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