MONSTER BRAINS (and why I have monsters on the brain)

The image at right is from an old comic cover by L.B. Cole (circa 1940 or so) and comes to me courtesy of one of my favorite image blogs, “Monster Brains.” The Cole pictures are particularly wonderful, but Monster Brains always has something good. Do yourself a favor and subscribe today.
Earlier today I had an epiphany of sorts. I was looking at the Cole images on Monster Brains and just enjoying their lurid wonder. Later I went to my therapist (yes, I go to a therapist) and he and I spoke about how I take personal responsibility for the feelings of others (and how that’s not a good thing) and subconsciously seem to believe as though other people’s unhappiness is my fault.
Later, I thought back on a conversation with an ex-girlfriend where she was somewhat taken aback by the fact that I was always writing short stories in which one of the characters would transform into a ‘monster’ (not literally, like a werewolf, but they would transform in their behavior and their might be some outward sign of that transformation… like a story in which a guy had a big boil on his forehead — or another story where a man wakes up to find that someone has attached a dog’s head to his body right next to his human head). I was also always drawing weird shit and admiring pictures like the one at top right… or medieval art (particularly scenes of hell or mythological creatures)… or Indian art (like this image of Kali), etc., and she was saying, “What is it with you and the monsters?”
This is where the epiphany comes in. I think the fascination with monsters comes from identifying with the monsters. Now that it occurs to me, I am shocked that I never thought about it before. Weird, huh?

D&D with Pornstars question & answers

I was reading the responses to a question by Zak, the author of “playing D&D with porn stars.” He asked for straight females and gay or bi males to respond with answers to the question, “From your viewpoint, what constitutes a sexually attractive male?” (I’ve probably mangled the question, but that is the gist of it).

I find the answers to such questions interesting, even though, as a hetero male, my opinions were not wanted for the poll. If nothing else, it’s a way of at least trying to get inside someone else’s skull for a moment and try to see the world through their eyes.
In the many responses to Zak’s question, everyone was responding with adjectives like, “muscular, fit, trim” and examples like “Nathan Fillion” or “Aragorn.” No one was saying, “pudgy white dudes are so sexy.” That kind of hurt.

Share the Love

J. Smith of the ‘Underdark Gazette’ posted a list earlier of all sorts of new stuff (some for sale, some for free download) that may be of interest to those on the OSR scene:

The Underdark Gazette (News for Sunday the 23rd)

Of particular interest to me is the “Realms of Crawling Chaos” book by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis from Goblinoid Games. It has cool cover art by Sean Aaberg!


My ‘Hate List’ posting has proven to be the most responded to posting ever on my blog, which has done wonders for my fragile self esteem. Rest assured, oh gentle reader, the pessimist in me believes that tommorow my posts will receive the usual average of 0-1 responses so I may as well ride the wave while it is here.

However, I was told that because I had presented a ‘hate’ list, I had to present a ‘love’ list. In the spirit of love, I give you a rainbow and unicorn (at right) instead of the drawing of G. G. Allin. Please enjoy responsibly.

LOVE LIST (in no particular order):

  1. People who are interested in the world, fired up with creative energy and engaged with their lives as opposed to the cynical narcissists who seem to dominate in so many environments.
  2. Interesting and unconventional thinkers who aren’t reactionaries.
  3. History (both the good and the bad)
  4. Good books
  5. Making shit up
  6. Good things to eat and drink
  7. Conversations
  8. Thinking
  9. Being alone at least 1/2 of the time
  10. The way animals travel… fuck it, animals and plants make me happy.


In no particular order:

  1. People who ‘speak’ Marketing and refer to ordinary transactions as an ‘experience.’ On the radio this morning I heard some wonk calling the process of someone downloading a coupon an ‘experience.’ Listen, you assholes: You should only call something an experience if it radically changes your life. Sorry, but saving 25 cents on Jimmy Dean sausages probably does not qualify. Having a heart attack from eating too many Jimmy Dean’s sausages? Qualifies.
  2. Politicians who are about to vote down the Obama health care law ‘because it’s unfair to ask the taxpayer to pay for other people’s health care‘ or ‘because it’s socialism!‘ ought to have the courage of their own convictions to voluntarily drop out of their cushy government health care and start paying for it or doing without.
  3. Anyone who listens to Limbaugh and claims to have an IQ over 80 should be retested.
  4. If you consider yourself ‘pro-life’ but currently support slashing social programs and dismantling the US Department of Education, you are an incredible asshole.

"But your character wouldn’t know about that!"

Bochi, over on Dragonsfoot, posed a pretty simple (but thought provoking) question about whether or not players should be allowed to peruse books like the DMG and the Monster Manual. This opens up the whole, “player knowledge” versus “character knowledge” debate.

After people play in several games (or play in many games over a course of years), they come to know all sorts of information that a first level character probably wouldn’t know. I used to play with a guy who would loudly say, “But your character wouldn’t know about that!” whenever another player would dare to utter something like, “Green slime? Get out the oil and torches!” or, “A potion? I hope it’s a potion of flying!” or something similar. And this was even when he was not DMing. It was as if he expected us to play ‘stupid.’ Often he would do stupid things that other players did not want him to do and then claim, “I was just playing my character.” I’d describe his ‘malady’ as a form of reverse rules lawyering. I found it very tiresome.

That said, I find it fun (and refreshing) to play with people who don’t know the Monster Manual inside and out. I think as a fellow player, the “gee whiz I wonder what will happen next” idealism of new players just introduces more fun and a less jaded energy to the group.

If I were to DM, I would not mind that player characters acted on player knowledge… to expect a seasoned player to sit there and let a rust monster eat his character’s +5 sword just because the character never encountered a rust monster before (but the player HAS) seems the height of folly to me. It’s a game, not a pure simulation. Just like someone playing their 10,000th game of chess is going to have an advantage over a new player who is still asking, “How does the horse one move again?,” so, too, the player who has been playing D&D for years can be expected to have a few advantageous nuggets of wisdom that may help his character in a pinch… then again, players that assume that everything is going to be the same in my campaign as in the one run by their chum in highschool might be dissapointed (I think it’s fair game to introduce variant monsters like a variety of green slime that is vulnerable to cold instead of fire or traps that strike the area that most seasoned players might expect to be safe). If you need a justification, just allow that the new character sat on his grandpappy’s knee every night while that retired adventurer told him about rot grubs, green slime, harpies and gelatinous cubes.

Now, I also think it’s perfectly fine to introduce house rules and rules variants to your home campaign. If these rules would possibly directly impact the player’s decision making process, it’s only fair that you would try to let them know ahead of the time when they are in the middle of a situation and trying to decide what to do. Failing that, allowing a player to ‘take back’ one action (especially if it seems obvious that the player would have chosen differently if he knew about a house rule), seems only fair. If the player isn’t a dick, they can probably be trusted not to abuse your patience by invoking the, “But I didn’t know” clause too often.

ART FOR SALE (in the near future)

Below you can see some images I drew over the years for the Goodman Games line of Dungeon Crawl Classics (both 1e and 3e). I’ve got about 100+ of these, published by Goodman and others, that I might like to sell to interested collectors. In the coming months I will try to set up some kind of online marketplace for them.
Note: These will be sold as original art to hang on your wall — not for reproduction.

Adventurers battle Lizardmen in front of a mural in the caves. I know that ‘lizard folk’ is the currently correct usage, but I’m old school, baby! (or maybe they are troglodytes; I don’t remember) If I remember right, this was from DCC #26, “The Scaly God.”

Another one from “The Scaly God.” A dragon goes for a night flight while his/her minions watch adoringly. This is a really small one:

DCC #27: “Revenge of the Rat King” This is on the title page so it’s about 1/2 page. The monster is some kind of totally whacked troll/were-rat that is handing a party of adventurers their collective asses. Yee-haw!

This is a color cover from Judges Guild/Goodman Games 3e reprint of “Citadel of Fire.” This is acrylic on paper… the original is in storage, but I think it measures about 16×20. I also have the original art of “Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor” from the Goodman/Judges Guild line. I did all three painting that appear on the covers of Citadel and Badabaskor. Buy all three and make a triptych!This one is unpublished; I think it’s about 12×16 acrylic on paper. Roar! Those PCs are about to get cooked!