More Cha’alt-ian Shenanigans

After a few more sessions of delving into the Black Pyramid of Cha’alt, I have come to report to you all that…

SANITY IS FOR THE WEAK!

ELIPHAS
“Take me to them…that I may render judgement”

Rather than a full blow-by-blow session report, here are some of the the things that the party have done:

– Found a giant cube of orange gelatin worshiped by two men. Kiki, the Cthonic witch who loves to eat everything and everyone, started eating the cube. They convinced one of the men that the cube wants him to eat it. So between the two eaters, they ate it all. At the middle of the cube was a magic stapler that permanently staples things together.

To test this magical item, the party stapled the clothing of the two men together…forever. Random cruelty, why not?

– Meet some fruit people who want to have a crusade against all non-fruit people. Due to a really good reaction roll / roleplaying, the party convinced the fruit people that they were friends and to start the crusade against the temple of Dread K’tulu. One pitched battle / betrayal of the survivors / using poison gas grenades later, the party has removed two powerful threats and uawds the magical stapler to staple the body of the high priest of Dread K’tulu to a statue of the deity.

Why?

They hope to sell it as an art piece.

Fruities
Fruit People

– Went into a museum and Bambi, the four-armed Mothperson Light-Taker, messed with one of the sculptures. She was instantly transported to a court in a distant galaxy where she was being tried for the crime of being a spy. During the trial, she said that she was going to give the judge 4 phasers. I thought she meant she was going to try to bribe the judge (the module specifically states that bribery is an option). No, she meant she was going to shoot the judge. With four phasers.

Have I ever mentioned how incredibly frightened I am of my players?

One dead judge later, I rolled on the “What is the result of the trial” table. Guess what the result was.

“Let off with a warning”

She re-appeared back in the dungeon moments later and to prevent further trials, the party destroyed a priceless work of art.

– The party also rescued a woman from the vile clutches of the mildy amusing Ra’av Snyder. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate his moderately funny humor and terrible seduction technique. No betrayal, no murder, just being nice.

– A bunch of men outside the Black Pyramid have “encouraged” the party to go in and get them. The party found a bomb in a room with some psychics and a space princess. They gave them bomb to the men outside and went back in to find more magic items for the men.

Because they were such good “employees”. 😉

A few minutes later, the bomb went off and all the men outside re-enacted the classic 80’s hit “It’s Raining Men”… well… it’s raining pieces of men.

– Once the party found a room with a giant frozen peach floating in the air, a strange thing happened. Two of my players (a married couple) have a baby. At this time, the baby started to make baby noises.

Now the room contained a bunch of primitive ape-men and a wizard who had given them all an unpaid internship to un-freeze the peach by whacking off hunks of ice with their bone clubs.

Once the primitive ape man rebelled and killed the wizard, I decided that the baby babble would represent the feelings (and language) of the primitive ape men (rather than roll a reaction roll) If the baby sounded happy, they would be happy with the party. If the baby sounded upset, they would be upset.

Not sure if this was a genius GM idea or a dumb one.

Luckily the baby was happy, so the party did not have to fight anyone. They finished thawing the peach, hacked it to bits, and took it to the tiki bar so it could be put into drinks.

– They have met a bunch of cultists to a powerful being called “Zarga’an”. They’re dead now… and they were Zarga’an’s main food source.

But Zarga’an lives. He may not appreciate his food source being interrupted.

– Cha’alt is a wonderful mish-mash of ideas and I am having a blast running it. There is enough danger and oddness for any party of adventurers to get in and/or cause trouble. Party members are dying, players are laughing, sci-fi and pop-culture references are being recognized, it’s an overall good time!


Can another ACKS GMs confirm something for me?

Do your players ALWAYS miss cleave attacks? Or is it just my party?

Two Books To ‘Level Up’ Your GM-ing

Need some help becoming a better GM? Struggling with running an OSR game, when you are used to newer versions of the granddaddy of tabletop roleplaying games?

There are a couple of books you should check out. I cannot promise that they will give you #BiggerArms or will make you ascend into one of the #Elite, but they will make you a better GM.

Print
If I ever go for a doctorate, I will consider changing my name to Steve Brule. 100% serious.

The first is a free pdf called “Old School Renaissance Like A Fucking Boss” found here.

OSRLAFB

First of all, this is a free pdf. Cannot complain about the price! The author, Venger As’Nas Satanis, has put together a list of 38 little rules (okay, 37 rules plus a rule 0) to help understand and run OSR games. I agree with pretty much all of the advice he gives in here and if someone ran a game using this as their guidance, , it will be a great game to be in! Venger lays it out pretty well in short ‘n’ sweet rules that are easy to grasp and understand. A couple even caught me by surprise.

For example, “Rule #4: Milk It!” is something I have been doing and it’s nice to see it written down. Don’t be afraid to adjust something in the adventure if the players enjoy it. If they like the off-the-cuff, oddball NPC you made up on the spot, keep them around (until they are eaten by a troll or something)! If you jokingly suggest that a bag of holding can be worn like a fanny pack and the players laugh, GO WITH IT!

Also, this is not a system-specific book. This is applicable to any OSR system, this book is about principles, not “here’s an easy way to use obscure/unique rule X from system Y in play”. Highly recommend, worth looking at as a way to align your GM-in priorities when running an OSR game.

The second is a book called “Arbiter of Worlds: A Primer for Gamemasters”. Kindle version here, dead tree version here.

AOW

Holy cow! This book is jam-packed with good advice on how to run a campaign.

Do not let the length fool you. The author, through incredibly efficient use of language, packs a LOT of information into this book. As a relatively new-ish GM, I wish this book had been written a few years earlier. It would have saved me form making a ton of mistakes.

If you want to make your own tabletop RPG campaign, check this book out! This covers how to prepare a game, build a game world, schedule a game with other human beings, dealing with problem players, and, in an appendix of all places, offers the best breakdown of alignment I’ve ever seen.

This is a quick read, but you will come back to this again and again. You might want to buy the physical copy just so you can write notes in it!


FULL DISCLOSURE: I receive NO financial benefit from any purchases made from any links in this blog post. Furthermore, I have supported Kickstarters run by both authors and I enjoy their gaming products.

First Couple Sessions of Cha’alt

Session Report

After finishing their expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the intrepid Sunday night party followed some treasure maps they found to a far-off land called “Cha’alt”.

CHA'ALT
This land is WEIRD

So what did they do once they arrived?

Head over to Ascenda’as, where high-tech mercs live.

And knock on their front door.

And introduce themselves as “Ulusek’s Witnesses”.

Did I mention that Ascenda’as has mechs?

Not A Mech
This is the mech picture I used for Roll20. +100 geek points if you can identify what this is. +200 geek points if you can tell me why it is technically not a mech.

After the Ascenda’as-ites get ready to open fire, the party beats a tactical retreat.

While wandering through the desert, they meet some desert mermaids that promise them all kinds of non-specific carnal delights. The party does not trust them, ties them up, and leaves them.

They head to the Black Pyramid and admire its obsidian obtuseness. A group of thugs outside the pyramid persuade the party to go inside because it is full of magic items. For some reason, the party agrees to get some magic items for these thugs, rather than try to kill them all.

They start exploring the Black Pyramid (no combat yet, despite wandering into a temple dedicated to K’tulu!) and find themselves at a tiki bar with overpriced drinks. The drinks are good, but overpriced. No one appreciates the logistical challenges of getting good booze down there!

Quick note: parts of the Black Pyramid are locked behind colored keycards. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks also had colored keycards.

From the tiki bar, there is a red locked door. One of the players suggested they use one of the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks red keycards in it.

This is one of those special “GM moments”. You are stunned by the brilliance and/or stupidity of their suggestion.

Microseconds tick by.

What do you do?

What do you say?

Is it time to roll dice or a GM decision?

I decided to say that the red keycard they had from the previous dungeon worked on the red doors in the Black Pyramid.

They opened the door and saw a sexy demonness being given a sword by a demonic council. She began to talk to them, but they opened fire. No words, just death.

Now they have a magical sword that is normally +1, but if it slays a creature, the bonus changes to the HD of the monster for 7 hours, before resetting to +1. So, kill a 10 HD creature? You now have a +10 sword!!! Also, it absorbs feelings of guilt and shame from the wielder. No potential alignment change here, nope, not at all!

Then they found the toad demon. You must either guess its real name or solve a riddle to pass safely, else it attacks you.

The party guessed the name incorrectly before it had a chance to say the riddle. So it attacked.

It has a powerful once-per-day poison gas attack that is save or die, much like me after Taco Tuesday.

We lost 3 party members:

Yasid, the Florida Man. He who fought naked and had a robotic dong. With his ring of regeneration, had he lived another few weeks, his real one would have grown back.

Luxedar, the Mothpeople Knight. Loved flying above enemies and poking them with a polearm.

Glevina, the Elven Ranger. Yes, that Glevina, from allllllllllllll the way back in Liberation of the Demon Slayer. She was the longest-serving / surviving party member.

Glevina
Her official artwork from LotDS.

Pour out a cold one for these noble adventurers!

Upon taking these losses, the survivors ran away made a tactical retreat out of the pyramid. Other than taking the magic sword from Yasid’s body, all the equipment from the fallen was left in the possession of the toad demon.

The thugs outside were not happy that the party was not able to secure any magical items for them. (They did not want to give up the sword they found!) A quick bribe of 500 gold later and they party was free to leave.

After two random encounters with graboids in the desert, the party made it back to their boat floating in the Chartreuse Sea. They rested and recruiter some new friends. We will see what shenanigans they get up to the next time they go to Cha’alt…

Impressions Of Actually Running Cha’alt

This is easy to run! There is just enough information to work with for all the situations that I have encountered and extrapolating what will happen next. I’m not using the Crimson Dragon Slayer system built into Cha’alt, I am still using ACKS. Conversion is easy, though, because Venger was kind enough to include the HD and AC of all monsters. Those two details make conversion to any OSR system fast and simple.

While I am admittedly a little biased toward Cha’alt, there is remarkable amount of adventure in the module. It’s not quite a setting, but it’s more than just a dungeon. Think of it is as a region guide with a few dungeons, cities, and unique monsters. If you like gonzo weirdness and/or your campaign needs a kick in the pants, check out Cha’alt!

Heck, there is an entire dungeon INSIDE a giant psychic worm thing. Tell me that does not pique your interest just a little bit!

You know, with Secrets of the Nethercity arriving soon, I wonder if I could stick that under one of the Cha’alt-ian cities…

Hmm…


Question: Is using a Bag of Holding as a fanny pack a #WinningSecret?

Interview With Venger Satanis!

When it comes to gonzo-OSR shenanigans, of adventures that are sure to stick with your players long after the adventure is over, who do you call?

The za’akier, the myth, the legend: Venger Satanis!

VS avatar raw
Venger in the green-tinted flesh!

I was first introduced to Venger’s adventures only 2-3 years ago. When I pivoted away from Pathfinder and 5E toward the OSR, I was looking for some wild adventures that would amaze players. I forget where, but his name was mentioned as someone who was doing something different than everyone else. A while back, the PDF of ‘Liberation of the Demon Slayer’ was available for free for a short time. I picked up and fell in love right away. Ever since, I have kept an eye on what he has been publishing and slowly adding his books to my meager collection.

But who is Venger? He’s the High Priest of Kort’thalis Publishing and the creator of such fine books as ‘Liberation of the Demon Slayer’ (which I have run), ‘The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence’, ‘Alpha Blue‘, and ‘How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss’, Cha’alt, to name just a few.

Without further ado, here is the interview. His words will be in bold, mine in italics.

The Mixed GM: Is there an “Appendix N” for Cha’alt? A list of media (books, movies, etc) that inspired you to make it?

Venger Satanis: I don’t leave anything out when not confined by genre, so it’s all in there. My personal Appendix N must be huge by now because I’m inspired by everything, even things I don’t like or disagree with can find their way into my work.

But here’s what you’re actually looking for… a list of Cha’alt’s primary influences (in no particular order): Star Wars, Dune, Lost, Land of the Lost, Heavy Metal, the Mad Max movies, The Lost Room (so many awesome things have the word “lost” in them), Indiana Jones, Ice Pirates, Flash Gordon, spaghetti westerns, Blade Runner, Zardoz, The Wizard of Oz, The Time Machine, Twin Peaks, all the Lovecraft adaptions by Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, etc., and then all the influential games like Rifts, Gamma World, D&D, Metamorphosis Alpha, plus everything that borrowed from them.

I purposely eased off the sex, sleaze, and grindhouse/exploitation genre because, hey, Cha’alt is family entertainment. 😉

TMG: What is happening in the OSR right now that excites you?

VS: I’m excited that it’s still alive and well. It had to almost die in order to thrive again, like most things, but now it’s back and better than ever. More and more people are realizing that old school play styles have merit, as well as, improving on what came after the 70s and 80s, such as ascending AC and advantage/disadvantage.

In fact, I’m so encouraged by new gamers looking to dip their sword into old school waters that I decided to put out a new book (more of a pamphlet, really) called Old School Renaissance Like A Fucking Boss. It’s a short and concise list of rules to keep in mind when running D&D or any old school system / play style. The free PDF will be available soon, and I plan to include it in the print (fancy hardcover, tentacles crossed!) Fuchsia Malaise appendix.

CHA'ALT
This looks great in person!

TMG: For Fuchsia Malaise, will it be easy to drop it into someone’s own campaign world, even if they don’t run Cha’alt?

VS: If their world won’t be turned upside down by blasters, laser-swords, tentacled abominations, and magenta-mohawed marauders, then yes, Fuchsia Malaise will be easy to drop-in and play. My style of D&D is all about getting to the fun stuff – making decisions, big and small, life and death, dealing with conflict, talking with NPCs, solving mysteries, and forging your own path. If RPGs are guidelines for the GM to manage the game, then settings and scenarios are tools that facilitate adventuring.

TMG: Is there anything special you want to reveal here for the first time?

VS: Yes, I’ve been wanting to get the elf thing off my chest for some time now. Why so many elves? During the apocalypse, when the Old Ones awoke and rose up to punish the people of Cha’alt, only the elves swore undying allegiance to those Dark Gods, saving themselves from total annihilation. That’s why there are several elven sub-races and hardly any demi-humans to speak of, maybe a handful of dwarves, halflings, half-orcs, and so forth.

Humanity protected themselves with technology and elves made a deal with the devil in order to survive because what do elves know about plasma condensers and dynamic tessellation?

Tribe
Can I join her tribe?

TMG: Have you learned anything about Cha’alt since its release? Any surprising parts that players liked more than anticipated?

VS: It’s funny what players take seriously (from grave danger to mostly harmless) and what they don’t, how easily they’ll buy-into an element of the setting and what seems too far fetched, in the moment. That just means expectations and assumptions need to be redefined, which happens organically as play proceeds. I’ve never had a player say, “Nope, my snake-man sorcerer just does not accept demonic Easter Bunnies from the outer void. I’m out.”

At times, I’m sure players don’t know whether to laugh or start shooting or scream into the purple-mooned night. I deliberately tried to weave all the things I love about D&D and about roleplaying in equal measure. It’s bizarre, frightening, intense, lighthearted, fantastical, and pragmatic.

Cha’alt is an extremely subjective experience. It can be played as Tomb of Horrors or more like Conan and Merlin team-up to fight Dracula ™. Just depends on the GM and his players.

TMG: Will Fuchsia Malaise be more of a traditional ‘here is a dungeon in an adventure module’, or more like Cha’alt was, with points of interest AND dungeon content?

VS: There will be at least a couple dungeon-like areas all ready to explore, but many more points of interest and plot hooks, scenario seeds, and weird random tables to roll on. Plenty of opportunity for Cha’alt to become your own and develop in its own way, according to what the PCs do, where they go, who they talk to, and so forth.

Here’s a link to the ‘Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise’ Kickstarter campaign! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vengersatanis/chaalt-fuchsia-malaise

At the time of this writing, ‘Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise’ has already hit its first stretch goal, and I received ‘Cha’alt’ AHEAD OF SCHEDULE, so there is minimal risk to back it!


FULL DISCLOSURE: I have backed ‘Cha’alt’ and ‘Cha’alt: Fuchsia Malaise’ on Kickstarter, as well as offered input into ‘Cha’alt’. No sales from any of the links posted will financially benefit me in any way.

Florida Man Goes Shopping

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Here is a little story that came to mind while showering. If you are from Florida and offended by this story, please do not tackle me and eat my face.

WIthout further ado (or editing), here it is:

FLORIDA MAN GOES SHOPPING

“Honey, could you get me a pack of Pall Malls, a box of crackers, and two of those cheap pregnancy tests?”

Frank Malone rolled off his couch onto the floor. His common-law wife sat on her favorite folding chair, glass of box wine already in hand.

“Is it 9:00 am already?” he asked. She nodded and he pushed himself up off the sticky carpeted floor of their trailer.

A few minutes later, he had put on his best sweatpants and flip-flops before he walked out the door to make the mile-long trek to the store. The octogenarian neighbors, recently from Oregon, waved politely at him. He wondered why there were no native old people in Florida, but the thought left his shriveled brain once he realized that he could get his special food at the store!

Through some sort of magic, the grocery store door opened by itself when he approached. Frank sauntered in and began grabbing the requested items. Down the aisle containing his favorite food, a young woman in an apron with the store’s logo on it struggled to put a box of bleach on a shelf.

“Ya got any of the new flavor of bath salts?” he inquired.

“Don’t you mean scent?”

“No.”

She pointed out the location and he put it in his shopping cart. He ignored the sound of the box of bleach falling to the ground and the woman’s curses. Time to check out!

At the register, his total came to $37.62 and upon reaching into his pants, only an old, moldy taco came out.

“I can pay ya tomorrow, but the wife really need this stuff today!”

“No. You can come back—”

Before the cashier finished speaking, Frank had the plastic bag in hand and was already in motion toward the door with store security in hot pursuit. A flip-flop flew off his foot and hit the store security guard in the face. This brief distraction was enough to allow him to escape.

The sounds of sirens stalked his steps as he hustled home. She was going to be upset with him if he brought the police back to their home again this week, so he made a detour toward the beach.

When he reached the edge of the ocean, he pulled off his sweatpants, causing many a mother to shield the eyes of their children. He waded into the ocean and began bellowing an song older than than humanity.

Answering the summons, a manatee floated toward him. Frank hopped on its back and slapped its tail.

“Let’s go buddy! YEE-HAW!”

The police scrambled onto the beach as he floated away. One office drew his revolver, but the other held out a hand to stop him.

“Manatees are endangered. We can’t shoot. Looks like he got away this time.”

Time to go to Cha’alt!

At the request of one of my players, I am going to tell you the story of Yasid the Florida Man’s ‘dick-capitation’.

Yasid found a swimming pool deep in the spaceship with glittering gold and gems sitting at the bottom. He immediately jumped in.

As a Florida Man, he does not wear clothes. He travels the world skyclad. No need to worry about trying to swim in armor!

Dispelling the illusion it cast on itself, a strange creature attacked poor Yasid.

Eye of the Deep
This is NOT something you want to meet in a swimming pool.

In the ensuing attack, Yasid fell to zero hp from a bite attack, but the party was able to kill the creature and rescue him. Because we are playing ACKS, that meant it was time to roll on the Mortal Wounds table.

Guess what the result was?

“Your genitals are damaged (cannot reproduce, -3 to reaction rolls if loss of manhood / womanhood is known).”

Could there be a more Floridian result? Due to the attack that brought Yasid to zero hp being a bite attack and the fact that he is nude, I decided that the creature bit off his wang.

So the party went back to an empty room I had stocked with some robotic surgeons and asked for a prosthetic phallus to be attached to Yasid. They agreed and even gave it a fresh coat of paint so that it would match his skin tone. Now he also has a ring of regeneration. We’ll see what happens over the next few game weeks…

They never went back to look for the gold and gems at the bottom of the pool.

Long story short, the party has finished exploring the crash spaceship found in “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks”. Where to next?

CHA’ALT

CHA'ALT
Full disclosure: I backed this on Kickstarter and offered some feedback on an in-process version of the product.

They found a couple maps to Cha’alt in random treasure piles, so they know the names of most of the various places in the Cha’altian desert. To get there, they had to sail through the Chartreuse Sea. A Chartreuse Sand Worm came out of the depths to attack their ship. Using its mind powers, it compelled the captain (who failed his saving throw) to throw himself into its mouth.

Now, due to the oracular power of the dice, the party owns the ship.

So where did they decide to go first? Ascenda’as. They want to raid it for more high technology.

What was the plan? Walk up the front gate and ask if the Ascenda’as-ites want to hear the word of Ulusek. I suppose that is one way to get into a heavily guarded area.

However, the people of Ascenda’as do not want any proselytizers and will attempt to remove them with extreme prejudice.

The session ended there. We pick up next week!

[BIG DISCLAIMER. While I am running Cha’alt, it is being run through an interpretive lens based on the party’s previous adventures. For example, the conjoined god Ulusek-Lokvarr. It appeared in ‘Liberation of the Demon Slayer’ and I am deliberately inserting it in Cha’alt.)

THE PARTY
– Glevina Dangerously (Elven Ranger who has survived ever since ‘Liberation of the Demon Slayer’. Her teeth have been replaced with sharp metal ones.)
– Kiki (Cthonic Witch. Incredibly low wisdom. She loves to either seduce or eat sentient beings.)
– Felicity the Docile (Human Cleric. Wears sci-fi power armor, because why not?)
– Yasid (Florida Man. Need I say more?)
– Luxedar (Mothpeople Knight. With four arms, he can wield a polearm and shields at the same time.)
– Bambi Scrumptious (Mothpeople Light-Taker. Four arms = four phasers. Pew Pew!)
– Billy the Buff (Normal man. Shirtless guy that helps haul all their stuff.)