Wednesday, March 27, 2024

GaryCon 2024 Convention Report (part 2)


You may have read part 1, already.  But this is part 2 of my time at Gary Con XVI...

As mentioned, I ran 6 games... 3 of them were Cha'alt via Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer.  I decided to ask players a short survey of questions before running to find out their familiarity with me, the campaign setting, rule-set, weirdo game mechanics like Cha'alt X-Cards and Gilded Die of Satanis, along with their favorite movie.

I remember way back when... it might have been my first GameHole Con.  I went around the table, asking players the same thing, but might have narrowed it down to "genre movie."  During an "x" moment in the game that could have gone in virtually any direction, I incorporated a guy's pick of The Thing, especially since The Thing is one of my all-time favorite movies.

After the session, the player who had said The Thing complained because my including an aspect from the movie somehow ruined his immersion.  I suppose because he could no longer pretend that the game world and characters were "real" and independent of influence or inspiration from non-canon sources or something?

It took me a while to get over that because I assumed other players would feel the same, as if my player base was some monolithic aesthetic.  That's also when I was young(er), impressionable and believed that "gonzo stupid" wasn't as cool as serious, Tolkien by way of Gygax, "realism" that many nerds assert in order to fool themselves into thinking that one kind of fantasy and therefore elf-game is inherently superior to another.

But I've long since gone full-gonzo and stopped caring what people thought about my games, if they get too silly, are too off the wall, or people laugh too much instead of... I don't know, mentally masturbating about pretending they're Aragorn but toothless and dressed in rags exploring a dungeon so dry and boring that it must be real?

Anyway, I got a lot of movie suggestions (which, incidentally, helped when it came time to improvise something on the spot using the Cha'alt X-Cards and Gilded Die of Satanis).  Plus, chatting about movies helped everyone get to know each other a little bit and eased the tension of meeting for the first time, even though I had played with some players before, and many players knew each other.

One player let me know that he was in my Cha'alt game 2 years ago at GameHole.  And he must have brought his whole group because all 6 of those guys knew and gamed with each other.  A couple guys in the Alpha Blue game had played in my virtual Roll20 sessions, and grew to be supporters of my content and play-style.  Another session contained guys who saw my session in the game roster, thought it sounded cool, signed-up, and then started researching my stuff to get more familiar and they fell in love with the campaign setting and overall vibe.

As you may recall, most of my games were in good-sized rooms with lots of other games happening right next to me, making it difficult to sit back in your chair, make an off-hand comment, watch how PCs respond, and basically let the game come to you.  Although, that's exactly what I did for the Alpha Blue session on the last day.

But for all those other games, I sat up, leaned in, prepared what I was going to say with my notes, did my best to speak-up, say things clearly and distinctly, and focused my hearing so I wouldn't miss anything the players were saying as the game moved briskly along.  I felt like I was chasing after the game in several spots, if not those entire sessions.

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I can only assume that many GMs run their sessions like that all the time.  However, my style is different.  As I said, I like the game to come to me.  That means I set things up as partial sandbox with PCs able to kind of do what they want, I'm able to interject improvised bits and pieces on a whim or at the drop of a hat, and turn up and down the heat as needed.

I won't say too much about the Cthulhu hack scenarios because those went well, aside from both scenarios drawing to a close in about half the time they should have.  So, that just leaves Alpha Blue, and the 3 Cha'alt scenarios that were actually 1... a trinity as it were.  It is the prophecy!

Based on my pre-gen sheet (actually, 9 pre-generated characters were divided between 3 sheets of paper) - I think I preferred last year's arrangement where all the possible PCs were on a single sheet of paper.  However, I was able to provide a little more background this time, which is just a trade-off, balancing act, I suppose.

One player took to the idea, based on my provided pre-gen notes, that Cha'alt culture was based on demon civilizations from thousands of years ago.  Because of this, he (and soon the group) decided to keep 3 vials of zoth for themselves, and deliver 1 to the blood-elf's brother, instead of the other way around.  

Every GM worth his salt likes it when PC actions directly correspond, one way or another, with the campaign setting.  When something affects something else, that's amore!  Lol, no.  It's an internal consistency that feels like reality... the building blocks of immersion.  

I believe it was also that player who really took the "tentacle fetish" note to heart.  At some point, based on everything that had transpired, we decided if there's a chance he's not at least a little bit aroused, the world will end.  I think that was in reference to a tentacle-fashioned apocalyptic magic item stolen from the palace vault... probably an adventure unto itself.

A couple of the scorpion-men PCs in different games befriended a little blue scorpion and used it as a familiar, which wasn't so much a part of my plan as something that unconsciously matched the pre-gens to the scenario and flowed like it was supposed to - guided by higher powers, with whom, as a lowly Game Master, I am barely worthy enough to comprehend.  Yes, the dice have their uses, but strokes of the GM's vibrational senses are how we navigate those PSYCHOCOSMIC waters.

Talking to a player who chose the tangerine-elf PC, I had an idea for a hybrid race between tangerine and blood-elf to make blood-orange.  No details on what that might look like, but the idea was intriguing and made me chuckle.  So, soon...

I already mentioned that the Cha'alt X-Cards were used to color / flavor randomly stolen magic items.  There was an A.I. banana... I tried to incorporate the banana motif as much as possible, without overdoing it. 

I liked that the PC(s) wished for a working starship that had the correct documentation papers, tiki bar, voice activated autopilot, was nearby, and a few other things, just in case that demon-genie was trying to screw them over, monkey-paw style.  Oh yeah, the key was a banana-shaped electronic fa'ab.

A couple guys asked, I think it was either after they had provided a movie to reference / parody, or when one of them stimulated a Cha'alt X-Card, if I could include a bologna sandwich somewhere in the session, as that was a running gag with their home group.  So, of course, I obliged.  A giant bologna sandwich scuttled sideways across the S'kbah desert until a sandworm jumped out of the sand and gobbled it up in one bite.

That's the kind of thing that might ruin a player's idea of immersion in another game, but in Cha'alt, that's just how we roll.  Reveling in that way of doing things has closed doors but opened windows to new ways of experiencing the game.

Oh, yeah.  I wanted to mention that it wasn't until about halfway through the first Cha'alt session that I realized why none of the sorcerers were casting spells or even considering that option.  I never provided a spell list or any spellcasting information at all.  So, I gave the sorcerers in that game a brief synopsis going forward, and physically wrote out all the possible spells on a blank sheet of paper for the following two sessions, which obviously helped enormously.

Two of the three ended sort of similar to each other, while the other went in a slightly different direction.  I don't know if one is the right choice over another, but I like the idea of multiple possible endings - above and beyond player agency and PC choices, of course.  Reminds me of the Clue movie from the 80s that had three different endings.  

Did I mention that I only bought one thing in the dealer's room?  The first time I went through, I browsed the aisles, looking at books, knick-knacks, "ultimate gaming tables," and dice - so many dice.  It's a tradition of mine to buy at least one set of dice at the cons I attend, but this time, as occasionally happens with me, I decided to break with tradition.  No dice to just buy dice.  If a set didn't really speak to me, I wouldn't bother.

My second time through the dealer's room, I noticed some kind of massive worm creature in a clear plastic container sans box.  I asked about it, and sure enough, it was half price in the "scratch and dent" section.  I was hoping the $68 price tag was the original price and I could get the thing (which turned out to be a space-worm for the Spelljammer set) for $34.  That would have been a steal!  Alas, $68 was the halved price.  So, I hemmed and hawed a bit, trying to decide if it was worth it to me to have my very own gigantic miniature sandworm.  

I haggled a bit, trying to negotiate a better deal (which is now illegal in the state of New York), and the shop owner was nice enough to roll me for it.  He beat me on a toss of two massive foam d20s.  I picked the hot-pink and he rolled the teal.  So, I paid the seemingly ridiculous price for a really big, painted, plastic miniature and brought it back to my hotel.

I'm tempted to make the Alpha Blue session its own blog post, but my wife is getting tired of me writing about the convention I just spent 3 1/2 days at.  So, let's do this here and now!

I had everyone make their own characters, which is my customary way of doing things with that RPG.  The characters should be unique and getting to the finish line provides at least half of the adventure or seeds thereof.

There was Daskanzia a mutant conman, Bashir, an alien mercenary who likes to get squishy and turn invisible, Jira, a female droid and former gumball machine (like Servo) who was also a pimptress, Arden, a human pirate and psion, and Gunstarra, an alien metallic humanoid who was dog-sized.

I had the idea on the way over to the main lodge that morning of starting with part 2 of a sleazy space opera movie, where the original had done pretty well at the box-office.  However, "The Sequel" got its budget slashed and all the movie stars portraying the main characters, like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Vince Vaughn, and Sophia Vergara were replaced with C-list actors (the PCs themselves) constantly referencing awesome things that happened in part 1 but made no sense to anyone (like all of us) who'd never seen the original movie.

The players thought that was a neat and/or funny idea, and I awarded points of divine favor whenever they made an out of context reference to the first movie that, obviously, none of us knew anything about in real life because I just made it up.  I think that went well.  Each player did that a couple times throughout the session to reinforce the "sequelness" of the adventure. We even used crappy on purpose sound effects with our mouth for various scifi-isms, noting that a grip or catering guy was probably making the sound just off camera.

At the end of the original movie, the principle characters were sentenced to 18 months on the penile planet Cygnus Beta where the PCs had been working at a monastery devoted to an old god whose name must never be uttered.  

Before long, whilst transporting toilet paper or TP (also known as treasure paper to the head abbot - from whose inner sanctum they stole a number of things, including a tall, ceremonial candle with a note that read "Do not light as this will resurrect a Great Old One"), Jira was impregnated by a penis-worm, but saved when another member of the crew threw out a "humper," distracting it.

There was a transport shuttle taking the PCs to Alpha Blue where some penis-headed aliens tried to get the Sleazoid Express hijacked.  "One-eyed Johnson got himself circumcised in the clone war."  The PCs thwarted that plan and took a lot of the unstolen cargo themselves.

On Alpha Blue, they located a worm wrangler and obstetrician shop, like those Taco Bell and Pizza Hut combo restaurants, and got the baby penis-worm gumball hybrid out of Jira.  The built-in petting zoo helps to domesticate penis-worms (for which there definitely is a market).

Then, they were wandering around the red hologram district and received a message from a 6-inch hologram of a dark zedi relating to a mysterious idol of an unnameable Great Old One sitting in an antique shop.  The PCs got it, and were about to leave when the dark zedi himself (3-feet tall in actual size) told them all that the run-time of the movie was almost up and this was their only chance for a laser battle.

So, we finished with a blaster shootout against the Knights in White Satin.  I tried out a sort of Blue Escalation for this combat.  Basically, on the first round, anyone who rolled a 6 on their dice pool scored a critical-hit and pretty much killed their opponent.  On round two, anyone who rolled a 5 or 6 scored a crit.  We never got to round three, as the survivors ran away.

That was all the time we had, and resurrecting the unnamed (although, I think I did accidentally say Yog-Soggoth towards the end - hey, this was supposed to be a really bad movie) would have to wait until part 3 because they didn't have anything left in the budget to create old god monster special FX.

Not sure where this fits in, but one of the nights I was in the hotel room, there was the Jack Palance Dracula movie on TV.  I watched a fair bit of it.  At one point, the vampire hunters found the sleeping brides of Dracula.  The audience heard what sounded like a stake being driven through a heart and then a close-up of her mouth filling with blood.  It was just for a second or two, really quick (which made me feel cheated), but at the time I remember thinking that's exploitation.  

Exploitation is the stuff we really want to see and hear, but the bastard censors won't let us because we're all just impressionable children in a nanny state.  In 2024, this is all just so ridiculous when The Bachelor puts a black bar over a woman's butt - who still has her swim bottoms on!!! - but if you try to hide blood and bones and body parts by cutting up the corpse and draining it down the pipes in the house you're squatting in, it's fine.  No bail.  Just come back to court in a couple months and we'll see if it's even a crime at that point.  We are truly living in clownworld!  

I have the vague memory of including a gut-munching cannibal scene (or maybe it was worms) with blood-splatter and the sound of hastily eaten, greasy fried chicken or something when the GRINDHOUSE EXPLOITATION Cha'alt X-Card was stimulated, but for the life of me, I can't remember what session that was in, or if it took place at all.  Maybe I fell asleep and dreamed it?

Regardless, I had a blast at the convention.  Really, all the sessions were amazing in their own way.  The only things I would have preferred is less noise and distraction in the first 5 sessions and a non-stinky room for the 6th.  Yeah, I'm definitely going to see what I can coordinate for next year because GaryCon is my favorite RPG convention... if you don't count VENGER CON (get your weekend badge now), of course.  

This July in Madison, WI is gonna be lit with the flammable zoth-based lube of a thousand tentacled whores.  Grab your badge today, hoss!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  I know this is an info dump that's missing a lot of details and some context.


p.s. Aside from VENGER CON III: Revenge of the OSR convention, now's the time to get your hardcover Cha'alt trilogy if you don't already own it.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

GaryCon 2024 Convention Report (part 1)


I got back yesterday afternoon from Gary Con.  Overall, it was a great time!

My notes and game prep stuff is in the car, and getting all that stuff would wake my sleeping wife who was good enough to hold the fort and watch the kids while I was away.  So, in the meantime, I'm just going to mention some takeaways in no particular order.

I ran 6 games and while that felt kind of overwhelming and "too much" at certain points, I'm glad I went for it and achieved that much gaming.  There's almost never a "perfect session," even in one's home game, but at a convention?  Forget about it!  However, I was extremely pleased with how the sessions turned out.  

I had between 4 and 6 players for every game, which I think is ideal.  BTW, part 2 of this post-GaryCon report is here.

I noticed that the only game where I took lots of notes was the last one, the Alpha Blue session.  There's only one common denominator there, and that's the peace and quiet of a private room without all the noisy distractions.  But why, oh why, did that room have to stink so bad?  As soon as I walked in, it was like someone had let out a wet cheese fart about an hour ago and that smell never fully left, even after we kept the door open for the first 30 minutes.

The silver lining (aside from the fact that we had the whole room to ourselves) was that one of the randomly rolled qualities of a PC was their disgusting smell, so I suppose... it added to the immersion, kind of?  But yeah, the room stunk and 4 hours of that was about as much as I could reasonably stand.

Other than that, the Alpha Blue session was fantastic and I got to play in-person with guys who were big fans of mine and really loved my stuff.  

In fact, one guy, David, who'd played in one of my Cha'alt games, too, said he wanted two autographs at Gary Con this year.  One from old-school D&D artist par excellence Erol Otus, and me.  So, that was a bit overwhelming and extremely flattering, making the whole trip worth it for me just for that.

But why would a higher level of background commotion keep me from taking notes?  I was thinking about that on the drive home, earlier this morning, and again right now.  Maybe a fear that if I wasn't focused on moving things along at a quick pace that the session would be swallowed by all the commotion around us?  Perhaps there was less inter-player chatter, banter, and casual one-liners (which I usually like to observe and write down) due to the need for everyone to speak-up clearly and intentionally in order to be heard?  Also, if I wanted to hear anybody, I had to watch their mouth (I estimate I had to ask folks to repeat themselves about 5 or 6 times per session) - which is another reason why wearing masks at a gaming con is just not ok.  

Anyway, these results mean that I don't have copious notes from the first 5 sessions, only the last.  However, I ran the same Cha'alt scenario (an original piece I wrote the week before the convention) 3 times, so the details of what happened, generally speaking, are firmly in my head... and I have my prepared game notes.

Apparently, when I'm running my rules-light d20 Lovecraftian investigative horror hack, I either need to pad-out the scenario to exceed 2 hours or simply schedule it for a 2-hour game.  Additionally, I should include stage directions in my GM notes that say HAVE THE PLAYERS ROLL FOR SANITY, YOU DUMBASS because I neglected to do that in both scenarios on Saturday!  That, and the shortness of those games irritated me since I always want to deliver (overdeliver, actually) on what's promised.  

With that night-time Cthulhu hack session, I should have morphed it into Cha'alt using something akin to that method between Cha'alt campaigns in our home game, but I didn't think of that until later.  We still hung-out and talked for about 30 minutes after, so wasn't the end of the world, but when it's listed as a 4-hour game, I feel like the shortest it should be is 3.

I can still remember my first (possibly second) ever Gary Con I attended.  My hotel room that I booked got bumped to a golf course villa or something a little bit off property, but a bus took me back and forth to the main hotel whenever I wanted.  That villa had its own well-appointed, private room with a big round table and plenty of comfortable chairs.  

I remember being fed-up with gaming in open areas alongside dozens or hundreds of people who weren't in my session but doing their own thing right next to me, and thought... why don't I just use that private space in my villa?  

That was the first time I ran The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  The book wasn't out yet, but the Kickstarter had ended, and I had maybe 40 pages of word document type stuff printed-out and spiral bound for ease of use.  T'was a fun session made all the more awesome because of the quiet, peaceful, and luxurious location (FYI, this is what gaming at VENGER CON is like).  

The two negative take-aways from that playtest con game were that wandering around, sandbox-style, wasn't what a few players had expected.  They preferred a more directed adventure with something specific to do.  The other was a player whose character got killed when an enemy critted him and I rolled a 12 on a d12 critical-hit table that I had included in the purple islands setting.  

It happened at the tail-end of the session, so he didn't miss out on anything, but when it was all over, I thanked the players and hoped they had fun.  The player whose PC died said something like, it was fun until my character died; or it would have been fun, except my character died.  In that moment, and still today, I'm glad he got killed.

Nevertheless, to this day, I'm sensitive about PC deaths and not providing some kind of overarching plot, story, or narrative to guide players in a general direction - without it turning into a railroad, of course.

Admittedly, there was a single point in the Cha'alt session where the PCs get rounded-up and imprisoned, but everything else was up in the air and could have gone a dozen different ways.  Being a con game, I think the vast majority in the hobby would let it slide.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll sign-up to attend and GM the crap out of Gary Con next year... but perhaps I can arrange something with the convention, like a private room where I'm staying, so I can run my games without taking up precious space at the actual hotel.  The private room experience really does bring out the best in gaming, and since GMing tremendous fucking sessions is one of the things God put me on this Earth to do, I want to do it to the best of my ability.

What else?  Got to playtest a psion class for Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer, which was fun (it's just based on the psionic rules, page 50 of the Cha'alt book), and a couple new races... an obsidian-man and tangerine-elf.  The obsidian-man, I now realize, needed more mechanical flavor to really come alive.  However, I'm quite pleased with how the tangerine-elf turned out, being able to make himself into orange juice in desperate situations + that race's high immunity.

Speaking of playtesting, I brought out the Cha'alt X-Cards for every session (except the Cthulhu hack ones) and the Gilded Die of Satanis for a few.  So, folks got to try it who'd never heard of anything like that before.  I think they found it somewhere on the spectrum between interesting and really cool.  

It was especially useful when we were flavoring random items quickly stolen from a treasure vault.  Since it was vast and full (imagine the cave of wonders in Aladdin), I let the players pick out what they found... with potential complications once they brought it out of the vault.

I remember the eyes of expectant players gazing into my GM soul, burning holes through my imagination as they patiently waited for me to improvise something awesome and contextually appropriate and badass... those eyes... the eyes!!!  Lol.  No, but seriously, there was some pressure to perform and not disappoint.  I think I did well under the circumstances.  The players occasionally helped with the creative lifting too, which is a feature of the design.

I remember thinking up a conch shell that when you held it up to your ear, you could hear the Great Old Ones devouring souls from beyond this universe.  So, like I said, the Cha'alt X-Cards came in handy and provided a lot of additional flavor to the session.

A player in a different Cha'alt session was spamming the cards at one point, trying to trick-out their stretched sand-speeder to include a pool, high-tech weaponry, hot chicks, extra tentacles, etc.  As I mentioned in the one video I made while at the convention, when a particular mechanic, system, or way of playing and interpreting the rules drifts organically into something the players can use to improve their overall experience, I try not to stop them but encourage how they've intuitively latched-on to it. 

Sometimes, the cards and gilded die were merely excuses to get the players conceptualizing a particular location, event, or NPC.  Occasionally, they were used as a "fail forward" device that had a built-in cost of either creative energy or shameful consequences for their PC.

After each session (again, not including the Cthulhu ones), there was a clear refrain... there's nothing quite like this.  It was completely different than any session they'd played at the con - or, in some cases, their entire lives.  They had assumptions and expectations, but this was just... weird... beyond weird.  There really is nothing comparable.  Cha'alt (using Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer and the way I run it) is a unique roleplaying game experience.  

That's what comes with focusing on a particular niche, adhering to your own aesthetics and sensibilities, and honing the vibe with an easy going and flexible manner until you get exactly the kind of game you're looking for... then, on top of that, never stop trying to improve.

GaryCon is a solid, well run convention.  It's sheer size puts it in a large gaming con category where you should know ahead of time if the crowds, noise, and expense are within your wheelhouse.  For example, Friday night, I opted for the prime rib buffet, which was good, but $50 + $3.50 for a Mountain Dew... before tip, obviously.  That's not in everyone's budget.

Of course, I'd be remiss for not mentioning my own old-school, OSR, and traditional RPG convention happening this July in Madison, WI... VENGER CON III: Revenge of the OSR.  Weekend badges still available - max attendance capped at 100, so don't delay!

Oh yeah, and I sold a ton of books... which was nice. If you want either the first, second, or the entire Cha'alt hardcover trilogy, here's the ordering info + price list.

Thanks to the con organizers and volunteers, thanks to all my players and those who wanted to get into one of my games but couldn't for one reason or another.  Part 2 of my GaryCon XVI convention report will either be tomorrow or the day after.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you're enjoying it so far!


p.s.  [this space left intentionally awesome]

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Mysterious Qada'ath [CHA'ALT campaign, session 9]


Never before in the anals of history (and if you haven't taken anal history with Ms. Tush, I highly recommend it) has there ever been a shot like the one that blasted the Ark of the Covenant into... well, let's just roll the tape so you can see for yourself.

We begin with three players, and their characters were Drogon the human/banana sorcerer, Nix the demon/clown/banana thief (we discussed Nix's look before getting underway - big long yellow banana nose that squeaks when squeezed, bright Bozo-red hair and goatee, white face paint, and plaid pants), and Juan Tifrifo the crystalline/banana warrior.  Yes, at the end of last session, they had just been turned into banana-men after Juan removed a neon banana sign from the cave wall.

Behind the neon banana sign was an 18-inch crack running vertically in the cave wall.  Peaking in, they could see a cave aglow with large colorful crystals and in the center was a golden pylon.  Immediately, Juan used his blaster to make a bigger entrance and then they entered to look around.  The pylon didn't have its familiar pyramidal key above the currently non-existent door, but they had Nix and Nix had his trusty crystal-rimmed jaccard.

Rolling a natural 20, Nix opened the door before his crystal-rimmed jaccard even touched the locking mechanism.  It opened into blackness, so Drogon asked Ta'anzo (his spider familiar) if he would check it out... and he did.  It was safe for his master and his master's companions.  

Stepping into the black void interior of the gold pylon, the PCs brushed up against a beaded curtain and saw shag carpeting, black lights, velvet paintings, banana-shaped lava lamp, mood music playing in the background (most likely Fuchsia Floyd), an end-table displaying pet rocks next to an elaborate glass bong, coffee table containing an open book, and paisley couch.

Juan Tufrifo shaved some of the shag carpeting and sliced the banana lava lamp in two.  Nix ripped a bong-hit that was pre-filled with a chartreuse powder.  Drogon took a look at the book on the table - it was a magical tome instructing sorcerers in the use of a special kind of glyph... slut glyphs!  With the help of this book, a sorcerer could learn how to create, energize, and stimulate a sexually suggestive magical symbol onto a woman's lower back, the most powerful slut glyphs are capable of sexually enslaving their nubile vessels. 

Before leaving, Drogon decided to cast detect magic to see if there was anything else they should be paying attention to.  With his sorcerous eyes, Drogon sensed something under the couch.  The crystalline-banana warrior sliced the couch in two as his companion gazed at what was hidden underneath - a poster (although, now I'm picturing it as more of an oversized scroll than something I would have hung on my wall as a teenager) of a banana.  The closer they examined it, the more obvious that the banana was a sticker that could be peeled away to reveal... a flesh-colored tentacle.  The tentacle was puffy and squishy and slimy.

Since it was magical, they rolled it up and took it with them.  Upon exiting, they came across a dozen pig-faced orcs who were taking the clown-gangbang woman to their lair (since the PCs had focused on the pylon and a little on the crystals, they completely neglected a small tunnel at the back of the cave leading to the orc lair.  

The woman was unconscious, and the PCs were probably going to let the orcs go so they could put the woman in their giant stew-pot and eat her in peace.  But then the two other freed prisoners appeared and the orcs threw metal collars and chains on them so they could also be eventually eaten.  The human slaves pleaded with the adventurers to be saved (again), so the trio of anti-heroes complied.  Mostly because Juan got bored and fired his blaster several times down the tunnel as some of the orcs had already started walking back home.

After taking significant damage, the PCs had slaughtered the remaining orcs.  Drogon's player missed by 1 during combat, and I reminded him of the new optional rule in Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer.  He performed the tentacle "ritual" and got his +1.

They decided to rest off their wounds in the pylon (Nix discovered a way to lock it from the inside without the key).  Meanwhile, the adventurers discovered that the woman, Samantha, had a slut glyph tramp-stamp on her lower back (that read "open for business"), so they asked her about it.  She confirmed their suspicion - the sorcerer who lived here in this pylon had manifested the slut glyph on her body.  He was on some kind of shamanic-walkabout and would eventually return.

Samantha, in true Heavy Metal movie style, asked if there was anything she could do to repay the adventurers for saving her.  One or more of the party was interested, but opted to wait until after their rest so they could utilize the sleaze-factor 5 bonus more effectively.  However, Samantha had some jellybeans (wild blackberry) secreted in her love-pocket.  She gave them to Nix as a way of saying thanks.

3 hours of rest and relaxation later, the glyph guru came back, looking like PeeWee Herman in tan robes and a cookie crisp pointy wizard's hat and matching wand with a cookie that's had a bite taken out on the end (not sure what Midjourney was thinking, but this is the best of 8).  He restored the PCs to their non-banana state - "Expiritu returnum sancti!"  Nix had a choice of remaining a night-clown along with his demon heritage or to have that reversed, as well.  Nix preferred to stay both clown and demon.  

The PCs got their remaining HP back, as well, and then left to let the glyph guru and Samantha do what they want in the pylon.  Those shrimp cocktail jellybeans would go well with the tuna wormhole he was about to devour. 

Leaving the subterranean ex-zoo dungeon (with the photon torpedo), the PCs found Johnny Transport sleeping in the driver's seat.  They got in and drove towards the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.  On the way, they were fired upon by a Federation hover-tank.  Drogon's missile command intercepted the missile that almost blew them up.  Johnny Transport ejected to safety, leaving them without a driver - but one of the NPCs jumped to the wheel and made sure the transport was stable (the photon torpedo had been ensconced with blankets in the trunk).  

They couldn't outrun the hover-tank and decided to make a last stand, parking it sideways and using it for cover.  The hover-tank shot several holes into it before a half-dozen Federation soldiers got out to charge them.  A few laser blasts and a crit later, the soldiers were dead, but there was still one in the hover-tank as it fired on the converging red-shirt NPC who was running up there with a laser-sword as Ta'anzo scuttled his way up onto the hover-tank and into the cockpit.  At this point, the SLEAZE Cha'alt X-Card was stimulated.

Calling upon his master's sorcerous vitality (costing Drogon 1 hit-point), the spider jacked all over the console which released and temporarily solidified the massive amounts of porn stored in the hover-tank's computer.  Suddenly, there were tentacled whores everywhere.  The pilot was distracted enough for Ta'anzo to pick up his blaster and shoot him in the back. 

Taking the photon torpedo with them, the PCs drove the hover-tank to the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.  On the way, they saw that guy with the purple-stained hand hitchhiking so the NPC driver (who hadn't been vaporized into a pink mist) pulled over to pick him up.  The dude's name was Zacharia, and he admitted to being a part of the prophecy.

BTW, the PCs realized they could take one of their fist-sized ka'alaxian crystals, break it in half and replace the crystal power source for their laser-swords with that.  It super-charged their laser-swords from 3d6 to 3d8.  

Approaching the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice, the PCs saw Gonzo and his entourage on one side and the 111 humanoid sacrifices on the other, being detained by several Federation soldiers.  Nix's player stimulated the POST-APOCALYPSE card as, I believe, Drogon's player stimulated the SCIENCE-FANTASY Cha'alt X-Card - double stimulation!! - and together we decided that this whole area was full of massive bones - sandworm skeletal remains and those of alien dinosaurs... making it a natural sandworm hangout.  That, combined with the Ark of the Covenant's power, was drawing sandworms to the area.

Now, the PCs knew that Gonzo most likely couldn't be harmed because of the Old Ones' protection (since Gonzo possessed the holiest of holy weapons or X'queeu residing inside the Ark).  Also, Zacharia told them that even if they used the photon torpedo to destroy the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice, its remnants might still be usable to fulfill the prophecy.

Before getting out to speak with the apocalyptic priests who had gathered on the Crimson Rock outskirts, Zacharia gave the PCs a purple powder to snort.  They did and it took their consciousness on a trip to the Purple Labyrinth.  There, the PCs wandered purple corridors until they happened upon a purple chamber containing Gonzo, his entourage, and the Ark... but out of phase with consensual reality.

Drogon consulted the slut glyph book and attempted to trace a glyph on Gonzo's lower back that would attract sandworms.  He rolled well, the slut glyph was created and stimulated.  Then, the adventurers returned to "reality."  In order to complete their disruption of the ceremony, they drove up the side of the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.  Juan Tufrifo took the laser cannon controls in his crystal hand, quieted his mind, focused his energy, used the force, aimed at the Ark, and squeezed a shot off.

This was an important roll.  He picked up the d20 and rolled... a 5.  There was talk of spending a point of Divine Favor or using Fuchsia Burn, but Juan's player decided to use one of his lavender demon-moon dice of destiny, and, inexplicably, a gilded die of Satanis (referred to by Nix's player as "the humiliation die").  Both d6s came up 6!!!

So, that's a critical success on the lavender moon die and critical success on the gilded die.  One of the things I like about the come-up-with-stuff-on-the-fly systems we have in place is that it forces me to spontaneously create in that reality based solely on prompts and occasional player suggestions - this is the PSYCHOCOSM your mother never warned you about during the Satanic panic.  After a few seconds of contemplation, I decided that the Ark of the Covenant was blasted off the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice and into the mouth of a sandworm - as several had now converged on their location, all the more urgently due to Gonzo's slut glyph tramp-stamp.

But what's the humiliation of Juan Tufrifo?  Moments after swallowing the Ark, the sandworm pooped it out - and for God only knows what reason, the turd looked exactly like the crystalline warrior himself.  The PCs decided to scoop up the poop-encased Ark of the Covenant with plans to let it petrify until it was needed in the future.

The session ended about 30 minutes early as we were all emotionally spent after that dramatic climax and there was no way of topping it.  

Now that this arc (no pun intended) is complete, time to start thinking about what's next for the campaign.  Good stopping point because we won't reconvene for 3 weeks as I have my eldest daughter's birthday party next weekend and GaryCon the weekend after.

A lot of great quotes were heard around the table...

  • "You get that familiar tingling sensation."
  • "I love the idea of slut glyphs, that's such a great concept.  It's even fun to say... slut glyph!"
  • "Banana glyphs?  Ok, let me research that."
  • "Do we still have our original... equipment down there?"  To which I responded, "You don't have banana junk perse, but it has taken on a banana-like influence."
  • "Instead of tea-totaler, what about the phrase zoth-totaler?  Too old-timey?"
  • "Sandworm poop smells like cinnamon."
  • "Marsupial spider-satchel."
  • "I'm like an avenging clown angel of chaos."
  • "Banana shadows."
  • "Samantha, you're in for a treat!"
  • "Federation soldiers are like the stormtroopers of Cha'alt."
  • "Nix, surely a master-thief," to which he responded, "I am a master-thief, but don't call me Shirley."
  • "Remember to gently peel back your banana-skirt, you don't want to bruise."
  • "Coochie jellybeans."
  • "When it comes to prophecies, it's not so much the letter of the law as the spirit."
  • "Your moon dice moment is a verse from the song of your own life."
  • "I got my +5 [sleaze factor bonus].  See you later, THOT!"
  • "Yeah, we'll just call him Johnny Transport.  That's good enough."

Ok, I'll blog again between now and our next session - Saturday, March 30th - but the next stop on the Cha'alt train is Gary Con!  Looking forward to it.


p.s. Want your own hardcover Cha'alt trilogy?  Order it here, and thank you for supporting independent RPG creators... rather than woke corporations that don't give a damn about the hobby.  I'll keep reminding you guys, VENGER CON III this July in Madison, WI.  Come game with us!

Monday, March 4, 2024

Mysterious Qada'ath [Cha'alt campaign, session 8]


Finally, we are back from our unexpected hiatus.  Thanks for tuning in.  I think you'll be pleased to read about this particular game... it was bananas!

We returned with 4 players - Drogon the human sorcerer, Nix the demon thief, Juan Tufrifo the crystalline warrior (and blue glass pusher), and Gorra the grog (sand construct) priest.  All 4 Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer classes were exhibited - the most important kind of representation!

Before I forget, I opened the door as the first player arrived to see a package at my front door.  It was the fake squishy banana that I had ordered from Amazon just 2 days prior.  So, that was a prop I kept on the game table throughout the session.  And you can bet your bottom-dollar I'll be bringing that motherfucker to Gary Con with me!

The party started at the Quick Stop convenience store in the Outer Settlements of Qada'ath.  They needed a place to plan their assault on the cantina after discovering that Gonzo had taken over the 2nd floor apartment above the desert watering hole (that had been newly renovated to include a strip club with jacuzzi, dance floor, etc.) upon claiming the Ark of the Covenant for himself.

While the other three PCs discussed the merits of sneaking around vs barging in with guns blazing, Juan Tufrifo was in the back alley (still within earshot due to a small window of the convenience store) offering free samples of his blue glass leeches.  This attracted the attention of a spicy little number with big boobs, lavender skin and crimson splotches (part moon-elf, part blood-elf, all tramp).  She (just realized we forgot to give her a name - oops, let's call her Qua'anita) decided to show her appreciation with her mouth, thus becoming the crystalline warrior's new girlfriend.

After the details of their scheme were set, Drogon turned Nix invisible so he could sneak in.  Gorra became sand and looked into the upstairs windows before following Nix inside, Tufrifo distracted the tough-looking mercs surrounding the cantina by trying to sell them blue glass.  And Drogon's spider familiar, Ta'anzo, was also creeping inside and giving his master telepathic impressions of what was going on.

Meanwhile, all 4 PCs saw a man wearing tan robes.  His outstretched hand was stained purple.  Only Tufrifo interacted with him.  All he said was "Soon..."

Inside Gonzo's apartment, they found a man imprisoned.  This turned out to be Va'angoosh, an arcaneologist from A'agrybah who's studied the ancient texts and knows the prophecies and esoteric lore of Cha'alt.  They also stumbled upon a peanut butter and jelly room that soon released a peanut butter demon and two jelly fiends from the raspberry pit.  Gorra, who had to become sand-humanoid in order to not be stuck to the floor, was smacked by the peanut butter demon, took a little damage and made his saving throw to keep his sand free from the slick oil of his peanut buttery foe.

Nix attempted to backstab Gonzo, but just as he began to slice and dice, a small portal opened.  A tentacle quickly exited the portal and blocked Nix's attack before disappearing.  Apparently, Gonzo was favored by the Old Ones due to his possession of the Ark of the Covenant.

Everybody got the Hell out of there as Nix threw a photon detonator between the legs of the peanut butter demon.  It exploded, sending pieces of mercenary, drywall, flaming peanut butter and molten raspberry jelly all over the place.  Meanwhile, they could hear Gonzo scream his disappointment and threats of revenge.

Talking to the arcaneologist a bit more, Va'angoosh told the PCs that there were 3 prophecies connected to the Ark of the Covenant.  The first revealed that a Federation officer named Holt would officiate a ritual involving the murder of 111 humanoids at the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice, then Yog-Soggoth would appear and grant a Greater Wish [which means no limits, as opposed to the 6th level sorcerer's spell which has various limitations and restrictions].  In this case, the planet Cha'alt would implode.  The second prophecy states that Cha'alt would be saved by a rag-tag group of adventurers who are strangers in a strange land.  There was also a third prophecy where something akin to grape soda, possibly Purple Prizm, was spilled upon the scroll.  All that can be known about this third revelation is that it involved the Purple Islands.

 They met back up at the Quick Stop as Tufrifo's ex-girlfriend had words with his current squeeze.  It quickly became a cat fight as the clerk, Dante, said that kind of thing was unacceptable - unless done inside the kiddie pool full of mud.  So, the girls fought as the purple-stained hand guy came in to buy a pack of smokes.

Dante told the PCs that about this time of day a customer usually comes in, and has his own transport.  He could take them across the S'kbah desert to the Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.  

They asked and that sounded good to him.  The driver was re-fueling his transport and challenged Gorra to a game of 17-dimensional chess.  This involves a random table I'd been working on.  The very first move, dude sitting across from me rolls a 17, winning the game.  Like Teddy KGB, transport guy (Again, no name that I can remember... let's call him Slade) felt so unsatisfied.  So, they played again.  

This game took longer, but Gorra eventually won that one, as well.  So, the PCs got a discount on the ride and Slade also told them about where they could find another laser-sword + photon torpedo (which makes a photon detonator look like a jagged rock).  Tufrifo's crystal eyes lit up at the sound of that.

Slade drove them to a ruined temple halfway between the Outer Settlements and Crimson Rock of Sacrifice.  A banana was found laying on the ground at the temple's entrance, next to a broken pillar and crumbling Cyclopean stones.  Tufrifo squished it under foot.  Inside were stone steps leading to a network of caves and tunnels that had, at one time, been modified into a zoo.  The stench of lion B.O., monkey poop, and tentacled turtle-worm piss still saturated the subterranean "dungeon."

Nix scouted ahead, and soon found clowns.  Nix had always seen night-clowns as rather pathetic, cringe-inducing folk (which would soon be ironic - keep reading).  This trio of clowns were reenacting scenes from a movie whose poster was up on a cave wall - Police Academy 2.  I liked the visual of a clown putting on a martial arts style headband that was actually a skinny balloon and miming the poorly-dubbed language of kung-fu films.

Instead of killing them, Nix got the information he needed and let them be - the location of laser-sword, photon torpedo, and that they were being guarded by a tentacled clown-worm.  

The rest of the party moved around to find another virtual reality game like the one they used originally to enter Cha'alt.  This one was called Metebelis-3 and the promotional sticker-posters on the game showed blue light, a spider leg, and terrified humans.  Ta'anzo the spider familiar tried it, and then Drogon and Gorra decided to strap themselves in as well.  

They appeared on an alien world, got some weapons, and Gorra attacked his fellow humans as giant demon flying spiders swooped down to attack everyone.  Drogon wanted to test out the limits of the game by jumping onto a swooping spider while trying to mount it, sexually.  It looked as if he might be successful as the Metebelis-3 game lost power due to low battery, and shut itself down.

Ta'anzo knew how excited his master, now way beyond arachnophilia, had gotten in the game (Juan Tufrifo called this "spooge sense") and offered to finish Drogon off.  The spider familiar took out a small bottle of zoth-based lube from his satchel (or possibly a built-in spider pouch due to an evolutionary quirk) and went to work.

"How are you going to clean up all that mess?" another member of the Crimson Bastards asked when he was finished.  That jogged (spider-jacked?) my memory - the PCs all had Tyrian purple sexkerchiefs from that A'agrybah noble who the PCs had helped a few sessions back.  So, the post-coital cleanup was easy enough.

Moving on, the PCs encountered a larger cave where 20 or so clowns circled a woman getting gangbanged.  She seemed to be enjoying it as the clown-slut took on a couple of dudes in the front while a third was behind her pulling out brightly colored scarves [note to self: next time, go with cream pie trick and/or banana in the tailpipe].  Tufrifo plied has trade as a scummy drug lord (acquiring lots of jellybeans, night-clown currency) as Nix's player wondered if I could possibly make this scene even sleazier, so he stimulated the SLEAZE card (Cha'alt X-Cards), and I'm ashamed to say it only took me a second or two to come up with the following.

Another clown took out a dozen or so candy-colored balloons, pressing each one up to the woman's vagina as she queefed enough air into the phallus-shaped balloons, inflating them to a size good enough for sticking into their clown bottoms.  As the PCs witnessed this utter depravity, they could hear a nearby clown humming 99 Queef Balloons (in the original German).  Dear Lord, what kind of degenerate filth game is this?!?  Lol.

Soon, the adventurers made their way to the southeast corner of the dungeon, passing a cage containing 4 humanoid prisoners who'd been captured by the night-clowns while they were sleeping and expected to be sold into slavery soon.  Not sure if they should free the prisoners now or later, they opted for now... cannon fodder and such.

Finally, they arrived at a massive cave that contained the tentacled clown-worm.  Drogon started things off with a fireball, but rolled a 2, and then opted for fuchsia burn since Gorra had a Divine Favor fuchsia stone from the previous session and Nix just earned his by stimulating the SLEAZE card.

60 whopping points of damage right off the bat.  Then, blasters and the crystalline warrior's laser-sword cutting a swath across the worm belly and eventually penetrating internal organs as juices of darkest periwinkle sprayed him and everyone else in the cave.

A couple of the humanoid prisoners were crushed to death, Gorra was minorly injured, but then just before the godlike creature expired, it critted on Nix, bringing him down to half his usual health, and requiring a saving throw.  He failed; then I remembered the new optional rule in Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer that allowed Advantage on saves if the player recounted a memory from his character's life, perhaps something relevant to the current situation, something that might give the PC inspiration or solace in his time of need?  "Like a flashback," another player replied.  Yes, exactly!

Wasn't long before Nix was reminded of the spawning pits where infants were dropped into the fiery domain by... the Great Old Ones or possibly Demon Lords (I was too busy writing to hear and remember all the details) and these babies had to crawl their way up to safety, which meant that only the fittest would survive, thus ensuring the strength of their species.

Apparently, this was something that the player had in his mind for awhile but just hadn't articulated until now.  And it might never have seen the light of day (or dark of night) if not for that new optional rule.  So, I gave him 2 more chances to succeed in his saving throw (Nix should have joined in on the gangbang, I guess), but never made it to that hard to reach 17+ threshold as a 3rd level character.

That meant he was becoming a clown himself!  By the battle's end, Nix was powdering his nose and craving jellybeans. 

In that last cave was a large stone altar where the 4-foot long by 1-foot across photon torpedo rested (a transparent aluminum window allowed one to see the orange photon energy going every-which-way inside.  On a stone pedestal was the hilt of a laser-sword.  And at the back wall of this cavern hung a neon banana sign.  One player misheard and thought the laser-sword was banana-shaped... I loved that idea, so we went with it.  Tufrifo took the neon banana sign down off the wall and was about to put it in his knapsack when its radiant energy burst - turning everyone in the area into banana-men.

By this time of the game, Gorra's player had to get changed for work and people were picking-up their dice, going to the bathroom, etc.  So, I don't think everyone heard or knew what was happening.  Usually, for significant events I make sure that everyone is present at the table and paying attention when I describe those sorts of things.  

However, I thought it was more appropriate for this to be a more private moment focusing on Tufrifo and his reaction.  If this were the final moments of a TV show, after the initial credits there's sometimes an extra minute of post-climax story that happens before the episode concludes.  And I could imagine the inadvertent actions of one character affecting everyone in dramatic fashion, without the others even being aware of what happened... and the curtain closes.

That it.  Thanks for reading.  There is no campaign like a Cha'alt campaign.  Next session is already this coming Saturday because I'll be busy with family stuff the following Saturday, and the Saturday after that I'll be running games at Gary Con!



p.s. Why should we have all the fun?  Get your hardcover Cha'alt trilogy now!  And game with us this July in Madison, WI because it's VENGER CON III, motherfucker!