Thursday, April 27, 2017

Let's play some Q'uay-Q'uar!


What started as a passing thought - wouldn't it be cool to have a totally made-up "space casino" game for gamblers in my sleazy scifi RPG Alpha Blue - has now become a reality.

It's called Q'uay-Q'uar; translated, it means "purple and yellow" in the Q'tari language.  Some play for fun, others for cold hard credits, and for a rare few... it's the difference between life and death.

Not totally happy with how it played (or looked) in the prototype stage, I asked +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal) to create an awesome looking board, and then I made up the rules to go with what he put in front of me.  It was a bit of a challenge, but I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

Q'uay-Q'uar will be available with the upcoming Alpha Blue scenario High Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar landing June 1st.

Below is a video of my eldest daughter and I playing a quick game.  We played quite a bit over the last couple days - my next eldest daughter, as well.  There's a surprising amount of latitude for such a simplistic diversion.




Thanks for reading and watching,

VS


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rule Zero: Final Arbiter


I stirred up quite a bit of dust... and some mud, apparently, in last week's blog post about fudging.  That's ok, just means there was something there and some of it was wet.

Rule zero is related to "fudging," or occasionally nudging reality in certain directions (also known as magic).  If the ability to question and interpret results as the GM sees fit is the gun, then rule zero is the ammunition.

The dice are my co-pilots.  I like to have them around - I find them useful.  However, they don't own me.  Similarly, I can't GM without players; they are necessary.  But I won't be their bitch because I'm the fucking boss!  At the same time, players shouldn't be expected to bend the knee every time the GM opens his mouth.

Before we get into this article, what is rule zero?  From scouring the internet and being involved in the roleplaying hobby for 32 years, I believe it's a combination of the following three principles...


  • The Game Master is the final and absolute authority when it comes to running the game.
  • Roleplaying games are entertainment.  Your goal as a group is to make sure you have as much fun as possible.
  • The rules of any roleplaying game are simply the best guidelines the author(s) could come up with.  You bought the book, so it's your game now.  If you don't like a particular rule, change it.


Now, a few people don't cotton to the above.  They find it to be an affront to player liberties, fair play, game designer accountability, the concreteness of in-game reality, and probably a bunch of other stuff.

As you probably guessed, I'm with the majority on rule zero.  It's not only a good thing, it's required if one desires to consistently run good sessions.

Let's look at the first one.  The boss has to be given the opportunity to be the boss.  Whoever's in charge, he's got to have the authority to do what needs to be done, and is considered to be "the final arbiter of the rules," as Gary Gygax wrote.

To me, it would be like managing a store with the store's employees on equal footing, dictating store policy to the manager.  That's about as helpful to the manager as having the store's owner constantly over his shoulder, telling the manager what he can and can't do with his store.

Game Mastering is a lot of work.  It takes time, energy, and skill.  Granted, not everyone is awesome at it, but that doesn't mean that all GMs must submit to a particular style, constant debate, or decisions brought before some kind of player council and possibly overruled.  Personally, I will not run the game if I'm forced to GM a certain way - unless you're paying me, and even then, I can't say for sure.

Obviously, if the GM is either a total asshole or on a massive power trip, he doesn't deserve great players.  Flagrant abuse should not be tolerated.  You'll know it when you see it - the GM has to invoke rule zero several times per session, every session either because there's no consistency whatsoever or he has absolutely no interest in allowing the game to evolve organically.  Plus, you know, ego-maniacal jerk wad.

When it comes to house-rules, rule zero is not an excuse for game designers to be lazy or for a game's audience to accept a faulty system.  On the other hand, no RPG book is ever perfect enough to accommodate 100% of those using it to play the game.  Altered rules aren't an admission that a game is broken or the table isn't capable of understanding the designer's intent.

In fact, RPGs were made to change over time, to suit the idiosyncrasies and whims of those playing them.  The way an RPG is played depends on a dozen factors, and their open-ended nature is the best feature.  As a frequent GM, I like to be surprised, too.  And I like to surprise myself, the players, and those fucking dice.  That's why I allow myself the possibility for ignoring the dice.  Nothing is off the table.

Don't like how your GM is running the game?  Run your own game.  That's how many of us got started.  If you want to be hamstrung with red tape, bureaucracy, demanding players, and a lot of armchair theorizing on what constitutes acceptable GMing protocol, then by all means.  Have at it, hoss!

If you've got something more to say about "fudging," do it on the other blog post.  If you want to discuss rule zero, go right ahead.

VS



Monday, April 17, 2017

Alpha Blue Campaign Manager


Remember when I was talking about keeping track of all those scifi references?

This here is a sheet of incredibly fancy paper that you can print out and take notes on.

Collect data regarding your campaign's name, key locations, prominent NPCs, influences and details... all that fun stuff!

It's FREE, so go ahead and download it from DriveThruRPG / RPGNow.

The "Alpha Blue Campaign Manager" will also be included in the upcoming scenario High Stakes Q'uay Q'uar, but now's your chance to get it early.

Have a good week,

VS


Thursday, April 13, 2017

There's No Such Thing as Fudging


From time to time, I read articles, blog posts, and forum discussions on the topic of "fudging."

In RPGs, fudging is when you alter an outcome that has already been determined by the dice rolled.

Just yesterday, I read another post about this particular practice.  Not only did the "feel bad about yourself" thing make me wince (don't ever feel bad about yourself when gaming), but I disagreed with the basic premise behind fudging.

I mean, fudge is supposed to be delicious.  You can combine it with nuts (as shown), peanut butter, and all kinds of yummy stuff.  So, if you want to keep referring to it as "fudging," then let it a positive thing, a force for good in the universe.

If I actually bothered to put people into circles, I'd put +Zak Sabbath in the same circle as RPGpundit aka +Kasimir Urbanski - people who I respect for their many contributions in the RPG industry, but radically diverge from their opinions on various subjects.  I have a lot in common with both, yet in many ways we're extremely different.

Anyways, this article is my own interpretation of fudging - that there's actually no such thing.  FYI, you can dive even deeper into my philosophy with How To Game Master Like A Fucking Boss and Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss.  Enjoy!

Nudge, Not Fudge


Like most gamers, I frequently use the result of dice rolls to gauge what occurs in a session that I'm running.  Dice are a very useful and obvious way to find out what's happening.  It's expected.  The players look to the GM and the GM looks to the dice.  Everyone wants to know - does that guy hit, does the other guy miss, will the trap take your character's hand off?

The dice are like an oracle.  They know things.  They even have the benefit of know things that I don't.  The dice reveal, inspire, obscure, and resolve.  In some ways, they are the Game Master's greatest assistant.  And yet, the dice occasionally fall short.  After all, even oracles make mistakes... usually, because they don't know the full story.

If I choose to, I'm perfectly happy allowing the dice to determine pretty much all the randomness within a game.  I liken it to putting a ship on autopilot.  Autopilot is capable of handling the normal procedures of take-off, landing, and getting from here to there.  Unless there's an issue, autopilot - or the dice, in this analogy - are just fine adjudicating all the important decisions.

If there's an asteroid field in the way, I'm not just going to sit idly by and let the ship's autopilot muddle through as best it can.  No, I'm going to grab the wheel and steer, maneuvering in whatever manner I see fit.  I believe that's what Game Mastering is all about.

Similarly, issues crops up throughout a campaign.  Maybe it's a problem with continuity, realism, story, pacing, etc.  The last three encounters all turned into fights for various reasons, and I roll the dice, coming up with a negative reaction roll.  Is it going to be yet another battle to the death?  Well, that's for me to decide, ultimately.  Same goes with little things in combat - when the dice are supposed to matter most... and they do.  Nevertheless, I have the final say.  The ogre may have too many hit points, those orcs might have too few, Percival misses his saving throw by one, and so on...

That's when I decide to intervene, putting my oar in the water... to shape the game's reality because it's going to make the game better or more in-tune with my personal vision.  Let me be clear, my unorthodox interpretation or undue influence (depending on your view) is not always to the players' advantage.  Sometimes, it goes against them.  I strike a balance between the two, when possible, nudging the narrative in certain directions.  Again, that's my prerogative as Game Master.

Amidst the aftermath, if the game was ho-hum and the players didn't have fun, I'm not going to sit there behind the screen and blame the dice.  Nope, if the game sucks, it's the Game Master's fault.  Even if it's not really his fault, that's the impression.  The buck stops here!

VS



Friday, April 7, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: The Nuts on Zeta Minor


Want to make things happen?  Start small, do what you do (which is hopefully what you love), and keep at it, little by little.  Sustained effort.

That's how you build an audience, a player pool, a long-term campaign...

So, I ran five players through another 90 minute Alpha Blue session on Roll20.  To give you some idea, I've run probably a dozen sessions on Roll20, all Alpha Blue.  Once I had a single player and once I had three, the rest were all two-player games.

There's no way I can transcribe the chat log faithfully without it taking me hours and hours, so I'm just going to summarize, showcase bits here and there - the highlights!

The cast of characters...

  • Miles Artemis (male) - human telepathic space pirate
  • Dask Jorana (male) - human space pirate and mutant with ice powers and a love of brains (eating them)
  • Saga Vortau (female) - human performer and prostitute who wants to be famous
  • Lexina (female) - human gambler and mutant with snake DNA
  • Katya Vosdil (female) - human medic who gets lucky when she needs it

Opening Crawl


All of you were contacted by a temp agency calling itself Universal Exploits.  They need a few expendable spacers to investigate troubles on the planet Zeta Minor.  Universal Exploits doesn't believe in specifics and they pay triple for dead teammates... that's all you need to know.

You're currently flying in a starship called The Nuts on route to Zeta Minor.  

It's going to take a couple hours before you're in planetary orbit.


Settling In & Small Talk


Dask:  Who is piloting The Nuts?

GM:  It's on autopilot.

Lexina:  Do we have a holo-deck or some entertainment center?

Katya:  I will be in whatever passes for a lounge on the ship, checking medical kit and making sure no one is a cop.

Miles:  I'll be greeting my fellow companions while drinking from my flask and offering a swig to each one I greet.

GM:  There is entertainment aboard The Nuts.  Three-dimensional chess, miniature holographic creature battles, and your own private lounge called Moonglow & Stardust (it came with the ship when you bought it).

The ship came with its own droid, too.  He looks like C3-PO, except he's shiny and sparkly blue.  The droid is unpacking a crate in the lounge, something he found in the cargo hold.  "One of Captain Urez's leftovers from his tour of duty in the clone war."

Saga:  I'm going over to take a closer look at the contents.

GM:  There's a thousand little styrofoam peanuts all over the place; underneath is some kind of sexbot.


Proximity Warning


The Nuts' crew talks amongst themselves about the sexbot, gambling debts, seeking adventure, and Zeta Minor (it's rich in blue crystal) when suddenly the ship is on alert - something approaches!

It's a klingon warship.

Since Lexina speaks Klingon, she does her best to persuade the klingons to back off.  Nope, they want to board The Nuts and make sure the crew is who they say they are (on a mission from some high-up klingon that Lexina remembers hearing about).

Long story short, The Nuts tries to get the hell out of there - but not before Lexina grabs the weapon controls and starts firing.  She rolls a 19 on the ship-to-ship combat table found in Girls Gone Rogue.  The klingon ship is heavily damaged and the crew are dead.  

Time to loot the warship!  Just as they find some nifty body armor, small noises are heard.  Something is rummaging around the debris.  Face huggers!

Almost all of the alien organisms are destroyed, but one hugs onto Dask's face.  Everyone who went aboard the klingon ship races back to The Nuts, which promptly lands on Zeta Minor.


Planet-Fall


Miles lands their ship, but his controls are jammed with raspberry.  A couple of rough looking spacers are coming up the landing gantry with laser rifles.  They want everyone out so they can steal the ship.

Meanwhile, the face hugger has fallen off Dask's face and his stomach isn't feeling too good.  What bursts out is, in fact, space herpes!  Dask just barely makes his saving throw, which means he survives but is unconscious for awhile.

There's a shootout with the spacers trying to steal The Nuts.  Katya deals out the most damage, eventually killing the space thieves.  

_________

That's about it.  Hope you enjoyed reading about the latest adventure in deep space!

There's a fine line between moving onto the next scene and wanting to preserve those little moments where characters are interacting with each other and the world.  

Squeeze too much and you're wasting time on spent fruit... squeeze too little and you may be throwing away the best parts.  Finding that balance is key.

VS

p.s.  Just lowered the price on Alpha Blue softcovers - fancy, thick cream-colored paper.  But it here for a better deal!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Alpha Blue session report: Five Times the Finger-Bang!


Earlier today, I ran yet another Alpha Blue shorty on Roll20.  Two recurring players - C├ędric P and Patrick H.

Patrick played his usual character Miles Artemis, a human telepathic pirate. Cedric opted to roll up a new one.  This time a human mutant female gambler named Lexina with snake DNA, kangaroo pouch, and sickly (-4 to Health).  She's into Master/slave relationships, women's feet, and scruffy men.

Since Miles was returning, I rolled to see what his character had been up to since the last session.  He was cruising the outer rim for bi-sexual, nymphomaniac models, but didn't find any.

GM:  The two of you got paired up, randomly assigned by an interstellar employment agency called Universal Exploits.

Your mission is to locate the daughter of a highly placed politician.  Her last whereabouts are the space station brothel known as Alpha Blue.  If you bring her back to her father, you each will be paid 5,000 credits (minus Universal Exploits sub-contracting fee).

Miles:  Quite a large payday.

GM:  You just got into Alpha Blue this morning and are standing at the central terminal.  A scan of the daughter comes in.

Lexina:  She ran away or she was kidnapped?

GM:  You're not sure because there's no information about that in your file.

Lexina:  Ok, we need to start looking.  What are the main places of interest on the station?  There's a bar, I guess.

Miles:  I think there are two or three bars, if I recall.

GM:  Yes, there are several bars.  Miles is familiar with the Blue Oyster Lounge.

Lexina:  Ok, we can always start there.  But I am curious about exploring other locations.

GM:  You arrive at the Blue Oyster, look around, but don't see anything out of the ordinary.  The usual collection of spacers, aliens, and a few droids.  The human bartender asks what you'll have.

Miles, you have telepathy, so perhaps a mind scan would yield some results.  You can roll 2d6 if you want to try.  [He rolls and gets a result of 5... a success.]

You get a clear image of the woman you're looking for in your mind.  Her name is Jaspa.  You sense that she's nearby.

Miles:  I scratch my chin a bit, "I'm getting an image, her name is Jaspa and she's close by, but I can't pinpoint the spot."

Lexina:  I take a drink at the bar and I look around to see if there are any other rooms, like a private room or something.

GM:  The bartender looks at Miles and says, "Hey, what do you think you're doing?  You can't do that in here."  He points to a sign that reads, 'No mind-scanning on these premises!'

Miles:  I blink before laughing a bit, "Sorry, didn't know."

GM:  The bartender pours you today's special - Purple Prizm and space gin with a chunk of pineapple floating on top.

Lexina:  Delicious.  Since I had prior (bad) experiences with bounty hunters, I look around to see if I can spot any "bounty hunter" types.

GM:  "That'll be 5 credits, snake-girl."

Lexina:  "Here you go, handsssome."  I tip 2 creds.

GM:  The bartender takes your money and goes back to cleaning glasses.  "Thanks."

You see there are some back rooms, but they are off limits.  However, you also see several barthrooms in the back.

Miles:  I wait for her order to finish before asking the bartender for a drink.  "I like something a bit strong and bitter."

GM:  "You got it, hoss."  He pours Miles a Martian pineapple martini.  "That'll be 10 credits... cause it's a stronger drink."

Miles:  I hand over 15 credits, "Here yah go and a tip for the drink."

Lexina:  I prefer smoother ones because of my delicate reptilian nature.

GM:  In the corner of the lounge you see a klingon arguing with a short droid.

Lexina:  "Look Milesss... probably trouble... maybe he is alssso after the target."  I get closer to listen to their discussion.

GM:  You listen in.  They're arguing about politics.

Lexina:  Ok, I'm going to check the ladies room since Miles sensed her near.

Miles:  I'm going to sit at the bar with my drink, keeping my back to the bar top and watching the door for anyone leaving or coming.

GM:  Lexina sees a female in one of the stalls.  You doubt it's her because you can easily see her bilious-green tentacles under the stall door.

Miles sits with his drink and notices his shorter insect friend, Xyap'stee, walk by the lounge.

Lexina:  I ask her, "Have you seen my girl Jaspa?  Black hair with a white streak, mammalian."

Miles:  I call out to my short insect friend, raising a drink in his direction.

GM:  The woman opens the door so you can see her sitting on the toilet.  Her panties are around her ankles, but her legs are spread so you can watch her pee.  She says, "I don't know anyone by that name, honey."

Lexina:  "Ah, a shame... thanksss anyway, honey."  I check myself briefly in the mirror and leave the place (except, if I feel she is lying or something).

GM:  The insectoid greets you warmly, saying "My good friend.  Where have you been?  Hey, try this."  He has a glowing magenta powder in his palm.  "You rub it on your nipples.  That's how it works."

Lexina doesn't think she's lying.  Your reflection looks good.  You step out of the bathroom and see several more klingons at the bar.  You notice Miles just outside the lounge, talking to some short insect humanoid.

Miles:  I'm going to try it out for curiosity's sake, rubbing it on my nipples like Xyap'stee said.  "Been doing some work on a job right now.  Actually here to find a woman by the name Jaspa, some daughter of a politician."

Lexina:  Do the klingons seem to be in a good mood?

GM:  Miles, your entire body tingles moments after rubbing the luminous magenta powder on your nipples.

Xyap'stee says, "Lot of high-born ladies here in the leisure district.  Or maybe she's slumming it sexy in the red hologram district?"

Miles:  Would I know directions to both?

GM:  In your experience, Lexina, klingons are never in a good mood.  Today, they seem especially volatile.  There's some sort of revolt happening on a nearby planet.  Maybe a political revolution...

Lexina:  Ok, I keep my distance.

GM:  Both those districts are easy to find.  You can hop on the light-speed rail just down the corridor.
Lexina:  I get closer to Miles, "Maybe we can get outssside the bar to see if you can feelsss her presssence..."

GM:  Just as you're about to leave the lounge, Lexina, a klingon steps in front of you.  He says something to you in his native language.

Lexina:  Is telepathy forbidden in the entire station?

GM:  No, just this bar.

Miles, you're entire body feels numb... and like you can fly.

Lexina:  Ok, do I understand some words or his intentions?

GM:  Probably not.  Roll 1d6.  [Cedric rolls a 6.]

Miles:  "Hey, buddy, how long does this last?"  I enjoy the numb feeling.

GM:  You're actually fluent in klingon, but the klingon isn't expecting that.  Assuming you don't know what he's saying, he immediately repeats himself even louder, "Why don't you buy me a drink, serpentine bitch?"

Lexina:  (hehe)

GM:  The insect tells you it'll wear off in about an hour.

Lexina:  I smile and answer in klingon, "Ssssure, mighty warrior."

GM:  The klingon appears surprised and impressed.  He gestures for you to sit down as the bar with him.

Lexina:  I pay for his super strong drink and I take something soft, like a Purple Prizm.

GM:  The bartender pours both.

Xyap'stee says to Miles, "Look at that sleek droid.  Undoubtedly some kind of assassination model.  I used to have one like that... back when I was running guns on Zeta Minor."

Lexina:  I get close to the klingon, like snakes do.  "Things ssseems tenssse... there is a lot of rumorsss flying aroundsss..."

GM:  Meanwhile, the klingon puts his hand on Lexina's leg.  He moves it up until he's made his way to your crotch.

Miles:  "Assassination model all the way out here?  Wonder who he's after?"  I look to the droid, keeping a careful eye on it.

GM:  You clock the assassination droid.  It's black and shiny, holding a female prisoner.

The klingon is going to try and finger-bang you right at the bar, unless Lexina tries to stop him.

Miles:  I will stare at the prisoner, comparing her looks to the mental image of Jaspa, searching for similarities.

Lexina:  Will I receive Health for this or does it have to be full-on sex to get more HP?

GM:  If you get off, then it counts and you'll get temporary bonus Health.

Miles isn't sure in his current state of awareness, but he things the droid is walking with the girl he's looking for - Jaspa.

Lexina:  Ok, I try to get some intimacy.  "I got enough creds for a private lounge, fearsssome one..."

Miles:  I will walk to the bar, bumping my shoulder into Lexina and playing it off as numbness or being drunk as I whisper into her ear, "Found the girl."

GM:  "No need for that.  I'm good right here," the klingon says, continuing to feel you down there.  He works your snake-vagina into a froth until you cum.  "Second round's on me, baby."  [I roll 5 more Health for Lexina.]

Miles bumps into Lexina just after your orgasm.  You hear what he said.

Lexina:  Hmmm ssssss.

To the klingon:  "Do you know that droid?  He owes me something."  My hands get to his junk.

GM:  The klingon nods.  "I don't know that droid in particular, but I recognize the model.  Also, the girl he's holding is the daughter of Senator Urik."

Lexina:  I work on the klingon handjob.  Biting him on the shoulder with my snake fangs, guessing that he will appreciate this kind of stuff, whispering "I may have to take this package out of his robotic hands... some nice credsss are involved."  I sit on his lap.

GM:  He appreciates it and finishes quickly.  "Go, baby.  Do your thing.  My friends and I will be here for another hour at least."  Turning to the bartender, "Can I get some space wipes, please?"

Lexina:  I kiss the klingon in the ear with my fork tongue and I sensually move away.

GM:  The droid is about to enter an escalator up to the next level.

Lexina:  I try to find Miles.

Miles:  I'm watching the droid closely, hand on the butt of my blaster while motioning for Lexina to follow.  "Over here," he calls out, not too loudly.

GM:  The droid spots Miles and fires at him with a blaster.  [Rolling dice.]  Miles takes 16 points of damage.  Laser burns cover the left side of your torso and leg.  He got you good.

Remember, both of you can double your dice pool once per session.  And the session is ending in about 5 minutes.  Normally, both of you roll 2d6 to attack.

Lexina:  I get out of the bar and I take my micro-phaser out of my kangaroo pouch, situated just above my crotch.  I fire at the droid while doubling my dice.

Miles:  I'll double my dice pool for my attack and fire with my blaster.

GM:  Lexina shoots... [Even with an attack of 4d6, she doesn't do much damage... a measly 8 points.]  The angle was off.

Miles doesn't do much better.  The droid is already halfway up the escalator.  You do 7 points of damage.  Let me see who he's going to target, most likely Miles.

Lexina:  How's Jaspa reacting?

GM:  Jaspa is struggling with futility.  [I roll (badly) for the assassination droid.]  Miles takes another 4 points of damage.  He's got 5 left.  You guys are returning fire, I assume...

Lexina:  I shoot at the elevator controls.

Miles:  Yes, while taking cover behind anything that is by him.

GM:  [Lexina rolls extraordinarily well.  Instead of simply wasting such a great shot by saying, "You disabled the escalator," I decide that her success increases their advantage - as per the no damage left behind rule.]  Not only do you stop the escalator, but Lexina's blasting makes it collapse.  The droid lets go of the girl and is trying to hang on to the escalator remnants.  Miles, you've got an easy shot if you want to take it.

Miles:  I'll take it.

GM:  [I roll 3d6 for his attack this time because of said advantage (i.e. the droid's vulnerability due to his hanging on with both hands rather than trying to defend himself).  The aftermath is devastating.  Miles ends up doing 31 points of damage.]  Yowza!  You annihilate him.  There's almost nothing left.

Lexina:  Oh yeah!

GM:  Jaspa runs towards Miles and into her arms.  "Thank you for saving me."

Miles:  I blow off the smoke rising from my blaster, holster it, and catch her in my arms.  "Aye, it was no trouble, miss."

GM:  Long story short, you both collect your credits.  Miles is now 2nd level; Lexina is halfway there.

_________

Thanks for reading the latest installment of this lurid space pulp adventure!

VS




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gary Con IX


I left Friday mid-morning and returned Sunday late-afternoon.  I really shouldn't have gotten so much convention time, but plans changed and I got lucky.

Overall, it was a great time.  I ran into, met, gamed with, or became reacquainted with many awesome individuals during those three days. Such as... +Erik Tenkar +Clint Bohaty +Jeff Bernstein +Timothy Brannan +Follow Me, And Die! +Julian Bernick +Harley Stroh +Forrest Aguirre +Del Teigeler +Jeff Talanian +Bill Webb +Satine Phoenix and many others (I'm terrible with names... and sometimes faces).

It surprises me to hear someone say they're a fan of my work, and I was pleasantly surprised quite a few times.  So, that was really cool.

Volunteering to GM is one of the things I love about RPG conventions.  Although, I'm never sure what's going on 4 - 6 months in advance.  I might have a new product out, I might want to playtest something I'm currently working on, or I might feel like running something completely different.

Over the last year, I've become increasingly comfortable with and excited by Alpha Blue, my sleazy scifi RPG.  Every half-dozen times I describe Alpha Blue to people who don't know what it is, I find myself coming up with new ways to characterize it.  Over the weekend I came up with this - it's like Star Wars... with a money shot.

I signed up to run The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence using Crimson Dragon Slayer on Friday afternoon, Alpha Blue Saturday night, and Alpha Blue again on Sunday afternoon.  I was able to sneak in an off-the-books session of Alpha Blue on Friday night.  That's a lot of sex, sleaze, and exploitation in space!

So much happened this weekend!  It's probably a fool's errand to try and document it all.  Instead of going through each day, I'm just going to bullet-point some random highlights.  That way, if I suddenly remember a detail (or someone who was there reminds me) I can just add it to the list...


  • For whatever reason, I decided to start the session by using The Outer Presence character creation.  Everyone was a "normal" human in the real world.  It made the purple islands seem more like Lost and Land of the Lost rather than D&Desque science-fantasy gonzo.
  • There's usually at least one "table captain" in each game.  This is the kind of player I talk about in my latest book - Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
  • The Doctor-without-borders character (Dr. Haywood) who crashed onto the beach of a purple island was the most devious PC in recent memory, and when he stranded his former guide and now prisoner of the lizardfolk (Enik-type Sleestaks) while capturing a lizardman to bring home for showbiz riches before closing the pylon's gateway, we all thought the adventure was over.  And then the Purple Putrescence ripped its terrible way into our world...
  • I really love the movie StarChaser: The Legend of Orin.  I had the PCs start as subterranean mind-wiped slaves mining for blue crystal.  It was a good setup which I'll be using again in the future.  And from there, it went off the rails - in a good way.  
  • An ooze with bio-luminescence when turned on rubbing up against a lamppost in the red hologram district while various other PCs were having sex on the street.  
  • The telepathic pimp kept me laughing throughout Saturday night's session, but everyone was in rare form - both getting their sleaze on and doing a deal with one of Grabba the Butt's girls.
  • Another space pimp was looking to further his business by stealing one of the most popular Satisfiers of Alpha Blue - Jessica 3.  After the indigo haze roofie, he was having sex with her (while she was unconscious) while a laser shootout was going on in their hotel room.  
  • Arra was played by a woman who'd been in one of my Crimson Dragon Slayer games from last Gary Con.  Her character was a really interesting alien - humanoid with slimy with translucent seaglass skin.  She rolled "lesbian" for Arra's sexual fantasy/fetish, and that led to some interesting moments.  
  • There was a player who randomly rolled "pirate" as his profession and "noble" on the something special table.  Confused with the juxtaposition at first, we discussed it for a couple minutes and decided that he was a pirate king, so well-versed at pirating that he became lord of the seven space seas aka The Pink Diver because of his pink, magenta, and pink pirate outfit.
  • Finally getting to play Alpha Blue with girls was a nice treat.  Despite close-minded and just plain wrong "conventional wisdom," women can be and often are just as dirty, depraved, and wild as men... if not more so!  Anyway, the ladies impressed me by being just as sleazy as the guys.  
  • There was so much sex in that session that I should have had PCs roll for acquiring a venereal disease, but forgot all about such things in the heat of all those moments.
  • Speaking of which, I got a big reaction from debuting the desert planet Akockiss, commonly known as P'oon.  The players came up with a great new villain - Acock'n'lips (or Acock'n'licks... season to taste).
  • Had a wonderful dinner at the Grand Geneva Resort hotel Friday night.  The prime rim, mashed potatoes, and shrimp were fantastic.  I also was in great company with Peter Tiso (who played in the purple islands game).
  • Had a very satisfying breakfast with Erik Tenkar on Saturday morning.  We demolished our omelettes like a pair of fucking bosses!
  • Only a single game was in one of those big rooms full of tables and gamers - the first.  All my other games, I made sure they were in quieter and less distracting areas of the convention.
  • Speaking of places to game, my favorite was on Sunday afternoon.  I asked the con staff if any of the fancy private gaming rooms were going to be free as of noon.  One of them was, and I got to run the last Alpha Blue game of the weekend in the Geneva Room (or something like that).  It was so peaceful and awesome that I almost wept for joy!
  • Brought a dozen books with me to use and possibly sell if people wanted and came back with only one!
  • Got to try out my latest dice rolling tray - scifi themed.  Lots of compliments.  
  • Had a chance to talk about the philosophy of Game Mastering with a purple island player named Jeff.
  • Bought a bunch of gaming stuff - most notably (and expensively) books at the DCC booth.  Finally took the Metamorphosis Alpha plunge, got a nicely illustrated hardcover book on adventure design (cause even old Venger runs into writer's block), and had a 20% off ticket for the mammoth leatherbound tome on Traps.  I don't do enough with traps, so this should open up a whole new universe for me!

That's about it, though I'm well aware that I'm leaving many terrific moments out.  Oh well, those are for my fellow gamers to document!

VS



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lowbrow & Inappropriate


I'll be posting about my awesome Gary Con IX experience later today (or tonight), but this just happened, so it takes precedence.

Yesterday, I was sent an email from One Book Shelf.  OBS includes DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, DMs Guild, etc.

Just before leaving for the Lake Geneva RPG convention, I released a new title via PDF on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.  It's called Play your Character like a Fucking Boss, which is sort of a companion piece to How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss, except its advice is for those on the other side of the screen.

Cutting to the chase, OBS has received complaints about the title.  The majority of Kort'thalis Publishing's titles are behind the "adults only" wall because I click the box for mature content.  That's what I did for the GMing book.  However, I did not designate the Player book "adult" because there's nothing besides course language that might be offensive or inappropriate for children.

Below is the email I received from OBS...


Hello XXXXXXX,

Over the weekend we received two complaints about your title "Play Your Character Like a Fucking Boss". The first complaint said that they felt the use of profanity in the title cheapened the presentation and made it seem "low brow". The second complaint was that the title was inappropriate for children and that children might be browsing the site.

I would like to make it 100% clear that we at OBS/Drivethru/RPGNow do not consider your title to be inappropriate for our site. In general, people don't get into role-playing or browsing our site till about 12 and so we consider anything PG-13 to be appropriate for our general audience and that does not have to be filtered out for people. I have already responded to the people complaining that we felt your product is appropriate under our current standards.

That being said, I also told them I would pass along their complaints to you the publisher. If I was in your position I would not want to be ignorant that complaints of this nature exist if they do exist. If you have any questions about his please let me know.

Thank you,

-- 
Chris Tang
RPG Publisher Services



While I take those complaints seriously and it is not my intention to offend anyone, I do not plan on clicking the adult content box for Play your Character like a Fucking Boss because that would have a negative impact on visibility.  Adult products, in my experience, are the second class citizens of OBS.  Obviously, less visibility means less sales.

Regarding the "low brow" complaint, I think I'm going to take that as a compliment.  As a "low brow" fan, that's the kind of aesthetic I'm going for.  Understandably, it limits my audience, but then going against the grain with a provocative title expands my audience.  Maybe it's a wash, but I need to stay true to myself.

I'm interested in reading your opinion.  Feel free to comment with anything you have to say on the matter.


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


p.s.  My latest Kickstarter Trinity of Awesome Returns has about two days left to back it.

p.p.s.  I put X's over the letters of my name because he didn't use my pseudonym.  Everything else was copy/pasted without editing.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss


I had the idea awhile ago and periodically took notes.  My upcoming trip 90 minutes south to Gary Con this weekend was all the prompting I needed.

Since I've been GMing for about 32 years, I've learned a few things about players... what makes them not so good, great, and like a fucking boss.

Play Your Character like a Fucking Boss is the flip-side to How To Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  They both contain valuable information, and will give readers an edge in their roleplaying games.

So, this weekend, the PDF is half off!  Hopefully, you'll get as much out of it as I put in.

Thanks,

VS

p.s.  There's less than a week to back my current Kickstarter - Trinity of Awesome Returns!