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).