But hey in this post I didn't include the very cover image that introduced me to Michael Golden. Behold the glory of Savage Sword of Conan #105. This was one of the first issues I bought off the shelf. And man o man do I love this issue. It's a simple story about Conan seeking refuge and food in a random windmill and having to kill every last motherfucker he brought with him to sustain his god damn honor. Fuck yes, Conan. Fuck yes.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Monday, December 28, 2020
Bit of a rant here.
There's a lot of bad art wisdom out there. I grew up hearing a lot of things that simply are no not true and it probably some impact on how I developed as an artist. I dunno. But bottom line is that this shit is false.
Here are a few falsehoods on my mind lately that bug me when I hear them. To be clear, I don't hear these often. But they are out there.
1. You need to sketchbook
2. Trad art is more genuine
3. Tracing is cheating
4. It takes training
5. You draw so you can paint motorcycles and do baseball logos
1. YOU NEED TO SKETCHBOOK
No, not really. It's nice to sketchbook and I'm an advocate for doing it. But you don't have to. I haven't kept a "real" sketchbook in years. I sketch all the time on my tablet, on notebooks, scrap paper, etc. Most artists just like to doodle. But you know what? You don't have to do that shit if you don't wanna.
Draw when you want, where you want.
2. TRAD ART IS MORE GENUINE
Fuck off. This is just elitist garbage along the lines of "digital art is not real art" bullshit. I remember getting into an argument with a good friend in the early 90s when we were looking at Batman: Digital Justice. He felt like it was not real art. I strongly disagreed.
Art is not limited to any given medium. Medium is the thing through which you express art. Arting through a crow quill is no more or less art than arting through a Wacom tablet. So get over yourself already.
3. TRACING IS CHEATING
What the fuck does it mean to "cheat" in art? That's such a bizarre thing to think. I grew up hearing this a bunch. The measure of a good artist was the ability to "freehand" a photorealistic likeness onto the paper with the power and strength of your art muscles. Preferably with only a single pencil, which is a bit like a sword or a dick.
And yet I learned various techniques for cheating in art from art classes. I learned how to do those grid things where you grid out an image then blow up the grid with a projector and then draw what's in each square, but larger. There's probably a name for that.
One drawing technique I learned in 6th grade was how to transfer-trace images. I either learned it from a kid named Danny or I made it up. Or, more likely, I picked it up from using those Preso-Magix transfer sets. The technique was to graphite the backside of an image such as a comic book cover, then use a ball point pen (dry, old, didn't matter) to trace the image onto a clean sheet of paper. Bam! You got a perfect tracing of the comic art. Then you would pencil or ink or color it to perfection.
I credit this stupid simple method with at least 50% of the development of my drawing skills. I ruined SO MANY comic book covers. I am so very sorry, Peter Parker.
Anyway. Tracing is fine. Do it. Trace some shit off then draw from it. Like riffing on a good song. Of course stealing other peoples' art is not cool at all so if you're gonna trace something make it your own or just do it for practice. Don't be a dooshnozzle, geez.
4. IT TAKES TRAINING
To do what? To art? No, actually, it doesn't.
Training and practice are great, don't get me wrong. You can learn some amazing tricks and tighten up your game this way. If you want to be a highly paid professional, then training probably does matter a little. But to art? Fuck no. You just do it. The doing it part is training, anyway. Don't turn this into a kung fu movie wherein you have to seek out the Master to teach you the Reverse Dragon Nib Technique.
5. YOU CAN DRAW, SO YOU SHOULD PAINT MOTORCYCLES AND DO BASEBALL LOGOS
This is a personal pet peeve. I grew up being known as the kid who can draw. Having that reputation meant family and friends would often recruit me to do things like draw their dog, draw their car, draw their mom, paint on their wall, paint their motorcycle gas tank, design their little league logo, etc. And sometimes I'd do it and always always I would hate every minute of it.
Maybe I'm just a selfish bastard. But I like to draw what I like to draw and I don't like to draw what I don't like to draw. It's a dumb-simple concept but that's how the shit is. I am not a car painter nor am I a mural artist. I draw cartoons and pinups and RPG art and if I wanted to pain motorcycle gas tanks I'd fuckin' be doing it.
(Though, being honest, I think painting motorcycle tanks would be hella fun! I just have no idea how to even begin doing it.)
I probably traced the figure in this drawing from some magazine ad. I don't remember as it was like 25 years ago or something. It doesn't matter one fuck because this drawing is not a demonstration of my freehand muscles and assuming it should be is some dumb shit.
Now, I wanna be really clear. Being a skilled freehand artist who can draw your kid's face without tracing or anything at all is fantastic! Good on you. But doing it like that is not a requirement for arting nor does it make the arting better, as a rule. It's just another cool thing you can get good at.
I used to have my own website then I let it go because I wasn't doing much with it. But I figure it's time to get my own domain again so I can point people to stuff that isn't just FB, Instagram, or a blog. Maybe take this shit a little more seriously. Harrumph.
So I registered jvwest.art and I'm working on getting it setup. I went with Squarespace because it's been a decade since I dabbled in web design and frankly I ain't got time for bullshit. I need to draw and make games, not deal with fiddly code*. Code monkey I ain't.
Not sure when I'll make it live. I'm gonna work on it this week and see what I can get done. Kinda stoked, actually. It's a bit like moving into a house. But far cheaper and low risk and I don't pull a muscle.
*I spent hours tonight just making desktop wallpapers of my favorite comics and magazine covers and drinking Even More Jesus so don't let me preach to you about getting shit done. Holy shit this beer is 12% alcohol? This explains so much.
Ah the power of a cover. The absolute magical power of a cover. I would buy this magazine without opening it. In fact, I did. I bought this off the rack as soon as I saw it, no questions asked. Of course the interior was nice. The Michael Golden Vietnam story was compelling. But still... the fuckin' cover comes in blazing and shouting and screaming and I was like "FUUUUUUUCK YES."
Monday, December 21, 2020
I must really like this guy because I posted about it here too and forgot.
Don't know shit about Golden as a person and I'm afraid to dig. I love his classic art! It has a Richard Corben quality, don't you think?
Sunday, December 20, 2020
In my recent deep dive into storage I revisited an old game I designed in the mid-90s. It's called ROC RPG, which stands for Random Order Creations Roleplaying Game. I didn't get too creative with the title as it was just a simple system for me to use - not to publish.
I ran this system on numerous occasions between 1995 and 1999. I can't recall how many times, nor all the contexts. It was not robust in the technical sense. It was just a skeleton of a game, but it was enough for me to use in pursuit of the fine art of "wing that mother".
The game was this:
You get 20 points. You write down whatever skills, abilities, and special things you want and distribute your points between them. These are called traits. When you take action, you roll 1d20 + the points for your relevant trait. The GM would have a target number in mind or written down that you had to beat. At the end of an adventure you would earn maybe 1-3 points that you could use for more skills or to improve old ones.
That was the entirety of the game. I think the way I handled combat, wounds, and death was wing-that-mother. If it felt like you should be killed, you'd roll 1d20 + trait to avoid death.
Over time I added some crunch. Not much. I added Path (class) and Ability Level (level). So I think the way this worked was if you did a thing related to your Path you'd add your Ability Level to d20 rolls. Otherwise you would just use your traits. Still no hit point or death system to speak of.
|This character sheet is for a slightly more robust version of the game.|
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
Has it been 3 months since my last RPG folder post?? Yeah, I think so. Here's another batch of three RPGs I clicked on randomly (like, I close my eyes and move the mouse around and click a file. Hope there's nothing evil in here.e-Adventure Tiles: Swamps by Edward Bourelle is exactly what the title says it is. A packet of something like 16 1" gridded swamp tiles. Print, trim, put minifigs on 'em. They look pretty good. I have almost no experience with this style of gaming but when I was using a battle mat I understood the value in having a precise map. For certain types of games.
Kingscairn: a Troika! Zine by Uyuxo Games with lots of public domain art by William Thomas Horton is a Troika! zine.
Modernity is a thriller setting where modern meets mystery, where factfights fiction, and where skepticism slams headlong into superstition.The several billion denizens of an otherwise mundane Earth circa “rightnow” share reality with tabloid headlines that can be revealed in all theirgrisly truth by heroes who dare to uncover their secrets.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
In this post I talked about how I'm doing creatures in GOZR. Not much has changed since then. My stat block is the same, but I added Pack to give you an idea of how many of the creatures might be encountered.
I think I already described the fundamental game system in this post. Clearly this game owes a lot to games that came before it, so I'm going to include a section shouting out my inspirations to the best of my ability. For certain, classic D&D (specifically 1981 era) had a massive influence and some of its language is maintained herein (hit points are there, and the damage ranges are fairly in line with D&D). The Black Hack's abstract treatment of distance is something I completely stole for GOZR. But instead of a usage die mechanic I actually prefer players to just keep track of their shit. So the charsheet will have an "ammo" tracker. My own game, The Pool, has its stamp on GOZR as well. You can spend GOOZ to add "game story facts". A direct nod to The Pool and the early story gaming movement.
One game that definitely has inspired me is Mörk Borg. However, I am not sure to what extent that game inspired GOZR. I did a little archaeology and found that I had made public posts about acquiring the Mörk Borg in mid-March 2020. But my oldest GOZR document is dated March 8 and it does not mention the Swedish death metal game, despite mentioning Black Hack, OD&D, Into the Odd, and others as inspirations. So I believe GOZR predates my exposure to Mörk Borg by a week or so. After that, the game definitely hit me between the eyes and I love it. So big shout out to Sweden for the inspiration.
Regarding mechanics... I'm not sure what I lifted from Mörk Borg that I didn't find in other games. The concept of subtracting armor from damage is pretty common. But for sure the overall no-fucks-given design aesthetic of the game was inspiring to me. Because clearly, when you see GOZR finished, you will not find a lot of fucks given. It's an early 80s hard rock/metal notebook doodle game. Sort of.
I am not sure how this will all play out. Yesterday as I worked on the project I had the epiphany that this is a "sketchbook RPG". Meaning: I'm composing it the same way I would approach pages in a sketchbook, but with more of an eye toward clarity and organization. It is definitely not a game that total noobs would likely pick up and run. I do assume a lot of pre-existing RPG knowledge. I am not including a "how to play" or "what is roleplaying" section. I think I even use the term "PC" without clarifying what that is.
It's going to be a hot god damn mess but I do love it. I'm 24 finished pages in! Some of these are dense with info, some are less so. Thus, sketchbooky.
I don't know the final page count. I was kinda hoping 28. But I haven't even got to the equipment, weird magic and tech items, weapons, random encounter tables, or adventure yet. Holy shit. This might hit 44 hand-crafted pages before I'm finished.
See you in 2025.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
I was sitting here working on GOZR one fine morning when I thought to myself "that white space could use a fine belt buckle". And so was born the gooz cultural fascination with them.
Like many things in the game, this is just some random table shit. See that half moon by the title? Wherever you see that moon you know that's a table you can roll on, if you feel like it. It's optional.
Monday, November 30, 2020
Here are ten islands of Rone. I named them and gave them each a small description for the game. Eventually, if luck holds, I'll produce a nice little RPG book out of this and expand on each, with some cool maps and such.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
I own several of the Modiphius Conan 2d20 game books. I'm not even sure which ones... like 8 of them though. I have never read them, nor played them. I picked them up because the covers looked sweet and I figured with that much content they're bound to be useful. Also I'm a big Conan fan.
But I don't know. Them's some big ass books. My RPG aesthetic is simpler. I like games that I can hold in one hand. Of course I won't write these off until I know more about them. I did watch a few video reviews and based on what I'm seeing I would say that I might enjoy playing but would not enjoy running this game.
One thing I noticed was they had a Doom pool - which is a resource the GM can use to make things harder for the PCs. I have used similar rules before. I remember drafting a game called Black Wing back in the early 2000s and that game had Doom that served a similar purpose, if I recall. Also my draft of Sand in the Bone features a very similar mechanic. So it's nice to see I'm not alone in thinking this is a cool idea.
Will I ever learn this game and run it or play it? Almost zero chance. But I like that it exists. It looks pretty.
Friday, November 27, 2020
For your edification, here are some things I found when digging through my storage boxes a couple weeks ago. These things have been on ice for two decades in most cases. Some of them I probably picked up randomly in the intervening years.
The Dungeoneers, 1986. I don't remember buying this. I have never looked inside its pages. Not even when I ran across it Sunday. Too much to do, no time for play. Will revisit.
I have plenty of copies of Ape Entertainment's Omnibous... because I had a story in it and I picked up extra copies. I really need to do something with these.
I had a Zarp comic published in the 90s. Twisted Gate was the publisher.
|Before Pickle Rick...|
|From my friend Steve Coffin.|
|I have a bunch of these art portfolios!|
In this post I presented a Wizard class for BX that I'm using in a current campaign. I tweaked it a little and added my own art in this updated version. It is compatible with BX but definitely has more bells and whistles. Still... it's all on one page, with art and an XP table. So it's not too crunchy. I like it. I think this would make the beginning spellcaster more interesting to play. And yes, this class does in fact replace Magic-Users and Clerics in my current BX game.
Thursday, November 26, 2020
|Art © Glen Michael Angus, R.I.P.|
We had session zero of Lesser Gods of Rone Monday night. We spent most of it making characters, discussing the setting, and sort of figuring things out. We got into the adventure for about half an hour - long enough that all the PCs are now in the same boat. Literally. Except the Lake Thing swimming near it.
We do have a Wizard in the party, so here's that character class. It's essentially the BX Magic-User with a few tweaks. Unless we run into any serious issues, this class will replace the MU in all my D&D games.
What's different about the Wizard vs. the BX Magic-User?
-Penalty to reaction rolls. Because wizards are weird and nobody should trust them.
-Fewer weapon restrictions. Because it's silly to limit them to a dagger. Just silly.
-You can wear armor, but it makes casting hard. Because it's more interesting that way. Most PCs will avoid it because of the difficulty. But hey... maybe you want to put some on because you're out of spell slots and you need to make it through this risky pass.
-MU and Cleric spells. This is just because I am not using Clerics in this campaign. Cult leaders can be Wizards. Or a special class. I never liked the basic Cleric anyway. (I'm also disallowing the memorization of the same spell more than once. So even if you do have a Cure Light Wounds spell you only have one of them.)
-Potion brewing. With an adequate lab, of course.
-Magical research emphasized (X51 needs love). And no need to wait until level 9 to create magic items.
-You begin play with a cool item. Because it's more fun that way. Show up on day one with a hat that sings.
-Disregard for spell level slots. This is just a house rule that I prefer. You just add up all spell slots and that's how many spells per day you can cast. You can't cast any spell level higher than your class level. Done.
This class was an amalgam of how I tend to treat MUs anyway + some inspiration from Stuart Robertson's BX Witch - one of the most elegant BX classes I found in the OSR circles. I was gonna have Wizard and Witch but decided there's really no need for both when a Wizard class with enough wiggle room can serve nearly all your wizarding needs.
If you dislike this kind of thing because it makes the fighter less interesting to play, you could just give the fighter some love. I love the barebones BX game as much as anyone, but all of us house rule it. Nobody runs it truly RAW.
So... The party includes a Wizard (Jayne X Praxis), Lake Thing, Medusa (modified Black Pudding version, Dyson Logos), Nightkind (a piece of the night that woke up), and a Mariner (Andy Solberg). I'll post up all the classes eventually.
The Wizard is searching for their lost dad and the Nightkind is accompanying them, perhaps to understand a weird dream power they seem to be manifesting. They got a ride from the Mariner and picked up the Medusa as her island sank into the drink (related to the campaign? hmmmm...). The Lake Thing approaches because someone has been poaching gators from his swamp island and maybe it's this weird bunch in the rowboat.
The session ended with the PCs approaching the island of Knobbybones where a huge harpoon ballista was pointed at their rowboat by some unknown entities.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
I am going to run a new campaign for the Monday night Doomslakers group. It is set in a world called Rone, which is a lake world I dreamed up maybe 15 years ago. I pitched it to the group like this:
Jack Kirby and Mike Ploog fall into an EC Comics fantasy world controlled by the better side of Vaughn Bodé's imagination. A mist-covered lake riddled with tall, mossy islands and weird creatures. Old gods beneath the dark waters. Strange races of weirdos. Long lost temples. Robots. Armies of ants. Waterlogged dungeons where slumbering computers reboot as you tread the dead hallways. It is a platform game slick with algae.
It's a BX D&D based campaign with 9 custom classes, including the one pictured here. Should be a hoot! Might even be a published thingie for Old School Essentials to be squeezed out of it.