[Interview] The Inevitable Venger Satanis Interview about his Cha’alt kickstarter.

When Venger asked me to review him I initially refused. “Not in a thousand lifetimes sir! I run a respectable family oriented blog about wholesome dungeoncrawling reviews that shall have no truck with your perverted, genre-mixing smut! No Za’akier shall darken this blogs doorstep and wrap its loathsome green tentacles about my daughter! Not even,” dramatic pause, “if you were to pull an elaborate masquerade in order to bamboozle me into interviewing you about your Science-fantasy Black Pyramid Megadungeon.”

After waking up to find the front door of my house blocked by a capsized purple truck filled with Alpha Blue and Elfgaming Like A Boss softcovers with a note pinned on it that said “Review Me Hoss,” I was understandably ruffled when I got to work. Upon my homecoming via my backyard I was surprised to find out my neighbors had moved out and indeed vanished entirely, with the house next door now due to be inhabited by a lovely couple with twelve kids apparently called the Kor’Thalises.

Ever a gracious neighbor, I walked up to the house to see if anyone was home, noticed the barking of hounds, flashes of green witchlight and unearthly stench, and tentatively knocked the door. A man in a pink wisconson badger sweatshirt answered the door. “How Do You Do?” asked I, bearing the traditional Dutch gifts of a hideous potted plant and a can that you are allowed to take a single cookie from before it is placed back on the shelf. “Review me Hoss,” said the bald green, bespactacled and mustachoed gentleman. “I am Benger Santanis.”
I squinted suspiciously at him. “You would not be in any way affiliated with the perfidious Venger Satanis who has gone on record making vile jokes and identifying as Za’akiers? I will have no truck with such devils and their evil peccadilloes, I run an upright elf blog and want no trouble with the Knightly Order of the Honourable OSR.”
“In no way whatsoever hoss,” said Benger, bolting the door. “Say, while we are discussing such weighty matters, why don’t you interview me about my awesome writing? I am doing a Kickstarter about a Black Pyramid megadungeon thing with lazers!”
“Goddammnit you are actually Venger Satanis, I have been tricked!” I sputtered, overcome with wounded outrage.
“Bwahahaha! Now I shall compel you to interview me about my Black Pyramid weird science-fantasy megadungeon Kickstarter Cha’alt.”
“Shhhiiiiiittt.”
“AHAHAHAHA”

Cha'alt sandworm.jpg

Alright, let’s get this bitch started. Let’s start with an introduction for people that don’t know you. Describe yourself in three words like Dwight Schrute in the Office (It’s okay if you use a little more, rulings not rules and all that). Who (or What) is Venger Satanis?
Three words?  Hmm, that won’t be easy, but I’ll try.  Let’s see… Alpha-Za’akier, Beyond ordinary understanding, Deep (that’s what she said), and Family za’akier because I am NOT a man, but a green humanoid alien entity with tentacles.  Oh yeah, and Jackhammer!

How did you get into OSR gaming, writing adventures and publishing them?
 
The usual way… I flunked out of “real life.”  
Well, I started way back in 1984.  Got Basic D&D as a gift from my aunt.  My cousin Todd got a couple of modules, I think.  And we started playing… but whatever the hell we were doing wasn’t roleplaying.  We just kind of made up a story.  But it was a start.  Soon after that, I met up with some actual gamers, and that’s when the D&D began.
Back in 2014, I realized that there was only one way to know if I either still loved RPGs or had grown out of it by the time D&D 4th edition came to town.  I needed to run what I considered old school D&D.  And that meant I had to write a big old school adventure that my friends could explore.  That adventure soon became Liberation of the Demon Slayer, and it ignited my long-lost love of roleplaying.  Without giving that one more try, I would have gone from 4e to occasionally playing Texas Hold’em on the weekends… never to roleplay again!
It took less than a year for me to make my money back on LotDS.  So, it wasn’t long before I kickstarted The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.  That went well, and the rest is history.
YOU ARE HISTORY. FACE TELEPATHIC ANNIHILATION XENOS SCUM! er…I mean what do you dig about Oldschool gaming so much?

It’s more immersive. Old school gaming feels less like a game and more like analog virtual reality – go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. I want to experience what it would be like to wander a lost city, alien ruins, or dank dungeon.

I mean, I can see the appeal of modern and even story-games. But if “smirk and get people to trust you like Han Solo” is written on your character sheet, it would to me feel like the immersion-work has been done for me. It takes the magic out. There are no surprises. It’s automatic… too easy, maybe. I want that cool shit to come from me because I imagined it for myself in that moment – not because it’s in the rule-book or on my character sheet.

Old school gives you the bare bones and you have to create something out of it. That’s what I love about roleplaying games.

 

That makes sense from what I’ve read from your work so far (don’t worry I’m sure I’ll do more). What OSR stuff really gave you that vibe, if any?

 

The early D&D stuff, originally. Dungeon exploration is kind of an enclosed sandbox when done right, so I’ve always loved the dungeoncrawl. I’ve purchased and ran a little bit of everything… adventures written for DCC, LotFP, S&W, and system-less scenarios. Reading about that kind of roleplaying on Grognardia fired up my imagination. My philosophy is that everything can be used or can be useful, you just have to remember that you’re the GM. Even a railroad can be partially deconstructed, mixed with a couple other things, and if the PCs decide to go off-track, you just follow their lead.

tanks7.jpg

I can ask what your inspiration is but I think the list would encompass a significant portion of all science-fiction and fantasy from the 60s onward. Your work is an astonishing smorgasbord of dozens and dozens of elements of everything from H.P. Lovecraft to Star Trek, Planet of the Apes and Battlestar Galactica (which I love). What can we expect from Cha’alt? What brought it about (other then B4 the Lost City and what I fervently hope is William T. Hodginson’s the Night Land)?

Yes, my influences are many.  Sort of the same thing as LotDS, going back to the well.  I wanted to see if I could create a megadungeon that was super-focused on interaction, exploration, and Lost-like mystery.  LotDS was fairly restrained compared to what Cha’alt will be.  There are no holds barred with Cha’alt.  I will be going in a thousand awesome directions, but it will always have that VS hyper-aesthetic that you can’t get anywhere else.

Is there any place you will not go with Cha’alt or any realm of the imagination that you hesitate to traverse? I’m not necessarily talking about your delicate moral sensibilities, some stuff appeals less so then others. A lot of people [2] I know don’t care for Science Fantasy for example.

Good question.  Finally!  Haha, only joking.  I’m not really into superheroes, so I won’t go all comic-book on y’all.  What else?  I don’t want to wallow into anything too disturbing.  Sure, there will be dark and horrific things here and there, occasionally depressing imagery… but this is suppose to be fun, after all.  It won’t be some kind of nega-dungeon that punishes you for exploring it.  And it won’t be too deadly like Tomb of Horrors.
There’s this sort of, I don’t know exactly how to explain it… quaint, cutesy, jaded cynic on the surface, tongue-in-cheek kind of coffee shop hipster thing that just isn’t my thing.  I’ve seen it in Zak S’s work, Patrick Stuart’s, and some other OSR writers.  I like whimsical stuff, but if it’s trying to be too clever, then it throws me out of the immersion and I can see myself reading it and trying to appreciate it from a meta-standpoint or whatever.  That’s just not my vibe.  So, I’ll stay away from that.
zargon-full lores
A kindred spirit finally! I think the Avant-garde OSR is in some ways necessary because some of their projects turn out really well but a lot of it comes off as shallow hipster posturing for people who lack a firm grasp of the basics of DnD. 

So now that we know what is NOT Cha’alt, why is it of absolutely vital importance that we support your KICKSTARTER and help you realize Cha’alt? What is Cha’alt going to do to get us that exploration, interaction and Lost-like mystery that we can’t get anywhere else (other then the kickass art)?
If we love something, then we want more of it.  And we want it to work the best, and be the best it can be.  While having a specific flavor, a lot of elements are iconic and/or awesome enough to be transported to some other world (like the Purple Demon-Worm that rules an entire humanoid city via mind control).  Imagine having a tool that gives you 1,000 alternatives to whatever you’re currently running or want to run in the future.  Mixing and matching is one of my favorite things about the OSR, and Cha’alt is like dumping a 5-gallon bucket of new, yet strangely familiar, legos onto your bedroom floor.  So many new possibilities!
But let’s talk specifics for a moment, without bashing any other product – because there are such great supplements out there – Cha’alt is going to dive deep (NPC motivations, affiliations, and connections to everything around them) and it’s going to thread the needle – something hinted at in room 23 will get more explanation in room 42 and become a startling realization by room 98.  Layers upon layers of stuff like that create a totality greater than the sum of its parts.  And all that while reducing the GM’s burden.  This book won’t expect the GM to keep everything in his head.  Cheat-sheets will be provided as we go and nothing will be absolutely necessary, so if the PCs miss something, the rest isn’t broken or useless.
That sounds like something only a devilishly handsome consultant who has reviewed hundreds of games could help you achieve! Curveball: What does the word Cha’alt mean?

Cha’alt literally means greatness by way of suffering.  I thought that was a fitting motto for old school adventuring and, indeed, life in 2019.

[Bonus question] Are you one of Raven S. McRackens avatars and if so which one are you? 

Yes, I am.  Have you heard of Gozer the Gozerian?

[Bonus question] If I tell them to support your kickstarter, will you let me leave this house?

No leaving the house until the work is done.  Spoiler alert: the work is never done.  Never!

[Final Question] Is there anything you would like to add or something you would like to say to my audience?

You have an audience?  Only kidding, hoss.  Keep your shirt on.  Seriously, keep it on.  If you don’t have tentacles, I don’t want to see it.

Hmm, what would I want people to know that I haven’t blabbed about already?  If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true [then a dragon appears out of the sky and eats Pedro’s head].

cha'alt - final -thumb

A moment of deafening silence passed between us. For a moment he regarded the lower left corner of the room, his face expressionless like the jade visage of some cthonic, bald idol. He looked up.
“We are all Venger Satanis.”
And then he backflipped, touched his fore-finger and index-finger to his forehead and teleported in mid-air, leaving behind a cloud of green and purple glitters….

And that, as they say, is that. I don’t know what exactly 2019 will bring, for us, for our families and for the OSR. I just know it would be a lot emptier without 100ish pages of absolutely gonzo, kitchen-sink, batt-shit insane science-fantasy dungeoncrawling. The Cha’alt kickstarter still has 18 days to run. Check it out here!

[1] Yikes.
[2] philistines, aesthetic lepers and australopithocenes of the imagination

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14 thoughts on “[Interview] The Inevitable Venger Satanis Interview about his Cha’alt kickstarter.

  1. “But if “smirk and get people to trust you like Han Solo” is written on your character sheet, it would to me feel like the immersion-work has been done for me. It takes the magic out. There are no surprises. It’s automatic… too easy, maybe”

    Yeah ,exactly.
    What I want at my table is the raw potential of human imagination unleashed into the shared fantasy world we all form and define with our actions (DM and players alike).
    Things like the eightyzillion character options (all with rules of course) of systems like pathfinder and others may help you define your character and enable him to be special and do things others can not … but they do this by cutting deep into your imagination and and putting it on tracks, so to speak.

    Like

    1. Yeah I can see that, but you can also have situations where the system is too limited to support any differentiation and you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself. You can say, “that’s awesome, I love power-lifting,” but the question then becomes “do I really need to buy this system?” Its a fine line between tactical complexity, creativity aid and option fatigue.

      Also wondering if anyone ever did a All-books Pathfinder Campaign? I’m just curious when it hits the min-max event horizon. We played 3.5 once and one of our players was this autism who had memorized every book (only in a stunning plot twist it was not me, it was another autism who had also memorized every book) and played around level 7 and he had this irritating wizard feat combo using spells from Frostburn meaning he was constantly surrounded by magic snow and he had rerolls up the wazoo. Holy shit that grinds my gears thinking back to it.

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      1. [complexity vs. simplicity]
        A fine line indeed 🙂
        It heavily depends on what the designer wants to achieve with his system … whats the feeling of play, the purpose and so on…

        My main beef with systems with to many subsystems and options is, that many of these options and so on are really just the illusion of choice and diversity.
        So the system offers you ten choices for your fighting style an gives you rules for them … but in the end all they do is give you a) a bonus , b) enable you to do something others can’t or c) give you a ressource you can use in certain way (Ki-Points or something)

        The Bonus is just a mechanical part of the system +1, +2 and so on … It is of course nice to have a narrative structure surrounding your bonus to give it context and to firmly place it into your In-game world … but my +2 Longsword is the same as your +2 heavy strike feat from a mechanical/system point of view.
        And don’t get me wrong, many bonuses are great and fun … but having for example ten feats which all give you a +2 bonus on your attack seems just stupid. All these feats have different narrative structures/descriptions of course … but for me, they are really all just the same in the way they affect the system.
        Instead of giving me 150 feats with maybe 10 different effects between them, give me 15 different effects and a guideline how to incorporate them in my game and create a narrative structure for them.

        Ressources are another funny point, mainly because most of the time, they are just another level of unneeded complexity added to the system. Many Ressources come in the form of Plot points, Ki Points or such stuff.
        These points have, most of the time, two functions … they can give you bonus or enable your character to do something others can’t … hmm that sounds familiar …

        The “Enablers” are for me the real deal … they help to define your character and can give him the spotlight in certain ways. So most of the time I have no problem with these kind of systems.
        But then again, they can curtail the players creativity in certain ways.
        A thief has the ability to open locks so his plaer will inevitably lock for locks to pick and ignore other possibilities to enter houses like windows, the sewers, stealing the keys or something.
        But that last point really is juist nagging now 😉

        And of course all of the above doesn’t happen in all systems … but pathfinder for example is one of those systems where stuff like that can happen a lot.

        Last example:
        There is a german adventure boardgame named “Legends of Andor” … basically a descent clone
        Each characte you can play gets a special ability: The mage gets a buff to his magic rolls, the fighter gets a buff to his fighting rolls, the dwarf can buy stuff in the dwarfen mine for reduced prices and the bowman … gets a bow and can attack from a distance.
        But everyone in this game can just buy a bow and do the same. Granted, they won’t have the bow from the start, but from the second scenario onward the special ability of the bowman is simply nothing special anymore.

        [All Book PF]
        If it ever happened it probably destroyed the metaphysical foundation of our universe and erased that event from our timeline ;-P
        I have heard dozens of stories like yours over the years … be it Shadowrun, Pathfinder, DnD 3/3.5 or DSA.
        If everyone is like that at the table, such games can be great fun … but most of the time someone gets lost in that big systemcentric wankfest of minmax pleasure.

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      2. [Complexity v. Simplicty]

        I try to take that into account when I review a game yeah. I think the more complex your system gets the more it gets skewed towards a war-game and roleplaying and immersion are quickly left by the side of the road. I’m in the rules-light camp for most genre-emulation.

        I’m with you on the illusion of choice but even if the abilities are genuinely different you can never make them equally strong so you will end up with a few combos that are worth way more then everything else (or alternatively, everything is about as strong and you end up with illusion of choice again). I guess I can be nihilistic and state that IF you allow PCs to differ in abilities and use their creativity THEN you are going to houserule that stuff and eventually end up with codified special abilities and some sort of limit to them anyway.

        I’m one hundred percent with you on ‘Enablers’ being one of the few permissible bonuses. It should be something that adds complexity or gameplay, not removes from it. Something that can be utilized intelligently vs something that just tweaks a number.

        [Lockpicking]
        You adress a problem a lot of oldskool people had with Proficiencies. The solution is to make some sort of rule allowing others to attempt stuff they are not neccesarily good at. You can gripe that being good at something means you will inevitably destroy five other things to which I coldly state ‘If everything is special, then nothing is.’

        [Legends on Andor]
        The only German game I ever played was Das Schwartze Auge translated in Dutch. It was very…German.

        [Character-optimization wankathon]

        Too much fun to play with others is what I would always say.

        Like

  2. [Interview]
    Between this and the Kickstarter I still don’t quite feel I’ve been sold on the product w/o already knowing who Venger is. Lost-like mystery? Great! But will my balls remain full-to-bursting even after the supposed climax? The most interesting line of the interview to me was probably the bit about hints, explanations, and startling realizations. For now, I’m inclined to wait for a review of the final product, though tempted by a desire to support another “pink” sweat-shirted Wisconsinite.

    [Interviewee]

    Your recent love affair with Venger and his stuff has been something of a surprise. He does really cut right to the heart of it with that bit about smirking like Han Solo being on one’s character sheet. I suddenly feel that I did not quite give Venger the best of myself when I last encountered him. Perhaps another opportunity will present itself when Gygax’s name calls the banners in a couple months.

    [Dearest Host]

    I don’t know why this interview reminded me that I purchased Red Prophet Rises and that I actually have an opportunity to run it now that I own a house (my largest D&D purchase yet), but suffice it to say I’ll have a chance to inflict maximum agony upon you this year by providing you some actual-play feedback when I run RPR in Fifth Edition for the benefit of hapless millennials.

    Like

    1. [Interview]

      I don’t know if I could review a product I consulted on but I can certainly try. Expect lots of bold-faced lies though.

      [Host]

      And I thought all I was going to get for christmas was booze from my father-in-law. DEFINETELY post a link when you get it done and I won’t even shun you for butchering my precious flower with a 5e port. Conversion notes very welcome!

      Like

  3. Nice review to wet our appetite hoss but what we really want is the Benger actual play.

    Also that artwork is pretty sweet. It manages to make science fantasy look cool and interesting which is quite an achievement.

    Like

    1. I think you can Science Fantasy just haven’t met eachother properly. John Carter, Dying Earth, Book of the New Sun, The Night Land: there are so many excellent examples. The predominance of Tolkinian High Fantasy when we grew up basically condemned all of these books to the ghetto of comic books or occasional references like Raymond E. Feist.

      I think it was Grognardia that sold me on Science Fantasy. Discovering it was a blast. It doesn’t hurt DnD had some EXCELLENT science fantasy modules like Temple of the Frog, City of the Gods or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

      Like

  4. Yeah….I agree with Tamás. Heh.

    I don’t agree with everything Venger does or stands for. But I do know that this kind of stuff takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and expense. The dude has put out 17 kickstarters? I dig the passion. And looks like he could use a little help on this one to bring his passion to life…..so be it.
    –Backer #191

    Liked by 1 person

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