Friday, March 30, 2012

Refrigerator Art

The boy has been busy illustrating our games, so it's time to hang some of the pictures on the virtual icebox here.

First up is from our Second Edition D&D game that Crazy-Ass Tim runs. The Boy's dwarf,  Luke Daggerbeard, is shown here fighting off a vicious ice dragon that was attacking our flying boat.  Luke landed the final blow that slew the beast:

Next up is the Star Without Numbers game that I run.  Sergeant Kevalt Laranzo, security chief of the Fat Tuesday, is below, pushing back wave after wave of the zombie-like Husks.  The Husks were headless corpses controlled by the Amazon Floral Hive Mind, who had it out for the party in a big way.  In the background sits a grav tank that the party appropriated from the deceased, zombified soldiers on the lonely jungle planet.  AR-50, the party's resident robot PC, mans the fifty cal on top of the tank:

And finally, we have some wish fulfillment.  Kevalt recently purchased a gravcycle, which one day he hope to fly out of the Fat Tuesday's loading ramp while descending onto a planet, rushing into combat like . . . like a Mechanized Valkyrie.  Hopefully, his wish will come true soon:


- Ark

Exposition Without Number

I just wrote a note to the players of my Stars Without Numbers campaign containing some information so I wouldn't have to blab it all out when we start playing on Saturday.  I amused myself quite a bit as I droned on, producing far more exposition that
I had planned.  I'm sure it will bore them to tears.  But I enjoyed it, dammit, so I figure the rest of the world should suffer.

So enjoy.  Or suffer.  Or both. :)

* * *

The party returned to the planet Metha aboard the Fat Tuesday at the end of the last game session.  The Methans were happy with the resolution of the Hard Light novium issue and paid well (except for Dr. Mann, who was paid well for her research on the Amazon Floral Hive Mind.)  The party is not actually on Metha (which looks a lot like Titan, if you remember,) but on one of the thousands of space stations orbiting the planet.  Elysium Station is unlike any of the other stations the party has seen, however, as it has clearly been designed with humans in mind.

In fact, humans are all over Elysium Station. There are living quarters, restaurants, shopping malls, and hydroponic parks bustling with people - families with children even.  Occasionally, Methan hybrids like Ellen-14 shuffle along the walkways in their giant, bloated tick-like bodies without so much as a second look.  It's a lively place, but clearly all of the humans are in the employ of the Blue Methan Hegemony.  There is an unusual amount of human psychics on the station, utilizing their skills out in the open - something not normally done inside of human space.  Centuries of anti-psi bigotry has convinced most psychics to keep a lower profile.

Another odd sight aboard Elysium station is the abundance of Harpathians - perhaps ten percent of the population.  The creatures resemble anthropomorphic, roly-poly, three foot tall baby seals.  Yes, the ones with the poofy white hair and the 'don't hit me with that club, you bastard' stare.  Harpathians are well-known in human space, but mainly as cartoon characters in the holo-vids designed for girls 8-10 years of age.  The most well known is JOLO, the fluffy sidekick of CAPTAIN KENDRA AND THE KOSMOTEERS.  Few humans have ever actually seen a real Harpathian, as the entire race avoids humanity like a plague.  The history of Human-Harpatian relations involves liberal amounts of slavery and being sold as pets, despite the Harpatian's loud, literate, and eloquent protests that they are actually a sentient race with thoughts, feelings, and a desire not to be a cuddle toy for 6 year olds.

The Harpatians appear to have support jobs all over the station, including spacecraft servicing, but they seem to be most prolific in security positions.  Three foot tall baby seals walking around in power armor bristling with plasma projectors is a common sight.  It's unnerving - and doesn't get any better with repeated viewings.

Ellen-14 is eager for the party to accept the currently offered job.  If you remember, this is to track down the source of the Berserker Spider manufacturing box - which  would logically (per the Methan's past experiences,) be a box that makes boxes that make Berserker Spiders.  The Methans are worried that if the Box is not located soon, it could run across an AI, hack it, and un-brake the AI - causing a heap load of trouble for whatever civilization the newly formed Berserker AI ran across.

The Fat Tuesday's Chief Engineer and back-up pilot, Sophia Lucullo, expresses concerns about the Methans.  She's never seen them before, and is clearly frightened.  She also reiterates the story from the Kingpin of Blue Saturn (whom Captain Goodnight met with in the Tigris System,) who said that the Methans had exterminated almost all of his race and were not to be trusted.  The ship's marine compliment - Alice, Bethany, and Carmen (Kevalt's Angels,) have a completely different attitude toward Ellen-14 and her kind - and have been buying as much military hardware as they can afford from the giant space-ticks.

If the party chooses not to accept the mission, Ellen-14 says that she and her brood understands, and they will gladly program the navicomp aboard the Fat Tuesday to the destination of your choice.

Um, anyway, I've gone overboard with interlude - but there you are. :)

See you on Saturday!

- Ark

Thursday, March 29, 2012



I'm nowhere near finished with the comic.  I've been overloaded with work, and what little time I did have, I spent drawing Red Sonja.  Rather than rushing around and breaking my back - the comic won't come out this time, but instead, at the next scheduled time in two weeks.  Bummer, but I'd prefer it look halfway decent than have it be just chicken-scratching.

I really need to learn how to draw faster - but it seems like I'm actually learning how to draw more slowly.  I don't think that's how it is supposed to work.  And somehow I need to combined my desire to draw a D&D comic with my desperate need to draw cheesecake.  Two birds, one stone.  Hmmm . . .

I'll figure something out - I'm sure.

- Ark

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Map Drawing Music

Normally, my mind hearkens to heavy metal music when I think of the halcyon days of D&D.  But honestly, when I was sitting around drawing maps or designing campaign material, I was far more likely to be listening to stuff like the music below (like I am right now drawing during lunch instead of eating.)

- Ark

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword

After a week of work, and too many hours to fully pony up to, I've finished my Red Sonja fan art.  I'm incredibly proud of it, and think it's the best thing I've ever done.  Tomorrow, of course, I'll look at it and feel it is the most horrible thing I've seen - and be embarrassed to even think of it.  Alas, that's my curse - I just have to deal with it and move on to the next piece.


- Ark

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dungeonspiration: I Don't Do Dungeons

The last couple of years have been an intense fest of role playing for me.  If you add it up, the total gaming time during the last three years probably equals the previous thirty.  I've begun to realize - or re-realize rather - that I don't do dungeons.

Fun map that I don't know where came from.
That's a horrible realization in a column named after dungeons, but let me explain.  I dont' like dungeons.  Okay, that probably didn't come out right.  I don't like dungeons as a way of life.  Yeah, that's more accurate.

In my previous gaming life back in the 80s, I mainly DMed.  Within about two years, I was done with dungeons, focusing on wilderness adventures.  That got boring, and I went on to strictly urban fantasy adventures.  I really didn't get back to dungeons until the advent of 4e - both as a DM and as a player - and while I like dungeons - I think they work better as a spice than as an entrée.

(Yeah, some of you got confused, I know.  I'm using the North American definition of entrée - meaning the main course.)

Simply put, a trip to a dungeon that lasts more than two sessions is going to bore me to tears.  To me, a dungeon should be like a short story - composed of three succinct acts - a beginning, a middle, and an end.  In the depths of a lengthy dungeon stay, I loose focus.  Encounters begin to blur.  I forget why I'm underground, and forget to care.  Okay, yeah, I have the attention span of a gnat - I know that - but it's not getting much better as I age.

I understand that to some people, the dungeon is the game itself.  I understand that.  It's okay.  You megadungeoneers are wonderful people and I love you all, man.

It's just that . . . I really like that coming up for air part.  You pop out of the dungeon and go to town and interact with the locals - get to know them and their culture - and then maybe you wander around in the wilderness for a bit - get attacked by a yeti - capture the yeti - train the yeti to speak and say rude things to your fellow party members - take a trip on a flying boat - have dinner with the king of the elves and try to prevent the dwarves in the party from killing the dinner guest.  You know - stuff.

I don't know - maybe that's the 'new age' way of playing that the groggiest of grognards complain about - but heck, by 1984, that was my preferred way of playing.  I remember running a game set in a pseudo-Lankhmar where the PCs played beat-cops.  They had to pop into the sewers every once in a while for a dungeon adventure, but bulk of the time was comprised of thwarting ne'er-do-wells in a city of alleys.

I guess the big downer in the dungeon is that I'm not engaging with the people and cultures of the imaginary lands in which I dwell.  You know, aside from having a conversation with a talking door or exchanging curses with the kobold king during combat.  I'd like to feel like a part of a large, thriving, vibrant land, rather than just one of the many corpses buried underneath.

But still, I like a good dungeon.  The important features of good dungeons are that they should be short and to the point.  The dungeons bits - the monsters, traps, etc - should be memorable and exciting.  And I should have time - quality time - between dungeons in which I get to set my own priorities and become involved with the people who's ancestors I'm looting and defiling.  Otherwise, this imaginary world I'm traipsing around in (or DMing) is kind of hollow.

So that's my 'dungeon inspiriation' for today - a dearth of dungeons is inspiring.  To me, at least. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red Sonja Preview

I'm working on a drawing of Red Sonja.  I just finished inking her face and am pretty happy with it - so I thought I'd share before I go hit the sack.  Have a good night.

- Ark

Friday, March 16, 2012

75,000 Kiriban!

My all time pageviews hit 75,000.  I was all excited about that until I realized that most of those hits were from people not at all interested in the blog's actual content, which is made clear by the search engine queries that brought them here:

эрик картман
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But at least the 'right' sort of people are reaching the blog, so it all works out in the end . . . I guess.


- Ark

P.S. Oh wow - the members/followers/whatever stat says 200 as of today as well.  Wow.  That's just amazing.  Thanks guys and gals.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Roll A One

Yay!  I took a little unexpected hiatus from the comic, but now I'm back.  It was tough to get  in the swing of things again, even though I've been sketching daily.  I've been looking at really really great art and, alas, comparing my own work.  I think that might be the downfall of any creative endeavor - unrealistic comparisons leading to spiraling self doubt and then creative paralysis and fear.  You know, that old chestnut.

I got better.  I decided I didn't want to go up on the cart.

I'm not sure why my little comic strip seems to be evolving into a comic 'page.'  Guess that's just the way my brain wants to tell the story.  I wish my brain would be a bit more succinct.  All this panel drawing it going to wear out my fingers.

Anyway, I hope you like it.  It's based on a true story.  Well - a true game event.  Make-believe can be true too.


- Ark

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rory's Story Cubes Rock

I used to be an adventurer like you until I took an arrow to the bee.

'nuff said .  . .

- Ark

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Wakfu

 Wakfu is a French cartoon based on an MMORPG.  Unlike most shows that derive from some sort of 'product,' I find Wakfu to be very good - one of the best kid's shows I've seen in a while, in fact.

Yugo - not a Soviet-bloc automobile
Now, this is even more surprising for me, since I'm not the biggest fan of French . . . things . . . in general.  The art moves from cartoony to absolutely breathtaking.  It's kind of a anime-inspired, which I've taken to calling Frank-o-may, for lack of any better terminology.

The Boy really enjoys the show too - and this from a kid who absolutely hates anime.  (Yeah, I can't believe the anime hatred either.  I think some chromosomes cooked too long in the cloning vat, but that's another story.)

The main character is Yugo, a young boy with mysterious origins who is adopted by an ex-bounty hunter and raised in a roadside tavern and inn.  He quickly learns that he an innate magical power to create portals that he and others can move through.  Add to this his natural fighting and acrobatic ability, and the young boy can be quite dangerous.
Ruel Stroud, Professional Something

Something bad happens to Yugo's step-father early on, and yup - you guessed it - it's time for a quest to put things right.  Most of the series that I've seen so far is a picaresque set of adventures, much like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign - with both dungeons and dragons.  I mean, what else would you expect? :)

Along for the ride is Ruel Stroud, an old friend of Yugo's step-father.  Ruel appears to be some sort of a priest or cleric or monk, but isn't.  He also seems to be some sort of bounty hunter, but doesn't appear to do much of that, either.  In the end, he's really just a professional bum - who might have been a thief if it didn't take so much work.  Ruel is lethal with a shovel, however, and has Yugo's best interests at heart.

Sir Sadlygrove - possible idiot?
One of the things I really like about the show is that while it's aimed at kids, it doesn't talk down to them or be too sugary-sweet or condescending.  And there is plenty of stuff for the adults too.  Some of the stuff would go over the heads of younger kids - but then again, maybe some stuff they would understand.  I mean, there is this one scene of a villager sitting in an outhouse, looking at a magazine containing cute women.  Nothing 'improper' happens, mind you, but the brief bit probably highlights the schism between what the stereotypical French parent and the stereotypical American parent think is okay for their children to see.

The next party member to join is Sir Sadlygrove Percedal.  He's your standard cavalier - and might even be a paladin.  Or, he might not even be a real 'sir' yet.  It's kind of unclear.  He's got this sword that can kick major butt . . .  however . . . the sword does have a demon locked inside of it and it's unclear whether our dear knight has any combat skill of his own.  Yet.  I'm sure we'll learn more as I watch the season progress.

Princess Sharm-a-larm-a-ding-dong
Sadlygrove is a Iop.  It's not very clear what an Iop is - well - except an IOP is definitely not an IHOP.  They appear to be some sort of elf maybe - an seem to have a reputation of not being very smart.  That would probably include Sadlygrove.  But he's brave an courageous and virtuous and all that mess - so at least he's trying. :)

 Eventually, the party meets some ladies who join up.  The first is Princess Amalia Sheran Sharm.  Yes, a princess.  She's some sort of elf.  Thing.  Maybe.  I don't know.  Whatever she is, she a princess - one of those runaway princesses who want to see the world and have great adventures.  You know the kind.  Princess Amalia is some sort of druid or shaman with powers over plant-life.  Awesome powers.  She kicks some serious butt.

I also find it interesting that she has almost exact hair and skin color of my 2nd Edition AD&D character, Chartreuse.  And here I thought I was being original.  But their personalities are very different.  Well, except maybe the bossy part.

Little Miss Kill You With An Arrow
Last, but not least, we have Princess Amalia's bodyguard, Evangelyne.  She's a Cra.  A Cra is . . . well . . . I have no idea.  They seem to look like elves though.  She's a ranger type with a bow that shoots magical arrows.  It's her job to keep the princess out of harms way.  Considering Amalia prefers to be in harms way, poor Evangelyne's work is cut out for her.

We are not very far into the series, but we've enjoyed every minute of it.  The villains are great - different ones for each episode so far - and all very memorable characters.  It plays very much like a D&D session (perhaps more 'new' style than old,) and has already inspired some ideas in my head.

I recommend the series for those of you who like cartoons - especially if you have some kids around to help you watch it.  It's anime - but no so anime-y to turn off anime haters.  The art is breathtaking at times - the detail they put into the forests and ancient fortresses is amazing.  And if you are looking for ideas for a adventure ideas for a campaign - it's packed with really cool ones.

So go watch! :)

- Ark

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Campaign Timelines

For years now, I've had every intention of taking good notes when I run a campaign.  Typically what I'm left with is piles of papers with rows of descending hit point totals, hastily scribbled npc names, and chicken scratching that I'm not exactly sure what are.  Campaign journaling rarely works out for me.  But I do gather up my notes on occasion and try to stitch them together to see what has happened.  Luckily, I have a pretty good memory for imaginary happenings, so usually everything adds up.

At the simplest level, I like to create timelines - like the one below.  This is for my Stars Without Number campaign.  Such a list is handy because I create it in excel and can do odd date math on the fly - which is especially nice since now spreadsheets can handle dates into the far future.  With an autosum, I can see that the campaign has lasted 311 days - Earth days, that is.  

Little titles and notes keep everything straight in my head, and I can remember if an NPC was planning on hunting down and killing the party - and how long that npc has been formulating the plan and stalking them - waiting for the time to be ripe.  You know, typical stuff to make the players paranoid. ;)

So that's why I like to do.  How are YOU at note taking?

Place/Event Duration Start Date Events of Note
Halal System 1 1-Jan-2300 Ship assaulted by Captian Kaylah Tabari.
Interstellar Travel 6 7-Jan-2300 On the Edmund Fitzgerald (Methan owned.)
Interplanetary Travel 2 9-Jan-2300 ''
Jaisalmar System 2 11-Jan-2300 Hijacked ore shipment on ice world.
Interplanetary Travel 2 13-Jan-2300 On the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Interstellar Travel 5 18-Jan-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 20-Jan-2300 ''
Hephaestus System 87 17-Apr-2300 Meet Methans, destoyed casino, Sgt. & Adam KIA.
Interplanetary Travel 2 19-Apr-2300 On the Konjiki Yasha (Methan bio ship.)
Interstellar Travel 6 25-Apr-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 27-Apr-2300 ''
Metha System 1 28-Apr-2300 Accepted by Methans.  
Interstellar Travel 5 3-May-2300 On the Fort Knox (Methan accountant transport.)
Interplanetary Travel 2 5-May-2300 ''
Perdurabo - Hard Light 2 7-May-2300 Begin clandestine criminal investigation.
Travel to Comet 2 9-May-2300 On the Leadbelly with Captain Ranse Hardlee
Stay in Comet 4 13-May-2300 Exploring tomb of the Ushans (asparagusheads)
Travel to Hard Light 3 16-May-2300 On the Leadbelly with Captain Ranse Hardlee
Perdurabo - Hard Light 15 31-May-2300 Foil evil plot on Hard Light
Travel to Colony 2 2-Jun-2300 On the shuttle Bon Grunj with pilot Kingston
Stay in Colony 62 3-Aug-2300 Fight pirates and capture pirate ship
Travel to Hard Light 2 5-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Perdurabo - Hard Light 2 7-Aug-2300 Fuel up and say goodbyes.
Interplanetary Travel 2 9-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 15-Aug-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 17-Aug-2300 ''
Euphrates System 1 18-Aug-2300 Refuel at mining asteroid.
Interplanetary Travel 2 20-Aug-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 26-Aug-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 28-Aug-2300 ''
Tigris - Blue Saturn 49 16-Oct-2300 Destroy 2 pirate ships, meet the Kingpin.
Interplanetary Travel 2 18-Oct-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 24-Oct-2300 ''
Interplanetary Travel 2 26-Oct-2300 ''
Nile System 1 27-Oct-2300 Return Thad, meet Captain Zarkon of White Chapel.
Interplanetary Travel 2 29-Oct-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interstellar Travel 6 4-Nov-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Interplanetary Travel 2 6-Nov-2300 Aboard the Fat Tuesday.
Amazon System 1 7-Nov-2300 Arrive at Kyroth Colony. PLANT ATTACK!

- Ark

Monday, March 5, 2012

Jeff Dee's Expedition

As you may or may not know, Jeff Dee has been running around trying to recreate the art he created that someone at TSR chose to toss in the trash one confused day.  This time, he's recreating his stuff form the module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  I'm excited.  I love that module - and the fabulous art inside was really inspiring - well - inspiring to DMs who wanted to really confuse, mess over, and blow up the player characters.  Like I said, inspiring.

He's got a Kickstarter project for the Peaks too.  I love those Kickstarter things - especially those that help artists get projects off the ground.  Go toss him some bucks and he'll even send you a print! :)

- Ark

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ferrit by Angel

I had Angel Urena do another commission for me - this time of Ferrit, The Boy's first Labyrinth Lord character. I think he did an excellent job - and Ferrit the Hobbit now terrifies me.  That's one bad-ass halfling!

- Ark

- Ark

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Puttin' on the Ritz

Due to an overabundance of 20 hour workdays, there will be no Rather Gamey Comic this time around.  I even had to bow out of a Realms of Cthulhu game last night so I could work until 4am.  Grr.  I'll be back on schedule next time - barring some unforeseen collapse of the financial industry.

In the meantime - please enjoy Soulvex performing 'Puttin' on the Ritz' for your amusement.

- Ark