Empire Of Satanis by Down With People
About The AuthorOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: Kicked Out Of The Church Of Satan For Being Too Satanic
I think this is meant to be the cover art, but it's not on the book. It's just kind of there on the Lulu page.
About The Author
To really get Empire Of Satanis, you need to be brought up to speed on its history and the background of its creator, one Darrick Dishaw.
Look at this fuckin guy
Darrick Dishaw is a fucking loon. He's been haunting the occult world for years as Venger Satanis, the founder and Head Culty of the Cult Of Cthulhu. The main beliefs of the cult – as far as I can tell from the awful website – are a blend of satanism, chaos magic and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. With this unusual melange of esoteric philosophies, he has been laughed out of every gathering of magic weirdos that he's tried to contact. He published a book on his beliefs, which according to one Amazon review liberally steals from other books on satanism. He tried to apply for a leadership role in the Church of Satan, which decided he was too much of a wanker to be part of their organisation.
He is also a big RPG guy, and that's why we have Empire Of Satanis.
Dishaw went to a stack of RPG forums to aggressively push his game on people while refusing to listen to any advice. Most notably, he gave review copies to peeps on RPG.net, which (naturally) led to them publishing negative reviews, which led to him starting a series of huge pissing matches where he made every possible mistake you could make in response to honest criticism.
The highlight of this was Dishaw casting a fucking curse on everyone who disliked his game:
darrick3909, RPG.net forums posted:
Hail Satan! Lord of the Pit! King of Hell! Ruler of the Earth! Master of the Abyss! I open the unknowable doorways and touch the violet flame, drink the revitalizing blood and break the skulls of those who cross Him or His brothers. I call upon the most vicious demons of Hell to intervene. From this night forth, you will be plagued by self-doubt, weakness, failure, hopelessness, hunger, pain, loss, insecurity, and envy. Nothing can save you and no one will come to your aid. All who have befriended you will now desert you in your hour of need.
In the name of the Ancient Ones, I curse those who tear down Empire of Satanis! May Satan have no mercy whatsoever upon your miserable souls.
So it is done!
Which eventually led to his ban.
Despite this, Dishaw went on to release a sourcebook for the game (Satanis Unbound) before going quiet. I guess he spent the next five years or so working on his cult and personal life before releasing some non-RPG books, all of which you can get off of Lulu for free if you're really curious. He's got a wife and a kid now? Good for them, they all look healthy.
Last year, he made his triumphant return to the RPG industry. He slunk back into RPG.net, started a groggy OSR blog and released a couple of D&D sourcebooks which look pretty bad. He also ran a successful Kickstarter project called The Islands Of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, which you should definitely take a look at if you want a taste of what you're in for.
What you should take away from all this is that Darrick Dishaw is a man who takes himself very seriously. He takes his writing very seriously. He takes the Cult Of Cthulhu very seriously. This is why is RPG product is so unbelievably shit.
Next: The true Satanis starts here.
Chartreuse is the most evil colourOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: Chartreuse is the most evil colour.
why does this picture suck so much
EoS opens up with a brief introduction to the game and some gentle stroking of Dishaw's ego.
The thundering crash of dueling void sabers erupts over the ominous chanting of a grotto’s dark sabbath. Two bestial lords, inhuman, grotesque, and satanic slash at each other with blades of chartreuse magical energy from the void itself. A masked onlooker in yellow robes casts a spell as the ululation of strange tribal demons produces yet more sorcery!
Welcome my bloodied, chaotic, and slimy disciples… you have walked through a door to H. P. Lovecraft’s version of Hell by way of a surreal dreamscape. You are diabolic champions who are destined to be as Godlike as your emperor Satanis. But don’t start to feel all smug and superior because at one time your kind were the feeble, unwanted, unloved, beaten, abused, spit upon, hated, and feared dregs of humanity. Citizens of the human realms who practiced sorcery were banished from the universe. Each time you are reminded of your struggle for power, a blind volatile rage takes hold. A twisted sense of dark purpose hides behind a decadent masque of revenge fantasy.
This is the thing with Dishaw's writing style; whenever he wants to try and describe something, he'll just start free-associating 'eldritch' words to try and get you as psyched up about his setting as he is. The problem is that it's just so over-the-top that it reads like a parody of the work Dishaw is trying to emulate. This becomes a big problem later on in the book when he tries to describe his setting and it becomes ugly walls of interchangeable adjectives.
Empire of Satanis, EoS, strives for innovation. I tried to go outside the role-playing box with this virgin effort. The layout is minimalist and garage band; it’s all about the words on the page. It’s akin to Lovecraft on an acid trip hurriedly transcribing the insanity of Hell as he falls deeper into the Pit.
The book is Times New Roman on white for all of its 63 pages. The layout is dogshit. EoS is truly the most satanic of games, for it has committed the greatest sin: citing game mechanics before it tells us what the mechanics are. You get the impression that Dishaw wrote all of this, tried to edit it over a weekend then decided it was good enough for print. You'll see for yourself six updates from now, when we finally get to character creation.
This intro is also where we get the game's first mention of its one kinda okay mechanic, Story Alteration. Once per scene, any player can try to make a big change to the story by rolling a d6. If it comes up six, the change happens and the story continues down the new route. The game even advises a sort-of troupe play structure where the player who initiated the change becomes the GM for the next scene or until someone else alters the story. This is actually pretty cute, and it's nice to see Dishaw doesn't take the GM AS GOD position that a lot of OSR types do.
The book also tells us players can reduce the target number for Story Alteration by spending points of Social Standing and Hideous Paradise, which will be fun to think about several updates from now!
Slowly the gelatinous, chattering, translucent, viscous, slime drenched, unholy, bilious green monstrosity withdraws from the cyclopean, nightmare city of Frier. It peers into the decayed walls of "reality", fatigued by its vile sorcery. Alone and unobserved, except for his sword wielding companions, the demonic entity effects an unnamable change upon the universe beyond the Empire of Satanis the Black God! Now imagine the creature described above is You...
In EoS, you play Fiends, monsters that are 'part alien, demon and human'. They live in the hell dimension of K'Thana under the Crimson God Satanis, which borders the human universe Sha-la and their home universe Yidhathroth. It's explained the Fiends have no slave-morality and are 100% master-morality, which has turned their society into a hot lolbertarian paradise. They are also very, very evil.
Characters in this game are generally encouraged to have traits such as: oppression, cruelty, domination, blasphemy, ambition, lust for knowledge and expansion, aggression, courage, a passion for degradation, and aesthetics. However, Fiends will also help each other out in order to receive something in return. Except for a few strict order-keeping laws (loyalty to Satanis), there is a liberal and laissez faire (hands off) attitude in K’thana and most places that Fiends have contact with.
So if you've been looking for a game about objectivist demon monsters, look no further! EoS has got you covered.
Next: More setting, plus Fiend races. Shit's gonna get squamous.
666 Pits of Hellfire and the 999 Layers of the Crimson GateOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: 666 Pits of Hellfire and the 999 Layers of the Crimson Gate
Introduction 2: Intro Harder
The first chapter is called 'A Little Background' and is meant to be a basic guide to the setting I guess. Both it and the Races chapter are written in first-person from what I assume is a Fiend's POV. We find out a little more on the boring, stupid history of the Fiends. Dishaw's written this with the same corgi-esque, frothing-at-the-mouth excitement that he does for all his fluff.
This is a game of demonic alien fiends, black robes and dark cloaks, serpentine daggers, vile sorcery, crackling scarlet energy void sabers, servants of thinking black ooze, action, investigation, and exploration. Empire of Satanis is the story about creatures from a dark plane that have risen to power using cunning, will, fortitude, intelligence, and the Black Arts! Understanding forbidden, eldritch lore and satanic wizardry allows one to reshape “reality”. To forever alter the physics, laws, and truth of the world. That is greatness!
Fiends were once human sorcerers who were banished from Sha-la. They broke through the dimensional barriers into Yidhathroth and met the Crimson God Satanis, who rewarded them by turning them into Fiends. Under the guidance of their new god, the Fiends journeyed to K'Thana, where they created a bunch of city-states and got heavily into back-stabbing each other and murder/raping/enslaving any humans they could find. Their magic is weaker in Sha-la, but they keenly await the day they can invade en masse and fuck its shit up.
There's only one real law in K'Thana: 'Thou shalt not kill evil without good reason, sufficient provocation, or for sport.' Despite the poor wording and immense vagaries of this one law, we're assured that it is brutally enforced by the Insidious Order of the Ninth Angle, the ruling body empowered by Satanis. This seems like it would contradict the Fiends' previously stated laissez-faire philosophy, but that's okay. Y'see, it's all part of the Dark Way, the path to evil enlightenment available to all Fiends, and by following it you too can become a god and start your own evil empire. It's all about freedom and liberation!
I mean, you will always have to obey the Crimson God Satanis, and your empire will still be a part of his empire, but that's just how the Dark Way do.
Evil has two sides, the matter-of-fact death and destruction is but one. The other is a more intangible, spiritual evil that raises us the masters of creation. This is post-modernism and post-apocalypse mixed with chaos magic and the viscous, unameable, infinite, terrors that have only now come into the light. The political state is one of totalitarianism, religious zealotry, rule by black magic, total anarchy, and survival of the fittest.
In this chapter, several organisations are mentioned, including the Imperial Murderers, the Sect Of The Stifling Air and the Bureau of Disinformation. We later learn that the Imperial Murderers are Satanis' military force, but the latter two are never expanded on in any way. Hail Satanis!
There are a bunch of races in this game, since Fiends come in all shapes and sizes. There are other gods besides Satanis, and they got in on the Fiend game too. Each Fiendish race gets a brief write-up explaining its background, culture and physical appearance. Mechanically, your choice of race gives you a bonus to two skills, normally one of the many types of magic. Aside from “The Smile”, all of them have names which look like giant fuckfests of random letters, with no attempt at resembling an actual language.
First up, the Fiends of Satanis.
Kurur-esh are almost always uncivilized. City dwellers see them as barbarians. Their skin is a dark red, brown, and their thick tangled dark brown hair are physical trademarks...Their wild, untamed expressions also include jumping up and down, guttural chants, head butting passersby with their thick skulls.
Dark-skinned tribal barbarians from the shadow jungles of Tharr. They eat human brains and smother themselves in cranial fluid. I think it's meant to make them smarter, but the wording implies that they only think it does. +1 Flesh Magic, two free skill levels from Music, Meditate or Rune-Casting.
Zeph n' Glarl:
Their skin is a putrescent greenish black hue. Upon maturity, it is their custom to shave the head of hair by the light of the green flame in a ritual that further separates them from mortal creatures of “normal matter”.
Not related to the bump n' grind. Scholarly types on the hunt for ancient black magic. They are also decadent socialites and killer mad scientists who hang out in alleys looking for victims, 'like an unspeakable monstrous Jack the Ripper'. +1 Word Magic, +1 to one other magic of your choice.
Zirakean flesh is a pale green complemented by a wormy texture. Their 6 inch horns grow out of their forehead, sometimes effective for head-butting opponents in the stomach. Another common physical aspect of Zirakeans are the elongated ears, Cro-Magnon brow, semi-bipedal stance and loping gate. The elongated fingers ending in serrated claws are particularly noteworthy. Zirakean hands sometimes extend as long as their 2 feet.
Psycho warrior race. They were interbred with hatred chimps to make them even stronger and killy-er. They don't much natural skill with magic, but the book says that member of other races will often teach them, even though its obviously not in their interests to do so. +1 to any two combat skills, though I think you can just go with +2 to one combat skill.
The most noticeable characteristic of the Vihm race are the masks that always obscure their face...Their skin is an ivory white that is strange to behold, and vehemently clashes with the fuscia (sic) furr (sic) covering their calves on down and ending in cloven hooves.
Creepy mute mask dudes who are prone to introspection. They prowl around and act all sneaky-like. This is the race for Lone Wolf players, and the book offers no advice for how to incorporate a completely silent loner into the party. +1 Mask Magic, +1 Shadow Magic
This race has pale yellowish green skin and usually has a third eye that has grown in the palm of their left hand.
Druids from the deserts of Nyibb. They have magic jazz hands which let them create super-plants a la Poison Ivy. They act friendly, but are actually going to betray you. Again, the book doesn't give you advice on how to make this work with a party. Either +2 Plant Magic or +1 Plant Magic, +1 Fungus Magic.
Draculas. They drink blood, but also end up consuming part of their victims' personality, which eventually drives them insane. Most of them join the Temple of Blind Knowledge to learn ancient black magic, particularly rituals to calm their inner turmoil. They are also decadent hedonists who like sex ('Consent is inconsequential'). +1 Blood Magic, two free skill levels from Meditation, Sensitivity or Disinformation.
I'm not gonna bother quoting their description, because it just says they've got pale white skin like every other dracula you've ever seen.
Long, black, braided beards are not uncommon and those that specialize in combat seem to invariably grow a thick, rich, violet fur all over their bodies.
EoS' dwarves. They live underground, craft magic items and blaze it. They can also send each other text messages by staying awake for days before lucid dreaming. They have explored the 666 planes of hell and 999 crimson gateway. They have also managed to colonise most of them. They get really excited about exploring new places and meeting new people. Compared to the other races of Satanis, they're such a bunch of chill dudes that I find them quite endearing. +1 Dream Magic, +1 Fungus Magic.
Next: More stupid races!
There is of course more, but I will spare you.Original SA post Empire Of Satanis: There is of course more, but I will spare you.
Fiend Race Mega-Update
Did you know there are gods other than Satanis? It's true! Leedra-rive, Odhra-guoa, Drekth-crom and Toola-vra all have a stake in K'Thana, and have their own Fiends to enact their will. Leedra-rive is 'a struggling, elder, insectoid God bathed in leprous and discordant amber hued liquid fire.' Drekth-crom is 'the God of all thing that lurk in the gloom of hideous twilight.' Toola-vra is 'the God of Nonsense and Childish Amusement'. Does any of this matter? Nope.
None of these gods get their own write-ups. All of the descriptions I'm quoting come from the race descriptions. Speaking of which, let's have more of those!
Leedra-rive has two races:
The Kanaima: This shit is bananas. I'm just going to quote the whole thing.
In the untamed jungle outside K’thana, beyond the rainbowed barriers between the planes, beyond the unlit and unexplored reaches… lives a race. A race like us and unlike us. I hazard to even speak of them. Only to warn do I reveal what lives outside our civilized infernal dominion. This race is the Kanaima, a scattered tribe of devil insect witchdoctors who live in remote caves of Thigh-ah. The Kanaima appeal to a terrible God that is nourished solely on pain and torment, a level of suffering is carried out in this God’s name that sickens me to even contemplate it.
This tribe of devil insect withdoctors scans and sifts the planes for a suitable victim, someone strong as well as someone nearby, an outsider. For months, they stalk their victim, leaving little signs that a Kanaima is watching. When the victim is alone, the fiend takes them and brings them to his cave, bound in chains. The torture begins with the shredding of the victim’s anal lining. Barbed reads (sic) are used for aggravating the anal wounds. There is of course more, but I will spare you. The God of the tribe grants the
witchdoctor power based on the suffering he inflicts on his victim.
After the victim has died, the corpse is buried in a shallow grave near the cave. A period of three weeks or so go by, then a hollow bamboo shoot is stabbed through the dirt and into the body. The Kanaima proceeds to suck out the “death juices” through the hollow bamboo shoot. This also gives power to the witchdoctor. Finally, the corpse is left to decompose. The bones are dug up and used in a ritual to find the next victim. And the process repeats.
+1 Blood Magic, +1 Torture.
Preying mantis demons with alien beacons shedding an emerald illumination. They have spent many decades in a prison dimension, Nahl, paying for their sins against Leedra-rive.
The book says they have a 'foul, untrustworthy nature', but compared to the Kanaima they seem pretty sweet. They can fly through hyperspace, which has made them natural travellers and explorers much like the Dourge. +1 Hyperspace Sorcery, +1 Dimension Magic.
Ohdra-guoa has three races:
[The Guoa-asht] pride themselves on being the least human looking with their three small heads (each one about half the size of a regular head), and ectoplasmic purple-red flesh.
Like vampires, except they drink souls instead of blood. They were created by Satanis but reborn through Ohdra-guoa, and this Double Divinity Combo Breaker has turned them into arrogant dickholes. It says that they don't care about spirituality and just become degenerate hedonists, because you really fucking needed another decadent hedonist race.
Their racial bonus is annoying. They get three skill levels in three non-magical 'personal speciality' skills that make sense for their character's background, but I'm not sure if this means you can just pick from any skills or if you're expected to make up your own – a tricky thing considering the game already has like a bazillion different skills already. They also get 500 zirkas (the game's currency) in starting equipment, and start in the second of the two estates in K'thana society.
The Guoa-asht write-up is the only time the estates are ever mentioned.
Physically they have very small ears or no ears at all, an elongated tongue, multiple amber hued cat eyes randomly placed on their head, and a mass of wriggling green worms emerging from their spine. These fiends were spawned by the god Odhra-guoa; and naturally feel at ease with the Guoa-asht.
Juggalos. They're the carnies and circus-freaks of K'Thana, and take credit for establishing both the Carnival of the Sleeper and the Decadent Masquerades. You'd expect them to be whimsical Kender or Malkavian types, but they're actually business-oriented mathematicians. +1 Mask Magic, +1 Candy Land Magic.
Ooze covered skeltetons with dreadful glowing eyes. Their rotting flesh and fungi occasionally sprout from their exposed bones.
Devout holy warriors who have returned to K'Thana after a century-long crusade through the other planes. This is a big deal, and a lot of Fiends aren't comfortable with the addition of yet another psychotic warrior cult to the general population – but come on, this is a setting with the Kanaima. At least the skellies aren't going to rape you to death with anal reads. They make a scary screaming noise represented by a +1 Umentionable (sic) Shriek, and +1 to either a combat skill or Fungus Magic.
Drekth-crom has three races:
Their skin is a charcoal grey, sometimes with streaks of white or one of the many wonderful shades of green. They also have six fingers on each hand.
Yet another fucking race of tribal barbarians. They live in the shadow jungles of Tharr like the Kurur-esh, but they've also discovered a portal that has let them colonise the death world of Toe-Viah. Most of them worship the Chaotic Evil Drekth-crom over the Lawful Evil Satanis. +1 Hideous Twilight Magic, +1 to a higher cost combat skill.
Draconic, troglyditic, swamp zombies. One of the things I can tell you about them is you can see the fear in their eyes yours. Physically, they are naturally hairless with elongated fingers, and stand seven feet tall, almost a foot taller than most fiends.
Violent mercenaries from the Corpselight Swamp. They can vomit up their souls and send them out to explore. They get heavily into voodoo and sometimes become powerful shamans. +1 Puppet Magic, +1 Hideous Twilight Magic.
A gnarled, scaly black tree with irregular, eldritch, and dripping limbs. A dozen small toad heads suddenly erupt from its porous ebony skin when amused, startled, or angry. These dozen or so small toad heads whisper of the gloom, shadows, and the nightmare of existence.
One of the first and oldest Fiend races. They're heavily into demonic racial purity, and think K'Thana's having a sort of demonic Time of Thin Blood. They don't worship the Gods, instead seeing them as equals and rivals. I think it's pretty funny that the Guoa-asht think they're the least human-looking Fiends when these guys exist. +1 Plant Magic, +1 Nightmare Technology.
Toola-vra has three races:
The Lashera have two hairy ape like heads, their bodies are covered with crimson and violet scales, each arm ends in a forest green suckered tentacle, an extended pineal gland grows out of their forehead like a little worm, and a mouth grows out of their abdomen, its lips hungrily smacking, teeth grinding, and it’s giant tongue reaching out.
They're your typical Kender/Malkavians, a bunch of crazy jerks who were supposedly born from a bad dream. +1 Candy Land Magic, +1 Dream Magic.
Vahs-vra resemble dead babies with clown makeup and grotesque bulging eyes. Some are so well fashioned that they don’t look like
dummies, or dolls, at all but real babies. A few are made very crudely and look more like badly carved blocks of painted wood than young children. Their lower half reminds one of a snake as they slither towards whatever mischievous sickness entertains them at the
Living ventriloquist dummies with a poisonous bite. If it seems like the Toola-vra races get shorter write-ups, it's just because there's nothing said about their place in Fiend society, just endless bullshit about how they look. They get +1 Paralysing Bite, which is a reskin of the Quivering Palm skill, and +1 Candy Land Magic.
“The Smile” are mostly a just a mouth, brightly colored lips with eye stalks growing from the top and sides. Below, a twisted crimson torso writhes below the gigantic grinning mouth.
Turned into big stupid smiley faces because they criticised God. They constantly rant and mutter. The Zibza position on theology doesn't seem so smart now. +1 Word Magic, +1 Flesh Magic.
Finally, you can play a Human/Fiend Hybrid. For some fucking reason, there's a lot of humans who've settled in K'Thana, even though the Fiends just constantly murder/rape/enslave them. This has resulted in an influx of Hybrids, and life pretty much sucks for them. They still get +1 to any type of magic.
There's a thing on race relations which is stupid and useless. The Guoa-asht, Lurigeatro and Tshahg run the joint with their stranglehold on the political and entertainment sectors. The Malahka, Zibza and Sairmenow live on the outskirts of society. The Zirakeans are loners who everyone looks down on because of their violent tendencies. The Zeph n' Glarl, Vihm, Blazht and Dourge are 'the backbone of Fiend society' because they're all civilised or some shit.
All of these races suck. The names all run together; even after reading the write-ups several times, I'd still be fucked trying to name and describe each race off the top of my head. Most of them are one-note reiterations of the same psychotic warrior/tribal barbarian/hedonist noble archetypes. So many of them are described as antisocial jerks that it's not clear how they're meant to work together as a party. There's a lot of conflicting information – how are Vihm so socialised if they're mute loners?
Worst of all, it's boring. All of the Fiends read like monsters a little kid would make up. There's nothing that would make me want to play any of them. The descriptions of your splats should make me want to get right in and start making characters – if they don't, you done fucked up.
Next: I finally start talking about the system.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LightsaberOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightsaber
The Actual System Bits
We don't get to learn the basic mechanics until we are almost a third of the way into the book.
EoS runs on a dicepool system. You take the appropriate attribute and skill for what you're trying to do, add them up and roll that number of d6. The highest number you roll is your result. If you roll a 6, then you keep the 6 and roll another die, adding its result to your total. You repeat this until you stop rolling 6s. You'll be trying to reach a target number decided by the GM:
easy is a 4, doing something average is 7, something complex is 10, challenging is 13, and unimaginable is 16
In addition, the GM can give you a +2 to bonus for actions in accordance with your Colour Sphere, or for giving your actions elaborate descriptions that are in accordance with your Colour Sphere. That'll be fun to think about, when we get to the Colour Sphere chapter several updates from now.
Combat works completely different. Step by step:
1. Character with the highest Agility goes first.
2. Determine Attack Numbers and Defence Numbers. This is done the same way as any other dice pool, except you then roll a d6 for each one and add the result.
3. If your Attack Number is higher than their Defence Number, they take damage. This is soaked by their Endurance and inflicted on their Vitality.
4. Process repeats until the deadness takes hold.
This is really awkward and it works this way because Dishaw is a grognard. Magic gets yet another system, which will be covered later.
The character attributes are:
Will: Confidence, control, leadership and the attribute for resisting magical effects.
Magical Aptitude: What you use to magic people.
Theoretical Knowledge: Abstract thinking and book smarts. Also important for Nightmare Technology and Candy Land Magic.
Practical Knowledge: Anything that requires hands-on experience.
Cunning: Being a tricky bastard.
Attraction: Charisma, and also the luck attribute for some fucking reason.
Brute Force: Physical strength.
Agility: Dexterity, and also the attribute to max out if you want to fight people.
Endurance: Stamina and constitution. The 'armour' attribute that you use to soak damage.
Vitality: A derived attribute, determined by adding 6 to your Endurance. It's your health and functions that way.
Then there's the skills list. It's an enormous monster of a thing, coming out as 65 skills all up. Most of them are your standard shit like Climb and Melee Weapons, so instead of listing them all, I'll just mention the interesting/stupid ones.
Aberration Empathy: Like animal empathy, for demon monsters.
Assassin's Art: Lets you study an opponent for five rounds to do double-damage. This is a trap option, because your opponent will be attacking you for those five rounds. Increasing it isn't worth it, because it only decreases the time by one round per point and there's a much better skill you should be saving for.
Disguise: How the fuck is this meant to work when one of the races is a toad-infested tree?
Dreadful Exaltation: One of a handful of oddball magicky skills, this one lets you bring an object of worship to life. Whatever it is will do its best to fulfil your commands. Higher results make it better at follow your commands (not explained) and determines how long before it goes back to sleep (not explained).
Lightning Attack: Get an extra attack per day for each skill level. This is really good, but it's not The One True Combat Skill.
Nyctalops: Lets you see in complete darkness. More importantly, lets you see 'the secret darkness that resides in all things'. Once you see something's inner darkness, you can transform it into something else. This doesn't work on Fiends and transforming objects in Sha-la requires a Complex success. If you fail, you can't try to transform that thing again for 24 hours.
Omnipresence: Depending on how good your roll is, this might let you project your sense a distance or let you literally be omnipresent. I can see this being a pain in the ass to adjudicate, and the book offers no advice.
Priest Of Satanis: Lets you heal 1d6+1 Vitality as many times per day as your skill level.
Priest of the Dark Current: Lets you double a Fiend's attribute for 1d6+1 rounds blah blah blah skill level. What's the Dark Current? Never explained.
Quivering Palm: Getting a complex success lets you knock out someone for 1d6+1 minutes. Also a trap option, because that's all it can do and it's not the One True Combat Skill.
Ritual Dance: Do a ritual dance for the Old Ones. Dancing for an hour and getting a Complex success will give you a dice re-roll. 'An unimaginable result might attract kindness from a stranger who give you shelter, food, and a night with his daughter.'
Rune Casting: Get vague prophecies about the future. Dumb, trap option, no advice given on how to run this.
Seduction: I'm singling this one out because its entire description is:
Wooing the opposite sex.
Fucking amazing. Darrick Dishaw, Venger Satanis, transcendent intellectual and High Priest of the Cult of Cthulhu, in his game about playing alien monster demons, can't think of a form of sexual interaction other than penis + vagoo.
Speak Language: Each level lets you speak another language. There are many languages in K'Thana, such as
Sphere of Colour-Borrowing: This confusingly-named skill lets you temporarily borrow someone else's Colour Sphere. Each skill level lets you hold onto another Colour Sphere. The game doesn't tell you how long you can do this and more importantly doesn't make you roll to use it, this skill is good to divert points into after maxing out the One True Combat Skill.
Terrible Insight: You can see into the near future! Each skill level gives you an opportunity to alter the immediate future. Difficult to adjudicate, and it makes Rune Casting look even dumber.
Two Weapon Fighting: Does what it says. Taking this skill at level 1 gives you a whopping -3 Attack Number for each weapon. You have to get it up to 4 before you can make those sweet, unhindered double attacks. Might be good to invest in after the One True Combat Skill.
Unmentionable Stare: Roll Attraction + this skill to make someone run away screaming. The Tshahg's Umentionable Shriek works the same as this.
Void Saber Combat: THE ONE TRUE COMBAT SKILL. A void saber is a lightsaber – not kind of like a lightsaber, it's exactly a lightsaber. You invest in this skill, because unlike other weapons which add nothing, a void saber gives you +2 to both your Attack Number and Defence Number. And since it keys off Agility instead of Brute Force like most weapons, it's more cost-efficient too!
Water Breathing: This skill doesn't let you breathe underwater, it just lets you hold your breath for a really long time, fuck this game is stupid.
Whispers in the night: This is a streetwise criminal contacts skill hampered by an awkward name.
Next: Social Standing! Hideous Paradise! Dishaw goes full retard!
making a scarf out of an intestineOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: making a scarf out of an intestine
Social Standing and Hideous Paradise
Social Standing represents how high up your character is in Fiend society. It runs from 1 to 10, ranging from the lowliest slave to the Overfiend. Increments in SS are gifted to you directly by the Dark Gods as a reward for doing evil things. The more dickish and evil your behaviour, the more SS you get. You can also lose SS by failing or being humiliated in front of your peers.
Your SS determines how many spells you can cast per hour. You can also spend SS to temporarily raise your attributes or the result of non-combat rolls. The biggest benefit to high SS is that you can boss around other members of your race with lower SS. Even better, if the Fiend isn't the same race as you, you can steal their magic skills and use them at their level, or even use up their spells-per-hour instead of yours.
The big problem is that SS seems to be an easy-come-easy-go thing. If you use it, it's gone, and by the RAW that includes the huge drop in your reputation and status. In fact, having high SS is so good, you will likely never spend it if you can avoid it.
Another problem with SS is Deformities. When you hit SS 6, you roll 1d6 and gain a Deformity from the following list:
1. Head grows larger, disproportional to the rest of the body. Curvature of the skull becomes more pronounced, revealing grotesque angles, ridges, and shapes. One eye swells up, the other shrivels down to pea. Great bat-like wings sprout, Fiend can fly in the air and through space.
2. Several slimy green tentacles sprout from the body, hands and feet become webbed, one hand becomes a large crab claw. A thick, molasses-like slime constantly drips from their pores.
3. A host of eyes cover subject’s back, forehead bears the mark of worm and each leg becomes a worm itself of similar size to the lost leg. Membranous insect wings sprout from it’s back allowing flight through air and space.
4. Arms are elongated and covered in scales that end in snake heads, ears fall off and are replaced with long, prehensile feelers/antennae. Fiend can swiftly “swim” through air and space as if the atmosphere was heavy as water.
5. Subject becomes the height of a dwarf about 3 feet high. Flesh is drained of color, it’s tongue grows long and thick, and feet become cloven hoofs.
6. Lower half becomes that of a large spider. Eyes sow themselves shut, subject can now see with his mind.
So let's say you roll a 3. You get a fuckload of ears, worms for legs and insect wings. What if you're playing a Rive-zella, and already have insect wings? Do you get a second set? Or how about a Vahs-vra? Do you think having worm legs instead of snake legs is going to be a huge difference in your life? Is this something Fiends are going to notice, that you're walking on worms instead of snakes? It feels like another mechanic that's poorly thought-out, but lets Dishaw come up with more scary monster descriptions, so it went into the book.
Speaking of Dishaw trying to be scary, Hideous Paradise is really dumb. It represents how well your character has been following the Dark Way. It's tracked similar to SS, and you gain points when you do things that fit the Dark Way. What does that involve?
It can be had by writing a death poem to your best friend just before you entomb his sister alive; abandoning common speech for zombie-like groans whilst stalking a victim; dancing the goat’s dance by the lonely roadside until the carnival arrives; putting on an impromptu puppet show where the puppets rip the flesh with their little wooden teeth; summoning a spectral light to reveal the insides of those who approach without giving the Sign of Veech; making a scarf out of an intestine, decorating it with feathers and albino ears, and then naming it Nicodemus; building a video screen into your own stomach that replays the most awful moments from other people’s lives as it jabs steel wires into your flesh for your masochistic pleasure you sick, sick bastard!
So you do something evil, and you get a point of HP. You can then spend your points to create permanent changes in the world around you, such as:
Make towering basalt temples in their honor appear; turn all the metal within a mile of himself into large flesh eating maggots with writhing tongues erupting from their eyes (this would garner another HP point); change a lake of water into acid; turn all the humans in a town into big breasted, green tentacled Fiend women; or any combinations of reality warping.
The bigger the change, the more points it costs. It can't affect Fiends, but Fiends can spend Hideous Paradise to reverse your effects.
So there you go. Not one, but two powers where you're expected to act like a dick so you can act like a dick.
Next: Magic! The secrets of Candy Land revealed!
sad marshmallow clouds of gore and entrailsOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: sad marshmallow clouds of gore and entrails
Magic skills work roughly the same as normal skills, with a few new bits and bobs. Your level of success determines how long a spell lasts and how much it can affect. Magic used in Sha-la is twice as powerful and lasts twice as long, because take that, humanity! You can also use magic to damage peeps directly, which has the benefit of being unsoakable by Endurance. Instead, anyone who gets magic cast on them rolls Willl + Magic Resistance (a skill I didn't cover because it's self-explanatory); if they get a better success, they ignore the spell.
All types of magic use the Magical Aptitude attribute except for Nightmare Technology and Candy Land Magic, which both use Theoretical Knowledge instead. Both of those can't be countered with Magic Resistance either, nor can they be used to damage someone directly.
You can also combine two or more types of magic to get a specific effect, a la mages in World Of Darkness. Combined spells get a big boost in effectiveness, since you use the skill level of each type of magic together in the dicepool. For example, if you wanted to fill your opponent's blood with hallucinogenic mushrooms, you would roll Magical Aptitude + Blood Magic + Fungus Magic. However, combined spells also cost more spells-per-hour.
Of course, you're not a dumb, so you have hella Social Standing and are surrounded by tonnes of minions. This gives you infinity kazillion spells-per-hour and means you may as well keep casting combined spells to get the maximum possible effect.
The magic skills are as follows:
Black Arts: Can do pretty much any effect, but takes a lot of faffing about with black robes, candles, live sacrifice, etc. Its effects are weaker than the other types of magic, and the book stresses that it may work in unusual ways if it works at all. You will never want to do this type of magic, unless trying to get an unimaginable success just to kill someone sounds like a good deal to you.
Blood Magic: Magic blood powers! Get your target's blood to find out intimate details about them! Magically imbue a sample of your blood and give it to someone to make them think differently of you! This magic is cool because it works in real life: give someone a little zip-lock bag of your blood and see how their opinion of you changes!
Candy Land Magic: The long-awaited Candy Land Magic lets you summon cutesy shit like puppies, chocolate and starshine. But watch out! All of these things have a sinister edge to them. Those puppies will distract your opponent. They'll eat too much of the chocolate and get a tummy-ache.
Candy Land Magic comes from a different plane just like Nightmare Technology. It is a realm of hideous silliness and frivolity, a dimension ruled by a slavering, unholy childlike deity!
“...what dreams of chronic and sustained cruelty.”
Dimension Magic: Fuck around with other dimensions! Hide in a pocket dimension, or take things out of another dimension! What dimensions? What things? Never explained.
Dream Magic: Manipulate dreams, yours and others! Conjure up a dream self and astrally project to travel great distances!
Flesh Magic: Manipulate flesh and bone! Tear big chunks off of people and watch 'em scream! Of course, any injuries will eventually reverse themselves when the spell duration is over, but you could rip off someone's arm, wow!
Fungus Magic: Seriously, it just lets you make magic mushrooms.
Hideous Twilight Magic: The really fucking dumb name for illusion magic. It lets you do illusions!
Hyperspace Sorcery: Fly through hyperspace unaided! Travel to new worlds and dimensions!
Mask Magic: Wear magic masks that change who you are, or even let you become someone else entirely!
Nightmare Technology: Create mad science shit! The book offers some tips for ways you can combine it with other magic skills:
Nightmare technology might enhance another form of magic to give it a dark awareness... qualities of a black living ooze with amorphous ink-colored tentacles and slime. It can make a magical puppet into a puppet of flowing, thinking darkness so that it can fly or grapple someone with its new ichorous tendrils. The magician with this skill could make a magical plant live and breath with sentient oozing blackness making it grow shadowy heads that will converse with you in the night
The book also describes one Nightmare Technology invention, 'Soggothian servitors', which are shoggoths except called Soggothian servitors for some reason.
Plant Magic: Be Poison Ivy! Grow magic plants for fun and profit!
Puppet Magic: Create magic puppets! They'll follow your commands while you see through their eyes!
Shadow Magic: Control light and darkness! Become a shadow yourself!
Word Magic: Control words and their meanings! Fuck up what someone's trying to say, or make yourself sound less goony than you are!
The big thing letting down all of these powers, all of these powers, is that their effects probably won't last longer than an hour, maybe a day in Sha-la. Your Soggothian servitor will very explicitly dissipate after its time is up.
Next: A little over halfway into the book, we are taught how to make characters.
Orange Flame Of Emerald LavenderOriginal SA post Empire Of Satanis: Orange Flame Of Emerald Lavender
The section on character creation opens with Dishaw answering an important question: what the hell was he thinking?
Let me talk a little about what I’m trying to achieve in Empire of Satanis. Basically, what is game play supposed to be like? While combat is nice, very nice sometimes, this game is more about creating an interesting story revolving around the Fiendish player characters. Even more that that, it’s about achieving power, blasphemy, and revenge over all those normal people and civilizations out there. The characters don’t have a chance of overthrowing Satanis and the other evil Gods of Yidathroth. However, there is a chance of improving their station in life by Machiavellian scheming and ritual assassination. However, there are many other Gods, races, ideals, and world-views that need to be smashed, ridiculed, mocked, pissed on, poisoned, choked, blasphemed, and annihilated. A million worlds filled with a billion of Fiend-hating scum exist in Sha-la. Time to do a little inter-universal house cleaning! That means that K’thana might be a temporary haven for the characters between invasions into the human realms of Sha-la.
You're supposed to get into Fiend politics, but the game fails to introduce any distinct factions in Fiend society. You're supposed to get all hyped up on invading Sha-la, but humans are so outclassed by Fiends in every way that it's a wonder the mass invasion of Sha-la hasn't happened yet. You're meant to be a free libertarian Ubermensch, but you can never rise against Satanis or the other gods.
To build a character, you start off with 36 Character Building Points to buy all your attributes and skills. Attributes, magic skills and certain mundane skills cost 2 CBPs to increase, other skills cost 1 CBP. Starting characters can have a maximum of 3 in any attribute or skill, with a final maximum of 5 after the game starts. Any CBPs you have left over can be spent on zirkas, 50 apiece.
You earn experience points during the game which you can use to advance your character. Because this is a shit game, they don't work the same as CBPs and require you to spend (x*current rating) experience points to advance something, in which 'x' varies depending on what it is.
Any player who wants to help out in any way (contributing to the setting, helping with notes and maps, or even just buying snacks) is invited to, and the book advises the GM to give extra CBPs and experience in return. Giving players incentives to get involved in the game is actually a good idea; even if the game is still shit, I can't fault his general attitude here.
Colour of the Magical Sphere of Influence
At character creation, you pick a colour sphere that matches your character's approach to the Dark Way. Colour spheres are important, since actions that match your colour sphere get a bonus. Each colour sphere has certain attitudes and philosophies associated with it.
The colour sphere list is fucking hilarious, I'm gonna copy-paste the whole thing.
Black: Death, Tyranny, Dishonor.
Blackish Green: Entropy, Decay, Degenerate.
Red: Anger, Wrath, Aggression.
Deep Orange: Excitement, Frenzy, Confusion, Panic.
Topaz: Blasphemy, Sacrilege, Indignation.
Yellow: Fear, Madness, Horror.
Bilious Green: Lust, Vanity, Pleasure.
Eldritch Green: Alienage, the Unknown, Outsideness, Corruption.
Light Blue: Tranquility, Balance, Patience, Reflection.
Indigo: Metamorphosis, Change, Rebirth.
Purple: Pride, Social Standing, Authority, Nobility.
White: Order, Unity, Honor.
Crimson: Power, Revenge, Self-Righteousness.
Brown: Stealth, Trickery, Slyness.
Pink: Lies, Contrariness, Frivolity, Cruelty.
Metallic: Psychological Torment, Mind Games, Oppression.
Grey: Insecurity, Arrogance, Betrayal.
Opalescent: Freedom, Diversity, Chaos.
Turquoise: Ancient, Foreign, Esoteric, Enigma.
Midnight Blue: Indignation, Physical Suffering, Remorse.
Violet: The Bizarre, Surreal, Strange, Weird.
Orange Flame of Emerald Lavender: Conviction, Individuality, Anti Authoritarian, Non Conformity.
I'd like to thank Dishaw for not bringing chartreuse back for another round.
In a book full of dumb ideas, colour spheres stand out. 'Metallic' isn't a colour. 'Opalescent' isn't a colour. 'Blackish Green' is how your vomit looks after a night of licorice and absinthe. Half of the attitudes described for each colour sphere are just random words; if you're Midnight Blue, how are you supposed to be indignant? Are you supposed to just get really huffy and pompous like Fiend!Frasier Crane? What the fuck is Orange Flame of Emerald Lavender supposed to look like?
It's never properly explained how colour spheres work in Fiend society. It says that your colour sphere determines your place in Fiend society, but why? Why are these broad behavioural categories organised by colour? Why are they such a big deal? Why are they so magical? It says some colour spheres are ostracised in some parts of the city. Which colour spheres? Which parts of the city? Which fucking city? Is it Frier? It must be, because in spite of the multiple universes that Fiends inhabit, there's only one city worth mentioning!
All of this shit – never explained.
The equipment list is pretty small. Rather than obsessively writing the costs for everything the PCs might buy, Dishaw just tosses out a few examples to give you a rough idea.
A night with one of the illustrious tentacled whores that K’thana has to offer costs about 10 zirkas. A mug of wyrm cider costs about 2 zirkas. And a room for a night in the plethora of inns and rooming houses in K’thana costs about 5 zirkas.
However, there is a big list of Infernal Equipment, magic shit your PCs might want.
Dream Senders: They work as you'd imagine. Sending dreams is a big thing in K'Thana, because dreams are ~the magical connection to the energies that connect the universe~ or some shit like that. You could pay someone 10 zirkas to send a dream, or spend a thousand zirkas on your own Dream Sender, or spend 2 CBPs to get a point in Dream Magic and side-step all that shit.
Aquatic Glyphs of the Blood-slicked Sea: Magical glyphs etched on stones, created by the Leviathans that live in the Blood-slicked Sea. Using the glyph summons the Leviathan to act as arbitrator in a dispute. It may decide to just drag you back to the Blood-slicked Sea to live as a slave, because when we look to giant sharkwhales with our problems we reap what we sow. Costs 100 zirkas.
Void Sabers: They're rare and cost 400 zirkas. They're the only reason you opened up this part of the book in the first place.
Unseen Spear: An invisible spear. It's supposed to be useful for assassins, but I don't see how; spears are really big, people will be able to tell you're using one. 300-500 zirkas.
Scimitar of the Indigo Flame: When you kill someone with it, you turn into a copy of them for an hour. A neat idea, but there's no cost listed and it's not a void saber.
Ring of Decrepitude: Lets you 'shrivel' a target once per day. Why you would pay 2000 zirkas for this I don't know, since the book doesn't explain what 'shrivelling' involves.
Diabolic Armour: Comes in light (+1), medium (+2) and heavy (+3) varieties. This is the first time armour is mentioned in the book. Prior to this, no rules have been described for wearing armour. No rules are described here either; all it says is that you lose a point of Magical Aptitude equal to the rating. 200, 500 or 1000 zirkas.
Coloured Weapons and Items: When an item is imbued with a colour, it gives a +2 like the usual colour sphere bullshit. This stacks if you'd already get a +2 colour sphere bonus. They're super-rare and expensive, so no price listed.
After that, about fifteen adventure seeds, none of which help make the game sound interesting. A bunch of them involve killing humans or invading Sha-la. A bunch of them involve mystery locations which the PCs quest to. One of them involves a burgeoning romance with a flesh hook girl, and ya'll gonna shit when you find out what they are.
Dishaw takes a moment to encourage you to have fun and do whatever you want with the game. He reminds GM that the PCs are supposed to be mighty, and to fuck with the rules or setting if it lets a PC do something cool. Again, I can't fault the guy's attitude.
There's a link to his cult website and invitation to send feedback.
He thanks his playtesters and the good people of the Forge, who gave him way more advice than he deserved back in the halcyon days of 2005.
There's still twenty-odd pages of book left to cover.
Next: More GM tips! A deeper exploration of K'Thana!
is all about reaching out and going beyondOriginal SA post
Hey what's up I'm Down With People and I never fucking post. Nearly four years ago I started an F&F on my personal favourite badgame, Empire Of Satanis. Seeing that little 'abandoned' label next to my username on the inklesspen website was bumming me out, so I'd like to finally finish up my review. It'll only take a few more updates anyway, unless I start covering the supplements.
Empire Of Satanis: is all about reaching out and going beyond.
So in case you're unaware or don't remember, EoS was this game:
Welcome my bloodied, chaotic, and slimy disciples… you have walked through a door to H. P. Lovecraft’s version of Hell by way of a surreal dreamscape. You are diabolic champions who are destined to be as Godlike as your emperor Satanis. But don’t start to feel all smug and superior because at one time your kind were the feeble, unwanted, unloved, beaten, abused, spit upon, hated, and feared dregs of humanity. Citizens of the human realms who practiced sorcery were banished from the universe. Each time you are reminded of your struggle for power, a blind volatile rage takes hold. A twisted sense of dark purpose hides behind a decadent masque of revenge fantasy.
By this guy:
Where we left off back in 2014, Dishaw had just written something like a conclusion for the book, but had placed it somewhere about two-thirds of the way through. The rest of the book is a grab-bag of extra shit Dishaw thought was important to add to the game in no particular order, including more setting lore, short fiction and three whole-ass pre-written adventures.
So first up, there's more gamemaster advice, and like previous bits of advice this is actually surprisingly good. I mean, it's not well-written, being more of Dishaw's rambling pseudo-mystical shit. But I can't actually fault what he's saying here, even if it's just because they're classic GM tips repacked into Satanis format.
A few suggestions… if you are planning on setting most adventures in K’thana, then begin adventures in the same location or use a few stock locations frequently. This gives the characters the feeling of familiarity, and allows them a place to freely socialize, gather information, and get into character. Someplace like the Deceased Visionary Inn and Tavern, a shady S/M parlor, or the council room of the Insidious Order of the Ninth Angle.
Of course, he gets right back onto his bullshit in case you forgot what you were reading.
Likewise, the GM may want to explore Fiend civilization and get into the role-playing of what it’s like to be an ancient demon tied to your brothers by blood, God, and a billion souls of opposition from the next universe over. Fiend society and culture is a rich mine of horrible and bizarre intrigue. Their whole reason for being stems from their nonconformist philosophy and spiritual paths. What if our primitive human race all became radical free-thinking individuals and power-hungry madmen at the same time. No thought to conscience, guilt, remorse, regret, or the suffering brought upon others. That is who the Fiends are, except their physical appearance now resembles their blackened soul.
After that he launches into the first real look into the setting of K'Thana and I've got to admit, at this point I'm just a little confused about the setting. Throughout the book, Dishaw seems to use 'Yidathroth' and 'K'Thana' interchangeably, so I'm not sure what the difference is. I think Yidathroth is meant to be sort of the higher universe that K'Thana is attached to, but don't quote me on that. Dishaw compares them by saying that if Yidathroth was the size of the Milky Way, K'Thana would be the size of the United States and Frier the size of Wisconsin. This just goes to show that like many hack writers, Dishaw has no sense of scale.
That's in a paragraph with the heading 'K'Thana'. Immediately afterwards is, of all things, a bestiary. There's less than a dozen entries here with a couple of sentences of description each and nothing like a statblock. Here's the description of the Akturian Heads in its entirety:
Akturian Heads: Vile green severed heads that float around of their own will using magic to harm or enslave others.
Oh fuck me running, vile and green? If only it was one or the other.
Following on from that is a description of the big man Satanis himself. The Crimson God is – what else? - an alien eldritch evil hell monster with a truly ancient and all-powerful intellect. He is explicitly referred to as being an Old One along the lines of Cthulhu, conveniently ignoring that Cthulhu got chumped by a boat to the face in his own story. But he's also a really neat guy apparently, since the whole point of his Dark Way is that you too can be a hellgod if you try really hard and believe in yourself. You're not his slave or worshipper, even though it might seem like you are, because you're actually his equal. Don't Tread On Him.
Then after that is, I guess a brief history lesson? Dishaw discusses the Age of Undoing and the Age of Unmaking.
How would one describe the exodus into the Yidathroth universe? Nothing greater than the death of everything you believe, and the rise of everything you fear. Have you heard of the Revaluation of all values by Nietzsche?
In the Undoing, the people who would one day become the Fiends were exiled to Yidathroth for, uh, some fucking reason. The way the book describes it it's because they were really into moral relativism? That doesn't seem to warrant getting sent to hell forever. Anyway in Yidathroth they cracked onto real magic power, which was good, but also onto pointless murder, which was bad.
The exiles killed each other filthy until the Unmaking when Satanis, who had been watching the whole time and saw the potential in the exiles, stepped in and showed everyone the Dark Way. He became Emperor, the coolest and sexiest psychopaths became the Imperial Murderers, and all was well for the Fiends. Because I know that when I think of a free and liberal utopia, I think of taking orders from an evil emperor and his legion of killer cops.
Oh there's also something called the Abyss of Making which is just constantly shitting out new monsters and I guess Satanis is really interested in it. It's guarded by the Spirit Folk who may or may not just be waiting around for it to churn up something that can kill everyone. Whatever.
If this seems really disjointed and abrupt that's because it's like that in the book too. None of the sections I described get more than a page and there's no reason for them to all suddenly be here, in this order. In fact I'm pretty sure these were all added onto to the first copy of EoS by Dishaw after he received his first round of criticism. Also to the signal-to-noise ratio really takes a nosedive in these parts; it's pretty much just all tepid wankery about how fucking cool Dishaw thinks his whole setting is.
Next: The City of Frier! Tentacled whores! Flesh-hook girls!
Fiends pray, or should I say prey, by being successful in life.Original SA post Empire Of Satanis: Fiends pray, or should I say prey, by being successful in life.
Frier, the largest city in the realm of K’thana. Upholding ideals that are cosmopolitan, progressive, liberal, and tolerant in a framework that is nihilistic, decadent, draconian, xenophobic, brutal, and ancient. Ah, Frier. K’thana intensified. Where the rain lightly falls, gently tapping upon the crooked window panes. Above the rest of the world, squatting awkwardly on a mesa like a jeweled dagger about to slip off a velvet pillow. Many tiered, never wholly envisaged or understood. Frier. It is the fashion to habitually wear black cloaks over fanciful, multi-hued, peacock frockcoats. The dual expressions: somber and dramatic. That is the city of life! An overgrown garden of the perverse that blooms by the constant dark droning that no one can identify, much less pinpoint. An obligatory hum as if some generator lived only a few streets away.
Most games of EoS will probably centre on Frier, both because it's the biggest Fiend city and it's pretty much the only location described in any detail in the entire book. Frier is basically Carcosa as written by a dork who really desperately wishes he as good a writer as Chambers or Ligotti. Dishaw tells us to 'think 18th century Paris, France on LSD' and I guarantee that anything you can come up with based on that prompt would be better.
Fiends all sleep in magic-resistant coffins. There's a bunch of S&M clubs and strip clubs, which are individually important enough to merit separate mentions in Dishaw's write-up. There's a popular theatre troupe called the Theater of the Insane which does avant-garde shit. There's an asylum, the Asylum of Satanis, containing the rejected elements of Fiend society, but considering that Fiends all supposed to be crrrrazzzzyyy it's not clear why this is an important institution. It's also important to note that magic in general doesn't really work as well as it does in Sha-la, because it's such a magic-saturated universe that there's a level of resistance. This will come up later.
This section gives us the skinny on the oft-referenced tentacled whores, which uh…
Once there was a prostitute on Blow Street, she refused a very prominent mage her girlish attention. The mage fervently courted her until she acquiesced. The prostitute and the mage began a relationship; however, the wizard demanded that she keep her streetwalking. Things progressed, and the night before their wedding she invited a client back to their abode. She used her succulent hands to massage her client in front of her husband-to-be. Her betrothed decided at that moment the nature of his longstanding revenge for her refusal in those early days. The mage forced her client to saw off her hands while he watched and prepared a spell. Magically replacing her hands with soft green tentacles, he felt satisfied with the way of things. After they had married, the novelty caught on amongst those in the black courts, and from then on all prostitutes were forced to bear tentacles instead of hands. In the last few decades, the cosmetic and magical alteration has included the forearm, as well as, the hands. Tentaclephilia is now one of the largest established fetishes for the Yidathroth.
So this dude harassed a sex worker until she dated him, then got her to keep working the streets to indulge his cuckoldry fetish, then abruptly decided to take revenge on her for the awful crime of eventually returning his affections? Then he fucking married her? Also a previous reviewer pointed out that the general concept for the tentacle girls makes it seem like Dishaw had heard about tentacle porn and made some wildly inaccurate assumptions about it.
So that's pretty gross, but then there's also the flesh-hook girls:
Flesh hook girls: Naked girls hanging from flesh hooks attached to chains. These girls randomly pierce parts of their body for the satisfaction of the onlooker in hopes that a few zirkas will be thrown their way.
This extremely questionable business plan can be found in Frier's green light district, which is the red light district but green. Because green is a more evil colour, doncheknow. That's also where the most popular drugs of K'Thana can be purchased including maj – which is just hashish, really – and Starlight, which is like LSD but someone can turn you into something else while you're on it just by thinking real hard.
The soul trade! It's a big deal in K'Thana. Sometimes, when Fiends steamroll a new universe the native residents put up enough of a fight that instead of killing them outright, they just trap their souls in objects. Get a soul, put it in a gem or even Flesh Magic up a new body for it, you got a pet! It's a huge industry. Haven't you always wanted to play a genocidal slaver in an RPG?
New types of magic! There's sigil magic, which much like 'real' sigil magic works by writing down what you want, turning the letters into a funky shape and channelling your will into it to empower the sigil. We've already established that the other magic skills can let you conjure things into existence and fly through hyperspace but go off I guess.
There's the Black Mirror:
The Black Mirror: This is made from a piece of glass, painted black on one side, once dry it is put into a frame, and ready for gazing into the black reflecting void to see into other universes, or the magician’s inner-universe…
Which honestly seems less like a magic skill and more like One Weird Tip To See Your Inner Universe. That's the full description of the skill, by the way.
Colourless Geometry! Make anti-Colour Sphere zones! Frabjous day, calloo-callay!
Then there's good ol' fashioned Vodoun. Instead of having anything to do with the real-world practice, it's just taking body parts from people so you can torture them from far away.
Pallid Façade, Chaos Amulet Magic, Tomb Spawn, Inscrutable Enigma… these are to be embellished by player and GM alike.
Despite being the most beautiful amazing place in the universe Dishaw has extremely little to actually say about Frier. Anything substantial I mean – he blusters but when it comes time to commit and say something substantial he just recites these lists of random facts. If you want to run EoS, you're gonna have to make up practically every single thing yourself. And you don't want to run EoS because you don't have access to the perfect transcendent vision that only exists in Dishaw's head.
Next: Short fiction! The first premade adventure!
doused with blood, puke, raw animal parts,Original SA post Empire Of Satanis: doused with blood, puke, raw animal parts,
First we have a very important rules clarification:
You don't add all the numbers together. Instead, you are looking for the single highest result. Let's say you have to roll three dice because you have a 1 in the Cunning attribute and a 2 in the Stealth skill. You roll a 3, 5, and 4. your final result is a 5. If you had rolled a 1, 2, and 6, then re-roll a die - you roll a 5, ( 6 + 5 = 11 ). If you roll a 6, 6, and 6, then you can re-roll 3 dice, let's say you get a 1, 1, and a 6. re-roll that guy again. Finally, you rolled a 3. ( 6 + 6 + 3 = 15) your result is a 15. Match that to the difficulty chart right on the character sheet and see how awesomely you crept past that human guard!
Well, less a clarification and more just restating the rules. I'm guessing someone very understandably got confused by the book's shitty layout and Dishaw decided to just staple this on instead of trying to make it more readable.
Then we have two pieces of short fiction. Extremely short fiction. Both 'stories' however around 500 words and are titled 'Story One' and 'Story Two' respectively. They're boring, pointless and clumsily written. In Story One, the narrator is taking his sceptre to be jewelled with a human soul by Sson the Warlock, and the story of how he got the sceptre in the first place is supposed to be a good one.
I have taken my scepter to be jeweled with a soul by the ill-respected Vodoun Warlock called Sson. He gently holds the elaborate rod in his gloved hands, nodding as I tell him the impractical tale of how it came into my possession. I told Sson how the thing was owned by a creature in a black cloak and mask, how this creature took it from a place where nothing is familiar and everything is strange. I even divulged the nature of the deal I made with the black cloaked and masked individual. The sight of this scepter nearly made me dance with joy, so much so, that I promised him a room in the Abraxas Festhall. A place where unlikely wanderers are known to frequent. Abraxas Festhall, where the dark red mist hangs low in the sky as if the inn and the mist were exchanging dark secrets.
And it's easy as that. In Story Two, the narrator (same narrator?) is smoking up with his crew around a bunch of dead bodies for some reason. They visit a 'candy coloured storefront' which is actually a kind of magic school. The Lurigeatro proprietor (you remember what those are, right?) takes them inside where he's keeping a bunch of sleeping humans. He explains that they use their dreams in some nebulous way and shows the narrator how to do it.
At this point, the harlequin touched one of the sleeping human’s on the forehead and motioned for me to do the same. Slowly, a euphoria began building in my brain. I was transported to another place in moments. A dimension that was so unlike our own, so singularly unexpected, that it made me cry out.
“You’ve seen enough.” The harlequin said as he slowly took his hand away from the dreamer. “Meditate on this premise: what you know isn’t even a fraction of what you don’t.” That last word made his voice trail off into nothingness while he watched, not me, but the fanciful pastel walls that kept the outside from getting in, and the inside from getting out.
Yes Mr. Dishaw, that's how walls work.
We're on the home stretch now! The last section of the book is a set of three introductory adventures, all of which are written in the same gushing stream-of-thought style as the rest of the book. They get steadily more complex and involved as they go on, so you can almost see Dishaw getting more confident as he wrote them. Writing adventures is easy when you don't have to edit them!
For my money, the first into (sic) adventure Friday Night Horror Show is the best and funniest. The PCs are summoned to a meeting with the Fiend/Human Hybrid sorcerer Kla-lack, who sends a slave to them with a very important message:
The old, yellowed parchment reads, “Brothers, I have found temporary passage into earth, but not earth as it is now… our former world in it’s past. Just before our people ascended to the Dark Way, explored their magical craft, and were exiled. The year you arrived on earth would be 2006. Come at once, if you are interested… signed Kla-lack”
Kla-lack warns the PCs to be careful in the past to avoid any Sound Of Thunder-type shenanigans, but otherwise is super keen for them to go through the portal and fuck shit up in ancient Sha-la. Stepping through the portal takes the PCs to a cinema where a slasher flick is playing. No one notices them, but as soon as they leave the cinema the bear mask-wearing serial killer jumps out of the movie and starts swinging at the audience. The book notes that the PCs have a chance of noticing him as they are leaving, because I guess the screams and ensuing stampede would be easily-missed?
There's no directions for what happens next but 'eventually, it doesn't really matter in what order', the PCs meet a creepy weird human in all-black with a pentagram amulet and combat boots. His name is
The other significant but unnamed human NPC is 'an ass kicker but he's a good guy too'. He's totally a normie but has a gun and some pretty decent combat stats. The PCs are supposed to feel a little threatened by him but honestly rolling five dice to shoot a gun shouldn't stop them from pureeing him if they feel like it. The book suggests maybe they'll make him the leader of a gang but uh, why?
'A little bit later' the bear mask killer goes for the PCs. He's no slouch and has access to Candy Land and Nightmare Technology, but he doesn't actually want to fight. If the PCs try to reason with him, he'll be able to explain that he was summoned and bound by something and just wants to break free, presumably to return to his proper place in the movie.
Unfortunately for the PC’s, the bear mask killer is being possessed by some weird force, a dark deity from this universe. Clues and hints should be sprinkled liberally so the PC’s start to track the evil force that was controlling bear mask guy.
What clues? What hints? Sprinkled liberally how and where? Anyway, the PCs will eventually track the possessing force to a 'small to medium venue' where – I shit you not – there is a fucking GWAR concert playing. It's a good rowdy time and the costumes are immediately recognisable as being crude parodies of the Fiendish form (RIP Oderus). But it's not the band that the PCs are looking for but their manager backstage, who is actually a minor god who has been controlling the I'm sorry this is killing me are you telling me the big boss for this adventure is Sleazy P. Martini?
Godmode Sleazy is actually pretty strong thanks to his solid stats and points in literally every skill mentioned in the book. That said, his weapon of choice is a magic spiked chain and I don't see him standing up for long if the party takes turns stabbing him with void sabres. If they kill him that fixes things somehow and the party can enjoy a nice bump to their Social Standing for a couple of weeks. Alternatively, they can negotiate some kind of truce with him – and why not, considering that there's no real conflict of interests here?
After that, the party can return home or stay in Sha-la and absolutely fuck the timeline. At no point in the adventure does Dishaw give any kind of advice on how to run the regular people meeting and interacting with Fiends.
This is the best of the three adventures because it's funny as shit; it's bad in the fun way and not in the boring way unlike the rest of the book. Also I can't get over how relentlessly dorky things like the self-insert NPC and the GWAR cameo make Dishaw look. GWAR, play us out.
Next: Twilight Of Paradise! Deep setting revelations!
“new blood vermin, lick the shit off my boots”Original SA post Empire Of Satanis: “new blood vermin, lick the shit off my boots”
Dishaw opens up this adventure by saying that when it takes place, the Colour Sphere of Deep Orange reigns. This may or may not have an effect on any PC Fiends if that's their Colour Sphere. No really, may or may not.
Those fiends with the color orange sphere of influence are sometimes greeted warmly, sometimes with coldly. Occasionally, they will be immune to the outside deep orangetinged influences, other times they will be the most swept away by them.
Twilight of Paradise takes place during a very special time of the K'Thana Kalendar: it's the Anniversary of Satanis' salvation of humanity. So it's kind of like Fiend Christmas and Easter if you think about it! However, the mood is somewhat soured by the fact that the great overwhelming invasion of Sha-la has not been going according to plan. Magic just doesn't work as well as it does in Yidathroth so
Hang about, that's the exact opposite of what you said before Dishaw! Every mention of Sha-la and humanity before now has been drenched with contempt, it's really a bit late to be changing your tune this late in the game just because you realised that there wasn't enough conflict in your game.
Anyway this happens to coincide with another (related? Separate?) event/festival called The Strangling of the Thousand Lights. Black God Satanis (I thought he was Crimson?) has blessed one very special baby to be born as the Antichrist who will hopefully make the conquering of Sha-la easier. At the start of this adventure, the PCs are at the Deceased Visionary tavern when they overhear that the pregnant woman who will bear the child is being kept by the Society of the Bloody Phoenix.
At that point, apropos of nothing, a bunch of drunk Zirakeans accost the PCs. They're just looking to start a fight for the hell of it. Whatever.
Abruptly the text describes The Spiritual Centre For Endarkenment. It's set up in an abandoned toy factory strewn with old tools, puppets, marionettes and the like. There they meet the abbot Dojen, an elderly Kurur-esh who is helpful and polite in teaching the PCs Dark Ways. That's nice and all and the idea of abandoned toy factories means there must also be active toy factories and Fiendish children to play with them. But uh, there's nothing in the paragraph about the Spiritual Centre explaining what the PCs were meant to be doing here. Whoops!
The combo bold/italics is exactly how all these names appear in the book, by the way.
I guess what was meant to happen was Dojen was supposed to arrange a meeting with The Betrayer, a contact from the Society of the Bloody Phoenix which is actually the Cult of the Bloody Foetus, 'a group that intends to bathe in the greenish ichor of the Strangling of the Thousand Lights baby before it is born'. Apparently related to that is the disappearance of a Zirakean called Valim, who was investigating one of several starships that arrived in K'Thana from Sha-la.
Valim was a tyrannical lord and an honorary priest of Satanis, rose in the ranks through dedicated soldiery. On a few occasions, Valim acted as a spy. He pretended to have ambitions towards revolting against the current hierarchy. Such schemes are often made in a hive of scum and villainy like K’thana. Valim dispatched the traitors without mercy.
The fact that Valim was basically a cop is meant to be a good and admirable thing I guess?
Investigating Valim's house turns out multiple clues (that the GM will have to invent) linking him to the Cult, including an oil painting of Fiends bathing in green baby blood. I mean, I'm not a doctor but I don't think that's the right colour. Considering Valim's occupation, this could either mean he was a whole-hearted participant in the Cult or he was investigating it. Spoiler: the PCs never find out one way or another.
Surprise! They've been followed. A Schmekblut named Splath is snooping around and trying to find something to incriminate the PCs. He has a pair of magic wooden puppets named Alabaster and Sbim who will run off to grab help. If the PCs grab him, Splath's story is that he was just checking up on his old friend Valim. They have about three minutes to kill him or make him talk before a senior Schmekblut comes in and breaks things up. He arrests the PCs if they kill Splath which begs the question: what the fuck happened to this being the crazy-ass chaotic evil universe? Is it because they violated the NAP?
The fucking daisy-chain of named NPCs we don't care about continues with Lon, a Lurigeatro power broker who hosts an event called the Decadent Masquerade. He's Splath's boss and the jerk's got an invite on his person if the PCs kill him. He also wants to beat up Satanis and take over K'Thana for himself. To that end, he's been working with the Spirit Folk, the very same who guard the Abyss of Making.
The PCs can try and muscle the Spirit Folk but it won't work; they're invulnerable to all physical harm except for weapons 'that punch through the aether'. That said, they'll also freely admit that they've been talking to Lon for some fucking reason. A better bet for the PCs is to wait for the Decadent Masquerade when they'll have the chance to break into Lon's house and rifle through his things. The book totally ignores the fact that at this point in the adventure they might have killed Splath and given Lon every reason to have the shits with them.
One way or another, the PCs discover the awful truth: Satanis is himself an exile from another universe, Kar'nahl. So too are the Spirit Folk, who stole 'destructive knowledge' from the outer forces of that universe. Satanis and the Spirit Folk threw down over the knowledge but eventually made an agreement that Dishaw literally refers to as a non-aggression pact. Lon and the rest of the Bloody Phoenix somehow found out about this and want the power. This works for the Spirit Folk, who want to link up with the outer forces again, and are willing to help him defeat Satanis and take his place as God-Emperor.
And that's the end of the adventure.
Here's the big resounding quesiton: who gives a fuck? Why should the PCs care about any of this? Why should they care about Valim or Lon or the Order or the Cult? What difference does it make if Satanis or Lon are in charge? The book assume that the PCs should just automatically side against Lon, but why not help Lon with plans so that they can be top dog in the remade K'Thana? More importantly, if the Spirit Folk have the 'destructive knowledge' and are down to clown with Lon, how come Lon hasn't just automatically won already?
This shit-ass adventure is a nightmare to read. The feeling you get is that Dishaw really is just making this up as he's going along; he gives you the details as he comes up with them and makes no effort to present them in a user-friendly order. And of course, there's no ending; I guess Lon is supposed to be a recurring antagonist but uh, what if the PCs just fucking kill him? He's got a lot of SS and HP but the rest of his stats are nothing to write home about. Make a big circle around him, void sabre salad shredder, you're done.
One last adventure.
Next: Evil Below Us! Conclusion!
Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree.Original SA post Empire Of Satanis: Sweet dreams are made of these, who am I to disagree.
Dishaw really phones it in with Evil Below Us, which is neither as complex or as fun as the previous two adventures. Worst of all, it ends just as it starts to get interesting, leaving the GM high and dry with what to do next.
Evil Below Us is set after the events of Twilight of Paradise, an indeterminate amount of time after the end of festivities. Everything about Lon, the Spirit Folk and the usurpation of Satanis? Totally unrelated to this adventure. The PCs are walking the streets of Frier (I assume, Dishaw says 'K'Thana' but that's probably yet another typo) when they hear a spooooky clicking noise. Following it leads to an alley where there's a dead baby on the ground.
Now if you remember, the Vahs-vra Fiend race looks exactly like a dead baby, and that's exactly what this situation is. If your players remember that, or if they have a Vahs-vra in your party, they might guess that's what's up and totally ignore the plot hook. Even if they don't, evil demons remember? They might choose to walk past the baby corpse the same way I'd ignore a flattened cane toad on the road. But assuming they meddle with the Vahs-vra in any way:
If The PC’s touch the baby or speak to it, the Vahs-vra makes a clicking noise emanating from his mouth. After a few moments he speaks. “What are you doing? I was sleeping and now you have interrupted the dream I just paid good money for. Go back to Dr. Lochian at the Morbid Dreams Factory. Tell him to send the dream again and that the bill shall go to you. Now, good night!”
The Vahs-vra is named Mr. Frosht and he's been trying to get back to a dream where he murders a human woman to get a powerful Satanis-forged artefact. The book assume that the PCs will immediately do what he says and pay Lochian (a Dourge, for what it's worth) 10 zirkas to resend the dream. There's no talk of what happens if they kick the shit out of Frosht for his impudence or if they want to do literally anything else at all with their time and money. But assuming they do:
Mr. Frosht comes to pay them a visit. His little baby face is filled with brightly painted clown make up. He looks very alert and attentive with his bulging eyes looking at everything with a vulgar fascination. “Greetings, friends, how have you been? I didn’t have the opportunity to thank you for your assistance the other night. The dream turned out excellently. And surprise, surprise… you were in it. It all starts with you going to one of the archmagi from the Insidious Order of the Ninth Angle. Ask about the Black Grail, that should suffice. So long my friends.” And with that, Mr. Frosht leaves.
The archmagi don't just see anyone, but mentioning the Black Grail will get the PCs a meeting super easy. As you'd expect, the archmage the PCs meet immediately tells them it's their quest to get the Black Grail back. He suggests looking for it in The Cyclopean Towers Of The Sunken City, but if the Grail's so important and he's that sure of its location, how come they waited until some weirdo had a dream before they decided to do something about it?
The Cyclopean Towers of the Sunken City are home to the vile warlocks of the Slimy Ones. These warlocks preach of endless night from their towers, casting magic that radiates a new kind of sunlight, a blackish green sun that sheds light upward to the surface. The vile warlocks of the Slimy Ones never leave their Cyclopean Towers. They are tied to their slimy masters, the slime keeps them alive and is a vital part of their unutterable religion.
The warlocks are almost totally unrelated to anything in the adventure and neither help nor hinder the PCs. The first tower they come to has a living sarcophagus, made entirely of meat and gently breathing. That's actually kinda creepy! There's also a pair of Akturian Heads who immediately fly out and attack the PCs, probably getting turned into mincemeat for their troubles.
Inside the sarcophagus is a Fiend who the warlocks locked in there 900 years ago. As such, he is totally batshit now and attacks on sight. He's got a void sabre and the skill to use it and will probably put up a decent fight. When he's dead, the PCs will also find the holographic device inexplicably locked in with him.
Activating the holographic device yields this: a beautiful human girl, blonde, about 19 or 20 appears. She wears a black cloak, corset, and thigh-high boots. She says, “I am Elizabeth, and I have the Grail of Satanis. This relic from the Crimson God we despise so much, fell into our hands about a year ago. In the meantime, we have been studying it, looking for a weakness that would bring victory over the fiends and their Gods. This message is for our human agents who have been sent to help us. We are below the Sunken City and await our orders.” The message ends.
The inhabitants of the Sunken City, a 'dark skinned race of pygmies', are willing to lead the PCs down to the humans. And the adventure just...ends like that.
There's a bunch of stats here, half of them for characters who are otherwise not mentioned anywhere else in the book.
So that's it for Empire of Satanis! It's an extraordinarily bad RPG put together by a loser wannabe occultist with delusions of grandeur. And yet despite making every possible mistake you could make when promoting your game (sockpuppeting, publishing fake reviews, putting black magic curses on your critics), Dishaw is still out here being a dude in the industry. Personally, it's my favourite badgame if only because of the drama but I can also see why it's not as infamous as FATAL and Wraeththu in the annals of bad RPG products. Without knowing the drama, what you're left with sixty-odd pages of haphazardly-arranged, meandering word vomit. It's hard to read and for the most part just drastically unfun.
Anyway, if you're curious about EoS it's available as a free download from Dishaw's Lulu, alongside the one and only expansion Satanis Unbound and a book of art, occult theory and 'erotic poetry' that fills me with profound dread. As a compliment to Empire of Satanis I highly recommend kill puppies for satan, which is THE game to play if you want to live the real Venger Satanis experience.
Tune in next time when I cover actually good and interesting book Horror on the Orient Express!