13 August, 2018

The Forgotten Places

No, not the Forgotten Realms, just other places that I've forgotten about for projects that have been abandoned.

Earlier this week I found one of my old sketchbooks with some half finished pencil sketches and some sketches that had been partially inked. I've spent a bit of time working on the images, now I just need to work out what do do with them.

Other Media

I've uploaded the Dispatch Guide, and I've noticed that the RPGNow/DrivethruRPG file for the core rules of The Law were out of date, so  they've been corrected and updated.

With this range of corrections, updates, and new releases, I've decided to play with a few new features on the site. They may not be new for other people, but I've not used them before, so it will be interesting yo see what impact they have. I'm using the customer email tool and sending review copies to the list of featured reviewers. I'll offer some feedback on those once a week or so has passed, because at that point I should have a useful period to reflect back on.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering about whether to engage in other media forms. I'm thinking about YouTube videos or a short form podcast. The question is whether people want to hear my voice, or whether I can produce something good enough that it actually helps what I'm trying to achieve rather than hindering it.

Then I think to myself that if raving right-wing lunatics can do podcasts and YouTube videos, and get tens of thousands of followers... how hard can it be?

12 August, 2018

Dispatch Guide

After a long and arduous process, and numerous other issues getting in the way, it looks like The Dispatch Guide for The Law is ready to go live. Hopefully by this time tomorrow there might be a couple of sales.

11 August, 2018

RPGaDay (Parts 1-10)

I'm not really doing this in the proper manner. In previous years I've answered a question every day, but this year I'm just going to run through the question in three batches of 10 each.

On with the responses...

1. What do you love about RPGs?

There are so many answers to this question, but I'll narrow it down to three of the things I love most about RPGs.  The first is the way they allow players to experience things that they would be unable to engage in their regular lives, in this way they provide a safe place for experimentation and a liminal space for players to make choices that can be confined to a narrative space and a close group of friends. The second element plays into this as well, and that is the way RPGs are a social activity, they allow players to get to learn about one another through their characters, I've met so many friends this way. The third is the way RPGs prompt the imagination and act as a catalyst for learning, I'm actually planning to use RPGs in my classroom when I finally manage to get my accreditation as a teacher.

2. What do you look for in an RPG?

When I'm looking at new RPGs, I look for an evocative setting, coherent mechanisms of play, and the potential to tell good stories with it. I can tell stories with any game, but if there are mechanisms of play that promote specific types of stories then that's good, if it's a type of story that isn't necessarily supported by other games then that's a bonus. Games that don't particularly draw my interest are those that simply provide a generic setting, or a similar batch of mechanisms to numerous other games... such games really need to do something unique and incredible to add a twist to their setting/mechanisms to get my attention.

3. What gives a game 'staying power'?

Versatility and adaptability keep a game interesting over the long term. I find that games that only do a single thing well become predictable and monotonous, and in turn this reduces the longevity of the game. Similarly, the balance of a character's ability to advance, versus the effort necessary to get that advancement is a delicate balancing act. If advancement is too easy, then a game may not feel challenging, and instead feels overly simplistic...conversely, if advancement is too difficult, then the challenges may not feel worth engaging. I guess that for me, there are more criteria that render a game lacking in 'Staying Power' ad it's only if a game doesn't have these that it has the potential to be a good long term game.

4. Most Memorable NPC?

The most memorable NPC I encountered was a vampire pirate, he was named 'Janaan Baraka' from a  character in a CCG (I think it was 'Legend of the Burning Sands'). This was a character who got by on his reputation more than anything else. He surrounded himself with competent assistants, each of whom helped maintain the facade that he was an incredibly competent warrior and sorceror. I remember numerous people in a LARP being quite scared of this character, and it was only later when the truth was revealed that the cleverness of this character and his story became apparent.

5. Favourite Recurring NPC?

My favourite recurring NPC is simply referred to as 'Old Jed'. He has occurred in fantasy games, cyberpunk games, and even far future science fiction games. Old Jed is an amputee from a long forgotten multi-planar war, with hideouts scattered across the multiverse, the lower half of his body changes depending on the setting where he is found, often clockwork or steampunk legs, but possibly a wheelchair, or even a hover pad. Jed is a tinkerer able to fix almost anything that is damaged, this makes him a useful NPC, but his repairs often come with a price (and that leads to new stories and adventures). Most of my players come to learn that 'Old Jed' is a mean and surly coot, and a catalyst for change in the towns where he is found.

6. How can players make a world seem real?

Players can make a world seem more real by engaging with it, this involves adding their own story elements through their character, or even something as simple as taking on mannerisms and accent that help the immersion for the players around them. 

7. How can a GM make the stakes important? 

Stakes become important when they actually have an effect on play, and on the narrative. Simply killing a character as a result of a bad roll isn't really making a difference to the wider narrative, unless that character is important. Disposable character aren't a way to make stakes more important, instead the characters need to be built up, the players need to care about them (this is true for both characters and for NPCs). Places can be jeopardised in the same way, so can pieces of equipment or anything else. Similarly, as long as stakes have a permanent effect on the world, they become important. 

8. How can we get more people playing?

I think in recent years we have been seeing a lot more people playing, I think a more pertinent question is "How can we get more people playing RPGs other than D&D?" I think this is a case of showing that there are more games out there, and they all have the potential to tell very different types of stories. Not all RPGs are about murder-hoboing in a fantasy setting.

9. How has a game surprised you?

I didn't expect to like "A Penny for my Thoughts" when I first encountered it. The procedural play just didn'tfeel like it would be something that appealed to me... then I played it. It was through this play that I saw how clever the simplicity of the game was. I think it was this moment that made me see the potential in the genre of game now referred to as "Story Games".

10. How has gaming changed you?

I met my wife of almost 15 years through gaming... enough said.

10 August, 2018

RPGaDay coming.

It's 10 days into August, and I haven't even started RPGaDay. In some regards there's too much happening, in others not enough. Basically, there's not much happening externally, so I'm working on lots of things to get them happening.

I'll probably write up 3 blocks of 10 responses each... starting with one this afternoon.

Then there's Game Chef to consider as well. 

07 August, 2018

Drawing Process

Just thought I'd share the process I've been going through for this introductory comic.

Step 1. I use artist mannequins to get the poses right. Using a desk lamp or two to get some interesting lighting effects, or in the case of the bottom photo, to set the lighting for an explosion. Once I've taken a few photos in a sequence, I combine them into a page layout.

Step 2. With the poses right and the page laid out, I cheat a bit here and use my computer monitor as a light box. Using a light weight paper over the screen, I trace the basic shapes of the figures, and the various bounding boxes that build up the page. This tracing is done at roughly 150% of the final image size, this is done for two reasons... the first means I can often add a bit more detail in the illustrations, the second means any mistakes that I make in the image will be reduced in the final image and less noticeable. I've added text here in the traditional comic onomatopoeia, using Photoshop to distort the lettering to look like it is bulging and exploding. Other text will be added after the images have been completed, but I'm trying to make sure there is ample room for speech bubbles later.  

Step 3. Using a series of costume layout drawings that define the characters, I detail the outlines in pencil. For these characters that means marking the location of armour plates and padding, but in other cases it might mean draping fabrics or other clothing details.

Step 4. Once that feels right, it's time to start inking in the images. Generally my style involves drawing a heavier outline around significant pieces, then detailing those pieces with limited linework in a finer pen. Specifically here, I'm using two types of brush pen (one thicker for the panel outlines, and one thinner for the character element outlines), and two types of felt tipped marker (one thicker for prominent detailing, and one thinner for specific finer details...but both thinner than the thinnest brush pen). With intense lighting behind the characters as the explosion occurs, it felt interesting to put the into silhouette, using the lighting in the mannequin photography, I know where to put the highlights on the bodies to indicate a strongly lit explosive effect between them.   

Step 5. The image is scanned into the computer. Flat colours are added to it according to the general costume layout of the medium armour worn by Agent's of the Law. Armour plates darker, flexible lamellar segments lighter, skin tones also a medium tone, not necessarily "white", but more trying to get across a mixed bloodline for both characters. I'm not really sure how successful this was, but I'm trying to make sure there are a range of skin tones present throughout the illustrations in these books. 

Step 6. Shading is added to the flat colours to give the characters more depth. The specific placement of the shadows is informed by the mannequin photography. A bit of shading is added to the background of each panel to add a bit more visual interest to the images.
Step 7. In addition to shadows, a range of highlights are added to the figures and forms within the page. Again, these highlights are informed by the mannequin photography. If I was going for clear crisp images, this is where I'd leave things... and it's basically where I left one of the images in my last post.  

Step 8. The rest of the pages in The Law are covered with inkblots and stain effects to give the whole text a dirty and gritty look. To make these images fit in with that aesthetic, the same sorts of effects are applied here. It also adds a bit more interest and texture to the images.

Here's the other images in the sequence. The same general process was used to create them.

Clean or Gritty

I like artwork that reflects the tone of the setting, and gives ideas toward the types of narrative that might be found within the setting. I've also found that Lulu doesn't like printing paperback books with less than 32 pages.

So, with these two factors in mind, I've started writing up some mini comics to help set the tone for the urban sprawl of The Law. These mini comics will appear at the beginning of the various sourcebooks I'm writing up, and will be used to illustrate specific rule concepts within the game. If you've been following the blog, you'll know that this game is set in a pseudo-"Judge Dredd" urban sprawl, and the characters are agents of a megalithic bureau of law enforcement that is overworked and barely able to maintain peace despite having an incredible array of technology at their disposal, and the authority to act as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets. It's a post cyberpunk setting, where there is the potential for almost anything to be added to the environment, but generally anything too weird becomes a reality deviation that needs to be hidden/neutralised/eliminated just as quickly as any crime.

Here's the first page of the first mini comic, in two potential formats...one gritty, one clean. I haven't included text yet.

Just trying to work out which of these to use.

The gritty version sets the tone better, the clean version results in easier images to read. I'm probably going to go with the gritty version, I just thought I'd throw both versions out there to see what other people thought.