Dungeon World: Our Heroes!

Our Heroes - Ram, Rahi, Merit, and Kanta. Art by Claudia Cangini.
Our Heroes. Front: Ram the Holy Killer; behind him, from left to right: Rahi the Relic Bearer, Merit the Trickster, and Kanta the Mage. Art by Claudia Cangini, 2016.

We’ve been playing Dungeon World for over a year now, in Edmund’s own setting inspired by Southern Asia, “The Land of Ten Thousand Gods.” We’re nearing the epic conclusion of a big story arc so as a holiday present to the whole group, I commissioned a portrait of our four characters from the amazing Claudia Cangini. Tonight I unveiled it for the group and people sounded very happy — I know I am!

For those who, like me, enjoy seeing how a piece of art comes together, I will post the various steps of Claudia’s work. All images are in the slideshow at the bottom.

Continue reading “Dungeon World: Our Heroes!”

Mouse Guard Must-Have

photo-sep-08-4-48-55-pmI’m very late in discovering this, but the hardback compilation Mouse Guard: The Black Axe is a must-have for all readers of the Mouse Guard comics (David Petersen, published by Archaia) and especially for players of the role-playing game based on the comic, the Mouse Guard RPG (Luke Crane & David Petersen).

It’s full of information about what the Guard Mice do, the art is as inspiring as ever, and the book offers a nice appendix full of maps, illustrations of locations, genealogies of famous mouse clans, etc. (You can see examples of location art here, but the ones in the book are different and contain much more information.)

How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1

Scary-BookI’m a gaming junkie, especially where it comes to role-playing games. I’ve been gaming for decades, I have played or run at least 177 RPGs as of this writing, not counting different editions, playtests, or homebrews, and my shelves are overflowing with more I have yet to play. All this to say, I want to love your game. But it’s amazing how many published games still turn me right off because of mistakes that could be avoided with moderate effort, and sometimes even quite easily.

Not that that writing games is that easy, I know! There will be competing objectives, budget and schedule considerations, and so forth. But there are also some elements that can be incorporated in the planning, and hurdles that are make-or-break. In our cottage industry of devoted hobbyists, some mistakes are being made over and over. Even free games can be ruined so thoroughly by some of these mistakes that they lose the chance for a good review, which can’t be why you’re putting them out there!

One big challenge for game publishers is that there are several ways to approach the reader or, if you want, several opportunities to lose a gamer, so let’s look at them separately.

I’ll post the other sections over the the next few days.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1”

Christmas Eve Exchange

As a tradition inherited from Edmund’s family, we open our Christmas presents after Christmas dinner, to make the holiday last as long as possible. However, as an offering to impatience and my traditions, we usually exchange and open one present each on Christmas Eve. So Edmund gave me The Badass Feminist Coloring Book, and I gave him a long-overdue portrait I drew of Kuri, the character from my book War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. It was all very art-y.

Kuri was just an aspect on sample character Iva the Stubborn’s character sheet until I needed one more character for a playtest event and Edmund decided to play Kuri, who ended the episode with a pirate’s hat as a trophy. Kuri is a Jaarl fawn who also appears in the micro-fiction penned by Edmund in the book. He had asked me a long time ago for a drawing of the character; I had several false starts but I finally completed it.  Hee!

kuri

The Ghetto Tarot

File_001 File_002 File_000

I just received this beautiful tarot deck for an IndieGoGo campaign I had contributed to a while back.  It’s the result of  a collaboration between the Haitian group Atiz Rezistans (“Artist Resistants”) and Belgian photographer Alice Smeets.  Each image is modelled after the famous Rider deck which was designed over a hundred years ago by A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith.  However, this version uses settings and materials from the ghettos of Port-au-Prince, bringing a whole new layer of symbolism.  The deck is a little large for my hands; however, smaller cards would have obscured the details.

I have several uses in mind for it: tarot readings, sure, but also prop and inspiration in role-playing games, and a reminder of the hardships — as well as the art — in places that are too easily forgotten after the initial news headlines, whether it be Haiti, Indonesia, or New Orleans.

[Edit: The deck can be purchased here.]

RPG a Day: A thousand words…

The Big Adventure, by zazB

12. Favourite RPG illustration

Ugh, Dave Chapman keeps asking questions I can’t really answer. I will hedge by showing you my favourite illustration about role-playing games (I love it and I’ve used it before), and listing a few of my favourite RPG illustrators. The image is “The Big Adventure” by zazB (Guillaume Bonnet).

  • Janet Aulisio, for Vampire, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Everway, and many more.
  • John Bridges, for his work on Fading Suns, Werewolf, etc.
  • Claudia Cangini, for Fate Accelerated, 1001 Nights, The Ruined Empire, Night Witches, etc.
  • Storn Cook, particularly for his work with Mutants & Masterminds, Hero, and lots of free art he posts here and elsewhere.
  • Bill Eaken for Castle Falkenstein.
  • Langdon Foss, for Aeon Trinity, WoD stuff, etc.
  • Andy Hopp for his work on Low Life.
  • Denise “Dyonisia” Jones, for Tianxia.
  • Kurt Komoda for his work on Fate Core and Fate Toolkit in particular, as well as Bulldogs! and others.
  • Jeff Laubenstein, particularly for his work on the old FASA Shadowrun and Earthdawn.
  • Eric Lofgren, particularly for Nine Worlds.
  • Rick Marcks, for Motobushido.
  • Jeremy Mohler, for his work on Mythic Russia, etc.
  • Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, for The Blue Rose RPG of course.
  • Jennifer Rodgers, for a lot of lovely art on indies such as The Princes’ Kingdom, Passages, Mortal Coil, The Shadow of Yesterday, etc.
  • Brian Snoddy, particularly for his ink drawings for Legends of the Five Rings 1st ed.
  • Miles Teves, for his work on Jorune.
  • Daniel Thron for HOL. Yep, I liked it.

#RPGaDay2015

What I gave my true love

Eric LofgrenThis year I focused on art for Edmund’s presents. I got two show pieces. One was Eric Lofgren‘s ink drawing of a British Columbia-inspired Eowyn of Rohan facing the Witch-king on his steed (from an ArtOrder Challenge a few years ago.) I just love Eric’s pen and ink work, and you can see from my choice among his prints a direct connection to Edmund’s choice of presents for me. Great minds, etc….

The other piece was commissioned especially for Edmund. You may have read my summary of the Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade (Vigilance Press) game I ran at Big Bad Con in October? In it was a funny scene where Edmund’s character, the wild forest girl Wolf-Eyed Yue, was made up and disguised as the Moon Festival Princess.

I thought it would be wonderful if Denise Jones, the artist who beautifully illustrated the Tianxia rule book, was willing and able to capture the scene. She was enthusiastic, and publisher James Dawsey graciously gave permission to use the likeness of the official Tianxia characters Wolf-Eyed Yue and Han “Dragon Dog” Ping. (The third character in the scene is the lao dan the heroes hired to help with the transformation.) It was a treat to see the various steps in creating the image, and I’d like to share them (I have permission from the artist to do so.)

First, Denise drew a sketch of the scene as she envisioned it based on my description.

moon princess power - sketch

Right away, you can see why Denise was the right person to illustrate a wuxia-based game book: she has turned what could have been a very static scene into a dynamic pose. She latched onto what made the scene funny for us in the game: the contrast in moods between Yue and her cheerful attendants, and the physical comedy of putting a wild forester in a fancy dress. To give the sense of tension and action, Denise has the two attendants pulling in opposite, slightly off-balance directions with Yue torn in the middle. Yue’s characteristic wild hair is being tamed, symbolic of the whole predicament. The only change I asked for was to give Yue a grumpier expression, more in keeping with the way our game unfolded.

Next, Denise sent the polished sketch in clean lines.

moon princess power - lines

Now Yue looks suitably annoyed at the spa treatment she’s receiving! You can see the line weights have been carefully selected to reinforce the opposed movements forming a slightly left-tilting triangle.

Next came the image with flat colour layout.

moon princess power - flats

The light and dark colour masses have been distributed to play with the theme of Yue being pulled in different directions. The violet of the dan‘s over-robe gives her mass and solidity, while the bamboo motif on the screen behind the characters counters this by reinforcing Ping’s movement. Light touches of red cloth to the left and right of the screen, matching the hue of Yue’s dress, now suggest an opposite triangle pointing upward. Yue’s scarf ties her to the dan and suggests being twisted out of shape.

Finally, the finished illustration!

moon princess power - paints

Shadows and textures make the image come alive and mute the lines to make the effects more subtle. The finished print is 11″ x 14″ (about 28 cm x 36 cm). It’s gorgeous.

Christmas Cheers and Holiday Haul

After our homey Christmas Eve, we slept in on Christmas Day. In the (late) morning, Edmund baked his contribution to the get-together later that day: another recipe from Where People Feast, Pacific macaroni and cheese… a deceptive title for a scrumptious baked pasta dish filled with fresh crab meat. It smelled so good, I started hoping San Francisco would be snowed in within the next half-hour so we could justify staying home and eating the whole dish!

Then we exchanged some stocking stuffers, and we headed out with the steaming dish to have Christmas lunch-dinner-feast at our friends’ Steve W. and Dorene with a bunch of other friends and family. As usual, everyone had brought wonderful dishes to share and Steve W. had cooked up a storm. It was a day of comfortable conversation, friendship, good food, and bad puns.

After exchanging gifts with our friends, we came home not too late because (1) we wanted to exchange the rest of our presents to each other, (2) I wanted to avoid seasonal drunk drivers as much as possible, and (3) our hosts had to fly out to a wedding on the 26.

We were quite pleased with the presents we gave, they seemed to hit the mark. And as usual, I received way more than I should, from people who know my tastes well. First, the “us” presents:

World of Dew coverEdmund got us a role-playing game right up my alley which I had somehow missed, Ben Woerner’s World of Dew (Woerner’s Wunder Werks). Happily for us, even though we had missed the Kickstarter campaign this spring, the good folks at EndGame had not, and they had ordered several retailer copies so that Edmund found this and brought it home. It is in turn based on John Wick’s game Blood and Honor (John Wick Presents), which I had also missed—in this case because it was released during our moratorium on all non-essential purchases. Both are beautiful books illustrated with vintage Japanese prints.

Usagi Yojimbo Saga trade paperback cover, vol.1To go with this, Edmund also got us volume 1 of the 30-tear anniversary Usagi Yojimbo compilation (Dark Horse Comics). We’re both fans of the long-eared ronin, it will be nice to re-read these adventures in one fell swoop. (I wonder how many volumes this new compilation will end up necessitating? I probably shouldn’t ask myself these questions, and should just enjoy my 600 pages of furry chanbara instead…)

Finally, Edmund also got us a paperback copy of the latest novel in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Blood of Tyrants.

Downwood Tales coverThen we received the latest expansion for the Mice & Mystics board game from our friends Steve W. and Dorene, Downwood Tales (Plaidhat Games). We’ve greatly enjoyed Mice & Mystics and we were looking forward to being eaten by snakes or having our mousey fur incinerated by firebelly newts, and playing new characters like Jakobe the gecko and Ditty the shrew. This is a massive expansion that seems to provide as much material as the original set—or perhaps even more, since some elements appear to increase replay value. This afternoon we made it through the first chapter and enjoyed it.

Hobbit Tales coverSteve P. and Maureen gave us another game, very story-oriented, Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn (Cubicle 7 Entertainment). It’s very similar to Atlas Games’ Once Upon A Time card game, though a bit more structured and also more competitive. I agree with reviewers who have suggested that for family play, you’ll get a better experience from not keeping score. In addition, Maureen gave me one of those handy vacuum sealing corks that allow you to keep wine good for a few days more after opening the bottle. Heidi and Eric gave us lovely glass-blown Christmas ornaments.

Race to Adventure! coverKaren Twelves and Sean Nittner gace us a copy of Evil Hat Productions’ Race to Adventure!, a compact board game based on the pulp universe of Spirit of the Century. This belongs in the category of games that, although competitive, are not too painful to lose at because you can play them in half an hour or less, like Race For the Galaxy (unrelated, despite similar title.)  I suppose this can also be said of the Hobbit Tales game above, but I feel the competitive aspect tends to detract from story, so I prefer to play it more cooperatively. Sean and Karen also gave us a print copy of the beautiful Atomic Robo RPG.

Finally, June and Edmund both got tons of sweets for us, especially chocolate.

Lovebirds broochLovebirds earringsPresents that were for me only: Edmund gave me beautiful silver jewellery designed by Haida artist Odin Lonning: a brooch and matching earrings on the Eagle and Raven lovebirds motif. Pacific Northwest people like the Haida and Tlingit (among others) have two main social groups, called moieties (literally, halves), the Eagles and the Ravens, each in turn containing 22 or 23 lineages. Traditionally, one cannot marry within a clan or lineage of the same moiety, so marriages typically signify the joining of an eagle to a raven. Eagle and Raven, when linked together, are consequently known as the Lovebirds. The Lovebirds are a popular design for items such as bracelets and rings, given as gifts between couples of these clans.

Strong Female Protagonist_01In addition, and perhaps to give the brooch something to hold in place, Edmund took me at my word when I said I would adopt The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide as my Christmas wish list, so he gave me the Infinity Scarf (#29 in the list.) Amusingly, when I wore it yesterday I received several compliments on the look, but only Dorene noticed what the theme was. Hee hee. Rounding this up, Edmund also gave me the first collected volume of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag‘s Strong Female Protagonist, a comic book you can also enjoy online.

My mom sent me four little books she got at the annual book expo, le Salon du livre de Montréal: Le Journal d’Edward, hamster nihiliste, 1990-1990; Tous les coqs du matin chantaient; Mitsou: les aventures extraordinaires d’un chat végétalien; and La Fabrique des mots. She also sent two DVDs: Louis Cyr, the Strongest Man in the World; and The Scapegoat.

Fijit the Gnome Illusionist!

In my previous post I mentioned our time at Pacificon. There was one Pathfinder Society event that Edmund attended by himself, to his chagrin. To cheer him up, I commissioned the awesome Rae Wood to draw his poor Gnome illusionist, Fijit, and here is the result:

bored_illusionist_final

Comic Book Art: Ian “I.N.J.” Culbard

Ian Culbard - Bat

Someone started a meme on Facebook:

To help us appreciate comic book art we have this Facebook game. Click “like” and I will will assign you a comic book artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know their work; just Google the artist and choose an image of the one you like most, and put it on your timeline with this message. Make comments or just let the art speak for itself.

Steve Dempsey assigned me Ian Culbard. I did not know him, but learned that he’s a British artist and writer who has also worked or been translated in French, and done some cover art for “The New Deadwardians”, a DC title under the Vertigo imprint. His speciality seems to be, wait for it, Edwardian-era literature translated to graphic novel format: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burrows, etc. He talks about some of his favourites on his blog, Strange Planet Stories. He does pencilling, inking, colour, animation, illustration, and just about everything else.

Style-wise, he favours a “clean line” approach I like, but seems to make his characters a little cartoony for my preference. But then I set these preferences aside for artists that grow on me like Mike Mignola and Kevin O’Neil, so maybe if I could read enough of his books his style would sway me too.

I will leave you with the cover I liked best from his work on The New Deadwardians: the combination of a bloody handprint and a vintage map of London’s Whitechapel district already conveyed its theme very effectively, even before the addition of the bizarre skulls.

Ian Culbard: The New Deadwardians #2 cover