But most people puzzle over a creature that evolved to exactly fill a 10×10 corridor and just slides around the dungeon, like a big see-through Roomba, sucking up everything and anything in it’s path (does anyone else find it creepy that the company that makes the “roomba” is called “irobot”?). Perhaps the gelatinous cube did not ‘evolve’ to be 10x10x10, but some wizard bred it to be that way… like the way that the Chinese bred their little dogs to have pushed-in looking faces.
I also like the wandering monster tables that are either environment appropriate (i.e.: you are unlikely to encounter camels in the arctic or fish in the desert if you roll on the right chart) and the ones that are ‘scaled’ for dungeon level… especially the ones that make it likely that you will encounter 1 hit dice creatures on level 1, 2 hit dice on level 2, etc., but the players can also occassionally encounter a monster from a deeper level that has ‘wandered up’… but such ‘deeper level’ monster encounters are less likely.
Has anyone created tables that are keyed to both environment and average party level/power? Thus you level 1 group is more likely to encounter a band of orcs while wandering in the woods while the 4th level party will encounter ogres instead (or maybe just a great many more orcs?).
I suppose I could put such tables together myself, but it seems a real pain in the ass. Maybe someone has already done the work for me.
“Everythings fucked up and no one goes to jail…”
I was reading a really depressing piece about the continued fallout from the financialand mortgage crisis by Matt Taibbi entitled, “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?” the other night. It confirmed some of my worst imaginings and made me wonder if I was going to see the death of the American middle class in my lifetime.
Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.
The more I learn of what happened and how, the more angry and helpless feeling I get. Insult is added to injury since, after the Obama election, Obama supporters (like myself) had hoped to see a change in Washington; instead we have gotten more of the same. The financial criminals get rewarded while people who engage in ‘poor person crimes’ (like prostitution, drugs, etc.,) continue to fill the jails beyond capacity. Somehow, this story of a woman who collapsed and died at her desk in her cubicle and no one noticed until the next day seems the appropriate bookend for that tale. Has our brand of capitalism degenerated into a form of indentured servitude? We already have workers who live in mortal fear of termination or layoff because of their dependance upon their employer for health care benefits. How many employees would love to use the capitalist system to their own advantage by entertaining offers from another employer but dare not because this would require they enroll in a new health care plan and the pre-existing conditions suffered by themselves or a family member would not be covered? Despite gains in the market and in corporate valuation, salaries contine to remain flat and unemployment rates contine at near-recession levels. There has been a recovery, but this rising tide has not lifted all boats… or maybe that metaphor no longer works because it becomes obvious to me that in this economy, not everyone HAS a boat.
If that were not enough, despite the fact that the money taps had never stopped flowing for the top 10% and their lackeys, the ‘deficit disease’ continues to infect the minds of Americans. The revenues are out there, if the people in Washington had the balls to collect them, but our leaders and media pundits continue to use the financial crisis as a reason to put public assistance programs and the salaries and benefits of state workers on the chopping block. Perhaps emboldened by the way in which GM and other manufacturers managed to kick the stuffing out of unions during their own financial meltdown and come out smelling like a rose on the other side with shareholder’s dividends and CEO salaries intact, Wisonsin legislators are now using the “financil crisis” as en excuse to try to place a foot on the neck of their public service employees and hack away at the benefits (financial and otherwise) associated with public service jobs in their state; watch and wait as other states follow that lead. Why is it that Americans worship billionaires and suck up to millionaires but hate anyone making less than 50k a year to the point that salary caps, wage freezes, benefit cuts and pension gutting for the poor and middle class are always ‘necessary’ but any suggestion that the super-rich should pay a dime more than the have-nots in taxes is met with outraged cries of “communist wealth redistribution” or viewed as an affront to capitalism, freedom and our mother’s love?
James over at Grognardia was waxing nostalgic about Erich Von Danikken(sp?) and “Chariots of the Gods?” over on Grognardia. ‘Chariots of the Gods,’ TV programs like, “In Search Of” and similar ‘pop science’ that blurred the line between fantasy/fiction and reality (or at least tried to) was a big part of my growing up in the 1970s. Since the cover of von Daniken’s book is so boring looking, I thought I would dress up my blog with some ‘Eternals’ artwork by the great Jack Kirby.
I have an unabashed love of these ‘Fortean’ type studies… including the story of Richard Shaver and the Shaver mystery, so it probably does not come as a surprise that I’m enthusiastic about seeing Grognardia include von Daniken and similar ‘the pyramids were built by aliens’ and similar psuedo scientific theories in his sources of inspiration for fantasy, science fiction and pulpy stuff. However, reading the comments that followed his post, I was surprised to read several people take issue with the inclusion of von Daniken and his ilk because ‘Chariots of the Gods’ was not intended as a work of fiction.
I guess I find that idea really puzzling. That von Daniken claims that these things are true doesn’t make it ‘ineligible’ for inclusion in inspirational material (at least to me). One person wrote, “This isn’t pulp fantasy. If this is included as pulp fantasy then every book in the New Age or Metaphysical section at Border’s book store is pulp fiction. A dreadful misrepresentation, James.”
“A dreadful misrepresentation?” What did I miss? I don’t get it. Is this just a matter of taxonomy? And, if so, where do you draw the line? If you have strong feelings on the subject (especially if you feel that Grognardia was wrong to include von Daniken in a list of ‘potential inspiration sources), please reply and explain your views; I want to understand where you are coming from because this just makes no sense to me.
These are just some pages from my sketchbook. Most of them are just doodles or random ideas or me trying to figure something out. I used to always start drawings with pencil and then go to ink, but, in recent months in the sketchbook I have been going right to ink, which is an interesting way to work for me.
Never one to avoid attempting to ride on the coat tails of what appears to be a sure thing, I decided to try and throw my own bloggy hat into the ‘lets try to talk about sexism in RPG art’ discussion. Full disclosure: I’m a hertero male, married, white and probably lead a pretty boring life by most standards. I like to draw and paint and do other stuff and do some illustration work for OSR publishers. I’m not really good at drawing sexy women posing in chainmail bikinis and similar stuff. I sometimes think that I would have better luck getting work if I was better at drawing those ‘cheesecake’ type pictures (or even ‘beefcake’ pictures), but somehow, either because I can’t or don’t want to, I just don’t draw those kinds of things. I also suspect that there are a lot of other people already hoeing that particular row, so, instead of competeing with all of the aspiring Larry Elmores of the world, it might be best just to pursue that which I’m good at (or, at least “better at” than some).
I don’t think I’m a prude, but much of what the mainstream identifies as ‘good fantasy art’ really bores me. Of course, people like Larry Elmore have had long and successful careers and I’m just a work-a-day amateur, so what do I know? But I know what I like. Take the painting by Elmore at left. It’s certainly very competently painted. The anatomy and skin has a more realistic look than anything I could do. Every hair in her yak-skin boots and fur loincloth is lovingly rendered. So why don’t I like it?
If you had asked me to describe a good painting when I was 12, I might have described a painting like Elmore’s. All the detail and the almost photographic rendering of every blade of grass looks hard to do (much like a 15 minute guitar solo sounds hard to do) and I would have just admired Elmore’s illustrator chops and his obvious discipline. And the woman is sexy and she’s looking right at me — the prospect of having a sexy woman without a shirt on look at me would have been pretty appealing at age 12. I remember being in an art class and we were taking a tour of the museum and there was one sculpture that was a series of red metal sticks welded together on the floor and then a painting by some lesser known old Dutch painter on a wall and the teacher asked me which one I liked better… and of course I said the Dutch painting. When she asked me why, I pointed at the metal sticks and said, “I could have done that. This (me pointing at the painting) looks hard to do.”
At the age of 12, however, it might of been hard for me to understand why some women wouldn’t like the Elmore picture that much. These days I would understand that view a little better; although I don’t think it’s just the ‘tits and ass’ content that pushes a painting like this into a somewhat condescending view of a woman heroine (at least not for me). It is maybe not just the nudity or even the sexuality; maybe the general sense that the woman here is just someone for us men to look at and saw, “woah, what a hot ass,” and for women to look at and say, “I wish someone would look at my ass the way people are looking at her ass.” I guess it approaches what (someone else) might have been talking about in his blog when he said that he thought that women were attracted to men that seemed competent (OK, now I can’t find it… so maybe I imagined it, or maybe someone else said it, or maybe I just can’t find it). The thing that kind of annoys me about so many of Elmore’s pictures is that the women are just standing there to be gawked at. Smarter and better read people would talk about ‘the implied male gaze’ or ‘the female body as an object of delication.’ I’m not well versed in those arguments/ideas, so I won’t do more than mention that they exist, but even with my somewhat rudimentary understanding, the ‘stupid pictures’ in rpg/genre fantasy art are currently at a kind of a “I know it when I see it” standard. Others (especially those to whom this matters a good deal more than me) probably have better informed thoughts.
The probablem I have with Elmore’s picture is that it is so utterly unimaginative and unambitious. She doesn’t look like she has a thought in her head, and, looking at the picture, all I can think of is, “Well, I’d tap that.” For a lot of people, the discussion of sexuality in genre art seems to one of taste. Perhaps the Elmore might be found ‘tasteless’ by some because the subject is (mostly) naked. I don’t like it just because I feel like all the thinking has already been done for me when I look at the picture. Elmore is saying, “Here’s a picture of a girl’s ass!” Bang. We are done.
The picture from the cover of the ‘Rogues Gallery’ by Erol Otus evokes a different feeling in me. Although it is hardly as ‘photographic’ or polished as Elmore’s airbrushed lady, the characters and the linework are quirky (in a good way). The wizard-guy in the horned hat appears to be sticking his hand down the front of the lady warrior’s shirt, so this picture is not absent ‘sexual content,’ but I don’t feel like the picture is as cheesey or brainless or as trite as Elmore’s. Perhaps because the illustration itself does not seem to take itself as seriously just on the basis of “how it was done.” Everything from the half-orc’s grass skirt and orthopaedic-looking shoes to the wizard guy copping a feel is more cartoonish and wierd/fun. Although sword-lady is sexy, I don’t feel like Otus was trying to inspire me to take the picture to the bathroom and rub one off. The “hand down her shirt” seems more of an ‘easter egg’ than anything else since unless you were looking for it, you might not notice it.
I don’t really have clear ‘rules’ for what is or is not ‘exploitative’ genre or RPG illustration art; and I don’t know if such rules would be helpful. But I think there are qualities to some illustrations that interest me more than others, and that is the aesthetic I would like to pursue. If I may express some hopes for the OSR, I hope that is the aesthetic that more of us will pursue. I tend to like some pretty strong stuff, and I love older pulp magazines (including many with S&M scenes), classical art, underground comics and the like. I’ve drawn some stuff that other people have told me is disgusting and/or disturbing… like this and this and this. I amuse myself by drawing pictures of people getting castrated or violated or their eyes gouged out. I’m not setting myself up as a beacon of decency and good taste (and I would hope you wouldn’t trust me if I tried to do that). But I do think that if fantasy art wants to be something beyond just “cheesecake,” the artists have to get more interested in things other than just drawing nice asses and tits… and the viewers have to get more ambitious in their viewing habits. I suppose you can have those things and a lot of people will beat a path to your door, but, if that’s all there is, then I am probably going to get bored. To me, given that the OSR is supposed to be all about ‘creating our own’ and ‘going crazy with it,’ boring is unforgiveable.
Speaking of which, why hasn’t anyone hired this guy to do any OSR work?
OK, when I started this I thought I had a point. Now I’m no longer sure if I did.
(edited to remove references to another blogger who said he was getting tired of being misquoted on this issue on another blog)
Three days ago, much of the nation celebrated what would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday (if he were still alive). I did not celebrate the occasion.
Watching his spectacle funeral a few years ago, complete with the coffin laid on a gun caisson and boots inserted backwards in the stirrups of a horse without a rider (a bizarre bit of political showboating that seems more at home in some part of a titless PG-rated a Mardis Gras parade than anywhere else) and hearing so many lining up to suck the dead man’s cock (or at least stroke his balls) was a truly strange experience. Ronald Reagan was an American war hero who, unlike actual soldiers, never got his hands dirty or made any reference to the fact that when you go to war, a lot of suffering and death takes place. Eisenhower was well before my time, and, in the lens of history, he seems to be regarded as a ‘merely average’ president, but since Eisenhower had been an actual general you would think the pomp and circumstance of dead generals would be reserved for him, but Ronald Reagan warmed the cockles of our American hearts and never expressed doubt or regret over anything he did. Never mind that his war service consisted of making training films. There is no doubt about it; even in death, Ronald Reagan is and always was a winner who could piss on the public and then get thanked for it.
The current trend of whitewashing Reagan’s legacy reminds me of the overwhelmingly positive obituaries that came from every corner after Senator Jesse Helms died. Journalists in the supposedly ‘liberal media’ mentioned Helm’s blatant racism at the time of his death only as a personal peculiarity, like a preference for seersucker suits or bow ties, rather than calling Helms what he was: an evil old man who rode racism to power. They talked about his long “service” to the nation but did not delve too deeply into what his “service” entailed. Similarly, on Reagan’s birthday the old platitudes came out and got polished up.
Annie is my best ally and encouragement. Today she said, “My friends all want to see your mosaics and I can’t remember the name or URL of your aldeboran blog. You should make pictures of your new work easier to find. Where should I send people who want to see your stuff?“
So, this evening, after installing a new toilet in the master bathroom (groan) I set up a quicky site on my new domain: www.stefanpoag.com. There is not a lot to see there yet (just a repeat of the mosaic pictures I already posted to my blog), but ASAP I hope to have a better web portfolio up and running.