Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Been quiet...

I got a last minute art gig that has a VERY short deadline: got it sometime overnight between Fri and Sat. Actually "received" it Saturday morning...but Saturday was booked to the gills. Sunday and Monday as well as today and likely in to tomorrow I'm working on three images, maybe four.

Now usually it takes between 8-16 hours per pic depending on complexity...but I don't have that much time.

So needless to say I'm working some long hours to maintain my reputation of "quality art, on time, every time". Both the on-time part and the quality part.

After this I got another really short deadline gig due by Friday. After that I have a ton of stuff to do for the S&W folks.

Feast or famine. Thus is the way of the freelancer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Yeah I dropped some change on PDFs tonight. Like 12 of them: AD&D 1st ED MM as well as original FR Boxed set, and some AD&D 2nd ED bits too. Fiend Folio, Unearthed Arcana, etc.

I can't find the actual books anywhere (I had several but they vanished).

Over time I'll be re-collecting them. Likely head down to Chicago and Games Plus soon and see what I can find.

Until then I have reference materials. I have some ideas in my head too. I started on a basic world map tonight. Lets see where this takes us!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bringing back the Old School Style.

This'll likely be of interest to Efrem and some others, not so much to some. Your mileage may vary.

*Important Note*
This post is not under any circumstances designed to be a debate on the theory of "System Matters" or really any other game system debate. There's no debate. It is what it is.

"Just as a casual observation, anyone who considers the presence of Vancian magic a dealbreaker is probably lost to us, and I'm ok with that.

Personally, I view the pulp fantasy roots of the game as a feature and not a flaw, and I'm glad that there is an edition of the game for people who don't, because that is not a version of the game I am very interested in publishing."

Erik Mona, Publisher,
Paizo Publishing

There is a resurgence in Pulp Gaming lately; specifically in gaming via old school games ala Original D&D, 1st Edition AD&D and the like (new systems designed under the OGL as a loose framework based upon the classics).

The important clarification here is that it isn't necessarily as a "vehicle for killing monsters and getting loot" but as roleplaying as was done at the time (full-bodied roleplaying; playing the hilt out of their character in situations in and out of combat in very loose systems).

The core of the argument is that the systems were designed for IMAGINATION to play the largest portion of the game...not system.

It is steadfastly against newer, more streamlined systems which remove the imagination elements in place of simply being okay to create homebrew/ ad hoc solutions, and play without a "net" of system.

Ultimately: System Doesn't Matter*
*More accurately, if system matters to you...play games where system matters.
Does System Matter?
If it matters to YOU...then yes...system matters. (Play any game only as it was written)
If it doesn't matter to you...then no...system doesn't matter.
(Play old-school style)

The largest push on this is coming from a resentment of game systems that posit that the game is written to be encapsulated by the rules/ systems/ mechanics...and if it isn't in the rules...it's not a part of the game.

This is strictly the opposite of many gaming theories that have come forward in the past eight years or so.

The goal of these folks is that the purpose of this old school resurgence is to bring back an interest in gaming that is definitely and very literally"outside the box". Game systems that are purposefully loose (sometimes published in PDF AND DOC formats so you can easily adjust to fit.) so that most of the roleplay elements of the game are free-form and free for imagination to take the front seat in the game, not contained neatly between the lines of the game mechanics.

For a long time these game theories and gaming preferences have been derided as poorly written, very loose and incoherent. The position here is that they aren't loose or incoherent so much as they are designed to place a MUCH greater importance on the players and GM to roleplay the game and use imagination as the very heart of the game and cooperation and trust in GM Fiat...not the system.

GM Fiat is expected. Game systems are guidelines only...and less is better when it comes to anything that would inhibit the role of imagination, specifically social interactions and non-combat interactions...but even including combat interactions when you deem fit (see DM Fiat).

A LARGE chunk of this is based on a trust system where the GM is the final arbiter of the game: cooperate, don't rely on the system to get you around a GM decision.

Some folks are really getting fired up about this. Games, campaign settings and adventures are being developed for this by respectable developers. This isn't just some grass-roots, effort by home publishers...nope...it actually has a following.

I have to admit a bit of admiration for folks spearheading this shift in paradigm away from the more recent trend of one game theory and the necessity of game theory to be this deep academic discipline.

For a while now there really hasn't been an opposition to the modern theories, just a divide between:
a. System Matters (and a large body of academic work developed to reinforce and justify the prevalence of this theory)

b. System Doesn't Matter (and the body of work that came before that was based on very little crunchy system and elaborate game design theories and an absolute reliance on imagination, cooperation and GM Fiat).

The former has been lauded as the new age of gaming...where the latter is a throwback to an uninformed age of some sort...leading to ultimately the new way...and the old way. Heavy emphasis has been placed in the past several years that the old way was for some reason "bad" or "not as good".

It's nice to see more than one view for a change.

Now before the steamroll of flamage starts...it is very important to note that this Theory and Resurgence makes no claim of being the one true way, or that it is better than the games built upon the principle that System Matters. Not at all.

Folks that believe in System Matters are wholly free to believe as they wish, and play as they wish...play the games they prefer and go in peace. That style of play and design theory is perfectly valid and okay for those who subscribe to it. Rock on with thyself!

Folks that believe that System Doesn't Matter now have an outlet, a support mechanism, and game theory (such as it is) to back it up. That style of play and design theory is ALSO perfectly valid and okay for those who subscribe to it. Party on!

Play as you like with the games that you like.

Now it seems that it is becoming okay again to like Original Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D and really any old school system that relies on gaming outside the pages of the rulebook and it's not just a hole for the old stinky die hard D&Ders from the old days to play.

It's okay to see D&D as a game for something other than simply killing monsters and getting loot. That's not what it was originally designed for, and it's not the ONLY way to play anymore.



"It's okay to play old school games in old school ways."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Considered something last night...

I was talking with Matt and Monica about some of the stuff I've been talking about here lately.

It IS nice to have others that feel the same way about games/ gaming and having fun with the system and making adjustments on the fly, as-needed. We were playing the Hunter-esque side of WoD, doing some investigation, and Monica made a pretty big conclusion-leap to tie some stuff together. Could have been questionable in some games...maybe iffy. Matt just said, "Okay. That's a pretty big leap. Lets say you burn one point of willpower for the session and put these pieces together."

Cool. We were able to propel the plot forward a bit, making a leap of logic that would have been maybe slightly questionable...for the cost of one Willpower point (which will regen as of the next episode). We talked about it and it's a pretty elegant way of using the system. Kind of dig us out of the hole (investigations seem to always get bogged down in-game, and it's nice to sometimes get a Clue-by-Four).

Now some folks would have balked at this. "That's not in the rules!". The rules say X. Blablabla.

Fuck that. Whatever.
It worked nicely. We had a blast. We came up on an ad hoc solution and it worked and everyone was happy. WE WIN!

Something new:
One thing we DID come up with that sucks is when introducing new people to a group...it's far easier to incorporate gamer newbies than guys who've been around forever.

Gamer newbies usually have little to no experience with the game and how it's played/ run and really how to play and just run with it.

Old school gamers often (not always by any stretch) have this "knowitall" attitude, or know far more about the system and can be a real pain when trying to run because of interjections and "this is now how WE did it".

Ugh. Yeah...that's a drag.

Also, folks who play everything the same:
Trogdor the Fighter in D&D. Sure...that works. He has an axe, and he hits stuff. Okay. NP.

But what about Vampire the Masquerade?
Sure...Trogdor the Brujah. He has an axe and likes to hit stuff. I'm sure the prince likes having a few thugs around...I can dig it...mostly.

How about Dogs in the Vineyard?
Sure, Trogdor the Dog. He has a trait "I like to hit things with an axe". Okay. So what are the stakes? Ummm...stakes? "I like to hit him with an axe." Sure...but what about the stakes involved...you're escalating to ...oh nevermind.

How about Sorcerer?
Trogdor the Vile and his Axe is his Demon. You going to bargain with your axe in order to use it?
"Uhh...I get another axe"

The point here is playing whatever you're playing and trying to fit in with what the game (and group) intends.

If I'm gonna play Mage: The Ascension...it's gonna be a lot different from my AFMBE Fireman, my AD&D Cavalier and my Dog Brother Gilead. In each I'm accepting that it's a different game, a different expectation, and a different goal.

If we all want to get crazy and wing it...that's acceptable too. The idea is that everyone should be on the same sheet of music as far as what is going on: style of play, goals, expectations.

Be up front about that stuff. Most folks are cool with trying to fit in with what you guys are trying to accomplish. Some...a few won't

I've had some folks introduced who always want to play hack and slashers...no matter what the game...they make a combat monster. THAT usually turns out ugly. But usualy I've found that MOST folks will try to go along with the crowd, have fun and do what the others are doing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

D&Dish musings on campaigns of yore...

After talking to Todd Lockwood a bit, and sifting through his artwork for prints to get...I found myself falling in love again with the often ranted about drow: Drizzt Do Urden.

While in general I like my heroes to be cut from the cloth of everyday men and women who rise to the occasion to become HEROES. Drizzt, superheroic and munchie if there ever was a character reminds me a lot of my older days playing D&D.

Not necessarily AD&D 2nd Edition or older...I've had a blast playing D&D 3.0 and 3.5. But I'm reminded of our games, and how we roleplayed it to the hilt. We had fun playing what we wanted and dealing with the consequences of it in-game. We had some great GMs over the years who let us play anything we wanted and built the world and stories around us...but things were going in in-world as well...and we as characters were assholes...we usually ended up having people after us...if we were heroic...people flocked to us as well...but for different reasons.

Point here is that we were able to have an effect on the campaign setting to a degree and we did actually roleplay the hell out of it.

This is not what many people think D&D is good at. Looking at just the rules, D&D is a wonderful vehicle for killing monsters and gaining loot...but so many people see the rules as the sum and whole of the game.

When did THIS happen?

I love the idea of taking a character, making a dude who sets off as an ADVENTURER...not really knowing full well what it means...turning him in to a character who gets in a lot of trouble, fights his way free and learns something. Later becoming a champion of sorts (pick a cause), gaining notoriety and slowly gaining prestige and power...eventually gaining lands and power...finding the trouble now follows HIM.

At some time the character is ready for retirement and we make new characters and the old PCs become NPCs...and we keep on rockin in the free world so to speak. Hell even dust off the old PCs a year or two later for an uber campaign. A war or other campaign world changing event.

Point is, during this whole time, we're still playing D&D in the same campaign setting. Maybe had 3-5 characters over the years and had a helluva lot of fun.

All of this with a system that is derided as "a bad vehicle for Roleplaying".

I call bullshit.

I don't see D&D4E as being anything like it's older roots. The OD&D we could easily do that style of play, mix it up with some homebrew rules, and have a blast. D&D4E seems refined down for a very specific style of play...which is what a LOT of folks say D&D always was.

I can see how that would be true...if the rules are all there is to a game. If that's so, then yeah, D&D has always been just for killing shit and getting loot.

It just seems like such a waste and really...so unimaginative.

When I started out playing D&D...the very point of the game was imagination. We're making a lot of it up and the rules were for the most part a guideline we learned along the way and mix-matched to fit our needs/ wants.

THAT was Roleplaying.

Now it seems Roleplaying is something else and Roleplaying Games something else entirely.

Honestly...I do miss picking up a pile of books I love, with tables and charts, and *crappy artwork...make a character and play it how I want to.

*Well...at least I can make the artwork better. :)

I think the game itself...as it was then...or as some are written today can be played however I want, outside the rules and made up if we like.

Unfortunately some games are written so there is only one true way...and really...I have no interest in them at all. I'm sure there are folks that do. More power to em.

There's a lot of games out that people are calling NEW, and More Efficient, and Better than old style gaming that was "incoherent" and sloppy and "not catering to it's strengths".

How arrogant!

I mean...cool...make another game that caters to what YOU want. Rock on! More power to ya! I totally support you and your effort, and know enough of game design that if you want a finely tuned system to do what YOU want...I can help make that happen.


No...it's better for YOU maybe.
Leave me and mine alone!

I actually am coming to the realization that the gaming we've always played...that we've enjoyed for decades is fun because it IS open enough for making adjustments on our own...for making it up as we go...not in spite of it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Old school gaming goodness...

Yeah, I've been feeling the desire to play some old school games the old school ways.

I'm not ditching (or dissing) my current faves: WFRP, Dark Heresy, WoD, etc.

I'm just in the mood for some AD&D 2nd Ed, or test out the new S&W game, maybe RedBox D&D, but play it like we used to...totally RP it up, not be limited to what is in the rules but go crazy with it and drift way outside the lines.


It's 7am on Thursday and I need to get crackin'.
I didn't get much done yesterday. Between the headache of DOOM and farting around online making playlists: http://view.playlist.com/user/27276001 I didn't finish what I planned to.

Granted, My closest deadline is DECEMBER and I have to color one image yet...I'm not too worried about taking a day off here and there. I've done my self-pimping for the week already.

I DO need to crank out some self-promotion pieces. Finding the motivation for that sometimes is a bit harder than doing the dailies (my daily work on paid projects). Still...the work must be done. I have several pics that need to vanish from my portfolio. A lot of awesome stuff has been done recently...but I can't use them yet as they won't hit print for another month. CRAP!

Okay, I'm outy. Getting some coffee and getting to it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gaming and game design...

I'm somewhat torn on gaming and by extension game design.
On one hand I believe a game system needs to cater to its strengths: like a cinematic game setting should have a system that is quick, fast, maybe have some cool maneuvers that makes things pop.

At the heart of this is (in my mind) G/N/S theory.
Try and accomplish one or two of these, but avoid trying to accomplish them all.
Don't try and do too much with your game: have a focus, and design your system to fit it. Don't be too broad and do it all. Jack of all trades, master of none. That sort of idea.

Along with this comes the idea that the system is part of the game, and it's all one thing. Role-playing is a part of the whole, and the system is a part as well.

Drifting the system isn't playing the system anymore...you're playing a homebrew.

AND THEN we have the other side...

How do "I" like to play?
I'm absolutely cool with drifting a system to make it fit what I want. I hate the idea of the rules being the game. I hate the idea of "if it's not in the rules, it's not a part of the game".

I hate that shit.

I really MISS the old days of old D&D where we had great games that had great roleplaying (even for a system that for many of thr game-design nazis say wasn't rewarding of RP and really was just a gamist vehicle for killing monsters), great campaigns, and we "drifted" the system regularly and it was okay.

Granted, nowadays I play more WFRP, Savage Worlds, CoC and WoD-type games. I think maybe this is partly because I like the rules to be somewhat fluid or even minimalist and leave me to free-form Roleplay as I wish. I DO like the idea of a unified mechanic (ala D20) for everything. Shadowrun used to drive me crazy because everything had its own system (thank you SR4 for cleaning that up).

Looking back at OD&D and maybe even 2nd ED D&D, I loved those games and that system (with a couple tweaks on occasion) and we played them very loosely...and that was okay.

Why isn't that okay anymore?

There are a number of folks who are steadfast in their belief that that way of playing is somehow "bad" or "wrong" or at the very least a waste of time because there are "better" vehicles for the same play that does it entirely within the rules/ mechanics.

This brings me right back to the frame of mind that reminds me that I HATE folks that live and breathe system System SYSTEM. I don't CARE. I'm here to have a good time with friends in a fantastical make-believe setting and want a bit of escapist fantasy for a few hours with friends.

So how do I make all that jive up in my head?

Social Contract.

As long as everyone is open about what they want, their expectations and all that...who gives a shit? As long as everyone involved is more or less on the same sheet of music, or at least open to what's proposed, then it's doable. You can play V:TM with Rocks Paper Scissors for all I care and make it work.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Been busy...

Art every day. All day...every day.
Well...that's a bit of an exaggeration, but close.

So I'm a freelance illustrator. Anyone can do that. You don't need a license or hang a shingle really. Just say you are... and you are.

Sort of.

What do I do?
I'm up and working around 7am. Why? Because my wife is up and on the road and I get up as well.
I start the coffee, grab some cold pizza and check emails.
After emails, I'll check Facebook, Livejournal, and a couple forums for open calls...then get some coffee and schedule my day.
Which pieces am I working on currently, where are my deadlines, prioritize my work and get it ready to go.
Next I'll pick up my office area (which happens to be my livingroom), feed the dog and cats, start up the current favorite playlist and get to work.
I take little breaks when I finish a section successfully: check email, update an adventure in D&D:TA, pee the dog.
Around 1200 I take a lunch. This is usually 30 min, but sometimes is an hour (like today).
I'm back to work until about 5:30pm (which is when my wife gets home).

Sometimes I need to work late, so I do. But usually I work from 7-7:30am to 5:30-6pm, every weekday, just like clockwork.


Because I have an xbox 360 staring at me from across the room, and if I don't keep a disciplined work schedule (pronounced shh-edule BTW) I will find a way to screw off...I won't allow that. The TV doesn't get turned on during the day at-all.

So I'm a Freelance Illustrator. I take a lot from Matt Forbeck's playbook. That man is the living embodiment of a Freelancer! Holy Shit that is one working man. I stick my nose in everything to make my work better. I'm involved in a wide variety of interests to expand my knowledge of what I do. I expand my breadth of work daily (though it sometimes takes a while to get those pieces in the portfolio by nature of NDAs and publication schedules). I like WORKING.

I'm a big fan of social networking, and I'm always on the hunt for more work. I actually keep a spreadsheet of clients and publishers who I hit up for work every two or three weeks. It's not all-inclusive, but I'm getting there. I've got to stay busy.

Staying busy means digging my hands in the work and doing it, all day, every day, and there's no better teacher than first-hand experience. Especially with art: fine art and traditional skills as well as Photoshop/ digital skills. It likely applies to writing and macrame too, but right now I'll stick with what I know.

Right now I'm not a superstar. I'm not Steve Prescott, or RK Post, or Sam Wood (thankfully these guys are all really cool too). I'm not a Boris Vallejo or Frank Frazetta either. But you better keep your eyes open boys (and girls) because I'm coming up fast and catching up skill-wise with every piece I do.