Sunday, May 7, 2023

I Got To Play


Not only was I a player for the first time in forever (damn you for ruining that phrase, Frozen!), but the adventure was set in Cha'alt.  Hot damn, it's like Xma'as and my birthday all rolled into one.

FYI, my reason for virtually never playing is not because I can't find a game.  It's because I prefer being the Game Master.  But once in a blue moon is a real treat, so thanks to my Cha'alt bro (Yog-brother) Colin for GMing.  And he used some kind of Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 / Into The Odd (I think he said) hack he came up with himself.  Very cool.

The hack was interesting.  Legitimately interesting because that's a failing on my part as a game designer.  I use what I like, what comes naturally to me, or that I've gleaned from osmosis by happenstance.  I don't get to see "what's out there" as much as the average gamer.  You get too much yin, you start losing your yang.  Tradeoffs, hoss.  I'm talking about tradeoffs.  So it goes...

I can see why the resource die is popular.  And rolling automatically for damage is also neat.  I get why he ditched it.  On a miss, almost literally nothing happens.  That's usually boring (though advanced GMs find a way around that sort of thing).  But the extra book keeping and immersion breaking (at least as a novice to the system) was jarring.  And the "leveling up" after nearly every combat related encounter was weird.  For a one-shot where you're fast-tracking experience and character growth it could make sense, but I'd probably still stop at one PC "growth spurt" per session.

Oh well.  For those who like that type of thing, now there's a little more - and it's related Crimson Dragon Slayer and Cha'alt.  Cool.  Learn more about Colin's hack here!

I played a warrior demon with a big (but not ridiculously massive, I stipulated) two-handed obsidian sword named Vanessa that makes that Tie-Fighter scream when attacking my foes.  That reminds me, some great GMing advice I heard from Colin's mouth during the game was "Highlight what makes players cool."  Now, I've heard similar stuff spewed here and there on the internet, but it's not the type of thing that ever just pops-up in a game.  Mostly, that kind of stuff sticks to the ivory tower intellectual RPG forums and stays there.  In any case, it's a truism.  Always glad to have a reminder of the truth... in action, no less.

I won't give too much away, except to say that it felt like my Cha'alt mixed with Red Dead Redemption.  Crimson Gulch, Deadwood, weird looking tentacled cows?  Yes, I'm here for it!  So, maybe kind of like a Firefly Gamma World?  The beginning was awesome, the middle dragged simply due to the fact that it was clearly meant to join the first and last part together into a single scenario.  There wasn't much for us to do, except get settled and prepare for exploration of the ruins nearby.  And the end was awesome, but maybe a bit linear and rushed.  I'd simply love to see it expanded.

Basically, a first-class draft.  I don't think Colin will mind me saying these things since it was declared a playtest for some future convention game, and it was the first playtest of that adventure... and that specific rule-set.

Anyways, back to the adventure.  I was joined by a reptilian sorcerer named Izurass (badass name) and an orc thief named Winslow Fivepence (I need backstory on Steve's choice of names for Cha'alt characters).

We got to have some tavern time, wandering the bazar, ambushing some marauders chasing us, have sex with a busty dark-elf prostitute (thanks, hoss!), kill some undead centurions from a ruined civilization millennia ago, tangle with the Mandalorian, pass Gozer's test, drink from "mechanical elf" moon juice or maybe it was finely aged zoth, awaken the kaiju, and we didn't let the guy we were hired to keep alive die.

I especially liked the colorful NPCs (literally and figuratively) and the way Colin GMed them.  Well done, my good sir!

As for my character, Charkuteri (there's a Cha'altian umlaut, which makes a triad, above the "u") the demon warrior, I think I roleplayed him well.  I finally had the chance to take a page out of my book, Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  For example, when this Arabic themed... hang on, let me interject something first. 

Oh yeah, Colin asked me what a fancy, learned historian of the court would wear since this is my world and all.  I thought for a moment and said "Golden embroidery on his robes"... then a few moments later added "and a ridiculously oversized 'flock of seagulls' type collar."  Which, admittedly, is not something GMs ask the typical player.

In the next scene there was a vaguely Arabic merchant of trinkets and baubles, his tent appeared in the bazar as if my magic.  Inside, he sat upon pillows, smoking a hookah, and making smoke images from his exhalations with the colored smoke.  In character, I asked him if he could make a smoke-monkey.  He did, which led the merchant to pass his hookah over to the reptilian sorcerer who inhaled and breathed out a sandworm.  Wild!

After that introduction to the magnificently turbaned merchant, our orc thief inquired about specialized thieves' tools.  In character, I told him that back in Kra'adumek, I knew a thief who's favorite instrument of trade was a crystal rimmed jaccard.  That was just something I made up in the moment, and it helped carry the social interaction forward.  Did it make or break the game?  Of course not, it was just a throw-away line because why not?  Like throwing pebbles into the lake, or in the case of Cha'alt, throwing sand into the wind, you do it just to see what happens.  If something blossoms from that moment, awesome!  And if it doesn't, that's cool.  All those moments, like tears in the rain, hoss!

And then later, we passed by a priest in the near distance performing some ritual, and he gave the "blessings of the great tentacle" hand gesture.  I did the same.  Not for any monetary reward or advantage in the game, it didn't benefit anyone or change anything, but I felt a deeper kinship with Cha'alt... and that's (partly) what it's all about.

Interacting with the details the GM creates is part of what makes a great player.  The world is there to engage with, not just remain a convenient backdrop for the scene's primary goal or reason for being.  The campaign setting lives and breathes independently of scenario concerns.

Anyway, I asked Colin about how it felt to run Cha'alt and this is what he said...

"Surreal experience being able to ask the guy who wrote the thing 'how this or that' might work in the setting.  Pop culture references are 'in genre' for Cha'alt, riffing off of familiar pop culture references made it fun to write content for and create in-the-moment decisions as a GM.  It's like a core tool or principle of the game, you're allowed to just drop in Gozer where appropriate, or add a 'totally not' Boba Fett character in that you didn't expect to need."

Ok, I'll leave you with some interesting thingamabobs and quotes...

  • "All the best neon signs... fast drinks, loose times."
  • The tavern was called The Sullied Unicorn, and the logo was a unicorn getting railed with cartoonishly swirly eyes.
  • Psychedelic elves.
  • "Tuskan orc raiders looking like Cha'altian steampunk."
  • "I shall name this reptilian riding spider Bastian."

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Next session of the Crystals of Chaos campaign is happening next Saturday.


p.s. I've got a new Kickstarter to help pay for this amazing Cha'alt webcomic I've been working on with Jae Tanaka.  July is approaching... will I see some of you in Madison, WI for VENGER CON II: Electric Boogaloo?  I hope so.  Attendance is limited so grab your ticket today!


  1. That's awesome that you got to play for once.👍🏻
    That hack is pretty sweet. I wondered about what system I might use with CDd20 apart from OSE, was reading a Reddit article about different applications for usage dice and then saw this. From running and playing Mörk Borg, I think emulating the advancement system is definitely a good move, especially if you're using attributes. That's one of the cooler aspects of MB. I always hated the D&D trope of "Huzzah! I went up in level! I now get.. the same improvements as that similarly attired fellow over there!" I've always felt the less "cookie cutter," the better.

    1. We live in a golden age of personalized rules and play-styles... mix, match, mash to your heart's content! Anything you want to try is fair game. All you need are good players flexible enough to let you try stuff out.

    2. Truth! Fortunately we only have one curmudgeon in our group who's like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials..

    3. But isn't Mikey supposed to like it? Maybe he starts out hating everything... it's been so long since I've seen the commercial.

  2. This Mikey tries to be the Alpha of our gaming choices but we can usually twist his arm. Except for Cthulhu. That's like presenting a crucifix to a vampire. But he swore he wouldn't play any OSR over 5E, and we got him to eat that cereal. He's playing Mörk Borg and Pirate Borg with us and played in a one shot of Warpland I ran where he played an unintelligible ferret-man mutant no less. My plan is to duct tape him to a chair and unload a double barrel shotgun blast of Cha'alt on him. I know he'll like it. "Hey, Mikey!" (Actually, "Hey, Kenny!" in this case.) He's also stated that he prefers non-standard D&D campaign worlds, and Cha'alt seems to fit that bill.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. There's a an issue with the accommodations booking for VengerCon. I wanted to make sure you know ASAP so that's why I'm sending a message here as well as an e-mail.