Zodiac, ‘We explore Dungeons…" etc.

First, nods to Al over at ‘Beyond the Black Gate’ for his brilliant Aulde Schoole Gamer’s Zodiac. I’ve just discovered that I am a displacer beast… which explains a lot.

I’m glad to see that my earlier thread on “We don’t explore characters, we explore dungeons,” struck a chord with some, but, again, I am not the originator of that phrase. Someone who calls himself ‘Evreaux’ (sp?) originally posted that over at Dragonsfoot (and I’m not certain if I got the quote 100% right or the original context right — but that isn’t bothering me since I am interested in the way the conversation has developed regardless of the author’s original intent). If the original author wants to contact me and set me straight on how I mangled or misrepresented his ideas I am ready to apologize and issue a full retraction.

On a related note, recently there was this post on a similar subject over at DF (it’s not a very good one so I wouldn’t bother). But as I have continued to read some other people’s response to Evreaux’s (sp?) neat aphorism, I’ve been thinking more on it. My basic premise is that when a half-a-dozen people sit around a table and pretend to be ‘Grizzo the Fighter’ or ‘Pablum the Elf,’ I’m less interested in seeing them reach inside of some ‘character concept’ in order to figure out what to do in a given situation and instead have the players decide for themselves what they might want to do in that situation. One of the great things about ‘rpgs’ is that they can offer a pretty complete range of choices without consequences. If I and my fellow players decide to save the village (or rob and murder the villagers!), at the end of the day no real harm is done, but we can have fun exploring the actions and just ‘seeing what happens.’ One of the phrases I hate hearing around a game table is, “My character wouldn’t do that.” Instead of hearing my fellow players tell me what their pre-determined character concept would make them do, I’d like to see more emphasis on players deciding what they (the players) want to do.

Finally, if you want to send me hatemail, go ahead. But if you want to make it seem like the hatemail is coming from multiple people (rather than just you), using multiple email accounts is probably not enough. Using the same basic syntax and flawed spelling in messages from “different people” makes you look like a pathetic douche with an axe to grind (hint: “patriot” has only one ‘a’ in it). It is also probably best that you not send it all from the same IP address.


I’m trying to do some kind of drawing every day… even if I don’t feel like it. I won’t post every single one, but I am also trying to keep working, and posting as often as possible is one way to try to stay honest.

This is a warrior and a big stony-guy, like some sort of rock giant I guess, demonstrating that sometimes size does matter.

Gunner versus Flying Worm

I’m still trying different things. The picture at right represents a bit of a departure for me. We see a woman all dressed up for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars pulling out a ray gun to shoot a flying worm with a minimalist landscape.
Its got some possibilities but I need to push it further.

Tears for Hackmaster

I was just packing up a bunch of books that I have sold, including a big pile of Hackmaster 4e books (including all of the Hacklopedias, the crazy DM screen with umpteen-hundred charts, etc.). Getting rid of the Hackmaster 4e books makes me really sad, even though I have never really played Hackmaster (other than sitting in on a couple of games).
Hopefully they are going to a good home.

Piasa (work in progress)

(click image to enlarge)

A few days ago I posted a work in progress shot of a painting of one of the Mississippi’s legendary monsters, The Piasa bird. (Another Saint Louis legend is the persistent tales of a giant monster catfish that can swallow a man whole… then there is the whole “Wild Man of the Ozarks” thing; perhaps I’ll have a series of paintings).

Here is a photo of it a little further along. I may have turned a good corner on this one; it now has a sort of strange “Rousseau” quality to it that I am starting to like.

Sorry about the color tint of the picture; the red and green are much more vivid in the original.

I want to move to France

This morning saw another small and flimsy barricade that was standing in the way of the US becoming an oligarchy fall when Governor Walker’s State Legislators held a ‘flash vote’ to force through the bill to deny organizing rights to the state workers and teachers. They are calling it a ‘flash vote’ because, like a ‘flash mob’ will put on a performance in the middle of a public space before any of the onlookers can realize what is happening, the ‘flash republicans’ got the vote to happen so quickly that the onlookers (i.e.: those opposed who were not told in advance) did not have time to vote before the final bell was rung. Reporters said that many of the Democratic legislators could be seen pushing their vote buttons in an attempt to vote when the vote had already been ended.

The stakes are much greater than the pensions of Wisconsin teachers and snow-plow drivers (although, if you were one of those people teaching or plowing in Wisconsin, those things would be important). I used to comfort myself with thinking that my ideological opponents and I could find common ground and create solutions that, while they might not be ideal, would represent the best for all. I thought that hope was the essence of modern democracy. As that hope fades, I’m forced to wonder if we will no longer be living in a democracy.

I used to be more optimistic about this country and its future. Now I want to move to France. Why France? Because I don’t speak French. If I lived in France, I wouldn’t understand what was going on and I wouldn’t know how badly I was getting fucked by whatever nascent French ultra-rich oligarchy is using the economic ‘crisis’ to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of the public much like is happening here. I’d be blissfully ignorant. Plus they have better healthcare and good food. And it is pretty. And I like wine. And England and Germany and Italy (all places I like) are nearby.

Woolgathering about art direction

Recently, Ckutalik over at the Hill Cantons posted that he was putting together a book and was thinking about art direction. He posted a few very interesting samples of work he liked (Chinese wood cuts of (what I assume are) historical scenes and a lithograph from a Russian book illustrator) along with a request for suggestions.

The post was interesting to me because the art he presented is great looking AND far removed from the usual suspects as far as ‘art for rpg products’ goes. This made me wonder what RPG products might look like if one hired artists who were totally unfamiliar with the genre and its conventions to illustrate an RPG product.

I don’t see a way of putting this plan into effect (other than writing an RPG book, winning the lottery and using the lottery winnings to sucker a bunch of artists who haven’t done RPG art into illustrating it), but it makes for some interesting speculation.

Who else wants to see Henry Darger come back from the grave to illustrate a weird-ass RPG book? Perhaps a campaign guide to “The Realms of the Unreal?”

Eyeball Art

While looking for something else, I stumbled onto this article about a guy who, while in prison, started making these amazing sculptures out of recycled materials. Really great little sculptures!

It’s also amazing because he made them from found/scrounged materials in prison. I have a hard enough time getting my shit together to make stuff, and I have my freedom. What an inspiration!

Different Ideas for Art for the OSR

As an artist who has had work published in the OSR, I find myself interested in different possible aesthetics and how the ‘Old School Rennaisance’ (or, as I prefer to call it, the ‘Old School Revolt!’) might distinguish itself from the competition. I find myself inspired and encouraged by the likes of Peter Mullen, Aeron Alfrey, Sean Aaberg and Skinner — as well as the fairly predictable praise (for OSR tastes, anyway) of Erol Otus and Trampier and other classic TSR artists. There are lots of people whose work I have been admiring and see ing around, like J Bingham, Jason Braun & ATOM Taylor & Glad Thomas, Aos and RavenConspiracy. And there are lots more, although I can’t think of all of them right now. Please list your favorites in comments.

I’d like to see more artists offering an alternative to the more (to my jaded eye) prosaic visual fantasy fare that has come to typify much of the industry. I feel my own work is too derivative of that which came from the classic era of TSR — in addition to pursuing my other art interests at this time (like the mosaics), I’m interested in shaking up my own ideas of what art for the OSR might look like. But it is harder than I expected, and, with my current time crunch, finding time to do new work is hard.

The picture at right is a ‘work in progress’ shot of a painting of the Piasa bird. It’s early yet, but I haven’t really felt like I’ve ‘hit something new’ here yet. I like the face but the feet look weird.

The Piasa Bird

I grew up in St. Louis, Mo, and my father’s family had owned farmland in the Alton, Illinois area in the 19th century. So it is not surprising that I grew up familiar with the legends of the ‘Piasa bird.’

In 1763, the Catholic priest (who went on to be creditied with the founding of Saint Louis) Father Jaques Marquette and his crew of explorers were travelling down the Mississippi River when they discovered a gigantic painting of a fantastic creature upon the river bluffs. It had a man-like face with giant teeth, a snake tail tipped with a fish-like flipper, wings, clawed feet and antlers (the image at right is a reproduction based on early settler’s drawings; the original was unfortunately destroyed because it was painted on stone that was subsequently discovered to be of value for lithography; the original painting (which might have dated back to the Cahokia civilization of ~1200 CE) was cut up and carried away). Father Marquette and his explorers noted the good quality of the painting and could not figure out how anyone could have painted the picture on a cliff of that height. They also worried that the painting might depict a real creature (they were among the first Europeans to visit this part of the world which was, at that time, a big white space on the map with a question mark). They called it ‘the bird that eats men.’

I grew up believing that the word ‘Piasa’ (which is pronounced “Pie-uh-saw”) was ‘bird that eats men’ in the native language. As it turns out, no one can agree on why the explorers called it a ‘Piasa.’ Some think is is a reference to the French word for river bluff and others think it is a native word. Most think the original was a symbol of The Cahokian Civilization. The Cahokian civilization dissapeared before any Europeans made it to the midwest, so no one knows much about them.