Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Thirsty For Cha'alt


I'm back from vacation!  What's up, hoss?

Besides the usual family fun, I spent a few free moments thinking about everything from thirst, dehydration, cosmic horror, hallucinations, mysticism, altered states of consciousness, madness, and all that good stuff.

I made a video about it, but my ideas hadn't fully coalesced into what they are now (and everything here is still subject to change).  So, without further ado...

When you buy provisions, resupply, stock-up on water, then it's assumed you have enough to get by.  After all, this isn't your first foray into the desert.  You live on Cha'alt for fuck's sake!  You take little sips here and there in order to survive.

However, if you want to take a big delicious cool drink of life-giving water (I strongly recommend PCs roleplay this - at least the player has to say that his character is taking a long drink), that PC gets a water die (d6) he can add to any role in the next hour of time in the campaign.

That PC is actually able to acquire as many water dice as he wants, just by guzzling water like it's going out of style.  The water dice can be saved up and used for any roll, keeping in mind the time limit.  The water drank this morning will not sustain you tonight.

However, when that d6 comes up with a 1, it means he got too greedy and/or misjudged the amount of water needed.  No more water, no more water die (any remainder of collected water dice evaporate).  Now, the GM rolls a thirst die (d6) whenever that PC rolls a d20 (other rolls are exempt), and that result is automatically subtracted from the PC's roll.

If the GM rolls a 6 on the thirst die, that PC is suddenly overcome by the terrifying realization that all things irrevocably succumb to the nigrescent, faceless, tentacled devourer and his demonic insects buzzing and howling in the desert as the lavender and violet moons rise in the deep purple sky.  All things are merely ephemeral grains of sand to Ubbo-Sa'athla, The Most Ancient Of All... also known as The Thing That Existed Before The Universe Was Dreamed.

It is a dark night of the soul, a spiritual angst caused by visions of Ubbo-Sa'athla, seemingly on the precipice of wakefulness.  It is said that when Ubbo-Sa'athla wakes, his dreams which have become our reality will no longer hold this universe together and all that is will be as nothing.

The Great Old Ones are prophesied in the Nya'azian scrolls to have manifested from another plane of existence, outside our universe.  They struggle against this existential threat so that his awakening may either be postponed or averted.  

At this point, mechanically speaking, the GM could do a number of things... catatonia followed by a creeping madness, out of body state where the subject goes in and out of reality, random table with various bizarre results, all rolls have a negative-6 modifier, etc.  

All this lasts until the PC takes a short rest and finds meaning again - symbolized by a ceremony invoking the Great Old Ones while the hallucinogenic sorcerous ichor known as zoth is imbibed... allowing the PC to come to grips with this horrifying understanding and overcome the soul-crushing darkness pulling at the frayed outer threads of his unraveling sanity (that should be roleplayed out between the player and GM). 

Having said all that, looking forward to hearing your comments, questions, and hopefully feedback if you use this in your own Cha'alt one-shot or campaign!

This weekend is session 6 of the Crystals of Chaos campaign, and the following weekend I'll be running even more Cha'alt at Gary Con!



p.s. Want a gorgeous hardcover Cha'alt book or maybe the entire trilogy?  Ordering details here.  And don't forget to grab your ticket for VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo this July in Madison, WI.  


  1. Actually, that particular playtest might have to wait for Gary Con. Tomorrow's session will mostly take place on Alpha Blue and various places throughout the galaxy.

  2. That's some interesting, setting-specific stuff right there. I was thinking that drinking too much water can harm the body, but I think your mechanic takes care of that too.
    Are the other effects unique to residents of Cha'alt? Would characters from elsewhere be treated the same or only after prolonged exposure to the psychofunk of this world?
    I also meant to ask if you ever played Arduin and if Cha'alt was inspired by it. I never played it on its own, just begged and borrowed for use with D&D. Back then, I wanted my genres separate. Lately I've been getting nostalgic (There's an Arduin version 5 coming out at some point) and started thinking about a mashup. What if Cha'altians encountered Arduin(os?) at some interdimensional nexus/intergalactic bazaar? That's like some chocolate in my peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.