Seven of the Best Things

cawptrueharp

I have to start with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

My first brush with an epic fantasy series, This was initially read to me, and I finished the series myself at a young age. Enchanters, Oracular Pigs,  the first undead I had heard of that were not Universal Monsters like Dracula or the Mummy, this series had the Cauldron Born and a Lich. Seriously, someone takes ego damage from a sword in this series, and the Ranger has an Animal Companion.  Awesome character arc, from assistant pig keeper to the High King. I later got hold of the rare children’s books that provide backstory to the tales, The Foundling, Coll and his White Pig, and The Truthful Harp, definitely the tale of how hard it is to become an old school bard. Also worth recommending from Alexander are The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha, The Wizard in the Tree, and The Westmark Series.

The War Eagles of Arawn, King of Anwyn in The Chronicles of Prydain are also where I drew my moniker Gwythaint from.

ghbow.jpg

A book we had knocking around the house, which a recent conversation with Zeb Cook informed me was actually inspirational to the Monster Manual, is Barbara Ninde Byfield’s The Glass Harmonica, A Lexicon of the Fantastical. Since republished as Book of the Weird, it can be got used from Amazon with some difficulty, as all kinds of gamers are trying to snatch this baby up.  It is an Encyclopedia of weird and witty entries of all kinds of things medieval and really fits with the style of gaming I like. I loved the art and the complexity of the entries.

dodbub.jpg

The 1978 Dawn of the Dead, with everyone trying to survive zombies in a shopping mall got me on the Zombie train early. I had always loved horror, but I saw this one with my Dad, and it resonated as gaming inspiration immediately. I could not get enough of this genre, much to the disgust of my wife. I even tried to incorporate some of it into B2, keep on the Borderlands, and have been statting out every building I worked in in a variety of systems for Zpoc survivability.

 

My Dad’s Pulp Collection

Most of Appendix N was on that set of shelves, from Fritz Leiber to Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, Sprague De Camp, Robert E Howard, A. Merrit, and H.P Lovecraft. When my folks split, I swallowed these things whole, embarking on a multi-library quest to read through the list in the back of the DMG. The Goblin Tower, The Unbeheaded King, The Clocks of Iraz, The Tritonian Ring, all of it awesome stuff. And then there was this.

wsb

Elidor, the Owl Service,  and the Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Gardner.

The Owl Service was more Welsh Mythology, Like the Chronicles of Prydain, and Elidor was pretty Narnia-esque. Brisingamen on the other hand, gave me the willies. I have very mild claustrophobia, but this like few other things (The Descent and As Above, So Below) gave me heart palpitations.Such a visceral read for a piece of YA Fantasy. A really great depiction of both Dwarves and Goblins in this thing.

 

The Magenta Box

magenta box

Originally intended as a gift for my Fantasy loving older sister, I claimed the Moldvay Basic set with the Erol Otus cover as my own, along with the Trampier covered PHB that we got at the same time as my own. That shit made ideas explode in my head, and I just loved all of the art. I wanted to be Tramp! I love the Willingham dragonstrike, and the Erol Otus giant snake. What really flipped me out though, was

fiendfolio

The Fiend Folio.

Man, I love me some Russ.. My whole drawing style is cribbed from him. I won a costume contest back in college dressed as a Githyanki, and I am going out on a limb here, and saying that that dude on the cover is wearing a helmet, the line pattern that Russ uses for hair is hella tight compared to that thing. I loved the weirdness, the warty, age spotted creep factor of Nicholson’s art in that book, and when I made the mistake fifteen years ago of giving my stuff away, the Fiend Folio was one of the first that I bought.to back to rebuild my collection. Absolutely one of those times when the PDF does not cut it..

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 15 – Henchmen.

books

Peter Dell’orto wrote a blog that got me back into gaming, called Dungeon Fantastic. Since then I have gone whole hog into this game system, which is now a standalone game . I played a lot of 3e GURPS in the eighties and early nineties, mostly playing horror games using the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks and the GURPS ruleset, but this is something different, Old school feel with what I think of a better mechanics. The henchmen book is full of templates for building lower power characters, and Peter wrote that too. Regular DF runs at 250 points, roughly equivalent to characters who are 6-th to 8th level in AD&D, and the lower point templates bring back the feel of the kind of games I was always starting with my friends. We rarely made it past 5th level, and only once did I make it to 8th. A while back I put out a supplement for it.

 

Honorable Mentions:

sms.jpg

Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars

This book, by the same author who brought us the D&D inspired Vlad Taltos series, is a frame story about a group of artists in a shared studio, wrapped around a Hungarian folk tale told by one of them about a fantastic quest,. The fairy tale is interesting, the description of the process of painting was really striking to me, having read the book while studying fine art, and the chapter headings are all titles of paintings that establish a third layer of story.  There is a lot of other good work by Brust, including Brokedown Palace, and To Reign in Hell, The Phoenix Guard, to say nothing of Agyar, one of the best stories in its genre that manages not to tell you what genre that is until three quarters of the way through the book.

now

Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Cycle, featuring Kvothe the…bard?

Not only is it superior to both Harry Potter and The Magicians for describing life in a magical university, and mind you I love both Rowling and Grossman, but it is the most epic telling of the building of a multiclassed character. Kvothe is introduced as an innkeeper, and was a travelling performer, a professional musician, skilled alchemical artificer, magician, swordsman, and he knows the secret name of the wind. None of these accomplishments came to him easily, and his attitude keeps him from getting things his way.  There are elements of Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series here, but unlike the protagonist of that series, Rothfuss’s character drives his own fate instead of having it written in the stars.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Session Recap of Beneath the Fallen Tower Playtest at Manhattan Minicon 3

The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light game I just released, Beneath the Fallen Tower had a warm reception when I ran it two weeks ago at the Manhattan Gamer’s Guild event. Players included Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel, Noah Green, Miguel and Patrick. Miguel rolled a spectacularly average halfling thief, even though we were playing with all three suggested house rules (max hp at first level, bonus clerical spell for high wisdom, and humans swap their lowest stat for 15). Because there aren’t really ability checks, or ability based skills like GURPS, and no penalties for low stats, the character, a ratcatcher working for Keela at the Wayside Inn, was very successful.

Patrick played a swashbuckler. Swashbucklers are usually a prestige class, with an extra cost for experience, but are no different in ability from thieves at first level, as everyone has the same basic hit bonus of 0 when starting. Nevertheless, his play style made the Dashing Swordsman very effective. We opted in a quick ruling from SW Complete for dual weapon use of giving the attack +1, and he made full use of it.

Rachel played an elf ranger with 15 Strength, and stacked her anti goblin bonuses effectively.  Her character was our tank, but unfortunately was cut down by the goblin chief.  I allowed a save vs death, and her character lived but was out of commission until magically healed on the way out of the dungeon.

Noah, having read the blurb about a necromancer, played a cleric of Nodens. The route they took did not end up giving him an opportunity to use his turn undead ability. A few more hours of play certainly would have done so, and his one cure wounds spell gained from a high wisdom score was very important.

Erik played a magic user, armed with the “Death spell”, sleep. He also rolled the highest stats, and being human snared an additional 15, which left him a combat monster with 15 Strength, 15 Dexterity, and 14 Intelligence. pretty much everyone took Charisma as a dump stat. When I used to play AD&D, I used Len Lakofka’s 5% tables from The Dragon, that disadvantaged sedentary types at low levels, and made fighters more effective, and the DF lite stats I worked up pretty much echoed that frame of mind. Erik’s character would not be a 75 pointer, but something closer to 150 points, and far more effective in combat because of the flatly even attack rolls everyone had.

I was calling the group the Champion Wiffle Ball Team because of the sheer amount of low die rolls going on. Erik disarmed himself at least twice during the game, and the only advantage was that their opponents were largely in the same boat.

Due to low charisma, very few rumors of use surfaced, and the group was focused on rescuing Wyatt.Wyatt0001.png Wyatt Ferris is a gamer who left us far too soon, and in this game, he was a merchant and 1st level bard, who attempted to take his four retainers and 3 mules laden with goods through the long abandoned north road through the forest, instead of taking the long way around. The group had a lot of fun flashing his wanted poster while holding their hands over the part that spelled out a reward.

Their trip up the road led them to encounter the Duke’s men, who were only satisfied that they weren’t bandits when they partially displayed the poster. They ran into the deer being chased by the wolves, and lost a mule to them. Then they encountered the pilgrims, who were going to “hasten the arrival of the god who comes” but avoided hostilities with them, even though they suspected them of being evil cultists, partly because they also ran into the fleeing peasants and some elves who gave them elven rations. both groups had suspicions about the shrine, and a little interaction between Noah’s character and the pilgrims confirmed the bias.

One thing about SWCL that I really liked, is that there is no alignment. While this certainly promotes conflict free murder hobo behavior, it also promotes a lot more parlaying, and makes things like wholesale slaughter more morally ambiguous.

They also encountered the young ogre, who they fed and added to their party.  He proved himself useful punching out wolves in the dungeon, and successfully returned him to mama on the way back.

The route by which they entered the dungeon proved very fortuitous; out of the three possible entrances, they took the covered well used by the bugbears. Now there were multiple ways in and out, but I had them all drawn fairly close to each other, so I cannot say that the dungeon was well Jacquayed. Janelle Jacquays does a lot in her designs to avoid railroading and creating quantum ogres, and my dungeon pretty much led directly to the goblins no matter which way you entered, but there was a certain advantage to sneaking in the back way; it put them two doors away from the prisoners and let them achieve their objective with minimal combat.  On the other hand, they used their one sleep spell to get rid of the Bugbears who were attacking them in the secret tunnels and their one healing spell immediately afterward, and had to rely on their wits from that point.

Naturally, there was an immediate plan to use a keg of oil to attack the goblins, but they used it to block their pursuers instead of risking catching the ogre in the flames.

They suspected Wyatt of having colluded with the goblins, until they realized he had just charmed the jailor in order to hold out until the ransom was paid.  I had included other prisoners Keep of the Borderlands style as potential replacement characters, but with only one near fatality, and a short time to play, they weren’t needed.

On the way back, they met with Mama ogre, the tinker, and a bunch of bandits wearing the soldier’s gear, who they promptly Slept, and took back to town as prisoners for a reward. All totaled their main loot came from the reward money, with only a few coins pocketed along the way; a good thing I wasn’t calculating out experience based on GP.

This adventure was set up with 4 different boss level fights, but the group only dealt with one, the bugbears, and avoided conflict with the ogress by returning her son safely. As to Aurelia and Melchior, they never met them.

As an added note, I really have to thank Mike Badolato for helping me with the vast amount of editing that had to be done after my initial passes through spellcheck. the late stages of the manuscript for the adventure had oodles of GURPS references in them ( like 1d-1 instead of 1d6-1) and all kinds of formatting issues that came about because I had used google docs on phone, tablet, chromebook and Word on PC to edit. I don’t recommend that to anyone. There were some issues I could not repair, like the unfortunate placement of a 2d6 table in location 12, that made location 13 conform to the formatting from that section… Word whatever are we going to do with you?

Grab the game, and enjoy it!

A New Year and a Round Number

One BookShelf isn’t showing it right now, but I have 50 titles that contain my work.

The problem has to do with the most recent product featuring my stock art, the RPG Pundit’s Lion & Dragon

Despite not currently having an artist’s listing due to OBS `accidentally ` deleting the listing for this entry and then reinstating it incompletely, you can see that the book has quite a bit of my art.

There is some other lovely stock art as well, some by Jack Badashi, and several nice pieces by Henry Justice Ford. Production quality is as good as found in Dark Albion and Chaos Cults.

The system itself is very OSR, although the magic system is supposed to conform to magical traditions of the fourteenth century. There is a serious nod to DCC in the startup at 0 level with extra characters.

I was approached last year to do some work on this project, but either my rates were too high or my politics too far to the left for the Pundit’s taste, and he settled on buying a few stock bundles instead.

My family set me up with some excellent gaming and drawing things for Yule, from a light board and steel ruler, and a microphone for Discord, to a stack of gaming books for 5E, GURPS and SWCL. I love my Family!

I am looking to run a tabletop game at a minicon this month, using SWCL and Beneath the Fallen Tower. I have to get writing it…

And I have some commissions for John Stater’s monster book 2 for Blood & Treasure.

The Manor 9, Nod 33, and AES, Brass Revolution

Screenshot_20171210-115839

Tim Short was one of my first patrons, and is the author of The Manor, a great little gaming zine that has, among other things, launched something that became Dungeon Grappling

This issue has not only a cover that Tim commissioned from me, but three other illustrations from my stock art, two of which were prompted by Tim.

He wrote this issue to be compatable with Erik Tenkar’s Swords & Wizardry Continual Light  and includes some custom rules for clerics, a great wilderness encounter table, and a tavern to be found in a dungeon.  I really like the characterizations he has done there, and am making a go of it myself.

Argento Pitts is a Squire with the 125 pt Veteran lens, from DF15, along with the knight/inkeeper lens from DF10., and a variation on the Foul Limb power up, from DF11, except it is considered a construct and not undead, has ST+4 and DR 20 vs non-magical weapons, and is an unnatural feature. He is stubborn, skinny, suspicious, and curious (the last two are quirk level.)

Gunnhild is a guard with bad temper, and a 10 point OPH, gives dirty looks. Kind of reminds me of Masugatan, a crass brute in my game.

Valac is a goblin Wizard, with the 125pt learned lens, has self defense pacifism, curious, wierdness magnet, and an obsession to  learn more. He has DR 20 to nonmagical weapons, but is vulnerable to meteoric iron ones.

His door is a construct with ST 20, 100 hp, DR 10, plus DR 20 to non magical weapons, effectively has Magelock at 25 skill, and can strike for thrust/ crush with a skill of 12, and has regular regeneration.

228138

John Stater, my most consistent, prolific, and generous patron, just released Nod33 which contains a commissioned quintet of African Deities.

FB_IMG_1513000366654

He also recently released Screenshot_20171211-100157

Esoterica Exhumed, after the Unearthed Arcana, contains new classes and spells for Blood&Treasure, or any OSR type game, and includes two more of my illustrations,  for the spell Control Hair, and the Saboteur class.

2017-12-11_10.04.14

You can get it here.

Screenshot_20171201-211448

Another fine use of my stock art was made in the steampunk game,

AES, Brass Revolution. I haven’t given it a really thoughrough read through, but they seem to have used work from at least four different stock packs of mine., and I think the first use of my Space Opera Art in a publication.

I am always a sucker for airships.

 

2017-12-10_13.29.42

 

As always, my stock art can be bought here

And my Tshirts and other products at Teepublic

And prints and more at Society6

Despite billing issues at Patreon, you can always support me there, at a flat monthly rate for cheaper than buying my bundles.

Recent Developments

First, I would like to thank everyone who purchased my charity relief bundle; over $300 dollars were raised. The Island of Puerto Rico is still mostly in the dark, so continue to give what you can.

Quite a few products have come out that feature my art, and a new qualifier has come up for commissions: exclusivity.  Pretty much all of my clients save one have passed on this, which is an agreement to not resell the art as stock for double the asking price.

I was Porc fight sold to VSworking on a Sutherlandesque scene with some porcs (old school pig faced orcs), and this client snatched up a set after I named a ridiculous price… just to let other folks have some porky goodness, I have drawn up a couple more, and set them aside for my patrons and for future inclusion in my next stock art bundle.

Four new products feature my work, and two I am especially proud of.

CD1 Dragon Fang Halls of Castle Draco a 5e adventure, uses my Gelatinous cube picture, which I think is the most commonly used piece of my stock art, from Dungeon Scenes 1.   Lair of the Goblin King Grasnhak-Kul is a Swords & Wizardry Adventure, and uses the wild eyed wizard with the ball bearing from my Wizards Stock Art.

Next comes the excellent Holmes Zine Fantastic! Exciting Imaginative volume 2 This one has a commissioned piece based on the assorted pieces of artwork in the Holmes basic book, and that piece can be found now in my Holmes inspired (and Blueholme) stock pack.

My favorite out of the bunch is Erik Tenkar’s Swords & Wizardry Continual Light a nifty little book, which not only includes the commissioned piece I blogged about previously, along with almost a dozen  other illustrations from my stock art. It is also a pretty good game, and I picked up a few copies from Amazon. I actually like the stripped down system.

 

Meanwhile, I continue my GURPS DF megadungeon game on rpol.

You can become my patron here and get access to art before it gets into the bundle!

 

Blueholme Journeymanne is released, and some stuff about wights

So two major kickstarters I backed (Blueholme Journeymanne and Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2e) have matured, and their combined weight has crashed One BookShelf, preventing me from getting my copy. I would seriously link to them, but like I said, DrivethruRPG and RPGnow have crashed, so I can’t.

FYI, blueholme Journeymanne can be acquired whenever OBS gets its shit together for $9.99 for the advance PDF (some artists aren’t done yet) and AS&SH is on sale for less than the kickstarter price due to a site wide sale on games that include their own setting, for $12.75, instead of $19)

books

The third big kickstarter I backed, Dungeon Fantasy RPG (now strangely no longer available for pre order at warehouse 23) has been mailed out, and my copy has suspiciously been sitting on a post office truck out for delivery for three days.

On this continued topic of Things That Suck,  I have been probably overusing the Wight Template from GURPS Fantasy.

The first time I used it, after hearing about them being used by Peter Dell’Orto, was to merge the template with that of the Gargoyle from DF 3 to make the Flying Deaths that circled over the Island that contained the Library of Flax.  Those were fairly easy to dispose of, as I hadn’t tried to make them unkillable with an Achilles Heel of silver or pussiant magic weapons. On the other hand, it was Gorgath wielding the Doomrazor who took most of them out.

The second adventure that included them is still running, a foray into a cursed abbey that was lost when the abbot fell in with a succubus, and is now overrun with doomchildren and Wights. Luckily for that group, they have as a member Haskell the Crafty, who owns an ugly, rusted, and pussiant shortsword. Mostly that group fireballs the wights, or has the barbarian ogress flatten them, leaving Haskell to finish them off. (I require at least HT damage be done with the silver or otherwise enhanced weapon, but at -5HT, the wights are in a state of torpor, which I calculate they would otherwise rebirth from in just under three months time, given that they need to recoup 6xHT at 1 hp /12 hours.  A modest restocking rate.

The use of wights that cost me players, between frustration with lack of posting by one of the players, was on an undercity expedition to establish a vending space (yes, verging on the fabled Tavern Level of Felltower) for Vilgar the Half-ogre’s fighting arena.  In this case, a long ago group of explorers abandoned one of their fellows to a slow death at the hands of Giant Maned Rats (From DF 10). These beasties are normally annoying fodder, but their quills, which get a free attack if you engage them, are also poisonous.

This caused our hapless explorer to rise as a wight, and exact his revenge on the rats. As wights, that quill attack becomes Straight damage + Poison damage+_FP drain. It got ugly quickly, and none of the characters on the mission had silver, so they retreated. Their boss offered them the use of some silvered weapons (mostly cheap, excepting one magical weapon) which they could choose to purchase after use, or owe him a debt.

Rapidly, they moved in and started to do some damage, but I lost most of that group before they could take down the quill covered human wight at the end of the run.

One option they could have taken, but refused, was The Butcher’s Blade, a blunt tipped and blackened Pussiant+1 Broadsword that gradually gives its owner the Bloodlust disadvantage, and increases the rate at which self controll rolls are made for that disadvantage.  The weapon, therefore is cursed, but the character who would have been the likely recipient of it was hated by the character collecting the weapons, so I am surprised she didn’t saddle him with it.

20170915_155236[1].png

Now here is something that doesn’t suck: I had a piece of artwork exclusively commissioned by Venger Satanis for his most recent Alpha Blue supplement, Save Yourself From Hell (also unlinkable due to DrivethruRPG crashing), which you can get for only $4, and the adventure merges The Black Hole, Event Horizon, Hellraiser and the Gate. It is worth picking up, especially since it is the only place you can see that particular piece of my art.