Sunday, January 28, 2024

Mysterious Qada'ath [Cha'alt campaign, session 6]


This was a fun-filled session.  It's important to remember that fun should usually go hand-in-tentacle with immersion... not always, but most of the time.  

Same goes for movies.  There are movies I love without a drop of humor or fun, films that don't bring a smile to my face, but they're admirable all the same.  And yet, the vast majority of my favorite movies have me laughing and shouting and reveling.

Keep that in mind, GMs, when you're pondering thy orb and plying thy trade.  If you can exchange deep levels of resource management for the frolicsomeness of There's Something About Mary, The Hangover, or Dodgeball, do it.  No matter how many experts, reviewers, grognards, newcomers, or casual onlookers tell you otherwise, that's a wise trade.  Sure, you can attempt to go for both... but if it's going to be either one or the other, you'll know where my zuleks are going, hoss.

I'm refining my session prep since that's going to be part of the book I'm currently writing, The Cha'alt Experience, Designing Worlds Like A Fucking Boss.  In practice, it went extremely well.  In fact, I don't know the last time I was able to generate that much content in such a short time.  So, this book is already paying dividends - sweet!

4 players - the crystal warrior who actually has a name, now - Jua'an Tufrifo, Nix the demon thief, Gorra the grog priest, and Drogon makes a reappearance... because of his long absence and the party's lack of wizardry, I convinced the player to swap out his half-orc priest for a sorcerer of the human variety (the human was his idea).  "He fell into a portal," is the gist of how we're explaining the change.  Most likely something to do with the purple labyrinth and Drogon's consciousness inhabiting another dimension-traversing humanoid.

It was just after mid-morning in the dreaming city of Qada'ath, the twin suns not yet high enough in the fuchsia sky to be blotted-out by the Great Old One floating above.  The adventurers were walking around, thinking about lunch. Occasionally getting looks or comments directed at their fancy wristbands (which they stole) indicating they were part of the citizen elite and would be able to have pretty much anything they wanted to eat + healthcare.  

Just then, a labor-grade citizen ran up to Gorra and stole his wristband, then darted down a dark alley.  The PCs ran after, shooting the thief and taking him down.  Gorra recovered his wristband and swiped the gray one belonging to the thief.

While they were standing around the alleyway, they noticed a few curious shops they'd never seen before... there was the Wind Chime Tea House, a cloning facility called The New You, Happy Ending Massage Parlor, and some kind of shop called Touch Grass.  To my delight and amazement, they tried them all...

If you've seen The Golden Child in the last few years, you'll remember the snake-lady oracle behind the paper screen.  Well, the tea house's basement had pretty much that exact setup.  The snake-lady was named Ka'ala and the PCs paid the liaison and got their fortune (along with a tea-voucher)...

Jua'an Tufrifo decided, inexplicably, to roll the gilded die of Satanis while getting his fortune read.  As Ka'ala told him about risk and reward and temporary gain, (the gilded die did not disappoint) the snake-lady passed her liaison a small scroll which was handed to the crystalline.  It was a message from Jua'an's ex-girlfriend telling him that while they were together, she never had an orgasm.  He got a point of Divine Favor for that.

The rest of the party got theirs... Nix had the most ominous - don't buy any blue bananas (translated into our world, that would be green bananas).

The cloning facility allowed for people to, you guessed it, clone themselves.  Lots of upgrades and upcharges, such as full memory implants and 6-pack abs, getting rid of unwanted biological quirks such as allergies or motion sickness.  Basically, if you want to feel like yourself but an idealized version like Ryan Gosling in the Barbie movie (yes, I finally did see it... and kind of liked it, parts, anyway), you're looking at about 1,500 nu-talons per clone.  The PCs didn't have the money for much of anything right now, but definitely earmarked the place for a return visit in the future.

The massage parlor went as you'd probably guess.  Everyone picked a masseuse and got their high-five bonus as per Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer (still a free PDF on DTRPG).

Touch Grass, however, was a bit different.  As the attendant, (after going on a bit about the deep-immersion, hyper-realistic super-simulation that is this world) showed them into a stone room with a raised circular platform containing 8-feet around of lush green grass, the 3 original PCs physical selves reverted back to Earthly humanity, part of the Two Jacks Detective Agency from 1929 Chicago... with accompanying original memories flooding through - the Golden Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant, the Egyptian Theater, James Archibald, and that creepy extradimensional portal).  Only the sand-construct Gorra was unchanged.  Everyone touched or played in the grass and left, resuming their "normal" Cha'alt selves.  

They each got a point of Divine Favor, and started walking back downtown.  A tongueless prophet covered in blood ran up to Nix and handed the demon a rock covered in parchment - it was a scroll describing there's more where this can be found in a network of tunnels and caves below Qada'ath.  The rock had a brilliant and shimmering green vein which Drogon identified as ka'alaxian crystal or "wishing stone" to the layman.  These rare and powerful crystals (introduced in the prior Cha'alt campaign last year) can be used by sorcerers to warp reality.

Oh yeah, after passing the scroll and rock to the adventurers, the tongueless prophet was shot in the back by either a sand-blade or assassin who soon disappeared into the crowd.

The entrance to this subterranean location could be accessed near the black glass tower at the epicenter of Qada'ath.  So, they headed towards the city's center where the Supreme Council resided, inside a tower made of black glass.  Before they could find a way inside, a couple of sand-blades sauntered up to the PCs and asked them to turn around so they could put one of those translucent, squishy, neon-pink, tendril-having little guys on the back of their head.  I reminded them that those are the things put on the subjects strapped-down in their chairs and forced to watch that disturbing film-reel at the Citizen Orientation Center last session.  The viscera'az (which is what they call it) somehow conjures and concentrates dark vibrations, which usually makes people scream in terror.

Jua'an Tufrifo was having none of it, deciding that it was worth the trouble to blast both sand-blades, instead.  Being the shenanigan daredevil he is, he rolled a d20 to attack and a gilded die - natural 20 and 6, motherfucker!  Two laser beams and two dead sand-blades later, Gorra put on one of their sleek black uniforms and the entire group headed for the place where they could get down to that cave.

After descending 30-feet of spiral stairs, they came to a mirrored door with hand-print opener.  They remembered a notation on the scroll that said, "Do not approach the threshold empty-handed."  The PCs decided Gorra, being made of sand and could stretch his arm out, was their best chance of getting through unscathed.  Just to add another layer of protection, since that warning was a bit vague, Gorra held the viscera'az in his hand while trying the hand-print.

Good thing he did - a dozen or so 2mm spines went into the slimy pink thing, killing it.  The door opened and the players felt like they were back in Cremza'amirikza'am with all manner of weird shit, idiosyncratic individuals, factions, monsters, etc. 

I won't go into exhaustive detail, but they found... 

  • A cryo-pod (thanks to Gorra's player stimulating a post-apocalypse Cha'alt X-Cards, for which he got a polished fuchsia stone of Divine Favor).  Jua'an rolled the gilded die yet again while blasting, this time his blast ricocheted off the cryo-pod door stuck to the mutant monstrosity's crab claw and struck his belt-buckle, which made his pants fall down.  The crystal warrior's solution was to stretch the dead viscera'az into a new belt... support helped by a chork's leather tunic which basically looked like poorly made and ill-fitting ass-less chaps. 
  • Killed some pig-faced and bird-feathered chicken-orcs or chorks, fireballed some more chorks who were in a cave with a large crystal that contained a holographic message about finding a group of shamans far below the surface from before the apocalypse who came up with an antidote when the Federation first tried to subdue the native population with drugs 80+ years ago.
  • Met a zedi knight from the purple labyrinth who was looking for just the right sized crystal to charge his laser-sword (which the PCs coveted).
  • A pit belonging to a suckered abomination requiring 7 humanoids sacrificed to it (instructions for summoning, banishing, and calling it were written on the cave wall in ancient glyphs).
  • Found a device with a logic puzzle that eventually granted them access to some woman's OnlyFans account (3 days absolutely free).
  • A group of humanoids from the freedom fighter group Scarlet Dawn looking for a way out (they know a secret codeword to get into the Federation military base) and told the PCs where the rest of their group are hiding... in case they don't make it.
  • Humanoid slaves mining crystals (but not the really good kind) with a giant, open-mouthed, stone head that transported them to Hell.  This conflict was also fireballed, but for reasons I can't fathom, the sorcerer's player wanted to roll the gilded die along with the d6 determining the fireball's blaze intensity and radius.  The gilded die did its job and just before the flames engulphed the entire area, they could hear one of the miners call out, "Look what I just found - an origami unicorn - that must be worth a bloody fortune!"
  • The cave of ka'alaxian crystals that was polluted by toxic runoff from neon-pink fluid from above, dripping down the walls of the cave (the nearby population were all strange looking mutants).
  • And finally a huge cave full of soldiers and sexy green harem girls led by a humanoid named Skull-Face.

And that's where we stopped the session. It was a fun-filled time and nudged the PCs towards another leg of their journey - a way to stop the Federation from oppressing Cha'alt as they rob the planet of its precious resources.

The gilded die got so much playtesting time (as opposed to the one for Cha'alt X-Cards) that I feel even more strongly that it will objectively improve your games (assuming you're looking for more Douglas Adams and less J.R.R. Tolkien).

Below are some amusing bits of dialog I hastily scribbed down between moments of laughter and exciting action...

  • "We have a plan, it goes kaboom... as most of our plans do."
  • [This isn't a quote, just something I thought of] If you're obsessed with blue glass, then you've got blue brain.  If you're a habitual user of the drug, you're a glass head.
  • "Clean-up... aisle Cha'alt!"
  • "Brain drain animal"... [he was referring to the viscera'az]
  • "It's about the man upstairs.  Gotta serve the greater evil." [points to Uma'at-Allah, the Great Old One floating above Qada'ath]
  • "She's a serpentine charlatan."
  • "Jua'an Tufrifo's new nickname shall be crystal cheeks."
  • "Feed 'em to the worms!"
  • "What if Tha'anos was a drug manufacturer?" [wondering aloud if making blue glass should be combined with population control]
  • "The crimson bastards were born in dark alleys."
  • "It's freaky Friday all over again!"
  • "Did you take some bad glass?"
  • "I have cock-rings bigger than you!"
  • "Origami unicorn."
  • Pig-faced orcs with yellow and teal feathers... part orc, part chicken... why not call them chorks?"

Yep, an epic session.  The newish player said how weird and different this dungeon was, and the rest of us laughed because to someone that hasn't been through the prior Cha'alt campaign, he's right - there's probably nothing quite like what he's just experienced.  

But for those who've been along for Venger's wild ride last year, this felt a lot like Cremza'amirikza'am.  Yeah, I have a type... moving on!

Next session should be in 2 weeks - February 10th.  See y'all then.


p.s. If you don't already own the Cha'alt trilogy in hardcover, I've got you covered - details right here.  Believe it or not, there are still a few weekend badges available for this July's VENGER CON III in Madison, WI - grab it now!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Calling All Gamers For VENGER CON III


It's that time, hoss.  

July, especially for those of us surrounded by ice and snow, seems like a long ways away... but really it's only 6 months from now.

I really want VENGER CON III: Revenge of the OSR to be even better than the first two conventions.  Knowing what you want to run and what you want to play will help enormously.  So, speak up and give me your proposed schedules, wish-lists, and tentative desires.

You can email me at:

I'll be running a combination of Cha'alt, Alpha Blue, and whatever weird old-school, OSR, or traditional RPG attendees want me to run.  In fact, let me know what bizarre, odd-ball RPG one-shot you'd like me to run during VENGER CON III and y'all will eventually get a chance to vote for the top nominees.  Whatever you want (but if it's not rules-light, I'll probably hack it or handwave it)!

And if you haven't already, grab your weekend badge right over here.

Big spaces, limited attendance, laidback & easy going structure, new hotel, nice rooms, not having to shout to be heard or lose your voice talking over the noise, meet fellow gamers and actually get to know them over the weekend, hang-out and game with me (will start out at least one morning of the convention with an Ask-Me-Anything Q&A) and other awesome folks, along with this year's guest of honor Scott from the Diversity & Dragons YouTube channel.

Last but not least, VENGER CON's demon mascot Zeemoa'ar!  He'll be there at the convention as I open each day of awesomeness by sounding the gong.  The whole weekend will be unbelievably epic, and I can't wait to share those experiences with you guys this July (when Wisconsin gets warm again).



Monday, January 15, 2024

Mysterious Qada'ath [Cha'alt campaign, session 5]


Sometimes, I run meandering, stream of consciousness sessions, other times they're dungeoncrawls or standard sandboxes of wandering around and the PCs find adventure where they can.

This was a linear (but not railroad, as the PCs always had a choice and I never forced them down, nor would I force them down a particular path) scenario.

Before I forget, in 2 or 3 days from now, I'll be asking for VENGER CON III: Revenge of the OSR GMs and players to give me their tentative schedules and wish-lists, respectively.  So, come back soon for that blog post.  I know a lot of gamers are already looking forward to this July's VENGER CON in Madison, WI.  Time to start planning in earnest.

Ok, back to the session report.  One of my favorite players returned after 2 months of dealing with personal matters, so he came in with a brand-new character... and now that I look back at my notes, I have no idea what that character's name is.  But he's a warrior and made entirely of crystal.

Nix the demon thief, Gorra the grog priest, and Ha'agly Morningwood the pixie-fairy sorcerer rounded-out the adventuring party.  4 is a good number of players, so away we go!

I meant to take a before and after picture of the 3D printed "dice display" thing, but I do have an older picture that I'll try to link or show here in a minute.  But you can see pics I took of the new paint job.  The color scheme is pure Cha'alt, and even one of my daughters, before the game, said "That's your aesthetic, Dad."

What's it for?  It keeps your dice in one place, so when you need to roll that d12, you know exactly where it is, perched atop its little spot upon slime-flesh mountain!  ;)

Anyway, I suggested the PCs should already be together, but asked the crystalline warrior's player how he would have met them.  In line at the leech store.  That must have been after explaining the method of getting high off blue glass.  You melt it down, have a leech suck it up, and then press the leech's mouth into your skin as it secretes the liquid blue glass into your system.  It's a debilitating and all-consuming euphoria not unlike heroin (whereas the Federation-made drug fuchsia malaise was more like marijuana... a mellow, feel-good laziness).  

As the PCs walked down the streets of the fantasy cyberpunk (i.e. Shadowrun) dreaming city of Qada'ath, they saw drones with mechanical arms drop down from the fuchsia sky (though beneath the Great Old One floating above the city), pluck humanoids from the orange labyrinth, and deposit them deep into the interior of the city.

Meanwhile, a dissident was shouting warnings to anyone who would hear, "Stop taking the blue glass!  The Supreme Council doesn't serve Uma'at-Allah (the Old One overhead) but themselves!"  

Before he could reveal any more about the blue glass drug, a black-clad city guard known as a sand-blade arrived to shoot him point-blank with a laser rifle.  As the crowd dispersed, another sand-blade asked the PCs where their wristbands were?  No wristbands?  Off to the Citizen Orientation Center!  They went inside a little hover-van that contained a couple other humanoids waiting to be processed.  

Skipping ahead... 

However, I do want to highlight a spontaneous exchange between Crysta'ar [I'm just going to start calling him that] and another guy in the waiting room who bought the deluxe Chevy-grade package of blue glass leeches with the full warranty - even though Qada'ath gives away free drug paraphenalia like it was 2022 San Francisco...

The PCs got inside a locked area of the facility where people were strapped down to a chair watching an alternate version of The Wizard of Oz with ultra-violence, suicide, and animal cruelty (remember, these are the bad guys) as a clipboard and lab coat guy occasionally affixed one of those translucent, neon-pink organic slimy things to the back of someone's head - which made them scream bloody murder.  Apparently, the lab coat guy explained, that little pink squidgy thing transferred dark emotional energy as if a nightmare was asphyxiating you... anally.  

The PCs convinced lab coat guy to give them wristbands so they could wander around, pledge allegiance to Uma'at-Allah, and leave the Citizen Orientation Center.  Everyone realized it was weird that no one was murdered and nothing was stolen, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

During the allegiance pledge part of the processing, I had each player roll a d20 for their character.  Both Crysta'ar and Morningwood rolled a Gilded Die of Satanis, and sure enough, the result came up a 1 or 2.  Morningwood started squealing like a fangirl at a Taylor Swift concert and Crysta'ar was uncontrollably vibrating which made his voice wobbly.

After, they were approached by a violet-skinned elf named Z'quiro.  He was employed by a guy who wanted to know how blue glass was made.  A guard at one of the manufacturing factories was already bribed, so all they had to do was slip in, find out, and relay that information back to Z'quiro.  The PCs asked, so the violet elf told them his boss wanted to create a competing product.

So, the PCs snuck into the factory through the door manned by the bribed guard - "The sandworm always sings thrice." - and they killed another interior guard, saw beds full of 32 people resting and watched as humanoids were taken to some ritual chamber.  3 priests used their spiritual powers to change humanoids placed upon an altar-stone into sheets of blue glass.  Cue one of my favorite actors Charlton Heston - "Blue glass is people!  It's people!"

Finally, the adventurers get some satisfaction the old fashioned way, killing everyone who stand in their way.  The first two priests died quickly as Crysta'ar and Nix had blasters (Gorra's player had to leave 20 minutes before the session's conclusion).  The third priest gesticulated in an eldritch manner and a supernatural light emanated from his hands as a factory worker was turned into a Lovecraftian abomination.  

At one point, Crysta'ar's player rolled another gilded die and got the result he wanted, sliding across the freshly mopped floor - face first straight into the open robes of a dead blue glass priest. The pixie-fairy sorcerer who's afraid of casting spells rolled with his mini-blaster accompanied by a gilded die - that came up 6.  So, he succeeded, but then a ceiling vent blew him into the tentacled creature, and Morningwood's pants got stuck to the tentacle slime, ripping off and leaving him half-naked.

Morningwood got another decent shot off, but was 1 point away from hitting.  I hadn't mentioned it before, but this idea was swimming in my head for weeks... if players made the sign of the tentacle while intoning "By His loathsome tentacles," they'd get a +1 on their roll [usable for each player, once per session].  So, the pixie-fairy's player did that, and that resulted in a hit... for 2 points of damage. Before the creature was blown apart by the others, it slapped a massive tentacle at Morningwood, putting him down 10 HP and Nix 6.

On the way out, they broke-up sheet of blue glass and filled their pockets.  That's where we ended the session.

No one stimulated a Cha'alt X-Cards, unfortunately... but at least the Gilded Die of Satanis got quite a bit of playtesting - and it was all positive.  I have another idea for some far-fetched meta-narrative mechanic, but won't reveal that until next session.

Below are some great quotes from the game...

  • "That might be poetic justice, but the real poetry is in the bloodshed."
  • "In this version, the flying monkeys are the good guys."
  • "Sausage Candy giving out sandy handies."
  • "Chili's baby-back leeches."
  • "I yearn for something weird!"
  • "Yes, that ceiling vent has always been there."
  • "Sand powers, activate!"
  • "Please, leech responsibly."

Now that the PCs are aware of a major secret of Qada'ath, the supreme council, and Federation, things will start heating up.  I'm also experimenting with campaign arcs, a concept I heard about on YouTube where you break up the campaign into three-session chunks, rather than running it episodically or as one continual season.  

Looking forward to the next game on Saturday, January 27th.  Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this, please comment and share with others!


p.s. Only 6 days left to go on The Cha'alt Experience: Designing Worlds Like A Fucking Boss Kickstarter.  If you haven't already, grab your weekend badge for VENGER CON III: Revenge of the OSR right over here!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Lore24 Like A Fucking Boss


I noticed that Lore24 was something the RPG bloggers were doing this year.  Last year was the megadungeon-23 project.  So it goes...

And it just so happens that world building is the subject of the book I'm working on right now - the kickstarter still has about 2 weeks, and it's almost funded.  Check out The Cha'alt Experience: Designing Worlds Like A Fucking Boss.

Coming up with ideas is one thing (it's amazing, really, and I'm not trying to downplay that); however, synthesizing those ideas into a world that's going to be your campaign setting for the next few weeks, months, years, or decades is another matter... and that's where I come in.  I'll show you how.

Now, I'd like to turn my attention to a product I just released on DTRPG called Gilded Die of Satanis.  It's a genre and system-neutral game mechanic sort of inspired by the gilded dice in Candela Obscura.  But I Vengerized it beyond recognition.

If, like me, you're a degenerate weirdo who sometimes wants his sword & sorcery to include moments that could only happen in sit-coms like It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia or movies like Step-Brothers, Beerfest, Waiting..., Dodgeball, or Tropic Thunder, then Gilded Die of Satanis is for you.

It's quick and easy, and players always have the choice if they want to engage with the gilded die or not.  So, check it out and see for yourself.

Well, it's a new year.  I don't know what 2024 will bring... but it will most assuredly be a wild ride.  Hopefully, this will be the best year any of us have had for awhile.  A lot of it is beyond our control, but we can still strive for excellence.  

Onwards and upwards, hoss!


p.s. If you want the Cha'alt trilogy in glorious hardcover (before my wife burns what's left in the backyard come 2025), get them through The Cha'alt Experience kickstarter.  If you want to game with me, Diversity & Dragons (the guest of honor), and dozens of other hardcore old-school, OSR, and traditional gamers in Madison, WI this July, get your weekend badge for VENGER CON III.