Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chartreuse by Angel

Below is a commission of my character Chartreuse in Crazy-Ass Tim's Second Edition D&D Game by Angel Urena.  He's the same guy who did the Angry Demon Looking Dude that I've used as a banner for the blog for over a year now.  I think Angel's work is completely awesome - you can go check out his gallery on deviantArt.

Right now, Angel is doing character commissions for dirt cheap.  I mean dirt.  Go look.  Quickly, of course, since who knows when he'll close down the commissions.  If you've ever contemplated having a character drawn - now would be the time.

Again, not my art.  Waaay too good to be mine.  (Not Yet, Anyways!)

- Ark

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Last week I was at the book store with my son.  I was digging through some art books, looking for hints on how to draw the human form, when The Boy came up behind me.

"Can I get this?" he asked.  I turned around.  He was clutching a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"Well for fuck's sake yes you can fucking have it,"  I replied.  Okay, that's not exactly what I said, but that's what I meant.

Now, after a few days of The Boy regaling me with stories of Marvin the Paranoid Android and explaining to me the meaning of the number 42, I've decided that I'm pretty happy with the universe and - given the chance - I'd make it my home for a second time.

- Ark


"Now the world has gone to bed
Darkness won't engulf my head
I can see by infra-red
How I hate the night

Now I lay me down to sleep
Try to count electric sheep
Sweet dream wishes you can keep
How I hate the night"

- Marvin's Lullaby

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Snapshots

I love the way images can inspire ideas.  I love to browse pictures to get ideas for stories, games, and art.  Here are some things to jostle your brain:

From some bovine racing competition in Sumatra, Pacu Jawi by ~dularif

A different kind of racing animal, Bike with shinny bits by ~koukei

What a lovely home for a Lich, August Burns Red by ~bleed-the-sky

Do the PCs dare move the rocks?  Against physics 1 by ~Faunish

A dangerous rainbow impact, Life in the Valley by ~sleepingwithgiants

Nighttime wandering monster roll, Bed by *Hoffine

+1 to Astral Travelling, Magic Mushroom by ~Tul-152

- Ark

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Can Get Addicted To A Certain Kind of Sadness

No, not game related, but after listing to Gotye like a million times today, I had to do something. :)

- Ark

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Practice Responsible Conjurmancy

These things take forever.  I figured I might be faster by now - but no.  Oh well, at least I am enjoying the heck out of creating these strips.  I'm reminded of something Joseph Campbell said - but I can't remember exactly what. ;)

- Ark

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Phantom Penis

That, of course, is what I have called the movie for years.  It's my least favorite of the Star Wars films.  The Phantom Menace was a pretty big let down after so many years of waiting.  So, the announcement of a 3d-ifyed version didn't impress me a bit.  George Lucas' recent anti-fan rant impressed me even less.  So, I vowed not to hand Lucas any more of my money.

"But aren't we going to go see the movie?" the Boy asked, doe-eyed as I began to bad-mouth Lucas during a D&D game.


Despite constant viewing of the entire . . . hexology . . . my son has never seen a Star Wars movie in a theater.  Meanwhile, I was there for the first showing of the first movie in the Houston Galleria 34 years ago.  We viewed it again, and again, and again, in different venues, waiting in lines coiled multiple times around the outside of various theaters.

"You've seen it hundreds of times . . . you dont' really want to see it in a . . ." I stopped, looking into his eyes.


"Okay, we'll go," I smiled.

The first Star Wars movie commercial I saw, crammed between Saturday morning cartoons one early morning, sold me on the show immediately.  If my parents had said we weren't going to see the new movie, there would have been HELL TO PAY.

So we went yesterday.  I wore my goldenrod star fleet t-shirt in silent protest, but I went all the same.  We loaded up with coke and popcorn and plopped down in the big, comfy seats.

As always, the 20th Century Fox fanfare got me.

The 3d was . . . well . . . it was there.  It wasn't spectacular.  It wasn't annoying.  It was just there.  I am glad that I didn't get any gratuitous 3d Jar Jar tongues in my face.  But all in all, the movie wasn't that bad.  In fact, there are two parts of the film that I remembered I really liked - the pod race and the battle for Naboo.

It's hard to mess up exploding stuff.  And the noises from the pod race - the wub-wub-wub of Sebulba's turbines reverberating in your chest - I mean - that's something I can't get out of my TV at home.

And you've got to admit despite how annoying is when he's hitting on Padme - teeny-tiny Anakin makes a pretty cute little padawan at the end.

Sooo . . . yeah . . . I gave Lucas my money again.  Apparently, he'll be getting it at least five more times.  In the end, it's quite worth it to see the smile on the Boy's face.

- Ark

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Genealogy

Not Gunter.

Shortly after I moved to Hollywood, I met a German tourist named Gunter who had a penchant for wearing a green and purple track suit that made him look like Barney the Dinosuar.  We spend hours discussing the true meaning of "Fahrvergnügen" and the Hitler's involvement in the creation of Volkswagon.  But I'll never forget that the second we met, he locked eyes with me and said excitedly 'I know your people!'

Gunter had done a lot of travelling through East German after the Wall fell, and had just came from another such trip to the US.  He said that I looked just like the people around East Berlin.  He had seen my face reflected in the streets there.

I didn't know quite what to think of that, but I filed the bit of data away for future use.

Fast-forward two decades and a friend is helping me with my family's genealogy.  Research in the area has always been difficult since the family isn't one to remember back far or talk to relatives much.  But with my friend's help, we were suddenly getting a lot of hits on that helped to trace many branches back further than I had ever hoped.

Apparently they have water in Strausberg.
A lady named Margaret stood out.  I had never heard of her - my great-great-great-grandmother.  She had been born in Strausberg, Germany in 1811 and had come over to Texas at some point.  The name of the city sounded vaguely familiar, so I googled it.

Strausberg is a city 30 kilometers east of Berlin.

Wow.  Gunter was right.

It still boggles my mind.  I have 16 great-great-great-grandmothers, most from many places other than Germany.  The fact that Margaret's facial genetics have passed down to me - and held on so strongly - that some guy strolling down Santa Monica Boulevard could identify my genetic homeland - 200 years past - within a range of what - 18 miles - wow.

And here I thought I might look Irish, which is funny because so far, I can't find a lick of Irish in the family tree – despite what I had always been told by family members.

What I can find is Scots-Irish - something differently entirely.

Socks and sweaters anyone?
My patronym is contained in a group called the Little Scottish Cluster.  This is a group of families who share a recent Y-DNA genetic relationship.  The group centers on a common ancestor who existed around 900 -1100 AD and who lived in the vicinity of Stirlingshire, Scotland.  Moving forward to 1618, my ancestors are living in Argyllshire (which is apparently a mountain or two away from Stirlingshire.)  They decide - or are chosen - to be colonist.  Not in the New World - but Ireland.

I had thought that my family was of the oppressed Irish.  All I can find, however, is us being the oppressors.  Londonderry was the first planned English city in Ireland, and my ancestors were inhabitants.  Apparently, we were all good Protestants, but not the right kind of Protestants (Presbyterians,) and so logically, the best place for us was in to be in Ireland, setting an example to the godless Catholics on how to be proper subjects of the crown.

The Irish are still pissed off about the whole thing.
For 100 years the Irish tried to wipe Londonderry off the map.  Understandably so, of course.   The history gets very confusing, but at least one of my ancestors survived the countless wars and political upheavals - doing so well against the Irish that everyone in Londonderry was exempt from taxes (a legality which lasted apparently until the Revolutionary War.)

In 1718, my ancestors yet again decided to be colonist as the town Londonderry created it's own colony in the New World.  They built the unimaginatively named Londonderry in New Hampshire, and brought my patronym to this new continent on which I sit.  While the migration appeared to be economic in origin, it was probably more about religion and the anti-Puritan feelings going on at the time.  Supposedly, all of their neighbors thought the Londonderry colonist were Catholic Irish, which irritated the settlers to now end.  They were proper Puritan Scots, dammit.  A century in Ireland hadn't taken their kilts or haggis away!

So what the heck does all of that have to do with Dungeons and Dragons and inspiring gaming?

Well, what DOESN'T it have to do with it.  My little amateurish delve into genealogy and history has jump-started my brain something fierce.  There is so much I've learned that can go into world building.  It's taught me a few things (or merely reinforced them.)

1) Some families just plain don't move for hundreds or thousands of years, while others are vagabonds.
2) Oral history can be atrociously wrong.
3) Entire groups of people are often used as pawns and made to feel really good about it.
4) Mountain people can be a very mule-headed, stubborn bunch.
5) The amount of history I don't know about my own culture is staggering.
6) Reading histories written by Presbyterian ministers in 1850 can make your eyes bleed.
7) Dominant genetics are far more . . . dominant . . . than I thought.

So eventually, my patronymic family continued to migrate, with my great-great-great grandfather operating a ship out of New Orleans and running guns to the Anglo colonist during the Texas Revolution.  After the war he was apparently loaded and helped build a new town in Texas, then married the German genetic powerhouse of a woman - Margaret of Strausberg.

I swear - these people really inspire me.  I had no idea that my family could be such a great source of gaming idea.  Why not go peruse your own family history, and see how it inspires you?

- Ark

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Outsourced Game Report and Sketchdump

The Boy ran his Labyrinth Lord game last week.  It was a good old fashioned Holmesian-B/X style dungeon.  The party was made up entirely of gnomes.  Okay - Kaye played a half gnome/half orc.  I'm not sure what gnomish zeitgeist was in the air - but it worked.

The game started normally in a tavern, and turned strangely Salvador Dali-esque as my son's brain spewed forth with the imagination that only an 11 year old can wield.  He far exceeded my meager attempts at being a DM when I was the same age.  I had a lot of fun.

Crazy-Ass Tim has a wonderful report on our shared lucid dreaming session, which I suggest you check out.  I don't think I could have described it any better.

Meanwhile - please enjoy the sketchdump below:

- Ark

Monday, February 6, 2012

North Texas RPG Con 2012

I just registered the Boy and I for the North Texas RPG Con.  I'm pumped.  Last year was very cool.

It's happening in June, from the 7th till the 10th.

The line-up of special guests so far is:

Sandy Petersen, Tim Kask, Jennell Jaquays, Erol Otus, James M. Ward, Frank Mentzer, Jason Braun, Rob Kuntz, Steve Marsh, Steve Winter, Dennis Sustare, Jeff Dee, Jack Herman, Pete Kerestan, Zeb Cook, and Diesel LaForce.

I'm particularly excited about the awesome artists in that list.  Some of you may have noticed I've been on a drawing kick as of late.  :)

The first thing I guess I should do is apologize to Zeb Cook.  I've been bad-mouthing second edition for decades - but now I regularly play it and am enjoying it.  Ooops.  Sorry Zeb.  Musta beena brain fart or something.

- Ark

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Night At The Tavern

Well, after a few month drawing my head off, I'm not completely disgusted by what I'm spitting out.  I'm still 10 light years from what I consider competent - and 5,000 light years from where I want to be - but that seems to be the nature of art and artists.

Shortly after posting the Betty picture, I was approached by an old friend that I hadn't talked to in a long while.  He's a pretty prolific author and he's working on a trilogy at the moment - a trilogy that needs cover art - and he wanted to see if I would do them.  Life is kind of odd, yanno?


- Ark