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The S'rulyan Vault II
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2017 19:08:58

"Like the first S'rulyan Vault, this is two extremely high-resolution dungeon maps in both old school blue/white and bloody parchment hue. The dungeon is huge and contains a variety of cavern and traditional room/corridor areas... along with special icons." Well, the S'rulyan Vault II is a bit more then that & a bit more. So what is the The S'rulyan Vault II? Well according to its Kickstarter; "The S'rulyan Vault II is more of the same... but different. Obviously, there will be a totally new dungeon layout with lots of interesting things going on. The files can be printed off so you've got one massive map or four quadrants in order to easily mix and match them with each other and the previous S'rulyan Vault." Its giant mix & match dungeon map & DYI kit with Venger Satanis's guile & attitude which is clearly outline about The S'rulyan Vault II introduction; "Delving into dungeons can be the most rewarding roleplaying experience there is. It's the perfect environment for adventuring since that's where the monsters and treasure are. Of course, with monsters and treasure you also get traps, wizards, subterranean civilizations, exotic flora and fauna, natural hazards, and unexplained wonders. There are three things GMs occasionally forget when running a dungeoncrawl... ● Gygaxian Naturalism or Fantastic Verisimilitude, if you prefer. Basically, this provides a "realistic" background for the adventuring. Such as, where does the food and water supply come from? ● There should be a compelling reason why the PCs are down there, besides a desire to slay evil creatures and take their loot. Even if that's the primary motivation, we want to know precisely why the adventurers want to kill these monsters and steal their treasure. And each session, the PCs' emotional investment in clearing the dungeon should pay off. ● This is a great opportunity to show off your own GMing style, aesthetic, and creativity! Use your imagination - come up with at least a couple rooms that defy expectation. Go nuts! Keeping those three things in mind, I invite you to make The S'rulyan Vault (volumes I and II) truly yours."

Can we talk about the Drow babes in implied 'Legend of the Overfiend' style tentacle porn dungeon god cover artwork here for moment? The only reason its there is to attract attention because while the thing might be in the The S'rulyan Vault II but I found it more distracting then tantalizing. Why? Because the contents of the The S'rulyan Vault II book are good solid boiled down DYI dungeon map and kit in seventeen pages of old school goodness. Venger Satanis is a good enough writer/designer who doesn't need to rely on cheap and blatantly pornographic themes and artwork to sell his products. His work is solid enough on its own to stand on its own merits. This is a good tool kit for a really well thought out dungeon. You get factions, reasons for the dungeon crawls, and lots of random tables for generating a grand night's adventure for your players.

This product sinks up with its earlier incarnation, The S'rulyan Vault I adventure plot completely and easily. There's no tears to this and because this product has the quality of Monkey Blood Designs cartography & design work. The S'rulyan Vault II is both OSR cross compatible & rpg system agnostic. The art and cartography by Glynn Seal,Monstark, & Fizzbig, work. The layout is well done and up to the usual Venger Satanis standards. Dungeon masters will get a ton old school gaming utility out of the wandering monster tables, dungeon restocking table, & rival adventuring party disturbance tables. Along with a ton of new & great take on old school adventuring for a continuing dungeon adventure tool with years of life to come at the gaming table. Do I think its worth buy? In a word yes I do and think it will provide a great tool at the gaming table.

Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery Blog Want to see more OSR commentary & support? Then Subscribe to the Swords & Stitchery blog https://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The S'rulyan Vault II
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The S'rulyan Vault II
by Frits K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2017 13:00:07

It contains what it says on the tin, an old style blue map, a parchment style map and a pdf with tables.

The edges of the dungeon match up with the previous installment for those of us who want a humongous map. The map is mostly 2D with some possiblities (portals and other indeterminate symbols) to get from one side of the map to the other. There are caverns, regular rooms (some unreachable) and even some tentacles. No pirates or ninjas though.

The parchment version is beautiful and a good source for handouts to players (possibly torn up in pieces).

The blue map is a bit more plain which is good as the DM will want to add his/her own annotations/legend.

The pdf is simply a collection of useful tables which should provide you inspiration. As this map has no official theme or associated adventure you will need to put in some work, but considering its size (and depending a bit on how many surprises you sprinkle around) your friends should get at leasts several nights of enjoyment out of this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
by Joel B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2017 08:16:10

This adventure module is 19 pages long and is one of the latest of works by Venger Satanis for the Crimson Dragon Slayer RPG.

My review was a read through of the PDF (not a play-through, sadly).

Layout and readability

The cover and interior page backgrounds (watermarks) are in full colour. All of the illustrations are in black and white or grey-scale. The print friendly version has no watermarks and is clean, crisp and crystal clear.

Kudos once again to Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design. The text is nicely readable, the headings clear and obvious, the stat blocks distinct. The watermarked backgrounds did not interfere with the text too much: occasionally the blood stains made me squint at the tables. However, Glynn and Venger have supplied a print-friendly version without any watermarks which is wonderful (for both actual printing or better readability at the table). Then again, the eerie blood vessels are gore stains on every page part of the experience.

A nice looking product that balances style with readability.

Artwork

All good stuff by familiar artists. Most of the subject matter is disturbing tentacled horrors or fantasy/post-apocalyptic scenes evocative of Heavy Metal magazine.

There is one image with some cheesecake (a masked goon with a trio of chained female prisoners) but they’re looking bored or tired rather than distressed.

The adventure

The whole thing gives me vibes of the original Star Trek series. The environmental colour scheme and the situations make me envision typical planets seen on that 60s TV show. It helps that there are a more than a few references to Star Trek as well.

The adventure kicks off with the PCs needing to seek out shelter immediately from some lethal effect of the DM’s choosing. It’s hilariously straightforward. Practically speaking, it could be used in the middle of any campaign in just about any environment.

Shortly after, the PCs voluntarily (or involuntarily) choose to enter a portal that leads to the realm of the titular V’dreen.

V’dreen is a fantasy world that is vanishing; its borders are literally fading away to a void resembling graph paper!

There are some rules using random tables to set up the setting of V’dreen, including:

  • strange voices on the “wind”, some of which kind of break the 4th wall. Very funny.
  • a table to generate beings for random encounters. As usual, they’re a mix of gonzo weirdness and generic, so you’ll have some contrast. Example: sure you could end up with a zombie or skeleton, but they could be made of pizza or be a Ghost-Dinosaur.
  • A few random NPCs. After reading the rest of the module, I saw several opportunities to use them for unnamed extras features in a few encounters.

There are a few hooks, but this module is very loose with only a few clear goals. Not a bad thing, just that I would need to fill many gaps myself (which I don’t mind doing, personally).

There is a fiendishly powerful monster called the Arachnosaur (such an awesome name) that the party might encounter, a Demon that wants to barter with the party to help him get free (who the hell ever falls for that) and a town populated by V’Dreen’s three factions: insect people, Klingon elves and amorphous blob creatures. Good on Venger for going beyond Tolkienisms or Barsoom… uh… isms.

Overall impressions

This module is surreal, schlock and gonzo. I actually see myself using this product (and perhaps a few other of Venger’s works) to fill out the many gaps in Carcosa (from Lamentations of the Flame Princess). Perhaps replacing some of the more horrific and disturbing elements of that setting with the more light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek material by Venger.

While I like shorter modules, I tend to prefer a more narrow focus and smaller setting. In such a small page count, I would rather use it as a one-shot. There are a lot of characters and encounters here that are open-ended and without player buy-in to be creative, goofy and fun, they could turn out a little stale. I think that a DM should heavily use the random tables in this module to add some unpredictability to every encounter.

Finally, I wish that there was a map of some kind. The module is meant to be loose, but I think that it would have benefited greatly by having some cartography. Not necessarily full-on hexes; even a simple point crawl or sketch would have been appreciated. I’d probably draw one up myself during prep. Venger’s maps are always great.

Conclusion

I’d recommend this to anyone who’s already a fan of Venger’s “Mythos”. It contains lots of tie-ins into his other products, especially the Islands of Purple Putrescence (review here). On it’s own, it has some fun ideas but I think that it is dependant on the core game (and other books by Venger for thematic random tables that really make his works sing).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Adam D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2017 12:28:30

I didn't like this product. I liked Venger's last products, so I was surprised that this one left me unimpressed.

It's short. There's 9 pages of real content. Most of one of those pages is a direct script quote from Reservoir Dogs. He spends half a page justifying why you might write an adventure in the first place ("Virtually no censorship." "No budget!" No "nervous studio executives"). That leaves really just about 7 1/2 pages of advice for three bucks.

What's that advice? I am fighting with myself here, feeling like just listing the points of advice spoils the product. That is, why spend $3 if I'm just gonna tell you the advice. But if I give you just the highlights -- just the section headers, that is -- that should not value of the product's paragraphs in between, right? The problem is that there's not a lot of substance between those headers.

In those pages, there are a few things that I think are useful. Build a sandbox; eschew railroad adventures. Some basic story arc structure and advice about driving to conflict. This is rudimentary writer stuff, but it's useful. Nuance your adventure with a second or third layer. Up the ante; raise the stakes. Imagine your adventure's "movie trailer" and make sure it's cool. Use callbacks (and foreshadowing, presumably).

The rest is pretty lackluster. The first two pages left me confused. Am I writing this adventure for my own use or for publication? If for myself, why does it matter if I write with style? Later on, in the section called "Starting a Scene," he reminds you that a scene needs three elements (who? where? what's the conflict?) and then regurgitates dictionary.com's definitions of conflict for two paragraphs. The last page about details (and the Reservoir Dogs quote) are nearly incoherent.

The writing style lacks Venger's usual over-the-top flair. I feel like he phoned this one in. I do love the art, which is what you'd expect from Venger, though it's entirely unnecessary and does not connect to the writing in any way.

At the end, I feel like this should have been titled "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Newb." A true Boss is going to need more detail, more specific advice, and deeper insights than what can be gleaned from the table of contents from any writer's advice book. There's some basic, basic, basic advice here, but it's hardly a master class. Venger might know how to write an adventure like a boss, but he hasn't really shared that expertise in this product.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Publisher Reply:
I'm sorry Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss didn't live up to your expectations, Adam. I agree there are precious few pearls of wisdom and nothing mind-shatteringly revolutionary. Great writing is about mastering the fundamentals, and you'd be surprised how many people are ignorant of them. This book is the way forward. To quote another favorite movie, "I can only show you the door. You're the one who has to go through it."
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2017 11:21:55

You've got to give it to Venger Satanis, he definitely knows how to get your attention with his advice books. His newest is Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss. I was given a pdf copy and I'd like to share my thoughts.

First I'll talk about the physical aspects of the pdf. It is 13 pages (10 that give advice). The cover has a bad ass dragon. There are three pieces of art in the book, which give a you a good sample of the art style in Venger's books. The text is in a standard two column layout with the occasional sidebar. As a final note, there are several random tables, because let's be honest, this wouldn't be a Kort'thalis Publishing product without them.

But I know you're asking, what about the content? It's very practical. To sum up and paraphrase the book, if you want to write adventures like a fucking boss you have to think of yourself as a movie writer and director with an unlimited budget. Obviously there's more to it than that and Venger gives us plenty of exposition and insight into the deeper workings of the process, but ultimately that comparison is very fitting. While the pdf isn't long there is no wasted text. Every example and tip Venger gives is insightful.

I don't write adventures. I honestly don't think I've ran D&D without a module in years. Venger's advice makes me want to change that. I want to take a stab at writing an adventure (perhaps Rumspringa in Space! for Alpha Blue). To me that is a sign that the book does what it sets out to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/09/2017 21:16:20

Venger was kind enough to provide a copy of "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss" to me and I am glad he did. In short, for a low price you not only get writing advice but a suggested framework for how to structure your adventure and GM tips for running it. Highly recommended.

This guide will not take you from "Zero-2-Hero" in terms of adventure writing. What it will do is help you to start an adventure and run with what you have, basically "Zero-2" part. The rest, "-Hero", is up to you to hone your craft. In terms of content, after words of encouragement, Venger takes you from the initial idea to expanding that idea into a full blown adventure. No Venger Satanis product is complete without some random tables, and yes, even this guide has a few. Using these random tables, you can find ways to further fleshout your adventure or get unstuck creatively. Once the adventure has been layed out and some people would call it "done" at this point, Venger continues with suggestions and tips to go back over your adventure to add more polish. The GM'ing advice gets more prevelant towards the end of the guide to help you run and test the adventure you created. While GM'ing is the second half of adventure writing, it did get a bit confusing for me to find where the writing advice ended and GM'ing advice began. Which is really the only negative thing I can say about "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss".

A great product that is genre neutral and one I will be using extensively.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The S'rulyan Vault
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2017 04:54:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

So, before we get into it - let me make one thing abundantly clear: This is NOT a regular gaming supplement. Instead, this is one massive blue-white old-school map. The gigantic map is intended for the massive size of 34'' times 44'' and it comes in two high-res iterations - one in the classic blue and white and one in full-color and a parchment-style look.

Now this would not be Kort'thalis Publishing if the massive map didn't have some fun details showing up - cartographer Glynn Seal has included, among others, tentacles, clearly visible and erupting from pits and walls, black holes, magical vortices, sarcophagi, obviously magical circles and the like. The pdf does have grids and between the rooms, decorative skeletons of dragons can be seen in the earth. The vault itself provides a great selection of artificially created rooms as well as natural caverns and pools connected with subterranean tunnels, rifts and the like make for an inspiring dungeon - the map is one of the kind that you can put before an experienced GM and just watch him or her improvise a great game around - so yeah, the main selling-point of this product is excellent.

One note, though - if you're using a lot of mobile devices and the like, you should be aware of the fact that the high-res maps clock in at over 20 MBs for the blue-white-version, over 100 mbs for the parchment version.

Okay, that out of the way, the product does come with a pdf - this pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 pages. One of these pages is devoted to a nice char-sheet and one page is devoted to notes.

The pdf depicts the history of the S'rulyan Vault, speaking of the rise of a champion of mankind, the pact of the horrid snake-men with the demon lord S'rul...and how a band of brave adventurers defeated the snake-men just as they were about to exterminate mankind. They achieved this feat with the Helm of Power, a mighty relic...and three adventurers emerged...their children and heirs taking the mantles of kingdoms. One of these, alas, has reawakened S'rul...and the genocidal plans of the demon and its powerful allies once again are in full motion.

1 million gold pieces are the ostensible reward for the demon's head...so who will claim it? Okay, this back-story is AWESOME. Cheesy and cliché in just the right ways to evoke classic tropes. The pdf provides 10 sample motivations to make the quest personal and 12 rumors are provided to add more local color to the proceedings. There even is read-aloud text for the facade of the dungeon and advice on the chance for random encounters.

The pdf then proceeds to provide a d20 table of random things that can be found - treasure, traps, monsters, discovery, science-fantasy gizmos - the like. But, you know, since this is not a module, but more of a geomorph, these remain somewhat opaque, which slightly hampers their impact. The pdf also provides a 20-entry generator for the behavior of encountered humanoids, and a 100-entry table of strange things to find - from platinum pieces to toe clippings and weird vials or erotic lithographies, the treasure table is a definite highlight herein.

As the PCs explore the vault, they will find a weird brotherhood - men that claim that the world has ended in the meanwhile - and RAW, there is a 50% chance the world has indeed ended, with 4 sample cataclysms provided, in case you can't make up your own. A snake-men spy, 12 sample magic item treasures are also in here...and may make some purists scowl: A dagger +3 with a 1 in 4 chance of making a target hit a sentient ooze (no save) will probably annoy new-school fans for not sporting a save, old-school purists for its plusses. These aren't bad, mind you, but they could use some refinement and suffer from the quasi-system-neutral approach. 3 sample artifacts and relics follow and, oddly, one actually sports a save. Indeed, the rules for these are actually better - perhaps due to the extended space allotted to them. An 8-entry table of cursed item modifications can also be found here.

The final section of the pdf contains a fortunes/fortune-reading generator: D4 for the fortune teller, d12 for the means of reading fortunes, d10 and d8 for the two components of the reading itself, d6 for the third part of the reading...and d20 for the price the fortune teller expects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout of the pdf adheres to an elegant, nice 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf does come with great b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The maps are excellent high-res jpgs - Glynn Seal's cartography is excellent here.

Venger As' Nas Satanis' and Glynn Seal's S'rulyan Vault is a glorious map, let me make that abundantly clear. It is not particularly inexpensive, but if you enjoy evocative maps, it is most certainly worth getting.

That being said, the accompanying pdf is less focused than what we usually get from Venger: The pdf can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a hyper-specific, detailed adventure-outline or a highly-generic collection of various generators. These are not bad, mind you, but everything in the pdf never really clicks together, never forms a cohesive whole. The parts are pretty much amazing when they are specific...and when they are generic, they feel suddenly like they have less gravitas...resulting in a somewhat strange disjoint in the internal flavor.

Now, since his product is billed primarily as the map, I am going to rate it as such - and as a map, it is a very good offering. At the same time, I found myself wishing there was a version sans the hidden tunnel below the pool, for example. The pdf is a nice bonus, but not enough to catapult this to the level I'd consider excellent. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The S'rulyan Vault
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/06/2017 00:32:14

I'm doing this review as a favor to Venger Satanis, because I got sent a copy of 'How To Write An Adventure Like A F@#@ing Boss'. This is a part of an O5R product line by Venger which is really a set of guidelines where Venger lays out his philosophy of old school gaming & advise, guidelines for game preparation, dungeon mastering the Satanis way, & now how to write an adventure. So we get 'How To Write An Adventure Like A Fucking Boss' which is an on the ground practical guide contained within fourteen pages. This book doesn't fool around it gets right into the heart of the process and walks you the prospective DM step by step from inception to practical completion. This is a system neutral book & there's not a lot of B.S. in this book its straight up advise and practical hands on process & operation. The tone is easy, the layout straight forward, & the end result isn't half bad for three dollars. The ideas here are workable, consistent, & have been done by someone whose actually run an old school campaign or two. This isn't necessarily going to be for the great & powerful DM's out in the wild but there's some very practical and time saving ideas here. Is it worth the three dollar price tag? I think so actually here's why:

This book takes the DM by the hand and leads them step by step through the adventure writing process. Real advise for at the table and on the ground adventure writing right from the ground up. In depth take down from resources to practical table top prep work.

If I have any real complains its that there's not enough background material on the part of the writer. Venger is a more is less kinda of guy which is fine but this is a system neutral book & I'm an OSR guy who wants a bit more explanation in certain areas especially in the departments that newbies to the hobby are going to need such as fleshing out background, working in more adventure exposition during play, & following through with dovetailing in the adventure into fully fleshed old school campaigns. But this is probably going to be the next book 'How to Run A Campaign like A F$#ing Boss'. In my humble opinion this should have been what we've seen in another section of this book. Fourteen pages isn't enough when your taking about writing adventures from start to finish.

Is this a bad book? No its quite good at what it does and does it well with common sense advise and at the table commentary. The book is selling for three dollars and its well worth the price tag but this needs to be a fully fleshed out book on its own so its going to get four out of five stars from me tonight. Get this book if you want a no nonsense common sense at the table approach to writing good adventures with a practical process for creating adventures that are going to get you players at the table. Eric Fabiaschi Sword & Stitchery Blog Want to See More OSR Original Content For this and other OSR titles? Subscribe to https://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Russell T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/05/2017 13:33:01

There's nothing groundbreakingly new here, but that's not a criticism. After all, the key elements of storytelling - and what makes a good story (or adventure) have been discussed for a very long time. That's a lot of what you get here, but it's packaged in a concise, easy-to-read, relevant format for those wanting to write/run their own adventures.

With that said, the emphasis seems to be much more on the run side of that equation, although that just be my take on a first quick read. A lot of the advice given - while excellent advice - seems geared more toward what the GM might do while running an adventure than to someone actively writing an adventure for others to run, and that is actually addressed in the very first section of this guide, so maybe it's not a quibble even worth mentioning. It's just that - for me (I can't speak for anybody else) - this would be better titled "Running Adventures Like A Fucking Boss", but I guess that strays a little too close to the author's GMing guide (which I do plan to buy after reading this short guide)

Anyway - good guide with solid, timeless advice on structuring adventures, scenes, conflict, and making it all more exciting. Recommended.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Revelry in Torth
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2017 19:21:00

Revelry in Torth is an OSR adventure/sandbox by the mad sorcerer Venger Satanis (who judging by artwork seems to be an immortal wizard).

The tome is a mini sandbox/city that gives DM's lots of new toys to play with.

Torth is set in the fifth age. What you need to know is magic and technology flourished in previous ages, humanoidkind's robotic servants sought to rise up, and to stop the revolt powerful wizards magically nuked the world.

As far as tools go, we are presented with two new classes. The Shadow Priest gains dark umbra powers from devotion to the less bright areas of the nebulous realms outside our own. The Wandering Minstrel is a cool, non spell-casting bard. Their abilities are pretty useful and have cool names, my favourite being Fingering the Spanish Guitar aka Spanish Fly which makes someone who would normally be attracted to the minstrel full of red hot passion. The book also gives us nine magic items (my favourite being the Devil's Tooth) and five spells (including the awesome Creeping Crimson).

We are presented with the scorched planet of Torth and various bits of info about it (including an outline of the ages). Venger also introduces us to the tribes and secret societies of the world and gives us insight into magic (and a nifty and dangerous magic drug).

The adventure/sandbox itself takes place in and around Aryd's End. We are presented with some backstory, stats for important npcs and their secret forces, and a classically awesome random rumor table. What follows is a rough plot and random characters to get your party's adrenaline pumping and blood spraying. There is enough here for multiple sessions and it's definitely not a railroad situation.

If you want a nice sandbox for some Heavy Metal or Conan inspired action, Revelry in Torth is just what you need.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Revelry in Torth
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How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss
by Dennis B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/23/2017 17:13:38

I bought this book in spite of the off-putting title, mostly because of the good reviews on this site. This book is poorly written. It's written at a 6th grade reading level, which is not a good thing. It's filled with poor anecdotes (a reference to Metallica in 1983? Seriously?) that don't motivate or inspire.
The "lessons" in this book are either mundane, uninspired, or both. As a new DM, I found what little useful information here to be things that are very obvious; the rest of the suggestions are simply bad or are something I'd consider "house rules". The tables in the back are good, but they simply cannot carry the first 70 pages of this document. I can't recommend this to anyone in good conscience. I ordered the PDF + print version, and I now regret doing so. The print version is going straight into the trash when it arrives.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss
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His Flesh Becomes My Key
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2017 21:19:29

One of the harder tricks to pull off is telling a modern & engaging Neo noir/horror adventure with OSR overtones. Well, 'His Flesh Becomes My Key' is one part John Carpenter/Stephen King / mixed in with a simmering helping of Cliver Barkerish weirdness strained through the lens of Venger Satanis. Alright this is the usual Outer Presence rpg included in the adventure package bit we've seen before & I'm going to go out on a limb here & throw that right into the waste basket. " This is an eldritch pulp / investigative horror scenario especially suited for The Outer Presence roleplaying game. A serial killer case opens up before the investigators and leads to something beyond the usual detective story." So after reading through this adventure which puts the PC's front & center of a murder investigation/slash horror story I'm going to say that this would make a killer horror story adventure for the Silent Legions From Sine Nomine Publishing. Why? Because quite frankly this adventure has a bit of it all;

Viable underworld/sleaze encounters, a trail of madness & dead bodies everywhere. Sex & weird reality warping world sex magick occult themes pepper throughout the adveture. Darkness & dangerous cultists waiting. Independent Venger Mythos action, if you know the Venger's other adventures then you know the drill here. He's big on working his own brand of horror that fits the same DYI horror ideal that Silent Legions adheres to. There are not enough Silent Legion adventures & this one actually fits the bill very well. He's sort of toned down the T&A to actually tell a coherent adventure & it shows. "The Outer Presence RPG is about curtailing obscenity and darkness. Horror = fear + revulsion. Does that mean spectators, rather than participants, are just as subject to "mature content"? Should reading or listening to the description of unwholesome things also be restricted to "adults only"?" Because he's toned down the sex Venger has upped the weirdness which makes this far more accessible as a dungeon master.

So the PC's are on the trail of Richard Black a horror novelist & run smack into the back burner of a whole lot of unraveling pulp horror business. Sure there's plenty of bloods, guts, gore & more here. But this is a thinking man's adventure that can be played over several nights sessions. Sure it includes everything you need to get started and play through but I want more. I want solid pacing, plot/setting, and a set of rules that's going to give me extended modern OSR neo horror play. That's where Silent Legions comes in and frankly there aren't enough adventure modules to support at system but 'His Flesh Becomes My Key' fills the slimy gap quite nicely. This really isn't Lamentations of the Flame Presence turf although there is this sort of thing, ‘When his gaze meets that of the investigators, the chartreuse-hued dweller of the cavern begins to melt into a pool of liquid flesh.’ Instead this is one part X Files twisted around an unraveling 'In The Mouth of Madness' with a good helping of Cthulhu & Venger's tendrils of horror. So yes its a good solid fit for a Silent Legions game. Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery blog Want more OSR action & support for this and other adventure titles? Subscribe to http://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
His Flesh Becomes My Key
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Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
by Tim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2017 11:42:18

A neuronphaser.com review.

Content 4/5

Crimson Dragon Slayer version 1.11 is a step towards simplifying Crimson Dragon Slayer (thus the One Hour Game tagline) and re-presenting it such that newer players and gamemasters (Dragon Masters, in this game) can jump right in. Not only that, it’s a stepping stone — a FREE one, at that! — towards development of a 2nd edition of the full Crimson Dragon Slayer RPG. In a lot of ways, it shows how living documents work towards becoming a full-release version of a new RPG, which Venger has announced is coming in 2018.

The Mechanics

Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11: One Hour Game runs on the VSd6 system, a system that exclusively uses six-sided dice. Basically, a player rolls a number of d6s based on their character’s capabilities and the situational modifiers that come into play, looks for the highest number on those dice, and uses that as their result.

  1. A critical failure.

  2. A failure.

  3. Mostly/partial failure.

  4. Mostly/partial success.

  5. Success

  6. Critical success.

When rolling multiple dice, rolling more than one 6 usually counts for some extra, added benefit, such as inflicting more damage.

Deciding how many dice to roll, as mentioned above, is a matter of taking into account several factors, but they are pretty clearly explained. It operates on a graduated scale like so:

  • Roll 0d6 when you’re doing some extremely difficult and/or are hopelessly unskilled at the task. Rolling “zero d6” means rolling two 6-sided dice and taking the LOWER number as the result, rather than the higher number like you normally do.
  • Roll 1d6 when there’s great difficulty or if you’re unskilled.
  • Roll 2d6 for most actions.
  • 3d6 and 4d6 are reserved for highly skilled people, incredibly easy tasks, or tasks in which you benefit from some kind of magical or divine assistance.

A special dice roll, called a saving throw, is a roll of 1d6 (2d6 for characters of the dwarf race) that determines if you avoid the effects of special attacks, or if you succumb to death once your Health is depleted.

The only time you don’t roll dice like the above is when you’re rolling initiative to determine combat order and inflicting damage.

To establish who acts when during an encounter, everyone rolls 1d6, and you go in ascending order: 1s go first, 2s go next, 3s go after that, and so on. Rinse and repeat each round. Notably, thieves (one of the classes we’ll talk about in a second) get to halve their initiative roll, which is effectively like rolling 1d3 for initiative.

In the case of damage, you roll a number of d6s based on how well you succeeded, and you add the dice together to get the amount of damage inflicted, which is then subtracted from your opponent’s Health. Notably, rolling a “6” on one of your damage dice means it “explodes”: you add that 6 into the damage total, then roll again and add whatever that new number is to the damage total. As long as you keep rolling 6s on a die, you keep rolling and adding. Armor has a rating, and that rating is simply subtracted from the damage total dealt to you.

Characters

Creating a character is dead simple: pick a race, pick a class, pick a disposition.

There are three races, and each gives you a base Health score (your hit points, under most old school game systems), a single special ability, and a general physical and personality description. Humans get to re-roll a single bad roll in a game session, elves are resistant (but not immune) to magic, and dwarves are adept at making saving throws. Beyond those basics, you’re pretty much assumed to just know what an elf or dwarf are, which if you don’t and you’re reading this game (or even this review) you know maybe you should just crack open like any other roleplaying game or fantasy book or comic book or war game or anything else ever and try reading.

Your class tells you what sorts of things you are proficient at doing (meaning, which things you get more than 1d6 when rolling the dice), notes some ideas on starting gear, and tells you how many extra Health you get as you go up in levels. Not too surprisingly, the classes are:

  • Warrior
  • Wizard
  • Thief
  • Cleric

Disposition is simply a descriptive word (or words) that give you an idea of what your character’s personality and demeanor is like. There’s a list of 12 words as starters, but you can pretty much do whatever you want here.

Gear

Weapons are mainly just icing on the cake: your damage is determined by how well you rolled to strike something, so it kinda doesn’t matter how or with what you do so. This extends to magic, too, so basically the idea is that every character is using the most appropriate measures they are skilled with.

As mentioned previously, armor simply has a rating (chainmail, for instance, has an armor rating of 4) and that’s how much damage is subtracted before applying it to your Health. So if a monster hits you for 6 points of damage, your chainmail soaks 4 of that damage, meaning you only subtract 2 points of damage from your Health.

Shields are interesting in that they give you 2 additional armor (i.e. subtract 2 from incoming damage), but they also reduce your ability to fight offensively, meaning you roll one less die to attack. Say you’re a skilled Warrior swinging your sword, so you’d normally roll 3d6 to attack some dumbass goblin stupid enough to charge into melee with you. Well, if you’ve got a shield, you’re rolling 2d6 instead.

Magic

Wizards and Clerics use magic in the same rules-mechanics way, but the effects are kinda different in that wizards attempt to change reality through force of will and clerics tend to call upon the grace of their gods to enact miracles. The game leaves this open to lots of interpretation, but there’s a couple unique things to note that makes this game stand out (sometimes slightly, sometimes majorly) from other OSR games:

Wizards can’t cast purely offensive magic without a device to do so (wand of lightning bolts, staff of fireballs, etc.). Otherwise, their reality-bending appears to be slightly less direct (climbing on walls like a spider, moving faster, teleporting, levitating things, reading minds), and they cannot heal things. Clerics can heal with their magic, and can do anything reasonably covered by a miracle (I imagine that means things like bless stuff, shield others, compel spirits, divine the future, etc.). Clerics can, once per day, “strike down demons, undead, or extra-dimensional abominations” which isn’t really described in any more depth than that, so you either succeed or fail based on your roll.

Most of those examples are my own, however, so I’m clearly reading into things with years of D&D spell lists coloring my interpretation. More guidance is necessary to truly make this document sing as a “new players and GMs can jump right in” primer.

So, how does magic work, mechanically? Well, first you decide how “big” an effect the magic has — how severely it warps reality or how impactful of a miracle it is — and that gives you a dice pool you roll to see how effective it is (just like any task). Plus, it gives you a cost in Health to enact it, so you gotta pay to play. It says that you can drain that Health from another person, but the cost is threefold and requires blood to be spilled, so you’re literally cutting open someone to provide a blood sacrifice. It doesn’t talk about willing vs. unwilling, so…keep a dagger handy if you’re a spellcaster!

Advancement

Characters gain a level — which is simply adding health based on the rate that their chosen class says — after every session of play. While simple and straightforward, this loses perhaps the greatest part of the original Crimson Dragon Slayer game, which was a chart going from level zero up to level 10 and required certain activities or achievements to be met in order to advance to a new level. Here’s hoping that makes a comeback in Crimson Dragon Slayer 2nd Edition!

(Check out my review of the original Crimson Dragon Slayer for more on that bad boy!)

Opponents and Stuff

The included adventure — “The Curse of Xakaar Abbey” — gives you an idea of the challenges characters might face on an adventure.

Monsters get a description that theoretically tells you how they attack, and provides their stats: Health points, Armor rating, and Attack dice pool. Some have special abilities that show you how to resolve different types of conflicts, like dominating characters to attack each other, or using an attack that on a critical success transforms a character into an allied monster. One thing that I feel is missing is that the attacks should list what the primary weapon/attack type is as well as the dice, because that can get lost in the descriptive text of the encounter location.

A locked door provides some interesting results for characters that attempt to pick the lock, showing how you can use the dice pool system to create a sort of “timer” that adds tension and suspense to a scene.

Traps, which generally just call for a saving throw or else you take some damage (or die on a critical failure). Some of the traps play with the number of dice you normally get for saving throws, so this shows how to modify the system a little to get different levels of challenges.

Magic items that provide armor rating, or have limited-use charges of magic that show you how wizards can gain access to offensive spells.

Worth mentioning: the abbey map is absolutely gorgeous, and is done on a grid with a 10-foot square scale, so you can easily use miniatures or tokens to represent marching order of the characters or relative positioning during combat.

It’s An SRD

Notably, the introductory text of Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11: One Hour Game says it acts as an SRD, meaning that if you want to write adventures or supplements for Crimson Dragon Slayer, you can just contact Venger and say, “Hey, I wanna write a thing!” and presumably he’ll be like, “Okay, here’s some deets on how to do so and legally say that you’re thing is made for use with Crimson Dragon Slayer” and then you write the thing and publish the thing and profit from the thing.

Know wud I’m sayin’?

My lawyer says that you probably shouldn’t write the thing without Venger’s permission. I mean, his name is Venger As’Nas Satanis, so if you wanna open that can of worms, enjoy your doom.

Form 4/5

This booklet is 11 pages, cleanly laid out in 2-column format with some cool, evocative artwork. It comes in two versions: one has a cool backdrop coloring like old parchment and the other is plain Jane black-and-white for those of looking to print all 11 glorious pages.

There’s no cover, so this thing is primed to be printed in full, without any printer-ink-saving options like “Print only pages 2 thru 9” necessary, which is really nice: this thing is literally just a bundle of awesome ready to be printed out and used on the go. I’ll reiterate that the included adventure has some monsters, traps, and treasure for your reference, but even better it has a drop-dead gorgeous map of a ruined abbey in it, so that can be useful whether you play this game or not.

The lack of a table of contents and a character sheet is a little bit of an annoyance, but let’s be clear here: 11 pages. Characters are made up of literally 3 choices. It’s not like you need to flip through a lot to find anything (and the layout is completely logical), and it’s not like you need more than 3 or 4 lines on a 3×5 index card to write down the pertinent details of your character, so I can’t really complain about these minor details all that much.

Read more reviews -- and get other useful RPG resources -- at neuronphaser.com



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
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Stairway of V'dreen
by Justin I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/08/2017 19:26:51

Stairway to V'dreen is the newest Crimson Dragon Slayer offering by Venger Satanis (who was cool enough to give me a review copy).

The adventure starts in media res. The party has to seek cover/protection from something and discovered Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment. This (most likely) leads them to the dying world of V'dreen. On this planet, which is literally fading out of existence, the players will randomly hear faint echos of the forgetful gods that created the world (the worst kinds of gods... tabletop gamers). The party must venture through the world, encountering strange and potentially powerful denizens (such as the Beast of V'Dreen and the Faceless Demon) until finally ascending the Stairway of V'dreen. Here they can infect with the purple, revitalize it, or put it out of its misery.

The adventure has all of hallmarks of Venger's work: creative and gonzo encounters, interesting descriptions, and just the right amount of sleaze (I'm looking at you Seejo Tulon). Venger's style is for Venger (he said so himself), but it's enjoyable for anyone who doesn't take everything too seriously.

While the adventure is designed for Crimson Dragon Slayer (which you should grab), it could easily be converted to any OSR game (or newer edition designed from the classics).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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Crimson Dragon Slayer
by Tim B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/07/2017 13:41:06

A neuronphaser.com review.

Rating: Content 4/5 and Form 3/5.

The mechanics of the game are built not around the d20 but instead around pools of 6-sided dice that you compare the highest die rolled to a rather simple table of results, where 6 is a critical success, 5 is a success, 4 a partial success, 3 a partial failure, 2 a failure, and 1 a critical failure. These results, however, aren’t entirely open-ended or “narrative” but have concrete mechanical implications. For instance, getting a 4 (partial success) means half-damage on an attack, while a 3 would be minimum damage (1 point of damage).

There are plenty of permutations, too, so this isn’t some barebones system by any means. Every 6 that comes up in your dice pool counts towards giving you bonus effects on your action, called Dominance. There are six potential effects (yay symmetry!) and if you’ve got multiple 6s, you can choose that many effects or double-up on any of the effects; basically whatever combination you want. The Dominance effects are things like triggering stunts or special abilities, imposing penalties on the victim’s next action, gaining bonus dice on your next action, increasing your damage rolls, and other things along those lines.

The number of dice rolled are determined by a graduated chart that seems simple enough to commit to memory, and each step along the path also gets a “name” of sorts so that various mechanics can refer to them easily: if you have “advantage” you are rolling 3d6, so a special ability (say from your character’s race) simply says that you have “advantage when trying to show-off or make a good impression.”

Other rules are generally very simple, and while couched in “old school” ideas they tend toward “new school” simplicity. Armor Class is actually straight-up damage reduction (+2 AC means you subtract 2 from damage that you take), healing is handled in short and long rests that recover hit points and refresh Hit Dice, and there are Death Saving Throws that occur once you’ve hit negative numbers in your current hit points.

We’ll talk more about specific rules below — character creation, magic, monsters — but it’s worth noting that this game delivers it’s rules in a minimum of words, in a fun and enthusiastic conversational tone, and is generally great about explaining everything without resorting to lots of examples. This is great for anyone passingly familiar with OSR games or any d20/OGL/SRD-based Dungeons & Dragons clone (or D&D itself, of course), but for anyone new, this book is going to rely a little bit too much on knowledge of gaming terminology. The system and everything is very simple, but if you’re not a gamer, you may get a little lost in terms like “exploding dice” and “damage reduction” that — while they are explained in the rules — sometimes seem impenetrable to newbies.

The races: Human, Elf, Infernal Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Robot, Reptilian, Pixie Fairy Princess, Crystalline, Hybrid (half-breed combination of any of the other races)

The classes: Warrior, Wizard, Thief (with 2 specializations you can choose between at 3rd level), and Ranger (also with 2 specializations).

Warrior has the best hit die (d10) and outside of being proficient with every weapon, also can mow through multiple enemies as long as they keep hitting.

Wizards get the worst hit die (d6), proficiency in only the dagger and staff, and the ability to cast spells and practice alchemy. Starting at 5th level, though, they can create signature spells or magic items (once per level).

The thief is proficient with a decent subset of weapons and a bunch of fairly open-ended but self-explanatory “skills” such as hiding and stealing and all the other stuff thieves usually get in OSR games. They can also backstab for double damage dice by foregoing an action for one round. At 3rd level, choose a sub-class: Spell Scoundrel (wizard of 2 levels lower than your current level) or Assassin (gain a limited-use death strike attack).

Rangers get proficiency with a bunch of weapons as well as wilderness-type skills, including foraging for healing herbs and tracking. At 3rd level, choose a sub-class: Shaman (can shapeshift into animal forms) or Defender (can shield allies with defensive actions).

Levels in Crimson Dragon Slayer not only provide a pool of bonus dice usable throughout a day, but also occasionally unlock class abilities (as noted above) or translate to ultra-cool bonuses like the 10th level Dragon Slayer ability to throw a dice pool of 7d6 (A.K.A. God Mode).

But levels aren’t reached by totaling monster Experience Point rewards or some math-heavy construct, but instead are the result of in-game achievements. Everybody starts at Level 0 (“Noob”) because they just have to show up to do so, as the Experience Table shows us. Reaching Level 1 (and thus obtaining that first bonus die per day) simply requires going an adventure, doing a little exploration, and killing a humanoid or creature without aid. This sort of thing is obviously a little open-ended and prone to plenty of interpretation as to the details, but it’s strict enough that you kinda can’t get it wrong.

Wizards cast spells by spending Willpower equal to the level of the spell (if it’s of a level equal to theirs), or three times the level of the spell if it’s of a higher level. Willpower refreshes with a long rest, and better yet for this sort of setting, wizards get the obligatory ability to suck Willpower out of people by cutting them and then touching them for a time. Yay, ritual sacrifice! I mean, that’s totally in tune with this sort of game’s conceits.

Critically failing on a spell roll spells some kind of disaster as a Demon Lord reaches out to the spellcaster and asks for some specific task to appease it, or else they lose their ability to cast spells. There’s a table of example tasks (6 of them, in case you feel like rolling a die!), and they involve your typical stuff like sacrificing people, uncovering the plans of do-gooders for your Demon Lord master, or copulating in order to create a magical (likely demon-tainted) child.

The list of spells is tight at about 3 spells for every level, including zero-level spells for the Noobs, but only a single 10th level spell. If you guessed that it was Wish, you’ve been paying attention to D&D for exactly the right amount of time. Some of the spell names evoke classic OSR stuff (Read Magic, Comprehend Languages) while others call back to video games and 1980’s tropes (Missile Command instead of magic missile, Taste the Rainbow instead of color spray). Most do what you’d think, and tend to look back to OD&D’s days of incredibly brief descriptions (also found in Swords & Wizardry), so there isn’t a lot of room for interpretation unless you get really nitpicky.

The included adventure is called “The Cavern of Carnage” and takes no time to jump into things: it’s a straight-up presentation of:

  1. There’s a town nearby; we name it, and that’s it!

  2. Here’s a random encounter table for the dungeon; it’s astonishingly punishing if you linger in any one spot for very long.

  3. A slick looking map and almost 20 fully-described encounter locations with monster stats, traps, and treasure.

This doesn’t appear to be a “starting” adventure or come with any notes on what levels it’s intended for or how to “balance” anything…some encounters are against two 1-Hit Die monsters and others are against a single 10 Hit Die monster or 1d4 flying, laser shooting aliens. Some traps require saving throws of various sorts, and others just cause you to lose a finger, no save mentioned. It’s really all over the place. But so are the ideas contained within, in a good way!

A beholder-like creature named Pacmaw in a maze filled with ability score-modifying fruit, pretzels, and cupcakes. A callout to Doctor Who. A trapped cube of Rubix. A trio of mad alchemists. A caveman orgy in service to their dark god. A treasure chest with a ring in it and a finger-eating grub. Mentions of Saving Throws (I don’t recall these coming up earlier!) and a Charisma duel (it directly notes that this is a thing you’ll have to make up on the spot).

Overall, it’s what you’d expect of a whacky and wild OSR techno-fantasy adventure steeped in 1980’s references, and buried in the brief room descriptions and NPC notes are threads of a larger tapestry that hint at the assumed campaign setting of Thule, but there’s little attempt to make any sense of the larger whole. And there’s nothing particularly geared toward making the adventure sing, or easing any prep for the Dragon Master running it (handouts, separated statblocks, summaries of the background or context of the otherwise random setting snippets).

The artwork is slick, totally fits with the content of the game, and even includes a moment or two that will remind you of the video game part of the setting’s backstory, which is nice, though I maybe wanted a little more of that. Still, it’s all relevant and of great quality, harkening back to the 1970’s and 1980’s pulp-style RPG art and the movies that obviously inspired the game’s tone, so that’s a big win.

Layout is clean, two columns, highly readable, and with several quote-like callouts and evocative little symbols baked into the pages to break up text and add to the fun prose.

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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crimson Dragon Slayer
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