Friday, April 24, 2015

Elemental Evil Player's Companion and What Does It All Mean?

I can't believe it's been almost four months since I posted an rpg related post on my RPG RELATED BLOG.  Oh well.  Life goes on.

So, yeah, Elemental Evil Player's Companion.  This was originally a pdf supporting the Elemental Evil Princes of the Apocalypse adventure book, chock full of new player races and spells that had a good elemental feel.  It's available for free, along with a free DM supplement that includes tons of stuff, including all of the beasties in the adventure, making the Monster Manual an optional purchase.  (Yes, they are unabashedly giving away the monster farm.)

Now, some of the bits of the Player's Companion are in the Princes of the Apocalypse book , and some are not.  Kind of a pain if you are lugging around books and you need a pdf viewer TOO.  But WOTC did something odd about a week ago.  They made a Print On Demand version available on the D&D Classics site.

Sure, yeah, ten bucks is a bit much for 25 pages, but I ordered it anyway since I was curious and didn't want to screw around with a Lulu version.  I've never heard of WOTC doing POC, so I was intrigued.  I think it's a first.

So how is it?  Well, it just came in the mail during a torrential downpour, and luckily didn't get soggy.  It looks great.  Magazine kind of stapling.  That should be good when the players get their grubby hands on it and the elf wizard starts to horde it during play.  Glossy paper would have been nice - but it's decently thick paper so should hold up.

So cool, yeah.  A bit pricey, yeah.  But I think I'm far more interested in what this product means to D&D, rather than the actual content.  What does it mean?  I have no idea.

Per this article, D&D is focused on STORIES.  Stories across it's entire line - tabletop and MMORPG - as well as traditional computer rpg type games (non-internet-y) and even movies.  They want to do one to two 'stories' a year.  Tabletop is just a small part of that.  A part, yes, but small.  So no Player Handbook II or any of that jazz.  Probably not any additional Monster Manuals or even campaign books.  Just adventure books with enough new races, classes, monsters, and magic to properly dress up whatever adventure is occurring.

And that means no big splat books for players.  I am like . . . thrilled . . . at the thought of that.  Both as a player and a DM.  I'm less enthusiastic about a dearth of new campaign world books, but honestly, enough were produced during 1st through 4th edition to sink a ship.  A lot of them are sitting over on the book shelf staring at me.

I think this does something else.  Remember back in the 80s when there were just not a ton of splat books being made?  If a DM needed something in a game, they'd just make it themselves or check out Dragon Magazine for ideas and mechanics.  Starting at 2nd edition, we had the attack of the splat books.  DMs didn't need to invent or hack the game.  They just bought a book.  Players too.  It started an arms race between players and DM, in fact.  By 4th edition, the immensity of options just spun my head.

But now we are sitting here with a shiny new D&D, waiting for mana to drop from WOTC.  But no mana is dropping.  STORIES are coming, sure.  WOTC is spitting out a lot of articles with TINKER ideas, like beta concepts for Eberron races and classes, artilces on how to twist existing classes into something you'd like to play more, and how to stat up D20 modern weaponry in 5e.  But it's all hobby/tinkery/kitbash stuff.  Nothing official.  Just 25 or 50 pages of STORY specific splat per year.

I think that is wonderful.  I am full circle back to the early 80s, with Gary Gygax moving out to California busy trying to monetize D&D with cartoons and action figures, leaving the game alone and letting us tinker our asses off.

Yeah, sure, they'll get bored and make another Unearthed Arcana, but we can deal with that when it happens. :)

- Ark

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some Sketches

Been trying to build an internal library of anatomical structures via gesture drawings, and then sketching without references right in front of me.  It's, um, progressing. :)

- Ark

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What I Did Today

Still working on faces.  Probably will be forever.  I think that's how it works. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Doctor Who Day

Cover by Jake Ekiss
While this kind of sounds like an April Fool's Day thing, this actual event is actual.  My small home town will be officially celebrating Doctor Who Day on April 4th.

It all started when someone convinced someone else that it would be a good idea to have an alternate cover of the the first issue of  "New Adventures with the Ninth Doctor" that features the Denton County Courthouse in Texas.  No clue why or who, but someone did it.  My FLGS, More Fun Comics and Games, made it happen, I think.

The idea snowballed, and "Doctor Who Day on the Square" was soon announced (526 people are signed up for it on Facebook, currently.)  A prop TARDIS is being erected on the courthouse lawn.  Some local business are giving discounts to cosplayers during the festivities.

Then a city councilman and the mayor got involved, and made the whole thing official.  So now, April 4th, 2015 is "Dr. Who Day" in Denton, Texas.  Yeah, okay, the BBC never abbreviates the word 'doctor' for the show, but . . . meh . . . technicalities. :)

So pretty cool eh?  I love my town.  Full of weirdos and nerds.

Here is document, all official and stuff . . .

- Ark

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steven Universe

Amethyst the Hothead, Garnet the Tank, Pearl the Know-it-all,
and Steven, the Boy with the Heart of Gold
Last year I saw advertisements on Cartoon Network for a new show called Steven Universe.  I didn't like the art and it looked stupid so I didn't pay it any mind.  But then one day I was watching an artist's stream from her desktop, but instead of drawing, she was watching cartoons.  So the 30+ international viewers of her channel sat and watched cartoons with her.

I swear, neither Asimov, Bradbury, or Clarke ever imagined a technological future as odd as the one that we actually got.  Anyway . . .

So, she was watching Steven Universe.  Now, I respect the woman's art and entertainment choices, so I stuck around and watched this show which was visually displeasing to me.  I figured, well, I thought Adventure Time's art sucked too, and it turned out to be one of my favorite shows ever, so it might as well give it a chance.

Steven Universe is a coming-of-age story about a boy named Steven,  His slacker dad who lives in a psychedelic van, and Steven's three . . . um . . . caretakers who are actually . . . well . . . it gets complicated.  Let's just call them superheros for the moment - Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl.

Stuff that happens in space.
Where Adventure Time is an bizarre romp through D&D and Gamma World, Steven Universe is a game of Champions and Traveller.  Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are the Crystal Gems that protect humanity by fighting off crazy monsters that pop up on Earth.  Steven is also a Gem who is just beginning his career as a hero at somewhere around 12 years of age, whose superpowers are flaky and unreliable at best.

After the first ten episodes, I decided I liked the quirky show.  By the time the second ten went by, I had decided that Steven Universe was much better than Adventure Time.  The third had some of the best storytelling I've seen.  By the fourth ten I was getting a nagging feeling that Steven Universe wasn't just a simple story - but important literature.  I know that's kind of an odd thing to say about a cartoon aimed at 12-year-olds, but . . . damn.

Throughout the story, Steven experiences the world, learning and growing all of the time.  As he changes, the people around him are effected by his changes, and grow as well.  It's not all good.  Horrific things have happened in the setting's 6000+ year past.  Death is a big, ever-present theme.  Fear drives most of the main characters, and they keep him in the dark about what has happened - and what they did.  But life and growth are also there, as embodied by Steven.

Stuff that happens at the donut shop.
The show is absolutely chock full of wonderful things, and the damn show makes me tear up on a regular basis.

I'm being really vague about a lot of this, I know.  I just don't want to spoil anything for anyone, since the multiple reveals are just fantastic and fascinating . . . an art unto themselves.

The show was created by Rebecca Sugar, who was responsible for several of the best Adventure Time episodes ever, including "Dungeon," It Came from the Nightosphere," "Susan Strong," "Fionna and Cake," "Hot to the Touch," and "Simon & Marcy."  She also writes a lot of songs for the show - and we all know how fun singing along to cartoons is. :)

I do warn you, sexuality is a theme in Steven Universe.  I don't think any of it is bad or inappropriate, but it's definitely there.  One episode made me uncomfortable, but another viewing made it clear it was my own baggage that was the problem, and the whole episode is about what happens when the innocent exuberance of youth slams into the realm of blossoming sexuality and how uncomfortable and confusing that whole thing is.  In retrospect, it's the one of the most fabulous 11 minute story I've ever witnessed.  You'll know it when you see it.

And every frigging episode ties in with every other one in wonderful and unexpected ways.  It's a vibrant world full of vibrant people where things happen and those things matter.  I highly recommend binge watching it.  But do yourself a favor.  Watch the episodes in order. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Here is Kafi.  I don't know where she - or her name - came from.  The deep recesses of my head, I guess.

I've been really depressed about my art this year.  It always seems I'm on the verge of something - understanding something - developing some skill or ability to create more of what I want to create.  But it never materializes, and I stay lashed to some untameable muse who draws through me - and can never draw the same person twice.

I guess that just means I need to practice more. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A-Doodle-A-Day is COMPLETE!

Last year I set myself a challenge - to post something artsy every day.  The intention was to get me into the habit of drawing every day, though it had several other benefits.  One was to get me over the fear of exposing work that I didn't think worthy of posting.  The other was to show people that, proportionally, a lot of crap is drawn by every artists for every one good drawing.

Completing the challenge was frustrating at times - and I did sandbag posts a bit - but I drew every day and I am very happy with the results.  I am now done spamming your blogrolls with all this mess now.

So what's next?  Well, nothing so public.  I need to work on anatomy and getting a better handle on 3d-space.  I'll continue to post art, but hopefully there will be more game content as well.

Have a happy New Year!

- Ark