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Friday, 9 November 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: No One Warps For Free

This is a review of the RPG supplement "No One Warps For Free" (with the full title "Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free"). It's written by Venger Satanis, published by Korthalis Publishing.  This is as always a review of the print edition, which is a softcover volume about 70 pages long. It features a full color cover, with a fairly impressive sci-fi image of a cyborg dude in a space-suit.  The interior art is also in full-color (as are the pages), and features a few cool sci-fi images of various kinds and an inordinate amount (even for a Venger book) of nearly-naked women in a highly realist style.

Before proceeding, I should note that while I had nothing to do with writing this book, and do not profit from it in any way, I have a sort of business connection to Venger in that he's my co-host in the Inappropriate Characters youtube show.  I don't think this will affect the quality of my review (it certainly hasn't stopped me from pointing out what I perceive to be flaws in Venger's previous works). But I'm disclosing this for the sake of transparency.

The book is described as "a scattershot grab-bag of inspiration". The back cover features a reviewer claiming that this is "the best supplement for the sleaziest sci-fi RPG in the galaxy area"; though the reviewer in question is named "Lube Squirt-herder" and I'm not sure he's real.
In any case, I'm the one who'll be the judge of this book!

The book starts with an even simpler character creation system than the alternate system described in the earlier "Battle Star: Trek Wars" book. It involves using only 3 key words, and is purely descriptive.

Next up, you get a random table of 30 alien philosophies, for use with alien characters, of course. These are all in the form of pithy slogans, like "most lifeforms belong in cages", "we are luminous beings, not crude matter", or "better to blast than get blasted".

After this there's some new career options: "Primitive Screw-head", "Quantum Sorcerer" (with a list of 20 basic spells), "Bard", "Space Ranger", "Empath" (with a couple of very random tables to determine what happens if the empath tries to 'charm' another character), and "Psychostrategist".

There's also some optional rules: on mortal wounds, on pushing your luck (by borrowing from future dice pools), "cowering under the table" (taking a purely defensive move), and aiming rules. Then there's a rule for essentially making up previous-background skills on the fly, which seems a bit storygamey to me (it essentially just involves the player making up some reason why they'd have a skill that was never previously covered).

Next, there's a "random NPC profiling" table, which has 7 of 8 entries being some variety of vice. There's also a short (6-entry) NPC reaction table; it has equal chances of all entries, 4 out of 6 of which are some variety of not-very-positive). Then there's a pair of random tables to determine what happens when someone breaks up with you; as often is the case with Venger, there's no special relation to any of the character's abilities, it's all purely random results, from the character becoming depressed, to distracted, to stalking his ex, to being fine with it all.

After this there's a very small description and table (8 entry) random table about a soft drink with weird properties called Purple-prism. Effects range from making you horny to giving you attack bonuses.

This is followed by a random table of how to end a scene. It's not what you might think; it's not like some final challenge, it's literally just a table of short descriptions, like "laser sounds" or "Harrison Ford smirk". In other words, the table is pretty much useless.

Almost as useless is a random table of pre-made character descriptions. This sounds very useful, but there's only 4 entries, meaning that it might not even be enough for a full party if you have 5 or more players.

Now we get into an adventure with the moderately-clever title of "Sleazy Rider". The action begins in a space-bar. There's interactions to be had with some spacers, aliens, and some barmaids, all of which come with random tables that basically take the place of roleplaying altogether (although Venger does at least state this time that a GM can choose to roleplay events instead of rolling). There's also an encounter with a hot green-skinned lady, and her jealous boyfriend; this time the random table takes the form of a reaction table if the PCs kill her boyfriend when he picks a fight.

Due to a potential misunderstanding with an alien (there's a random table to determine whether the PCs understand the alien's language, so it could mean the PCs might not get any meaningful information at all), the action turns to a pawn shop, where PCs could pick up a thermal detonator. There's also table of 30 random antiquities. Most of these are silly but decent enough as curios.

The designer assumes the PCs might want to sell the crystals the alien gave them, and then assumes that they will also purchase and wear a mask that conceals their identity (even though there's only one mask, so this section makes me wonder what will happen with the other PCs), which may allow them to avoid being attacked by the "Zith apprentice" (sexy, of course) who comes looking for the PCs because of the crystals.

Then with even less premise, the action moves to a strip club. There's a d12 table, mostly of flavoring, to determine what hijinks are going on in the club. There's another potential purchaser of the crystals, and there's also a stripper who's a secret agent of the Zith.

The rambling adventure proceeds to a starport, a random encounter with a princess, an alien attack, and an insane computer. The adventure culminates with a random table to determine what flavor of ice cream an insane AI would select.

The adventure is very rambling, as I said, and very railroading. It moves from one scene to another expecting that the PCs will just go along with it. It makes a lot of assumptions about the PCs' actions, and the whole thing falls apart if the PCs choose not to play along, unless the GM just forces them to.

Next we get to another adventure, "Resistance Disappearing". It involves the PCs looking into a situation where prominent members of the resistance movement in the Tandoor empire are vanishing.  Investigation will quickly reveal that all the disappearance victims were connected with an escort service called "Girls Girls Girls". The PCs end up discovering that an old contact is one of the missing, and it turns out he was taken by an evil AI called Zero Tolerance. The PCs are then led to a the headquarters of the escort service on the planet Avon 7.

Then the adventure abruptly ends. It just has a very brief description of the planet/base, and leaves all the rest of what should be the climax of the adventure to just be worked out by the GM.  I mean, what the hell?

The next adventure is called "Skinless and Horny". It focuses on a macguffin in the form of a crystal that summons demonic beings from a hellish dimension. There's a "dark star elf" wizard who wants to steal the crystal. There's also a refugee from that dark dimension, who has no skin. This adventure is only three pages long, really more of an outline than anything.  And yet, it may be the least flawed adventure thus far.

Next up, we have "Spring Break Transport", which is an adventure dealing with the PCs helping a group of college kids travel from the moons of Margaritaville to Pina Coladaburg. Unfortunately, they cross paths with a group of dangerous escaped convict from a woman's correctional facility.
There's also a "china town space gang" called "the lords of death" who are based on "the sweet and sour system". Political correctness has no place in this game, obviously. Their ship is even called "the yellow peril". 
Again, this adventure is more of a set-up scenario than a full blown adventure; and once again it's better (apart from the gratuitous racial stereotypes) than some of the more detailed adventures.

The next adventure is called "Fuck Ilsham". And man, I have to say, for a self-described "proud Hillary voter", Venger is taking the Politically Incorrect thing to a whole other level. The adventure describes the followers of a mad prophet named Muadib Mohamed, whose people worship a "a vengeful god that is full of self-hatred, loathing, and an ass-crack full of sand", named Ilsham. The followers of Ilsham are "fanatically opposed to the Federation, and all sentient beings who choose their own path of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Was this guest-written by Alex Jones?

The adventure involves "three jihadist terrorists" who are "strapped with explosive vests". They've landed on a space station called The Libertine, with the plan to blow it all to hell.
The station includes a number of creepy cthluhu-cultists, and a wild toga party complete with random events when the party goes extra wild. There's also a renegade Federation sniper, and a culmination of the adventure with the simultaneous terrorist attack and summoning of Great Cthulhu.

I have to say, viewed purely clinically from the point of view of adventure design, it's possibly the most coherent adventure in the book thus far.  It's also by far going to be the most offensive to many people's sensibilities.

After this, there's "Riding Dirty". This is one that seems to be less triggering; the PCs are hired to "smuggle 1000 space-pounds of the chronic". The action involves a petty crimelord, a delivery and a double-cross. The adventure is stunningly normal for Venger.   It's a little linear but other than that is quite good.

Next there's "revel in your time". This adventure starts with the PCs realizing they're replicants. Additionally, replicants only have 1d30 hours to live after they realize they're replicants.  If the PCs want to live past that expiry date, they'll have to seek out a rogue geneticist. On the way of trying to find this person, they run into a weird alien ship that has apparently been dropping off dinosaur bones on primitive worlds as a prank. Unfortunately, that's not the most ridiculous thing about this adventure. The ending is just idiotic.

Then we get to "No Pussy for Old Men". The premise is absolutely ridiculous: Space Congress has passed a law requiring sex workers to sign up in a 'slut registry' and be taxed, so a coalition of sex workers hire the PCs to cock-block all the members of the congress, disrupting the congressmen's efforts to get laid until they rescind the laws. Four of the congressmen have secretly gone to Alpha Blue.  Meanwhile, Federation security finds out that the congressmen's identities have been compromised, and send a death squad to take out the would-be "assassins" (the PCs).  But the death squad also have orders to take out the congressmen in a cover-up.
This is, as I said, a ridiculous premise for a job, but it's actually a decent little adventure as long as you don't play it seriously.

After this, there's "Shenanigans on Alpha Blue". It involves a disgraced pilot getting a chance to reform his reputation by repeating the very flight he crashed earlier.  But there's shadowy groups that are interested in stopping this from happening, and others that really want it to happen. And then, for no special reason, David S. Pumpkins (yes, the character played by Tom Hanks in Saturday Night Live) shows up. This adventure is mostly an outline, but with enough material that it could easily be fleshed out; the inclusion of the SNL character is entirely gratuitous though, and has no particular reason other than to have a goofy pop-culture reference that dubiously skirts the boundaries of intellectual property.

And finally, the last adventure is "She Said, He Sent Assassins". The premise starts with a mega-rich sex-maniac founder of a company called "Nerdz Fuck", who has his entire financial empire taken down by a an article full of allegations published by his vengeful ex-girlfriend (a woman named "Dyke-Star").  The businessman now wants to hire the PCs to assassinate Dyke-Star and find a way to make it seem that her allegations were false.  This adventure is very linear, with the one hinge in it being whether or not the PCs would actually go through with the assassination. There's a security team for them to face off against on the planet where Dyke-Star is hiding, and it's very graphically stated that Dyke-Star will try to offer sexual services in exchange for her life. I think the adventure is pretty bland.

There's some appendices. The first is a 12-entry random table of "Various Ways of Encountering David S. Pumpkins".  Venger must really like this character.  I don't.

Second is a 30-entry table of store-names for "Strip clubs, porn shops, BDSM dungeons, brothels and escort services". This is followed by a 100-entry table of 'tramp stamp' tattoos that women of loose morals might have (along with a sub-table of where on the body she has them).

Then there's a 100-entry table of random (purely descriptive) features that an alien animal or plant might have, for encounters on random planets.

And finally, a table of prefixes to add to mundane objects to make them sound 'futuristic'.  So for example, instead of "Tequila" you might have "Space Tequila" or "Ultra Tequila" or "Hyper Tequila".

Frankly, none of these tables seem useful to me, except maybe the one for alien animals.

So, what can we conclude about "No One Warps For Free"?

Well, it's certainly one of the larger Alpha Blue supplements, and since Alpha Blue supplements have all been a big mish-mash of miscellaneous material, the pure size alone improves the odds you'll find something of use to you.
In some ways, it's got some of the most extreme content as well.  And a weird obsession with David Pumpkins.

If you're not an Alpha Blue fan, this book probably isn't something worth looking at, unless you're running a very alpha-blue like sci-fi comedy game (with or without explicit sexual elements).
If you are an Alpha Blue fan, well, fuck me if I know why but the successful Kickstarters Venger has had with these supplements speak for themselves in terms of this being what Alpha Blue fans want more of, and Venger pushed hard to give them more of that. So even though it confuses me a little, this is obviously something an Alpha Blue fan who's bought the previous books will be likely to want.

Finally, if you're a progressive politically-correct leftist, you could obviously pick up this book if you really love being massively triggered and outraged.
I have to say this to Venger: Dude, you are not a Democrat anymore. You put stuff in this book that looks like some of the more wild of the MAGA-troll accounts I follow on Twitter, the ones I look at and think "well, he got a bit carried away there".  So if the RPGPundit is saying that to you, it's time to wake up about how wildly far from the party you once supported you've now become.


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Delta Days


  1. Not sure if I wrote this book sincerely or as a prank on RPG Pundit...

    1. Life is one continuous prank on RPG Pundit.

      At least the game sounds fun.

    2. At least his avatar has a cool mustache.

  2. We played Alpha Blue at Gamehole last night, the random tables gave some extra umpf to the RP experience like when I use Dungeon Dozens tables in a game to add the spice "melange" so to speak. I would like for Venger to keep on keeping on.

  3. Thanks, hoss! Wish I could've been there. My weekend was the Hell of stay at home dad.

    This upcoming and truly last supplement will be more of the same.

    1. Isn't this like the 4th "truly last supplement"? I'm not saying you shouldn't do more supplements, but maybe stop promising you'll be done.

  4. I really thought the one you just reviewed was the last, but then found a way to do one more. In fact, this upcoming softcover is going to be called The Last Alpha Blue Supplement.

    1. Well, I'm sure your fans won't care if that title turns out to be deceptive.

  5. Nobody cares when rock'n'rollers do farewell tour after farewell tour.