Sunday, January 22, 2017

Total Recall: The End of an Era

I just watched the original Total Recall a couple days ago and wanted to write about it.

Back in 1990, I was sitting at home, a Freshman in High School.  My best friend called me up.  His mom was taking him to see Total Recall and he invited me along.  I had never heard of the movie and so wasn't expecting much.  This was 1990 and for the last 12 months or so, most of the movies I had seen in the theater were crappy.  The 80's were over and even though I didn't know it, my mind was preparing itself for a long, cold winter of awesome films.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised, and saw it in the theater at least once more before it left and then watched it again on VHS before buying the DVD years later.

Total Recall was great on all of the following: story, dialog, acting... Arnold may seem cheesy, but I'll always be a fan of his - plus Sharon Stone as a femme fatal.  And I love perpetual B-movie villain Michael Ironside.  As for special effects, how about Kuato?  Wow!  It's no wonder that Rob Bottin of John Carpenter's The Thing fame was in charge of that department.  And violence.  Yes, violence.  Total Recall was directed by Paul Verhoeven, who had knocked it out of the park just a couple years ago before that with RoboCop.  Lots of blood squibs, visible gunshot holes, and action sequences that you could really feel.

After Total Recall, films started going CGI.  Being filmed in 1989, it still had that 80's awesomeness that would be virtually lost throughout the 90's.  Obviously, there are notable exceptions, such as the films of Quentin Tarantino.

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about guilty pleasure films.  Not sure why Total Recall didn't make the cut, because I don't think the vast majority of movie goers or reviewers take it seriously.  I mean, put Total Recall up against Blade Runner and the latter will most likely beat out the former 9 times out of 10.

And yet, mind-fuck-wise, Total Recall beats Blade Runner hands down.  Plenty of people want to believe that Deckard is probably a replicant, but there's no real evidence to support such a theory.  And even if there were, him being one doesn't truly mess with the audience's sense of reality.

On the other hand, we still have no way of knowing if Quaid's experiences were part of a man-made virtual reality or authentic.  Furthermore, if it wasn't real - we also don't know if his matrix-reality went according to plan or if he suffered a schizoid embolism, as was mentioned a couple times throughout the film.  Plenty of evidence suggests any of the three possibilities could be true.

Lastly, let me mention Venusville, the movie's Martian red-light district.  It shouldn't be any wonder that Total Recall was an influence on Alpha Blue.  From the three-breasted hooker to sleazy sci-fi partners in crime.  In fact, the next adventure I come up with for Alpha Blue, will undoubtedly have memory implants, schizoid embolisms, alien artifacts, a shadowy government agency, even more three-boobed prostitutes, and a little ugly-baby mutant hiding out in someone's abdomen.

I still haven't seen the remake, by the way.  I've heard it's not good.  Eventually, I'll have to see for myself.

Thanks for reading.  Here is some FREE bonus stuff for Alpha Blue to give you a taste of what's to come.  Enjoy!


p.s.  Just a word on the phrase "guilty pleasure movies."  There's nothing wrong with them, and it's not like they're actually bad.  In fact, these movies are usually super fun - way more fun than Academy Award winning films.  It's just that they're not going to make anyone's top ten list and no one's going to put them in the Presidential Cultural Preservation Vault (I just made that up) so that centuries from now post-apocalyptic scavengers can go through all the work of reverse engineering DVD players just so their mo-hawk and leather ass-less chaps wearing tribe can watch Total Recall, Big Trouble in Little China, or Fight Club.  Although, now that I think about it... they probably should.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Child's Play 2

About 3 weeks ago, I ran a quick fantasy RPG session for my two eldest daughters (Briella is almost 6 and Illyria is 4).

I call it "D&D," but it's really the most free form, rules light, and no-frills (meaning that we don't worry about much) version of D&D you could ever play.

 First session is here.  I brought up the idea of playing multiple times and Briella just wasn't interested.  So, I assumed it would be a cold day in Hell before I'd get her into another game.

It just so happens that school was called off on account of freezing rain, icy roads, and all around shitty winter conditions.  Briella was helping me get my youngest daughter, Trinity, up for the day.  Trinity's room was semi-dark, so Briella turned on this little green lamp on the dresser.  It made the room seem weird and kind of creepy.

I'm almost sure it was Briella who suggested that we play D&D under these conditions.  So, I got my stuff, told Illyria she could join us, and started things off.

Briella wanted to play a new character.  Illyria followed suit.

Briella played Melody, a magic-user princess with a pet bunny as her familiar.  Illyria played another magic-user princess named Beatifulness with a pet cat as her familiar.  Trinity is only 19 months old, so I made her character an imp thief named Tres.

That's all the character creation we needed.  The three adventurers were in a local tavern in the village of Elslow.  They had lived in Elslow all their lives, only journeying to the Tower of Soft Black Stars for their apprenticeship in sorcery.

As they were seated around a wooden table, enjoying refreshments, they noticed a cloaked stranger enter the tavern and look around.  He sat down at their table, introduced himself as Urstan, and told the three of his mission - to find adventurers who could clear out the local dungeon.  This nearby dungeon is where monsters live... monsters who come up to the surface at night and cause mischief.

Both girls were impatient to explore the dungeon, kill monsters, and take their treasure, so I sped things up a bit.

After some traveling, the three stood in front of a cavern shaped like the yawning mouth of a monstrous giant.  Hesitant but eager to get in there, they entered and walked into a side-cave containing 4 goblins.  I gave them a list of options: attack the goblins, talk to them, or leave them be.  They decided to attack.

Melody attacked first with her dagger.  I asked Briella if she'd rather use a spell, but no - t'was the dagger.  Briella needed to roll a 3 or better on a single six-sided die.  She did and the first goblin was stabbed and killed.

Illyria also wanted to use her dagger, despite my suggestion that she cast a spell.  She also hit and another goblin died.

With two goblins remaining, one attacked Beautifulness, slashing her leg.  The second goblin missed.  Almost forget, one of Briella's conditions before agreeing to play again was that they couldn't be killed.  I agreed.

Even though I assured Illyria that her character was alive and still had her leg, she up and quit the game.  Briella asked me to play her character for the remainder of the session, so I did.

Briella decided to cast sleep on the goblins.  She was successful and both slept as Beautifulness (now played by me), slit their throats.  They only had 9 gold pieces between them.

The next cave was based on an idea that Briella had while I was doing something for Trinity.  In the center of the cave was a gold statue with several humans in strange clothing standing around the statue.  At the far end of the cave was a door, the likes of which the PCs had never seen.

Briella wasn't sure what to do, so I asked if she wanted to talk to the humans.  She did.  They were foreigners who had been invited to clear the dungeon by the cloaked Urstan.

One of the humans was a wizard with a long gray beard named Ivellios.  He had been studying the runes outlining the door, and was ready to open it.  They were clearly magical.  Ivellios swung the door open, revealing a black portal.

Beyond was an unfamiliar countryside, rolling hills, a dark forest, and on the other side of the forest was a castle.  Melody wanted to reach the castle, so off they walked.

Halfway through the forest, the adventurers heard trolls.  Two of them chopping trees with large axes.  Melody wanted to attack them and cast sleep again.  She was successful, but only put one of the trolls to sleep as trolls were stronger than goblins.

Playing Beautifulness, I cast an ice storm to cut the second troll to ribbons with little shards of razor-sharp ice.  I rolled well and soon both trolls lay dead.  The trolls carried gemstones with them, as well as, a magic item - it was a gold scepter with ruby centerpiece and two snakes carved onto one side.  No idea what it did.

It wasn't long before they had reached the castle.  Inside was a handsome prince.  Melody turned down the prince's advances; however, Beautifulness, again played by Illyria, was very interested.  Soon enough, the two were married in a brief ceremony.  The reception was furnished with all manner of delicious foods and drinks.

No time for a honeymoon, as the adventurers wanted to get back to the dungeon.  Then one or more things came up and we had to stop the session there.  All told, we probably only played for an hour, but it was still fun.  These mini-games keep my GMing muscles from completely atrophying.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Get paid for your play reports!

This post explains the recent hubbub over Girls Gone Rogue.  There's also a thread over at TheRPGsite where someone wonders if people actually play Alpha Blue.

I realize there are precious few Alpha Blue play reports on the internet.  Actual play reports are important - especially for Alpha Blue - because it shows how and why the game is played.

So, I'm looking for more play reports, and I thought it was about time someone incentivized that shit...

In the month of February, anyone who posts their own Alpha Blue play report on an RPG blog will be eligible to win $25 (sent via paypal).  The winning play report will be judged February 28th on the following criteria...

  • Length - don't write a novella, but it should be long enough for readers to get into it while learning about your session, players, approach to GMing Alpha Blue, etc.
  • Genre - your play report should showcase what Alpha Blue does best - scifi, sex, and comedy.
  • Highlight the game - also, don't be afraid to showcase various material from the books (Girls Gone Rogue, Universal Exploits, and Slippery When Wet), such as random tables you've rolled on, technology used, NPCs met, etc.
  • Grammar - if your post reads like an 8th grader threw it together the night before it was due and never bothered to proof read it, I'm taking points off.
  • Enthusiasm - readers want to feel that you're having a good time, enjoying yoruself and loving the game.
  • Entertainment - the adventure itself should be fun to read; posts should capture those little details that make readers feel like they were there, participating.
  • Response - even the best blog post - if no one reads or comments - isn't going to be as useful as one that gets a lot of attention.  Marketing is key.  Get the word out.  I'll be helping with that, but I can't do it all.

Let me know if you have any questions about this contest.  Good luck and may the best actual play report win!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Girls Gone Rogue reviewed and on sale

Alpha Blue was an experiment in bad taste.  I wanted to create something for a sub-genre of sci-fi that gets very little attention... the kind of sleazy, raunchy, ridiculous, gonzo, porn parody kind of sci-fi that only existed on late night pay-cable back in the 80's.

Girls Gone Rogue was the follow-up supplement.  It's one part what I wanted in an Alpha Blue sourcebook, one part what I thought Alpha Blue GMs, players, and fans wanted, and one part middle finger to all the uptight, repressed, censorship-happy motherfuckers out in RPG land who would cast me into the pit of darkness and fire for daring to create such sordid filth.

While I could have gone even farther with GGR, I'm happy with the level of juvenile naughtiness and mad-cap space panty raid type shenanigans I achieved.

Without further ado, +Kasimir Urbanski (The RPGpundit) himself recently reviewed GGR.  And he even got some flack for it.

To celebrate, I've drastically reduced the PDF price of Girls Gone Rogue.  Thanks for everyone's support!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kort'thalis Publishing Day 1/11

For the longest time, 111 has been my number.  It has tons of associations for me and I consider it to be the numerical representation of myself.

Anyways, I'm having a sale today!  Below are three PDFs by Kort'thalis Publishing that have been drastically reduced in price (for a very limited time)...

Liberation of the Demon Slayer

How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss

Universal Exploits

If you'd like to leave a review of one or more of my books, I'd greatly appreciate it.  Have a wondrous January 11th, everyone!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Personalized D&D

At some point, I'm going to run D&D again.  It's going to be old school and awesome!

This here blog post will stand as a record for all the stuff I'm thinking, the stuff I want in it and want out of it.

Why can't one play a certain edition or version straight out of the box?  Well, in this day and age, a GM can pick and choose the things he likes.  This is 2017, after all.

We don't need another retro-clone, just a list of preferences.  Here we go...

My Personalized D&D

  • I shouldn't have to mention this; it should be common knowledge... the foundation upon which all traditional RPGs are built, but these are strange times.  Rulings over rules.  The GM is a benevolent king who may do as he pleases.  Whatever the book says is merely a guideline for me to follow, discard, or warp to my own godlike will.
  • I want races and classes - quite a few of them, like assassin, illusionist, monk, etc. but nothing too "out there" or silly.
  • I want level limits for demi-humans and who knows what else (gotta love stereotyping!).
  • I want those flavorful names PCs get at each level.
  • I want 3d6 in order (one re-roll in exchange for some kind of drawback - like a dark secret).
  • I want ability score prerequisites in order to qualify for certain classes.
  • I want players to start with multiple 1st level characters, the majority of which most likely get slaughtered within the first couple sessions.
  • I want to go back to the Law, Neutral, and Chaos alignments.
  • I want individual Experience Point charts by class and XP bonuses based on higher, class-relevant ability scores.
  • I want XP to come from monsters defeated, challenges overcome, suffering endured, and treasure spent/used.
  • I want decent ability score modifiers that make a difference in play.
  • I want some kind of Honor score or rating, borrowing the concept from Hackmaster and twisting it to my liking.
  • I want those funky individual saving throws like wands and death-rays and shit... just cause they're a ridiculously nostalgic throwback.
  • I want to encourage the use of hirelings, henchman, and retainers.
  • I'm pretty sure I want to use the advantage/disadvantage mechanic in 5th edition.
  • I want ascending AC, naturally.
  • Rather than use feats and skills, I'd rather have a few basic class-based abilities and everything else described / roleplayed as it comes up in play.  If it's ability score dependent, then roll under to succeed (2d6 for easy, 3d6 for average, and 4d6 for the really hard stuff).
  • I want to use my critical hit random table in The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
  • I want the players to either choose or roll for their characters' adventuring motivation (found in Liberation of the Demon Slayer).  Any background besides that is up to the player to provide at any point - before, during, or after the first few sessions.
  • I want to focus on exploring a (mega)dungeon with occasional wilderness and urban dalliances.
  • I want this to be a long-term campaign that goes from awkward, fumbling peasant to noble lord holding a vast domain.
  • I want the campaign to begin fairly medieval-ish, becoming increasingly non-standard, weird pulp science-fantasy as it continues.
  • I want the campaign world to get fleshed out as need be, rather than writing everything out ahead of time.  Many things will be improvised!
  • I want the campaign to be a sandbox instead of linear scenarios.
  • Not sure what I want to do with magic, but I'm considering using the mercurial table for spells in the DCC rulebook.
  • I want to go "middle of the road" with magic items - not too stingy, yet not overly generous [see below].
  • I want this to be a weekly game, around 4 hours per session.
  • I need it to be face-to-face.  Virtual roleplaying is for one-shots!
  • This campaign is going to have a name.  I'll come up with something later...
  • As mentioned previously, I've decided to go pro.  So, I'll be GMing for cash.

Magic Items

If it's magical, then chances are that it only exists below ground - with all the monsters, traps, and strangeness.  

Magic items are either kept or taken into subterranean depths because of their inherently chaotic nature.  All sorcery is tainted with darkness, as taught to wizards by demons, devils, and foul abominations too blasphemous to name.  Magic items, everything from a +1 sword to the wand of Orcus, has been either forged by infernal beings or touched by them.

Magic items found in dungeons and such places are subtly cursed and likely to exert a Hellish influence.  In fact, I'd like to cultivate a medieval Hellraiser kind of eldritch bloodbath aesthetic the farther one goes into the dungeon.

This is as much thinking as I've done for the setting.  Below is the sort of random table I might roll upon when a new magic item is discovered.

Magic Items (Forged by Demons)
  1. Allows the one possessing the magic item to communicate with all infernal races.
  2. The one possessing the magic item shifts alignment one step closer to Chaos.
  3. The magic item requires the shedding of blood to function (innocent blood increases the item's potency by half again as much.
  4. The magic item is intelligent and speaks - continually advising the item's possessor on "the best course of action."
  5. Cumulative 1% chance per day the magic item's creator takes control of the one who possesses it.  This domination lasts 24 hours and the cumulative chance resets after demonic possession.
  6. This magic item allows its creator to see and hear what's happening around the item.


This is all subject to change, of course.  I've got oodles of time before anything like this can actually take place.  Reading Grognardia has had a powerful affect on my mind.  

Anyway, thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your preferences, or tell me what you think about my own.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Like a Pro

So, I was thinking more about the whole GMing for $$$ thing.  Eventually, it's going to be mainstream.  The GMs who have their shit together will eventually have to "Tony Robbins the fuck up" or get off the pot.  Evolve or die.

Once I get back to regular gaming (hopefully, autumn of 2017), I'll make some moves to monetize.

But for now, all I've got is talk... and plans.  But mostly talk.  Someone brought up the "unethical" word a couple of days ago.  Not that they thought charging players was unethical, but they wondered if I thought it might be.  I don't.  However, that got me thinking.

What are some borderline unethical situations or "gimmicks" as I like to call them, involving the professional GM trade?

Venger's Professional GM Gimmicks

  • Make your RPG have to do with some kind of cult.  That would make the players either cultists or unwitting (semi-witting?) pawns of the cult.
  • Similar to the cult idea, root your campaign in one or more prevailing religious mythologies - like the party has been chosen by Jesus Christ to destroy demons laying waste to The Holy Land.
  • Let everyone think you're dying of cancer (my apologies to anyone currently dying of cancer - seriously, that sucks).
  • Involve politics - yeah, you thought the whole Jesus and cancer stuff was dirtying your soul.  Nope, political pandering is even worse.  My lawful evil, half-orc paladin/illusionist does not believe in gun control, motherfuckers!  [Starts shooting]
  • Advertise your game as "better than therapy," because it's illegal to claim that gaming is actual therapy or that you are a real therapist (unless you are one).  Hey, it probably is better than therapy and a hell of a lot cheaper.  I might actually use this one down the road.
  • Ever heard of men's rights?  Yeah, your game could be a gender thing.  Although, I'm not sure why you'd want to deprive yourself of female company.  Since it's 2017, why not an all-girl gaming group?
  • Further players' continued education with High Gygaxian, simple math, and amateur dramatics!  Not for actual college credits - but players can still put it on their resumes.
  • Hook all the players onto the crystal meth (preferably the blue kind) that you cook in your desert-bound mobile home.
  • Pass yourself off as some kind of celebrity.  Not an RPG celebrity... cause that's just pathetic.  You've got to be famous for being famous, like you regularly update some stupid blog or make terrible videos.

I'm sure that you guys could add to the list.  So, go ahead.  Let's get unethical together, borderline or otherwise.  And then let's get paid!