Saturday, November 16, 2019

Background: Scoundrel Wanted in 1d6 Systems

Here's a Troika! background for Supercalla. It's a nice guy type.

Scoundrel Wanted in 1d6 Sunrealms

Your mama cried the day you were born and your daddy's only words to you were "I regret makin’ you." People tend to avoid you, except the Law... the Law is always looking for you. And bounty hunters.

-RIG 77
-Small book of dad jokes
-Pack of Astroknotty
-Coordinates for a big score

Advanced Skills:
2 Pistol
2 Fist Fighting
1 Sneak
1 Run
2 Spotting The Law

Each time you enter a new place roll 1d6. On a roll of 1, the Law is notified of your whereabouts. On a roll of 2, a bounty hunter spots you.

Background: Private Eye

A background for Troika!

This one got cut from the Supercalla setting book because it didn't quite fit the theme. Maybe it'll show up in a later book.

Private Eye

The dame was on fire when she crawled into the room. Not figuratively, but literally. She was a fire worm. She lost a lover and she wanted you to find them. How could you say no to a dame like that? You looked at her long and hard with your one eye and said "I'll do it. Now please get out before you burn the joint down."

-Skinsuit (trenchcoat, armor 1)
-1d6 fake badges and IDs
-Emergency cozmask (1 hour use)
-Lockpick tools
-Eye drops

Advanced Skills:
3 Awareness
1 Locks
1 Disguise
1 Sneak
1 Pistol
1 Fist fighting

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 5

Time to stick a fokkin' fork in this fokker. It's been a rambling mess, hasn't it?

Truth is I wrote like thousands of words about this and deleted them all. Nobody wants to read about the various OSR controversies from the past few years. It's old news, right? We know the birds who are bad seeds, generally, and I think many of us just kind of avoid/ignore them. Some people would see that as a failing... we should be kicking the bad seeds' asses. But I'm not a militant sort of guy and I don't own the hobby nor do I own OSR.

There will be bad seeds. We can ignore, avoid, and/or criticize them. We cannot kill a motherfucker, you know? Nor should we want to. Fuck that noise. You can take your violent ideations and shove them up your ass. I came here to make art, games, and to play. I don't tolerate assholery very well, so don't be an asshole. 'K?

An example of assholery in game design, just to be motherfuckin' clear:

Making it a point to state that your game is explicitly not PC. You might think that reads as "my game is not bullshit" but what it truly says is "hey, I'm a giant dickhead who is so threatened by socially-conscious young people I have to lash out at them impotently from the pages of my nerd book." It's a really nasty look and you should avoid it at all costs.

Think of it this way. Nobody walked into your RPG and demanded that you acknowledge the existence of other kinds of people. Why would you go out of your way to lash out at other kinds of people in the game they didn't walk into and demand anything? Don't be a dick.

And that kinda wraps this up. To quote Gump, I have completed my statements on the matter.

Next: more Troika!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 4

A live action still from the Paramount film Weekend at Bernie's.
Being a lifelong small fry creator makes me particularly sensitive when it comes to criticizing other creators. I know how much work goes into this stuff. I know how rough it feels to put yourself out there and be stomped on. I try hard not to stomp on anyone, particularly someone who is just dipping their toes in the creative waters.

DIY communities are mainly composed of people who might otherwise be known as amateurs or hobbyists. The levels of quality and talent on display will vary wildly. And while being very critical of a book published by Wizards of the Coast seems appropriate or even necessary, applying that same degree of criticism to an indie PDF created by a single individual who probably won't make $20 on it feels rather like being a complete shithead. And of course you have to be wary of the weight of your voice relative to whoever you're criticizing. A negative word from an influencer within a scene can be a serious or lethal blow to a struggling creator and maybe for the influencer it really only represents one little thought about one little thing on one little day.

Words have power.

And yet... we should be honest. Creators generally want to know what people honestly think about their work. This is where the hard love comes down. If you create a thing and then publish it then you need to have some thick skin. You are the one putting yourself out there and there is always a risk that some complete shithead is going to give you a 1 star review that reads "My dog poops better dungeons". It's going to happen. Learn to roll with the punches.

Also, price your shit accordingly. Speaking only for me, I'm not willing to dish out $5 for a 1 page PDF even with pretty art. Asking too much money for your book is a very quick way to turn me off. Hell, I fucking love Barrowmaze Complete and I still complain that it costs too much. Especially the hardback.

And yet I bought it. Seriously it's that good.

The OSR/DIY scene* is chock full of good, bad, and ugly books. Some are absolute gems, others are absolute turds. I happen to love the fact that such a scene emerged at all and that people feel free to be creative within it. Yeah, much of what gets put out there is forgettable. But the same is true of any creative scene. And I will happily suffer a slew of forgettable books if it helps increase the chance of getting something wondrous every now and then. I just might not pay any money for the turds.

*OSR... DIY... indie? RPG community is too big an umbrella so you need some crunchier terms. I know some folks strongly resist or reject the OSR label even when they're creating content that is clearly in the OSR vein. I get it, and maybe that'll be the subject of one of these rants soon. I'll need more tequila sunrises though.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 3

The good and the bad. And the ugly. Oh, the ugly. The OSR scene has had its fair share of all three, hasn't it?

DIY publishing is an open playing field. I got my start in it in 1988 when I was in high school. Myself and some friends slapped together a zine we called Fast Lane, which was mostly comics. Don't bother Googling it, you won't find anything. I might have some copies stashed in my storage building. If I ever get around to digging that shit out I'll post up some pics. And cringe.

F5... every zine under the sun.
Anyway, we published 3 issues and then graduated and went on our ways. I then started publishing on my own around 1994. I published a lot of small press comics and zines between 1994 and 2004. I was really into that whole scene, hitting the S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Comics Expo) con in Columbus Ohio and joining the Small Press Syndicate and the United Fanzine Organization. I had a fucking subscription to Factsheet Five.

The coming of the internet broke all of that. But that's a tale for another time. Right now I just wanted to lay some basics for a rant about quality in publishing within small niche markets. Traditionally it hasn't been very good. Most small press comics and zines were photocopied affairs that were cheap, fast, and dumb. And it was fucking awesome while being terrible.

The OSR and DIY RPG scene has been similar, with tons of slapdash dungeons cranked out to scratch that old itch so many of us have - to make something D&D, dammit! And lots of these slapdash dungeons are free or pay-what-you-want. That's totally in the spirit of the small press scene. Others charge a pittance at a dollar or two. Totally fine. Others want you to pay more for what I'd consider to be rather humdrum content. I'm not paying you $10 for an uninspired 5 room dungeon with some goblins and a mad wizard, so please don't ask.

I mean sheesh. Put some killer art in it and maybe I'll concede my hard-earned cash.

Room 3: Empty.
Room 4: Goblins (2) AC 6, HD oh my god kill me now

But I digress and perhaps I sound a bit harsh. I dunno. Back on target...

A collection of my comics!
The scene has produced a shit ton of fucking excellent books as well as a metric ton of forgettable books. I mean geez louise... TSR made some cool stuff back in the day but did they really ever make anything as badass as Barrowmaze*, The Chained Coffin, or Old School Essentials? Not really. And there are plenty of other great books to call out as well, though a few of them were created by complete shitheads and I'm loathe to bring them up. You know what I mean. This is perhaps the ugly part of the scene, and I'll probably get around to saying my mind about that as well in a future post within this meandering series of screedish rants and nerdy gibberishings.

(*Yes, I'm aware that Barrowmaze contains some relatively bland entries and empty rooms and repetitive shit. But if you have actually perused that book and, even better, used it at the table and you don't agree that it's a masterpiece of resource-grinding dungeon-crawling design then you can just go fuck yourself, buddy. I kid, of course. But it's true.)

ASIDE: I straight up Googled myself with the phrase "small press comics" included in an image search and got bupkis. My decade of self-publishing comics left a long, deep shadow indeed! Hah. But if you take out the "small press" bit you'll get at least one result plus a bunch of Black Pudding stuff. Whew!

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 2

Where was I? Oh right. I was supposed to be talking about the OSR scene. More-or-less. Sorry about the lengthy DCC RPG campaign posts. I gotta do it though.

Around April 2014, within 2 years of my getting into the old school RPG scene, I started up an online group. We met one Monday night at 9:30 PM, EST, for 2 hours. We are still to this day meeting every Monday night at 9:30 PM, EST. This is a net good in the world.

This group consists of one of my oldest and dearest friends named Jayne as well as four others that I have only met/known through the Monday game and/or other RPG scenes: Andy, Bill, Dyson, and Matt. These I now also call great friends.

Sometimes I call this group the Doomslakers, whether they like it or not.

The whole thing started because god damn it to fucking shit I wanted to run some old school D&D. I was running DCC RPG in my face-to-face games but I had this burning itch to run D&D. I got the group together to play Labyrinth Lord, which had quickly become my absolute darling by 2014. Here was a game that was basically exactly the D&D rules I used to play when I was young. It was a mix of basic and advanced... the same shit I always did! Someone had put it in a book, slapped the best name on it since D&D, and gave an open license to let me make shit up and publish it. I was in.

To start out, I ran a Labyrinth Lord campaign for the group and it lasted somewhere around 50 sessions. I kept copious notes. I tracked XP. The entire campaign was original and I eventually published one module born from it: Winds of the Ice Forest, which got a very nice review on my favorite podcast Save or Die. It was a wonderful little moment in time in this tiny niche hobby.

My second module!
The campaign was tons of fun for me. At the time, the players were Andy, Jayne, Bill and Matt with an occasional fifth player (I think we had 2 or 3 who popped in and out). It was a strongly northern-themed game with lots of snow and ice and it culminated in the party battling a tremendous purple worm monster that killed one of the PCs in an epic moment. The materials I created for the campaign are still in my folders waiting for me to write the god damned follow-up modules Ur-Kak the Swine and Shrine of Worms. (I will write them, I tell you!)

After the Labyrinth Lord campaign we played DCC RPG, Star Frontiers, Bean!, The Black Hack, and others I cannot remember. The group plays on to this day, thankfully.

Labyrinth Lord is crack cocaine for someone like me who just really really wanted to write D&D stuff. Leading up to the time when I discovered the OSR scene, I was creating RPG materials in a vacuum and they were largely meant to satisfy my desire to make D&D stuff. In fact, in the year prior to 2012 (see here) I was writing a funny animals RPG that was explicitly riffing on the D&D tropes that we all know and love. Zyn Dweomer, which was a webcomic I was doing at the time, was the precursor to Rabbits & Rangers. It was talking D&D animals.

My first module!
Anyway, I wrote my first OSR module, Howler, as an OSRIC adventure first then converted it to Labyrinth Lord once I realized the truth. I was blown away by the amount of material that had already been created specifically for Labyrinth Lord. Some of it was brilliant, such as Barrowmaze (I'll get around to that soon). Some of it was just kinda OK. I won't call out specific books that were just OK (or worse), but they do exist. It's damn easy and fast to crank out a Labyrinth Lord adventure that has no sizzle. Just a few rooms on a crude map, some orc stat blocks, a treasure horde, give it a bit of Microsoft Word layout and call it done.

And yeah sure that's really all you need in order to run a fun little dungeon crawl. I totally get that. Hell you don't even need that. You can crank that shit out in a few minutes. But it is nice when someone else does the work. And let's face it... that's the nature of DIY publishing. Very little gatekeeping means you get the good and the bad...

Monday, November 11, 2019

The DCC RPG Tangent Part 3

One more DCC post. Short and sweet to finish this bastard up because I feel like I'm in the "long winded description of your game" territory. And nobody wants that.

The PCs had to deal with The Blue Queen. They found themselves back in their native village, 150 years later. And it was a winter hellscape. They fought some wicked ice witches, contended with a foul witch who gave them some guidance, and somehow ended up on X1: The Isle of Dread... but the island was caught in a time storm and all the dinosaurs were undead. The pirates they encountered (there were pirates) were the ones described in the DCC RPG rulebook... on flying boats. And of course they captured a flying boat and kept it for the next 2 or 3 game sessions.

After escaping the Isle of Dread, they finally confronted The Blue Queen and her 50' ape protector. The wheel of fortune from Hole in the Sky was back, which resulted in one PC becoming a cyborg and another PC becoming a monkey. Which he liked very much.

They killed The Blue Queen. They were now level 4 PCs. I then ran the DCC RPG adventure The Making of the Ghost Ring and we left the campaign as the PCs attained level 5. We have not revisited in over 2 years. Maybe we never will. I don't know. But the entire campaign left me with lots of great RP memories and some new friends. How can you go wrong when your campaign involves space-faring Viking ships, ninja monkeys, cyborgs with chainsaw-action battle axes, and undead T-Rex?

DCC RPG is fucking awesome. It was awesome for me particularly because it did exactly the thing Goodman advertised on the tin... it brought me back to a time when gaming was fun and imagination was king. I was ripe for it too. Like so many other people my age who played RPGs when we were young, this was a thing we badly wanted, and badly needed. It was a net good. DCC RPG told me it was OK to be wildly creative, mixing genres like peanut butter and chocolate, killing characters like a madman, and getting people excited at the table again. And like it or not, sometimes you really gotta be told that shit. It's not always enough to be neutral in game design. Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Of course DCC isn't all good for me. I could nitpick and quibble about the system. While I love the many funky dice I also fucking hate them. I still can't quickly grab a d24 or d16 without carefully examining them. And one of the main reasons I never really got into designing stuff for DCC is because the god damn spell descriptions alone are a huge endeavor. Whereas I could write a B/X style spell in two sentences, you need a solid page or two to write a good DCC spell. And don't even think about patrons. I wrote one patron, which I handed out at Gary Con in the form of a little zine. Hella Nor was her name and I used her in my other DCC RPG campaign which I ran online in my Monday night sessions. It was a bit of a chore. I don't particularly enjoy that side of DCC and perhaps that is one reason the published materials are so popular? Someone else did the labor? I'm not sure.

Anyway. DCC RPG = big fun. 'Nuff said.

The DCC RPG Tangent Part 2

EDIT: Changed the title of this because it's kind of its own thing. I also know how to use "its" and "it's" correctly so blow me.

Continuing what I was saying earlier about my first DCC RPG campaign... no juicy bits here. Apparently I really really want to talk about my DCC game for a minute.

Peril on the Lost City!

The PCs had crashed their cool new Viking ship on a purple planet next to a big pyramid thing. I was only loosely using the content from Peril on the Purple Planet so I made the atmosphere outside absolutely toxic. They got out and realized very quickly that as the weirding sun faded, the air became less breathable. There was a realization that if they didn't find shelter soon they'd die. So they immediately made for the pyramid.

(Sneaky of me, right?)

They ascended to the summit looking for a way in and found it. A trap door. They entered the pyramid and I used the map from B4: The Lost City for the remainder of the adventure. I only vaguely used the contents of B4, allowing the room contents to guide me in certain directions. They were searching for one of the Blue Queen's generals, a demon whose name I cannot remember. They found him locked in a bird cage in the pyramid. Between fighting some kith and dealing with the machinations of the demon in the cage, they eventually set the thing free (something they also did in Hole in the Sky). It didn't help matters.

I don't recall all the events but the culmination of the adventure had them facing a cult of sorcerers devoted to the green stones and the death orms. The green stones, it turns out, were the crystals used to power the Viking ship. But more importantly, the great death orm mother was being summoned in a ritual and, with some clever use of green stones, the PCs were able to sort of take control of the orm (after slaying the entire cult) and took it on a magic carpet ride across the cosmos back to their own home world.

Naturally they crash landed the great, dying death orm in a fury of exploding bits. Plot twist: Their long distance adventure resulted in a huge time lensing effect. They arrived back home after merely 3 days as they experienced it but some 150 years per home time. The Blue Queen had taken over the entire world and was turning it into an ice planet. It was the PCs' actions that allowed her to do this.

Of course they vowed to depose her and stop the madness.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The DCC RPG Tangent Part 1

EDIT: Changed the name of this DCC RPG sub-thread.

These posts are going to be all over the fucking place, so pardon me ahead of time. This is an act of stream-of-consciousness commentary to summarize/explore my experiences in the gaming community since 2012 (and maybe before). This time it seems that I'm writing mostly about DCC RPG, my entry point to the old school scene. This post has little or no juicy "terrible things about the OSR" bits. If you're here for the controversies all you'll find is my gushing on and on about my first DCC RPG campaign. Maybe next time I'll bitch.

In 2012 I distinctly remember being super-duper inspired to get a local gaming group together and play some DCC RPG. I didn't buy the book until I listened to a couple of episodes of Spellburn, then I pulled that trigger pretty fast. I got the wizard cover because it's the most badass.

It was totally the enthusiasm of Judges Jen, Jeffrey, Jim, and Jobe that got me to buy that book. It was a $50 investment, after all. And I had never held it in my hands. But their description of the rules compelled me. I was all in.

As soon as the book arrived I started pouring over it and I got a group together to play. The first game I ran was with 3 players at my house and the very first die roll of the night killed a zero level character. I think everyone at the table fell in love immediately. It was Portal Under the Stars, the zero level adventure that was in the original printings of the book. It's a solid adventure that you can run in a few hours so I highly recommend it as a starter.

After that we got together relatively regularly with 4-7 players each night. I ran a campaign that got it's start initially with Portal, then with Sailors on the Starless Sea when others joined in. Of course that adventure was memorable and one of my players still to this day mentions his poor little female halfling who was yanked off the ship into the deep where the leviathan waited. He had high hopes for her.

We went from Sailors to Hole in the Sky... this was shortly after I got back from my trip to Gary Con (was it V? I can't remember!). Hole in the Sky had just been published and I snagged it at the con. It was a huge hit with the group and a huge blast to run. By this time our core group was fairly well established and we had a nice party of level 1 PCs.

From that point I started mixing it up with old TSR modules as well as Goodman Games adventures and some homebrewed ones as well. During this time I was creating and publishing materials for Labyrinth Lord more than anything, and playing that game online. But locally, face-to-face, it was mostly DCC RPG. I allowed
myself to just play and have fun with DCC rather than worrying about creating publishable materials.

I used certain items and ideas from those funnel adventures to form the basis for the entire campaign. The key NPC from Hole in the Sky became The Blue Queen, the chief villain of the game. The PCs "worked" for her several times (whose gonna say no?) and eventually became her mortal enemies. I went from Hole in the Sky to the classic D&D module B4: The Lost City... which I mashed up with DCC's Peril on the Purple Planet box set. I had snagged that lovely treasure via the Kickstarter and was eager to give it a spin.

I mean come on. Have you seen Peril on the Purple Planet? It's lovely. So much gamable stuff in that box, so I gamed some of it. Not all of it, not by a stretch. But enough.

I know you're going to ask me, so here is how I mashed it up. If you weren't going to ask and don't care, just fuck right off for a minute while I spew my fanboyish gamer squelchies.

The PCs got the boat from Sailors but didn't get to keep it for some reason. I cannot remember why. Anyway, after Hole they found the boat again or another boat. Again, I'm old and I take shitty notes. The point is they found a Viking style ship. There were some undead monsters too. They had been set on a task by The Blue Queen to find one of her warlords, a demon who had been locked up someplace far away. They had a clue about the location of the ship, which would help them find him.

So they find the ship and it's got this funky crystal-based control panel at the helm instead of a wheel. One of the part members, perhaps Nando the Thief, was able to ascertain its usage. There was a helmet he put on and was shown a vast panoramic view of the cosmos. He made some nice saves and was not driven insane and was in fact able to activate the ship which proceeded to propel them through space at warp speed. It was an epic little session and I remember being quite proud of how I described this event and the players seemed to be hugely into it.

Nando wasn't a good pilot and didn't land very smoothly. The party crash landed on a purple world near a large purple ziggurat. This was, in fact, the pyramid from B4.

Here's Part 1 of this meandering series if you're a completist.

The Wonderful & Terrible Things That Effervesced in the OSR Scene, Part 1

I came into the DIY/OSR RPG scene perhaps midway through it's golden lifespan. My understanding is that 2004-2008 is sort of the seeding time and 2008-?? was the flowering and fullness of it's prurient presence*. If I dig back into my archive of files and emails and such, I can see that I was dipping my toes in the water in 2012. I didn't even know it existed prior to that time and the only reason I discovered it - to the best of my failing memory - is that I stumbled across a link or ad for DCC RPG or I happened upon the first episode of the Spellburn podcast. Either way, DCC RPG is really the catalyst that got me into this shit. I very, very quickly found my way to OSRIC, Basic Fantasy RPG, and podcasts such as Save or Die and Roll For Initiative.

Given that nearly all my postings and publishings since then have been aligned with basic D&D and it's spiritual successors, I found my niche. I have created scant few things for DCC RPG and no publications. I love the game, but have been resistant to creating for it for some reason.

I was talking to Mike Evans recently about game systems and the conversation lead me once again to a post on Daniel Sell's blog What Would Conan Do: How to be an adventurer. I am not entirely sure, but I bet I've mentioned this and linked to it more times than anything else in the movement. It was a huge influence on how I've been thinking about gaming ever since because it pinged so many of my quibbles and gripes about D&D and how to effortlessly house-rule them away.

Blog posts such as that one are the reason this creative scene has been so god damned beautiful. And of course there are more. Many, many more.

(Suddenly I have a lot of rambling things to say about this topic. I'll post more later, if for no other reason than I want/need to talk about it "out loud". Maybe I'll get to the "terrible things" as hinted at in the title of this post. Also, I'm not going to obsessively hyperlink everything in every post. I think by now everyone who might read this knows where the fuck to find DCC RPG.)

(*NOTE: I'm not suggesting that the movement is dead or anything. I am not a good judge of these things. I know I still love creating in this vein and so do a lot of other people so... not dead. But changed, altered, completely transformed in many ways that could be linked temporally to the death of G+ among other events.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dungeon World

Here's a game I haven't played or even read or explored to any real degree: Dungeon World. Which is a shame because it has a fairly robust following with a DIY community of content creators.

I remember picking the book up while in a game store in New Orleans years ago and the reason I put it back down was IT WAS TOO THICK. That's right. I'm at that age where anything over 120 pages is going to make me think "Oh man... I can't commit to reading this." *sigh*

Of course a large bulk of the book is apparently rehashed lists of standard D&D tropes, such as classic monsters and spells. So you don't have to just read all that... it's reference if you need it.

The system seems to be simple. It's 2d6 and you just have to hit a standard target number. There's also a gray area so rolls are not binary. It is based on Apocalypse World, of course, which is where the system comes from. Here's a video about that's fun to watch, though I think he wasn't aware that this is Powered by the Apocalypse:

So yeah. This game is next on my to-buy-and-play list. Just as soon as my obsession with Troika! levels out.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Dwarf Wants the Key

A random sketch. I like to think the dwarf is standing in the lap of this huge guy.

Leopard Women of Venus

I did some art for this DCC RPG-compatible game that's currently on Kickstarter, so please check it out! The previous version was for QUAGS (Quick Ass Game System). The setting is inspired artist Fletcher Hanks (1889-1976).

Kickstarter banner.

Here's a comic panel by Fletcher Hanks!

Some of my art for the book.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Black Pudding Heavy Helping Vol. One... Still Alive!

Never hurts to promote your work now and then...

Black Pudding Heavy Helping Vol. One is a re-organized, slightly re-mixed hardcover collection of the first four issues of my OSR-style RPG gaming zine Black Pudding. It's heavy on style and cartoony fantasy art with plenty of game-ready stuff like character classes, monsters, spellbooks, and ready-to-roll dungeons!

Hoard Horrors!
Whispering Vaults!
Sinewy Barbarians!
A Goblin!

With some nice contributions here-and-there from people such as Matt Hildebrand, Karl Stjernberg, Jayne Praxis, and Ed Heil!

The hardback book is a mere pittance at $18 and if you're cheap or you don't do paper then you can get a PDF for a trifle $6. You cannot fail in this adventure. But if you do, there's a random table to find out what the monster does with your ruined corpse.

Get yours while supplies last!

Front cover

Back cover

Monday, October 21, 2019

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Supercalla Cover Art

As I said once or twice, I'm writing a Troika! space fantasy setting. At first it was to be called Zoa, which is kind of a larger broader title. Then I went with Hellion Cross, to focus on one little region. Then I shifted a bit and now it's a space highway called the Supercalla. Hellion Cross, being a large location on the highway, may get its own book later.

Anyhow... here's the cover art! I really loved drawing this one. It's one of those examples of an idea popping into your head fully formed and then falling down on the page without much effort. And I like that.

Friday, October 4, 2019


Pin-Up Devil Girl

A little classic pin-up action. Devil girls are the bomb.


For the upcoming Troika! setting, here is background 22...


Back on the Hawkmoon there is a battle cry: Beak and steel, talons and will! Where there is atmosphere, you soar on feathered wings. Where there is naught, the jetpack will do. The Shrew Parliament are out to kill you and you're out to kill them.

-Featherlite armor
-Arm canon (dmg as fusil)
-Dried mice snacks

2 Talons & Beak (dmg as small beast)
3 Fly
2 Pistol
1 Canon
2 Keen Vision 

Fly twice as fast and twice as far by doffing armor (takes 1 minute; 5 minutes to don).

Troika! Musings... How Much is Too Much?

I'm still working on a Troika! setting book in the sci-fantasy aesthetic (very fitting to the game!). I finished the d66 table of backgrounds several weeks ago - the meat of any good Troika! setting. But I've been tweaking it here and there. I've replaced a few as better ideas emerge. Sometimes though it's very hard to make a choice because now I'm down to the point where all of them are near and dear.

I guess I could do two d66 tables. Or just do another book after this one. My inclination is to keep it simple and short because I feel like that's the great strength of this game. You start with some seeds and see what grows. Too many seeds might be untenable.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Barbarians of the Ruined Earth Alternate Cover

Here is my finished alternate cover for Mike Evans' Barbarians of the Ruined Earth (check out the Kickstarter).

I'm happy with this. I wanted a comic book vibe with action and spectacle and I think I pulled it off. I'm not sure why the giant robot is spitting liquid fire but I thought it was very metal so I kept it.

Ah, but what is this game you ask?

Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, from here on known as BotRE, is a post-apocaliptic sci-fantasy RPG in the spirit of Thundarr the Barbarian. So basically swords, sorcery, and super-science. It is based on The Black Hack by David Black, which is one of the best and most versatile old-school RPG engines around. If you have played D&D you will recognize many of the tropes of the game system, though it plays quite differently. For example, in BotRE and TBH the players do nearly all the dice rolling. The GM only rolls for things like random tables and whatever madness they have going on behind the screen. They GM doesn't touch dice otherwise. Let the players do the work.

So check it out.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sketch for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth Cover

Work in progress... pretty metal?

Here's the Kickstarter!

Decommissioned Warbot

Here's #46 on the Backgrounds Table for Hellion Cross. This guy has seen its better days but maybe it's got some spark left in its metal bones.

46. Decommissioned Warbot (AWOL)

In your heyday you were a first-class robot warrior with a really big canon. You used to level buildings. But too many drops into hot messes has left you battered, broken, and beset with bugs. They took your canon first, then they slated you for spare parts storage. That just didn’t sit right with your over-stressed AI... so you opted out of the program. With your fist. What will you do when the Law finally catches up with you? 

-Long distance scanner 
-Welding torch finger 
-Short distance boosters (for flying) 
-Detachable limbs 
-Pick one weapon: PL22, 11 gauge shotgun, revolver, RIG 207
-Robot body (armor 2) 

Advanced Skills:
4 Pistol 
4 Rifle 
2 Strength 
2 Fly 

In times of stress, the GM may call for a Luck test. If you blow it then something inside you blows, at least for a short time. Your body has been scavenged. Roll 1d6 to find out how. 

Missing hand.  
Missing arm.  
Missing part of head.  
Power module incomplete; 1d6 hour recharge time  
Rust prevention gone; avoid water.  
Hard skin stripped to 1 armor.  

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Blas-Tar Field Agent

Here's #15 on the Backgrounds table for the Troika! setting book that I'm currently writing. Working title for the project as of now: Hellion Cross!

15. Blas-Tar Field Agent

You had one dream: blow stuff up and get paid doing it. Well congratulations! You’re living the dream as a rep for Blas-Star, one of the most popular arms manufacturers in the Coz. Each day you get to travel with customers and explode stuff, followed by paperwork and Dramurian rotgut. And you like it... maybe a little too much?

-2d6 Blas-Tar Boppers
-Blas-Tar Blas-Ter blaster
-1 random Blas-Tar demo item (1-2 Blas-Ter, 3 QuEF [Quantum Entangled Fist], 4 Pulsed Plasma Pistol, 5 Pulsed Plasma Rifle, 6 experimental Blas-Tar Bopper)
-Company credit card
-Standard issue company saber

Advanced Skills:
4 Knowledge: Blas-Tar Corporation
4 Demolitions
1 Pistol
1 Sword
2 Smooth Talk
2 Corporate Connections

You can use your corporate connections skill to secure demo products, travel accommodations, and diplomatic immunities (where recognized). But only when corporate bothers to return your pages.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Troika! Character Sheet #2

This is my second effort at making a Troika! character sheet. It was a lot more fun. Here's the PDF, for you weirdos who like that stuff.

Troika! Character Sheet #1

Here's my first effort at making a Troika! sheet. It's not great, but it helped me get a feel for the spacing required and gave me more comfort with the elements.

Here's a link to a PDF of the sheet.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Zoa Space Fantasy Design Notes #1

I'm in the early stages of creating a Troika!-based sci-fantasy RPG. The working title has always been Zoa Space Fantasy, but that is subject to change. An alternate title I have on the table is Hellion Cross, which is the name of a specific sunrealm within the larger setting of the Coz.

Here are a couple of design choices I'm currently wrestling with.

1. Should this be a Troika! setting or a standalone RPG based on Troika!? My inclination is to make it standalone. My only reason for entertaining the idea of making it a setting is that it would be slightly easier to pull that off. Of course this game has precious few rules so really we're not talking about a huge amount of work to make it a standalone book. The benefit of going that direction is also that I can incorporate "house rules" directly into the actual rules.

2. I had this notion that the Backgrounds would either be in 3 sets of 36 or 6 sets of 36. I feel like 6 sets is a little overkill. It would be fun to create that many, but maybe that would make choosing a Background a little harder. Rolling for it would be as easier either way.

3. How much of the setting is implied by the Backgrounds vs. explicitly described in other sections? What I love about Troika! is that the Backgrounds do in fact give you a sketch of a setting and that's really all you need in order to get a game going. From there it can go anywhere. So here the conceit of the world-builder comes into conflict with the game's very simple aesthetic. The more I enforce the crunchy details of this world the less room you have as a player to be playful and creative. I have always gravitated to things that give me more room to play and be creative, so why would I want to create something that hinders people?

What I'm leaning toward right now is to have the vast majority of the setting suggested within the Backgrounds and maybe give the broad setting an Isle of Dread-style treatment... brief little paragraphs describing the major concepts and places - information that would fit on a couple of pages at most.

Ultimately I'd like to make this a fairly visual book, saddle-stitched and in the realm of 48-64 pages. Probably in color, like a 70s comic art album. A thing that inspires role-playing more than directing it.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Blue Wizard (finished)

I posted the sketch for this guy a while back. Here's the finished art. The version appearing in The Hole in the Oak is cropped a bit.

Back in my day, sonny, we rolled our only d6 up hill in the snow. Both wa-- well you get what I'm sayin'.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sorsha Corvette

Here is spacer chick Sorsha Corvette written up for Troika! RPG. I'm diving in hard and fast to work on my game Zoa Space Fantasy!

Sorsha Corvette

Skill 6
Stamina 20
Luck 12

Advanced Skills

3 Laser Musket
2 Hand to Hand Combat
2 Hand Canon
1 Pilot
2 Nuclear Karaoke


Zot Laser Musket (2,3,6,8,10,15,20)
2 Plasma Packs
RIG 77 Hand Canon (2,3,4,5,6,8,11)
3 Rig Rounds Cartridges
Siperion Hyper Screen (2 armor)

But what the actual fuck is Troika!?

Right. So mostly this blog has been focused on material compatible with old D&D, particularly the 1981 Basic/Expert variety. My most beloved and magical friend. Hell, the title of my blog includes the line "adventures for 1st to 14th level characters"... a direct reference to B/X D&D.

Troika! is not D&D. And yes, the "!" is in the title.

Troika! is an RPG written by Daniel Sell. I believe he had help from Jeremy Duncan, who did art for the game. Like Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry are "clones" of old D&D, Troika! is a "clone" of Fighting Fantasy, a British RPG that evolved from some choose-your-own-adventure books in the 80s.

(Here I am in unfamiliar territory. While I have become an armchair expert on classic D&D I am an armchair idiot with regards to Fighting Fantasy.)

So, the broad strokes of Troika! are as follows.

It is a very simple game. It uses d6s only. Characters have Skill, Stamina, and Luck as well as a collection of Advanced Skills and Possessions. That's pretty much it. You roll 2d6 vs. your Skill + Advanced Skill (where applicable) to do stuff, trying to roll under. When opposed, you roll vs. and try to roll higher than your opponent. When Stamina is reduced to zero you die. You are sometimes asked to Test your Luck - rolling under it to avoid some fate or another.

When you use Advanced Skills you can put a tick mark next to them on your sheet. Then, when the time seems appropriate, you can roll to see if you improve them.

There is little more to it than that. And it is quite a beautiful thing. I ran a short game of Troika! set in the Zoa Space Fantasy universe a few months ago and rather enjoyed the shit out of it. So I'm actively working on a full RPG. More later.

Bad Bunny Landing

Here's a re-colored version of an old drawing. I like this much better. More atmo!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Priest of the Upper Ocular Cavity

This is a character background for Troika!, an RPG based on Fighting Fantasy. Imagine that... a sort of "clone" that isn't based on D&D! Whhhhaaaaa??

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Hole in the Oak Adventure Module

The Hole in the Oak, an official adventure module for Old School Essentialsis now available at DriveThruRPG. I illustrated this adventure, which was written by Gavin Norman and published by his imprint Necrotic Gnome.

A hole in an old oak tree leads characters down to
a maze of twisting, root-riddled passageways, the
chambers of an ancient wizard-complex, and the
banks of an underground river where once a reptile
cult built their temples.

A classic dungeon adventure for characters of 1st to
2nd level

Babies. They're going to get you.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Artin' All Over Myself

I really like this old sketchbook page.
Today I have been spending a lot of time just going through art files. I have a lot of them. I have many that I forgot about drawing. Some of them are good, some bad. Some really good. And some really quite bad.

Which of course is entirely subjective, like all art.

Unsurprisingly, at least 40% of my art is in the genre of the pinup. That is to say... saucy. Sexy. Busty. Etc. I've been drawing pinup art since about 1991 when I was 21 years old.

Well... let's think about that. One of my first D&D characters was Catina, a warrior woman in a tiger skin bikini. I drew lots of pictures of her fighting and posing.

So I guess I actually started doing pinup art when I was a teen... the same time I found D&D, Tanith Lee, Conan, and girls.

Sifting through art is a great way to gauge your skills and shortcomings. I had a spell that lasted several years between 2008 and 2012 where I was cranking out shitty art. Like, some of it was just objectively bad. I was learning how to draw digitally and often falling into the pitfalls of sloppy digital work.

Turns out the secret to drawing digitally is the same as any other drawing.