Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun

Inspiration is interesting, particularly when you recognize it in hindsight. I had previously thought that I had been channeling Richard Corben and Vaughn Bodé when I illustrated The Tombs.

I read Moebius' Arzach (from Heavy Metal #1) while flying to Chicago to go to Gary Con III. What do I see on the first page of Moebius's 1977 masterpiece? None other than The Tombs.

I never set out to rip off Moebius. In fact, until that flight I had never even had the pleasure of viewing Arzach. I guess my mind just inhabits some of the same spaces as Moebius. What's really weird, though, is that I signed my name in pretty much the same place that Moebius signed his. Coincidence? Synchronicity? Whatever you want to call it, it's cool by me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gary Con III

Gary Con III was fantastic this year, as expected. I played for five-and-a-half hours in Grodog's Greyhawk Castle. We explored a seriously nice homage to EGG's Black Reservoir. Of the classic creatures documented from that sub-level, we encountered and slew pteranadons and giant albino crabs (which happened to be of the spell-turning variety). We also met and dispatched giant spiders (save or die!) and a mess of thouls, lacedons and zagedons (aquatic ghasts). We made a brief excursion off-level, ran into a giant colony of brown mold (literally) and fled back to the safe murk of the Black Reservoir. We managed to see quite a bit of the place in the time we played, but never managed to achieve my two personal goals: combat with the sea monster therein and access to the black tower on Sorcerer's Isle. Perhaps next time... or not, as I'm also interested in Gro's other Greyhawk jaunts: the heretical temple of Wee Jas and the quest for Kuroth's Quill. In any case, the crew held up well and we had a blast. Good times.

My other primary Gary Con activity this year was playing Metamorphosis Alpha with James Ward. This is always an almost-excessive amount of fun. Jim is quite the amazing referee, always keeping the action moving and ensuring maximal paranoia. This time we were space marines on an adventure before the Time of Darkness. We were dispatched from the Warden via scout ship to recon Terraforming Outpost Alpha One, from which all communication had ceased. We docked with the outpost and managed to get onboard. The AI was apparently on the fritz, as an alien spacecraft had crashed into the outpost, releasing a deadly microbial fungus onboard. Amazingly, we experienced minimal death until the final five minutes, at which time the AI executed everybody HAL-9000 style. Overall, it was a fast-paced game and everybody had fun. Most telling was the fact that our table out-laughed the entire local vicinity for the duration of play. Awesome. It's great to see Jim doing well and killing players. Things are right in the universe.

As always, there was the uncovering of dim mysteries from our hobby's past. This time the one that sticks out is the origins of Villains and Vigilantes. As it turns out, Jeff Dee and Jack Herman were having an argument about who would win in a fight: Spider-Man or the Human Torch. To settle matters, they used TSR's 1975 EPT for stats and combat mechanics and fought it out. I don't recall who won, but the long and short of it is that EPT served as the vehicle behind the V&V proof-of-concept. Once Jeff and Jack saw it working, they sequestered themselves and wrote the actual rules we see today. EPT behind V&V. How crazy is that?

As per usual, there were lots of celebrity sightings. Luke and Ernie Gygax, James Ward, Tim Kask, and Frank Mentzer were in attendance as expected. I also saw Tom Wham, Jean Wells, Jeff Dee, Bill Willingham, Jon Pickens, and many more. It was great to meet so many people that I speak with online, all gathered together for some serious fun. I can't wait until Gary Con IV!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interesting Places: Beneath the Cemetery

Hi everybody. I'm too swamped to write anything, so I'll let the map speak for itself.

Various mausoleums from the cemetery have stairs descending to a series of musty catacombs. Luckily for our adventurers, these catacombs are connected to some tasty ghoul warrens. Fantastic.

The Fine Print: I am sharing this map under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. If you follow that link you will be able to read about the conditions that apply to this work. In a nutshell: (a) you can't use it commercially, (b) you must attribute it to me, and (c) you must share any derivative works that you create.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interesting Places: Ruins of the Undertemple

I recently absconded with my wife's Wacom Intuos graphics tablet. If that wasn't bad enough, I put a serious dent in the color ink cartridge supply as I spent my free time over the next several days drawing and printing map after map. Here is the latest experiment: the ruined chambers beneath an ancient temple, done in the early TSR no repro blue style. Enjoy!

No backstory here—you figure it out!

The Fine Print: I am sharing this map under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. If you follow that link you will be able to read about the conditions that apply to this work. In a nutshell: (a) you can't use it commercially, (b) you must attribute it to me, and (c) you must share any derivative works that you create.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Uncommon Art

I've never said it before, but I have always been a huge fan of the artwork of DCS III. Overshadowed by later artists, DCS III was instrumental in setting the tone of D&D. The early work he did for TSR remains inspirational to me to this day. Later, when I got heavily involved with M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne, I was thrilled to discover that DCS III was there, too.

Cue to present day. I recently sold off the uncool half of my RPG collection, so all that remains are items that I truly cherish. I have been reorganizing the remaining collection into a new web app for easy perusal. As I was cataloging the EPT section, I came across Legions of the Petal Throne: Fantasy Miniatures Wargame Rules for the World of Tékumel (1977). Now there have been a lot of miniatures rules for Tékumel, including Missúm! (1978) and Qadardalikoi (1983), but what's cool about Legions is that it was written by DCS III and M.A.R. Barker. Unfortunately, Legions is long out of print. Until recently, Tita's House of Games carried a reprint of the TSR original, but it, too, is out of print. In any case, Legions is filled with awesome DCS III combat imagery, as typified by these two selections:

(I'm rooting for that Shén to plant his axe in the face of that pesky human fighting-man.)

But Legions has something else inside which is, oh I don't know, pretty dang rare: Tékumel art by none other than DAT. Here are two selections for your edification:

How cool is that? I love the detail that Tramp put into these illustrations. Aside from the armor detail, check out the plants. When Tramp does plants—even the most mundane plants—they always end up looking so very cool and otherworldly.