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Blood Dark Thirst
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2017 17:09:10

The high priest of Cthulhu, Venger Satanis, has another fantastic stand alone game that comes a warmer color. I was provided with a review copy.

Blood Dark Thirst is a new rules light game of vampiric awesomeness. System-wise it uses the V6 system that all of Venger's other games use, which is really cool because his other horror releases, particularly The Outer Presence, A Green Jewel They Must Possess, and His Flesh Becomes My Key, can serve as good inspiration for Blood Dark Thirst adventures. I already have some ideas for a certain green jewel.

Character creation is really simple, but makes a lot of sense. You pick some things you're good at and some things you're bad at. If you're good at something you roll 3 dice, if you're bad at something you get 1. For everything else, 2 is the standard. You also pick three flaws which come into play during certain instances. Other than that you flesh out who you are, how you act, and when you were turned.

Actions play out just like they do in Alpha Blue and Venger's other games. The difference here is that you're a vampire which comes with cool powers, immunities, and unfortunately drawbacks. The powers are pretty interesting. All vampires get the classic strong/fast/charming abilities, but then you get unique powers every level. My favourite is the aptly named Subspecies which lets you make little demons like Radu from the movie of the same name. Other vampiric rules you might expect from a vamp game (such as vampiric slaves and blood bonds) are here too.

The pdf ends with a short outline introductory scenario. The party all reside in the same rundown house (which I imagine is a lot like the house in What We Do In the Shadows). They find a note from a high ranking vampire in the city telling them to get the fuck out. Is it real? Is it a prank? Do they flee? Do they kill the bastard before they can have him killed? That's up to you and your group.

The artwork is appropriate and appealing. I have a thing for blasphemy, so I love the monstrous nun on the cover.

If you can't tell, I really like Blood Dark Thirst and I think you will too. Do you want to play a game that lets you relive your glory days of classic Vampire: The Masquerade but without all of the overdone metaplot? Never played a vampire game, but have always wanted to be Michael or David from The Lost Boys? This is the game for you.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Dark Thirst
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Blood Dark Thirst
by Kai P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 08:17:25

Blood Dark Thirst weighs in at 22 pages (if you do not count the cover and the artpage at the „inside” of the cover). Reading it in order to get ready to roll may thereby be done quickly. What else does this title offer?

First of all, it offers really good artwork! While I for one doubt that a 22-pager has to have 7 pages that are artwork only, this artwork is up to the cover illustration in regard to quality, and summons a gritty-sleezy-cheesy vampire vibe. Good stuff in that department, really!

After a small introduction (that does not overstay its welcome), p.3 to p.19 give GM and player all the rules of B-D-T (together with some random tables for character creation, for those who HAVE to have them). The products -is- rules light, it does not even have an attribute or skill set but follows a rather free-form approach where every player picks three things the characters is good at, two things the PC is bad at... and thats it! On to the vampire-stuff (which is the real focus of the game)! The rule system is easy to understand and easy to run with. Of course, that means that it is not a nuanced affair where things besides the characters general aptitude make to much of a difference. It is all about the number of d6 that the character may roll for a task (most of the time: one, two or three). If the overall circumstances are beneficial, a D6 is added. If they are obstructive, a D6 is removed from the pool. While this approach speeds things up greatly and makes sure that the rules may be explained quickly, I would have loved to see a bit of info about weapons in combat here. While the author does declare that this title is not about heroes with gear (and offers a quick rule for armor), a(nother) two-line optional rule about weapons in combat would have rounded.

The rules for the supernatural aspects of the (demon-based, mind you!) vampires were clearly inspired by the “Vampire” product lines of WhiteWolf (and now: Onyx Path Publishing). Blood points are used to measure the amount of the red stuff (optionally called “ichor” here) that a vampire robs from humans and used to fuel supernatural powers and the vampires existence, a humanity stat goes up and down in response to the good and evil acts of the character (evil characters are easier to identify as a vampire and have problems to animate themselves during the day), willpower is gained by adhering to once character (flaws) and may be spend to fend off mind-control or to boost ones own dice pools for important actions...

In fact, the rules read and feel like a complete adaption of the mentioned “Vampire”-rules to Venger Nas Satanis own VSd6 system. The line between “being inspired” and “being a copy-cat” seems thin to me here.

The available supernatural powers make-up the “vamp-thing” of a character, and these are as rules-light as the rest of the system. In some cases, that works very well but in others, I would have liked a -tad- more information about how to handle a given power in the game. To name a few: Allure, Dread and Evaporate Blood would have gained a lot clarity if just one more sentence with a rules statement would have been added to them (like it it is the case with Acidic Blood and Resilience). A good GM should still be handle this on the fly with a few house rules, so.

What I personally like the most here is Venger Nas Satanis slighty different take on “blood bounds”,as they no longer are a surefire-way to enslave another vampire: things just -might- end up not as “yes-master”-ish as the donor of the ichor thinks they will...

The advertisement text for the title says that “a brief introductory scenario is provided”, and that is a statement I could not disagree more with. This “scenario” is made up of a plot hook (“you get a LEAVE OR GET KILLED” letter by another vampire of the city), a prop (said letter), a d6 table with six facts about Lyrean (said antagonist), and a random d20 encounter table for the “scenario”. AND THAT´S IT. All in all, this covers the pages 19 and 21, but only 50% or 75% of each page is actually content, the rest is “filler”. The random encounter table (titled “What is going on in the city tonight”) includes the one and only hint to the antagonists whereabouts [“Lyrean Du Kane´s stronghold in the ware-house district”]. To me, that is not a scenario but a plot idea and a random events table (...and how exactly is the stronghold meant to be a random event?).

All in all, you get a nice, quick-and-dirty “Vampire”-rules adaption to an easy-to-learn, fast-to-play d6 based rules system, and the title is thereby true to the first statement of its advertisement [All the bloodsucking, none of the baggage! ]. The artwork is GOOD, the layout is nice and clear, the rules would have profited from one more explanation here or there, but all in all the system is “solid” and ready for a ride. It is not what I call original, so, and thereby I stick to a 3/5. If you are looking for a system that will support your Halloween-Horror-Quicky, do not hesitate and make the purchase. The same is true if you look for something nice and easy that you may build upon.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Dark Thirst
by Gary A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2017 07:24:23

Venger always produces fantastically over the top gonzo settings and games. BDT is no exception. This game uses the same rules that he created for Alpha Blue. Its a rules light system that is elegant and fast. BDT takes on Vampire. Its not another skin of VotM. Its a game that focuses on what being a vampire is... a demon. Anyhow this is a fantastic buy for the price. Well worth it. I plan on running this. You should too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/13/2017 04:26:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module for Alpha Blue clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis publishing glyph, ½ page editorial, leaving us with 15 ½ pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we do: This is a review of a module for Alpha Blue, a game that is a kind of homage to 70s’/80s’ scifi-porn parodies. As such, sex and violence, particularly sex, are themes herein. A good litmus test is the cover: Does it offend you? If so, steer clear. If not, then proceed.

I do assume that you’re familiar with Alpha Blue in my review.

Before we take a closer look at the module itself, we are introduced to two new Alpha Blue classes – the first would be the Xenologist, who knows A LOT about alien xenology: 1/scene, he causes those attracted to him be drawn to his animal magnetism; those that believe themselves superior feel stupid and those that believe themselves brainy will realize the advantage of having him be a part of the crew. The range is 10’. Now, while functional, personally, I think it’d have been more elegant to codify this ability more precisely: One effect on a 4, 2 on a 5, 3 on a 6 and a bonus effect – a little table for success and failure. The second class herein would be the pickup artist: Basically, the SDM rolls a hidden d6 and on a 1 or 2, the prospective target is potentially available sans much fuss. No complaints here.

Beyond these two classes, we also get some rules for the benefits of sex: Special abilities with limited uses (like 1/hour, 2/combat, etc.), you gain a bonus use of that ability. You can trade sexual gratification for stealing the spotlight, allowing for the doubling of dice on a single action. You can forego getting off in favor of a reroll of a single dice pool reroll. I really like these. They add a bit of tactical depth to the game. Kudos!

It should be noted that two pages of the pdf are devoted to campaign worksheets for an Alpha Blue campaign, with influences, 23 quick questions to establish leitmotifs, etc. allowing for a pretty quick and dirty means to establish the base-lines. Beyond these, tables for 20 scifi names, 4 general dispositions, 6 reasons to be here and 10 sample outfits can be found, allowing for some quick and easy NPC-dressing for the characters herein. It should be noted that, structure-wise, we do not get a synopsis or the like – the SDM is strongly advised to read the entirety of the module before trying to run it.

Anyways, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

Only SDMs around? Great!The PCs are standing over the smoldering corpse of a foe…and then, some beeping can be heard. The communicator of the fallen enemy displays an alarm: Tomorrow, the galaxy’s largest Q’uay Q’uar tournament will be held on Zeta Minor…and the convention of Universal Pickup Artist Association also will take place there! If that’s not enough motivation yet, the pdf does provide no less than 6 custom angles for the SDM to employ. En route to Zeta Minor, the PCs will have a chance to avoid a cloud of strange matter that may result in bizarre occurrences….like being contacted by versions of themselves from an alternate reality, currently on the run from a dark star elf bounty hunter. (Oh, and “drow”? Bad racial slur…that ought to be funny) Oh, one more thing: The alternate versions of the PCs are really bad a-holes…

Anyways, once the PCs arrive on Zeta Minor, they’ll find Mistress Grenadine, former Satisfier of Alpha Blue – a brilliant and expensive dominatrix, hose attentions can yield palpable bonuses in-game – cool! The tournament director will btw. be none other than David “Space” Pumpkins and his dancing skeleton crew…oh, and he and his bodyguards get full stats and his unique wand sports several really potent effects. Cool!

Now, the module is obviously about participating in the q’uay q’uar game – and there are several means to do so: There are two different levels of abstractions for quick resolutions…but where the pdf goes the extra mile would be the first and most rewarding way to do so: You see, there is a bonus 1.5-page pdf here that explains the game, as well as a full-color, high-res jpg of the game table: “Q’uay” means “purple”, “Q’uar” means yellow – this is a two-player game. Purple goes first and both players start by placing their starship on a hex of the appropriate color. A player can move 1 hex per turn. When a player moves a spaceship on a hex with a symbol, the respective symbol’s effect kicks in. If both players’ starships are in the same hex, combat commences. This is resolved via competing d6s. Ties go to the aggressor.

There are two ways to win the game: Be the last man standing or ascending the symbol that’s the Star Throne: If you do, you roll 1d6: A 1 kills you, while 4+ wins the game. 2-3 means that political bickering requires a reroll next round. Wormhole hexes let you jump to another wormhole. There are also space stations, alien mercenaries and assassins – all contain the chances for bonuses and for penalties. The basic game is pretty simple…but more rewarding with the optional rules: 2d6s each round make the game chaotic: Preventing a color from ascending the throne, temporarily no wormholes…the mini-game is fun, the visual representation of the playing field is amazing and better yet, the game can be resolved quickly and thus doesn’t halt the game for too long. HUGE kudos for this fun mini-game! Even if you dislike Alpha Blue, this may well be worth getting for the mini-game.

However, beyond this mini-game, there is plenty of adventuring potential: Hessina Goldenfire, the vibroswordswoman and expert gambler, Jenna Rayne the space-slut who is seeking to settle down, Talador Gisholm the pickup artist (who gets stats, unlike Hessina, which was a bit weird)…the NPCs depicted are colorful and interesting. Crime lord Syresh Vos, a really powerful Bobba Fett style killer with several unique and fearsome, nay, legendary items, meanwhile wants to steal the prize money…and then there’d be Quai-Gon Jizz. A total douchebag, former knight in white satin…and the best player in the tournament…particularly because he cheats! The nasty zedi comes with full stats…and the PCs should better stop him and his nasty, drugging pipe.

Oh, and on the last day of the tournament, there’ll be a hologram…promising a fortune for the heads of the PCs. The instigator, btw., would be Fructis New Zaelyn, associate of Grabba the Butt and on the board of Purple Prizm’s directors…but he’ll probably get away. How that turns out? Well, that’s up for another adventure to determine!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to the neat two-column full-color standard for Alpha Blue-modules. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version of the pdf. The pdf also is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the addition of the jpg for the game is great – two thumbs up.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ latest Alpha Blue module is BY FAR the best he’s written for the whole product line. While one NPC that could have used stats didn’t get any (Hessina), this is a surprisingly crunchy, fun module. The set-up is creative and the different ways to resolve the game by playing the game or via the quicker, more abstract rolls are amazing, allowing the SDM to account for the peculiarities of the table, be they home-campaign or convention game. The NPCs are cool and the “further adventuring” angle is amazing as well – the finale this time around is not sudden or problematic. In short: This is a fun, creative, well-rounded module. I have only the slightest of complaints and they pale before the otherwise cool module.

As an aside: You can easily expand Q’uay Q’uar to work as a team-game: Take a sheet of hex paper, place glyphs and allow for multiple players per color. I suggest doubling the field-size for every pair of additional players, placing as many additional glyphs on the map (excluding star throne, which will remain in the center) as on the original field and…there you go. The game’s pretty simple and fun and if you do expand it to sport more players per color, I’d suggest providing dice-bonuses for ganging up on single vessels, etc.

…there I go, expanding a bonus mini-game. Anyways, back to the review: I considered this not only to be the most rewarding Alpha Blue module so far, it also is the best, craftsmanship-wise. It is pretty sandboxy, but sports concise rules and details. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
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Blood Dark Thirst
by Chance P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2017 19:50:52

Explanation: Although Blood Dark Thirst is meant as a homage/heartbreaker of first edition Vampire: the Requiem, I've never actually played it or read it all of the way through, so this review is unbiased by how well it fufills this role.

System: As mentioned above, this new iteration of Blood Dark Thirst uses the VSd6 system. What this means is that for every action you roll a certain number of dice based on how skilled you are and the highest number is your score, with multiple 6s only counting for attacks. You are skilled at three things, which you roll 3d6 for, you are bad at one thing, which you roll 1d6 for, and for everything else you roll 2d6. If the challenge is fairly easy, you add a die, and if it's hard, you subtract a die. If you should have 0d6, you simply roll 2d6 and take the lowest.

Character Creation In addition to picking three skills and one weakness, you also pick three (out of 20) personality flaws, such as pacifist, insecure, and greedy, a name, gender, and age, and supernatural powers. All vampires have three base supernatural powers but there is also another lengthy list of powers that you will pick as you level up, ranging from changing into wolves and bats to telepathy.

Humanity and Health: One of the best parts of this system, Humanity and Health are how you track your vampire's physical and mental state. Humanity ranges from 1 to 6, with 6 being perfectly human to 6 being a horrific beast. Every time you do something especially inhuman, you lose a point of Humanity, but you can only lose one point of Humanity per night. This means that if you go on a nonstop killing rampage, you only lose one point, which in my opinion can lead to nice roleplaying as it becomes one instance of your inner beast taking over. Health starts at 25 and goes up by 1d6 every level. Vampires can regenerate 1d6 Health by spending a point of blood and Humans regenerate 1d6 Health nightly.

Combat: Combat with this system, from what I read, tends towards the cinematic. Whoever describes their action first goes first and you roll a certain number of dice based on how strong your attack is. Then, based on the result of that roll (taking the highest number again), you roll a certain number of damage dice to subtract from your enemy's hit points. It's really quite simplified and I enjoy the mechanical purity. Damage does explode, which, when you're already dealing a lot of damage, could be unbalancing but it can represent the bestial instinct of the vampire taking over. Also, all vampires essentially have cleave, so if they deal more damage than they need to, it carries onto another victim.

Blood, Willpower, and Bloodlust: Points of blood and Willpower both range from 1-6, allowing you to track it handily on a d6, although it is recommended to use tokens. Points of blood are similar to mana, allowing you to use supernatural powers and heal yourself, while Willpower represents a vampire's restraint. You can only spend one point of blood per turn and one Willpower per round and three Willpower per scene. Bloodlust isn't a number but rather comes into play when you're running low on blood. When you have a low blood, you roll additional dice when doing something. When they come up as 1s, you go into a frenzy, and if they are 6s, you have a critical success. The duality of this, in my mind, allows for players to consider whether or not they want to risk running low on blood.

Weaknesses and Truths and Falsehoods: As an addendum of sorts, Venger provides a basic list of ways that the vampires can be killed, as they are essentially immortal otherwise, and debunks some 'facts' from classic films and stories. I can definitely see this being useful to a GM.

Etc.: In addition to the mechanical side, Venger also provides information for blood bonds, or binding one vampire to another, mortal slaves, a few random tables, and a basis for a starting adventure. Because of the more free-form nature of this system, and the random tables provided, having the adventure as an introduction and set of bullet points is actually a boon rather than a bane. It lets the GM decide how he wants to run this adventure, while still having a list of things to fall back on.

Layout: The layout is by Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design, who has done artwork for a variety of Kort'thalis Publishing products as well as recently running a successful Kickstarter for his Midderlands setting. The background of the page is stylized to be blood stained and despite this, the actual text and content is still easy to read, at least for me. All in all, the layout looks especially good to me and the actual content really benefits from it.

Artwork: The artwork is from a variety of different artists and features a variety of different artists, and unlike the WotC Star Wars Roleplaying Game, this isn't jarring at all to me. Every piece showcases a different aspect of the popular culture surrounding vampires and someone's different interpretation thereof. Plus, one of the pieces, by Maxime Taccarde/Priest of Terror, actually did a piece with his own blood from what I can tell! That's the best possible (and most metal) art style to include in a vampire roleplaying game and I have to give credit to both Venger and the artist for including this.

In Conclusion: This is definitely a more free form and brutal vampire RPG than most, with a definite focus on animal instinct versus reason. It seems somewhat alike to Daniel Bayn's Wushu in mechanical and suggested style while staying far, far away from Twilight vampires. The artwork and layout definitely add to the already thematic mechanics and I definitely felt inspired just reading this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Dark Thirst
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Stairway of V'dreen
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/12/2017 03:53:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The latest module for Venger’s Crimson Dragon Slayer rules-lite old-school RPG clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, ½ page editorial, leaving us with 16 ½ pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the adventure begins with the PCs seeking shelter – whether from a meteor shower or something else; thankfully, there is a conveniently-located half-buried hunk of metal there. What could go wrong?

Ahem, well, a lot. This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All righty, only referees around? Great! It is no surprise that the PCs will find the hunk of metal occupied – within, Dr. Ebzub is performing an experiment of utmost importance – the planar and dimensional traveler is calibrating a portal and PC interference may have pretty fatal and unpleasant consequences. The random table provided does allow for devastating explosions or stranger things yet, including the skipping of the whole module, requiring some referee mojo to get back on track. If the portal is opened, hwoever, the important mission of the doctor may well bring the PCs to V’dreen, where the thin air can provide some hindrance, depending on the luck of the PC – a d4-roll determines whether and how the PC is affected, ranging from continuous, asthmatic gasping for air to not being affected at all. Weird: RAW, being winded imposes disadvantage on physical activities until you rest, whereas not being able to properly breathe only requires a rest, sans the rules-relevant repercussions. Pretty sure that’s an oversight.

V’dreen has been abandoned by the gods and thus, a table of 12 strange susurrations carried by the wind can be found; the biggest city of the world, laarzdyn, come with 30 sample professions, which include the makers of invisible nets and being a colorist of artificial fish. Beyond these, we have a random encounter table that lets us randomly generate genetic experiments gone horribly wrong – determine base shape with a d10, type (including T-rex and bunny rabbit) with a d12 and weird feature with a d8 – the latter includes, obviously, tentacles, mutations or being vampiric. It should be noted that you still have to determine the basic stats and rules-wise, there are no default repercussions – “tremendous bite”, for example, is reliant on referee judgment to determine what it does. There are also 6 sample stranded NPCs to encounter, which range from stranded dark elves to Miskatonic researchers, pirates, a lecherous old captain and Ro-Dan, the raging mutoid. These write-ups are creative, fun and cool – but once again, fluff only – you’ll need to provide/improvise stats yourself.

Okay, so those would be the free-floating complications/supplemental pieces of information, let’s move to the adventure proper: V’dreen is a world the gods forgot – and as such, it is fading at its rims, getting smaller…and the good doctor proceeds to whip out a device, visibly excited…before, quite likely, being disintegrated by an arrow of bone jade fired by the fully statted Maura’kai raiders – one of the factions of this strange place, a race of insectoid humanoid savages at war with another faction of this place. Whether the PCs hold them back or are brought to their encampment, sooner or later they should realize that, unless they do something they may vanish with this strange world – investigation of the edges of the world will yield an impression not unlike graph paper, stretching to infinity – and a promise of falling forever if you step into oblivion. Watching the blank infinity promises madness, as a Great old One is lurking there…and just as the PCs may want to leave, they’ll encounter black-skinned goblin-like creatures with a taste for human flesh…

There are three factions here: Beyond the aforementioned Maura’kai, there are the Klyngon star elves and the B’xeeru, sentient clouds of semi-corporeal flesh; The Mauru’kai worship the Beast of V’dreen, a tentacle, tiger-striped arachnosaur that breathes paralytic gas. And yes, we get both artworks and stats for this horrid monstrosity. Hint: That’s one of the instances where PCs should GTFO…and it usually can be found at the base of the mystical steps that may lead from this place. The star elves hate and loathe the stairway and the beast, but are also afraid of the latter; finally, the b’xeeru despise the mauru’kai and want to keep the star elves away from the stair.

Among the wonders of V’dreen are strange thinsg – the mauru’kai, for example, worship and fear the Faceless Demon, sealed and out of phase in his ancient temple…who, surprisingly, just wants to PCs to ascend the staircase and press a purple button, fixing the world. (Obviously, this is a ploy – but he’s willing to give the PCs an extremely potent, intelligent tri-bladed sword. The first creature killed with it will determine the strength of the demon as he manifests, so unsurprisingly, it wants the PCs to try to kill the legendary beast of V’dreen with it… There also is a garden containing three marble statues, which represent immortals lying in wait – defacing them can yield dire consequences, but oddly, not stats are provided – sure, they are immortal, but no information on attacks and tricks they have? There also is a massive one-eyed monolith, the nexus of worship for the fading world, where a d%-table and some guiding questions allow you to determine on the fly magic item-effects. That is, you interpret e.g. entries like “Spheres of Yog-Soggoth.” And yes, considering the beast’s stats, you better come up with some potent tricks for your PCs here. There also would be the slaver warlord Seejo Tulon, who provides the option to save some damsels in distress – neither is chain of hopelessness, nor his fear-inducing gauntlet have precise mechanical effects.

Finally, there would be a way to escape, beyond ascending the stairs - a temporally disjointed wizard who may or may not have been eaten by a crudzu, a strange plant monster, does have a strange device and with it, they potentially may return…if the referee so desires, that is.

If the PCs make it past the dread beast, they’ll find room 23, where they can witness the gods of V’dreen Dave, Jim, Phil, Ginny, Tom and Aleister thinking about the fate the of the world – and, in a funny jab at the horrid endings of Deus Ex 3 and similar games, 3 buttons that decide the fate of V’dreen- annihilation, integration into the purple islands or restoration.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though the rules-language is often a bit less precise and prone to requiring interpretation than what I personally prefer. Layout adheres to a red-veined, two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos! The artworks are original pieces in b/w and absolutely amazing. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks. Personally, I was disappointed to get no cool map of V’dreen – to me, it very much feels like a free-form hexploration and the lack of a map makes it all feel a bit opaque.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ Stairway of V’dreen feels very much like a fever-dream to me; I mean this as both a compliment and a criticism. On the one hand, we have a daunting, creative vision that is a pleasure to behold. The world feels primordial, strange and creative, and the graph-paper/fading world angle is amazing. This deserves heartfelt praise for its glorious ideas; none of the encounters/set-pieces featured herein are bland. That being said, at the same time, when rated as a commercial adventure, it feels a bit disjointed and sketch-like: Neither the star-elves, nor the b’xeeru are mentioned or explained in any depth beyond the brief, fluffy introductions. No stats or the like; they feel like afterthoughts to the mauru’kai. While we learn of the strange town of Laarzdyn, we do not learn what its populace is – mauru’kai? Star elves? B’xeeru? A blend? Something else?

I can accept Venger’s philosophy of requiring referee interpretation in his system; Crimson Dragon Slayer is rules-lite enough that this doesn’t necessarily break the game. But at the same time, here, there is a lot left to referee. The genetic experiments, the marble demons, the regular inhabitants…all require statting by the referee. Getting any sense of the place and its geography, in lack of a map, requires some serious close reading by the referee as well. Sure, I do get the idea here – make everything blurry, haze-like, allow the referee to move at his/her own pace. My contention is, however, that both the way in which stats and rules-text are missing in some instances and the lack of a map (even a point-crawl-y one would have worked!) conspire to generate a haze; the module, ultimately, becomes harder to use than it should be. The lack of a synopsis also adds to this, making a piece of inspired writing harder on the referee to run that it should be.

The beast of V’dreen is amazing and the primary obstacle of the module, with its ridiculous amounts of hit points. The PCs can even get a McGuffin blade to slay it. But what if they want to lead the star elves into an attack on it? Well, you’d need to improvise stats for them. The magic items the PCs will very much need to have a chance against the beast, require some serious, spontaneous Referee-mojo. Chances are, you don’t have a preconceived idea of what the eye of K’tulu does, after all. It is in these instances where I really wished the pdf would be more precise, would provide more guidance, a bit more structure. Combined with the lack of a map, we get an impression of a hazy fever-dream – a brilliant, far-out and creative environment and great set-pieces. But from a structural point of view, the module also, alas, sports the imprecise and slightly confusing nature of that dream.

This is really hard for me. As a private person, I absolutely loved this adventure. I adore its creativity. The beast is glorious and so are all the components of V’dreen – the setting and ideas are fresh and fun. As a reviewer, however, I also have to take into account the structural weaknesses that haunt the module and its at times annoying opacity. I have tried in my review to reduce this as much as possible, but in the pdf, we jump from the mauru’kai ambush to notes on their camp to the factions to the edge of the world, to Seejo Tulan…you get the idea. The structure of the presentation, as much as its minor oversights, constitutes a major drawback, particularly for less experienced referees – it is, in lack of a unifying backdrop and courtesy of its inspired weirdness, more opaque and hazy than Venger’s Revelry in Torth.

If you’re a veteran with great improvisational skills, then get this! This is an inspired little sandbox! However, if you want something to take up and play, if you have a hard time dealing with sandboxy environments, then this will challenge you more than most comparable modules, courtesy of a lack of summary or detailed presentation of its components. Personally, I had a blast with this – while I was annoyed by the amount of work I had to do to fill in the blanks, more so than even in many large-scale hexcrawls, the imaginative vision of this module remained strong enough for me to make it worthwhile. I can see this fail horribly, though – novices or referees accustomed to more hand-holding when running a module should probably think twice before embarking on the journey to V’dreen. Ultimately, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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His Flesh Becomes My Key
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/10/2017 09:36:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Outer Presence-module for Venger’s second tripartite collection of modules for his rules-lite systems clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page VERY basic char-sheet (just two tables - a long cry from e.g. Alpha Blue’s cool sheet), 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf begins with a nice 2d6 table that presents weird, personal experiences of the influx of the weird, which may be encountered by the PCs during the course of the module – from headaches to involuntary anger and the like, they can make for nice pieces of dressing. It should be noted that, structure-wise, the module does not offer a synopsis or the like – this is not a go-play module and the referee should most definitely prepare the entirety in advance.

It should also be noted that this module imho works best as a one-shot and, being a horror module, it does feature some content you’d consider…well, gory and horrific. There is a potential murder in particular that is pretty R-rated. Reader-discretion is advised.

Now, more than in comparable modules, I STRONGLY advise potential players to stop reading NOW. This module, more so than comparable ones, can be SPOILED hardcore by even having a rough idea of what to expect. Only referees should continue reading.

..

.

All right, so the module begins in a rather calm manner: Just as the investigators are sitting around, enjoying a nice cigar and a glass of brandy, they notice a snow globe on one investigator’s desk – inside it, they can see an office with facsimiles of men and women, matching the party’s composition, gender-wise. While this is strange on its own, the PCs are contacted by their friend Richard Blake on the phone – usually kind and upbeat, his latest case of a serial murder whose modus operandi contains ritualistic mutilations of his victims, seems to have him shaken up. He also asks the PCs if they have read Thomas Alhazred Lovejoy. …if you even remotely are into semi-obscure and underappreciated horror movies, a smile may have crossed your face: My own association was most assuredly: “Do you read Sutter Cane?”

Anyways, the PCs are stood up – Black is a no-show at the date and considering the genre, the PCs should be rather concerned. Contacting Black’s partner, Cecil Slandy, does not paint the positive picture of Black you’d expect: Cecil obviously has been less than impressed with Black’s methods and considers him to be a gloryhound. Cecil and Black disagreed how the murder case in question should be pursued and thus, he hasn’t seen Black in over a week.

Thankfully, Detective Fontineau is a friend to both investigators and Black and lets them rummage through his desk…where a black notebook unearth a disturbing piece of prose writing (reproduced in the module), mentioning a “Master”, who answers “Others” – which doesn’t bode well. The notebook does yield some nice easter-eggs/leads, though, from Theta Chartreuse (Venger’s nod to Delta Green) to Lovecraft and the aforementioned Mr. Lovejoy, there are some delightfully bonkers conspiracy ideas herein -which may well turn out to be true, considering the setting.

Now, beyond these, the notebook does mention the Brotherhood of Gleaming Divulgence – though the phone number and apartment associated yield no hot trail. Instead, the investigators can find a sealed envelope contained a dire prose poem about a work when the stars are right. Another venue of investigation, obviously, would be Black’s apartment, where the investigators can find a rather disquieting statue of an amphibian monstrosity – as the notebook unearths, a likeness of Tal’Jezakbahr. Moreover, a wooden box contains an ivory crucifix, strange liquids, an annotated bible, strange demonic glyphs…not good.

Speaking of which: Black has a fondness for prostitutes and his current fling, Treena, sports tattoos vaguely resembling the glyphs found at the crime-scenes, based on, you guessed it, vivid descriptions in Lovejoy’s writing. She tells the investigators she’ll contact them and will do so – when she feels she’s being followed by a curly-haired guy…and when they don’t immediately get to her, she’ll be the next victim, one eye scooped out and placed in her vagina. And yes, there is a b/w-artwork of that. I did warn you about gore, right?

Anyways, the PCs can also find Jay Harango, an informant of Black whom he met when he disappeared. Similarly, the pdf mentions the prior and potential future victims of the serial killer here – and Lovejoy actually seems to be shook up about the murders. Now, I mentioned before that the referee should read the module in its entirety – a reason for this is that you don’t really get a list of the information in the notebook – you have to compile that yourself, which makes the otherwise modular investigation a bit harder to run than it should be imho.

The true killer isn’t as you may have thought, Mr. Black – instead, a bug-eyed fanatic called Stanton LaVry, who seeks to kidnap Lovejoy…a task in which he’ll succeed via his magical tricks. The investigators can ostensibly cut through the tentacles with mystical means, but no stats or the like are provided for doing so/judging the difficulty. Speaking of no stats – neither LaVry, nor his familiar sport stats herein. These would be, once more, up to the referee to provide.

The investigators may also witness LaVry’s book – which comes with a glorious 1-page artwork and inside, the PCs can read their names, written in blood. Examining the names conjures forth a silhouette of pure blackness and a hint on how to escape from a form of imprisonment…but no sign of Richard Black can be found. Instead, the PCs are lured deeper into the complex (which is a bit opaque): Finding a flagstone, the PCs can remove more, witnessing a vast cavern below, where humans engage in all sorts of depraved behavior – from murder to rape to (self-) mutilation, they witness a decadent rite in honor of a toad-spider thing, circled by nubile witches that seek to curry favor with their demonic master…and a tall, horrid man with either a mask or distorted flesh in his face conducting the rite. How the PCs go down below to the rite is somewhat opaque, as far as I’m concerned, but movement through the throng of folks towards the strange Supplicant comes with a nice d6-table of dressing-events. While it requires Willpower to resist the libidinous advances of the witches, I am not sure how that is supposed to be handled – what’s a partially success (4+ in TOD), for example? Does it suffice? What are the consequences for failing the roll? All of that needs to be improvised by the referee.

Black is here as well, trying to dodge the ritualists. His involvement here, alas, is also left up to the referee. Upon reaching the servitor, he offers to send the PCs back and end their imprisonment, though everything apart from the soul as a toll will result in the servitor’s face melting off, leaving a black void…and upon gazing into it, the PCs will see themselves zoom out, revealing the investigators trapped inside the snow-globe that started all. The phone rings. Richard Black’s on the phone…and the cycle repeats ad infinitum. LaVry’s book provides the only clue to save the investigators – skin the servitor and wear his flesh (hence the title). However, since we don’t really have an idea of the servitor’s potency, nor any clues on how knowledge of prior cycles changes events, it may be preferable for the referee to end the module on this disturbing nod of an infinite loop of unwilling participants. It’s certainly the most impactful way to end this story.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant hiccups. Layout adheres to the nice, greenish-tinted two-column full-color standard of Outer Presence adventures. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version – big kudos. Speaking of which: The b/w-artworks herein are excellent indeed – this is a really nice-looking pdf.

Venger As’Nas Satanis’ latest “The Outer Presence” module is an excellent, rather horrifying tale of terror. I mean it. Where the first two modules in the series focused on pulp with a bit of Cthulhiana spliced in, this one can be considered to be actual HORROR. It’s build up is great, the end amazing. As a one-shot, this does a great job and in fact, represents, by FAR, my favorite story he’s woven so far. It’s intriguing, cool and fun, a bit gory and transcends the limits of being just a homage to a certain Carpenter-movie or Twilight Zone et al.

Let me make that abundantly clear: An experienced referee can have a glorious field-day with this. That being said, for me, this is less of an adventure and more of a story. It is slightly inconvenient that you have to compile the information from Black’s notebook and the final areas when facing the killer are a bit more sketch-like than I’d like them honestly to be. Since one of my readers asked me to state the like explicitly: This is not a go-play module and requires some referee-time-investment to run properly. The complete absence of any game mechanics apart from 2 dressing tables is jarring and the one thing I absolutely do not understand about this offering. We have an inspired, cool horror-yarn here, so how come that neither rolls for sanity, nor any other components from ToD’s already extremely minimalist rules can be found herein? This is, in short, not really an adventure module in the traditional sense. It leaves the referee pretty much alone with anything related to mechanics – stats for adversaries and obstacles can’t be found and while some entries, like the abduction of a certain NPC, do come with suggestions, there are no real consequences for succeeding. Nor does witnessing tentacles burst from the ground cause sanity checks.

In short, were I to rate this based solely on the merits of an adventure, I’d consider it a failure. Player agenda and choice doesn’t matter too much, the referee must do all the work for stats etc. and some serious improvising etc.

In short: I can see this fail horribly for some referees.

Still, as a person, this represents the first Outer Presence supplement I really LOVED. This, when seen as a story to be fleshed out, makes for an amazing experience. Yes, it requires more work on part of the referee. Yes, it is at times a bit obtuse and inconvenient – but if you do run its conclusion as I suggested and pull that aspect off, you’ll have an amazing, inspired experience on your hands.

Which brings me to the task I really dreaded regarding this review – namely, rating this. You see, even when not looked at as an adventure you can quickly and conveniently prepare, this could be structured better and is, at times, more inconvenient than it should be. The already rather thin rules of “The Outer Presence” take a further backseat (even compared to “A Green jewel They Must Possess”) and are pretty much completely omitted. The only dice you’ll RAW roll are dressing tables. So yeah, if you expect at least some sort of convenience and gaming material beyond a story, then steer clear of this.

On the plus-side, the story is amazing, inspiring and truly cool. As in: Best thing in the product-line, by far, levels of cool. As a person, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this supplement. I like the story, the pacing of the module – from the beginning to the end, the module continuously increases the tension, has some nice stakes…and the finale is, as mentioned, a blast. If you’re looking for an inspired base to further develop into a module, then this will deliver in spades.

I only very rarely am this torn about any module. I can see some people hating this as a module and loving it as a story to develop. Ultimately, I have to account for both in my review. Which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars…but I honestly feel I have to round down for this one. However, since I really LOVED the story and finale, this is one of the rare cases where I award my seal of approval, in spite of the pdf’s flaws – if you can navigate them, this becomes amazing.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
His Flesh Becomes My Key
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Liberation of the Demon Slayer
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2017 07:48:35

"Liberation of the Demon Slayer" is a 68 pages long dungeoncrawl written by Venger Satanis. It follows the same pattern as his other publications : more or less disorganized, full of nudies, deliciously weird and beginning with a section on setting rules. A short and very classical "story hook" is suggested as well.

This dungeon consists of six levels (whose connections to each other have remained hitherto mysterious, despite the maps); the first one is very classic one à la "Firetop Mountain", the second one is flooded, the third one is a crashed starship (!), n°4 is filled with cannibals and Dark Elves, n°5 is a den for worshippers of Chtulhuoid aberrations, and n°6 a volcano.

A mix of classical D&D with Lovecraft, Frazetta and "Murphy's World" (this last one for the absurd side). I think those levels should be played separately, as a geomorph of a larger dungeon.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liberation of the Demon Slayer
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The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2017 07:18:29

"The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence" is a 110 pages hexcrawl by Venger Satanis. Let's begin to notice that this book is more carefully organized than some of his other products. The book describes three islands populated by a mix of primitives, aberrations and remnants of sci-fi; a first part is dedicated to setting rules and the second one gives encounters and scenes for most of the hexes (2 nice maps are provided at the end of the book).

Yes, some contents are "mature", but, as a Continental European, I have no problem with this : our real world is full of ugly ideologies and religions that enslave women while, on these islands, nothing keeps you from having a chivalrous behaviour and set free those female slaves...

As is often the case with VS, many random tables are given to spice up your gaming pleasure. I like the "While they're sleeping" and the "going native" tables. Yes, this book is weird... but that may be the best module I have found for "tropical" adventures, and you are free to adapt it as you like. Just remember, in the real world, Stanley's expedition deep into the Congo, less than 200 years ago. That was no "walk in the park", rolling just random encounters like "Oh ! A monster attacks you!", but unexpected, unknown, gruesome things...

Here, cruelty is counterbalanced by sci-fi and derision, so why not give it a try ?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
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Revelry in Torth
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2017 13:48:18

"Revelry in Torth" is a sandbox adventure by Venger Satanis. The action mostly takes place at Aryd's End, a city lost in a desert, in a post-apocalyptic world that lives in an eternal night. The setting is a blend of Sword & Sorcery, Lovecraftian mythos and sci-fi à la Frank Herbert. If we discard the art and other paraphernalia, we get approximately 12 pages of setting rules and description and 12 pages of adventure out of 44 pages.

As for the adventure, it consists of different encounters (or "vignettes") in Aryd's End (or a few days far from it), some of them relating to a general campaign arc where the players might (I do write "might") get involved into the murder of a noble, and will be summoned to the royal palace by the local Barbarian king. The whole contents of that book is really evocative of a decadent (rather oriental) S&S city, no doubt. But this is no full-fledged adventure : what if the players don't mess with the different encounters ? Alas, the very general background information as well as the paucity of information given in some encounters oblige the GM to add much more preparation before the gaming session.

Venger Satanis gives me, here, the impression of being a talentful cook with excellent ingredients but who can serve to his guests (because of a lack of time ???) nothing else than a succulent ketchup.

The reviewer in "Tenfootpole.org" wrote : "This module is everything I would like Xoth to be". To go on with a culinary comparison, then Xoth's "The Spider-God's Bride" would be a nourishing but tasteless dish of meat. Since "Revelry in Torth" is basically a succession of encounters, I think it could be best used as such, in any fantasy universe featuring a decadent city.

Therefore, I am puzzled in front of that product : clearly it is literarily speaking interesting, but technically a mess. I know that Venger Satanis can do better (cf: Isles of Purple-Haunted Putrescence), maybe he should have charged one more dollar and delivered a brilliant adventure standing on its own. So my rating may look severe : I just want to warn purchasers.

Buy it - really buy it - if you plan an adventure in a S&S decadent city and already have an other RPG background that you want to enhance with Venger Satanis' vivid scenes. Otherwise, you may feel disappointed.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Revelry in Torth
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Stairway of V'dreen
by Tim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2017 12:20:38

A neuronphaser.com review.

Content 3/5

Like so many of Kort’thalis Publishing’s products, Stairway packs an optimal amount of adventure hooks and encounters in a minimum of space, cleverly leaving a fair amount of work up to random tables and minimizing background- and motivation-oriented text for NPCs and creatures so that the GM has just enough to run things but with plenty of room to riff on their own ideas. This also makes the adventure replayable to a great degree.

Unlike the previous outing we reviewed — Slaves of Tsathoggua — Stairway is not a dungeon crawl. Nor is it a hexcrawl, since the territory the party is going to explore is not mapped and is in fact beginning to dissipate at its outer edges into an obliterating void of nothingness. Instead, this adventure quickly drops the party into this ever-shrinking land, provides a couple set encounters, a couple of adventure sites, and a handful of factions the party can interact with. The GM is given all the pertinent details, but it’s up to them and the decisions of their players as to what order things will operate in, and where the party might wander off to.

Adventure Intro: Getting to V’dreen

The adventure opens with the party being forced to find cover — from what is up to them, and can be anything from a terrible storm to a rampaging kaiju — and in so doing they stumble onto a mad scientist that opens a portal to V’dreen and it’s pretty much assumed the party heads through. This part’s a railroad to get to the rest of the adventure, which I always personally take issue with, but it’s evocative and there’s a random table in case the party tries to screw with the portal that could result in folks getting killed or whisked off to other worlds, so if the players are intent on avoiding the adventure, they still might die. Very old school, and quite hilarious.

The World of V’dreen

Once everyone heads through the portal, they come upon a world that is slowly eroding: civilizations have fallen and disappeared, geography is fading, even the air is thinning and can lead to penalties for characters that exert themselves too hard. Although several sections follow with specific encounters, locales, and events, there’s a bevy of tables to help build the details and feel of the setting, including:

  • A table for the effects of strenuous activity in the thinning air environment.
  • Random half-heard whispers from the gods that abandoned this setting (hinting at the origin of the world and foreshadowing the finale of the adventure).
  • Typical professions of the V’dreen residents of the ghost town of Laarzdyn, many of which are truly bizarre.
  • Three tables that provide bizarre features for randomly encountered monsters.
  • A list of non-player characters that are stranded in this realm.

We then get a brief overview of what V’dreen is, but no map or artistic rendering, which is really the only major flaw in this product.

The lack of a map, general layout, or artistic representation of what V’dreen looks like is a miss. Few of the art pieces in the book evoke anything about the scenery, instead concentrating on the monsters and characters the party meets, and because of that there’s a real problem for those of us that are more visual when it comes to picturing the bizarre, extremely fun landscape elements of the setting. That said, the following encounters and locations provide for some pretty evocative fuel for a sandbox adventure.

Encounters: Fractious Factions and Scary Sites

The factions the party may face include:

  • Insectoid raiders and slavers that attempt to kill the mad scientist that pulled the party through the portal in the first place.
  • A group of Star Elves AKA Klyngon Elves (yeah, Klingons) seeking to use the mysterious Stairway of V’dreen.
  • The B’xeeru, sentient clouds that protect the stairway.
  • Zobleez, which are basically flesh-eating goblins.
  • A masked warlord seeking slaves.

Then there are several sites the party may explore:

  • The edge of the world, which is basically a drop off into nothingness (actually, it looks ominously like graph paper…).
  • A temple inhabited by a demon that promises the party a powerful sword in exchange for carrying out a quest that will restore V’dreen (surprise: this is a lie).
  • A garden of statues wherein hides three immortal former-servitors of the demon in the temple.
  • A monolith that grants magical powers.
  • A time-traveling wizard who lives in a cave.

And, of course, the stairway itself, which is guarded by a massive, nightmarish beast that combines all the worst features of a spider and a tyrannosaurus rex. The stairway leads to a stunning conclusion that has been well built-up by the various events, locations, and random tables throughout this adventure, which is great because that level of consistency often doesn’t show up in old school adventures: too often, random tables just feel random and don’t reinforce any particular theme. Not so here: everything comes together.

There’s a lot to like here — even if you don’t like the Klingon reference — because the groups are all framed with regard to how they view the stairway and the beast that guards it, and this makes it very clear how everyone interacts. There’s enough templates and stats for NPCs that you have a fair amount of enemies to work with, but I can’t help that the lack of a visual guide to the land also pervades the overall content: there’s just not enough presented for most of the factions (the Star Elves and B’xeeru have no stats or examples), and the adventure sites are pretty basic, likely not good for much more than an hour of play each at the absolute most, and that’s with a lot of riffing and throwing random encounters at the party (which incidentally there isn’t a table for). Ultimately, it feels like a great outline, but lacks enough detail to really sing once the players start really interacting with the people and places in V’dreen.

Conclusion: Ascending the Stairway

BIGGEST POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT

The stairway leads to a window that looks into the real world, revealing the “gods” to be a group of roleplayers who created and adventured in V’dreen but who’ve probably since moved on to other games or campaign worlds. Three buttons exist at this window and allow the PCs to swap V’dreen for another campaign setting (Venger’s Purple Islands, which are the subject of a couple modules he’s since authored) and unleash the demon from the temple, revitalize V’dreen, or completely obliterate V’dreen (and perhaps the real world).

END SPOILER ALERT

Conversion

It’s worth noting that this adventure — like anything for Crimson Dragon Slayer — is easily portable to your OSR system of choice. This does shore up some of Stairway‘s lack of depth because throwing in any encounter from any product for games like Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry, or Labyrinth Lord (as well as anything OD&D and AD&D derived) is going to be a snap.

Form 5/5

A 19-page PDF, Stairway of V’dreen comes with both full color and printer-friendly versions that are cleanly laid out in two columns and are easy on the eyes.

The artwork is a great mix of gorgeous pieces of horrors beyond this world and a few that are more evocative of old school fantasy gaming, but they all fit seamlessly together and enhance the content. As previously mentioned, the only thing missing here is a map or stylized layout of the world of V’dreen, and this remains perhaps the only real flaw in the presentation of this product.

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Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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Save Yourself From Hell
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2017 21:40:32

"This is a scenario for my sleazy space opera RPG Alpha Blue. It's funny, weird, gonzo scifi that references a number of familiar movies like Event Horizon, Hellraiser, Space Balls, Airplane II, various kung-fu films, and anything with Cthulhu in it. " Right so I was handed 'Save Yourself From Hell' before Venger Satanis went on his familial vacation with the Satanis clan. The adventure clocks in a about twenty pages & like many of Venger's other 'balls to the walls' adventure this one is for Venger's Alpha Blue sleazy space opera rpg system. The adventure set up has a lot in common with his 'How to Game Master Like A Fucking Boss' style. "This is a one-shot Alpha Blue scenario for PCs who like to blaze through encounters. For those who prefer to take their time immersing themselves in this wacky scifi universe, it might take two or even three sessions before reaching the cataclysmic end. This adventure attempts to blend sleazy space opera with horror while maintaining a sense of humor. Accentuate those parts that the players respond to. If they like something, give them more. If they seem bored, quickly shoo away whatever's currently on stage and bring out the next act." The opening takes place with a douche of an NPC and no I'm kidding read that as you will folks. This is not an adventure for the KIDS OR The EASILY OFFENDED. Lots of blue & dirty humor throughout, 'Save Yourself From Hell'. The real set up goes more along this line;"The X-III starship is an abyssal-class deep space exploration vessel that has successfully completed numerous missions on the outer edges of the known universe. The X-III entered Hell's Cluster, a treacherous region just beyond the Asmodeus sector of Galaxy 5, in order to answer a distress signal coming from a lunar base on the 7th moon."So we basically have Venger Satanis's breazy sleazy style of writing with a pretty good adventure set up that sort of whizzes around its plot and there's a cat. A ship's cat that resembles Jones from Alien but there might be more to him. There's a random table to determine this. Before you can blink the PC's are zipping across the adventure's plot erm universe. There's a truck stop 'Space Trucker's movie references abound here with unwanted passengers and stowaways.
One of my favorite bits is the 'Kung Fu Marauders in Hell's Cluster'. Who are the marauders? 'One part treasure-hunters, one part salvage team, one part nefarious martial arts school, and one part murder-hobos in space… the Black Dragon Fighting Society prey upon the weak, the rich, and those without honor. That means the PCs should be ripe for the picking.' Venger it seems like me was a watcher of those endless and endlessly cool 1960s & 70's Kung Fu movies. There's an escape pod because of course there is and Lovecraftian cultists. An 'Event Horizon' adventure plot moment and some really nasty bits when Cthulhu shows up!? There's a good bit of humor here but the over all adventure plot points are really directed toward its own internal Alpha Blue style setting. This is really where my problem is. Alpha Blue with each book that's come out for the gaming system has gone on to become its own thing in my estimation. I have no problems with its content but if I as an OSR dungeon master was to use this adventure I'd be gutting half of it. That's a shame because its a good solid adventure for Alpha Blue but I can't see running this adventure for anything else. Maybe a wacky DCC adventure campaign or one shot. I'm not savaging this adventure but I'm saying that its an animal that belongs to the Alpha Blue setting. Its short and well done but its not something that I would want to be running except as a one shot adventure and that's what Save Yourself From Hell is billed as. But is it good?! Yes if your looking for a humorously sleazy take on a one shot original Traveller game or as a one shot OSR space based adventure with lots of cracked up and sleazy humor. For Alpha Blue though? This is a whole other adventure really. For Alpha Blue this is a mid tier adventure that works as a bridge gap to get the PC's into some real danger and distress. Their going to have to think and keep the blasters on tap when their needed. Players are going to keep on their space scum toes. I'd give 'Save Yourself From Hell' a 3 1/2 for other OSR games and a solid four for the Alpha Blue rpg systems.

Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery Want to see more support for this and other OSR products? Subscribe to https://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Save Yourself From Hell
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Save Yourself From Hell
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/26/2017 16:30:47

Liberate Tutemet Ex Infernis...

Save Yourself From Hell is the newest adventure byVenger Satanis for Alpha Blue. I was provided with a review copy and now I'm going to tell you scruffy nerf herders what's up. The title is a reference to one of my favourite sci-fi and horror movies, Event Horizon.

Like most Alpha Blue releases, Save Yourself From Hell starts with a few new rules. We get a new official profession rule. Basically characters can pull of a cool non-game/story breaking profession and related stunt without rolling. They get the ability back when when they roll Satan (triple sixes) or do something that is both over-the-top awesome and in-character. The second new rule is about emotional trauma and re-opening old wounds (a theme of the adventure). This isn't something I've thought about in the sometimes silly and absurd universe of Alpha Blue, but it's a cool addition and adds depth. Character can verbalize their inner trauma and steal the spotlight. I dig the idea.

The basic premise is the characters must travel to the Hell's Cluster and reach the Eye of Asmodeus to find out what happened to a starship. None of these things sound perilous, right? In the adventure you will find a mix of crazy incidents, movie homages (which let's be honest is one of the big reasons we love Venger's work), space truck stops, horrific encounters, kung-fu madness, and the dread lord Cthulhu! Seriously, one of the headings is "Shooting Lasers With Cthulhu." Oh and there's Sir Matey. He is one of my new favourite npcs. I'm a cat guy. Sue me.

The pdf is 20 pages long and will probably only take a session if your group is the "shoot first, who needs backstory" type. However, if you've got roleplayers that really like to dig into things, the adventure will take multiple session. Some aspects of this adventure feel more like Venger's work for The Outer Presence, than Alpha Blue. Still, it has a nice amount of the sleaze and sci-fi goodness we've come to love and expect from Alpha Blue. You should buy Save Yourself From Hell asap.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slaves of Tsathoggua
by Tim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/25/2017 13:14:07

A neuronphaser.com review.

Content 4/5

Slaves begins with a quick table for players to determine their characters’ living status at the start of play, just in case this is their first session with these characters (a deadly proposition given that this adventure’s pretty tough!). The vast majority of the options are negative: you can’t read or write; even your dirt has dirt on it; you have 2d6 teeth remaining; you get disadvantage (1 less die) on saving throws. It’s amusing and really shows off Venger’s sense of humor, but it’s also punishing and doesn’t hit any of the truly off-the-wall notes you’ll see throughout the rest of this adventure’s random tables or the rest of the author’s body of work.

In a lot of ways, though, this table should give you a really good idea of whether this adventure will fit with your group’s play style. Basically, if you value long-term character growth and intricate backstory, you’re barking up the wrong tree. If you have more of a Paranoia RPG mindset and view your character as a hapless bastard about to bite off more than they can chew in a fantasy world of dragons and Elder Gods that prey on your sanity, then this is going to be one hell of a fun ride!

Adventure Intro

There’s a table of rumors the party might have heard, and then the intro, which is really just a couple of vignettes wherein the party witnesses the funeral of the priest of the village of Needham, and then the corruptive, destructive power of the caves. These scenes don’t leave a lot for players to really do other than bear witness and maybe gain a couple random bits of info that might save them later on if they are really paying attention — don’t give into the mind-controlling lady’s lies and don’t let acidic ooze touch you — but there’s not much in the way of making lots of dice rolls or stretching the mechanics of the game, which is a flaw if this truly is the first run through of the game with your characters.

That said, the stuff they witness is evocative, and can lead to some fun roleplay…or it might scare the wits outta them, and make them avoid the cave at all costs. It really pays to read your group and if they show reluctance to help save this poor village bereft of the only protection they once had (the dead priest), you may need to add some hooks like, “Hey, I think we lost some sweet artifacts in that cave a generation or two back!” (There’s a magic sword that works particularly well as motivation for the party to hunt it down; it’s in the hands of the Oracle, Kyr-ann.)

The Cave: Background & Tools

And then we get to the cave proper, which gets an introduction as to what’s really going on (a MacGuffin that’s basically a malfunctioning teleporter) and some hints about how and why the caves are stocked the way they are. There’s also some tables:

  • What does the creature want? (A table of motivations so you can change up the initial attitude of the monsters, or determine attitudes for new monsters you might want to add to the caves, given that the teleporter will restock the caves periodically.)
  • What kind of cave is it? (A table of physical descriptions for the caves leading off of the main chamber, often with neat environmental effects that will radically change up the tactics the party needs to employ, or that the monsters use to fight them.)
  • What’s inside? (A table of smaller features that might crop up in the individual caves or in the tunnels in-between the caves.)

There’s two minor problems in this section. The first is that it’s not entirely clear how these tables interact with the larger environment of the cave, despite all the cool tools and the neat MacGuffin that are presented. You’re not given any advice on how the teleporter or the force field surrounding it work or how they can be influenced by the party. The tables provide some great atmospherics, but most of the caves described in this section are pretty clear on what physically exists within them, so the results you may roll contradict the environmental descriptions or might make very little sense of the inhabitants to remain within them.

Additionally, there’s little in the way of logic as to why most of the monsters haven’t just up and left the place; we’re just told that this is the current roster of monsters and NPCs in the cave and the players walk into that situation.

The second minor problem is that some of the table results are just not to this reviewer’s liking. While I appreciate randomness and weirdness, there’s maybe a handful of the results that just fall flat (keep in mind that there are dozens of possible results, though). On the What’s inside? table, for example, you might roll “Milk chocolate center.” That’s all it gives you. I mean, it’s vaguely funny, but how do you actually run that? Especially if there’s a sexy succubus laying on a lounge seat in the center of the room, according to the room description?

Keep in mind, these issues are minor. Coming up with the answers or ignoring the whackier results are things that take barely a few seconds of brain-power for even a starting GM. But things like the MacGuffin’s weaknesses or mechanisms seem more like a miss than simply a problem with play style or genre conventions.

The Cave: The Adventure

And then we get the rest of the adventure: 17 fully described rooms (including the central chamber with the teleporter) and monsters or NPCs in just about every single one of them. Plus a fleshed-out random encounter that might occur if the teleporter activates after the party’s been in the caves for a while.

The caves and their inhabitants feature a fantastic mix of roleplaying interaction, cosmic mystery, deadly combat, and alien horror. Most of the monsters and NPCs have goals and an initial attitude noted (hostile, guarded, friendly, etc.), and full stats, with only a couple exceptions. The exceptions generally work in the GM’s favor so they can riff off the events of the adventure thus far: changing up initial attitudes, using the random tables provided earlier to come up with some fun and surprising twists even they couldn’t have foreseen, and basically spicing things up throughout the exploration of these caves.

A few examples of what you’ll see:

  • A friendly, albeit confused, alien traveler stranded in this world.
  • Hostile ancient reptilians and dangerous foliage seeking to escape the caves.
  • A robot that can be controlled by an enterprising wizard PC.
  • A mind-controlling succubus-like woman.
  • A horrific beast that is equal parts John Carpenter’s The Thing and an avatar of an Elder God.

The only miss I found was that there’s an NPC (“The Dazed Man”) who is basically a throwaway mention without stats or background, and that the adventure concludes with a portal opening to what’s likely to be effectively a Hell of insanity and death. There’s not really a conclusion to the adventure since there’s no way to interact with the teleporter, but in the spirit of the Paranoia RPG this is probably a perfect hosejob: the party goes through all this stuff only to die or get teleported to hell.

The mix of zany monsters, villains, and allies the party will interact is indeed the crux of the adventure, though. But the adventure doesn’t just end with the portal to hell, because there’s a random table called Not Dead…Yet! that allows the players to roll their characters’ ultimate fate — it’s not clear if it just relates to the romp through the caves or after going through the portal — and most of the results provide motivation for future adventures, or inflict the character with lingering trauma or personality disorders that will influence how they play in future adventure scenarios.

The Playtest

There are two versions of Crimson Dragon Slayer: a “first edition” and then the CDS 1.11 One Hour Game (both links are my reviews of each), which is simplified and plays faster at the cost of some of the unique setting-appropriate mechanics found in the first edition. This adventure is written for version 1.11, but I did use the introductory text from the first edition so that I didn’t have to come up with a backstory on my own (also, it’s frickin’ stellar, so there’s that).

Character Creation

We generated some silly names using the CDS first edition random tables and built some fairly zany characters:

  • Xavier the Eagle of Mayhem, an elven mage.
  • Thorin Gloompulsar, a dwarven fighter.
  • Jerry the Slime of Dread, a human cleric.

We followed the rules as-is (which are pretty general anyway) except for three things that didn’t really change the mechanics of the game, but that do add some context to the power level and goals of the PCs:

  • The PCs started at 3rd level for the extra Health. Many of the monsters have 50+ Health, and attack with 2d6 or even 3d6, which is a lot of potential damage.
  • We assumed the PCs successfully completed the adventure included with the Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11 game (Curse of Xakaar Abbey), and thereby gave each player a magic item: the mage got a wand of lightning bolts, the dwarf got a magic sword that added +1 die to his attack rolls, and the cleric got an amulet of protection (providing 4 armor points, which act as damage reduction, simply subtracting 4 from any damage totals dealt to them).
  • We used the Experience Level Table from the first edition, since it is “goal-oriented” and thus gives the players motivations to perform specific tasks, regardless of any in-game motivations. Since they successfully gloated a whole bunch, they reached 4th level before even entering the cave (which gave them a bump to their Health), and leveled up once inside the caves.

Adventure Prep

With characters ready, I prepped the adventure. I’m a notorious over-preparer, so my first read-through of the adventure had me adding a fair amount of notes, but as I quickly realized, very little of it was because the text of the adventure was deficient in any way. Rather, I was simply organizing my own thoughts that were inspired by the great roleplay moments presented in the adventure; I really wanted to capitalize on these great interactions. Among my notes came the following recommendations for you to use or ignore at your leisure:

  • I noted the initial attitude (friendly, suspicious, hostile, etc.) of each creature whenever it was presented. When it wasn’t, I just noted that I should roll on the What does the creature want? table.
  • I crossed out a few of the random table results for features of the caves, because they were just too weird for me: neither inspiring nor funny, in my (probably narrow) definition of those things.
  • I pre-rolled on the environmental table to get some fun results, and spread these out to a few rooms. I only altered about 5 of the chambers this way, but by doing so ahead of time, it gave me plenty of ideas and a few clues I could give the players if they were careful about investigating tunnels before charging headlong into certain doom.

Running the Adventure

The initial adventure setup was a bit wonky in play. I felt like the text tried so hard to make the caves seem so scary that there just didn’t seem like any reason for people to adventure in there: the text constantly spells out this is sure-fire death. There’s a meeting with a person who commits suicide after blaming themselves (due to mind control from one of the creatures in the cave) and then a sequence at the tavern where a guy gets dared to go in the cave, does so, then comes out and dissolves in a puddle of grossness. In my opinion, the setup was lacking for a few reasons:

  • There’s not much to do. The players just witness a suicide, then witness a guy go in the cave and come out dead. There’s no player agency in these situations.
  • It’s too vague and bleak. There’s no sense that something might be accomplished other than “can we stop this nebulous stuff from happening?”

As it turned out, only a couple changes — one of them already suggested in the text — saved the day.

There’s one rumor the PCs might hear on the road to town: that saints can leave these caves unharmed. The players latched onto what does “saint” mean and with just a little clever discourse form the NPCs in the funeral procession that the party happens upon as they arrive in town, it became clear that “saint” was anyone that might champion the defense of the town and put a stop to the caves. The players read this as “we can get in and get out, assuming we survive” which took away some of the bleakness inherent in the setup of the adventure, and gave them a goal (champion the people of the town).

The other change was that I entirely removed the guy getting dared to go into the cave, and related that as a story that happened to an NPC a few years back, before the priest (who died and is the subject of the funeral procession) came to town. Here’s the cool part: the cleric player immediately tried to heal the guy who committed suicide, and succeeded, so they also had that guy’s rambling, half-remembered story of the caves. This helped them see that there was potentially treasure in the cave, as well as a way out (the guy is mind controlled by Kyr-ann, who has a nice lounge chair in her cave and a treasure chest with a magic sword in it).

Most of that stuff I did on the fly.

And then onto the caves! I used the tables (minus the noted results that didn’t strike my fancy) to describe each chamber, or whenever I felt like my descriptions were becoming repetitive or boring, and I got some cool results: one cave the players just peaked down got a result of a dead body that ended up looking just like one of the characters, so that was a very creepy, fun result! There wasn’t much text to explain the look of the Scoop that sits in the middle of the cave and is the whole reason for this cave system being the way it is, which is weird, but improvising off the picture on the map was fine. The individual encounters were all great: Kyr-ann failed to mind control any PCs and so she made use of the magic sword against them! That’s just one clever example of riffing off the text of the adventure, which is so inspiring and filled with fun twists despite how concise and short it often is.

On Closer Inspection: The Rules

At the end of character creation and throughout running the adventure, my players and I referred back to the Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11 rules strictly for the damage table, saving throw table, and the rules on magic. The two table references are necessary in the sense that the whole game runs on them, and let me just say that they are something that you can commit to memory after a session of play (maybe less), so that’s a huge plus. They’re both simple, straightforward, and follow a logical progression. So, from a general view, the rules were strong, played fast, and were fun, immediately getting us into the adventure and doing crazy stuff without having to read more than a couple pages.

Judging how many dice players to get to roll in situations that are outside of combat or spellcasting is something that I feel like is better explained in the first edition of Crimson Dragon Slayer, but only slightly more so than version 1.11, and either is good enough for the players and GM to get on the same page after only a couple instances of sussing things out. This bodes poorly for highly mechanics-oriented groups, but that’s already flying in the face of this game’s purpose, given how simple the characters are: this isn’t really meant for system tinkerers and folks that like fussing about this skill point over here and that class ability over there and how it all meshes with the detailed equipment rules. These mechanics are fast, loose, and easy.

The section on magic was problematic for our group, unfortunately, because we kept fighting off our own preconceived notions of the arcane and divine magic split from the many editions of D&D and OSR games. We didn’t feel like we got the guidance we needed to answer some fundamental questions:

  • Mage-based magic expressly involves a form of energy drain through blood, but you get more energy from someone else’s blood: does that include sacrificing rats to cast spells? (We decided that if the mage didn’t sacrifice the health himself, then the sacrifice had to come from a willing ally or an unwilling enemy, with enemy being further defined as someone actively opposing the characters.)
  • Directly offensive magic is the province of magical wands or similar items: do they deal damage in the same way that an attack does, and how do you determine the difficulty (and thus the number of dice rolled) for spells that originate from a wand? (I gave the players the lightning wand from the adventure included with the base CDS 1.11 One Hour Game rules, which says it deals 3d6 damage, so I had that act as the “attack roll” and determined damage based on how successful that roll was.)

As for cleric magic, beyond a form of “turning” undead and fiends and a statement about healing magic, we don’t get anything in the way of ideas of how it all works.

  • Does it follow other magic in that it needs energy drain/blood sacrifice to work? (We said no, because if it doesn’t expressly say so, we’d stay away from making too many assumptions.)
  • What miraculous effects are possible (or likely) outside of turning monsters and healing wounds? (We decided that anything on the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook cleric spell list was fair game as inspiration, though we didn’t really decide on how difficult any rolls might be until it came up in the spur of the moment.)
  • Is there a dice roll needed, like for mage spells that are based on how much the spell affects local reality? (We decided that yes there was, so we just used the mage’s spellcasting table.)
  • How much damage is healed? (Since we’d already decided to roll a number of dice just like for “arcane” magic based on the difficulty of the spell, healing a flesh wound would be an easy 3d6 roll while someone at death’s door would be a hard 1d6 roll, and then we’d refer to the damage table to determine how many Health points were actually healed on a successful roll.)

None of these were deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination, but they did require some sussing out from the text and some discussion to make sure everything sounded fair and reasonably within the intent of the rules, as far as we could understand them, before play started. We wanted to have fun, and I can’t stress enough that this adventure was a blast, but that extra hurdle also needs to be noted so that players and GMs don’t come into the game with different expectations.

Form 5/5

Slaves of Tsathoggua is available as a 16-page PDF and your purchase gets you both full-color and printer-friendly versions.

The layout is super-clean, two-column style. The map is pretty simple in concept and the execution brings some life to it by depicting the Scoop in the central cavern. There are a few pieces of artwork throughout the adventure depicting monsters found in the caves, and it’s mostly old-school style black and white artwork. All of the pieces are evocative and depict the creatures very well in all of their horrific detail.

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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slaves of Tsathoggua
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Benjamin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/14/2017 11:23:34

It misses details and elaboration, especially on the actual writing part. However, what can you expect for $3? It is a good start, nothing more, nothing less. If you get more into adventure writing you might leave some of it behind and explore the depths and possibilities of adventure writing that are out there. I for myself don't like writing adventures in the form of scenes. The scenes are something which happens in my game, not on the planning table. I have to be honest - the author implies that his guide is for GMs how want to play the adventure after they have written them. I do it the other way around, first I play the adventure, then I might bother to write it down for others, will the input and insights I gathered from playing. I think it is a waste of time to write adventures in this way befor you play them. Especially with that in mind the book doesn't get in the art of rewriting and redacting your adventure.

So, in the end I give a solid 3 out of 5. It won't change my game, but it wasn't a waste of time or money either. Maybe I will even try to write one of my next adventures exactly like it is recommended in the guide.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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