Save Yourself From Hell (OSR)
This adventure is intended as a one-shot for Alpha Blue and clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page Kort’thalis glyph, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Now, first things first: This is a scenario for Alpha Blue, the rules-lite scifi-porn-parody game by Kort’thalis Publishing; as such, this contains copious amounts of gonzo and raunchy themes. If the like offends you, then you may want to skip this one. None of the artworks herein sport exposed boobs or primary sexual organs, though – artwork-wise, this is a tame one. Now the module does feature sexual themes, swearing, etc., but it is, as far as I’m concerned, not offensive. Then again, I’m from continental Europe and outrage over sexual themes has always puzzled me to no end. It should also be noted, that while this scenario is intended primarily for Alpha Blue, it can, rules-wise, be run in conjunction with Venger’s other VSd6-based games.
Speaking of which: The pdf provides a rules-update for all VSd6 games: Pulling a stunt. Once per session, a player may pull off a profession-related task without having to roll. This ability refreshes when dice pool comes up as triple 6s or when the character does something over-the-top-awesome and in-character. Stunt points may not be hoarded – you get one. As Venger probably would say: “Use it wisely, hoss.”
Now, as you could glean from the title, this module is basically a not-100%-serious take on the classic genre of scifi-horror in the tradition of many a darker tale, Event Horizon, etc. – but seen through the over-the-top lens of Alpha Blue. If you’re looking for cosmic bleakness, this is not what you’ll get here. Now, as with all kort’thalis offerings, we do get supplemental tables 12 male and female names, and 4 personality types. These cover: “Dick”, “Pussy”, “Asshole” and “Just Plain Weird.”
There is one further thing that sets this pdf apart from other Alpha Blue scenarios: Players don’t automatically get to steal the spotlight; instead, since a leitmotif of the adventure is reopening old wounds, we get a table of emotional traumata. When players vocalize the internal struggle and RP that aspect, they get double the dice pool. Each such instance must be fresh, so not rehashing of the same theme over and over. Towards the end, closure may be achieved – which once triples the dice pool. These do have a risk: If none of the dice come up higher than 2s, the PC goes berserk for 3d6 minutes, as trauma overwhelms him. The results here are represented as a table in the back of the adventure/epilogue, which makes sense when we get there. From an organizational point of view, a page number or getting that one in the front still imho would have made sense, but that as a presentation nitpick.
Now, since quite a few of my readers are interested in that component: No, we do not get an adventure synopsis or flow-chart or the like; in order to run this module, you should read it in its entirety and preferably, take notes.
Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only SDMs around? Great! The pdf begins as the PCs are in a spa and hear a lady calling, who is currently getting a colonic irrigation with a blue liquid; she wants a towel…and there is a solid 50% chance of getting hit with the blue stuff. EW. The stuff causes hair loss, smells and hampers the ability to recall numbers. The lady’s name is Micayla, and yes, her preferences are noted.
Shortly thereafter, the PCs get a communication that there’s trouble brewing in hell’s Cluster – three potential hooks are provided to motivate the PCs to travel there, and more specifically, the friendly Eye of Asmodeus region. Contact with the X-III has been lost; this would be an abyssal-class spaceship with deep-space exploration track records; it is currently sitting on the periphery of the dread Eye and dimensional instabilities may be measured.
Slightly odd regarding presentation sequence: A key NPC of the ship is detailed before the PCs even get there: That would be Matey. Matey is the ship’s cat and just as intelligent as a humanoid. Oh, and capable of talking. Yes, this is the time where you pull out all those old Red Dwarf episodes and stock up your array of cat-like behavior, jokes, etc. How did he get off the ship? No idea. We don’t even get a random table here. Sequence-wise, the fellow would have made more sense later.
Anyways, before the PCs even reach X-III, they will be attacked by the bounty hunter Tengmarr Kouth, who seeks to blow them to smithereens with his gang of crystalline Q’xaanzee natives…who btw. are immune to energy weapons. Ouch. Nice: We get proper stats for them all. Before jumping to light speed, the PCs will have to refuel, but thankfully, there is a space truckstop just a few parsecs away. 4 sample complications/events can make the stay more interesting…and this is Alpha Blue: Yes, cheap sex can be had. Not all will be nice and dandy, though: Two one-eyes, barrel-shaped feathered lifeforms will demand passage to Hell’s Cluster – Gweez and Gwaaz are weird and can potentially commandeer the PC’s vessel! Further complicating the proceedings, the PCs will get a stowaway, who is carrying an omega device bomb taken from the space Muslims of the Caliphate – he wants to detonate the bomb in safety. Meanwhile Federation and Caliphate will want the bomb back. None of these passengers get stats, which is particularly weird concerning Gweez and Gwaaz, who are actually cultists that will try to turn PCs into sushi rolls sooner or later.
Once in hell’s cluster, the PC’s ship will probably be hit by a huge jar of raspberry jam and then attacked by kung-fu marauders. Here, we get a basic ship to ship combat, but oddly, no stats should the PCs attempt to fight off boarding crews. Finally reaching the vicinity of X-III, the PCs intercept an escape pod, where the almost naked Tana Drus tells the PCs about the X-III’s crew preparing for communion with the demons past the Eye…she is not in a good state and infused with demonic energy, potentially a big issue. The black hole seems to bring forth demonic energies, causing first strife, and then later full blown human sacrifice and worse.
Now, I noted before that the two aliens are cultists, and they may actually open a two-way portal to the X-III. Worse, the ship is…actually Hellraiser in space. There are demon-possessed spacers and three zenobites (stats for both included) that can be vanquished…as an aside, really hilariously: They are deadly, but if mocked sufficiently, they flee. Loved that! But ultimately, sooner or later, an anomaly will happen. The black hole starts to close and when it looks like it disappears, it instead turns into a dimensional rift, from which Cthulhu emerges. Yes. You read right. Cthulhu. No, you can’t blast him apart. Not even with kewl laz0rz. The only surefire way to save the universe, is to detonate the omega device, destroying the whole starsystem. Before Cthulhu emerges, obviously. This may or may not entail staying aboard the X-III or being blown to bits by the detonation. Now all of this sounds pretty cool, and it honestly is – but at the same time, the whole finale, where the pieces come together, feels more sketch-like than it should. The organization here could be tighter; as written, we have all these pieces – how exactly they come together is left pretty much up to the SDM. If you can pull it off and make the pieces fit, then it’s really over the top and fun. If not, well, then it can become a bit of a mess.
Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed a few minor typos. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color 2-column standard with blue veins and bloody splotches. Interior art is a mix of full-color and b/w-artworks, all of which are original pieces. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version – kudos.
Venger As’Nas Satanis’ “Save Yourself From Hell” is a bit of an odd one; if you expected straight scifi horror, then this one will not deliver; instead, this should be considered to be a PARODY of the scifi-horror genre. Hellraiser in space, event horizon and a ridiculous amount of bad, bad scifi-mythos stories all get their due. MeowMeowBeenz are important. Anyways, once you understand that (and it’s pretty much evident from the get-go if you know Alpha Blue), the module can become really fun…but it feels less focused than what we usually get from Venger. The majority of the module takes place on the way to the adventure and is devoted to set-up, with the payoff resting almost exclusively in the hands of the SDM.
Whether you like that or not remains a matter of taste. Against this backdrop, the emotional trauma/closure-stuff feels oddly inappropriate. The module is utterly over-the-top and pretty ridiculous, in a good way. Adding heartfelt drama…just doesn’t fit. The serious, psychological horror-angle implied here simply does not work; it’s anathema to the parody over-the-top style of the supplement. This aspect feels like an afterthought, and frankly, I’d strongly suggest you disregard it.
The lack of stats for the kung-fu marauders is another thing I bemoan here. Most crucially, unlike e.g. Battle for the Purple Islands, the organization makes frankly less sense; it throws together amazing ingredients, but doesn’t really tell you how they best fit together, requiring that you do the hard parts in combining them, sequence of events, etc.. This is, per se, not something I dislike, but it is something that makes the supplement work more like a set-up, like a toolkit, and less like an adventure in the classic sense…at least in the final act. If the organization were tighter, this probably wouldn’t frazzle me, but as presented, the end feels abrupt and requires that you suddenly remember multiple dangling loose threads, which you then need to somehow weave together.
After the detailed voyage, we arrive in Act III, expecting that the play will last for at least 2 more acts…and then find out that Act III is indeed, the finale. This reminded me somewhat of series that were cancelled suddenly, requiring that all is jammed into the two final episodes…and as such, that may even be intentional.
That being said, I wholeheartedly recommend Rafael Chandler’s system neutral “Starship from Hell” supplement to flesh out the details of the X-III and provide the climax that this module per se deserves.
Oh boy. How in the 9 space hells should I rate this? The issue is really complex. The content’s organization is somewhat lacking and we don’t get stats for all relevant NPCs, which are detriments. The finale, similarly, feels sudden and less developed/detailed than I’d like it to be. At the same time, this book does the parody-angle really well and the finale, fragmented though it may be, can congeal into a slimy, gorgeous, over the top experience. Ultimately, whether you like this or not will depend on your angle: If you want a read-made adventure, then the structural shortcomings and abrupt ending may be jarring. If you’re looking for an adventure-outline of sorts, are willing to develop your own finale and how things come together, then this may work rather well for you. As a person, I found myself annoyed by the issues in the structure and organization, which did detract from the enjoyment the hilarious hodgepodge of scifi-horror clichés otherwise generated for me.
Ultimately, this supplement is worth the low and fair asking price for what it is; at the same time, it very much feels like it falls short of what it could easily have been. This feels like the first part of a two-parter, where the second part has been torn away and reduced to the bare minimum. This could have easily carried twice the page-count, and in such a case, it could have easily made 5 stars + seal. With aforementioned file by Mr. Chandler, you can expand what’s here to emphasize the horror of the finale, before you bring the full-blown ludicrous anomaly that initiates the end of the module. In such a case, this can be glorious…but I need to rate what’s here…and what’s here is a bit weaker than what we usually get from Venger. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this worthwhile, if not perfect, over the top supplement here on OBS!