Friday, March 27, 2020

Business Card RPGs

Nate Treme over at the Highland Paranormal Society has these delicious little RPGs printed on business cards. Check this shit out.

You can hear Nate talk about stuff on a this podcast. Give a listen, eh?

Sketchbooking Retro #3: Sketchbook Dumpstat

Some of you like seeing sketches, some don't give a shit. Here's a bunch of sketches all dumped on your face all at once.

Lots of ideas buried in sketches. In mine, I can see little images that later became finished drawings and I can see seeds of RPG ideas and what-not. Fun to look back, though I caution you against dwelling in the past. Always move forward. Enjoy the past, celebrate your catalog of stunning victories and spectacular failures. But at the end of the day make sure you are moving forward. Creativity is a process and when you're not engaged in the process you're not doing it. Doesn't matter if it sucks, only matters if you're doing it.

Others will judge the outcome. Let them. Just do what you do and don't be a fucking prick.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sketchbooking Retro #2

These doodles are from the margins of various notebooks from work. While in meetings discussing the philosophy and metaphysical nature of manufacturing*, I would often doodle in the margins.

These particular doodles are little covers for a mini-comic** idea called Land of Hof. I actually did at least one issue of this comic, a story called "Winter". It lived on my old website until I took the site down so I guess I need to repost it here on the blog***.

Hoo boy... let's see if we can trace down the lineage of this. I guess it started in 2000-2003 as an RPG concept. Land of Hof was from a dumb acronym: HOF = Heart of Fantasy. The gist was to cut through the bullshit and get to the heart of what I loved about fantasy. Somehow the character Zarp become enmeshed in the idea and so I had the concept of a series of mini-comics about Zarp in the Land of Hof. I even fancied the idea of a box set of mini-comics, with dice and a game. Because I hadn't yet learned my lessons about biting off more than I could chew.

*Please tell me my sarcasm is explicit.

**What's a mini-comic? Well, that depends on who you ask. In my universe, a mini is a 4.25" x 5.5" folded and stapled comic book, usually made on a copy machine. But this is, as I understand it, a very old definition. Today a mini-comic is just any sort of DIY comic book. Size does not matter. When I say "mini-comic", I am usually referring to the specific 4.25" x 5.5" format.

***Why is the old jwarts website gone? Because I never updated it, nobody ever mentioned it, and it cost me money to maintain. The blog is far easier to maintain and has more recognition across the various nerd populations that I frequent. I am not a dynamo of self-promotion. If you like what I do,
share my shit please. I am but a lonesome polecat otherwise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

RPGs in Comic Format

I'm working on an RPG that will be published in comic book format. Probably put the PDF on DriveThru and the physical book on Lulu (they print comics too). I've seen other RPG books in this format, such as the wonderful awesome Mortzengersturm. What others are out there?

I like this format for this particular game idea because it encourages more art, in color, and it also encourages using and abusing the physical book at the table. Bend it, write on it, even tear pages out if you want. Because the price point is at least somewhat lower than other forms of printing.

Of course I could push that envelope more by making it black and white. You can print BW comics pretty damn cheap. But I kinda want this to be colorful as fuck.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sketchbooking Retro #1

I have a lot of sketching lying around. Some I've shared long ago, others have never been shared. I thought it would be nice to present a series of some of them that are interesting for some reason or another.


This sketch of Amirlen is very old. Definitely 1990s, perhaps from around 1993. I was still in my infancy as an artist and trying my best to look like a proper Marvel Comics illustrator, trained in the schools of Kubert and Hogarth. But that was not meant for me. My fascinations lied with all things undergroundy, Heavy Metal, and weird.
Arzra of Aroora

Here's a sketch of Arzra during the time when they were high on my mind. At this point I was planning a comic series in which the lead character would just be naked and would shift between their male and female form randomly, sometimes from panel-to-panel.

And that's such a weird thing for me to realize because at that time I had absolutely zero idea about any sort of gender discussion that might be happening. This was the mid-2000s and I don't remember anyone talking about gender. My reason for making Arzra a gender-bending character was to express my deep concerns about personal freedom and my strong opposition to censorship and prudish minds. Basically I wanted a character that would make common Christians uncomfortable. Not to piss them off, not to insult them, but to just put this idea in their heads. Because the stories and the character were otherwise fairly standard. Arzra would tool around encountering monsters and crazy zealots and give them a dose of logic and a sword. While naked and gender-shifting.

But, as I said before, my heart wasn't into the idea enough to do the very hard work it would have taken to make it real.

Aside: There's no reason I couldn't dust this off and do a one-shot comic book tackling the character in one story or two. No reason at all. But the same could be said for Zarp, another of my 2000s characters who holds a dear place in my heart.

The name of this sketch is "demoness hick". I have no idea why I drew her other than I really like drawing cute demon chicks.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Hella Nor Devil Girl (Ancient Buried Art XXX) Rated R!

This is the last post in my "old art" series. This was not a comprehensive tour, but literally just me posting the first 30 images in my web art folder sorted by oldest to newest. There's a lot more and I'll be posting that stuff too, just under different banners and at different times.

This one is also very special to me. It's Hella Nor. She's an evil badass. I made her into a DCC RPG patron and handed out copies at Gary Con one year. I used her in a couple of DCC campaigns. But for this post all I'm concerned about is that she's fire. I love this drawing. I feel like I captured something special in a simple little pin-up sketch. In many ways I have moved on from doing pin-up art, largely because I feel like I milked it for what it was worth to me personally and also because of the complications involved in presenting sexualized imagery when you're trying to create RPG content that is ostensibly intended to be be played by whoever wants to play. I can't very well fill an RPG book with half-naked chainmail chicks and make the rules "inclusive" and call it a day. If all the females in a game book are drawn to be sexy and the text isn't written to play it up, then you've got a mismatch on your hands.

And you know me. I'm all for pin-up art. I love the stuff. But as I've said a million times, you gotta know your audience and you gotta own what you do. It still floors me that people can create comics or RPGs that are "about" broad-audience concepts and say they are for everyone, but the imagery involving women is straight out of a Luis Royo or Alphonso Azpiri book. Here's the thing. If you're going to have your book filled with titties then god damn well make a titties book. Don't be a mealy-mouthed milksop unwilling to own their own shit. Don't tell me it's a fantasy RPG that everyone is welcome to play, tell me it's a motherfuckin' titties and ass RPG that everyone is welcome to play. That much I can respect, at least.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

The DM's Notebook vs. The Campaign Bible

Over on this post, Froth sagely points us to this post by The Angry GM about a delicious little idea called the campaign bible. A campaign bible is just your GM notebook filled to whatever degree you deem necessary with your notes about the game you want to run or are running. You don't show it to anyone because it's yours and it's a mess. You don't write it for anyone to read. You don't write it for publication. It is a tool. It is called a bible because it's the repository of reference information necessary to make your campaign good.

Sweet idea.

Today I happened to pull the old TSR World Builder's Guidebook (Richard Baker, 1996) off the shelf. What a wonderful little saddle-stitched tome this is. Not only is it chock full of useful tables and ideas for creating a fantasy world, but it's got the best of the late-era TSR page design going on. The headers and callouts are color, the art is monochromatic, the tables have that nice gray bar thing going on. It's a solid book if you can score a copy. You can get the official PDF here.

As a sad side note, the artist who illustrated this book, Glen Michael Angus, died in 2007. He was born the same year as me and his work was very stunning. I'll post a few pieces from this book below. R.I.P. Glen Angus.

Anyway, I'm flipping through for ideas when I hit page 4 and Baker tells us that we should definitely keep a DM's notebook. This is a great example of the idea of the Campaign Bible expressed in an official AD&D product 24 years ago, which is pretty cool. I'm guessing there are other examples even older, perhaps in the pages of ye olde Dragon or perhaps White Dwarf, but I don't know as I'm not an expert on the matter.

Baker's bullet list is pretty good. If you followed his advice to the letter, you'd at least be a well-prepared GM. I particularly liked his inclusion of a "tickler file" where you jot down the various goals, desires, and needs of your Players' PCs for use in adventure design, with the nod that Players might be more interested in adventures that ping their individual or group interests. Sage indeed.

So how does Baker's advice compare to The Angry GM? The Angry advice is more random, more angry, more visceral. And I really loved this bit right here because it's truth:

Creativity is what happens when random things bump into each other in your head and form some kind of connection.
Also, this hits home for me because I have always kept such fact sheets myself:

A fact sheet is a sheet of facts. Short, succinct lists of informational bits and bobs. Not prose. If you can’t master the vital skill of distilling things down to the important points and removing the excess crap, you can’t communicate effectively. Quit GMing.

The Angry GM gives you many more reasons to keep a bible while the Baker entry is short, sweet, and to the point about what you should include in it. I don't think these two things contradict as they are clearly talking about the same idea, just 20+ years separated in time and with wildly different formats. Both have one goal: to make you a better GM. Noble.

Here's an oldie: The Dungeon Master's Design Kit, for AD&D 1e. I never owned this. But it's got a lot of form sheets for the DM to use in creating NPCs, monsters, encounters, chases, and big ass finales. Sounds great. Given the nature of much of the official material of the time, I suspect it is dry and wordy and not very compelling. But I do see a fair number of random tables, so that's a plus. And who the fuck is going to fill out a whole one page form on a single chase scene before it happens? Talk about a bit of a railroad approach. I guess this was the era of Dragonlance.

And check out that badass art by Glen Michael Angus!

As to my own version of the DM's notebook/campaign bible, it's not well organized at all. But I do have some habits I've been following for many years.

Prior to the internet, I always kept a literal file on each major project. Inside the file would be various sketches, maps, and notebook sheets scrawled with madness. Before that I would use spiral notebooks to draw and write everything in. And I was kinda obsessive about keeping things separated. I wanted a different notebook for each idea. Most of them were filled with blank pages buffered by 1-20 pages of actual notes.

Post-internet, I started keeping digital files exactly the same way: filled with sketches, art, reference pictures, and various word docs and spreadsheets (these are my fact sheets, per the paragraphs above). Today I tend to keep my docs and spreadsheets on Google Docs or in DropBox so I can get them at work. I always have a spreadsheet and I have even named them "bibles" in the past. They contain lists of names, places, and ideas for the thing, along with random tables.

None of this stuff gets shared. Not because that's a rule, but because why on earth would you share your own personal random scrawlings? The stuff you share is what comes out of those scrawlings. The adventures you run, the finished art, the finished books (if you're publishing). You don't share your bible stuff. It's fuckin' ugly.

Swipe File

One thing I would add to the notebook/bible concept is the swipe file, a term I swiped from the comics industry, who apparently swiped it from the advertising industry. Whatever the history, my use of the term is very simple. A swipe file is a file full of images and ideas that inspire you or have the potential to inspire you. I find this a highly valuable tool for creative work. I tend to keep multiple digital files full of stuff as well as private Pinterest boards and other such nonsense. When I'm feeling slow, I browse the files and see what gets drummed up in my brain. Never be a afraid to borrow and steal little nuggets from other creators because they damn sure did the same thing and anyone who tells you differently is a fuckin' liar. Nobody makes shit up whole cloth. Nobody.

Glen Michael Angus

When I Googled Glen Angus' art for this book I got nothing. Nada. Zilch. He did work on M:tG and other TSR books, and some of that comes up, but I wanted to showcase his work on The World Builder's Guidebook. So I scanned a little bit of it. Here are a few images from the book by the late Glen Michael Angus.

Fawn Rules! (Old Art XXIX)

Fawn Rainchild RULES!

Tweet Me a River

While I'm cranky: Twitter feels like 31 first graders all trying to tell the teacher their favorite Popsicle color at the same time.

So just to be clear, I'm not insulting Twitter users. Please do your thing. I'm just saying that for me Twitter is not good. Ergo, fuck Twitter. At least right now.

Couldn't resist.

Black Pudding #6 in Print

Peter has worked his magic again and put the latest issue of Black Pudding into delicious British print. And you can pick up a sweet bundle of all 6 issues in print!

I can't wait to get my copies!