Saturday, March 6, 2021

Robot Ideas


I've been drawing more robots lately and thinking about a robot RPG. One of the thoughts I had is that a percentile system, not unlike Star Frontiers, would suit a robot RPG quite well.

So I started noodling the idea more and I have a draft of My Robot Head in progress. I don't know how far I'll take this. I hope I'll see it through and publish, but this is just a fun thing I'm playing with right now. Stay posted.

As a teaser, the game would probably be set in the future in our solar system. I actually had written a bunch of this last year and I wrote that it takes place in or around 3100. All humans are dead. They left behind a fairly vast empire of cities and colonies on the Moon and Mars and places. But they are all dead because some AI asshole decided to bake a DNA timebomb into them and remove them. Now you are robots in this future where your masters, the humans, are gone. What do you do?

So the game deals with the fun shit like robot combat, exploration, resources, etc. But also angst and ennui. Robots are self aware. They have to decide how to be a people moving forward without destroying themselves through warring factions. My Robot Head as the title refers to the inner struggle of a robot character to understand who they are and where they belong. The dawn of a new civilization with the raw power and mental prowess to very quickly destroy itself.

Percentile system inspired by Star Frontiers, but not a clone. Lots of information carrying over from Cozmic Metal Heads because My Robot Head as a concept came first. I actually stripped MRH down and turned it into a Troika! book, so now I'm circling back and revisiting the original idea.

The other idea is to publish a robot art book. I'll have enough pure robot drawings that I could do a little art book in POD someplace. Sorry folks, I'm just not up for the whole physical printing and shipping one man show at this time. POD is where it's at for me. At least for now or until someone wants to publish my shit in nice, shiny volumes I don't have to physically handle.


Friday, March 5, 2021

The Cimmerian

The Cimmerian knows.

In recent times I listened to an excellent audiobook compilation of all the Weird Tales Conan stories. Even though Conan looms large in my mind as an early influencing force, I really only read maybe 3 or 4 legit REH Conan tales when I was younger. I'm a damn weirdo and I just didn't read heavily past age 16. Between 14 and 16 I had a book in my hand all the time. After 16 or 17 I wanted to get kissed and drive around listening to metal. No time for books unless they were comics or RPGs.

So I listened to them all. And they were good, mostly. I am not a fan of the longer ones, though. Conan, for me, is about short tales. In and out, like a yard of Hyrkanian steel.

I decided to draw this portrait after I doodled this on top of my water bottle at work.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Usagi Yojimbo RPG

I'm going to run the Gold Rush Games version of Usagi Yojimbo RPG, a game built on the Instant Fuzion Rules from R. Talsorian and Hero Games.

I have spent most of the last week digging deeply into this 98 page game book and trying to grokk the rules. I do not have a background with Hero System or Cyberpunk (I played one game of Cyberpunk in 1989), so this is all new to me. I have owned Usagi Yojimbo RPG (UY from here on) for 15+ years, so I have read it before, in chunks. I have studied it to some degree. It is a simple system and I dig it.

But this game has issues. It is delightfully focused on Usagi material and feels like it will be a breeze to play. But it does suffer from some fairly significant layout and design flaws, in my opinion. I'll address one of them in this post.

There is a one-sheet breakdown of the entire Instant Fuzion (IF from here on) system on page 11 of the book. Under Actions it says a Hero can Dodge. By Dodging, they can't attack that phase* and they get +3 to Evasion. But the combat rules in UY simply say that when it's your turn in a fight you choose Total Attack, Cautious Attack, or you hold your action. When you are attacked, you can choose Total Defense. These actions are called the Three Strategies. There is no mention of Dodging.

Likewise, the IF rules do not mention the Three Strategies.

So reading between the lines, I assume the Three Strategies was an add-on by the author, Greg Stolze, to better simulate Usagi-style fights. When he wrote the rules for it he did not integrate IF rules into the text. So you have essentially two separate documents that can each stand alone. Which do you use? Both, either?

Here's the thing. They do not contradict each other regarding Dodging. So if I tell my players we're using the Three Strategies, not IF, then I'm cheating them out of the benefit of Dodging. And since Dodging doesn't contradict the Strategies I don't have much of a reason to do that. I want them to have that option. So I'm forced to say the combat rules are on page 11, but also there's the Three Strategies on page 43 and you need both in order to carry out a fight.

Bad design! Why aren't these things integrated? It feels like Stolze was asked to use IF as a base then he added things to it and just kind of let them be separate.

I did read somewhere that the Three Strategies were really intended for swordfights only. But that's not true because it literally says "Here's how fights happen in this game." and the examples listed do not limit themselves to swordfights.

My solution? I'm going to integrate these rules myself in a document for my players.

Also, if this plays well, I might just hack the shit out of UY RPG and make a new game. Why not? Seems like fun. Rabbits & Rangers deluxe?

*Regarding Phases... I will make a different post about that. But I'm not planning to use phases, only rounds. I don't see the benefit of phases in this game. More on that later.

Zebu: Reek of the Parvenu

It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to. So I'm a gonna post some music albums here and there. Note that this is not a "review" series, at least not in siprit. I'm just posting shit I found that I have some reason to talk about. Very very often it will be because the album cover art caught my eye.

This one is part of the Chicks on the Cover series. I think that is self-explanatory, isn't it? Come for the cover, stay for the tunes?

Zebu: Reek of the Parvenu

This is a really good Greek metal band. If you like the band Death, this will appeal to you, I think. Mostly because the vocals are similar. But this is a solid band with a heavy doom sound that doesn't fall into the overtly Black Sabbath end of the spectrum. The riffs aren't boring.

There's a backing vocalist on one track who I could have swore was Michela D'Orlando from Power Symphony, but turns out is really Katerina Kostarelou from Bacchus Priest. There's a deep cut for your ass.

The cover is by Mike S. Putrefurnaced and it depicts a witchy looking woman with lovely blue hair being hauled down by little ghosts or faeries or something. Epic!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

100% True Story


It was 1984, I was 13. I had a crush on my math teacher, Mrs. Kendall. She was a short, plump woman with chubby red cheeks and an overbite. She had these delicious black rimmed glasses and wore simple dresses. But they were snug enough that her ample curves couldn't help showing through. I was 13. I noticed this shit.

Anyway. Um... one day after class I stopped to chat her up, like you do at that age. I was putting on my moves, talking about Conan comics and she clearly wasn't into it. She was rushing me. Time to leave. I got the message eventually and left the room with a cool swagger, pushing up my glasses to show solidarity.

In the hall was my buddy Sam talking to this tall dude I saw around but didn't know. His name was David and he had in his hand a thick biology book that contained no references to evolution and this other book with the fucking weirdest looking creatures on the cover I had ever seen. Title said "Monster Manual". It was some next level strange bullshit. He also had this little blue ball in his hand... like tiny. Like a toy. Kept saying it was a "20 sided die", which sounded like complete nonsense to me.

Well, turns out that book was for this weird board game without a board called Dungeons & Dragons. He was looking for some players and Sam was volunteering us to join the game. As it turns out, I remembered Mrs. Kendall one time talk about a game like this where you used numbers to represent character traits. Like you'd have a strength score or something. She seemed to think it was a useful math tool or some shit, so I was like in my head going "This could be my way in" so I was like "Yeah man, let's play."

So we did. I played a character (you make up characters) called Beano the Cheesey Wizard. David, who was the MC of the event, didn't seem to love that name but he was like "whatever, just roll for initiative". Beano was kind of a skinny, weak, silly asshole who wore a fedora and carried a big sword. Now... here's the thing about the game. Wizards couldn't use swords. David said I couldn't have a sword and I said the price list says 15 gold pieces and I have 48 so unless the shopkeeper shoots me, I'm buying a fucking sword.

I got the sword, but wasn't allowed to use it. I know, it's fucking stupid. But the rule book says I can only use a dagger, dart, or staff. I mean, in the words of Lars Ulrich, "they don't actually put anything there to stop you, like spikes"*. So I carried that fuckin' sword and made a point of threatening people with it as often as possible. But the MC was stubborn and would not let me use it. I played this up. "Beano tries to draw his sword but some invisible force stops his hand. He struggles against it... clenching teeth and pushing at the force but to no avail! Frustrated, he casts Magic Missile instead."

Beano was killed by kobolds who laid a pit trap. Poor bastard fell in, taking 6 damage... 4 more than his hit point total. Then a kobold shot him with an arrow for 6 more and he was at -10. Apparently, according to the MC, -10 is a big deal. I said "Look, I'm fine with Beano being dead. I'll roll up a dwarf named Cormac Mac Daddy. But if this shit doesn't get me to second base with Wanda Kendall I'm telling people you shave your nads."

David lit a cigarette at that point. Not uncommon back then. He was older, maybe 17. I remember Toto playing in the background when he looked at me and said "That might play well with my rep.". Someone, I think Jesse, knocked over a can of Dr. Check at that point, spilling it on the Monster Manual. Not sure what happened next, but it's not important. I did score that copy of the Manual from David later that year by trading issue 107 of Savage Sword of Conan. I didn't mind the Dr. Check stains, but it pissed me off that pages 17 and 18 were stuck together. Seriously, David? What the actual fuck.

When I relayed the story of Beano to Mrs. Kendall she smiled, nodded, and said "Ten foot pole could have found the pit trap." I believe the "ten foot" comment was a phallic suggestion, honestly. And, if I'm being straight, it kind of put me off a little. Like... what was she suggesting anyway? Feeling incredibly self-conscious, I stopped making moves on her and kept our potential affair to myself for private time. "Tow the line, love isn't always on time", right? But I still kept playing in David's D&D game. Cormac made level 3 before succumbing to a roper's grasp. His sister, Fanny Doodle Mac Daddy, inherited his +1 war hammer and lived on to see level 9.

That is the truth, I swear it. Every detail.

*He was talking about driving between the lines.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


I have had my moments when I fought hard against fantasy tropes. Back in 1990, when I was a year out of high school, I decided "no more elves, dwarves, and dragons". I switched to GURPS and ran a campaign in my world of Midaka. It had its moments and was fun, but ultimately flopped out and was never finished. Mostly because I am just not a big GURPS fan, as it turns out.

But that's such an aside and not the point here.

The point here is that I do love certain fantasy tropes and lean into them pretty hard with my D&D. Dragons are not one of them. I just never got into them. But goblins... now I love me some gobbos.

I did a goblin character class for Black Pudding:

In my campaign world of Yria, goblins are born from rot. Wherever food or carcasses lay to decompose, there is a chance that goblins with emerge. They are green, generally, and foul. They eat their own. They have no manners or sense of moral shame. Their culture, such as it is, arises from certain ancient curses that caused them to be spawned from rot in the first place.

Goblins can be good. Mainly because I don't use alignment in my games, typically, and I figure if you want a kindly gobbo you can certainly have one.

Goblins use whatever weapons and armor they can get their greasy little fingers on. They are naturally skilled at working together to bring down enemies, favoring the setting of nasty traps and flat-out bum-rushing foes in a cluster of green. Their wills are quite weak, so they are easy targets for powerful leaders such as wizards to rally them into service. If a goblin believes they are fighting for a higher cause - almost any cause - they will fight harder for it. They enjoy being told what to do and complaining about it later.

A similar monster, the nasty ork, is born from the same primordial curses. But orks are spawned from wherever a demon or devil or other infernal hell creature steps or spreads its spore. Thus they are rarer, bigger, and more wicked. While a goblin's desires lie in eating and sleeping, mostly, an ork's chief desire is to hurt others. Orks also have weak wills and fall easily under the yoke of more powerful creatures.

I say all this because I've been thinking about writing up my campaign setting in a series of zines (little books, whatever) so I can have them in print. It would sure help me organize and not contradict myself at the gaming table. "Now... what was it I said about orks and imps? Oh, let me check the book."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Aquabot

One of the many patrons of the various Hellion Cross seedy dives. For the upcoming Troika! book, Hellion Cross.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Cheech Wizard's Book of Me

My wife picked this up for me for $4 using some kind of voodoo magic coupon. I love me some Bodé and this is a book I hadn't seen before. I'm not the kind of guy who obsesses over collecting everything an artist creates but I'm always giddy when I pick up something new.

This book is assembled by Vaughn's son Mark Bodé and I feel like he did a fantastic job. Lots of very old doodles and sketchbook pages are included. Maybe these appeared somewhere else before and I just didn't see it. But there's a lot of stuff in here I've never seen before. I guess this is also because my experience with Bodé is almost exclusively the Deadbone Erotica stuff. I own very little Cheech Wizard material.

Barely got into this so far but it's just chock full of explosive cartooning!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Hellion Cross

I might be hitting the critical mass or event horizon on a new Troika! romp kit. Working title is "Hellion Cross", third in the Cozmos series that includes such ancient classics as Supercalla and Cozmic Metal Heads.

For this one I'm presenting a seedy little backroads location called Hellion Cross and the 36 scoundrels, wanderers, barbarians, and wayward robots who might be there. This one is a little less laser-focused on a theme or setting as the Hellion Cross location is only loosely sketched in. Mostly this is about the 36 backgrounds and will include some random tables for running romps through the Coz along the old Supercalla Highway.

I'm working from existing backgrounds that I had on the cutting room floor plus new ones inspired by various pieces of art. The art is mostly coming from existing sketches and little drawings I had lying around that were unused in a publication. Like... if I have a cool looking robot sketch then I'm finishing it up and turning it into a background. Because this shit is fun and honestly I need to make a book because I'm having withdrawal.

Priest of the Upper Ocular Cavity

Priest of the Upper Ocular Cavity

Two middle fingers up and you are favored by the Cavity. But if the devil horns are brought to bear then woe to you and yours, for the Cavity's Eye will be upon you until your dying days.

-Coif of the Mind (blocks mental probings)
-The Ocular Habit (hard, course, armour 1)
-Cavity Staff
-Sack of Vitreous Fluid

2 Upper Eye Sees You
1 Spell (Cavity Staff): Know Intentions
2 Spell (Cavity Staff): Obscure Vision
1 Spell (Random)
1 Spell (Random)
1 Spell (Random)
1 Staff

Alcohol, tea, and the juices of fruits and tubers are prohibited, as are most pleasures of the flesh. Life is hard. Cavity staff spells can only be cast with the cavity staff, naturally.


Lightning Monk

Petty Thief

Friday, January 29, 2021

The RPG Folder I Caught in the Act

Part of this amazing ongoing series!

How it works: I randomly click on an RPG PDF, check it out, and maybe write a little mini-review. I usually write about it while I'm looking at it.

Oh snap! I clicked on an OD&D referee's screen. And it's a damn good one too. Trouble is I'm old and I don't remember who made it or where you can download the thing. Someone help me out in the comments. Don't hold out on me.

EDIT: StuRat in the comments came through with the link. This is from a blog called Smoldering Wizard. Check it.

Darkfast Dungeons by David Okum. Man I am such a wank. I love David Okum's paper minis and I follow his posts and Patreon. But I have never really looked at this book. SHAME ON ME.

So first of all, I'm a sucker for anything that emulates that classic TSR trade dress. If done well, it's just delicious to me. It can be stale, it can be overplayed. But anyone who says it is a dead art can suck it. This cover looks good.

Ok, so this appears to be a full game. Again, color me a dumbass because I didn't actually know that. I just thought Darkfast Dungeons was a series of paper minis.

I love that this is written and illustrated by David. I love ventures that are single-creator visions. Now, don't get me wrong here. Obviously there's nothing wrong with collaboration and group efforts. I'm just saying that I have a special place in my black heart for these kinds of singular vision projects.

This one appears to be compatible with or based on other games of David's. Interesting. It's definitely inspired by the classic 1981 D&D game. Natch.

Nice looking character sheet. Cool art, of course. I wanna play a Corvian.

Chronicles of the Spacejammer! by Richard Ruane is one that I just don't remember picking up at all. I might have snagged it on a bender* and never opened it. It's a book with 36 space-based backgrounds for Troika!, the other world's favorite RPG.

So this appears to be something that fits snuggly into Troika!'s aesthetic, which is kind of spacejamming to begin with. Just spot-oogling these I find the Chronomancer's Ex to be interesting. A person who hopped a ship with a chronomancer, ended up in a bad relationship, broke up, and is now kind of wayward in the stars perhaps trying to make their way back home.

Isn't that wonderful? This is the power of the game's backgrounds scheme. It's world building and character building all rolled into one. Not much more to say about this one. It's literally a book of 36 backgrounds. And they all seem pretty damn cool to me.

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins (2nd Edition)
by Minerva McJanda and Douglas Santana Mota. Hey it's only 55 pages! I might be able to say more about... oh no... that's just the handout document. The main game is 305 pages.

So this appears to be a post-apoc game, judging by the cover. It's a nice cover, I dig it. The art by Tithi Luadthong is pretty dope. Oh... hey. This is published by Modiphius? Huh.

Oh, ok. This is Powered by the Apocalypse. So the mechanics are gonna be similar to many other PbtA games such as Dungeon World. You know, to this day I don't actually know the rules for these games. I've read some bits and listened to a bunch of podcasts about them but I haven't quite grokked the concept entirely. Here's my uneducated idea of what they are: You have character abilities, called Moves, and you roll 2d6 when you want to use one. If it's like 4+, you did it. Or something. I know it's not that simple. There's a range in the middle that is "yes, but". I dig it.

Anyway... the game has a decent look. I don't love it. I think the artist is pretty rad and lots of the art is killer but a lot of the art in this book has the look of photo-manipulation - which is not my cup of tea. It's a turn off for me. But it does capture the post-apoc future world vibe so maybe you'll love it.

Colours of Melestrua: Ragnar's Keep by Ian Brockbank is a setting for RPG adventures in a working medieval castle. So this guy's name is Ian and he says "games master"... I'm betting this is a British publication. I'm so smart. I guess the spelling of "colour" didn't give it away. I love the Brits!

This is what it says on the tin. It's a very detailed castle with lots of rooms, all of which are described. There are some drawings of the castle and maps for each level plus the cliffs and river around it. There are detailed descriptions of the castles' important occupants plus their 5th edition stats. Overall, it appears to have everything you'd need if you are into historically accurate medieval gaming. Which, of course, I am not. So I am a terrible judge of this book.

The trade dress is nice because, I think, it is an aesthetic callback to old RPG resource books such as Harn and Role Aids and others. I'm probably wrong on that, but it strikes me that way. Actually, now that I think about it, this reminds me of a 90s RPG resource book akin to ICE's Campaign Classics.

*Aside: I use "bender" casually to indicate some event where I spend all day making memes or listening to obscure 1982 metal albums. But it dawns on me as I type this that "bender" might be a term fairly exclusive to heavy drinking. I don't know. I don't mean heavy drinking, for the record. My heavy drinking consists of 2 tequila sunrises on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Dyson Logos: Centaur Class


One thing I don't do enough is reflect on the cool art and gaming stuff I've discovered since returning to RPGs in 2012. When I tried to think about something cool I remember from way back, the Centaur character class from Dyson Logos immediately popped into my head.

I like how the class gives the character hoof attack damage that isn't fantastic at first and never becomes overpowered. This means you won't have to make a painful choice between "hoofing it" all the or using that awesome two-handed sword you got your eye on. But with a d6 damage as you level up, you'll be eager to stomp a goblin or two.

If you love BX D&D, this is pure gold right here. If you're running a game set in a forest, woodsy area, or maybe some plains, toss this class into the mix of player choices.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Kill, Steal, Repeat

This is a ranty post, so skip if you don't have time for bullshit. I have a few of these in the tube. I must be in a mood today.


I think it's not controversial to say that D&D is a game about killing things and taking their stuff in order to get better at killing things and taking their stuff. And that's fine. Hell, we've been playing it that way for decades. That's what it is.

Yes, you can play it differently. As someone once prickishly pointed out, you can roleplay Monopoly. But the rules of Monopoly do not facilitate roleplay. The rules of D&D facilitate combat, theft, and the gaining of power. You can play entire sessions of D&D without combat or theft... but I god damn guarantee the rules are not helpful to you in that endeavor and you're fooling yourself if you argue otherwise.

(Cue that one guy who has an incredible story of an entire campaign in which the only dice rolls were Reaction Rolls. Bravo! You used one table in the entire game book. D&D is good at everything.)

This little rant was inspired by having read a few times recently how some people like to "role play vs. roll play". I thought that cliche died at -10 hit points in 1999. It's a game with 6 different dice. Fucking use them.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #8

Been a little while since I tarnished my blog with my stupid, stupid memes. So here's a little batch of the bloody bastards. These are Bernies. I'm sorry. Never again.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Lesser Gods of Rone

I recently completed a short BX D&D romp called Lesser Gods of Rone. Well... the campaign is called that, but this was just one adventure. Let's call it The Sleeper.

Here in these posts I talk about this whole island campaign concept:

First Post

Second Post

Third Post

The game ran for 7 sessions of 2 hours each. The characters were searching for the father of the party's wizard, Vonz. Vonz' dad had allegedly joined the crew of a wizard's ship in search of an ancient treasure. They explored 3 islands and ultimately had a standoff with a wizard who was locked in mental combat with a giant monstrosity beneath the waters. In the end everything exploded, like it does.

My incredible maps were a huge hit.

One of the main ideas behind this setting is that Lake Rone isn't mapped. It's amorphous. The positions of islands are not rigidly fixed. Or rather, the physics of space isn't fixed. To navigate between two islands you need to understand the path and it's not linear.

I invented a Mariner class just for this setting. Their trick is they "get it". They intuit the ways of the Lake and they are privy to secrets.

I tried to make navigation procedural in the tradition of basic D&D. You roll a die to determine how many hours a journey might take. You roll every 4 hours on a navigation table to see how well you're doing. The journey could become shorter or longer and hazards could be encountered. For example, in The Sleeper the PCs ran into a magic whirlpool created by some underwater villains. This was a fun bit because it let me introduce a little bit of the lore of the Lake to the party that they might later revisit and unpack.

I feel like the navigation rules worked pretty well. I worried that they would become tedious but I feel like with some variety in the tables this would be fine, not unlike the various procedures used in most hexcrawling campaigns.

The idea is that you would island-crawl. You'd randomly determine an island, then explore it. From there you might randomly visit another or the DM could establish detailed island locations as desired. It allows for individual islands to be highly detailed and mapped, if that's what you want. But the Lake itself would never be mapped in that way.


Here's what I'm thinking right now, in terms of what this project looks like.

Drawing the islands is fun. I will do more. I'd like to publish them eventually as a deck of cards where each card simply shows the image on one side and has some simple details about the island on the other side. Name, key features, inhabitants, special stuff. We're talking bullet point lists, not much text, and no stats. So this is utterly system neutral.

Accompanying the cards would be a PDF with the rules for navigating the Lake, a few classes such as the Mariner and Lake Thing, and maybe some new monsters and spells. A simple, short thing written for BX (OSE) rules, free to download.

That's the idea. I don't know exactly when I will do it. My habit is to back away from a project after running a playtest and give it time to stew. We're in the stewing phase.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Red Sonja

I post most of my pinup art over at Blood Red Pinups. But that one exists so I can be unfiltered and post nudes if I want. I also post pinup art here sometimes as long as it would be fitting to hang in your church.

Thus: Red Sonja!

Funny thing about this character is I have no real understanding of her history. Since I haven't read every Robert E. Howard story (shameful), I always assumed the character was in some Conan pieces I hadn't encountered yet. But actually she was almost entirely invented for Marvel Comics during Roy Thomas' legendary run on the Conan comic. There was a Howard story about a character named Red Sonja but it's utterly unrelated to the Conan saga and is actually set in historical Vienna.

Most of the recurring female characters of modern Conan stories are based on characters who appeared in maybe one or two of Howard's yarns. Belit and Valeria are famous examples, with Red Sonja being closely tied to Conan only through the comics.

Very interesting, don't you agree?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Conan and the Low Level PCs

For fun. I sketched this and started inking it while playing D&D the other night. Added the figures last as I wasn't sure WHO was gonna be on the stairs. I couldn't decide between a part of D&D noobs or Conan. So why not both?

I believe this will be the centerpiece of Black Pudding #7 with the stats for the helligators given in that white space above the carnage.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

BX Character Sheet Landscape

Here's a BX character sheet I put together by taking elements from various other sheets and Black Pudding pages plus new elements. It's landscape, which is not my usual thing. But you know in actual use a landscape sheet is more practical from what I've noticed. I did a bunch of pregens in landscape for a Nerdlouvia con and it saved table space.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Demon and Key

I drew this demon today and it turned out kinda cool. I'm shit with drawing chains so I really tried to do them some justice. Still not perfect but I think better than previous attempts. Chains are hard!

So this guy will go into Black Pudding 7 and I'm not sure exactly in what context yet. The issue is still very wee and hasn't grown into itself so I will probably set him to the side and see where the other pages go before giving him a role. He might be a monster entry, part of an adventure, or art for some cool magic shit. Not sure yet.

I actually have two themes at work right now. The cool wizard cover idea suggests an issue filled with wizardly stuff and this demon on a chain goes nicely with that. But the thing I've worked on the most is a mini-setting for an all-Thief campaign called Low Downs. So who knows...

Here's the doodle that spawned the demon.

Demon Sketch

Working on a demon drawing. Kind of out of the blue, definitely could end up in Black Pudding 7.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Black Pudding 7 Cover Sketch

Here's my cover sketch for Black Pudding #7. A crazy wizard climbs out of a mystic well, dripping wet, smoking his pipe. I love that idea. Hopefully the final version will be boss.

Thought Eater Returns

Good to hear from Froth over at Thought Eater blog! Welcome back.

Go check out Froth's blog because there's a lot of cool stuff to find there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Rat Bastard

This is the Rat Bastard, a class I scribbled long ago in the early days of Black Pudding. I honestly don't remember why this class wasn't in any issue of the zine so far but I assure you this bastard will be in issue #7.

And what else will be in issue #7, you ask? Well that's a good question. My process for this zine is fairly organic, meaning I tend not to play too much of it ahead. What tends to happen is I do little bits here and there and then I'll chew into something bigger (such as an adventure like Vault of the Whisperer from issue #2, using a sweet map from skullfungus). Once I get something significant finished it's as if I hit critical mass and I just continue to hammer away until I have an entire issue completed. That's pretty much how all my projects go, honestly.

So for #7 I have a few finished pages, such as the Rat Bastard and a character sheet or two, plus a metric ton of notes. Which of those notes will become parts of the zine I am not sure. I've got my eye on this mini-setting called Low Downs (welcome to the Days of Low Adventure!). But also there's a lot of material that I have created for GOZR that, honestly speaking, is absolutely BX compatible and could be presented in Black Pudding. So I might go that route since GOZR is coming along so damn slowly and I really have no idea when I'll be ready to publish it.

Translation: Be ready for some random tables!

Saturday, January 2, 2021


It is well known that because OD&D did not have an explicitly-named skill system many grognards are opposed to games having skill systems. I get it. I jumped the ship from D&D in 1990 and landed on GURPS. I get skills. I get why they can be sort of... blech.

(I am not a fan of GURPS, though I was super into it for a few years. Love all the books, though.)

D&D had skills embedded in the classes and equipment and there were a few nods to skills, such as AD&D's Secondary Skills. In BX, a fighter was able to use all weapons and armor. Those are some mad skills! A thief, of course, had an explicit list of skills (which which they suuuuuucccckkkeeeeeed.) A magic-user had the skill of casting spells and being able to create new spells and magic items. Etc.

Equipment also granted a skill-like ability to PCs. If you had a 10' pole you had the skill of being able to prod at a trap from a safe distance. A PC with a lantern had the skill of lighting a dark room - a huge benefit.

AD&D, and also BECMI's D&D line, had lots of weapon skills.

The thing that I believe grogs have a problem with is when a player says "I roll Perception. What do I see?" Instead of saying "I look around the base of the statue. Has it been moved recently?" and so forth. The former represents reduction of the fiction to a straight mechanic while the latter represents clever puzzle-solving and more immersion in the fiction.

Of course both can exist together. After examining the statue, the DM might ask me to make that Perception roll. Maybe they already know that I'm gonna see the scrape marks but maybe there's something else to be seen - such as a trap switch - and the dice roll will indicate just how closely my PC looked.

BX D&D gives the advice of using ability saves (we call 'em checks nowadays) for those moments where there isn't an established mechanic. This is a default skill system wherein the ability scores coupled with the class determine what types of skills you are good at. The party magic-user, with their high Intelligence, should to a better job of recognizing weird items and knowing esoteric lore. The cleric's Wisdom should let them know more about obscure cults and shrines. And so forth.

One way that the use of ability checks (and default skills in modern D&D) can frustrate players is when a character who isn't the party's authority on a topic is somehow just better at dealing with that topic. For example, maybe the thief has a particularly good Intelligence and the wizard is only average. If the DM allows the thief to make Int checks for every weird thing they encounter, the player of the magic-user might feel slightly useless. "Oh, Niff the Nimble rolled well under their Int so they know a good deal about this weird order of Purple Wizards. But Jan the Sorcerer failed that Int check and knows nothing. Again."

The solution to that problem is don't let Niff the Nimble make Int checks for things in which they have no expertise. And when you do allow it, follow Moldvay's advice and give them a -4 penalty. Let that middling wizard have a moment to shine and maybe even forgo the Int check now and then. "As it happens, Jan has heard of the Secret Society of Super Wizards."

A bit of ramble here as I basically think out loud about skills. More to say, but I'll do it later.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Fawn Fanart

Ed Heil has been in the RPG art circles for a long time knocking out some cool stuff. Check out this wonderful rendition of my Pan-Gea character Fawn Rainchild!