Monday, October 25, 2010

Mars Sketches

Drawing of some Tharks threatening some red martians, when you really consider the scale described in the books, the green martians would tower over the other martian men.

Also some rough sketches of Thoats.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Down in the Dungeon

I've never heard of Down in the Dungeon before, but it is one of the most "old school" things I have ever seen.
Searching around on the interwebs I see this has been discussed before here. I'm really enjoying this art! It is all pre-Elmore/Parkinson/Caldwell/Easley influenced D&D art. Though definitely some Frazetta inspiration going on. There is something about the fan-made crudeness I like about it.

More here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mystery Map Tutorial

By request, here is a step by step of how I made this week's extra-dimensional Mystery Map. Note, this tutorial requires Photoshop (I'm using CS4, but any version since 7 should work).

I used the Chaos Circle brush set available from

Step 1. Splatter some random watercolor onto a piece of white watercolor paper:

Step 2. Scan into Photoshop

Step 3. Invert image (yeah, pretty awesome huh? this is where the "magic" happens!)

Step 4. Load Chaos Circles brush set and on a layer set for screen make some random brush stokes with Chaos Circles (or not so random if you have specific ideas of placement). What screen does is show the image only in the light areas and not in the dark. You could just play with transparency.

Step 5. Using Symbol font (which makes Greek text - very cool looking!) label various circles with English words. For example I used: Pandemonium, Abyss, and Element

Step 6. Do a Google image search for Stars and find a cool hi-rez image of stars and set that on a layer Set for "Lighter". (or you can splatter some ink on a page and scan that in, then invert to get white dots on black, which is what I did)

You now have a really cool extra-dimensional map. For additional coolness you could make dotted lines connected various "spheres" or overlay a grid.

Time Bandits

Time Bandits, if not in my top 10, is certainly in my top 20 favorite movies. The director Terry Gilliam, who was the artistic genius behind the interstitials in Monty Python's Flying Circus, is a brilliant visionary. If nothing else, the imaginative sets, props, and characters in his movie are a wonder to behold even if the pacing and story aren't always perfect.

The idea of traveling through various time periods is a compelling one. I've generally had no success in running a time traveling campaign. Once I tried it with GURPS and the game was an utter failure. I think the burden on the GM to populate multiple periods of time is too difficult. I'm sure a better GM could handle it where I couldn't.

But, if I was to try to run a time travel game again I think I would try to emulate Time Bandits. "Evil" is a great villain, and the "Supreme Being" a great foil to the whole adventure.

When making this week's Mystery Map I must have subconsciously been channeling Time Bandits. Certainly the map in it is a great prop, and quite a compelling "McGuffin" in the story.

Mystery Map: Other Dimensions

Playing around with a way to create arcane looking maps of other Dimensions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mars Flyers

Sketches for 1-man flyers and a green martian of the Red Planet.

Somewhere in Rome

A 30 minute quick study from a photo I took in Rome a few years back.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not So Self-Explanatory

The description for Ship Captain appears on page 22 of Vol 3 The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. This is what it says:

Ship Captain: a self-explanatory role.

Hmm, I don't think it is particularly self-explanatory. The description for Seaman says "All ships must be manned by a crew of Seamen under a Ship Captain". Unfortunately nothing is explained about what happens if there is no Ship Captain. I fully understand the spirit of making it up as you go along, but in this case it could have been tied into the Command Control rules on page 32. Perhaps it would affect morale, or in times of trouble (like a storm, a monster encounter, pursuit, or navigation) to not have a Ship Captain.

There has been some discussion on Grognardia about the venerable Sage's Advice column in Dragon magazine. Rereading the LBB I can see how a need for a column like Sage's Advice came to be. It's unfortunate the 'rules lawyer' mindset was so prevalent (I remember it being that way too in middle school), but the LBB's certainly do lead to a great deal of confusion by their generally poor organization and scant explanation. So much is assumed, and I think those assumptions were probably overwhelming even for the hardcore wargaming crowd at the time.

Of course looking back at those books, it is charming that OD&D was so rough, and have just enough description to light the fire of imagination. The ambiguities lend a tremendous amount of mystique, and I have little doubt helped the popularity of these great little books.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

OD&D Construction Confusion

Page 21 of Volume 3: The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Maybe I'm just dense, but there are some ambiguities I can't figure out.

Gate House & Gate cost 3,000 gp but Gate House costs 4,500 gp?
What is the 9000 next to the drawing on the top left?
Towers: what does it mean "to shorten 10' -10%"? To shorten from what?
What is the difference between Barbican 14,000 and Barbican 20,000?

This feels like the illustrations came in late and the text didn't jive with it and some quick changes were made at the last minute or something. This page just isn't layed out well (in a booklet that isn't exactly a paragon of layout to begin with*).

*note that a huge part of the charm is the hand made feel of the set, so this is not a complaint.

Monday, October 11, 2010

ArtRage quick study

Just playing around with ArtRage. They've made a lot of improvements to it since I last tried it a couple years ago. Then it was sort of a "poor man's Painter". But it has gotten a lot better.

Latest Acquisition

I've been trying to get a complete set of the Frazetta illustrated hardcovers of John Carter of Mars. Finally found a set at a reasonable price.
Can't read these enough times! Every time I discover something new and interesting I hadn't noticed before. Since I had recently reread the Dune series, I noticed a lot of similarities between the Fremen and the Tharks. Both with their hard lives in the desert, neither culture sheds tears, and combat is a way of life. I have little doubt Frank Herbert got some inspiration from Burroughs.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Influence Map

I know I'm late to this party, this meme has been around for a while. But I finally took some time last night to make it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Here is a step by step. I don't always do all these steps, but this is fairly representative of what I do most of the time.

  1. A quick sketch, usually done in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet and a hard variable brush. I toggle between black to draw and white to "erase" in order to work quickly and energetically. I'd hate to be stiff at this point.
  2. I print out the rough sketch and do a clean pencil drawing on vellum to work out all the essential details (I don't always do this, but when the art director is being finicky and I want to make sure to get the details right I'll do this to get an approved sketch)
  3. I scan the drawing in, set it on a layer with "multiply" and block in values on a layer underneath. I flip the drawing often to make sure it looks right, flipping reveals flaws. I usually like to colorize the line drawing to a warm sepia color. I don't paint directly on the drawing layer because I want to be able to separate the lines to keep the painting clean of drawing marks. (yet I can still keep the drawing in places where I want to hold the line)
  4. Block in local color very transparently, sometimes this is just colorizing the grayscale block in.
  5. Block in the lights opaquely with a rough textured brush, this is to get the impression of more detail and texture in the light (in nature light reveals detail while shadow obscures detail, this process simulates that effect)
  6. Render the form in more detail. I am no longer colorizing the drawing, but actually introducing colored brush strokes to mix into the painting. This helps avoid the colorized drawing look, and makes it look a little more like a painting.
  7. Highlights and sparkles. Those finishing touches that make an illustration look, well, finished.

Character Sheet Sampler

With each revision the Character Sheets having gotten simpler, tighter, and more refined. We've boiled the game down to its essence without losing any verisimilitude. This has been one of the most difficult parts to design. Creating a Character is now 3 Steps:
  1. Deal a Character Sheet to each player. (analogous to "class")
  2. Deal 1 Culture card to each player. (somewhat analogous to "race")
  3. Deal 1 Calling card to each player. (vaguely analogous to "alignment")


Here is a sample of some of the Character Sheets that will be included in the set:

I'm particularly happy with the way all your stats are tracked on a single bar at the top of the sheet where it is easy for everyone to see. Peril, Glory, Melee, Magic, Speed, Life - all on 1 tracker.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Art Prints?

Found this interesting little offer on page 6 of Strategic Review #1
Just imagine, for a pittance of $2.50 you could own such works as the mighty Dwarf:

The mysterious and powerful Elementals:

And the masterpiece, the sexy Amazon!
I love it! I wonder, did anyone every actually buy any of these prints? I noticed that by Strategic Review #2 these prints were no longer being offered.

what I really want

I have been reading through the entire Original Edition Dungeons and Dragons. I realize that what I want is the entire original edition republished in a professionally edited cyclopedic version. What I mean is this:

1. Professionally edited: all grammar, spelling, capitalization, and terminology made correct and consistent.
2. Organized: everything alphabetized and organized by topic.
3. Professional art and production values.
4. Comprehensive: everything from the boxed set to the supplements to the Strategic Review and Dragon articles compiled in one edition (maybe even some of the Judges Guild stuff.

But I don't want any changes made to the game. Everything as originally designed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mystery Map

Trying out a technique to make a quick Dungeon Geomorph.

Happy Friday!