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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Marc P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2017 17:58:41

So, earlier this year I had a moment of realization. I came to see that while I'd been ignoring the written adventures of both yore and today I'd been missing out on learning design from other people's effort. It's not that I can't run a game, or write an adventure for myself, but going through the process of writing one for other people made me realize where I tended to say "fuck it" and just improvise. Not a bad thing, but not a great thing for published product.

So I've been looking at various bits of advice in this regard. The latest of which is "Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss" which is a title that really says something about the confidence level of the author...

What's In It?

Advice that strips out most of the bullshit. Seriously, there's very little pretension here, which is a good thing. Hell, it's probably the best part of this product that it doesn't treat itself as being too far "above the reader." In what amounts to about 9 pages of text if you strip out the art, cover, and credits the author lays down the foundations of adventure writing. As a GM for decades there's not a lot here that's "new to me" but it's refreshing to see it all laid out and bare.

The content is broken out into fifteen sections ranging from about 3 paragraphs to a dozen or so. The author starts off by detailing why you may want to write your own adventures. OK, fair enough, but probably anybody who has gotten this far already made that choice. It then goes into the idea of the elevator pitch as a metric for good and bad ideas. This is pretty reasonable, if you cannot sum up an idea into 2-3 interesting sentences it's probably not an idea that will yield an interesting adventure. Or it's too much, and you need to consider breaking it up into smaller parts; perhaps your epic idea can become fodder for a series of adventures instead. From there we get some advice on finding your own writing style and trying to make the best of it. There are some words of wisdom here in regards to over-writing.

Next we get a discussion of the adventure rails. Ah, to railroad, or not to railroad, that is the question! Actually, no, screw that, NEVER railroad. But, to the author's point, knowing when to toss in "guardrails" to keep the adventure from going entirely ... ahem ... "off the rails" ... is wise. Players are ... unpredictable creatures, and having mitigating factors in place to help keep the session from going bananas is good. Most GMs simply cannot keep up improvising after a certain point without abandoning the original adventure, which sucks.

At this point we're on page four and getting into the meat. First we get "Anatomy of an Adventure" breaking down the basic (and classic) structure for storytelling. Then the author dives into scenes and starts discussing each component therein. The fact that adventures and scenes have the same basic structure is makes this all the more valuable.

From here out the product fires on all cylinders for me, right up until the last section, which just didn't float for me, but hey, that's cool, it's only one page. The writing keeps being punchy and direct, and breaks down how to build a scene up without getting overwrought. It's presents the idea of a "Trailer Test" to help prune scenes much in the way the Elevator Pitch helps prune out bad adventure ideas. This is just the fractal nature of things in my opinion.

After scenes we get a quick hit of the three most basic aspects of gaming (and storytelling) and how these should all be present in some form to make for a good session. Lastly there is some advice for "moments" or interludes, the stuff between scenes that adds color, as well as the idea of callbacks.

The layout if functional, the art is minimal (which is fine) and of a good quality, but I couldn't stand the full color version with these angry red veins rimming each page. It added nothing, and it detracted plenty. Thankfully there's a printer friendly version without that. I will say the cover is quality, and I imagine that's just good marketing to put an attractive eye catching cover onto any product. Duh.

Closing Thoughts

I'd say that if you're new to GMing, and new to writing up your own adventures this is a pretty damn good purchase for $3. If you've been at it a while it may make for a nice refresher course, and the clean and bullshit free presentation of the writing does help make this a nice reference or refresher. Will this make you a "fucking boss" at adventure writing? I'm not sure about that, but it sure as shit will help prevent you from making an ass of yourself. There's plenty more to writing good adventures than structure, but if you don't have good "bones" the flesh won't matter for shit.

Score: 85% - Pretty good for those wanting a refresher course or those who are new to adventure writing. Maybe not what you're looking for if you've been GMing for a while.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/22/2017 16:17:20

" Bearded Bastards of the realm"... Enjoying reading this ! Purchased the Adventure you wrote for this version as well. and looking forward to the release of the next edition ! Not having a regular group to play with as my job makes me travel alot and some of the places I go to dont allow a whole lot of gaming possibilities , im always looking for game systems that allow simple yet deep fun ... that I can use with RPGSolo. Very fresh approach and the writing style actually motivates me ! Thank You !



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crimson Dragon Slayer 1.11
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Elizabeth R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/21/2017 19:04:08

This is a pretty good booklet, well worth the cost. I'm only halfway done, but it's helping me make a lot of connections between fiction writing and creating scenarios for player-directed RPG.

But, seriously, guys, do we need the F word in the title?



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:43:36

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

I picked this up based 100% on my reading of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss. In fact I did not even own this book when I started this review. This book is great. Plenty of advice on how to play your character to get the most enjoyment out of it. A lot of this I already do and have done for years. In fact, I think playing in horror games made me a better player as well as a GM. I see a lot of that advice here too, but with a different focus.
I stand by my idea of the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle". Using all this advice will make you a better player and a better GM.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:32:29

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

Have you ever wanted to make your own adventures? Do you want to be like Venger and write them like a fucking boss? Well, this is the book for you then. Overtly the book is focused on people writing their own adventures for the first time, but the advice given is so solid that even old veterans like me kind find it useful. Some of the advice is common sense, but never underestimate the value of stating something plainly. There are no groundbreaking revelations here, no paradigm shifts and no occult insights. And that is perfectly fine by me. Adventure writing is not supposed to be Shakespeare, it's supposed to be Poe. The advice given though is rock solid, and it provides easily repeatable to create fun, entertaining adventures that don't feel like a railroad. Honestly I would package this up with his How To Game Master Like a Fucking Boss to give GMs a full toolbox of advice and tricks to help any adventure; whether they wrote it themselves or grab one off the shelf. Venger really should bundle this with the Character book and call it the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle". I have a Trek game coming up. I know what I want to do with it, but I am going to run my ideas through this book and give them a test. So far all the advice has panned out well and I believe that this will be a better adventure because ot it.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Stairway of V'dreen
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:16:29

Originally Posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

This adventure for Crimson Dragon Slayer (or any OSR/Fantasy game really) starts In media res with the PCs needing to find shelter. Here they meet Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment. What happens next is ... well ... ok the PCs end up in V'dreen. But is V'dreen is left to some questions. It feels like some in-between world where PCs encounter the remnants of gods that were, or could be. V'dreen is a dying world. Not in the Jack Vance sense but in the it is rotting right before your eyes. The PCs must either save it or euthinize it. There is a fair bit of meta to this adventure and a lot more that can be added by any group. This is the type of adventure that works best with a group that has been playing together a long time, but maybe the first time with these particular characters. The adventure can be played for bizare laughs or as deadly serious. Either way it will be a lot of fun.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2017 10:00:23

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

I think most of Venger's adventures revolve around finding a dead body. That's how this Alpha Blue adventure begins. I am inordinately fond of Alpha Blue, so a new adventure is always welcome. The adventure revolves around the game of Q'uay Q'uar. It is a big deal in this area of space. There was a Doctor Who episode, "The Wedding of River Song" that features something like this with Chess. Now imagine that, only with purple and yellow pieces and none other than David "Space" Pumpkins as your host. Then you have an idea what is happening here. There is alot going here with a lot of characters. The PCs can compete in the Q'uay Q'uar challenge or they can be observers. There is a smuggling ring to stop (or join up with), a mercenary and a ton of other things to do here.
Included in the adventure is a PDF on how to play Q'uay Q'uar and an image file of a board.
I would be utterly disappointed to hear that Venger does not have his own Q'uay Q'uary game set up to play at home. I did something similar for Ghosts of Albion: Blight with a game of Fidchell. I did make a Fidchell board (well, really a Tafl board). Like all of Venger's products, this one is heavy on substance and style, and light on crunch. I could see this played under White Star, Starships & Spacemen, or even the new Star Trek game. I am going to use it in my Star Trek/Cthulhu-mythos mash-up for certain!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
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His Flesh Becomes My Key
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2017 09:22:06

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

A cool horror/noir murder investigation. While overtly made for The Outer Presence RPG it is mostly crunch free. So it could be used with 1930s Call of Cthulhu, 1970s Chill or even in the 2010s with any game. Frankly I would like to try it with Witch: Fated Souls or even Majus. It is that flexible. Now putting this right out there, this one is less tongue in check sleaze and more gritty urban horror. I will not spoil the ending, but it is part of what makes this adventure interesting and good to use with nearly any horror game. Personally, I think it is great fun and would love to try it out under different systems with different groups just to get a different feel each time. Come to think of it, there is something in the adventure where I COULD run it multiple times, with the same players and characters under different systems. This adventure is Eldritch Pulp meets the ugly streets of New York or Chicago or San Francisco of modern day. It is has a nice "old school" vibe to it. It is H.P. Lovecraft meets Clive Barker. I hope to see more like this.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
His Flesh Becomes My Key
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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/



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[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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