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Saturday 8 September 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: Gamma Turquoise & Save Yourself From Hell

This is a review of the compilation product, "Gamma Turquoise: Santa Fe Starport" and "Save Yourself From Hell", which are adventure scenarios for Alpha Blue (or other compatible games) written by Venger Satanis, published by Kortthalis Publishing.

This is a print edition that brings the two products together in a single book, totaling about 58 pages; of which Gamma Turquoise takes up the first 40. The book's front cover features the Gamma Turquoise title, with a full-color image of a skeleton in what appears to be some kind of spacesuit or armor. The rear cover features the "Save Yourself From Hell" title and has a full-color image of a cat at the window of some kind of spaceship or station, looking out at a pair of starships flying past a Jupiter-like planet with some moons.  Both covers are very well drawn.  The interior art of the product is in black and white, and features a variety of images of people (mostly sexy women) and aliens/monsters, plus a map and a few other images.  All of them are fairly competent; most of the images of women are pretty salacious, though nothing seems to be outright pornographic.

Before proceeding, I should note that while I had nothing to do with this product and do not profit from it in any way, I have a relationship with the author in that he is one of my co-hosts on the Inappropriate Characters Youtube show. I feel quite strongly (and certainly my track record proves) that this won't affect my ability to be critical of Venger's work and present an honest review.  Nevertheless, I felt I should note this for the sake of transparency.

So, to start with, Gamma Turquoise is described as "less than a campaign setting, more than a simple adventure". The author also describes it as a 'sandbox'.
The scenario starts in a slightly un-sandbox like way, by setting up why the PC's spaceship sets down on the spaceport (there's a fortune worth of turquoise to pick up), and then rolling on a random table to explain why they can't leave. But OK, that's still within the realm o the permissible; there are sandboxes that start out by having the PCs stuck in them.
There's a second option too; if you're playing a new campaign, the PCs can start as natives of Gamma, which is described as a "burned-out, used-up, radioactive world". In this case the characters would start out as hunting for artifacts in the ruins, because they've been exiled from their people. Included are rules for treasure hunting (very simple rules, basically just a 2/6 chance of finding something for each hour of searching, with a chance of 1/6 of having a random monster encounter instead). There's a nice large (d100) table of 'found objects' that would fit in quite well in any Gonzo Post-Apocalyptic game.

Next up is a table of 20 entries of Gamma Turquoise Rumors, pretty decent ones, done in the style of an old D&D module. It appears, based on the table, that Gamma is actually Earth after a nuclear holocaust. There's also a list of 20 "gamma customs", which represent specific weird practices or superstitions of individual tribes. Good, though it would be better if there had been more.
There's also a mutation table. Native characters have a chance of starting with a mutation; while characters from off-world who are hanging out on Gamma have a chance of getting one if they stick around too long. The table only has 20 entries, which I think is a bit too little for a mutation list.

We're presented with a list of "human factions of Gamma Turquoise", these are the tribal groupings typical of a gonzo post-apocalyptic setting. They'd be at home in a Gamma World campaign, which is an obvious inspiration for this product; or for that matter in my own Last Sun DCC campaign. You have the sports-worshiping tribe, the road-warrior types, the brutal tribe obsessed with slaughter, the wasteland survivors, the keepers of mostly non-useful knowledge, the assholes who think they're better than anyone else. There's also one tribe, "The Sluts", which are much more typical Venger. Also, an amusing tribe of post-apocalyptic roleplayers who think random-tables of RPG books that survived the apocalypse are systems for divining the future. That was really clever, I must admit!
There's also a random table of "initiation rites" that a PC would have to go through to join a faction.

There's some interesting Places of Interest in the setting. These include a "Forbidden Zone", where an insane computer intelligence hunts humanoids down. A super-library said to contain all pre-apocalypse human knowledge. Another area where two different groups of robots are at constant endless war with each other because they're painted different colors; there's a one-page description of this area and the robots, called Zroids (red or blue) each of whom believe they are the most "logical". An area controlled by three sorcerers. A free city called New Albuquerque. And the Santa Fe starport, the only way off the planet. Plus, the open road, including "route 666" (also known as "fury road"). There's a random table for encounters on the road.  These include some monsters (with stats provided), like the giant turquoise sandworm, the Tentacled Tentacle (a tentacle with other smaller tentacles sticking out of it), or the cactus critter. Another table of dangers is provided for going across the desert.

There's also the "Fuck Off Cantina", a real hive of scum and villainy, which includes a very basic random table to see how the barflies react to the PCs when they arrive.

A couple of pages are given over to a horrific/ridiculous monster called The Doom That Came To Taos.

Only one page is given to a couple of tables of stuff you can buy at the New Albuquerque and the costs; the table of stuff is very creative but again, way too short at only 20 entries. We're told New Albuquerque is ruled by a dude named High Priest Mayo-Axe, and that most of its population is pure strain human and look down on mutants. Under the city there's tunnels taken over by a psychotic mutant named Skull-Face, who now threatens both that city and the Santa Fe Starport.

The section on the Santa Fe Starport is the last in this book, and also the largest at 6 pages. It contains a number of small adventure-scenarios. This includes stuff on smuggling in the spaceport, getting through security, an encounter with a couple of weird alien chicks (including a random table of what happens if you have sex with them), the spaceport archive and secret information contained therein (including another random table), and a situation with a group of social-justice-warrior sex-androids who are undertaking an uprising against organic male privilege.

The end of this part of the book includes a map of the region, quite well drawn in a whimsical sort of way; as well as schematics of a wasteland-vehicle, and floorplans of the Santa Fe Spaceport.

The second part of the book, "Save Yourself From Hell", is described as "a one-shot Alpha Blue scenario for PCs who like to blaze through encounters". It's also stated that the adventure "attempts to blend sleazy space opera with horror".

Before anything else this section presents a new variant rule for Venger's house system, called "pulling a stunt", where once per session PCs can attempt a profession-related stunt without having to roll. Not the kind of rule I like, but some other people do like that kind of thing. There's also a special rule about experiencing emotional trauma (which includes another too-small random table for manifestations of mental breakdowns).

The adventure begins with a fairly graphic description of a scene involving a naked woman receiving an enema. Consider yourselves warned. Not only is this scene gross, as far as I can tell it is completely unnecessary to the rest of the adventure.

After said unnecessary scene, the PCs are sent out into action, to check out a mysterious situation with a starship that has lost all contact, and is on the edge of a black hole. They're also assigned an NPC crew-member that's a talking cat named "Sir Matey". Then they have to face a bounty hunter that wants to kill everyone involved with the rescue mission.

Without going into too much detail on the rest of the adventure: there's a side-scene in a galactic truck-stop, some alien passengers, a stowaway, a group of kung-fu marauders, a survivor of the lost ship, and then of course the ship itself, which has been caught up in the arrival of a Lovecraftian mega-horror.

Anyways, aside from the needless first scene, the rest of the adventure is pretty good.

So, my conclusions about this dual product? Pretty good, for its size. My only main criticism is that in a few places it gets a bit lazy in terms of some sections or tables that could have been more complete, but on the whole it's got useful material. It's got some of the salaciousness that you would expect from a Venger product, but less than in most of his books, and only the enema scene is beyond the pale (it's telling of Venger's output that I can say something like "the only really inappropriate part is the enema scene").

If you're already a fan of Venger's work and his house system, this is definitely a worthwhile buy for you.
On the other hand, if you have no interest in his system, but run something in the OSR or what have you and it has a sci-fi, weird fantasy, or gonzo twist, then you would likely find some at least some stuff here that you can use.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Half-Volcano + C&D's Morning Drive


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. 'There's also [...] an amusing tribe of post-apocalyptic roleplayers who think random-tables of RPG books that survived the apocalypse are systems for divining the future. That was really clever, I must admit!'
    Yes, that _is_ clever, and worthy of Douglas Adams. I may have to steal it :)

  3. I've been trying to find a decent mini-sandbox I could use for Mutant Future. Is this it?

    1. Possibly. If it were OSR, I'd say definitely!

    2. Mutant Future is OSR-Gamma World yup. Just ordered it from amazon UK, only £10 with free postage!

    3. What I actually meant is that Gamma Turquoise is not specifically OSR. But regardless, if you're getting it for the setting, you probably don't need to worry about that. The Random Tables are all system-neutral, at least.

    4. We'll see how it is - I don't care about rules crunch, but I want a decently well detailed post-apoc-style hex crawl or mini hex crawl.

    5. Well, GT isn't a hex-crawl either. There's a non-hex map, and areas and regions are described, but not in hexes.

  4. Thanks for the review, hoss!

    Yeah, Gamma Turquoise wasn't really supposed to be for Alpha Blue, but while I was writing it, the sleazy gonzo kept inserting itself... to the point where it was just easier to use it with Alpha Blue, than not. It makes a good pairing with Save Yourself From Hell.

    Gamma Turquoise would be perfect for a mini-campaign or to spice up another campaign setting, hex-crawl, or just random bits and pieces to fill up a home-brew world. Lots of flavor, just don't go looking for micro-managed granular detail.

    FYI, anyone who has the print version and wants the full-color, high-res maps should email me for Dropbox links!

  5. OK, my copy just arrived, been looking through.

    I think the sleaze is really more extreme than Pundit indicates, more than in Venger's older/non-AB products. It's pretty much every line. This isn't something I could imagine running at a public RPG event. Really it feels more like something I might gut for parts, or else run a pretty heavily bowdlerised version online.

    Good thing - Gamma Turquoise does have a useable looking map; quite a few purportedly sandbox OSR products these days do not.

    1. Despite criticism, I do feel that buying/supporting Venger's work I'm on the side of the angels. Pointy-horned, large-breasted, fork-tailed & bat-winged angels...

    2. I'm very sorry if you think I underplayed the smut level of this product. I think it may be that since I was reviewing a bunch of Venger's newer (alpha blue) stuff, it felt like IN COMPARISON to those there was less obsession with smut. I don't know if you've seen those, but they have way more ridiculous sexuality than this book. But I can see how compared to something a normal person would write or read, it would seem pretty smutty still.