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Author Topic: Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise Review  (Read 212 times)

AaronThePedantic

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Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise Review
« on: December 13, 2020, 02:34:45 pm »
Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise is out!  I've got my greasy hands on the PDF and I'm going to take some time to try to give everyone an idea of what exactly this monster has.  And a monster, it is.  At 165 pages of main content and an additional 65 pages of appendices, Fuchsia Malaise gives you a hell of a lot for $15 (give or take).  Just how much quality is there in this massive quantity?  We'll see.  A few disclaimers:

1. I consider myself to be a good acquaintance of the author.  I backed the project and offered some feedback on the book during the editing process.

2. I was not given anything for doing this.  I paid for my PDF and for the hardcover.

3. The very nature of this review is going to be highly preferential.  Things that I say are something I dislike may be something that you appreciate and vice versa.

4. I will likely revisit this review if the need for clarifications or revisions based on play experience arise.

The Art
Fuchsia Malaise is full of vibrant, colorful art from several artists.  Though I greatly prefer Ye Olde School B&W art, the art here is stylistically distinct enough in most pieces to bring the world to life.  The book is filled with pieces of hideous tentacled monsters, bizarre extra-terrestrials, otherworldly beasts, horrors, and tons and tons of half-naked women.

The half-naked women is part of Venger's shtick.  Here's where I get on my soap box for a second.  I wish the book had more art with women that looked like adventurers rather than potential partners.  There are a few pieces that have them (such as a woman in chainmail depicted battling a manticore), but personal preference for me would have included more women warriors and more non-white humans.  In Venger's defense, the overwhelming majority of the people who purchase these books are very likely white folks who dig chicks (guilty).  That said, I think it can be beneficial put that art in there so that people can see that everyone is welcome to be part of Cha'alt and be horrendously murdered. And before anyone accuses me of pandering to woke people, keep in mind that I have already been excised from the woke RPG community.  Being firmly lodged in the politically neutral grognard trad-gamer sphere, I don't stand to gain anything from this.  I just think it's a good idea.

All right, off the soap box.  The choice in art pieces gives a very interesting panorama of what Cha'alt is aesthetically.  If I had to put a label on it, this is what it would be: Gonzo Lovecraftian Sword & Planet Space Opera Science Fantasy.  Kind of a mess, isn't it?  So is Cha'alt, and that's for the best.  Cha'alt's bizarre mishmash aesthetic replicates just how bizarre the world is.  You've got lizard mounts, elder gods, kooky cults, space captains, robots, and aliens all comfortably rubbing elbows together.  The fact that the art is so wildly all over the place makes absolute sense.

Some of the pieces are incredibly reminiscent of Numenera, having otherworldly almost Destiny-like space warriors (not to be confused with anything like Space Marines) in massive landscapes showing gravity fields, space stations, etc.  Some of the pieces are incredibly crude and feature an oil-painting type quality, and these pieces cover everything from dark elf cultists encountering eldritch horrors to alien babes getting drunk in a space cantina.  You've also got several lovely works that utilize the desert-world aesthetic and feature some more urban or traditional fantasy looks.

All in all, I can't really complain.  There's a cosplay picture I'm not a huge fan of, but other than that, mostly very good stuff that enriches the book.

The Maps
The maps are exquisitely done, though there are a few nitpicks.  On some of them, the doors are very hard to see with old eyes due to the fact that they're just solid lines that are thinner than the walls.  I tend to appreciate doors that stick out more so that if I need to glance back for quick reference, I don't have to look that close.  Secondly, at least one map is missing a way to measure distance on it.  It's not a hard thing to improvise (particularly for TotM play with no players mapping to contradict you), but I like to have that measurement on all maps.
The Layout
The layout is extremely functional.  The index and table of contents seem to be entirely accurate and you can click on them to quickly get to your destination.  Everything is extremely legible and well ordered.  I don't have a lot to add more than that.

The Content
All right, let's break down the different sections of this book and I'll toss some opinions in on them.  I'll be going in order from start to finish.

Essentials
The Essentials section, the first section, is full of tools for the GM.  This section is probably one of the most valuable parts in that it fills in tons and tons of implicit setting material, extra character options, and random tables galore.

The new races are incredibly evocative, especially considering previously it was mostly just humans and several types of elves.  The book adds a very smooth Blue Velvet Elf that gives face characters more options to shine (and be poached for their pelts), a sand-construct race that is incredibly beefy (perhaps too beefy), a bird/reptile race, and a new bizarre alien race that doesn't take their helmets off.

There are new takes on familiar tools, like Morale, Reactions, and even vibe checks for potential romantic partners.  Along with these charts that newer gamers may not be familiar with, there are also several charts that are setting specific that allow GMs to quickly generate NPCs, quest seeds, consequences for particular actions (like using drugs), etc.  The more setting specific approach is a fantastic idea from my perspective.  Cha'alt is a humongous setting with tons of gaps, so the fact that generation tools are provided rather than just heaps of setting material is incredibly useful. 

Perhaps one of my favorite additions is the way the book changes how magic works.  The higher the level the spell you cast, the more likely you end up having to roll on a wild magic table.  This makes magic far more interesting in a manner that's system agnostic and extremely faithful to the setting that is being presented.

Aagrybah (which is the place both groups I have run in Cha'alt immediately wanted to go) receives some proper explicit worldbuilding, which is something that I felt was (understandably) lacking in the previous book. You'll end up having much more guidance on just how Aagrybah functions and what the players can do while they're there.

Encounters
It's exactly what it says.  This section adds some charts with all kinds of random occurrences that you can toss at your players that are often deadly and bizarre.  I'm being purposely vague because I don't want to give anything away.  This section is pretty short, but I love what's there.

Scenarios
Whew, lad.  Lemme just say that there's some spicy stuff in here.  There are a couple situations that could REALLY piss off your players... and I love it.  Basically, one of the dungeons is pretty apt to rip the equipment and clothing right off your body, and you probably won't get it back.  There are also tons of Save or Die situations, some betrayals, some traps, some puzzles, but primarily some crazy ass dungeons.

This section also adds Elysium, which is basically what you think it is.  It's a utopian city that's basically a deathtrap to get to.  It's also an enormous threat to the rest of the people of Cha'alt.  It's an awesome adventure seed that provides 56 rooms of shit to do.

We're also given what basically serves as a new adventure path that leads from a tribal Cha'alt existence to The Black Pyramid (if they decide to follow through with it, and by god they should).  Again, I'm being purposely vague here because there is some absolute crazy (and kind of goofy) shit around here that I'd rather you just see for yourself.

Appendices
The Appendices include Venger's Crimson Dragon Slayer D20 Revised, Cha'alt Ascended, and Old School Renaissance Like a Fucking Boss, which each kind of deserve their own separate consideration.  I'll do something on these another day.

Conclusion
All in all, I'm very happy with what Venger put together here.  It's a beautiful PDF and a beautiful hardcover, just as the first Cha'alt book was.  Aside from my tiny grievances, the book adds a ton of much needed content for those of us who have players that want to get all up in Cha'alt's ass before jumping into the Pyramid of Death (okay it's The Black Pyramid but same thing really).

VengerSatanis

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Re: Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise Review
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2020, 05:15:15 pm »
Thanks for posting your review, hoss!  Glad you're enjoying it.  Also, nice photo.

FYI, I started selling the glorious Cha'alt: Fuchsia Malaise hardcovers today:
https://vengersatanis.blogspot.com/2020/12/chaalt-fuchsia-malaise-hardcovers.html

VS