Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Big Book of Bodé Tattoos

 My wife got me this for the ole birthday and I love it.

This is a fat ass 400 page hardback of Mark Bodé's tattoo flash art. So you're gonna see a lot of Da Bodé babes, Cheech Wizard, lizards, as well a lot of more typical tattoo art such as butterflies and skulls.

If you like Bodé, you'll fucking love this.

So, for personal context, a lot of people compare my art to Bodé. I am a huge fan. But honestly I didn't discover Vaughn or Mark's work until I was 30 years old. And yes, you can certainly see a shift in how I draw before this and after it. I turned 30 in 2000 and it was around 2002-2003 that my cartoon art style really started to gel. Before that I was a stiffer, more boring artist, I believe. Hell, I'm not even sure how I drew shit in the 90s.

But let's peel it back a little more because Bodé's style had an impact on me BEFORE that time. How? Because Vaughn's work had already infiltrated pop culture, which infiltrated me. I watched Ralph Bakshi's Wizards when I was about 17. I watched Fire and Ice around that time, and Heavy Metal. I had issues of Heavy Metal. I owned Richard Corben comics. I was into Mike Ploog and Frank Frazetta. Vaughn Bodé is a large figure in that same lineage, though I wasn't able to land on him until a decade later. His influence was in me via Wizards, which of course was immensely influenced by Bodé.

We artists don't like being compared to other artists too closely. It feels weird. I don't "draw like Vaughn Bodé", I draw like J.V. West. And J.V. West was inspired by Bodé, Frazetta, Corben, and Willingham like a bomb.

Today when people say my work reminds them of Vaughn Bodé I am humbled. I can't think of a better compliment, to be honest.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Troika! RPG Review


Way back in the stone age days of G+, there was this weird game that fermented and grew in my peripheral view called Troika!. I ignored it. Not because it didn't look cool or whatever, it's just that it wasn't D&D and wasn't interesting to me at that time. The guy who made it, Daniel Sell, was also a peripheral figure in my view. I had read and been greatly inspired by Daniel's blog post "How to be an adventurer" on his blog What Would Conan Do. But my brain didn't connect those dots at the time.

The game was also associated with Jeremy Duncan, another figure looming in the periphery of my brain but who I just didn't know much about. Turns out he drew most of the original weird art for it.

Soon Troika! seemed to be the talk of the town. There was a Kickstarter. There was something about a "Numinous" edition. G+ died somewhere in that time zone and I'm honestly not sure which event came first. At some point I finally got a copy of the game and read it and was quite inspired. It's a damn fine game, and I'm going to talk a little bit about it here.


Troika! is a hack of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a popular British RPG that originated as a choose-your-own kind of adventure book series. I'm not sure the author likes referring to it that way or not as I'm not terribly involved (like... not at all) in Troika! comings-and-goings. In a guest post at the blog Thoul's Paradise, Daniel said this:

"Troika is the inevitable hospice of a tired mind."

And this:

"It was built as a strongly worded objection to the vogue of transparency and usefulness. It still holds immediacy, since anyone can play the game in a matter of hours if they want. They just need to go limp and enjoy a state of comfortable confusion. The book doesn’t need to tell people that it expects them to decide what is happening for themselves since it offers few answers and the answers present are contradictory."

So it seems the author is not a fan of clarifying the intent of his game. Not only do I respect this, I admire it.

The game is a bit like this:

You have a Skill score and some Advanced Skills that represent what you are good at or about.

There are two types of rolls.

Roll Under means roll 2d6, trying to get under your Skill + Advanced Skill.

Roll Vs. means rolling 2d6 + Skill + Advanced Skill vs. an opposing similar roll, probably made by the GM.

For combat, you have Stamina. This functions like hit points. When it runs out you are dead.

Initiative in combat is determined by pulling stones from a sack or cards from a deck or something similar. I used the Troika! initiative cards, which I highly recommend. You put x number of cards in the stack for enemies and each PC gets 2 cards. You draw out a card and that person goes next. There is an end of round card that is mixed in as well.

There is a Luck score. You can spend Luck only for a couple of benefits, including extra damage on a hit. You can also make Roll Under Luck rolls, which are kind of like D&D's saving throws. So, as in DCC RPG, when you spend Luck you run the risk of being out of Luck when you have to make that fateful Roll Under Luck test.

Over time, you get to roll 2d6 vs. your various Advanced Skills, trying to roll OVER them. If you do, you get to improve them by 1. This is how you advance and learn new skills. But advancement isn't a big concern with this game. I don't think the game is meant to play in "campaign mode".

Casting spells costs Stamina points. Your wizard will become quite weak and fatigued if you try to blast everything around you all the time like Tim the Enchanter.

For character creation, you roll on a d66 table (36 results) to see which background you get. Each background is like a little evocative description of a character at one place in time. You get a little flavor text, some skills, and some items. From there you can mold the character in any way you wish. The backgrounds ARE the setting for Troika!.

Ok, that's pretty much it.


d66 tables: Love 'em. I've adopted their use in other projects I've been working on. While Troika! is not the first time I saw a d66 table, it is definitely the game that made them loom large in my mind. I also started using d44 and d88 tables as well.

Backgrounds: Love 'em. So much flavor and world-building can be stuffed into these simple little portraits. You can, and should, write d66 background tables AS SETTINGS. I've written two of them myself. It's god damn fun.

Damage tables: Love 'em. They allow you to have a pretty wide variety of weapon damage only using 1d6 per damage roll. It's a nice visual artifact too. You could add a secondary 1d6 table to your weapon for weird FX. Like if it's a strange esoteric device maybe it sometimes zaps, sometimes burns, sometimes freezes. Interesting idea. See how this game inspires?

Inventory system: Love it. I am absolutely stealing it for my own games from now on. If you want that hand grenade handy, put it at the top of your list.

Spells: Love 'em. Very simple and direct. We don't need to know about how many cubic meters a wizard can burn. We just need the broad strokes.

Monsters' miens: Love it. Like a mini reaction roll table tailored to each critter.

Initiative stack: Love it. Quick and dirty and doesn't get in the way. Initiative systems always irritate me because they slow things down. This one does not slow things down. But see below.

The actual physical book: AWESOME. If you don't have a copy of the hardback Numinous Edition, GET IT. Lovely little tome that feels good in your hands and has delicious art by Jeremy Duncan, Dirk Detweiler Leichty, Sam Mameli, and Andrew Walter.


Initiative stack: I LOVE the concept and it plays fast. But it has mixed results. It can lead to long stretches where one player is unable to act at all. Which leads to kind of ridiculous results... Mid-combat, you are literally in the face of the enemy but somehow 4 other PCs and 6 other enemies take actions before you. I know this is a GM fiat thing. In that situation, the GM should just let the player go next. But that means ignoring the initiative rules, which invites the question "is this a good system or does it need work?". Players in my Troika! adventures seemed to be on the fence about it.

Skill and Advanced Skill: The language is clumsy. It's straight from Fighting Fantasy, I believe, so this is carried over. But it would be easier in play if it was something like Level and Skills or Power and Skills. Skill and Skills = a bit of confusion.

Roll Under/Over: Similar to Skill/Advanced Skill, the fact that your core mechanics require you to roll under for some things and over for others is confusing at the table. It is very simple and easy to grok, I know. And it damn sure works. But over the years I've been running games this problem has always reared its head whether it's old school D&D or Troika!. Players who aren't familiar with the game and who probably won't school themselves on it will ALWAYS ask "Do I roll high or roll low on this one?". And it is annoying to have to answer it over and over. So I prefer game designs that don't mix and match these mechanics.


I love the shit out of Troika!. It's a solid, fun game that plays fast and loose. It is endlessly hackable and inspiring. I'm all about inspiration, so I tend to gush about this game. It captured my imagination in a way that very few games ever could. So far I have published two books based on the game and plan to do more.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

GOZR Character Sheet Sketch

This is my first doodle of a GOZR character sheet. The game keeps evolving as I write/draw it. Right now it is as simple as it's been so far and I like where it is heading. But I'm gonna need a separate character sheet for wizards...

Friday, October 23, 2020

Mercury Rising

 I've been in a real drawing mood lately. Which is great because I've also been in a terrible slump, creatively. Very spastic and unfocused. I keep jumping from project to project without getting much done. But I have been drawing, at least.

Freddie Mercury was a god damned force of nature.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Krita vs. Photoshop (7) AGAIN

I installed the latest version of Krita and tried it out again now that I'm back on the Intuos 4. Naturally, it's awesome. Lots of great brushes. The way you can rotate canvas so easily is super cool. I know that rotating my canvas in PS7 is fuckin' stupid slow.

But dammit I just have so much creative energy invested in my PS7 setup. And it's fast. Like... my pen strokes in Krita have lag. I hate that. But when I do a stroke in Photoshop it's instantaneous. Feels very natural. So I guess I won't be budging from my digital grognard stance. I will continue to use a massively outdated drawing program on a massively outdated computer until it dies or I do.

In other news, I've been noodling some comic book ideas. Been a long god damn time since I did a proper comic. I might have mentioned it here before... but comics are a lot of work. Like, a metric shit ton. If you know a comics artist who actually does the work, kiss 'em. They deserve it.

Here's a rat man drawn rapidly in PS7 for shits and giggles.

What's the Plan?

I was just thinking how much I am averse to planning creative projects. I'm such a spoiled brat, creatively, I only want to do what I want to do right then and there and because I have a job and art doesn't may my bills I'm of the mind that it's my god damn business anyway. Right?

Flipside to that bratty stance is that I'm gunshy about failing. I have dived into huge projects in the past only to hit a brick wall and abandon them. I stopped making promises around 2005 or so and just rolled with the flow after that.

But planning ahead can lead to great things. Would we have Old School Essentials in all its glory if Gavin hadn't made a plan and stuck with it? As wild and chaotic as MÖRK BORG appears would we really have that delicious book and all the insane media that surrounds it if Pelle and the creators didn't have a plan?

I guess planning ahead pays off.

I'm still not doing it, though.

This is a picture of a pantsmonster. I was putting on my pants on day and I looked down and thought "That button and zipper looks like some kind of dinosaur". So I took a picture. Later that day I doodled from it, then forgot about it.

And that's what I'm talkin' about. To prove my point I'm scheduling this post ahead of time. That's planning right there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

In a Rage

I doodled a few weirdos in masks a couple of years ago and applied the name "Mask Ragers". I knew it had to become an RPG but it took me a while to get back around to it. For some reason it came around again pretty hard Friday and now I have a game system and premise on my hands. I guess I'll have to make a game, dammit.

Which is, honestly, really fucking cool. I mean, if I can sum up my entire creative plan in life in a single sentence: I want to make a lot of cool books that inspire other people to make cool stuff too.

As the great George Carlin once said: "I got a lot of good ideas. Trouble is most of 'em suck."

Story of my life.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fiasco, Etc.

I recently played Fiasco with the Monday night Doomslakers. It was my first experience with GMless RPGs. Overall, I had a lot of fun. But that was mainly because that's my crew and we always have fun. So what about the game itself?

To be specific, we played a Cthulhu-esque version or playset.

I am not sure how I feel about the game. I hesitate to criticize it because I don't believe I "get it" yet. Favorably, I can say it is brilliant and interesting. Perhaps if I'd read the rules completely I'd have a more robust comprehension. But who can be bothered to do that?

I was confused about how the game is supposed to proceed. I believe this is because my gaming history is almost 100% based in "traditional" (the cool kids say "trad") gaming, so I'm expecting loose RP until things heat up, then some kind of turn order with a person in charge. But GMless games, of course, aren't like that. They have a story structure strictly imposed by the game's rules. Because that's how you generate an actual story... otherwise it's a series of random follies that you can later describe as a story.

I confess I prefer the latter. It's my bag.

But since I've only dipped my toes in GMless and/or story gaming (we're playing My Life With Master now) I am reluctant to offer real criticisms of any of these games. It's not you, it's me, baby.

ASIDE: It is not lost on me that I was involved in early story games development and contributed a modest entry to their history with The Pool and The Questing Beast. But as I've said many times in the intervening years I really never played my games much. Just a handful of times, really. For example, the Monday night group has been meeting every week for over 5 years and we've never played either of my old games, nor have I even suggested or desired to do so. And my games are still structured as GM/Player, with fairly simple narrative tools. To this day in almost every game design I brainstorm there is something akin to the Monologue of Victory from The Pool. I do love that concept and I think it's quite nice in play. But maybe... maybe that's the full extent of my interest in leaning toward ye olde "N" in the G/N/S framework (which, as I understand it, is way out of favor these days... sort of like promoting Lamarckism at university after 1900 - the internet moves fast).

ASIDE 2: Hah! The Questing Beast (TQB) has one star rating in each star category except 1-star! I suppose I should be grateful for that. But it's still funny how people will get a free game and then give it a low rating... like there's not enough salt in the soup at the soup kitchen, ya beggars. lol

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Artist: Sveta Shubina

I love a good pinup, and Sveta Shubina delivers the goods. I should talk more about this artist on my Blood Red blog.

Artist: Dylon Sisson

Dylan Sisson's art is exceptional. Especially those awesome little drawings of drawing nibs and ink bottles!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Artist: Joe Vaux

I sometimes assume that if I make a post about an artist I need to say something profound. But fuck that. There's a lot of great artists I like to give love to. So I'm a gonna start making wee little posts about them... such as this.

Joe Vaux art kicks ten asses.


Oh yeah... THIS SHIT happened too.

Not-Inktober + Life Size Life

What is going on, you ask?

I made a pathetic attempt at Inktober, but quickly abandoned the foolish idea. I did the entire month 2 years ago and that was fun and timely. But last October I was neck-deep in Supercalla and my mom's declining health and this year my spirit is just not in it. I'm busy with GOZR and just surviving.

To be honest, I'm in a lull. I get this way from time to time and it sucks but it's just part of my artistic journey. It happens. I get in the lull generally on the heels of some creative high - probably completing Cozmic Metal Heads. Then I eventually come out of it and hit some new creative high. And that's fine with me as long as I keep creating. That's really all I care about, as an artist. I want to keep working. I'm happiest when I'm creating. Games, comics, random drawings... doesn't matter.

And that's the most urgent thing I would tell any creator who is struggling with any aspect of creativity. Just keep doing it. It is the act of creation that matters more than anything. You can dream about creating, and that is fun and rewarding. You can look back fondly on what you created, and that is also fun and rewarding. But nothing compares to the pleasure of being in the act of creation. Especially if you have confidence and faith in the thing you're doing.

That's probably my biggest weakness. I lack faith in my own work. I find comfort and strength in peoples' comments, though they are rare. It is lonely work doing this stuff. Any signal that I'm reaching someone is like fresh air, a cold drink, or a hot meal.

Bit of a rambly post but it's on my mind and I wanted to share it. Now I'm off to noodle about a new game idea. But aren't you working on GOZR?? Yes... but there's room for other ideas to germinate. I love having multiple ideas cooking at once. Though... if I'm honest... I'd prefer to have 100% focus on one thing at a time. Just not in the cards for me, I'm afraid.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

GOZR: Familiars

 Every wizard needs a familiar!

So here's one thing I'm thinking about for the game. I have structured it so that you can just choose how much of a wizard you want to be. You want a familiar, you got one. My idea is that being a wizard will be a pain in the ass with lots of problems. But so far I'm not sure I've pulled that off so I'm gonna have to revisit the rules and either give non-wizards more bennies or give wizards more flaws.

Because as it stands... you'd crazy NOT to be a wizard. I went a little nuts on the wizard stuff. I guess I am a fan of magic-users after all.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

GOZR: 100 Wizard Spells

 If you're a wizard, which spells do you know? Every PC wizard begins play with 1d4+2 spells.