By: Venger As’nas Satanis Kort'thalis Publishing 5e? Sure, whatever Venger ... Level: Meaningless! Fuck your rules!
Cha’alt is the beast of a book (218 pages) I’ve been working on for the past year. It’s a ruined world focusing on a couple of introductory dungeons before getting to the main event – the megadungeon known as The Black Pyramid. The Black Pyramid is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Unique design, purpose, feel, magic items, NPCs, monsters, factions, motives, agendas, strangeness, the works! There’s a decent amount of setting detail besides dungeoncrawling – space opera bar, domed city, mutants, weird ass elves, desert pirates, a city ruled by a gargantuan purple demon-worm, and much more!
This 218p book is part setting and part 111 room dungeon. It’s Venger doing what Venger does, in terms of creativity, and Venger Under Control when it comes to his worst qualities (writing too much, for example.) As written, the setting is better than the main adventure, The Black Pyramid dungeon. You could tweak it and make it better. Then it would be one of the best Rifts hexcrawls ever.
So, two books in one. The first chunk is a description of the world the Black Pyramid dungeon sits in, as well as a couple of smaller dungeon. Those two mini-dungeons are perhaps representative of some of Vengers worse work. Linear-ish, and maybe starting off by nuking your L1 characters with a fireball from a 7HD invisible wizard in the first room. But, let’s ignore those two efforts.
The game world is a mashup of every post-apoc trope ever. Independent city states. Giant mecha city. Domed city. Roving tribes of primitive wastelanders. Giant sandworms. Cthulhu shit and cultists. Galactic Star Empires. Heavy Metal. You name it and Venger threw it in. Dune-like Spice fracking, methcrystals, and even sex panther cologne from the Anchorman movies. El Senor Venger Assman don’t know know restraint, and that’s a good thing for something like that. So, take about half of those RIfts supplements books, distill them down to about a column each, and call that your game world. Groovy. Best Rifts/Gamma World setting ever. I remember some blog that had something like a UFP Starship crew messing around on Carcosa. It reminds me a lot of that, except you’re not the starship crew. Probably. I call this a Yul Brenner. And it’s a decent Yul Brenner. Enough detail in those columns to inspire the DM, which is what fluff should do. Basically, while exploring the main event (The Black Pyramid) the party might need something/want to do something outside of the dungeon and that’s where this support material comes in. Healing, complications for the DM to throw in, get a replacement arm that’s robotic from the robo-surgeon in the domed cities, or sell your chthonic artifact. That’s the real purpose of this section, which lasts about half the book. Like I said, I’m kinder these days about background fluff.
And then there’s Maud. I mean, The Black Pyramid. This is the focus of the book and the reason you bought it. This is an absurdist funhouse dungeon with no pretext to it. Blue Medusa may be the closest analogy. A bunch of vignettes, a set piece in each room, described and the players encountering it. Blue Medusa, though, had some internal logic. There was some pretext. Some of the rooms worked together. It kind of made sense.
Not this. “Funhouse Dungeon” is thrown around a lot. I suggest that we are all individuals, err, I mean hyperbolics, at least in this area. The Black Pyramid has no logic at all behind it. Imagine an army of 10,000 men in a 10×10 room. And 18 Cthulhus in the next room with 12 Abolethethsin a desert room in the door on the other side. I’m not a simulationist. Food, water, bathrooms, neighbors … I don’t think I’m really hung up on that shit. But here Venger pushes past any semblance of suspension of disbelief. Suspending your suspension of disbelief, as it were. One room has a movie theater, with patrons. How did they get there? What do the people next door think? Travel rights? Nothing matters. It just is. Run it. The Peewee’s Playhouse room? Just run it. Any of a hundred other joke rooms? Just run it.
This then is your main qualification for wanting this, at least to run. Do you want to run a game like that? A game in which nothing matters? I realize that statement could be taken as me poking fun, or being negative, but I’m not being that when I say it. Do you want to run a funhouse? A REAL funhouse? Then this is for you.
It’s got an index. The rooms are fairly well organized, maybe tending to the lengthier side of things in places, but not terrible in that regard. Something is going on in each, in some fashion, so it’s not the expanded minimalism that others engage in. It’s ok. I’m too traumatized, still to this day, by WG7. I can’t enjoy a real funhouse dungeon.
Listen to the Voice saying Follow Me …
Venger ‘The AssMan’ Satan has missed a real opportunity with Chaalt. Or, maybe, that opportunity still exists. This COULD be the greatest Rifts/Gamma World adventure to ever exist. EVAR. Both of those have a serious fanbase behind them and neither has anything like “Anything Good” to support them. Of course you can’t call it for Rifts cause Kevin will sue the fusk out of you.
If you take The Black Pyramid, each of its little vignettes, and instead give it room to breathe … you turn it in to a HexCrawl! The most bestest post-apoc hexcrawl evar! Then it has room. The pretext is handled almost automatically. The fucking dungeon is really a pointcrawl anyway, this one in particular. Venger’s got some pretext “connecting tubes’ thing to connect his little vignettes in extradimensional space, but why not instead just go all in and make it a hexcrawl, turning each room in to a hex? You spend, what, two months rearranging the rooms a bit to make a bit more sense and fitting them in to the most minimal pretext and logic possible. This, then, would be a chance for Venger to go mainstream. Capture all of that Rifts/Dark Sun/Gamma World/Eberron demand.
This funhouse would work that way. The pretext is easy. It’s a hexcrawl, that’s how people got there. A little bit more work, a couple of months, rewriting and rearranging. Then it’s yours Venger! All of the success ever in the world! But you gotta put in a little extra work to turn it in a hexcrawl is a little pretext. I suspect, though, Venger is morally opposed to that though.
This is $20 at DriveThru. The preview is the first 32 pages. As such you get to see the Gamma World like game world. It would have been better to also include a few pages of actual encounters in the pyramid, maybe one of its maps also, so people knew just how funhouse and pointcrawl they were buying.