Monday, May 1, 2023

Crystals of Chaos [session report #9]


So much going on right now... so much!

Not only did Neckbeardia do his video of Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise, but RPG Pundit finally got around to reviewing Cha'alt: Chartreuse Shadows here.  I've got a few interesting things to say about the latter (in my own YouTube video), but just super pleased and excited about both.

I just (literally a few minutes ago) launched my 25th Kickstarter to help fund one or more webcomics for Cha'alt, Alpha Blue, and the Purple Islands.  Check it out!!!  And to help boost things along and build an audience for my eldritch, gonzo, science-fantasy, post-apocalypse world, I'm giving away the Cha'alt PDF for free as long as the KS is running.

Last week, I ran another Cha'alt one-shot on Roll20.  This one lasted a bit longer than my usual 90-minutes.  It went almost two hours.  I know that sounds like chump-change to many of you, but since my virtual Cha'alt sessions are 1) text only, 2) "D&D" in arcade-mode via Crimson Dragon Slayer D20, and 3) GMed by a fucking boss, we covered a lot of ground in that time.

I won't go into too many details since parts of this adventure will show up in a brand new scenario I'll be releasing in a couple weeks on smaller retailer platforms - more info on Project Badass here.

This one got into alternative timelines and dimensions in the Cha'alt multiverse - [say it in the voice of Brian Blessed as Vultan from Flash Gordon]  "Kra'adumek's alive?!?"  Yes, the purple or violet, depending on who you ask, alien demon-worm exists in a parallel universe.  The PCs got so drunk last night that they fell through a portal into this similar Cha'alt reality.  More civil unrest as the violet revolution has taken its toll on the purple priests and the city-state itself.  

Lots of fun was had; 4 players (a couple noobs and a couple guys familiar with my campaign setting).  

And of course, there was another session of the face-to-face Crystals of Chaos game that I run out of my house every other weekend.  That was also a great time, let me share it with you...

Two players had family commitments, so there was me and four players - Jackal, Ro-Robard the Red, Crandol, and Heighten Chancery Philthrop III.

Jefferson lost power for a few seconds and then its starship thrusters came back online.  The disruption surprised everyone.  Crandol took a rubix cube to the face, Heighten's extra-long purple glass bong shattered, etc.  Ka'arl came out eating a banana (raw), Sa'ab held Cha'alt: The Board Game under his arm, and Lady Ska'ai walked into the central hub naked (her fuchsia skin glistening with sweat) holding a double-headed zoth-colored dong.

Oh yeah, before the power loss, Ro-Robard was trying to get the thief out of that crystal sphere he picked up way back in either session one or two.  And he managed it - an elf thief who is also a communist conspiracy theorist and wearing a banana costume and fake moustache.  So, obviously he fit right in with the rest of the crew.

The upshot was that Jefferson needed crystals to refuel.  While not having enough energy to reach The Black Skull in his mother's basement, halfway around the planet, the PCs didn't have much choice but to land near where the ship detected lots of crystals.

This led them to the lost city - entrance of Cremza'amirikza'am.  A Federation ornothopter was being guarded by a red-shirt which Heighten interrogated with a knife to his throat then let him go off into the desert.  Apparently, Commander Andrak who got away at the end of last session was searching for an artifact or device that could destroy Cha'alt from the inside out.  He and his crack elite squad of Federation commandos had a 6-hour head-start. 

At the platform covering the 90-minute walk down a dark stone stairway was a three-man film crew including the director Francois, Smek the camera guy, and Shek who carried the boom-mic.  They were looking for a party of adventurers they could follow around and film, documentary style.  The PCs said sure, and away they went.  

Ok, I forgot something else.  Let's back up a bit.  I've been reading more about the Red Room's wretched alignment system, and wanted to give it a try for my Cha'alt game.  So, I asked each player to pick two from the fourteen possible virtues and vices.  When a character roleplayed that, he'd get a point of Divine Favor (for those curious, this is a different way of handling it than the Red Room).  Well, it worked about as well as inspiration in 5e.  Which is to say that it's a lot for the GM to remember during play and players are hesitant to ask for any kind of bonus.  Also, how do you weigh an off-hand comment of three or four words?  Is that enough to warrant Divine Favor?  Do you wait until more has been contributed in the next 30 minutes?  Do you ask the player to provide additional roleplaying?

After the session, I came up with a revised plan for the vice/virtue stuff.  You can read about that at the end of this blog post.  Oh yeah, the PCs also decided to call themselves The Crimson Bastards!

When the vibe is there and I'm on a roll, I have a lot of fun roleplaying NPCs, and I had no shortage of people to impersonate this session... from Zemit the elf thief (who stayed on board Jefferson and got his rocks off with Lady Ska'ai since she was obviously horny and he hadn't seen a woman since being imprisoned in that crystal sphere.  There was a lock-pick hanging from the bedroom doorknob - will they have a pink baby?) to this priest of Kort'thalis who wanted to be mentored by the halfling thief until they finally killed the bastard (it took like 3 attempts).

The biggest and most dramatic scene was a return to the purple labyrinth (this will be featured in a new Cha'alt zine coming out in June).  They met a representative of Yog-Soggoth; this lime-green skinned humanoid looked suspiciously like H.P. Lovecraft.  He reminded the adventurers of the first commandment tentacled down to them aeons ago - Keep to the old ways!  In the ancient tongue, it's Ium koola'ad venriz, which means "reject modernity, embrace tradition."  

Furthermore, he told them to not turn their back on destiny while also easing-up on the technology, spacefaring, and contamination of alien cultures.  To make it even more dramatic, Robard returned as his former self - all flesh, no part of him was cyborg or crystalline (though he might still retain a fetish or two).  For the rest of the session, the PCs went back and forth on just how much they might have strayed from the eye of the needle and justified the occasional use of Jefferson, Alpha Blue, etc.  So, it had a lot of impact.

The rest of this adventure was exploring the Cremza'amirikza'am megadungeon.  I did my best to make it new with a fresh coat of reimagined paint, since at least one player had already explored the first level in a prior adventure. 

The party met a redhead with three banana-men servants looking for a chicken shack and brothel on level two.  "Free sex and a bucket of fried chicken - the sweet life!"

They almost got blown-up by a cultist's thermal detonator (merely sustaining heavy damage and had to make do without their priest).  They looted a cool new magic item in the shape of a chartreuse crystal sphere with fuchsia veins called Occam's anti-razor.  "Nothing like a veiny orb."

And then they encountered a demon who was parading around with a giant slab of pineapple that had little slices of pizza on it.  "Where's your God now?"  They killed the demon, took his talisman, and decided to rest back at their ship as Robard teleported them.

That's pretty much it.  I did technically include a Floridian belt buckle somewhere in that session, but the players didn't find it.  And I'll do my best to keep including the Floridian belt buckle trope into EVERY DAMN CHA'ALT SESSION EVER as long as I remember to, of course.

Funny and/or awesome lines...

  • Once Robard became fully human again, he remembered that he'd need to change his business cards - "Hello, Vistaprint?" oh, and cancel that crystalline lube he ordered, "Hello, Amazon Prime?"
  • "If I know anything about the Gods of Cha'alt, they love whorehouses, fried chicken, and tentacles!"
  • "That commie Zemit is going to try and unionize the ship's workforce."
  • "Refined, fuel-grade crystals."
  • Let's keep Cha'alt for Cha'altians - aliens, get off our world!  #Cha'altFirst
  • "A piece of cosmic coral from the spice reefs." 
  • You'd be amazed what fits on the underside of a sna'aple cap.
  • "I want a chicken wing named after me, and it should be hot and spicy as fuck!"
  • "Unknowable banana Gods."
  • "The tentacle abides, hoss."

Ok, let's get back to vices & virtues.  Here's what I'm going to do next time... 

PCs choose their vices and/or virtues.  If you only pick one, it's a d12 (reroll 1s).  If you pick two, they're at a d6.  Pick three, they're d4s.  You get to add a bonus die to any roll, once per encounter, scene, or combat, once the vice or virtue character trait has been roleplayed.  

So, let's say a PC wants wrath, lust, and diligence.  Obviously, if I gave everyone the same bonus no matter how many vices or virtues they chose, it benefits the person who took more.  However, the more you choose, the less of a bonus you receive.  Taking three means that if the PC roleplays being a hard worker in a scene, then he gets a d4 he can add to any one roll by the end of that scene (maybe it'll carry over if it makes sense).  

Now, if that PC had only taken wrath, then when he goes off on some NPC, stabbing him for spilling soup or whatever, that PC will get a d12 when he wants to use it.  Again, it should be utilized soon after it's been acquired; they don't accumulate - only one bonus die per player per trait.  That means the same PC can have an extra d6 if he roleplayed both chastity and pride in a particular scene, but can't get any more until he's spent what he's got.  Any unused bonus is definitely lost after the session is over.

Ok, let me know what you think.  Does this work better?  Would you use this?  Is there possibly a third set of 7 traits that could supplement the vices and virtues (because that would be interesting)?

Thanks, for reading!  One last thing, it looks like I'll finally get to play in a Cha'alt session this weekend as my buddy Colin gets to playtest his CDS D20 / Into the Odd hack.  


p.s. It's May, so we're fast creeping up on VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo.  Grab your ticket here.  And if you want your hardcover Cha'alt trilogy, you can either purchase them here or through the new Cha'alt webcomic Kickstarter.

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