Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gamma Turquoise PDF live!


I've said it a dozen times already, but will say it again to those awesome folks who backed the Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport Kickstarter - Thank you!!!

So, what's it all about?  Earth barely survived nuclear bombardment decades ago.  The southwest is one of the few areas that wasn't totally decimated, but it's still a weird and dangerous place.  There's trouble at the Santa Fe Starport... and this trouble is a many-headed beast!

Well, the scenario with a side-order of campaign setting turned out much longer and even more gorgeous than I originally intended.  +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) had everything to do with the latter.  Regarding the former, so much went into this fucker that I'm 111 shades of exhausted.  Wanted to get it out there before my birthday on November 25th.  So, now I can rest for a few days before starting new stuff.

The PDF is right over here. 

Enjoy and have a turquoise turkey day from all of us at Kort'thalis Publishing,

VS


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sexual Misconduct Jumped the Shark


FYI, this is a personal rant, as well as, an open letter to Leeann Tweeden and Al Franken.

While I think it's productive, even healing, to get all the sexual misconduct allegations out into the internet aether, there comes a point where "me too" degenerates into "might as well pile on because... not trending."

That low point sadly came today when Leeann Tweeden alleged that Senator Al Franken forcibly kissed her and groped her breasts.  The following are random thoughts I had about this news story...

  • Tweeden mentioned that seeing the picture of her and Franken (just after it was taken, presumably) brought up new feelings of shame.  I wonder how she feels now that potentially millions of new people (like myself) are seeing it for the first time?
  • You can clearly see space between Franken's hands and her breasts.  He's obviously pretending to touch her boobs - and the face he's making, looking back at the person taking the photo - is the obvious giveaway.  Plus, actually groping her would have woken her up.  And she admitted to not realizing what had happened until she saw the photo after the fact.
  • A colleague kissing you (or attempting to kiss you) is not assault, and I'm not even sure it falls into misconduct territory.  The way she describes it, "forcing his tongue in my mouth" makes it seem scandalously sinister... as opposed to letting his tongue just lie there and waiting for the grace of Dread Cthulhu to move it around for him?  Human beings take action.  We do things.  Force is exerted so we can walk and talk.  That's how the universe works.
  • If you don't like something, say so at the time.  I realize that people freeze up, get confused, or don't know how to react in the moment.  Then make your thoughts known the next day or the day after that.  Waiting 11 years to publicly denounce a fellow entertainer for hitting on you and taking a humorous photo is petty, attention whore, butt hurt, weak sauce.  Yes, it's at your expense - you're a human who fell asleep not in your bed and someone took a picture that playfully ridiculed you - get over it.  No one is above being made fun of.
  • Obviously, our fellow human beings should be treated with respect.  Yet, everyone has to acknowledge that those same human beings are also potential sex partners.  We all have naked bodies, genitals, boobs, butts, etc. underneath our work attire.  I guarantee you that if men suddenly regarded the women around them as purely non-sexual beings, women would complain even more than they do now (if that's even possible).  Not to mention that the human race would eventually die out from lack of boning.  
  • Leeann, your non-story actually detracts from the real stories of men and women who are coming forward with serious allegations.  What's next?  Some guy on the other side of the TV leered at your breasts while you were hosting Poker After Dark?  Yes, that was me.  And millions of other men.  But today... today, I don't want to see your beasts in a revealing outfit.  Today, I don't want to even think about your breasts.  Today, I don't want to imagine Al Franken almost doing something that I've thought about doing a thousand times in my 42 years on this planet (squeeze your breasts).  Today, I just want to finish writing this stupid blog post and forget about the day that sexual misconduct jumped the shark.
  • I remember two or three weeks of muted outrage just before the 2016 Presidential election with women coming out alleging sexual misconduct by Donald Trump, but WHERE THE FUCK WAS ALL THIS OUTRAGE BACK WHEN WE REALLY FUCKING NEEDED IT?!?  Because every day that Trump is still in office, America is only half the country it should be.
  • Satirical versions of both Leeann Tweeden and Al Franken will appear in my upcoming location-based, post-apocalyptic RPG adventure Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport (available sometime next week).  Besides blogging, writing social commentary science-fiction is a way for me to work through all the bullshit and injustice in this world.

Thanks for listening.  If you'd like to add to the discussion, please feel free to do so here.

VS

p.s.  Just a few seconds ago, I read that Leeann Tweeden is a Republican who once said in the men's magazine FHM that she wants to make Democrats pay.  Hmm...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Game Hole Con, part II of II


I sought out the Frog God Games booth in the dealer's room so I could catch up with the legendary dwarven barkeep and blogger +Erik Tenkar.  He generously gave me the new Swords & Wizardry Light folder containing lots of goodies.  We caught up on some of the latest OSR gossip and drama, his lovely wife snapped a photo, and then I was off to explore the rest of that cavernous chamber...

While purchasing the 2nd edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, I chatted with +Jeff Talanian, as I often do at Gary Con.  Browsing the new rulebook literally took me 10 minutes of turning pages, several pages at a time.  It's that fucking big!  $60 seemed a fair price.

Got some new dice (not that I needed any) because I'm a helpless dice addict just like many gamers.  Hey, it's an affliction with benefits - I get to roll the plastic bones while pretending I'm a fairy princess sorceress (violet-pink kind of a mist within clear dice), a loathsome Cthulhu cultist biding my time until the Great Old Ones return (who's pretending?) on account of them being several awesome shades of green, and a member of Team America:  America... Fuck yeah!  Three sets for $25.

Probably the best deal was the $20 Broodmother Skyfortress which I've been meaning to get for ages.  Will let you know what I think after I dive in, +Jeff Rients.  If you're coming to Gary Con in March, maybe you could sign it for me?

Had dinner with some friends at one of the outdoor food trucks.  It was some BBQ pork Asian dish, pretty good but the pork was so fatty that I could only enjoy half of it.

So, the Alpha Blue game!

Instead of scrambling for players like my 1st session (read about that near-epic fail here), I had a full table of 6 players.  A few knew of me and my RPG stuff, a few did not.

It was a satisfying adventure; although, 6 players is a lot when it comes to the non-combat pillar of roleplaying, namely interaction and exploration.  Everyone started out at a familiar club on the Alpha Blue space station brothel, being regaled by their mentor Spock-bacca.  Each PC got a little bit of "screen time" until the hook and then everyone journeyed to the desert planet of P'oon in order to meet their contact, Obi Wan'k, who told them about a shipment of blue crystal located at the local starport.

I got to break out +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal)'s latest map - the Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport.  It looked great!  I planned on using his Sidewinder desert transport map, as well, but the PCs went in a different direction.

There are so many details and highlights that I don't know where to begin - my favorite might be the player who was laughing so hard while describing his pimp negotiating a drug deal just before blowing them up with a thermal detonator that he felt the need to apologize to everyone.

The session ended a little early because the main boss at the end was struck with 3d6 and the dice came up all sixes.  And then he turned in a little blue token in order to double his dice pool.  So, 5d6 damage turned into 10d6 damage and he rolled a few sixes for damage (which explodes).  So, on the first round, the zith lord died.  What happened to his apprentices?  I was sort of in shock, but thought it made sense for them to basically surrender. This is a random table I came up with for just that situation (which also came up earlier in the Crimson Dragon Slayer scenario earlier in the day).

I find that con games include at least one GM.  I'm talking about gamers who GM most of the time in their home games.  This Alpha Blue session was no exception.  He was outspoken, proactive, playful, and respectful of the other players' "screen time," character motivations, agency, etc.  Since he GMs his own games, he knows what I know.  For those who don't regularly GM, I recommend Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.

I'm looking forward to next year.  Those I didn't get a chance to chat with, I'll be at Gary Con X this March!

VS

p.s.  Looking for part I?  Here it is.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Game Hole Con, part I of II


I had one day for this year's Game Hole Con because my wife's parents only had so much time to donate for childcare, and I have a thousand kids.

Signed up to run two games.  The first was Crimson Dragon Slayer exploring The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  The second was Alpha Blue.

Due to lack of players - a Game Hole Con email earlier in the week assured GMs that even if their games weren't full, convention goers will fill in the gaps with same-day registration and such.  Unfortunately, that was not the case for me...

Despite the great location I was given and full tables for my games at all but the very 1st year of Game Hole, I had only one player.  Before I forget, nice job on the curtained sections in Hall A, they did a lot regarding noise reduction!

So, +Tim Virnig and I hustled for a solid 20 minutes.  We separately went out and looked for gamers without anything to do.  I must have approached 30 or so people asking, "Hey, looking for a game?"  I got a half-dozen positive responses ranging from "Maybe" to "Yeah, I'll swing by after I'm done with ______."

I never saw any of those people again.  However, on my way to the bathroom, I ran into one of my fans who I chatted with earlier in the day and earlier in the year at Gary Con.  Running into him again, he was waiting in line for some 5e thing and told me he'd be over when he was done.

10 minutes later, it was the three of us.  5 minutes after that, a friend of Tim's sat down to play, as well.  And then 10 minute from that point, another guy I regularly game with dropped by the table to see how we were doing.  Since he and his friend were between games, they stayed to play until their next event.

So, narrowly avoiding that epic fail, we had a good time with the purple islands.  I asked each player if they wanted to create a character that was more fantasy or scifi since this was equal parts of both. I believe there was a single fantasy option.  The Alpha Blue characters (such as the aliens) were a lot more colorful than the reptilian warrior.

A few catchphrases were in the early development stage by the time we got to the end - which was the surviving natives of the islands (who had been blue crystal miners for the Mi-Go) escaping into a starship and taking off to the nearest planet.  No big boss battle.  Should have had the Purple Putrescence attack their ship at the end - that's my only regret of the day.  Well, that and ordering the BBQ pork asian meal from the food cart just outside the convention center.  The pork was decent, but extremely fatty.

Thus concludes part I.  Here is part II with more pictures!

VS

p.s.  Before the con started, I was inspired to create this little beauty!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Full Color Softcover Blood Dark Thirst


I just received and approved the "proof" copy of Blood Dark Thirst.  Not only is it softcover (which I've offered on most of my titles), but the interior is color.  Review of the PDF!!!

The thing is gorgeous, and now I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures when I had the chance this morning.  But to be fair, I was in a rush - these days I'm always in a rush what with a 6-year old, 4-year old, 2-year old, and twins who are almost a year old.  Plus, we're trying to build a house... yeah, the list goes on.  [See pics I just added below]

Anyways, CreateSpace discontinued their direct selling options - so this baby is available here from Amazon.com only.  However, I'm going to be ordering a lot of these very soon in anticipation of Gary Con in March.  So, there's an opportunity to get what I call the "gaming group bundles" so everyone can have the character creation info, rules, and whatnot in front of them while they play.

Small Gaming Group - you get 3 books, all signed with PDFs included* @ $40 (includes domestic, contiguous USA, media mail shipping)

Medium Gaming Group - you get 5 books, all signed with PDFs included* @ $60 (includes domestic, contiguous USA, media mail shipping)

Large Gaming Group - you get 7 books, all signed with PDFs included* @ $80 (includes domestic, contiguous USA, media mail shipping)

* If you've already purchased the PDF, you may choose a single (that means just one) non-Blood Dark Thirst PDF as a replacement

Payment via paypal.  Offer good until November 10th (I'll be ordering books on the 11th).  Delivery by Christmas.  Email me to get the ball rolling:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

Thanks,

VS

p.s.  I'll be at Game Hole Con all day tomorrow (Saturday 11/4/17).  Will have my proof copy of Blood Dark Thirst with me if you want to check it out in person.  You will drool over it - but don't drool blood... appropriate, but gross.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest Submissions!


This was an exhausting Halloween, but then what holiday isn't exhausting when you have 5 little devils to take care of? 

Even though I'm dead tired, the announcement must be made...

It's time to submit your adventure!  I'm ready (you can tell because of the picture accompanying this post).  Ok, I'm not ready, but tomorrow I will be.  Hopefully. 

Here's my email address:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com

Put "AWC: Submission" in the subject line or else I might miss it. 

That's all, folks.  Oh yeah, good luck!

VS


Monday, October 23, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst Character Sheet


Yep, we've got an official character sheet.

Hindsight being what it is, I should have included the character sheet from the get-go.  Anyways, it's here and Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design did an amazing job as usual.

All DriveThruRPG / RPGnow PDFs have been updated and if you bought the PDF prior to last night's change, the latest version should be available for you to download on their site.

But if you just want to snag it now, here is the bloody parchment version.  For the b/w version, you'll have to purchase the PDF.

Enjoy,

VS

p.s.  Yes, Glynn and I are currently working on a print version of Blood Dark Thirst... soft cover and full color!  Soon...


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frank Mentzer Scapegoat


For those who haven't heard, some woman on twitter called-out Frank "red box" Mentzer because of his politely flirtatious comments, continuing a conversation amidst the threat of being blocked, and because she didn't agree with him about some stuff.

It's easy to examine someone's social media statements and judge them.  It's even easier to single an individual out in an industry plagued by assholes on all sides (but especially the SJW / Ctrl-Left crowd who did their best to blacklist my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue) and make him out to be the Harvey Weinstein of the tabletop roleplaying game industry.

In fact, that would so simple!  All we have to do is point to this one guy whose unorthodox behavior is a bit suspect and project every problem we have (real or imagined) onto him... and then crucify the bastard!  Yeah, why not?  After all, we're not individuals anymore - we're part of the masses now.  Hey, it's almost Halloween - so why not throw out imagery about angry torch and pitchfork-wielding mobs trudging up to Frankenstein's castle?  Plus, the whole Weinstein / Frankenstein thing.  Yeah, it works.

I get that we want to stop predators, sexual harassment, and abuse.  But shouldn't we also be guarding the internet from self-appointed social media police, self-promoting victims, and everyone who jumps on the controversy-of-the-day bandwagon because it gives them a chance to spit-shine their good guy badge?

It's gotten so bad that even I thought twice about sticking up for what I believe in.  I'm sure this post is going to draw some heat, but Venger Satanis doesn't stay silent when innocent people are being destroyed.  Fuck that!

VS

Monday, October 16, 2017

Papa Murphy's Analogy


Actually, this isn't just for writing adventures - this goes for core RPGs, as well...

What I've been doing for the last couple years, and increasingly the last few months, is something I'm calling the Papa Murphy's analogy.  If you're not familiar with Papa Murphy's, this analogy sucks... but by the end of this post you'll understand what I'm getting at.

There are thousands of pizza places where you go in, they make the pizza, and you either sit down and eat it or take it home and eat it.  That's the way it is with the overwhelming majority of RPG products.  Everything is done for you.  There are no decisions left for the GM to make.

Considering all the grocery stores nearby, there are thousands of possible ingredients for you to purchase and make your own pizza at home.  Lots of people do this, but established pizza places are more popular.  You can find many examples of tool-based RPG products on DriveThru where everything is in pieces and it's all GM assembly prior to game time (or rolling and dealing with results in the moment).

What I'm currently into is something that almost no one does.  Like Papa Murphy's, I pre-make your pizza up to a certain degree (no pun intended... well, maybe), then you take it home and put the finishing touches on.

Ok, so the last step with a Papa Murphy's pizza is just cook it in your oven.  I give you practically everything you need to run the game.  All that's missing is your own creative juices and the overall performance.  You see, I purposefully leave gaps for you to fill in.

Not only do I believe in my gaming friends and customers (which means I know they can do it if they try), I don't want to rob them of those opportunities to create at the table... something that used to happen pretty much every session with old school RPGs like early Dungeons & Dragons, but not so much anymore.  Now, it's more popular (read: profitable) to do everything for the GM and his players (even if the designers are doing it wrong) and hold the GM's hands every step of the way.

Many gamers don't have the time, energy, or imagination to create an entire adventure, let alone a campaign, from scratch.  However, if you have the ability to run a scenario for a few hours, you should also have 30 minutes of prep time to put the finishing touches on yourself.  Let's face it, running my stuff might take an extra half-hour (assuming you don't want to improv everything in the moment), but other systems will keep you looking up unnecessary rules or digging for crucial details among endless paragraphs of pointless filler.  So, it's a wash.

Admittedly, my process may not be the best way to do things (while I can't remember the last time I made a pizza from scratch, I certainly order fully pre-made and pre-cooked pizzas far more often than take-and-bake from Papa Murphy's - but still love it when I get the chance); however, I choose to walk the path less traveled.  In a niche hobby/industry like this one, that's probably a wise move - especially since I love providing that 85% and watching gamers make up the remaining 15% on their own.

Just in case anybody thought I was pulling this out of my ass today, here's an old blog post about the 85/15 split.

Speaking of adventure writing, the end is nigh!  However, I believe there's still plenty of time to get cracking on your Adventure Writing Contest submissions!  Having trouble wrapping your head around it?  Let's take a look...

You've got approximately two weeks to write a 5 -7 page scenario...

  • Come up with your idea - hopefully, you already have one - and it's awesome!  If not, spend 24 hours coming up with an idea.
  • Spend a day drafting a workable outline that contains the necessary pieces and makes sense.  
  • Write it out!  This will probably take a full week.
  • Finalizing your adventure over the next few days before submitting it.
  • Rub as many of Dread Cthulhu's tentacles as possible, you know... for luck.

Considering the chance to win $500 and publication, I think it's worth busting your creative ass for the next couple weeks.  Can't wait to read what you guys send me!

VS


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst PDF is live!


Jesus Christ, that took awhile!

Rarely have I felt the need to put down something I was working on (several times, in fact!) in order to clear my head and hopefully glean a different perspective that would allow me to finish.  Blood Dark Thirst was such a project.

It started out as d10 dice pools just like V:tM.  I thought that's how it was going to end, but no - several fans of my work suggested I switch to the d6 dice pools I love so much.  And then there were many versions of the VSd6 version.

Suffice it to say, the shadow of V:tM loomed large over this project.  I was clearly inspired by the original and most popular be-the-vampire RPG, but didn't want to ape what they had done.  I wanted a game that had less meta-plot, less blood-tears because of inner-anguish, and less rule/setting bloat that went so far past their 1st edition, that it was like an entirely different game.

Blood Dark Thirst is my answer to the question:  Venger, if you were making your own vampire RPG in the vein of Alpha Blue, Crimson Dragon Slayer, and The Outer Presence, what would you come up with?

You can put a lot of yourself into the game.  It's pretty wide open in terms of setting and style.  While I furnish many small details, the big picture is only hinted at.  The rest is up to the GM and his players.

Anyway, I got it done by Halloween, and that's all I wanted (besides the fact that it also had to be awesome, or why the fuck publish it?).  +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) did his best work yet pimping out the lavish and blood-spattered interior of the PDF.  Along with many pieces of color artwork, the layout is truly amazing!

I'm going to be working on a character sheet and probably another adventure, too.  If Blood Dark Thirst is well-received, I'd love to give this the full-color treatment and get it in peoples' hands sometime in early 2018.

Hope you like it and can't wait to hear your opinions!  Thanks goes out to all those who took a look, tried it out, write their experiences, gave me advice, purchase the final product, and review Blood Dark Thirst.  You guys are awesome!!!

VS


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Galaxy Laser Team for Alpha Blue


So, a couple weeks ago I stumbled upon a picture of some brightly colored plastic space dudes, circa 1979.

I fondly remember owning a set or two of these as a kid.  Apparently, they're called "Galaxy Laser Team."

I bought a vintage set on ebay after realizing that this team could represent a starting crew of adventurers for my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue.  That is, until we get official miniatures!

My package has already arrived, I'm just waiting for a quiet moment where I can unbox them with my two oldest kids.

I'm going to come up with some basic concepts for each one, such as...


  • Female humanoid technician 
  • Alien bounty hunter
  • Human pilot and smuggler
  • Human mercenary
  • Droid pimp
  • Mutant con artist
  • Humanoid zedi
  • Human scientist and mutant

Does anyone else recall owning these?

VS

p.s.  I'll definitely have these guys on hand during my Alpha Blue demo games at both Game Hole Con and Gary Con.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An Unholy and Sleazy Alliance


Yesterday, John Popson from Effin Cool Miniatures swung by my office in downtown Madison, WI.

It was a pleasant visit, but we did more than just talk about RPGs and miniatures - the two of us signed a contract so Effin Cool Miniatures could make a line of miniatures for my scifi smut RPG Alpha Blue!

Eventually, there will be a Kickstarter run by John and he expects to have the actual miniatures at Gary Con this Spring.  I'll be there, too, hanging out and running games.

Very cool stuff.  I'm excited, and hope that you guys are, too.  When I have more details, I'll blog about them here.

Thanks,

VS

p.s.  Speaking of Kickstarters - yeah, Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport is still running!  Let's knock out a few of those stretch goals and make +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) earn his wretched keep!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Orville is a Retro-Clone


This isn't going to be a long blog post.

I've watched the first 3 episodes of the Seth MacFarlane created Star Trek homage (still haven't seen Discovery yet).  And that's just what The Orville is - an homage.  It's not a parody or spoof or comedic send-up of Star Trek.  It's a re-imagining, except a bit more lighthearted with occasional jokes.

In that way, The Orville is like a retro-clone.  Created to basically do what the original did, but in a slightly different way - some things are updated, sensibilities are tweaked, new adventures, etc.

I guess Star Trek has been around so long and has been so influential to televised scifi that they don't need an Open Game License.

It's not what I was expecting, but I think it's a good show and will continue to watch it.  I was hoping to see something silly, outrageous, and nostalgic with epic fail proportions.  Since this is 2017, I kind of thought American audiences were ready for scifi and sex, but we might have to wait another decade for that (at least we have pot brownies, tequila, and inter-species boxing).

So, I can't in good faith compare The Orville to Alpha Blue - which is what I was expecting to do just before the first episode aired.  They're totally different.  And that's cool.  Disappointing, but cool.  Whatever.

Until the world gets the episodic sleazy space opera comedy circa 1980 that it deserves, I'll leave you with some artwork that's much better than the actual movies.

Also, I launched a brand new Kickstarter for a post-apocalypse adventure / toolkit called Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport, and there's a stellar deal on all the Alpha Blue PDFs currently available!

In the meantime, enjoy what you enjoy and I'll see you in the outer limits of the erogenous zone!

VS

p.s.  I keep forgetting to mention my little automated demonstration of Alpha Blue online - create a character and go on a quick mission or two!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest (even more!!!)



Someone wrote to me about the upcoming Adventure Writing Contest I'm organizing to help promote my recent guidebook - Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.

Curious about my judging criteria for this $500 contest?  Here you go!

If you have a question about writing and submitting a scenario, please ask.  Same address as the one for submissions:  Venger.Satanis@yahoo.com


Hello Venger,

I'm definitely interested in your adventure writing contest.  I've several scenarios in mind, and I've bought and read through your adventure writing pdf.  I do like and appreciate the story DNA approaching the text but I think I'm missing out on something that makes me hesitate before I begin.  That being is that I'm unsure as to the structure.  What should a 5-7 page entry to you look like?  Should this be more of an outline looking document, or 7 pages of flavor text?  Should I include any unique game mechanics to the adventure besides narrative? 

I guess I'm asking about industry standards as well as your contest criteria.  I've always wanted to be a published GM and just don;t know how to start getting it out of my head and onto the page.

Much thanks,

-- Dungeon Dude
__________________________________


I know what's in my head when I think of a 5-7 page scenario.  However, that's not necessarily what I want.  I definitely like being pleasantly surprised.  In a way, the adventure will resemble the author/GM.  Roleplaying is a personal art form.  The ingredients are there, but everything comes from the people involved, the creators... the designer who wrote the scenario, the GM, and the players.  If you're writing and running an adventure you made, then two-thirds of that puzzle is coming from you.  If you only write the adventure, then one-third of it is yours.

But to answer your question of what is in my head, here's a basic outline that I'd start with if I were writing my own...

  • A single paragraph introducing yourself and/or the adventure you've written.  Give us a taste of what's in store...
  • No more than three paragraphs of story, background, and adventure set-up.
  • At least three scenes (each scene should take up between a half and a full page).
  • At least one moment that happens between scenes (this shouldn't take more than half a page to describe).
  • Provide anything special that goes along with the adventure wherever you think it should go (in order to help the GM).  I'm referring to a new race, new profession, starship details, random table, NPC write-up, magic item description, new spell, hover-tank movement rules, etc.
  • A paragraph or two that either provides an ending or concluding remarks containing ideas for what might come next.

In other words, it should not be 5-7 pages of "flavor text," unless flavor text includes compelling conflicts.  But I don't want to see many mechanics or lengthy stat blocks.  This is not an extended math problem, but an adventure!  

Nor should it resemble an outline.  An outline is basically giving the GM homework.  You want to do the GM's homework for him (that's why he's shelling out $ in the first place).  Don't constrict him with a railroad situation (anything where the text states that the players must do this or this definitely happens to the players no matter what they do).  You should also provide blank spaces for the GM (and occasionally the players) to fill in their own ideas.

Sometimes, you've got to write crappy stuff before you can write good stuff.  I had to get it out of my system, so maybe you do, too.  Start writing and keep writing!  Submit what turns out great and burn those bastards that will only embarrass you down the road (hello there, Empire of Satanis).

Good luck,

VS

Friday, September 15, 2017

Save Yourself From Hell


This blog post serves two purposes (ok, three).

The first is to tell you about my new Alpha Blue scenario Save Yourself From Hell.  Check out this totally awesome illustration by +Denis McCarthy.

The second is to inform y'all that I'm going on a family vacation starting tomorrow.  So, it'll be awhile before I'm in contact with anyone.

I had planned to launch a Kickstarter just before leaving, but sick kids and packing and trying to get SYFH out the door stymied me.  Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport will happen upon my return!  Along with a ton of other projects...

Thanks for everything,

VS


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Open Rebellion


I've been struggling against shit that chafes against my very being since I was a small child.

Today, there was a post on Tenkar's Tavern about +Frank Mentzer getting booted from the Dragonfoot forum.  You can read about it here.

My assessment?  Ideally, we would live in a meritocracy where the merits of creative effort would outweigh all other considerations.  That means artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc. would essentially be running the world.  That might sound insane to some, but oh well.  I've been called a madman many times over.

A popular RPG reviewer, Endzeitgeist, has been taking my titles to task for over a year.  I not only submit to it, but keep sending him PDFs to pick over like the masochist I appear to be.

It's not just a love of pain, though.  Often, feedback helps improve the work.  Normally, I'm grateful for his critique, even though his particular feedback rarely helps (we have differing design goals).  But I really can't beat the signal boost he provides.  However, today's rpg.net review of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss was simply too much for me to bear.

I've copy/pasted it here for posterity (here is the forum thread - with a response from Endzeitgeist - which I've also replied to)...

First, I'd like to get this out of the way - Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is also a primer for those looking to self-publish their scenarios.  Gamers love to share their work (and occasionally get paid for it).  This guide will help such enterprising adventure writers.  Is this the only book they need in the world to succeed in their goal?  Probably not, but I see published scenario after scenario after scenario that fails to live up to the baseline standards we should all strive for. 
My book serves a definite purpose.  It's needed.  Hundreds of scenarios a year would be improved by adhering to my advice.  Just because it leaves out things that might benefit those looking to get published by Pathfinder... I don't take that as a knock against my book.  If anything, Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is a manifesto against that kind of RPG corporatization.  The revolution starts now! 
Now, onto my primary grievance... 
I have to object to the "wasted my money" part of your review's number system (4/1), Endzeitgeist.   
Sure, if told about the basics of adventure writing, you might say "Yeah, I know all that."  However, that doesn't mean the material is totally redundant or useless or obvious to everyone but noobs.  Having everything in one place is valuable.  So is the material's presentation (examples, illustrations, way things are communicated, personal insight, and motivation).
Additionally, things that are important to you and your gaming style are not a priority for me.  For instance, a PDF filled with intricate Pathfinder-esque rules about spells having to do with wheat fields or feats related to a bard/shaman/canteen-boy would have no value to me (other than possible amusement/ridicule), though you might favor them with 5 stars.  That's almost inconceivable to me, but you can't argue about taste.  On the other hand, a guidebook about adventure writing is more or less universally valuable to gamers - GMs especially.  If any of the advice (regardless of whether the information was previously known to the reviewer) has merit, then I can't understand a "1" rating. 
Anyone plunking down $3, checking to see the page-count of 14, or reading the product's description should not be surprised that Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss is not an exhaustive treatise on every aspect of writing, designing, and self-publishing RPG adventures.  So, I'm not clear on why this title is being penalized for having a limited scope.   
Your review of Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss received higher marks in both categories, even though the titles are similar (though one is a guide for players and the other is a guide for writing adventures). 
And what about this line at the review's conclusion?  4 and 1 averaged together makes 2.5, unless my math is ever worse than I thought.   
[QUOTE]In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars[/QUOTE] 
Our stylistic, aesthetic, and philosophical differences keep us from seeing eye to eye on many things, Endzeitgeist, but I just don't understand what happened here.

___________

While I'm not part of the establishment, I also get short-changed by the flamboyant, self-aggrandizing RPG counter-culture that either ignores me, blatantly tries to tear my work down, or minimizes my contributions.

That's ok.  I have the third side.  Neither the empire nor rebellion (though if I had to pick a side, it would obviously be the rebels), but a man on his own - yeah, I'm the Boba Fett of the RPG universe.

Just as in my youth, I'm still struggling.  Down with RPG corporatization!  Hail the OSR!  Long live the revolution!

Thanks to all those who've been supporting, encouraging, and contributing to The Work.

Venger As'Nas Satanis
High Priest of Kort'thalis Publishing


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Delving Deeper Into Old School


Prompted by the possible acquisition of Star Frontier trademark(s) and/or intellectual property, there was a discussion on g+.  Particularly, I want to focus on the exchange between myself and +Pierre Savoie.

What this blog post is about is the slippery notion of "old school" which fits right in with the "old school renaissance" or OSR.  Indeed, we've all thought about, read about, or talked about what defines the OSR.  I've done it myself.

But if we go back to the origins of the OSR - old school itself... what do we find?  Clearly, there's a division.  Two separate camps that occasionally believe themselves one and the same.  The first I'll define as primordial; the second complex (I tried not to use any language bias, either praising or putting down the respective sides).

For examples, I'll go with Basic D&D for primordial and AD&D for complexity.  In the above linked Star Frontiers g+ thread, falling damage was mentioned as a possible litmus test for old school.  Ah, yes... but which old school are we talking about?

Ironically, the falling damage that seems the most "narrative" or "story-game" appears more old school to my eyes.  Is that because we've come full circle?  Have RPGs evolved so far into the future that we're nearly back at the beginning?

Yet, many gamers believe that sophisticated mechanisms and extensive rules make old school what it is.   There are certainly more examples of complex RPGs than AD&D.  Not being as familiar (I'll plainly admit, I'm not a fan of complexity in my RPGs), what other advantages does this style of old school have over simpler systems?

I liken this division (having a number of striking similarities) as the difference between old and new testament in the Bible.  We call early RPGs - such as 80's D&D - old school as if it's all the same.  However, in some ways, those two camps - primordial and complex - couldn't be further from each other.

Do they get at the same things but with different approaches?  Or do they each have completely separate goals?

VS


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst D6


I believe my unconscious mind deliberately held off on publishing Blood Dark Thirst because it knew something wasn't quite right.  I just realized it yesterday, which is why I'm making this official announcement.

Blood Dark Thirst (my upcoming vampire RPG) will use the VSd6 system just like Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, and The Outer Presence.  I'm going to start working on it soon, but until then... here are the basics.

  • Pick two things you do well, and one thing you suck at.  That takes the place of class, race, profession, ability scores, skills, etc.  I'm talking about defining characteristics like "tough" and "clever."  Let's say my character's weakness is "getting along with others."
  • The stuff you're good at, you'll roll 3d6.  The thing you're bad at gets 1d6.  All things being equal, everything else is 2d6.  However, if the GM decides a challenge is particularly difficult you subtract a d6 from your dice pool; and you add a d6 if it's easier than usual or you have some sort of edge.
  • Other characteristics will be addressed in the form of a questionnaire, such as "What is your character's look, sense of style, or visual aesthetic?" There's no formula for coming up with an answer, it's purposefully open-ended.
  • The following will be rated between 1 - 6 (instead of 1 - 10): Health, Willpower, Blood/Ichor, and Humanity.

I've got one or two things to finish up before I really dive into the revision, so expect a professional looking Blood Dark Thirst PDF available just before Halloween.

VS


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Adventure Writing Contest Criteria


Before August ends, I wanted to set down my own personal criteria for judging the Adventure Writing Contest!

The following is what I came up with (in no particular order)...


  • Genre emulation:  If I'm playing or running a sci-fi game, then I want to see, interact, and experience sci-fi type stuff.  Successfully emulating the genre you're writing for will surely deepen immersion - which is the primary goal of roleplaying games.
  • Non-standardization:  I don't want to see any +1 swords!  Show me something different, something special.  Attention to detail and a desire to make things weird will go along way towards giving your adventure the impression that it's not like any other.
  • Conflict:  As you've learned from Adventure Writing like a Fucking Boss, compelling conflicts are the building blocks of every scenario.  I want to see something juicy that draws PCs in and forces them to act - not because they feel they have to, but because they really, really want to!
  • Easy to use:  Make the GM's job fun and simple by providing what's needed.  Anything you can do to help the GM out - even if that's just you - will improve the scenario's performance once it hits the table.
  • Encounter variety:  You find monsters, they immediately attack.  You find bad guys, they immediately attack.  You explore an ancient tomb covered in green slime (cool), and immediately a lich-mummy attacks!  Nope.  I want all three pillars.  Not only that, but nuance and subtlety, as well.  This is a short scenario - no two combat-based encounters should be alike.  Same goes for exploration and character interaction.
  • Originality:  While it would be great to read something so strange that I've never seen it before, I'm not expecting that.  I merely want to see familiar things arranged in a new way so that there's some kind of surprise.  If you can't remember ever seeing a story element in an adventure, then it counts as original - even if you essentially ripped it off from a cult TV show or movie and combined it with something else familiar but slightly different.
  • Testing the limits:  We all know how these adventures are supposed to go.  The format is predictable.  That's generally a good thing.  However, every once in awhile, I want to read something that breaks the rules, that exceeds or confounds my expectations.  Testing the limits is always a risk, so use caution... but also don't be afraid to shock your audience from time to time.

Those are the seven things I'll be looking for in order to determine whose adventure is the best.  

Imagine that $500 in your hands.  Sure, it'll be sent via paypal, but you could always cash it out and flutter the green paper before you - make it rain!

Plus, think of the bragging rights - and eventual RPG writing opportunities that may open up before you...

Bring us infamy with your creative genius!  Help out your old pal Venger Satanis.  Kort'thalis Publishing needs gamers like yourself to keep the dread gates open!

I hope to read your submission this fall.  Start conceptualizing your adventure now!  Bring your A-game and wow the fuck out of me!  I know you can do it.  Good luck.  ;)

VS


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Battle For The Purple Islands PDF is live


Well in time for H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (he's in the adventure, after all), I proudly present the latest work in the Purple Islands franchise.  Oh yeah, this purple shit is getting real!

It's O5R compatible and fully illustrated - the art and layout is expensive, but so worth it.

Additionally, I planned on this scenario and jungle hexcrawl sandbox to combine The Planet of the Apes, The Dream Lands, Thundarr the Barbarian, Heavy Metal, Land of the Lost, and so many other things that inspire me.

Get your Battle For The Purple Islands PDF here from DriveThruRPG.

Thanks to everyone for supporting me here, on Kickstarter, and other places in the universe.  I'm grateful for your continued awesomeness!

VS


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part III of III)


This is the final installment of my RPGaDay answers.  Hope you find them enlightening!

Here's part I and part II.


#18:  Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

That's got to be D&D because I ran and played so many weekly campaigns years ago.


#19:  Which RPG features the best writing?

I like Gary Gygax's writing style in some of those old D&D modules.


#20:  What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

Ebay.


#21:  Which RPG does the most with the least words?

I'm trying to think of the shortest and best RPG.  Whatever that is will probably have to be my answer, because it does the most with the least words.  Hmm, maybe WEG Star Wars D6?  Of course, it's easier to convey a lot when you have a trilogy of movies behind the work.


#22:  Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

Generic D&D because it's "whatever fantasy."  That means it borrows from everything and doesn't need to limit itself - aside from including a few basics, like magic, swords, monsters, etc.

With D&D, you don't need any kind of plot, story, or even a scenario.  Just go from tavern to dungeon and start exploring, interacting, and hacking/slashing away until you've found the loot.


#23:  Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I'm not really impressed with a game's layout.  Good layout is important, but I can't point to any book where I was just in awe of how the thing was laid out.


#24:  Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

I've no idea, sorry.


#25:  What is the best way to thank your GM?

I mention several things in Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  How about words of praise like "Fire & Fury?"  If our country gets nuked by North Korea, then I apologize in advance.


#26:  Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I like later editions to old school games because they usually include vital supplements and essential sourcebooks that improve upon the core text by itself.  I'm thinking of Toon: the Cartoon RPG, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, etc.


#27:  What are your essential tools for good gaming?

If I was to go to an RPG convention and asked to run some kind of sleazy pulp science-fantasy RPG (which happens from time to time), I'd take the following 7 books with me: How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss, Alpha Blue, Universal Exploits, Girls Gone Rogue, Swords & Wizardry, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and whatever Monster Manual was nearest to me.


#28:  What film/series is the biggest source of quotes for your group?

That's a great question, but I can't come up with anything.  Which is weird because I feel like we joke around and laugh quite a bit during our sessions.  Awesome and funny lines are said, but sometimes they're original and other times they're from disparate sources.


#29:  What has been the best-run Kickstarter you have backed?

I haven't backed that many.  Maximum Mayhem and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea are two that I've been pleased with.

Surprisingly, my very first Kickstarter campaign, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence actually made the most money, but only a few dollars.


#30:  What is an RPG genre mash-up you would most like to see?

Late 60's / 70's gothic exploitation vampire camp, The Vampire Happening meets Dracula: 1972 A.D.  That's a genre mash-up I haven't seen yet.  If not that, then maybe Shadowrun meets some kind of post-apocalyptic after-the-bomb mutant wasteland.


#31:  What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

Self-publishing some weird and wild stuff!  I've got lots of ideas.  Things I've already talked about and some things that will be a complete surprise (to me, as well).

______

Well, that's it.  Thanks for joining me during this 3 part Q&A.

VS

p.s.  I had that exact Dracula poster on my bedroom wall after college. Mmm...


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part II of III)


Here's part I of my RPGaDay answers.  Let's get to some more questions, shall we?

#7:  What was your most impactful RPG session?

I've had RPG sessions that were so bad that it forever changed how I approached the hobby.  Some games were too boring, others too difficult, many too complex, a few that were too stingy.  I've talked about many of these experiences before.

One that I've never mentioned happened just 2 or 3 years ago.  Not sure why, but I was interested in joining a D&D game as a player.  There was one I had heard about in my home town and even knew one of the players.  Looking back, I can't remember if it was D&D or Pathfinder.  I was coming into the middle of this "adventure path" type campaign.  The entire session was getting from A to B and encountering a few things along the way.  Most of it was combat and everyone had this specific role, including my character - a wizard.  We were mid to high level and I just kept lobbing fireballs.  While it was mildly exciting being in combat, the entire thing just left me wanting.  So, I never went back.

Also, the game took place in this guy's cold, unfinished basement that smelled weird with boxes of kitty-litter everywhere and cats with dried dingleberries on their bottoms constantly roaming around. Oh, and we were seated on metal folding chairs that were super uncomfortable.  Are you surprised I never returned?

These days, I've got to play somewhere decent and always try to give players something for their characters to do besides these ubiquitous robo-battles that could easily be handled with some kind of RPG autopilot or computer program.

#8:  What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

Personally, I think both dungeoncrawl fantasy and investigative sessions are best when there's at least 3 hours to play.

What works best for shorter sessions, in my opinion, are RPGs that focus on interaction.  These also take the most out of a GM, so it's probably a good thing that they're usually shorter.

Over the past year, I've run about a dozen 60 - 90 minute sessions of Alpha Blue on Roll20 and while they felt short, it seemed like quite a bit was accomplished.  You go somewhere new, talk to some people, get in some trouble, have a short combat encounter, and get laid.  Boom!  Done.  In, out, and put the kettle on.

#9:  What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

Pretty much anything.  If you're not doing a one-shot, I think somewhere around 10 sessions is just about ideal for any campaign.  But then I prefer shorter campaigns.

#10:  Where do you go for RPG reviews?

RPG.net, TheRPGsite.com, Endzeitgeist, Ten-Foot Pole, Tenkar's Tavern, and Swords & Stitchery.

#11:  Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn?

Encounter Critical or 1st edition Vampire: the Masquerade.  Basically, all I would be interested in are adventures.  The former just needs more official content while the latter quickly jumped into meta-plot and option bloat.

Although, if the game exists, it's not dead.  Sometimes, a company can kill an RPG by over-supplementing it.  Like a really great movie, sometimes sequel after sequel dilutes its awesomeness.

#12:  Which RPG has the most inspiring interior artwork?

Dungeon Crawl Classics is probably the best black and white interior artwork RPG I can think of.  I was going to also pick out one with color artwork, but I'm drawing a complete fucking blank!

#13:  Describe a game experience that changed how you play?

I'm trying to remember the first time (or just a vivid early memory) of using random tables during an adventure to improvise some detail about the adventure.  I must have been exposed to random tables early on and loved them because that's the thing I'm probably best known for.

Hmm, besides rumors and wandering monsters, I can't come up with a damned thing.  Too bad, that would have made for an interesting anecdote.  [Edit: ok, I took a short walk before posting this and came up with something.]

I used one of the introductory adventures in the back of Call of Cthulhu 4th edition multiple times - especially when I wanted to introduce new people to the game.  I dimly recall a d6 table for what happens when someone touches or activates this strange cube found below the house.  Back then, it struck me that rolling on the table would send the rest of that adventure into entirely divergent narrative threads.  And it did... forcing me, as Keeper of Arcane Lore, to go with the flow.  Controlled chaos!

#14:  Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Most campaign play should be open-ended.  The only type of RPG campaign I can think of that isn't open-ended is an investigation that keeps going and going, leading deeper and deeper into the heart of a singular mystery.

#15:  Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

If by adapting, you mean "changing," then I'd have to say D&D.  There are so many rules and so many editions and partial editions or versions of the rules, plus all the retro-clones and retro-compatible RPGs that it begs to be adapted... molded to suit each individual table.  In 2017, no two D&D games are exactly alike.

#16:  Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

The RPG I've adapted/changed/house-ruled the least might be Call of Cthulhu.  Turning everything into a percentage role is so easy to use that it's almost a shame.  I'm a firm believer that house-rules should organically occur during play - it means you're group is interacting with game instead of merely adhering to its rules.

#17:  Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

There are a few RPGs I acquired in the late 80's / early 90's that looked promising but for one reason or another, we never ended up actually playing.  Here's a brief list...

  • DC Heroes RPG - too complex.
  • Kult - lack of accessible entry point, but love the vibe.  
  • Skyrealms of Jorune - what are you supposed to do in the game - try to become a citizen?  Uh, no thanks.
  • Cyberspace - I'm not sure why I never tried to run this.  From what I remember, it wasn't overly complex, though it did have a lot of numbers.  Maybe lack of an introductory scenario?

________

Ok, I'll try to get the final installment of my #RPGaDay Q&A posted tomorrow.

VS


Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 (part I of III)


Whether or not these lists have value in today's RPG blog-o-sphere, I'm going to answer as many as I can over the course of three days.

Why three days?  I don't want to tie up my precious blogging space with random questions for each day of this month (and I'm a bit late to the party).

#1:  What published RPG do I wish I was playing right now?

Assuming this is going to be a one-shot and assuming that I'll be playing as a player (rather than my usual position as GM), I'd love to play one of my own RPGs (Crimson Dragon Slayer, Alpha Blue, or The Outer Presence).  To this day, I've never been a player in the aforementioned RPGs.  I'm sure it'll happen soon, though.

But if that wasn't a possibility, then something fun, oddball, and awesomely ridiculous like Encounter Critical.

#2:  What is an RPG you would like to see published?

Hasn't everything been published already?  Just to see how far I could get (didn't really expect much), I contacted ABC to see what they wanted for the license to make an official RPG for Lost.  They never emailed me back, unfortunately.  So, I guess Lost might be my answer.

#3:  How do you find out about new RPGs?

Through blogs and the occasional forum thread.  DriveThruRPG makes it easy to see what's new or what one might like based on similar purchases.

#4:  Which RPG have you played the most since August, 2016?

I think that would have to be Alpha Blue.  I've been running a lot of demos on Roll20 and ran 3 or 4 sessions at Gary Con IX.  Plus, the odd home game.

#5:  Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

Which game?  My favorite cover is the Tom Moldvay magenta box with Erol Otus art.  A close second is the AD&D Player's Handbook.  I've seen a lot of cool answers that other people have given, and agree with many of them - 2nd edition Paranoia, 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition...

#6:  You can game everyday for a week.  Describe what you'd do!

I'd either have to envision this as the mother of all RPG conventions or traveling back in time - before a career, wife, and 5 kids.

While I like hopping from one game to another, sampling this and that, there's something deeply satisfying about sticking to a particular game for consecutive days/nights.  I have fond memories playing Vampire: the Masquerade, D&D, WEG D6 Star Wars, and Call of Cthulhu day after day or night after night in the summer with friends in the early 90's.

So, I'd probably run something simple and spontaneous where I never seem to lack for ideas - Alpha Blue.  It's my sleazy go-to baby for when I don't have anything prepared.

If I had to choose something that I didn't write, it would probably be Masks of Nyarlathotep.  If I worked at it, I think we could get through the whole thing in 7 days, assuming 5 - 6 hours per day.

BTW, just saw the PDF for the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion.  Awesome cover!  Sure, it's over 700 pages (hmm... they can't all be winners with that much content, am I right?) but $47.50 for the PDF?  Damn, that's expensive.  I mean, it's more than double the cost of the actual Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign!  Doesn't that kind of price gouging encourage gamers to pirate the digital content?
_______

Ok, the next 9 or 10 questions tomorrow and the final installment on Wednesday!

VS

p.s.  Only 3 days left to back the Battle For The Purple Islands Kickstarter.