everyone has an opinion!  If forced to make a comparison, I'd say Cha'alt is similar in tone to Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Maze of the Blue Medusa.

BTW, you can also get the gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt books via my latest Kickstarter campaign for Encounter Critical III.  If you'd rather get them that way, cool.  If you're not into crowdfunding and all that, buy them direct from me (I also have a retailer special running the month of October).

Here are the prices...

  • Cha'alt  -  $50 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • Fuchsia Malaise  -  $50 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • Chartreuse Shadows  -  $64 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • ALL THREE BOOKS  -  $140 (add $60 for non-USA shipping)
  • FOUR TRILOGY SETS  -  $400 (USA only)

All first edition, professionally printed hardcovers come signed, numbered, and personalized with a little doodle.  Physical media always includes the PDF, just let me know your DTRPG email address.

Here's a testimonial from a recent fan who's just discovered a whole new world...

I recommend CHARTREUSE SHADOWS. I admire the quality of the book. The artwork, photos, & writing are entertaining, sexy, horrific. Hunter S. Thompson meets H.P. Lovecraft. A variety of adventures for heroes & scoundrels. Some exciting, some hilarious, some repulsive.

How do you actually purchase one or more of these eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic campaign setting tomes?  Paypal me at

If paypal doesn't work for you, email me for an alternative.  Thanks!


p.s. Plenty of time to grab a ticket for July 2023's Madison, WI old-school, OSR, and traditional RPG convention - VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo (limited to 100 attendees).

Monday, September 26, 2022

Playtest Palooza


Got to run another playtest session of Encounter Critical III this morning [wrote this yesterday afternoon].

Here is the Encounter Critical III kickstarter.

Fantastic game and fantastically weird!  I tried to incorporate as many of my proposed ideas as possible.  This contains the various concepts and mechanics I wanted to test out.

There was some combat, but not much, and no one rolled a critical-success or failure.  So, Obsidian Escalation didn't really come up.  Which is fine, I tried it out last session, and will include that in subsequent sessions.

I don't know if the stars aligned or what, but I had SIX players.  Normally, it's two; occasionally three.  Text only, I feel, is easier with bigger groups than voice & camera, but still challenging.

Before I dive-in, let me give you an overall impression:  I feel like the playtest was a success because the ideas seemed to fuel an immersive, fun-filled game.  And one of the highlights was having Jeff Rients as a player!  Achievement unlocked, bitches.  ;)

All the information gathering prior to the session's start had a specific purpose - to give players a better idea of their characters, so they actually had backgrounds to roleplay off of.  Any RPG can encourage backgrounds, but what I'm trying to accomplish with the new rules is in-game incentives.

The scenario was to search the interior of a dimension traveling space-worm and find an unknown artifact.

Here's a window into my playtesting soul... good, bad, and ugly.  Instead of a carefully crafted scenario providing a curated experience, I like to playtest by the seat of my pants.  Given enough time and creative juice [Venger juice], I feel like the GM can turn a shitty system with dumb mechanics into something pretty cool.  I don't want to do that because engineering a fool-proof experience isn't going to help me figure out if I'm doing something right or headed in the wrong direction.

Instead, I prefer to attune myself to the world in the campaign setting, rules, vibe, and whatever else... becoming an integral part of the game..  Having a few ideas in the form of loose notes and winging the rest will show me what I need to see.  

Every designer eventually hands-off his ideas to another GM in hopes that he'll get it and be able to run a great game.  So, the improv also helps put me in the perspective of the GM who most likely has a vague notion of what I said in the rules, or was trying to get across.

Can this anonymous GM take what I give him and make gold?  That's the question.

The players did great with coming up with background stuff.  I didn't need to break out the random tables that I had ready to go just in case.

Since this was just a one-shot, I didn't meticulously write every flaw and obsession and drive down in my GMing notes.  Everything exists in the chat log on Roll20, though, which is another good reason for running games as text-only.

But I realized the PCs had plenty of material to riff, and riff they did.  I told them about the point of Divine Favor they'd receive for roleplaying their backgrounds.  If this was several adventures into a campaign, I can only imagine the heights of roleplaying and social interaction we'd reach.  As it was, there was enough to prove my theory - an "old-school" RPG focused on social interaction (as opposed to combat and exploration) is not only needed, but totally awesome.

And I asked them to take part in a flashback scene.  I neglected to mention that relationships should include another PC, my bad, so the first thing that came to my mind was a tavern where they hear the proposed mission.  That went well.  For instance, without even realizing it, one of the players, Judd, came up with an identity for the "quest giver"... a wizard.  

The free exchange of ideas before solidifying what's going on is exactly the sort of Fiasco-like scene creation I was hoping for.  The vibe was assuredly set because a little later, when I was describing the immediate, present-day environment, one of the players provided some bonus description all on his own.  "Reeks of  bile, but then again, what doesn't?"  Excellent!

So, the PCs are wandering around the inside of a space-worm traveling through dimensions... and PSYCHOCOSM was had by all.  Well, certainly me.  Staring into the psychedelic depths of the Kort'thalis meta-sigil didn't hurt.

They follow a trail of popsicle sticks (a subtle nod to Cremza'amirikza'am that one player picked-up on) to find something pretty weird, dark, and gross.  I'll save that for another time, or perhaps a future adventure that you'll be apart of.

The PCs fought some toadlike humanoids who desired tasty flesh.  Combat ensued, but the adventuring party was so large that 4 toad dudes didn't last too long.  It was pretty much over before the spellcaster could do anything.

After a bit, and learning of Xedra'as, an evil sorceress currently residing within the space-worm, the PCs came face-to-face with Xedra'as and her demon minions.

The PC sorcerer who didn't get a chance to act wanted to go first.  Since combat hadn't even begun, I said Hell yeah, go for it.  He cast a spell, and I had him roll a couple of six-siders (because I'm also workshopping an alternative system of magic for EC3 - check back here in a couple days).  He rolled really well, a critical-success, in fact.  Xedra'as and the demons were caught in the sorcerer's ectoplasmic webbing.

The session was coming to a close, all too quickly.  Some of the PCs were wondering if they should keep searching for the mysterious artifact the tavern wizard told them to recover.  They had found a magic item (and a powerful one at that), but was this what they'd been seeking?  Others wanted to leave as the space-worm seemed to be blinking out of existence as we know it.  Since we had about 6 or 7 minutes remaining and there wasn't enough time for another encounter, I decided we should do another scene.  This time a flash-forward.

The "kid" who'd been traipsing through the space-worm with the adventurers was all grown-up.  Another player volunteered to be part of the scene but only if he could roleplay an NPC who was also present during the scene.  I was all for it.

The young man who had grown since that adventure taking place several years ago was accompanied by his butler Gerhart.  The wizard from the tavern addressed him, asking what he found in the worm.

Sadly, there wasn't much interaction between the young man and the wizard, so the wizard said his peace and promptly vanished... again!

"That pain was necessary for this world to grow, to change, to become what it must. There is no stopping the evolution of Cha'alt. Freeing the Duke allowed it to evolve. That's what was needed."

It was an extremely bizarre adventure (even for me), but it was equally awesome.  And just as the camera faded to black, there was a little bit of not-quite-necrophilia, thanks to one of my favorite recurring players.  Why have an online game tagged "sleazy" without a cherry on top?

Below are a few choice lines copy/pasted from the chat log...

  • "I have never been inside a purple space worm before, unless you count this one tentacled lady in Port Grenthak."
  • At a lull in the conversation, full of liquid courage, the kid asks "How come you're not going?"
  • "WHERE IS THE CONTROL CENTER? I WOULD HAVE HIS BODY." You see the inner mole rat tugging at various nerves/wires within the golem-body.
  • Mork Borg draws his untrustworthy blade.
  • "This transdimensional space-worm gets a lot more traffic than I expected."
  • "Ok, here's what we need to do.  On the count of three, I pull the sheet and whoever can kill her the fastest gets it done. Ready?"
  • Once again, the playthings of gods and wizards. Thus is always the fate of honest, hardworking adventurers.
  • "I assumed he had a name like Slartibartfast."
  • "I am Barry Fastslart, or Duke Fastslart, if you prefer.  Do you know of me?"
  • I was going balls-deep as we faded out...

In a couple days, I'll post what I have for the proposed magic system (working on the details right now).

As always, thanks to the guys for playing; and thanks to you for reading.  Don't miss the next session (I'm going to squeeze-in two sessions a week for the next couple months).


p.s. Like what you're reading?  Want to be part of the action?  For $5 a month, you can have first-crack at playing in one of my weekly one-shots!  Subscribe to me on SubscribeStar!

Friday, September 23, 2022

Delving Design


Months ago, years even, I was hesitantly perched upon a dozen different fences about what to do with Encounter Critical.  I'm Kickstarting the 3rd edition, if you didn't know!

Part of the problem was knowing that whatever direction I went, some people would be disappointed.  But the whole making an omelet thing reminds me that I've got to please myself at the end of the day... which is fitting, because I was (still am, to some degree) a huge fan of Encounter Critical after discovering it - with no small help from the imagination and blog of Jeff Rients.

At any rate, I'm trying to find a yin-yang sort of balance between traditional and what we now call "story-games".  The black (yin) has a little bit of white in it.  Basically, I'm trying to take "modern" and "innovative" RPG design and adapt it to OSR sensibilities.

I did make a video about fiction-first, Obsidian Escalation, and several other things.

The following is what's on the playtest menu for the moment.  Anything can change at any moment.  I don't expect it to, but I am expecting tweaks, fine-tuning, and possibly weird organic growth that I didn't realize was part of this project's evolutionary journey.

Without further ado, here we go...

One Page Cheat-Sheet

  •          Every PC must come up with a Background that’s broken-up into the following aspects: Look (appearance, aesthetics, vibe, etc.), Drive (motivation for adventuring, reason for being, core values), 2 Relationships (either members of the party or an NPC in the world), Flaw (downfall, vice, or something that keeps getting in your way), and 3 Obsessions (something you love, something you hate, and something that fascinates, perplexes, or strangely amuses you).
  •          A character gets 1 point of Divine Favor every time he indulges in or falls prey to his Flaw.
  •          When a character is confronted with one of his Obsessions, he’s easily distracted and/or manipulated… unless a successful saving throw is rolled.
  •          If running a one-shot, start the session with a Flashback scene from an earlier time in the PCs’ lives, when they first met or were all together… perhaps a montage (micro-scenes with a common theme unfolding in quick succession) of each PC discovering the startling revelation that “reality” is merely densely coiled layers of illusion.  Ahead of the scene, the players and GM should discuss where events happened (location), who’s there and why (relationships) and the general mood, conflict, and/or resolution they’d like to see.  The GM, who should have an inkling of what’s to come, might suggest a motif, object (McGuffin), or major/recurring NPC (villain, helpful contact, rival, comic-relief) for inclusion, in order to strengthen narrative ties between the Flashback and future events.  The players roleplay the social interaction until everyone is content that the scene should conclude.  A point of Divine Favor is awarded to every player who participated.
  •          If running a campaign, start each session with a Flashback scene from an earlier time in either one or two PCs’ lives (see above for details).  Players who don’t have their character present in the unfolding scene are encouraged to roleplay whatever NPCs might also be in the Flashback scene.
  •          Between encounters (and occasionally during) PCs are encouraged to roleplay.  PCs earn a point of Divine Favor when they demonstrate (talk about, think about, or act out) an aspect of their Background. No more than 1 point per scene.
  •          Obsidian Escalation during combat!
  •          Skill-Checks: Natural 1s the GM (or mischievous player, if preferred) narrates the failure.  Natural 20 means the player can describe his own success.
  •          Top result on a saving throw, skill-check, or damage die means the player can narrate his epically awesome deed with an additional embellishment that may provide a modest edge, asset, or godsend (with GM approval, of course).

This cheat-sheet is 1) based off changes or amendments to Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, and 2) written down in a sort of shorthand that's explained just enough so I know what's going on.  

If YOU would be interested in running your OSR ruleset with the above modifications, I'd love to hear your story.  Please share it with us.  Better yet, email me your feedback:

After a few playtests of this stuff, I'm going to go back to the proverbial drawing-board with other fundamental concepts, such as magic.  I've been doing magic the same way for a few years, and want to try something radically different than my comfortable go-to system.

Feel free to comment, ask questions, throw tomatoes, or whatever.  ;)


p.s. You can support me for $5 a month on SubscribeStar, and next July's Madison WI VENGER CON II is happening with or without you, so grab a ticket and play with us!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Encounter Critical III


What's up?  I've got news...

I finally have a new Kickstarter campaign, and it's for Encounter Critical III.

Let's get down to brass tacks, hoss.  The original EC is great and all, but many find it virtually unplayable because of its OMG WTF?!? system (game mechanics).  I want to take my version of EC into a smooth, easy, and light OSR ruleset while making the things outside the system OMG, WTF?!?

The very first playtest was earlier today, and I think that went well.  It's going to take a lot more, and each time I hope to learn new things.

Obviously, I'm building on what came before... the original EC, Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, and Cha'alt.  The concept is there, now I just need to refine it and come up with awesome stuff to make it really fly.

I'll post more about the playtest session in a couple days.  For now, I'll just say thanks for supporting me, and feel free to ask questions or volunteer to playtest Encounter Critical III as we go into fall.  


Saturday, September 10, 2022

Cha'altian Session Reports


I was able to squeeze two virtual sessions in this week.

Both were on Roll20 (I gave a couple other platforms a shot, but quickly got confused and abandoned my quest for an alternative), 90 minutes, text only, 18+ (even though we never got to explore anything sexual or erotic... hey, it happens!).

The 90 minute structure is something I'm extraordinarily familiar with.  A lot of people don't like it.  I receive a decent amount of criticism for running shorter sessions.  All I can say is that if you have 5 kids and a day job, then you know how difficult it is to carve out 4 hours on a weekly or even bi-weekly schedule.

Both sessions involved exploring a network of tunnels and caves.  Another similarity is that both sessions had two players by the end.  I accept random drop-ins, so that's to be expected.  People are flaky on the internet.

For those curious, I usually don't have anything specific in mind when constructing these maps.  I just start drawing.  Automatic drawing is a technique invented by Austin Osman Spare.  I've forgotten more than I remember about him, and don't think scribbling lines via my mouse counts as a magical act, but it is part of the greater whole.  And I do view my current roleplaying sessions as magic rituals.

As usual, I gazed upon the Kort'thalis meta-sigil as I prepared for my sessions.

Before I get into more detail, here's a list of guidelines that have appeared out of play...

  • If a player has not chosen a race for his character, I'm just going to assume he's human.
  • If a player suddenly disappears, the GM (me) will roleplay his character - assuming there's a small party of adventurers.  It's not fair to a pair of adventurers who go in a dangerous environment when they believed there were three of them.  If the party wouldn't miss a character, then I occasionally describe his gruesome death as that abandoned PC steps in a trap or fiddles with sorcerous runes discovered on a cave wall.
  • Engagement is crucial!  With noobs, I'm constantly inviting them to take part in the action, make decisions.  "While the thief is scouting up ahead, what is Ba'ab doing?" Stuff like that.
  • If players make leaps of logic, I'll usually let the first one or two go, but then will quickly put the kabosh on that stuff when it seems less likely and/or taking advantage.  For instance, Vindl, a thief cyborg wanted to use the phosphorescent fungi in the cave system for energy, and be able to turn his mechanical arm into a blaster.  So, I said sure.  But shortly after he wanted to construct a shield out of scales picked off a dead creature.  I told him it would take time and the proper tools.

Halfway through the second session, I took over the missing player's character, Ja'ay the demon warrior.  Every GM worth his essential salt knows that GM NPCs shouldn't overshadow the actual PCs.  So, I used Ja'ay as an interesting background character, spurring action like taking one tunnel over another when the PCs couldn't make a decision.  Precious minutes ticking away.

The second session was the first game after vocalizing my theory... the GM's paradigm should make its presence known every single encounter!  While I've been doing that, more or less, unconsciously for years, this session I consciously looked for opportunities to make the game's reality feel more eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, and post-apocalypse.  Did it change the session dramatically?  No, I don't think so.  But going back and observing the session a day later, I'd say consciously trying to infuse my chosen paradigm into every single encounter improved immersion and the game in general by about 5-10%.

Going back to the first session, the couple of PCs were too intimidated to fight the giant Lovecraftian spider things in their network of tunnels and caves.  You know me, I'm all about quick and easy minimal rules.  So, each PC incurred an attack of opportunity whenever they ran past the creature in order to evade it.  I think that worked well.  It happened a couple of times and each time one PC was wounded.

Oh yeah, I got to use my Eldritch Hit Location table over on my SubscribeStar page (publicly available). I think the players got a kick out of slashing or bashing large, scaly rodents in the umthra'ax.  I'll need to use it once or twice more before seeing the true value of something like that.

I don't want to ruin the endings of either adventure because I like running the same adventure (with small variations each time) with different players.  Both were fun, though!

As sometimes happens with my open and welcoming drop-in approach to running sessions, I popped someone's roleplaying game cherry.  That player had never played before, and somehow wound up at my virtual table.  Introducing people to the hobby is definitely a highlight of my weird journey.

Will probably run another session or two next week now that ALL KICKSTARTER CHA'ALT BOOKS HAVE BEEN MAILED OUT TO BACKERS!!!  Yes, I finally got to the end, and it feels fantastic.  Gonna make the most of my free time - it's all about playing, well mostly about playing.  I'd say at least 85%.  Writing and designing game mechanics and such is absolutely worthwhile, but creating a world through the act of roleplaying is something that's above and beyond the background construction.

Last night, I tweeted something out that seemed profound at the time when I was not totally baked.  I'd like to share it here.

"Creating tales of pulp sword-and-sorcery is all that is."

That's it.  That's the tweet.  Lol.  Focusing on that, while leaving all the peripheral bullshit fiddle-faddle outside, will restore your faith in this hobby.  And that's something I believe is in short supply.  

Being part of the magic, fashioning awesome stories of wizards, warriors, dungeons, and dragons will get you closer to PSYCHOCOSM than worrying about campaign lore, balanced encounters, extensive PC backgrounds, the unfairness of monsters critting, and "racist" flying squirrel-monkeys in space.

Lose yourself in the fantasy, and that becomes reality.  


p.s. My new Kickstarter campaign for Encounter Critical III just got approved, so will launch that early next week (probably Tuesday).  

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Every Encounter Is An Opportunity


As the title states, every encounter is an opportunity.  But an opportunity for what?  A better game, of course.  And, as always, better means more immersive!

This blog post was going to be a session report, but now I'm just going to explain and expand on a video I uploaded yesterday... here.

It was just after my last Roll20 session that I realized I needed to continue upping my game.  From now on, EVERY SINGLE ENCOUNTER must push the Game Master's paradigm, drawn from the campaign setting and directly influenced by whatever words or phrases (I suggest three) he's chosen as the primary mood, tone, atmosphere, vibe, etc.

What do I mean by paradigm?  Well, I thought about using "agenda", instead.  But that's kind of a scary word for a variety of reasons.  For starters, it reminds me of those 00's Forge type games that broke everything down into gameist, narrativist, and simulationist categories.  Also, it seems too political these days.  I'm not trying to unfairly castigate and scapegoat 74 million Americans just because my administration is an authoritarian dumpster fire, I just want to create a more immersive game.

So, what do I mean by paradigm?  Basically, I'm talking about the worldview.  Think of it as a forced perspective... or the focus.  The GM's paradigm is a conscious pattern being woven throughout the entire session.  In the video, I may have streamed-out into the weeds, so let's discuss a concrete example.

There's a group of orcs... evil, pig-faced orcs just over that hill.  The PCs will undoubtedly run into them.  How's that encounter going to go?  Well, what do you want out of this session or the entire campaign?  

Back up a bit.  Describe your ideal (what you'd most like to run at the moment) game to GM in three words or phrases, keeping in mind the rule-set, players, campaign world, and your own abilities, preferences, etc.  Those three things shall be the watchwords, the battle-cries, the call to arms of your game.  Choose wisely. 

I know it seems like extra work (and it is), but if we're going to the trouble of drastically improving the entire roleplaying game experience, it's going to take a little forethought and planning.

Taking a few standard watchwords that I've seen floating around cyberspace, we get 1) Grim/dark, 2) Whimsical, and 3) Spooky... Halloween will be here before you know it.

Now, that we have those three things driving our paradigm, we can easily inject one or more (grim/dark, whimsical, and/or spooky) elements into the orc encounter... and EVERY encounter.  That's why, when picking out your watchwords, you should make them open-ended and inspirational enough to keep using over and over again.

So, if I was to whip-up something on the spot, I'd make those evil, pig-faced orcs carrying the hollowed-out heads of their latest victims.  Maybe a tight, leathery skin covers the scooped-out holes so the orcs can beat a particular rhythm like a drum on these gory severed heads.  I'd probably write that stuff on a notecard if I was doing GM prep as "Bongo Orcs".  

Wow, that satisfies grim/dark, whimsical, and spooky.  Well done, Venger!  Thank you, hoss. ;)

Creating a singular effect, as Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft wrote, by keeping specific watchwords in mind, is like infusing the game with whatever paradigm you're going for.  And that infusion should happen at the microscopic level of your gaming.  In other words, EVERY SINGLE ENCOUNTER.  

Now, in the above example, I seeded the encounter directly with my chosen paradigm.  An alternative might have described the orcs standing over a human body like a pincushion, with a dozen daggers, spears, and swords sticking out of him.  Or, at the end of the encounter, the PCs might have found gold coins pushed into cowpies.  If you can make a case for the encounter, in some small way, furthering your paradigm, then it's a success!

Having just committed to this theory, consciously, I haven't fully explored it yet.  As an RPG scientist, that's what I (we) should do.  Use it.  Test it.  See if it works.  If not, why not?  But if it does... then celebration ensues.  Pretend you're carrying me around on a tentacled throne or something cool like that.

Questions?  Yes, let's hear 'em.  Shoot!


p.s. Want to buy some Cha'alt?  This handy price guide will help.  Like my blog posts, videos, vibe, freebies, and other stuff?  For only $5 a month, you can support what I'm doing on SubscribeStar!

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows


By now, you've probably heard about the third book of the Cha'alt trilogy - Chartreuse Shadows.

I'm only a couple days away from finishing my shipping duties.  By next Tuesday, all Kickstarter backer rewards should be out the door (pre-sales, as well).  Damn, that was a long time coming, but I'm so glad the end is in sight.

That means I'm officially opening the way for regular old sales.  Here's the price guide...

  • Cha'alt - $50 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise - $50 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows - $65 (add $40 for non-USA shipping)
  • The entire trilogy - $140 (add $60 for non-USA shipping)

All books are fancy, hardcover, first editions, signed, numbered, and personalized by me.  These gorgeous tomes will go up in value, just as Cha'alt will take over the world one day!

Below is a testimonial from a KS backer...

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from physical editions of your work. I’ve supported a lot of KS with physical printings, most of which were zine-styled stapled prints, but some were hardbacks and full-color and just felt cheap. I know there are lots of reasons dictating printing bla bla bla, but I was a little nervous of pledging for physical editions.

Dude, these are great. Thank you so much! Honestly, I didn’t get far into Chartreuse Shadows, but my group knows I have pulled from Fuchsia Malaise. I think there might be a tableflip when I show up with a hard copy 🤣

What is Cha'alt?  Glad you asked, hoss...  Cha'alt is my home campaign, my own little slice of heaven (or Hell, depends on your point of view), an eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse world where I come home to hang my Game Mastering hat.

Also, I'll be launching a new Kickstarter campaign towards the end of September... and it's for Encounter Critical III.  

What else?  I've got some new (publicly available, not behind the paywall) content over at SubscribeStar.  If you want to support me at $5 a month and get the occasional freebie along with first pick of the online games I run, I'd love to have your patronage.  

Don't forget about VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo.  Just a nice, intimate (50 - 75 attendee) convention for those who love old-school, OSR, and traditional RPGs in Madison, WI next July.  Join us!


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Cha'alt Session Report


I'm taking a little break from things starting tomorrow.  Between off-line and online stuff, I need to decompress and relax for awhile.  Sorcerers need mental health days, too!

Before that, let's talk about my recent session of Cha'alt on Roll20.  First, I invited my awesome subscribers on SubscribeStar to join.  If you'd like to support me at $5 a month, that would be cool.  You get the occasional freebie, too.

Second, I blanketed the social media landscape with links to my game in search of players.  While I do have a small stable of devoted players who jump at the chance to play (when they're not busy), I enjoy reaching new players, teaching new blood...

The first session scheduled was canceled because of a work-related emergency.  The second was scheduled a day later.  I was mostly bummed because the original date was H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (August 20th), and I wanted to do something special, marking the occasion.

I was also upset that a few people didn't see my cancelation announcement and were waiting for me.  Luckily, I thought, a couple of those folks re-joined for the raincheck session.  However, what I discovered might literally blow your mind!

Lol.  Anyway, those same people weren't there to play.  One guy was posting links to some OTHER game being held on guilded for some fucked up reason (I was even 5 minutes early).  And the same guy poaching my players wanted to play in my game, too, but as a "NSFW frat-boy".  All this was sounding eerily familiar as another legit player told me that he also remembered that dude and wanted to have gay sex with another PC that was supposed to be his brother, and also some kind of dog fetish or some crazy shit like that.

So, down to only two legit players, I booted that troublemaker and we proceeded as usual.  I cued up some dark ambient music on YouTube, gazed upon the Kort'thalis meta-sigil that's a portal to Cha'alt, in order to actively engage the PSYCHOCOSM, and we were off!

We started with giant scorpions surrounding an elf who'd already been stung multiple times and was about to die.  He was holding a silver key, bequeathing it to the PCs before collapsing.  Both PCs got stung by a scorpion as each flubbed his roll to grab the silver key without harm.

Eventually, the golden gates of A'agrybah opened.  Sausage, a halfling thief who got his name by beating a man to death with bratwurst, and Fujiwara, an overly-trusting human warrior entered the city in search of adventure.

A festival was taking place, so the PCs made a bee-line to the center of it, talking to folks, looking around, and picking pockets as they went.  Fujiwara gorged himself on BBQ centipede and mango-curry bug bars as Sausage looked for a priest to heal him from that scorpion sting.

I can't reveal too much, but the city's priests and reclusive astrologers got into a brawl that soon turned into a riot.  Tentacles every which way as far as the eye could see!

If you want the whole story, you'll have to actually play.  In a fortnight, when I get all these Kickstarter reward books out to backers, I'll resume weekly, 90-minute, virtual, Cha'alt sessions on Roll20.  Only an hour and a half?  I know, I know, my life rarely allows 4-hour games.  Think of it as a tightly-paced movie!

See you in a bit,


p.s. When I return to the internet, I hope to discover a few Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows reviews!  You've had the PDFs for months and some of you already have the hardcover.  Now's the time, hoss.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Game Hole Con 2022


I'll be running games at Game Hole Con this October!

Their covid policy is more lenient this time around - especially compared to Gary Con [info here].  That reason, the location, and focus on old-school tabletop RPGs are what drew me back.  

Last year was fun, but the masks were not ideal.  My blog posts about last year's GHC can be found here.

The 4 Cha'alt sessions I submitted were just approved.  I decided to do all Cha'alt for a couple different reasons.  First, it's just easier for me to run.  It's what I've been focusing on for the last 4 years, and it's open-ended enough to allow pretty much anything.  I can incorporate everything from snake-men sorcerers to dimension-hopping Rick and Morty to tentacled Kool-Aid man.  

I can literally start the game anywhere in the eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalyptic campaign setting, roll on a few tables, drop in a weird dungeon, monster, or plot-hook, and keep the game going based on PC action (or inaction).

Cha'alt, in conjunction with any rules-light OSR system, such as Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 (still free, still awesome) is perfect for noobs, conventions, one-shots, and games on the go.

If you want to play in one of my GHC games, I've got one on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday.  Hope you can make it, hoss!

Yes, I'll have a few books of the Cha'alt trilogy at the convention.  So, if you want to buy one, or just chat, feel free to say, "Hey, Venger!"


p.s. About 5 more weeks before I launch the new Encounter Critical III Kickstarter campaign.  In the meantime, you can support me on SubscribeStar.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Why VENGER CON is better than GenCon


I made a video about it, but here's the entire exchange if you'd prefer to read it yourself... 


Woke is a compliment not a disparagement. Since I am type 2 diabetic, I can only attend conventions that wear masks and people get vaccinations.

Wow, a lot to unpack here! Where to begin?

Assuming this isn't a joke/troll, here goes...

1) Woke has a whole range of meaning besides mask + vax. It's radical-leftism and the political weaponization of consideration for others. For me, woke is a disparagement because I'm against cultural fads that have appeared in the last 5 minutes of human civilization (men and women being interchangeable), rather than objective facts that have been proven true over thousands of years.

2) The CDC's latest guidelines, and the country's own anecdotal analysis, has determined that both masks and vaccinations are more or less ineffective when it comes to covid-19.

3) With type 2 diabetes, your best defense is going to be diet and exercise. One way or another, you're going to get covid. I'd be very much surprised if you haven't had it already. And if you have, then chances are good (99.8%) that you won't need to be hospitalized or die from it.

4) The first VENGER CON from a couple weeks ago had an outbreak/spread of zero covid (and monkeypox), unlike GENCON. Yes, I know GENCON has several orders of magnitude greater attendance than my little convention, but it goes to show that 27 people in close proximity for an entire weekend without masks and questionable vaccination/booster status posed LESS risk of getting or spreading covid than a convention that pride's itself on masks, vaccinations, boosters, etc.

5) Besides standing out like a sore thumb, diminished vocalizations, and not being able to emote with your face, you can wear a mask at VENGER CON. I'm not going to rip the mask off your face. You can also vaccinate and booster yourself up the wazzo, but I'm not going to be the vax, booster, mask police for those who aren't interested.

Have a good weekend,



p.s. The fact that Dragon's Foot forum locked the VENGER CON II thread because it "leans into politics" is both hilarious and pathetically distressing for those who love old-school, OSR, and traditional RPGs.  Your hobby is being stripped of its awesomeness right before your eyes, hoss.  Wake up!