Blueholme work nearly done

I have just one more picture to do, something about missile combat. I have been looking at come of the other work by my cohorts, and I must say I am excited for this project to be done.

Erik Tenkar recently sent me an advance copy of Swords &Wizardry Continual Light, and I joined the Swords & Wizardry Light Legion, so as to better work on Beneath the Fallen Tower. (I had also acquiered Monstrosities, Tome of Horrors Complete  and Tome of Horrors 4 for conversions). Oddly enough, the adventure hook I put in that would lead to an encounter with a fire Slorn scaled better with James Spahn’s abreviated stats for a SWCL dragon than with the Fire Lizard I had planned on porting from Tome of Horrors  Complete. Naturally this encounter was one of those our starter characters would have been gravely outmatched by, but no one ever said the world had to be balanced.

Likewise, the necromantically inclined apprentice wizard in the adventure scales perfectly as one of Spahn’s alternate classes.

My work has been published in two otber gaming suplements. Nod 32 ,by John Stater, has a bunch of my Mesopotamian art, along with some Circus folk for Grit & Vigor.

One of my Dungeon Scenes showed up in Christopher Clark’s systemless adventure, Bastion, the Border Village of Namar. It has good use of clip art throughout, and a decent cross section of plots, some of which revolve around a demon cult that uses succubi to lure in members, much like the Saturnal cult withintbe sewers of Northport. The one thing that felt off to me was the way every female character had some kind of attractiveness rating,and none of the male characters had more than the most cursory of physical descriptions.

You can pick that up here.

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Recent Acquisitions and Comissions

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I just got a few new used GURPS books, and freshly printed copies of The Wizard’s Scroll and Crypts and Things Remastered from Drivethrurpg. I always get hardcopy of things with my art in them, it lets me build a portfolio of published work, although you can always get a copy of my book if you are interested. (And use code SURVIVE20 to get20% off)

Some of my recent work, to be seen in John M. Stater’s Nod 31  (A ghost dog, space amazons, Ajax and a giant scorpion fight), and an elven necromantrix and a goblin sage for a yet to be named project by Charlie Mason (originally slated for his Whitebox Quickstart until my art was deemed too Old School for an introductory RPG. He has got some vibrantly colored pieces by Spiral Magus instead, which is far from a bad thing.

I post several things to my Patreon a month, and bundle them for sale once I hit a large enough amount, but my patrons get them for free. If you like buying my art bundles, consider a monthly donation of $1 to get a piece of this. If you want to tell me what to draw, donate $5 or more. It comes out to be cheaper than my usual commission rates.

Out of the suggestion that my art was too Old School in feel, because of this commissionbeginners-boook

You can get a print of this here.

I started working on a project to depict an adventuring party more aesthetically pleasing to a younger set of folks without a history of tabletop rpg experience. Thus was born the Young Adventurers, currently being featured on my Patreon.

I am hoping to do more with them. Let’s see how that unfolds.

Similar themes, different outcomes: or why I should read kickstarters through and not simply buy because of cool Art

The reason I bought into Beneath the Inverted Church was entirely based on preview art that showed up in my G+ feeds. The art in question is some good linework by Scott Buoncristiano, like this piece of his:

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I didn’t bother to read through the Kickstarter, and by the time Erik Tenkar reviewed it, I had forgotten that I had backed it.  I find there to be thematic alignments between BtIC and Zak Sabbath’s wonderful Alice inspired A Red and Pleasant Land.

Both involve characters entering a hostile and evil demiplane subject to the caprices and obsessions of the truly villainous inhabitants, and having to pass into an even more warped reality through mirrors.  If the main enemy in BtiC was any other type of demon than an “Inverted Cupid” the types of horrors encountered would have been more palatable.  As they follow that specific type of evil, it enters into a questionable territory. Not, mind you, and unfamiliar one. Plenty of the flavor text in  ARaPL is just as graphic, with one major point of difference.  The evils of ARaPL are just that, Evil, and at no point are the characters forced to really participate in the Red Queen’s games in order to complete the adventure. They can capitulate, it is true, but it is not required that they do so. They can run, they can kill, and most certainly, they can die, but they needn’t do anything graphically uncomfortable.

That aside, there are a lot of interesting mechanics to the circumstance of travelling through, or opening mirrored portals.  While the Stress mechanic is reminiscent of San points loss in CoC or Fright Checks in GURPS, they unfortunately generate the problem of dictating how a character feels.  You can tell a PC that the image they see through the glass is revolting, but strips a little agency when you tell them that they are disgusted, but cannot turn away, at least without incorporating some type of Saving throw or resistance check.

The looking glass world in BtIC is called the Invert, and like that of ARaPL, is a very hostile place, and also quite alive. Not only are you faced, when gazing at a reflective surface, with loathy images that induce stress, but it can see you. In the case of several locations called mirror doors, there are two types of interactions; the first is to be magically (and forcibly) drawn through the glass, which only allows passage of flesh and a substance called Stained Salt (a super hardened mineral that looks like stained glass), a process that will maim or kill dressed and armored characters, or  to “seduce” the sentient mirror door by showing it something both novel and  indecent.  This goes beyond a “tell me your darkest secret” kind of thing, and quickly drifts into an uncomfortable place that might demand an alignment check from characters dealing with the toll keeping aspect of the mirror world (if not their players walking out on the game). Now, there is an “out” built into the setting; the first encounter the characters have is with an amoral bandit who likes to defile the corpses of his victims in a way that would make Dahmer blush, but is accompanied on his crimes by a merry band of artists who record the atrocities in their sketchbooks.  There are some examples of the content of these images, and a money making opportunity for characters to sell them off so that they can be destroyed by grief stricken relatives of the deceased depicted therin, but primarily in that you can bypass the damned doors by showing them pages from the book, which is still pretty nasty.

The monstrous opponents in BtIC do look amazing, again thanks to Scott Buoncristiano’s artwork, and could easily have crawled out of the Teratic Tome, or the Random Guest Table from a Red and Pleasant Land. (One of my favorite parts of that book!)

By converting the primary opponent from a lust demon into one of violence, one could remove all of the sexual content from this and play through, but the characters without the picture book of mutilated corpses might have to shed their own or each other’s blood to open the doors… There are enough mechanical ideas in this to be interesting, but culling them from the rest of the material is not for the faint of heart.

 

Edit: Instead   of showing the Magical Mirror Doors some novel perversion,  you could instead require characters   to recite new or original poetry to the door, as the Blatant Beast  did to Harold Shea in the Incompleat Enchanter.

On other notes: Two products with my art just hit drivethrough. As usual I don’t get anything from sales unless it is one of my own products, but check these out:

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The Blood & Treasure Keeper’s Screen, by John Stater and The first issue of Charlie Mason’s Whitebox zine, wcThe Wizard’s Scroll

Snatch em now, the art is good!

 

 

Three Important Things

First off, go out now and get your hands on Diogo Noguiera’s Old Skull publishing’s Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells. It is a nifty rules light version of a swords and sorcery game, currently  pay what you want, with many of the sensibilities of Dungeon Crawl Classics and a very pulpy tone, such as one might find in Cirsova.

Secondly I just got my grubby little hands on a bunch of dragon magazines, including issue#138. One of the articles was called The End of The World, which I know a lot of my friendsand family feel last week launched us toward. The particular flavor of apocalypse presented in the magazine was a reboot of the campaign after the black plague hit.  It was about renewing the world after changes out of your control had occurred. This was the basis of my Northport campaign, set forty years after the plague had struck. Much of the territory of the campaign has been left in the form of explorable ruins, and property is fairly easy to acquire, as at least a third of Northport is still vacant. It is an ideal circumstance for adventurers, as so much remains to be explored, and there are plenty of folk in need of champions.

I look toward the new political landscape much the same way. It isn’t what I wanted, it threatens some of those I love, and I am not going to sit down and complain about it, I am going to act on behalf of those who need defending.

Third item has to do with some art I originally released to my patrons, and should be releasing soon: Dungeon Scenes 2.

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Meanwhile back in my game, The juniors crew has invested in real estate, acquiring the property directly above the Bone Gate so that they can maintain access to it, at least as long as it is there.  I had casually mentioned that they could acquire it, and I am handling that as individual purchases of the Base perk, which amounts to a room each within a couple of row houses. This could lead to them becoming landlords, which I would handle as Independent Income.

Meanwhile, I have had a sudden influx in players wanting to start with guild rank, and they have already become rivals. The guild has its hands in a lot of pies (as evidenced by the number of ranking members who have points in independent income) including a push toward gaining access to set up shops in the undercity. This was kind of a feature in video games, where right before a boss fight you would run into a kind of dungeon merchant, and I have seen it in Stonehell  as well.  My PC’s are not quite heading toward the Papers & Paychecks route, but how manyadventurers have started as caravan guards, or in this case, taking care of the inkeeper’s rat problem, only with worse…

Reviews and Mail

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This great batch of  25 mm plastic figures come to me from Mike Monaco, of the Swords & Dorkery blog. Last summer I correctly guessed how deep into a mammoth cave system Mike was able to descend, and he sent me these. He had them packed up to go on a shelf in his garage, and just stumbled upon them. They are really great and appropriate to my current game. The dude with the blue shield looks like Haskell the Crafty, and the uge ensemble of naginata wielders resemble both one of my player’s Wuxia character, Chye Isuel (Translates to mean “Mountain Dew”) as well as a crew of guards with sacrificial parry and teamwork I had put in place to specifically block the attacks of the 17 ST, Tetsubo wielding Yakuza enforcer Jin.

Naturally, their planned deployment in x-parrying his tetsubo failed miserably; The players had just defeated a crowd of ninjas attacking from murderholes in the ceiling of their lair; a mixture of gas grenades and explosive fireballs striking ninjas festooned with bandoliers of nagtatapos smoked out the ninjas… and injured party members who had climbed up into the rafters with the ninjas as the attacks were made by the rest of the party.  We are pbp, and hours had gone by between posts, but they still dove into the areas as they were being firebombed.  Nearby they found a door without any metal fittings, and labeled in Sahudese with an advisement that fire was not welcome.  The players quickly figured out that this might be the armory where the black powder for preparing nagtapos were stored, and wisely decided to fire an explosive fireball at the room…

Had the spellcaster not been talked out of this plan, the adventure would have ended abruptly as the tunnels collapsed.  Entry into the ninja’s lair had been difficult enough. I had one character, who had some area knowledge and urban survival swearing that good rolls to those skills would let him find a handy manhole cover that would lead directly to the target location.  He was displeased to learn that good rolls would advise him that A) Tunnels existed in this part of the city, and B) where the locked buildings with official access for the Department of Sewers and Aqueducts were, but would not create a door by searching, as it might in Dungeonworld.

The actual entrance was inside a guarded warehouse with a basement, but not accessible through the basement, only through a trap door under a crated marriage bed surrounded by barrels full of salted corpses being shipped back to Sahud for burial. Definitely not a casual find…

So, with the squire/adept still holding a fireball he had burned HP to raise, the crack troop of coordinated Naginata wielders rounded the corner, ready to nerf the Yak, and got roasted instead, although not before Shima made an appearance…

Shima is a minor villain, who had organized a diversion of brawling laborers, that the party slaughtered, who is basically an honorbound sumotori brute with power blow, and one of the few npcs I had handy who could have ended the yak early. he had his hand smashed by Jin’s tetsubo, although it was since restored by another character currently in another thread.

The other groups are converging; Hitomi (now npc’d after the player bailed), travelling with a telekenetic mentalist, a Chye Isuel the errant knight/minstrel and the overbuilt nymph bard (run by the same player who has Gorgath, and is equally weaponized) are now linking up with the Juniors group, along with the last remnants of the team trying to rescue the goblin kwik and orc cheerer, mostly so I can render the groups npc free, as I am forever losing players but trying to keep the story going.

Deep underground, the group negotiating with the trolls had launched an assault on the city of the People of the Pit, defeating a giant berserker pit person, and discovering the mental abilities of an Unknowable thing which was whisked away by a giant tentacle from beyond when I rolled an 18 on a mental blast attack. Everyone gets colorful crits.

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Meanwhile in other mail  related news, I now have the two core books of John M. Stater’s Blood & Treasure 2e, and cannot wait to get a physical copy of Nod 30!

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All three of these items are thick with my illustrations, and this issue is so full of clever gonzo old school references, from Robot monsters to excellent rules for character race generation. Plus, it is worth the 3.99 just to get the backstory on how these three races from the Undiscovered Country relate:

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John Stater isn’t just prolific, he is very imaginative and funny. I was paid for this work already, I make nothing from his future sales, save that they make him flush enough to continue to buy work from me, but there is a lot of good art of mine in his publications.

Another set of publications I advocate for are the wonderfully pulpy issues of Cirsova Zine. I grew upo reading my way through my Dad’s collection of Sword and Sorcery books; when I got my DM’s Guide, I didn’t have to search for too many items from Appendix N, he had most of them.  The collected authors of Cirsova 1 and 2 do an awesome job of bringing back the feel of adventure fiction penned around the future ruins of earth. Great stuff, all of it, and check out the blog – I am tempted to drop an ad for my work into issue 4.

 

 

You All Meet in a Tavern…

This most recent  commission, for Erik  Tenkar’s  blog, is the most complicated  piece of inkwork I  have created to date. It is also the last piece I will sell at the rates I was working with. This went through 5 drafts and took over six hours.

The characters are not new, as almost all of them come from my stock art

(Available here) The characters come from Wizards, Characters, Dungeon Scenes, and Rise of the Lich.

Whle I have had characters meet up in a tavern (The Rusty Marlinspike, The Leather Mask, and The Wastrel’s  Hope) and produced a 125pt barkeep (watered down Inkeeper) that I should post at some point, the primary meetup for my game is at the Adventurer’s Guild. Guilds have some rules already in DF, although I add a perk of membership, that functions  as a benevolent society, allowing  free lodging at status -1 conditions, and counts as proof of “employment” to keep you out of indentured  servitude (the local penalty for vagrancy). Most of my players tick it off as a License.