Monday, August 31, 2009

Fight On 6

Fight On 6 has a particularly good cover. It's a pretty exciting issue, I recommend getting it.

Table of Contents
Variant Races (Calithena)
Tables for Fables (Age of Fable)
Git ‘R Done (Will Mistretta, Mátyás Hartyándi, M.J. Harnish, and Northrundicandus)
Hell-Grave of the Tveirbróđur (Jason Morningstar)
The Tribe of Rorvash (Erin “Taichara” Bisson)
Sandbox Preparation (Michael “Chgowiz” Shorten)
Welcome to Slimy Lake (Jeff Rients)
Knights & Knaves (Timothy J. Kask)
Chaos Monks of Kthulhu! (Jeffrey Talanian)
Creepies & Crawlies (Lee Barber, Shaine Edwards, and Geoffrey McKinney)
Blocks of Quox (Tony Rosten)
Summonings Vile and Dark (Matthew Slepin)
Esoteric Arts for Wizardly Know-it-Alls (Baz Blatt)
Old School Game Determination (Michael Curtis)
GBH (Peter Schmidt Jensen)
When I Was a Girl (Lee Gold)
Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox)
Stone Gullet (Gabor Lux)
Wasteland Travellers (Gabor Lux)
A Few for the Road (Michael Curtis)
Enharza, City of Thieves (Santiago Luis Oría)
I Need a Dungeon Right Now! (Jeff Rients)
Dungeon Modules (Geoffrey O. Dale)
Oceanian Legends (Del L. Beaudry)
The Devil’s in the Details: Ahoggyá (Baz Blatt)
The Darkness Beneath: Lower Caves (David Bowman)
The Petrified Forest (Del L. Beaudry)
World Creating as a Hobby (Lee Gold)
Interview with Lee Gold (Maliszewski & Grohe)
Naked Went the Gamer (Ron Edwards)
Merlin’s Mystical Mirror (Zach Houghton)
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Mo Mehlem & co.)
Overland (Mikko Torvinen)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My friend Sergio, who is a kick-ass storyboard artist, started a new website that is about all things storyboard.

Check out the interview with Robert Valley, who draws like fishes swim, only better.


There was a time I seriously considered entering animation layout as a career. This is a style I don't post often on this blog, but I do like to explore and have fun with. These were concepts done for a "side scroller" type game.

Half Orc Shaman

A Half Orc Shaman type guy. Looks like he's getting ready to rock da house on da mic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Quest Points

There are 3 things I consider to be core to the Dungeoneer experience: Peril, Glory, and Quests. As long as we can maintain these in the RPG in their purest form, then we will have succeeded.

Assigning quests in the RPG isn't a matter of dealing out quest cards randomly. Players must earn quests through roleplaying. They must talk to the tavern owner and discover that his daughter is missing in order to trigger the Maiden in Distress quest. Then players will have to follow clues to find out where she was taken to and how to get there. Then they must deal with all the obstacles in the way, and finally with the difficult head-strong maiden herself (or however the Dungeonlord chooses to roleplay her).

Maintaining the quest reward system, but expanding it into adventuring party game play was a challenge. If each hero had individual quests and was the only one to benefit upon its completion it is unfair to the whole party, because everyone helps in some manner or other complete each quest. Yet because the typical reward of a quest is "gain 1 level", and if the whole party got that with each quest, the game quickly becomes broken.

We wanted to avoid a solution that would complicate the game, or require some complex formula such as "each hero gets 1/4 of a level" or something like that. A formula of sorts was unavoidable, but we needed one that was simple, intuitive, and worked with the spirit of the game. So the QP (quest points) system was born.

Quest Points:
  • Each completed quest is worth 1 QP (epic quests are worth 2 QP, and legendary quests are worth 3 QP each).
  • The entire party gets the QP for each completed quest, regardless of who does the finishing move that actually completes the quest.
  • To gain a level requires a number of quest points equal to that level. For example to go from 1st to 2nd level requires 2 QP. To go from 5th level to 6th level requires 6 QP.
This ends up feeling very much like an abbreviated XP (Experience Point) system from classic fantasy RPG's. But instead of the XP primarily coming from killing stuff and taking its loot, the reward comes from accomplishing many other meaningful things in the game world.

This reward system assumes that each player worked together to get to the place where the quest could be completed. Everyone participates and is rewarded.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Princess Points

I can't get enough of Burroughs' Mars. I've been enjoying the books even more now than as an adolescent. I've been on an out of control John Carter of Mars collecting spree. Comic books, novels, art, board games, old RPG's...

My most recent acquisition is this little gem:Is this book called Adventure Gaming Handbook? Not a particularly good name. Perhaps it's Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter and the subtitle is Warlord of Mars? The graphic design doesn't really clarify the situation. Anyway, this has been an intriguing read. The writer could not decide if he wanted to be serious or silly. Heritage Models Inc. actually got permission to make this pseudo RPG, Unlike the ill fated Warriors of Mars by TSR.

The first half is a sort of light encyclopedia of Burroughs' Mars, while the last half has stats and mechanics for a light wargame that kinda sorta wants to be an RPG. It encourages a style of gaming (later labeled "troupe" play by Jonathon Tweet in his seminal Ars Magica RPG) where you play multiple characters. These rules have some real gems amidst this crude RPG published in 1978. One laugh-out-loud feature is your character's "Princess Points". The game assumes you are playing a red-blooded warrior on the make for a beautiful princess, so this is one of your core stats.

"The fateful, or fatal moment has arrive. You have met the Princess, you have turned on the charm, maybe you have fallen into a fountain or out of a chair, but whatever happened, this is it. It is time to see what she thinks of you. Hold your breath. You gaze into her eyes; you lay your sword at her wait."It appears the desired result is "HUBBA HUBBA!!!"

So with this renewed passion for Burroughs' thrilling Sword and Planet tales I've found myself drawing lots of John Carter inspired art lately.

The best news is I've found a partner to make an old-school Mars RPG with, someone whose work I admire and that inspires me. So expect a lot of Mars art to be posted over the next couple of months...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


You are a combat specialist. With weapon in hand you are a terrible force of nature cutting through opponents like a farmer harvesting wheat.

You show great vigor, courage, and competence in battle. You are the first line of defense in your party. You can deal out immense damage and absorb wounds that would kill an ordinary man. You protect the weaker members of the party, giving wizards time to cast their spells, afford paladins enough time to call on their gods, and provide cover for the scouts to do their handiwork.

While your melee aptitude is second to none, you are inexperienced in the forces of magic and have the least magic ability of all classes. But you more than make up for this lack of mystical knowledge with your powerful sword arm and raging bloodlust. As you gain experience the other party members will learn powerful spells and gain various strange special abilities, but you will only get better at fighting. You will deal more damage, aim more accurately, and hit more foes than anyone else.Melee aptitude: pay any # of Glory, add this # to your next Melee attack.
Rapid strike: on a Melee hit you inflict 2 wounds, and hit in the case of a tie.
War cry: you and your allies gain +2 Melee for the duration of this encounter. This ability may be used once per encounter and uses 1 Melee attack.
Stronghold: you establish a stronghold to begin ruling your kingdom from, gathering peasants and warriors to your banner.

Hope this provides some idea of what a character class write up will look like in the Dungeoneer RPG. Wonder if anyone can guess what the mysterious acronyms QP is?

I know it must seem like I've abandoned this project, but I assure you it is still in development. There have been some major impediments I'll write about some day.


A doodle of some old wizardly type dude.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pathfinder First Impressions

As a teenager I thought size was a measure of quality in an RPG, but these days anything beyond 128 pages doesn't hold my attention unless it is particularly well written.

Pathfinder is 576, that's nearly 600 pages of fine print.

To be fair it is effectively a DMG and PHB combined in one tome, and what I've read so far is perfectly fine writing. Yeah, much of it is reference, spells, magic items, stuff. But still, thems a lot of words there.

I like the Art. A lot. Paizo is in a tight spot. Traditional D&D would be far too conservative, and modern fantasy like Warhammer is way too outrageous for their audience. And they have to distinquish themselves from Wizards - while using the same artists Wizards uses. They did this by returning to the subject matter of 80's Dragon magazine covers, but with contemporary styles. What I mean is the illustrations depict scenes of what you might actually do in the game. The cover, instead of being some characters facing you trying to look "bad ass", they are engaged in an epic battle with a dragon located in some ancient ruins. This asthetic is apparent in almost all the art inside the book. Except in the character generation section, appropriately, most of the illos are full action scenes in interesting locales.

They've allowed Wayne Reynolds to let loose with the detail and stuff he is so well known for, in ways I haven't seen before. I've read complaints on forums that the art is "dungeon punk", sure its completely unrealistic, but so is casting a spell, fighting a dragon, or drinking a magic potion.

Monte Cook writes a nice intro. In my opinion he is the "Wayne Reynolds" of RPG writing, that is to say his writing is insanely detailed, and he does a lot of it. It is most appropriate that he gives kudos to Pathfinder here.

The layout is good, font choices are good. Everything is legible despite how many words appear on each page. And the graphic designers still managed to get quite a bit of decoration in the headers, footers, and gutters in an aesthetically pleasing fashion without infringing on the text. Nice work.

The Getting Started chapter does a lot of explaining, but I can't imagine this RPG is for a beginner. And an experienced D&D player doesn't need this much intro, it is a bit overkill. It's almost a dictionary/glossary before the Character Generation stuff even begins. Really, all this could have been moved to an appendice.

Creating a character is familiar, but there are a couple things different. Each step has included optional rules in the text, not as a sidebar. Ability scores can be rolled for or purchased. The purchase option includes four methods from low fantasy to epic fantasy. To my design aesthetic this is playing it a bit too safe. I'd prefer the designer stick to what he thinks is the best rule and relegate options to a sidebar or appendice. It would make the design speak with a stronger voice, it would demonstrate confidence.

The ability modifiers stick with the 3.0/3.5 scale. Personally I'm most fond of the range in Moldvay's basic/expert rules as expanded in Wrath of the Immortals. But for Pathfinder's design goals it uses the obvious and most sensible scale for their audience.

The races are presented nicely, if somewhat blandely. This is the danger when trying to make generic templates - the results can be bland. We have the classic line up: dwarf, halfling, elf, human, gnome, half-orc, and half-elf.

I find that the presentation of the classes is much stronger than the races. The writing is more engaging and the illustrations are intense and filled with the potential for great adventure. As always happens though with more flavor comes more specificity. This is a very particular flavor of D&D. I like the line up here: barbarian, bard, cleric (I like the domains), druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, thief...I mean rogue, sorceror (very cool bloodlines), and wizard.

Skills are slightly condensed from 3.5, I think they could have been simplified more. My biggest complaint with 3.0 was the way skills rolls replaced what players used to puzzle their way through.

There are a lot of feats in this book. Too many. Not a good thing in my opinion.

The weapons section is nice, illustrations and descriptions are effective. This is one of the more successful sections of the book I think.

Alignment. This is one thing I think 4.0 got right, by eliminating problem alignments like Chaotic Neutral, and simplifying it just a bit. But, Pathfinder sticks with the classic AD&D moral/ethic axis we are all familiar with.

The additional rules section is 10 pages of encumbrance, movement, age, height/weight, vision, mounts, and object AC. Considering all the detritus 3.0/3.5 collected over the years this is fairly succinct.

But then we get to 26 pages of combat rules. No thanks.

The next three chapters are magic, spells, and prestige classes: arcane archer, arcane trickster, assassin, dragon disciple, duelist, eldritch knight, loremaster, mystic theurge, pathfinder chronicler, and shadowdancer. Prestige classes are one place I depart with many of my OSR colleagues. I really like them, adds a lot of flavor to the game, and creates interesting options for players as the campaign develops. Keeps things from getting stale. I'm not sure this is the list of prestige classes I'd choose for a core rulebook, but these look fun.

The rest of the book is basically the DMG. Looks like plenty of advice, plenty of treasures and magic items. This review has already grown much larger than I intended, so I must skip it. I haven't read any of this section yet anyway.

In summary, if you like 3.5 you'll probably love this book. It's a bit like 3.5 on steroids. One thing I do like is that it tries to stay true to D&D without abandoning the roots of the game. I'm not likely to ever play it, but I don't regret purchasing it. It is a finely crafted work.

I'll close out with one of my favorite illos from the book, the header for the Gamemastering section:

Shadowrift Blade

"Make it glow with a black aura." Huh? Um, okay.

Samantha Morton as Sola

More John Carter of Mars movie news.
Samantha Morton, who you might recognize as the key psychic in Minority Report, will be playing Sola. I think this is a good choice, her voice has the kind of empathy needed for this important character.

Also Dominic West will be playing Sab Than, I think he will do just fine as the guy we don't want Dejah to marry. And Polly Walker will play the merciless Sarkoja.

Full story here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Armored Elf

No one has ever drawn an elven archer before. Ever. This is the first.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Europe...the rest of the story

Some quick watercolor paintings I did in London and Rome a while back.
Trinity Square in London

View from the Spanish Steps, Rome

Roman ruins

Ferremanto plaza

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The New Sword and Planet

My excitement for Andrew Stanton's John Carter of Mars movie cannot be over emphasized. It looks like we'll be waiting until 2012 for this flick to hit your local screen. In the meantime James Cameron has done his own contemporary version of the Sword and Planet genre.


Burroughs' fans will recognize the story: an earth soldier falls in love with an alien princess. I expect this to have all the thrills and suspense Cameron is known for, and of course gorgeous visuals.

In addition, judging by many of the recent posts on OSR blogs, it seems the new era of the Sword and Planet genre are upon us!

Here is a little drawing I did of John Carter and Tars Tarkas fighting some Barsoomian lions.If any of you aspiring writers/designers are looking for an illustrator for a collaboration on a John Carter retroclone I might be persuaded...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Battlemaiden is such a cool word.

Lake Geneva Building Gygax Memorial!

Hope they include a bronzed DMG and d20.

Dejah Thoris

Lynn Collins was cast for the part of Dejah Thoris. I have no opinion about her, I haven't seen Wolverine or any other movie with her in it. I assume she must be good because I think Andrew Stanton has good taste. But, I don't know how Hollywood studios operate internally, there are likely a lot of factors other than a director's wishes that goes into the casting process.

But, if I was the casting director there is little doubt who I would cast:
Yes, Olga Kurylenko, the Bond girl from Quantum of Solace. Not only is she devastatingly beautiful, but she has incredible screen presence and comes across as strong and smart. Her accent is "exotic" to American ears. And it is easy to believe John Carter would battle hordes of martians across the face of Barsoom to rescue her.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ode to Judges Guild

Sometime around 1981 I would go to a very interesting bookstore in Tucson AZ (wish I could recall the name) that had a small section of RPG related material. Most of it was quite arcane to me, what I was really looking for were those neat hardbound D&D books I'd seen the other kids have. Little did I understand what The Judges Guild was all about.

Fast forward to the release of D&D 3. I had left gaming for a period roughly between 1987 to 2000 - the prime years of 2nd edition. Left is too strong a word. I actually played a lot of 1st edition D&D and also GURPS in this time. It seems D&D 3 brought a lot of old gamers home who had left during the 2nd edition era (and I believe 4th edition is completing their journey pushing many to the OSR). Well, this homecoming seems to have revitalized Judges Guild. I noticed at Gen Con one year their booth and they had stacks of these really old magazines: The Dungeoneer, The Judges Guild Journal, and Pegasus.

I have since made a point of picking up any copy I see at game stores, or flea markets at gaming conventions, or occasionally on eBay. I can't get enough. They are like fascinating museum peices, preserving the way the gaming community thought and played the game caught in amber. But they are also full of really cool freewheeling ideas. There seemed to be no boundaries. Everything from articles by evangelical Christians defending their enjoyment of the game to a dungeon crawl based on the Tower of Babel. How to handle the 5 senses in D&D to a treasure column called "All That Glitters..." with such cool magic items as The Dearth Sword which absorbs knowledge of spells from its victims and transfers them to its weilder, and The Horn of Battlesongs (usable by Valkyrie and Berserker classes!) which improves morale of allies.

What I love about The Dungeoneer, The Judges Guild Journal, and Pegasus magazines is their "text dump" feel - no frills here, homemade art (the aroma of fan participation), and cheap newsprint. And best of all the page after page of no holds barred creative ideas. It contrasts so much from the order TSR was trying to impose on D&D at the time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tomb of the Lich Lord reprint

Atlas Games has reported that they've reprinted Tomb of the Lich Lord and it will be in stores soon. This item has been unavailable for some time now and I'm glad to see it back in stock because it is as close to a "base set" as Dungeoneer has. Though all Dungeoneer sets can be played alone or combined with other sets.

So don't pay any more for it then retail price. (Unless of course you want to support this site and get a signed copy along with original art)

I don't think any changes have been made to the cards, but it is likely to have the latest rules in it (v2.3).

John Carter of Mars Production Listing

Edgar Rice Burrough's Mars series is one of the inspirations for OD&D. So the news that a blockbuster movie is on track to being a reality, directed by the astounding Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monster's Inc., Finding Nemo, Wall-E), is reason to celebrate.

This movie has been in development hell for so long, and has had so many false starts, it's hard to believe it may finally get made. Another important milestone has been reached, it has a production listing and is scheduled to begin shooting in January 2010.
John Carter of Mars (Sci-fi). Taylor Kitsch stars as John Carter, a Civil War soldier transported to Mars, where warring races vie for control. Directed by Andrew Stanton. Based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Casting: Marcia Ross, Marcia Ross Casting, 500 S. Buena Vista, St. 210-D, Team Disney Bldg., Burbank, CA 91521. Shoots in January 2010.
One thing I find interesting about this is the title, this looks to be a trilogy (and by all reports will be). John Carter of Mars: A Princess of Mars is likely to be the full title of the 1st movie.

This has deep personal meaning to me. Iain McCaig was a principle concept artist, and he was very influential on my development as an artist after he gave a lecture at my art school and left many originals on display. He is simply one of the best living draughstmen IMHO. Also the Burrough's books are classics in the genre - fast paced, packed with imagination, and a thrill ride.

Andrew Stanton knows story and knows how to deliver on an emotional level. Just watch the intro to Toy Story 2 and try to tell me he can't make an epic sci-fi flick.

Phasing Arrow

An arrow that can phase through solid objects. This was for the new Adventurer's Vault 2 for 4th edition D&D coming out in a few days. Here is the article:

Notice the little hints of splatter brush? I love splatter brushes.

Mystery Map 1

A long forgotten tomb of a powerful ruler. He paid his court magicians well to protect his everlasting burial place with powerful enchantments. No thief has yet managed to spoil the riches held within.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Knights & Castles frontispiece

For a book I did a while back. This is one of the pieces I kinda like.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How the West was Lost

This one (in 3 parts) has a painful history. Maybe someday when the trauma has worn off I'll tell the tale.