MINES OF KHUNMAR to be published (soonish I hope)

A few years ago I released a pdf of notes and maps (about 5 mb — 50-60 pages) of a “megadungeon” of my own creation that had been ‘under construction’ since 1980 or so. It got some approval from those who like big-ass dungeons, like here… or here… or elsewhere.

But the initial release (in 2004), although free, was just a scan of about 90% of the maps (eight levels; each level consists of around 2 to 5 maps) and very brief summaries (written by me) of what was on each level. It was just an outline.

Enter Geoffrey McKinney. He downloaded the ‘outline’ and wrote me to say that he wanted to see it printed. I hemmed and hawed and whined that the original notes were all written in pencil or ink on school notebook paper with lots of abbreviations and cross-outs and spelling errors and my handwriting was crap anyway, so he said that if I scanned the pages, he would type them up and send me an MS word copy. I took him up on his kind offer.

About a year ago, one of the OSR publishers approached me to ask if I would like to see Khunmar go to print. We had some discussions, but after a year we hadn’t made much progress, and, since I have been out of work for a while, I decided that if ever I was going to have time to work on Khunmar, it would have to be now. Previously I had released ‘Exquisite Corpses’ via Lulu and had been pleased with the way that worked out.

So I’ve decided to publish it myself. Whether via Lulu or some other means is still in doubt. I haven’t figured out what set of rules I should make it compatible with, but I’m guessing I’ll just make it as close to ‘generic D&D’ as I can using a rule set like “Labyrinth Lord” or similar.

This is a massive undertaking. So far, without maps or much editing, the manuscript runs over 100 pages. The maps are all poorly drawn in pencil on yellowing graph paper and need to be redrawn. I’d like to use the book as a showcase for my illustration and will be illustrating it myself with scenes of adventurers in the dungeon itself (the picture above is my rendition of one of the encounters involving a giant cyclops and his pet hydra that I painted for my own amusement). I would also want the book to be interesting for the other dungeon masters or mega-dungeon fans to read, so many of the entries (which consist of just the name of a monster, hitpoints and treasure, if any) have to be written and ‘fleshed out.’ There are also lots of errors: missing levels, stairs that lead nowhere, mislabeled rooms, etc. An unrealistically optimistic estimate would say that the earliest it will be even close to being ready for print is a year from now.

But I’m excited and eager to see it through. As an example of how I would like to see the maps done, I’m attaching one of the maps (level 2f) below. Click to see an enlargement.

Bestiary Entries (3)

Here are three unusual creatures which may be of interest to the traveler or fantasy naturalist.

Arrowsnake: The arrowsnake is an unusual snake that has a sharply pointed diamond-shaped head and two small feathery wanes on the tail that resemble the fletching on an arrow.

This unusual snake can be found lurking alongside trails and paths and attacks it’s prey in the most unusual of manners. If a flexible sapling and thicker tree are availible perpendicular to a well traveled portion of the pathway, the arrow snake will hook it’s neck around the sapling and then use it’s tail to hook around the tree and, using the natural springiness of the sapling, draw the sapling back. It can hold this pose for hours or even days. When suitable prey passes along the path, the snake releases hold on the tree and straightens its body, using the sapling as a catapult to hurl itself forward like an arrow, and, if it’s aim is true, piercing the target. The arrowsnake has also been known to select a pliable branch, grip that in it’s teeth, prop the branch between two trees and use a third tree and it’s tail to draw back the branch like a bow; when prey passes it’s hiding place, the arrowsnake releases it’s hold on the rearmost tree and pierces it’s pray with the considerable forward momentum obtained in this manner.

Unlucky or nearsighted arrowsnakes who miss their targets have been known to embed their own heads in trees where they can easily be dispatched or left to starve. In any case, the canny or ethically challenged traveler will often insist that a companion proceed them on the woodland trail if arrowsnakes are suspected.

Cautious travelers will wear a rather bizarre looking (but effective) protection in the form of a large ‘sandwich board’ costume.

Closet Sloth: The closet sloth is a temperamental and anti-social creature about which very little is known. How it ends up in closets among the seldom worn garments is not understood, but if disturbed it reacts with violence. These creatures may hang for weeks or even months in the backs of seldom visited closets and will normally be content to remain hanging, attempting to be mistaken for a moth eaten fur coat of obsolete style and low quality.
They enjoy the smell of mothballs and prefer darkness.
If a shabby fur coat should suddenly appear in your closet, best to just leave it alone. This writer would suggest you simply avoid the closet altogether and purchase a new coat or jacket which you can store by hanging over the back of a chair or banister until you are certain that the closet sloth has moved on.

Peccadillo: The peccadillo is an armadillo/chicken hybrid which will roll itself into an armored ball if offended. Although repulsive in appearance, the peccadillo is not particularly aggressive or dangerous.

Moloch: Now thats what I am talking about!

The above is a still image from Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian sci-fi film, Metropolis. Freder, hero of the film (and son of Master of the city) has a vision in which the machine that the workers tend become an idol to which the workers are sacrificed.

Moloch is (or was) a god who was worshipped by the ancient Hebrews (among others) and apparently demanded costly sacrifices. Apparently there are references in the Bible that suggest that children were sacrificed to Moloch by burning them. Moloch is sometimes described as a metal idol in the form of a man with a bull’s head which doubles as a furnace.

It’s been decades since I have sat down to watch Metropolis. Although the actors performances are pretty weird by today’s standards (there is a lot of over-the-top grimacing and pointing and gesturing and everyone wears makeup, including some pretty outrageous eyebrows as I recall), the sets and special effects really are like expressionist paintings come to life… and I remember one somewhat (unintentionally) comical scene in which an engineer who tends the machines beneath the city attempts to ward off a mob by swinging an obviously rubber wrench (it flops and bends like a massive rubber dildo). Great inspiration for settings and images, though — the picture above needs to be the setting for some sort of dero sacrificial rite…

It’s probably difficult for us to understand how radical the film might have been — in the 1920s in both the US and Germany, striking workers could count on being sent back to work by force and their strike leaders killed or arrested. Many were in virtual debt slavery while a tiny minority of the extremely wealthy lived lives of unbelievable decadence (the Weimar era parties in Berlin were famous for fountains that flowed champagne, orgies, sexual slavery, all-you-can-snort cocaine buffets and other examples of ‘off the hook’ conspicuous consumption that apparently make Dennis Kozlowski look like an amateur). All this while the working class were struggling to keep living at a level just above starvation. One of the consequences, unfortunately, is that when the socialists and police began battling in the streets for control, the fearful populace sprang right into the arms of the Fascists… but that’s a story for another time.

More painting; V2 for Exquisite Corpses

I decided to rework the proposed cover of Exquisite Corpses (I’m a one man band, so these things take time) but have been unable to spare much time to paint (job hunt, playing games, a re-tile project at home and other stuff), even though I am eager to get this thing going. I discovered that I enjoy seeing paintings “coming along”and have a vague idea that by periodically photographing stuff as I work on it, I can learn more from comparing previous versions with the current state of the illustration. Here is the same painting after around 2 or so hours of work and again after hours 3 or 4.
I’ve really been into 1930s-1950s ‘pulp crime’, horror and sci-fi mag covers for a while now. This is supposed to be a wrap around cover, so the left side will be the front cover and the right side will be the back (hence dead space at the top for title, etc.). The woman’s costume is intended to look equally at home in Flash Gordon’s universe or Hyboria… a snake man coils around her leg and various other beasties loom in the back, gathered around a fire. I intend to add more monsters back there. The pink fleshy cyclops slug with wings and a big tongue turned out pretty good I think.
I’m pretty fond of it thus far and think it promises to be much better than the first version (see earlier posts like this one). I like the pose of the woman much more and I think it will make more sense to the viewer what is going on.
I hope to be able to put in some time on it next week; between having guests over this weekend and 100 other things, I am pretty busy right now.

Attack of the slugbats and snake-man

OK; here is where I call this one ‘finished.’ I could keep working on it ad infinatum, but I think I made some mistakes early on (particularly in layout/positioning of the figures but also in rushing through the initial sketch — the figures look particularly wooden and stiff) so I’m going to move forward and see what lessons I can draw from this while forging ahead.
I definitely need to work on my patience and try to find more ‘source material’ to use for the positions of hands, muscles, etc. Both of these figures look like scare-crows or robots and the slugbats look like flying green bananas. I think the blue snake-man looks wierd the way he is wrapped around the pillar (it does not look 3d to me) and I wish I had made his body skinnier.
I like the cave but need to work on making the rocks appear more textural. I also think the cave should be much darker and rougher-looking.
I look forward to trying this again!

Keep on keeping on…

This is the current state of the painting. I feel a lot better about it but think it still needs a ‘layout’ revision (see yesterdays post). I’m enjoying seeing the progress from the series of snapshots I have been taking (even though the quality of my digital camera leaves a lot to be desired).
Other good news is that I got a ‘proof’ copy of Exquisite Corpses back from Lulu this morning and look forward to cutting the pages and trying it out. Stay tuned and thanks for all of the encouraging messages.

Try to do something creative every day

I’ve felt mentally and emotionally starved for the better part of the past several years. First the stress of losing my job, then getting a new job and all of the financial ups and down associated have really taken their toll. One of my goals, to help combat the malaise that all of these ups and downs bring, is to try to do something creative every day… whether that’s working on a painting (see in progress above) or doing some sketches or even just looking at other work that interests me.

The above is an ‘in progress’ shot of the final cover for Exquisite Corpses. I have some reservations about this artwork and may try a different version. The image is the entire cover (front and back) with the left half appearing on the back cover and the right half appearing on the front. It portrays 2 ‘pulp style’ warriors (male and female) in a tunnel fighting a blue snaky thing with a human head (the snake-guy is coiled around the woman) and a slug-bat eyeball monster fighting the man. On the back cover, two more of the slug-bats flap up to get in on the action.

‘Exqusite Corpses’ proof is off to the printers!

I just got done uploading the first version of my new “Exquisite Corpses” book to Lulu. I don’t yet have the final artwork for the cover (I just used some placeholder art) and it will take between 5-15 days for Lulu to send it back to me so I can look it over and test the concept and make sure it ‘works’ before I make whatever minor changes are needed and offer a new version (v2) for sale. Estimated page count is 91 pages; estimated cost is around $10.00 for the book and it is A5 size (about the same size as an 8.5×11 sheet folded in half vertically)… profusely illustrated. About 26 pages in the book are blank, but when you see the book and how it works, I think it will make sense why.
When the proof arrives, I’ll post pictures showing how it works.
Unfortunately, the shipping is $3.99 for one book — which ups the price to around $14.00 each… which isn’t too bad, but is just about $2.00 more than I was hoping for it to cost. I’m making less than $2.00 a book gross. Now with the time and postage and sample copies I’ll be sending out to a select few members of the blogosphere, the project will probably be a net loss — bad business for an unemployed guy, but I’m hoping that the book will generate interest and get my work some attention.
Due to the special nature of the book, even if I took out all of the slightly pervy or PG 13 stuff, I doubt anyone would publish it as more than a vanity project, but I eagerly anticipate the public’s response because this book is a labor of love.


It only gets worse! Check out the not-so-subtle reference to a popular and hideous internet meme from the upcoming Exquisite Corpses:

Oh the humanity!

New art for ‘Exquisite Corpses’ plus Progress Report

We have what I hope is a series of treats for any readers who wander in — two illos and a progress report for ‘Exquisite Corpses.’ If you haven’t been following, Exquisite Corpses is a ‘monster generating work book’ of what I beleive to be an unusual and inventive nature that I am making for Old School Rennaisance games. For more details, check all posts in this blog under the ‘Exquisite Corpses’ label. The first two the illos for the ‘Exquisite Corpses’ is snake lady putting the smack down on Joe Adventurer. She is trying to decide if she would rather cut his head off or blow his brains out with he laser pistol:

The second picture is my current favorite. Wonder Warthog mutant is using his psionic powers to rip Joe Adventurer’s brain right out of his head. Bonus points if you know where the mutant in this pic was lifted from. Double bonus points if you know who wonder warthog is without Wikipedia:

Over the past few days I have tightended up the text a lot and added a section with alternative psionics rules for OSR games that are a potential option for players who want to add special abilities to their mutants and monstrosities and don’t have a psionics system in their game of choice.

At this point all that is left is to add two or three sample monsters, then give the text the once over and send it out to be proofed… after I proof it and if I think it’s ready, I’ll make it availible!