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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


So, does miniature painting fit into my A-Doodle-A-Day challenge?  Well . . . sure . . . why not.  I just have one more day left in the year-long challenge anyway - and all I stipulated was that I post something artsy each day.  So there. :)

My son and I have been getting involved in Infinity.  I had been looking around for something to play at the FLGS - perhaps some type of collectible card game - but instead chose something I never thought I'd play - a scifi wargame.

The setting is like . . . um . . . if Ghost in the Shell had a love child with Mass Effect.  Or if Bubblegum Crisis and Appleseed had a threesome with Halo.  The background is massive and rich and crazy and reminds me of a lot of the science fiction campaigns that I've created.  The game came out in 2005 in Spain, and grew out of the developer's own home sci-fi role playing game.

While the background is cool, the mechanics are even cooler.  Unlike other wargame or skirmish games that I've seen, there is always something for each player to do.  It's not MOVE - WAIT - MOVE - WAIT, it's ACT - REACT - ACT - REACT.  If the opposing player runs his trooper around a corner where your dude can see him - BLAM.  Blast him.  It's always busy.  You are always studying a fluid battlefield and acting or reacting.  You get your face down to the board level and check to see if you can get a bead on moving troops all the time.  If you don't notice something - well - that's your bad.

Aside from troopers and shooting, you can deploy hackers to take over the enemy's battlemechs and strafe their own troops, you can release lovable looking koala-bots that run up to soldiers, hug them tight, and blow up, you can race up and down the streets in combat motorcycles, you can send a squad of optically camouflaged high tech ninjas behind the enemy lines, you can have an airdropped werewolf take up a sniper position, you can shoot people with packets of nanowire, you can . . . oh dear . .  . there is a lot. :)

I've decided to start building a Nomad army.  The Nomads are basically Space Gypsies.  They excel in hacking, optical camo, and horrific technological weapons.  Oh, and they have crazy-ass murder-nuns.

My son is working on an Ariadna army.  They are a lost colony that was unlost at some point.  Take Americans, Russians, Frenchmen, and Scots, cook for a hundred years, don't let them advance technologically, but give them some unobtanium that makes bullets that ignore armor, turn half of them into werewolf-like things, then have an loopy AI resurrect William Wallace to lead them.

Anyway, a brand new edition - 3rd - just came out with a very spiffy starter set - Operation: Icestorm.  It doesn't hurt that there are quite a few players already at the FLGS, so this next year should be full of fun skirmishes and lots of superglue on my fingers.

- Ark

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adventures in Arting

It seems that a important part of learning path in art is to fall flat on my face, painfully, and then flop around like a dying fish while trying to figure out why I suddenly can't draw anymore.  I think it happens - big time - maybe once or twice a year.  I am chugging along just fine - creating art better than I ever had before - and then I'm on the side of the road with a flat tire and have somehow forgotten how to operate a car jack.

I seriously could not draw a straight line for a while there.

I think it's because I started to use my pencil differently - trying to sweep with my shoulder more than my elbow or wrist.  Things were okay for a couple of pictures, then BAM - crap crap crap.

I THINK that the change kind of laid bare some of my lazy drawing habits - like just shifting facial bits and pieces around without having a good grasp on the anatomy of the skull and fleshy face bits. Same goes for the body.  Sure, I can look at a reference and copy it, but constructing the forms underneath - well - I could use some work.

I THINK.  I don't know.  Arting is also like a big old stack of Jenga.  Each one of those Jenga stick might be knowledge or techniques, etc.  But a fair amount of them are just chunks of confidence, and without confidence, the whole thing goes splat.

So, I sat a stared at some videos of artists I like on Youtube, watching how they hold their pencils and move their hands.  Well - they all have different ways of doing it.  But not a single one of them does it the way they are "supposed to." :)

I shoulda known.

Of course this is all happening when I'm going through some of the most stressful times at work in a decade.  That probably has something to do with it too.

So, I'm chugging along, doing exercises out of Andrew Loomis' Drawing the Heads and Hands.  I feel like I am in rehab.  But it's working.

Anyway, I'll keep drawing.  And preping for the last section of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.  The players are in the last bit.  Could be a TPK.  Good times.

- Ark

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Today was a painful, horrible day for sketching where nothing went right, so I tried going back to basics and do some simple lines.  Newp.  Can't even draw straight lines.  It's like a busted a circuit in my brain or something.  Oh well, maybe tomorrow I'll remember how to do this.

- Ark

Friday, December 12, 2014

Clumzor's Bambi

Apparently the coffee assault on my drawing pad was repulsed.  While it wasn't working yesterday, the Wacom is working today.  Perhaps it just needed to dry out?  I don't know - maybe it is sentient and self-repairing.

Whatever the case, I drew Clumzor's Bambi - a tiefling from his comic - to test out the pad. (I love Clumzor's style.)  The pad seems to be working just fine - even if it does smell like a Starbucks.

Um . . . if you don't know about Bambi . . . well . . . don't Google Clumzor's Bambi if you are at work or anything.


- Ark

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sad Pad

When you add a cup of coffee and a rambunctious cat to your Wacom drawing pad, you get . . . well . . . let's just say I'll be going unwillingly back to pencil and paper again.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

- Ark

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Nut Job Lana

Last night I watched The Nut Job.  It was a strange little movie about furry creatures that would have been totally forgettable, except for Lana, the mobster's girlfriend, who had like 58 seconds or so of screen time.  Wanting to sketch her, I couldn't find much of anything about her on the Internet, so after a crazy screen-cap session, I made this.  I don't ever recall making a screen cap collection thingy, so this is a first.  Enjoy.

- Ark

[Copyright some company or a lot of companies I couldn't figure it out so go look it up if you care.]

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cleric Nobility Domain 5e Rules (Beta)

My noble fighter PC, Lady Sarafina, loves her goddess - Siamorphe, the goddess of nobility.  Sarafina tries very hard to be a good follower.  She usually fails, tending to make up rules and laws on the spot and beating murder witnesses unconscious out of anger.  Oh, and stealing from the public coffers when she wants to build dungeons to house two headed ice demons.  But she does try.  She has tried so hard that she even dipped into cleric as a mulit-class option.

Regretfully, the old Nobility Domain hasn't been recreated in 5e.  Siamorphe kind of finds into the Knowldge domain, and kind of the War domain.  But not really.  Really not really.  Neither feel right for Siamorphe.  So I did some research into the old domain system and whipped up the following.  It's still just an idea - not implemented yet - but I'm going to present it to my DM soon.

SO, feel free to look it over and give me feedback - and if you like it - go ahead and use it.  I still need to think on it a bit . . .

The Nobility domain focuses on those who rule in civilized societies.  Clerics in the Nobility domain may be the aristocrats themselves, or priest and priestesses who act as advisers and protectors of the nobles.  Typically, lawful gods have influence over this domain, but on occasion neutral ones hold sway.  Examples of such deities are Siamorphe in the Forgotten Realms setting, Pholtus in Greyhawk, Aureon in Eberron, and Zeus, Re-Korakhty, and Foreseti from various Earth-inspired fantasy pantheons.

1st - Command, Charm Person
3rd - Enthrall, Calm Emotions
5th - Compulsion, Geas
7th - Mass Suggestion, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion
9th - Foresight, Power Word Stun

At 1st level, you become proficient in your choice of two of the following skills: History, Insight, Intimidation, and Persuasion  Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those skills.

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to fill yourself or an ally with the essence of nobility.  The channeling takes a bonus action and raises the charisma of the recipient by two points for one minute.

Beginning at 6th level, you gain the feat Inspiring Leader, though it takes one action and is without the charisma prerequisite.  Should you already have the feat, recovery time reduces from a long rest to a short rest.

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy.  Once on each of your turns, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 thunder damage to the target.  When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

From 17th level, you have the effects of the Calm Emotion spell whenever you concentrate - never needing a spell slot.


- Ark

Axe Lady

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dungeon Master's Guide

More short axe-wielding ladies.
Tonight I received a complimentary copy of the DMG from my FLGS.  I'm DMing the Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the D&D Adventurers League - and probably The Rise of Tiamat soon too.  Well, I finally finished just FLIPPING through the thing, and boy, are my eyes full.  I don't ever remember seeing such a pretty DMG, or one with so much STUFF on so many diverse topics.

I did read a bit on my flip through.  There is an OSR feeling to this stuff.  Well, maybe just an original D&D feel.  No that those two things are really different at all, actually.  And the pictures are just awesome - they evoke a lot of different feelings, environments, and methods of play.

The DMG seems to say 'Okay, the other two books had some rules and stuff in them, but that's just kind of an illusion for the player.  But the DM can't live in rule-land.  The DM should live in happy-fun-land, so here are some tools to build happy-fun-land, and, in fact, here are some tools to build the tools to build happy-fun-land.  Oh, and and we may one day make a PHB II, a MM II, and even a DMG II, but why don't you write those yourself?  Now.  Go."

So yeah, I'm stoked.  Now to actually read it and see if my first impressions are right.

- Ark

Friday, November 21, 2014

Never Use The Bathroom

Never use the bathroom while playing D&D.

I mean it.


What happened?  I'll tell you what happened.  So, the party is in Suzail, the capital of Cormyr.  Lady Sarafina is trying to be of service to the crown in order to bump up her Cormyrian noble status to something above 'Lady Consort to her Husband the Earl.'  Yeah, sure, she's a Vicountess in a fealty chain extending to Neverwinter, but Sarafina thinks Lord Neverember is a prick and will never bow down before him.  Thus she finds herself trying to kiss the King of Cormyr's ass.  (Sorry, Faerûn PoliSci 101 might be needed here . . . just understand that she's trying to impress royal folks.)

The party, which consists of Lady Sarafina, Caine the Woodsman, Tim the Enchanter (aka Auschwitz Elf because he is painfully skinny) and Sir Kriev the Dragonborn Knight, have been doing odd jobs for a royal minister - like cleaning out demonically possessed prisons.  But one day they find the minister dead in the royal castle.  The guards are not too interested in properly investigating the death, so Lady Sarafina takes charge, blustering and ordering people around like usual.

While questioning the gardener, Sarafina discovers him to be a cagey little bastard, who tries to run from her the multiple times.  During one of his more lucid moments, he said that during the night he had seen a woman shuck off her clothes and toss them into one of the pools in the royal garden.  Grumpy and feeling bloated (Sarafina is pregnant with twins at the moment, btw,) she beat the gardener unconscious, tied him up, and dragged him to the pool.

At the pool was a man in fancy clothes surrounded by a flock of women.

I take this opportunity to GO TO THE BATHROOM.

I return to find the party being ARRESTED BY SECRET SERVICE AGENTS.

What the fuck?

Well, what happened was the man in fancy clothes made a smart ass remark to the party while I was gone.  Tim the Enchanter polymorphed the dude into a FROG, and Sir Kriev picked him up and skipped him like a stone into the pond.

Apparently, that is no way to treat a Crown Prince of Cormyr.




- Ark

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Computer Rebuild

I'm lucky that I enjoy completely reloading Windows from scratch onto a computer.  Oh - wait - I DON'T enjoy that.  Drats.

Oh well, at least I sketched the above while downloading and installed 167 'important' updates from Microsoft.  Enjoy. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Horde of the Pirate Queen

I'm still running Horde of the Dragon Queen at the FLGS for the D&D Adventurers League.  It's been fun, but I've had to take the game off the rails for my sanity, as well as the players.  A lot of the reasoning behind situations in Horde of the Dragon Queen just don't make sense and players tend to think that their quest givers are idiots.


A well constructed railroad would have been okay, but this adventure requires a lot of pruning and reworking to feel right - at least for my group.

After getting fed up, I decided to replace all of the faction contacts with new NPCs.  The players felt that Leosin was a useless fool and Ontharr was a pointless poser.  And that's pretty accurate.  So I brought in their supervisors and made them capable, proactive kind of people who set traps for choice cultists in Baldur's Gate and used the PCs to help extract information.  That sat a lot better with the players.  No one likes to work for a moron.

Sections 4 and 5 involve a two-month overland caravan guarding gig while spying on the Cult's treasure caravan travelling from Baldur's Gate to Waterdeep and beyond.  I decided to give the player's some agency and have the Cult split the treasure into multiple shipments travelling in different directs and methods.  So they got to choose their own adventure.

The players chose the sea option.  The cult joined a merchant flotilla and the players followed behind.  Sure, it's just a reskin of the caravan thing, but where else can you get:

  • Auction house deals with Shadovar agents and magical rugs,
  • A socially inept, magically disguised, always laughing Marid sultan/merchant shipping vacuum packed weaponized sand with his ten fish-wives back to the elemental plane of water,
  • Trails of aboleth slime in the ocean, ready to be scooped up by PCs who don't know what will happen if they touch it,
  • Sahuagin boarding parties rising up from the deep,
  • A trip to Mintarn - being just a reskin of FREEPORT,
  • A pink haired gnome theif girl slash whore-house tour guide,
  • Having to post bail and pay back various powerful loan-sharks,
  • A magical wharf that makes ships invisible for a day,
  • A cambion pirate named Captain Dan(te) and his first mate and navigator who happen to be cheerleader/barbie doll sucubbi,
  • A GLABRZU bosun and a cloud of imps that live up in a ship's rigging,
  • Wiping out the fiendish command crew of a pirate vessel with aboleth slime and a sorcerer-induced randomly generated pack of flumphs.
  • Attacking a Mintarn ship-of-the-line from an invisible corvair captained by a renegade succubus out for revenge.
  • Etc.
It's not EXACTLY a reskin.  Okay, I pretty much threw everything in Horde out, including the whole Zentarim/Cultists theft/murder/revenge storyline.  But eventually they'll track down the Cultists again - somewhere in the Mere of Dead Men and be ready for Section 6. :)

- Ark


I drew this while streaming in front of a live studio audience.  Strange experience.  Kinda like DMing in public.  I'l have to do it again sometime. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Yelling Sketch

I'm back to fiddling with drawing on the computer.  Sketching on the Nexus kinda got me excited about the computer thing again, so I decided to load up the drivers for the Wacom and see where it went.  Here is the initial sketch with my Bamboo and the reference that I used.  Twenty minutes or so, using SketchBook Pro.  I reqlly enjoy the ease of shading with the program - as opposed to dorking with the pencil.  Oh - and undo is a horrific and wonderful cheat. :)

- Ark

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Hours at the Coffee House

Computer is all fixed up and I can scan again.  Above is the result of two hours at the coffee shop this morning, warm-up and all.  Off to go play D&D now.  Enjoy.

- Ark